Saturday, December 11, 2010

Companions with Elder Taylor Again!

Dear Family,

After the long wait, I have the awaited transfer information....My New Companion is ELDER TAYLOR! Yes the same Elder Taylor who I trained in Anderson, Yes, the same Elder Taylor I served with as zone leader companions in Camden, Yes, he is now my companion in the calling as Assistants to the President. :D Life sure is crazy! It made me laugh when President told me. Right after the prayer was given to begin transfer planning, President stood up and said, I know who my next Assistant is going to be. It's Elder Taylor. I couldn't tell if he was joking. I informed him that I would love to serve with him again, but I had already served with him twice. To this he responded "You have? When?" It had completely slipped his mind. On to the week. I am out of time.

Monday, Elder Tran and I were informed that the new missionaries were coming in at 5:00 pm. We were working in the office preparing for the transfers and new missionaries when the office sister, Sister Taylor, informed us that the flight had been delayed and the new missionaries missed their second flight. The new arrival time was 11:50 p.m. :) It really was a blessing in disguise because we had too much stuff we needed to get done before transfers and we were not able to do it the week before because we were traveling the mission. We picked up the new missionaries and they were tired from their flight, but very excited to be here. The new missionaries were really funny. They were afraid to laugh or do anything out of line. I remember coming in the mission home and being very careful to not give President the wrong first impression. They will all be great missionaries. We trained the new missionaries on Tuesday.

Wednesday was transfers. Things were hectic like usual. Elder Tran is now training one of the new missionaries down in Charleston. I can't remember Thursday. :) Friday we were in the office figuring out a new deal with Sprint. We then went to the Windsor Lake Christmas Party. It was great to be there.

Saturday we cleaned the office Elders' apartment. We completed some more work with Sprint, then we went to Ft. Jackson for a social for all the AIT soldiers. It was great. There was food and games for the soldiers.

We are preparing for the the Christmas zone conference. The missionaries are going to perform talents then we are going to play volleyball and do other fun activities. It's going to be fun, but tiring doing it in every zone. I will be tired by the end of the week. I can't believe Christmas is here. I need to apologize to Justin; I have not gotten his birthday letter in the mail. I will do it today.

Tomorrow will be the last day at Basic Training before exodus. They will not be back until the second week of January. Sundays are going to be so different without the base. It will be good though. This will be my last transfer as an assistant. It will prepare me when I train a new missionary my last transfer. I hope all is well. Merry Christmas! I love you all!

Elder Cowan

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Save the Souls of Man"

Dear Family,

What an exciting week! Thursday was great with all of the feasts that we were able to go to. In the morning, before we went to President and Sister McConkie's home, we stopped at the office to do some office work. While I was sitting at the computer working away, I received a phone call from a lady who was in search of a bishop. She told me she needed to speak to a bishop about getting some food. As I tried asking her some questions, she became a little defensive and she would not give me her name. I told her I needed to know where she lived in order to know which Bishop she should contact. She didn't even want to tell me where she lived, but finally she told me she was located at Barbara Dr. & Two Notch Road. I told her I needed a minute to look it up on the internet to find her location. This unnamed lady was not very excited with the idea that I would put her on hold. Finally, she agreed and I typed her information into the computer. By the time I found the address and which ward it was in, I tried to talk to her on the phone, but it was too late. She had already hung up. I felt bad I wasn't able to help her more, but from the abruptness and the rude way she spoke, I don't think she was very humble and not really "in need" as she stated. If she were "in need" she would have waited while I looked up the information. Anyway, I will return to this random phone call later.

We went to the McConkie's home and that was the best Thanksgiving food I have ever had! It was sad that it was our first stop of the day. After eating Sister McConkie's food, the other two dinners did not excite me. :) After dinner at the McConkie's home, we went to John Crew's apartment for round number two. We had a fun time visiting with the Crew family and also with the sisters who also serve in the Windsor Lake Ward. After the second dinner, we started to drive back into Columbia. While I was driving, I realized we were on Two Notch Road. I had the thought pop in my head, "look up Barbara Dr. and Two Notch Rd." I followed the prompting and had Elder Tran look it up. When the GPS located our position, we were crossing the intersection of Barbara Dr. and Two Notch Road. It was too late to turn. Also, we had the sisters following us to Sister Drake's house for our third dinner. The thought came in my head, "you need to go back." I tried to brush the thought away, but then it came again, "you need to go back." I then began to rationalize with myself saying "the sisters will get lost if we do not show them the way to Sister Drake's house." I also thought, "we are going to be late to our dinner if I turn back around."  I was having this battle in my head when I turned to Elder Tran and I asked him, "Why is it so hard to follow the Spirit? I feel we need to turn around, but I'm not sure if it's just my own thought or the spirit prompting me." Elder Tran looked at me for a moment and said, "turn around." I decided to follow his counsel and we called the sisters and told them to continue ahead of us. We gave them the best directions we could, then turned around. As we began driving back to Barbara Dr. and Two Notch Rd, the thought came to me, "turn left." I decided to test this thought by first asking Elder Tran. I said, "Now the question is, which direction are we going to go when we reach the intersection?" "I feel we need to turn left," he said. "Really? I was actually thinking the same thing." When we reached the intersection, Barbara Dr was on our left and to the right the road had changed names! This boosted my confidence that we were being led by the spirit. As we drove down the street, we noticed a hotel and there were quite a few people standing outside. Elder Tran told me to turn in, so I turned. As we scanned the group, their was a US army soldier in his ACU (uniform). We pulled off to the side and began to talk to the man. He had just finished basic training at Ft. Jackson and we was headed to Georgia for AIT. We were able to teach him briefly about the gospel and he committed to attend church the following Sunday down in Georgia! After speaking to him, Elder Tran and I felt like we had done what the spirit needed us to do, so we drove to our dinner appointment. I will never know what will happen to that soldier, but I know the Lord was behind us meeting him: the phone call in the morning, the Holy Ghost bringing to my remembrance that address right as we were driving passed the intersection, Elder Tran and I serving on the Fort Jackson military post (the only two missionaries in the entire state who even begin to understand what they go through in basic and being able to understand what he had just completed). It was no coincidence. I am continuing to learn how to follow the spirit. Wow, that is a long story and I have not even finished the first day! We had a great dinner with Sister Drake; she is so funny. I hope y'all will be able to meet her someday.

Friday we drove to Charleston for a two day specialized training meeting. The meeting lasted the entire day, then we visited some of Elder Tran's converts in Charleston. That evening we slept on the floor of some Elders' apartment. Saturday was day two with the Charleston Zone. It was great.

Sunday we attended the base. I taught the discussion group. I did not do a very good job. I ran out of time. I was not able to cover everything I wanted. Even with the unfinished lesson, I knew I had to invite the class to be baptized. I was a little nervous, but I invited all to be baptized. One soldier, Brother Soli, shot his hand right up. It was a testimony that the spirit converts--not my teaching skills. It also reaffirmed the need for missionaries to be bold. One cannot fulfill his purpose of bringing souls unto Christ without inviting them to do so. Brother Soli is planning to be baptized tomorrow.

Monday was office work. Tuesday and Wednesday we had the two day specialized zone meeting in Florence. Thursday and Friday we had the same meeting in Greenville. This morning we finished transfer planning, and then had a bunch of random stuff we had to do. One of the things we did was scan a giant pencil drawing into the computer. I am attaching the file so you can see. It's an amazing picture. Elder Tran is going to be transferred. As a last hurrah, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant. I had pho. Elder Tran talks about it all of the time. It was a great experience. I am going to miss Elder Tran. I wish I could tell you who my next companion is. I will tell you next week! I know this work is true. I love my life. Let us all "Save the souls of man."

Elder Cowan

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Amazing and Exhausting Week

Dear Family,

What an amazing week! I will be completely honest, I am exhausted. I've never had such a difficult time staying awake. On Sunday at church, Sister Drake was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was not there to witness it because we were at the Ft. Jackson military post. On post we had another baptism and confirmation, Brother Gee. It was great. I also met a soldier named Brother Brandt. Brother Brandt is amazing. He is so in tune to the spirit. Brother Brandt watched the baptism and confirmation of Brother Gee. Brother Brandt has committed to be baptized next week. :) I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Ft. Jackson Military Post. After the services were over on the military post, all the missionaries gathered together to update each other on what was accomplished during the two hours on post. As we shared who was getting baptized next week, we noticed that there is a potential of 5 baptisms next week. The Lord is truly blessing our efforts on the post. I am so grateful that our Father in Heaven is sending his prepared children to the military post.

When we left the military post, we drove straight over to the Windsor Lake Ward, like usual, and we were able to catch the end of Priesthood. Then we had the baptism of John Crew. Also, Greg Rosado, the young man the sisters have been teaching (they've had Elder Tran and I come and teach quite a bit because Gregg responds better to men) was baptized as well! It was an amazing day. We also had one of our new investigators attend church and the baptismal service. Her name is Barbara. As she attended the baptismal service, she felt the spirit very strongly. I am excited to continue to work with her. John is planning to be confirmed this upcoming Sunday.

Sunday night we had a missionary fireside. We had a recent convert and her missionary come up and they both shared their testimonies concerning the conversion process. It was very sweet. I love listening to recent converts share their testimony. They are so full of the spirit and are willing to do anything for the Church.

Monday I was in the office for the first half of the day and the second half we went to the mission home to do transfer planning. It was a spiritual experience as we prayed and planned together where missionaries should go and who they should serve with. We were led by the spirit and were able to have transfers planned faster than President has ever had before.

Monday night we stayed up late putting together a DVD that would have all of the "I am a Mormon" profiles from We were at the office until two in the morning. We then had a specialized leadership meeting with the Nephi and Ishmael Zones Tuesday morning starting at 9:00 a.m.. We were up by 6:00 a.m. The meeting was great, it lasted 8 hours, by the end of it Elder Tran and I were very tired. During the meeting, President McConkie stated over the podium that all missionaries would receive a copy of the DVD that we had made for President to show during his training. Tuesday night we were at the office until 12:00 and Elder Tran and I were falling asleep at the computer, so we decided to go home for the evening, and come back the following day.

We woke up at 5:00 and drove to the office. We completed all the DVD's just in time to get to the church at 9:00 for the meeting. Elder Tran and I were so tired. We struggled staying awake throughout the trainings. What was worse, was that all the missionaries could see us as we sat up front. Overall, the meeting was really good. I felt we focused on the 8 points that the missionary department has asked us to work on.

After the meeting, we went to the office to grab a few things and I noticed in my little slot that I had an envelope addressed to me. I grabbed it quickly and tore it open. I was really excited; I knew what it was. It was my father's conversion story. I did not have time right then to read it because President McConkie was having difficulties with his laptop at the mission home. We drove over to the mission home and we fixed the computer (it wasn't even broken, President was just hitting the wrong button :) ) and then we had dinner with President and Sister McConkie. Mother, if you ever want new recipes, ask Sister McConkie. She makes the best food. I am excited to go over to their home in a couple of hours and eat all of their food!

When we arrived home last night I began to read father's conversion story. I was doing well, up until Brother Genet spoke to dad. I could not hold back my tears of gratitude for that man and all of the Mormon students at the school. It was a very spiritual experience. I wrote in my journal my feelings from reading my father's experience. I have an even greater desire to give my all and if it's Heavenly Father's will, to help a young "Mike" who will grow up strong in the gospel and one day have sons who are eternally grateful, like I am, that my Father joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Well, that's the update for now. I am creating DVD's for all of the missionaries as I write this email. Hopefully, I will have them all done for the rest of the meetings we will be having the rest of this week and all of next week! I can't believe how fast time is going! Elder Tran and I realized that today is our 21 month mark! I have been and will continue to give my all until I have accomplished everything the Lord would have me do here in South Carolina.

Elder Cowan

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lots of Miles and Miracles!

Dear Family,

Eight Hundred and twelve. This is the number of miles I have traveled in the past six days. :) Life sure is busy. Monday we traveled to Union with President McConkie for a specialized district meeting, Tuesday we drove to Sumter for a specialized district meeting. After the meeting, we went over to President's home and watched a video in Preach My Gospel and discussed it for his meeting he had to go to Wednesday-Saturday.

With President out of town, Elder Tran and I decided we would go on exchanges with all of the zone leaders throughout the mission. :) We were not able to visit all of the zone leaders, but we got pretty close. On Wednesday, I went with Elder Pack in Camden while Elder Tran took Elder Ernst down to our proselyting area in Columbia. Elder Pack and I visited one of my former investigators, Trish Helton, and we had a great lesson with her. The reason I had dropped her while I was in Camden was because we simply lost all contact with her. When we stopped by on Wednesday, Trish explained that she had to move unexpectedly when I was serving in Camden. It was a miracle that she moved back and we came by again to see her. :) At the end of the lesson, both Trish and her daughter, Dasney, committed to come to church and they both want to be baptized on December 11! It was great to see them so excited to meet with the missionaries again.

Wednesday night we met up with Elders Pack and Ernst and Elder Tran and I drove down to Charleston. Thursday morning, Elder Tran went with Elder Peery, while I was planning to serve with Elder Stoneman for the day. Elder Stoneman is a Spanish missionary, so while he was studying Spanish in the morning with his usual companion, Elder Williams and I went proselyting with Elder Peery's normal companion, who's name incidentally is Elder Williams also. I was only with Elder Williams for one hour, but during that hour we found an inactive member who wants to go back to church. It would have been easy for Elder Williams and I to wait in the apartment while the Spanish missionaries were studying, but because we decided to use our time effectively, the Lord blessed us to cross paths with this sister who really needs help at this time. After they finished studies, the two Elder Williams went with each other and I worked with Elder Stoneman. I really enjoy serving with the zone leaders. They are all so focused and committed to fulfilling their responsibilities. Elder Stoneman and I found one young man who wants to be baptized. We also had a miracle, Elder Stoneman has been working with a lady and she recently attended a baptism, and she really wants to get baptized, but the Elders thought she was living with her boyfriend. As we taught her the Plan of Salvation, she told us she was not living with her boyfriend! Because she is living the commandments and she has a sincere desire, we decided to baptize her right then and there in the creek.....ok maybe not, but we moved her baptismal date up two weeks! :) At the end of the evening, Elder Tran and I got back together and drove up through Columbia and kept on driving all the way to Spartanburg. We got there late at night.

Friday, I served with Elder Lund in my old area in Spartanburg. We had a great day. We taught seven lessons and they now have four more investigators with a set baptismal date! We also went to a sister's baptism and I was volunteered to play the piano. :D It was great to be at the baptism. I was able to see the Baker family. I love the Bakers. Sister Baker told me that she reads the blog, so I'm sending out a shout out for the Bakers: I LOVE YOU GUYS! :D

Friday night Elder Tran and I got back together and we drove to Seneca to visit the other zone leaders on the other side of Greenville. We stayed the night with them last night, but Elder Tran and I remembered that we had not interviewed John Crew for baptism. We decided to leave early this morning. As we walked out to the car, both Elder Tran and I pulled out keys to drive the car. As we did this we realized, that I had a pair of keys that did not belong to us! The keys belonged to the Elders in Spartanburg! We drove back to Spartanburg, dropped off the keys, then drove home. :) It's been a crazy week and next week is going to be even more crazy! President just called us during his break at his mission president seminar and he told Elder Tran and I to organize zone conferences all throughout next week so he can quickly visit all of the missionaries and have them immediately apply what he is learning. :) Life is great! John Crew is getting interviewed tonight, Sister Drake is getting confirmed at church tomorrow, and we should have two baptisms on the Ft. Jackson military post. I love my life and I hope you love yours!

Elder Cowan

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Grateful for Plan of Salvation and Eternal Marriage

Dear Family,
"Congratulations!" "Have a wonderful life together," "You two should have done this a long time ago," these were the type of remarks I heard all morning. This is because John Crew and Vivian Thomas were married!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D It was very exciting to be present for such a momentous day in both of their lives. It was fun and I am so excited for them to continue to progress in the gospel and be sealed in the temple next year! :) It really hit me when in the ceremony Bishop Strickland stated, "which covenant will last throughout the remained of their mortal lives." It really stuck out to me. I am so grateful that I have been blessed with a knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and know what will take place after the grave. I am also grateful that accompanied by this knowledge we are blessed to live in a time where temples dot the entire earth. All those who have a desire to receive the greatest of all of God's blessings are having the opportunity and access to go the temple.

In preparation for the wedding, we were asked to provide the cake. :) This was quite the experience. Luckily, John and Viv were not interested in a tier cake.  All they asked us to make was a fruit pizza. Fruit pizza is made by taking sugar cookie dough and making a big pizza crust, and then you cook it, and then you put cream cheese on top, smother the whole thing with powder sugar, and then top with sliced fruit, and then sprinkle with powder sugar on top! Elder Tran and I decided to make it last night, but our first attempt failed miserably. Both Elder Tran and I forgot about the cookie dough cooking, so we burnt it really bad. :) This morning we ran back to Walmart and grabbed some more cookie dough and this time we decided to form the dough into a giant heart. It worked out perfectly. And it passed the delicious test. Within Five minutes of bringing out the cake, it was all gone! :) Success. John Crew is getting baptized on The 20th of November.

On to the second star for the week! Bo Hyon Drake. Sister Drake is from South Korea. She is the nicest lady in the world. Every time we come over to her house, she makes us food. We always tell her that we do not need the food, but she insists until we submit to her wishes. Sister Drake loves Jesus Christ. Her greatest desire is to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We have been teaching Sister Drake and she accepted the invitation to be baptized! Sister Drake quit smoking and drinking coffee just because we told her it was a commandment. Sister Drake reminds me of the scripture in Alma Chapter 32:16, "Blessed are they who humble themselves without being compelled to be humble; or rather, in other words, blessed is [she] that believeth in the word of God, and is baptized without stubbornness of heart, yea without being brought to know the word, or even compelled to know, before they will believe." Yesterday Sister Drake was interviewed by President McConkie and was found worthy to be baptized! Her baptismal service is scheduled for tomorrow right after church, then she will be confirmed next week during sacrament; the same time John will be confirmed! The Lord is truly blessing us. It's because Elder Tran is the coolest missionary ever!

The rest of the week went as follows:
Monday: In the office during the morning. We had a specialized training meeting with the Newberry District in the evening. I've always know President is inspired, but Monday was really cool. A missionary has been struggling and I didn't agree with the way it was being handled, but in the end, President saved the day. It was humbling to see the Spirit of the Lord work through President McConkie.

Tuesday: Elder Tran and I were "volunteered" (more like "volun-told" as they say it in the army) to clean out the storage unit. It was an all day process. It's still is not perfect, but it is 100 times better than it was when we first got there.

Wednesday: During the morning we had Correlation with Brother Edwards. In the afternoon we had a Specialized Training meeting with the Downtown Columbia District. The meeting was really good. After the meeting we drove to Sumter to swap one of the new cars with a car that was sold this week. Sumter was the half way point between Marion (where the old car was and us, with the new car).

Thursday Elder Tran and I had the opportunity to proselyte the entire day! In case any of you wanted my opinion on black lights, I feel they are of the devil. Every time I have met someone who owns one, they always have an evil spirit about them. We met a man who had a very contentious spirit and his entire house was lit by black lights.

Friday : We began the day with a Post Development meeting. We were honored to have two chaplains attend our meeting. They both spoke about their experiences in the army and also gave us background info about basic training. I feel I will be able to relate better to the soldiers now that I have learned more about them. The rest of the day was tracting!

I hope all is well with all of you! I love each of you and keep being examples to those around you!
Elder Cowan

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"We are always on the move!"

Dear Family,

I have no idea how or what I should share in this email. Things are just crazy! We are always on the move. 

Monday we filled out reports for the mission and then at 3:00 p.m. we began our Zone Leader Council. The meeting was really good. I hope and pray all the zones will succeed in the month of November. We had a very good month of October: 65 baptisms in the mission. I hope and pray we will be able to be consistent in our missionary efforts!

Tuesday we were able to proselyte! :) We were able to visit some of our investigators. I love being able to teach. These people are great! I love sharing the gospel.

Wednesday we had a specialized Training meeting in Florence. As I arrived, I recognized that the majority of the missionaries who were serving in the district are my posterity! Elder Taylor (my son) is the district leader, he is training Elder Carlisle (my grandson) and there is also another companionship Elder Caldwell (my grandson) who is training Elder Hinckley (my great grandson) :) It was great to visit all of them and give them some training on how to improve as a missionary. After the meeting, Elder Tran and I went on an exchange with the district. I went with Elder Taylor Elder Carlisle while Elder Tran went with Caldwell and Hinckley. The lord blessed us to have much success in the short time we were there. Elder Taylor, Elder Carlisle, and I were able to find a man and put him on date. The lesson was really good. Elder Tran was able to help the other companionship firm up two of their investigators. By the end of their lesson, the man who had been smoking crushed his cigarette's and he and his girlfriend poured out their alcohol and set a date to get married! 

On Thursday morning Elder Tran and I took a missionary to the airport. After serving for 23 months he is now back home. After that, we traveled to Elgin to complete a similar specialized training meeting with that district. We are finding that missionaries are not role playing very often and it is negatively affecting their ability to teach. The meeting was centered around fixing this problem. Thursday night we traveled to Spartanburg to stay the night there in preparation for the SDM (specialized district meeting) we would be having in Greeenville the following day.

On Friday we had two meetings right after the other. One with the Spanish district and then one with the Boiling Springs District. (Random note--Before the Spanish meeting, I realized that one missionary knows Becca and Tara from BYU-Idaho and another Elder knows Cherry. What a small world--to think that all three of us would be in Greenville South Carolina was so weird!) Yesterday evening we traveled down to Columbia and visited with a lady who just got baptized. The sister had been working with her, but the sisters were having a difficult time trying to get the 14 year old son to progress. They asked if we would come to see if he could relate to an elder better. We taught him and he is a very sharp young man. Before we left, he accepted a baptismal date in two weeks. I love this work and I love each of you!

Love ya!
Elder Cowan

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Crazy Adventures of First Few Days as Assistant

Dear Family,
I forgot to inform you last week that with the new assignment to be President McConkie's Assistant, I have a different preparation day than the rest of the mission! My preparation day is on Saturdays. Thus this is the reason you are receiving a letter from me today! I have no idea where to begin. This has been the craziest adventure! I've enjoyed every moment of it, but I'm on my toes because I am not sure what is going to happen next. There is never a dull moment when assisting in the upkeep of a mission.

It all began on Wednesday. At transfer meeting, President McConkie was up at the stand and he announced at the pulpit that two missionaries would be serving together. The only problem was that one of those missionaries was not informed that he was being transferred, so he was still in Greenville--two hours away. I knew right away that this was going to cause a problem, which I will discuss further later. At the end of the transfer meeting, President announced that Elder Poll was being released as his assistant to train a new missionary and that I would be Elder Tran's new companion. I was shocked by the amount of people in the audience who were so excited by this news. Throughout the transfer meeting everyone is relatively quiet, but when the President announced my new responsibility, there were many who voiced there opinions with "Yes," "Elder Cowan!" and other comments. I was nervous for my new assignment, but it was a relief to hear the sounds of so many missionaries who will support me in this assignment.

After the meeting, all the missionaries left except the departing missionaries and the two companionships who were waiting for the companionship from Greenville to drive down to transfers. We all drove over to the mission office so President McConkie could conduct his departing interviews. Two of the missionaries, while waiting, decided that they were going to send their packages off that they had carelessly "forgotten" to send home on their preparation day. These two missionaries were only supposed to be gone for one hour, but they were gone for three. The rest of the departing missionaries had to leave for the mission home to quickly eat dinner and prepare for the temple. I was left at the mission office to wait for the two missionaries who were mailing packages home. Anyways, the day got all messed up and Elder Tran ended up taking the departing missionaries to the temple, while President and Sister McConkie drove to the airport to pick up a sister missionary who has been serving at the Salt Lake Temple Square mission for the past year. While they were doing their activities, I was left at the mission home with the two missionaries who were supposed to drive back up to Greenville.

Wednesday evening: The departing missionaries came back from the temple and President gave them all some advice about returning home. Then we watched the departure video which is a slide show of pictures from all the missionaries going home. Afterward, the missionaries were all nervous about going home that next day, so they stayed up late and then we finally went to bed. The next morning we drove them to the airport and there was a 12 passenger pileup on the freeway, so the departing missionaries missed their flight. :( This is the first time that departing missionaries have missed their flight. :S They put them on a new flight which was supposed to leave 10 hours later. We watched them go through security and then we left. Elder Tran and I had to gather up a bike for the Salt Lake Temple square missionary and then we went to the office to do some paper work, but then we received a call from President that we needed to pick up the departing missionaries because they missed their second flight as well! We picked them up and stayed another night at the mission home with the departing missionaries. We woke up at 4:00 in the morning yesterday to help the missionaries leave and this time they made it on the plane. :) We then drove the mission van and trailer back to the mission office to pick up our car. During the night, someone broke into our car! :) We had to leave our car there, call the senior couple in the office and tell them to fill out the police report, and Elder Tran and I drove up to Camden with the Fullmers (senior couple who serves at the Ft. Jackson base) for our Post Development Meeting. Following that meeting, we got in the car with President and Sister McConkie and drove to Myrtle Beach where we had a Specialized District Development Meeting. Then we drove to Conway and had another Specialized DDM and then we drove back to Columbia! It was great spending five hours in the car with President and Sister McConkie. I am able to get to know them personally. It's such a great blessing to be around them. They truly are spiritual giants.

Today We woke up and spent all our day working on President computer. It works now and we now have to find an apartment to move into! Life is an adventure! I love the gospel and I love each of you!

Elder Cowan

Monday, October 25, 2010

Assistant to President McConkie

Dear Family,
What a week. I am not sure what to think. Many things have occurred this past week and I received transfer information, but I will tell everything in sequential order. Last Monday was extremely busy because we had to fill out a sheet from the missionaries in our zone. This report was necessary for our zone interviews which took place on Friday. The forms took up the entire day.
Tuesday and Wednesday were normal work days up until we received a phone call Wednesday night from the assistants. They told us to be down in Irmo the next day with enough room for two missionaries and all their luggage. I was so confused because transfers were happening the next week. Elder Ernst and I discussed the situation and we both felt like the missionaries that would be coming to Camden were brand new missionaries. We discussed how to train them to be the best missionaries. The next morning, Brother Dent brought Elder Ernst and I down to Irmo and there were 12 other missionaries who had no idea why they were there as well. President brought us in and told us that there were 12 missionaries who were called to serve in Brazil who do not have their visas yet, so they have been re-assigned here until their visas arrive. From Thursday afternoon until now, I have been serving with Elder Earl. Elder Earl is from San Diego and he is a great missionary. He and Elder Riggs (Elder Ernst's companion) are having culture shock. They have just spent nine weeks in the MTC learning Portuguese and now they are fighting anti preachers instead of fighting the jungle of Brazil. :)
On Saturday we received transfer calls. Elder Ernst was on the phone and I heard him say, "Oh Elder Cowan is leaving as well?" After that Elder Ernst passed me the phone and it was President McConkie. President asked me about my extension. He said he was going to do everything in his power to help me receive an extension. He then asked me to be his Assistant. I am shocked. President McConkie never calls someone to be an Assistant when they only have three transfers left. I am humbled and very, very nervous. I will do my best to fulfill those serious responsibilities. I need to go. With four missionaries now using the same computer, we run out of time in half the time! Thanks for all the support. I love you all!
Elder Cowan

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meetings, Exchanges, Teaching

Dear Family,

I don't have time to write. I had to fill out information about the missionaries serving in the Ishmael Zone. I will have to be very brief. Monday was preparation day. Tuesday we attended the Windsor Lake District Development Meeting. President also surprised us and came with the assistants. It was a great meeting. After the meeting, Elder Ernst and I blitzed the Spanish Elders area for the day.

Wednesday, we attended the Elgin District Development Meeting. We had a great meeting and then we went on a mini exchange with the Elgin Elders, Elder Hightower, and Elder Hancock. I went to Elgin and worked with Elder Hightower. It was great to be with him again. It reminded me of Spartanburg.

On Thursday, we had an exchange with the assistants. I went to Columbia with Elder Tran. I helped President and Elder Tran conduct a District Development Meeting similar to the one that I was at on Monday and then we proselyted for the rest of the day. Elder Tran is an amazing teacher. We found many new investigators. One came to church and also attended a baptism this weekend. It was a great experience because the lady was depressed when we first met her and Elder Tran told us today that she wants to be baptized and that she never has felt as happy as she did attending church and the baptism which was immediately afterward.

Friday, we taught a lot of people. Saturday was a little slower day, but we worked all day to get someone to church. At the end of the day, we turned it over to the Lord. We had worked hard. Sunday, Elder Tran and Elder Poll had two baptisms at the Base. I taught the first lesson to the large group who are attending for the first time. I still feel like Dan Jones when I'm up there declaring that the Restoration has occurred. :) Unfortunately, none of the soldiers raised their hands to be baptized at the end. But there was one soldier who came up to me immediately after the meeting and asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon. I wrote him a letter this week; hopefully, he will ponder on the things that I have shared with him and that he will be baptized in the up coming weeks!

When we got to Camden, we did not have any of our investigators to church, but right before the sacrament began, Debra walked into the chapel and sat down in the row in front of us! She really enjoyed it, but she came to our service immediately after her services. She was tired of sitting for so long, so she was not able to attend Sunday School or Relief Society. We will continue to work with her.

There's our week! I hope you all have a great week and that everything will go well with all of the activities! I love you all!
Elder Cowan

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sister Roper's Baptism

Dear Family,
Another preparation day! Wahoo! (Not) Time seems to just go and go. I need to find somehow to slow time down. I can't believe we are almost half way through the month of October. Before we know it, it will be Halloween, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentines Day....Enough with that thought.

This week we had some interesting experiences. One man we met this week told us that he did not want to discuss religion and I made the mistake by asking him, "Why are there so many churches?" This man was crazy! :) He referred to me as "slim" and he told me over and over that I know too much. After following us down the street and repeating the same sentence repeatedly, "Slim over here knows too much," he then proceeded to invite me to join the armed services, go over to Iraq, and when the guns start firing at me, I should not duck and lie down, I should stand there and take it like a man. In his mind he thought I knew everything about the gospel and that I should speed up my death day because this man knew I was going to heaven. It made me laugh, initially, because I had never heard anything like that before, but then the thought made me very sad for that crazy old man for he knows no concept of "enduring to the end." I hope the Lord will enlighten that man's understanding someday.

Another interesting experience was when Elder Ernst and I went to a less-active members home to teach her four unbaptized children. The children are ages 14 (twin girls) and 11 (girl) and 9 (boy). To begin teaching, I asked one of the 14 year old girls "everyone has a different mindset of what and who the missionaries are. When you think of missionaries, what do you think of?" The young lady responded, "You really want an honest answer, when I think of missionaries, I think GO AWAY!" That was the beautiful opening to one of the hardest lessons I have had on my mission. The less-active mother grew up very strong in the church and she assumes her daughters already know everything (when in reality they do not) and then on top of that, it was like pulling teeth to have the children participate. I don't know what is going to come from this, but we are going to go back over and try again. I could really use some help knowing how to get 14 year old girls to open up. I think if we get the oldest kids to open up, then the two younger children will open up as well.

While at the base, a member pulled me aside and said, "I think my friend wants to join the church, but I'm not sure." I walked straight over to his friend and said, "Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by one holding the priesthood authority of God?" He responded immediately with "YES!" I think I surprised the member. He was in shock that the first words I would say to this soldier would be the invitation to be baptized. That member had an amazing experience, this is his second week at basic and yesterday he had the opportunity of baptizing two of his battle buddies. We are now going to get the three of them to work on the rest of their company! :) Also, Sister Roper, is stuck in Basic because she got injured (you would think you get out of basic sooner if you are injured, but with her they had to do all types of tests to see if she had the problem before she entered basic, or if it was something that happened while she was in basic training which would mean the army would have to pay for the surgery to get it fixed). As Sister Roper was waiting in basic for four months, we have been teaching her the gospel. Yesterday, Sister Roper was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was a great privilege to witness that conversion. We had four baptisms at the Ft. Jackson Base.

At church yesterday Sister Connell came up to us and said, "you are coming to our cottage meeting tonight right?" I had completely forgotten about the cottage meeting. Every second Sunday of the month, the Connells open up their home and all members are welcome to bring their friends and neighbors over to have a gospel discussion. It's a great missionary tool that they use and we try to use it as well by getting our investigators over there as well. We did not have any investigators attend church, so after church we were praying and trying to find someone who would come with us to the cottage meeting. Elder Ernst received revelation to go and see a lady we met two and a half weeks ago. (How he remembered that far back, I don't know. I can't even remember what I had for breakfast.:) We stopped twenty minutes before the fireside and she welcomed us right in and we invited her to the fireside. She responded, "well then get out of my house so I can get ready!" We left and tried to invite another individual to the fireside and within 15 minutes this lady had washed her hair, changed her clothes and was all ready to go! She came to the fireside/cottage meeting and she really enjoyed it. The only difficult thing is that she works down in Columbia and it is hard to catch her here in Camden. We will continue to work with her and I know that if we follow the spirit throughout the teaching experience, just like Elder Ernst listened to know that she would come yesterday night, that she will accept the truths of the restored gospel.

Thank you for everything y'all do! I love the gospel and I will close until next week!
Elder Cowan

Monday, October 4, 2010

Temple Session and General Conference

Dear Family,

Wow! This week has been crazy! On Monday we had Zone Leader Council which was great to talk to the other Zone Leaders to plan out this upcoming month and determine what we can do to better help our Zones fulfill their potential. It is interesting now with the new meeting schedule, we no longer have Zone Development meetings. We do not have many opportunities to train our missionaries, so our focus is on the District Leaders. I am relying more and more on my District Leaders to take what I tell them to their districts. I hope I can continue to fulfill my responsibility with full purpose of heart.

Tuesday began the leadership training meeting. It was a great meeting, and at the end of the day, President McConkie informed us that the next morning we would begin our meeting at the South Carolina Columbia Temple! We met at 6:00 in the morning and we as the leaders of the mission were able to attend an endowment session! It was an amazing experience. I learned so much from being in the temple. I went fasting and praying about a specific question that I had and the miracle was that not only was it answered, but I also learned two others truths that I need to apply to follow the example of Jesus Christ in my leadership responsibilities.

We continued to have leadership training meetings throughout the week. We ended Friday night. We had General Conference on Saturday :) and then we went to the Base on Sunday. The Soldiers in basic training are not allowed to leave the base, so they missed out on General Conference (which was amazing.) but they were able to partake of the sacrament. I was blessed to have the best of both worlds. We attended the branch at the post in the morning and, because of the time difference, we were still able to make it up to Camden in time for General Conference. We had four baptisms this week. An extra special event was Sister Roper, who has been struggling her entire time on post, (she actually got injured and has had to stay for four months) was interviewed yesterday and she is getting baptized next week! I am so excited for her. I had the opportunity to interview her. Well, we had General Conference on Sunday, and here we are on Monday! Time keep going by way to quickly. I love this work. I love each of you! I HOPE AND PRAY YOU ALL HAVE A GREAT WEEK!
Elder Cowan

Monday, September 27, 2010

"This is a Gospel of Second Chances"

Dear Family,

This week's letter is going to be really short. I have a meeting in an hour. I am doing the Lord's work. I may not talk the talk, but I am trying to walk the walk. Life is great. I was a little down because some of our top investigators have fallen off of the path. The thought popped into my head, "This is a gospel of second chances." My immediate thoughts were selfish and self centered. I thought, "maybe I will have a second change to baptize these individuals." My thought was then directed to the Fort Jackson Military Base. I was thinking of the last two soldiers I had the privilege to teach and witness them enter the waters of baptism. I recognized there was one thing in common between these two soldiers. They both at different times in their lives had investigated the church. In their previous investigations, these two men were not ready for the Restored Gospel. I compared my feelings for the two individuals in the Camden area who dropped us, with the missionaries who were dropped by the soldiers in their previous investigations. If only those missionaries could have been in attendance at their baptisms. I know it would strengthen those missionaries to know that their efforts were not in vain. It brought peace to me to know that I will never see the end result of my efforts here in South Carolina. I know that this Gospel is a gospel of second chances, maybe not for me to teach, but for God’s children to receive the Restored Gospel. I have an even greater resolution to work with all that I have for none of it will be wasted. We had three baptisms at the Fort Jackson Post. One of my favorite converts is Brother Watkins. He was baptized three weeks ago, two weeks ago he blessed the sacrament, and just yesterday he had the opportunity to baptize one of his battle buddies! Talk about a quick start! I love you all! Thank you for your continual prayers!

Elder Cowan

Monday, September 20, 2010

New Companion: Elder Ernst, Five Baptisms at Ft. Jackson Base

Dear Family,

My new companion is Elder Ernst. He is from Spanish Fork Utah and he was called by the prophet to teach the gospel in the Spanish language. It's really fun to be able to do both Spanish and English work. I'm learning how to pray in Spanish. 
Life is so busy. We continue to be blessed at the base. We had five baptisms at the Ft. Jackson Base. We are really trying to push ourselves to a new height. We want to increase the average at the base instead of just staying where we are at. I love being a missionary. I hope all is well at home. I love you all! I'm sorry I do not have more time to write! 
Elder Cowan

P.S. At Transfers Elder Taylor received a new missionary to train! My posterity continues to grow! :) 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Brother Watkins' Baptism

Dear Family,
Transfer information is out! After serving in the Camden area for nine months, Elder Taylor is now being transferred. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to serve with Elder Taylor once again and I'm excited to see who is going to come into the area. Elder Poll, one of the Assistants, told us that is was going to be a Spanish speaking missionary. I don't know if he was pulling my leg or if he was telling the truth. We will see on Wednesday! Elder Taylor got a call from President. President McConkie thanked Elder Taylor for his service as a zone leader then President informed him that he would no longer be serving as a zone leader. He is, on the other hand, going to be training a new missionary! That means I get another grandchild. Elder Taylor and I were thinking about it and we wrote out my family line of missionaries. I have trained three times: Elder Taylor, Elder Douglas, and Elder Thayne. When Elder Taylor picks up the new missionary on Wednesday, it will be his second time training. Elder Taylor trained Elder Wood and this new missionary. Elder Douglas has also trained a new missionary. That makes three "grandchildren." Elder Wood has trained twice: Elder Peirre and Elder Mearse. That makes two great grandchildren. :) It is fun to see all the connections within the mission. I know wherever Elder Taylor goes he is going to do great.

This week we had Elder and Sister Sybrowsky tour our mission. It was quite the experience. We had zone leader council with him on Tuesday, and he frankly told us that we have not been fulfilling our purpose (which is true, there has been a slight down trend every month of less and less baptisms within the mission). He trained us on receiving personal revelation and how it is crucial in leadership responsibilities, especially as zone leaders in the Lord's mission. He explained how revelation + leadership skills = miracles in the work. I have also received an assignment from Sister Sybrowsky to ask you to write me the stories of how our family entered the church. Dad, this is an assignment from a member of the quorum of the seventy for you to share your personal experience, and mother you will have to go back through the history books a little. Sister Sybrowsky said, "I don't care how long your family has been in the church, whether it's been over 100 years or if you are a first generation, the stories are going to have one thing in common: full time missionaries. Sister Sybrowsky has promised us that as we read these stories it will motivate us to go out with an even greater desire to share the gospel and to alter a family line just as the missionaries who did it for mine. Thank you for complying with that assignment! :) I am really excited to read them, especially yours dad.

We also had zone conference on Friday in which Elder Sybrowsky told us to stop focusing on the number of new investigators we get and start focusing on baptisms. We get obsessive with getting the numbers and we are losing so many people who could be making and keeping covenants with our Father in Heaven. Elder Taylor and I were commanded by Elder Sybrowsky to move Anna Baker's baptism date up one week. We went over on Saturday and moved it up to this coming weekend, September the 18th. It is going to be a busy week, but I know that an authorized servant of the Lord asked me to do it, so we are going to work everything out for the baptismal service this evening!

Oh by the way, mother, you were dead on. I have been sick the past two weeks. :) I'm not sure how you can know that. I decided not to tell you the past two weeks because I did not want you to worry. I am feeling much better. I promise. You have the mothers intuition, I guess. Thank you for thinking of my physical well being. The members we live with have been great to doctor me up. Sister Dent used to be a nurse. I love the Dents. They are really great. I feel so lucky to be one of the few missionaries in our mission to serve with members.

The base was amazing this week. Brother Watkins was there early and we went through all of the commandments. We went through the baptismal interview and when we finished the interview Brother Watkins stated, "I can't wait to go by the branch back home. The first thing I am going to tell my branch president is, 'I am a new member, I have received the Priesthood, you better start praying to find out what calling the Lord wants me to do, and I need you to tell me what I must do to get a Patriarchal Blessing!'" Brother Watkins was so excited and truly committed to the covenants he was making with Heavenly Father. I had Brother Watkins' battle buddy speak with the branch president, but his battle buddy has not been active and did not feel worthy to perform the baptism, so Brother Watkins asked me to perform the baptism. The only problem was that I did not bring another pair of garments. I wasn't going to let that stop me. I performed the baptism and confirmed Brother Watkins while wearing my garments and then I changed back into my suit. I had wet garments the rest of the day but it just made me happy because the rest of the day I remembered the spirit that was felt as Brother Watkins was baptized. I love this gospel. It was one of the happiest moments as he was baptized. I am so thankful. The branch president conferred the Aaronic priesthood to Brother Watkins and he has been given the assignment for next week to pass the sacrament! It is just great!

I love each of you; I am working hard. I appreciate the support; y'all help to motivate me. I realize how little time I have left and that is a great motivator as well, but my greatest motivation are the covenants I have made with my Father in Heaven. Thank you all! I love you!
Elder Cowan

Monday, September 6, 2010

Opposition in All Things

Dear Family,
What a week. I am really tired. I don't know what it is, but I don't seem to have as much energy as I usually do. This week has had very high points and also extremely low points, but that's life. "Opposition in all things" is a true principle. Jerry had a really bad relapse with alcohol. He was doing really good and then one day he slipped, and he slipped farther than he has in a very long time. I don't know what to do with him. He recognizes the need to change, he wants to change but I don't see any improvement. Jerry is not very educated, and his eyes are really bad so he is not able to read the Book of Mormon. I know that if he were to read he would be able to receive power from Heavenly Father to overcome the addictions which hold him bound.

Annette Adair also has experienced another type of opposition this week. ANTI. Annette called me Wednesday night and she was very distraught. She was so worked up. I feel so bad for her. She is very confused at the moment and does not know what to do. Please pray for her. As I spoke to her on Tuesday, I invited her to ask God about anything we had taught her, and that through the Holy Ghost he would reveal the truthfulness unto her. Annette promised me that we could come by the following day and answer her concerns. On our way over to her house on Wednesday, she called us and canceled. She told us that everything was snowballing and that she needed to get away for a time. She left Wednesday night for Charleston. She is to return later this week. I hope the vacation will benefit her. I hope she has taken Moroni's promise and pondered on the things that we have taught her. I know that IF she asks, THEN the Lord will answer.

Enough with the bad on to the good. When Annette canceled on us on Wednesday, it left our evening completely open. We decided to see Sister Ana Baker. Ana Baker has come to church twice but she would never set a return appointment with us at church. We decided to show up at her house and try to see her. Ana Baker lives 45 minutes away. It still amazes me that she drove down to Camden all on her own just because her granddaughter asked her to visit the church. We drove up to her street but we could not find her house number. We knocked on one door and Carolyn Cateo answered the door. Carolyn invited us right in and we found out that she is related to Sister Ana Baker, and that her sister is a member. She told us how much she loved her sister and the example she is. Carolyn has been surrounded by members. She does home health and she watches a lady in Lancaster (which is not in our mission) who is a member. Many times while she sits with this elderly lady, the missionaries from the North Carolina Mission have taught her the gospel. Also, her sister took her down to the Columbia temple and Carolyn was able to meet the temple president. Before we even began to teach her, she knew Joesph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true. Carolyn accepted a baptismal date for the 25 of September. After visiting Carolyn, she directed us over to Sister Baker's home. We sat with Sister Baker and taught her more about the gospel. Sister Baker came to church this week. Carolyn and her family could not make it because of work. Carolyn is changing her schedule in order to come to church this next week.

The best part about the week was while I was at the Ft. Jackson Military Post. I have been teaching a young man named Watkins and yesterday he finally accepted a baptismal date. This was a result of the two of us kneeling in prayer in the middle of a hallway. There is not much room in the building where the services are held. It's amazing how the Spirit works. Even with noise around us, and people walking right between us, Watkins still felt the spirit. As he arose from his prayer the first words out of his mouth were, "I would like to be baptized!" I am so excited for him! Also, to make the service even better, Brother Schuetter who I had the blessing of teaching the gospel to two weeks ago, passed the sacrament for his first time. Also, another one of my converts on the post bore his testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a real treat to witness these two soldiers continuing in the faith. Well, that's the update for this week. I don't know why it took me so long to write this letter. I need to get better. I just have a difficult time writing. I don't want to come off the wrong way. I love the Lord. I am so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Thank you for all your prayers.

I love you all!
Elder Cowan

Monday, August 30, 2010

Lord Continues to Pour Out Blessings

Dear Family,

Thank you for all your prayers. The Lord continues to pour out blessings upon the Camden area and the Ft. Jackson Military Post.

This week I need to update you on Jerry Favor. Elder Taylor and I found Jerry as we were trying to find an old media referral. He was sitting on his porch and he let us begin teaching him as soon as we said we were servants of Jesus Christ. As we taught Jerry about the Restored Gospel, he stopped us right in the middle of a sentence and said, "I have never felt this way before. I feel uplifted." We then were able to bear testimony of the Holy Ghost and how he confirms the truth of the Gospel. We had him kneel down and ask God if what we had taught was true and he received an immediate answer. He has set a baptismal date of September 18th. On Tuesday of this week, I was on an exchange with Elder Hancock and we arrived at Jerry's house for our return appointment. We had planned to followup by reading the introduction of the Book of Mormon, and the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, but as we began to talk, I asked him the baptismal interview questions that correspond with what we were going to teach him.
"Do you believe that God is the Eternal Heavenly Father?"
"Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the World?"
"Do you believe the church and gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith?
As Jerry answered all of these without hesitation, I did not feel it appropriate to teach him something he already believes. I jumped right into the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we taught him about repentance, he really enjoyed it. He expressed that earlier that same day he was wondering what he needed to change in his life to come closer to God. It was a great lesson. Jerry was excited to begin to repent of his past transgressions.

We taught Jerry again on Friday. We taught him the law of chastity and the Word of Wisdom. Actually he sorta taught us. As we began to teach he already knew the things he needed to do. Jerry needs to get a divorce from his first wife in order to marry his girlfriend who he has been living with for the past 16 years. Jerry also accepted the invitation to come to church. He was so excited to come to church. On Sunday morning we got a call from Jerry and he apologized that he would not make it to church. His sister is in the hospital in Columbia and he was leaving to go and see her. We have an appointment with Jerry this week. I love teaching Jerry because of his humble heart and his excitement for the Gospel.

Update on  Annette. Annette had to cancel our appointment on Wednesday because her sink burst and she had to get some repairs done. She rescheduled for Friday at the same time that we were supposed to have dinner with one of the active members who lives down the street. We asked the members if we could invite Annette over and they agreed. On Friday evening we taught Annette the Plan of Salvation in the Parrot's home. It was a great lesson. Even know as I think of it--the environment, the lesson, the testimonies were perfect. We invited Annette to be baptized on the 25th of September. She accepted!! Annette attended church yesterday and Sister Dent, who helped us teach last week, took Annette under her wing and introduced her to everyone! After Church, Annette asked to see the baptismal font. It was a great church experience.

The Lord also poured out another blessing. A lady named Ana Baker came to church. Ana Baker is the grandmother of a young lady who joined the church in the military. Her granddaughter told her she needed to check out the church and so she came on her own! This was actually her second time coming and she loved it! She even stated that she is interested in joining the church!

Last update. The Military Post. I interviewed Walker before sacrament meeting. His battle buddy, BROTHER Allred performed the baptism. I performed the confirmation. I interviewed Brother Schuetter for baptism, but I was not able to witness the baptism because Brother Watkins wanted to visit with me. Brother Watkins feels that the church is true, but his parents have asked him to hold off. I invited him to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost but he is still hesitant. I hope and pray that the Lord will resolve his concerns this next week. Also, two sisters were baptized on the base. :) What an exciting time to be a missionary!

I love you all!
Elder Cowan

Monday, August 23, 2010

Another Great Week!

Dear Family,
Another great week! This week we had a baptism on the post, Brother Hart. I was not able to witness the baptism because I was in charge of teaching the gospel principles class. After the sacrament meeting, all of the non-members and their battle buddies gather at the front of the room and last week we had about 20 members and 40 nonmembers. I was assigned by the assistants to teach the class. The interesting part is that while the investigator class is being taught at the front of the chapel, priesthood meeting is taking place at the back of the room. Two people are speaking at the exact same time. I gathered all of those who were to be attending the investigator class at the front of the room. As I began the class, I realized that I would not be able to have much participation from the class because if I asked anyone to read or to answer a question, the rest of the class would not be able to hear with everything else that was taking place in the chapel. So, instead of a normal discussion, I decided to preach. :) It probably was really entertaining to watch me in front of this large group. I decided that I would teach about AGENGY. I decided to use the examples of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith. Christ used his agency to: 1) be baptized and 2) complete the atonement. Both of these were fulfilling the will of the Father. I then transitioned to Joseph Smith seeking to do the will of the Father, but not knowing what that was. At the end of the class, I invited all to be baptized. I did a horrible job. I was planning to say, "Raise your hand if you are ready to take the next step by following the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by one holding the priesthood authority of God." As I got to the "next step" three soldiers shot their hands right up! I was expecting the invitation to be fully extended and then it wouldn't have surprised me if a second or two went by before someone would have raised their hand, but when they started to raise their hands before the commitment was fully extended, I was completely shocked!!! :) I then invited all those who wanted to learn more about the church to raise their hands. There was only a few who did not raise their hands to the second commitment. It was overwhelming to see all of these individuals searching for more truth in their lives. At one point in my preaching, I thought of Dan Jones. :D I know I am not him, but standing above the class beneath me and crying repentance to all was quite the experience. I have written letters to all those who are preparing to be baptized next week and hopefully they will all show up!
Another really cool experience was when a soldier, who I had taught the week before, came up to me today and asked if I would personally teach him next week. He said, "I hope you are not teaching the group lesson, I would like to speak to you personally because I feel you can help me out. I'm trying to follow Christ, but I'm just not sure what my next step should be." :) He has very high potential to be baptized two weeks from now.
Another random thing, as I was welcoming the soldiers, a lady stopped and said, "you were in my seminary class two years ago." This completely caught me off guard, but sure enough it was Heather. She was in my seminary class my senior year. It's a small world.
OK on to another great story that took place here in Camden. Two weeks ago the ward had a fish fry. After the fish fry, they had a softball game. We had some investigators at the fish fry, but none of them stayed for the softball game. The ward really wanted us to stay, even play in the softball game, but because we did not have anyone there we decided to leave. As we were out tracting, we met a lady and introduced her to the Book of Mormon. The lady responded, "I already know about that book, my neighbor across the street gave it to me." This really puzzled Elder Taylor and me because we have no record of a member living on that street. We knocked on the door, but nobody answered. We decided to go back this past Monday and we met Annette. Anette told us that she used to be affiliated with the Mormon church and she wanted us to come back by. Elder Taylor went back by with Elder Garcia while on exchange. While there, Elder Taylor found out that Anette is not a member. Anette asked why we had decided to park in front of her house and knock on her door on Monday. They told her about the neighbor, but the funny thing is that Anette had given her neighbor a Jehovah Witness book that she didn't want anymore!!! The Lord has his hand in all things. Because we did not waste our time and just watch a softball game, through a chain of events we met Anette. Anette is at such a point that she is ready for the gospel. She has been reading the Book of Mormon and loves it. She is so excited to come to church on Sunday. We are going back by on Wednesday to teach the Plan of Salvation.
I hope all is well back at home. I love each of you!
Elder Cowan

Monday, August 16, 2010

5 Baptisms on Base!!! Plus 1 in Hopkins Ward--Total of 6 Baptisms for Columbia Stake!

Dear Family,

I know it is not fair, but as life gets busier and busier, there is always something that does not get all the attention it needs. And like always, it seems like my weekly letter home always gets the short end of the stick. I do love my new area. We did not have 7 baptisms, we had 5!!!!! plus one outside the base (in the Hopkins ward) so a total of 6 baptisms for the Columbia Stake! The base was so busy! The soldiers only have two hours that they are allowed to be at church or else they get chewed out by their drill sergeants. So within two hours, we had to give all the soldiers the sacrament, AND interview the five men for baptism, AND have them all change into white clothing (in an extremely small bathroom), AND baptize them in our portable font, AND confirm them members of the church, AND have each of them meet with the Branch President to receive the Aaronic Priesthood! Boy, if you want to see an amusing sight, watch the four of us missionaries run around in all different directions throughout the church service. It was quite the adventure. I don't know how I found time, but I also met a soldier who was there for his first time and I taught him the gospel. He has a ton of potential. He is very spiritual, and I would not be surprised if he was baptized in the next three weeks. Elder Taylor also taught a group the first discussion and at the end of his teaching two soldiers raised their hands to indicate they wanted to be baptized!

It's always interesting going back to the family ward in Camden after being on the base. Everything feels like it's in slow motion. :) I'm once again learning all the members in the Camden Ward and knowing how missionary work goes, and as soon as I learn the area, they will move me to another city! :D I love the excitement of missionary work!

Well, I need to close for now. We have permission to write emails to the soldiers on base and I feel that it will help those I met have a desire to come back next week, and I want to congratulate those who were baptized. Therefore, I need to stop writing this letter. I love you all and I hope you have a wonderful week!

Elder Cowan

Monday, August 9, 2010

"I love serving at the base!"

Dear Family,
What an exciting week! I informed you last week that I knew I was going to be working with the Assistants to the President on Sundays and throughout the week I would be working in a town called Camden. I was a little nervous who my companion would be because I knew that Elder Taylor (the missionary I trained back in Anderson) had been serving as a Zone Leader in Camden for 71/2 months. His companion, Elder Seamons, had only been there for one transfer and I was worried to work with Elder Seamons because we go about missionary work in different ways. He is a great missionary, but I was nervous for the change.

When I got to transfer meeting, for the 40 minutes I was sitting and waiting for the meeting to start, I was harassed by many missionaries coming up to me and making remarks about me going assistant. Oh how grateful I am that they were wrong! The meeting started and as they went through the power point presentation, Elder Seamons was transferred to Greenville! I was certain I was going to be serving with him, but the Lord had other plans. I continued to watch earnestly to see who I was going to be serving with. President announced the next slide before it came up on the screen. "Staying in the Camden area is Elder TAYLOR and transferring in is Elder Cowan!!!!! I was so excited to serve with Elder Taylor for a second time! What a great blessing it is that I am able to serve a "second round" with one of my favorite companions! And I may have to call this my favorite area!

Thursday, Elder Taylor and I stopped by a less-active who originally is from AZ! The less-active, Tyler Miller, was not home, but we taught his aunt, Trish Helton. Trish is an amazing lady. She recognizes the joy that the gospel brings into Tyler's life and it has opened her up to want to know more about the church. We had a great lesson with her and we will continue to work with her. We had a Zone Leader Council on Friday and then Saturday, while trying to see Trish, we ran into a former investigator, taught him, and he too was really receptive, but then on our way home, we got our car stuck in a sandy road! It was quite the adventure as we tried to no avail to dig our little car out of the sand. The Assistants drove up with a local member to save us, but two minutes before they got to us (unknown to us) a neighbor, who we had previously asked for help, called her son and this good Samaritan pulled us out of the sand pit. It was really funny.

Sunday was an amazing day. Elder Taylor, the two Assistants, (Elder Tran and Elder Poll) work at the Ft. Jackson military post. It is so sweet! Church is only two hours long. We weave through the congregation and half of the people who attend the branch are non-members! I ran into a problem I have never had before--I had to determine which of all the non-members there were worth my time. I came across one young man and began to teach him, but he was not going anywhere, so I stopped teaching him. A member, Brother Day, introduced me to his "battle buddy" Bro. Harper. At the same time another member, Brother Bradberry introduced me to his "battle buddy" Bro. Poulos. I taught both Bro. Poulos and Bro. Harper and they have been prepared! I taught them about the Restoration and they both committed to be baptized! The thing is about the base, after they come to church next Sunday, the baptismal service is right after sacrament meeting, and then they have water side confirmations, and then they are given the priesthood immediately after that! I am excited to see both of these two enter the waters of baptism. They are not the only two who are getting baptized either. This was also Elder Tran's first time on base and he has three people for next week and Elder Poll has two individuals as well! We had two baptisms yesterday and it looks like we are going to have 7 next week! What a great outpouring from the Lord. I love serving at the base!

I need to close for now. I have a meeting with President in Columbia in an hour. I love you and keep up the great work!
Elder Cowan

Monday, August 2, 2010

Transferring to Columbia East Zone


I knew your birthday was this past week, but with our crazy schedule I did not go shopping last preparation day, let alone go anywhere where I could buy you a card. This week has been really interesting because Elder Fitzgerald and I have been living on leftovers and anything we can find in the cupboards. Well its hard to believe, but we received a transfer call on Saturday and I am being transferred. President called me today and told me where I am going. I am going to be the Zone Leader of the Columbia East Zone and I am going to work with those on the military base. I will be working right along side the Assistants to the President. It is going to be interesting, but "I'll go where you want me to go dear Lord." I am sad to leave the people here in Florence. I don't know how many more times I am going to be transferred. . .I am trying to make the most of each day. I appreciate your prayers in my behalf. I hope everyone is doing well and ready to start a new school year! I love you!

Elder Cowan

P.S. I know this is short, but it will have to do.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Time Seems to Slip Right Out of My Fingers

Dear Family,
This week, no...this month, no...this year has just been a blur. Time seems to slip right out of my fingers. I am trying to make the most of it, but it just disappears. Last Monday was crazy because I was preparing things for our zone interviews. I make a report on all the missionaries in the zone, and it's a big deal because President's opinion on missionaries is highly dependent on what we right. And as you know, I am not the greatest at expressing my thoughts or writing. It takes me quite a long time writing the evaluations because I don't want to give the mission president the wrong impression about the elders and sisters in the Lemuel Zone.

Tuesday was interviews, and it was quite interesting, because the assistants called us up Monday night at 10:10 p.m. and asked us to give a training the following day. :P Talk about short notice. We prepared our training, but what was even funnier, I not only gave the 30 minute training with Elder Fitzgerald, but I had to give an impromptu training! There was a gap in between the fleet coordinators words and the time that the assistants came back into the room, so I gave another training to keep the meeting going. :) The scriptures are great.

On to the important stuff. The people of Florence! We taught a great lesson to Sister Selph. The spirit was really strong and she now realizes that it is us, not the bishop, who determines when she gets baptized. Normally we wouldn't teach an investigator about stewardship, but because her husband is also trying to be re-baptized, we had to clarify that the bishop has stewardship over Brother Selph and we have stewardship for her. She is trying really hard to quit smoking. I have never seen someone so miserable. She hates to smoke; it doesn't taste good to her; its nasty, and she feels horrible whenever she smokes. Even with her dislike, she is addicted. We are not just trying to break a habit, but an addiction. I pray for her constantly that she will be able to overcome the addiction.

Samantha was out of town the same time we were down in Columbia, but even while being at Myrtle Beach, she read from the Book of Mormon. She was not going to make it back to Florence till late Sunday night, so she asked us if we could get the address for the Myrtle Beach Ward so she could attend our service while at the Beach (Sunday the 18th). After church we called the missionaries to see if she came and she did not. :( That evening at 10:00 p.m. she called to apologize for missing church. Sunday (18th) morning she was rushed to the emergency room to have an abscess removed. She was drugged up and sounded like death, but she still called us to say she was sorry! She is a very caring girl. We saw her once this week. We reviewed what she learned while she was at basic training for National Guard, and then we watched the Restoration DVD. Afterward, we invited her to be baptized, and she accepted! :D She wants to be baptized as soon as possible! Unfortunately, she was not able to attend church yesterday. We are trying to set up an appointment for Samantha to have dinner over at the Stoddard's house.

I love being a missionary and life is great! I love each of you and I hope to hear from EACH OF YOU (Blake & Justin). I love you!

Elder Cowan

Monday, July 19, 2010

Elder Fitzgerald's Letter

Dear Family,
I am sorry I am not able to write today. I also do not know when I am ever going to have time to write a snail mail letter. I guess I need to budget my time a little better. I love each of you. The leadership meeting was fun, President McConkie's brother came to the leadership meeting. Coincidentally his brother is a stake president so he too is a President McConkie! :) The meetings were great. Samantha is progressing and we have a new family to work with! Their name is Jackson. I will fill you in later!
Elder Cowan

Elder Fitzgerald's letter:
Hey everyone,
This week was a pretty crazy one since we had all of those leadership meetings up in Columbia. So I spent the whole last week at meetings in the day and proselyting their area at night then sleeping on my new air mattress. Haha All I have to say is at least I didn’t have to sleep on the straight ground the whole week we got those air mattresses because we now have those meetings every other month and we still have to do all of our normal other exchanges so they will come in handy quiet a bit. The meetings went really well. We really didn’t learn anything new, we just learned everything we sort of already know and how to do it better. We are all trying to move toward exactly how Preach My Gospel says to do everything. It's crazy we have this great tool and we haven’t been using it to its full capacity. Man Preach My Gospel is the bomb and it truly was inspired. It really has everything that we need; we just need to use it how it was intended to be used. 

Another great thing happened this weekend we got to go with Elder Smart to do a baptismal interview for one of his investigators and we actually got to stay and to see her baptism on Saturday. It was really cool. Then after the baptism their ward mission leader, who is a really funny old guy, took us out to eat at a really good steak and seafood restaurant. Haha He is hilarious. He wants us to come up again soon and come and visit him.

We are also teaching some really cool people. We weren't able to get a hold of the girl that came to church with her friend last week; she has been down in Myrtle Beach for the week. She has been reading the Book of Mormon, though, and says that she feels good when she reads and prays. She was going to go to church down at the beach but she had an emergency happen and she ended up having to go to the hospital, but she is doing ok. We are really praying that everything is going well. She called us like apologizing she couldn’t go to church and we were like no its fine don’t worry about it, are you ok??? But I think everything will be fine. We are just looking forward to being able to check up on her and teach her and her family. We also met another really cool 18 year old girl who just moved here from Alabama and she is also going through a lot of medical problems, but she is really interested and cool. We are looking forward to working with her. We have also been able to teach Sis. Selph this week. She has had some trouble stopping smoking, but we had a really great lesson with her on Saturday and we were all getting a little emotional and she committed to not smoke at all for the next seven days and so it went well. She is doing good so far. She was at church yesterday. That’s pretty much it for this last week we have interviews tomorrow so that should go pretty well. Elder Cowan and I should be giving some good trainings.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Miracles Happen

Dear Family,
What a wonderful week! I need to start by telling you the miracle which has taken several months to develop. My very last week in Spartanburg, Elder Thayne and I were blessed to find many new investigators. It was Sunday evening, and we came across a man who was sitting on a porch and we taught him the restoration. It was a nice lesson, but when we left, his mother came out and she was not very excited to see us. Anyways, I had forgotten all about this incident until this last week. Elder Thayne, who was transferred into my zone the same day as Elder Fitzgerald, called me up and asked me if I had looked at the weekly mission report, I told him I had glanced at it, but nothing really stood out. Elder Thayne reminded me that in Spartanburg, a man had been baptized. Elder Thayne went on to explain that it was the very man we had met my third to last day in Spartanburg! What an amazing miracle! I am so happy that that man decided to enter the waters of baptism and make that sacred covenant with our Heavenly Father. The funny part is that I honestly don't even remember his name! I will have to ask Elder Thayne later.

The other miracle that we experienced this week was that after working really hard and not having any real results from it, the Lord saw fit to place someone in our path that we will have the opportunity to teach. On Sunday, Elaine, a local member, brought her friend Samantha to Church. Samantha went to basic training for national guard and while she was there she had attended the LDS services. Samantha really enjoyed attending, so when she came home and told her friend Elaine about this interesting church she had attended Elaine explained that she was a member. Elaine invited her to attend the local church in Florence. Samantha came and loved it. The ward was great at reaching out and welcoming her and inviting her to come back next week. We have an appointment with her this evening and Elaine is going to be there as well!

This week has been interesting because last Monday the assistants told us that were going to have a surprise zone conference. It really shocked me. So on Wednesday morning Elder Fitzgerald and I had a zone development meeting at 8:00 in the morning and at 9:00 we then have a zone conference. At the end of the zone conference, I jumped in the car with the Elders that work Sumter to go on an exchange and when we just pulled into Sumter, I received a phone call from Elder Fitzgerald informing me that we were supposed to meet with the stake president in a half hour and Elder Fitzgerald was a little nervous because he had never attended a stake correlation meeting before. I felt horrible that I had completely spaced the meeting, but I turned the car around and headed back up to Florence. I literally sprinted into the meeting. It was quite disorganized, (which was completely my fault for forgetting, but it turned out all right,and everything that we needed to get across was communicated and assignments were made to help the work progress here in the Florence Stake.) (Oh by the way Dad, I would love to attend one of your stake correlation meetings when I get done with my extension! :)

That's the update for right now. The entire church is redoing the mission process, from the way the MTC is run, to all the missions around the world. To start this change, I have to be at a leadership meeting in Columbia starting tomorrow and it will last for four days! I don't know how we are going to help our investigators progress in the gospel with only tonight, Saturday and Sunday to actually be here, but the Lord will provide a way (1 Nephi 3:7).

I love each of you and I appreciate the continual prayers in behalf of my companion and I, and our investigators.

Elder Cowan

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Map and Lots of Work To Do in Florence!

Dear Family,
It was quite interesting as I was shopping yesterday, I noticed that the Walmart is beginning to put supplies out for the next school year. It was quite a shock when I realized that I am not going to spend this entire school year here in South Carolina! :O I need to put the pedal to the medal and make sure I use every moment effectively to fulfill the calling and purpose that I have as a missionary.

This week I am pleased to announce that the Florence area now has a map! It was interesting trying to plan on a map that was so old and had streets that no longer existed and was missing so many new developments. Last week we spent our time buying a new map and laminating it. Yesterday, our district leader, Elder Williams, and his companion, Elder Bangeter, came over and helped find where members live and placed them on our map. This ward is HUGE! There are enoungh members in the ward list to make a stake! It's quite sad that there are only 140-160 active members, while there are 800-900 less-active members. We are going to try and help re-kindle the flame that these members once had, while also teaching their friends and families. We are following President Monson's program "Rescue Effort." We also have been blessed with 600 media offers. These are individuals who either saw a commercial or went to and ordered free materials from the church. We deliver the items and also invite them to learn of the restored gospel. I sometimes wonder how in the world I am supposed to be in charge of bringing the gospel to so many different people. I have complete confidence that as I listen to the promptings of the still small voice, I will know where to begin with these huge lists.

Tanzania, felt the spirit, acted. . .and made the wrong decision. She was truthful when she said she wanted to get back into church, but unfortunately she chose to go back to her family church and does not want us coming back by.

This week we had a return appointment with Annette Brown. She had read the introduction and was very curious about the entire timeline of the Book of Mormon. We explained everything to her, letting her know who was the father of who, and she is so interested in family history! We are going over to teach her the Plan of Salvation today. I am very excited to see how she continues to progress in the gospel.

On Sunday, we found a sweet man named Lashawn. We taught him a powerful straight forward lesson, which I think only lasted about 10 minutes, but by the end Lashawn knew the importance of Priesthood power in performing ordinances in the gospel, and he really wanted to know if Joseph Smith received that authority from Jesus Christ. We have a return appointment with LaShawn today as well. Sister Selph is as sweet as always. I love her to death. She is still working on her addiction to cigarettes. She is going to begin attending the addiction recovery class which is held at the church every Tuesday evening. I know that as she completes the class, she will be smoke free and ready for baptism. The work continues to progress and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with Elder Fitzgerald and the people in the Florence area.

I love each of you, and I love the gospel too!

Elder Cowan

P.S. Note for future missionaries (Justin, Blake, and Kevin):
Keep your area book current! Updating an area book is like repentance, it can be done, but it's a difficult process. The longer you wait the harder it is. If you update your area book everyday (just like repentance), it's easy, but when missionaries for the past year and a half have not kept good records, then it becomes a difficult process. :)