Monday, February 22, 2010

New Zone Leader Companion--Elder Quakenbush

Dear Family,

I will do my best to make this email exciting and in depth, but I have already been on the computer for a hour and a half filling out stake reports and accountability sheets for the assistants, and I'm ready to get off the computer. :) But on we go!

Tuesday we did not have a lesson with Dede. She was sick and she has been sick the rest of this week. We have not been able to teach her because of her sickness. When we have stopped by, she told us that she has not read.

This transfer I've decided that things would be a little bit different. When Elder Redston and I were here last transfer, we did not have set areas because we both wanted to continue to work with the Conklin family. Now with a new zone leader coming in, I thought it would be appropriate to change it back to the way it was supposed to be when Elder Redston and I received our trainees (Elder Douglas and Elder Hightower). Elder Douglas and I are permanently on bikes while Elder Hightower and Elder Quakenbush are in the car. (Elder Quakenbush served in Anderson my second transfer. He was on a bike then and I was in a car. Now the tides have turned.) Elder Douglas and I cover downtown Spartanburg and they cover the surrounding areas and county. This week has been exciting as I have watched my "son" (trainee) acclimate to being on a bike all day.

The highlight of this week is John Perry. We visited with John on Thursday and we taught him the Word of Wisdom. It was a great lesson. Normally WOW is not the most spiritual lesson, but the spirit was felt very strong as we taught him. At the end of the lesson, he committed to live the Word of Wisdom which includes him giving up coffee, tea, and cigarettes. Before we left his house, he went to his fridge and took out his pitcher of tea and poured it down the drain! We also told him about our quit smoking program and we set up an appointment to come by on Saturday to set him up on the program. We went back on Saturday with Brother Snider, who gave up smoking before he joined the church, and we went over the quit smoking program. He committed to it and as far as I know, (we have not gotten ahold of him today) he has been smoke free since our lesson! And to make the story even more exciting, he came to church this Sunday! John really enjoyed the sacrament meeting, but by the time it was done he had to go home because his sugar was low. He told us that he will stay for all three hours next Sunday. Our next appointment with John is on Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday we we were down a street and Elder Douglas stopped and asked if we could go back and knock on a house that was in the other direction. We decided to go knock on the door and we met Debra. We taught her about the Book of Mormon and when I asked her if she had any questions about what we shared she asked, "Where can I get one of those books? Can I get that at the Christian book store?" :) We informed her that we would give her a free copy. She was so pleased to receive it. We then went back by on Thursday and she had read the first four chapters. I honestly did not think she was very interested, but I'm glad Elder Douglas was in tune with the spirit to turn around and knock on her door. We have another appointment with her on Wednesday. Brenda is very attached to another church, but I have confidence that if she continues to read the Book of Mormon she will know that it is true.

Friday we had zone conference. It was really good. I learned that one out of every four missionaries in our mission, the South Carolina Columbia Mission, has been on their mission for less that three months! The mission is very young. More missionaries have been coming out than are going home. This is a good thing that there is a larger number of missionaries, but its also scary to think that I have the responsibility to train them to become the future leaders of the mission.

I hope and pray all is well! I know this is a lame letter. I do apologize. I told Elder Douglas that I am just shooting myself in the leg every time I write a longer letter the week before, then you will continue to expect my letter to be longer and longer. I love being a missionary. The work is great. Time flies too fast. Too fast. I know a certain event occurs on this Thursday (Feb. 25th) but I would really appreciate it if we just don't talk about it. I like to think that I am still a young missionary.

Elder Cowan

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Birthday and Snow Fun

Dear Family,

What an exciting week! So much has happened that I don't know if I will be able to remember everything, let alone write it in the email. To start off, Elder Redston and I planned on having a zone development meeting on Friday, but half way through the week, we received a call from the assistants that we were going to have a zone leader council on Friday. With this news, we changed our ZDM from Friday to Thursday. I love giving trainings. For this meeting I told Elder Redston to give training on physical aspects of missionary work (policies and procedures, role plays and evaluations, filling out paper work, etc.) and I would give the spiritual training. I was not sure what I was really going to train on. I had two or three different ideas, but I wanted to rely on the promise in D&C where the Lord promises that if we are prepared spiritually, the words we need to say shall be given at the specific moment they are needed. I said a quiet prayer as I stood before everyone and then I began. My training ended up being on prayer, "more earnest prayers." It was great to be taught by the Spirit as I was standing before the Zone. I think I learned more as I was standing there than the Zone learned from me. It was a great experience.

After the ZDM, Elder Douglas and I went forward with our plans. We had tried to see John Perry. John was not home. I had not seen him at all this week and he didn't come to church on February 7th because the battery on his car died. Since he was not home, we started talking to some of the people in the neighborhood. As we went through our day, I noticed at 3:00 pm I had an appointment written down for a Jeff on 211 Georgia St. I could not remember who this person was. I asked Elder Douglas if he remembered who this "Jeff" was but he did not have the appointment written down. We had joked about it, saying that the Lord must have written the appointment into my planner. When it was 3:00 pm, we headed to Georgia St. As we walked down the street, there was no number 211, but we did find a 112. We decided to knock on the door (because I tend to have dyslexia quite a bit) and when we knocked on the door, we met Dede. We invited Dede to hear our message and at first she replied with, "I'm Lutheran," but as we continued to talk and present to her the Book of Mormon, you could literally see the "spark" within her eyes as we shared with her the truth that God has given us another book of scripture. She then asked, "How do I get one of those books?" :) Boy is that a good statement to hear! We gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon, and we shared with her a couple of scriptures including Moroni 10:3-5. As we read and explained the importance of asking God, Dede was so excited to read the Book of Mormon. We did not ever have to ask her if we could come back, she beat us to it by asking us when we could come back by. We are planning to see her today at four. Elder Douglas and I have made some exciting plans for our lesson today.

So on Thursday night, we received a message from the assistants that all zone leaders will not only be attending our zone leader council, but that we would attend Columbia zone conference as well AND that there was going to be some special guests: Elder Posey (local area authority) and Elder Gonzalez (President of the Seventy). We were trained by them for the first half of the day and then the second half was our zone leader council. After the zone leader council, it was snowing in Columbia. President McConkie made the decision that it was better to be safe than sorry, so the zone leaders who did not live in Columbia stayed the night at the mission home. We arrived at the mission home at 5:00 in the evening. And the rest of the night we practiced teaching one another, scripture cases, and also President gave us additional training on what we received from Elder Gonzalez. It snowed constantly the entire time we were up there. I think there was anywhere from 4-6 inches of snow in Columbia (I know that is not a lot compared to other areas of the world, but it was a big thing here). Because the trees are not used to the weight of the snow here, there were trees everywhere that were snapping. I really had a fun time. I was there with other missionaries who actually enjoy missionary work. We just had a blast.

The next morning, was Saturday! Elder Redston's AND my BIRTHDAY! We received a birthday breakfast from President and Sister McConkie. After breakfast President trained us even more. :) I love sitting around his living room and talking about the gospel. President McConkie has a vast amount on knowledge and a firm testimony. It is amazing to hear stories of him being taught by his father. After the training we had a snowball fight! :) It was such a fun trip-sporadic and not planned at all. Just the way I like it!

The sun came out and the roads were well enough to drive home. I'm glad we stayed in Columbia because as we drove back to Greenville, we saw so many cars that had driven into the embankment and in ditches. When we got back, we picked up Elder Douglas and Elder Hightower and we drove to Greer, where we were blessed to witness Kim and Corrie Coggins get baptized. They have a beautiful conversion story. It's also quite long. The Coggins have been investigating the church for the past year, and since I've spent most of my mission here in the upstate, I have heard about them, talked with them and worked with them. With all the hard work from so many different missionaries and members, they got baptized.

After the baptism, we went out to eat: PF Changs. :) I spent all of my funds, but it was well worth it. The food was delicious. Overall, I had an amazing birthday. It was not what we had planned, but I would not have wanted it in any other way.

Saturday we received transfer calls. Elder Redston is leaving. :( I am sad to see him go, but I know he is going to do great wherever he goes.

On Sunday evening Elder Douglas and I made it out to Clark Cir. We visited with Felicia (the one I told you about who has food storage and watches KBYU) and her mother Dot. We are seeing them again on Friday.

Yesterday we finally got ahold of John Perry. He has had so many problems with his life. A growth appeared on his foot and he had to have surgery to have it removed. As he was getting ready for church, he dropped a can on his foot. He told us he was in so much pain that he cried. It's sad to see that something always comes up, but he keeps a positive attitude. John is also continuing to read the Book of Mormon. We are seeing him again on Thursday.

I hope and pray all is well with everyone! Jesus is the Christ, this is His Church.

Elder Cowan

P.S. I love this quote:
The Lord sends boys foreign to become men,
The Lord sends men stateside to become leaders
The Lord sends leaders to the south to become scholars.
:) Oh yeah!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Conklins Baptism

Dear Family,

I am so excited! the new email address is through gmail! This is the coolest thing ever! I highly doubt I will have problems anymore. :) I am so ecstatic! The Lord answers prayers. Many times I have joked with my companions about having our emails through google, but now it is no longer a joke, it's for real! This just made my day!

Well, on to the weekly update. Monday morning was quite fun. For companionship study, we had "round table" with Elder Hightower and Elder Redston. Elder Redston introduced the topic of "calling and election made sure"/"second comforter" to our trainees. They were in awe. I was surprised that neither of them had heard anything about it before they came on their mission. Anyways, it was a fun morning to start off this amazing week!

Tuesday, Elder Redston and I went on an exchange with the Elders in Boiling Springs. We had a great time in Boiling Springs. The Elders there, Elder Larson and Elder Jones are great missionaries. They are both young and inexperienced, but it was great to see their desire to have success and their willingness to accept advice and tips to help them become even more productive. They have a couple of investigators who are progressing along and I am excited to see them enter the waters of baptism.

On Wednesday, as an apartment, we decided to go together to see the Conklins. On our way out there, we took the back roads and stopped at a random little street with only two or three houses on it. We ended up at a small little street called Clark Circle. As we talked to the people, the first thing we found out was that everyone was related. We then found out that they are all the descendants of a member of our church! At one time Brother Clark owned a ton of land between Spartanburg and Pacolet, now its been divided up between children, grandchildren, etc. So all of the people we talked to knew something about the church, but none of them are members! One lady we talked to said that her favorite T.V. channel is KBYU! She also has a year's supply of food! What a marvelous find! And the best part, Clark Circle comes off the road "Goldmine Road" :) It certainly was a goldmine of great people!

Thursday was interviews. It was a great day filled with the spirit and great training by our leaders.

On Friday, Elder Douglas and I were out "door teaching" (it's no longer called contacting) and we came across a street that I've been to before, but Elder Douglas wanted to go, so I went without telling him that I had already been there. We walked down the street and he saw a house and said, "we need to go there." I knew who lived in the house, but I know Elder Douglas is entitled to just as much inspiration about the area as I am. We talked to the lady and as we bore our testimonies, she accepted the invitation of reading the Book of Mormon! We are going back to see Betty (that's her name) tonight. It was a cool experience to know that Heavenly Father is always working and preparing his children to hear the truth.

On to the big day! SATURDAY=Baptism day! Spartanburg 2nd ward had a baptism for Lisa Vang (who is Mong) and the Conklins wanted to attend that baptism and hear the baptismal prayer in Mong language. They really enjoyed it and it prepared them for their baptisms which followed right afterwards. Oh, I played the piano at both baptisms. Not my most favorite thing to do in the world, but for a baptism, I will do anything. :) Elder Redston baptized Jakob, Elder Douglas baptized Cheyanne, and Elder Hightower baptized Tracy. Tracy is so strong. She reminds me of Edna, they both have a sincere desire to learn and grow closer to our Heavenly Father. Tracy is in 3 Nephi 14. She is haulin' through the Book of Mormon. I received a letter from Edna saying that she has re-read the Book of Mormon. I love this gospel! On Saturday evening, Elder Douglas and I were led to Lydia Tyler. She is a less active member (or so we think). Her parents were sealed in the temple and at the age of 12 her parents stopped going to church. Lydia never knew why they stopped. She loved going to church and when they stopped going, she felt the void in her life. Now that she is living on her own, she desperately wants to come back to church. She moved to Spartanburg two weeks ago. And has been thinking about the church and then we knocked on her door! She is such a cool person! Saturday was just a great day from beginning to end.

Sunday the Conklins were confirmed. I confirmed Tracy, Elder Hightower confirmed Jakob, and Elder Douglas, confirmed Cheyanne. It was great to see their beaming faces. I literally could see their countenance change. Lydia also came to church. It was a spiritual testimony meeting. It seemed like everyone who bore their testimony talked about the peace that they received when they moved to Sparatanburg because they had a family, a ward family. It really touched Lydia. We introduced Lydia to Lyndsey Webster, who is a RM, and she too recently moved here. They became instant friends. It was such a great privilege to participate in the Conklins baptsims as they entered the gate to begin their journey back to our Heavenly Father. And what a treat it was to see Lydia come back into the fold after being away from the church for 15 years. I love the gospel. I love it, I love it, I love it! I hope and pray all is well with everyone! Remember, no matter where you are, you can do missionary work! Bring others this truth!

I love you all!
Elder Cowan

Monday, February 1, 2010

Leadership Training and Investigator Updates

Dear Family,

Email session is now stressful being a zone leader. :S We always have something that takes up our time. This week we had to fill out an evaluation sheet for all the the missionaries in our zone so the mission president can know what to do, and what to say in his interviews with the missionaries next week.

This week has been crazy! I don't know where to begin. First off, the baptisms did not happen because of weather. We received snow Friday night and Saturday morning. The roads were dangerous and so the baptism is set for next Saturday. Besides the weather problem, the Conklins are doing great. Tracy's husband's name is Keith and Keith's sister is Donna.

Going back through the week. On Wednesday we had a leadership training in Columbia. All of the District Leaders and Zone Leaders within the mission met in Columbia to be trained. Our meeting started at 7:30 in the morning, so we decided to go down the night before. On Tuesday evening, all of the District Leaders in our Zone, (Elder Austin, Elder Thayn, and Elder Corona) met us in Spartanburg. I drove down to Columbia and we stayed the night in the Assistant's apartment. The meeting was good, I thought a little long, it lasted 10 hours. I then drove back home. The trip wiped me out!

John Perry is doing great. We continue to teach him. This Sunday was Stake Conference. He, unfortunately, was not able to make it. When he went to his truck, the truck would not start. He is going to buy a new battery today. Because he was not able to make it to church, he will not be able to be baptized on my birthday. :( That's just the Lord's way of making sure my desire is pure, to make sure I want him to be baptized not for me, but to come unto Christ. We taught him the Plan of Salvation this week, and he is very confused about the fall. He doesn't understand why God was so harsh to kick Adam and Eve out of the Garden for making a mistake while they were in such an innocent state. He is going through a rough time right now, so it's hard for him to see how beautiful it is that we are able to be here on the earth. He recently lost his job, he couldn't pay for his house, lost his house, and now he is living in a beat up old house. To top it off, his wife left him because she said she would not live in such a crummy looking house. I know God has sent us to help him see the light. I wish I could write more but I must go. I hope you are feeling better mom.

Elder Cowan