Monday, March 29, 2010

Staying in Spartanburg!

Dear Family,

What an exciting week. First off, I am not being transfered. I am staying in Spartanburg! It was really funny because the rest of the Elders that I live with were certain I was going to be transfered as an Assistant to the President, but to their surprise, they are all being transfered and I'm the only one staying in Spartanburg! :) I am excited to see where they are all going. On to the events of the week. We found a cool investigator on Monday evening. His name is Douglas. We set up another appointment later during the week, but then he called us and had to cancel on us because he had to go out of town. It's really cool having an investigator who lives close to the church because the church is in a very awkward spot behind houses, but with Douglas living in the neighborhood, he knows right where the church is.

On Tuesday we had a district leader development meeting and a zone development meeting afterwards. The meeting was really great. After the meeting, I went to Greer on an exchange with Elder Puew. We had a great time together. It was really interesting because he was really nervous to be on an exchange with the "zone leaders" and it reminded me of when Elder Merrill came on an exchange with me my first week with Elder Taylor in Anderson. We were able to teach one of their investigators and I am excited to see what happens with him.

While I was on the exchange, Elder Douglas and Elder Hightower went over to Becky's house to teach the Word of Wisdom. On Wednesday when I got back from the exchange, we went over with Sister Baker and set Becky up on the non-smoking packet. Becky was excited to start and to prepare herself for baptism.

On Friday Elder Merrill (our district leader, different Elder Merrill than the one previously mentioned) came and shoulder-angled Becky with Elder Douglas. I thought it would give him a boost to see someone progressing in the gospel since he and his companion do not have much going on in their area. They read from 1 Nephi 3-4 and compared Becky to Nephi and just like Nephi, Becky has been given a commandment. After reading, she was really excited to quit smoking and also to continue to read from the Book of Mormon---two birds with one stone. I can't wait to see her smoke free and reading the scriptures daily. It will be such a great blessing for her and her family for the rest of their lives.

Saturday we had a crazy storm! We came outside after an appointment, and the clouds were moving south really fast. We jumped on our bikes, and as we traveling to our next appointment, I notice the clouds were moving rapidly to the East. I got off my bike to realize that all the clouds in the sky why circling together. Lightning began to abruptly, and then I saw the sky flash green like I had never seen before. I called up the Assistants to see what to do, when I was struck in the back of my calf by a flying object. The sting of the blow startled me and I turned around to see who had thrown something. I could not see anyone within site, when suddenly hail the size of golf balls hurtled toward the earth. Elder Douglas freaked out and ran for shelter. I not being able to do to things at ounce, continued to get hit by the hail as I finished my conversation with the Assistants. When I was done, I ran to shelter. :) As we were sitting on someone's porch waiting for the storm to settle, the tornado alarm started to ring throughout the city. We received a phone call from President Buffington from the mission presidency, and he counseled that all missionaries in the Zone should return to their apartments. It was quite the storm!

Saturday morning I received a phone call from President and he informed me that Elder Douglas would be leaving and that Elders Quakenbush and Hightower would be leaving me as well. He also told me who the new Zone Leader is going to be. It is Elder Tran! It is going to be weird to be serving with an Elder who was in the MTC with me! I've never served around him. I've been in the upstate and he has been in the Charleston area his entire mission. We will both be training new missionaries.

Becky and her family invited us over to dinner on Sunday, but they did not come to church :( We found out after church that they were driving home from North Carolina and they hit a deer. They are still stuck in North Carolina. I hope Becky is still strong with the non-smoking. Thank you for all the prayers in my behalf, my companion and our investigators. I love y'all!

Elder Cowan

Monday, March 22, 2010

Becky Commits to be Baptized

Dear Family,

Once again I'm sitting at a computer screen asking myself where did the time go? I did not accomplish all that I wanted, but hopefully the Lord will continue to help me to accomplish my goals. I first want to thank you, Mom, for sending the large print triple. It was quite the surprise when I received it. I enjoyed opening that package more then any other package.

Next, if you buy a new piano, please don't get rid of the other piano. I really enjoy playing the piano. (Even though I get WAY stressed when President McConkie is around when I play.) I know there are a ton of things I have forgotten, but I would like to continue to learn piano after my mission (and this next comment is not focused on missionary work or completing my purpose as a missionary) and I would like to borrow your piano when I move out. Ok I said it, now I can go back to focusing on my investigators.

Tuesday morning we had a District Development Meeting. I was asked to train on gaining a testimony vs. becoming converted. I was only suppose to train for 15 minutes and I ended up training for 40 minutes. :) A summary of my training: "True Conversion, comes through Continual Repentance." After the meeting, our District Leader, Elder Merrill and his companion, Elder Dupaix, came with us to Becky's house to drop off a present for her daughter's birthday. We came in and sang "Happy Birthday" to Regan and then gave her a present (it was a "Finding Faith in Christ" DVD). They really enjoyed us coming over.

On Thursday we taught Becky about the concept that there can only be one true church. We explained that Christ taught specific and clear doctrines and then after Christ, man changed those doctrines. When they were changed, they were no longer Christ's doctrines, but man's. We then testified of the Restoration, how Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, brought those truths back to the earth and restored His gospel. We also brought to Becky's memory the experience we had had previously--when she prayed and asked Heavenly Father if Joseph Smith was a prophet and the spirit bore strong testimony. As we taught, Becky turned to Elder Douglas and said, "It's funny how you can literally see a change in Elder Cowan's face as he feels the spirit. It looks like his face is glowing, as if there is a light coming from within him." She not only saw the spirit through me, but she felt it within her and she accepted a baptism date of April 3rd! Right before we left, Doreen asked, "Does that mean she needs to give up coffee, tea and cigarettes?" I wish we could have answered that through discussing the Word of Wisdom, but we told her she would need to quit and then we read 1 Nephi 3:7 helping her remember that the Lord is going to help her to overcome those addictions. Also random note, but while we were at Becky's house we found out that Regan's boyfriend "tried to become 'fresh' with her." Regan ended up breaking up with her boyfriend. Now she has no strings holding her toward the other church! We hope and pray she will be able to grasp hold of the gospel as well!

I received the large print triple on Thursday evening (once again thanks!) and then on Friday, Elder Quakenbush and I went to Union to blitz. We had a great day with Elder Warburton and Elder Bjarnson. We were able to meet a less-active member who has a 9 yr old unbaptized child and we found two new investigators. The less-active member came to church and the 9 yr old should be baptized in the upcoming weeks!

On Saturday we brought over the large print triple and read Moroni 10:3-5. Becky and Doreen committed to read it. I hope that the Book of Mormon will help Doreen progress quicker than she has. She has not caught hold of the gospel as quickly as Becky. Becky and Doreen committed to come to church, but then on Sunday they did not show up. We think they overslept. They are night owls, not early birds. We are going to teach the Word of Wisdom on Tuesday, and then later this week we are going to start Becky on the non-smoking packet so she can become smoke free!

Besides Becky and family (I really need to get a last name), we have not had much going on.We spent most of our time tracting, which has not been very fruitful. We continue to search for more families who will accept the gospel and receive the blessings Heavenly Father has in store for them! I love being a missionary. Every time I write President a letter, or see him, I always ask him to extend me. He has tried in the past, but has been shut-down, but he continues to try to find an exception by which I could stay. :) (That's exactly what you wanted to hear...not!)

This Saturday I will receive transfer calls. I no longer care what happens to me. All I want is Becky and her family to get baptized. If the Lord sees fit that I will be the instrument by which He works, or another missionary, I do not care. It's not about the missionary. It's about the family that comes into the gospel. Thank you for the prayers in my behalf, and more importantly, those we teach. I love y'all! Until next time. Peace!

Elder Cowan

Monday, March 15, 2010

"The Lord has blessed us greatly."

Dear Family,

What an exciting week! I will not wait until the end to tell you the bad news, I'll let you know up front. Elder Douglas and I are not working with John Perry anymore. He knows our purpose and he is not willing to come unto Christ (at the moment), so we dropped him so we can spend more time with those who have the same purpose as ours of coming closer to Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel, through faith repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end (Kevin, Chapter 1 of PMG is all about "My Purpose"). Now to tell you the events that led up to dropping John.

On Monday evening we taught him the law of chastity. John recognized the significance of the law and has already been living it and committed to continue to live it.

On Wednesday we had a wonderful opportunity to have one of the assistants to come work with us: Elder Bowles! It was so exciting to be able to work along side my trainer once again. We had a great day. We taught John Perry lesson three (The Gospel of Jesus Christ) and the light finally clicked when we were talking about baptism and the authority that is necessary in order to officiate in that sacred ordinance with God. John said, "So you are telling me that I am going to hell because I have not been baptized by a Mormon Elder?" We answered his question and he really enjoyed the lesson. He committed to us that he would have an answer by Friday of whether or not he should be baptized. We also were able to teach Doreen and Becky with Elder Bowles. It was a great first lesson. We had taught different principles in the first lesson, but this was the first time we were able to teach them the entire lesson. We committed Becky to pray and ask God if Joseph Smith was a prophet, and she said an honest, truth seeking prayer. After she prayed, she broke into tears as she was describing how she felt. It was a very spiritual lesson. Doreen had a similar question to what John had asked earlier that same day, "What happens to all the people that were on the earth in between the death of the apostles and when Joseph Smith was chosen to be a prophet?" We promised her we would answer that question the next time we came by.

On Thursday we had zone interviews. I love being able to talk to President McConkie one on one. He has so much understanding and he follows the spirit in all that he does. The trainings by the assistants were great. We were trained on properly preparing our investigators for the baptismal interview; dropping "eternal" investigators; becoming "mission"aries, not "wish"onaries; and applying the atonement to our lives and changing so that our investigators will change their lives as well. I was spiritually uplifted and ready to work. After the meeting was finished, Elder Bowles and I had a return appointment with John Perry. He still was confused about the "one true church" doctrine, but he committed to pray to receive an answer.

On Friday Elder Douglas and I had our return appointment with Doreen and Becky. We taught them the Plan of Salvation. It was another spirit led lesson. I know it was not my own words, but the Lord who spoke. To be completely honest, I'm afraid of teaching the Plan of Salvation. I always get stuck in the Fall. The people of the south have been told their entire life that Adam and Eve screwed everything up. That if they would have obeyed, we would all have been in the garden "chillin' with God." As we taught the Fall, I had a prayer in my heart that they would comprehend. After we finished explaining the Fall, Becky said, "I feel like this is déjà vu that I've argued with you about this subject, but this time, I believe exactly what you said." It was truly a miracle. Doreen really comprehended the spirit world, and how EVERYONE gets a chance to receive the gospel, either here in this life or after. Right before we taught about the kingdoms of heaven, Doreen asked, "Can family relations continue after we die?" I asked her what she felt the answer was and she responded, "I hope so, I don't think God would put us together for just a short period of time." It was so great to be able to teach the truth that their family can be sealed together and that they can all live with Heavenly Father.

Sunday, Doreen, Becky, and two of Becky's children came to church. They had a great time and we are going over on Tuesday and Thursday. :) The Lord has blessed us greatly. I'm so excited to see them progress in the gospel. The only hold up is that they cannot read the small print and I called distribution and large print Book of Mormon's are on back order until JUNE! I ordered one anyways, but I want them to begin reading now, so I think I'm going to buy them a magnifying glass. :)

I love the gospel and the great opportunity to be here upon the earth to learn and grow. I love being on a mission. There have been so many things I've learned and I'm continuing to learn each and every day. I love you all!

Elder Cowan

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring is Right Around the Corner!

Dear Family,

Spring is right around the corner! This a special time of year and I can't wait to see the flowers and the growth (especially the kudzoo) envelop everything. I know you do not have to deal with it in AZ, but when is day-light savings? I know it used to be at conference, but with the changes they made recently I have no idea. My calendar says that it is happening next week, but I'm not sure if I can trust it because it was only a dollar.

This week has been filled with bittersweet feelings. John Perry did not come to church again this week. It's the saddest thing in the world to see someone begin to change their life and apply the atonement in their life, but then to fall short by not completing the cleansing ordinance of baptism. He has come so far! He has given up tea, alcohol, and tobacco! This past week we stopped by with Brother Chapman and Brother Chapman was very bold with John telling him that he needs to be baptized. He finally told us that his concern was that he could not understand how he could receive an answer about a book he does not understand (The Book of Mormon). We explained to him that even though he did not understand, Heavenly Father knows all things, especially what is contained in the Book of Mormon. John committed to pray and ask Heavenly Father if the book was true and we set up a return appointment for the following day. The next morning, John called us and told us to not come by because he was sick. We decided that we would not teach him, but that evening we stopped by to give him a can of soup and to remind him that we are here if there is anything he needs. We had an appointment with John on Saturday, but at the last minute he canceled on us. We talked to him after church and we set up an appointment for tonight. We want to explain very clearly tonight that we will not come by anymore if he does not have the same purpose as us, which is to help him come unto Christ by helping him receive the Restored Gospel through repentance and baptism.

On Wednesday we had an appointment with Doreen and Becky. I'm not sure if I told you about these two. Doreen and Becky were taught a year ago in Boiling Springs and recently they moved to Spartanburg. When we arrived for our appointment on Wednesday, Doreen pulled out a book she got from the library which was written to "let the world know the TRUTH about the Mormons." The book had no references, or any information for where they supposably obtained their research. It was a very interesting lesson in which we taught about truth, and how the devil is going to do everything possible to diminish and slander the truth at all cost in order to keep Heavenly Father's children from finding the path that leads to eternal life. By the end of the lesson, Becky made the comment, "I have no desire to read that book (meaning the book from the library) I am going to continue to read from the Book of Mormon." They are doing really well minus the fact that both Doreen and Becky cannot see the book. If you could find the number to call distribution, I would greatly appreciate it, so I can order a large print Book of Mormon.

On Thursday, Elder Quakenbush and I went to Columbia for zone leader council. I always love having the opportunity to stand accountable to the assistants and President because I always leave with a greater desire to fulfill my calling as a zone leader. There is always so much more I can do! It was also sad to have to inform the mission president about a missionary in the zone who has continued to disobey mission rules, and on top of that, he is not fulfilling his responsibility as a district leader. Today his entire district is being emergency transfered so each missionary can be paired up with someone who can hopefully teach and correct the attitudes and actions rather than allowing the companionship to continue to destroy one another through their disobedience.

There is not much more to report on this week. I did find out that a young lady who has been attending off and on the entire time I've been here is not a member. Her member friend who attends Converse (a local college) has been bringing her. We are going to try and meet with her to see if there is any interest in joining the church.

I know this is a boring letter, but I need to fill out a report for every missionary in the zone, so President McConkie will know what direction he should take on our zone interviews this Thursday. I love each of you. I pray for your safety. Keep the faith.

Elder Cowan

Monday, March 1, 2010

Time Flies

Dear Family,
Time sure does fly by. I can't believe it's been another week. It feels like I just got to Spartanburg, but as I check the calendar, I've been here for 3 1/2 months! Holy smokes! Before I forget, I would love the piano music. It would be great to have some arrangements to play. This week there were quite a few funny situations Elder Douglas and I found ourselves in.

On Tuesday, I brought Elder Merrill to work in my area. (Elder Merrill is a new district leader and I wanted to give him some training along with giving me the opportunity to build our relationship). We visited some recent converts of Elder Redston to encourage and strengthen, and then we went out tracting. We met one man who was walking down the street and he actually called us over to him and told us that we should come by and see him. This man's name is Monrow. We took down Monrow's information and continued working throughout the neighborhood. He lives on 530 Peronneau street. As we were walking, we actually came across Peronneau street and we decided to go down it. As we walked down the street, we came across a house that had three people sitting outside. I always feel weird yelling at a group and inviting them to hear the restored gospel. I did it anyways, and as I invited them to learn more, the two men just walked away without commenting, leaving an old lady sitting on the porch. We approached her and began to talk to her. Ella White, the lady, told us that she used to live in New York and she used to attend our church. I told her I did not think it was an accident that we met. She then continued to tell us that she is looking for a church. We invited her to come to church but she told us she was going back to the hospital for a surgery on her arm. We said a prayer with her and prayed that all would be well with the doctors. When we received her address to come back by, it was 530 Peronneau St. I recognized the number from early that morning and it turns out that Monrow lives with Ella, and at two different times in their lives they have been taught by the missionaries. Now they are living together (without being married, but we can work on that) and want the gospel in their lives. It was pretty cool that we met both of them on the same day!

We also had great lessons with Ervan and John Perry. Ervan loves the Book of Mormon, and is continuing to read. John made the comment, "you've hooked me on this book" as he held up the Book of Mormon. I hope and pray they continue to read from the Book of Mormon, so the Spirit may enter their lives and teach them the things that they must do.

On Wednesday, Elder Douglas and I had an interesting appointment with one of our investigators, John Davis (different man than John Perry). We were teaching him about the Book of Mormon and he once again had not read, so we were about to drop him when out of nowhere, he tells us he has struggled with a problem his entire life. He explained that he is gay and needs help. I was not sure what to do, but I opened up the scriptures and began to teach. I first let him know that Heavenly Father loves him, but in order to return and live with Him we must follow what he asks. Throughout, John kept saying, "I just don't know why I was made this way." I then explained the difference between weakness and sin. We all have our weaknesses that the devil will use to tempt us. I used myself as an example. I always have lazy thoughts of procrastinating and just relaxing, but just because I have those thoughts does not mean I am lazy. The sin is when I act upon those thoughts that enter my mind. It was really weird. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I had never dealt with this concern before and yet the Lord just kept using me--He would flip my scriptures to the scriptures he needed to hear. The Spirit was so strong. I know he has a rough journey ahead of him, but I hope and pray he will apply the atonement in his life so he can receive relief from the weight of sin that has been on his shoulders.

On Friday Elder Douglas and I met Tate. Tate is very intimidating when you first see him. Tate is 6'6'' and 250 lbs and he has a golden grill for teeth. We talked to him on the door and he invited us into his house. Even though he has a rough appearance, Tate is confused and has almost lost hope in religion all together. He expressed that he was not sure if he believed in Jesus anymore because of all the horrible Christians in the world and how churches are all about money these days. We shared with him the first vision and when we explained that Joseph Smith was called to be a prophet and was given the priesthood, we forgot to say that he was commanded by God to reorganize His church. Without this knowledge, Tate responded, "I wish Joseph Smith would have made a church . . .no, that wouldn't be good because then the wicked people would have killed him just as they killed the apostles." It was the coolest comment! He truly recognized that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Tate was not able to come to church because his family came in town.

Update on John Perry. John is still not sure about Joseph Smith and if the Book of Mormon is scripture. He loves to read the stories, but he has not received a witness from the spirit that these things are true. Because he has not received a witness, he is continuing to search elsewhere aka the Jehovah Witnesses. I have fasted and prayed that he would receive spiritual guidance and discernment, and we also reminded him that he his literally in Joseph Smith's shoes, trying to decide which church to join. He promised he would continue to pray and he committed to come to church. Unfortunately, he did not keep his commitment. John did not attend church. We tried calling him and when I introduced myself over the phone, he hung up on me. I'm worried about him. We are going to stop by his house this evening. I know that's not a good story to end with, but that's how our week ended. Nobody came to church.

Another week has begun, and we continue to work hard. I know the gospel has been restored to this earth by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They did appear to the young boy and revealed truths that had been lost. I am so thankful I grew up knowing these truths. I am even more thankful that I have the opportunity to share the truth with my brothers and sisters here in Spartanburg. I hope and pray you have a great week!

Elder Cowan