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. :)