Monday, January 31, 2011

A Great Week in Greenville

Dear Family,

On Monday, 24 January, Elder Fisher and I had four lessons scheduled in 3 hours after preparation day ended. I was excited to be able to teach and have a productive day even with the limited time afforded to us. As we went form appointment to appointment, nothing was going as planned. Nobody was home. All four of our appointments were "no-shows," but that didn't bother me one bit. I was worried about Elder Fisher, I didn't want him to get discouraged by the way things were going. I asked him how he felt the day was going and he thought it was great! I love serving with Elder Fisher. He always has a positive attitude and is willing to work all the way to the end.

As we were talking while we drove, we decided that God allowed us to miss our appointments so we would be able to meet Cheryl. We drove over to her house and as we knocked on her door, Cheryl's nephew answered the door without even knowing who it was. He recognized us as missionaries from the church so he told us to go into the back and see Cheryl (I don't think he knew Cheryl was a little hurt with the Sisters leaving). As we introduced ourselves to Cheryl, at first she was a little hesitant, but as we continued to get to know her, she realized that we are not all that bad! :) We set an appointment to stop by and see her. Later at the appointment, Cheryl told us that she was not planning to meet with us, but because of her nephew and the Lord allowing us to miss our appointments, she has begun to progress again. She is doing great with trying to quit smoking. She is amazing. Cheryl did catch the flu-bug that has been flying around like crazy out here. As soon as she gets back on her feet, she will be progressing further in the gospel. The difficult part about teaching Cheryl is that we always need to get a member to be with us for appointments since she lives alone. Don't get me wrong, I love members and their testimonies, but I think I act differently when members are a part of the lesson. I'm much too formal. I've recognized my promblem and am going to continue to be personable with or without members around. :)

Tuesday we had a fantastic day. We began with a lesson with Melissa. I don't know if I've told you about her, she is great! She was in the same boat as Cheryl. When it came to "The Elders" in her words, she felt we were going to be "stuffy." She had determined that she would meet with us once to keep her word with the Sisters, (the sisters made her promise to speak to us at least once) but after meeting with us once, she was going to stop taking lessons! We were blessed to have the spirit really strong at our first meeting and since then she has continued to progress greatly. Before we left our apartment Tuesday morning, the thought came to me to grab my talk entitled, "Why we Forgive." I decided to grab it and see what was going to come from it. During the lesson she expressed her concern that she did not feel it possible that she could ever forgive a certain individual for the actions they had made against her. I pulled out the CD and gave it to her. As she read the title of the talk, she began to weep. She said "how did you know? Both the Sisters and you always know what I need." It was a very tender moment.

Afterward we were able to teach a young man named Daequan. He was babysitting his nieces and I think was bored, so he let us into his house. He was very quiet at the beginning, but he told us we could come back by the next day.

We had Sister Leckie come with us to Cheryl's and I was a little nervous how to bring up baptism because this was the first time meeting with her. I did not want to seem pushy, but Cheryl told us at the beginning, "I have made changes in my life,and I'm continuing to try to quit smoking so I can get baptized." It was a great way to begin our lesson. :)

Later that night, we had a really cool experience occur. (Not like we didn't already have some great experiences throughout the day. :P ) Elder Fisher and I prepared a lesson for Carol (the mother--she is in her 50's) and her daughter, Charlotte (daughter in her 30's). Charlotte was taught by the Sisters a couple of times, but this was Carol's first lesson. We had discussed watching the Restoration DVD, but when we began to talk to them, I knew our lesson plan was not what they needed. Instead we read Alma 36. The spirit was really strong as we read from the Book of Mormon and taught. At one point Carol whispered to herself, "I know this story." We stopped and asked her if everything was alright or if she had a comment/question. Carol did not say anything, but I could tell she was searching, trying to remember where she had heard the story before. After we finished the lesson, we told them that next week we wanted to watch the Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration DVD. As I briefly outlined the Joseph Smith history, Carol stated, "He looked everywhere for the truth" then she continued to tell us the Joseph Smith story. I asked her how she knew the story, and she just stared at me "I don't know...."
"Did the Sisters teach you about Joseph Smith?"
"No they did not...I don't know how I know this, but I do."
The spirit was really strong. I'm not sure how she knows it, but she has been prepared. We are teaching Carol and Charlotte tonight.

Wednesday we had our return appointment with Daequan. We started our meeting with two clips from We watched Paris Thomas. Paris is from Georgia and I thought he would relate well with Daequan. As the movie ended, I felt prompted to watch the clip on Valentino. Valentino is Hispanic and lives in LA. I was not sure how in the world Daequan was going to relate to him, but we watched it anyways. After watching the video, Daequan let everything out. He's in a gang, he's shot at people and been shot, beat up and he's beaten others up and he's been in jail twice. It was crazy, but he told us everything about his life. He has a desire to change, but it's going to take all his effort and the Lord's help to get him out of the gang.

Thursday we had a DDM and worked in the Easley area because the missionaries there have been struggling. That evening we had a lesson with Alex, a 9 year old. She is getting baptized on the 12th of February! She came to church with her family!

Friday was a great day but I don't have time to talk about it!

Saturday was a testimony building day. We did not have as much success as I expected, but we worked throughout the Day. At 8:53 p.m. we met Twon. Twon is elect; he is prepared for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! It was great to see the blessing of sacrifice. (We could have gone in early because we had not taken dinner that day, but we decided to work through it!)

I need to close. The Church is true. I love you all!

Elder Cowan

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Area: Greenville New Companion: Elder Fisher

Dear Family,

I am currently serving in the Greenville First Ward. My companion is Elder Fisher. Elder Fisher is from Fallon, NV. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to serve with this kid! I love Elder Fisher. He wants to be a successful missionary and he is willing to put forth the effort to accomplish his goal! I had the privilege this week to pick up Elder Fisher and the other missionaries from his district at the airport. They flew in Monday evening. When we arrived at the mission home, we received some instruction from President McConkie and then they went to bed.

On Tuesday, Elder Taylor and I had the majority of the day to instruct and train the new missionaries. It was so much fun to train with Elder Taylor. We went through the 8 focuses that the MTC will be switching to in July. (Blake this is top of the line stuff! The missionaries in the MTC don't even know about this curriculum yet.) We are blessed to already have some lesson materials in preparation for the change in the MTC. We are becoming efficient now so that when the first batch of missionaries arrive in July/August we will already be proficient in the "Teach More Effectively" Curriculum. Central to the training are eight focuses:
1. The Doctrine of Christ- The missionary purpose.
2. The role of the Holy Ghost in conversion
3. Revelation through prayer
4. Revelation through the Book of Mormon
5. Revelation through church attendance
6. Teach people, not lessons
7. We invite, they commit, we follow up
8. How to begin teaching

Elder Taylor and I trained on these points throughout the day and in the evening we went proselyting with the new missionaries. It was a great experience. Within a couple of hours almost every one of the new missionaries was able to teach a new investigator.

Wednesday was transfers. The last couple of transfer meetings have had some "hick-ups," little things that could have been avoided, but through the mistakes of men, they have caused a head-ache for all involved. Elder Taylor and I were determined to not have it happen this transfer. We checked the logistics over and over to make sure everything was prepared for transfers. The transfer meeting went well. Everything went as planned. It was great to see Elder Fisher's confusion on his face when everyone had been transferred and he was the only one left. He did not know that I was training a new missionary. :) After the transfer meeting, I was making sure that everyone got to where they needed to be and with the correct supplies. I was so worried about everyone else that I did not think about my own supplies. Long story short, when we were 15 minutes from arriving in Greenville, I received a text from Elder Taylor informing me that I had left one of my suit cases in the trailer! :) I had to laugh. It was extreme lucky to find out that it was the luggage that only had my towel and blankets in it. When we arrived at the apartment, I was blessed to find blankets already there. :) Every morning I have been drying myself off with a face towel. :) It's been really fun.

I love the Greenville First Ward. The sisters had everything prepared for us and we were able to hit the ground running. For only working Thursday-Sunday, Elder Fisher and I had a great week. We have been able to meet many of the Sister's investigators and they have warmed up to us. We have so many miracles happening here. I love it! There is one investigator who we have not been able to get a hold of. Her name is Cheryl. Cheryl has been taught everything and is supposed to be baptized this weekend. When Cheryl found out the Sisters were being transferred, she was pretty upset. We will continue to try and see her and have her begin her progression again in the Restored Gospel.

Well, I need to close for now! I love each of you!

Elder Cowan

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Snow and Icy Baptism Plus Trips to the Airport

Dear Family,

Hello from the icy South Carolina! This week has been really busy. I can't believe everything has happened so quickly.

Sunday we woke up extremely early in order for the visa waiting missionaries, the office Elders and Elder Taylor and I to get through the single shower we have in our apartment. We dropped Elder Hinckley and Elder Neighting off at the Windsor Lake building to watch out for our investigators. The three other visa waiting missionaries were dropped off at the Columbia building and Elder Taylor and I went to the BASE! It was the first week for the soldiers being back from Exodus! It was great seeing all the soldiers back on Post. We had a baptism. It was really cold. Ice was forming on our portable font! When the soldier came out of the water, he was blue! In a modern way I felt like the missionaries who had to break the ice at the river to perform baptisms! It was an epic experience. We dropped the visa waiters off in neighborhoods to proselyte and then we wrote soldiers. We then drove home at the end of the night. Sunday night it snowed! We had three to four inches of snow in our apartment complex! We got ready for the day and we drove to the other side of Columbia to pick up the visas in the office and Elders Riggs and Earl. We then had to drive to Cayce to pick up Elder Devitry. The roads were horrible. We were on the freeway and nobody else was on the freeway. At one point our windshield wiper froze, so we stopped our car in the middle of the Interstate (because nobody else was on it, and we did not worry about someone hitting us) so I could jump out and break off the ice. When we arrived at the office there was another email stating that another one of the visa waiters received his visa. This Elder, Elder Richens, was serving in Myrtle Beach! His flight would be on Wednesday.

Random story: We told one of the visa waiters, who was scheduled to fly out on Tuesday, that all flights were canceled (It was a joke) and that President McConkie had prayed to know what to do and that the spirit told him that we needed to do everything in our power to get them to Brazil. Their connection flight was in Dallas TX. We told this missionary that president gave us permission to drive all 8 of the missionaries in the mission van to TX. It was so funny. He was the last missionary we picked up and all the rest of the visa waiters knew about our joke and this Elder was so excited to go on a road trip to TX. It was great when we arrived at the mission home and finally told him that the flights had not been canceled and that he would be leaving in the morning. :)

Tuesday morning while the first visa waiters were getting ready in the morning, one of them read a slip of paper that came with their paper saying that they were allowed one suit case, not exceeding 44 pounds and a small pouch or backpack. This was new news for most of them. 15 minutes before we left for the airport to drop them off for their flights, they frantically got rid of two of the luggage cases and a whole bunch of stuff. Sister McConkie will be shipping it all home to their parents. It was a crazy morning. Luckily we got them all to the airport and they headed off to Brazil. We then dropped off the three remaining visa waiters (who were leaving on Wednesday) in Cayce. Elder Taylor and I drove to Florence where we met Elder Richens and Elder Koch (they are the two visa waiters who were serving in Myrtle Beach.) Even though Elder Koch did not have his visa, we thought it would be smart to bring him in close to Columbia just in case. After picking up the Elders we drove to the office to pick up Elder Richen's Visa. While we were in the office, we received another email. That's right, another VISA! Elder Koch's Visa was received in Salt Lake! :) I'm glad we brought him down to Columbia! That night we stayed at the McConkie's home and the next morning Elder Richens got dropped off at the airport at 4:00 am in the morning! It was early, then at 10:00 am we dropped off three more of the visa waiters. One of them was emotional. He really enjoyed his time in South Carolina. He has been doing missionary work in the Spanish language while he's been here. When I hugged him goodbye. He told me, "Train me how to be an English missionary and I'll stay. I will not get on that plane if I'm allowed to be your companion." It was a great compliment to receive. He will be a great missionary in Brazil. The following day we dropped Elder Koch off at the airport. Long story short, we went to the airport 4 times in 3 days. :) That was the majority of our week. Oh I almost forgot, Leslie Smith, we stopped at his house and we found him unconscious on the floor! We had to call 911. He is out of the hospital now, but that made our week even more hectic.

Transfers are happening on Wednesday. Nobody knows this yet, but I'm transferring up to the Grenville 1st ward. I am replacing sisters. The area they live in is not the best part of town, so I and my new trainee will be there instead! I'm excited to get out in the field and work this new missionary to death. Oh, with that piece of information, I will have my next preparation day not, Monday the 17th, but on the 24th of January. I will talk to you then!

Elder Cowan

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Transfer Planning and District Interviews

Dear Family,

What a crazy week! I have not had time to formulate my thoughts and I need to leave for the temple in 15 minutes, so I will be very quick.

Monday was transfer planning. The inspiration was not flowing at all. We sat all day looking at the transfer board trying to figure out not only this transfer, but the next four transfers to prepare for the new mission president coming in July. You may say we were having a stupor of thought. It was quite frustrating.

Tuesday we started interviews! This year President McConkie wanted interviews to be a little different. The old way was to have the entire zone come in for a meeting, in which the assistants and the zone leaders train the first half of the day while President interviews. Half way through the day Sister McConkie would provide a large lunch for the entire zone. After lunch President would begin his sermon which normally lasted four hours. Needless to say, it would take all day. The new schedule is to have each district come in at different times throughout the day. When each district is done being interviewed, each district leaves as the next district arrives. This relieves President from training and Sister McConkie from making a big meal and our missionaries will spend less time in meetings and more time among the people!

Tuesday we had interviews with the Shilom Zone. Wednesday we had interviews with the Ishmael Zone. Thursday we had interviews with the Nephi Zone. As the interviews were taking place, I received a phone call from the mission secretary Sister Taylor. She called and informed me that five of  the missionaries, who have been temporarily assigned to our mission, had received their visas and that they are leaving on Tuesday! That was exciting and also sad for I will miss these elders.

Friday we had interviews with the Shemlon Zone. I received another phone call. Three more visas had arrived. This second group is leaving Wednesday. This throws off our second week of interviews and it has a major effect on transfers. This is why we had such a hard time planning transfers. :) The visa waiting missionaries are all meeting at the temple today to go through a session with President McConkie. We are going to be with all eight of them for the next couple of days until they leave.

I need to go find my white pants so I can make it to the temple on time!

Elder Cowan

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Dear Family,

I know you want a update, but it's much harder writing as an assistant than as a normal missionary. There's a lot of running around. Not as many people I'm teaching. When I do have an opportunity to teach the gospel, it's normally not to someone in my area. I will do my best to fill you in.

21 December: Elder Taylor and I decided to surprise exchange one of our zone leaders. We drove up to Spartanburg, to find the zone leaders not at home. :) the zone leaders were off doing their job going on exchanges with individuals in their zone. We called them and told them where we were and they asked us to go on an exchange with the Simpsonville 1st Elders. We drove to Simpsonville and went out with the Elders. I had a good day with Elder Anderson. It was great to be in one of my old areas with one of my old companions. At the end of the evening, we drove to Seneca to go on an exchange with the zone leaders for the Greenville Zone.

22 December: It was great to be out among the people of Seneca. Elder Seamons and I visited one of Sister Black's converts. (Sister Black was the senior sister in Seneca when I was a district leader in Anderson.) Memories of the beginning of my mission flooded my memory while I was there. That evening we went to a less-active home and raked up their leaves. :) It was fun. The member showed up and she jumped in the pile of leaves! It was funny watching a grown women jump into a pile of leaves. We followed her example and jumped in the leaves as well! We then had a lesson with her and her unbaptized child. The lesson was great and at the end of the lesson the daughter committed to come to church and the mother accepted the invitation to come back to church. That evening we drove home to Columbia.

23 December: was a driving day. We woke up early that morning and we drove up to Myrtle Beach to go on an exchange with the zone leaders for that zone. (You may notice a little trend, every transfer we are supposed to go on an exchange with each of the zone leaders, but for the past two years, the assistants have not ever done it.) Normally the assistants will just visit the zone leaders in the Columbia area. I decided that I was going to budget my time so I could visit each of the zone leaders. As soon as we got to Myrtle Beach, Elder Taylor got out of the car to work with Elder Lund, while Elder Esplin and I got in the car and drove back the direction I had just come, to go to Florence for a baptismal interview. (The zone leaders were out of miles so Elder Esplin came in our car which has unlimited miles.) The interview went great; she is now a member of the church. After the interview, we drove back to Myrtle Beach. After we arrived in Myrtle Beach, we headed home with a few "stops" on the way. We stopped in Conway and Marion to deliver Christmas packages to the missionaries. I don't know why some parents decide not to send their packages through USPS because any other type cannot be forwarded. There were many missionaries who did not have their Christmas packages on Christmas. :( This is why Elder Taylor and delivered packages. Many of the missionaries were overwhelmed that they received their packages. It was a great evening.

24 December, Christmas Eve: Elder Taylor and I decided we were going to brighten some of our missionaries lives by taking them caroling! We picked up the West Columbia Zone in the large van and we drove them around to their investigators and sang Christmas songs! It was a great evening.

25 December: We decided we enjoyed the caroling so much that we did it again! This time we went with the Columbia Zone. Once again the night was filled with happy hymns celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

26 December: Elder Taylor, Sisters Bukowski and Moore and I taught Leslie Smith. Leslie has some health problems and learns really slowly. We taught him the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity. He is a sweet spirit. He accepted both laws. He had to give up tea and smoking (what a surprise--everyone smokes and drinks tea here!)

27 December: Elder Taylor and I were able to proselyte in our own area for a little bit. We saw Anthony Tyler again. He really enjoys the Book of Mormon. He continues to tell us, "This book was written for me." He does a great job applying the stories to his own life.

28 December was Zone Leader Council. It was a great meeting. We focused on the upcoming year. We set some new standards and plans to accomplish them.

29 and 30 of December: I can't remember a single thing I did those two days....

31 December: Yesterday we went on exchanges with the zone leaders in Columbia Zone. It was a great day. Elder Taylor went with Elder Stoneman, and I went with Elder Pack. At the end of the exchange, Elder Pack really shocked me with a comment. He said, "there are two missionaries that have had the greatest impact on my mission." He paused for a moment then continued, "You are one of those missionaries." It was probably the greatest compliment I've received on my mission. I'm not sure I deserve it and I had no idea how to respond. All that came to my head was "what?" I finally gathered my senses and thanked him and gave him some counsel for his zone. After the exchange, we went over to the mission home for President McConkie's birthday! (Bruce R. McConkie never celebrated birthdays, neither do his children, including my mission president.) He had a nice dinner and that's it. He does not enjoy presents or parties. After dinner we sat in his living room and talked. It was a great evening.
Well this has been laborious to write, so I'm going to close for now. I love life. It seems to fly by too quickly, but I'm going to hold on and enjoy the ride!

Elder Cowan