Monday, March 31, 2014

Lots of work, a wedding, and some French!!

Hey everyone!

For some reason, this week was brutal - we were absolutely worn out. We had some pretty labor-intensive exchanges this week, though, biking around and doing service. This week we were in South, Spring Mountain, Lakes, and Las Vegas zones, and we had a pretty good time. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for some sweet experiences, and it was pretty awesome to be able to share them with two deserving missionaries. Most, if not all, stemmed from trying to teach at all times and in all places; a mental shift from the normal mindset of a normal missionary. We too often believe that we can only teach after an opening prayer in somebody's living room, but we can teach and testify in everyday conversation with anyone and everyone, and it truly makes a difference. 

This week I've been working with a lot of missionaries on that very concept, teaching whenever we can. It's amazing how many people talk to you when you're just real with them...missionaries have a nasty habit of reciting the old, "Hi, we're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we're sharing a message about Jesus Christ". About halfway through that sentence, most people decide they don't want to listen; it's rote and it feels like we're talking to them out of obligation. People are much more receptive when you're 1) talking like a person and when you're 2) doing it out of love. "Hey dude, I've got something that means a lot to me and I want you to have it", is way more personable and way more effective. I've seen more success in being myself than I ever did trying to be a "missionary"; yes, I'm Elder Dowdle, but I'm Elder Dowdle, and I need to act like it. When you integrate your personality with sharing the gospel, it becomes easier and more effective. It becomes fun. It becomes what it's supposed to be. 
We took this Saturday off because a part-member family we've been working with for a couple months (and love a ton) got married! It was so much fun and so sweet to see Duane and Charisa McNary tie the knot. We helped Duane set up the whole day and he was so nervous, it was pretty adorable. He took us out to BBQ for lunch and while we were driving there, he just explodes and yells, "I'M GETTING MARRIED!!!". Haha we love these two and I'm so happy for them! Manning came down from Provo and took their wedding photos for them; it was awesome to see him again (Torg is probably coming down next week - that'll be fun, too!). Charisa will be getting baptized on April 11th and I couldn't be more excited. 
Something that I never thought would happen happened this week: I used my high school French. I contacted this black guy across the street and starting walking over to talk to him. The other two elders were caught on the other side due to traffic, and so I approached him alone and started a conversation. When I was a couple of words into the contact, I realized he wasn't understanding me. I don't know why, but I stopped and said, "parlez-vous francais?". He lit up and starting rattling off in French, telling me he moved here from the Congo in Africa 8 months ago and has been learning English at a catholic church but wants to go to a "mormon church". By this time, one of the elders I was with (Elder Ballard) comes up beside me...and starts speaking to the guy in French! I was floored. Turns out he's an old referral that never got contacted due to the language barrier. In our broken French, we set up a lesson and later found a translator to accompany the elders to the lesson. Crazy experience, but pretty fun.

Anyways, looking forward to this next week and conference! Love you and I'll talk to you then!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Leadership Training last week

Hey guys!

It's been a good week spent with some good Elders. We started the week in Tule Springs, then Elkhorn Springs, had a day to plan for Leadership Training Meeting, had LTM the next day (9:00am to 4:00pm meeting...killer), then finished out the week in Red Rock and at church. So many missionaries impressed me this week, and due to their faith, we had a lot of cool experiences.

I'm really glad Leadership Training is over with haha. Elder Tunney and I had to present a training on doing effective exchanges and we were stressing all week about it; it's been a long time since we've had to give a training, let alone a training together. Thanks heavens it went over pretty well with the mission - we got some good feedback on it afterwards. The entire experience just reaffirmed to me the fact that I'm so much happier with the daily mission grind. I'd much rather wake up and work all day than have to plan and give a training in front of 100+ missionaries. Sombody else can do that; I'll take notes. 

We did a lot of contacting people on the street this week, and in a couple of interactions, I was pretty straightforward with some people, saying what (I'd like to think) the Spirit would have me say. Walking away from a few interactions, several missionaries have asked, "How did you learn to be so bold?". I really haven't been any more bold, but I've definitely been more honest with people; there's a big difference there. Bold can come off as overbearing, but honesty carries the Spirit. Being increasingly aware of the passing days as of late, I've come to the conclusion that I don't have time to dance around subjects with people anymore. They need to know and understand exactly who I represent and why I interrupt their day with my message. The quicker I can get them to feel the Spirit, the more likely they will keep talking to me. The best (only) way to effectively bring the Spirit is to speak truth, and so I'll give them truth, even if it's not what they want to hear. Coming in contact with God can be unpleasant when the way you're living isn't in harmony with how He'd like you to be, but the truth remains. Such a cool job, really; raising a voice of warning, spreading the good news, inviting people to repent. Ezekiel 33:1-6 explains the job of a watchman, and I'm doing the best that I can to "blow the trumpet".

Love you all so much!
3 meat combo at the John Mull's Roadkill Grill

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Back to Work

Hello hello - 

What I thought would be a nice reprieve from traveling from place to place for three weeks has been one of the slower weeks of my mission! This past week has just been crawling by and I'm so ready to get back on the road. I'm glad we tried it out, though, because now we know to schedule some exchanges for Week 1 of next transfer instead of taking a break. After meeting with President Ahlander several times, I'm starting to realize that this assignment won't be dying with me; President is excited about the progress and the feedback he's getting from missionaries we've been out with and he wants this to continue after we go home. With that being said, we're paying more attention to the efficiency of the entire process so that when we go home, our replacements inherit a non-jank, well-oiled system. 

This next week looks pretty fun, with time in Tule Springs, Elkhorn Springs, and Red Rock. We have Leadership Training on Friday, so we won't be going on exchanges then. We have to give a training on going on effective exchanges, and I'm not necessarily looking forward to it; not quite sure yet as to how we're going to make that fun and interesting. I'm sure it'll be fine, though! 

There's an article in this month's Ensign that I really liked about ministering to others. A section that stuck with me was about finding "the one". Elder David A. Bednar was in England, if I remember correctly, and mentioned that the Apostles are always sent to find "the one" when they travel; they just happen to go to meetings and speak to multitudes on the way. And even then, he's not speaking to a lot of people, he's speaking to a group of assembled "ones". It's been on my mind all week long, and I've been doing my best to be on constant lookout for "the one" - it makes all the difference and influences nearly every action. 

I love you and hope to share some good experiences with you next week!

Elder Dowdle and Elder Tunney

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Week of Normalcy

Hey guys - 

This past week was the last one of the transfer, and it was a good one to end on. We were in Red Rock, Spring Mountain, South, and finished out in Pahrump (which was a trip). This upcoming week, week 1 of the transfer, we'll spend in our area full-time; we're giving the companionships the first week so they can get used to the new areas/companions. It'll be nice to have a week of normalcy; Elder Tunney and I can regroup, plan for the next five weeks using what we've learned this past transfer, and also use the skills we've been working on together in a single area. Coming out of dinner last night, Tunney and I saw a couple in their garage across the street and went and talked to them. It was the first time in weeks we've contacted/taught together in a real situation, and it felt good to teach with him again. 

It's almost a guarantee that when on exchanges, there's going to be a crazy experience - that's widely known in the mission. That being said, Tunney and I have been very fortunate to have a crazy experience every single day. I feel as if I've had an unusual amount of spiritual experiences in the past three weeks, and with them comes a spiritual fatigue. It's akin to the fatigue you feel after a good workout; a very satisfying feeling. Much like a workout routine, it's always beneficial to have a rest week :)

This upcoming transfer will be fun - one of our investigators will be getting married and then baptized in April! We're way excited about that and so is she. We'll also have interviews with President, Mission Leadership Council, and some other meetings and trainings coming up that we're looking forward to. 

Torg goes home tomorrow morning - last night was his last night in the apartment with us. I've been in contact with the U getting some things set up for this fall - I'm waiting to hear back the process for enrolling, but I've gotten word from the marching band that I'll still have a spot/scholarship opportunity, which is good. This is all going by too fast, so excuse my while I do my best to slow it all down.

I love you!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Back in Logandale for a day

Hey y'all -

It's been another good week; I feel as though we're starting to get the hang of moving around all the time. It's nice, falling into a routine again. I'm starting to go into these exchanges knowing exactly what I want to happen and what I need to do in order to make it happen, and it's making me more efficient as I try to help them become more efficient.

The beginning of the week had me in Littlefield, Arizona, and Logandale, Nevada. I'd forgotten what it's like to work in a small town, and to be honest, I found that I missed it. The people are incredible and the investigators sincere...the food is also delicious (deer steaks for dinner, mmm). It was great to be back in Logandale, but hard as well - I couldn't go around seeing the people that I knew and cared about, I had to be focused on the companionship I was with at the time.

Later in the week I was back in Vegas with a pair of Elders who wanted help talking to people. We saw these two thugs and I was strongly impressed to go talk to them, so I pointed them out and we started after them. They were a ways from us at the time and walking in the opposite direction, so we were hustling to try and catch them. We got close enough to call out to them and they looked back, smiled, and crossed the busy street. The elders were a little disappointed and upset as we walked back to where we were; they felt ridiculous chasing after someone and were bummed their efforts were in vain. I, myself, started to wonder if it was even a prompting. As we were walking back, the door to a furniture store opened and an older woman came out, introduced herself, and asked what we were doing. We told her what we were up to and she invited us in. She began to tell us, in the middle of this fake living room set, that she has burdens that need to be lifted and she needed to hear about Jesus Christ. She said it was ironic we passed by; we told her it was an answer to her prayers. We all started to get emotional and she got goosebumps, saying that she knew we were sent by God. She asked if we could come back in thirty minutes and teach her our message, and we agreed. Walking out of the furniture store, I could barely control my emotions - I have never had a prompting be confirmed so quickly and in such a big way. When I caught up with the Elders later, they said they had a great lesson and they're meeting with her again on Wednesday. I'm so grateful for the promptings of the Spirit and the blessings God gives to those who risk looking ridiculous to follow them.

Solid week, excited for the next one. Sorry for the lack of photos, the camera is in Littlefield (I know, I know...), but I'll have it soon!

Love you!