Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Week in the Field!!

This has been an amazing week and I love missionary work.  There are so many people in my area that are prepared to hear the gospel.  We barely need to knock doors because we have so many investigators and referrals.  The only time we need to knock doors is when our investigators don't keep their appointments.  However, with our huge load of investigators there is almost always someone we can visit.
So I could probably write a novel about this first week in the field describing my thoughts, feelings, and experiences but unfortunately I don't have the time.  I will have however detail out some of the highlights!  One of my first things my companions and I did after P-Day ended (P-Day ends at 6pm) was visit an 8 year old girl named Yanice Avila.  Most of her family had gotten baptized but she wasn't 8 yet.  Her birthday was that day and so we went over the baptismal interview questions with her.  She then got baptized that next day!  I was at a baptism on my second day in the field.  We are working with the parents to get them baptized but they work a lot and are really hard to get a hold of.
Later that night, my companions said that we were going to knock doors for a while and then head home for the night.  We then walked down a street to which Elder Morris says, "I have been feeling like we should knock this street for a while, let's do it tonight."  We then went up to a house that we could tell people were home and knocked on the door.  The man who answers the door takes one look at us missionaries and sighs.  We, wondering why he had reacted in that way, asked if he had talked to missionaries before.  He then related that he had met with the missionaries before and had had many discussions.  He had ended the discussions because they were boring.  To that Elder Morris said, "well that was rude!"  In response to that, the man at the door takes out his phone, yelling at us that he was going to call the cops.  He then pulls a broom from inside the house and started to advance on us, raising it to hit us with the broom!  We started to run down the sidewalk, when I realized that my companions were laughing histarically along with the man who answered the door.  It turns out that the man who answered the door was Brother Sporl from one of the wards we cover and my companions had planned the prank on me for my first day!  Brother Sporl invited us in and introduced me to his laughing family.  They are the funniest and nicest people that I have meet thus far on my mission.  We all laughed about how I ran down the sidewalk; they got me pretty good!  Anyways, the Sporls are a family from Brazil who insist on having my companions and I over for dinner every Sunday.  Sister Sporl makes amazing Brazilian food and this last Sunday she made what is called Kippe.  There are so many just really nice members here.  Walking down the street, we get greeted almost every couple minutes or so!  I sure this is not something that happens in most other missions!
Another experience I had this week was when we contacted a referral.  At first when we knocked, no one answered but as we walked away from the door we heard talking from the side yard.  We went over to the side and found Facundo playing with his children.  He was referred by some members that he works with and was really happy to see us there.  We set a return appointment to teach him about the restoration.  Skip ahead to two nights later and we are sitting in house teaching him about the restoration.  This was the first real lesson I was able to teach since getting in the field and the Spirit was so strong.  I was given the opportunity to teach the part of the Restoration about the First Vision.  As I related the FV to Facundo, I could tell the Spirit was touching his heart.  It was such an amazing experience to teach Facundo and I know I would not have been able to do it without the gift of tongues.  Since then I have had other opportunities to teach and man were they amazing.  The Spirit is so real and made all the difference in how the lessons went that we have had and will have.  We left his house with another appointment to meet with him.
First door slammed in my face!  My companions after we had knocked on about 10 doors told me that the next one was all mine.  Excited to do this for my first time, I walk up to the door, knock, and then wait.  After about 10 seconds, a woman answers the door.  She looks at the three of us and instantly gets really angry.  She then yells, "NOT INTERESTED" and slams the door on us.  My first door approach and first slammed door all at the same time.  However, I surprised myself when this didn't affect me at all I was able to lead the next 5 or so door contacts.  I thought to myself, I am glad I got the door slamming out of the way and from now on it could only get better!  We ended up finding a really good family FULL of children that were very interested in the church.  I will have to let you know how it all turns out.
Yesterday, I commited two people to baptism!!  They will baptized on Oct. 16th!  They are part of a family that we have hopes to teach all of them, but two of the sons that I commited to baptism were the only ones home.  They are super excited to start going to "the church down the street" and really liked what we shared about Jesus Christ.  We gave them a calender with the dates of the lessons we will teach them and have plans to meet with the whole family!  My first baptismal commitments and definitely not the last.  We have a goal to baptize 6 people this week and have high hopes to actually beat that goal!  E. Morris, Chamberlain, and I are pumped and have so many good, high hopes for this transfer!!!!
Well, I wish I had more time to type out more but there is so much to get done on a P-Day.  Thanks for all the love and support.

Elder Ethan Janis

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ANOTHER Weekly Letter

Hey Family!
Guess where I am at this very moment!  I am in a Community Center in my first Area, having my first P-Day in the field, and am so very excited.  I met my new companions and trainers.  They are Elder Chamberlain and Elder Morris.  They put us in triples because they have no idea how long we will be here.  Both of them are from Texas and Elder Chamberlain is from Southlake actually.  Ha ha, so we had a fun discussion about our hometown rivalries.  My other companion is from Austin.  I did get reassigned to a Spanish speaking area and am looking forward to getting this opportunity to improve my Spanish.
So, a little about what today has been like so far.  I woke early this morning to pack and to have enough time to say goodbye to all my friends.  I then went to travel office and then boarded the only bus I have ever seen with seat belts.  Then we made the bus ride to the SLC mission headquarters where we got to meet our mission president, President Winn.  He is extremely nice and gave us each a hug as we came off the bus.  We then went into a room and were orientated for about 5 minutes.  We were then each given an opportunity to share our testimonies and a little about ourselves.  Based solely, on the Spirit and what we said, President Winn matched us with our companions.  When then went out to the parking lot and stood in a long line waiting to be told who our trainers were going to be.  It was pretty hilarious because all of us coming into the field today stood in a long line while the companions that were potentially our trainers stood there eyeing us.  After a little bit of just two lines facing each other President Winn called out our new companionship.
It turned out that my trainers don't have a car and did not have the ability to come and get me so the Zone Leaders came and got me.  We went to Walmart and did the weekly shopping and while we were there I met up with my companions.  After shopping for some groceries, we went to the member's house where I will be living for the next little bit.  After putting my luggage in the basement, we hopped in the ZLs car and drove over to this restaurant called Apple Spice Junction.  Cool thing about this mission is that a lot of the restaurants will give the missionaries free food and this was one of them.  Also while in Walmart, many people would come up to us and say hi.  We had one lady come up to us and tell us that she was praying for us missionaries.  I found this to be super cool and am having fun getting used to wearing my name tag in public.  After lunch we came to the community center were I now am!
The plans that we have for the day are a baptismal interview and I think two lessons.  All in Spanish!  I am so grateful that they are just throwing me into the work rather than letting me worry about what it will be like.  Tonight I will know and experience what being a missionary is really like!!!!!  I also found out that a lot of my area is filled with Polynesians who like to fill us up and then feed us some more.  I already got trained a little on how to get around getting too much food and maybe ways to decline more food.  This is all that I know so far about my area but I'm sure I will have a lot more information for you next P-Day which are normally on Wednesday.
So a little of the really fun facts about the Utah Salt Lake City Mission:

First, we are the highest baptizing mission in the the US and also the highest Spanish baptizing mission in the US.  Speaking of that, we actually have a baptismal service for this coming weekend!  We should have a baptismal service every weekend if we are working the way that we should and you know that I will!  How cool is that!!!
Second, we get the opportunity to go to the Salt Lake Temple every single P-Day!  I am so excited that they give us this opportunity!  I loved going once a week in the MTC and will love going once a week here in the field.
Third, I will have the opportunity to go the General Conference!  President Winn told us that we are given this unique opportunity to grow in our testimonies of our living prophet.  I have heard rumors that we may get to shake President Monson's hand and some of the Apostles.  Although we have to procure some tickets so if anyone can send some tickets my way for me and my companions that would be great!!!!
Fourth, there are 180ish missionaries in this mission.  170ish serve within a 55 block area in downtown Salt Lake City and 14 elders spread out to Wyoming to one side and 14 then to Nevada on the other side.  Crazy huh?!  This means that for me specifically, my area is really small and I will be walking every where!  This is good as I hear the Polynesians really do stuff you.
Well, that is the end of all that has happened to me since I have arrived here in Lago Salado.  My companions are extremely nice and I feel that we are going to have a lot of success!
Oh one more thing before I head out to play some soccer for P-Day.  I got to participate in some sealings in the Provo Temple.  What an awesome experiences.  We are so blessed to have access to a temple and for the blessing of eternal families.  I learned a lot and felt the Spirit so strongly in the Sealing Room.
Here is the address of the mission home:
Utah Salt Lake City Mission
3487 S. 1300 E.
Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Please send mail to this address.  If you use make sure it doesn't go to the MTC because they will just throw them away!  I love you all and am sooooooo excited for what this next week will hold for me!

Elder Janis

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Temporary Mission Reassignment

Hola Familia!
I think I am making the phrase "this was a great week" a cliché but it has definitely applied to every week I have been here!  Especially this week because I found what is going to happen to me and a little bit of what the Lord has planned for me.  I found out like I said before that I didn't get my visa and was put up for a reassignment.  I then had to wait a long four days until they had made reassignments and then had them approved.  So on Friday morning this last week I FINALLY found out where I got reassigned to.  Drum roll.....Salt Lake City Mission!!  I am heading out to the field on this upcoming Thursday.  I have heard some fun facts about the Salt Lake Mission like that it is the highest baptizing mission in the world and that I will have the chance to go to General Conference and shake the hands of all of the General Authorities!!  I am so stoked to have gotten this opportunity to serve instead of chilling in the MTC for the mean time and look forward to what the Lord has in store for me in the field!
Thanks Dad for sending me the BYU Football Shirt!  I actually was sitting at a table outside while the BYU vs. Washington game was going and could hear SO much noise coming from the stadium.  It was fun to think about all the great times I had at those games this past year.  I then quickly figured out that the noise from the game was distracting me and I had to move away to a more quiet spot to continue studying.  I hope that the team steps it up; I heard that they are having a rough start.  Anyways, this last Sunday I got to call home!  Wow, what a treat that was.  It was so good to hear your voices, Dad and Mom, and appreciate all the kind words you said to me.  I am EXTREMELY blessed to have your support and love and appreciate the wonderful examples you are to me.
So my companion, Elder Zylstra, left today for the Provo Mission (he was temporarily reassigned also) and I am with another Elder in my District named Elder Brewer from San Diego, California.  We laugh because outside of missionary work Elder Brewer and I would have been friends!  However, I miss Elder Zylstra so much and am grateful for all the wonderful, enriching experiences we had together.  We hit occasional rough spots but quickly came out of them and became better missionaries because of it.  That is one thing I have really learned is that I should not be ashamed or regret my past because it has made me who I am today.  It would have been better to not have made the mistakes I made, but I am who I am today from what I learned in overcoming the mistakes.  Overall, my experience here at the MTC has been amazing.  I have never felt closer to God in my life and have really anticipated every opportunity I can get to study the scriptures.  I know the scriptures are the word of God.  The scriptures provide opportunities for me to feel the Holy Ghost who then has brought stories and people to life.  I  am then able to get answers to pray and find good missionary work scriptures.  We are all so blessed to have such easy and plentiful access to the words of God!
One quick thought I had this week as it pertains to conference which is coming up soon.  There seem to be points and subjects that are referred to often throughout a given conference.  I have been reading past conference issues and discussing them with my fellow elders.  One thing we noticed is that they don't talk about not getting tattoos or body piercings or even the word of wisdom all that much.  Their greatest focus is on doing the small daily things such as praying and reading the scriptures.  I wish that I had more time to talk about this but I have 45 seconds!  Just ponder on that as the next session comes up!

Elder Janis

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Gift of Tongues

So this week has been a pretty full and very exciting week.  I have a lot to say and hope that I will be able to type fast enough to type all I want to in 30 minutes!
First of all, an Elder in my district got the flu this week and the MTC health clinic quarantined him for four days.  He was put in a room in the basement of a building where he was alone.  The health clinic then gave all of us in my district anti-viral pills that cost $100 a box.  They told us that we had probably been exposed to the flu virus and that the pills would help us avoid getting sick.  The Church spent $1,300 on flu pills to make sure that we didn't get sick.  I am so grateful they did because I really did not want to get the flu!
Another great experience of this last week was in the Teaching Appointment that E. Zylstra and I had.  We were given a teaching record which told us a little about the person that we would be teaching and had to make a plan out of what it said.  We then went in a did a task to get to know the investigator.  Usually a task involves doing a door approach or pretending they are a shop owner while we shop in their store.  This last week it was just a stop by and visit and then schedule a time for a complete lesson.  Before the task, I silently prayed that the gift of tongues would help as we got to know the investigator.  The task went super smooth and were able to set an appointment to meet with him later for a whole lesson.  Then we had a quick moment to revise our plan and then we went back in to teach.  This lesson went perfect.  If you tried to follow our plan you would have been lost.  Instead of sticking completely to the plan we made we applied the lesson directly to his needs as we found out more about him.  We were going to teach the second lesson but found out he had problems with the Word of Wisdom.  We relied completely on the Spirit and taught with testimony and scripture.  I am going to remember the immense Spirit I felt for a long time after.  Also, while E. Zylstra and I were discussing some things we could fix he commented on how fluid and correct my spanish.  Right then I remembered that I had prayed and the Lord had answered my prayer.  I am so grateful to the Lord's hand in my life and that He answers my prayers.  I know for sure that won't be the last time I ask the Lord for help with the language!
I had an interesting thought this last week.  E. Zylstra and I were discussing how ready we felt for the field.  We had discussed that our having made little dumb mistakes along the way aren't as important as what we learned from the mistakes and the person that helped me become.  I am going to confess, I am not perfect and feel sometimes I could have paid a little better attention in class or used my Missionary Discretion Time a little more effectively.  I can now say that I am much, much better about using my time more wisely and I have the seen the Lord bless me more and more.  One specific thought I had was if I were to go home right now, I would be a different person.  I then realized that I am ready for the field and that when I get there I will still have many opportunities to learn.  I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity to learn habits and gain testimony that will set a precedent and foundation for the rest of my life.  All decision I make now and then after my mission are affected by how well I serve the Lord.  Missionary work is an amazing blessing!
Lastly, I have news about my visa.  I found only about 25 minutes ago that I will not be getting a visa for about probably up to a month and that the First Presidency is working on a temporary reassignment for me as I write.  I will get this temp. reassignment either tomorrow or Friday.  I was pretty bummed at first because it could be a long while before I end up in Mexico but everything happens for a reason and I am in the Lord's hands doing the Lord's service.  I will go and the do things the Lord commands!  Anyways, it is pretty much like I am getting another mission call.  I am so excited to see where the Lord has decided to place me for the time being.
Well I love all of you so much and appreciate all the fun letters and support.
Elder Janis

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Elder Janis = Captain Moroni

Hey everyone!
This week has been great!  I am loving my opportunity to serve the Lord on a mission more and more everyday.  The Spirit is becoming a more constant and foundational part of my life here and I feel the Savior's love through this dependable companionship of the Holy Ghost.  Well, I thought that I would start out this letter with some bad news...they decided that since there are too many incoming missionaries that they are going to restrict the RC to only the Advanced Spanish speakers.  Before they would let the intermediate spanish speakers, me being one, have the opportunity to call also.  However, I do have some awesome news!  I should be getting my travel plans this week!  I will probably be telling you all about my plans the next time I get to email!
Well this last week has been full of a lot of changes.  I am not sure if I already told everyone about this but my district and another district were put together and then moved to a new location.  We got 6 new guys in our district and a new teacher.  I loved the way things used to be but I am also really enjoying the change.  I have gotten to know the news guys super well because I play soccer with them during our GYM time.  They are a lot fun and I have learned so much from them.  Our new teacher though is amazing.  She served her mission in Chile and is so intense about missionary work.  She has really helped us to have nativo pronunciation and not any gringo stuff.  She is a stickler for it but I have loved the fruits of her determination and mine.  She has also given some phenomenal advice and is key so far in my preparation for the field.  Her parents are converts to the church and her own convertion story was so cool to hear.  Hermana Alvarez definitely knows her stuff.  I feel that she is an answer to pray as I worry about how ready I'll be when it finally comes to heading out to the field.  Everyday I am feeling more and more ready and I have about 2 weeks!
So one of the suggestions Hermana Alvarez shared with us was that we should find and utilize examples with in the Book of Mormon.  We did this in class for Ammon and it was an amazing experience.  I decided the other day that for a personal study, I would do the same thing for Captain Moroni because of what it says in Alma 48:17.  It would be so awesome if I could legitimately substitute my name in there as a opposed to Moroni and it would mean the same thing.  I then read the entire verse taking special attention to the attributes it lists for Moroni.  I wrote them all down and then made some very specific goals to start applying his example in my life.  I have found that as I am reading the scriptures just how perfect they are for our day and age.  The Book of Mormon really was written for our dispensation and has so many wonderful truths.  I have loved taking the 45 minutes a day to really dig deep into the words of the pages and apply what I learn to my mission and then to the rest of my life.  We are SO blessed to have the restored gospel in our lives.
One of my most favorite things to do here at the MTC are the contacts.  A contact usually consists of my companion and I talking to another companionship, sharing our testimonies, and practicing our Spanish.  I have loved and cherished the opportunities to contact missionaries here because they give me the chance to use the knowledge I am gaining and my growing testimony.  Usually these experiences lead to opportunities to help other missionaries out with their troubles here or for my testimony and faith to grow.  E. Zylstra and I start our contacts out by getting to know them, asking them about their experience so far, and then listening to hear the Spirit tell us what to either teach or testify about.  My experience with Sister Maiava from one of my previous weeks is one of my most favorite memories here thus far.  I love the all the learning I am gaining here and look forward to all the future experiences I will have. 
I love being a missionary and putting on my name tag every morning!  It makes me so grateful that the Lord trusts me and has blessed me witht this opportunity.  Love you all!!!
Elder Janis