Monday, February 23, 2015

Week 38 in the Field: Warrior of Christ and Church Flood

Church Flood! (This is Elder Stange)
When we went to the branch building to do some planning on Friday, we were surprised to see the entire kitchen and several nearby rooms flooding with water due to a burst. Following promptings from the Spirit, we were able to help and get more help to at least stop the flow of water. 
It reminds me of the scripture from the Book of Mormon which says "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." (1 Nephi 4:6). We didn't have a clue about plumbing, but we were able to stop the flood using the help of others.
When a gigantic emergency occurs suddenly, remember to stay calm and follow the spirit. Or in better words " still and know that I am God." (D&C 101:16)

Okay! Email Time for the week!

So technically, I already told you about Monday through Wednesday, since I didn't shoot out an email till Thursday of this past week. So I guess that’s a good place to start off with this update. Thursday we were finally permitted to leave the house but we were not permitted to drive.

Shoveling the driveway (There was only one shovel, so I did the whole thing)

Luckily it was a nice day to walk. As we started out (literally about less than 20 feet from our house) we were contacted from a semi-drunk guy driving a beat up red car. He recognized us as Mormons, and he said "Can I preach to ya'll for a second?" We agreed. Stumbling, slurring, and stammering, this guy gave what I have nicknamed "The Sunflower Sermon".

It went something along the lines of: "Y'see we are all sunflowers planted in one huge garden, and we are all tryin' to git closer to the Sun! Now Christ, He was not just an ordinary sunflower, but he was an extraordinary one..." It went on like that. He kept wanting to give us a lift, but we felt it best not to go.

However, against my better judgment, we agreed to sit in his car since it was bitter cold. As we sat down he guzzled about half a bottle of straight Vodka and to add flavor, took a swig of some kind of Snapple drink. THEN it got scary. His voice dropped from nice drunk, to scary drunk really quick. When we asked for his number for a return appointment, he slurred the number saying "Yeah it's 6... 6... 6..."

We got out pretty quickly, said our goodbyes, and watched as he somehow carefully drove off. We walked on over to the local library laughing and messing around, but it was about to get super serious real quick later on.

That evening, we went out with a member who took us over to visit with a couple recent converts where we had an awesome meatloaf and macaroni dinner. It was fantastic--until he got a call. During the call, his face immediately changed from happy to serious. He then announced that we had to leave as soon as possible. On the way over he explained that his friend's daughter had just committed suicide about 6-9 hours previously. The father had found her and essentially was understandably in a really, really terrible state.

On the way, the member asked me to write out as many comforting scriptures as I could from the Bible to give to him. I also included some stuff from D&C 121. It was probably one of the most intense spirit in that house I have ever felt. So much sorrow, so much pain, so much anguish. I could not relate to this man, and I felt that I could not give him any words of encouragement. I have not been through this kind of situation before, and have not lost anyone so dear to me as a daughter.

How could I help? The scriptures were literally the best thing I could come up with to offer him--stuff that had helped me through depression. I prayed very hard that night that the scriptures I gave him would help. The father was in tears and in a state of shock. He had gone through so much and the member was amazing support to him. We will check by on him this upcoming week.

Friday we were finally able to drive after about 5 days of nothing. We drove over to the branch building in Eldorado and when we got inside, Elder Stange heard water running. As he went over, he noticed that the kitchen, utility closet, and relief society room were all flooded ½ an inch. We quickly went to work and started rotating pots to stop the leaking.  We also called on the members for help.

When help arrived, they turned off the water and the building wasn't damaged further. It was a miracle we had been there, but it was still a huge mess. Church ended up getting cancelled for that and even more ice yesterday.

Saturday was one of the more fun days of the week. Once more, we were told not to drive so we set out walking to McDonald's for wifi and food. (By the way we had not been able to obtain groceries at this point due to the lack of a car. Had it not been for my mother’s care package and the kindness of a few members, we would've been in trouble).

As we were doing Facebook, a guy in the booth in front of me spilled his drink. Pretty much on instinct, I got out some napkins and started helping clean up the mess amidst objections of "you don't have to do that." My actions aroused the attention of a most interesting man sitting nearby.

He pointed at me after I had finished helping and motioned me towards him. Very confused, I stood in front of him and had a most amazing conversation. First he looked at my name tag and said "Ah, well that explains it. You're a Warrior of Christ!" Now that's the coolest thing I've heard in a while. He told me who he was and said that what he is doing is telling people that God is building His church again yet not that many people know about it. He told me (and showed me) this story of how when his heart began to fail, doctors didn't expect him to live a year. His legs started to deteriorate from lack of power from the heart.

Eight years later he is still kicking and all due to prayer he says. He went on to tell me that the world needs more of people like me. I was very proud, of course. Later on he had me sit with him and we had a very interesting discussion on gifts, power, and the Godhead. He actually believed in the Godhead (Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings and not one being altogether), and was grateful to meet someone like me.

He then asked me quietly, "Do you have the power to heal?" I answered, "Yes, I have that power as God wills it." Since I do actually have that priesthood power and authority to do the work of God according to His will and Spirit.

He suddenly almost jolted back saying "Oooh! Can you feel that Spirit? I just felt your testimony! Do... Do you realize that you are glowing right now? It's been many, many years since I've witnessed true power and belief. Thank you for this experience."

He also asked me if I had any spiritual gifts, which over the years I've started to recognize. I listed a few but he was mostly interested to see if I had the gift of tongues which I don't believe I have yet. I swear this guy was a dry Mormon, and I wish he weren't a nomad cause he was really cool. He also can’t read or write so we couldn't give him a Book of Mormon. However he did wish me luck in my "quest" to bring more souls unto Christ.

We later went over to Walmart to get some USB's since missionaries are replacing our iPads this week, and had to back up all our pictures and stuff onto something. Elder Stange's card wasn't properly working, and I realized that he didn't have enough money. Defeated, he purchased the new soles for his shoes which he really needed. After he bought the soles and was in a frustrated mood, he went to the bathroom.

While he was in there I quietly purchased a new USB for him on my card and placed it in his coat. Later on as we were walking, he noticed the new USB that he hadn't had enough for. Safe to say, he was very happy and wanted to pay me back, which I wouldn't let him. It was pricy, but it was so worth it to serve my companion.

Sunday not too much happened. Church was cancelled but we did want to start transferring data onto our USB's so we went to the branch building to use the FHC (Family History Center) computers. That took a bit. We went to see a couple of families afterwards. After that, we went back home for dinner and then went over to visit a less active old lady who was happy to see us. She was watching the Oscars, so that was a big distraction for me. Elder Stange made her some dinner while I talked with her.

Other than that not much else has been happening. It's getting a little warmer out which is great. I can't wait for spring here. I'm not sure what we're going to do today but we may be going snowboarding with an investigator. I'm not sure though.

Thanks for all your love and support!

Elder Peery

So due to church being cancelled, I studied a lot more on the character of Jesus Christ. One thing I always marvel at is His determination to do whatever the Father asks. Especially in the face of temptation and adversity. Some think that the temptations of Christ ended when he was confronted and tempted by Satan, but in reality and just like in our lives today, He was tempted to the very last moments of His mortal ministry. "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross." (Matthew 27:40). But He had a work to finish. And finish it He did. 
Because of His example, we too can resist the temptations of the adversary and one of the best ways we can do this is losing ourselves in the service of others. For "...when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Week 37 in the Field: Transfer to Eldorado, Illinois!

I posted a while ago about how much I love snow. Well these past few days we received more than we asked for which reminds me of the gospel. Heavenly Father has limitless blessings for us when we obey his commandments and follow the example of Jesus Christ.  #‎snowgoodness

Oh man, this current transfer has been something.  There are so many things to talk about, and now that my companion and I have been snowed in for the past three days (only have gone out once to get wifi for emails), I have had time to do so! I will first off explain what's been going on in the past three days.

So on Sunday (15th) we got out of church and were alerted that a gigantic storm was coming through Hendersonville, TN -- and it would hit that night. Now, when people around here talk about storms, usually they are talking about 2-3 inches of snow and that's it. So I didn't give much attention to it. 2-3 inches turned more into 7-8 as the mission essentially had us do pretty much nothing except stay in and clean Monday. That turned into Tuesday, and then even up to Wednesday. I couldn't alert anyone what was going on till Tuesday night when I was able to finally get to a source of wifi and send off a message to my parents. But now that the roads are a little safer, we've been permitted to finally get out and go to a source of wifi. So here's the week:

So Monday (9th) Elder Hansen and I went over to the stake center and messed around there. It was to be my last time playing basketball with missionaries on Pday for at least the next three months. Kind of a sad day. Later that evening we went over to the Bushong's who are a member family for dinner. It was a "make your own pizza" night which was loads of fun. Definitely something to try out again when I get back home.

Tuesday morning (10th), Bro. Pyne, the member who gave us a ride from district meeting almost 6 months previously, gave us a lift to transfer meeting. He worked for a music company and let us hear a bit of a song he had written with some of the Nashville Tribute Band members. He also told us how his kids were featured in the My Call To Serve album which was cool.

 Transfer day

He also told us stories about some of his scarier areas on his mission which was entertaining. When we got to the Franklin stake center, Elder Hansen took off to the trainer meeting since he would be training with another missionary. Bro. Pyne and I chatted with a sister missionary named Sis. Cotton who would be going home on Wednesday after completing a truly stellar 18 months.

The new Hendersonville missionaries (Elder Jorgensen is far left
and Elder Hansen far right, with the trainee in the middle)

She had served in my first area and tore it up with miracles all around as well as in Hendersonville for pretty much half of her mission with miracles there too. It was a good transfer meeting and I got to meet Elder Stange, the missionary I would be spending at least six weeks with. We were friends from the beginning. I was so grateful to have a companion who is more like me and has more of my interests.

We boarded "the Paducah bus" which was a giant van that carried the 4 sets of missionaries from the Paducah, KY stake to the stake center. Elder Stange and I sat in the row between the row of sisters (Gates and Curtis), and the zone leader with the district leader and trainee (Nez, Porter, and Dobson). The other zone leader (Van Valkenburg) rode in the front.

Kentucky border (I didn't get the Illinois border since I was driving)

Most of the time was spent talking to the sisters and the zone leader. Elder Stange fell asleep. The drive was about 2 and a half hours so not that bad. About 2/3 of the way there the sisters remembered and remarked to each other "Oh! You don't have a GPS?!"

They started worrying about it so I piped up saying "Y'know I actually haven't gotten a GPS on my mission but I was looking for one. Elder Stange said he has an old one so you can use the new one I'll buy temporarily." They were grateful, and I know that it was no coincidence that there was one quality and cheap GPS remaining in the Paducah Walmart. The Lord watches out for His missionaries and will help them when they need it. Especially when they are in the service of others. We ended up staying the night at the zone leaders apartment since the drive to Eldorado would waste miles since we would be coming back the next day for district meeting. We ended the night playing basketball at the ward building with the zone leaders and a few Paducah members and their non member friends.

Wednesday (11th) we had district meeting and it was fantastic to meet the rest of the missionaries in the district. We had a great training from Elder Nez on the importance of certain words. Instead of saying, "The gospel of Jesus Christ CAN help you..." The better word is "The gospel of Jesus Christ WILL help you..." And so on. 

After district meeting I handed off the GPS to the sisters who once again thanked me and promised that they would get their own soon from another set who had an extra one. We started on the drive to Eldorado afterwards. 
With the giant Superman in Metropolis, IL (yes it's called Metropolis)

Just across the Ohio River is a city called Metropolis. It has this gigantic Superman statue so obviously, I wanted to take a look at that. It was pretty sweet and even had its own dedicatory prayer which was funny to see. In it was the acknowledgment that the statue was not meant to be an idol for worshiping which I also chuckled at. On the base of the statue were the words "TRUTH. JUSTICE. - THE AMERICAN WAY." I thought that was brilliant. 

After looking around a bit we got back into the car and I immediately discovered the first thing that challenged the companionship: Elder Stange's sense of direction. The poor guy literally didn't have a clue where we were, even though he had been in the area for six weeks. It didn't help that he had forgotten his GPS back in Paducah (we found out about this when we got to our home). After about 30 minutes or so, I found the right road and we were back on course. 
Plains off  Route 45 in Illinois. I would say "the field is white
already to harvest," but it's actually all dead.  It's still beautiful though.

The drive on the 45 was beautiful. Rolling plains, a two lane street, and no cars around for miles for about an hour drive north. It was awesome. 

We got to the house (after being lost for another 30 minutes), and I stepped in to what would be my home for the next three months. It's kind of a cozy home. Wood walls with carpet and tiles. Certainly bigger than my past places I've been in. It was great. Except Elder Stange got sick so we had to stay inside that day.

Thursday (12th) he was still sick but we went to go see some people in the evening. We saw a less active who had a lot of health issues and was looking for a nursing home. We were able to go get her a vanilla shake which she appreciated. We also went to go see an excommunicated member who had been taking the missionary discussions and wanted to be baptized. Then we also went to go see a nice recent convert family and ended up teaching their relatives a lesson. 

Later that day I got a call from Elder Jorgensen who was one of the missionaries who replaced me in Hendersonville. He told me that Shawn Brown, the guy I had been teaching for three months and the cookie story, set his baptismal date as March 7th the night before. I was overjoyed. I'm hoping to attend the baptism in person, but I will be happy to skype in as well. After serving there for 6 months I'm hoping for some leniency from President to get approved miles for the 3 and a half hour drive to Gallatin where the baptism will take place.

Friday (13th) was... Interesting. We went over and had a good lesson with a lady.  On a lighter note I finally got to see the city of Eldorado. Or at least some of it. We went to the branch building and used the family history center computers for Facebook and planning. We also got to meet a part member family where the husband is taking the lessons. They are expected to be married in April so he will probably be baptized then if all goes well.

Saturday not too much happened other than we contacted a really talkative guy in the McDonald's. He told us all about his life essentially and unfortunately lived in Indiana area and wasn't interested in learning more. Since it was Valentine's Day not that many people opened up to us.

Sunday was brutal. Half the branch was sick, and President Place, the branch president, called to have me give a 7-10 minute talk on faith. And Elder Stange told me it was my turn to teach gospel doctrine. So yeah. That was fun. 

I talked for about 6 minutes max and that was buying time. I'm usually better at speaking to larger crowds, but due to illnesses, only 27 members were present for sacrament meeting. Some of them had to leave right after due to sickness in their families back home. I also wasn't too prepared on the talk, but I was more prepared on the lesson which had to be 40-50 minutes. In gospel doctrine I taught the principle of agency, something I've grown to have a good knowledge about. The elderly people in attendance would take the conversation off track so it was entertaining to bring it back repeatedly. They all commented that it was a good lesson and a fascinating topic. This is going to be an interesting and growing experience in this branch for sure.

President Place was very glad I stepped up and was appreciative of the short notice efforts. In opening exercises for Priesthood, there were only 7 brethren there including us missionaries and the branch president, so we all had an off topic discussion about prayer based on the Ezra Taft Benson book given by one of the elderly high priests. It was entertaining for sure. Also none of the brethren play piano so guess who's stepping in for that?

Snow-pocalypse in Harrisburg, IL out the back window at the car.

Monday (16th) as I already stated, we were snowed in. We couldn't go anywhere or do anything. After playing Risk, Monopoly, and just sleeping, I was essentially done with the day. It was really pretty boring.

Same deal for Tuesday (17th), but then I had found a snow shovel so I went to work on the driveway and sidewalks. We were able to get the car out of the driveway and obtained wifi and a dinner at the branch mission leader's home. The Russell's are a really fun family and currently have a Norwegian exchange student with them. One of their daughter's is at BYU-Idaho and the other is coming home from her mission in a few weeks. That one is attending Southern Virginia University which is just a few hours south of me. They were awesome and I can't wait to start working with them.

Finally Wednesday (18th). I was actually planning on sending out this email this day but once again we were stuck. I finished shoveling the driveway and also finished building a snowman my companion had started but never got around to finishing. He's a mini version of me. We also went to go see one of our investigators with a member driving and that was literally about it. I ended the night watching The Testaments and writing ya'll and a few others.

I think that's about it. Lots happened. As I am currently writing this, it is freezing cold in the house which for some reason is not heating up. I'm trying to be patient with the weather and the circumstances. 

Thank you all for your support and I apologize for not writing sooner. It's been a hectic and very cold week.

Elder Peery

There are many times in life where we will face trials that seem bigger than we can manage. A perfect example is found in the story of David and Goliath. Though Goliath was a huge giant and David was puny, David defeated him because the Lord was on his side. Whenever difficulties occur when you are trying to do the right thing, remember that the Lord is on your side.
Snow-pocalypse outside the back door

Snow-pocalypse outside the front door

Monday, February 9, 2015

Week 36 in the Field: Farewell to Hendersonville...Off to....?

(Picture from a few weeks ago) Playing Ben Truman's guitar for them and David Archuleta

This week was pretty fun until the end. Then it gets kind of sad.

On Monday we went to a fun center here in Hendersonville. It was entertaining to say the least. There was roller skating, laser tag, bowling, and a bunch of arcade games. Elder Hansen won the jackpot on one of the machines (after spending at least $5 in quarters) and got 1000 tickets. One of the other members we were hanging out with won the jackpot on another machine after spending a ton of quarters on it too haha. Elder Hansen wasn't as good at roller skating, though, and it was entertaining to see him skate. To help his case he had only gone skating once before this attempt.

He almost made it down a straight line before falling. Laser tag was fun too except it was very small compared to other places I've been. Also the other elders including my companion were cheating by covering up the lighted areas. We still beat them however. And I didn't lose in bowling! I had a really really terrible score though but managed to beat one of the other missionaries.

Tuesday at the storehouse it was as usual another busy day. However this time was more fun because in the line to help out for truck orders, we were having a mini competition to see who could be first in line. I kind of started it a few weeks ago because I would always end up getting to the front of the line and the order would be all called out. Sister Bell who's a member in Goodlettsville just said "Well that means you're first for the next one!" From that point on it became a competition. And every time an elder or sister got to the line first, they would all look at me and say "I won!" 

So then it became a war. It was a lot of fun. Almost all our appointments fell through which would be the general trend this week. We had dinner with three sisters and later I got to dedicate their home. It was a neat experience for sure, and I was honored to be asked to do so. The sister whose house it belonged to was very appreciative.

The district picture (left to right: Elder Cullum, Elder Openshaw, Elder Colver, Elder Owens, Elder Longhurst, (below) Elder Hansen, Elder Peery, Sister Traughber, and Sister Squire)

Wednesday I trained in district meeting on the importance of planning and study before teaching. It was a pretty good lesson and I got a lot out of it. We then went to dedicate another home for a sister in the ward. Later that night we met with the Brown family and almost committed the husband to baptism. He just has a word of wisdom issue with sweet tea but says he's on track to be baptized and can give that up. That's been a real cool miracle to witness.

Thursday a lot of our investigators dropped us but most that did simply didn't understand the church nor read any of the things we left them. In the evening, I made cookies for the member who was Santa Claus for 35 years. He was very appreciative, and it was an awesome experience.

Friday we went to see a referral who lived in a big huge mansion. When they invited us in to teach them, I was blown away. It was my first lesson to an investigator who lived in a mansion. And it was really fun. They were super interested so we will be back soon. 

Later that evening we also had an interesting lesson with an elderly lady we were seeing every now and then. Her son's friend was over and he is an atheist. He negatively tried to throw a lot of the beliefs of the church and Christianity in general at us but we countered a lot of it with faith and pure knowledge from the Bible and Book of Mormon. I have had experience with atheists before, so I felt very comfortable in answering his statements.  The member we were with, as well as the elderly investigator, were impressed at the knowledge and spirit we had. 

Wanting to end the night on a good note I prayed for one more missionary moment. As we were getting some food at a gas station, the cashier asked us why we were dressed up. Three minutes later, I had his name and address and a return appointment. It was awesome.

Saturday was a pretty sad day. President Andersen called and told my companion that he would be trio training with an Elder Jorgensen, and that I would be sent to Eldorado, IL which is in southeast Illinois and also the top of the mission, to serve with Elder Stange who has been out one transfer more than I have. It is really sad to leave Hendersonville, but all during the week I figured it was coming.

Sunday morning after ward council I was asked by Brother Kindred, who is a member of the bishopric, to bear my testimony. After he called me up after the sacrament, I walked down the aisle and instantly felt the love of many people in that chapel. When I got to the podium I couldn't speak. I wasn't afraid or anything, I was so moved that I just couldn't speak for a few seconds. Finally I stated how much I love this ward and how good it has been to me to serve here. I talked about my first day here and how different it has changed from then. I bore my testimony of the validity of the church and how the Hendersonville ward exemplified the idea of this love for others.

After I closed and walked down, a youth got up to give his talk, but I still felt the love of everyone in that room. After sacrament meeting ended, many people got up to say goodbye to me. I was so touched. Some of our investigators who were there also said their goodbyes including the Browns. I will miss them a lot.

Later that evening I also got a phone call from the lady whose house I dedicated that week that had the two other sisters over for dinner with us and she also said goodbye and thank you. It was a rough day for me.

I will never forget Hendersonville, nor the members who live there. I will never forget the hardships and trials I faced here as well as the miraculous boom in the area in the recent months. I will probably miss the members, the investigators, and the other friends I've made here, but I know that there are people in Eldorado that need me right now. I can't wait for more adventures there.

Elder Peery

So yeah on my last Sunday in Hendersonville, I talked to Ben Truman (member of the Nashville Tribute Band) and he said he had recorded me playing "I Am a Child of God" to them and David Archuleta when we had dinner with them on January 22nd. He had forgotten to send it to our parents so he gave me the video instead. This is, I suppose, proof of one of the amazing stories that has happened to me while serving in Hendersonville. I will surely miss all these people when I leave for Illinois on Tuesday.

An iguana named Jim-tom