Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It has been incredible.

Ever since President Drake began to lead our mission, we've begun our day repeating 3 Nephi 5:13 every morning:

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."

Being a disciple of Christ, being called, and declaring His word is a privilege. For one of the last times as a full time missionary, I testify that He lives.

My mission is just about over. It has been incredible. Thank you for your love and support.

Elder Decker

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A happier, better person.

So Sherlyn got baptized! Her mom came. Sherlyn and her friends, President Rascon and I were able to help her understand everything in Spanish. The service went bi-lingual almost at the last minute, and it worked out well. I love hearing English and Spanish hymns and himnos at the same time!

Sherlyn's brother and sister came, Tony's sister, which was awesome for them, and plenty of branch support. We learned that Sherlyn's favorite high school teacher for the last two years is a member! She got to come and support her as well. It was an awesome experience, and the branch is set up to grow a lot more with all the missionary excitement and an awesome new member!

Oh yea, and I finally gave the first talk of my mission in Sacramento meeting, all because I volunteered. So I'm still a rookie, but I thought it was a lot of fun. I was asked to talk about temptation and addiction. I wasn't sure how I'd do it, but then realized I'd known lots of great friends who've overcome those things, and their stories more than anything build my faith.

I love missionary work! I love knowing that I'm doing the right thing.

The biggest shock coming out here is that I wouldn't be an object, something to be acted on and commanded. I didn't know beforehand that it would be up to me how I'd use all my time! I just expected to walk in one end of the two- year hallway and out the other side a happier, better person. But God lets us be agents, invited to act. I'm grateful for that gift. I know with all my heart that Jesus Christ is my Savior. That's really the only important thing. I know that He is the Son of God, and I'm grateful be able to invite others to come unto Him!

Love y'all!

Elder Decker

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Way out in Liberty

Mom,

Our friend Sherlyn absolutely loved the idea of visiting teaching. She wanted to go as soon as we taught her about it. Because she became interested in the Gospel when she came to Tony's baptism, we hope lots of people come to her baptism this Sunday. It's incredible to see the Holy Ghost work in people's lives. Tony's girlfriend Miriam went to Florida for a week, and what's the first thing she finds in her hotel room? The Book of Mormon. I was worried she wouldn't take her copy, but God had everything lined up either way:) We helped Jose search for his Venezuelan ancestors, it's not super easy. He's going with the branch to the temple this Wednesday. I feel like my prayers are being answered. I know that this work is true and that it's not us that's making it happen! God can do his own work.

 I got to speak Spanish this week! Way out in Liberty Texas where I'd never been before, I got the chance to exchange again with Elder Reed. He shared with me the concern that the members always talk about how great earlier missionaries were, telling stories about the disobedient things they did. We decided together that there is a difference between people liking you or even loving you, and people respecting and trusting you. You have to keep the first commandment (Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind) before the second (Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself).

We had an awesome boating activity Saturday. Lots of members brought their friends and siblings we had 6 or so non-members there. I guy from Michoacán, Mexico with a gage brought his dijeridoo (didjerydu?) and juggling stuff and I got to speak Spanish with him. We got a big list of people we'll invite to play soccer with our investigators. Tonight we're playing capture the flag.

I learned something important:The thoughts you have change everything, just don't think too much about it.


love y'all! Elder Decker

Monday, July 13, 2015

Quest of a lifetime!

Mom,
 
This week was a fun one. Elder Stephensen was popping the screen off our phone on the daily just so we could readjust the screen and read our messages. We were without it completely for three days (collecting key indicators, updating the baptismal tracker, and doing conference call with the dinosaur in the chapel was a laugh). And car got taken to the shop. President replaced it a couple days later when we asked for permission to take 1 1/2 hr bus trip outside of the mission to get to our recent convert's house. So we're completely back on our feet (figuratively speaking), with a vehicle, we've got a phone (hot pink-nice work Sprint) in hand (in our "area" that's one family ward and one 3-stake covering YSA branch, virtually every moment you spend not on the phone is a moment wasted.) and we're really excited to work.

 Former companion Elder Johnson and I had a great exchange Friday. Right after we talked to the mailman, we were led to Kenneth who was working on his yard. He permitted us to come back with service clothes and mow, wack weeds, and use the leaf blower. He's one of those guys that doesn't let anybody touch his yard, but he let us help. He was surprised we did. Elder Johnson just explained: "We do it because we love God, and we love you!" Kenneth came to church with his wife yesterday.

Jose's confirmation was pretty powerful yesterday. Right afterward we learned about the Holy Ghost in Gospel Principles and this quote stuck out to me. This is what President Packer taught:

 "Discovering how the Holy Ghost operates in your life is the quest of a lifetime. Once you have made that discovery for yourself, you can live in enemy territory and will not be deceived or destroyed. No member of this Church—and that means each of you—will ever make a serious mistake without first being warned by the promptings of the Holy Ghost."

It's something I'm still working on. In fact, ignoring a prompting led to us breaking a lawnmower and wasting a lot of time- it wasn't a serious mistake, but it was unfortunate. I've recently begun to fear promptings, knowing that they will push me to do something I normally wouldn't. Our teacher taught us that each time we get a prompting, in that moment we have the privilege of knowing the will of God. If we obey, we are that much closer to matching our thoughts with His, our mind with His. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and He's always right! I just need to remember the joy that comes from obedience and the heartache that comes from disobedience. Jose was lucky to learn this stuff his first day as a member!

I love y'all!!!

Elder Decker

 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Texas takes America seriously!

Mom,

My favorite Venezuelan ever Jose was baptized yesterday ! A little earlier than we'd thought, but it worked out perfectly. I learned that he has lived in his little apartment on Harrisburg for two years, just a couple blocks away where I lived on Garrow St. for 4 1/2 months, and where I drove past many times each week for 9.  At any time God could have taken us to his door! But he didn't. I believe Jose was meant to be found by a member of the Church; I believe he was meant to come to the YSA branch; I believe he was meant to be baptized yesterday.
photo: Elder Stephensen, Jose, Chris, Myself,
with guest appearance by (mission) President Drake!
Last week before she left for soccer camp, we got to teach Sherlyn's family and eat a bunch of mole (mo-lay)! The first I've had since leaving "Spanish- land." You definitely start to miss hot tortillas. Her mom is super nice, wants to learn more about religion, and her heart has been opened by Sherlyn's desire to be baptized. It was a big blessing to unexpectedly use my Spanish again to be able to talk to her. We actually don't have one YSA investigator whose parents don't speak Spanish. We'll have the Spanish missionaries over there to teach them in no time. 

We had a big spur-of-the-moment YSA party at the Rascon's home on the 4th of July. We had quite a few non-members come. But once again, it was only two of the members that brought all of them! Just one more person actively trying to share the Gospel does make a HUGE difference.  We drove our little white car out of the range of fire just in time before it would have been showered with fireworks. It was a great day. Texas takes America seriously.

The last two weeks I've had the opportunity to go to sacrament meeting both in the family ward and the branch. Taking the sacrament is something that keeps taking on new meaning for me. Have you been watching the Bible videos from the Church? They're incredible. Just in the last week I feel like I've come to better know the Savior through them. He's bold. He's loving, obedient, intelligent, humble, merciful, and incredible. I got to see Jose make a covenant with God, and begin a new life in Christ. He's happier; he's relieved. From all this and more I know that Jesus Christ lives today. He is a real person, with a body, a personality, with His own Church, and a desire to help and teach you and me. 

love y'all!

Elder Decker

 

Monday, June 29, 2015

I know this work is true and I love it!

Mom, 

I'm in little Utah! It's a brand new neighborhood called Summerwood, with a stake center! We serve in both the Summerwood ward (95% BYU graduates) and the YSA branch (95% future missionaries, returned missionaries and recent converts).  Our YSA "area" takes up all of Summerwood and Texas Houston East Stakes, so anybody from age 18 to 30 is fair game from Cleveland Texas to Baytown, to Pasadena, and almost Downtown, and who doesn't want to go to Luaus at President Lewis' backyard pool, chair soccer FHE, or movie night at Art Rascon's house? All we have to do is pray, bring the Spirit, and ask for referrals. Member missionary work! They do it here. We had 8 lessons with members last week, and only three of those had fewer than 2 members with us. Once we had 5.

My first week here was really fun! To be honest, I was expecting to be a District Leader in a Spanish area somewhere, and never expected to be here! It is a completely different mission from where I was just over 3 months ago, but the recipe is still the same: faith, hope, charity and love with an I single to the glory of God. 

My new companion is named Elder Stephenson from Ogden, he's incredibly fun, has tons of faith, and really wants to baptize! 

All that Spanish stuff will come in handy, even though it's not even close to a Spanish area because of all these young adults' parents and family. We've gone down to Broadway twice already to teach our investigator Jose (driving straight through my old areas of Channelview, Denver Harbor, Magnolia and Lockwood) whom was also found by a member! 

I know this work is true, and I love it! 

Elder Decker

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

More details to come.

Mom,

It was a not-so tropical storm that had Houston in a panic last week.

"Bill" was meant to land at 9pm Mon, then 1am Tue, then 12 pm Tue, and then we just stopped caring. President Rascon from the mission presidency had invited us to his home for p-day. This Emmy- winning ABC news anchor, journalist has a BIG house. That night President had us make sure we had water and gas. We tried two Walmarts and a Krogers and these experienced Texans had already taken all the cases of water.

We got gallons of orange drank and apple juice.  We filled up the bathtub, kept an eye on the canal outside, and got pretty excited. The next day, an anticipated zone conference with Elder Foster of the seventy canceled, we were instructed to stay in until it was "safe."

All we saw was a sprinkle, but we stayed in. We snuck over to the apartment office and did family history while workers pulled lawn furniture and umbrellas inside, expecting crazy winds. I found and added two people to our tree! Then I realized they were still alive and left off for a reason...

A Father's Day thought: what kind of child would I like to have?

Humble, courageous, happy, etc.

What keeps me from being that sort of child for my Father in Heaven? I know God really is my Father. I really know He has been patient with me. He knows us all, and has given us so much!

We had a big miracle. John said it was the lights in their eyes that made him accept the hermana's invitation to hear the Gospel. They sent us to teach him, and from the moment met him he's been so humble and kind. He gave us some chili dogs. He lives in what's pretty much a halfway house. He cooks and runs the place with his friend Ephraim.

When we went to teach them last week with Brother Cox, I really felt the Spirit as they both testified of the Savior. Ephraim is a big man with a lot of faith, and isn't afraid to show it. He says he "rebukes" bad thoughts, pains, illnesses and Spirits. He has been searching for a strictly Bible church that doesn't "water it down." He's got a really clear idea of what he wants in a church, and hasn't been able to find it. I think God knows exactly what church He wants him to go to! They both came to church yesterday! We learned no obscure Bible passages, but we heard humble, sincere, true testimonies about fathers and sons, the blessings of obedience, and felt the Spirit's approval.

It was awesome. Ephraim had Brother Cox take a detour so he could visit the son he hasn't talked to in a long time. He and John are ready to come again next week.

But I won't be there. I'm on my way to my seventh and final area right now. More details to come.

I love y'all

Elder Decker