Monday, January 27, 2014

The ice was fun.


This week we are seeing the the culmination of this 7-week transfer marathon. Two people Elder Thomas and I have taught will be baptized this week. One into the English ward (we really only half taught him), and [our investigator] into Spanish. [He] was baptized back in 1991 in Guatemala, but after 22 years and an immigration to Los Estados Unidos his record has been lost without a trace. He has actually been the beneficiary of missionary visits for over a year now. Before we ever met him he had almost completely quit drinking and was attending church every week. We found out his record was gone, have taught him everything (most of it was really new to him) and he will be baptized this Saturday. I've never taught anyone so humble and willing to learn as him. After reading from Malachi we asked him if he'd pay tithing. He said "Well of course, it says to right here!" He recognizes his weakness, but seeks to do his very best. It has been a delight to see him come to Christ, obey His commandments, and reap the blessings.

The members here are great. They are anxious and willing to help us visit people. They feed us fantastic food. I am impressed by their strength, testimony, and those love one for another.  

As we get to know people, asking about their families, beliefs, hopes and plans, I love discovering how the fullness of Christ's Gospel is really what fills every need and heals every wound. We talked to a man on Saturday that really has no direction in life. He wants to have a family. He wants to stay away from jail and drugs. But he really just doesn't know why. The spirit was there are we read from 2 Nephi 2 that "men are that they might have joy." This man is afraid of death, afraid of being lonely, and he said we helped bring him peace.  

My testimony of the commandments has grown a lot. I see first hand why God wants us to have families, to love them, to stay with them, why he asks us not to drink or smoke, why the prophets council us on our financial habits and decisions. There really is a happy way to live. It's not the easy or the natural way. It's the way God wants from us so we can be happy.

The ice was fun.*

Elder Decker

*Houston (CNN) -- After pelting parts of Texas with snow and ice, a rare deep South winter storm moved into Louisiana on Friday, icing roads and causing at least two deaths. Louisiana State Police closed I-10 at the Texas border after numerous traffic accidents blamed on ice.The interstate closure was one of many hampering travel in the state Friday afternoon as state police warned of deteriorating conditions. They warned residents to avoid driving unless it was absolutely necessary.State police said two people died in traffic accidents attributed to the weather. . .The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for southwest and south-central Louisiana through Friday evening. As much as a half-inch of ice is possible, the agency said. Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency because of the storm. State offices were closed in 38 parishes, according to the governor's office. Schools were closed in 37.
Earlier, the storm made trouble in Houston, a city so unaccustomed to wintry weather that it's only had three bouts with measurable snow since 1968. One Twitter user jokingly posted: "Ice on my windshield. Anything I can do or should I just bust it out with a hammer?" Although the winter storm warning had been lifted for the Houston area Friday afternoon, forecasters warned that bridges, overpasses and other wet spots could freeze again after dark on Friday. Icy conditions remained sketchy. "We still have ice on the roads and overpasses. A lot of roadways are closed, and nearly all of our interstates have ramp closures or lane closures because of the overpasses," said Michael Walter, a spokesman for Houston's emergency management agency, said. "If you don't need to be on the roads, stay off them," he added. Icy conditions also caused delays at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, he said. About 100 flights have been delayed. High winds associated with the storm also forced the U.S. Coast Guard to suspend shipping through the Houston Ship Channel. While the channel remained closed Friday morning, the Coast Guard hoped to have it reopened by afternoon, Lt. Ashley Bullard said.

No coat, no hat, no gloves, below freezing temperatures: that's what Zach calls fun! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A completely unexpected and delicious miracle


I remember the Mondays Trevor or Justin didn't email you. You would scour the internet, looking for any sign of a German or Hungarian holiday. Hopefully you didn't have to go far to realize that yesterday was Martin Luther King day.

It's unbelievable that away from my little corner of Houston Texas you so many other friends, family members, and school chums are doing the exact thing I do everyday to serve the Lord: finding, teaching, baptizing.

I know missionaries serving all over the world, but my area is right outside downtown Houston, loaded with Mexicans, cops, dogs, and open gutters. We have tons of fun biking all over the place, cooperating with drunk people, eating free cereal, and getting thousands of referrals for the English elders who cover here as well. But most of all we bring the greatest news these people have ever heard. That God listens. That God speaks.

 We saw a great miracle Sunday night. We had found a "golden" investigator four weeks earlier, but after letting us teach him once and coming to church twice he completely avoided us. We decided to do the only thing we had left: assume he was lying about working until 9pm and bring him cinnamon rolls. It worked. 

The miracle came when we went to leave his house. His neighbor came to us and gave us two boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds. A completely unexpected and delicious miracle. After we threw an old mattress of hers on a street-side garbage pile and talked about her family ayi in Mexico, she agreed to hear our message. She has a Utahn cousin who is a member, and literally said (in Spanish) "It is good to learn about lots of churches to know which one is true." She expect great things with her little family. We are teaching her this Sunday.

This week a lot of exciting things happened. One investigator, who we thought wasn't going anywhere, will soon be baptized into the English ward. He didn't seem to have a lot of potential, in fact one day we thought he was pretending to be his twin, but soon he came to church and is reading from the Book of Mormon. At one point we considered dropping him, and last week we passed him off as a progressing investigator to the English elders! There seems to be surprises like this all the time. It taught me that I should have more faith in our message, that it really can reach everybody and change anybody.

Things seem a little roller-coastery. One day I'll feel great and motivated, the next frustrated and discouraged. I am learning though and trying to improve.

love y'all

Elder Decker

Monday, January 13, 2014

Optimal form of human existence


We saw a lot of contrast last week. Thursday we came out of weekly planning a little tired, ornery, and kind of a bad attitude, then for some reason God blessed us with an awesome day. The exact same thing happened after Zone mtg. Friday. We really didn't have fool-proof plans, but somehow every scheduled activity happened (that never happens) that day we were even able to teach two people that are getting baptized. It was exciting to see the hand of the Lord in our lives. We were really blessed.

Fun story: kid we thought was a total liar just became one of our most promising investigators. So far we've never set foot in his house, we think he might be lying about having a twin (of course after having pretended to be that twin), he doesn't want us to talk to his mom, he has really lame excuses, and told us a fishy sounding dream about being Mormon, and possibly pretended to cry in front of us. But he also has gone to church, completed reading assignments, prayed with us and accepted the invitation to be baptized. He really impressed us went he took 4 hours out of his day to get to church, so he really could just be an awesome investigator and we are just not realizing it. Veremos.

Our ward is working on a ward mission plan based out of PMG. Do y'all have a ward mission plan?

Our area is progressing more than it ever has in its 4 month existence. We have 2 investigators with dates and more to follow. The support of the members I have come to see is something absolutely vital. Finding is definitely a need we have. 

I feel that I am learning something new each and every day. I am continuously grateful for the Gospel and the peace, perspective, and clarity it offers. I am thoroughly convinced that the mission schedule and mission rules are the optimal form of human existence. I love it out here and am excited that I have so much more time left.

Elder Decker

Monday, January 6, 2014

We know there's more but we ran out of traps

squinty me and a real big city

Well I hardly know where to begin, the whole world has just turned on its side: Trevor is a family man, Justin's a wine bibber, and Brenna's a felon. And since when does Tad clean stuff? And Kaden's going on a mission!

It's terrific!

The new year really started off with a bang: Not only were Latinos actually shooting off guns for three days straight, but we had 5 less actives and 2 investigators at church!

This week we hit more of a rhythm in our area. We are seeing a lot of the old names and investigators slip away, and being replaced by the new. We've said a few times this week "we're prospectors, wading in the river panning for those gold nuggets in the sand, just looking for those gold nuggets."

We had a really good experience last night. After we had done all we could to set up appointments with investigators, members, or just a contact, everything had fallen through. We were back in our area at about 8 o'clock after ward council and had no plans. We were led to the home of a less active member who lives just a block from our apartment. We couldn't get past a locked gate in front of his home, so instead we knocked on the door of his cousin. We had talked to him once before, when he was very drunk, but last night he let us into to his home where he and three of his friends became new investigators. Amos 8:11-12 really touched them, they have been feeling that same "hunger". We have been very blessed, God's hand really is in his work.
Help'n folks move
Our area "Lockwood" is really new, only in it's third transfer. There are very few members, fewer investigators, and really not even very many blocks to work in. But there is a lot of potential. A lot of "gold nuggets" to be found. The motto that Elder Thomas and I have kind of come up with is "making the Lockwood Ward." Long-term that's what we really want isn't it? There's a lot of work to do and progress to be made.
Missionary work is hard. It is exciting. And something I have to remind myself about sometimes: I actually works! People do become converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They do change their lives. They do give up addictions, improve their families, and make convenants with the Lord. It's the greatest thing in the world!

Elder Decker

PS: 5 dead mice. We know there's more but we ran out of traps. It's really funny, they seem to come out a lot less now that we've stopped leaving chunks of chocolate as bait all over the ground.