Happy Thanksgiving!

Mom- The address I gave you is the address of the mission office, so that address won’t change until I go to Brazil. It is still 6500 Atherton. Go ahead and send the package. I got the Thanksgiving card and the new health card. Thanks!

I love hearing from everyone! What’s new with Isaac?
Adelaide and Hyrum are getting all grown up! Lacey, I’ve really seen the value in teaching children to eat healthy from birth. It’s crazy what some people feed their children and how early it results in behavioral and dietary problems. Last transfer our companionship had spinach smoothies every morning and tried to eat healthy. It made us feel waaaaaaaay better the rest of the day and actually wasn’t expensive split between three of us.

As I guessed, Cypress is the complete opposite of Long Beach. I saw more people on the street my first day in Long Beach than I will the next transfer here. The missionary work (AND WARD) has almost a completely different culture just a few short miles away. Here in Cypress we have three investigators, all three of which are member referrals. It has really strengthened my testimony in member missionary work, which wasn’t weak before! However, in Cypress it is literally impossible to find people to teach without members. Finding is a new challenge. I went knocking for the first time on my mission, and I quickly realized why the leadership of the church doesn’t want us wasting our time with it.

My trainer, Elder Loutensock, was in this area right before he came and trained me in Long Beach. He loved it. With the awesome Ward Mission Leader (who used to be a Bishop), he built a successful ward mission. Our ward mission leader is incredible. We have Coordination and organized splits twice a week with all of the ward missionaries. All of the ward missionaries have at least been in the bishopric or relief society presidency before. Our ward seems massive compared to the ward I just came from, and everyone drives a car! It is funny how foreign it seems even though it is how I lived for most of my life.

On Sunday, the stake president spoke in our ward. He is truly consecrated as a stake president and member missionary. The stake presidency visited every ward this past Sunday and committed the entire stake to do three things:

1. Fast this Sunday for every single person in the stake to have missionary opportunities.

2. Create a Family Mission Plan tonight for FHE.

3. Accept the “Elder Ballard Challenge”: Invite at least ONE person to come unto Christ between now and Christmas.

To make the experience more powerful, the other speaker in the meeting was a kid about to leave on his mission who was introduced to the church only six years ago.

I encourage everyone reading this to accept the same challenge. THESE are the things that will focus our minds on the Work of Salvation. As we do these things, we will be happier, because we will be engaged in a good cause and we will have positive experience with our friends that will bring them closer to Christ.

The purpose of “Hastening the Work” is not to baptize thousands of people. The purpose of the 88,000+ missionaries now around the world is not for us to wander around the streets looking for more people in a smaller amount of space than before.

The purpose is to help those around us come closer to Christ. Our stake president said when his family did that, they were no longer preoccupied by the negative things in the world. The negative is still there, but it is blotted out by the potential and the positive and the overwhelming joy that comes through sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We also had a Zone Conference with Elder Packer of the Seventy. He talked to us about fundamental changes in missionary work that haven’t yet been announced to the general body of the church. While he asked us not to talk about these things to everyone, I can say that missionary work is a member activity. Full-time missionaries are called to teach and invite people to Christ…. NOT to find.

All of these experiences I am seeing and hearing here, from friends in other missions, and back home in Spokane testify to me that not only is this really The Church of Jesus Christ upon the Earth, but that ALL of us need to be anxiously engaged in this greatest of causes.

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End of ANOTHER Transfer!

I can’t believe my second transfer in Long Beach is already over. Just yesterday was my four month mark since I left home. CRAZY. Not to the mention the fact that I am getting transferred! ALL of the visa waiters are going to be in a trio with another visa waiter so that we can actually have effective language studies. That is seriously an answer to prayers, because my Portuguese is definitely faltering. I will be getting transferred out of downtown Long Beach to an area called Cypress. Cypress is a middle class area where the church is stinking strong! The ward boundaries are seriously tiny. Almost Utah tiny. I have heard only good things about Cypress and my new companions. I am really excited. I’m going to miss downtown a lot, but I’m ready to stop seeing so much violence and outright wickedness everyday in front of me.

This week flew by. We spent a lot of time at the mission office. We went to get our car fixed and instead of taking one hour like they said, it took 9 hours! We literally spent all day there. It was terrible not working all day, but we managed to get a lot done even though we weren’t having actual lessons. On Saturday, a girl named Sarah got baptized. She got baptized at 9:00 AM. I love morning baptisms! All good things happen in the morning, I swear. She is the one I talked about a month or so ago that thought she knew Kimmie. Her records were lost and, to make a long story short, she needed to be re-baptized, which is pretty darn unusual. She is awesome! We are working on getting her to go to the singles’ ward, which would be way better for her.

When I email next week, I will have a whole new set of stories. Cypress and downtown Long Beach are polar opposites.

One thing I have seen recently is the entire church getting involved in missionary work, old and young, rich and poor, EVERYONE is becoming and needs to be completely engaged in the work of salvation. The stories from our family alone are inspiring. Full-time missionaries are just a tool in missionary work.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVID AND MARIA!!!

PICTURES!!!

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The first picture is Bishop Solomon and his wife. I LOVE them. I’m going to miss them so much.

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The second picture is the first counselor, Brother Rome, and his wife. They are the quirkiest couple ever. She is from Korea and he has a super thick Georgian accent.

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The third and fourth picture is Valleri, who should be getting baptized Thanksgiving weekend.

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The fifth picture is Gerard and Sarah. They live at the same apartment complex and Sarah just got baptized this weekend. Gerard was baptized a month or so ago.

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The last few pictures are just of a sweet apartment complex next to our apartment that used to be a masonic temple. They did a really good job of combining modern loft-style apartments with historical architecture. That is just the architect in me geeking out.

Veteran’s Day

Minha família! Te amo!!!

I love being on a mission. Everything is so good. The world seems so foreign. My daily life even just six months ago seems so far away and strange to me.

We had a Zone Blitz on Thursday. That means our entire zone, 24 missionaries, came and worked in our area. Usually we do a blitz in the areas that need the most help, but this time the zone leaders decided to do a blitz in the most productive area because there are so many people who are prepared to listen to the Gospel. We set nine appointments for 6:30 PM on Thursday and had nine members come out with us. It was incredible. We created lesson plans for all of the people to be taught and then gave each temporary companionship information on these people so they could personally create a lesson for the people they would be teaching. PLANNING + MEMBERS = MIRACLES.
It was an extremely unique experience that I probably won’t have again anytime soon.

We are helping Valleri the courage to take Sundays off so she can come to church. Her work is TERRIBLE. She took a double shift on Friday night through Saturday and they promised her she would have Sunday off. She did her double shift, but they held her 22 hours instead of 16… she worked from 10:00 Friday night to 8:00 Saturday night… and then they told her to come in Sunday Morning. After weeks of trying to get to church so she could be baptized and trying to bring her family to church and trying to spend time with her family in general and getting to hours of sleep a night… she was physically, mentally, and emotionally beat. I felt like we should visit her Saturday night before church but I kept ignoring the feeling. Eventually it was too strong to ignore and we went over to her house even though we were convinced she would be asleep. She was awake and when she saw us she burst into tears. She felt like nothing in her life was going right. Like you said, Dad, she felt like no good deed went unpunished. She felt the spirit as we talked to her. She will be baptized next weekend.

Mom and Dad, I’m glad you were able to make it to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. That was a miracle in itself. I am always praying for them and for you.

They cut our time short since today is Veterans’ Day and all of the libraries are closed. I love everyone!!!

Miracles of the Week

Happy Birthday, MOM!!!

First of all, I have to say I am pretty impressed by your Halloween decorating, Tyler. Holy cow! No one was kidding when they said it was the scariest house on the block. The cobwebs and blood definitely made all the difference. Did you repaint the tombstones? How did you make the apple look so awesome? If you can’t tell, I’m impressed. Also I love how it looks like that guy dragged himself up there and died in the chair. And I’m pretty sure having a “giant” at the front door just sealed the deal.

Valleri should be getting baptized next Sunday.

Miracles of the week:
After we got kicked out of Kathleen’s house, we tried all of our backups to no avail. We went and sat on the curb and prayed so we could figure out where we needed to be. After our prayer, we looked in our planners and found someone named Jacquel. None of us could remember who she was, but she lived less than 100 yards from where we were sitting, so we walked over to her apartment. We knock on her door and she FLINGS the door open, pretty much pulls us inside, and tells us how excited she is that we are there. She sits us down, introduces us to her five children, and tells us we can stay for dinner if we want. Her walls had faith quotes and a picture of Christ and tons of pictures of her family. At this point, I leaned over to Elder Bledsoe and asked “Is this a member?” She is amazing. As she cooked some healthy soul food, we talked to her about the Gospel. We then taught her later and she is so excited to get baptized! She came to church on Sunday, and after sacrament meeting she was talking to a girl in our ward about her experience and she said that is when she realized “This is the church for me.” I am so excited for her. The only bummer is that she is moving in to another ward in about a month because she needs more room for her kids. We are going to coordinate really well with the other ward so she has friends in the other ward to help her.

Also, we followed another prompting to visit a less active member named Sister Bryan. Her daughter, named Fatou (Pronounced FAH-TWO), told us she wanted to get baptized. So we helped reactivate her Mom and Fatou was baptized on Saturday! Woo-hoo! I had the opportunity to baptize her. She is going to be an awesome missionary someday. Even better, we got her Muslim father to sit in on a lesson, and he bore testimony to her of the miracles God has wrought in her life. After that, we had her tell her Dad what it means to be baptized and he was blown away at his daughter’s knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m out of time, but I love you all!!! Kimmie, Hyrum is SO STINKIN’ CUTE! I can’t believe he is almost old enough for nursery already! Lacey, you should send a picture of Adelaide! What did you do for Halloween!

I miss everyone! I know that God is real. His hand is everywhere in our lives.

I am praying for Grandma and Grandpa Koetitz everyday.

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The first picture is from Fatou’s baptism.

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The second picture is from a member’s apartment rooftop in Long Beach. You can see LA waaaay off in the distance in the top left. I was going to take a picture facing the other direction, but my camera died. As you can tell, it doesn’t really seem like Fall. They have an awesome view of downtown Long Beach and the ocean.

Happy Birthday Mom! (Happy Halloween, too!)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!! I LOVE YOU!
Happy Halloween, too.

Oh my word! I can’t believe it is already November. Time flies like crazy. Today is my first P-day in almost two weeks, so we have a LOT to do. I have to keep this email short. My companion, Elder Bledsoe, was taking the SAT this morning, so our P-day got switched to today. Which means we have another P-day on Monday. But we have to fix our car today (I’m not a fan of driving a mission car, by the way. Bikes are they way to go) and do a bunch of other unexpected tasks. Not to mention the fact that we are going to a recent convert’s daughter’s baptism at 4:00 PM. I will email again on Monday and send pictures.

Bad news first. Our investigator Kathleen, who was super solid and awesome, got into some crazy christian witchcraft books and became obsessed with them. And when you invite Satan in like that, he comes. After she started reading those books, she wanted nothing to do with us. She kicked us and the singles’ ward missionaries out of her house. However, she will never be able to forget that she knows the Book of Mormon is true. Hopefully she will soften her heart someday.

And now the good news! We have been teaching a lady named Valleri for a while now. She had always been really flaky with appointments, but at one appointment we decided to read 1 Nephi 8 (the vision of the tree of life) with her and it lit her on fire. She felt the spirit so strongly as she realized she could be the example to her family… and that the only thing that would bring her peace in this life is the gospel of Jesus Christ. She tearfully bore testimony to us that she knew everything we taught was true. She came to church on Sunday and had a simply incredible experience. It was the primary program, and as she watched the children sing she said she felt a peace she had never felt before. She told us the churches she used to go to pumped her up and were the “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord” congregations that she thought were fun, but she didn’t really feel spiritually uplifted until she came with us to church. Our next lesson with her, we retaught the Restoration and asked her to kneel in prayer right there and ask God for the truth. What followed was one of the most sincere prayers I have ever witnessed. She poured her heart out to God, She thanked him for us, for her experience at church, for her family. The she earnestly asked if what we taught was true. Just before she closed her prayer, she simply said, “thank you”. In that moment, we all knew that the Spirit had witnessed to Valleri that everything we taught was true, was the word of God. With tears rolling down her face, she again bore testimony to us about the truth she had discovered. She was going to be baptized the following day, last Sunday, but the adversary threw in his two cents and her oldest son broke his leg shortly after we left her house. She spent all night at the Emergency Room with her son, but was still determined to come to church. As she drove to church after a night without sleep, another one of her sons called from home because he was violently ill. Even though because of these emergencies her baptism was delayed for a week, she remains strong in her faith. We are now teaching some of her children as well.

I’m out of time to tell you of all the miracles I’ve seen this week. The rest will have to wait until Monday.

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The picture with the family is an investigator named Stefanie. Her daughter is the cutest little girl EVER! Besides Adelaide.

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The picture with the man in the mask is our High Priest Group Leader, Brother Horlacher. We had dinner at his house Halloween Night. His wife LOVES Halloween.

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The picture with the man with the Afro is our neighbor, Derek. He is pretty crazy, but we love him. That Afro is fake, by the way. It was just for Halloween. All of our neighbors are awesome. We have barbecues with them sometimes, but none of them are quite ready to listen to us.