Thursday, August 15, 2013

The fruits of the gospel are not zucchini

The fruits of the Gospel are sweet!

First off, our plot in the community garden has flourished. Just get a load of that zucchini. There were two of those. We gave one away and are trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the other one.

Our investigator, Miriam, is awesome! She's come to church every week, she's reading the Book of Mormon, she prays every day. Those are the big things that seem small. It really wouldn't happen without support from the members of the Church. One of Miriam's best friends in the Church volunteered her home for a lesson and dinner, and during Church she answered one of Miriam's questions better in one sentence than we did in a thirty minute lesson. Members are sweet!
Elder Pritchett and I had some awesome lessons this week. The first was with Danny and Anil. Anil is a member and the two are hardcore best friends. Anil helped a ton with the lesson and right before the closing prayer he was like "Hey, can I have a minute to bear my testimony?" and we were like "Yeah, sure." Really, on the inside though, we were like "AWW YEAH! IT'S TESTIMONY TIME." Anil then told Danny how much his friendship meant to him and how he knew the Church and the Gospel could change his life. It was beautiful, bro-hug included. Seeing members reach out in love to their friends just makes me smile. It makes me wish I had talked more with my friends in high school, not necessarily be sharing the Gospel, but by being a sweet friend. Now that I think about it, I wish I had just made a big plate of brownies every week to share. I guess being a missionary has changed me a little bit already. Still looking forward to more change.
One other lesson was with two girls on their porch. We talked about the Book of Mormon and how you can gain a knowledge of its truth by reading, pondering, and praying about it. Then they asked about the Church's stance on a really controversial topic, and you know what we did? We answered using the Book of Mormon. If a person has a knowledge that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, then Joseph Smith, who translated it by the power of God, was a prophet, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as founded by Joseph Smith is Christ's Church. And so I don't need to have doubt in the Church's stance on this controversial topic because I know that the Church is being led by a prophet of God. Using the Book of Mormon to respond to people's concerns is awesome. When I was in the Missionary Training Center, I was like 'Here, let me explain to you why this is right or why this is wrong.' Now I realize that all I need to do is let the Spirit work in me and bear my testimony so that the Spirit can bear witness of the truth to them.
Sorry to drop off on a preachy note.
Elder Jon Harrison Richins

                   I guess one of Haverhill's nicknames is Queen Slipper City. Huh.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Tuna Casserole and Peter Parker

I'm back in Haverhill most of the time, which is great especially when we get to walk. We get to talk with so many people, it's just awesome. A lot of the people here believe in a lot of things. We met a man who believes that the African-Americans are the real Jews from Christ's time and that they fled into Egypt from the invading Romans, so the Egyptians sold them into slavery to the Europeans. That's right. It's Haverhill, Baby!

Now I want to talk about food. Food for missionaries is an interesting subject, because we really love eating it, but we put as little effort into making it as possible. Well, not as little as possible, but we could definitely be trying harder. I think I'm doing pretty well on recipes. We make a lot of pasta, and sometimes we mix in tuna and cream of mushroom soup. It makes an easy tuna casserole, but we never have time to bake it. 

We found a donut-hole machine at the church, like a kids electric one that someone left there months ago, and made pancake balls in it last night. I might test some crazy stuff in it, like McGriddle Bites or mini corndogs. It's a cool little machine. I want to try out crepes (not in the donut-hole machine), but we don't have much to put in them right now. I've started eating Cream of Wheat, but cooked with milk instead of water. I always cooked it with water and made myself eat it, but now I love it with milk. Never realized how good it could be. And I have to figure out cool dishes with green beans and corn, because we have tons of cans of each.

I actually saw a small miracle with food this week. We were out of peanut butter, which may seem small but is a minor disaster for a missionary. We drove to Groveland, which is just across the Merrimac River from Haverhill, and decided to stop by a member of the church who hasn't been active recently. We talked with her and shared a scripture and when we were about to leave, she asked "Hey, do you want some peanut butter?" Yes, we wanted some peanut butter. I am so grateful we got to see her and strengthen her faith, as well as get some peanut butter. I see little miracles every day, it's so cool.

A week or two ago, I found an electric slot car set that someone was giving away. After setting it up, realizing the tracks needed to be cleaned, taking it apart to take back to the Haverhill apartment, setting it up again, and realizing it was bedtime, I decided that it was a waste of the Lord's time. It distracted me from getting to bed on time, and like Peter Parker and marriage, I realized I wasn't ready for it. So if you drive around Bradford and see this, good luck.

From Haverhill with Love,
Elder Jon Harrison Richins

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ginormous Shoes and Singin' at the Boardwalk

A few weeks ago, we met a local artist named Tomaso and invited him to church. That Sunday, he bicycled to church to deliver this. Unfortunately, he arrived about an hour after the services ended. We just got the picture yesterday. I think I'm the tall one, but I'm not blonde (no complaints, really).

We've been singing a lot down in Newburyport. We sing at the boardwalk and then hand out cards and pamphlets. Here's us at the boardwalk.

I found out a while ago that Haverhill used to have several really important shoe factories forever ago and that they have these giant, painted shoes all over. There are supposedly thirteen or fourteen of them, so I've started taking pictures with them.

Some of the shoes are actually inside buildings. This one is in an apartment building and we couldn't get in.

We've been talking with a huge family who wants to hear more about the gospel. They're a bit rough around the edges (one of the sons is going to turn himself in to the police today for unpaid fines, and they all drink and smoke), but we talk with them all the time and when they see us they're like "Hey, come read a Proverb to us!" They are some of the nicest people we get to talk with. It would be so cool to see them turn their lives around.
Being a missionary is seriously one of the coolest things ever. We get to teach and minister to people who don't have hope or see their infinite potential, and then help them make needed changes in their life so that they can come closer to Christ.

Well, I get kicked off this computer in 30 seconds, so I guess I'll write more later.

Buh-Bye Now,
Elder Jon Harrison Richins

Miriam and a Transfer

I love it when people come to church! One of our investigators, Miriam, has come to church for the last two weeks and she's making friends like crazy. She even came to a baptism so she could see what it's like and then made even more friends at the open house afterwards. She's been keeping commitments to read the Book of Mormon, and every time we teach her she's like "Yeah, that's how I feel too." She is totally ready for baptism. Like on September 14. I think a lot of her dedication has to do with the fact that she came to church. If someone is willing to come to church, they're probably also willing to do a lot more.
Companionships are set every six weeks, and each six weeks is called a transfer. This week is transfers, and the trio gets broken up. Elder Pritchett and I go back to Haverhill full-time, and Elder Childers stays in Newburyport to train a new missionary. We'll still get to see him every week at church, but not every day. Working as a trio has its ups and downs; ups: you get to cook as a group and you have more people to work out with; downs: less shower time and people on the street get more nervous when they see three men in suits approaching them.

Well, not a whole lot to say about this week. I love y'all back home.

Elder Jon Harrison Richins

Please don't tell Jon that I'm completely botching his blog- Love, Jon's Mom

This was actually the first e- mail Jon sent me, but somehow it got left out of the mix.  So here it is!  The lost letter...never before seen...

In advance, I would like to apologize for the lack of pictures. I took them, but my Kodak camera requires that I have Kodak software installed in order to get pictures from the internal memory.

When I arrived at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) on Wednesday, I dropped my luggage off at my room, met my roommates for 2 minutes, picked up my study materials, met my companion (we preach the gospel 2x2), and started class. (Insert class picture here). Things go so fast here, it's crazy. Every day, we study upwards of 2.5 hours and go to class about 6 hours. There is so much to absorb, and it's all simple. It all focuses on our purpose as missionaries. "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end." So we've learned that it doesn't matter if a person is baptised if they don't come unto Christ. We've learned to care more about the people we will teach.

I really started to get it after my first visit to the Teaching Resource Center (TRC), where we do simulated visits with volunteers. Our volunteer (in real life we call them investigators because they are trying to find out about us) is Daniel Limon. He swore at us in the first visit. It went terribly. So the next day, we went back and apologized. It's all about how the investigator feels, not about who swore at who. He was more open to us that time, and we actually got to pray with him at the end of our visit. Yesterday, we got to leave him with a copy of the Book of Mormon and our testimony about how it can help him and his family. Even though we know he's an actor, we pray for him. One of the other companionships was less blessed. They were assigned to Erik, who just Bible-bashes the entire time. This means that he uses scriptural verses to fight, instead of listening to the Holy Spirit. It's really easy to get caught up in a fight like that because there's always a verse that will disprove what the other person is saying. We're not supposed to "prove" that the gospel is true. We bear our testimony of its truth so that the Holy Ghost can have a place in their hearts. We found out that the actor who plays Erik isn't a member of the church. He got this job so that he could bash new missionaries and discourage them. What really ends up happening is that the missionaries learn to keep trying to bring people to Christ. They learn a lot of patience. They learn to love someone who doesn't want to be loved.
Our teachers, Sister Grenfell and Brother Green, are the best I could ask for. They don't teach us directly; it's all on us to drive the lessons.

My companion is named Faelofani Talive Afemata. Elder Afemata is a big Samoan from Compton, California. He talks with every Polynesian he sees, and somehow knows all of their cousins. He's just a really funny guy, singing Rihanna all the time. I've tried to match him in every meal he eats, but it's tough. Elder Afemata has taught me so much already. He taught me to Keep It Simple, Stupid when we talk about the gospel. We do rock-paper-scissors every meal; winner gets to bless the food and thereby gets the lion's share of blessings until the next meal.

I only have a few more days here at the MTC. I leave Monday at 3:30 AM for Manchester, New Hampshire.
Well, my hour of computer time is up. Love you all, and I wish you the best of luck!

Elder Jon Harrison Richins