Monday, 16 December 2013

Training for the First Time!

Monday 18th of November, 2013

Sam is training a greenie! His name is Elder Calderwood from Juneau Alaska who is really easy to get along with. This week they've been learning how to teach the Restoration, and how to begin teaching. He took Elder Calderwood tracting and they both enjoyed it, even though it wasn't very successful! Their goal is to tract out the area, if they tract 2 hours a day they should be able to get it done before Sam gets transferred.

They got to go to the temple on Wednesday and Sam got to see Elder Ballard (his previous companion, not the Apostle) and the Ropers from his last ward. It was a really uplifting experience for him and he learns something new every time he goes! He can't wait until the next time he goes (in 3 months though).

They also got to go to their wards chilli cook-off, they were judges so they got to eat 7 helpings of chilli, some of it was good, most of it just tasted like chilli. The best in Sams opinion was the Freeman's (one of his favourite families to visit), it had taco seasoning in it, which made it different from the rest.

There were some non-members there who they got to talk to, and a less active lady they have been working with came to it as well. They received a referral from one of the members as well, so they'll be following up on that this week.

On Saturday was the day of service from 8am - 4pm, they helped make toy aeroplanes and cars for children, Sam used a loom and made two hats, it took over two hours just to make the hats but it was worth it. He stuffed some 'hugs' which is like a pillow with hands, and for the majority of the time he helped with some yard-work, there were a lot of people there, with chain saws, diggers, and other tools and they cleared a lot of trees from 'boys town', a place for troubled children.

They just got a new investigator last night, Preston Keeler invited one of his friends to church, and gave him a Book of Mormon and a Restoration pamphlet. They had dinner at their house that night and talked to Ryan about the Book of Mormon and why he was interested in the church. He wants to learn more so they're hoping to meet with him again next week :)

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Photo Update from P-Day

Tuesday 29th of October, 2013

This blog post is more of a photo update. 

Today they went hiking up Mount Charleston for their P-Day activity, it was 30F with really strong winds so it was FREEZING, he was so glad he decided to bring the winter coat or it would have been miserable. There were actually frozen waterfalls up there.

So on the way back down the mountain there were a lot of switchbacks, Elder Hartsock decided to take a shortcut, however he built up too much speed, lost his grip and tumbled down the rocks and came to a stop on a well placed boulder. He could barely walk and it took him about another hour longer to get down from the mountain than everybody else. They went to see the mission medical person who advised he needs to rest for a few days. 

Mount Charleston

Sam taking selfies with the view of the mountains and also in a cave!

Elder Bloomfield

Last week they got a chance to carve some pumpkins with the Zerkle Family. Sam made Tux the penguin. He also made one which looked like it had been shot in the head, and he made a big exit wound at the back with all the insides of the pumpkin.

Elder Hartsock and Sam with their finished pumpkins

General Conference

Monday 14th of October, 2013

Sam is enjoying his new area still and had a good week this week. They assembled a back stretcher where they live, so you pretty much clamp your feet in and you hang upside down, apparently its fun and pretty relaxing, they just have to make sure they don't black out!

Sam loved General Conference! It's the first time he has watched all ten hours! All the missionaries enjoyed it when Elder Bednar called non-tithe payers to repentance! Sam loved Elder Hollands talk, one of the people they are working with is suffering from depression, so they are hoping that talk helped her.

Sam was surprised at the statistics about how society is changing, a lot less people are getting married, a lot less people are having children, he has been reading through second Nephi and these are the times Isaiah was prophesying about!

All he needs right now is a jumper, it's still around 60-65°F here, and it's colder than usual for this time of the year, the weather is really nice right now.

He was glad to hear his sisters baby is healthy, he really thought it would be a boy, but it is a girl so it was a surprise for him! He loved seeing the scan photos :)

Today he is going to be playing american football, he doesn't really know how the game works but he has a bit of an idea so hopefully it will go well for him!

The place where he is staying in Las Vegas, NV, is really nice, and the Astle's are really nice people as well! She got him a tie for his 21st birthday and it was a really nice one. He has also learned the Eldredge knot.

There's a community they call the 'dog pound', because all the names of the streets are types of dog, like Saint Bernard St, Springer Spaniel St etc..

Every Wednesday they do service at a care centre for old people, they call bingo for them, Sam got to do it this week and it was really fun for him! They have different types of games like "layered cake" and "postage stamp". Then there's one old lady who might be a bit senile who keeps calling bingo every few minutes :P

Sam can play most of The Entertainer on the piano now! He is going to start learning to play If You Could Hie To Kolob next :)

Oh, and one of his investigators in the last area, Daniel, has been set with a baptismal date, so he should hopefully be attending his baptism on October 19th!

Quick Update

Monday 30th of September, 2013

This week has been a busy week, they taught 30 lessons, they were all short messages with a commitment to either read, pray or go to church. Sam likes the members in this area, they all live close by since the area is small, so they can visit them often.
He received the other packages with his birthday gifts and he loves the missionary penguin :)  It's always exciting for him to receive packages! 

There's not a whole lot to report this week, they've been really busy, Sam got ill on Saturday because one of their investigators (an old lady named Terri) fed them some sort of out of date pie and he felt ill the whole day.

A member showed them around his house, it's completely off the grid, he has no utility bills, he has his own well for water, which is also used for heating/AC and solar panels and wind turbines for electricity. They are going to his again on Saturday to watch conference, and chop wood between sessions.

Sam has been practicing the piano and he is getting better at playing the entertainer, the Astles (the people who they're living with) also got him some guitar strings for the guitar for his birthday, so he is going to try and learn to play Rylynn by Andy McKee.

First Transfer

Tuesday 24th of September, 2013

Sam got transferred! He is now in the Tule Springs Zone, in the Deer Springs ward, his companion is Elder Hartsock, he's 6' 8" and plays for BYU basketball.

Sam received all the parcels from everyone!  He thanks everyone so much, he really appreciated everyone taking the time to put the packages together! Sam and Elder Hartsock are going to have a lot more stuff to do now!

They are living with members now, who have a really nice home, they have their own bedroom, bathroom and study room. Pretty much everything is provided for them in this new place, they even said they can practice the piano whenever they want, so hopefully he will get the entertainer down soon!

The Granthams from Sam's last ward gave him a guitar as they had an exchange student leave it there and it's been gathering dust, so they wanted Sam to make use of it :)

Sam had no idea what the bug was that went around, but members are still getting ill. He just ended up getting bad headaches, no appetite and feeling really ill, he managed to sleep it off in a few hours though.

They went for another hike yesterday, they managed to get pretty high up on the mountains, the views were amazing. Sam got cut up quite a bit since the rocks were really sharp, but overall it lasted 5 hours and he loved it.

Sam thinks its really weird seeing his sister Maghan the size she is! He thinks its great to see the photos of her bump getting slowly bigger.

The weather has been a lot cooler lately, it was 70°F in the morning with a bit of wind chill and he was actually shivering! He has adjusted to the heat over there really well!

Also, good news about the ward Sam is in now, Elder Hartsock told him that they have been getting the highest number of lessons in the zone for nearly 3 months now, they are averaging about 18 lessons per week, and that is without the lessons to active members. The zone weekly total is just over 20 lessons, so they were pretty much making the majority of the lessons for the zone! So it should be fun here for him, the area is small but there's a lot of work to do. Elder Ballard is now training, so it should hopefully be a good experience for him.

Sister Sudweeks from the mission office talked to Sam the other day and wants him to help out with the mission blog, so he will hopefully be doing that soon!

Also, on Sam's last lesson with Sean and Amy, Sean spent 1 hour showing him all his rifles and hand guns after the lesson. He had dud bullets so he learned how to load the guns and eject the bullets. He had laser sights and everything, he put over $2000 into modding one of his guns. He also gave him a hollowpoint bullet which he has been carrying around, unfortunately he wont be able to bring it home with him, but it's a nice reminder of the Thomason family!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Birthday Packages

Monday 16th of September, 2013
Sam received his 21st birthday packages! The Joseph Smith Papers, The Holy Temple and the Statesmen CD. He was so grateful to receive them! They've given him some variety which he really needed being in the same small area for so long! The JS Papers book is a lot bigger than he thought, it's set out really well, it has the manuscript on the left page, then the transcription on the right page, he thinks its great being able to read the original manuscript! He has also been reading the Holy Temple, and read nearly half already, however he is going to re-read the chapter about Elijah, since there is a lot of information in there and he doesn't feel like he understood it all. There were a few new tracks on the Statesmen CD, Elder Ballard was really happy that there was an organ solo in one of them, because he's obsessed with the organ!
They had a really spiritual and uplifting evening last night. The ward mission leader (Brother Doug Coburn) organised a missionary fireside where members could invite friends. Their investigator Sheila showed up, and she really enjoyed it. Sam spoke for 2-3 minutes, he had to try and fit in the story of Joseph Smith, the first vision and his testimony within that time, somehow he managed! Their most recent convert, Amy Thomason, also shared her testimony which was great! Elder Ballard sang without a microphone as he can project his voice really well and he is a good singer!
The other three investigators, Karla and her two sisters, showed up to church again this week, they seem to be really enjoying it, they will hopefully be able to set them with a baptismal date soon!

Daniel, the 16 year old who they tracted into, hasn't been coming out to church, however he was visited by some of the young men, so now he knows some people in the church other than the missionaries!
Finally, Curt, who is probably their most receptive investigator, finally got back from his training this week, so they should hopefully be able to start working with him again.
Some bad news, there's been some sort of sickness going around their ward, and around the schools in the area, and Sam and Elder Ballard have caught it, so they're probably just going to spend today recovering so they can get back to work tomorrow. He swears every member they visited this week was ill, so it was only a matter of time before they caught it!
Sam keeps forgetting to take the photo of his gender guess for his sisters baby, so he placed his guess now and then will take a photo later. His gut feeling is that it's a boy, but he doesn't know why, that's just his guess! He is going to find a creative way of putting that into a photograph.
Sam nearly forgot to tell us all the most exciting thing that happened all last week! On Tuesday in the conference with Elder Anderson from the Quorum of the 12, he asked to shake everyone's hand, so he got to shake hands with an Apostle for the first time! He also got to shake hands with Elder Callister, on the Presidency of the 70. He remembers which tie he wore when he shook their hands, so Sam wants to keep it forever!
A special thank you again for the birthday packages Sam received as he is really grateful for them!

Hard Work = Success

Monday 9th of September, 2013
So this week has been a good week! They Invited their investigator to church (Karla Lopez), and she showed up with her two sisters who are also interested and each want a copy of the Book of Mormon. So they now have 1 progressing investigator, 2 new investigators, and 3 other investigators, bringing them up to 6 investigators so far! It's a shame Sam will be leaving soon, however he is ready to leave as he pretty much knows every person on the ward directory and where they live. It's so hard for him to keep working since the area is so small.
They tried a new way of planning, and this week is packed with things to do, Elder Ballard wrote up a member-lesson calendar, which they passed around, they should hopefully be teaching 20 lessons this week which will be great!
This morning they drove out to the ravines in the middle of nowhere, and had an airsoft war which was fun, they have some cuts and bruises from it, but it was a really fun 2 hours for them.
Sam tried the Spartacus workout, and nearly made himself ill, that workout is insane, there's a reason you're only supposed to do it 3 days a week! 20 minutes and he was drenched in sweat, it's supposed to be really good for losing weight as well, he has gained a few pounds being there so that should be good.
He is also really looking forward to their Apostolic visit tomorrow, he is hoping they will announce when they will be getting iPads! Sam thinks its great being able to see photos from back home, he loves being able to see what's been happening! 

Hiking in the Mountains

Wednesday 4th of September, 2013

Yesterday Sam and his companion and the other set of Elders they live with, decided to go hiking. They left the apartment at 7am and hiked for nearly 3 hours, Sam thought it was really fun, it was just a straight walk north towards the mountains, everything around them was just dead or dying. 

They saw a lot of cacti. Elder John got jabbed by a jumping cactus, he said only about 1cm of the spine was sticking out of his leg, but when he pulled it out it was nearly 2 inches long! 

They found different spots where people go shooting and Sam found a couple of rifle bullet casings.

There's a huge city, then just nothing for miles.

Sam and Elder Ballard are getting on well together, the big challenge is just finding work to do. Their area is broken up into 10 smaller areas, and they usually focus on 2 of those areas each day, looking for less actives, or tracting to try and find new investigators. However they have gone over the less active list so many times that they now only have about 7 people who they can visit, the rest are either DNC (do not contact), have moved, or are never home when they try and visit them. They do have four investigators however, it's just meeting regularly with them that is the challenge.
They also have plenty of food. Members feed them every night, and one of the members (David Dorr) brings them big boxes of food every couple of months. 
They haven't had any more freaky weather, but it's starting to heat up again, it's going to be in the 100's and sometimes after the rain it gets really humid as well, and it's pretty tough for them to keep walking around, but the hot weather should be over by October/November time :) Then it will be nice, in the 80's and 90's.

Also, random story for today, the mission President showed up to their district meeting, and for one of the role plays Sam had to pretend to be a lady crying at a bus stop, and two of the Elders had to try and place a Book of Mormon with him. Sam found it pretty funny.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Rain, Rain, GO AWAY!

Monday 26th of August, 2013
So not too much has happened since Thursday, they had a storm yesterday, and apparently there was a lot more rain than usual. Outside the streets had turned into rivers and on one road an entire lane was under water. When they arrived back at their apartment complex, all the rocks had been washed out into the street.

The week has been disappointing in terms of lessons taught, they only got 10 lessons, 6 of which were with active members, 3 with less actives and recent converts, and 1 with an eternigator (an investigator who they will be teaching forever).

Sam finished reading the Book of Mormon and now started the New Testament now. The scripture memorisation is going pretty well as he has nearly up to 20 scriptures memorised now.

Elder John (another missionary who lives with Sam and his companion) knows the piano really well, he started teaching him to play the maple leaf rag, but decided to switch to 'The Entertainer', so hopefully he will be able to learn to play it before he gets transferred! The other Elder who he is training is Elder Von Axelson. 

A lot of people are moving out of the ward, so Sam and his companion have been put in charge of trying to find forwarding addresses for the people who have moved and not updated their contact information. Luckily it's given them something to do, because there is very little work for them to do. They started with a huge less active list, however they have been working on it for 5 months now, so there is barely anyone left on the list who they can visit.

Sam has been reading a really good book called 'How to win friends and influence people', he thinks everybody can gain something from reading it, it's definitely going to make it easier for him to get along with companions in the future.

They are trying to think of things to do other than tracting as it's really ineffective, and since there has been news going around about two robbers who dressed up as missionaries and burgled some people, they haven't been having any sort of success tracting. They are getting visited by an Apostle on 10th September so hopefully they will announce when they will be using social media, that will be a much better use of their time than going door to door. Sam really can't wait to get transferred, as he just needs a change, it's not very often that people stay in 1 area for 6 months.

To end on a happy note, here is a picture of a happy car Sam found.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Door & The Dog

Thursday, 22nd of August 2013

It's temple day today so they changed P-Day from Monday to Thursday this week. The temple was a great experience for Sam as the spirit is really strong and each time he goes he learns a lot.

Sam was emailing from an office on a golf course today, as the bishop from the San Destin ward took them to the temple, then he took them out to lunch at a place on the golf course, and now he's letting them use the computers there.

Transfers were interesting, Sam threw up in the car park at the stake centre, but then he felt fine immediately afterwards, he doesn't know if it was anxiety, but he has been fine since then. Sam and Elder Ballard get along well, serving together has been really fun and they learn a lot from each other. He is senior companion, however Sam is the only person who knows the members and the area, so he is pretty much just taking the lead for now.

They had an interesting experience on Tuesday, they were tracting and Sam knocked on a door and was talking to a lady who was trying to hold a dog back, it managed to break free of her grip and jumped up on Elder Ballard and started barking in his face. Elder Ballard turned and started running as fast as he could, the dog kept chasing him and he slipped and fell on the road, luckily the dog stopped chasing him after he fell, but his white shirt got covered in the oil from the road and his hands were black as well. After this whole episode Sam just turn to the lady and say "yeah.... and.... we're sharing a message about Jesus Christ", he was trying so hard not to laugh. She must have apologised 20 times to us.

As they walked away from her door, one of the members (Kenny Thomason) asked if they were okay, they told him that they were, and he said "I was about to shoot that thing" and pulled a pistol out of his shorts. Sam kept having to stop himself from cracking up during the whole day, every time he was thinking about it he just wanted to laugh :P

Sam's scripture memorising is going well, he knows around 20 scriptures now, along with some other things he decided to memorise from other books. He is hoping he can keep it up for the rest of his mission!

They might be close to stopping tracting in the mission, because some people dressed up as missionaries somewhere in Nevada and robbed somebody, now it's all over the news so people aren't really wanting to answer the door. They are being visited by Elder Neil L. Anderson, and another general authority, the east and west missions will be combining so they can meet them for a conference. Hopefully they will find out when they will be using tablet computers and facebook.

Fellowship is important for new and potential investigators, it makes the missionaries jobs so much easier when they have people they know at church which make them feel comfortable.

There is still a fair bit of work, but since he is coming up on 5 months in the same area, it's hard for him to stay focused, since he pretty much has the ward directory memorised, he knows whether a member is going to answer the door to them or not before they even get there. There are some people who they can just not track down. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Original Prankster

Monday, 12th of August 2013

The transfer calls were announced today, Elder Blanco is going to the Mesquite zone and will be speaking Spanish, Sam will be staying where he is and will be getting a new companion called Elder Ballard. He doesn't know much about him apart from he has been out 6 weeks longer than him, but he thinks they will get along even though they've never met before.

This week was pretty funny, Sam has been having prank battles with the other elders who are staying with them (Elder John & Elder Harper). It started when Harper didn't put the lid back on a bottle properly, threw it for Sam to catch and he got covered in water. So Sam decided to pull the pipe out of the cistern in Elder Harpers bathroom, Sam and Elder Blanco thought it was funny because they heard him thudding around in the bathroom, then he burst out the door and said "I don't know what you guys have done but I'm NOT mopping that up", the bathroom got a little bit flooded but nothing got damaged.

Every time they go tracting, when they get to the last door, they jokingly say "Here comes the Ensign story". They were on the last door of the street, and so far only 2 people had answered and they weren't interested. An older lady answered the door and invited them in before they even said anything, so Sam and Elder Blanco were thinking she was a member who wasn't on their record, since the only people who normally invite them in immediately are members. It turns out she saw the Book of Mormon musical, had a lot of questions, knew a lot of people at her work which were members, and was reading about someone's story on how they joined the church and how it changed their life. She was really happy to see them, but they didn't have time to teach her, so they have set up an appointment for Tuesday, and hopefully all will go well!

One of the Zone Leaders (Elder Crapo), taught Sam a system that he has been using for memorizing scriptures, he said people have done research on it, and if you keep it up every day for 2 years you can end up with a photographic memory. He said his old Bishop did it, and he can look at any page of the Book of Mormon for a few seconds, then you can ask him what the 4th word on the 17th line is, and he can tell you. Sam couldn't really explain how the system works, but looking at how it's set out it's a really clever system, the way it's set up, you wont forget the old stuff you have memorized, and you can constantly learn new scriptures. Sam wants to keep it up for the rest of his mission and then he will know almost 600 scriptures. So far he has memorized 'Our Purpose', 'The Standard of Truth', 10,11,12th Articles of Faith, Alma 7:11-12, Moroni 10:3-5, Alma 32:21, and the 13 steps to weekly planning. He is going to order the seminary scripture mastery cards and learn all 4 years worth. He is also going to start doing 'The Spartacus Workout', as he thinks it looks like fun, but he will let us know how it goes.

When Sam is out contacting people he picks up any change that he finds on the floor, he has already found a few dollars worth of change! Today he printed out his sisters first scan photos so he can look at them properly back at his apartment as he wants to try guess the sex!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Quick Update

Monday, 29th of July 2013

Not too much stuff happened this week, but here are the highlights:

- Sam slid off his bike, luckily he was only going 5mph and he landed on his feet, but one of the pedals got a bit bashed up, there was oil on the road right on the corner, there was no grip at all!
- He tracted into a satanist, she looked like a man and had expanders in her ears and her ear lobes were all droopy
- There's been a lot of lightning lately, and it's been really windy, Sam and Elder Blanco had to fight the wind all the way back home yesterday.
- Sam and Elder Blanco have set up a game, they are sort of running the work like a business, it's made them talk to a lot more people and hand out a lot more pass along cards and pamphlets, they keep finding new ways to make the work fun.
- They haven't been doing a whole lot of tracting, here are the stats for the last 4 weeks: 198 doors knocked, 131 people weren't in, 44 people weren't interested, 1 crazy person (satanist), 15 people from other religions and 7 return appointments (they all flaked on them).
As you can see tracting isn't the best use of time, he is looking forward to when they can start using tablets and computers to proselyte, then they will be able to reach a lot more people, and waste a lot less time.

When The Rain Came Down...

Monday, 22nd of July 2013

This week has been an eventful week for Sam!

He had dinner with the Roper family, for a change he shared something with them for the spiritual thought. They watched a video on youtube called 'Brad Wilcox - His grace is sufficient'. It is the best talk Sam has ever heard, he explains perfectly how Christ's grace works, how the atonement works, and our whole purpose of being here. Sam really wanted us to watch it as he said it will change your whole perspective of what repentance really is, and how much Heavenly Father loves us.

On Friday Elder Blanco went to a leadership training meeting, so Sam was on exchanges until 4pm, in a completely different area. It was a good day for him as he felt he has definitely grown in confidence. In each situation he found he would naturally take the lead, whether it was in the conversation, sharing a scripture or a lesson, Sam didn't think he would be able to do that, but he had been praying that he would be able to be more confident and it definitely worked for him!

They had an interesting discussion with a man who had all sorts of concerns, they talked about the atonement, fall, restoration, spirit world, 3 degrees of glory, baptism, parables and black people not having the priesthood until the 70's. The guy would ask a question, then as Sam would start to explain he would bring up something completely irrelevant, then as he would explain that then he would keep interrupting. Sam explained that the church had no official statement on the priesthood not being given to black people, however he told him he had discussed it before. He explained, and he agreed that the people at that time were still biased towards black people, he then explained that with the priesthood comes a lot of responsibility, however because of the way the people were at that time, they wouldn't be able to fulfill their responsibilities. He kept asking the same question and Sam must have explained it 10 times to him. Sam said he was friendly but pretty ignorant.

After exchanges Sam and Elder Blanco went to check on the Wagasky family, they are the people Sam had his first meal with in the field, they were preparing to move so they wanted to see if they needed any help. On the way to their house, they could see a thunderstorm which was weird as they could see the lightning, but couldn't hear the thunder. It started to rain and the sky was black, and it was nearly constant lightning. They were inside talking to the family and Sam started to feel sick, completely randomly out of nowhere, so he stood outside for a few minutes and vomited four times, then was fine afterwards! Their phone went off, as they received a CMAS alert for flash floods and severe hail, the rain started coming down really heavy and the lightning was insane. Luckily Brother Wagasky gave  them a ride home, and they saw some INSANE lightning, you could see the bolts going straight across the sky, and a lot of fork lightning. It was almost constant lightning, the longest time he counted without seeing a lightning strike was 5 seconds. There were storms on Sunday as well, the wind was really strong, Sam sat out on the balcony and ate his cereal and watched the storm. They are going to have another storm today, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Last night they had another really cool experience, one of the members didn't show up to church so they went by to see how she was doing. While they were there the young men's president also came and told them that he had been praying specifically for us. Literally 10 seconds after they left, a guy shouted out to Elder Blanco 'are you guys Mormons?', he told him they were, and he told them he wants to join our church, and wanted to know how to do it. He is called Christopher Williams, and seems pretty genuine in wanting to meet with the missionaries and learn. He said he invited the missionaries back to his house 2.5 months ago, but they didn't show up, however Sam and Elder Blanco were both in the area 2.5 months ago and they have never met him until now!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Samoan to English in 2 Weeks?

Monday, 15th of July 2013

The fire from last week was still burning, it was burning for over a week! It was the biggest fire the valley has ever seen, it was the #1 priority fire in America and 10% of all the hot shots (elite firefighters) in the nation were fighting that fire. Apparently nothing else is going to grow on the mountain for years now, the fire has done so much damage.

Sam enjoyed his week last week as the work is starting to pick up again. On Wednesday he got to go on exchanges with Elder Tusa, he is from Western Samoa and spoke no English. He went to the MTC for only 2 weeks to learn English and he has only been out in the field for 2 weeks! They had 3 hours of study together, the language barrier made it a challenge for them both. Sam was very impressed with how well he is going for only learning English for 4 weeks, he isn't afraid of going up and trying to talk to people even though he is just starting to learn the language!! Elder Tusa was so grateful to have the opportunity to work with Sam. He will make a great missionary if he continues to put in the effort to learn the language.

Last night they had a 'cool experience' (in the words of Sam) There is a less active lady whose husband isn't a member, it turns out that yesterday the ward mission leader, Doug Coburn, had visited them and her husband is now interested in taking lessons with Sam and his companion. They visited them last night and they are a great family, they even have a small black pug! He asked a lot of questions and even wrote some more questions down for next time so they can discuss them more. Its always a good sign when people ask a lot of questions and sincerely want to understand what it is they teach. Their recent convert, Sean Thomason, wants to go with them to the next lesson!

They have taught 11 lessons this week bringing it up to 18 in total. They are behind in numbers from last transfer but Elder Blanco says the work always slows down after a baptism. Sam is still loving it over there and he is still getting along well with Elder Blanco! 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Mystery Man and Fire!

Monday, 8th of July 2013

Last week has been slow for Sam since he just had the baptism of Sean and Amy, also it was the 4th of July weekend so there wasn't been a lot of people for him to teach. He only had 7 lessons. Sam and his companion have been doing more tracting that usual, but not too much more, they knocked 87 doors, 59 weren't in, 16 weren't interested, 8 were other religions and they got 4 returns appointments. One of the appointments fell through so it wasn't too fruitful. There is a reason the Apostles keep saying there is a better way of doing missionary work than tracting!

Sam had a really good experience last night, he was riding home and they got to the junctions at Tropical and Clayton, they can either take Tropical all the way to the apartment , or El Campo Grande, they decided to take El Campo Grande and took a short cut through the church car park. There was somebody parked there but it was 8:45pm. He  called out to Sam and Elder Blanco and they went over to speak with him. He asked when the church was open and they explained that it would be open on Sunday from 9am. He told them that he needed to get something off his chest. It turned out that on the 4th of July, he got drunk and went to a casino and blew his wages ($1500) Then after, a friend offered him some sort of drug which had a bad effect on him. He said he hasn't done anything like that in 5 years and that his family is more important to him than any of the stuff he did. He didn't know what to tell his wife, so they told him to be honest with her and not to lie about anything. He told them how he has met with missionaries before and it kept him out of trouble, so they talked to him for a while and left him with a prayer, a pamphlet on repentance and a card with their number on it. He really regretted what he had done and he was wanting to change. Sam is hoping he can meet with them again and start getting his life sorted out.

There is a huge fire on the mountains at the moment, it has been burning for nearly a week, it was started by lightning. There are 3 separate fires and with the wind it has been at 0% containment - in other words, the firefighters have no control over it! The amount of smoke in the air is amazing, Sam really didn't think a fire could push out so much smoke, he thought it was a cloud for a while until he saw the flames at the night time. Sam thinks its amazing because he would never get anything like this back home. He had his first proper storm yesterday morning, there was lightning, thunder and it rained for about 5 minutes, then it was over. The storms over there don't last very long but the roads flood really quickly!

Sam got his new best time for the Rubiks cube today, 19 seconds! He thinks it will be a while before he will beat that time though!

He also got a lot of food from a place called WinCo today because its so cheap. For $22 he got 2 cans of pringles, 80 tortillas, 2.5lbs of cereal, 1.5lbs of m&ms, 2.5lbs of fruit punch mix and 2 tins of baked beans. They have been eating a lot of tortillas lately as Elder Blanco converted Sam to them!

One of the less active families that they have been teaching gave them both camelbaks, they are so handy as its much easier to use while walking around. It hit 120°F over there, that's just below 50°C! Sam thinks he is adjusting to the heat as he is dealing with it a lot better. He now considers 100°F cool now.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Prayer & Prison

Monday, 1st of July 2013

This week Sam had another great week, Sean and Amy Thomason were baptised and confirmed, Sam did the confirmation for Amy. He was a bit nervous before the confirmation, but while he was doing it he felt fine. The Spirit was really strong at the baptism, after church yesterday Sean thanked him and Elder Blanco for knocking on their door. They are going to work with Sean so that he can get the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood as he is ready! Sam finds it amazing how fast they have both progressed, you couldn't tell that they were just baptised as it seems like they have been members for years! 

They had an interesting experience the other day, they were walking in the street and there was someone talking on their phone, as they were walking towards their bikes, he walked up to Sam and Elder Blanco and asked them what religion they were, they told him LDS, he said that he was supposed to go to prison that day for 2 years, but he prayed and somehow he got let off. He wanted to meet with them but unfortunately haven't been able to get back in contact with him. Sam loves how there are all kinds of people in Las Vegas, he thinks its great!

Sam and his family rescued a cat from the RSPCA 2 months before he left for his mission. Hunter, one of the boys who Sam is teaching, his cat had kittens so Sam was excited to see them. You can see how small they really are!

So far Elder Blanco and Sam have taught 13 lessons this week which brings them up to 64 total this transfer, that is more lessons than last! They have set a goal of 1000 doors this transfer, they don't normally do too much tracting so they are going to try and do it more and see if they get any results. They are staying together for another transfer which means Sam will probably hit his 6 months mark in this area. They finally met the NEW Mission President, Brother Ahlander, who is a really funny person who should make a great president! For P-Day they are staying in the apartment, grilling burgers and playing monopoly as it is transfer day there are no one activities.
Sam saw more bees as they had built a hive into the roof of the church, he was talking to the person who was removing them who said that they sometimes get Africanised bees there, but he has never seen them. He showed him his shirt where the bees were trying to sting him, he said the ones in the church were pretty tame, definitely not killer bees which Sam was very pleased to hear!


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A New Direction

Wednesday, 24th of June

This week Sam found out the good news that his sister is expecting a baby! He was so excited and happy. He said when he comes home there will be a 1 year old that he has never met before! He made a joke that runs in the family - he wanted to know if it was a boy or girl so he knows if he will be an aunt or an uncle!
This week has been a great week for Sam, Sean and Amy had their baptismal interviews, all went well and Amy wants him to confirm her. He has never done a confirmation before so he is a little bit nervous.

Another investigator Linda is doing well, she is coming out to church every week and her husband comes quite often too. The only problem they are having is that they can rarely meet with them during the week, they either don't have time or they aren't at home.

Elder Blanco and Sam have got a new investigator called Latonia, she lost her 17 year old son 2 years ago, and it's coming up to his birthday so she's having a hard time. They taught her the plan of salvation which seemed to comfort her, and they had another appointment set up, but she wasn't at home. They have taught 11 lessons this week, 4 investigators and 3 less actives attended sacrament meeting. So far they have taught 51 lessons, it looks like they might be able to beat the number of lessons taught last transfer. This week the mission presidents switch. They will have a 'meet the president meeting' on Friday, then their first interviews with the new president next week.

Elder Harper and Sam had a disagreement about tracting, Elder Harper said it was 'the bread and butter of missionary work', but Sam said it wasn't an effective use of time and that they could focus their efforts elsewhere. There was a special missionary broadcast and they were telling the missionaries that they are going to start using computers now instead of tracting, they will use Facebook and other websites to spread the gospel. Instead of going out to knock on doors, they will use stake centres and use the computers. The whole broadcast was pretty much saying that they shouldn't spend time knocking on doors as times have changed. Everyone uses computers, smart phones and ipads, so missionary work has to change as well. Sam doesn't know exactly how its going to work, but its an exciting change ahead which he is looking forward to.

A couple of nights ago, the missionaries made pancakes. Sam added two types of syrup and a ton of condensed milk to pour over the top of the pancakes. He said it was really nice but felt sick immediately after eating them. 

Sam has realised he needs to take more photos as he saw someone doing sky writing in a plane but he didnt have his camera on him so he missed the opportunity! A photo he did take at home was his a challenge photo, he managed to fit 21 grapes in his mouth! 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Ways of Finding People

Monday, 10th & 17th of June

Sam went on exchanges on Wednesday with another missionary, Elder Chapman. They get on really well together. They taught Shawn & Amy and Sam extended a baptismal commitment to them for June 29th which they happily accepted and they are really excited about being baptised! They are great people and they are progressing really fast. He helped them paint on Saturday and Amy bought them foot long subs for lunch! Sam loved the time he spent and it also kept him out the heat since its starting to hit 110-115°F. He enjoys being outside but only for a few minutes, then it starts to get uncomfortable so he is trying to schedule as many teaching appointments as he can!
Sam has been playing chess a lot lately and he finally beat Elder Harper who is really good and has a lot of experience playing chess. He also bought a Russian Book of Mormon which he is studying, he is in Las Vegas for 2 years so he might as well try and pick up another language while he is out there!

In 16 days Sam will have hit his 3 month mark and then in only 2 transfers time he will be at his 6 months mark! He feels like time is going really quickly over there and he is still enjoying it, even though its really hot!

They have found a new potential investigator in a really unlikely way! On exchanges Elder Blanco gave some rappers a pass along card, they threw it on the ground after he left, but someone else saw the card on the floor, picked it up and called them! She needed some inspiration so she wants them to visit her. Hopefully something will come of it!

For the first time since Sam has been over in Vegas he bought some fruit! It cost him $5 for some grapes so he probably wont be doing that again. For lunch he normally has a bagel with pepper-jack cheese, or a poached egg and chicken noodles. They have a lot of food in the apartment since the members feed them a lot.

With all the heat recently, the worst situation happened in the apartment.... the Air Conditioning broke so it got to nearly 90°F in the apartment! Sam was quick thinking and decided to freeze a bottle of water, wrapped it in a towel and used it as a 'cold water bottle' while he slept.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Same Routine, Different Day

 Monday, 3rd June 2013
If you know Sam you will know he loves weather. Since he was younger he was obsessed with hurricanes and tornadoes. Finally he saw something similar, a couple of dust devils! He loved them but he said it will probably be the closest thing he'll get to seeing a tornado!
The transfer for the new Mission President is soon, his 3 years service is nearly up. Elder Black and his wife will be leaving and replaced with Elder Ahlander and his wife from Provo Utah. Since Sam doesn't really get to see the Mission President much, an interview every 2 transfers (12 weeks), Sam has already had his last interview before he will be released.
Even though Sam has the sort of the same routine, every single day is different! The mission is definitely not boring or repetitive! He went on exchanges with the Zone Leader on Friday, they were teaching a lesson and their daughter asked them if they could perform an exorcism? They explained that they don't do those and its more of a Hollywood thing. A few minutes later a Catholic Priest walks in and starts sprinkling holy water around the place and saying a prayer, at the same time that they are trying to teach a lesson!

The investigators he has been teaching are doing well but he is worried about one of his investigators since he hasn't been meeting with them for the last couple of weeks. He went to Texas to get married and he seems to have lost interest, so Sam is hoping to spark something in him again since he was progressing really well.

They are up to 22 lessons so far this transfer, this time last transfer they had 20 lessons, so they are slightly ahead :)

It's 102°F today and it's going to be above 100 all week, peaking at 108°F on Saturday. Should give Sam a chance to adjust more!
There's a quote in Preach My Gospel which says when performance is measured, performance improves. The thing Sam has learned so far is that planning makes a huge difference, he needs to set long, mid and short-term goals, he plans each day how he is going to achieve his goals and he makes sure he keeps track of how he is doing, it helps him keep going! 

Below is a photo of the park where Sam goes tracting.

This is a photo of one of the streets where they also go tracting.