Monday, December 30, 2013

Merry (late) Christmas

It was great seeing all of you on Skype! Very awesome seeing Grandma participating in the Skype session. I'm glad her recovery is going well. The green tie is what I bought for a White Elephant gift exchange that our zone did last week. Just a few dollars at Goodwill. I received a mustache keychain that says "Well hello there." 

Christmas was good. Besides what you sent (I love the sweater vests!), we got a couple stockings stuffed with candy from a member and our Sister Training Leaders. We also got gift cards to In-N-Out, and uncle David sent me a gift card to McDonald's. We had a couple dinners that night, and EVERYONE gave us cookies and junk food. Luckily, I'm still down on belt holes so I guess all of our walking is doing something good to me.

This past week was a garbage week. As you heard of Christmas, I'm sick. Or was, rather. It started Sunday and lasted pretty much all week. I'm in the last few days of it hopefully. After we Skyped, my voice was completely gone for a couple days. We didn't get anything done last week. Lots of rest and studying. This week should be good, though. We have a lesson today at 2, teaching the Plan of Salvation. Should be good. 

I went on my first exchanges on Friday/Saturday. I went out to Newhall with Elder Shick. We did a bit of knocking, found a couple investigators, taught a lesson to an investigator, and did a LOT of praying. This elder really likes to pray at every opportunity, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

When we go to Walmart today, I'm going to see if they have any cassette recorders. If they aren't expensive, I might get one to do an audio journal or whatnot. I realize you have one you could send, but it's a bit bulkier than today's recorders. Maybe get just a digital recorder. We'll see.

I'm really grateful to Grandma and Grandpa Astle for helping pay for my mission. It's amazing what blessing come from supporting missionary work. I've heard amazing stories from parents and returned missionaries alike on the blessings they've received from supporting the work.

Hope all continues to go well while you're having fun in Seattle. Make sure to tell Richard I say hi!

~Elder Dallin DeFord

Monday, December 23, 2013

I don't like being sick......

Yup, I'm sick. Remember that nasty bug I get every year or so where I had to stay home from school for a whole week? Yeah, it's back. Jumped on me last night. I'm pretty sure it's a nasty sinus infection, which is why I failed the strep test when we went to Kaiser that one time to get it checked out. If it gets bad enough, I'll ask our medical person in the office what to do. .
If it needs to be between 11 and 1, 12 will work for Skype. We already have a family set up to let us use their computers to do it.
I'm sending some Christmas cards home today, and will include another SD card with pictures. I'm hoping I won't be spending too much money from personal funds. Printed Christmas cards a couple days ago at Wal-mart, and today I'm sending them out. Most of the cards are going straight to you, and it'd be awesome if you could hand them out. It'll save on postage.
This past week was pretty good. We got three new investigators! And plenty of potential investigators. Sadly, they all flaked out on their appointments. We'll just have to keep trying with them.
So last week we had a nasty visitor in one of our bathrooms. A camel spider! Or sun spider. Or wind scorpion. Any name works. It was a little over an inch long and was pretty creepy. We decided to trap it so we could look it up the next day to see if it was poisonous. It wasn't. So we kept it for another day in a little terrarium we made. It got boring, so we threw it outside. Hope no more surprise us!
I think that's all for now. Hope things are rocking up there, and I'll talk to you on Wednesday!
~Elder Dallin DeFord

Monday, December 16, 2013

Not Much Going on This Week........

Our biggest challenge is being on time to things and sticking to our schedule. We're trying different things so we can be better at what we do. We've gotten a couple referrals from members, but so far we haven't been able to contact a single potential investigator yet. Just this past week I organized and rewrote the potential investigators list that was outdated, which took a few hours. No new investigators yet, but we can only keep pushing forward.
This Wednesday we will be allowed to go to the LA Temple for a session as a mission. It should be pretty awesome. We have to have member transportation as it's outside the mission, but that's all arranged.
Tell the Mabey's I'm excited for Kathryn! That's pretty cool. I knew she wanted to go there, but it's exciting that it's actually happening. And congrats to Katherine in being accepted to SVU! It's sad I won't be able to see you graduate and head out to college, but my thoughts are with you as you take a huge step in your life.
On Friday we had our One Week Follow-up with President Hall and his wife. It was loooong, and we didn't get anything done after that. 
I'm getting used to less food, which wasn't really that hard. I don't feel any lighter, but I've gone down two holes in my belt which must be a good sign.
Last week we met the father of BYU's running back, JJ Di Luigi. That was pretty cool. He wasn't interested in the gospel, but we did talk to him for about 20-30 minutes and he gave us water.
At our dinner appointment last night, we got to play pool on the pool table from the movie Tombstone. I don't know the movie, but I guess it was big or something. Still, it's the real deal.
I gave a talk in church yesterday, and it only lasted 5 minutes. Nice and short, just like the guy who spoke after me asked me to do. He still went over time, though. People liked my talk, even though I more-or-less jumped around a bit. It's all about the Spirit, though, and that's what impressed the congregation.
Timothy sent me my first actual letter, which apparently took 3 weeks to get to me. It went to the MTC after I left, so it's been finding it's way to me. Letters are nice. You should encourage people to write from the ward. :)
I've only got a couple minutes left, so I'm going to throw a couple of fun facts in:
1)  Fun I have exactly 23 months left!  My release date is November 16, 2015. 4 days short of two years. I'll be in this area for 12 weeks at least, so my address is good until then.

2)  This April or May, we'll (hopefully) become an iPad mission! April ends the testing in 30ish missions, and then it'll be going to MANY more missions, us included we hope. If we do, every missionary will get their own iPad Mini to use during the mission. We get an hour a day at the church to Facebook investigators and blog and things. What's best is that we get to keep the iPads at the end of our mission! Pretty cool, that is.
Talk to you all later!
~Elder Dallin DeFord

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Purpose for Being Here...

Hello mom, dad, friends and family!  All goes well down here in Canyon Country, CA. Yesterday we had zone conference, where three of our zones got together for an 8-5 meeting.  The main point, at least from what I learned, is that we need to be out talking to everyone!  Today we're going to do our best, as we've dedicated 6ish hours to knocking on doors, with a break for lunch.  Our goal is to talk to at least 20 people and get a couple of investigators out of those 20.

I'm slowly learning my purpose for being here.  Honestly, the only reasons I came were:
1.  It was expected of me
2.  (More importantly) The Spirit slapped me upside the head and told me I needed to go.

I'm learning that I need to love everyone I meet, which is hard considering there aren't many people on the streets to talk to.  All we have are houses. The other elders in our area got all the commercial streets to talk to people on.

It may be nice and sunny here, but it has been cold and gusty.  The wind has really been picking up lately. Branches have been seen on the roads.  It isn't anything compared to your snowy and cold weather, though. Although it would be nice to be up there to see it.

I'm hoping the scripture stickers get here soon.  I have many scriptures I want to mark (over 100!), but I don't want to mark them, get the stickers, and realize I did the wrong colors.  Hopefully with the stickers are some easy recipes for meals.  It's pretty much Eggos or cereal for breakfast every morning, a PB&J sandwich for lunch and little frozen pot pies for dinner if we don't have a dinner appointment.  (P.S.:  FEED THE MISSIONARIES)

Feel free to invite others to write to me.  We check the mail everyday, but it is all just ads and coupons.  The mailbox is like ours at home, with separate boxes for packages.  However, if anything bigger comes, it might be good to send it to the main office.

We need to coordinate a time to Skype for Christmas.  We're allowed to do it on Christmas day, or the day before or after.  Let me know when it will work for you, and I'll make it work over here.

Love and miss you all,

Elder Dallin DeFord

Monday, December 9, 2013

P.S.: Send more blankets!

Elder Dallin DeFord with first companion, Elder Kaden Argyle

First week here has been good. My companion and I opened a new area, splitting a ward into two areas now. We are in the Solemint Area 1 area.  I am in Canyon Country, CA.
It's great to hear that Grandma is doing better. I've been praying for her, and hopefully she'll keep getting better as time goes on.
If it were wet here, I'm sure we'd have gotten snow or ice. We haven't gotten down to 9 degrees, but it has dropped below freezing a couple times during the night. California weather isn't what I thought it'd be. I'll likely buy some gloves and another blanket.
The mission itself has been alright. Like I said, we opened a new area. That meant we got a new apartment building. New beds, desks, lights, everything. According to our maintenance guy, it hasn't been lived in for 3 months. This was apparent by the spiders everywhere. The water is full of calcium, which is weird. It makes my head itch. The first day in the apartment we noticed we had a couple leaks, mainly our kitchen sink and my toilet. It leaked on first flush, but when we had the maintenance guy come over, it didn't leak and hasn't since. Oh well. He fixed the sink, and will be getting a new seal for our dishwasher since it's cracked (but not leaking). The beds are new, but bad for my back. 
We haven't had much success missionary work-wise. We have a couple potential investigators, one investigator who isn't progressing, and that's it. We did get a good street contact at Walmart last week in the parking lot which was awesome. He came to US and started asking questions. Since he isn't in our area, we pointed him to and if it's time for him to learn, he'll go and request the missionaries. I hope the work down here picks up. Apparently this mission has one of the lowest contact-to-baptism ratios in the country. We need to contact 2000 people to get one baptism is what we were told.
We had our first dinner appointment last night. The people in our ward are rich! Huge mansions and whatnot. The family we ate with last night gave us a small Christmas tree for our apartment. Fake, of course, but it was really nice. We've got a guy in our ward  who was in one of the Bible Videos. The new ones which I still haven't seen. Apparently John Heder is in my mission, too. If I get sent to Studio City, I'll likely be in his ward. He's the young men's president down there I heard.
Anyway, I can't remember if there is anything else I wanted to say. I'll be on around this time for a couple hours every Monday, so if anyone wants to respond and chat that way, we can. Tell everyone I love them and miss them!
-Elder Dallin DeFord

Monday, December 2, 2013

My First Letter Home from the Mission Field

Not much for writing. Email is better.  Anyway, I'm here!  70 some degrees right now in North Hollywood. Tonight we're staying in Santa Clarita, then tomorrow we'll be assigned trainers.  Should be fun.  Flight from SLC was alright.  Tiny, tiny, plane though.  You'll see in the pictures.  Right now e're all writing letters and getting interviews from the office workers.  Everything is taken care of, thank goodness.  Another group of missionaries is out with experienced missionaries to get some first-day experience, and we'll be doing that soon.

So, is the kitchen still a mess (for those of you reading this, we had water damage before I left on my mission and my dad is replacing the fake wood floor with tile).  Has my room been rented out?   Besides the news on grandma, I don't know what is happening over there.  Pictures are always welcome!

Elder DeFord

From the Mission President's Wife......

Christmas came early this year!  We received 22 missionaries this week. Twenty new, one returning and one on a three month assignment from Salt Lake Temple Square.  

They are hopefully sound asleep from the long day of travel, those coming from the Mexico City MTC  were up at 3:30 this morning and the Provo group didn’t get much more sleep than that. 

We are so excited that they are here and can’t wait to get to know them.  December is a fabulous time to be starting a mission—everyone already is thinking of the Savior—or at least His birth, so talking to everyone is a bit more natural.

Tonight President Hall will prayerfully seek revelation as to who will be their trainer and first companion.  As you pray for your missionary, pray also for his/her companion.  

As it is Christmas time, you may be wondering what missionaries want for Christmas.  Missionaries want missionary work to be important to you.  Pray everyday for your own missionary experiences, for your own courage at living the gospel “out loud.”  They will have the opportunity to Skype or call on Christmas, tell them of your missionary efforts—let them know how proud you are of them. 

They did have a chance to write an actual letter today, and next Monday they will be back to email.

Thank you for sending the Great California San Fernando Mission your children.

Merry Christmas!


Sister Hall

Sunday, December 1, 2013

This is Me Talking from the Inside

My companion talks in his sleep sometimes, and he said this once and it was pretty funny. 

This week's been pretty good. As promised by other missionaries and teachers, after the first Sunday is through the rest of your time just flies by. First few days were just a draaaaag, each one feeling like a week, but I'm surprised it's Saturday right now. The real memorable thing this week is, of course, Thanksgiving. Our morning campus-wide devotional was given by Russell M. Nelson, and the one thing I remember is that he talked about how must never just about baptism as if it's a casual thing. After that, we did a humanitarian project making lentil casserole packets for children in the area who are missing meals. More info on the project can be found here. In the evening, we were able to watch a movie, that being Ephraim's Rescue which was actually a pretty cool movie and a true story. I recommend watching it for Family Home Evening one night. It's a church movie that apparently was shown in theaters.

Classes were long, but we only have one left and then we're done. They're 3 hours each and there's two a day, so it drags on if we're just being talked at. Today's only one class because we were given a half P-Day. Classes, while well taught, seem a bit too much. Things we are going to be teaching are over-complicated and are sometimes unnecessary. Each teacher is different in their teaching though, and some are better than others.

Tomorrow is fast Sunday, and like you asked I will be fasting for Grandma. I won't be inviting my district as I mentioned before as I believe it will be more powerful as a family fast. I'll be interested to see how Sacrament Meeting goes, as we only have two districts in there. Only 20 people will be there, I think. Plenty of time for every missionary to give their testimony. We'll have a couple devotionals, including one for departing missionaries. Should be fun.

I'll be glad to get out of Utah. The dry air here is horrible for my sinuses. I'm pretty sure I'm having constant bloody noses, but the dry air stops the bleeding before it runs out. Every time I blow my nose the dried blood comes out. Congested every day, and the psudeophedrine doesn't seem to help much. And my lips are always chapped. I think one of the good points of the MTC is the exercise time. From what I've seen on the scale, I haven't gained half a pound since coming here, as fattening as the food probably is.

I'm putting in a couple pictures in this email, and will send a few more in another. When I get to Cali, I'll send the SD card up. I've got a small case to protect it, and I'll just use USPS. It also seems that I've lost the charging cable for my camera, but I'll pick another one up at Radio Shack or Walmart or something. It's not proprietary, and my camera's battery is surprisingly still mostly full although I haven't charged it for a while.

That's all I can think of to say right now, so I'll end this email now and do some pictures on another one.

Love you all,

Elder DeFord

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Do You Know About Dark Matter?

That's one of the ongoing jokes around the MTC right now. On our first day, we did giant (50+) group meetings, all of us working to teach an "investigator." Only one of three of these were good and useful. The joke came about because one of the investigators asked why we are born as spirit children if God has a physical body. Things were going well answer-wise with many football analogies, then one elder raised his hand and it got really quiet. We all expected some deeply spiritual answer, then he quietly asked " you know about dark matter?" He tried to go into it, but was very quickly stopped by our instructor and told us why that is a very bad idea.

Classes are going pretty well, and you were right that they'd pick up. Several classes a day are for Role Playing. My companion Elder Banks and I are "teaching" a recently out of jail man named Terry who seems to have had a change of heart while in prison. Seems we'll be working with him for a while.

Currently my first load of laundry is going, and I hope I'm doing it right. Have a load of colors and whites going, about 20 minutes left each. The laundry bag works great and does its job. One of my goals while I'm out is to try and lose a little weight, or just put muscle on instead. Something healthy. I spent around 40 minutes in our fitness center cycling and using an elliptical machine. Elder Banks also has me doing push-ups and chair dips at night, as he's a fitness buff.

I'm wearing the sweater vest right now. It's actually pretty awesome, and I plan on wearing it regularly. Shirts and pants are fine, but the lining in the new suit coat breast pocket was ripped by a volunteer the first day who was in charge of making sure they're all opened, which mine wasn't.

The garment bag would be really good to have. We really don't have any other books that we were given. Any we did get are really flat and won't make a difference. If I want to avoid overweight charges, it'd be best to have the bag. The carryon was stuffed. There is no way to rearrange my things.

Thanks for keeping me updated on grandma. Hope she gets well soon.

The day before I leave the MTC (Dec. 2nd), I'll mail home an SD card with pictures of the MTC. I'll attach a few now (on a separate email) so you can see what's going on. (The one of my companion had color selection enabled, so it'll look weird)

My companion is going to the same mission as me. Our whole district is. It seems everyone else on our dorm floor is going somewhere fancy. Some going to Italy, Russia, Germany, and Georgia. Georgia's not really fancy at all, but it's just a different mission.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

First Day

For a first day, this was a good day.

My flight was about 20 minutes early, but luckily Jenny's dad likes being ahead of schedule so I didn't have to wait long at the pick-up terminal. After a snack, Jenny and I went to Brogan's school to help out in his classroom. Really, the only thing the teacher had us do was grade some math homework. I took a nap after that, and then we all went to Temple Square. We toured the Conference Center and walked around for a little bit before coming home for dinner. Dinner consisted of pulled pork with homemade barbecue sauce. The pork was cooked in a dutch oven, and it was really delicious. You should give it a try doing it like that. We've just finished up having a NERF battle downstairs, and I think the kids are starting to go to bed. We may have dessert first, though, but I'll be joining the slumber quickly after that. I was planning on putting my first set of pictures in with this email via compressing the files, but it turns out jpegs don't compress more than the already are. Instead, I'll attach a few good shots of me that we could use for the missionary picture, and Jenny will bring the rest next week when she goes up to visit Grandma. She has some good pictures she took herself as well that she'll give you.

Until my first P-Day,

Elder DeFord

Some Pics

My new laundry bag:

My Farewell shindig:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's Almost Time

The time is almost upon us that I leave my home here is Salem, Oregon and head out to do the Lord's work. This blog will hopefully be updated weekly by my parents. To start it off, I will post my farewell talk that was used in both of my church wards:

On the 20th of August, my mom texted me while I was at work with the words, “It’s here.” It was obvious that she was referring to my mission call, as we weren't waiting for anything else. I quickly finished up work for the day and headed home, full of anticipation. Not so long story short, I opened up my mission call with family and friends watching via YouTube and read that I would be going to the California San Fernando mission. That’s definitely not where I expected to go; I was hoping for Canada or Japan. But nonetheless, that’s where the Lord has called me, and so I shall go and do the things the Lord commands.
For years I've been thinking about going on a mission. Pretty much my entire life has been focused on this one thing. But, being honest, a couple years ago I didn’t really want to go on a mission anymore. I was quickly slapped out of that by the Spirit when it told me that if I don’t go, I’m going to miss something really huge in my life that I need. Kind of hard to ignore a prompting like that.
I was asked to give a talk from the Saturday afternoon session from the most recent General Conference by Elder S. Gifford Nielson entitled “Hastening the Lord’s Game Plan”. He asked a question that I think we should all take a moment to think about: What would you do if the prophet of the Lord really called you? In his talk, the question came to his mind after a phone call where a young boy shouted to his mother that President Hinckley was on the phone, when in actuality it was not. His answer to the question though is that he has called all of us already. President Thomas S. Monson said, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him.”
We've all been called to do the work. There’s a phrase that often gets said around here that states that Every Member is a Missionary. The only difference between you and me is that I got a fancy paper that told me where I could best go serve the Lord. Another difference is that you’re all allowed to go see the second part of the Hobbit, while I can’t. Now, how can we as member missionaries to our duty to God? I will let Elder S. Gifford Nielson answer that, as how he says it is better than I could say it:
First, specifically pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day. You could do this by seeing all people as sons and daughters of God helping each other on their journey home. Think of the new friends you would make.
Second, pray for the missionaries serving in your area and their investigators by name every day. The only way to do this is to greet them, look at their badge, call them by name, and ask them who they are teaching. Elder Russell M. Nelson wisely contributed, “Until you know a person’s name and face, the Lord cannot help you know his or her heart.”
Third, invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home. Wherever you go or whatever you do, ponder who would enjoy the occasion and then listen to the Spirit as He directs you.
Everyone on this earth is a son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves us dearly no matter how far we stray from Him. He knows us better than anyone, including ourselves. When we pray every day to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel, and if we truly want to do it in our hearts, He will guide us to those who need to meet us every day of our lives. It could be as simple as making sure you’re living the gospel standards, or saying hi to a stranger on the street. Every little thing we can do, while having the spirit with us, can plant those seeds needed in the hearts of others that are needed to grow into the learning and comfort of the gospel we all openly enjoy.
Elder S. Gifford Nielson’s second point is to pray for the missionaries serving in your area. Greeting them, getting to know them personally, and supporting all that they do. When a ward or branch strongly supports the missionaries and their purpose, the love of the members can much more easily be seen by investigators in the church. Missionaries feel at home and more comfortable when we get to know them, and their hearts and the hearts of those they teach will be much more receptive to the teachings of the spirit.
His third point is to invite a friend or two to an activity in or out of your home. While being kind for those strangers around us and talking to them, nothing is more effective then talking with your friends. Around them, you can be more open and they may be more willing to come with you to activities. Not necessarily church, but you can invite them to Family Home Evenings, ward activities, barbeques, ice-skating, whatever it is that your ward or family is doing.
There are plenty of ways we can spread the gospel around us, from the small things to the big things. What will always be the best thing to get across though is the Spirit. Without it, there will be no true teaching. When we go and do with a heart full of song and the spirit accompanying us, anything is possible, and anyone can be taught.
I would like to continue by reading a story from Elder S. Gifford Nielson’s talk about a pair of shoes:
My awakening to these unique verses [these versus were quoted prior to the story] played an important role in my first assignment as an Area Seventy. I was a bit nervous being the companion of an Apostle, Elder Quentin L. Cook, at a stake conference. As I walked into the stake president’s office for the initial meeting that weekend, I noticed a pair of tattered-looking, bronzed shoes on the credenza behind his desk, accompanied by a scripture ending in an exclamation point. As I read it, I felt the Lord was aware of my study, had answered my prayers, and that He knew exactly what I needed to soothe my anxious heart.
I asked the stake president to tell me the story of the shoes.
He said:
“These are shoes of a young convert to the Church whose family situation was strained, yet he was determined to serve a successful mission and did so in Guatemala. Upon his return I met with him to extend an honorable release and saw his shoes were worn out. This young man had given his all to the Lord without much, if any, family support.
“He noticed I was staring at his shoes and asked me, ‘President, is anything wrong?’
“I responded, ‘No, Elder, everything is right! Can I have those shoes?’”
The stake president continued: “My respect and love for this returning missionary was overwhelming! I wanted to memorialize the experience, so I had his shoes bronzed. It is a reminder to me when I walk into this office of the effort we all must give regardless of our circumstances. The verse was from Isaiah: ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!’ (Isaiah 52:7).”
I don’t think I’m going to come home in the same shoes I left in, but wouldn't’t be great if I left a few pairs of those worn out shoes behind? We should all be striving to work hard, even if we think we can’t, to bring others to the peace, comfort, and power of the gospel. As we do, we will be blessed by the Lord in many countless ways.
One thing a mission requires is sacrifice, as many of us know. There have been stories in the New Era about plenty of young men who gave up promising scholarships for school, or a great place on a fancy sports team, to go on a mission. I don’t have the opportunity to give up either of those, but there are many things I’ll be missing when I’m out in the field. I will miss my sister graduate from high school. I will miss my younger brother’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor, and his 18th birthday when he will receive the Melchizedek priesthood. If my older brother does some awesome things, which he likely will, I’ll miss that. I’ll be missing two years of school that I could have used to further my pursuits. I’ll also be missing a billion awesome movies slated to come out in the next two years, but I’m lucky enough to be coming home right before Star Wars Episodes 7 comes out, so I have something to look forward to not missing.
I’ll close with a quote from Elder L. Tom Perry and President Henry B. Eyring, both who were quoted by Elder S. Gifford Nielson in his talk:
“This is the most remarkable era in the history of the Church. This is something that ranks with the great events that have happened in past history, like the First Vision, like the gift of the Book of Mormon, like the Restoration of the gospel, like all of the things that build that foundation for us to go forward and teach in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom” (“Concluding Remarks” [address given at the seminar for new mission presidents, June 26, 2013], 1, Church History Library, Salt Lake City).
We need to be engaged as never before to match the excitement of our leaders and the commitment of our full-time missionaries. This work is not going to move forward in the Lord’s intended way without us! As President Henry B. Eyring has said, “Whatever our age, capacity, Church calling, or location, we are as one called to the work to help Him in His harvest of souls”

I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.