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.