Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 28, 2012 Letter

Glad to hear that Jake finally got hitched. I was worried about that guy. Sounds like the weekend was a great adventure. Our week was pretty interesting as well. The mission president is trying to help us save miles (we have a limited amount of miles we can drive a month), and so he had us conduct district meeting over conference call. Well, we had to get the oil changed in the car that day so we went across the street to the Dairy Queen and held district meeting in the parking lot. We just kind of sat down on a wall and gave the training there. If people didn't already think that we were weird, they do now. Two guys in white shirts and ties, talking on speaker phone, in the middle of a parking lot about how the Bible and the Book of Mormon support each other. It was really funny to us. At the end of the phone call we had the lady from the auto shop calling us to tell us that our car was done; so throughout the prayer there was a bunch of beeps from her call coming in. It was really funny because on our end it sounded like the Elder that was saying the prayer was having his swear words bleeped out.
We got to help a lady in the branch clean her house this week as well. She said that if we came and helped her that she would provide us with lunch. You got it. We were there in a heartbeat. We asked her what she needed help with when we got there. The task seemed simple: Fix the vacuum and beat the rug. Sweet. We got this. Well, unknown to us, she has cats. Lots of cats! My companion and I are allergic to cats (my companion much worse than I). So I thought it best to have my companion fix the vacuum so he could stay outside and not have to deal with the cat hair on the rug. This rug was bad. I couldn't tell what was rug and what was cat hair. I dragged it outside and hung it on the clothes line. Then it was batting practice. Cat hair everywhere. 
All over my clothes, face, everything. So I start sneezing like crazy, my eyes start to well up, and my nose is all stuffy. Meanwhile my companion is messing around with the vacuum trying to figure out why it's not working. After finally getting the front cover off he realized what had happened. The vacuum bag was filled with cat hair; and upon detaching the bag it exploded...all over my companion. We were a mess. His voice dropped about three octaves, his eyes were bloodshot, he was coughing and wheezing, and he was all kinds of stuffed up. Lunch was a no go, because my companion couldn't breath if he put anything in his mouth, so we left and downed a bunch of Benadryl. We were alright after that. We would have taken pictures but neither one of us could really see where the camera was pointing long enough to take it. 
Later that day we taught the word of wisdom to one of our investigators. He has been chewing tobacco for about 33 years. We told him the blessings of living the word of wisdom, promising his that if he would give up his chew that he would be blessed to be able to read. He has not yet read the Book of Mormon, because he struggles with reading. He just never took the time when he was a kid to learn how. We felt that the blessing of "wisdom and HIDDEN treasures of knowledge" would provide him with the ability to read. Usually we teach him and his family, but this time it was just him. We asked who he would like to say the opening prayer and surprisingly he said, " I think that I'll say it." After that beautiful prayer we started the lesson. He has investigated the church for a long time and often jokes about "someday" being a member. We simply asked him when "someday" would be. He said that he didn't know. We then told him that the only thing that would stand in his way of becoming a member of the church would be his chew. He looked at both my companion and I and said, " Alright then. Here you go!" as he threw me his brand new can of chew. "What am I supposed to do with this?" I asked. "Dump it in the toilet!" he replied. I think that the best part of dumping that stuff down the toilet was watching the look on his 5 year old daughter's face as he said, "You see that?! No more. Dad's done with that." 
We have had similar experiences with 2 of our other investigators this week as well. Guess that it was just the word of wisdom week. We had one quit tea and coffee, another quit alcohol and smoking, and another quit chew. It was a breath of fresh air. Another highlight of the week was having our 11 year old investigator tell her mom to be quiet because she was trying to learn about the gospel.
We got to take another trip out to good ol' Arkansas this week. Brother Pate volunteered to take us out there to save us on miles. He is so awesome. It was a great trip. On the way back we got a flat tire and had no spare tire. Wonderful. We had to wait for Brother Pate's wife and her friend to come and pick us up. When they came we stayed with the broke down car so Brother Pate could go to a tire shop in DeQueen to get a new tire. Whilst waiting for Brother Pate to get back we were trying to help Sister Pate think of different boys in the branch and her oldest daughter could date. It was way funny. She started off the conversation like this: "Alright, so now that I have you captive, I need your help. My daughter just broke up with her boyfriend." Ha ha ha. Uh...Sister Pate...we're kind of off limits...don't know that we could help you much.
On Friday one of our investigator's invited us over for dinner. Their friend was there and he was very intoxicated. I don't think that I have ever laughed so hard in my entire life. At the end of the visit we invited him to live the word of wisdom and to dump out all of his alcohol and he said YES! But then when we got up to go help him dump it out he screamed, "No, No, No, next week!" Ha ha ha. You know, I used to think that drunk people were funny before the mission, but they are way more funny on the mission. Especially when they are speaking Marshallese.
In other exciting news this week, we have 4 couples that want to get married and baptized, 3 potential families to teach, and my companion and I ate Menudo...remind me again why someone came up with that dish?
I think that the most wonderful moments had to have been with Jared and Amy. They are one of the couples that want to get married. We had a lesson with them about marriage and the law of chastity on Saturday. The lesson went marvelous. Couldn't have been less awkward. We ended the lesson stating we didn't believe that marriage ends when we die. That someday Jared and Amy could be married for all time and eternity. We asked, " Jared, you said you wanted to be with Amy for the rest of your life, right?" "Yeah." "Well, what if you could be with her forever?" The concept blew his mind. At first he was really excited, biggest smile ever. Then he started to get choked up. He asked his soon to be bride, " Is that what you want too?" With tear filled eyes she simply smiled and nodded. It was one of those times in your life where the Spirit in the room is so thick that you could cut it with a knife. We said that the next time we came over we would explain how they could live together forever with their family. We came back a few days later and taught the Plan of Salvation. The lesson was just as spiritual as the last. We asked their little boy if he liked going to church that day. He said, "I LOVED going to your church today! Can we go tomorrow?!" Jared smiled and said, " Hey. That's not just their church son, it's our church too." I love the Plan of Salvation. It truly is the Grand Plan of Happiness. I don't think that I have had sweeter moments in my mission than when we are teaching families how they can live together forever.
Needless to say, we had a great week. A lot of planning that we have to do for the upcoming month, but we are so excited for it. Can't wait to share more good news next week. 
 Love y'all so much.
-Elder McNinch

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 21, 2012 Letter

This week we were had a lot of appointments to go to. The week goes by so much faster when you have a bunch of people to go and see. We are so excited for the upcoming baptisms that we have. The only thing that seems to be standing in our investigator's way are rides to church and or jobs. It is really hard to come by good jobs here apparently so all our investigators are starting to move. We are doing our best to find jobs for everyone. Kind of difficult but we will figure it out.
We taught a lot of really amazing people this week. There was one man that we met while we were eating lunch at a recent convert's house. His name is Jose. Jose speaks Spanish (go figure). Jose approached us after lunch, talking about how he wanted to change his life. We like starting conversations like that. We spoke to him shortly about the gift of repentance and how the Atonement can change every aspect of our lives. We set up a return appointment for the following night. We had a very spiritual lesson with him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We invited him to build his faith through prayer. At the end of the lesson we had a prayer with him. He prayed, asking that God would help him to overcome his addictions and that he would be able to come to church with us the next day. Well, he came! It was awesome. He had gotten a ride from one of the Hispanic families in the Branch. What was even better about him coming to church was the fact that a brother from the High Council, who lived in Ecuador, just happened to be visiting that day. This good brother was Jose's personal translator for the whole day. It was great. We spoke with Jose this morning and he said that he was going to be there every Sunday from now on. Turns out that he knows a lot of the recent converts in the Branch and has already asked them if we can have the lessons in their home. Amazing.
We got to see a lot of little miracles this week, but it is always those big ones that you enjoy the most. We had the opportunity to give Sister Gamble a blessing this week. Her health has been very poor lately. She was suffering from cancer a while back but had since recovered. She has been under a lot of stress lately and apparently the stress induced a hernia. Thursday May 17, 2012 she went in for surgery. She asked us to give her a blessing right before she went into surgery. Of course we were more than happy to do that. What was really cool about it all was that we had enough time to sit down with her before the blessing and just read scriptures for an hour. We figured that we had to do our studies in the morning anyway and we might as well include Sister Gamble. She definitely appreciated it. After the blessing we adjourned back to the waiting room and proceeded to plan out the rest of that week. We waited there all morning and into the afternoon to make certain that Sister Gamble pulled through. Not that we can do much from the waiting room but, Sister Gamble had asked us to stay so we did. Never conducted a planning session from a hospital before, but it worked out alright. We got to talk to a very nice lady about the Gospel while we were at it. The head of surgery would constantly peek her head in and ask us if we needed something. She has to be the nicest lady that I have ever met. Finally after a couple casual conversations and banter back and forth she asked us, "So what church are you all from?" Perfect. We had a short little discussion there, maybe a minute or two and said that we would love to come back and talk with her sometime. She was more than happy to have us back. After that wonderful little conversation she had to get back to work. We proceeded to plan. Time flew by and before we knew it, it was almost 1 o'clock. We had an appointment to go to at one and Sister Gamble was still in the recovery room. (aka- No missionaries allowed) We felt terrible, but we had to leave if we were going to make it on time. As we were walking through the hallway, there was our good friend. The head of surgery. She said in a very worried tone, "Are you leaving?!" We told her that we did and explained the situation. She said, "Well would you like to see her before you go?"...well...of course we would. Off we went into the restricted area to see Sister Gamble. She was so thankful that we had stayed the whole time and that we got to see her before we left. She was a TROOPER! 2 hours of surgery and she was awake for the whole thing. She was released from the hospital just a day later and we got to see her last night. She said, "You have no idea how thankful I am that y'all stayed there the whole time. I definitely felt your prayers. I just wanted to let you both know how much I love you. It meant so much to have MY missionaries there with me. I knew that you would be there." Miracles happen every day here. It is a beautiful thing. Can't wait to see what happens with the head of surgery.
We visited the Marshallese church on Sunday after the Branch meeting. It was really amazing to see their place of worship. They meet in an old boat garage that they have converted into a chapel area. We got there after they had already finished, but we got to stay and talk with a couple of our investigators. We are starting to teach some of the people that attend there, but we are still in the process of getting translators. Once we get passed that road block everything will go very smoothly. 
Sorry, got to go. Love you much.
Elder McNinch

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 14, 2012 Letter

This week has been absolutely amazing. I love my companion. Not that I didn't love the one that I had before him, but this one is especially awesome. We have been working very hard this week because we had to leave the area for two whole days! That is a LOT of missed opportunities. Somehow we still got all of the work that we needed to done. We had some pretty amazing things happen along the way as well.
Most of this week was spent on introducing Elder Sproul to all of our investigators. One particular lesson seemed to outshine the rest of them. We were teaching Fred and Lisa. Lisa is the lady who volunteered to translate for Sacrament meeting, even though she is not a member. She is also the one that wanted to get up and bear her testimony the first Sunday that she came. Anyway... So we start going over what we left them with. A couple passages from the Book of Mormon and the 4th and 5th articles of Faith. We reviewed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, teaching mainly about how we can build our faith. Lisa chimes in and says, "You know, when I read what Alma says about that seed that we need to plant in our hearts, I knew that that is what I needed to do. I think that is what we all need to do." At that point we really debated having Lisa teach the rest of the lesson, but alas, the Spirit continued to prompt thoughts so we expressed them. We led into the Restoration and shared the Joseph Smith story and discussed the Book of Mormon. We simply explained that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and the only way that they would ever know that that was true was if God told them it was. We then led into prayer. At about this time Lisa started to cry. We asked if she knew that what we were sharing was true. Through the tears she nodded her head saying, "I know...I know it's true." We bore testimony that only the Spirit could teach that. We invited both of them to be baptized next month. They both said that they would love to. We then talked about the rest of the lessons that we needed to go over and set up a return appointment. 
After the prayer, as we were leaving she said, "Before you go, can I tell you something?" Uhh...YEAH! Tell us anything that you want. She then proceeded to tell a story. "You know that one day that you and the other Elder talked to us? Well, when you found us, we had just gotten kicked out of our house. We were waiting there at our friend's house for our friend to come and pick us up. I had been praying, asking God to help us; That He would show us the way and help us out of that situation. Then you showed up. I believe that you were sent by God, and I am so thankful that He did. That is what I wanted to share with everyone in my testimony. I know that God answers our prayers." I live everyday of the mission for moments like those. It is truly a miracle that God would allow 19-22 year old kids to be the answer to someone's prayer. I echo the words of our beloved prophet when I say that there is no greater joy than knowing you were an answer to someone's prayer. I think that I cried for 20 minutes straight as we made the long drive that night to Mt. Pleasant. I will never forget the Spirit that I felt that night.
I will definitely have to write more at another time. Sorry, I only get an hour. Thank you so much for talking to me last night! I loved every minute of it.
Elder McNinch

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 7, 2012 Letter

**Disclaimer...may bring tears to your eyes so keep the tissue box close.**

This was one of the most spiritual weeks of my entire mission. I don't even really know where to start. I guess that we will start with the biggest miracle of all. Last week we were on bikes. (miracle that I survived). So you remember that lady that we found from the Marshall Islands? This is the coolest story ever. We have this senior missionary couple that comes up here to work every week. They help us with all of the new member lessons and less actives in the branch. They came up this past week and told us about an amazing contact that they had. 
They were in Walmart looking for a pair of shoes for a service project when they were contacted by a man from the Marshall Islands. He said that he was a member of the church back home, but had since not gone to church. He told them that he wasn't aware that there was even a church here. The missionary couple then asked him where and if he was going to church. He replied that since he didn't know there was a church here that he decided to start a church of his own. He and his friends and family from the Marshall Islands get together every Sunday to have "church". It was just a year ago that this man got his "preaching license" and the congregation became a recognized church in the community. 
The senior missionaries of course asked if they could go and meet everyone that attended and invited him to come back to church and see how he felt. They set a return appointment for this coming Saturday and left. After the couple had told us the story we were dumbfounded. We teach a lot of people from he Marshall Islands and heard that there was an Assembly of God church here that was all Marshallese. We have been looking for this Marshallese pastor for months. We had no idea that he was a member though! We asked the couple where the man lived. They responded that he lived on the north side of Broken Bow on Cherry Lane. I said, "Cherry? Are you sure? I don't think that there is a Cherry lane in Broken Bow." They responded that they didn't think so either. They had gone looking for it and weren't able to find a Cherry Lane anywhere in Broken Bow. I thought to myself for a second and then said, "Pretty sure that there is a Sherry Lane though. In fact some of our investigators live on Sherry. Let's go by them and see if they know this pastor." 
So off we went. We got to the house that we played volleyball at the week previous and asked the less active lady if she knew this pastor. She told us that it was her brother and that he lived in the house right next door. Amazing. So we talked to her about coming to church and inviting her brother to come with her. She happily said that she would attend with her family. I was floored. We asked more about her brother's teaching. She said that he teaches from the Bible and the Book of Mormon every Sunday and that there were 60-70 Marshallese people that attend every week. Most, if not all are non members. We then asked her where the church was. She said, " We hold our meeting in the Assembly of God church in Broken Bow. The people in that church are nice enough to let us use their building for one or two hours every Sunday." This whole time we have thought that they were an actual branch of the Assembly of God church, but turns out that they just let them use the building. Miracles are real. We are going to start meeting with this group of 60-70 every Sunday. I always wondered why we couldn't be like the missionaries in the Book of Mormon that saw such great miracles and had scores of people join the church. I cannot wait to tell you how everything plays out with this group of people.
Sunday we had 8 investigators at church, 3 of whom are new investigators from this week.. All of whom are Marshallese. We had a wonderful testimony meeting. One of the Marshallese recent converts went up and bore her testimony. It was amazing. There was not a dry eye in the room. After the meeting we went to the home of the 3 new investigators and talked to them about the meeting. One said that she absolutely loved the meeting. She asked how they picked who would go up and speak. We simply told her that anyone who wanted to go up, could. She said, "Oh really? I was going to go up there but I didn't because I thought that it was just for members." We told her that she was more than welcome to go up and bear her testimony in the next testimony meeting. She then asked if there was a translator for the Marshallese people who attended, and said if there wasn't that she would gladly help translate. We of course said that we would appreciate her help in translating. She then said, "Oh wait, do you have to be a member to do that?" Before I could even answer the question she said, "Speaking of which, how can I become a member?" Wow. Umm...Wow. Well...you're doing it right now. We explained the process and talked about a day that all three of them would like to be baptized and become members of the church. Amazing. I have never seen so many prepared people in all my mission.
There were so many wonderful and spiritual experiences this week. I have so many stories to tell but I am not quite sure if I can write them. I would have to ask the people who are involved if I can share their story. Some are just so personal and spiritual that I do not know if I can really describe them in an email. I will try to talk to y'all about them next week after I get their permission. 
 Speaking of next week, I would love to Skype on Mother's Day. Plan on me calling at about 8 o'clock Sunday night. I don't know what time that will be for y'all but pretty sure that y'all can handle figuring it out. Wish that I had more time to write but, alas, I do not. 
My companion is getting transferred so I will have to stay the night in Mt Pleasant, Texas and wait for my new companion to arrive tomorrow. I love all of you so much and want you to know that I miss you terribly.
-Elder McNinch