Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014

Dearest All

The only way I can describe this week was Magical, it didn't feel real, but it was! The week began with our usual lessons with Debra, and then this magical thing happened, when we were finishing up our lesson at the Library she said, "I believe it" and she wants to get baptized, we ran through the Baptism interview questions with her again and she was interviewed that night after Andrew's interview! (Elder Cluff and I when we left the library, we got in the car looked at each other and said..."what just happened?")
Elder Tonjes, who was my first district leader, back in Ravenswood WV, is now our zone leader here in the Ashland zone. So it was a fun throwback to have him come down to Prestonsburg on an exchange to interview Andrew and Debra, the interview's went just over an hour each, and Elder Tonjes, said it felt like he was a bishop with back to back interviews. Meanwhile, I was out in the foyer with Sister S and Debra and Andrew sharing our conversion stories, it was wonderful to get to know these members and investigators (soon to be members) on a more personal level and share our testimonies, it was just splendid!

Elder Tonjes, upon the conclusion of our exchange as we drove though Jenny Wiley State Park, he said that I am a really a different person and have found a great balance in missionary work and a fireball since the first week of my mission, when we first went on an exchange.

Then at last the Magical day arrived, Sunday! We Arrived at the church and having everything set-up for the baptism, the font was clean and ready for water, We sang in the ward choir (which this was the first time in several years that this ward has had a choir, it was a very sweet return and the spirit simply resonated through the chapel), the stake president and his wife also came to sacrament meeting he said "music is part of our culture as latter-day saints, but it is not musical performance, but rather a form of worship " which struck Debra especially, since she loves music! During the stake President's Talk Andrew looked over at us and pulled out his brand new large print, monogrammed with his name, leather bound scriptures that Sister S had purchased for him while she was  in Utah, he had the biggest smile on his face like a little kid excited and proud of his new toy!
 We also had to move our Gospel Principles class to the Family History Center, because our previous classroom we have outgrown, with so many investigators coming (Andrew, Debra and the B family) and less-active member's returning, we filled every seat in the family history center! Elder Cluff and I began filling the font during Sunday School, and putting together the finishing touches for the baptism, as we dashed around the building, a number of the ward members made the comments, "you two must really like each other" "you two are great together" "I can tell when missionaries get along and when they don't and you both get along really well!" It's true we love each other and we are a smashing fantastic companionship. It all added to the magic feel of the day! Sister S shared with us the gifts that she had for Andrew and the anticipation continued to build..

We had a little linger-longer lunch after church to ensure that everyone was fed before the Baptism which began at 2:00, the stake president and his wife even spoke one on one with Andrew, Sister S, Debra and the B family! 
The guests all began to arrive and as the chapel filled (full!) there were at least 100 people at the baptism, we with Andrew got changed into our white clothes, (since and Andrew is 6' 6" 250lbs and the font is fairly small it was arranged so both Elder Cluff and I would both be in the font, Elder Cluff was performing the baptism, and I assisted in insuring he didn't hit his head and also to lift him back up out the water, and making sure we got him all the way under) it felt like exactly like we were in the temple again! I keep saying it like I have never felt a spirit like it before, but it is true it is all the spirit but it was unique and powerful for the occasion.  When we walked down the hallway toward the chapel , with the piano playing my heart simply was pounding with excitement and joy, as all three of us we trying with all our might to hold back our overpowering joyful emotion, sister S was there to greet us as we entered the chapel, when we walked in the only experience close to the spiritual sensation we felt is walking in to the celestial room in the temple. Everyone waiting for Andrew and us, the chapel was full, with the entire ward and Andrew's friends and family they all turned around and smiled, we took our seats up front, it felt a lot of what I imagine what it will be like when we leave this life and are greeted in the spirit world.

The opening hymn was The Spirit of God, which it sounded like the Tabernacle choir was singing, and members who had known Andrew since they were kids spoke and then we all stood and moved to the back of the cultural hall were the font was located

 The bishop was concerned that we were going over the top and was hesitant to let us use the chapel, the new program format, the lunch, and the little details like tables with table cloths with photos of the temple and Christ etc. for the Baptism even (simply because it wasn't how they usually do it)  after a little persuasion he allowed us to proceed to hold the service in the chapel.

On our way out of the chapel the Bishop stopped us and with a huge grin on his face he said "your right, I like it way better in here (the chapel) [along with everything else] this is how we are doing it from now on"...and then he hugged me and thanked us..."this is a good day..a really good day" he said.  I have never seen a bishop so excited.

First of all I want to say I love the floor plan of the ward building here, with the font in the back, center of the cultural hall and a small alcove outside the font  away from everyone else, with a white hallway as we enter the font, we waited in the alcove with my hand on the door knob for a few minutes as everyone found their place in the cultural hall to watch the baptism, those moments I never wanted them to end, the happiness, excitement, joy and spirit as we couldn't hold it back anymore the spirit was radiant! Then sister Winn came around the corner and said we are ready, I opened the door and we walked down the short hallway to see everyone smiling with quiet whispers, I describe it as walking onto a celestial stage, was stepped into the font, the water was warm and just right, then everything went quiet, it was perfect... and for what seemed like an eternity Elder Cluff raised his arm  and being caught in the spirit, elder Cluff could barely say the words then He went under and Elder Cluff and I lifted him back up and he immediately caught us in a hug, the spirit still beaming we stepped out and those minutes after didn't feel real at all, elder cluff and I told each other how much we love each other and how grateful we are to be serving together and out on a mission here in Kentucky. This was the first Baptism we had both been a part of the actual ordinance, the first time in our missions that were were dressed in all white and again I can only relate the spirit to how you feel in the temple.

After we dried off we went back into the chapel, where sister S sang a magnificent solo, and another talk from one of his childhood friends, the Bishop stood and practically jumped to the pulpit absolutely elated and welcomed Andrew to the Ward!  Trish gave him his Family History Binder, then as we sang the closing hymn, I am a child of god, and Elder Winn gave the closing prayer, when I opened my eyes, I looked over and saw a small pool of joyful tears on the Hymn Book that Andrew had in his lap and then the entire ward proceeded to  come and hug Andrew with an equal joy very excited to have him as a new member of the ward, Elder Winn came and grabbed both Elder Cluff and I and put his arms on our shoulders, "well done elder's, well done elders "...as we looked around the chapel and saw Andrew with the rest of the ward it was like the end of a good movie, a happy ending...however this is the happy beginning, because in the gospel "there are no true happy endings only everlasting beginnings"

Debra said that she had never felt like she had during the baptism and is very excited for her's next week. (November 30th)

Well that was really only a scratch at how really incredible this week was...when Elder Cluff and I Arrived home that night we said to each other..."it was a really good day...we should do it again sometime," "how about next week"...haha Well I love you all thank you for all your prayers and support, it is because of all of you that I am able to be here and this experience is yours to have as well.

​Debra, Elder Cluff & myself at the Library after our lesson...notice how well studied her triple combination is.



​So This was the lesson when Debra said "I believe it"...Debra's biggest hold-back was understanding that this is the only true and living church and adjusting to the changes from her protestant background. so we set up this board "Who wants to be a Millionaire (in blessings) : Gospel Edition" with the Million dollar question, how many churches are there? with enough lifelines to get the answer correct no matter what, because Heavenly Father wants us to know the answer...correct answer is 2...the church of the devil and the church of the Lamb of God. We read 1 Nephi 14 with her and then she got out a huge stack of notes from her former church services and pastors, and she wanted us to tell her if each thing she had taken notes from was true or false and as we taught true or false, she would either correct what was wrong in her notes, or cross it out all-together with a red pen! Her courage and trust in the lord was and is incredible   
Scoreboard...Elder Cluff wrote this as we went through Debra's notes...I said "well it really isn't us that is getting the point"...so he added representatives of Jesus Christ, because it is truly the lord's win.
 ​Tis the season...Deck the Library with bounds of Holly.

so here in Kentucky, we are in the "mountains" so everything that is flat has to be cut out of the mountain, but the water table is still high, so water just leaks out of the cuts in the mountain and when it gets cold the water freezes and forms these really cool looking giant icicles everywhere! 
 Myself and the B family holding their pet rabbit Whitey...they are progressing right along, they have had the first three discussions, and have come to church consistently and every ward activity. we are planning to watch Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration tomorrow with them.
 Burl S Deep Frying a turkey for the ward thanksgiving dinner...the worlds greatest mustache

​The ward thanksgiving dinner...a smashing success, a large number of less-active members and non-members came.
 So when we were cleaning up from the thanksgiving dinner, I noticed that one of the storage closets had what appeared to be a stairway above it, and the closet next to it was just a dummy door for looks, so my engineering curiosity was peaked so I went exploring with Elder Winn (and his keys) and found the stairs to the attic and found the mechanical room for the ward building. Places you don't really think about much in a church. 
 ​fun fact, did you know that just about every church property, the climate control is actually controlled remotely from Salt Lake City.
 ​service at the ward supported, food pantry.


 So it has become a tradition for us missionaries here in Prestonsburg, to come to Dewy Dam in Jenny Wiley State Park and stand on the top center of the dam and do our "Samuel the Lamanite"

 ​Elder Tonjes and I infront of the Prestonsburg Apartment...if you go way back to my first week in the mission, you will see nearly this same photo of Elder Tonjes and I back in Ravenswood on my first exchange, now seven months later. 
Saturday the night before Andrew's Baptism, we deep cleaned the Baptismal font.  
 Cleaning the Font...Elder Cluff Showing off his giraffe socks.
 Sunday, Baptism Day...in front of the font.
 ​Sister S & Andrew in front of the font, at the Martin Ward on his baptism day November 23rd, 2014
 Andrew with Sister S and her Son Kaden.
 Engagement photo...soon, maybe, we hope...these two are awesome by the way.


​Dressed in White...just before we entered the chapel.






After all was said and done, we departed the church with high spirits and a sense of "was that even real" and yes it was! this was the Baptism that this ward has been waiting for in years, down right incredible, and I and the rest of us here in Martin Kentucky are looking forward to the miracles that are sure to come next.




​Later on sunday night, Elder Cluff and I decided to host a missionary, sunday dinner...I cooked some Terriaki Chicken, with sticky rice and soup. we had a grand old time with all of us Martin Ward Missionaries...Elder Alley, Elder Buttars (notice he is holding the Thankful Pumpkin that I received in the mail from my family, it was our center piece) Elder and Sister Winn (our senior couple that live across the street from us)  and of course my dear companion and our mighty District Leader Elder cluff and myself.




​My family is so cool...I really wish I could have seen how this went at the post office, when you sent this mom.


Lunch, before the baptism...this ward pulls together, on the spot.


  The ward...you can see Elhanan, in the blue suit with the red tie, in the front center, and the B family down the row from him, Andrew across the way talking with President (stake) Lymn's wife, then of course there is Elder Cluff.

Our Ward Mission Leader, Brother Dingus



​The Welcome table, it's in the details...by the way, the majority of Andrew's guest's were less-active Jehovah's Witnesses (which is a huge deal, becuase JW's are not supposed to attend church services of other religions)...one said that they will be back and most of this stuff was gone by the end of the service.



That is all for this week
Love yins
-ART

Elder Wheeler

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014

What a week! 4 Investigators at church plus a Less active member...Elder Cluff and I could hardly keep up with them all! Luckily the ward really picked up and took these investigators with open arms and helped them around the church on Sunday, invited them to the upcoming ward activities (thanksgiving dinner) and answered their questions...we left church quite spent, being as spread thin as Elder Cluff and I were. Glory to God, it was an incredible week, with 7 member present lessons and now 4 progressing investigators (that is the most both Elder Cluff and I have had our entire missions) and with investigators set for baptism and conformation for the next three weeks!  Lets begin
Update on Andrew 
Andrew is Progressing strait for the great beyond in his celestial silver rocket! he is all set for Baptism this coming Sunday, his family and friends are coming in far and wide.  We taught him the last of the discussions yesterday and prepared him for his interview this coming Friday, he is going to blow our Zone Leaders away. Also his Girlfriend (member: sister S) is actually in UTAH at the moment, it was so weird to talk to her on the phone as we made arrangements for his baptism and she was in Provo 4 blocks from Heritage Halls on the BYU Campus. its a secret, but since she was in Utah (where desert book exists) she got him all set up with all the LDS Gear (scriptures case and all and a few other LDS essentials) to surprise him with, we are absolutely elated for this coming weekend. We also showed Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration with him and he bore a powerful new testimony and how he is so grateful for Heavenly Father putting Sister S in his life so that he could come to know the restored gospel and have his questions answered. The lord, surely has great works for this amazing man in his family and in the church...I would foresee him as a bishop or even stake president easily...but that's just me I imagine the lord knows exactly how and and where to use his incredible faith and testimony.
Update on Debra 
Debra is moving and is exercising a great faith as she is beginning to put aside her Protestant culture and is taking a leap of faith putting her trust entirely in the lords true church, which is a big deal! that means possibly losing her friends from her former church, but this in a lesson with her just yesterday, she said "I have felt a love and peace here with you all [at church] with you all that I don't feel at any other church" she is showing massive amounts of faith, but my goodness is she one tough broad she is facing a lot of resistance from her soon to be ex-husband and some members of her former church, but just as much as she puts us (elder Cluff and I) through the ringer with her questions, man she makes us work! Teaching her is spiritually and mentally exhausting at times but never faiths to be a testimony building lesson. she is still set and on course for baptism on November 30th. Not to mention that her two grandchildren who come to church with her both had parts and participated in the Primary Program which went off without a hitch.
I had a remarkable experience this week, we watched The Testaments of one Fold and One Shepherd with Debra this past week at the church and throughout the the film I felt the spirit radiating personally to me that the account of the events from the Book of Mormon portrayed in the film, especially when the savior came to the Americas in 3 Nephi Chapter 11, I was simply on cloud nine, and in the climax as we read that chapter in the book of Mormon that simply, and plain as the sun shines that the Book of Mormon is true more so than I have in my entire life, and now I can say more than ever that not only do I know that the book is true, but that for the first time I have truly fallen in love with The Book of Mormon, It's true Read it, the experience was nothing short of divine revelation, I also feel that this experience came because of bearing my testimony this week in both teaching and in response to an anti-article posted in the New York Times this week, and as we bear our testimony we strengthen in and now I can imagine going to another lesson and not reading from the Book of Mormon.
NEW - Eric and Julie...
We met them here at the library this week, they needed help jump starting their car, and they came in and asked the librarians if they had any jumper cables, because the first person's jumper cables that had offered to help them weren't working, The librarians immediately came upstairs (where we were getting ready to teach Debra) to seek us out, (librarians know us very well)  we went outside and jump-started their car with Sister Winn and we got to talking about who we were and they invited us over later that week...There we taught the restoration, and intregued they came for a church tour that night and came to church the next day! Please Keep these two in your prayers, they are elect and ready to progress, we are very excited to keep working with them.
As far as the C's go, they are still on our radar....
From the Blessed State of Kentucky...I love you all, we need your help to keep this success alive, please pray for us, these investigators and this ward. Your prayers truly are felt here.


 Lets start off...so being in Kentucky...we decided hey wouldn't it be cool if we had KFC in Kentucky...(*cough* even though KFC actually began in Utah *cough*) so we did...I figured both Grandpa King and Symphonie might enjoy these.
 ​Why yes I do KFC...in Kentucky
 ​Feasting...
Barbra (member) took us out for lunch at the Lodge in Jenny Wiley...for a state park this place is really nice....they call it a resort park for a reason and it is gorgeous...when I am in the park I feel like I am back in Utah.
 ​Lunch at the Lodge
 ​One for Mamajo...Jenny Wiley Quilt hung up in the lodge:)
 Over looking the lake from the main entrance at the Lodge.

 ​Jenny Wiley south entrance just around the bend from our apartment and the diamond attraction in our area.
This is at the Top of Varia Hill in Matin (where the church is about 8 miles south of Prestonsburg) this hill was excavated and built a few years back by the city, because of chronic flooding that accures in the city below, the only two places that are above the flood area are the Martin Ward building which you can see directly across the river bottom (look for the white spire)...but right as they finished work on excavating this space up here the city lost their funding for the project so now there is just a fire station and a big flat space up here..


​...so we were thinking and thought that there is a reason...that the only two places above the flood area are the ward building and Varia hill and mysteriously as soon as the city looses their funding to build anything up here so the space is preserved...for...well...we have work to do but it can happen...you can see this hill strait across from the church and the mountains in the back are spectacular...it is destined for a temple.

​...no comment

One day...it won't be Varia mountain...but The Mountain of the Lord

 ​Martin ward! 

Fun thing about Prestonsburg is it is a vacation city, the State park is open year round and has alot christmas visitors and lots of cabins, so it feels alot like utah, park city and out in the state park, like the cabin but more like sun-dance all very similar, and so just think that I am enjoying nature with you. athough the snow is humid and garbage in compairson to Utah snow...and dang...I have never expeirenced HUMID Cold...that Bites...but my big coat you sent keeps it off swimmingly. 

A little fire bending...


Tis the season for Egg Nog! the redneck wine glass was given to be as a gift before I left Parkersburg wv from Vicki and her sister Rita

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10, 2014

​Dearest All 

We are well on our way up to two baptisms this month, and we are teaching with the ward members 4 out of the 5 lessons we taught this week, this ward is how missionary work is meant to be done, through the members with missionaries assisting.  Below is a photograph of Elder Cluff and I with Andrew and Susan S. Andrew is quickly progressing toward baptism on November 23rd (instead of the 22nd only because he wants to be able to have more of his friends and family attend the baptism!) Andrew has truly been waiting for this his whole life for this and is determined not to let it go.  Sister S is a member and this is an example of how missionary work is ideally and most effectively going forth, she invited him to attended ward activities, and sharing her testimony bit by bit and eventually he came to church and and stake conference and then he inquired for the missionaries....I would invite each of you to look around in your life and find the person in your life that this can happen for.

We are continuing to teach The C Family, who run the best restaurant in town...they are elect and sincere investigators and even better we learned that Sister S and Karrie C know each other very well and used to work together, it was fun to teach a lesson in the C's home this week and have sister S come along and see them catch up etc. Brian C also invited us to teach him at his restaurant and he fed us dinner on the house with a reserved table and all! This is also my favorite Plan of Salvation teaching tool. I found it when cleaning out a closet in Parkersburg and have kept it on my person since.
so it is hard to tell but this is the West Court st. (Downtown Prestonsburg) in the background at the end of the street you can see Billy Ray's restaurant (the C's restaurant) and the shop that is on the left in front with all the colorful lights is called Foxy Fitness where they teach zumba (mom this reminded me of you so much,) the entire downtown area is quiet except the yells and shouts from the Zumba class going on...there was a good 80 people in the Zumba class, with black lights, and disco, color lights and lasers that were shining out of the windows and lighting up the buildings across the street. totally reminded me of all those nights at home of my mom having her Zumba classes upstairs. 
this photo does not do it justice, but these buildings were really covered in lasers and lights from the zumba class.
 The restaurant has been in the C's family since 1927 here in Prestonsburg...it is a prominent establishment that pretty much everyone in the town knows very well it is right at the end of the town's "main street". (west court st.)
I was rather surprised when I ordered the Double cheeseburger and discovered it was literally two whole sandwiches stacked on top of each other...they also cook a 5 pound hamburger called the big billy challenge.
 We love our Library here in Prestonsburg, #1 it is a brand new facility and really up-to-date and the staff are really supportive of us, and set us up with one of the study rooms (with a white board and big poster paper too) to use for lessons this is us teaching Debra (the woman in the blue) with the Winn's (the senior couple from Idaho, that we live across the street from)...notice what is in front of me!!! that's right! ipad! finally at last we have them! JK this one is the Winn's but we are able to use it when they come along...but it is official that the WVCM will receive ipads in January and February of 2015! Debra is also progressing right along for her baptism on November 30th.
  Then here is the funny one...for mom...Andrew is really tall...it is going to take both of us to baptize him. 
 
 ​us doing service in Elk horn park, which a lot of the ward members are affiliated with, it was a huge piece of land donated by Elk Horn Coal,  we are clearing some brush and trees for a look-out point at the top of one of the trails, we make big brush piles then burn them. this is Elder Buttars he is playing the part of our burnt offering today ;)


Prestonsburg High School, made the Playoffs so naturally the town was all at the game, so we joined in and we able to talk to and get to know some new faces, ​Prestonsburg won 28-7 it was a good night and alot of fun getting out with the community. Just to note every window in the town was decorated for the game, every office, restaurant, store etc. it was a lot of fun and was an interesting approach to missionary work but it worked we have a few new contacts because we went...better than tracting while everyone else was at the game. It also made me wish I had been a bit more involved in the games in high school, we got all into the spirit...not to mention with Elder Cluff it was like having my own personal sports commentator next to me. It was also very chilly. 



​We felt prompted to stop while we were driving at a house along the road, it was a great conversation we had with a man named Gary (well educated college professor agnostic) at one point the elders lived with them and he new a few of the strong members of the ward here and he invited us back to come fishing in his pond...(which we are taking him up and will talk more with him then) but as we walked up to his house, I noticed he had ducks but not just any ducks Muscovy Ducks, which I had as pets growing up, so it was the perfect conversation starter when we knocked on his door not to mention I was more than pleased to see my childhood pets. Love my ducks:)



 Lease I forget.... did I mention Kentucky is a super nice area!

this is me and Brabra (member) and she has purple hair like my mom.
 ​Every Sundy the M's have us over for lunch (a lunch that is more like a grand sunday dinner, reminds me of sunday dinner at home) but mentioned that I worked for Sundance and Sister M just about died...she is a huge Robbert Redford fan and she uses the Sundance Catalog...another peice of home far from home.