[I, Elder Thornton's dad, fell on the job of posting his missionary letters, so his last nine letters home are just now being posted. the following are the last four of the nine letters: July 23, 30, August 6, and 13.]
23 July 2012
Hey, we've had a very good week this week!
We've seen a lot of miracles, and the Lord has been blessing our finding efforts. We actually have a teaching pool now. We have an awesome Investigator who came to Church again on Sunday. He's such a nice guy, and he's very wise. He studies things out, and he does so with his conscience as his guide. We went and saw him the other day, and he was talking about what he'd learned from the Internet about Mormons... That is usually a problem, but he had no problem sorting through the anti and distinguishing the truth from the lies.
We do a movie night on Saturdays, where the missionaries in the district all meet at the Church with their investigators, and we all watch a Church movie together. It works really well, this time we watched Prophet of the Restoration, and Ward really liked it.
He said, "I've always thought prophets were only in the old testament, but the more I think about it, the more I see that it makes perfect sense that God could call one now if he wanted."
His wife is flying out to visit him in a couple of weeks, so we're trying to figure out what day to invite him to be baptized on. Normally I would invite people on the first lesson, but with Ward, I haven't felt prompted to do it yet. Maybe the Lord has something in mind in regards to Ward's wife coming up here soon. Either way, we're teaching the Plan of Salvation on Wednesday, so we'll put him on date then.
I'm really trying to Baptize weekly this transfer. So far we only have one, but the Lord is blessing us with fairly solid investigators, so hopefully we'll be albe to help them except the Gospel.
Everyone has their challenges, and I love how the Spirit can work through you when you're trying to help people. He is such a good teacher, I learn something new every time we teach together, lol. The hard part is staying in tune, and not allowing yourself to rely on your own knowledge too much. Building a reservoir of knowledge helps facilitate teaching with the Spirit, because then the Holy Ghost can "bring things to your remembrance," but it is easy to begin to rely on your own knowledge so much that you forget to listen to the still small voice.
I've had experiences where I've gotten really confident in my ability to apply the scriptures in lessons, and as a result I wasn't listening to the Spirit as much. I'd remember a scripture that applied to something, but as I tried to find it, I couldn't. I'd flip back and fourth through the pages, and then the impression would come, "remember whose investigators these are..." Then, I'd stop, say a little prayer in my heart, apologizing for getting a little cocky, and then I'd be able to find it and continue teaching. Missionary work is not done by the arm of flesh, it's done by the Spirit. If Heavenly Father wanted people to be convinced through intellect and reason, he wouldn't have called 19-year olds to be his messengers.
We met some really fun and interesting people this week. The first guy was a 91-year old WWII vet. He could barely open the door steadying himself on his walker so he could stand up, but he invited us in anyways. He sat us down on the couch, and immediately started telling us his story. Ha-ha, I love old people, they love to tell stories, especially WWII veterans. It was such a defining time in their lives I think. This guy had an awesome story.
He was in the Air Force, stationed in Nebraska. His wife was back in Pennsylvania, and she was about to have a baby, so the Air Force let him go home for a week to take care of his wife. When he got off the train, his wife was in labor. A week later, he got a telegram telling him to report for duty, and when he got there, they through him on a bus, and shipped him to New York. Once there, they put him on a boat, and shipped him to England, in preparation for what would become the D-day invasion of Normandy. Now, Normandy was divided up into three beaches. Utah and Omaha were attacked by the US Army, and the third one was invaded by the British. Omaha was the worst of the three. Well, this guy was put on a landing craft, headed right for Omaha beach with a bunch of Army infantry. Now being an Air Man, not infantry, all he was issued was an M1 carbine .30 caliber rifle. He was a mechanic, not a assault soldier, but somehow they misplaced him, and accidentally assigned him to the wrong unit: Big time! He had no clue what was going on, so he asked someone what they were supposed to do once they got to the beach, and they said run as fast as you can! So, that's what he did, as soon as the ramp hit the sand, he took off running, and I guess he was pretty fast, because he out ran all of the other soldiers. Bullets were whizzing around him, bombs were going off, but he kept running. He ran past a group of soldiers taking cover, and he kept going. Eventually he got to the top of a hill, and then upon looking down at the beach, realized that he was behind enemy lines... Heavy fighting was going on down on the beach, and everything was so chaotic that no German soldiers had noticed the little skinny soldier run right past them. He got so far back that he was actually standing behind a German general who was coordinating the artillery fire! He was walking on top of the German bunkers, trying to figure out what to do, he didn't have any grenades, so he couldn't drop them down into the bunkers, so he just kept moving. He didn't tell us if he took out the General or not, but the next day he linked up with the Rangers who scaled the cliffs at Utah beach, and finally got sent where he was supposed to be the whole time. The last thing he said was, "The news paper said no Air Men were on the beach... I was." And he shook his head.
I love people's stories, and I love veterans. Those guys are hero's.
We met a really funny old lady, who told us a crazy story about the sketchy park we go contacting in sometimes. She was jogging early one morning, because she's active, and a guy came up to her and tried to attack her. So, she pulled out her tazer and tazed him, lol. She showed us her tazer, it was like 50,000 volts or something... She was super funny. She invited us back, to share a message with her, so that will be cool. I love it here. Being a missionary is the greatest privilege there is.
I love you guys.
P.S. I'm out of time, so thank you everyone for the packages and letters. I got everything. Thank you so much.
30 July 2012
Hey, how is everyone doing? This week has been difficult, just because despite the teaching pool we've been blessed to find, many of our investigators are really sketchy when it comes to keeping commitments. But we keep working on it, and the key is to love people sincerely.
I was praying the other night, and I was really beating myself up, feeling very frustrated, discouraged, and worthless. Some of the members in the Ward here subliminally accuse us of being lazy through the comments that they make because the Sisters have an awesome teaching pool and have baptized weekly this month, and we have no investigators and have baptized just one person. I brought these feelings of inadequacy and self-pity to Heavenly Father, and He responded to me that feelings of discouragement, worthlessness, are stemmed from fear, which is the opposite of faith. He told me that if I wouldn't focus on my own weaknesses so much, and instead focus on how I can serve others, the devil wouldn't have as much opportunity to make such brutal emotional attacks. The Gospel isn't introverted, the Priesthood isn't introverted, the Atonement wasn't introverted. The devil tries to discourage us because discouragement is a selfish feeling, and keeps us from serving others. Basically, as he's told me before, it's not about me. If we fill our mind with thoughts of how to bless people, and seek their welfare, there won't be any space left for that little punk the lier of lies to make us feel bad about ourselves. To feel sorrow for other people is Christ like. To feel worthless is a lie from the devil. After all, we are God's children, how can we ever be worthless? It's not about us, it's about Christ. Losing ourselves in His work, is a sure way to find joy as a missionary, as a human being.
This chastisement was not what I expected in response to my prayer, but it was what I needed. After all, I'm a soldier of the Lord. Christ is my Captain, and where he sends me I will go, and what he tells me to do, I will do, for in him, and through him, the victory will be won.
I have a lot of fun being a missionary, I love finding people, I enjoy talking to people and teaching them about the gospel.
Yesterday I had a blast talking to a bunch of recently retired gang bangers from Compton about Jesus. It seems like all the guys that try and escape the violence down there, come up to bremerton. Lakewood and Tacoma have pretty active gang activity, but "B-town" isn't too bad. Anyway, they were sitting outside their house cooking burgers, so we walked up and started talking to them. They liked us, they were saying that everyone says Mormons are so bad, but they know we're cool, and they like that we go around and try and help people find God. They were saying that they are trying to find God because before, they only tried to have a relationship with him when they were in jail. We've been meeting with one of them, and he was telling his buddies, "you should here what these guys have to say, it's so good. They know whats up."
So while we were talking with them, everything was going really well, but because there was alcohol present, they almost got in a fist fight with each other. Fortunately, because we had been talking about the gospel, and the Spirit was there, the drunken angry one just left. One of them was a Jehovah's witness, and he was probably the nicest JW I've met. He said some really good things, I don't think he's active in that religion, but he was encouraging our investigator to "grow a pair," give up his sins, and start following Jesus. Ha-ha, he was telling our guy he should get baptized. It was so fun, these guys need help so bad, all of them are trying to change, they're trying to break away from their lives' circumstances; and the truth is, God sent us to them to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them so they could actually change for the better. What a blessing it is to be a missionary. Those guys would have never talked to us if we were there for any other reason. They can see we have something they want. They want Jesus, but they are afraid to let him down, and they don't know how to overcome their weaknesses.
If they would keep the commitments we leave with them, they would have so much joy; but it's up to them. We each have our agency. All my companion and I can do is testify and invite. But if we didn't follow the prompting to go, and we didn't open our mouths to talk, they would never have the opportunity.
I try to be a good missionary, the longer I've been out the more I've realized I don't know what I'm doing, but the Lord does.
I hope you have an awesome week, I love you guys.
06 August 2012
Hey, it seems like yesterday that all of you were going to Disneyland. That's because it was last August or September that you went. I remember well because I had just left the Missionary Training Center for Tacoma, Washington, lol. I hope you guys have a fun trip.
The weather has been really hot lately. Probably just because I've become accustomed to the regularly cool and dreary weather here, and now the sun is out. I'm glad I get to be in a pretty part of Washington for the summer though, because it's gorgeous when the sun is out. Bremeton is near the Olympic mountain range, and the Pugnet Sound runs through it.
Today, I got to take a tour of an Ohio class Submarine, the USS Kentucky. It was fun, really fun. I could never be on a sub though, this one was a big one, and it was still crowded and claustrophobic in there.
This week has been really challenging. I've been really worn out emotionally, and physically. It's so hard to get our people to Church and to get them to keep commitments. One of the guys we had on date just went to jail, because he didn't show up for his court date. I just don't want to leave this area without seeing more success. Joshua got the priesthood yesterday though, so that was cool. We do have some really good investigators the Lord has blessed us to find. One of them is a super good man; he's praying about the Book of Mormon, and he's been talking to his wife over skype about the things we've been teaching him. He asked his wife what she thought about getting sealed in the temple. So cool. The only problem is, we haven't seen him the last two Sundays. He goes to Church, and last Sunday we thought he just visited another ward some place, to compare them, but yesterday he did the same thing, so we don't know where he's going. We'll have to ask him, lol.
The devil doesn't let our investigators go without a fight. And I've been fighting discouragement so much lately it's ridiculous, but through a lot of mighty prayer and insights gained through personal study, I think I'm back to operating at full capacity. All we can do is stay diligent and positive.
Today, I was reading Mosiah 10:12-19, and I thought it was interesting that King Zenif took the time to tell his people why the Lamanities were coming against them. It's so important that we understand our enemy. He's not only our enemy, but he's also our enemy's enemy. Understanding that, helps us to understand that it isn't really about you or about them, it's about the Lord's work. All the opposition, discouragement, even the feelings of in-adequacy come from the same source: the enemy to God. He's the same who discourages people from changing for the better, makes them feel ashamed to show up in Church, and whispers lies in their ears about what will bring them satisfaction and happiness in this life. It all comes from the devil. And his purpose is to stop the Lord's work so that everyone will remain with him in utter misery.
As I was reminded by the Spirit today that the devil wants to see us frustrated; especially those of us that are anxiously engaged in furthering the Lord's kingdom. As much as he thrashes and rants though, he can't stop the work from progressing, he really can't. The Lord will fulfill all His words. He promised Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That has happened, it is happening, and it will continue to happen. The enemy can't stop it. What does that mean to us? I think Enos summed it up best, when he said,"And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie." The gospel is going forth. I just need to be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost and be where Heavenly Father needs me to be. I'm all about that.
The Lord is so good to me: he answers my prayers; he has been there to lift me up in my darkest times. It is amazing to me that even as his servant, even when all I want to do is serve him well, he still shed drops of blood for me, so that he could succor me in my trials and afflictions. How could I give anything but my best to the Master such as He? The greatest gift I've received as a missionary is a knowledge of the power of Christ's atonement. He is my Savior. I'm praying that President Weaver will let me stay another transfer, just to see things through. I would love that.
I hope everyone has an awesome week, I love you.
13 August 2012
Hey, how are things? The time for transfers has arrived once more. The claw (President Weaver) chooses who will go and who will stay. This time the claw got two for one! We're both leaving. The Manette area is becoming a Sisters only area. We're a little bummed, considering we've worked really hard to establish a teaching pool, and we have people on date and people to put on date for next transfer. We were projected to hit weekly, but this time we won't be the ones doing the harvesting.
It's okay. I feel like I fulfilled my purpose. I found a lot of really sweet people who will have the opportunity to be baptized. I helped to solidify some of the Sister's investigators, and Joshua now holds the Aaronic priesthood. As difficult as last transfer was, it was a huge blessing, and I'm grateful for all the experiences I had. I got to spend time serving Jesus Christ.
I'm not going very far though. I'm actually just getting kicked across the Sound. I'm going to be serving in West Bremerton! I'm actually super stoked. Mostly, because I don't have to share tracting spots anymore. I'm going to be the new Bremerton Zone Leader/Manette District Leader... ha-ha it's weird, but It'll be really fun. I love being a District Leader. I like having to put together trainings, and meeting every one's baptismal candidates during the interviews, it's great. It's been a growing opportunity for me. This is the best part though, my new companion is Elder Grachev, from Moscow, Russia. He's super tight, he was my Zone Leader when I was a greenie serving in Port Townsend. I'll actually be serving in a foursome; we also have Elder Peck and Elder Jones, who are our "boys." I'm stoked. President is going to let me participate in lessons with the investigators I have to turn over to the Sister, which will be good, because our investigators really like us. We get attached to them, and surprisingly, they get attached to us, lol.
President Weaver always says, "when you're a missionary, people love you and respect you more than you deserve."
So last Monday we went to a member dinner with a Samoan family. They were really sweet. They had us and the Sisters over. For dinner, we ate an interesting slimy noodle dish, a really good but weird looking potato thing, and fried fish. This wasn't just any fish though, this fish had a face. In fact, it had a whole head! We were sitting at the table. The family was super nice and hospitable, and they invited us to dig in. So, to show our appreciation, we started putting everything on our plate. The fish were cut in half, so some of them were the tail portion, and some the head portion. I was trying to avoid the fish, but one of them was staring at me... I tried to point it out to Sister V, and guess what she did -- she grabbed it and threw it on my plate. So, I ate it. I ate the fish head. Yum. The funny thing is, Elder Elder ate the fish, scales and all. He ate two of them.
That's about all that has happened this week. It has been fun. Summer here is really pretty. Oh, the best part about summer here in Washington is that black berries grow like dandelions here. Seriously, anywhere you go, you can pick fresh black berries. We eat them while we tract, it's the coolest thing ever. It's the only time that tracting is successful regardless of whether or not you find someone, lol.
The Ward didn't say anything when they found out we were leaving, only two people said bye to me after sacrament meeting. When they found out they were getting Spanish Elders instead, one lady was like, "finally, I love the Spanish Elders. I'm so glad they're coming back.".... I tired my best.
I hope you have an awesome week, I love you guys.