[I, Elder Thornton's dad, fell down on the job posting his letters onto the blog; the following are the first five of the nine letters now posted. Sorry for the delay.]
18 June 2012
How is everyone doing? This week has been kind of tough. A lot of the work we've been doing has been falling through. But, we keep working, and I know the Lord will bless us with opportunities to serve him. There is alot of work to be done here.
I think I told you about our buddy Patrick, the super awesome member who does missionary work with us? Well he's had a very difficult week. He's preparing to serve a mission, and he's just waiting to have his final interviews. Last week, I felt impressed to warn him that the adversary was going to fight him really hard to try and keep him from going on a mission. I told him that the adversary knew the good he would be able to accomplish as a missionary, and would try to stop him at all costs... That warning came true this week when his mother had a seizure that caused her to hit her head which caused cerebral hemorrhaging. She also suffered a minor stroke. Patrick has been taking the ferry to and from Seattle to visit his mom, and as if that wasn't adversity enough, Sunday night, as he was walking home from the ferry, he got jumped by two thugs. He was just walking, and he said they came out of no where and started punching him in the face and head. He didn't know what to do, it was dark, so he couldn't see anything, but he commanded them in the name of Jesus to leave, and they ran off. He then ran to our house, and beat on our door until we woke up. It was like 12:40am. Poor kid was bleeding out of his nose, and he had a really bad split lip that required stitches. I felt so bad for him.
The war we are fighting out here is a war for souls. The devil fights hard, and he fights dirty. He will do anything he can to stop us from shaking his kingdom. Patrick is discouraged, but I think he's doing better now, and he's regained some of his spunk. I read Alma 48:17,19 to him, my favorite scripture. From the Book of Mormon we learn that Captain Moroni shook hell. Satan had no power over him, and it's very obvious from the scriptures that the devil didn't like that, from all the wicked men he inspired to try and destroy him. In verse 19 we learn that Helaman and his brethren, the missionaries, were no less serviceable than Moroni was. They were also shaking hell. Missionaries continue this shaking of the devil's kingdom, and I know from personal experience he doesn't like that. He wages a very personalized war against each one of us, and if he can catch us before our mission, before we have the increased protection and power from the Holy Ghost, he wins a very sinister victory.
None the less, I really like serving here. But we've got to do something more here: We knock on people's doors all day and follow up with potentials, but we get so very few commitments. I love tracting, but there is a more effective way to do things, and I really want to explore other finding options. I'm still gonna knock though, because I've found a lot of sweet people that way. We should have a couple of baptisms this weekend. I'm stoked. Some of our investigators, including one of the ones getting baptized doesn't speak English, lol. I really wish I could teach him, but I can't. So instead I make the visuals and object lessons, lol. I made a really cool spanglish Plan of Salvation the other day, it was legit. People have said I have really good Spanish pronunciation though... for the hand full of words and phrases I know. It's fun, I really like being a missionary. I really really want to be a good one.
That's about all that's new for me, Summer is supposed to start in a couple weeks... Seriously, St. George is gonna knock me out when I go home: tons of Sun, no rain, heat, and no trees! Environmental shock!
I hope you guys have a good week; I love you.
25 June 2012
Hey, whats up? This week has been challenging for the whole district. The sister missionaries had both of their investigators get "antied" and fall off date for baptism, we've been struggling at finding new people and getting appointments to stick, and the Zone Leaders' baptism didn't go through. Personally, as a missionary I've been at my highest, and I've been at my lowest. I've never felt such joy, and I've also never felt so discouraged and depressed.
My last area and this one before I arrived were well performing areas in which many people were found, taught, and baptized. But since I arrived the work has tanked. I don't know what the problem is, I work hard, I'm obedient, I try to be enthusiastic and pumped about the work, but things don't seem to work out. These feelings of inadequacy have been weighing on me more and more. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was pretty beat. I try not to get down, because I know the source of these feelings comes from the devil, and he gets a kick out of my misery. I don't want to give him anything to smile about. But I've been fighting these feelings for a while, and they were really beginning to take their toll.
I love Sundays because I get to take the Sacrament. During the whole sacrament song, I was praying to Heavenly Father, apologizing for my failures and inadequacies, asking for power through the atonement of Christ to overcome my weaknesses, and asking for forgiveness for all my faults. As I took the sacrament, I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. And I heard a voice in my mind say, "Michael, it's okay. You are my friend."
What a wonderful gift the gospel of Jesus Christ is in our lives. We have a knowledge of the love our Savior has for us, and we have the Holy Ghost to bring that love to our hearts. I feel better know, I know the gospel is true. Taking the sacrament is like getting baptized again, because the Holy Ghost renews and sanctifies us. What a gift. The gospel gift, or these glad tidings, is what I'm here to share. My message is that Christ is risen, he overcame the world. He has provided us with a guaranteed plan of happiness.
My desire is to please my Heavenly Father. I want to serve him well. The adversary uses this desire I have to try and make me feel guilty, inadequate, and worthless. We all feel like this at times. Don't. Those feelings don't come from God. Don't give the enemy of happiness the time of day. Christ is our Savior, he loves us. He wants us to know him. I know that there is nothing better than getting to know our Savior, Jesus Christ. It should be everyone's highest priority, because in the end nothing else matters.
Being a missionary is awesome. We meet all kinds of cool people. I read this one guy Helaman 5:12, and he liked it so much, he said he wanted to get it tattooed on his side, lol. People are great, and deep down inside, they are all looking for Christ. Many of them just don't know where to find him, or that they were even looking. This is week six, the last couple weeks have been ones of broken swords, and shattered shields! Days in which scattered, beaten, and famished, we've pulled ourselves off the field to partake of a meager meal, and think upon the morrow with faint hearts. We can't look upon the morrow with discouragement clouding our eyes! We are the Lord's soldiers, the battle is already won! The only battle that isn't is the one with in our hearts! We must be valiant, we must stand fast in the liberty where by God has made us free! We must cry unto the Lord, turn ourselves about, and plow into the enemy with one accord! Let's be strong and of good courage, for our Lord, Jesus the Christ, is with us.
I love you guys; I hope you have a good week.
02 July 2012
Hey, it's me again... It sounds like every on has had a good week. I got the package from Amber and Brad, and I got the card from Mom and Dad. I got them on like Tuesday and Wednesday, so I couldn't write until today. Thanks so much.
This week was interesting, it was week six, so I think Elder Lopez was a little transfer trunky, but we still made some pretty good progress. We got our transfer calls on Saturday. Elder Lopez is going back to speaking Spanish, and he's being transferred to Aberdeen, which will be a feat for him. I'm going to be staying here as the District Leader, and my new companion is going to be Elder Elder. Ha-ha! I'm way stoked about that. He too is a really good Elder: obedient and hard working. We are gonna have a sweet transfer.
A nine year old boy named Jarridan was baptized this week. He is such a nice kid, very polite, respectful, and he made the decision to be baptized all on his own. A good example for his parents who have been less active members.
Our investigator who lives in a halfway house is progressing, I really like him. We found him while tracting. It was cool. We were done tracting for the day, walking down the street when I felt prompted to knock on a random house. He answered the door, came to the church with us, and has been meeting with us ever since. He is going to be baptized next week. He lives in a halfway house because he's on probation, and because he's on probation he had to have a special interview from President Weaver. President Weaver said he was fine to be baptized. He is very humble; he's repentant. He wants to change his life.
What a blessing it is to go out and find these people. Heavenly Father loves them so much, and it is an honor to be able to find them, teach them, and baptize them. I'm really excited for this young man.
We found a less active family with two UBCs yesterday, so we're really excited about that, and I'm setting the goal to find, teach, and baptize six people next transfer. It's gonna happen. Culture night was really fun on Saturday, tons of people showed up, and the Sisters did an awesome job setting everything up. People brought all sorts of different food from their countries, and one person brought fried grass hoppers seasoned with chili powder. I ate like five of them, lol. Ha-ha. They weren't bad. They tasted like spicy burnt popcorn. I had to eat them, because up until now, the weirdest thing I have eaten was a boiled peanut. The boiled peanut was way worse, lol. Those are disgusting.
I've been enjoying my personal scripture studies lately. I'm at 3 Nephi now. Helaman is such a good book. I've really been studying the principle of faith lately. We know that Faith is something hoped for, which is not seen, but is true. True is the key word. If faith is in anything that isn't true, it isn't faith, but simply a vain hope. The only person that was always true was Jesus Christ. Therefore, faith has to be in Jesus Christ, and his atonement. The Atonement of Christ brings salvation to us, thus fulfilling God's purpose to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. So, if we are to exercise faith, it has to be in the power of Christ's atonement in fulfilling God's eternal purposes. No matter how strong our hope is, if it goes against God's purposes, it isn't faith. In the book of Helaman, Nephi was given great power from God because he wouldn't do anything contrary to God's will. Another example of this is found when Alma and Amulek were forced to watch the martyrdom of the righteous people in the city of Ammonihah. Amulek desired to save the people from the flames, but the spirit told them they couldn't. God's purposes would be fulfilled. If we are to learn to exercise great faith, and have the power to do mighty miracles, we must first learn to align our will with God's will. Then, with faith that God has all power to fulfill his words and his purposes, we will be able to be powerful servants in his hands. Miracles are the direct result from applying true principles. We develop faith in God's power to fulfill his purposes by living the Gospel, experiencing the power of the Atonement in our lives, and keeping the commandments. There is nothing better than developing a relationship with Christ, and their is nothing that brings more joy then feeling the atonement work in your life. It is after all, "the glad tidings of great joy," spoken of by angles, prophets, apostles, and young little missionaries.
I love all of you, and I hope you have an awesome week.
09 July 2012
Hey, how is everybody doing? Good, good, glad to hear it...
Let me tell you a story... (That's what President Weaver always says, lol. He loves to tell stories.)
Our young investigator who lives in a halfway house was baptized on Sunday! I am so excited for him, he is such a good kid. He is very solid, very humble, and very repentant. I believe I needed to come here when I did, so I could have a part in finding and teaching him. The Lord blessed me with this opportunity to serve him, and with the great privilege of teaching one of his children. Now we need to help him find a place to live. He'll have to leave his place on the 16th, and he has no other place to go other than the streets. Some of the members have empty studio apartments, so we're working on getting him into one of those. Please pray for him, the poor guy is trying so hard to change his life.
We don't have a progressing teaching pool. Finding more investigators has been really tough. We tract for more than four hours a day, and we invite everyone. It's frustrating, because we share an area with sister missionaries, and they have tons of people to work with. All the referrals go to them, and we have to share our tracting spots. I really like them: they're good Sister missionaries, but I don't really like sharing the tracting area. Especially when we are struggling so much. It has been hard to get the support from the members also. The Sister missionaries have been here tracting for nearly six months and the members are more familiar with them. They know everyone. They get fed all the time, while we might get fed once a week. The sisters share with us though, so thats nice. Ha-ha it's kind of crazy. I have five sisters in my District. They can be a bit of a handful sometimes, lol. They're all really good Sisters though, I love my District this transfer. When we have District meeting, it looks more like a college ward FHE group than a District, lol. Things are starting to come together though, and Elder Elder is a great companion. He works really hard, he wants to be obedient, and he's easy to get along with. What more could you ask for, right?
Brother Patrick is doing better, he's got his mission papers in now, so he should be getting a call soon. I'm excited for him.
Our 4th of July was really fun, our neighbors all did fireworks, so we got to watch the show from our balcony. President and Sister Weaver put together a mission picnic for everyone during the day, and that was really fun. Afterwards, we had a really nice devotional, in which we sang patriotic songs, listened to a talk from an LDS soldier that I knew from Fort Lewis, and then President and Sister Weaver "coined us." In the military, if you like someone, or want to reward someone, you give them a coin. (Basically it means you'll buy them a beer next time you see them.) The Weaver's bought a bunch of Washington, 2012, commemorative quarters, and gave each of us one as a gift for a job well done the month of June. Our mission baptized 99 people in June. The Weavers are really nice, they are very sweet people, and I like them a lot.
Not much else has happened this week. I'm working hard, I'm fighting discouragement, and I'm trying to be the best I can be. I'm going to do everything I can to reach my goals this transfer. I hope you have a great week. I love you all.
16 July 2012
This week has been really great! We witnessed a couple really sweet miracles. However, as has been the pattern of my mission, miracles have almost always been preceded by difficulties.
Earlier in the week we were out contacting, and we got "antied" hard core for like 45 minutes by a guy who wouldn't quit. He acted like the devil himself. Pretending to be interested, he talked to us for about fifteen minites asking us questions about the Church and about our beliefs. And then he began to try to ensnare us with his questions while still pretending he was interested. We sensed the change in his motives, but we continued to answer his questions anyway. Then he admitted, "I haven't been completely honest with you, I'm actually a professor of theology...," and so on he went. He proceeded to tear into us, trying to destroy our faith in continued revelation and the restored gospel. The guy was like a combination of Sherem and Korihor from the Book of Mormon. It was very frustrating, and a little bit demoralizing; especially because he lied to us and pretended to be interested. We have been trying so hard to find people to share the gospel with. Here's the thing though, I wish people would take a step back and look at themselves. If he truly thinks his cause is just, and that he needs to convince the Mormons of the error of their ways, he's going about it totally the wrong way. He acted like the devil, deceiving, belittling, finagling, and seeking to destroy our faith. When did Christ ever act that way with people? Besides, his logic and interpretation of the scriptures were un-inspired, and his intentions were malicious. He was allowing himself to be used by the adversary as a stumbling block in the path of the Lord's servants. He's got himself convinced that he's right, and we're evil. I feel bad for him. Oh well, that was a discouraging way to start off the week, but we continued to press on, we continued to work, and the Lord blessed us.
On Thursday, we were tracting, and I felt inspired to tract in a specific area. We went there, but we weren't finding anyone. We finished the area but still hadn't found a single potential investigator. As we were leaving the area, and I was trying to figure out why I felt so strongly we needed to be there, a van pulled up to the last house on the corner, and a man got out. I called out to him, "Hey would you like to check out our Church?"
He was like, "Yeah! My buddy gave me a Book of Mormon right before I came out here, and I've been wanting to come check out your Church!"
Long story short, we set up a Church tour for the next day. He came. He felt the spirit. We taught him about the restoration, and then he came to church on Sunday. It was super cool. In one of the hallways in the church there hangs pictures of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. After teaching him in the Chapel about the Restoration, I felt inspired take him into the hallway and show him their pictures. He studied them for a second, and then with his hand he covered up each of their faces, all but their eyes.
Then he said, "These are good men, look at their eyes, these are the eyes of someone who knows Christ."
So cool. He's 47, and he's a contractor for the Department of Defense (DOD). He's a very smart, open minded, and spiritual man. The Lord led us to him. What a blessing.
Earlier that day, I was driving to a new tracting spot, and I felt inspired to swing by the house of one of our "ninja" investigators. (A ninja investigator is someone you find one day, and then they disappear for a while.) I drove by slowly, and saw him sitting on his front porch. I stopped the car, and hopped out, but before I could say anything, he called out to me, and asked if he could come over to church with us to check it out, (that doesn't happen). Of course we took him, and we had a very good Church tour. I sat in the chapel with him, and taught him about the Spirit, and the Sacrament. We talked for a while, and then we went and showed him the baptismal font. We taught him about authority, showed him a picture of John the Baptist, and then we showed him the font. I taught him that the reason the font is level with the ground is because it represents the death and resurrection of Christ. That as we go under the water, our past life, is being left behind, and when we come up out of the water we come up clean like a brand new person. A person who is committed to follow Christ.
He listened intently, and then he started to cry. He said, "That's what I want, that's what I need."
We invited him to be baptized on the 28th, and he accepted. These are just examples of the many miracles that occur everyday all over the world. Christ leads this church, the Gospel is his. He leads missionaries to the people he's preparing to hear the gospel, so that they can enjoy his blessings. This work is a huge privilege. I love being a missionary. Joshua got confirmed on Sunday, and now he's going to prospective elders quorum. It's so exciting. The gospel changes people's lives. It gives them a chance, it gives them hope, it is the only thing that can truly help people no matter their circumstance.
I would like to ask each of you for a favor. Treat the missionaries in your home ward the way you would treat me. We are tired of people thinking we are less valiant than the missionaries called to serve in Uganda or other exotic parts of the world because we're just serving in their home ward. The missionaries that serve in your wards, are there because people like Ward and Marvin, are waiting to be found so they can have the gospel. The missionaries need help finding those people. Plus, we get abuse from so many: people flip us off, people threaten us, people ignore us, people cuss at us, and some people try to kill us. When you see your missionaries, remember that they could have just had the worst day they've ever had. They need encouragement, they need support, and they need to fulfill their purpose. It's the only thing that will make it all worth it.
I love you guys, I love being here. I'm the happiest person alive when I'm able to fulfill my purpose, and bring people unto Christ. Have an awesome week.