N's email 8/31/2015

area: Jennings Branch (Welsh, Louisiana)
zone: Orange
companion: Elder Hobbs

I love being a missionary so much!

I have a few events that have happened recently and then I'll share some scriptures I found this morning.

First Event: We are teaching a less active deaf Thai man named Nae, so I'm learning sign language! I'm picking it up pretty fast. This is sweet! I thought I'd been called on an English mission but so far I've learned Texan, Cajun, and now sign language.

Second Event: We are teaching someone who lives in our apartment building who moved to the United States from Russia this summer. He speaks pretty good English, enough to carry a conversation. He's been so prepared though! And he's only 22 so we can relate to him a little bit.

Third Event: We had Stake Conference (Sunday services are combined with 7-12 local LDS congregations) and a general authority from the 6th quorum of seventy (people who help the 12 Apostles fulfill their calling) from Arizona came and spoke. President and Sister Drake also spoke. Half of the conference was about Missionary work and the other half was about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. It was great! I'm so excited to be a missionary in this area at this time!

Fourth Event: A very drunk Mexican, very nice, just drunk, made fun of me for balding... I was tempted to curse him and watch bears (or panthers since they actually exist down here) tear him apart.

2 Kings 2:23-24
Scripture: I read some awesome scriptures in the Book of Mormon Helaman this morning! Helaman 4 talks about some wars and the Nephites lose a lot of cities but gain some back, then in verse 19 it says that it is "impossible" for them to gain the rest of the cities because of how large the Lamanite army is. Then in chapter 5:51-52 it talks about the Nephites getting all of their cities back. How did the impossible become possible? The missionary work of Nephi and Lehi converted many Lamanites and the Lamanites gave, for free, the cities back to the Nephites. I love being a missionary!

I love all of you. But I love Jesus Christ more. And this is where He wants me. So this is where I want to be.

N's email on 8/24/2015

area: Jennings Branch (Welsh, Louisiana)
zone: Orange
companion: Elder Hobbs

I really loved this week!

My eyes were really opened and many of my prayers answered on Saturday. Elder Corbirdge from the first quorum of seventy came and spoke to all the missionaries in T.H.E. Mission. When he was a mission president he gave a talk titled "The Fourth Missionary" and it's so good. He talked mostly about teaching simply and for understanding. I really needed to learn about that! We also had a leadership meeting afterwards and he talked about how his hope/vision/goal for all missionaries is that when he asks, "Why should someone be baptized into our church?" he’ll get the response, "For the remission of sins." Every time.

We were supposed to go to the Houston Temple on Wednesday, but we couldn't find a ride. This branch is really small and all the men were busy and we're not allowed to ride in cars without a male over 16. I was a bit disappointed when we couldn't find a ride, but I have faith that we were where the Lord wanted us to be.

This last District Meeting was among my favorites from my whole mission. We concentrated on diligence. I think I'm the one who needed to work on this the most out of my entire district but I know that Elder Heaps, Elder Rosenlund, and Elder Hobbs can all improve on it as well. I found a quote by Elder Ballard from this most recent ensign saying how we are at war with the adversary and his followers. We came to the conclusion that as missionaries we are behind enemy lines in this war. And we also came to the conclusion (after reading some verses from the war chapters in Alma) that if we are not diligent or anxiously engaged, then we will die and our mission will not be completed. The Spirit was really strong and I think that we all felt motivated, I know I did.

I've definitely seen improvement in Elder Hobbs and I since that district meeting and the mission conference. We had an awesome day yesterday.

We also discovered a letter about missionary work called "The Ricciardi Letter" and that really got me pumped up.

I love being a missionary!
I love all of you. But I love Jesus Christ more. And this is where He wants me. So this is where I want to be.

N's email 8/17/2015

area: Jennings Branch (Welsh, Louisiana)
zone: Orange
companion: Elder Hobbs

I love Elder Hobbs, and the other elders in my district, Elder Heaps and Elder Rosenlund. We have had quite a few miracles this week! I like to ask Elder Hobbs right before we go to sleep what miracles he saw that day, and he always reminds me of one of the miraculous experiences we had. He asked me once and I said, "of course I did, I saw a Book of Mormon." He questioned my reasoning and I informed him that the Book of Mormon is a miracle because there is no way to explain it's existence besides there being a God who helped Joseph Smith. Therefore each time you see a Book of Mormon you see a miracle. He liked that.

But one of the miraculous experiences happened on Friday. We had scheduled to meet an investigator who lives in Elton (20 miles away) at the Jennings McDonald's. We got there at the right time, but on our way from the car to the building we heard, "Elders! Missionaries!" and we turned to see a family we didn't recognize as members of the Jennings Branch. We went over and through our conversation we learned that at least one of them was a member. They have some rare hereditary illnesses which need very high tech hospitals, but bad air quality causes their symptoms to get way worse. So they've been travelling the country looking for a good enough hospital in a location that has high quality air. They couldn't find one because all the good hospitals are in the middle of cities. But they ended up being from my home stake and we had a lot of similar friends. They asked me about places around Houston and I told them about Kingwood and they got really excited. (Our investigator we were supposed to meet there ended up forgetting about our appointment, so it was ok that we talked to that family for as long as we did, and we rescheduled with our investigator.) Right before the family left they told us, "We had been praying for comfort and peace and direction and help in general and as soon as we said 'Amen' and opened our eyes, there you were! You were our answer to prayer! You were a miracle today!"

I love being a missionary so much! The work is really picking up around here. We have quite a few investigators now: family of 3 - Ava, Cade, and Adrian; Milton is the one who was supposed to meet us at McDonald's; Brandon; Susan; Burnie; and others. We are also going through and trying to see every member on the branch list. That has offered some fun experiences.

Again, I love being a missionary!

I love all of you. But I love Jesus Christ more. And this is where He wants me. So this is where I want to be.

from N’s letter to his younger cousins, answering their questions:

*Yes, we do ride bikes and occasionally get chased by dogs.

*Yes, "y'all" is in the common vocabulary down here.

*No, Texans aren't incredibly good Bar-B-Q-ers. Actually hardly anyone down here has a Bar-B-Q at all. They all have smokers. GIANT smokers. They smoke everything! Hamburger patties, steaks, ribs, chicken, krawfish (similar to krawdads), shishcabobs, sausage, cookies, pizza... you name it they smoke it (not like cigarette smoke, but cook smoke)

*Yes, in the South most people have a car that's worth 5 times as much as their house/apartment/shed in the middle of the forest.

*Yes, there are weird animals. There's these weird chicken things. There's alligators. Snapping turtles (that get about 3 feet high and live up to 300 years!).

*Yes, missions are the best!

*Yes, being a missionary is the best.

*Yes, missions are hard. Here in Texas/Louisiana it's not the physical aspect that causes the exhaustion as much as it is in a 3rd world country or somewhere you'd bike or walk all the time. But the spiritual, mental, emotional is exhausting. It is hard work. But I've definitely gained a testimony that it you sow bountifully, you'll reap bountifully. So if you put "all your heart, might, mind, and strength" into a mission then you will receive more perfect charity, work ethic, intelligence, and a greater portion of the Holy Ghost.

*I love being a missionary!

and a snippet from N’s letter to Jacob:

So, we just got to the church after holding baby alligators for awhile. 
They also had some 4 foot alligators in a pond. Super sweet! And they also had a 50 year old alligator snapping turtle there. The alligators were SO cute! They looked like little versions of the raptors on Jurassic Park. They hold super still, even when you’re holding them, unless you move their tail into a curve, then they start moving. They can move SO fast! They whip their head around and use that momentum (cuz they have really large heads) to move the rest of their body around while their feet are running. They look really funny when they do it while you’re holding them around their belly.

N's email 8/10/2015

area: Jennings Branch (Welsh, Louisiana)
zone: Orange
companion: Elder Hobbs

So Wednesday makes 9 months... That's weird to think about... really weird. Time is going way too quick! The thought of 2 years almost terrified me the month before I left, but now 2 years doesn't quite seem long enough, not when 9 months feels like a day. Oh well, time is one of those things that I can't control.

This week has been full of "once in a mission" opportunities. We went to the Baton Rouge Temple on Saturday with a recent convert, Sister Miller. It was a total of 3 hours of driving both ways and her non-member husband drove and most of that time we got to talk about how the church is organized. They both love the Church, he's just too busy with his job to learn and begin practicing right now. But anyway, Sister Miller brought 14 family names that we helped her find, and there was a youth group there who did the ordinances for them while we watched. It was so spiritual! That was the first time I've ever been east of the Mississippi River, it's big by the way. Anyway, when we came out of the temple, Brother Miller had been waiting in the visitor's room and while sitting there he got to meet the Temple President (the man in charge of that specific temple) and as we walked around the outside, Brother Miller said, "He was a very kind and gentle, yet confident. You could just tell he was high up, as well as those other men who were with him (temple sealers - the men who officiate the weddings in the temple). He was just glowing!" On the way home they took us out to eat and bought us steaks, really good steaks! One of the best experiences of my mission!

On Sunday the Houston Temple President came to the Jennings Branch and taught us about the Plan of Salvation and quite a bit about Adam and Eve. Then he opened it up to questions and answers.

We also taught the young men yesterday and we shared a video titled "Act for Themselves" from the Book of Mormon video resources collection. Best video ever about agency! I love teaching the young men! I hope I get the calling of Assistant Priest Adviser (kind of like an assistant youth minister for the 16 to 18 year old boys) when I get home, and stay there for the rest of my life!

I love my “son,” even though he's from Utah. I'll forgive him eventually for being a Utant (pronounced the same as “mutant” but without the “m”). He really prepared himself before he came out as far as the spiritual stuff goes. He just graduated high school in May so he's only 18 years old.

New Favorite Quote: "Now we are here. Our memories are veiled. We are showing God and ourselves what we can do. Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side, than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us." - President Ezra Taft Benson, 13th prophet of God in this last dispensation (a period of time when the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is on the Earth, including the entirety of both the Priesthood Authority and the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation).

I love all of you! But I love the Lord more And this is where He wants me. So this is where I want to be.

Oh, and some of the weird foods I've had are: gumbo, jambalaya, frog legs, raw sugar cane from the side of the road, wild duck, boudin (Cajun sausage), ox tail, and I've been offered squirrel.

N's email 8/4/2015

area: Jennings Branch (Welsh, Louisiana)
zone: Orange
companion: Elder Hobbs (a second Elder Hobbs)

Jambalaya is officially my new favorite food! SO GOOD!

Anyway, this week was great. We were able to get a lot done even though Elder Kohler was being transferred and both of us becoming trainers. (Elder Kohler went to Broadway 1 South, it's covers part of my Broadway 1 West area. I'm so happy for him! Going from growing up in the country and spending the first 6 months of his mission in country and now going to downtown Houston! He's so lucky!)

On Monday we got the Area Book Planner App and we're still trying to figure out how to use it. It does make keeping track of people a lot easier but we have to enter in all the information ourselves and that's going to take a few months.

Wednesday I got the chance to interview Tyson (one of Crowley's investigators) for his baptism. He's only 16 but he really believes it and the other youth supported him a lot. On Saturday he was baptized and he looked so happy! He's usually a very calm kid, and he was on Saturday, but he just seemed to smile a little more and more sincerely than he did before.

Yesterday we went to Transfer Meeting, and we got permission to go by the Crofts (family in Kingwood 2 Ward) to get haircuts! I was so excited to see them again! Then we went over to the church in Kingwood and all of my old companions, except Elder Six who is home, were in the meeting for trainers! I've had such good companions during my mission and that's such proof of that. My new companion (who is also my "son" because I'm training him) is Elder Hobbs. Yes, I've had a companion named Elder Hobbs before, this is a different one. He's super awesome even though he's from Utah... I also met a new missionary at transfers from Nephi, Utah who knows Todd and Kristy! (uncle and aunt)

I love being a missionary! It really is the best thing in the world! I love the excitement that Elder Hobbs has to be a missionary.

Story Time:
A long, long time ago, before we lived here on Earth, we lived with our Heavenly Father as spirits. He loved us so He created a plan to allow us to become like Him (Roman 8:16-18). Part of this plan was to come to Earth to gain a physical body to house our spirits like Heavenly Father has (D&C 130:22). All of Heavenly Father's spirit children had the choice to accept or reject this plan. For those who rejected it, they lost their chance for progression and will remain as spirit bodies for eternity. But for those who accepted it, they got to come to Earth, essentially, all of us.

In this life we gain a physical body, we learn faith, and we do our best to seek out God's commandments and live by them. When we die, our physical bodies and our spirits separate; our body returns to dust, while our spirits go to the Spirit World.

Those who gained faith and lived accordingly go to a state called paradise (Alma 40:12 & Luke 23:43). Those who did not have faith and did not act accordingly go to a place called prison (Alma 40:13). Many of those is Spirit Prison never got the chance to learn about Jesus Christ here on Earth, so they will be taught and have the opportunity to accept it there (1 Peter 3:18-20). But all these spirits are left with a problem, they do not have a physical body like they once had and like our Father has.

But because Jesus Christ performed the Atonement, through His Resurrection, so too will all people who once had a body be resurrected. And because Jesus Christ suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, we are able to be forgiven and overcome our past sins. After every spirit child of God has had a chance to live on Earth there will be a final judgement.

At this time we will be resurrected with a perfect physical body and be placed in a Degree of Glory; the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:40) The Celestial Kingdom is for those who were baptized and lived according to the promises made in that sacred ordinance. The Terrestrial Kingdom is for those who were not valiant in their testimonies of Jesus Christ but still lived good lives (D&C 76:78-79). The Telestial Kingdom is for the wicked people. There is also a place known as Outer Darkness for Satan and his followers.

Let us all choose to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ, learn what it means to be valiant in that testimony and live accordingly! The promise of doing so is more joy than we can find anywhere else.

I love all of you! But I love Jesus Christ more. And this is where He wants me. So this is where I want to be.

N's pictures from Transfer #6 - Jennings / Kohler - 6/23/2015 to 8/4/2015

area: Jennings Branch, Orange Texas Stake (Welsh, Louisiana)
zone: Orange
companion: Elder Kohler

entering THE Mission 6/22/2015

leaving THE Mission 6/24/2015

Elder Kohler and Elder Combrink

"our jeep"

Crowley is the rice capitol of the world...

Elder Kohler, Brother Trichell (Ward Mission Leader),
Gaige, Elder Heaps 6/27/2015

Elder Heaps

Elder Kohler

that spider was about 5 inches from the tips of opposite legs -
5 inches in diameter

(I'd told Nathan that I hoped any alligators he saw
were behind thick glass at a zoo.
He wrote back:
We are planning on going to a farm
and holding baby ones in a couple weeks)

"the bridge"

resting  - 110 degrees

Mom, I wanted you to know that we are getting fed.
Almost over fed.
How much food have you been giving
to the missionaries there in Camino?
Because if the amount of food I get is exactly related to that,
Then can you give them a little less... please?
Elder Kohler 7/15/2015

N's quick email on 8/2/2015
Elder Kohler is being transferred so I won't be able to email tomorrow. We both are going to train brand new missionaries. I get to stay in Jennings at least 2 more transfers now. You can go ahead and start sending stuff to the Welsh address.
Thanks for everything!
I love all of you. But I love Jesus Christ more. And this is where He wants me. So this is where I want to be.

entering THE Mission 8/3/2015

leaving THE Mission 8/5/2015