Thursday, December 24, 2015

I'M GOING HOME!!!

It's my last week ever as a missionary! It's really bittersweet. When I could finally count all the days I had left on two hands is when it got real. From that point on, I haven't felt as trunky as I previously had been. I'm enjoying my time and finishing strong, like I have for the past year. 

It's so typical for missionaries to bear their testimony in their last email ever, but Preach My Gospel says, "Bear testimony several times in each lesson, not just at the end." Over the course of my mission, I've shared experiences and my testimony often so the need to do it all at the end isn't necessary. 

I've always felt like the true value of one's mission shows in the life that follows it. If my mission is the pinnacle of my spiritual growth or the most joyful time of my life then I did something wrong! There is a talk by Elder Bednar where he expresses his frustrations with people who always say, "my pioneer ancestors this" or "on my mission that". He says he asks the question, "that's great your ancestors crossed the plains and that's great you baptized hundreds on you mission, BUT, what are you doing now?" It's not enough to have done; you have to be doing. The whole purpose of life is for us to become more than we now are. Where you're at is important but not nearly as important as where you're heading. It's better to be on the bottom looking up than on the top looking down. 

Hopefully I haven't sounded too preachy over the course of my mission. I try to be real with people we teach and just tell them how it is. This has helped me in my life and I'm sure it'll help you! I don't think my transition home will be as hard as others because I've been myself for two years. That's the best way to be a missionary is to be yourself. 

One thing that frustrates me SO much when people say it is, "that's just the way I am." Yeah, some things we can't change like physical abnormalities, mental disorders, things that happened in the past or how others treat us. But, because of Jesus Christ we can change our perspective on how we view things we can't change AND change the things we can change. I've heard this excuse (or a variation of it) a billion times on my mission and every single time I want to very firmly tell the person they can do better. I catch myself doing it sometimes and then I reevaluate where I'm at. The whole point of Christ's sacrifice is so we don't have to be the way we are.

I'm as ready as I'll ever be to go home. It will take some time to adjust but I'm used to that. There will be a bunch of new stuff but that's cool too. I've learned that it's good to care but bad to worry. Worrying doesn't get you anywhere. Faith and fear can't exist in the same mind! Every time I catch myself fearing about the future I put my mental foot down and think about my faith. That's the thing I'm going to rely on as I journey back into the real world. I know God has my back when I put him first. 

I guess this email did sort of turn into my testimony! Whatever!

I'M GOING HOME!!!
-Elder Bill Sell


Finishing strong!

Hey people,



I'm in Cheyenne, the biggest city in Wyoming! Population 62,500! Wow! It's a modern day metropolis here!



We've stayed busy for my first week here. Go, go, go! We've visited 30 different people so I'm trying to learn names and situations. I think I'll have this area down in two more weeks. 



We had some good experiences this week but I don't remember them all. They are in my journal though. 



So yeah, uhhh I have a few days left and I've been finishing strong for like 8 transfers now so if one more person tells me to finish strong I'm going to tell them I'm already doing it. I'm ready to go home!!! 



-Elder Sell

I'm ready for life! Let's go!!!

Another week down and another transfer over! That's the 16th completed transfer of my mission! I have 1/2 a transfer left (3 weeks) and I'll be spending it in the Buffalo Ridge Ward in Cheyenne, Wyoming! My new companion has been out 3 months, all in that area. I'm still the District Leader for some reason haha. I'll have to find my purpose and my role in the new area and adjust quickly. I don't want to be dead weight to Elder Agurirre. I hope he still has his greenie fire burning brightly! I'll never regret working hard these last 20 days. 



My companion now, Elder Callahan, is being transferred to Longmont! We are getting "swept out" or "whitewashed" as it's called. Usually that happens with terrible missionaries but in this case it is out of a need for senior leadership out here in the wilderness of the mission. Our current zone leader is coming in with a new elder to train. I feel like the work we did here was satisfactory in the Lord's sight. 



This morning was hard. We went to the gym like usual and had to tell our fellow gym rats goodbye. The first two or three weeks we went (5 days a week) all the guys at the gym barely recognized our existence. Once they saw we were legit and committed to working out they started to say hi and give us tips. Heck, I think it was week 5 of last transfer and this big dude named Bobby came up to me and asked, "do you guys always skip leg day?" I got completely called out! He committed me to doing leg day with him that next Monday and it was brutal. Walking down stairs was ridiculous for that whole week. Anyways, it's been fun talking to people there and them starting to ask questions little by little. How many missionaries do you know that are proselyting "errday" before 7:00 AM? (I mean, get swole and do missionary work? Bingo!) Who knows, maybe all those guys' hearts were softened by getting to know the "Mormon boys" at the gym. 



We had a few cool service opportunities this week. The guy who is in charge of building maintenance needed some lights replaced. No biggie, right? They were under the church! There is a 3 foot tall (or small) crawl space that has pipes, wires, and lights along the way. We went down and felt like spec ops. We had headlamps, backpacks, and our iPads to record some dramatized videos. We also helped set up and take down the Nativity Celebration. Over the course of two days, the church hosted a multi-faith event where 100's of nativities, Christmas trees, pictures of Christ, and other nice things were on display for the public. There was music and the Spirit was strong. As missionaries, we were asked not to attend so that others didn't feel like we were doing it as a way to meet the Mormons. That's why Bill and Tallon ended up going! All the members were like, "where are your clothes elders?" And we'd just tell them, "SHHHHH! We are in disguise!" It was fun :)



What else? I wonder if any of the people I send this to even read it!? Haha they used to be more creative and funny but that part of my brain is in slight hibernation. So much of missionary work is just using the disciplined, structured, habitual part of my brain! The times when missionary work becomes really fun is when you add creativity to the monotony! Life is good when you can be comfortable in your own skin, physically/emotionally/spiritually. Elder Martino told us when he came to our mission this simple life motto, "Always happy. Never content."



To end, I want to share an analogy that Elder Empey came up with. Ending your mission AKA "dying" is VERY similar to the twilight years of your life AKA dying! Okay hopefully you'll keep reading so I can explain this and you're not thinking that Elder Empey is a weirdo! At this point, I am happy with what I've done as a missionary. I feel like I've learned what I needed to learn and helped who I needed to help. Life is good and I find joy in the work, but it feels like something is missing, like there is even more (because there is! haha). I think when I'm old and wrinkly and completed what I was sent to Earth to do I will feel like I do now; it's time to move on. The plan God has for me is so I can experience a fullness of joy, even eternal joy! My mission was/is part of the plan but it's just that, a part! Not the whole, but a springboard for what's in store. I'm sure there will be times I miss being a missionary but if this is the happiest or most spiritual or most rewarding time of my life, then I did something wrong. To sum it up, I'm ready for life! Let's go!!! 



-E.Sell

















Sunday, November 22, 2015

God has a perfect plan

Ayoooooooo! This was a different type of week but it turned out to be
fulfilling.

I didn't feel like we did much because one night Elder Callahan was
sick and we had to go home for him to rest, two of the nights we had
ward Halloween parties that we went to, Halloween night we had to be
home by six, and another night we had a service project to do. Tuesday
and Sunday were the only normal(ish) days we had. Tuesday was
transfers and we were in a tripan so we worked mostly in the other
guy's area. I didn't realize until yesterday all the good we were able
to accomplish.

We did sixteen hours of service this week, which is more than we are
supposed to do. Here is what we did:
-Sanded and polyurethaned an older lady's cabinets
-set up tables and chairs for a community event expecting 300+ people
-raked leaves for an elderly sister in the Ward
-moved furniture for another elderly sister so she could have her walls painted
-served soup at the community event for a few hours then helped take
everything down
-helped clean a sister's "new" apartment
-helped this same sister move into her new apartment

I'll expound on the last two examples of service. Friday we went on
into the country to visit a man who recently had shoulder surgery. He
isn't a member but he is a good man. He raises pigs and we helped him
build an addition to his barn. It was beautiful sitting with him on
his front porch overlooking Wyoming. Now back to the service with the
lady! I shot her a text because she said earlier about how she was
offered a job as an apartment manager and they would let her live
on-site for free. She replied that the old manager had left the place
trashed and that she was overwhelmed. I got the other two sets of
missionaries in town to go with us to help clean her new apartment. It
looked like it had never been swept, there were coffee stains all over
the counters, and the bathroom was disgusting. We worked for a few
hours and it looked like new. Now, here is the cool part! She said she
was praying to God because  she was so overwhelmed with everything and
asked Him for help. After she said, "Amen" her phone buzzed with my
text. BAM! Insta-answer! The terrible part is she was contemplating
taking a drink because the ONLY thing the dude left her was a beer in
the fridge. She has been sober for a few years and she was close to
taking a drink. Then she prayed and we came! Whew!

Last night we went to teach one of our investigators who always has us
meet in this lounge room of the complex but this time he invited us
into his home. We met his wife for the first time and had a long talk
with her. She opened up to us about how she was homeless at age 16 and
responsible for her little sister. She panhandled in New Orleans in
order to stay alive. Some of the things she said were incredible. This
little sister of hers was her best friend, but at the age of 21 her
little sister passed away. She told us how prayer had given her
comfort and how she knew her sister wasn't gone for good. At that
point, we testified of the Plan of Salvation, that her sister wasn't
gone and that God has a perfect plan for her. The Spirit was present
and I know she felt it too. She said she felt confirmation that what
she has always believed about her sister is true. We gave her chapters
from the Book of Mormon to read about life after death and told her
that she could come to a knowledge that the book is true. It was a
very real experience, something that told me to keep going.

I really needed yesterday, which was the Sabbath Day, a day of
renewal. I was feeling burnt out of missionary work. I didn't feel
like I wanted to pack up my things and go home right that second, but
I didn't feel joy in the work. Through prayer, scripture study, and
partaking of the sacrament, I got that boost I needed. My time here is
short, but that isn't an excuse to slacken my effort. It was a
personal experience for me to exercise my faith and go and do without
knowing the outcome. It was works out though!

My 22nd birthday is on Wednesday, the 4th. Some old lady
signed up to take us out to dinner that night! Should be interesting.

-E.Sell


Saturday, October 24, 2015

That's just who I am!

On Monday night we went to this less active lady's house but she is
only LA because she has to work on Sunday. She was upset because it
was the one year anniversary of her mother's passing. She talked for a
long time and she asked for a blessing at the end and in the blessing
I told her that her ancestors are supporting her. Afterwards she told
us how significant that was because of her native heritage as well as
her adoptive parents. It was cool to be able to comfort someone in a
time of need.

We did some good service this week, especially Saturday night. We went
to this big banquet and auction for a hospice center in town. When we
first got there, the head lady said someone we didn't think was right.
We were wearing our tags and she wanted us to take them off and I'm like
NOOOO! That's just who I am so you either have all of me with my tag
or I can leave because I won't deny my calling. She got over it. We
helped plate the food in the kitchen. We were pretty skilled at it
all! They had us running all over the place doing stuff to satisfy the
crowd of 400.

We spoke in church yesterday on the sacrament. It was great studying
all week as well as preparing to partake of the sacrament. It made my
week much more enjoyable. That's about all folks!
-E.Sell




Crazy and frustrating

Hey what's up?

This week was crazy and frustrating and rewarding at times. Here's
what happened.

Tuesday I was on exchanges with my ZL, Elder Schenk, and we went to
the nursing home to visit a member. The lady we planned on visiting
wasn't there but this nurse lady working there introduced us to two
ladies who both had dementia. We visited them both individually and it
was sad to see how their brain doesn't work right anymore. Both made
suggestive references to us and it was really funny/creepy! After we
said a prayer with the second lady we shook her hand and she wouldn't
let go. So, we escorted her back to the main area and she loved every
second of it. I got hit on by an 80 year old woman, and the night
before, this 3 year old wouldn't stop bothering me at dinner.
Basically, watching me get harassed by this little girl was everyone's
entertainment. Her mom and this less active we are working with
laughed until they cried because it was so funny to watch.

We were working with two less actives who both had mental illnesses.
The one tried to commit suicide so he got sent to a mental hospital
and the other pulled a gun on his neighbor because he is paranoid. He
is locked up in jail now! We were going to visit him  Tuesday night
but he called and said, "who is sending you over here? Who put you up
to it? The Bishop? Don't lie to me. I have you guys on hidden camera
driving by my house. Are you stalking me?" Yeah...safe to say we were
done visiting him at that point. And then he goes full crazy stupid!

Our investigator who was scheduled to get baptized this upcoming
Saturday isn't anymore. First of all, we show up to our appointment
Friday and he is smoking a cigarette. We didn't know he had a word of
wisdom problem. He hadn't told his "wife" either, and we didn't know
that. We knew we were going to have to postpone the baptism at that
point but we still had the goal of this upcoming week. We had a member
with us at the lesson that night. Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, we
get a 6 page text message from this member that went to the lesson
with us saying how impatient and pushy we are. I replied, "amen."
Apparently he went and talked to the investigator and he isn't married
to his "wife" and he thought he had to leave her to join the church
and blah blah blah big misunderstanding.

We went to Pavillion Branch for the first time this Sunday. The Branch
warmly welcomed us and I felt at home there. They had a potluck after
church and people introduced themselves and offered to help. Our
morning meeting was productive and we have lots of people to teach.
Our branch mission leader is willing to do what it takes. Basically
what this all means is we will spend less time in the place where they
don't want us and more place where we feel welcomed! The branch
presidency counselor called us into his office and asked us to speak
in sacrament meeting on the sacrament this upcoming week. We blessed
the sacrament earlier in the morning and he said that while I was
saying the prayer he felt I needed to speak to the branch the next
Sunday. He said he felt like I had a strong understanding of it. That
was sure humbling to hear.

Time for some shout outs!! Shout out to Jacob for baptizing someone
down in Greeley this weekend! Beast mode. Shout out to Elder Farnes
for baptizing BJ this weekend. She is someone we worked with a ton
last transfer. Shout out to Elder Torres for being loyal. Shout out to
Blue, Sharp, and Empey too. No shout out to Elder Blackburn cuz he
unloyal!

-E.Sell

Elder Callahan is all tucker'ed out haha

Jacob getting work done in Greeley

Farnes and BJ and friends

I am an UNCLE!

I am an UNCLE for the first time ever!!! That's definitely the highlight of my week. Yuri and Lindsey had a little baby boy, David, on October 3rd, the same birthday as my Dad. I am excited to be the best uncle I can be when I get back to Provo in January. He will be a little baller baby if he spends enough time around me. 



This Tuesday we helped out with a huge service project for the community where we laid out 17,000 sq. feet of sod for the town's new skate park. The designer is a member so he asked the missionaries to help. I was there from 9 AM until 4 PM getting muddy and throwing down rolls of grass. It was fun to do some physical labor for once instead of just spiritual labor. That same night we got a referral from a member for one of her friends. Georgia wanted a Book of Mormon so we dropped by to give her one. She was in a hospital and her roommate was reading the Book of Mormon the whole time and wouldn't share it with her, so she wanted her own. Georgia said she would read the whole thing and pray about it. We invited her to church and she said she worked on Sunday's at the Hampton Inn. What do we do? We drive to the Hampton and try to see if we could coax the manager into giving her Sunday's off. The shift manager person wasn't there but the desk lady was a less active member and ended up giving us $10 worth of free chocolate hahaha. It all works out. 



We had interviews with President Brown Thursday. He drove all the way to Riverton to see how we were doing. I went last and we had a nice chat. One second he seems like he doesn't like me and wants to make my life difficult and the next second he is praising me for my efforts and work. He is a good mission president. He took all ten of us to Pizza Hut for lunch, so that was cool. 



General conference was saaaaaweeeeeet! It was a great time to reevaluate and reset. I think it's awesome how the apostles just beat down all the false ideas this world comes up with. Like Elder Christofferson, he addressed the "I'm spiritual, not religious therefore I don't go to any church" excuse. Bam! False doctrine beat down. And President Uchtdorf addressed the "I'm too smart and intelligent and skeptical to believe in God" attitude. He compared that to unplugging a light and wondering why it doesn't work. People want God to prove himself to them before they will believe but you got to have a particle of faith first. Anyways, I'm grateful we are "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone". 



We had a really tender experience last night with the Brost family. We are teaching the grandkids about Jesus Christ and His Gospel every Sunday night at FHE. This week we taught the Plan of Salvation and played a matching game at the end. It was all a good time but especially this 7 year old girl's prayer at the end. During the prayer she said, "thank you for sending the missionaries to spend time with children like us. We are happy they would even come here to teach us." My heart melted when she said that and I was so humbled to be a missionary. 



Before I end, shout out to one of my best friends and recent convert, Jacob Ostertag. He called me on Sunday to tell me he is baptizing a guy named Travis this Saturday. Since Jacob got baptized in late March he has played a role in 6 other peoples' conversions. He is a stud!



Until next week!

-E.Sell