Monday, March 30, 2015

The B-word, Baptism

Everything about this transfer was amazing. My companion, the work, how I felt, the food we ate, the people we met, the weather. Wow. 


So on Tuesday, we taught Jacob and I flat out asked him if he had thought about joining the Church. He said yes, but that he didn't like asking for things. Right then, we asked, "Well, we love inviting, so Jacob, will you be baptized?" And he said, "Of course. I'm not sure if I'm ready." We pulled open D&C 20:37 (which has the qualifications for baptism) and after we read that I asked, "Does that describe you?" He chuckled once then smiled and said, "yes!" We invited him to be baptized on April 11th and he was ecstatic. He came out that night to teach others about the Gospel and his love of the Book of Mormon (he started on 14th and was done on the 25th). Not only did he come out to teach with us on Tuesday, but on Wednesday and Thursday as well. 



He texted us Wednesday night to inform us that the 11th didn't work out for him. We asked about the 10th since next week is general conference. He thought about it for a little bit before texting back , "Could we just do it this weekend?" Elder Empey and I just burst out in laughter because we were so happy. We had to teach him 5 or so lessons in 3 days and organize an entire baptismal service but we made it happen, well God made it happen. We went to Kohls to buy him two brand new white shirts. One to be baptized in and one to wear afterwards. He looked so fresh! 



Saturday afternoon at 4:00 is when it all went down. Our Bishop, Stake President, and Mission President were all at the service. "It was...perfect." Elder Empey baptized him and I got to confirm him a member of the Church on Sunday. I had never previously done that but I got the hang of it pretty quick. 



Miracles happen when we have faith. Not just "oh I believe" then sit in your apartment and expect something to happen but "I believe, now let's hit the pavement". That's faith. I just want to keep growing my faith because if you aren't growing, you're shrinking. And lucky me, I'll have just that opportunity this next transfer because Elder Empey will be leaving me to go to the Boulder (just like Michael Scott on the Office S/O Lindsey and Yuri). I'll be companions with Elder Zavala, who I have already lived with for 4 months of my mission. The Greeley zone will be combined with the Greeley East zone for a total of 15 companionships including ourselves. Our zone went from 8 to now 15. I can do hard things.



Elder Sell

Monday, March 23, 2015

"This is the most real thing I have ever done".

I read a talk on Friday morning by Elder Bednar called "Things As They Really Are" (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2010/06/things-as-they-really-are?lang=eng) It really puts into perspective what is real and what is fantasy. If it isn't genuine, it has no positive value on our life, only negative effects. Especially being in the singles ward, we see a handful of guys and girls so attached to their smart phone or Xbox that it's alarming. 

I read that talk Friday morning. Friday afternoon, we were contacting/tracting when we saw a store that one of our investigators works part time at. We went inside to see if he was there but he wasn't. This store seemed pretty sketchy, but the merchandise looked nice. They had NFL jerseys, hats, watches, blue jeans, polos, and a whole bunch of other modern clothes. I looked at the glass counter and saw what appeared to be Ray Ban sunglasses. Normally these glasses sell for $140+ but the sign said "$40.00". I was flabbergasted because the price was unbelievable. I was skeptical, so I asked the lady how in the world could they be selling those glasses for 25% of the price. She explained how this distributor in New York bulk orders them from the company and how they cut out this and that middle man and blah blah blah. She made it sound really convincing of how they could sell them for so cheap, but they were "genuine".  So, I asked if I could try some on and the proof is in the pudding right? They looked nice, felt nice, and had the trademark logo of Ray Ban. I bought two pairs, thinking I could sell the second if I ever got sick of it. Elder Empey got one too. We looked pretty fresh walking around campus with those glasses on. A deal "too good to be true" seemed true. We received multiple compliments, plus the sun wasn't in our eyes. 

We then ran into a member at the institute who has some experience with high-end sunglasses. He took our glasses and within 5 seconds knew they were frauds. Plastic lenses, plastic hinges, no reinforcement of the temples, glued on logo, imperfections, low-quality framework. We were lied to! The next day, we went back into that store and she immediately knew why we were there. She was so pleasant the day before when she fooled us but, oh boy, was she nasty when we tried to return the sunglasses. Their sign said "Exchange only within 5 days with receipt" but we demanded full refund having been beguiled. She didn't argue with us. She knew she lied and I think she just didn't want us to turn her in. She talked to the owner and then gave us a crisp $100 bill, which I immediately asked, "Is this actually real?" We lost $14.87 on the whole deal but we told the BBB and they should be on it soon. Empey and I knew we shouldn't have bought anything on non-pday and we felt like we wasted a precious piece of the Lord's time. We repented and worked hard the rest of the week.

What does any of this have to do with missionary work or the Gospel? This is EXACTLY how Satan works! He will counterfeit something real in order to ensnare us. He tells us lies to get us to where he can destroy us. He "will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell." 

So on that note, here is an example of truth and light. Jacob, who has been coming to church with his friend Erik the past 5 weeks, came to Church this week as well. We gave him his first Book of Mormon on the 14th, and today, the 23rd, he is in the book of Helaman. That's over 350 pages my friends! We met with him after church yesterday and no joke, he is a different person. The light of his countenance is bright. His smile is contagious. His Gospel knowledge has increased ten fold. His relationship with Jesus Christ is tangible. He told us he "knows that all of what [he] read is true." He watched Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration the other night and wondered why so many people would persecute him for something that was true. He is spiritually "on fire". He is coming out on splits with us Tuesday night. Yep, you heard that. A non-member is coming with us to teach other non-members that this is true. We will see when he wants to be baptized. It is a miracle, a testimony to me that the Book of Mormon DOES change lives. Its only purpose is to testify of Christ. Jacob picked up the book because we asked him to do so. Now he can't put it down because he knows it is true. "...because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good...O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good"

This is real. This is the most real thing I have ever done. The peace that I feel, even as I type this, is real. Satan can try to mimick a range of different emotions and feelings, but he in no form can fraud us into feeling peace. Christ said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." That's what I want! Elder Bednar says it well too:

I testify that God lives and is our Heavenly Father. He is the author of the plan of salvation. Jesus is the Christ,the Redeemer, whose body was bruised, broken, and torn for us as He offered the atoning sacrifice. He is resurrected, He lives, and He stands at the head of His Church in these latter days. To be “encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15) will be a real and not a virtual experience.

-Elder Sell
The fraud Ray Bans! Look real huh??


My swag companion reading the Book of Mormon during a nice sunset

Me wearing my other sunglasses which I should never have forsaken in the first place

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"The Mormons are here!"

Yet another crazy week. At least the craziness is consistent. I'll write this email in chronological order, so we'll start with the beginning of the week. Oh by the way, this week is spring break for UNC.


Our dinner Monday fed us a full course 4th of July type of meal! Why? It felt like summer outside. Actually, it has all week! BBQ chicken, stuffed jalapenos, corn, pie, fruit, and beans made up a classic summer feast. It was a nice way to start the week.



On Tuesday, we had zone conference. Empey and I had prepared to sing a rendition of two hymns for a "special musical number". We told our whole zone and other missionaries in the area that we were going to do it but no one believed us. Finally, after lunch, the conductor of the meeting called our names and everyone was looking at us like "no way, they're really doing this!". We sang the first verse of "I Need Thee Every Hour" with me playing the piano, then we sang a Capella the men's version in the back of the hymn book for the second verse. It was going pretty good at this point. It sounded good and flowed well. But for some reason, we thought it wise to follow our a Capella with "Come, Come Ye Saints" with me again on the piano. Keep in mind that I didn't start playing piano until my mission. It was such a dramatic transition and Empey was singing alone with a nice country twang. I talked with my good friend Elder Sharp a few days later about it and all he could do was laugh. It was that terrible! hahah!



Tuesday through Friday of this week we went on splits in the evenings, where I go with a guy and Empey goes with a different guy to go work. We can do twice the amount of work and it rocks. I went with Doug and we had a very interesting encounter with this girl who only knew the crazy/out of context/straight up false/anti type stuff about the church. She showed us part of this video her professor showed her and Doug and I laughed at how ridiculous it was. False doctrine all the way... We just bore our testimonies and left. We are looking for the wheat, not the tares. A few days later, Doug and I went out again and met some people who were opposite of this girl. We had a 20 minute doorstep conversation with these two girls who were heading to California for spring break. We'll be teaching them when they get home. On another night, Ryan and I went to work and ran into these random girls drinking beers on their porch. They were still somewhat coherent, so we explained to them what our message was. At one point, one of their friends walked out of the house only wearing a bikini and we were like okay... and then the girls we were talking to said, "Go put some clothes on! The Mormons are here!" I was glad they respected us enough to tell that girl what her mom would have told her. 



We do service at two places: the Bargain Bin and the Food Bank. When we first started at the Bargain Bin, they had a mound of clothes that seemed undefeated. After 6 hours of work in 3 weeks, we had all the clothes sorted into boxes. Those ladies are amazed at how much we get done.  At the food bank, we help those in need load food into their shopping cart and bag apples and other fruits/vegetables. It's always fun to serve.



So my first week here, there was a guy in our ward named Erik who brought his friend Jacob to church. We chatted with Jacob, then asked him if he'd like to sit down with us sometime and learn more about our church (I always say "our" then I correct myself. It's Jesus Christ's Church). He said he would and we were pretty pumped about that. Erik texted us later that week saying we scared Jacob off by asking him to meet with us and that he would never come to church again. That next Sunday morning, Erik texts us saying he convinced Jacob to come back to church that Sunday. We said hi to him but didn't really talk to him. We didn't think much of it, but this week Erik texted us saying Jacob wanted to meet. We met on Saturday and just asked him how he felt about Church. He said he feels safe there and peaceful. He has a lot of anxieties, but he says church turns it all to peace. We taught him the Restoration and at the end I invited him to be baptized once he comes to know these things are true. Erik's head dropped, probably thinking that we were pushing, but Jacob said yes! He came to Church yesterday and seemed to enjoy himself. Erik texted us last night to tell us Jacob already read through the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon, over 120 pages in less than two days! He said that he usually can't focus when he reads but that his focus never leaves when he reads the Book of Mormon. This is yet another testimony to me that this Gospel is true and it really brings peace. 



So there is this huge apartment complex that is part of a nationwide chain called The Grove. We met the general manager there, Holly, and taught her a lesson. We must have taught 20 or so people living there and knocked every single door. Just before knocking one of our investigator's doors last night, we get a text from Holly saying that she has been getting complaints that we've been soliciting and knocking doors. She told us we could hold an event at the club house free to the public if we wanted to find new people. We told her "No problem! We've already knocked every door anyways :)" haha, perfect timing! 



Love,

Elder Sell





P.S. The Temple is taking shape! :D


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

This week was CRAAAAAAZZZZZZZYYYYYY!!!!

Alright, the title of this email goes out to a missionary in our zone who thinks meetings are too boring. While driving home from a zone meeting, he told us how boring it was and that he didn't feel the Spirit at all. Elder Empey and I felt this meeting went well, so we asked him how we could make it more engaging. He said(and I quote),"You just have to do something crazy. Do something no one has ever done before. Seriously, just do something CRAZY! Like when I give a training, I do something to get everyone pumped up. Sometimes I do hangman. Other times I hide pieces of paper with words on them under everyone's seat. I just go crazy." HAHAHAHAHA Elder Empey and I have been saying CRAZZYYYY all week. We'll just be sitting there in the truck and be like,"Empey, let's do something CRAZY!" and he'll reply, "YEAH! Like a word search!" So funny! Fast forward a little bit, we have another meeting and I'm giving the training. I pondered for quite some time of how I could engage everyone, but then it hit me. Christ's doctrine is pure and simple. We teach it over and over and over again. Why? Because we still mess up and can't do it. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. I get up to the front and the first thing I say is, "If you want to learn something today, do it. The Spirit will teach us all something different but we have to be willing to learn. I'm not hear to force something new down your throat, but here to teach the simple doctrine." The meeting went well and on the drive home I asked this missionary how he thought the meeting went. In an almost inaudible reply, he said, "good..." #WIN!!!


Highlights from the week, kinda like ESPN's Sports Center Top 10 plays of the week:

10. Taught a man about the Book of Mormon/faith while his girlfriend and her friend were in the back room smoking weed. He was also high(ish)!

9. Our mission set a goal for 50 baptisms next transfer. I'm going to call it "#50"

8. Met a semi-homeless man while tracting and he said he was a member from Denver. We invited him to our dinner at Steak 'n Shake. He came, then suddenly left. 

7. Set Leo with a baptismal date for March 28th (should this not be higher on the Top 10 list??)

6. Started teaching a less active girl and her southern accent fiancee. He isn't a member, but hopefully soon will be.

5. Got bashed from this dude who definitely has social anxieties and may or may not have mental disorders. He read one page from the Book of Mormon then proceeded to tell us that the path we're on leads to hell :(

4. Sang country songs at the old folks' home with a nice "twang" as Empey calls it. 

3. Met Ben. He is legit, and ready to receive the Restored Gospel! woohoo

2. Had a man who we tracted into call us and say, "Come over and listen to this CD with me." We did, then he proceeded to break down and just tell us he needs serious help and he thinks we can do it. He is 23, makes $200K+ a year, and hates life. 

1. And the Top play of the week is... Tyler Haws' game winner to lift BYU over Santa Clara! 

Plays that didn't make it into this week's edition of the Top 10 were:
-Eating free pancakes at IHOP
-receiving news about iPads arriving "late spring/early summer"
-Playing Frisbee with a couple of girls on campus
-going on exchanges with Elder Christiansen
-MLCs
-playing about 20 games of pool with Empey
-last week's casual Monday

And for this week's edition of the Not Top 10, we have only one entry! well two...

1. We had dinner with a former Denver North missionary who ended his mission in the Fort Collins mission. We had dinner with him and his fiancee and he told us about early on in his mission. He and his companion weren't the most obedient (and that's putting it nicely). They decided that they were going to go watch the midnight screening of a very anticipated movie called The Dark Night Rises. Guess where they were serving? Aurora, Colorado. They were dressed and ready to go. They had debated for a while of whether or not to go, but they decided they would. Who would ever find out, right? The next thing he remembers is waking up on the living room floor of their apartment. He and his companion had fallen asleep moments before they planned on leaving. They were a little mad, considering they missed their movie. They then heard the news that 12 people had been killed and 70 others injured at the very theater they had tickets to. The Lord watches over His missionaries.

2. And a close second place goes to...Elder Empey! On our way to church yesterday, the sun was in a very annoying spot. It was at the awkward point where it makes everything hard to see with the visor down. We are a pretty good distance away from the next light and I see a cop waiting at the intersection. I make the note, "hey, there is a cop" to warn Empey. He looks at the cop and keeps driving. The light goes from green to yellow but he doesn't slow down. I thought he was just trolling me because the cop was right there and he was going to hit the breaks hard at the last second. He hasn't ever done that, but there is a first time for everything. He doesn't slow down at all! I'm like YO EMPEY! and by then it's too late and we're going through the intersection on a dead red and a cop is literally 5 feet away from us. Apparently, the sun had blinded poor Empey to the point where he couldn't see the change of lights. I was just ready for the cop to pull out and pull us over. I was just getting our strategy down for how we were going to play it with the cop, BUT he never pulled out. Psalms 115:5 says it best! "They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:" whew...

Saturday, March 7, 2015

"What I want in life. Peace."

This was the hardest week I've ever worked on my mission. We come home around 9:30 each night and I'm out by 10:00. It's exhausting, but oh so worth it.

We had a roller coaster of a week as well. We taught Leo Monday night and didn't have much planned for him. After the small talk, he asks what God expects of him. We taught him the 10 commandments and he is the type of guy who goes all out when he does things. He has been dating an LDS girl for 5 years now and they are thinking about marriage. . .in the temple! He is preparing himself for that and we're helping him along.

Tuesday was super hard!!! First, we got bashed by some dude whose name we can't pronounce. Okay, I'm going to explain to you what he explained to us. Picture an aggressive  Ethiopian saying this:

When Christ was here, he was da teacha! Da perfect teacha! he teach his, uh how you say it, apostleses and de go n' teach da peoples! den dey become da teacha, becuz they been taught by da perfect teacha! they go n' teach da people, n' after da teacha comes da es-spiritual. De es-espiritual cannot come before da perfect teacha! Dis is da way I learn! I learn from da teacha who learn'ed from his teacha, who go back all da way til Christ. Nothing is lost! You must learn da Bible from da perfect teacha, otherwise you put your own uh understanding n' not learn from da teacha! den comes da esspirtual! not before! Only after da perfect teacha can come da esspiritual!

Okay no joke, he talked like this for 20 minutes so we just bore out testimony and left. 

Later that same night, we went tracting with Doug, who is preparing to serve a mission and super legit. We met this guy named Tedoro, whose name comes from Spain. He believed that life was meant to be enjoyed, to be "entertained". He believed Christ died so that we can do whatever we want and go back to him someday after living our life as riotous as possible. He claimed we were here to live whatever way we want because Christ has us covered. Once again, we just bore our testimonies and left. It's just hard when you meet people whose view of the Gospel is so curved to the point where it is totally false doctrine. Does the Bible not teach that we can pray and read the Bible in order to gain personal understanding from God? Does the Bible not cry repentance and faith on Jesus Christ to receive a remission of your sins? anyways...

Our whole week wasn't terrible though! Most of it was awesome. We taught 5 girls at a Sorority house one night. That was fun. We taught a girl named Holly whose boyfriend's dad had passed away that same day. She was feeling alone because he had to fly back to Maine to be with his family but then we coincidentally showed up. We met a man whose beliefs almost lined up with ours perfectly and he didn't even know it. We fixed this girl's door who had just gotten done smoking some Colorado gold. We gave her a Book of Mormon. We had 4 non-members at Church yesterday and more that would have come had they not been out of town. Things are looking up. We met so many new people and taught a bunch of discussions. It was an awesome week. 

I know this is true and I love being real with people and letting them know that. Every night before we go inside, Elder Empey and I sit out in the truck and talk about our day. We compliment each other and build each other up. Every day we sit there, exhausted, and just feel the peace that comes because we did what was right. That, my friends, is what I want in life. Peace.

-E.Sell