Monday, January 26, 2015

Oh gosh! OH GOSH!!!

Whelp, it's been another week here in Montrose.

On Wednesday, at District Meeting, the Sisters were on exchanges. Sister Patera, who come to San Juan, had scheduled exchanges on her BIRTHDAY! So we threw her a ten-minute party before District Meeting. It was swell.

Happy Birthday!

It's just so soft!

We had Zone Conference on Thursday, and that's always great. Everyone knows I love a good Zone Conference! The main subject of the conference was faith, and President shared with us a talk from Elder Bednar about faith as a principle of action. Man, it was really good. Okay, so I haven't finished reading it, but what I've real is really good. They are also encouraging us to invite people to be baptized on a specific date now in the first lesson. They're changing the way we report our numbers so our baptismal invitations will be included as well. It's pretty bold, obviously, but there's no time to mess around! It's time to reap! Sort out the wheat from the tares! The field is white, already to harvest! Not plant seeds. Of course, seeds will still be planted, but it's harvest time.

I had a good exchange on Saturday with Elder Dean. He joined me in San Juan. He's from Tennessee, and he's super funny. Just like, super southern. He knew a little Spanish from serving in Steamboat Springs, so I'm sure it was fun for him to come to the area. We taught a couple of good lessons, and went to a birthday party for the Moreno's son and had some pizza and cake.

On Sunday, our priesthood lesson was taught by a member who recently moved into the branch. He speaks English alright, but he has a very thick accent. In his lesson (which was in Spanish), he kept quoting someone I'd never heard of: "Presidente Rúse Valád." I was a little wary of his lesson, not knowing where he was getting his information. Then I realized he was quoting Elder M. Russell Ballard. That was a pretty funny realization!

We were told by our Branch Mission Leader that some of the members felt we were being really rude at our dinner appointments with them. We had no clue what they meant. He explained that two families in particular had voiced complaints; the only two native Mexican families in the branch. We asked what the complaint was, and he explained that they said we don't finish all of our food sometimes, and when they ask if we're going to finish it we say, "No! Do you want it??" We were pretty confused, because that sounds really rude, and we always go out of our way to tell the members how great the food is, even while we're chewing on the bones. Then we realized it was a Clash of the Cultures! In the Mexico, if someone asks if you are going to finish your food, it is because they are concerned that maybe you don't like it or you're not feeling well. A proper response would be, "Yes, I'm going to finish it," or "I really wish I could, but I'm just so full!" In the United States of America, if someone asks if you are going to finish your food, it's because they want it for themselves. A proper response would be, "Yes, I'm going to finish it! Get your own!" or, the ultimate sign of respect in American culture would be to respond, "No, would you like to have it?" So what was interpreted by foreign ears as a sign of rudeness was in reality a sign of respect and appreciation.

A fun story from the week: One night, we were going to meet the Sisters at a less-active member's house to teach him together. We got there a couple of minutes early, or the Sisters were running late, but we ended up being there before them. As Elder Baker pulled out the phone to call them, I noticed a woman walking out of a dark alleyway towards our car. I wondered if it could be one of the Sisters. It looked a lot like Sister Adair as she got closer to the car, and then signaled for me to roll the window down on the passenger's side of the car, where Elder Baker was. I did so, thinking it was Sister Adair. The woman got right up next to the window and said "Hello." Elder Baker freaked out and said, "Oh, gosh!" She had startled him. Then, for a split second, he also thought it was Sister Adair; until she started speaking again. Then he realized it was a random homeless-looking lady, and he said, "OH, GOSH!!" And jumped in his seat, panicking. The lady just wanted to use our phone. But it was suuuuper funny to see Elder Baker get scared twice in a row. He said it was hands-down the scariest moment on his mission, maybe the scariest of his life!
Clay Missionaries!

We ended up having a really good lesson with Alan's brother, Jose, that night, and another good one later in the week. He's progressing really well!

The work moves forward, onward, and upward! Stay excellent, and choose the right! I love you!

Elder Rogers

A Thought from Mom:
"Time and again over your life, the Lord has been giving you the experiences to build strength, courage, and determination. He knew how much you would need that to serve Him. 'Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.'"
~President Henry B. Eyring

Monday, January 19, 2015

I'm Feeling Whammed!!


As I'm flipping through my daily planner to help me recall the events of the week, I just thought I'd let you all know that I took the liberty of drawing a fruit, full color, on most of the pages in my planner this week. Banana, orange, pear, strawberry.

So, remember Alan? Well, he has three other brothers that are members of the Church. Recently, we've made some good headway with two of them, Jose and Daniel. Jose would never jamás listen to us. He's 17. Daniel is 12, and he'll always listen to us. He's a good kid. But anyway, with our new focus on the less-actives in the Branch, we are trying everything we can to get through to them. So we decided to try by these brothers with the Sister missionaries. And man, it was awesome! Jose normally would just blow us off and cuss at us if we invited him to listen to a message, but he wasn't about to do that to the Sisters! He still resisted, but in the end agreed to listen. We've had to lessons with them so far, and I think it's a good start. Alan didn't listen though. It's hard being 15.

Oh, I went on an exchange with Elder Donovan this week! It was good, but I was pretty much a solo missionary again. Él no spreken the Español. No earth-shattering lessons this time, though.

On Friday we had a lesson with the Moreno family. I can't remember if I told you or not... If I did, then it won't be big news. But Oscar and Patty got married! They had been together for about two years, and I guess they just decided to go down to the courthouse on Friday last week and tie the knot. That's a huge step, and it'll make teaching the law of chastity go a lot smoother! Anyway, we had a good lesson with them on Friday about the Spirit World. Then, we focused pretty hard on committing them to come to Church. We said we'd even come and wake them up on Sunday morning. Patty said, "Only if you make us pancakes!" And we agreed. She was kidding, but we weren't. We went over to their house on Sunday at 9:45 in the morning, and woke them up by knocking on the door. They told us Oscar was out buying donuts for breakfast. Whatever! We were there to make pancakes! They told us we didn't have to. And we sat and talked for a few minutes and encouraged them to go get ready for Church. When they didn't, I finally said, "Forget it! I'm making pancakes!" So I got up and went into their cupboards until I found the pancake mix and a bowl (they were cool with it), then I started mixing it up. Elder Baker was pretty confident in his batter mixing skills, so he took over that for me while I started grilling them up. We made them one at a time in a small skillet. I think they were pretty good! Everyone was impressed with my spatula-less flipping skills. I also scrambled up some eggs for them. Patty was pretty pleased, and said they would all come to church. Then we left. And they didn't come to church... But Patty texted during sacrament meeting and said that the girls were fighting, because one of them wanted to stay home and work on her homework, and the other one wanted to go, and... I don't know. I'm not a teenage girl. But they ended up not coming. I guess we'll have to bring bacon next time! That night we went back to their house and had another lesson on resurrection and judgement. It was good. Except that the one who had wanted to work on homework was working on her homework. But they've done a lot better about reading from the Book of Mormon! The two teenage daughters even read 1 Nephi 1 together and took notes on their questions!

We had another Branch Council meeting yesterday as well, and we're making good progress in our focus on the less-active members. If everyone participates sincerely, I think a lot of good could come from this effort. The goal is to have these people reactivated before April General Conference. They talked about taking a trip to Salt Lake as a Branch to attend a session! The plan is to have these currently less-active families participate in that trip. That sounds sweet to me! Man, I've never even been to General Conference... But that will be exciting for them!

Keep working hard and getting up early and keeping the commandments! Know that I love you all! The work is true! The Church is true!

Elder Rogers

p.s. We've been going over to the members houses at 8pm to talk with them about helping the less-actives. I can't remember how it came up, but we were at the home of the Burr family and we started talking about the word "wham." Finally, Brother Burr (who is quite the character) said, "I'm feeling whammed!" I know it's not that funny to you; you had to be there. It was funny.

Monday, January 12, 2015

La Rama San Juan

Welcome, welcome, Monday morning!
Well gee. This was just one great week. We taught the Gospel to people as usual for the first three days of the week. Then, on Thursday, we went on our first companion exchange of the transfer. I stayed in San Juan and was joined by Elder Kamrowski, from Tucson, Arizona. We had a great day! Before the exchange started on Wednesday night, Elder Baker and I made a deal that whoever taught fewer lessons on Thursday would have to eat a habanero pepper. I wasn't about to do that. So Elder Kamrowski and I ended up teaching ten lessons! That was lots of fun. We just decided to teach every single person we saw. (Okay, there were some exceptions, we saw more than ten people). Seven on them were first lessons we taught to people just tracting or street contacting. The other three were to less-active members or recent converts. One of them was... different.
It was with Oscar and Alejandra. They are an older couple (about 60) who haven't been to church in several months. Basically, we've always had the understanding that Oscar was offended at some of the members, and so he didn't want to see them at church. Elder Kamrowski and I went over and had a pleasant get-to-know conversation for Elder Kamrowski. Then we asked if we could share a message with them. Immediately, Oscar said, "We're not going to come back to church" (but in Spanish; I'll translate for your sakes). And then I can't remember exactly how things got started, but he went on to talk about how they didn't agree with things in the Church. He expounded a few specific examples of people who had committed transgressions and were still permitted to serve full-time missions. I explained that all missionary candidates must repent of all transgressions, especially serious ones, before missionary service, and that the matter is discussed between the Stake President and the candidate. He said something along the lines of "BLEEAGH!" and tossed his hands in the air. I then asked him if he'd ever made a mistake, if he'd ever sinned. He was very confident that he had not sinned since his baptism five years earlier. "Como?..." He explained that maybe he had sinned with his mouth or with his mind, but he had not done anything like THOSE people. I explained the purpose of the Atonement for the remission of sins, and the reality of repentance, and "BLEEAGH!" He didn't understand the doctrine of repentance at all. I warned them that they will be judged at the last day with the same judgement with which they had judged others in this life, and that their pride would bring about their destruction if they did not repent. They weren't too happy about that.

Then they switched topics and started talking about plural marriage and plural sealings after death, etc. They were very adamantly against it. (Oh, by the way, Elder Kamrowski doesn't speak Spanish, so I was solo in this lesson...). Alejandra pulled out Jacob chapter 2, which I had happened to read that very morning. She said, "Aqui, en El Libro de Mormon mismo!" I gladly shared with them verse thirty, in which the Lord says that if He needs to raise up seed unto Himself, He will give His people the commandment of plural marriage, as in ancient times. I explained that at that time, He had not commanded the Nephites to live that commandment, and such a practice is an abomination and a sin against God when we are not commanded to do so. Sometimes in the history of His people, when He needs to build up a nation (such as the Restoration of the Gospel and the foundation of His Kingdom in the latter days), the Lord commands men to take more than one wife, as He did Abraham and other prophets of old, to raise up seed unto the Lord and to care for the widows and the fatherless. I also explained that they don't have to get remarried after one or the other of them dies; that's an option that we have, but not something anyone is required to do.
They understood. They explained that for five years they had had that question, and not one member nor missionary would answer it for them. I asked if my explanation helped, and they said it did. Then they spoke to me sincerely about the difficulty of adjusting to life as a new member of the Church. They had been Catholic for over fifty years before their baptism, and all of the sudden they were immersed into a new world with a different culture, different expectations, different doctrine, and a different language than what they had grown up with. They explained that it seemed nearly impossible to understand it all. It reminded me of a story related by President Gordon B. Hinckley in Preach My Gospel, chapter 13:

I received the other day a very interesting letter. It was written by a woman who joined the Church a year ago. She writes:

"My journey into the Church was unique and quite challenging. This past year has been the hardest year that I have ever lived in my life. It has also been the most rewarding. As a new member, I continue to be challenged every day." She goes on to say that when she joined the Church she did not feel support from the leadership in her ward. Her bishop seemed indifferent to her as a new member. Rebuffed, as she felt, she turned back to her mission president, who opened opportunities for her. 

She states that "Church members don't know what it is like to be a new member...Therefore, it's almost impossible for them to know how to support us."

I challenge you, my brothers and sisters, that if you do not know what it is like, you try to imagine what it is like. It can be terribly lonely. It can be disappointing. It can be frightening. We of this Church are far more different from the world than we are prone to think we are. This woman goes on: "When we as investigators become members of the Church, we are surprised to discover that we have entered into a completely foreign world, a world that has its own traditions, culture, and language. We discover that there is no one person or no one place of reference that we can turn to for guidance in our trip into this new world. At first the trip is exciting, our mistakes even amusing. Then it becomes frustrating and eventually, the frustration turns into anger. And it's at these stages of frustration and anger that we leave. We go back to the world from which we came, where we knew who we were, where we contributed, and where we could speak the language."[Ensign, May 1999, 108].

That just about sums it up! I expressed to the couple that I understood their frustrations. I presented to them a plan. They could investigate the Church again. Start over, and learn from the missionaries. We would extend commitments to them and teach them the lessons, and they should feel free to express their concerns or questions. Through this process, we would work towards the goal that they could become converts all over again, and this time be thoroughly converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They mulled it over for a minute and then Oscar expressed that he would like to speak with his wife about it before they make the decision to investigate again. He said they would talk it over, and call me when they were ready to start taking the lessons. I told him that sounded good, but if he didn't call me in a while, I was going to come back on my own. He said that was fine. Then we had a prayer, and we hugged. After we left, Elder Kamrowski was pretty confused. So I explained to him what had happened. All this time, the Branch has thought that this couple wasn't coming to church because they had grudges against other members. But that was just a concern that surfaced because of much deeper unmet spiritual needs. So be there for new converts!

Then the rest of the week was a whole lot of planning. With the new year, the Stake is making goals and plans. And there are rumors and fears of dissolving the Branch. We had 26 people at sacrament meeting yesterday, and the majority of them are assigned to the Branch. Our planning really started on Wednesday at our weekly coordination meeting with the Ward Mission Leader, Brother Nicholson. We determined in that meeting that there are only three or four active members who have a need for the Branch, the rest would do just fine in an English ward. We also discovered, however, that within the past six years there have been thirty-five convert baptisms in the Branch, supposedly the majority of whom would prefer to be in a Spanish Branch. Only about three of those converts are currently active. That brings me to another quote from President Hinckley, in the same chapter of Preach My Gospel: "There is absolutely no point in doing missionary work unless we hold on to the fruits of that effort. The two must be inseparable. … Every convert is a great and serious responsibility” (“Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 108).

We decided that we needed to make a more concerted effort on reactivating the lost sheep in the branch before it was really worth putting too much effort into baptizing converts. Obviously there is some kind of disconnect between the water and the temple. So, for a whopping 10+ hours in the next few days, we, the Sisters, and Brother Nicholson prepared a plan and a presentation for the conveniently scheduled Branch Council that Sunday evening. We presented to the Branch Council (which is comprised of all but one of the active families in the Branch) our plan for the growth of the Branch. They liked it. After our presentation, we spent an hour sharing our feelings on the longevity and well-being of the Branch. We offered ourselves up as missionaries to take more of the burden. We suggested that we would accept callings to serve in the Branch if necessary, be it in Primary, the Elders' Quorum, as a secretary, etc. These people are struggling to keep the Branch alive, and struggling to balance their jobs and families in the midst of it all. We're just trying to build the Branch, that's it. No other worries, no other distractions, so bring on the load!! We determined that we cannot let the Branch fail, because there are too many souls who would never come back to the Church if there was no Branch to come back to; too many people who wouldn't choose to attend an English Ward. We're still working on the specifics, but that's the situation for now. I really hope that the Branch Council can look to the four of us (the missionaries) as a blessing and as a source to turn to for help. We have nothing better to do at this point. We struggle with the desire to even baptize new converts into the Branch, knowing the chances of their success in remaining active in it. It is just as Moroni says in Alma 60:23: "...Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also."

So we're going to work to really lift the Branch with the members that we already have. Of course we will still be teaching investigators, but the hope is that we will be too busy lifting by assignment and by request from the members in the auxiliaries and with specific less-active families that we won't even have time to tract. Wish us luck! Choose the right and read your scriptures every day. Pray in your families and in secret. The Church is true! I love you all.

Elder Rogers

A Thought from Mom:

"Those who have come into the Church made a great sacrifice, many of them, when they were baptized. They are precious. They are the same kind of people htat you are and their generations will become the same kind of people as will your generations if they are nurtured and brought along in the Church. I don't know how to say it more strongly. This is a matter about which I feel so deeply as I go about this Church across the world."

~President Gordon B. Hinckley


Monday, January 5, 2015

HhhhA-ppy New Year!

Well, it's the beginning of another year! Great things will be going down in 2015!

The year started differently than expected, though. On Monday night we got a text from "Skynet," the mission-wide texting source, explaining that due to weather, transfers would be postponed until Thursday! That hasn't happened in the history of the reign of Murdock! But it happened. So Elder Smith got two extra days in San Juan! He had some sentimental moments saying goodbye to people, mostly to Alejandro and Chelsey. Then, on Thursday, se fue. He is now serving in Vail, a ski town far away in the mountains.

At transfers that day, I met my new companion, Elder Baker. He is from Redding, California, and he's been on his mission for about six months.
Elder Rogers and Elder Baker
Still pretty new. He just came from serving in Carbondale and Aspen. a fun fact is that his companion there, Elder Finkenthal, came to our mission a few months ago when he and all of the other missionaries were shipped out of the Sierra Leon Mission after being quarantined due to the Ebola virus!

With transfers being postponed, the departing missionaries didn't get to give their testimonies in transfer meeting, because they were home before it happened. That's okay, though! The Sisters that were in the MTC with me went home, and I was pretty bummed I wasn't going to get to hear their departing testimonies (because they would be given in the transfer meeting in Denver). But if I can't hear them, NO ONE CAN! Haha.

We've gone back to the good old fashioned survey/tracting approach with the end of the "He is the Gift" initiative. We've taught a few good little lessons from that this week. Elder Baker is a good teacher, and he's a pretty bold missionary. He has been a good example to me of beginning to teach and testify immediately when we meet someone. We tracted into a white guy, and he said, "Hey, can we leave you with a pamphlet?" The guy said, "Sure." So Elder Baker pulled out a Restoration pamphlet, and before giving it to him, he gave him a little overview of the contents as he flipped through the pictures, in essence, teaching him a short first lesson! It was pretty sweet. He then left the guy with a commitment to read the pamphlet, and we gave his information to the English missionaries. You can always learn things from those you serve around!

We had a church tour with the Morenos on Saturday night. They're doing pretty well. We invited the Sandovals, a family in the branch, to come to the tour as well. It worked out just as we had hoped! We'd had some trouble engaging Oscar in the lessons, but Brother Sandoval was able to relate really well with him and they got to talking after the lesson. Good things are happening. They didn't come to church again...  One had a massive headache, and the parents had to go to the border of Utah near Fruita to pick up their niece who had just flown in from Mexico. Bummer. They need to come to church! We had a great Gospel Principles lesson prepared for them, but we just ended up teaching it to the whole branch instead, because the other Sunday School teacher wasn't at church either. It was about prayer.

Well, it's the beginning of a new month, a new transfer, a new year, a new companionship! Lots of news! I know I'm going to learn and grow a lot in 2015. Let's make it the best year yet! I love you all! Be sure to choose the right!


Elder Rogers

A Thought from Mom:

"Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine."

~President Gordon B. Hinckley