Wednesday, April 26, 2017

WEEK 82 Vacaville

Family and Friends, 

Here we are again. I can't even believe how quickly it came and went. Although these past seven days were gone in a blink of an eye, they certainly were good ones. If there's one thing that particularly stood out to me this week, it was that transferring into a new area and trying to figure things out takes a lot of patience. I've been very fortunate on my mission to be staying in most of my areas for longer amounts of time but The Lord saw it fit for me to be transferred here to Vacaville. Despite the craziness that went on, we were actually able to get a lot of good work done so that made me really happy! 

With arranging rides for transfers, getting missionaries situated, delivering personal items, helping Elders and Sisters move into new apartments, and the other wild amounts of things on our to do list - we only had about two full days that allowed us to work in our area. Though our time was short, Elder Pike and I went to work. We absolutely killed it this week! 

In contacting, knocking doors, and through our finding efforts I've come to the conclusion that Vacaville has got to have some of the most kind, humble and genuine people on the planet. All walks of life, all shapes and sizes... EVERYBODY was so nice to us this week. There wasn't a single person that we walked up to, a single door we knocked on, or a single Less Active member of the church we visited that wasn't more than kind to us. Having just come from Eureka and walking the streets there - I stood in amazement as to how people kindly greeted us into their home and were more than happy to hear a message. That hasn't happened to me in months! I couldn't even believe my eyes. 

There really are people that are waiting and ready to hear the gospel message we have to share. Elder Pike and I decided to head to a neighborhood in our area and visit some people there. As we got out of the car and started to our first house - everything that followed were complete miracles from God. We met a Part-Member, Less Active family that hadn't been to church in almost a decade. They happily greeted us into their home and the wife even agreed to reading The Book of Mormon and letting us come back to teach them more. A couple houses down, a man by the name of Kumar (of Indian descent) let us come in and teach him about the Restoration. Derrick and his two kids (random people we met on the street) happily sat on their front driveway, and let us teach them some things about the Prophet Joseph Smith. All in all, it was just an extremely great couple of days that we had to spend in our area. I loved every minute of it. 

One of the more daunting tasks we have within our area happens to be figuring out what to do with the investigators we have and how we can get them moving towards baptism. There are soooo many great people here that are nearly ready to make the commitment - we just need figure out what will get them there. We really have come together as a companionship and have prayed mightily to The Lord that He would bless us to know what we could best do to help these people. I'm anxious to see what The Lord has in store for us as we continue to give our best efforts and are consistently seeking to do His will. 

We have a lot scheduled for the upcoming days and I'm so excited to get out there and just work. I do love this work with all my heart. I have a great testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel in these the latter days. This is God's church. I know it with all my heart. My testimony is strengthened as I feel the spirit and walk in the paths that Heavenly Father has outlined for me. I hope and pray to only bring the joy and happiness I receive--from the Gospel--to another family out there in the world. Here's to a new week with new challenges and greater opportunities to grow. 

I love you all. Talk to you next week. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer

WEEK 81 Eureka, McKinleyville Ward & Humboldt YSA Ward 

Family and Friends,

What a journey it's been. I can't believe how quickly the past four and a half months have gone by. It seems as if almost yesterday I was taking my first drive up Highway 101 and being mesmerized by the beautiful, dark thickets of green that surrounded us. Now, as I think about leaving this miraculously gorgeous area and the people therein - I feel sad because of the distance that will be between us. Although I won't see these people as often as I would like, I take with me the memories, experiences, and lessons learned. 

Without going into too much detail, Eureka has easily been the hardest area I've ever served in on my mission. With that being said, I know that I was sent here for a reason. I feel that I learned a lot about trials and why they are to come. I have come to understand that life isn't just to be 'endured' but rather to continuously be living the Gospel in such a way that would permit us a greater amount of spiritual growth through rough times. There is a lot that my Heavenly Father has blessed me to learn over this amount of time and I'm thankful. Feeling forever blessed. 

As this chapter of the book ends, another one opens. I'm heading to Vacaville with an extremely optimistic outlook on it all. The area happens to be one of the most 'coveted' areas in the mission. Our Ward and Stake happen to be the most missionary minded people in our whole mission area. They've got a great love for helping assist in The Lords work and I couldn't be more excited to rub shoulders with them for however long time will permit me. There are good things waiting for me in Vacaville. I can just feel it. 

I'll write more next week. Stay tuned. 

I love you all. Be safe. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer

WEEK 79 Eureka, McKinleyville Ward & Humboldt YSA Ward 

Family and Friends, 

I feel so fortunate to be a missionary for this church. Weeks like this make me realize how happy I am in the Gospel. This had to have been one of the hardest weeks I've ever worked on my mission and in return one of the happiest weeks I've ever had on my mission. Heavenly Father really just carried us along in all that we did and filled our mouths with the things to say every time we met with someone. Surely there was a mighty missionary spirit and power within our companionship that drove us day by day as we walked the cold, damp streets of McKinleyville. 

I felt like we took a walk through the eternities this week. We walked everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. We took it upon ourselves to omit any activities that would detract our attention from fulfilling our purpose and this provided for a lot of tracting. In this pursuit of using our time most effectively and talking to the greatest amount of people that we possibly could - we inevitably came upon some very interesting and almost dangerous conversations. I'll just put it very simply. The people of Humboldt County were not too happy that The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sung at Donald Trump's Inauguration. Hahaha yeah, we took a lot of heat for that one. Regardless, we made the best possible situations with what we were given, testified of what we knew, and invited people to learn more. Not many people were too interested in learning more rather than debating, but we were able to find some really great potential families to teach. We will be following up with them this coming week! 

Elder Hawkins and I also had such a fun time at a Less Active Members home doing service on Thursday. In our proselyting clothes (white shirts and ties) we made it to the back yard with Axe's in hand and had our way with the wood out there. Man, it felt so good to swing that thing around and get some good work done for Sister Jackson. We caught quite a few splinters while doing it but that seemed to be not too big of a problem. We thoroughly enjoyed doing this and laughed a lot while we were out there. Needless to say, it took me some time to figure it out, but with my dear companions help - we got some good wood chopped up. 

On top of all our proselyting and service efforts, we had an extensive amount of meetings this past week that provided for a lot of revelatory experiences. Zone Conference with President and Sister Wright was nothing short of amazing. They are--without a doubt--the best mission president companionship that ever walked the earth. They're just outstanding. Following our Zone Conference with them, I felt such a renewed and great desire to go out and bring others unto Christ. They truly are inspired and I know that I was to be serving in the mission at the same time they were. I feel that so strongly about that. 

With some missionaries in the Zone struggling with overall motivations and work habits, we were advised to hold a "personal progress interview"--of sorts--and counsel with the missionaries as to some things that would help them. At first I was a bit nervous to do so, but we found a lot of successes come from this. Both of the missionaries were so wonderful and really opened up to us. They told us of some personal battles that they were currently struggling with and we set some meaningful goals that would help them overcome their struggles. As Elder Hawkins and I invited them to work on some things, we committed ourselves to doing the exact same. What a miracle this has been as we've taken part of this. We have seen so many blessings associated with these "sacrifices" so to speak. Missionary work is the cats pajamas, man. 

We also had the privilege of a General Authority coming to visit the Eureka Stake for Stake Conference this past weekend. What a treat this was. Elder Kapishka (in his broken English and German accent) delivered such wonderful messages about hope and faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. He counseled us as a body of the church to have more confidence in The Lord and trust more fully in all that He asks us to do. I thought it was quite interesting as to how he tied in our hope (in The Lord) being strengthened as we were more obedient to the commandments. I had never thought about it in such a way and it motivated me to continue to be as obedient as I can as a missionary. Not to mention, at our Stake Conferences, we had a combined total of 7 Less Active Members show up. I couldn't stop smiling when I saw each one of them walk in the door to that Chapel. 

Overall, the greatest thing that happened this week took place immediately after our Stake Conference. A member in the Arcata Ward came up to us this Sunday and told us of a client of his that had expressed some interest in meeting with the missionaries. As we learned more, it turned out that Brother Fjerstead had been praying for and meeting with this man for the past seven years. Slowly, here and there, Brother Fjerstead had offered his testimony, given out a Book of Mormon, spent countless hours on his knees in prayer, and being a wonderful example to this man - Randy Williamson has made the decision to be baptized a member of the church. Seven years later after ALL that Brother Fjerstead had done, Randy finally invited us over to his home and told us he knew this was the true church. What a blessing and an answer to many prayers this was. I know that The Lord was preparing this man. Even if it took a whole lifetime, he is now ready and humble enough to accept the Gospel in his life. How thankful I am for Randy and more importantly for Brother Fjerstead. Truly - "a member missionary". 

We feel, as a companionship, a great deal of accomplishment from all the great lengths we went to to get the work done this week. We feel that The Lord really blessed us with some miracles and growing opportunities as well. We are so excited for Randy and will continue to work with him and our other new Investigators this week. There is a lot that Heavenly Father has in store for us these next couple weeks of the transfer. 

I feel blessed to be a part of something so special. I love this work with all my heart. The world will never be the same because of the message we share. 

I love you all. I'll see you soon. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

WEEK 78 Eureka, McKinleyville Ward & Humboldt YSA Ward 

Family and Friends, 

We've faced an enormous amount of uphill battles since the last time we talked. As though most of the stumbling blocks we find are easy, maneuverable, and only take a bit of effort to find solutions - this, however is very different. We have little to no control over this. The greatest obstacle we've had to climb over has been the people within the McKinleyville/Humboldt YSA area. Particularly the lack thereof. It seems as if a lethal disease has swept through 3/4 of the town and completely decimated the majority of the population here. We have had almost no one to teach, visit, or even talk to in the past couple of weeks. 

Needless to say, Elder Hawkins and I found ourselves walking around neighborhoods knocking doors and talking with everybody we saw for hours and hours at a time. Each and every person in our teaching pool was completely missing in action, not answering phone calls, responding to texts, or answering their door, so this was all we were left to do. This was literally the only possible solution we had to making good use of our time. We came home a couple of nights empty handed and without much success. It took a lot of prayer as a companionship over this last week that The Lord would help us find people to teach. We knew with our circumstances and situation - we couldn't do it on our own. We needed to turn to Heavenly Father. Fortunately, as we pressed forward, kept praying, kept those feet moving, and kept talking to every single person we saw - four new investigators and a family of six were found. They each asked us to return and teach them more about the Gospel. Blessings on blessings, I tell ya. 

As we tried to find ways to mix up our contacting and finding efforts, my companion and I came up with a brilliant idea that would REALLY put ourselves out there. It took a bit of courage to do so, but it turned out so AWESOME. We contacted the Vainuku family in one of the Eureka Wards, got permission, and went forward with our plans of working in their newly opened restaurant. Elder Hawkins and I took it upon ourselves to show up on Tuesday and Thursday (as the Vainuku's told us these were the two busiest days of the week), to put on aprons over our white shirts and ties and prepared to help in whatever capacity they needed. By the end of the day, we had bussed tables, served people their food, took orders at the cash register, cleaned tables & chairs, washed dishes, and even cooked some food. We caught some seriously awkward stares and weird looks as two missionaries in white shirts and ties delivered people their barbecued ribs, tri-tip, teriyaki chicken, rice and macaroni salad, but HEY. We got a ton of publicity and talked to a lot of people. We had a lot of fun doing it as well! 

The High Priest men in our Ward have (over a long while) been tackling a 'laundry list' of about 140 names and people that live within our boundaries but haven't been seen in quite some time. As lots of previous missionaries have worked on this list and contributed a great amount - the list was finally finished this past week as Elder Hawkins and I visited the remaining few that were left. What a relief that was and a great sense of accomplishment to have seen such a large project be completed with the help of all the men in the Ward, the missionaries and more importantly The Lord. We couldn't have done it without everyone that helped. 

With preparations needing to be made for this upcoming Zone Conference, we've certainly been slammed with things to do, organize, look over, and assignments to be made. Interviews with the mission president will also take place this transfer and there happens to be a lot of coordination that comes along with that. Getting large numbers of missionaries to and from their areas, safely, effectively and in a timely manor isn't always the easiest thing in the world. Regardless of the headaches and stress that comes from it all, I couldn't be more thankful for it. What a great cause to be engaged in. Serving others and helping others has been such a blessing in my life. 

Missionary work is the greatest darn thing that has ever happened. I stand amazed at all that goes on and with all that works out the way it does. There certainly is someone behind it all. This is The Lords work and this is His church. 

I love my mission. I'll see you soon. GodSpeed. 

-Elder Schaefer

Monday, April 17, 2017

WEEK 76 Eureka, McKinleyville Ward & Humboldt YSA Ward 
Family and Friends, 

Most weeks come and go with so much to report on, things to talk about and a lot of marvelous experiences I wish to recount. With it being the week of Christmas and only a few days left until the celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ - I only want to offer my simple testimony of the special babe that came into the world many years ago. 

From the Bible stories we've all had the privilege of hearing and the special nativity scenes that were displayed throughout many of our homes, they each tell of a special event that brings unmatched hope and purpose to every individual that has ever lived. A King. A Prince of Peace. The Lord of Lords. The Anointed One. The Messiah. This man was born to fulfill the will of His father and to bring clarity in a world full of confusion. He came as a sacrifice for all - so that we can live again. So that we can have second chances. So that we would one day return to the presence of our Eternal Father and have joy beyond our own imagination. What a special life He lived. What a gift we've been given. This is the season to rejoice and sing hallelujah to His name. 

I stand as a witness of his divine love. I testify of a living Christ. I have felt the bands of iniquity been loosed from my very soul. There is a redeeming power that goes beyond description. Sin, addiction, short comings, personal frailties, weaknesses, and all other ends of imperfect human nature are made up for through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. As a result of His sacrifices, the world has irrevocably been changed. It has not and will not ever be the same. 

My testimony of Him is unwavering. My faith in Him is ever growing. I love Him with all my heart and am thankful for such a matchless blessing. He will forever stand as the greatest thing that has ever happened to this earth and to me, personally. 

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and pray that The Lord's spirit will be upon you come these next couple days. 

Until next week. I'll see you soon. GodSpeed.

-Elder Austen Schaefer

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

WEEK 75 Eureka, McKinleyville Ward & Humboldt YSA Ward 

Family and Friends, 

As this chapter in my life is coming to a close and another one is soon to open, I am feeling so blessed for all that has gone on here in the McKinleyville Ward. These two most recent transfers have undoubtedly been some of the best times on my mission. The Lord has blessed us so richly and has manifested himself in innumerable amounts of ways. We've seen miracles. I've learned a tremendous amount. I feel that I've grown in a wide variety of ways. My testimony of the Gospel is a lot stronger. Although this week wasn't easy for me - I feel a substantial amount of comfort in knowing that one day my companion and I will be back together. 

Overall, the hardest part of this week was losing one of my best friends. Saying goodbye to a dear friend and brother is not always the easiest thing in the world. We've been through a lot over the past 17 months. Ups and downs, twists and turns. Needless to say - I wouldn't be where I am today without Elder Adamson. There has not been a more influential missionary in my life than him. I will never forget all that we've done and the privilege is was to have gotten to serve alongside him. I'm sad to see him go, but looking forward to the day I get to see him again. We had a good run. It's not over from here, though. #RideOrDie

For now, there's still a lot of work to be done in Eureka. I know without a shadow of a doubt that God has prepared more people to hear and be taught the Gospel. I'm looking forward to all that The Lord has in store for my companion and I. For the opportunity I have to bring others this humble message, I'll never be more grateful. 

Until next week. 

I'll see you soon. Be safe. GodSpeed.

-Elder Austen Schaefer

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

WEEK 74 Eureka, McKinleyville Ward & Humboldt YSA Ward 
Family and Friends, 

I stand all amazed. As much as this is a common theme for each of my emails, I mean it whole heartedly when I say it. This week was definitely up there with some of the better weeks I've had on my mission. The Lord has blessed our area so tremendously. We weren't around for a couple days, but things unfolded wonderfully. 

At the beginning of the week, Elder Adamson and I put a great amount of emphasis on working as hard as we could due to our week being shortened by the Mission Leadership Conference we had in Santa Rosa on Thursday & Friday. We scheduled as many appointments and set up as many lessons as those in our teaching pool would permit. We had a couple really great lessons with some of our Less Active Members, but those of our investigators weren't able to find the time to meet. That was a bit of a bummer. 

The week started to pick up quite a bit as Elder Adamson and I made our way to Santa Rosa on Thursday Night. The drive down was absolutely spectacular, but the meeting we had was phenomenal. We counseled together as mission leaders regarding certain topics and areas of improvement that this mission could potentially see. I was so touched by the spirit as we talked about a ton of different subjects pertaining to missionary work. It really made me appreciate my mission a whole lot more and all the work that is put into it. The greatest part of all was seeing the large increase of numbers throughout our mission. The missionaries here in the California, Santa Rosa mission really are working hard. The Lords work is progressing drastically and the numbers are there to prove it. 

Fortunately, on Wednesday (before we left for MLC) we were able to set up an appointment with President Wright to Skype us for a baptismal interview with Tessa. There were some slight complications we had to make our way around, but with the help of President Wright - she was given the 'go ahead' to be baptized a member of the church. We couldn't have been more excited! We had a lot to prepare for, but the baptism turned out SO wonderfully. The entire Humboldt Branch was there in support of Tessa and it certainly brought a wonderful spirit to the baptismal service. One of my most favorite parts of it all was seeing my great companion baptizing her. That brought me so much joy! 

As though it wouldn't have seemed to be enough in just having Tessa baptized this past weekend - we set ANOTHER three baptismal dates with our investigators for this coming Sunday. Christiana, Tala, & Zanai will also be entering the waters of baptism on December 10th, 2016. We've still got a couple lessons to do with each of them, but we plan on getting them done within the next few days. The 'fruits of our labors' really are manifesting themselves in many ways. We will be praying that all goes well for next Sunday

Another highlight of the week was the amazing Ward Christmas Party we had here in the McKinleyville Ward. As my companion and I weren't in our area for a couple days to spread the word about it, the members in our Ward really stepped up to the plate. There were a combined 7 Less Actives and 3 Investigators at our party. What an amazing thing to have seen! We were absolutely delighted as to the work that had been put in while we were gone. The cherry on top of it all was that EACH person that attended the Ward Christmas Party enjoyed themselves so much that they showed up for church the next morning. It was one of the most amazing things in the world. 

Looking back on all that happened - I can't help but grin from ear to ear. I am so thankful for all that The Lord blessed us with over the last week and over the last two transfers. As we're going into the last week of the transfer and the last week of my companions mission, we still have a lot of work to do. There a lot of loose ends we've got to tie up. We're going to finish this out strong. 

I'll forever be thankful for the time I've had to serve with Elder Adamson. I've learned a lot. I've grown a lot. These have undoubtedly been some of the greatest times I've had on my mission. I look forward to twenty years down the road when we're sitting in each other's basements watching football and talking about the time we served together. What a glorious day that will be. Until then - here's to another week full of memories and hard work. 

I'll see you all soon enough. Be safe. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer