Monday, August 24, 2015

WEEK 8- Fairfield 2nd Ward

Family and Friends,

GEESE?!  It's P-Day again, already?!  It literally feels like yesterday that I was typing up my last email and sending it home.  I can't believe how fast time goes out here. Days really do feel like weeks, but weeks turn into days.  It blows my mind, but I am absolutely loving it in the mission field. Nothing huge happened this week in terms of missionary work, but I have experienced a couple "miracles” per-say.

I think the best thing to ever happen out here yet has been a recent purchase on the churches tab.  THEY BOUGHT ME A NEW BED!!!!  Ahhhh best thing to happen yet. ;)  Just kidding!  But for real, I have been sleeping so well. The first night I got it, I went to bed 30 minutes early. I got so comfortable laying there, I really felt like I was at home. It got so bad, that l eventually reached over to my nightstand looking to grab my phone. Literally. I kept moving my hand around looking to find it, but there was obviously no phone there. Yeah, I kinda felt like an idiot but I was able to laugh about it. Hahahah. 
Despite the humiliating “at home experience” we had something really cool happen. When I first got here in the field, we had an AWESOME investigator named Linda.  Linda seemed to be the “golden” investigator that everybody talks about.  We taught her about The Restoration and she couldn't have been more satisfied with what we had to share. She wanted more of the lessons, and asked us if we would come back the next day. So, we scheduled a couple appointments with her. Upon returning for visits, she never seemed to be home.  We called her, knocked her door about 15 separate times, etc.  We just couldn't get in contact.  It was one of the most frustrating things, but I continued to feel prompted by the spirit to keep her as an investigator and not drop her.  Weeks went by without seeing or speaking to her.  We have been praying about her for the past month.  I wanted so badly to see her again and give her another lesson because I felt that she had so much potential.
Saturday night we had been canceled on for all our appointments.  We had nobody to go see, and no plans.  I immediately had the feeling that we needed to just try ONE more time. Elder Achal was hesitant in going to see Linda, but I eventually broke him.  We headed over, parked outside of her house and knocked her door.  I'm sure you could've guessed what answer.  Very discouraged we decided to just knock doors in her neighborhood for the rest of the night.  After about 2 hours of tracting, it started to get late so we headed back to the car.  Upon returning to the car, you're not gonna believe who was standing outside her house.  LINNNNDAAAA!!!  We had a great conversation and planned a couple lessons for this upcoming week.  I truly felt The Lord answering my prayers and blessing us to see her.  We put a lot of effort into making things work with her, and our work was finally being paid off.  It was so cool to see that when we follow such a little prompting, our prayers can be answered and tender mercies of The Lord will be unfolded before our eyes.
This week hasn't been super crazy, but I am definitely excited for transfers on Friday. I wanna know who my next trainer is. The Zone Leaders told me I'd be staying in Fairfield for the next transfer, but anything could really happen.  I would love to stay here and lead out the area.  It'll be interesting to find out what Heavenly Father wants for me. 
I miss you all, a lot.  This has been one of the hardest weeks being away from home. Especially with Corner Canyon football starting up, and the first football game being last Friday. I really miss those days, but I know that there's better days ahead for me. 
Love you all very much. I'll see you soon. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer

Monday, August 17, 2015

WEEK 7- Fairfield 2nd Ward

Family and Friends,

Hi guys. Today marks 40 days of being out in the mission field. Feels like it's kinda been an eternity, yet it has kinda flown by as well. I can't begin to describe how grateful I am to be out here and the lessons I've learned in just these short 40 days. You come to know whom you really are. You come to know how vulnerable you are out here without mom and dad. You learn to appreciate everything that was “given” to you back home. (Especially the convenience of walking downstairs and slowly making your way closer to mom, signaling you want a back scratch. You really can't do that here. Your companion would beat the crap out of you if you tried to pull something like that.) So yeah, you could say it's not easy being a missionary. It's tough sometimes. ;) In all seriousness, you've really just got to forget yourself and begin to look “outward rather than inward”. It's a harsh lesson to learn, but I've found it to be one of the things I value most. It's truly a christ-like attribute that epitomizes the “purpose” of us missionaries. Our purpose is one of selflessness and love for our fellow man. There is no way by any means that we can fulfill our purpose if we are constantly looking inward. Nor can we be truly happy. This message applies to those not on missions as well. I'm not going to preach much to you guys this week, but I invite you to think about your efforts in looking outward rather than inward. Trying to find ways to make others lives easier and being willing to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). I promise as you look for opportunities to serve others, you will become happier as a direct result of it. Whatever way you can do this, I invite you to try. That's my challenge for you this week.
Aside from the spiritual messages, I've had a pretty awesome week. I've been fed the ABSOLUTE best meals this week than I've had while being out. We've had everything from Mong food, to Filipino food, and the traditional Roast and Potatoes that we Americans often times call “comfort food”. It's definitely served as that and has provided us with happy stomachs.
We've also taught more lessons this week than ever before. Our efforts have been successful in trying to get into peoples homes. That really is the hardest part out here. People are so reluctant to let us into their homes. They often times have preconceived notions about missionaries and don't understand what we are here for. But, once in the home, the spirit takes off and the families want more and more of what we have to share. It's so cool to see that transition and the desire they have to get more of our lessons. I think the most rewarding part of missionary work is teaching a lesson, sharing a challenge with the investigators (to read the scriptures, say prayers, or whatever it might be) and seeing them fulfill their challenge. You then know as a missionary that the spirit of The Lord has worked through them as a result of what you've shared. You've inspired them enough to take your challenge and run with it. It's not very often that this happens, but when it does... ITS AN AMAZING FEELING.
My favorite part of this week was on Monday night. We went out to dinner at a Mongolian grill (No, not the same as Mong food) with a couple in our ward. They told us they were from Utah and both attended Hunter High School some number of years ago. She was a year younger than him. They both dated before he left on his mission, and she waited all two years for him. He came home, they dated, and eventually tied the knot. Sounds like quite the story, huh?! ;) But the coolest part of dinner was when they were telling me about their days at Hunter High. I was super excited because my football trainers graduated from Hunter, and then later played in the NFL. They were quick to tell me they both knew John Madsen and Brayden Loertscher. Both Braden and John trained me for football during my Sophomore, Junior, and Senior year of high school. They were super good friends with Brayden during school and texted him a picture of me.  I'm sure Elder Achal was sitting there bored out of his mind, but it brought me so much comfort. It was so fun to meet them and eat some awesome food at the same time.
Basically this week was pretty freakin awesome. I am really getting these lessons in Preach My Gospel down, memorizing scriptures, and relying on the Savior to do the rest. It has been a pleasure serving out here in Fairfield, California. It isn't the prettiest sight in the world, but there certainly are amazing people that live here. I believe I'll be staying here another transfer, but we will get that information in a couple weeks. I really hope they keep me here.
I hope all is well back home. I'm sure nothing has changed dramatically since I've left. And nothing probably will in the two years I'm gone.
 Keep saying your prayers. Keep reading your scriptures. Keep going to church.

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

-Elder Schaefer

Monday, August 10, 2015

WEEK 6- Fairfield 2nd Ward

Before I came out into the field, I asked everyone about their mission experience and the lessons they learned while serving. I talked to a bunch of old geezers who had been home for 25 years, and I talked to a couple guys freshly off the mission. The responses were all different, but some were very much alike. Regardless of the different advice everyone gave, there seemed to be one thing that stayed constant for all missionaries. Change seemed to be the answer.

“You’ll change so much out on your mission.”
“The mission changes who you are.”
“You’ll come home a new man.”

After hearing all of this, I essentially came to the conclusion that “I would come home as someone different than the person I left as.” I didn’t quite know how to take it, but if everybody’s doing it, I need to as well… right?! I needed to come out on my mission and come home a brand new person. I needed to leave, and return as a new individual. Now… I know I’ve only been out in the mission field for 5 weeks, but I’m slowly starting to realize that what everybody was telling me was the complete opposite of what I wanted to happen while being out on the mission. I didn’t want to change? I loved the person I was when I was back home. I enjoyed being myself.

I’ve learned very quickly, that change isn’t always good. We don’t come out here to “change” the person we once were. We shouldn’t come home a “new person.” I believe the reason we are invited to serve is so that as young men, we can grow. Growth is the destination when serving a mission. Heavenly Father assigns each missionary to a place in the world that we will most benefit from, and the people we come in contact with will benefit from, as well. We are assigned this specific place because The Lord knows where we will most succeed and become the people we were designed to be. He knows whom we will touch the hearts of. If we come out to the mission field to “change” the person we are, we can no longer serve those that are in need of US. The people that need our personalities, and senses of humor, and wisdom, and knowledge, and testimony.

I once heard something really cool out here. A sister in our ward shared “It isn’t quite about where we are on the ladder, but whether or not we are climbing up it.” I think that is both applicable to the mission field and life in general. It doesn’t matter who you are right now. It doesn’t matter who you come out into the mission field as. As long as we are growing as people, we have served our purpose. We all grow in different ways as well. For people like myself, growing UP is a huge thing that I need to learn. Also, growing to be the father that I will one day need to be. Even growing to be more Christ like and having more humility towards my neighbor. It’s all a matter of our own rate, but growth is central to the Savior’s plan of happiness for each and every one of us. We cannot be the people our Heavenly Father wants us to be if we aren’t growing as humans.

Now, talking about life. Life is quite the same way. (It’s so interesting to see the same principles out here in the mission field able to be applied for those back home) We can be growing in our everyday lives as well. Heavenly Father doesn’t just send us out for two years, and upon returning home, pat us on the back and our work is suddenly done. Growing is a lifelong process. Growing closer to our spouses. Growing closer to our families and children. Growing to be more of an example of righteousness to others. All these examples of growth are very simple aspects of our lives. It’s not my job to determine that for you, though. We are each sent here on earth to be tried and tested as people. Our earthly ministry is our own journey. We are invited to come unto Christ and keep his commandments. As we do this, in return, the Savior promises us blessings and growth as human beings.

It’s my testimony and invitation for you to try it. Find something in your life that you could do better at. Maybe, something that you haven’t quite mastered yet?! Look inward, and try to grow better at it. Try and be the best person you can possibly be. Strive to be an example for everybody that looks to you. Be the person you were designed to be. You can do it. I have faith in you. The Lord has faith in you. Not only does he have ample amounts of faith, but is willing to help you in any goals or aspirations you have. He is there for each and every one of us. I promise that as you reach out your hand, he will reach out as well.

This is just kinda my two cents on this whole mission thing. I haven’t come a long way, and I’ve still got a LONG way to go. I don’t want to give you boring mission updates when I send emails. It’s the same every week. Work, work, work. We pick up new investigators and lose some. We sweat more, and come home stinkier. Members feed us gross Meatloaf and we have to choke it down. It’s a monotonous type of work, but one that I’m truly finding myself through. Growing as a person and growing closer to the Savior. I hope to return home not a new person, but a grown person. Grown closer to the Savior, and maybe a little more grown up than I left. ;)

I hope all is well in your lives. I keep you all in my prayers EVERY night. I love and miss each and every one of you. Keep growing. Keep moving forward and climbing the ladder of life. It’s a long journey, but the end of the race is beyond worth it. Strive to be better. I know you can do it.

I’ll see you soon. I love you most. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer

WEEK 4- Fairfield 2nd Ward

No group email today... (A few of us were able to email back and forth with Austen for about an hour this afternoon. It was a joy.) 

I did want you all to know that Elder Schaefer is doing WONDERFUL. 
He said he is starting to lose himself in the work and it's making things a lot easier.  He said he has laughed harder, and had more fun this week than than he has ever had. 
He is incredibly grateful for the prayers being offered on his behalf.  He feels the love, and was incredibly appreciative. 
Below is the short email he did send.  Along with a beautiful photo of the Oakland Temple.


Hi guys. This week has been so wacky and crazy.  I'm sorry I don't have a group email to send out.  Our Mission President planned for our district to take a trip to the Oakland Temple today.  Instead of having our regular P-Day yesterday, he had us go out and work.  We were given only about 4 hours in total today for ourselves.  He combined our trip to the temple and our P-Day all into one afternoon. Wonderful, I know.  :)

 WEEK 3- Fairfield 2nd Ward

Well, I'm finally here. Santa Rosa, is the new place to call home for the next two years. The first night we got in here was AWESOME. We headed straight to the mission home and dove head first into some orientations and training. We went over EVERYTHING there is to know about the mission. Each and every one of us had an interview with the mission president. I got to meet him & his wife. They're awesome people. You can truly tell they find joy in serving as mission presidents. After meeting with them we headed to a nearby hotel. Right when we got there, they advised us to go to bed because "it was going to be the best night of sleep we had for two years." Which I can now testify that what they said was true. I've been more tired and sleep deprived than EVER before in my life.

This past week has been one of the hardest weeks of my life and I'm quite confident in saying that. I was so anxious to actually get out into the field and be able to start this journey. Now, I'm beginning to understand what everybody meant when they said "the first three months would be the toughest". I sit on my bed and often find myself thinking about coming home and the joy that it will bring me to see my family and friends again. But before I get too deep into thought, I'll hear my trainer calling my name while speedily heading out the door to ANOTHER appointment. (I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways.) He has been working me until I just about die. In a way, I see how this is going to benefit me in the future, but right now in the moment it's tough work. It's not even necessarily work, its labor.

We currently have 3 baptismal dates set up for August, and are hoping for 2 more. There are a ton of people out here in California with religious backgrounds. All ranging from catholic, protestant, baptist, christian, etc. They all have these great churches that they attend to, but all the investigators claim to be looking for "more." A lot of them tell us that they just "aren't quite satisfied with everything their church practices". For us missionaries, it makes our spiritual senses tingle. It feels so good to share lessons and truth with these wonderful people. You really start to appreciate having developed a testimony and being brought up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from such a young age. 

My favorite investigator of all is an older woman named Linda. Shes an African American in her late 50's. And MAN O' MAN does she have a personality on her. She's got every bit of Oomf and pizazzle on her that you wouldn't find anywhere but the south. (She's from Louisiana of course.) She is a DIE HARD Christian and has a very spiritual side to her. We taught her The Restoration of the Gospel the other night and it was by far the coolest experience I've had out here on the mission. The spirit was so strong. She tried to bible ash a little bit at first, but once we started to explain things and tell her more about the Mormon beliefs,she simmered down. We gave her a Book of Mormon and invited her to take Moroni's promise in Moroni 10:3-5. She said she would read and then ponder & pray about everything. She seemed to be interested in everything we had to say and she insisted we set up another appointment with her this week. I can't wait to see her progression and where she goes from here!

I am going to continue forward in faith that The Lord will take me by the hand and help me enjoy this work. I am going to start seeing the brighter side of things and look forward with confidence. This upcoming week is going to be a scorcher, and we are completely out of miles on our car... But I know that as I'm optimistic, I'll be alright. The Lord's got me.

I hope and pray you are all doing well. I pray every night for your safety and protection. Please keep me in your prayers. Elder Achal and I really appreciate it. 

"Put your head down, and keep those feet movin." I'll see you soon. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer


I can't begin to describe how grateful I am for all the packages, letters, and emails that I have gotten over the past week and a half.  Every single one of these have been so exciting to receive and open throughout the time I've been here at the MTC. It feels like Christmas morning when I check the inbox on my email, and the mailbox in our residence hall. Getting all of these things makes me feel a certain sense of "home away from home." I'm am only now starting to realize how hard it is to be away from family and friends. When people always told me it'd be tough being away from your mom, I kind of blew it off. I'm now sitting here wishing I could hangout in the family room and talk with her while she tickles my back.  You really miss the "little things" when you're out here alone. I didn't ever think 2 years would be this hard. I miss you all very, very much. Despite it all, I know that because of my service to the Lord, he will be keeping a close eye on every single one of you.❤

This week has truly been one of the hardest tests of my faith that the Lord has put me through, up until this point in my life. I've grown and matured more than I ever thought I could. Teaching investigators, searching the scriptures, fingering through endless pages of Preach my Gospel, & praying until there's nothing left to say, is just a small glimpse of how rigorous and draining this whole mission thing can be. Just when you think you'd had enough, your instructors cram some more gospel doctrine down your throat... just because it'll "help you teach investigators one day." I have relied on the merits of the Savior to get me through all of this. Without him, none of this would be possible. My imperfect and mortal personage couldn't withstand all of this alone. I'm so grateful to know that when I need a shoulder to lean on, the Lord is right by my side. D&C 84:88 "... I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."

Teaching investigators has also got to be one of the most frustrating things in the world. You devote so much of your time to study and prepare a lesson that pertains to these individuals just to find out that they "still don't believe the Book of Mormon to be the true Word of God", or "I just don't understand how not drinking coffee will make me happy."  Because of the love that I have for this Gospel, I am so anxious to share it with them when we have appointments scheduled. After completing lessons, and it not being well received, it eats me away inside. It's been a huge lesson to me that conversion takes time. Rome wasn't built over night. Building a testimony is the same way. It takes time and a lot of effort on our part. My favorite quote I've heard from my time being here was from a speaker we had in a devotional. "When you start seeking, he will start speaking." This is one of the most true things I've ever heard. I've found it very useful when teaching investigators and even in my own personal study. The Lord will speak to us, as we earnestly seek him. If you don't believe it... Then try it. Test the lord and his goodness. I promise he will not fail you. 

I can't wait to get out of this freakin place. The schedule & activities we do have gotten so redundant, it's a task in itself to even get up in the mornings. Our instructors keep preaching to us... "it will be different out in the field". I'm really hoping so, because class for 8 hours per day is reaaaalllyyyy getting old. We have 12 kids crammed into a classroom that's honestly no bigger than my bathroom at home. We all laugh until we're blue in the face and try to make this the funniest it can be. (Well, all of us except my companion. He just sits there in silence. He kinda freaks me out a bit.) The kids here are great and the relationships we've built with our have been awesome, but I'm still ready to ski-daddle.

Looking back on all of this, I know that these trials have been given to me for a reason. The Lord gives us trials in our lives so that we may "humble ourselves before the Lord." (Helaman 12:1-4) Without these stumbling blocks, things would be too easy. And of course, The Lord can't make things too easy on us.  We're here for a reason. Life on earth is an opportunity and a blessing. Our purpose in this life is to have joy and prepare to return to God’s presence. While we are in mortality, we will have experiences that bring us happiness. We also are guaranteed to have experiences that bring us pain and sorrow. These experiences provide us opportunities to learn and to grow, to distinguish good from evil, and to make choices that will one day bring us back to live with our Heavenly Father. I know that my mission is going to be a process. I understand and have faith in my Heavenly Father that despite the trials I face while out here, he will be with me. He will work through me to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." I'm ready to face anything that comes my way.

Thanks for all the love, support and care that you have all so graciously shared with me. You don't know how much it's meant. You're all great.  Can't wait to see you again.

I love you so much. I'll see you soon. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer
Hello Family & Friends,

Wow. That's really all I can say, right now. These past 2 days have
been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. I've gone through
the highest of highs & the lowest of lows. There have been more
positive experiences than negative, though. When I first entered the
MTC, it was very hard walking away from family and saying our last
goodbyes for 2 years. I walked my bags through the front doors and
immediately I felt a spirit that I had never before experienced. It
was one of comfort and love.❤️ Everyone here has been SO welcoming and
kind. Every Elder, Sister, and MTC worker have been the nicest people
in the world. They all have shown a genuine interest and care for our
well being. It has certainly made things easier around here. Upon
entering the MTC, I found a very familiar face. Elder Cahoon came and
took over for me. He started to take me to my residence and from a
distance far away I heard a familiar voice yell "AUST!!!!!!" There was
Nick running off from his companion to come and give me a huge hug.
this was certainly something that brightened my mood & made me feel
more comfortable with this place. We then continued to my room and
they helped me unpack. It's been so comforting knowing that they're
here with me & im not alone.

Meeting my companions and district members for the first time was a
little weird. I'll admit, my companion is a little dorky & quiet.
That's okay, though. We've grown together tremendously. We laugh &
joke A TON. They're all very bright, smart, young men. They each have
very strong testimonies and it provides a lot of spiritual
experiences. Some of us received callings in our district and my
calling is Priesthood Coordinator. I will be running and conducting
all Priesthood meetings on Sunday's. It's a calling I'm willing to
accept and work this calling to the best of my ability. It's going to
give me the ability to work closely & grow closer to these boys during
the next week or so.

This week has been such an amazing experience. I have already grown so
much as a missionary and learned more than I ever thought I would.
Here in the MTC, it is designed that every missionary is always doing
something. There really is no down time. They present you with so much
information you can't even retain most of it. It's a little
overwhelming, but I've spent a lot of time in prayer asking the Lord
to pick up my slack. I've had to rely on him more than ever before.
Prayer is an amazing tool that we've been given. I truly am so
thankful the Lord listens to me and hears my cries for help. Without
prayer, we wouldn't be able to communicate our feelings to our
Heavenly Father and let him know how we're feeling. We want blessings
from him, & expect good things from him, but if we aren't putting in
the effort and communicating with him, he can't put in his side of
effort. It's kind of a deal that we made with him before we came to
the earth. What you put in, is what you get out. That's a very
valuable lesson I've learned. And that's not just with the principle
of prayer. It works that way with everything. When we put our effort
into the Lord, he'll put his effort into us.

Our meetings, devotionals, and lessons have been so wonderful here.
The spirit within the walls of these buildings is something you've
never felt before. I've literally felt as if the Savior has been right
by my side throughout these couple days. His love, and appreciation
for us serving a mission can be felt when we diligently heed to his
simple commandments. Exact obedience brings blessings. D&C 130:20-21
teaches this.
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the
foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated--
21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to
that law upon which it is predicated.
We've been taught that & I can already see the outpouring of
blessings. I'm happier, my days go by quicker, and the spirit is more
present.  The MTC is a breeding ground for people feel the spirit
and gain knowledge of truth. Truth that this is the true gospel of
Christ. It has been organized in such a way that directly reflects
Christ's church from the ancient times. I'm so thankful for the
experiences that I've had these last couple days. I'm excited to
continue to learn and develop my testimony so I can share it with the
people of Santa Rosa, California.

I miss all of you. Very, very much. I'll see you soon. God Speed.

-Elder Schaefer