Wednesday, October 28, 2015

WEEK 17- Fairfield 2nd Ward
Family and Friends,
This past week hasn't been the craziest in the whole wide world, but
yet again we were blessed with many miracles or "tender mercies" if
you will. Yes I know I say that a lot, but every week provides with
something new that never fails to impress. I guess that's just the way
The Lord works, right? Waaaaayyyyy up, I feel blessed.😉
Despite the rough going last week with my companion Elder Smittenaar,
I decided to not worry about him very much, but rather to just press
on and work my very hardest. Through much prayer and asking of The
Lord, I tried to steadily keep my motivation in hastening this
wonderful work. I tried my very hardest to be positive and optimistic
about this situation, but it began to weigh on me again. I began to
feel as if I didn't belong out here and it was just time for me to
call it quits. I mean, I had been out in the field for almost 4 months
now. I knew what it took to be a missionary. I knew how hard it was. I
got it. I had learned so much and it all made sense. Yet, The Lord had
given me this trial (of a companion) in my life and I didn't know what
to do with it or how to manage it. I was stuck in between a rock and a
hard place.
One night this week we had been out finding people for about an hour
and a half. We had been knocking doors and nothing was going right.
Literally nothing. We had had a couple doors slammed in our face, we
had been given the most horrible, awful looks in the world as we tried
to meet people, and people were just flat out rude to us. I was
frustrated. I was tired and I was ready to head home. Soon after this
river flow of emotions, I had a little voice come into my head that
whispered... "Just one more." Just. One. More. I pulled out the Area
Book, and looked for people that were in the area. I found a house a
couple doors down and decided that we would just knock this last one.
We did so, and to my surprise a little old lady opened the door and
immediately sighed with relief. She quickly invited us in and began to
share with us how she had recently been going through "the trial of
her life." She talked and talked and talked (most of it we couldn't
understand because she was oriential) but the next few words that came
out of her mouth changed my whole demeanor. With tears rolling down
her face, she told us - "I had been praying for people like you to
come for the past 3 days now. I needed help and I needed a message of
upliftment... And you were there for me. You knew I needed it. You
came. You really really came." Now, sitting in this woman's house
thinking about what had just happened the past 20 minutes,  I couldn't
believe what I had just heard. This lady who was extremely in-active
in the church was looking for us to come share a message with her -
and we were there. We came. We really really came. Now, this story may
seem of very small significance but it shook me to my very core. To
have known that this lady needed us was a privilege. But to know that
The Lord guided ME SPECIFICALLY to see her (regardless of my reluctant
behavior) was beyond my own comprehension. It was such an amazing
experience to know that as missionaries, we really are guided by those
"still small voices". Again, a story of such little significance, but
yet so powerful to know that The Lord pushed me into the very place
that I needed to be, to help and minister to this sweet woman. It only
took one more try. It only took a couple more steps. It only took a
little faith.
After this amazing experience, The Lord saw need to provide me with
her another hidden "tender mercy". Our whole Fairfield Zone of
Missionaries scheduled to attend the Oakland Temple this week. We all
drove down and planned to be in an Endowment Session at 10:00 AM.
Well, upon arriving to the temple I began to feel around for my temple
recommend and it was quickly apparent that I had made a big mistake. I
quickly looked over to my companion and whispered... "Hey, I think I
forgot my recommend." Yes. My temple recommend. My golden ticket in. I
know. It was absolutely ridiculous, but the events that followed made
up for it all. The Temple President eventually had to call my Mission
President and confirm that I was worthy recommend holder. After about
20 minutes of waiting and the clock ticking past 10:05 AM it was
evident that my companion and I just weren't gonna make it into the
session. I'm sure you can imagine how I felt. Awful. Embarrassed.
Saddened. I really felt so dumb. But soon out of his office came out
the Temple President and he explained to us that even though we didn't
make the 10:00 session, we could head up to the 3rd level of the
temple and assist in marriage and family sealings. Elder Smittenaar
and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and agreed to doing
this. At this point I really just wanted to get into the temple and do
SOMETHING. After this whole long, drawn out process - We got up there,
and The Spirit that I instantly felt was one of the strongest I've
ever felt in my life. I broke down. I broke out into tears and I had
never before felt love like I did then. I felt so thankful and so full
of love for my family. I felt that I was blessed with the most
wonderful people in the world. I had a mother and father that loved me
very much. I had two amazing sisters that have been there for me
through the thick and thin. I had brother in laws that were the
biggest role models and best "older brothers" I ever could've wished
for. I had 4 beautiful nieces that I loved so dearly and cared for so
very much. All of these thoughts were flowing through my mind and it
made me appreciate my family more than I ever had before. I was so
happy to perform these saving ordinances in the Temple and bind
families together for eternity. I realized the importance of these
saving ordinances and how essential it is for us to be together again
someday. I can't wait for the day in which my family will be sealed
together for time and all eternity. It will certainly be one of the
happiest days of my life.
Aside from these two long, long stories (that you probably didn't even
read) - the work this week was pretty steady. We again had 18 lessons
and we picked up two new potential investigators this week. We did a
bunch of service in moving a hoarder, gave 4 separate blessings to
people, and woke up two mornings in a row at 4:45 AM to teach an early
morning seminary class. It was a great week. Seriously. I am out of
words to even describe how thankful I am to be out here. I'm just....
thankful. That's really all I can say. I love this work and I'm
growing a substantial amount. I'm grateful for the blessings that come
from a mission and I can't wait to see what The Lord has in store for
me in the future.
I hope all is well with everything back home. I love and miss all of
you a great amount. I'll see you again soon.❤️

-Elder Schaefer

WEEK 16- Fairfield 2nd Ward
Family and Friends, 

Holy Moly, this week has been filled with all sorts of crazy emotions and beyond amazing experiences. I can't believe how dramatically things can change from one week to the next out here in the mission field. I'll first start out by saying how sad I was that my buddy Elder Achal was getting shipped out of here. We have been together for about 3 & 1/2 months now, and I was sad to see him go! We've had some really awesome times, but I'm hoping we get the opportunity to serve around each other again. 

So, Week One of my first transfer with Elder Smittenaar is over. And to be quite honest, it wasn't an easy one. Elder Smittenaar has been out in the mission field for almost 18 months now, and his work ethic has completely diminished. He's kinda ready to go home. This has meant that most of the work that goes on around here is pawned off onto me. I'm not complaining too much (because I love keeping busy out here), but it does become a little redundant always trying to get him out of the house and onto the pavement to go teach some people. He's very slow in everything he does, but thankfully the work this week has been quite the opposite. 

We taught 18 lessons this week (more than I've ever taught before) and we didn't have a second to spare. We were moving from one appointment to the next, and I insisted in visiting a couple people in between those appointments. (Elder Smittenaar wasn't too enthusiastic about this, but I tried to keep him with a positive attitude about it all).��Periodically throughout this week I was prompted by the Holy Ghost to go see a couple people that I hadn't visited in a while. I knew we didn't have much time to waste, but I felt this VERY strong impression that we needed to visit both Heather Gonzales and another woman named Gracie. I followed these impressions, and they proved to be the best decisions I made all week. 

When going to visit each of these women and their families, they both were VERY glad to see us at their front door. (I received the prompting on Tuesday to go see Gracie, and the prompting came to go see Heather on Thursday) On both separate occasions, they invited us into their home and sat us down to talk to them. They explained to us how tough their lives had been recently and all the trials they were going through. Gracie was failing one of her college courses, and doesn't have the money to pay for more school. Heather's air conditioner broke, her husband is losing his job, and her daughter has started to become suicidal. As I was listening to them, I quickly found myself scrambling to find a scripture that I could possibly share with them that might provide some sort of support in these times of trial. Very, very quickly the Mormon message titled: Mountains to Climb, and the scripture Ether 12:27 came to mind. I then shared these things with these women and BOTH of them began to cry as we finished up our separate visits with them. They both wept and explained to us "how much they needed that" and "how much that really helped them." This was an amazing experience for me to know that - just by following a small little prompting, I was able to brighten or uplift them in some sort of way. Heavenly Father trusted in me enough to prompt me to go visit these women in their times of need. He gave me this prompting and took a chance on me. I was so happy to have helped them and to have provided a support to them.❤️ my testimony was certainly strengthened on how we need to better follow and be ready to receive those little "nudges" or "voices" that come to us. 

Aside from those really cool experiences, we also had THREE SEPARATE PEOPLE COMMIT TO BAPTISM THIS WEEK!!!!! Elder Achal and I had previously been working REALLY hard with these people (when we were together) and now they have all progressed towards entering into the waters of baptism. Joseph, Jason & Etella plan to get baptized before the end of the year. I invited each of them to "follow in the steps of their Savior Jesus Christ, and become baptized" - and they all said YES! AHHHH, the spirit was so strong when I asked each one of them and they provided the exact answer we wanted to hear. I can't wait to see them dressed in white and begin this HUGE step towards eternal life. (2nd Nephi 31:11-21) 

Something kinda funny that happened this week was when Elder Smittenaar and I were out finding people the other day and we came upon a house with a big old red door. I asked him if he wanted to knock it and (of course his answer was... "let's just get to the house of the people we have our appointment set up with.") with a dirty look on his face, he walked up the door and knocked a couple times. Out came a middle aged woman that waved to us, and was very quick to point to the "No Solicitors" sign on her porch, and slowly shut the door. Muttering something under his breath, Elder Smittenaar walked off and headed down the street. For some odd reason... I wasn't gonna have it. I was kinda fed up with it and I had to do something about it. So, in my wisdom I pulled out a "hand out" card and quickly began writing on it. I wrote a short, but sweet message to the lady that went something like this... "WE ARE NOT 'SOLICITORS' MA'AM. WE HAVE A VERY URGENT AND IMPORTANT MESSAGE THAT NEEDS TO BE HEARD. MAYBE TRY US OUT NEXT TIME?!��I wrote this on the card and put it on her front porch step. Hopefully she'll see it the next time she opens her door. Hahahaha 

But yeah. I'm finding joy in the little things out here. Leaving notes on people's porch. Kicking rocks while walking down the sidewalk. Talking the ladies that work at Starbucks into giving us free drinks. And best of all... Sharing an eternal message of happiness. This gospel has brought so much joy into my life and I'm so thankful to be giving sharing this light with others. Another awesome week in the books, ladies and gentleman. 

I love you all. I'll see you soon. (Well, kinda) GodSpeed.
-Elder Schaefer

Monday, October 12, 2015

WEEK 15 Fairfield 2nd Ward
Family and Friends,

Quick news update: I'm STAYING HERE IN FAIRFIELD! Elder Achal is heading out to Vacaville, California. Vacaville is literally nine miles away from Fairfield, so we will be seeing each other quite often! My new companion is Elder Smittenaar. I get to meet him for the first time this week, so stay tuned for updates on how he is. ;) Hahaha totally kidding, I'm sure he's awesome.

Well, this has been the most humbling and spiritual week of my mission to say the least. I really don't even know how to put it into words, but I've never felt The Spirit this strong in my life before. I will forever remember this past week for the rest of my life. You know those “experiences” that everybody talks about when they're telling you about their mission? Yeah, well one of those things happened this week.

Upon entering into the missionary training center, I had never before read the Missionary White Handbook. Never had I ever thought it would've been a good idea to read the guidelines and standards that are contained within that small little book. I came into this with an oblivious sense of knowledge as to how we are expected to dress, act, and convey ourselves as missionaries. For me, I came into the field with a very materialistic sense of personality. Little did I know... missionaries can't be fashionably sensible and we have to look like nerds 24/7.😉 Hahaha, totally kidding, but seriously. I came in with the wrong perspective as to how my appearance affects my sacred calling.
Soon after getting into the California mission field, I was quickly informed that the bracelets on my wrist, and the socks on my feet weren't on terms with missionary standards. I took this as missionaries were being “too serious” about this rule in the white handbook. I figured that I could get by without abiding by to this rule. I figured this wasn't going to be too big of a deal. So, I brushed that off my shoulder and went on. Throughout my whole mission I wore these bracelets, and off colored socks. It was fun. It was different. It was enticing.

This past week, I received a letter from my sweet cousin in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sister Nelson is currently serving a mission there, and we have been emailing back and forth every week or so. In the past, I had expressed my feelings to her about my mission and the fact of the matter that “I just wasn't REALLY enjoying myself out here.” I liked my mission. It was fine. But, it wasn't anything special though. I'd had some really cool experiences, but it didn't necessarily mean a ton to me. I thought about home a lot. I thought about everything I could be doing and I wasn't as anxiously engaged as I wished I could be. In this letter that she sent me, she included two talks that were both on the subject of missions and missionary work.

I chose to read one of the talks by Elder Holland titled “The Miracle of a Mission.” In this talk Elder Holland gives a very in depth description of how he understands how hard missionary work can be sometimes. He talks about how we are given standards as missionaries for a reason. He talks about HIS OWN mission. He talks about how much the “little things” of missionary work really do matter. He talks about how we must portray ourselves as missionaries. He talks about how our missions “are more sacred and more eternal than anything you’ve ever done thus far in your life.” He says: “It is by definition the most important thing you can do in the world, in time or eternity. For this reason you are engaged in the saving of the human soul. And that is the highest and holiest work in the universe.” From just this short passage, I'm sure you can imagine how motivating and moving this talk really is. And today, I can certainly testify of this.

After much pondering about my mission (and the willingness I've shown Heavenly Father to perform this “high and holy work”) - I had a very serious talk in prayer that night. I prayed to Heavenly Father and asked what I needed to improve on. I asked what I was lacking as a missionary, and how I could improve. I asked with a sincere heart, and very very soon came my answer. With a little rebuking from the spirit, it was quite evident to me what I needed to do. I needed to shape up. I needed to take these bracelets off my wrist, and the socks off my feet. I needed to portray myself in a cleaner, more respectful way. I have been trusted as an emissary of the savior, yet I didn't respect it with all that it deserved. I didn't follow all the “little rules” of the white handbook. I was disobedient in certain aspects of my mission and it was made evident in how much I was enjoying my mission.
I had heard and been taught all my life that as we are obedient to The Lords commandments, we would be happier than we ever could've been before. I knew this and had a testimony of this (for myself) before I even left Utah. I had always tried to heed to the counsel given by prophets of old, & modern day prophets and apostles. I had seen the blessings reaped from this and I was “cemented” in this facet of my faith. Yet, in these short couple months of being out here - I was reluctant and arrogant in keeping these “little rules” of the mission.
So, after much prayer and taking this to The Lord, I decided I needed to shape up. I was willing to do so, and I asked Heavenly Father to help me. I went forth with a willing heart – not knowing what the result and outcome of this would be. I took my bracelets off, and placed them on my desk. I took all my socks, folded them up, and put them away.

Waking up the next morning was a bit of a surprise. I jumped straight out of bed with an eagerness to get out of the house and just WORK. I have never showered, gotten ready, and been at my desk studying this fast before. I slowly started to realize that my motivation level and persistence had gone through the roof. I was happy. Like, happier than I've ever been before. I felt a joy in my heart. I didn't worry about home. I was no longer worried about family and friends. I was just... here. I was in the now. I had never felt The Spirit so strongly and it made me happy. I was happy to be a missionary. I was just... happy. This overwhelming feeling of The Spirit encompassed my whole body and spirit.
To make this long story short – This feeling hasn't yet left me. I am feeling so in-tune with The Spirit of The Lord and it's the best I've ever felt. I have a whole new outlook on missionary work and the standards of what we are expected to do. I never knew the importance of these “little rules” that were given to us. But now, I've come to know that “by small and simple things, are great things brought to pass.” (Alma 37:6-7)

Now, coming back to the real world. You're probably sitting here thinking.. “What the heck is he sharing all of this for? This is one of the smallest and simplest principles of The Gospel? Keep the Commandments, right?” Well, my reasoning in sharing this is for two simple reasons. Number one, being that I have to give you a weekly update on all things that are going on here in California. Number two, being that I think this message applies to all those that are reading this. I invite you to think about any of the “little things” right now that are in your life. Any of the dumb, little, insignificant things that you think might not matter. I invite you to try and “shape up” these things. I promise and testify to you that you will be happier. You feel The Spirit more present in your life, and you will see The Lord's hand more in your life.

Heavenly Father gives us commandments and standards because he knows it will make us happy. It's as simple as that. I invite you to try and find this out for yourself. It's true. It's all true. This Gospel is true. God is real. Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ are here for us. They want to see us succeed and progress in this life. I can testify that the only way to do so, it through them. Through the all-knowing. He's there for us. Always. & Forever.

I love each and every one of you so very much. I hope you take my invitation and challenge because I know how happy it can make you. I had this humbling experience this past week and I know it was because of a righteous decision. I know that the same will work for you. I know that The Spirit of The Lord can reside in those that are faithful and willing to his holy commandments. Commandments are meant for us and our progression. They're only here to make us better. Even if it is super dumb like not wearing sentimental bracelets and cool stance socks.😉 Hahaha, again, it's only for our benefit.

I'll see you guys soon. Hope all is well. GodSpeed.
-Elder Schaefer

Monday, October 5, 2015

WEEK 14 Fairfield 2nd Ward

Family and Friends,
What a week it has been! I know I'm pretty consistent in saying this
every week - but I really can't believe I'm writing to you all again.
Unfortunately we are heading into Week 6 of my second transfer - which
means Elder Achal and I are probably gonna get split up. He's been in
the Fairfield area for 6 months now, and that's about the most they
keep missionaries in a single area. I'm very sad he's leaving, but
we're gonna make this upcoming week the best one yet.

As far as investigators go, we've certainly declined a bit as there
has been some drama within the Fairfield 2nd Ward. Even though there's
been some issues, Elder Achal and I have chosen to rise above it and
keep our head down and our feet moving. One of the coolest lessons
we've ever taught as a companionship took place this week. We visited
a kid named Joseph and his brother Vick. These are by far the two
coolest kids I've ever met. They're both 17 year old kids that came
from Africa and are now living with their grandma here in California.
They're the two most loving and nice people you'll ever meet in your
lives. We've been teaching them for a couple months now, and they LOVE
the gospel. They have a couple problems with the Word of Wisdom, but
we are working on that with them. The spirit was SO strong in the last
lesson we shared with them. For the closing prayer we asked Vick to
offer the prayer and he just started BAWLING. He couldn't contain
himself. We stood up and hugged him after the prayer and all they
could do was thank us for the spirit we brought. It was such a cool
experience. I will forever remember the feeling and the spirit that
was present in this lesson.

We do a lot of inactive member work here as well, so there's been a
ton of that within the past week. This happens to be the majority of
our missionary work and it's often times very redundant, but luckily
we have a car to drive us around and see these people because without
it - we probably wouldn't be able to see 1/3 amount of people that we
do. It's been such a blessing to us in helping invite these
less-active members come out to church. Getting inside their homes is
very hard because it just so happens that we always "happen to catch
them at a bad time". But that's alright. Maybe we will catch them at a
"good time" in this upcoming week. ;)

Elder Achal & I have also been teaching this part member family that
hasn't come to church in 8 or so months. We've really been working
with them to get to church and encouraging their 8 year old son
(Jason) to get baptized. In our lessons it's very hard to keep their
focus and attention, but we set a baptismal date for Jason on November
14th. Not only did we set this baptismal date, but they've also come
to church consecutively for the past 3 weeks. They only stay for
sacrament meeting, so we are gonna try this week to get them to stay
for all three hours. I guess sacrament meeting is better than nothing
- but we really think Jason would do well in our CTR8 Class. I'll keep
you updated on how that goes.

Conference was AMAZING this past weekend. Admittedly it was kinda hard
for me being away from home (and not being able to watch it with my
family) but I happened to get a lot more out of it. I don't know -
maybe it was the fact that I wasn't all snuggled up on the couch with
tons of good food sitting in front of me?! ;) that just called for
disaster back home. Hahaha but with all seriousness, I really got a
TON out of conference. My favorite session happened to be the Saturday
Morning Session. I wrote a ton of notes down regarding this session,
but these are some of the things that I found most profound:
-Living The Gospel doesn't need to be complicated. It's very straight
forward, and we need to simplify our approach in living it to our best
-Your resentment diminishes your progress in The Gospel. Yielding to
The Lords way is THE ONLY way to progressing in The Gospel.
-Ask The Lord often during prayers... "What am I lacking?" And with a
generous sincere heart, The Spirit will show us our weaknesses and
tell us what we can improve on. We need to be willing to act upon
these answers.
-The path of discipleship is not an easy one, but traveling on the
straight and narrow path will bring steady progression to becoming who
"he wants us to be".
-If we live faithful lives, we will not miss out on any blessings that
we COULD'VE had, if we would've done a little better in this life.
-"Wickedness never was happiness." Even though it may provide with
immediate pleasure, it will not provide happiness in the future.
-If we are there for The Lord, then he will be there for us with the
things we stand in need of and ask from him.
I found these things to be the most interesting and most applicable to
my life. I invite you to ask yourself and try to find words from the
prophet and apostles that may most be beneficial to your eternal
salvation and happiness. I promise and testify that in listening to
the advice and wisdom shared by these wonderful men & women - it can
only make us happier. It can only make us better. It's only for our
benefit. I promise and testify of these things to you and any other
things that The Lord sees fit for you in your life. I do so in the
Sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Again, I miss you all to the most full extent. I'm so thankful for the
love and support that each of you have shown throughout these three
months. The packages, letters, and emails have been such an
inspiration and motivation to me. I'm continuing to press forward and
trust that good things will come. For what has happened thus far, I
feel extremely blessed. I pray that all of you continue to receive the
blessings of heaven. I love you all so very much.

I'll see you soon. 21 more months. GodSpeed.

-Elder Schaefer