Monday, May 1, 2017

Dearest Family,

I thought about teasing mom and telling her that I extended my mission. But alas, my 2 year Visa won't allow it. So we shall meet next week XD 

It's been another good week. We've talked with lots of people, had some good lessons, and good experiences. Here are some juicy dets.

The People
We've decided not to teach one of our investigators for now until things are more clear/safe, due to her religious background. She drove all the way to Watford yesterday for Stake Conference though. Pretty neat.

Cherdale... Ahh sadness. We had two really good lessons with her this past week. On the second, we asked her how she was feeling about her baptism. Her response: "I want to do it". Next thing you know, a day or two later, we got a text from her saying she won't be at church on the weekend because she's visiting her aunt. We texted back, and got no response. We call her, and it rings once and goes to voicemail. It seems as though she blocked our number. My feeling is that she came across some anti material. The saddest thing, is that she's felt the Spirit many times as she's met with us, read, prayed, and came to church. She was keeping the Word of Wisdom. She believed the Book of Mormon was true. Then all the sudden, everything changes and it's like she forgot all of those experiences. Even though we're no longer meeting with her, I know that a seed was planted. And I hope one day she remembers the great experience she had, and has a change of heart.

I wore holes in my right shoe, so much that it gave me a blister. It was bad enough that I needed another pair of shoes. So, with permission, saturday morning I wore my basketball shoes with my suit, and bought a new pair of shoes (hence the withdrawal on my account, dadda :).

I sang the "En un lejano bosque ya canta el cucko..." to my companion one night. Apparently he knows the song in portuguese, and there's another verse about a wolf. Good stuff. 

While talking with people last night, we met a guy that was selling Frankinsence. He gave us some for free. It smelled really good. 

Elder Sabin (of the 70; he spoke at General Conference in the Saturday AM session) was at Stake Conference, as the Watford Stake Presidency was reorganised. He shared a story from Elder Christofferson. Elder Christofferson was about to speak when he looked at the pulpit and read a message that said "speak slowly for you are being translated." Elder Christofferson then looked up towards the ceiling. 

It's pretty strange to be writing my last email to you right now. It doesn't feel real. I think back over the past almost-two years, and I've had so many experiences and learned so much. I'm really grateful for the opportunity I have had every day to talk with my brothers and sisters, and bear testimony of Jesus Christ, of His Gospel, The Plan of Salvation, the Book of Mormon, and many other Restored Truths. I feel such joy from something as simple as opening my mouth, and talking with people. I know the Lord approves my efforts. He's concerned with the process, with my efforts, and commitment, which are things I know I can give my all for. I look forward to this last full week, to giving my all in talking with everyone, and giving my mission one final push. I will forever look back on my mission with gratitude for how the Lord has shaped me during this time of my life. Thanks for all your support for me! It's been so long since we've been together, but it feels like the blink of an eye. Have a wonderful week! I look forward to seeing you soon. 

I'll close with a powerful scripture that sums up and missionary or church service. It's the Lord speaking to Nephi in Helaman 10:

4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.

Much love,

Elder Withers

Sunday, April 30, 2017

[SENT APRIL 24, 2017]

Alec with Elder Andrade
Hi fam,

I'm emailing from my iPad right now, so my desire to send long emails is weakened. I will attempt to endure and move my thumbs at rapid pace. 

Quote from my companion: "I tried making sentences just for him, which was hard because it was like making friends"

The work
Things are great. Cherdale is progressing really well. She came to church on Sunday and had a really good experience. Faozia also came on Sunday. And Christopher, another guy we're teaching, came for the first time.

We're working hard and that feels good. Although I've felt more resistance recently, due to me nearing the end of my mission. I feel it's pretty much impossible for me to not work hard, which is nice. We plan our days effectively, and then execute our plans. I try to just take things day by day.

Alec with Elder Burgess
Here's a cool story. On Saturday, we got to our bus stop and we're waiting. A woman appeared at the stop and I start talking to her. She says she's Christian already, kinda putting up a front/no wanting to talk with me. I continued talking with her and she opened up more. our bus came, and I asked if it was her bus too. She said no, and we kinda scrambled to get a card to give her, but she said she would just get on the bus with us because she wants to talk about Jesus. So we got on, and talked with her. She knows Mormons from when she was in Hungary. She said they seemed so distant there because they were giving out BoMs at a stand in TC, but that we were friendly and chatty in approaching her. She's been in England for 2+ years, as a nanny. We set up an appointment for Sunday, and then talked for the remainder of the bus trip. When the time came for us to get off, she got off too. And proceeded to walk and talk with us for the next 12 minutes as we went to a dinner appointment. Then we said goodbye, and she walked/bussed all the way back. Craziness. We taught and ended up dropping her yesterday because she struggled understanding/appreciate the Book of Mormon/Restoration. But it was pretty cool nonetheless.

Love you all!

Elder Withers

Alec with Elder Jensen

Monday, April 10, 2017

Alec with investigator and Elder Andrade
Greetings familia,

It's been a good week thus far! Definitely some changes. On Wednesday I met my new companion. His name is Elder Andrade. He's from Lisbon, Portugal. He's 18, and played professional baseball before his mission. He loves volleyball, too. 

6 LoL stories that describe my companion:
- When I met him, I said he has perfect Portuguese. His response " I don't like it when people say that" Lol
- We were about to take a picture together, and I asked him if I looked good. His response: "no" lol part 2. Elder Burgess got a kick out of that
- I asked about brothers and sisters he has. He answered with a smile, "with or without dead ones?" lol part 3. He has 1 older brother, 2 older sisters, 2 younger brothers, and there were 2 babies that died at birth. 
- During dinner time he asked me "What are rules I should know about", and then proceeded to read some of the flat rules on the cabinet. lol part 4
- I made him record the voicemail for our phone and his response "I hate this. Come on. I hate my voice. Why can't you do this..." My response: "That was a good experience". Then his response: "yeah great. You just become my enemy" lol part 5
- Also, he said he learned English by playing video games lol part 6

FaceTiming investigator with Elder Andrade
It's definitely been another adjustment for me. Elder Nelson and I had quite a few things in common, and we had a good time together. I miss that goofy kid :) Elder Andrade is less social, and obviously comes from a different cultural background. He's quite military, too, because his dad was in the military. It's a good change for me, because I'm developing even more patience, and working on charity, too. I love Elder Andrade, and have had a few moments when my heart is really softened towards him. The mission will be great for him. Some rough edges will be smoothed over, he'll improve at relating with people, and he'll grow mucho. It'll be a great transfer!

The Work
Things are going great. Long story short, we aren't meeting with Zeph anymore. His life came crashing down recently (again), and his temporal needs outweigh his desire to meet with us. When he can get things sorted, he'll want to meet again. We extended some baptismal dates this past week, 2 of those dropped already, and the one left doesn't speak great English. 

On the plus side, we found 2 super cool people. One of them comes from a quite different religious background than ours, and desires to learn more about Jesus Christ. The other just moved from a non-Christian country due to her family's conversion about a month ago, and we will teach her tomorrow. Definitely some good potential! I really hope to be able to baptise this last transfer. If not, I'm doing everything I can to find those that are prepared for the gospel. 

Love you all! Have a great week
Elder Withers

Alec and Elder Nelson at Hanwell Zoo

Alec and Elder Andrade with the Velasquez family

Living room in the new flat

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Mom, Dad, Drake, Brock,

I thought I'd change up my greeting. Isn't that fun?

Missing Memories
I somehow lost my flash drive with ALL of my mission pictures..... ): Gratefully I've sent a bunch home, but prayers that I can find it would definitely be appreciated.

Fresh Fruit
I was on exchange in Wembley, and we got off the bus near our flat to go home for the night. A member was coincidentally there, by a shop, and he said Elders do you want something? He bought us bananas and pears. How nice of him. 

Super Sophie
On Thursday we had spent some time in Ealing Broadway street contacting. We were walking towards the buses to take one back to Greenford. We had spent more time talking with people than planned, and I considered just walking to our bus (letting people pass by in the process). As we walked, there was a person that was walking in the opposite direction as us, and I had a strong prompting to talk with everyone, including the Chinese girl that was now practically right next to us. We stopped her, and she was super excited to see me, and thought she recognized me. She pulled out her phone contacts and showed me my contact saved in her phone with my old phone number. My name was saved as "jesus christ elder withers". I don't remember ever meeting her in Britannia (she was one of the many people I talked with during that 6 month span). She's been having a bit of a hard time recently in her life, and even got a bit emotional on the street. Sadly we haven't been able to meet with her since (seems like that's how things often go in missionary work...), but I know that Heavenly Father used me to touch his daughters heart. 

Patriarchal Power
President Stevens sent out an email, regarding "my plan", as something missionaries are meant to do to help them transition into home life. One of the things I was asked to do was to go through my Patriarchal blessing, and circle words that describe me, and underline phrases that describe actions I should take. Pretty neat. 

General Conference was great! I have been able to watch all sessions except for the Sunday PM and the Womens session (mainly because I'm not a woman). We watched Sat AM session on Saturday at 5pm at the Ward Mission Leader's home, Priesthood was Sunday morning at 10am at the Stake center, we watched Saturday PM session on Sunday afternoon in a members home, and we watched Sunday AM session in another members home Sunday at 5pm.

Gear up for Greenies
Things have been great with Elder Nelson. The past 6 weeks with him have been like a dream. I feel like I met him, and blinked, and now here we are. Yesterday we got a call from Elder Burgess regarding transfers. Elder Nelson will be leaving Hayes and going to Britannia! I'm super excited for him. He'll love it. And I will be training another new missionary. I didn't expect this, but I know it's an inspired decision. Elder Nelson and I have gotten into a nice groove recently. I still feel challenged, because missionary work always is challenging, but Elder Nelson has grown a lot this transfer and we've been doing well together. I think training again in a lot of ways it will help me continue to work hard through the end of my mission and continue to push myself. Good times ahead!

Love you family! I hope you enjoyed the alliteration station. It definitely took some brain power, time, and energy to come up with each section title, so I hope you can savour each one of them. 

Elder Withers

Sunday, April 2, 2017

[SENT 3-20-17]

Three-week meeting
Hi familia,

It's been another great week. Time is such a blur. I couldn't believe yesterday was already my 4th Sunday in Hayes ward. 

We played some 1 v 1 basketball last week. Elder Nelson is a baller. He dribbles really well, can jump, is quick, and can shoot well. My back was sore from it for a bit... Haha definitely not in basketball shape. 

The work
I've been trying to really love members into doing missionary work. We've mainly invited members to have friends over in their home for fhe, or pray for an opportunity to invite friends into their home. I feel many members here want to do missionary work, but have fears or competing priorities that interfere. 

We've talked with a lot of people recently. It's been really good. I determined just to be happy no matter what and really enjoy talking with people as opposed to having this self imposed pressure of channeling every discussion in a particular way. This makes a world of difference

If you ever wonder what it's like to be a missionary, here's what basically my life consists of. Wake up, pray, drink some water, go for a run, push-ups/lift, get ready for the day, breakfast, planning for the day, personal study. We leave the flat at 10, talk with people as we travel to an appointment or something else. Sometimes we pack a sandwich wi us (literally putting it in our pockets) so we don't have to come back to the flat for lunch. We'll travel on buses or tubes, talking with people as we go. We teach people in their homes, ask them for referrals, have dinner with members, and teach and ask them for referrals. We spend 30-60 minutes during the day with companion study, and another 30 minutes for "12 weeks" a study program for new missionaries and their trainers. We return to the flat by 9 or 9:30 exhausted as we get ready for bed, pray, sleep, and wake up the next morning ready to do it all over again. That pretty much sums up missionary life. Let me know if you have any questions :)

Our Friends
We found an older gentleman at a bus stop. He's Christian from Egypt. Super willing to meet with us and come closer to Christ. He speaks English and Arabic. He came to church Sunday for the first time! We're working towards 22 April for his baptism. 

Also we found a girl from Brazil on Saturday. I talked with her in he bus, and had a lovely discussion (mainly in Spanish). We did some arrangements for her to get to church and bishops wife gave her a lift. She is so cool and we're excited for her. 

On the bus!

Often when I run in the mornings Elder Nelson likes to put a big stick on the path, providing an obstacle for me to hurdle over. What a goof.

We had lunch with Brother Hidalgo (Ecuador) last week. He PILED the food on our plate. 2 chicken breasts, hecka potatoes and beans, and literally broccoli he size of a tree. And then dessert. Haha what a guy. The food was probably the 2nd best quality I've had on my mission. 

Random thoughts
I've thought a bit about the difference between that living the gospel makes. Those that follow the gospel definitely have a light and joy to them. I find it so ironic when we talk to people offering to "share a message about Christ", to which the response is "I'm alright I'm catholic" or "I'm Christian". Or even when people aren't willing to have a discussion on a bus or tune, or street. There are people that are cranky, disengaged, and standoffish at even the invitation to speak with them. True happiness only comes from living the gospel and I'm grateful for the many blessings that come from that. 

Love you all!
Elder Withers

[SENT 3/27/17]

Alec and Elder Nelson and investigator
Hi family. 

The People
We had a wonderful lesson with a brother in our ward last week. I felt the spirit so strong as I testified of Joseph Smith and referred to his experience of being in front of God the Father and Jesus Christ. He came to church on Sunday, and is making slow progress. We'll see how things go this week. 

We had a great lesson. That was another powerful spiritual experience. He had a recent job offer to work thurs-sat nights, which would impede him coming to church. As prompted by the Spirit, we changed our lesson plans to teach the Sabbath Day instead of the Word of Wisdom. We committed him to decline his job if it interferes with Sunday. He said the closing prayer, asking for repentance and expressing gratitude that we were helping him. Sadly though, he took the job, and hasn't been in touch with us recently. Opposition in all things. 

We went to a Sikh temple because of a guy we met on a bus. That's an interesting story... haha we accitentally sat on the left side of the temple with the women, with our feet facing towards the front (both of which are no-no's), all the while wearing orange head scarves having removed our shoes and socks when we came in. We were also wearing our name badges, white shirts and ties, and looking rather western amidst the group of people we were communing with. Exciting stuff :) Hence the title of my email. 

Alec and Elder Nelson in front of Sikh temple
Last P Day we spent some time in the church taking a bunch of trick shots with b ball. I'll send you a vid or two. 

On Friday we were street contacting in Ealing Broadway. For We had 15 minutes left to find, and so we said a prayer that we could find someone. We kept talking with people for the next 15 minutes, with no luck. Eventually we decided to talk to one more person. There was a guy walking next to a girl. I awkwardly asked "What do you do to have a strong relationship together?" The guy stopped, and the girl kept walking. I repeated my question, and he asked "What do you mean?" I responded, (realising he wasn't with the girl) "What do you do to have a strong relationship with your family and frinds?" His response, "I have none". Without going into further detail, his life has bsically turned upside down recently. The SPirit was quite strong during this converstaion. We taught him the restoration on Saturday, extended a baptismal date, and he came to church and had a great experience. We will teach him tonight!  

Life is good! Have a great week.

Elder Withers

Ready to teach!!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Mini golf on preparation day!

This has been another great week. It went so fast. Last P day we bought a rubbish bin and a small mirror for shaving, and played mini golf so that was exciting. I'll send some nice pics. There are dinosaurs involved.

My companion
 We've been focusing on improving the quality of our street conversations. This past week Elder Nelson said "I think that we're thinking more than we're feeling." It was such an inspired comment. He's adjusting well to missionary life. His foot has been hurting him though (from the walking and runs in the morning. I think he needs better shoes). So we'll go to a Pediatrician on thursday. Today we'll play some b ball in the chapel after emailing so I'm excited for that. He's willing to "seat hop" as I like to call it (talking to someone on the bus, and after that convo/if they're not interested getting up and then talking to someone else. 

The Work
On Wednesday we went over to Brunel University. We met a guy that we've taught once. He seems like he has good potential. After we talked with him we continued talking with more students. When it was time to go, I said lets talk with one more person. We saw a girl on a perpendicular path to us, so we accelerate our pace to stop her where our path met hers. Her mom is Christian and her dad is Muslim. We had a nice first lesson with her about the Restoration and she felt good about it. She accepted the invitation to be baptized. We're hoping things go well this week, but not sure because we haven't heard from her recently. 

Allen T. Phillips came to our mission on Friday. He spoke about many things, but the most impactful was the two analogies to describe testimony. One of them is that testimony is a wall, composed of 'bricks' of the gospel such as the BoM, Temples, the Word of Wisdom, The Atonement, Service, etc. For people whose testimony is represented by these things, they're likely to crumble when 3-4 'bricks' are displaced through doubts, poor habits, or other reasons. 

Testimony could also be likened to a spider web. When spiders spin their web, they begin by solidifying a strong central line, then creating an 'x' with two other lines. Once this is done, they will weave in-between the main lines, thus creating their web. The Central line here represents Jesus Christ. If we make him the center of our testimony, knowledge, and experience, we will not fall. Referring to Helaman 5:12, as Christ is our foundation, we will never go astray. It's so easy to get carried away with the many wonderful things in the gospel. But everything ultimately points to Christ, and if he is our foundation stone, we will never fall. 

I'm happy, healthy, and focused. I go to bed so tired at nights, to be resurrected as the clock strikes 6:15am. Since my companion can't run, we go to a place near our flat and I run back and forth in a straight line to get my cardio in while he does some stationary work outs. I'm working on patience and love, wanting these to define me and the way I think about and treat others. I've been having wonderful experiences with the sacrament, and am enjoying what we're doing here. Life is good, the mission is great. Also, I got a haircut today. 

Thanks for your love and prayers! Have a great week

Elder Withers