We've had a good week here. I don't remember a lot of what happened because I don't have my planner here with me today. But what was cool is I was able to keep my going home a secret until Sunday at church, and even then, a lot people thought I was just getting transferred. That was very helpful to keep me focused on my work until the end. I only have a couple more hours in this area, then I'll be on the "final 24 hours" of my mission that I don't have an area or zone to think about.
We did have a good lesson with Claire. She has come a long way in the past few weeks. She is growing in faith and is really enjoying the church. She got up to bear her testimony in church yesterday and said things to the effect of "being here has realized that I can be religious and still have a cool life!...in the past month, you have shattered all the previous notions I had about Mormons (everyone laughed at that).... I feel that the things you guys do and that I'm starting to do is the right thing. It feels right to me..." It was awesome! She's come to so many activites and is hanging out with lots of different members during the week. I'm sure she'll be baptized in a month or two.
We also picked up another YSA investigator, Grisella, yesterday that actually lives in our area. She is very ready for the gospel and will be easy to teach. She has been taught by the Las Flores ward elders for a bit, until we had a "pass-off" lesson with all 4 of us yesterday.
Shari  came to church again yesterday. She's made lots of progress in her life. She and Oscar, her husband, have come closer together too, as a result of the Spirit that Shari is feeling stronger in her life. Oscar is making small steps to the church as well. He is not a member. One of his co-workers in the Anaheim Police Dept is getting baptized this Saturday in the Las Flores ward. We're very excited!
I can't remember much else... Oh, the Chambers had to put one of their dogs down yesterday. We think she had a stroke or something recently and has been getting progressively more lethargic and removed the past week, and we knew something bad was up. Brother Chambers and I carried her out to the car to go to the vet, where they put her down. We were all sad. But Sister Chambers said Shelby (the dog) was very peaceful and could tell she was ready to go. So, it wasn't very painful.
What else... I can't remember much more from the week. Oh, my district sang happy birthday to me last week and got me a birthday present--an Angels pennant, and an Albert Pujols Angels bag. That was pretty cool!
That's about it. I'm in my last few hours in Mission Viejo, which is a weird feeling. It's crazy to think it's already been almost 6 months since I got here. We'll go to Vista for the transfer meeting, then I'll go to the mission home tonight with the other departing missionaries. In the morning we'll go to the San Diego temple, the Mormon Battalion visitors center, then to the airport. It's weird to think that I've reached this point. I am very sad to leave my mission. I'm made many, many friends and many memories. I am also ready to come home. I feel comfortable with the effort I've put into my mission. I've laid it all out on the table and given everything I have. I haven't been perfect by any means, but I gave what I could. I still have a day to go!
Thanks for the birthday wishes! It's been a good birthday so far.
We've had a busy week this week!
I'll start with the biggest highlight, which was a surprise. Tuesday afternoon I got a call from Elder Rupp (Vista zone leader) telling me that Ceyda  (remember them?) was getting baptized on Thursday and had requested me to baptize her. Normally I wouldn't have gotten permission because Mission Viejo is so far from Vista, but President Cook gave me permission as long as I kept it quiet! We had a meeting with the stake presidency and others the same night an hour after the baptism started, so I went with Jordan  down to Vista while Elder Mason was on splits with 2 other people for dinner, Claire's lesson, and the beginning of the meeting. I was very grateful for the chance I had to see West (he just got back from Afghanistan a week and a half ago) and Ceyda again! They are like family to me, and it was great to see them. I also remembered all the members' names that came to the baptism too, which was nice! The baptism was perfect on the first time and the Spirit came in so strongly. Ceyda has been going to church ever since Elder Farley and I started teaching her and West, and now got the chance to be baptized. Afterwards, I had to leave quickly to get back to Mission Viejo for the stake meeting, but I gave my contact info to them and gave them one of my nametags to keep. They were very thankful for everything and promised to keep in touch. That was a great blessing to be able to participate in that!
As for other things this week, as I mentioned, we had the stake meeting, which went very well. The stake trusts all of the missionaries very much and is very grateful for all of our efforts. We set some goals together to improve and to be able to accomplish our goals for 2012.
On Friday we had zone leader council in Vista. The biggest topic discussed was the doctrine of invitations and commitments, which we will be training our zone on tomorrow in a zone training meeting. At the end, President had me, Elder Porter, and Elder Price stand up to bear our testimonies, since we are the ones leaving before next zone leader council. It was weird to be one of the ones standing to bear testimony! Elder Porter came out with me, and Elder Price came out 6 weeks later, but is going home 6 weeks early for school.
On Wednesday we were in the Promenade apartment complex, which we go in a lot to find people. One of the workers came up to us (he had bashed with me and Elder Rupp months before) and started to question us and tried to kick us out. Without going into many details for the sake of time, he accused us several times of being liars, harrassing him, trespassing, harrassing the residents, got very angry, and multiple times pulled out his phone to call the police. Most of this conversation we were standing quietly listening to him yell at us, answering his occasional questions honestly, few of which he believed. Elder Mason was bold enough to pull the religious persecution card on him, which made him get very defensive, and then he radioed the front desk. He told his boss "the LDS missionaries are here going door to door (false) without appointments...yada yada" The reply was "uhh, that's fine." He said "alright, that's all I needed to hear" and stormed off to his golf cart while we continued talking to people in the complex. About 15 minutes later, another employee, who had known nothing about the encounter, drove by on his golf cart, waving and yelled "See you tomorrow amigos!" It was priceless.
Friday after zone leader council I had a companion exchange with Elder McCary, which Elder Mason went with his greenie companion, Elder Bradley (who is a fantistic missionary for being 6 weeks out!). Elder McCary is a former zone leader and is just great, so we just worked hard on the exchange without me having to worry about correcting or evaluatng him much. We had a great lesson with their investigator's mom, Angie (who has made a 180 degree turn lately with regards to investigating the church!), and found a few more potential investigators for them, the first time in a while. The next morning we were about to study, and got a call to help a family move, so we changed back into service clothes. After the move, we changed into proselyting clothes for the morning, then after lunch found a couple of ladies that also needed help moving within the apartment complex. So we changed back into service clothes and wheeled their baby's cradle from their first story apartment across the complex to a third-story apartment. Also shouldered cases of water and several other things. It was a good workout! The two ladies told us that they had been moving since 3am that morning and were physically exhausted. They prayed that God would strengthen them to finish the job, then about 2 minutes later, we came by to offer help. There are few feelings better than to be an answer to someone else's prayer.
What else.... Yesterday throughout the day I texted 100 different people, most of which were potential investigators we didn't know. From that we got a lesson set up for tonight, which will be the first new investigator in our ward in several weeks! We're very excited! Her name is Jasmine, and will bring her boyfriend, whose family is LDS (don't know if he is or not). It should be a great lesson. Claire came to church again this week too, and had a great time. She's making slow but steady progress and really likes the church.
That's about all for now that I have time to tell you about. Elder Mason is getting bored so I better go.
Hello family! I hope you're all having a great week!
On the way to the library I had a major brain blank and I'm having a hard time remembering what all happened this week. I'll tell you what I do remember.
On Thursday we had a leadership training meeting down in Vista. Invited were all the zone leaders, district leaders, and "important" sister missionaries. I don't know how else to describe the sisters. Several things were discussed, including how to have more effective and efficient weekly planning sessions (they take a few hours every week), accountability between each other (President Cook had me do a role play with him for a Sunday-night call in and report for the week), and accountability through key indicators (numbers). It was a good meeting with lots of things learned for everyone. There were 5 of us elders and 2 sisters from our zone that went, so we grabbed the minivan that the Ladera Ranch elders use and I drove everyone down to the meeting! It was weird to drive a van! A couple weeks ago on exchanges with Elder Neil, one of the assistants, he had me drive their Chevy Silverado, which was awesome! It made our Fusion feel small, which it really isn't that small. Anyway.. On the way back we got some mail for our zone. I got more mail then than the last 6 months combined! (which is okay, don't worry. It doesn't matter very much at this point). I got a birthday card from the Cooks, an info letter from the office (zone leader stuff), a mass letter from a sister in my MTC district to all the elders, and a letter from Elder Bailey. Apparently Brother Vigil, one of my favorite members from Carlsbad, passed away recently. That was pretty sad to hear. It's okay though, he is with his wife now, and is probably herding all the goats he wants to! (that was the heaven he imagined!)
What else...We taught a new investigator in the singles ward on Sunday named Claire. She met a member about 4 weeks ago and he invited her to church, and she has now been 3 times, and is liking the Church so far. We're starting on the basics for her. She grew up semi-Christian, lost a belief in God, and now is starting to believe in a higher being again. She's had several what she calls "God moments" where she feels something (the Spirit) very strongly that it makes her want to cry. She told us that in her few times at church, that we were "shattering all the stereotypes" that the general population think of. She told us she was there just to listen to us, and we kinda stared for a moment and said "well we're not here to lecture to you a presentation of our religion!" She got really excited and said "you guys are SO much better than everyone makes you out to be!" All her previous understanding of Mormons came from South Park (many people say that).
On Sunday we had a cool sacrament meeting in the YSA ward. Elder Haynie, the area seventy (the Esco stake president when I was there) came to speak, along with his secretary, the stake presidents from Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita stakes, and President and Sister Cook (the Cooks went to the previous sacrament meeting and weren't going to stay for ours, but we convinced them to stay. Naturally, they were invited to speak too!) I took good notes on what was said. The highlight was Elder Haynie talking about how the temple is what is going to hold us members to the Gospel in these days when many things will not. He promised if we attend the temple regularly, we will not step far from the path before the Spirit brings us back.
We had FHE with Jason and Ashley last night. They're making some good steps lately. For our activity, Jason had us all write a card to his cousin who is a year into his mission in Indonesia. They hadn't written him yet, and only saw him on Skype once. It was interesting writing someone I had never met! But it was a good experience anyway. Their little boy Malakai was a spaz, a little more than usual. Ashley made us some of her famous peach cobbler! It was so yummy! The last time I had peach cobbler was when she made it for us in Vista.
That's about it for now. We've been having a bunch of small experiences but no big highlights. I've been doing a lot better keeping my journal lately so if I forgot anything I'll tell you later!
I hope you've all had a great week. We had a good week here.
We've had 2 good lessons with Patrick this week, but we'll have to pass him off to a family ward in Foothill Ranch this week because he's only 17. Mason and his cousins have been doing a great job in missionary work!
Shari  came to church this week!!! She didn't make it for sacrament, but came for the last half of Sunday school and then to Relief Society. Sis Chambers said she looked happy and participated in RS. We are so glad! Shari said she had a good time. It was her first time back to church in Mission Viejo in several years.
We had a lesson with Anthony  on Friday. He said he's going to move his goal up to quit smoking on July 5 instead of July 16. The first thing he said when we came in was "I'm sick of smoking. Last night I had my last cigarette and I'm done now." He knows it's going to be really rough for the next little while but he's willing to use his agency and get it done! We also finally met with Josh , who is a fairly recently-returned member. He's a pretty funny guy. Probably going to play football at the U of U next year. He's been recruited a lot by the coaches. We taught the restoration and talked about modern day prophets. He's going to invite his friend Chris to the next lesson.
July 4th was a weird day. We started with district meeting in Ladera Ranch. Elder Satuala had me trip through the national anthem on the piano even though I couldn't play it very well. I was happy to see more American flags out in the streets compared to Vista last year, but still wasn't like Utah will all the Scout flags everywhere! (There is a lady pacing quickly back and forth behind me, it's really weird) All of our lessons cancelled and it was useless to tract, so we stopped by a couple member families before they went to the beach, and tried to talk to other people barbequing and such. At night, Ladera Ranch had some concert going on, but for the most part, it was quiet around town. At dark, most cities around had a firework show, but we didn't have a good view of any shows. I got what I could on camera, but it wasn't great. When we got into bed, Elder Mason pulled out some patriotic poems that he has like the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and others, and read them. Then we looked at different scriptures that talk about America or the Constitution. It was a good Independence Day!
I played organ in church again this week. That'll probably be the last week I do it. We'll see, I guess. I've already used both sacrament hymns I know twice each.
I went on an exchange with Elder McLelland (Ogden) yesterday. He was in my district in Vista and is a very excited and enthusiastic person. We had a lot of fun. We tried by a former investigator, who showed us his decades-old corvette that he has restored. After showing us everything, we taught him a short version of the Restoration using the analogy of restoring a car with all of its engine parts, oil, car parts, and everything that goes with that. It was a really cool analogy. He wasn't interested though.
That's about it for this week. I hope y'all have a great week. If you have any questions for me, let me know
I hope you're all having a good week! I've heard more 4th of July talk on the emails than I have in the past 2 weeks combined down here! It's just not a big deal down here, which is sad. I hope you have a happy and safe 4th. Don't cause any more fires in Utah! I hope y'all get to breathe soon.
We had a bunch of things happen this week. We were busy! I'll try to mention the better highlights.
These are in no particular chronological order.
We got a referral from Elder Zarate (my MTC companion) and his companion for a couple of guys. One of them had an appointment set up and we found out later they wanted to meet us at the RSM Calvary Chapel. Reluctantly, we went to the church and had a lesson there with them. One's name was James and the other was Christian. I had met Christian a few months ago on Saddleback college's campus and had a lengthy discussion with him. They were nice, but difficult to keep on topic. They didn't bash or argue, but asked lots of questions and of course disputed some points. The unique thing they did that most born-agains don't is that Christian came with a triple combination and read some references in the BoM and D&C. They interpreted some verses wrong but at least they tried to read our own books. We weren't going to set up a return appointment unless they asked, which they did, so we'll meet with them again next week at our church.
There were a bunch of families that moved this week, including the Allans (our ward mission leader), the Lippards, and a couple other families. It took a few people out of the ward council, and Sister Moorhead, the RSP, is without counselors. She felt pretty overwhelmed. So we visited her house yesterday and volunteered to be her "counselors" (helping to visit people) until there are new ones. She was very grateful!
A few days ago we contacted a couple that was walking into an apartment. Tiffany was from England and had no idea what Latter-day Saints or Mormons were. She had grown up atheist and has run into a lot of JW missionaries in England that she didn't like. She had a ton of questions, some of which her boyfriend answered, and most of which we answered. She wanted to sit down and talk about it, and the nearest place was the curb in the parking lot. I sat on the asphalt and we talked about a bunch of her questions. She was really confused that we were 20/21 and didn't think it would be fun to drink and smoke and stay up every night and have fun with girls, etc. Everything she mentioned that she did for fun was contrary to at least some commandment. As we talked together, she said "you don't do anything that other young people do. You're so innocent and so happy!" She started crying, and we continued to talk until their friends came back to bring her to the apartment to party. She is going back to England in a few days so we can't teach her, but we sure made an impact.
On my exchange with Elder Neil in Vista we experienced a few small miracles. We were trying to see an LA lady that had a gate around her house. She wasn't home, and there wasn't anything we could do except pray that she would have some reason to come outside. A few minutes later, her husband pulled in, and the dog ran outside barking, so she had to leave the house to chase him. We then got to talk to her and set up an appointment and got her phone number. Later on, we taught a less-active lady and brought an investigator named Scott to be our 3rd male. We watched a video on mormon.org and it ended up touching Scott a lot more than Sister Corbo. He started crying during that video and the next one and had more determination to be more diligent in reading scriptures and going to church.
We had zone leader council and transfers last week. We got 8 new missionaries and 2 of the 3 district leaders are brand new. There is a lot of excitement across the zone and stake and good things should be happening! We had a record amount of investigators at church this week in our zone.
That's about it for now. Elder Mason finished early and is really bored and is pestering me to finish. We've begun to get a bunch of referrals in both wards. We're finally seeing some results from a lot of hard work during slow months and weeks.
I hope you have a great week and happy 4th of July!
I hope you've all had a great week. We've had a good week here.
Transfers are today in Vista, not the usual Carlsbad. Neither Elder Mason or I are getting transferred. But all the other companionships in our zone, except for the Spanish sisters, have a missionary going home or getting transferred, including all 3 of our district leaders. We'll be getting a lot of new people to work with!
Also, I've been asked again to play organ at the transfer meeting. And sacrament meeting the next two weeks. Wish me luck! I'm excited for Vista because they have a pull-stop organ like the conference center and not just a button organ like most of them. It doesn't have 5 keyboards though, only two.
We've had good lessons with some people this week. We reviewed the Word of Wisdom with Anthony. He's been struggling with smoking again, but is cutting back. He made a promise with God that if God helped him get up quickly in the morning and have an awake mind, he wouldn't start the day with the cigarette. So it turns out he has had the opening shift at Home Depot almost every day for the past 2-3 weeks! On Wednesday he was praying for help so he could come to FHE on Monday, and when the prayer was over, he got a text from a co-worker asking if Anthony could switch shifts with them, clearing up Monday night! Anthony has a stronger testimony of prayer than most people I've met! He always always gets an answer!
There has been a bunch of families in our ward that are moving the past couple weeks and this week. One of them, the Lippards, will be moving to southwest Lehi. We visited them to get some last-minute referrals, and found out they are a SUPER missionary family. We are having all sorts of regrets that we didn't visit them earlier. We've decided to visit a lot more families to not make the same mistake again. They'll be inviting a friend and us over for dinner on Thursday, then they'll pack on Friday and move Saturday. Found out last night too, that Brother Allan, our ward mission leader, and his family will be moving within the next couple of weeks to Yorbalinda (sp?) and will probably have to be released. They put their house on the market a few months ago to check and see what offers they could get, and it just sold. They'll be living in his parents' vacant house in Yorbalinda until at least October, then they hope to come back to Mission Viejo. But for now, they'll be attending a ward up there. Elder Mason and I are pretty unhappy about that, since both of us will be gone by the time they move back, but happy for them! So we'll probably get a new ward mission leader soon.
On Saturday we had a zone fast for baptisms in the mission. Last week President Cook texted all the zone leaders and said we've NEVER had such a low month in baptisms in the mission, and to make plans to make it better. Sunday night, right after our fast, we had a lesson with Alex and Angie for the first time in a few weeks. Their other grandma, Paula--who just moved in there a few weeks ago (yes, they and their two grandmas live in the same house) has borrowed their copy of the Book of Mormon and has been reading it. She knows it's good and has been really interested in learning about the Church. She told us yesterday ( when we helped them load and pack stuff for their month-long trip to San Jose) that she wants to be baptized when Alex and Angie get baptized. We are pretty excited! I won't be around for that when it happens, since there will only be a week between the time they get back from SJ and I go home, but the important thing is that they'll get baptized.
Later Sunday night, we went to the Peel's house for  Peel's farewell open house. We're really close to the Peel family and especially to Matt. We've taken him out on many appointments. He's going to enter the MTC in a week and a half to learn French and go to the Lyon, France Mission. We're really excited for him! Jordan , another kid we've been working with has his mission call to Brisbane, Australia and leaves in October (he's cousins with Jackson and Jared  from THS band. Camille might know them). It's been fun to work with soon-to-be missionaries and watch them go through the same mental process I did!
Well that's about all the time I have this week. I hope y'all have a great week!
We've had a really hard time getting a hold of people this week, so there's not a lot to report on our lessons, but we've had a good week. We finally got to meet with Juan  again. He just had 3 or 4 beers for Father's Day (holidays here don't have much to do with what we're celebrating, it's more for the fact that we are celebrating something) and came in to take a rest when we caught him home. He was about to call his priest from church for more advice on his struggling marriage with Irma. He's trying very hard to be a good father and from what I've observed, is a very good father and tries to be a great husband. It is hardly reciprocated by Irma and she is trying for a divorce, despite his efforts. We read part of the Family Proclamation with him and he was listening intently. We promised him that the Gospel would help his marriage and family more than any advice that he's getting from mutual friends and self-help books and DVDs. I hope we can meet with him more consistently.
We met with 2 new investigators last night, who Mason  also invited to meet with us. He's leaving on his mission to Barcelona in August and is already a fantastic missionary! We're doubtful whether we'll get to keep teaching his two friends Kaitlyn and Patrick because Patrick is 17 (not a YSA) and Kaitlyn lives just outside the zone, but if that's the case, we'll pass them to other missionaries. They accepted baptism on the condition they find out the Book of Mormon is true. Kaitlyn's mother is a devout Catholic, so that might be a roadblock, but we'll work with that once we get to that point. Thomas couldn't meet this week due to his birthday and Father's Day activities and we won't be able to see him until after he gets back from his mission trip to Rwanda in the beginning of July. We'll make sure he takes his Book of Mormon with him to read. We're praying really hard that he doesn't trip up on his mission trip and still decides to read the Book of Mormon when he goes and comes back. Much of what they're doing down there is finding and teaching the Rwandans and helping them accept Christianity and building up some churches with them.
Other stories from the week...
I was asked again to play the organ in sacrament meeting. I'm learning songs quicker now, which is nice. I'm having fun playing the organ in different meetings. The regular organist should be back this next Sunday. Bro McAffee told me to thank Mom for making me take piano lessons. I smiled and said I would... [Editor's note: Elder LaFollette has never taken a piano lesson in his life]
What else... We tried knocking on the door of someone who hadn't been to church in years, and were trying to meet him. We were surprised when Bro Franks answered the door, the dad of an active family from Bountiful that just moved into the ward, and who we were supposed to meet with the previous night, but didn't go over (we were going to cancel, but we didn't have their phone number!) because something came up. He kindly invited us in and said they hadn't expected us tonight, but last night. We told him what happened, but didn't say we didn't mean to knock on their door right then! After getting to know them and having a good conversation, Bro Franks asked if we could share a lesson for the kids, which Elder Mason did a great job of improvising, and I went along with it. We do a lot of impromptu lessons, but this one was a lot more stressful than they usually are, but it worked out. This might be a "it's only funny if you were there" story but I thought I'd share it anyway.
Uhh.... we helped a guy move this week named Eddie. We talked to him a couple days before and he mentioned he was moving, and we persisted to offer help. Eventually he said we could come help, but didn't seem to expect us to. Saturday came, and he wasn't where he said he'd be, so we talked to other people in the complex. After a couple hours, we saw him moving stuff out of his garage with an LDS friend of his, and we went to help. It was a simple task and was no real inconvenience for us, but he was very grateful and kept telling us we didn't have to be there if we didn't want to. At the end of the move, we were standing drinking water and he asked a bunch of questions about missionaries, to us and to his friend, and said he'd look up the missionaries in the next place he was in. It still amazes me how tiny acts of service that are no problem to us can touch someone else as much as it touched him. All we did was move a small garage full of boxes to a medium U-Haul truck, but he was very grateful.
What else.... We got kicked out of an apartment complex again on Saturday night. One of the guards was suspicious of us, and when he saw us a second time (we were actually breaking no rules of the complex) he kicked us out and accused us of lying and using our "practiced excuses". It reminded me of how pathetic people are because one can usually safely assume that another person is lying to cover their bum. There is a lot of dishonesty everywhere. We pleaded our case but didn't fight back or argue, and eventually he said he would only need us to leave because there are a lot of cameras around and if another guard saw him talking to us, and then saw us knock on doors, then he would get in a lot of trouble. He said he knew we were harmless and would much rather deal with us than the gangs around the complex. Said he just needed to do his job, then kicked us out. We were still pretty irritated, but we can't blame him. So many other people are so dishonest it was probably a commonly safe thing for him to assume that other people were lying. What was funny though, was as we were about to leave, he said "by the way, my name's Gervaine. Good to meet you guys" which was pretty out of place in the conversation.