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.