Monday, September 11, 2017

09/11/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

My heart is full... This has been the absolute best week of my entire mission. Last Sunday I fasted that we would be blessed with one more baptism before I went home. Not knowing who in the world that would be, I had faith in God's power! Well last Monday we received the most miraculous text of all time. We have been teaching a man by the name of Donald for about two weeks and on Monday he texted us asking if he could get baptized on Saturday!! He said that in order to get closer to God he feels he needs to be cleansed of his prior sins through a proper baptism. He said that he has faith in our ability to do this! Elder Jones and I were beside ourselves and have praised God since. We taught him the next night! After receiving that phenomenal text on Monday, we had dinner with a part member family from the Raleigh Spanish ward that I worked with for quite some time. They had been progressing super well, but have recently fallen out of the swing of things. Hopefully we were able to inspire them to come back and reignite the flames of their faith! After having dinner with them, we went to the mission office to prepare for a few meetings! Elder Jones and I planned a few instructions and we both felt pretty excited about them. The first meeting took place on Tuesday with all of the new missionaries being trained in the northern half of the mission. We call the meeting first transfer training, pretty fitting right? The Spirit was so powerful!! Many simple truths were taught and key principles were shared that will bless these new missionaries and sustain them throughout their missions if they apply what they heard. I know that the Spirit was the teacher that day as I too was taught and counseled by its influence. Following the meeting we had a fantastic lesson with Donald! We taught him about the gospel of Jesus Christ, including faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. We also taught him about a few commandments and he was not only on board with everything we shared, but he loves the church! He commented that he has always believed the things that we teach, he just never knew there was a church that preached them! The next morning we had our second first transfer training meeting down in Fayetteville for the southern half of the mission! We had planned on driving down the night before, but felt prompted to stay the night in Raleigh so we ended up waking up at 4:30 Wednesday morning! Haha it was awesome! I have learned that following the Spirit is worth any sacrifice required of us. We must pay the price, even when we don't understand why. I know waking up at 4:30 is a silly example of this, but the principle here is eternal and it will evoke the very powers of heaven. Our meeting on Wednesday was also very inspiring. I love each opportunity we have to interact with, learn from, and serve these missionaries. What great lives of devotion they are living and what great examples they are to me of that. We drove back to Raleigh after the meeting and had a baptismal interview planned with Donald! To our surprise, he didn't show up! We called him and texted him, but couldn't get a hold of him. Finally a few days later we got in touch with him and discovered a few hidden concerns. We addressed those concerns and he is once again excited to be baptized! Unfortunately however, that baptism will need to be pushed back a few weeks in order to help him be more prepared. I did not after all get to see a baptism my final week in the mission, but as I have reflected on this experience, I am actually very grateful for the way things played out. My deepest desire is to rely on the Lord. How easy is it to rely on Him when everything is going perfectly well? When everything happens according to plan? I desire to rely on the Lord regardless of reward. I am grateful that we didn't baptize because this gives me an opportunity to prove my faithfulness to God. I will not waver nor get discouraged, but rather my joy increases and my gratitude flourishes! The gospel is still true and God is still good. My service to him is never conditional upon my ability to recognize blessings. Thursday was a wonderful day as we went on exchanges with the Durham Zone Leaders! I was blessed to bring Elder Barlow back to Falls Lake for the day, he is an all-star for sure. We had a great time!! We first visited Rich and did our best to lift his spirits. After not having been able to get in touch with him all transfer, it was a blessing to sit down with him and show him that somebody cares. We listened to him intently, expressed our love and encouragement, and testified of the enriching power of the gospel. We invited him to come to church with us to receive that power and for the first time in two months, he did! I was especially grateful to see a smile on his face throughout it. After visiting Rich, Elder Barlow and I stopped by the Borrero family and taught Jay about the Priesthood! We prepared him to receive it and today in church, I had the sacred honor of conferring it upon him. I know it will change his life if he lets it! Elder Barlow and I also taught Yuliya and while we desired to bring down the powers of heaven and convince her right there and then to be baptized, it just didn't happen. And yet, that was okay! We both felt peace concerning her progression; we felt a confirmation that we have done all we can; we have done our part. Now it is up to her! I know she will join the church and be sealed to her family someday. I even believe that day will be soon! Our last stop of the night was to the Rathavongsa home. Ryan, Brandon, and Dylan are staying strong! They are continuing to read the scriptures, say their prayers, and come to church! I am so proud of them for that is how we stay on the strait and narrow path! The temple should also play an important and frequent role in our lives. Elder Jones and I had the privilege of attending the temple Friday morning with all of the other departing missionaries. It was such an enriching experience. We felt spiritually recharged for sure! The remainder of the day was also very satisfying as we taught Nathan and went tracting! Nathan is progressing very nicely! His faith in Christ continues to build and he wants to be baptized! We set a date with him and as part of his commitment, invited him to come to church. We had invited him many many times before, but this time he came! He loved it too!! Just like I love tracting! Sadly we didn't have any time to tract on Saturday due to our all day transfer meeting with President James. We got to the mission home around nine in the morning and didn't leave until about ten at night! The Spirit was hard at work helping us know in what areas and with whom these missionaries need to serve. All of us are very excited to watch this new transfer play out, we have faith in the changes made! Speaking of faith, today was one of the most faith-inspiring days of my life. As many of you know, Elder Bednar is currently in North Carolina doing a young adult broadcast for the whole world! Him being my favorite apostle, I was really hoping I could take an investigator and meet him! To my disappointment however, all missionaries were not invited to come. Well this morning as our Sacrament Meeting began, everyone began to stand up. I joined the crowd to see what was going on and to my astonishment, Elder Bednar and his lovely wife walked onto the stand!! They took their seats and so did we. Except I about fell out of mine! I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Today I had the honor of learning from an apostle of the Lord. My Spirit was touched and changed forever as I listened to both his words and the words of Sister Bednar. Sister Bednar made us a very special promise before Elder Bednar spoke. She said, "If you apply what Elder Bednar teaches today, you will go home feeling refreshed, honored, and strengthened. You will feel like you can do this no matter what you are called to face." I physically heard and understood what she had said, but spiritually was being promised something that I was in need of. To the general audience, she promised they would go home from church feeling refreshed, but to me personally and individually, she promised hope, gratitude, and strength as I return home from my mission. Elder Bednar then spoke of the Spirit and the way that it teaches and touches. He said that we should pay attention not to the things that are said, but to the things that are not said; for that is the voice of the Spirit. If we listen with our spiritual ears, then what we hear will be just for us. I heard Sister Bednar personally promise me strength as I return home from my mission. I felt in the moment that she had said that just for me, but what I was actually hearing was the Spirit's voice. Elder Bednar also taught of the need for continued revelation! He said that we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. If at any point we feel we have received enough, than what we have received will be taken from us. I now know and do believe as confirmed to me by an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit that my mission ending does not have to bring an end to my spiritual growth. I will continue to learn, I will continue to progress. Yes I am saddened to leave all that I have so deeply come to love, but my first love has always been and will always be the Lord. And I will never leave Him. I had the opportunity to shake Elder Bednar's hand after the meeting and as I did so, I felt a confirming witness. I know he is called of God. I stand in awe that God loved me enough to send Elder Bednar, one of his apostles, directly to me to brighten my hope and set the tone for my future. I am excited for the opportunity I will have back home to apply the things I have learned out here. My testimony has grown in so many ways! I know that God answers prayers, I know he puts us on the path that is best for us and for our salvation. I know the Book of Mormon to be a true record written by ancient prophets. It testifies of Christ and leads us to him. There is a power when we sup from it daily. I know this church to be the restored church of Christ for Joseph did see God the Father and our Savior. They did call him to be a prophet and the church has been restored. I know that Jesus Christ himself stands at the head of it. He directs its affairs. I know he lives. He is the Christ. The only way to find lasting happiness, perfect peace, and heavenly hope in life are through him. I have been changed by my service to him. I know that hard work and exact obedience are the keys to success in building the kingdom of God. He loves us and He is with us; he sends his Spirit to guide us, comfort us, teach us, and sanctify us. And if we love Him, we will serve happily. These really have been the best two years of my entire life. And although they are coming to a close, I am no longer in despair for the future but have hope in it! I rejoice in it. Because I know that with God, I can do all things.

Called to serve,
Elder Shearer

Sunday, September 3, 2017

09/04/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

This week was the best week of my whole mission. There is nothing that brings greater satisfaction than serving God's children. It is the daily desire to follow Him that brings purpose, peace, and joy. The Spirit is manifest in righteous living. We felt great happiness this week and saw many miracles as a result of our determination to smile regardless of affliction! Last Monday it was particularly easy to smile as one of our office missionaries brought in two homemade pies!! They were so good. We love our office staff. We are so blessed by their selfless service. We spent most of our preparation day in meetings, shopping, and exercising. Of course my favorite part was when we finally got to go back out and work! We first visited the Borrero family and finished the Plan of Salvation with them. They are the part member family with the mother that got baptized in Florida. Eileen has an ever-deepening conversion to the gospel and her husband Jay has fallen in love with Christ's teachings. Their son Rueben has a greater desire to obey God's commandments than any 9 year old I have ever met! We had a lovely time teaching them with our ward mission leader and as we were walking back to our car after the lesson, we saw a man come out of his apartment. We turned around, walked over to him, started a friendly conversation with him, and gave him a card. We quickly found out that he was super interested! It was a great contact and a perfect close to a wonderful day! Tuesday morning was busy in the office working on the church's program for returning missionaries called My Plan. It asks many thought provoking and goal centered questions to help you build a plan for the rest of your life. The program consists of six different sections, designed to have you complete one section each week of your last transfer. Because of my busy schedule I had only completed one section before this week! Needless to say, I spent a lot of time catching up on it.. We did however get to teach many wonderful lessons. Tuesday night we took a soon to be missionary out with us on exchange and we were blessed to teach Donald! We hadn't been able to catch up with Donald for quite a few weeks, but finally this week we got in touch and met at the church for a lesson. We taught him the Plan of Salvation and he had many questions, which is good! He has been reading the Book of Mormon and praying to know that it's true. At the close of our lesson, he actually knelt with us and prayed right there asking God to help him find the true path and believe in the Book of Mormon! He has great faith and that will get him answers! Wednesday morning we went to a district meeting and enjoyed every second of it. Our schedule only permits us to attend a district meeting about once a transfer and it is always so refreshing. I love getting the chance to interact with our missionaries in such small groups! I was very inspired by our dedicated district leaders and their presentations. Elder Jones and I went on exchanges with the Raleigh zone leaders following the meeting and I was privileged to be with Elder Springer in his area, the Spanish area!! We had a great day. We tracted and did everything else that makes a day the best ever! A family from our Wake Forest ward wanted to feed both Elder Jones and I and the Raleigh zone leaders for dinner. They had us meet them at a place called Shucker's and it was life changing. We ate oysters both raw and steamed, crab legs, shrimp, clams, mussels, scallops, and many other things! It was the best seafood place I have ever been to, easily. After getting full and spiritually recharged by all of that incredible food, we taught a few very solid lessons. I was nervous at first that my Spanish wouldn't be very good since I haven't had a chance to use it in a while, but I had multiple people ask me if I was a native so that was a miracle in of itself! God is good and the gift of tongues is so real. Thursday was another busy day in the office, President asked me to make a few changes to our weekly number reporting document. I spent a good amount of time working on excel rewriting the code for the macro. I was blessed to figure it out eventually! We had a fun time at our dinner; after eating, they asked if we wanted to learn how to play the bagpipes. Of course we said yes and before we knew it, we were blowing our lungs away into those things! It was actually pretty fun! Elder Jones and I had many appointments scheduled for that night that we were excited about, but unfortunately all of them fell through. Although saddened by not being able to help those people progress, I was grateful for the opportunity to show God our commitment to stay happy and positive no matter what! We prayed, gave thanks for the trials, and worked hard anyways! It was a great night and we loved it regardless! Friday consisted of me finishing My Plan and getting some other office work done to prepare for the upcoming week of meetings, but we also got a few chances to teach and testify of Christ. We taught the Buday family and really felt the Spirit as we testified of the Book of Mormon and the urgent need to make reading it a priority of our lives. It will protect us from danger and keep us on the right path! After teaching them, we worked the night away with smiles from ear to ear. Saturday was an especially beautiful day. Jay and Rueben Borrero followed the example of Jesus Christ and were baptized by his restored priesthood authority! It was a powerful service and everyone that was there could feel the intensity of their desire to be baptized. It was so touching to watch a father and a son take this step together. We are so proud of them! After that terrific monumental moment, we met with President James and spent some time working on the transfer board. The Holy Ghost was at work and revelation was flowing! I'm excited to see this coming transfer play out, there are many exciting changes being made. The Borreros invited us over for dinner to celebrate the baptism and they made us the best ribs I've ever tasted! We had a nice lesson about the gift of the Holy Ghost to prepare them for their confirmations today and they were literally jumping up and down they were so excited for it! As the night was coming to an end, we got a text from the Rathavongsa family asking us to come help them move some furniture into their home. Boy was it a workout! Elder Jones and I were covered in sweat by the end of it; we moved a huge marble-top dresser, a massive bed frame, and a few smaller dressers into their house and up the stairs! Not only was I covered in sweat though, I was covered in happiness from serving God's children. :) Today was just the cherry on top! I had the sacred opportunity of confirming Jay and Rueben members of the church and of giving them the gift of the Holy Ghost. As Jay was receiving that special gift, we could feel him sobbing beneath our hands. As the confirmation ended, he stood up and with tears streaming down his face gave us each a big hug. He sat down with his family and I caught a glimpse of them entering the holy temple to become an eternal family. I was filled with the Spirit and I was reminded of our purpose. To unite families. What a beautiful experience it has been teaching and baptizing the Borrero family, they have the brightest of futures ahead of them. Donald came to church and he soaked up every little thing. He even bore his testimony that he knows these teachings are good. We went tracting after dinner and then taught Anthony and Nicole. How fulfilling it is to watch the change and hope of the gospel come into the lives of those we teach. This week was full of miracles! What a life changing experience this mission has been and continues to be every day. I am so grateful I have another week to be a missionary. I will work harder than ever before and will make this the best week of my mission. God does after all deserve our best effort.

Uniting families,
Elder Shearer

Monday, August 28, 2017

08/28/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

This was a beautiful week. Last Monday we watched the solar eclipse with President and Sister James on the news and it was incredible!! We were able to watch the totality happen a few different times being broadcast from all over the country! At the point that totality hit just south of us in South Carolina, President ran outside and with his naked eye looked up at the sun and yelled "Hey! You can see it! Come check this out!" Haha we all ran out and looked up! He was right, you culd see it! We would've used the glasses and all, but they were sold out at all the stores around us. It's okay though, President said we won't notice any lasting effects from the exposure for at least 9 years. I think that's probably enough time to live a happy life before I go blind! After our super fun solar eclipse viewing with them, we went out to try to visit some less-actives! Sadly none of them were home at the time, but we were able to meet up with them later on in the week. After working for a few hours, Elder Jones and I made our way down south to the border of the mission: Wilmington! We spent the night there with our zone leaders so we could wake up and be ready to go for our Wilmington zone conference! The conference was very enjoyable and I would say it was by far our best one of the transfer, and that's not just because I'm biased towards Wilmington. The Spirit was very present with each zone conference, but for some reason, it was even more overwhelming this time. I bore my departing testimony at the conclusion of the meeting and I decided to share a special memory. Three months before I received my mission call I had a dream that I was called to serve in North Carolina. I woke up from the dream not remembering much about it, other than a very particular alleyway I had seen. I actually forgot about the dream entirely right up until the moment that I read my call to serve. As I read that I was assigned to labor in North Carolina, the dream instantly flooded my mind and I remembered that alleyway in great detail. An excitement and sense of adventure filled my heart and I greatly anticipated the search I was now on. Just as had happened before, that dream was eventually pushed out of my memory by all the hustle and bustle of life. Later on in my mission, I was called to serve in Wilmington as a zone leader. Never before had a Spanish missionary been called as the Wilmington zone leader, so this brought many new changes. I was being taken out of the Spanish work that I had so deeply invested my heart into. At first, this was a difficult transition for me. I prayed to God that he would send me the peace to know that I had in fact been sent to the right area. Not that I had ever doubted President James nor his inspiration, but I simply desired a personal confirmation on the matter. As I bore my departing testimony this past Tuesday, I explained to the missionaries that on one of my first preparation days in Wilmington, my companion decided to take me downtown. As we walked the streets of downtown Wilmington, something we walked past caught the corner of my eye. I felt prompted to stop and take a few steps back. As I did, my eyes beheld a miracle. Standing in front of me was the exact alleyway I had been shown in my long since forgotten dream. The Spirit of God flooded my soul as a similarly Heaven-sent flood poured from my eyes. I felt myself wrapped in the love of my Eternal Father. I was told that God knew me and that He had indeed sent me to serve in that miracle-filled area. Since that day, I have never again forgotten my dream. It remains as a testimony to me that God cared for me enough to prepare a much-needed answer to prayer. I showed that picture to the missionaries and I was so overcome with my emotions, I could hardly speak. Elder Jones and I drove back up to Raleigh after the meeting and made a pit-stop at a famous ice cream shop right on the Cape Fear river. After arriving to Raleigh, we went to visit a less-active our Bishop had asked us to stop by. Pulling up to the home however, both Elder Jones and I felt we needed to try it another night. We went tracting instead and knocked right up until 9! Actually to spill a secret, we knocked until 9:10 because there were a few houses I felt we needed to try and I just couldn't ignore the prompting! The following day we had our Tri-Lake zone conference and it was actually the last one of the transfer! It was a great meeting, and following my departing testimony of the importance and eternal significance of our calling, a handful of missionaries came up to me and specifically thanked me for my testimony. I was so glad to see the Spirit was at work in the hearts of these missionaries. We care for them so dearly and pray for them by name. I decided to pray for each of them by name the night before their zone conference and as I did so, I was reminded of the unconditional love that God has for them. Following Wednesday's zone conference, we went to teach Yuliya and she is to the point that she simply needs to decide if she wants to be baptized or not. Even she mentioned that she has all the information she is going to get, the ball is in her court now. We pray for her daily that she will have the courage to act on the promptings she has received. Elder Jones and I then felt prompted to go back to the less-active we had decided not to visit yet. She was already out in her yard when we pulled up and though at first she was very hesitant to speak with us, we were as friendly as can be and her heart was softened. We met with her for a few minutes and did our best to rekindle her faith, but sadly she was afraid her husband wouldn't let us inside. We asked her who she knew of her neighbors that could use a message of the gospel, and she claimed not to know any. We felt something was off so we asked her again and as we did so, she looked at us with a face that told us immediately she was fighting the Spirit. We waited patiently and she finally followed the prompting to tell us that her neighbor had recently lost her mother to cancer about a month ago. We thanked her, committed her to pick up and read her Book of Mormon again, and with haste went to meet her neighbor. After knocking on the door, a woman opened up and upon seeing us, smiled from ear to ear! She said, "Elders! What are you doing here?" We told her we were there to speak with Dea and she told us that her name was Sister Early, a member from another ward! She had gone over to help Dea pack up her mother's belongings. She was ecstatic to see us and exclaimed that she knew we were sent from God. We were very excited to see her too and asked if we could speak with Dea. A few moments later, Dea came out and we introduced ourselves. We quickly began to teach her the principles of the Plan of Salvation and tears came to her eyes as those beautiful restored truths fell upon her spiritual ears. It was an absolute miracle to have found her. Thursday was a very busy administrative day! We had to plan out an entire meeting for Friday as well as all of our other responsibilities. The Wilmington zone leaders came up halfway through the day and we went on an exchange with them in our area. I was with Elder Hutchings and we had a great time. We first taught Nathan and he told us that he finished the Book of Mormon! He commented that he usually feels a need to be cynical about everything, but since reading the Book of Mormon, that desire is gone! We visited and taught a few other people as well and just had a wonderful exchange. Elder Hutchings is a great leader! We had our meeting on Friday for all of the mission leadership and it was very productive. We made a lot of policy changes and we're excited to watch those play out! Saturday was a magical day, it was my birthday! My family spoiled me and sent me an incredible package!! President and Sister James also spoiled me and got me a wonderful present as well as a super delicious chocolate mousse cake! We got a knock on the door and a missionary that used to serve here had come to visit, Elder Chandler! We had a fun time all being together. Elder Jones and I spent most of the day tracting, my favorite thing ever!! At the end of the night we visited an investigator that has been investigating for a few years and using the Spirit and inspired questions, we finally found out what some of his concerns are. Sunday was an equally fantastic day, of course because it is the Lord's day. Our investigators came to church, loved it, and we did some more tracting. We had dinner with the Madrid Estrada family in the Raleigh Spanish ward to celebrate my birthday and they smashed my face in the cake at the end! Classic... We tracted for the rest of the night and found a very prepared woman named Meatt. I love my mission so much. I do apologize for having such lengthy emails each week, but I simply cannot fit all of God's miracles into a few short paragraphs. I could honestly write a novel filled with the many tender mercies he blesses us with each day. I've said it before and I'll say it again; God is good.

Cherishing every minute of every day,
Elder Shearer