Monday, October 31, 2016

10/31/16 - Raleigh, North Carolina

Wow, our world here in Raleigh 3C has been turned upside down!! Unexpected news from President last Saturday night, but we'll talk about that a little later in this letter. Last Monday we went to Adventure Landing as a district!! It was a blast. Each of us got at least one hole-in-one and a few of us got two or even three! We had a lot of fun becoming unified as a district. I am truly blessed to be serving around so many outstanding missionaries! Tuesday morning I had an incredible realization as we did some studies on the computers at the church. I was watching the church's new video series entitled "Unity in Diversity" and I had a very spiritually enlightening experience. I learned in short that we MUST love EVERYONE. We are all in different routines. We all live in different ways. We all go through different obstacles and challenges in life. We are simply different. We should not and cannot compare ourselves. As we do, it only brings us pride or discouragement. Neither of which are good things! We must simply love. We are put where we are in our lives to love and lift those around us. Quite often, God needs us to be the answer to someone else's prayer. One of the only things we can always do no matter the situation or time of day, is love. Let us buckle down and decide today to love all men everywhere, no matter the cost, shoulder to shoulder with the greatest exemplar, our Savior Jesus Christ. So anyways, back to the week! That same day we had a great lunch.The copperhead snake we found and gutted a few weeks ago! Delicious!! One of my most cherished moments of the week came about as we taught an investigator about hope later that afternoon. She was very discouraged at the moment with many problems happening within the family. A scripture came to my mind as we listened to her. The moment we shared it, she broke down in tears. She looked up at us through newly hope-filled eyes and said quietly "That is me." The Spirit expanded the scene to my mind as I was reminded that it is of utmost importance that we listen to our investigators. Every time. And if we do, the Spirit will bring all things to our remembrance! But first we must study and thus enable him to guide us. He cannot pull from a dry well! The next day I woke up at 4:00 with a mind-pounding headache, took some medicine, and sat there until I could sleep again. I finally dozed off around 6:15 and was quickly awakened by our alarm at 6:30. But we got up, exercised, and went to district meeting! It was incredible!! We spoke again of the Plan of Salvation but practiced teaching it in 4 minutes. A very fun time as a district doing many role-plays! We went on exchanges afterwards with the other elders and had a splendid day! I went with Elder Hunsaker (in his second transfer) in his area. Haha it is probably the most intense area of the whole mission to bike in. We biked 22 miles that day with probably 21.99 of them going uphill. Haha okay maybe that's not quite the ratio, but it was insane!! We got such a good workout. And on top of that, we were able to teach about baptism very boldly and very powerfully. We invited many people and even set their first baptismal date! It was nice to be able to meet again with some people I used to teach when we were in charge of that area! Thursday we helped a senior couple move into their new apartment and had some people tell me they thought I was from Spain. Again! I made an official decision that I am now changing my accent to a Spaniard accent. I have met with a few of the Espanoles in our ward and they are all helping me so much!! Learning new phrases and getting new advice everyday! A few of them told me that I already seem like I could be from there and that with a little more practice, they would never know the difference! They're probably just being kind, but still, there's hope! That night, I gave myself a haircut and while doing so, Elder Summers ran in the bathroom telling me President had texted. He asked us to call him as soon as possible. So we did. He called me to be a trainer! Again!! He told us that we will be a trio for the next little while. So now I will be in a trio with both of my sons!! SO CRAZY!!! This new missionary is actually my dead brother. He came out about a year ago, but went home after 3 weeks. Elder Rogers (my trainer) was training him so that makes him my brother. And now I am his father! Which makes me my own father!!! Missionary family tree officially broken... This has to be a first in history. We will now have 5 missionaries in one apartment, and 9 missionaries in one ward!! Definitely both records. He will be here tonight so we have been moving stuff around at the apartment to make some room. Very excited!! Saturday morning, we went to a festival in downtown Raleigh for the Dia de los Muertos expecting to find many hispanics! Well, we didn't. Haha but we did get to place a few cards anyways! So it all worked out. Planting seeds! We also went to our ward party Saturday night and they did a trunk or treat. We all dressed up in costumes and handed out pass-along cards from our truck. It was a hit!! Church was a little empty on Sunday because all of the men were in South Carolina helping with disaster relief, but we still had a great time with the people that did come! Our Bishop's wife is from Spain and she is very excited to be my teacher in the language of the Castellanos. We had dinner with our ward mission leader and he invited a friend! We taught a great Restoration lesson and his friend, Francisco, is very open to learning more! He has already come to church twice too!! I am excited to see where that goes! We ended our week by once again teaching Jesus and Bryan, our part member family. Let's just say, it went a little different than we had planned. We are trying our best to help them be ready for baptism, but there are a few things they need to let go of first. It is a little difficult teaching someone that you love so dearly not make the choices they need to make!! But we both felt much peace as we took a step back and realized that we are doing all we can do for them. The Lord will take care of the rest. We are simply here to do his will, love all, and hacer un bien sin mirar a quien!!!

Soon to be father of two,
Elder Shearer

Monday, October 24, 2016

10/24/16 - Raleigh, North Carolina

Dear friends and family,  why hello there! :) This week was a miraculous one! Last Monday for preparation day I sat down and just played the piano all the day long. It was so refreshing to be able to play it! We went to dinner that night at a member's home and she fed us pupusas!! The table was literally covered with them and I ate soo many! It was amazing. That night in our planning session, we had a neat experience! We were seeking the will of the Lord as manifested to us through the Holy Ghost. As we prayerfully determined who we were going to visit the following day, a name came to mind. To both of our minds that is. We turned to each other and at the same time said the name of a woman we had stopped teaching 3 months ago. The next day we knocked on this woman's door. She answered. After letting us know that her family was reading 3 pages of the Book of Mormon together every night, she begged us to come back. She apologized for all she had done previously to ignore us, but pleaded with us to return and help her family. We set a return appointment and she was thrilled. We returned for that appointment to find all of her children sitting patiently on the couch with a Book of Mormon in each of their laps! We had a strong lesson and now have a baptismal date with the family! My testimony has grown of the importance of using the Spirit in planning! It is essential! Elder Summers and I have really been striving to be bold as we teach. We invite people to baptism on the doorstep! We have seen that it greatly helps us recognize who is ready to receive this message. As a result of this lovingly-bold, baptism-focused teaching pattern, we have also had a few investigators drop us this week. They frankly told us that they are never going to get baptized and that it is best for us not to come back if that is our goal. I agree with them! It is such a great feeling to know that our expectations are set and known. :) Wednesday, we had our district meeting and I instructed on teaching the Plan of Salvation in 20 minutes. We had some fun role plays and I finished the meeting by quoting President Uchtdorf's recent conference address on losing sight of the marvelous things of the gospel. We went out on exchanges with our ward mission leader that night and tracted some doors with him! We found a new investigator! It was powerful to be able to have a member's testimony right there on the door. Thursday, we did some service for an investigator. We helped her move some things in and out of her storage shed and she was very grateful. She broke down afterwards and told us that it is so hard having to live out of a storage unit. We discussed the lasting nature of the gospel and the comfort to know that our testimonies and knowledge of the Savior will carry with us throughout our lives. We were able to comfort her and it was great to watch her hope in Christ build. Afterwards, we taught one of our less actives who is very heavily involved in the gang world. This time his friend was there! We taught them both about the hope of God and watched a Mormon message entitled "The Hope of God's Light." As we closed our message with our testimonies, the two of them looked at each other and said "You know what, we got some friends that need to hear this message. Come back tomorrow." So we did! The whole gang (literally) was there! They loved the message! And on the way out a girl by the name of Stormy said right as the door was closing "goodbye cuties!" We stopped, looked at each other, and ran. We taught our new investigator, Willy, from last week and this time were able to teach his whole family! All of the kids want to get baptized and were asking the mom if they could. We hope to see them again tonight! Since we started our bike week last Wednesday, it has gotten really cold! I have definitely put good use to that beanie Josie made me! We went to the Panaderia one day for our language study, and we bought the best bread ever. With each bite, I could feel my Spanish improving. We have really been trying to use more of our members as of late, and we were able to go on quite a few exchanges this past week! I love getting the chance to show the members how we teach! I just hope and pray it helps them have more confidence in us as representatives of the Lord so that they will entrust us with teaching their friends! I have loved this week as I have looked for the many blessings the Lord has given us. If you look for the negative in life, you will find it. But if you look for the good, you will find it too! And that good is what makes us happy. :) We had stake conference yesterday and were actually able to have quite a few investigators there! We ended our week again by teaching Jesus and Bryan. We taught them the Restoration and it went very well. Jesus was going on about how important scripture reading is! And at the end, he volunteered to pray!! I couldn't believe it! He used to refuse to do it, and now he is volunteering! Amazing. We hope and pray daily they will be able to walk into the waters of baptism in a few short weeks. I know this is the Lord's work and that He directs our paths as we listen for and seek Him. I know He will direct yours too! He loves you!!!

Expecting an invitation to join a gang,
Elder Shearer

Monday, October 17, 2016

10/17/16 - Raleigh, North Carolina

Can I just start by saying that I love serving in the Lord's vineyard? :) This week was incredible. Last Monday for preparation day we drove out to Apex to have a basketball competition with another zone. And as all of you know, I'm very athletic and very talented at basketball (terribly sad joke). So I brought an ironing board and I just skinnied ties instead. It was actually really entertaining! There was a sister missionary there that told me about how she found my album somewhere and loves listening to it. She told me that it got her through the hardest transfers of her mission! I couldn't believe it! Neat little tender mercy to see that I was able to help someone out! Tuesday morning, Elder Summers and I received notice that we were going to give an instruction the next day in zone training! So we took some time to plan an instruction together and it was amazing to watch it come into play in the little time we were given. Elder Summers is so smart! Later that night we went and taught Josie, our recent convert, and she gave us hand-knit ties!! And hand-knit beanies!! They are beautiful. I was so impressed. She is doing very well and is progressing towards getting a temple recommend and doing baptisms for the dead! Whoo!!! The day of Wednesday we had zone training! It was a really great meeting. We instructed on "becoming fishers of men". Focusing heavily on the point of conversion for the great rock of the church, Peter. The first time around he served the Lord in action. He followed with exactness and did all that was asked. Yet he did not give his heart into the work. He at many points doubted and questioned the ways of the Lord. When on the tempest-tossed ship, when found asleep in the garden, and of course, when he denied having known the Christ are just a few examples of when this lack of devotion was made manifest. It wasn't until the Lord came to him again inviting him to feed His sheep. That is when this great apostle of a man began to put his heart into his actions and became the powerful witness of Christ we remember him to be. He even came to the point where the people came to him hoping that merely his shadow would pass by, that they might be healed. We learn and taught boldly that being on a mission is different than serving a mission. If we go through these two years and never put our hearts into our labor, we will not be changed. Nor will we ever be happy! Even if we do the very things that bring happiness! Happiness only comes as we give our hearts. There were many in tears as we shared our message and I was found among them. I know that the Lord loves us!! It was a great meeting. A little later that day we had a slightly less positive experience.. We were driving along heading to our dinner appointment when a woman in the lane to the right of ours decided to pull a u turn across the street into the other direction of traffic, cutting right in front of us! We were going about 45 MPH and I had to slam on my brakes as hard as I could not to hit here! Thankfully we were safe, but it was a close call. Elder Summers said there was even less time to stop than when we got in the accident! The Lord definitely blessed us that day with safety. I know that is thanks to my mother's faithful prayers!! THANK YOU MOM!!! We had a great night after that though teaching the restored gospel with power and authority. We are truly witnessing miracles out here! Late that night, President sent us a text informing us that is was time again for interviews and that we were going to have them the following morning at 8!!! Our mouths dropped... He then sent us our interview questions and requested that we come prepared with a 12-minute lesson plan based off of Elder Oak's conference address titled "Sharing the Restored Gospel" and a 5-minute description of how we were going to use it. We threw an outline together quickly and went to interviews the following morning. They actually went very well!! President was very impressed with our outline and told us that it was "obviously better than [his]" and that he was going to, with our permission, incorporate much of our outline into his. Whether that was true or not, the interview was beautiful and I was again reminded of the love of President and Sister James for us! They thanked me for always keeping a happy smiley attitude about me. :) We weekly planned later that day and changed to a different venue. We thought it would be good to get out of the apartment and let people see us, so we went to a local water fountain and planned at one of the tables there. It was a beautiful day and we will now be found there every Thursday afternoon. As we went out working that night, we set a covenant for our tracting efforts. After praying and pondering the will of the Lord, Elder Summers told me he had felt we were to get 2 of something. I turned to him and let him know that I was feeling we needed to find 2 new investigators. So we prayed and went out knocking. As we knocked a feeling came into my mind that we were about to find these investigators together. That we were about to find a family! We kept knocking and in the eleventh hour (classic...) we found them! The mom's name is Belkis and the son's name is Willy. Though there were many children running around and having fun, we shared one of the most powerful restoration lessons I have ever shared. They had a real desire to know the truth! When we asked if they would read the Book of Mormon, 14 year old Willy quickly accepted the invitation. Him and his mom both became promising new investigators. Another testimony to the power of covenanting (involving the Lord in His own work)! I felt the Spirit so strongly as we got back into our car. It was such a humbling yet comforting feeling to know that we had just been made instruments in the hands of the Lord. The following day we gave service to the family that is moving to Idaho by helping them paint their walls. But I forgot my camera so no pictures there.. oops. But that night we found another promising investigator by the name of Jacquelyn. She was raised a Jehovah's Witness, but fell away once she got older. We shared the restoration with her and as we did so, she began to cry. The Spirit was powerfully there and we bore fervent testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Saturday, we went to lunch at a pizza buffet and it made me sick for the rest of the day.. Some members then took us to a Greek restaurant for dinner and we ate gyros. Although it was incredibly amazing, I was stuffed to the brim!! Sunday we had our primary program and it was so beautiful. I love children. We went to see a less active after church and she told us that she had had a dream about the church the night previous! She genuinely thanked us for coming and bringing the Spirit into her home. So touching! We ended our week on a strong note as we went to teach the Jesus and Bryan, the husband and son of Josie. Her and Rony have been waiting for a while for them to be baptized. We talked about the plan of salvation and focused heavily on baptism. As we closed the lesson, we invited them to be baptized. They accepted. We invited them for a date. They accepted that too!! Together. They then each asked for Priesthood blessings and we gave them gladly. As we did so, the Spirit flooded the room and we all felt it. By the end, there were few dry eyes. Josie was filled with such excitement and joy as she watched her husband and son take the decision to be baptized. We walked away from that lesson without saying a word. We drove home in silence. We had indeed just witnessed a miracle performed by the hands of God.

Finding the joy in the journey,
Elder Shearer

Monday, October 10, 2016

10/10/16 - Raleigh, North Carolina

I thought last week went by quickly... ha! Haha! This was probably the busiest week of my entire mission. From meetings to service opportunities to setting baptismal dates, we did it all! Last Monday we had a special tennis invitational match for the mission that we call the "Dennis Open", due to our mission president's name being Dennis. It was very fun! Missionaries from all around the mission got special texts from President to come and play in it and then we all met together. There were about 20 of us there. I was actually doing really well and progressing into the finals quickly until I pulled a leg muscle! I didn't stretch beforehand and after trying to full sprint to catch a dropped slice, it ripped. I felt the immediate pain and fell over. It was pretty bad. Definitely the worst muscle pain I have ever experienced. Still feeling it actually! It was still an incredibly fun day though!! When President saw me there he said "You play tennis too?? What can't you do Elder Shearer?" But then I went and broke my leg so it kept my humility pretty balanced out.. That night we went tracting and we found an Arabic man! He couldn't understand what we were saying and we couldn't understand him either so he pulled out his phone and we spoke to each other through Google translate!! It was super neat. We were having zone conference the next day so a few Elders came over that night and I cut both of their hair. I woke up at 4 the next morning so that another Elder could drive down to us for a haircut too before the meeting! We drove to Fayetteville for the conference and had a smashing time. Many great instructions given and we then competed as zones in some field games. On our way home, we stopped by a famous ice cream store called "Sunni Skies". It has been on TV numerous times and they have over 130 flavors!! I got cake batter with brownie batter and crumb cake. I almost died!! Speaking of almost dying, one of our zone leaders signed a waiver so that he could try one of their special flavors. It is called "cold sweat". After signing his life away, he took a big spoonful of it and had a really hard time getting it down. He then asked to their other flavor which is even hotter!! It is called "exit wound". The workers told us that people have gone into serious convulsions after having eaten it. He signed another waiver and went to it! Well, let's just say that the rest of the story is not something you want to hear, so I won't tell it! The next day we had our zone council which is a meeting for all of the leaders in the zone. My suits were in the dry cleaners so I had to wear a green blazer haha.. We planned out a few of our meeting topics for the next month and gathered all of the supplies from the zone. We sorted them all out, counted them, and redistributed them! It took most of the day.. We did have a great night though as we went out and taught boldly about baptism!! The next day we did some service for our mission office. We went with a senior couple and helped them open a new apartment in Wake Forest. Moved their beds and desks and everything in to get it ready! Looking very nice. During some tracting that night, we found an investigator by the name of Maria. While sharing the first vision with her on her doorstep, a car pulled up behind us and illuminated the scene! It came right as I said the words "I saw a pillar of light". The wind blew slightly and I got the chills! The night was dark and dreary and as a diamond displayed on black velvet appears more brilliant, so the beauty of the Restoration stood in striking contrast against such a dismal scene. It was a powerful lesson and we bore fervent testimonies of our Savior Jesus Christ and of His restored church. Maria accepted our invitation to read and pray and we hope to see her again tonight. The next day we did our deep cleaning! I interior detailed our car and it felt good to do that again! Our house looks and feels clean and I love it!! We went out to work after we did our chores and were truly made instruments in the hands of the Lord. We first taught in investigator by the name of Ina that we have not seen in a while. We asked her what she thought our purpose was for coming over and testified to her that we were there to invite her to come unto Christ. We read in 2 Nephi 31 about only being able to follow Him as we keep His commandments. One of those being baptism. We taught with power and authority and she accepted not only baptism, but a baptismal date! We are excited to continue to work with her. We then taught a family we have been trying to teach for quite some time. They let us right in and we had happened to knock on their door when all of them were home! We sat down and shared the message of the Restoration. We set expectations and they committed to read the Book of Mormon, as a family, and pray to know its truth, as a family. We had a kneeling prayer with them and the daughter offered it. We thanked them for their time and went on our way. As we were walking to the car, an instruction from President James came to mind that he had recently given in zone conference. He instructed us to warn our investigators of the fiery darts of the adversary. To warn them of anti material. With faith, we turned around and knocked the door again. They curiously opened the door to us again and I let them know that I felt I needed to advise them of something. I testified to them what we had felt the Spirit of God that night. That they had felt it. That they were feeling it even as I spoke to them. I invited them and pleaded with them to heed the promptings of the Spirit in their journey of knowledge. Their eyes were each wide open and listening intently. The Spirit was there in great quantity. We all felt it. We again thanked them for their time and turned back towards our car. The next day we had many appointments fall through, but many positive remarks made between Elder Summers and I. As the night came to a close, we attempted to visit a less active. A different woman opened the door, also a member. She invited us in and we sat down to visit with her. She opened up immediately and burst into tears. She let us know of her separation from her husband about a year ago after 23 years of marriage. She is trying to get a divorce with him because he has thrown his life away to drugs and alcohol. Her 5 year old daughter is mixed up in all of it as well and she said she has lost custody to her due to the wealth and power of this man's family. Her husband refuses to divorce her and is hoping she will run back to him. She was broken. We sat there and simply listened. I did not know what to say. This woman was being torn apart. I wept with her. I felt her pain. Not knowing what it was that God would have me share, I opened the Book of Mormon. With a prayer in my heart, I began to thumb through it's pages. I read to her the promise of the Lord that though the mountains and the earth shall pass away, the covenant of His peace shall not pass away (3 Nephi 22:11). We spoke of the peace of the Lord for a bit and we testified to her that though God cannot take away our trials, He can take away our pains. She seemed to be lifted. We closed our message in the name of Christ and went on our way. Writing this now to you, I learn a great lesson. There are times in our lives when God puts people in our path. We had plans to visit a less active member. Yet an active member whom we thought was doing well, needed our message. It is my hope and prayer that as we are about accomplishing our day to day work, that we do not forget the work of the Lord. That is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children. Let us not be so consumed in our own needs, that we blind ourselves to an opportunity to serve someone else. I testify that there are people out there that need you. People you pass in the hall, order your food from, work alongside with. All of us are God's children and He needs you to accomplish His great work! And as we lose ourselves, we will find ourselves. Not the same as we left ourselves to be, but as new creatures in Christ. As the disciples our Maker has helped us become. I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. That night we got transfer news! We learned that... nothing is changing! Elder Summers and I will stay together again for another transfer! Whoo!!! This will make it 6 months for me in Raleigh. I am very excited to keep learning from the great example of my companion and son. As some of you probably know, we experience a hurricane this weekend. Much of the electricity was lost, there were great rain storms, some flooding, and great speeds of winds. We thankfully stayed safe, but only had one hour of church on Sunday, Sacrament Meeting. We all got together afterwards and did some service! Went with some Machetes and chain saws to chop down some fallen trees! We ended the week by having a baptism last night! The sisters in our ward baptized two little girls by the ages of 9, 10. They invited me to baptize them and it was a great privilege. I loved this week!!! I love the Lord, my God!! Thanks for tuning in again, I wish all of you the greatest of weeks! Thanks for your love and support!!

Working on his machete skills,
Elder Cortador