Monday, August 14, 2017

08/14/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

What a week! I love this mission so much, these days are going by much too quickly! One of our wonderful office staff members left on vacation this week and she won't be back for a few months so we decided to go to lunch on Monday at the Cheesecake Factory to thank her for all she has done. It was a delightful memory and of course the Cheesecake Factory was amazing!! Some emergency situations came up in the mission so Elder Jones and I spent our preparation day driving across the mission to move some Elders around to different areas. We got back into Raleigh just in time for our lesson with the Borrerro family (the family that came back from Florida)! They are extremely prepared for the gospel! We taught them about the Book of Mormon and Jay, the father, had read the chapter we left with him and he even had a very strong spiritual experience with it! He shared that he cried as he read it because he felt it rekindling his childhood faith in Christ. He gave us a detailed summary of what he read and believes the book to be true. The following day we had to take care of another emergency situation with some missionaries so we spent a good majority of the day road tripping again! Upon our return, we met with Donald and taught him of the restoration. He loved it! He had many questions and really felt the Spirit as we testified, invited, and promised blessings. He even accepted a baptismal date and had a kneeling prayer with us, which he offered himself. Elder Jones and I commented afterward that something amazing is happening with our lessons. We are letting the Holy Ghost be the teacher. It's very easy to think that the Holy Ghost is a tool we as missionaries use to help us in the work, but the opposite is true. We are the tools that the Holy Ghost as the teacher may use to move the work forward. The latter and more appropriate pattern only happens when we let it. Elder Jones and I have been praying and fasting for the Holy Spirit to be with us more and it has been made manifest. Over and over and over again. What a sacred trust to have the constant companionship of the third member of the Godhead. He is the teacher and testator of all truth. After our dinner we knocked the night away and had a few fun experiences! We knocked into an insane asylum and had a worker come out and talk with us for a little while until he had to run inside and take care of the patients. We also knocked on a home that apparently was a church! The pastor came out and let us know he was right in the middle of his sermon and didn't have much time. We asked if we could meet with him some other day to share a message about living prophets, but he just rushed back inside to his Pentecostal service. Wednesday morning we did a little cleaning to get our apartment and car looking nice for an inspection we were to have the following day! We then had to take care of another situation so we spent some time driving on the road.. After that situation we drove down to Lake Wheeler and visited each of the three Congolese families we had taught last week. We spoke with a few of them and even met a new man who seemed pretty interested! After our Swahili lessons we returned to Raleigh and of course did some tracting! We didn't have a ton of time, but we set a goal, said a prayer, and went knocking! Although we couldn't catch anyone home at first, we kept at it and eventually found a new investigator. Thursday was another busy day and we started it off by visiting the Borrerro family again! They are so awesome. We decided to explain the restoration in depth and holy cow the Spirit was present in that room. Jay and Reuben both accepted a baptismal date for September 2nd! We gave them a new chapter to read and they offered us some lunch. While we were eating lunch Reuben was so anxious to read the Book of Mormon, he brought it to the table with him and read as he ate! After that spectacular lesson, we did some work in the mission office trying to get caught up for the week and then had to take a trip down to Dunn! We went down to pick up Elder Nadauld and after bringing him back to Raleigh with us, we had 15 minutes left before 9 so we went tracting! We decided to tract some mansions because we're determined to teach kings and rulers! Elder Nadauld enjoyed the night and we reflected on many mission memories with one another. The next morning we all woke up super early so that we could get Elder Nadauld to the airport on time! He got his luggage and everything taken care of and after we said goodbye to each other, we watched him go through security and off into the sunset of his mission. This mission is going to miss him for sure, he was a great strength to us and he accomplished many miracles! Elder Jones and I were swamped with office work to get done so we spent a little time doing that and then got a phone call to take care of another emergency situation! Haha it was comical at this point how many times we had been on the road in one week. But regardless, we dropped everything and went to take care of it! It consumed the rest of our day and even our entire night, but at least we were able to help President and get it done. Saturday was a splendid day! We ate breakfast with Mike and his son Preston and not only did they feed us pancakes, deer sausage, and grits, but we had a refreshing lesson! They had many questions, mostly about the Priesthood and the way the offices are organized, but we were able to relate it all back to the Book of Mormon and leave them with a strong invitation to read and pray. We told them it is great to learn about the church, but nothing we ever share will be personally meaningful until they know it is true. The evidence of that is found in the Book of Mormon and answers come as we read, ponder, and pray. Their hearts are good and their desires are pure. They expressed a few concerns, but as we sat there and did our best to ask inspired questions, they really opened up and shared their true concerns. We were witnesses of the Spirit at work. As they felt the powerful influence, they had the courage to open up and let us know how they were actually feeling. There was a rich feeling of love and peace as scriptures, stories, and testimonies were shared. Elder Jones and I were blessed to have another good lesson afterward with an investigator named Kevin. We answered some questions and concerns he has had about the church and he told us he's had them on his mind for a while. He didn't feel comfortable sharing them with us before, but he mentioned that something was different now. It was the Spirit! I'm telling you, the Spirit has been so abundantly involved in our teaching efforts lately. It is a miracle to watch him soften the hearts of our investigators! We met with President James for a few hours to discuss some things and then had lunch with him and Sister James! We also had lunch with their family that is in town! A few of their children are here as well as their grandchildren! It was great to meet them, they're wonderful people. We finished the day by visiting the Borrerro family again and teaching them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They loved it! We really focused on repentance and baptism. Sunday was amazing. We got in the car yesterday morning and saw that we only had a few miles until empty! It was just enough gas to get to the church! We desperately didn't want to break the Sabbath so we contacted a member family we are close to and they offered to bring some gas to the church for us. They gave us a few gallons and it saved us!! Church was terrific despite the fact that many of our investigators who committed to come didn't in fact make it. We have faith for next week! We taught Matt after church, our Messianic Jewish investigator, and had a good lesson about the Book of Mormon. We then went to dinner and after dinner we had a mission president fireside in President James's home! It was powerful. We filled up the basement with investigators, less actives, and the missionaries who teach them. President James shared his remarks on the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost and then we went around the room inviting each investigator to stand up and share their story. The Spirit flooded the room and many of us were in tears as some shared their desires to be baptized, others sharing their desires to come back to church. One particular investigator shared that he is done fighting the Spirit. He knows he needs to be baptized and he said he just wanted to fall to his knees and stop fighting the promptings. He commented that if President James had a bathtub upstairs, he would want to be baptized that instant! It was a powerful meeting and at its conclusion, President asked me to stand in front of everyone, bear my testimony, and offer the closing prayer. I had no idea what to say but as I began to testify of Christ, my mouth was filled and I felt the Spirit confirm the truths I was sharing. I testified of the potential of these people, of God's love for them, of the validity and power of the Book of Mormon, I even testified of the reality and divinity of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I ended my testimony in tears and prayed through the entire prayer. I was overcome with love as I prayed for specific people there that were particularly struggling. The Spirit I felt last night filled my being. I so desperately seek its constant companionship and for that I plead with my Father every day on my knees that He will bestow that gift upon us. I know the church is true. Many that read this also know it is true. Heed the Spirit, have the courage to listen to its confirming witness, and you will find yourself on the true path to happiness. This is my testimony and I share it in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Putting his shoulder to the steering wheel,
Elder Shearer

Monday, August 7, 2017

08/07/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

Wow! This week was absolutely packed full of miracles, day after day after day! God is so good!! This was hands down the best week of my whole mission. :) Last Monday we picked up the new missionaries and we had 19 of them come in! It was a huge group trying to take through the airport and collect luggage for, but we got it taken care of and got to the mission home safely. We of course did some role-plays with them and then had a marvelous dinner lovingly provided by our spectacular office staff. They are the best in the world, I'm convinced of it! After dinner we had a testimony meeting and it was fun to feel of their excitement to be out here serving. We then sent them all to bed and went into President's office with him and Sister James. We stayed up pretty late determining and seeking revelation for which trainer was the right fit for each trainee. Although some decisions made no sense logically, they seemed to just feel right and we have already seen confirmations of those choices! After sleeping for a solid 4 hours, we woke up, went back to the mission home to wake up the new missionaries, and then told everyone one by one where they are going to serve and with whom. Their excitement continued to build as we took them to the church and began our orientation meeting. At the close of that meeting, we walked them down the hall into the room full of their trainers! As we sang "Called to Serve", each missionary met their trainer and then we continued with our meetings. The Spirit was strong and the things that were said were meant specifically for those missionaries, I know it. We told them all how much we love them and then sent them off to baptize the world! We then moved on to the regular transfers and helped everyone get situated with their new companions. There was one missionary that showed up not knowing he was getting transferred! Somehow the word didn't get through to him and he had to drive back to his area to pack! Crazy.. Once everyone had left the church ready to have a good transfer, we took all of the departing missionaries to the mission home to have a great night. It was quite enjoyable! We had another amazing dinner, and an even more powerful testimony meeting than the night before. It is remarkable to see the difference between the two groups. A mission truly does change you! We enjoyed each others company and played board games and ping pong throughout the night! After sleeping for roughly 2 hours, we got up to take everyone to the airport! We sent them off and wished them the best of luck with their many new adventures. It was hard to say goodbye to so many of the friends I have made, but I know that God has a plan for each of us and we all must move on with that plan eventually. We must continue onward with faith! Half asleep, we drove President and Sister James home and updated the transfer board. They then demanded that we go home to take a nap, so we got another hour or so of sleep in there. We woke up so refreshed, we hit the doors hard! We contacted a referral from the Sister Missionaries and he is extremely prepared. His name is Kevin and we thoroughly enjoyed teaching him the Restoration. He has many deep questions and we were able to answer each of them by following the Spirit! At the conclusion of the lesson, we knelt with him and invited him to offer the prayer. He prayed that he can get over his own way of thinking so that he can know the Book of Mormon is true! Powerful. We all sat there for about a minute in complete silence. The Spirit was so strong that he told us he could feel it radiating off of us. We knocked for the rest of the night and found 2 more new investigators! Thursday started off on a great note as we tracted from 10-12! I love tracting!!! :) Although we didn't find anyone that time, it was okay because we were committed to serve God and do His will! We then had to go to the mission office to get the transfer set up and scheduled out, but we were anxious to get back out to work and once we did, we went tracting again! And again we found 2 new investigators! Absolutely a blessing from God. Both nights we prayed to God and let him know that our goal was 2 and that we believed it was achievable, and both times it was! I strongly believe in involving God in our goal setting and making of plans. He will strengthen us and enable us! We had a leadership training meeting on Friday and it was hilariously horrific. Everything went wrong! We messed up on the agenda, forgot to notify a few people of their assignment to instruct, and the mics weren't cooperating at all. Not only did those things happen, but halfway through the meeting the fire alarm went off and we all had to evacuate! Before we knew it, two huge firetrucks pulled up and two firemen came rushing into the building! It turns out our office staff was just cooking lunch and some of the steam from the rice set it all off haha! What a great memory for all of us.. Sister James and I thought it was pretty funny. We continued on with the meeting and it ended on a great note. After the meeting, we visited a miracle family! Long story short, there was a lady that has lived in Wake Forest for two years, but went down to Florida to visit her member mother for about a month. While she was down there she took the missionary lessons and got baptized! She just came back from vacation and called us asking us to teach her nonmember husband and son. We went to teach them after our leadership meeting and they are so solid! The father told us he has never been baptized before and he is excited to read the Book of Mormon and pray! He was very anxious to hear our Prophet speak, so we left him with a great conference talk. It was an incredible lesson and Elder Jones and I have commented so many times this week how good God is. We tracted again that night and again found 2 new investigators! Saturday was another day full of miracles. After receiving a text from President James that we had to move our meeting to a little later in the day, we got a call from the Elders down in Lake Wheeler asking if we could come down to teach a few Congolese families in Swahili. President had been wanting me to go down there to help them for a little while and the timing worked out perfectly! We drove down and taught three families! We even have three return appointments for this Wednesday night! In the most extensive of the lessons, we were able to teach the full restoration and even leave them with a Book of Mormon! Although they had a few concerns throughout the lesson, God truly blessed me with the gift of tongues to not only be able to understand them, but to resolve them! They committed to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know that it is true!! Wow, it was such a fun morning. We drove back to Raleigh afterward and had a good meeting with President. We tracted for the rest of the day and at one point met a man named Donald. He told us that he used to go to the Mormon church when he was younger to play basketball and go to scouts and things like that. He had actually searched for a Mormon church around the area a few years back, but didn't have any success in finding one. He was very excited to meet us and even came to church today! Not only did Donald come, but the family that came back from Florida also came and they loved it! After church we had a feeling to go visit a man that the missionaries used to teach by the name of Nathan. He was home and we sat on his porch discussing the plan of salvation. Elder Jones and I asked some of the most inspired questions of our missions. Nathan made many comments and although he has never progressed before, he is finally showing potential and has a desire to act on his faith. He let us know that he has always told the missionaries he doesn't care if our message is true or not. I asked if I could make an observation and then told him I believe he does care if the message is true, but simply doesn't feel that he fits into God's plan. I asked him if that is how he feels and he sat there motionless for quite some time. I felt prompted to testify of his importance and potential and as we shared scripture, we could literally feel his hope building. At one moment without even realizing what was coming out of my mouth I said, "Nathan, the reason you have a hard time believing in prayer is that you have never had a strong father figure in your life. It is difficult for you to imagine a father that loves you, desires the best for you, and is always there for you because that is something you have never known a father to be. But as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, we testify to you that God lives and that He loves you. He is anxious to hear your prayers and wants you to feel of His love." I had no idea what his relationship with his father was like, nor had I even thought of it before those words came out of my mouth! But Nathan simply looked up at us and with what seemed to be tears in his eyes asked us how he can get onto our level of spirituality. We told him it is through baby steps. We invited him to start by praying, and he did! It was a great prayer, because it was sincere. It wasn't long nor was it decorated, but it was from his heart. We ended the night by sharing the plan of salvation with Anthony. His desires to be baptized continue to grow and he is making progress! Elder Jones and I have seen a real difference in the way we do missionary work in the last few days. We have felt the Spirit more present than ever in our lessons. We feel him guiding our words, our thoughts, and our actions. I am so grateful to God for this gospel and for the children he is allowing us to find. There is great potential in this area and that is all because God is good! I love him dearly and consider it an honor to be found in his service. What a great time to be a missionary.

Glorifying God for His goodness,
Elder Shearer

Monday, July 31, 2017

07/31/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

It's that time again, transfers!! Wow, this has been a week full of meetings, exchanges, office work, and of course smiles all day every day! :) Last Monday was Elder Chiu's last preparation day of his mission so we went to lunch with some Elders and then went shopping for him. We visited Yuliya so that Elder Barlow and Elder Chiu could say goodbye and she is doing well. She wants to get baptized, but is fighting the temptation to doubt. It is so important that we read the Book of Mormon everyday so that we can withstand those temptations! She struggles knowing that there are people that used to be strong in the church, but have gone off the path. She has asked many times how that could happen and I believe it to be comparable to riding a bike. How can someone that has ridden a bike for so many years now be nervous to get back on? It's because they stopped practicing. It doesn't mean they never knew how to ride, nor does it mean that riding a bike is wrong! Simply put, something can only be meaningful to us when we use it. She is making progress and we are proud of her! After our lesson with Yuliya, we ran to the church to plan our instructions for First Transfer Training. God is so good and I felt truly guided in my preparations. The meeting went very well the next morning! All of the instructions were very inspirational and I was grateful to be able to talk about repentance. It is something that should be central to our teaching, regardless of our callings! Repentance is such a gift from God, it is the process by which we make Jesus Christ a daily part of our lives. We taught Rich Tuesday night and had a great lesson about the First Vision. He really is a great man. We tracted the rest of the night and boy did it feel incredible!! Have I ever shared how much I love tracting? If not, here it is. I love it. Wednesday was a big driving day! We drove down to Jacksonville for district meeting and were edified by Elder Mortimer's great instruction. It was terrific being able to see many of the missionaries and interact with them! We love them all so much and are so grateful for their dedicated service out here. We had an exchange planned with the Wilmington Zone Leaders, but on our way down there we made a few quick stops. The first of which was to Laney High School, Michael Jordan's High School! We jumped out of the car, took some pictures, and went on our merry way. We then swung by Britt's donuts, an incredibly famous donut shop with the best donuts in the world. It was my last time there so I made sure to enjoy it! Our exchange was great, Elder Chiu and I went with Elder Rawlins. We tracted for the first half of it and as we did, we ran into a Hispanic woman. We taught her the Restoration and she was so prepared!! We asked her what it would mean to her if there was a modern prophet on the Earth today and she told us it would be something that everyone would need to know about! She said she would want to go listen to him right away! It was a tender mercy to be able to teach in Spanish again and at the end of the contact, she asked me if I was from Spain! It's been quite some time since anyone has asked me that.. The climax of the exchange was definitely meeting with our Congolese family. They fed us a meal, we shared many scriptures with them, and then they told me some news. Elias, the father, explained to me that they are moving away. They have family in South Dakota and have decided to move out there. He explained that they were leaving the following day and it was heartbreaking to watch him. I could tell it was hard for him to break the news to me, but I did my best to motivate them, encourage them to find the church out there, and stay active. They sang a few songs for us and then we all said our goodbyes. It was extremely painful to say goodbye, especially knowing I won't see them for quite some time, but I have faith in the Lord that he will watch over my family. I love them so dearly and have spent hours on my knees in prayer for them. I thank God for the miracle it was to be a part of their conversion. From the day we found them to now, they have gone through so much. Yet they do a great job staying strong in their faith and relying on the Lord! Thursday was a very heavy day administration wise trying to prepare ourselves for transfers this week, but we stayed positive! We were able to sneak out for a little while to teach a man we found last week. His name is Ray and he is the best! He has read from the Book of Mormon that we gave him last week and he even had questions! We established some expectations with him and began to share the message of the Plan of Salvation. He loved it! Friday was another busy day taking care of administrative things. We started the day with an MLC meeting where all of our zone leaders and sister training leaders come to Raleigh to discuss the needs of the mission. The meeting was great and we got a lot of things figured out! We have some great leadership in this mission, many missionaries who are striving to become consecrated more and more each day. I love their examples! I just hope I can follow. Saturday was probably the busiest day of the week, trying to finalize transfers! As we talked about various situations and different ideas, the transfer board slowly but surely came together until we all felt that each missionary was in the right spot with the right companion. Of course the most important thing is that President receives confirmation for each name, individually. His ability to follow the Spirit confounds me. It is one of the greatest blessings to watch him work and learn from his example. We filled out all of our electronic transfer forms and he made his calls to the missionaries! It was a great day working alongside him, Sister James, and my wonderful companions! Today has also been fantastic! We went to church this morning and it was great to see a few of our investigators come. They love church and we believe they will be baptized very soon! After church we drove up to Durham to pick up my new companion!! His name is Elder Jones and I am extremely excited to work with him! We are going to have a great transfer together. We brought him back to the church to do a little emailing and now we are headed to the mission home to have dinner with a few missionaries departing tomorrow! We will have a testimony meeting and a great night with them. And then tomorrow, we pick up the new missionaries! 19 of them will be coming in!! It's going to be a great day and a great week! I love this gospel, I know this church is true with all of my heart. My testimony is strengthened each and every day that God will take care of us. All he requires is that we rely on him unconditionally! I have learned that in the end, it is not only the better choice, but the easier choice as well.

Gearing up for the best transfer of his mission,
Elder Shearer