Monday, April 24, 2017

04/24/17 - Wilmington, North Carolina

What a joy it is to be serving!! I love every single second of every single day!! :) :) :) Truly the best week of my entire mission!! Last Monday we had a zone activity here in Wilmington and we had a blast! We played many different sports such as soccer, volleyball, chair soccer, and basketball! Following the activity I gave haircuts to three of the missionaries in our zone. It was a great time! We taught an investigator by the name of Uniqua that night and we were able to clear up a lot of misconceptions. She left that lesson finally understanding that this is the true church and that if she wants to receive that confirmation for herself, she needs to read the Book of Mormon and pray to receive that answer! Tuesday morning we went tracting and we found a man named Phillip! He is so ready to hear the gospel! We taught him the Restoration on his doorstep and he was so intrigued. He committed to read the Book of Mormon, pray, and even come to church on Sunday in order to know that this is the truth! He has been looking for the true church of Jesus Christ, and we are grateful the Lord sent us to knock on his door! We went tracting some more after talking to him and then had an exchange with a member from the YSA. We tried to visit many of our potentials and investigators, but none of them were home. It was too bad, Sean has such a strong testimony! We finished the night with of course some more tracting! We are desperately trying to spend every second finding. Not only are we trying to knock many doors, but we are striving to teach according to the needs and concerns of the people! Wednesday we went to district meeting up in Hampstead and it was a great meeting! I was blessed to be able to go on an exchange with the district leader, Elder Jenks afterwards. He is actually my brother in the mission! He was trained by my trainer Elder Rogers here in Wilmington! For the exchange I brought him here to Wilmington and we had a grand time. We spent a lot of it tracting in downtown Wilmington and we ended up finding a woman by the name of Louisse! After listening to the message of the Restoration, she said "Wow, I guess I need to know if this is true! I don't want to be in the wrong church!" It was a great moment to be able to testify to her that Jesus Christ has indeed restored His church again on the Earth for the benefit of God's children. We had dinner with the Arne' family and we had a steampot! We ate Alaskan king crab, scallops, shrimp, and clams! It was down right delicious. After dinner, Elder Jenks showed me a few hidden Hispanic trailer parks in Wilmington and I am excited to knock them! We finished the exchange by visiting Karen, one of our investigators with a baptismal date! Elder Jenks used to teach her two years ago when he first served here! She was very excited to see him again and we had a powerful lesson teaching her the Plan of Salvation. We excited to watch her continue to progress towards baptism! We exchanged back with our companions the following morning and Elder Brezenski and then went tracting! We actually tracted for most of the day and loved every minute of it! We visited our Congolese converts that night and shared the articles of faith with them. Johnny our translator has not been in any of our lessons recently due to being busy with work, so we have been doing all of the teaching in Swahili! It is always a special treat to visit them. We visited one of our Hispanic families we are working with and they are doing well. For some reason they haven't been coming to church! We will continue to work with them on that. The next morning from 10-12 we went tracting again! We went home for lunch and weekly planning, but then we went back out to tract!! I love tracting so much because it gives the Lord a chance to work miracles. We must put forth our effort so that He sees He can trust us with His children. We found Carmela that afternoon, a new Hispanic investigator! She is very strong. She wants to take her children to church, but doesn't feel comfortable doing so when all of the churches are teaching different things! She wants them to be raised in the truth and we testified to her that God wants her to do exactly that. For this purpose He has called prophets again on the Earth to lead and guide His children!! We went home for a quick dinner and then visited Jonathan, one of our YSA investigators. We were able to share the Plan of Salvation with him and we focused on Jesus Christ giving us life. He shared that he has never known what it feels like to truly live. We testified to him that as he follows the example of Jesus Christ, specifically by being baptized, he will feel alive for Jesus is the life and the light of the world. We quickly visited our Congolese family again to remind them of the temple trip the following morning and made sure everyone understood what was going to happen. We had tried to contact the manager of the mother's work to try and get her a day off, but to no avail! Although she wasn't able to come, the rest of the family was very excited for the special opportunity! President James was kind enough to give us permission to accompany them as well! I felt like I couldn't sleep that night, I was just too excited! It was like Christmas all over again!! The morning finally came and we all met at the church building. We left from there to drive to Apex. I took a selfie in the car with Elias, the father, and he was full of such happiness and excitement! What a beautiful experience it was. Heavenly Father helped me to be able to translate for them and communicate everything going on. Elias was able to watch his two daughters perform baptisms for the dead and then it was his turn. What a blessed moment for us all. Many tears were shed and many hearts were touched. I consider it a miracle from God that we were present in the temple that day. After the amazing trip, we drove back home and quickly ate dinner. A member from the YSA then came out with us to go to a teaching appointment! Sadly, they were not home so Cody (the member) had an idea to have us "practice teaching" his roommate Daniel! Daniel reluctantly agreed to a practice lesson and we shared the Plan of Salvation with him. To share a little bit of Daniel's background, he used to be Atheist. He was Atheist for most of his life until just recently. He decided to give religion a try and he had a miraculous experience that turned him Christian! As we shared our message with him, he said "Wow! I desperately want this to be the truth!" We invited him to read the Book of Mormon, pray, and come to church in order to receive a confirmation from God that these things are true. He agreed to give it a real chance! We saw him at church the following morning and we were thrilled!! He came with Cody and he stayed for all three hours! He loved every second of it too! He told us he is excited for our next lesson this week and we hope he does his homework before then so that he can receive his answer quickly! Jonathan also came to church and it was great to see him there. We ate dinner after church and then got everything ready for a mission president fireside we were going to have at 7. Our Congolese family was really excited about it and Johnny had initially agreed to pick them up, but as it got closer to 7 we realized he wasn't coming.. We didn't know what to do with 6 of them ready to go and in a last minute moment of desperation, we decided to cram all 6 of them into the back of our car! We very carefully drove to the fireside hoping and praying that we would not get pulled over! We knew that the Lord wanted them there and there was no other way! We arrived safely and the fireside was amazing. At the end of the meeting, we went around the room and all the investigators / recent converts shared their experiences with the church. It eventually got to the Congolese and President James yelled out "Well, it's all up to you, Elder Shearer!" I prayed so hard that I would have the gift of tongues and began to explain to them in Swahili what it was that we were doing. They were hesitant to share anything because they knew no one would understand them. I explained to them that the Spirit was there and that he could comminute the message to their hearts. Elias and Furaha stood up one by one and shared a powerful testimony. It was a miracle, the power of God touched me and my ears were opened! I understood everything that they said and I was then able to stand up and relay their powerful testimonies to everyone present. I had never before felt the gift of tongues so real as in that moment. It was truly a miracle from God that I could be that instrument in His hands. The Spirit that filled the room was rich as I explained in detail the feelings of their hearts. I testify that the Lord works miracles among the children of men and that whether great or small, He is present in our lives. I exhort each of you to take time daily to look for these miracles. You will find them.

There's nothin' finer than bein' in North Caroliner,
Elder Shearer

Monday, April 17, 2017

04/17/17 - Wilmington, North Carolina

Words cannot express the joy that I feel for the gospel!! This was definitely the best week of my entire mission!! Last Monday we took all the Elders in our district to go play disc-golfing or as I like to call it, frolfing! It was loads of fun, the course was set up all through the trees so we hit many of them haha! I got an Easter package from my Grandma as well last Monday and it had the most delicious chocolates in it!! After we had our share of frolf we visited Sharon, a woman we've been working with for a while. We brought a member with us to see her and it was a perfect match! Member relationships with the investigators are soo important!! We finally were able to identify what her concern is and we are helping her work towards baptism! That night Elder Brezenski and I went tracting for quite a while and no one was answering their doors so we decided to start singing hymns on the doorsteps! It actually worked haha!! Almost all of the ones we sang at opened up! They weren't exactly all happy to see us or even hear us, but at least they opened! :) Tuesday was a great day. We accounted with our zone in the morning and then had a member from the YSA branch come out with us on exchanges. We went tracting with him and were able to talk to many people! He took us to lunch at a famous place called PT's Grille and it was really good! We worked in Downtown that afternoon and we met a woman named Erika! She loved our message and asked if we could come visit her again the following day! On our way to our dinner appointment we saw one of our Congolese recent converts riding their bike, Gaston! We stopped and talked to him and he told us that he was going to move to South Dakota to get a better job and be able to better support his family! It was so sad, he left this past Saturday and I am going to miss him so much! We had dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings with a member and we all tried the blazin' wings! They were soo hot!! We were able to catch up with an investigator later that night that we haven't visited in months and he is doing well! He wants to be baptized but he is waiting to take a trip out to California first. The following day we had a zone training meeting and it was powerful! All of the instructions given were just perfect. We have some great leaders in this zone! Elder Brezenski and I gave an instruction entitled: "Bury your ego for Christ". We expressed the need for us to bury our weapons of rebellion like the Anti-Nefi-Lehi's and we emphasized that pride is the biggest one. What a great meeting, truly inspirational! My takeaway from the meeting is that I want to stop murmuring! I want to stop complaining so much! I want to be more grateful for what I do have and enjoy literally every moment I've been given to serve. :) I was blessed to go on an exchange after with Elder Johns, one of our district leaders. He is great at being positive and there was a lot that I learned from him! We visited Erika again and taught her the Restoration. She loved it and we set a baptismal date with her!! She is trying to turn her life around and she sees hope in the message. We then visited Jonathan and he is progressing towards baptism as well, he loves the things that he learns! All of our appointments called and cancelled for that night and despite our efforts to schedule new ones, no one was able to. So we went tracting! I love tracting. :) Although no one answered, a few people came into mind for us to visit. They are both people that we haven't found home in months, but as we stopped by, we found both of them home! We had powerful lessons with them and they both committed to come to church! I testify that if we have desires to serve God, we are called to the work! He will use us in His hands! We played Tennis the next morning with the other Elders for exercise and it was so much fun!! After we exchanged back, Elder Brezenski and I went downtown to do some finding, and we found a wide variety of people! Everything from a Muslim to a Baptist missionary that speaks Swahili to a very light skinned Honduran! It was a great morning! We then gave blessings to some missionaries and I loved getting to use the Priesthood! It is truly the power of God on the earth! My favorite lesson of the week was one that we had with one of our baptismal dates, Karen. She had previously committed to be baptized, but for some reason was telling us that she didn't know how she felt about it anymore! We did all that we could to simply listen to her and pray internally for the gift of discernment. We felt we needed to testify to her that she did in fact know this was the truth. As we bore strong testimonies of the truthfulness of the message, she finally admitted that she knew she knew it was all true. We asked her an inspired question and she began to reveal her concern. As we kept asking those questions, we were able to identify what it was that was stopping her! We have now set another baptismal date with her and have made plans to help her get there. She is excited to work through it with us! What a blessing the gift of discernment truly is!! Without it, we would have lost her. We visited our Congolese after and read another chapter of the Book of Mormon with them. Johnny our translator is working much more lately so we are usually on our own when we teach the Congolese! We get by though, we speak a lot more Swahili than before! Elder Brezenski is picking it up very very quickly!! We went tracting Friday morning and it was a great time! I got an Easter package from my family and it was full of delicious goodies! My sister is always so good at decorating the boxes!! Karen took us out to lunch at a place called Los Portales and I got a torta de chorizo. It was sooo good!! I got a horchata too and it was to die for. We visited Jerry again and watched some Bible videos with him for Easter. We asked him afterwards if he would ever consider trying to be baptized again and he said no. It was really too bad! It is difficult to meet these people and come to love them so much and then to see them not willing to progress! But regardless, we will keep working to find those that are ready to accept the message. We had a wonderful meal with a YSA member and afterwards went tracting for the rest of the night! We went to a pretty nice neighborhood and within ten minutes of us being there, a truck approached us with a woman yelling at us to get out. Apparently they were the neighborhood watch and some people had called complaining about us being there. There weren't any no trespassing signs or anything though and it was a very well lit up neighborhood! Haha Elder Brezenski would have none of it and he just kept walking on. The lady kept screaming at us telling us that she was going to watch us turn around and get our car or else. We kindly explained that we were trying to find families home and that our message was of utmost importance. She was pretty persistent and eventually the truck stopped and a man got out. He approached us and tried to talk us into leaving and knowing we weren't doing anything wrong, Elder Brezenski just walked off! I followed him and the man followed us! We eventually realized they were not going to leave us alone so we gave him a card and went to a different neighborhood. The first door we knocked on we had another lady try to kick us out of her neighborhood! We kept working and although we didn't find anyone, we knew we tried our best! We are never easily defeated. We started Saturday by visiting Johnny and having a Swahili class with him. We learned so much! We then went down to Carolina Beach to visit a man that had requested a Bible and he was very open to our message! We are excited to meet with him again! There is a famous doughnut shop down there in Carolina Beach so we decided to go there for lunch. The line was quite long though and we didn't have much time to wait so we decided to come back another day. While we were walking back from the shop, a man stopped us and yelled right in our faces "Why don't you get a real job??" We simply smiled and kept walking. Another group of people approached us and after screaming various things at us, one man told me that I had nice "****-boy glasses!" It was only the beginning to a day of opposition! While tracting later that day, we met a man that began to bash us hardcore. He was trying to get us to doubt our testimonies and even answers to prayers we've received from God! He asked us how we knew that it was the Holy Ghost that spoke to us and similar things on the subject. I bore a firm testimony that I know my Father's voice and that I would not deny the things He has told me. Elder Brezenski told him we had gotten this many times before and that we would not change our knowledge of the truth. The man asked us why we thought we had heard it so many times and I told him frankly that it was because Satan was trying to confuse us and destroy our relationship with God. We attempted to leave but he wouldn't let us until he gave us each one of his books that he's published, it turns out he is a tri-county missionary for the Bible! We walked away feeling honestly bad for this man and the hardness of his heart but also feeling bad that we had wasted so much time talking to him! With unshaken faith nonetheless we kept on tracting determined to find God's elect! We met another man that night that insisted on convincing us the Book of Mormon was not true. After listening to much of his ridicule, we asked him if he had ever prayed and asked God to know if it was true. He said he had not. We let him know that he would never know the truth until he did just that. He immediately began to say a prayer and asked God to show us the truth and to save us from our ways. The Spirit overcame me and I turned around halfway through his prayer and walked away. He heard the footsteps of us leaving and it shocked him so badly that he yelled out to us and chased us down. I kindly told him that his prayer was not sincere and that I would not stand there and listen to him mock God. The Spirit overcame him and his whole attitude changed. He apologized to us and thanked us for our sincerity. He told us that he wished more people were like us. With prayers in our hearts for him, we wished him a Happy Easter and went on our way. We also had many great things happen that day! A man came to the door while shampooing his head! That was pretty funny haha. We visited a Hispanic potential as well and despite his efforts of trying to brush us off, we made our way inside and watched the Easter video with him. The Spirit entered the room and changed everything. He opened up and we testified of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change lives. He is now excited to investigate the gospel. Sunday was a beautiful day! Church was incredible and many great talks were given! As we went tracting after church, a woman told me that I have a permanent smile on my face haha! We had a great Easter meal of 3 hard boiled eggs and some chicken nuggets after and then we visited the Congolese! There is a youth temple trip this Saturday and they will be going to do baptisms there! President has given us permission to go with them! We are so excited to take this step with them. It was an incredible week. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that He is our Savior. He has the power to change our lives and our very nature if we let him.

Singing on the doors,
Elder Shearer

Monday, April 10, 2017

04/10/17 - Wilmington, North Carolina

What an incredible week!! Hands down the best week of my entire mission!! :) Last Monday we had another district activity and it was so much fun! We played sports here in the gym as always and we got a good workout! We went to the family home evening with the YSA branch because we had some investigators come and it was pretty funny... Haha we were making music videos and it definitely got us out of our comfort zone! We had to leave early however to go to a lesson with a Hispanic family! We knocked on their door and they let us right in. We sat down and the whole family gathered around ready to listen. We got to know the family a little better and really tried to discern their needs. We shared a powerful message of the Restoration and all was going fantastically well. The mother and father told us that it was a miracle that God had called prophets again on the Earth and that they desperately wanted to know for themselves if the message was true. We introduced the Book of Mormon and explained that they would have to read it and then pray to God to receive an answer. That's when it all went downhill.. Something switched in the father's countenance and he asked us what day we observe the Sabbath. We told him we worship it on Sunday and explained that after the resurrection of Christ, the apostles began to worship on the first day of the week such as in Acts 20. He told us we were wrong because the Bible clearly teaches otherwise and then opened up the book of Revelations and started reading many off-the-wall scriptures. They had nothing to do with what we were talking about! I stopped him and told him that we were not there to argue. We were simply there to invite others unto our Savior Jesus Christ. I asked if he would be willing to act on our message to receive the answer he so desired. He ignored my question and continued with his lecture on the mark of the beasts. I again stopped him in a calm but powerful voice and told him that as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ we needed to know if he was willing to know these things for himself. I felt prompted to testify of God's love for Him and asked him if God told him to change his life if he would. He sadly was not willing to change so we offered a prayer for his family and went on our way. Our time here on the mission is very limited and very sacred. We must use every moment effectively. We love these people with all of our hearts, but if they are not willing to act on the message and seek the voice of the Lord, we have no purpose in their homes. Tuesday was another great day! We accounted with our zone in the morning and then we went tracting for a few hours! We got kicked out of the first apartment complex we tried so we moved onto the next one! Later that afternoon we visited a man by the name of Jonathan. He is amazing and very prepared! We taught him the Restoration and he is willing to read and pray to receive and answer! He is very involved in the YSA branch already and comes to institute and volleyball on Thursdays and FHE on Mondays! We then taught one of our Hispanic investigators that has a baptismal date and she is so funny! Her name is Karen and we went over a lot of the commandments with her. She has such a good heart, she is willing to follow the Lord no matter what it takes! We then had our one dinner of the week down in Carolina Beach so we drove down and ate with our YSA branch President and his wife. We came back up to Wilmington after and taught an investigator by the name of Uniqua! We began to share the Restoration with her and she began to bring up seventh-day adventist questions! We were so worried it was going to be a repeat of the previous night. Thankfully we were able to nip it in the bud and convince her to read the Book of Mormon and give it a try. She is awesome, it was a great lesson! Wednesday we started off the day with another two hours of tracting! I love doing so. We then went on an exchange with the Elders in Hampstead and I was with Elder Wihongi! He is the only Elder in the mission that it being trained and we are blessed to have him in our zone! It was a fantastic exchange. He is so positive and happy! He's going to do great things out here. I learned many things from him on the exchange and we had a great time! We took a member of the YSA out with us to tract and although we didn't find anyone, it was successful because we tried our best! We went to Cook Out for dinner because he had never tried it before and it was a lot of fun. We went tracting again after dinner and then visited an investigator to show her the new Easter video about Christ being the Prince of Peace! The Assistants then called us and asked if we could go to the church and set up 16 tables with 130 chairs for zone conference the following day. We set it all up and then came home to find them there! They spent the night with us and it was super fun haha! Thursday we had zone conference and wow, it was amazing!! My favorite instruction was from Sister James on looking up. She shared the story of President Monson teaching that it is better to look up! Such a profound truth. When we look up we are looking Heavenward and are thus ever-mindful of the power, love, and grace of our God. Elder Brezenski and I shared a little part of an instruction and it all went well! The Spirit was strong in that meeting and I definitely walked away with even more of a determination to serve God and His children!! We went to the Airlie gardens after lunch and they were beautiful! We took a lot of pictures there and then went out to work! We taught Alex and Jacob and they are so ready for the gospel!! They were soaking in everything that we were saying and are excited to read, pray, and come to church! We then taught our recent convert Congolese family and Johnny was not there to translate for us! Elder Brezenski and I taught the whole lesson in Swahili! We read a chapter of the Book of Mormon with them and even discussed it afterwards! It was amazing, the gift of tongues is real!! We went tracting to end the night and even though we again didn't find anyone, we loved every second of it! We started Friday with more tracting and then did some weekly planning. We taught Karen again and showed her some videos of President Monson! That afternoon we taught Jerry, the man with the coma experience and he is amazing. His knowledge of the gospel is incredible and he has such desires to be baptized and follow Christ! We did some more tracting after dinner and we had a Presbyterian minister scream at our faces and ridicule us for our beliefs. We simply smiled at him and prayed for him in our hearts. We then finished the day by teaching our first trilingual lesson! We taught an African family the Restoration! We taught in English which Johnny then translated to Swahili which Elias then translated to Kinyarwanda!! It was a great lesson, but sadly the family was not open to acting on the message. It was so sad to see after we had gone through such great efforts to get them the gospel in their language! But I suppose not everyone is ready to hear the message. And that's okay because there are many who are prepared!! Saturday was amazing! We went tracting in the morning and we met a woman who believes that her church is the restored church of Christ! She believes it was lost from the Earth for a time but that it is on the Earth again! She said that a man named AJ Thompson founded the church after having a spiritual experience on the top of Burger Mountain. They church is all over the world and even has a college! It is called The Church of God and is honestly the most similar sounding church to ours that I have ever heard of! Very weird.. We did some more planning in the afternoon and got our area book completely up to date! We have kept it up to date every day since and fill it out in the car after every single lesson. It feels so good to have it up to date! At the close of our day, we had an amazing experience as we felt prompted to visit an investigator at 8. We didn't have any appointments and decided we could go remind her of church. As we knocked on her door, she opened it with tears streaming down her face and quickly invited us in. She told us she had recently lost a family member in a tragic accident and the funeral was earlier that day. She had been weeping and pleading to God that He would send her some peace. We arrived moments later. We quickly opened the Book of Mormon with her and began to read of Christ. It calmed her troubled heart. In the closing prayer she thanked God for answering her prayer by sending us to her. She was grateful for the peace she had received and acknowledged that God does hear her cries. I testify that God places us where we need to be. I know that Jesus Christ truly is the Prince of Peace. What an honor to be His servant. Sunday was a great day regardless of us not seeing the fruits of our labors!! We had 10 people tell us that they were going to come to church and not a single one came! We went tracting to find some more people to teach with every minute we had and although we tracting 4 hours yesterday, we didn't find a single person! We did teach our Congolese family again and had a message on the importance of paying tithing! It was a spirit-filled lesson, especially because they are struggling to make it. God blesses us when we put Him first! We even ended the day by tracting on a street we felt lead to and no one was interested! I love it. Because this is an opportunity to show God that we can be trusted. We are here to serve Him and even if we tracted over 15 hours this week without finding anyone, we will continue to do His work!! Service is the choicest of blessings. And that is funny because it is a choice! I pray that we all daily make that choice and in so doing, find ourselves about our Father's work. It brings miracles.

Choosing to look up,
Elder Shearer