Hello friends and family! It was an incredible week! It of course was the best week of my entire mission!! :) Our new companion Elder Chiu is the best missionary in this mission!! We love him!! He is from Taiwan and wow, his spirit is so strong. He has also been teaching me Mandarin! I'm loving that. :) Last Monday we had the privilege of going to pick up the new missionaries! They are a great group. They all have strong testimonies and are very excited to be out here serving. We had a great night in the mission home with them getting them broken in and ready to meet their trainers the next day. Tuesday was a crazy day! We started the meeting off by having our trainers meeting and then brought the trainees in to meet them! Following the meeting, we had transfers and most of the mission got switched out so many people were up here! We rolled out the big reveal that I was talking about last week. We have officially changed the mission from 7 zones down to 5 zones. The names are Raleigh, Durham, Tri-Lake, Fayetteville, and Wilmington of course! We closed a few areas, and reorganized all of the districts! It was a pretty legendary change in the NCRM. We handed out the new map of the mission and everyone seems to be pretty excited! After we got all of the transferring missionaries taken care of, we loaded up our car and took all of the departing missionaries to the mission home. We had a party!! We first had a wonderful dinner and a powerful testimony meeting. It is always amazing to see the difference in the testimonies on Monday night in comparison to the testimonies on Tuesday night. Once we finished the testimony meeting, we got out the ping pong table and literally played all night! We never even went to sleep! We stayed up until we had to take everyone to the airport at 4 in the morning! It was hard to say goodbye to this group, there were a lot of people that I have gotten really close to. Elder Brezenski, Elder Flake, and many more! Missionaries that have really impacted me and changed my life for the better. I wish them the best back home and hope they enjoy the real world! After dropping them all off, we drove back home and took our mandatory/authorized nap from President James. It was glorious! Once we woke up, we went back to the mission home to update the transfer board! We finished the night by teaching a new investigator by the name of Anthony. He is very strong in the gospel already! He just moved from Utah and was taking the lessons out there. He is really wanting to be baptized! We had another busy day on Thursday as we stopped by Rich to plan out his baptism! We visited the Rathavongsa family and set another baptismal date with the three boys, they will be baptized in two weeks! We had a great time teaching them and then ran over to the mission office to get some things readjusted and scheduled for the new transfer. We had a leadership meeting for most of the day on Friday, but even that was a blast! I love everything that we ever get to do! It's just a privilege to be on a mission! :) Saturday was a day full of miracles! First of all, WE BAPTIZED!!! FOR THE FIRST TIME IN OVER A YEAR, THE ASSISTANTS BAPTIZED!!! God is so good, he truly does work miracles according to the power of our faith! Richard Kent Blewitt the Second was baptized Saturday morning and he is the joy of my life. He knows what it means to feel the joy of the gospel! Elder Chiu sang a special musical number and President James gave the talk on baptism! Elder Barlow was picked to perform the baptism and it was beautiful to watch! After the baptism, President stayed and interviewed one of our investigators. It went very very well!! They are well on their way to baptism now! President said that without the things that happened in that meeting, the investigator never would have been able to be baptized. There were a few things holding them back from progressing that President was able to help them with. It was very touching to see the investigator walk out of the interview with tears in her eyes and a new hope burning brightly. We are excited to see that hope turn into action as she is baptized!! We worked for the rest of the day and it was amazing!! I love working and knocking doors. I love teaching the gospel! Today was another splendid day. Rich was confirmed a member of the church and received the Holy Ghost! He was grinning from ear to ear. Yuliya is really progressing in the gospel and even told everyone in Gospel Principles today that she is very close to being baptized! She finally feels she just needs to do it, she has had missionaries trying to teach her for 5 years! The Atonement is definitely the key, it is what changes lives! We met with one of our African investigators after church and he received a lot of hope from the message. We kneeled in prayer with him at the close of the visit, and as we ended the prayer he looked up at us and said "I really want to be a member of your church someday." It was only our second time teaching him! Wow, the power of the gospel is so real! When we are able to address people's concerns following the guidance of the Holy Ghost, things happen. Hope is developed and action is taken. I love God and I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love being able to share their love with everyone. I so testify that they do indeed love us, each and every one. Unconditionally and without end.
And we're back! What an incredible week we just had brothers and sisters, easily the best week of my entire mission! :) Last Monday we had a few hours for a preparation day so we decided to drive up to Durham and go touristing! Our first stop was at Dame's Chicken and Waffles. Holy cow, those were the best waffles I have ever eaten! And their chicken was fried to southern perfection! Right outside of Dame's there was a man on the street shining shoes! We walked past him and he told us that he normally charges $20 a pair, but that he would only charge us $10 each. We told him we would pass and he insisted on shining our shoes! Once we told him we were missionaries, he said "Jump right on up! Free for men of the cloth." It was the best 20 minutes ever! We heard about his whole life history and my shoes have never looked better. We promised him some blessings from Heaven for sure! After that adventure, we went over to the Duke campus and we went into one of their libraries. We had the privilege of examining one of the original copies of the Book of Mormon! We read from its pages and held it in our hands. It was a spiritually powerful event that I will never forget. I know that book to be true! We came back to Raleigh and taught Tim at the tennis courts again! He committed to read and pray from the Book of Mormon, we are excited to teach him again this week. We planned a little bit for a meeting the following day and before we knew it, it was time for the meeting! We had a first transfer training meeting on Tuesday when all of the new missionaries still in their first transfer come together and are instructed by President James, Sister James, and us. It was a blast! We hopefully inspired some hope into them and we heard that it had a good impact on them! After the meeting, we visited Rich and watched some more mormon messages with him. He is so strong! We love him!! We then drove down to Fayetteville and spent the night down there in preparation for our zone conference the next morning. The zone conference went perfectly as planned and the missionaries there are on fire! They're actually leading the mission in baptisms! We exchanged with the Fayetteville zone leaders after the meeting and it was a grand old time! I was with Elder Mueller and we enjoyed a few hours of tracting! We woke up nice and early the next morning to drive down to Wilmington. We stopped by Carolina Beach down there and got some Britts Donuts (a legendary donut shop in Wilmington that is only open seasonally). I had never tried it before, but it was hands down the best donut I have ever stuffed into my face! I was then blessed to go on an exchange with Elder Brezenski, my previous companion! We had the best time ever, we tracted for a good while, ate dinner with an old investigator, and visited the Mashinga family (my Congolese family)!! The Mashinga family sang for us and danced and everything, it was marvelous. I was surprised with how much Swahili I still remember too! The Gift of Tongues is real, there is no way I spoke as I did on my own! After our exchange, we all four drove back up to Raleigh and spent the night up here. The Elders left to a temple trip in the morning and my glasses decided to break! Hopefully I will get them fixed tomorrow... Friday was a day full of office work, trying to get ready for the new transfer! We visited Rich again and he is all set for his baptism this Saturday!! We are so excited for him!! The Assistants haven't baptized in over a year! Time to break the drought. Friday night decided to rain super hard and it got so bad that we had to send all the missionaries home to their apartments! There was a pretty big flash flood warning! Saturday was a long day, but a fulfilling one. We spent the entire day from 9 in the morning to 10 at night working on the transfer board. We confirmed all of the changes and then spent quite a few hours updating the electronic files. I also got pretty sick with a cold on Saturday and it has only gotten worse! But it's okay though, the Lord will strengthen me and provide a way. He always does. :) Today was a glorious day, being the Sabbath and all. It was also Father's day!! Happy Happy Father's Day to my hope inspiring, fun loving, example setting, endlessly loving foodie of a Dad! I love you Dad and am grateful for your example. I look up to you and aspire to become like you. I am also grateful for my Father in Heaven whom I am serving day in and day out. I strive to accomplish His will in all things and do my best to bring others back to Him. We actually had four people come to sacrament meeting today! It was a wonderful day for the work. After church we got some last minute things accomplished and then we went to pick up our new companion, Elder Chiu!! We are now going to be a trio of assistants for this transfer!! Many big changes are happening to the mission. The biggest one being "The Great Awakening". Oh yeah, we are excited for the big reveal on Tuesday!! Let's just say, this is going to be North Carolina Raleigh Mission history. Buckle up!!!
Back at it again! Another fantastic week in the work of the Lord! It was the best week of my mission for sure. Last Monday in our morning meeting with President, he told us that he has had more positive feedback from this round of zone conferences than from any other conference he has had! The mission is really starting to go places! We went to the Raleigh zone activity after our meeting and we had a blast spending time with the missionaries. We visited Rich afterwards and he is amazing. We talked about repentance and really using the atonement of Jesus Christ in order to overcome addictions and challenges. He committed to repent and hasn't smoked in 6 days!! A new record for him. Quickly on his way to baptism. His date is for the 24th of this month, he's going to make it! We traveled up to Durham on Tuesday for our zone conference and it went very well! The district leaders there gave some very inspiring instructions and we are excited to see the future success from their zone. The conference went pretty long, but we raced back once it finished to go to our follow-up lesson with the woman we taught with President James at the tennis courts! We met her husband and he is even more interested than her! We're excited to teach them this week. We taught a few more lessons and then drove down to Fayetteville to spend the night there. We had another zone conference the following morning with the Fayetteville West zone and we did all we could to motivate them! Some of them got really excited to put into the practice the things we shared, but other missionaries just seemed dead! We're hoping their zone leaders can help them get more inspired to work hard! We stopped to get dinner at the Panda Express there in Fayetteville (one of the only few in the mission) and it was delicious! While we were eating there, I saw a huge body builder eating alone in the corner of the room. I got a prompting to go sit with him, but was pretty intimidated! I brought it up with Elder Barlow though and remembered that I want to baptize! And if I ever want to see miracles, I have to follow every prompting I receive. So I stood up, walked across the room alone and asked the man if we could sit and eat with him. He looked up at me, gave me a pretty confused look, and then said yes! We sat and had a great conversation with Brandon. He's super nice and promised that if missionaries ever knock on his door in the future, he will let them in and listen to their message! We drove back to Raleigh and had a great night teaching repentance. Thursday was amazing as it was the only full day this week we were able to dedicate to working! We role played teaching the restoration in 4 minutes during our morning studies and then were able to use it with our first contact of the day! We met a man named Chris and he is strong! We're going to teach his whole family this week! We kept knocking in his neighborhood and found a girl named Nix next. She is a perfect candidate for our message, she fits it perfectly! We found a few more people that day as we tracted and then taught Q, one of our investigators. We had a great lesson about the Priesthood with him! As we were ending the meeting, he told me that I have gotten better since my first time there at the beginning of the transfer. I've definitely seen a change in myself too! We visited Rich again Friday morning and watched some Mormon messages with him. He was in tears! We went to the mission office to get some things done and ended up going to lunch with the office staff! We actually ended up chauffeuring them around in our huge shuttle bus! We went to a Mexican place called Torrero's and it was to die for. I got chorizo con huevos with a horchata. A dream come true. We then went on exchanges with the Apex zone leaders and I learned a lot! I was with Elder Chiu in Apex and he is a great teacher. We tracted quite a bit and also taught some investigators! Saturday was a long day with our meeting with President going again from 9-6. The transfer board is coming along though! Huge things are about to happen to this mission. Big changes are coming. We are calling it "The Great Awakening". It's going to be legendary. We visited a few investigators after our meeting and then had to quickly plan out some things for next transfer. Today of course has been amazing, isn't every Sabbath day? We had quite a few people come to church and then we had a linger longer afterwards. Rich hurt his back last night, but we went over and gave him a Priesthood blessing and he was able to come to the linger longer and meet many more members, he is getting fellowshipped so well by this ward! I also especially appreciate the power of the Priesthood and the sacred privilege we have to exercise it when occasion permits. Tonight we've been stuck planning for some upcoming meetings and weren't able to do much proselyting. Although it pulls us out of the work, it's been a huge blessing to be able to administer here in the office, and I think it makes me appreciate the times I get to minister that much more. Preaching the gospel truly is a blessing. It brings me so much joy!! The gospel is real, the church is true, and faith does indeed bring miracles.
Appreciating the blessing of knocking doors,
We accomplished so many things this week! It was by far the best week of my entire mission! :) Last Monday we played tennis alone with President James and it was a blast. He said it was only his fourth time playing tennis on his mission! As we were packing up and getting ready to leave the courts, a woman walked past us and we engaged her in a conversation. We introduced ourselves as missionaries from the church and she tried to get away as quick as possible! We were thankfully able to keep the conversation alive and very friendly and she started actually listening! We ended up giving her a Book of Mormon and she promised she would read and pray about it! It was fantastic being able to stand there and teach and testify shoulder to shoulder with President James. We set a return appointment with her and President is really hoping a baptism will come as a result of playing tennis! We knocked the rest of the night and loved every second of it! Tuesday was a great day as we had a zone conference down in Raleigh South. Following the zone conference we drove down to Wilmington in preparation for the next day and went on a blitz with some Elders down there! It was a great blitz and we saw a lot of success. We spent the night down there and then had our Wilmington zone conference the following day! It was of course the best zone conference of them all (not being biased or anything)... I do feel like it was the best time I've given my instruction yet though! I enjoyed being able to look out at all of the missionaries I have prayed for and come to love so dearly. There are some great missionaries in this mission! After the zone conference down there we drove back up to Raleigh and got in pretty late. Thursday was marvelous as we had the entire day to work in our area! :) We had a breakthrough lesson with Yuliya and also visited the Rathavongsa family. We set baptismal dates with all of the three boys for June 24th! They prayed about baptism and felt God tell them it is right so they asked their father for permission and he gave it! We are very excited for them. We taught Slytherin (Tyrone) again and he even brought his brother this time! He is the friend of one of Bishop's young kids. It was phenomenal, Tyrone was practically teaching his younger brother the whole message of the Restoration despite it only being our second visit with Tyrone! Him and his brother came to church today and they seemed very happy! Thursday night as we were tracting we had two men come up to us (most likely baptist seminary students) and ask us if we were Mormons. Once we confirmed that we in fact were, they began to drill us with a bunch of anti questions and we answered all of them! We stood there firm in our testimonies and kept the smiles on our faces. We boldly testified to them that God has called a prophet on the earth again today and that if our message were true, there would never be a more important message upon the face of the earth. They attempted to catch us up with different scriptures in the Bible, but we were able to stand strong and resolve any and every dispute. They were confounded and so nervous that they began to flip through a stack of papers looking for more questions to throw at us, but couldn't find any! We introduced the Book of Mormon to them after having powerfully shared the first vision and the Spirit was so strong that they ended up accepting the invitation to read it and pray to God asking if it is true! We promised them that God would answer those prayers, but assured them that answers will only come if they ask if real intent. Humble and willing to change absolutely everything upon receiving a confirmation from God that it's true. We reminded them that during the time of Christ many were willing and ready to hear his words, but that there were also those that sought only to destroy him and catch him up using scriptures. We invited them to reflect inwards and ask themselves which category they fell into. We advised them to be a part of the first group and promised them the many blessings that come as we follow God. They were speechless and simply said that they would read and pray. I am so grateful for the Spirit of God that guides us in situations like those! We weren't there to bash, but to invite. To help the children of men open their hearts and minds to receiving the fulness of truth that God has so loving given us. Friday was a crazy day. We had initially planned to go on an exchange with the zone leaders down in Raleigh South, but an emergency came up that changed those plans. We ended up having to drive two hours down to Lumberton to grab a car and bring it back up to Raleigh for a companionship that needed it. The fun part was that we got to drive back up in separate cars, so that was a unique trip! We went on a short exchange with the zone leaders in Raleigh South and we had a great time! We had success too in finding many new people for them to teach! We had our usual meeting with President on Saturday and it again went from 9-6! We picked all of the trainers, zone leaders, sister training leaders, and district leaders for the upcoming transfer. It was a busy busy day! After leaving the mission home, we ate dinner with a less active member in the Spanish ward in Raleigh. It was delicious, we did a cookout and they made buckets (literally) of meat! We ended the night by visiting Mike Sherriff, a very promising investigator that we hadn't heard from in a few weeks! As we knocked on his door, he came out and told us that he had read some stuff online about Joseph Smith and wasn't too sure about the message anymore. He told us that he didn't want to meet with us, pray with us, or learn about the church anymore. We prayed diligently for the gift of discernment and after an hour long discussion with him on his porch, he told us that we would see him and his whole family the next day at church. Thanks be to God, we were able to address each and every one of his concerns using scriptures, testimony, and inspired questions. One time after having addressed one of his concerns, he just sat in silence with a smile on his face looking back and forth between us and eventually said, "Wow. You guys are good!" He felt the Spirit powerfully and we told him that it was not us that were good, but God our Father. We told him that we would fight for him because God needs him in His church. He felt that. This morning as we stood in the chapel waiting for investigators, Mike walked in with his wife and son. They loved every minute of church and left with the biggest smiles I've ever seen. God is Good. This is His work. We are blessed and privileged to be a part of it. This is truly the best time of my entire life.