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

Monday, July 24, 2017

07/24/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

This was the best week of my mission!! My heart is ever full of gratitude to God for the wonderful blessing my mission has been and continues to be. A great blessing of the week was that my Grandma Rae sent me two boxes full of the best thing on the planet! Her homemade cookies!!! Wow, I'm truly spoiled. Thank you Grandma, I love you so much! After receiving her box of cookies last Monday, we visited one of our Bishops and had a great lesson with him and his family. Bishop Thornton is the most missionary minded Bishop I have ever had on my mission. He does everything he can to be an example to the ward! He not only invites his members to experience the blessings of missionary work, but he does it himself. Following our visit with him and his family, we stopped by the Rathavongsa family and made some memories. They made us a very Asian meal and it was delicious! We talked about the Priesthood with Ryan and he was very excited to receive it. His mom commented on how different he has been since his baptism. Even we have seen it! He is much happier now, has greater confidence, and loves everyone around him! This gospel is so true. Tuesday morning we visited Rich and watched a few Mormon Messages with him. He is doing great! We ran to the mission office to fix our number reporting system a little and it is a monster to tackle! I better be a Microsoft Excel pro after this! We had dinner with Yuliya and her family and she made us some incredible pulled pork. My favorite part was of course the lesson that we had with her. We shared one of Elder Bednar's videos explained the process by which we receive revelation. We explained and testified that revelation more often than not comes subtly, gradually, and over time. Line upon line and precept upon precept. Although sometimes we desire an answer to come in one single, dramatic instance, it usually doesn't happen that way. She understood the concept and is excited to be baptized! We are so happy for her. And she is happy too! She shared that she is very careful about saying that she is happy because it's such a fleeting feeling. Yet she told us that when she goes to church, she is truly happy! Woohoo!! She is wonderful. We had a zone conference on Wednesday with the Tri-Lake zone in conjunction with their temple trip and they both were very enjoyable! Following our meeting, we went tracting!! Yip yeah! We surprisingly found a trailer park in our area which is weird because our area is the richest area in the mission. Yet I suppose we are serving in North Carolina so we couldn't get away without at least one trailer park in each area. After almost being eaten alive by a few ferocious dogs, we stopped a family driving past us and shared quite a bit of our message with them! The father in particular was very interested and really saw this as something that would bless his family. Thanking God in our hearts for the experience, we felt prompted to contact a referral of someone requesting a copy of the Bible. The referral lives in a retirement home so unless she unlocks the building's front door from her room, we can't enter. As we arrived to the building, we tried to call her. Unfortunately she didn't answer, but although she wasn't home, we saw someone out in the lawn with their dog and we decided to go speak with them. That's because we need to speak with everybody! You never know who God is preparing to receive His word. Her name is MaryAnn and she has just the sweetest spirit. She is 75 years old and is very spunky as Elder Barlow perfectly put it! The Spirit really touched her heart during our conversation and she went from telling us she will never change religions to promising she will read the Book of Mormon with real intent. We all felt very powerfully that she has potential. It was amazing to see God's hand in finding her. If we'd have come at any other time to contact that referral, we wouldn't have found her! Yet God worked a miracle and she was outside ready to speak with us. Thursday was as equally as fantastic of a day as we got to teach Mike in the morning! He fed us lunch and was anxious to ask us questions about the Plan of Salvation pamphlet he had read through entirely and even marked up with notes! His questions were phenomenal and we did our best to use the scriptures and the Spirit to answer them. His understanding grew and his hope in the message did as well. We believe strongly that he will be baptized very soon. He is such an honest seeker of truth!! We went on an exchange with the Raleigh zone leaders after our lesson and I went to their area with Elder Carrell. We had a great time teaching a few of their investigators with baptismal dates, but more importantly I enjoyed learning from Elder Carrell's great example! He is a great leader and truly knows what it means to appreciate his mission. Despite him going home next week, he is staying focused and working hard to the end! I have loved serving around him for a good portion of my mission and have learned many things from him. We had the last of our zone conferences the following day and it was hopefully our best one yet. It was with the Fayetteville zone and there are many great missionaries down there! We loved being able to go to the temple one last time and I will honestly miss it quite a bit. It has been the greatest blessing to attend twice a week for three weeks straight! President was very pleased with the zone conference and he believes this is the best zone conference we have ever had. Hopefully that's true because it is "The Great Awakening!" He definitely gave two of the most powerful instructions I've ever heard. We went out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday afterward with President and Sister James, and the whole office staff! We celebrated the birthday of one of our office missionaries, Sister Salgado! She is wonderful. President asked Elder Chiu to bring his guitar into the restaurant to sing happy birthday to her and it was terrific! Elder Chiu is an incredible musician!! We tracted the rest of the night and loved every minute of it. We had another miracle story too! We felt prompted to visit an investigator we had previously found and upon knocking her door, discovered that no one was home. With the few minutes of the night we had left, we decided to tract across the street! Within the first or second door, a man by the name of Ray came out onto the porch and greeted us. He let us know that he had been praying to God for direction and had been seeking the right path. He expressed the desire to help his family find the truth. We told him we believed God had answered his prayers. Doing our best to follow the Spirit and fit it to his needs, we shared our message and he was speechless. He told us that he too believed God had answered his prayers and told us he wants to read the Book of Mormon if that is what God needs him to do. We promised him blessings and it refreshed my entire soul to feel of his desperate need for the truth. We know he will find it. It turns out that his work schedule is pretty busy and he was actually scheduled to be out of town that day! Something came up and his trip was cancelled, otherwise we wouldn't have found him! That was literally the only time of the week we could've found him home. God is a God of miracles! Wow, what a sacred privilege it is to be an instrument in His hands. Most of our time on Saturday was taken up by our meeting with President James, but we did get to teach Anthony! He is doing very well and wants so badly to be baptized. Although they are taking baby steps, we know he'll get there! They are progressing at least, and that is all that matters! Sunday was marvelous. Ryan and Brandon Rathavongsa received the Priesthood and we were able to be a part of the ordination. Yuliya came to church and she was happy again! So good to see her like that. After church we taught Matt, the Messianic Jew we found a few weeks ago, and he was just as promising today as he was then! He has looked through quite a bit of the Book of Mormon and he had many deep and historical questions. Wow he is seeking the truth! As we arrived to his home and walked up the path, he opened the door before we even knocked on it was so excited to see us! We ate dinner with Sister Salgado and her family to celebrate again her birthday and then went out in the rain and thunderstorms to do some work! This week's weather has been unbelievable. It has gotten up to 102 degrees with 100 percent humidity! Whoo, that's hot!! I wouldn't trade it for the world though. Like I said before, my mission is the biggest blessing of my life. I know this is God's work and I know He will provide. Let us serve Him daily, regardless of the rewards we feel we receive! Our service can never be conditional upon our ability to recognize his blessings. Let's love him and serve him that we may live happy lives.

Finding the elect in God's timing,
Elder Shearer

Monday, July 17, 2017

07/17/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

Good morning y'all! I reckon this was another fantastic week! Last Monday we spent our preparation day painting with Sister James! She is quite the professional artist and she was kind enough to give us a painting class all day long! I had specially requested it so that I could paint my mom a picture for her birthday, and Sister James was sweet enough to paint one for my mom as well! After exhausting the extent of our creativity, we went out to work in the Lord's vineyard! We had an incredible visit with Mike and his son. Boy are they elect! They fed us some delicious deer chili with homemade cornbread and then we had a lesson.The Spirit was so very strong as we taught and testified of temples and the sealing power restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith so that our families may be eternal. My heart was full of absolute joy as we watched Mike fall in love with these restored truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is an honest seeker of truth. Tuesday morning in my personal study I read a talk from Elder Bednar that changed my whole way of thinking! He taught me that talking is not teaching. Teaching is observing and listening. I was reminded that we are not out here to teach lessons, but to teach people. And in order to do so, we must seek spiritual guidance and direction from our Heavenly Father only available after we do our part to listen and observe. We went on an exchange with the Tri-Lake zone leaders and Elder Barlow and I brought Elder Hawks up to Falls Lake. We had a wonderful time tracting, tracting, and tracting! I learned a lot from Elder Hawks and the way that he contacts on the doors! After tracting the day away, we had a quick active member lesson with the Bodily family. Elder Hawks grew up with them and has waited his whole mission to see them so it was definitely a blessing! We had a zone conference on Wednesday with the Wilmington zone and it was our best one yet. The Spirit we felt was remarkable. President James said that there has never been a better zone conference in history with better instructions than the ones that were given. I have my companions to thank for that compliment! They both gave powerful, spiritually awakening presentations. It was a blessing to be able to enter the holy Temple of the Lord with such a profound spirit as the one we felt within us. I so testify that the Temple is a holy and sacred place. It is the Lord's house. I count it one of the most heavenly privileges to enter its walls. I pray it is a gift we use often. After our meetings, we ate dinner with a man in need of a spiritual boost. Yet as we left his home, I felt he had blessed our lives much more than we had blessed his. I truly believe God puts us where we are in life to love and lift those around us, and yet I also believe God puts them in our lives so that likewise we may learn from them. That night, we visited Sahr and he expressed his deep desire to invite God more into his life. He then offered a very heartfelt prayer and we felt he will find what he is looking for in this message. Thursday was my angelic mother's birthday! Happy birthday Mom!! We spent the morning in the office so that we could reconfigure the entire number reporting system for the whole mission! We then drove down to Fayetteville to exchange with our zone leaders down there. On the way down, we stopped to get lunch at a restaurant called the Pik 'N' Pig. It was incredible! They have a landing strip there so that airplanes can land and grab some food on the go! Almost like a drive-thru for airplanes! I had an enjoyable time that day with Elder Johns as we worked in his area. We spent most of the time tracting and it was refreshing to feel of his zeal and great enthusiasm for the Lord's work. The following morning on the way back to Raleigh, we made a few quick food stops to give Elder Chiu some essential experiences. The first stop was at a bakery in Fayetteville that makes some of the best donuts around! The second stop was then at Sunni Skies, an ice cream shop that is very very famous. It has even been on TV! We did a little office work upon our return and then went to do my favorite thing, tracting! :) We found a lady that is the only Christian in her whole family. She is seeking to strengthen that faith in Christ and we know she will as she acts on the things we share. We had the opportunity to go to the temple again that night to go through with one of Elder Barlow's recent converts! What a tender experience for him to have been there and witness his convert draw even closer to the Lord. A dream for any missionary! Saturday was also very busy, we began with our weekly meeting with President. We discussed the coming transfer and then Sister James made an exquisite lunch! We were anxious to get back to work and as we did, we met a man the Elders used to work with. He has gone through quite a few trials in his life and we all felt he can benefit greatly from the gospel. We are excited to teach him again! We visited a few less actives and committed them to come to church the following day, which they did! Every one of them! The Lord is working miracles in this area, more than we deserve. We taught Anthony also and he is so anxious to be baptized. He again prayed that it will come soon and we made some plans to help them get divorced quickly! I love his level of faith and devotion! Sunday was a day full of miracles. Mike came to church again and loved it! He told us that when we come by this week, he wants to share some revelation he received. We hope he's received an answer that the Book of Mormon is true! We'll keep praying for him! Yuliya also came to church and wow has she come a long way. She is very excited to be baptized and although we had to postpone it a few weeks so that her family can fly in for it, she is looking forward to it and has it all planned out! Her and her member husband were talking about being sealed in the temple a year from now and it was so fun to watch! All of the members have done such a good job fellowshipping her and she so much support. President James has been praying for her, we have been praying for her, and I know that the Lord is blessing her. As we said goodbye and walked away from them, I was jumping and jumping with joy. Literally! I was then reminded that it was the Sabbath Day and I was in church so I toned it down a little, but it was difficult to contain my excitement! The joy and happiness I have felt on my mission, especially as I watch God's children progress in the gospel, have been something words cannot express. I love the Lord! I pray and plead daily that I may sacrifice more and more to align myself with His plan for me. I know that He will put us on the path that is best for us and for our salvation. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Spiritually awakening more and more each day,
Elder Shearer

Monday, July 10, 2017

07/10/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

We of course had another delightful week! I have seen the hand of the Lord many times in His work and what a privilege it is to be here. It was the best week of my mission!! Last Monday we went to Raleigh's zone activity and we played laser tag together! It is always fun to spend time with all of the missionaries and try to inspire hope and find the one that needs a friend. This mission has been such a wonderful growing experience for me. My favorite part is trying to forget myself, my own stresses, my own trials and look for someone else that needs even more help! The gospel of Jesus Christ is beautiful. :) After that zone activity, we tracted the night away and loved every second of it! Such a blessing to testify of truth. :) Tuesday morning we visited Rich and he was as excited as always! He has a strong faith in Christ and is always wanting to learn more. We had a very spiritually powerful lesson with him as we talked about baptisms for the dead and the doctrines behind it. He had many great questions and we were grateful that the Holy Ghost did such a great job in answering them. Of course the fourth of July was on Tuesday so happy fourth everybody!! Happy Birthday America! We ate dinner with the Salgado family and had a delicious Mexican barbecue. We even ate flan for dessert and it was out of this world!! We ran to the mission office after dinner to finish planning for our zone conference instructions. After receiving more advice from President James, much prayer and thought and deep pondering and studying it out in our minds, we came away with what we felt to be what the mission needs to hear. Wednesday we had our first zone conference and this transfer we are doing our zone conferences in conjunction with our temple trips! That means we get to go to the temple five times! Woohoo!!! :) Our Zone Conference thankfully went very well and the Spirit was very present. Our theme of this zone conference is "The Great Awakening" and we made bookmarks for each missionary in the mission to be able to remember this special time in the North Carolina Raleigh Mission! We have been going through many physical changes in the mission and we are taking this opportunity to also go through many spiritual changes. We desire as a mission to develop a more profound sense of conviction and learn how to bury our pride for Christ. I was very grateful for the instructions given by President James and both of my companions. They are very inspirational speakers. Elder Barlow spoke on visualizing success, Elder Chiu instructed on pay the price and sacrificing to get there, and I instructed on relying on the Lord unconditionally. Many people commented that it was an exciting time in the mission! THIS MISSION IS ON FIRE!!! The Temple was marvelous and following our meetings we came back to Raleigh to preach the gospel! We visited a Taiwanese part member family which was neat because Elder Chiu is from Taiwan! They were very kind, despite the fact that the wife said over a hundred times. "Please come inside for ice cream, but don't share the Book of Mormon!" or "Don't talk about the Book of Mormon!" and even "We don't need to bring up the Book of Mormon, just eat your ice cream!" I of course left a copy for her on the table as we were walking out, but she caught me so I took it back. It was pretty funny, but she'll get baptized, we know she will! We have full faith that the gospel changes hearts! We were blessed to serve the missionaries by doing some office work on Thursday, but thankfully got out in time to go on an exchange with our zone leaders up in Durham. Elder Chiu and I brought Elder Jones to our area and we had a great night together. We did some tracting and taught a few good lessons together! One of which was with Michael! We walked in there knowing we needed to read the Book of Mormon with him, but not knowing which chapter. As Elder Chiu offered the opening prayer I said a silent prayer in my heart that we could receive revelation to know what would be best for Michael. As I prayed fervently, a chapter came into mind that I had previously read twice in that same day! I knew it was our answer and as the prayer ended, I opened the Book of Mormon to where I had my finger sticking in it. It was already on the exact chapter that came to my mind during the prayer! It is amazing to see those miracles in answer to prayers! We read the chapter together and Michael was in tears by the end. It really hit home to him. He thanked us after for the lesson and told us it was a good one. I've never heard him say that before! The Lord truly does provide when we forget ourselves, seek His will, and then act in faith! We had another zone conference on Friday and it went even better the second time. President James's instruction was very powerful, one of the best I think he's ever given! The Temple was beautiful and I learned many things! After the meeting we came back to Raleigh and visited the Rathavongsa boys to get them ready for their baptism! We got everything planned out and solidified and then the following morning, miracles happened! After years in the making, Ryan, Brandon, and Dylan Rathavongsa entered into a sacred covenant with their Heavenly Father to follow Jesus Christ. It was a breathtaking service. The Spirit there was so strong. Sister Rathavongsa was in tears the entire time. We love those boys and are excited for the great things they will do for the Lord! President James wasn't able to make it to the baptism, but we met with him for a few hours afterwards to go over some important things happening in the mission. At the end of the meeting, he lovingly told me that I need to polish my shoes. Haha I told him I am so busy spending all my time tracting that I don't ever have time for that! He laughed and I ran home to polish my shoes. I've repented and they're looking good now! :) We tracted the rest of the night and although it downpoured for three hours straight, we smiled the entire time and had true joy in the service of our God. :) Today was a wonderful day as Ryan, Brandon, and Dylan were not only confirmed members of the church, but also received the gift of the Holy Ghost! They couldn't stop smiling afterward! Their mom even told us that they changed since receiving it! Elder Chiu and I performed a special musical number at the baptism on Saturday and apparently the Bishop liked it so much, he asked us to perform it in Sacrament Meeting! Either that, or he just had an empty spot in the program. Probably the latter. But we performed it again and it went well! We tracted after church and were blessed to find an honest seeker of truth. We met a man named Matthew and he is a Messianic Jew. As we shared the First Vision and the Book of Mormon with him, the Spirit came into his home and he asked us many questions about the Book of Mormon. He wanted to know all about it! What it was, what it taught, where it came from, how we have it, why more people don't know about it, what truths has Joseph Smith restored, etc... We had a wonderful time answering his questions and committing him to read and pray. We believe he will be baptized very soon as he quickly comes to feel that these things are true. We ate dinner with a member in the Raleigh Spanish ward and it was great to see them again! We did some more tracting after dinner and met a man that tried to bash us so hard, it was laughable! We stated our purpose and after telling us that he would never ask God if the Book of Mormon is true, we told him we wished him the best, even loved him, but were going to take our message elsewhere. We ended the week by teaching Anthony and Nicole again. Anthony is amazing, he wants to get baptized so bad! As soon as the divorce gets figured out, he will be ready! He prays for his baptism to come soon and he is one of the most humble people I have ever met. I love my mission brothers and sisters. I never want it to end! I love my area, my companions, and I love the Lord my God! He lives and works miracles according to our faith. Let us be a believing people and show our faith by following Christ daily.

Being blessed with baptisms,
Elder Shearer