Monday, August 28, 2017

08/28/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

This was a beautiful week. Last Monday we watched the solar eclipse with President and Sister James on the news and it was incredible!! We were able to watch the totality happen a few different times being broadcast from all over the country! At the point that totality hit just south of us in South Carolina, President ran outside and with his naked eye looked up at the sun and yelled "Hey! You can see it! Come check this out!" Haha we all ran out and looked up! He was right, you culd see it! We would've used the glasses and all, but they were sold out at all the stores around us. It's okay though, President said we won't notice any lasting effects from the exposure for at least 9 years. I think that's probably enough time to live a happy life before I go blind! After our super fun solar eclipse viewing with them, we went out to try to visit some less-actives! Sadly none of them were home at the time, but we were able to meet up with them later on in the week. After working for a few hours, Elder Jones and I made our way down south to the border of the mission: Wilmington! We spent the night there with our zone leaders so we could wake up and be ready to go for our Wilmington zone conference! The conference was very enjoyable and I would say it was by far our best one of the transfer, and that's not just because I'm biased towards Wilmington. The Spirit was very present with each zone conference, but for some reason, it was even more overwhelming this time. I bore my departing testimony at the conclusion of the meeting and I decided to share a special memory. Three months before I received my mission call I had a dream that I was called to serve in North Carolina. I woke up from the dream not remembering much about it, other than a very particular alleyway I had seen. I actually forgot about the dream entirely right up until the moment that I read my call to serve. As I read that I was assigned to labor in North Carolina, the dream instantly flooded my mind and I remembered that alleyway in great detail. An excitement and sense of adventure filled my heart and I greatly anticipated the search I was now on. Just as had happened before, that dream was eventually pushed out of my memory by all the hustle and bustle of life. Later on in my mission, I was called to serve in Wilmington as a zone leader. Never before had a Spanish missionary been called as the Wilmington zone leader, so this brought many new changes. I was being taken out of the Spanish work that I had so deeply invested my heart into. At first, this was a difficult transition for me. I prayed to God that he would send me the peace to know that I had in fact been sent to the right area. Not that I had ever doubted President James nor his inspiration, but I simply desired a personal confirmation on the matter. As I bore my departing testimony this past Tuesday, I explained to the missionaries that on one of my first preparation days in Wilmington, my companion decided to take me downtown. As we walked the streets of downtown Wilmington, something we walked past caught the corner of my eye. I felt prompted to stop and take a few steps back. As I did, my eyes beheld a miracle. Standing in front of me was the exact alleyway I had been shown in my long since forgotten dream. The Spirit of God flooded my soul as a similarly Heaven-sent flood poured from my eyes. I felt myself wrapped in the love of my Eternal Father. I was told that God knew me and that He had indeed sent me to serve in that miracle-filled area. Since that day, I have never again forgotten my dream. It remains as a testimony to me that God cared for me enough to prepare a much-needed answer to prayer. I showed that picture to the missionaries and I was so overcome with my emotions, I could hardly speak. Elder Jones and I drove back up to Raleigh after the meeting and made a pit-stop at a famous ice cream shop right on the Cape Fear river. After arriving to Raleigh, we went to visit a less-active our Bishop had asked us to stop by. Pulling up to the home however, both Elder Jones and I felt we needed to try it another night. We went tracting instead and knocked right up until 9! Actually to spill a secret, we knocked until 9:10 because there were a few houses I felt we needed to try and I just couldn't ignore the prompting! The following day we had our Tri-Lake zone conference and it was actually the last one of the transfer! It was a great meeting, and following my departing testimony of the importance and eternal significance of our calling, a handful of missionaries came up to me and specifically thanked me for my testimony. I was so glad to see the Spirit was at work in the hearts of these missionaries. We care for them so dearly and pray for them by name. I decided to pray for each of them by name the night before their zone conference and as I did so, I was reminded of the unconditional love that God has for them. Following Wednesday's zone conference, we went to teach Yuliya and she is to the point that she simply needs to decide if she wants to be baptized or not. Even she mentioned that she has all the information she is going to get, the ball is in her court now. We pray for her daily that she will have the courage to act on the promptings she has received. Elder Jones and I then felt prompted to go back to the less-active we had decided not to visit yet. She was already out in her yard when we pulled up and though at first she was very hesitant to speak with us, we were as friendly as can be and her heart was softened. We met with her for a few minutes and did our best to rekindle her faith, but sadly she was afraid her husband wouldn't let us inside. We asked her who she knew of her neighbors that could use a message of the gospel, and she claimed not to know any. We felt something was off so we asked her again and as we did so, she looked at us with a face that told us immediately she was fighting the Spirit. We waited patiently and she finally followed the prompting to tell us that her neighbor had recently lost her mother to cancer about a month ago. We thanked her, committed her to pick up and read her Book of Mormon again, and with haste went to meet her neighbor. After knocking on the door, a woman opened up and upon seeing us, smiled from ear to ear! She said, "Elders! What are you doing here?" We told her we were there to speak with Dea and she told us that her name was Sister Early, a member from another ward! She had gone over to help Dea pack up her mother's belongings. She was ecstatic to see us and exclaimed that she knew we were sent from God. We were very excited to see her too and asked if we could speak with Dea. A few moments later, Dea came out and we introduced ourselves. We quickly began to teach her the principles of the Plan of Salvation and tears came to her eyes as those beautiful restored truths fell upon her spiritual ears. It was an absolute miracle to have found her. Thursday was a very busy administrative day! We had to plan out an entire meeting for Friday as well as all of our other responsibilities. The Wilmington zone leaders came up halfway through the day and we went on an exchange with them in our area. I was with Elder Hutchings and we had a great time. We first taught Nathan and he told us that he finished the Book of Mormon! He commented that he usually feels a need to be cynical about everything, but since reading the Book of Mormon, that desire is gone! We visited and taught a few other people as well and just had a wonderful exchange. Elder Hutchings is a great leader! We had our meeting on Friday for all of the mission leadership and it was very productive. We made a lot of policy changes and we're excited to watch those play out! Saturday was a magical day, it was my birthday! My family spoiled me and sent me an incredible package!! President and Sister James also spoiled me and got me a wonderful present as well as a super delicious chocolate mousse cake! We got a knock on the door and a missionary that used to serve here had come to visit, Elder Chandler! We had a fun time all being together. Elder Jones and I spent most of the day tracting, my favorite thing ever!! At the end of the night we visited an investigator that has been investigating for a few years and using the Spirit and inspired questions, we finally found out what some of his concerns are. Sunday was an equally fantastic day, of course because it is the Lord's day. Our investigators came to church, loved it, and we did some more tracting. We had dinner with the Madrid Estrada family in the Raleigh Spanish ward to celebrate my birthday and they smashed my face in the cake at the end! Classic... We tracted for the rest of the night and found a very prepared woman named Meatt. I love my mission so much. I do apologize for having such lengthy emails each week, but I simply cannot fit all of God's miracles into a few short paragraphs. I could honestly write a novel filled with the many tender mercies he blesses us with each day. I've said it before and I'll say it again; God is good.

Cherishing every minute of every day,
Elder Shearer

Sunday, August 20, 2017

08/21/17 - Raleigh, North Carolina

This was a busy week, as it should be in the work of the Lord! Last Monday we drove down to Fayetteville after our office meetings to play tennis in a mission-wide tournament called the Dennis Open. President James used to be a tennis coach, so he loves holding these tournaments. It was a blast! I was paired up with Elder McNeill and we won all four of our games undefeated! He's an incredible player, all I had to do was sit back and watch him win for us! The missionaries seemed to have fun so we were happy. We came back to Raleigh after it ended and did our best to finish planning for our round of zone conferences for this transfer! We finished planning our instructions, got the agendas together, and made sure all our sound equipment and everything was ready to go. We had our first zone conference on Tuesday up in Durham. It went very very well!! In honor of Elder Barlow who was my last companion and the previous assistant, we did a football themed conference which I know nothing about! President and Elder Jones have had to explain to me quite a few football references, jokes, and lingo. Elder Jones talks about "summer conditioning" or preparing ourselves to receive the Spirit, President James talks about the "game plan" or role-plays, and I instruct on "calling an audible" or learning to have the gift of discernment in missionary work. When President told me I would be talking about calling an audible, I had no idea what that meant. But the Spirit was strong during the meeting and we are all motivated to be more focused on making the Spirit a big part of the work. At the conclusion of every zone conference, we have a portion where all departing missionaries give their final testimony. I of course was asked to give mine and it was difficult to get through. I was crying so hard I couldn't even talk! Wow. This mission really has been the best two years of my life. I have learned many principles of the gospel, grown in my character, and developed my relationship with God in a way I could have never done without this experience. I will thank God for the rest of my life for the time I have had to serve Him and his children. I am very grateful that it isn't over yet either. I still have a few weeks to give my all and bring others unto Christ. We had three zone conferences back to back to back, Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday, and I was asked to give my departing testimony at each conference! The first day, I bore my testimony that God is the true source of all power and that it is much better to look heavenward and be happy. The second day, I bore my testimony that the greatest joy in the world comes from being made an instrument in God's hands. The third day, I bore my testimony on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and God's love. I still have two more zone conferences coming up this week so we'll see what I share for those! After the meeting on Tuesday, we visited Mike and Preston and discussed the temple as evidenced in the scriptures. As we opened up both Book of Mormon scriptures, and Biblical scriptures, the Spirit was so thick that we wanted to scoop it up with a spoon and feed it to our investigators! They felt it though and we knew it. They shared with us a few of their genuine concerns and we did our best to address them following the promptings of the Spirit. It was one of the best lessons on my mission and that is because the Holy Ghost was the teacher, not us! Wednesday our zone conference was here in Raleigh and it went even better than the day before in Durham! During my instruction, a few thoughts came to my mind that I hadn't planned on sharing but as I shared them, we were all edified by the teachings of the Spirit. I sat back down in my chair upon finishing and was so overwhelmed with gratitude for God's guidance and direction that I was brought to tears. I have loved more than anything developing such a close relationship to God. I feel him ever near and I know he is involved in the intimate details of our lives. Following our meeting, we taught Yuliya and it was so great to see them. They have been on vacations for a few weeks, but she said that she read the Book of Mormon every single day! She had a few questions about baptism which we addressed using inspired questions and scriptures. She mentioned that she feels she has all the information she is going to get about the church, she just needs to decide whether she is going to get baptized or not. We believe and have faith that she will! Our zone conference on Thursday was in Fayetteville and it was also very enjoyable! Haha right before I got up to give my instruction, President James put his hands on my shoulders and shook me around trying to get me pumped up! It worked ha! After the conference, we went on an exchange with the Fayetteville Zone Leaders and I had the privilege of going with Elder Mueller! We had a memorable night for sure. We started with the best thing in the world, tracting!! After finding a very prepared military family, we found a Hispanic family that was even more prepared! At the close of the lesson, we invited them to kneel in prayer with us and invited the mother to offer the prayer. As she prayed, she asked God if this church was true and told him that she hoped it was! They were extremely excited to come to church! I loved learning from Elder Mueller's great example of leadership on the exchange, he's wonderful. We spent the night with them there and then drove back up to Raleigh Friday morning. We spent a few hours in the mission office trying to get caught up on some of our responsibilities and then were anxious to go work in our area! We talked to Sahr for a good while and he wants God so desperately in his life. We shared a little bit of the Plan of Salvation and are excited to meet with his family in a few weeks. We went tracting for the rest of the night and not only did it feel amazing, but we found a new investigator named Famara! He is from West Africa and was very intrigued with the Book of Mormon. Excited to teach him again this coming Thursday! We had our weekly transfer meeting with President on Saturday. Before we pick trainers or leadership or anything, the first thing we always do is take all graduating missionaries off the board and put them on top of it in what we call "The Celestial Kingdom." I of course was forced to rip my card off the board (while ripping my heart out of my chest) and place it in the kingdom. President took pictures of me and thought my pain was hilarious. Not really, he felt for me, but is excited for my future I guess. We started to pick some trainers, but had to stop early because of an appointment we had. We taught the Borrero family about some commandments and they are on board with everything! Jay and Reuben are getting ready for their baptisms in a few weeks and we are excited for them! We tracted the rest of the night and knocked on some mansions! Falls Lake is such a wealthy area. Wealthiest in the mission! Today was the Sabbath and I love the Lord's day! Going to church and taking the sacrament is easily my favorite part of the whole week. After church we taught Matthew again, the Messianic Jew, and we got into some deep doctrine! He had so many questions and every time we tried to explain something to him, he wanted to get even deeper. We told him that he doesn't have to know our message exhaustively to know it truly. He's got a good heart and real intent and he'll find this is true in no time! We visited a Swahili referral after dinner and have a lesson set up this week to teach a whole family! We tracted for a while and then ended our night by teaching Anthony and Nicole. We hadn't taught them in a few weeks, but their desires are as strong as ever! Anthony is very excited to be baptized and even shared some very personal life changing events that happened a few years ago. I LOVED THIS WEEK! I see miracles every single day. There is no way this isn't the work of God. He is ever present.

Still trying to figure out what an audible is,
Elder Shearer