Dearest Friends and Family,
Greetings from the eastern shore of Lake Erie.
The Fall has set in here in East Cleveland. The thick green of summer is passing away, the blue of the sky is fading to gray and I wish you could all see the beautiful leaves.
I look more intently on the changing seasons, the faces of the people, the housing, the buildings, it is a strange feeling I get as I look at my area as it is rougher than any place I've ever been, it is quite run down and the abandoned buildings cast off an 'erie' vibe (no pun intended), but, I cant tell you how beautiful this place is to me. I love the red brick buildings everywhere, all the corner stores, the buses, the schools, the black people, the white people, them Muslims, Christians and the Jews. Poor and rich, it is all here.
I plan my schedule every night but to be honest,I have no idea what my day is going to bring. The temperature dropped off about 20 degrees and it has rained all week. I was sick about 4 days this week, one of which I stayed in. My Zone Leader(Elder Bills) stayed home with me and sang me about 20 hymns while my companion went on an exchange with my other Zone Leader (Elder Rangel). So aside from being under the weather it truly was a great week.
My companion and I have been working with a less active family in our ward named the Sipps for about a month and a half now and aswe were making our weekly visit to them last week with a typical short message when it just came to me that I need to go in there and be flat out bold about coming to church, so being confident in my impression I took no prisoners! The mother of the family still hasn't come to church, a habit which has persisted the better part of two years now, but the 19 year old daughter took to our invitation.
This young girls name is Jaenetta. She is 19 and has a 3 year old son named Jamari. This girl is the diamond in the rough. She initially stopped coming to church because she felt that during her pregnancy she was being wrongfully judged and out casted. She has taken us up on our challenge to attend church regularly and participated this week in a service project, a ward BBQ, and two weeks of church attendance (Including conference). The light is back in this girl, night and day difference from when we first started meeting with them. She told us this week she got accepted into college, and broke things off with her boyfriend she felthe was going in the opposite direction. She is also trying to buy a CTR ring this week, I had to smile at that. Perhaps what has even more encouraging than this girls progress has been her missionary efforts. She referred us to four investigators since we have began working with her. It is little things like this that make me feel like I am making a difference.
I am doing all I can to further submit myself to this work. Your mind cannot be on something other than the work whilst you hope to get the work done. I have noticed that if I let my mind drift I begin to be neglectful of the little things that make a big difference out here.
My testimony has been so strengthened this week by General Conference. I loved every minute of it. Saturday night tugged on my heart strings as I reflected upon it being the traditional night to be out with my father and brothers. I hadn't missed a Priesthood Session with them in years. So upon being moved by my sentimental side I went on an exchange with my brother from a Venezuelan mother, Elder Rangel, and went to this really posh restaurant around the corner from me and ordered up a $5 appetizer and a muscle shooter in commemoration of my Dad! Priesthood session was incredible, I was really moved by many of the addresses, particularly Elder Hollands. I was also happy to hear the announcement of new temples being built, especially Star Valley as I know that place is near and dear to my friend Brother Scott.
I want you all to know that things are well here in Cleveland. Despite laboring these last 4 months without a single baptism I feel that I fulfill my purpose every day. I have grown in my testimony and grown in my love for family, friends, and strangers. Perhaps more than any other facet of my testimony, my love for the Plan of Salvation has grown. As I teach our loving Heavenly Father's plan I can help but wonder about my standing before Him. I know how we can find our standing with Him, we must check our desires. If our desires are pure and of the intent to serve those around us and reach from something charitable then we are right where we need to be. I know that He lives, he loves endlessly, and desires our happiness.
His spirit flows like water, that is,it takes the path of least resistance, my prayer is that the ones I teach and love most will not resist his ever extended hand. The underlying theme of this General Conference was repentance. I swear to use this gift. To re-commit daily, and to continue to retain a remembrance of my Savior. Repentance should not be dreadful, in fact it is the opposite. I know no matter who we are, where we have been, or what we have done the hand is still extended. I find it a beautiful ting that the Master was an observer of nature and used his observations in his teachings, so let our eyes see the changing leaves and skies and be drawn to the promise that because of Him, we too can die and be re-born. It is going to be a long winter in Cleveland, and so it will be in Salt Lake but may the love that He provides continually warm us each day and be manifested in how we treat each other.
I love you all so much!