Wednesday, November 28, 2012

18 Month Report!

Dearest Family and Friends;
                                               I apologize in advance if this is brief. It is such a special time to be on a mission right now. I love the Holiday season in the field; all people seem to be a little friendlier. We are hoping to undertake a lot of work in the area right now if everything continues to go the way it is. We have had a few setbacks in the last few weeks with the loss of many investigators; including Ali & Mohsen who we have not heard from in a week. President had cleared them for baptism and the next day we never heard from them again; it has been hard on our hearts. I am realizing more and more however that 'real growth' is the most important thing. Like President Hinckley said, there is no point in doing missionary work if we cannot retain the fruit of our labor so the fact that we haven't heard from them when they were doing so well hurts a lot less because they aren't doing this after they had been baptized.
                                             The work with the members is beginning to pick up as well. The ward here is a labyrinth of gospel conversions and backgrounds. It is such an odd mixture; young Caucasian student families mixed in with a hand full of African-American native Clevelanders. It is of sad report that I tell you there could be much better unity between the two and we are seeing as part of a much more grand accomplishment of what could happen here with missionary work that the two groups have to have more love and unity in our ward body or the body will continue in its shrinking trend. I never thought that it would be my job as a missionary to go and cry for unity amongst members. We have been very loving but also very candid in our lessons with them in the last two weeks and I have found it most interesting to find that they put up no contest to our cry for unity; they acknowledge it and accept that there needs to be more love of Christ. We have been inviting them to do simple things to increase unity and missionary work including having a family over for dinner that they norm ally wouldn’t or sitting by someone in church that they normally wouldn't sit by. I feel that the Lord has been directing Elder Mo'Unga in a most interesting way this last month. He has been guiding us to so many less active members that haven't had contact with the church in years who are now ready to come back. Three that hadn’t been at all in a year were all at church on Sunday and all were happy to be there. This last year there has been 5 convert baptisms in this ward and all 5 are less active; I have felt so strongly that something needs to change within the ward before the Lord will bless us with any more sheep to feed. My only worry is that I won’t be here long enough to see this unfold, but I trust in due time that the ward will be more unified and the Native Cleveland families will build up the church body again. I have tried to keep negative things about people or places I serve out of my reports home but that is what we are dealing with right now. The Lord has stated that "if ye are not one, ye are not mine". Despite the challenges we are facing we do recognize the Lord is helping us so much and the members here truly do have so much love within them. The next step is helping them all see a vision of what could become here if we do missionary work and what will become if we don't.
                                         This is the Lords work. He has given us the commission to participate with him in the building of His kingdom. I pray that we may all examine our commitment to live like the Savior and "feed His sheep" if we truly love Him. I pray that we may not only live in a spirit of thanks and giving at this time of year but that this may be the hallmark of our lives and the way of our daily walk. I know that God lives and that he will support us in our practical and our seemingly impossible challenges. I am humbled to bear the title of servant for the Lord Jesus Christ!
                                                                                Love, Elder Prince

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy November

Dearest Friends and Family,
                                               Interesting week this week! Hurricane Sandy apparently was 900 miles wide and we got a good three day storm out of her. Monday night we were advised to stay in our apartments and wait out the storm. We had brand new family of 8 moving into the ward that need help transporting items out of storage unit about 30 minutes away so we received permission from President to go and help them move. It was an epic event moving these people in the middle of this storm; sideways wind. I was laughing as I thought of Forrest Gump in describing all the different types of rain in Vietnam; we were experiencing the freezing cold kind that hurts when it hits your face. We were successful helping them but there were windows breaking everywhere, trees laying on the road and ALL of the lights were out in the city. Street lights and all! In consequence of the storm the lights in our apartment went out which included our heating and hot water. It was pretty fun to live camper style with the Elders for a few days as we waited out the storm but after a while you go stir crazy if you can't go out and teach. The most trying thing about this week had to be the ice cold; pierce your soul like a dagger water that we had to shower with in the morning. I am sure Travis is reading this somewhere rolling his eyes considering we pretty much got three days of what it is like to serve in a South America mission; none the less, cold showers are cold showers. When we finally resumed work and were able to leave, Elder Mo'Unga and I walked down our hallway out the front door of our building both looking at each other saying "This feel so good to be a missionary again!".
                                               All continues to go well in East Cleveland. We are really trying to get the ball rolling with our less-actives; their indifference can be saddening at times. Ali & Mohsen are continuing to do great; both attended church this week. We had a great meeting with they and President. We taught them the Doctrine of  Christ and they both grew in their desire to make covenants with the Lord. I don't have words enough to say how special these two young men are. They are pure, bright, humble and full of desire to follow the Master. We hope to have the green light from President on their baptism ion the coming month.
                                              Also, we received word last night that Elder Mo'Unga and I will be staying together another transfer. I am so excited to be with him. He is a great example and he is here for all the right reasons. We both had the opportunity to teach the YSA family home evening last night. I love working with the Young Adult Branch. We had a great time with them. We conducted several activities with them to help  them truly view one another as children of God. We even did a demonstration in which they were required to stare into a partners eyes for three straight minutes and try to see that person as God sees them. It was a very powerful demonstration and it was so interesting to here their responses and to listen to them describe what they saw in each other. We taught from the Hymn Book and the scriptures. The whole night was very memorable.
                                               Well, I best be going. I love you all. Thank you for your goodness. I don't endorse any political candidates; but God bless America today! Voting is agency at it's best! Have a great week! Love, Elder Prince

7 Month Report

Dearest Friends and Family,
                                                 I am glad to report to you that thanks to the Lord things are going great in East Cleveland! Marilyn and her son came to church yesterday in the family ward and Ali & Mohsen continue to come to the Young Single Adult Branch. I am not sure if I failed to mention that we cover both the family ward (Cleveland 3rd) and the Cleveland Young Single Adult Branch. It is so much fun; I even enjoy the 6 hours of church every Sunday! We have had some great experiences this week. We took Mairlyn and her 10 year old son, Bryan on a tour with the Sister missionaries of Historic Kirtland and the spirit was great. Elder Mo'Unga went in to the tour fasting that Marilyn would have a spiritual experience. The night before and the morning of the tour I had had a prayer in my heart that I would be able to bear sincere testimony to her of Christ and that her heart would be open to receive it. The tour was going pretty well but she acts a bit strange when she feels the spirit; it is as if she is embarrassed so she either laughs or tries to make a joke. She kept doing this and the opportunity for the spirit to really settle in kept being postponed. Then we went into the school of the prophets at the Whitney store and and the Sisters began to read accounts of the Father and the son appearing in vision in that very room. As we read the accounts the tone changed again and the spirit began to settle. Just then I felt prompted to bear testimony to her and as I did I saw it hit her as her countenance changed and she began to cry. Following my testimony, Elder Mo'Unga came in and sealed the deal with the most powerful testimony I had heard him bear in our time together. The sisters then asked her if she would like us to leave and allow for her to stay in the room and lay her weaknesses before the Lord; she agreed and stayed. She later re-joined us and the rest of the tour was powerful and Marilyns testimony of the Restored gospel grew alot. The Historical sites here are so powerful in helping us with our investigators and the Sisters do an excellent job.
                      Ali and Mohsen continue to do so well! They are so excited to get baptized and they are both truly developing a love and  a personal relationship with the Savior. They are the most humble people I have taught yet on my mission. On Tuesday night, President is going to pick us all up from downtown Cleveland and drive us up to Madison, Ohio to witness a baptism and afterwards he is going to interview them again to be certain that they are ready to take this step in their lives. I never thought in all my life I would be helping people of Islam come unto Christ; it truly is a scared opportunity to introduce them to the "Only true and Living God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3)".
                    Last night I had a life changing experience. Elder Mo'Unga and I traveled to the Cleveland Clinic to administer a blessing to a woman being treated there. Earlier in the day her daughter had come to church and explained to us that she was in town all the way from San Fransisco to be a support to her mother and was wondering if we wouldn't mind coming by and administering the sacrament and offering her a blessing. When we arrived she had us sit down and take off our Jackets. She was of Tongan descent so she and Elder Mo'Unga hit it off right away. I sat in front of her bed and felt impressed to really focus in on her and listen to her story. She explained that she had been diagnosed with cancer and that she had just recovered from a surgery that removed cancer from another part of her body. She then explained how sudden this news had come and how hard it had been on her. She kept saying "I just wish I had more time". She explained that despite her age for the last 10 years she had been pursuing a PhD and that she had gone off to school. She said that she had fallen into bad habits and consequently gained alot of weight.  She also explained that she had been less-active in the church for years despite all three of her children being faithful members. She then went on to express how selfish she had been with her time and choices. She explained that she wished she had the time to do the things that matter most; Spend time with her grand kids, let her loved ones know the she loves them, and  align her life to the will of the Lord. Finally she explained that this whole experience had caused her to truly reflect upon her faith in God. "I Know that they are there; I believe in Jesus Christ" she said. I thought it was very telling of human nature that when the reality of death looks us in the eye we quickly revert back to the things that matter most; faith and family. I then asked her if I could share a few words with her before we gave her the blessing; she agreed. I said first to her "I want you to know the power with which we will give you this blessing is real. The Father and the Son are real, and this church truly is the restored Church of Jesus Christ" she nodded her head and acknowledged that she knew all three to be true and went on to explain of a time when she was little that she felt that a priesthood blessing had saved her life. I then said " I don't know what you believe the most important day you have ever lived is, but I want to share with you what I feel the most important day of your life is". I continued, "Many people think it is special calendar events like Christmas or birthdays, some may say it was the day they finish college, the day they were married or the day their child was born". I said "I think these are all important days but I do not think that they are the most important". I told her that "the spirit has whispered to me that the most important day of our lives is today". As soon as I said this I could tell that the spirit hit her. When you realize that time is an un-renewable resource and the true purpose of your existence comes into penetrating focus, the things that matter most appear right in front of you; Love of God and fellow man. I then told her "Death is a season that we all pass through just like the trees outside and we never know when it will happen to us. I could die tomorrow, thus the things we do today and the decisions we right now make this the most important day of our lives. I don't know how long you will live but I feel moved by the spirit to promise you that you will have sufficient time to let your loved ones know that you truly love them and enough time to align your life to the will of God through repentance and prayer". We then offered her a blessing and spirit filled the small hospital room. When the blessing was over she hugged Elder Mo'Unga and I, and kissing us on the cheek told us that she loved us.
        I learned so much from this experience last night. I learned that the superficial things of life fade from our worldly eyes within a matter of seconds when we are truly faced with the dilemma of death. I learned that once a child of God is truly faced to view the backdrop of despair and doubt they will find solace in their true identity as His child and their priorities are quickly aligned back to faith and family. Above all I learned again for myself that today is the most important day; love of God and all men is truly the pursuit of our lives and every honest person just wants to have time to love others. My hope that is that we do not forget our purpose and our identity but that we remember why we truly are here. I pray that my family and friends may know that the way to salvation only comes through Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his atonement and by obedience to his gospel. I pray this woman may have time enough to find solace in the Lord and share her peace with her family. I pray that I may continue to be led to those who are prepared to receive this glad message; that we are eternal, that we ware children of God and that there is a way to be together forever. So while the day is still today, I will repent, for the day is far too spent. I love you all and I know that our Redeemer lives!                                       
                                                                                                               Love, Elder Prince

Inner City Love

Dearest Friends and Family,
                                               So great to be with you this week! So much to say in so little time so I hope you can get a glimpse of how things are going out here in East Cleveland. First we have to start with the few days leading up to conference. Elder Mo'Unga and I have been telling so many people to come and listen to a prophets voice I felt like Armageddon was coming! We were telling everyone when they could come down to the chapel and listens to the Lord's mouthpiece; it was so much fun. And I wish to recount to you our best practice of the week:
                                                In our apartment we have a supply closet in which we have all of our pass along cards, brochures, books, etc. In this closet we have several Book of Mormons in various languages and before we headed out the door we felt impressed to grab our only copy of a Pharsi (Persian) Book of Mormon. Not sure why; just remembered seeing it and felt impressed to pack it along with us. About mid-way through the day while contacting on a busy street by Case Western University we stopped at a bus stop and began talking to a middle-eastern man. His name is Mohsen; he is from Iran and is a student at Cleveland State University; here in America for an opportunity to gain an education and build a life for himself.  We began telling him about the Lord Jesus Christ and what he can do for us in our lives if we will come unto him. He was interested and just after we had swapped information and we were ready do go our separate ways we remembered that Book of Mormon we had felt impressed to bring with us earlier. We pulled it out, handed it too him and you should have seen the look on his face. He acted as though manna from heaven had just fallen into his hands and said humbly "This is a gift from God; that is my language!". We then looked him square in the eyes and told him we did not know why we grabbed that Book this morning but now we knew. We bore testimony right there on the street that that book would help him come unto Christ. After some later communication he committed to come to priesthood session later that week. He surely came on Saturday with his friend Ali (Also from Iran here for school). They loved the entire broadcast and asked many questions. After the broadcast ended the whole chapel cleared and we were left alone with them. We began to ask them how they felt. The went on to try their best to describe the spirit as best they could The said they had never felt this way before and that they felt so good. We again began to testify to them and told them we knew they were lead to us by the hand of the Lord. We then committed them to read the Book of Mormon that night and pray to know if it was indeed true. Despite how very excited we were for them we still realized there were many hurdles to overcome being that there are many rules in our mission about teaching people with a Muslim background. We called President Vellinga and relayed to him the circumstances of our findi9ng and teaching these two humble young men. He told us that we would have to schedule an appointment as soon as possible in which he would interview them with a series of question s to determine whether or not we should proceed with the teaching. Needless to say, we were on our knees that all would be well. The next day we met with Ali, Mohsen, and President. It very well may have been one of the most spiritual meetings I have ever been a part of. You should've heard these two young men explain why they were here. The spoke of the oppression of the government in Iran and the practices of control that they exercise by way of Islamic beliefs. They said that they had desired to become Christian for some three years now and that they had to attend Church underground in Iran to just learn about Christ. They said they would be arrested or put to death upon converting to Christianity if found out. For that reason they did not convert to any church and had been anxious to join one since coming to the states so 2 months ago. They went on to explain how grateful they were to be in America and to enjoy their new found freedoms. They also expressed that they intended to stay and that all they desired to do was follow Christ. They said that they knew we had been lead to them and that they were thirsty to hear more. We again committed them to pray to know the truth fullness of the Book of Mormon. Last night we met again and followed up on our invitation. They explained to us that together they had prayed for some 25 minutes and that after doing so sincerely and humbly they were filled with a warmth. They said they thought it was strange that they felt such a warmth because their apartment was cold; they said they had to open the windows! Mind you all, we had never described to them how the Spirit is often described as to be a "burning in the bosom". They then said "after reading the pamphlet you gave us we realized that we were feeling the Holy Ghost". Listening to these two describe their experience was incredible; we were all touched. They are some of the humblest and perhaps most intelligent people I have taught on my mission; the Lord has been hearing their prayers. I truly believe that they will both become members of this church in the very near future. Thank goodness the Holy Ghost told us to grab that Book!
                                              In parting I want to echo the words of my family and friends on their mission who have expressed their love of General Conference. I felt the spirit so strongly all though out. I hope that we may not be complacent in our belief about God. I hope that we will be wise and keep the commandments. I pray that we will follow our Leaders and in so doing follow Christ. I know that this church is true. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.