Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Standard Has Been Raised by Far

Dear Family,

Here are the anwers to your questions.

Question #1: What is your new companion's greatest strength?

That's tough. I'm going to say two. First, he (Elder Vitorio) is always smiling and makes the people we meet smile. Second, he and I do some hard work and go at it all day.

Question #2: How is your British accent coming along? Do you speak to the Brits in their own lingo?

I do not develop any British accent. The only thing that has changed is some of the words I now use, "trousers", "proper", "posh", etc. My British accent is not great when I talk in my own voice to fake it. The only way it sounds good is if I talk posh (like a proper old man).

Question #3: Do you use cell phones in your mission?

We have a cell phone. We can't send texts but can receive them. We are supposed to use about 10 minutes a day on the phone with investigators. Without our mobile we would be much less effective with appointments.

It sounds like things are going well at home, the little ones are growing, you have a bowling team with an awesome name, and church was not too crazy for Matthew, haha, Matthew.

A lot happened this last week, but I thought I would tell you about last Saturday.

Saturday we had 5 or 6 appointments set up, not all were confirmed the night before but I thought that at least 2 would be solid. By the end of the day none of those appointments ended up happening, a drunk gave us a blessing, and a drunk snuck up behind me and yelled in my ear. Terrible, right? Wrong.

We worked from 10:30 am to 9:00 pm with a half hour lunch break. During that time we stopped 10 people who we taught lessons. Step-in lessons count as finding time so at the end of the day our accounted labor was 20 hours.

To put it in perspective, the mission goal is for each companionship to have 40 hours of accounted labor a week. People tell me they think that has to be a record for the mission. Not sure if that's true, but it was the best day of the mission for me and it will influence the rest of my life.

The day started with a great lesson to a girl from Nepal. So far she seems to be a golden investigator.

When you work hard you are blessed. All the appointments dropped and our legs were tired but we kept at it. At 6:00 pm my companion said, "If we get 3 more step-ins and keep finding, we will have 20 hours." To be honest with you, I didn't think there was a chance.

At 8:20 we were making our last stretch through the park back to the flat and we needed one more lesson. I didn't think it would come. Then I stopped a lady, had a chat getting to know her, and sat down to have a lesson. We taught Lesson 1, The Restoration.

After reading Joseph Smith's words about the First Vision, we asked her what she thought. She said, "Beautiful" and expounded on how amazing it is. Later I bore testimony of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

That was the strongest I've felt the spirit probably since I was 17 or so. She is leaving Cambridge on Thursday but we'll see her again and I am sure that in the future she will be baptized.

We couldn't have done what we did without the help of Heavenly Father. It's not just coincidence that we ran into people to teach. Heavenly Father put people in our way that were ready to hear the message of Jesus Christ. The times we are blessed the most are when it's hardest. At 6:00 part of me just wanted to slack off but we didn't and it was a blessing.

The bad thing about that day is that my standard has been raised by far. Now I can't go back. I will work all day all the time. The pure joy of knowing you truly did your best isn't something I have really ever felt before. I know that my potential can't be measured. I know what I'm capable of and the only way to accomplish it is by giving my agency to Heavenly Father.

Elder Larsen

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

9 Year-Old Karl Was Baptized. The 8 Year-Old in the Blue Shirt is the Real Missionary in the Story.

Karl Was Baptized

Dear Everyone,

What a great heading to an email - "Don't Drink Out of Puddles". Haha. I suppose you're right. I do carry around a water bottle, I just forgot to fill it up.

A less bulky bag would be completely fantastic. I also have thought about how nice it would be to have a small Preach My Gospel and a tiny quad. You'll be delighted to hear that my black suit from Mr. Mac is not very good. You see, the "trousers" (haha) have stretchy fabric that comes out on the back and looks weird and when fixed just comes back out later. Yes, both pairs. (Note from Mom: Aaaaaaaaaarrrgh!)

So, it sounds like good things are happening. John just waited for me to leave to get married, I see.

It's moves this week so p-day is today (Tuesday). My companion goes home so, in turn, I get a new companion. Elder Vitorio, from Brazil. You bet I'm going to learn some Portugese. He's been out less than a year and we'll have a swell time. I don't even know him yet. I'll meet him tomorrow, but I hear he's a great guy.

Karl, our nine year-old investigator, was baptized this week. It went great. His family seemed to enjoy themselves. Elder Sikahema went out swinging with a baptism each of his last two weeks. I look forward to being able to tell you more about Elder Vitorio.

It's funny how things change. Before, I could have cared less about learning a language and now I want to learn them all. It would be so nice to know Chinese and so many other languages so I could better relate with people. To think I was annoyed that Matt was taking languages over Woods. Certainly it will be a good skill.

Elder Sikahema has put a lot of great work into this area and if I do my part, we should have many more baptisms to come. As I focus on the ordinances, going by the spirit, and establishing good personal relationships with investigators it will happen.

Love Elder Larsen (that's an order!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

27 Total Lessons, Woohoo!

Dear Family,

Answers to your questions:

Question #1: What is a work over (which you mentioned 3 times in your last letter)?

Answer: A work over is when you trade companions with someone in your zone for a day. So far I've been on four. Two times I went to a place called Bury St. Edmunds with an elder from Switzerland, one time to Coldchester with 2 zone leaders, and once here with a zone leader. It's just a good way to learn from many different missionaries. Everyone is very good at different things so I learn a lot. The two times I went to Bury we did those work overs because we needed the District Leader to interview investigators for baptism. I like workovers but the two at Bury were kind of a let down because they were on Saturday and Saturday is the best day of the week by far.

Question #2: How big is your area and how many members and missionaries are in it?

Answer: I think the farthest away places are about 45 or 60 minutes away by car. To be honest, I'm not real sure of the exact boundaries of our area. We usually stick around the city center. The ward seems to be quite big. Honestly, yesterday there weren't a whole lot of empty spaces in the chapel. This month the Area Presidency has a challenge for every member to bring someone to church either once this month or every week. We have 4 missionaries in this area, us and sister missionaries that live about 3 blocks away from us.

Question #3: How do you get around each day?

Answer: We usually get weekly bus passes, but most of our finding and teaching is in the city center which has a big mall, parks, and the famous colleges (Kings Parade, lots of different very old colleges). It's about a 20 minute walk from our flat to the city center and we usually walk and stop people on our way there. We take the bus maybe a couple times on average each day.

Mom, today I may know somewhat how you feel. I woke up with a horrible headache, probably from drinking water from a puddle. . . I was thirsty and can't buy water on the Sabbath so I had to do it. England is kinda weird that way, no water fountains, very few public bathrooms. I just laid low for a while and now I feel pretty OK.

Oh Marty, if only I could be around to feed you ice cream when no one was looking. . . haha. So many things are going on, cousins getting serious, people playing night games and ultimate frisbee. What, were you just waiting to start the party when I left? Haha, I'm having a party over here too. Last week we taught 27 total lessons. Woohoo! Twelve of those were with a member present. A guy in the ward named William who is a family history guru and knows a lot of high class people was responsible for the majority of those lessons. Good times.

Out of nowhere we had a baptism this Sunday. Vincent, an investigator of ours is going on a trip this week so we moved up his baptism and it was great. I wish I could send you the picture. It was amazing. After he was baptized, there was a glow about him, after he was confirmed you could see the change that the spirit immediately made. This coming Sunday we a have a 9 year-old who we have taught that will be baptized. My companion is going out swinging. It's too bad we only have one more week together. (Elder Sikahema is more of a rugby guy than football. He isn't 100% sure if he will play that at BYU or not.)

Our investigator 15 year-old Eunice wants to be baptized so badly. When she heard there was a baptism Sunday morning she said, "I'm going to get baptized today!" She lit up. Sadly, no, her mother wants to know more about the church before giving permission but she never comes to church and was only at one of our teaching appointments.

Yesterday we taught a Chinese lady for the first time and it was great. In the middle of the lesson I started smiling ear to ear and thought, "This is why I'm here". There are a lot of reasons I'm here but my favorite is so I can teach those that are ready to receive the gospel. It is so strange to me that the country with almost no Christan influence produces the most humble people. When we try to stop people on the street 90% or so of the Chinese at least stop, 65% of Africans and Indians stop, and 10% of Caucasians stop. Very strange.

Something great that happened this last week was that my companion and I split up stopping people (same street just about 15 feet apart) and we both stopped people and taught lessons right there. We were sitting down on a small wall on a busy street teaching. Yes, I said the opening and closing prayer with people walking all around me. Weird, right? The guy I taught is a 17 year-old from Mexico. Hopefully we can go teach his mom, him and his sister this week. He seemed very interested.

I am starting to get more and more comfortable teaching people and getting to know them. When I find out something about a person that I can relate with, it makes the situation so much more comfortable. I had a swell time talking about Domino's with a guy from Taiwan. It was fantastic. (I've had Domino's a couple times now, 5.99 pounds for a carry out lunch time.) It's easiest to develop a real love for someone when you find something in common with them, so I'm trying to do that more now.

We ate at a member's house and they are from Spain, so we had paella. Good stuff. The wife served her mission in Barcelona so we had a good conversation. (Mom's note: Andy's brother, Joey, served his mission in Barcelona and our family went back there with him a year after his mission.) They were at BYU for 6 years and one of Brother San's professors was David Belnap.

I'll make sure to send some pictures next p-day. Have a great week. Dad, juice the 450 up the cliff. Mom, get feeling better. Joey and Michelle, keep stuffing Marty. Heidi and Steve, keep Nunners (Savannah) chubby. Lisa, keep playing around with the munchkins. Matt, keep up the night games, and Devin, I'll send you a letter.

Elder Larsen

Monday, June 6, 2011

Don't Say I Told You So

Dear Family,

Here are the answers to your three questions.

Question #1 What is your schedule on a typical day?

6:30- wake up, exercise
7:00- shower and what not, breakfast
8:00- personal study
9:00- companionship study
10:00- atonement study
10:30- leave flat
The following is our schedule for tomorrow (Tuesday)
1:00- Vincent (should be baptized either June 19th or 26th)
2:00- Hendrick (met him just last Friday, Muslim, we'll try to get him to church)
3:00- Stephen (companion must have found him while I was on work over)
4:30- Abrahim (interested in christianity, asked us about it in library last Friday)
5:30- Oniel (taught him once already)
7:00- Terry (less active member, came to church this last Sunday for first time in a long time)
9:00- go home, eat at the flat
9:30- plan
10:00- calls with ZL and DL, get ready to sleep

In between appointments we're finding all and have lunch.

Question #2 What do you do on Preparation Day?

Today we are going to different historical sites and things with a guy in the ward who is amazing when it comes to family history. You wouldn't believe the people he knows. Usually we do some shopping, get a good lunch somewhere, exercise, lots of different things really.

Question #3 What is your greatest challenge, physical, mental, and spiritual?

Physical - Walking around all day with my bag.
Mental - Trying to gain knowledge in many areas, scriptures, culture, etc.
Spiritual - Putting my testimony into words that will penetrate the people.

One of my favorite things about this week was that we ran into 4 people from Fiji that are here in the British army. Great humble people. One was less active and came to church this week, one was a couple that my companion taught while I was on work over (argh), the other we haven't taught yet. (Mom's note: We don't know what this "work over" is that he mentions a couple times. That might have to be one of our questions for next week.)

Things are going well. I keep realizing that I can change in so many ways for the better. Some things are harder than others but I'm constantly thinking of how I can be a better person. On my last work over my companion was so good with people. Everyone in the town liked him. I want to try to be a friend to everyone whether we teach them or not.

This past week I have been trying to memorize different scriptures, not always the whole verse but key points. Don't say I told you so, Dad. I wish I would have listened to all of the wise counsel I got before my mission. I would have been more prepared.

I think it must be raining in Provo more than it is here. It hasn't been too bad.

I love you guys,
Elder Larsen

Wow, good thing it saved. I clicked send and the computer shut off.