Archive for October, 2010

Trio Again

October 28, 2010
This week’s e-mail will start again with some leftover business from last week.  First, my dad asked what kind of bike crash I had, and I realized that in my hurry I gave no details.  So that none of you worry, there was no car involved.  We were in a rush to get to an appointment, my phone rang, I hit the brakes to answer it… the brake I hit was the front brake and I went spectacularly over the handlebars.  Elder M. was looking backwards to see if I was keeping up when it happened, and he says it was pretty impressive.  I managed to protect my head and face, the only injuries were some road rash on my right hand and left arm, bruised knees, and mildly injured dignity 😉
My dignity soon recovered and as we were still evaluating the rest of the damage a member of our congregation drove by to drop of her grandson at a friends house… the house next to the one we were standing in front of.  She saw us and came over, and had a first aid kit in her car, so I was bandaged up within minutes of the accident.
Second, I forgot to mention that last week my companion was in training meetings from 8-5 every day and so I went out with our roommates from the Spanish ward.  I haven’t gotten any better at speaking Spanish but my listening has been improving a little and I can read pretty well.  I should probably devote more time to studying it.  I bet reading the scriptures in Spanish would make me pay even better attention.
Speaking of scriptures, my friend Jared, who’s serving a mission in Germany, sent out a letter last week reminding me of Alma 5:6-9, which reads:

“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long-suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?

Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

And now I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not. And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved.”
Alma is here speaking of the literal captivity of the fathers of his audience (and his own father), a captivity which he frequently compares to the captivity of Israel in Egypt.   But then he shifts suddenly (and to my mind, beautifully) to the spiritual captivity of their fathers, and the process by which they were delivered from the bondage of their souls to sin.
This reminds me of the Passover Hagaddah, which tells us that we should not start our re-telling of God’s deliverance with the physical captivity in Egypt, but with the spiritual captivity before Abraham.  The bondage of the soul is infinitely worse than the captivity of the body.
I also heard a talk this week in which Alma 5 was referred to as one of the best chewings-out in the Scriptures, which it certainly is because Alma spends the rest of his sermon asking his audience more questions to see whether they’ve prepared to meet God… Alma is pretty concerned about this subject given his own personal background (covered in Alma 36.)
So to cut what is increasingly becoming a long story short, Alma 5 http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/5 is this week’s scripture passage.  And this week’s hymn is “Lead Kindly Light” http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollection=1&searchseqstart=97&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=97&searchsubseqend=ZZZ
This has probably been the most difficult week of my mission so far.  Last Sunday, we received a third companion, Elder K.  Since I’d been in trio for the first two weeks of my mission, I knew that it could work out pretty well but that there’s a little more stress involved than in a regular companionship.  And this has been a pretty stressful week.  We also dropped the ball a couple of times, not calling people we’d promised to call, forgetting to find a ride for someone who needed one to come to Church, and I think the hardest part of being a missionary may be those times I come against the hard truth that I’m not doing my job as well as I should be.
But we survived the week and learned a lot from our mistakes, and I think we’re prepared to do a whole lot better in the week to come.
My new companion, Elder K., is from Idaho.  He lives on a ranch, braids his own whips, and loves the outdoors.  He’s not too happy to be in a city like Ontario, especially since he spent the first eight months of his mission in the high desert near here, which is pretty desolate country.  I actually met him during my two weeks in Fontana.
I’m out of time for this week, but I’m sure I’ll have more (and better) news for you next week.
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Double Dose

October 18, 2010

mom’s note:  We searched the Indian Embassy’s website and were able to find out that Matt’s visa to India has been approved.  Now we just have to figure out how to get it!!!  Prayers on this topic welcome!  Vilo

Last week, I wasn’t able to write because of Columbus Day, so this e-mail will cover two weeks for the price of one.
The Scripture passage for last week was Isaiah 54, which I read by the light of my companion’s bicycle lamp one night.  We were stopped by the side of the road so he could use the phone, and I pulled it out.  It’s a pretty powerful chapter about the love of God and the final gathering of the house of Israel.  Here’s my favorite promise from the chapter: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.”  Wow.  I had a hymn for last week, but I didn’t bring by planner with me to e-mail and I can’t remember it, so I’ll have to let you know next week 😛
The week included my first bike crash (tuesday) and my first day of tracting in the rain (wednesday.)  I didn’t bring a coat, so I’m very fortunate that Elder V. had an extra one.  He’s given it to me to use until I leave for India.
Which reminds me: Elder V. and Elder P. our my roommates.  They’re Spanish speaking elders, so they cover the same area that we do except for the Spanish ward.  Elder P. loves anime and the Old Testament (he knows it way better than I do) and Elder V. is fast and funny and possibly even less patient than me 🙂
Thursday was a really powerful day, because several members and one of our investigators called us over to give priesthood blessings, and then gave us a referral for a new member in our ward who had moved in at the start of the week and didn’t know anyone yet, but his wife was going into surgery Friday morning and he wanted someone to help him with the blessing, and was wondering how he was going to find someone since he’d just moved in, and then he saw missionaries Wednesday night and pulled them over… and so we came to his house Thursday night and met him and his wife and his two sons.  They’re a really, really cool family.
We spent a lot of the week focusing on the R family (the Filipino kids I mentioned last week) because we needed to make sure they were ready to get baptized.  Their baptism was moved back a week because the member who they wanted to baptize them (President T., who met their grandmother when he was a missionary in the Philippines, went back there as a mission president, and is now Branch President for the Young Adult Branch in our stake) found out that he was going to be out of town on family business.  We had lessons Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then they invited us for dinner Saturday.  There are three generations of the family in the house, and with the Tagalog language TV in the background and all the aunts and uncles on the couch with the grandfather and great aunt in the middle and kids buzzing around, it reminded me a lot of family reunions with my Punjabi cousins.
This week’s scripture passage is from Isaiah again: It’s Isaiah 58, which talks about what fasting is for:
“6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the bpoor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from cthine own flesh?

8 ¶ Then shall thy alight break forth as the morning, and thine bhealth shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy crereward.

9 Then shalt thou acall, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the bputting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the ahungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light brise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

11 And the Lord shall aguide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in bdrought, and cmake fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a dspring of water, whose waters fail not.”
The week’s hymn is “When I am Baptized” from the Children’s Songbook:
“I like to look for rainbows whenever there is rain
And ponder on the beauty of an earth made clean again.
I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.
I want to be the best I can and live with God again.

I know when I am baptized my wrongs are washed away,
And I can be forgiven and improve myself each day.                                                            I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.
I want to be the best I can and live with God again.”

It’s probably my favorite song about baptism, which was the center of our week as we went through baptismal preparations with the R kids. The oldest (age 17) likes singing and had never heard this song, so I taught it to her after Tuesday’s lesson and then we sang it at the baptism.

This was my first baptism as a missionary.  It’s a little different when you’re the one making the program, finding the white jumpsuits, and arriving early to fill the font and set up chairs.  And it’s definitely different when you’ve spent weeks teaching the Gospel to the people who are getting baptized, when you know this is something they want more than anything.

These four siblings are pretty much the coolest kids you could meet.  I’d write about them for hours, but I only have three minutes, so that will have to wait for next week.

Love you all!

Read your Bible (If you don’t have one, get one)!

Elder Mattathias Westwood

Address Change

October 4, 2010

As you all know, my brother is on his mission. I am the little sister setting updates on his address. So far I’ve tragically failed at my job, but don’t worry, I’m on it now. Please send lots and lots of letters to my brother at this address:

Elder Mattathias Westwood

8280 Utica Ave, Ste 150

Rancho Cucamonga, CA  91730

Trust me, spiritual letters of encouragement, interest, or just to let him know that you’re thinking of him, will make his life happier. Which is good. Happy people are good.

Just in case you were wondering, Matt is currently in California until his visa for India arrives.

Have a nice day 🙂 Write some letters. If you write 1 sentence every day for a week then you have 7 sentences done!

I like to ride my bicycle

October 4, 2010
This week’s hymn is “I am a Child of God”, Hymn 301 in the LDS Hymnbook, http://lds.org/churchmusic/detailmusicPlayer/index.html?searchlanguage=1&searchcollection=1&searchseqstart=301&searchsubseqstart=%20&searchseqend=301&searchsubseqend=ZZZ because when we sang it as the congregational hymn in Conference, the two-year old in front of me was singing it with her father.  The scripture passage for the week is the Book of Jonah, which teaches us that God loves his children a whole lot more than his servants do, and that God’s sense of justice is infinitely more merciful than ours. I love Jonah.  http://scriptures.lds.org/en/jonah/contents
This has been a good week.  I’m now in Ontario, California with Elder M, who will be my real trainer.  In missionary slang, your trainer is called your father, so the missionaries who I was with for two weeks joked that they were just my foster parents.  He’s from Wisconsin, joined the Church when he was 11, likes to fix or clean everything he touches, and loves missionary work.
We’re on bike, which I love, because it makes me feel infinitely more accomplished by the end of the day, whatever else happens.  Sitting in the back of a car just isn’t very fulfilling.
This whole week centered around General Conference.  We invited most of the people we talked to to watch it, and we’ll visit a lot of them again this week to see what they thought of it.  It’s fun to be able to tell people that they can test our claim to a living prophet out by listening to him talk.  When?  This weekend!
For those of you who haven’t heard of General Conference before, it’s a biannual event where Latter-day Saints get together all around the world to hear messages of counsel from prophets and apostles.  What did they tell us this time?  Be grateful for blessings in your life, strengthen your relationships with family, slow down and focus on the essentials.  Even though Conference is past, you can watch or listen to the talks at lds.org if you’re curious.  I especially recommend Elder Uceda’s talk from the priesthood session and any talk from President Uchtdorf, or President Monson.
This year I decided to try a new way of taking notes.  I just wrote down all the scriptural references that I recognized when they were used.  There were many that I had to spend a while looking for, but it’s always interesting to hear how certain scriptures are repeated.
Elder M and I have also spent several days  teaching a Filipino family who are getting baptized in a week.  They speak a little English but are much more comfortable in Tagalog, but we happen to have a returned mission president who speaks Tagalog in our stake.  It’s been powerful to see how our teaching can cross language barriers, even before he translates.
I love this Gospel.  It’s changed my life.  I love being able to share it every day.  I’m trying to live it even better, and I’m thankful for the ways in which General Conference has shown me ways to improve.  This next week, I’m going to try to focus on slowing down and making sure I’m really grounded.
God bless you all,
Elder Westwood