Sunday, February 22, 2015

Big News . . . TRANSFERS . . .

February 22, 2015

Dear Family,

Congratulations on all that you were able to accomplish this week!!  Seems like lots is going on for you.  It was cool to hear about the things for school!!  Hard to believe that I have been gone almost two full school years.  It hadn't really hit me until Dylan started talking about all of his classes, and saying that he was finishing up some end of year testing!  Time sure does fly by.

So this week was just packed full of Zone Conferences, and let me tell you, it was sooo busy!!  We had a meeting every day, Monday through Friday, from 9 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon.  That doesn't even count the preparation for it all!!  We were there on average at 7:30, so on the day we left for Azua we had to be out the door at 6:15, so I woke up at 4 in order to be able to work out and get everything prepared that we needed to do.  It took a real toll because I was the one who had to do all of the driving, which, I am not sure why, really takes a lot out of a person.  I was exhausted by the end of the week!

The topic of the Zone Conference was all about baptism.  We talked a lot about how to help someone commit to be baptized, as well as about covenants and the importance of keeping covenants. It was awesome to be able to learn about all of those, and to be able to teach.  It is always interesting to see how people respond to being taught.  I was able to see lots of different styles of how people accepted being taught in the conferences.  There were some people who were very engaged, taking notes and participating.  There were others who were listening, but passively.  Then there were others who were just not listening at all.  For me it had a big impact to see these different styles of accepting the teaching that was being given.  The ones who WANTED to get something out of the conference were the ones who learned.  It is not like we were teaching anything radical that no one knew...  In fact, I assume that the majority of the people knew exactly what we were talking about and understood it fairly well before hand.  It all just has to do with the willingness to learn and to seek out new things that we can apply to the mission and life.  Over all though, it was a really good conference. My main participation in the conferences were a little teaching practice and the acrostic that I made up about "Ser GENIOS".  My companion and I taught the doctrine in D&C 20, especially verse 37 when it talks about the requisites to be baptized.  We were able to teach that each and every part of that is important, and that we cannot overlook any part.  The people who get baptized are the people who are committed to living the principles that are found there.  My other teaching moment went really well, and I was very happy with how it went.  I know have taught it five different times in five different meetings, so I guess that I am pretty used to teaching that!  Any way, everything went well.

I guess that my big news is that I am getting released from being the Assistant to the President at the end of this transfer.  The president told me on Friday night, and I will begin the process of training my replacement, Elder Merrell, on Tuesday of this week.  That will be really good.  The president talked to me a lot about the leadership role that I have had in the mission, thanked me, and told me what he appreciated about me, which made me feel really good, and was something that I really needed.  He talked about putting me as a Zone Leader, to try to do the same things that we are doing as the assistants while also infecting a zone with my work ethic.  I guess we will see how it all goes. I have very mixed feelings, but I think that it is time to get back out there.

The most important things that I have learned here in the office are patience, organization, and time management.  They were things that I already knew fairly well before, but it was amazing how much more was required at this level.  I am very thankful for the opportunity to have been the assistant to the president these last 5 months, and I am very excited to find out where I will be going next.  At the same time, it is a little sad because I know that I will be heading to my final area in the mission, and there is still so much to do!!

I hope that you all have a great week!

Elder Garrett McEwan

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Exchanges, Star Fish, & Making A Difference . . .

February 15, 2015

Dear Family,

I am just going to jump right into the week.  It was full of work, and lots happened, so I guess I will just get right to the exciting stuff!!

So on Monday, we began our final planning for the Zone Conferences that are coming up this next week.  We are trying to make sure that it all turns out the way that we want it to, and are just trying to take advantage of all of the tools that we have for teaching.  The main theme is going to be on Covenants, and remembering the importance of all of our covenants and holding them to the sacred level of which they should be held.  We also decided that we were going to start another big project, for us to work with as many of the district leaders as possible, and to work with all of the Zone Leaders.  We started the preparations for that on Monday as well.

On Tuesday we went to the Zone Meeting of Las Caobas, and it was really good.  It is always interesting to see how different people act in certain situations.  We saw one missionary who we thought was very serious acting like a goofball, and another who we thought was a goofball brought out a very spiritual side of himself, so that was fun to see.  Then we had an exchange with Buenos Aires, Elder Weiss and his companion Elder Millward.  It was a lot of fun, and I got to work with Elder Weiss.  We were able to find a lot of new people, as we were contacting a TON, and were able to also visit a woman that they reactivated who is going to be going to the temple on Mom's birthday. 

On Wednesday the exchange was with Manoguyabo.  They were struggling a little bit in their area, and have literally no one to teach.  We spent the entire time contacting, and when the people had time, we went in and taught them on the spot!!  It was a cool experience.  I was with Elder Campbell, and I don't think that he had ever contacted a house and then immediately started teaching a lesson!  It was a lot of fun, and we ended up teaching a lot and having a ton of contacts as well.

Thursday's exchange was with Ivan Guzman, Elder Saavedra and Elder Hodges.  I went with Elder Hodges, and it was the same type of deal.  We were contacting almost the entire time, but found some interesting new people!!  We did start off the day with one planned lesson, and it was a little bit difficult!  They had been teaching a 23 year old and his 14 year old sister, and the Pastor had always been there with them, the Pastor from their church, so the Elders were having a hard time getting the opportunity to speak!  Luckily, the Pastor wasn't there and we were able to have a good conversation.  They were being taught the plan of salvation, and had lots of questions about things after this life, and that was tough because they wanted a scripture from the bible for every single one, and they just couldn't move on without the answer!!  We were able to answer all of their questions, with the majority of the answers coming from the New Testament and the life of Christ.  We also had to pull out some Old Testament to talk about the premortal life, but overall it was a good day.

Friday we went with the Zone Leaders of Las Caobas 2, and it was a lot of fun.  I was with Elder Jardón, who I used to live with here in the office.  it was a lot of fun!!  We got fired a lot, lots of people tried to make fun of us, and not many people even wanted to hear anything that we had to say, and it was still a great exchange.  The thing that I have realized is that the people in this world right now are like the people in the time of Christ.  Christ himself said that He spoke to people in parables so that only the prepared people would understand and want to continue to learn.  That is how it is with us.  God has sent us, and has provided the way for us that we can find the prepared people.  Sometimes it is not the perfect system that we use, but it does get the job done.  Process of elimination....  Always worked in school, and definitely works here in the mission too!!  We just eliminate houses by the simple act of offering the gospel to these people.  When we find the prepared people is the best feeling!

I think that the biggest thing that I learned this week is that I know, more than ever, that this work that we are doing is real, and that it is worth the time that is put into it.  I wouldn't rather be anywhere else.  It is not easy.  There is more stress than I ever could have imagined coming from many different places.  Satan tries to tell me that I have very little impact on any one.  He tries to make me feel inferior, and tells me that I will never really make a difference.  I just think of it as the story of the little boy throwing starfish in the ocean.  For every single soul that I help to teach and help change their life in some way, it is worth it.  I know that this is the true church and that God loves us and has a plan for us.  If we are willing to listen, He will guide us.

I love you all and I hope you have a great week!


Elder Garrett McEwan

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Being "Genios" . . .

February 7, 2015

Dear Family,

Wow, it sounds like you guys had a really good week!  Sounds like everything is going really well for you!  Cool to finally see some pictures of Sean, since he has been home for like a week!

Any way, this week has been really busy!  On Monday, we had a missionary get hospitalized again.  He a collapsed lung a little while back.  Well, he went in for a check up on Monday, and they told him that it had collapsed again!!  They put him back in the hospital, and then told him that he was going to need surgery.  So that was Monday, just kind of helping him, making sure he had the things that he needed, and also a lot of planning for the leadership counsel that we have every month!

On Tuesday we spent the whole day looking for things to finish up the planning.  We also had to go buy a ton of stuff for the house, the mission, and the consejo.  Then all of the zone leaders started getting in and we went to pick them all up.

Wednesday was the day of the consejo.  I was looking forward to just a really relaxed morning, because we were all completely ready.  Turns out that life had different plans.  All of the planning that was made on Monday with the doctors about for the Elder's surgery fell through.  He needed two units of blood from the blood bank just as a back up plan for his surgery, just in case.  I talked to the doctor, talked to the Red Cross, and got everything set up.  When the surgeon went to go start the surgery, he started asking questions that they didn't tell me anything about, so I missed the entire morning trying to get things figured out with the blood for the surgery, because obviously they couldn't start the surgery with out the reserve of blood.  Anyway, in the consejo, I was able to teach the main part of how to help people make and complete commitments. 

So in Alma 18 it talks about when Ammon is teaching King Lamoni.  In verse 23 it says that "ingeniously committed the king" to listen.  I took that word and challenged everyone to be "geniuses" ("genios" in spanish) in how they extend commitments.  Then I made an acronym with different letters to teach how to make and set commitments with people!!

G:  Ganar Confianza...  V. 21:  He gained the confidence of the king by supporting and serving him, and then the king was willing to do anything for Ammon.
E:  Escuchar...  V. 20:  He listened to the king's questions that he had as well as his doubts.
N:  Necesidades...  V. 14-16:  He found out by the spirit what the king's needs were to be able to find the solution.
I:  Invitar...  V. 22:  He invited without obligating the king to do something that made logical and spiritual sense that would better his life.
O:  Osado...  V. 24:  He spoke boldly to the king, without fear or confusion, stating exactly what he knew to be true.
S:  Seguimiento...  He gave follow up constantly on the way to completing the goal.  Anytime that it came up, he was thinking about it and asking how the goal was coming along.

So that went really well.  It was fun to see how all the people were taking notes, as well as having fun with my little presentation.

On Thursday I honestly don't even remember what we did.....

On Friday we had an exchange with the Zone leaders of Independencia, our own zone.  It was a lot of fun, and lots of things happened that were a first for me in the mission!!

Today, P-Day, Elder Peña went to stay with Elder Sigler in the hospital, so I just stayed in the office with Jensen and Whittier.  Then we made dinner for a sister in our ward who always makes us food, so we paid back the favor.

Well, I love you all, and I hope you have a great week!

Elder Garrett McEwan

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Set Goals & Celebrate Little Successes . . .

February 1, 2015

Dear Family,

This week was a great week.  We have been working super hard, and even though it doesn't seem like it to us sometimes, we are accomplishing a ton of things out here for the mission.  We have lots of big goals and things that we are trying to put in motion, and it is a little bit hard for me sometimes, because we aren't going to see the success immediately... However, it is always great to see the little successes that we have, that let us know that we are progressing.  One of the best success stories that we had this week was that we had transfers, and that is always a very hectic time for all of us here in the office, especially for us as the assistants.  Everyone seems to need something, and because there are only two of us (and most of the time we are always together) it makes it a little bit hard to be able to get everything done.  In the past, transfers has just been this huge, draining endeavour.  This time it was very different.  Everything just seemed to go more or less according to plan, and everything was planned out to the letter of what we needed to do.  For me that was a great accomplishment, because part of my specific role as one of the assistants is to make sure everything for transfers is planned out.  It was amazing, because everything was finished and accounted for by 3:00 pm.  Hopefully that will make it easier for the assistants in the future to be able to use all of the planning formats and things that we have come up with to continue to have smooth transfers.

So on Monday, in the devotional that we always have, it was Elder Van Katwyk's last time.  He is one of the Office Elder Secretary type people, and was getting transferred after being there for six months.  He was in charge of the baptism records.  We got to hear his testimony and it was really good.  He was getting transferred to Bani to be a district leader out there, so hopefully that all is going well for him now.

On Tuesday we had the actual transfer of everyone, and for the most part things went really well.  We had one person who got mixed up on the times, and she got there late and missed the bus that goes out to the South, but we just immediately called to her area, set up an exchange with the companion that was going to wait for her, and then set up the way for her to get out there as well with one of the trainers and her companion.  All of that went really well.  We also got to meet all of the new missionaries who just came in.  There were only 9, and 7 of them were sisters.  It was a really good group.  They all seem really excited to work, and the three latina sisters seem really prepared as well.  One of them, a sister from Costa Rica, even knows english perfectly, so that was really cool.  Anyway, we had our meeting with them and it all went great.  Then, when all of that was done, we just went and bought the pizza for the people who were finishing and then just sat at the house waiting for the president to come back from the temple with the people who finished....  We just kept waiting and waiting and waiting, with no word from anyone.  Turns out that they missed their session at 5, and had to wait until the 7:00 pm session.  Then we ate with them, and received a little bit of bad news...  The flights to New York had been cancelled due to inclement weather.  We made the plan for all of that, then went to bed.

On Wednesday, we basically just spent the whole day running back and forth to the airport with people, and it just consumed the entire day with all of the traffic.  It is always interesting to see how airports work!!  For example, with a sister who was going home to Argentina, she had a layover in Colombia.  They told her that she had to go through the immigration process in Colombia because her layover was a certain number of hours, and it didn't matter that she wasn't immigrating to Colombia, she still had to do it!  We called to the Travel Agent, and he was able to do all of that stuff on line, so she was totally fine.  When we finally got home, we just crashed!

Thursday I also completed a small goal of mine...  I have now officially visited every zone in the mission.  San Juan was the only one that I had never been to, and we finally were able to make it out there.  We were closing an area that was really far away and not having much success, and moving the missionaries in the area to a different area that needed to have 4 instead of 2.  We got out there pretty early, at about 10:00 am.  It was a three hour drive, and we were hauling.  It is about the distance from Salem to St. George, so we really made some good time.  We finally got out there, stopped at the Zone Leaders house to drop some stuff off, said hi to them, and then keep going.  Something that really surprised me about San Juan is that it was legitimately cold...  What?  Yeah, it was a little bit chilly up there!!  Any way, we got to the area that we were closing, and started loading stuff into the trucks.  We just had the two pick up trucks of us and the Office Elders, and we just went to work.  We were loading in tons of stuff, and we realized (as the good dominicans that we now are) that we could fit every single thing into the back of those two pick up trucks from this house.  There were a bunch of desks, beds, mattresses, tables, boxes, dressers, and suitcases, but we managed to make it all fit.  We took everything apart that could be taken apart and made it fit.  We got them all moved and started back to the capital.  It was a long day, especially because I had to drive over 600 kilometers and help move, all in the space of about 8 hours.  Needless to say we were drained.

On Friday, we started another small goal that we have, which is to do exchanges with all of the Zone Leaders to help them to become even better leaders.  We started with the Zona Central, which is probably the most difficult zone because it is right in the heart of the capital.  Every appointment that we had fell through, so we spent the whole day contacting and teaching when we could, and still ending up teaching 3 lessons on my end with Elder Merrel, and Elder Peña taught 4 with Elder Mendez.  It was really interesting, and we found some people who are legitimately interested.  It was also really weird because I came across the first person that I have ever met that is Atheist....  It was weird because he told us he was atheist and all of that, and I asked what he was abstaining from being atheist.  He turned on me, asked me if I was stupid, and told me that being atheist means that he does not believe in God.  Obviously I knew that, but then I told him that he was acknowledging the existence of God by denying to believe in Him.  I told him that he was just abstaining from believing in God, but not denying that He existed.  It was very interesting because he just got this really weird look on his face and said that he had never though about that before.  We left a card with the number on it to call if he would like another visit.  We found a woman who didn't want to accept any commitments because her husband wasn't going to change, and so I basically quoted to her almost an entire movie from the life of Brigham Young, who is one of my favorite prophets...  A little weird, but we just went with it!!  Overall it was a really good day!

Saturday was pretty normal, just trying to get everything ready that will happen in the course of this next transfer.  We have Zone Conference, Zone Leader Conference, our training meeting, and all of that!!  We also have an upcoming visit to our mission from Jeffrey R. Holland on the 12th of March, so that will be amazing!!  Very excited for that.  So we spent the day planning everything, then we went to the store, bought what we needed, and came home and slept.  Overall it was a great week!!

The most important thing that I learned this week was with the little success stories that we have.  It is often hard to think that we are progressing because there are not a ton of visible results, but we should celebrate the little things in life.  We should realize that even the little victories lead up to something greater!!  It is always amazing to me how all of that is prophesied in the Book of Mormon, and that we can just learn more and more about as we study from different points of view.  When Captain Moroni was trying to take back the lands that had been stolen from the Nephites, it doesn't say that they went in and did it all in one day, in one week, or even in a year.  It says that through the course of several years, they began to march, overtaking one city at a time until they reached their final goal of having all of their lands back.  It was amazing to me that over all of that time, and all of those different battles, that they named ALL of the cities that they overtook.  They celebrated their small moments, their small accomplishments, and they were able to finally reach the end goal. I encourage you to put goals, and then put smaller goals to reach the larger ones.  Celebrate the completion of a goal every day.  Look for ways to become better, and I promise that the Lord will bless you.

Well, I hope you all are doing well.  Love you lots.


Elder Garrett McEwan