Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A few pictures!

Oi familia!

My Companion showed me how to send pictures! So I thought I'd send you a few.

My district + our teachers
Back from left to right: Me, Elder Pimentel, Irma~o Porter, Elder Hartman, Elder Lash, Elder Stratton
Front from left to right: Irma~ Dangerfield, Sister Walker, Sister Sherman, Sister McBride, Sister Tenney, Sister Brown

Elder Pimentel and I

Evans St. in Anthony, Kansas

The Landscaper of Oz

Oi familia!  

Well, the biggest thing to report is that we had a HUGE storm here last Monday at about six and another storm hitTuesday night at 9:30.  The storm monday was reported to have pouring rain and wind speeds of between 90 and 100 mph.  I was shocked but apparently these things are fairly common in Kansas.  Tree limbs were knocked down, some trees were even uprooted, there was damage to houses and all sorts of stuff.  On Tuesday, we had lightning flashes about every half second, pouring rain, and golf ball-sized hail.  Basically, anything that didn't get taken out by the first storm was taken out by the second one. Argonia got hit the worst, and of the houses in Argonia, the one where I live got massacred. So, my companion and I got lots of service hours in this week! It was just like landscaping all over again. We'd pick up branches (or halves of trees) and carry them out of the yard to our dump pile, or we'd carry huge things of firewood to one of Bro. Brundage's piles, or we'd cut up trees so we could carry them, the list goes on.  There was a ton of stuff.  On Saturday, Bro. Brundage told us that he took 8 truckloads of those branches to the dump.  This wasn't a small truck either.  It was a bed about 5 feet high, 6 feet across, and ~14 feet long.  My companion and I helped dump a load and when we did, I just climbed out of the cab and hopped in the bed.  When I jumped in I thought, "This is going to take forever to unload by hand."  Then right before I could pick anything up, the bed started moving.  Turns out it was a dump bed and the next thing I knew I was 15 feet in the air, clinging onto the side for dear life. Then Bro. Brundage dumped the pile, I slid out of the bed and we went on our merry way. Those dump trailers are slick though.  Really nice way to clear the material quickly. But the thing I really learned about that is how the Lord protects his anointed.  The storm on Monday hit Argonia just about an hour after my companion and I left to head to Wellington, and the storm on Tuesday hit right at 9:30, the last possible minute my companion and I could have returned home.  Wow.  Power in obedience.  

The work is progressing.  Wes (our person set on a baptismal date) is doing really well.  He's really absorbing the gospel when we teach and he enjoys reading the Book of Mormon with us. He's down in Oklahoma right now working a construction job, but little by little, I know that he will come to know of the truthfulness of the work.  We have another man, Richard Strickland, who we tried to get on baptismal date.  He said he wouldn't commit to an actual date, but that he would strive to find out if this message was true.  Beyond that, we've seen more and more less actives begin coming back to church.  One man, Bro. Slaughter, was really struggling for a long time but my very first week we went over and invited him back.  He said he would and he's been back two weeks now (didn't make it this Sunday, but he was taking care of his wife who was sick).  There's another lady, Sister Shaw (I think I mentioned her before) who was also struggling, but we went and visited her as well and she seemed really excited to come back.  We've seen her at church the two weeks since! We've met with a lot of people who have expressed a desire to return to church, but many of them are scared to come back or have other conflicts on Sunday.  With everything we can we're continuing to testify to these people that attendance at church is truly the best solution to their problems.  Coupled with prayer and reading the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, all things are truly possible.  My companion likes to call it the CPR for our soul.  Church, Prayer, Reading, will keep us alive spiritually even when everything in the world says we won't. 

We also had an interesting conversation with a man named Arsine.  He was out trimming his lawn on Saturdayand we went over to talk to him.  He seemed interested in our message, but honestly he just wanted to try and show us how wrong we were.  At the end of our conversation he said "Now I want you to go home and think long and hard about what you're doing and make sure it's really what is right and what God wants you to do."  Though he didn't sway my testimony, I certainly have thought about what he said.  When I left to serve a mission, I had a decent conviction that the Book of Mormon was true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the fullness of the gospel has been restored to the earth by our Father in Heaven.  While I definitely knew it then, I know it even more so now.  Before, I could tell you with all the conviction of my heart and soul that this work is real, that Jesus is the Christ, and that I've been called by a prophet of God to share this message.  But now, my testimony is so much more.  Now, I feel as if the gospel is ingrained in every fiber of my being. I KNOW the fullness of the Gospel has been restored to the earth again.  I KNOW that the Book of Mormon is true.  I KNOW that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that Thomas S. Monson is the true and living prophet today.  I KNOW these things. I really can't quite express how strong this conviction is inside of me, but I just KNOW it.  This is God's work.  I am His servant.  I bear testimony of the truth each and every day. I KNOW, that our message is true.

Hope everyone has a good week. The joy of Oz will continue!

Amo voce^s!

Elder Trent Evans

Monday, July 22, 2013

Adventures in Oz

Oi familia!

Well, I didn't see the wizard, but I definitely had some o'timo (awesome) experiences this past week with seeing the hand of the Lord.  The first was with a lady in the ward named Sister Shaw.  She's a less active who has a problem with smoking and we were going over to visit and try and help her out.  We went over and she told us about all sorts of crazy things that have been going on in her life but how she's been really trying to rely on the Lord and have faith in Him.  We started talking about her smoking problem and she said she was really trying to quit but sometimes she would just get super stressed and a smoke would really relieve her.  We told her that anytime she has the urge to smoke she should pick up the Book of Mormon and read a verse or two to feel better.  She said that was great but she has a bunch of cataracts so it's very difficult for her to read.  I felt prompted to turn to Alma 34 in the Book of Mormon.  I had no idea why but I figured that it was pressing heavily upon my mind so I would.  I opened up and turned the page and there was a teaching from Amulek in verses 17 - 27 that repeatedly said "cry unto the Lord" and I testified to her that if she cried unto the Lord every time she had the desire to smoke that she would be able to kick the habit faster than she could imagine.  It was powerful and when we went back later that week she said that our message had really affected her and she really felt a desire to return to church and she'd been smoking less and less every day! (To make matters better, we saw her at church yesterday!) I've never felt guided to a scripture like that and I was amazing to see the hand of the Lord in our teaching efforts.
We've had a number of opportunities to just contact people on the streets this week.  I've really learned that one awesome things about being a missionary is the chance I have to testify to people every single day about the Book of Mormon and the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel.  We see so many people who will read the pamphlets and part of the Book of Mormon and don't really give either of them a chance.  I've learned from my own experience (and millions of others have as well) that if you have an honest desire to know if this book is true, that you WILL receive an answer.  It is true! It has changed my life and I know it will change the lives of everyone who reads it.  What a blessing that is!
On Friday we had an awesome opportunity to teach a young man named Wes who is 20 years old.  He went to a church in Wellington that a lot of young people are attending.  We had met with him briefly before during the week and explained a little about Christ's Earthly Ministry and Atonement, briefly about Gospel Dispensations, and challenged him to baptism when he knows this church is true.  He accepted and is on date for the 17th of August.  On Friday we really dove in and presented the whole first lesson. He seemed interested and it all clicked in his head.  When we were explaining the cycle of gospel dispensations and apostasy he really connected with it and said that it made sense.  When we started talking about the Restoration the Spirit in the room intensified.  As I was explaining the story of Joseph Smith the Spirit was so strong and then I shared the first vision.  I looked Wes straight in the eye and said it "I saw a pilar of light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.  When the light rested upon me, I saw two Presonages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of the spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other, 'This is my Beloved Son, hear Him.'" Wow.  The Spirit flooded the room.  At that moment, I knew, undeniably, that the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth, and what a blessing that was.  The Book of Mormon is the word of God, and I am helping to share the greatest message the world has known since the time of Christ himself.  Wow.  What a privilege.  We invited Wes to come to church and he said he would.  Sure enough, he made it! Some of the members of the ward really took to him and began fellowshipping him.  This kid has a really bright future in the Gospel and I thin he's really going to love it.
On another happy note, we had a second investigator come to church this Sunday.  His name is Richard Strickland.  He's married to a member of our ward and he's been raised Presbyterian most of his life.  We invited him to come to church and he said he would like to.  He and his wife came yesterday and during our potluck yesterday he said that he loved it.  He loved how we listened to sermons and then we were able to split off and really dive into the word. Both Sunday School and Elders Quorum were about faith and we had some really good teaching going on.  He loved church and I think the Spirit will be able to teach him a lot as well.  
That's about all I can think of this week. I hope everything is good at the homestead and I'll continue to pray for all of you.

Paz, amor, e felicidade! Amo voce^s!

Elder Trent Evans

P.S.  When I put random characters after letters (voce^s for example) the accent is supposed to come on the preceding letter.  Hope that makes sense.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

If you made a pancake the size of Kansas, Kansas would be flatter

Oi familia!

Primero, talking with all of you was aweome.  Sorry I woke up the family back in SLC at a less than pleasant hour but I figured you would want to talk and that was the only time that I knew I had.  It was good to talk to you and I'm glad you're doing well. It was good to talk to Michelle and the kids as well (Sorry Tyler, when I fly to Brazil I'll hit you up as well).  There was a phone in the Denver airport that let us make calls for free to anywhere in the US so my companion and I called our brothers' families. I'm glad I got to talk to each one of you.  Coleman seemed very excited about me eating a lot of fruit in Brazil and he told me "once you're done in Brazil you should come visit my house in Georgia".  I guess I have plans once I get home then.  

Anyway, I feel like so much has happened since last time I wrote so I'll give you a brief play by play of stuff that happened since Friday.

Saturday was much of the same.  It was the last class day for four of those in our district.  Our teachers shared with us some awesome experiences from their missions, pictures from their missions, and general advice.  One of my teachers was temporarily reassigned to Alabama for three months before she received her visa, so she gave us advice on how to keep up on Portuguese and some general stuff of stateside missions.  Altogether, though I'm sad I'm not in Brazil, I've certainlly grown to appreciate this time that I have here in Kansas more than I may have otherwise.  Essentially, nothing on Saturday was overly eventful.  We got lots of pictures, though I still don't know how to upload them places.  I'll work on that.  

Sunday was a fairly emotional day.  It was the last time our whole district will see each other for a long time.  It was also fast Sunday so we had an extra abundance of the Spirit.  We had mission conference at the MTC (like a mini general conference) and that was pretty good.  We had our exit interviews with President Hodges (our branch president) and then headed to Fast and Testimony meeting.  I felt compelled to share part of my experience with Grandma's passing and the scripture from D&C 42:44-46.  Essentially, my words were about how a lot of beauty can be found in times of tragedy.  Altogether it was a good meeting. In our branch the departing district sings the closing hymn as a musical number.  We sang our own arrangement of "How Great Thou Art" and wow, that was amazing.  Our idea in choosing that song was that we wanted to share our testimonies in song, and it was fantastic.  The Spirit flooded the room and filled me up to the point that it testified to everyone that what we were saying was true.  It was an amazing experience.  After devotional that night (we had a man and his wife give some talks.  They were both hilarious and talked about effective missionary work) our district skipped the films and had a final testimony meeting with each other.  The Spirit was again very very strong with us that night.  It was amazing to hear from each person about their "last words" they would say to the district.  I lot of very tender testimony was shared and we learned so much that night.  We truly loved each other and learned so much.  I know we will all serve honorably and that we will change lives.

Monday was sad because our district began to shrink.  We lost our first four missionaries:
Elder Trenton Stratton - Colorado Fort Collins
Sister Megan Brown & Ashley McBride - Colorado Denver North
Elder Giovanni Hartman - Salt Lake City East (look for him.  He's been permanently reassigned for medical reasons so he'll be there the full term)
The morning was spent with our teacher Irmao (portuguese for brother) Porter.  He mostly told us stories about his mission and really cool things.  We helped another class teach the first lesson and had a great last time with him.  I was super sad to see him go, but I know we were very blessed by the Lord to have him as our teacher.  He taught me so much and I know that he truly loved us as a class.  I just hope I can change other people's lives as much as he changed mine.  That afternoon the remaining Elders did our packing.  I managed to hit under the weight limit (even with all my Portuguese books) so I was thrilled about that.  At dinner we said our final goodbyes to the sisters and said we would see them again (which most of us did) and headed to class.  We had our final class with Irma (portuguese for sister) Dangerfield.  We began reading in Alma 26 and shared some thoughts about how this gospel is important to us, what we hope to gain from our missions, and what we hope to give while on our missions and that was a very powerful experience.  We helped another class learn how to ask inspired questions and then we ended with Irma Dangerfield showing us pictures from her mission and telling us stories. That goodbye was also painful for us because we loved her so much as well, but she said we're all going to have a reunion party when we get back so we'll look forward to that day.  We also lost three more sisters that evening:
Sister Janae Tenney, Kailey Sherman, Alexis Walker - Kansas Wichita

Tuesday was wonderful.  I got three hours of sleep (huzzah for waking up at 1:45) and had the wonderful issue in the airport.  The last of us left the MTC and we're all in our respective fields of labor now.
Elder Alexander Lash & Trent Evans - Kansas Wichita
Elder Jerry Pimentel - Idaho Twin Falls
Anyway, we all made it to Kansas (there were 23 of us reporting to Kansas, 23!) and I was the 6th missionary to ever arrive in the Kansas Wichita Mission.  On the plane I sat by another missionary on the way to Denver and a lady whose husband was a stake president on the way to Kansas.  The lady was from Kansas and she told me about Kansas, what a wonderful place it was and other general stories about her life.  Then we disembarked from the plane and met President and Sister Bell.  Sure enough, the sister trio that left the night before was waiting at baggage claim so we talked to them a little.  Then we went, took pictures, and reported to the mission home.  We had some meetings and the office missionaries told us about the details of things and we had our interviews with President Bell.  He told me I get language study time (YAY!) and generally that he's just excited to have us all here to serve no matter how long we're here for.  He also said that once we receive word that the church has our visa, the mission is given three days to hold on to us before shipping us out.  Wow. The Church doesn't waste any time.  Afterwards, we had an amazing dinner then the sisters stayed at the mission home that night and the Elders were shipped off to various places around Wichita for the night.  

Wednesday we went to the church at 7:30 to receive our areas, companions, and part ways.  I've been assigned to the Wellington Ward and my trainer's name is Elder Sutherland.  He's a pretty neat guy from San Diego and we get along pretty well.  Our ward is huge and is mostly comprised of a bunch of small towns.  One way or another we're going around, doing work, spreading the gospel, and inviting others to come to Christ.

Kansas, in a word, flat.  It's really confusing to look around and not see mountains anywhere.  They have a lot of trees and a plethora of farms.  We do a lot of work with Less Actives (our ward is huge.  It takes an hour to drive end to end) and visting them, sharing the gospel, inviting them to share the gospel, and return to church.  It's been fun.  We also have a lot of Potential Investigators, though not any that are super committed. Most are interested in our message, but not enought to do anything about it.  It just kills me to see these people who have these struggles in their lives which can all be solved through the gospel of Jesus Christ! I just hope that I can show people how the gospel of Jesus Christ has completely changed my life and helped me in every aspect.  I know that this gospel can help everyone if they accept it! We've had a lot of opportunities to testify of the Book of Mormon to a lot of people and I know how much it can help and change their lives if they are willing to read, pray, and learn for themselves that this is true.  Anyway, I know I'm on the Lord's errand, and no matter how long he wants me here for, I want to do everything I can to help these people.  

O evangelho e' verdadiero! Ate' mais!

Amo voces!
Elder Evans

Friday, July 5, 2013

It's been six weeks?

Oi familia!

To begin, because yesterday was the 4th I didn't recieve my reassignment.  We're banking on recieving them tonight though.  I would love to recieve my visa, but if I don't I know it'll be the will of the Lord and there is someone in the states I need to go help.  One of the training employees who works here served in Fortaleza so he came in and told us all sorts of cool stuff.  Apparently missionaries sleep in hammocks, there's little markets where you can bargin shop for stuff, and apparently they have tons and tons of fruit! Like, a ton! Fruits we've never even seen or heard of! To top it all off, it's super super cheap and because it's always summer, it's in season all year long.  I'm so pumped for Brazil right now! He told us all sorts of things, most of which I can't remember, but then he said "The real reason why Fortaleza is going to be amazing for you and going to change your life aren't all these things that everyone is generally curious about" then we read Mosiah 18:30 about the waters of mormon, the forest of mormon, etc. but the verse ends with the phrase (paraphrased) "and how beautiful they are to them that there came to a knowledge of their Redeemer".  He then promised us that that's where we would recieve our knowledge and that we'll be able to help so many other people do that too! What a blessing! 

I can't belive it's been six weeks here in the CTM! At the same time, I can believe it's been six weeks, but it's been a very fast six weeks.  Altogether I've learned a ton and been super humbled by the whole experience.  Learning Portuguese has been such a cool experience.  I don't speak it super well (granted, I can speak it as far as "CTM Portuguese" goes, but I already know that when I get into the field I'm going to be struggling a little.  Or a lot.  One way or another, I'm super pumped to head out, but super nervous at the same time.  Yesterday was "In-Field Orientation" which basically meant we moved from room to room in the main building between 800 & 1730.  LSS, it was like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.  There was so much information and so much to remember and so much I don't feel I'm adequate to do.  In fact, I know I can't do it.  Last night to celebrate the 4th of July we watched 17 miracles and that was also humbling to realize how much I don't know, and how utterly helpless I am.  I litterally can't do anything as a missionary, at least, by myself.  I was reminded of a scripture that I love in 2 Corinthians 12:10 - "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I amweak, then am I strong." I can't do this.  But Our Father in Heaven can, and so can Jesus Christ, and as long as I remember that this is their work and that everything I do and can do is because of them, I can accomplish anything the Lord wants me to do.

Devotionals this week have been good.  We haven't had an apostle yet, but I have faith for this Sunday.  This Sundaywas an individual who served in Brazil as a missionary, mission president, and he's returning next year to serve as the president of the Brazil CTM.  I don't remember his name, but his message was powerful.  He spoke a lot like Elder Holland.  Lots of fire and conviction.  One way or another he talked about a lot of things he's learned over his time here, none of which I remember now.  I took notes though so I'll share those later.  On Tuesday we had Matthew O. Richardson (Second Councilor, Sunday School General Presidency) and he was pretty aweome.  He quoted from one of David O. McKay's favorite statements "What 'ere thou art, act well thy part".  He was so enthusiastic and I remember one line he spoke about was "my mission may not have been the best two years of my life, but it was the best two years for my life".  Wow. I love hearing of people testifying of what a blessing missionary service continues to be for them throughout their lives.  He said a lot of things and altogether was very enthusiastic about missionary work.  One way or another, he got me really pumped up to serve and think about how I need to live and serve as a missionary. 

It's been good to hear from each of you about things you've done and how your lives are going.  Things seem to be going well and everyone seems reconciled in the aftermath of Grandma's funneral.  One thing that's helped me is that, though I miss her terribly and I feel so sad I couldn't be there for each of you, she has recieved all of the saving ordiances necessary in this life.  All of her sickness and pains are gone.  She is truly in a better place and she is resting from all her cares.  What a blessing to know we can see her again and live with her in a beautiful and perfect eternal family! Whe will be gone for this short while and it's very hard to lose her, but as long as we remember that she is truly in a better place, I think we can remember that all will be well.   God has not left us helpless.

From what I've heard the 4th was good.  I hope all of you enjoyed it.  We had a program with some singing, musical numbers, a talk, and then we were allowed to watch 17 Miracles.  Afterwards we were given ice cream bars and watched the Stadium of Fire fireworks. Altogether it was fun.  Nothing like spending July 4th at home, but I'm glad I could spend one last one here in the states.  While the fireworks were going in the area where I was standing we started singing the Star Spangled Banner.  Wow.  What a song.  It was quite powerful to feel the spirit of that song, my love of country, and especially that this country was set apart and dedicated by the hand of God so that we could enjoy the blessings of the gospel.  I know this is a blessed country and we are so lucky to have it.

I finished the Book of Mormon! I finished it this past Sunday and I've since been reading one chapter a day or so while also reading Joseph Smith History.  It's interesting to see how Joseph was prepared from the time he was young to be the one to restore the gospel and what a blessing it is that he did so.  I know this gospel is true and I'm so thrilled to serve as a missionary for our Father in Heaven.

Look for an e-mail tonight regarding what's going to happen as far as my reassignment.  I can't believe it's here, but I know it's my time to go out and serve.

Amo voces! O envangelho e' verdadiero!
(I love you all! The gospel is true!)

Elder Trent  Leon Evans