It’s yours truly, Elder Carson Saunders. Yep, you read that right! I’m back and better than ever! I honestly hate writing emails for some reason. But here’s a quick update since the last time you heard from me (which was December 23rd… yikes).
Well, let’s get right to it.
Happy new year! It went well, January was a crazy month but also super fun. Not much to tell other than the grind never stops.
I had the incredible opportunity to go to the temple with the first family I baptized on my mission so they could get sealed. Amazing doesn’t even come close to explaining how special that experience was. The Lord is truly in charge and I love being one of His servants.
The second week in January, we had a mission tour with Elder Adrian Ochoa of the 70. He is in the area presidency here. He was a baller! I actually had a pretty long conversation with him at lunch, just talking about his experience as a 70 and his ideas for missionary work. Really good, he taught us that everything we do should be focused on helping people enter the waters of baptism.
Our friend Bonifaco was baptized 2 weeks ago! That was a really special experience, as I was with him the longest of any of the 4 missionaries that taught him. It was super cool to see him make that decision and follow-through with it.
Last Monday I got transferred to a new area! I was serving in the Kemah Branch down in League City, TX. But now I’m here in Houston 8 (Spanish) ward up in the actual city. Houston 8 (H8) is a pretty great ward. It’s a tiny bit smaller than an averaged-sized ward. But it’s still a lot bigger than the branches I’ve been working in for the past year. There are a couple of issues in the ward right now, so it’s our job to figure out what we can do to help turn things around.
Aaaand that brings us to today. This past week has been loco, I have to get used to the crazy city life again. But I’m excited to put some work into this area and get things off the ground again.
I just want to testify that the Savior truly knows our needs. Sometimes I think that I know more than him, but then He proves me wrong. It’s humbling, but it is so amazing.
It’s been a little bit since I’ve sent out a nice, juicy weekly email. Welp, I’m stuck in bed all day today because I caught the stomach flu so I thought I’d crank out this bad boy telling y’all about some experiences I’ve had the past few weeks. The subject for this email comes from 2 Nephi 31:21, which President Guthrie is having us memorize in preparation for Zone Conference this week. I love this scripture!
I’m here in Kemah still, I’ve been here almost 2 months. I’m still with Elder Haymore. We have lots of fun together (don’t worry, not too much). We’ve been working really hard, sometimes it feels like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything done that we’d like to/need to, so I’ve really learned the importance of effective planning. Plus, President Guthrie lately has really taken the mission towards a planning-focus, which has been really good for me. For any of you that know me, you know that I’m a much more “do it in the moment, live life on the edge” kinda person so it’s been humbling to learn and apply the divine principles of planning in this great work.
We are working with a lady named Eva. Eva is here from Mexico on a workers visa making some mula. She moved in with a member family a few months ago, and that’s when we started teaching her. Well, about 3 weeks ago she moved out of the member’s home into an apartment with a couple other ladies that she works with. Thankfully, we’ve still been able to meet with her regularly and help her start gaining a testimony of the Restored gospel. I have a strong feeling that Eva will choose to be baptized soon.
On the note of baptisms, I think that it is so interesting to note the regional differences in baptisms across the world. For example, down in Brasil (shot out to Elder Roberts) they dunk like it’s a Harlem Globetrotters marathon. Mexico and Africa aren’t super far behind either. Whereas in places like Europe, it’s much more difficult to help someone enter the waters of baptism. Obviously, there could be a bunch of explanations for why we see this difference. I just think it shows that there’s still so much work to do before the second coming of the Savior. ALSO, on that note, it’s crazy because Houston is like the most diverse city in the United States. Seriously, this place is sooo cool. So you have some areas that baptize a lot because they cover a lot of diverse backgrounds. Whereas you have some areas out in the boonies that have a much harder time because there is so many options for organized religion hahaha. I don’t know, I just find it fascinating.
A sweet miracle we’ve seen since I arrived here is the building of trust with the members of the branch. Some previous missionaries had done some things that broke down a lot of the trust with them, and made it difficult to work with together. Well, our entire focus my first transfer here was to build up trust with by showing how much we care and love them and boy has that led to some awesome fruits! We now get approached by members who ask us to start teaching their friends, or who need help with a sensitive issue, and I’m just like dang these people are amazing. In just 2 months we’ve managed to really turn around the work here in this area. I’m so grateful that the Lord puts me in situations where my faith is tested and strengthened.
I’ll be totally honest, I have had lots of ups and downs on my mission. As many of you know, I struggle with anxiety. Before my mission, I was so worried about coming out here and not being able to handle the stress. There was even a time where I thought it might stop me from serving a mission but I had to put my faith in the Lord. My faith has truly been tested with the some of the things I have experienced the past 14 months, I am absolutely positive that Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon is a life-changing principle. Being a weak servant of the Lord, I was worried that I’d never be able to be a strong disciple of Christ like many of my friends and family are. But as I have gone to the Lord in prayer, he has made many of my weaknesses become strengths. I’m a first-hand witness of the power of the Atonement!
I’d like to share a really cool experience I had about 2 weeks ago. I was sitting in the apartment, and all of the sudden I kind of started panicking about something small. I prayed to the Lord to deliver me so that I could work effectively that day. However, I continued to be worried and anxious for the next 15 minutes or so. I laid down, attempting to take a nap to maybe “reset” my mind. Then, I had a scripture enter my mind, I can’t remember the reference but it simply is “Be still, and know that I am God.” All of the sudden, the anxiety was gone. A light entered my life at that moment that has continued ever since. I have been much more patient and obedient since that experience. I know that God allows us to struggle so that we can learn to rely on Him.
What a Conference! I loved how making Christ a priority was such a prevalent theme. Also shout out to my homie Sister Craig, her talk was amazing! My favorite talk had to be Elder Vinson’s, the dope Australian Seventy. I have learned a lot about diligence out here on the mission, and his talk just resonated with me. Living the Gospel isn’t a “one-foot-in, one-foot-out” kind of experience. Cmon this isn’t the Hokie Pokie. You gotta go all in!
Well, this has been a fat email. Congratulations if you made it this far! I bear my testimony of the Plan of Salvation. I know that God has a plan for each of His children. I invite you to pray to Him to know that plan, and he will reveal it unto you as you keep His commandments. The Gospel is true, it is one of love, and I love the Gospel with all my heart. It has changed me eternally. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. Love y’all, have a great week! – Elder Saunders