Monday, October 28, 2013

Brittany's Birthday!

YEEEAAAAAAAAA!!! Haha Happy Birthday Brittany! I love you. You rock. I wish I could write you a letter but I'm not sure about your new Portland address. That's crazy you're moving! It's a little sad knowing that I wouldn't be able to take over Dustin's spot and come over and play board games with you and Adam in college, but I'm excited for you guys. And another BOY! Ohhh yeah... He's gonna be a bbadddddd boy. Haha but I hope your birthday went great this week. What made it even better was I got a package from you, on your birthday... I like those type of sibling birthdays. When I get presents on my sister's birthday. Straight up, ballin! Thank you for my  temple clothes and the bag of PB M&Ms. Anyway, I thought a lot about you this week and just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you. I love you.
Soooo, you wouldn't believe it but Elder Dallin H. Oaks came this week. I know, seriously. Blessings are showering on me here in Georgia. It was awesome. He was only able to speak to our mission (as well as the Georgia Atlanta North Mission) for 30 minutes, but I learned so much from him. Along with his wife, he brought with him President and Sister Suarez (President of the 70 - Brazilian by the way...) and four other general authorities. Haha I about started crying. It was the greatest two hour meeting of my life. I wish I could give you a long list of notes I took from him but I didn't take many. I really tried to focus on what the Spirit was telling me as he spoke, so my notes aren't anything that would interest you. Just ordinary things that were extraordinary to me at this time in my life. Two things above all stuck out to me though:

-Importance of the Sacrament (I'll have to write a letter home later in my mission on this. I won't ever miss another Sacrament meeting again in my life). and,

-How he treated his wife. HOLY COW! Talk about a true gentleman. Man. He didn't say anything about her in his 30 minute talk either. I think it was just the way he just acted around her. I don't know how else to explain it. Haha it's probably kind of weird coming from me but this is what made the strongest impression. I've been thinking about men vs boys lately during studies (sounds weird, I know) but that's definitely a crowning characteristic. I was grateful to be able to see them interact with each other.

So one of my companions, Elder Evans, got really sick this week. Elder Ross and I would take him to a member's house where he would sleep all day so we could still go and see people, but he wasn't really getting any better. Guess who finally had the thought to whip out the essential oils? Haha you better believe it Ashley. I'm a believer now... (In reality, it was probably just the Priesthood blessing... but the oils definitely worked wonders.) But I've spent the past two days thinking about oils extracted from plants and other surrounding nature. God has a solution to everything, and it's in the earth. That's all I feel I should say on that. Haha when I was applying some of the things on him I was shaking my head thinking how proud Ashley would be of me...

All right, this week was awesome again. I came to a conclusion that my lifelong dream of going and returning on a mission with no regrets wasn't possible. I've written multiple times in my journal feelings that I've had where I should've done something better, or not said that, or called that person at that time... So many different little "regrets" that caused me to just be weighed down with inadequacy - feeling I wasn't measured up for a task as large as representing Jesus Christ. It haunted me. Then it hit me. Christ suffered for every depression, weakness, struggle, heartache, inadequacy, etc. I always knew that, but never really "personalized" it to me and my life. It was powerful. I need the atonement, big time. Everyday. This leads to some of my feelings now toward the Sacrament and how much I look forward to Sundays now. I'm imperfect. I'm happy to admit it though. I'm so grateful for Jesus Christ and His infinite and atoning sacrifice. It's coming to life to me.

Sorry this letter wasn't very spiritual but I want to close with my appreciation for your prayers. I know our Heavenly Father hears them. This week we were driving to another appointment after we just finished teaching a cool guy named Orlando. I was in the back seat of the car writing some things down from the lesson to keep in mind for our next visit while Elder Ross started yelling, "Wheel, wheel, wheel! Elder Evans, WHEEL" I peeked my head around the passenger seat I was seated behind (we were kind of on a highway, not really sure what it was) and saw a huge wheel bouncing at us. This car/van that was about 100 yards in front of us was driving and all of the sudden, the lug nuts popped off the side of the tire, causing the car to pivot to the ground. The wheel popped off that car and was rolling/bouncing at us 65+ mph, headed right for the middle of our windshield. Elder Evans hit the breaks and turned the wheel slightly to the left, but not too much because there was oncoming traffic on the other side of the lanes. The wheel, on it's last two bounces prior to hitting us, took two awkward, out of no where bounces to the left, causing the wheel to miss us by about six inches. It then continued to roll normal, as it was before the awkward bounces, off the side of the road into a fence. Your prayers saved our lives. It was a miracle. I feel His presence around me everyday as I strive to be exactly obedient. I know He protects me.

I love you all. Your prayers and letters mean everything to me.  This is His restored Gospel. I know it, I live it everyday, and I love it - I'm so happy

Elder Welch

Who needs Brazil when you have Georgia?! (10/21/2013)

Whooooo baby. What a week. I think I'm starting to live the dream within' the dream. Like Inception... I've decided that I could do this for the rest of my life if I could be here with my family. It's really the only thing I miss that I care about.

So Elder David F. Evans came to our mission this week. Yep, that's right! He's head of the missionary department next to Elder Nelson and Elder Bednar (I think it used to be Elder Holland). Since he does this full-time and doesn't have really any other responsibilities like Elder Nelson and Bednar do, you could compare him to Captain Moroni. He's the leader of this incredible army. Man, and it felt so good to get slapped in the face by him this week. He said some awesome things.
To start, everyone was super pumped for him to come. Three zones met in a chapel next to the Atlanta Temple as we waited for President and Sister Harding and Elder and Sister Evans to show up. We were there for about an hour before they were to come, so we just sat in the pews studying. He was supposed to be coming in like 5-10 more minutes so I thought I should go to the bathroom before he came so I wouldn't have to get up while he talked to us. I pulled my companions outside and we started walking fast to the bathroom. One of my companions said we had to hurry up so I sped walked with my head down as I buttoned-up my suit jacket. Right after I finally got the button, buttoned, I looked up to open find the door.
"Hey how's it going Elder!"
"Ughhhhhhhh............." Haha first off, President Harding told us not to approach and talk to Elder Evans the night before because everyone would swarm him. I pretty much ran right in to his chest with my head down! They came early! Haha I was sooooo awkward. He asked again how I was and then we talked for a little bit while we entered the bathroom. Yep... I was the first one to talk to him. We had a nice bathroom talk... (Haha it was like 10 words said, but still... Pretty awesome.)
Anyway, I'll give you some highlights that he talked about and then a wrap-up of the week.
-Begin reading at the beginning of The Book of Mormon with investigators. Beginning as in the Title Page, then the Intro, then witnesses and Testimony... Holy smokes I've read those a couple times on my mission but he stood up there and just blew my mind away with things I've always just skipped over. He then read parts of the first few chapters with us and pointed out key doctrines to talk to investigators with- the first being the Family. He talked a lot about the first verse of "being born of goodly parents" (plural) and then why Heavenly Father chose Lehi's family to keep the record. Why keep a record of adysfunctional family? It was awesome. He then just went doctrine after doctrine taught in the first chapter (prophets, apostles, Jesus Christ, you can find the others...)
-He taught straight from Preach My Gospel, expounding on chapter nine and said how we should rarely ever go tracting. He then left an awesome promise with us if we would commit to becoming a Preach My Gospel missionary.
-He also told some cool stories about different apostles that they have told him (sorry, it would take a few hours to tell you all of them. In total, he talked for about 6 hours to us. It sure didn't feel like that though.
-The biggest point he made though was "Following-Up." He said that's the biggest key to missionary work. It was interesting to here how he explained it to us, especially asking everyone we talked to (no matter who it was, "Who do you know?")

All right, so this week was awesome. I know how much I loved reading Dustin's letters when someone would visit and I would wish he would write home more about it, so I tried to recap as much as I could with the time I have.
This week was full of miracles yet again. I wish I could just tell you a fourth of this week but it's impossible. There's nothing like a mission and seeing lives changing.

Probably the most important thing I learned this week however was myself. Being on a mission is hard. I would say (and I don't think anyone would argue) that I've had a pretty easy life. Regardless, I think it would be hard for anyone. I've been having a really hard time. I hope you haven't been able to notice but it's hard. I don't know how else to put it. I've had so many awesome lessons and experiences so far but it just hurts to see people's agency I guess. I've never cared about someone so much in my life. You constantly are thinking about how you can help someone nonstop. All day, every day, in the morning, during studies, riding your bike/car (we got a car this week), in lessons, in prayers, during meals, and dreams... And then you come up short. Always. Every time. (Thank goodness for the atonement, right?!) I got really down on myself this past week because I've been working so hard with Elder Peery. Trying everything I could. And then he got sent home. He'd been out on his mission for almost a year and then his mental health kind of failed him while he was training me and he had to get sent home. I had about a million things go through my head as I kept thinking what I could've done more of, better, shouldn't have done. Man, and I was really starting to love him, whether he did or not.
I guess what I'm trying to say is being on a mission is awesome. It's like the parable of the pickle that Elder Bednar (I think) talked about in a P. Conference a few years ago. Being "soaked" in this pickle juice of a mission is really starting to sink in to me and change me. I'm constantly uplifted by prayer and labor with power as give everything I can. I wish I could explain my thoughts better. I'm weak-sauce when it comes to writing but just know, that I'm so happy.
I guess the harder it is, the more happier I get.
I love you
Elder Welch

Monday, October 14, 2013

Milagres - parte dois

Wow. Ughhhh I love it here. I'm Livin' the Dream all day, everyday. How great is my calling!
Man, there's been so many miracles this week. I'll start with "Lexas".
We knocked on her door yesterday after saying a prayer. She opened the door and we introduced ourselves. She was wearing a Chigago Bulls hat so I asked her if she liked them and she said she was a fan. I asked her about Derrick Rose when she replied, "Who's that?" Haha I smiled and just said nevermind. Kinda funny... Anyway, after talking for about a minute she started to close the door. The Holy Ghost, before even knocking on the door, prompted me to, "Say it." Throughout our conversation I continued to receive impression after impression to, "Say it. Say it. Say it..." Haha I continued to ignore it. It's kind of funny now that I think about it because it's so random but as she began to slowly close the door, I decided to just "say it."
"Families can be together forever."
I thought I was going to look "stupid" for saying that but she kind of tweeked her head to the side and thought for a moment. "I know they can..."
She told us that she was going to get her sister so she closed the door momentarilly. I continued to stare at the door so my companion wouldn't ask me why I said that... Haha it was so random. She came back to the door about a minute later by herself and sat down outside on these apartment steps. We didn't know really what was going on but we decided to just ask her more about herself. We got to know each other and then jumped in to how to receive Eternal Life (Lesson 3 of PMG) She stopped us in the middle of talking and looked at me curious.
"Do you always say that when you knock on someone's door?"
I wasn't sure what exactly she was referring to so I said, "Always say what?"
"Families can be together forever."
I paused for a moment with a hundred thoughts going through my head. I just told her the truth. "No I don't but I felt that you needed to hear that." I explained how the Holy Ghost works in a of couple sentences.
With tears beginning to fill her eyes she looked at me for about 5 seconds. "That's crazy," she replied.
We later found out that she's never known her dad, that her mom died a few years ago and that her grandma just died. She's young, probably a senior in high school or freshman in college, and now lives alone with her 30 year old, single-mom sister of two kids. She talked about how hard everything was right now. Her neice and nephew poked their heads out the door and said something to make her laugh. "I love those guys she said." I was able to show them a picture of Boston and Reese (the one of them on the rollercoaster with their mouths open and legs kicked up) and testifed to her how God loves her and is very aware of what she is going through. That He is our literal Heavenly Father and blesses us through families. I then assured her that she could be with them forever through His plan. The Spirit was around us like a cloud. You could cut the air with a knife it was so thick. We left her with a prayer and are going to see her later this week.
Later that day we knocked on Sabrina's door. After we contacted a referall, we did as Preach My Gospel says and went finding around where the contact is located. We knocked on a lady's door who was on the phone and seemed very uninterested. She told whoever she was on the phone with that someone was at her door and she would call back shortly. We introduced ourselves and began talking to her. She didn't seem very happy to be talking to us and it was obvious that she really wanted to just shut the door and go on with whatever it was that she was doing before. The Holy Ghost prompted us to reiterate who we represent and why we were at her door. I obeyed the subtle prompting.
"Ma'am, we are representatives of Jesus Christ... We were sent here today, by Him, to specifically leave you with His peace. You. Need. Peace."
It was silent for a little bit as she turned her head away. I didn't know what to think; Did I offend her? Will she shut the door? After I said that I was really nervous.
She began moving her legs around trying to not let us see her. She finally did look up at us with tears coming out of her eyes. She even began to use two hands to wipe her away her tears. I was shocked. What did I do!
"I do need peace. I really do need it, right now."
We left her a blessing and shared the Destination/Route with her. We left her "wanting more" and set up a return appointment for this Wednesday. We are excited to see her again.
Those are just two brief miracles of what happens here everyday while on a mission. I'm so humbled to represent Jesus Christ. It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life and the responsibility weighs on your shoulders like nothing you have ever felt before in your life. I'm constantly uplifted by prayer and have gained a huge appreciation for just saying prayers of gratitude. We pretty much say a prayer thanking Heavenly Father after every door now. We have so many people to teach as we continue to work diligently. We were excited to see seven of our investigators at church yesterday.
I love it here. I'm so happy. Heavenly Father has been so good to me. Not only while here in Georgia, but my entire life.
I know He lives, that Jesus Christ is His son. It's awesome to have His name on your chest everyday.
I love you all.
Elder Welch

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Conference Weekend

Wow. I honestly don't know what to write. Haha I feel like Alma the Younger in the beginning stages. I've truly been struck dumb from yesterday's and the the day before's comments.
I'm guessing you probably want a piece of my mind on how conference was? Okay. I'll give it to ya'll (Uh oh... Georgia's gettin' to me)
Elder Holland growing up was always my favorite speaker. His talk on depression and other challenges was awesome, especially for some of our investigators that came. We had four (baptismal age) investigators attend four of the five sessions with us! Two of them were FAMILIES too which was awesome. As I talked with each one of them, they all expressed how much they loved his talk. But Elder Holland's remarks are always a given... He could stand up there at the pulpit and breathe and make it amazing, so, I'm not going to talk about his talk.
As I was in the MTC, I started lovin' me some of Elder Bednar. Holy smoke-a-locka he's awesome. I'm hesitant to say he's my favorite speaker because Elder Holland has been my favorite to listen to for so long, but I just love how he conveys things. I was looking forward to his thoughts almost as anxiously as I have my mission during my life. I loved how simply he put tithing. And there were a lot of applications you can take from how he went about his talk that you can apply as you study other doctrines and commandments. At first I was thinking, "Man! If only he would've chosen ANY other commandment to take further, something other than tithing," because you don't pay tithing as missionaries... Haha but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the awesome lesson plan I could make from his talk as I talk with people investigating the church, especially teaching on tithing. I can't wait to study his talk when the Ensign comes out.
I've decided to paste my letter to President Harding below instead of typing out roughly the same thing twice. That way, I can write a little bit more.

Wow, what a weekend. I was looking forward to conference like I would Christmas back home. And let me just say... It did not disappoint. As I re-analyze and refocus my thoughts on my awesome purpose as His representative, I cannot wait to go and find, teach and baptize. We have a good pool of investigators now to begin working with that we have found the first transfer here and I'm anxious to continue praying and working with them. I love them. I really do. And I desire them to receive God's greatest gifts.
My two favorite talks included President Uchtdorf's talk on "Rising Up" in the Priesthood Conference and Elder Nelson's talk on "Self-Mastery." I can't wait to get my hands on those talks and really dissect them. They were incredibly motivating and reassured me that this is His work, His glory, and that I can do this.
I'm going to begin studying the commandments on a deeper level so I can rise up against the adversary and become not just a master of "Preach My Gospel" but also a master of myself, yielding to any temptation, doubt, or bodily desire that used to easily beset me. I will become a "Master of Myself" as I focus on who I really am, and who He really needs me to become. I have begun focusing on a higher and deeper understanding of the Word of Wisdom so I can have these "hidden treasures" of knowledge that are promised along with this. I know that I will be more sensitive to the Spirit and what He needs me to do for His children. I just wish it wasn't P-Day today... I'm hungry for baptisms.
Thank you for your enthusiasm for missionary work! (Exclamation Point). I love you! (Exclamation Point). I'm so happy! (Exclamation Point).
-Elder Welch

During this week and even at moments during conference, I had an incredible cloud of disappointment come over me. I've never raised my voice to my companion but I definitely haven't handled certain situations the way I ought to. I have sent him locked up in several rooms in our apartment as he grows frustrated at me for asking for a little bit of help making phone calls/updating area book and other activities. I have never felt so inadequate in my life as I thought one morning about the responsibility that hangs on my shoulders. I spent an hour in a half one morning sitting next to my companion on the floor of our apartment trying to figure out how I can help him. He's had pretty bad headaches for more than half of this transfer, causing me to plan, do companionship study, and learn how to train a new missionary alone. I've had several conversations but we had an awesome one this past Friday where I read from my journal. Holy cow, it seriously was like scripture. Not because I am a good writer (in fact I printed out some of my letters last week and realized how all over the place I am and how thoughts don't connect to other thoughts. I really stink at writing but thank you for your patience. I'm like Ether who had this conversation with the Lord... Except for the Prophet part). Two things hit me from that experience: 1. How grateful I am for a journal. I love how President Monson said what he was going to write in his journal at the beginning of one of his talks. I read things I have written from it and they bring a lot of comfort and enthusiasm to each day. I know it will continue to be a resource I use in the future. and 2. How grateful I am for my companion. I love him. Transfers are this Wednesday and I really hope that we stay together.
After this conversation we had, he's been back studying with me and planning. It's awesome having him back.

Family... I love you. One thing I've learned recently from the Book of Mormon is how to "submit your will to His will." It sounds like there's a lot of challenges going on. Keep the faith. "Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." And mom... It's a good thing you have to deal with it all because I'm not sure anyone else in our family could. Keep being you're awesome self.

"Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us; or the mountains, or the waves of the sea."  Jacob 4:6

There's a lot of trees here, so let's do this.

With love and humility,
Elder Welch