Monday, July 10, 2017

July 10, 2017: Emails to Dad & Mom

I've included Jason's email to Parker to provide context for his response:

Email from Dad

Elder Rice,

Are your suits going to be in decent enough condition to wear after your mission? What about your shoes—the good ones? I thought we bought you a pair of ECCO brand. I don't remember Johnston & Murphy brand. But if they last, then they're worth looking into again. Rather than bring the mission-brand shoes home, maybe drop them at Goodwill.

It's never an accident or coincidence that there is contention against Mormons. We had an area of my mission where leaders of other congregations were holding anti-Mormon rallies and showing movies full of lies about the Church. I think of it as a momentum thing similar to a sporting event. In a football game, the crowd cheers loudly and shares their energy with their team. Did you know that when they set betting odds for a football game, the odds-makers automatically spot the home team three points? This year, they have BYU favored over Utah by three points in this fall's game at BYU stadium. Basically, they are indicating that the two teams are evenly matched. The reason for the three points comes from the extra energy the crowd brings and shares with the home team. If a team experiences a slump in part of a game, cheerleaders work to stir up the crowd in order to re-energize the team. Then, little by little, the team builds momentum back.

The Church has had good success in your area. Satan has seen that and is trying to change the momentum by spreading lies to counter your momentum. He wants to slow you, to discourage you, and to get you to quit. In order to counter that, you have to bring equal or greater energy than he is. You have to involve your crowd—the Church members. Imagine what would happen if the members and missionaries all got together for coordinated push to counter the lies. This could be done through missionary work and service to the community (Matthew 5:16: "... that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.") The extra energy created in that cooperative effort could mean all of the difference. It will take an effort from you to get the members energized (like the cheerleaders), but the results can be miraculous.


Email to Dad


There's one suit that'll be just fine. The other (the dark blue one) will need a little bit of fixing before it sees any long period of use. I don't think I have an ECCO brand, unless the mission shoe teamed up with them. I could probably wear the Johnston & Murphys afterward, but they're not in the kind of shape that you'd want to send Nathan off with. You can definitely see wear where the sole attaches to the shoe. I have heard that people really like the ECCO brand shoes and they don't look too bad either.

Thanks for the advice on countering the anti. We were sitting in zone conference and they had some messages that definitely pointed that direction, too. We're definitely going to cater dinner messages and do some little two to five-minute drop by visits. (They're calling it “lightning visits.”) In the meantime, we've been having some little success in that. We've answered all our investigators questions and they're getting the idea that there's a lot of rumors. One of them heard we couldn't wear black socks and that tipped things in our favor.

An update on D. and K.: Turns out we held out for good reason, because they had their friends L. and S. over and we taught them the restoration. They loved it! They started off a slight bit skeptical, but D. talked about Moroni's challenge with them and that changed their whole attitude. It’s always the best when someone you teach testifies of something you taught them to their friends. I bet that happened a ton in Brazil.

The Olympics last P-day were pretty funny, actually. We had an obstacle course where we went through a “missionary day.” We woke up off an air mattress and crammed all the pamphlets and copies of the Book of Mormon into a backpack. We then ran to a door to tract and the person behind the door blasted us with a huge water gun marked “anti” as we tried to write our number down on a card and hand it to them. We then did a three-legged race in a zig zag to all of the lesson pamphlets (teaching the lessons), then carried a hard-boiled egg marked “investigator” on a spoon in our mouths, trying not to drop them, and put them in a font/watercooler.

Love you,
Elder Rice

Email to Mom

We've definitely seen an upturn in miracles lately! We found three new investigators in three days and a bunch of potentials. We also randomly found the ID of one of our more promising potentials on the side of the road. I bet he'll enjoy getting that back.

We also have been having more big changes in the way the mission is run. We're doing district councils instead of district meetings. The main difference is that we don't put our numbers for the week on the board. Instead, they're just having us bring council items, like investigators we're trying to focus on and things we want to change in the area. It’s just being experimented with at this point to see what'll happen. Numbers are still reported in call-ins. Weekly planning has also been replaced with a 30-minute preparation for district council the day before.

I don't remember if you mentioned, but where are the new missionaries from the ward headed out to?

Love you, Mom!

Me and D. and K.

B. from Broken Arrow

Elder D.

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 3, 2017: Emails for Mom & Dad

Email for Mom

It’s been a good week back in Duncan! It's been a real blessing to see how much change there's been. S. (an investigator from a while back) has got a real testimony of the Church, has taught her 3- and 4-year-old to know and love the Lord (they call Him "Jesus Chris"), and she has a real desire for baptism. The temporal blessings have flowed for them as well.

We also just randomly ran into quite a few others who we dropped or were dropped while I was gone, who want to try again. Now, there are definitely still some road blocks. And while some are more open, it seems like there's been a lot more skittishness. Lots of rumors flying around about Mormons right now. Another big challenge is people living together and not wanting to be married.

We've also got a serious arsenal of missionaries in our district around Duncan. Just about everyone has not only served 21+ month, but most have served in Duncan before. We get all sorts of referrals with that and run into people that recognize them on exchanges.

My companion Elder D. is pretty cool. He attended Montana State before the mission and has got a little bit of life experience on him. He's been out for about six months now. He's been on high school football, basketball, and baseball teams. He served two transfers on OSU campus and one already in Duncan with Elder L. (one of my companions from Shawnee). Elder L. is getting back home to California after his vacation to Hawaii. Elder D. was trained by Elder R., who served in Duncan South when I was here last. Elder R. is now one of our zone leaders and has already come down for a few exchanges.

I also got to briefly drop into Texas to bring some elders back to their apartment after an MLC. They had accidently locked the keys in their car and the zone leaders had already driven them up to Lawton. Nothing's really different from Texas to Oklahoma except a definite change in accent as soon as you cross the border.

Love you, Mom! I'm praying for your entry into MoTab.
Elder Rice

Email for Dad

So this 4th of July we're doing a "Missionary Olympics." It sounds like there's going to be a lot of goofy missionary themed games, like tossing a Frisbee with the name “Satan” written on it, to see who can cast Satan the furthest from them. Then we'll have a barbeque or something. They're allowing us to email today and moving p-day to tomorrow.

To answer your question about the equipment, I had two large suitcases, which has been plenty of room so long as I've made sure to not pick up too much clutter. Both shoes held up great, but I don't know if I'd go with the “mission shoe” again. It was very comfortable, completely water proof, and pretty durable, but I definitely got quite a few comments on it being goofy looking. The Johnston and Murphy’s were plenty durable. The suits were pretty good, actually. The gray one is apparently an apostle favorite, and the blue one is a missionary favorite. Just make sure that Nathan knows not to dry clean it too often.

It’s been a little interesting out here. While we've seen a lot of good, it seems like there's been an increase in anti-Mormon rumors going around and quite a few people won't even allow us to explain ourselves. We also ran into an old investigator from Duncan South (Duncan is combined to one area now). I'm not sure whether it’s for real or not yet, but she wants us to get rid of devils in her house and her daughter is possessed. I'm kind of skeptical, but she and everyone in the house is thoroughly convinced of it.

On a different note, one of the funnest things here has been to see some of the long-time investigators again. D. and K. have been investigating a while now and he believes the Book of Mormon is mostly true. We've been struggling to help him accept the whole of it though. They're definitely great people and I really want them to accept this, but I also don't want to hang on just because they're friends.

Despite the little concerns, Elder D. and I are pretty sure there'll be some awesome miracles this transfer. We've been working plenty hard and, with all the experience of missionaries nearby with serving in the Duncan area, the Lord has set us up for success. We've already found quite a few new and long former investigators at random as we've been out tracting and biking.

Love you, Dad!
Elder Rice

Monday, June 26, 2017

June 26, 2017: Emails for Mom & Dad

Email for Mom

1720 W. Plato Rd., Apt. 208
Duncan, OK 73533

Getting back to Duncan has been awesome! I got an awesome welcome back from the ward and there are some longtime investigators I plan on getting baptized before I leave. Elder D. is an awesome guy and we'll definitely see some miracles this transfer. He's had great companions, great experience from his area, and knows what things he needs to learn. It looks like there's a lot of work here, too.

I don't have too much to report this week. We've found plenty of potentials and have received a good number of referrals.

Havasupai looks beautiful, and thanks for the Mayan ruin pictures! Those were really cool!

That trail Nathan and Joshua went up reminds me of the "Stairs" [of Cirith Ungol] from the Lord of the Rings. I'm way impressed that Joshua conquered that.

Love you, Mom!
Elder Rice

Email for Dad 1

That's awesome news about your ankle! And not so awesome about that other ankle. I'm impressed, though, that he walked three miles on that. And way cool that Nathan got to do the blessing. Yeah, Nathan’s pretty much ready for a mission. Is that his first blessing given?

OK, so I don't know what it is, but I can't seem to focus on email writing and can't seem to bring myself to write anything meaningful. Is that just an end of mission thing? I'm not distracted or anything. I'm just not sure what to write.

Love you, Dad. Keep working that ankle and staying healthy!

Elder Rice

Email for Dad 2

OK, I have a brief second to be back on.

All right, all right. I'm just not a good letter writer because a good number of the experiences I have I just don't think anyone is going to really get and I don't want to reuse material from one letter to another too much. You'll see some amazing writing prolifery! Just wait!

Love you, Dad.
Elder Rice

Monday, June 19, 2017

June 19, 2017: Emails for Mom and Dad

Email for Mom

So this last Sunday we had six investigators come to church! I got to give a talk on priesthood experience in the home for kind of a Father's Day topic. (There may or may not have been tearing up.) And third hour, we got pie! It was an awesome last Sabbath in Broken Arrow.

So I'm being sent ... back to Duncan! I'll be companions with Elder D. It's exciting, but still a lot of nerves. I don't know if the apartments are the same, so I'll send you the address when I figure out.

I'll probably be out for B., T., and D. (and family)'s baptisms. They're coming quick, but not that quick.

We also found a guy from Brasilia, Brazil. He said he's seen missionaries around a lot, but never spoken with them. He was very friendly and offered to have us over for dinner.

It was a fairly normal week I'd have to say. Church was definitely the highlight. D. was camera shy, but she wanted a picture of us with her kids, so I've got one here.

Love you, Mom!
Elder Rice

Email for Dad

HAPPY (day after) FATHER'S DAY!!

Besides all the money, it sounds like the cruise was great! Was that part of the Father's Day experience or did you guys get home before that? If the latter, what did you guys do?

I got to give a talk for Father’s Day and I have to say it was definitely an emotional meeting. Thanks for being such an awesome example to all of us. It was not hard to find material for the talk because of all the good influence you had on me.

Also, thought I'd mention we're teaching a guy from Brazil. I won't be able to teach him for long (I'm leaving for Duncan on Wednesday), but it reminded me of you.

Love you, Dad!
Elder Rice

June 12, 2017: Email for Mom

Wish you guys best of luck on your cruise!

I am having a blast out here! We had Elder Echo Hawk come to our mission for a mission tour and he gave some of the most spiritually amazing stories I've heard, and we got a ton of awesome trainings during the conference.

The day following, B. texted us asking, "When is the next available day for a baptismal service?" He's been one of the most honest searchers during this whole process. He even came and told us that he wanted to be rid of his energy drink and smoking addictions before we had even mentioned the Word of Wisdom. He decided himself that he would go to the ARP [Addiction Recovery Program] classes after hearing about them in sacrament meeting.

Also, we helped T. move into her apartment, so now she can come to church. But the really cool thing was that, even with her whole apartment not being put together, we saw that on her fridge she had magneted one thing: The Prince of Peace pass-along card we gave her when we first ran into her. Something as small as that could've easily made it to a trash can, especially during a move. Awesome!

Tell Lily thanks for me. That sounds like a rough job [watching the dog].

Love you, Mom!
Elder Rice

Monday, June 5, 2017

June 5, 2017: Email for Mom

We committed B. to be baptized! We had the most spiritual lesson with him the other day. His member friends from the pest control company came again and bore amazing testimony. When we shared scriptures with him, he said he was feeling the Spirit, and when Elder S. started to ask him to be baptized he started by saying, "When you come to know this is true—" and B. cut him off and said, "No, I already know this is true." And he couldn't stop smiling.

I got to go on exchanges with Elder J. and it seems like their hard work is paying off, as well. We had the opportunity to visit with an excommunicated member and he became inspired to try to rejoin the Church. It helped that he still had a testimony.

Nathan is going to be so far ahead with the language. That'll be the real challenge I think. He's probably got enough gospel knowledge, he's just got to get the Spanish gospel lingo.

Love you, Mom!
Elder Rice

Elder S.

The damage

Doesn't actually look so bad ...

Yoda chocolate

May 30, 2017: Email for Mom

T. and D. are both still making awesome progress. We also met a referral, B., that some guys from summer sales here found. He’s been out of church for quite a while and has been continuously searching for a church he feels is true. When he found our pest control people, he was really impressed with their knowledge and ability to answer questions and agreed to taking the lessons. He showed up to church just this last Sunday!

We also had a pretty eventful exchange last Tuesday with Elder S. and me. We found a ton of potentials throughout the day. At some point, we got lost on the way to a less-active and knocked to ask for directions. As it turned out, it was a former investigator from three years ago who used to actively attend and held scouting callings! She took a break after her divorce, but recently had been thinking about us and wondering if there were even missionaries still in the area. She’s a new investigator now! Then later that exchange, we were driving to an appointment and we had made it through and a good distance past an intersection when the people up ahead stopped to turn left, so we stopped. The guy behind us wasn’t paying attention and rear-ended our car. Nobody was hurt and we reported everything to the mission office.

We’re also “teaching” another guy named J. He had a solid marriage with his wife and a few kids, but for some reason things went south and now he’s in a relationship with a guy. He’s still open to hearing us out, but he wants to read the entire Book of Mormon before we come back. He confidently stated, “Two weeks, that's all it’ll take.” So maybe prayers for him would be good. Luckily, he’s pretty morally conservative in all other aspects.

Thanks for the encouragement and the update! Beginning of summer activities were always the best. 

Love you, Mom!