Monday, January 25, 2016

Two Emails from Nathan

And now, a short break from Elder Rice's emails to enjoy a couple of messages sent to him from his brother Nathan. He can really preach it.

From: Nathan Rice
Sent: Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 6:27 PM
Subject: Here's an experience with faith that I had last week


Dear Elder Rice,

This happened to me last Friday:

It was the last day of the semester, so everybody’s math teacher had them take a final semester review test. The test was 40 questions long and I had just finished question number 20 when I realized there was only about 27 minutes left in class (I had spent an entire hour and had only finished the first half). A weird pop song was stuck in my head by a band called Twenty-one Pilots; it was ironically titled “Stressed Out.” I had routinely prayed before the test, as I do before most tests, but it wasn’t paying off. I decided to pray again, confused at why I was struggling so badly—did God just not care about my math grade? After I finished praying the second time, I started realizing how passive I was being. I hadn’t been putting in a very good effort because I expected Heavenly Father to ensure my success. It was then that I remembered James 2:17-26, which talks about faith. Verses 19 and 20 say “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" The hymn “Nearer, My God, To Thee” came into my head, and I used it to replace the previous song that was distracting me. I then committed to focusing and doing my best, whether or not I was able to finish the test. I started working and actually ended up finishing the test with 7 minutes left. I had finished 20 problems in 20 minutes. I used the rest of the time to review the a few problems.

You probably have a lot of people that you teach who believe that all a person needs to be saved is to accept Christ as their savior. If this were true, we would never need to be better, and so we would never learn to become better.

Love,
Nathan

From: Nathan Rice
Date: Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 9:32 PM
Subject: REPENT!


Dear Elder Rice,

You didn’t send me an email last week. :,-( …sniff sniff…

Okay, I’m over it. :-)

But don’t forget again! >:-|

Anyway, first semester ended and I would have gotten straight A’s if it weren’t for one A-minus in math.

Since it’s a new semester, I have two new teachers. The first is my Financial Literacy teacher, Mrs. C. She is OCD; she keeps her room extremely clean, her DHS website is extremely well organized, and she makes every student push their chair (all the way) in at the end of class. I’m not totally sure if her OCD is clinical or if she’s just really uptight, but I’m starting to believe the former more and more.

The other new teacher is Brother S., my seminary teacher. He has one of the craziest, most animated personalities out of probably anyone I’ve ever met; he’ll seem somewhat serious one minute, then be laughing uncontrollably two minutes later, and then be emotional with the Spirit two minutes after that. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to think about him, but I’m starting to like him a lot. On Friday, we had a lesson about overcoming the negative thoughts that Satan puts in our heads. We started by writing down a negative thought that had come into our heads earlier that day on a yellow sticky note. I wrote something like this: “I’m not good at talking to people, so I shouldn’t.” He explained that negative thoughts come in all forms—fear, lethargy, apathy—but that they all are put into our heads for one purpose—to make us reluctant to do what is right. As the lesson went on, Brother S. at one point talked about how he tries to go to the gym regularly because he’s a 250 pound diabetic who’s trying to lose weight (and from what I’ve heard, he’s been losing weight quite successfully). He actually ran a marathon the year before (it took him seven hours, but he still did it). Anyway, he talked about how he was going to go to the gym the day before, but Satan put negative thoughts into his head, telling him that he was too lazy to go or something or other. It was then that Brother S. did what he calls “turning a negative thought inside out.” He decided that he was going to work out as hard as he could that day. In his words, “I worked out for like 90 minutes, and people probably looked at me and thought ‘That guy’s crazy,’ and it was crazy. I’m totally crazy, but I felt great about it.” We read Joshua 1 that day, and learned about how when Joshua was called of God to be the successive prophet to Moses, to be the leader hundreds of millions of Israelites, that he was having some negative thoughts of his own—in his case, in the form of apprehension. It was then that the Lord told Joshua what is written in verse 9: that the Lord would always be with Joshua, and that if he was righteous, that the Lord would bless him. At the end of class, Brother S. had us turn the negative thoughts that we had written down “inside out” by writing something to turn what would have been negative into something positive. I then edited my note to something like this: “I’m not good at talking to people, so I shouldn’t but if I do anyway, God will always be with me and will bless me because of it.”

I realized something important about the word “awkward" that day. The awkwardness always has a negative connotation because everyone’s always afraid of it. Awkwardness, in my own definition, is ignorance toward some type of social protocol or etiquette—it’s when someone doesn’t know what to do in a given social scenario. But the fact is, awkwardness is unavoidable; we all face it, and no matter how socially “developed” a person may appear, there is always a culture or subculture that you don’t understand and a countless number of social scenarios that you’ve never experienced. We are afraid that if we don’t know what to do in a scenario, that we will be judged harshly by others. But we shouldn’t be afraid, because the only judgment that we should care about is God’s judgment—he is the only one who sees us objectively, and he loves us despite our awkwardness. At first, I wasn’t sure how to react to my new seminary teacher. He seemed somewhat weird to me at first, but I realized that he knows that he’s weird (and “crazy”), but he doesn’t care. As long as he does what God wants him to do, he will be blessed, so he doesn’t care if others judge him harshly, because they’re wrong.

I’m now trying to view unfamiliar social situations as challenges and opportunities to learn. After all, how do we learn without experience?

By the way, I desire the opportunistic learning experience of receiving letters from you, so send me an email!

Love,
Nathan

January 25, 2016: Drywall

This week was sort of weird. We ended up doing a lot of service and had transfers Wednesday. I got to use some of my drywall experience a few times. A nonmember relative of a member in the Seminole branch had a leak in their roof that destroyed their living room ceiling. They said they’d listen to our message if we repaired it. It’s all finished now.

Sister F. and Sister S. are awesome. They’re picking up the work in Shawnee South [area] really quickly. K. was definitely excited [she has been praying for sisters to come to Shawnee for two years]. When we gave them the news over the phone, we heard her scream in the background. Sister F. has been out six months, is from Syracuse, and is pretty outgoing. Sister S. came out the same time I did, comes from Clearfield, and is fairly soft spoken. They’re able to talk to some of the less actives and investigators that the elders had a hard time contacting, so we’re glad to have them.

Satan is definitely trying to get to Sister T., but she’s not having any of it. She and her husband were debating over the meaning of a scripture and decided to Google it. A whole stream of “anti” sites lined up. They just thought it was dumb that people would try to pick at nits and devote so much time to try to stop the Church. She has a pretty good intellectual understanding of the Church and a good testimony, so none of it fazed her. She’s still on track for baptism, but we’re much more alert to things that would stop her.

J. M.'s sister called us out of the blue and told us that her mission president is allowing her to Skype in on J.'s lessons to help if we’d like. We're going to try that out. I have high hopes for this next lesson.

I'm not feeling so much like a brand new missionary. I’m still new going by mission standards, but I know pretty much how to do the work. I’m trying to read Jesus the Christ in my spare time, but most of my studies are Preach My Gospel and Book of Mormon.

I’m glad to hear everyone is doing so well in school. You’ll all be a lot happier if you keep that up.

Joshua’s picture is very obviously of Yoda, not Nathan. Sorry Joshua.

By the way, sorry to Nathan, Joshua, and Jacob. I thought I missed emailing someone last week.

Remembered my camera cord, left my camera.

Love,
Elder Rice

Monday, January 18, 2016

January 18, 2016: Transfers

I'm staying in Shawnee but Elders K. and H. are leaving and being replaced by sisters. Elder H. gets to work with mission-famous Elder M.

We got a new investigator, W. He didn't seem very interested the first time we visited him. He was very comfortable with his religion. We came back just recently. He says, "Heck yeah! I want Prophets!"

Sister T. is getting baptized on February 14. WHOOP! She wanted the baptism date on that day to go with Valentine’s Day and because her payday was the next day and she wants to pay her first tithing on that. (Before, she was very strict about not taking the sacrament or paying tithing before baptism). Really excited!

We'll probably just talk to our neighbors about the smoking. Maybe get some new investigators. If anything, we'll just take the other elders’ old apartment considering sisters can't share the same apartment complex with elders (or so I was told). We'll take care of it soon. No smoke is getting in visibly. It just smells bad.

Gas prices here are something around $1.40.

I can't remember if I mentioned J.M. in my last email. We had an awesome lesson with him. We asked if he read and prayed and learned we had the true Church, if he would be baptized. He actually understood! He said, "Yeah, I guess that would be the next step." I know that doesn't sound like much, but most people who have been baptized in other churches or even baptized multiple times always object with that.

Lots of awesome experiences this week. Talking with absolutely everyone has definitely brought in more investigators.

Love you guys!
Elder Rice

Monday, January 11, 2016

January 11, 2016: Read the Label

Just accidentally drank some green tea. Elder H. and I bought some juice and it seemed that most of the ingredients where good. I drank about half the bottle and thought, “Man, this is almost addictingly good.” Checked the ingredients again and found green tea extract. We tossed the bottles real quick.

We've been doing a lot of finding lately. Really not effective to tract, but we've still found some people. It was a little cold (alotta cold) but it's getting pretty warm now.

Forgot my [camera] cord again.

This is a really lame email, sorry. I have a lot more to tell, but it really wouldn't be as good without all the pictures.

Love,
Elder Rice

I guess I could mention that one of our investigators has agreed to read four chapters a day if we do 80 burpees a day (pushup/jumping jack exercise). So far so good.

Monday, January 4, 2016

January 4, 2016: The New Year

Things are starting off pretty well. It's already getting warmer, which is nice. I've never been so cold in my life.

We taught B.'s (less active member) girlfriend, E. In our lessons before, they didn't show a lot of interest or pay much attention. We decided to take a different approach. Instead of teaching one of the set lessons, we just spent some time talking. We found out their worries about the future, their desires, their interests. We then took time to explain why we teach, and what the gospel actually does for them. She gained a lot of interest and has been reading the daily scriptures in the Book of Mormon, has read through the further scripture study in the pamphlets, and has been getting B. to bring her to church. They're doing awesome!

We were a little worried about Sister T. last week. She had still been reading a bunch of books about Mormons, but not actually reading the Book of Mormon (she listened to it in her car on the way to work). She was still looking for the intellectual answers, and as good as that is, that was all she seemed to look for. She had mentioned that she was sort of hiding from God because she was afraid of what he might ask her to do. At church that week she seemed depressed and our Gospel Principles class didn't help (some members started to debate about spirit paradise and prison). Every night we prayed that she would be able to have a spiritual experience and learn to walk by faith.

This last Sunday, we decided to start over the Gospel Principles class. As we discussed about how we can come to know God, prayer was brought up. Sister T. stopped the lesson and said, "I want to talk about prayer for a minute." At that, all of us panicked (Brother H. gripped is cane nervously). She said, "You've been telling me every time I have a question, to pray about it. Today in sacrament meeting, as someone was giving their testimony, I decided to pray." She started to tear up, "I received the very distinct impression, 'It's not about what you want.' I realized that it's really about what God wants for me." She seemed to be brighter and seemed younger.

All four of us missionaries were silent for awhile. It was the best thing, I think, that's happened to me out here, and the other elders (even the older ones) agreed. I've seen people blessed and saved from poverty, but it didn't change them. They didn't pay it back to God, and they stopped living right and fell again. This experience was different. She changed.

So I'm going to explain a few of those presents [Christmas present he sent home]. I got the Tolkien book and the lightsaber from the thrift store we give service at. Sister H. made the necklace and always has the missionaries send one home. The geode thing, D. (Sister L.'s son) gave that to me and as I pulled it out of my pack at the flat, a huge spider crawled out and up my arm. The Star Wars stuff is just from Walmart.

I was the only one who really stayed up until 12 on New Year's (we had permission). I talked to Elder L. as I sat on my bed, but he just kind of moaned. I had invited the others over and they seemed like they were coming, but then they bagged it and just went to bed. Kind of lame, like I expected.

Hope you guys are having fun this new year. From your pictures it seems so. I forgot my camera cord.

Love all y'all.
Elder Rice