Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sacrifices and blessings

Hi all.

Transfers are always a gigantic surprise every time. Just when you think you have every path laid out and is prepared to except the unexcepted, it's almost always something you never except. Last week, my companion has been transferred to the California San Jose Mission, and the ASL program has been stepped back to two areas (grr...) for the time being.

My new companion is Elder Leavell. He's a cool guy. And small world of a small world, he's from Las Vegas. Weird, huh? He's from the rich side of Vegas (the north-western part of town, I think?) He has a personality that reminds me a lot of Jared's. In fact, almost the same, expect more wackier, and it brings back a lot of memories.

Last friday, the Los Angeles Visitor's center has been dedicated, by Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. When word came around that Elder Nelson was coming to town, Elder Leavell pulled in some favors from high places and got us to attend the dedicatory service with some recent converts. It was a very solemn occasion, and I saw a lot of promient people from all over LA in the room. As Elder Nelson said the dedicatory prayer, one thing he spoke impressed me a lot. He asked the Lord to bless the full-time missionaries, that they can go great strides in the work, and that the missionaries can take full advantage of the visitor's center, that they may use it as a effective instrument in the gathering of Israel. WOW. After the service, I had the wonderful opportunity to shake Elder Nelson's hand. It's a weird feeling... his hand is SO soft and he radiates the spirit...

Did you know that in little under a year have I been less than 50 feet from six Apostles but have never been able to actually shake hands with one of them until last friday. oy...

Othat than that, things are going ok here. Getting used to the extra work here now. We're teaching a sweet old lady named Mary Sepulveda, and she has a BURNING desire to learn more about the gospel. We met her 2 weeks ago, and she's already halfway through the Book of Mormon before we even committed her to read anything, and everything we taught, he absorbed it right up and is getting some of her friends to be taught the gospel. =O She has a baptismal date for November 7. She's very golden, I tell you.

Well, bye for now.

-E.T. {0 ^ 0} __o
\ / //

Another General Conference come and go...

Received October 5th

Hi all.

General Conference was very sobering. 5 MORE TEMPLES! What more, somehow for the past 3 weeks, I had this enormous hunch that they would announce more temples at this general conference. Wow. What a revelation.

During the course of General Conference, I was stricken with the impression that the Lord needs more Full-time Missionaries and that He is concerned about Satan's growing influence in the world. I noticed that several of the speakers were talking all about the gift of agency, or the gift to choose and act for ourselves, and that Satan is fighting hard to take that gift from us and get us to be miserable like he is. In many parts of Los Angeles, this message often echoes true. A lot of people here live in poverty and live in dangerous neighborhoods because of a series of choices they made and now they have limited choices (for example, not having a car, not affording a home, or probably in their lives will never be able to get good jobs). In principle, they're trapped (in fact, we found out that one of our investigators is in jail now), and it's kind of sad. I wish I could help them make better choices and thus lead to better freedom, then it hit me that, as full-time missionaries, we are exactly in a position to help them make better choices. then it HIT me that the lord needs MORE full-time missionaries to help MORE people make better choices and to help in the battle against Satan's evil incluence.

Last week, I encouraged all the youth in my ward to consider a full-time mission. I will not repeat what I said last week (you can just scroll down on my blog and look it up if you want) but I'm going to say more, and I'm going to say it to every able-bodied young man and woman who will read this, not just those in my ward. Satan's influence is real. I see it all the time here in Los Angeles, not just in Las Vegas, and I'm pretty sure that it is the same the world over. You can help in the fight against Satan. In fact, I WANT you to help. The Lord WANTS you to. Much of the time we are too causal about this. We are in the final dispensation. The "end-game" in the history of mankind. Satan is fighting harder than ever and all the stakes are on the table. President Ezra Taft Benson said:
"For nearly six thousand years, God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming of the Lord. Every previous gospel dispensation has drifted into apostasy, but ours will not. True, there will be some individuals who will fall away; but the kingdom of God will remain intact to welcome the return of its head--even Jesus Christ. While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time. It is that God has saved for the final inning some of his strongest children, who will help bear off the Kingdom triumphantly. And that is where you come in, for you are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God.
All through the ages the prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it--you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time as there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been as well organized. Now is the great day of the devil's power, with the greatest mass murderers of all time living among us. But now is also the great day of the Lord's power, with the greatest number ever of priesthood holders on the earth. And the showdown is fast approaching.
Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good pick up new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions that show where our support will go. The final outcome is certain--the forces of righteousness will finally win. What remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this fight--and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last-days, foreordained mission?"
I know that if you serve a full time mission, the Lord will bless you in more things than you can imagine. As a full-time missionary, you can make yourself extraordinary. As each of us help out, the devil's power becomes weaker. I know that as all of us pur forth all our best efforts to accomplish the Lord's purposes, we can overcome Satan forever. I love you all and I want the best for all of you, and I know missionary service will definitely help you do that.

One more thing, I came up with a cool quote: "Every member is a missionary. We are the front lines"

-E.T. {0 ^ 0} __o
\ / //

Father and Son Gets Soaked

Hi all.

This week have been hard, but so wonderful at the same time... This week, we've had unusually cloudless weather and high temperatures (almost like a heat wave) so that meant working under the scorching sun. The Los Angelenos call it an "Indian Summer" so I'm guesing that it happens sometimes.

Nevertheless, the Lord always blesses you for your faith and efforts. Many of our investigators are growing a testimony and progressing a bit at a time, although they haven't come to church yet. The good thing is that this week, we enjoyed having a lot of people come to Sacrament meeting, Investigators and Less-Actives alike (The Branch President said 83 people showed up), and we are also very pleased to have three new people into the fold. Sister Krystal Caywood two weeks ago gave birth to a healthy and beautiful daughter, and Father and Son Juan Guzman Sr and Juan Guzman Jr whom I talked about two week ago have been baptized yesterday afternoon. Juan Guzman Sr is very heavy so at first we thought that there might have to be two people in the water to help baptize him, but our Zone Leader, Elder Amundsen (the orange-haired elder in the picture) baptized him without any problem.

Received Sept 19th
This baptism service has been very intense, because it is the first baptism in our branch to be translated in three different languages since Juan Sr. only speaks spanish and several of his family who attended preferred spanish. I think that the spirit has touched them very strongly, and that means a lot of good things in the near future. Since a LOT of families in Los Angeles are spanish-speaking, the Branch Presidency is adjusting the branch structure to accomodate these people. In two weeks, we are going to announce the calling of someone to teach the Sunday School in Spanish. (My guess is either Rodrigo Perez, Brother or Sister Martinez, or Brother or Sister Calderon). Little by little, the Branch is slowly becoming a Ward. In fact so that President Sutton is already talking with the Stake President about increasing the branch to Ward status around the next year... President Hales joked that at the rate things are going, There might be a deaf Stake here in Southern California very soon. Sutton then remarked "Yes, and you can be it's first stake president.". Hales then said "Yes... I might need to learn ASL first."

I love you guys and thanks for all your prayers. Hump day is rolling around (November 3) so it's kind of freaky. Missionary work really is working all kinds of havoc on my normal time sync because I feel I have only been here for at least 1/4 of that time. Something have been chewing on my mind all week, so I want to add a quick message to all the men and young men in my ward who might or might not be considering the opportunities of a mission: GO ON ONE. Your life aspirations really only last a lifetime, but I KNOW that a mission WILL bless you and other lives you touch, FOREVER. I know it because I want you all to go. I want Ryan Lindquist to put his music carrer on a short hold and serve a mission. I want DJ Kesterson and Steven Stewart to put their brains together and come back to church and go on a mission. I want the Jennings and the Mulvey Boys to go on a mission because it will bless their lives infinitely. I want Jordan Torres and Tim Olsen and Daniel Tomola, and all the other young men to get ready for a mission because this extraordinary opportunity only comes ONCE (well, sure, you can serve again when you have arthritis and kidney stones. And even so, you'll just be teaching people about family history. Isn't that fun?) so I want ALL OF YOU to take advantage of that precious opportinity to preach the gospel and to build a steadfast testimony of the truth for yourself. Besides, it'll go be pretty past, and before it hits you, you'll already be home from your mission and planning for college and other stuff.

Plus, most LDS women loves RM's. Think about it.

-E.T. {0 ^ 0} __o
\ / //

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fall is a-coming.

One way Los-Angelenos know that a change of seasons is coming is that a THICK fog whips up almost every morning. It makes our morning ultimate-frisbee exercises a lot more challenging because it's hard to see the frisbee into all the soup. Of course, we never let that deter us, except in cases of torrential rain, which we will eventually get as the autumn rolls on. Ha ha.

Hi all.

Vitaliy received the holy ghost yesterday and he was pretty thrilled about it. We hope he will be a great addition to the branch. Meanwhile, We WILL have more baptisms rolling in this month. 2 weeks ago, we committed a whole family to baptism next week, and they're REALLY working towards it. The Guzmans have a deaf son named Juan. It's a interesting way HOW we found them. last month, we had a dinner appoint with the Gillespie family from our Branch. Kim Gillespie intended to cook us some dinner but her son spilled the sauce, which made dinner pretty much kaput so she asked us to fetch some pizza which she'll cover. Ok, will do. So we stopped at nearly La Pizza Loco (Home of the enormous 32 incher, by the way) and got some large pizzas. While waiting, we noticed a boy with an cochlear implant (That's Juan) so my companion and I struck up conversation to get his attention. We found that his home is in ASL south's area so we referred him there and they taught Juan. When the ASL program areas was split and re-organized, Juan's family surprisingly fell into OUR area so we took up the teaching. The Guzman family mostly speak Spanish so we had the Zone Leaders (We're tight with them so we pulled in some favors) and sometimes some spanish members from our branch to help out. The whole family totally absorbed everything we taught them and asked many questions. The father, Juan Sr., even gave up coffee BEFORE any missionaries taught him at all. I could call them a "Golden" family but they don't have a car and they have a broken home so that's a challenge.

Well, our branch is s l o w l y becoming a Ward. Yesterday, our Branch president reorganized the sacrament-passing process and also introduced Priesthood opening exercises, as every other ward has. We're pretty excited about it.

Recently, I thought about something. Los Angeles is one grand melting pot of different cultures, with all kind of different languages, especially among the deaf, but American Sign Language is such a wonderful tool of communication that binds all of them together and I guess that's why our small branch is one of the most culturally diverse in the church. We have White, Black, Hispanic, Latino, Hawaiian, Native American, Samoan, Korean, Chinese, and French, to name some, and now we enjoy a Russian among us. Truly, our branch alone is proof of partial fulfillment of the prophecy that the gospel shall be preached to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.

Bye for now.

-E.T. {0 ^ 0} __o
\ / //

Now things are getting serious!

This transfer came as a HUGE surprise to us last week. Our endless debates with the mission president has finally paid off and the areas in the ASL program here in Los Angeles has been divided and rearranged. As of this point forward, Los Angeles now has SIX missionaries in THREE companionships in THREE areas (ASL South, ASL East and ASL West). We're really excited about this because the ASL program is no longer weak anymore. It has became strong once again and is growing. We hope that in the near future, Salt Lake City can send some more missionaries over to Los Angeles and we can focus on adding ASL North into the mix. Right now, finding more people to teach is our main priority.

Oh, and we want an official ASL District. We just need a District Leader of our own. Hopefully that'll happen next transfer or so. Elder Franson, our current District Leader, is good, but an ASL District Leader is better, at least for us. Maybe we can talk the president into dragging back Elder Cordy, who was our DL before.

In other news, Vitaliy FINALLY got baptized last sunday! The whole week, we ran around like rats getting everything ready for his baptism and we prayed a lot, but everything went smoothly... almost. Vitaliy asked me to baptize him. I was so nervous (plus they turned on the wrong faucet and the baptismal water was FREEZING) I fumbled on the first try and had to do it all over. WHOOPS. But the good thing is that Vitaliy felt the spirit strongly and talked about it all the way home. Cool. I bet he's going to be excited to get the holy ghost next sunday. Vitaliy is an awesome guy and I hope he stays strong from now on!

Well, that's baptism #6.

Anyhoo, right now, Elder Franco and I are getting used to our new area. we plan to get a large-scale map and some tacks soon so we can pinpoint all of our deaf people we're working together. As you can see, this transfer was a HUGE change. In fact, they don't even have another apartment ready yet so 4 of our missionaries had to share one apartment. I must imagine it'd be really cramped having only one bedroom and only one bathroom for everyone to share, plus dish washing and laundry would be a nightmare, let alone the daily morning schedule. Luckily, Elder Franco and I don't have to go through that.

-E.T. {0 ^ 0} __o
\ / //

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Letter from Zack

This week seems to be doing better. For one thing, I thought hard about what I had been feeling the previous weeks, and I've decided to stop caring about how not-normal the other ASL missionaries is. This is the Lord's work, and it's not about me anymore. There are people here in Los Angeles who are candidates for eternal life but has yet to know truth. This week, a cool thing happened.

A few weeks ago, We had the privilege of practicin our teaching skills with President Sutton, and that day, He helped me realize how I can do a LOT better as a teacher. I realized that a lot of deaf people are not really excited about church because they don't understand what is being taught. All along, we've been trying to stick to Preach my Gospel, but what we should be doing is teaching the simple doctrines of the church in terms they CAN understand. For example, deaf people migh not understand about the terms: prophets, relvation, repentance, baptism, sacrament, even God himself so what we should do is break it down to one principle at a time and cover a lot of room for clarification and such. since that day, we've been redefining our traching skills. well, this week produced surprising results. Two of our investigators we taught this week, both youth named Pedro Perez and Richard Pena seened to pay more attention. Pedro even said that he understood us very clearly and enjoyed it and asked when we can come back (Before, he was struggling to decide whether to join the LDS church or the (violin screeching) Jehovah Witnesses'). I'm excited to apply our new teaching skills to use with all the other youth (we have quite a few, since there's a deaf school (called Marlton school) in our area), and I hope soon, we'll finally have a nucleus of youth coming to church, and eventually Deacons and Teachers and Priests, and Young Women, which will totally help the deaf branch into becoming a Ward. After the youth program is taken care of, I guess the only thing needed left is a quorum of High Priests, and since we only have two of them, we obviously need more. The Branch President's two counselors seems to be coming back on the right track so I guess the boat is floating for now.

Other than that, this week went ok. I can't believe August is half over already. It felt like only two or three days whizzed right on by. Guess you'd batter start looking for a stuffed camel soon because Hump Day is in 2 1/2 months. It seems to be a little chillier now, especially during our 6:00 AM Ultimate Frisbee exercises.

-E.T. {0 ^ 0} __o
\ / //

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Hi all.

There's so much I want to talk about so I'm typing as fast as I can so please forgive any spelling errors. How do I sum up my whole week so far? I 'd say just this scripture:

"And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day." (Book of Mormon, Alma 37:40)

The Independence Day week was nothing short of extraordinary, Sunday the most of them all. Still, I'll go with how the week began. Last Tuesday, as we were teaching a new investigator, named Joey Lopez, Elder Franco and I followed a very strong spiritual prompting and changed our lesson plans RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of teaching about God's commandments, and taught about the aspect of God wanting families to be united eternally. Well, it struck a big chord with Joey and he became SO interested into the subject, asking us a lot of questions about how he can have a eternal family. And we didn't even teach him any of the basic gospel principles yet! The next day, while teaching him and his girlfriend at a park, we followed YET ANOTHER strong spiritual prompting and committed Joey to baptism right on the spot. What shocked me even more is that he said right that second "Alright. Let's do it.". We have a date for baptism on July 25 and a LOT of ground to cover with Joey so I just know we will be visiting him very often.

This week, Hadlock and I went on 2-day splits with our District Leader. the first split was on Thursday (Elder Jackson with the other ASL elders, which mean Hadlock tagged along with Franco and I), which coincidentally landed on Sports Night, an activity in our branch that takes place once every 2 weeks and branch wants us to attend because it's a good missionary tool. We were very scared because our district leader is very strict and doesn't really understand the ASL program. That, and for the last few months, all we can get to come to sports night were about 2 or 3 people, making it kind of suffer. If Elder Jackson saw that there were no one coming to Sports night, he would discuss with the mission president about banning all missionaries from sports night permanently! so all of us prayed really hard and talked with everyone we could think of via cell phone, video phone, and friends. As the night came, we braced ourselves for the inevitable.

First one person came, then the 2nd, then oh at least 35! the gym was packed full of people wanting to come to socialize and have fun. And the most of all, most of those people were not members of the church. My jaw nearly dropped to the floor. This sports night, I think, has been the most enjoyable one ever since I first came to Los Angeles.

The next day, Friday, Elder Jackson splitted with Elder Franco, means I was with Hadlock and Elder Western that day, in my old area. the day was OK, and then we has an appointment to meet a new investigator named Renea Lee at a Starbucks near the South Bay Galleria. Funny thing, that Friday night happened to be a "deaf Starbucks night" and we got to meet a lot of new deaf people who are friends of Renea. I had a very interesting experience as I met a deaf man named William who is a "deaf power" (It's like racial pride). He acted friendly until he saw Hadlock's cochlear implant and ranted about "Why would deaf people want to be hearing??" like a drunken politician. It was kind of funny.

Last Sunday, the 4th of July, surprised me at EVERY turn. The whole month, all of us were completely excepting the church to be like a ghost town because of the holiday. That, and it was fast Sunday and Independence day fell on the sabbath. Never before had we been more wrong. while some didn't come, People CAME. and a good number of them, even investigators! I guess you know the real measure in a person's heart when he or she chooses to put patriotism to their country second to God. Joey Lopez also came. During testimony meeting, I felt prompted to pray, and I prayed that Joey would stand up and share his testimony. The second I said "Amen", Joey immediately stood up, walked over to the podium, and testified about the truthfulness of the gospel. (He have not even read the book of Mormon or prayed yet!) After church, we did some tracting with amazing results, having placed two books of Mormon, taught 4 lessons, and got 2 referrals. That night, the zone leaders called all the missionaries together at the Artesia chapel where we listened to 2 speakers from the Gardena and Lawndale Wards teach and testify about the importance of Independence Day, and how it helped provide a suitable environment of a free country where Joseph Smith could restore the church. it was very spiritual. As we went back ot our apartment, we got to watch a big firework display right from our apartment windows. Our apartment is 3 floors up and overlooking a nearby park, making it possibly the only apartment in the mission with a prime spot for being able to watch the fireworks without breaking any rules (It being 9:30, we being already inside our apartment and sacred 30 was over). If I were you, I'd think that the Lord has blessed me a hundred times over that day, and that He is letting me know that He appreciates me for giving my 2 years to serve the Lord.

God Bless America. And God bless Los Angeles.

E. T.


Hi Mom and Dad. And all others.

I just had a very frightening revelation. Do you realize that July 11 means my mission will be 1/3 over? Where on earth did the last 8 months go? Well, I can say this: Forget those high school summer vacations. Missions are the one that needs to SLOW DOWN. June flashed past as if it had only been a week long. I LOVE LOS ANGELES.

Well... you know, anyway.

Elder Franco is amazing. Definitely miles better than old Elder Pessimism. Franco has a very open, very positive attitude, has a lot of cool ideas, and we agree on a lot of things. I guess as long as I have him, everything will go swimmingly, but I don't know about Elder Van Dam yet (STILL not yet in the ASL program. Fancy that...) so we'll see what happens. I hope he does come in soon. He's a great guy too.

Vitaliy (The deaf Russian guy) is off on a cruise with his family, so he will not be at home or church for awhile so we can't teach him. Bummer... We did on the other hand commit him to baptism on July 11-18 and he happily accepted so we're staying hopeful. Three weeks ago, Franco and the other elder (I was not yet transferred) taught him the word of wisdom since he's a big coffee drinker. They said that Vitaliy was really bummed about it. Well, the next visit, I with Elder Franco, of course, found that he has TOTALLY kicked out his coffee habits and substituted on Pomegrante juice and milk. He's made amazing strides since then. I guess the true gospel really does inspire people to take better courses in their lives.

Well, I'm absolutely giddy. Why? one of our investigator houses turned out to be this mini deaf community. The investigators' names are Ana, Juan, and Jennifer (That is as it is at the moment) and they have a big family and a LOT of deaf friends who drop by every now and then, and maybe even more to refer to us. The three are very interested in the gospel, and they feel they're "the foundation of all their peers", so we think this is a golden, nay, DIAMOND opportunity. Why? If we can help them accept the gospel, most likely all others will follow them in their example. We are talking about not 5, not 10, but at least 25 potential baptisms, making the branch leadership goal of 40 baptisms in a year ridiculously easy. Wishful thinking, I know, but I'm a believer of miracles along with fasting and prayer so I think everything will work out great. I think that if we just "Do it", with all the help from the Lord, the Torrance 4th Deaf Branch is well on it's way in becoming the Torrance Deaf Ward.

And that's only scratching the surface.

According to intelligence (our branch president), There is enough deaf people in all of LA county to form at least 4 or 5 Deaf stakes/districts. A humbling thing to know, don't you think? But one step at a time. One step at a time. Focus on the little snowball first.

Time's up. gotta go.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

My 1st transfer

Hi all.

Yep. I just got transferred last wednesday. My new area is ASL North, with Elder Franco. It's a really big shock for me but I'm slowly adapting into it. New area, new people, new places, the whole works. At least a few days ago, We just found a really cool investigator named Vitaliy Dreyer, and he is deaf. He was born and grew up in Russia near Novosibirsk (I think) before moving here in West Hollywood! He knows a lot about Russian culture as it's really cool learning about his life experiences. Since I'm 1/8th Russian, I've pretty much related easily with him. We think that he may be a golden investigator. We'll see what happens.

FYI, tracting in the Santa Monica/Beverly Hills area is a bad idea. There's a lot of Jews and Homosexuals and all of them want nothing to do with us. In my personal opinion, we're better off in Watts than with the upper-class. I feel like I'm in the story of the Zoramites and the Ramuemptom. If you don't know that story, ask a LDS friend, or read the Book of Mormon for yourself. Coolio, yes?

Besidea that, Elder Franco is an awesome missionary. He's very patient, has a very postive attitude, and he know that "(beep) happens" all the time, even in missionary work. I know we'll have a good companionship and thus be more effective in the Lord Work, unlike, alas, my now-former companion, but I'm not going to talk about him right now. Besides, all in the past now, right?

Sacrament meeting was good, but obviously, I wish it was better. We've invited and commited 18 investigators and less-actives to church, but only 3 came. (all less-active). This week, we just gotta bring the hammer down on them and let them know that we love them just that much. In my new area, we're teaching 3 deaf-oriented families so that is a lot of people to cover and a lot of baptisms to look forward to.

Anyway, I gotta go. Time is short.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Few new Pics from Elder Tritsch

Colorful stairway

Blowing bubbles with Brother Bannon Fu

Elder Tritsch and David Spencer