Monday, June 17, 2013

More adventures in Vegas

I guess I will be leaving for Mexico on Monday the 24th, which is the day of transfers into Xalapa. Regardless, I know the Lord put me in Vegas to help a 9-year old girl.
One trait I have noticed about being a missionary that every person who has served a mission has affirmed is this: A mission is one big time warp! Every day seems like a week. Every week seems like a day. Every month seems like an hour, and the years fly by in an instant. I am grateful I know there is actually no such thing as time or I would be confused at how that actually works, but it's true. Every week goes by and it seems like everything I did that week happened in just a day. So seems this last week, especially given the precious weekend we had.
We baptized two converts yesterday: J and B, two of the P family children. J is 13 and B is nine. Elder Frost started visiting the P family a few months ago after contacting Justin in the street. The parents have come back to activity recently and the children wanted to be baptized, too -- except for B. She is very shy and introverted and didn't express herself to the missionaries before, except that "I was already baptized and I don't want to be baptized again." Her mother said that she didn't want to force her daughter to do anything and it looked like B just wouldn't be baptized and start going to Church with her parents. "All it took was one thing to change her life forever," she said as she looked me in the eyes, "and that was you."
B felt a special bond the first time I went to the P's home. As we talked, she opened up and talked to me and even gave me a hug after the lesson! Her mom couldn't believe it. The next time we came over, B said why she didn't want to be baptized and I taught her plainly why baptism by God's authority is necessary and told her the blessing that will come with baptism. A unique combination of my Abram-ness and the Holy Ghost worked in that sweet little girl's heart and she told us the next lesson that she wanted to be baptized, and she wanted me to baptize her! I am very grateful I am the oldest in my family. Having grown up with six younger siblings and constantly interacting with children of all ages for 19 years, I know how to make kids grow, learn, have fun, and be happy.
On Saturday we held a baptism for both J and B and we confirmed them on Sunday. I give thanks to my Father in Heaven for allowing me to further His work among the children of men. The feelings I had as I baptized B and gave her the Holy Ghost are indescribably wonderful. I blessed B that she may use her artistic talents to draw closer to her Heavenly Father and do missionary work in the future. Truly, I used the gift of discernment. I had no idea she had made crafty little treat baskets for the missionaries to keep or that she loved to do artsy things. The Spirit is real and He works wonders.
B said in her prayer with the family and us last night: "Thank you for changing Elder Dorrough's name on a computer list so that he would come to Vegas instead of anywhere else while he waited to go to Mexico. We are so happy he teaches us and helps us. Thank you for sending him over to our house so that he could convert me and baptize me and make me happy and smiley with all of my family." That was actually her whole prayer. Now I know why I was needed in Vegas as a detour to Mexico - for B, who will be sealed with her family for all eternity a year from now. The gospel is powerful. The gospel is about families. Families are everything.
The experience with B was the higlight of my mission so far. Right after her baptism, she wanted to take silly pictures with me, the ones in which you hold the camera yourself and take pictures randomly.

Again, I am grateful for goofball companions. They are tons of fun. We are all hard workers and that is why we are so blessed to teach so many lessons.
Soon I will be in Mexico!
Elder Abram Dorrough

Monday, June 10, 2013

Buenos Dias

Good news! I got my Visa on Friday. My companions from the MTC and I went to the consulate downtown. We sat around for several hours and when we finally got to go inside, I discovered Little Mexico. Literally everything and everybody inside was Mexican. I loved it. There was not a word of English! What really surprised me was how brief my "Interview" was for the Visa. "Como esta?" Bien. "Nombre?" Dorro. --- That was all. They took my fingerprints and a photo and I was done. The purpose of my 8 hour adventure Friday was a 30 second process. I did shock several Mexican families by speaking Spanish to them. One lady made a funny joke to the woman seated next to her and I laughed. The whole group looked over at me and I explained to them that I am a missionary and a Mexican on the inside. They laughed. Good times. I can't wait to go to Mexico!

Speaking of which, the mission still has no idea when I will leave. Quote, "We have no idea when you will leave. We will give you about 24 hour notice." The "likeliest" date I will leave is 24 June, the day of transfers into Xalapa. However, based upon everybody I've talked to, the Church likes to send you off to your original mission as soon as possible. I will email you my departure time the day before I leave, which could be anywhere from tomorrow to 24 June, but no later than 24 June. Before we left the consulate, I asked the senior missionary who drove us if I could personally hold and handle my passport before he took it back to the mission office. I wanted to ensure that my visa was actually there... Because sometimes with Dorroughs, simple things like actually inserting a Visa into the passport don't happen. Rest assured, my Visa is ready and I have seen it.

So far the only Spanish I have been able to speak was to one person... and that person was the Ice Cream Truck Lady! Her vehicle was stopped in a neighborhood and we were walking by making some visits, so I stopped by the truck and gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon. I told her to compare it with the Bible and to pray to know it is true. Beside that, no Spanish! However, we have a French speaking investigator. This is a cool story.

We were driving to visit an investigator when we saw a black man with dreadlocks standing against a streetlight with his back turned to us. I felt that we should say hello to him. "Let's go talk to that man," I said. "Sounds good," Elder Conklin replied. We parked the car and headed over to talk to him. We greeted the man and when he responded it was clear that he did not speak very much English. "How are you doing today?" It sounded French... but who speaks French in Las Vegas?After a brief introduction, we learned that he is from Gabon, Africa. He moved to the United States two years ago and he had just moved to his home in Vegas that week. He gladly accepted us to go to his home, where we watched "Finding Faith in Christ" and told him a little bit about our Savior. It was clear that he felt the Spirit (despite the awful costuming of the movie) and his eyes were watering as he told us why he invited us inside.

In broken English and his French accent, he told us, "Me was sitting inside reading my Bible (bee-bluh, as they say in French) and me walk outside and pray, ask the Lord to guide me and help me change my heart in life. Right after me pray finish, you guys say hello to me. Me know the Lord sent you to help me." He knew we were sent from on high to help him. Now the only thing to do was help him -- which is very difficult because he does not speak very much English.

The Lord's hand in preparing this man to be taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ did not end there. We set up a return appointment for two days afterward and obtained a French copy of the Book of Mormon. The next night -- the very next night -- we had dinner with a young married couple, the L family. Brother L told us a mission story and we asked him where he had served. Quebec, Canada. Speaking French. Needless to say, having dinner with the only member of the ward who speaks French the day before we were going to teach the first lesson to a man who speaks only French was too good to be true. The lesson went extremely well. Brother L translates what we say when our investigator does not recognize a word and Brother L translates all of the investigators answers back to us. We have taught him two lessons so far and he clearly receives and understands everything that is taught. The only explanation is the Holy Ghost. "Me love the Book of Mormon. It is so much simple than the Bible. It help make life simple."  "Me want to be in the Celestial Kingdom. Me want see all three of you there and we all be with my family and with our friends together." He came to Church on Sunday and loved it. He is scheduled to be baptized on 27 July. Truly, he was prepared by the Hand of the Lord. Less than a week after moving, he prays for guidance. Less than a minute after praying for guidance, the Lord sends his servants to talk with him.

We gained two other new investigators this week: a teenage boy named Q and a middle aged lady named S. I actually didn't get to teach Q because I was downtown getting my Visa, but we have another lesson set up with him. S was raised a Jehovah Witness and she didn't like it so she stopped practicing as a teenager. She just moved to Vegas a couple weeks ago and she is very open to our message.

So far, 100% of the people I have met and taught have been by street contacting. In my 3 weeks so far in Vegas, I have had a grand total of 3 people open the door whilst tracting. Imaginably, that is an extremely low number of people to be home when it's 112 degrees outside. Three. Whole. People. My companions said it wasn't like that previously! Whatever ju-ju I brought into the companionship has helped a lot with street contacting but has hindered tracting substantially. We think perhaps nobody answers because three strangers in white shirts and ties at the door looks intimidating, whereas two people isn't really scary. We're not quite sure, but we are having wonderful success regardless.

Thanks a million for the family pictures! I appreciate them a lot. I already used them in a lesson to help keep a 9-year old girl awake while we were teaching. We ended up looking through all three Elder's family pictures and having some nice bonding time with the family!

Of all the things in my mission, I am most grateful for my companions. They are hard working, obedient, respectful, totally goofy, and they have common sense. From the other missionaries in my zone and the stories I have heard, I basically got the best of the bunch. They rock.

I will let you know approximately 24 hours-ish before my flight, whenever it is! Though "likely" it will be on the 24th, we may never know with my luck... speaking of my curse, I BROKE a self-checkout kiosk at Walmart this morning. I inserted my cash and the machine self destructed! It made all sorts of loud sounds and the screen went red. A special employee had to come by, open up the machine, fiddle around, and fix it for me. "This has never happened before." No kidding. That should be the new family motto.

Anywho, I love you! Hopefully I will be in Mexico soon!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Vegas is vegas

Well... Vegas is Vegas. It's starting to get really warm here! It was 105 F yesterday. (I can't wait to just adjust to Centigrade.) I know one reason I'm in Vegas is to become accustomed to heat until I head to Mexico. The dry weather here won't be as warm as the 99% humidity of Xalapa, but it's definitely warmer than Provo was!

The Lord placed me here so I could help some people I need to help. Since I arrived, my companions and I have started to teach two families we are going to baptize soon: the Ps and the Cs. The Ps are Filipino, so we've been able to eat lots of fun food at their house, including something called "balut", which is a delicacy in the Philippines -- it's a duck embryo that is still inside the egg. You boil the egg thereby cooking the baby duck along with the egg, and you're ready to eat! The Cs are parents of three children. They haven't ever attended any church before and are very receptive to the gospel message. The father just has to get Sundays off his work so he can attend church and they're set!

We also have two other people with baptismal dates: one is a single mother named C and the other is a Hispanic man named D. C has been flaky with commitments recently and hasn't been to church in a month, so we have to keep pushing back her baptism. "We don't want to baptize an inactive member."

D is a party. I would have come to Vegas just to meet my companions and D. I took some pictures with him last night. He is a great example of the being able to change somebody's heart regardless of what he may have done. D spent 10 years in prison for robbery and had been a heavy drug user/gangster before his sentence. He says that after experiencing prison life, he knew he had to change his entire lifestyle. He's been out of prison for three years. When the missionaries stopped by his house several months ago, he came to know the Church is true, and now he's scheduled to be baptized on 5 July - the day his mother died while he was in prison. He has a lot of stories about having a change of heart and he's a hilarious guy to visit. It's a true Paul/Alma the younger story with D.

 His only desire now is "to marry an LDS woman with good values who will love me and who I can trust." Christ changes people from the inside.

I didn't take any pictures of the street signs, but the streets have HILARIOUS names here... they're not even normal nouns or proper nouns. They're adjectives, gerunds, or a ridiculous adjective coupled with a normal noun. It makes me laugh up the wazoo every time I find a new street with a ridiculous name: Captivating. Alluring. In Vogue. Rejoicing. Enticing. Rich Amethyst. Tailor Made. Careful Canvas. Provocative. All streets. All real names. It's splendiferously silly.

One thing I forgot to get for my mission was bad ties! I didn't think that one through before I headed out to the mission field. In south Mexico on the gulf coast where it's going to pour rain on me regularly, I can't exactly be walking around in a tropical storm or cutting a trail through the jungle with my lucky machete in a nice silk tie. So far I have managed to acquire four polyester ties... which brings my total to four. I'll get some more either before I go or while I'm in Mexico!

This is my favorite photo yet by far.  My companions are demonstrating how to avoid a member who is out in the yard who likes to talk too much and distract us from proselyting.

I love you!

Elder Abram Dorrough