Monday, July 31, 2017

The California Santa Rosa Mission (July 31, 2017)

Alex with Pres. & Sis. Wright
Hey y'all! It's been such a good week! Kinda surreal what all is happening right now. I'll give a brief little review of this week first though. 

Last Monday, we went to the beach for PDay! It was super fun and actually colder than we thought it was going to be, but still good. Tuesday was good! We had a lesson with Brian then and a cool little experience happened. Here's what I wrote in my journal about it:
"We watched the "To the Investigators of the Church," by Elder Costa from the 2017 April GC, which I had found earlier that morning during personal study. He recognized that he needed to improve on all four of those things that Elder Costa talked about. We gave him some good invitations. We asked him to say the closing prayer at the end, but he said he didn't want to because he had a lot to think about. I offered a prayer and then at the end, he looked up and said, "wow, you should give more of those often." We asked him what he meant by that and he replied, "I just felt like I was on a rollercoaster or like someone came up behind me and scared me." We told him not to neglect those feelings and to look for them when he reads the Book of Mormon. It was pretty cool!" 
This was one of the first times he had been able to recognize the spirit and some of the feelings that come with it! What a blessing to be a part of that! We also had a lesson with him Saturday. I wrote in my journal about that experience saying:
"It was quite the lesson I must say We followed up on his reading in Alma 42, which he did, and talked about that a little. We then watched the "Act for Themselves" video that talks about free agency. We reviewed that principle a little and then talked about obedience to the commandments and how coming to church is being obedient. He expressed how he feels all churches say they have the truth and the Holy Ghost but he just doesn't know which is telling the truth and where/how to find the answer. We told him the story of Joseph Smith and how he was in a similar situation and how through prayer we can find those answers. He expressed how he doesn't think through prayer you can receive answers just like that. We think it's probably something his background that is stopping him. Al final, I shared 'A Child's Prayer,' and he said he was still unsure. The weird thing was is that openly agreed to give the closing prayer, without hesitation. Ugh we just want the best for him, but alas. Walking away from that lesson was probably one of the hardest most sensitive I've have ever felt for an investigator. I honestly love him a lot and desire the best for him. Maybe it's not his time right now "
Brian is a really good, but everything in the lord's time of course! 

The rest of the week was good. So sad note, i actually came down with a stomach bug/flu last Wednesday/Thursday which kept me from working as hard as I wanted to. That was kind of a bummer. I did get a priesthood blessing on Wednesday though, and by Thursday afternoon I felt well enough to go out! It was such a miracle because this little sickness had taken other people out for at least a week or so. That was cool! Wednesday night, we had a ton of appointments and people to see but I just couldn't make it. We tried to call tons of people in our branch to go on splits with us (where me and one companion could stay in the apartment and the other could go to the lessons) but no one answered! We got a thought, finally, to call president wright and see if he was busy and funny thing HE WASNT. So he came down and took Elder Hall out to our lessons  while Elder Pederson and I went home to rest. Good fun for him!
Yesterday, I was asked to speak and then after church had my departing interview with President. It was a tender experience. It still feels so unreal though haha. That was the last time I would able to see President and Sister Wright. They have Zone Conferences up north this week and so the Jeknavorian's will be taking me to the airport Thursday. I truly love the Wrights and know my mission wouldn't be the same without em!

Well, I guess this takes me to it. It's been a crazy, amazing, emotionally stretching, hard working, Jesus Loving, sweat breaking, beautiful two years. I am more than grateful to my Heavenly Father for, first, preparing this mission for me, and second, allowing me to serve in this capacity. It has been the greatest thing thus far in my life and for my life. It has set me on a course that I will be on for the rest of my life. It has definitely been the "road less traveled," but the sights, sounds, people, knowledge, and experience I've had on that road has completely changed me forever. I am torn apart thinking that this week I will have to leave a place and people that mean so much to me. They have changed my life. I have given everything to the Lord these last two years, but he's given me so much more. Words can't appropriately begin to describe my mission. I am forever grateful. 
'Gonna find my way and be back home real soon.'
See ya in 3!

Con Amor,
Elder Alexander Joyner

"I'm gonna teach them how to say good-bye..." (July 24, 2017)

Hey y'all! It's good to hear from ya today. We have had a great week this week! 

We are working hard and have seen miracles in the making. There was one specific instance where we had a set a goal to get at least 13 contacts that day. We had only gotten around 5 or 6 and we just came out of a lesson at about 8:35 at night, sometimes a kind of awkward time to try and contact. We didn't know exactly where to go next so we decided to say a pray and seek guidance from Heavenly Father. I opened area book and felt inspired to go to this one apartment complex and try and see this one less active brother. When we got there, there was literally so many people outside. There are advantages to a trio, so we split up, and contacted everyone we could see there. It ended up being exactly the amount of contacts needed to reach our goal that day. We had just perfect amount of time to make it home on time as well! It was another testament to me that if we ask, in faith, he will help us out! 

We were supposed to have several investigators come to church, but only Kevin showed up. Kevin is the nephew of Margarita (member in the branch). We had actually been trying to meet with Kevin for a long while. So, We talked to him and set an appointment at Margarita's for later that night. It was a killer lesson!  We got there and Hermana Violeta (a member that visits from Peru every six months who introduced Margarita to the church) was there. They basically asked us if we could do an improv FHE. We said of course! We showed an introduction to the church video to Kevin and he had some really good questions. He seems solid and actually interested in investigating. He said he has already felt the spirit at church and wants to continue learning. He is the miracle we've been waiting for! It was an awesome lesson! We then played a game called Sandia and had our treats 

I was able to meet up with the Freebarin's, Carolyn (Grandaddy's Sister), and Carla for dinner on Saturday. We went to a place in downtown Petaluma called Old Chicago Pizza. It was really cool to be able to meet up once more before I head out! We also got a visit from some returned missionaries, here for the week, that came and took us out to lunch! I only knew one of them, Sister Thompson, when I was serving in Santa Rosa. It was good to catch up with them! 
Cousin David, Alex, Aunt Carolyn, Cousin Carla, Cousin Linda

Well, this is my last full week. It's weird to think that this chapter of my life ends in just 10 shorts days. That gives me all the more right to work harder than I ever have. Lots of exciting things coming up this week. After next Monday, it'll just be a couple days. Lets just say this week, "I'm gonna teach them how to say good-bye." 
Have a fantastic week! Love y'all!

Con Amor,
Elder Joyner

๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿป๐Ÿ•บ๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ’๐ŸŒš (July 17, 2017)

Hi y'all! Happy Pday to ya! It's been a crazy week with transfers and being in a trio and such. I honestly love it a lot! We have worked hard and it's just been fun. It's definitely very interesting being able to work with two companions instead of just one. I've never been in a trio before. I feel it just keeps all of us on our toes! I'm glad y'all had fun at Nauvoo this week, for those that went. I wish I could've gone also! My new companion's , Elder Hall, grandparents are actually serving a mission there right now. He said they do several things there, from maintenance work to working in the brick shop. So if you ran into an Elder and Sister Hall, that was them. Also, Elder Pederson said his sister is going next week and will try and look for Dayne while she is there...

We had a couple good lessons with Brian this week. The first, on Wednesday, we read 3 Nephi 18 which talks about when Jesus institutes the sacrament and sets up his church among the Nephites. Brian said he really enjoys learning and is continuing reading. He is currently in chapters 8 or 9 of 2 Nephi, which is pretty far! The only thing that may be a stumbling block is that we don't thing he is really reading out of real intent to find out if it's true. That makes it kinda hard to receive an answer. He says he's just reading it as another book. We hope that eventually he will be able to feel the spirit and soften his heart a little bit. We've got some good lessons planned this next week on Humility and the Atonement, so that should be killah! We were actually able to talk with his step dad a little bit this last week as well. He's not at all interested but doesn't mind listening to us, so maybe one day he will be ready as well! 

We were able to find a couple other new investigators this week. One of which was Ebram. We were walking in the park, just contacting like normal. We saw him sitting on a bench just eatin' a burrito and decided to go up and talk to him. We showed him the Prince of Peace video and then after were able to talk about his religious upbringing. He said he really likes to read and so naturally we introduced the Book of Mormon to him. He said he would read all of it and see if it's really true. The thing is that his phone was a number from Mexico that we couldn't call with our phone, so I looked up my profile in Facebook so that we could message him. The sad thing was when I went to look at the friend request later, it wasn't there. We had no way to contact him. We had set up a return appointment to meet him at the same place in the park on Saturday, but he never showed up. We're gonna go back this week at the same time we found him and hope he's there! So fingers crossed!

Departing Dinner on Monday was a mixture of emotions; joy, excitement, sadness, hope, etc. It was really good to see all those missionaries before they left. It was interesting going to that and then return back to normal missionary work. I told President that he better count on me for working hard up until the end. It's just so weird that August 3rd is so close. California has a piece of my heart. 

Also, don't touch pit bulls because they will bite. The Maldonados came down from Santa Rosa and gave us dinner on Saturday! Gotta love them!

Con Amor, 
Elder Joyner

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Sure, Let's Try a Trio" (July 10, 2017)

Hello hello! Happy July 11th y'all! It's good to hear from ya this Monday. It's the end of the transfer and I'll be staying in petaluma for my last three weeks. We will be a trio though, the first (and last) one of my mission. And guess who's gonna be our new companion, ELDER HALL! So he was being trained by Elder Crowley the same time I was training Elder Sidwell last November. So we lived together and served in the same Ward and he's one of my really good buddies. We also went on an exchange on my birthday when he was serving in this zone a couple months ago. I was so pumped when I found that out! Such a legend. Should be a good time. 

This week was super bueno. Lets see what happened. Oh, ok so Fourth of July was good. It was a pretty normal day for us. We had district meeting that morning and Elder Pederson thought it would be a good idea to set up a giant flag and such. We also sang the star spangled banner and recited the pledge of allegiance. Classic! The rest of the day we didn't have any set appointments, because everyone was off doing stuff so we spent a good chunk of finding. It turned out that no one in our district had dinner appointments on the 4th so we decided to all go get food and meet at the church. So we had our own little family (district) dinner. It was a good one! 

We were able to meet with Brian several times this week, one actually being on the Fourth of July. We were able to talk about prophets and I kid you not he actually said, "Ya that makes sense that God would have a prophet today. Why would he stop talking to us?" Elder Pederson and I just looked each other like uhh yahhhh! We also saw him briefly on Friday and then Saturday we watched the restoration movie with him. He said he really like it but expressed to us how he doesn't see a need for organized religion. He says he's more of a believer and doesn't see the need for such organized religion. So we are planning on helping him with that! 

We completed our goal of 500 contacts and got 530 to finish off the transfer. We ended up with 26 new investigators in total. It truly was a transfer to remember. Now it's time to finish it out! 

President is letting me go to the departing dinner tonight with all the missionaries that are leaving. It will be very sad but very very exciting! I'll let you know how it goes. 

I love y'all and hope ya have a good week at Nauvoo!

Con Amor, 
Elder Joyner

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ'Josรฉ can you see?'๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ (July 3, 2017)

Hey Familia! Happy 4th of July y'all! Enjoy the fireworks and the festivities. I'm not sure if we'll do anything out of the ordinary here. Maybe we'll catch some fireworks or something while we're out and about. Should be fun! Have fun at EFY Cole! Love ya Buddy! 

Elder Joyner & Elder Pederson
It's a been a super good week! Lets see, yesterday was awesome! It was a good Fast and Testimony Meeting and then after church I was able to give a baptismal interview to an investigator who'll be baptized in the Petaluma Ward this next week! He has a super cool story and is honestly one of the most ready and prepared people I've ever met. He's like his own little 12 Step video within himself. Good guy! 

We were able to meet with Brian several times this week. So Tuesday, we were thinking about what we could do to help Brian feel more comfortable with coming to church and we thought about doing a church tour with him. So Tuesday before our lesson with him, we went to the Petaluma chapel and got it all set up for a church tour. Our plan was to go knock on his door and be like, "Hey Brian, we're going on a field trip today to the chapel." (It works because he lives 3 minutes from the chapel and we could walk there with him) The funny thing is that IT WORKED! We told him we were just gonna go to the chapel for a tour. His response was, "oh, right now? Ok let me go put on my jeans," and then he ran upstairs and put on his jeans and came with us! It was the coolest thing. At the end of the tour, we ended up in the chapel and were able to talk about the sacrament and sing 'In Humility, Our Savior,' for him. It was a great experience. Also, I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but every Thursday night we play fรบtbol (soccer) in the chapel with investigators and members. Thursday, we were able to get Brian to come to that and he really enjoyed it! The sad thing though is that he didn't want to come to church on Sunday :( He expressed to us that it's too formal for him and that he doesn't think he's ready for that yet. So a prayer or two his way could help a ton!

Oh, another funny experience with Brian that happened on Saturday We knocked his door that morning to invite him to come to church the next day and such. After a minute, the door opened and we started talking to who we thought was Brian. After a moment, we realized he wasn't Brian and he explained he was his twin Brandon! It was just kind of funny because we had heard he had a twin but totally thought this was Brian when we opened the door jajaja! 

Friday, we had Zone Conference and this was my last one :'( I had a very tender experience getting the opportunity share my departing testimony. I am most definitely not the same person I was two years ago. I'm so grateful for Jesus Christ helping me on this journey of personal conversion and change. It is truly one of the most incredible things I hope each of you (have or) will experience! There were also several really good topics taught in the Conference. Sister Wright talked about testimonies and there was one really awesome quote I loved that was by Elder Packer. He said, "Oh if I could teach you this one principle: a testimony is to be found in the bearing of it." If you feel your testimony is struggling or have not yet to found such a testimony, follow the counsel of Elder Packer and bear what you know to someone else. That is when we will find it!

One more funny little story. So we tried to stop by Israel's house this week to visit him. He lives in this little apartment complex where kids are always running around playing. When we went this week, there was this one little kid that ran up to us before we knocked the door and then decided he wanted to knock the door for us so he did! He then started knocking on the window and such for us haha! We can't do that but he definitely can! Hahaha so Israel wasn't home but then we asked if the kid's parents were home and he led us to his house and we taught and picked up his parents as new investigators! It was kinda funny. Later that night a similar experience happened, where a kid led us to his parents and we taught them! Twice in one day! Fun stuff!

Well I'm off! Have a super good week. Love y'all!

Con Amor, 
Elder Joyner

Transfer 16, Week 5 (June 26, 2017)

Hey Y'all! Happy Monday to ya! We had a super good week this week! Lets get to it. 

We were able to see Brian a couple times this week and that was exciting! He's still reading consistently in the Book of Mormon and something very cool is he understands it and can give us summaries of what he read. He's a very intelligent kid and has so much potential. We're trying to help him make the connection between just reading and learning from us to obtain more information and knowledge, and the spiritual side and testimony of what we teach. He seems to understand it but we're trying to help him recognize the spirit more while he reads. He's still very hesitant about coming to church or committing to a baptismal date. We feel like there is another concern he isn't telling us about, but hopefully with time he will open up more. We were able to get a recently returned missionary to come with us and help us teach him on Friday, which was awesome! He could really use an extra prayer or two in the upcoming weeks. 
We have found several others this week, who look like some pretty solid potentials! We are doing some really good work, but at the same time we feel as though every time something good happens, some negative thing happens (whether that's people harshly turning us away, or people getting angry with us, or people trying to tear us down). It's interesting how Satan tries to get us down when we're doing such good work. I feel like I've learned, though, over these past 22/23 months that Heavenly Father and His work always will prevail, no matter what will happen! Something that President reminds us of is that eventually, "every knee shall bow, and every younger confess that Jesus is the Christ!" What a blessing it is to have that knowledge! 

Former Elder Atkinson & Alex
Some things I failed to mention last week, that I just forgot to put in, was that Elder Atkinson came back to the mission for a week or so and we met up and got some lunch. It was good to see him and catch up a little. I'm excited to see him out at UVU though. Last week also, our car battery didn't start after interviews and had to get it jumped! And President came to our district meeting last week and then took us all out to Wendy's after ;) hahaha gotta love him!

This week we also had to take our car in the shop and we didn't have any set appointments before dinner, so we just decided to walk and contact all day until it was done. We dropped it off about 10:30 and picked it up around 5. Luckily, that was the hottest day of the week. Needless to say, the annual summer tanning has ensued. Haha it just keeps the work fun! 

Love y'all! Have a super good week!

Con Amor, 
Elder Joyner


Monday, June 19, 2017

"Tomorrow's Forecast: God Reigns and His Son Shines" (June 19, 2017)

The District
Hey y'all! Happy Hot pDay! It's sure heating up here in Petaluma! Yesterday was probably the worst it's been, up to around 100 degrees or so☀️ Keeps this fun! I always love hearing about how eventful your weeks were. Happy Father's Day Dad, Grandaddy, and Papa (and all other fathers out there :) I was really able to reflect on how much you've done and given for me and I am extremely grateful for you and your examples. Much like Beyoncรฉ says, "You're Irreplaceable." ;)

Elder Pederson & Elder Joyner

Ok lets see what happened this week! So we have this new investigator named Brian, who I'm not sure if I told you about last time. He's about 18. It's an interesting story how we found him. So about a month and a half ago, we were in Adalberta's apartment complex just tracting around, and there is this lady getting stuff out of her car. We go up to her and offer to help and accidentally scare her. Haha she was super nice and we were actually able to introduce the Book of Mormon to her. Her name is Maria! She told us we could stop by her house that was on the other side of town. So time passes and we try and stop by and visit her and she's not home for various reasons, but each time we knock her house guess who answers? Her step brother Brian! Initially, he wasn't interesting in hearing from us but about two-ish weeks ago we ask him if we could share the new Prince of Peace video and he accepted! Last Monday night, we decided to stop by and see him again! We taught him the restoration and introduced the Book of Mormon. He seemed pretty sincere about it and said he would read the intro. We were gonna go back last Thursday, but we're bummed when he wasn't there. Saturday, we had some extra time so we decided to go see if he was home and invite him to church. He was there and told us that he had read the introduction and the first 15 pages, which is incredible because most people don't even keep that commitment! We were able to teach him the plan of salvation and he just seemed to "get it." We invited him to be baptized at the end of that lesson and he said he will think and pray about it. He's really solid and we're super excited for him. We unfortunately had to drop Adalberta for right now, but I think it's just curious to see how maybe we found Adalberta so that we would be in her apartment complex that day so that we could find Maria so that we would go knock on her door and find Brian. Coincidence? Definitely not. Wow God is good.
The Pink Slip

We also had interviews with President this week. Although this one was short, he assured me that my next one would be lengthy, seeing as it would be my last one. Mom, just so you know he said that August 1st will be my release date, which puts me at 6 short weeks left! Ahhhhh, weird. This one was interesting.  I came out of the interview with a different feeling that before. I came out feeling like I just had a good talk with one of my best friends. I'm very grateful for the relationship I have with President and Sister Wright. I would not trade it for the world. What a beautiful, marvelous, wonderful thing it is!

We were also able to set another baptismal date with this older man named Ignacio. I was on exchanges the week prior and he walked up to us saying that he had read the Book of Mormon before but left his copy in Mexico and asked us for another. We graciously gave him one and set a return appointment. We went back last Tuesday and had a good lesson with him. He accepted baptism for the 29th of July and said that he is waiting and praying for an answer to know if the Book of Mormon is true! Cool stuff!!

Well, we're working harder than ever. Going out with a bang! We are doing well with our goals and are close to achieving several of them I told President this week, that even if he tried, he couldn't stop Elder Pederson and I from working this hard. He just kind of gave his President Wright chuckle and walked away! Gotta love him. 

Thanks for all y'all do! I love and appreciate you. Have a super fantastic spiritually uplifting week! 

Con Amor,
Elder Joyner