Well, this week has been such an exciting one. One of the investigators living out in Goodland (about halfway between here and Burlington Colorado) moved into Colby, and wants to get baptized. In fact, she is so excited for it she announced it in our Sunday school class and invited everyone to come. It is fun. Also, a young man who has been coming to church for 8 months now is building up his courage to ask his social worker for permission to be baptized so that h can then help out with the Sacrament and other responsibilities of the priesthood.
We continue to see miracles everyday, and so can you!
Boy, this week has been pretty awesome. Elder Marley and I are teaching a couple of pretty incredible couples who have been investigating the church for a little while, and really can feel the Spirit. This week, they took a HUGE step forward and sat down and actually planned out their marriages! It is so cool...but it leaves me with another wish: that I get to be here for them! One couple is getting married at the beginning of May, and the other is planning on the beginning of June. Having seen the complete change of fear of marriage and the commitment it brings to the devotion and excitement they have is truly a testimony of the gospel. And, on top of that, they seem so much happier as they come to church, and read with us, and pray with us, and just do the little things. That's what it's truly all about. So, this week was some of the craziest (as in most unexplained) weather I have ever seen in my life. All day Wednesday through Saturday it was snowing, and I mean snowing with big flakes coming down...the kind of snow you would expect to deliver 2-3 inches every hour, and it just never accumulated at all. It was the weirdest things because it was also freezing out there, almost always between 10-20 degrees. But the most that would stay on the ground at any time was a super feathery dry skiff that would blow away as soon as the wind picked back up. I just was baffled, yet very grateful because we didn't have to cancel church two weeks in a row. Love you all tons! I know this is the work of the Lord and I love being a part of it! Elder Beckstead
Okay, so I am going to try and get all of my excitement and enthusiasm in a coherent form in this letter so hold on to your hats and try not to get too lost.
This week all in one has been one of the hardest and most gratifying weeks I have had on my mission. As you should know, I was transferred out to the "Oasis of the Plains" Colby Kansas this week and picked up a brand new missionary along the way. He is truly incredible. Hailing from Pocatello, Idaho, he is 26 years old and one of the most prepared missionaries I have ever met, making sure to read the Book of Mormon twice at the same time he was reading the entire standard works in the few months before his mission. He is a big boy, and loves to cook and play basketball. And, he is really quiet. I mean, really quiet. Being with him for the pst few days has been so challenging, as I have had to do pretty much all of the talking and teaching, yet so rewarding as I have seen him grow in confidence and courage. This next few months are truly going to be incredible.
Colby is a little speck of a town. Thankfully, you would have to close your eyes for a second or two to miss it driving through, not just blink like a few of the other towns. Yet, in all of its glory with around 5,000 people, there are some of the neatest people you could imagine. We are very blessed to have a senior couple serving an MLS mission here in Colby named the Arritts. They are truly angels. Last week, the missionaries in Colby got in a car accident (no one was hurt, but the car was damaged pretty badly) so Elder Marley and I have been trying to get to know the town and all the investigators and members here on foot. That has been quite an adventure with all of the ice and slush that is on the ground. Anyway, Elder Arritt has been calling investigators and setting up appointment to introduce us and then drive us there and teach with us. On top of that, the missionaries who left cleaned out the fridge and cupboards pretty well (although the apartment itself was pretty dirty) and once Sister Arritt heard about that, she has been trying to feed us every meal she can. In fact, we ate at their home 4 times in two days over the weekend. Truly, they are angels, and when I serve a senior mission in my distant future, I want to be like them.
So our Branch on Sunday was so cool. The building has one main room that doubles as the chapel and the gym, and baptismal font. That's right, there is a basketball hoop right above the font in the back of the room where we have sacrament meeting each week. Average attendance is pretty good, with about 35-45 people coming every week. There is enough chairs for 70, so that is our goal as a branch, to help 70 people come on average every week, in addition to helping the branch become a ward. It is crazy to me because about half of the active members live here in Colby, and the rest live in surrounding towns, with an average distance of 30 or so miles away. The furthest live almost 60 miles away, yet they come faithfully every week. Our Branch President, President Tame, is a young fellow with 3 kids and one on the way. He was telling us yesterday that he hasn't even been back from his mission for 10 years yet. It is pretty amazing. There is only one Spanish speaking man in the branch, and he came as an answer to many prayers moving in just this last Friday. It is so cool because it is so tiny and everyone knows and loves and will do anything for one another. I don't think I have ever been in a ward so tight knit.
As for people we are teaching, there are, I think, 4 couples who will be baptized as soon as they get married, all of whom love the gospel. Two have outdoor marriages planned for the spring, and one couple is getting married at the end of the month. We were super blessed to find a family this week too. That was a huge miracle. We were just walking down a street headed to see a less-active member and were prompted to go knock on a door. Max, 13 years old, opened and at first told us he was atheist and not interested, but then admitted he believed in Jesus Chrst and we should come back later to meet his parents. Saturday morning, when we were planning to return, Elder Marley was guided to put a Spanish Book of Mormon and Spanish Pamphlet into his bag before we left. Well, Max's parents spoke almost no English, and since I was the only one who knows any Spanish at all, it was on me to give them the Libro de Mormon, and set up a return appointment. Thankfully, I had no clue what I was doing, and I had to rely on the Lord, and my understanding was enough through the gift of tongues to talk to her and explain, and find that we could come back this week. Truly a miracle, compounded with that of the only Spanish speaking member moving in last week (remember that?)!
I am in over head here and loving every minute. Life just doesn't get any better than saying, "Okay! I know! I can't do it with my skills and abilities. So, I am just going to my best and trust that Thou will do the rest, and give me abilities beyond my own!" This church is the Church of Jesus Christ restored to the Earth, no doubt. The Gospel is the path to happiness. And God truly love you. I know it.
Well, this week has been a pretty average missionary week, with miracles strewing the way and the Spirit uplifting and guiding constantly. It is pretty funny because the normal transfers are happening on Wednesday, and they are shipping me off again, making my stay here in Wichita only about 2 weeks long.
We have a lot of people this week we have met that have been pretty incredible fellows. One of them, named David Beeson, has been investigating the church for about 7 months but has never been able to come to church because he is recovering from a triple bypass heart surgery. Apparently in the mix-up of missionaries here (there have been a bunch of new missionaries in a very short time) he was lost and hadn't been visited for a month. He called up a member that had been to see him a couple of times, and told him that he wanted a bigger Book of Mormon since his eyesight was going. That led to us being called and finding him once again. After the visit he told us he really wanted to come check it out...in two months when his doctors allowed him to leave his place, and bring his sweetheart with him! Amazing man, who is hard to describe without you having met him.
Another miracle came after the 4 inches of snow we received and the subsequent ice on the roads (They don't have great snow removal here, especially on the side roads). Both wards I cover were cancelled, and in fact, there was only one ward that still held services, so everyone who was dedicated came to the church to at least take the sacrament. That meant that I got to see a bunch of the people I know from the Auburn Hills ward when I had served here a year ago. The reunion was definitely a sweet one. It was awesome!
So I guess I should make mention of where I am going too. My new area will be Colby, Kansas, out in the Northwestern corner of the State. My companion will be Elder Marley, whom I have never met or even heard of. So, it will be a great one, that is for sure!
Wow. Well, I don't think it is possible to describe the feelings of gratitude I feel for being able to experience this last week. It has been one of the most uplifting and inspiring experiences of my mission. And it all began with John.
John Hutchen's Baptism
John Hutchens is a gentle giant that was found by my companion and a very green missionary (2 days out) while tracting on September 5. He opened the door, hear Elder Cowden stammer out "We're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ," and he let them in. After sitting through almost daily lessons, while taking care of his wife on hospice the entire time, he felt the Spirit, and was baptized on Sunday. He is 75 years old, and is already sharing the gospel with his family, so that now his daughter and granddaughter are investigating, and he is the most humble, quiet, powerful man I have ever met. The change that has happened in him has been incredible, going from being so scared to pray with us he would shake, to offering incredible prayers where you can feel he is talking to a close friend and Father. He didn't have a bad life before, but the increase of joy in his life is so evident. It is so sweet I start to choke up as I think of it.
Missionaries on a fun rope swing
I promise that each one of us can feel that change, just as John did. He has changed his heart, and thus he is happy. We can repent, change our hearts and desires to align them with God's, and be happy. I know this is true. I cannot say that strongly enough.
This week my mission has been changed. It came from an incredible series of events. Our mission President came to our Zone this last week and called us to repentance. This zone has been doubting miracles, not united at all, and most of all, we have not been challenging and testifying. President Bell asked us to stop teaching and to start testifying. So, that is what my companion and I did. And in the short space of one day, I watched and felt the change. As I stood there and pleaded with people to listen because this is so true, as I testified of light, and expressed every ounce of love I had, my testimony exploded, and the Spirit came with such incredible power, each time increasing, so that by the end of that day I could barely speak without reeling at what was said. I was incredibly blessed to have a taste of the way God feels for his children, true charity beyond anything I have ever before imagined, and it drove deep into my heart a desire to bring everyone around my to the Celestial Kingdom.
As if that weren't enough, one of the Assistants to the President, Elder Moyle, came and stayed with my companion and I for a few days. That was incredible. He stayed and talked to us more about love. And as he did so, I realized that we as missionaries often need help too. We are out here trying to help people come unto Christ, when we are still working on it ourselves. The love he expressed for us and for each of the missionaries in the mission was incredible, and I was impressed by the way he could name off every missionary in the mission, as well as how long they had been out, where they were serving, and how much he loved them each.
All in all, it truly is all about love, and I needed these great reminders this week. If you want to have a mighty experience, do two things. First, pray for charity and love for everyone, those you do love, and those you may not like. Then, follow that up by praying with charity for someone, or many people, by name. I promise that if you do so, the Spirit will testify that what you do is right, and you will feel the love that God has for you to a much greater degree.
Well, another day is here and another week has passed. They are sure passing quickly!
We have had an incredible week with a family that we are teaching. It is a family of five, with one five year old girl, a 9 year old boy, and a 10 year old girl. They have been taught by missionaries for a long time, but past missionaries tried too hard to push them to be baptized so they are very hesitant to do anything. However, Elder Eyre and I have spent most of our time their just listening to what is happening in their lives, and then testifying of the principles of the Gospel that will help them. The two children have decided that they want to be baptize, and the entire family has felt the Spirit so many times. The mother has cried in two of our lessons and every time we go over now, she tells us what she needs to do next, and commits to do it! She too wants to be baptized, and only needs to be overcome her tobacco addiction to do so.
We have also found a lot more success teaching families than I have had for most of my mission. It is incredible how much having a focus of finding families and trying to help those who will go to the temple to be sealed for eternity helps. There are several that we are teaching, and it has really helped me gain a testimony of how much living the gospel in a family truly does make a difference. One of the hardest things I have to do on a nearly daily basis is walking down the street and talking to broken families because of the poor choices made without the light and guidance of the Spirit. It definitely makes me grateful that I was raised as I was...taught the gospel from the youngest age.
I love you all, and hope that life is treating you well!