Monday, January 30, 2012

Successful Baptisms & Zero Complaints

Hello my people,

Sounds like everything is going well. I enjoyed the last bit of that email very much. I didn't enjoy the part that involved LHS not doing well in soccer. Not cool. I'm glad to hear Savannah's team won their last two games though! Yeah, I actually realy wanted to film the African kids looking at that picture... but the situation just didn't seem to warrant pulling out a camera. That attracts a lot of attention.

Saturday was very good because we had baptisms! We ended up having two people instead of three because one girl's grandfather died and had to travel to Bo for the funeral. It was very understandable. The other two people were fine and both showed up! That's the first step to a successful baptism. Well actually we had to run to the lady's house and tell her to come because she got confused and thought the baptism was later, but she was happy to come. I have to tell you though, this baptism was by far my favorite one of mission. That tall man you see in the picture two people to the left of me is that same guy who is super smart and absolutely loves the gospel. I don't really want to go into great detail because it was a pretty special experience, but after that man was baptized he expressed such a great joy and happiness in being able to turn away from his life of sin and turning to Christ. I know we're not supposed to pick favorites, but he's definitely one of my favorite people I've been able to meet on mission. He has strengthened my own testimony so much, and has been a perfect example of the joy the gospel can bring to people's lives. I don't even know what to say to describe that joy. It was amazing to see the change in this man's life. The next Sunday they both showed up to Church on time and were both confirmed. We've been seeing a lot of miracles here and it would take a whole book to be able to talk about everything. I guess it's a good thing I keep my journal every day then right? Haha. Even then, there's so many things that I will miss in writing down.

Anyway, I hope everything else is going well. The work here is super sweet and I have zero complaints. The time has been going by way too fast. Keep me updated on everything that's going on! I miss and love you all!

Elder Stewart

Monday, January 23, 2012

Packages!, "Most beautiful one" & Great Investigators

 Some members of our district and some of the other Elders that were traveling to different areas. Oh, and I forgot- the new Elder's name is Elder Inyang. He's from Nigeria and so far has been pretty quiet. He seems like he's enjoying everything so far though. He's the third from the right.
 This fruit is called an apple. Which confuses me because they have normal apples here that they still call apples. It tasted pretty good though.
I love you all so much

Hello family,

YES. I got some packages. Four in fact. Man. It pretty much blew me away. Everyone in the apartment was extremely jealous. That's an understatement. I caught Elder Taylor sneaking in around midnight trying to steal a pack of Oreos from my package. Okay not really but last night he did try to duct tape a phone with an alarm set to go off at 1 in the morning to the bottom of the desk. But the packages I got were one from you, one from Breeann, one from Grandma Stewart, and one from Big Black and Clayton. Speaking of Big Black and Clayton- those pictures you guys sent... man. I miss you guys so much, haha. (They took pictures with a balloon head with curly hair wearing a t-shirt and shorts while they were doing things we would always do). I also really enjoyed all the pictures and the stinking sweet calendar. Especially our nice 90s family picture. I actually started carrying it around in my scriptures so I can make people here believe that's what people in America wear. Oh, and Dad, I want you to know that I showed that picture to some African children and they pointed to you and said "This one is the most beautiful." Just imagine that in a tiny child's voice with an African accent. Anyway, everyone thought the calendar was super sweet and thought that you all looked super fun. I told them it was true. I'm glad to have gotten some pictures from you people back home though. Turns out I wish I would have brought some. Ah well. I want everyone to know that I'm incredibly grateful and love everyone who writes me/sends packages. There are a lot of people who go their whole missions with nothing and I really appreciate all of the love people have shown to me back home. It really means more than you can imagine. I'll also do my best to write everyone back that writes me, but I can't make any promises. Sorry if that's super lame.

Momma, continue with the sweet movie list list. I'm going to have to find someone with lots of patience and a great love for movies to sit down and watch the entire list with me. It'll be great. Don't you worry about Malaria. I always take my pills and sleep under my net. And plus I probably won't tell you if I get it, so you have nothing to be worried about! Ahahaha I'm sure you hate that.

So we had a pretty good week this week. We have three people set for baptism this Saturday and they are some of the greatest people I've taught on my mission thus far. One of the girls was someone who originally told us she was in a philosophy class and didn't believe there was a God. Every time we would go see her she would always ask us tons of questions and always wanted to see it in the scriptures. This other man we are teaching is super great to teach because he understands perfect English and has electricity in his house. I think I might have talked about him before actually. But yeah, we taught him about temples the other day and he was amazed by how great of a blessing they are and how important family history is. This week I'm going to try and get my hands on a church DVD and we'll go and try and have family home evening with his family. He has such a strong love for his family and I'm really excited to see the difference in his life. Families are without a doubt ordained of God and I'm pretty excited to see all of you crazy people again. But of course I have no doubt that this is where I'm supposed to be right now and that I am doing the right thing. I constantly feel at peace with my future, even though I'm not 100% on anything that will be happening. Man, I hope I don't sound super preachy in my emails home. I'm still the same person I promise. I still get excited over childish things. Like Mario Kart (Thank you Clayton and Big Black). But then I guess there have been plenty of things that have changed. Anyway, I hope everything is going well back home. I love you and miss you all!

Elder Stewart

Monday, January 16, 2012

Transfer News, Answers to Random Questions & Let none fall away!

Hello my people,

First off, no packages. But then again it has been a while since anyone has really come by our apartment. We were at the mission office a little over a week ago though. So that was the last time I checked. We received transfer news yesterday so maybe when someone comes to our apartment for that I'll get them.

So yeah, transfer news came and nothing too exciting happened for me and my companion. We are the same, as are Elder Taylor and Elder Essego. The exciting thing that's happening is with Elder Walker and Elder Tawiah! Elder Tawiah is leaving us and going to Kenema, and Elder Walker is receiving a new missionary to train! It's pretty crazy. Our apartment is full of young missionaries... except for Elder Taylor. He's an old man now. Aha. Elder Essego and I came at the same time so we are the second oldest missionaries in the apartment now. It's crazy. And in my branch I'm the oldest missionary out of the four that are there. It's pretty insane how much trust has been put in us. I really love the responsibility though. We've been doing a lot of things to really get the Church established in this part of the world.

Well, to answer your questions (It's good when you ask those random questions because sometimes I forget that things that happen here would be weird to all of you, haha), as far as needing anything, all I really ask for is American food and things that can be made easily with water over a stove. We can get like eggs, this milk powder stuff, margarine, imitation spam (yeah, imitation imitation meat)... pretty basic stuff like that. Nothing crazy. Like chocolate chips sound like a ridiculous thing right now. So yeah, anything I can make that's delicious and easy to make. OH! The Slap Yo Mamma was a big hit in the apartment because a lot of the food is pretty bland. It's just hot. So seasoning is super good. So any seasoning that's delicious. Sidenote- the Glee version of Defying Gravity is playing in this internet cafe right now, not that I'm listening to it at all though. Anyway, back to your questions. yes, I'm surviving. Yes, it's starting to get pretty hot, not too crazy yet- March is supposed to be the worst thing ever. Can't wait for that. Yes, we haul water from hand pump well once or twice a week. It's part of our routine now. I'll take a picture of it this week. It's pretty much the greatest workout ever. Man. Haha. Anything I've eaten that's unusual lately? Not lately. But on Christmas Day I ate some chicken foot. That's pretty unusual I guess. Any crazy critters here? The lizards are super huge? Haha nothing too crazy. Everything is like 10 times bigger here though. I am still yet to see a monkey... but one of our investigators promised to find one for us though. So whenever that happens there will be pictures for sure. Haha.

So I've got to admit, this past week was pretty sweet. One of the highlights was definitely the baptism we had! Three people got baptized from the Kossoh Town Elders. The service was really nice and my companion did the baptisms. So that was really cool. But the story today goes out to all you people who are lacking on your home teaching. Yeah watch out. So this past week I was talking to this guy who is the only member in his community and he was talking about how he's going around trying to share the gospel with the members of his community but wasn't having much success. We have never been into the community where he lives so I decided we would go to his house and go knocking on doors around his house, and also try and coordinate some lessons that he could come with us to go do. So one day we went and checked to see if he was in his house. His family told us he had gone to school so he wasn't around. My companion and I both took a pamphlet about the Restoration and decided we couldn't leave the community until we had both placed them. Since he's still being trained I went first and the first house we went to let us in and we taught a small lesson. After that I told him it was his turn. He was very hesitant as far as where to go. While we were standing there a random man walked up to us and was like, "Are you guys missionaries?" We told him who we were and which Church we were from. The guy suddenly pointed at this random boy walking by and said, "That boy worships on Saturdays! Is that right?" And called him over. We started talking to this boy and found out that he was a member of our church, and baptized when he was about 8 years ago along with his entire family. He explained to us that he had loved the church, passed the sacrament, and always came. About 3 years ago their family moved to the community we were currently standing in and found the church. He said when he went to church, no one was receptive, no one seemed to care they were there, and they were never given a responsibility. They felt very unwelcome so they started attending another church. We told him we would talk to our branch president and come see him later in the week. Many days later we asked people around the community and found out where his house was. When we came to his house and sat down he told us that he was surprised we actually showed up. After a long and incredibly uplifting conversation (I'm running out of time!) he told us he knew the church was true and incredibly touched that we came to see him. We read some scriptures with him and he said he was definitely going to come back to church. We also are going to try and have family home evening with his family and encourage all of them. If I had more time I would say more, but just know that it was a super cool and spiritual experience! Let none of your brothers and sisters fall away! Anyway, I hope you guys are all doing well and everything is great!

Elder Stewart

PS- Cody Guilbeau- Happy Birthday! I'm buying lots of jerseys to compete with your collection. Be aware.

 Exchange with Elder Taylor! Yes, I always wear that really bright tie on exchanges.
  Excitement at the top of the mountain
 Sweet view
 The football field we played on last week
What the chair first looked like . . . .
What the chair turned into using only nails, a hammer, and duct tape

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pepe, Super P-day, & A visit from Elder Curtis

 Elder Taylor and I tried to be artsy when we went on an exchange. It looks kind of cool. Except it's blurry. Ah well.
One day a branch missionary and our Zone Leader came proselyting with us. And our Branch President thought we looked super cool walking up. So he took a picture. You can see part of where I go walking every day in the back ground.

Hello my people,

How's everything? All is well here in Afraca. First off, Jen: I want you to know that I am super grateful because I have been getting all your letters and I've just been doing a terrible job of writing you back! I'll try to do that today! Also, pepe is a type of pepper. People pound it in those nifty little wood things and then put it in their food. I'm pretty sure pepe powder is the secret ingredient in Tony's seasoning, by the way. But actually, funny you mentioned beating a kid. (Jen looked up the meaning of pepe on wikipidia and it said it was a nickname - see comments from last post)A popular punishment for children is taking the pepe pepper and squirting the fiery juices into their eyes... okay it's not very funny at all. You would be surprised to know how many people I've stopped from mercilessly beating their 3 year old with a stick because the kid walked too far away from the house or something small like that.

Today was a pretty good P-day. We had "Super P-day," which basically means everyone in our Zone (16 Elders) got together and had an activity. And the activity was..... football! Yeah it was super sweet. This time we played a bunch of members from the Wellington Branch. Once again we didn't keep score, but if I had to guess what one is I would say it was probably like 13-5. Yeah. We killed them. It was great. I didn't score but I had like 3 or 4 assists. So that was pretty cool.

So story for this week? Well, the most exciting thing this week was that we were visited by a General Authority! Elder Lee Curtis. He actually spoke at the last General Conference. So it was pretty cool to get to meet him and see what he was like. He gave us really good instruction about the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was super cool. One thing he said that I feel like everyone might want to know, is that he said if you read 6 pages of the standard works every day, you'll finish all of them by the end of the year. I really want to try that but we don't have time to just read that much scriptures in a day. Plenty of things to think about and look at pertaining to the people we teach.

One thing that we don't get to use pretty much ever in our mission is the DVDs and other church videos people can watch. The reason being because people don't have power or TVs. But this one man we are teaching is fortunate to have power every now and then, and he is able to understand American accents and when the person talks normal. He's a really really smart guy. So, since Elder Holland is coming in February, and we had just taught him about living prophets and continuing revelation, we played him the audio of Elder Holland's talk Place No More For the Enemy of My Soul. Which is so good and anyone who hasn't heard it should go listen to it. It really puts things of the world into an eternal perspective. After it was done, it was quiet for a few seconds and then I said, "that was a living apostle of Jesus Christ." It doesn't sound very intense in an email but if you go and listen to the talk it'll make you just be like, "whaaaaaaaaat." Man Elder Holland is so sweet and our mission gets to meet him! So cool. Continuing revelation is definitely a great blessing for all of us, and I definitely want to study all of it a lot more. Anyway, the man was super excited that he will also have the opportunity to hear him speak and it's all really good. Fun fact, the last apostle to come to this country was in 1980 and it was just to dedicate the land for missionary work. So it's a pretty landmark thing in our mission. Anyway, that was the week and everything else is going great! I love you and think about you all!

Elder Stewart

Monday, January 2, 2012

Elder Stewart: politician, understanding what you believe in & lots of pics!

Hello everyone,

How's everything? Everything is still going well here in Salone. Man Elder Bednar is coming? I like him a lot. I also like the fact that Elder Walker looks the same as him. Yeah, it's pretty great.

So the missionary work has been continuing as always. It's a bit saddening to see the Church so empty, but I'm really hoping that the holiday had everything to do with that. Attendance better be up for next week or a lot of people are going to face the wrath of the missionaries. We have a baptism planned for Jan 14th though! It has been a long time since we had one because everyone was going out of town and doing crazy stuff for the holidays, but people should be slowly coming back and the work should continue as normal.

The other day we were sitting and waiting for one of our investigators to finish working on something. While we were sitting there his dad came out and sat with us. His dad is probably about 65 or so, and has traveled to several different countries. Sidenote- did I ever mention that I met a 105 year old who fought in World War II one time? Cause that happened. Anyway. We were talking to him and he started to ask me some funny questions. One thing he is convinced of is that I am going to be a politician as I get older. He said I look like someone who would make a great politician. I don't really understand why, I'm pretty sure that's the last job I would ever want. Anyway, from there he asked me if I believed in God. I told him of course. Then he told us that that young people today always change their minds about things as they grow older. He said we would change our beliefs about our religion as we got older. I looked him in the eyes and told him that there was absolutely no possible way I would ever come walk around under the hot sun every single day in pants and a white shirt and tie if what I believed in wasn't true. There is no way that it will ever change and nothing that can change my mind from the truth. He sat there for a second and said, "Oh, you understand what you believe in!" It was kind of funny. But true. I would never give everything up that I did if it wasn't true. Man, no way. I feel like I might have portrayed this man in a bad light, but I want you all to know that he's very enjoyable and it's really funny to listen to him talk about how tricky young boys are when it comes to girls. He's a really funny old guy. He also believes in God so I guess maybe he was testing us or something? Who knows. Anyway, it was kind of a cool little experience.

Anyway, everything here is, of course, great. The time feels like it's going by much faster than I thought it would. I'm happy to hear you are all doing well. Keep me updated on everything! I love and miss you all!

Elder Stewart

PS Big Black! Happy Birthday my friend! Just like I said to Clayton, it's strange that I will not be seeing you. But not to worry, the time will soon come. I hope everything is going well with you and that the mighty state of Idaho is still all you hope and wish for it to be. Play a nice game of anticipation to celebrate.

 This was my sweet dirt fake tan after we played football for our Christmas football match. Super sweet.
 At the Christmas Conference between our two zones, these are all the missionaries that were in the MTC at the same time as me. Just a very small portion of the many people that came with my group. Also, I'm not really as bald as I look in this picture.
 Our wonderful Christmas Tree
 We roasted hot dogs for Christmas Eve. It was very magical. And romantic.
 The delicious breakfast Elder Walker and I cooked for everyone in the apartment.
 The aftermath of eating that incredibly delicious breakfast. As you can see we are all wearing super sweet jerseys. Thank you Elder Taylor.
 My companoin and I walking the streets of Waterloo. So inspiring and touching to all of you mighty citizens of planet earth.
 The Waterloo Elders hold a big FHE group every Monday and we helped them out for Christmas time.
I was pounding pepe for that lady. Service!