Email From James - October 25, 2011

I really wanted to copy and paste my weekly letter to the mission president for this email because it was way long and we had such a great week this past week and it would have been really good to share but when I tried looking it over, it didn't show anything. It better have sent because it took me so long to write and I was way proud of it. The reason we are emailing today is because we had a zone conference yesterday. Way amazing conference and I learned so much and I am making so many more dramatic changes in how I am as a missionary. I think it was by far my most favorite conference thus far. It was a little sad towards the end because a couple of elders are going home and sister Alldredge, the sister that was with us in the MTC is going home next week. They were all crying and then that made all of us cry. It was a bittersweet moment.

The Lord gives us trials, sometimes it's in the language, sometimes it's in finding people to teach, sometimes it can be with companions, sometimes it can be in having a very hard week where you feel very discouraged and you feel like you aren't the best you are. Then one week, the Lord opens the heavens and pours down blessing upon you according to your Faith and Obedience. You lay your head on your pillow on sunday night and say to yourself, " The Lord was in this week". That would be how I would describe this past week.

We found three great new investigators this past week which was a huge miracle.
One of the less actives young men has been coming to church a lot more. I found one of my long sleeve white shirts in a suitcase that I have never worn and I gave it to him. He made up a lot of excuses that he couldn't wear it but I laughed and told him he should and that he needed to. He laughed and then gave me a brotherly hug and said he would wear it and thanked me for it. He then asked if he could have an interview to the branch president personally by himself. That was a huge step. He said he wants to start preparring more for the preisthood and getting married. That was such a miracle to me because when I first got here and I saw him, I made a goal that I would get him to church and be active before I left Šiauliai. Words can't describe how happy I was to see that. 

I had to prepare a talk sunday morning because one of the people decided he couldn't speak but he came to church. So I spoke this past sunday and it actually went very well and everyone said I spoke so powerfully. 

One the way home from a lesson for english class, we do personal english classes for people, and we had a first lesson with her and she was one of the new investigators we found, a young guy came up to me and asked who we were and what we did. We were able to talk for him a while on the bus because we had a longer drive back to center. He was way cool and he spoke english very well. I laughed and asked him if he had learned his english from Cartoon Network and he said, " woah, how did you know?" I laughed and told him that most of the younger guys I talk to had learned english from that show. So we laughed and talked about our favorite shows. :D He said he had met with the JW's and the HarneyChristinias (however you spell that) and said he didn't find what he was looking for and said maybe we have what he is searching for. He said he was really interested in the book of mormon and that he wants to learn from us rather than through the internet because there are lies on the internet all of the time. FINALLY, someone realizes the truth. Ha. So we set up a time to meet on saturday and he said he would come. Sadly, he didn't end up coming and he didn't answer his phone. We will keep trying to meet with him because he is too coo to lose.

This week I just really felt the spirit so strong and I am so happy I am on a mission. I have been reading Jesus the Christ and it has been amazing. I have learned so much and I have felt so much more love and compasion for what our Savior taught and did for us while he was on the Earth. I have also been having an amazing read of the Book of Mormon. Even more amazing was last night when we were coming home from Conference. We got the October Liahonas about the Book of Mormon. Talk about AMAZING! We had a long bus ride home and it was late at night so it was nice and quite on the ride home so I read that the whole way. I still want the Ensign because it has more articles than the Liahona. But my gosh, that liahona was so powerful and I have such a greater love and deisre to read the Book of Mormon more. Please oh Please, for family home evening or something, READ that ensign. You will never want to miss a day of reading the Book of Mormon. I have set a goal that I never want to miss a day of reading the Book of Mormon, even before I read that Liahona, but now it has been made even stronger.

About the package, don't send it this week because transfers are next week and I'm not sure what will happen. I most likely will stay here but you never know. It's fine if it comes after my B-day, I didn't even dawn on me that my birthday was soon til at zone conference they announced it and sang to us whose B-day was in November. I really want to have the conference Ensign, so badly and I was also wondering a small other favor. There is a DVD at the church titled, The Reflections of Christ. We watched it and it was so powerful. The music in it is so beautiful and has such a power and brings the spirit so strongly. I would love more than anything to have that CD. They sell it at deseret book. If you can, please get me that cd too along with the MOTAB one. I threw away a lot of cd's I had gotten throughout my mission, soundtracks and what not, that I had been thinking and praying about a lot and a second witness came at conference that I needed to get rid of them. They weren't bad cd's, but I felt like I could raise my bar as a missionary and be a better example and leader but not having soundtracks, only music that focuses on our work and on the Savior. That is why I would love to have this cd because it is so powerful.

That is really cool about that restaurant. I will have to go there someday. I printed out grandpa's talk and I am going to read it. It looks really good. I'm excited. I'm glad you guys were safe with all of your travels. I'm gald you got to have a lot of fun and got to see everyone. :D

For the end of this email, I want to share a powerful experience I had this past week:

I thought I understood the meaning of being a servant and a missionary of Christ, but that changed this past week powerfullly. We met with Ramutė and Eduardas this past week. Some background history about them: Ramutė is a member of the church and is such a powerful member at that. She has such a strong testimony and loves the gospel so much. Her husband, Eduardas, is not a member of the church but likes meeting with missionaries because we are fun to talk to. They have been coming to church together for the past 10 years and Eduardas still hasn't joined the church. Since meeting with missionaries, he has had the same concerns all of those years. Most lessons include his comments of, "How come there is only one true church? My family has been a catholic forever and now all of these churches are here and tell us that it is wrong. Maybe I will read the Book of Mormon some day. All I need is faith, right?" There are more but that is the common ones. He never intends to argue in lessons, but he has a hard time believing in what his wife or what we say. In the ten years of his life attending this church, he has been to doubtful to even read or even touch the pages of the Book of Mormon.
This night, we were going over to meet with them and we were hometeaching Ramutė. The topic was the Book of Mormon. Right from the start, he started asking all these questions about why joseph smith? why the book of mormon? etc. We tried, along with his wife, to answer his questions. The tension began picking up in the room. It didn't seem like a new thing for me and it made me a little sad. It kinda got a little heated with my comps and him, because they haven't been with him so long and they don't really know how he is. I recognized the spirit was gone and I really wanted it back. I said I silent prayere and said, " Heavenly Father, what do we need to do to help this man? Please give us what we need to say." I had the most powerful experiences of my whole mission.
As I came back to the lesson, they were beginning to argue, my comps and Ramutė and Eduardas. I asked if I could say something. I followed what I felt I should do and say. I paused so that things could quite down and that the spirit could come in. And also so they could all settle down. :) I told about how I have been here in Šiauliai for the past 6 months. I talked about how I remember my first visit with them and we chuckled when I talked about when Elder Erickson was here for the first time and how nervous he was. I told Eduardas I have talked with him a lot about the Book of Mormon and how he can know what is true. The answer, when I ask him if he will read the Book of Mormon is, " maybe someday". I looked at him and said that he told me that 6 months ago. " You have been giving that response for the past 10 years and 6 months to me. Why can't today be that someday?" He looked down. I bore my testimony from the deepest spot in my soul of how I know that the Book of Mormon is true. He looked down at the floor and looked deep in thought. The spirit was so strong in the room and anyone could have felt that. I told him how powerful of a tesimony his wife has and how lucky he is to have her. I encouraged him to ask her how she got her testimony and what she knows to be true. I challenged him to read the Book of Mormon. Silence... He really was thinking. That was a huge step right there. He never thought so deeply about what he said before. I was praying with my whole sould to have his heart feel the power of our message and the power of the Book of Mormon. He looked up and said, " If you give me a schedule or a goal to follow, I will begin to read the Book of Mormon."

I love you all so much,
Elder James Sanford

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