Email from James - March 13, 2012

Dear Dad,
Hello my family from the other side of the world who I love and cherish so deeply. How are you? :D
I loved the pics of you and parker snowshoing together. That looks like a lot of fun. I love seeing the Utah mountains and I can't wait to see them in person. I miss them quite dearly.  Is parker missing a tooth already?

We still haven't had a chance to go see Elder Bean's friend. He lives in the other elders area so we are going to have exchanges this week so I can go see him with one of the other elders. I am way excited. :D Ofcourse I remembered he had a friend here, I could never forget hearing about something about this wonderful country and people.

   Wow I have to speak on the 22nd. That is when elder hilton is speaking but it's fine because he wouldn't be able to come if we had it a week later because his family is going on vacation somewhere. I really hope grandma and grandpa sanford can make it. Thanks for putting out the info on facebook. I really want everyone to know about it so they can all come. So I don't have a topic picked? If not that's fine because I will pray and think about what I should speak about. I will speak as long as you need me to. I'm way excited and I am positive it will sound funny because if I have to say things about the gospel in english, it comes out hillarious. I can't translate for the Flakes here because I don't remember how we say all of the church lingo in english. It's more comfortable for me in lithuanian. :D Ah presidnt homer. How is he doing? I can't wait to see him again. I'm excited to report to the Stake High council about my mission. Ha it took me forever to remember how to say that. :D

A really fun study I have been doing is in the Book of Alma. I have been looking up why Lamoni's father changed so dramatically to the gospel. He used to be very strong in his father's traditions and was so against Ammon that he wanted to kill him. I have been finding why he was so touched and why his heart was so softened so that he accepted every word from Aaron. That is a very applicable scripture here because everyone says they are catholic and that they won't change and that they will die catholic. I never thought this story could be so applicable to the mission. It has been a great study. Right now there are only questions in my study but next week I will let you know what I find.

    Well this weekend was quite fun and heart wrenching. We had district conference with all of the members on sunday which was so much fun. I didn't think we were going to have one again because they normally have the one in spring in may. So they randomly called all of the branch presidents and told them that they wanted to have one last week. Ya, a one week warning. It was a great conference and all of the members from ┼áiauliai were freaking out when they saw me. I came in the church and hear "SENFORDAI" and all of the members came over and talked to me forever. :D Aw, I miss them all so much. They say they miss me so much because sacrament meeting isn't as happy as it was when I was there. ha. It was a great reunion. Lots' of hugs and tears where there.
 
      So after that fun sunday, yesterday we had a zone conference. OH my gosh it was so amazing. I won't tell you any of the details, because I want to tell you about it in person because it would be so much better to tell in person, but I will tell you it was the best zone conference out of all of the zone conferences I have ever atteneded in my mission. It was a long one, from 8:30 to 16:00. It didn't even feel that long. I was quite sad when it ended. The ending of conference was quite a heart breaker because after the musical number, one of the zone leaders got up and announced what would be happening now. He said very softly and slowly, " we will now have time for testimonies. we will hear from the departing missionaries and we will have them go in this order; Elder Hengst, Sister Shneiderei, Elder Hilton, Sister Stout, and.... Elder Sanford." That was like a knife going through my heart. As he said that tears started coming to my eyes. When Elder Hengst and Elder Hilton bore their testimonies, we were all crying. Not only us three but everyone else was. When it was my turn, it felt like a long walk to the front. I couldn't hold back tears. I couldn't believe I was giving my last testimony in zone conference. I never thought that day would come. Through my tears, I bore my testimony of how much I love my mission. It will bless my life forever and through the eternities. There's no other way I could have come so close to God and have grown such a deep love for the gospel then through my mission. I wouldn't change it for the world. I told how much I love the members and the people of lithuania. They are my family and I will never forget them. I quoted one of my favorite quotes I recently found from Joseph Smith, " Every waft of adversity I have received has only gotten me closer to divinity." The mission has been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life and yet, I am eternally grateful for those hard times because it has helped me to grow into the person I am now. Most people know that I quote a lot of things from my running experiences because I can apply it a lot to the mission and to the gospel. I told one of my favorite stories from cross country where we finished a race and we were exhausted. The JV had finished their race before us and were playing on the park. One of our coaches came over and was very upset with them. He told them to go run up this huge hill back and forth until he said to stop. He told us, the varsity team, to go run with them. We couldn't believe what we had heared. We ran with all that we had in the race and now we had to be punished. He grabbed us and made us go. It was one of the hardest physical things I have ever done in my life. When I finished races, I had no energy or strengh left, and now I had to run back and forth up this steep hill. Many of the boys started crying and falling on the ground because it was too hard but our coach kept making us run. We kept asking him why we had to but he wouldn't answer. After a long half hour of enduring that, he pulled us together and looked us all in the eye and told us how we are a team. We all run as hard as we can every race because we can't win if everyone doesn't put forth all that they have together. I bore my testimony how that is what has kept me going through the rough and hard times of the mission. I told them to work as hard as they can to the end. Don't ever give up because we are all running the same race together till the end.

The spirit was so strong and everyone had tears falling from their eyes. I have never grown such a deep love as I do for the missionaires I serve with and the people we serve. I love this country and the members adn the people with my whole soul. They will never leave the special place they have in my heart. They are a part of my family and will be forever.
That was really neat how you sent me that email from when I was in the MTC. I have changed quite a lot since then. haha. The language is a lot more enjoyable since then. I can't wait to come home and have you see what the mission has helped me to become. It will be so wonderful to have so much time to sit down and talk about things that matter most.
I'm quite excited for this week because I talked to a lot of great people and have a lot of numbers to call today. A really neat thing that happened last night was the bus we rode on. We take a bus back to our apt. from center and the sisters took the same one because they don't live to far from us. So as we got on, we all randomly sat down and began contacting people. The man I sat by was so great. He is a middle aged guy and is studying in college and he was quite interested in the Book of Mormon. He asked who wrote it. The thoughts came to my mind from conference about being more bold and using the gems from preach my gospel. I really want to break some of the route routines in this mission among missionaires. I told him quoting from preach my gospel how an angel named moroni showed joseph smith where an ancient record was, a certain plates, and by God's power, he was able to translate them. He listened very intently and I bore my testimony how it has helped me in my life and how it can bless his. He warmly accepted the book and gave me his number so we could meet.

        I love you all so much and I look forward always to getting your emails. They make me so happy. :D
                Love,
            Elder James Sanford

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