Tuesday, July 14, 2015

If I had a dollar for every...

The great and dreadful day is at the doors! Ha-ha it is so weird. I am excited. I can look back on my mission, knowing I wasn't perfect but also with no regrets, because I tried my hardest. And that makes the coming home easier. I remember talking with one of friends in the mission who had been pretty disobedient, and just being able to tell he knew he had shortchanged the experience. He didn't outright say it but you could just tell.
I had to laugh when I heard your trek woes bemoaning flakiness, I hate to say this but if nothing else the last two years have taught me that people are flaky! If I had a dollar for every appointment that just completely bailed on me, I could probably finance my whole mission out of mission pocket. Ha-ha that's life! Gone are the days when a man's word was his honor!
Well, I will pray for you regarding trek, that sounds stressful. I am feeling a good mix of nervous, frightened, excited, and nostalgic. The mission is such a grand and important chapter of life that really is about to terminate! It's a thrill a minute
Elder Wright

Monday, July 6, 2015

I Have Been to Three Temples Out Here

                                         The Second Nose Cauterization
                                         The Third Temple
                                          Ward 4th of July Party
                                         Spanish Group barbecue

Then, in that very moment, I knew I'd been played.

This week was just amazing; we went to the Columbus Ohio temple with M. He had dug up a giant family history chart, and had put some of his names onto familysearch.org. [We ended up having to log on with his account to fix all the names, as he'd entered in all of his deceased relatives as "living." (This is why youth need to be involved in family history work: they're just better with computers!)] but anyhow, we took a three hour drive to the temple, and it really was a wonderful experience. Elder W and I did the proxy baptisms, and M was able to be confirmed for all of his ancestors. He has back problems, it was hard enough to baptize him in the first place and we felt it best to not try and repeat that multiple times for proxy. Then Elder W and I got to participate in an endowment ceremony for some deceased persons, which was as always a very spiritual and learning experience. I am so grateful for the temple, and the opportunities I have had to go there. I have really gained so much from the experience, not to mention I have been to three temples out here now- the DC, Palmyra, and Columbus.
Well, Fourth of July was a blast! For lunch we went to the ward barbecue at the P's, which was a lot of fun. Lots of good friends there, our investigator A also came, delicious grilled food, and plenty of corn hole and Frisbee. So it was really nice. We also had the Spanish group barbecue, which was delicious, if a little amateur. That was at the church, the "grill masters" set up the barbecues in a little alcove and so it just filled with fumes and smoke. But we had a good turnout, tons and tons of meat, and delicious food. I am not sure exactly how patriotic it was for Independence Day, the tablecloths were red white and green, the colors on the Mexican flag. But oh well, it all works out. The part of 4th of July that was a little better than last year was that we got special permission to stay out late and watch the fireworks. We happen to live on Mt. Washington, which has an overlook of the whole city, and very close to M, who lives in a spacious apartment building with the best view in Pittsburgh. So President Johnson (on condition that we didn't brag to the other missionaries) let us hang out with M, eat more food (ugh) and watch the fireworks. And I'll tell you this. Pittsburgh puts on a darn good show. Our view was a little obscured by an inconveniently placed tree, but what was really neat was being able to look out over the entire horizon and see multiple displays going on simultaneously amidst the different townships in the surrounding area. Just an overall fun experience.
So, I had an experience getting totally schooled this week. I was on exchange with Elder H, my district leader, and a big portion of the day we were at a senior center helping teach about family history. There were a lot of snacks around, including water bottles. Elder H was opening his fourth water bottle when he asked me, “ Elder Wright, how long do you think it would take me to drink this water bottle?" I responded I had no idea, and he asked if I thought he could do it in 30 seconds. Then he asked, "What would you give me if I could do it in 10 seconds?" Not really sure, I responded I would give him a tie of my choosing. Then he asked, "How about three seconds? How about a tie of my choosing, plus you have to do 10 push-ups?" I didn't think it was possible, and I told him so. He raised the bottle to his lips, looked at me, and winked. Then, in that very moment, I knew I'd been played. The water shot down his gullet like a fire hose in probably two seconds, if that. So I did ten push-ups. And gave him a sock tie. Man, he played me. But it was pretty hilarious.
Elder Wright

Monday, June 29, 2015

I thought this was the coolest thing I've seen my entire mission.

 The Morningside elders told us the Veterans museum was free, so we walked over last P-day. They weren't correct- it was $12 to enter! But taking pictures by the torpedo outside was free!
                                           Found a mini tie!
 Brother Ford built the San Diego temple out of Lego bricks. Pretty neat, no? I thought this was the coolest thing I've seen my entire mission.
                               M is smiling!  Haha yeah he is! You have to get him laughing for the smile to come.

Score for the Spirit!

Speaking of so little time, my mission! This week was sweet though. Elder W and I made a huge Spanish push. The problem is that here, unlike other cities I've served in, the Hispanics are all spread out and hard to find. That's what's made getting new investigators so difficult. But there are a few places I know they congregate, so we headed to Las Palmas, the Spanish grocery store in Beechview, with a goal of contacting every Spanish person we saw. And we did! It was a good experience! Plus, Spanish food. Way good. We saw a lady and her kid walk away while we were engaged in gospel conversation with the taco vendor, and we were bummed we missed her. Elder W was like, "Elder Wright, where do we go?" And I just paused, listened to the Spirit, it told me to turn around and walk the other way. And we found her two minutes later, and we're going to teach her family this Wednesday. Score for the Spirit! We are also teaching now this young dude named R, he lives with P, a recent convert all the way in Penn Hills, he is very biblically literate and is interested in our teachings. So we see a lot of potential with him! It's great!

So the big news is that M is going to the temple tomorrow, and we get to go with him. The Columbus Ohio temple is three hours away, which is pushing it, but we got a special permission to attend and we are so excited. M is doing so well. He is enthusiastic about every aspect of the church, he looks for ways to serve and give to others, and he passed the sacrament for the first time yesterday. Very proud moment for me. It's amazing to see an old man just accept and live the restored gospel with as much enthusiasm and vigor as anyone I've ever seen. We are going to do baptisms for his parents and grandparents, and in the future tackle his family tree, which spans into the 1700s and is a wealth of information. That's enough to put a tear in any HP group leader's eye, eh?

We used part of our last Pday on Friday, to go to the Pirates game with M. He got fantastic seats; we were really close to the field (as opposed to the nosebleeds last time). Andrew McCutchen hit a foul ball in the first inning that hit Elder W in the arm, giving him a little bruise. He didn't catch it though, which was disappointing. The game was pretty fun. I personally find baseball a rather dull sport, but there is something invigorating about the air and atmosphere of the whole thing. I had a good time!  

Well, that's the week!

Elder Wright

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

We're Ready for Learning!

                                            Cathedral of Learning
                                          It's Like Hogwarts inside
                                  And here we are at the museum.  We're Ready for Learning!
                                            Polka Dot Tie Week

Monday, June 22, 2015

Tons of older people in spandex showed up, not a great combination.

This week was just an awesome week. We did work. I went to an exchange with Elder R who is a new missionary. It was very funny to see the perspective that he's at compared with the perspective that I'm at. But he's a good guy, and we did a lot of good things. We had an excellent lesson with A. I can't remember if I mentioned her to you, but she is wheelchair-bound, stretch, covered in tattoos, and full of piercings. She is a wonderful lady and you can just feel the light of Christ pouring out of her. She has been investigating since the winter and while she has made incredible progress she has not felt the spirit tell her to be baptized. She feels that there is just still so much she doesn't know and doesn't understand and that she is not ready. We had a lesson about the necessity of a step of faith, and how even after all that we know and all that we believe, there comes a point when we must step into the unknown and then the next step becomes clear. She is very frightened of the Leap of faith, but she realized that it was necessary. She told us she had been praying a lot about a baptismal date already and that she had a day that she wanted to set. July 13 was the day that she had come up with, which, as you know it's two days before I leave my mission. However she still didn't feel of this date was right and so she's praying about this date this week. If you guys back home could join in prayer that she will get a confirmation for the date, I would really appreciate it. I really know the power of united prayer.

This Tuesday, we had a big zone conference. It was my last zone conference ever. We had a big training on the next phase of the iPad rollout, social media. It was really interesting and informative, and made me a little more excited about it. It's weird though, I will probably use Facebook for like two weeks before going home, and then I will use it all the time. But it will definitely add a new dimension to our proselyting and allow us to keep in better contact with our investigators. You can do a lot of good with social media. Elder Whitney and I performed a boss musical number, the Redeemer medley. I composed a medley that combined “Savior, Redeemer of my Soul”, “Come thou Fount of Every Blessing”, and “I Know that my Redeemer Lives”. It was pretty rocking awesome. Then came the departing testimonies. Missionaries have the opportunity to bear their testimony in their last zone conference, and I was up first. It was a really emotional experience, much more so than I expected. But I felt the spirit very strongly, and it was a very very powerful experience for me, I feel like I was able to say the sum total of my emotions throughout the mission, and how I really felt about it. And the mission has impacted me in such a profound and serious way. It's really difficult to express but I am so grateful for it. Then after the zone conference, M picked us up for dinner. We went out for lobster and crab cakes. That was pretty rad. M really spoils us.

 I can definitely state that the opposition in the past few weeks has reinforced my testimony. When you have different sources from all sides attacking your beliefs, questioning your convictions, and doubting your testimony, it makes you want to study harder, learn more and ponder deeper. As I have read the Scriptures this past week, I've been blown away by the knowledge and docs and contained in them and the answers it provides. I really believe that we look for answers we find them, and sometimes it takes someone goading us to dig even deeper to find even more. So it has been really good. This week in a way has just been exhausting; we have done so much service for others. We helped 4 families move, and we also cleaned out a giant basement. Plus the regular demands of missionary work! It is tiring. But I can rest when it's over I guess. The Rolling Stones had a concert in Heinz Park. Tons of older people in spandex showed up, not a great combination. I'm surprised that Mick Jagger is still around, what with everything he's ingested in his system.

Interesting observation about the power of the Book of Mormon. It is the greatest instrument in conversion (along with the spirit) that we have. Use it well!
Elder Wright

Friday, June 12, 2015

With my scriptures in one hand and a pamphlet in the other...

I am so excited for my new companion, Elder W. What a great guy. At the transfer meeting, President Johnson told me my new companion was going to be a really, really good one- and he was right. I have served around Elder W before; he was in York the entire time I was in Lancaster. Just a fantastic missionary, really dedicated to doing work and helping other people. He's been out for 20 months and has been on the east side of the mission the whole time. He was really close with Elder L and learned a lot from him, so there is just a wealth of experience, wisdom, and determination to draw from. We are going to do work this transfer.  We get along really well and I couldn't ask for a better companion to finish my mission with. I had my interview with President the other day and he told me, "It's not very often that I put two stellar missionaries together. I don't know what the seventh ward did to deserve this".
That being said, this week was a really tough one. The adversary was really lashing out; we had a lot of hard knocks this week. Just a lot of bitter people, who are stubborn and didn't want to change. There is one less active family we were teaching who told us essentially to not come back because while they knew the church was true they weren't "ready to go back yet". The message "just isn't needed right now ". I told them the gospel message is always needed- sometimes it just isn't accepted. Then I flipped over the table and walked out. (No, I didn't do that.)
We also had some pretty intense encounters with an antichrist and even just some very bitter active members. We asked them how they were doing with their family mission plan and they told us family mission plan sounded like a great way to lose friends. I am so grateful for the atonement. When you have Christ's sacrifice in your mind it makes it so much easier to not take things personally and to not be offended when people reject you. In reality, they aren't rejecting us, they're rejecting Christ.
This week we had a pretty good miracle. M took us out to lunch, and we walked to our apartment afterwards to get our car to go to a lesson. As we drove down our street I realized our car had a big flat tire. And we needed to be in a lesson in 15 minutes on the other side of town. Just as we are trying to figure out what to do, M drives by on his way to go grocery shopping. He drove us to our lesson, which went well, and then afterwards he let us use his Triple A card. We got the flat taken care of pretty fast, luckily. God sure looks out for his missionaries
In other news we are going to be using the iPad for all planning and area book work starting this week. That is a little bit of a change! President Johnson wants to roll out the iPads as quickly as possible, so we can begin using Facebook and blogs to proselyte. Honestly, it's a weird change. I enjoy using the iPad but I am just accustomed to doing missionary work the old-fashioned way, with my scriptures in one hand and a pamphlet in the other. But it should be a good way to keep pushing myself and learning new things. An annoying thing is that we need to copy all of our records into our iPads and then shred the existing paper records- that is just going to take a long time.
Yours in the digital age, 
Elder Wright

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Called to ____________, The Many Roles of the Modern Missionary

An Apartment Tour

                                                President Johnson
                                                Elder W
                                          Candid Son Shot at the Transfer Meeting
                                              Apartment Tour - Ties

Monday, June 1, 2015

We're like gerbils, he just shakes the cage and we keep running in our little wheels day after day unless we can exercise some FAITH and get out of it!

So, I'm sticking around. That's good. I'll finish strong in Pittsburgh and there's a lot to do here, so it'll be a solid finish. The Lancaster sisters and the West York elders will be working with the branch, it doesn't sound like there are going to be new missionaries sent there. As E. Gates and I commiserated, “Lancaster Walk did all the work but gets gypped in the end."
This week has been a good and challenging week! We have really been trying to assimilate the iPads into our teaching; it's a little weird but also a valuable resource to have. There are some times though when it is the perfect tool that that moment, which is always really nice. This week we have training on get the Area Book Planner up and running, which will be a huge change. I am not sure how much I am going to enjoy that. One thing is that because it is all online, anything even remotely sensitive will not be allowed on the teaching record, effectively negating much of the value of a teaching record. For example, you could not say, "Bing is Chinese" but you could say "Bing moved here from China" and you could not say "Amy is living with her boyfriend" but you could say "We recommend teaching the Law of Chastity in the near future." So we'll see how that all rolls out.
M is doing great. He is all recovered from his appendicitis, he came to church Sunday and gave a ride to an investigator family as well! I don't know if I mentioned it, right before he went into surgery he ran into a pair of missionaries from the Oakland ward. He took that as a token that God really was looking out for him and had put them there to share a comforting word. I think the way the Lord often blesses us is with the capacity to recognize his hand in all things. He is getting interviewed in two weeks for a temple recommend, which is really exciting. He is doing just fine.
And yes, of course I had a pocket square! Pocket squares are in!
Did not hear about the oil spill. I am interested to know, how has the drought affected SB in particular? I don't want to come back if the whole place has shriveled up like a raisin. 
This week was a huge finding week, and it was great. We were out talking with everyone, bearing some heavy testimony, and finding a lot of people really interested in the Gospel! S and his girlfriend J are a really nice couple we started teaching, they also have a newborn daughter. S actually referred himself via Mormon.org. The son of a Baptist preacher, he has been everything from Messianic Jew to born-again. At every step in his spiritual journey, he has found himself looking at the Book of Mormon. After the latest pitfall in his life, he has decided that God's been trying to get him in this direction all along. He has actually read the Book of Mormon several times and has studied our doctrine extensively. For example he already knew about temple work and redeeming the dead, which formed a large part of why he wanted to join the church! His girlfriend is similarly excited but not as sure of herself. But we have high hopes for them! S came to church this Sunday and loved it. The third hour was entirely about talking to your kids about pornography, but even with that he really loved the members and the feeling he had. It was fantastic. 
We'll contrast that with S, a former investigator who we picked up again. He has a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but cannot keep a commitment to save his life. We met with him twice this week, he was gung ho about getting to church and feeling the Spirit up until Sunday noon, when, just like every other week, a big and important thing came up which prevented him. You could almost hear Satan laughing at us, it was really annoying. We're like gerbils, he just shakes the cage and we keep running in our little wheels day after day unless we can exercise some FAITH and get out of it! Man. Oh well. Despite that, it was still a pretty awesome week.
Elder Wright

Saturday, May 30, 2015

See If You Can Find Me!

                                                      At the Pirate's Game
                                                   Fredonia Companions
                                                 Beautiful Pittsburgh
                                           The Field is White
                               The Entire PPM - see if you can find me... then my companions.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cross that off the Mission Bucket List!

                                                        After the baptism.
                 Eating an almond cupcake thing from Prantl's! Cross that off the mission bucket list!
                                          The falling water experience.
                                          This angle- directly overlooking the waterfall- is probably the coolest.

The Fact That There is Now a Branch There is a Huge Miracle.

So thanks to the miracle of modern technology, we can email you today! We usually go to the Mt. Washington library near our apartment, but we just went to the church today and used the church Wi-Fi to email using our iPads!!!

This Thursday was our mission iPad training. The last time the whole mission gathered together was exactly a year ago, for the Elder Holland conference, and I honestly didn't think there'd be another opportunity. But it was great! I was able to see all my past companions and that was a really nice blessing.
It was interesting-I expected the conference to be mostly about how we use our iPads. But really about two-thirds of the training was focused on our own personal conversion and how our hearts needed to be in the right place before we could hope to use our technology to better other peoples lives. The Mission HQ people conducting the meeting referenced the talk by Elder Nelson about using technology and how in this age we need to be disciples in a digital age and need to be accustomed to using technology and productive ways, not wasting time and avoiding temptation. I originally thought the iPads to be no more than an expensive gimmick and accordingly was not that excited about getting them. However this gave me a better perspective and helped me to understand why the Q of 12 have made this decision. Using the iPads in teaching has been a bit of a transition. However it's given us a lot more opportunities to share quick messages and to see more people. I've got to say even though the range of apps that are approved are pretty limited, the pamphlets app is freaking awesome. I'm huge fan.
This week M told us that he had been having some stomach pains. He ended up going to the hospital. They took his appendix out! That was a surprise. It turns out it was black and ready to burst so it's a good thing he went in when he did. Ma, it turns out the devil never lets up, does he!? Satan don't kick no dead dogs. Think about it, it’s true.

A note about the Spanish people, last week from Elder G I heard some incredible news. Yesterday the Columbia branch in the Lancaster stake opened. It encompasses all the Spanish members in the Lancaster and York area, and it meets in the Elizabethtown building. At this point I don't know who the branch presidency are, but I have some pretty good guesses. I will have to text Elder G and ask him. This Spanish branch is the culmination of a long time, and lots of prayers, and a lot of hard work. I remember when I first came to the Lancaster walk area; there was a Spanish sacrament meeting that took place once a month. During my time there, as more Spanish members began coming to church we added an elder’s quorum and a gospel principles class. The fact that there is now a branch there is a huge miracle. If I happen to leave this transfer, I had better be transferred to the Columbia branch for my last six weeks. However that's probably unlikely. But I would love it!

This week has been a bit tougher to find investigators. Part of it is that we haven't had as much time as we usually do because of the conferences and meetings this week. We have just been focusing on a lot of service this week, showing the members that we are willing to work hard and to help them in whatever we can. This week that involved mowing an acre lawn, tearing down a patch of weeds and Mexican bamboo, and breaking up several large slabs of concrete. Ha ha tough work! As I mentioned the ward is really great and very young, lots of young families. For a while our bishop didn't have any counselors because one had moved away and the other just had a baby. Everyone here wants to feed us, I haven't had this many meals since Dover.  Not helping me with my six-months to sexy.
Keep the faith, 
Elder Wright

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Loaner iPad

 Here's a couple of photos I took on my iPad. I call it my loaner iPad because it's a used one and I'll give it back in two months. We were pretty excited to get them.

A Dating Apllication

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

We Were Rebuffed.

Well hello!
This email is going to be kind of short, I hope you understand. Today we are driving up to Falling Water! I am really excited. I'm also wearing my Kaufmann tie, so it'll get me in for free. (I wish). Jack Haley’s mom told me if I have the chance to get to Falling Water, make sure I do it, so I am pleasantly surprised it wall worked out! I will have to send a big picture stash next week. 
The other thing is that M got baptized: that was great! Really spiritual experience, plus a big attendance from the ward. I confirmed him a member of the church yesterday. On Friday, we had dinner with the senior missionary couple in our ward, the Butlers, and one of the ward missionaries Sister H, and M.  And M brought dessert: Cupcakes from Prantls. So I had the "best cake in the world" according to the Huffington Post, and though it was delicious I don't think it quite qualifies for that title, but then what do I know?
This week will be a busy one; we will have a zone training and a mission conference where we'll be receiving iPads. So my next email will come from my own iPad!
The Spanish group is doing fine, I taught the priesthood lesson yesterday. We are trying to find new investigators, which has been hard. Yesterday we drove the dickens out of the way to visit a Spanish guy who asked us to come by, we were met at the door by another Spanish guy who had never heard of this other person, thank you very much, and we were rebuffed. It was in a totally English neighborhood as well, so I'm kind of skeptical. But that is the mission life.
Elder Wright

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Teaching him has been a cinch.

This week for us was really nice; we were able to stay pretty busy. Honestly looking back it was really just a blur. I guess one highlight was this nuts service project we did. The Ps had all the missionaries come over, and we disassembled a deck, cleared two plots of weeds, dug a trench, built a retaining wall, mixed cement, built a small ramp, and mowed a huge lawn. That was cool! I'd never made cement before. It got brutally hot. At least we were fed a ton of pizza afterwards… missionary life! 
Basically the big news is that M is getting baptized! That should be great! The dude is 76, but super full of energy and actually surprisingly healthy considering he had cancer surgery about 2 months ago. He is also a Pittsburgh guru-he knows the streets like the back of his hand, plus everyone everywhere, and he is considerably loaded in cash. (He took us out to lunch at the Capitol Grill, which was a super expensive restaurant). Still trying to figure that out, because he worked as a florist his whole life. But he is awesome. Just a genuinely nice guy, the type of person you'd assume was already Mormon. Teaching him has been a cinch because he pores over Mormon.org and all the links, and so he already understands the subject material beforehand. It's sweet. 
Well, life is good here!
 Elder Wright

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Carnegie Science Museum and more....

                                    The Carnegie Science Museum
                                    Working on the Spaceship
                                   The spectre of post mission life looms....
                               Riding the incline on our way to lunch.
                                         Happy Mother's Day Skype.