In this area, there are a lot of less-active members, and most of them have super strong testimonies. Many don't come because of their roads. Many of them have super long dirt drive ways that are all washed out, and when it rains there is almost no way to drive out, and I think that most of them just got out of the habit. Some of them are offended for different reasons, or don't want to come because no one else comes, or don't like the new Branch President, but I think most of them don't come because they just got out of the habit over the winter.
So, here is the way the Whitehawk family tree works (I will do my best, but it might just turn out a jumbled mess, cause that's what it is in my head.) You have Vina, Ardegene (both of whom I haven't talked about before), Martina, and Ugenio are all siblings. Vina is Kiles mom (kile is one of the guys in the prison that we are teaching), Ardegene I don't know much about, Martina is Genes grandma (the other guy in jail), and these 3 all live in the same city but different houses and property. Ugenio is married to Denice, and they are the ones that have more kids and grand kids living with them than I can keep track of. Mayla, the deaf girl, is one of their grand daughters. That's about all I know for now... Maybe I'll figure it out eventually. Hope that helps a little!
Update on Mayla! Ugenio and Denice want her baptized, but they have been wanting to get an interpreter to come so that we can teach her, so it hasn't happened yet. Plus, she is about to turn 10, so it is about the right time. This week we visited them again, and I got to do a lot of signing with her! But, we have a problem. Her grandma explained to me that she doesn't really know sign language, but they made up their own signs so that they can communicate with her, which explains why I had no idea if she understood me. And she didn't understand me, so that solves that! She is going to school and learning ASL, so hopefully it gets better in the future. It's super nice to sign with someone again!
We got to meet the Mission Pres and his wife! We drove up to Rapid City (we had to get up at 5, leave a bit after 6, so that we could arrive at 9... Long drive) and had a mini zone conference! It was so good! Plus, Elder Wright, my trainer, is my Zone Leader, Elder Bradley, my MTC Comp, is in my zone too! We had a ton of fun, and it was super nice to see them again! There were a lot more missionaries there that I knew from past areas, which I didn't expect to see again, at least not so soon.
During our zone conference, as we got to meet the Pres and his wife, they told us how a mission president is called. It isn't something that they send in papers for like it is for us. When they are called, it starts at a stake level, than a member of the 70 comes and visits them, than later an Apostle. Once it gets there, the list is narrowed down to about 100, which than the quorum of the Twelve Apostels, as well as the Prophet and his counselors meet in the temple and go through each name one by one. Than, the decision is made. I know that president Hess and his wife were called here for us. They didn't aspire to get here, they didn't take classes to move up on the totem pole, they didn't pay to get to this position, but they qualified themselves by following Gods laws, and they lived worthy of this amazing calling. They are truly inspired, and this church is truly headed by men called of God. I love this Gospel! I keep thinking of something a man told us before he slammed the door. He said "Boys, I have heard every argument for and against you guys. You are deceived. Look to Jesus Christ, not the church of Jesus Christ." Where is He to be found, but in His church? In the church of Martin Luther? Or of the Presbytery? The church of Rome of Greece? The church of St. Paul, or Patrick, or Mary? If it is His church, it will be called in His name. Funny, how in 1700 years since his church was persecuted into extinction, no one has believed enough in their cause and in their teachings to call it His church. It is a bold statement to call it The Church of Jesus Christ. It's bold to say we have a Prophet, that God and Jesus Christ appeared to a 14 year old boy in the 1800's, and that through that boy scripture was revealed. it is bold to say that God speaks to man, and that what that man says is scripture when he is speaking with the Holy Ghost. And yet, we say it. We declare it upon the house tops. We go door to door declaring this good news! We declare it despite personal pain and sorrow and death. We live what we know to be true, and we love it. I wish I would have told that man that if you are to look to Jesus Christ, you will look towards the Chruch of Jesus Christ, because that is where He will be. Men do not lead this church. Men can't lead this church. But God qualifies those that He chooses. We can be made more than we can be on our own. What a glorious thing to be able to say! To soberly and truthfully declare! I love this Gospel, and I love my Savior, and my Father, and His prophets both old and young. I love the prophet Joseph Smith, who's life was taken by those who should have loved him and nurtured him, and all because he declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the very Son of God, and he declared it with authority not given of man. He has sealed his testimony in his blood, and because he did that, we all have the blessing and privilege of participating in the blessings of the kingdom on this earth.
Here is a quote I found this week. Hope you like it!
Elder Dale G. Renlund in the April 2015 Conference said "a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying" and he concluded his talk by inviting us to “evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying. If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites. As we try, persevere, and help others to do the same, we are true Latter-day Saints. As we change, we will find that God indeed cares a lot more about who we are and about who we are becoming than about who we once were.”
Well, I'm out of time. I love you guys loads!
Elder Carter V