Monday, January 25, 2016

Farewell to Houston!

I cannot believe this is my last email! My mission has gone by so fast for me, and I have learned much. I am grateful for the blessing and opportunity the Lord has given me to serve Him. 

As I look back over the course of my mission, I can't help but to think of verses15-16 in the 18th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. 
"And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!"

I know that my mission has been for me. I know that my family, friends, and people here in Houston have been blessed because of my service, but I know that the Lord called me here for me. There is a big difference in having a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and being converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the course of my mission, I have become converted within. I know that the Lord could do His work all alone, but I am convinced that He allows us (His servants) to participate in His glorious work, so we can become converted in the process. 

I now know what I want in my life and for my future, and my mission has helped my prepare to make it happen. It has been a blessing to be able to serve with many wonderful companions who have given their hearts so completely to the Lord. I have served here in the Texas Houston Mission with who I served with because that is exactly what the Lord knew I needed. 

It has been a neat experience to look back on the progress and changes I have made in my life over the past two years but honestly, my loved ones see it more than I do. It has been neat for me to hear them explain to me the changes they have seen in me. I have been so blessed throughout my mission with working with many people who have literally changed their lives because they come to know that the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I have felt most successful and fulfilled within, as I have served others. We find out who we really are when we put others before ourselves. 

I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that it has brought me greater peace and happiness in my life, and I know that it has brought me closer to my Father in Heaven and to my Savior Jesus Christ more than any other book. I know that God lives and that we are His children. He loves us and wants us to be happy and successful in this life. He has a plan for each and every one of us. Central to His plan is His Son Jesus Christ. It is only in and through Jesus Christ that we can be saved. I am grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ and for the strengthening and enabling power that comes because of His Atonement. I know that as we rely on His help, weak things can become strong. We can receive strength far beyond our natural capacity as we put off the natural man, and becometh a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. May we all seek His help and guidance in our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.  

This was my last district meeting on Friday

We went over and made breakfast at the Lane's on Saturday. I made Grandma Wilson's yogurt based pancakes and they were super yummy! 

Mini-Mission and Miracle With LJay

This past Monday, we had Avery Hersom come out with us on a mini-mission! He was with us until Wednesday evening. It was neat to have him with us. It made me think back to when I would drive down to Ogden to go on splits with Elder Costello. I learned a lot from him. Thanks Michael! 

We went tracting on Tuesday night after our dinner appointment and it seemed like a lot of people didn't want to talk to us. We wanted it to be a good experience for Avery so we kept on going with the hope of talking to someone who was prepared. WE DID! It was literally the LAST person that we talked to. His name was Roger and he was just walking down the street that we were tracting. We went up to him and explained who we were and then shared a little bit about what Jesus Christ did while He was here on earth. We set up a return appointment with him. It was neat for Avery to participate in the teaching and finding with us that night. 

We had a really busy week and we have done a lot finding but I just want to share one miracle that we had. Saturday night I went with Elder Craig to the Douglas' house to have dinner because she made me one of my favorite pesto pastas and then my all time favorite birthday cake! Lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. YES, PLEASE! Anyways, we had a great dinner and then we left for an appointment with Raj, but it fell through, so we went to our backup appointment and that fell through too. It was one of those nights. 

Elder Craig and I had a heart-to-heart and we told each other why we decided to serve missions and we were just getting to know each other. He just came out so this is his first transfer. He is going to Jamaica when I go home. We were talking for a while and as I was explaining to him why I decided to serve a mission, we noticed that there was a bunch of people out front of one of the houses we parked by. They were all staring us down and I was looking back at them. Elder Craig said, "What are you thinking about?" And I replied, "I'm thinking about what I am going to say to all of these people in just a minute." We finished what we were talking about and then said a prayer and got out of the car only to find that all of the people had left! They scattered! We went up to the house and there was one guy in the garage. He was working on a car and we told him who we were and asked if we could share a message with him. He said, "I don't live here so let me ask the owner." He went and got her and she came out and did not want anything to do with us. I wasn't going to leave that easy though. I was very polite to her and then just started asking the guy LJay about the car he was working on. We started talking about the car and eventually the owner went back inside! He was working on his friend's car and that was his friends mom that came out. 

We were talking about cars for a while and then came to find out that he lives in Tomball and I just so happened to live there for 9 months so I knew exactly where he lived and it was really funny. We ended up transitioning to talking about the Bible and the Book of Mormon. We explained the Book of Mormon to him in such a way that when we asked him if he would be willing to read from it, he said, "Where do I get one?" We told him that we had one for him and then he pulled out his wallet and asked how much. We explained that it was our gift to him and that we did not want any money. He was so excited to read from it and he gave us his number and wants to meet with the missionaries in Tomball. Long story short, we were there with him for about an hour and his heart was literally softened before our eyes. He was an answer to our prayer and he said that we were to his as well. He said he wasn't having the best day and that was why he didn't leave with his buddies because he just wanted to work on the car alone. I felt prompted to tell him That the Lord was watching out for him and that it was not a coincidence that we came right when his friends left. I said, "If all of those guys would have been here when we came up, I bet someone would have told us to leave and it wasn't your house so you would've just sat back and not said anything." He said, "You are exactly right. I know that is exactly would have happened. My friends would have given you guys a hard time." WOW. It was so neat for all of us to see the Lord working in our lives. He invited us to come watch them drift and race cars at this old airport next Saturday. I don't think we can make it, but I really want to go....haha! He popped the hood on a Nissan 240 SX that had a built Supra motor in it with over 1200hp. Elder DeLuca was drooling over this car. Zack, it was SICK!  

Anyways, we had a great week. Things are going well here in Conroe! The Lord continues to bless us as we do things His way. I absolutely love being a missionary. I hope you all have a great week and I will see you soon!  

This is Elder Craig that I was with when we met LJay! 

This is Elder Whitlock. He is hilarious! 

When Your Milk Expires the Day You Go Home, You Know It Is Getting Real.

My weeks are seriously going too fast! I feel like I don't have enough time in the week to accomplish all that we need to get done. 

We had MLC on Tuesday and we learned a lot from President Mortensen, as usual. We reevaluated each zone's commitment for baptisms per month and had a long discussion on that. Long story short, as a mission we have to be finding 3 new investigators each week in order to make sure we stay on track with our commitment for baptisms. After the age change, a lot of missions were seeing a huge increase in baptisms and then once those missionaries left and the missions had less missionaries, baptisms decreased. President shared with us that we are 1 of 2 missions in the United States that has continued to have an increase in baptisms even with decreased number of missionaries. Things are going well in the Texas Houston Mission and I am glad to be here! 

We role played a more effective way of teaching about prophets in order to set up an investigator to understand that one of the fruits of the Prophet Joseph Smith, is the Book of Mormon. Then we role played introducing the Book of Mormon more effectively as well. I was thinking to myself, "Why haven't we learned this sooner?" Haha! It's okay, because I got to use what I learned that night with the Upshaw family. It was a good lesson and we are going back sometime this week to finish the lesson. We took Avery Hersom with us and we are going to do a mini mission with him this evening. He is coming with us tonight and then he will stay with us until Wednesday. He is preparing to serve a mission right now. He just submitted his papers, I think! 

Wednesday, we had dinner with the Ashton's and Rhett gave us a name of one of his friends, Isaiah, to go by on Thursday. After we got our new car on Thursday, we went by! It was a miracle that we even found him because Rhett just gave us the gate code and said it was the house on the left. We went in and went to what we thought was the first house on the left and it was not his house. It was some crazy lazy who told us that she believes in God but not Jesus Christ. I have never heard that before. We were about to just leave the neighborhood but I had the impression to just go down that street and go to the first house on the left on the opposite side of the road. We went there and sure enough it was the right house. We knocked and at first no one answered so we left. As we were leaving, I saw someone in my mirror so I turned that Corolla around and went back there as quickly as I could. It was his cousin but he said that Isaiah was there. He went and got him! We talked to him for just a couple minutes and told him that Rhett said to stop by if we were ever in the area. We set up a time to come back on Saturday but he was busy. We are hoping to see him this week. 

Friday, I taught my last zone meeting on my birthday! That was pretty cool. By the way, thank you all for the birthday wishes! I had a great day and we went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. I got my usual. Grilled BBQ chicken with a sweet potatoe loaded (with brown sugar and marshmallows) and a side salad with honey mustard. YES, PLEASE. It is a lot of food so I always cut my chicken and sweet patatoe in half and then have it for lunch the next day. Brother Stewart took us out that night. 

Saturday, the Princes from College Park (my first area) came and took us out to breakfast at the Toasted Yolk. That place is SO good. I thought about getting that cowboy scramble again, but I decided to be healthier, so I got an egg-white omelet. It was super yummy too! We had some Family History training from Brother Evans after that. 

We had dinner with the Douglas' last night. They are not in our ward anymore, but since I technically cover the stake, we went over. :) It was good to see them! He was our last Ward Mission Leader. 

Things are going really well here for me, and my time is going way too fast! I love you all and I will see you soon. P.S. Bailley gets the first hug! I love you Buddah! :) 

​I am pretty tight with my money so I had to get creative. This is all leftovers from members so I just put it all together and made a salad. Spinach, kidney beans, grilled chicken, celery, cucumber, hard boiled egg (that was mine), and some bbq sauce and black pepper. :) 

So, this is the milk that I bought today. It expires the day I go home. 

Here is our brand spankin' new corolla. It had 8 miles on it when we got her. :) 

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has had a great start to 2016! This past year flew by for me. I have learned a lot about myself as I have forgotten about me and focused on serving others, and more importantly, serving the Lord. 

This week flew by for us! We have been finding a lot of people and some of our investigators dropped us. We had a miracle one night this past week where it was getting really late but we still wanted to go visit someone so we searched our online area book. As I scrolled down the page, this name Chris really stood out to me, so we went to visit him. We got to the apartment and he had moved a few months ago, but we started talking to the person that lived there. Her name was Cheyenne and her son had passed away recently so we were talking about the Plan of Salvation with her. She wanted us to come back and share more, but then texted us saying that her husband told her that we can't. :/  Hopefully, we opened the door for some future missionaries. 

I have learned that when people stick strictly to the "culture of things," they block the door for revelation. Some people are so stuck on what they have been brought up hearing that they are not even open to learning more, even if it is true and could bring them greater happiness and peace. For example, we were tracting last light and we knocked into this lady that was super nice to us and asked us what religion we were and I said, "Well, we are Christian and we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." She responded, "Well you have to be Baptist, Catholic, or something so what are you?" I said exactly what I said the first time and then added, "Have you ever heard of Mormons?" She then said, "Oh don't talk to me. I don't like Mormons." She then started to walk back inside and I said, "Why don't you like Mormons?" And she said, "Because." I said, "Because why? Did you have a bad interaction with one?" She said, "No, I just don't like them. I heard you guys don't even believe in God." Elder Nielsen asked to share the Christmas video and, luckily, she let him. After it was over I said I think it is safe to say we certainly believe in God, and in our Savior Jesus Christ. I am sorry you have heard some bad things about us, but they are not true. I then said that is why there is 85,000 of us going around the world to share what we really believe. We asked if we could come back and she said that if we were ever in the area we could stop by. I was SO happy that we left on a good note! 

The miracle I want to share this week is that Greg, the Saenz son now has a baptismal date for February 6th! I went to a pass-off lesson with the Crighton Elders and we taught him the Restoration. He was sharing with us that he knew that Heavenly Father was already blessing him for his decision to start investigating the Lord's Church. He has already found a job and he has been out of work for over a month now! His life is starting to get back to where he wants it to be. I told him that his countenance has changed within just a week. I said, "I see it most in your eyes, but I can tell you are more peaceful, happy, and confident in yourself but more importantly, in God." He has a light in his eyes that was not there a week ago. The light of Jesus Christ is real, and I have learned a lot just by looking into peoples eyes. 

I went up to share my testimony this past Sunday in fast and testimony meeting for the last time as a set-apart missionary. That was crazy to think. I shared a few things that I have learned over the course of my mission and thanked the members for all that they do for us. We could not do what we do without the help of members. I shared my testimony of the Book of Mormon and explained how the amount of the Book of Mormon an individual reads is directly proportionate to their conversion. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that is was written for our day and age. I love it, I love it, I love it. It has brought me closer to my Savior Jesus Christ and to my Father in Heaven than any other book of scripture. 

I hope everyone had a great week and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers every day! I love you guys!! 

​I roasted some veggies in the oven this past week. They were pretty good! 

My companions and I say hello! Shooting some love from Conroe! 

Many Miracles!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! It was so nice for me to be able to Skype with my family. I love you all SO much and I thank you for your continued support! 

Tuesday, we had our first lesson with Zeke. We taught him the first half of the restoration lesson and then came back to finish the rest of the lesson on Saturday. That night we went finding and we didn't have a ton of success but we kept on going. It was getting a little late and it was after 8 o'clock but we decided to knock one more door. The last house we knocked let us in! It is the Upshaw family and we are going back over this Wednesday to see them. They have friends that are members of the church and they live in the first ward I served in with Elder Christensen. The family they know super well is the Huberts. We shared the Christmas video and talked about the Savior's earthly ministry. They were probably one of the nicest families I have ever met! 

We had our Christmas Conference on Wednesday and that was sweet! It is pretty cool to see a Sacrament room completely filled with missionaries. President and Sister Mortensen gave some training and then we had a huge lunch together and then sang Christmas songs and watched a slideshow that President's daughter Paige put together for the mission. All of the missionaries sent in two pictures about two weeks ago and she put together a sweet slideshow with them all. 

After we Skyped with our families, we went to the Saenz's house and something really cool happened. One of their sons, Greg, was there and we started to talk to him and he opened up to us. He explained that when his parents were baptized he saw a change in them over night. He said, "I noticed that they were more happy and that they had more peace in their lives. I desire to have that." He has since been reading from the Book of Mormon and he attended his first church service yesterday and LOVED it! I gave him our number and told him to call us if he had any questions. He called me last night and said, "Elder DeLuca, I went to church today and it was literally everything that I needed. The speakers, what we talked about in class, and the fellowship from everyone was just outstanding." I replied, "Well I am so happy that you had such a good time. That just made my day!" He said, "No, Elder DeLuca, I didn't have a good time.  It was great!" It was so sick when he said that to me. Now he is wanting to meet with the missionaries to work towards getting baptized. He lives in Spring outside of our zone, but he may be moving up here to Conroe so we will see which missionaries would be best for him! 

Saturday, we brought Chris Saenz out to some appointments with us and we had something cool happen. After seeing Brother Bailey, we went to Zeke's. We finished our lesson with Zeke and then at the end of the lesson went over the steps to pray. We asked him specifically to pray for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and he said that he would. He didn't mention it in his prayer, so right when he finished I said, "Did you notice how you didn't pray about the Book of Mormon?" He said "Yes," and then I said, "Would you be willing to say another prayer and this time include to ask Heavenly Father to know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon?" He said that he would and he didn't have a problem with that. It was a little awkward at first, but if we don't help prepare him to receive and answer, then we are setting him up to fail. I only have a month left of my mission so I don't mess around anymore! Haha. 

After that lesson, we had the thought to call Austin because he lives there in that complex, and right when we called him we saw him in the distance so I ran over to him and asked if he had just 20 or 30 minutes for a brief lesson. He said yes! This was a miracle because we had not planned to have that lesson with him, but we did plan on getting our mission standard of excellence with 5 member present lessons that week and the Lord knew that. Our district leader gave us a priesthood assignment to make sure that we got at least 5 member present lessons, and we did! 

That night, we had a lesson with Nori and it didn't go as well as we would have liked. We were going with the intent to answer some questions he had left us with the previous visit and he came loaded with more. He basically was looking into things that are not church doctrine and they were stupid questions that he was just trying to trick us and catch us in our words and I called him out on it. I said, "Nori, are you asking these questions because you are trying to show us what you think MIGHT be wrong with our beliefs, or are you wanting to join Christ's Church and you just want some questions answered first?" He was like, "Uhhhhh.....Well I never really thought of that but probably just trying to show you what I think is wrong." I said, "We can go back and forth all night and answer these questions but it really isn't going to do either of us much good. I think you owe it to yourself to check out a church service and see how you FEEL inside when you come." He said, "I think you are right and I want you guys to know I think you are great and I love you guys so I'll come check it out." Well, he never ended up coming because he was in Houston, he said, but he knows what time we start next week. We will have members reach out to him! 

That is the gist of our week! It was really good, and the temperature is finally starting to drop! I had my first 80 degree Christmas and hopefully the last! I hope you all have a great week and a Happy New Year! 

Merry Christmas from our district! 

Sorry for the light on this, but I thought it would be cool to get one with this plaque! :)