Monday, March 28, 2011

I Have Kept the Faith‏

I don't think I'll have the opportunity to email next week so this will more than likely be my last entry(and if I do email next week I won't send a big mass one just so that I wouldn't have been wrong about this week, I may have some how grown up in these past 2 years but I'm still prideful!) To be honest, I'm a little sick to my stomach right now, my heart is in my chest thinking that "wow this is it." I really can't believe I'm down to my last week. I have the plans to work super hard and to make the most of the time that I have left. It's hard because everyone knows and reminds me all the time but I think of the words of Paul when he says "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith", tears fill my eyes when and I have an awesome lesson or when someone begins to progress towards the Savior because the thought crosses my mind "I only get to do this for a little while longer", after this it's back to reality, back to school, life, the world. Sure it has it's perks and I hope that you understand, I am excited to come home and see everyone and to do whatever it is I will do when I am at home. But there is no greater feeling than waking up each morning and thinking "The only thing I have to worry about today is inviting others to come unto their Savior Jesus Christ." I guess I'll continue on a little later with the psalm of Elder Caywood but before I do that I'd like to talk about this week and the week coming up. I don't know how we pulled it off this week considering that we got dropped by one investigator and baptized another but we still managed to pull off 11 investigator lessons(which once again may seem small but it is a miracle in Taylor) and 16 lessons overall, still trying to hit that coveted 20! Tuesday of last week I went on an exchange with Elder McBride and we talked about what it means to be converted and how we can help others to truly convert, that was our theme for the day and it has been really effective as we found that no matter what we say until a person acts for themselves, they will never be converted. I remember Wednesday was a long day mostly because I was tired because of the exchange but we managed to teach quite a few people that day despite all of that. Thursday was one of the hardest days I have had as a missionary in a long time. You know a day when you are just beaten. That was Thursday, no one was home, all of our lessons cancelled, and the only bright spot was we got to baptismal interviews done. It was hard but we pushed through it. Friday we had a good day, we played basketball early in the morning with all the Elders and the Assistants to the President who were up here for the day. Elder Tingey(Our AP) was so freaking good! I couldn't believe it, I hadn't seen anything like that. Taught quite a few lessons including one to Charles and Ethan Tippets. Ethan should be baptized in about a month and Charles... Well we're still waiting on that 3 year probation. The next day was actually a pretty good day though it was a little strange. We were a little behind on paper work. Because we cover 6 wards, that means we have to make 6 progress records, recording what we did all week in each of the wards. If you take time and make a good record that the ward actually learns from, then the process can take a while. We got a late start and were scrambling Saturday to get that done. What made that hard was we had a baptism at 10 and had to begin filling the font at 7:45(takes forever!) It was an awesome experience see the ward and the family rally around Ethan and his family. Then there was yesterday which was really busy. It was my last day at church and that was a little surreal but I'm glad that my last weekend is conference because I think I'd be a wreck if I knew the next day I would be leaving. It was busy though because we had lessons all night(yay! even double booked during one of the hours). At 4 we taught Jennifer, we're so excited for her, she is amazing and has progressed so much, truly feeling the Spirit. It was cool on Saturday at their wedding reception she announced to her family "This is Elder Claywood(hasn't gotten my name right but still love her!) and Elder Hill they have been teaching me and they will be baptizing me on Tuesday, they will always be welcome in our home!" It was so cool it reminded of when Paul said "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ", later that night we had dinner with Big John and his family. We have the same birthday so we decided to celebrate together. The best part was when the cake came out and it was a John Wayne cake. I about died laughing because it was so awesome! Oh yeah John Wayne! So this week Jennifer will be baptized on Tuesday and hopefully Mario will be on Friday not sure on that one though. This weekend we will watch conference. I'll head down to the valley Monday morning and go to Mesa to pick up my bike and mail it to Rexburg(thanks Elder Stewart). I think that'll be all I have time to do. I'm going to leave a lot of my clothes here because they look like crap after two years of sweat and pain. Then I'll have my final interview with President at 3:30 on Monday. After that I will cry and hug Elder Hill and say to him "Remember who you are" just like Mufasa said to Simba almost 20 years ago(P.S. I pretty much want to watch Lion King really bad). We will then weigh in our luggage and then have dinner and a special meeting with the mission president. Tuesday morning they will wake us up early and drop us off at the airport around 5 or 6. I will wait there til 10:30 and probably contact people, hand out pass along cards, hand out book of mormons, set a baptism date with some person waiting for a flight, get thrown out for disturbing the peace, and then come back in under the alias Armando Rodriguez. More than likely though I'll sit there bored making small talk with those who will talk to me. I'll land in Salt Lake around 1 their time and wait there for an hour and then go to Colorado Springs. Sound like a plan? Now to finish my email. I feel that I do truly owe my life to my mission. Every emotion imaginable(except for romance) has been pushed to the limit. I have grown up a lot or at least that is how I feel. I don't know what the first impressions people will have me when I get home except for "you of put on some weight". I don't know how I could adequately express how thankful I am for this experience. I've made friends that I feel will last forever. I've had the opportunity to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord in bringing salvation to others. I will miss the Spirit being so strong. I will miss being able to lay it all on the line and give it up to the Lord. I will miss seeing the excitement in people's faces as they come unto Christ. But this much I do know, I know this is God's work and that He is our Eternal Father Heaven. He is aware of our circumstances and answers our prayers as we look to him in faith, Christ told us "Seek and ye shall find, knock it and it shall be opened unto you." I know that in an act of the greatest love every displayed God gave His only begotten Son. Christ spent His life in the service of others, never doing anything for His own gain. He gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins, He conquered death and invited us to do as well uttering the words to all "come follow me", after leaving the apostles in charge of the church they were persecuted and killed, because of their death the authority to administer in the name of the Lord was taken from the Earth. After centuries of Spiritual darkness man began to look to God again which led to the creation of many churches. One of those people looking for truth was Joseph Smith, as he asked God what church he should join, God appeared to him with His Son and directed him to join none of the churches but called him to be a prophet in this day. I have found out this is true for myself by reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it. He has told me through his Holy Spirit that this is real. I didn't imagine 3 or 4 years ago I'd be here doing this. For the majority of my life I questioned God's existence. I know He is there, and I have given everything I have to follow Him. It took me some time what it meant to give it all up but I know now. Looking forward to seeing you all soon, take care God be with you til we meet again. Love, Elder Caywood

Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Break‏

I'm going to be pretty honest it was a relatively challenging week for us. I'll start out and tell you why. As the title of the email states it's Spring Break and since nobody wants to stay in Taylor everybody is leaving and it's been pretty hard to meet with people and such. But the major thing that's been pulling on a lot of us is something that happened last Monday. Last Monday the Elder's Quorum President in the Taylor 4th ward committed suicide. It's been really hard on the ward and a lot of people in town. He was young and a father. It was kind of hard to believe and it's been hard for us to think about missionary work when this has been going on. We went to the funeral this morning, it was a wonderful service and we learned a lot about him and why he did it. I'm grateful we went. It made me think of the scripture "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down His life for His friends", that scripture is the Savior referencing Himself as the One who will sacrifice himself for all man kind. I've seen the power of that sacrifice manifest this week as the hands that hang helplessly down, are lifted up by Him. I know He lives and that He can strengthen us.

Anyways moving on, this week we did see some pretty cool things. We reset Mario's baptism date for the 1st of April and we're going to pump him up for that date. He's ready he just needs to do it. I'm excited for him. Wednesday was hard and pretty much all our lessons fell through except for Amanda we watched a movie about the temple and they are good to go. So awesome! I had an asthma attack during the lesson though and it was hard. Thursday went better and we taught quite it bit and I had a standard Irish dinner Corn Beef and cabbage! Yum... We taught the Tippets and that went well, he should be baptized in a month or so.

Friday went surprisingly well and we found some sweet potential investigators and such. We taught Jennifer she had called us before the lesson and asked us when she could be baptized. Not such a bad thing? Loving it! We talked and she will be baptized and Tuesday the 29th at 7:30 pm. Yahoo! Lots of our investigators have been out of town but we still managed to teach about 13 lessons this week.

Saturday we taught Robert O'Field again he is Cherokee Indian and he's just getting better and better. He's a good guy and sincerely wants to learn which I love. We got him to finally say the prayer to finish up our meeting. It's amazing how hard it is to get people to pray. But then I think of when I was at BYUI and they would ask me to pray before class, I wouldn't do it. *sigh* How times have changed. Anyways enough reminiscing. We didn't have a good turn out at church, stupid spring break. The last lesson we taught was Fabiola and I taught her when I was here last year. We laid down the law and finally got her concern out. Her excuse was her mom wouldn't let her get baptized until she was 18. We asked some questions and got this response "My mom doesn't want me to join unless she sees that I'm really committed." Finally! It's been a year! It took a year for that response! Yahoo! But now we know. We committed her to show us, her friends, her family, and the Lord if she really wanted this. It was so cool!

This week we are having a baptism for Ethan Decker on Saturday, at 10 AM. Should be great! I'm excited! Also it's going to be my last Sunday at church because of conference. I'm really freaking out! This is so crazy! Also I'm turning 21 on Sunday! Party!? Partay! Par-tay! Woot.

Well that's it


Elder Caywood

Monday, March 14, 2011

An Apostle in Taylor‏

Well here we go, you can only imagine with a title like this, this has to be a good email. Well, let me assure you one thing, it should be interesting to say the least. I apologize in advance if this seems a little off, I jammed or sprained my pinkie this morning so it's been a bit of an adventure attempting to type. To start out, this week was one of the more challenging weeks in my mission due to the fact that Elder Hill was in the valley for 4 days receiving the new training coming up for May. All the missionaries in our zone had companions go down and participate. So we had to make due and I was companions with Elder Towery and Elder Valentine for the majority of the week. We saw a lot of hardships but some awesome times too! Let's get started!

Monday was rather slow though we got adventure in 5 mile canyon and I took pictures! Yay! It was a lot of fun as I toyed with my fear of heights and lack of coordination. Frightening combo? Naturally, yes it is, but believe it or not I did survive and had a good time. Monday night was slow and all of our lessons cancelled. Tuesday we had no lessons though I was able to work in Snowflake for the majority of the day and cover some of the wards that I covered last year. It was pretty fun seeing people I used to know and even funner seeing some of their reactions. Rather priceless. But a lot of fun. The only sad thing though was seeing a few of the people I baptized struggling a lot, it makes me sad to see that and there is only so much I can do about it at this time. When I'm released from being a missionary I'll be in contact with those people very often. I love them each so much and would do anything for them.

Wednesday things began to pick up for us a little bit more. We taught Jennifer, it was Elder Towery, a kid named Josh, and I. We began to teach the "Gospel of Jesus Christ" I had been excited about this because I sincerely thought that it would help her with the commitments she isn't keeping. As we taught about the Holy Ghost she stopped us and said that she had a dream a few months ago. She was being taught by 3 men who she didn't recognize and they were teaching something she didn't understand. As she explained she said that we were the 3 men and the Holy Ghost was what was being taught to her. She said that she feels "chills" except for they're warm whenever she reads, prays, attends church, or meets with us. I told her that's how God talks to her that's how He grabs her attention. It was awesome and she is getting baptized in the next few weeks. Later that night we went to an investigator's house and taught them and they talked about how they had been having really freaky experiences for over a year. As they described it I felt uneasy but confident in the Spirit. I explained what faith was and then shared the account of Christ casting a Spirit out of a man on the shore of the Sea of Galilee found in Luke. We then invited the one who was experiencing the problem to come and sit down and we cast out the evil spirit (now this may sound way weird but it wasn't, it was like a standard blessing with a little twist). She felt really good after that. She said she feels comfortable for the first time in years!

Our next busy day was Friday. I weekly planned alone because Elder Hill was not around (boo) and then we had pizza, like we do every Friday. We then went to go teach a new investigator named Elizabeth. We took an older couple with us to the lesson who were members of the ward. A few weeks before we had met her outside her trailer, and she told us she wasn't interested, she had been to church, her sister was a member, and she had met missionaries before... Thus she claimed she knew all she needed to... I was sad but towards the end of our visit I pushed again. I told her we simply wanted to explain how God calls prophets today, what that could mean for her, and invite her to pray about it. I humbly bore testimony of it and she accepted to have us come back. Well now here we were as we taught it seemed to be going OK but she seemed not really be all that interested in what we were saying but she was considerate. Elder Towery shared about the Restoration of the gospel and I began to recite Joseph Smith's first vision. The Spirit began to change. She changed, I noticed and felt that. I explained the Book of Mormon as thoroughly as I could. She had admitted that she didn't like organized religion because she felt it changed the Bible. I explained how the books support each other. After I was through she stopped me and said "can I say something?" I said "absolutely" she then talked about how no one had ever explained it the way we just had. She talked about how no missionary or church member had ever explained it like that and she asked me if she could have the Book of Mormon in my hand because she wanted to find out for herself. As we left she said the prayer as we knelt down. She said "I'm so grateful for these people coming teach me what I just learned, I loved what I just learned, help me have an open heart as I begin learn all this new things from my friends." It was awesome!!! Loved it! We had a busy day but I have to move on.

Saturday was a big day, Elder Cook of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles was here. We tried our hardest to tell people all day. That night we had a meeting as a stake with him at 7. There were so many great talks and he spoke last. It was incredible! I was in awe. He talked about missionary work and how it was possible to do it here even in the little town of Taylor. He shared some cool stories and then left an Apostolic blessing on the stake. He promised as the saints lived close to the gospel their families would be united and also as they lived close to the gospel that the Lord would provide sufficient needs for them financially. He then promised as the members of the stake shared the gospel that they would be received. He said a lot of things but I can't even begin to list them. The next morning we got to be right up front and we had the rows reserved for our investigators, less actives, and recent converts (which made a lot of members mad that we took the front seats but hey they'll live). I got to shake his hand THREE times. He's so great, very relaxed, his hands are really soft by the way.

Well that's all I got. If you made it all the way to the end of this give yourself a pat on the back and go get yourself some ice cream.

Elder Caywood

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Flu (again) and a Baptism‏

Well... Thus the countdown begins... I think I have less than a month left. It feels quite surreal and I'm not sure how else I could describe it. I can tell you one thing though, is I know that it doesn't feel real at all. Though it feels like the doom of my missionary mantle being stripped from me seems to linger in the minds of missionaries and members all around me, still I'm having trouble coming to grips with it. With that being said I imagine that this will probably bite me in the butt when it happens. I can't believe it's March already. Although there are many things going on and all sorts of random things being thrown at us, it still looks like an amazing month is on our horizon! I feel good about March and finishing strong.

Monday last week was P-day, it a good day generally but not last week. After emails,shopping, and whatever else we do... I felt terrible I don't know why but I just felt like crap. It seemed like it was really hot even though it was pretty decent in our apartment. I tried to take a shower to cool off and after I did that it became apparent what was wrong. From about 5 to 6:30 I was bowing down to the porcelain throne located in our bathroom. It was bad timing seeing as we had a packed night. We worked some things out so that I could vegetate at a member's house while Elder Hill when out on splits with a member. Tuesday was similar and I think I slept for like 14 hours and I felt like I could sleep for about 14 more hours. I stayed at a members house again and watched old conference talks for like 6 hours. The next day I felt better and when out and we taught a lot of people. I told the members I had the flu and they still insisted that we eat everything on the table. It was Mexican food and late that night I was in the same boat I had been a few days before. But this time no more sitting inside I was going to work. I feel much better now and I'm back to full health(after an awesome blessing and lots of prayers on my part and by others)

The week missionary work wise went really well. Despite being sick and quite a few cancelled appointments we still managed to teach about 13 lessons(which is a lot for the sleepy town of Taylor). I'm not sure when the next baptism is going to be. Ethan Tippits' family just needs to pick a date and do it because he is ready. Mario needs to just pick a date, he's coordinating for family to come and be there so I think it should be within the month for that one as well. We have a few people set for April right now. We need to get them a little more committed than they are at this time. Ethan Decker is scheduled to be baptized on the 26th of this month. We had District Leader Orientation on Thursday as we do every month and a half. It's amazing to see how much the mission has evolved since I came out. I think I understand why sometimes members don't really understand what a mission is like now even if they have been on one themselves.

The winds have started here in Taylor. I think this may be the only town on earth that has tumble weeds year round. This coming week we are having stake conference. Elder Quentin L. Cook of the quorum of the 12 apostles is coming to conference this weekend. I'm excited for this! I think that he is going to inspire the people here! Also our mission president is coming to speak!

The highlight of the week was on Saturday Amanda got baptized. It was a simple yet awesome service! She was so ready! She converted from being Jewish to Mormon how awesome is that! She bore her testimony at church yesterday because it was fast Sunday. She is so awesome, as is her entire family. When they go through the temple next year I'll be there! All that I can think to type has been typed! Peace out cub scout!

Love you bye
Love with love,
Elder Caywood