Monday, August 29, 2016

To MOM: 

I will be staying in Stockton! It is so great here. The people are so humbled here that is easy to teach them. Sometimes I feel like there is nothing to do, but then I remember our purpose as missionaries and that is to bring others unto Christ. 

That's awesome that Chase is teching again. Tell him good luck. Everything seems to be going well. I wish sometimes that I could witness it. But I am happy serving the Lord. I read that letter that Papa's trainer wrote. I almost cried. I am a baby now. But Papa is such a good example and I am striving to be like that man everyday.

The other thing I wanted to tell you is that I have really been thinking about Dad this week. What a good role model for me. He grew up with many challenges, yet he made the most of it and all three of his sons are going on missions and his family is close. I would say that is pretty successful. His example of hard work has had an effect on my whole outlook of the mission. I don't know why but I just wanted to share this with you. Dad helped me a lot through high school. I feel like a lot of people in California do not have a Dad to go to like I did. I am so grateful for the things that he taught me in my childhood. So I guess what I am trying to say is you are very lucky, mom. And do not get me wrong, he is very lucky too. Because I do not think he could've done any of it without you. I love and miss all of you! Keep me posted on everything!

And I will start labeling my pictures... haha. Keep being a crazy........good Mom!!!!

Hello Utah!

I guess the Lord thought I was pretty gangster so I will be staying in Stockton! Elder Lamm is still my companion. We get along pretty well! We are in the Weston Ward. It is a very similar situation with the Union Ward. A LOT of less actives. The people here are so awesome though. Really humble people. To explain Stockton a little bit... Everyone knows how California's government is. Stockton has some very nice areas, but because of proposition 8 they have a lot of low income housing in a lot of random places. So there is a lot of gang activity throughout the whole city and Elder Lamm and I cover the south side. The south side is very big and has a lot of those prop 8 housings. So it is very interesting in this area. Do not get me wrong I love this area and the people in it!

I want to tell you guys a little bit about the investigators here. The first one I want to talk about is our most recent one. Her name is Shawna Richardson. She is a single mother of two boys. They are 11 and 12 years old. The 12 year old has autism. She is a great lady. Elder Lamm and I like to call her our golden investigator. I tell you that because she has been progressing so rapidly. The first night we went to her home to teach her she told us she is planning on getting baptized and asked us when church was. She showed up to church on Sunday and loved it. She approached Elder Lamm and I after the meeting and asked us when we could meet next. Pray for her as we keep working with her. She has so much potential and I am so happy I get to work with her.

We have another investigator named Simi Pomana. He is 9 years old and his whole family are members. They are such a good family. Simi is getting ready for a baptism on September 17th. We are so excited for his father to be baptizing him. We are just trying to get him ready for that big step in his life.

Something I don't know if I have told you about our mission is that President Palmer told us he would rather have us not have our white clothes here. He does not necessarily want us to baptize people. He wants the members to baptize. I was confused at first, but then I realized that President Palmer is very inspired. Missionaries are always going to leave their area after a while. So as we get the members of the ward involved and have people baptized by a fellow shipper it makes it so more people stay in the church. I think that that is so cool.

I wanted to start sharing a spiritual message every week, so here it goes. I have been studying in Alma in the Book of Mormon. I have really been able to ponder on the words I am reading. Everything in the Book of Mormon is so good, but what I have really been liking right now is Alma the younger. He completely turned his life around, gave up the judgement seat to go and preach. A certain chapter that really stuck out to me was Alma 14. This is when Alma went to Ammonihah. The people here were very wicked and rejected him. While he was leaving he was visited by an angel that told him to go back. He then met Amulek and started preaching. I thought it was cool that the people would not listen to just him, but when there was two testimonies the people could not deny it. That is how missionary work is set up now so I thought that was very cool. Alma and Amulek ended up watching saints die and seeing the scriptures burn and they were patient in their suffering. In verse 26 which is one of my favorites Alma cries to the Lord asking for help. They end up being delivered from their burdens. This reminded me of Joseph Smith when he was in Liberty Jail. He cried to the Lord and asked him why this was happening and the Lord told him to be patient and he would always deliver.

Sorry that was really long, but I invite you to study these scriptures. They will strengthen you when you feel weak.

The members in Stockton are so great and feed us lots and lots of food.

The worst experience so far with food happened this week. We went to a Hispanics house for dinner this week and she told us she had made menudo with leg tendons in it... So fast forward I end up trying this cow stomach and cow leg tendon. I gagged a couple times.. luckily they did not see that. And I got very sick. So she made me some quesadillas. Wowzers. That was terrible.

Other than that it was a very good week! I love the work!  

Elder Willden


 The worst text I have received on my mission.

This is Elder Lamm

My Ward Mission Leader has two German Shepards. My dream dogs.

Self explanatory

All the rest are just random lol.

Elder Willden

Aunt Brandi sent a missionary workout:)
and MOM sent other stuff!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I forgot to post the letter that came from Sister Toutai on Sunday evening to me:)  This was Sunday, August 21, 2016 and Kolton had already left for Stockton and did not write to tell me until the 22nd. This letter brought tears of joy of course and a little;) for missing my boy!  

Sister Willden,

My family and I had the pleasure of feeding your son and his companion dinner last night. He does not serve in our ward but happened to be on splits with the zone leader yesterday. I felt impressed to email you and let you know that Elder Willden is a fantastic missionary. My two oldest children will be of missionary age in 10 years and I only hope that they exhibit the love and respect for their mother and family as your son does. He knows of your deep love for him.

He shared the story of Nephi's courage from 1 Nephi 3:7 where it reads: "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

I enjoyed Elder Willden's sweet spirit that he brought into my home. I know that when we except a challenging call, whether that is leaving our families that we love for the first time to serve the Lord or doing something that is out of our comfort zone, we have the strength of a loving Father in heaven who will protect us and prepare our way to accomplish all that we set out to do, especially when we are on the Lords errand.

I thank you for sharing your son with the people of the California. He will truly bless many here. I know that our dear Father in Heaven loves each one of his children and I think that your son will be an answer to many a prayer here. 

With an abundance of love from one mother to another,

Melanie Toutai 

P.S. I tried to get him to eat his veggies, but he very politely declined...hehe =). Have a wonderful week Sister Willden!
This week was crazy!

Earlier last week Elder Maxwell, Elder Spikes, and I visited Justin and Jennifer. They are a great family that was really prepared for us. We were talking to them and they had told us they were searching for a religion to raise their son in. We were so happy to hear that. The next time we saw them we asked what had made them start meeting with us. Justin said, "honestly we would've done nothing, but you guys talked to us so we decided to do this." That is the best thing a missionary can hear. Elder Maxwell's bike tire had popped and we were walking. I know that everything happens for a reason. If we hadn't have been walking we would not have been able to contact Justin and Jennifer. They are so prepared. Although they want to take it slow the Union Elders have a good couple to teach.

So going back to this week being crazy... I was on exchanges with one of the zone leaders for my area and he got a call from President Palmer. This is how the conversation went:

President: "Elder Grover, is the phone on speaker?"
Grover: "Yes."
President: "Turn it off speaker."
Elder Grover than went to another room. I thought nothing of it haha. I just thought that something sensitive had happened within the zone. After about 5 minutes Elder Grover came back out into the kitchen and would not talk to me. hahah. I thought that something sad had happened. He told me President was coming over and I thought it was no big deal. I was fixing my bicycle. President got there and started to talk to us about the work and I was telling him about our amazing investigators. I told him how much I loved the Union Ward. He told us he was not there for Elder Grover, that's when I knew something was up. And then he went on to explain that Elder Niangaron, who is from the Ivory Coast had gotten his visa to go to Brazil that day. So he asked me if I would accept an assignment to go to the Westen Ward in Stockton. I accepted and he told me that Elder Lamm would be my new companion. I was so scared and sad to leave. President also told me to be ready for transfers in a week haha. I will tell you more about the move, but first I want to tell you about our dinner that night.

We had a member dinner at the Toutai's home. I did not really know them, but I got to know them in a short amount of time. They were a great family. I ate so much Tri-tip steak I got sick. Haha. Sister Toutai was trying to get me to eat the barbecued veggies, but I could not do it. I got to share the message that night when we were done. And it went along with my transfer call. (So I kind of taught myself too...) ;). I shared 1 Nephi 3:7. This scripture was about Nephi when he accepted to go get the plates. He told us that God does not give us commandments that we cannot fulfill. I am not nearly as strong as Nephi, but that scripture confirmed to me that Stockton is where I am supposed to be for however long the Lord needs me here. I explained to the kids that things can be hard to us, but through the strength God gives us we can do anything. After the lesson Sister Toutai asked for my Mommy's email and I gave it to her. So I don't know what she said to her, but that was cool of her;).

So I packed that night and went to Stockton. It is so nice here....... Haha. The people are way humble and really kind. I got to go to church that next day. It was very interesting. There weren't a lot of members there. They have 4000 members in the Stockton Stake and only 1000 are active. So there is a lot of work to be done here. I don't know how long I will be here, but I am excited to work hard. We went to dinner last night at the Toale's. They are very nice people. I could not eat that much because of how much steak I ate the past night. Stockton has been good to me so far though.

I have gained 10 pounds already.... Keep me in your prayers. I have been playing a lot of basketball though so that's good.

I love the work. And I absolutely love the Book of Mormon and the way it blesses lives. Keep praying for my past investigators. I love them so much and I hope and pray for their salvation.

Elder Willden

Haha check this out! This was my last picture with my trio.
A portrait of the First Presidency, with President Monson in a chair, President Eyring standing behind him, and President Uchtdorf seated on a bench.
Elder Willden

All mom can say on this first two is "WOW"

Does he care about the food he eats?  Mom thinks so!  Cause we get lots of food photos;)
Is that last one a fish tank? and where?  Elder Willden needs to label or explain pictures for sure! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 15, 2016

Hi everyone!!   

I had a pretty good week this week!

I had the opportunity to go to a Training Meeting with all the new missionaries and their trainers last Tuesday! What a great way to start my week. I was chosen to lead a discussion with another Elder on a scripture that has really effected my life, especially the few months leading up to my mission. It is Alma 7:22-24. I would invite all to read that and compare it to our lives today and how we can come closer to Christ through living that scripture. Our mission vision says "We are one with the Savior, in doing the will of the Father." I read that scripture and compared it to my life and what I am trying to become. When we as missionaries are set apart to be Jesus Christ's representatives we must have all the characteristics explained in verse 23. It is my testimony that as we try to be more like Christ it effects the people around us, including people we might not even know. As you can tell I really enjoyed that meeting.

In personal studies as well I have been studying Abinadi in Mosiah. I thought he was cool when I was younger, but now I think he is even more awesome. He straight up went into Noah's house and chastised him in front of everyone. And then when Noah got mad he just kept going. And I think it is interesting that it says "his face shone even like unto Moses' shone at Mount Sinai." Moses was transfigured at Mount Sinai. So think about Abinadi being transfigured while he was preaching to a wicked people. I would not want to touch him either haha.

So I have a cool story that happened last week. We had to go to wal-mart because my inner tube in my bike tire popped. And while we were there we were approached by a lady and she asked who we worked for. We said we served for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She said that she was a member, but hadn't been to church in awhile. We asked where she lived and she said she had just moved to the Union Ward. This was a very cool experience because we were not planning on being there and her records had been lost for awhile because she was not active, but now she has her records here and we are teaching her and her friend who is an investigator.

Later that week we were riding around and Elder Maxwell's bike tire popped. And so we were walking again. And we ended up talking to a couple that walked past us and the guy said he was a member when he was younger! His records were not in our ward and he was in our boundaries so we were able to get them here. We also went to visit them and he said that he and his wife had been talking about finding a church to raise their son in and we happened to walk next to them shortly after. I know that everything happens for a reason and that we are guided by the spirit to find people.

The food here just keeps getting better and better too so I am having the time of my life!

Elder Willden

We did not have anything to take pictures of one day so we all took pictures with Jesus haha. These are my two comps that are awesome. Two of these are when I was at a members home and I got to hold there lizard.

Elder Willden

He likes this food too!  

Monday, August 8, 2016

What a week it has been! I have really had to lean on the Lord for the past week. I thought that missionary work would be easy because of the intensive basketball training I have been through...Oh boy. It is nothing like that. It is more mentally draining and physically draining than anything I have ever done. After all of that though I will say it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life! I have a testimony of missionary work and that we are truly called by God to represent his son. I can see it in peoples faces when we enter there home. It is so humbling to watch people as I speak and I am guided by the spirit. Something I have learned is that we are not only teaching investigators or less actives by the spirit, but we are also teaching ourselves by the spirit. As times get worse and worse people are being prepared to make there choice whether to accept the gospel or reject it. You cannot just sit on the fence anymore and I have really seen that in Manteca, California. People are calling us over to them and asking us about the gospel and we get comments like, "The way the world is going, I think we are going to go to church again." And that is when we get really excited and we get to talk about God's divine plan and Jesus Christ's sacrifice for us.

The Book of Mormon has been playing a huge role at this point in my life. Testifying about that book not only helps me to feel the spirit, but it helps me feel joy and happiness.

This week we got to ride to French Camp. It is a little town at the very Northern part of our mission. It is about a five mile  bike ride. We got up there and I was able to see all of the fields that people grow produce on. Both of my bike tires got holes in them because of the goat heads though... They are little stickers that get onto your tires. I fixed them up though so it is all good. While we were at French Camp I was able to try some of the hole in the wall Mexican food. OH MY GOODNESS... It was so good. I got there carne asada tacos and they were so so good. And cheap! I absolutely love all the food I am eating here haha. My thighs are getting bigger... Don't get me wrong I am still a chicken, but they are getting bigger due to all the bike riding. God is blessing me in ways I would have never thought. I am eating things I would have never thought I would eat.

So I have been saying that the members are super nice here, I will give you an example of two members that are so nice. Their names are Sister Rojas and Brother Checketts (They are dating haha). They fed us 3 times this week and the food was so good. Brother Checketts has gone through a lot in his life and he just loves the missionaries. Sister Rojas is very similar. Sister Rojas is illegal, but she is trying to get a green card so her and Brother Checketts can get married. (That's what I think) haha. 

My companions are still cool haha. We had exchanges this week and Elder Maxwell went to Tracy! So it was just Elder Spikes and I in Manteca....The two rookies. It went so well though. I thought it was going to go bad because right when Elder Maxwell left all of our appointments cancelled on us. But everything happens for a reason and we had a lot of street contacting that went very well. We were also invited over to the Lockwood's. These members are great people. He cuts hair for a living so we get to have our hair cut for free! I am pumped. He cut's famous peoples hair in LA.

Investigator wise we are still doing okay. Mark had his baptism date set for Saturday, but we had to push it forward. He has been dropping all of our appointments. We have set times to go over there though and I think he is going to make it happen. We love Mark and want him to keep progressing so please pray for him so that he will be able to gain a testimony of baptism. Marilyn was interesting this past week. Her husband came home from a half way house and he absolutely despises missionaries. So we went to her house and he yelled through the window to go away. We went back the next day and he opened the door and said, "No disrespect, but we are Catholic and we don't want to talk to you." This caused some confusion because Marilyn wanted to talk to us. She told us that a week ago. I ended up asking him 4 times if we could speak to just Marilyn, to see what she thought. And he would not allow it so we had to leave. He ended up going back to the halfway house because he could not handle being in front of drugs. Haha I have to tell you Manteca is full of drugs. The locals call druggies tweekers, so they call Manteca, Mantweeka. hahah. So yeah he went back to the home so we were able to talk to Marilyn as well. Pray for her please. We have another guy named Curtis. He is less active and wants to come back. He really struggles with a lot of things. Pray for him to be able to quit smoking and drinking coffee. He is a very interesting guy and I cannot get into details, but please pray for him and his welfare.

I love the work and the people here!

Elder Willden

Me and Elder Maxwell biking to French Camp. Haha Elder Spikes was in front.

The tacos that were very very delicious.

Me and Larry. The funniest guy in Manteca. 

Me and Jesus. Look at him every morning.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Hey everyone! The Union Ward in Manteca is doing so good! There are not a lot of people that want to hear about the gospel so we are trying to get the members involved. We have 400 people on the ward roster and only 140 are active members. Elder Maxwell, Elder Spikes, and I have really tried to focus on the less actives. The less actives are either really nice and let you in to have some water or they are super mean and shut the door in your face haha. We had a meeting for the fifth Sunday about missionary work and how members can help. We got to talk to the ward on ways that they can help. I thought that missionary work was just knocking doors all day, but it is not like that at all here! We have a pretty small area so there are only so many doors to knock! We are really trying to gain relationships with people in the area. Dad, when you said what you said before I opened my call...I know what you mean now. It has been 110 degrees or more everyday for the past week and it is a really dirty place haha. That's okay though. I love the food here and all the members!

Mom asked about the food... I really was blessed by Heavenly Father or something, because foods I never thought I would eat taste good to me. Mayonnaise is still very disgusting, but the Mexican food is so so good! We have been eating super good here! They give us more money because we are in California, but we can value shop and get some pretty good stuff. And I am a pretty good cook so....yeah. We got to go to a fruit stand today and it was so cool, I got some pictures that I will send! The fruits and veggies here are very cheap and very good! We have had multiple people ask if they could give us like 20 bucks and we have to say no, but they forced us to take it. So the members are super supportive. You guys back home have asked me if the people out here are nice. The members are so nice and supportive! Non-members here in California are a different story. I will not get into detail, but we hear and see a lot of things that are not in line with the church. We mostly laugh, smile, and say something nice to people. But the persecution is awesome!!

So I need to tell you I accidentally deleted all my pictures off my camera... It made me so sad because I had a picture of me and Jaxon on it. I miss him a lot. I miss all of you guys too, but I mean you already know that.

We played putt putt with Larry the other day! He is the funniest guy that I know! Haha no stories this time, I already forgot all the funny things that he said! I will tell you a very cool story though. We got a call this week from some Sister missionaries down south and they said that they got a call about a home in our area with a sign on the yard that said, "Need LDS Missionaries!" We were so excited and hoped it was an investigator. It was not. We got a text after we had left a note on the door of the home that said a lot of things, but basically this guy named Curtis who is less active has lived a very hard life due to his own decisions, and decisions people close to him had made. We have met with him three times this week. Yesterday we brought some members with us, Sister Rojas and Brother Checketts (These two are dating within the ward and it is super funny). It was the coolest experience because both of these members had similarities with Curtis and they got super close in that amount of time. It is so cool to see the Atonement of Christ work in peoples lives.

So now the funny experience for the week. We went to a ladies house named Marilyn. She was absolutely hammered. Haha. But we decided to stay and teach her... As we would say things she was swearing, getting mad, and getting super happy at the same time! Weirdest experience of my life. While we tried to teach her the restoration she was getting super mad and we were trying not to laugh. She looked at me and said "Don't you give me those googly eyes!!" And I was thinking "oh no." She is 70 years old and she started hitting on me and my companions were losing it. Wow.... Um at the end of our lesson she grabbed Elder Spikes and kissed him on the neck and I was thinking there is no way I am getting close to this crazy... but she went to Elder Maxwell next and he said "We like to only shake hands-" but she cut him off and said "Not tonight buddy!!!!" And she kissed him on the neck too. And I was just freaking out cause you know me and how grossed out I get haha. She came up to me being 6'5 and she was 5'5 and she grabbed my neck and almost pulled me to the ground and kissed me too...... I was mortified. I rode my bike so fast out of there I might need new tires. It was the weirdest thing I have ever gone through. It makes me sick just typing about it...

Well enough of that.

I had a very good week. I have been studying King Benjamin and I have come to really love his teachings. He was a great man. I would recommend reading Mosiah chapters 1-5. Even though this is a really hard and hot area. I know why I am here and I am so happy to do it. I love the work. And I know that if ye are in the service of your fellow men, you are only in the service of your God.

I love and miss you all!!

Elder Willden

So like I said I deleted all the pictures on my camera on accident. So here are some that I took this morning. Love you all!! These are pictures of a stand we went to today!