Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Well, I am playing catch up for the last couple of weeks!  and we could not access many of pics and videos  sent the week before Christmas.  Elder Willden said some of those were of the pranks he does to his companion.   -Rhonda

Written December 26, 2016
Family and Friends,

I had a really good week this week! I am going to focus on some things just like last week: Gonzalez Juana, Our mission's Christmas devotional, Manuel, Brett, and Christmas day (my favorite....maybe). This week was full of good experiences and I was able to feel the true Christmas spirit throughout the whole month and it has stayed with me today. Christ really does and should affect our lives daily. He is our Savior and Redeemer.

Gonzalez is a cool story. We went over to his house about a month ago; he had requested a Bible from headquarters. When we went over he took the Bible and asked for a bigger one. We had asked if he wanted a Book of Mormon and he was totally against it. Well... We did not make it back to his house for awhile. He finally just called headquarters again and asked for a bigger Bible. We took it to his house while we were on exchanges. While we were there he was asking a ton of questions about the Prophets in the Bible. We explained that it went Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus... Just a fly over of the Prophets. But instead of stopping there we said that we believe there is a Prophet that restored the gospel for today's generation. And he said, "Wow, tell me more about this!" So.... We did. We started talking to him and he said that he thought Christianity was just one religion. Which it is, but we explained that we have keys to salvation. He absorbed it like a sponge. We will see where it goes. We are going over there tomorrow.

Later in the week we had the opportunity to meet as a mission and have a Mission Christmas devotional. It was super good. We had a lot of musical performances. It was really spiritual. At the end of the meeting we were able to hear from President and Sister Palmer. It was super spiritual, but super funny. Sister Palmer talked about how one of her kids said they were going to start praying to Santa Clause because when you ask him for something he gives it to them. Sister Palmer said that she panicked and told her 3, almost 4, year old that Santa was not real. Haha when she said this President Palmer was behind her on the stand and he fake stabbed his heart. She then explained that Christmas is President's favorite holiday and that he was furious that she told her kid that. When he got up to give his talk he started with, "When Sister Palmer told our son that, it was the closest we ever got to divorce.... (everyone laughed) It's just wrong.." And President has a way with his jokes it was just super funny. Then he explained how Christmas is a time that we can feel the spirit of Jesus Christ more magnified when we are serving. And we should try to have this feeling year round.

So we got it approved to go to Oakdale on Friday to take Manuel to a baptism. It went super well except when we got in the car to go down there it smelled like Manuel was drinking coffee. We are going to talk to him on Wednesday to see if he is still ready for baptism. We hope he is. I love it here in Stockton, but I think Elder Lamm and I's time is running low here.

To talk about Brett, Alejandra called this week and asked if they were allowed to get married and have Brett baptized on the same day. We called the zone leaders and got it confirmed that that can happen. We called them and told them it was okay and we set a date on the phone. They will be getting married and baptized on January 11th. We are so excited for them. We have said many prayers concerning them and their family. Christmas night we asked Juan, Alejandra's Dad, to pray and he did. It was amazing. We hope this family keeps progressing.

Christmas Day was so cool. I got to SKYPE my fam. And friends. It was super cool, I thought I was going to cry or something, but I did not. It was great. Just good clean fun. Christmas is always good. No matter if you are at home or in the mission. I loved it. Brett and Alejandra got Elder Lamm and I some sweaters and beanies. We love them haha.

Spiritual thought for the week is from Luke 2. I thought this would be appropriate for Christmas and all. So reading through the chapter yesterday hit home for me more than ever. When it talks about the shepherds watching their flocks by night, it says after they received the news of Christ they left with HASTE to find the Lord. As they did we need to hastily search for the Lord at all times. The Christmas feeling we get at this time of the year can be a year round feeling. I love the quote, "Wise men still seek him." If we are wise we will search for the Lord all year round, every day, and in every moment of our lives. It sounds hard, but I invite you to have Christ in your heart year round and see how much of a difference it will make in your life. I love this gospel and I love my Savior.

I hope you all have a great week and a Happy New Years!

I love my family and cannot wait to see them on Mother's Day!

Elder Willden

This is a picture of me getting ready to work the corner.... Hahaha

(Sorry for the caption Mom... I am in Stockton tho)

Took this one while writing this email in the computer lab.

Written December 19, 2016
Family and Friends,

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! I had a very good birthday and I cannot wait for Christmas. Even though it was my birthday this week it was probably one of the most stressful weeks of my mission. I am not complaining because I know that it is making me stronger. The main things I want to talk about in my letter this week are: Our ward's investigator Temple trip, Vera (I have been spelling it wrong. I thought it was Vierra), Manuel, Church on Sunday. This week was definitely a CRAZY one.

So our ward planned an investigator trip for this past weekend. Elder Lamm and I had worked really hard to invite our investigators. The problem was that our investigators that were going to go did not have cars to get to Oakland. Well... Our Ward Mission Leader had kind of put it off for awhile... I understand that he is busy and the other guy who was in charge put it off for awhile and it ended up to where we were looking for rides the 3 days before the trip. Well it came down to Friday night (the night before) and they still did not have a ride for our investigators. This was super stressful because one of these investigators, Manuel, had been looking forward to this and our Ward Mission Leader said we were out of luck and needed to tap out. We did not tap out... It came down to us calling our Mission President and trying to get council. He got pretty frustrated when he found out about the ward missionary situation that we have. I am not gonna get into that. But it turned out that we went to bed that night not knowing if Manuel or Samuel and their families would have rides. I prayed that Manuel and if possible Samuel would have rides in the morning. Well we got up that morning and started studies like usual. Well, sure enough in the middle of studies Brother Roberts called (our ward mission leader). And he told us that Bishop had offered to take Manuel and his family. We were so happy. Bishop called us and told us he would not only be able to fit Manuel in the car, but he could also take Sam and his family. We were definitely blessed. They both had a great time and we were able to enjoy our Saturday doing the Lord's work.

Well the next person I wanted to talk about is Vera. We felt like we should go to her house one morning and we hadn't set up an appointment or anything. Well she let us in and we sat down. She asked us this question, "If I want to be baptized, why are there so many strings attached?" She asks these kind of questions all the time and it's just so we can explain it to her. We explained that it is not so much strings attached, but it is preparation for covenants with God. She has a hard time coming to church. Well, ultimately we will be going over there tomorrow to set a date for baptism. We are super excited.

To expand on Manuel's progress... He is super excited to be baptized. But he wants to see a baptism before his. The next baptism in our zone is on Christmas Eve. So he will attend that and we will be moving his baptism to the 31st of December. It will be super good.

At church this week we had a ton of investigators there. I say a ton because it is more than we have ever had. We had 3! Samuel, Uncle Larry, and Brett. I know they all felt the spirit at this meeting. Uncle Larry is a hard nut to crack. He left after first hour. He has very high walls, but God will slowly chip away at it. Brett and Alejandra came to church! It was a Christmas miracle;) I made fun of them and told them that haha. They are the best. They are progressing so much and we are excited to see what happens.

My spiritual thought stems off of the lesson Brother Roberts gave in Gospel Principles. We were talking about the Second Coming and the lesson started veering into deep doctrine. Well I think this really confused some of the investigators and members of the class. The spirit directed me to stand and bear testimony that all we need to worry about is the simple things. This gospel is simple. By small and simple things great things come to pass. If we are doing what we are supposed to do when the Savior comes it will be a great day. We are so blessed to have the restored gospel. I love this mission and the work I have been doing.


Elder Willden

Elder Willden celebrated his 19th Birthday with Alejandra's and Brett's family.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Friends and Family,

I have had an amazing week. It has been busy busy busy. First off though we had Stake Conference and it was super cool. Our Stake President talked about how we need to build our spiritual, physical, and emotional storages. So when scarcity comes we will be okay. Also, some BIG news we had some changes made to the boundaries in our stake. There used to be 9 wards. Now there are 6. The Weston Ward is gone. As of January 1 Elder Lamm and I will not have an area, but transfers are on the 3rd of January so it will work out. I am expecting a little bit of change though. I am nervous. I do not want to leave the people of this area. They are so amazing and I have learned to love them.

Manuel has been progressing rapidly. The plan is to have him baptized on the 24th of December (Christmas Eve) and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Christmas day. We are so excited for him. He will be attending our ward temple trip on the 17th and we are super excited for the spirit he will be feeling at the visitors center. When we were telling him that he could not enter the Temple yet something really cool happened. We usually have people get offended and mad that they can't go in. But Manuel said, "Oh, so it is an honor to be in the Temple? I understand why you need to be baptized in the Temple." It was super awesome.

I went on exchanges with Elder Hacking this week and it turned out to be one of the busiest days of the week. We had to go to "tent city." This is a street called S. Harrison. It is nuts down there. This is where all the homeless (most of the homeless) people go to because of St. Mary's that is located there. We drove into that area and went and tried to park. But when we got out of the car a guy came up to us and asked for some tools. We said we didn't have any and he left, but there were a bunch of guys across the street staring at us and our bikes. Two white kids in a 2016 Carolla with bikes on the back+guys in a back alley in S. Harrison=Trouble. We got back in the car and rolled out. As we were driving away we pulled up to someone we thought was the referral we had in that area. Elder Hacking mistakenly rolled the whole window down. lol. You don't do that there. So this lady put half of her body in the car and started asking for money. Ummmm.... We had to tell her we cannot give money and she got super ticked. I am glad she did not jump in the car lol. Well when we were done with that we pulled up to the stop sign and this lady (different lady) started running at our car with a big old stick thing. haha. I thought for sure she was going to put some dents in the Carolla. Well, she didn't hit us. But Elder Hacking rolled the window down half way this time and she started talking (jibberish) to us. I asked if she wanted a #LightTheWorld card and she took it. As we were about to leave she asked if she could have my taco bell soda in the car. I gave it to her and she chugged the thing. It made me feel good to give. I mean that was nothing too big. But whenever we go down there and we are able to serve the people it helps my testimony of the Savior.

Brett and Alejandra are doing well. I will be celebrating my birthday over there. I am excited for that. We want them to progress so bad. Brett does not have trouble accepting any of the commitments except for obvious ones. Keep praying that they will get married. I hope I will be here for his baptism. I love this family.

Spiritual thought for the week is from Jesus the Christ. It is in "Notes to Chapter 17: Pleasure Versus Happiness." It obviously talks about the differences between happiness and pleasure. One of the quotes I love from it is this: "Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it calls for no repentance, brings no regret, entails no remorse; pleasure too often makes necessary repentance, contrition, and suffering; and, if indulged to the extreme, it brings degradation and destruction." This is so true. Why do we give in to pleasure and not wait for happiness? I have really thought about this and how it correlates with President Russel M. Nelson's talk on Joy. It is much better to wait for true happiness which is Godly, instead of giving into the counterfeit pleasure the adversary offers us. We have all fell victim to his lies and I hope that all of us have learned that happiness is eternally better than that of pleasure. I love this gospel and the happiness it brings us if we do things right.

I love my family and will be thinking of them this time of year!

Elder Willden

Elder Willden and Elder Hacking

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Family and Friends,

Wow. It is December. I have had such a great week this week. It was the #LightTheWorld kickoff and my companion and I had the opportunity to do a lot of service! I will write about that later on. I wanted to start this letter off by saying that I am so thankful to be in the service of The Lord. These six months have changed my life forever and I will never regret the decision I have made to serve. When I was watching Chase or Carson out on a mission it felt like they were gone forever, but now I know how fast this is going to go. I feel like I have only been out a month and it is December. I am almost 19. It is absolutely crazy. It reminds me of when Jesus told his disciples that if they lose their life in the work they will find life. I can testify that I have found a better way. This mission has brought so much joy into my life. As you work hard and trust in the Lord he blesses you immensely.

The first service opportunity we had was at Uncle Larry's. This guy is incredible. He has been having some back pain so we went and helped his son get the yard picked up. Dad will like this one. We helped him prune and I got to cut everything and make it look good. I am thankful for a Dad that made me do the hard work, because now I can help other people. I was able to cut his lawn as well. Elder Lamm picked all the leaves up and we took a tree stump out. Just basically did all the things that was neglected for awhile. We were so happy to do it. Speaking of Larry. We were able to teach him the Restoration this week. Larry is Catholic and has been since birth. We asked him to read the Book of Mormon again and he accepted. We will be following up with him on that. He says he doesn't know if Joseph Smith was a prophet so that is what we will be focusing on. I have faith that he will gain a testimony.

After Uncle Larry's we were able to go to Vierra's. She had this HUGE burlap sack of walnuts for us to crack. It took forever, but as we cracked deez nutz we were able to talk to her about the concerns she had. She has A LOT of concerns. But she seemed to be receptive to what we were saying. I loved serving. I think that is the best way we can be like Jesus. That is basically what he did, charitable service.

Later in the week we were able to do some more service at Brett and Alejandra's. They were cleaning out their tough shed so we helped them out. I also copped some new toys;) haha. It was super fun helping them out. They are definitely some of my favorite people out here. We are going to start going through the lessons from the beginning with Brett so he is refreshed and can commit to live God's laws. We are so excited for them.

Spiritual thought for the week is a scripture that President Waddoups sent me in a letter he sent to me this week. Ether 12:41.
"And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father; and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen."
He told me to memorize this scripture as we enter this Christmas season and that it will help throughout the whole year. I love this scripture. We should be seeking Jesus all the time. Not just when we feel like it. If we do his grace will abide in us forever. How nice would that be? Sounds pretty good to me. I will echo this invitation from President Waddoups and invite all of you to memorize this scripture. It is wonderful. The spirit can help us in all facets of our life if we are seeking Jesus in everything we do. I know this was a joke in the Transformers movie, but if we really did ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" When we are in doubt this question would save us from the pains the adversary inflicts on us.

I love you all and hope you have a great week.

Elder Willden

Helping a family clean out their tuff shed and found grandpa's hat:) So, naturally he had to try it on! 

Emailing us at the lab at the stake center

Still Goofy

Picture from 5 months ago after just stepping off plane in Modesto and
meeting Pres. and Sister Palmer