Monday, July 27, 2015

New Haitianaries, PVC Tours and Long-Awaited Miracles‏

 Suzy, Joylton and Joylson with Veiga who were all baptized in Boston PO.

 Some amazing landscaping at the temple.
 The outside of the chapel.
 Elder Perkes and our faithful Hartford City Elder Maughan.

...and by PVC, I don't mean pipe.
Greetings!!!!! Writing you all from Marlborough, MA today. We just finished a round of interviews, which has pretty much been the story of the week and will continue next week. But I have some cool, and some miraculous, stories to tell.

First off, I'm pretty sure today is my trainers birthday, Elder Benedict. Now technically Brother Benedict. Who also happens to be married. #livingthedream

Second, does anyone in Ashburn remember a Machado family that lived in the ward from 2000-2002? They are brazilian and he worked for the highway administration there off Route 9. His family runs the Portuguese group here in Central Falls, RI, and I was there over the weekend with them. He looks awfully familiar, and taught the 8 year old Primary class in 2001 when I would have been 7 or 8.... so he may have been my primary teacher??

This week?

We picked up the new Haitian elders from the airport and got them to their new areas. We helped run Return and Report with the missionaries who came in 3 weeks ago. We helped plan how to interview 220 missionaries in 2 weeks! We spent Thursday morning back in Amherst, MA, then Thursday evening in Hartford at the portable visitors center chapel tour. More on that later. Saturday was in Pawtucket, RI's Portuguese group, where I saw my first chapel marriage ever (in portuguese, for a couple from Guinea-Bissau). On Sunday we took the Millers to church in Boston so they could have the experience-- its the united nations of the mission. While there, a mother and her twin sons who I found and taught in Boston were baptized, and that was awesome for me to witness. Suzy, Joylson and Joylton. A little bit on them in "Some Greasy Saxophone, Passalong Cards and Suzy's Foot", March 30, 2015. haha


The coolest event of the week was at the Portable Visitors Center (PVC) tour in inner-city Hartford. I sent a longer version of the story to the Boston Stake President, but it was... long so I'll give the skinny here.
The PVC consists of physical canvas displays with mounted TVs and ipads that can be set up in almost any location that has power. Its an extremely powerful tool the mission invented. So they came to Hartford's city chapel and the whole zone (plus me and Perkes) went out on the streets to invite everyone to come see. We didn't have much success for the first three hours; we gave out many cards and books, but nobody would come with us to see the videos and walk the tour. We returned to get water and rest and watched the other missionaries walking many people through the building, some listening intently, others crying as they watched the videos, and felt pricked in our hearts. Surely there was a reason we came down to help that day... So Elder Perkes decided we should pray, which we do all the time, but this one was special. We went to an empty classroom, knelt, and I told the Lord we knew there was someone ready for us, and that we needed to be guided to them. A little bolder than my prayers usually go.

We walked out and took the streets to the west, the only place we hadn't already gone. One couple took our card but couldn't come. Farther down the street two children called after us, so we turned around. Their mom said her sister had come to the last tour and she had a Book of Mormon. They couldn't come, but this 2-minute delay was crucial and deliberate on the Lord's part. Three blocks down we drew near to the end of the road when we saw Jose Pabon get out of his truck and cross the street right behind us. A moment passed, then we turned and asked "Do you have a few minutes to see a display about Jesus Christ?" He turned, paused, then said "Sure- let me put my stuff inside, then we can talk." We waited for him, then walked the 3 blocks to the chapel.

During that walk we learned that Jose Pabon had attended an LDS church in Albany, New York when he lived there more than 30 years prior. He told us that a member had met him on the street, invited him, and driven him to church three Sundays before Jose's work kept him from returning. He lost contact and never saw the church again, until we passed by his house that day. At the front doors of the chapel we watched a few videos from the Savior display; as we watched, a powerful Spirit emerged on that mildly ghetto Hartford street.

Inside, Jose watched silently the videos about Joseph Smith and the Restoration, and nodded as we explained how God loves all his children equally, and enough to bring back His church. In the Plan of Salvation room we taught about suffering, commandments and baptism. When another woman questioned why she needed to be baptized again, Jose surprised us by saying "What they're trying to tell you is that the truth was distorted. Now its back."
We finished at the Book of Mormon round table, where we handed Jose a copy in English and showed him the pictures in the front. Elder Perkes read Moroni's promise with him, and we testified that God had led us to him. He agreed. We explained church on Sunday; he said he would be there. We had only known him for 10 minutes, but felt inspired to invite him to baptism the next month-- and he accepted.

Jose texted his number to the Hartford City elders and then they walked him back home. He was a living answer to a faith-filled prayer. The elders called us on Sunday to say he had showed up to church in shirt and tie, Book of Mormon under his arm, and that he already read to Mosiah 16. and now I have a much stronger testimony of prayer backed up by action. Two part formula for miracles.

Elder Jackson

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lots of Miles

 New Haven, Connecticut chapel from the back.
The skyline of Yale
 The portuguese elders on the coastline near Boston.
 Our truck mascots, Walter and Melvin.
Driving past Hartford, Connecticut

Lots of miles were logged this week in our best friend the Black Pearl (otherwise known as the mission's 12-passenger Ford TransVan), crossing the mission on exchanges from corner to corner! We estimate we went about 400 miles in 4 days. No biggie. Good thing the states here are small haha

On Tuesday I went to Boston 1 PO! Like coming home... It was great because we got to see Luisa and the family. When I left Luisandro wasn't old enough for baptism, but he's since had his birthday. We set a date for his baptism August 23rd. 

Wednesday we helped the Millers unpack a little (the less-than-competent moving company stuck it in storage, so they haven't had any of their stuff for two weeks)

Thursday we drove from Needham, MA to Hartford, CT, and I went with the elders in Ellington, CT for the day. Their shotgun-training (whitewash training is how they call it in some missions i think?) but doing an awesome job. We spent the night in the Towers in Hartford and I worked out in a real gym and benched for the first time in.... 6 years? Basically handicapped my arms for the next 3 days.

Friday we headed south to Woodbridge and Southbury, CT, in the New Haven Zone, and I went out with the Woodbridge elders, Elder Monteiro and Elder Chang. Fun fact: Elder Monteiro is from Belo Horizonte, and knew one of my good friends who was in my MTC district and is now the assistant down there. Elder Chang's from Taiwan and is sooooo funny and super humble. He found out his calling in Woodbridge, as a Chinese family just showed up ready to be taught.

Spent Saturday in the heart of Yale campus with the New Haven spanish elders. It was so good to be out walking in a city again, and New Haven is a boss place to serve, with an awesome converted chapel in the heart of the city. While there I saw a big family sitting on their porch across the road and we ran over, ended up teaching them all right there, and the mother felt it was exactly the message her brother needed. And an incoming Yale football player from California called us asking to be taught. PRETTY DOPE.

Sunday was in Ludlow and Springfield, MA, in another new england style converted chapel, and then back to Weston.

My best moment of the week was driving Sunday morning from New Haven to Ludlow at 8am. We were fasting for the mission, the sun was shining, a little bit of Motab going, and I just had an entire talk distill straight on to my mind while we crossed Connecticut. God is good. His plan is perfect. Choose to believe!

Elder Jackson

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Millers First MLC and First Full Week

 July 4th celebration
 Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert
 At the MoTab concert with Elder Perkes
Changing of the guard -- the Packards to the Millers
Hey all,

A quick update from up here in Boston, where the sweat is starting to fall as real East Coast summertime begins. This week doesn't have quite the stories as last week, but I'll give you the skinny.

The main event of the week was Mission Leadership council, President and Sister Millers first! I can't really imagine their feelings going in (well they told me they were nervous and excited and etc but who really knows what that's like) but they were pro from the get-go. On Tuesday we sat down to plan the meeting and it was awesome to see the vision come together. The goal was a true council discussion where the Lord's will could be made manifest. So we planned things that way. 

Our job was a training on how to begin teaching, but really on how to envision our purpose and our relationship with those we teach, and how to help them understand that relationship and the true purpose of commitments. When we started our planning we just could not get it to work, and we could feel it, so we stopped until we could really figure out what the Spirit was trying to tell us to prep. And after a while (fairly late at night haha) it finally clicked, and from there, the planning was easy. Not giving up until you get it right is something I definitely have learned in these past few months.

The meeting on wednesday was great. The leaders were early and has prepared beforehand, so our discussions were powerful. We talked about how obedience and accountability help us to build Zion. What it truly takes to retain our people. How to prepare the minds and hearts of investigators to receive truth through our first few minutes together. The greatest takeaway for me was a fusing of the vision the Packards had with the new vision of the Millers. They were not replacing each other, but rather standing on the shoulders of each other. This is weird, but my mental image was like a totem pole, where the vertical progression tells the history of the mission. Each section depicts the vision of a mission president, and the next does not destroy but builds from it. The Packards section on the totem pole was pretty unique and very visible, and the Millers will be too. 

The other funny but true comparison that came to mind during a welcome conference was comparing the style of each to an apostle. The Packards were kind of like the Hollands, in approach and manner and vision. Plus they referenced the Hollands often, and he visited here twice.  And.... the Millers are a lot like the Bednars! Well, really, Elder Bednar, since I've never met his wife. But their approach, vision, mannerisms are so much like how Elder Bednar teaches: bold, simple, straightforward, organized, commitment driven, yet filled with love. President Miller doesn't beat around the bush, but he's the real deal. And strangely enough, the Millers quote Elder Bednar way more than anyone else! I think its meant to be. My prediction: Elder Bednar visits the MBM next year. Muahaha.

Not much else exciting occured, but I know many are interested in how the change has been. Change is change! Its good, and hard, and good because it is hard. But I've seen that the Millers know what the next line up the totem pole is, and were going to seize it and run with it. Miracles will follow.

I love the Lord. I've changed so much. I filled up my journal this week, read my first entries in the MTC, and just laughed. I didn't even know I'd be in the MBM back then. Its been such an amazing journey. And I'm not dead yet!

Elder Jackson

Monday, July 6, 2015

New President, Little Sleep, Prayers for Family‏

Dear friends and family,

My hearts a little heavy now, and my prayers are with my family. Its a heavy burden to bear and hurts me to be so far away, that I can't help you carry it. The only gift I have to give is evidence of God's love in my life and the lives of those around me here in Boston, so here goes.

Dad spent years putting together a book of family history stories from the McCormick line. When I became an assistant and started working in the office, I learned that the office couple, the Denneys, are actually Dad's cousins and have many of the same ancestors. So I gave them the copy of the stories Dad gave to me for them to study and enjoy. This past week they took that spiral bound book to the copy store to try and make copies of the common ancestors' stories for their own records. One of the managers at the store who was helping in the copy center noticed what they were doing and asked what the book was. They explained that it was the history of their ancestors. She responded that she herself was interested, and wanted so badly to discover more of her roots. They began to talk and she ended up taking their card with links to the church's family history resources to begin her own research. Full circle!

Elder Perkes and I were finishing up a day at the office, and were tired of typing reports, so we decided to log into the digital mission and do some work. One of his contacts in Brazil started messaging him, since he hadn't been on in a while, so we struck up a conversation. He spoke about 2% english so E. Perkes threw me on to go for it in Portuguese, and it was awesome. He agreed to video chat with us, but his camera and mic didn't work (but he could see and hear us) so I spoke to him through the webcam, and he responded with comments on the side. Turns out he grew up in Bahia, the missionaries used to come over all the time when he was little, and he had left his Livro de Mormon back home when he moved to Sorocaba. So we offered to get him another copy, to which he agreed, and then sent us his address and phone number. Next step is always to call the local missionaries, so we grabbed the number of the missionaries assigned to his local chapel, and called. An american elder answered, I gave him the referral, then he asked where I was from. "Virginia." "Really? Where in Virginia?" "Ashburn." "....seriously" "...yeah?" Phone got passed to companion. "Where are you from?" "..Ashburn?" "...ME TOO!"

Turns out of all the companionships, in all the wards, in all the stakes in all 34 missions in Brazil, I had called Elder Andrew Allen from Leesburg! I grew up around him, we went to youth conferences together and studied music at BYU together. We talked, caught up real quick, confirmed the referral, and were both REALLY surprised... I promised to follow up about our Brazilian friend... Coincidence? I'll let you decide. 

Finally, I was reading a copy of the father's blessing dad gave me the day before I left for the MTC. I used to read it in Brockton, when I was sick, and be so frustrated that none of the promised blessings had happened. So I put it away, and didn't read it again until this past month. What I discovered was that every single blessing had come to pass. I learned the language fluently enough to speak all my thoughts and teach. I developed a deep love for the people. I was able to find joy in the small moments and daily, tender mercies. And my body was finally, finally brought back to normal, with the help of miracles and modern medicine. Everything promised was fulfilled. 

The Lord knows us just as much in our darkest hour as in our brightest day, and if we have covenanted to choose and follow him, he has covenanted to never leave us alone. The sunlight does not cease to exist when we pass into the dark valley; it isn't visible; and we want to curse the valley, and curse the sun with it for not being there. I have done that. But I found that the Lord was turning the whole world beneath my feet to bring me back to that light, and make me so much stronger through faith-filled footsteps on the way. 

Elder Jackson

p.s. the Millers (new president) are incredible, dedicated, and so new. I haven't really slept this past week but I don't really mind. We toured the mission so they could meet all the new missionaries, and I learned that change is a celestial principle