Monday, September 28, 2015

Xandaman Update! Week 6

Dear diary,

This week has been a good one. Not because it was easy, but because we
have been doing a lot of learning and trying. I've been finding my
weaknesses and focusing on how to improve them with Elder Schneider.
Living by an airport and near a well used train track is something
I've become accustomed to now that I've been here for almost 4 weeks.
It's crazy to think I've been a missionary for about 6 weeks now. I'm
getting into the missionary life and becoming  comfortable with it.

There were a few temporal experiences I must mention that have
happened this week. We had Elder McCoy spend a day here at the
Guptills because he was sickly. His companion went on splits to get to
their set lessons that day. We met an awesome man named brother Marsh.
As we were helping him spread red mulch on his front lawn, he began to
reveal his history as a musician. He used to be the lead guitarist in
a band called, 'Midwest playboys'. He has about 8 or 9 different
guitars in his garage with a sweet little sound system setup. He also
showed us his shed where he wanted to build a studio, but now is full
of his kids' stuff as well as his amazing murals he's painted! They
are really good. He then sent us off with a beautiful rendition of
'How Great Thou Art' on the keyboard. I love meeting awesome people
like that.

One of the most hilarious events of the week that is now an inside
joke happened at the peaceful little Belgrade library. We do service
there every week, and this week we had to pick up all the fallen crab
apples. She gave us a thin plastic garbage bag to use. Elder Schneider
and I got the rakes and the shovel and filled that bag up maybe a
little too much. As I watched elder Schneider pick up the bag and
start swiftly walking to the dumpster, the bag began to fail. He
started going faster, but it was too late. All the stupid crab apples
exploded out of the bottom of the bag and spread across two parking
spaces. It was hilarious. I was busting up laughing. We got it cleaned
up soon after, and learned from our mistake and used the wheel barrow.

Last Monday and Tuesday  we had Elder Topham (one of the four
assistants) join us. He set us in the right direction and showed us
some great examples of how we should strive to be. One thing that he
told me to do and what I have been working on is 'focus on one thing
at a time'. As we were with him and throughout the past weeks, I've
been able to identify some of my weaknesses. The wrong way to improve
is to tackle them all at once. If you just focus on the hardest thing
for you and work on improving that, you will always be improving
yourself. Don't stress about everything that you aren't good at or
what frustrated you. You must be patient and press forward with faith.

We have spent a little time at night sitting out by park or the pond
doing ward council calls/setting up member lessons. It feels great to
take in the wonder of the sky with the stars and the blood moon, and
the valley between the mountains. I agree with what many people that
I've talked to have said, which is they feel closer to God being
outside. All of the creations around us were created through Gods

It's amazing that we as spiritual beings in a human experience
get the authority to use Gods power is amazing. Like I've said before,
sometimes the power of God is so prevalent in a situation you can
almost touch it. I love to witness those experiences.

One last message to remember. Christ is coming again. Elder
Degraffenried in his departing testimony to his zone stated, "we all
know this day is coming. The day is coming that we will have to go
home." One one level that is for us as missionaries. We should be
doing everything we can before we have to leave. One another level, we
know that the day of Christ's return is coming. "Don't let it be a
surprise to you." We should know to live our lives to prepare for that
day, and help others prepare for that day as well. That is what our
purpose is, to invite and help others come into Christ, and gather the
elect of Israel to welcome Him. May we all have an eternal perspective
of life.

Elder Wylie
At the airport

New experiences!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Xandaman Update Week 5!

Hey y'all! How's the weather down there? It's been a little rainy up here, and I've seen some snow on the mountains already. I didn't look up at the stars until a few days ago. They are pretty cool, but not much cooler than from PG, at least where I'm at right now.

Last preparation day we played some ping pong and pool at the institute building. I didn't think I would ever get to do that. But it's important to have a little fun out here, like the assistants said, or else you won't be motivated to work.

 I've come to realize that the main compliment you get on your apparel is, "I like your tie." But for some reason it makes your day, it's quite funny.

Last Thursday we woke up at 5:30 to drive to Helena for a 'MLC' or something. On the way I tried to take a time lapse (I'll try to send it). We stopped at Wheat Montana to get some delicious caramel cinnamon rolls. Yum! When we got to Helena, we pulled over at the church we were supposed to have the meeting at, and after a phone call or two, Elder Kennedy (Zone Leader) came out and said the meeting was rescheduled two weeks ago and so we could just go back to Bozeman now. Elder Okerland was joking that would happen, and it did. So, we said a prayer and took off back home. There goes 180 miles down the drain. That was an off day, but we recovered.

I must brag about the Guptills for a minute. In the past few weeks, they've become some of my favorite people. He has a large salt and pepper shaker collection, he makes his own salami and sausage out of his own hunting (I'll probably get to see some carcasses hanging up in the garage pretty soon), he made some pretty delicious salsa, and he's just the most humble and giving guy in the ward. He's pretty funny too. He will prank you, or just tell it how it is sometimes. I'm glad I got to meet them.

Tracting is a classic missionary activity. You get to briefly meet all sorts of unique people from a wide range of personalities. I wish I could just video some of the door approaches that happen, but I'll just leave them up to your imagination :)

The Belgrade fall festival was a big hit. There were a lot of people there. We went after the parade to try and teach people, but most were just on there way to an improvised destination ;)

There are a few miraculous things that have happened. One, I'll just get off my chest: I played the drums!!!! My dreams came true, haha! We were contacting less-actives and we ran into a family with a drum set! The dad has played since 4th grade or something, so I'm hoping I can hear him play, and maybe jam out with him and teach him the gospel at the same time :)

 Second, an even more miraculous event. Last Thursday, during our power nap, we got a call from the police saying they found Elder Schneider's iPad!!! Yes! After ten days of nothing, it was returned, like new condition(except for a couple chips on the corners, probably when it fell off the trunk of the car). God chose one of the most honest ladies in town to pick it up off the road. She tried to find the owner through Facebook for a week, until her friend suggested she turn it in to the police, where we had filed a report for it. Prayers were surely answered. We just had to be patient. 

Third, there is a lady that hasn't gone to church for about 7 years that told us she wants to come back "permanently." I sure hope she does. 

Fourth, basically we gave another lady a blessing, and it worked, just like that! The power in the priesthood is so real, you can almost touch it sometimes. 

As we have been talking to many different people and hearing questions we've never asked before and running into concepts we haven't studied before, we have been developing a great thirst for knowledge from the scriptures. I've never been so motivated to read every book of scripture and more before. It is a great feeling. "Sometimes, I just want to study all day," Elder Schneider said the other day; I surely agree. But we have time everyday we can study, so we'll just stick to that.

Remember, there is a difference between being comfortable with a religion and knowing it's true. Coming to the latter is very important. If we don't know it's true, we are following blindly our leaders and not exercising any faith. Come to know the gospel is true by doing what God commands of us; pray to Him with a sincere heart, with real intent, and with faith in Christ. That is how we come to know truth. Not by logic or reasoning, but by asking God himself. No matter how strong your testimony is, the more you do this, it will strengthen. So do it.

May the spirit be with you

P.s. Everyone should read 'Man's search for Happiness' by M Russell Ballard, pages 17 to 20. There is a remarkable story about his grandfather in Montana :)

"He caught me, dang it."

The Wylie's are here!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Xandaman Update Week 4!

Greetings, y'all! How is life treating you these days? For me, it's been great. Being a missionary is great. It's a way of life that brings so much satisfaction and love and growth into your life. It feels great. I'm learning how to be an outward serving person. That is how you grow; you must help others grow.

There are a lot of ways that missionaries can serve and find people. Using Facebook is one of them. It seems kinda weird sometimes to send Facebook messages to people online you haven't met before, but it can be effective if you do it prayerfully. One elder got 6 people on date for baptism from online! Wowee! It surely is the Lords work.

Sometimes, the tiny little things can be pretty hard. For example, tying ribbons and using scissors to make cute curls on the ends, ya know? This week for service at the library we put together little library handouts for some parade. I figured it out eventually. I think grandma taught me how to curl ribbons once, so I'm eternally grateful :)

Our associations together with the zone are good. We play podball on preparation day, we went to Burger Bob's after district meeting (it was very yummy), and we had some exchanges this weekend. I spent a day with Elder Degraffenried. He is a great guy; a little goofy, which is great, but he sure knows how to follow the spirit. I learned from him, and he makes good elk burgers. He's on his last month too.

While I was on exchanges, Bro. Guptill pranked me a little, haha. He called and said he read my mail, cause that's what he was supposed to do. It was funny. I'm still being taunted for believing it. But not as bad as Elder Schneider losing his iPad! He gets taunted for that everyday, haha.

I thought of Jacob Strong when we went to dinner at the Camrons because they gave us Nutella with ice cream for dessert! Jacob will know what I'm talking about :) 

When we were teaching the Camrons, we started by just teaching the restoration. But when I was moved to talk about personal apostasy, it turned into a powerful/emotional discussion about their family. I learned that the restoration gives hope to any individual who is in a personal apostasy. God is always there, but until we turn to him, we can't be 'restored' perfectly. Christ is our rock and our salvation.

Stake conference was great! Elder Pino of the seventy presided, and he had a translator, which was cool. He has a good sense of humor, but also knows how to teach simply with power. It was focused on the seven simple things and member missionary work. Everyone has room to grow their faith. Don't think you're an exception! Remember the simple things: individual prayer, family prayer, individual scripture study, family scripture study, FHE, temple attendance, church attendance. Doing these strengthens us individually and as a family. So why not do them,eh?

There are so many people in the world that you will never meet unless you come out of your comfort zone. When I found myself in a small, dirty trailer home eating old left-over Mac and cheese and boiled green beans listening to a lady who is emotionally 80 years old physically 40, and mentally 15 (that's what she told us), it was another eye opening experience I guess. There are realities that people are living that are so far off of where we live that you would never know, unless you broke out of your normal social sphere and talked to them. Try it sometime.

Last thing, the Book of Mormon is the word of God! "We come closer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book." "A bible! A bible! We have got a bible, and there can't be any more bible!" (Read on in 2 Nephi chp 29)

God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God cannot forget about any of his children. The restoration of the gospel was essential to the plan. Joseph Smith didn't go through being in jail, being tarred and feathered, or let his family suffer just so he could pull off a crazy hoax of a book to mess with the world. He did not die for such a cause. But he did die with a firm witness of the truth, and an unshaken testimony of Jesus Christ. 

Don't let anything tear down what you truly believe. Being out here, your testimony is tested everyday by anyone who has the courage to use their words or their rejection to pierce the hearts of us, representatives of Jesus Christ. I will never back down, nor can anyone else. 

This gospel is the one sure way to eternal life, Gods life. When the mighty shafts in the whirlwind shall bear upon you, you better have your foundation set in Christ, because that is the ONLY sure 100% foundation. Who's on the Lords side? 

Haircut day!

Sunset in Montana

Monday, September 7, 2015

Xandaman Update! Week 3

Here I am, under the big sky. I guess this would be the the official first entry to 'Alex's big sky diary'. :) I love Montana so far. I'm even near some mountains here in Belgrade. But first, I'll tell you my transfer experience from Provo to here. 
Early last Tuesday morning, after our packing and district party/testimony thing the night before,  we loaded up on a charter bus and went to the front runner station. I didn't think we would be riding Uta up to the airport! It was a hassle transferring all our luggage between front runner and Trax and up escalators and through baggage check in, but we made it, all 30 of us or so. The airport was fine, mostly just waiting to leave (Again the prepaid phone card was stupid. The first call gave me five hundred minutes, and the second one gave me eleven! Oh well). The plane was really small, like, probably only 60 seats. The scenery was pretty. 
And then, we arrived in Billings! We met President Wadsworth, his wife, and the 4 assistants. 
Over the next couple days, we stayed at the mission home, went through some orientation, ate great homemade food, as well as Golden Corral! Yum. Thursday, we got packed up and left for our areas. Transfers can be pretty crazy, but it was all for the adventure.
Me and Elder Schneider are living in the Guptills basement, which is pretty great. They are older, but very nice and supportive members. Since Elder Schneider has only been out for a few weeks, we are learning a lot together. He is smart and ready to work. We get a long well. 
Up to today, we've been eating cheap frozen food and snacks. Today we'll buy good stuff. We are driving nice cars (Chevy Cruze 2013) and have iPads! The church makes possible great functionality; all the area book, planning stuff and other resources are provided, it's pretty great.

Becoming a missionary is becoming a man. Everything about a mission so far is changing me into a man. As I constantly live like a missionary and work on always helping others and learn how to be self-reliant, I am learning everything I need to know to be a man. I'm still trying to get better at planning and talking, but I'm getting there. I'm keeping the growth mindset that I have developed, and that is, any trial or challenge that comes your way is an opportunity for improvement. This mindset makes missionary work more fun. Even though it is hard, and getting rejected repeatedly shouldn't be fun, you feel yourself improving and growing. 
Being out here, it's interesting to see that we are all still normal people, sacrament meetings are the same, and there are people that truly are prepared to hear the gospel. Jennifer jones was looking for something to fill an emptiness she had in her life. She visited many other Christian churches, until she came to this church. She felt something different. Once the missionaries were guided to find her, and taught her, she embraced it. So Saturday, my companion baptized her and yesterday confirmed her. She felt quite a difference in her life. I'm so glad I got to witness that amazing experience. 
The priesthood is real. Modern day revelation is always available, and prayer works. Take advantage of these amazing blessings God provides. I really am enjoying my experience so far. I will keep working hard and improving, don't forget to smile :)

(When Alex is making faces, we know he is happy!)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Shout out from big sky country!

Hey! Just a quick message to say I am safe in my new area here in Montana. I'm in the Belgrade 2nd ward with Elder Schneider (from AZ).  He's cool and helpful, even though this is only his seventh week.  You'll hear from me more on Monday.  Love you all!