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Monday, July 27, 2015

Love and Lessons

Go Texas!
I am loving it here. It simply feels like this is where I am supposed
to be. The people here are mostly nice, but every once in a while you
get some mean folks who won't let you say "good afternoon!" It isn't
the funniest of experiences to get a door slammed in your face or for
someone to yell "hail Satan!" As you walk down the street (which has
happened multiple times). But there has to be opposition in all
things. You can't expect every Apple to be a good one. However, it
does make it harder to love everyone, just as Christ did.
The more I think about the character of Christ, the more I realize
that how impossible his story is. There is simply no man that could
ever be perfect his whole life and love everyone enough that even when
they are driving nails into his body, that he could still feel
compassion towards them. There's no way any way a human could do that.
That doesn't testify near as much to the in existence of God as to the
divinity of Jesus Christ. There is no way that anyone can go through
life alone. They have to have a higher purpose, a place of respite for
them to reside. And for most people, even if they do not believe in a
god, they have a family. And there is something that I say a lot
nowadays, it is that families are central to the Heavenly Fathers plan
for us.
One great thing about families is that when they get together, usually
food is involved. I have eaten the most delicious food of my life here
in Bexar county, Texas. Honest to goodness, the Bishop of one of our
wards gave of grilled chicken, shrimp, pork, and steak in one sitting,
I ate one of everything and two pork steaks. The barbecue sauce was
absolutely heavenly. Honest to goodness, you could give me slabs of
pork for the rest of my life and I would be happier than a fat kid
with a coupon to the ice cream parlor. It was that good.
In addition to the meat fest, my companion from south of the border,
Elder Tovar, makes the most delicious Mexican food for lunch. Until
about two weeks ago, i could have cared less for spicy food. But Elder
Tovar has shown me the way of the cayenne and Cerrano pepper, and the
path is hot, and delicious.
This weeks email is going to be rather short, but that is a good thing
for me. It means that there are many people writing to me and that my
individual emails to them are taking a lot of time. Sharing the love
unfortunately means that not everyone receives equal portions , and if
they do, the portions are not as large, but I will figure out a system
eventually. But no matter what happens, just now that there is a
special place in my heart for all of you
Peace love and joy,
Elder Richard Hall

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hide and Seek and Serendipity

It seems like you can't hide yourself in the church. No matter how far
you go, how distant you are from anyone that you know, there's going
to be someone that knows this guy or was your fathers bishop or the
second cousin to your dog. It may seem crazy, but even in Texas, a
state I've never been in, I don't know anyone who lives there,
somewhere perfect to hide, I am found.

I was doing an exchange with another greenie and one of my
ZL/companions, Elder Acor. The fellow newbie, Elder C, is also
from Idaho and did a year of BYU before he left to go serve the lord.
Personally, that was enough serendipity for the day to satisfy me.
Anything else would be a little weird. But, as we were sitting in the
living of our dinner appointment, a member family from Brazil,
something even more obscure, even closer to home, happened. The
Gutierrez family was pleasant. Talkative. And very smart. The father
said that he was only going to be in San Antonio for the summer, and
then he was back off to college.
"Oh really? What college"
"BYU. I am in the MBA program there."
... The lights in our mind slowly changed from a flicker to a blazing
brightness. Holy crap. This guy from Brazil knows my brother! Brother
Gutierrez is actually not only in the same MBA program, as Todd, but
he is also in the same section, supply chain management. He was in so
many classes with him that he probably is one of the few people that
saw my brother more than me in the past year. And here we are, about
to have some Brazilian dish in Texas. How could this ever happen?

The serendipity didn't end there. There is a youth in one of the wards
that i cover that is going out on a mission on Wednesday. For the many
lessons that we've worked together, I never even thought to ask where
he is going. Besides, what are the odds that we would be going
somewhere relevant to me?
Well, as it turns out, as he goes up to the pulpit to start his
farewell talk, he announces that he is going to the Calgary Canada
mission, speaking english. Not only is that where one of my closest
friends ever, Elder K T, is currently serving, but it is
also where my eldest brother Keith and his little family of four live.
Who the heck knows, this guy could be helping my brother drywall his
new house in a few months with my friend. Then they could go to a
Brazilian grill and have dinner with the G family. The
possibilities are endless.

And to put the icing on this coincidental cake, the family I was
eating with last night happen to be from California. Now that in
itself is not a big deal. Big whoop. Us And 38 million other people
are from The Golden State. But no. There son is flying out to Oakland
today, and when he gets there he is going to an A's game.
When they told me this, I had the same visible reaction as one would
have when they get shot in the gut. Out of pure nostalgia my face
collapsed to the dinner table and ran into a slab of butter as I
remembered the beautiful game of baseball. All the feelings of
watching the A's as a child and following them diligently through my
teenage life flooded over me, and I was too overwhelmed to think for a
few seconds. I love baseball so much. And I know that it'll be a
blessing to focus on the lord's work for two years, but come on, can
somebody send me a box score or two every once in a while?

I bring up these coincidences because it goes to show with such a
small and devout community as the lds church, you can't hide. And if
you believe in an omnipowerful, all loving God, you assuredly can't
hide. Being a missionary allows us to have the same experiences.
Searching for people to teach is sometimes like a game of hide and
seek. Sometimes your appointment is there, other times they want to
make you work for it. Sometimes the person on the street wants nothing
to do with religion, and other times missionaries are the exact two
people the person needs. As called to be a representative of Jesus
Christ for the San Antonio Texas mission, I am here giving everyone
that will allow us the chance to come unto Christ and to receive the
blessings of living in accordance to the God's will.

In the past week I have had a great many things happen to me. One day
I taught six lessons and had four people accept a date for baptism,
and the. Three days later six of our seven lessons fell through and
now only one of our investigators have a solid baptismal date.
Sometimes the blessings of heaven can't be more visible, and other
times you have to look for them. As much as joy is a real thing in the
mission field, so is discouragement, and disappointment. But I know
for sure that there is a God, and he loves us beyond our
comprehension, and that His word will bless the lives of all those
that will listen to it. I have felt the song if redeeming love spread
through me, and now I sing through the message of the gospel of Jesus
Christ. If there is anything that I have to give to the people on the
streets, the members of the church, my friends, my family, it is the
doctrine of Christ. I know it is true.
I pray that you enjoy these emails. It is now time to go out and serve.

Elder Richard Hall

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Fear of Meats

This is it! This is the life. The mission field. As excited as I am to
be here, D&C 4 forget to mention that the fields were 100 degrees and
so humid you could cut s piece of air out and drink it.

Texas! San Antonio! This is actually a really big, sprawling city. It
is filled with a rich combination of white, Hispanic, and African
American culture that melt together to make a fun society. I'm glad to
be serving such a vast array of people.

The first area I was put in covered two wards, including the High
Country and Eden neighborhoods. Our apartment was just off the eastern
edge of of the boundaries, so you could say that we lived East of
Eden. Unfortunately, the mission president must have decided that I
was a little too close to heaven, so he sent me out to be trained by
the zone leaders, Elder A and Elder T. Elder T is from the
heart of Mexico City and is going to go to BYU Provo, which is
fantastic. Elder A is a farm boy from nowhere else but Blackfoot,
Idaho. Who would have known that one of my first companions would have
a family that was just two hours away from my own parents. Honest to
goodness, the world is small when you stay in the church. I especially
mean that when I found out the family who gave me my first dinner
appointment went to Gooding, Idaho to see their grandparents. That
town is only 30 minutes away from my own. The deli in Gooding is
impressively good for a town of 3000

The Zone Leaders +me are in charge of getting west San Antonio stake,
and our teaching area covers the towns of cibolo, universal city,
scherzt, and an Air Force base. The towns are right on the edge of
suburbia and small town. The neighborhoods range anywhere from trailer
parks to gated communities. But no matter where we go, there are
plenty of people who would love to hear about the gospel of Jesus
Christ. One of my favorite people that we have taught so far is
Miracle. Miracle is a baptist who just had a baby but is looking for
something more. We were knocking on doors in an apartment complex when
she opened up and invited the three of us in. She was so happy we were
there and right away accepted any invitation we gave her. She even
said she would read the Book of Mormon to her newborn son as he went
to bed. She was fantastic. It was wonderful to see her progress in
just 45 minutes time. In my last email. I talked about the joy I had
when Mercedes accepted the baptismal invitation and even picked a
date. I'm so glad that I can do that multiple times a week right now.

The two wards that I cover are crazy about missionary work. Between
the two church meetings we had yesterday, there were 15 non members
present. 15! Most of them friends of the youth and recently baptized.
The people here have a love for the gospel that is universal and
easily spreadable. I can already see the blessings that missionaries
can have when a congregation is helping them with their purpose. And
indeed, it is exactly what is happening with this ward. One of the
best stories is brother C, who went from being less active six
weeks ago to saying the sacramental prayer yesterday. The ZLs tell me
that his transformation was absolutely shocking and a real testament
to the atonement. And I don't know if I've met a man as happy as
brother C.

The first day I got here I was crammed into the mission home with 22
other greenies who just entered the mission. We had a fantastic meal
featuring brisket. Now, not three years, not two years, maybe not even
a year ago would I ever would eat, even try brisket. But my goodness,
when I saw the black ring of pepper seasoning and smoky smell of the
barbecue sauce laced over the meat, I was all in. And it was
delicious. By the end of the meal me and my MTC district leader were
experiment with a sandwich of plain white bread (it's a Texas thing),
creamed corn, a slab of brisket, and this amazing barbecue sauce laced
all over it. That was dang good.

Perhaps people don't recognize my once irrefutable distaste to meat.
As a child I didn't eat hotdogs, didn't have roast, and only ate fast
food hamburgers. But the brisket made unlocked a new world of
delicious. The MTC food was satisfactory, and I did partake of the
turkey, and sausage, and chicken there, but last night while heading
to an investigators home, a less active called us over for some ribs.
The ribs were stacked on top of each other in a little, burnt pan in
his small trailer home. And oh my gosh it was delicious. Meat so
tender you shake the bone and the meat would slip right off. It even
beat out the fresh smoked ham that our dinner appointment gave to us.
Why did I ever have a fear of meat.

And now that I have conquered my fear of meats, it is now time to
conquer another fear: the fear of meets. Street contacting has always
been something that I've been nervous about. Walking up to someone and
simply asking if they want to know more about Jesus Christ and His
church was and sort of still is a scary thing for me. I've let Elder
A and Elder t handle most of the talking, but I don't want my
own fear disrupt the lords work. I have been working hard since I got
to Texas to have full faith and full confidence that what I have to
say not only is true, but it needs to be heard! I know it is true, and
I'm fighting hard to know that I have the privilege of sharing it with
others. Glory to God! And may all know of it

With love,

Elder Richard Hall

Monday, July 6, 2015

Indoor Fireworks- July 4th in the MTC

If there was anything that truly frosted my cookies about being in the MTC right now, it is that I missed having the fourth of July in Texas. TEXAS! Instead of being off in Patriotism-land I'm stuck in the Provo MTC, eating Montreal Chicken. Yes, that's right. There was not a single hot dog or apple pie served, and they don't allow you to play baseball. This year, instead of watching the stadium of fire's fireworks display while belting out "Faithfully" with my companion, the MTC decided to have a two hour devotional that featured the most patriotic of songs, like "Hark all ye Nations", and "High on a mountain Top". The "Celebratory Devotional" as it was called more closely resembled a flag day ceremony. What gives?!

But in all seriousness, I did enjoy my fourth of July in the MTC. The Devotional reiterated the precious truth that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is universal. It is for every nation, kindred, and tongue. And though the day of independence for my home nation may be cause for great celebration, the true celebration should always stay with the knowledge that there is a God who loves us, no matter what our circumstance, no matter what nation or culture we wave a flag under. Walking out of the devotional with my companion I overheard a disgruntled missionary spitting at anyone who'd get near him. "Did you see how they disgraced the American flag by not singing the national anthem? How could the MTC do such a derogatory action?" He expressed many other complaints to many people, including a missionary from Japan. As well as Japanese missionaries, servants of the Lord come from all corners of the earth to Provo, each with a profound and undying testimony that Jesus Christ is our savior. And I'm sure that if the United States wanted to sing their country's song, then every other country on God's green earth should be able to sing theirs too. 

On more important news, the Lord's work is hastening through me. Call it crazy, but I already have my first baptismal date. Yes, that's right. My companion (Elder B) and I already taught a nonmember who committed to be baptized on August 1. That's amazing! It's absolutely astounding that before I leave my own training facilities the Lord has already blessed a life through my works. It took us five days and four appointments, and now Sister C has accepted the invitation to follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone with the proper authority of God! Quite honestly, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.

My investigator, Sister C, transferred to UVU from somewhere in Texas for the summer semester, and while she was here, was introduced to the gospel by her roommates. She then volunteered at the MTC to get lessons from the missionaries. We were her first teachers. For our first lesson to a true nonmember of the church, Elder B and I did work. We went through the whole restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and she understood it completely. Though she was afraid to touch the Book of Mormon, she accepted our invitation to pray to know if our message was true. It was quite beautiful to see that small act of faith change everything. Her willingness and desire to learn allowed the spirit to teach so well, and the presence of a higher truth was near overwhelming. By Thursday, Sister C accepted to read portions of the Spanish Book of Mormon and pray about her experiences after sharing with her the story of Enos and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was so moved by her faith I bought a Spanish Book of Mormon for myself and spent much of Thursday and Friday reading the Spanish copy of the Book of Mormon with an English one, so I would be able to help with any questions she had. On Friday we had already gone over The Restoration, The Plan of Salvation, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ with sister C, and we knew we were on our last lesson with her. She said that she wasn't sure about baptism on Thursday, but on Friday we directed our whole lesson on the Book of Mormon and accepting the challenge to baptism.

I cannot tell you how much joy I felt inside after reading Alma 7:14-15 in Spanish with her and seeing her smile while tears streamed down her face. Sister Cortez was one of the souls that was waiting for me to go out on a mission so I could help her come to a greater light. She was waiting for the fulness of the Gospel to come to her, and with open arms she accepted it. Sadly, though Elder Blackhurst and I taught her the main lessons, we have to go to Texas, and let some other lucky missionaries help her finish the lessons and be baptized, washed from sins and past transgressions, passing through the gates to the kingdom above. 

I just want to say that teaching Sister C was the real treat of this week. If through all my mission, I could have the experience of teaching someone with so much faith and so much love only once more, then it would all be worth it. But I know that this message is true, and it is delicious to the taste, and these heavenly experiences will surround me for two years. This is Heavenly Father's work and glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, so they man joyously live once again in the kingdom of the Father. And I beyond graciously his open hand, ready to do his work without spite, but with humble love. This church is true. I absolutely love what this church does to people when they allow it to change them for the better. This is God's will, and no matter what it may be, God's will is God's love. I am beyond grateful to be a missionary and I don't know how to thank the Lord for this opportunity enough.

My MTC district is what most people would call "The Fun Group". The 12 of us get along better than Peas and Carrots, ebony and ivory, or even Steph Curry and the 76ers defense. We always have a blast and when we aren't having a blast we are having a great spiritual experience. I don't know if I've ever gotten along so well with 11 other people so different from me. It must be the marvelous work of the Lord that is binding us together in sweet harmony. Unfortunately, we cannot last all two years together. The four sisters in the district left last night, and they are way off in Cincinnati Ohio, and two elders are parting ways with us on Wednesday to go off to Salem Oregon. The remaining six of us are off to San Antonio, but will be buckshot throughout the mission areas. Hopefully some of will stay together, perhaps in the same zone, maybe the same district, and I pray I'll reunite with some of them as companions in our later days of service. But the idea of leaving behind these truly eternal friends ails me- even if we have already scheduled a reunion in two years. The thoughts of the glory of missionary work and the importance of other people drove me to jot two poems quickly and roughly in my journal. I now close with them

How does one repay the soldier's debt? What is the battlefield that brings forth legends? 
The pain one feels when they ruefully regret that a battle's cost is endless stipends!
Our king is in need, and our souls act his deeds
that his immortal message may never be rent.
Our armor is painted with the color of sacrifice
and the frailties of dent them more than any vice
But we few in number are large in bravery
will stand for truth and fight and slavery. 
But no matter our served duty and makeshift altars
the grasps of selfish desire hold us- and payment falters
So what is the bail that pays our soldier's debt?
It is willing, loving service that starts before sunrise and past sunset
And our work, filled with joy, is the price where justice and mercy are met

What love is ever enough? How can a soube poured into a sufferer's cup wen travelling through a mortal mouthpiece?
the eyes are windows to the inner-godliness but fail to give love its full release
The pain of knowing our words will never fulfill 
the precious truths that time slyly steals
Where does our grace and God's grace strum in beautiful unison?
What is enoiugh when we forget the gift at the meridian?
I strive to intertwine my heart with my friends
but the strings of our souls fail to satisfy loose ends
I'm dying to let them know that life is made by them
I'm dting to offer the love that was born in Bethlehem.
May my prayers for these souls be met with God's grace
so our short but joyous paths may once again be retraced
I hear God in their voices, and the tune is past o'erflowing
My eternal love for them somehow keeps growing
I pray you find godly peace from my honest praise
And godly peace will find you in the darkest of days
My words for you long to parellel our Savior
but, ifit can be, use God to replace my savor
My actions now align with what my heart knows is true
Like, Christ, and with undying love, I love you