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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmastime Was Here

What a warm week in Texas! It almost made me forget that it was
Christmas. I was in short sleeves for half of the week, sweating up a
storm on the bike. If only it could stay like this forever.
Friday was a splendid Christmas day, where we got to treat ourselves
to multiple meals given to us by gracious members. One of those
families were the Valims, who are from Brazil. We had the most
delicious fish and steak that you could ever imagine. And Brother
V is absolutely hilarious. He could cry on cue, and and had some
of the best jokes I've heard on the mission. He asked Elder M
how many siblings that he had. Elder M pleasantly told him he
had 10.
Brother Va's mouth dropped to the ground and was silent for a
minute. After a while he asked, "Elder M, did you have
television growing up."
"Well, no, only on Saturdays."
"Oh," he leans back in his chair. "So that's why you have so many siblings"
Everyone busted up laughing except for his wife, who was so
embarrassed she went out of the room. Well, no matter what she thinks
Brother V is one of my personal favorites now.
Along with the meals I got to talk with my family. That was nice. It
was fun to see everyone was in one piece. The whole time I felt like
we were making fun of each other. I guess that's how our family shows
that we love each other. If we weren't cracking jokes something would
be wrong. One of the topics that came up was how much I weigh right
now. In a span of six months on a mission, I have surpassed all of my
brothers in weight, which is good, because I probably weighed the
least out of all of us before the mission. I'm going to say that's a
good thing.
Saturday was a day to remember. It started with some service at the
local food pantry. We bagged and distributed food for those in need
for about 6 hours. It was a special moment, and it would have been
even better if it didn't rain for most of the time. The food pantry is
run out of an old warehouse and doesn't have much protection from the
elements. Much of the rain and the wind cut into the building. Much of
the time it was sticky and hot. However, that didn't stop us from
doing much good. We were able to hand out over 600 bags of groceries
to those who really needed it. It was like we were giving a piece of
Christmas to these people. It was a special moment.
After that we got a lift back to the apartment by one of our
investigators who also helps serve at the food pantry. We had some
quick dinner and then headed off for the rest of the day. We were
working on the far side of our area, about 5 miles away from our
apartment. Our appointment with D canceled, which was a shame.
D is from Somalia (no he's not a pirate) and loves the Book of
Mormon. He wants to get baptized, but he has a very slow progression
towards it. When he canceled the lesson at the doorstep, we were a
little discouraged. We don't get to meet with him very often, so
missing him this week is going to set back his date for baptism.
Shortly after that Elder M had his second crash of the
transfer and the fourth in his three months out. He was going down a
hill a little too fast and didn't notice a curb. His bike went left
and he went straight up. It was like watching toast pop up. That lucky
duck miraculously landed on a patch of grass off the sidewalk. I don't
know how he did it, because he should have hit the concrete and rolled
thirty feet down the slope. He was so lucky that neither he or the
bike were damaged. However, he did have a long tear in his pants.
Unfortunately, the tear made his underclothing very visible. So, we
had to bike all the way back to the apartment so he could get a change
of pants. Poor kid. And when he got back to the apartment, he snapped
his shoelaces in half while putting his shoes on. On both shoes. At
this point Elder M had enough for the day. His pants were
ripped, his shoes were torn, he biked through a puddle and got mud on
his butt. But you know what, we went out again and finished the day.
Sometimes you gotta work for it. At about 8:30 we called it quits and
I went to get him some custard to cheer up his spirits. It was here,
after having such a rough day, Elder M got his recompense. We
got to meet some recent converts from Temple, Texas who were stopping
by the way. They were so happy to see us and even bought us some
custard. They talked to us for a long time and offered us a ride back
to the apartment. It was a great ending to a rough day.
Sunday was great. We had an excellent sacrament meeting, and a lot of
less actives came to church. It was great to see people we were
working with at church.
All in all, it was a great week. I'm proud of what I'm doing and
thankful to be out in the field, harvesting what is there. You can
count on the missionaries in the Old Settlers Ward to be working hard
at all times. There are no exceptions around here. We work hard and we
work long. I love it. It brings great rest to the soul

Elder Richard Hall

1. A sign that Elder M calls "the most adorable thing he's ever seen".
2. A picture of our conference with Elder P of the seventy. These
are all the missionaries in San Antonio. There is another one with all
the missionaries from Austin. I am in the very back row next to a
bunch of Giants.

Our Christmas facetime together

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Goodbyes, Temples, and Heifers

I've been transferred! I'm no longer in the hilly sprawl of Northern
San Antonio. I've been sent to serve in the Old Settlers Ward in Round
Rock, Texas. It is just North of Austin. It's actually quite nice.
There's a lot of parks in the area, and there are NO HILLS. It might
actually be enjoyable to bike now.
Yes, we are still biking. Elder M and I are got lots of area
to cover. But it's awesome. It's beautiful up here, and the houses are
gigantic. I'm pretty sure that the Lord wants me to be a preacher to
the rich, because I haven't seen much else on my mission. The people
in this ward are different there. In San Antonio, all the people were
military, FBI agents, and dentists. Here, they are all computer
programmers, video game designers, and dentists. It's a fun time.
I was getting shipped off to Round Rock Thursday, and I had three days
left in Indian Springs and Evans Ranch ward. On Monday we had our last
lesson with the Branconiers. They're moved to North Carolina on
Saturday, and they'll be sorely missed by both me and the Indian
Springs ward. They are fantastic members. You couldn't guess that
they've been members for only seven months. I'm so glad that I got to
be a part of their progress in the Kingdom of God.
The next day we got to go to the temple with Brother B! Brother
Bacak invited us to escort him through the temple. Brother B is 30
years old and just reactivated from a long stint of inactivity from
the church. He loves missionaries. I still remember the first time
that we knocked on his door. Brother B, a towering 6'4" meathead
that served 4 years in Afghanistan opened up the door, saw poor little
Elder Nebeker and I, said "Sup Geeks" and slammed the door. We sat
there for a moment, dumbfounded, and then he opened up the door. "Nah,
come on in." He's a joker.
It was wonderful to see Brother B in the temple, as well as half
the Evans Ranch ward. But Brother Ba had this goofy grin. He was so
happy to be there. He was at peace. And so was I. It was wonderful to
be in the house of the Lord. It is a feeling untouchable. That is why
I went to the temple every Wednesday morning my senior year. What
better way to spend your time at 3:30 in the morning?
Old Settlers ward is treating me well. Elder Muhlstein, maybe not so
much. Nah, I love him, but he did heifer me good alright.
On Saturday we were biking in the northern part of our area. Now let's
just remember, by Saturday, I would have been in the area for a
whopping 48 hours. It's a big area, let me tell you. Everything is new
to me, I couldn't tell you east from west and up from down. It really
doesn't help that there are no mountains here.
So we were riding around this nice suburb when I hear a clash of
metal. Next thing I know I sprawled out on the ground in the middle of
an intersection. Elder M biked right into me! He didn't tell
me we were turning, I just got t-boned by my own companion! That's
what you call a heifer.
I got up, put my chain back on and then noticed that my front tire
looked more like a black potato chip than a wheel. My wheel is gonzo.
I tried to hammer it back into shape, and I did pretty good at it, but
let's just say I look pretty goofy riding my bike now. We took it into
the bike shop a few miles down the area. The guy working in the
workshop comes up to us. Apparently he's really familiar with
"Hey what's up guys?"
"Our rim is a little bent." We hand over the tire."
"Oooo... I'll do my best guys." That "ooo" was one of the funniest and
saddest sounds I've heard.
Elder Muhlestein, who just got out of training, looks over painfully.
"I'll pay for it if you want to." I think I'm going to take up his
offer. His father is one of the best cardiologists in Utah. Mine is a
teacher in Idaho. If his bowels are filled with charity, I'm not going
to deny him the blessings.
Turns out, he was able to do some black magic to it and it looks great
now. But man, it was in rough shape before that. I took a video. It's
pretty funny in retrospect.
So that's life for now. I've been super busy lately, and that
includes today. May the Lord protect and bless you. Help you in the
hour of your need. I'm loving it out here. Truly am. Merry Christmas
everyone! I'm short sleeves most of the days. And to be honest, I
don't really miss the cold.
Joy to the world. Let us turn our hearts towards Christ.

Elder Richard Hall

1. The video of the bike tire. We had a lot of fun playing with it.
Dang scary to ride on.
2. The trains in our backyard. It's awesome to watch it go by off of
our balcony. I guess that's what my brother meant when he said that
the Express was in my backyard

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas is Coming, Elder Hill is Getting Fat!(2)

Let me tell you a little something about this week.
I haven't been ranking the best weeks of my mission, but if I was, this would probably be number one. We worked out of our minds, we biked our legs off, we ate like there was no tomorrow, and we slept like rocks. Last Wednesday I was so tired we pulled into the apartment with our bikes, I tossed mine against the wall, and then laid on the hardwood for the next 20 minutes eating Christmas candy while Elder H laughed at me. 

Tuesday we had Elder David Pino of the Seventy come. I've never been tailgating, or waited in line for the next new movie, but anticipating the arrival of Elder Pino was pretty close to it. All the missionaries were there about at least an hour early. The room was humming with quite excitement as Elder Pino strolled in, looking much older and smaller than I expected. President Slaughter was right behind him, looking giddy. Elder Pino spoke in Spanish to us as a missionary translated for him. He was hilarious, insightful, all that good stuff that comes from being a general authority of the church of Jesus Christ. The spirit in that room was marvelous. The air was so light, the mood was so great. What a blessing it is, to be a missionary of the Lord's church.

Wednesday was just as great. We may have not had a lesson all day, but we fought- well, I'd hate to use fighting for something as enjoyable as missionary work, but there is a feeling you get when it feels like nothing is going your way, and you have to find ways to be as productive as possible. When you have five appointments set up and none of them happen because people are busy, or when you run into some Jehovah's Witnesses who just want to pick a fight, it feels like you are in a battle. You and the work are duking it out, trying to do everything to help others come unto Christ. It may be some of the most fun you've ever had, but yes, it does feel like a fight sometimes. 
Anyways, everything changed as soon as we had dinner with the P. Sister P told us last Sunday that she was going to make wings for us, which made her husband almost fall out of his seat with excitement when he heard this. The build up for these wings, which sounded like the most amazing things on earth, was not falsely attributed. We walked into the home and there was Sister Powell, making them right in front of our eyes, popping out 8 to 10 of them every ten minutes or so. It was glorious. She also had homemade fries with homemade fry sauce which could rock anyone's socks. But those wings. I would walk from Jerome to the Pl's home just for those buffalo wings. I had 17 wings, and Elder H had 19. So I may not have won the grand prize, but I definitely was first place in my weight class. And besides, Elder H couldn't hold them in. That was the worst part of the week. We were heading down Bulverde on our bikes. I was in front, and Elder Hill was keeping good pace until one moment I look back and he's a quarter mile behind me. Turns out it was that stupid dead deer that the city hasn't picked up for the past three weeks that proved to be his demise. Poor Elder H. The stench was just too much.

Friday we had one of those moments that you always dream of, but never have. It was something straight out of a church movie. It was this moment, as well as one other moment, that have been the stuff of Mormon Messages. 
Let me tell you the first one. It came about three weeks ago. We were knocking on the door of a less active part member home that we have been trying to get into for months. We knocked on the door, and someone actually answered! Unfortunately, it was Brother L, the less active. He curtly said, "Hey, now's not a good time fellas. Come by maybe when I'm done with school next year."
Boo. We're missionaries man. You know that neither of us will be here in a year. We just wanted to invite you to the Christmas party, but no. 
"Oh alright, no worries. See you then." We walk down the street, when we hear him yell from the other side of the block "Hey! Come back! My wife has some questions for you!"
We looked at each like we were witnessing Moses part the Red Sea. "we're actually getting into the Lockharts!" We thought. It really was a miracle.
And that's how we met the Ls. Brother L's nonmember wife had a bunch of questions about the Plan of Salvation and we ended up having one of the more spiritual, heartfelt lessons I've had all mission. We meet with them weekly now. Unfortunately, they have a hard time coming to church, and that's holding Sister L back from being baptized.

But Friday! Friday we were knocking on an old, old potential named W, when a woman answered the door. Her name was B T, and as soon as she found out we were LDS and not Jehovah's Witnesses (People really don't like them down here) she opened up and said, "I've been wondering about your church. There are just so many churches out there and they all believe different things from the bible and…" and then she went off for about five minutes about why the Great Apostasy happened and the need for a restoration. Elder H and I just sat there dumbfounded. She was golden! Her kids were adorable and she said that she wanted to hear everything we had to say. Unfortunately, her husband wasn't home, so we couldn't go inside, but we scheduled a future appointment with her family and she is super excited to meet us. It's just one of the those moments that you have to cherish.

Sunday was special. In the Evans Ranch sacrament meeting, we got to sing my favorite Christmas song by my request, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." All I had to do was ask the wife of the organist if we could sing it, and without hesitation she said "absolutely. Anything for the Elders." 
I love that song so much. It is so beautiful, so heartfelt, so poetic. I couldn't stop myself from tearing up as the fourth verse finished. I'll finish this post with the lyrics

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
with peace on earth, good will to men."

God is not dead nor does he sleep. The right will prevail, and there shall be peace on earth, good will to men. 

Elder Richard Hall

Monday, December 7, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Idaho in May

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Lost in a Cloud Again, Son of Man, We Draw Near!(2)

I suppose that for all those that know me, they know that Thanksgiving
used to be  sans-substance holiday. What can I say, I was a picky son
of a gun for most of my life. But I think that I should just make a
quick list of all the junk I ate for Thanksgiving while eating amongst
the Texans
- Mashed potatoes
- sweet potatoes, pecans, and marshmallows
- yams
- stuffing
- creamed corn
- corn
- ham
- honey mustard
- turkey
- barbecue turkey
- brisket
- kale
- pecan pie
- pumpkin pie
- chocolate chip pie
- lava cake
- cranberry sauce
- asparagus
- green beans
- apple cider
- pomegranate apple cider
- cranberry apple cider
- rolls
- ice cream
- and other stuff!!

Thursday is worth an email in itself. We had a lunch appointment,
dinner appointment, and two other meals. At first I thought this was
going to be the best day of my mission, but it ended up being one of
the hardest. It was a marathon of food. By the time that Elder Hill
and I made our way to the last appointment, we were both in food
comas. Unfortunately, our last appointment showed no mercy. The cutest
little woman made us and her family of three a meal that could feed
about twelve people, and every last bit of it was delicious. The
stuffing could have been a meal in itself. The ham was delectable, and
she even made chocolate chip pie for me.
this lady asked Elder H and I what our favorite pies were in
preparation for our visit. When I told her it was chocolate chip pie,
she was confused. She had no idea what it was! So I gave her the
recipe and she made two of them solely for me. She sat down and
watched me eat two pieces of it, and said "You know when I was making
this, I realized that this pie is basically a really big, condensed
chocolate chip cookie." To which I replied, "why do you think I like
it so much?" Ah, Sister M. She makes the best food.
Not to take away from my exquisite Thanksgivin', but our Wednesday
dinner appointment was awesome. We knocked on the door to see a
wonderful old lady welcome us in. Unfortunately, her husband wasn't
home yet. Since we aren't allowed to enter into a home unless another
male is present, we ate in her garage. which I have to say was the
most quaint and homely garage I've ever seen.There was a wonderful
wooden table with matching chairs in the middle of a neat, well swept
garage floor. She then proceeded to run in and out of the garage with
salads, homemade bread, egg salad sandwiches, jam, all on the cutest
plates. Honestly, it was the most memorable dinner of the week. I
attached a picture of us in her garage at the bottom of the email.

In non food-related news, I am a missionary! This week was wild. On
Tuesday we were getting ready to head out of the apartment and start
our day when my front tire popped. It was toast, sugar and butter.
Gone. a great big gaping hole resided in the middle of the bike tube.
The tube itself now resides in the trash can. We had to call up some
other missionaries to take us to a Walmart so I could grab not one,
but two new tires, because about a week before my rear tire did the
exact same thing, but was still fixable. By the time that we got the
new tubes in, we were still twenty minutes out of our area and about
an hour and a half away from our appointment, and sunset was coming
soon. Needless to say, we got a ride into the area that day.

My favorite lesson that we had this week came from a man named Om
Kalyan Purohit. Om is a student at the University of the Incarnate
Word in San Antonio, but he is originally from India. One of his
professors is a member of the Evans Ranch ward, and he as well as all
the other international students (as well as us) were invited to have
Thanksgiving dinner at his home, since everyone was far away from
their home. It was here where Elder H and I met Om, as well as
Tian-Tian, Zhu Ling, and Wang from China; Tony from Albania, Ronald
from Russia, and Freida and Tony from Ukraine. All of them were so
nice to us as we had an excellent Thanksgiving dinner with the
R. We got to talk to all of them about our beliefs over dinner,
but Om was special. When we asked him what religion he was a part of
he said that he wasn't from any religion. In fact, he believed in
every religion because they all testified of Jesus.

When I first heard this, I didn't believe that was possible. My first
thoughts were, "Are you kidding me? What about, Islam, Buddhism,
Hinduism, Shintoism, Satanism, Taoism, Aboriginal traditions, Atheism,
etc.? To believe that every religion has a belief in Christ is a
little absurd.
But then I got to thinking about it, and I was reminded of a or a
passage in Isaiah 40:18-20
"To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it
over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree
that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a
graven image, that shall not be moved."
The workman, the goldsmith, the poorman all knew there was a God, or
what God was supposed to be like. They made a connection to a higher
power, they honored it, worshipped it. Their worship split away from
Christianity when their God differed from what we know to be God, the
word, the truth. However, the Gods that these people created stem from
the one God.
Though they don't know it, these people who do not believe in Christ
are still showing that there is a higher power. As a Christian, we
know that Heavenly Father is our God, and Jesus Christ is our savior.
It's kind of hard to explain, but in a sense, every religion follows
the words spoken by Alma in Alma 30:44, when he says that all things
denote there is a God.
Though Om was very general with his statement, he's kind of right. But
only kind of. Don't take my words the wrong way, I'm not saying
everyone believes there is a God, but I am saying that all people have
been put here on this earth but a loving God, and what they do on this
earth reveals their relationship with the Father in Heaven.
Anyways, Om loved talking to us. Since he lives out of our proselyting
boundaries, we have to refer him to other missionaries, but before we
left, he gave us some "Aerican fist bumps." Americans are weird.

Looks like I had a lot to say this week. I'm loving it in the Hill Country!

Elder Richard Hall

P.S. We finally moved into our area. if you want to send me a package,
or letter, send it to

Also, some photos
1. Elder H and I having dinner in a garage
2. Elder H and I getting caught in the rain
3. a picture of the Indian Springs ward, basically