Monday, October 29, 2012

Success and Miracles

Hey there family!

     This week was another great week for us here in the MMM!  We had a lot of success and miracles with 3 exchanges this week with some other new missionaries.  We had the one with the Eden Prairie Elders on Monday, Elder Lor and Elder Chappell that went really well.  We had one on Wednesday with the Cedar Lake Elders, Elder Olaveson from Rigby, ID is training Elder Pinsent from Nova Scotia and it was a lot of fun with them.  Because we only have the one van to drive around whenever teams like Cedar Lake come, who are on bikes, one of us ends up biking around for that day, so our area moves between a car and biking area depending on which one of us gets to ride that day or not haha.  Elder Olaveson and I got to ride around on the nice misty rainy day that we had Wednesday that took me back to my days in Shingle Creek riding through all the storms we had then.  Luckily for us it only snowed for part of the morning and the rest of it was just misty and raining for the day.  Our weather really hasn't been too bad here.  We have had it pretty dry so far except for the day that I got to spend biking around haha.  I'm expecting the weather may just hold off from the snow, down here in the cities at least because there's already a few inches in the areas up north, until after my group of missionaries goes home and then the cold will come haha.  I don't know if I mentioned this before or not but Elder Lewis, my MTC companion who is a Zone Leader in Lakeville now with one of the other Elders that was in our room at the MTC Elder Anderson,  extended and will be flying home with me to SLC so I'm not all by my lonesome self.  I think President needed him and didn't really want to have to replace both Zone Leaders at the transfer so now we came to Minnesota together and will be leaving at the same time too.  Our last exchange for last week was with the Apple Valley Elders, Elder Eggertsen who was Elder Anderson's companion in my MTC district and room who's training Elder Burt from Blackfoot, Idaho.  It was a lot of fun and the miracles keep rolling through with all these exchanges.  It can be challenging to try and plan things for all the exchanges that happen but it keeps us busy and blessings keep pouring down.  We have 3 , more this week and we are excited to see what the Lord has in store.

                This week we also have our monthly Zone Leader Council meeting tomorrow and will be spending most of our p-day today preparing our training and finalizing the agenda and presentation.  IT should be a really great meeting and things here in the mission will continue to pick up.  Our area is seeing a lot of great success.  Brother S (that's the actual spelling and not S like I did last week)
 is progressing very well along with the N family who he lives with.  Because Brother N had to work Brother S and Sister N came to the Fall Festival at the church with her two kids, J and J, and loved it.  The members loved meeting them and a lot of people introduced themselves to them  We found out the Brother S actually played volleyball on Liberia's national team and played in the All Africa games in Kenya while he was over there.  So the Elders Quorum invited him to play basketball with them early in the morning Saturday and we went to play with them.  He enjoyed it even though he's only ever played a couple of times in his life.  What was great though was as much fun as they had at the Festival and he did at basketball they both loved church even more!  Brother N couldn't make it because of work again but Brother S and Sister N felt very at home.  It was fast and testimony meeting and at the end they both talked about how much they loved hearing from all the different people.  Sister N said she really did feel like we were all Brothers and Sisters there and Brother S said to the Elders Quorum when he introduced himself that he has decided that he wants to join this church.  Brother N even though he couldn't come to any of those things is doing well.  We taught him at the mission home with President and Sister Clements last week and he committed to be baptized on Dec. 1st.  He's set on it and we are really excited about it too!  Now we are just working to keep the ward involved and help them all progress towards that day together.  We had an idea this morning that we could make a youth activity for all the kids to invite their friends to a volleyball clinic that Brother S can put on.  It'd be great to help him serve and get the youth to invite their friends to a very fun activity.  We'll be meeting with a member from the Young Men's presidency before their activities planning and Friday and see if we can get that going.  Brother S said he's ready and would love to play anytime!
                The Lord really is merciful and mindful of all of us!  I love seeing His hand day by day in all that we do and know that he is aware of individual needs for all of us and a part of all of our lives.  Thank you so much for all your love, prayers, and support.  I know that they are being answered and I am the grateful recipient of them.  I better get back to the reports that we need to finish, but I hope all goes well this week and to hear from you all again soon!

Monday, October 22, 2012

I Love the MMM!

Craft family,
                Thanks so much for the updates and all the support that you give to me.  It really is such a blessing to be serving a mission and to have the support of a loving family behind me.  I have learned throughout my mission more and more the blessings of the Gospel and the amazing opportunity that I have had to grow up with that as a normal part of my life.  So many of the people that we teach have their trials and challenges that they have to face each day that can so easily be overcome through the strengths of Gospel Principles and truths.  At times I wonder why I was so fortunate to have been in the family situation that I have been and be surrounded by all you loving and caring people that have helped to strengthen me and my testimony through your wonderful examples and experiences.  It is still a mystery to me as to why but I do know that I am very thankful each and every day and know that there is no other family that I would rather be a part of.  It’s because of that love and feeling that I have that I know that God is aware of all of our individual needs and places us in those circumstances.  These truths are a powerful part of what makes people want to have that change and feel that same belonging from being in the fold of the Good Shepherd.  In the world around us the family is so attacked and will be because of the strength that that ordained unit has.  We have several families that we are working with now that have so much going on within their families and have so many problems that they face.  I have come to see that no matter our personal needs and concerns, the challenges that we all face, the Savior’s teachings and Gospel can help throughout it all.  Even though not all people have the most ideal situations in life we have the greatest solution that can improve them and no government program can even come close to that.  Like I said it’s a great blessing to be preaching and serving the people here in the MMM!
                This week I’m going to steal a miracle that Elder Clancy experienced while we were on our last exchange of the week last Friday with Elder Sargeant.  They went to see the N family, the ones that I may have told you about from Liberia, and in going there were planning on teaching them the plan of salvation.  When they got to the house they met a friend of theirs, Brother S, who just moved to Minnesota from Liberia three weeks earlier.  They started to teach and he joined right in asking questions and participating because of the great spiritual nature of the Liberian people and their sincere desire to come to know God.  When they began to teach about Adam and Eve and the Fall they went through and used the scriptures to outline and explain it all to them, Brother S and Brother and Sister N.  At the end they asked what they now understood about Adam and Eve and Brother S responded something to the effect that he had wondered about that his whole life. He said that he knew God was perfect so that just couldn’t be a mistake that He didn’t know about  and that what the Elders had taught to him right there out of 2 Nephi 2 he knew was true and answered questions he had had his entire life.  It was then that he committed to come to church and wanted to join our church on that Sunday too.  They explained there was more to be learned before baptism but his excitement that came from hearing the truth then feeling it in his heart is a wonderful thing to be a part of and witness just like I had mentioned with the change that comes in the paragraph above.  Brother N then committed to fear God more than man and talk to his boss about getting Sundays off and making that a priority.  I’m sure the Brother S will now help to make sure that happens too.  It is so amazing like I said to see how God is so aware of our situations and all of the needs and desires of His children and is willing to grant whatever He can to us to bless our lives.  I know that Heavenly Father listens to and answers prayers and leads us by the hand when we follow His path.  I love helping others to find that path and help them see the guidance for themselves.
                This week is another full one of exchanges but not as varsity as last week.  We have the Eden Prairie Elders tonight with Cedar Lake coming Wednesday and Apple Valley Saturday.  It should be very fun and full of miracles.  We have the ward Fall Festival this week too and we were thinking of our sweet costumes.  I may just end up going as Elder Clancy and he will go as Elder Craft to throw everyone for a loop.  We’ll see what reactions we get haha.
                Well I love and appreciate once again all that you do for me!  You love and prayers on my behalf are felt and answered each and every day.  I hope that all continues to go well and that good things will come for you in the coming week.

Love,  Elder A. Craft

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Finally a Real Update

Dear Family,

     Sorry that this is so late but this week has been one eventful one for us here.  I had mentioned that wedo exchanges with the new missionaries and their trainers in Bloomington within their 2 transfers of being trained and this week has been one full of those.  We try to schedule them with teams that are further out around events and meetings they'll be coming to the cities for.  THat's the main reason why this week has so many because of the New Missionary Training Meeting that we had on Tuesday, so we had teams coming from 2 and 3 hours away and had to schedule their exchanges all in a row so that we could get to them without delaying it too long or making them make an unnecessary trip out of their area later in the month.  This Monday to Tuesday we went with the Elders from Fairmont, MN.  Elder Sande is thr trainer and a convert of a little over 2 years from Washington state and his companion is Elder Meguro from Japan.  We were with them Monday night until  the NMT meeting on Tuesday morning.  Then after all or training and things we had to do in the meeting we had an exchange with the Mankato, MN Elders.  Elder Waite is the trainer from Logandale and Overton, Nevada.  Dad might know where that is because Elder Waite told me all about Hawthorne!  He's been there and to Walker Lake a lot before and told me all about what isn't there haha.  I thought that was cool that he could tell me all about Dad's little hometown which I now want to go check out sometime.  His trainee is Elder Hall from Draper.  On Wednesday after lunch they went to drive back down to Mankato before the Chippewa Falls, WI Elders came in until this morning.  Elder Worwood is the trainer from Ferron, UT and his new missionary Elder Allen is from Sun Tan Valley, AZ.  It was great to have a chance to work with all these Elders and see the great faith that new missionaries bring to the mission.  It was a lot of fun seeing all the miracles that came and as a result of all these missionaries helping to work in our area we have found 20 new future investigators this week which should really keep up busy and help the work to pick up.  Last night Elder Worwood and I found a few potentials in this really nice and really fancy town home complex in Eden Prairie that has a bunch of the Vikings players that live there.  One of the guys that we talked to said that he sees Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin driving around in there all the time and that Nate Osiata, the guy who used to play for the U and is now the Vikings fullback, lives there.  So that was kind of a cool adventure.  I'll let you know when I find one of those guys or you can look on ESPN or something to hear them announce the new celestial help that the Vikings team seems to be getting ;) haha JK.   Coming up tomorrow until Saturday afternoon we'll have the Blaine, MN Elders coming.  Elder Sargeant is the trainer from Springville, UT and Elder Manoa is from Hayward  CA.  That should be another fun and exciting exchange too.  These exchanges have a lot of planning and work that can go into them but are one of my favorite parts about this assignment here.  I missed not getting to work with all the new missionaries when I spent my summer vacation over in the Lake Nokomis Ward.  Speaking of that since you asked Dad it was kind of hard to leave all the good things that were progressing and the fun Elder Neeley and I were having, but because I didn't go far I still get to see some of those people and talk to the Elders working over there. 

     It's been kind of fun coming back to an old area too and talking with all the members again and visiting other people that I taught.  So I didn't tell you much about Elder Clancy when I got here but he is from Lawrence, Mass.  He graduated the year before I did but went to BYU-I for a year before his mission.  He came out to Minnesota about four months after me.  He's a pretty goofy guy and it's been fun to serve with him.  I knew of him just from seeing him around in the mission.  He's very smart and creative.  We get along really well and are hoping for great things to come here in the near future.  He actually has a  twin brother who is serving in the SLC Family History Center Mission who goes home in mid-December. 

     The weather here has been typical Minnesota which equals out to bipolar.  Something that I'm used to from living in Utah.  We have had some really nice days in the upper 60's and one in the lower 30's too over the past few weeks. The leaves have been falling really quickly the last couple of weeks and we're all hoping Winter holds off for a little bit longer.  I think secretly I want this Winter to just be awful so that I can experience some of it and have something to talk about because the last one was so mild.  We'll see what happens here in the next couple of weeks.

     The Saints Unified Voices (SUV) choir and Gladys Knight were awesome last week!  The presentation was so good and the message they conveyed I think touched a lot of people.  I definitely loved it and would highly recommend inviting and taking people to that if it ever comes around in Utah haha.  It was sweet to hear some of the Gospel songs that they sang and the renditions of the hymns that were sung.  The best was all the people with a Baptist of Pentecostal back round that just stood up or put their hands in the air "praising" and saying some good heartfelt "amen" to different things they sang or talked about.  It was just all around awesome and something that I really loved.  It was a little bit of a later night because of the length of the 8:30 show too and due to the fact that we had to help tear down and clean up.  It was cool though because I got to meet her husband and talk to him for a minute and say hi to Gladys Knight while I was helping clean the stuff up in the church.

     From what Mom told me though it sounds like the Primary program was just about as eventful as the presentation that I got to see though haha.  That's too bad for the poor kids that were sick but exciting about Mom's new calling!  That's going to be a lot of fun for you!  Does that mean you just get to go visit a lot more of the Primaries around and go talk with the Presidents?  I assume from what I've known seen and come to understand with the structure of The Church that that's some part of it.  I'm really excited for you but sorry that you have to leave your little entourage of fans in the Sunbeam class.  At least you'll still get to see them every once in awhile.

     I think that's about it for the updates from me here and all the adventures that we've been on in the great state of Minnesota. haha  I hope that all is well and that I can hear from you again soon!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, October 15, 2012

Political Indoctrination From Dad

Hey Mom,

     Sorry that I only have a few minutes to send you a quick note.  I loved the emails and look forward to telling you all about the Gladys Knight presentation and the new missionaries and all the other things that people asked about.  You can tell Dad that I registered for my absentee ballot already and that Elder Braun, the one who does all the cars and bikes stuff here in the office just started laughing when I read him Dad's line about what happens if either Obama or Romney wins the election.  He feels the same way as Dad. haha  I did get Grandma's card and the cake.  I'll respond more to that later in the week.  The reason this note is so short is because we don't get P-day today because of all the stuff we have to get done this week.  We have an exchange (or split is what some people call is) with the ELders from Fairmont, MN before we have our New Missionary Training Meeting tomorrow with 2.5 hours of training we're doing and an exchange with the Mankato, MN Elders after that, and an exchange Wednesday with the Chippewa Falls, WI Elders.  We will have one more exchange towards the end of the week with the Blaine, MN Elders on Friday, so looks like I won't get to really send everyone an email until Thursday   I just wanted to send this this morning so you weren't worried and wondering.  Give everyone my love and tell them sorry for making them wait.  I'm getting good at doing that to you all recently. :) haha

Love, Elder Craft

Monday, October 8, 2012

General Conference Shake-Up

Dear Family,

     Hey everyone!  Thank you so much for all the birthday wishes from all of you!  It feels weird that it's actually my birthday. haha With all the other things that we've been doing I haven't really payed too much attention and now that it's finally here it doesn't have the same excitement as usual I guess haha.  It's not a bad thing I just think with all the other things coming that I'm looking forward to the excitement must just be channeled there.  It's almost like how I explained my 19th birthday being like because I was so looking forward to leaving on my mission that all the feelings were saved for that day.

    Speaking of birthdays and missions that new announcement was so incredible!  People (mostly members I;m sure) will be talking about that for awhile now.  I thought about exactly what Nick said that now I can say, "you had to be at least 19 and 21 when I went on my mission", just like Nick, Brock, and Tom can say, "we had memorized discussions on our missions that we taught to everyone", and dad can say," we didn't have either of those or those MTCs everyone has now they just sent us off into territories to get on a soapbox anywhere we could to preach".  hahaha  jk Dad ;)  It really is a great announcement that really is not only going to change the mission field with a larger number of missionaries and especially Sisters, but it will really change the culture of BYU and BYU-I with who marries who and the Student enrollment.  There are several levels to the changes that this will bring!  We are very excited to see how this effects the MMM and mission field worldwide!

     This whole conference weekend was just fantastic!  I loved all the talks and the underlying themes that came of personal conversion and how to strengthen ours.  Out of all the talks of the five missions that I got to listen to and watch at the church I think I loved the talk by President Uchtdorf the most!  That really hit home about not looking too far ahead and making sure I'm allowing myself to enjoy the moments in life and be happy!  It's so great to see the inspiration that God's anointed servants receive and how it is so applicable to all of God's children!  I love this dispensation that we are so privileged to live in and agree with Dad's message that we were meant to be here as a family together.  You all set such a great example for me and I've always felt that there's no other family that I could have possibly been better matched up with!  I have such a testimony from Conference too that Our Father in Heaven is aware of all of us individually and what we need in our own lives. 

     Sorry that this is so short!  There's much to do before I officially become an adult! :)  I love you and appreciate all that you do for me!

Love, Elder Alex Craft

Monday, October 1, 2012

Weird, But Good to Be Back

Dear Family,

     Good afternoon Utah from Bloomington!  haha  Sorry that I am so late in writing but today has been a lot of preparation for us to get ready for a leadership meeting tomorrow with all the Zone Leaders and District Leaders.  It should be a really great meeting with a big focus on improving our teaching by helping people commit to change.  President Clements wants to focus on "faith unto repentance" for the people we teach and having us as missionaries focus on listening to the Spirit in asking questions and relating to people so that we can teach and commit them to make changes in their lives.  It should be really good and really help our mission improve.

     It is such a great time to be a missionary here in the MMM!  General Conference (a.k.a. Missionary Super Bowl) is this weekend so that is way exciting!  We are pumped for that!  Then that presentation/ musical fireside with Sister Gladys Knight is going to be a week from Wednesday in the 10th.  That's going to be such a great opportunity and blessing for our mission too.  We are really hoping to have a lot of people go to feel of the Spirit from her testimony and see how it can change their own lives.  From what we've heard it does amazing things in other missions and areas with phenomenal amounts of referrals and even baptisms that come from it.  Good thing Minnesota has 10,000+ lakes so we can keep up with it all after she leaves ;) haha. 

     Speaking of baptisms this past Saturday was the baptism of Brother and Sister M.  Tr and Al are so awesome!  I love them so much and was very fortunate to be able to go and witness their baptism because I came to Bloomington last Tuesday, to answer your question of when I'd get back here in the office Mom.  It was one of the best baptismal services that I have witnessed.  We sang a few hymns while they changed and heard a message on the Restoration from Elder Neeley and the other three Elders in the Lake Nokomis Ward.  Once that was all over the Ms asked if they could share their testimonies and gave some powerful witnesses of the blessings that they have now seen come into their lives.  Brother M basically gave a sermon up their for 10 minutes on the goodness of God and all that he has seen in his life.  It was awesome!  Brother L, one of the members of the Elder's Quorum Presidency, baptized them both and like I said the Spirit their was just so strong!  It's so amazing to see the changes and witness that people can have while doing such simple things like reading scriptures and prayer.  Even for people like the Ms who have grown up Christian and very religious their entire lives the Spirit can work and increase within them so much and so rapidly.  I love being a missionary!

     It is weird to be back in the area I just left from but a lot of fun.  It's cool to see all the members again and to see the same people I was teaching before.  People like Brother A who we are still working towards baptism for.  It is a lot of fun to visit some of the same people and work right from where I left off almost.  In a sense it's almost like I never left haha.  A lot of the members and people were surprised to see me back.  I told them I just spent summer vacation in Lake Nokomis Ward but it was fun while it lasted haha.  I really do miss that ward and the area with all the people there, but now I'm hoping to see things progress even more here and fix what I must have done wrong the first time haha.

     I love you all and love to hear about all the great things going on back at home!  You guys are the greatest and I look forward to talking to you soon! 

Love, Elder Alex Craft