Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Week 19 - First Christmas in the Field

  This Christmas was a unique experience for our family with Elder Schaff on his mission. Of course, we missed his presence at home, but in the end, we had a wonderful Christmas in NY and he enjoyed Christmas in California. He had been reading letters from family and friends each day in December and said over and over that he really appreciated those and it was real boost for him. Then on Christmas Eve, the missionaries met at the mission home for a holiday celebration. He and his companion, Elder Lopez, had dinner with a member family, the Salvador´s, that night and were given pajamas, and other gifts. They have been so generous and good to my son, and for that I am very grateful.The next morning, after attending church, they were able to return to the Salvador´s to call home. Hayden was able to FaceTime with our family for about 40 minutes. It was wonderful to hear his voice, see him in front of us and catch up on things. He shared a Christmas message with us and bore his testimony in Spanish. He was laughing and joking and pulling faces at his sisters, so that was fun, but he also seemed a little older and wiser too. I loved every minute of that call, until he said good bye. He told us that he didn't want to cry, but when it came time to hang up, the tears started to flow, from him and from the four of us. I wouldn´t want him to be anywhere else right now, but it is still hard to be separated. This is how Hayden summed up Christmas in his email on Monday the 26th, which by the way, is Schaff Family Game Day. Each year we gather with friends and family to play the new games we opened on Christmas. The last few years, we have had 30 to 40 people stop by between 10 am and 10 pm on the 26th. 

  Happy Schaff Family Game Day everyone! If you don't celebrate that, you should!!!

  Alright, so the obvious event of this week is of course, Christmas, but before that, the week!

  So (M) smoked this week, so she's having to postpone her baptism, which is really tragic because she wants it so bad. We told her it would be ok, and that the extra time would help her prepare even better for baptism. (G) came to church again! She has nearly finished 1 Nephi in the BOM. She seems to be doing really good, we're going to try to set up a baptismal date with her this week.

  (A) didn't want to come to church and she didn't have work. Arguably it's Christmas, but she hasn't read, or prayed, or done anything lately, so we're trying to figure out what to do, because she said she knows the Book of Mormon and the church is true, but she isn't acting on it!!!

   We decided to get "Ricciardian" with our finding, and found two new investigators this week doing so! Working to find more! So many people are out there just waiting for this message of pure joy, I just know it!
  (Non-blog note: Hopefully mom/dad can summarize "Ricciardian") (Note from Mom, from what I understand, Hayden read an article about a missionary´s experience in Europe, and it talks about being bold and sharing the gospel with everyone that you come into contact with during the day, so he and his companion have been trying out the approach)

   Christmas: To be honest I woke up on Christmas Eve unexcited for the holidays and feeling extremely robotic. The 24th was after all, just another regular day of missionary work. We went caroling, as the 6 missionaries of Echo, but few doors opened to us. It was a good experience regardless. Later, we decided to do some finding efforts and found a new investigator, as well as a potential investigator, that wanted to have us visit later today. The Christmas Spirit lit up a bit more in me at that point.

   Then, that night, we had Christmas Eve dinner with the Salvadors and they surprised all of us with presents for each one of the 6 of us. Then I opened it up and got pajamas, a CD of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and a missionary book, defining various doctrine more clearly. The pajamas did it for me, that was what we always did back home. That surprise of generosity allowed me to rekindle that mystical Christmas Spirit that seems to naturally flow into the night when you're a little kid. I really needed that being a missionary.

   Then came Christmas day, and we still had personal study like we always do, ha ha. After that we went to church and I realized I'd never gone to church on Christmas Sunday before. (Unless when I was young?) (Note from Mom, yes he did, but he doesn´t remember) I remembered reading Henry B. Eyring's article in the December 2016 Ensign, and how he said he was looking forward to that glorious moment to take the Sacrament on that Sunday Christmas morn. I decided I would join him in rejoicing in this gospel, instead of having the focus on presents, like I once did as a youth. After making that decision, I strongly felt the Spirit for the remainder of the day. That alone made it a magical Christmas to remember for me.

   We had planned to do the call home at the M family, but they had woken up late and weren't ready in the morning like we had planned. We didn't know where to go to call our families! (Because we didn't want to have to wait!) Fortunately, the Salvadors helped us once again, and let us call from their tablets. Then they fed us lunch! I was so grateful for their selfless hospitality. Everyone was so happy in their home after having a Christmas together as a family.

  We visited the M family afterward, and then went to a family that had scheduled Christmas dinner on our calendar. They had all of their extended family there, so the presence of missionaries wasn't extremely notable in that environment, but we did leave with a message of Christ at the end.

   Then we hadn't found a family to watch a movie with, so the Salvadors again invited us in to watch a movie and we decided on Finding Dory. That was a good conclusion of the night. We returned home and planned our day today, and then opened up all of our gifts.

Elder Schaff with his gifts from the Salvador family

Stockings and gifts under the felt Christmas tree

Wearing the pajamas from the Salvadors

   I was overjoyed to see how many people were aware of what I am doing and that they do care for me, hoping the best for me. It was a very different Christmas, but a Christmas to remember. (Our ward in NY had sent him a large envelope with letters in it and he had other letters and gifts beside the gifts we had sent him and the Christmas stockings for he and his companion)

  I'd like to thank everyone that sent me anything, either in the 24 days of Christmas letters or as a physical present. It really made for a great Christmas.

 I almost made it through the family phone call without crying, but I was bawling at the end of it. (Maybe they didn't see too much of that!) But as my good leader Brother Hunter once taught us, it's not weak to cry. It's strong to take the time to enjoy the moment as it feels to us, despite what others may say!

  I didn't have a game to my name to extend my fame and reign and that's quite lame on this wonderfully tame Game Day! Somebody better be celebrating for me!!!

  Jesus is the Christ, the gospel is absolutely true, and it is the means for eternal life and salvation. Can't be too bold, if you are loving. Spread the gospel and help others accept it!

--Elder Schaff 

These freshly made Tacquitos were his favorite food so far. 

Churros were a good dessert.

The McGregor family with Elder Lopez and Elder Schaff

All my plants fell over last week. The strongest one was chosen to try to salvage and is being braced by a candy cane. You must have strong roots!!! 

Stocking contents

What hit me hardest was first just the little plastic Zip-Loc bag of candy in there, the standard of Santa. For a moment, my apartment was home.

 I tried to make the letters look cool.

Christmas gifts

That was some pretty good art work by Cassandra!

Hayden by the felt Christmas tree that we had sent earlier in the month.

Companionship Photo

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Week 18 - New Companion

  Well, last week were transfers, and we knew that Elder Schaff was not being moved from his area, but that he would have a new companion. That switch happened last Tuesday, and I have been wondering all week how he and his new companion were getting along. Thankfully, they are working hard and doing well together. This is what Elder Schaff wrote for the blog this week-

  "Merry Christmas everyone! I realize I won't have the chance to say that again until the 26th, but then it's too late! The holiday then becomes "Schaff Family Game Day." Maybe I'll find a way to play a game of chess or checkers next preparation day to celebrate the family tradition....
    So, last Tuesday I received a new companion, Elder Lopez! He is from Honduras originally, but now lives in the state of Georgia! We have been getting along great, and told one another upfront that we would strive to give advice as to how we can improve at all times, and not take offense in receiving the news of things we need to improve. By doing so, we are honing one another's teaching skills and are really finding great success in the work. 
   We flipped through our area book when Elder Lopez came in, and I read through all of our investigators with him. I realized that many of our "investigators" were people that only had received one lesson and had lost contact with us. We decided we would give everyone a chance to come into personal contact with us, but if they were not interested in being taught after that, we would have to drop them. We also decided if we visited over 5 times with no results we would drop them. We have to focus on people that are ready to hear our message; we want to honor people with hard schedules, but decided to recognize that every minute of a mission is the Lord's time, so we better be using it helping people with a sincere interest.
   This week we focused on "Mia", Matilde's daughter "T," and "G." We worked some miracles. "Mia" got to church and is preparing to be baptized at the end of December. She said she is starting to feel peace in her life after being troubled for a long period of time.
    Not much happened with "T" because she got sick and doesn't think she can understand reading the Book of Mormon while she is sick, so that's been a slow-go.
  "G" was a small miracle this week. She hasn't come to church this whole time we've been teaching her, because she babysits her grandchildren on Sundays. That's a bit crazy, because that's been since mid-September, (October since I arrived) and she has heard almost all of the missionary lessons. She says she knows the Book of Mormon is true and has felt the Holy Ghost confirm those truths. The miracle was that she came to church!!! She could only stay for the first hour, but cried when she received the water for the Sacrament, said she felt the Spirit, and knew she needed to come back for all 3 hours next week, so how about that!
  Our new companionship is doing the right things and getting the miracles. Unfortunately, I have run out of time, so this is it for this week, until the 26th!

Merry Christmas,

--Elder Schaff

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Week 17- Will I Stay or Will I Go?

  We weren't sure whether we would hear from Elder Schaff or not on Monday. This week is a transfer week, and it is falling one week early, so that everyone can get settled before Christmas. The news from him is, that he is not leaving his area. He will remain in Fresno, continue to serve in the same ward, but he will have a new companion, named Elder Lopez. Elder Mendez is going to a different area in the mission and we hope that he will do well and that his foot will continue to heal. This is what Hayden had to say this week-

  "Ok, this week was fantastic, for the most part. There were some tough moments, but I felt like I converted to the mission this week! My focus has just suddenly been fully driven towards the work, it most likely happened Wednesday. It was a full day of teaching, and we found 5 new people to teach! (4 of them were referrals for English missionaries, but still!) The Spirit was strong that day, and there was even a small miracle that night. M's daughter started listening to our lessons, and her son is a 4-year-old nightmare. He's always screaming for something and demanding help. So that creates a hard environment for the Spirit to teach. BUT, on Wednesday we invited her to baptism and as we approached that moment, her screaming child jumped up into her lap and fell asleep. It was 8:00 pm and she told us he normally goes to bed at 11:00 pm!!! So, that was a small miracle.
  So, investigators! We have too many in our teaching pool! (I know that's a weird missionary problem.) But we can't see everyone fast enough! We got some of the people without appointments into a schedule of appointments, which has been good; but we still will probably be dropping some in the future. M had a powerful experience with the Holy Ghost on Sunday when we were learning about the temple in 2nd hour! She said she felt an overwhelming sense of peace and joy and goosebumps up her arms as she was learning about the temple and the great blessing it can be in our lives. 
  G explained that she felt like "butterflies were in her stomach" every time we met with her, which was a feeling she couldn't describe. We were able to discuss the Holy Ghost, and how she could bring that into her life if she would commit to make the efforts to go to church. (Which has always been her hurdle, because she watches all those kids!) She said she would pray for God to open a way for her to come! She is ready to act!
  I talked about M's daughter, she is doing good and reads the BOM on her own if she wants to! "Mia" has stopped smoking but couldn't get to church last Sunday, so we'll see what will become of that situation. "A" went through a faith crisis of being unsure if she could give up praying to the Virgin Mary. Our member present asked her 1) "What does Mary do for you?" A: I'm not sure 2) "By what power can she answer your prayers?" A: "I'm not sure, but I feel she does" So that is interesting...hopefully we can support her through that!
    We contacted a referral that was super far away, and we were going to have to drop him if he wasn't there. But he was there! He spoke English and Spanish, as well as his family, so we decide to hand him to English Elders near by so he can get visits more often. Earlier we had left him a Book of Mormon, and he has been reading it this whole time! He's only 13 years old, but super determined to find the truth. I don't have the chance to teach him, but it was inspiring to meet such a dedicated youth. 
  Many things have happened this week, but there is not time to record it all. I will try to update everything next week!!! I'm not getting transferred, but my companion, Elder Mendez is. I will be with Elder Lopez. We'll see how that works out next week. 

  Thanks very much to all the letter writers! I was very touched by all of the people following my story. Sometimes it feels like I'm just documenting all of this for some great story book when I get back, but it's cool to feel that people are living the journey with me to some extent!

(Family: I hope to be able to write a bit of a personal message to all of you next week. Maybe we won't always have chaos in the emailing room! It's been hard, but that converting Wednesday made the week worth it!!! Picture next week.)"

--With all my love,
Elder Schaff 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Week 16 - He Just Got Some Letters, Wonder Who They're From?

  How can it already be December?! The last few weeks have flown by, and when you have a missionary out serving, you need to organize, buy, wrap and ship their Christmas package early, by December 1st for Hayden's mission. So, at the end of November, I shipped him a box that had a felt Christmas tree and ornaments to decorate his apartment, a paper nativity scene, a USB loaded with Christmas music that he can listen to in the car, lots of information on the #lighttheworld campaign and a very special mailbox. Many of our friends and family members wrote letters to Elder Schaff for Christmas, I gathered all of them and placed them in 24 red and green envelopes labeled December 1st - 24th and loaded up his mailbox. He received that package last week and is loving it all. At the end of last week, I sent a second package with Christmas stockings and wrapped gifts for Christmas morning, so he and his companion are going to be all set on the 25th.
  I love this time of year, always have, it truly is a wonderful time of year. A special season to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, to reflect on Him, and the gift that he has given all of us. The longer Hayden is gone, the more I want him home, but what a wonderful gift he is giving to us this year, his service to the Lord. Every day I pray for his well being, his success and that he will grow and become who he is truly meant to be. Each week, I am seeing that he is truly growing and changing as he is molded by this work, by the service he gives, and by the highs and lows that he experiences. So, even though I cried like a baby, down in my basement, when I found his box of Christmas ornaments, and even though I miss him so much, there is truly no other place that I want him to be this Christmas.
  Here is the news from Fresno-

  "This week was hard at first, just because we had a lot of investigators without appointments, which is making a chaotic situation for trying to consistently further the work. So, we've had some slow days. On Thursday, I had exchanges with my district leader, and was informed that I had not received proper information on some more rules from my trainer... he corrected me and showed the proper way, and then helped me correct my trainer. That was actually a good experience though, because we are living in exact obedience again, and the first day that we were sure we were living all the rules, we experienced a miracle.

  We were able to meet a friend of Matilde, the woman that we recently had the opportunity to baptize. Her name was "Mia", and she was in a time of great mental and spiritual need. We've been teaching her since Friday and she has already made significant progress in inviting peace in her life again. She is quitting smoking right now, and is super excited to be cleansed of all her sins and relieved of mental stress and guilt by baptism.

  Matilde has been doing well and is anxious for her daughters to listen to us, so that they can have the same peace that she has invited into her life by doing so. It's a really powerful experience that immediately after she has received all of the blessings of becoming a member of the church that she wants to share those blessings with everyone she knows.

  I'm down on time, but I'd like to share a call to watch the Christmas Devotional, and remember that the true Spirit of Christmas is in service to our fellow men; inviting others to rejoice in the Spiritual Peace that the Savior brought into the world at His birth.

  Hopefully we will make contact with our investigators again, so that I can have more stories!!! It's been a fairly dry week

  SHOUTOUT to my Grandpa and Grandma, Uncle Nathan and his family, Uncle David and his family, the Hughlett Family, and the Christophersons!  Thanks for the letters! (These are the just the ones he has read so far)

--Elder Schaff
Elder Schaff received his mail box full of letters!

I want to share a few more lines from a different email-
  "First off, I really love my mailbox and want to thank most likely Mom, but also anyone else that organized that within our family. Those letters have been a great boost and rather touching. I hope the family is enjoying preparing for Christmas and feeling the Christmas Spirit. Are you #Light[ing]theWorld?...
  I know you're all doing great things back home and hope you'll keep a spiritual focus in a part of everyday, I know it is really uplifting and helps us remember our divine purpose and potentials.
  Be obedient to all of God's commandments-- if we are 100% obedient we can be shaped to 100% of what he wants us to become...
  I'm feeling a bit sleepy... better get to the blog email. I love all of you!!!"
A felt tree for Elder Schaff and Elder Mendez
The decorated Christmas tree for the apartment.

"Jesus Honored his Parents" and so can you! from the #lighttheworld campaign

Monday, November 28, 2016

Week 15 - First Thanksgiving in the Field

  It was very different for us to celebrate our first major holiday without our son at home. I have to admit that I worried about where Elder Schaff would be on Thanksgiving, and if he would get a meal. Well, the members in Fresno are wonderful and they love to feed the missionaries, I had no need to worry. He ended up with 4 delicious meals on Thanksgiving, two traditional, one with tacos, and another of pasole. He had a wonderful day! Hayden sent a lot of photos, but I have only been able to access a few, having problems with Google Drive, I do NOT like Google Drive! So, I will try to add what I can. He also asked me to put a link to the #lighttheworld Christmas campaign that begins December 1st. Please check it out and help to spread light and kindness this Christmas season.

Here is his email to the group this week-

  "Alright, so if we cover this week's events we start last Monday evening, where something always happens that we have to wait a week for to add to the email!!! So that foot is Elder Mendez's foot, and he landed badly playing basketball, which caused it to swell horribly, as seen in the picture. So, we did nothing but rest Monday after that. He couldn't put any pressure on it, so he was hopping everywhere! We went into an urgent care Monday and he got a boot, that fixed the problem, so all is well now.
Basketball injury puts Elder Mendez in a boot
The Habanero I'm seen eating is a Red Habanero. I didn't even ask for it, Elder Mendez brought up that I liked hot things at dinner on Friday, and the member was growing those in potted plants in her apartment! I tried one at dinner and it was the hottest thing I had. I shed two tears of awesome glory, one from each eye. Then my stomach hurt for like 10 minutes. A non-member Mexican man gave me a talk about how that probably wasn't the smartest thing to be doing, and I promised to request health information on eating spicy things to end that conversation, so Mom and Dad, what happens to me as I continue to eat peppers? It was a grand accomplishment, but I will be looking forward with more caution. The pepper in the apartment is an extra that I took photos with, but didn't actually eat.

  Investigators were slow this week, nothing exciting happened until Sunday. We'll get there.

  Thanksgiving day was fantastic, we had a Turkey Bowl in the morning with lots of missionaries, and afterwards attended to the FOUR dinners we had. How did that happen??? People like feeding the missionaries! 

  A majority of the photos are of Brother K's house, and the objects are part of his personal museum and collection. He was very kind to trust us being in proximity to all of that valuable stuff. Some of the things were the real deal from movies!

  Despite all of the things he had, he told us missionaries (He had invited about 22 of us over) That the most valuable and important thing in life is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which can only be found fully in this church. He said much more, but it was awesome to see that the gospel changes the lives of everyone, rich or poor.

  On Sunday, M was confirmed by yours truly, Elder Schaff. I was informed that I gave a good confirmation and blessing, but I said "miembra" and was quickly corrected by several members that it is only "miembro," and that it doesn't take adjective agreement. They said they'd forgive me though, haha!!!

  The final door that we knocked last night was, Jose's, a street contact. We taught him about the First Vision of Joseph Smith and the Restoration of the gospel, and he was touched by the message. We invited him to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know if the message was true, and he enthusiastically gleamed, "of course I will, I have nothing to lose!"

  Everyone out there, you have nothing to lose by saying that very same prayer. It can only give you greater joy and light if it is true. There is nothing to lose in that. I had a great Thanksgiving, and am thankful for the opportunity to serve every day as a representative of Jesus Christ. Sometimes it's hard, but it's all very much worth it. The gospel is true!"

--Elder Schaff 

Remember, look up-

Monday, November 21, 2016

Week 14 - First Baptism

  It was great to hear from Elder Schaff today, as he and his companion had their first baptism! A woman that they have been teaching, Matilde, was baptized this weekend. It was a wonderful occasion for everyone involved. Elder Mendez baptized her, and Elder Schaff will confirm her next Sunday. He even sent photos, so let's get to it.

Elder Schaff, Matilde, and Elder Mendez

Preparing to enter the waters of baptism

 Alright, so this week we've been surviving some controlled chaos. Three of our investigators were unable to meet with us this week, which was really too bad, as these three have all been doing really good. One, "L", is ready and wanting to be baptized. The others are still hearing lessons, but learning and hearing intently.
  We found a new investigator this week, "Antonio," whom Elder Matienzo and I found on an apartment stairwell that last week doing splits. "A" is trying to stop drinking alcohol, but has become reliant on it to the point that if he gives it up he gets the shakes and "me temblo" as he told us. We promised him the gospel will help him stop drinking, and he believes it will. We taught him to pray and he was on the verge of tears after that. The peace of the Holy Ghost was super strong during that whole lesson graced by Antonio's prayer as we taught him the restoration of Christ's gospel through a prophet Joseph Smith. "A" needs to buy some glasses to see, and until then he can't read anything we'd like him to, so he can only pray. He is going to pray to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet, but he said he feels he already knows. So teaching him has been exciting.
   For the most part of this week though, we were teaching Matilde, "G", or less-active members. "G" has now been taught all of the parts of a required lesson for us to teach: The commandments. She has really liked learning about the gospel, and how it can bless our lives if we are obedient. She had been trodding along through the Book of Mormon, and is currently on 1 Nephi  Chapter 8. She understands things really clearly, but because she has to watch over all of her grandchildren, she can't ever come to church. We're not exactly sure what to do about that. We can at least continue teaching all the required lessons and reading the Book of Mormon with her, but the day may come when we need to put that time elsewhere, if she can't come to church. (Worst case scenario, missionaries in the future teach her when those kids are grown up, right?) 
  We've been inviting all members, less-active, or active, to share family history cards with their friends and others in an effort to invite more of the people here in Fresno to connect with their families and hear some of the blessings of the gospel such as eternal families in a non-threatening "come join our church!!!" sort of way. Because that's not what it's about. The church is here to help each individual receive support in their personal path to returning to God. There's a lot of structure to it, but that's the essential goal. And that's why I'm out here and so are 70,000 other young adults about my age, teaching the gospel and inviting others back to their God.
  With all of our teaching, Matilde was scheduled for baptism yesterday, and was baptized! The Spirit was felt so strongly at that baptism, confirming that these things are true paths to happiness. It was a good inspiration for all, and a personal reminder for me that I'm not wasting my time out here, but changing lives for the better. Next week Matilde will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and be confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 
   This week I've been studying the Book of Mark in the New Testment, and various passages from all over the Book of Mormon searching for the Character of Christ, and why the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. I learned, in a summary of about 20 pages of notes from Mark, that Christ-like character was most apparent in Christ's offering of forgiveness to all, despite constantly being accused of things He did not do, in the which had He been taken, He would have been given no forgiveness from the lawgivers of the time. Christ came that all might be entitled to "celestial justice," essentially, mercy before the laws of God if we sought to use Christ's Atoning sacrifice to receive such mercy. I know that's pretty complex, but I'm summarizing the best lesson of an entire book of the New Testament, so try your best to take something from that!
   I've discovered that the Book of Mormon brings immediate peace into people's lives. Investigators who have read the Book of Mormon since we last saw them always seem to have a brighter disposition and are more excited about life; they are finding more joy in living every day. So that's the invitation to everyone reading: If you read the Book of Mormon you can find peace and joy. It might sound a bit crazy, that a book can make such a change in someone's life, but if you give it a try you'll see for yourself. The talks "Look to the Book, Look to the Lord," and "There is Power in the Book" from this recent general conference session should shed some light on the topic for those that are interested in learning more.
   The miracles I've been seeing everyday have been those of having great hope for what I might accomplish for others, even amidst difficult and trying conditions for myself. The gospel can change our perspectives into a brighter, happier view of life!

--Elder Schaff  

Missionaries serving at the Red Cross, Elder Schaff is in a blue shirt, 6th from right

Eating with the Sister missionaries at In n Out Burger

Companionship Sweaters

I think a member helped these two purchase complementary sweaters

One of Elder Schaff's long sleeve white shirts was damaged in a dryer

No worries, he has plenty more, or he could wear it under the sweater!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Week 13 - Pictures and Peppers

  Missionary Monday's are great, it's the one day each week that we hear from our son. It's probably a good thing that I teach back to back piano lessons on Monday afternoons though, as it keeps me from checking my email every five minutes! Then, when I finish up, there is usually an email or two or three from Elder Schaff. Today there were not only several messages, but a plethora of photos!! Let's see what we can share on the blog.

"I have an hour and 20 left on the clock and will now start writing the family+blog so that you guys can hear what I've got to say and I can bring the blog some salvation with some content!!!

From his email to his sister M-
"In my area right now, we travel about 40-80 miles per day, and remember, we sit down and teach for like 4 hours or more each day... I've missed you and playing board games, or just games in general! Start playing that guitar, there is an Elder here who is really good and I think with some practice that would be something really awesome for you!  We're teaching some little girls that are 8 and 10 years old. They are struggling to read the scriptures, and it made me think of how blessed you are to be able to read the scriptures, play board games, and learn super fast! Keep studying the scriptures M!!! Keep having fun and keep working hard to learn; you're so smart, and you'll be able to learn a lot of awesome things if you want to! I love you so much and know we'll have some awesome times when I'm back! Love you!

From his email to his sister S-
"Hiya! How's the music going? ...Has school kept you busy or do you have time to do whatever whenever? The mission is so busy I get excited over 30 minutes of free time.  This week the district decided to read the talk, "The Blessings of Worship" by Dean M. Davies (pg 93, Ensign, Nov 2016). It is excellent and I want you to read it. It talks about what it means to truly worship, and I felt that it would help the meetings back home be more important. I remember feeling like I was just fighting my way to lunch some days!... I love you very much and hope you're doing good things! Keep on living your life with all you've got! 

And then a request for mom and dad-
"I almost forgot!!! ALL types of Christmas music are allowed from now until December 31st

The high demand is Pentatonix Christmas and Train Christmas amongst missionaries. Our cars can play music from USB, so maybe you and Dad could get me a bunch of Christmas music and send a USB! If you could, that would be wonderful!!!!"

Finally, he typed an email for the blog-

Alright, jumping right into an update of what's going on with those we teach.

(I) = investigator (LA) = Less active (RC) = Recent Convert (PM) = Part member family

  "M" is our most progressing investigator. She has received all the lessons and is being baptized this weekend! She really loves the peace and joy that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into her life. We are focusing on the Book of Mormon while we prepare for her baptism.
  "G" is 60 years old and has been put in charge of watching all of her daughter's children, while her daughter works. We manage to get in lessons, but then she has to return to the kids. She has liked most of the principles that have been taught, and just fought through giving up coffee, but she did it! 
 "A" joined the church last year. He is working on building his testimony, as other churches frequently fill him with doubts on doctrine. We provide the answers he is looking for every time, and they often aren't complex. He is realizing that he can find the answers himself, but it requires action!!!
 "A" is the sister of "L," who joined the church 5 years ago. Work on Sunday stopped her from coming to church. "A" hasn't been very interested until about a week ago, when her child had 145 blood pressure and the regular is 95. The blood pressure resolved itself back to 95, and "A" believed it to be a miracle from God. Now she has a great desire to learn, but working on Sunday is also a problem for her. She wants to come, but it seems that the whole "missing Sunday for religious purposes" is a delicate issue in the work world. Time will tell!"
  "R" is less-active, and after his wife died, he returned to smoking. He is working hard to change, but the addictive power of cigarettes keeps conquering him. We work with him to realize his ability and potential.
  "Family G" is a part member, less active family. Their two daughters aren't baptized and we are teaching them; they are thinking about it. The parents are re-discovering the blessings of the gospel, and it has been a good experience for everyone!"
  "L" and "C" are sisters. They've been coming to church recently and are doing well. They are close to re-activation! "L" is pressed for money, and can't expand her thoughts beyond maintaining an income at this time. We teach about how the gospel brings relief in all aspects of life, but she has not yet taken us up on that promise!"
  "Family D" has also recently been coming to church and is now working on scripture study as a family.
  "Fam C" is on and off to church, due to certain conditions, but they have strong testimonies and we imagine they'll be back soon!
   Those are the main people we visit. We have others occasionally, but this is the basis of who we work with each day!"

Alright so this week: We had the opportunity to spend time with 2 other Elders, Elders Collins and Matienzo. They were going to be the new trainers for the new missionaries that just came in last transfer, and we had 2 days with them before they did that. So, we went on splits with each for a day (I was with Elder Collins one day, and Elder Matienzo the next) They both were great examples, and taught me that I can improve by continuing in humility and patience, and working on reaching out to random people more. (I'm not a fan of street approaches, but I was informed I do well, when I shrug off my fear of talking to a random person about the gospel)
Elders Collins, Matienzo, and Schaff
  On Thursday we offered service to Familia "C", and I was invited to try a Thai Chile. I had heard they were spicy, but went for it... and surprisingly, it didn't cause me to "enchilar" or that is to say, "to succumb to spice." It actually wasn't that hot (Relatively, I have a high tolerance!!!) Nobody else would try it, so I don't have a comparison for a "normal person" and how it affects them.
  I was then graced to receive 3 Habaneros from a member, as my fame of consuming "chile" has spread. I ate the first one, and definitely felt the spice, but kept a totally straight face. After waiting about 2 minutes, we decided it wasn't going to burn me. So, I was then invited to eat the other two. And I did, one after another. Well, about 20 seconds after that.... me enchilĂ©. (I succumbed) I started running around to not feel the pain as bad. After 2 minutes of that, I recovered. So, the lesson is, that if you eat hot peppers, just go for one. There is glory, but also pain in 3.... But I survived, so I guess my sights are now on a Red Savina Habanero, and after that, a Ghost Pepper... We'll see what happens.
Straight faced, going for the third Habanero pepper

Feeling the heat!

  Here's the current pepper count:  Serranos: 20 Thai Chiles: 10 Orange Habaneros: 3
  So yeah, that was the week. I meant to add an example of the daily schedule, but we'll do that next week so we can get the photos!!!"

--Elder Schaff

I will have to add some more of the photos that he sent in the coming days, too tired for any more technology issues today!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Week 12- Seventeen Serranos and Counting

  Last week, I mailed Elder Schaff a small photo album with 48 photos of our family, the dog, our house, and places unique to our area, like Niagara Falls, the Bills stadium, Hill Cumorah Pageant, the church sites in Palmyra, etc. He had requested that I also send a photo of some our board games, and also a picture of the inside of a game box, that shows how we let people sign the box if they win, with their name, date and point total. I guess he has to introduce himself to a lot of people, and this is something unique that he likes to share. Fortunately, the album arrived, and he now has more than enough photos to help in awkward conversations. These are some of the photos I included.

We live in a grogeious part of Western New York, close to Niagara Falls, and many other beautiful areas.
Charlie didn't want to send H this tie!

A Buffalo Bills game in fall 2015
The inside of our 7 Wonders game box.
One of our family favorites-7 Wonders

  This is what he was able to type before running out of time this week, the first few lines are the questions that I had asked him to respond to.

If you can, tell us about-
The ward and boundaries you cover
Weather in Fresno
Where you shop
Are you being fed by members? Or cooking a lot?
What do they feed you? Hispanic dishes?
Best meal so far, worst?

"Mom, I copied and pasted your questions, in order to respond. We got a call from the assistants saying that we had to house some Elders for 2 days, so I am unfortunately, short on time again, really sorry!!!

  The ward I'm in is Echo. To my knowledge, we are in the actual city of Fresno, and cover all of Fresno right now, up to the other boundaries like Clovis, Madera, etc. (These are surrounding cities) This is because Fresno is a free-for-all for Spanish missionaries, so anyone Spanish speaking in the area, can be ours to teach. (Note- there are also English and Hmong speaking missionaries in the California Fresno mission)
  Weather right now is hanging in the 70s to 80s. It has rained a total of 3 times so far, in the 6 weeks I have been here.
  We shop at Wal-mart, but there is a Mexican store called Ollaxacata, or something, that we are eyeing, if we have a little time to explore one of these days!
  We get fed by members every day, every single day without fail. So, we've only had to cook lunches at times. Not cooking much.They give us tacos and homemade tortillas most commonly. The best I've had so far is rolled tacos, pan fried, and topped with Mexican cheese, cream, and a spicy salsa. All are hispanic dishes, but I haven't had a bad meal yet. 
  Serrano peppers: I eat them for "challenges." The other Elders/Sisters cry, when they try to eat the whole pepper, like I do, but I seem to be unaffected. I've eaten 17 so far, and my fame is spreading all about Echo. Looking for a Thai chili or Habanero now.
  Can you look up the Schovilles (this is a heat index for peppers) of a Serrano for me? Thanks much!

  Question: Did I end up with a pedigree chart? If so, where is that?

  I found a running scripture in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 9:24. "Know he not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain." After deeply pondering it, I decided it did have a profound meaning, I'll give that next time. (5 minutes left I've been informed)

Mom: Thanks for all the support and comments on the everyday life, I'm glad to hear what's going on! Next week I will include more of the lesson of Elder Van Vleet, the plants President Clark gave us, and an example of the daily missionary schedule, and hopefully photos! I'll just start next week right away to avoid timing out!

Dad: Ensure home teaching happens in the ward if you can boost it, in anyway, especially for less active families. It's blessed some lives here. Read Mosiah, chapters 1-6, emphasis on 5, the character of Christ and the importance of His name on us.

Maura: What are your favorite things to do right now? Study the Holy Ghost in the BD (Bible Dictionary) with Mom and Dad. Do you know when you feel the spirit? Keep doing good things!

I already wrote to Sydney on her email address.

This week "A", our investigator that hasn't done much yet, came to church! "M" is solid for her baptism at the end of the month. More next week....sorry that I keep timing out!"

--Elder Schaff