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