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