Monday, January 27, 2014

Not confounded before men. Or Will Smith.

My name is Elder Vance. I've come to make a stance. No 'If's', 'But's' or perchance, Georgia I will enhance. You see at just a glance, the Elder with the pants, says, 'Yes!' but never 'I Can't', not afraid to dance the dance.

Anyway! That was taken partly from an old presidential speech my dad used when running for school office in his younger years and that I used while running in middle school as well. :) Catchy, no?

So God promises that if we as missionaries keep ourselves prepared and obedient always 'treasuring up the words of life' we will not be confounded before men bu will be given that portion which shall be meted unto every man in he very moment of need. Wow, sounds intense! It's something we hear an talk about a lot out here. Last night Elder Thomas and I were able to have an experience where the Lord kept that promise. We met up last night with a man named Will Smith, 'same name as the movie star but not the same bank account' is what he told us. He and his wife are very much into religion and the Bible and were willing to have us come over and give a little more of our message. 

We basically went back and forth as he would read a Bible verse and then ask us a question as to why we still believed in the Book of Mormon or whatever else. Each time we did our best to respond sometimes with a verse of our own bu most of the time with a Restored doctrine and our testimonies. My heat was beating very fast as I get somewhat nervous when someone is trying to fight with us even a little. Our voices never were raised really, an we ended on a friendly note of prayer but with every reason they brought up even slightly pointing to us being false we withstood them in a dignified, bold-but-not-overbearing manner. No, I don't think they were 'convinced' of anything, but we were definitely sure to leave our testimonies and invite them to do the only thing that would allow them to know i this was all true, that is, read the Book of Mormon. 'I'll have to get back with you on that' is all he could respond with. Nice people though. :)

At the end of the day I am going to be thanking my Father in Heaven for, just as the long-since-passed Dr. Cleon Skousen put it, 'for being able to have all these scary experiences' as a missionary. They are pretty scary at times, no lies, but it's worth it. :) I hope everything is awesome an warming up were you are! It's a bit warmer here! Probably no for long :(

-Elder Vance (who say, 'Yes!' but never 'I Can't' .....well, most of the time)
Concentrating on chess

Leaving his mark

Ran into a family making dinner.  With their goat.  

Lock your heart Elder Vance

Thug life.

Former companion. 

Fist successful-ish homemade tortilla.

Turning into a chef!

A gift from his sister.  Read it and weep girls. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Que quieres de mi?

Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't notice you were standing there. What was that? You were waiting to read my email? Oh, I see.

So what would you like to hear today? Would you like to hear about how I hit my year mark in a couple of weeks? Do you want to hear me talk about how fast time flies or how much I've grown and have enjoyed my time as a missionary? Or perhaps you'd love to hear all about the Latino cuisine that I inhale every day or the ability to cook Hispanic meals that is growing in me. Did you come looking for stories of angels and the spirit of the Lord burning inside of the investigators we are teaching? Maybe you are looking for some Spiritual edibles and want me to share a few powerful scriptures I've learned a little more about this week so that you too may be filled. Ticking-time, tortillas, testifying and improvising. Morning workouts, companion exchanges, Scripture study and Glenn Beck conversion stories. With so many branches to this tree of daily experiences I don't know what to feed you! 

I think I'll just relax a bit and say that I'm not looking back. Close to a year has gone by and another year is left. It feels like I've been in another country out here. I might as well be, this is Georgia. :) And I am happy to be here. My new companion Elder Thomas and I are really trying to pull things together. We have been getting a lot of new investigators lately which is causing our teaching pool to leave it's shallow beginnings. but with all of these people with different backgrounds and needs one can easily get scatter brained and let them be swept under the rug. It's a good thing the Creator of the Universe is on our side with this. His planner can organize and retain a lot more information that ours. 

It really makes me happy to hear of experiences my fellow missionaries around the world are having. Honestly it makes be beam inside to hear that so many of my brethren are still my 'brethren in the Lord' (Alma 17:2). The only 'looking back' I'm doing now is to remember the faces that I love so much and then quickly look forward and hope for the day to see them again. Family, friends, investigators and all. 

It's still a bit chilly down here but we stay warm as we continue to get fed spicy, hot Mexican food! I really am learning to cook a bit more. I am working on successfully creating tortillas from scratch. On the honor my the Latin blood running through my veins, which is non existant, I will create an authentic Latin meal for my family upon my return! Of course as well as call them all to repentance from their lives of worldliness. :) Isn't that what return missionaries are for? Ah, I have time to figure it out. :)


Elder Vance

Elder Vance and his new companion Elder Thomas

So our top investigators right now are all english speakers. One black woman named Tiffany and a white couple with a small daughter. The white couple are so awesome. The husband has a harder time understanding things quicker so we are going at a slower pace but they are super sincere. The very first thing they asked us about was the Word of Wisdom, 'What's up with the no-coffee thing'. Cause her brother had actually just got baptized this past December. they are glad that we met them and they said that we are cool :) Yay for being cool!

I can't say a whole lot about other investigators because most of them we've only met with once. We got twelve new last week and twelve new the week before. Most from Mexico. We talked to a referral last night someone gave us and now have a super nice new investigator from El Salvador. I think he actually thought Spanish was my first language for a bit. He was like, "So do you study English here too?" haha, I was just like, 'Well, English is my first language...So Yes." Oh the gift of tongues, you!

We are 'winning over' this Catholic lady little by little. She is nice but came on very strongly as a 'well I can't talk to you I'm Catholic' kind of thing. Just the other day we got into her home for twenty minutes and I taught them about Temple Marriage and then said a prayer with her whole family. She has a sort of joking-ness about us. Like, before we came she was like, 'Well I have company right now and they are all Catholics. So if they hear that Mormons are coming they will all run away!' We also busted the myth about multiple wives right off the bat. We never go in a say how it used to happen, but depending on the depth of their question we usually just say, 'No, that's a rumor that's not true. I don't think I could handle more than one wife.' And then we laugh and become the good guys :)

No one super close to baptism yet but I will let you know how that goes. We just need to get people to churchhhhh!!!!!! :)))))

Elder Vance

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


The game of chess is a lot like life and the Gospel plan in a few different ways. There are rules and bounds set enabling us to be challenged and planning ahead, deep thought, and many times sacrifices are all required to triumf over your opponent, or in this case, life. 

My new companion, Elder Thomas, and I have been able to play a couple of games on this cool, glass chess set we found in the apartment, which has given me time to think about this. Why? I don't know, I guess trying to apply ordinary things to the Gospel is a skill most missinoaries seek. It makes for interesting lessons at times. :) But one way I have looked at it is that I am playing a game of chess with each of my investigators. I am trying to get them to the waters of Baptism and they, for this example, are trying to avoid it. Sometimes it seems like I can get a quick check, which is an almost checkmate,  but then they keep slipping out with tricky strategy of their own. Or maybe I think that I am going to definately checkmate them with this lesson, or that chruch activity, but it was only a check and they are once again gone. 

On the other hand many times the game goes on in favor of the investigator and in their minds they are far from being checkmated, or baptized, but then God steps in for us and makes our move and a possibility for winning is much closer! In a way that happned yesterday when we randomly ran into investigators that had been previously taught by my old copmanion. I remembered that they had declined from learning anymore of the church but I didn't mention it and instead set up a time to come back. They accepted! See, they thought they had us in check but now the way has opened for us to get a swift checkmate! 

Haha, well, that's quite the confusing way to talk of Missionary work but I think it's fun. I love my new companion and we are ready to get to work here in Athens. On the side of Latino culture I have gained a sweet new recipie for a Hondurian food that is super deliscious and I am going to take a whack at it. Flour, oil, and water? A few dollars. Ground beef? The same. Making a complete mess as I flatten my first homemade tortillas and deepfry my first Hondurian meal? Not quite pricelss but pretty close I'd say. :)

Love you all! Stay awesome and cling to the Iron rod! :D 

-Elder Vance

Monday, January 6, 2014

Transfers once again!

It seems that I've successfully brought to his grave another missionary. My great companion Elder Dudley is ending his mission and returning to the potato-covered land of Idaho. I've quite enjoyed my time with him, and I sure have had more than my fair share of time with him. It's a funny and great thing about mission life in that there comes a day when you have finally learned to live and work very well with your companion. Your contacts go smoothly, your lessons are concise, and you enjoy each other's conversations. Then transfers come, one or both of you gets booted out of the area, and you begin all over again with the process of acclimatization with a new companion. Sometimes that process takes longer wit some certain companions than with others. But the blessed truth about the matter is that it is all done under the all wise, ever watchful Eye of He who leads this work. We are with our companions for a reason and there are things that we can learn from each and every one of them. That has certainly happened with my good friend Elder Dudley. I'll miss ya buddy!

There you have it. My Gospel principle related portion of my email home. Now onto the exciting stuff, Whooooh! No, no, I kid, I kid. It's all exciting! :) But this week has been a fairly normal week. I would say that our lessons and contacts have been the best they've ever been with Elder Dudley and I. 

We were able to get in with and share the message of the Restoration with a nice, older black man named Orvil. You know, the guy who made that really good popcorn! Well I'm afraid he isn't related to the popcorn guy but he was one of the most humble and ready to accept the gospel people I have met. We didn't just talk at him but we talked with him and he shared his thoughts about how he felt disillusioned about certain aspects of the churches he grew up in and currently doesn't have a church. Bingo! That's the situation we are looking for! Not that we want people to be unhappy about their church, but that people begin to see the unsteady path of each church and the overall confusion around them and search for the unchangeable truth. It is too bad that he speaks English, though. Not because we can't be the ones to baptize him but because Spanish is just better. That's all. :)

Well I hope all is well wherever you are. Set goals and get to work completing them! Yes, you are now obligated to me. I'll be checking up on you next week.

Que los monos de los arboles les traigan bananas. 

Elder Vance

Seguimos adelante!

Letter from Dec 30, 2013

Merry New Year and Happy Kwanzaa! Hasn't 2013 just been a blast? I'm sure many of you can hardly believe that another year is rolling around already. (Spoiler alert: It does that every twelve months or so.) I hope all your Christmases were white and full of Joy! I want to thank everyone who sent me a Christmas card or a nice email! I loved every one of them! I wish I had the time to reply to all but sadly that is one thing as a missionary that you lack. Suffice it to say the candies were eaten, the socks are being worn, and the Holiday greetings were all taken to heart. :)

In many ways I'm bummed to say that it wasn't a completely 'white' Christmas here for my companion and I because we didn't get to have a December baptism. But one ability that every current and future missionary should quickly gain is the ability to not get discouraged and just move forward. Seguir adelante! Even though we didn't see anyone get baptized we still did meet many new people and share a small part of many different lives as we shared bits of the Restored Gospel with them. It really is sad when we see someone flat out reject the Restored Gospel. It's even more sad to hear that the ones I baptized in the first area of my mission might be inactive. But that's just part of being on the front lines of God's army. You get to see the successes and joys of people letting Christ in their hearts, but also you get to feel the sorrow God has when he sees His children fall into obscure and dark paths. :( But I'm a man so I don't cry! Nah, I'm just kidding, I'm a mushy-gushy marshmallow. No shame! But just like Adam and Eve i'm learning that with all the sorrow and trials I can now ever so more enjoy the sweet moments and the happiness. :) No efforts are wasted here.

In other news my companion and I have discussed it and we agree that we are converting to Catholicism. We already attended a Catholic Mass just last Saturday. It really was a beautiful building and a beautiful service. No, we aren't becoming Catholics but I do really enjoy the opportunity to actually go and see and get to experience how others practice their faith. Besides, we mostly do work with Catholics so we thought it fitting to actually see how they have church. Overall great experience :) 

Happy new year! (I would have said it in Spanish but without the Spanish 'N' with the squiggly on top for the word 'year' it kinda changes the meaning O.o)

Elder Vance