Monday, February 29, 2016

Sweetened and Condensed...Like Milk - Elder Joshua Avery

Written by Elder Joshua Avery, serving in the Singapore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Dear Family and Friends,
Elder Joshua Avery - Singapore Mission

This week I have increased my faith by spending a greater focus on repentance. We all try and pray and ask for blessings we need, but I feel like sometimes we don't take the time to acknowledge all of our sins and sincerely ask for forgiveness. However, on my mission I have learned that is only a small part of faithfully repenting. It also requires, first, fully believing that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ you are clean and worthy. And second, believing that God has the power to enable you to resist similar temptations in the future, and to help you to lose the desire to commit that sin. Satan tells us that we will never change and we don't have what it takes. To some extent that's true, but with Jesus Christ we have the power to do ANYTHING we work toward and we believe we can do.

This past week Elder Pierce came to my area for an exchange. He is an awesome elder! It is hard not to get pumped about missionary work when you are around him. When he was inspecting my area book, he opened to the potential investigators section which was filled to the max with pi sheets. Some of them were as old as 2014! He took it easy on me because I have only been here 2 weeks :) Nonetheless, other than the one lesson we taught after lunch, we spent the whole day calling potential investigators. We called hundreds of people! But I think we found some gold in there. It taught me a good lesson. Sometimes we pray to go out and find new families when there are some just sitting in our area book, and all we have to do is call.

One of the guys we called is named Pe**. He spoke Chinese. When Elder Schwemmer and I taught him, Elder Schwemmer only needed me to help him with one or two words the whole lesson. It was awesome! His Chinese is better than mine was this far out! He was also able to talk to two people from China on the bus without my help. Now I just need him to think his Chinese is as good as it is (he can be a little hard on himself sometimes).

This past week we had a member at every lesson but one of them. The members here are willing to help, and we just need to do our part of asking them. On Saturday we had 4 lessons lined up, one after the other, and by Friday night we still did not know which members could come to the lessons the following day. We sent a massive text to all of the members letting them all know the lessons and the times, and asked them to reply if they could help with one of them. We had members calling us shortly after and were able to have members at every lesson! There is always a way to get members to a lesson. We were also able to take a member home teaching yesterday. One of the lady's we met has been off the radar for a while so I think it was a big deal we were able to get an appointment with her and help her to see that she is being taken care of by the branch.

Elder Schwemmer found a friend!

Love you all!
Elder Avery

My Week Nutshellafied (February 22, 2016)

Working Hard in Malaysia  (March 7, 2016)

Just taking a little break from walking
You can see a bit of the apartment in this one

Trying to get Elder Schwemmer to eat his fish eyeballs.....

There it is....just looking at you....
...and then it's the only thing left on your plate....

...and you JUST...CAN'T....DO.....IT!

This is for Mom. You know how you always got mad at me for saying "Pop a Squat?" Well, here in Malaysia, it's a real thing :)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Meet Elder Jared Avery

Elder Jared Avery was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and is the 4th of 7 children born to Doug and Shannon Avery. His older siblings - Hannah, Jake, and Joshua - also served missions, and their experiences can also be found on this blog.

After spending his childhood in Maryland, Jared moved with his family to Utah in 2008. He attended Herriman High School, where he played on the football and rugby teams, and was also on the cheer team for one year. Jared is also a great student, receiving several college scholarship offers for after his mission.

Germany Frankfurt Mission
Provo Missionary Training Center
Reporting July 6, 2016
Speaking German

Reporting to the Provo MTC  (July 6, 2016)

Meet Elder Brigham Rush

Elder Brigham Rush is from South Jordan, Utah, and attended Herriman High School where he played varsity football (running back) and rugby (wing), winning State Championships in both sports his senior year. Brig is a great student and devoted friend who makes time for the important things in life. You won't find a more kind person anywhere.

Nicaragua Managua North Mission
Provo Missionary Training Center
Reporting June 22, 2016
Speaking Spanish

First Week in the Provo MTC  (June 26, 2016)

Monday, February 22, 2016

My Week Nutshellafied - Elder Joshua Avery

Written by Elder Joshua Avery, serving in the Singapore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Elder Joshua Avery - Singapore Mission
Dear Family and Friends,

I am so excited for this transfer and for the experiences ahead of me here in Kuala Lumpur. This is definitely a big change from having only 2 main roads out in Sitiawan, to many streets and highways and buses that we have to take everywhere. Rather than me being able to bike through the city in 15-20 minutes, I have to walk 15-20 minutes to the bus stop and from there it takes an obnoxiously long time to travel  a very short distance. Transportation will definitely be an obstacle, but God will not give us a task that is impossible to do. I have full faith we will still manage to meet with many members and investigators a day. For now we need to get some solid progressing investigators in our teaching pool.

I feel that I have had an increase of faith as I have been studying  the relationship between Diligence and Charity in Preach My Gospel, Chapter 6. I was discussing it with my district leader, Elder Wade, and he made a great comment. He said "diligence is to charity as faith is to hope." I think it couldn't be said better. Typically where one is, so is the other. When we love those we serve and love God, we will want to work hard, and we will not find selfless service a burden.  When we are diligent and serve with our might and strength we will grow to love the Lord and those we serve until we serve with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. We are in a constant inner battle with ourselves and the fallen man within us all. Righteous work is the remedy. There will be no room for thoughts or works of darkness if we are always anxiously engaged in a good cause.

We had an awesome lesson with the investigator we found last week named Mo**. He is so amazing and just truly loves God. This past meeting was our second time meeting with him. The lesson started out rough. He expressed some doubts about the Restoration of the Gospel. He also said that he was confused why God would give us the Book of Mormon if we already have the Bible. We explained how they support one another. The Book of Mormon clarifies things that are not clear in the Bible. At that point things were not going so well. Slightly impatiently he said, "Well, would you please answer my question about what happens to an African boy in a remote village who never hears about Jesus Christ?" We took out a piece of paper and explained that through the Restoration and the prophet Joseph Smith we have this answer. We then drew out The Plan of Salvation for him and explained it very simply. By the end he was in amazement. He absolutely loved it. He said, "I am confused, but in a very good way. I have to study and pray about The Book of Mormon." In reference to the plan of salvation he also said, "This is the Jesus Christ I know. This is the love of Jesus Christ." I know that if he continues to follow the love of Christ (which I believe is how he recognizes the Spirit), he will come to know for himself that the Book of Mormon is true. The opportunity is there for anyone who is humble enough to seek, to find.

Earlier this week we had set an appointment to visit an elderly sister in the branch who lives by herself and who's home teachers never visit her. We called one of her home teachers who is preparing to serve a mission to come help home teach with us. He accepted the invitation and we told him that we would meet him at the church and take the bus with him so that he could find the place. He ended up coming very late (fortunately the church is by a "shop lots" so we found plenty of people to talk to in the meanwhile). Because our member came so late we were unable to go visit the elderly lady we wanted to. Fortunately I had taken a picture of the home teaching list, so we were able to take that member to go teach the nearest family that he has been assigned to home teach. We also visited a sister whose two sons were baptized about 1 year ago and are going a little wayward. When we went to visit them she had a friend there who we were able to teach about the Restoration. We passed that friend to the Cheras elders and they say he is doing well and will progress.

I know the members are so key and all they need a little training on how to help missionaries, because they have not been used and haven't had good examples in the past. I feel that things will get rolling within the next couple weeks.

Love you,
Elder Avery

Back in Kuala Lumpur (February 14, 2016)

Sweetened and Condensed...Like Milk  (February 29, 2016)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Back in Kuala Lumpur - Elder Joshua Avery

Written by Elder Joshua Avery, serving in the Singapore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaking Mandarin Chinese.

Elders Schwemmer and Avery
Dear Family and Friends,

This week was awesome. Elder Schwemmer is awesome, the branch members are awesome, and the elders I live with are awesome too! Life is awesome! Yesterday during Sacrament meeting I was pondering the symbolism of the ordinance of the Sacrament. As the bread was being broken I thought about how, just like the bread, a piece of Christ was broken for each of us. That piece is offered by Him, but it is up to us to willingly partake of it. Many people we meet don't know that a piece of Christ was broken for them and that through His atonement they can find relief and lasting peace. I love the symbolism of eating. We are to take Christ into us. Just as the old saying goes, "you are what you eat." I pray that I can partake of His atoning sacrifice more fully that I may be filled with His Spirit more constantly.

On the way back from visiting a member this week we met a 60 year old Indian man. We taught him for the first time yesterday with an Indian member from the branch here. The lesson was amazing. Not because of how we taught, but because he was so prepared. I'm not sure if I have found anyone who has been as prepared as him before. He truly loves Jesus Christ and does his best to follow him. During our lesson he asked questions that he has been having such as, "my friends say after baptism I am saved and I don't need to worry about obedience, but I don't believe that. What do you think?" or "What happens to people in a poor African village who have never had a chance to learn about Jesus Christ?" He shared so many amazing things with us. When we asked him why he decided to meet with us he said, "When you talked to me I could feel that you two were sincere and really had something to share with me." He is a bit of a talker so Elder Schwemmer and I ended up teaching a 5 minute powerful Restoration lesson. He accepted a baptismal invitation when he knows it is true. In the closing prayer all he offered was feelings of gratitude. He said, "God, thank you for sending these two messengers to me. I truly do feel that they are your messengers." It was a humbling experience to get to teach with such a sincere follower of Jesus Christ. Before the end of the lesson he asked us for a return appointment before we even asked him if we could come back. It is such a privilege to get to meet people like him, who are sincere seekers of truth.

The members in this branch are amazing, but I think previously the missionaries were not working as effectively as they could with them. Why have such amazing members and such a well functioning branch council if we aren't gonna use it? Elder Schwemmer and I have set a goal to visit at least one member everyday. We will definitely find the most solid investigators through the members and we will definitely have plenty of people to find through our own efforts as we travel to visit them. I feel there really shouldn't be any excuse for not being able to have member present lessons here. They are all so willing to come!

Elder Schwemmer helping get my stuff moved in - such a stud!
 A mother in the branch here has two sons that are slightly less-active that need some TLC. Yesterday after Sacrament someone from the branch presidency said that they were starting a Mandarin Gospel Principles class for that lady and her sons, and another member and his non-member son, and they asked Elder Schwemmer and I to teach. Frankly, I was fairly intimidated by the task, but as we taught I felt that I was able to speak with a free-ness that I have not had before. After the class the lady with the two sons told us that she had not met her home teachers for a long, long time. We set up an appointment for us to visit them and then went to hunt down the home teachers...turns out she has not been assigned any! We informed the Elders Quorum President and he is on top of it now. The member who brought the non-member son to gospel principles class offered to take us to visit that lady. There is definitely a lot of member work that can be done if we look for it. We also had a member invite one of our investigators and us to dinner without us elders having to do a thing. It was so cool!

Thanks for everything! Love you!

Elder Avery

Find Those That Will Receive You (February 7, 2016)

My Week Nutshellafied  (February 22, 2016)

These are some of my awesome investigators that I had to leave behind with Elder Brown in Sitiawan. They are so awesome!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Find Those That Will Receive You - Elder Joshua Avery

Elders Avery and Schwemmer
Written by Elder Joshua Avery, serving in the Singapore Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, speaking Mandarin Chinese.  

Dear Family and Friends,

We got transfer news. It made me sad to hear that I would be leaving Sitiawan, but I am excited for the opportunity to serve in Kuala Lumpur again. I will enjoy the air conditioning and not biking everywhere, for sure. Especially since the bike Elder Hanks gave me broke and the spare I had got ruined when I was hit by a car...actually I wasn't hit, because I heard the guy out of control and moved out of the way. But the bike is ruined.

My new companion will be Elder Schwemmer, and we get along great. I've spent a lot of time with him in the same district and his grandparents live in my home neighborhood, so that's really cool! His granddad died the first day Elder Schwemmer was here in Malaysia, and I think it's cool that I knew him and can talk with Elder Schwemmer about him. He was a really cool old guy!

This week I have been studying the characters of the Book of Mormon. I spent most of the week reading about Aaron, the son of Mosiah. In Alma Chapter 21 Aaron is called to go preach the gospel to to the people of Jerusalem (for those not familiar, this is not the Jerusalem in the Middle East, but a city in the new world that they named the same thing) which consisted of Amalakites and Amulonites (apostate Nephites) and Lamanites. The Amalakites were after the order of Nehor, which justifies priestcrafts and holds the idea that because Jesus paid for our sins we're all therefore saved with no effort on our part. After boldly testifying of the Atonement and the need for repentance, Aaron is rejected and teaches in other cities without much success and is then imprisoned. We all know that later he is freed and plays an essential role in the conversion of Lamoni's father, the king of the Lamanites, but I found something in Alma 25 that I had not noticed before. In verse 6 it says that after trials and afflictions those Lamanites that had rejected Aaron previously remembered his words and were converted in the wilderness. That group of Lamanites is persecuted by the Amulonites, so the Lamanites drive the Amulonites out of their land. As missionaries we don't always see the effect of what we do, and at times we feel that rejection means we were not successful. The story of Aaron teaches us that our words go far beyond the initial contact. We need not let rejection judge our success or ruin our attitude.

We saw many miracles this week. The one I would like to share emphasizes the principle of talking to everyone, even Muslims. Elder Brown and I were biking in a neighborhood to meet with a potential investigator. We were unable to find her house. While in her neighborhood we talked to a lady outside her house. She waved her hands and said she was Muslim, we stayed anyway so that we could try and maybe get a referral. She invited us into her home and we felt impressed to accept the invitation, even though it seemed really odd to go into a home where we could not preach the gospel.

We talked to her and her husband and they gave us some drinks. We explained that we were here as missionaries and were looking for non-Muslim friends to teach (it is against the law to teach Muslims in Malaysia). The lady walked out of the house and ended up pulling in one of her Chinese friends who we were able to share the gospel message with in Chinese. Sadly, that friend was a staunch Buddhist and not interested at all. We asked the Muslim lady who else she knew, so she took us to an Indian family across the street. Sadly, that Indian family also said no. We asked her again who she knew and she took us to a Christian family living kitty-corner from her. Not surprising, the Christian man was the most rude of all our rejectors (funny how that works...).

We elders were beginning to wonder if we had wasted our time, but I remembered it felt like the right thing to talk to the Muslim lady. We began to cycle away when the Muslim lady came up on a moto next to us and said, "follow me!" We followed her and she led us to a Christian Iban family. We were able to teach a short lesson to them and then come back to teach them again yesterday! This week I learned that "find those that will receive you" applies to our Muslim friends too.

We have one progressing investigator named Ms. G**. She is a long lost friend of one of the members that we found in a really miraculous way a couple weeks ago. She came to church and the member who's friend it was bore his testimony of the gospel and told everyone how we were able to find her and teach her and that he knew it was arranged by God. It was so cool. I also learned that bringing members to lessons that end up falling through is okay!

We had a member share yesterday about how he came to teach a lesson with us and 5 minutes in the investigator just got up and left, haha! Then a different time he came out with us and, after seeing us get rejected and threatened to have the police called on us, it made him want to be more involved.

Branch Council went well. It is nice to have more investigators that we can actually talk about in Branch Council. Working with members is definitely the better way to do things.

Thanks for everything! Love you!

Elder Joshua Avery

Parable of Lehi's Family (January 31, 2016)

Back in Kuala Lumpur  (February 14, 2016)