Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 4, 2013

Elder Beck and Elder Tolman have had a great week! They have three brand-new families they are teaching, and they were ecstatic to have eight investigators at church last Sunday! They are teaching a family with three children who are planning to be baptized soon, which is a rare phenomenon in this mission. Much of the work involves working with inactive members, and it takes a long time, if ever, for the missionaries to see the fruits of their labors. Brae has always been one who has had big things to show for his accomplishments--awards, scholarships, accolades, etc. The challenge on the reservation is that there really aren't any physical signs of success. He says that in a lot of places, baptisms would be a sign of success, but here it is just not like that! He says, "That's why we have to just plant the seed. And in the next life, we'll see how each lesson, spiritual experience, or smile we shared affected someone. Missionary work is hard! But it's also the most important thing in the world. Again, that's why I have to trust in the Lord in everything I do."

Elder Beck has been experiencing a little bit of homesickness recently, and so all of your letters are very much appreciated, as well as packages and treats! He says he misses his music, friends, and just lifestyle in general, in that order. I am sure he meant to say that he misses his mom first, but somehow he didn't mention that! He is really excited for his best friend, Aaron Price, to get his mission call. (Argentina, apparently, but Briana called dibs on telling him in tomorrow's email!) He did say that he is trusting in the Lord, and that he knows that this experience is going to help him for the rest of his life.

They had Zone Training last week, which was very uplifting and inspiring for Brae and his companion. They were excited because the zone leaders took them aside and praised them for being the best examples in their zone, despite being the youngest companionship. (Both of them graduated from high school in 2012, and Elder Tolman has only been out a few months longer than Brae.) The zone leaders pointed out that many good leaders lead from behind, and they recognized that Elders Beck and Tolman are attentive and diligent in striving to become better missionaries. Brae said, "It was just nice to have them notice and appreciate our efforts."

I was really dreading having to break the news to him about Melody's death because she has been such a HUGE part of our family. This was his comment:
"I'm sad to hear that the Big White Beast has departed this life, but I know that now she is eating endless amounts of butter, pizzas, tractor seats, and more. It makes me think of how things really are going to be different when I get back. But I know that I am where I am supposed to be, and now I have a guardian watchdog angel."

I went on a vacation to the Cayman Islands a couple of weeks ago with my brother, Shane, and his family. We visited the town "Hell" while we were there, because often does one literally get to go to "Hell"? We sent Brae a postcard from there, and he said, "You should have seen Elder Tolman's face when I got your postcard....Haha! Priceless!" He also said that the missionaries in his district were going to visit Monument Valley on p-day last week, and they were all excited about that. He said that he is getting to the point that he needs a haircut, and is dreading that day. Why? In his own words, "Cutting my own hair will be an interesting experience!" Oh dear! I will add that to the list of things I should have taught him before he left! At least I know that he will really appreciate my great haircuts when he gets home! :)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Elder Beck! Brae turned nineteen on February 19! His greeting to us on February 25 began with, "Aye, aye, aye", another Brae-ism. He appreciated all of the birthday wishes from family and friends, and particularly the packages from home, Grandma Jo, and Emily Baldwin. (Btw...I love you, Emily! You are such an awesome friend!) He was ecstatic to have received his violin! And as a bonafide Suzuki mom for the last fifteen years, I am thrilled that President Batt has allowed him to have his violin on his mission. It will be interesting to note how he will use his music to invite the spirit into the lives of those he teaches. I personally could not imagine Brae sharing the gospel without using music, because it is such an integral part of who he is. 

Brae said that things have been good in Cameron, but that it has been REALLY windy. Considering how much the wind blows here, that must be pretty intense wind! He says that it is so dusty that keeping his suits clean is a near impossibility. He asked his mom lots of laundry questions because he doesn't particularly want to wear red-dirt-colored pants for the rest of his mission! They are doing a lot of service chopping and delivering wood, herding sheep, and tilling gardens.

Elder Beck wrote, "The other day, we were helping a lady herd her sheep. I saw one in the distance that got left behind, and part of me just thought, 'Oh, it sees the others. It will eventually work its way over to the rest.' But then I thought about how Jesus went out after the lost sheep and I figured we couldn't just leave it! So Elder Tolman went back and found that it had just given birth to a baby lamb! If we hadn't gone back the lamb probably would have died, because it was FREEZING that day. What do you know? A real life parable!" As a mom, I have thought a lot about that parable. How often, by going after the lost sheep and saving one soul, do we rescue a child, or a family? Definitely food for thought. 

I quote Brae again, "It is very frustrating when people don't want to hear our message or do their part to improve their lives. Sometimes I just want to shake people and say, 'DO YOU WANT TO LIVE FOR ETERNITY IN MISERY???!!!' He told about teaching a man whose family has all been baptized, but who has not because he will not give up tobacco. Brae is getting a glimpse of how Heavenly Father might feel at times in giving us agency. He said that they have watched the old family home evening video "The Touch of the Master's Hand" multiple times with people. He said, "I forgot how much I love that video--how all of us are like battered old violins, but the Master can see our great worth underneath, and He can make us perfect again. It's such a great video!"

He was excited to have a few more people at church this week, and said it motivated them to keep working. One of the problems they have is that people hold grudges and don't let go of their grievances. If they don't like someone who goes to church, then they will not go themselves. Interestingly, the Navajo language does not have words for "forgive" or "sorry". It blew Brae's mind when he learned that fact, but it also gave him a deeper understanding of why it is in their culture to condemn people for life and never forgive or let go. Brae said, "No wonder the Navajo translation of the Book of Mormon is only certain exerpts! It is so sad to me. At least I know that there is forgiveness for all through the Atonement if we just use it in our lives."

And the Navajo tradition of the week is: All of the doors, probably 90% there, open to the east because they pray to the East in their culture. Interesting stuff. "Keep praying for me! I need as much help as I can get!" 
February 18, 2013

Elder Beck greeted his family with, "Hola". He said that everything is going well so far! People there are SUPER into talking about "spiritual"/other-side-of-the-veil type things. The members are really into dreams and experiences where people died and came back with memories from the spirit world. The branch president gave a talk about how little children can see through the veil a lot of the time. Brae said, "Interesting...haha!" 

He went on an exchange with Elder Hunsaker from Wellsville, Utah, who only has four months left. They were in Tuba City where they shop and have their district meetings. He said that it is still not very big and the grocery stuff is way over-priced. In Tuba City, he met a Hopi guy who is a recovering meth addict who is studying to be an addictions counselor. His reason for meeting with the missionaries was to learn how he could help Mormon people. He claimed to be an atheist. But he told the missionaries that he is always able to open books, point his finger, and find exactly what he needs in the book. He did it while Brae and his companion were there! He opened the Book of Mormon and pointed, and it was this chapter in Alma that totally answered all of his questions. Brae said, "The Spirit is right in front of his face and he doesn't see it!"  (That sounds like Divine Guidance to me...just saying...) Their meeting with him went so well that he finally invited the missionaries to his home. He also agreed to learn about Jesus Christ, which he had refused to do up to that point. Brae said, "I suspect that in his studying the gospel to help others, he's really going to help himself more than he knows!"

Brae feels strongly that he has come into contact with some families there that he is meant to be in Cameron to help. The few active members are really great, but they actually work every day, so it is hard to get very many appointments with members present! He is blown away by the humble circumstances in which they live. Many families live in single wide trailers with more than ten people. They don't have running water, propane, or electricity. Many houses have two Rubbermaid containers for a sink and a camp stove on a table in the kitchen, if they even have a kitchen. Hooghans are even smaller because the whole house is one room. Most people have outhouses. He says the food is really good, particularly frybread. 

I am quoting Elder Beck for this next part, because it is so Brae! He said, "Apparently there are TARANTULAS and SCORPIONS here during the summer, and I about fainted when they told me!!! Pray that they will stay away from me! I decided that I might have exaggerated a BIT about nights here. I think I'm just psyched out because it is SO dark! Although the stars are the most beautiful sight I've ever seen here! When times are the darkest, it is easy to let the darkness overtake you, but those times are also when you can see the billions of small rays of light in your life that were previously hidden. You can quote me on that. (Pretty General Authority status, right?") It is definitely not easy here. We've been having a hard time finding new people to teach. We've started tracting, which is about the scariest thing I've ever done! People have yelled and argued with us, and some houses are just scary as heck to even approach! Saturday, we had this awesome experience where we were searching for the house of someone who had been referred to us, and we knew roughly where it was. (Nobody has addresses here, which is a pain.) We thought it might be this one house, but then we decided it wasn't, so we just drove by. Then both of us felt prompted to go back, so we did. We knocked on the door, and although we didn't find our referral, we were invited in by a nice lady and her two kids. Her husband and another daughter were not there. They told us how they had met with the missionaries where they used to live, and they loved it. None of their family has been baptized."

When they told Brae and Elder Tolman of their many struggles, Brae told them that their paths were meant to cross that day. He shared Joshua 1:9 with them. "Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." He said that it was AWESOME for them and that he could write a book about the whole experience, "Elder Tolman and I just sat in awe at how the spirit led us there and prepared them. We sat in the pickup at their house afterwards, just thanking Heavenly Father!" 

And as the missionary mom, I must add my own witness that Heavenly Father is mindful of us. He knows each one of us by name, and he truly is with us. I think he will even keep the tarantulas and scorpions away if we pray hard enough! <3