Monday, March 7, 2016

My heart is full.‏

March 7, 2016

"Well, I have a year and 2 months left to be in high school. I will just like to say i have meant some really great people at the school and at my church. I just hope that the Class of 2017 is ready to start a new life after High School. I wish it had never came to this but we have our future ahead of us. I would like to thank Fred for introducing the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to me. If I hadn't gotten baptised or even met everyone at the church then my life would still be screwed up. My past was amazing. But it was also the worst that I lived in, and i hope it won't come back and haunt me. When I graduate from high school i am hoping to serve a mission for the church and i hope Fred gets to join me. I hope my senior year will be the best." -Alberto

My heart is full of gratitude for what has transpired the past few days. My mission has nearly come to an end, but I could not have ended it any better. Alberto was baptized on March 5th at 7 pm. It was an amazing experience and perhaps the most rewarding baptism of my mission. As you can see from Alberto's Facebook post, he was ready and understood the sacred nature of baptism. Some people judged him harshly from the get go, but we never stopped working with him. I've seen him grow so much! He's waaaaaayyyyy happier than he was when I met him and now he has a secure, bright future ahead of him. I am grateful to the Lord for blessing me with this wonderful opportunity. I'm grateful for the friendships I've made with Fred and Alberto, and I hope to cherish them for the rest of my life. Through this experience, I've been able to witness firsthand how the Gospel of Jesus Christ works in people's lives. It changes them from the inside-out and fills the void they never knew was there. I look forward to the day when I'll be able to write Alberto on his mission and see him get married in the temple one day. And I have full confidence that many will follow after him.

This week was just amazing. It was my last full week in the mission and we KILLED it. We taught many great lessons and I was able to leave a lot of great final words before heading out. I may not fully realize the impact that I've had here in Dunn, but I know that by me just being here, lives have been blessed, including my own. I hope to be able to return to this area soon after my departure to visit these people again. I've made more friends on my mission than I have my whole life, which I find incredible. And these aren't just acquaintances either. I mean, I really have loved the people of North Carolina in each one of my areas. It will be overwhelming to come back here after my mission and attempt to visit each one of them. And thank goodness for Facebook, right?

In other news, we also ate with our friend Pedro again. He's a convert from Durham and he likes to come eat lunch with all his missionaries. It was good seeing him again. He's another one of those "life-long" friends I've made out here. Like I said, there are many.

Well I guess this is it people. My mission has officially come to an end. There have been times when I never even thought I would have made it this far, but here I am! I look forward to seeing and speaking with you all when I return to Georgia. Now allow me to conclude by summarizing my experiences out here and the things that I've learned.

First off, missions are not easy. I came out here with a lot of pride, thinking that because of my talents and abilities, I would be successful. I used to be competitive with other missionaries and seek the recognition of others in order to validate my efforts, but things changed very quickly. Toward the end of my first area (Pinehurst), I started to humble myself and learn how to love people. I learned that serving others was a much happier way of living than what I had previously been living. I also began to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the importance of it not only in my life, but in the lives of those I served. As I got to Clinton, I was tested with having to work hard every day and making sure to continue to strengthen my testimony. Things were not easy there. I had a lot to live up to. The members really counted on us and at times, I didn't even feel worthy to be in their service. But even with that self-inflicted trial, I kept working hard. I gave it my all. And when the days were so hard that I just wanted to give up, Heavenly Father would send me something to make it all better and all worthwhile. Then I got a baptism. It rocked my world. I began to see that I COULD be a successful missionary and that there WERE people out there that were ready to receive the Gospel. The next year, I worked harder than I ever have. In Durham and Chapel Hill we would bike over twenty miles a day sometimes just for one appointment. Although I did not baptize there, I learned a lot about myself and I believe it prepared me for what was to come. I got transferred to Raeford and was called to be a district leader over six companionship. Being a leader and having to take care of so many missionaries really allowed me to grow and to see my true potential. I was not perfect by any means, but my efforts helped a lot of missionaries get through some unique struggles. That's some rewarding stuff. Months later, we got another baptism. Through her, I was able to see that the Lord truly does know us and that He places us exactly where we need to be. I can see that this woman was prepared to receive the Gospel from me and that because of my talents and abilities, she chose to follow Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism. After training for the last three months, I was called to train again, except this time I would be coming into an area all by myself. Once again, the Lord blessed me with more experiences to stretch and refine me. Although I've struggled here, sometimes with obedience, sometimes emotionally, I've been able to learn the value of hard work and dusting ourselves off and moving forward when we fall down. And just this last week, I was able to confirm Alberto a member of the church. I could probably go on, but I just want to reiterate how grateful I am for having served a mission. It's been the hardest two years of my life, but it's also been the best two years of my life (thus far).

I pray that when I get home, I will be able to continue to be a servant in the Lord's hands. There is a life-long calling of service ahead of me and I can't wait to get started. I will miss the mission field, my mission president and his wife, my missionary friends, members, and investigators, but I know that there is more to life ahead of me. Although I'm leaving this stage of my life behind, I know that there is so much more ahead of me. The MTC was training for my mission and the mission has been training for the rest of my life.

I love all of you and can't wait to see your faces and hear your voices again. Please pray that I can have a safe journey home and that I can leave here satisfied with what I've been able to accomplish.

Con mucho amor y sinceridad,

Y por la ultima vez,

-Elder Landon Carroll

Last full week. Ready. Set. Go!!!‏

February 29. 2016

Here I am coming into my last full week in the mission field. Honestly, I never thought I would get this far given how difficult missions can be, but here I am. I've made it this far and there's just one more full week between me and my journey home. Oh, and a baptism of course. Isn't that exciting?

Let me give y'all an update on A. He's doing really well! He's fully prepared to be baptized on Saturday which is a big relief for me considering it's my last Saturday in the mission. Talk about clutch haha. We had a little bit of a scare yesterday at church. We got there and A wasn't there. We waited for about twenty minutes for his "ride" to come in but it never did. So we gave him a call. "A, are you coming to church today?" "I tried to get a ride yesterday and this morning, but non one answered the phone. So now I'm at work with my dad." WHAT! I was about to lose it. It was the Sunday before his baptism and he HAD to be there in order to get baptized. I told him "you have to be at church today if you want to get baptized. We can't move it back again cause I won't be here. How can you get here?" This was about ten minutes into stake conference. So we got together with A's friend F and some others and finally found a ride for him. He'd be late, but at least he'd be there. So we had F's dad go and pick him up about thirty minutes away. Super far away, but hey, he had to be here. I was so relieved when he finally walked in for the last half of stake conference. Now he can get baptized on Saturday and I can go out with a bang!

In other news, there's a dead beaver outside our apartment right next to the road. I guess someone hit the poor thing. I wish I had a picture. After much contemplation, we decided to name him Joseph. Joseph is funny. And disobedient. He never gets up on time. In fact, I don't think Joseph ever moves. He might be the laziest beaver missionary I've ever met. Every time we pull into the parking lot we're like "What are you doing Joseph?!?! It's like 4 pm!" Hahaha it's super funny. And it'll be even funnier when his body starts to rot. Yuck!

Andi n more other news, we made a roast on Wednesday! Elder Christensen and I are quite the cooking pair. We've made quite a few things together. Asian food, tacos, chicken, grilled cheese, Rice-a-roni, and even some Sister Schubert's rolls! Those went with our roast on Thursday. One of the recent converts in our ward bought us a crock pot and we have been taking advantage of it. I'm not sure what we're gonna make next. Maybe some soup? Or some yummy dip or something? We'll figure it out. I'm sure the cravings will give us a good idea.

And that's about all I have for this week. It was a good one and my main focus now is making sure to set up Elder Christensen well for when I leave and getting A into the water. Your prayers are appreciated. Please give me one more week of them so I can finish what I set out here to do.

Con mucho amor,

Elder Landon Carroll

P.S. What does a tree do when he's all ready to go? He leaves.

I'm finna end this mission right!‏

February 22, 2016

This week was really a great one. Most weeks in the mission are just hard, but every once in a while you have a week that's just refreshing and full of success.

First off, I'd like to share some very exciting news because I can't hold it in anymore...

Alberto is getting baptized! He had his baptismal interview last night and passed with flying colors! He won't be baptized this weekend because of stake conference, but we're counting on the 5th of March. I am super stoked! It's been a bumpy ride with him and I've been stressed out of my mind about his whole situation and making sure he's ready, but he and the Lord have prevailed. I really would love to share his whole conversion story with y'all, but I'll save it for after his baptism. For now, it sufficeth me to say that he will be baptized on the fifth of March.

In other news, we found some great new investigators this week. It never ceases to amaze me that we can just randomly knock on someone's door, teach them a quick little message, and then we're meeting with them twice a week. And then if they progress, they become lifelong friends. That's how it's been for me my whole mission. One thing that I cherish deeply is the friendships that I've made out here, especially with those I've been able to teach. As it says in Doctrine and Covenants section 50:22 "Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together." There's no stronger relationship than one that is first found upon the teachings of Jesus Christ. That's why marriages and families in the church are much more successful than those outside of it. We often think that when we share a relationship with someone, it's just us and them, when in reality, the Lord should be the center of it all. That's why marriage in the temple is so important. It binds families together not only for eternity, but for this life as well.

How did I get on that subject again? Oh yeah! I was talking about the relationships we build with those we teach. Relating that to Alberto, I think that's one of the biggest things that has played a role in his conversion. The closer we've been able to get to him, the better our teaching has been and the more the Spirit has been felt. The reason I've been able to recognize his progress so well is because of the close relationship we've formed. And I know that after his baptism and after my departure home, we will continue to be friends, not only because that's what we should do as missionaries, but also because there is a real friendship there. It's a beautiful thing.

Something funny also happened this week. So there's this restaurant called "Ron's Barn" right here where we live that everyone likes to go to. We were hungry one evening so we finally decided to check it out. Let me just say that everything was very confusing. We got in there and some lady (obviously noting our confused faces) asked if we were in a group or if it would be just us. "It's just us," we said. So she told us where to go to find a seat. We sat down, some guy came and took our drink order and then said "okay, you can go when you're ready." What the heck does that mean? So we waited for some other people and just followed them. So what you do is you go through this buffet style line and (kind of like the Lion House, but buffet) tell them what you want and then you just go back to your seat and eat it. The confusing part was: 1) Can we go get more food after we're done? 2) Why are we the only ones that have never been here before? 3) How do we pay for our food? We spent the whole time while eating contemplating how everything worked. The confusion was almost making me go cross-eyed. So we finally finished our food, asked the bus boy how to pay,and we headed out toward the front desk. We paid for our food there and that was it. I told Elder Christensen "We are never going there again. I don't care how good the food was. It's not worth it if we have to pass through Hotel California every time we come." I kept telling Elder Christensen during dinner "We can check out anytime we'd like, but we can never leave." Haha so that was our dinner. The food was great, but the lack of communication from the employees was almost repugnant. And I'm convinced that we were the only two living people in that restaurant. All the rest were ghosts who are trapped there haha.

I guess I'll end it on that note. I hope y'all have a fantastic week. Please continue to pray for Alberto so that he can get baptized on his scheduled date. Thanks for everything.

-Elder Landon Carroll