Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lower Slower Delaware (LSD)

Hi Family and Friends,
What a week it has been! I'll try to be short, but uhh don't count on it. So yes, I have been transferred to Smyrna, Delaware. My companion is Elder Rabe from....take a wild guess...UTAH! And it has been quite the adjustment for me, but I'll get into that in a bit. So Monday and Tuesday Elder Timmerman and I stopped by former investigators and investigators as well as members that I wanted to say goodbye to.
We had been working with an inactive woman named Pat, helping her see the need for coming back to church. So we would take one of our pre-missionary priests over, James, to have the 3 of us "practice" teaching the Restoration to her. She was stubborn and almost standoffish at first, but she has since then softened up and agreed to look for a dress to wear to church, so the Spirit has wonderfully been working on her.  
I also got to say bye to my very first investigator, Frank, and introduced him to Elder Timmerman. He is humble and recognizes the need to change and sees that the Atonement can do that. So I've come to realize this: No, I did not baptize anyone in Wilmington, I did not see any less-actives I worked with go to church, I did not teach any individuals brought by members. But, I worked hard all day, every day to invite the people of Wilmington to come closer to Christ.

 And the wonderful Anderson family in my ward, saw them on Tuesday, they prayed and prayed and fasted to be able to give away 1 Book of Mormon by 9/15. And they were NOT able to do it, but Sister Anderson looked me in the eyes and said, "Elder Robins, you have changed our family. We are all continuing to pray every day for the opportunity to give away a Book of Mormon, you really have inspired us all. So thank you." I mention this not to brag, but because it was one of the marvelous workings of the Spirit of which I have been a part. "That I may be an instrument in His hands.."
It is people and families like that that have made this whole "transfer" process pretty difficult this past week. I grew to love the members and non members of Wilmington so much that it felt like I was leaving home, yet again. I wrote a paper winter semester at BYU-I called "The Heart of a Nomad" talking about these nomadic years of life where we don't have a set home for an extended period of time. What I am coming to realize is that what makes home feel like "home" is the people that are there and the love and Spirit that is shared. It's a miracle that Heavenly Father puts people in our lives to not only love us, but to assisst us in this process of change in our lives. Changing to return to that God who created us.
I switched places with Elder Seeley, he came from Smyrna to Wilmington, me vice versa. Smyrna is a little less than an hour south of Wilmington, and the first day I felt really weirdly homesick for the crazy city I had just come from. It is much smaller down here. Completely flat. Like not a hill in sight. Just trees. A lot of farmland with pivots (learned something in Melba last summer!) and such. The Smyrna ward was split Smyrna North and South, sisters up north. And it covers from the eastern delaware border to the chesepeake in Maryland. There are a number of members in Maryland, so we will probably spend some time over there this transfer. Elder Rabe has been out over a year and knows his stuff. He's a bit quieter, but I like him and he works hard. 

There are two different members in this ward who Elder Taylor and I visited and gave blessings to up in Wilmington, so it's been nice to catch up with them and get to know them here. I could literally go on for days. But to save time and words and your attention, if I didn't lose it the first sentence, I'll introduce Bill and Jackie. They live in a trailer park in Smyrna, 91 year old uncle living with his 74 year old neice. He is very hard of hearing. I've never shouted the First Vision so loud in my life. After Bill was trying to remember the name of a family member, Jackie confirmed the name and muttered to us, "I thought I saw a little smoke." Sooo funny. They are wonderful and humble and hopefully prepared. Love em already. 

Epilogue (to go along with my novel)

Last night, we had dinner at a member's home and I sensed that these members were exhausted from the day-to-day grind of raising their 4 grandchildren. I turned to chapter 24 of Mosiah where Alma is talking about the oppression Amulon puts Alma and his people under. These people would be killed if they prayed allowed. But they prayed in their hearts for deliverance from God. 

"Lift up your heads and be of good comfort...I will ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders...and the Lord did strengethn them that they could bear up their burdens with ease and submit CHEERFULLY to all the will of the Lord." (Mos. 24:12-16). 

The hard part of this mortal journey is that life just plain stinks sometimes. It may just seem like nothing is ever going to work out. Or what about those times when the tough just don't want to get going? You're down to your last straw. I testify that Jesus Christ alone is the answer. There is no counselling or money or any worldly possession that can ease your burdens and give you the strength to endure as the Atonement of Jesus Christ can. I may be a mere 19 years old, but I HAVE felt the power of the Atonement strengthen and enable me to live my life as He would have me live. 

Love you all, Be of Good Cheer, 

Elder Jacob Robins

Blurry me and Enock (hopefully getting baptized soon)

Me and James from the ward, from Liberia, waiting for a mission call

The Anderson Family, minus Brother Anderson

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Off "I" Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Family and Friends,
How are you all? (respond in your head and continue reading) The subject line..I think we just found ourselves singing the Air Force anthem this week and I remembered it from choir with Sister Brown. Well first things first, rumors are true, I am getting
transferred!!! We usually find out Friday night, but one of the assistant's had an appendicitis, so that delayed things. I won't know where I'm going 'til weds though. I trust that Elder Timmerman and his new comp will further the flourishing work in this area. And yes, I was at Bishop Condie's house when he made that phone call home, obviously I didn't talk though. But I appreciated his willingness to do that.
Yesterday was the Primary Program during Sacrament meeting, but before the 50+ little kids started their parts. I was asked on the spot to bare my testimony, so it was a little rough, but I testified that we are each children of a loving Heavenly Father. And as such, we have divine potential to live with Him and become like Him. The theme of the program was "I am a Child of God" and this group of kids may have been the best sounding primary I've heard in a while (sorry Danville 1st!). Most of the primary population is junior age too. One of the songs they sang was "A child's Prayer" with about 7 moms and their daugthers. "You are His child, His love now surrounds you." And I felt that love surround me as they sang. It sounds cheesy, but music can really provide a beautiful vehicle through which the Spirit can testify of truth and can strengthen us spiritually. Enock did not make it to church, nor did anyone else that we invited, despite our best efforts.
We invited Rod (police officer) and his family, daughter Amelia, and wife Angela, but their schedules conflicted way too much. Rod assured us that once his wife got on board, he would be "easy pickin's" to be baptized. And Amelia was jumping up and down about going to church and meeting girls her age. Literally a missionary's dream. But, Angela wants to check out a unitary church this week or something. Yes we are trying! But, we are praying and trying to fit into their busy schedules. So I guess I will find out 2nd hand how that all turns out.
Elder Bowen from the first Quorum of the Seventy and his wife visited the mission last weekend. They did several zone conferences, ours being on Saturday in Newark. And there were some intelligent missionaries eating during the conference and kind of talking during Sister Anderson's talk. Sooo, Elder Bowen got up and chastised us for taking lightly sacred opportunities to learn. Seems a little harsh, but totally makes sense that if the Spirit is going to teach us, He wants our full attention, not split  50/50 with some Nature Valley granola bar. He also reproved us for a general lack of faith in the mission but assured us that he was "showing forth afterwards an increase of love towards him whom thou hast reproved" (D&C 121:43). And he did. So we talked about some doctrines such as the Abrahamic Covenant, Gathering of Israel,  and how we are fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant as we live our baptismal and temple covenants.
A few things that stuck out to me as he taught and discussed (it was more like a classroom setting w/ a chalkboard and 45 missionaries or so):
-The hymn Redeemer of Israel (p.6) says "How long we have wandered as strangers in sin, and cried in the desert for thee." So the concept that we are not at home on this earth, we are but wanderers, struggling to find our way through this dark and dreary world. We are trying to find our way home. Jesus Christ is that way home and is the literal light of the world, lighting the path back to God. We as members and missionaries are instruments in sharing that light with all of God's children.
-One of the things he focused on was the Priesthood. In Abraham 2:9-11, Abraham was promised "that in their (our) hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood to all nations. And I will bless them through thy name (Abraham); for as many as receive this gospel shall be called after thy name."
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hold that Priesthood power of God, the same power that Christ used to create the earth. Think about that. Powerful stuff, God has entrusted us with His literal power. Wow. You'd think everyone would be running to us if they understood that. I know that the Priesthood is real because I have felt its power in my life and have seen it bless the lives of others. Quite frankly, it is by the power of the Priesthood that I am alive today.
This whole meeting was physically and mentally exhausting, as spiritual experiences tend to be. So the rest of the week has kind of blurred for me, but a wonderful man named Reggie sang us a beautiful song with his guitar, about Christ and the work we are doing. He told us that we are working in a spiritually very dark community, but we are providing the light to those who will receive it. Very kind man. On wednesday I went with Elder Shepherd on exchanges, and miraculously, we saw Xavier in his area. He gave me a hug and said he wanted to meet again and get baptized. But...he didn't keep his appt that we set for Saturday, so we're a little confused as to his commitment level...but hope he comes around. We were called off the street to help a member's neighbor move a couch. Looked reasonably doable at first. Then he decided to take it upstairs, and I saw what a ridiculous feat we had agreed to take on. Both men left the stairwell at different points, leaving me and Elder Timmerman to shake and shimmy and heave the couch up the stairs, much of it on our own. One of them named Greg is from Philippines (told him about Cody in Laoag) and insisted he pay us for our service. We told him we just want to teach him and help him more.
I have struggled most of my life to say that I know Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and did indeed restore the fulness of the gospel. Many experiences and even Restoration videos have blessed me again and again with that unwavering witness that he was indeed a Prophet. Making the Book of Mormon the word of God. If the Book of Mormon is true, then as the Introduction says, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord's Kingdom once again established on the earth." I know this is true.
Love you all, here are some pics,
Elder Robins

Alli and Tyler Selder (Amy and Taylor Jackson's relatives) Tyler is 5 Alli is 11

Mama Fist, member from Bulgaria, kinda the mission mom

Me, Bishop and Sister Condie

Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9, 2013

Hi Family And Friends,
It seems to be that some of our craziest events during the week happen right after p-day ends and after I've already emailed home. Last Tuesday, we met with our investigator Robert ( the one who had drug problems most of his life and has cancer and stuff). And he started talking and telling us how offended he had gotten the week before when we met with him. At that meeting, I had asked him to pray and told him how we as Latter-day Saints pray with the introduction and ending; while still accepting the way he prayed. He just made a lot of preposterous jabs at us and Joseph Smith and the church. I felt an argument brewing, so I apologized for saying anything that might have offended him, including making him feel judged, which I know I do sometimes. Then we both testified that if he would pray about it the Book of Mormon with a sincere heart, he would come to know it is true. We left with a feeling of tension, but peace at the same time after having born solemn testimony.
It's really sad that a week in between visits is plenty of time for the adversary to work on these people, to twist their thoughts and ideas and to pull them away from God. We assume something similar happened to Steve who we had been teaching a few weeks ago. No contact has been made with him or his usually welcoming mom for two weeks now.
Wilmington Crime Special for the week: We went to visit a 19 year old less active named Pedro on Tuesday. A member drove us to the apartment complex in between Newport and Wilmington. Lots of Hispanics and Puerto Ricans, etc. live in this neighborhood. Anyways, we drive up and notice a helicopter with a spotlight shining down, flying right above us. So we park the car, pass the Spanish Elders who had just seen 4 cops chasing a man up some stairs. 8 other cops were walking around with a few police dogs and the whole neighborhood was out. It was like a big family/ neighborhood "get together" with everyone and their dogs..literally. So Pedro told us that there were two men who had drugs and firearms.  So the cops caught the men (they could run but they really couldn't hide i guess) but didn't find the drugs or weapons. Friendly family neighborhood. The member said, " Did we just drive into the Lion's den?"
On Thursday, we met the Dalton's at Sheena's, said a quick prayer and knocked on her door. She is always so warm and welcoming, let me try some "lavender" flavored soda...it was uhh, interesting. She always has her notepad and her quill-like pen to take notes during the lesson. We discussed the Restoration and throughout, she would make these disgruntled faces that kind of shocked the Dalton's and felt intimidating. It's Sheena's way of saying, "I don't get it." She is very much a thinker and needs to see things logically, but at the end of the lesson she also said she just needs to receive that witness, that the Holy Ghost is real and all is true. She wasn't baptized into her other church because she takes baptism very seriously, as do we. She slipped us a card which we opened in the car. They thanked us for sharing our faith with them and included $20 in the card. Not to write us off, but just to help out. That should give you a sense of the wonderful people she and her family are. Her son Brighton puts the CTR ring we gave him in his keepsake box and wears it when he's feeling sad or doesn't know what to do. Such a cute kid.
We teach ESL at the Latin American Community Center every Friday for 3 hours in the morning. Usually the class was from 3 -7 people. This week, many people came in late, but we ended with 18 people. I have noooo teaching experience besides what the mission has given me so far. 5 students is much different than 18 or 30 or more. I have a lot more respect for my spanish teachers in high school. But I love doing it, love teaching and seeing these people succeed. We use Facebook about 4 days a week, depending on how busy our schedules are. We use it to find referrals from mormon.org or other sources or to get in contact with less actives, active members, or investigators. But sorry, I can't be friends with anyone from home.! Xavier actually messaged me on FB a week or two ago and set up an appt, which is helpful bc he doesn't have a phone. So technology can really be a blessing when used as the Lord would have us use it.
Enock made it to church and is still progressing towards baptism. He just seems happy which is awesome. We gave a Restoration pamphlet to the door man named Corey at this fancy, huge apartment building downtown. We went over it and he said it made sense. When we returned a few days later he asked if we had his copy of the Book of Mormon. He freaked out when I joked that it was $20 per copy, but took it gladly for free. So we will see where it all goes with him. I was reading in chapter 21 of 1 Nephi, and I love verse 16 which says "I have graven you upon the palms of my hands." Cheist knows AND loves us each individually. All we need to do is come unto Him in humility and we can feel His love and the wonderful healing power of His Atonement, as shown in His hands. Continue in the faith and know He is always there for you.

Elder Jacob Robins

Monday, September 2, 2013

Jake's Latest

Hey Family and Friends,
Happy belated Labor Day! And Happy Birthday Mom! How was it? So I'll actually start with Wednesday, mom's b-day. Boy that was a rough day. Hope it was better for you mom, but I was on exchanges with Elder Hanshew from my district. He and Elder Shepherd cover the Wilmington 1st ward which is the northeast most part of Delaware.. I remember writing a book in like 1st Grade called Jake's No Good, Very Bad, Terrible Day (or something like that). Wednesday kind of reminded me of that book in that it rained almost the entire day except for an hour or so and every appt fell through. So we walked every where just to walk is what it felt like. They got their car taken away so we walked EVERYWHERE. As we walked the Primary song "Pioneer Children Sang as the Walked" came to mind, but I found myself singing "we missionaries sing as we walk and knock and walk and knock...annnnnd walked." Most missionaries would agree I'd imagine. Now I feel incredibly blessed to have a car with A/C, wonderful members, and just to be in this area. So what did I learn from this? Patience. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has a wonderful Mormon Message called "Good Things to Come" Please take the time to watch it. The trials that each of us go through are not for nothing. We just don't see the whole picture as God does. I see now that it takes patience and faith to trust in His will and blessings will come. Including blessings for walking and trying to find people to teach!
On Thursday we were driving home from downtown and a fight was brewing up and they decided the middle of 2nd street would be the best place to have it, apparently there are these two families that just do not get along. We also taught our online referral, Robert  and he had questions about what makes us different. So we popped in the Restoration video. 20 minute clip, pretty good. But as Joseph walked into the grove of trees I got the overwhelming feeling and assurance that he indeed was a prophet of God chosen to restore the full truth and Priesthood to the earth. Through a humble young man that most important Priesthood power and authority to act in God's name was restored to the earth. We explained to him that that is the very reason we ask people to be rebaptized even if they have been baptized into another church. We hold that Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He mauled it over for a minute and in wonderful faith, told us he would spend time praying and pondering and reading. Cause he wants to know for himself if this is true.
Friday was Zone Conference in Dover and President Winn, (just released as UT SLC Mission President in July) drove us down. He was delighted to go to a Zone Conference and just revels in talk about missionary work. He met President Anderson and they had a nice chat about the work. President Anderson is such a loving and humble man and his wife has got spunk and is just as loving. They are awesome people. We were taught about the need to invite people to be baptized. Similarly to teaching the gospel, if they are not invited to take action, then how could they possibly choose to do it or not? Sister Anderson commented on the need to show these people the Love we and our Heavenly Father have for them. Then in the car ride home, President Winn and I had a nice discussion about a Zone Conf he had recently in Salt Lake. He used Mark 10:21 with the story of the rich young man. The key part he said, was "Then Jesus beholding him, loved him and said unto him..." So Christ loves us first. And He shows that love in many ways, such as His Atonement. THEN He invites us to follow Him. So Love+the power of the Spirit = Solid invitation.
Yesterday (going out of order) a police officer named Rod took us to lunch at Subway. He was in uniform, so were we, so people gave us some funny looks. We felt safe though. I think I've mentioned him before. Really nice guy, gave us his number to call if we ever get in a tiff or anything. I asked how his day had been so far and he responded, " Oh not too bad, just a few stabbings and ya know, the usual mayhem." Oh ok, yeah totally normal...He told us there are 10 hard core real thugs in the city, the rest are just nutcases. And the majority of the homicides happen because people don't know how to shoot straight. Ya had to be there, but it was funny. He seems exhausted with the city work. So during the lunch, he actually brought up the church and asked for some pamphlets for his wife to read up on. "I'm easy pickin's, but my wife just wants to know more about that whole Joe Smith thing." We laughed, seeing that he would be willing to be baptized and handed him a Restoration pamphlet. Then he said, "My daughter's 8 and you guys start baptizing people at 8 right?" We grinned in excitement at the prospect of a golden investigator. So he and his family may come to the upcoming primary program and we'll see where it goes from there.
I got a pretty nasty head cold but got over it in a few days.Enock was sick most of last week too so we didn't teach him. But he still wants to progress. My scriptural thought for the week was sparked by Brother Hooper and a long talk he had with us a few days ago. In the Sacrament prayer and in 2 Nep 31, we learn that when we covenant with God, we are showing a willingness to follow Him and remember Him always. Brother Hooper had the thought to pray for God to keep His end of the bargain. If we do our part and really do our best, then God is required to keep His promise as well. "That they may ALWAYS have His Spirit to be with them." That struck us. Not just on Sunday, not just as missionaries or at efy. But always. You may not always have that "burning in your bosom" feeling, but you are entitled to His constant help. I love that. I am so imperfect, but through the Holy Ghost, we can all change.
Also there is a new Intro to Mormons video. Any non-member questions, answers it right there. 10 minute video. Watch it if you can. On Mormonnewsroom.org
Well, I love you all, Hope all is going well.
Elder Robins

View of Wilmington from a member's apt. 

Another view