Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Week 70 - NEVER ignore spiritual promptings!

Sorry if this email is a little shorter than usual! My hands are really cold and it's hard to type lol. This week has had very good moments and also not so good ones. I'll start with the good news :)

Christmas Eve morning we were handing out the last of our A Savior is Born pass-along cards in downtown Effingham. We thought we were done when we realized Elder Christiansen had a couple more he had forgotten about! We kept walking and looking for people to give them to when a lady in a parked car notices my BYU-Idaho jacket and calls us over. She is with her kids and says that they just moved from Pocatello! She also says that her and her family were pretty much active members back in Idaho but her husband wouldn't let them be baptized. She had a calling and paid tithing and everything, though! It was definitely not a coincidence that I had that jacket on and that we had a few more cards to hand out :) Hopefully we'll see them this week!

I got to talk to my family on Christmas!! My third time Skyping home! It was so wonderful. I love my family sooo much! Christmas is really such a great time of year. Even if I was away from home I still felt their love for me and we also spent time with some awesome members who made us feel like we were at home :) We also got to watch Big Hero 6 and Inside Out which both came out after I left, so that was fun to watch! They were the best!!

The rest of the week was super slow, especially after Christmas... so Saturday evening we were going to see this member that lived about 30 minutes out of Effingham just out of this tiny town called Greenup. We were following our GPS and it decided to take us down this backroad. The last few days it has been raining nonstop and the road eventually started turning muddy and really rough. The map showed that the guy was just a mile or so ahead, and we were also scared we would get stuck if we stopped the car to turn around... so we kept going. The road got worse and worse and eventually we got stuck in this hole in the ground that had been caused by some flooding from the nearby creek. We tried and tired but eventually realized that it was useless and we would need to call a tow truck. A member came and took us to the missionaries' apartment in Charleston (the closest area) and we have been with them since then. Yesterday a tow truck tired to go get it for us but got stuck in the mud on the way into the road we were stuck on... (this is not a joke) and so hopefully tomorrow if the rains stops we will be able to get it out.

It has been a pretty unfortunate weekend, but it should all go back to normal soon. We feel so stupid and have definitely learned our lesson!! Charleston does not have a car so we had to walk 45 minutes through the rain to get to the library with them this morning. Not the funnest! Also this email ended up being longer than I thought lol :)

Soo it has been a bittersweet week! Next week should be better. And the week after that should be even better because the holidays will officially end and people will be more available. Yay!

I love you all! Pray for us and our car! Lesson learned this week: NEVER ignore spiritual promptings! It's not worth it!

Love, Elder Hayes

Monday, December 21, 2015

Week 69 - Everyone needs it, and we have it (Donna's Baptism!)

First things first,

This time of year is seriously the greatest. I still can't believe it's my second Christmas out here!! I love it! :)

So it was a week full of ups and downs. The holidays are pretty bittersweet for missionaries because people are more receptive, but also more busy... we still did alright though!

I guess the biggest news is that Donna got baptized and confirmed this weekend!! And guess who she asked to baptize her? Me!! My first time actually getting to baptize someone! I was a little nervous at first but it was a super cool and spiritual experience. I am so grateful for the priesthood and all that is made possible because of it! Another cool thing is that my white pants fit pretty tight when I tried them on 16 months ago but they now fit pretty comfortably, so I've definitely shed some pounds. Cool!

My favorite part about being a missionary is just seeing how much the gospel blesses others. The change is real! Everyone needs it, and we have it. This mission doesn't baptize nearly as much as other missions due, but I think it's honestly made me appreciate them so much more when they do happen. However I also know that there are plenty of other people who I have affected and been able to help even if they didn't choose to join the church. It has been wonderful :)

So although this week was somewhat slow, lots of cool stuff happened. I am super excited for Christmas!! Thank you everyone for the love and support. Here's my address if you don't have it [better to send it late than never ;) ]

404 W Edgar Ave Apt 1
Effingham, IL 62401

You're the best!!

Love, Elder Hayes

Monday, December 14, 2015

Week 68 - My testimony on prayer

Hey everyone!! We are killing it over here! Donna is planning on getting baptized this Saturday. We are super excited for her! We weren't sure at first how much she understood but she definitely seems to grasp it now even if she doesn't talk too much. She is sticking to her decision despite her sister being against it. We pray it doesn't cause contention in the home (they live together)!! Things are looking good overall though. Pray for Donna so nothing stops her!!

The highlight of the week was probably our zone conference. It was great! They really emphasized working with the ward councils in our areas to help members be as involved as possible. We're really trying to apply it as best as we can! As a mission we are also all reading the Book of Mormon together and ending right before the next General Conference. We did it last year and we all loved it so we're doing it again! I am so excited :)

Kennedy (pretty sure I've talked about him before) is doing awesome!! He definitely has his ups an downs but recently he has been extremely enthusiastic about everything and is just great! We are so happy for him. A lot of the issues he had in the past are being resolved and once he takes care of his smoking problem he should be ready for baptism. It's amazing seeing how much he has changed since we first met him. He constantly tells us how grateful he is for us but we always try to emphasize that it's not us at all, but God who made all of this possible for him. He's great!

Pretty cool week overall. During fast and testimony meeting (which we had this last Sunday) I got up and bore my testimony on prayer. Throughout the week I've been trying to make my prayers more meaningful and really trying to be more in tune so that I can receive the revelation I need to help my investigators and the missionaries in my district. It works, I'm telling ya!!

I love you all! Check out christmas.mormon.org if you haven't already. I'm sure you have though :)

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo 1: studying with elder christiansen
Photo 2: throwback time!! this was taken over one year ago!! picking apples at a member's house! #tbt

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Week 67 - It's not about us at all

Thanksgiving week was slow but this week we're picking it back up again! Yipee! We were able to find a few new people to teach and have lots of great quality lessons with our investigators. We also had a stake conference over the weekend and were also able to view the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, which I loved of course.

Elder Bednar's son is actually the second counselor in the Champaign IL stake presidency, so we got to hear from him and a bunch of other people over the weekend. It was​ all really great!! We even had a couple investigators come along :) It felt like all the messages shared were meant specifically for them and for us. I love when that happens!!

So our investigator, Donna, who is hopefully getting baptized on the 19th is having some struggles. She really wants to be baptized and comes to church every Sunday, but her sister (who lives with her) is very against her joining the Church. We were teaching Donna yesterday and her sister was loudly and rudely insulting Mormons and her sister's decision from the other room. We do have to give some props to Donna though because she's still sticking to her decision :) Please pray for Donna!!

This was the first week of a new six-week transfer cycle and Elder Christiansen and I are staying together in Effingham! We are both pretty happy about that. Things are going really well here. This time of year is so wonderful because everyone is just most open and willing to learn more about Christ. We all get a little homesick at times but I know it's worth it :) Our focus should be to make this the best Christmas someone else has ever had! It's not about us at all :)
I love all of you!

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo: christmas photoshoot at the famous effingham cross!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Week 66: She said this couldn't be a coincidence

Thanksgiving is such a great holiday. I am so thankful for my family and my friends that love and support me. I am thankful for the opportunity I have to serve a mission and for all the people I have been able to help.

This week was a little tougher because a lot of people cancelled due to the holiday. We did get fed about three Thanksgiving meals throughout the week though, so that was enjoyable! I seriously feel like it was just barely last Thanksgiving! Time flies incredibly fast let me tell ya :)

It is getting cold but not as cold as it is back home in Idaho so that's something I'm okay with lol. Still pretty chilly though! We are running low on miles for our car so we were walking around town the other night and it was cold so we were all bundled up and everything. We ended up running into this lady on the street who had been going through a lot of problems and was on her way to the store to buy cigars. She said she knew they didn't help in the long run but that it helped ease her stress. We talked for a while and eventually she said this couldn't be a coincidence and that God was telling her to turn around and not harm her body. Goes to show that God sees everything and has a plan for all of us. He's aware of all His children and is constantly trying to guide us down and show us the right path.

I'm excited for Christmas! We just got a bunch of #ASaviorIsBorn cards to hand out so that will be super fun. People tend to be a little bit nicer around this time of year :)

I love this gospel! I love this Church! I love Jesus Christ and I love being a missionary :) I love all of you and am so thankful for everything I have.

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo: Me with Elder Çoka who is going home to Albania today!!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Week 65: Prayer and diligence go hand in hand

What's up everyone! This week has been pretty interesting. We were able to find a couple new people to teach so that was really awesome! The downside of the week has probably been the weather... it is awful! Saturday it snowed and it was so cold and windy we were pretty much dying. I might be exaggerating but we were super cold. I love the snow when I can just chill by a fireplace and be inside but not so much when you're knocking doors on it... yeah lol.

So I think the biggest miracle that's happened recently is Madalynn. She seemed a little hesitant after our first lesson with her last week and did not expect her to come to church at all but she came last week and again this week!! She seems to like it actually! We also taught her the Plan of Salvation which she admitted was different but seemed to understand it. We are very excited for her!! :)

I forgot to mention this last week but Brandie, someone we had been teaching who was supposed to get baptized this month, sent us a text saying that she would not be getting baptized and asking that we stop coming by. We were completely shocked because she seemed completely willing and ready and had been coming to church for so long! We tried to visit her one last time but she wouldn't let us. We were really sad but have come to realize that we can't force her and it's her choice after all is said and done. We did all we could for her!

I am very excited for Thanksgiving! A few people invited us over so we might have multiple Thanksgiving meals lol. That should be exciting!! I love the holidays they are just so fun and exciting! Things are great here in Effingham. Thanks everyone for the love and support!!

Something else I've come to realize recently is how important prayer and diligence are. We can't do this alone but God also expects us to do our part. We can't just work or just pray! They go hand in hand. As we've tried to apply that we've seen quite a bit of success here! In fact, looking back at past records, the area is doing the best it has done in quite some time. Woohoo! :)

I love you all! Here's my address again:

404 W Edgar Ave. Apt. 1
Effingham, IL 62401

Love, Elder Hayes

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Week 64 - It's getting chilly!

Hello everyone! So I've been out 15 months now so that's pretty cool. This transfer is almost coming to an end which is insane to think about! I really love this area and all the people we get to help. Lots of stuff is happening!

So Kennedy is still struggling. He's got lots of problems but still really wants to be baptized. He comes to church every single week and reads and prays every day and does everything we ask but just has a few struggles that will take time I guess. It'll happen some day!

We found lots of cool people this week too! The most promising one is this lady named Madalynn (people call her Lynn) that we found while knocking doors a couple weeks ago. We were finally about to set up a time and were able to meet with her! Despite her many dogs' disruptive barks, we still had a great lesson and she agreed to read and pray. She said maybe to church, but ended up actually showing up! We are so surprised and happy for her!!

Someone else we started teaching is Lana, the 10-year-old daughter of a less-active member. She invited a few friends over too so we ended up teaching all of them! It was a pretty good lesson overall. Teaching kids is always interesting because you have to make everything so simple and you have to keep them captivated so they don't get distracted, haha. It was good though! :)

The last one we found is this 16-year-old girl named Baileigh. We knocked on her door one day and she said we could come back another time. We tried back and met her older sister and mom, who were both surprisingly also welcoming and really nice!! Our branch actually only has two young women, and Baileigh knows both of them from school, so we brought one of them to our lesson with her and it went so awesome! We are so excited for Baileigh and for everyone else we found this week. So many miracles!!

We have definitely been seeing the blessings of working diligently. We try to talk to everyone we can each day and we have been blessed with quality investigators to teach :)

On Sunday I gave a talk on hope. I was a little nervous and not looking forward to it too much but I'll be honest I did super good. My speaking skills have improved tremendously since I've been out here and I felt like I gave a pretty good talk! I also learned a lot during the preparation process :)

It's getting chilly! Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner, woohoo! :) I know this church is true! I know we can all live with our familes forever through God's plan for us! I love all of you :)
Love, Elder Hayes

Monday, November 9, 2015

Week 63 - There is no way this work we are a part of isn't true

​Lots of cool stuff happening over here. This week we emphasized working with members and have been making an extra effort to get them to come to lessons with us and also to help them be member missionaries themselves. It's been super cool!

Tuesday night we saw the Garcia family, the part-member family who recently moved in. We brought a Spanish-speaking member with us and taught them the Restoration. Darwin likes learning and asking questions but he does seem very set in his ways. He would ask questions like, "soo... is this Joseph Smith in the bible?" and stuff like that. I got a little annoyed but managed to keep myself in control, hehe :) They are a very nice family and hopefully we will be able to get them to church one of these days.

Kennedy, the investigator I mentioned last week who wants to be baptized, has been doing good for the most part. He has had a rough past and recently a few things came up that we were unaware of, so his baptism date for November 21st might still work, but it might be pushing it. He is still super enthusiastic and excited about all of it though! I am positive that it will happen when he's ready. It's been amazing to see the gospel change his life!! He knows it's true! He came to church again and loves it so much. He says he's shocked at how easy it is for him to stay three hours at our church but how he struggles to sit for just one hour at other churches, haha. Pretty awesome!

On Thursday we had a pretty good district meeting. I gave a training on contacting people. As a zone we are starting to keep track of how many contacts we get each week, or in other words, how many people we invite to learn about the restored gospel each week! My training emphasized how although we should be talking to everyone, we should also strive to give each person a fair chance and not be generic and quick about it just for the number. I thought I did pretty good :)

On Saturday we visited a less-active member named Sarah. She is Samoan but grew up in Hawaii! What brought her to rural Illinois I don't know, lol. She is super cool and we have been going through the lessons with her recently. At the end of our lesson, I noticed she had some family pictures on the wall and I asked if she had kids. She said she did and that they were not members of the church. We asked if she'd like them to hear the gospel and she said she would! So hopefully next week her children will be present and we will get to start teaching them. We're so excited!! :)

​Overall it was a really cool week. We found lots of people with some potential and even one family who seemed pretty excited to meet with us! Hopefully this coming week will be full of miracles too :) Illinois is super weird but I love being here! I've learned and grown so much. There's no way this work we're a part of isn't true. I know Christ lives and loves us and is leading this church!

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo 1: elder christiansen and i sippin some starbucks #rebels #jk #itsnotcoffee
Photo 2: sunset!
Photo 3: a meal i prepared for myself!! stir-fried veggies with eggs and queso fresco (mexican cheese)
Photo 4: walkin down a rural road in shumway, illinois (population: 207)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Week 62 - Effingham, Illinois

This week has been phenomenal!! So much stuff is happening! I seriously love this area. It is so different but so wonderful. I love the people and I'm not sure why but I love driving out to the tiny little towns and villages on the outskirts of our area. It's just super fun to me!! :) Driving down those country roads is so fun.

We met with Brandie a couple times and set a plan with her to stop smoking. She is getting baptized on November 28th, which at first I wasn't too sure about but after these lessons I am confident that she will make it. Her sister, who is a member, will be in town that weekend so she wants her to be there for it :) She is doing great!! Lots of progress!

A new family moved into the branch last week too. They are the Garcias and the wife, Claudia, is a member but her husband and six children are not! She was recently baptized in another ward but just moved to Effingham. They are super nice and we are starting to teach the husband!! I am so glad we have Spanish speakers to teach. I was definitely sent here for a reason! :)

We also got in contact with another cool family called the Angels, who are also Mexican. They were taught a few times in the past but the language barrier made it a little difficult for the past missionaries. Now that I'm here there might be a higher chance of them progressing!! Wooohooo!!

The biggest miracle of the week however was Kennedy. Kennedy is a guy that was found a week before I got to Effingham. He is 21 and has had a rough life but is really humble and super excited about the gospel. The first few lessons we had it was mostly just him talking and talking about his life and stuff so we weren't sure how interested he was, but he was able to come to church on Sunday and he is loving everything we are teaching him. He is reading the Book of Mormon and he is amazed at how much sense it makes to him. He even said at one point, "everyone needs one of these!!" :) He is just so enthusiastic. We love it! The biggest surprise was that he really wants to be baptized so we set a plan with him and the date is for November 21st!! It is pretty soon but we are confident that he will be ready by that date. We are so excited for him and so grateful for the opportunity we have had to find him and introduce him to the truth.

I love being a missionary. It is the greatest thing I've ever done! I love seeing the gospel change people for the better. I know this is the true church and that the work we are doing as missionaries is very real. It's true! It's all true!!

I love you all and have a great week :)

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo: elder christiansen and i at a local corvette museum!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Week 61 - "Dude, never say that again..."

Hey everyone! Effingham is a super cool area. It is really different compared to the other areas I've been in so far. It's a country town of about 12,000 and the area includes a ton of tiny towns and villages up to 45 minutes away. It's really fun actually! My last areas have been either suburbs or in the city, so it's cool to see the change now. Illinois is super flat but there are a lot of trees that are all super pretty right now!! Super bright colors :)
We are teaching a decent number of people. Apparently the area was struggling for a bit but started picking up pace a few weeks before I get here. Lucky me! We also had our first district meeting, which was pretty cool. It's fun being conducting it and trying to help other missionaries reach their potential. It's not too hard but it is still new for me, but over time it'll come more naturally and be easier :)

Our top progressing investigator is named Brandie. About five months ago she approached the missionaries on the street one day and asked if they could explain the church to her because she had a sister who was a member and wanted to learn more! She wants to be baptized and is working towards that goal, but struggles with smoking at the moment. We are working with her though! She is friends with everyone in the branch and comes to church every Sunday. I could see her getting baptized before the year ends easily!

We also had a few other lessons with super awkward people, haha! One of them wants to be baptized and even has a date set, but whenever we ask questions to gauge her understanding, she just stares blankly and doesn't say anything or just say she doesn't know. It is really difficult because she says she's super excited to be baptized and everything, but we don't want her to be baptized if she doesn't fully comprehend what she's doing. Advice would be appreciated I guess?

Another cool thing is that there are a few members who are hispanic and speak little English who were super excited when they found out I could speak with them in Spanish! There are also some former investigators who we were trying to get in contact with again because they were Spanish speakers :) Even if it's an English-speaking branch, I might be able to continue to use my Spanish skills to help others, which I am very grateful for. I know our leaders are inspired and send us where we are needed the most! This Church is true!!

Love, Elder Hayes

Here is an anecdote elder Hayes related to Sofia. I had to post this:

Hahahaha okay so here is a super embarrassing and hilarious story. So we were in this lesson with this lady and her two kids which were like 18 and then this little 6 year old or something. We taught a normal little lesson and then the little girl ran somewhere in the room and like tripped and smacked her face on the side of the couch LOL and she started crying. Then the mom is like "ayyyy por estar corriendo" or something like that because the mom had been trying to calm her down for a bit. Then I was like "hijole, se dio un senor madrazo!!" and she just kind of smiled and then when we left the house Elder Solis is like "dude, never say that again" hahahahahahahahaahahahahaha I was so embarrassed but it's freaking funny. Apparently madrazo is not a very professional word!

Photo 1: me at the "cross at the crossroads"!! effingham is right on two major highways, and it happens to be the home of the largest cross in the USA!!!
Photo 2: i thought this was funny lol
Photo 3: classic street sign pic.
Photo 4: me and elder christiansen!! that's elder lloyd in the back

Monday, October 19, 2015

Week 60 - I love being out here!

Sorry about last week's email not going through! I just resent it! You all get double emails to read this week :)

I can't believe so much time has passed! Week 60? That is a big number, haha!! It's been a really interesting week, but I'll start with the big news...

I'm getting transferred!! I have spent five transfers (seven months) here in the San Carlos branch, which is a super long time compared to how long people usually stay in areas! I am so so so grateful for the chance I had to meet all these wonderful people. I never would have guessed I'd love these people as much as I do :) I also feel like my Spanish has improved a lot which I'm super happy about! And I'm sure my parents are too :)

On Wednesday I am getting moved to Effingham, Illinois! It is a small branch that's covers a fairly large rural area about an hour and a half from St. Louis. I'm super excited!! It will be very different but I'm looking forward to the change of pace. I will be getting a fairly new missionary named Elder Christiansen (pronounced chris-chi-an-sen, not chris-chen-sen). Additionally, I will also be a district leader over three other companionships! I have no had this opportunity yet so it will be something new. I'm excited to get to not only help those in my area but other missionaries as well. It should be a good experience!

My new address will be:
404 W. Edgar Ave.
Apt. 1
Effingham, IL 62401

This last week was very slow because Elder Solis got really sick suddenly and he hasn't been able to do much. He's getting better though! He needed lots of rest so I had plenty of time to tidy up the place, read, and take a few naps myself, hehe :)

A few cool things did happen, though! We were able to set another baptism date with a 10-year-old girl named Bella. I don't remember if I mentioned it in earlier emails, but she is pretty solid it's just getting her less-active family to start going back to church. She'll get baptized though; I'm sure of it! The date is set for November 14th, though it might need to be pushed a little.

Friday night I was called my Presidente Delgado (the branch president) and asked to give a talk on Sunday. I was pretty annoyed because of the late notice but I accepted and ended up doing it. I did an okay job I thought! It was also cool getting to give a talk and address the whole branch my last Sunday there. They have all been great to me and I have learned so much from them and their testimonies :) I know that this work is true and that I have been called by God to do this! I submitted my application to show my willingness but the call to serve a full-time mission came directly from the Lord through one of this appointed servants. I love being out here!!

I love you all! Send me cool stuff! Bye!!

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo 1: me with hermana hermosillo!! she's so cool!
Photo 2: me with the carr family, the coolest family ever!!
Photo 3: me the hernandez!! also the coolest!!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Week 59 - Shakirra gets baptized!

It's been a really fun week! Lots of good stuff happened. Jesus and Martina got married and we got to drive to Columbia for it!! It was such an awesome experience. They have been waiting for this day for so long and they look so happy :) Now Jesus can finally be baptized!! There are a couple really small things we need to work out but it should happen in the next month :)

Something else we have been focusing a lot if less-active work. There are so many less-active members on our rosters who have moved and nobody knows their new addresses!! But we've been talking to members who know everyone and calling the phone numbers we have and getting new phone numbers from people and all this stuff so we can find them and get them in contact with the church again. It's been awesome! We've been able to find a lot of members who hadn't been visited in forever by missionaries or other members.

On Tuesday we taught a lady named Dilia who we tracted into about a week or so ago. She is really interested and happens to know a member from our branch already! It's pretty cool when stuff like that happens :) We've only taught her one lesson, though, so we will see how things go!

Over the weekend a few things happened. First of all, three weeks ago Elder Solis and I were knocking a few doors near an appointment we had when the appointment fell through. We met a lady named Shakirra who we gave to the English missionaries as a referral! Here's the crazy part-- on Saturday she got baptized!! She was apparently incredibly solid and just loved everything and was baptized as soon as was possible. It's cool to look back at experiences like that and realize that that lesson fell through so that we find Shakirra. We didn't teach her but without us finding her she wouldn't have heard the gospel at that time! At the baptism she was really emotional and thanked us for knocking on her door that day. So awesome! :)

That evening our branch had a Hispanic party type of thing where they set up a bunch of tables that represented all the South and Central American countries. They also had a bunch of people prepare folk dances from their countries and it was super cool. We even had some investigators come!! There were so many people there and it was just a super fun party.

On Sunday we taught Bobby and Macy, Angel and Luz's kids! We shared with them part of the Plan of Salvation. It's interesting because they have very little religious background so we are starting from the bottom with them. It was a really good lesson though especially because Luz agreed to be baptized on November 14th with her kids!! She felt good about the date too because the 11th is her birthday :) Miracles do happen, woohoo!! :)

Overall it was a super cool week. Lots of awesome stuff happened and as I reflected and tried to apply what we learned from General Conference I saw a lot of blessings. This church is the true church! Love you all!

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo 1: last monday we went to the botanical garden in st louis! It was super cool and they had lots of really pretty gardens and cool exhibits!!!
Photo 2: elder me, elder atkin, shakirra, elder jimenez, and elder solis!! fun fact: elder atkin's mom and my mom are friends!!

This is an investigator elder Hayes and elder Solis referred to elder Atkin (my friend's son from AZ - small world!) and elder Jimenez. Elder Atkin got to baptize her and my son and his companion were able to be there. So fun!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Week 58 - General Conference is the best!

What a week! So unfortunately, it was a little slower than most weeks. Most of our work happens on the weekends, so we think it was mostly due to General Conference taking up most of the weekend. Worth it, though! What a great conference it was!! I really loved it. Before my mission I never really appreciated how significant General Conference really is. It really does feel like all the talks are meant specifically for you!
Since not too much happened during the week, I'll skip straight to the weekend. Of course, Saturday we spent most of the day watching conference. One of the talks I really liked was Elder Holland's on the importance of mothers!! It really made me appreciate my mom and everything that she does for me. My mom is the greatest :)

I haven't always been the best at taking notes, but let me tell ya this time around I was writing stuff down nonstop! It was great! Ideas and thoughts just kept coming to me as I listened to all the speakers. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to hear from these people every six months and throughout the year in the church magazines. It's modern scripture!!

Before the first session on Sunday, we were able to teach a less-active member who we had found a few days earlier named Jorge. We just happened to knock on his door and he was like, "Oh yeah I'm a member! I was baptized when I was eight!" and we're just like, "What!! Awesome!" He hadn't been to church in the last ten years since he moved here from Guatemala. He says he'll be moving back in December, but he said he'd start coming to church now that he knows where the building is! Hopefully he'll get back in the habit even after it's been so long... :)

Sunday afternoon was probably my favorite session for some reason. I just really enjoyed every single talk. I'm sure ponderizing scriptures is going to be a big thing now on social media, haha :) I'm looking forward to giving it a shot!

Later that evening we taught Bella, who is a ten-year-old we started teaching a couple weeks ago. Both her parents are members and Bella wants to be baptized and take the lessons. Her parents are members and have testimonies but just don't go to church since there isn't a separate Spanish branch for the area they live in. The problem is there will never be another branch unless everyone gets reactivated first!! It's a vicious cycle.

Overall it was a slow week but I still learned a lot, especially from conference. I'm excited to read over and study the talks once they're released! I know this church is led by Jesus Christ and that the three new apostles were chosen by him directly through a living prophet!

Love, Elder Hayes

Photos: Eating hot dogs and roasting marshmallows at the Rice's home!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Week 57 - Being a missionary is the best!

Good news! Jesus, our investigator who lives two hours away in Columbia, is getting married on the 9th of October!! Elder Solis and I get to go and it will be so great! Just a quick recap, him and Martina not being married was the big problem with him getting baptized so it should be happening soon enough! Woohoo!! :)

A cool quote someone mentioned during our District Meeting this week was "if you fail to plan, then you're planing to fail". Not sure who said that quote first, but apparently Robert D. Hales also said it at one point and it's pretty true. As a mission ever since Elder C. Scott Grow came last week we've all be trying to be better planners because it really does make a HUGE difference.

This week we also had an exchange with the Zone leaders, who actually live right across the street from us in! Elder Ferrell was the Elder I was with for the day, and we had a great time together. He is a great example and really enjoys working hard but makes it fun too :) During our exchange interview he told me that I had a huge strength for teaching and that I was one of the best teachers he had observed on his mission (he goes home in three weeks lol) so that was definitely nice of him to say. I don't feel like that great of a teacher but maybe I'm better than I give myself credit for. I'm still trying to improve though!!

We had some great lessons throughout the week, but the highlight was probably Sunday. I few months ago Elder Lazaro and I taught this couple named Luz and Angel. Angel grew up in the church but Luz is not a member! I don't remember if I ever mentioned this but how we found them originally was knocking doors in this trailer park in Chesterfield, which is about 20 minutes from our apartment. Long story short, they used to live about 40 minutes from there with our branch president and his family until they moved! Their records are still on the roster and Luz had been taught in the past as well-- we just didn't have an address! But we happened to knock on their door randomly one day. What are the odds!

Anyway, Elder Solis and I hadn't been able to see them until this last week because of mile limitations and also they just seemed busy. But I felt prompted to see them again and they are very ready to come back to church and make changes! We are even going to start teaching their 13 and 8 year old kids. Miracles happen! :)

Things are great here! The church is true! Being a missionary is the best! Love you all :)

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo 1: one of my average meals lol
Photo 2: me with a statue of chuck berry. i guess he's a famous guitar player or something. the street i'm on is called the delmar loop and it's apparently one of the most well-known streets in the US! It's full of cool stuff.
Photo 3: the delmar loop planet walk is this pretty much these signs placed along the sidewalk that represent the planets and are spaced apart from each other in proportion to the distance between them in real life (i hope that makes sense) it's awesome!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Week 56 - The Book of Mormon really can change lives

Hello again!! Last week was a great one, but unfortunately not every week can be like that... this week we struggled with having lessons with those we are teaching, but we are definitely still trying our hardest! I am gonna skip to the highlight of the week, which was having a mission conference with Elder C. Scott Grow from the Seventy and his wife!

In this mission we have been blessed to be visited by a lot of General Authorities! Elder Sitati, Elder Cook, Elder Christofferson, and now Elder Grow! We are so blessed!! :)

Elder Grow and his wife were both very bold and didn't hold back. The overall message was about goal setting and how what setting goals actually means so we can truly hasten the work as missionaries. Apparently as a mission we all need to step it up so we can reach our full potential. Some missionaries thought it was a little mean of them to say but it really is true. Elder Grow told us we were doing a great job but that we could do a lot better! Then he told us how we could improve and hopefully we will be seeing positive changes here!!

Another cool story is that in Gospel Principles class on Sunday, Gabriel (our recent convert) was asked to share a missionary experience he had had in the past. We weren't sure what he would say because he hadn't exactly been a member for the longest time! He talked about how once day we had gone over to teach him and he decided to invite his brother to come over and listen too! I think I mentioned this when it happened a couple months ago, but it was such an awesome experience. Gabriel had been having trouble forgiving him for something, but he was able to reach out and share the gospel with him and now they are talking again! :)

What Gabriel shared that I didn't know was that before we actually got there, Gabriel had given him a copy of the Book of Mormon and promised him that the book changes lives!! He told his brother that it had helped him and that he knew it could help him too! He was such a solid investigator. Hopefully we will be able to contact his brother this week so we can begin teaching him some more too! We have been trying but our schedules have not been lining up.

It was a tougher week overall, but there were a few moments that really stood out and helped us bear through it. The church is true, Christ lives, and the Book of Mormon really can change lives!! I know it! Have a good week! And sorry for another week with no photos haha next week for sure I'll get some :)

Love, Elder Hayes

Maria Rice, a member from the area, had the missionaries over for a Family Home Evening this week. Elder Hayes taught the lesson. She took these pictures and sent them to me. (mom is writing this. Lol!)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Week 55 - I met Rey Chocolate

​It's been a fairly successful week! Something we've been doing as a zone is keeping track of how many people we contact, or in other words how many people we provide with an opportunity to learn more about the gospel. So if were to be street contacting and tell someone who we are and ask if they'd like to learn more, but they say no, it's still a contact because we did all we could! It's been cool because every week we try to raise that number and as we do that we end up talking to more people and finding more people to teach! It's been helping us all out a lot.

On ​Wednesday I got to sing in a missionary choir musical number at a transfer meeting! We sang We'll Bring the World His Truth, which is one of my favorite missionary songs ever :) It was pretty cool and we figured out a bunch of cool harmonies. We sounded great and everyone loved it!

Later that evening we taught this lady named Elvira. She is the mother-in-law of a member and she is really solid! She is very open to learning more and we had an awesome lesson. She had been taught in the past but it seemed that she didn't remember a ton about it. We explained a lot of things like why infant baptism isn't right and priesthood authority... so we started from the bottom with the Restoration and just had a great lesson! She even came to church on Sunday! :)

All the people we are teaching are doing awesome. We found a few new people this week who show a lot of potential and seemed really excited to learn more. One of them (named Patricia) actually commented that she had just had a loss in the family and that she believed we were an answer to her prayers! It's so great having knowledge about the Plan of Salvation and being able to assure people that we really can be together as families for eternity :)

It was been a rewarding week. I'm looking forward to giving it my all this last six weeks I have to be in the branch because who knows if I'll be returning! I love you all!

Love, Elder Hayes

P.S. - This is kind of dumb but I had to share it. Last week I met a man whose name is literally "Rey Chocolate" which translates to King Chocolate!! So cool!! I will have to get a pic with him one of these days.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Week 54 - Gabriel gets baptized

First things first, it turns out I am staying with Elder Solis in the San Carlos branch for six more weeks! We definitely didn't see it coming, haha... I had mixed feelings about it at first but I'm pretty happy about it now. I really do love all the members and hopefully we will be able to see at least one more baptism here :) Which reminds me...

Gabriel got baptized!! It was such an awesome experience. It is crazy to think that we met him just two months ago. He progressed so fast and I am so grateful I was able to be a part of his conversion. He had asked me if I could confirm him the Sunday after which I did even if I was a little nervous, hehe :) It just so happened to be fast and testimony meeting, and Gabriel was the last one to stand up and bear his testimony!! He talked about how he wasn't so sure about us at first and how the first lesson we had with him, he didn't even let us inside! We just talked on his porch. But he felt good about what we were sharing and quickly felt the Spirit and felt comfortable with us :) So awesome!!

Gabriel's baptism was definitely the highlight of the week. The rest of the week was actually a little slower than usual. Recently we have dropped a lot of investigators and only have a handful at the moment. However, the nice thing is that they are all a lot more solid than they were in the past! It's a lot nicer to have a few solid ones than like 20 flaky investigators :)

Six weeks from now when I (probably...) leave the area, I will have been here for seven and a half months!! It's a pretty long time to be in one branch, but I really do love it here. I'm grateful for the chance I've had to improve my Spanish and also grow a lot :) Christ lives and he's guiding His church! I know that through His gospel we can all be cleansed from sin and lives as families forever. The great thing about a mission is that you dedicate two years of your life to do nothing but help others, but as you do that you also help yourself and get to grow spiritually. It's a win-win!

Thanks everyone for the support and the emails. My address is still the same for now... here it is again if you forgot ;)

10 Sugar Maple Ln. Apt. 8
St. Charles, MO 63303

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo 1: Me with Hermana Reyes (a member from the branch) and her kids :)
Photo 2: Me, Gabriel and his wife, and Elder Solis!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Week 53 - Emilia gets baptized

It's been a different week! I went on an exchange to Florissant, MO for a day and then I was on another exchange in St. Charles, which wasn't too far from where we live haha. It was weird being out of the area for a few days but it was fun! I learned a lot from the missionaries I was with. Lots of good examples out here!

We also went to see Gabriel for his baptismal interview and everything is good! He will be baptized, woohoo!! :) We are so excited for him, he is so prepared and excited! Elder Fullmer is the missionary I was with for the day, and while he was interviewing Gabriel in the room over, Gabriel's wife started asking some questions! Her name is Jamie and she is actually white and doesn't speak Spanish, haha. Gabriel was originally found by sister missionaries who referred him to us after meeting Jamie one day. Jamie was not interested at all but Gabriel overheard and was like, "Hey, I'm interested!" In fact, Jamie was so against it that after our first lesson with Gabriel she put up a "THIS HOME IS CATHOLIC" sign on the front door, hahaha :)

Anyway, while Gabriel was being interviewed she asked some questions she had about polygamy and what "mormon" meant and a few other things. When Elder Fullmer was done we asked her if she'd be interested in meeting with the sister missionaries and she said she would! She's opening up!! :) It was so awesome to see and the sister missionaries were so excited to hear that she was willing to listen to them. We didn't see it coming! A few of his kids might be baptism age too, so they're next ;)

I got to go to the temple!! It was so amazing! I still can't believe it has been over a year since I left. The temple was so neat and it was cool getting together with all the other missionaries I entered the mission field with. In our mission we got to go to the temple once a year, so it's not too often! The Spirit was very strong and I can't wait till I get to go again! It's such a beautiful and peaceful place :)

I think I mentioned this a few weeks back, but Emilia is someone we started teaching because my companion, Elder Solis, knew her already. The sister missionaries took over half way and she was baptized last Saturday! It was a pretty cool experience :) Pics included!!

It's been an awesome week! This is probably my last week in the Spanish branch for now, unless President throws a curve ball and keeps me here even longer... hahah we don't see it happening though. I'll miss it for sure!

Thanks everyone for the support!

Love, Elder Hayes

Photo 1: the st. louis temple!!
Photo 2: me and elder vergara, my mtc companion!!
Photo 3: emilia's baptism!!

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