Monday, December 30, 2013

"For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee."

Hello family and friends,
This week has been incredible. For those who don't know, Christmas was last week. We made about 400 chocolate chip cookies. Probably more than I've made in my entire life before my mission. We spent most of both the 24th and 25th baking, and writing notes, then delivering them to people. Best Christmas ever. Nothing better than losing yourself in service.
We have been finding so many Samoans lately. The Lord is hastening His work. I wish I could express everything that happened this week, but here's just a taste of a few miracles:
We met another Joe! We went to a house with Deelorean that we thought a Samoan lived at, then met Joe next door. The family we were looking for had moved, but we spoke with Joe for a bit. Joe was Samoan! Coincidence? I think not. Found out he had kids in Texas. Where? MCKINNEY. My heart and soul died in half a second. Coincidence? I think not. He said we could come back to share a message about the Savior.
We also visited Uilisone with a brother from the ward who knew him. Because of this great member friend, HE OPENED THE DOOR. I saw his face for the first time in my life. I shook his hand. We hand a solid discussion. He had a great beard. The brother with us offered to fix his car for free. Uilisone opened up, literally and figuratively. This was a huge step for him. But I know that it was by small and simple ways that the Lord was able to open his heart.
We met a guy named Malaki 2 weeks ago, and we visited him again on Friday. He's older, and apparently he was baptized in the 70s in New Zealand. He sang a few Samoan songs to us as he played guitar. We read Mosiah 5 with him. He has a solid testimony, but we're trying the help in become more converted to the Lord. Basically, we're trying to help him put that tesimony to action. He's coming along slowly but surely.
Yesterday, Monday, we had a mission conference again. It was just a short notice thing that we found out about last week. Elder Kent F. Richards of the second quorum of the 70 came and trained us about teaching simply. I feel refreshed. I am so, so excited to be a better, more effective servant and minister of the Lord.
Simple stuff this week: God loves us. We are His children. When we obey Him, we prosper. :)
I love you all,
Elder Judd

Monday, December 23, 2013

"and His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of

Manuia le Kerisimasi! :)
I am so pumped for this week. Christmas time is the best because so many people are focused on looking outside themselves and helping others. In other words: Love. Love is what brings us together today. And that's what the Savior's message is all about. He promised:
"Come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you."
We will be "encircled about eternally in the arms of His love."
I felt that this week with Sai. We stopped by Tuesday night and read a chapter of the Book of Momon with him. Sai is doing SO well. He's cruising along in the Book of Mormon and just radiates with a new light. He was in Alma 22. We read about how the powerhouse missionary Aaron taught King Lamoni's father. Sai practically taught us. He noticed that when King Lamoni's father felt the Spirit, he said:
"What shall I do that I may have this eternal life of which thou hast spoken? Yea, what shall I do that I may be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy, that I may not be cast off at the last day? Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy."
Sai explained that in his experience, as soon as somebody feels the Spirit of God, it's immediately delicious to them.  The Spirit is just like that.  And if we really want to be happy and have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, we have to be willing to give our whole soul to the Lord. That's what he's asked.
Friday was awesome. We brought Deelorean out with us most of the day. He's awesome. He's been on a mini mission in San Jose for the last few months and is just waiting for his mission call. So many miracles with this guy.
We went to a family that we found in our Area Book that missionaries had met years before. A young guy named Jerome answered. I felt like I'd met him before. His facial hair made him look 25. He was 17. He let us in and we sat down with him and some of his cousins. We found out their father passed away a month ago. We shared "A Book of Mormon Story" with him and testified that he could live with his family forever. Death is not the end. He said he'd read the Book of Mormon. The Spirit was so strong in their home. I felt so much compassion for Jerome. I wanted to help him. I can't imagine the pain he must feel now, but I do know that the Jesus Christ knows his complete soul. Jerome is going out of town until January, so I hope he reads the Book of Mormon because it'll allow the Savior to heal him. Anyone who reads the Book of Mormon will come to know the Savior in a very real way. 

That night we had a ward Christmas party. We had been inviting EVERYONE. Uilisone promised to be there, but he wasn't. But, his sister was. Which was awesome because she's less active too. And Simi was there, who we just met this week. And Ioga and Nerissa were there. And Moli and Sabrinna and Omar were there. And it was just great. the Relief Society gave us each a tie, and the youth performed dances, and it was just fun.
This week should be full of miracles. We plan to make tons of cookies and deliver them to every Samoan in the world. And our world is the Inland Empire of California. It should be fun. :)
Heavenly Father loves you unconditionally! He hears your prayers and answers them! The Savior lives! This is His work! I know it's true! :)
Elder Judd

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Arise and come forth unto me, ... that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet."

Hello sweet friends of the earth,

First off. Surprise exchange call came on Tuesday night! The Assistants to the President told us that Elder Aguilar would now be transferred to Yucaipa and I would be training again. So, on Wednesday, I picked up my new companion, Elder Bentley, from Colorado Springs. I really love this guy. He's a super fast learner and we just get along really well. :)

This transfer hit the ground running. As soon as E. Bentley got here we took Ross out with us and tried to visit Joe. Sadly, he wasn't home. BUT, we talked to a bunch of people in the complex full of Samoans. They are really warming up to us. We ran into a former investigator (someone who used to meet with missionaries) and her family is fine if we stop by again. AND as we were leaving, Naia came out of his apartment. Remember Naia? (Young guy--met with us once, but we lost contact?) We hadn't seen in him forever, so we sat and chatted with him. He still had the Book of Mormon we gave him, so we read 1 Nephi 3 with him. It was awesome. And he said he'd read 3 Nephi 11.

Friday was great too. We went to teach Poe and his wife, Shearlet, but Shearlet had just woken up and never came out of her room. So we taught Poe. It was awesome because we've never been able to teach him before. We got to discuss the Priesthood and how amazing it would be if he worked to be worthy to baptize his wife. He said he'd do it. So we're excited to see him do the little things, like reading the Book of Mormon and pray everyday. 

Later we saw Naia again. We were pumped when we saw him come out of his apartment with pages of colored notes sticking out of his book of mormon. He loved it. And he even called up his Mormon cousin to ask her questions about it all. She told him it was true. Naia is so open now. He felt like the chapter made him want to do better to follow Christ. He was so sincere. It was just a powerful visit.

We also stopped by Sai's place in the evening to find 2 bikes parked on his doorstep...
Missionaries. I could smell the Spirit from a mile away. :) They invited us in right in the middle of a lesson with the English missionaries from that area. We found out the other missionaries were biking and felt impressed to turn onto Sai's street. Sai's family saw them and so they called out, "Elders!" The visit was just tender. Sai and Amy kept on telling me how grateful they were for us, but I knew that really, they were grateful for the Savior. They also knew it wasn't a coincidence that 2 different sets of Elders felt spiritual impressions to come by their place, which I hope helped Amy to consider taking lessons with missionaries again. :)

My favorite part of this week was a visit Saturday afternoon. Like every week, we stopped by Uilisone. Every time we go over there we hear the chihuahuas barking inside and we wait to see if someone will answer the door. We were out with Bro. Moleli and the same thing happened. We knocked a few times, heard the dogs, and Bro. Moleli was like, "Let's go. There's nobody here."

But something just made me really determined to keep knocking. We knocked several more times. Finally I called through the doors, "Willy! Uilisone!" I heard a groan. Then a "What? Who is it?"

"It's the missionaries. We want to talk for a bit."

We spoke through the front door and could barely hear him. He had been sleeping on his couch. Slowly, very slowly, we squeezed more conversation out of him until he came and opened his door (leaving the screen door closed, as usual). Then, we asked him what he thought about faith. He really opened up. He told us he had a testimony and knew it was all true. He said he'd read Alma 32 and come to our ward Christmas party. AND. HE. SAID. THE. CLOSING. PRAYER. :) :) Thru the screen door! It was one of my favorite lessons of my mission. :) 

Anywho, gotta go. I love you all. The Savior lives. This is His work. :)

Elder Judd

also, pics:

me and E. Bentley

Me and Cuddles, a python this guy in a park carried around. From my exchange with E. Bolingbroke. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

"And their hearts were swollen with joy ... because of the great goodness of God"


I get to stay another transfer in Samoa with Elder Aguilar! And I've already been serving as a missionary for 6 months! Time is going by way too fast.

On Wednesday I went on an exchange with Elder Langi. I love this guy so much. Out of all the missionaries I know in this mission, I've probably served around Elder Langi the longest. By the end of this transfer we will have lived in the same apartment for 6 months. Yeah, it's almost as if we're friends or something.

Anyway, our exchange was awesome. We brought Ross out with us and worked in San Bernardino. At the apartment complex full of Samoans that I mention all the time (which we just refer to as, "The Complex full of Samoans") we met a young guy named Satili. Just moved from Samoa. We think he's the grandson of this less active woman we've been trying to track down. But we're excited because he said we could stop by again to get to know him more. 

We also went to Loma Linda and met Spencer. Remember Skyler from a few weeks ago? Whom I recognized as soon as I met him? Well, Spencer is his brother. This family is supposed to hear the gospel, I know it. Spencer is super prepared. He's been to church many times in the past with his friend Casey, who is a member in our ward whose family started going to an English ward because the drive is too far. So basically, Spencer said we could come by again soon.
Later, we taught Nerissa and Ioga and their kids again. We were really hoping to have Sai come out with us to visit them, but we couldn't get ahold of him. We talked about covenants. It was so great. Ioga is totally warming up to us. He has so much faith in Christ. We asked him when he's felt the spirit in his life, and the moment was just sweet. It got quiet. He told us that in the moments when he's trying his best and doing everything he can during a difficult time and things still don't seem to be working out, he's felt a peace come to him and say, almost as a whisper, "Everything is going to be okay." 

It's true. The Savior has promised: "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." He will come to us as we come to Him.

Thursday was awesome too. MLC. Always the best thing ever. Then, in the evening we stopped by Sai. We found out that he had the craziest night on Wednesday, which was the reason we couldn't get ahold of him. On his long way home from work a police officer pulled him over for DUI, though he hadn't been under the influence of anything. He told the officer that he doesn't drink because he's a Mormon. the officer didn't believe him. after a breathalyzer test and everything, he proved to be clean, but the officer still arrested him. Sai told us how wrong it felt to be handcuffed, then ordered around and mocked by the officers at the station. He felt alone and mistreated and misunderstood and falsely accused. But then in a small moment during all of this, he told us, everything seemed to still as the thought came:

"This is how He felt."

He explained that more powerfully than ever before, he knew that the Savior knew him. He knew that He was there. 

I know He is there. You are never alone. I can add my personal witness to the truth the Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated:

"However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines."

I wish I could express every amazing thing that happens each week, but I'm out of time. I love you all. :)

Elder Judd

p.s. Elder Aguilar gave a powerhouse talk about covenants in Sacrament Meeting this Sunday. :)

Monday, December 2, 2013

"that they shall again be brought to the true knowledge, which is the knowledge of their Redeemer, and their great and true shepherd"

Malo soifua!

What a week, I tell ya. Many blessings and counting.

Tuesday, we visited some less active members, Waikiki and Koko. Really cool folks with really cool names, but I'm still confused about who was who. I think the husband was Koko. I think... They were super kind and started to bring food out to us as soon as we sat down, which isn't uncommon here. Samoans are SO generous!

On Wednesday I went on an exchange with Elder McCall from Seattle. I LOVE this guy. He has always been a missionary I've looked up to and just really respected. Working in his area was awesome. We went and visited this guy named Dave who hasn't been to church in years. He spends most of his time working on this old workshop (kind of like a baby Home Depot that's privately owned). We helped him with side jobs and just talked for a bit. I could tell he was from Texas from his accent. Found out he's from Carthage! Like the movie, Bernie! He wasn't too interested in religion, but I know the Lord is working in his heart. 

We also had dinner with the Land family. Brother Land is the stake patriarch. The spirit was so strong in their home. It just felt like a home of a family built on love. AND, I found out the Lands have a son in MCKINNEY, TX! Coincidence? I think not! It was just a Texas day, because later we visited a family in the ward and I found out the wife grew up in Plano.

And while I was out with Elder McCall, his companion Elder Owens worked with Elder Aguilar in Samoa. And Elder Owens is Samoan, so you better believe they had a powerhouse day. He and Elder Aguilar were able to get a lot of work done, and he gave us names and addresses of other Samoans he knew in the area. It was great. 

Thanksgiving day was great. Had lots to eat. Taro, fa'i, crab, turkey, rice, and more. Much to be grateful for.

Friday was probably my favorite day ever. We brought Bro. Tia out with us and went to teach Jake. But he wasn't home. So we went through back up plan after back up plan. Nobody. I was getting sad for Bro. Tia because we had brought him an hour away from his home to see people. BUT, as we were driving away towards our last back up, I had a feeling to stop by this apartment complex full of Samoan families. We go by every so often, but most of the time everyone just scurries inside and closes the doors. So we drove to the complex, and found some Samoan women sitting outside whom we'd met before. We talked with them, then all of a sudden one named Sofia was like, "Oh, you should visit Joe!" 

Then another said,"Yeah! Go to Joe!"

I'm thinking, "Who's Joe?

Then asked, "Who's Joe?"

They told us that Joe just moved in from Long Beach and is Mormon and has been looking to come back to church. Sofia got up and said she'd introduce us. She knocked on his door and we met Joe. It was one of those moments where the world feels exciting and you just know that something amazing is about to happen. As soon as I met him I knew that Heavenly Father's hand was actively working in Joe's life. Joe was young and much thinner than the stereotypical Samoan. He was quiet and very polite. He told us that he'd been away from the church for a long time, but felt that it's time he came back. He said he never lost his testimony. He said that his mom has always told him that it's still not too late to serve a mission. I felt deep peace as we spoke with him and knew that the Savior loved him so, so much. Maybe more powerfully than ever before as a missionary, as I sat in Joe's place, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be on earth at that moment. There was nowhere else I would have rather been. Bro. Tia gave him a hardback copy of the scriptures and he said he'd read Alma 36. I am so excited to meet with him more this week.

What I love about the gospel of Jesus Christ is the knowledge that God is literally our Father in Heaven. He cares about what we care about. He hears our prayers. He answers them. I don't know everything, but I do know that this is true. I have felt His love by the power of the Holy Ghost enough times to know that He is there.

So friends, if you haven't prayed in a while, please do. Open your heart to Him. Pour out your soul with your concerns and worries. He understands. He's there.
He has promised:

"I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led."

Elder Judd