Monday, October 29, 2012

President Pingree to the Rescue!!

Greetings Fuegos (Friends. That's Spanish.)
This week was pretty crazy! We have many wonderful people who we are working with and having great experiences with and are trying hard to bring them to the gates of their conversion.
On Tuesday, we were supposed to meet an investigator early in the day for a lesson. She is usually home without any other male adult so we always have to make sure that a male adult member goes with us so that we can teach her in her home. On this particular day, we were not able to find ANYONE to come with us. We called about everyone we could think of beforehand and it turned out no one could come on a Tuesday at 11:00 am.
Then I remember something my Mission President had told me when explaining this rule, "...If you ever get in a bind- call me!" So I texted him and asked if he would like to come.
As it turned out, he was going to be in the area meeting with a Stake President about an hour after so he agreed to come with us. We all show up at the appointed time and go knock on the door. No answer. We ring the doorbell. No answer. We call her on the phone. Still no answer.
Thankfully, we had a few backup plans. The Atoigue's were the direct nextdoor neighbors so we went and knocked on the door. A little nervous that Brother Atoigue would be working as he usually is, we were very surprised when he opened the door with his long, flowing hair and the usual spatula in hand. He invited us in and we were able to go have a great conversation with him and CJ (The youngest son) who was sleeping on the couch.
President Pingree got to know him and it seemed like they hit it off. Elder Jimenez and I had been trying to catch Ernest alone for a couple weeks because we wanted to talk with him seriously about baptism. He has been reading (He is near halfway done with the Book of Mormon now), he has faithfully come to Church every week, and his testimony and conviction is growing! We want him to take the next step but know that for some reason he is hesitant about it. This was the time and we talked with him as seriously as we could about baptism. It made him uncomfortable, but he agreed to prepare to be baptized on December the 1st.
Upon leaving, President Pingree was very excited and left us with the usual hug to go off to his meeting. Pretty cool!
But the highlight  experience of this week, in my mind, is the Chinese Miracle.
Due to many cancellations and slightly annoying fall-through appointments, Elder Jimenez ended up working through the evening. Randomly, we stop by a less-active man named Jamie Lozano. Jamie is a man in his 40's with a large home, no wife, and is as friendly as Brother Wilkerson on a pig farm! (I would assume.) He is a workaholic, but happened to be home. We sat down with him and asked him what he was up to. "Well, I was actually just about to get a bite to eat." he said, "Have you two eaten?" We told him that we had not.
And next thing we knew, we were all in his super sized truck heading to get some Chinese.
We had a fantastic time with Brother Lozano and we were able to get to know him. He told us of his hobbies, likes, dislikes, passions, life, and even his conversion. We asked him, with mouths full of sesame chicken and rice, if he would like to come back to Church. He told us he would be very interested in that.
After dinner, there was a new light in his eyes and he thanked us for spending that time with him.
Two things learned here- First, anything can be accomplished over some great Chinese; and second, a big part of this rescue effort is TIME. Giving some of our TIME to those who are wandering in strange and forbidden paths allows for mighty miracles to occur. When they are with you, they will feel the Gospel light within you! They will feel and see the evidence of God's love working THROUGH YOU to brighten their lives.
Full-time missionaries are horrible friends. By going out of your way to spend time with others (AKA being a true friend) you can bring them something that missionaries really can't. When they have your friendship, then the missionaries can come do for them, at your invitation, what they are set apart to do- preach the Gospel!
As I wrote a few weeks ago, we can soften the hearts of our associates by being friends so that the Holy Ghost can carry His message INTO their hearts. To get a little more practical, we can do this by sacrificing our time for others; being instruments in God's hands in conveying His love for them. This is one way we can stretch our own souls (so to speak), and reach a rescuing hand to those who feel lost and forgotten.
I love each of you and hope you have some great experiences and miracles giving your time to others who desperately need it!
                                                                                    -Elder Ryan A. Bell

Monday, October 22, 2012

country guy with an awesome accent!

This week, we taught a wonderful lesson to our investigator who is set to be baptized on November 3rd (Moved it from October 27th because of some scheduling conflicts so his teenage daughters can come). The lesson was great- he is such a fantastic and fired up man! His humility is astounding, and I must say that I am very excited for him to get the priesthood- he is a passionate worker and will magnify his calling more than most lifelong members.
After our lesson, we were driving out of this gated community where we are legitimately not allowed to go knock on doors. As we pass the house of a less-active member named Megan, we see a truck in the driveway and almost swerve like madmen to go and see if she was home. (We have been trying to meet with her for a while but she is hard to catch).
We ring on the doorbell and to our surprise a man answers the door. "Hello! You must be Mr. Peter" we say. He is a country guy with an awesome accent! He invites us in and shows us the deer and ducks that he and his wife have shot, now stuffed and hanging on the wall. From the moment we shook his hand, the air was filled with this incredible, powerful spirit. He got us drinks and he showed us a little bit about what his business does (Hydrostatic pipeline testing for the oil industry). After a couple minutes he invites us to sit and says, "So, what did you need to talk to me about?"
Now let's pause here- we showed up at his house on a whim. We had no prepared presentation, and in fact, did not even expect to find him there. In truth, we had not come with a purpose at all, but the Lord had a purpose, and I wonder if Mr. Peter sensed that. We sit down and for some reason say, "Mr. Peter (Or Justin as he asked us to call him). Justin, the Lord's power and authority is on the earth again, given to man to act in His name. He wants you to have this Priesthood." It would be impossible to describe what it is like having a direct message from the Lord proceed from you to one of God's beloved children in the very moment. We had not planned that day to meet a complete stranger and tell him, with the Holy Ghost permeating the air, God wants you to be a member of His Church and He wants you to have His power; to be a leader in preparing the world for His coming again.
In speaking with Justin, I knew by the Spirit that God loved Him, was mindful of His talents and abilities, and wanted him to return to Him. He had a plan for this man, and we were able to teach and testify about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Holy Priesthood through Joseph Smith to conform this man's life to that plan.
Experiences like this make missionary work the most rewarding work in the universe, bar none.
I love you all and hope that everyone can have such experiences this week as well!
                                                                                              -Elder Ryan A. Bell

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Fiery Sermon concerning "Lunch"

Hard to believe that another week has cruised by!
It shall be in this week that you shall see the face of the unknown one. (Craw!) This will actually be the last e-mail he will receive from me while we are both still set apart. W-H-O-A.
This week, Elder Tad R. Callister, one of my favorite General Authorities came to Houston and decided to hold a combined, Tri-Mission Conference. It was so awesome! He wrote a talk which made me into the missionary I am today- slightly below average. Just kidding. But seriously, he is fantastic!
As most of you know, I am a slave to fashion and fine foods. So during a missionary meeting this week, I gave a passionate, fiery sermon on why we needed to go to one of my favorite restaurants for lunch after the meeting. The place is called Culver's and they make the best grilled cheeses that I have found in Houston so far. Sourdough bread, only $1.99...... good stuff. But, it doesn't stop there- Culver's is famous for their frozen custard, and you all know well what that means. My meal of choice at Culver's is a grilled cheese with a small chocolate malt. SHABAM!!!!!
Well, after the meeting, we all go to this restaurant and keep running into people that we know or who have friends who are Mormons and now they suddenly want to take the discussions. It was amazing! Revelation can come through hunger! Who knew?!
It may sound like I am joking, but in all seriousness, it was really pretty cool. The missionaries in the area right next to mine are now teaching a lady who works at Culver's named Olivia who approached US about learning more!
I will be honest when I say that missionary work in this mission has turned out to be very different from what I thought. Our Mission President has received direct revelation that there are TENS OF THOUSANDS of people in this mission who are prepared to receive the Gospel. His direction on finding them is through working with the members of the Church. This is tough for me! I always envisioned missionary work as out knocking on doors, talking to everyone, going crazy, following the Spirit, teaching people on the streets, etc- and it is; but not as much as it used to be. Maybe I am just an old-fashioned guy. The direction our mission and the whole Houston area is heading is MEMBER MISSIONARY WORK. I love the members here, but this is proving very difficult for me.
In the scriptures, when the Lord says "Thrust in your sickle with your might" I imagine something very different than trying to get members to give me someone to teach, I imagined going out and finding them myself, THEN involving the members in fellow shipping and helping to teach them. So I have tried to follow the counsel we have been given by trying to develop deeper, more trustworthy relationships with the members of the wards. We have entered into their homes and taught them at times when I would rather have been out amongst strangers. But this has been paying off. Members of our wards have been giving us more people to teach, and this is a glorious thing.
Then last night I was given some insight. In 2 Nephi 33:1 we learn an interesting truth- "for when a man bspeaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth itunto the hearts of the children of men." Notice, the Holy Ghost carries the message UNTO, not INTO. He will not force Himself into the heart of the unwilling.
In the next verse- "But behold, there are many that aharden their bhearts against the HolycSpirit, that it hath no place in them; wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught."
The prophet Nephi was a powerful missionary. "18 And it came to pass that they were angry with him, even because he had greater power than they, for it were anot possible that they could disbelieve his words, for so great was his faith on the Lord Jesus Christ that angels did minister unto him daily.
Nephi was so powerful that it were not possible that the people could disbelieve his words! And yet, just two verses later, we learn that "the thirty and first year did pass away, and there were but few who were converted unto the Lord."
This lines up with many other scriptures, the Lord will not force anything into our hearts.
Missionaries are called to teach by the Holy Ghost (D&C 50:13-14). As cool as it would be to preach so powerfully that the Holy Ghost blasts its way through people's hearts, this would be contrary to our agency, "for I know that he granteth unto men according to their adesire, whether it be unto death or unto life; yea, I know that he allotteth unto men, yea, decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their bwills, whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction." (Alma 29:4)
Members can soften and open the hearts of their friends so that when missionaries do teach by the "power of God unto the convincing of men" (D&C 11:21), the Holy Ghost will be able to carry the message INTO the heart as a two-edged sword; quick, powerful, and sharp.
The mechanics of member-missionary work. Who knew.
So take this and ponder it. Maybe you can save some poor missionary some frustration and give yourselves more opportunities for miracles by understanding your calling and capacity for good as member-missionaries in this, the Lord's Church. I testify that this work is true! God is hastening this work and quickening us to better accomplish it. He rules in the heavens as a glorified and perfect being, but also as the personal Father of our Spirits.
I promise that as you prayerfully move forward in sharing the Gospel, it will mean more to you and your own conversion will deepen. You will find that as you do this, the Holy Ghost will also carry surprising things into YOUR heart as well.
                                         -Elder Ryan A. Bell

Monday, October 8, 2012


Hello, my Dear Family!
I have not read through all of your e-mails yet, but it sounds like everyone is doing well and had a GREAT conference! That is SO GOOD TO HEAR!!! I wish now that I would have appreciated General Conference more in my earlier years, as it is of so much worth to hear prophets of God speak eternal scripture. (D&C 68:4)
The past couple of weeks we have been teaching a man named Wayne Bennefeld. I have not mentioned him very much in e-mails or letters, for which I am very sorry. Wayne is single, in his 30's and works selling alarm systems for a member of one of the wards where I am now serving. He lived in Arizona, owned a restaurant, was very well off, lost everything in a divorce, and has experienced the healing power of the Atonement. He is so enthusiastic about the Gospel that it makes me a little ashamed. It's AWESOME, though!
He has a date to be baptized on October 27th and is eagerly looking forward to that day.
It was very cool to watch General Conference with him and see how the messages touched, impacted, and motivated him to further change himself. Goodness! How cool it is just to spend time with someone who is undergoing a mighty change of heart. You can feel it happening inside them and it is undescribable. Just being in their presence radiates the love of God, indeed, the very fruit of the Tree of Life.
We are working hard to improve here. As Elder Uchtdorf discussed in the Priesthood Session of General Conference, there is ALWAYS something less than ideal, but who are we to complain? How privileged we are to even be participating in this great cause!
I apologize for sending such a short collective report today, but I will answer you all individually.
A couple thoughts concerning Conference- it is awesome how the messages shared make us feel. But how can we make our General Conference experience more effective at making us who God wants us to be?
 1) The Purpose of Church Conferences- see if you can identify what we are to do. 
 8 And now, behold, I give unto you a commandment, that when ye are assembled together ye shall instruct and edify each other, that ye may know how to act and direct my church, how to act upon the points of my law and commandments, which I have given.
 9 And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be asanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me—
 10 That inasmuch as ye do this, glory shall be added to the kingdom which ye have received. Inasmuch as ye do it not, it shall be btaken, even that which ye have received.
 11 aPurge ye out the biniquity which is among you; sanctify yourselves before me;
 2) As Jesus instructs the Nephite people at the conclusion of one of His personal Conferences-
3 Nephi 17:3 Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and aponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and bprepare your minds for the cmorrow, and I come unto you again.
Thank you all so much for the love and support. You each deserve all the blessings the Lord grants for having missionaries because of your sacrifices!
                                                                                             -Elder Ryan A. Bell
P.S. I did not get transferred. Letters and packages encouraged.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Letter to Dad Oct 1, 2012

You will be proud to know that I sent a whole stack of letters this week, so they should be showing up any day now. Mission Accomplished.
Transfers are this week, so please don't send any packages or snail-mail letters until you know if I am staying or not. Not that I would not be thrilled to get all the goodies your brilliant minds come up with to send, I just want to make sure that I actually get the stuff.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT'S OCTOBER?! The month of the Returning of the Strange One! Whoa!!!!
Things in Spring/the Woodlands/wherever I am are going very well! We are teaching a man named Wayne Bennefeld who has a date to be baptized on the 27th of October. Wayne is the man!!! He is from Texas originally, lived in Arizona and calls that home, but now is in Houston working for an Alarm System company that a member of one of our wards owns. One of the cool parts about teaching Wayne, is that we teach him in a member's home and after each lesson, the Sister of the home makes everyone grilled cheeses. And she does a mighty fine job at it too, if I might add. She is flattered that we appreciate her cooking (because we do) and therefore keeps the grilled cheeses coming. OH YEA!
Ernest read 13 chapters of the Book of Mormon at work this week! He has been getting immersed in the scriptures at work. How awesome! It's amazing to see his personality soften as he not just reads, but applies what he is reading and learning. He and Christine have been VERY diligent and faithful, changing their work schedules around to make it to Church every single week!
To help make their one day off at home together more special, we have been doing our barbecue tradition but shaking it up a little bit by having a member invite us and the Atoigue's over to their home on Sunday for dinner It has been going extremely well! We all went over to a family from Spain's last night and the Atoigue's loved them! Christine texted us afterwards and said that it was really great for Ernest to see another example of a dignified male head of the household to follow. Good stuff!
Every week, he seems more and more excited about all of this. Man, I LOVE that family! And am so happy that you guys love them too!
We are working with Michael (whom I have talked about before), a new lady named Bell, an ex-Marine named Sean who we tracted into one day, and many other potentials. We will hopefully be able to continue to step it up and fulfill our purpose even more with these wonderful people!
Love ya Pops! Thank you for all that you do for the family and for me personally. More than a few times you have helped keep my head up and keep me going when the going got tough. This week was one of those weeks.
                                                        -Elder Ryan A. Bell