I Hope Y’all Had A Merry Christmas

Hi Y’all!

It was good to hear from y’all yesterday!!! (a note on “y’all”: Y’all would be saying y’all all the time if it was socially acceptable where y’alls are from. It is extremely convenient and I don’t know why everyone doesn’t say it…….. honestly though I just say it to mess with y’all.) I hope y’all had a merry Christmas, even if y’all were feeling sick! I know I had a good Christmas! Since it was a non-proselyting day, we pretty much stayed at the O’Briens’ the whole day. I know that’s not the best missionary work, but it would have been really hard to schedule appointments with people, not to mention Elder Staheli wasn’t feeling too well. They took good care of us though, and Elder Staheli’s feeling better now! We played several rounds of air hockey with the O’Brien kids and Elder Staheli creamed everyone. They took us out to see this big Christmas lights set up; which we have some pictures of. On Christmas Eve, we had dinner with another family, the Kukihikos, and that was a lot of fun! We played games and there were a lot of little kids running around (reminded me of family reunions). Elder Staheli played piano and he is really good!

Friday night, we also went caroling with the New Bern elders. It was a pretty long drive to get there, and Elder Staheli had been sick in bed all day, so that whole day was pretty unproductive. Caroling was a lot of fun though! The New Bern elders are pretty funny. We’re going to say goodbye to Elder Hintze this transfer.  There was one street in New Bern that was lined with these big balls of Christmas lights hanging from the trees and it was really cool looking! (sorry, no pics.)

We had Christmas conference in Kinston on Thursday as well; which took up the whole day. President Weed talked about some of our new standard for the upcoming year. We are going to work towards a 25% increase in baptisms next year. We also streamlined the key indicators a lot to focus more on working with members. Part of the focus on working with members in certain areas will be to push for a reduced number of member meals. In some places,missionaries have one or two meals with members a night; which is honestly a huge waste of time. Instead, we need to focus on having short lessons with members. Too many of them feel like they have an “obligation” to feed us; when in reality we’re given enough funds to take care of ourselves without any help.
As far as missionary work this week, it’s been pretty sparse since a lot of people don’t want us to drop by until after the holidays and a few of our investigators are going through rough financial struggles and are working all the time. We are getting some work done and a few of the people who weren’t as open before are opening up more now! I know you asked me who you can pray for, so please pray for those who are having financial struggles here.
I got my bike fixed this week! It was a good deal too! However, I might have to take it back again because the axle’s still a bit wobbly.
Love you! Hope y’all get over your colds!
Elder Runyan
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Tis the Season

Hello Family!

Sorry I’m slow to get to my email. I’m still a pretty slow typer.

     Overall, It’s been a pretty awesome week! Thank you so much for all the letters and packages! I gave Elder Staheli his present; that was really nice of y’all to send that! I hope the holidays are treating everyone well! I know it can be a stressful time, but I think a good way to make this season really mean something is to share the Light of Christ with others. If you turn outward, and help others to see how much Christ loves them, I can promise that life will never be dull.
     I hope everything’s going well with y’all! People really change and open up with the Christmas season. One thing that people do here to decorate their houses is put candles (usually electronic) in all the window’s. I think it looks really cool!
     Elder Staheli and I are working better as a team lately and we are really learning to rely on each other more. One of his goals has been to talk less in lessons so I can get a chance to teach more, and mine has been to speak and be bold in lessons, and we’ve really been doing that well with each other! We have to watch “The District” videos a lot as part of training. Although they are helpful, they make some of the things they do seem like doctrine, when in reality every mission is different and so is every missionary. A lot of the things they show are for an “ideal” mission; “ideal” ward, “ideal” members, even “ideal” investigators. In reality, going on a mission really requires adaptability, and willingness to work with anyone, no matter how “ideal” they are.
     I’ve been having troubles with my bike lately. The tire rubs against the frame, because the axle is pretty much messed up. I’m taking it to the shop and it won’t be too expensive of a fix. Until then, we really have to watch our miles and try to get rides from members, but that’s mission life! I like walking anyway, because it’s easy to go up to people and talk to them.
     It’s been really hard to get people to follow through with appointments, but we are praying for more opportunities to teach, and some of our best lessons have been with strangers on the street! The Light the World initiative has been great to share with people because everyone has a cell phone, and can look it up.
     One tender mercy I’ve experienced was when teaching an investigator, I had a prayer in my heart that he would recognize the Spirit and we started talking about how the Spirit works. He started asking great, spiritual questions like “Do all the members in your church have this ‘ability’ to teach like this?” and we explained that he was feeling the Spirit. It went really well and he decided that he wanted to get baptized, but didn’t want to chose a date yet. That was probably the best outcome I’ve had from a lesson yet, and it was really reassuring because all I needed to do was testify of what I know to be true and that Christ loves us. This morning, I studied my Patriarchal Blessing and that was a great comfort to me.

     I wanted to show y’all what people in the ‘hood like to do to their cars. Elder Staheli absolutely loathes these cars, and says they’re called “donks”.

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It’s a big tradition to put a cover on your missionary planner, (and it keeps it from falling apart.) I finally put one on mine which Elder Steheli helped me do. The front is from the December Ensign and the back is a picture that we have literally all over the house.

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     Merry Christmas everyone! I can’t wait to see you on Skype!
Love
Elder Runyan

I’m 19!

Hello Friends and Family!

     Thank you for all the birthday wishes, and letters! I loved reading all the notes from the ward, and thanks for the snacks! I haven’t made the cake yet, because other people have given me treats, including the sisters who left this week. They were sad to go and had a great desire to serve the Lord.
     I’m getting to my main email pretty late today, because I had a lot of emails to respond to; which I’m really grateful for! Thank y’all for the nice emails! It’s great to hear how everyone is doing!
     This week has been pretty crazy and we had a pretty big change here. Since the sisters are leaving a little early, (I won’t go into the details) Elder Staheli and I are serving over the whole Washington area, (which is pretty massive) for at least two weeks until we get new sisters. However, since we are running low on sisters, that might take a while; President Weed really doesn’t know yet. We’ve been doing a lot of praying and working with the members to help us fulfill our duties.
     We had our Christmas party this week! It was really fun! We tried to invite as many investigators as we could, but the branch told us about it pretty late, so there were only a couple from the members. One of the members, Levi Cobbe, is a professional singer and he sang for the party! We have his Christmas album, and he’s really good! Maybe you can look him up. The best part of the party was when a branch member came out dressed as Santa Claus, all Ho-ho-hoing and yelling out to all the primary children; it was really out of character for this member, which was really funny!
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      We are teaching a lady who has a big pit bull on her front yard, who will run right up to you and jump on you. He is really playful and Elder Staheli and I aren’t afraid of dogs, so when people walk by they think we’re crazy for playing with a big, scary-looking pit bull.
      I got to go down to the river front in the sisters area this week and see the boats on the dock lit up with Christmas lights. It was pretty cool! I should have taken pictures.
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      These are pictures of our district from district meeting. The other elders serve in New Bern which is a good drive away.
      Honestly, I’m still trying to be more “serviceable” to others and I feel like I could be doing more for my companion, because so far I’ve been riding on his coattails, to get my feet on the ground. If you can get your hands on Elder Bednar‘s MTC talk, “The Character of Christ” that would be a great message about how we should be like Christ in all our toughest trials and throughout our lives by reaching out to others, “turning out,” when most people would turn in. One experience that’s helped shape me was my first investigator at the MTC.  I went into that lesson really not knowing what to say. We sat there in silence with him for a very long time, and ultimately left feeling unqualified. I needed to realize that the Lord qualifies us for this work) and we simply need to be following the rules and boldly opening our mouth at every opportunity.
       Well, I can’t wait to Skype home for Christmas! Keep sharing the Light of Christ with everyone and #Light the World! 
Love,
Elder Samuel Runyan
Thanks for all the birthday gifts!

The People Here Love to Talk About Jesus!

Hey!

I’m learning a lot here about how God directs us in the direction we need to go. Elder Staheli and I were discussing this, and I really like a quote from Elder Oaks, which is in page 101 of Preach My Gospel. He explains that we can be led by the Spirit, but shouldn’t expect him to lead us in all things. This has been helpful for me as I bear my testimony during lessons. For a long time, I thought bearing your testimony meant making it up on the spot, and you just say whatever the Spirit puts in your mind. Sometimes he can do that, but most of the time, he lets us think about what to say and helps us remember things we have studied out previously with real intent. I’m still not a very powerful teacher of myself, but the Spirit is, and if I have faith and pray, the Lord will consecrate my performance.

I’m really learning how essential members are to missionary work! In zone meeting, they changed a lot of things so now we are only recording lessons with members present and not other lessons. We can work a lot harder at getting members involved here in Washington. They have a great faith, they just need to get excited about the work! One of our investigators came to scripture study class on Thursday! He loved the church building and participated a lot in the discussion! He is going to be a great member!

I still think its stupid that people burn trash on their front yards here, and Elder Staheli likes to make fun of me for that.

Have y’all heard about what the church is doing this Christmas on Mormon.org?! It’s a great worldwide service oriented program, and you should share it with your friends! That’s been really helpful for us out here to share that with people, because they love to do service!

We’ve had some interesting experiences with people. Last Saturday, night we knocked on a potential investigator’s door, and and she came out of a neighboring house totally drunk, (she had been partying,) and she came up to us saying “when’s y’all’s church? I want to come.” We called her the next morning to check up on her and I think she had forgotten, so she didn’t actually come, but I thought that was funny that she had that idea on her mind even while being drunk. We’ve met a few people out here who are like that. One time, we went up to a house that was playing loud bass music and partying, and the lady welcomed us as we asked her if she wanted to hear a message about Jesus. We prayed with her, and she loved that, even though they had cases of beer waiting for them. She later told us she feels something special around us, (the Spirit) even though we haven’t caught her sober once! I think it’s interesting that even if people aren’t making good choices, they are very religious out here, and even catch glimpses of the Holy Ghost speaking to them. If only they knew how much happier their life would be if they followed Christ’s example for them!

Anyways, I love North Carolina! The people here love to talk about Jesus, (and love to talk,) and we’ve had some great discussions with people. It’s just about helping them make those decisions to align their lives with God’s will.

Love Y’all!

Elder Runyan

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Elder Runyan’s apartment decorated for Christmas