Monday, April 30, 2012

I've had a full plate lately... really!
The Start of a New Era
It's interesting to find at the end of a week how time can go by so fast, yet last Tuesday feels like a month ago.  I'm not really sure how to describe it, but I would say it is due to being anxiously engaged in a great cause :)

This last week was packed with traveling to New Hampshire for an all-day Zone Leader Council, an exchange with the Ellsworth Elders, District Meetings, more people/appointments than we can handle, moving tons of furniture, eating delicious Ronnie's Libs! (Lonnie Wilcox's Famous Ribs) (Thanks Wilcox family! we love you!), transfer calls, and a Sunday that left us fulfilled :) ...ya, we've had a lot on our plates this week, and honestly, the only full day on proselyting that we got was Saturday, and that was a beautiful day, haha.  We've been focussing a lot on plans and ideas for how to start off this next transfer the right way, and how to help us and the Zone find the most success.  We have a lot of plans for how to help uplift the Zone, and as we looked at our area we found many things we wanted to change, update, and improve - one of which was our furniture.

This last transfer, we started serving at the Habitat for Humanity - a place that accepts, refurbishes, and sells donated furniture and building materials; they then use the money to build homes for
less-forunate families.  Everytime we are there we clean up furniture to put out on the main floor - all the while talking to people we work with and trying to strike up a gospel conversation with them (last
week we got to teach a young woman about most of the Plan of Salvation and then later gave her a Book of Mormon!).  The managers there a hold us in high esteem as being the hardest workers they have (seed planted!); also, they gave us incredible discounts on two desks! 
Don't play with your food, Dusty.
Saturday night we received our transfer calls, and neither of us are leaving! yay! - but there's a twist, we will be recieving another companion - a third member of our companionship - yes, we will be in a trio for the next 3 weeks.  Not only are we not set-up perfectly with 3 desks in our apartment (sweet mini-miracle), and not only are we excited for how fun a trio is, but we are already planning on taking full advantage of this opportunity to go on as many exchanges with missionaries, and splits with members, as possible.  The work here has been going great, but it's been too great to the point where we can't keep up with all the things we need to do and there simply isn't enough time in the day to do it all - so we're looking forward to the extra insight and help from another companion, as well as the days where we can go on splits and do twice as much work :)

We've got a some solid plans for the Zone, and a new Zone Leader coming to town.  So if you're like me and thought things here were tough and busy - buckle up, cause it's about to get crazy.  It's the start of a new era - the work in the Brewer Area and Bangor Zone is about the explode!

From Maine with Love,

Elder Dustin Carr

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Here's how this week went...

This was probably the craziest week of my mission - or at least the most exhausting by far.  We had so many changes to schedules and things that we had to do - it was quite physically and mentally
straining.  I gotta say though, the great feeling of strength that comes from hard work was so rewarding;  and I really hope Elder Esplin and I will survive transfer calls this weekend, because without him I don't think this week would've been possible to accomplish.

This week I learned a lot about serving the missionaries in my Zone and to what lengths is really takes to "go the extra mile."  This last Thursday we had a Specialized Zone Training with the whole Zone, President and Sister Wilkey, and the Assistants.  We had to prepare a few trainings, and the lunch.  The trainings were fine and we spent Wednesday preparing those, but then our member that was going to help prepare and provide for lunch forgot and went out of town.  So we got right to work the rest of Wednesday night and prepared a full make-it-yourself deli sub style lunch.  It was pretty legit and it was like a full on catering service, haha. 

I sure did learn alot about how much effort it takes to reach or exceed the expectations of our leadership position, and I'm glad to say, "I did everything I could this week, and then some more."  And our "reward" (as I like to look at it) was that on Thursday night President and Sister Wilkey went out with us to a lesson with Joe and Susie, and we had an amazing lesson about charity and the presence of the Spirit was very strong.  I must say that all my mission so far I have wished that I could go teaching with President and Sister Wilkey, and finally my dream came true :)

From New England with Love,

Elder Dustin Carr

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A New Set of Eyes

Well so much has happened this last week that I don't even know where to start, haha. This week has been so mentally, physically, and spiritually engaging that it became quite apparent that if I didn't have a watch on my wrist telling me what the date and time was, I would probably lose all sense of reality. It's really crazy to think that we are starting week 5 of my first transfer here - it seriously feels like I just got here - but I guess I'm just loving it so much that it's going by too fast. I seriously owe so much of it to my companion, Elder Esplin. He really has such a great optimistic energy about him and he really helps us stay focused and busy to the point where we simply NEVER have enough time to do everything we want/need to do. But it's different than before, because just a few transfers ago this feeling would bring so much stress and difficulty to the work, but now it brings excitement and energy I didn't know I have, and I'm really grateful for that.

So this last week I went on 2 exchanges, and 1 of them was with Elder Evans in Machias. Now I knew Elder Evans from before in Lawrence - he was there during my first transfer as a District Leader. And before, I had found it difficult in some areas to work with him, but after this last exchange I found I had a closer friend than I realized. Elder Evans and I had SO MUCH fun together, and the best part was that amidst all this fun we were fully engaged in the work. He and I really connected, because he is from Dixon California, and we are both into rock climbing (we've even gone to the same gyms!) and a lot of other stuff that I'm into. I found that he had changed from being a bit arrogant and aggressive to a more humble, and fun-loving missionary, meanwhile remaining diligent and obedient. He had brought this up and how he had changed and it really strengthened my testimony of the Atonement and our ability to change and become who God needs us to be. I was so proud of Elder Evans, and so happy to see how he is doing now, and I'm so glad to have a really close friend here in the Bangor Zone :)
Also on that exchange, I met and worked a lot with Brother Brown. He's a member there whom the missionaries help out, and he's the Elder's Quorum President and Branch Mission Leader in Machias. Brother Brown does and says a lot of funny things, and often times acts a little crazy, and while this made the day all more fun/funny, it really got me thinking. There were times when I would look at Brother Brown and I would realize just how innocent and sweet he is, and I felt something really special that I hadn't felt as strong for a while. As I thought about it throughout the day, I realized that The Spirit was teaching me to have charity through Brother Brown. That night, as Elder Evans and I were discussing how I felt, I found myself speechless and he said, "I know what it is, you saw your heavenly brother." And it was true. It's a feeling I had the strongest just out of the MTC as I was reaching the mission field, and I remember being in the airport - talking to mom on the phone - and I looked around and everyone I saw wasn't just a stranger or passerby anymore; I had a new set of eyes - ones that allowed me to see everyone as who they really are - my heavenly brothers and sisters. I'm happy to say that this week I feel as though I have received a new set of eyes again, and ever since that exchange I have looked at others with so much more Charity and Love. I look at the example my Best Friend, Chelsie, has set and how she exemplifies Charity so much by truly listening to people, and then caring about their lives and concerns more than her own; as I have applied those things this week, with a humble heart, I have found much more success when teaching investigators, working with members, and even when knocking on doors :)
I have found that the happiest moments on my mission are when I am focused on loving people with Christlike Charity; and I find the most energy towards this work when I can see people for who they really are - my heavenly brothers and sisters. I am so grateful for those in my life, before and during my mission, who have helped me develop Charity; and I'm so happy to once again see through a new set of eyes.
From New England with Love,
Elder Dustin Carr

Monday, April 9, 2012

I KNOW That My Redeemer Lives!

This last Tuesday we were helping a recent convert scrape wallpaper with the Bangor Elders.  It was fun to get to do some physical work again in normal work clothes - really, it does a lot for a man. But
the best part was the miracle that came from it.

As we were driving the Elders home, we passed by the house of a referral that we had tried to contact several times, but he wasn't home each time.  He was outside raking leaves, and we wanted to help, but the other missionaries we already late to a super important meeting (typical missionary standard time), so we dropped them off and rushed back to his house.  Now usually when we offer service, people laugh and tell us no because of our clothes and how they don't want us getting dirty or ruining them...this is quite frustrating, but that's why were all the more excited to go serve in normal working clothes.  When we arrived, we jumped out of the van, and without many words we simply picked up the extra rakes and got to work!  It was great, and we had an awesome time working with him and getting to know him.  Afterwards he invited us in where we had a great lesson about how he can repent, be baptized, and start over with a clean slate - putting behind him his past rough life.  He has
been working for a while now to be clean and move on from his past life, and really desires to be baptized.  We discussed how next time we come we'll set a baptismal date, and he is excited to do what it takes to prepare to be baptized and receive all the blessings that come from baptism and membership in this church.  We know this man has been prepared to receive the gospel now and Elder Esplin and I both feel this wouldn't have happened so smoothly had we not already been serving that morning and been prepared for more service when the opportunity arrived.

Well, can I tell you how much I just love being a missionary?  This last week I've realized how so many people complain that they are just too busy to read the scriptures or have Family Home Evening or go to church, and yet our schedule is so perfectly set that we get to do all that and more!  I LOVE the fact that we get to study for an hour by ourselves and then another hour with our companion, and I've learned a lot this last week from studying the last week of the Savior's life and His Atonement.  I found that everything - I mean EVERY little thing - that could have possibly happened to make matters worse, or more painful for Him throughout the Atonement, did happen.  We've taught many time this last week about The Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, and as I thought about every little thing that He went through for us, I realized that is just adds on to how much He loves
us - which love is an infinite love.

I want the world to know that I KNOW that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.  That He gave up His life for us, and that He suffered all pains, afflictions, sorrows, and more, so that we don't have to.  I know that His Atonement is real and infinite and through it we can find peace, comfort, and forgiveness.  Not only did He die for us, but he was resurrected, and now HE LIVES for us.  This is the Christ, the Savior of us all, and I am now serving our Heavenly Father by inviting, helping, and guiding His children - my heavenly brothers and sisters - to come unto His only Begotten Son, even Jesus Christ.

From New England with Love,

Elder Dustin Carr

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Conference Weekend Miracle

Tracting, Maine-ly
This has been quite a long week, it honestly felt like 2 weeks, but don't get me wrong, I loved every bit of it.  It started with a trip to Zone Leader Council on Tuesday, then a District Meeting and exchange on Wednesday.  Then Thursday, when I finally returned to my own area with my own companion, we were discussing how much I have even worked in my own area, and by that time, I had only worked like 1
day out of the last week and a half, haha.  So it's a little tough that I still barely know the area or it's investigators/less-actives, but I'm getting there, and Elder Esplin is really working hard to help
me learn the area - we set some great goals for this week and I'm
excited to get a stronger footing now.  :)
So last August we got texting on our phones, and we figured out a way to utilize that technology to help those we work with.  Every morning we send a "Scripture of the Day" to a group of people (investigators,
recent converts, and less-actives) who wanted one.  The idea is that the theme of the scripture will either cater to their needs, the times/holidays, or simply be focused on helping them gain a desire to
progress more in the gospel and grow closer to Christ.  This weekend, we received a text from one of our recent converts who has been struggling and she said, "I wanted to tell you that I know missionaries only recently received the privilege of texting to someone and answering back and I think you have used this privilege well.  Whomever had the idea of sending out daily spiritual messages or scriptures had an awesome idea to improve our daily lives and you were able to help me because of this.  Thank you."  This really touched our hearts and we are grateful to have been inspired as to how we can use technology to fulfill our missionary purpose "to help others come unto Christ..."  We continually get warm messages of joy and appreciation from this and we are looking for other ways to utilize technology for good.
Well, this last weekend was AMAZING!  I learned so much from General Conference - I don't even know where to begin.  First off, I have developed such a greater appreciation for conference over the last 3
sessions I have watched and studied during my mission.  I also have decided a goal to never miss a single session of conference again, and to find creative ways to instill this same love for conference in my
family someday.
This conference brought a major miracle.  In between the Saturday morning and afternoon sessions, we went to visit our investigator couple (who are not yet married).  While there, they got into a huge argument and it was really sad to see them tearing each other down.  We tried to add suggestions about how the gospel can help, but we aren't marriage counselors, and this didn't feel like the place for us - but we knew we couldn't leave on a sour note.  As Elder Esplin was talking, I silently prayed for help with this situation and almost immediately received an answer.  I felt a spiritual impression that I know Elder Esplin felt too, because he spoke the words I was feeling, and then I added to it and concluded with a strong promise
and testimony.  The prompting we felt was to promise them that if they would specifically watch that next session of conference, and if they would watch with open/humble hearts, willing to accept whatever
counsel is given, then they will hear one of the talks as if it were written directly for them, and they will hear, feel, and know that it was God's counsel for them.  We ended with a kneeling prayer, but we
were a bit distraught walking out the door after hearing that the man might pack up and leave, and that he didn't want to come to Priesthood session.
Then we met with the other missionaries at the church, and before walking into the afternoon session, we knelt and prayed.  With humble hearts we prayed and pleaded that a miracle would be brought forth,
that they would watch the conference, and that one of the talks given would seem as though it were specifically written for them.  Now full of faith, we entered that Saturday afternoon
Conference Session and saw a miracle happen right before our eyes.
During the first talk, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke about eliminating envy, acquiring charity, and developing strong relationships - full of love, centered on Christ.  Countless times during the talk I found myself in tears as my companion and I looked at each other and realized what had just happened.  I wrote on the margin of my notes, "This talk was inspired and written for the couple."  Afterward we texted him and asked if he had watched that session of conference and his reply confirmed that he and Susie
watched it together, that it "really hit home", and that it was a talk truly written for them; he later came and enjoyed the Priesthood session with a happy smile and a bright spirit about him.
I know that our God is a God of miracles; sometimes they come in the
form of sicknesses, blue bows, mission calls, or even General
Conference talks, but regardless, I DO BELIEVE IN MIRACLES.
From New England with Love,
Elder Dustin Carr