I’m Coming Home

Well, my mission has come to an end. 

After talking it over with a lot of people and spending a lot of time on my knees praying about it, I have decided that it would be best for me to return home now to figure out this medical issue regarding the dizziness.  It’s been one of the hardest decisions of my life.  I still have 2.5 months left until my scheduled release date, a new area and district to preside over, an amazing ward to serve, and a lot of raw potential in this small town…but I can’t keep living like this forever.

Well...

Well…

It stinks.  There really is no other way to put it.  But at the same time, I feel like I’m doing what needs to be done.

I am so eternally grateful for the experience that I was able to have here in the Iowa Des Moines Mission.  I’m so grateful to have been able to spend over 21 months serving these wonderful, amazing people here.  This has been such a magical time of my life.  I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

My next step is to take all of these experiences, together with the knowledge I gained from them, and apply it to my own life as I set out for college, career, marriage, and so on.

I’d like to finish my last email as a missionary with my testimony.  This Gospel is true.  It’s so true!  I know it with every bit of my being!  I know that God lives.  I know that He gave His Only Begotten Son to be an atoning sacrifice for you and me.  I know that the path back to our Heavenly Father is clear and it is through following His Son.  I know that everything that has been restored to the Earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith and every one of his successors is true, necessary, and vital.  I know that my mission was the best 2 years I’ve ever spent doing anything.  And I know that I cannot wait to serve again when I am older.

I love you all.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Transfer Calls and General Conference

Well, I will not be finishing my mission as a zone leader.  The transfer calls just came in this morning and I’m going to be called as a district leader again for my last two transfers.  I’ll find out where I’m headed on Thursday, but I’m way excited.  Being a district leader is the best!  I’m excited to go baptize another dozen people somewhere else in the mission!

As for the General Conference, it was incredible…and kind of funny at the same time.  I went into conference praying for direction from Heavenly Father on two things:

-What will help me the most to become the best missionary I can be for my remaining time?
-What should I focus on when I get home?

The Spirit answered my first question by teaching me that I need to work on being more diligent with my efforts. Each night, as I say my prayers at my bedside, I need to be able to say that I gave everything that day.  That’s what I’ll be working on.  Turning more and more of myself over to the Lord.  You can never give enough of yourself to Him.

As for the second question, it seemed like everyone kept talking about the importance of eternal marriage and noble parenthood!  It was the worst!  Haha.  The Elders sitting by me at the Church building kept nudging me every time it was brought up.  How are we already getting to that age??  Well, I know that my mom is going to be emailing me on how I need to stop thinking about it, so I’ll move on…

Anyways, things are going very well here.  The zone had another baptism on Saturday and we should be having 3 or 4 this next Saturday. I wish that I could be here to see them!  Oh well, on to the next area!  By the way, fun fact…this will be my 7th area and 14th companion.

As for my spiritual thought, I would like to focus my thoughts on the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I simply want to express my gratitude for Him.  He cares so much about each of us.  He knows exactly what I’m going through right now. He’s felt it.  He’s felt what you’re going through too.  He did it all.  And because He did, because He successfully atoned for each of us and was resurrected, we too, may each be partakers of His glory and strength.  We each have the opportunity to rise above our weaknesses and sins.  We can look into the mirror and see raw potential.  We can look at our past selves AS past selves.  We have the ability to become!  Because He Lives.  http://www.mormon.org/easter?cid=99115404&gclid=CLPiw6ec4sQCFQqSaQodzXkA_g

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Hey Mom! Happy Birthday!

(Once again, this is a personal letter from Elder Eastwood to me for my birthday.  It’s not supposed to have been posted here, I believe, but until he realizes it is here, this will remain here.  Haha. – Kumi Eastwood)

Hey, Mom!  Happy Birthday!

Roses are red, Violets are purple, Nothing rhymes w/ purple…  Tomatoes.  But you’re still the best!

Mom, I love you so much.  You have done everything you could possibly do for me over the years, and I appreciate you more than you know.  You may doubt it at times, but you’re absolutely the best mother ever.  I love everything about you, and you have been such an example to me at every turn.  I hope that my future wife (whoever that is) will be as great at being a mother as you are.

Happy birthday, Mom.  I’ll see you soon.

Love,

Elder Eastwood

 

 

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Baptisms, Bedbugs, and Fried Strawberries…

Yup, that’s right. Bedbugs.

So, we decided to do a thorough cleaning of the 1st floor of our house:

03-30-15 Bed Bugs 1 03-30-15 Bed Bugs 3 03-30-15 Bed Bugs 2 03-30-15 Bed Bugs 4 And then we had a baptism on Saturday!  I had the honor of baptizing Kathy Lawrance and it was SUCH a wonderful experience.  The Spirit was so strong and I just absolutely love that woman.  She has overcome so much in life and now, she has made her first covenant with her Heavenly father on her path back to Him.  Baptisms NEVER get old.

03-30-15 Baptism of Kathy LawranceSorry, but I have no time this week!  Just know that our zone had 2 baptisms this week, 1 for next week, and 6 scheduled for the week after that (and one of those is ours)!  The zone is on fire and I am so proud of them.  I love this Gospel with all of my heart.  The quote for the week is from President Monson: “When God speaks and a man obeys, that man will always be right.”  I have come to know that that is true this week.  Follow your priesthood leaders.  Follow the commandments.  Follow the Holy Ghost.  Do all of it.  Then watch miracles happen in your life and the lives of those around you.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Baptisms. Everywhere.

Our zone is on FIRE right now.  It’s so amazing to watch.  We began the year with 3 on date and they were all a ways off.  Since then, we’ve baptized 10 and now have 13 on date for baptism (9 of which are set to be baptized in the next 3 weeks)!  The crazier part is that these are all individual people scattered throughout the zone…none of them are whole families coming in.  It’s just a lot of people!  5 of those 13 are in our area and Kathy (ours) should be getting baptized at 3 pm on Saturday! 🙂  It’s so amazing.  She has grown so much since I’ve gotten here.  She has been investigating for over 2 years and had severe anxiety issues.  Just to show you how far she’s come, she sat through STAKE CONFERENCE this week.  There were 9 units there in the stake building!  Man, that was amazing.  Sam also came and he’s on date for us on April 11th.  He’s also been investigating for over two years.  He’s finally getting baptized!  John just moved into our area and has been investigating for a couple years also.  He’s working towards May 2nd.  We have a Liberian family on date for May 9th.  And on Friday, while on exchanges with Elder Mizell, we ran into 2 Kenyan families that had us teach them in their apartment that must have been at least 90 F with their teenage sons translating the whole lesson into Swahili for them.  The Spirit was SO strong as one of the sons, Pascal, read/translated Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision to his parents for the first time.  The father of one of the families is a pastor for an African congregation.  He said, sincerely, that he would study and pray about the message of the Restoration.  We’ll be fasting and praying this week that he will come in to the sweet waters of baptism along with the rest of his family/congregation.

02-23-15  A picture from one of the only hills in Iowa

A picture from one of the only hills in Iowa

02-23-15 The Cedar Rapids District

The Cedar Rapids District

02-23-15 The Anamosa District

The Anamosa District

Sister Searle!  SB 4th Ward Reunion!

Sister Searle!  SB 4th Ward Reunion!

Basically, things here are moving FAST and I absolutely love it with ALL of my heart.  The thought of being transferred in 2.5 weeks makes me sick.

What I’ve been learning so much about is the need to be willing.  Willing to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands.  Willing to give up personal comforts/wants/desires for something greater.  Missionary work, the cause of bringing souls unto Christ is SO much bigger than any of us!  And it’s not just baptizing people!  It’s smiling at people and saying “good morning” as you walk by.  It’s helping a little kid tie his shoes.  It’s mowing people’s lawns that can’t do it themselves.  It’s just being Christ-like!  That’s all it really is.  Be like Christ!  I’m so terrible at it, but I’m trying.  I’ve never tried this hard to be Christ-like before.  The hope is that it will become a part of me.  What I can honestly say…despite the dizziness, fatigue, heart-aches, and what not…is that I’ve never been happier.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Blessings from On High

I’ve learned a lot from this past week.  As many of you know, the dizziness/headaches that sent me home has come back and it’s frustrating me to no end.  I’ve been trying to see what the Lord would have me learn from this and I’ve come up with a few things.

Because of this trial I am…

– becoming more grateful for good health
– looking forward to the Resurrection more
– dizzy
– realizing, once again, that I depend on the Lord for help in all things
– coming to the conclusion that I am happiest when I am focused on the needs of others (especially in a gospel context)
– learning to sympathize to a greater degree with those who suffer from similar problems

You can learn so many things from your trials!  You just have to look for them.  The other day, I was reading through 2 Nephi 4:17-35 (also known as “Nephi’s Lament”), in which the prophet Nephi writes about how disappointed he is with himself that he isn’t perfect.  What I noticed as I read it this time, that I hadn’t noticed before, was that the thing that turned his attitude around was noticing all of the blessings in his life.  As Nephi took note of how much our Heavenly Father loved and blessed him, he was able to turn outward and upward with his time and energy once more.

Let us all remember to take note of our blessings in our times of trial, so that we can be reminded once more of our divine potential and birthright.  As we do so, we will be blessed with peace, direction, and the guidance of the Spirit in our lives.  Then, we can move forward armed with the lessons that we have learned by enduring well.

I love this Gospel with all of my heart.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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50 degrees? Break out the short-sleeves!

For the first time in a long time, we are driving around with the windows down.  This is our 3rd day in a row at 50 F and it feels like a sauna out there!  Haven’t even been wearing a sweater.  It’s so amazing!

Boy, we had an amazing week, though!  Kathy FINALLY CAME TO CHURCH!  We’ve been trying to get her to come to church since I got here and she finally came!  She’s now on date for the 28th of this month (her birthday)!  Also, Stephanie and Kaleecia are still doing well towards their baptismal date on April 11th.  And then on top of all of that, the new Liberian family that we had found last week came to church, too!  The Borbors (active Liberians) just took them by the hand and it was so amazing to watch.  So, between those two families and the Dopoes (our last baptism and also Liberian), we’ve got a good sized Liberian group now!  Things are going great in our area and we are all excited to watch General Conference in just a couple weeks now!  Wow, where is the time going?

We are just so blessed right now in our area.  Please keep the rest of my zone in your prayers, though.  Most of them are on the up-tick, but they are still hurting for work.  Of the 67 investigators in our zone, 23 are in our area.  Also, of the 128 FFT’s in our zone (good member missionaries), 48 come from our area.  So our area is doing super well, but we really want to see all of us doing well.  Please pray that they’ll see success as they humbly and diligently move forward.

I want to express to each of you how much I love the Book of Mormon.  Just think of it.  Mankind has played the game “telephone” with the Bible.  It started off great.  It started off as the word of God, but then people went in there and took some things out, put other things in, then translated it dozens of times until what was left, while still true, was missing a few pieces.  Just consider the doctrine of baptism.  Ever notice how there’s no concrete answer on just how to do it in there?  As well as when to do it?  This is where the Book of Mormon comes into play.  You see, God knew that we were going to mess things up.  He foresaw the 1 church that His Only Begotten would start morphing into 33,000+ different Christian faiths that all teach different doctrines.  He foresaw you and I looking confusedly at the vast landscape of theories, ideas, and doctrines.  So what does He do?  He sends us a book of ancient scripture that we can use with the Bible to figure out just what is right.  He sends us a book of complete, beautiful, unadulterated scripture that teaches Christ’s doctrine in such a way as to confound all naysayers.  He sends us a book that will let us know exactly what we’ve been missing for oh, so long.  Don’t you think it’d be interesting to see what was in there?

I absolutely love the Book of Mormon.  It has changed my life.  Many may argue this and that about the little things, but so called “reason” also deemed the Earth flat a few hundred years ago, powered flight impossible, and a sub 4-minute mile for a human unthinkable.  What’s interesting is how all of this hasn’t changed man’s disposition to reject and fear the unknown.  Just give it a shot and see if your prayers won’t be answered.  What do you have to lose?  Nothing.  But you have everything to gain.  And the key, is a sincere, heartfelt, prayerful study of the Book of Mormon.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Rockin’ in CR!

IT IS SO WARM!  It’s like 20 F with no breeze (the key factor), and man, I felt like I was melting outside in just a jacket!

Honestly, things are just going so well here right now.  Our zone just saw 3 baptisms this weekend, we have 2 solid people on date for April, and new investigators/potentials keep popping up for us.  Life is good. Oh! and my new companion is Elder Brock Payne from Pocatello, Idaho.  He was actually in my MTC District, so it was sort of a cool reunion at transfers.  We get along very well and we are ready to kill it here in CR.  We both go home in 4 months, so we just want to baptize the world in our remaining time.  Him being here probably means that I’ll be transferred next transfer…which really makes me sad because I LOVE THIS PLACE…but we’ll see what happens.

On my mission, as I’ve talked with so many different people, I feel like I have found out what hurts people the most.  It’s when they aren’t acting as well as they know how to.  It’s when you wake up, look in the mirror, and realize that you aren’t as good of a man/woman as you should be.  That’s what hurts.  But at the same time, I’ve also found out what brings the most happiness: forgetting about yourself and focusing on helping others.  Every time that I have felt a little down the past transfer or two, it was in those moments when I had nothing to do and was thinking about myself.  The solution, in each case, was focusing my whole soul on the welfare of somebody else and giving myself up to the Lord.  I feel like I am finally learning how to put the last bit of me on the altar of sacrifice.

I just really love being a missionary and I want to crush it for these next 4 months.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Dizziness

(Actually, this is a personal email from Elder Eastwood to us, his close family members: his mom, dad, and younger sister.  I was not going to, and did not upload this email here when it was received, but decided to add after receiving his final email from his mission this morning on April 13, 2015.  Elder Eastwood tried to stay in the mission field as long as he could. – Kumi Eastwood)

So, I debated whether or not to tell you this because I feel that there is already enough on your plate, but the dizziness and headaches are back.  Not as bad as before the surgery, but they are definitely back.  I’ll admit that I haven’t been doing much in the way of the exercises and I will start doing them pronto again.  I’m not sure why they’re back and it’s really frustrating me.  It’s been a matter of prayer and fasting in my companionship and our Ward Mission Leader and his wife fasted for me.  It’s not so bad that I can’t work, so the plan is to push through it for the next 4.5 months.  I’m positive that I’ll be fine.  I’m so sorry.  I really didn’t want to tell you this.  It’s been really hard for me, too.  It’ll be okay.  Just pray for me, please?  I love you!

Elder Eastwood

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Rebuilding

The highlight of this past week was getting to stand-in on the confirmation of Mamie Dopoe.  She is the third baptism of the year for us here and it’s so amazing to see that little family come together and grow.  One of the coolest experiences was getting the opportunity to talk to Arthur’s mother over the phone!  She called us all the way from Liberia to tell us, through her tears, how grateful she was for us.  I’ll never forget that.

Well, today is transfer calls and we still haven’t received ours.  Elder Bouwhuis is probably going to be leaving though.  It’s been so nice to have a companion with so much experience in the mission.  Between us, we’ve been on our missions for a combined 40.5 months.  I’m really going to miss having him here to bounce ideas off of.  We are currently re-buliding our area.  We have two investigators that we meet with weekly, but both of them are stuck in their progression and have the hardest time attending church.  After those two, we have about 15 investigators that are all pretty shaky.  Needless to say, we need to do a lot of finding.  We have been doing quite a bit the last couple of days and it’s been freezing! I’ve been using a golf ball to knock on people’s doors because it’s easier than banging on it with a heavy glove on.

Last night, the wind chill had the temperature well below zero, but we knew that we needed to go finding, so we went out by one of the high schools, picked a street, and started knocking.  Man, when that breeze would really blow, I felt like I had goosebumps on my soul.  Anyways, I’m not sure if this happens everywhere, but people in Iowa have this habit of cracking the screen door open just an inch in order to tell us “it’s too cold, try the next one.”  So we’re both standing there thinking “yeah, you’re telling us!”  What’s the best is when people wish us the best of luck and tell us that they hope someone will let us in.  Anyways, we get to the end of the street and we can’t feel our legs.  Anyone that’s been out for long in the cold knows that feeling where your feet feel like jelly and when you walk, it feels like you’re walking on stubs.  Well, Elder Bouwhuis and I were so cold that we decided to race each other the mile or so back to the truck on our stubs.  Worst mile I’ve ever ran.  But, I beat him!

Well, I’d like to bear my testimony on the need for each of us to repent and re-build in our own lives.  One of the best talks on repentance that I’ve heard was given by one of my former professors at BYU.  You can find it at http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=2125 . We all fall short of the bar.  Albert E. Bowen once said, “The sin that will cleave to all the posterity of Adam and Eve is that they have not done as well as they know how.”  sometimes, we get really down on ourselves because of sins in the past.  I’d like to testify to all of you that Heavenly Father does not enjoy seeing us sad, beat-down, and depressed.  If you have sincerely repented and made things right to the best of your ability, drop the weight!  Let it go!  there is no need for you to continue carrying that burden.  We aren’t meant to just survive here, we are meant to thrive.  And one cannot do so while still carrying undue burdens on their shoulders.  And if Satan just keeps reminding you of those things, I’ve got a quote for you.  Id on’t know who said it, but it goes like this: “When Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.”  We are ALL meant for greatness.  Rid yourself of the mediocre and bad.  Rise up and take charge of yourself.

I testify of a living and loving God that cares about us and knows us by name.

I am a missionary of the Lord Jesus Christ and I bear witness that this Gospel is true.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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