Another Baptism! And Stomach Flu! And…

This past week, just like every other week, had some crazy ups and downs.  For one, I spent all of Wednesday in bed with the stomach flu.  I don’t know how disobedient missionaries do it.  Sitting around all day was the worst thing ever.  The day just seemed to drag on and on.  Yikes!  And then two days after that, the Dopoes had us over to have some African food!  It’s called “fufu” and is made from plantain flour.  You dip it in this chicken and fish dish that they call “slippery soup” and then eat it.  It was actually pretty good!  I asked him what kind of fish it was and he said in his Liberian accent “fresh fish from WalMart” haha.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there probably is no such thing as fresh fish in an Iowan Walmart.  So I asked him what kinds of fish he ate back in Liberia and he said, “Oh, yes.  Many kinds.  Fresh fish, dried fish…”  So there you have it.

02-17-15 Eating Fufu! 1

Eating Fufu!

02-17-15 Fufu

Fufu

02-17-15 Slippery Soup

Slippery Soup

Me eating Fufu!

Me eating Fufu!

My companion eating Fufu!

My companion eating Fufu!

02-17-15 My Companion!

My companion, Elder Bouwhuis!

02-17-15 Meet Faver 1

Meet Faver…

02-17-15 Meet Faver 2

…one of the cutest babies ever!

Then, on Sunday, Mamie Dopoe was baptized right after church and it was amazing!  Her husband (who has been a member for 13 years) gave the most beautiful prayer to open the meeting in which he spoke of committing his wife to the Lord.  The spirit was so strong!  Things are just going well here.  We should be having 3-4 more baptisms in the zone in the next 2 weeks and we have a couple more people that are close to baptism that we are teaching.

02-17-15 The Baptismal Group

She hasn’t had a whole lot of experience with cameras, and didn’t know that she was supposed to smile! Haha.  I promise she was smiling and laughing like the whole time! lol

02-17-15 The Anamosa District (one sister is missing)

The Anamosa District (one sister is missing)

02-17-15 The Cedar Rapids Stake Leadership

The Cedar Rapids Stake Leadership

02-17-15 President Jensen opening his presents on his birthday at MLC

President Jensen opening his presents on his birthday at MLC

Well, I don’t have much time today, so I need to make this short, but I just want to testify to you all how much my study of the sacrament has changed me.  I wrote about it in my email this past week, but it really has changed so much for me.  For the first time in my life, (and I hate to admit this) I am excited to go to sacrament meeting for a reason other than seeing friends or investigators.  Church has become a sacred three hours of self-reflection and spiritual enlightenment that I hadn’t quite expected.  I can feel the Spirit so much more abundantly throughout my entire week and I’ve never felt so at peace.  I love you all and pray that you too, may feel that “peace that passeth all understanding”.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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The Holy Sacrament

Another week is in the books!  Boy, are they flying by.  I’ll admit that it’s been a while since we’ve had an amazing week together here, but as we continue to press forward, the Lord blesses us with an incredible amount of tender mercies that speak peace to my mind and soul.  We are so richly blessed here.  If I had to sum up what has changed about me the most since I have come to Cedar Rapids is that I have, for the first time, gained an attitude of gratitude.
02-09-15 Me in the Snow 1

02-09-15 Me in the Snow 2

Some icicles that formed sideways due to the wind

Some icicles that formed sideways due to the wind

This past week was full of canceled appointments, investigators backing out on Sunday morning, and just plain out exhaustion…but holy cow, we saw some ridiculous miracles as well! For example, we have a baptism happening this coming Sunday!  Mamie (pronounced “Mommy”) Dopoe is the wife of a member and has decided to be baptized.  They’re from Liberia in Africa and moved to Cedar Rapids back in October.  They had been in 3rd Ward boundaries until about a week ago when they moved into our ward.  Right before moving in though, one of the sets of Elders dropped in to see them and they discovered that she wasn’t a member!  So they asked her if she wanted to be baptized and she not only said yes, but committed to a baptismal date only 2 weeks out!  We’ve been struggling to get all of the lessons in, but we’ve got them just about done and she passed her baptismal interview on Sunday.  The Lord loves His children.  That’s all I can say.

The topic that I wanted to focus on today in my email was the sacrament.  A few weeks ago, I caught myself not feeling like I was getting a lot out of sacrament meeting.  As I thought about it more and more, I discovered that the problem was not with anyone there, but with me.  How many of us, as we sit in the chapel awaiting the sacrament, are actually thinking about what the Savior has done for us?  How many of us are instead thinking about that screaming kid over in the side aisle? or about how monotone the speaker is? or about the athletic competitions that you are missing out on watching? or about what you are going to eat after church? or about how tired you are? or about how there’s a man in the other row asleep? etc…  Isn’t it interesting how most of these thoughts revolve around how others could be better, when in fact, the Sacrament is supposed to be a time of self-inspection and self-improvement?

I forget which General Authority said it, but he compared each speaker’s talk to a jug of water that the speaker has prepared to, metaphorically, pour out on the congregation.  He then went on to ask us what sort of a receptacle we came to the meeting with.  did we come with a jug ourself?  Or did we perhaps come with a thimble?  Just like how it is impossible for the missionaries to teach people who are unwilling to listen, it is impossible for the speaker to teach a congregation who are unwilling to listen also.

I invite each of us to study out on our own the importance of the Sacrament in our own lives.  Study the Sacrament prayers, study talks from General Authorities on the subject, examine your own testimony.  Then, when you go next Sunday, keep those things in mind.  Want a good tip?  Try taking notes during each talk.  I have been doing that for the last couple of Sundays and my sacrament experience has been completely changed.

This Church is true.  Being a missionary is the best thing that I have ever done in my life.

I love you all.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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19 Months!

Well, we got blasted by a snow storm these last two days.  We went to bed and woke up to find 5 or 6 inches on the ground, it still snowing (it snowed the rest of the day), and wind so bad that there are icicles on our porch that go sideways.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of those…

02-02-15 4

02-02-15 3

02-02-15 6

02-02-15 5

02-02-15 7

I was really craving funnel cake the other day, so I decided I'd try to make some. 

I was really craving funnel cake the other day, so I decided I’d try to make some.

Not bad, huh?

Not bad, huh?

Something great to report on is that the work is moving forward!  We have 4 different people that we are working with that are all very close to baptism.  The last two weeks were a little frustrating because we had to give up 3 investigators with baptismal dates to the 1st Ward missionaries due to a confusion in ward boundaries, but it’s okay because we are all on the same team and a baptism here is just as good as there.  One thing that I have come to find though, is that all that we go through is there to prepare us for the future.

Here’s a story on that topic that President Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared in the Priesthood Session of the April 2006 General Conference:

“When I was 11 years old, my family <http://www.mormon.org/values/family>  had to leave East Germany and begin a new life in West Germany overnight. Until my father could get back into his original profession as a government employee, my parents operated a small laundry business in our little town. I became the laundry delivery boy. To be able to do that effectively, I needed a bicycle to pull the heavy laundry cart. I had always dreamed of owning a nice, sleek, shiny, sporty red bicycle. But there had never been enough money to fulfill this dream.What I got instead was a heavy, ugly, black, sturdy workhorse of a bicycle.  I delivered laundry on that bike before and after school for quite a few years. Most of the time, I was not overly excited about the bike, the cart, or my job. Sometimes the cart seemed so heavy and the work so tiring that I thought my lungs would burst, and I often had to stop to catch my breath. Nevertheless, I did my part because I knew we desperately needed the income as a family, and it was my way to contribute.
If I had only known back then what I learned many years later—if I had only been able to see the end from the beginning—I would have had a better appreciation of these experiences, and it would have made my job so much easier.
Many years later, when I was about to be drafted into the military, I decided to volunteer instead and join the Air Force to become a pilot. I loved flying and thought being a pilot would be my thing.
To be accepted for the program I had to pass a number of tests, including a strict physical exam. The doctors were slightly concerned by the results and did some additional medical tests. Then they announced, “You have scars on your lung which are an indication of a lung disease in your early teenage years, but obviously you are fine now.” The doctors wondered what kind of treatment I had gone through to heal the disease. Until the day of that examination I had never known that I had any kind of lung disease. Then it became clear to me that my regular exercise in fresh air as a laundry boy had been a key factor in my healing from this illness. Without the extra effort of pedaling that heavy bicycle day in and day out, pulling the laundry cart up and down the streets of our town, I might never have become a jet fighter pilot and later a 747 airline captain.”
Let us all keep pressing forward with the faith and assurance that there is a Heavenly Being, even our Heavenly Father, that watches over us from above.  He can make more of our lives than we can.  Trust in Him and do your best.  There’s no better recipe for success.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Hinges

01-26-15 1 01-26-15 2 01-26-15 3

My drawing of Elder Bouwhuis

My drawing of Elder Bouwhuis

Elder Cook mimicking Elder Walls' drawing of him

Elder Cook mimicking Elder Walls’ drawing of him

Elder Walls...leaning on a wall...trying to look like his self-portrait.  His drawing is wearing a WWE belt tho, so it's not exactly the same... lol

Elder Walls…leaning on a wall…trying to look like his self-portrait. His drawing is wearing a WWE belt tho, so it’s not exactly the same… lol

I was trying to get the chin just right.

I was trying to get the chin just right.

Where is the time flying?  January is already over.  I have just over 5 months left.  That’s insane.

Well, this last week (just like all of the others) has been crazy.  We’ve had some of the highest of highs (new investigator that has already read it all, believes it all, lives it all…supposedly) to some of the lowest of lows.  But we’re all still pushing on and giving our all.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a quote from President Thomas S. Monson.  He said: “It has been said that the gate of history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives. The choices we make determine our destiny.”

I have been having this recurring impression that how I spend the last 5 months of my mission is going to set the tone for the rest of my life.  I could continue forward on cruise control, not being lazy, but not really pushing myself either…or I could grumble and moan…or I could get up, work hard, and finish strong.  One of my buddies, Rane E., sent me a spiritual thought over email and I’d like to pull from that a little bit.  One of the things I love the most about 1 Nephi is that the characters are so easy to relate to.  Most of us, in terms of our degree of discipleship, are in one of three categories.

First, you have Laman and Lemuel.  They do what they’re supposed to, but they grumble and moan as they do it.  It’s easy to be a Laman or a Lemuel because you get to enjoy the blessings of the righteousness of those around you without really getting wet yourself.  Anytime the right choice becomes hard or unpopular, you can just laugh it off and not do it.  Because you never exercise your faith, however, your conversion is only skin-deep (if that) and you will NEVER become who you need to become.

Second, there’s Sam.  You make good choices and you sustain your priesthood leaders…kind of.  There’s no back-biting or complaining, but no real support in times of need, either.  You’re that sort of luke-warm, maybe do my home-teaching sort of a guy.  You’re good, don’t get me wrong…just not great.

Then, there’s Nephi.  You don’t stop moving forward.  You face problems that are just as hard and have hurdles to overcome that are just as tall as everyone else’s, but what’s great about you is that you just won’t quit.  When a challenge arises, you do your best with what you’ve got and ask for the Lord to make up for the rest.  Perhaps it doesn’t come soon, but you know that it will always come.  You are my hero.

For the next 5 months, I want to be a Nephi.  I want to face an empty day with hope, not dread.  I want to be a joy to my companion, not just a friend.  I want to be a light on a hill, not a light under a bushel.

I know that, just like President Monson said, our lives turn on small hinges. How we react to even a small situation could set the tone/course of the rest of our lives.  Choose to be a Nephi.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Pics, Pics, and Pics…

I am definitely branching out with my cooking.  The other Elders consider me a Chef now.

I am definitely branching out with my cooking.  The otherElders consider me a Chef now.

The snowstorm a week and a half ago.

The snowstorm a week and a half ago.

It's been above freezing for the past couple of days, though!  Feels like summer!

It’s been above freezing for the past couple of days, though!  Feels like summer!

Mom, you'd be proud.  We made okonomiyaki at a member's home!  (He went to Japan on his mission!)

Mom, you’d be proud.  We made okonomiyaki at a member’s home! (He went to Japan on his mission!)

01-19-15 Okonomiyaki 2

 

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Baptisms!

Right before the baptism...

Right before the baptism…

Us with the Lindsays (key fellow-shipping family) and Emmett (Camille's father)

Us with the Lindsays (key fellow-shipping family) and Emmett (Camille’s father)

Us with Camille (mother) and Charlotte (daughter)

Us with Camille (mother) and Charlotte (daughter)

What an incredible week this past week!  I could spend all day writing about it, but unfortunately, I’ve already spent all of my email time typing up zone leader reports for MLC.  Ugh.  I can’t understand why anyone would want to be in mission leadership.  haha.

Anyways, Camille and Charlotte McElroy were baptized!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, my goodness.  WHAT an experience!  And I had the amazing opportunity to baptize 9 yr-old Charlotte.  It was amazing!   She might not have been thinking it at the time because it took 3 tries to get her under without her dress coming up, but it all worked out!  I ended up having to put my elbow over the lower part of her dress and basically go under with her.  I was almost wet up to my shoulders and everyone was laughing, but hey, it worked!  It was just such a miracle that this all happened and the ward has been more than supportive.  This baptism was definitely a team effort.  In all, there were probably over half a dozen fellow-shipping families that had been closely involved with the teaching and baptism of the McElroy family and all came to support them.  It was wonderful.

Also, remember that family that told us that we could return last week?  the one that the Lindsays knocked into with us?  Well, they are now investigating.  We had a great first lesson on Friday and will be going over again this Friday as well.

And then, on top of all of that, a recent-convert/slightly less-active family has been bringing a family with them to church for three weeks now.  Until yesterday, we hadn’t had the opportunity to meet with them…but they are now new investigators also.

Miracles are everywhere as we continue to put forth our faith in God and do our best to make His will our own.  What a wonderful Gospel it is that we have!

I would like to end today by bearing my testimony on the role of members in missionary work.  We (the missionaries) cannot do this work on our own!  Well, we can, but it’s extremely difficult.  I’ve tried.  I’ve seen the difference that missionary-minded members can make in an area and it is, without question, one of the biggest factors in deciding how fast the work will bloom there.  When we come together to partake of the Holy Sacrament, are we coming together as friends, united in a holy cause?  Or are we instead coming together as something more like business associates?  Colleagues, but no more?  We cannot do that!  Both missionaries and members need to work on this.  Because when we do work together, miracles can happen.  Like the McElroy’s baptism.

I love you all.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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Staying in Cedar Rapids

01-12-15 Notes on the Door 1

We put post-its on Camille and Charlotte's door because Camille wasn't feeling well...

We put post-its on Camille and Charlotte’s door because Camille wasn’t feeling well…

01-12-15 Notes on the Door 4 Elder B 01-12-15 Notes on the Door 5 UsWell, just received the transfer calls and I’m staying as zone leader with my companion, Elder Bouwhuis.  He only has 3 transfers left and I have 4, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the both of us after this transfer.  Our mission is actually going through quite a bit of a change right now.  We will be losing a net number of 40 or so missionaries over the course of the next 2 transfers.  I guess the surge has kind of come and gone.  The real difference maker is that there aren’t that many sisters coming out anymore.  The sisters that came out with me are leaving on Thursday and saying goodbye to them has been a bit surreal.  Even though I was home two months ago, home life is definitely back to being a distant memory.

That being said, it has been a great week!  Things are going well in the zone, as well as in our area.  The zone has set many new dates in the past two weeks and everyone is a bit of on a dead sprint to baptize.  Remember Camille and Charlotte?  The two that I wrote about last week?  Well, they came to church again and passed their baptismal interviews!  This could be my first baptisms (that I was present for) since October of 2013!  I’ve had a couple of people that I had taught be baptized since then, but all of them decided to be baptized after I left.  I really hope that this one happens, so please everybody pray for them!  I want these two to be baptized more than anyone I’ve ever taught.

Oh, and I have a great story about our Ward Mission Leader and his family!

So, they had us over for dinner/lesson Sunday evening and we had a great time.  The Spirit was really strong during the lesson and we all could feel it.  Afterwards, we were discussing non-members in the area when Sis. Lindsay (our WML’s wife), said that we should just go knock on a few doors with them.  Both Elder Bouwhuis and I just looked at each other, shocked, because we had no idea what to do.  In our combined, 38 months of missionary experience, we’ve received maybe 10 member referrals.  And none of them like this.  But more shocked than us, was Bro. Lindsay!  He was a little hesitant at first, but after a prayer, we were out the door and off to see a few of their friends in the neighborhood.  At the first door, the Sis. Lindsay introduced as missionaries from their church that “don’t get to teach very many people” and asked if they’d be interested in hearing a short message about Christ.  She also made sure to let them know that their answer in no way affected their friendship.  The father of the first house we knocked on was taken aback and about to let us in, but then the mother came and… well, she was polite, but that was the end of that.  The other family that they had planned on seeing after that wasn’t home, so we started walking back to their house, but as we were walking, Sis. Lindsay says “Just one more!” and then starts walking towards another home.  She knocked on the door and introduced us the same way and waited patiently for the lady to answer.  We were all shocked when the lady said, “Oh, my father’s whole family is Mormon!  I have two cousins at the Provo MTC right now.”  It was such a testimony builder!  I’ve never seen such a great act of faith on the part of members on my mission.  The lady, Heather, has asked us to return.  Hopefully, her husband is as receptive.

I have a testimony of this great Gospel.  I know that it is true.  I am so excited to grow closer to my Savior.  I feel a great urgency to do so.  The Holy Spirit seems to surround me each time I think of it and I know that it is what I must do.  I have so many weaknesses and flaws to work through, but the Lord continues to patiently assist me as I persistently push forward.  I have come to gain a real testimony of this Church and my one goal for the next 4 transfers is to help as many others to gain a testimony of its truthfulness as possible.

I love my Savior!

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

 

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It’s a Roller-Coaster, For Sure…

What a week of ups and downs.  I think I could probably sum it up best by sharing what happened with just one investigator family throughout the course of the week:

Monday:

– Had a feeling that we should drop by Camille and her 2 kids to make sure that everything was going well.  Turns out that she was at a breaking point emotionally and loved our visit even though it was just on her doorstep.

Tuesday:

-Brought along Elder Gunter (exchanges) and Bro. Carpenter and had the best lesson of my mission with Camille.  She couldn’t thank us enough for dropping by the day before.  she told us that after we left, she sat down and read the entire Book of Mormon again (this is her second time) and she said “I can honestly say that there is not a word in there that is not true”.  So, I then asked her “well, now that you know for sure that it is true, what do you think that it is that God wants you to do right now?”  She sort of went off track on her answer trying to skirt around the question, so Elder Gunter says “no, Camille, you need to answer the question.”  So she looks at me and is stumbling over the words saying “I need to….I need….” and she just couldn’t bring herself to say it, so I looked right into her eyes and said, “Camille, you need to say it.”  So she finally said, “I need to be baptized!”  She then started crying for like 5 minutes because after over a year of being taught, she had finally reached the conclusion. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.  The spirit was SO strong.  Best, most intense lesson of my life.  We moved her baptismal date up to January 17th and committed her 9 yr old daughter, Charlotte, to baptism on that day as well.

Wednesday:

-Dropped by Camille again and she is doing great!  (We are keeping daily contact even if it is just a doorstep conversation for a couple minutes)  She has been doing really well and hasn’t smoked in 3 days.

Thursday:

-Had a lesson with Camille and Charlotte.  Bro. Lindsay came.  We taught Charlotte the Resoration and she knew her stuff already!  she had been studying the pamphlet with her mother.

Friday:

-Dropped by Camille, she had had a couple seizures that day and was in bed not feeling well (she gets them periodically).

Saturday:

– The Messicks came with us to help us teach Charlotte the Plan of Salvation.  Charlotte was great and even though she’s only 9 years old, she offered up a beautiful prayer that was full of gratitude regarding the Atonement.  Camille was a little off and it was really worrying us.  She began the discussion by asking what her baptismal date was again and if Charlotte was getting baptized that day too.  We think that it was just because of the seizures, but regardless, it worried us.

Sunday:

-We text Camille to make sure they’re coming to church and we get no answer.  So, after PEC, we run down there to see if they’re coming and Camille answers us at the door holding a cigarette and saying, “Guys, I don’t think I can do this anymore.”  To say that I was heartbroken would be a gross understatement.  I almost collapsed.  But we talked her into coming to church and left hoping that they’d come.  Sacrament meeting came and went with no sign of them.  We were both so bummed, but then right as we begin walking to 2nd hour, who do we see but Charlotte and her little brother, Ethan, running down the hallway smiling and yelling that they had made it.  Camille not only stayed, but she fell in love with the Ward (esp. Relief Society).  What a relief!  The ward was so great at fellow-shipping that she was still talking to members a half hour after church was over!  She then thanked us over and over for “not giving up on her.”  Whew!

So, that was my week.  In fact, I think that just about sums up 2014.  A lot of great moments, a lot of heartbreaks, and a lot of work…but it all worked out…somehow.

I never pass up an opportunity to bear my testimony, so here it is: This Gospel is true.  Every last bit of it.  Christ is my Savior and He lives!  I love Him!  I want to be just like Him and I hope to be an example of Him in all times and all places.  I have now been on my mission for 18 months.  If I was a sister missionary, I’d be done.  How grateful I am that I am not and that I still get another 6 months to preach, teach, and heal in the good Lord’s name!  Each morning and night, as I bow my head in prayer, I thank the Lord above for allowing me to be a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As I continue to put everything that I have on the altar of sacrifice, I can literally feel my will being swallowed up in the Lord’s.  It’s not perfect, but as I continue onward, I am confident that I can become what my Heavenly Father would have me become.

I love you all!

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

p.s. Blizzard rolls into town tonight.  We’re expecting 5-7 inches of snow and wind chill well below zero.  Please pray for my zone.  Most of our missionaries are struggling for work and are spending most of their day knocking doors.

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Oh, what a blessed week we’ve had here in Cedar Rapids.  This Christmas was probably one of the best ones I’ve ever had.  We had 3 solid, amazing member families (including our stake president) each feed us one of our 3 meals that day, another member family came and spent their Christmas afternoon at one of our investigator’s home with us, and we dropped by a few recent converts.  Plus, the fact that we have 4 missionaries living in the same house made it so much more fun.  We weren’t allowed to stay up late, so we still had to go to bed by 10:30…but we didn’t let that stop us from still having a good time.  We put out two kitchen tables together and played ping pong, drank Martinelli’s, and I played David Archuleta’s Christmas album that he did with the Tabernacle Choir over my speakers.  haha.  I just realized that this may not seem like the best of nights for normal people, but for missionaries, that’s what we consider a party.  haha.

We’ve been having a real tough time with our investigators here.  I turn 18 months here in a couple of days, have had 6 areas, and I’ve never had this problem before.  We have 4 or 5 investigators that are SO ready for baptism.  They all have testimonies of the prophet Joseph Smith, they absolutely love the Book of Mormon and study from it daily, but they just CAN’T make it to church for the life of them.  They just can’t do it.  And we’re at a loss.  We’ve done everything we know how to do.  We even have members calling them to remind them.  The investigators will be crying to us as they bear their testimony of the restored gospel, they’ll tell us how much they need to come to church, and then we’ll ask them if they’ll be coming and all of a sudden, they’ll say, “Well, I can’t commit to that.”  Oh, boy.  We’re just at a loss.  Hopefully, we can address these concerns, whatever they may be soon.  because if we can, we could have 5 baptisms in this area by March.  This area hasn’t seen that many at once in a long time.  On a brighter note, I just found out that my investigator from back in Grinnell, Richard Randall, was baptized yesterday!  Whoo!!!!

Well, starting today, we’re trying something new in the Cedar Rapids District.  Our district leader, Elder Gunter, suggested that we do a 40 day fast (you give up certain things that you have been doing that cause you to not feel the Spirit as much for 40 days).  So, we all made our lists of things that we’re going to work on and it begins today.  I’ll have to admit, singing un-approved songs is definitely going to be a hard one. Since everyone in our apartment loves Country music (well, Elder Bouwhuis doesn’t really, but the others do), we’ve been belting it at the top of our lungs during our free time.  But not anymore!  I really am way excited about this fast.  The point of this is to align our desires and our wills more with the Lord’s.  And while the fast may have officially started today, we’ve been preparing for it for a week or so.  And over the course of this past week, as I’ve been putting my normal desires aside and have been seeking more after the Lord’s, I have been seeing a huge impact on my own spirituality.

I’d like to let you all know that I know that Christ lives.  But knowing that He lives isn’t enough.  I have done my best to “come and follow [Him]”.  But that too, is not enough.  For us to truly walk/talk/think/do as He has, for such has He commanded us to do, we must be willing to give more of ourselves over to Him and our Heavenly Father.  What are you willing to give up to come to know God?  Perhaps it’s a TV show that you know you shouldn’t be watching, perhaps it’s a certain song that you know you shouldn’t be listening to, perhaps it’s even the way you interact with others.  I invite each of you to look for things in your life that you know you shouldn’t be doing and stop doing them.  Give the gift of a more consecrated life to your Father in Heaven.  Make this your New Year’s goal and then live it.  And I can promise each of you as a servant of the Lord, that as you do so, you will find a power come into your life that you have not previously known.

May each of us make a stronger and renewed commitment to excellence in our own lives, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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The Best Christmas Ever!

Boy, I just had one of the sweetest experiences of my life!  I am forever going to remember the last twenty minutes of 3rd hour at church this past week.  The wonderful Primary children, together with their leaders and parents, put together a huge Christmas party for all 4 of us Elders serving in the Cedar Rapids 2nd Ward.  At the beginning, we were asked to teach from Luke 2 and then bear our testimonies…all while sitting on either side of a Christmas tree and a mountain of presents.  At the end of it, they told us that all of those presents were for us and that the Primary children had gathered food and clothes for us all week before wrapping them that day.  I couldn’t stop smiling and laughing as we (together with the help of the kids) unwrapped every single one.  That memory will go down as one of my favorites from my mission, for sure.

It’s been a bit of an up and down week.  We had 25 appointments fall through on us in the past week and a half.  After we got to about 12, we just started to laugh them off.  But, I can testify that the Lord’s hand is in all things because we were able to find/teach people that we were not planning on seeing, but who sorely needed it throughout the entire week.

Surprise Christmas Party from Primary Kids (Taken by Sister Messick)

Surprise Christmas Party from Primary Kids (Taken by Sister Messick)

At the MLC (Mission Leadership Council)

At the MLC (Mission Leadership Council)

4 former companions plus Elder Bouwhuis, my current companion at MLC

4 former companions plus Elder Bouwhuis, my current companion at MLC

We met SANTA!  I know HIM!

We met SANTA! I know HIM!

Santa's Helper - Iowa is so cold that we have our own reindeer!

Santa’s Helper – Iowa is so cold that we have our own reindeer!


A few years ago, a young boy went to find a private place where he could kneel down and pray to ask God a question.  On that question hung everything.  The answer that he then received changed his life forever.  That’s not Joseph Smith’s story that I’m referencing, it’s my story.  That day, I found out for myself that there truly is a God in Israel.  I now know without a doubt that He does care about us.  Two millenia ago, He sent us the greatest thing He could give to us.  That was the gift of His Son.  Christ IS the gift.  And I know now more than perhaps ever in my life that He is the Savior and Redeemer of mankind.  On Easter of this year, I wrote something to the effect that no words that had ever befallen man’s ear were sweeter than those spoken by the angels at His tomb when they said “He is not here, for He is risen”.  Perhaps, a close second would be those spoken by the angel Gabriel to the shepherds in Luke 2.

My invitation to one and all is to not get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season, but instead to follow Christ’s example and see who around them is in need of healing this winter.  We are all in need of love, forgiveness, peace, joy, and happiness.  Please make the sharing of these gifts a habit as we cheerfully go about our Father’s work this Christmas season and forever.

Faith and Honor,
Elder Eastwood

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