Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Well, I feel like a total fool.  I was so excited to talk to you and hear your voice that I don't think I even thanked you for the gifts and I definitely did not tell you I love you enough.  So, thank you so much and I love you so much!  How's that?  Thank you Auntie Sharon for the toque!  It's not blisteringly cold yet, but I am sure that is still coming.  No games the rest of the day, and to answer your question, that dinner last night was pretty awkward.  Enough said.

Getting to attend 2 sacrament meetings in one day reminds me of good ol' I-Falls/Fort Frances.  Looking like I will be heading down there to do a baptismal interview on Saturday, and I am in Dryden now getting ready to do the same for tomorrow.

So Bro. Ladd did give you a call eh?  He is a great member and actually, Elder O'Driscoll and I stayed at their place for a few nights right as we arrived in Kenora because our apartment was not ready.  Bro. Ladd was touched by testimonies given in sacrament meeting and wanted to give you a call.  I really am trying out here and am learning that the best way to have fun while being a successful missionary is to be myself.  It's so easy to slip into the rut of trying to be perfect and almost "worshipping the Law".  So things that I am doing to be myself are like changing out of missionary clothes every night after planning and call-ins and teasing more, just who I am.  I feel that doing such helps relieve some of the stresses of missionary work and I am able to do just enough "unwinding".  Now, I still am diligent and devoted with all this, don't you think otherwise!  But, I am grateful that Bro. Ladd gave you a call.  Sometimes it's good to hear from another source, eh?

Did I sound any different than before?  What did you think?  I think you are getting the impression that I am fat because you asked about my physical health and commented on me putting on weight.  I laughed to myself.  I am filling out is all.  No, I am not running laps every day with my companion, but trying to eat fairly healthy.  That said, sorry Dad, I will never sink to the rice and beans diet.  Kill me first.  Ha.  I noticed a few differences in you two.  Well, maybe not differences, but things that I picked up.  I noticed that Mom said "awesome" and I kind of did a double-take sort of thing.  In the CWM we don't use words like awesome, cool, sweet.  Nope.  So I noticed that and kind of laughed to myself.  It was really weird being called "TJ", because that's not my name right now.  Just a few funny things...

Well I should probably tell you about yesterday, which ended up being one of the best Sundays on my mission, if not my life.  First, I started it off on an amazing note by talking to my parents.  Loved it.  45 minutes didn't even feel like a drop in the bucket.  One baptismal date we have, Alex, came to church after come coaxing and then had a tremendous experience while there.  A less-active couple we have been working with came to church too.  All in all, the turnout to church was pitiful--16 people, but it was a classic example of quality instead of quantity.  We all were invited to share things we are thankful for and Elder Perkins and I each went up and shared different insights about family and the gospel.  Of course I teared up, and it felt great because I haven't done that much lately.  You touch on my family and I get teary-eyed.  So I shared how grateful I am for my family and for temples and for the impact of the gospel upon my life, those sort of things.  Then the husband in the less-active family got up and said, "The branch president asked me to give the opening prayer this morning and I turned him down because I am a shy fellow.  Well, brothers and sisters, I stand before you now and want to tell you that the Holy Spirit has been working on me for the last 20 minutes and I want you all to know that I would be honored to say the opening prayer the next time I am asked.  In the name of Jesus Christ amen..."  I went up to him afterwards (and told him) that his testimony was simple, yet powerful.  Wow.  Then we coaxed Alex to get up and play and sing a song on the piano and with some hesitation he did and walked slowly past the podium, stopped, and went back and introduced himself and then shared how he met us missionaries.  Oh, it was so good.  Then, he went on to share how he has performed in lots of other churches in Kenora but that this Church has the "it" factor and that he has actually gotten so much from coming to church.  He said he feels great and knows he has received answers to prayers.  Wow.  That good.  I felt like if nothing else, I was a successful missionary in Kenora.  I know that is not how we measure success, but it has been a struggle here at times and things are finally coming together.  Kenora is the best it's been in the 5 months I have been here.  Seriously.

That is about it, I have plenty of other stories about great spiritual experiences from the past week, but this keyboard is driving me insane because I keep hitting 2 buttons at once.  Ugh.  So I ended up only sharing yesterday, but please share your spiritual experiences too.

Love you all,

Elder Galbraith

This computer does not have an SD card pictures this week...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Almost Christmas

Merry Christmas from Kenora!  Good to be here, but tomorrow I will be heading down to I-Falls to do District Meeting and for an exchange.  Then next week on Tuesday I will be in Dryden doing the same thing and another baptismal interview!  Then another possible baptismal interview in I-Falls the following week, and hopefully I will be staying in Kenora, but after 5 months, I never know, but I will know in 2 weeks what is happening.

Anyway, Merry Christmas!  It is snowing up here and definitely looks the part.  There is a huge 50-foot Christmas tree on Main St. in Kenora in the middle of the road.  I love it.  We have Christmas lights on the house and the tree looks great, thanks to Elder Perkins' parents sending him tons of stuff to load up the tree--I need to get a picture, I know, I know...

Speaking of Christmas, the Kenora branch had a Christmas party last Saturday and it was great.  We brought our 2 new baptismal dates, Jim and Veronica.  Ha, yup, we set baptismal dates with them an hour before the party and they wanted to come and so they did and they had an absolute blast!  (BDs are for Feb. 4th--we're talking 2012 here)  Elder Perkins and I tried to balance time between them and all the visitors we did not recognize, and the Less-Actives that came and members and other investigators.  Phew...what a job!  But I shouldn't be complaining, Elder Perkins was voluntold to be the merry, jolly, Santa Claus.  Ha, he did fantastic and just took a few pictures with people and got out of there.  He plays the part: a big red jolly guy.  During the Christmas party we were shown a quick movie from that is part of a brand-new series of videos of the life of Christ filmed in the new Jerusalem set in Utah that they built.  Wow, a wonderful, spirit-filled movie.  Compelling for sure.  I desperately wanted to watch all of the videos because they were so good.

Our other baptismal date Alex went to Winnipeg for the weekend and missed his bus coming back home to Kenora.  He couldn't come to church, and Derold...well, let's just say I am learning patience.  We woke him up and helped him get going off to church (he won't accept rides, but insists to walk the 4 or so km's to church) but he never showed.  He ended up going to this other church and he gave us a lame excuse.  But, enough of that.  I wrote plenty in my journal, so those are the kind of stories you get to hear more about later.  We have been teaching a lot of people and we feel that a lot of these people are taking baby steps, but, are still coming along.  If they were stagnant, we would drop them.  We were privileged to find more good people to teach this week, which is always exciting thinking of all their potential.  It’s always a game in my mind to stay positive.  For myself, it is easy to assume things if an appointment does not work out, when there are other possibilities.  I am trying to always be optomistic.  I am learning lots of life lessons out on my mission--more than I thought I would.  I know that I would not have been able to learn many things without my missionary service.

Some things I have learned on my mission are these:

More gratitude for SO many things: the love and effort my parents and family have for me.  Not many so-called families are based around love and wholesome things.  Many are not even families, more of "fend for yourself".  I have especially learned gratitude for the strength of the gospel where I grew up.  It's been very different on my mission.  In Winnipeg the ward had like 130 active members, in Saskatoon there were about 300, in IF (International Falls) about 40, in FF (Fort Frances) about 8 and in Kenora about 50 or 60.  Wow.  So, so very different.  Each area a unique situation.  Now, numbers do not reflect the strength of the members there, either.  Sheesh.  I am grateful for the spiritual and physical upbringing I had.  Thank you, Mom and Dad.  I am grateful to have had a temple so close to my house too.  I never really went all that often, which I plan to change, but that temple was a beacon of light and a source of spiritual strength to the members.  I have not even SEEN a temple for over 16 months.  People here sacrifice a lot to attend a temple that is about 9 hours away.  And I have learned gratitude for testimonies.  I have been thinking about this for a long time and this morning I was reviewing a random talk that happened to mention that.  I was reading Sis. Barbara Thompson's talk from the last Gen. Conf. (thanks Mom and Dad for the Ensign) and she said it clearly, something like this: "it does not matter how strong your testimony used to be, but how strong it is now".  That was the gist of if and I have seen how true that is my life and especially in people in these small branches.  Wow.  Testimonies need to be constantly nourished.  Constantly.  No wonder we are counseled to study the scriptures every day.  Hmm.  No wonder.  The Lord needs members with strong testimonies to magnify their callings and to bring other people to the gospel and to strengthen them.

Something I learned yesterday from the discussion in Gospel Doctrine about agency (abilitiy to choose) and compulsion: Forcing someone to do right is just as wrong as doing bad.  That was Lucifer's plan in the first place and we would have done nothing in life to learn and grow.  Did you know that the most successful people are those that fall the most?  They fall and keep getting up again.

Something elder Perkins and I were discussing was the value of prayer rather than testimony.  Which would we rather hear?  A powerful prayer or a compelling testimony?  Think about it.  All too often I hear and feel powerful testimonies, but sometimes it is talking the talk without walking the walk, the DO without BE.  There really is not anything better than hearing an absolutely sincere prayer from someone seeking truth.  In that prayer you can FEEL the sincerity, and can listen to their concerns, their core beliefs, their testimony shines through, all of this through what is called the gift of prayer, which is communication between us and God.  What do you think, which would you rather hear?  A powerful, sincere prayer, or a compelling testimony?

That's all folks.  I look forward to being able to talk to you Christmas morning.  Talk to you soon!

Love you,

Elder Galbraith

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Phew...I am finally back in Kenora!  I only spent 3 working days in Kenora the past week and it’s just good to be "home".  I was in Winnipeg for Tuesday and Wednesday and Dryden on Saturday---why?  In Winnipeg for Zone Conference and in Dryden for...MY FIRST EVER BAPTISMAL INTERVIEW! That's what I am talking about! How crazy is that?  I interviewed someone for baptism!  It came all sudden too.  The Dryden elders have been working with this family and trying to prepare them for baptism on the 7th of January, but one of the family members had a HUGE spiritual experience in the past week and said, "I can't wait any more for this" and wanted to be baptized that day.  So...everything got arranged as fast as possible and on Saturday, Elder Perkins and I drove out to Dryden and I did the interview.  It was weird for a number of reasons.  First, I interviewed someone for baptism. Me, little ol' me, interviewed someone for an ordinance of eternal significance. (Oh, and he passed by the way! kind of important...)  The other reason it was weird was because it was just me and this guy in the room--no companion. Talk about separation anxiety, just kidding.  It wasn't super weird because it was still me with another person, but not to be around my companion all the time is kind of...different. Ya.

Zone Conference was good.  After being in outlying areas for about a year now and not seeing other missionaries very often, Zone Conferences are really exciting because I get to see all my missionary friends and there is just a special excitement in the air.  That sounds really cheesy, but it’s true.

Guess who called me this week? The former Elder Zach Morris! (former missionaries can talk to companions still in the field)  Remember that he was my companion for 4 1/2 months in I-Falls?  I cannot believe how much I miss that man.  He was such an inspiration to me and gave me a wonderful example of a great missionary and we just clicked.  He is going to BYU-I and told me of some funny stories back home.  Oh, wow.  I didn't expect to develop such great relationships with my companions!  Elder Morris and Elder Bodily are the type of people I am going to keep in contact with for a long, long time, and they are now some of my closest friends too.  Sheesh, I now have RMs calling me in the missionary field.  Do you know what that means?  I am getting to be an "older" missionary.  That is ridiculous, but no worries, it just gives me more drive to work harder.

Just got Dad's email from his phone...2 blowouts?  Rough luck Dad.  My prayers are with you and the family, as always.

I read the Tryon's letter from Nov. 6th (finally got it and those amazing pumpkins pictures...ridiculously good...) and in it you said I will report to K1?  That's neat.

I had a neat experience with a 1st Nation family last night where I witnessed one of their sacred rituals duing a lesson.  I don't have time to go into it now, but it’s one of those "I seriously just did that on my mission" stories.

This morning I was studying during my Personal Studies (go figure) and I had some great insights.  I was reading in PMG for a bit, then skipping around in the standard works and eventually landed in the Bible Dictionary and was looking at all the names there and that all the names of people had meanings.  I thought that was interesting.  Many names had really special meanings and even blessings, and I wondered if those blessings and talents were given because of the name or if the person possessed the talents and was therefore given the name.  I read that the Hebrews held special significance to names, and some even had complete-sentence-meanings.  I began thinking about names even more and read more about the people in the Bible whose names were changed (Abram-->Abraham, Jacob-->Israel).  Interesting.  I then thought about my own names: Norweigen, English and Scottish. From there I thought about how those cultures seemed to come together in a special way in one name, in one person.  Sure God sees more in a name than just something to label someone as.  That is an important truth I learned this morning.  Thank you Mom, Dad and God for my names.  I was really moved this morning upon considering that.  Oh, by the way, the Bible Dictionary says something interesting about what "Michael" means.  When you look it up, I think my brother reflects the meaning. :)

That's about it here. Kenora is still coming along, and we are experiencing the highs and lows of missionary work. Like Kim said to me in an email, sometimes you are so high, and sometimes you just have to endure. But ultimately we are responsible for our own actions and how we react to things. Always good to remember, so thank you Kim.

I love you all,  Elder Galbraith

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas season is here

                          Hard at work

                         The Ontario Title of Liberty

Don't make fun of Canadian winters. I did, and it’s -23C. (about -9*F)  Enough said.

Yes it has snowed and is cold. To answer your question Dad, I drive a Chevrolet Colorado and yes it has 4-wheel drive and we have had to use that a few times. We are taking a trip into Winnipeg this week so we will be especially watchful on the roads.

This past week at district meeting we all got together and made our own unique Ontario Title of Liberty. Looks so good! Like I think I had mentioned last week, Elder Perkins and I went to a member’s place and he has got some beautiful land and we saw a big 8-point buck, got a beautiful view of the Winnipeg River and cut down a big tree and even got a Christmas tree out of the whole ordeal. So fun! I saw the whole process of the tree standing to becoming our Title of Liberty within hours! On the Title of Liberty we put a goal for investigators at Sacrament Meeting, 10 for the district (pretty ambitious), and put our big Ontario District logo and what we were willing to sacrifice to achieve our goal, with our signatures right next to it. I will send a picture. I think it inspired everyone and Elder Perkins and I certainly had Sacrament Meeting on our minds all week and as a district we had 5 people to church, which is great, but we all see room for improvement. We should be able to get more people here in Kenora next week, but Derold was able to come, which was really good. He came halfway into Sacrament Meeting and stayed the rest of church. Phew. Big sigh of relief! Back to the Title of Liberty---I knew that making our Title of Liberty out of wood would make our district unique, because I knew that the other districts would do theirs on something boring. So we cut down a tree and made ours on a log, and the other districts made theirs out of: a white shirt, a pillowcase and a bed-sheet. Ya. Now I know that what it stands for and what is written on it is far more important than what it is made out of, but I felt really good with what was on ours and what went onto it and, of course, what it was made out of.

I had an interesting experience with teaching an investigator and knowing that I was not talking to the investigator, but that the Adversary was there. Creepy. We said many prayers after that lesson and had to cast the spirit out after we had already left. I was on exchanges, and that elder and I were really spiritually drained after that lesson. That, compound with the normal emotions of missionary work made for a long day, but experiences like that make me appreciate "normal" days more, let me tell you.

But now that I told you that, I will tell you about the good studies I had this morning. In fact, I have a goal this month that I begin studies 20 minutes early every morning. So far so good. The only day I missed was Sunday, which is near impossible anyway with everything that goes into church. So I have had more time to balance studying for investigators and also for myself. I finished the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi and I feel like I am understanding much more from them, yet that I am not yet getting some of the deeper, spiritual meaning yet, but one step at a time, right? I would study with the Book of Mormon and the Bible, reading from them both and looking at footnotes, especially the footnotes in the Bible, and would also use the Bible Dictionary a lot. It helps! So this morning I read 2 Nephi 25 and the entire Book seemed to jump out at me. Here are some of my insights: In the beginning of 2 Nephi chapter 25, Nephi keeps saying he will prophesy, and he got me really anxious because he kept saying that and then talking about Isaiah for like 5 verses, but then his prophecy begins and the verses explode with doctrine and prophecy. Some notable scriptures that stuck out to me were verses: 13) "my heart doth magnify his holy name" This really shows the type of person that Nephi was, that all of his heart and desires are towards the Lord. 16)"persuaded to believe in Christ" Speaking of the Jews here, Nephi sees that the Jews will not be forced to believe in Christ, but that at some point in time they will be persuaded to believe in Christ and therefore accept the true Messiah. The principle of free agency is apparent here.19) "the prophets", who prophesied that the Messiah would come on a specific year, which happened to be 600 years after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem. This was not Nephi or Lehi prophesying when the Savior would come, but other prophets! The Jews truly were bitterly hard-hearted to still reject Jesus the Christ when they, at some point in time, definitively knew of His coming, yet still denied Christ. Wow. 20)"none other name given under heaven..." the Book of Mormon and the Bible clearly testify of the same Jesus Christ and anyone who says otherwise clearly has not read the Book of Mormon with a sincere intent. The Book of Mormon and the Bible work together, simply put, and I have heard many different pretended arguments that try to "prove" they don't. A closer look still proves they do. But everything still comes down to a humble seeker of truth, and no amount of scientific knowledge or evidence will persuade someone. I have tried, and the Spirit still does all the conversion. Point is, the 2 books work together. 23)"labor diligently to persuade our children, and our brethren..." to come and believe in God and in Christ, and that it is only by the Savior's grace are we saved, after everything we can do to show true desire and true faith. We cannot save ourselves. Only Christ can save us, but it takes more than a one-time confession of faith to secure eternal life. 24) they kept the Law of Moses until Christ and knew that the Law would be fulfilled in Christ. They did not worship the Law as the Jews did at the time of Christ, but worshipped the Lord, knowing that He would come and fulfill the Law (and every aspect of the Law pointed towards that Great and Everlasting Sacrifice). 26) "talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, preach of Christ, and prophesy of Christ..." This scripture may be one of my favorite scriptures all time because it proves that everything points to Christ. The title "The Church of Jesus Christ" therefore is essential (3 Nephi 18 for more of that). 29) Verse 29 basically says worship God with everything we have and we will live with God again, no questions asked. So, those were the highlights of my studies this morning and to add even a little more, I am slowly reading through the Old Testament and am about to begin Leviticus 26. I have never read the Old Testament all the way through, and I am making a charge for it. I just learned about a lot of laws set forth about many things. After having read this, a lot of my reading in the New Testament and Book of Mormon seem to make a little more sense and I can pick out Old Testament....flavor. Flavor is not the right word, but I think you understand what I mean. See how I need the extra study time?

To answer another question, a man gave an elder in my district that OPP hat and so I snapped a few pictures with it. Looks good eh? He was part of the something like the Her Majesty’s Forces, so I got confused with the HMS thing, (which usually means Her Majesty’s Ship) the only hat is that OPP hat, and the man worked as a police officer for the OPP.

With things like those scriptures (a list relating to character traits of Christ), it costs me every time to print things off, and missionaries aren't made of money, so I really don't like printing things off, I strongly prefer having things sent off to me. Just send them to my address in Kenora please.

That's all folks. All I have for now. We are heading into Winnipeg for Zone Conference, and so I will get mail. So if someone has sent me something in the past 8 weeks, there is a good chance I haven't even seen it yet. Love you all and continue to keep me in your prayers,

Elder Galbraith