Thursday, March 24, 2005

Brian Email 3-24-05

Hey family,

Thanks for the letter again. I like hearing about y'all and all the
things that are going on. It seems like everyone gets busier and busier
all the time, that's exciting. I'm glad you got to participate so much
in sacrament meeting last week. I wish we had families like ours out
here in Charlotte, you don't need any pushing or prodding from the
missionaries to do what you're supposed to be doing anyway. We have a
few really good families, but we still struggle a lot. Even the best
families here take random Sundays off because of headaches or something
silly like that. It's hard to keep people active here, and there's
really not a whole lot of incentive to keep going to church. It's rare
that we feel the Spirit there. We have lots of lessons on washing hands
and things that aren't even related to the gospel. A lot of the members
of the branch prefer going to the English speaking ward, because they
can learn there. It's hard because our branch president is trying
really hard to do a good job, but he has had no experience in leadership
before, and he hasn't been trained for his calling or anything, so it's
hard for him. And our relief society president who is really strong and
self motivated is moving soon, so we'll be really hurting then. But a
lady from Colombia just moved in and she's been releif society president
and young women's president in Colombia, I really think she'll help us
all a lot.

As for upcoming baptisms, they are all being pushed back. Nathaly
didn't come to church and she has a lot of questions still, so we're
going to talk to her this afternoon and hopefully get her a baptismal
date early in April. Galo made it to church, so we're going to visit
him a lot and hopefully he can be ready for the same date as Nathaly.

And Vicente and Maria are making a lot of progress on their paperwork
and divorce issue. The missionaries have been trying to help them
figure out how to get married for years, so this is really going to be a
big acheivement. Vicente had to pay $200 to get his son out of jail in
Mexico so that his son can help him get the ball rolling down there.
His ex-wife is living with a man down there who said he is willing to
pay for all the divorce costs, and then Vicente's son is going to fax a
copy of the divorce papers to a member here who is a notary public for
notarization. At the same time, he is working on getting a passport,
and then he will need one other form of identification so that he can
get a marriage license. We are getting him started with a W-7 form with
the help of a member who runs a tax company (Amigo Tax, haha) and he
might also qualify for a visa so that he can legally be here. We're not
sure at all how this stuff works so we make a lot of phone calls to
Washington DC and Raleigh to talk to the consulates or magistrates of
deeds and all kinds of things. It's pretty frustrating sometimes,
because the whole thing is just a big math problem where nothing fits
quite right. You need certain things to get other things, but Vicente
is pretty much starting at nothing. We think they can be married within
3 weeks if he qualifies for a visa, and if not, then within 6 weeks with
a W-7. It's looking pretty good right now. They want to be baptized
the same day if possible, they are just dying to be members.

Way to go Andy with the bike! I thought that thing would never run
again, but you're a genius, so I guess anything is possible. 50 miles
in the rain is a pretty big feat, congrats! How much money has gone
into fixing it? Does it have a light yet? How often do you ride? Do
you ride to school ever? When the weather is really nice here, I wish I
had a bike to ride sometimes, and I always think of you when I see
people riding.

And Michael, congrats with track! It's not easy, but it feels so good
if you keep pushing. I always felt pretty tired after practices, and
sometimes I would be sore the next few days, but after you go for about
two weeks, you always feel awesome in the mornings. Track helped me
sleep better and then I could wake up easier in the morning, maybe that
will help you get a jump start to your day too. And the harmonica?? I
just hope that doesn't get in the way of the trombone :)

Are any of the missionaries in our ward from the South? I just talked
to a lady that has a friend in the Boise mission who just got there
fresh from the MTC. She says he was a little different but had lots of
energy so I was wondering if she knows the new one in our ward.

I had my first experience at being a sick missionary last week. I think
it might have been food poisoning from a little restaraunt called La
Unica. I felt pretty weird all that day, and then I threw up all night
and got about an hour of sleep. I called Sister Noel and she suggested
taking a long nap, I was grateful for that. We went out again around 4
the next day. I'm doing fine now though, and I'm still happy to be
here. I'm still in Charlotte for now. I have two weeks left of my
training and then I don't know if I'll be transferred or not. Elder
Frost goes home in two weeks, and Elder Gordon leaves the transfer after
that, so he'll be staying here. If I stay with him, I'll probably stay
another transfer after after that too, to help whoever comes here learn
the area. That looks pretty likely right now but I'll find out more
tomorrow in my interviews. Also the airport is in my area, so they
might keep me here for a while just in case something comes up. My area
rocks. We cover all of the SW quarter of Charlotte and down into Rock
Hill and York in South Carolina. This Saturday we were going to go down
into SC but we have an investigator moving in. She ordered a video and
had listened to one of the lessons in North Charlotte and is coming down
into our area so we're going to help her and then maybe still drive to
SC for the evening. This lady is also good friends with Nathaly and
Nathaly has been babysitting her daughter during this transition time.
Maybe they'll help each other.

And that's all I really have for today, it was a pretty long letter with
lots of details, I hope that's a good thing. Have an eximious week!
(that's a word I learned on Monday. It means excellent) Best of luck
with everything.

Love, Elder Harris

A (Very Short) Addition to Brian Email 3-17-05

One thing I just thought of, if you have any pictures or things like
that to send me, the best way is probably just to print them off at home
and send them, because my email isn't very big (or good). I liked the
pictures of Shannon and Amy, but I had to delete them so that I can
still get mail. Have a good day.

Brian Email 3-17-05

Hi dad,
Thanks for getting out of bed to write to me, your letters make a big
difference. It's good to hear your quartet thing is sounding good. I
miss being able to do stuff like that. I did a lot of small group
singing at BYU and at home, obviously. I don't get to sing as much here
as I would like. Have you ever heard a congregation of Hispanics
singing? It's really something else. I usually can only tell what song
we're singing by reading the words. Just listening I don't think I'd be
able to tell. It's really hard to listen to, but I love 'em anyway.

I talked to President Noel at Zone Conference last week and he says that
the Visa discussions aren't even happening right now. Things are pretty
tense between us and them right now, and they're having all sorts of
floods and stuff right now too, especially around Lake Maracaibo. I'll
be here for a while. I don't plan on leaving until at least after June
or July-ish. I like it here though. The trees are starting to get
white and pink flowers, and the grass is turning green again. It's been
a light tan ever since I got here, but we've had some rain, so
everything is livening up a little more. My companions say that it will
be breathtaking in about a week, so I'm excited for that. Also,
Charlotte has like 5 good disc golf courses, so if the weather is right
in the next few weeks, we might go spend a day out there.

We're expecting a baptism next Saturday, I think it's the 26th. Her
name is Nathly (said like Natalie) and she's been coming to church for
about three months now and is pretty much ready. She struggled to find
the courage to tell her parents, but she's got a good testimony. She'll
be a good strong member. She's 20 years old and Peruvian and has been
spending a lot of time with the Berrocal family in the branch, so she
has no real lack of support once she's baptized. The week after that,
we'll be baptizing Galo Vera, a 48 year old Ecuadorian. He talks so
fast and crazy. And every time we go over there, he greets us,
"Papacito lindo!" which kinda means "little pretty daddy"... He's always
excited and he has tons of energy. He's really crazy, but he's cool.
He was going to be baptized the 26th too, but he didn't come to church,
so we're pushing him back a week. Vicente y Maria are still waiting for
the legal divorce and marriage stuff to happen. Those two other
families I wrote about last week (or the week before?) didn't come to
church last week either. Miguelito begged them, but they had had a
party the night before with all their extended families, so they were
too tired in the morning. At least the kid knows what's up. He went to
scouts though, so that's good.

And as for emailing, I usually am in the public library which is a
little smaller than the one in Garden City. There are usually enough
computers available for all of us to be on at once, but not always. And
I usually only have half an hour. It costs a buck a page to print
anything so I have to skim over Daniel's letters and Grandma and
Grandpa's too, but I like to get them. I don't always have time to read
specific things, but I get a general idea of how they're doing.

Congratulations Andy on your BPA thing. I got 7th place too, my second
competition. And congratulations Michael for your NJHS nomination! Not
everybody gets one of those. And congratulations to Andrew too! That's
amazing to me about his scholarship to the UofU. That's stupendous.

The description of Stanley's teeth reminds me of North Carolina! I see
that all the time, one on top and two on bottom. They're usually not as
clean though. :) Keep 'em coming Stan!

Michael- good job on running track. Don't quit like I did, I'm all out
of shape now. My companion Elder Gordon was training for the Olympics
before his mission! He talks about running all the time, he'd be proud
of you :)

Well, that was kind of a long letter. It was good hearing from y'all as
always. Hope y'all have a blessed week. I pray for you every day and
I'm sure you're doing the same for me. I'm doing well here, especially
after Zone Conference. After my first one, I didn't know if they could
get any better, but it did. They're awesome, it's the same kind of
spiritual high that I got after listening to Elder Hales and Elder
Ballard in the MTC. I just finished the Book of Mormon, I started
toward the end of the MTC, so this was the first time as a missionary
that I've read it start to finish. It's a great book! What are y'all
studying as a family now? I love you all, have a good week!

Love, Elder Brian Harris

P.S. I've been out 4 months today. Wierd.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Brian Email 3-10-05

All right, first off, I have a weather report. So, Tuesday around noon,
Elder Gordon and I were walking to an appointment, and we were noticing
how awesome and absolutely perfect the weather was. It was about 75
degrees with a slight breeze and a bright sun. Earlier that morning we
had a tornado in Charlotte. It went right by the apartment of some of
our investigators, which is pretty close to mine. We were inside
studying at the time, and we didn't even know about it until that night.
We don't know a lot of things that happen outside... There was no real
damage anywhere that I've seen, and I still have never seen a tornado :(
I was so close too. I think that means that March came in like a lion,
but on the other hand, the weather is perfect almost all the time.
We'll see. The South is funky.

Tell Andy good luck at his BPA competition. I remember when I competed,
it was the coolest thing ever. I had a blast with it, and I talked to
tons of people from other schools and it was really fun. Are they
having a big party at BSU again this year? They usually do, and also
they like to go out for pizza with the BPA advisor. I think they
probably changed the staff though. BPA is awesome because it's exactly
like the stuff I did at BYU. I'm glad he's getting involved with it,
there's no cooler club at Centennial than BPA!

That's amazing that Andrew's going to go for his PhD. I didn't really
talk to him all that much before I left, I didn't realize he would be
able to skip his Masters! He sounds like he'll provide really well for
Shannon, I'm so excited for them!

This week was really odd. Elder Frost left early Tuesday morning so
that he could go on exchanges with the Elders in Greensboro. He's the
only Zone Leader that speaks Spanish, so he leaves a lot. He got back
late last night, and during those two days, all but one of our
appointments fell through, and we didn't have enough back-up plans to
cover all that time. We tried to stay busy, and we worked hard, but we
didn't really have a lot of success. It was sooo hard, and we ended up
teaching 3 lessons over the two days, then we did some unsuccesful
tracting and phone calls. I don't know why nothing worked out right, it
was very stressful and a little discouraging. We'll see how today goes,
our plans for Thursdays are usually pretty solid, but you never know.

Well, I don't have any more time today. Have a great day/week! Good
luck with everything. Tell Michael hi for me!

Love, Elder Brian Harris

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Brian Email 3-3-05

Hey family,
This week was a lot better than last week, we already have accomplished
a ton, and our four busiest days are still coming up. We found a ride
for one of our investigating family's (Miguel y Jessica) sons, Miguelito
(11) to go to scouts this week at the church. He LOVED it. When we
called that night to see how it went, he was still wearing the scout
shirt they gave him and he had his new book and pamphlets and had earned
a merit badge! He was so excited to go and meet people there, partly
because both his parents work until 9ish every night so he's a little
bored sometimes, but he's a great kid and he really gets things done
when he wants to. Also at church on Sunday, they gave him his own
Triple, and he begged his mom to read it with him. They both loved it
and are reading the Book of Mormon every night now. Their whole family
went to church last week, and they really felt good about it.
But the best part about their story is this: We found them because we
had a list of about 200 people that had ordered media materials throuhg
the mail. We chose them by the direction of the Spirit. We later found
out that Miguel, the husband has a sister that is also taking the
discussions from us by means of a member referral! Their names are
Walter y Elka. We are teaching their whole family, and now both Elka
and Miguel's parents are investigating the church in Peru, and also
Walter's parents. And the member that referred Walter y Elka is
amazing, he comes with us to teach them, and he is really supportive
during the week and answers a lot of their questions, and brings them to
church. So these two families, which are one family, are very excited
and they have a lot of support and they each other's support too. It's
a really good situation!

And tracting yesterday was really good too. We found a former
investigator that has been reading the Book of Mormon with her sister,
and she remembers pretty much everything the missionaries taught her
before. And then we found a lady that told us that she had been trying
lots of different churches and wanted to know which one was the right
one. She asked us to tell her, so we did :) We gave her a Book of
Mormon and we'll go back and see if she's really interested still.

I'm really liking Charlotte. We have one Spanish branch in our stake,
with about 200 members, so they're almost ready to be a ward, but they
lack a few more members, and we also have a TON of completely inactive
members, so that is a little hard. In the last 5 weeks, we have
reactivated two families, it really wasn't hard, they just need a little
kick in the pants is all. Hopefully they stay. One of our less active
women just got a calling in the relief society presidency, so that will
help a ton, and her son gave a good talk in church last week.

Everything is progressing for the most part. We always have
appointments, so we don't tract much, and we get lots of referrals from
members, which is good. Our investigators are all progressing, and
things are going well. The only problem is that our branch is kind of
falling apart. There are huge divisions and constant bickering. A lot
of members (especially new members) hate going to church because of the
yelling during relief society or something or other. The sister
missionaries in our branch and district have brought about 6
investigators to church that don't want to come back because of the
contention in the branch. It's pretty sad, and no one knows how to fix
problem. The branch president has had no training at all, so he's
just kinda winging it. The church is true here just like it is in
Idaho, and we get the same lessons, but it is not organized half as
well. That's something that is hard right now, and some of our
"backbone" members are moving soon, so we will have to work really hard
with the members.

So that's what's going on here, it's really fun, and we're accomplishing
a lot. It's really nice hearing from y'all. Hopefully everyone gets
better soon, everyone is sick here too, so that helps us find people
home :) Go ahead and send my emails to anyone and everyone, it's all
right with me. If anyone asks how I'm doing, tell them I'm loving every
minute! Y'all have a bles't day now, y'hear? Hee hee, that's my new
favorite Southern phrase.

Elder Harris