Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rough Week

Dear Famiree,

One of the rescue families we have been working with came to Church last Wednesday and yesterday as well. They have a ten-year-old son who has not been baptized. His mother is very supportive. We plan on inviting him this week to be baptized 18 November.

Other than that, this last week was a pretty rough week. We have been having a very difficult time with both investigators and rescue families not coming to Church. We are also having a very difficult time with investigators not keeping their appointments. We have been trying several different approaches to find some way to meet more regularly with people but so far nothing has worked out. We feel that the Lord is trying to help us learn something here and we are trying to learn it quickly so that our investigators will have the opportunity to experience the blessings of the restored Gospel.

We found many new investigators last transfer with whom we feel we have not yet sufficiently followed up. Perhaps the Lord is saying to us something along the lines of "Look at all these investigators that you haven't done anything with. Why should I give you more?" We are unsure if that really is the case, but, even so, we are doing everything we can to follow up with them.

Something interesting just happened. As I was typing the last paragraph, a gentleman walked up to my companion and I, and gave us a piece of paper with his grandson's information on it. He says that his grandson has been studying from the Book of Mormon and would be a "guaranteed one in the pool." We'll see what happens!

By the way, my new companion's name is Elder P. He has been out five months and was trained by Elder K.!!! He's awesome. His dad grew up in the same town and was born about the same time as you, Dad.  We wondered if maybe you knew him. (side note... Elder Raymond's dad double dated with Elder P.'s aunt! Yes, he knows Elder P.'s dad!)

I have been studying a lot from the Book of Mormon and the lessons from Preach My Gospel as I prepare to teach our investigators. I love the Gospel and I love sharing it. I just hope and pray to have more opportunities to be an instrument in the Lord's hands in helping some few of his children to come unto Christ.


Elder Elder Raymond

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dear Famiree,

This week it seems like we worked a lot but did not see a whole lot of results. Ever since the last baptism in the area things have been a little rough. Although we had many return appointments with potential investigators and many teaching appointments with current investigators one thing or another always seemed to go awry.

We still have many potential investigators and we have faith that as we are diligent and obedient at least a few of them will start to act upon the promptings of the Spirit.

Early in the week we had a great lesson with one of our investigators. She had read a little from the Book of Mormon since our last visit and we feel strongly that the Book of Mormon will play an especially critical role in her conversion. In our lesson we read through 1 Nephi 8 and portions of 1 Nephi 11 and talked about how she can apply the principles taught in Lehi's dream in her own life. When we invited her to Church she said that she really would like to come but she works every Sunday. We asked her what she could do to resolve her concern and she said that she would talk with one of her coworkers and switch shifts with him in order to be able to attend this coming Sunday. We promised her that the Lord will provide a way for her to keep His commandments.

We tried to meet a couple of times with the family we have been teaching but each time they were unable to. They are a wonderful family and we look forward to their progress in the Gospel as they start meeting with us more regularly.

Another investigator, and his girlfriend, said that they would be at Church yesterday. They did not respond to our attempts to contact them Sunday morning and they did not come to Church. Hopefully he was just working out-of-town and his phone died or something.

On Wednesday evening a Bishop gave us a referral for a nine-year-old girl. She attends Church every Sunday with her family but has not yet been baptized for fear of water. We are praying for the Lord to help her overcome her fear so that she will be able to receive the blessings of baptism.

In my Gospel study I have been studying a lot from the Book of Mormon. After reading the October Ensign I have been trying to learn from the Book of Mormon's teaching knowing that it was written specifically for our day. I have learned a great deal and I am trying to help our investigators apply its teachings in their own lives.

We found out transfer info this last Saturday. We had a big surprise! My companion is getting transferred. We thought for sure he would stay for another couple of transfers since he's only been here three months. I'm excited to meet my new companion!

I found out a couple weeks ago or so that the Cards had made the play-offs and then last Friday that they were in the World Series! We found out at the Trunk-or-Treat on Saturday evening that they won!!! We tracted into a huge Rangers fan and I told him he better pray pretty hard for the Rangers because we were going to be praying for the Cards, haha!

It's starting to get pretty chilly here! We've had frost on the ground and the roofs several mornings in a row. And we biked here (to the library). brrrrr.....

I love you!!!

Elder Elder Raymond

Oct 24, 2011 It's Gettin' Chilly!

Dear Famiree,
This week has flown by! We found many new investigators early in the week and had many return appointments throughout the week. Unfortunately, very, very few people showed up for their return appointments. Our stack of unused lesson plans is growing thicker and thicker. :(

We're teaching a really neat family. They have three children. We taught them the first half of the Restoration and set a return appointment to teach the last half yesterday. The Dad was not there and we did not have a team-up so we rescheduled the appointment for sometime this week. They are not currently attending a church and have accepted the invitation to come to Church with us. Hopefully they will be there next week!

We have still been trying to stay in contact with one of our investigators. He is a 22-year-old that was extremely receptive to the message of the Restoration. He works out-of-town a lot and it has been very difficult to maintain contact with him.

A non-member husband of one of the older sisters in our ward came to Church again. He has been taught by many sets of missionaries over the years. We have been trying to schedule a time to go to their home to teach him.

In my Gospel study I have been trying to do better at studying to prepare to teach the investigators with whom we have appointments during that day. I have also been reading from the current issue of the Ensign magazine as I eat breakfast and lunch. My testimony of and love for the Book of Mormon has grown as I have done so.

I went on exchange with Elder K. in Pigeon Forge this last week! It went very well. Both my companion and I set a goal to focus on finding new investigators during the exchange. Elder K. and I found a couple of new investigators, one of whom accepted the invitation to be baptized. My companion reported that his exchange with Elder K's companion also went well. They found many new investigators. It was really neat to go back to my first area with a former companion!

It's getting a little chilly here! We have had frost on the roof/grass/car several times in the morning.

Anyway, things are going very well here! Hope all is well on the home front.


Elder Elder Raymond

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What I Got Out of General Conference...

It's been a wonderful week! We found many new investigators at the beginning of the week and look forward to working with them. There is so much potential in this ward. I love the people here in this area. It's definitely the most "country" area I've served in thus far, haha. Everyone has the stereotypical "southern hospitality." My companion is great as well! I don't remember if I had time to tell you much about him last week. His name is Elder Reyes and he is originally from Argentina. His family moved to the states ten years ago. It has been such a blessing to have a companion who grew up speaking Spanish to help me with my rusty language skills. It's come back very quickly and even better than before!

On Thursday we had a mission-wide leadership training meeting in Knoxville that I got to go to. Two brethren--Kelly Mills, director of international MTCs in the Church’s Missionary Department and Brother Steward (I can't remember exactly what it is that he does...whatever he does he's really good at it, haha)--addressed us. They trained us on how to have a more effective and enjoyable companion study and how to create effective lesson plans as we focus on teaching people rather than just lessons.

I really, really, really enjoyed general conference! A few of the many things that stood out to me:

1. The Temple Patrons Fund is an inspired program. (President Monson)

2. Never delay in giving service or following the Spirit. (Elder Alonso)

3. Feast upon the Book of Mormon daily. (Elder Scott and President Eyring)

4. Use technology to build the Lord's kingdom. (Elder Bednar)

5. Being busy is not the same as being productive. (Elder Ardern)

6. Look up! (Elder Cook)

7. People will respond to the invitation to come back. (Elder Curtis)

8. If the prophet's call doesn't bring you joy, you're doing something wrong. (Elder Christofferson)

9. Sign on and speak up! (Elder Holland)

10. Sacrifice is not enough if it is not applied. (Elder Waddell)

11. Don't wait for the water to pass by--build a bridge. (President Uchtdorf)

12. Don't pray for patience and expect it to come immediately. ;) (Elder Hales)

13. Always be worthy of and courageously and faithfully follow revelation. (President Monson)

14. Pick one: Zion or Babylon. Build a house and stay there. (Elder Oaks)

15. Even if they don't understand the message or the doctrine, they understand your love and the Spirit. (Elder Yamashita)

16. There are only two choices: eat the vegetables. (Elder Bennett)

17. The things that are important to us become important to God simply because He loves us. (Elder Cornish)

18. Learn the language of the Spirit. (Elder Cornish)

19. Avoid dwelling on lost opportunities. (Elder Cook)

20. The Church is true!!! (The Spirit)


Elder Elder Raymond

August 26, 2011

I'm freeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!! Haha! I'm in Morristown, TN about an hour northeast of Knoxville. It is a Spanish area. I'm a district leader and my companion's name is Elder R. He's from Argentina and he's awesome! We had a baptism last week and foresee a great deal of success in the area! Since I'm back in the library to e-mail I once again have very limited time to do so. I always write my e-mail to President first and today when I hit "submit" the whole thing disappeared.... I had to retype it and the computers here are antiques. They're not even running XP yet.... Anyway, it didn't leave much time to e-mail home. I'm super duper excited and grateful to be here and I can't wait for conference this weekend. That's about as long a summary as I can do today, haha. Hopefully things will work better for me next week....


Elder Elder Raymond

Monday, September 19, 2011

Prayer, Faith, and Baptism

I have had a couple requests for the story about the sister who was baptized last week. Thus, here it is!

The first I heard about her was at a district meeting a couple of months ago. We were visiting the district to which the sisters who taught her belong. One of the agenda items at the district meeting was a investigator problem-solving. This is an opportunity for companionships in the district to present concerns that their investigators have that they have had difficulty helping them to resolve. Input from other missionaries with varied experience is often revelatory and extremely helpful--it's the principle of counseling together to receive revelation taught by Elder Cook in a leadership broadcast several months ago. He said something along the lines of "participation by all is necessary if the revelatory potential is to be achieved" referring specifically to sisters in the ward council if I remember right (shout out to the wonderful women in the Church :) ). Anyway, during this portion of the district meeting the sisters mentioned that they had an investigator in a care center who had accepted the invitation to be baptized but had serious, seemingly irresolvable health concerns. Her health concerns include an inability to move a large portion of her body, including her legs. The solution that the district came up with was basically to pray for a miracle--it wasn't going to happen without one. Over the next couple months the sisters continued to teach her and this sister's determination to be baptized only grew. Promises were made both in teaching by the sisters and in priesthood blessings from the local members. The sister missionaries had a great deal of faith and helped this sister to develop great faith for herself as she read from the Book of Mormon and prayed continually. Many people started to put their heads together brainstorming various potential scenarios for her baptism. Some of the major challenges included transporting her from the care facility to the location of the baptismal service, finding a suitable location for the service, lowering her into and out of the water, and transport back to the facility. Rather than going through all of the many, many, many scenarios to resolve each of these concerns, I will just say that there was a plethora. I'll describe one scenario that I was intimately involved in rehearsing.... President Irion came up with the idea to strap her to a backboard, which he borrowed from a local fire department, and carry her into a font and lower her down. Great idea, right? ...riiiiiiiiight.... So we went to the Church building in her area to try it out. After rolling me out of a wheelchair onto a row of chairs covered with the aforementioned backboard and strapping me to it with leather belts they ('they' being my companion, 3 other Elders, the mission President and his wife) proceeded to carry me through the bathroom to the font. The entire time I did my darndest to remain absolutely relaxed in every way so as to most accurately simulate the complete lack of support that the sister would be able to supply. I was terrified. When we got to the font they realized that getting a backboard with a limp individual strapped to it around the corner from the bathroom down into the font would prove exceedingly difficult. They tried tilting me up vertically leaving me literally hanging from a leather belt wrapped under my arms with my lifeless legs twisting and dragging on the floor and around the corner. I thought for sure that I was going to die as they struggled to get me down the stairs into the font; or at the very least break both my legs. It was uncomfortable and had no chance of success. Back to square one: praying for a miracle. All of this was going on just a couple of days before the scheduled baptism. We strongly considered postponing the baptism, but felt that we just needed to have more faith...slightly unnerving.... So...we prayed for a miracle! I'm not exactly sure how it happened (I guess that's not an entirely true statement...we did pray for a miracle after all...), but everything just fell into place. We suggested a hotel pool which would have more space to maneuver her into the water. It just so happens that there is a Holiday Inn around the corner from the care center with an indoor pool! After a little inquiry Sister Irion determined that if we reserved a room in the hotel we could use the pool for whatever we wanted. The Irions promptly bought a room for the period of time that the baptismal service was scheduled for. Location resolved! Wanting to avoid the approximately $1000 ambulance fee for transporting her to the pool we searched in vain for other options. Someone just decided to ask to see if it was even a possibility and the EMTs said they would love to help...for FREE!!! Transportation to and from resolved! (Not to mention the great relief it was to have EMTs present for any medical complications.) The EMTs transported her to the hotel from the care center in an ambulance. They backed right up to the door from the pool to the outside around the back and wheeled her in on a gurney. They had lain her on a parachute-like sheet with handles all around it for lowering her into and out of the water. Last problem solved! We had eight elders and a couple local members around her manning the handles. There were five in the water and five standing on the side of the pool. A member from her ward said the prayer and then we all lifted her up. The EMTs wheeled the gurney out from under her, we walked her to and over the edge and lowered her to the surface of the water. After plugging her nose she was immersed and raised back up out of the water. We carried her away from the edge as the gurney was wheeled back under her. She was beaming and crying as we set her back down onto the gurney. The temperature in the room was warm enough that she was comfortable as she lay on the gurney. She was confirmed poolside. After expressing a great deal of gratitude to everyone present she was wheeled back out to the ambulance and driven to the care center a new member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! It went off without a hitch! It was a miracle!!! So that's the story of the sister who got baptized last week.
Elder Elder Raymond

Those Darn Cows...

I don't usually post Alec's letters to me... just the ones to family... however, this one needed to be shared! :) -Darlene

Dear Mommy,

Soooo...on Friday I was driving home from district meeting...going 38 in a 40 mile-an-hour zone...but...apparently it was a school zone and I got zappered in a speed trap by four motorcycle cops on foot. It was actually quite the operation...hiding in bushes and the whole shebang.... I even had to wait in line to get my ticket. Anyway my ticket is $146.50 and I only have $102.06 on my home card. I was wondering if there was any way that I could get an approximate 50% one-time increase in my fundage. That would be exceedingly appreciated.... If not, I can see if I can get permission to pay it from my mission card. I don't spend very much money at all and I have a great deal left over from previous months, but I'm supposed to pay for traffic fines with my home card. I would like to get it taken care of fairly quickly as it is like unto a great anvil hanging over my head preparing to crush me under its elephantine mass of iron molecules.... I am as sorry as a horsie that ran too fast through the field where the horsie did not know that the teacher horsies were teaching the little horsies how to frolic and got a ticket from the cows but did not have enough oats to pay the fine and since it always just eats hay which the farmer said it is not supposed to give away and since it has no opposable thumbs it has no way to gather more oats on its own and has to ask the beautiful show horsies for some of their oats that they won by working hard to win the races and feels very very very sorry that it has to ask the beautiful show horsies for some of their hard-earned oats but cannot see any other possible solution since although the horsie understands English the farmer does not understand horsie and cannot therefore give the horsie permission to pay the fine with hay which the horsie has in abundance because it is very careful with the hay that it does get instead of oats which they horsie has some of because it eats them only sparingly but not enough and needs approximately 50% more in order to pay the fine. That is very, very, very sorry, by the way....

Elder Elder Raymond

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Birthday Wishes!

Dear Famiree,

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I got the boxes and the cupcakes and 17 out of what I assume will soon be 21 letters. I'm not opening them until they all show up.

Everything in the boxes was perfect, thanks!

My brain isn't working very well right now...it's been a long week here too. Hope all is well at school and work.

I love you stinkin' much!
Elder Elder Raymond

P.S. The others came today. They were wonderful, thanks!

Friday, September 2, 2011

He's 21 and not in a writing mood...

From Alec...(we asked questions and got these responses)

Who is your current missionary companion?

I was in a threesome with Elders Rollins (AP) and Elder T. Smith (Broken-footed-fiend) from 5 April to 2 May. Elder Rollins is my current companion. We've been together since 2 May.

Did you feel the earthquake?

We weren't in Knoxville at the time of the quake. We heard about it, but didn't feel it at all. I heard there was one in D.C. too! Weird, earthquakes on the east coast...haha.

We heard Sis. Irion (Mission Presidents wife) is a wonderful cook... Do you ever get to eat with them?

We eat with the Irions a couple times a week. She is a really good cook. I was spoiled growing up with a professional chef for a mother and I have continued to be spoiled by the culinary craft of two consecutive mission president's and wives, haha.

Love you!

Elder Elder Raymond

P.S. I got my boxes today!!! :) :) :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Still "Crazy Busy"!

Dear Famiree (and everyone else too),

Things have been crazy busy around here! Three weeks ago we had four zone conferences during a single week. Two weeks ago we had twelve new missionaries, two of which were last minute additions, and we had to open several new areas. Last week was district leader training around the entire mission. Phew, this week's been a busy week again. Our apartment coordinator has had several companionships move to new apartments. Since we are responsible for such moves we have been driving all over the mission moving lots and lots of furniture and all the other random stuff that builds up in missionary apartments. It's nuts.... I don't think my mind, body, and spirit have ever been so exhausted! I'm pooped, haha.

It sounds like things have been pretty busy with everyone getting ready to go back to school. I can't believe Caiti and Kimmee are juniors!!! That's nutso! I didn't realize that they had started letting 12-year-olds go to high school! ;)

Anyway...sorry for not writing very much. We opened up a second area in our ward and gave them the productive half so that they could have some success. Unfortunately, that means that now we don't have any investigators...haha. We're looking, though! They'll come. They always do!

Anyway, I love you all oodles and oodles!

Elder Elder Raymond

6/19/11 Gimmee an "A" (it's a letter!)

Dear Famiree,
Howdy, howdy, howdy, howdy! (No I didn't have beans for dinner...just saying howdy...nothing more...)
Today was a great day! I always look forward to the Sabbath. This one was particularly wet and stormy. It had been very dry here since the beginning of June until a couple of days ago. The weather has sure made up for it! We have gotten a ton of rain and some good thunder. Yesterday we had a good bit of hail. It was only dime-size but it lasted for several minutes. We went out tracting after Church today and hoped that we wouldn't get too wet. We were sure surprised when the clouds parted and the sun actually came out for the first time in several days. By the time we went in for dinner there wasn't a cloud to be seen anywhere in the sky. It was quite pleasant if I do say so myself! We had a great lesson with a guy named J. Several weeks ago I was on exchange with one of the zone leaders, Elder Williams. All of our appointments had canceled and I was searching through the area book for the address of a former investigator that I remembered seeing earlier that week. As I browsed, J's teaching record jumped out at me. At first I just kept flipping through looking for the other record, and then went back to look at his. He hadn't really been taught much. He'd never come to Church or accepted a baptismal invitation, but I still felt like we should go see him. Elder Williams and I went to see him and he accepted a return appointment. We went back that Sunday with our ward mission leader but he wasn't there for our appointment. Usually that's a sure sign of a lack of interest, but my companion and I felt like we should keep trying for a while. We went back a couple of times but he was never at home. We gave up for a couple of weeks until a couple days ago. We felt that we should go back one more time to see if we could catch him at home. He was at home but didn't have time to meet with us that evening so we set up a return appointment for tonight. I'll admit that I was a little skeptical as to whether he would show or not, but we felt like we should still give him a try. He was there for our appointment, but was passed out asleep on his couch. We knocked and knocked and knocked trying to wake him up. We weren't giving up this time, haha. Anyway, he finally woke up and invited us in. We had one of the strongest lessons I've ever been in on my mission. He was very very receptive and excited about the message that we brought. He accepted the invitation to be baptized and bore testimony of the truth that he had been searching for his whole life that we had just taught him. He loves the idea of having a living prophet and the restored priesthood authority. He was pretty funny. When we invited him to be baptized he said "you know, I don't really know anything about what y'all believe or even what church you go to or anything, but I feel like there is something more to y'all and I want to be baptized." It was really neat to see the Spirit working in him as we taught him about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It was a lot of fun! I love teaching the Gospel when the Spirit is present. One of my all-time favorite scriptures is D&C 50:21-22 "Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together." We were all edified and rejoiced together.
I love you all!!!
Elder A. Raymond

March - May "Letters"... At least we know he's alive! :)


I luv dew! I'm doing pretty well right now. Once the weather starts warming up consistently I'll probably start sending winter stuff home so I don't have to keep packing it every time I move....
Elder Raymond


Dear Famiree,
Sorry for not righting last week. We had a VERY interesting week. A week ago Friday, we got a call from the MTC that there were five missionaries waiting on their visas to go to Brazil that had been temporarily reassigned to our mission. They were scheduled to arrive the following Monday. We spent the weekend frantically trying to figure out where to put them and how to find beds for them. As it turns out, three of them are staying with us (a companionship of FIVE) and the other two are in a neighboring area (a companionship of three). Needless to say, it has been a little busy around here.

I'm doing great! The work is going very well right now in the mission. We have an all-time record number of baptismal commitments and the success is spread very evenly throughout the entire mission. We are starting to get ready for the mission president change in June. I don't remember if I've already told you or not, but the new mission president's name is Richard Irion. His wife is Elder Russel M. Nelson's daughter. Elder Nelson was the very first Apostle to visit our mission. He dedicated the mission home when the mission was created. There is a good chance that he will pay us the occasional visit. We will be very, very, very sad to see President and Sister Griffin leave, but we are excited to work with President and Sister Irion.

I love you all very much!

Thanks for writing me even when I don't write....

Elder Raymond


I'm really really sorry! I still haven't had time to write anything longer. Transfers are next week and we're swamped. More to come, I promise!
Elder Raymond


Dearest Famiree,
It has been an absolutely crazy week! It was transfers week already. I have a new companion! His name is Elder Rollins and he's from San Diego. Elder Lindner was transferred to the other ward in the same building. Not too far. Haha. It's nice to have him close by for when something comes up at the office that I've never done before. It's definitely been a growing experience trying to train a new assistant after having been an assistant for a grand total of a month.... One way or another, things always work out!

It's starting to warm up outside finally! I heard that it got up to 91 yesterday. The weather here is absolutely nuts. Last Monday was in the upper 80s and then we had frost on our windshield Tuesday and Wednesday. Now it's back up again! Oh well. At least we get some warm weather. :)

Anyway, thanks for the e-mail!

Love you'uns!
Elder Raymond

P.S. 'you'uns' is a rare word found only in Eastern Tennessee. It has a similar meaning to 'y'all' and is also found in various other forms such as 'we'uns' and 'they'uns.' Not kidding. :)


Dad was called as 2nd counselor again, eh? :) That should be fun. I'm sure Dad will be a great influence for good on the youth. Bryan's already getting his stuff?!? Man, that is so close!!! Tell him I have around 150 extra ties I'll mail him. Probably after he gets to the field so he doesn't have to worry about the weight when he flies. He's going to the temple in 2-3 weeks!!! I miss the temple so much. He is VERY lucky to have one in his mission. Mom, Good luck finding someone to hire that is bilingual who knows something about music.... I can't imagine there are too many around town. We did get hit with all the muck. We got some cool hail and lots and lots of fun wind! A couple weeks ago we had some major flooding. The main street through Knoxville looked like the Amazon River--three feet of red water from all the construction. Anyway, I love you lots!!!
Elder Raymond


Dear Famiree,
Just thought you'd like a quick note. The storms DID hit us. One of the areas in the mission is completely gone. All of the missionaries are safe and I got some really cool pictures of hail. It cracked our windshield really bad and put dents in the entire car. It was rrrrrrreal exciting!!! Anyway...
Love you all!
Elder Raymond


Hello hello! I'm at the office doing reports and things.... I can't really think of anything to write. It's too late to think clearly. :/ Just waiting for the last zone to call in and I figured I'd shoot you an e-mail!
I love you!
Elder Raymond

P.S. smells like fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiish...


Dear Famiree,
Sorry I haven't written much lately. Last week was transfers and this week our vehicle coordinator is out of commission with open-heart surgery...so the rest of the office staff has to do all of his stuff too....
Anyways, I'm so excited for Bryan!!! I've been telling EVERYONE that he's leaving next week. A couple missionaries have friends in his mission, but I can't remember any of their names. You got to go to the pink cow?!? We have a member in our ward who makes fantastic thai food. It's really yummy.
I love you all!!!
Elder Raymond


Dear Famiree,
We're doing good. Most everything has been blowing north of us.
Congratulations Caitibug (on lettering in track again)!!! avonapoeiwnvzlknvoiaewbnvoidsn (those are lots of "letters")
Congratulations Kimmeebear (on getting into LVA)!!! waaah wah wahahhaaa wwwwaaaahaaa (that's the sound violins and violas make)
Congratulations Elder Lord Byron of the Swamp!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm super duper aliuper excited for you!!!! Set apart already?!? Wowsers!!! Now there are two Elder Raymonds in the world!!! It's nice not to be the only one anymore... ;)
Love you!!!
Elder Raymond


The very end of this month is the mission president change. It's coming up so quick!!! We took Elder Woller to the airport yesterday morning. His two years were up! All the sisters I came out with go home in three weeks. It's crazy! I'm starting to feel old...haha.... :)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011



Dear Famiree,

I'm doing grrrrrrrrrreat! I am so excited to hear about Bryan being ordained an elder. That is a huge step. We spend months and months and months trying to help our recent converts prepare to receive the Melchizedek priesthood. Some of them never do. I am so grateful to have a family that prepared me over the years as I grew. It is much more difficult to try to do when you are grown.

I am EXTREMELY busy. I haven't been to bed before midnight in a week and a half. It is a real challenge to balance running an area and running the mission. We plan all of the training of the mission--from district meeting topics to a 12-week curriculum for trainers to zone conference to mission wide leadership training meetings. We run errands all over the mission. We are responsible for moving into and out of new/old apartments. We do emergency transfers. We collect key indicator information (numbers) for the whole mission each week and write the reports that everyone gets in the wards/stakes/missions/Church areas around us. We plan and conduct meetings and conference calls. We do just about everything for transfers. We assist President in deciding who goes where each transfer. We pick up new missionaries and take the departing missionaries to the airport. We speak in sacrament meetings with President. We inspect missionary apartments and vehicles. We help the office staff with their assignments. Pretty much...we try to keep the mission running smoothly. And we baptize in our own area...somehow.... :) In a nutshell, that's what we do. If we have time, we do tract. We have an amazing ward and all of the success comes through President Monson's Rescue Plan.

I am in a different apartment. My area is West Hills. We live directly across the street from the Westtown Mall in Knoxville to give you an idea of where we are at if you google it. Since we frequently have missionaries staying overnight with us during training/transfers, etc., we have a huge apartment. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a full dining room.

Anyways. I love you all very much. I really appreciate your prayers. I cannot do this work without them.

Elder Raymond

Monday, February 21, 2011

Big News!

20 Feb 2011

Dear Famiree,

I've been called as an Assistant to the President so my e-mails will probably come at pretty random times throughout the week. I usually won't have time to e-mail on Mondays, so I will probably send shorter ones more frequently. I have my own laptop in the office so I won't have to go to the library anymore. Just figured I'd let you know.

Love you!

Elder Raymond

2 Months of Letters...

13 Dec 2010
Dear famiree,

I almost didn't get to e-mail you today! Our cars were grounded last night from all the snow and ice. As it is, we had a member drive us to the library so that we could e-mail. Apparently this is the most snow this area has seen at this time of year in a long time. You think highs in the 40s is cold...it was seven degrees last night.... ;) That's unusually cold for this area too. Hopefully it will warm up a little bit after all the snow and ice melt. I guess we can only expect it to keep getting hotter and colder as the earth keeps reeling to and fro....

I love my new area. The whole city has the feel of a military base, so it feels a lot like home.... I don't know if that's weird or not...but.... :) I don't know if you already know, but Oak Ridge (that's my current area) is the location of the Manhattan Project. We only use bottled water here so that we don't risk growing a third arm or something. Apparently this is one of the world's largest stockpiles of weapons grade uranium. There is a lot of really interesting history here. The members here are great too. The vast majority of them work for the Department of Energy, so they're from all over the United States. We have a family in the ward that recently moved from Las Vegas. We have a lot of support here and I look forward to great success. There seems to be a whole lot of potential in part-member work here.

My companion's name is Elder Howe. He goes home in a little under a month. He's a really great guy.

Love you!

Elder Raymond
28 Dec 2010

We have permission to e-mail today since our preparation days have been unusually scheduled, but I'm at a different library so I don't have as much time as usual. It was wonderful to get to talk to you all on Saturday. It's good to know that everything is going well. We just got out of the first day of a four-day training meeting. We talked about the doctrine of Christ and teaching by the Holy Ghost today. I love studying the doctrine of Christ. I am amazed by the relevance and the plainness of His Gospel. It really is true. I love you all!


Elder Raymond
11 Jan 2011

Dear Famiree,

I'm e-mailing from a winter wonderland! We got around three inches of Sunday evening and another inch last night and it's still snowing! Apparently this is the most snow this area has seen this early in the season ever.

This last week has been very busy again and the next few days show no promise of slowing down. My companion went home on Friday so that he could make the start of the school semester. I'm currently with another missionary whose companion also went home for the same reason. Transfers are tomorrow and I will be getting another, hopefully more permanent, companion. It looks like this will be the biggest transfer the mission has ever seen. We are getting many more missionaries than we are losing, so we will be opening several new areas. Our entire zone will be going to transfers as well. Every companionship is losing at least one missionary (we have two areas that are being white-washed). I've heard that that's the case around the whole mission. It's definitely going to be a big change.

With the end of last year and the beginning of this year, we have been looking at our goals from the past and for the future. As a mission, we had great success. We finished the year with 365 baptisms as a mission, which was exactly our goal for the year. It averages out to one baptism per day for 2010. We are very pleased and look forward to continued success in the coming year.

Congratulations to Bryan on getting to have your wisdom teeth out! Life's about to get exciting! I can't wait to hear more!

I love you all!

Elder Raymond
18 Jan 2011

Dear Famiree,

Sorry for not writing yesterday...the library was closed due to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. My new companion is great! His name is Elder Carpenter and he's from Arizona. I think that we will have a lot of success together. All the snow is finally washing away today in the never-ending rain. It's a good trade-off. :) I really appreciated your letter this week. Sounds like it was a busy, busy week at work!

It has been really busy here too. The work we are doing will also revolutionize missionary work. Now if we could just get it working.... Applying the eight fundamental principles of Preach My Gospel and President Monson's Rescue Plan has been like trying to stop a train. As missionaries, we learned to teach one way and quickly got set in those ways. Then the missionary department told us that we are really not applying Preach My Gospel at all and need to completely change the way we teach again. It's been very difficult but extremely fruitful. There is not a doubt in my mind that the leaders of this Church receive specific and direct revelation for us. It is actually really, really cool to see how everything fits together and then to see the great success that comes from it as we do it the way we should. Trying to get wards and branches to start applying President Monson's Rescue Plan has been at least as difficult as changing the way we teach. We see so much success from applying these principles, but it is so much work to get it going. Little by little, our stake is starting to get it going. One of the stakes in our mission, the Chattanooga stake, is the model for the entire area of the Church in applying the Rescue Program. President Gonzalez, our area president, told all the stakes and missions in the area to figure out how they do it and to get it running in their own stakes and missions by the end of January. Our stake is getting pretty close. We have a wonderful stake president.

We had a pretty cool thing happen last week. A lady called the Church building last Sunday morning requesting a ride to Church. Apparently she had met with missionaries twelve years ago, but had not been back to Church since. She came last week and set up an appointment for us to meet with her during the following week. When we went to the appointment, we invited her to be baptized and she said that she had already told her friends she was going to be baptized and she just needed to know the date of the service so that she could let them know when to come. She had definitely been prepared by the Lord. She will be getting baptized next Saturday.

I love you all mucho much! Just like a snail loves its new shell after it outgrew the last one, shed it, and spent hours and hours slugging along looking for the perfect size one to allow it to keep growing. That's how much I love you.... (that's a lot...) :)


Elder Raymond

24 Jan 2011

Dear Famiree,


Congratulations on getting a mouth dissection Bryan! ;) It's well worth it. After a little bit of admittedly not-so-fun-ness you don't ever have to worry about them again. Plus, for a couple weeks you will have extra storage space for bacon until the holes close up. I can't wait to hear when your papers are in and everything. That's so exciting! Read Preach My Gospel, especially chapter three, and the Book of Mormon over and over again. That will be the best preparation you could do. Make sure you watch "The District" online too when you get the packet that tells you about it. You'll see what I mean.

We had an interesting week-end. The lady that was supposed to be baptized this Saturday encountered some less-than-friendly reading material from a local preacher. She won't answer her door or her phone right now. We are praying that the Lord will help soften her heart so that she can overcome her concerns.

Not much else interesting has happened this week. I'm trying to write better letters home...but I can't ever think of anything to write.... :/ ...I had a dream about dinosaurs last night...that was interesting...

Anyway, I love you!

Elder Raymond
31 Jan 2011

Dear Famiree,

This week has been very busy! We have been working our tail ends off trying to find people to teach. We have had a lot of success this week as we have worked diligently.

Our mission has had a rough enough winter. The last couple days have been absolutely gorgeous though. Upper 60s and sunshine. We were kind-of hoping it would last for a while.... The weather here can change 50 degrees overnight. You never know what to expect. It definitely keeps us on our toes!

Anyway, I love you all!

Thanks for your prayers!


Elder Raymond

07 Feb 2011

Dear Famiree,

This week has been extremely busy. I think that the last week has been the fastest week of my entire mission. We have been working very hard trying to find people to teach and the Lord has blessed us for it.

I had a wonderful surprise opportunity on Saturday! We had another Spanish conference down in Dalton. Elder Cornish, our Area Authority Seventy came to speak to us as well. He served both as a missionary and as a mission president in Spanish speaking missions. Afterwards, I got to ride up with Elder Cornish, Elder Woller (my trainer), and another missionary from Dalton to Knoxville. It was quite the two-hour discussion.

Anyways, hope everything is going well back home.


Elder Raymond