Monday, November 30, 2015

No Turkey on Thanksgiving??

Dear Family and Friends,

This week has flown by in anticipation of Thanksgiving. It seemed the whole talk of the Zone was how we will be able to work with full bellies when everyone else will be napping soon after eating. Such is not the case for missionaries. We had work to do! 
Elder Bingham & Elder Kestner 

Thanksgiving Dinner (Campout) w/ the Elam's

Thanksgiving morning we we went to a Turkey Bowl hosted by the Elders Quorum. It was a good turnout as we split in two teams. Essentially, it was flag football, but some of the Army Rangers in the Ward wanted to do Tackle. It was tackle football for a few plays haha. Some awesome plays were made. I actually caught a short pass for a few yards before getting my flag pulled. We had an amazing time and walked away quite sore, my companion and I. From there we drove to the Carino's for breakfast. They are a Hispanic couple. Brother Carino is from Puerto Rico and Sister Carino is from Ecuador. After breakfast we drove home to get showered and dressed in proselyting clothes. 
We then drover to Skidaway Island to meet with the Elam's for lunch, or better yet, dinner. The Elam's were camping out for a few days. So, our dinner was Dutch Oven Ham among other delicious food. I also had my first taste of Pecan Pie. I must say that it is delicious. My taste buds are changing for sure. Due to the title of this email, the Elam's made turkey, but they were cooking it in the ground among hot coals. So, in the end, no turkey for us. But it is okay, everything else was delicious. 

That night after visiting a few people, we headed in. I got in the shower due to us smelling like smoke. As soon as I get out, we are then called by a member in Alma to go to Memorial Hospital here in Savannah to see a member who had just gotten in a bad car accident where his fiance and 6 year old son were killed. He was himself, in rough shape. We weren't able to see Jared, the member that night. But were able to talk to his father and aunt and give them comfort. Around midnight, they asked us to come back in the morning to give Jared a blessing. Tired, we went home, our hearts heavy.  The next morning, we go to the hospital around 10. We met up with Jared's aunt and father who had stayed the night. We were led to Jared's room in the MSI wing to give him a blessing. He was somewhat responsive to us being there and acknowledged us and greeted us as best as he could. We performed the blessing, and Jared muffled a thank you as we rejoined the family to console them. We left the hospital knowing that he would be okay and would be comforted. 
Elder Kestner has become a fan of  Sister Carino's Sweet Potato Pie

We went home and weekly planned and went about our day. That night we finally had turkey with the Carino's for dinner to end the day. 
Saturday was very busy for us. Around 2:30, we picked up Sean, who got baptized back in June and who has the desire to serve a mission. We tried seeing a few people and were called on once again to see a member who was admitted to the hospital. This member was from Pooler, I believe. We gave her a blessing and she was very grateful for us coming. It was a very busy 3 days. We ate some dinner and took Sean home. 

My my, what a busy end to our week. As we are starting into this Christmas season, we are passing out cards for and on it is a video about the true meaning of Christmas. I invite everyone to watch it as well as another video about what this world would be like without a Savior to redeem us. 
Elder Bingham's mom sent a Christmas tree!
Hard to believe Christmas is coming up in about 3 weeks. 
Being a missionary at this time of year puts the true meaning of Christmas into perspective due to me being away from home. I realized that I can give two Christmas' to the Lord away from my family. The Savior has been a great strength to me in the last 8 months I've been out. It is remarkable how not having to worry about things that most people have to worry about and focusing on the Work of Salvation. I love being a missionary and I promise that the Lord will help each of you to reach out to those seeking the Gospel light. 

Have a blessed week everyone and Merry Christmas!

Elder Alexander Kestner

Flooding in Savannah, GA

Monday, November 23, 2015

A long and Difficult Week

Dear Family,
This weekly email will be a little different. I do not want any of this on the Blog. So, here it goes.
First off, I am no longer in Rincon and Elder Kobbah is no longer my companion. I feel like I need to update y'all on the events of last week. 
Last Monday, after P-Day, we were going about our evening. After the last stop, we were on our way back, when Elder Kobbah said, "We need to hurry and pack so we can get to Savannah tonight to stay with the ZL's". I ask why do we have to stay in Savannah the day before every meeting we have in Savannah. He shot down my question with something snarky. I stayed quiet just trying to bring the Spirit back as Elder Kobbah played his unapproved music in the car. We get back to the apartment and gathering some courage and I said "Elder, you shouldn't be doing things that are against mission rules". He replied in mocking, and the Spirit left the room immediately. I said, summoning what courage I had left, "Elder, we have been set apart missionaries and we need to act as such". He responded with more mocking and laughing. Not wanting to say anything more and Elder Kobbah proving my point, I stay quiet all the way to Savannah. The entire drive there Elder Kobbah has his music turned up way too loud. I said numerous prayers all the way there. We get there and I mention to one of the zone Leaders, Elder Bingham, that we are having problems. The next day, I go on exchanges after District Meeting with Elder Weigle and explain the situation so far. We go through the day answering questions so that Elder Weigle can get a better picture of the situation. That night, Elder Weigle counsels me to call President Cottle to seek his counsel. I told President Cottle what was going on and my suspicions concerning Elder Kobbah. He asked me to talk to Elder Kobbah about it as well as informing Elder Kobbah that he needs to turn in his iPod touch which is not allowed. 
On to Wednesday. we exchange back and Elder Kobbah and I don't say too much, like usual. That morning at least, he wasn't blasting his music. Through the day, the ZL's called to check up on me. As we got into the evening, Elder Kobbah starts playing his music again. I asked 3 times if we could listen to something else. He, of course ignored me on every attempt to bring the Spirit back between us. As we got out of the car to visit someone, Elder Kobbah accused me of slamming the door, which I wasn't. He told me to change my attitude in a snarky manner. I told him again that I don't like the music he is playing. The last song that was playing was a Christian rock band singoing about Jesus but was way too heavy. Elder Kobbah asked, "Do you know what that song is about?'' I replied, "It doesn't matter, I don't like it." Things were starting to get intense...
We get back to the apartment and go over our day and make plans for Thursday. After that, I said "We need to talk". He said, " You know Elder, you are really starting to piss me off". Using his own words. I told him that President knows about his music and his iPod and how things are. He said he doesn't care and got up in my face. I told him that President Cottle is going to get a phone call from one of us and Elder Kobbah needs to decide who. He starting saying, "What are you going to do about it? Huh, what are you going to do big man. Stand up!" I stay sat down, not wanting to sink to his level. I try to remain calm and not look him in the eyes. Inside, I was terrified. Suddenly, he flipped my chair, with me in it. I stand back and he kept tapping me in the chest. I grabbed the phone in an attempt to call the Zone Leaders. he said '' Go ahead, make the call ". Now outside, the first attempt to call the ZL's goes to voice mail. I then walk over to the Kirkland's, member neighbors door. Before I get over there, Elder Kobbah, now back outside, pushes me hard with my back turned. He then snatches the phone and goes back in the apartment and tells me to stay outside. Not having any of this, I go into the apartment quickly and grabbed my planner, which had the ZL's and President Cottle's  numbers in it. I had written them down the night before in the even something like this happened. I go back outside and knock on the Kirkland's door and ask if I can come in. I go in and I immediately break down. I was then able to call President Cottle on their phone and explain the situation. I was there from about 9:30 to about 11. The first phone call to President Cottle, he told me that he will makes some calls to find a solution quickly. The Kirkland's really helped me through the whole thing. I may be sounding like a total wimp, but I was so distraught by Elder Kobbah's lack of sympathy. The Zone Leaders get to the apartment and stay with us. Elder Kobbah is still mad, so I and Elder Bingham sleep on the twin couch recliners. The next morning President Cottle calls us. Prior to that, the ZL's asked for all of us to give an account of what happened. Elder Weigle gives his and then I give mine. During my take on the whole event the night before, Elder Kobbah kept insulting me and giving me a stare that I actively avoided. The decision at the end of it all by President Cottle is that he will do an Emergency Transfer as a precaution from it happening again. So, I was put with Elder Bingham in Savannah and Elder Kobbah is with Elder Weigle in Rincon. They will be whitewashing Rincon to protect the Ward and the Mission from any fallout effects. 
Naturally, word is spreading and the whole of the Savannah East Zone now knows what happened. I feel like this whole thing is preparatory to something else. I want to continue from this with my head up because I know I did nothing wrong. The latter part of the week felt like a blur. But I know that the Lord is looking out for me as I strive to do what is right and to be as obedient as I can. I have seen that blessings flow from obedience to the commandments and guidelines of the Mission. This was my little spiel on this week. I will try to get a better email for this week ready next Monday. Love you all and have a Happy Thanksgiving. Ben, eat a turkey leg for me!

Elder Alexander Kestner 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Life in the Savannah East Zone

4th transfer & 5th companion, Elder Kobbah
Dear Family & Friends,

Well Transfers are over and I have been assigned to Rincon, GA, just northwest of Savannah. the Ward is great and I feel very hopeful about this area. This is the same area that Elder Wells and Elder Sutton have served in previously. I am with Elder Kobbah, from San Antonio, Texas. He is 20 months out and this is his 2nd Transfer in Rincon

Most of this week was filled with me being introduced to the Ward and investigators. an older couple, the Roark's. They are a sweet couple in their mid to late 80s. We visited them a few times last week because they love having us over and sharing a Spiritual thought with them. They can't come to church as often as they would like due to health, but Sister Roark tries to go as often as she is able and to at least pay her tithing. They are really sweet and their door is always open to us coming by for a short while. Before we leave, Sister Roark always asks us if we want to take a drink and a snack with us haha. I love them.

On Wednesday, we traveled to spend the night with the Zone Leaders in Savannah as to avoid the rush of getting to ZTM on time. We left Savannah at 7:30, Thursday morning and traveled for almost an hour to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. We had a good a ZTM that lasted to about 2 pm. We then went to go get lunch. We stopped at a place called Fiesta Fresh in Hilton Head. I of course, got nachos. Can you blame me? After an hour and a half for lunch, we drove the hour back to Savannah, picked up our car at the ZL's apartment and got caught in traffic at around 5. It took us nearly an hour to get home in that traffic. We all know that Portland traffic can delay so much longer than an hour. By the time we got back to Rincon it was 6:15 and well after dark. We went immediately to the home of the Fernandez family for dinner. As it turns out, Brother Fernandez is a bit of a history buff that was influenced by his service in the Navy and Army. It was refreshing to discuss such historical events such as WWI and the Gulf War, etc. After a long day on the road, we stopped at the Roark's for a few minutes and finally got back home, planned for the next day, and crashed. 

Yesterday, we went on splits with two Priests in the Ward. I went with Nathan and Elder Kobbah went with Josh Fernandez. Nathan and I tracted a street and found some potential investigators. We taught a few door step lessons and handed out Restoration pamphlets. As we got to the end of the street, we met two boys about 13 years old playing catch with a football. We decided to stop and play with them for a few minutes. As it turns out, one of the boys is a Seahawks fan! Woohoo! We then got their information and we look forward to sharing the message of the Restoration with their families.

 For only being here since Tuesday, it has been a long week. Every 1st week of every Transfer always goes slowly. I am excited to serve here in Rincon and preach and teach the gospel to all who will listen. Have a great week every body and God Bless!


Elder Alexander Kestner

Monday, November 9, 2015

Onto Transfer #4..A willing heart & a positive attitude

Dear Family,

This week went by really quick. The weather is cooling off quite drastically. I actually busted out a long sleeve white shirt today. This may be the 2nd time I've worn it. 

Anyway, we were pretty busy this week. We had a few appointments with which members came with us. One of those appointments was with Scott F. Scott has been investigating the church for around 13 years now and is in his late 60s, early 70s. He claims this as his church and pops in every once and a while. Whenever we visit, the Spirit is strong. This last visit with him we had Bishop Floyd with us. Bishop Floyd is very knowledgeable of the Gospel and is really in tune with the Spirit. Every time we visit, Scott asks us questions that most people usually don't such as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, Authority, and how the Church runs in comparison to other churches. From what we could tell, his only holdup from getting Baptized is that he drinks coffee. He used to drink 2 pots a day. But since he's been meeting with members and missionaries, he had brought it down to one cup in the morning. That is it. He has shown that he can give things up to follow Jesus Christ. Bishop Floyd has said that Scott has walked into church in a suit and everyone thought that he was a member. He is so close to Baptism, he just needs to commit.

As y'all have probably heard, I am getting transferred out of Gray. I was only here 6 weeks and I am pretty bummed out right now. This area is absolutely incredible with great investigators and members that look out for us and feed us pretty often and at times out of the blue. In addition to my leaving, my companion, Elder Palmer, is as well. In other words, they are white washing part of Gray. Elder Palmer has also been asked to train a new missionary. He has been out for only 4 and a half months. I wish him luck. I did not quite anticipate going into my 4th Area so soon, but I recognize that President Cottle has been called to preside over this part of the Lord's vineyard and he receives inspiration as to where he needs each missionary to serve. The next time you hear from me will be in my new area.

On Saturday, we helped out at a community event at the Civic Center honoring Veterans at the request of Brother Eadie, who is a Marine Corps Veteran. I was asked to go around on a golf cart to assist anyone in the parking lot to the building and did that most of the day. We, as missionaries were exposed to the public and many recognized us as Mormons and missionaries. When the event ended, we were all very tired. Saturday was quite busy and we worked hard. 
Had a blast being the shuttle driver for the Veteran's 
Gray, GA Veteran's Celebration
I have learned very quickly that the best thing you can have while on a mission is a willing heart and a positive attitude. If those two are there, everything else falls into place. Through this Transfer I have had to rely heavily on the Lord through prayer and scripture study to get me through the yuck of dealing with a demanding companion and other missionaries that don't quite get me. The latter is okay, not everyone is going to understand how I do things. 

This Transfer may have been the toughest one thus far. I have hope that I will have companions like Elder Thornton who gets me and who I can get along with. Those who have been on missions in my family understand this. Missionary life isn't easy, in fact it is the hardest thing I have had to do, but it is so worth it if I am just willing to do what is asked of me and teach & preach the Gospel to the people in Georgia. 

 Thanks y'all for all of the prayers of love and support you send my way. I hope that each of you finds peace as I have through the sacrifice and Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. God Bless!

Elder Alexander Kestner

Monday, November 2, 2015

Gray is Catching Fire!

The Fall Festival in Gray, GA..Yabba Dabba Doo!
Dear Family & Friends,

This week was a very short one. I could've sworn that I was just emailing just yesterday. Next thing I'll know is that Christmas is next week. I thought I should let you know that Sister Tillman has signed up to have us over on Thanksgiving with her two brothers. Before that, the England's signed up to have us over for Christmas dinner. The England's have done a lot for us. 

This last Friday night we had the Fall Festival for the Ward. The 4 of us Elders and Brother England were assigned to set up the movie for the kids outside. We got it tied between two trees. It worked out quite well. We had invited a lot of people to the Fall Festival. Our investigator, Deanna, Tawsha, (her roommate and member), and their friend. We had invited them the day before as we helped Deanna's friends move in. The Fall Festival was really fun and they played Hotel Transylvania. After the movie, we started taking things down as the kids went to the other side of the parking lot to go Trunk or Treating. We got everything put away and Brother England told us to meet him at Dairy Queen. We met him a couple minutes later and he treated us. I got a burger because the hot dogs did not do much for me that were at the Festival. I am constantly having my heart softened by the generosity of Brother England as well as the Eadie's and Sister Tillman. They and the investigators we are working with is the reason I really want to stay for Christmas. I am stressed because there are 11 more Sisters coming into the Mission and 3 Elder's areas are turning into bike areas, since Sisters can't ride bikes as per policy. Riding my bike is getting easier the more I ride it. My calves are getting pretty big as well as my thighs haha. 

Yesterday, we went with Brother Eadie after church to 2 appointments. The first one was to see Sister Mock. She has been less-active for 8 years. The reason being that her husband is not a member and wants both of them to go to church together. During our visit, we realized that she has a strong testimony and she really wants to come back to church. We hope to visit with her again, hoping that her husband will join the discussion. The second appointment we went to was with Evelyn. She is a sweet lady who manages an apartment complex across town from our apartment. She has been visiting with us for over a month and has a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and feels and recognizes the Spirit. It seems surreal. There is one thing that is holding her back. Her church and pastor. Though she has a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, she is having trouble with recognizing Priesthood Authority. Her pastor tells his congregation that he prays every morning and receives vision of angels and Jesus Christ. I feel uneasiness when she spoke of her pastor's experiences. I know that we are all entitled to revelation through the Light of Christ, but it comes down to what are the fruits and does it go anywhere? Evelyn loves the Gospel and teaches out of the Book of Mormon to her Sunday school class. I have asked our district for counsel and President Cottle as well. Though our discussions with Evelyn have been great and the Spirit is there, we leave immediately knowing she hasn't understood that Priesthood Authority came back to the earth through Joseph Smith and passed it on to others who were willing and worthy to receive it. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only place where Priesthood Authority can be found. I still have hope for Evelyn and I pray for her. 

With everything going on, it causes me to reflect on how much time has gone by and what changes have been made on me. I know now more than ever that Jesus Christ is our Savior and that He is the head of this Church. He has been preparing souls for us to find. As it says in the Doctrine and Covenants,"The field is white and ready to harvest". That passage is so true here in Gray. We are meeting more people each week and as a District have Baptisms in the near future. I hope that I may be capable and obedient to be worthy of the charge I have been given which is "To invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive through Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End"

I love you all and have a blessed week!

Your son,

Elder Alexander Kestner