Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas in South Carolina..one of my favorite Christmases!!

Elder Jordan & Elder Kestner picking up Christmas packages
Dear family and Friends,

This last Christmas has been a first for me. I usually don't expect it to be 80 degrees on Christmas morning. Meanwhile, it's freezer temperature back in Pocatello. Well, that's Georgia/South Carolina for y'all. This first Christmas away from home most certainly felt weird, it's supposed to. The last 19 Christmases I've had before were with immediate and quite frequently extended family. On Christmas morning, Elder Jordan and I woke up at 6:30 and got ready for the day and we had our studies from 8 to 10. We then opened the gifts and cards from family and friends back home. This went down as one of my favorite Christmases of my life. We had the gifts and everything else to go with it ( i.e. chocolate and other goodies ). We were able to more fully understand how important it is to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas may be over, but the Spirit of Christmas endures through the year. It's up to us to invite it back after the 25th of December.

Our week was pretty slow and busy. A lot of things called for our attention. We spent Christmas Eve with a less-active member and his non-member wife. They are both in the Army and they are fun to be around. They loved having us over, in part to their kids being with their biological dad in North Carolina. We had an amazing Turkey, mashed potatoes (YES!), stuffing, among other things I can't quite remember. That very evening, a thunderstorm blew in. A thunderstorm? In December? I am definitely not in Kansas (Idaho) anymore.

The members here spoiled us by giving us gifts and invitations into their homes. Due to time we could only see a few. We spent the latter part of the evening on Christmas Day with the Plocha's. Brother Plocha, a non-member, made Italian Meringues which were really good. After a good conversation, we left with a scripture, a prayer, and went home.

Despite it being the week of Christmas, not a lot happened other than being treated to Costco where the members bought us $140 worth of food which will last us months. The North Augusta Ward has done so much for us, and we just want to do what we can to reciprocate that generosity by our work and testimonies. It has been an incredible two weeks already. It feels weird for me as I start my first calendar year out. We will be on lockdown on Thursday, New Year's Eve from 6 pm on. And no, we won't be staying up until midnight. We have work to do on Friday!

I wish all of you a Happy New Year and try to remember your New Year's resolution beyond January 4th! Love y'all and be safe wherever you may be!


Elder Alexander Kestner 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Dear Family & Friends,

Well, the first week of the Transfer is done and I have been assigned to  North Augusta, South Carolina! I have now officially been assigned to an area in each of the three States that the Georgia Macon Mission touches (Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama). 

Here I am the District Leader and my companion is Elder Jordan from Layton, Utah. We get along well. Elder Jordan comes from a less active family. He has a sincere testimony. He is here to prove who he is. He is out here to serve. He is teaching me humility and patience that I am sure he does not know that he is. My last few companions have been from Utah, except for Elder Stewart and Elder Thornton, of course. I am excited to be here in this area and I hope to stay here for a while, at least 6 months. One can only hope, right? I fell in love with this area almost immediately. The members are amazing and they take care of us missionaries. The youth and young adults are enthusiastic about Missionary Work, and a few of them hope to go on Missions soon.

To start, it was a 2 and a half hour drive to get here from Macon. Compared to Savannah to Macon, which is 3 hours. We met a few members that first day and ate with a young couple. CafĂ© Rio style sweet pork tacos and Mexican rice. YUM! A family that we met was the Plochas. They are older retired couple who love the missionaries. Brother Plocha, who is a non-member, while his wife is. Except for a Word of Wisdom issue, he is a dry Mormon, so to speak. He is a bit, abnormal, and at times loud, but he has a good heart and a very good sense of humor.

I received your Christmas box. I opened the box on Tuesday. I will record myself unwrapping to give you a laugh or two. Becky, from Thomson is hopefully seeing us on Wednesday. An older couple in the ward is taking us to Augusta, Georgia tomorrow at 1 to Costco. They wanted to buy us groceries as their Christmas gift to us. They saw that the meal calendar was somewhat empty and wanted to help. I love this area!

There is not much else to talk about except for the fact that it is 4 days until Christmas! We will be spending some time with the Dunagans, which Brother Dunagan is the High Priest Group Leader. There we will be Skyping home on Christmas Day after 5 pm. We will be seeing some other members and investigators on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is sure different being away from home at this time of year. But I feel privileged to be serving a mission during this important Holiday. When it gets down to it, Christmas is about giving and doing what Christ would and follow His perfect example. I would invite y'all to read Helaman 15 and 3 Nephi 1 which give an account of the sign of Christ's birth and that prophecy coming to pass. Christ truly is the reason we celebrate this season. Though it is being more commercialized, I exhort all of you to always remember the true meaning of Christmas. He is the greatest Gift ever given from God and through him all mankind may be redeemed from our imperfections.

Merry Christmas everyone and Happy New Year!

Elder Alexander Kestner

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Power of the Scriptures!!

Beautiful Savannah..Good-bye

Dear Family & Friends,
This week has flown by. I have tried to grasp a few things to write about this week, but some things I will leave out to talk about through my Skype call home on Christmas Day. After that my Mom may share those things.

Saturday was a busy day, as it usually is. Around lunch time, we picked up some Chic-fil-a and headed to Brother Carino's with Sean. After a good meal and conversation, we went back out to work. Let me tell you a little about Sean... He is 20 years old and was Baptized last June. He is the Pioneer of his family, being the only member. Since his Baptism and since I've been in Savannah, Sean has had a strong desire to serve a mission. He has called us up multiple times of the week asking when he can come out with us. We certainly love having him out with us and he has repeatedly shared his testimony with investigators which breaks the ice better than we could. He has such a desire to serve that will make him a great full-time missionary. If he goes to Idaho, as I tell him, he will not be disappointed. haha.Read more on this story HERE!

 After trying to see a few people with Sean, we decided to drop by to see a referral. The lady who we intended to see was not there, but her sister, Lois, was. We had briefly talked to her before, but she had us come in and talk. We immediately started talking about the Gospel. She has some questions and concerns that are good and honest. We had a very incredible discussion about The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and Prophets. It seems like we were led to her through her sister's request for a Bible. Lois is very active in her church and is very much the Matriarch of her family. She does her best to keep her children and grandchildren in church and safe at home. Throughout the entire discussion the Spirit was so strong that you can cut it with a knife, so to speak. She bore testimony many times of the importance of family unity, prayer, church attendance, and being a true Christian every day. As we departed, we left her with a commitment to read the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to pray about it. She gave us a hug, and we departed feeling uplifted after the long and dreary day we had been having.

Earlier in the week, in fact last Tuesday, we met a guy named Rob. He let us in right away and told us he was taught by missionaries 20 years ago in Kentucky! He had some good questions and relayed some experiences with the paranormal he has had. He has a questions about the Church that we answered, but we left with a prayer and an appointment for earlier this morning. We went this morning and talked to him about any questions he may have. He had a few that came up from the pamphlet we left with him as well as those that came up through is life that had just come to his remembrance. We had the intention to stay for 45 minutes or so, but we left after talking for only 20 minutes. We didn't feel rushed, but we asked him to read the first chapter of 1 Nephi. 

Yesterday, I finished my second reading of the Book of Mormon with the focus on marking the Doctrines of Christ (Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gisft of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End). My testimony of the Book of Mormon has strengthened since the last time I read it through and every page I read this time. I know that it is true. I know that Joseph Smith translated it through the Gift and Power of God. The messages in it have deepened my love for my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love it and I long to add more copies of the Book of Mormon to my bookshelf for years to come. As I have finished the Book of Mormon, I have challenged myself to read all the Standard Works before I return home. The next one to read is the Bible, starting in the book of Genesis. In the Old Testament I will be marking scriptures relating to Prophecies of Jesus Christ, Laws and Customs, and Power Scriptures. After that, towards the end of my mission I hope to read and finish the Doctrine and Covenants along with The Pearl of Great Price. I have developed a love for the scriptures that I wish I had more of when I was back home. As they say, better late than never. 

I just wanted to share on last thing. I checked my email and the Monday before every Transfer meeting there is an email from the APs ( Assistants to the President ).
In this email, I have been selected to be the District Leader in my next area. I look forward to being in my next area and I know I will love it! 


Elder Alexander Kestner

Monday, December 7, 2015

You Mormons?

Dear Family & Friends,

This week has flown by, indeed. As we are now in December, I can't help but feel the spirit of Christmas. People here in Georgia are starting to feel it too as their hearts begin to soften. Though, it may not always be ideal for them to hear our message. The Work goes on regardless!

The beginning of the week was slow at first but started to pick up later. On Thursday we were out tracting near our apartment. We knocked on a door and a man stepped out and listened and said he wouldn't mind if we came back by. A few doors down, a man comes to the door and cracks it open just a little. We introduce ourselves and offer to shake his hand. He said hi and asked if there was anything he can do. By not wanting to shake our hands, we saw this spiraling down. We then decided to walk away when the opportunity arose to get out of that awkwardness that was not conducive to the Spirit. Trying to shake that off we walk past another house when another man came out going to his car. He shouted "You Mormons?". We replied that we were. He then said "So, you going around and telling people they are going to Hell?". I was thinking ''geez, another one?". He grabbed something from his truck and came with small pamphlets. He said "Man, I feel bad that you haven't found the truth". He said for us to take his pamphlets. Elder Bingham spoke up and said we would take his if he would take ours. He reluctantly agreed. He then said he is a Baptist Minister. Walking away, he said again "I feel bad that y'all haven't found the truth". That street left a bad taste in our mouths. 

 Now approaching Dinner time, we go back to the apartment to wait for Brother Cribbs. We had asked him to take us to Buffalo Wild Wings for discount boneless wings since the Sisters were borrowing our car. He picks us up and takes us there. We go inside to the take out line. We are about to order when Brother Cribb's says "Don't worry fellas, I got it". Refusing to let him pay for us, we said we got it and he did enough by getting us there. He then replied, "You can't make me not pay for you". Not wanting to stop him, we thanked Brother Cribbs for his generosity and kindness. We soon got our wings and left. We stopped by his place, he gave us Root Beer and we went home to eat. That had certainly perked our day up as we ate and went about our evening with renewed confidence.

Now Saturday, we go 'blitzing' with the Sisters. We take one side of the street, they take the other. The first door we approach, a man opened and shook our hands. We broke the ice rather quickly and we started talking. He told us that he is a Deacon in his church and wouldn't mind if we came back by to share more. We were talking him close to 20 minutes. The Sisters had knocked half the street when we finished talking. We moved on down the street and met a 16 year old who talked to us about the same amount of time. He told us that he wanted to learn more and he wanted to get back into church. This street definitely perked our spirits. 

Last night, the Sisters had to borrow our car to go to an appointment. We tracted another street near the one on Thursday. We ran into a Former Investigator who really enjoyed reading the Book of Mormon but has since lost it. He was very friendly and wanted us to come back by. Down the street, we met a man in his 20s who showed a good amount of interest as he wants to have his kids grow up in a church. 

After all of that, we got the car back and drove to meet with Brother Becker. We met him at a parking lot, and he took us to his house which is on base on Hunter Army Airfield. He being a Colonel, had a really nice house. We had chili and ice cream for dessert. The Becker's also had a big, but very friendly Brown Lab. 

This week had its ups and downs, but that is to be expected. Elder Bingham and I are getting along great. I am sad that I will be leaving Savannah so soon. But I have enjoyed it greatly. Next week should be my last Monday in Savannah. God Bless all of you and Merry CHRISTmas!

Elder Alexander Kestner

P.S.I sent the SD card on Saturday, it should be there in a day or two. I wish I could reply to everyone individually, but due to time constraints I could only get that big one out. I am really looking forward to Skyping in about 2 weeks!