Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 18

 12/13/10
 I am doing well and I am working on keeping my spirits as high as they can go! It's really cold, and there really aren't that many people out walking the streets and if they are they don't really want to stop and talk to us in the freezing weather. The advent calendar is really fun and I always can't wait to wake up the next morning and open up another little pouch! I gobbled up the raspberry sticks in about 2 days, they were delicious!! :) Baily is doing great and we are still seeing some improvement and we are seeing some opposition that the Adversary is giving her. She asked us on some advice on how to handle people that are opposed to her joining the church, and we were able to help her out on a few things. We're still waiting on her boyfriend to move out and find a job.... strike that, reverse it. So that's basically the only thing, sadly though I won't be able to see her baptized.

And if I'm being transferred.... Yes i am!! I don't know where I'll be going, but Elder Hurley and Shipp will be staying in the Southside for another transfer together. It's been a long 4 months here in the Southside but it's been a great learning experience and what not! And guess what else is happening? I'm getting assigned and made to Zone Leader! Meaning I'll have more responsibility. President Summerhays called me up last night and asked me if I would serve as a zone leader. I asked him, Are you sure? (because naturally I don't feel adequate for really any calling) and he said, "Yes! Thus spake the Lord!" Well I couldn't argue with that. So tomorrow I'll be made Zone Leader and the shipped off to another area to be there for a couple weeks and then Christmas is here!! :)

Well I'll tell you what happened on Thursday. We had a Mission Tour with Elder Eduardo Garvarrett from the Quorum of the Seventy. It was way cool because he taught us a lot of things and shared his testimony about missionary work and what not. So 3 missionaries were chosen out of the many zones which were there and he interviewed them, and it just so happened that one of those missionaries was me! I was chosen to get interviewed and was told that I would be before the Mission Tour. So needless to say, I was extremely nervous for that to happen. So yeah that was way cool, I got to sit one on one with a general authority and talk to him. He shared some mission experiences with me, and we talked about my family, and also I got to ask him some questions and what not. It was way awesome! I could literally see something in his eyes that made him different, he truly is a special witness of Jesus Christ. It was an amazing thing!

Well as for the memorization of the Living Christ:

"As we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ two millennia ago, we offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice. None other has had so profound an influence upon all who have lived and will yet live upon the earth.

He was the great Jehovah of the old testament and the Messiah of the new. Under the direction of His Father, he was the creator of the earth. "All things were made by him, and with out Him was not anything made, that was made." Though sinless, He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He went about "doing good" yet was despised for it. His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow his example. He walked to roads of Palestine healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our pre-mortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.


He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary's cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all that would ever live upon the earth.


We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem, nor concluded on Calvary. He was the firstborn of the Father, the only begotten Son in the flesh, the redeemer of the world.


He rose from the grave to become the firstfruits of them that slept. As risen Lord he visited among those he had loved in life. He also ministered among his "other sheep" in ancient America. In the modern world, He and his Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised "dispensation of the fullness of times"


Of the Living Christ, the Prophet Joseph wrote: "His eyes were as a flame of fire;t the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters; even the voice of Jehovah saying:


I am the first and the last. I am He who liveth I am He who was slain. I am your advocate with the father"


Of Him the Prophet also declared, "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all which we give oh him, That He lives! For we saw him even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the only begotten of the Father, and that by him and through him and of him the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God."

We declare in words of solemnity that his priesthood and his church have been restored upon the earth "built upon the foundation of... apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone"


We testify that He will someday return to the earth "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" And he shall rule as king of kings and reign as lord of lords and every knee what bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before him. Each of us will stand to be judged of him according to our works and the desires of our hearts.


We bear testimony - as his duly ordained apostles, that Jesus is the Living Christ, the Immortal son of God. He is the great king Immanuel who stands today on the right hand of his Father. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the Matchless gift of His divine son."

(This is "The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles" published in the year 2000 by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles)

Impressed? All from memory :) I think I got it all, probably not the the commas in the right places but I think all the words are correct. I just need to memorize the scripture references. But I got it.

I am very excited to be able to go to another area and to serve there amongst many more wonderful people. I will tell you asap what my new address is so no worries. You'll be able to get those packages off to me in time. But as for that that's all for me this week. I am way excited to be able to talk to you in a couple weeks!  Hooray!!

Love,
Elder Benjamin


Pittsburgh Week 17

12/6/10
The Advent calendar is really fun! Thank you so much for sending it to me! I got the Christmas Tree, ornaments, the star, the cd, the hand sanitizer (much needed BTW), and the bar of soap today. We put the Christmas tree up on one of our old fireplace mantles in the study, and put a couple gifts next to it the we got from the ward! It was a pleasant surprise when the Ward Mission Leader came up and handed me and my companions a bag for Christmas! yay! So we have a couple presents.

As for transfers, I'm not exactly sure, but rumor is that I may be getting transferred. But that's just a guess coming from the Zone Leaders, so who knows. It's up in the air every time. But just to be safe, we'll play it like I'm getting transferred. I kinda get the feeling that I will be. I'll be sure and let you know asap!

My investigators are doing fine! Baily's living situation is starting to work out! She told us that her boyfriend has a couple job offers that are out of town and they seem pretty promising. She was way excited to tell us about that and we were ecstatic to hear about it! We don't quite have a baptismal date for her but once her boyfriend moves she'll be getting right in the water for sure! Our new investigator, Justin is pretty cool he didn't come to church this week or to any of the events that were happening this weekend (a baptism and a Christmas program put on by the singles ward). Which was a bummer, but we'll be working with him continually this week and help him to understand the gospel.

I'm as so excited to be able to talk to you! It seemed like it was not too long ago when I talked to you on Mothers day and thinking it was going to take forever for Christmas to come and lo and behold it's right around the corner! I cannot believe how fast these past 7 months have gone by! It's kinda scary how fast. Anyway I am was excited to be able to talk you the family! Ya! Anyway, this week. Not much happened that was outside of the ordinary.

This coming week though there is a "Mission Tour" happening and Elder Eduardo Gavarrett is coming from the quorum of the Seventy! So that will be exciting! Something also which is pretty cool, is: whenever there is a mission tour the General Authority that is coming will personally interview 3 or 4 elders one-on-one from the mission, and guess who was chosen to be one of them?? You guessed it! Me! So I have the opportunity to sit in a room with a Special Witness of Jesus Christ and talk with him about the mission. Wow. Intense. I'll let you know how that goes next week. Wish me luck.

Oh another thing that is cool. I started memorizing the church document, The Living Christ, put out by the First Presidency and the 12 apostles back in 2000. It's about one page; 2 columns; size 10 font. It's really awesome I have about 3/4 of it memorized. By next week I'll have all of it down! But until then that's about all for this week! 19 more days until Christmas! :)

Love,
Elder Benjamin

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 16

There's a great big Christmas tree! And I got a picture by it! So here's a picture, Merry Christmas! haha! it's a little dark

11/29/10
Elder Shipp got sick and I was afraid that I would get sick again but I didn't, so I'm good! I did get the package and it's totally awesome! I'm so excited to do that advent calendar! My companions are wanting to open them all up and find what things are in them, but I told them that it's against the law of the advent calendar to do so.

This Thanksgiving was pretty good! It was a little weird seeing as to I wasn't at home. It's the first holiday season away from home and it's way different. The dinner was great! It was supplied by a Bro. and Sis. Steimer. They are way cool and are recently re-activated less-active members! We helped them get back into church and the routine of it all so that was way exciting! We had all the works of a traditional thanksgiving dinner, and it was wonderful! My favorite part of it all was..... the cranberry sauce straight out of a can and cut up into round patties! :) Just like home. It was a most fantastic meal, and the company was way nice to us. But during thanksgiving day previous to the dinner was pretty hard because most people didn't really want to talk and we didn't want to tract because no one would have time due to cooking and family over so it was rough, but a great feast ended the day perfectly. The day after thanksgiving was great too for 2 reasons. 1. We got invited to a leftover thanksgiving meal which was fantastic. and 2. WE COULD OFFICIALLY PLAY CHRISTMAS MUSIC!!!!!! :) Which brings me to my next topic.

We only have 1 Christmas cd here at Maple Terrace and we are in need of more. Do you think you could send me some in the coming letters or something? If you have any MOTAB Christmas cds that would be great, we would love them. or you could make me a burned one. Remember: hymns, classical, motab. That would be most wonderful thank you!

It barley snowed out here and it's getting warmer for some reason for a little bit. Although it was bitter cold for the past few days. The humid wind just cut right through everything I was wearing And it was not warm. It really needs to snow within the next week or 2 so that I can get a picture of me and Pittsburgh when it's snowing to use on a Christmas card!

For our investigators. We still haven't found out anything with Baily... She is still deciding on what she needs to do. She's been to church enough times to get baptized and I know that she wants to, but she just need to figure out her living situation. So we'll see what's going to happen. We did find a new investigator however! His name is Justin. He's really cool and is really excited to learn about the gospel. He said that he started changing his entire life around and really wants to pursue the gospel in order to really go forth with his life changing experience! So we're pretty excited to be able to get to start and teach him.

Hmmm.... I don't think too much has happened other than that for this week... yeah...

love,
Elder Benjamin

Pittsburgh Week 15

11/22/10
Sounds like there was a good week back in Utah! And no I haven't started to stink because of the hobo disease, I battled it with cleanliness! :)  You're so lucky that it's starting to look like winter over there! right now it's in the high 50's here in Pittsburgh, I'm actually just wearing a t-shirt right now and plan on doing something outside. But by the end of the week it should snow, at least I'm hoping it will!

So I have a few things exciting that happened this past week.

-I had a Jehovah's witness guy come up and try to proselyte me and my companions. It was kinda funny because he was giving us some of their pamphlets that they have and, well, we took them out of politeness. When he first started out talking to me he mentioned something about if we read the Bible, and I said, yes, we do, and we also read from the Book of Mormon, have you heard of that? And when I said that, he got all flustered and started stuttering because he didn't know really what to say to that. Apparently Jehovah's Witnesses don't like Mormons haha! But anyway I didn't get to say much to him there at that time because our bus came that were were waiting on, so it wasn't too bad!

-DAWN AND ALPHOSO GOT MARRIED!!!!!! I was so excited to hear about that! I asked Dawn to send me an announcement even though I couldn't go. But I sure hope that everything went well! It makes me so happy to hear about my 2 converts getting married and raising their kids in the church. So that was super awesome! They got married on the 20th of November. How cool is that! This year was probably their most life changing year that they'll have. They converted to the True church of Jesus Christ, and got married! How awesome!!!!! :)

-Okay this thing terrified me. So you know how I'm district leader and I have to host a District meeting that includes me training and coming up with a lesson to share with the district? Okay yeah, well President Summerhays called me up 2 hours before I had District meeting and said that he and Sister Summerhays would be attending.....!!!!! Yikes! my stomach dropped and I got really nervous. So then district meeting time came and so did President. And it started and I went through the plans that I had made for the Meeting, and after it was concluded  an hour later, President commented that the district meeting that was just held was a perfect district meeting!! he said that that was just how he wanted them to be and that the missionaries in the district were among the best in the whole mission!! Oh wow was that a reliever.... so that was awesome. President Summerhays thinks I'm an awesome district leader!! Hooray!! :)

But other than that things are going well. Baily is doing okay, she still doesn't have a baptismal date. And is still in the situation as last week so nothing really has changed there. which is sad of course. We had a totally awesome week in finding people that we can see and teach! Something I really like and have noticed a lot lately is working with the Spirit in talking to people on the street. There have been many instances in which I have started talking to people and I say something that I totally wouldn't have said in my normal approach with talking to people. And they, most always have worked out to where I was able to teach the people about the gospel. And I know it's like that because the Spirit was able to work through me, and teach those people. It was really cool.

Well I'll close for this week. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Love,
Elder Benjamin Serrano

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 14

We did get an invite to Thanksgiving, quite a few actually. So we'll be going over to a members house for Thanksgiving, so we're pretty excited for that, and we are set. Do you remember when I got my shoulder surgery over Thanksgiving weekend? That was horrible, haha! I remember laying on the couch and watching you all just stuff your faces, then you brought a plate over to me and I couldn't even eat it because that  medicine was making me sick. Oh what a terrible day... Anyway! I love Thanksgiving. :)

So I have a funny story to tell. Don't freak out, and as a precursor, I'm fine. So the other night we were walking down a busy street talking to people and we see our friend Kevin the hobo. We say hi to him again and just talk to him for a little while, then he shakes our hand and tells us we're awesome and to keep up the good work. Then after he shakes all our hands, he goes and gives us all hugs. While doing so he tells us that he loves us. In the non-creepy way, more like, "thanks for always stopping and talking to me, you guys make me feel important" kinda way. Anyway, when he comes to give me a hug, he kinda presses his face against mine. It was really weird because he had some scruff and it poked the side of my face then we leave. Then while we're walking away, 10 minutes pass or so and my face starts to feel all warm and throbby and itchy. So I ask my companions if there's anything on my face and it was all red and looking rashy! They then proceeded to tell me that I got hobo disease, and now that because I have the disease I'm going to lose everything and become all scruffy and dirty and smell bad, and then laughed at me haha. I asked for some hand sanitizer and then rubbed it on my face. As I quickly rubbed it on my face, my companions are laughing their guts out. It went away by the end of the night so it was no big deal. It was funny because my companions got such a kick out of it! Oh well, the moral of the story is, don't hug hobos.

Anyway, this week was a very good week for us. We got the highest number of lessons that we've had since I've been here in the South Side. As we are doing finding, we are striving to make our street contacting more
effective in the sense that we are focusing on teaching, more than just handing out paraphernalia. The results of such are prominent, because we are finding and obtaining more return appointments for potential investigators. We found 2 new investigators this week and we excited to be able to teach them in the coming weeks! The companionship is doing well, with the addition of Elder Shipp we have a new determination to work harder and more effectively. Baily is doing pretty good. We have come to find out that a couple weeks ago she allowed her boyfriend to move in with her (prior to us teacher her the law of chastity) because his roommates in college were doing drugs and he wanted out of there. When she found out that that was a bad thing, she expressed sincere remorse in an expression of emotion (crying) and didn't know quite what to do. Currently she is praying to find out what she should do now, because we had a great lesson with her on chastity. So hopefully things will work out. She says that they're going to get married and she doesn't believe in long engagements. We're praying for her. This week was a great week and we felt very accomplished about the things we are doing here in the South Side.

Other than that I don't think anything too exciting has happened. It was just a regular week.
Anyway, that's all for now!
Love,
Elder Benjamin
Elders Serrano, Hurley and Shipp with the Pittsburgh Steelers Stadium in the background.  I'm sure Elder Serrano is wishing her were there, for a little while at least.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 13

So as you already know, Elder Hurley and I are staying here in south side and we got a new addition to the group! His name is Elder Ryan Shipp from Salt Lake City! He's pretty awesome. He's been out just 4.5 months, and doesn't speak Spanish. We thought we would be getting a Spanish speaker here joining us, but I guess not. He's a really fantastic missionary, and he really knows how to work, which is a total relief. I was so happy that night when we went out to work together for the first time as a tripanionship and found that he was trained right, as a missionary. I think that together we'll be a great influence on the other companion. I'm happy to have him here in the companionship. 

We had a lot of great quality finding time in which we were able to teach a lot of lessons and find lots of people to get down as potential investigators or set up return appointments with them. Our investigator Baily was out of town this past weekend and so she wasn't able to attend church here so we have decided however that we are going to push back her baptismal date and reset her with one. She is progressing very nicely and she is still very excited about the gospel. We have yet to find new investigators that are really solid. We are currently in a finding stage right now. Nothing too exciting happened this week. The only big thing was the addition of Elder Shipp which is awesome. The work in South side is doing great and started to pick up.

Anyway I'll close for now, Thanks for all the love you send to me and the support! It is very much appreciated.

Love,
Elder Benjamin
Elders Hurley, Serrano, and Shipp


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 12

P-day Pumpkin Carving
"Yinz"
Elder Serrano and Elder Hurly's Jack-o-lanterns
Hey hey! This week was alright...... Not too much has gone on really...so there's not much new to say or talk about. So this morning as we were leaving the apartment to get on the bus that takes us to the library, right as I walked out the door, I slipped and fell down the stairs leading up to our front porch!! /(Steve's letter indicated the steps were frosty). /It was pretty funny looking I would imagine! I'm perfectly fine no worries I just ended up sitting on a stair a few down. It was a great way to start off a p-day :) Yes I am doing great, and I am staying positive! At least I sure am trying to. I love serving a mission.

Steve tells me that you all for halloween were boring!!! I am so disappointed... :'( ----- Crying face. I even carved a pumpkin! It is so cool! I attached a couple of pictures on to this e-mail so that you can see it. I am very proud of it! We also set a bowl of candy out for the kids to take a one and that would be it, but we came back out to check on it an hour later and someone took the whole bowl!! And it was a big bowl too!.... we totally got robbed. It bothers me how dishonest people are out in the world nowadays, it's really too bad, but hey, thank goodness for the gospel!

I'm not moving!!! And neither is Elder Hurley!!! So we'll both be staying in South side until mid December. But hey the exciting new news is we'll be having another missionary joining us here in the south side so it'll be a tri-panionship, or a three-some. So when we go tracting we'll have 3 missionaries standing at the door as opposed to just the regular 2. So that'll be fun to have a party of three! So that's exciting! 

Sadly we didn't get any investigators at church therefore we have no progressing/with a date investigators. We did however pick up a couple new investigators that are very promising and they are really cool and very interested in the gospel. One lady's name is Nancy -- and she really wants to learn. She's had a rough life and is just starting to come out of a hard stage. I think we caught her just in time! Baily is still doing great, we have an appointment with her this coming Thursday. She wasn't able to make it to church because there was a death in her family and she was spending time with them this weekend, and so we'll have to push her baptismal date back, but she still is loving the gospel!

I think that's pretty much it for this week, like I said it wasn't very exciting. Picture explanation: one is of my pumpkin and Elder Hurley's all lit up. Mine has the Pittsburgher saying yinz! and Elder Hurleys is the pacman one. and the other is a picture of all the pupmkins carved, that participated. We were at the church when we carved them it was us, the sisters, and a couple members. the zone leaders were there too but they didn't buy a pumpkin. lame-o's! :)

Love,
Elder Benjamin Serrano

(The following is a letter written for our Ward Newsletter. It was great so I thought you might like it as well. -SS)

Hello Park 7th Ward!!
This is Elder Serrano here writing to you from Pennsylvania! I'm actually serving in the heart of the big steel city of Pittsburgh! It's pretty cool because the ward I'm in right now is called the Pittsburgh "7th" ward, so I still get a taste of the home town out here.

Pennsylvania is so beautiful and the people out here are really friendly and nice! There are so many trees out here it's unbelievable! I know they call Pleasant Grove the "city of trees", but those are saplings compared to the immense density of the foliage out here. It's so beautiful, God is love.

One thing about here, though, is there are so many different churches. I can see why Joseph Smith would be confused when it came to him deciding which church was "right". It turns out none of them at the time were,
thus leading to the Restoration of the Gospel, of which I am so thankful for.

While I've been out serving a mission, I have been immersed in the scriptures more than I have ever before experienced, and I have come to know with a surety that the Book of Mormon is true. Like Jeffery R. Holland said it in the October 2009 General Conference, "No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so."

I absolutely love serving a mission here in Pittsburgh, and I thank you, Park 7th Ward, for your amazing influence and example you had on me as I was coming up. To the youth in the ward, if you're thinking about going on a mission, hear me when I say, do it! It is the most rewarding experience ever! I can tell you that and I've only been out 9 months. It is amazing! I love you all, and I bear you my testimony that I know now, with all my heart, that the Church is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that Jesus is the Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 11

Sounds like a good week back home!
(I asked about the ward members) The members do like us a lot more definitely! They trust us now that they see that they have missionaries here that want to work! But sadly, no dinner invite numbers have gone up. But they are still there. Few and far between, but they're there. :) Mostly I think the members drop stuff off for us, which is good too. Our ward is split into 2 areas in which missionaries cover. The other missionaries that are zone leaders have probably 90% of the active members in their area. Which gives them many many more appointments then we do. And we can't cross area boarders so we can't travel over there for a dinner.

We are no longer seeing him (Norm) anymore, so no worries. We haven't found out any more about him and his situation or his motive behind his craftiness because the bishop wants to talk to him personally and see what's going down. But Norm doesn't have a ride to get to the church and the bishop of course is really busy all the time. So we're just going to leave it at that. I'm not sure what steps are being taken to prevent this from happening again, but we were strongly advised by our Mission Pres. and Bishop to stop all contact with Norm. Baily on the other hand is doing fantastic!!! She just the greatest ever. She wasn't able to make it out to church this week because her boyfriend's sister passed away. So she was caught up all weekend and we have yet to hear from her. She said that she would be calling us within the next few days so that'll be good so we can talk to her and see what's up.

Yes, we have found a few more people to teach!! This week was a very good week. We implemented the training that we received during a training conference from our mission president in the which we set all
the investigators that we met with for the first time with baptismal dates. We were relatively surprised on the success that came out of it. We had two appointments with potential investigators, Brian and John, that were our first meetings with them. As we were teaching them we got the impression that of course we should at least try out the baptismal invite and see what happens. And to our surprise, they both accepted the invitation to be baptized and agreed to the date of the second weekend in December!! And we also have a new investigator his name is Shawn. He stopped us on the street a few weeks ago and said that he was studying with us and wants to get back into it. We had a great lesson with him, and it turns out that he has been meeting with missionaries for the past 2 years and he has been very close to getting baptized but something would always come up. But he said that he is very committed this time and really wants God back into his life. He's pretty legit.

This transfer has been a great one for me in the which I'm learning a lot. I am way excited that we are studying the New Testament and focusing on finishing it by the end of the year as a mission. I have learned so much and am finding lots of new things that I didn't know about Christ's life. I think it is so cool how in Matthew, he constantly is writing in his gospel, that Christ is fulfilling prophecies, he gives at least 6 references within the first 2 chapters. It is so fun to flip to the Old Testament and to read about what the prophet at that time is
saying, and his prophesy. I am learning so much.

Love,
Elder Serrano

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pictures

 We received a memory card from Elder Serrano yesterday.  It was full of, what I am sure, are great memories.  Unfortunately we have no idea what those memories are, so we just picked a couple.  The first is his 6 month tie burning in Johnstown, the second is of his new companion, Elder Hurley, in Pittsburgh, the South Side.

6 Month Tie Burning
Elder Hurley and Elder Serrano

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 10

Okay so now for the update on our investigators:
Baily our investigator came to church here and is set with November the 13! She is so amazing and really is progressing in the gospel nicely. She is really working hard and striving to live the word of wisdom, the only thing is iced tea, but she'll get over it with the Lords help. I told her that that was a big hurdle for you too /(mom)/ but you got over it and I think that that gave her some more hope. She said that she really enjoyed church and the members did a great job of fellow shipping her and being friendly towards her which is really nice. She's the best! Hopefully I'll still be here to see her baptized, transfers are coming up on November 2nd. So we'll see.

And now with the situation with Norm. It turns out there are 2 people in the ward that recognized him at church, last week, that are from different areas. One was a sister who used to live in Philadelphia 6 years ago. And the other is from a Brother who was on a mission 10 years ago in California. And guess what, the brother who served a mission in California, BAPTIZED HIM THERE!! Except he was under a different name!! And the sister that recognized him was at his Baptism in Philadelphia when he was baptized into their YSA group!! So it's pretty evident that he's not who he says he is. He was under different identities as well during those 2 baptisms. And who knows how many other times he has been baptized that we don't know of. And for the time he was baptized in California he used the same story as he has with us except he had triplet sisters, and his mom died while they were meeting with him. This time he has quadruplet sisters and his dad died while we were meeting with him. So we don't know what's true with him. We tried meeting with him on Sunday with Bishop but he wasn't home. We did set up, however, an appointment to meet with him on Thursday evening. So we'll be getting this whole thing straightened out this Thursday and we'll know for sure what he's up to. Hopefully things will work out to a point where we can prevent this from happening again with him. So our investigator is not an investigator but a member who has been baptized many times before. So that's a crazy situation but a sweet mission story as well. Who knows maybe he'll disappear before we confront him.

This week was an okay week, I got sick again at the beginning of the week again, so that was a bummer, it was kind of a relapse of what I had a couple weeks ago. Except I had a splitting headache Monday through Friday. But I'm better now, although I do feel like my brain is still in a little fog due to all the sicknesses.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 9

Well this week was pretty much the same as the week back home {not much happening}, oh but wait.... NORM CAME TO CHURCH!!!!!!!! We finally got him out there. What we did, is we set up a ride to come and pick us up at his house, then we walked to his house and got him up and then waited for the ride. There was no way he was copping out on us this week! He said he had a great time and that he really loved the ward. It was so relieving to finally get him there after 9 weeks of trying! haha! But right now there has been some new information come up on who Norm really is. Yes, you may ask yourself, why would that have to come up on who Norm is? Right now we don't have all the facts, but next weeks letter, you will have quite the story to read coming from Pittsburgh! Yes, be excited. Also, Baily went to church out in Philipsburgh PA her home town!! She was there this weekend and was able to go.  She is still interested and loves the church. We taught her the Word of Wisdom in a coffee shop! She's living it. She's golden. We can't set her with a baptismal date yet because she needs to come to church here in Pittsburgh a few times. And because of her friend's health situation, we don't know when it'll improve, or end. We're thinking we should send the other elders over there to heal Baily's friend so that they both can come to church and be baptized!!! that would work.

Anyway other than that there really hasn't been much going on over here in the South side. And sorry I don't have any cool stories for this weeks, but next weeks edition will be great I promise! We are really really trying to find new investigators but it's really hard for some reason. It seems no one wants to learn... but it's okay. We'll find those that are searching!

Love,
Elder Benjamin Serrano

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 8

It's my 8 month mark yesterday! :)

Yes, conference was amazing!! (http://new.lds.org/general-conference/sessions/2010/10?lang=eng). I absolutely loved it! I wish I had my notes with me right now so I could share with you a lot of the things that I learned While listening to it. I think one of the main themes to this conference was "Wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10) I heard that quoted in talks probably 10 times! But I must say that that is a very very true statement. Seriously how could wickedness be happiness, when the only true happiness comes from the knowledge of the truth and found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ! When one sins all they feels is pleasure at the time of the sin and then guilt and remorse after words. While one who is living the gospel of Jesus Christ (faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end) feels nothing but happiness as they strive to live it's teachings because God is pleased with them. That's the main thing that I really got from conference. But it truly was amazing. I always love hearing the talks that are prepared by the prophets and apostles, I always come away more inspired and having a greater desire to work hard and to do good! Especially as a missionary.

This week was a little rough for us. We had a lot of appointments fall through with less active members and with investigators that we would have had a member with us. We have a lot of good appointments with
investigators set up for this week that we are excited for. Our investigator Baily is in a different situation. She has a really close friend that is dying of leukemia, is in her latter stages, and lives over in Philipsburgh, an hour north of Johnstown. So she wants to spend her weekends over there to be with her, and she expressed her apologies in which she wants to come to church really bad but she won't be here in Pittsburgh. However, we told her that there was a branch building over there in which she could attend church and she said that she totally would go without a doubt. Now we're wondering what we should do with her baptismal situation. She accepted the invitation whole-heartedly and wants to be baptized but the church attendance here, is the set back and we weren't able to set her with a date. So that will be fun to get around. Baily is our only set investigator, we have others that we're trying to get in contact with again, and so we can teach them.

Other than that we have been working hard. We started keeping track of our OYM's (number of people we talk to on the street, OYM= open your mouth) and we are seeing our skills in that starting to increase and our
shells coming off even more when it comes to talking to people. I love being able to talk to people and knowing what to say when I need to, to get them interested in the restored gospel. The Spirit is amazing in
that sense in which it tells us what that person needs. It's not like a voice saying tell this person this, but it's a feeling of, I think I'll talk about.... with this person. So it's pretty neat.

I am feeling so much better I was completely recovered by the time Wednesday came around. Thank you so much for the card and for all your prayers that I would get better I sure felt them and I truly believe that's what attributed to my speedy recovery. Thanks!
Love,
Elder Benjamin Serrano

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 7

It's so crazy people are growing up!! It's weird especially from the missionary stand point because I don't really realize how much stuff actually goes on, and keeps going even though you're not there watch it.

Well for the past couple days I've been pretty sick. Not horribly but still it's no fun being sick. I have a fever of 99.5 last time I checked but it's not too bad. It's no fun whatsoever being sick on the mission because you wanna go out and work but at the same time you know that you should probably stay home and rest for a bit so that you don't make yourself worse. Hopefully I'll have a quick recovery. :)

I am pretty excited for general conference though. I love it! It's cool, now that this is going to be my 2nd one on my mission that means I'll only have 2 left! Crazy!So some more exciting news from here in Pittsburgh. My trainer, Elder Zaleski is in my district!! He became the new zone leader here in Pittsburgh and he happens to be in my district, it's pretty cool. I hadn't seen him since he got transfered to Erie, PA, which was over 6 months ago. So it's pretty neat having him here. Elder Hurley is doing well, and we get along. Which is nice ya know? It would just be horrible if we didn't get along because we have another whole transfer to go together.

This past week we did really well with our teaching of the less actives, but sadly none of them came to church, and none of our investigators did either. Our one investigator Norm almost made it, but he got sick Sunday morning and canceled his ride that was supposed to come and pick him up. We're contemplating on dropping Norm, because he's no longer keeping his commitments outside of coming to church i.e. Word of Wisdom, Reading the Book of Mormon daily, etc. And it's been about 8 weeks that we've been meeting with him. Our investigator Baily had some family issue that she had to attend to over in State College, the city, this
weekend so we weren't able to meet with her or get her to church. We do, however have an appointment set with her this week in which we are planning on setting her with a baptismal date!! So that will be exciting! We have a new investigator and his name is Chase..... ., when we first met him he was at a really low point in his life, he got beat up, lost his job and his girlfriend, and was about to lose his co-signer for his college loans, and we were able to cheer him up and talk to him for a while. We soon came to find out that his mom and grandma are members of the church and so there's that connection there. We answered all of his questions and were able to spark some interest. We're excited to be able to teach him in the coming weeks! It's amazing how the Lord always puts people in the pathways of our travels and helps us know what to say to help them.

Love,
Elder Benjamin

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 6

This day is a pretty good day! It turns out that it's the end of the transfer tomorrow and good thing I didn't get transferred or that would have taken you all off guard and I wouldn't be in Pittsburgh anymore!  But luckily I'll be here until November the 2nd now so you don't have to worry about me getting transferred for another 6 weeks. yay! This week was a pretty tough week for us. Many of the set appointments we had with  investigators and less-active members fell through, were canceled or re-scheduled. So we spent many hours finding and for some reason it seemed like nobody wanted to talk to us. It was kind of a not good week to end the transfer with but it is a incentive for us now to work even harder this next transfer. I'm excited to serve another transfer here in South side I love it here.

Our investigator Bailey was out of town this past weekend and when we set up an appointment with her again we're going to set her with a baptismal date. We feel she's golden and will accept readily! It's pretty exciting. Norm is sane we think/(response to a question)/, and is kind of getting a little frustrating. We've been meeting with him over the past 7 weeks and he's keeping all his commitments except coming to church! So we're not sure what to do with him. We've tried many times to set up a ride to pick him up, and he says he's called them, yet, the member to pick him up says they never got a call. He's expressed a desire to still be baptized, and we've set him with a date many times, yet coming to church has been his setback. So hopefully we'll figure something out to get him to church for sure! We're in a mad finding stage again as well. We contacted a referral yesterday. An APX security system salesman who was going door to door, contacted her and she let him in and they started talking about religion. (of course the APX salesman was an RM(return missionary), they all are!) And he referred her to us and we were able to go over to her house and talk with her and we were able to teach her about the church and the Book of Mormon so it was nice to get to know her. She said that we could come back anytime and that she might even cook us some dinner! yay!! So all in all we have had an okay week over here.

I just want to share something that I learned this week in my studies.  I've been focusing my studies this week on King Benjamin's adderss to his people(in the Book of Mormon). I have found that this address is even more amazing than I had once thought when I was just reading through the Book of Mormon when we were asked to read it again once more. There are a couple things that stood out to me. In Mosiah 4:14-15 he counsels his people how they should raise their children: "neither will ye suffer that they... fight and quarrel one with another" "Teach them to walk in the was of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love on another, and to serve on another". And I feel that's how you raised us kids mom and dad, and I thank you for that. then he goes on to say in 16-26 how we all depend on God for everything therefore we should help all those who stand in need of it, thus being a very service oriented people as he was to his people.

I love this gospel and I know it's true. I love serving a mission and can't wait to see what comes my way and in what ways I can learn and grow.

Love,
Elder Benjamin

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 5

Pitt's Burgh is doing alright. I love being here in the city. There are a lot of people to talk to. And they range from Absolutely-Crazy-Escaped-from-Institution to Very-Chill-and-Down-to-Earth. But I love it. We met a really cool guy yesterday, Alex. He was sitting on a bench that was overlooking the city and we stopped to talk to him. He invited us to sit with him on the bench and talk. So we talked for a while, discussing beliefs with him, and found that he is a believer in God and wants to get closer to Him. So I pulled out the Book of Mormon, and read the quote in the introduction that Joseph Smith said "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." And then testified of the truth of that statement, and offered one to him, and he accepted. He also shared with us that he thinks that he wrote about us! (he was writing some poetry at the time we talked to him) and he basically did. So that was an awesome experience! This week was a pretty good week, I believe it was the best we've has so far over here in the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Our 2 new investigators are Baily and also Leon . They are both really excited to learn about the gospel. Leon and his girlfriend came to church on Sunday and both really liked it! They said that they were for sure going to come back to church! Leon is the a friend of an investigator, Deshawn, and one day we went to visit Deshawn and found Leon there and he wanted to talk to us. So that was exciting! And with our investigator Baily, we had a very spiritual lesson with her. Her Uncle and his family are members of the church, and she saw how happy they were together as a family and wanted that for herself too. So one night she was praying to know what to do and she got the prompting to get in contact with us, and so she found us on the street and we set up an appointment with her. And now she's really excited to take the lessons and hopefully we'll get her boyfriend interested as well.

Elder Serrano

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 4

This week has been somewhat of an eventful week, I think... All these days keep mushing together and now I don't have my handy Missionary Daily planner with me right now to help me remember some of the things
that happened this week. (It's locked in the institute section of the church building, along with my camera so I can't send you any pictures...)

Okay, well let's see... Last Monday was p-day and it was alright, we went and did some e-mails downtown and a massive library, then went and got some University of  Pittsburgh shirts. Actually only Elder Hurley got one because he didn't have any cash to get the one he wanted so I gave him the money
I had, and told him that he had to take me out to Hard Rock Cafe in exchange. So we did. That place is so yummy and it's in our area! It's great.

Our investigator Norm didn't come to church...... again! It's getting kind of frustrating because he says he's coming every week and he has means of transportation but he never shows. He always has these excuses of why (hospital visits, sisters flying in late at night, ride didn't come and get him, and a sister almost killed herself due to their father passing away). It's almost to the point to where we want to give him the benefit of the doubt because they're all very valid and good reasons as to why he never came, but at the same time we've never met his sisters or gotten into any contact with them, and we've been trying and hounding Norm, so we don't know for a fact that they exist. It probably sounds harsh to you all back home that we are kind of skeptical about his excuses and situations but we've been working with him for almost 5 weeks now and things keep coming up. It's a tough situation, but we're going to have a good sit down talk with him next time we meet with him. So as of yet, we don't have any baptisms lined up. Which is too bad. But we do have a few more people that are new and seem promising. One, her name is Baily. she's really nice and really wants to learn about the church, we have a meeting scheduled with her for tonight so hopefully that will go through. DeShawn is
doing well.

Cool Experience of the Week:
It was Friday night and we get back to the apartment at around 8:15pm and we usually don't go out because it's dark and it can get a little sketchy around in these parts. But I put down my bag and looked on the
counter and saw a Book of Mormon with a pamphlet in it that I had set there a few days ago, and I had a strong impression that I needed to go out and give that to somebody. So I told Elder Hurley that we needed
to go and hand it out even though we had about a half hour left on the night. So we set out with only the one Book of Mormon and that pamphlet and a few cards in our pocket. As we are walking I see a man walking towards us and I talk to him, nothing, he's not interested and agnostic. So we keep walking until we get to a really busy street that has a lot of people on it and we get going down that. There are mostly couples up there that are all into each other having a romantic night on the lookout over Pittsburgh at night, so we skip them. Next we see a lone man walking down the street, perfect! We stop him and get talking to him! He was a very nice guy and listened to us! He had a lot of great thoughts and insights, and we just had a great discussion about prophets and modern day prophets! we gave him the Book of Mormon and challenged him to read and pray about it and he accepted and left on his way! It was amazing! Then as we were heading back to the house there was this man walking out of a liquor and pizza store and as he walked by us, he said, "Jehovah's!" (we get confused with jehovah's withnesses a lot) and so we stopped and corrected him, which later lead to a quick lesson that we taught to him, Eric, too! He was a very nice guy! Then once we got home 10 minutes later, Eric calls us! He said that he and his mom would be interested in coming to church with us and learning more about it! What an inspired night!!  Just goes to show that the Lord will bless you if you have a desire to
work!

Love,
Elder Benjamin

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 3

Things are going well, the city is way cool, even though we don't get to serve directly in the dowtown area, it is a great experience seeing a lot of different people! There are a lot of tourists that always ask us questions about where to go and what things are, but of course we have no idea haha! We always get to see the big city all the time though because of where we're at, we have a nice couple of look outs. It's pretty sweet! I love it!

DeShawn is progressing fine, we tried setting him with a baptismal date, it caught him a little off guard but he's really thinking about it now. He wasn't able to come to church this week due to some family emergency, but he said he'll for sure come next week. He's really awesome, I don't know if I already told you this but he said that he can always tell when someone is teaching false doctrines, like he gets a feeling that it's not right, and he told us that he hasn't gotten that feeling once while we've been teaching him. He also believes from our words that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon is true, but he said that he wants to find out for himself that it's all true. He's intellectually converted, not spiritually... yet. :)

(I've found, so far on my mission, that there are 3 types of conversion that investigators need in gaining a true testimony of the gospel and staying. 1. Intellectual 2. Spiritual 3. Social [social meaning that they feel very comfortable at church and that they know that the people in the congregation live what they teach, and love
others] there may be more and i'm looking)

Norm Harper has a baptismal date for the 25 of September, and he's really preparing for it. His 4 sisters flew/moved in from England yesterday and we're pretty excited to meet them. They have been taking the lessons over in England and have been taught and gone to church numerous times. They said that they have a letter of recommendation from the branch president over in England that they are ready to be baptized!!!! Ah yeah!!! Of course Elder Hurley and I are going to go through the lessons with them, in review to make sure that they really are ready, and we'll go from there. And we could be having a baptism for all 4 of them coming up in a couple weeks or so!!!!!!!!

Being a DL isn't very hard in the area I'm in. Because I have a zone leader in my area I really don't have to call and follow up and get his weekly numbers with him and his companion, so all I have to call is the Sisters who are serving in downtown Pittsburgh. And that's really not hard because the sisters are always so perfect, and cause no trouble what so ever. It's probably because they're much more mature and are way more spiritual then elders, they're pretty much amazing. So DL here is pretty cool.

This week I had a couple of way long meetings that I went to. They were all about leadership and how we can become better leaders and how to help my district. All the zone leaders and district leaders from 4 or 5 zones were there. So that was intense. One day it went from 1pm-8:45 and the next day it went from 9am-5pm so they were mind-numbingly long, but!  I learned a lot of great things like how to properly invite people to do things. But other than that, my week has been okay. Long and tiring. But hey that's what comes with the job! :)

I love serving a mission and I love helping people change their lives, it's the most rewarding thing i've done as of yet in my life! The Church is true!!
Love,
Elder Serrano

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 2

I'm really starting to like it here, and Elder Hurley is getting used to it. He really didn't like it at first but I think he's coming to. Elder Hurley and I area getting along great! It's great! He's been out only 2.5 transfers but he's a great teacher, It's amazing. I really enjoy serving with him thus far, we're having a great time serving together.

This week went well for our finding efforts we actually found a new investigator! It's pretty exciting and he seem to have some good promise to him. His name is DeShawn. He's a great guy really looking for the truth and the right church to go to. He loves the bible and is open also to the Book of Mormon. So that's nice.  Our investigator, Norm Harper is coming along nicely too. The reason he didn't come to church this past week was that he went to the emergency room Sunday morning because he woke up with a bloody nose, and ears and also with high blood pressure, so he wasn't able to make it. We were able to visit with him Sunday evening and he was really sad that he couldn't make it to church and that his baptismal date is going to have to be pushed back a couple weeks too. So he does have a baptismal date, and he is progressing. Okay! And with Norm there are 2 scary things that happened to him while we've been teaching him, that have strengthened his testimony.
1. Last week He was walking home after an appointment we had with him in which we set him with a baptismal date. As he was walking home, he was pushed into an alley way by three guys, held up a gunpoint, and robbed. Luckily those guys didn't kill him because the cop that was getting the story from Norm said that he knows those guys who did it and they usually would have killed their victims. So he told us that and said that he was confident that the Lord was protecting him because he decided to be baptized! Testimony strengthener!!
2. It was the event that happened to him on Sunday morning. When he called us up to tell us why he wasn't at church, he said that the doctor told him that basically if he hadn't of started living the word of wisdom a couple weeks earlier, when that high blood pressure spike hit him, that it would have triggered a stroke and he would have died, because the caffeine in coffee and tea would have made his blood pressure triple. So that strengthened his testimony too!! He's a great guy and really progressing well!

I love serving here in the city, there are people everywhere and I love it! I can't wait to see the area start to flourish! It's great. We're really starting to see some blessings here in Southside. The area is starting to make sense now, and I'm starting to figure out the bus schedules well so that's a blessing! I never thought I would catch on so quickly! I love serving a mission and am honored to be out here, I love this gospel with all my heart and I know the church is true!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pittsburgh Week 1

So guess where I am!!! I'm now officially serving in the South Side/ Mt.Washington area of Pittsburgh PA!!! I thought it was so cool that I am now serving in the City. It is way different than Johnstown. But I like it. And it turns out that my companion and I got "whitewashed" into the area where we're at. That means that they took the last 2 elders out and put 2 brand new elders into the area, that have no clue what's going on. So, both me and my companion don't know anything about the area. And on top of that, we're in a walking area and we get to figure out the buses! So we get to ride on buses and trains and stuff in order to get around. The Mission supplied us with bus passes so that's nice. It's really exhausting when we get back to the apartment at night and we're just beat because it's physically and mentally exhausting trying to get around and figure things out. It's insane! But the city is really cool! I really like it. And now I'm in the Oakland 7th ward!!! Yeah!! I'm back
in the 7th ward haha! The members here are really nice so it's great. It turns out that the elders that I'm with aren't bad at all. The mission took all of them out and either sent them home or put them somewhere else. So they cleaned out the bad ones and put in the good ones. That also means that we have to build up member support and trust again which really shouldn't be that hard.

Oh yeah, my companions name is Elder Boise Hurley! Yes his name is like the capitol of Idaho. And it's no joke. Anyway he's been out 3 months, and he's awesome and he's from California, Bakersfield area. We're
really kickin it off and having a great time. He is a little, well, less than excited we'll say about our area because it's walking and busing around everywhere, and because it's really hard to set up appointments
around bus schedules, so that's fun to figure out. Another great thing about this area is that there are a lot of missionaries around! So on p-days we get to hang out with the other elders and play b-ball or Frisbee or something where as in Johnstown the nearest elders were 45 minutes away. So it's pretty cool I like it.

We have an investigator named Norm ..... and he's going to be baptized probably next month he has 4 quadruplet sisters that are moving in from London, that's where he's from too, and they are all wanting to be
baptized as well, then to top things off his two children want to baptized as well!!!! So that'll end up as 7 baptisms here in the south side with in a couple months, so that'll be exciting!! It's way cool to be serving in the city! It's legit!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Johnstown Week 24-The last from J-Town.

This week was pretty mediocre. There really wasn't that many things that were interesting that happened. I had the opportunity to be able to lead out the discussion and lesson for our district meeting that was held on
Wednesday. So that was fun! Luckily it was a short meeting, because we had an opportunity to be able to give blood! That was pretty exciting! It was Elder Killpack's first time doing it so he was a little nervous and was asking all these funny questions about the procedure. But he did fine. I think I finished mine in 7:28, one of my best I think, and I didn't even get any bruising at all! Although I did take the band-aid off a little early and bled on my shirt a little, but it was fine. I enjoyed it, oddly enough. There is this elder in our district that is from Washington state, and we were teasing him about giving blood, ya know, because of Twilight and he's from Washington. It was great!

Oh yeah, and I'm getting transferred!!! I got a call from the Zone Leaders Saturday evening and they told me that I needed to start packing my bags because I'll be leaving Johnstown! I got here in Johnstown a little over 6 months ago, and I guess it's about my time to leave. It's kind of a surreal feeling because I've never been to any other place for my mission, so I only know J-town. And I'll be serving as a District Leader my new area, of which I don't know where it is. I'll be heading out of Johnstown tomorrow morning and heading to Pittsburgh where I'll find out where I'm assigned to be! It's very exciting and I'm pumped to go out to different areas and see what I can do there. The new district in which I will be leading has had some issues pertaining to obedience and what not, so President called me up and told me that I have a challenge ahead of me, and I'm responsible now for "cleaning up the acts" of these missionaries so to speak. So really I'll be needing all
the prayers I can get, and then some. President Summerhays has a lot of trust in me, which I don't' know if that's a good or bad thing haha! But I'm excited to be able to go and serve in another place. So make sure if you send anything this next week, send it to the mission office, because I won't be in Johnstown and you won't find out my apartment address and where I'm at until next Monday. I am sad to leave Johnstown though, I got to know the ward very well and they've become like family over here too. The hardest part though was  leaving Dawn. That was so sad, because I was able to baptize her and then be with her for the first 5 months of her membership, and really help her along. She started crying and it was just a hard moment for us, but I'll see her again, and constantly keep in touch with her. She's awesome! And Dawn and Alphonso are getting married on October 30th so that'll be so awesome, I don't think that President will let me go to that, but I'll try my darndest!

These past 6 months have really made a difference and I have absolutely loved it! I cannot wait to see what the next 18 will bring to me and the people I'll get to meet and teach. Serving a mission is the greatest thing ever! I absolutely love being here and I'm excited for what the future will bring to me. I love this Gospel, the church is true, Thomas S. Monson is God's living prophet today, God lives and Christ also, and the field is white already to harvest.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Johnstown Week 23-6months!!

Yup yup! August 3rd= 6 month mark!! It's super exciting!! Mostly because I get to burn a tie! You'll see a picture next week for sure! I'm pumped! I've got a tie picked out and everything that is dedicated for the fire, it's going to be great! So this week has been pretty mediocre. Not too many things happened. Except one. We had interviews with President Summerhays on Tuesday and while he was interviewing me he said to me that he just released the current district leader for my district and that he was going to make me the next district leader! I asked him when I would start and he said, Right about now. I was a little taken back, but of course I accepted the call so I'm officially now that District leader and will probably be staying in Johnstown for another 6 weeks!! The transfer day is August 10 and so I'll know officially if I'm staying or not. So that's been pretty exciting! So in my very first area I was: Trained for 1 transfer, "follow-up" trained for 2, then Trained for 1, and now I'm district leader. All in my very first area of the mission!!! That's pretty unheard of, so I guess Pres has a lot of trust in me. Which is cool and scary at the same time haha! Because I never know what president will have me do next, so this will be fun being the district leader. For responsibilities that I have now that I'm a DL, I have to be in charge of a weekly meeting that the district has, and come up with a lesson or discussion that we're supposed to have for that meeting. I also get to call up the other Elders in the area and get their weekly numbers of how many lessons they taught, how many new investigators they found, how
many baptisms, etc. Then report it to the Zone Leaders, so that's fun! I'm basically in charge of the success of the District.

This week we had a great opportunity to speak with a lot of people for different countries!! We had a pleasant conversation/lesson with some Muslim people. They're for Bangladesh and he's moved here for Doctoral work and what not. They're really nice people and they gave us some amazing Ice cream! We had a great discussion about each others beliefs and scriptures. They read the Koran and said that they would give me a copy of it in English! So that'll be cool I'll probably just send it home and look through it when I get home, Don't worry I'm not converting, I'm on a mission for the True Church of Christ, so no worries there. One thing I really respect about the Muslim religion, is their utmost respect for their scriptures. Before they even pick up their book, they wash their hands out of respect for it. I thought that was really cool. Then we had an opportunity to talk to a Russian man! He had an amazing accent and it was fun talking to him, because he was going through a rough time in his life and had a lot of questions about things, the purpose of life, who is God, things like that. And we were able to answer a lot of his questions so it was great! I love answering questions as a missionary because the people that are really searching for answers are so open to ours, and since our answers are true, they really believe them!

Once last happenstance that occurred last night. We were walking around town looking for people to talk to, and this guy that's always out, that we've talked to many times called us over again. I was like, great...
what does he want now. So we went over and he introduced us to his friend that he wanted us to talk to. So we spoke with her. Her name is Mary, and she has had one horrible life, full of abuse of every kind, and every kind of bad situation/environment one could image being in, and because of which she has a lot of mental illnesses. She looked like she was in her 50s or 60s but then she said that she was only 34, and due to all the drugs and alcohol and what not it looked like she's aged much. Anyway, she expressed to us that she had a hard time believing in God because of how horrible her life has been and all the stuff she's been through. And I got this distinct impression to tell her this,"Mary, I know God lives and that He's there, and He wants you to know........." And after that Ijust said the things that came to my mind, I don't even remember half the things I said, but the whole time her eyes were glued on me. And after I was done saying the things I was to say, no one talked for a good 10-15 seconds, because the spirit was so strong there. It was an incredible experience. I had the opportunity to be a mouthpiece that evening in hopefully giving Mary some hope.

I love being here on a mission, and I love being able to help people out. There's nothing greater than this. The Church is true, I know it! And there's nothing that'll move me from that. Be sure to look for people that need the gospel and give referrals to the missionaries! They always love receiving those.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Johnstown Week 22

There were a few exciting things that happened this week! First off._Dawn and Alphonso are getting married!!!_ He proposed to her last Sunday night and she told me about it Monday evening!! I was so excited to hear about it! They'll be getting married late August early September. They haven't picked an exact date for it yet, but they'll let me know. It's so cool too because they both have a goal of getting to the temple a year after they are married. They are so awesome! It's so great seeing the two people I was able to bring the gospel into their lives start to make those steps to living in accordence with that gospel, and strive to make it to the temple. So that's awesome!!

We were finally able to get back into contact with Paris... again! And we were able to have a great discussion with her about baptism and the word of wisdom. She accepted to strive to live it, and to set another goal to be baptized! The new goal is August the 21st! She's great, and is still excited to learn about the gospel. She even changed her religion on Facebook to say Christian/Latter-day Saint. I thought that was pretty cool! She's great.

Yesterday were tracting this street in an area I've never been in (think of that! I've been in Johnstown for nearly 6 months and there's a part here I've never been to! weird.) it was pretty rough, it seemed like there was nobody there that we could talk to or that would talk to us. But lo and behold, the Lord blesses us! and the very last house we knocked on before we were going to call it a night, there was this young lady, Amada, who answered the door. It turns out she had been having some questions and thoughts about who God is, where we came from, why we're here and where we're going. And she even talked to her Minister at church and he couldn't answer her, so he recommended that she go to a "non-denominational" church, then, we knocked on her door! Perfect timing wouldn't you say? We gave her a Plan of Salvation Pamphlet and she was way excited to read it! She had something cooking on the stove so we didn't want to keep her but we're going to see her next weekend and talk and discuss more! It was great!

Okay there is this Asian guy, Kevin, who we tracted into who came to church again! this week two times in a row and we haven't even had the chance to teach him anything! He's so funny! yesterday we were over at
his house and we were watchin Finding Faith in Christ, and while we were watching, he got up and said, "Hoe ahn wah meenuh." (hold on one minute) then when he comes back into the room, he's carrying this frozen 15
pound ham!! And he says "Dees foe yoo!" Woah! a 15 pound ham just for us! We of course at first didn't accept it but he would let us leave with out us taking it. So we took it, and took it over to the Bishops house so he could give it to someone who needed it. We don't have room in our freezer for it anyway or we would have kept it ;)

(Answers to some questions from Mom) Is it great (having your car back)?YES!!! Did your old keys ever turn up? Nope not yet! How goes the Bed Bug Battle? We're winning!! They're just about gone and not as big as a problem anymore. Is Jessica still doing great? Jessica is still doing awesome! She has some disposition to want to be baptized when her hubby gets home from overseas at the beginning of next year, so we'll address that concern with her. How are things with Elder Killpack? He's doing great, he's an good missionary and improving Are you being a good trainer? I sure am trying to be! Please answer all these questions. Done! :) )

And one more thing!! Yesterday in church I was asked to play the hymns for the sacrament meeting! So during the week I practiced a few times on the organ so I could be able to do that for the meeting. I experimented with different sound and what not and found the sounds that worked best together. So yesterday was my very first time playing the organ for sacrament meeting!! And now I get to do it next week too! haha! it'll be fun! it's awesome!

We'll that's about it! This week was great, and very hot. But hey, the Mormon missionaries are the only people in the world that would be out in such extreme conditions spreading what they know to be true! The
gospel is true and I love it much! Serving a mission is the most rewarding thing I could do at this time in my life!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Johnstown Week 21

No, still no keys to the car. Potentially, we will get them today. And no, they are not locked in the car... haha! We had a locksmith come and open the car so we could look, and when we found out they weren't in there and that the copies of the keys that the office sent to us were lost in the mail somewhere, we ended up getting the car towed to the Toyota dealership so they can re-key the car. So hopefully we'll get them today. I received a lot of flack from this blind guy in our ward that just got baptized in Feb. He was making fun that I lost the keys and that he's blind and he never loses his keys!! I'm thinking of getting some kind of chain or lanyard that I can hook onto my belt loop and the keys too so that I never lose them when I get the new ones!

So we've been on foot and bike the for the last 2 weeks or so. So that's been fun! We've been able to meet a lot of people too since we're passing people on the sidewalks as opposed to in the car. It's been good though, besides it's been really hot! There are only so many areas that we can go to feasibly on foot so we have pretty much been blitzing the areas around us. We've met a lot of nice people and a lot of crazy people too haha! But mostly nice people. In fact, just on the way here, and older gentleman that has a bad cancer/tumor growth on his ear stopped us on the street, asked us if we were Mormon. When we affirmed, he asked, will you please say a prayer for me? So we did just that; right there on the street we said a prayer with him while everyone was passing and walking by. It was a great experience.

Our investigator Jessica is doing FANTASTIC!!!!! She now officially has a baptismal date of August 23rd! There was a baptism here in the ward of a little girl who just turned 8 and Jessica came. She said that she really enjoyed it and thought it was great! AND THEN! In church yesterday, she came, and she brought a friend! Dawn Owens was up giving a talk in church, and was telling the story about Joseph Smith and his first vision. While Dawn was talking about all the religious confusion back in Joseph's time and about the first vision ("I saw a pillar of light...") I heard Jessica turn to her friend and whisper "This is true; this is a true story." !!!!!!!!!!!!! That blew me away! She has a testimony of The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith! Now the only thing she has to get over is the word of wisdom, and she has committed to live that and is working on it right now. She's amazing, in fact when I was talking to her last night, she even told me she was going to start planning out her baptismal program! haha! wow. she's awesome.

Anyway the battle with the bed bugs is nearing it's end! The exterminator came in on Friday and sprayed down our bedroom and the left us some extra bottles of the spray for us to use if we see more. So that's pretty exciting! Finally we'll win! Hooray!

Anyway I think that's pretty much it that's going on and has happened this week, I just hope that we get our car keys soon!

*Note from Sheryl: Elder Ben wanted me to remind everyone not to send anything to his home address the week before August 10, because he may be transferring. You may use the Mission Office address and they will forward it to him.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pictures!

We got Elder Serrano's memory card today so I thought I'd post some pictures for you to enjoy.


At a cool waterfall

In the woods??
On the Incline

 Overlooking Johnstown

In the rain
Pennsylvania Rain
 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Johnstown Week 20!!

Well this week was pretty exciting, I few cool things happened. First off we lost the keys to our car last Monday. That means that we were on foot this past week, which really hindered the work in some areas. It
was hard to get places that are far away from where we live because most of it was pretty much up hill and too far. We called the office and they said that we would have our spare keys by last Wednesday. Well, it's
Monday now and we don't have them. So it's a little frustrating. But in a way it was a blessing because we were able to find quite a few potential investigators. Which is nice because we could be getting a few
more people to teach! Which is always exciting.
 
There is some bad news pertaining to our other investigators. Chris and Nicole are broken up, and moved out, so we have no idea where they are right now. And Paris, we haven't been able to teach her for the past 2
weeks and she missed 2 weeks of church, so we have absolutely no clue as to what is going on with her. The bad part about it, too, is that she lives in one of those far away places that we could only go if we had
our car, so we haven't had the opportunity to stop by her house for this past week. I hope nothing too bad has happened with her and no body "anti"ed her. So that's sad. But on a higher note. We have a really
great investigator named Jessica ..... She's amazing! she has been reading the Book of Mormon a lot and is loving it! We had a great lesson with her last night and she expressed that she knows it's true!! We also
had member with us for that lesson and when he was bearing his testimony about the church and about the B of M and other things, the spirit was so strong! Strong enough is to where... Jessica cried. She's the best.
We asked her if she would be baptized and she said yes, when she knew for sure, for sure that these things are true. Which she pretty much does. We didn't set a date for her yet because we felt it wasn't the
time. Plus her husband (who is overseas) has expressed some concerns about her talking to us, but she was telling us that she was going to talk to who she wants, so hopefully we don't cause anything unnecessary,
marital conflict.

The bed bugs are still here.... we got some killer stuff from the mission office and we sprayed everything, but it didn't do anything. I don't thing it killed the big ones. So our land lady Marlene is going to have the pest control guy come and inspect the apartment, so hopefully he'll be able to do something about it to rid the problem.  It's getting kind of annoying haha! oh well.

Other than that I think that's it! Elder Killpack is doing great! He just needs to relax a little bit ha ha, oh greenies. psh! What am I saying I'm still new! ha ha! Anyway I think that's pretty much it!
Things are going well and we're doing great!

Love,
Elder Benjamin Serrano

 Elder Serrano watching fireworks



Elders Serrano and Killpack



On their bikes.


With the new "pie-eating" shirt Steve made him.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Johnstown Week 19

Yes, I have a new companion, and yes, he is a greenie. I'm sure Chris(Elder Page came to the house on July 5th. It was great to talk withhim) told you a little bit about that when he visited. His name is Elder
BENJAMIN Killpack. Yes, he has the same first name as me! Pretty crazy I know. He's from Mesa Arizona and he reminds me a lot of Austin Sisneros. He's super out going, and already an awesome missionary. So that's good, that I don't have to break someone out of their shell in order to have them talk to someone.

The 4th of July was alright. A lot of people weren't home, either because they were out of town or because there were at a big party along with the rest of their neighborhood. So there weren't a lot of people to
talk to. But nevertheless it was a good week. We do have a new investigator, Vincent, and he's the son of one of our other investigators, Jennifer ..., so that was pretty cool. Jennifer was late for her appointment with us so we decided to talk to Vincent, and lo an behold he's interested in learning about the restored gospel.

So last Sunday, our investigator Paris, left suddenly right after sacrament meeting with out saying anything, and throughout this week we couldn't get in contact with her. So a last Thursday night or so I was
pondering and praying on when we should go stop by her house, or call her or whatever, and this time kept on popping into my mind: 4:32 pm. Okay, 4:32. So I asked in my mind, on what clock? My watch? The car
clock? my comps watch? what? And I got the impression that it should be on the car clock. Alright! So I was excited for the next day so that I could call Paris at exactly 4:32 pm according to the car clock, then we
would talk and have a great conversation and set up an appointment and what not. So 4:32pm rolls around on Friday afternoon and I pick up the phone and call her. It rings, and rings, and rings...... and the voice
mail picks up. So I was pretty much confused at the fact is to why I received all that revelation about 4:32 and what not. So I decided to just put that thought to the side, and just continue on not giving it much thought. Then Sunday comes to pass and we're up kind of in the area where Paris lives, so I thought, heck, why not try one last time. So we drive into the parking lot and we see her car there! Hooray! And we knock on the door... and she answers!!! We had a quick, pleasant, 5 minute visit, and it turns out she had just a hectic week with work and school and family coming in for the 4th. But she's still excited about the gospel! We set up a return appointment and left. Rejoicing, we return to the car and I get in and start it up. The clock turns on and guess what time it is? 4:37pm, which means that 5 minutes ago, when we first knocked on her door, it was 4:32pm.

The Lord works in mysterious ways! It was amazing to see how the inspiration that was given was real, and it was just another testimony builder on the power of prayer. It truly works! I love this Gospel and the work that is apparent and continues to go forth.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Johnstown Week 18

My week wasn't the most exciting week we've had but it sure was a good one! Just kidding, it was a great week! Particularly this past weekend! It was Thunder in the Valley!! What is that you ask? Thunder in the
Valley is this ginormous motorcycle rally that they have here in downtown Johnstown! There were probably 50,000 bikes (mostly obnoxiously annoying Harleys that sounded like a bomb was going off or gun shots)
lining the streets, filling parking lots, and riding around. It was crazy!..,,. We went down there to see if there was a chance that we could talk to a few people about the gospel, but it was impossible with all the loud music, loud motorcycles, loud people, and alcohol! So accepting the fact that we couldn't talk to anyone, we bought a t-shirt and then walked around for a little bit looking at all the bikes. There were some pretty sweet ones there, not gonna lie. The bad part about it was we live downtown and the motorcycles love to circle around the block where our apartment is at, and the worst part is, there is a stop light right next to us, and it takes FOREVER!! Well it seems like that at 2 in the morning when there are 10 Harleys outside all revving their engines. Ear plugs helped, but only a little. So that was cool.

Other than that, it was Elder Page's last week, so we spent a lot of the time visiting members that he liked, teaching them, and taking pictures with them. That was fun! We got to have dinner with Alphonso and Dawn.
Alphonso is doing fantastic! He has changed so much it's incredible! He's changing the music he's listening to, the way he talks, the way he acts, dresses, and even the friends he has on facebook! I love seeing the changes in people, it makes what we do all worth it! All the doors that are slammed in our faces, all the things people yell at us, they all don't mean anything, and they don't matter, because once you see that change in someone's life and how happy they become because of the gospel, makes eveything worth it. And we're looking forward with Paris for her baptismal date of the 24th of July!! We talked to her and she has expressed her desire to be baptized and it's very exciting! Hopefully everything will go well! Continue to pray for her, and for us so that we can progress.

Love,
Elder Serrano