Elder Devin Kirk

Elder Devin Kirk
I am blessed to be the messenger that is permitted to bring this joyful message to those who are in great need. I have authorization from our Savior, Jesus Christ, to represent Him in this part of the world. I am given the ability to work miracles in the lives of the people. I am guided by His Spirit in all that I do and say. I am given power to testify boldly to all who will listen that Jesus is the Christ and that He has restored His Gospel in these days and that all can be forgiven and receive the blessings of living this Gospel. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have to be called to this position and be blessed with this assignment.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Arizona Week 37- Oh, Happy Day

Hey everyone,

The rest of this past week has been pretty ordinary, just doing our thing. Nothing crazy exciting has happened but things have been going really well. I love the area I serve in, I love the missionaries in my District, and most importantly, I love my new companion. Everything in my life right now is very positive. That's why I gave this email the title that I did: I'm just happy.

The area we serve in is starting to grow in work. The members of the wards are telling us of friends that they want us to teach and helping us to find opportunities to serve and meet new people. 

Our District is great. The Missionaries in our district are hard workers and really passionate about the work. I believe that we will all get along really well (which is fairly rare) and that some great things are going to happen as we work together and teach one another.

Best of all, my new companion, Elder Freckleton, is awesome. The Lord blesses us with growth sometimes in ways that we cannot understand. I have been given the opportunity to grow through some of the companions that I have been placed with. In some instances, we would not see eye to eye and at times it was difficult for us as a companionship. I began to believe that this would be the main struggle for me in my mission. I did not like the thought that I would struggle with companions that the Lord had assigned me to serve with. I have learned many things from the companions that I have had, and on some occasions, I have learned that I was an answer to their prayers. However, at times, it has been tough for me. After our last transfer, I began to pray earnestly to have a companion that I could meet and immediately get along with. I wanted to be able to work well with him during the time that we were together. It has happened! The Lord has made Elder Freckleton and me companions. I had met him before; Boy, did we hit it off from the start! We get along so well, and we are able to still stay focused and work hard (which is apparently a common issue for companions that get along real well). Things with my companion are really good.

Over all, things are good and well. I am well. And every day is happy.

Elder Kirk

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Arizona Week 36 - Changes

Hey everyone,

It's been a long crazy week. Or maybe just the past couple days. Either way, there's quite a bit to say.

So, one of the wards we serve in includes a portion of the White Mountain Apache Reservation. I wasn't sure if I had mentioned that before. Anyway, we go out there fairly often to contact people, teach, and encourage many to come to church. It can be tough but its fun being able to experience a different kind of missionary work. By “a different kind,” I really mean different approaches. It's the same work, but we just do it a little different on the reservation. So, we went one day to visit a member of the church that hasn't come to church in years. In front of his house is a basketball hoop and there were a bunch of little boys playing basketball. Now, I have to tell you that basketball is a big sport on the reservation. It's like the equivalent of soccer in South America. They all looooove basketball! The man said he was tired and couldn't meet with us that day, so we starting walking to the car. The kids said, "Hey! Big Boys! Come play with us. We'll just go to 21". We thought about it a minute and decided it might be a good idea. They ask if we could slam dunk and since the hoop was only 8- 9 ft off the ground we could…easily. They got a kick out of that. So, we played ball with them for a little bit and got to know their names; then we had to leave. On Monday, we drove through that neighborhood and the boys recognized our truck and came running out to us to see if we could play. Unfortunately we were really busy and late for an appointment but it was neat to see that we were forming a relationship with them and hopefully we will get to teach their families.

Also on the reservation, we visited another family who belong to the church. The man of the family does the Crown Dance, which is a pretty neat thing to see. I can't describe it well, so you'll have to look it up. If you want to see his group they're call Cha Bii Tu, which means McNary in Apache (McNary is the name of the town after the guy that made a saw mill there in the early 1900s) So, we visited them, and he gave my companion and me Apache names. Elder Burggraaf's name is Nalche (not spelled right because Apache isn't really written) and it means "pine tree" because he is tall. My name is Tonteel (with accent over o) pronounced like toon tale. That one is spelled right though because I found it's spelling in our Navajo copy of the Book of Mormon (Navajo and Apache are very similar). It means, literally, long water but that would equate to "river". 

So, as a missionary, one gets accustomed to changes: changes in companions, areas, situations and experiences, and changes in one's self. Many of these come unexpectedly. Saturday was transfer news day. The way this works is that President Sweeney will call missionaries that will have a leadership role in the mission (zone leader, district leader, sister training leader, trainer) in the morning and early afternoon. All other news comes in the evening. So, I got a call that they are starting a new District here and that I will be the District Leader of the new district. This district includes my companion and me, and 5 sisters. In mission lingo, this is called "relief society president." This describes when the district has only the district leader companionship (my comp and me) and the rest are sisters. The sisters in our district are great, and I'm excited to work with them. We expected that to be the only news. Then the evening came and Elder Burggraaf was told that he would transfer to Whiteriver (deeper on the reservation). He was pretty upset. He really liked this area but it will be good for him to be down there. My new companion just finished being trained and came up from Mesa in the last zone I was in, so I already knew him. His name is Elder Freckleton, and he is from Ammon, Idaho. We are getting along great. I'm really excited for this transfer and for the things that are happening. I'm pleased with the way that everything turned out. 

The transfer meeting was really good. We were a little upset and really tired though. Normally, the missionaries who are living in the mountains make the 3-4 hour drive the night before and stay the night somewhere closer. This time, we were told that we needed to stay in our areas that night and make the drive in the morning so that we would not interrupt our missionary work. Well, that night, we didn't do a lot of missionary work...we drove all over the place so that Elder Burggraaf could say goodbye to everyone. No matter, we obeyed. I woke up at 3 AM after getting to bed around 10 PM the night before. So, on 5 hours of sleep, I drove the 3 hours to Scottsdale, and we got there at 7 AM. The meeting went well, and we drove home again that night. I didn't get to bed until 10 PM last night either so I had nearly a 20 hour day. 

Anyway, I'm happy for this transfer;  I hope you all have a great week.

Elder Kirk

Monday, February 10, 2014

Arizona Week 35 - Interviews

Hey everyone,

This was a pretty ordinary week. The only thing different was that we had interviews with President Sweeney. This is always a good experience, especially up here in the mountains because we really only get to talk to him once every six weeks. It becomes an event of sorts.

So today I don't have any crazy stories (last week's makes up for it). The only thing I want to share today are some things that President Sweeney shared with me. We were asked to come prepared to bury a metaphorical weapon of rebellion. I pondered for a while on what I could sacrifice and decided that the only thing that leads to rebellion is pride. I decided to bury my pride so that the Lord could better use me to do his work. I told this to President Sweeney, and he asked what the opposite of pride was. I quickly responded, "Humility," but he said he disagrees. He told me that, for him, the opposite of pride was charity. This puzzled me. I've always been taught that humility and pride are opposite. He went on to explain more using the scriptures. He shared with me Moroni 7:45 from The Book of Mormon Which is a commonly used verse on Charity that reads: 

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

Having heard this verse many times I wasn't sure where he was going with this. Then he continued and it made sense to me. He had me read it over replacing "charity" with "pride" instead and also to replace all the attributes of charity with their opposites which would go like this,

"And pride is impatient, and rude, and envies the things of others, and is very puffed up, seeketh after his own, is always easily provoked, thinketh of evil constantly, and rejoiceth in iniquity and despises the truth, beareth nothing, believeth nothing, hopeth nothing, endureth nothing."

Is that not also an accurate statement? This helped me to better understand what it is I need to bury and what I should be trying to attain.

I just wanted to share that experience and insight with all of you.

I hope you all have a great week and happy Valentine’s Day. I love you all. I hope the best for you.

Elder Kirk

Monday, February 3, 2014

Arizona Week 34 - The Hike

Hey everyone,

This week had a lot going on. On Thursday, we went to the Gilbert Temple Open House with a family that wants to be sealed in the temple. It's a beautiful temple! And big! In fact, it's the biggest temple built in the last 17 years and its main sealing room is the largest in the Church with the ability to contain 80 people. The main motif throughout (and I mean throughout) is the AGAVE plant symbolizing learning from those before you and interweaving with past generations. It’s a wonderful message to send to people and to remember in the House of the Lord.

Also, we have had two wonderful experiences with fasting this week. I may have mentioned that our area will be splitting this coming transfer so that the two wards we cover will each have their own set of missionaries. Because of this, we have been trying to get more work in the more neglected of the two wards so that the missionaries who will be there after the next transfer don't suffer so much. We fasted on Friday for help in this endeavor. JUST as we were breaking our fast (the only closer to the exact moment of breaking the fast would be if my teeth were actually touching the food) we received a phone call from one of the members of this ward. She asked if we could come and teach one of her tenants on the coming Tuesday. She explained that she had been feeling prompted to ask him if he would like to learn more, and he agreed. The second experience with fasting came from the stake fast for snow. About the time that most people would begin their fast (after dinner on Saturday) sure enough the clouds rolled in and the snow began. We received roughly 3 inches of snow in answer to our fasting and prayer.

Now to the crazy story from which this email receives its title; it is long but I promise you will enjoy it. Here we go:

Remember Old 9? That truck that we are using that has basically unlimited miles...yeah. So, we were trying to plan what crazy things we would do on Monday (our preparation day) with our unlimited miles. We finally decided that we would like to go way out to the boundary of the Ward near a ski resort called Sunrise. So, Monday came, we emailed, shopped, got changed, and hit the road. In about 30 - 40 minutes we got to Sunrise. And then we went 2 miles past it to where the road is closed. We parked the truck so that we could look around. The time now was roughly 2:30 or 2:40.

In the distance, my companion could see a hill that was black. Probably just burnt but let's check it out! We crawled through the barbed wire fence and began our trek. The terrain was that of plains but rather bumpy and populated with many rocks and stones that tormented our feet. As we walked, we looked back periodically to see if the truck was still within sight. The truck is red; not too hard to miss.

So we continued. We crested a very small hill where the plains bottlenecked between a fence on our left and some dense wooded area to our right. We now entered the second portion of the plains that was fairly larger than the first. The hill we were aspiring to get to was a tad bit further than it had originally seemed. How deceptive. Yet we continued. Once we arrived at the base of the hill the confirmation of its burnt nature came to us. However, we had not come this far to stand at the base.

We began our ascent. About 1/4 of the way up we spotted some movement toward the crest. Elk! A herd of elk numbering about 50. Whoa! Never having encountered elk before, we called the man whose garage we live in to ask about the characteristics of their behavior. The reply we received was, "I wouldn't go pet one..." Alright, keep our distance but don't be afraid to keep climbing. Sure enough, they fled before we got much closer.

We continued the climb, and were becoming very winded, our pace decreased. We finally reached the top. The time was now 4:30. The plan was to climb up the bare face of the hill and come back down through the forested, un-burnt portion, go across the plains again and back through the forest part (where the bottle neck was) followed by the other portion of plains and back to the truck. --- Allow me to pause for a moment to describe our attire and equipment. For attire, I am wearing a pair of jeans and Vans shoes, a t-shirt and a canvas type jacket. My companion is wearing Athletic shoes, a pair of shorts, and a t-shirt. Our equipment included our phone and our cameras. Water, we had none. Food, I brought a single granola bar that I had just consumed. Now that you have a visual of our preparation, I will continue. --- We began our descent through the woods. It took us less time to go back down the hill than it had going up. We started across the plains towards the trees, shooting for the right side of them so that we would be roughly where we came through in the first place. As we walked, we begin to realize that we had been walking across a frozen marsh near a frozen pond. Hmmm...don't remember that. After we gingerly walked through the frozen waste (breaking through the ice occasionally) we arrived at the trees with cold wet feet.

There was a good amount of snow cover in these woods. We tried to walk across the top but with little success. We trudged through snow that was about calf-deep. It was very pretty through this area, and we were enjoying snapping pictures. I realized that the sun was starting to descend behind the mountains in the distance. I picked up the pace of climbing this much-bigger-than-expected hill when the snow deepened in an instant. When I say it deepened I am talking hip deep. My entire leg was below the level of the snow, and I continued that way all the way to the top of the hill (about 15-20 more steps).

Finally, we arrived at the top just in time to catch a picture of the sunset (the reason I sped to the top). Beautiful!

But there was a fence in front of us that was travelling perpendicular to the direction we expected. After a few moments, we realized that we were in the wrong bunch of trees. From the perspective of the top of the black hill we were on the right side of the section of trees to the right of the woods we wanted to be in. Between us and where we supposed to be was a frozen pond. With great difficulty, we crossed this frozen pond breaking through again and again as we went. So now, we didn't just have snow in our shoes but they were also soaked with ice water. The sun was down now…let's just establish that. We got to the bottleneck and couldn’t remember if we had come in along the fence line or if we gone cross country. We decided to travel at a slight angle away from the fence in the direction we assumed would land us right at the truck. With the sun down, the rocks and stones along the way tormented us all the more. Blistered feet with stubbed toes were attached to our bodies with twisted and strained ankles. Then, in the low light we could make out a pile of bones that had been picked clean by some predator. Companion began to worry about coyotes. I had wolves on my mind. – When we told people about this experience, they expressed that they were glad that bears hadn’t gotten us. -- We resolved to move back toward the fence hoping that it would lead to where we needed to go. This fence was not one that we remembered but we assumed it would lead to a fence that we did recognize. We paused for a moment along the way to again call the man whose garage we live in. We told him that we couldn’t find our truck. "You lost your truck?" he asked. "No", we replied, "We're lost." We told him that we figured we could find our way back but also told him that we would call him in 20 minutes or so. We then came to a fence that was perpendicular to the one we were following. Not knowing how turned around we had gotten; we prayed to know which way to go. After the close of our prayer, we looked to the right, and then to the left and there, off in the distance, was a little blinking light that was barely visible. We figured that it was a good sign of which direction we should go. We walked for about 15 minutes along that fence, and we come to another fence. In the darkness, we didn’t realize that our truck was literally 10 feet from this fence. We finally noticed it, crawled through the fence, got into the truck and we were safe. The light that we had seen earlier was the "road closed" sign that I mentioned at the beginning of my story. The time was now 6:50 and the outside temperature was 26 degrees. Needless to say, we learned a good lesson about preparation from this adventure. And boy, have we been using this in our lessons to teach doctrinal principals through spiritual parallels.

Anyway, I am safe and well. I hope you all enjoyed my thrilling story. Have a great week.

Elder Kirk