No news on the Visa yet! As soon as I find out, I'll let you know. It could be a week, it could be 2 months =p it's just trust in the Lord and waiting. All I hope is that I have no regrets when I leave. That I've done my best and talked to everyone that I was supposed to meet.
You all should check out South Dakota! It's way cooler than I thought! We live in Rapid City, our apartments are right next to a National Guard base, so alot of mornings you can find at least 5 missionaries running around the track =) The weather is grand! from 50 being the coldest (so far) to like...80ish? Warm enough to be sweating anyways =)
There is a bike rally about 20 miles away in Sturgis. Check it out, but don't check it out...the bikes would be cool to see, but I also here that it can be a drunk, angry, motorbikin' Mardi Gras =p soo many Harleys around here! Regardless, I can say that my urge to get a bike when I get back increases every day.
Our latest P-day (play day or personal day) after shopping, we went out to Jewel Cave. I wish I had pictures, but I forgot to bring my camera to the computer today! The cave is clamed to be 167miles discovered and that's only like 15% I think? Anyways, check it out! We went on an hour and a half guided tour and it was soo pretty! Dad, I'm guessing you could appreciate the idea of dark and undiscovered territory with your diving career =)
Something else cool was when we knocked on a door and a chief and medicine man of the Lakota Sundancers came out. He prayed for us with a drum and song in his native language. =D I learned alot about him and his religion - that there was a lone woman at the start of the universe crying for man, for company. That a gamma ray shot a huge piece of rock and cleaved it in two - also cleaving the universal darkness into light and darkness...though it was cool, it was hard to follow. (I'm glad my religion makes sense ;p )
As we talked, he, William Bravebird (with a native name that sounded something like Zedikiah =) ), tied Sundancing in with the Man (government) publicized school and other things that he felt hurt him and his people. Though I do not blame him for his complaints, I can say that the gospel of Jesus Christ can bring so much peace! However, he was not too open to hear us. This is the pits sometimes! I can say that with this missionary calling, I love the people here soo much more than I could imagine! I see him as someone who like me is just trying to find peace in this life. I know that God can give him that and that as a representative for Jesus Christ, God has sent me to that man for a chance to hear of his gospel. Because I love him (as a child of God) it hurts when they don't want to listen.
It just comes down to finding people that are ready to listen.
I can say that I thought I knew that this church was true before I left, but as I study daily from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and Preach My Gospel - I can start to say that I know without a doubt! From the 29th chapter of Isiah testifying of the BoM (when Oliver Cowdery takes the translation to the linguist in New York) to the first vision that Joseph Smith had with God the Father and Jesus Christ, it is true.
Studying this as a missionary is simply the best! There is alot of opposition to the church, some bad history, and plenty of myths out there. Many differeing voices telling them many different things? So what should these people believe?
As I've learned the gospel with a missionary mindset, I'm only studying the simple truths in a simple way. "God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer." This is what I teach and what I reaffirm to myself.
We teach that Jeus Christ set up one church and that that church was brought back to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. The only way to really know this yourself is to read the Book of Mormon and ask God if it is true.
It makes sense! Prophets were called, followed, disobeyed, and then God took the prophet from the people (look at Noah). But He always reaches out in love and calls another prophet. In this cycle, Joseph Smith was only the next in line - but this time, to establish the gospel that would not fade from the earth ever again.
Whenever we teach, we teach real people who come to find that this is what they were missing from their life or that we are crazy. =) and that's what it comes down to. Either the Book of Mormon is God's word or Joseph made it up. When we teach, we (and they) know that we are only the guides. Where they will get their answer will be through praying to God and reading. If this is true, God won't let you pass it up!
The only catch is that they have to pray and read really wanting to know. There are some people who only want to know about the LDS faith - which is fine. But then you'll only come away with a bit more knowledge. We preach that this is the same church that Jesus Christ set up - with all the blessings and ordinances that were in Christ's original church. This is the way to eternal salvation - through Christ and the gospel that he taught.
Regardless of that, the gospel can help people change. We just committed a single mother Ana and her daughter Lakia to baptism on the 7th of September. She is putting her life together, teaching her 4 children, feeling the peace of knowing who God is and his plan for her, and quitting smoking. Seeing this is a testimony to me. I know that she will continue to gain confidence in herself and control over her life as she keeps the commandments of God.
There is another guy who honestly believes that it's either Islam or Mormonism that has it right - and I can see where he's coming from - but more on that later.
I know that this letter has alot of God in it, but that is my life now and it is fantastic! I love you guys and I thank you for everything you have done that has made me who I am today. I thank both of you for the oppurtunity to find my own way. I pray for all of your safety as I know that you all worry about me. I love you so much and promise that any homesickness is not making me sad, but is instead being enveloped in this glorious gospel, the people of Rapid City, and the Godhead.
Elder James Reinhardt