On October 16th, Benjamin Maxwell, left his home and family for two years to serve a mission in San Jose, California.

As a missionary: He will teach of Jesus Christ and His gospel. He will have doors slammed in his face and be yelled at. He will meet people from all walks of life. He will stretch himself. He will learn about himself. He will learn of his Heavenly Father's love for him and for all His children. He will learn to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. He will serve the people of San Jose. And he will LOVE more than he though possible.

Monday, June 30, 2014

That's why I am on my mission.

 This week has been filled with marvelous ups and downs! The worst thing that happened this week was after I was finished with my studies one morning I was running back into the bedroom with my blanket to put it away and it got caught on the door handle and tore a hole into my blanket so now the side of my blanket has a hole in it. No, I did not cry but it was a very rough morning to say the least. Definitely the hardest morning of the week. Besides maybe the other morning when I woke up from apparently a very aggressive dream because I woke up as I was giving a full force punch to my alarm clock. I can't remember my dream but my finger actually got bruised from punching my alarm clock so hard. That wasn't such a great morning either. Needless to say I was very awake after that. I am glad my alarm clock did not break, due to the sheer power of my punch!

   On to a more important note, we got a new mission president on Saturday. President Watkins is officially on never ending vacation and now President Mella is our leader. I have not had the chance to meet him yet but from what I have heard he sounds like a really cool guy.  He worked for a company called control 4, which is a home automation company and that's pretty cool. (Think Jarvis from iron man in your own home, that's what he did.)  
  Transfers are a week from tomorrow so the possibility of me getting transferred is about 50/50 this time. I have been In Fremont for a long time so really I should be getting transferred out soon but I just went into ASL so I could stay too. It all depends on the mission president. If I get transferred out of Fremont I am finished with ASL because this is the only ASL area in the entire mission. Part of me is ready to move forward to a new area but part of me loves being ASL and never wants to leave, I would be fine either way at this point. 
   First incredible amazing thing that happened this week actually just happened yesterday. We were out eating dinner at a buffet with a member and we were stuffed. We had just eaten like kings and as we are walking out a man and his son come up to us and start to ask us questions about why we are dressed up in the uniforms and what we were doing. We proceeded to tell him that we are missionaries for our church and that we are out inviting people to learn about Jesus Christ. He told us that he was a Christian and that he though that what we were doing was really cool. We asked him if he would be willing to meet up with us sometime to talk more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and he said that right now he was fine with where he was at but that the next time he saw us he would talk and listen to what we had to say.
Two hours later on the same day about 12 miles from where we had eaten dinner we were contacting at a lake. We walk around this lake a lot and talk with anyone that will give us 30 seconds of their time. As we are walking around this lake we see this man and his son again. We stop and start talking again and he said you must be here to burn off the calories too! I was offended inside because I really don't look like I need to burn calories but I contained my feelings and continued to talk with him. I mentioned that God must want him to hear our message because that was twice in one day that we had met. He said that he would hold up his end of the deal and would listen to what we had to say. We taught him and his son the restoration right there on the side of the lake and it was amazing. I can say right now that I know the spirit testified to him that what he heard was true. He liked what he heard enough that he was willing to give us his phone number so we could meet up again. I know that God has prepared him and his son to hear the message of the restored gospel. It was amazing to see how God blessed us so that we were able to get in contact with him in two completely different locations two hours apart. That is a testimony to me that the Lords hands are in this work and that he will lead us to those who are prepared and eager to learn.
    Second experience was with Miguel, he is 23 and deaf but he is so eager to learn. We taught him the plan of salvation this week and as we were teaching him I could see that he was being touched by the spirit. We had given him the DVD of the restoration in ASL and invited him to watch it over the week and he did and came back and told us that he loved it and that it all makes sence to him that God would want to communicate with us today the same way that he communicated with the people back in biblical times. He is an intelligent young man and is very in tune with the spirit. He knows when he heats truth and he is willing to follow that and continue on the path that he is lead. He has a baptism set for the 19th of July and I think that he will be ready for that. It is so much fun for me to see the gospel take someone's live and do a compleat overhaul without taking away any of their experiences or talents but leaving them with a new perspective and a new desire to do what is right. Sometimes I think about how different the world would be if the gospel did this to everyone's life.
That's why I am on my mission. So that I can do my part in helping make that idea a reality. The world is a crazy place full of temptation. We are few in numbers against the massive armies of satan but if we stand united steadfast in Christ we cannot fall. I know that is true. Stick together, stand up for each other, support each other, and most of all love each other.
We have to go get a new couch now and I am out of time but I love you all and will be praying for all of you. Take care! I hope this weeks email wasn't too boring. But, when the morning is rough... It can only get better! 

Love, Elder Maxwell

Monday, June 23, 2014

There is no doubt in my mind...

Sounds like quite the incredible week for all of you back home. It must be nice having Christian home for the time being (who knows, maybe he will start to get really annoying). It was a little bit weird being out here when he came home. Before he went home I was thinking why would it be harder for me when he goes home? That's crazy talk, but now that it has happened I feel like I have been missing out on the amazing return of my older brother and I guess that part makes it a little bit difficult. Lucky for me we have been crazy busy this past week! 

First we got a new investigator named Miguel this week. He is 28 years old and he is deaf. We were on exchanges on Thursday when we met him for the first time so Elder Gardner was not there so that put it on me and Elder Domingo to teach him the restoration. I have taught the restoration hundreds of times in English but this was only the second time in ASL. So to answer your question yes I do get lots of opportunities to teach and use sign. Emma, technically when you are signing with someone you are "speaking" with them. It's just using a different language that doesn't require the vibrations of your vocal cords. Anyways the ASL grammar is very different than the normal English that we use. I still have to get used to not using all the filler and connector words that are used in English and the sentences are all arranged differently. Such as... In English we would say "we need to be baptized so we can return to live with our Heavenly Father." In ASL you would sign "we need baptism why, return live with Heavenly Father will". Very different from how we would normally say things in English. But teaching the restoration went very well and we invited him to be baptized and he said yes so he has a date for the 19 of July.  Really exciting! He is a super awesome super solid investigator. He is a lot of fun to teach and I'm amazed that he can understand my awful ASL grammar!  We are excited to see him continue to progress towards baptism. 
We had an amazing baptism this week! The first one of my mission! His name is Vijay and he is from India. A very cool guy. The service was on Saturday night and being Indian the concept of being on time doesn't really exist. We knew this ahead of time so we told him to be at the church at 7 because he is usually about 10 or 15 minutes late, but of course on baptism day he needed to be 25 minutes late. So I was stressing out and super worried that he wasn't going to show up because he didn't get to his own baptism until five minutes before it was supposed to start. But he did show up so I relaxed and everything went smoothly from there. He had asked me to baptize him so I got to do that and it was super cool. First time I have ever baptized anyone. It was such an amazing experience. I know that he partook of saving ordinances on Saturday. I can't describe in word the feeling that I got as we left the font after he was baptized. Such and incredible evening. 
Then to top it all off after the baptism another investigator that we handed off to the sisters came up to me after and said that her baptism was going to be in a week and that she would like me to baptize her too. I knew that she was going to get baptized the next weekend but I had no idea that she had even thought of me as the person to baptize her. Although myself and Elder Jensen were the missionaries that found her. Overall, by the end of Saturday night so many wonderful things had happened that I was feeling so good that I ended passing out right when we got home because I was exhausted from everything! Incredible! That is why we invite people to come unto Christ. So they can participate in those saving ordinances. The next morning was Vijay confirmation and he showed up 2 minutes before that one, but all that's important is that he was able to make it. The ordinances have been completed and he can continue on the path towards Heavenly Father. 
There is no doubt in my mind that this is the true church. I know that Heavenly Father is hastening his work and it is happening all around us! Amazing, it continually blows me away. 

Love, Elder Maxwell

Monday, June 16, 2014

I am a very happy guy.

How am I doing? If you can find a middle ground between how happy a five year old is in a ball pit and a mom who just had a son come home from a mission that about where I am at. Not quite as happy as the mom but more ecstatic than the child. Overall I am a very happy guy. 

Some details on how the whole ASL trio companionship this week because that seems to be the trending topic of everyone's letters. First of all I have found that it is much easier to be best friends with just one companion than with two. In the world of three there is always that third wheel and I have yet found a way to avoid this situation. No matter what we are doing one of us is always the odd one out. Any advice on how to solve this predicament would be greatly appreciated. 
Second we cover a very large area, multiple missions to be exact. This being so, we do have to luxury of a car at our disposal 24/7. 
Third, we teach a lot of deaf people being that we are the ASL missionaries. We teach less active members of the branch and we teach the few ASL investigators that we have. It was challenging at first trying to learn how to teach this super detailed lesson that preach my gospel covers but then I realized it's not actually that detailed, it is the basic gospel truths that we all know and once that clicked with the whole trying to learn it in ASL it became a much easier process. 
Fourth, there were some questions about how do we find deaf people to teach. Excellent question. We have an iPad and occasionally we will spend some time on Facebook searching for deaf people in the Bay Area. We are always searching for deaf events that we can go to and places and activities where we can meet a lot of new friends. Those are the only ways that we can find deaf people. Sometimes we will get lucky and meet a deaf person as we are contacting on the street (because we are not allowed to go tracting).  That's pretty much the basic day to day operation of the ASL program. 
This coming Saturday we have our first baptism planned. We had our investigator at both the Saturday night and Sunday morning sessions of stake conference this weekend and he is super excited about being baptized. Over this week I will probably be getting more and more stressed because our WML is out of town so we have to plan everything ourselves and both of my companions have no idea what is going on or how to do anything so all of the responsibility is falling on me but I am sure that The Lord will make sure everything works out and goes very well. We have been teaching him for the past three or four weeks and he is super excited and very, very ready. It is such a spiritual experience teaching him and being there by his side as he makes and keeps commitments. I am overjoyed as I see him grow and understand the blessings that he will receive as he is baptized. My testimony grows as I see him grow. That's why the missionaries ask you to have someone taught in your home. Because it is just as spiritual of an experience for the investigator as it is for everyone else.
My mission is amazing and I love being out here. Welcome home Christian! I love you all. Have a fantastic week!
Love, Thee Elder Maxwell

Monday, June 9, 2014

It must be one of those mom missionary things...

So, details on the new companions! I am in a trio now! My companions names are Elder Domingo... I have talked about him before. I  pretty sure that I have even sent pictures of him before. He is deaf and the only way to communicate with him is through sign language. It really helps me learn ASL because it becomes that full immersion as if I was sent to a country where nobody knows English. He is a super cool guy he is from the Phillipines and he has been out six weeks longer than I have. I love him to death and we get to joke around a lot together but at the same time we keep it very professional.

My other companion is Elder Gardner, he is from north Ogden, Utah and has been on his mission just over six weeks. He is the youngest of 14 brothers and sisters and is a very hard worker. He has red hair and he is always getting sick in some way. 

It is a lot of fun having two companions and it's even more fun being in the ASL program. I am amazed at the spirit that can be felt here with this small branch of maybe 20 members on a good day. It's an awesome place and some awesome people. The area I am in now covers the entire mission the Oakland mission and a little bit of the San Francisco mission. I have basically gone from having an area that I serve in to having no area boundaries. It's pretty cool. Sometimes we drive for a really long time to see one person but it's worth it. I love it. We get to go up to Oakland a lot and we got to go to the ASL endowment session on Saturday. It was amazing. It was really cool because the entire session was in ASL and then we got to be there for a deaf and blind ladies endowment and her and her husband were going to get sealed right after. What an amazing experience! The ASL interpretation was only on the really old video so I got to see that one too. It was interesting to say the least! But still amazing!

   I got my new tags this week. They now have a line of authority right under my name and it says American Sign Language underneath. They are awesome!
   I still get to work with the Central Park ward which is awesome because we have two baptism dates and they are both super solid! When I got to go ASL they combined the ASL missionaries and the Central Park missionaries so it's basically like I lost my companion and joined another companionship. It's a lot of fun and we all have a good time. It's a great group!
   I talked with Elder Le Beau last night and he was telling me how his mom was super happy that she got in contact with you. I don't really understand that, it must be one of those mom missionary things that don't really make since to anyone else!
   Coolest thing that happened this week, besides everything else that I already talked about, was one of our lessons with our investigator.  We were teaching him the Plan of Salvation and when we started the lesson he had no idea what the lesson was going to be about. We took him through it step by step and he loved every second of it. You could just look at him and see all those missing pieces fall into place for him. Throughout the lesson he had some questions but they were never questions trying to prove it wrong they were questions asking us how did you find this out? Where did this word come from. He truly wanted to know how we came to know all of these answers that he had been looking for. At the end of the lesson after we had invited him to pray to find out if it was true and read the Book of Mormon and he said he would do all of that. He then said something that I will never forget... "So that's why it's called the Plan of Salvation", he understood at that moment that this is the only way back to Heavenly Father and that it is something he really wants to do. He is awesome and I have learned so much from being able to teach him. I love this gospel and the joy that I see it brings into my life. I love seeing the change that it is bringing into others lives. I am so happy that I get to be out here doing the lords work. This right here is why I came on my mission, so that I could see the joy of others and have that bring joy to me. The church is true! I love all of you and wish you all the best. 

Love, Elder Maxwell

Monday, June 2, 2014

I am now an American Sign Language missionary!

At the Oakland temple as a missionary.

At the Oakland temple 17 years ago!
I have some very, very, very, exciting news! I told you last week I was getting transferred and this week you get to know where I was sent! Drum roll please.... I was called to serve in the Fremont Deaf Branch! I am now an American Sign Language missionary! Aaaahhhhhhh! It is so cool! I am so
excited that I get to be working with the deaf branch. We also cover the Central Park ward so really it's like I never left Central Park! I just added the branch! It is seriously the most awesome thing that could have happened on Tuesday and it happened! I already have an order in for some new tags that have the line of power and ASL underneath! I have been the happiest missionary in the mission this past week!

Then to top off the entire week I just got to read a super awesome letter from my mom about a super awesome week that my family just had. And then to top it off again my family has another super awesome week planned this week! I don't know how I can ever top this on my mission again. I think it would take a baptism or something.

Speaking of baptisms... We met with one of our investigators this week and we taught him the
restoration while giving him a tour of the church. He really enjoyed the whole thing and agreed with everything. Our last stop on the tour of the church was the baptismal font. I planned that out by the way... We were looking at the font and talking about baptism. There was that awesome picture of Jesus and John the Baptist on the wall and we had a super awesome conversation about baptism and the spirit was super strong. It was the perfect moment to invite him to be baptized is I did and we have a date set for the 21st of June. Such a huge blessing. I love to see how with careful planning and preparation we were able to have such an amazing lesson. He is a super solid investigator and he is excited to continue to learn.

Another awesome thing from the week was we got to go up to Oakland to teach a lesson at the temple. (ASL privileges) it was super cool and all of the sisters that serve at the visitors center were asking me how long I have known ASL and I kept telling them that I joined the ASL program on Tuesday and they were all super impressed! The spirit is so strong in the visitors center. I wish that we could teach all of our investigators there. What a huge blessing that would be. I love the temple it is so amazing.

Last awesome thing of the week was yesterday. In church I got to interpret for priesthood. The man teaching the class doesn't know sign language so he gave the lesson and I signed what he was saying so everyone in class could understand. The gift of hands is real! I am amazed at how well I was able to interpret. I thought that I was going to struggle the whole time but I was fasting for help with learning ASL and being able to remember and memorize all the signs I have learned and I can honestly say it has worked! I am comfortable having a conversation with any deaf person I meet. I am so glad that the spirit is here to help me. I know that Heavenly Father wants me here to help these people and he is providing a way for me to do that. I love serving here in Fremont with the Central Park ward and the deaf branch.

I know that Gods hands are in the work that we are doing. God is the one doing the work we are just the tools in his hands and this spirit is what makes that tool sharp or dull. I am glad to have the spirit with me so that I can be the sharpest tool I can be.

Love Elder Maxwell