Florida Elder Experiences a Death in the Family

Somewhat sad week, with some fun stuff.
First to get the sad out of the way. Last Sunday, a member of the Branch was sick. We visited them that evening. They said they were getting better, and after some conversation, we gave her a blessing. In the middle of the week, while getting ready, we receive a call. She had passed away. She had been diagnosed with leukemia and given two days to live. She was 47, and she left behind three daughters and a husband. That Sunday they showed up, somewhat surprisingly, because everyone thought they were in Connecticut. The meeting was powerful, and many tears were shed. Our branch, and on a greater level the church, and on a greater level the world, is a family. Losses are sad, but through support of one another and understanding of the gospel, we can understand these things. They are the Castillo Family if you want to include them in your prayers.
For other things this week (sorry for the topical and tonal whiplash here). At a member’s house, I got to try cow tongue… not bad. I also had an exchange with an English missionary. I had to teach two lessons on my own in Spanish. That was fun. It did, however, show me that my Spanish isn’t that bad. We had a baptism this week which was awesome. We’d been working with her for a long time, and finally in spite of being sick during the week, she got baptized!
I know I usually end with a thought, but I think this week I started with one so…
Hasta próxima semana

Tomorrow marks 12 weeks that Walker has been out! I can’t believe it’s been three months already! It’s finally starting to feel ‘normal’, but I still miss him like crazy! <3

We never know quite when he’ll call on Mondays. We try to be home and not busy with anything else, but he caught me in the middle of eating lunch. LOL! Which led him into sharing that he ate at the “Raising Cane’s of the South”. 😛  It’s called Zaxby’s. We’ve never heard of it. It’s very similar, but they put better seasoning on their fries, so if anything, they are better than Cane’s. 😛 We’ll have to try it if we ever get a chance to go to Florida! 😊 They are mostly in the Southeast, but oddly they have some stores in Utah.

Elder Oren loved the No Bakes that Walker made him last week. He ate several. However, Elder Knell came over and ate even more! 😛
We shared with him that Dad got a new calling. He’s the Elder’s Quorum Secretary. 😊
We let him know that we put money in his account to help him out with some of his extra expenses, and Eli paid him $400 for his computer. They had made a deal before Walker left, and Eli’s been working and saving to buy it from him.
I thought I had written down in a previous conversation with him how much he gets each month to purchase food, toiletries, and necessities, but when I went back through the posts, I couldn’t find it anywhere. So maybe I forgot to write it down. He gets $87 twice a month. So a total of $174.00 a month. That’s really not very much.
They finally have a move date. They will be moving apartments on September 26th. He’ll get us the address soon.
He will be going to the Mission Office on Thursday. He and Elder Oren will be picking up their new Companion! They are going to be a trio once again! Hahaha! Elder Oren is so annoyed. LOL!!! Walker totally called it. He knew they would end up as a trio again. He said Elder Oren wants to die. He doesn’t feel like he’s a good trainer, and now he has two again. Elder Oren asked, “What did I do to deserve this?” Walker said, “You’re just too good of a missionary!” <3 Walker still has six more weeks of his training. I asked if he was excited to be in a trio again? He said, “I mean… it’s never not interesting!” 😛
In his letter this week, he mentioned his Spanish was better than he thought. Jared asked him about that, and he said, “Well, yes…because I was forced to do it on my own.” That’s good though. He was able to see what he’s made of! He struggles with ‘small talk’. He struggles with it in English, and in Spanish, it’s even harder. Jared and Walker got a book on The Art of Small Talk. They both said they got bored of it and didn’t finish it. It’s just not a strong suit for them. LOL!
He shared some “deep doctrine” that Elder Knell and he have been discussing. He said all ordinances are done through blood. The blood of Christ and His Atonement. Baptism not only symbolizes rebirth, it symbolizes actual birth. In birth the three components are; the blood of your mother, the Holy Ghost, water in the womb and then God breathes His Spirit into your body. In Baptism, Jesus shed his blood for you. You go under the water and afterward you are confirmed with the Spirit. When Jesus died. What happened? They shoved a spear through his side, blood and water came out, and he made his spirit leave his body.
The Holy Ghost is how man was first born. In scripture it says, God breathed spirit into man. Genesis 2:7 says “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Looking at different cross references for “God’s breath” it says it is the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is how Adam was first born and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the first steps in joining the Gospel, being a rebirth in joining the church.
Elder Knell has a theory that unformed matter is water. In the scriptures when the earth is created there is no record of water being created. When it says there is a void and then the spirit was upon the water, it doesn’t say the water was created, it just says the spirit was upon the water, and then He starts creating the land.
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.


Elder Knell also shared his thoughts on why circumcision was a practice. Circumcision is because we don’t baptize babies. It’s to show they are born into the Covenant, and that they are already starting to embrace God into their lives, even from the point that they are a baby. The reason why it’s no longer necessary is because we perform baby blessings now, and baby blessings fulfill the same purpose as circumcision use to.
He got to spend a lot of time with Elder Knell this week because they went on exchanges together. He had a lot of fun with him. We asked if he was as abrasive with investigators as he is with the missionaries, but he was pretty quiet when they went out since they were on exchanges in Walker’s Spanish area, and he doesn’t speak Spanish. Walker did all of the talking, but even in the English visits, he didn’t say a whole lot either. That’s what Walker mentioned previously about zebra companionships.
Elder Knell did provide some insight on swear words. LOL! This guy… Haha! Apparently there are three levels of swear words. There’s real swear words, there’s fake swear words, and then there’s made up swear words (which he says missionaries can use).   Missionary swear words are words that don’t mean anything. His favorite is ‘gunch’. He’ll say, What the gunch?! Or, Ah gunch!!! I guess Elder Hickenlooper was also sharing his favorites like Gunch buck! Or, Muppets Christmas! 😛
Alondra was baptized by her father on Saturday! So awesome! Walker will send us pictures of that day when he gets copies from Elder Oren. I can’t wait to ‘meet’ her! 😊 Putting a face to a name. It went really well. She didn’t want a lot of people there. She wanted to keep it as small as possible which worked out because the members who thought they were going to be able to make it ended up not being able to because of Hermana Castillo passed away this week. It was the missionaries, her mom and dad, the Branch President, and his friend.
At the baptism, all of the Missionaries sung a song. They sung, Abide with Me Tis Even Tide in Spanish. While they were practicing, Elder Cook, one of the Senior Missionaries, told Walker, “Dude, you have a really good voice!” And after the baptism, Alondra and her mom came up and said, “You have a really good voice!” He said, “Oh, thank you.” He’s so humble. That made him really happy! I told him, “See!! I’ve been telling you that for years. Maybe now you’ll believe me!” 😊
Hermana Castillo and her family were in Connecticut when she passed away. She wasn’t feeling well earlier in the week, and when she went to the doctor, she was diagnosed with leukemia and given two days to live. She lived for three days and passed away on Thursday. Her body is being transported to the Dominican Republic right now where they have family and friends. She has three daughters, 18, 20, and 23, and a husband she left behind.
Walker said no one knew the Castillo’s were going to be at church on Sunday since there were in Connecticut. All of the family came except one of the daughters. Brother Castillo is the Second Counselor in the Bishopric, and before the meeting began, he spoke about his wife, what had happened, and his testimony. The first speaker’s talk was actually about the Plan of Salvation. The children were scheduled to sing a song, so the final speaker didn’t have a lot of time. He shared some scriptures and his thoughts and testimony about everything that has happened this week. He had a difficult time talking. He was very emotional and moved by the Spirit and sad for the family. The people in Walker’s Branch are very spiritual and have such good hearts. The Sacrament Meeting on Sunday was one of the most spiritual and touching services Walker has ever attended.
The night he went out on exchanges with Elder Knell they visited with the woman (a member) who owns Los Amigos, the restaurant they go to occasionally. Her grandson is eight or nine years old, old enough to be baptized. His name is Marcos, and he has had a baptism date before, but at the time, his mom said it wasn’t something she wanted him to do. They didn’t have contact with them for 3 months and recently started talking to them again. They’ve been hanging out with Marcos and getting to know him better. He’s the most excitable and friendly little kid you’ve ever met! He sounds adorable!
They went to Los Amigos recently, and while they were in there, they had Telenovela on. These are the Hispanic version of Soap operas. They aren’t really supposed to watch TV, so they were trying hard not to listen or watch it, but it was pretty dramatic and funny. LOL!
This week has been weirdly Portuguese heavy. He’s doing pretty ok picking it up. The Portuguese family from his Branch came back, so they went and visited with them for a bit. After they met with them, they met woman, Linita, who is a less active member from Brazil who they have been in contact with. They talked with her for a bit and gave her a blessing.  Then , when Walker was on exchanges, he had to call her to set up a follow-up appointment for Friday. It was interesting talking to a person in a language he doesn’t know! 😛 He understands parts, and they understand parts because Spanish and Portuguese are close, but it’s not perfect. The Portuguese members in his Branch brought five of their friends that all speak Portuguese to church on Sunday, so during the Sunday School portion of church, they sat in with them on their English lessons. Jared asked if learning two languages at the same time gets confusing and mixed together. Walker said they sound different, so it’s not an issue. Mucho Bueno in Spanish is Muito Bem in Portuguese. Madre/Padre becomes Mãe/Pai. Hoy, which means today, is hoje in Portuguese.  Ahora which means now is agora. There are little differences.
He tried cow tongue, as he mentioned in his letter. It tasted just like beef, but it was really soft, similar to when you leave a roast in the crockpot all day, and it just falls apart. He’s a braver soul than I am! Lol! I don’t want to taste anything that can taste me back! Hahaha!
There is a Cuban man named Diego in their Branch who is a little cranky and a little racist. 😛 Elder Oren (Filipino but everyone calls him Chinese), Elder Hemming (White) and Elder Garring (African-American) were sitting outside the church offices when Diego came out of a meeting and saw the three of them standing there. He said, “I found my three Presidents! Kim Jong Un, Trump, and Barack Obama!” Oh man… haha! Elder Oren says every time they call him he yells, “Estoy trabajando!!! (I’m working). Even though he’s retired. They try to explain quickly why they are calling and he just yells, “Estoy trabajando!!!” “It’s us the Missionaries.” “Sí, lo sé.” (Yes I know.) “Well we were just trying to…” “Estoy trabajando!!!” And then he hangs up. When you meet him person, he’s a funny nice old man. But on the phone, he’s a grumpy old man. He also thinks you’re inferior if you don’t know Spanish.
The Stretches are English speakers who attend the Spanish Branch due to their calling. They are the Ward/Branch Mission Leaders of sorts. They think. LOL! They aren’t really sure. They just know they are supposed to come. Walker helps translate for them.
This man’s name is Kyle Phelps, he served in the Philippines and Elder Oren was freaking out, so Walker took a picture of them together. He actually lived in Queen Creek, Arizona before he moved to Florida for medical school! He spoke at Alondra’s baptism on Saturday.
Elder Oren and Brother Phelps

Two weeks ago they met a man on the street who spoke Spanish. His name is Christopher. He was dragging his bike, and they stopped to see if they could help. They asked him how far he needed to go to get home, and he said 6 blocks. They aren’t allowed to give people rides in the mission car, and they didn’t have their bikes with them because Elder Oren’s was in the shop being repaired, so they offered to put his bike on the back of their car on the bike rack, and they would meet him at his house. He, of course, was very suspicious and said, “Uhhh…I don’t think so.” They tried to reassure him that they weren’t going to steal his bike, so they decided to make a trade. They had their suit jackets in the back and a Book of Mormon. They gave him their jackets and the Book of Mormon as collateral and said they’d meet him back at his house. He agreed. When he finally arrived, they gave him his bike, and he returned their jackets and tried to return the Book of Mormon. They said, “Oh, no, that’s yours to keep.” He thanked them and said that they are super nice, and he wanted to meet with them again sometime. They learned a little bit about him. His family lives in Mexico. 
However, they went back last week to visit him, and he was gone. He moved back to Mexico. His Aunt Istella answered the door, and they spoke with her for a little while. They asked if there is a day they could come back and share a little bit more about their message? She said, “Now is good.” So they came inside, and she called her whole family into the living room. She said, “Come! Listen to the words of God!” and then they began teaching them about the Restoration. I love it!!! So neat! He said the house had lots of guns on the wall (which later she told them were just made of wood so weren’t real), they had booze all around, and they had a boot lamp. They taught Istella, her brother Luis and her husband Duro, (which means hard) as he drank three beers and offered them one… lol. He was very nice. He’s not very well educated and can’t read, but he loves to cook and was telling them how he makes his horchata. He also gave them some of his homemade pineapple juice. They left Luis with a children’s Book of Mormon so he could follow the pictures and try to understand with the few words he can read. They are hoping he can put it together. I thought that was so cool! They invited them to church. Duro didn’t want to come, but Istella and Luis did!
They have been doing really well finding new people. They found nine this week which is triple their Standard of Excellence! Istella, Duro, and Luis. Then, when they were on exchanges in Clearwater, they found a Hispanic family to teach. That is another three people. The Seminal One area was on exchanges with Clearwater, and while they were on that exchange, they went on a transfer with Largo. With the little chain exchange, Walker was with Elder Beard and Elder Oren was with Elder Stanton. They went out knocking doors, and they found someone. Walker couldn’t remember exactly where they got the other two. They definitely aren’t having trouble finding interested people, but they are having a hard time getting them to commit to things.
He’s been teaching Elder Oren English and America. Haha! He didn’t know what an apricot was, so Walker filled him in. 😛 He’s made a joke with Elder Oren about being from Scottsdale, AZ. Everyone in Scottsdale (apparently) is dumb and rich, and it’s become a thing that whenever Elder Oren does anything dumb, he says, “I’m from Scottsdale.” LOL! One time he said it on a call, and they didn’t fully understand. One of the other Elders said, “it’s the Farmington, Utah of Arizona.” Then they understood! Haha! Apparently, Utah also has a Scottsdale.
He had to correct Elder Oren because he accidentally taught someone false doctrine. He said you can be sad in the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms. Walker clarified that you aren’t sad. You just aren’t as happy as you could be.
Yesterday. they were celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day. Some of the people they know were having a party, and Elder Oren wanted to stay and “contact” in that area all day, but they had to go to Elder Soares’ Face-to-Face that was being broadcast. Walker said, “Elder Oren, they don’t want us here contacting anyway. They are partying and drinking. They don’t want to talk to us.” LOL! But Elder Oren loves a party, and he loves the Mexican culture and thinks he’s Mexican now. 😛 Walker said, “You are not Hispanic Elder Oren. You are too much of a white chick to be Hispanic.”   Jared said, “A wannabe Hispanic, White Chick, Philippino.” Haha!!! Walker said, “Exactly!” He said to Elder Oren, “I hope our companion is a man.” Elder Oren said, “What do you mean? I am a man.” Walker said, “No you’re not.” Elder Oren said, “I know… I’m a white chick.” Hahaha!
His Zone isn’t changing much they don’t like to move them around too much because it makes the work harder. The Zone Leader is staying, and he’s swapping companions with their District Leader. Elder Knell and Seal are staying; Elder Beard and Austen are staying; Elder Bake is the Zone Leader, and he’s staying and receiving Elder Allen from Elder Hickenlooper; Elder Hickenlooper is receiving Elder Ferry; he believes Elder Stringham is leaving. He’s been in that area a long time, and he’s almost ready to return home.
They are going to be opening about ten new areas in Tampa. They have a transfer of 10-15 new missionaries coming in! That’s awesome!
He’s disappointed he hasn’t seen an alligator yet. LOL!
I’ll leave you off with a couple of pictures that were posted to the Tampa Mission Page this week. It looks like they have some beautiful sunrises! 😊

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