18 Months… 6 More to Go

Dear Family and Friends,

So I hate to bring up how long I have been out, but it is inevitable considering the fact that this transfer was a special one. This last week marks roughly the completion of 18 months. All the sisters I was in the MTC with just got home this past week. I have officially completed a sister mission. Thank goodness I got 6 more months though because I still have so much more to do here. We also switched up the schedule for the departing missionaries. This time they went home on a friday instead of a thursday. All of the coordinating that took place to make sure everyone was where they needed to be was rather intense. The phones were ringing non-stop for days. However, this busyness is what I live for, so I enjoyed every minute of it. On Thursday we split the departing missionaries into two groups and then in two separate trips we took them Downtown to get a picture of the famous skyline, then to St. Augustine to do some site seeing and to be on the beach for their one and only time as missionaries. The particular beach we went to was beautiful and I think it will be a permanent stop on the final day for now on. Despite the fact that we had had something every day of the week except for the weekends that drove our attention away for most of the day we still managed to have one of our most productive weeks with teaching. We taught a lot of people this week and we have gotten a few more people to begin to really progress in their spiritual journeys. I really have no complaints about this week.

One of the best parts about this week was being able to work with my trainer, Elder Newbold, again for the day on Wednesday. He went home this transfer and so we did a split and he then stayed wednesday and thursday night with us as well as some other elders. We swapped stories back and forth as we reminisced about the days in Deep Creek. We were only together for 3 months, but it seemed like it was so much longer with all that happened. We were also able to teach really well together. 15 months later we are still teaching with unity! He is from Bountiful and so he said he will be at my home coming. As I reflect on what has happened this past 18 months I truly never could have known what a mission was going to be like and what it was going to do for me. I have come to love so many different people! I may have only known them for a short amount of time, but I feel like I have known them my whole life after only one conversation. I have also created some life long friendships with some amazing missionaries that i have served. The relationships that I treasure the most are the ones I have gained with my Heavenly Father through prayer, with Jesus Christ by being his disciple, and with the Holy Ghost by acting on his promptings, I had left the mission having not become familiar a single soul (which would be impossible in our line of work) save those three only, this whole experience would still be worth it. I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve. I am so happy to know that I can serve them the rest of my life regardless of my circumstances.

I love y’all! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Joshua Cordon

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Elder Layton & Elder Cordon

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The “Famous Skyline”

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Elder Newbold & Elder Cordon

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Elder Cordon & Elder Newbold

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Elder Cordon & Elder Newbold

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Batteries and Best Friends

Dear Family and Friends,

I had another wonderful week! I always do! That is a given when you really understand the gospel. I have been saying to a lot of people lately that one of my favorite things about being a mormon is that you always have an excuse to be happy. So very true!

One reason I love being a missionary is that we are endlessly given incredible ways to serve people! One friday we were driving to contact a less active member and I felt that we should take a different way than normal. It was for no particular reason and it was about the same travel time, but we did nevertheless. As we were driving down the road, traffic was unusually heavy. Finally we discovered the reason, a guys car had broken down in the middle of the road. We pulled over and offered to push into the near by parking lot, but he said that his battery was dead and for some reason he couldn’t put it in neutral. Our elders quorum president lived just down the road so we told him that we would run to a friend of ours house and we would grab some jumper cables. We sped on back and found him in the parking lot, apparently he got it in neutral and someone pushed him but he still needed a jump so pulled right on up. After trying our best it was very apparent that he needed a new battery. We helped him acquire a new one and in the meantime we got to get to know this good brother better. His name is Khanh and he just came from the pan-handle to be here in Jacksonville with his high school sweet heart. He hadn’t found a church yet that he liked and after hearing a little bit about ours he said that he would be interested in checking it out sometime. It was a really awesome chance to serve and in total we were with him for about an hour. He really considered us a big help because his girlfriends car is in the shop and so he was literally stranded. Even if he never comes to the church, I am so happy we got the chance to serve and to spread some of the spirit of christmas!

I also found out that I will be staying with my companion for another transfer, which will be really awesome! I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have been able to spend with Elder Layton, he is an incredible person who has taught me so much about missionary work and just about life in general. He is one who has really come to understand the atonement in his life and his ability to love people is amazing. I have been to learn from him how to really help someone change their life. Because of his incredible ability he has helped a recent convert literally transform her life. I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have had to learn from him, and the experiences that we have shared, with many more left!

I am so grateful for this beautiful gospel and the many ways that it richly blesses our lives. I know that it is the only way to true joy and happiness in this life and I want nothing more than to share it with the whole human race! As for now I am taking it to one person at a time.

I love y’all!

Elder Joshua Cordon

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Many Reasons To Be Thankful

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow! What a week! I never feel that I can even come close to capturing all that happens in one week in these short emails. Never in my life have I had so many things happen in such a brief amount of time as I have at this time right now. And with the Holiday season there is no sign of things slowing down, which I am grateful for!

Thanksgiving this year was just one jam packed day of AWESOME! We started it off with playing in the Turkey bowl. We had some awesome turn-out because we combined the Mandarin 1st and 2nd wards. We had 3 games going at the same time and so it was non-stop which was awesome. I was happy to see that everyone was good sports and we just were able to have a great time. The weather was beautiful and we were able to have two investigators, David and Marquez, join us which was great experience. I have mentioned David before, but Marquez is someone we just started working with. He is the grandson of a lady we have been visiting for several months now. He came to young mens the last two weeks and was able to come to the Turkey Bowl and has loved every minute of it. He is 13 and has a size 14 shoe. Br. Henderson who recently joined the church a few years ago, has taken Marquez under his wing. It works out because he is able to relate having come from a rough past and he is also Marquez’ young mens leader. Marquez even came to church and he along with David have both become great members of the deacons quorum. Have I ever mentioned how awesome this ward is at fellowshipping.

We ended up getting 4 different Thanksgiving dinners which was heavenly. Each one was uniquely delicious and very filling. I had to perform a thorough taste-test of each and every dish of mashed-potatoes to see how they would stack up to what I was raised on, and Mom I am happy to inform you that while the competition was respectable, you took the cake. It was also amazing how each one provided us with missionary opportunities. The first we had a recent convert there with us. The second we had a part-member family there. The third had our investigators Amelia and Tyrell with us. A little note on that was that it was so much fun to be able to kinda “tag team” with Tyrell as one of us talk with everyone the other played with Tyrell and the other kids. To be completely honest I think it seemed that both of us would rather have spent time playing with Tyrell, Emma, and David than talk with the adults. And the fourth was with another part-member family that we have been working with. I could not have asked for a better day.

The next presented new challenges as i found it difficult to rise from my bed. I was heavy with food and sore from football, more sore than I have ever been on my mission. After winning that battle I had the blessed opportunity to go down and do a session at the Orlando Temple. I limped through the whole thing but the spirit filled me to the point where I didn’t even notice. I am so very grateful for this wonderful gospel! I know without a doubt in my mind that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to happiness in this life and to eternal happiness in the next. I know that it makes us happy because I have seen it give peace to the broken hearted, give purpose to the hopeless, and increase of joy to those who were already living pretty good lives. I love this work so much and I pray that all of you will take time this month– especially considering the wonderful reason of the season– to find ways to serve others and fill your lives and theres with the love of God.

I love y’all!
Elder Joshua Cordon

A Week of Miracles!!

Dear Family and Friends,

I had something come to mind, an experience in my life that is rather simple, but it is a wonderful analogy of what it is like to come into the fold.

When I was about 10 it was finally resolved that I needed to get some contacts. Up until this point I had worn neither contacts or glasses, so it was definitely a new experience. I was thoroughly convinced that I could see fine, and I am sure that if someone were to even imply that I was blind would invoke in me a very defensive response. Nevertheless, my parents who cared for me and who knew what was best insisted that I get them anyway. After getting those on for the first time it was like I had become part of a whole new world. There were so many things I had not noticed before. I remember staring at the blinds on the window and being amazing at how distinct the separation was between each panel. The smallest things of life took on a whole new level of interest for me. I remember going home and grabbing a pair of binoculars and just sitting on the porch for what felt like hours taking in the breath-taking scenes of which I had been entirely unaware and unable to behold. Simply enough, (with the pun absolutely intended) my eyes had been opened.

For me this is what it is like when someone finally allows the gospel to be part of there life. While the experience of gaining a testimony and increasing in spiritual knowledge is not so instant, nor can it be captured in one simple moment, the reception of the Gift of the Holy Ghost and the opening of your spiritual eyes can be. When someone receives the gift of the Holy Ghost the scriptures are unfolded before them in a way that they never have experienced before. They will learn things and see things that they were completely unaware of. Even Joseph Smith who by the power of God was translating the Book of Mormon made the following comment after receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, “Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of.” (Joseph Smith–History 1:74) I can bear testimony that this is true. For I have had personal experiences that have born witness to me of this fact.

I thought of this story when we were preparing for the baptism of Kristin this weekend. It was such a special opportunity to be part of that baptism and to see her make the steps in preparation for that wonderful day. She began her journey many months ago when her twin sister came into contact with the missionaries. She was studying with them and had even planned to get baptized back in April/May sometime. Something happened with the baptism though and she got stressed out to the point where she called it off. On top of that she still had a lot of questions and felt like it was too early for her. Her and sister then went back home for the summer and when they returned to Jacksonville for school in the fall. When they returned. Her sister wasn’t actively attending any more and they weren’t really in contact with the missionaries anymore. They are really good friends with two of the recent converts in our ward though and they started coming to the Family Home Evenings that we have each monday. Then they started to come to church with their friends as well. We called the missionaries that had been working with them and asked if we could begin teaching them. They hadn’t met with them but a few times and they were coming to church with us so it worked out. In only a few weeks Kristin was ready to get baptized and now her and her twin sister, Kaitlin, is back active in the church. It was a beautiful service on Saturday. Chirag, their friend, baptized her, and Kaitlin gave the talk on baptism. I am so very grateful that I got to be part of her story, even though this was all member work that brought these girls back and into the church. I would have pictures but they were on someone else’s camera and I am still waiting to get those.

On Sunday we had the awesome experience of having Amelia and her son, Tyrell, join us at church. Tyrell has down syndrome so we got to spend the day at church walking around with him as he introduced himself to everyone. Children with down syndrome just prick your heart in a special way that you just cannot help but love them. The bishop found Amelia through an interesting chain of events. She just got to town trying to get away from a bad situation. She was staying at an extended stay here in Jacksonville and the previous tenet had not erased the voicemails on the phone. She thought they were hers so she listened to them. One happened to be from the Bishop of our ward. A while later she was planning on going to the parade, but she wasn’t able to make it so they went to the beach instead. Some young adults were there playing volleyball and taking pictures. She admired how well groomed and well mannered they all were. She noticed that they had written something in the sand, but it wasn’t until she had walked to the water and back that she noticed that they had written “MORMONS” in the sand. It was then that she felt prompted to call the bishop. They had an amazing discussion and we were there teaching her the next day. It is an amazing miracle. God works in miraculous ways to bring people to the truth.

I love y’all! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Joshua Cordon

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Tyrell with the Ward

 

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Tyrell with the Elders

 

Tender Moments

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was a wonderful week! I had a lot of tender experiences that really made things very enjoyable. I did an exchange this week on Wednesday back in my old stomping ground of Deep Creek. Luckily for me the plans had us going to the home of my old ward mission leader Br Strattan. I love that family so much they definitely have enriched me mission experience! It was like I never left when i saw them. After catching up for a bit Elder Francom who I was with got to work getting some info on some referrals while Sister Strattan had me add myself to a group for the Deep Creek ward that shows how everyone is related. I found out that Sister Strattan was my 8th cousin and that Betty Hicks, a black sister in the ward who was recently baptized is actually my 6th cousin. It was a funny moment to learn that, but really awesome at the same time. Betty was one of the first people I met when I got to Deep Creek. We had a great day there though and were able to get a lot of work done. At the end of the night we had a lesson with a girl that I met the last time I was there about 6 weeks ago. They had been struggling to get a solid lesson with her since then, but we were able to sit down and have a very powerful lesson with her. We laughed at the thought we would just have me come every 6 weeks and help teach her.

On Thursday I was in Georgia with the incredible Elder Welsh. He is one of the best Elders in the mission and I was grateful to be able to spend the day with him. We had an awesome experience after trying to contact a less active member. After noticing that the family who we had an address for had moved we began knocking on the neighbors doors. After a few doors a school bus showed up and dropped off some kids. These two boys were teasing these girls and one of them was crying while her sister was walking with her back to there house. Turns out that Elder Welsh knew these girls because they are the daughters of a member and the older sister had been to church a couple of times. They told us that the boys were teasing them and one of the boys took an old can of vienna sausages (which are gross to begin with) that he found on the ground and opened it up and threw it at one of the girls. Not too much got on her but nevertheless it was completely unacceptable. After showing the girls a quick video on Jesus Christ we walked over to the home of those boys to invite them to repent. One of them timidly opened the door, he was probably 15 and less than half my size. He wasn’t the major trouble maker though, his cousin who was hiding behind him who was 18 couldn’t even look us in the eye long enough to answer our questions. We proceeded to teach them how unchrist-like their actions were and if they ever wanted to amount to anything in life they would learn quickly to grow up and be real men. Hopefully, an ounce of that sunk in. As we finished up with that the girls mother had arrived home and had been informed of what we were doing. She was very impressed and was very open to hearing our message. Prior to this moment she was very against the idea of becoming a Mormon or even associating with Mormons. By the end of our lesson with her we had her and her daughters all excited about the idea of getting baptized and return appointment to teach them as a family the next day.

On Sunday we had Stake Conference. The building of the Hendricks ward is my Stake Center so I was able to go and say hi to all of my old friends. It is so nice to be able to maintain such a close relationship with my recent converts. In that meeting I had two recent converts in the Hendricks Ward, Solomon Deng and Jim Colney, be sustained by the stake to be ordained to the office of Elder. Solomon wasn’t able to be there that day but Jim was, and my old Bishop was so kind to think of me that after the meeting he went and found me so that I could help with Jim’s ordination. I had no idea that I was going to be able to have that opportunity, but it was definitely a very special moment for me. God has been so good and to give me many tender experiences this week and I know that he loves me very much. It never ceases to amaze me how personal of a relationship that we can have with our Heavenly Father. My mother pointed out in a letter a couple weeks ago that God will bless us very specifically and personally if we are ready to receive those blessings and I can testify that this is true!

I hope everyone of you can look for ways that the lord has specifically blessed you this week and make sure to give him thanks for those blessings!

I love y’all! Have a wonderful week!

Elder Joshua Cordon

Meetings Galore!

Dear Family and Friends,

This last week was a bit crazy!! We had 3 zone conferences which are about 10 hours each, then we had a meeting with elder Suarez of the presidency of the seventy on Friday. After a week of that many meetings my brain was fried. I definitely know how a lot of ways that I can begin to change and improve for the better.

It was a really awesome experience being able to spend some time with Elder Suarez. We picked him up from the hotel and took him to the mission home which is about a 25 minutes away, so it afforded us some good opportunity to chat. He knows a Br Cordon who was a mission president in Brazil who lives in bountiful now. Sadly I have never met him but I said he was undoubtedly kin.

He met with us after our general meeting with him and he gave us some good council and commandments, it was stuff I really needed to hear. We left that day with an unconquerable spirit. The very next day we set a date for baptism on the 22nd of this month. Her name is Kristin. Her twin sister was baptized earlier his year. Her twins boyfriend goes to our ward so she started going recently. She is very excited and so are we. There is a new spirit about our work, and I can’t wait to see where we take things.

Love yall!

Elder Joshua Cordon

I Am A Child Of God

Dear Family and Friends,

Transfers has come and gone and thankfully Elder Layton and I are still working together. He is now officially the companion that I have served with the longest. We will have been together 6 months by the end of this transfer. Like always this week has afforded me an interesting time of reflection and contemplation. Spending time with missionaries on their first day and on their last day caused me to think about how far I have come and where I am going. It makes me so happy to see how the mission has made an impact on my life so far. I am not sure if there is any other way to learn so many life experiences so intensely in such a short time. I am grateful to God for everyday that he has given me to serve. Luckily for me I still have plenty of time to learn and become a better man.

I Am A Child of God, the classic primary song in the church, took on an entirely new meaning for me this morning. It was interesting how everything came full circle. It always does. Wednesday night I was at the mission home waiting for some missionaries to finish getting their final interview with President Craig. Among those missionaries are a handful that are very talented musically. Sister Heckel, Sister Dodd, and Elder Sorenson, received a request from Sister Craig to sing one more song accompanied with the piano before they left for the night. The hymn they chose just so happened to be I Am A Child of God. My initial thought when that was suggested was, “come on, that is a boring one, choose something else.” However, as they sang, they did a beautiful rendition that really brought a heavy spirit into the room and was very enjoyable. At the time, aside from being wrong about that song being boring, I really thought nothing more of it.

On Saturday we helped an investigator of ours, his name is Tom, he is the one that came into contact with the church via the app, Hanging With Friends. He is very busy and it has been difficult to sit down with him. In fact we only have once since the initial lesson, but we have maintained great contact through calling and text. He told us that he was going to busy this weekend moving some things and condensing two storage sheds that are across town from each into one. We saw it as a great opportunity to serve and quickly jumped on the opportunity. It surprised him at first but he let us help. Because our mini van can hold so much we ended up saving him two trips and we were able to do it in one. Afterwards we got lunch together and it became a very powerful lesson. In an attempt to help him and his girlfriend, Cathy, see why knowing about the pre–mortal life is so important for them I realized in a powerful and new way why it is so important to me. Tom is a man who puts family first, he does not hesitate to skip his breaks so he can make it to his sons baseball games and go on scout camps with him. He learned to put family though through the school of life experience. On the other hand I contrasted that with the fact that I am only 20 years old and I have not had the amount of life experience that he has but I have known my whole life that family is a priority and it deserves our time. I have known that I know it now because I understand where I am came from and why God sent me here. Knowing that I am a Child of God has helped me see what is most important in life. I am not perfect by any means, but I know who I am and where I am headed.

The next day on Sunday we were teaching Ty, and he is someone who is struggling to overcome the effects of his past mistakes and other things that continue to hold him captive. We helped him see that God is our loving Heavenly Father, and that he gives us commandments to help us know what we can do to be happy, and that because we are children of God and because of Jesus Christ we are capable of living every single commandment that God has given us. Even though we are weak we have the potential and capability of overcoming everything that holds us captive. Because of Jesus Christ even the grave cannot hold us captive.

Finally this morning I was listening to a talk by Henry Eyring that he gave in 1988 at Ricks College. He talked about the power of knowing and believing the song I Am A Child of God. He talked about how it speaks of our potential. A child has the potential to become like its parent. Since that happens to be God our potential is literally limitless, we should never let anyone tell us that we cannot do something. Secondly he talked about how we are still yet children and that we need to be humble and wiling to learn the way that children are willing to learn. As people grow older they seem to think that people younger than them cannot teach them anything, but we are all children and we all have plenty of lessons to learn from one another. And thirdly, because we are Children of God we have the divine help of the Holy Ghost and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Knowing that enables us and helps us know that no matter how many mistakes we have made we are still capable of reaching the potential that is part of our nature. I coupled that with studying the life and atonement of Jesus Christ this morning and it was a very powerful experience.

I want to bear my testimony that I am a Child of God. I know that he has sent me here. I know that family is of God and that parents our a gift from God. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and redeemer and that will help me through every step of this mortal existance. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and the gospel has been restored through him. I say all these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I love Y’all!

Elder Joshua Cordon