Good Times in the Neighborhood

Dear Family and Friends,

It is such a good day to be alive. I am not ignorant to the chaos around us this world–not the least of which is the current development in Missouri– when I say that. To be completely honest, none of the craziness really matters at all. It doesn’t matter because it has absolutely no relevance to my personal happiness. I am either at peace or not independent of the rest of this world. The reason I teach the gospel is because of that fact. I know that anybody, regardless of their circumstances, will be made happier by living the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that because it is the only source of true and lasting happiness. Every person who is happy to any degree receives that happiness from living some portion of the gospel. Missionaries are out in the world teaching people the rest of the gospel they have not received. I honestly have the best job in the world. I am a full-time spreader of happiness!

While it is nice that I know that though, a lot of people do not know that that is why we are knocking on their door. On Saturday we went to go see a lady who we helped move in a couple of weeks back. When she opened her door she immediately tried to nicely tell us to leave by saying that she just moved in and is still in the middle of unpacking. Clearly she didnt recognize us in a shirt and tie. We just replied to her by just saying “ya we know!” All of a sudden she remembered who we were and it was a night and day difference. She immediately invited us in and introduced us to her brother-in-law. We chatted with them for a bit and set up a time to come back another time. They are such wonderful people! I learned something in a more profound way during that experience. Most people are wonderful people who are a lot of fun to be with! Most people see us as two shirts and ties standing our their doorstep rather than two people who want nothing to do but serve them in any way. And if most people knew who we really are they would be really excited to see us standing on their doorstep, just like this lady. Just another example of the obvious difficulties of knocking-doors. Yet despite all of that miracles still happen from knocking doors.

I wonderful experience I had this last week was that I was able to go back to Lake City to do an exchange with the Elders there. It was so strange to be back in the old stomping ground. Everywhere we drove I gave them referrals for different people that may be ready to hear the message now. The best part of it all was that I got to see one of my most favorite people in the world, Stefan! It was a last minute meeting that happened at the burger king. A lot has happened since I last saw him. I wondered if he was going to be the way I remembered him. It was such a sweet reunion though. Being able to see him again has been one of the greatest blessings. I made him a scripture case out of paracord that i have been meaning to give him for over 8 months now, so I was able to give that to him, and best of all I was able to introduce him to the elder that serves in that area and they will probably be able to start teaching him again.

Another miracle had was that on Saturday I felt very impressed to put a particular less active at a certain time on Saturday. I was a surprisingly strong impression. So of course I listened. As we were heading to go and contact that less active we passed a lady on the side of the road who was walking with her son. They were about 20 yards ahead of their little car that had just ran out of gas. We were able to help her out and get acquainted with her as well! Not only did we save her a few hours of her day that she would have spent walking to her home and then to a gas station, but we were able to brighten her day. A teaching opportunity may even come from this. I love serving others! It fills you with the love of God so quickly, it is unreal!

The experiences of this past week have taught me many things. One powerful lesson that was reiterated was that God has great timing! I know without a doubt that God has placed certain people in our lives at certain moments in order to give us the perfect opportunity to become who we were meant to become. I know that if we trust God and just embrace all the wonderful people who cross out path and strengthen the relationships we have already been given that we will find ourselves not only becoming the people God wants us to be, but also finding our lives becoming increasingly enriched by an abundance of cherished relationships. I know what God meant more than ever when he said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love your neighbor. Truly that is all that matters!

That being said, I love y’all!! Have a great week!!

Elder Joshua Cordon

Reflections of a Missionary, and the Wisdom of an Apostle.

Dear Family and Friends,

This week was full of much reflection. I got to once again spend time with some brand new missionaries fresh off the plane, and then the day following I spent the day with some missionaries who had completed their two years/eighteen months. With the first I reflected on where I was at the beginning and how far I have come, and with the ones going home I pondered upon how I want to feel the last day of my mission. Both we were wonderful experiences! :) But the following experience tops them.

If I could only find the words to tell you how I feel. At the very least, just take my word that it was one of the most spiritual opportunities of my mission. It was also spontaneous more or less, it wasn’t going to happen until President worked his magic, or rather, the spirit worked some magic through him. We were blessed to have a two hour meeting yesterday, in which President and Sister Craig both spoke, and then Elder Kacher of the Seventy, and finally Elder D. Todd Christofferson from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The talks given were very inspirational! And they were followed by a 1 hour Q&A with Elder Christofferson. Due to the fact that I could in no way do justice in repeating what was said, I will not say much about what they talked about. What I will say is this, I saw the spirit work through that special servant of God as he paused mid sentence and proceeded to tell the many missionaries in that room exactly what they needed to hear. I don’t know if anyone at that time comprehended the impact of his words, but God knows and He knows that that was the reason he felt that he needed to visit us that Sabbath day. I am more aware than ever before that God is knows what we are going through and that he does in fact love us beyond comprehension.

I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. I know that the grace of God is active in our lives and is always available to us regardless of who we are. I know that in comparison to what God will make of us, we will find that we have accomplished but very little at the end of our lives if we try to make it through on our own. I know that God’s way is always the road to true happiness, and that no matter our circumstances, living the gospel will give us a better life than the best the world has to offer. I know these things independent of anyone else. I know these things because I have a personal relationship with my Father in Heaven. I pray to him many times a day and he does respond. I know these things to be true and I say them in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I love Y’all!
Elder Joshua Cordon

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Sunday Blessings

Dear Family and Friends,

I had the blessed opportunity of going to the Orlando Temple last week!! Nothing is quite as rejuvenating as a trip to the temple! I am grateful that God has provided a way for me to still maintain temple attendance despite my circumstances. We had a Q&A with the Temple President afterwards, and the only question I had afterwards was how do i ask a question that is worth asking haha.

After some long time of contemplation I believe I have arrived on some answers to that questions which ironically in this case is more questions :)

We were blessed immensely this past week! We had some powerful lessons Saturday night with some of our awesome investigators. One of them is a man named Madison. He is very thoughtful man. He was taught several months back but never progressed. Something changed in his life though and he was so ready to listen and to act. We taught him about humility and the importance of a having a strong relationship with God. Near the end of the lesson he just stopped us mid sentence and said, where is your church at? I need to go to church tomorrow. Sunday morning I got to see his smiling face come walking in the door with his girlfriend right behind him! It was so beautiful to see. God definitely provided.

On that same note of miracles. We are teaching a brother and sister, Shauna & Christian. We just started teaching them a week ago and they wanted to come to church yesterday. Shauna texted us at 8 in the morning though and said that she got called into work and wont be able to make it. We were rather disappointed to hear that, but we were at peace for some reason. Shortly after the meeting started we were surprised to see both of them walk in the door and grab a seat on the back row. I was so happy to see them there!! The ward just wrapped their arms around them and made them feel so welcome. We talked to Shauna after sacrament and she said that when she got to work she still wanted to come to church so she got someone to cover her shift so she could come. I know God will bless them for their faithfulness!

There is no greater work than this! I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!

Love
Elder Joshua Cordon

Slightly Scatter-Brained

Dear Family and Friends,

So much happened this past week!! Where do I even begin…

Well I learned a lot of valuable lessons like always. I am learning to love the way that God works with me. I’ll compare that to working out–which I do frequently because the gospel is very easily comparable to working out. If your arms are weak, then you focus on your arms during a workout session; however, when you are working your arms for that moment you may be neglecting your legs. Now here is where perspective comes into play, I could be frustrated that at any given moment I never have balance because I am always neglecting some muscle group, or I could be at peace because looking at the bigger picture I know that after a weeks time I have worked every muscle group and in the end I am always achieving balance as long as I stick to the workout routine. The lesson I am hoping to teach from that is that as long as you are consistently working at improving you will maintain a balanced life even if it doesn’t seem that way. The trick to being able to see it comes by maintaining an eternal perspective by keeping your eye on your future potential, just as someone who begins a serious workout routine keeps their motivation by seeing what they want to begin.

Anyway enough of those work out metaphors.

This past week was fairly eventful! I was able to go to the part of Jacksonville known by the locals as “Sin City” and do some work with one of the Elders there, which was an interesting experience. I forgot how many strange people reside in the ghetto. Those people are thinking on a whole other wavelength than the middle class people i teach. I am starting to think that class structure is far more based on mindset rather than opportunity.

The next day I worked my own area with an Elder who knew my room-mate in college before the mission. It is such a small world! We had some awesome success that day! We had the blessing of teaching one of the most prepared people ever! His name is Willy. He is retired army and 100% self-motivated. Before we even taught him the word of wisdom he had begun quitting cigarettes and even called the number to the addiction recovery group in the sacrament meeting program to set up a meeting. It has been such a blessing. He is scheduled to get baptized on 6th of september because that is when his wife will be in town. Yesterday at church he brought his friend Joe who he has been teaching the gospel too at work! In class he was bearing testimony of his conversion! It was so awesome!

Another great thing we did was Saturday morning we went and cleaned up the backyard of the mother of a recent convert in the ward. It was nice to get my hands dirty, it reminded of all those days in New York I spent doing landscaping. We cut down a few trees, trimmed the bushes and raked leaves. It was an amazing transformation!

Anyhow… that was my week!

I love y’all!

Elder Joshua Cordon

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I decided my desk could pass for an I-Spy game. I took the picture though because it contained so many telling elements. That I thought were notables can you find them? (By the way, the only stage item is my name tag)

Just Do It!

Dear Family and Friends,

This past week was a rather exciting one! We got the privilege of going to Gainesville to do an exchange with some elders there. For morning exercise we ran bleachers at the UF stadium known as “The Swamp.” Not gonna lie, I almost threw up. After racing the other elders up the entire bleachers I was finished. My legs were wobbling for the next hour. It was a pretty fun little trip. We took some bikes there for some sisters too who had ordered them, and put them together for them before dropping it off at there place. During all the road-tripping I kept my hands busy by working on making a satchel out of paracord. I am making up the design as I go and beside a few hick-ups it is coming along rather nicely. Stay tuned for the final product.

I don’t have much time, but I want to share a wonderful lesson that I learned this week. I will call it the principle of “Just Do It.” I am amazed at the false philosophy taught by the world that we are a product of our environment. It never ceases to amaze how prevalent this way of thinking is in modern thinking. However, to show the world that this is not true, I will share a simple example of how I applied this principle.

While I do consider myself to be a fairly positive person that does not change the fact that in the world we live in, it is very easy to be negative. All it take is to watch the news for a week and you have enough material to be negative about politics, the economy, religion, and society for a month! Sadly many people get caught up in all that. Even in missionary work, while we are surrounded by endless miracles, and endless reasons to praise God and be grateful, there is also negative. Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated at the sight of some missionaries who I know have the potential to be so much more than they are, yet they chose to live far below their privileges. Such were the feelings that enveloped my heart and mind for a middle part of the week last week, which culminated in a vent session that left me emotionally and spiritually drained. It was at that point that I realized that I am benefited in no way by endlessly speaking of negative things. My companion and I made a pack that we would be the most positive set of people in any given room at any given time, mostly because God has given us every reason to be. Just like that, in a brief moment, I as a person changed. It wasn’t too dramatic, but it was enough to dramatically change my outlook on life.

From this simple example I learned a few lesson that I hope to share with you at this time. The first is this, that at any given moment in your life, you are presented the opportunity because of our Savior Jesus Christ to change. You can this very instance decided to be a better person. The only thing stopping you is yourself. The second lesson I learned or relearned rather, was to be grateful for the fact that God lets us fail. He let me slip and fall onto that negative slippery slop for a day, allowing me the opportunity to learn a valuable life lesson. I am grateful that God managed to teach me that powerful lesson in such a short time because as far as I know I am not suffering any lasting consequences from that day haha.

I will conclude my letter with my testimony which is embodied in a scripture from the Book of Mormon. “… And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.” (1 Nephi 16:29) I love this work and I love my God. I am grateful the small moments of weakness in my life that allow me the opportunity to learn valuable life lessons. That all of you will take advantage of those same opportunities is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I love Ya’ll!! Have a blessed week!

Elder Joshua Cordon

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Catch A Vision! A Day of White!

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow… What a week! How is it that things just get better and better? Will it ever stop? Well, according to my belief in progression, nope! Oh how miserable life would be without that knowledge. To literally think that what you have is as good as it gets.

The truth is this, we can always have better, be better, and do better. Our work is never done. Even when we die someday, thanks to Christ, we will still continue to grow and learn if we so desire.

This is essentially the message that I try my best to share with non-members, members, and missionaries. It is a process, but the first step is to help create in them a vision of the future they would like to realize. Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision the people perish.” To create a vision you need to open your mind to the possibilities of what can be, or in other words, you need to raise your expectations. In this vision creating process you should include our loving Heavenly Father. He knows far better than us what we can become and what potential we have. If we heed the promptings of his spirit he will help us raise our expectations. A man may accomplish much in life, but if they do not include God in the creation of their vision they will find at the end of their life that they have still fallen far short of what they could have accomplished in that time. God can make a lot more out of my life than I can. I know from personal experience that that is true.

Once we have grabbed hold of an inspired vision we need find out what it will take to realize that vision. Where are we falling short? As you ponder and discuss what it will take, you need to make goals. You should make enough goals so that if you were to reach all of your goals then you would find yourself reaching your vision.

And then finally the part that I believe is most crucial is the plans. Weston told me in an email a while back the following quote, “A vision without plans is just a dream, and plans without vision is but a nightmare.” We should make detailed plans for how we will accomplish every single goal. Once again, let the spirit of God be present during this process for he will guide you in every step as you make these plans. God knows all things and as we listen to his spirit we may make provision for things we have never considered. Excellence is in the details! So many people in this world have done the first two steps of creating vision and goals, but they never go as far as making specific plans. It is of no surprise to me that these people never reach that original vision they have established for themselves. Plans translate into action! Plans are what allow us to go and make it happen! Plans are what separates the dreamer from the achiever.

But anyway that is what has been on my mind lately.

On to the miracles!! We had a baptism this last Saturday! It was probably the most spiritual baptism I have ever attended. The feelings of love and kindness that where in the air where so thick and tangible that you could cut it with a knife. We had terrific support from the ward and everything could not have gone smoother. We combined our baptism with the sisters missionaries. They had a family of 5 getting baptized and we had the incredible Tara. Just simply recollecting the event has filled my soul with a burning joy that is coursing through my veins. This is what is all about; seeing the change that people have undergone over a life time to be ready for this moment only to begin their new journey of growth in the love and warmth of the family of Christ. On top of that, to see a family baptized and united together in their faith is something truly special. That is one whole family that will be able to be together forever now! This gospel is so good!

A quick note on Tara. She is one of the most amazing women that I have ever met. Her love and appreciation for this knowledge and spirit is unlike anyone I have ever met. Being around her honestly make me question whether or not I fully appreciate as I should the blessing of having the gospel in my life. She has a light about her that brings joy into the hearts of all who interact with her. This ward must be doing something right to be able to receive in its midst such a choice spirit. I still haven’t figured out what it was that I did to deserve the blessing of being her conversion story. I am excited to see what she is able to do from here.

I hope all of you will be able to reach your own potentials by constantly using the process of vision, goals, and PLANS. If you can master that process you will truly be able to experience constant and lively joy in your life. The very joy that I experienced at that baptism, which happened through the very process that I described. GO THE DISTANCE!!

I love y’all! Have a great week!!

Elder Joshua Cordon

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In The World but Not Of the World!!

Dear Family and Friends,

So much happens every week that I never know what to tell you… I guess I will start with the 4th of July!

After a wonderful ward breakfast and flag raising–which included a hilarious little bike parade of all the kids– are day went on as normal. We got a lunch with a recent convert and had a good lesson to ease some of her concerns that she has been having. She has every reason to be happy, yet she wont let herself because of things in the past. I fear that what she is experiencing is far too common in this church. We found a sort of secluded picnic table and gave her a blessing. I am personally not a fan of public blessings, but when someone needs one then they get one. It was a really powerful blessing, and she has been at ease and smiling ever since. I have gained such a huge testimony of priesthood blessings. I know from personal experience on my mission that they indeed save lives! God is ever mindful of us and that is one way that he shows his love.

That night for the fourth of July we got two zones of the mission together and blitzed this huge event they have downtown on the river. Thousands of people go for a carnival like event and to watch the fireworks that they shoot out over the river. Our zone covered the North Side and the other the South. I drove a 12 passenger van full of sisters and headed the convoy of 5 vehicles down to our rally point. From there we rode the monorail to the other side of the river we were divided into our respective areas. Only us and the sister training coordinators were in the alcohol section. In contrast to missionary life it was like Sodom and Gommorrah, though in worlds standards it probably wasnt that bad. The goal of all the missionaries was consistent with our sacred calling, find those who are ready to receive the restored gospel. In the first hour we met probably 15 less-active members there. The would come up to us and squint at our tag and be like, “ELDERS!! Hey I am a member!… I haven’t been in a while, but I respect you a lot for what you do and I am thankful for you!” It was a pretty neat experience! Less-active and active, there are just so many wonderful members of this church!! We just need them all to come regularly and bless us with there love.

As the night rolled on people become more and more tipsy and the contacting a lot more difficult, so we changed our strategy. We started taking pictures with people to test the water of whether or not they were sober enough to carry a conversation, and then if they seemed interested we would get their facebook information. That was surprisingly successful. At the end of the night we realized we had handed out over 100 pass along cards and gathered a bunch of names for the local missionaries to teach. We were also very surprised at how receptive the general populace was to us. We would walk by people and hear them say to their friends, “those men are preaching the word.” Haha you better believe it! We finally got out of there as the fireworks started going so that we could be first to the cars so that sisters wouldn’t be waiting by themselves in a dark parking lot. We opened all the doors on the mini van and blasted the mo-tab to bring a peaceful spirit into the evening. The music combined with the events of the evening left everyone smiling as the approached the vehicles at the end of the night. I learned in a powerfully dramatic way that one can be in the world, but not of the world. I was quite surprised at my ability to maintain wholesome thoughts and keep the spirit with me despite the environment I was in.

So there is my story for the week!

I love y’all! Have a great week!

Elder Joshua Cordon

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How Great Shall Be Your Joy D&C 18:15-16

Dear Family and Friends,

As with all transfers, there are missionaries entering into the mission field and some headed home leaving two years behind them and taking a lifetime of experience with them. It gives you a chance to ponder and reflect as you see contrasting differences between the two groups.

Considering where I was at a little over a year ago when I stepped off the plane into the mission field in comparison to now, it caused me to throw my arm over the shoulder of some of those elders that looked more afraid then the others and tell them that there is no reason to be worried or afraid because you will soon come to find that if you put your trust in God, then despite anything that happens all things will work out for the best. For much of my mission so far I feel as if I have been carried on the wings of  angels from one challenge to the next. I felt the love of God so profoundly in my life that any fear that was there was burned out like the refiners fire. We told those missionaries that if they were obedient and followed the inspired counsel of their leaders than they would also have no reason to fear, and that god would make them into great leaders and teachers. It helped a little, but to be honest, a testimony of something like that will only come from living it.

At the transfer meeting the departing missionaries shared their final testimonies. It is interesting to see what each one has made of themselves over the past two years. Having worked around most of the elders, I knew which was ones were more diligent and which ones were not. Which ones lost themselves in the work and which ones merely did their time. The difference in the spirit that was brought by their testimonies was profound. While the words and the sentiments they shared were similar I could tell that the power of one was far greater than the power of another. I made a commitment right than and there that I would never quite improving and growing. That I would be fully engaged in the Lord’s work not only for every moment of my entire mission, but for the rest of my life. While it is true that the nature of the work changes quite dramatically when I eventually return home, but the spirit should not change. I am excited to see what I can make of myself for this second year of my mission. In the mean time I will just take it one week at a time.

I do want to take a quick moment and share how the lord has blessed us this week. We have been blessed beyond imagination this past week! Every time the knuckle hits the wood a miracles presents itself. We were able to find so many prepared people this past week! It seemed as if every single day we had someone come out of the wood work for us to teach. The lord is taking good care of us. One continuous miracle would be Tara. Teaching her is like teaching Jim if you remember me mentioning him. She is just beyond ready. We taught her the word of wisdom this week and she told us that she already knew it was a commandment and that she knew we were going to teach it to her, so she started cutting down the coffee already! Need I say more?! She makes it so easy. She came to church again and the whole ward just wrapped their arms around her–Literally and socially. She also is very much committed to her date of July 13th.

In other great news, Lilly finally entered the waters of baptism this past Wednesday. While it was hard that I was unable to attend, it brings joy to my heart that someone i had worked with for so long has finally made that step. To add even more to my joy, I was able to witness Alfred get baptized on Sunday. It was one of the best baptismal services i have ever attended because the love in the room was tangible. With being able to see so many people I have come to love and also being able to have Tara come and watch it as well, I thought I was going to lose strength like Ammon in Alma 26 from an overabundance of joy! I have a testimony that true and lasting joy only comes through living the gospel and being engaged in this work! I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

I love y’all!

Elder Joshua Cordon

P.S. 15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! 
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (D&C 18)