Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post Phone Call

Dear Family,

           It was so wonderful to speak with all of you!!! I really
enjoyed hearing the questions and telling you how my mission is going.
 It felt like the time went by in 5 minutes but I still enjoyed it and
appreciated getting to talk to all of you and know you are still doing
well.  It sounds like you all had a merry Christmas and that you had a
lot of missionary opportunities!

          Yesterday (the 26th) we had a lesson with two of our
investigators named Claudia and Roberto.  They have been taught for a
year which is kind of a long time but it was our first lesson with
them.  We followed the Spirit and changed the plans a little bit and
talked about how the Spirit answers and how they have already recieved
an answer that they need to be baptized.  They have fear though of all
their Catholic family not approving the decision.  We are praying for
them and they will be baptized soon I'm sure because they can feel the
Spirit but just need to act now.

            Elder Worthen and I still get along well and enjoy working
hard and teaching and finding everyone we can.  It is fun training and
sometimes a challenge but overall just a great learning and building
experience for us both.

            I don't have to much to say this week since we just talked
and all but I love you all so much!  I miss you all and I love being
here in Fresno serving the Lord.  It really does make me happy and I
know that this work will make others even happier than the way I feel
because it is true and I know that.  I hope you all can continue with
these missionary experiences and becoming closer to Christ yourselves.
 We must be converted first before the conversion of someone else.  I
am so glad for all of your examples to me and the love you all show me
and prayers you offer.  You are really thet best family an Elder can
ask for!  I love you all so much!!

-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Upcoming Christmas Call

Dear family,

So first and foremost we had a baptism this past week and I will be printing pictures today and sending them home as well as our Christmas card from the missionaries in the ward we are serving in. The young man who was baptized is named Alan Garcia and he is 18 years old and so awesome! His dad baptized him and it was a super spiritual experience. He is teaching his girlfriend with us and is talking about his mission and baptizing his sisters and serving the sacrament. He is amazing and the Holy Ghost and this message of the true Gospel on the earth has changed him. This work even though difficult, is more than worth every single minute and I love it. About the call this Sunday!!!! There will NOT be any pre-call on Saturday but on Sunday YOU WILL CALL ME at 4pm your time. Don't worry if you are a little late or don't get a hold of me right away. These are our plans but if something goes wrong, don't lose it or panic or anything like that. We will get to talk no matter what. 

I can't wait to talk to you all!! I love you so much and am looking forward to it but I am not losing a focus on why I am here or what I need to be doing. I love you all a ton. Today (Tuesday) was my preparation day because we got to go to the Temple today and it was fantastic. I love getting to go there and feeling the Spirit because it is not quite the same anywhere else. This Christmas Eve we get to watch a movie and we will be watching Tangled. Then we are going to a family's house for dinner and they will be having a big party there. To answer your question Dad if it is different, Mexican people only really celebrate the 24th and it is litterally an all day party of food, family, and presents(probably in that order haha, I am kidding). But there is a lot of food. Then on the 25th they just relax and don't do anything than just eat left over food and stuff like that. !!!!!! Dad if you could tell Ruth your daughter, my sister, that I got her letter and am sending her response back today. It will be there before Christmas.!!!!!!!! That is pretty much it from here in Fresno. I miss you all a ton and I know that this is where I need to be. I love being a missionary so much.

When I first got here I worked hard but I didn't really love it haha but for the last few months and now I can truly say that I LOVE my mission and more importantly love the Lord and love sharing that fact that anyone and everyone can and needs to use His sacrifice to be clean and happy for ever and ever. I know we will be together forever with out a doubt in my mind. We must be faithful to our covenants and we will always be a family. I know this is true just as we are living. I am so thankful for all the gifts I got from everone (haven't openned them yet) and more importantly all the love and the example that you all are to me. I love each of you and think and pray for each of you individually daily because you have all done so much for me and I want you to know that. I love you and can't say it enough. Merry Christmas to all of you!! Remember and be as the Savior is and wants you to be. -

Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

PS I have noted now the spelling of Bishopric hahaha. My spelling is AWFUL since learning Spanish and I don't know why haha. LOVE YOU!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas is Coming...

Dear family,
       It is great to hear everyone is doing so well and that everyone is getting prepared for Christmas.  Here in Fresno we have all our plans pretty much set up and it looks like we are going to have a great Christmas.  The work in this area is going really well and we love the work here.  Dad as for Christmas Eve I do not know when we are going to call but I will let you know as soon as I know.  Just keep your phone with you that day and if you don't pick up when I call you I will try ever couple hours to get you again so don't worry if you miss it or something.  The Lord will make sure we figure it out.  By the way did you know that Mexican people don't even really celebrate the 25th but the 24th is the holiday for them.  They all get together and have a huge dinner and open presents and stay up all night and then the 25th they just relax and eat left overs from the day before haha.  So we look forward to just relaxing a little on our Christmas and eating and talking.

         I really enjoy being a trainer and working with Elder Worthen.  He is a great missionary and we work hard and the Lord blesses this area we are in a TON.  We see miracles every day and it is awesome.  The Church is so true that sometimes I wonder why everyone is not jumping in the water and staying completely active forever.  Sure it is hard but there really is nothing like the Holy Ghost and feeling a calm assurance that everything will be ok through faith and obedience.  I love being a missionary and I know it has changed me and I know will continue to change me.  Not in a bad or weird way but I know I am closer to my older brother Jesus Christ and my Father in heaven.  I realized that to be a good missionary I must change because that is what I teach people: change.  None of us are perfect and we must all change and my mission especially must be a "point of no return" or my "Ebenezer".

             I love you all so much and know that you are all doing great and doing great missionary work and it makes me so proud and it sets such a good example for me to work hard and do the best I can every day.  Love your missionaries.  I hope all is well and keep you in my prayers.  Sarah I got your letter and Christmas card and it was wonderful!!  I also have 3 packages on the way so I am excited about that.  Mom and Dad I look forward to your Christmas card and my pictures have been sent so they should be there today or tomorrow if not already.  I get to go to the temple on Tuesday the 20th so I am excited for that and it is really cool Uncle Keith that you are doing sessions in Spanish and you better brush up if you are rusty cause we are speaking when I get home!  The work is good and so is the food.  You are all in my prayers and I love you all so much!  Thank you for all you do and all the prayers my way.  JoAnna I hope you can go get some other deer then and that you have a great Christmas with your family.  Tell Ryan I say hi and I love him and ton and he better be going to church!
  -Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Monday, December 5, 2011

Steven "the Trainer"

Dear Family,
       Things in Fresno are great.  We are really starting to get the hang of our new area and we see a lot of potential here.  The people are wonderful and more humble on this side of Fresno.  My new companion's name is Elder Worthen and he is 23 and from Idaho.  He is a wonderful missionary and is very humble and wants to work hard and be obedient.  He played football in high school and he was his schools starting center.  We get along great and we are working hard every day and seeing many miracles daily.  The Lord blesses us and we just need to let Him and recognize when He is.

           I am sorry you are all still waiting on the pictures.  I got them developed and they will be sent today.  I got them last week but had no stamps or envelopes to send them in.  But Elder Worthen said he would lend me some so they will be there with in the week.  Also if you would like to send me stamps and envelopes that would be a great gift for Christmas.  Also if any family members (like Sarah/Olivia and others) who have asked what I want for Christmas, stamps, envelopes, a cheap tie, candy, maybe a new wallet from one person not 10 haha.  Any of those would be great but what ever you send will always be much appreciated, oh and pens are good too haha.

     Get that Christmas tree up and nice and pretty.  We have one that is a foot tall and silver with pink ornaments.  It is great.  I think Sisters were here before us haha.  But all is well and I love you all and miss you a ton.  We will make a Christmas card soon too and send it home.  Also I got the Thanksgiving card with the money and stuff and it was great! thanks a ton and I love you so much and think and pray for you all daily.
-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley
PS it is hard to spell well in english now because of learning spanish.  Sorry! Love you!!!!!!!!!!!!

Teresa DOES get baptized :)

Dear family,
           Things in Fresno are going really well.  I am super excited for the months to come because of some changes.  This transfer I am a Trainer and I get my Trainee this Thursday.  I am staying in the same ward but the boundaries are cut into 2 areas, East and West.  I have been working in East since I started my mission and now I will be training in the West area of the same ward.  Also now they have it where you train your Trainee for 2 tranfers instead of just one so I will be here for about 3 more months atleast.  I am super excited because I love this ward and am happy to be here for Christmas.  They all are very helpful and I have all their trust so it will be great training here.  Also our second counselor of the Bishopwrick is taking all 4 missionaries to Yosemite National Park when it snows so I will send pictures of that too.  It is just a little chilly here in Fresno but never really like winter.  We won't see snow at any point except in the mountains but we don't work up there.  It gets kind of foggy and that is as close to snow as it gets here.  Today I sent about 30 pictures home so they will be there within the week.  Sorry it took so long.  This next transfer we get to go to the Temple too so I am SUPER excited about that!  We can only go every 4 and a half months so you start to miss the Spirit there.

                Teresa the younger haha did get baptized last Wednesday after her Mom and brother got baptized that Sunday previous.  I baptized the 10 year old boy, Daniel and then all three were confirmed on Sunday and I confirmed Daniel, it was an awesome experience, all in Spanish.  Grandma to answer your question there is a 4th member of the family who is a 17 year old foster child named Angela.  The Dad of the family lives in Wisconsin because they are separated but not divorced.  With Angela we are teaching her and plan on setting a baptismal date with her tonight.  She always comes to Churhc with the family and loves Mutual every week and has tons of friends in the church so she will be baptized in the coming weeks!

               I don't know if you remember Sixto either but he is finally moving out of his crazy 8 man apartment and will be living by himself so he will easily be able to stop drinking.  We plan on his baptism sometime this month as well.

              I wrote letters to the younger brothers and sisters that wrote me and am working on writing the rest so just hold on and I promise they will get there.  Sorry I am not as good at writing back as I should be so forgive me and I will do better.  I am glad to hear that the family got to go home and be with each other.  That must have been really nice.  I missed you all too but we had a great dinner for Thanksgiving and we got to watch a movie called 17 miracles about the Willie Handcart Company.  You should all watch it cause it is really good and really brings the Spirit in strongly.  I thank you all so much for your emails and love to read them every week.  Also thank you a ton just for all the love and support you give me and the prayers that you offer for me and the work here in Fresno and these specific investigators.  Your the best family an Elder could ask for!  I love you all and always keep you in my prayers.  Also I am glad you got a system for family scripture study cause that will be such a blessing to do.  


Thanksgiving in Fresno

Dear family,

          Things in Fresno are going really well.  I promise that there will be pictures by next week, please don't disown me.  Also I figured as much about the P-coat haha so don't worry about it if it is a hassle.  I am glad to hear you are doing good missionary work, ask Heavenly Father in all of your prayers to bless you with missionary opportunities.  He will put those who are prepared in your way you just need to have the Spirit to act with in the moment it happens.  When we have the Spirit and we follow the Spirit, we need not fear because it is at that point that God is acting through us and we don't need to worry about messing up cause it is Him speaking.

          I am sad to hear about Barbara Edwards though.  I hope she is doing better but it is sad to hear that she is out of church because she is such an awesome lady.  That is also very awesome that you will all be having over some investigators for dinner on Thanksgiving because you cannot believe how important members are and the frienship you can provide for these people who don't really know at all the path they are going down, they just know it is good.

           That is also great to hear that everyone is doing well in Basketball and that Alex made the team and is progressing so much in Church and behavior and everything.  I love our family so much and I miss you all but I know that this work is so important and honestly I can see the changes and blessings in our family.

          For Thanksgiving we will be going over a white family's house that go to our ward.  The dad served in Guatamala and is the 1st counselor in the Bishopwrick and he has never had us over for dinner so he invited us for Thanksgiving and I am really excited.  We also have the Turkey bowl that morning and it will be great I am sure.  Mexican people do eat turkey but definitely prefer chicken over turkey.  It is not their favorite.  I feel like my spanish is pretty good and that I am comfortable talking with anyone about different subjects.  Definitely it is not perfect but President Gelwix asked me the other day if my spanish was good enough that I could train a missionary and I confidently answered "Si".  Also a side note we do call home on Christmas Day but I will call home on Christmas Eve just for 2 minutes and we will set up what time on Christmas Day we will actually talk so just be ready for that and me and you (Dad) will set up that time.  Tell Olivia that I will write her as well as Alex and Eleanor and everyone else that has been writing me.  But my favorite thing I guess is when some one is getting baptized and I picture them in the Temple one year from that day being sealed for time and eternity to their family who they love so dearly.  It is sad to think that some people won't be able to live with their family as a family forever but it makes it that much more of an over whelming joy that we have the oppurtunity to do so.  I love our family and that is the happiest and best part of this Gospel for me is that we will all be together and giving that to others is the best.   I love a lot of other things, a lot, but that is my favorite.

             The Romero family did get baptized, except for the 8 year old daughter Teresa.  It is really sad for me to think about but it will be ok.  She was in her white jump suit and when she was in the locker room she cried and said she couldn't do it.  There were a lot of people and I think that is what set off her fear because she is VERY shy.  So she said she wants to be baptized but yesterday the 20th was just not the day she was ready for it.  It is was amazing though to see Sister Romero and Daniel be baptized.  I baptized Daniel and a member baptized Sister Romero.  I will send pictures.  It was amazing and Sister Romero stood up afterward and said she was there to be a good member and serve everyone in the ward if anyone would ever need anything and then anounced her phone number and address.  It was unusual but you could feel the sincerety and testimony in her voice as she talked about her desire to serve.  It was an awesome night.

            I love you all and hope all is well.  I know this Church is true and I see it everyday in this work.  I will know if I am leaving or staying here next time I email but I hope I stay because the work is great here and I love this ward.  I love you all so dearly and thank you for the love, support and prayers you offer for me and this work and these people here.  You are the best family anyone could ask for.  I love you.

-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tiny Tacos in Fresno

Dear family,
             Things in Fresno are fantastic!  The Romero family is going to be baptized on this coming Sunday and we are so excited for them.  Our zone in Fresno has been an under-performing zone this whole year I guess but this month we are on track for meeting our goals and possibley exceeding them.  We are super excited not because of the numbers but because we know that these are the Lord's goals and His expectations for the zone and therefore by meeting them we meeting the Lord's expectations of our work, commitment, and obedience.  The work is really moving forward and I feel and see my own testimony growing every day and my knowledge of the Gospel increase with every lesson, and opportunity to study.  The Spirit really does transform people into the sons and daughters of God that He sees them as.

             I have started reading Jesus the Christ and it is AWESOME!! I love it and in the Book of Mormon I am just starting Alma.  I have to finish the Book of Mormon by Christmas because the whole mission is finishing it by then and doing a "Moroni 10:4-5" on our selves and renewing our testimonies in the Book of Mormon.  It is so odd to me sometimes thinking about how I love to just read scriptures and Gospel literature as apposed to before in my life.  I never even liked reading and now with the Standard Works of the Church, I can't get enough.  It is really a testimony to me that it is the word of God and truly the Spirit is what has changed my heart and made me come to love and desire to read the scriptures.  It is so important that you are all doing family scripture study because that is where that desire will start in the lives of the younger kids.  It is definitely not an easy process or a over night process but it really works little by little and will change everyone's hearts to love and desire the scriptures.

              I do keep a daily journal and work very hard to atleast write about something every day.  I do miss sometimes when we have a lot of other business going on but I work very hard to write in it daily and I just about always do.  It is really helpful to remember the things and miracles I see every day but sometimes when I have a hard day it really makes me feel better some how.  It is great and I hope that the younger kids start that habit it now because there are miracles everyday in everyone's lives and I wish I would have started a journal when I was younger.

              My favorite mexican food is probably just these tiny tacos that are just tiny pieces of fried up steak, not ground beef but like steak in small pieces.  And you put salsa and celantro and onions and squeeze a lime over it and.....YUM.  I could eat and usually do eat atleast 10 when the members have them for us.  You can put other stuff too like guacamole but they are so good.  Honestly though I love all of it and there are so many good things.  There is this lady named Sister Cabada and she cooks mexican food SO good.  We always eat at her house atleast twice a month haha.  Don't worry though cause I am still not fat.  I work out still every morning minus Sundays and I play sports every Preparation day (usually basketball).

                  I am glad to hear all is well at home and that sports are going good and everyone is having success in them.  Ruthe must be super excited to work out with Coach Mckenna haha and I hope she works really hard.  It is awesome to hear that Eleanor will be starting.  I am sure that Alex and Amber and Olivia are all doing really well in their sports too.  But Grandma told me that everyone got to go to the temple this past week and all the kids did baptisms and that really just made me smile.  I am SO greatful my little brother and sisters are worthy to go to the temple and that they do.  The world really is such a dirty place and I am so incredible proud and happy that they are live worthy to go to the temple because those are not popular standards to live.  ALWAYS be worthy of the temple and always remember it is more important than any swear word that makes you seem cool, any fight that your pride tells you that you need to win, or any R rated movie your friends want to see.  The temple is not worth a friend or a girl/boy friend or anything like that.  It is the House of the Lord and is the best.

                Lastly I just would ask that you could send me out my P-coat (mom will know what that is if you don't Dad). I love you all so much and you are all such good examples to me in ever aspect of life and especially of how to be a good missionary.  I love you all a ton!  Thank you Dad for everything and your emails, they really inspire me and focus me and I love to hear from you. Grandma thanks to for yours this week, it was great to hear about the temple and how life is going.  Thank you all for your letters, prayers, support and love for me. I am trying to write back to those who send mail as fast as I can.  I love my family and know we will be together forever.
  -Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baptism coming up

Dear family,
        Things are awesome here in Fresno.  I am absolutely loving my mission even when it is pretty tough and doesn't seem like the outlook is not always clear skies.  There is just such a joy in constantly striving to have success in helping our brothers and sisters to recieve the own personal salvation.  We have a family of four that I think I told you about who are going to get baptized on the 20th of November.  They came to church and arer super solid.  The 10 year old son asks us every time we see him "if we made his reservation for his baptism" haha.  We always assure him that we will definitely have everything set up for him and his family and their baptism.  The work is really in full blossom right now in our area and we can see the Lord's hand in the work so much it is incredible.

          I forgot to add last week in my email that I got to go street contacting (like just talking to random people on the street about the Restoration of the Gospel) with Elder Koelliker of the 70.  It was so awesome!!! It was just a blessing in itself to have some one on one time with a general authority.  Only two missionaries got to go and President picked a relatively new missionary (me) and a more experienced missionary.  I learned a lot about really being personal in everything I do as a missionary.  That you always need to go to other people's spiritual background before you bring them to yours.  It was fantastic and then I drove him and President to Zone Conference and it was a great ride filled with good spiritual conversation.  I can't tell you that I understand Revelations or Isaiah but I have definitely become a better missionary from it.

           Also I remember Mom telling me that Mrs Keegan passed away recently.  I was thinking about it and I really felt like the Spirit touched my heart and told me they need the Gospel in their lives at this time.  I know that this message is true and is designed to bring happiness into these exact situations that seem dark.  I hope and pray very often that the Spirit will attend you all in missionary work but specifically in this.  Please do this for me.  Pray to our Heavenly Father and ask Him what you should do in order to present the Gospel to their family.  Maybe going with the missionaries to see them is the answer, or inviting them over for dinner or family home evening, or being taught by the missionaries in your home.   I don't know but I do know 100% sure that our Father in Heaven loves them just as much as us and knows exactly what they need.  PLEASE pray to know what to do and then please reach out to this family.

      I am glad all is well at home and I am sorry to hear the football team lost, it seemed they would do well this year in the playoffs.  I got to go so this will be my only email this week but thank you everyone that sent me personal emails (Grandma and Uncle Keith and Dad).  I love you all so very much and really appreciate your love and support and prays for me and this work.  I am glad you are all so focused on helping out the missionaries and being missionaries your self.  You are all honestly such excellent examples to me and such an inspiration to me in my work.  I love you all so much.  I keep you in my prayers always.  I will send home lots of pictures home soon and ask Sarah for them too cause she should have them.  I love you all so much!!!!!!!  Also that is so awesome that you are all studying scriptures together.  That is SO important to building that love for them in the home and bringing in the Spirit.  Don't lose that habit no matter how hard satan works against you all.
-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Working hard

Dear family,
       Things are going really well here in the mission and I know that the Lord's hand is really pushing this work forward and as a missionary I just need to be obedient and worth so I don't get in the way of it.  I have kind of realized a new point of view on our Heavenly Father and how He works.  Often we think that He ceases to work or bless us based on our disobedience or that He works miracles based on our faithfulness and worthiness but really it is not.  I think that by realized what kind of person our Heavenly Father is we realize He is perfect and loving and therefore will not withdraw Himself or the Spirit but we move away from Him.  He is constantly desiring to bless us and constantly desiring to guide us and the only time He doesn't is if we, on our end impede His power in our lives.  I know that He will ALWAYS put people in my path on a daily basis that are ready to hear the Gospel.  Whether the miracle occurs of them recieving the invitation to be baptized depends on us and our faithfulness to trust Him and our worthiness to have the Spirit. 

            It is interesting because people believe that we, as Latter Day Saints, don't rely or acknowledge the Saviour's Atonement but we think that it is by our own power that we enter into the Kingdom of God but that is not true.  It is the same principle that God always wants to bless us.  The Atonment is necessary and is always there for us and Christ wants us to access it.  It will never fail and will never be shaken but WE must access it through our works and desires.  The Atonement saves us but only if we choose to use the healing power that it delivers us.  It is like we know that we must eat so we don't starve and physically die and the food is what is necessary to save us but if we don't eat the food, what good is it that someone sacrificed their time to make this gift for us.  We must constantly purify ourselves so that the power of God and the Atonement flows through us, not so that we help it along, but just so that we don't impede its ability to work in our lives and the lives we touch.
           So be worthy of it and watch the Lord send miracles through your lives as I will in mine. 
         To answer your question Dad I only go to the Temple every 3 transfers or 4 and a half months so it is WAY longer of a wait than what I was used to before my mission which is sad but I savor it a lot more when I get to go.

       Also in other news, Sixto did not get baptized because he wasn't able to overcome his problems like we thought he did so we will be working with him but we expect him to be baptized in the coming weeks.  Thank you all so much for your prayers for our investigators and I know and promise you that they are in fact helping this work here and these specific sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father.

     Yesterday we set a baptismal date with a family of 4 for the 20th of November!  It was awesome and the mother is the exact Joseph Smith story minus being a prophet and other stuff like that.  She has been searching and desiring the truth and she finally found it.  We met her Saturday at 5pm and didn't have a man with us so we could not go inside but she insisted on us teaching her in the doorstep.  So we had a 15-20 minutes lesson with her at the door and invited her to our Halloween party which started at 6pm that night which was in about 40 minutes from when we met her.  Her and her family accepted and came and they want to go to church on Sundays and the daughter already has friends and is going to Mutual with the young women and men and it is just such a miracle.  The Lord prepares people constantly and we must be worthy in order to have the Spirit and then listen to the Spirit when we have it.

        Everything is going so well here and I love this work.  Things are still always crazy and busy on Preparation Days so I will try to hand-write back to you all who wrote me but just be patient and they will come.  I am sorry if they all don't get back right away but I still love you all so much and appreciate the love, support, letters and prayers that you offer me and the people I work with.  I love you SO much and keep you in my prayers.

-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

3rd Transfer - Same Area... Love it!

Dear family,
    It is so good to hear from all of you and to know that you are thinking about me and supporting me so much in this work.  Things are really good here in Fresno.  It is still my first area for the 3rd transfer and I love it here.  We just baptized Irma this past Saturday and confirmed her Sunday.  She chose me to baptize her and my companion to confirm her.  It was very special and I have never seen her show much emotion the whole time we have taught her and after her baptism she was so happy.  I couldn't believe it.  I will send pictures soon to Sarah and also some hard copies home but it was awesome and was very spiritual.  This coming week we are going to have the baptism for Sixto on Sunday and he has his interview tonight.  He is a miracle and has changed so much from the first day we saw him.  He hasn't drank in 3 weeks and you can see such a significant difference in him from when we first met him.  He has learned so much and we just set a baptismal date with his friend who lives with him.  His name is Jorge and he will be baptized on November 27th.  The work is going awesome and it is all truly through the Spirit that is with us.  I know that the Lord is putting these people in our way and then preparing us through the Spirit to know what to say and invite them to.  Thank you so much all of you who prayed for these of our brothers and sisters and I know that they helped them to enter into the water of baptism.

      The language is still coming a long great and I feel like it is improving a lot.  Obviously not as much since my native companion Elder Moreno has since gone back to Mexico but it is getting better all the time.  Elder Wright and I get along super well and work very hard.  We see the hand of the Lord in our personal lives daily and in this area.  We have a general authourity coming tomorrow named Elder Koelliker of the 70.  I am so excited to meet him and I will tell you all about it next week.

       There is not too much else going on here but just teaching a lot of different people and just working hard to build their faith and testify of the truth that we know and find so much joy in.  I love the gospel in such a way that is amazes me.  I truly love it and am so happy we are all a part of it together as a family.  It is such a blessing and I know that it is true and that we will live together forever after this life.  Read the scriptures daily, personally and as a family, and pray personally and as a family.  Have famliy home evenings and attend the temple.  These things I see first hand make a huge difference.  You can just walk into a home and know if that family really does those things because the Spirit is there.  Never forget the GREAT importance of the things that are little or maybe just seem little.  The scriptures say that it is through small and simple things (family scripture study) that great things are brought to pass (real friendships at home and contention stopping).  These are promises of our Heavenly Father, the Almighty.  We must listen.  These things I only say because I have seen such a difference in families who do and don't and especially for all of our family that has such young families.  It is much easier to make a habit of something when you first start rather that trying to defeat a bad habit and start a good one at the same time.

      Also just a side note.  Make sure the missionaries at home are good ones.  Whip them into shape and don't just let them slide by because they have a name tag on.  They are set apart as representatives but that doesn't mean the power is given, it is just possible at that point.  They need to earn.  Don't let them play wii with the kids or watch TV or stay for more than 45 minutes.  Get them out the door because they are there to share a message and find the other sons and daughters of God who are ready.  Don't let them eat for and hour and then chit chat for another.  They should be in and out with a good message for the family.  I have just seen some missionaries who don't do this and it is important to show love and care to the families you visit but to be on your way to share the Gospel with everyone else too. Then when you got those special missionaries who really know what they are doing and do it in the Lord's way, help them out.  Give them referrals and rides and food, because they are going to baptize your friends and families cause they have the Spirit.

      I love you all so much and will always keep you each in my prayers.  May God always bless you with what you need and what you work for.  I love you all a ton and am so greatful for all the prayers, letters and emails, support, and love that you give me.  I LOVE YOU!!!
-Love you son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Hot in Fresno

Dear Family,

     This week due to schedule changes with transfers our preparation day is today which is saturday.  So I know this took you all off gaurd and you haven't been able to send emails yet but it is ok, I will just get them next week.  I am here in my first area still in Fresno for another transfer with Elder Wright and I am super excited for it.  We are both firmly dedicated to working as hard as possible at all times and we are both dedicated to being 100% obedient 100% of the time.  Obviously we are not perfect but I know we will be able to see some great miracles this up coming transfer with our companionship.  Elder Wright is an awesome missionary and we get along great.  He just got made district leader this transfer too so I am sure he will enjoy that.  We have two baptismal candidates who should be baptized this upcoming week when all goes well.  Please keep them in your prayers if you don't mind, their names are Irma and Sixto.  They are both awesome people who are preparing for baptism and they were both super solid and excited and ready to get baptized when some last second problems came up and we need to help them really feel the Spirit and recognize the importance and the blessings and the happiness that will come through their baptism.  I know the Lord will bless us and them as we are faithful.

      In other news it is not burning hot here in Fresno but just really hot.  Rather than 100+ degrees everyday it is just the high 80's every day so that is nice I guess.  I really love this work and don't think I can say that enough times.  I don't know what it is because this is really really really hard work but the Spirit that you feel and the happiness that other people recieve is a billion times worth the pain and the hard parts.  Serve when ever and where ever you can because it is some the most real joy one can experience and is when you really can get close to the Savior and the veil becomes ever thinner.  Dad tell me how the Bobcats did last night please and I love you a ton and miss you all and love you all.  Sarah I got the card and the SD card and all is going well.  I love you all so much and miss you a ton and keep you in my prayers always.  I love you!!!!
-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dear family,
          Things are well in Fresno and starting to cool off (but still in the 80's haha).  I am emailing today on this Tuesday because the library was closed yesterday so all the mission is emailing today.  Thank you so much for the picture of us at the temple.  I pulled it out last night while teaching an investigator and said " this is my family and I, and I know that we will be together forever through the blessings of this gospel.  If that is what you want you need to pray to know if it is true."  It is powerful to see and it always brings me joy to see us outside of the temple after being sealed and making those covenants with Heavenly Father.  This is the only true church of Jesus Christ on the face of the Earth and was restored in its fullness through Joseph Smith.  I really do know that and just try my hardest to share it with others.

      It is frustrating a lot of times to think why aren't these people praying or coming to church or being baptized and sometimes weighs heavily on how successful I think I am as a missionary.  But I do always know that it is true and through being obedient and listening to the Spirit we will find those sons and daugters of God who are ready.  You all can find them at home too.  Pray to know who they are because I know that they are there waiting for you to find them and reach out to them.  Ask the Lord who they are.  I promise He will tell you.

       We have transfer calls this thursday and so I will be starting up my 3rd transfer very shortly.  I am still in my first area and I love it but I still haven't baptized anyone.  It is tough work.  The spanish is going well and the food tastes great as always and there is a lot of it as always.  I know I am here for a reason and pray I can find out why exactly that is.  I pray for you all always and hope all is going well.  I didn't have time yesterday to respond to the letters from Eleanor and Alex and Olivia but I did get them along with the package, which was SOOOOOO delicious, especially the pumpkin bread.  Did you make that Mom?  But anyway I will be responding soon I promise.  I love you all so much and am greatful for all you support and love and prayers.  I will keep you posted and let you know how I am doing.  I love you all so much and think of you daily.
  -Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2nd Wave of Pictures from Stevie

At some point maybe Steven can give us his own captions to his mission pictures, but for now we can just enjoy what we have... which includes my own commentary. :)

A lot of these pictures are from when Steven was still at the MTC (Missionary Training Center).

These are the "dorms" at the MTC

Strong as ever, Stevie literally carries his mission friends when they are weak!

You may wonder why some missionaries in the pictures are in PJ's and some are in suits... well, either it was almost bedtime or Stevie was having his "P-day" or preparation day. It's one day set aside out of the week to do practical things besides missionary proselytizing: like write home, do laundry, get a hair cut (you can see there aren't any mullets among these missionaries) or whatever else you need to do.

If being a missionary doesn't work out, Steven is planning on applying for a sharp-shooting position with the BYU Police. 

Aw, yes, the Missionary Snuggie. Nice, Stevie. 

These are probably all elders' in Steven's district at the MTC
(The missionaries are organized into different groups, called districts, depending on what language they are learning)

At the MTC Stevie went to classes almost all day on scripture study, preparing and practicing sharing the gospel with others, and learning Spanish. 


Hang Loose (?)

"He ain't heavy.... he my brother"

Outside the MTC

(That middle guy looks like Draco Malfoy... for real)

Practicing "Street Fighter" moves... just in case

Handsome as ever...

Packing up and leaving the MTC - now off to magical Fresno, CA!! Whew-hoo!

Usually elders are in a companionship of two, but Stevie had a group of three for awhile, so this must be The Three Musketeers in action. 

A meeting or training for Stevie's district

Doing service in the good old sunshine!

Out to dinner at a famous hunting lodge in Fresno
(I made that up, but they are out to dinner somewhere... and it looks like a burly, manly hunting lodge to me...)

Outside the Fresno Temple

Ready to take on anything, Steven's lookin' sharp in his tan suit

Gotta love that Steven...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Learning Patience

Dear Family,
Things are really well here in Fresno.  Some days are really hard but honestly those are the ones that build my testimony of prayer, faith and patience.  I really enjoyed all of the General Conference and thought it was awesome!  I especially enjoyed the talk from Elder Hales that said we must wait on the Lord and remember to have faith and patience in Him and know that He will lead us out of the storms and darkness of our trials.  It is especially through prayer.  I know that God is our Father and loves each of us and wants to help us in our hard times if we will diligently go to Him and continually ask Him for comfort and guidance in our lives.   We have two baptisms this month and I am super excited for them.  One is the mom of a family that are members.  She is super solid and ready to go.  The other has a problem with drinking but really he is a miracle.  We got done tracting through an apartment after our apointment canceled on us and as we waited for Elder Wright and Elder Moreno to come pick us up, a man was walking back to his apartment and it is the same one who will be baptized on the 16th of October.  He immediately had a desire to be a member and go to church and he hasn't missed one sunday since we found hime almost 3 weeks ago.  He is not super smart but he is so willing to listen and to learn.  The Lord prepared this man and we were worthy enough to be guided by the Spirit to find him.  There are people waiting for each of you specifically in your lives that only you can touch.  Pray to God and ask Him who it is and I promise as a representative of Christ that you will recieve a face or name and then with that name go back to God and ask Him what you should invite them to.  He will answer.  I love you all so much and miss you a ton and pray for you always.  

I did recieve mom's mail but not the pictures yet.  I have a letter for mom and Sarah that have been sent a few days ago and have one for Victoria that will be sent with in the week.  I am so greatful for all your support and love and prayers.  It really does help and I know that this work is true.  The Spirit speaks to all, every one of us, in the things we can do to serve and share in our own lives and we just need to pray to recieve the promptings and we must act on them.  It is just like President Monson's story about the Temple in Germany but remember we don't have to be a general authority, or a bishop or a missionary.  We just need to be a worthy member of Christ's Church and because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost, it must and will speak to us as we live righteously.  The angels and blessings of heaven CANNOT be with held or restrained in any manner or degree from the worthy Latter Day Saint who diligently seeks to have that heavenly guidance and help.  I love you all so much and am thankful for everything you do.  I think of you often and know that you are doing so much good in your homes even when you don't realize it.  Thank you for your examples,  share your testimonies.  I love you all so much!
-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Gift to Speak Spanish

Dear family,

       Things here in Fresno are going well!  We have 2 really solid baptismal canidates for October 23rd and I am very excited for them.  One of them is named Sixto and he is truly a miracle in how prepared he was by the Lord.  The Lord knows who is sheep are and will bring them home; we need to just be worthy enough to be the means that He brings them back to His fold.  We had known this man for 2 days and it was our second lesson and he was just like "I need to be a member of you church" and he came to church and wants to give money and all this stuff to the churhc and we have been explaining that it is not quite like that but it has been almost kind of funny how much he wants to do all at once so we are just trying to prepare him as fast as we can for his baptism.  I love this work!!  I do miss you all a ton and love your support and letters and prayers.  I am also glad to hear that the pictures are on the way because I know it will be a huge help to this work as I keep using my testimony about our family and the blessings of the temple.  I am also happy to hear that all the family is getting a chance to get together and see each other and do stuff together like that marathon.  Also the vacation plans sound great to me haha but I probably won't think on them too much since I still have almost 2 years to go haha!

       The language is coming along really good because of the help of the Lord and becasue of my native companion Elder Moreno, who leaves this friday for Mexico City.  I still have my other companion Elder Wright so we will just be moving along after that.  But I feel like I can just about understand everything that native speakers are saying and it is really cool to see and to understand and realize that the Lord has given me this gift to speak spanish.

       I am glad to hear that the football team is doing so well and I hope that they keep it up and I hope they know I am rooting for them.  Also tell Eleanor that I said congratulations on making the front page but that she shouldn't get too big of a head haha.  Tell everyone else too that I say hi and that the work is good and the way the time is going I feel like I will be home before I know it.

       I am so greatful for you examples to me in this gospel and know that you are making a difference in the missionary work around you and certainly have make a difference in my work out here in Fresno.  I love you all so much and love all the emails and the updates.  Congratulations to Marie for her 2nd baby and to Brad for getting his job!  I love to hear that our family are visiting each other a lot and active and doing fun stuff.  I hope all is well and pray for you daily and appreciate all that you do for me.  Love you!!!!   and PS thank you Sarah for the address, I will be sending Andrea and Rex's letter today or tomorrow.
    -Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Monday, September 19, 2011

Awesome Week

Dear family,
     This week has been awesome!  We read a talk as a companionship called "the challenging and testifying missionary" by Alvin A Dyer which talks about how our whole mission is helping others to recieve the blessings of the Restored Gospel through Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Recieving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End.  In this talk, he says that we must testify always and challenge too.  He talks about how some Elders wait til the family is perfectly ready and set to get baptized to challenge them.  Then he goes on to say that if they are perfectly ready, then it is not a challenge.  We must challenge them and allow the Holy Ghost to testify to them that this is Christ's church and that he wants them in it.  Then they can take that step and we can continue to prepare them for their baptism.  So with this advice we have been testifying to all we come in contact with and challenging them to keep commitments and making sure that we atleast invite one person every day to be baptized if not more.  

Angency is one of God's greatest gifts to us and one of the most important.  If we don't share the gospel we are in fact taking away the agency of the people around us to choose if they want to accept the gospel or not.  It is our responsibility but really our privilege to share this great message.  We should want to share out of love for our friends and family and not for fear or guilt that we are not.  Love is the real motivator of change, where as fear or guiltt are feelings that are of the devil and cause only momentary change if any.  It is funny how there is a constant theme between the things that the devil offer and the things that God offer.  All good things that God offers has and eternal effect and promise for us and only momentary pain or difficulty, where as the "good" things Satan offers are always momentary and give us eternal pain and sorrow.  I know this Church is true and that Christ is our Savior and that we can and will live together forever as a family. This work is difficult but I already have seen myself grow and become blessed through it and I have seen in bless others' lives.

To keep in shape I have been exercising every day except sunday and I do 225 push ups, 3 sets of planks, 32 pull ups 3 days a week and the other 3 days I do150 crunches and 90 leg raises and 3 sets of bicycles and jump ropes.  All accompanied by riding a bike on different days through out the week. 

I am glad to hear you are taking care of the missionaries at home, as always and the members here take really good care of me.  They are very kind and helpful and love to see a white kid learning spanish so that is good.  They feed me well and go on team ups and help out the work a lot.  We are really working right now to get more members involved because we want every member to have the blessings of coming with us and sharing the gospel.

It sounds like it is busy as always and lots of fun at home.  I am glad to hear that the team is doing so well and that they haven't let up one point yet.  That is very impressive.  I hope they keep it up and please tell them I say hi and I miss them and wish them luck.  That is way cool too that mom got to do a marathon because I am sure she did awesome because she is an iron woman.  I am happy that all is going well in family sports and that Ruthe scored a goal!  That must have been awesome.  It is still smoking hot here and I am just loving it haha.  But I have been getting lots of letters and support and Mom and Sarah, I am going to respond to your letters and I am sorry it takes so long but there are a lot of Preparation Days that I don't even get to write so am I sorry.  But I am greatful for the letters and love to hear what is going on at home.  I hope you all keep strengthening your testimonies and always keeping Christ first.  I love you all a ton and am greatful for your prayers and pray for you too.  Love you so much!!!!
-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend
Elder Neeley

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Transfer

Dear family,
        I am done with my first transfer and I will be staying here in Fresno in the Echo ward and I love it.  I will get my new companion tomorrow and his name is Elder Wright and he has been out only for 3 transfers so we will hopefully just have a lot of enthusiam for the work and to be obedient in all things.  My trainer, Elder Moreno, will stay around another 3 weeks to be in a triplet with us to really focus in on our spanish and then he will go home.  We still haven't had any baptisms since I have been here but we have had some interesting circumstances with other Elder's that some times slows the work a little but I really think that we will start seeing our investigators start to enter the waters of baptism as we stay obedient and diligent.  I love this work a ton and I just pray that I truly am affecting people's lives.   I know this church is true down to my very core and I love to share it with others.

          The mission is way different than I thought it would be and harder than I thought it would be but I am so greatful for it.  I feel personal growth and also see change and hope in others as we share this message.  There are people that truly feel a second chance in life through this gospel and there is nothing more I could ask to do than to share this wonderful message with everyone.

       The language is coming along super well but I still have a long way to go.  I love the spanish language and the people and the food.  I have been learning how to cook different things from members when they feed us dinner and I love it!

      I miss you all a ton but I am very greatful for all your letters and  emails.  Sarah I got your letters the other day and I just got Mom's today so I will be writing back to both of you soon.  Also I have a whole hour to email here in the field so if you want to email that is fine but the letters will be more personal obviously.  Also I don't think these computers will let me send pictures cause we are at the library so I will just send the card home and when ever you send it back is great Sarah:)  Really don't feel bad about last time cause it is not a big deal.  Also Uncle Keith I will try that challenge that you told me.  Also that is exciting that everyone is doing well at home and you get to spend so much time with your grand daughter.

        Dad, let me know how the Tennessee was and Uncle Keith told me that BYU won so that is awesome.  I bet you and mom had a great time.  I love you both so much and am more and more greatful every day for your examples for me and as a family I am so greatful for each of your examples.  I think of you and pray for you everyday and I talk about you all the time and use our family as an example in our lessons all the time.  I am so greatful that our family was sealed in the temple and that we will be together for ever.  I bear testimony and gratitude to all our investigators of this great blessing we have in our lives.  I love you so much and thank you for all you have done in raising me because you have truly shaped me to be the person I am today.

       I love you all and will stay in close contact and try to send some pictures back quickly.  The Church is true, make sure to pray and read daily, personally and as a family.  I love you all a ton.
-Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Monday, August 22, 2011

Giving 100%

Dear Family
    The field is wonderful and I love the mission life.  It is super hard but I know that I am here for a reason and that the great joy I get to experience comes with a price.  I love you all so much and am glad the reunion went so well.  I adressed this email to everyone so I hope you all get it.  I thought Dad was forwarding them and I forgot to tag on everyone else so that is my fault.  I will be sending more pictures soon and I found I can email them so I will probably do that next week.  Spanish is coming a long very well and I get to speak it all the time with my companion which is SO helpful.  Sarah get the agua fresca next time and tell Doug I said congrats!!!  I am striving so hard every day to be exactly obedient so that I can be the best missionary I can be.  All through life I always tried to give my best in sports and school but less than 100% was often enough to get by and even do really well but I have realized that anything less than 100% effort 100% of the time is not going to be good enough and will just be a waste if time and money for me to be here. I know that as I am striving to be better and overcome these difficulties the Lord is helping as I reach out to Him. I am so greatful for prayer and know that when we do all we can no matter how much or how little that is, the Lord will make up the rest. 

I hope all is going well at home and I would love to get a family reunion shirt sent out to me some time if you have one for me but if not it is ok and please also I talked to mom about sending me a picture of our family outside the temple at DC after we were sealed.  So if I could get the picture soon for sure and the shirt too if possible that would be great.  I love you all so much and keep you in my prayers all the time.  I miss you all a ton but I am very focused on the work.  Please don't mistake that for a lack of care.  I am trying very hard to contact everyone that is emailing me but if I don't right a away I am sorry.  I love you all soooo much.  Pray daily, read the scriptures and listen to Mom and Dad.  I love my mission and California and my companion so much and am so greatful for all you support, love, letters and prayers.
    -Love your son/brother/grandson/nephew/cousin/uncle/friend Elder Neeley

Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 15th, 2011: Two Baptism Dates Set

Dear Family,

   I love you all so much and am so greatful for you all and you support.  Dad the reason why I wrote last week on Tuesday is because we went to the temple on Tuesday so when we get to go to the temple (which is every 4 and a half months) we have Prepartation Day on the temple day which was Tuesday last week.  But It sounds like everyone is busy at home and I am glad to hear everyone is getting back into sports and getting ready for school.  Also I bet going to go see BYU play will be so much fun and a great trip back to Tennessee.

    The field is awesome and we have two baptismal dates right now for August 28th and these  people are so wonderful and I have truly come to love them so quickly and I know it is because of the service being done for them.  The language is going pretty well.  I can teach and conversate some what and all in spanish but I have a long way to go with understanding, pronunciation and just knowing the language better but it is going well though.  I love the spanish and my companion is awesome.  He is from Mexico so he helps me a ton and as well as the language he works hard and teaches well.  We are both on the same page with being exactly obedient and working hard and we get along pretty well.  This is his last transfer so he is working hard and not trunky at all which is a blessing for me.  I am just trying to make sure that he has no regrets when he leaves by us working the hardest we can.

     The mission is awesome!  I am constantly tired and constantly working and it is such a blessing.  We see miracles everyday in the field and sometimes they are bigger than others but I know this is the work of the Lord because He is guiding us in it.  I invite you to look for the miracles in you life because even though some times small we have them in all of our lives every day and we need to recognize them and give thanks to the Lord for them.  Always try to share the gospel and help out the missionaries in our ward when ever you can.  I have come to realize that we teach as the missionaries and the Holy Ghost testifies but it is the members that really transition the investigators to members or retain them.  Even when people know it is true it is so hard for them to change there life and take this step but when they feel that love from the members and really truly have friends in the ward to rely on they are so much more ready to take these major steps and be baptized and change their lives.  The members are so important.  I know that you already do so much for the missionaries but I just wanted you all to know just how important you really are.  I love you so much and I am so greatful for you examples and support you give to me.  I know this Church is true with all my heart and I love you all so much.  Be good and always keep praying.  You are always in my prayers.  I love you.

-Love your son/brother/grandson/cousin/nephew/uncle/friend  Elder Neeley