Monday, July 5, 2010


Hey Everyone!

Another summer day...has come and gone away (First line from the song "Home" by Michael Buble...just in case no one's making the connection.)

This was probably the most surreal week of my life. It was a great one though, things have been going really well in the area. We picked up some new people to teach this week and Pierce and Colman S. were baptized on Friday. It's been absolutely incredible to see so many miracles in this ward during our time here. I'm so grateful to have been called to this area- I have no doubt that it was an inspired assignment. I love the Lord's timing. I understand that these miracles still could have just as easily happened without me here; I just feel pretty blessed that the Lord allowed me to experience them right at the finish of my mission.

My mission president made a promise to me in one of my interviews about six months ago. He said that if I made these last few months about someone else, the spirit would touch me in a way that I would never forget for the rest of my life. That promise has been fulfilled multiple times. I can't even describe the joy I've felt as I've watched people change their lives completely as they came to know their Savior, or the spirit that I've felt in some of the most simple moments. Whether I'm just saying a personal prayer, playing and singing a primary song on the piano or (of course) singing Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, the spirit has spoken to me in ways that it never has before. 

I HAVE LOVED THESE TWO YEARS!!! I can't believe how much my Savior has helped me grow and become something so much more than I was. I've come to a much greater knowledge of my own imperfection, but I know through Him I can continually overcome my weaknesses and flaws. I've been blown away by my Heavenly Father's willingness to bless me and to forgive me despite my profusion of imperfections. I know that He loves me!

I'm excited to come home! I can't wait to see everyone and thanks for everything!!

Elder B

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Week #100 - The Final Countdown

Hey Everyone!
I think it's finally sinking in that I'm about done. This last week was great and we've got two baptisms set up for my two year mark on Friday! I was pretty lucky to get to go back and see Lauren Fisher's baptism from Sonoma on Saturday with Elder Bankhead. She asked me to sing at it, so I did the classic "Come Thou Fount" as usual (the only cool hymn I can play and sing). I also got to perform it in sacrament meeting yesterday as well- so that was really cool and probably the last one of my mission.
We picked up two new investigators this week who visited the Temple Square and really enjoyed it. They ordered a Restoration DVD and wanted to learn all about the church. They're looking for something that will strengthen their family and help their kids have solid direction, so hopefully we can be their hookup. We had a nice talk with them a few days ago and we're meeting with them again tonight.
We have a temple trip this Wednesday- always a pleasure. Sidenote to the Mom- I got my recommend renewed- so I should be good to go with the whole watching Jonny get married thing.
I don't even know what to write home about anymore. Things are still awesome and the gospel's still true!
I'll make my final email way legit to make up for how short this one is. I gotta make my last one awesome anyway.
Have a good week!
Elder B

Monday, June 21, 2010

Week #99 - Hail to the Chief!

Hey Everyone!

A beautiful Father's Day Card to the Chief is on its way to Forsyth. My Chief is the greatest ever and I am grateful for his awesome and his mustache and his being the best father ever. 

It's been another good week. It's blowing my mind how close I am to the end. I had my final President's Interview- we had a really good talk and he gave me some very wise advice. It's a bit more of a reality to me now that I'm about done which is pretty weird but exciting. 

As for the area, things are still going well. We need more people to teach, but we've got some great potential at this point. There's a who seem pretty promising. We saw them this week and they scheduled a dinner and lesson with us for last Friday. Unfortunately, David's father went in to the hospital Thursday and it sounds like he may not make it- so our appointment was canceled and we've just been praying for them. His wife is the one who called us about the situation and she started crying as she asked me to pray for them and said how she knew we had the Holy Spirit and she knew that this was the true church- she's just waiting for her husband.   

Pierce and Colman S. passed their baptismal interviews and are set for July 3rd. They're really excited and love to learn about the gospel. Their dad is also a major support for them which is great.

Life is still great. In free time I've been studying up and organizing some thoughts on aspects of the work that I think would be helpful for anyone to know...or at least stuff that everyone needs to know from the beginning. It's been pretty nice to reflect on the two years and think about all that I've learned. Even though there are plenty of things I wish I would have done or tried harder on, I've at least become better in a lot of ways- and I have a much clearer view on things that I want to be better in and things I need to improve in. 

Happy Father's Day and the gospel's true!

Elder B

Monday, June 14, 2010

Week #98 - Save the Last Dance for Me

Hey Everyone!

Things are still great in Petaluma! We had a good week and found a few more people to teach so we're pretty excited. Pierce and Colman S. will be baptized in the next couple weeks so we're pretty excited about that. I'll also be going up to Ukiah to baptize and old investigator pretty soon, and on the 26th Lauren F. from Sonoma asked me to sing at her baptism. Life is awesome!!

I forgot to mention last week that I had my last zone conference. It was excellent but it was also a pretty crazy experience. I had to give my "departing testimony" which was great but hard. To sum up the experiences of two years being a missionary isn't the easiest thing, but I basically talked about how if I've learned anything it's that God knows us personally and that anyone regardless of circumstances can be changed through Jesus Christ. That has been the coolest thing to see while I've been out here. It's incredible how the Lord can change our natures and help us become something so much better than we are. I read in a book recently that that is one of the big lessons we learn from Jesus turning water into wine- he can take anything or anyone and change them.

Anyway, I also got to sing "Come Thou Fount" one last time for everyone. I didn't really have any time to give the piano music to anyone to learn it, so I played and sang it. It went really well- I had a few mistakes, but I was satisfied with how it went. When President introduced it, rather than say I would be singing a hymn, he said how I would be testifying to them through my hymn. I thought that was a really cool way of putting it. I really do feel like that's exactly what I'm doing when I sing it. It's pretty much the most effective way I have to tell people how I feel about the Savior. President also said that I'd be singing that song at his funeral. Hahahaha.

Anyway, things are great. Our ward is amazing and so is our area. I have my last interview with President Bunker tomorrow. Crazy. 

The Gospel's true!!
Elder B

Monday, June 7, 2010

Week #97 - Call Me Irresponsible

Hi. Everyone.

So exactly one month from this very moment, I will be sitting on an airplane for the first time in quite a while. 

Anyway- this week was awesome! Yesterday at church Steven bore his testimony- probably one of the most amazing ones I've ever heard. He's so sincere and has such a solid witness of the gospel. He talked all about how he knows that God blesses us for keeping His commandments and that we're changed through Christ. He talked about how he loved Nephi's example in the Book of Mormon and that he knew that the Book of Mormon was exactly what the introduction claimed it to be- then he bore witness that he knew that "man could get closer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book." Needless to say, his testimony really impacted a lot of people and the entire meeting was one of the best I'd ever been to. It really took on a missionary theme after Steven. At the very end the bishop went up (he wasn't the one conducting the meeting) and basically said as the bishop he had the responsibility to make sure everyone knew when the spirit was present and when we were being ministered to by angels- and then went on to say that both had happened in that meeting. It was powerful. Our bishop's awesome.

Steven's baptism was awesome. Steven was glowing. He greeted everyone (there were a LOT of people) and knew everyone's name by the end. He was confirmed there too- and his mom was blown away by the whole meeting. She's not a member and hasn't looked into the church- but she kept telling him how she felt God there and that she knew he was following Christ. His brothers and a few of his friends came too. It was amazing. Steven wanted to say a prayer with Elder McBride and I alone before everything started- so we went to the chapel and each of us took a turn praying. The spirit was so strong in that room especially as Steven started praying last. The whole night was so good!!

In addition to baptizing Steven, I baptized our cellphone. The irony of it all is that I put it in my shirt pocket because I figured if I put it in my pant pocket I'd forget it was there and go into the font with it. But, as I went to do my final check of the water's temperature, out fell the cellphone. It's currently in a tub of rice, so hopefully that fixes it. I tested it a few minutes ago and it mostly works but the sound is really quiet. 

Things continue to blossom in good ol' Petaluma. Life is good and the gospel's true!!

Elder B

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Week #96 - Casper the Friendly Erin

Hey Everyone!

So I don't know if any of you were invited, but it sounds like Jonny's getting married! Her name is Erin and she seems like a really nice girl from the picture I received in the mail. Anyway, I want the family to be sure to congratulate him when you see him and maybe I'll see a few of you at the wedding. 

As for life in Petaluma, it continues to be awesome. We baptized Brian and Brett on Saturday- it was a pretty amazing experience. For Brett (the paraplegic) we had six people in the font helping him get baptized. It was a pretty cool thing to see the two of them so excited- they knew what they were doing was right. I took pictures and they are awesome.

Other than that, we had quite the lesson with Steven (the one with the total change of heart) on Tuesday. He wanted to meet again and learn more about the baptismal interview questions and make sure he knew all about everything he'd be asked about. We told him that the baptismal service was completely up to him as far as speakers, prayers, hymns, etc. He told us he really didn't have any preference who did any of that...and then he said "But...Elder Balagna...would you mind baptizing me?" I graciously declined. HA! Kidding. I was pretty blown away. This whole experience reminds me so much of Cara in good ol' Fairfield. As soon as she read the Book of Mormon, she knew it was true and was baptized right away. You could see the change in her entire appearance when she had the testimony and it's the same with Steven. He looks like a new person. I was extremely grateful for him asking me to baptize him. 

He's currently in Pennsylvania, but he's been calling us and telling us about his reading of the scriptures and asking how we're doing. He's such a good guy. I talked to him this morning and he said "It's good out here but I've been so busy- I only get time at night to read the Book of Mormon...and I want more. I'm hungry for it!" 

Anyway, Petaluma's awesome. I haven't decided if I'm really going to leave yet. Yesterday I got to give a talk in Sacrament meeting about the atonement. Overall it went really well. When I was writing it I didn't quite know what direction I should go with it since it's a pretty broad topic. But, I started off talking about God's laws of justice and mercy and getting into the doctrine of it and then talked all about the role it plays in our lives/how we can apply it and be changed by it. It was probably one of the better talks I've given, so I was content with how it all worked out. But, I'm about out of time, so I hope everyone has an awesome Memorial Day and I'll talk to you soon!

Much Love,
Elder B

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Week #95 - It Had Better Be Tonight

Best Week Ever.

So I kinda wish I could do this week's happenings justice through this email, but sadly I can't. However, here's what went down:

For one, Brett and Brian passed their baptismal interviews and are set for this Saturday. They were at church Sunday and they brought a friend who's interested in taking lessons. They're really excited and so are we.

We taught Pierce and Coleman who are still set for June 5th for baptism and loving the lessons.

Our other investigator Mitch is pretty set on July 4th to be baptized.

And last but not least: Steven. He was my first lesson in Petaluma. The first time we met with him, we were asking about his background, and he basically told us he really struggled with the idea of there being a god at all. He told us he wished he could have more faith, but he's always been lacking. He's about 23 years old and just a very honest and sincere person. 

Way back in the day in the first lesson, I told him about a cycle that Elder Bednar wrote about in an article he wrote in the Ensign a few years ago that has to do with gaining faith. Assurance, Action, and Evidence. If we receive any sort of assurance that something is true, we act on it. When we act on it and be believing, we'll see the evidence of it's truthfulness which in turn will give us a stronger assurance, cause more action, etc. Well, Steven's a really bright guy, and loved the reading assignments we gave him in the Book of Mormon. He'd always have great insights and questions about the things he read the following week. 

Last Thursday he called us, and I talked to him for about ten minutes. He basically told me that he's been loving the reading and he wanted to thank us for meeting with him every week. He told me what a blessing it was to know us and that he was looking forward to our lesson the following day. The next day, the lesson went well, but not a whole lot different from usual. Then comes the awesome part: he started talking about his prayers. Our big focus with him this past month was just getting him to experiment; try testing out commandments, try praying, see what happens.  The lesson as a whole went really well from that point on, and at the end I asked him how he was feeling about Sunday (coming to church...he always declines when we ask and never really says why even when we ask). He asked "Is that an invitation?" I told him he's always invited, and he said "Absolutely. I'd love to come."   So Sunday, he comes to church, the ward fellowships him like crazy, and after church he was talking to us and he said "Hey I was talking to my mom about all this and she said if I decide to be baptized she wants to come to it." The words just kinda came out of my mouth after he said that... "Do you want to be baptized?" 

"Well yeah. I've been testing out my faith for the past few weeks and God keeps confirming that it's all true. Why shouldn't I be baptized?"

I told him he was the bomb. He asked if he could meet with us again that night because he's going out of town this Thursday. So, we met, and he gave the most sincere and heart felt prayer I've ever heard from an investigator. He thanked God for the mercy that he receives from Christ each day because of the atonement, for the restoration of the gospel, for the commandments that bring us happiness, and just went on and on. It was amazing, and Elder McBride and I had some pretty watery eyes afterward.  He said that the Book of Mormon changed his heart completely. He bore testimony of how Christ had changed him, and it was pretty much incredible. 

Now tell me we worship a different Jesus than Christians do. He knows who Jesus is from the Book of Mormon. 

He wants to be baptized on June 6th (he actually wants to sooner, but he's going to Pennsylvania for a week). So there's a man who reminds me of Nephi. If he knows God gave a commandment, he knows he needs to follow it and that he'll be blessed for doing so. He doesn't really question it from that point. If it comes through the prophet, if it comes through the scriptures- he know he needs to do it and he does. He living proof that Alma 32 is truth. I could go on forever with more and more details. I wish I could but I don't have time. 

Long story short, the gospel's true. It changes lives, and even if I had only had one of those experiences my entire mission, it would have been worth two years of no other success. People like that remind me how fortunate I am to have all this. Pretty humbling to see someone thank God for His commandments. 

Petaluma 1st ward has been blessed almost to the point of unbelievable. SIX BAPTISMS!!! 

I feel like Ammon when he boasts in his God.

Elder B