Welcome to the blog of Elder Redge Ballard!

Redge has gone from planning to fly to the Brazil MTC, to driving to the Provo MTC, to the Houston Texas Mission, and now finally he has arrived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. We hope you'll enjoy following his adventures in sharing the restored Gospel to those he meets!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sad post of the week: Dumb Brazilian technology.

Woe is me... I just spent the last 45 minutes writing a massive letter, and the internet died when I hit send. So... my time is up and sorry for the lack of a letter... Ugh that really kills the whole sha-bang doesn't it :( Sorry... Everything is good tho...

-Elder Ballard

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Woo Hoo! News from Brazil!!

OI!!! Finally from Brazil!!

  Man this has been some insane last few days... So, here's how it all went. I had unpacked all my stuff in Huntsville, and Elder Geldmacher had taught me all about the area and our investigators and all that stuff. We planned out the day, said a prayer and opened the door to head out. And then President called :) Told me to pack my bags and that I'm leaving on Thursday. So, I repacked my freshly unpacked bags haha. The next day me and Elder Alexandre went and stayed at the assistant's apartment for the night. E Alexandre left on his plane at 2 pm on thursday. Because my flight was later, I did actually get to visit the Temple one last time, very grateful for that, I learned a lot and it really helped me prepare. Then, after lunch and stuff I headed to the airport! Yes, by myself :) very weird feeling being alone after that long of being with missionaries. The flight to Miami was very uneventful, no one say on my row. The layover in Miami was NUTS. I found my gate, and EVERYONE that was waiting was speaking Portuguese!!! So weird!! Because I've never heard real natives speak it, it was almost like my brain was saying, whoa, people actually communicate with this stuff i've been learning?! Crazy :D So the flight to Brazil was actually pretty bad... Flew out 11:15 and got there at 10:10ish AM. SUPER long night. I sat by a guy that lives about 3 hour from Belo, and luckily he spoke pretty good english so he was able to help me decipher my customs slip :) He wasn't very talkative, but I basically focused my head off with just trying to listen to people around me talk, and try to figure out what words were actually being said. Man... the cliche phrase, This wasn't the language I learned in the MTC... was very applicable. The accent people have here is SO different from what I learned. So trying to sleep on the plane was a joke, my back is still recovering haha. The airport in Brazil was even more intimidating cuz everyone was talking a lot more. So finally I made it to the gate and met up with the secretaries, who helped me with my luggage and went with me to the bus to head to Belo. Funny story, when President Hansen was helping me unload my luggage in Texas, he accidentally dropped it and broke one of the wheels :P And then when I got it back in Brazil... the zipper had popped too, so it was taped shut hahaha. So... I'll need a new suitcase eventually :)
  For the busride to Belo, i just sat there and looked out the window. SO crazy to realize you're in a new country. Super hilly here, and just covered in little houses and stuff. It was so fun to just look and watch people and realize that I was actually in Brazil, that these were actually Brazilian people, and that I'm actually going to be here for 20 months being a missionary!!!! Once I got to the office I met back up with Elder Hilton!! So fun seeing him again. I guess Elders Helston, Bitner, and Ison are still waiting, but they1ll get here soon I'm sure. Then I met President! He sure is awesome. Classic Brazilian excitedness and extremely happy and sincerely kind. Crazily enough, he's only 48!!! Can you imagine?! That's so young!!! And I think his wife is only 45 or so... Anyways, after an interview, lunch (one of those BBQs similar to Toucanos) and some other stuff he assigned me to my new companion Elder Fernandez!! He's from southern Brazil, and ridiculously enough, doesn't speak ANY English. Holy intimidation. So I went from 8 weeks of speaking like no Portuguese, to speaking ONLY and SOLEY Portuguese ALL the time :D After getting everything figured out, we trekked a couple miles to the bus stop (carrying that 50 pound, broken-zippered, one-wheeled suitcase hahaha) and then headed to Justinopolis! And Mom you asked about culture shock, that did (and still is) hit me pretty hard. Right away I noticed the no carpet, no glass in the windows, weird looking shower heads, weird washing machine thingy, it was a huge change from normal. Especially going from 2 months in not the MTC, but a real American mission with apartments and stuff, straight to a Brazilian city, definitely a shocker. That first day we didn't really talk all that much, mostly cuz I couldn't understand much. Like I said, a Brazilian speaking Portuguese is a whole new thing.
  These past few days have been great. The highlight of it all was Saturday and Sunday. Sunday we went a house where a family lives. The mom and oldest brother were baptised earlier this month, and then we were going to visit the twin 14 year olds, Ronan and Renata. And from what E Fernandez told me, they were getting baptized the next day! Opa! Anyways as we were talking about it, Ronan randomly decided he wanted ME to baptize him!!! Once I knew he was serious I said I'd be honored (or probably something to that effect) Talk about a tender mercy for me... Man, not that I was bummed from not getting any baptisms in Houston, but like you all said, I finished my work in Houston, and got my Visa. So me getting to do this baptism was almost like the Lord was saying, "Good job Elder Ballard, I know you're scared out of your pants with this new country, but go have the experience of doing a baptism tomorrow." So cool. So the next day after church (which I actually understood a decent amount of. Luckily, gospel talk is a lot more familiar with me than all the other stuff.) we all got ready in our whites, and got ready for the baptism! So Ronan's full name is Ronan Antonio G Oliviera. And have Austin pronounce that for you, cuz especially since it was my first day, that was SO hard for me to pronounce. But, with some pronunciation guidance from Ronan I did the prayer right and it was awesome :) It was kinda hard not being able to really congradulate him besides a simple, "Parabems!" But he really enjoyed it so it was cool. The work here is so different from Texas. Texas we had an average of like 6 to 8 lessons a week, and here, the average is 40. FOURTY! Such a huge jump. And for instance, Hannah took about a transfer to teach, but here, you teach people in about a week and they get baptised in 2 weeks :) Yesterday we set 3 baptismal dates in about 3 hours and it is such an amazing feeling. Man, I already have so much love for the people here. The people here are so much more simple and family related, it's so cool to finally be here where I've been waiting to be for soooo long.
Out my apartment window
   Well, now I'm just gunna rattle off a 'Bunch of Brazil' :) Firstly, the smells here are crazy. I don't know what it is, but you know the smell of like the dancers from Togo we had? There's this specific smell, really hard to describe. It's like sweat (not stinky sweat haha) and smoke and... I absolutely can't explain it, but it seems like it should stink but it smells SO good to me. Super sentimental smell. Also, I have smelled SO many american perfumes here just walking down the street. Since I have a really sensitive nose, the smells that are familiar all connect to people I know too :) Lots of girls in highschool and stuff, really trippy. So the way things are spelled sometimes here crack me up. On a candy package, instead of "mmm mmm!!" it says "Humm, humm!" Haha, I love it. Tic tac's here are pronounced, chick-key talk-key. Really sing-songy :) I saw a candy named "Doce do leite batido" and if I'm translating right, it means "Candy of hit milk" I think they're trying to say milkshake :D Also, I saw a DVD at a member's house called "Missão Imposível" :D I've also heard so many songs from the US here... really annoying actually cuz they remind me so much of college and this last summer and stuff. The food here is great. The simple beans and rice is actually surprisingly delicious. My stomach isn't quite agreeing, but ah well. S'all good. The weather here is SO hot. I've been so tired since I got here... Jet-lag from Miami to here, and then every night I've had trouble sleeping. Either cuz of the heat or cuz the matresses are shaped like bowls :P But, I'm sure with time I'll get used to it. Man, it is such a different world here. I love it but it sure is crazy :)
 Well, the Church (even here in Brazil =] ) is true. The Lord has been testing my diligence, especially with this language. But as I get pushed by trying to teach lessons, or trying to understand people, or walk 15 miles in 34 degrees celsius (what is that in F btw?) I can really feel the Lord shaping me into who I need to be for the people here. It's hard, but I know this is where I need to be. And I know the Lord put me with a Brazilian, Portuguese only companion for a reason. Definitely a baptism by fire, but it's what I need. Thank you all for your prayers, and please keep praying for me :) Especially for these first few months, I need all the help I can get. Also, be thankful for what you have. We have SO much in the US. We taught a guy that was super active all the time, and randomly had a heart problem that made his left arm and leg paralized now, and when we went to teach him I just sat the whole lesson with my arm around him so he could sit up and listen, and I could tell he was SO thankful for just the simple act of being able to sit up. Never take anything in this life for granted :) I love you all and miss you, but are so grateful for you all and for this opportunity. Share you testimonies whenever you can, and strive to be an example of what we believe.
Hurrah for Israel!!!
 -Elder Ballard

the VISA came!!

CHURCH TRAVEL CWT                          DATE 11JANUARY11
TELEPHONE: 801 240-5111                    BALLARD/REDGE MICHA 203591-I
FAX      : 801-240-5115


SERVICE               DATE  FROM           TO             DEPART  ARRIVE
_____________________ _____ ______________ ______________ _______ ______
N ECONOMY                   TERMINAL A
           NON SMOKING      FOOD FOR PURCHASE             NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         2:20 DURATION
                  AIRCRAFT: BOEING 737-800

AA 991             THURSDAY MIAMI INTL     TANCREDO               14JAN    
           NON SMOKING      DINNER/BREAKFAST              NON STOP
                            RESERVATION CONFIRMED         8:05 DURATION
                  AIRCRAFT: BOEING 767-300/300ER



On Tuesday afternoon, I answered the phone and the caller ID said the Texas Houston Mission!  I guessed right--Redge's visa had finally come!  The sister who called said yes, he had been transferred just that morning, so they would go gather him up.  They sent the itinerary and we hoped we would get to talk to him from the airport.  No such luck though, so when we went to bed on Thursday night, the online flight tracker showed his plane over the Bahamas!  I got out the clock that we had up next to Austin's missionary picture, set it five hours ahead, and thought of what a long night he was in for.

The next morning at 6:00, his plane had just landed in Brazil.  He had finally made it!  For the next five days, it seemed like I thought of Redge constantly.  Was he roasting in the heat and humidity?  Did he fly out alone? Did he like his companion?  Would we get an email from his president? (still not yet...) What was his area like?  He was SO far away now!!

We didn't know it--but last letter from Texas!

Greetings everyone!!

 Alrighty, well first of all, saturday night I found out that I'm getting transferred! (?) Weird huh? I'm being transferred a little ways north to a place called Huntsville, and I'm going to be with an elder named Elder Galmocker, who's actually Spanish speaking.. So I'll be in what's called a zebra companionship (Since it's half portuguese/english half spanish, I guess it's more of a tiger companionship ;] ) so I'm extremely curious to see what it's like. I'll be actually transferred tomorrow, so I'm pretty anxious. But... hearing about Sister Hamaker getting her Visa really gets me curious for when everything's gunna happen. Doesn't necessarily mean anything about me, but it's good to know somethings at least happening. If Holly has any other specific details about what happened with Sister Hamaker, definitely relay them to me, cuz now I'm extremely curious :D Well, this computer has been a moron today, so I'm kinda short on time, but we have Hannah set to be baptized on January 30th! I dunno if I'll be here now, but just knowing she's going to get baptized makes all the work here in Conroe worth it. I apologize for the lame short letter, but thanks everyone for the great emails this week, and I promise next week I'll have a better one. Love you all!

-Elder Ballard

Ribs at Sinclairs--last night in Texas

First letter of 2011

Happy 2011 everyone!! I still can't believe that happened already... So weird writing that in my journal and stuff. I think the weirdest part was just how close and vivid last new year's was in my head... Hanging out with Titan and Corinne and Jenna and all those other people, craziness.

Well, can you believe I've been in Texas for almost 7 weeks now?! AH! Time is flying like no other!! This has sure been a good week though. New Year's and all that was a joke out here. No celebration, no special anything really. I was actually on exchanges with the district leader (Elder Batt) as well as zone leader (Elder Stevens) and we just did our normal tracting and all that. Went to be like 10 minutes late... woopee. :) Anyways, this week has been awesome. We got in with Stan finally, and had a great lesson with him. We made him realize why he believes in the Bible, and then that those same reasons apply to the BoM. At the end, we told him to pray specifically right then for an answer about this church, and then afterwards just be silent and listen for a little while. He said a great prayer, and then we all just sat there for probably 3 or 4 minutes of silence and the Spirit was just crazy intense. After that he said he'd be out of town for the next sunday, but that we could teach him the next saturday, and that he'd come to church that next sunday. If we can get him to church I'm sure he'll love it. We met a new guy today named Tim and he is GOLDEN. Everything we teach him he just kinda does an, "Ohhhh, that makes sense. Ya, I believe that." Just extrememly prepared for us. I love it. He's actually so smart with the bible and with just life in general that I'm finding myself to learn tons of things just from him. When he was younger, (he's in his lower 30's prolly) he had a kid who was born on his 17th birthday. He has pictures of his kid RUNNING out to him after a HIGH SCHOOL football game... Crazy. Anyways, he said how at first he would pray every night for a natural miscarriage (because he didn't believe in abortion) but that now that his son is a 12 year old, he understands why the Lord didn't let anything happen. Just really helped strengthen my testimony about waiting to find out how God is going to answer our prayers. He also just instilled in me an amazing desire to be a dad someday. I've always wanted that, but he just said how he thinks the reason why parents have so much love is just so Heavenly Father can give us a taste of how much love He feels for us as his spirit children. I never imagined I learn that on my mission, and especially from an investigator, so cool how the Lord works. The downer of this week was with our investigator Janele. As we were teaching here, everything was going great. The Spirit was there, she was understanding, everything. When we were about finished, her mom walked up. She asked who we were in a rude voice, and ended up exploding at us for teaching Janele. Janele has some very minor learning disabilities, and because her mom is all "protective" she basically accused us of trying to take advantage of Janele's capacity and forcing her into joining a "cult" and all this jazz. What I couldn't believe about the situation was just how angry Janele's mom was... She literally just exploded at us and jumped to all these conclusions and it was unreal. We just tried to stick up for Janele without getting angry back, and it was a pretty difficult situation. We'll find out more this week of what's gunna happen, but definitely keep Janele in your prayers and ask that Janele's mom's heart might be softened. Yesterday, though, was one of the best days of my mission. When we go to ward council, we always have a progress record with all the investigators and how they're doing. Anyways, before now, they've always been somewhat, or half full of names, but yesterday we filled in EVERY spot!! It made me realize how many people we have that we're teaching right now and just how much progress we've been making!! SO exciting! Then, during sacrament, one of our investigators, DeShon, showed up to church! We've been trying to get him to come for about 3 weeks and he finally made it! And even better, he loved every bit of church. It was such a good feeling. Then during the very end of an extremely powerful testimony meeting, the Lord just spoke to me and told me how important this work is, and how important it is that I'm out here. I had been struggling a little bit with being happy this week and with getting answers to my prayers, and the Lord just finally said something to the effect of: 'Even though I haven't answered you right away, I am here for you. I love you and am so glad you're doing this. I love you.' I almost started crying and it was just the best ending to the week. I haven't felt the Spirit that long for a while and it just felt so good to have that realization within myself. I'm so glad to be here, and I thank you all for your prayers and support. This church is so true, and God really does love us so much more than we can tell. I love you all!

-Elder Ballard

Merry New Years Soon!

Hello everyone!!
 Boy it was great talking to you last week... I can't believe how fast that came and went. I apologize that I didn't get to talk specifically with everyone, and specifically that my goodbye was so sudden and abrupt. Hopefully next time I will be in Brazil and a longer call will be allowed :) With 7 siblings (well 8 now counting Karen =P) I just don't think an hour is even close to being enough time to talk with everyone. Thank you all for being around for that, it was such a joy to be able to hear everyone's voices again. And talking to Austin in Portuguese is something I've been waiting to do for months now, so that was amazing to finally do. I'm so glad to hear things are going good with everyone! All I can say now is I'm glad that I still get to email every week.
 Thank you SO much for the presents. That cookbook is perfect Austin! Has a ton of your "flavor" of art and style in it and it made me smile just skimming through it :) Random fact btw, I was putting my laundry into the washer this morning and a random sound popped into my head, (Druid of the Claw) "My path is su-BLEAAHHH!!" Hahaha! Man that cracked me up. I was just standing there laughing my head off without any way to explain to anyone else what I was laughing at :D Ahh... good times. Thank you all SO much as well for that calendar!! Absolutely amazing. I of course guessed what it was when I got it in the mail in the first place, but it was so much better than I could have even expected. Nothing's better than seeing all those pictures of everyone along with those scriptures and quotes. You all look great by the way!! Looks like everyone's been having a blast.

 A member family (The Calderone's) fed us these steaks... Biggest one I've EVER eaten. Massive.

 Our roommate elders locked the fridge shut when we did our mission fast :D
Well, Christmas was a blast here in Conroe. We woke up, everyone opened their presents, and then the Spanish elders came over for breakfast. We had bacon, french toast, eggs, chocolate milk, that sorta stuff. There was 10 of us elders together and we all just played with the little trinkets everyone had gotten (rubix cubes, silly putty, connect 4, etc) and just enjoyed playing around with each other and talking. Then a few of us hopped in the car and headed down to President's house where he was making crepes for everyone. Crepes have been an unheard of food since I left, so it was great eating those again. There were tons of missionaries there, and it's kinda funny the position I'm in. I only know several missionaries total, and I feel like all the other missionaries are just kinda ignoring me (not in a rude way or anything) just cuz no one knows how long I'll be around. Kinda interesting but I don't blame them, I'm in a very unique situation. After that we went to a member's home, the Lambiths',for Christmas Linner. We had homemade rolls, prime rib roast, baked potatoes, very good meal. Plus, it didn't have turkey so it was actually a unique meal from what we've been having since Thanksgiving. After that we went to a members home in Conroe 1st and had yet another dinner there... Ridiculous amount of food I must say. We had home grown pig, green jello, broccoli salad, and some more rolls and it was delicious as well. Sadly I must admit I am gaining some weight here... I'm not sure what I started out at when I left for the mission but I'm estimating I've gained about 15 pounds o.O Sad isn't it? I mean yes it's because of the holidays and all and the food part will get better, but it's been a pretty nasty feeling gaining weight like this. This morning I was back down about 4 less than what I was Christmas night so there might be some hope left. Anyways, after eating there we hung around, played a game called Scrabble Flash (you should check that game out if you ever get a chance) and then watched some Mormon messages and stuff like that. Just a very fun Christmas, the members here are great and it was just a really great day.
 Yesterday was kinda rough just cuz this whole week we've had a very weird schedule and have kinda been outta the loop for a while. But, Hannah came to church again and we were able to teach her during sunday school and then went amazing. Getting into a lesson and stuff really helped me get the missionary mindset and attitude going again and it felt great to teach her. We taught her about the 10 commandments and amazingly she even expressed that she'd been having some friends from school frown at her taking the lessons, but she's still holding strong. It never ceases to amaze me how prepared some of the people are. We haven't even baptized her yet and she's already becoming a noticable example to her friends. This morning I did my whole study in Portuguese and I can tell I'm receiving the gift of tongues again. A few days ago I read about 3/4ths of a page in PMG in about 45 minutes, and gave up and did english because I was frustrated. But, this morning I ready about 2 and a half pages in PMG (which still doesn't seem like that much, but in Portuguese that's amazing for me) and the comprehension I had of what I was reading was SO much better than before. It felt so good to just be feeling that spirit so strongly again. Even though all that preparation doesn't necessarily have instant effect cuz I'm not in Brazil yet, I can definitely feel how much it's preparing me for when I do leave.
 So one other thing I wanted to share while it's still semi-close to Christmas. As we've taught a lot of members I've realized some really cool stuff about Christmas. In the Ensign (or New Era... not sure) it stated that "Without Easter, there would be no Christmas." How true this is because if Christ hadn't fulfilled His mission, we wouldn't be celebrating His birth in the first place. So as I thought about this, I realized a way that we can make Christmas truly help us become a new person. Because Christmas focuses on birth, we can use Christmas as a time for a "rebirth" of ourselves. Whether it be certain habits we want to make or break, characteristics we want or want to get rid of, whatever it might be, we can use this time to begin that journey into becoming a new person. And just like Christ, this "Christmas" of our lives will be where we start, even if the "Easter" of our lives or when we do become that person we are aiming to be is further down the road. Just use this time of year to make those goals, and rather than asking yourself, "What can I do for Christ this Christmas?" ask yourself, "Who can I BECOME for Christ this Christmas?" Even though Christmas is already past, use this as well as New Years as a time to ask yourself this. In PMG it talks about the Christlike Attributes we should be striving to obtain, and I invite all of you to look in PMG and read those passages. I promise you that as you do and as you study those things, you will realize what you can do to become better and it will truly help you to become more like Christ.
 I know Christ lives. I know He is my savior, and I know that he is the one that brings us hope, happiness, and the way back to a fullness of joy. The other 4 elders in my apartment all have divorced parents, and one thing I realized this Christmas is how blessed I am to have had such an amazing upbringing. Amazing friends, amazing family (direct as well as extended) and through that start of my life and continued support even now, I feel so much help and added faith than what I might have had without it. Keep your testimonies strong. Truly search and study the scriptures every day. When you pray, talk with God. Don't just say the things you're used to saying or have been taught to say, TALK with God, because He is there and He does listen. After you pray, ponder and listen to what He has to say. When you go to Church, go with the mindset of 'what can I learn from this today?' Church isn't just put there so we can have something to do on Sundays, it's an extremely important part of our lives. Never forget to thank God for all we have either, we are SO blessed to live where we live and have the people in our lives that we do. Thank you all once again for everything, I'm so proud to be a brother, son, friend, grandson, or whatever it might be to all of you. Keep changing lives, and always strive to be like the Savior. This Church is the true church on the earth!!! Hurrah for Israel!

-Elder Ballard

 Do you remember Dallin Hill? I went to elementary school with him! He's been here for about 15 months. 

My Christmas eve meal at Olive Garden. It's been forever since eating there.

Merry Week of Christmas

Merry week of Christmas everyone!!
 Aust -  Congratulations to you and Karen on the endownment!! How exciting!! I bet that was the coolest experience for you. HOLY KRUPP at you getting married tomorrow..... That seriously blows my mind. It of course won't set in probably until I see you two together or whatever but man that is crazy to think. I'm amazingly excited for the both of you, to see where "yall" end up and what you end up doing with your life. You'll be pretty settled in in 21 months I would guess :) (Btw, isn't it ridiculous that I've been out for an eighth of my mission?! AH! That's so scary!!) I will love watching you two grow together though, I am SO happy for you two. Thanks for always being such a great example for me in my life. I have a great paved path to follow between Karen and you as well as Mom and Dad. I'll be praying like crazy for you two tomorrow :) And I'll of course be there in spirit. Good luck Brother!

 So, we'll start this letter out a little light before I talk about my normal stuff. A couple years ago Texas got the award for having the most unhealthy snack at a state fair, deep fat fried butter. A stick of butter rolled in bread crumbs, and then put on a stick. Are you kidding me? Makes me sick just thinking about it. The worst part is that people were actually buying them and eating them :D Also, there's a town in Texas called Humble, and it's pronounced Umble. And most Texans say that's how to say it, but only the town. But, in someone's sacrament talk, they said, "We as saints need to be sincere, and umble in our lives." Us non-texans couldn't help but to chuckle :D
 Well, this has been a good week. Not a whole lot of progress with investigators because everyone's either getting busy or sick with the holidays coming up. We haven't really even been able to teach Stan, and he was too sick for church, again :/ Janele's doing good. We found out more and are going to have to slow down for her, but I'm sure things willl work out fine for her. DeShaon and Sadie we haven't even been able to catch... I'm just crossing my fingers that we don't just lose them cuz we lose contact. But, luckily Hannah asked her mom if she could get baptized, and she said YES!!! We're setting a date tomorrow afternoon when we teach her and I am so so so excited to continue with her. She has a very strong desire and it's so great to see someone at that age have a desire to become better and join this church. Also, tonight at 6:00 PM our ward is going to have a mission wide fast. We're fasting that we can meet our goal (which is to double convert baptisms by this march) as well as to find FAMILIES specifically to teach, and to be converted to becoming completely obedient to this work. When President brought up this fast, he actually told us we were free to invite our families to join the fast. So, don't feel like you have to or anything (especially with the wedding and all that coming :D ) but just know that the invitation is there, tonight at 6. This week I've had the opportunity to experience a couple people trying to bash us missionaries. One guy just wouldn't stop telling us that we believed in a different Christ than the christians, and stuff like that, and another guy brought up some weird thing about where the book of Abraham came from. Anyways, you'll notice I said opportunity. At first I was taken a back at this cuz I'd never experienced it or anything, but because us missionaries stayed calm and kind, it was actually a great time to reflect upon the power of my testimony and how we don't have our testimonies based in things like (Austin and Dad'll laugh at this) "The garden of eden was in independance county Missouri." and those things. It's based soley in the fact that God has prophets on the earth today, that Christ is the savior of our souls, and that this Church is founded exactly the way that it was when Christ was on the earth. I know that these things are true, as well as the fact that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. This IS the true church, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share it with people. I love you all, I am very excited to talk to you all this week! Btw, I got permission to call Christmas Eve, and I will be calling the house phone (I hope that's what yall want...) at about 8 o clock PM my time. If you want a different number called I'm sure we can swap really fast to the cell phones or whatever. If the time doesn't work, we can just stop and I'll call back or whatever we need to do. I'm sure it'll all go fine :) And I get 1 hour to talk as well. Thanks for everything family! Good luck Austin and Karen and everyone else involved with tomorrow!! Love you all so much!
-Elder Ballard
Creepy snowman face :)

Classic front porch table in apartments here.

December 13th

Me and Elder Lindsay eating ice cream on December 8th.  What a joke this weather is.

Isn't this legit? Best tree topper I've seen!
Hello everyone!! Great hearing from you all this week! Thanks so much for the Christmas package! Those ornaments are absolutely perfect! I love getting something from each person :) I just love how unique everyone is... My companions and the other elders all were confused about the lawnmower one from dad, bahaha I love it.  

Well everyone this week has been wonderful!! The week started out with a huge humbler from the Lord. There were 2 people we had tracted into earlier and were heading over there to actually meet with them, and all 3 of us had kinda low expectations just cuz the couple seemed to be kinda a rough-appearance, not religious, type people. So we expected kinda a pity appointment and everything, but headed over there. As we met with them though, they both expressed a huge desire for a change in their life, and the lady even got emotional as she expressed how bad she wanted to live good. The lesson was awesome and just leaving there all 3 of us missionaries realized how we CANNOT judge people by their appearance, and I also realized how the Lord sometimes does give us a chance because he's not going to let my doubt get in the way of someone receiving this amazing gospel, but also how important it is for me to keep my faith strong and to never doubt the potential of anyone. Well, this wednesday was an AMAZING day. We had received a referal named Janelle, and that she supposedly had some questions about the church. We went over there and the Spirit helped us have a very strong lesson. At the end, Elder Batt extended a baptismal date... and SHE ACCEPTED!!! January the 8th!!! We walked out of there beaming with happiness... The way the Lord prepares some people is absoultely astounding. She came to church yesterday and it was so cool to just see someone with a desire like that come to church and feel of the love and spirit that is there. We are all so excited for her, it's just amazing. Later that day we had kinda a mood shift because we were called in to the hospital to give one of our ward members a blessing, as well as visit another less-active who had a son there. Our member wasn't doing too bad and the blessing was great. He's a very nice member who served in the military and was very grateful for the blessing. As we went to visit the sister (she's about 75) we had to go to the ICU. I'd never been in an ICU before that, and man was that a humbling experience. Every since room we walked past had someone, mostly elderly people, sitting in their bed just full of tubes. Tons of monitors, feeding tubes, breathing tubes, beeping, it was extremely sobering. As I walked past everyone, the Spirit made me realize how blessed we members are for having the opportunity of having the comfort of this gospel. Of knowing why we're here and where we're going, and just having access to that comforting power of the Spirit. I had such a strong desire of wanting to just teach all the families of these suffering people... I said a little silent prayer in my heart to thank God for what I do have, and to help those people be comforted and come to the gospel so they can feel the power and happiness we have access to. Never take that for granted because after going into that part of the hospital and feeling the sense of worry and sadness of the people there, it just made me realize so powerfully how much the Atonement really does for us. The older guy we've been teaching (Stan) had a really cool lesson this week too. He has been having very bad back problems and he hasn't been able to even come see what church is like yet cuz he's been kinda bound to his couch and heating pad. As we were teaching him this week Elder Lindsay got a prompting to offer a Priesthood blessing to him, and that was such a neat experience. We kinda gave a basic explanation of what was going to happen, and focuses heavily on the fact that it was completely dependant on his faith. I gave the blessing and it was amazing to me what the Lord wanted to say to Stan. The Spirit was SO strong, and over and over I just realize how much I love the Priesthood. Stan has a lot of faith and is a really good guy so I know that if he truly does believe and does come closer to this gospel that he will be healed. Yesterday finished off the week with an amazing lesson with Hannah. She wasn't able to come to church which was kinda a bummer but luckily we were able to teach her at the Sinclaire's last night to at least give her some of that spiritual boost. We taught her the Plan of Salvation and it was astounding. At the end I pulled out the picture of all of us at the temple and testified of how happy this plan really does make us, and how knowing that plan really is what did bring me out here on my mission. As we all talked and testified with her she even started crying when she talked about a grandma that had died and we helped her realize that she really can see her again and the Spirit was AMAZINGLY strong... Man, I was getting shivers and everything. We asked her if she would like to be baptized and to tell her parents (since she's 17 and we'd need permission) and she's planning on doing that and it was just an amazing lesson. Overall this week has just shown me how much we really do have in this church and how much I take for granted with the Gospel, the Priesthood, the Plan of Salvation, just everything. Never forget how much we have everyone :) This really is the true church, and God really has given us access to the perfect plan to give us complete happiness. I love you all and I hope you all are having a great holiday season! Thank you all for you letters, emails, prayers, and just continually being strong in this gospel!
-Elder Ballard

The Sinclair Family in Conroe Texas

In Conroe, the area where Redge served for his two months in Texas, a great family loves to have the missionaries over.  Here is Redge with Sister Sinclair and her daughter Whitney. 

Here are the elders enjoying the game room...

and the missionaries being fed (always important)...

their dog Hogan (Redge calls him "the horse dog!"

And, Whitney's friend Hannah, who as of now is planning to be baptized next week.  THANK YOU Sinclairs, for taking care of Elder Ballard in Conroe!!

Pictures from Houston November 29

Houston Temple! Such a beautiful place

Teagan! I saw a gecko! I guess in the summer there's TONS more, but I probably won't be here that long...
Awkward picture for sure... But this is the Pughs who gave me that amazing thanksgiving dinner. I told her that you'd want to see who was feeding me Mom :)

Texas Thanksgiving--November 29

Hello my Dear Family!
I'll begin with some responses first.
Dad - I'm so glad you told me about the living prophets thing, that has definitely been one of the very biggest things my testimony has grown on out in the mission. Those talks I recieved from the Apostles in the MTC have just given me an absolutely unshakable faith in them. Just this morning I taught my companions all about Elder Bednar's talk that I got and I think it's really going to help us do better. On your technical note, that is super exciting! Great call on the taking the upstairs TV out, being out here and having to tell people to shut off their TVs when we teach has been kinda an eye opener to me. Us missionaries don't watch ANY, and then about 90% of the houses we go to to teach people they have a TV going on just some random channel. I understand movies maybe but just the TV surfing is so weird to me now. . Definitely keep me posted on all that kinda stuff. If it makes you feel any better, I've only had two people besides family write me more than one letter out here :) Friends sure are a weird concept I've realized.
Mom - I did see Sister Alemany in the Temple! She was in my session as a worker but I didn't look around enough to see her, but then after I came out of the dressing room Elder Simpson (from Rigby... oh Idaho :P ) said that someone was looking for me at the front desk. So as I walked down the stairs I looked over and she was waiting for me there! That sure was a pleasant surprise. We had a fun talk about how Aust and Karen had been doing and it was crazy to me that they had been at the temple like 3 days before!! I'm glad that Darin and them have been reading my emails. Who all do you FW these to anyways? Crazy story though, yesterday at church, the Hamakers actually came to church to meet me! They're the parents of the sister in Holly and Darin's ward, and it was so weird to me that they could just drive up and say hi, because that made me realize how close I really am to Darin and Grandma & Grandpa and the Alemanys and everything :D Man, what are the chances I end up in Houston!
Austin - I can't believe how close you were to me this last week! Jeesh... so weird. I can't believe that of all the places in the US I end up in Houston where there's SO many connections to family and friends. I've already decided that sometime after the mission I'll definitely have to fly down here to visit. Visit Darin's family, the Alemanys, Grandma and Grandpa, and now with my mission I'll have (hopefully) converts to visit, as well as all the great member families here! How exciting :) Also, this morning, I was going to say something like, "Piece of junk/crap/trash" when my shaver wasn't working or something, but to make it more missionary appropriate I said, "Peace of mind!!" Haha, pretty good curse/play on words if I do say so my self :D I'll be using that all the time now I'm sure.

Alrighty, well, finally did my first full week of missionary work in the field!! This last tuesday we had an AMAZING lesson with a lady named Trina. She's a black lady that they've been teaching for like 6 months (did I already talk about her?) and she's had like 2 batismal dates but just cuz of smoking and some other stuff has had problems. Anyways, we went to teach her and had a big long talk about how her life has been going and stuff and even though that was the first time I'd really met her, the Lord blessed me with SOO much love for her! Even after like 10 minutes of listening to her I was already thinking of ways that I could help her out, what needs we could help her with, everything like that. She's having kinda a rough time with work and stuff, but her testimony is developing quite a bit and I can definitely tell that she's going to go somewhere. Elder Lindsay has been her for 6 months and actually found her in the first place, and he says she's had kinda an "Alma the Younger" experience so I am really excited to keep working with her. We also taught a guy named Stan and sadly he doesn't have a phone, so we'll find out how reading and praying about the BoM went for him when we go back tomorrow. Man... I've been worrying my head off all week about him. Hopefully things went good for him. It's been a little difficult here with the work just because of how hard it is to get people to follow through on appointments. We have like 7 people that have expressed a little bit of interest in us coming over, but when we go they aren't there, and that's been something hard to get used to. It's not really the fact that they ignore us that gets me down, it's more the fact that I feel like since I'm here in Conroe, I don't know how long I have to be here. But, I know the Lord has work for me to do here, so I just feel like I need to focus and work hard enough and fast enough so that I can get my work here finished before the Lord moves me down to Brazil. Anyways, I know it'll all work out fine, just a little difficult to get used to. We also finally went full blown tracting this week, and that was so enjoyable. It was nerve-racking at first, but the results of finding people that say we can come back is SO satisfying. Some of the door slam phrases have been SO funny to me. Before we could even say anything, people have said: "NOO." *slam* "I'm sorry, the dogs bite*SLAM*" "Gooo awaaaay" *no slam* (they didn't even bother opening the door :) (a guy looks out through the blinds:) "Aww maaannn...." Hahaha, I love it. Even though it is a little sad that they don't know what they're missing, it still cracks me up, keeps me on my toes for sure. One of my biggest desires I'm realizing is that with the awesome male force of the Bratsman side (and Ballard side as well) I really and dearly hope that all my cousins as well as the boys in the ward, primary kids me and Aust taught, etc, will prepare to go on missions. I know I've only been out 10 or 11 weeks but I have learned SO much already, and I know I'm going to keep learning and changing more and more as time goes on, and I wouldn't trade anything for that opportunity. Yesterday was kinda tough cuz we had about 5 lessons lined up for the day besides Church (which is the most we've had in a day since I've gotten here) and... Elder Batt came down with some BAD sickness... So we basically just went to church, and then came home so we wouldn't spread it around or anything. It drove me nuts cuz I'm not sick at all, so I just kinda sat around, studied, drew a little bit... it was tough. I know that it's not anyone's fault and I know I wasn't breaking rules or anything, but just the fact that we'll have to wait to talk to those 5 people till next week or whatever was kinda tough for me. I know it'll work out and all though. The Lord wouldn't let something as small as a little sickness get in the way of someone's salvation. I'm just excited to get out again this week! It's gunna be great!
Well, Thanksgiving!! Thanksgiving was kinda interesting because we were told specifically that we couldn't go procelyting. So... We started out the day by going to the highschool stadium to play football with some members and to show some non-members that we aren't just robots :) Tanner and Dad should be proud that I actually made my first touchdown ever that morning :D Haha... my legs are still sore from that dang game. Anyways, after that we did our studies, and then went to the Lanes' home for dinner. It was kinda weird because it was a lot more casual than our normal dinners, like people didn't all come at the same time, people weren't all eating together, stuff like that. But, the atmosphere was still really fun and it was great ot get the traditional turkey and potatoes and all that :) Such good food... yum. Luckily for us, right after that we went to the Pugh's house for another dinner! They're kinda a little bit older couple and they had a more traditional dinner and it was amazing. I just love the classic ham, turkey, rolls, potatoes, and pie dinner. Reminded me a lot of home. It's really weird how the taste of turkey always takes me right back to both Grandparent's houses, I like it. After that we went home and just kinda lounged around the apartment, it felt weird to just be inside so early but it felt good to rest again. The temple the next day was SO great. I absolutely love going there. Even though it's only been what, two weeks since going in provo, I just love being able to go back. It's weird to think that was prolly the last time for quite a while that I'll go. Defintiely a great spiritual charge tho. All you adults (and 12 year olds and up as well) GO TO THE TEMPLE!!! So many people here can't go because of schedules or worthiness or whatever, but my bishop during ward council talked about how if we strive to go to the temple often, all the other parts of our life will fall into place. I promise you that going will bring more blessings in any ways that you need them.
Thank you all so much for your support! I thank the Lord every day for this opportunity to be out here, and I'm striving the best that I can to be the caliber of missionariy I need to be to fulfill the responsibility that this calling requires.
I love you all so much!! Hurrah for Israel! (Austin, can I say that? Ha =D )
-Elder Ballard

Monday, January 17, 2011


President and Sister Hansen

Elder Batt, Elder Lindsay, Elder Ballard

Hello from Texas everyone!
Man... first of all let me say it is CRAZY to be in the real field finally. I got so used to the MTC being what a missionary's life is like that it's so weird to me to really be out in what a missionary's life actually is. Well, I guess there's no better way to do it than to just go through and tell you how it all went.
So, the Salt Lake plane ride to Pheonix was really uneventful. Me and Elder Alexander sat on a row all by ourselves so that wasn't exactly the best opportunity to do a whole lot. We ran to our next plane in Pheonix, and that's when we got split up. He sat way up in the front and I was crammed back in the corner on the very back. For most of the time the two seats next to me were empty and I was worried it was going to be a replay of the one before, but finally in the last 5 minutes a guy came and sat down in the aisle seat! He looked about 25 or so, and as I finished my lunch I tried to just "observe" him for a little while. So for about 10 minutes my mind was racing through EVERY little trick and bit of information I had learned in the MTC about talking to people, and holy moly was I nervous. So finally as we were taxiing around to take off, I asked him what he was heading to Houston for. So that broke the ice and I found out that his name was Ryan, and he was going on a business trip for some presentations. We talked for about 45 minutes about his life, about what my mission was (he kinda knew about missions a little bit, I guess he had Mormon friends in college) and he seemed impressed at what I was doing and stuff. I didn't actually TEACH him a whole lot, but we kept the subject around LDS stuff and how he thought that the religion in general was very "efficient" (he is EXTREMELY business minded) and stuff like that. After a while he decided to go back to reading his plans for his presentation. So after a while when I'd noticed that he was basically finished with his reading, I specifically brought up what he knew about Mormons and asked about his religion. We talked for a while from there and then the conversation just kinda tapered off. So, as we landed in Houston (even though I was dying of nervousness :P ) I finally asked him if he'd heard about the Book of Mormon. He said he had, and when I offered him the one I had marked up a bunch he politely refused. Kinda a bummer but I didn't take it too hard or anything. How can you as a missionary? And then after that I asked him if I could get his home address (because I'd written him a thank you note/testimony in the front of the BoM, and he gave it to me! Woot! So later today I'm going to write him that letter and hopefully that'll be able to plant a seed in him for whenever the Lord will soften his heart.
Getting off the plane I had kinda a bitter sweet feeling, but landing in Houston made me SOO excited. Us 3 missionaries got off, and finally met President Hansen!! Along with his wife and the 2 aps. This is going to blow your mind how small this world is. One AP is the best friend of a kid named Ryan Taylor, the brother of Jasmine Taylor (Mom and Nat might know her from the stake) and Ryan's dad is owner of Taylor Chevrolette (haha... how in the world is that spelled) and then even more crazy, the other AP's name is Elder Galbraith. AKA grandson of the Galbraith's that Grandma and Grandpa are friends with!! He even said he ran into them in the Temple and they talked with him! What are the chances?! So crazy. So that was a great welcome with those two, and President Hansen is SUCH a great person. I felt so welcome and comfortable here. He told us about how the mission works, history of the texas mission, all that cool stuff. Orientation after that, and then finally I got assigned to the Conroe 2nd Ward area. My new companions are Elder Lindsay, and Elder Batt (pronounced Bought) and they are awesome. They both really like music and we all get along really really well.
Well, now I'll just give a quick watered down version of what's happened this week. The first day was Zone Conference, and that was great. Got to meet my companions' dads, sons, brothers, etc. Elder Hansen gave a great talk and it really made me realize how important and inspired mission presidents are. After this we went back home and I had the opportunity to go to my first lesson! This was the Karr family. The wife is a member, and Brother Karr has been getting taught for like the last 2 years (what in the world right? How can you be getting taught for that long and not choose?) and we taught about the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He's a big old fire fighter and he told us all about how he had felt the gift of the Holy Ghost many times before and it was a cool lesson. My companions told me I'm a really good teacher for being a greenie and I definitely give that credit to being in the MTC for 9 weeks, and having such a strong spiritual upbringing :) Because I really was a lot more comfortable with that than I had expected I would be. After that Elder Batt went on a home teaching split and me and Elder Lindsay went out to contact people. You can't knock doors after dark here or people freak out, so we just kinda walked around the streets looking for people. We didn't have much luck, but on the way back we ran into two guys that were smoking outside their apartment. We talked for a little and found out that one of them (Logan) had just gotten out of jail for 120 days for marajuana use, and was now living with his girlfriend, but that he had a Book of Mormon. After a little more inveastigation he said that "The Mormon church is too smart for someone like me. You're church is too nerdy, you have to be able to back up everything you say with scriptures and know everything." This cracked me up inside cuz I had never had this idea cross my mind :P But after talking a little bit more we realized that he thinks that everyone in the church is exactly like missionaries who are trained and study the scriptures for 2 hours a day and what not. So after talking some more (and hearing some really interesting takes on the 2nd coming =D ) we got him to the point where he was interested in having us come over because we seemed a lot more "normal" and down to earth than the other missionaries. Crazy first contact but I got so excited afterwards :)
Well, besides that I haven't been able to do much more straight up investigator work, but we've had the opportunity to do SO much member work and it's been great. When we were on an exchange to teach a lady in the other ward, we checked up to see if we could see another investigator, and a black guy came outta the door and asked how we were doing, shook our hands, and then showed us some scars he'd received from 3 gun wounds down in Houston a few weeks earlier. I tell ya, it's pretty crazy to come to what the real world is like after Rexburg and Provo all my life :) That place we were in was super ghetto, really cool experience to be there and look at what the world is like. It's so cool the amount of love God really instills in you as a missionary, even though my first instinct was to be a little uneasy, I just got that burning feeling of how everyone is God's children, and He wants them all to return to him. Other cool families we've taught is the Sinclairs (they have a great dane that is seriously the size of a small horse. I'll take a picture this week. She also will probably be sending you pictures and videos of me when I'm over at their house) the Calderones (from what my companions tell me, I guess he used to be a major mob boss in Mexico. So cool now though, has 2 little kids that are SO cute, and it's just awesome to see what the gospel can do to change people. The family reminds me a ton of Jeremy and Rebecca, they taught us to cook and just the way they both talk remind me a lot of them, that was cool.) and last night we visited the Monorelos (or something) and he's our ward mission leader, and he's from Brazil! We talked in Portuguese a lot, he told me tricks and tips for Brazil, made some amazing rice and beans, it was great! So fun to finally get to talk to someone in Portuguese again! Over all I think it's been SO nice to just be around real members agian. Be around kids, pets, houses, all that. I meet a family and 30 seconds later just feel like I've known them for ages and just have this amazing love for them, the Lord is doing wonders with my heart already.
Well, we don't have a whole lot of investigator prospects right now, but I know we'll be able to get a baptism soon. Like you were saying Mom, the power of the Spirit really lets us do miracles, and I've already seen sooo many in myself, in my heart, and in the people we've been around. Even in only what, 6 days of being here? Ah, I love it. I know the Lord put me here in Houston for a reason, and since I don't know how long I'll be here, my attitude is i need to just hurry and work my tail off so I can get my purpose done before I leave for Brazil.
I love you family, I'm in good hands here :)

- Elder Ballard

More pictures from the MTC

The district--last Sunday at the MTC

Volleyball serve!
Elders Alexandre and Ballard

Last letter from the MTC

Hello Family!!
Holy moley it's finally here... my last Pday in the MTC. This has been the weirdest feeling for me. The first of this week was crazy because waiting for a reassignment has been like waiting to receive my call all over again! The whole district got called down into the Travel Office and they just read all our assignments to us off of a sheet, so it wasn't quite as exciting as my call, but still gave me a rapid heart rate for about 45 minutes :) Houston Texas!! Man how crazy is that! I know it's not the one that Grandma and Grandpa and Darin and Holley live in but still just the fact that it's the same city is crazy to me!! I am SO excited to go there! I've heard rumors that the part we might be in is prodominently spanish speaking... so that scares the heck outta me, but either way I am so excited. I can't speak any spanish but at least I can understand it cuz of Portugese :) It's been such a wierd feeling this week to realize that my schedule for the last 8 weeks is finally going to be cracked and I'll finally be able to start living in the real world again! It's going to be so crazy to actually be considered "special." I remember whenever we'd see missionaries in Rexburg we'd wave and honk and everything, and when you're in the MTC everyone is a missionary so it kinda makes you feel like you're just a normal person. But now, the minute I get off the shuttle to the airport in Salt Lake, EVERYONE is going to be watching me and wondering who I am. I've been praying like crazy to be ready for whoever I'll meet or sit by on the plane or whatever I end up doing, and it has amazed me how much the Spirit and the Lord has helped me learn in preparation for this experience... I'm a little nervous of course but my excitement is completely outweighing any other feelings of being nervous or anything. AH!!! I can't believe my REAL mission is only like 4 days away!!
Alright, I need to hurry and do some replyings before I continue much more. For Aust - It's been snowing here a little bit, not a ton but funny to watch the Elders from New Mexico and California and Sister Hammaker from Texas enjoy even a little bit so much. I'll prolly miss the snow on Christmas I'm assuming, but I don't think it'll be a big deal or anything. I canNOT beleive you're getting married in 40 days!!! I've been out here for like 58 i think... that is outrageous!! SO excited for you two though!! Your metaphor of the mission being a hill was really cool, I read it to my district and everyone else agreed. 22 fast sundays?! AH! That is so insane! I can't believe time out here... Good heavens. laugh about the dream :) SO weird to see her as Taylor Hymas now! What the crazy! To Grandma and Grandpa - I am so excited to be serving in Houston! I don't know how long I'll be there of course because of my visa uncertainty, but that makes me so glad that I'll be able to attend the temple if I'm there long enough, how exciting. Also, can someone specifically tell aunt Denae thank you? She sent me cupcakes a couple weeks ago and it didn't have an address or anything, but just make sure she knows we all split them in the district and loved them :)
Well, this last week totally topped things off with (can you believe it) apostle number 4!!!! Elder Bednar!!!! What are the chances!!! I found out that this next week will be Elder Perry and we'll just miss him, but I have been SO spiritually fed this month. Elder Bednar has SUCH an amazing talk. He talked about how important and effective doctrine is compared to what he called "applications." He explained it basically like: What's going to make a group of Elders change their hometeaching habits? Something like calling them every 1st of the month to remind them? (This is an application) Or making them truly realize and believe in the doctorine that the purpose of home teaching is to watch over, strengthen, and truly care for the members. (This is a doctrine) It was such a simple talk but SO perfect for me as a missionary. This truly was one of those life changing talks because I've realized I can really use that in every part of my life. I made some copies of my notes from it, so I'll be sending those home probably next week or so. Last week was mission conference which was also amazing. The leaders we have here teach with SO much power and it was all so applicable to us. Elder Bednar this tuesday told us that he still has his notes from when he was in the MTC, and amazingly enough, he even STILL refers back to them! SO cool! I can't wait to share all my notes with you all when I get home, I have learned amazing things. I think you'll get a laugh at this though, during the closing song at mission conference, it was a not very well known hymn, and at one point the computer lagged so the next line didn't show up, and the volume of the entire congregation was hilarious. The hymn was going on completely normal and then all the sudden the beautiful singing turned into a quiet groan of mumbled singing and it was hilarious that no one knew the words :) Man though... this whole MTC experience has just been SO amazing to me.
Well, it was so great talking to Dad and Aust and even Shandee this week! Sorry about my portuguese fail Aust :P The fact that I had a single minute left of phone time stressed my brain out and I wasn't saying what I wanted to :P I'll have to redeem myself for sure this Christmas. Well, I leave this Tuesday at 6:00 here, get to Houston at about 5:40ish that evening. My new address will be:

16623 Hafer Road
Houston, TX 77090

I love you all family!! You are amazing!! I'm so excited to go to Houston!!! THE CHURCH IS TRUE!!! (pictures in the maikl)

-Elder Ballard