Elder Gray, Elder Black, & Elder White. February 20, 2017

This was an awesome week. It really started out with bikes. This Tuesday I realized that there was more wrong with my bike than I had thought. But it was all easy fixes and needed some parts. The
expensive parts of my bike that I got from Elder Thaut all worked great, it was just minor things that needed a tune up. So there's a bike shop in our area that Elder Christiansen knows really well so we decided to go there. I took my bike in and the man there asked what broke. So I started telling him what would need fixing and he said we could do a tune up on it and that would fix all of that and then some. It also looked like it'd be cheaper to do the bundle than each repair separately. If it was too expensive I planned on just buying a bike and being done with it but the repairs were only $75 and that'd get me a new bike. So I left them and went about on our Tuesday. We came back later and the bike was done. In checkout the store owner came out and said, "um, we don't charge elders for labor." She's a member and loves missionaries and I had no idea they didn't charge labor. The man who fixed my bike was confused and asked, "so they get free tune ups?" She said, "since we don't charge for labor we don't normally do full tune ups, I just fix what's broken." And as she gave me a receipt for $17 she said, "Merry Christmas."

It was definitely a tender mercy.

After that was my exchange with Elder Black. We joked that me, him and Elder White should be in a trio because that'd be hilarious. It was my first time biking and I found out I'm really bad at planning for a bike area. It was a super good day though. We were meeting with less actives but also tracting a bit at each area so that we weren't biking the whole day and could do more work. I accidentally tracted into members. They thought it was really funny and it was.

Also there were two people that Elder Phipps were teaching before the ward swap. Their names are Scott and Kristy. Their baptism was already set up when we started teaching them but their baptism was Saturday. They're super cool and were so grateful. It was a cool moment to see. Elder Christiansen baptized Scott and I baptized Kristy. It was an awesome day. Then Sunday in church they were confirmed and it was such a spiritual moment. I felt really good.

I'm hoping the next week is just as amazing as this one was.
Love you all!
Elder Taylor Gray

Day 200. February 13, 2017

Day 200
It's pday. So we took a ten mike hike and now we are all dead.
That's it for day 200.

Day 199
Church. Church is awesome. We go for six hours. Two hours per Ward. Wecover Surprise 1st and 2nd and Copper Canyon. Here's a map is thearea, but all medieval like and on an island. Blue is 1st red is 2nd and yellow is Copper Canyon. Brown is other area but we live there andshop there.

There's an older fellow from Romania who we've been teaching, Vioreland he came to church and loved it even though I accidentally broughthim into gospel doctrine instead of gospel principles. Oops.

Day 198
This is the heart of last week. The Halls have been taking care oftheir niece, Maxine, who's 14 and their nephew Bradley who's 12. Theother elders were teaching them and right as I got to this area we traded wards with them. And they were baptized on Saturday. It was anawesome opportunity to see them follow through.

Day 197
So Elder Christiansen got sick and I felt really bad for him. He's way better now though. I played a lot of solitaire, Pokemon cards, and almost (not really) fixed my bike.

Day 196
I had an exchange with an Elder named Elder Hulett, he's been out for a month and a half. He's super cool! I also got to eat lunch with Elder Durrett, my MTC companion. I miss that bro, he's cool.

Day 195
You got my Wednesday video. I hope to do that every Wednesday. Wednesday's are boring.

Day 194
Tuesday was a lot of lessons. We taught Scott and Kristy, who are getting baptized in a week. And Ray, who's getting baptized at the end of the month and Viorel, the Romanian man who came to church. All lessons went well.

Day 193
Last pday. Love you so much!!

Us Elders prepping for Maxine and Bradley's baptism.
Me at the house.
My improvised bike tools
My comp with a cat

I must've been hungry...I ate part of a fork. February 6, 2017

This week was slower and there were less days since last pday, so not much happened. But I moved to Surprise! We've spent our moments introducing ourselves to new members because Elder Christiansen who was over Copper Canyon, White Tanks, and Cortessa ward is now with me and we're both over Copper Canyon, and Surprise 1st and 2nd. So we both have two wards where we don't know anyone! But it's been super fun getting to learn who people are. My two favorite familys so far (I mean three) are the Halls, they're neice and nephew moved in with them and are going to be baptized soon. And also the Grovers, Brother Grover is our ward mission leader and he is super excited to help us out with the ward. And also the Hardings who are super fun. Brother Harding is into D&D so we hit it off. The Elders here are awesome. Elder Phipps and Dill are both really experieced and super cool. I've liked getting to know them. I don't know if I told you but Christiansen and I were in the MTC at the same time. We've both been out for almost 200 days now. Funny story true story, I was eating at a dinner with a plastic fork and I mustve been hungry because I accidentally ate a peice of one of the points. It was awkward but it was the Halls so they thought it was funny.

1 At the Penrods. We all hit ourselves with an ink pad
2 my new house
3 my new desk
4 the Elders I live with
5 Elder Christisnsen's mom sends holiday pillowcases
6 my new district
Elder Christiansen is the one sitting in the front in the pillowcase picture. That's my companion. He's cool.

SURPRISE!!! I'm in Surprise! January 30, 2017

This transfer has been amazing. I've met amazing people. Elder Thaut went home, I miss him. But before he left he gave me his bike. So free bike. Took his cool sandals too.
Uh, news from the week. We got another flat on Tuesday and took it to Fletcher's. It went well. We got a new tire. We got a new missionary schedule. Cool stuff. Pday is two hours longer (but today pday was shredded because #transfer. We ate dinner with some of my favorite people ever, the McWilliams.  About sixty missionaries got transferred. They're reworking boundaries so a lot of movement stuff happened. So they also haven't told anyone specifics on anything.

the next day...
SURPRISE!!! I'm in Surprise!
It's not rural here. It's weird and unnatural that there is a lack of fields and farms and dirt roads. I'm going to die. But it's going to be awesome. My new companion is Elder Christiansen, I was in the MTC at the same time as him. I love in a suburb and I realize I don't miss suburbs. But there are four elders there and that's always fun. Elder Dill and Fipps live there.

I'm still alive, but still in a car area. Well hello 20 extra pounds.

What happened is my two wards were split and divided amongst two other companionships because mission zone boundaries had to change and there are fewer missionaries to cover that.

Love you, Elder Gonna Get So Fat

These are two different hikes. One with elders and one with the Penrods. We burn a tie on our 6 month anniversary.

Dos semanas para usted (Two weeks for you). January 23, 2017

So last week our reverse osmosis filter that we don't use too much stopped filtering and started flooding. Ahh! But it's all taken care of now and now I have more time to email. So now you get a big 2-week update. But first I want you to know that the mission is going amazing. I'm so glad I decided to go. I miss everyone more than I think I did before because it's been six months now, but I've been learning and growing so much that I know it will be worth it when I get to see you guys.

Last Tuesday we had all our appointments cancel and we were too far away from the other half of our area to do anything about it. So we got to tract for three to four hours or so. We decided to drop 50 passalong cards. One at each door, but every 1 out of 4 or 5 answered the door so we needed up knocking on 50+ doors that Tuesday. We also tracted this Wednesday as well. And the funny part about that is that none of the people that we knocked on the door of we've started meeting with but whenever we start knocking on doors members of others will call us and let us know that someone they know is interested in learning about the gospel. Crazy right? All success out here no matter what comes from the Lord.

I also got sick finally. It wasn't fun. It wasn't too bad but it wasn't good either. I had bad sniffles. But I'm feeling way better now.

We also got to go to the temple too. And that was amazing. We went with the Penrods who are amazing members who I count as my friends.You always learn something in the temple. And that because the spirit who is sent to teach us is present at that temple.

We've also started teaching a young boy who's trying to get baptized. His parents are going to be baptized March 4th but he doesn't want to wait. So we're trying to teach him all the lessons but also making sure that he understands it all. And it's been going really well.

We've also started teaching a young girl. And she's been learning more and more about Christ since we met her. She's super cool and enjoys learning the gospel. Her friend started taking her to
church and it's changed her life since she's learned that Christ really does live and love her.

Then we are also teaching a family. They are a super cool couple who have a bunch of horses and do team roping. They taught Elder Hilton and I how to rope a steer and put on a small rodeo for us for all the lessons we share with them. I wish I got pictures but I left everything in the car and it was a good walk back. Sorry.

Fun story, short story, true story. It rained a lot this winter and it rained a lot recently as well. A certain road was closed. The only road that takes us to the family we are teaching. But I thought I remembered a shortcut instead of going ALL the way around this other highway which would have been much shorter than what my "shortcut" turned into. There's a river here called the Hassayampa that never flows. It only occasionally becomes really muddy when it rains. My shortcut quickly took forks in the road to the point where I couldn't turn back because I couldn't remember the roads I took. Then I lost the roads because I thought I was on one. Unable to navigate my way I had to follow the"river." The bank forced me into the river and I rode through mud hoping to find a road. I did thankfully but now the truck is dirty.

Another fun story is I finally on my mission met a crazy cat lady. But it was a crazy dog lady. There were so many dogs that you couldn't walk. It was so nuts. But I lost it when she said I could take a seat and when I pulled out the chair there was a dog already laying there ready for me to pet him. It was hilarious.

Also, I wanted to say thank you for praying for me. I felt it. I love you.


Broken Water Line. January 16, 2017

We've had a busy pday and I don't have much time to email. We had a problem with the water line and it almost ruined our sink cabinets so we didn't have any water and we couldn't get ready for awhile. So we've been busy. I hope I can actually get out a good email.
(from Carma: This is all the letter we got, but at least we got some cute pics!!)

Great families in Buckeye! January 9, 2017

So why I decided to go on a mission is a fun story. I just knew I should but then everyone started asking me that question. "Why are you going?" So I found an answer that I could tell everyone "so that others have the same opportunities I do." Which was true.

But in the MTC I met a girl named Candace who I had the opportunity to teach a little bit. She told me she prayed and God didn't answer her prayers. She came to a conclusion that either God isn't real or God doesn't love her and he picks and chooses who he loves. Either way I had no idea what to say.

And Candace was just a teacher, role playing, but I was scared if someone in Arizona asked me that I wouldn't know what to say. I was scared I wouldn't be able to help them. And that's when I realized why I was going. Some people in this world do not know that Heavenly Father loves them.

And I don't like that.

That's a clip from another email and it was so good that I wanted to share it again!

This week was great. I had an exchange with Elder Crook from the MTC and we spent a day trying to find people who wanted to hear us out. Not many people did except for one person who we are actually planning on visiting tomorrow. So remind me and I'll let you know how it goes. They're a family with a 16-year-old boy who's never been baptized but his mom has.

We also ate dinner with the McWilliams family and they're my favorite. They were baptized a year and a half ago and they're super cool. They also cool really well so I'm excited to eat there again at the end of the month.

The Woods family are also doing well. We met with them again and they decided to start reading the Book of Mormon as a family every night. They're super nice and cool. They're ranchers from Idaho. We also got to help them paint some of the poles for their roping arena.

2016 was amazing! I'm ready for 2017. January 2, 2017

We met with the Sanchez family again! So ever since we lost contact with them we've knocked on their door every day or anytime that were in the area. I was worried Elder Hilton just thought I was knocking on the door for fun but they finally answered and we're going to meet with them this week so I'm really excited.

And we usually in this area we get a flat every transfer because we're always driving on dirt roads trying to get to our appointments and we finally got our flat. Later that day though, someone left something on the road and it took a chunk out of the tire. The tire was so worn down so there was no saving it. We went to Fletcher's and bought a new flashy tire. It was quite an adventure but now I'm a master at changing tires.

We also got to eat at Texas roadhouse, a member took us and I got chicken fried steak and it was one of the best days ever. The members here down in Buckeye are just super cool.

This was a way different week though with the holidays. So many people were out of town and busy. It was hard trying to meet with people and schedule times we could meet. We did get to teach some people though. We met with the Woods early in the week because they went to a team roping competition because they're super cool like that. The Woods are super cool also because they just walked into church one day and wanted someone to teach them.

Also, all the mutual theme songs are on LDS music!!

And guys I'm super excited for the new year. 2016 was amazing. I grew more in that year than I ever have. (It was technically the middle of 2015-July 2016 but whatever, I'll call it all 2016.) I started mountain biking and birdwatching and finished my Eagle, became a billiard master, wrote a book, ate grilled cheese (a lot), worked on family relationships, graduated high school, stopped procrastinating (near the end of the year), kept a job, prepared for a mission, left on a mission, and became more than I ever was. The new year, to me, was the end of the best period of growth for me. But the biggest thing I learned in 2016 is that I have more life left to go. It was the end of the beginning of my life, especially where I graduated and left on a mission. This is also the only year, January to December, where I can dedicate 100% of time to study and service.

This week, especially near the end, I could feel something guiding me. I'm getting stronger, more obedient, more compassionate, smarter even. I'm realizing that The Lord has more in store for me right now and I need to be more aware of where he guides me than ever before. And I can feel it now as I rekindle that fire of starting new just like July 27 when I went into the MTC. Just like Aug 17 when I stepped into Cottonwood. Even Nov 9 when I came here to Buckeye. Now it's January 1, where I feel and know that Heavenly Father is guiding me.

I've thought a lot about last year, but I'm ready for 2017.

And video because everywhere I go doesn't stop raining. It was crazy.