Texas Mcallen Mission

Dear Family,

Well, this is it. My mission ends tomorrow. I really can’t believe that my mission has gone by so quickly. It feels like my mission has been a dream. I have loved it so much! I remember when I was home, Dad would always say, If I could choose between my college education and my mission, I would choose my mission every time. I never understood it when he said that. I never truly understood because I hadn’t served a mission myself. My mission has changed Jake Russell. Not into someone new, or foreign, but to a disciple of Christ. I never knew what that truly meant before my mission. I know now that over all else, I love my Heavenly Father, and my Savior, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I have seen the hand of God in my life and been blessed by the presence of the Holy Ghost out here and I never want to lose this feeling that I have had. I testify that God is our Heavenly Father, and that He has a son, Jesus Christ, who came to this earth and died for every single one of us. I know that the Holy Ghost is there, as long as we are worthy of His presence, leading us, and guiding us daily. I know he can be our constant companion if we strive to have His presence with us.
The second thing that I have come to know of a surety on my mission is that the Priesthood authority of the Lord Jesus Christ has been restored; in it’s entirety to the earth to the Prophet Joseph Smith. I have seen the miracles that come from the Priesthood. I know it’s the power of God. I know worthy men in God’s church can hold that power, exercise it, and perform God’s work just as they have done from the dispensation of Adam. I have seen the Priesthood of God heal, strengthen, lift and carry people in this life. I have been an instrument in God’s hands to bring to pass miracles, and I will never deny that he has His power here and wants us to use it.
I have learned the blessings and miracles that come with obedience to the commandments. There are SO many rules in a mission. So many. And sometimes, it seems overwhelming to try to follow them all. I do know that if we do follow the commandments and the rules of his chosen servants on this earth, we will receive blessings from on high. I have been a personal witness on my mission to see the windows of heaven open on my mission and for God to bless us with something that really was no cause of our own work in the area, but a tender mercy of Him.
Lastly, I wanted to testify of the Book of Mormon. It is such an inspired book of God! I know it to be true. True power comes into our lives when we not only read, but study the teachings that come from the Book of Mormon. I have seen addictions overcome, testimony’s gained, and comfort given through the Book of Mormon. I know for myself that the Book of Mormon was translated through the power of God by Joseph Smith.
What a blessing from my Heavenly Father it has been to be here in the TMM. What a great mission it has been. Truly I have loved my time here, but more than just thinking about me, I feel as if I have touched a couple of lives here with the service I have given. I will never be able to thank my God, and my Savior for the wonderful blessing that serving a full time mission has been for me.
Thank you all for the wonderful support, prayers, fasting and all the effort you have given. I will never be able to repay you all. Thank you. I love you all so much and am super excited to start a new page in my life. I know my Heavenly Father will take care of me and guide my next steps in this mortal journey.
Les Amo!
Elder Russell

Impromptu talk and Erik’s baptism


As I think that the blessings in this area are coming to an end, we get more. This Thursday, we took one of our focus youth out, Yahir Vargas. He is legit. He is probably one of our strongest deacons… Actually, he is the only one in the Rio Grande Branch. We took him out because he is our best potential of a future missionary here and we started working. We went by one of his friends and he wasn’t home, we were packing it up and hopping into the truck and we saw a couple of ladies sitting outside. We decided to give them a couple of pass along cards and to to try to teach. They accepted us and we had a little lesson. There are times in a mission where you feel God’s hand in your teaching. Like He is there, giving guidance and helping you. I felt the Spirit so strong in that lesson. Yahir was so funny, we got in the truck and he said “Well that’s a couple of baptism’s in the bag!” Such a funny kid. He will be a great instrument in converting his family to the gospel here. That whole family came to church this weekend. They stayed 5 hours, all three hours of church, for the baptism, and ate with all of us after. They will be great converts after I leave.
We were preparing the church this Sunday for the sacrament (missionaries do everything here because the branch isn’t really functioning.) I was writing out the program and we noticed there was only one speaker. We were like that’s funny but printed it out anyways. Turns out, it was only the Stake President planned to speak. Right after the sacrament, He whispers over to me on the sacrament table that he would like for me to teach the plan of salvation to everyone here in 4 minutes. He said he would be timing. So I did. It was pretty fun getting to teach all the members like that. After that President Salmond gave one of the best talks I have ever heard in my life. He spoke about a parable of Christ and how we can all prepare ourselves for His coming.
After the service we had the baptismal service of Erik. He was great. He got so nervous right before the baptism happened! He was fidgeting in his seat and he got so nervous walking into the font. The baptism went great and the third time was the charm. His foot loved to slip outside of the font! He was so happy and I was so glad he could join his Mom in God’s church.
I don’t have too much time, but I love you all. I know the Lord is reaching out to each and every single one of us every day of our lives. He loves us. He listens to our prayers. And he will never abandon those who love Him. I love you all and I will make sure to write a couple of things for my last week. Thank you all for the amazing support you have given me out here in the mission field.
Elder Russell

El fin se acerca


Well, the time of my mission is coming fast to a close. I am so grateful for the time I have had out here. It changes my life daily and for sure I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life daily here in Texas. I couldn’t begin to describe all the blessings and tender mercies of my Father in Heaven and all he has done for me. I have become a changed man and have grown so much closer to one day being a true disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yesterday, I got the privilege of confirming Mark a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Lord has blessed this area so much and honestly, Elder Krommenhoek and I have talked about it a lot that honestly we haven’t been doing anything really extraordinary that we don’t already do, the Lord has just blessed us so much in this area. He was so happy after his confirmation and got a solid hour interview after with the second councilor of the branch. He is a service missionary from McAllen and he talked his ear off. He was a really good sport about it and he got his interview for the temple and for the priesthood he will be getting next week! Every male member that’s baptized here has a huge load to carry because of the lack of priesthood. I’m glad he is a member! He can get to work!
This coming Sunday we will be baptizing Erik, the son of our recent convert Erika. He is super great. My favorite part about him is every time he feels the Sprit, he wraps his arms around himself and says “BRRRR”. Super funny. He gets the chills again when we explain the Holy Ghost is a spirit and can go inside of him and guide him. He said he was worried about that because he didn’t want to get possessed. He is such a cute 10 year old! I love him a ton. He is going to be a great kid. Since we have taught him to pray, his prayers have improved a ton!
That’s it for this week! Also we have Myra and Hugo. Hopefully this weekend or the next for their baptism. They are great as well šŸ™‚
Love you all!
Elder Russell

Baptism’s and Birthday’s.

Hey Family!

Crazy week and especially a crazy p-day! We were up early today taking studies before p-day started because this morning, surprise surprise, we had a baptism! We baptized Mark Perez. He is super awesome! We had his baptismal birthday for him today! Before, when Elder Christensen and Elder Krommenhoek were teaching Mark, they had a former baptismal date but before the week of his baptism he got in a car crash. He got pretty banged around so his baptism didn’t happen and the missionaries didn’t get to teach him for a bit. We got him back on track and he was able to finish the job today. Elder Krommenhoek got to do the ordinance and I will be doing the confirmation next week.
We have a couple new investigators that I am so PUMPED to teach. Especially one that gets me super excited is Myra and Hugo! They are super cool. They are good friends of our recent convert Erika and they came to her baptism. They are progressing good and definitely need the gospel in so many ways. Myra has her hands full with one of her kids being severely special needs and the other a ball of energy. They have a baptismal date for later this month and their first week of church will be this Sunday! Definitely keep them in your prayers.
Next is an investigator named Geraldine. She’s super cool. Gerldine is one of those people you would probably see on the street and judge and say no she wouldn’t be interested. But she is! She ended up being a little miracle showing up to one of our Family History nights here in the branch and she is really interested in baptism for her and her daughter.
Also, we are teaching a super awesome investigator named Olga.Ā  She is a mother of a couple of kids in the ward. She recently told a really good member friend that she wanted to be baptized but she just wasn’t sure. We have been working with her ever since. She has so much potential but she has a couple of doubts that we are trying to overcome! Anything is possible with Christ though!
Last but not least we are still teaching Erik. He is the son of our recent convert Erika. He is super great and if all goes well, we should be having his baptism this weekend or the next. We are still talking about the best date for him!
Love you all so much! Have a great week!
Elder Russell

It’s not over yet! Ericka’s Baptism

La Familia y los amigos de la familia Russell,
Wow what a week! The area of Las Lomas is absolutely having crazy success right now guys. Elder Krommenhoek and I are absolutely baffled about all the potential that we are getting. It’s not even from our own efforts! It’s always been this way in my mission. If you work hard, and worry about others and not yourself, miracles come. We ended up having five people at church yesterday not including Ericka. It was so cool to see. I have a feeling that God truly does want Rio Grande to be a ward and he is progressing the work here. Tender mercy’s of the Lord are so cool and so amazing to receive a payback from the Lord after working diligently in his service.
The cherry on top of the week is that Ericka’s baptism happened. She had such a tough time deciding who she wanted to baptize her! I think she thought about it in total for three days and than finally decided it would be better for Elder Krommenhoek to do it because he’s still getting a hang of things with Spanish and she wanted her confirmation to be really special. Everything went really well. Elder Krommenhoek did a great job. She was like 15 minutes late though becuase a huge car crash happened right outside of our apartment. (We saw the wreckage after) It’s crazy all the little things that Satan can do to stop someone from getting baptized. Ericka gave us a little scare this week because she had started talking a lot about temples, and certain things (through the internet) she found out we did there. 90 percent of it you guys would have laughed at. We killed all the little doubts she had and she said she never doubted she just wanted us to know what others were saying! It’s crazy the things people come up with to stop God’s work and the church from progressing.
Next coolest thing that happened is we had a family history event this week! A member of the district pulled some strings and we were able to get 30 computers and about 8 people from mission Texas to come and teach people how to do the work. The turnout was unbelievable. We had a little over 50 people. (That’s more than average sacrament attendance here) We set up a printer and people had names printed and everything was going awesome. As a district, we started the initiative of baptizing and indexing a ward in the heavens. Meaning, that Heavenly Father always creates things spiritually before he creates them physically as we are taught in the Pearl of Great Price. So, we thought, if we can baptize that many people as a ward our Heavenly father will be that much more prone to help us out on this side of the veil. It’s going super good so far and we have seen success. Including a very cool new investigator named Geraldine who we are teaching!
That’s all for this week. Love you all a ton. About 30 days left and I will make every single one of them count.
Doctrine and Covenants Section 4 :Ā 2Ā Therefore, O ye that embark in theĀ serviceĀ of God, see that yeĀ serveĀ him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may standĀ blamelessĀ before God at the last day.
Elder Russell

Las Lomas

Hey Family!
Well, I got transferred! Start of my 16th transfer and I finally made it down here to the heart of the Valley. I got transferred to the area of Las Lomas. It’s pretty similar honestly to Laredo. It has a ton of hills (hence the name Las Lomas) and it’s right by the border. My new companion will be Elder Krommenhoek and he is legit! I love him a ton! He is a super funny guy and he lives just down the street from us back home. He is from West Valley, Utah.
Our area is golden! I love it here because the church is so young. We are in a branch of 50 people and we have the goal of creating a ward! We have about 6 Melchezidek priesthood holders depending on the week, maybe less, and a ton of relief society members. There is so much room to grow and help God’s kingdom down here. The branch is definitely something else. It has a pretty bad problem with gossip. It has caused the numbers to shrink by a ton because of a few specific incidences involving a few former branch presidents. Needless to say, there is work to be done down here.
We had four investigators at church this last week. Definitely a huge change from Robstown to here. I forgot how humble and cool the Mexican people are these past three months! We had a family of five there, Ericka and her kids. Only one is baptismal age but it will be great! Ericka is so cool! The first day I got here she showed up on our doorstep with a huge tub of Blue Bell Ice cream, literally my favorite ice cream in the world and introduced herself. She lives in the apartment just below us! She actually started investigating because she found a pamphlet one of the Elders had dropped and called the number. She should be getting baptized this Saturday or Sunday.
Our other super progressing investigator is named Mark. He is a friend of a member down here in the branch. He is super prepared! His first week at church he didn’t have church clothes, but after that week, he went and dropped like 400 dollars on new church clothes. You could say he’s pretty converted. He just wrapped up his fifth time at church so he’s looking golden. We just need to solve a couple more doubts and he should be hitting the waters pretty soon.
Our new district is great. We have Elder Krommenhoek, (the DL) Myself, Elder Lundburg (AP Last transfer) and Elder Barlow (The Greenie). It’s a super fun district. We nicknamed ourselves the Eagles because we are all eagle scouts. It’s a pretty funny inside joke.
Super excited for these coming weeks here in the mission. I could not have asked for a better place! Each of my areas has just truly increased my testimony of The Lord. Truly he puts us right exactly in the places we need to be at the time we need to be there. I love my Savior so much and I couldn’t thank Him more for these wonderful years I have been given by him.
Love you all so much,
Elder Russell

Transfer 16, Home Stretch

Hey Family!

Well, this is it. Home stretch. Last six weeks of my mission! It feels so weird to be at this point. I feel like it was yesterday I was just getting to my first area in Larga Vista, Laredo with my trainer Elder Hickman. It has been a roller coaster. It’s not quite done yet! I won’t be ending my mission as a Zone Leader. The AP’s called last night and they notified me that I will be training a newly called District Leader how to be the best he can be at his position. I am pumped! I will be spending my last six weeks in Rio Grande. It’s a city right between Laredo and McAllen. My goal is to work harder, smarter, and have the most fun I have ever had these last weeks and at the end, have no regrets on how I served.
Our week this week was really good. We set three baptismal dates with some awesome people. The area is seemingly blowing up right as I leave. Such is life, right? This week we met someone super cool. Her name is Selena. She was so excited to start taking the lessons! She thought it was the coolest thing ever when we told her in the lesson that we could bless her house. She committed to church, wanted to learn more about baptism, the whole nine yards. Turns out, she called her whole family after we left, to tell them how cool the Mormon missionaries are and that they need to talk to them! You think that would be a great thing, right? Nope. Turns out her whole family tried to tell her lies about the church and to turn her against us. Super weird. But, we visited her last night because she didn’t make it to church to ask her what happend, she told us she thought about it and still wants to study with us.
I will be so sad to get moved out of Robstown. I only spent a total of three months here. That is about half of the time I usually spend in areas so it will be tough saying goodbye to everyone that I have met. The people here are so great. I wish I could have had more time with them all. There are so many good things that are going to happen here!
The zone leader area is getting moved down to a city called Alice, So we spent all morning moving all of the stuff out of the house into an apartment they rented down there. But, after email, we should be going and doing our last P-day activity at the beach in Corpus playing beach soccer and writing in journals and of course, a tie trade.
Con Mucho Amor,
Elder Russell