Monday, September 26, 2011


Dear Family,
   Thank you for the emails... sometimes it is so wierd being out here and being away from the rest of the world, and then finding out how much things change while you're gone. A lot of things happen that you don't expect. For some reason I thought that when I'd come home everything would pretty much be the same. Hearing about Bro McLay really sent me for a loop for about a week, I've come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to not think about it, and I know my father in heaven has given me the ability to put that in the back of my mind and find peace, so that my testimony can burn brighter than ever while I'm fufilling my responsibilities as a missionary.
   Hearing about Liz today is another one of those things... I wish that I could be there for her funeral. This doesn't really seem real. I'm just thinking about all the great memories I've had with her. Spending so much time at work with her and the connection we both had with the Boyds made her always feel like family to me... I'm greatful for the plan God has for his children. I wish I could be there with all of her family and friends to honor her memory.
   Even before that, this week has been pretty crazy. Sister Townsend, an older lady in the ward that I'm very close to, nearly died this past week. She went to sleep one night last week and woke up in the ICU. Two firefighters came in and found her hanging in her home. She has bruises all over her body and intense rope marks around her neck... Her husband, who has a history of being abusive, claims that she did it to herself. From what we've heard, she decided to go along with that so that Henry wouldn't get charged with anything. Sis Townsend herself has a history of being suicidal. It's all a very interesting and unfortunate situation, but Bro Floyd called us last week and told us her situation, and said that she called him and wanted him to bring me and my companion down to the hospital to visit her. She was worried that I was going to be transfered while she was in there and she wanted to say goodbye.
   We went to visit her, and I was able to give her a blessing. She said that I've been on her mind, and she thinks it's because she knew I wanted to be a firefighter, and she kept thinking about the 2 firefighters who saved her the other night. When we were there she told us the story, and then she looked at me and I told me she knows it's my calling to help people, just like the paramedics helped her. It was a neat experience. Sister Townsend is kind of like my mom for this area, she's always checking on me and lifting my spirits. I have a lot of respect for her... and she's been through so much, but she keeps pushing forward. She has definately strengthened my testimony in being diligent through the trials we face in this life. Her health is improving and she should be out of the hospital sometime this week. I think her and her husband are going to be seperated for a while. It's a tough situation to descirbe, because they both have such a radical history, but I think things are going to work out for the best from here on out.
   Ronnie Jackson also ended up in the hospital this week. He got really sick with pnemonia. We got to go visit him with Keisha one night. We were able to give him a blessing in the hospital, and he's diong a lot better now too. What's really cool is that Ronnie and Keisha have come a lot closer together since he's been sick. She's been taking care of him, and they are acting like they love eachother again. It makes me so happy, lol, cuz I've been trying so hard my whole mission to help those two out.
   To get to some more crazy news. Wednesday morning Elder Badger came over to our apartment before transfers to say goodbye to me, because we knew he was leaving, and figured it'd probably be over the river, so I probably won't see him much through the remainder of my mission. They went to transfers and we just finished up studies because we weren't getting transfered. Like an hour later I get flooded with texts from missionaries telling me congrats on going District Leader. That was a surprise. Elder Lester went Zone Leader and I'm the new District Leader of the Memphis 1st District. Elder Badger however, my mission dad, got released from Zone Leader, to be called as Presidents new Assistant. That was a surprise to like the whole mission. Elder Peay got released to go train, so Elder Badger took his spot. So my Trainers an AP now.
   I didn't think I'd be training and get Leadership at the same time. It's double duty. I honestly was not expecting it, but for some reason it happened. lol. My first District Meeting is tommorrow, wish me luck. and now I get to call and make sure every one is in and safe on time, and hold them accountable for the work that they do in their individual area's. Our District is actually the biggest in the mission. It's 5 companionships, which I didn't think was that big, but most Districts in this mission are 3 or 4 companionships. What's really colol is we have 3 missionaries in the District who are brand new and being trained, so they have that MTC fire. One of them is from England. He sounds like he's straight out of Harry Potter, lol, and black people in the ghetto think it's awesome.
   I am greatful for all the letters I receive. I enjoy reading them. Thank you Kylee, and Alyssa, and Sis Boyd, and everyone else who has written me recently. It's nice to hear from people. I'm sorry that I don't write back. I have given up on writing letters. Quick E-mails I can do. But I really don't have time to write letters, especially now that I'm in Leadership as well as training. There's a lot I have to worry about, and I need to set the example for the new missionaries, and just like it states in our white hand book, I'm striving to limit correspondance with others and focus on the work at hand. Many mighty miracles will be wrought in this land, and the more I focus on my mission and the less I think about home, the better I will be able to be all that the the Lord wants me to be.
   There are 2 different ways we can become. Diliberatly or accidently. We are creatures of change and we change every single day, either becoming stronger or weaker. We can decide to become, by making diliberate choices to reach our potential. Or, we can go with the flow and become whatever life makes us, never reaching our full potential. I am striving to make the choice, of choosing what I become.
   I love you. Thank you for your constant support and encouragement. It helps me keep going. Have a good week, you'll be in my prayers.
   -Elder Justin LeBaron

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


   I know, I know. I apologize. When I actually start writing you guys it takes me a while, mainly because I'm a slow typer, but also because I have a lot to say, and Idk if other missionaries just write like a little paragragh to their families or something, but they somehow manage to read all their emails, write president back and write their family in an hour. It takes me an hour just to read all my emails and write president. So Elder Kowalk and I usually get back on and write our families. Yesterday we were doing the Spanish missionaries a favor and had to take them down to the Temple to see the departing missionaries, and then go shopping and things, so it cut our email time short, and so we weren't able to get back on. It's not like it's a burden to write you guys, I love letting you all know what's going on. I was actually a little frustrated because the spanish missionaries didn't let us know they were expecting us to cut email short, but it's all good. So sorry this is a day late.
    Sounds like everythings goin' bueno. Thank you for all the Happy Birthday wishes. Holidays and Birthdays are wierd on the mission, because they don't feel real, they just feel like another day in the mission field. But, I am infact 20 years old now, where did my childhood go? I dont even know. At least I can still be a kid on the inside.
   So, This past week was horrible. Mostly because my companion and I got some wicked food poisoning. Tuesday afternoon Elder Kowalk said his tummy hurt, so we went home after district meeting so he could lay down, and then he just started rolling around and crying and said he was in the worst pain of his life and told me to take him to the hospital. So I called Sister Petersen, who had us call the mission doctor, who talked to Elder Kowalk and came to the conclusion he had food poisoning, and said the only thing to really do was to wait it out. I knew it was only a matter of time before I got sick, since we ate all the same things. At around 6 that night I started getting a stomache ache. For those of you that have had food poisoning before, you feel our pain. Freak, that was the worst. I got to sleep at around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning. So Tuesday and Wednesday we were sick and didn't get any work done, so that sucked. My stomache felt like it was trying to be on the outside of me. Elder Kowalk said it was the worst pain he ever experienced in his life, lol. It was bad. I just kinda spent the whole night laying on the couch for like 20 min lying in pain, then crawling to the bathroom to throw up or poop or do anything possible to make my stomach feel better, lay on the bathroom floor for like 20 min, then crawl back out to the couch and repeat the cycle. But no matter what, I just contuinued to feel horrible for like 24 hours straight. So we're never eating at Stevie B's Pizza ever again, and I don't recommend it.
   After that our week got a little better. We found some awesome people and had some fun. Today is officially the start of the new transfer. Can you believe I've already been training for 6 weeks now? time flies. It's ridiculous. My dear friend Elder Streeter goes home today, he's a crazy kid. It's weird to think that missionaries actually go home. When you're out here in the middle of it, it just seems like your whole life, it's weird to think it's actually gonna end one day.
   I think this will be my last transfer serving in the Memphis 1st ward. I've been here my whole mission, and it'll be 10 1/2 months after this transfer, so it's probably about time. I can't even imagine not being in this area, it's gonna be so weird. If only they let me stay 1 more transfer after this one, then I can officially serve half my mission in the Memphis 1st ward. I don't think that'll happen, but maybe I can ask Pres to let me finish out in this ward, it can be my dying wish.
   Star is doing really well this week. She really loves Elder Kowalk and I, she calls us like every day and invites us over for dinner. We try to at least stop by just about every day, because she's still a recent convert and needs a lot of support, AND there's so many people around here that we can share the gospel with. Her sisters are always over there, and her baby daddy, and this kid she has temp custody over named Jeffery. Star is such a good person. She has her struggles like everyone, but she has the sweetest heart and spirit, and a strong desire to rise above her surroundings and culture. Memphis is like a black hole. The kids here grow up in the middle of this mess of gangs and drugs and sex and violence, and it's what they learn. There's a proverb somewhere that says something to the effect of , "teach a child while they're young, and it will stay with them when they're grown". It's and endless cycle of people not knowing how to be a good parent, because their parents were never even around, because they were addicted to meth or coke, or incarsarated for gang fights, so when we teach these people the gospel it's almost like it's too much to grasp. It doesn't make sense to them because of the way they've grown up. For example, there's a recent convert in the ward, GREAT guy, I love him to death, he has such a good heart, and he has had a huge change of heart, just like all these people we bring into the gospel. He's quit drinking, he's quit having sex outside of marriage, he's retired from GD (gangster disciples) so he's no longer active in his gang, he has changed so much. He called us up the other day and asked if we wanted to go to the strip club with him. Of course I was like, what in the world man, you know that's not what God wants you to do. But to him, he didn't even recognize that wasn't okay. He figured as long as he wasn't having sex he was good. It is sooooo so hard to help these people change their lifestyles when they are living in the middle of all of this madness. I pray everyday for answers, and honestly, I just wanna take all my recent converts and put them in Utah. They need to get out of here... but idk. We are making a change. Memphis is like a diamond in the rough. There's just so much rough we gotta get rid of.
   My birthday was really awesome! I got the money from both grandparents, thank you so much! and I got my package from you guys this morning, thank you, I love food! I also got a package from Kelsey this morning, with the coolest tie I now own inside, thanks so much Kels :) Going over to JD and Mo's was sweet. It's nice to have them so close by, it's like the closest I can get to feeling like I'm home. Monique was talking to Danielle on the phone, and she put it on loud speaker, and then she asked if Steve was there, and then JD and Mo just asked Steve tons of questions right next to me... It was the weirdest thing in the world hearing Stephen. I don't know if it's against the rules to be in the room with someone talking to your brother, but when I heard his voice and my heart just like jumped. When she first called danielle I thought she was talking to my mom, and I was like "are you seriously talking to my mom right in front of me?" and she was like, no! this is my sister. It was craziness. I'm sure you guys watched the video's. It super akward, but whatevs. We had a good time. Thank you Stevey and Dany for the candy. I appreciate it a lot.
   Before all that madness, we were at Brother Floyds house, and we played an intense game of Risk with him and the spanish missionaries. It was awesome, mostly because I destroyed everyone and conquered the world. lol... I was really bad at Risk before my mission, but for some reason I'm good now. Maybe the level of competition is weak here in the ALRM if you catch my drift. haha, jk. I like the old school version though, it's whats up. there's no crazy rules and it's just nice peaceful world domination.
   The work is going really well. We have some awesome new people we're working with and this week should be a winner. We have a new family that moved into the ward. Well, not moved, they were assigned to our ward from Millington, but they are awesome. The Hydes. They were called to be ward missionaries and Brother Hyde is the new scout master, and this guy is legit. He's so pumped up about the work, and want's to re-activate all the teenage kids in the ward through scouting. I went out with him this past week to visit some of the youth and it was awesome. He pumps me up, he's got so much energy. I'm excited to be working with him.
   Everything is going super beuno. I am having a great time. I love you all. I gotta get going. Have a great week. I especially love you momma. Sorry this email is late, I know you look forward to Mondays.
Love you.
-Elder LeBaron

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Hey Family,
   I'm sorry I didn't email last week, it was Labor Day or something, so the library was closed, and yesterday was a little crazy, and we didn't end up having time to get to the library. BUT I'm emailing now, so don't worry, I'm still alive and well. That's cool that you guys joined Villa. I am a little jealous, haha, I can't wait to hit that up when I come home. That's awesome that you're gonna take a few sessions with personal trainers and what not, if you don't know what you're doing in a gym you can end up doing more harm than good to your body, so that's smart of you. lol, I've been working out with this big black guy every morning in the gym, and he always gives me tips and shows me some cool stuff I didn't know before. He's giving me one of his old lifting belts tommorow, he said he never uses it and it'll help me take the tension off my lower back when I lift, so it's pretty sweet, he's a cool dude. I try to throw some gospel principles into our conversations while we lift, and he's a really religious guy, he's just really involved in his church. He teaches a sunday school class, and he's in the choir and stuff, but at least I get to plant some seeds, he's likes mormon missionaries, so he's whats up.
   Things have been pretty good here in the Ghetto. I don't know if I had a chance to tell you, but a couple weeks ago I got to go with Stephanie Lewis to the temple and see her do baptisms for the dead! It was like the best day of my whole mission, I was sitting on the side as a witness and I was trying not to tear up. I don't know if you remember Stephanie, but Elder Badger and I taught her. She was an alcoholic when we first met her, and living with this dead beat guy that's actually in prison now (I didn't like him at all). I think I told you, but the night I baptized her was pretty memorable because she's terrified of water. I had to baptize her twice because the first time she freaked out and started like thrashing around. So you can imagine the courage she had to have to go to the temple and be baptized for 10 different people. It was so amazing to watch her, lol, you could tell she was scared out of her mind, she kept her eyes closed the entire time and had a death grip on Brother Godwins arm. Every couple baptisms he'd ask her if she was okay and she'd just nod her head. I was so freaking proud of her. Afterwards I went and gave her a hug (It doesn't say you can't hug people in the white hand book, I think that's just a myth, or maybe an un-written rule, but either way, I don't care, I love Stephanie and I'll hug her as much as I want, I think Jesus would do the same) and told her that she did awesome. She was crying... and she just looked at me and was like " Elda LaBurn, if you wasn't here I don't think I coulda done it", I wish I could describe to you guys how she talks... lol, it's so funny. I think she just drank so much in the past that she's done some damage that she can't repair, but, she's just so awesome... I love her to death, and she's been so diligent since she's been baptized. Her, and Star, and Mary, those 3, they are like the shining stars from the converts I've been able to have. Mary hasn't missed church since her baptism, and she doesn't even speak English, she's the coolest lady ever. Star is amazing. She's had some rough patches since her baptism. She's pregnant again, and she's not married, BUT she talked to the Bishop about it and is on the right track again. She's so mad about what she did now because I guess Bishop decided she can't do baptisms for the dead for another year now, and she wanted to go to the Temple sooo bad. So I'm actually way glad, she has her goal in mind and she said she's definately not breaking the law of chastity again, nothing's going to keep her from the temple. I'm so excited, because in about 6 months I'll be able to start going to the temple with some of these converts and watch them take their endownments out... Ahhh!
I can't wait. :)
   District Meetin is soon and we gotta bounce. Let me just tell you one quick story. So last night we were over at Star's, and before we left she asked me to say the prayer, there was a lot of people over there so we gathered them all together and knelt in a circle and held hands, and Star asked me to say the prayer, so I start praying, and Kanitra (Star's 13 year old daughter, we baptized) was on one side of me, and during the prayer I just feel kanitra like cuddle up next to me and put her head on my chest, and I was like what the heck, it really freaked me out, cuz as missionaries we just avoid girls like the plague. lol. my missionary instincts told me to push her down and run away, but then I realized I was still supposed to be praying still, lol. So I finished the prayer, then pushed her away. It was way akward. I think Kanitra has a crush on me, when I shook her hand as we were leaving she like grabbed my arm and started rubbing it and was like "bye Elder LeBaron! I love you" and I was like, Elder Kowalk lets get the freak out of here. lol.
   Alright, I gotta go, sorry it's short. But I love you all. Thank you so so so so much for your package mom. It was a life-savor. When I got the box from the post office I looked at Elder Kowalk and I was like, "Man, I hope this is just loaded with food", and then I opened it, and beheld, and it was food, and it was delicious to the taste and very desirable. Thanks so much! I love you, have a good week.
-Elder Justin Scott LeBaron