Monday, June 28, 2010

Pictures from the mission

Elder's Seitz, Watkins, Reynolds, Struthers. Temple Walk @ MTC
Metro Zone. "Band of Brothers"
First baptism. Elder Hopoate, Eric Palencia, Elder Watkins.
This is an L.A. Stake Center. It looks like a mosque from the outside, a cathedral on the inside, but they teach Mormon doctrine! :)

This is downtown L.A. from our area.


Map of the world at the MTC everyone takes a picture here pointing to their mission. The next picture is taken from the airplane as Ross flew into Los Angeles.

Hello, hello, hello! Mom I got your jam in the mail! It is so good! We ate all our bread with it. So I have half a jar of the best jam in the world and no bread to eat with it. Oh well. But thank you very much! As soon as we get another loaf of bread we are going to finish off the jam as fast as we can!

Thanks for the letter Alesha and Andrew! It's really good to hear from you both! Good luck to Andrew with his testing and jobs and everything. And nice try with the whole "the family is moving" gag. By the way, what are you going to name the baby? I'm glad to hear you are raising a jungle in your house. That makes me a proud brother. Turn on the blender, I hear fish like whirlpools.

This past week we had our final Zone Conference with our mission president and his wife. They will be leaving tomorrow, and President Baker will take the reigns. I am excited to meet him! It will be a change, but change is good! The work is going really well here in Los Angeles. There are a lot of baptisms here. Ever since President Blackburn came in 2007 the baptismal rate has been going up. Hopefully we can continue to increase as we get a new president.

Time is really starting to fly by. It seems like each week goes by faster than the one before. I've been away from home for a whole 4 months now. And Elder Tyler Larsen has been away for about 6 months! And now Cory will be starting his first month in 1 month! Haha and Cody doesn't start until August. It is really awesome to think of all the missionaries from my class that are serving right now. There are so many of us all over the world! I saw many of them while I was in the MTC too. When I think about it, it is pretty weird to the rest of the world for a 19 year old young man to go out and serve God for 2 years! It's pretty amazing how many missionaries are giving up regular life to give all their time to God. It's not easy. But it is very worth it.

Yes dad, we have to wear helmets when riding bikes. Too bad too. We do a lot of riding on the streets. I'm glad you looked up my area on Google earth. That is pretty amazing! We are right in the middle of city. Everywhere we go is straight city. The only open areas are parks. Small ones usually. The other day I saw the biggest openening I've ever seen in the city here. There was a small oilfield right in the middle of the city! There were a whole bunch of pump-jacks all over the place! The city of Los Angeles is like a little piece of each part of the world in one little spot. You can find basically any culture in the world here.

Mom, I made a couple pupusas the other day! One of the members had us over for dinner and she taught us how to make them. We took maiz (corn) batter and made it into a ball, then we put cheese stuff, meat, and refried beans in the middle of it. Then we worked them into pancake shaped things, and we cooked them like pancakes, then we put some sauce and cabbage salad stuff on them, and we ate them. SO good. You should look up how to make them on the internet. The Guatemalans love them like Americans love hamburgers. They are unhealthy like hamburgers too, so that is good!

I got a letter from Elder Larsen the other day! He sounds like he is doing well! I'll bet he is an expert at Portuguese by now.

I haven't been gaining any weight. I actually weigh about the same I did when I went into the MTC. I don't know how that works.

I hope camping went well for everybody! I haven't been camping in forever! Hopefully dad caught some fish! I'll bet Andrew had a really good time up there with all the family! And matching orange shirts! Oh man, I'll bet everybody on the mountain thought our family was a giant hunting brigade! Haha I want pictures! That sounds awesome! (this is the part when I do uncle Frank's voice imitation) I don't think he knows I do that. But it really sounds like him.

Hahahaha Emily got a job! Flipping burgers! I remember when we were little, mom and dad would always tell us "I want you to work when you are older, just not flipping burgers" haha. That's grand. Or as Alesha and I would say, "that makes my Adam's apple jiggle" hahahaha! Inside joke.

How is Lindsey doing? She's probably having a blast playing soccer all the time! I got to kick a soccer ball around today. It was really nice.

You wanted to know about my companion. Here you go. He is a Tongan. Spanish is his 3rd language (after Tongan and English). He is 21 years old, and is a former Assistant to the President. He really likes meat (Tongan attribute). We are very different from eachother, but we do the work and that is all that matters.

Yesterday Elder Hopotate and I had a baptism! It is a neat story: We have a recent convert that some other Elders baptized, and she referred a young boy . I've talked about him before in an e-mail. He is a 12 year old who has some serious struggles. He didn't seem to be progressing much at all, so we turned our attention to his mother. She is a very nice woman from Mexico. She has accepted everything we taught, and she has great faith. She works on some Sundays, but she comes to church when she can. She is a single mother with two kids from two different fathers. She really wanted us to help her son, and we tried really hard to help him. Her son, went to live with his uncle for a couple months, so hopefully he will be in better condition when he comes home. We baptized Gema last night at the church. She will be confirmed next Sunday! She is going to be a great member of the Church, and hopefully through her more people will come unto Christ through baptism.

I know this church is true. I know that Christ died for us, and that we can one day live with Him, and our Heavenly Father. The plan is perfect, all we need to do is follow it.

I love you all very much! Thank you for everything you have done for me. I will keep you in my prayers.


Elder Ross Watkins

Monday, June 21, 2010


Hi, it's me again. Elder Watkins. Things are going well out here. Dad you had a question about my area. You said you wanted to look it up on Google Earth. Basically, just type in Los Angeles, California, and you will see the general area where I live. I Live a little bit south and west of Downtown. Right in the middle of all the other suburbs haha. I'm probably about halfway between Santa Monica and Downtown. If you are able to, look up the crossroads of "Jefferson Blvd." and "Crenshaw Blvd.", and that is in the middle of my area. My area has a lot more houses than my last area, which had tons of apartments. The Spanish and English ratio is probably 50/50. Anyway, that's for you dad. Oh, and you wanted to know about tracting. We tract. The standard of excelence for our mission is 6 hours of tracting per week, so I guess it's not that much. Right now we are doing a lot of searching for former investigators and referrals. We got a big list of referrals last week, so we are out trying to find them. We get lots of bike riding in each week. It's nice to do the Lord's work and get some exercise at the same time haha.
The other day we had a miracle!!! It may not seem like much, but I believe the Lord helped us out. We were out tracting and talking to different people. We were talking to a woman who didn't seem very interested and we walked out of her yard and we were planning where we were going to go next, when we saw a man standing at his fence. He just stood there and looked at us. As we walked by we started talking to each other. We found out that he was a member of the church. He was baptized about 6 years ago in Central America. He hasn't been to church for years, and he lives with his girlfriend and their two kids, who aren't members! We set up with him, and we have been visiting them. We are hoping to help get them married and baptize his wife! It was amazing to see somebody just waiting for us to come by and talk to them! The Lord definitely puts people in our paths.
We are having Zone Conference this week, and I found out that my companion and I will be singing with some Sisters for a musical number! Haha it is really fun to stay involved with music out here.
Last week we had a really good experience at the Los Angeles Temple. The whole mission got together, and we had a massive session all together. The mission president was there, along with his wife and the Senior Missionaries. There were over 200 people there, and we all went together. We had a special meeting before hand in a large chapel, and then we went to the session. This temple is SO BIG! We almost filled it up. Then afterward we had a big meal with all the missionaries in the cafeteria.
Today there was a man who just wanted to bash with us. I didn't like it.

Basically everywhere we go we find out about how the Lakers are doing. There are a lot of fans here, go figure. Los Angeles went crazy the other night when the Lakers won the finals. We were riding our bikes at about 8 at night, and many of the houses we rode by had people cheering and making noise. It wasn't a very good time to find people to teach the Gospel. For some reason the Laker's game is more important. After they won there were fireworks and gunshots and a lot of really happy Laker's fans. I heard they are having a big special parade for them today. LAME. If only people appreciated the gospel as much as they did basketball....
Lately I have been reading in Jesus the Christ. That book is truly inspired, and is full of wonderful facts about the Saviour. It is hard to read, but I highly recommend it to everybody! It has strengthened my testimony of Jesus Christ so much. I love reading about His parables. The way he taught the people was so perfect. I think I finally understand why He told parables that are hard to understand. He told them because he wanted to learn for themselves and learn by the Spirit. Plus, He didn't want to "cast the pearls before swine". Thus, when people didn't understand His parables, it was simply because they were too hard hearted, and they weren't ready to understand His message. I have noticed that the more opportunities I have to study the Gosple, the more excited I get about it. There is way too much to understand all at once. It takes constant study, dedication, and the Spirit to understand Holy things.
Anyway, how is everybody doing? I'm doing very well. I'm really excited to get mom's jam in the mail! We don't get mail until friday, but I don't think my tastebuds can wait that long!!!!!!!! Oh well. How are all the cousins? It was really good to hear from David and Ronda's family a couple weeks ago! And I really liked the pictures from Jordan and Tonya! I hope the pictures I sent in the mail got home safely. I really wish I could figure a way to send pictures electronically. By the time I get home, my parents are going to know more about electronics than me. That's an embarrassment to the rising generation.
They are getting ready to destroy the mission home. Sad day. The new mission office will be in the basement of the new visitor's center behind the Temple. The new mission president will be living in an apartment until the new mission home is completed.
I know this church is true. It is such an amazing thing that is happening right now. We are so blessed to be part of it. Each one of us! I like what the Joseph Smith movie says "Shall we not go forth in so great a work?". Right now we have the greatest thing on earth. We have all the reason in the world to be the happiest people in the world. I am so grateful for it. I am so grateful for my family who raised me in the right path. And I am so grateful that we are able to live together forever after this life. The Gospel is simple. It is perfect. I know that Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the Chilren of God.
Oh, I need to tell you the bad news. I'M NOT ALLOWED TO RECEIVE E-MAILS FROM ANY ONE BUT IMMEDIATE FAMILY. I recently found that out from my companion. It's a mission rule. So I'm not allowed to receive them from aunt Tonya anymore. Not my rules, but I have to follow them.
Lately I have had a burning desire to go to the BYU Jerusalem center after my mission!!!!! I want to go there with cousin Sam SOOOOO bad! we will see. I love you all. Keep being the best family ever! Thank you for your prayers. Best of luck to you all in everything! I love you mom, dad, alesha, andrew, emily, lindsey! Vaya con Dios.
With love,
Elder R.M. Watkins

Monday, June 14, 2010


Hello hello hello!!!!

Thank you soooooo much for the letters! That made my week!!!!! They were really uplifting and really funny too!! It's really nice to get letters from friends and family!!!! I love you all sooo much!!!!!! And I heard from Alesha too!!! It's good to hear from everybody.

First item of business: I'm really excited for some delicious homemade rhubarb jam!!! I told my companion about it awhile back, and now we get some!!! Thanks mom! Second item of business: I really miss doughnuts. Third item of business: THE WORK IS GOING FORTH!!!!

Elder Hopoate and I got transfered to a new area called Jefferson Park. It is southwest of downtown. I can't see the Hollywood sign anymore, or downtown. We are still on bike, and our area is quite a bit bigger than my last area, so we get a workout riding all over the place. We have a bunch of new people that we are trying to visit. And as of right now we have two investigators,She is planning on baptism for later this month! The only problem is getting her to church. She has been there once with her son, but she works a lot of sundays. Her son, is a little different story.... Bryan and his little sister are being raised without a father, so life is not the same for him as it was for me. A kind man in the ward picks him up for church each week, and he goes to mutual too. He is a very nice kid, but he has some serious problems that need to be resolved before we can baptize him. It is very sad. I went to class with him at church yesterday, and we really want to help him out, but it is a very difficult case. We will keep trying hard to help him out though.

Tomorrow I'm teaching a piano lesson to a little 3 or 4 year old girl. She is a really smart cute little girl, and she wants to learn how to play. I believe her grandma is a recent convert, and she has been stuck at home because of surgery, so my companion will visit with her while I sit there and teach piano! It should be pretty fun. I am still playing the piano for the Spanish ward too.

Mom, I think it was you that asked me about the food I eat, so I'll answer your question-- LOTS OF LATINO FOOD. haha most of it is really good too. The most common thing we eat is chicken, rice, beans, and tortillas. They make their chicken in lots of different ways, and it's really tasty. The Latinos love tortillas. They eat lots of them. I love tortillas! Sometimes they make their tortillas too. They don't eat them like we do though. Lots of people tear the tortilla up and use the pieces as a scoop, or they put the food on the little piece and eat it. The Mexican style is to roll the tortilla up like a scroll, and they take a bite out of it after they put the chicken, rice, or beans in their mouth. That is my favorite way to eat them. Also, there is a really good food called pupusas. Pupusas are an El Salvadorian food. They are tasty! It is kind of like a thick tortilla filled with cheese, or beans, or meat, or whatever. My companion loves them! Mom, you should learn how to make them. It would definitely be the hit meal for the next ward pot-luck haha. There is another food that is super good. I've only had it once, but it is called Yuca Soup. MMMMMmmmm! They put big pieces of meat, corn cob, lettuce, and yuca in water and they cook it up. Yuca is a root, and the texture is kind of like a potato. It is almost as good as mom's Chicken Pinwheels, but not quite. The Latinos make really good food. But the food I make at the apartment is a little less than impresive. I won't even go into that.

Story time: We went to church yesterday, and there was a return missionary who was speaking in the ward. He served his mission in Mexico, and his mom wasn't a member. He was asked to perform a baptism that afternoon. He wasn't told who he would be baptizing, but he went anyway. Even right before the baptism he didn't know who he would be baptizing. He didn't know until he stepped into the water, and he saw his mom standing in the baptismal water. It turns out that she had been taking the missionary lessons while he was gone serving his mission. He walked into the water, and they hugged each other for a long time. He then baptized his mother, and they both walked out of the water as members of the Lord's Church. It was a very cool experience.

It is starting to get very hot here. The mixture of hot weather, humidity, dark pants, and bicycle riding is the recipe for a yucky missionary haha. But it's not too bad. Our area is pretty flat, so we don't have to climb many hills on our bikes, which is a good thing.

Lindsey, good luck with all your soccer stuff! You are going to be super good when I get home!

Emily, it sounds like you are having a nice summer. GET A JOB! Sincerely, your brother.

Alesha, thank you for the letters! Oh yeah, congratulations! I'm excited to hear I'm going to have a little niece or nephew!

Andrew, thanks for the advice, it was really helpful. I wrote down that quote by Gordon B. Hickley!

Dad, it sounds like you are still being awesome. I hope you survived with everybody gone at girl's camp.

Mom, Hi. I love you!I'm really excited for the jam too!!!!!!

Family, I love you all so much!!!!! It's really good to hear from you! The Lord has blessed our family so much! I never realized how much we are blessed until I came out here. Thanks to the Lord we are able to have a tightly woven quilt of love to fall on when times get hard. I know our Savior lives. We are so blessed to have His gospel today. We are able to walk in the light of the Lord and receive guidance through the Spirit, and live happy lives. The path is narrow, but all is possible if we stay close to what we know is true, and come back when we swerve off the path. I love you all! Keep smiling!!!!!!

With love,

Elder Ross Watkins

Friday, June 11, 2010


How is everything going at home?? Things are changing big-time here! We have transfers on wednesday!!!!!! The whole mission is splitting from bilingual to Spanish/English on wednesday!!!! I found out that I'm going to a new area. My current companion and I are going to flush the area. Flushing two times in a row!!!! That rarely happens. It is going to be hard work, but nothing is too hard for a servant of the Lord. We are going to be Spanish missionaries! That means no more teaching in English and Spanish, and no more covering an English ward and a Spanish ward! We are going to be assigned to Barrio Sexto (Spanish 6th ward), and we will be teaching only in Spanish! This is a good thing that they are making the mission like this, because we will be able to focus on one ward rather than split the attention between English and Spanish wards. I don't know too much else about the transfers yet. We're not even supposed to know yet, but my companion is a former AP, so he has his ways. Not my fault haha.
I feel like I am getting really fat. I don't want to be a fatty, but it is sneaking up on me. The other day I was looking at pictures in my camera, and I saw a headshot of me before I left, and I thought "wow, I looked good". Then I looked in the mirror, and my thoughts weren't quite the same. Even my companion says my face cheeks look fatter. Oh well, "let happen what may, and love it". I think James E. Faust said that, but I'm not sure.
While I have been out here I have learned a really good lesson. I have learned that attitude is everything. I have seen a lot of missionaries who have the right attitude, and a lot who don't have the right attitude that a missionary should have. Even for myself, I have noticed that it is so much easier to get angry, and it is a lot harder to crack a smile. But looking at the bright side of things makes everything a whole lot better. This can be applied to all aspects of life too. It reminds me of the plan of satan, and the Plan of God. Satan wanted life to be easy, with no progression. It is easy to be angry, and not progress. God's plan was to push through trials--which is a lot harder--and move forward. It all makes sense.
Hey mom, if it's possible, you should make me some chicken pinwheels for me, and send them to me in a heated, insulated package. That would be really appreciated. Thanks!
Oh, and good news: I will probably be playing the piano in the Spanish ward every week. And it doesn't matter if I don't know the song, because nobody will notice.
Being in L.A. I am really up to date with what is going on in the world. I pretty much see all the hit movies out on billboards, and everywhere we go there is music. It seems imposible to escape the world here. As missionaries in L.A., we basically define the term "in the world, but not of the world". It will be a relief to come home and step out of the world haha.
Speaking of home, how is it? Has Liam filtered my room yet? Is Andrew still alive? I still haven't heard from ALESHA!!!!!! Who does she think she is? Oh well, I guess I will just hold her gifts here until she decides to be my relative again haha!
Last night I went to the President's Fireside. It is a special fireside given by the mission president, and it is geared toward recent converts. The meeting was very inspiring and uplifting. He spoke a lot about revelation. He said that we are part of a "Living Gospel". The reason why the church is thriving is because it is lead by Jesus Christ Himself. Each of us has the ability to receive revelation. It is important that we constantly strive to learn more by revelation. It is also important that we strive to have the Spirit with us at all times. Think of how much happier we would be if we focused more on having the Spirit always.
Last night I saw a ghetto-car with hydraulics and everything. I'm getting one of those when I come home. Oh yeah, happy Father's day in a few weeks. I might as well say it now while I remember, because I'll probably forget when the time is ripe. Dad, you are the best and I love you tons! Thank you so much for raising me so well! I hope someday I can be as great as you! By the way, how is gospel doctrine teacher going? Is the summer weather nice? In my area we don't have sunrises. It is extremely smoggy and cloudy every morning. So the sun kind of appears around 9 or 10 or 11, depending on the day. Summer smog is very thick here. On a regular day I am able to see the mountains and the Hollywood sign, but the other day I could barely even see the outline of the mountains! It is gross!! One of the Elders told me that he heard that over the period of 2 years, I will breath a cinder block of pollution and smog! AHHHHH!!!!!!! My companion says it is nasty in the summer until it rains, then it clears up. But there's only one problem: it doesn't rain very often. OH well.
Well, this is the end. The work of the Lord is still moving forward. No matter what the situation in the world is, nothing can stop this great and marvelous work! I am proud to be a representative of Jesus Christ. I know this church is true. Nothing could persuade me otherwise. Jesus Christ is our Savior and Brother, and He Lives!
I love you all! Keep being strong!
Your son/brother/nephew/cousin/grandson/friend/colleague/acquaintance/buddy/future uncle?/and amigo,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Library in Koreatown

Hello dear family and friends! I am sitting in a library in Koreatown right now. It is interesting. I'm looking at a sign that says "Meeting Room", then it says something in Korean, then it says the same thing in Spanish. Where am I again?

I enjoyed the package mom! The candy is good! Guess what I did with the circus peanuts? The same thing grandpa taught me to do with them. I usually grab one when I pick out my socks in the morning.

Oh, before I get too excited with my e-mail, I need some information from dad. I need our current bishop's information--phone number, address, name, etc. The mission home needs that information for some reason. Probably so they can tattle on me to my home bishop.

I really enjoyed Grandma and Grandpa's e-mail. It was very helpful and grandpa is still funny as ever. I enjoyed Cory's e-mail too. Very....edifying?....maybe not.

So mom was right. I've had to say that a million times. But I am getting a lot of opportunities to use my music out here! It's really fun! I got to practice the piano yesterday, and it felt really good. I am part of a special musical number next sunday for the President's Fireside. My companion, another Elder, two Sisters, and I are singing a nice song for it.

It is tuesday right now. We didn't get to e-mail on p-day because it was Memorial Day and the Libraries were closed. Yesterday we went to downtown L.A. and I bought a soccer ball. So I'm going to juggle in the mornings instead of play b-ball, because I'm really bad at b-ball.

SO I HAVE SOME REALLY GOOD NEWS!!!!! Elder Hopoate and I had a baptism on Sunday!!!!! He is from Guatamala. He hardly speaks English, which is hard because I really want to communicate freely with him. I found him a few weeks ago at Barrio Sexto (Sixth Ward). He had been attending church with his friend, and he wanted to be baptized before we even met him! It was just a matter of teaching him the lessons. He passed his interview, and we baptized him. You should have seen his face after he came out of the water! I had the opportunity to baptize him. His friend's dad was going to do it, but something happened, and he had me do it. I found out earlier in the day that I would be baptizing him, so I spent all day at church trying to memorize the words in Spanish! I was so nervous I would mess up. I ended up messing up the first time, so I restarted and it worked! Spanish came out of my mouth! We went on a temple tour later that day, and he watched the Joseph Smith movie at the mission home, and he looked happy when he left the movie. He was definitely prepared for the Gospel! And the family who had been bringing him to church has another friend who they brought to the baptism, and we will be teaching him this week!!!!! The work is moving forward!!!!!

Emily, that story about Cristy Hughes is way awesome! It's so good to hear that she was baptized! I was so happy when I read your letter. And thank you to Ronda for her letter and everything too! It's so good to hear from family!!!!!!

So I've mentioned a little bit about the changes that will be taking place in this mission. We are switching from bilingual to straight Spanish and straight English next transfer! I am crossing my fingers that I will stay Spanish, but if not, that is OK too. Wherever I go I will work my hardest! Also, we will be getting a new mission president within the next 2 months. They will be tearing down the mission home too. That is really sad. It is an awesome place! Also, I will be "killing" my companion next transfer if we are still together. Meaning that he is going home next transfer.

The weather is really nice here.

I went to a baptism last week. It was probably the best baptism I've ever been to. For the spiritual thought after the baptism they had people bear testimony in different languages. Some of the testimonies were from former missionaries, and some were from our current missionaries. We heard testimonies in Korean, Portuguese, German, Tongan, Russian, and Greek. It was neat to feel the Spirit come from languages we don't even understand. The language of the Spirit is there for everybody to feel.

I will be sending home some pictures eventually. I won't say when, because I don't want to set myself up for failure.

Still haven't heard from my dear sister Alesha. Ella es viviendo? Is she living?

Entonces, eso es bastante. Yo no pienso que tengo mas para ustedes. Yo se que La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Ultimos Dias es verdadera. Y por medio Jose Smith, tenemos la plenitud del Evangelio. Estoy agradecido por mi familia, y por este oportunidad servir como un representante de Jesucristo. Con fe, todas cosas son posible hacer, si es la voluntad de Dios. Familias son eterna. Yo digo estas cosas en el Nombre de Jesucristo. Amen.

Siempre tengan sonrisas! No tienen razones estar triste, porque tienen la verdad!

Cuidense! Te Amo!

Con Amor,

Elder WAt