Monday, September 29, 2014

Week 62: Called and Chosen‏

At the beginning of my mission I heard an important truth: the difference between being someone who has been called, and someone who has been chosen. In Doctrine and Covenants we read, "Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men
I never quite understood what that meant until this week.
How could somebody be called and NOT chosen? What do we have to do to be able to qualify ourselves to be one of the chosen?
Well, now I know.
This was one of those rollercoaster-type weeks, where so many things were happening all so fast that I really didn't have time to breathe. Everything sort of took off on Wednesday and started going rapid fire, out of control, crazy-style until last night when everything came to a head. There were so many miracles, so many heart breaks and so many close calls that I'm having trouble trying to do a cohesive summary.
Let's just start from the beginning and see where we get at the end:
Tuesday was a relatively long day. We were actually able to teach a good number of lessons and help out a lot of different people, so it was productive in a sort. In the morning during Personal Study I read out of the book of Alma and the story of the 2,000 stripling warriors, and the classic scripture that says "Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it."  As I was reading the scripture I realized something incredibly important:
It was my mom's birthday last Monday.
And I forgot to congratulate her.
So this is me, publically wishing my mother a very happy Birthday! She is an inspiration to me of faithful and devoted service to the Lord, a woman of God, a truly righteous daughter and my very best friend.
I love you mom.
On Wednesday, Elder Argueta had an interview with President Caffaro, so I got to go and visit the Offices again, while there I saw Elder Gil and Elder Prestwich! It made me feel grateful for how well the Lord has blessed me with incredible companions here in Guatemala...Wednesday really reminded me of that. I've learned something special from every one of them.
Elder Monson, Gil, Prestwich, Jiminez
After my companion left the interview I asked if I could talk to President for a few minutes. As we spoke, it felt good to just spill out all of my problems to him and have me listen and give me advice...something that I had been longing for all week. He told me that I should fast and depend on the Lord more than I had been doing.
It was needed advice.
As we were leaving the offices, Elder Prestwich shot me a quick and poignant comment, "Minor and Veronica and all of them are going to be baptized on Saturday... and they keep asking what they need to do to be able to have you there at the service. I asked President and he says that he's probably going to give you permission to go..."
"I'll let you know on Friday."
So all of a sudden I was given a very good reason to fast. When we got home I kneeled down...and started.
That night my companion looked discouraged. When I asked him what was wrong he sighed and said, "Elder Monson, can I tell you the truth?"
"Yeah sure buddy...."
"The truth is that I don't like the mission...I don't want to be here.."
The next day we went on divisions with the Zone Leaders, which helped me to really just take a deep breath and chat with my good friend Elder Wilson from Arizona. Even though all of our appointments fell through, and it rained....we had a good day.
When we finished divisions on Friday I received a text message from President Caffaro, "You may have permission to go to the baptism of those you taught in Montufar."
I was so happy I almost started crying like a little girl.

So, as my mood got better and better, Elder Argueta's started taking a dive bomb. On Friday afternoon he called President telling him that he wanted to go home....that he felt out of place in the mission and that he didn't want to stay here any longer.
I was hoping that the Baptism on Saturday would make him feel better.
On Saturday morning we got on a bus and headed back to the Chapel in Montufar. There I attended the Baptism of Minor, Veronica, Erika, Bryan, Beverly and Krissy Garcia...a service that was as touching as it was spiritually filling. Two weeks after I had left they were ready to make this covenant with the Lord.
And at the end Minor came and gave me a big hug, and said, "Elder Monson, Thank you...thank you so much for knocking on our door."
I don't know that much about missionary service...but I do know that that was one of the greatest feelings I've ever gotten as a missionary.
I did indeed cry.
Baptism of Garcia family
The feeling carried over until Sunday spite of my companion's grumblings about how much he didn't want to be here...and no matter what I told him or how convincing I was...he had decided to go home...and there was nothing that I could do to change his mind.
I called in the Zone Leaders, and last night we held a "companionship study" ....or basically a last ditch effort to keep my comp in the mission...
But even after 2 hours or poking and prodding and asking and pleading...he wouldn't budge. He said that he missed his home too much, that he felt trapped here in the mission and that he wasn't going to make it 2 years.
That's when the scripture came back to my mind: "Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men" 
Hence, many are called but few are chosen.
For the moment we're in limbo, without any real idea of what happens next...President is calling SLC trying to see how we're going to pull the plug on El Tesoro II.
And I guess that's the end.
I really don't know what happens next...
To be continued...


Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 61: The Currant Bush‏

In 1973 Elder Hugh B. Brown, a member of the quorum of the 12 apostles told a very poignant parable, he says, "I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’”" 
He goes on to tell about how later in his life he was next in line to become a General in the Canadian army, but was declined the opportunity because he was a Mormon.
He writes "When I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.
And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness."
A few months ago, when I was going through a hard time in Montufar, my dad sent me a copy of this article. I found that I was able to relate myself significantly with the poor little currant bush, who had been doing so well, and who had grown so high and so tall only to be cut down by the gardener, humbled by the master.
This past week had a similar theme. I felt like I was flying so high, and doing so well last week in Montufar, I had an incredible comp, incredible investigators and was into a nice groove as Financial Secretary of the Mision Sur. And one day my whole world changed.
Change is something necessary for all of us, and sometimes it's pretty hard to do.
But, as the hymn says, we must all press on.
My new Area: I'm here in El Tesoro II, Zone 2 of Mixco, it's not actually that big of an area...but the good thing is that there are quite a few houses and a good number of helpful members. We live on the second floor our ward mission leader's house in the entrance of a gated community. What really surprises me about this area is how SAFE it is. We live right across the street from a gigantic mall, Eskala, which has inside of it one of three Walmart locations in all of this country.
So, it's nice.
We, Elder Argueta and I, got here on Tuesday afternoon, dropped all of our suitcases off and started exploring the area. We share our ward with two sister missionaries, Sister SaldaƱa (from Peru) and Sister Valdiviar (from Utah). It's a fairly large ward of about 160 active members and a chapel that is going through some remodeling. We spent the day getting to know a few families and the Bishop.
And then the next morning we woke up....not exactly sure of what to do. My agenda was completely empty, I had no idea where to go or who to visit...I only knew that we should probably walk around knocking on doors until we found something.
After a few hours we talked with a family in the street  (they rejected us) but we saw in the window above their heads a man leaning out and listening to us from the 2nd floor. I greeted him from below and asked if he wanted to listen to our message, and he said that he would be coming down in just a moment.
Elder Argueta and I looked at each other, surprised, both under the impression that we had just witnessed a miracle. The man came down and we began to talk: "I've already read your book," he started.
"What book....The Book of Mormon?" I responded.
"Yup...and let me tell you all of the things that are wrong about it!" And from there on out we spent a good 15 minutes trying to get away from this guy, who turned out to be the pastor of an Evangelical church...and the author of a popular Ant-Mormon book.
"Sometimes, it's hard being a missionary," as quoted Elder Holland, "because in that moment I wanted to turn around, grab that little man and shout EXCUSE ME! ....but I couldn't."
So we were 0 for 2 and at half time....and things just started going downhill from there. It kept feeling like every time I tried to do something good, two more Hydra-Heads would come out and bite me back...until things came to a head on Sunday.
I woke up that morning really, very, sick. I'm not sure what I ate on Saturday, but it was really not sitting well in my stomach. We went to the church, but I kept having to slip out the back door and to the bathroom. I felt defeated, tired, lonely and finished.
We had worked our tails off the whole week, but to little to no was I supposed to show a good example to my new missionary companion when things were so rough?
We came home after church and I collapsed on my bed for a half hour until we were going to go out and visit some more.
And then came the rain.
I sat down, cross-legged on the floor of my entryway and asked my Heavenly Father, "How could you do this to me? I was doing so well! I was growing and learning! I thought I was working so hard! Why is it that every time that I try to what is right things keep getting worse?"
Then I heard a voice, it was my father's voice, and it said "I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener."
Braving the rain and the unfavorable conditions we went out to work again.
 And we found a family, the Geronimos, a mother, father and three children.
And they all want to be baptized.
Things are rough at the beginning, but if we put our trust in God and keep moving forward...everything works out.
 That's my testimony.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Week 60: Au Revoir, Montufar‏

Amended Post: (He was able to send off this quick info later in the day.)
"My New Companion's name is Elder Argueta, He's from El Salvador.
We will be opening up an area 

in El Tesoro II....Woo Hoo! Fill you in on Monday"

This was the first Stake Conference that I've had investigators in attendance of my whole mission. It's a completely different experience, you start hearing everything with investigator's ears, and cringing at the sound of even the slightest bit of deep doctrine.
"Patriarchal blessing..." *Cringe*
"Temple Endowment..." *Yikes*
"My Polygamist Ancestors" *Oh no...*
It's like they say here in Guatemala, you can't just give a T-Bone steak to a baby to eat, you have to start off with Milk (and baby food) until they graduate to higher things. And that's what we try to do, just start by easing into things: The Restoration, Plan of Salvation and the Gospel of Jesus Christ... but every so often after a Testimony Meeting or a heated debate in Relief Society, we as missionaries get to explain a lot about the questions that submerge.
So it was kind of awkward, in spite of the fact that we were so happy to have brought seven investigators to the Stake Conference.
That, my friend is called a miracle.
President and Sister Caffaro both spoke, along with the Stake President, his councilors and two Temple Workers from the US.
Although I was nervous, the conference turned out very well and our investigators really did like it.
So, even though Ana couldn't get confirmed until the next week I felt like we had a lot of success.
This whole week has been just a big whirlwind of worry.
I haven't been quite myself these few days. My mind has just been caught up in the looming shadow of Changes on the 16th. There's six weeks in every change, and for some reason week six is just the worst of all of them.
Not to be pessimistic or anything, but that's just the way things are. All you can think about is the adventure that may, or may not be right around the I stay or do I go?
Who knows?
Only the Lord does.
But notwithstanding, this was a pretty decent week in all respects. We visited Minor and Veronica pretty much every day, and had a Family Home Evening with them and the Rivera Family on Tuesday where we talked about the importance of temples and how they hold the sealing power to be able to create eternal families.
The Gospel is so cool.
I found this scripture that really impacted me: "But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance."
I love that thought.
I'm sorry (breaks the forth wall) I just found out that I have changes and that I'm going to be training a new missionary and probably opening up a new I am just freaking out. (see below he is new area and comp)
Good Bye Offices

Good Bye Montufar
We'll see what happens next...

#AbruptEnding #Cliffhanger

There are few things that as a mother I enjoy more than watching my children learn and grow, understand themselves, their relationship with their Heavenly Father and know their direction with the Savior as their compass.  This letter, for me, has given me just that.  Tyler's hopeful look to the future challenge and embracing it because he knows who he is and what he is about.  Tears of Joy really, a mother's heart is singing today as he wrote.  I'm grateful for this opportunity for Tyler to learn something new.  I'm sure there will be challenges but my prayer is that he will continue to know where to turn to find answers and never give up!  Go Elder Monson make this "change" the best yet.  Love you to the moon and back!