Monday, November 24, 2014

Week 70: Give Thanks‏

Fall has officially fallen, leaves on the ground, and the crisp smell of Pumpkin Pie wafts from the oven and taints the air with the warmth that mutual gratitude brings. The United States of America was the very first country in the entire world to dedicate an entire holiday to the practice of Giving Thanks, to praising god for his wonders and bounty.

The Scriptures show many instances of Prophets and people worshiping God...even in times of trial. When Nephi was tied to the mast of the ship he had constructed with his own hands and tossed upon the ocean's tempest he says, "Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions." (1 Nephi 18:16)
"An Attitude of Gratitude brings Joy"
That was really the biggest lesson of the week, how to be grateful.
At the beginning of the week we started by playing basketball, and it was really fun, we played a game with our Zone pitted against Mariscal (Elder Vieira's Zone) and we had a grand time. I have developed a newfound love for the sport of Basketball...whereas two weeks ago I was being pushed around the court...I'm like Lebron James or Michael Jordan over here!
Or somewhere around that level....
Probably not nearly as good...
On Tuesday we held our District Meeting, where I talked about the Faith to be able to see miracles in our daily lives. Everyone has been a little bit down after last week's we had a discussion where everyone talked about experiences and miracles that they had seen during their missions. I talked about the miracle of Minor and Veronica and how they progressed in the gospel (I have been told that they are just on fire right now at church!). It was a great meeting, because then we talked about "why can't we see more miracles like that in our current areas?"
And the truth is...there is no reason why we can't!
So, ready and excited I got back to my area that afternoon, on divisions with my good buddy Elder Kunde. We had a very successful day, and found three new investigators, Oscar, Illiana and Carlos. They all had a lot of questions for us about the gospel and what we believe as members of the Church.
"What is the Book of Mormon?"
"Who is Joseph Smith?"
"How can I know that what you are saying is true?"
We had a very spiritual day and got home exhausted and ready to continue through the week.
But for some reason....little by little, after we had seen so many miracles on Tuesday...Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday just kept getting harder and harder. A lot of appointments fell, investigators weren't home (or hid from us) and Elder Simoni and I were left to go and knock on doors in a desperate struggle to find a new investigator or two....
With very limited results.
I was no longer being rejected the way I had been before....the people here weren't as polite these times, as they slammed the doors and laughed in my face. By the end of the week I wasn't exactly sure if I even believed the words that I had said only a few days before, that miracles CAN and DO happen and that we just have to look for them!
Call me dramatic, but I was discouraged.
But then I read an article in the Liahona of October last year, about a Sister Missionary who what facing a lot of trials in her mission and there was a quote that really impacted me, "We set goals to demonstrate our faith, and we follow up on them to be able to count our blessings."
It really changed my perspective. We shouldn't get down on ourselves because we don't think that we are receiving ENOUGH blessings, that we need the windows of heaven to be opened even! We need to count our blessings as the hymn them one by one...and it will surprise us what the Lord has truly done for us.
"That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you." (Alma 34:38).
"To Live with Gratitude ever in our Hearts is to Touch Heaven," President Thomas S. Monson

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Week 69: 'Tis the Season...Already?‏

We're now on the Christmas Count-Down-O-Meter: 39 days and counting! Woo Hoo! 
Hahaha. I love this time of year...and since the Guatemalans keep their Christmas decorations up all year I'm already in the Holiday Mood. It's weird because before my mission I was kind of a Nazi about only celebrating Christmas between Black Friday and New Years Eve....but now I'm listening to all of the Christmas-Related-Hymns I can find.

It's great.
All of the stores started putting up their decorations and all of their christmas-related promotions, which is really fun because now I can go to the bakery and by Christmas Cookies!
It's the season to be jolly and being the missionary is one of the best ways to be able to share the gospel with an extra smile.
Although this week wasn't so great, we're here, just chugging along, trying to see what we can do to share the gospel with all the world. Our good buddy Jose has had his phone turned off all week, so we haven't been able to talk to him, and that's been a bummer. And as far as all the other investigators go....
They aren't going. all.
I dunno, but this area has really gotten me stumped this week. We've been trying our hardest but really just haven't been seeing any results. Apparently, the missionaries have been teaching the same investigators for the longest time and they're all pretty sick of us. They've all heard us tell them the same story a thousand times and yet they remain, appallingly uncommitted.
Who knows.

But what I do know is that we need to find new investigators!
What's been really fun this week is being able to be a District Leader and have an active role in the work of all of the missionaries in my district. I love being able to see how their lives are going as well as my own. If I don't have the greatest day I can know that someone else is!
San Cristobal II, my last area just brought a family of 4 to church yesterday, it was the biggest, best miracle I have seen all week. San Cristobal I had a baptism of a Sister who I was able to interview, she was so prepared and so happy that she was able to make this covenant that it really moved me! And the Sisters in Panorama II are just doing so well working so hard.
It really reminds me of a scripture I read this last week "And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it." (Mosiah 2:41)
We're happy when we do what the lord commands.
So let's do it!

Love all of you and hope you have a great week!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Week 68: Keep Moving Forward‏

This last week started off as calm as a late-autumn afternoon, our PDay was spent playing basketball in Jerusalen with the members of the Zona San Cristobal.
In doing so I established something.
I am rubbish at playing basketball.
I would just wander around the court, waiting for the ball to get close to me and then I would just get yelled at:
"Monson! Go and get on your man!" 
"Monson! Go and get the ball!"
"What the heck are you doing?!?!"
Needless to say, for me, playing sports isn't the biggest "morale-booster" in the arsenal of motivational techniques. The good thing was that it relaxed me pretty well, and when we got back to Panorama, Elder Simoni and I were ready to go out and work our hardest. The only downside was that we really had nothing to go on, all of the appointments that we had made just fell through.
So...monday wasn't that great.
On tuesday morning there was a leadership training meeting for all of the District Leaders and Zone Leaders in San Cristobal, Mariscal and Nimajuyu. It was actually a really good meeting, and I learned a lot of things about how to guide my district on to victory!
I'm convinced: My district is destined for glory, it's just inevitable, we cannot fail! I have some awesome missionaries here and they're all ready to work their guts out! I feel really good about this change.
The next day I held my very first district meeting. It was crazy. We talked about Captain Moroni and the title of liberty, and everyone in the district made their own banner (in the shape of a tie) which showed our personal motives for being a missionary and what things we are going to do to be able to fulfill with our calling as missionaries. At the end we made brownies, so that made things a whole lot better too!
After the meeting I went with Elder Kundie, my ZL, on divisions in Peronia. We had made the goal to set up 4 baptismal dates with 4 different investigators that afternoon, so we went out and started challenging everyone to baptism. One by one, people rejected, and rejected us...
"I'm not convinced" 
"I'm not sure" 
"I'm not home!" 
(In retrospect that third excuse really made sense...)
At the end of the day we can say that we definitely made an effort to set up a baptism date...but we just didn't see any results. So, defeated and tired as garbage, we went back to the house and made Macaroni and Cheese, (I bought it at the store, for two dollars a box....everything imported is over-priced). It was a nice blast of nostalgia as we sat and talked about things in Utah and things in the Mission, overall I really enjoyed the divisions and learned a lot from Elder Kundie, he's a great missionary.
The next day I was back working in Panorama...and we had an excellent day. Hour by hour, we were able to see miracles...the most prominent of which was when we went up to a neighborhood in the mountains. It's one of the wealthier parts of my area and we had gone there to dig up some old investigators. As we were walking, we heard a woman call out to us, "Elders! I need your help!" It was a mother, helping her 24 year-old paralyzed son out of the car and into his wheelchair. We helped lift him out and into his house, and when we did we invited them to listen to our message. They agreed. We felt prompted to talk about the Plan of Salvation, and upon explaining more on the subject, the son commented that his father had recently passed away and since then his relationship with God had been damaged.
His name was Jose and he said that he would be more than happy if we came back another day to talk to him.
That experience really strengthened my testimony that the Lord prepares the way so that his chosen children can come to know of the Gospel, even for our new friend!
The next day I went up to San Cristobal again on divisions with Elder Linford. The area has only gotten harder and harder since I left, and even though the missionaries there are trying their very hardest they are seeing very few fruits of their labors.
But it was fun to be able to work with my old comp again.
It was a great week as a whole, I saw a lot of miracles and my testimony was strengthened. A lot of good things are going on in my area...

 So we'll see how things go from here!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Week 67: Close to Home‏

I didn't sleep very well on Monday Night. We had just overloaded on a birthday cake made for Elder Linford...and the sugar rush and my nerves were buzzing so hard that they gave me a type of insomnia. Where was I going to go, who was I going to go with?
Questions like these could only be answered by time.
Tuesday morning, a taxi appeared in front of our house in Santa Barbara, ready to take us back to Montufar for the change meeting. The ride was short, and my two companions maintained themselves relatively quiet, each of us occupied ourselves by staring out the window and thinking about the future. All I could do was pretend to feel ready enough for the future.

We arrived and I greeted all of my friends, once again the chapel was full of Elders and Hermanas alike, and the hallways were filled with reunions and speculations.
It was also Elder Gil's last day of his mission.
As tradition, he passed forward to the pulpit at the beginning of the meeting to bear his testimony to the congregation. I was really sad to see my good Mexican buddy go home...but I am proud to say that he fought a good fight and I know that the Lord will bless him throughout his whole life for it.
After that....the changes started. One by one each new companionship was united and sent out of the room with their new zones. new zone, isn't so new after all.
"In Zona San Cristobal," Elder Webb said from the pulpit, "in Panorama 1, Elder Simoni receives a new District Leader, Elder Monson." 
I was a little bit stunned... like, my mind was saying, "What?!?!" I just got sent to the other side of the street from San Cristobal! I am in the same zone, same district and everything! I even go to the same church building on Sundays! We drove by my new area on the way to the meeting!
It was rather dramatic.
But that's not to say that it's a bad change at all. My new companion is awesome, he's from El Salvador and has been in the mission for 9 months. I had already gone on divisions with him the previous week anyways. He's a really fun companion to have, and he makes Missionary work much more enjoyable.
We spent the week knocking on all the doors that we could. It was refreshing to feel like I can truly make a difference here in this area! Panorama is just a few kilometers away from my old area and yet it's totally different. It's still urban and there's still a lot of closed colonies and closed off people but...nothing is the same.
And being district leader I feel immensely blessed to have such an incredible district to help the work of the Lord advance! We are 4 companionships, two in San Cristobal and two in Panorama, four elders and four sisters, four north Americans and four Latin Americans. It's a fun group. I am so excited to start off a brand new change and a new area....we'll see what we can do!
I also finished the Book of Mormon this week, and guess what?'s true! I was able to testify of the divinity of this book and how it has helped my family to be united!
Stay Classy,

Elder Monson
temple trip from last February 2014