Monday, April 27, 2015

Week 92: Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd‏

I kept waking up thinking that it was P-Day only to find that it wasn't yet, Which I guess is okay..but it just makes for a really long week.
The good thing is that we are starting to see some progress in our area. Little by little, we are seeing new investigators coming out of the woodwork.
...and actually, that's not even the biggest challenge. The hardest part is trying to sort between the new investigators, and the people that have been truly chosen by the Lord. With my companion Elder Argueta we were able to establish a while ago that there are "many who are called and few that are chosen." 
But what truly makes the difference?
What changes a person from a face and a name to a tear-jerking conversion story?
The Savior himself teaches us an important example: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." (John 10:14). The Lord knows his sheep, they are those for whom he laid down his life, we read in the scriptures that he, just as any good Shepherd has them counted, and that he knows them by name.
Over a year ago, in a conference with Elder Ochoa of the 70, he explained to us the importance of inviting our investigators to baptism starting in the very first visit. That way you are able to tell if this investigator will progress now...or if you should leave them for later.
Adopting this practice has really helped me throughout my mission, after someone has accepted the invitation to be baptized it helps to make teaching more fluid and confident.
When they's easier to set a baptismal date sooner!
The only problem is that here in Castillo Lara...everyone says yes...the true test is to see if we can get a second appointment with them...because, usually, when we come back, they're not home.

Finding a chosen investigator is like a needle in a haystack.
The good thing is that, when you find makes everything worth it.
This week we were able to help a couple families and to meet a whole lot of people. We finished the month strong (with over 1,000 street contacts....I've never done that before in my whole mission!) Elder Taya and I are just going crazy on this area...we are determined to find a family to baptize by the end of May.
And I know that they are going to come. All we need is just a little bit more patience and faith.
This week I went on divisions with Elder Evans (Mesa, Arizona) and Elder Barker (Bountiful, Utah) they are both really great missionaries. I was very impressed by their ideas on how to work...they are two awesome guys who I learned a lot from.
We are all ready to keep moving forward here in the Zona Utatlan...things are great. I am ready to keep searching for the sheep that has wandered...wherever they may be!

 Dear to the heart of the Shepherd,
Dear are the "ninety and nine";
Dear are the sheep that have wandered
Out in the desert to pine.
Hark! he is earnestly calling,
Tenderly pleading today:
"Will you not seek for my lost ones,
Off from my shelter astray?"
Out in the desert they wander,
Hungry and helpless and cold;
Off to the rescue we'll hasten,

Bringing them back to the fold

Monday, April 20, 2015

Week 91: Are You Game Ready?‏

Elder Monson with Elder Hughes

My penultimate transfer started as President Caffaro stood up to give a salute to the "Vallient" missionaries who were all about to go home. Among them were some of my best friends since the beginning of my mission, the three Brazilians (Elder Bento, Elder De Carvalho, Elder Vieira), Elder Mann and Elder Kunde, Elder Garcia.....just so many people that I have gotten to know over the past 21 months that I am truly going to miss. President finished the change meeting reading the scripture: ""Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. , Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solidrocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever!" (D&C 128: 22-23).
I found it a very fitting scripture for my circumstances...only two changes left, all that is left to do is to keep going.

Like the quote I keep on my desk says, "Keep moving forward. opening new doors and doing new things, your curiosity will lead you down new paths," -Walt Disney.
President ended using his classic football coach techniques to pump up the whole mission, "Are you game ready?" he said, "because it's game time!" after that adrenaline trip, the changes started all over again.
One by one they were rattled off and each new companionship went off to their new areas with their new interesting thing to note is that Hermana Merlo and Hermana Bustamante (who were both in my district in Panorama) were both made Sister Training Leaders together! And Elder Gudiel (my super awesome Step-Son) was made a Zone Leader!
...District Panorama is just on fire right now.
Then I received my new companion, Elder Taya, an awesome Elder from Lima, Peru, and we headed back to Castillo Lara together. My new companion is just a fireball, he works really well and his patience is just astounding.
He is just happy to be here and to be working in Zona Utatlan. I have a feeling that we are going to be getting along really well as a companionship and that we will be able to work really well!
...So, that's how it starts...the beginning of the last two changes in the mission. Ive got to make the most of it while we still have the chance....
So I'm not worried at all about how things will go...I'm game ready, and it's game time!

My scriptural thought for today is a little bit long but I liked this part a lot: "Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?  Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.Do not anger again because of mine enemies. Do not slacken my strength because of mine afflictions. Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation." (2Nephi 4:17-30) 
I love Nephi's lament here, his loving praise is so touching to me. Let us all have the same spirit of praise!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Week 90: The Curse of Castillo Lara‏

Since June 24th 2014, a curse has been placed upon the area of Castillo Lara: That any missionary that arrives there shall only stay there for a grand total of 3 months, no more and no less. After that, each missionary is sent off to a different area. Elder Webb, Elder Lopez, Elder Maldonado, Elder Bento, Elder Pugmire, Elder Disla....
And now, Elder Hughes.
Yes, after two short changes my companion is on his way out.
It was something I was half-preparing for and half-dreading. It's been a fun, comfy, quick transfer and now that it's over....I can't even believe it's already gone.
We have seen so many changes and miracles during these past 6 weeks. I can confidently saying that it went by faster than any other part of my mission. I feel so full of gratitude for everything that has happened and the way that I have been able to learn and grow through the examples of other people.
This week I grew from the examples of the people I went of divisions with:
On Tuesday I stayed in my area with Elder Vijil, who taught me a lot about how to feel confident around people that you don't know very well. He told me that he treats everyone as if they were old friends or people that he had known for weeks already, from investigators, members to the random people we say hello to on the street. I learned how to be more patient and more of a leader through his example.
From Elder Solis on Wednesday, I learned how to keep a positive and upbeat attitude, in the face of disappointments and discouragements. His area is not the easiest (or the biggest) place to work, but he keeps a smile on his face, and is confident and direct in his teachings. We had a great day...and at the end we ordered pizza!
On Friday I stayed in Castillo Lara with Elder Ogden. He is a great missionary as well who thinks out everything very logically and is very organized with his area and also his district. He can make a plan and carry it out easily and confidently.
But last, but not least, I learned a lot from Elder Hughes: a fantastic example of leadership and charity. He has helped me to recognize the things that I can truly improve on and has given me the confidence and the motivation to do that's always fun...I have truly felt like I have a Brother here in the mission.
Finally we had a Zone Council all morning on Tuesday about Chapter 11 of Preach My Gospel, we learned a lot about how we can make and keep commitments and help investigators to do the same. We had a lot of fun doing so.
So....we'll see what happens now that my companion is leaving and my zone is changing....

For all I know....this could be my last change in Castillo Lara.

Sorry no pictures, left my camera at home.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Week 89: Because He Lives‏

Another General Conference has come and gone. And with it, the invitation to always re-evaluate, re-gain our perspective and to keep moving forward. For me, some prominent highlights were the focus on Family, Spiritual Perspectives, the Atonement and Religious Freedom. All are worthy topics for discussion and each held an important parable to all of us.
Conference dinner

I love conference, I am convinced that there is no more impactful, spiritual nourishment that we can receive than hearing the words of living Prophets and Apostles. It is such a gift to have that privilege as Latter-Day saints...something that I took for granted before the Mission, but now I feel as if I have heard the sound of the spiritual music that the gospel brings and carries into the hearts of men. I left the Stake Center on Sunday afternoon feeling refreshed and elevated and so grateful for the inspired messages.
It was especially good after a very long in Guatemala there are many traditions during the "Holy Week." Because it is the only full week off of work that people have here, the majority of Guatemalans go out of town to the beaches and to the historic city of Antigua with their families. Many people flock to see the Catholic "Processions," which are tall sculptured depictions of Christ's suffering and crucifixion that are carried through the streets on the shoulders of faithful members. Supposedly, those who carry the weight of these heavy floats receive forgiveness of their sins...for them it is all very symbolic. They walk over top of intricate "carpets" layed out in the street with images of the trinity carefully sifted onto the ground in colored sand. These parades go all day on Friday and there is a special "Resurrection" float that is sent out early Sunday morning. The custom is to only eat fish and honey-bread during this sacred week, along with other typical dishes.
With so much culture, there weren’t very many people who were there ready to listen to us....
But on the bright side, there was one. And one was all that we needed. His name was Cristobal (or Cristopher in English), and he has been well prepared to receive the Gospel (selfie with him included) We talked to him last week and now he is reading his book of Mormon and came to watch General Conference....he is so good...and is also preparing for Baptism on the 25th.

So many things are going on in my area...even though there wasn't very many people home we were still able to teach 20 lessons and contact 258 people using the new "Because he Lives" campaign.
The Lord is blessing us abundantly, and I am so happy to be a part of his work. I only wish to be called an instrument in his hands...and to do his will faithfully until the very end. This week I also finished the Book of Mormon in Spanish and it is a powerful witness to his divinity.

I love this church and I love this gospel, and above all, I love my Savior Jesus Christ.

Moldy shoes!

Elder Monson's favorite Conference Talks (of course he could have listed all of them)

Elder Holland: The Atonement saved the world from Free-Fall
Pres. Uchdorf: Grace
Pres. Eyring: The Law of the Fast
Elder Woodruf: The Music inside of our hearts
Pres. Monson: Magnifying Preisthood Duty
Linda K. Burton: Ye lift me and I lift thee and we'll ascend together
Elder Hales: Religious Freedom

Pres. Uchdorf: The Petempkun Village