Monday, May 25, 2015

Week 96: The Final Frontier‏

Its the first week of my last change of my second year of my 24 month-long mission.
That, in and of itself is cause to leave me surprised and confused. This is the very last part...the time to shine and everything, I have spent so much time thinking that this time would never come and now I'm all wrapped up and ready to finish up things with a "reverent bang" in the words of my little brother (he is so cool).
This past week we made the effort to go on divisions with all of the Elders in our zone (which sounds like a daunting task but...we really only have 12 missionaries in our zone and 8 are Elders...). But it was a good experience for me to be able to learn so much from all of our missionaries once again.
On Tuesday we had our district meetings and I was with Distrito Centro America and listened to Elder Barker's workshops about working with members and working on unity with our companions. It was good to be able to do a refresher on those two topics....what was really fun though was how at the end we played a game.
In the game we had to write on a piece of paper something that we wanted the other person to our right to do in front of people started writing stuff like "Dance the Bachata" or "Do 30 pushups." Then Elder Barker read a scripture: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12).
The game was turned upside down and we all had to do the things that we wrote down for the other people.
Once again the golden rule won out.
So, I got out of the push-ups...but if there's a movie floating around Youtube with me singing "You Don't Know You're Beautiful" by One Direction in the next 10 years...I really brought it upon myself.
It was really a great week though, there were so many things that we were able to learn from our missionaries and I was really happy that we were able to see more people progress and see so many miracles during the course of our labors....
A scripture came to my mind during this whole week: "For behold, angels are declaring it unto many at this time in our land; and this is for the purpose of preparing the hearts of the children of men to receive his word at the time of his coming in his glory." (Alma 13: 24). What I have really come to think about more is how the Lord doesn't truly need us to bring his work to pass...but he allows us to help him, it's like a father letting his son wash the car with him.
"That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers." (Doctrine and Covenants 1:23)
He has ALREADY prepared the hearts of MANY people...and it is up to us to find them and bring them back into the fold.
We saw that a lot during this week.
On Sunday we had Stake Conference as well, and an Area 70, also a member from San Cristobal, came to speak. I loved some of the thoughts that he gave, touching on topics that we really needed to hear as missionaries and as members of the church.
I love this work, I love this church and I am so excited to see how The End begins...

Love you all! Have a great week!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Week 95: Good Guys and Bad Guys‏

Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians, the classic game of cat and mouse. It's a story that has been told ever since the beginning of time: whenever there is bad, good always has to come and kick it's rear-end. "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility." (2 Nephi 2:11)
I find that even on the Lord's errand we always see evidence of said opposition. During the past week we have seen the hand of the Lord in everything that we do...but at the same time we have also seen the aftermath of the wrath of the adversary taking a toll on those that we are working with.
There's opposition in all things. That's the bottom line. There will always be good and bad, it's up to us to do all in our power to bring about as much righteousness as possible.
That's been on my mind all week. Because it's sad to see people lose interest in the Gospel and fall away...especially when they are so premature in the process...
That happened a lot this week, there were various people who read something negative on the Internet that heard something from their neighbors about the "mormons" or just didn't take the time to read or pray...
But the good thing was that some of the successes that we had glimmered like a diamond upon a sheet of black felt. President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “I know it isn’t easy. It’s discouraging at times, sure. Aren’t you glad it isn’t just fun all the time? Those valleys of discouragement make more beautiful the peaks of achievement.”
We brought a family to sacrament meeting this Sunday! Jorge and Evelyn, and their 8-year-old son Cristian. We found them on Sunday when we contacted Evelyn's Brother in law and sister, Marlon and Andrea. Marlon commented to Jorge that we were going to come by their house to teach a message, and Jorge was just thrilled.
Because, little did we know, Jorge is an inactive ex-missionary with desires to return to church. His wife had never met the missionaries before but is very receptive and willing to learn and progress.
So, the two couples are what are filling my soul with joy right now...because on Sunday, Jorge brought his wife and kid to church and they stayed for the whole 3 hour block...and at the end committed to go to Stake Conference next week.
The Lord is truly blessing us; we have 5 baptismal dates set for June and a lot of other people who show potential to progress.
So, even though it may be rough sometimes, if we really dig down deep....we will always see that the Light conquers darkness and everything turns out alight.

So I'm just going to keep working at it!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Week 94: Blessings: Count 'em

In the midst of a political crisis, in which the Vice President was caught up in a web of corruption called "La Linea" and forced to resign (sounds like somebody took a page out of the plot in Iron Man 3), Guatemala is still standing. It just goes to prove the point made in Mosiah 29: "For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!" So, as the government is in shambles, the Gospel keeps spreading to the hearts of the people.
This last week set records for my entire mission as far as Lessons taught and people contacted...I'm telling you, Elder Taya and I are giving it our all right now.
And...As far as I'm concerned, I feel like our work is paying off. We are finding a bunch of families left and right, it's crazy, I don't even feel like it's that hard anymore to get into a house (not to be cocky or anything, but my area is really blessed). In short words: I am just having the time of my life here in Castillo Lara.
Zone Picture
So many things have happened during this week: we have been setting baptismal dates with two investigators who we feel like will progress. One of their name is Irma, she's 21, and was a reference from her next-door neighbor (coincidentally, our ward Mission Leader). We taught her for the first time on Wednesday, when I was on divisions with the Assistants. The whole day that we had was blessed, but that was what really capped it off, finding someone who I am confident will progress. Irma has the goal to be baptized for the 13th of June, and this next week will change her working hours so that she can go to church every Sunday.

Truly, all of the biggest miracles kicked off on Wednesday, when coming back from Divisions in Centro America (it's the name of the ward...I'm not referring to the part of our continent), my companion told me that the Assistants called that morning to say that we would be going on divisions ONCE MORE with them, and that I would be staying in Castillo Lara with Elder Pugmire. I would love to say that I was thrilled to receive the news, but mostly I was just stressed out of my mind. The good thing was that we had a good number of appointments planned and a whole lot of faith. We started around noon and after lunch we worked like crazy the whole day. We were able to have an incredible day, and visited a lot of families. A highlight was a lesson that we had with David and his wife Paola, where they revealed that they had received an answer that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. Elder Pugmire complimented the effort that we are doing to try to teach that felt good.
The next day we didnt have very much planned, so Elder Taya and I decided that we were going to put the goal to contact 100 people during the took us 4 hours to do it but it turned out well. What really made that day great was the fact that I got a package from home! Hi-Chews, School Newspapers and Bible Videos can really make a Missionary's Day.

On Friday we spent the day in Castillo Lara, the central colony of our area, when I came to this area it was our weakest sector but now we've got it up and running with a good amount of people to visit. That night we had our Missionary Coordination with our Ward Mission Leader Hermano Diaz (one of my favorite people in all of Guatemala). He was just called last Sunday and is very willing to magnify his calling. If he keeps it up with the fire he has right now he's going to be a miracle-worker. We came home after looking for a couple more lessons and talking to a few more people we decided to call it a day.
Saturday a word...awesome. We had so much success, and now, not just in finding new investigators, but in seeing the families that we have already found progress. We ended the day with 8 lessons (a record for my mission!) and a good feeling, the kind that comes with a job well-done.
Sype Call
But...without a doubt: Sunday was the best day of the whole week. Namely because I received the best blessing of all: being able to talk to my family on Skype. I discovered that I am a total dork on the phone but I was also reminded about how much I love my family, and how blessed I truly am to be a part of them! It's always good to feel that there are people who are interested in your overall well-being, that love you, and that pray for you too. It being Mother's Day I just want to give another shout out to my
sign says: Happy Mother's Day Mom, Love you to the Moon and back!
Mom, who is the most remarkable person that I have had the pleasure to know (and that's saying a lot, because in the past 22 months I've met a lot of people). She is incredible and I am so grateful for the chance that my Heavenly Father has given me to be her son. Thank you so much Mom, I love you!
My family is doing well...and talking to them was the last of the 4 calls that I have made to them during my mission...
Another notable thing about that day was that in the middle of Elder's Quorum, Elder Ochoa of the 70 just walked in with his wife and daughter. Their surprise visit made the regular meetings go a little bit long, but he talked to us a little bit about Missionary work and how we can be more untied as a quorum.
It was a great week. I have no is great. I am just getting more and more scared to think about how fast time is going...and how little time lies ahead.
But I'm not going to get down on that. There's nothing left to do but to work my heart out.
Have a great week!
Spiritual Thought: Part of our challenge is, I think, that we imagine that God has all of His blessings locked in a huge cloud up in heaven, refusing to give them to us unless we comply with some strict, paternalistic requirements He has set up. But the commandments aren’t like that at all. In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.

His commandments are the loving instructions and the divine help for us to close the umbrella so we can receive the shower of heavenly blessings.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Week 93: May the 4th be With You‏

May the 4th be with you!

May has finally come and with it a whole slue of things that Humanity needed: New investigators, a new Avengers move (or, so I hear), and a new focus in the Guatemala City South Mission. After everything that has happened I just feel wiped out.
On Tuesday, after a great district meeting with Elder Barker, I went to Monte Verde on divisions with Elder Mejia (from Honduras). He has been in the mission for about 3 months now and after the day I stressed to him the importance of dropping investigators that don't progress...I really hope he got the message...
The next day with Elder Taya, we worked really hard in the Verbena, a part of our area that is far a away and very different. It sits on a hill looking over a great ravine and the ever-growing waste pile of the Guatemala City National Dump (which is also right next to the National Cemetery.... coincidence?)... We didn’t have that much success during the day but it was still good!

On Thursday, we had interviews with President Caffaro and Sister Caffaro. They are such great people...I have grown to love them a lot. We talked a lot about if we are "Planning to Preach the Gospel, or Planning to Baptize" it really made me think a lot about how we can be more efficient as missionaries and use our time more wisely. I had been a little bit worried about finishing the mission, and how I could make my last 2 months really I asked President Caffaro. He told me that I was doing great and that his biggest suggestion was that I could just have more confidence in myself!
...and he's right. I feel more confident in myself than before, but I still have a ways to I decided to put that in practice in my area and in my zone...and so far it's been helping a lot.
Friday we had the Mission Council with all of the Zone Leaders, Sister Training Leaders and Assistants; it was really spiritual experience...
In April, we didn't baptize as much as a mission so, we set goals to be able to recover. I’m ready to go out and give it my all and these last two days really showed some serious progress.

By the end of the week we have found 25 new investigators and 5 new families (contacting 355 people really paid off) the majority were on Saturday and Sunday. May is "Family Month" here in Guat, and as a mission we have the goal to be able to find and baptize 2 families: One as a reference from the members and one from our own efforts as mission. We are on the right track as far as things go in Castillo Lara!
So...that’s the weekly update...not the most exciting week in the world. But it wasn't too bad either:

Spiritual thought:
I love the "Personal Interview" that Elder Ballard did during Priesthood session, it provides great insight for all of us:
"In other words, it’s time to raise the bar not only for missionaries but also for returned missionaries and for your entire generation. To that end, please ponder in your heart your answers to these questions:
1. Do you search the scriptures regularly?
2. Do you kneel in prayer to talk with your Heavenly Father each morning and each night?
3. Do you fast and donate a fast offering each month—even if you are a poor, struggling student who can’t afford to donate much?
4. Do you think deeply about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice for you when you are asked to prepare, bless, pass, or partake of the sacrament?
5. Do you attend your meetings and strive to keep the Sabbath day holy?
6. Are you honest at home, school, church, and work?
7. Are you mentally and spiritually clean? Do you avoid viewing pornography or looking at websites, magazines, movies, or apps, including Tinder and Snapchat photos, that would embarrass you if your parents, Church leaders, or the Savior Himself saw you?
8. Are you careful with your time—avoiding inappropriate technology and social media, including video games, which can dull your spiritual sensitivity?
9. Is there anything in your life you need to change and fix, beginning tonight?
Thank you for this short personal visit. I hope you answered each one of these questions honestly and thoughtfully. If you find yourself lacking in any of these simple principles, then I urge you to courageously repent and bring your life back in line with gospel standards of righteous discipleship."