Monday, June 29, 2015

Week 101: A Promise‏

Of all of the overwhelming feelings that I felt during this week, the most impactful was that of hope. And for me, that was something that was the most surprising...the comforting sense of a future achievement was one of the last things I expected to experience.  

The week as a whole had it's fair share of triumphs and was uneven and yet it was perfect, like a really good episode of Psych...and that was all I needed to lift my spirits even higher.
Things got kicked off a week ago, as we were playing soccer with our zone and I received a call from the Assistants informing me about my exit interview....
The next day.
So...on that note, I started off my week...just a little bit nervous for what was going to happen on the morning of my birthday.
I soon found out, at 9 a.m. in the mission offices (a place I know all-too well). It was a lively conversation with President Caffaro, talking a lot about the future....about everything that was to come...from that point and onward. He said that the 5 basic principles and actions in the mission follow in full-force even afterwards:
1. Plan
2. Find
3. Teach
4. Baptize
5. Retain
Utilizing those things will get you far...I'll just let you think about it and I'll explain it to you later.
The whole rest of the day I was stuck thinking about everything that was going to happen after Wednesday the's a lot to think about for a kid who just turned 20...Marriage, Family, Studies, Work....
We'll see how I fare.
I'm Sure I'll be fine.
That night a member family invited us over to eat dinner....and, a White-Chocolate Cheesecake with 20 candles all lit up like the 4th of July (somebody tipped them off). I was so happy. It feels good to know that people are aware of you...and that they care for you as well.

I am really going to miss people like that here in Guatemala because they are more than a few.
The rest of the week flew by, Divisions with Elder Barker, Divisions with Elder Villanueva, Lessons, Contacts, Questions and Answers.....
Until Sunday rolled around and I wasn't sure what hit me.
The best experience of the week was during Gospel Principles class....Marlon, Andrea and Evelyn all came to church and participated actively during the lesson on Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The Teacher, Hermana Chavac, had everyone there write on a piece of paper the answer to the question "Why would I be baptized?" for all of the investigators....and then share their answers.
It was so emotional...Marlon, who had been hard of heart began to weep, saying that he would like to be baptized because he wants to show a good example for his young family...that he wants to change and be a better Father....
I was truly touched by this man's sincerity....ant the spirit of the Lord had touched his heart in a way we hadn't anticipated before....

It was a promise: hope from God that Castilo Lara was going to see miracles in the future:
"When we have hope, we trust God's promises. We have a quiet assurance that if we do “the works of righteousness,” we “shall receive [our] reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). Mormon taught that such hope comes only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ: “What is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise” (Moroni 7:41)."
The rest of the day was filled with similar experiences with different families....
There's just so much good on the horizon....

Even though for me, it ends in a week, it'll keep on going,

"Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” -Elder Jeffrery R. Holland
Please take a minute and watch one of my favorite videos:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Week 100: Hey...It's my Birthday!‏

It's Monday again here in "La Zona Utatlan" and it's good to know that the world is still turning. Things just keep chugging along around here, as we keep moving forward we keep seeing more blessings and more miracles...that's the key to Enduring to the End. 
I love the quote from Elder Kevin W. Pearson in this last General Conference, "Enduring to the end is a hallmark of true discipleship and is essential to eternal life. But when trials and challenges come our way, we are often told to simply “hang in there.” Let me be clear: to “hang in there” is not a principle of the gospel. Enduring to the end means constantly coming unto Christ and being perfected in Him."

Sometimes "enduring to the end" can seem like a burden, a task, a chore, but the "Joy" is indeed found "in the journey" as modern Prophets and the Wizard of Oz episode of Phineas and Ferb have all declared.
So, while reality begins to set in, I am just doing my best to try to keep my mind occupied in other things 
The good thing is that there are a lot of things to keep myself occupied doing...otherwise I would be plastered by the overwhelming sensations that come with finishing a mission.

We started the week with a Zone Council on Tuesday, my last zone council.
In spite of that weighty thought, it was actually a great experience. We learned a lot about being a "Consecrated Missionary" and how we can better apply chapter 13 of Preach My Gospel, on working with Ward and Stake leaders. There was so much to cover in so little time  but in the end we all came out with a renewed resolve to do things even better.
We worked really hard all day and prepared ourselves for the planned division with the AP's the next morning.
On Wednesday, I went back to Montufar, which is now the Assistant's Area, and worked like crazy with Elder Bustillo. He's from Honduras. The sector we worked in was Elder Walton and Elder Mendez's area while I was in the office, so I was able to see some familiar faces...but aside from them there were a bunch of members I didn't quite recognize.
We taught some very spiritual lessons to a large quantity of Investigators, and what really impacted me was that all of them demonstrated a sincere desire to follow Christ, and those who had a Baptismal Date showed true fruits of repentance.
Overall, it was a great day.
We woke up early the next morning and went back to our area. Elder Taya and I did weekly Planning and then went off on Divisions once more with the Elders of Monte Verde 1. I stayed in Castillo Lara with Elder Rich (from Ohio), and we worked really hard.
Elder Rich has been in the mission for a good 4 months now...and being with him made me feel really old (haha, I'm not even 20 yet...technically still a teenager). Things went well.
The rest of the week was spent peparing things for the Baptism of Dayna on Saturday morning.
It was an awesome experience, Dayna was literally thrilled to be there, and invited a bunch of friends that she had made in "Fumbal" (all of whom are ex-missionaries)....and a whopping 30-something people came. It was just great.
After the service, I asked Dayna how she felt...and she exclaimed, "while I was changing out of my baptismal clothes, I felt like I was just new, and I was shedding my old skin and taking on a new life.
Elder Taya told her that that feeling was the confirmation of the spirit that her baptism was valid in the Lord's eyes.
So, things are good...I am happy, anxious and tired....and ready to go out there and make my last 2 weeks the best they can possibly be.
Have a great week!

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” -Albert Einstien

My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.

And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen. -Moroni 9 25-26

Happy Birthday Elder Monson!!! 

 Finished the Book of Mormon in Spanish

Monday, June 15, 2015

Week 99: ABDS: Anti-Baggy-Defense-System‏

We are just that much closer to the end ladies and gentlemen...and I'm still not sure on how I truly feel about it. I've just sort of slipped into a sense of casual neglect, a passive-aggressive shout out to the way I felt when I was going off to the mission: neither nervous or excited, convinced that the future was more of an idea than a reality.
Then...boom! It hit me. 
..that was two years ago, now I'm just waiting for it to sink in...but it's like trying to put a cookie-cutter on a piece of memory-foam, it leaves a mark but never lasts.
I guess you could say that's a good thing though, I have a built in anti-baggy-defense-system. 
We should call ADT Security Systems, this could be a huge breakthrough...
This week that just passed by was especially good because so many things happened that seemed to be out of the ordinary in my life and in the lives of my investigators.
As far as they go, here's the update:
Dayna: She's ready to be baptized on Saturday! She's 18 years old and is studying at a certain "underground association of English Teachers" (the very same that I got lost looking for with Elder Alvarez a year and a half ago) called Fumbal. We have been teaching her in the house of the Gordillo Family, who have been helping her a lot. She told us that ever since the death of her father she had been an Atheist....but her Mother had always encouraged her to go to a church and draw nearer to God. She lives currently with her Aunt who is SUPER catholic...but on Wednesday we had an awesome lesson with her about baptism and the need to have someone holding the proper priesthood authority. Dayna then told us at the end of the lesson that she had received the answer that the church is true. She said that she could feel that it was.
That, in and of itself brightened my day more than anything.
On Sunday she came to church with her mother, who we later found out is an inactive member of our church....and she was thrilled that her daughter was going to be baptized too.
Jorge and Evelyn: they are making plans to be able to be married in July so that Evelyn and her 8 year-old son will be baptized together later next month. They are doing great and were engaged yesterday.
Marlon and Andrea: they are about the same too, they didn't come to church on Sunday but they are progressing (slowly but surely!) Andrea has been reading and praying every day since we started teaching them.
That's where we are at right now with our investigators.
Life is doing great.
We also had an awesome conference with Elder Jose Alonzo of the 70. He did a tour of our mission and pumped everyone up to be able to go and baptize every last person in their areas. He talked about the "desire to baptize" that it wasn't just something that we had to think about...but that we had to want more than anything else in the whole world. That we should ask for referrals from EVERYONE, and that as we help invite people to come unto Christ, that that desire and that light will help them to resolve their own errors and repent for their sins on their own.

The next day he was with us in our Mission Council with all the Zone Leaders and Sister Training Leaders. he helped us to have the vision to plan to baptize WEEKLY (or even, daily). I loved all the stuff he talked about, and the saddest thing to me was that I won't be in the mission long enough to see all of the results of the conference...
Oh well, that's life.
Have a great week everyone, I love you all!
-Elder Monson

A thought I liked from Personal Study: "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)

It matters not who lives or who dies, or who is called to lead this Church, they have got to lead it by the inspiration of Almighty God. If they do not do it that way, they cannot do it at all. …" -Wilford Woodruf, Offical

Monday, June 8, 2015

Week 98: Now is the Time...‏

President Monson in the October 2013 General Conference said, "The holy scriptures contain no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the resurrected Lord as He appeared in Galilee to the eleven disciples. Said He, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.”3 Some of you here today will yet remember the words of President David O. McKay, who phrased the familiar “Every member a missionary!”
To their words I add my own. Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work."

That was back in the beginning of my mission when that was said, during my first transfer with Elder Hernandez, my trainer....and what I have found is that in good times and bad times, the instructions of the Prophet have never been more relevant.
These past few weeks I have felt stressed over the progress of my investigators...seeing many people who I have grown to love literally freeze in the face of temptation and persecution. What could have possibly been the answer to such a riddle?
Actually it was right in front of my face...we were working HARD (literally, harder than I ever have in my whole mission) but we weren't working very SMART.
The secret lies in overcoming self and working with the ever-available cavalry of members.
Member Missionary work was captured well by Elder Quinten L. Cook:
"I believe with all of my heart that we are on the threshold of the most significant missionary success to date.
Our challenge is to share the joyous, eternally significant gospel with our brothers and sisters so they can find peace and happiness and exaltation.
With this in mind, how can we be effective missionaries?
First: Be a missionary all your life. President David O. McKay (1873–1970) taught that every member is a missionary, and it is as true today as when it was first declared.
Second: Overcome feelings of hesitancy or inadequacy.
Third: Do not be discouraged because missionary work is hard.
Fourth: Be a good example and take every opportunity to share the gospel (see 1 Timothy 4:12)."
(Elder Quinten L. Cook, "How to Be a Member Missionary" New Era Feb. 2015)
This week we focused a lot more on working with the members and it worked beautifully. We were able to help Jorge and Evelyn and others (Marlon, Andrea, Rolando, Felicia) in a way that we never really were able to do before.
Case closed: Member Missionary Work is inspired by the Lord.

It may not be news to anyone but a larger focus on the work of salvation through Ward Leaders brings the greatest blessings from heaven.
Life's good.

Have a great week!