Monday, April 28, 2014

Salta, La Union - April 28, 2014

Hello Family!
So something that kinda hit me on Tuesday was how important faith is. Our president talked a little about how it's not just believing, but letting that belief conquer whatever inner doubt you have, so that it's not just a small net gain of faith that causes action, rather a complete takeover of faith that causes an action full of divine power. The other day we went to go contact people. There was an older lady that said that her daughter that we were looking for had moved years ago, that she was a metaphysicist, and very not interested. So we asked her anyway if we could come in and talk about Christ. With faith and a little persistence, she said yes! Woohoo! Also, it got dark Tuesday night and we were looking for a reference. The houses here are not marked well. Especially in the ghetto areas where the shacks are just kinda thrown up at random. We had our doubts that we'd be able to find it, but we knocked on the first door with a little faith and it just happened to be the first house we knocked on! When we pray with faith, and then go out to act upon it, God gives us the miracles we need. When you pray and go out and look, missionary fun like that happens!
Fun story with that reference in the ghetto - Antonio. He lives kinda far away from where we work. Saturday we went looking for another reference and got somewhat lost on the complete other side of our area from where Antonio lives. And then guess who we just happened to bump into? Antonio! He was visiting his recent convert inlaws in their house! I love miracle lessons like that!
We had three other investigators progress this week. Jesica went to church all by herself with her boyfriend and baby! She got to church before the member we asked to go get her had time to pass by! The other two are Abigail and Jonathan. They're doing well! They came to a family night. They couldn't go to church due to a sad situation with a grandpa in the hospital, but we're going to get them to seminary this week! I love all the different things that the church does! Seminary, family night, activities, it's all just so great!
I had a baptismal interview for a guy named Josue this week. They've been teaching him for a while, and this was his third interview. The only thing that's been stopping him has been his own desire. Finally he decided that he was ready! I thought everything was going to be cake, and then we got to tithing. He said that he was fully willing to contribute, but that he didn't want to give money. It's times like those when you're really glad that you have a testimony of tithing. And a topical guide. It took me a second to find the scripture I wanted, but between that and a personal experience about how tithing helped me, he decided that he was going to try it out. Testimonies can be so very important.
I got talking to a taxi driver Friday night. He was trying to convince me that the church was started by a minion of Satan to prepare the world for the Anti-Christ. His arguments sounded pretty persuasive and you could tell that he'd looked into a lot of different things. But really, it doesn't matter to me. I've received an answer from God through the Holy Ghost, just as the Book of Mormon promises, and I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. People can tell me whatever they want, and I'm very open to listening, but nothing can replace what God has told me. I love the invitation of Preach my Gospel to keep asking our Father every once in a while if it really is true. I know he answers every time.
I strongly dislike when people want to "be okay" to go to church. They don't quite understand that the church  is there to make everything okay, not for people that are already okay to go and sit there for three hours twiddling their thumbs and listening to pretty things. Christ's teachings could not be more applicable to our day - the whole have no need of a physician, rather those that are sick. Yeah... I just kinda wanted to complain a bit about that. Hope you don't mind!
We found a drunk guy. Twice. He was very, very drunk. He could hardly stand up straight. He must have asked where the church was about 15 times. It was weird, I really wanted to help him out, but all we could do in that moment was take down his address, invite him to church, and go back when he was in a more receptive state. I got to thinking that it could very well be how our Father feels toward us. He wants to help us so much, but sometimes, there's only so much he can do for now until we ourselves take those first steps to make everything better.
I got to give my talk about prophets again! I enjoy talking about that so much. I gave a few highlights from the general conference, telling just enough of the stories to arouse what I hope would be sufficient interest to go home and watch them. How blessed we are to have access to all of those talks! And how blessed are all of you! I'm somewhat dependent on the Liahona down here due to limited computer time, so take advantage of all the technology that the "choice generation" has! Oh, and also, from my talk, if you haven't already watched the preisthood session, watch it! It was so great! And so not just for males! I'm excited to read the women's session, too!
Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Salta, La Union - April 21, 2014

Hello Family!
Happy Easter yesterday!
I had my interview with President Levrino the other day. It was a fun opportunity to see how much I've grown over the past three months. We talked about some of the things from the last interview that were keeping me from having more success, and I've been able to improve all of them! I love the way that the gospel gives you opportunities to not only improve, but to see that improvement every once in a while. It's also very nice to receive advice from someone who knows a lot and receives revelation at regular intervals.
The district we have is awesome! Everyone has more than a year on the mission. Well... I think. This morning we experienced the third emergency transfer in the last two weeks. I think the new missionary also has more than a year...
We found a really cool girl named Tamara the other day! She was the sister of a referral we received. We left her with a pamphlet and when we went back, she'd read the whole thing and could remember it all! We couldn't spend much time teaching, because she was home alone, so we left a Book of Mormon with 3 Nephi 11. When we went back the next time, she'd read until 3 Nephi 14. And without having received a single lesson! It'll be fun to see what happens this week!
We lost our map on Wednesday. We were kinda living off of that. When we went to look for it, it must have fallen out or something. We went by a few book stores and police stations to try to find one. After trying four places in various different corners of the area, we ended up at one of the bigger police stations. They didn't have one, but they knew where one was, and just happened to be going over there. So we got a police escort to go find a map! That was fun. We contacted all the officers on the way.
We had an awesome family night the other day. The stake counselor in charge of the ward organized it. There was such much priesthood in that house! President Albornoz really has an awesome vision of what he wants to do with this ward. Good leadership is always a great thing.
Speaking of him, he gave an awesome talk the other day on hymns. He's known for being very direct in his talks and I never thought I would have heard someone call the ward to repentance on not using hymns correctly. It was such a fun thing to listen to! He talked about how it's scripture and how you should have your own copy. He talked about the importance of knowing lots of them, and not the same ones every time, and knowing the messages as well. They really do invite the spirit!
The stake presidency is frantically begging for an exception to the rules here so that we can have a bishop. I didn't know that in addition to being a full tithe payer and married, you had to be sealed to be a bishop. Among the other many requirements. While in Utah the men abound, here we're a little scarce. There are so many people that are so close with just a thing or two preventing them! Just goes to show how important it is to keep ALL the commandments and not just those you feel like keeping.
Our star investigator right now is Yesica. She's the girlfriend of a less active. The other day we taught the Law of Chastity and it was slightly uncomfortable. We brought a young married couple with us, so the lesson itself was really great! She just seemed a little... uncomfortable. The next time I was a little apprenhensive going back, but when we taught the Plan of Salvation she received it so well! She committed to be baptized, then went to watch the baptism the next day. She even got to church pretty dang early - baby and all! I love seeing when people progress like that!
My testimony has grown a lot. We talked to a guy that said that he had a lot of faith, but that he couldn't go to church because he had to go buy stuff in the flea market so that his kid had clothes for school on Monday. We promised him that if he put God in first place, the rest would work out. He said something along the lines of, "I believe in God, and I trust in him completely, but he's not gonna make the tennis shoes appear on Monday!" I just got to thinking how important it is to fully trust God, and keep all his commandments no matter the cost. If we do that, everything will work out.
We had a district fast for two people this weekend that were on the verge of baptism, but were having problems. You know what? Fasting works!
We talked to an active family the other day during lunch that have a less active son that came back from the mission a few years back. They talked about how they wanted so badly that he could come back to full activity, so we got to talking about family scripture study. It's something that's hard for even the best families. I think a lot of people don't realize that it's a commandment, something that God has asked us to do through his prophets, and one of the basic committments we have on our teaching record. I know it's hard, but the scriptures bring so much power into a home! It's much harder for kids to stray if they're reading the word of God daily with their parents and brothers and sisters.
There are just lots of great people in this area! I don't think I can mention all of them. But anyway, this past week I was thinking about something I could share in the newsletter, and five points of missionary work came to mind. I'm not sure I'll be able to share all of them in one letter due to time, but I'll try to do at least one a week.
Point number one: Pray. It's what the prophets and apostles are asking us to do (see Trust in the Lord by Elder Ballard and the talk from Elder Neilsen about the game plan from the October General Conference). They've promised us that if we ask in prayer every day for missionary opportunities, we'll have them. We have to have confidence that God will help us with the goal to bring at least one person to church every 60 days (see the talk from Elder Ballard from this conference and 1 Nephi 3:7). We should pray for the missionaries and their investigators by name. Something that I love that our mission president said was that too often, we try to complicate things. We make lists of people and try to select names, we talk about praying a certain number of times per day, and a bunch of other stuff like that, but all the prophets are asking us to do is pray, ask for an opportunity, and then go out every day and look for it. I love the simplicity of the gospel! I know it works. I've seen that formula work on a daily basis, and it's even better when I see it work for the members.
Anyway, I'll keep sending the other four. I hope you all have a good week! I know I will!

Salta, La Union - April 14,2014

Hello My Dearest Family!
So... I got emergency transferred. I knew it was possible, but I was kinda hoping that it wouldn´t happen. I loved Mitre. Even so, the Union, where I am now is pretty fantastic! It's kinda funny, last week during weekly planning for the third week of the transfer, Elder Inman told me that I was going to be transferred, because some missionary always goes home week three. Well, what he said, even if it was in joking, was exactly correct!
I generally went around in a three some, going on splits when the members were available. Now I'm just back to normal.  As for the transfer, I will be transferred again in three weeks - it's pretty much guaranteed. 
Caitlin, you got me all excited and then popped my bubble! Oh well... I guess I still have 6 more months to hope to get an in-law. I was so sure that I'd have at least one by the time I got home, but you and Craig are trying my faith ;) 
Well, I'm in La Union. It's still in Salta capital, just in the north, really close to the National University of Salta. There are a bunch of college students that are around here. My new companion is Elder Hawkins from Santaquin, Utah. His companion had to go home a little early because his university was going to erase all his college credit if he wasn't in school today. Poor guy. The bishop here died three weeks ago in a tragic work accident, so we're currently under the direction of a member of the stake presidency. He is super excited! He's an RM, and it's easy to tell that he was a hard worker on his mission. We had ward council and in 15 minutes he did more than I've ever seen in a ward council, organizing companionships and setting goals to get into contact with all of our recent converts. It'll be a short time here, but I'm sure it'll be great!
In the meeting with president last week, I was surprised about how much he knew about the mission. He knows which missionaries are excited, which aren't, which ones work hard, and which ones just put on a good face in interviews and conferences, as well as those who understand their purpose and those who are just kinda here. He talked with us about the replacement of the materials secretary, and it's cool to see how the spirit worked. He gave us a name he was thinking about, then we started throwing in other ideas and pros and cons and such. In the end, he looked up on the computer and found that the first missionary he'd thought about was working in almost the same thing before coming here. It was interesting to see how the spirit worked, and how even with all our ideas and suggestions, it was still the first feeling he had that was the best decision.
I've been having all kinds of companions this week. Elder Inman went out to Jujuy for exchanges, so I spend most of last week with Elder Alvarez and Elder Dominguez. I was taking the lead in the area with Elder Alvarez, where we found out just how little we knew the area. Then I came here with Elder Hawkins that's only been here for three weeks. So I've kinda been walking around lost all week. Kinda fun!
There was a cold snap. I'm starting to take out all my long sleeve shirts and my coat for the first time in around a year.
I learned something new about the atonement this week. As I was reading in Jesus the Christ, I noticed that Peter, James, and John, who I always thought were asleep the whole time, were awake for long enough to record the events that we have of the Atonement. I've always kinda empathized with them for the whole being tired thing, but I loved noticing how despite all the pressures they had and the fact that they fell asleep in the end, they were able to stay awake for a good portion of that hour, even if not all of it. God gives us the strength necessary to do what he's commanded us to do.
I had a free baptism this week. I always thought that a free baptism doesn't exist, but if you show up Friday after the other missionaries have done all the work, I guess they do. The members took care of the service. It wasn't quite as elaborate as what they did in Mitre, but it was still impressive to see how they did it without our help. We didn't participate in any part of the service - we were just there to be supportive! It was truly member missionary work.
My last day in Mitre we visited an eight year old that was about to be baptized. It was a ward baptism, so we weren't too involved, but it was really cool to see how well the primary had prepared her. She was even able to help her less active parents understand some of the basic doctrines that show up in the baptismal interview questions, and help them recognize the need to improve. I wish you could have seen the look on her face when we gifted her some baptismal invitations. She was so excited and wanted to invite all of her friends! There was just a special spirit there. The Lord put the age at 8 for a reason. They truly can be ready and understand what they're doing.
Well, that's my week. Different, to say the least. I hope you're all enjoying repassing general conference! I am! Love you all!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Salta, Mitre 1 - April 7, 2014

Hello Family!
Well, it was an awesome general conference week! I love conference so much! The week started off pretty great! We found a family (married, which is super rare here) that had received a Book of Mormon from a friend a long time ago. It was really cool to find that! I love seeing the fruits of member missionary work! Their car broke down on the way to conference, but we'll keep going by!
Right next to them lives a girl that went to church with a friend last Sunday. She liked it, and even though she didn't read much in the Book of Mormon, she went to both sessions Saturday! She wanted to go Sunday as well, but her mom wouldn't let her. She wasn't very happy with her mom. I wouldn't be either. Conference is just so powerful!
I think I've already talked about the really smart Colombian family we're teaching. The mom had to go to the hospital. She had a freak accident and her husband found her behind the house passed out. They're still not sure what happened. When she came to she didn't recognize any of her family members or friends. We did a fast for her, and she's coming home today! The day we started the fast she started recognizing her family. Fasting and prayer works miracles!
We have two investigators that are completely ready to get baptized! The problem is the parents. Both of them went to almost every session of conference and want so badly to make a covenant with God. As we were talking about it, we realized there aren't many reasons that the parents won't let them get baptized - it's just a matter of maturity. Both of the dads don't really care, but we think that one mom is using her permission as leverage, trying to have more control over her daughter, and the other is scared that the Catholic grandma will get mad. Luckily, the gospel helps us get our priorities straight, and I'm sure that as we teach them how they can better follow Christ, they'll let their kids do the same. Even so, I'm so grateful for my parents and how great they are. It's like Elder Scott was saying, my parents never forced me to do anything, but they always lovingly motivated me to do the best. Not to mention they're married. That always helps.
I saw something really cool Tuesday! It was the zone leader meeting and I overheard a zone leader talking to Sister Levrino about a recent medical visit. He said that the doctor wasn't a member, but that they'd started teaching him. She said, "Great! Let's put him on the list of doctors we use. That way even if he loses interest or if you can't find him because he's busy, we can keep sending missionaries to him and he'll maintain contact with the church!" Talk about an eye single to the glory of God! 
We contacted a reference named Whitney! She's from South Carolina! That's just always fun. I'm really glad that Elder Inman served 7 months in California, because my gospel vocabulary in English is terrible.
Ready for an awesome story? My first week here we made a street contact named Elvira. We couldn't find her house at all. Addresses here are not the best. People make up streets and numbers, and some houses don't even lie on streets. We saw her kid in the street last week and he took us to the house. This week we passed by to teach. They committed to go to conference and went! Elvira went from First Nephi 1 to Mosiah 2 from Friday to Sunday. She said that this is the only church where she feels something special - talking to us, reading in the Book of Mormon, and in the conference. Pray for prepared people, and God will send them!
We made waffles Sunday morning. It's funny how great things can be after a year and a half of not having them.
We were listening to EFY 2013 the other day and realizing just how many subliminal general conference messages are hidden in there. It's awesome! The church is really smart.
Now for my thoughts on general conference! My favorite talks were Sister Reeves on protecting the home (I've never heard a sister talk so directly about that kind of stuff - it was amazing! Not to mention I loved the strong and clear emphasis she put on daily family scripture study and prayer, and weekly family home evening), Elder Scott on influencing with love, Elder Zwick on correct communication (who didn't love the story of jumping out of a semi? Every investigator commented on that), Elder Ballard on follow up (get praying for your "one person" for the next quarter!), and Elder Corbridge, where he talked about all the not-quite-as-spiritual evidences that make the church different. True, the ideas such as this is the only church that has the same organization as the old one may not help you as much as a firm spiritual witness in times of heavy trial, but it's still really cool to consider all those fun evidences! There were two more that I absolutely loved. Something Elder Oaks said reminded me of something that Elder Bowen said when he came to Argentina last year - we should watch or read ALL of conference, including the priesthood and women's sessions. Clearly, not live, but we never know if God is going to put our personal revelation that we want and need in one of those sessions. Elder Oaks's talk blew my mind. I had no idea that you could say stuff like that in general conference. My understanding of the priesthood changed completely. I also loved Elder Ridd's talk. He was also so direct and you could tell that he knows exactly what's going on with the youth!
I also felt as I was listening to the talks that there are some big trials coming up and that the second coming's just a little closer than I thought.
Anyway, those are my thoughts for the week. I love you guys a ton! I hope you all got to see all of conference, and that you're excited to go over it again!