Monday, February 6, 2017

Coming Home!

Last Week!

Saying goodbye to my district from the MTC, thanks for everything guys!

This week was another amazing one, as all are in the work of the Lord. We continued working hard and found tons of new investigators again, which made me feel both super happy and a little sad. Super happy because that means more people are going to have the opportunity to learn of the restored gospel. A little sad because I won´t be there to teach it to them and see their progress, but that´s just part of the transitioning process back into the normal life.

My favorite lesson this week was with Yamilet, the 16 year-old investigator. We taught her about Joseph Smith´s first vision, the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, which she had read and learned about herself through the pamphlet we left her last visit. She finally started feeling more comfortable and not too embarrassed to talk to us, which was a huge improvement. Also the spirit was really strong as my companion, Elder Sanders, recited the first vision and testified of it´s truthfulness. We also gave a brief explanation of the Book of Mormon and left her the commitment to read the introduction, meditate on what it teaches, and pray to ask God to help her come to know it´s true. She accepted and went to church yesterday for her third time as well. I´m super excited for her baptism here in February even though I won´t be able to attend in person.

Speaking of the Book of Mormon, any of you who are not familiar with it, or maybe are but still haven´t taken the time or don´t continue to take the time to read it, "I would exhort you that ye" start now by either getting out the dusty old book, opening up the gospel library app hardly used, or get yourself a copy through your local missionaries and that you begin to read it little by little every day. Not just that, but that you "ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost." (Moroni 10:4) I bear my testimony alongside the prophet Moroni that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and you WILL receive such a knowledge through the Holy Ghost, if you ask with a sincere heart, real intent, and with faith in Christ. And if you have received such an answer before, start again, you won´t regret it!

First generation leaving the Mexico Monterrey East Mission
 to go to the temple their last day. The start of a wonderful tradition!!

An event that stood out to me this week was a worldwide transmission to all the missionaries, just like they did last year in January. The difference was it wasn't live this time and the format was different since they did it as a discussion between 3 apostles (Elder Bednar, Elder Oaks and Elder Anderson) and other missionary general authorities. Oh and Bonnie Oscarson was also there; most importantly because the world would be chaos without a woman's point of view. They reviewed what they had taught last year in the transmission and showed clips from the talks, along with follow-up questions and comments. The purpose was to reinforce the message of teaching repentance and baptizing converts, which was the theme once again. I really liked several of the comments they made, but one that Elder Bednar said stood out to me. He talked about how "success is a gift from God and that we should do the little things that count like hard work and obedience whether or not we receive the success we desire because that's where our conversion really shows true." (paraphrased) His comment is valid and I've seen it in my mission through other missionaries, as well as in my own service. Yeah, our purpose is to baptize converts..but that´s not the only purpose and our efforts are in vain if we aren't doing them for the right´s like Paul explained in his epistle to the Corinthians;

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (Corinthians 13:1-3)

So if we are helping others to baptism, but aren't being obedient ourselves or doing it out of love to our investigators and our God "it profiteth us nothing" (italics added). There was so much more explained at this special event and I am grateful to have been able to participate even if only a few days before my mission ends. The last thing they did was announce some changes in the mission schedule and the key indicators, which I´ll mention briefly. First of all, they emphasized that each mission has different needs and each mission president will decide his own missions schedule. The biggest changes are that instead of having us plan at night, it has us rest up and prepare for bed at night and save the planning for the morning. Also on preparation day, instead of starting at 11 after our studies, we now start at 8 which is supposed to give us more time to clean the house, do decent grocery shopping and all the other normal preparation day activities. It was nice enjoying those extra 3 hours for one day...since this is my only one left. 

The key indicators are now being cut down to 4 which are: Baptisms and Confirmations, Baptismal Dates, Investigators in Sacrament Meeting, and New Investigators. That´s a huge change from before where we reported over 12 key indicators. Elder Oaks explained that this isn't something they are throwing out of nowhere to test or something, it has been prayed, fasted, and talked about by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for over 6 months. Elder Bednar added how we are still evolving the missionary work and will continue doing so, this isn't to say the key indicators in Preach my Gospel are useless, they are all important, but we want to put a special emphasis in the 4 that truly show progression towards the baptism of converts.

Anyways I just want to thank all of those who helped me along the way to get here on the mission and the continued love and support I've felt all along the way. I am eternally grateful and I will NOT let this experience go to waste. I have a completely new outlook on life and am ready to start a new life, as we all can through Christ day by day. I can´t wait to get back in contact with many of you! Don´t hesitate to get in contact with me, even if you think I´ll be too busy, I'll be glad to talk.

Finally, as a representative of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I want to take this last opportunity to bear my testimony. I know without a doubt that God is our Heavenly Father. He knows us and loves us. He loves us so much He sent his only begotten son, even Jesus the Christ, to Earth to suffer and die for us that we may be saved. I know that through that everlasting atonement of Christ we will all be brought back to God´s presence to be judged according to our works and be placed into a kingdom of glory. I know that our Heavenly Father and his son Jesus Christ appeared to a little 14 year-old boy in the spring of 1820, an event that has changed my life forever. I know that 14 year-old boy, Joseph Smith, became the prophet of the restoration and an instrument in the Lord´s hands in organizing the true church again. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that Joseph Smith translated it by the gift and power of God. I know that we have a purpose and a plan and by following that plan and completing with our purpose we can obtain eternal life "which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God." (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). I testify of these things and share this in the name of our Lord and Savior, even Jesus the Christ, Amen. 

Adios Mision Monterrey Este!
Jack Daniel's Ribs and Shrimp with Mango-Peach Lemonade, delicious!
Layover spent dining in at TGI Friday's thanks DFW Airport!

Last missionary outfit with my attractive passport holder.

Flight from Dallas to Seatle I rode "the spirit of Disneyland II"
(literally it's name, it says it on a plaque inside) sick paint job!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Week 100!

Definitely not going to have enough space for everything I have...
so I bought a new suitcase to carry on since I didn't bring one šŸ˜‹
I´ll be busy packing all week to make sure I can get it all in,
next week hello OREGON!!!

This week went swimmingly šŸ˜ƒ! We worked super hard and had a TON of amazing experiences finding new people, as well as teaching the investigators who have shown the most interest about the restored gospel. Also, in my second to last interview with President Maucotel on Friday, (I have my last one this Friday) it went really great since he basically just thanked me for having taken on the role as Zone Leader my last transfer and acknowledged how much good I've done for the Zone and my area, as well as my companion Elder Sanders. It made me feel good inside and I am only grateful for having been given such an opportunity. I wouldn't have wanted to finish any other way than training a new Zone Leader and being the best example I can to the Zone!

We were disappointed that none of the investigators we had invited came to church this week, not even Jose Luis who had to go to Monterrey for some errands but will be going next week. It seemed like all our hard work had been in vain until we were surprised by 4 investigators in church!!  Two were from a part-member family we had visited a few times but didn't show much interest initially. One was the father of the wife of the part-member family who we are going to start teaching this week. The last was a 16-year-old young woman who is the daughter of a recent convert of 3 or 4 years and she just moved back in with him since she had been living with her mom before! We set an appointment with her in the afternoon yesterday and got to know her a little. She´s a little shy at first, but opened up and even accepted a baptismal date in February! šŸ˜„ I know I won´t be here in Monterrey for that date, but I am happy to continue to be an instrument in the Lord´s hands and hope to continue to do so up until my stake president releases me.

Everything is happening so fast and I still don´t feel like it´ll ever end, and probably won´t until I am on the plane, or maybe even when I see my family for the first time in 2 years. I am just so grateful to have been led to this wonderful mission and thank all those of you who helped me get here. I owe it all to you! Next week will be my last letter home and I hope to have other cool experiences to share because I don´t intend on giving up now! Love you all and hope you have a wonderful week šŸ˜Š.

Funny story...I made popcorn naturally and I forgot to grab a bowl...
it started overflowing and I yelled at Elder Sanders for help...
he grabbed the only thing he could find (a pitcher) and I tried
to pour it into it, but most of it ended up all over the room
and it continued to pop out all over....tasted great though šŸ˜!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Week 99

My house!

This week was crazy busy with reunions, long bike rides to the food, and teaching tons of new people, as well as teaching old investigators. First of all, on Wednesday we had Mission Leadership Council, which I figured the one in December was going to be my last and so did president Maucotel since he had me give my farewell testimony then. It was kind of last minute, but we learned a lot and are going to instruct the Zone one last time tomorrow. My favorite part I can remember was from one of the instructions by Elder Romero (assistant to President) is where he talked about diligence and mentioned how we've left so many things to be here on the mission including family, friends, school, work, entertainment and much more. Knowing that we've left so much to be here, he questioned "why can´t we leave it ALL on the mission field and use our time with diligence rather than just doing the minimum to get our certificate as return missionaries." He´s so right. I mean I can´t imagine how I would feel having wasted two years not giving it my all. I know I´m not perfect and have made many mistakes, but I truly feel I worked hard and that brings me an indescribable joy šŸ˜Š! We are going to try to portray that lesson with our zone tomorrow in hopes to motivate them to be even more diligent and even more obedient. I mean they have already left so much, why not leave it ALL?

I am super excited for one of our investigators named Jose Luis, whom I mentioned we contacted like 2 or 3 weeks ago and had went to the Christmas party and a YSA dance. We had been struggling to find him, but we finally did and gave a good lesson on the importance of church attendance. Then the day before Sunday we had another young man accompany us and commit to take him, turns out they already knew each other from the YSA dance he went to! Small world! Anyway, they made it to church yesterday and so Jose Luis is now progressing towards his baptism goal of the 17th of Februrary šŸ˜„!

I love Gordon B. Hinckley!!

I love that we are learning from the new Teaching of the Prophets: Gordon B. Hinckley this year! Also the January Liahona had an article about him I really liked. He was my childhood prophet and learning about him, now I realize how much he really did for the church and all mankind šŸ˜‡. I expecially love how he helped bring the world from having around 47 temples to over 100 in his 13-year ministry! This week we learned about the importance of missionary work in chapter 2 and I love how when President Hinckley got back from his mission and gave a report from his mission presidency, he was called upon to help with the missionary publications and he accepted, even after having served a full mission and putting his education plans to the side. What an example of consecrated long-life missionary efforts he gave us!! Let us all learn from his teachings and become consecrated to the Lord´s work, whether serving a full-time mission or just being an example to others, sharing the gospel when the time presents. Love you all and hope you can share the gospel with a friend this week!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Week 98

Celebrating New Years with some sparking apple cider from France.

Alright, I have some BIG NEWS! Salt Lake called President Maucotel, asking about the return dates of missionaries, and they asked about my 2-week extension. After he explained why, they told him he can´t do that unless it´s some sort of emergency and they changed it back to the normal I´ll be home in 3 weeks! šŸ˜

Next I don´t know if anyone in the U.S. has heard, but the gas prices here in Mexico went up a bunch and caused protests, riots, and robberies all over the country! Here in Monterrey it happened too, but mostly in the downtown and the other mission. It started on Thursday night and President called Elder Sanders and me to inform the Zone to get to their homes immediately, which was about 8:15. Nothing serious happened, but there were a lot of rumors going around and so to be safe we only worked until dark the next few days, like 12-5, which basically meant go to the food, teach a lesson or two with a few contacts, and get back to the house. We then had from 5-9 to study, clean the house, and update our area book, which was actually refreshing. I´m reading a book called "La Iglesia Restaurada", which I found in this house and it´s super old, but talks in detail about the restauration of the church. I love it!

Despite the challenges faced with the commotion about the gas prices, we were able to see blessings in the mission. The members came together with the missionaries, to help them get home on time and also in making visits more. Our Zone went up in lessons with members, even with such short time! Also us missionaries learned to appreciate our time more since we had to do so much in so little time. I feel that´ll help us to use it even better when we get back to normal, which I think will be from now on since today we are on normal schedule again. Finally it gave us a good lesson topic because many investigators started asking why these type of things happen, which is where the Plan of Salvation comes in. šŸ˜Š The Lord has a purpose in all this and, when we take time to meditate and find the good out of everything, life becomes so much more peaceful and happy!

This week we had to drop several investigators, since no one went to church again and aren´t completing their commitments, but I know that means we are just getting closer to finding the chosen ones! My favorite part of the week though were the opportunities to heal the sick. I am grateful for the Priesthood I hold and the opportunity it gives me to bless God´s children šŸ˜‡. There was a sick investigator, as well as a sick less active member, who asked for a blessing of health. (The investigator asked for a prayer, but we helped her understand that we hold the authority to give what is called a Priesthood blessing for the sick, which she asked for instead.) Both experiences were amazing and I especially liked the reaction of the investigator who told us after that when we gave her the blessing she felt as though a cool wave of numb came over her and calmed her back and lung pains instantly. Also that she had faith she would be healed even though she had been sick with the flu for over 3 weeks. Her faith astounds me!

It got really cold this weekend here in Monterrey, getting down to 1-3 degrees Celsius (32-37 Farenheit), which is dang cold for us here with all the heat we are used to. It was super cold this morning as well, but got up to 21 degrees Celsius in the afternoon, which felt super hot in comparison šŸ˜². I am very grateful our air conditioner also works as a heater so we have slept nice and toasty in our room.  I can see that it´s been crazy cold in Oregon as well, enjoy the days off! Even though you´ll have a longer school year šŸ˜‰.
Anyway, I´m super grateful to the Lord for each day of the mission he gives me, which are counting down, but I will do my best to use them to do his will and make it home with honor so that the Lord may say "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." Matthew 25:21

Have a wonderful week everyone! Love you all!

Rosca de Reyes for "Dia de los Reyes". I bit into one of the little dolls ,
which means I have to make tamales in February.
Too bad I won´t be here for that though šŸ˜‹.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Week 97

Skyping with family on Christmas Day šŸ’—


I am still having a hard time accepting the fact that it´s 2017 already....I remember when I got my mission call in 2014 and saw that my call was until 2017, and thinking "that´s never going to get here, it´s forever away!" But look where we are now! I am super excited for this year because I know the Lord has so much in store for me through my prayers and meditating as to what it´ll bring me. The opportunities are endless šŸ˜ƒ.

This week we worked hard, despite the many investigators and members out of town or busy with festivities, and were able to continue to find new people to teach. We must have found over 40 new people since I got here! The tough part is finding them again and getting them to church since we still haven´t had many at church. This week no one went because they all passed out from their new years parties. (Yes, they were honest enough to tell us ahead of time that that would happen...didn't even try to avoid it.) But we are hoping next week will be better since it´ll be more normal and our schedule changed from 9 to 11 which makes it easier for everyone to get up on time šŸ˜Š.

One cool story is we found an old investigator named Leticia, who was taught by missionaries about a year ago and even went to the church like 7 times. She and her husband had a baptismal date a set and everything, but some things caused them to get discouraged and stop going to church, and then the missionaries changed and never returned. Talking with her, we were able to discern that the only thing that´s keeping her is obtaining a testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet since she still hasn't received an answer yet. We are going to start from the beginning with them and hope to help them receive their answer so they can be baptized.

I would like to share a scripture I found while studying Doctrine and Covenants this week. In Doctrine and Covenants 78 17-19:

"17 Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;

18 And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

19 And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more."

It´s easy to become impatient and wonder why the Lord allows us to suffer for so long, but it´s important to understand that all things come with time. We couldn't bear all the blessings and glory that He has in store for us now because we still have a long way to learn and grow. Our Father in Heaven loves us so much that He is willing to let us experience some affliction so we can obtain all that He has, through our obedience. What hope and joy it brings to know what He has in store for us if we would just endure in faith! 

I love the mission and hope to do all I can in these last few weeks to save my brothers and sisters inside my stewardship so that they too can have that joy and hope šŸ˜„!

Love you all and hope you had a wonderful CHRISTmas and a Happy New Year!!!

New Years Snacks!!!
Sparkling Apple Cider, the tradition lives on!
(Although I couldn't find Martinelli´s this time...and this
fancy organic sparkling cider from France doesn't compare šŸ˜‹.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Week 96

Elder Winn!!!
(He was the missionary who had to go home for back problems and when I was
Zone Leader we made a poster to support him and he got back to the mission field
a couple months ago, he´s one of my District Leaders now and is training!)
Skyping with my family!

¡Feliz navidad a todos! Merry CHRISTmas to all! šŸ˜ I had a wonderful CHRISTmas filled with spiritual lessons, contacts, and much more food and treats than I could handle. The best part of it was reading my family's CHRISTmas letters and talking to them over Skype. I miss them so much and join in with my Mom to say that I can´t wait to spend next CHRISTmas with the whole family including little Quincy (my niece to be born in May šŸ˜Š)

On CHRISTmas Eve we were able to visit a part-member family who invited us over for their CHRISTmas dinner. They served us pulled pork, green spaghetti (sounds weird, but it´s delicious) and mashed potatoes. Afterwards we shared a message, held a prayer, and took pictures together. What a wonderful way to spend CHRISTmas eve sharing the gospel!

Christmas Eve with the Bautista family!

On Friday, we had our mission CHRISTmas get-together, where we sang hymns, President and Sister Maucotel shared messages, and we took pictures. I loved their messages, which focused not only on the fact that CHRISTmas is about the birth of CHRIST, but what that really means to us. President Maucotel shared a music video by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that awed me. You should all watch it. It´s called "Infant Holy, Infant Lowely" and the video shows a man coming out of prison to his family, so beautiful šŸ˜Š. The correlation it is explaining is how Jesus Christ´s birth and what he did can open the prisons and lets us free, if we let him do such. What joy that brings to my soul to know that with my Savior's help I can be freed from my mistakes and sins, which are many. I love this special season and hope you all were able to enjoy it, but mostly that you were able to remember the CHRIST in CHRISTmas šŸ˜€.

Love you all and hope you have an equally swell New Years!!! 

Christmas gifts from mi familia!
CHRISTmas present from Elder Gayosso.
He knows me so well šŸ˜‹.
Elder Polanco and his new missionary he´s training from
Arizona, Elder Neumeyer. 2 generations of trainers šŸ˜„!
President and Sister Maucotel, Elder Sanders and I at the
Mission CHRISTmas get-together šŸ˜ƒ.

Elder Sanders and I opening presents, Merry CHRISTmas!!