Monday, December 12, 2016

"Wherefore We Labored Diligently Among Our People"

Buenas tardes everyone, it was another really productive week out here in Waller. Here's some of the highlights from this past week:

On Sunday night as we were out contacting, we stumbled across a group of five Hispanic men who were all very open to the message of the Gospel and English class. So we stayed and talked with them and they were really cool. They were good family men who work hard to provide for their families and they fed us carne asada which is where they throw tons of fajita, chicken, and salchicha(sausage) on the grill and serve it with a plethora of tortillas and salsa. After we ate we shared the message of the Restoration with them and they all liked it, so we are going to return whenever we're hungry. 😋

On Thursday Francisco had his baptismal interview and didn't pass. He explained to Elder Tidwell that he was paying a certain amount of money each month in order to pay off a debt to the bank. He said he would be able to pay his tithing when he finishes paying off the debt. So we explained the situation to the ward council and a couple members decided that they would help him budget his finances and help him with his light bill if he paid his tithing first. So we presented the plan to him yesterday and he accepted it without problem and is now good to go for his baptism on this upcoming Sunday

As well we started teaching Carlos, Yadira, and Carlos and it's gone really well. They are all really engaged in the lessons and have strong desires to receive answers to their questions. We are going to set a date with all three of them this week. 

We taught Deseret and Enrique this week a couple times and they still want to be baptized, which is a good thing. The only obstacle we can see is that their mom is trying to get papers so she can be here for the baptism. If she's not able to do that, then we will have to postpone the baptism until she arrives, which might end up being a good thing because she's not a member herself. 

On Thursday we stopped by a potential family named the Reyes and shared the why of the Book of Mormon with them and promised tons of blessings and they felt the Spirit and told us they would read. When we came back, they hadn't read, and didn't seem all that interested in learning more because they were celebrating the day of the Virgen Maria a little early, because that day is the 12th of December. 🙃

But either way we are still on the lookout for even more people to teach and guide to the safety of the waters of baptism. In an area like this it is crucial that we receive member referrals and teach people in the homes of members. So we have been doing all we can to gain the trust of these fine members so that they can trust us with their friends. 

Something I've come to realize while I've been on my mission is how important it is to be persistent in persuading people to come unto Christ. Obviously I don't want to be overbearing when inviting others to learn about Christ, but at the same time, when someone opens their door, looks at us and says "No" without even hearing what we have to say, they need to be asked why. This is the most important message that anyone could ever hear, so it's our responsibility to make sure that they understand at least a little bit what they are rejecting and how we are only trying to help, not Bible-bash. I also came across a scripture in the Book of Jacob that drives this point home

7 Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.

That's about it for this week. God bless you all. 

Elder Barrus

I Love Waller

This post is from Monday, December 5, 2016

I'm starting to love Waller more and more the longer I'm here. At first I thought that it would be kind of a slow area because it's the country and there's more cows than people out here, let alone Hispanics, but we have been blessed with a lot of teaching opportunities. We taught 15 lessons this week, which is the second most lessons I've taught in a week thus far in my mission. I wouldn't really say that the success can be attributed to us because this branch is incredible. It all starts with the priesthood leadership and they do a great job of making assignments and making sure that people are visited, fellowshipped, and spiritually nourished. As I was sitting in branch council I marveled at how the branch presidency mentioned how we as missionaries shouldn't be teaching lessons without members present in the lesson. It makes our job as missionaries a whole lot easier when we have members willing to fellowship our investigators and share their conversion stories with them because sometimes it's hard to believe a couple of 19 year old kids from Utah who haven't been around the block as much as them. So I am just so grateful for the members here and will cherish my time serving in Waller. 

Anyways, to give an update on Francisco, we went by on Thursday and he told us that he was all good to be baptized on December 11th, but there was one thing that might hold him back. He said that he is retired and receives a social security check from the government each month and with that money he is able to pay his bills, but he only has $20 left over after he pays his bills, which is much less than the 10 percent needed to pay tithing. He said that if it was acceptable paying $20 for tithing instead of 10 percent, then he would get baptized, but if not, we would have to delay the baptism in order to work something out. So we told him we would ask our mission president about it and get back to him. Knowing full well that he would have to pay 10 percent I dreaded our next lesson with him. As I studied, pondered, and prayed about how we were going to overcome this barrier, I reflected on why the commandment of tithing even exists. God doesn't need our money. He has super rich people like Mitt Romney paying tithing that could probably cover all of the church's expenses and leave some to spare. I came across this quote from Elder Tad R. Callister of the Seventy in a talk titled "Becoming a Consecrated Missionary" that explains the principle behind tithing beautifully:

"Years  ago  my  grandfather  was  serving  as  the  president  of  the  Rotterdam  Branch  in  Holland.  He told  of  a  woman  who  came  to  him  destitute,  who  had  earned  the  equivalentof an American quarter  for  the  entire  week.  She  asked  if  she  needed  to  pay  tithing.  He  looked  at  her  for  a minute  in  her  impoverished  condition,  and  then  said:  “Sister,  if  this  were  my  church,  I  would  not take  your  tithing.  But  it  is  not  my  church;  it  is  the  Lord’s  church,  and  tithing  is  a  principle  upon which  blessings  of  the  Lord  are  predicated.”  (LeGrand  Richards  Speaks,  P.  185.)  She  paid  her tithing. 

The Lord doesn't need our money. He needs our faith. Our faith to believe that even if logically we aren't going to be able to pay our bills if we pay our tithing first, that all of our needs will be taken care of. So we explained the situation to our ward mission leader Hermano Alvarenga and he and another member visited Francisco on Sunday after church. They helped him write his expenses down, make a budget, and helped him realize that the Lord will take care of him if he pays his tithing first. So after a stressful couple of weeks we got the news that Francisco was all good to go for his baptism, he just needs an interview first. 

As far as the rest of the week went, on Thursday we had our weekly planning but before that we went to a barbecue place to get baked potatoes. That's really all Waller is famous for but that's okay because they were really good. On Friday we had an inspiring zone meeting about faith and finding people to teach. The zone leaders talked about how sometimes the mission president and his assistants give us commitments that sometimes seem like they are too lofty. When I first entered the mission field I would receive these kinds of commitments from my leaders in the mission and resent them because I thought they were unrealistic. Over time I've repented and really put forth my best effort to fulfill those commitments. In zone meeting we discussed how we need to have the faith that these things can happen. One of the scriptures that hit me was 2 Nefi 27:23:

"For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith."

Sometimes we think that the miracles of the Bible can't happen today because God has already done his work. That is just not true. Biblical type miracles are happening every single day, we just have to have the faith to believe them and recognize them. Which brought us to the next point about finding those who are prepared. We need to be putting forth our best effort to ensure that we are bold and helping people understand what they are either accepting or rejecting. So we were able to put that to the test Friday afternoon after district meeting when we visited a potential named Gabriela. Early in the lesson, she mentioned how she had been looking to come closer to God and had prayed for guidance just a few days before we showed up. So she took that as a sign from God and we testified that it was. That was a real testimony builder to how God is preparing the hearts of many to receive the message of the Restored Gospel. Later that night we taught another lesson to someone named Tyreke who said he had prayed earlier in the week for guidance. So we showed up. 

Anyways, I think that's all for today, but I am grateful for the opportunity I have to be a missionary and to see the lives of others change for good. 

Elder Barrus

We made gingerbread houses with the Smuins and they made us missionary snowmen. ☃️

We had a good zone meeting

Monday, December 5, 2016

You Only Serve in Waller If You're a Baller

So I got transferred this week out to Waller, an area which covers 4 towns of about 5,000 people each. We cover a Spanish branch and an English ward and there's plenty of work to do. I came in at a good time, Waller currently has 3 baptismal dates and lots of potential to set more. My new companion is Elder Wells and he's from Alpine, Utah and he came in with me to the mission field, so he has the same amount of time in the field as I do. 

On Tuesday we taught a few lessons, did some finding, and knocked on some doors. 

On Wednesday, we did some service at a thrift shop for an hour, knocked some more doors, ate dinner with a part member family, taught their unbaptized 9 year old son Anthony, and attended a couple of meetings. 

Thursday, we planned, ate Thanksgiving dinner with the Schilde family, and watched them shoot some clay pigeons with their shotguns. Then we finished our weekly planning, knocked on some more doors, and visited a potential family named the Reyes. A week before I got here the missionaries had helped them fix up their house a little bit, so they let us right in and fed us some more Thanksgiving dinner, and let us teach them the Restoration. There were 3 families there, and about 9 people participated in the lesson so that was pretty cool. They mentioned that they were pretty grateful that the Elders quorum and the missionaries had come and helped them fix some stuff up around the house. They said they would come to church and didn't, so we're not sure how interested they really are, but we will try again this week. 

On Friday we had district meeting and taught Francisco, an 82 year old guy from Mexico who has a baptismal date for the 11th of December.  He had accepted the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity without much issue, so we weren't too concerned about him. We taught tithing and he did not accept it as a law of God at all. We used Malachi 3:8-10 but he still didn't budge so we invited him to pray and ask God about it. He said he is going to rethink his baptismal date because he didn't believe that the true church of God would have its members pay tithing. However, we let him think about it for a couple days, and then had our ward mission leader visit him on Sunday. Francisco said he still wants to be baptized and asked how to fill out a tithing slip, so I think the Spirit has worked on him. 

On Saturday we taught a few more lessons that weren't anything to write home about. 

On Sunday we had church with 6 of our investigators there and a couple meetings. Then we stopped by a potential investigator named Ryan and taught him the Restoration. He said that he believed in Joseph Smith's first vision so we invited him to be baptized. He said he's already been baptized, but prayed to know if it's something God would have him do. So there's some potential there for sure. 

All in all, it was a positive week and we are looking forward to building on this momentum. 

Elder Josh Barrus
Waller District

Friday, November 25, 2016

We'll be seeing you, Westgreen!

This email was sent November 21, 2016

On Tuesday we had zone conference and received inspired counsel and training from President and Sister Mortensen. The theme of the conference was "The Why of the Commandments". It is very important to emphasize the reason why God gives us commandments in the first place. They are not restrictions on what we can and cannot do, but rather instructions that will help guide us back to the presence of our Heavenly Father. 

When we teach this to investigators we emphasize that there was a war in heaven before this life, and that Satan was cast out because he sought to destroy man's agency. So we ask them what kinds of things keep us captive and that usually negates the complaining of having to give up things like coffee, alcohol, tea, and tobacco because they understand that Satan is trying to destroy them. In the Book of Revelation we learn about how Satan was defeated:

11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

So as we rely on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, continually strengthen our testimony, and love not our own lives unto death, we can overcome Satan and experience peace, joy, and prosperity. 

Later on Tuesday we did some inspiration tracting. (This is where we shoot a tack through a PVC pipe to our area map. Video is attached.) We ended up knocking in a rich white neighborhood that seemingly had no one who wanted to talk to us. Well, we ended up getting let in by a pleasant white family who knew some Mormons who had served missions. They ended up talking to us for about an hour and invited us to come back and eat a warm home cooked meal in a week or so. The mom talked to us about how she loves the emphasis the LDS church puts on families. Elder Sellers plans on going back this week and teaching them about the Restoration of the Gospel and how that makes eternal families possible. Just an overall positive experience with good God-fearing people who love Jesus and the Bible. 

And honestly for the rest of the week we spent a ton of time knocking doors, asking for referrals, and inviting random people on the street to be baptized. It was hard having to drop the Cinturas because they stopped answering our phone calls, texts, and doorstep visits. But it was still fun because we were doing the Lord's work. We didn't see much success, but that's okay because it meant that the Lord was only testing us. It's pretty fun to knock on people's doors and hear them talk in perfect English before they open it, and then they open it and say "I no espeak Inglish." So then we speak to them in Spanish!

All things said I've really come to love my mission regardless of how well or bad things are going. There's a purpose in everything and I've learned to try to understand what it is that God wants me to take away from each experience that I have. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I have to serve in the THM. 

Elder Road!

This email was sent November 14, 2016

This week was jam-packed with all sorts of missionary appropriate fun activities. On Tuesday we had our temple trip and after that I went on an exchange to Jersey Village with Elder Hunt on the ole' bikes. That was pretty fun because Jersey Village is a lot like my first area H3. It's close to Houston so it's pretty sketchy but awesome because people like to talk and you always see weird stuff that makes you laugh. We knocked an apartment complex and had 2 families that let us in. 

The first one was a family from Mexico where the mom hijacked the conversation and told us the story of how she came to know Jesus. She talked about how she grew up in a dangerous place and saw lots of bad stuff. And then she became a prostitute and became addicted to drugs and alcohol. She was not in a good place but had a desire to get out and so she prayed and felt inspired to read in the Bible. So she did and 5 years later her life has changed for the better. It's fascinating to listen to people who so readily tell you all about their life story. 

The second door we entered was with a black guy from Cuba. At first we spoke English to him, but he didn't speak any English so we spoke Spanish to him. He was a really cool guy, said he wants to learn more about our religion and the Book of Mormon. His only issue is that he's Cuban, and trying to understand Cuban Spanish is like trying to understand somebody who's talking underwater. On a completely unrelated note, knocking on doors can get awkward because I'm never sure what language people speak. There are people that look like they speak Spanish but speak like Arabic instead, and people who like they only speak English who are from Venezuela. Really confusing so we just have to guess and hope they can understand us. 

On Wednesday we taught Omar and set a baptismal date with him for December 4th! The only sad part about it is when we had another lesson on Saturday with him and he said that he and his girlfriend are going through a hard time so he requested to be taught by the Bear Creek Elders because he lives much closer to their chapel. So we'll have to turn him over but it's okay, he'll be in good hands with Elder Tidwell and Elder Blackford. On Thursday we planned for the week and knocked some more doors. Friday we had district meeting and more finding. Saturday we stopped by all our investigators and only 2 answered. So that was kind of frustrating but that's okay because we talked to a Hispanic family at the park who had made fajita meat and gave us a whole bunch.

On Sunday we had church and then our mission president's Spanish fireside. It was really uplifting to hear the testimonies of 3 recent converts who are grateful for the change the Gospel has brought about in their lives. I felt the spirit so strongly and hearts were touched. All the Spanish missionaries were there so I got to reunite with some of my favorite missionaries in the THM. 

Anyway, yesterday during sacrament Hermano Padrón gave a really good talk about obedience to God's commandments. He talked about how God gave Moses the 10 commandments, not the 10 suggestions. Sometimes we may not understand why coffee is not allowed but really we should be looking to keep all of God's commandments, not just picking and choosing the convenient ones we like. Sometimes we may not understand. But I love this quote from Joseph Smith that talks about the long-term effects of obedience:

"Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until all of the events transpire.”

We are free to choose for ourselves. But we are not free to choose the consequences, so we should choose wisely. Obedience brings blessings, and exact obedience brings miracles. Sometimes it's hard because our faith gets tested and nothing happens even though we do our very best. We talked about the story of Thomas and how he said, "Unless I see, I will not believe." That relates to us as missionaries because sometimes we won't work as hard unless we see some blessings as a result of our efforts. But that's not faith. Faith is believing and acting even though you can't see. 

Elder Road!

Alberto from H3! I saw him at the Mission President Fireside.

Temple trip with the district

The Promised Land

This email was sent November 7, 2016

Another fruitful week in the books here in The Promised Land that was capped off with another baptism! Here's a rundown of what went on:

On Wednesday we had a lesson with our new investigator, Omar and it went really well. He had met with missionaries before about 6 months ago but stopped because the missionaries told him that he needed to either get married with his girlfriend or move out and he didn't like that. So he broke up with her and moved out. Now they are back together but don't live together, so he is very open to the idea of getting baptized and is able to do so. His girlfriend is already a member so it helps that she's there to read in The Book of Mormon with him and answer his questions. 

On Saturday we had several lessons planned and they all fell through. That was pretty rough but we shook it off and knocked on a lot of doors. Even though we didn't get a single return appointment, we know that the faith we showed and effort we put in to sincerely seek those who are prepared was acceptable to the Lord.

Later that night we received a phone call from Rosa’s friend Debbie telling us that Rosa’s grandmother had suffered a stroke and was in the hospital. Her other grandmother passed away just last month. We were worried that this might affect her baptism, but she assured us that she was still going to get baptized on her scheduled date. She only had 2 hours of sleep on Saturday night but still came to church on Sunday and was baptized later that day. She told us that she felt light, as if a large burden had been lifted off of her shoulders. Even though none of her family members came, the ward and YSA members showed up to support her as she made her first covenant with Heavenly Father. It was amazing for us to see the faith that she has shown despite all of the opposition she has faced. 

I'm glad the fall weather is treating you well there in Utah. Real fall weather is quite enjoyable. The weather has cooled down significantly and now I would compare it to San Diego Temperatures--72 degrees and just right. The humidity isn't too bad anymore, thankfully. I am also learning that I am unable to do this mission by myself. Jesus is able to step in and heal us if we let Him. I've felt His love and edifying support so far on my mission that has helped me be better each and every day. 

We weren't able to teach as many lessons as we would have liked, but we know that it will happen this week as our investigators work less. But I am muy contento to be out here serving the Lord and I know that He is aware of all of His children and is carefully preparing their hearts so that they can receive the saving ordinances of the Gospel and live with their families for forever. I would love to hear from y'all if y’all ever get a few minutes. Keep me updated!
We raised a Captain Moroni-like title of liberty at zone meeting that says
"In memory of our God, our religion, our peace, our members, and our investigators." 

How to be 100% Sure You Are Going to Heaven When You Die

This email was sent October 31, 2016

This week was really edifying and was capped off by the baptism of Maria Antonieta last night. There's still a lot of work to be done in this area because we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we finished teaching Rosa all the commandments and she is ready to go for her baptism this upcoming Sunday. We've really focused on helping her develop good spiritual habits like studying the scriptures, praying, and going to church and partaking of the sacrament with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. She is really excited for her baptism and loves how much going to church positively influences her life. Tomorrow we are going to finish the preparations for her baptism and help her set a goal of attending the temple because baptism is only the gate that leads to the path to eternal life. 

As far as our other investigators go, we were unable to meet with the Cinturas this week, but they came to church for the first time yesterday! It was the Primary program so I'm sure they were a little confused but hopefully felt the spirit. We will have a lesson with them on Tuesday to follow up with how they feel about everything and continue to help guide them safely to the waters of baptism. 

On Friday I went on exchanges to H10 with Elder Guzman and we went finding and taught a few lessons to some solid investigators. My eyes were opened to what the most Hispanic area in the mission looks like. There are tons of apartment complexes and pretty much everyone you talk to is Hispanic. It's a Spanish missionary's dream area. It's not quite on the same level as Westgreen, but I wouldn't mind serving there at some point in my mission. 

On Saturday we stopped by an investigator named Consuelo that we hadn't seen in awhile and she actually was outside doing yard work, so she invited us in and we taught her and her daughter Delilah. Consuelo expressed a desire to find a church where she felt good. So we shared the restoration with them and invited them both to pray at the end. During Consuelo's prayer, she broke down and started crying because she felt the spirit. That was a real testimony builder as to the power of the Spirit in testifying of truth to people. 

Sunday was the baptismal service of Maria Antonieta and everything went really well. Tons of her family members came, including her sister and father who are not members. The spirit was really strong and strongest when Bishop Narváez gave the “welcome to the ward talk” and boldly suggested that her dad and sister seriously consider getting baptized. I love how bold the bishop is. It was a reminder of how I need to be more bold as a missionary. Sometimes I put up artificial barriers and lack boldness when inviting people to repent or learn more about the Gospel, but I am learning to overcome that because the worst thing that can happen is they'll say no. And if invitations are given with love and boldness, the spirit can be felt and hearts can be touched. 

Try the Fruit

This posts is from October 24, 2016.

Things are going well in the great and spacious city of Katy. We spent a lot of time knocking doors and not as much time teaching. But that's okay because we still saw lots of miracles. 

On Wednesday we taught Rosa the why of the commandments in addition to the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity and she accepted all of them without a problem. She is still on track for her baptismal date on the 6th of November and is very excited about it. She has decided to invite her family to her baptism, so we are praying that they come and their hearts will be softened and that they will want to learn more because of it. 

On Thursday, we met with MarieAntonietta's dad Giovanni for the first time since he got back from his 2 month work trip to Iraq. He worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week so he didn't read at all in the Book of Mormon during his trip, but he committed to read it in the coming days and weeks. He's not sure about baptism right now, but said if he comes to know that The Gospel is true he will get baptized. So prayers for him are definitely welcome! 

On Friday I went on an exchange with Elder Norton and we stumbled upon a Jehovah's Witness. He started out asking some questions about our church and what we do as missionaries, but then proceeded to challenge us a little bit so it kind of turned into a Bible bash. The point we discussed that really stuck out to me was when we talked about the need for a prophet and continuing revelation. We helped explain that Jesus taught us in Matthew chapter 7:15-16 that we will know a prophet by their fruits. We asked this man what his obligation would be if God gave him an apple or a banana as evidence of a prophet. He said he would be obligated to try it and decide if it was a good or a bad fruit. So then we presented the Book of Mormon to him as the fruit or evidence of the prophet Joseph Smith and he said he wouldn't touch it. I love and respect those with strong convictions in other faiths and think do great good in this world. I just can't understand why many of them won't even read a book that claims to be a second witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. They would lose nothing from it. But I digress. 

On Saturday we saw some really cool miracles. We were knocking in an apartment complex that hasn't been touched because it was built in August and ended up finding a guy named Craig who was interested in the message of the Restoration and committed to read the Book of Mormon. When we asked him if he knew anyone else who needed the same message, he called up his friend Chandra and sent us over to her house that same night. So we went over and she was in tears because she had prayed the night before asking God what to do because she didn't know. We listened to her and assured her that the Gospel brings peace, comfort, and joy to our lives. She really wants to learn more because her grandmother used to meet with missionaries and loved the message of the Gospel, but was never baptized because her husband wouldn't let her. So we sent her information to the English sisters so they can teach her. 

Anyway, I hope that everyone is doing well and is happy. I know that this is God's work and that He lives and loves us. 

Elder Barrus

We went mini golfing last P-day. Sorry I haven't taken too many pictures. 

A No Picture Week :(

This email was sent on October 17, 2016

This week was a pretty run of the mill type week. We had a hard time getting ahold of our investigators and knocked a lot of doors, but it was still fun. 

We were able to get in and teach the Cintura family once this past week and it was interesting. Unfortunately after we set the baptismal date with them they came across some anti-Mormon material that raised some questions. We answered them as best we could and tried to help them understand that there is opposition in all things. Because of this, Satan will do everything in his power to stop the work of the Lord. As well, we asked them the question: "If you lived in the times of Jesus Christ and wanted to learn about The Savior, would you go to the Pharisees and Sadducees who hated Him or to His apostles?" As well, we emphasized prayerfully studying the Book of Mormon every day for at least 10 or 15 minutes because that will help us avoid deception. Those who read it will realize that there's no way that Joseph Smith could have written the book on his own and used it to build a church. 

But anyways, the father of Marie-Antonietta finally came back from his work trip in Dubai, so we are going to start teaching him because he seemed very promising before he left. I talked to him a little bit yesterday at church and he said that he was really tired from having to change his sleep schedule but that he's happy to be back with his family. 

As well, we taught 2 new people this week. First one was Carlos. He's from Mexico and has a few work associates who are Mormon. He has read in the Book of Mormon before and was actually reading Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage so he knows about our religion a little bit. But he had a question about the trinity and the nature of the Godhead and it took us all of 30 minutes to get that answered for him. So we might teach him slowly, but he'll get there. The second person was Borris. He is from Venezuela and has good desires to learn more. He right now sells life insurance and expressed that it was a difficult time for him economically. He said he found himself in a similar predicament as Joseph Smith and desires to know which church is true, so we challenged him to find the answer through prayer and careful study of the scriptures. 

I read a talk by Hugh B Brown entitled, "God is the Gardener". It is my current favorite talk right now. 

That's really all I've got, unfortunately no pictures this week. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

It'll be a White November

Seriously had another superrrrr great week here in Westgreen. We set some baptismal dates and the work just keeps getting better and better. As well, we got transfer news last night and it was determined that both Elder Sellers and I will be staying together for at least another 6 weeks which was welcome news because we still have some unfinished business to complete!

Both MarieAntonietta and Rosa are doing well, they are progressing well and are still on track for their baptismal dates. Rosa shared a really neat experience she had when she watched General Conference. She really related to Juan Uceda's talk when he told the story of how the Holy Ghost told him not to go hiking with his other missionaries in his zone, but he ignored the prompting and did it anyway and almost fell to his death as a consequence. She talked about how she had met with missionaries about 8 months ago and felt that everything was true, she just would not act because she feared what her family might think if she got baptized into the LDS church. Well, as she looked back, she realized that she ignored God's will for her to get baptized and was not able to progress much spiritually during that time.  Now she is ready to take the leap of faith and get baptized on November 6 despite what her family might think or say because she knows it's what God would have her do. 

We were out knocking doors on Saturday morning when we happened upon an open garage door with a barber cutting his friend's hair and before we knew it, the man in the chair called his 5 kids over and we were teaching the Restoration to 7 people. They all liked it and said they would read the Book of Mormon and asked that we come back the next Saturday. The best part about it was the fact that they mostly spoke in a black southern accent with lots of slang, so it was pretty funny how Elder Sellers didn't really understand what they were saying most of the time and I had to fill him in on what words like "gucci" and "3 hunna" meant. (To be fair I'm not really sure what they mean either I just know how to use them in the correct context.) 

Anytime anyone wants to take their picture with you, it's a good day!

Saying goodbye to Elder Schloer, the Zone Leader

 On Friday we had zone meeting and said goodbye to our beloved zone leader Elder Schloer who goes home on Wednesday. Later that day, we were contacting in a trailer park and found a party of only semi-drunk Mexicans that invited us to come eat with them so we did. We ate some really good tacos and grilled pizza and had some fun talking to them about God. They also offered us beer, which I've been offered at least 5 times on my mission, which means that there's been 5 times as much temptation to break the Word of Wisdom on my mission than back home.😂 

Later that same night we were able to meet with the Cintura family. They are doing much better than when we last had taught them and had read 11 chapters in the Book of Mormon and felt great about it. We taught the first half of the Plan of Salvation and extended a baptismal date for all 3 of them and they all accepted without hesitation! The next step is helping them get work off on Sundays so they can come to church. The spirit was so strong and it was the first time in my mission where I've taught a whole family and they've all accepted the invitation to be baptized. 

We also set a baptismal date with José, so that makes for 6 baptismal dates set for these next 2 months which is very exciting. It's amazing how faith really can move mountains. When I arrived in Katy about 3 months ago, this area had zero baptismal dates and not really much was going on, missionary-work wise. But as my companions and I have worked hard, been obedient, and shown our faith in different ways we've been able to see things improve immensely over a relatively short period of time. 
On Sunday I gave my first official talk in a sacrament meeting in Spanish. Somehow I was able to talk for over 10 minutes without anyone in the audience laughing too much at my terrible accent. I still have a lot to learn and improve on, it's just frustrating because I am not as able to communicate myself as eloquently as I want to. But you know, the gift of tongues is real because I can understand about 90 percent of what is being said in Spanish. 

With that being said, on to the next one. Hope you all have a great week. 

Our favorite ward mission leader, Hermano Suarez

Westgreen Ward missionaries with Hermano Suarez and his wife

Happy Conference Weekend!

This is Josh's email from October 3, 2016.

This week was a good one only made better by the General Conference weekend and inspired messages that were shared by those who possess the spiritual keys of the kingdom of God. 

We were not able to teach many of our investigators this week due to their hectic work schedules, but 6 of them were able to watch conference on Sunday, which is a blessing because it helps set them up to receive personal revelation on their own. 

On Tuesday morning we helped the mother of Marie Antonietta and Fabiana pick up a washer and dryer and carry it up 3 flights of stairs to their apartment. It reminded me of my days working at Lightning Forge carrying really heavy things up multiple flights of stairs as well as how out of shape I am. But nonetheless we got the job done without injury or death and now they have their own washer and dryer! Later that same day we had English class with all our favorite Venezuelans and the students somehow found out it was my birthday and brought stuff to celebrate, so that was pretty nice! A picture is attached.

On Thursday we taught a less-active who has been going through a difficult time in his life. When we first started talking he was really down on himself and his situation and was in tears. However, as we listened and shared the Mormon message "Mountains to Climb" he started to brighten up and feel a lot better. It's experiences like that one that make my mission a fulfilling one. To be able to bring joy, light, and hope daily into the lives of others who don't have much hope or happiness is a blessing. 

We were able to watch all of General Conference, mostly in English. We did watch one session in Spanish, and I found I could understand about 90% of it. When they told stories, they threw in a few words I didn't know, so I got a little lost. It was SOOOOO good. J Devn Cornish was one of my favorites, for sure.

I loved all of the talks from conference, but the one that stuck out to me was Elder Lynn G. Robbins's talk about sacrifice. He said something to the effect of "Our unwillingness to make relatively small sacrifices in our lives mocks Christ's greater, more difficult sacrifice." Jesus' gospel is one that requires sacrifice as well as our whole heart, might, mind, and strength. We cannot hold anything back because then God is not able to shape us into who we ultimately want to be. And no trial or hardship that we may go through will ever come close to the trials and difficulties the Savior experienced while He went through His mortal ministry. I am eternally grateful for Jesus and all He did for me and I only want to serve Him to the best of my abilities so I can help others feel of His divine love that inspires us to change.
The Venezuelan squad: Marie Antonietta, her mother Yadira, Daniela, Flore, and Gabriela and her kids 

Happy Birthday!

This is Josh's email from September 26, 2016. (His 20th birthday.)

Thank you for the birthday package and birthday wishes! We are planning to go to Top Golf and then I'm not sure. Maybe a restaurant that sells good barbecue. :) 

It was a very fruitful week here in Katy. We found three new investigators and even set another baptismal date! So let's get to it: 

On Tuesday we were able to set a date with one of our investigators who we will say is named Rosa, even though that's not her real name. She is a young adult who has met with missionaries in the past and felt that she already knew that the Book of Mormon and this church was true. She just got scared because her entire family is Catholic and they were very against her changing religions. But lately she had been going through a difficult time, so when we texted her and asked if we could teach her a couple of weeks ago, she agreed. So we taught her the Restoration and the Spirit was very powerful. The next week we taught the first part of the Plan of Salvation, and really emphasized that Christ makes it possible for all of us to overcome sin and death, and all he asks of us is that we repent and get baptized. She agreed, so we scheduled the date for November 6th as a goal to work towards. She is still really worried about what her mother might say, but at the end of the day, she recognizes that Christ requires us to do hard things in order to do the right thing. But she has made a goal to read at least one chapter in The Book of Mormon every day, so I am confident that she will be able to experience the joy of true conversion for herself as she continues exercising her faith. 

On Sunday we were finally able to meet with the Cintura family after having not seen them for over a month. They've been going through some difficult stuff these past few weeks that is just gut-wrenching for me to hear. They have only been here for about 8 months and so the adjustment has been hard, especially considering that this family was very well off when they lived in Colombia. However, both Elder Sellers and I promised them that if they sincerely read in the Book of Mormon for 10-15 minutes each day and prayed to know if it is true, that they would be able to find better jobs. So we are praying that they sincerely act on our invitation so that they can experience the blessings that the Lord has promised for those who try their best to exercise faith in Him. 

On Friday we were graced by the presence of Elder Larry J. Echohawk of the 70 as he hosted a mission tour in the THM.  Both he and his wife are converts to the church and expressed their heart-felt gratitude for the missionaries who sacrificed 2 years of their lives to bring them the Restored Gospel.  

President Mortensen also spoke about the role of The Book of Mormon in conversion. In this mission, as a requirement to get baptized, investigators need to have read at least the first 15 chapters of the Book of Mormon. He talked about how we need to exhaust every effort available in order to make sure they are reading. Even though it may just seem like just a book, it was written by ancient Prophets in the Americas who in vision saw our day, and included the things that they knew would be helpful for those of us facing the challenges of today. In it contains the words of Christ and God that will nourish the spiritual parts of us and guide us to safety in this increasingly-dangerous and wicked world. In it is found the power to conquer powerful addictions, find answers to prayer, feel peace in times of despair, as well as avoid temptation and deception, which will help us achieve our ultimate goal of returning to the safety of God's presence. I know that it is a true book that comes from God. All that we must do is read it with the intent to act, as well as ask God with faith, and we will know of its truthfulness. 

I am grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve a mission and to serve amongst Spanish speakers, they are genuinely my favorite people.