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.