Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, December 19, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
This week has been very good. We were able to find some new investigators that just kind of fell into our lap. They are family of an English family. Irene and Franier are visiting from Venezuela (probably one of the most unstable Spanish speaking countries). We have been able to teach them several time and are excited to teach them as much as possible before they return back to Venezuela on the 28th.
This next week is a busy one for the Los Alamitos ward. We have a temple visitors center trip, a ward sports night, and our ward Christmas party. It seems like every night this week is taken up by activities. This makes for good fellowship for our investigators.
I am doing well. I had my last appointment with Dr. T. Chen, marking my transition back to Dr. Senecal in Tacoma. It is still weird to think that three years ago I was finishing up my last round of chemotherapy. Those were the longest six months of my life. The last six months have been tremendously faster. I feel like I blinked and they were gone.
It is beginning to settle in that I will be with you in three short weeks. Some of the colleges have begun letting out for Christmas break. When the students return to school, I will return with them.
We are excited for Christmas, but wish that San Jose looked a little more festive. San Jose doesn't put up as many "Holiday lights" as Seattle. I enjoy the occasionally lit palm tree which is a bit of a difference from the Northwest.
I look forward to seeing you soon.
Monday, December 5, 2011
The new videos, one of which was shown during devotionl, are pretty amazing. They are all geared towards being application based devices. You wouldn't believe how multi-faceted the Church's marketing campaign is. We are meeting with Elder Clayton as a zone leader council on Saturday to discuss a new website they are piloting in San Jose called "Just Serve". The Church is really working hard to get it's name out in positive ways.
Our work is going well. We are still shooting to have a baptism by the end of the year. I don't know how to work any harder. We are busy. This upcoming week is a little interesting because Elder Manning will be going back to Yerba Buena for a few days. An elder broke both wrists while riding a bike. He has to have surgery and his companion will need someone to help keep their area up and running. He should be back to Los Alamitos by the end of the week.
Elder Rodriguez keeps us laughing every minute. I think I got the only companion more talkative than myself. The only diffrence is that he can do it in two languages a lot better than I can.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Many of you have asked if I had the chance to catch a bite of turkey. The answer is yes. I definitely ate more than a few bites.
I was glad to see your Thanksgiving pictures. It sounds like you had a blast on Thursday. Our Thanksgiving was pretty exciting too. Thursday morning we picked up Elder Rodriguez. You wouldn't believe how much work we are able to accomplish with three. Training Elder Rodriguez is very different from the last time I trained. Since last Christmas, the mission department has introduced a special training program that outlines almost everyday of companionship study. New missionaries do not learn the Preach My Gospel lessons in the MTC. Instead, they learn how to identify concerns and teach to the needs of investigators. This means that we are giving Elder Rodriguez his first exposure to the lessons.
We anticipated a slow week with Thanksgiving, but were surprised by the amount of work that we had.
To give you a little background on Elder Rodriguez.... Elder Rodriguez submitted his papers from Ensenada, Mexico so he was able to submit at age 18. He doesn't turn 19 until April. He went to middle school and high school in San Diego where his parents live. His dad is currently serving as a branch president in San Diego. He spent the month before his mission with his grandparents in Ensendada. Much of his time growing up was spent split between Ensenada and San Diego so he speaks both Spanish and English. We are really glad to have him. The members love talking about Mexico with him. There is a certain level of camaraderie that only "paisanos" can have.
Today Elder Rodriguez got his first chance to invite someone to be baptized. I realize I still have the "greeny fire." I remember my first week in Redwood City and how scared I was to invite someone to be baptized in my broken Spanish. He is eager and anxious to teach. The investigator we taught, Lucia, is progressing very well. We are hoping to have a baptism by the end of the year. She asks the "golden" questions.
While teaching her the Plan of Salvation, she commented that it all seemed familiar. As if she had heard this all before, but she didn't know where. It is really cool to hear that when we teach people. Nothing we teach is new or different. The Spirit reminds people of truths that they once knew, but have forgotten.
I love you all and am anxious to open your packages and letters (and see you soon, but I don't like to talk about going home).
Monday, November 21, 2011
I am very happy to report that I will be training once again. Elder Manning and I will be staying together as Zone Leaders in San Jose South, but we will be training a new missionary from Ensenada, Mexico. We will pick up Elder Rodriguez on Thanksgiving Day. His first experience in the mission will involve three holiday meals. He is currently in the MTC as an advanced Spanish speaker. This means that he already speaks English. We are very excited for the chance to train. It will also give me someone to provide me updates on all of the new mission stuff after I am released.
This last week was the perfect precursor to training. We began teaching a part-member family within our apartment complex. We ate dinner with them on Friday night. If we can reactivate the mom and two daughters, it is likely that we can baptize the dad.
Ward council was perfect. I haven't seen it this good since Gavilan. The rescue moves forward. We are teaching many less actives and seeing results as they begin to make their way back to activity in the church. The members of the ward council are beginning to see the results and are eager to help us as we build the kingdom in Los Alamitos.
The week continued to get even better. Sunday, during the start of sacrament meeting, Jaron, an RM, approached us asking us if we could teach his nonmember girlfriend after church. She asked him if she could take the missionary lessons. She has been coming to church with him for a year and a half and this is the first time she expressed any interest in taking the lessons. Elder Manning and I must have looked like a loaf of manna had just fallen from the sky when we thought about teaching her after church.
The lesson went really well. We were bold, but loving. Lucilla knows a good deal about the church already, but needed us to put together the "Why?" of the Restoration. I think we helped her a lot. We are excited for our next appointment.
After Sacrament meeting we were approached by Rigo Garcia, who had been sealed to his family the day before, telling us that he had invited a family that was at his reception to take the missionary lessons. We are hoping to set an appointment this week.
It is amazing how going the extra mile really brings forth the blessings. This week we achieved the "perfect week" as planned. We talked to 20 people a day and taught 20 lessons in the week. It was amazing to see the blessings just come. We have been working our tails off for the last three months, but it wasn't until we pushed ourselves beyond what we thought possible that we saw the blessings we have been seeking for months. We now know what we are capable of more. We also learned how to better manage our time to accomplish all of the things we can in the week. The Lord really does bless us when we seek to grow and stretch. Sometimes he does the stretching, at other times, he makes us do it, but the blessings come.
Monday, November 14, 2011
I am sure you have noticed the polarity in my emails from one week to the next. It's not me. Missions are roller coaster rides without seat belts.
This last week brought some welcome changes and improvements to our work. We began teaching a part-member family. We are doing the majority of the teaching in a family home evening setting which is my favorite way to teach. We taught about prophets and apostasy by playing a little game of prophet blind man's bluff. The kids always like that we end up using our neck ties as the blindfolds.
Along with this addition to our teaching pool, we have been teaching many lessons and talking to everyone we run into in the street. We evaluated what we were doing and realize that we were doing everything "Preach My Gospel" says to do. It took a little patience, but our work took a step forward this last week.
We are doing something a little different in the week to come in the San Jose zone. We are shooting for the "Perfect Week." As a zone every companionship is aiming to talk to twenty people a day and teach twenty lessons a week. These are two numbers within our control as missionaries. Our hope is that we can have a "white" Christmas in the zone by filling our teaching pool now before the start of the holiday season. Almost all of the companionships already have the lessons set. We have the busiest week planned yet. My planner is painted black with appointments. If all things go well, we should teach close to thirty lessons. It would bring the boost we need to have a great holiday season.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we already have several invites. The member family asked us to bring an apple pie. We will do our best to see what we can do. Some interesting pictures may result from our pie baking endeavours.
I love you all and hope all is well.
Monday, November 7, 2011
"y angeles habrá, que me conduciran" . . . . . . . . . . . . (and angels there will be, to guide me)
I will admit it. This week was harder than I expected. I returned to Morgan Hill, but for an unexpected reason.
Instead of performing a baptism, we were participating in a funeral as pall bearers. Jesus Leon passed away this last week. It was very unexpected. It was a challenging experience for all that knew him.
Fortunately, his funeral was well attended. The four elders that taught Jesus, myself included, performed a musical number. His niece gave the eulogy, while Elder Griggs, Brother Arriola, President DeSalmones, and President Merril spoke. Over 100 nonmembers were in attendance. I am not a huge fan of funerals, but found that this one really helped understand some of the circumstances in Jesus' life.
The funeral was Saturday from 3-5, starting with the viewing. Jesus' body will be shipped back to Mexico so he can be near his parents. He is survived by his sister Rocio (Gilroy) and his many cousins. Much of the funeral was centered on teaching the doctrine of the resurrection. It was what we all needed to hear. It is nice to know that Jesus will be able to play futbol once again.
Please keep his family in your prayers.
PS. We have been asked to only send two emails. One to the mission president and one to the family. After today, it is best that you write me letters. I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.
Monday, October 31, 2011
It is always fun to hear from you. I am really grateful for your help with class registration and housing. I am glad that it is out of the way. We have big plans for November. Tonight we are meeting with a man that has been attending the ward for several months now, but has yet to be baptized. Yesterday he sought us out to set an appointment. Pray for us. November could be Leo's month.
Yesterday's sacrament meeting was really good. Bishop and Sister Lopez spoke in preparation for their three year calling to the Oakland Temple presidency. Bishop Lopez is the first Hispanic member of the Oakland Temple's presidency in its history. It is really a testament to the growth of the Spanish speaking members here in San Jose.
Friday was yet another zone leader council. Much of it was centered on helping our missionaries remember their purpose and doubling down on obedience. We can always be more obedient. We are encouraging our missionaries to seek every blessing possible. Blessings come through obedience.
Saturday evening we decorated our trunk for the ward's trunk or treat. Members kept giving us candy to give away so we ended up being one of the last cars to shut down. It was really a great way to "move into the ward."
Our work is picking up. We keep feeling like we are going to turn a corner and things will begin skyrocketing, but that has yet to happen. We are working extra hard this week to make this week the tipping point. I think tonight's appointment with Leo could really make the difference. Our work with the members has gone really well. We are teaching over two lessons a day, but want to add one more lesson to each day. This week could make the difference.
I should be going back to Gilroy for another baptism this weekend. Angel Lopez was found through our Gilroy movie night. The interesting part is that he is the father of a potential investigator we had tried to teach for the entire six months I was there. Now that they are teaching Angel, the missionaries in Gilroy hope to be able to teach Nancy, his daughter.
We are working hard. I still go to bed very tired from long days. We are building the kingdom here in San Jose. All of the time and effort is worth it. Seeing Jesus Leon last week reminded me how much the gospel can change lives.
Monday, October 24, 2011
This week we really put our focus into planning for our movie night and teaching lots of lesson. As a result, we were able to teach 15 lessons this last week. We are very happy. Teaching is my favorite thing to do. It's also the best way to further the work along. People change as they feel the spirit work within their lives. Even members appreciate feeling the spirit during the lessons.
We have been getting ready for a specialized training that will be happening later this week. Think of it like missionary charm school. A handful of companionships will learn everything from etiquette to teaching skills. We are in charge of conducting the preach my gospel evaluation. It should be a way to better help young missionaries focus their studies and strengthen their understanding of the principles contained in "Preach My Gospel."
I can't believe that this week is the time to register for BYU classes. Although, I have to begin to think about life after the mission, I am pushing strong to the end. We are hoping to baptize a complete family by the end of the year and will make every sacrifice we need to make to achieve the goal.
Our movie night went very well and was a huge step towards spreading the missionary fire among the members.
On Saturday I returned to Morgan Hill for the baptism of Jesus Leon. It was nice to see him again and say hi to all of the members I left behind in Gilroy. President DeSalmones gave us a ride from his house to Morgan Hill. I even got to say hi to Elder Smoot and Maria Franco while there. Both are doing well. Fortunately, I will be returning in two weeks for Angel's baptism. I look forward to it.
Monday, October 17, 2011
This week has been one of the most interesting of my mission. Our work is progressing. The movie night is set for this Friday. All we have left to do is pop the popcorn. We are really hoping it will translate into new investigators.
It hasn't been the work that has made this week tough. On Wednesday afternoon, we received a call from President Watkins asking us to get Elder W-----, our Spanish district leader, to the mission home. Earlier in the week, Elder W----- had told us that his mom's cancer had come back after four years of remission. She was to begin treatment immediately.
As the week progressed, we spent the majority of the afternoons at the mission (home) with Elder W----- so he could skype his family. On Friday, he was able to talk to his mom and family as she passed away. Please maintain him in your prayers. I don't know how I would deal with a situation like this if anything like it were to happen to anyone in our family.
He is really being a trooper. We understand that there isn't much we can do. We are there to support whenever needed, but we definitely don't want to hover either. Amazingly, the day his mom passed away, he went right to work and taught our district meeting. I don't know how he is doing it.
I have heard it said that more so than our mission is chosen by revelation, we are assigned to a mission president by revelation. Such is the case with Elder W----- and President Watkins. President Watkins went through a similar experience on his mission. He has told us of his last conversation with his mom before leaving to Mexico.
I think the hardest thing about this week is the fact that we can't do anything. I have learned that sometimes we are thrown experience completely out of our control as human beings. They force us to rely on the saviors atonement and trust that there is a plan in all things.
Despite our knowledge of the Plan of Salvation, it doesn't make saying goodbye any easier. Much like a child is homesick for his parents despite the knowledge that he will return home in a few short days, the separation of death can leave us feeling homesick for those we love. We know we will see them again, but it doesn't change the fact that we are separated for a time. Fortunately, we know that there is a reunion to come. We must wait diligently, but it will come.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
It has been quite a week. I don't know if we can be any busier. Are you tired of hearing that yet? We taught 15 lessons and are really making some headway in our work with the members. The fire is catching. We are also working really hard in our rescue work with the less-active members. Progress is coming.
Yesterday marked the beginning of my last two transfers in the field. I am heading for the small coma. We are working harder than ever. I am still with Elder Manning and very happy that we will be together again.
The work in the ward has been going so well that we are planning a movie night on October 21. It will be an opportunity for the members to invite their nonmember friends and enjoy the company of the ward. We are also "moving into the ward" by hosting our car at the trunk-or-treat. We already carved pumpkins yesterday and are excited to participate.
This transfer meeting was very interesting. President Watkins is putting many leaders as trainers/leaders. Such is the case with Elder Smoot. He was transferred to Santa Cruz where he will be ZL/DL/ follow-up training. We were glad that we survived these types of surprises. We have our hands full in San Jose. Our zone is one of the largest in the mission. I can safely say that our hands are very full right now.
I love your letters. Please keep writing me. I look forward to hearing from you. I am trying to be good about writing, but it can be tough. I am definitely planning some Christmas cards, so I may be asking for some addresses soon.
Monday, October 3, 2011
I will give you an idea of our week. Monday-Meeting with the mission department; Tuesday-Work day' Wedensday-Temple day' Thursday-Work day' Friday-Zone leader council; Saturday-Conference; Sunday-Conference and Outgoing fireside.
Despite all of the meetings and commitments, we are happy. We especially enjoyed our trip to the temple on Wednesday. The member that gave us the ride is the former bishop of the Los Alamitos ward. He was just called as the second counselor in the Oakland Temple Presidency. I may have mentioned before that Maria Franco chose him to be her "Padrino" (look that one up, some traditions die hard) and baptize her.
Luckily, this upcoming week is calmer. We are focussing on teaching members to generate referrals. All of the members want to do missionary work, but sometimes don't know how. Our plan is to build their confidence in us by teaching them the missionary lessons. As they see that we are good teachers, we will see success. It is one of the best ways to do missionary work and see success.
I am planning on returning to the Morgan Hill Zone this next weekend for the baptism of Jesus Leon. I am iterested to see what how Elder Smoot is going to perform the ordinance. Jesus suffered an insdustrial accident a while back and has four pins goming out of his leg. I am sure that there is some way they can manage the baptism.
All in all, our work is progressing well. We are happy and see the work improving. We are talking to everyone because we know that there are brothers and sisters ready to recieve the gospel. Sometime they call us(Dina), sometimes we find them changing tires(Jose Luis), and other times they don't even know that they are looking(Maria Franco). I have yet to find two investigators the exact same way. As we open our mouths, something unique about our message is carried to their hearts through the spirit.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Last night was our stake missionary devotional with Elder Robert Packer, the area authority for the mission. He talked about simple ways that members can invite their friends and do missionary work. I liked a lot of the points.
One thing we can do to be better missionaries is invite our friends to church. 50% of all that come to church end up getting baptized. 80% that attend baptismal services get baptized. We can invite our friends to these and other activities. 17% of all that get a tour of our church buildings get baptized. By inviting our friends to simple activities we can break down the stereotypes and open their minds to what we believe.
Another thing he talked about was the way that we can turn comments into invitations. For example, a coworker challenges that "you have too many rules in your church." A simple way you can share the gospel is by inviting him to check out your mormon.org profile or by inviting him to a ward activity where he can meet about 300 people that are happy to explain why they like living those rules.
We are really hoping to use the devotional's momentum to carry the work forward in the San Jose South Zone. It was an awesome experience.
PS Happy Birthday Mom. I hope you have something fun planned.
Monday, September 19, 2011
This week has been one of my busiest exchange weeks of my mission. I don't mind exchanges too much, but I always find it hard to leave my area. It's a stewardship thing. Between all of the exchanges we have been super busy. We are working to teach twenty lessons a week. We haven't gotten there yet, but have lots of plans to make it happen this upcoming week.
The San Jose South activity committee did a super cool harvest fair this last Saturday. It involved a talent show, booths, contests, and lots of corndogs. It was a really great opportunity to talk to the members and get to know them a little better. From what I hear, it was much better than the BYU-Utah game. I am glad I wasn't in Provo to witness the massacre.
At the fair, I ran into Rob Petersen. I now understand why Dad felt short in high school. I don't know how we got to the topic, but somehow Rob and I ended up talking about some high school prank involving black powder and a battery. It was nice to run into someone who knows the family.
We have been very pleased with the work we have been doing lately in the ward. We are still working to increase our teaching pool, but we are begining to put the ward mission process in place. It is amazing how quickly things are beggining to happen. All it needed was a little nudge in the right direction. I think our work will take off very soon.
Monday, September 12, 2011
I will admit that this week hasn't been the easiest in my mission. Elder Manning and I have felt like we have been swamped with leadership responsibilities and haven't had the time we want or need to devote to the area. Nevertheless, we pushed on and tried to do the very best we could. One of our goals was to contact twenty people a day. It took a lot of work and led to some interesting experiences to write in our journals.
The miracle happened when a man we had contacted came to church with his member friend. There was nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary about the contact, but something led him to talk about it to his friend. She made mention that she was moving into the Los Alamitos ward and invited him to come with her to church this Sunday.
He accepted the invitation and came to church. As we got to know Gonzalo and his friend Priscilla, we learned that he had been a day away from getting baptized two years ago. He called it off on the day of his baptism. Some members remember him and confirmed everything he said. After church we gave him a tour of the building and showed him the baptismal font. We even invited him to be baptized. He said that he would need a refresher on the missionary lessons before he could give us a definite answer, but was excited to meet with us again.
What started off as a mediocre week turned into a pretty awesome week of miracles. I have seen miracles come from street contacts before, including baptisms, but love to receive confirmation that what we are doing is the right course.
Even better still, Elder Manning and I made ourselves a deal that if we contacted 140 people this week, we would get frozen yogurt. I think 141 counts, so tonight is frozen yogurt night. We expect all of our missionaries to contact twenty people daily. If we are to have that expectation, we have to lead by example. We look forward to hearing similar stories from other companionships in the zone.
I hope Mom's first seminary lesson went well. I wake up at 6:25 and wonder where she is in her lesson. I am so glad that missionaries don't have to get up for seminary. I don't think I could do it. I get eight hours of sleep nightly, but still feel exhausted. I think it is the spiritual aspect of missionary work. It is possible to be spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally worn out. I think I have experienced all four at some point in my mission. I even think there have been times when I have experienced all four at once. However, everything we do makes it worth it. In Moroni 6, we learn that everything we do in the church is to help others experience the blessings of the gospel. There really is no other reason to go to church. Everything else is secondary. It is a simple principle, but one we must always keep in mind. The biggest obstacle we see in some wards and ward councils is a forgetfulness in regards to the real reason we go to church and participate in the gospel. Everything is centered on following the Savior. That makes everything we do as missionaries worth it. We follow him through the tough times too. It is the tough times that let us know how good the good times really are.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
I am liking my new area. It is an adjustment being back in a ward. It is a new experience to not know everybody on the ward roster. I am working as hard as I can to learn everybody's names. I forgot what it feals like to be new in an area. I want to learn my area and get to know those with whom I will be working as soon as possible.
We are definitely at a finding stage. It was something we were fasting for. We were very pleased with the results of our fast. At sacrament meeting, a part-member family showed up and brought their non-member parents and grandparents as well. We are hoping to talk to the member tonight to see what he wants us to do and to encourage him to keep inviting.
The San Jose South zone is doing well. It is weird, but we they have always been neck and neck with the Morgan Hill zone for leading the mission. We are hoping that the changes we have brought to both zones will lead them better for the long term.
We are also looking at how we can implement ward mission plans in the wards that have been struggling to get a grasp on the work. It is going to be a key step as we work to push the mission to 100 baptisms a month before the end of the year.
This last friday was our zone leader council. A great deal of time was spent discussing finding. Of all of the things we do, finding seems to be the limiting factor for our success as missionaries. As we become better at finding through members, we will find more opportunites to teach and share the gospel with the our brothers and sisters here in the Bay area.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I have been transferred to the San Jose South zone. I am very excited for the work we have coming up soon. I am with Elder Manning. He is from Kansas. He entered the mission one transfer after me. We are very excited to do some very good work. I already know several of the members in this area because of associations through Elder Smoot. In fact, the former bishop of the Los Alimitos ward baptized Maria Franco.
Our zone is quite large and very much on top of missionary work. I look forward to working with the stake president, President Green. I have been told that I can learn a ton from him.
I am excited to be serving in a ward. This will provide a lot of resources to help us as we work to build the Lord's Kingdom in San Jose.
These last few days have been tough for me. I have really grown to love the people in the Gavilan Branch. I will miss them a great deal. I worked harder in Gilroy than I had ever worked before. I feel like I put everything I had into the work. I hope to be returning for several baptisms soon. It was also tough to have to leave Elder Smoot. We really worked well together. He was one of my favorite companions.
I hope everything is well as you prepare for school and start your classes.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I hope this letter finds you all well once again. The work continues to move forward and we love it. We couldn’t be happier.
Last Friday was our big missionary activity in the branch. We had organized a movie night to give the members an opportunity to share the gospel with their friends. It was a great success. There were more nonmembers in attendance than members. Everyone brought a dessert, a soda, or popcorn. No one went away hungry or disappointed. All of the nonmembers really like the movie, the Testaments. As a result we had over ten nonmembers at our sacrament meeting. We are hoping to teach some of these families in the upcoming week.
Elder Smoot and I have really been trying to set an example to the zone by talking to everyone. Our goal last week was to make twenty contacts a day. We were contacting machines. Although it isn’t our most effective finding method it has been a great way to show our faith that there are people prepared to receive us. It seems like the rest of our work went better as a result. We even had a reward predetermined if we achieved it. Luckily, we were able to reward ourselves by going to breakfast on P-day at OD’s (think over-dose). It’s the place where the locals eat. I tried a plate called “the sink.” I think this gives you an idea of the size. They had to roll us out. We really like achieving our goals.
Also, we have been working a lot with the stake over the last week to help streamline the work with the ward council. On Sunday, we provided training in a meeting with all of the ward mission leaders and the stake presidency. We walked through the ward mission process step by step. We were very grateful to the Gavilan Branch for allowing us to have put a lot of these steps in practice months ago. These changes have really helped our work to move forward with greater speed. The objective is to apply the things that we have learned to other wards in the stake.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
We just got back from a meeting with Elder Gavarret of the First Quorum of the Seventy. It was a very good meeting. I especially liked the opportunity we had to discuss with Elder Gavarret some mission specific issues in a special zone leader meeting. We are eagerly trying to push the mission to new levels. He feels that we can baptize more than 100 people monthly. We were all in agreement. It has been a vision of this mission for quite some time now. The first step to making it happen will require us to increse the faith of the missionaries we serve. I desperately want to see it happen before the end of my mission. Elder Gavarret believes it is very possible.
The rest of the week has gone well. We are preparing for a baptism this Saturday. Juan Moreno is scheduled to be baptized. All we have left is to size him for the suit and have his interview and he is ready. We are very excited. He is a referral from a recent convert family. I feel like this area has really taught me to work with the members. All of our success has come from the members desire to share the gospel with their friends. They really understand the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is amazing to see it at work in their lives.
This last week we taught our missionaries how to be "swiss army missionaries" in regards to finding. Nothing happens until we find people to teach,. It is the very first step in the conversion process. To illustrate our example, we had three missionaries pick a utensil (knife, spoon, or fork). We then placed a dish in front of each missionary. The missionary with the fork had to eat soup, while the one with the knife was forced to eat noodles, finally the spoon holder was left to dice an orange. We then illustrated the example further by giving them all of the utensils. As missionaries, we must be creative, flexible, and comfortable using all of our resources. As we develop these skills within the mission we will really begin to reach the goals which we have set.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
We have had an awesome week. The previous week was a little on the slow side, but this week made up for the sluggishness of the previous week. We found four new investigators, taught four member present lessons, set three new baptismal dates, and had all four our baptismal dates at church.
Sunday’s fast and testimony meeting was super spiritual with three baby blessings and perfect testimonies. We even fasted with one our baptismal dates. He told us at the linger longer afterwards that he could really feel the difference that fasting made. The fast was to help him be financially stable and at peace despite his tough financial situation. From what I understand we could all use a little bit of this help with the upcoming double dip.
The other three baptismal dates have a pretty cool story as well. The Fuller family was a referral from President DeSalmones. Denis Fuller, a good friend of a member in the San Jose ward, needed a blessing to help him through a tough situation he was facing in his life. Brother Rivera offered the blessing in which he made mention of some trials that Denis was facing in great detail. Without knowing Denis beforehand, Brother Rivera had explained the entire situation Denis was facing in great detail. We all felt our testimony of the restored priesthood grow as Denis explained what had just happened. As a result we began to teach Denis how this priesthood was restored. The following week, he was waiting for us with his mother and son. As the lesson progressed, the smile on his face grew wider and wider. All three accepted a baptismal date for September 3. They had a great time at church the following Sunday.
Have I mentioned that I love the Gavilan Branch. I honestly have no complaints. I would be perfectly content to finish my mission here.
Saturday I was on exchange with the assistants and had the opportunity to attend a baptism in Redwood City. It’s weird how it felt a little like going home. I was able to talk to Adonay Luna. Since I left Redwood City, his wife was baptized as well. He is preparing to enter the temple as soon as she has been a member for a year so they can enter together. I even talked to my old ward mission leader, David Hansen. He is moving to BYU where he will be teaching economics (he recommended riding out the economy by attending college).
Also, while on exchange, I ran into Alli and her family. We were performing service at a clothing drive held by the San Jose South Stake. It was a pleasant surprise. She says that this next week they will be in southern California and will just miss you by a few days. I was happy to hear that Grandpa Badger quickly adapted to Alli’s iPad (he even licked his fingers to turn the virtual pages).
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
We survived the garlic festival. It was everything they told us it would be and more. I think I ate two heads of garlic in the one day we were there. Everything is bathed in garlic. All of it is very good and Paula Dean approved (two sticks of butter in every bite). Elder Smoot and I were blessed to cashier instead of run food entrees. I covered the shrimp scampi, while Elder Smoot took charge of the calamari. The lines were massive. It reminded me of the Puyallup Fair, but without the catchy theme song. After our six hour shift we were given a free meal ticket and left to check out the festival. We used the next hour as our lunch and watched the cooking demonstrations. We ran into many church members and students from BYU. Garlic sausage, scampi, bread, stir fry, mushrooms, and the new shrimp beef garlic wrap left us smelling like we had overdosed on some garlic pills. I wish I had the recipes for all of the food they cooked there. If I did, our apartment would smell like garlic until the second coming. It was the highest attendance the festival has seen since its inception.
This last week has been a little tough. Our work was cut in half with the arrival of the sisters. We are working on building our finding sources here in Gilroy. We are also showing our faith to find by talking to everyone we meet. I realize how many people I have let pass me by. It’s an eye opening experience. I have a lot of improving to do. We are getting a lot better at tying any conversation into a gospel discussion. We are also teaching the members how to do the same so that they can meet their family missionary goals. We all need to improve.
Thanks for the package. I especially appreciated the razor blades. They tend to be the most expensive things we buy when we do our shopping. The cookies were delicious. I have yet to make cookies on my mission and greatly appreciate receiving them in packages. Although, we aren’t baking cookies; we have been cooking quite a big lately. Word has gotten around to members that we like to cook. We are often invited to share this skill on P-day. It has been a great way to follow the counsel Elder Ballard gave us in May by “moving into the unit.” We have made breakfast biscuits, crepes, banana crème pudding, and even chili. All of these things aren’t typical fare in Latino culture so we like the opportunity to share a little bit of our culture as well. The most successful of these dishes has been crepes. I think it has to do with the fact that they are similar to a burrito when they are done. Our favorite crepe is the chocolate orange crepe (crepe filled with Nutella and sprinkled with sugar that has been flavored with orange zest). These taste similar to the chocolate oranges that are sold around Christmas time.
The focus for the next two months in the mission has been centered on finding. Since Elder Ballard’s visit we have been required to be a little more creative on how we find. Some missionaries are still struggling to adjust. As we make these adjustments we will begin to see more success. Something that we have realized is that the Spirit works through creativity. As we seek to do things differently, we allow the Spirit to work through us. We learn as we seek to be better. Not every attempt is effective, but we learn from our mistakes and move on. This is what the Plan of Salvation teaches us. We are to progress. We are to improve. If we stop improving, we stop learning. “How long can rolling water remain impure?” This process refines us into what God wants us to be.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Life is good in Gilroy. The garlic harvest is in full swing. We see truck after truck full of the “stinking rose” make its way through town to packaging plants where they are prepared to be shipped across the country. It’s hard to believe that in just three days the populations of this small city will more than triple. We are set to cook on Saturday at the festival. The weather is set to be perfect, upper 80’s to low 90’s. It should be a good opportunity to meet and talk to lots of people. The entire 101 shuts down with traffic on festival weekend.
It has been a bit of a transition having sisters in the branch. The Morgan Hill zone now has seven sisters. We are very grateful to have the added help in the branch. Our work has been a little interesting. The summer months usually are. Our investigators are trying to work as much as possible while jobs are a bit more abundant in the fields. This has made it really tough for them to get to church. Luckily, we have been reactivating a fair amount of less active members.
We continue to focus on working with the ward councils across the zone. It has been an interesting experience to see how each ward brings their flavor and spirit to missionary work. No unit is ever the same.
This Friday will be the first zone leader council with President Watkins. We are expected to receive some new key indicators to help us strengthen current weak points within the mission, contacting and baptismal invitations.
When I arrived to the mission we had a culture of extending the baptismal invitation in every lesson. We are working to bring back this culture. Somehow, we have slowly lost this culture. It is essential. The majority of the investigators that I have seen enter the waters of baptism accepted the invitation in the first lesson. The Lord really has prepared his children to receive his gospel. Sometimes we let our personal fears get in the way of helping them receive it. We have to have faith that there are always people who are ready to receive us if we will do what is necessary to find them. As members realize this, we see more and more success.
One last thought. I want to warn you all that I will not be “trunky” (trunky – adj. a state of looking forward to finishing the mission a.s.a.p. only to be disappointed because you want to go back upon your release). I miss you all very much, but I love being a missionary. I look back on the tough times and know that they are well worth it. I have seen so many blessings over the last few months. I hope you have seen the blessings too. I am constantly grateful that I don’t have to worry about the situation back home. Not all missionaries are that fortunate. As I begin to hear from my friends who have already completed their missions I think about how I want to spend the last few months. My plan is to come home completely and utterly exhausted (expect me to fall into a small sleep coma).
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I have fantastic news. I’M STAYING!!!! I am really glad. Elder Smoot and I will be together for a third transfer. We already have some baptisms lined up and are excited to see the success continue. There are a few changes to our work. The area has been split again. We have relinquished the north area to sisters. We are a little bummed because we lose some of our recent converts, but glad that we will have some help with the heavy load of work we have had for the last few weeks. There will be some adjusting as we put the ward mission process into action for two sets of missionaries, but we are flexible. It will save our miles quite a bit.
We are still experiencing the blessings from President Watkins visit to the Gavilan Branch last week. It was his visit that likely caused the area to be split. At a recent training meeting, President Watkins told all the elders present to call us if they need to understand how to work effectively with a ward council. Apparently, this is in response to a conversation President Watkins shared with President DeSalmones. President DeSalmones had attributed a large portion of the changes in ward council to our recent efforts. We feel like we have done nothing; the branch is so awesome the changes seemed natural.
I am also glad that I am still a zone leader in the Morgan Hill Zone. This means that I am blessed to learn from President Watkins in Zone Leader council meetings and leadership training meetings. The zone leader council seems to be one of the most candid places to interact and learn from president. At these meetings, we discuss the meat and potatoes of the San Jose Mission. With President Jackson, these meeting usually involved Sister Jackson telling the assistants to take the microphone away from President because he was using it to sing instead of teach.
I hope you had a good weekend with all of the Badger family in town. With the results of the transfer, It looks like my chance of finishing my mission in the San Jose South stake and having Alli’s ward within my boundaries is very high. It is the most likely place for me, as a zone leader, to end my mission.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Once again, it has been an almost perfect week. I am sure that you are getting tired of hearing about my practically perfect life as a missionary. I had my interview with President Watkins and we both agreed that things are perfect. At times this scares me because it means that any change would be for the worse. I hope that isn’t the case.
This last weekend we were blessed to witness the baptism of Simon Orduna. It was one of the best baptisms since arriving in Gilroy. Until Thursday night, we weren’t sure if it was going to happen. As we sat down in the lesson, we thought that the baptism was off. Throughout the lesson we focused on inviting the Spirit. We taught about faith by using the story of Peter walking on water. We used a little bit of Oobleck to demonstrate the principle (cornstarch and water). It was actually really fun. I love how creative we are able to make our lessons. As the principle became clearer to Anaberta (Simon’s mother), she asked us if we could do the baptism on Friday at 8 instead of 7. Her answer shocked us so much that we had to ask, “Do what Friday at 8?” With about twenty-four hours of confirmation Simon was baptized Friday at 8. It was a very spiritual baptism. Everybody involved in the fellowship process participated in the program. Brother Arriola performed the baptism for his nephew. The Spirit especially impacted his mother who is even more anxious to put things in her life in order so she can be baptized.
The only kink in the whole week was the fact that Simon got sick between his baptism and his confirmation. Fortunately, he stuck it out and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost and a blessing of health at church on Sunday. He is the pioneer in his family. We hope that the rest of the family will soon follow.
Another reason we were grateful for an awesome week was the visit we received from President Watkins. The assigned speakers in Sacrament meeting were President Watkins, Elders Smoot, and I. It was a very missionary oriented meeting. Before Sacrament meeting, President Watkins joined us in our branch council meeting. It was one of the best branch council meetings of my mission. A lot of our recent efforts have really been paying off. At the end of the meeting, President Watkins made his first comment of the day. He talked about how awesome the meeting was. It was centered entirely on people. Most ward councils have the tendency to get distracted with programs and events, but our meeting was people oriented. This gives us lots of work for the entire week. All in all, I think President Watkins was thoroughly impressed by the Gavilan branch.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Once again, it has been a very busy week. Fourth of July has made the work a little challenging this last week, since half of the branch decided to go camping. We pushed through and made it our alive. Gilroy is one of the only cities in the area that allows people to buy fireworks. As such, driving the streets on the Fourth of July was a little like driving through a war zone. It was really smoky.
Last Thursday, we met President Watkins for the first time. He has hit the ground running. The mission didn't skip a beat. Obviously, it is an adjustment from President Jackson. It was amazing to see the different in teaching styles. President Watkins teaches very conceptually and likes to draw lots of things on the board. It reminds me a lot of some of my favorite college professors. It left me with a lot of notes to review. I liked it.
Next week, President Watkins will be speaking in the Gavilan Branch and attending our branch council. Elder Smoot and I will be sharing our testimonies along with some recent converts and returning members we have baptized or reactivated. It should be the sacrament of our dreams. We are very glad that we have already established a strong presence in ward council.
This last week, we received a referral from a member in San Jose. It is for a family. We still have a lot to teach them, but it looks very encouraging. We desperately want to baptize a family. It is really what the branch needs.
Attached I have included some of the pictures from Maria's baptism. I hope you enjoy.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Looking back, the last week in general has been very busy. We are nonstop. It's a good thing Elder Smoot and I can read each other's minds because it allows us to keep up with each other.
The Morgan Hill Zone was blessed to have three baptisms this last weekend. This month has been the zones most successful month since January. We are very pleased. It felt good contributing to the zone's success. Maria's baptism was very spiritual. We had over fifty in attendance. Unfortunately, the Jackson's weren't able to attend because of the time change. I wish you could see the pictures of the respective families involved. Included in the program were four generation of members, all excited to see their, Grandmother take this step. Over and over, we hear family members testify that they had been praying for twenty that she would one day get baptized. At the same time, many family members were a little surprised that she got baptized. Based on our first meeting, I would have agreed with them. The changes we saw were astounding.
The most touching moment of the weekend happened at her confirmation. Her son-in-law, Hermano Rivera, gave her the Gift of the Holy Ghost. She then preceded to hug everyone and ended by crying into Hermano Rivera's shoulder. She then thanked us for teaching her. She is such a funny lady that really has grown to love the gospel despite an interesting introduction.
Friday's zone leader council marked our last meeting with the Jackson's. As always, we couldn't believe some of President's comments. He has a way with shocking us and making us laugh at the same time. Dad would get along well with President.
As of now, President Watkins is our mission president. We will meet him on Thursday. We are excited to work with him. I am sure that he will help this mission continue to grow. I look forward to learning what I can from his experience and wisdom.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Have I made mention that Gilroy is the hottest area in the mission. I am feeling it right now. We are nestled in a valley that gets absolutely no ocean breeze.The saving grace is that we are in a car with AC. I don't know how the bike elders do it. Last week topped out at over 100 degrees. We are currently at 96.
We are loving the Gavilan Branch. We continue to see additional support. All of our success can be attributed to the hard work of the members and their eagerness to share the gospel with friends. We have received over a dozen member referrals in the last week and we are working hard to cultivate more. Some have very good prospects. The best part of the whole process is that these investigators already have a strong support of members who already love and care for them and want the best for them. It makes our job as missionaries even easier. I think the attitude of the branch was summed up best when President DeSalmones stood up in Sacrament meeting and spoke on the responsibility we have as members to rescue, retain, and baptize. He then promised to give the missionaries a family to teach by the end of the week. He then challenged the members to do likewise within the month. I couldn't be happier with the eagerness of the branch.
With all of the missionary fire in the branch, it is no surprise that we are seeing a good deal of success. This Friday at 7 pm will be the baptism of Maria Franco. Everything is already in line. All six of her member children are very excited for the day and look forward to congratulating her. It was fun to watch her make the rounds at church inviting everyone to come to her baptism. She already feels like a part of the branch.
The preparations for the new mission president continue to move forward. The Jackson's are down to their last week. President isn't slowing down and plans on sprinting across the finish line. I think the transition should be fun. We will welcome President Watkins in a meet and greet on the 30th. The next week will start with personal interviews with President Watkins as well.
The Morgan Hill zone continues to do well. We were blessed to witness two baptisms last week and will see another three this week. One of which was a miracle "surprise baptism." Those are the best. Every district will baptize next week. Our long term goal is to have every district baptize every week. That would mean the zone is baptizing three people weekly, which is fabulous.
I hope you are enjoying the sun as much as we are. As things heat up, so does the work. I love you all and hope you have a safe summer. Jump in the lake for me. I wonder if I will even remember how to swim.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Much of our work with the ward council has begun to paid off. We had spent quite a bit of time in the previous week teaching members how to share the gospel. As a result we were blessed with over five different referrals. Missionaries love referrals. These are amazing new investigators that have existing fellowship and are excited to attend church. These people make the best converts.
Last night, we began teaching one of these referrals as part of an FHE. It went very well. We watched the Restoration and then played a variation of Blind Man's Bluff to illustrate the importance of having a prophet leading and guiding us. It was way fun. Our members told us after the lesson that they were surprised that sharing the gospel was that simple and that fun. Sometimes we let our fear keep us from making the attempt. The blessings come with the attempt. These attempts often lead to miracles.
Gilroy is preparing for the Garlic Festival. We have already been recruited as volunteers to work at the Gourmet Alley. It will require us to do a lot of food prep as we help the various food vendors at the festival. I can smell the garlic already.
We are very excited for our baptism on the 25th. Maria is very ready and is preparing for her baptismal interview. President Jackson is planning on spending his last Saturday as our mission president by attending the baptism. It is amazing how happy Maria looks when we talk about baptism. As I have explained before, this is huge change from our original welcome.
The work continues to progress. It is impossible to stop a true work from progressing>Love,Elder Badger
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I have survived another transfer. I am blessed to be with Elder Smoot. We are both excited to have another transfer with the entirety of the Gavilan Branch. We still cover from San Jose to Gilroy. We have a baptism in two weeks and another the week after that. We keep lining them up. The Branch members keep coming up to us to say that they have referrals for us. We are doing everything we can to respond and follow up with our referrals within 24 hours. Sometimes this can be a challenge with the number of lessons that we are teaching, but we still manage to find time.
Last week was a near perfect week in many respects. We were only one key indicator off from having perfect standards of excellence numbers. These are the numbers we report weekly. Standards of excellence is a goal set by President Jackson that is designed to get areas to baptize monthly. It's amazing how consistently areas baptize as these are achieved. The best part about achieving standards of excellence, is that it gives us lots of time to teach. Teaching really helps to build our faith as we see people grow closer to Jesus Christ.
The baptism of Jesus Calderon Huezo was perfect. His son is a counselor in our branch presidency and had been a member for a decade or so. It was a happy day for the entire Cisneros family. We were blessed to hear prayers, talks, and musical numbers from all of the family members. Even his in-laws from Los Angeles came for a visit. Our investigators in attendance were very excited for their own baptisms and expressed their excitement while we were eating refreshments. Jesus was beaming as he came up our of the water. The branch is already looking for ways for him to excercise the Aaronic priesthoo (he received it on Sunday). Because he can't read, they are trying to figure out a way for him to participate in the blessing of the sacrament.
Today's transfer meeting was very interesting. The Tri-Valley zone was split into the Pleasanton and Livermore zones. Also, the mission has done away with Spanish wards that have three companionships. This will allow missionaries to better work with ward councils. It gets a little crowded in ward councils with six missionaries. The large wards will have two companionships. As such, some branches have two companionships. These changes are blessings that will ultimately help missionary work across the mission. I don't know how we managed to go unscathed in the Gavilan Branch. (We are one of the strongest branches in the mission)
I am glad that it is warm back home. Supposedly, Gilroy is the hottest area in the mission. We have yet to see this. We have begun to see posters for the Garlic Festival. We still smell the Garlic every morning.
In response to something Dad mentioned in his letter. I don't want to get transferred. There are other areas in the mission, I have yet to see, but I would much rather stay here where the work is good. I love Gilroy. We have a great relationship with the branch and want to keep it going. I hope to stay here until Christmas.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
This week has been... crazy. We hit 2000 miles on our car for the month. We are glad it gets 30 mpg which keeps us from filling up every other day. We were excited to attend two baptisms in the zone. We always get anxious when weeks go by without a zone baptism.
We are gearing up for a very special baptism this next weekend. Jesus Calderon is going to be baptized this next weekend. He is very excited. He is one of the last members of his family to get baptized. He especially loves the Plan of Salvation because he now knows that he can be with his wife again (she passed away a few months ago). His family is very supportive and excited for his decision. They told us that they never thought Jesus would get baptized. We are very glad for his family.
We have also been working very hard to help another very special investigator, Maria Franco. She accepted baptism this last week, but had some major doubts that arose. We were able to teach her about opposition in all things with her granddaughter, who leaves for her mission in a week. Her attitude has changed completely. In her prayers, she now prays that God helps her avoid those people who try to talk her out of baptism. It is a rare thing to teach an investigator about opposition, but it is sometimes necessary. When we realize that opposition exists, we can have our testimony built by the knowledge that God doesn't allow us to be tried beyond our ability.
The highlight of the week was the outgoing fireside. At this fireside we were blessed to hear the outgoing testimonies of the Jackson's. They don't return home for another month, but it was their time to bless us with their testimonies. The spiritual highlight of the night was the hymn "God be with you 'till we meet again." It began with an instrumental arrangement of guitar, flute, violin, and piano. On a cue, all of the missionaries stood up and sang the last verse of the hymn. At this moment, the emotions were too much for all of the 900 people present. I doubt there was a dry eye in the room.
President Jackson even sang his testimony, "Oh, if I were an angel." It was a very powerful fireside. We were very glad that our investigators were present. I hope to get the recording from the fireside.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
This week has been quite the experience. We are very pleased with our teaching pool right now. We are working very well with the Gavilan Branch and are very happy for the support we are receiving. The title of this email is a quote from the movie "Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story." Look it up online when you get the chance or check out the Doctrine and Covenants visual resource dvd's. When you watch a movie enough time during the week, it gets to the point that you can quote the whole movie without help. (Ask me to quote all of the Restoration DVD when I get home.) Anyway, the movie was exactly what we needed as we taught Maria Franco, the mother in law of our branch president. She accepted baptism for June 25, 2011. We are very grateful for all of the support we have been receiving. We are very busy and working very hard to help all of our investigators make it to the waters of baptism.
Recently, we have encountered several obstacles that are impeding our work. Luckily they are all short term things such as hospitalization and deaths in the families of our investigators. We keep working hard and pray that the obstacles will be removed.
The mission conference with Elder Ballard, Elder Hinckley, and Elder Clayton went very well. We learned a lot about how we can better work with the ward council. We are excited to put the training into practice. It was kind of a whirlwind trip with many different meetings across the mission. We were blessed to have Elder Hinckley address us in the Morgan Hill stake. Before the main meeting, he held a special meeting for recent converts and returning members. We were glad to see several of our recent converts there. Also, several of the less-active families that we have reactivated were present and shared their testimony in this meeting. It felt really good to see that we are baptizing and rescuing, as we should.
This next week looks to be another busy one as we prepare for Zone leader council, host zone meetings, and make plans for the transition of mission presidents. It is weird to think that we will all have to adjust to a new mission president. As Elder Ballard said, it is the nature of the church for people to be released from callings. We hope that all of our missionaries deal with the transition with dignity and respect.
I was very glad to receive your letters this last week. I have recently mailed some newer pictures of Elder Smoot and myself. I hope you enjoy.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive a wedding announcement for Taber's wedding. He is younger than me. It makes me feel weird.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Once again, I can't believe I only talked to you ten days ago. Time flies by rapidly. I try to avoid saying how long I have been serving as a missionary.
This last weekend we had the baptism of Carlos Escutia. It went very well. We were pleased with the Spirit that was present at the baptism. President DeSalmones performed the baptism. We were unable to find someone to play piano so I was left with the task. Immediately after the baptism, David Desalmones (President DeSalmones just adopted him from El Salvador) approaches me at the piano bench, sits down, and proceeds to say, "Muchacho, que cancion me va a ensenar?" (Young man, what song are you going to teach me?) I taught this very precocious three year old to play the first line of Nearer My God to Thee. It felt very good to see all of the branch members supporting Carlos as he made this important decision.
After the baptism we gave a church tour to Maria Franco, the mother in law of President DeSalmones. We focused on the blessings of the sacrament. We then invited her to be baptized. It was one of the most interesting invitations I have ever extended. She said she couldn't be baptized because she couldn't read. We then explained how we were baptizing someone from the same pueblito in El Salvador in two weeks. She asked us how old he was. We replied that he was 75. Her response was classic, but doesn't quite translate as well as I would like. She said, "Setenta y cinco anos y no sabe leer. Pobrecito!!!" (75 years and he doesn't know how to read. Poor guy!!!) This came from a woman of about 70 years. The irony. The invitation was even more interesting as Sister DeSalmones, her daughter, said yes, she would like to be baptized on June 25, 2011. Maria then told us "No, I said no." Daisy- "Yes, mama, you say yes." It went like this for about five minutes. I still don't know whether we should fill the baptismal font on the 25th or not. We will see. Surprisingly, this was progress. She actually was considering baptism this time. We are very grateful for her fellowshippers, the DeSalmones.
What else is new. We were finally able to get some long term investigators with baptismal dates. They even came to church. The Orduna family has a history that goes back about three years. For some reason, they never really progressed. After teaching them about baptism using some honey, pepper, soap, and water, they finally made the decision to be baptized. We will be baptizing the sons in two weeks. In the means while, Anaberta is working on getting married.
In case you ask, it is raining. I like it much better than the heat. All the dust and pollen was killing us and our investigators. It is nice to have the relief from the heat that will be coming our way as we approach summer. Gilroy is very hot in the Summer (+100).
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
It was so nice to hear from you. I especially liked that Snickers came to join us in the Skype session. Everyone looks happy and healthy. As you already know, it has been a very good week. We have seen much success in our own area and across the zone. We are looking forward to several baptisms in the next few weeks.
I hope you know that I love you all very much. This week we will be having our outdoor zone conference at Uvas Canyon park. It will be nice to get out and enjoy the great outdoors a little and feel the Spirit as we receive direction from the Jackson's.
Yesterday was Joe Hank's funeral. I hope it was beautiful. He will be greatly missed. I am sure his grandsons on their missions feel the same way.
What else is going on that I didn't tell you about?
Our meetings with the general authorities have been combined into one big super meeting that will happen on Saturday the twenty first. We aren't sure if the changes that are happening will be applied to just two stakes or the whole mission. We will see.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
What a week? To give you an idea of what our week looks like you would have to imagine taking a to do list the length of a football field and squeezing it into twenty four hours. It is busy, but we are enjoying every minute of it. We have taken to setting appointments during p-day; it's the one place with a little bit of free time.
Yesterday's lesson during p-day payed off. Eugenia Rojas accepted baptism for the fourteenth of May. We are planning two other baptisms that day and are anticipating attending many other baptisms across the zone. We always love baptisms so I have no complaints. It is amazing how ready Eugenia is. She has kept every commitment and told us that her life has been different since the time we knocked on her door. She even told us that she had looked for the right church years ago in Mexico and had given up hope that there was something for her. She is so glad that she has found it. We are too.
Last night we had family home evening with some recent converts. They invited their friends over to take the missionary discussions. Last night there were a total of six nonmembers in the lesson. There are five more in the family that will be meeting with us this Friday. We are very exciting. There are two adults and nine kids between the ages of 9 and 13. It is the grandma who wants us to teach them. This may surprise you, but I was very glad I learned how to teach swim lessons. Elder Smoot asked me if I had ever taught that many kids before because it looked like something I was used to. I think it was the swim lessons that paid off. It was a pretty funny lesson. After talking about the first vision we quizzed the kids on what we had talked about. I learned that moses was in the Sacred Grove as well. I never knew.
I am excited to get to skype you this Sunday. I don't have an exact time other than sometime after four. Our church gets out at four so expect me to call sometime in the evening. I will let you know more details via a short call on Sunday.
I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Joe Hanks. He will be waking us all up awfully early on the morning of the resurrection. I was thinking about all of the people that have passed away since I have been gone: Joe Hanks, Cliff Aalona, and Uncle Glenn. It is always tough to hear this news.
This last weekend was Mormon Helping Hands Day across California. We spent the day painting a sound wall at Christmas Hill Park where they hold the garlic festival. It was fun to spend the day working side by side with the members of the branch. We were also excited that Jose Luis was in attendance as well. Unfortunately some missionaries ran into poison oak. Fortunately, I was not one of them. I had never seen poison oak this bad. It looked like blisters from a burn it was that bad. Common sense should be called uncommon sense because little had been done until last night to treat the rashes. Sister Jackson will change that.
I hope all is well. Express my love to the Hanks family.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Once again I greet you from Garlicky Gilroy. All is well. This last week was especially fun. We sent Elder Cornaby home with a baptism.
On Easter we held the baptism of Jose Luis Resendiz. After just four short weeks of lessons, he was ready for baptism. He is was one of the most prepared investigators I have taught since teaching Dina Sanchez Pena in Redwood City. It was really fun. Elder Cornaby had never taught anyone like that before. At one point in the process, he asked me how you help investigators like this progress towards baptism. My response was, "we try not to screw it up." Luckily we didn't. It required some fasting and lots of prayer this last week, but everything went well. He had arranged his schedule so that he could be baptized Friday night. When he received his schedule on Tuesday, everything was different than he had arranged with his boss. We had to scramble to find away to solve it all. At first, it didn't look like there was a solution. Fortunately, we taught him about fasting and immediately began fasting to find a solution. His fellowshipper even joined us in the process. By the time we met with him the next day he had cleared his work schedule for Sunday. With the permission of President DeSalmones we held the baptism Easter Sunday immediately after church. It was amazing to feel the Spirit as he came up out of the water. I had never anticipated celebrating easier this way, but was happy with the outcome. Jose Luis even shared his testimony at the baptism. He told the branch how he had felt like he had known everything and everybody before. Everything was familiar. I guess that is the way the gospel is. Nothing is ever new, but only forgotten. Eventually we will all have the chance to have our memory jogged. Even Jose Luis's wife was very happy for his decision to be baptized and told us so through a phone call of gratitude.
So, this morning I received my new companion, Elder Smoot. Elder Smoot has been serving in the Morgan Hill half of the Gavilan Branch. Because of a small shortage of missionaries our areas will be combined and we will cover from San Jose to Gilroy, a distance of thirty miles. We will still be living in Gilroy, the center of the zone, but will be spreading our work throughout the entire branch boundary. Both of our areas are hopping. We are looking at a potential of six baptisms in the month of May. We are very excited for this.
We just set another baptismal date last night with the husband of a member. We had been working with the Quintero family for quite some time and were very happy that Miguel made the decision to be baptized. We will help him along the way, but he made the decision that this is the church that he wants to raise his family in. We had been working with his family since the first week I arrived in Gilroy. It was a long process of trust, dinners, spiritual thoughts, lessons, brownies, and lasagna rolls. All of these things led him to eventually trust us missionaries and accept the church. We even spent a P-day teaching the Quintero's how to make lasagna rolls. (They are kind of my specialty. When people ask what I can cook I always tell them Lasagna rolls. I have since taught quite a few members to make lasagna rolls. Yum)
I am excited for the work that awaits us. We are very pleased with the exceptional missionaries that the Lord has sent to the Morgan Hill zone. We expect to see more and more miracles. We just began a process of covenant planning that will really help us to progress our ability to baptize and see our brothers and sisters make covenants with God.
I am grateful for all of the mail that I just received at transfers. I even received a really surprising letter. I will tell you about it in December. I'm sorry, but you have to wait.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Another week gone. It's sad to realize that the short time on a mission flies by so fast. Elder Cornaby is going home next week. I feel like I just got transferred to the Morgan Hill zone. It goes by so fast that I am just going to claim from now on that I am at 15 months. It will keep me from dealing with the point in my mission when people begin to say "you go home soon." Also, fifteen months is perfect to let them know that I actually know a little bit of Spanish and have a halfway decent chance of being able to communciate a little more than "pass the tortillas, please." Please make it published if you desire, but I will no longer grow old as missionary. 15 months it is.
We are excited to baptize Jose Luis Resendiz this friday. He is very excited. He even introduced us to his wife via telephone. She is very excited that he is getting baptized and wishes she could be here to see it. They are planning on getting sealed once he has enough money to move his entire family from Mexico. It was amazing how the Lord led us to someone as prepared as Jose Luis. We feel like we did nothing. We just invited someone on the street to church and he accepted. His life will be forever different because he accepted a simple invitation.
We had an awesome lesson with Eugenia Rojas. She continues to progress and is excited to see a baptism this weekend. She has accepted all of the major commandments and already feels as if she has been a part of the church her entire life. She was raised in a convent in Mexico and knows that everything we teach is true. She is surprised she never found out more about the church before coming the the United States. We are shooting for a May baptism for her as well.
We have begun to roll out something new I have been using in other areas. Covenant planning is something we are teaching our missionaries so that they can truly find out what the Lord wants them to do to baptize. Simply, it requires missionaries to find out, through prayer, how many people they are supposed to baptize in the upcoming month. They then find out what they must do to receive that blessing. By the time they are finished, they have formed a binding promise with the Lord to know how to baptize in the upcoming month. It is amazing how many times this last week we have received a confirmation that this is exactly what our zone needs. It is something that I have done from time to time in my mission thus far, but have had troubles maintaining. It is hard spiritually, emotionally, and physically but worth it. It will help our missionaries develop a one on one working relationship with the Lord because a covenant has been made.
We are really excited to see all the miracles that are to come in the next few weeks.
The Gavilan Branch continues to grow and improve. We are hovering at just below 100 members in sacrament meeting. With a few more priesthood holders we can become a ward. We were excited to welcome back President DeSalmones, our branch president, from El Salvador where he finalized the adoption of his three year old son David. We had a good time being involved in the surprise party that was help upon their return. The Branch is glad to have three year old David as a part of the primary. The Desalmones are anxious to enter the temple and get sealed to David as well. It really is a blessing to have such strong leaders guiding the work here in the Morgan Hill Stake. There are some changes in the air that make us very excited.
In preparation for these changes we will be having many visits from General Authorities. The weekend of May 20th Elder Clayton and an apostle will tour the mission. The following weekend we will receive special stake training from Elder Hinkley and Elder Allen of the missionary department. I can't say much now, but we are super excited. Elder Cornaby would give his best tie to be able to extend a month.
The work progresses wonderfully. Peace be the journey.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
It is sunny and beautiful here in Gilroy. We have been busy. We are working on increasing our finding again. It is somethings that we always have to work on. If we can keep our finding going the way it needs to, we are able to invite more people to experience the blessings of the gospel.
I sent a letter today which explains a lot more about what is going on. My hope is that you transcribe it and post it here as well.
Our investigator with a baptismal date is progressing very well, however he has had a bit of trouble attending church because of his work schedule. He is working on it. He has been very excited about his baptism on the 23rd. He told us some exciting news. His wife is a member. He didn't even know it. He is saving up to bring his family here to the United States. He hopes to get sealed to them once they arrive.
He found all of this out via telephone. He was telling his wife about the cool things he was learning with the Mormon missionaries, when she explained, "I was baptized into that church as a teenager. I stopped going when we moved, but I am a member." He was really excited. We are working to send the missionaries in Mexico to reactivate her and teach his teenage children. It is amazing how there is almost always a connection to a member of the church. Sometimes we just need to open our mouths.
We had an awesome lesson this week with Eugenia. She told us a little more about her story. She was a journalist in Mexico, but suffered as a result of the economic crisis. She felt the need to come to the States and start over. For the last two months, she has been living with her family working and learning English. Her hope is to carve out a life here and start afresh. I included much more from her story in the letter I wrote last week.
I am sorry that this email is so short. The letter is much longer. I think you will find it more exciting.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Dear Mom, Dad, and Lizzy,
What a crazy birthday week. Yes, I did get a cake. I had an awesome birthday party. From what I hear, it was quite the party. We were only at it for an hour, but the rest of the guests were there until 9:30 pm. We had a tres leches cake. After blowing out the candles everyone was saying “mordida, mordida.” (a bite, a bite). As is tradition, I bit the corner of the cake. I was surprised when our recent convert, Alicia Hernandez, pushed my face into the cake. It took a good 10 minutes to get the blue frosting out of my nose. The cake was very good, and the company was even better.
I haven’t told you much about our coolest new investigator. Eugenia Rojas is the type of investigator missionaries dream of teaching. I am lucky; Dina was the first golden investigator. Luckily, we have two more currently in out teaching pool. Eugenia is one and Jose Luis is the other. During the last two weeks we have learned a lot about Eugenia. She liked conference a lot and commented on Elder Holland’s talk. She even made reference to it the next week at church. After yesterday’s meetings, we had a lesson with her. As we talked, we learned why she is so methodical in her study of the church. She was a reporter in Mexico for twelve years. She covered everything from sports to politics to business. ASt her height, she was one of the best in Guanojuato, but the economy and political shifts in Mexico eventually caught her. As radio and newspaper reporting was replaced by internet news outlets, her coworkers lost their jobs. The first to go was her driver, and then her photographer. As she watched them leave, she was forced to learn photography to make up for the reduction. As this happened, she kept feeling as if God wanted her to come to the United States. She did so. Within six months, we knocked on her door.
During yesterdays lesson, she explained how we had answered questions she thought couldn’t be answered. We showed her a church established by Jesus Christ. She told us that she had never felt the spirit in such a way. She understood that because God told her the Book of Mormon was true, everything else established through the restoration really did happen. When we invited her to be baptized again, her answer wasn’t no, but rather “Give me a chance to ask God how to tell my family. This is something I must do; God will need to help me.” We were blown away by this answer. In 14 days, Eugenia Rojas gained a testimony of the restored church of Jesus Christ. She heard the testimonies of two 21 year old young men, apostles, a prophet of God, and the Holy Ghost. She now knows that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet, that Joseph Smith restored the Christ’s Church, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true church on this planet. I, too, know this to be true.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Life is beautiful. Thinks here in Gilroy have been wonderful. We keep finding prepared people. Between conference, the temple, and the investigators we have we are certain that the Lord is really watching over us.
I never know where to start when I write these emails. For some reason, the work is so much fun that I can't remember what we did the last week unless I check my planner or read my journal entries. Once I finally remember, my email time is usually all used up.
So, I will start with last week. Our week started well. We had a typically busy p-day sin nap. Although we prefer not to schedule appointments on preparation day, it is worth it if it means a strong start to the week. It was on Monday that we had an appointment fall through and decided to tract instead. As a result, we found Eugenia Rojas, a young grandmother of about 50 years old. She invited us in and let us share the message of the restoration with her. We were able meet with her later in the week and invite her to general conference. SHE CAME!!!!! We were super excited. She was able to listen to the closing session of General Conference. She really liked it and told us she had some questions for our next lesson. We gave her a tour of the Morgan Hill building and showed her the baptismal font. She told us that she was seriously thinking about baptism. I think conference and seeing the baptismal font really helped. It is amazing to get a new investigator and get them to church in the same week. It is always a wonderful sign.
Tuesday morning, we started off the day with a 7am conference call with the zone leader council, the assistants, and President Jackson. We were prepared with a zone goal, but decided to scrap it and focus on the special mission goal of 100 invites to general conference. It was really fun inviting people to hear the voice of a prophet. It really pushed us to talk to EVERYBODY. We worked on motivating the zone by issuing them formal challenge letters. We personally challenged each companionship to invite 100 people before we did. The stakes were a candy bar. We even made formal charges complete with a wax seal. We had a lot of fun. Our efforts paid off because the entire zone achieved the goal. We were very pleased. We beat some companionships, but ended up buying everybody their favorite candy bar for their efforts.
Later on in the week, we had a special training in San Jose to teach the new MTC curriculum that will be rolled out in the MTC in may. It is something we have been using since July, but still in implementation. It was really informative and helped us teach better later on in the week.
Friday we had our zone leader council meeting. President Jackson is making sure that this mission is perfectly ready for the day President Watkins steps foot into the mission. I think he wants to make sure that we don't lose anything in the transition. We will be sad to see him go. At the end of April we will enter his last transfer as mission president of the San Jose Mission.
I appreciate the birthday package, the cards, and the cookies. All are greatly appreciated. We have realized how much time we spend in the car. We get a little tired of being in the car. It feels like a mobile command center. We are always ready tor resupply our missionaries with copies of the Book of Mormon and extra pass along cards.
I hope everyone is well.