Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 16, 2013

Happy Independence Day!  

a sign they found
The T trips start this Saturday.  Elder V is going to stay with a member in the ward.  And boy am I excited.  I'm not sure if it's fattening but I think it's a little watered down... (quote from 3 Amigos about T)

The conference with Elder Johnson went really well.  He talked about a lot of things that we really needed to hear.  He talked about planning with love, improving our relationships with the members, and serving for the right reasons.  One thing that stuck out to me was when he read Mark 12 28-31, which talks about the two greatest commandments:  Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself.  He explained why the phrase "as thyself" is part of that scripture.  If we really love ourselves, we will do everything to gain our own salvation and exaltation.  And the way to gain our own salvation and exaltation is by loving God enough to keep His commandments and losing ourselves in the service of others.  Kind of cool, huh?

We found a few new investigators this week, but they aren't really interested and we aren't planning on going back.  C told us he would be busy all week so we haven't been able to teach him, but we did stop by a few times to see how he was doing and looks like everything's going well.  He's reading his Book of Mormon and saying his prayers.  He still doesn't know when he'll have his operation, but we're going over in a second to see him so we'll see if there's more news.  

Current companion
We have made plans in district class to gain the confidence of the local leaders by visiting them and teaching them short, powerful lessons.  Wednesday, Elder Johnson's wife shared an experience that also gave us ideas. She said that the missionaries called her one day to ask if they could stop by that night.  She was annoyed all day thinking "they're going to come asking for referrals, and I don't have any to give them."  But when the missionaries got there, they opened up to the "Attribute Activity" in Preach My Gospel, told her and Elder Johnson to pick one attribute they would like to study as a couple, and then did the evaluation and read all the scriptures that went along with that attribute.  She said it was such a great experience that she felt a new desire to give referrals to those missionaries.  So we've tried it a couple times and it's worked really well. One leader told us he has had troubles finding work and that they are short on money, so he decided to study patience.  We went through the evaluation and read all the scriptures about patience, then invited him to say the closing prayer.  He asked God for patience and started crying and thanked him for sending the missionaries to his home.  It was really great.  

Also, this Sunday the Bishop got up in sacrament meeting and spoke about how missionary work is the member's responsibility, not the missionary's.  After church he thanked us for all that we do, told us he loves us and that he is ready to support us in our work.  He also asked us to help the members feel the importance of doing missionary work.  I was about to cry with joy when that happened.  We may not be teaching investigators or baptizing anyone right now, but if we can get this ward more involved in missionary work so that the next missionaries can have success, we've done our job.  Also, L and S are still active and come to church every Sunday, rain or shine, so that always makes me happy.  

His area, which he said that he loves
Speaking of rain, you may have heard there are hurricanes around here.  Even though Guadalajara is about 5 hours away from the coast, we have had nonstop rainstorms and hurricane winds for about a week now.  Last year it stopped raining at about this time, but now it's still going strong.  I have been very wet. 

Friday we had a stake activity--a Mexican Independence party.  It went SUPER well!  We visited a member from our area the day before and asked him about a referral he had given us that we still hadn't contacted.  He said he would invite his friend to the activity, and when we got there there he was with his whole family!  The guy's name is S, he has a wife and 2 or three kids.  He told us he is interested in receiving the lessons and gave us his number so that we could call him this week.  Yes!  

Little boy from last weeks letter
Today, to celebrate Independance day, we went to the Centro (Half of it is part of our zone) and found the most glorious place on earth.  It's a Taco Buffet and it only costs 75 pesos (about 6 dollars)!  I ate 8 tacos and a Torta Ahogada, along with horchata.  Someday I'll take you all there...

That's about it for this week.  Go Cougars!  Cheer extra loud for me.  I'll probably have forgotten about it by tomorrow, but I'll be excited to hear the news next Monday.  Have a great week!  I love you all!

Elder Pew

Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9th, 2013

This was the weirdest week of my mission.

Last Monday night we visited a member family.  Their grandma lives with them and she's about 90 years old and hilarious.  She started telling us that "evil spirits" have been bothering her the last few nights.  She said "One of them came in dressed in all black.  His face was white and he was missing an eye!  He came in and shook my walker and grabbed my foot and moved it over here and when I woke up my body was all purple.  I think they sucked my blood..."  That was about when we all lost it.  It sounded pretty scary until they became vampire spirits.  So anyways, we gave her a blessing and went home.  We stopped by again Tuesday and asked her how it all went the night before.  She said "they came in the house again, but I left them a note by my bed and when they saw it they left me alone."  I would love to know what that note said.  

More weird things people said to us this week.  There's this 58 year old recent convert in our area.  While we were at her house this week, she told us "I'm still waiting for a Mormon boy to marry so I can get sealed in the temple.  But not you guys, you´re still really young..."

We were with another member family and the mom asked us why we hadn't come over to wash our clothes in their washing machine that week.  We told her that we had taken them with another family, but they ended up washing it who knows where and didn't get it back to us until Tuesday, so we had to wash our clothes from Monday by hand and wear it again on Tuesday.  And she asks us "Did you wash your clothes naked?"  Why are you asking me that?!

This time from the sister missionaries.  I get a call from them during language study one day, which is normal because they usually call me with questions about English.  But what I wasn´t expecting is that they would ask me "Elder, how do you say 'you're pregnant' in English?"  

Another one from the sisters.  In the middle of weekly planning on Thursday, I get another call from them.  "Elder, we have a question.  Are we allowed to have sleep-overs as missionaries?"  When they called me as district leader, never in my life did I think I would have to answer that one.  (To clarify, they wanted to have a sleep over with the other sister missionaries in the zone. I said no.)

Saturday just got out of control.  In the morning, a member took us to an old lady's house to teach her.  We had already contacted her in the street the week before, but she didn't remember us at all.  But she let us in.  The member that went with us brought her 1 year old grandson, and he was wandering around the room during the lesson.  It turns out that he found a mostly empty beer can, and the next thing we know we look over and he's drinking the rest!  It was SO funny!  He had his two little hands around the can and the beer was running down both sides of his cheeks.  His grandma grabbed him, took away the beer, and tried to give him his bottle of milk but he just chucked it out the door.  Who ever said just once won't hurt?  Anyways, we weren't in the lesson very long before we realized that the old lady was more there than here and wasn't really going to listen to us, so we decided to invite her to say the closing prayer however she wanted and that turned out to be a mistake.  Her prayer was easily longer than the lesson!  It just went on and on and on and on...she was saying "thank you God that I could wake up today.  Look!  I can move my hand (while wiggling her hand in the air), my foot (doing the same thing with her foot..."  I was holding it in pretty good until I noticed that Elder V had already lost it.  But later I felt bad because I'm sure Heavenly Father loved that prayer and was really glad to hear her.  To top it all of, the prayer finally ended and a rat had appeared behind her!  That was another ordeal.  

In the afternoon, we had a lesson with M, who we had visited a couple weeks ago. Her mom was there who didn't seem to like us so we told M that we weren't going to be able to teach her the message we wanted to share that day and put another appointment for a day when her mom wouldn't be there. It was hysterical.  After that experience, we were thinking "What is going on?!"  I was a little scared to see what would happen next.  I think since there's not a whole lot going on in our area this week, Heavenly Father gave us all these things to laugh about to keep us sane.  

But we actually ended the day with a really good experience.  We went to teach an older less active couple, the V family.  We had been trying to visit them for about 3 transfers now but one thing or another had always kept that from happening.  But everything worked out so that we made it over Saturday night and taught them the restoration.  It was a really great experience and they committed to come to church and read the Book of Mormon.  It was a good way to end the madness.  

C is still doing great, but we had to postpone his baptism because he is going to have surgery soon.  He has an open wound in his stomach and it makes it really uncomfortable for him to go to church, so he told us that he wants us to still visit him but that he would feel better about being baptized afterwards.  So pray for him so that he can stay excited through the whole process.  We are going to try to take a lot of different members to visit him so that he knows the whole ward and so that they are all involved in his conversion process.  

J went to the woods to pray but we haven't had time to really sit down and talk to him about it.  We're going to go over there in a few minutes.  I hope it goes well.

We're hoping to find lots of new investigators this week because we got a lot of referrals last week.  Also, we have a conference with Elder Daniel Johnson of the Seventy on Wednesday, so that should be pretty sweet.  

The stake presidency met with President Wagner to make plans about T.  They've decided that started on the 21st, Elder B and I are going to go every Saturday and Sunday to teach the investigators we found the other day and to find more people.  Once there is enough work to do, they'll send their own set of missionaries there.  I'm pretty excited about that. 

I had a bunch of pictures I wanted to send, but this computer is not getting along well with my camera.  We'll try again next week. 

That's great news for BYU!  Sweet!  And my companion is fine, his pills work really well.  We've been able to work without problems this week.  What the tornado?  The weather's been pretty nutsy here too.  It's rained almost non-stop all week.  

Congrats Emily on making drama council, and Izak for scoring goals, and Micah for almost scoring goals.  And tell the Zanzibarbarian that he's a pompeeface.  As if he didn't already know.  Gwen, ¿dónde estás?  Te voy a hablar en español hasta que me escribas.  Castigada.  Te amo.

That's all for this crazy week.  Hopefully you've been entertained.  I sure was.  But anyways, the mission is great. Keep being the great people you are!   See you soon!

Elder Pew

September 2nd, 2013

I think by this point I'm about as Mexican as Benito Juarez, because I don't get nearly as excited about BYU football as I did a year ago.  I totally forgot that their first game was going to be this week until about 10 minutes ago when I read your letters.  But thanks for the updates.  ¡Arriba, pumas!

Well, the big news of the week.  Friday at about 9:30 at night we got a call from the zone leaders telling us that Elder D had special transfers and had to be in the offices at 10 am the next day.  Just like that.  He's in another ward in the city, but in a different zone.  (For your information, zone means stake in missionary language.  There are 6 stakes in Guadalajara, 3 belong to our mission, and 3 to the Guadalajara East mission.  I started in I, and now I'm in U, and Elder D got transferred to the other one, L.) He wasn't too sad to leave, but it definitely is not the same without him.  Everything's more...quiet.  Funny guy.  

Elder V and I are both senior companion.  It's basically like being zone leaders but without the extra responsibilities.  It's nice being with a companion who also has a lot of experience and is excited to work hard and have success.  We get along really well, we have a lot of fun together.  It's going to be a good transfer.  

Did I mention the new rule we got from the Quorum of the 12 apostles last week?  Now all the investigators have to go to church 5 times before they can be baptized.  Basically, they have to go every week for a whole transfer and then get baptized and confirmed the last weekend.  I think that means that we'll all be staying a very, very long time in every area to help out all the investigators in this process.  Also, all the converts from here on out are going to be a lot stronger and  it'll be a lot less likely that they go inactive.  It really has been a historic time to be part of missionary work in Mexico.  Everything has changed completely since I got here.  

Details about the activity.  It went something like this:

We started out with everyone in the cultural hall.  Once we were ready for the first group (each group consisted of about 25 people), Elder M went in and told them their flight to Hawaii was ready.  He gave them their tickets and told them they would first pass through the "market" where they could pick up 5 free items for their flight.  In the market, there were 2 tables: one full of missionary materials like Books of Mormon, pamphlets, posters, pictures of Christ, etc., and the other was full of snacks.  After selecting their 5 items, they passed by the cashier (Elder D) who marked on their ticket what they had bought.  Elder C, one of the assistants, filmed this whole process.  Then they boarded the plane (the relief society room).  When they first got on, the flight attendants (the sisters) asked them if they wanted water or wine (grape juice) to drink.  The Pilots (Elder T and Elder S, the assistant) collected their tickets.  We had made an awesome audio recording for the plane, and we played it on big, powerful speakers that made it seem pretty real.  Or so they tell me, I never actually saw.  Basically, it included take off, a warning of turbulence (during the turbulence, the flight attendants were turning the lights on and off. it was pretty intense), and the crash.  The lights stayed off and since the blinds were down, it was pretty dark.  Suddenly, a door opened and an angel, dressed in all white, walked in (Elder R from the other ward).  He announced to all the passengers that they had just died and pulled up the blinds to show them their dead bodies (Elder D, Elder C, Sister B and Sister A playing dead in the grass outside).  Then, he led them to the Spirit world (the hallway).  A curtain separated prison from paradise.  Those who had chosen water went to paradise, and those who had chosen wine went to prison.  Elder R stayed in prison and his companion Elder K was in paradise, where they explained briefly what happens in the spirit world.  The Spirit prison had the lights turned out and was full of garbage strewn all over the floor.  Paradise was bright and full of fluff (clouds).  Then they went into the next room to be judged.  Elder V was there waiting for them and explained that they had just been resurrected and that they would all be judged for their works.  Meanwhile, the pilots had put all their tickets into three piles--those who chose 4 or 5 spiritual things in the market went to the celestial kingdom, those who had chosen 2 or 3 went the the terrestrial kingdom, and those who chose 0 or 1 to the telestial.  After explaining the doctrine of judgment, Elder V showed them on a little TV screen the video of them in the market that Elder C had filmed.  Pretty genius, right?  And then three different angels (the ward mission leaders from our ward and the M ward) took them to their corresponding kingdom of glory and taught them about each one.  The ward mission leader from M had asked me to help him in the Celestial Kingdom.  The Celestial Kingdom was in the chapel, and he had me play hymns while they were walking in, and then at one other point in the presentation when he asked them to think for a minute about what is most important in their lives.  So I was there for the whole activity.  It was a great experience and everyone loved it.  Afterwards, we served them all Hawaiian pizza.  Our ward mission leader, J, was in charge of the Terrestrial kingdom, and he said that in one of the rounds a little girl started crying and asked "Why did they separate me from my family?!"  He said everyone in there started crying!  It was a very real experience for everyone who came, and a lot of them really felt a little bit of what it would be like to not end up living in an eternal family.  Overall it was a huge success, and we are going to try and do it again but as a whole stake in a few months.  Now that all the members from our ward and from M know how awesome it was, we're pretty sure they'll bring a ton of investigators if we do it again.  

What else?  We had zone conference this week on Tuesday.  It was great, as always.  President Wagner put a lot of emphasis in teaching the Restoration more centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We use the word "gospel" a lot as missionaries because it's an easy, pretty word that all the investigators have heard in the Catholic Church.  But everything is more effective when we explain to them time after time throughout the whole lesson that the Gospel is having faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  We've been applying it and it just works better that way.  Explaining to them from the beginning that God is their Father, he loves them and wants them to return to live with him, which is why he has sent us to their home so that they can have faith, repent of their sins, be baptized by someone who has the authority, and receive the Holy Ghost.  If they learn to have faith and repent, and if they are baptized and receive the Holy Ghost, they are going to have a happier family and be able to live together for eternity.  God has always taught these principles to the family of all the earth since the beginning.  He called the first man, Adam, as a prophet and gave him authority to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his children (Moses 6:55-62).  But Adam's children eventually rejected the Gospel and fell into apostasy.  So God called Enoch and gave him authority to teach about faith and repentance and to baptize and give the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  But the majority of the people rejected Enoch also and God took him and his people to heaven with him.  Then He called Noah and gave him authority (Moses 8:19) to warn the people that if they didn't have faith, repent, get baptized, and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, they would be destroyed in the flood (Moses 8:24).  But they rejected Noah also. The same thing happened with Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and all the prophets until Christ, who came and suffered for our sins so that we can be clean through faith, repentance, baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.  He gave his authority to his apostles to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, but the people rejected and killed them also.  They fell into apostasy, and the doctrines of faith, repentance, and baptism were changed or forgotten.  The authority to baptize and give the gift of the Holy Ghost were no longer on the earth.  But in 1820, God called another prophet named Joseph Smith and restored His Gospel through him.   Joseph Smith received the authority to baptize from John the Baptist and the authority to give the Gift of the Holy Ghost from Peter, James and John.  The Book of Mormon was given as evidence that the Gospel had been restored and that through faith, repentance, baptism, and the Gift of the Holy Ghost we can be cleansed from sin and return to live with God.  When you invite the investigator to get baptized after this lesson, they are not going to be surprised.  We always talk about "finding the investigator's need" as missionaries, but really, their biggest need is to be clean from their sins.  If we explain to them through the whole lesson how to do that and that the authority to help them to that has been restored, it all just makes more sense.  Just a thought.  

We had a nice lesson on Wednesday with C.  We taught him the second half of the plan salvation, in other words, what happens after death.  We found out at the beginning of the lesson that he is a widower; his wife died 10 years ago.  So we focused the whole lesson on that and it was a really beautiful experience.  At the end of the lesson, he told us "I've always asked God that if there's a resurrection, why can't he show me my loved ones who have died or let me be with them again.  But you guys helped me answer that question today and now I know I'll be able to see them again."  I about cried at that point.  He's still super willing to get baptized, but we're going to have to move his baptismal date because he didn't make it to church this week. We went by Sunday afternoon and explained him about keeping the Sabbath day holy and he is committed to do it from here on out.  Love that guy.  

We had another cool lesson with a guy named J this week.  If you don't remember him, see my letter from July 22.  Basically, our first lesson with him was a complete disaster and he just wanted to fight, but we left him a Book of Mormon and as we all know that book does wonders.  We hadn't gone back to visit him since the first time, but the other day he invited us back over to talk to him.  We knew he had been reading the Book of Mormon because his wife had told us, and as we had expected, he had gotten to the part where the Spirit command Nephi to kill Laban and he was a little upset and confused about it.  We got there and listened to all the apostasy he started to tell us, and after trying to reason with him for a little bit and convince him that God really can command people to kill other people (which didn't work) we changed our game plan.  Before the opening prayer, we had asked him if he would like us to ask God for anything special, and he said that he wanted to be illuminated to know the truth.  So I asked him why he had such a strong desire to know the truth, and explained to him that all the knowledge he wants is knowledge that God has, and since God loves him he is willing to give it to him.  We stopped talking about Nephi and Laban and started talking about J, and we learned a lot of things about his past that helped us to know where he was coming from.  The whole spirit of the lesson changed.  We invited him to pray to know that the Book of Mormon is true, and he said that if God responded his prayer, he would believe that Nephi was commanded to kill Laban.  He even told us that he was going to say his prayer in the mountains so he could be more alone and focused.  He also committed to go to church the next Sunday (this coming Sunday).  And thus we see that the spirit does miracles when we let him into the lesson with us.  This investigator who seemingly wanted nothing but contention is now one step closer to finding the truth.  I feel like even though I have almost 15 months in the mission, I´m just barely figuring out how to do this missionary work stuff.  I'm really starting to feel love for the people I teach, feel the Spirit tell me what to teach them and see the difference it makes in their lives.  I'm finally figuring out how to teach people, not lessons, and really do things the right way.  In my personal study this week, I had a thought come to my head.  Most people, when they get more knowledge, become more prideful.  But really, if we recognize that true knowledge comes from God, the more we get, the more we should realize how much knowledge He has and it should help us actually be more HUMBLE and trust more in what HE knows. I feel like that has happened in my mission.  The more time I have, the more I realize how much I don't know and how much farther I have to go.  But that's why I've got a whole life to live and improve.  This church is true and Christ is our Savior!

I love you all!  Thanks for the letters and your prayers.  I'll try to send pictures next week because now i'm out of time.  Adios!

Elder Pew
Photos from Zone Conference