Monday, April 21, 2014

Photos



April 7th and 14th, 2014


April 7th, 2014

We didn't have any weddings this week, but I'm almost home, so I thought I'd stick with the marriage theme.  

First of all, thanks for reminding me that it was going to be my birthday this week!  Because if not, I just might have forgotten.  I was actually forgetting until I logged on to my email account and saw 130 new messages today.  Thanks everyone!  I'm sure it'll be a great day.  And special thanks to Granny and Jay for the package--yes it made it!  

Well, I don't have a whole ton of time left--lots to do on the computer today, if you can believe it.  Anyways, we had a pretty good week.  I kind of forgot how stressful and hard training a new missionary is.  Not that Elder C is difficult, it would be hard with anyone.  He's a good kid and doesn't complain about anything, but in two weeks in the MTC they can't teach them a whole lot.  I'm really tired!  Hopefully he learns what he needs to from me.  

Remember how last Thursday we found 7 new investigators?  Well, one of them who I didn't tell you about was R.  We were walking down the street and she was sitting outside her house and we felt strongly that we should talk to her.  She told us that she really didn't know anything about God and was a little frustrated because she's gone to the Catholic church but doesn't feel like she learns anything because she doesn't know how to read.  We said a little prayer with her right there in the street, invited her to church, and put an appointment to go back on Sunday.  On Sunday she was waiting for us and introduced us to her husband, J. They're both in their 60s and they've been married for only 6 years. They were both widowed and miraculously met and got married.  Quite the story that I don't have time to tell.  J doesn't know how to read either, so that's a major obstacle, but we've been teaching them almost every day since Tuesday and their faith has grown a lot already.  R told us that she really has a spiritual hunger and would just get so frustrated sometimes because she couldn't find anything to satisfy it.  She says that this whole week, since we said the prayer with her in the street, she's felt better.  They came to the Saturday morning session of conference and to both sessions on Sunday.  Also, we introduced them to our branch president who told them that he had seen some manuals to help someone learn to read in the church. The next day we stopped by to meet a member to come with us to a lesson and he was there in his office.  He had found the manuals--one for the teacher and for the person who wants to learn to read.  The member who was going to come with us just happens to be a kindergarten teacher (the primary president), so he gave her the teacher's manual and gave her the assignment to teach R and J how to read, and she accepted.  So starting tomorrow she's going to start giving them reading classes.  Love this branch.  Hopefully they can learn how to read quickly so that they can read the Book of Mormon, because until they read it it'll be hard for them to really have a strong testimony.  

Wednesday was a day I'll never forget.  Almost all morning we had lessons fall through, and in the afternoon it looked like it would follow the same pattern after two more fell through.  It was about 5:00 and we had visited all our plan a's and plan b's up to that point, so I said a prayer to ask Heavenly Father where we should go.  The thought came to me that Elder C already knew where we should go, so I asked him and he said that we should go with the C family.  Remember them?  It's the pure-bred Lamanite family we met a few weeks ago that hardly speaks Spanish.  We hadn't seen them for a while at this point, like almost a week.  Usually they don't get home from work until about 8:00, so I was thinking, "Ok, they're probably not home but there's probably someone on the way that we're supposed to talk to."  But on the way there there was literally nobody in the street, and when we got there, sure enough, there was the whole family.  Brother C was sitting outside with a can of beer and when we got there he told us that he had given up on himself--he had been addicted to alcohol for too long and wasn't going to be able to quit.  But he asked us to keep visiting his kids so that they wouldn't follow his example.  We asked him if we could say a prayer and talk a little more and he said yes.  He wasn't drunk yet, so I wanted to give it one last try.  We gathered the whole family and after the prayer I knew we had to teach him about the Atonement, but recognizing that they really don't know anything about Christ, we started from the beginning.  Elder C has this book of Gospel art, so we pulled it out and went page by page, starting with Christ's birth, explaining to them all the events of His life.  We talked about His baptism, His miracles, His teachings, His suffering in Gethsemane, His death on the cross, and His Resurrection.  They were filled with wonder and amazement.  With each new picture they seemed more and more captivated, and more and more convinced of the truth of all we were telling them.  After talking about the Resurrection, we asked Brother C "If this man had power to do all these things, do you think he can help you stop drinking?"  He said yes.  We invited them to be baptized.  They all said yes.  We invited them to keep praying and to come to church on sunday and they said they would.  The last picture in the art book was of the second coming.  We explained to them that Christ one day will come back, that He still lives and loves each one of them.  I hadn't felt the Spirit that strong for a long time.  They didn't end up coming to church on sunday, and they're not sure how much time they're still going to be here in C, but it was still such an amazing experience to be able to teach these people who knew absolutely nothing about Christ who He is.  He is the Savior, and He has power to save each one of us.  To top it off, that night C and V came with us to visit an investigator, J, and they're super awesome and shared super powerful testimonies in the lesson.  And he did come to church.  

Well, that's how things are going right now.  I'm out of time and really don't have much else to report.  Thanks for your love and prayers.  Have a fantastic week!

Elder Pew

April 17th, 2014
So spring break just started this week here, so we decided to go on vacation as well.  Ok not really but we're not going to be in our area for like half of the week.  Tomorrow we have district class in M and tomorrow night we have to be in G at 9:00 because Elder C has to figure something out with his visa Wednesday morning, and then Wednesday afternoon we have a follow up meeting with President Wagner for all the new missionaries and their trainers, so won't be getting back here until like Thursday.  I'm a little bit worried since that's a lot of time without being able to see our investigators and converts, so remember them all in your prayers!  And if anyone's going to the temple, it would be just great if you could put their names on the prayer roll there as well.  Especially V and R Paniagua.  Thanks.  

We had a pretty awesome week.  R and J have been going to the church every other day so that the Primary president can teach them how to read.  This branch really just has the greatest members.  They're more and more convinced now that this is the true church and R is excited to be baptized.  Also, it turns out that R's son in law, who died three years ago in an accident at work, just happens to be Brother D's brother, and when he heard she had been listening to us and that she has a baptismal date he got super excited and came back to church this week!  He told us that when he got baptized, she was one of the first people to criticize him and tell him not to.  The Lord really does prepare people to receive the gospel.  Look at her now.  Our branch president's wife told us that she stood up in relief society this sunday and basically bore her testimony to everyone about how she was stressed out and frustrated one day and went outside her house when all of a sudden we came by and talked to her and from that moment on she has been happy and peaceful and knows that the church is true.  Yes!  

J is still doing great.  We've been teaching him the commandments this week and so far so good.  The only ones left are the law of chastity and the word of wisdom, and I really doubt he has a problem with either of them.  He's halfway through 2 Nephi and came to church all by himself this week and stayed for 3 hours.  Unfortunately, his family remains completely uninterested.  Hopefully someday soon they'll listen.  We're really hoping we can get them to come to his baptism in a few weeks and maybe from there on things will change.  

Wendesday we had interviews with President Wagner.  He told me that Elder R begged and begged and begged to be my companion again for my last transfer, and that he remembers his time with me as the "golden days."  We both found that to be really funny.  But it was good because he also told me that he's come a long way.  Also I asked him for advice for how to finish off the last two months of my mission and he said not to think about it, talk about it, write about it, or do anything different.  Don't let the members know, don't mention it in your letters, just business as usual.  So in the letters you write me just pretend like I'm going to be staying here for another 3 years (and if it were up to me, I just might:).  

On Thursday we were walking to a lesson when a lady stopped us on the street and told us she wanted us to go visit her.  Her name is M and she and her husband S had listened to the missionaries a few years ago and were about to get baptized but S didn't pass his interview and they kind of lost interest after that.  But apparently they've had "problems" in their marriage lately and want help.  We went Friday and taught them the Restoration.  They accepted a baptismal date for May 17th, but they didn't come to church and we couldn't find them afterwards so we'll see what happens.  

On Friday we were walking down the street and a young couple was walking towards us and we felt like we should talk to them.  We did and they gave us their address.  We went by Saturday and they're super awesome.  Their names are G and M , they met in Mexico City and lived their for a while.  While they were there, they started going to some church and got baptized, but when they got here, they started listening to the Jehovah's witnesses who told them their baptism wasn't valid (thank you!) so now they're kind of confused about what they should do.  Actually, not anymore, because we taught them the Restoration and they understood and accepted everything, including a baptismal date (May 24th).  They're not legally married, but they know that they need to be and have already been gathering together the papers they need.  They came to church yesterday even though G has a nasty cut in his leg and can barely walk and stayed the whole three hours, and we're super excited to go visit them in a few hours. 

Before the lesson with them on Saturday, we felt like we should talk to a lady sitting in a chair in front of her house.  She was totally not interested, but she told us the names of three of her neighbors so we went to contact them.  One of them was G and his wife C.  When we contacted them, I felt strongly that I should talk about families.  He accepted another appointment and we went sunday afternoon.  Apparently, they've just recently started to have problems with their marriage and really need help.  Also, they have 2 little daughters and had another one that died as a baby 2 years ago, so when we taught about eternal families the spirit was really strong.  They also accepted a baptismal date for May 24th.  So basically, the Spirit has been guiding us to the people who are ready to receive the gospel, and they are many.  Truly, the field is white already to harvest.  

E spoke in sacrament meeting yesterday.  She's so great.  C, her, and L also are visiting teachers now and they're going to call L as the first counselor in the relief society presidency.  Our converts are going to help so much in this branch!  

Basically, I'm loving my life.  Preach my Gospel says that there is no other work that is more important, or more rewarding, than missionary work, and I know that's true!  It would be foolishness for someone to have the opportunity to serve a mission and turn it down.  You're only hurting yourself.  God's work will go forth, the only thing that's left to decide is if we will have the joy of participating in it or not.  Count me in.  

Have a great week everyone!  I love you all!

Elder Pew

Friday, April 4, 2014

March 24th & 31st 2014 and photos!

March 24th, 2014
THIS IS IT!  (shout out to all LP alumni 2011)  The week that C and V get married!  C has her ID now, so all that's left is the premarital lecture the government makes them take, and then turn in all the papers and wait to see what day they give them for their wedding.  If they can get married before Saturday, they'll get baptized, if not, the week after general conference.  But MAN am I excited for that.  Its about time!  

Ok, well, I'll go in order now. I just couldn't contain myself with this last part.  Sorry for the super short, lame letters the last few weeks.  I feel bad, I really do.  So this week we're going to pretend like I just got to the mission and I want to write about every little thing that I did.  I think it'll help me not to get trunky, right?  Ok.

Well, Tuesday we were still in M.  We got up and went to district class.  Oh, I'm not district leader anymore, and man does it feel good.  After 11 months of preparing those classes I was really running out of ideas.  But anyways, Elder G is our district leader now and he did a great job.  At one point, he divided us into companionships and assigned us a scripture to study, which we would then share with the rest of the district.  We got Isaiah 58:13-14. I had never understood that scripture until now.  Read it and look for how it relates to the baptismal covenant and you'll learn a lot.  After district class, we went to lunch with a family who lives in M that used to live in C who gives us lunch every Tuesday since we're already there.  They're awesome.  Then on the bus ride we had our companionship study and I taught Elder C how to invite people to be baptized and gave him that job from here on out.  That day he invited about 4 people to be baptized: J, N, V, and M, plus a recently reactivated member named M, who also accepted the invitation.  Haha!  Guess I should have made it more clear that she was a member before we went in to the lesson.  I haven't talked about J yet, he's a new investigator we found contacting on Sunday.  He's about 61 and has listened to all kinds of different religions and has always wondered which is the true church!  So he was pretty interested when we talked about Joseph Smith.  On Tuesday we read 1 Nephi 13 with him to show him why there are so many churches and the need for the Restoration and how the Book of Mormon fits into the picture.  He was super interested and accpeted the invitation to be baptized on April 26th!  Also, we saw E, R and L's daughter who just had a baby, and she's recovered a lot now and told us she wanted to get baptized as soon as possible.  We told her she still had to go to church one more time so the fastest she could be baptized would be March 29th.  She agreed and is super excited!

On Wednesday we visited N again and tried to watch the Restoration video with her, but she really couldn't pay attention.  She is too overwhelmed by all her problems to be able to listen and understand what we were saying.  So we decided that in the next visit we would just go and let her vent.  We also saw C and V that day and taught them about the Pre-earth life and the fall.  They're great.  We pass around a calendar every Sunday in church where the members can sign up to come with us to the lessons during the week, and it's worked out really well.  They feel more committed to come with and we know now what days and at what time we'll have members available.  Anyways, M has been signing up to come with us just about every day of the week and has been sharing powerful testimonies to all the people we visit.  We saw R and L again and they're doing fantastic.  I love converts.  We had a lesson with V and M that night and we took a 22 year old member with us who is working on her mission papers right now.  We gave her the assignment to teach "endure to the end" in this lesson and it went really well.  There are so many ways to make a difference in missionary work--you don't only have an influence on the investigators but also on the members who you work with and your companions.  It feels good.

Thursday we visited N and as planned we just went and listened.  After about 20 minutes she said, "I've talked a lot now, sorry, teach me please!"  We didn't have anything planned, but we felt like teaching her about faith and miracles, so we read some of Ether 12 with her.  Her nephew, who is a member but who has been very inactive, was there also and even bore his testimony to her.  It was just different this time, the whole feeling of the lesson.  She liked it a lot and we left her 2 Nephi 2 to read for the next visit, since it answers one of the "questions of the soul" (Preach My Gospel, Chapter 5) that she has: "Why does God allow so much evil and suffering?"  We also visited the D family, who have been inactive the whole time I have been here but the last two weeks the dad and his 19 year old daughter D have actually gone.  D's actually been signing up to come with us to the lessons and has helped a lot.  Anyways, they're awesome and I love teaching them.  

Friday we went to M and contacted a referral the sisters in M had given us.  Her name is M and her sister is listening to the sister missionaries in M and is actually going to get baptized this week.  She's recently started to lose her sight--she says everything's gone blurry, and it's been a real trial for her.  So we gave her a blessing and put an appointment to come back.  We also visited E again and taught her about the Atonement.  She's already recognized the blessings she's received from Christ--she told us about an experience she had in the hospital when she was having her baby.  Apparently, they weren't sure she was going to live, but she said a prayer before the surgery and said she felt totally calm the whole time and knew everything was going to be fine.  And that, on top of the Relief Society President staying with her for a day in a half so her parents could get baptized, convinced her to get baptized as soon as she can.  We visited N again and she had read 2 Nephi 2 but said that she didn't understand it so we read it with her.  She loved it and understood a lot better the doctrine of the plan of salvation and the need for opposition in all things.  We found some sweet new investigators that day also--the C family.  They're from a little indian town in the mountains of G and they speak a dialect called Bisteco.  C and his kids speak decent Spanish, his wife hardly speaks it at all.  It's really cool to teach them because they believe everything we say, but we have to be very simple and clear because of the language barrier and because they have very, very little Christian background.  

Saturday we visited J again and invited him to church, he said he would go.  Yes!  Our branch President is doing a lot better now.  He's been came to church this week and last week and he's been coming with us to all the lessons with J.  Man did we miss him.  Saturday we went with N and read the end of 2 Nephi 2.  She loved it and it was fun to explain all the doctrine of the fall to her since she has some Jehovah's witness influences. She believed everything and is super pumped to read the Book of Mormon now.  She couldn't come to church because she had to go to Guadalajara to help M with something, but as soon as she gets back we'll visit her again.  We had a critical lesson with C and V that night.  We felt like we should teach them about fasting again and invite them to fast on Sunday so that everything went well this week.  We planned out to share with them Isaiah 58 (that chapter again) verses 6-11 to explain the blessings of fasting before we even finished reading it they were asking us at what time they should end their fast on Sunday if they started right then!  That's the Holy Ghost at its work!  

On Sunday, we went to pick up J to go to church and he came!  Also, we got there and a member from another town, L, had brought a friend who wanted to know more about the church.  So after the third hour we taught her right then. Her name is L, she has 12 year old and 9 year old boys and recently got divorced and is looking for God.  She said she felt good in church and we invited her to be baptized (meaning Elder C invited her to be baptized) and she accepted!  We can't go to L to visit her so we'll have to keep teaching her every Sunday in the church, so pray for her so that she can keep coming!  We also visited M again and taught her the Restoration and she also accepted a baptismal date!  Then we had a POWERFUL lesson about the Atonement with C and V.  It's fun to teach them because they've already heard the missionary lessons about 2 full times now and we can go a little deeper.  They were crying.  Oh, and they did fast, by the way, so it's all in God's hands!

Basically, it was a great week, and if the rest of my mission goes like this, I'll die happy!  This is God's true church and it is his work.  The Atonement is real. Have a great week!  I love you all and we'll see each other soon!

March 31st, 2014
WOW!  This week was just one of those classic battles between good and evil...like the war in heaven, Nephites vs Lamanites, the revolutionary war, and BYU vs. Utah.  Satan wanted to make his opinion very clear about what a certain 3 people were about to do.  I know understand a whole lot better the words to the hymn "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war."  
Let's go day by day.
Monday-everything tranquilo.  The calm before the storm.
Tuesday- We go to visit E and she tells us she thinks it'll be better to wait one more week. I think it was a combination of nervousness because she had never actually seen baptism before and because she recently had a C-section operation 3 weeks ago and is still recovering.  But we told to pray about it and see what God says.  C and V were doing great, except that C´s boss didn't want to give her the day off on Thursday to go to the marriage lectures.  But she said if he didn't give her the day off, she was just going to miss work anyways.  
Wednesday:  We had district class and practiced using the scriptures to invite people to be baptized.  I don't know why i had stopped doing that.  Elder A and I always did and everyone always said yes!  so we decided to try it out with E that day.  We asked her at the beginning of the lesson if she had prayed and she said that she did but she still was feeling like waiting.  So we taught her the Gospel of Jesus Christ and when we got to baptism, we whipped out Mosiah 18:8-10 where Alma basically explains the baptismal covenant and says "if this is the desire of your heart, why don't you get baptized?"  So after reading it we asked her the same question "Is this the desire of your heart?"  "Yes."  "Then what is keeping you from getting baptized?"  She thought about it for a little bit and said "nothing.  I've prepared, I'm keeping the commandments, I'm ready, nothing's keeping me from doing it."  "Then why wait?"  "Ok, I'll get baptized this Saturday."  YES!
C and V were still doing fine that night--C's boss gave her the day off and it seemed like everything would be ok.  Thursday was the day they had to go to the premarital lecture.  Let me just explain the process of marriage in Mexico.  They do it all through the government. Basically, they have to get together a bunch of paper work--birth certificates, ID, medical checkup, and a document saying they went to the premarital talks--and turn it in in the city hall.  Once they turn it in, they give them an appointment to come in and get married.  Simple enough, right? Well, Wednesday night after planning we got a call from C saying that they didn't have enough money for the premarital talk the next day.  The first thing I asked them was if they had paid they're tithing on Sunday.  They said that they did.  From then on I knew everything would be fine.  So we invited them to pray and ask God what they should do.  
Thursday:  They had to be at the lecture at 12:00 and at 8:30 we get a call saying they're still 100 pesos short and wanted us to ask the branch president if the church could help them out a little bit.  He said that the system hasn't been working lately and that they haven't been able to take any money out the last few weeks.  It was such a crazy morning.  We were calling them every few minutes to see what was happening and give them ideas about who could lend them 100 pesos.  At 11:30 they still hadn't found anyone to help them, so they went anyways hoping that they would let them pay later.  They got into the lecture, but they wouldn't give them the document they need until they had paid.  On top of that, they had to get their medical checkup done so that they could turn in all the papers before 3:00 when the civil records office closed, and after running all over C looking for a doctor, they finally found someone who would do it.  They ran over and turned in all the papers they had, hoping that they would give them an appointment to come in the next day to get married, even though they still didn't have the document from the premarital lecture.  Luckily and miraculously, they did and gave them an appointment for Friday at 9:00 to get married.  Whew.  So now it was just a question of getting a hold of the money they needed so that they could pick up that document in the morning before their wedding.  That night, they found a member who lent them the money they needed and we could finally sleep in peace.  
Other than all the craziness, we also found a ton of new investigators on Thursday, 7 to be exact, of whom will be made more particular mention a little later. 
Friday:  Well, we were asked to be witnesses to their wedding, so at 9:00 we went to the city hall, only to be told that we couldn't be their witnesses because we're not Mexicans.  Whatever, we stayed there with them for moral support.  They grabbed two random people in the building to be their witnesses, and then it turned out that we could have been after all, I guess the lady we asked must have been in a bad mood.  Or just made a mistake.  But whatever.  They finally got married and I could hardly believe it!  What a sigh of relief.  I know that it's because they fasted and payed their tithing--if it wasn't for that, who knows what would have happened.  That night they passed their baptismal interviews, along with E, and we had a cake to celebrate their marriage.  Such a miracle.  
Saturday morning we visited a family that we had found on Thursday--M, her daughter in law H, and her grandkids.  Basically they have a huge family and they all live right there close.  We taught them the Restoration and invited them to be baptized and S and L accepted without a problem.  So we invited them to the baptism and to church on Sunday and they both came!  We're going to work a little more with the adults in that family this week so that they all come to conference this weekend.  The girls loved the baptism and church, so that was sweet. 
This was easily the most memorable baptismal service of my life.  The entire branch came--everybody!  L gave the opening prayer, Elder C gave the first talk on baptism, then M gave one on the gift of the Holy Ghost and rocked it!  You never would have guessed that she only has 2 months in the church!  Then I did a musical number with A, the first counselor in the branch presidency, who also plays guitar and sings and writes and records his own music.  Basically we're best friends.  We sang a mix of "Abide with me" and that cheesy song we sang in the missionary activity in Guadalajara a few months ago (Te hallar√© me querido amigo).  Everyone was crying.  Then came time for the baptisms.  A baptized C and V, and R was supposed to baptize E, but he didn't get home from work in time, so I had the privilege of baptizing her.  It was the happiest night of my life.  They were all so happy and all three bore their testimonies at the end.  They're going to be a big help in this branch.  I have been way too blessed!  I am so grateful for this chance I have had to serve the Lord and to meet this family.  I love them so much.  The mission is the best!

I love you all and we'll see you soon!  Have a happy conference weekend!

Elder Pew