Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A surprise this week!

Hola Mi Familia Fantastica!
I had a crazy awesome week!  I'll start out by giving you two cool experiences and then end with a grand finale:) 
So Elder Fuentes and I were whitewashed out of our area this last Wednesday at transfers and the Assistants to the Presidents took over the area.  They called me the day after transfers and asked me to go on splits with them for the day.  What a great experience!  I was able to introduce the APs to all of my investigators and the 9 people on date.  They were shocked by the work that E. Fuentes and I accomplished in one transfer and are thankful.  As APs, they don't get too much time to go out proselyting but with the investigators we left behind they be a baptizing machine!  The Lord blessed E. Fuentes and I so much and we saw tons of miracles.  I look forward to seeing the names of the families that I loved in the weekly newsletter the mission sends out!  It was such a treat to go out with seasoned AP missionaries and just soak in all I could learn from them.  I cannot believe the amazing experiences that the Lord is blessing me with.  When I first received my temporary reassignment, I was thinking "ok I'll do it but why Salt Lake City?"  Now I know why and I am so thankful for every moment that I have had here.
We have a Christmas season baptism tomorrow!  His name is Paulo and his fellowshipper, Pablo, is a wonderful recent convert that is introducing his soccer team and friends to the church.  Paulo and Pablo are both planning on serving missions!  The other day Paulo asked us, "Should I start saving for my mission right now?"  My companions and I were all over that one!  He and Paulo are Seniors in High School and are so excited about the gospel.  I have loved watching the Gospel and the Savior make these guys, who are only a little younger than me, change so much.  It brings me so much joy to watch Pablo excitedly explain the Law of Tithing or the Plan of Salvation to his humble friend.  It makes me wonder how much joy Christ feels as he watches His sons and daughters learn more about him and even pray to gain faith.  The happiness and joy I feel as I watch an investigator come to knowledge of a living Savior and then repent of their sins to become baptized is comparably insignificant and smaller than the size of a quark (the material that composes atoms).  I have loved being a missionary in this Christmas season and taking upon my mantle and role as a representative of Christ.  I cannot help but be humbled by the opportunity I have to strive everyday to become more and more Christlike.  Christ is our perfect example and Savior.  We have an investigator that used to be atheist  but when we told her that if she would ask God directly in prayer if He exists that she would get an answer.  We called her the next day and she informed us that she had an amazing experience.  I cannot comprehend the happiness God felt as one of His daughters sought out His existence and is seeking to know more of His will for her!  The work is amazing and I am SOOO blessed to be a missionary right HERE, right now!!
GRAND FINALE!!!!  So guess who got their Visa on Tuesday and is flying to Mexico City on Monday morning at 9am?!!!!!:)  ME!!!!  I went to the Mexican Consulate on Tuesday and received my flight plans today!  WOW am I excited or what!!!!! [Haha, if you didn't notice by all the exclamation marks and caps!]  I really have had the most wonderful, amazing, fantastic experience and feel so ready to take on Distrito Federal.  So basically the next email you'll get from me will probably be from a computer in Mexico City!
Ok so, I am going to call on Friday morning for about 5 minutes to set up a time to call for the real thing on Saturday.  I'll only have a max of 1 hr. on Christmas Day so we'll have to set up some time slot type thing like E. Janis (Damon) set up.  So I was thinking we could start out with 10 minutes with the whole family, 6 minutes for each sibling individually, and 20 minutes for Mom and Dad.  It doesn't have to be like this exactly but I thought this would be a fun way to do it!  Maybe during the first 10 minutes you could have some questions prepared so that I don't lose anytime taking to anyone!!  (again another idea attributed to E. (Damon) Janis).  I love you all so much and am so thankful to every single one of you.  Thanks to all the extended family who sent me such wonderful Christmas notes and gifts.  I look forward to opening them all on the 25th!!  I can't tell you enough of how thankful I am for your thoughtfulness.
Merry Christmas to all!!
-Elder Janis

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A "crazy awesome" week

Hola Familia!
This last week explained in two words would be "crazy  awesome"!!!!  So many wonderful things happened and the Lord was most definitely behind all of it.  Elder Fuentes and I were blessed to take 14 investigators to church on Sunday!  4 whole families!  We also had a baptism for Daniel Chavarrin.   Looking back on the last 6 weeks and starting this next transfer, I can see that the 8 hour door knocking days really paid off.  When Elder Fuentes and I entered our area 6 weeks ago, we had no one on date and a very small pool of investigators.  Both he and I were transferred out this morning leaving behind 10 people on date and tons of potential.  It was hard for the two of us to say goodbye to all the wonderful families we were teaching but I'm sure the next missionaries that come in will do a great job!
As I said, transfers were this morning so now I am in the Salt Lake Zone with two new companions, Elder Whiting and Elder Reese.  Elder Whiting is from Mississippi and Elder Reese is from Alabama making us a trio of Southerners!  I don't know Elder Reese very well but he seems super friendly and hard working.  Elder Whiting was in my district last transfer and so we already get along really well.  We were actually joking before this transfer about how cool it would be if we became companions and here we are!
So out of the 16 Visa waiters that came into the Salt Lake Mission with me, 12 of them are leaving tomorrow morning for Mexico.  I and 3 other Visa waiters still haven't gotten ours.  I was a little disappointed to find out that I didn't get mine yet but know that I am meant to stay in this mission for longer.  Everything happens for a purpose, I just need to find out why.  I will most definitely learn more!  In addition, the fact that I was put into a trio is significant reason to guess mine may be coming soon.  I'll be super excited when it comes but for now I will just keep focused as if I wasn't waiting.  All is well in Zion!
I love all of you so much and am SO grateful for all the letters and packages from home.  I haven't had the chance to open the packages yet because they gave them to me and then I was transferred.  I look forward to opening them tonight before going to bed!! Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for the Christmas cookies and presents.  I love the tie and socks!  My Zone Leaders brought me the fresh cookies earlier than mail and so Elder Fuentes and I enjoyed some great cookies.  Have a wonder Christmas Holiday!
Con todo mi amor,
Elder Janis

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Embarrassing but Hilarious Spanish Mistake

Hola Mi Familia Maravillosa!
Elder Fuentes and I had an amazing week!  All our 8 hour tracting days where we knocked hundreds of doors have really paid off.  We have 9 people on date for baptism for December!!!  8 of them were found from knocking doors and 1 of them was from a referral.  The Lord has helped us find the people that have been prepared for the Gospel.  I am pretty stressed with all the work it requires to keep these people on date but I know that they have been prepared and that as we work hard things will work out!  Mom and Dad, you will be proud to know that I have learned how to not worry so much and to even elimate the word "worry" from my vocabulary.  Most of this comes from learning how to put my trust in the Lord and that every thing happens for a reason.  I have loved my mission so far because of all the amazing growing and testimony building experiences!
So I had a pretty embarrasing but hilarious Spanish mistake during a lesson.  I was reading a General Conference talk in Spanish during language study in order to learn more vocabulary when I came across the words Varon and Hembra, which means male and female.  I quickly memorized this phrase just in case I could use it later.  In a lesson later that night, we were inviting a couple to Church and were telling them how the women go to Relief Society and the men go to Priesthood.  I thought it would be great to use my new vocabulary and said that the "varones" go to one class and the "hembras" to another.  The couple that we were teaching looked like I was crazy and had no idea what I was talking about which it turns out, I didn't.  Elder Fuentes corrected the situation by saying that I meant to say "hombres" and "mujeres" meaning men and women.  He then told me after the lesson that "varones and hembras" means male and female for animals only...I was basically calling them animals or implying that lifestock would be in church with us!!  Ha ha, Elder Fuentes and I just laughed and laughed about it later!
I found this amazing scripture in the Bible in 2 Timothy 2:3.  "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."  This scripture came at the perfect time for me the other morning during morning study!  I have been trying to work well under trial and keep up a great attitude.  The scripture was referenced under a song called "Oid, el toque del clarin" and is about an army marshalling together to fight against evil foes and principalities.  It also talks about enduring trials well.  I read the scriptures that come under the hymns and that was a scripture that I will memorize and keep as my battle motto here in the field. 
I am having a wonderful Christmas season in the SLC valley, loving the slightly warmer weather, and looking forward to the mountains of success the Lord is intrusting to Elder Fuentes and me!  I love you all so much and have really enjoyed the letters and support!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Janis

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I was the answer to a prayer

Hola Familia!
This week was full of success and wonderful experiences!  We added 6 new investigators and have three people on date for baptism for the second of December!  The cold weather isn't slowing Elder Fuentes and I down at all but actually makes us faster because members have taken pity on us in the snow and go on splits with us almost every night.  We also get people that stop and ask if we need rides while proselyting in the afternoon.  We cannot thank them enough for helping us use our time more effectively.  The Lord is blessing us so much with people prepared to listen and ways to get to all of them!
I had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I ate a wonderful traditional Thanksgiving feast at an American family's home named the Duvalls.  They are 88 and 96 years old respectively and we had such a great time with them.  They stuffed us full of hilarious life experiences and wonderful food.  Elder Fuentes and I waddled home for the evening to take a nap and prepare for the Thanksgiving night Mission Proselyting Game.  The game is where you get 1 point for every investigator and recent converts you visit to wish a Happy Thanksgiving and 3 points for every referral.  Elder Fuentes and I ran around like crazy and met with 14 different families and got 18 REFERRALS.  Through this we have added many new investigators!
I cannot tell you have much I loved the lovin' from home in all those packages I received!  I have been really enjoying all the candy,  and the hot chocolate was perfect for Elder Fuentes and me on those particularly cold nights.  I appreciate all the time, thought, and effort you put into every item in the packages.  THANKS!  Oh, I really liked the testimony cards in the Christmas package, they were such a wonderful idea!  I shared them with Elder Fuentes and we will look for ways to use them with our new investigators.  Thanks for that great idea and for taking the time to make those for me!
One of the investigators we have on date named Lucio and his wife (who we will be putting on date soon) are the best investigators that I have ever had.  They just soak up every lesson and love the Book of Mormon.  They came to church with us this last Sunday and just ate it all up!  The members did a wonderful job of befriending them and they were basically smiling the whole time!  We have gone to their house everyday this week because they want to learn everything and do everything they can to learn.  We took them to temple square to see the Christmas lights and go on the Families Forever Tour which they also just loved.  They were a family we found while tracting and we feel so trusted and blessed by the Lord with the opportunity to help them prepare for baptism.
Leo Paur, the less active guy we met last week, went to church with us this last Sunday also for the first time in a long time with his daughter and one of his sons.  We visited him a couple of times before church to remind him and he was just so thankful for us coming by.  He also told us that we knocked on his door literally 5 minutes after he had prayed to the Lord for guidance.  He also told us that if we hadn't been Spanish speaking missionaries, he probably wouldn't have listened to us.  He didn't clarify why that was the way it was but we are thankful for the opportunity we had to help him.  I am also so humbled that I of all people was the answer to a prayer.  The Lord really does qualify those he calls because without the Spirit we would not have been able to help Leo in the way we did!
I love all of you soooo much!  Thanks for all that you do and all the prayers.
Elder Janis

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Conversion & Testimony

Hola Familia!
This week has been such an adventure!  I cannot believe the all the "first-times" that I am having while on a mission in SLC of all places!   This past week, Elder Fuentes and I tracted like crazy.  Most days we tracted, knocking door after door, for 5 hours with a couple of 8 hour days in there also.  I have learned to love the surprise of meeting the person answering the door, getting to know them, and teaching them a principle or two.  We will then ask the Americans if they know of any Latinos in their neighborhood and then go and knock those doors.  If they are Spanish-speaking, we will then close our door approach with a commitment to baptism.  At first I thought such boldness would just scare our investigators away, but it has really helped us find some really solid new investigators.  E. Fuentes and I thanked Heavenly Father everyday for the success we are having this week after the trials of little finding success last week.  We are now pretty stock full of wonderful families to teach and now actually have to find time to tract sometimes.  I can definitely see the hand of the Lord in our finding these families and look forward to teaching them!!
Yesterday was quite the experience for E. Fuentes and I.  We were eating dinner when the blizzard hit the SLC Valley and when we came out, everything was covered in snow.  What I really love about our companionship is that this blizzard didn't slow us down one bit!  Despite the onslaught of snow and the 7 degree wind chill, Elder Fuentes and I hit the streets of the South Salt Lake Stake with a determination to show the Lord that we could be diligent despite all of the opposition.  We made a game out of it almost!  Anytime either of us said anything about it being cold, we would joke about how scourchingly hot it was outside and that we wished we were in bathing suits and flip-flops.  We continued this as we walked around the very quiet and vacant streets of our area going from appointment to appointment.  However, one of our appointments fell through and we were given the opportunity to tract an apartment complex that we hadn't knocked yet.  The fifth door we knocked  in the complex turned out to be the most spiritual lesson that I have ever been in!
We knocked on door five of the complex to be greeted by a man who seemed rather annoyed at our bothering him.  We found out that he has been less active for many years now because of the culture of the LDS church.  After we showed interest in trying to help him see the importance of going to church, he invited us into his home to discuss more. Inside his home, he explained to us that he was mad at the church for their refusal to answer certain questions he had about Joseph Smith and the practice of polygamy.  We shared with him Mosiah 4:9, a beautifully pointed scripture, and then bore testimony of the importance of only concentrating on the knowledge and faith necessary for salvation.  He then admitted that before we knocked on his door he had been praying for certain answers to his questions and he knew that us coming to his home was an answer to his prayer.  Before leaving, we offered a prayer in which we asked the Lord to help him come back to church and have to power to overcome his trials. The Spirit was so strong in the room and at the end of the prayer, we opened our eyes to a grown man bawling.  He, while trying to choke back his emotions, thanked us and as we left, he invited us out for dinner sometime.  I have never been in such a spiritual lesson in my life.  The questions and the words we spoke were not our own.  I will never forget this experience and the power the Spirit had on a hard-hearted member of the church.  We are going to visit him again tonight and see how he is doing.
I also came to a wonderful realization while pondering the events of the night.  I am on my mission to help in every possible way the conversion of the people here, but to also continue to convert myself.  As I have taught the wonderful doctrines of the church, read the Book of Mormon, prayed, and bore testimony everyday, I can feel myself more and more converted.  The most noticeable difference I have seen in myself is a greater desire to share the gospel and work harder everyday.  I am finding it easier and easier to want to work hard and to be diligent even though it would be so easy to just be lazy.  My conversion and testimony has brought me so much peace and joy and I want to share this with every person I can!  I know that Christ lives.  I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.  I know that this is the Lord's work and man do I love it!!
I love all you so much and hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  The lovin' from home in the last package was awesome Mom, thanks!  I can't wait to enjoy the treats you brought to me.  I was so excited to see the homemade granola!!!!!!  Laura, thanks for sticking in that huge Butterfinger, you are so wonderful!  Enjoy the family and holidays!
Until next week with love and thanks,
Elder Janis

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Learning to ride a bike, maybe...

Hola Familia!
What a week it has been!  I have had a lot of experiences this week that have been amazing and others that have been insanely crazy.  I only have a short amount of time to email so I am going straight to the stories this week.
This last week I got to do temple service in the Salt Lake City Temple.  In all honesty, being a visa waiter and the few amount of times that missionaries are asked to help, I was very lucky to be able to go.  Wow, what a blessing!  They had a temple worker devotional in the Solemn Assembly room of the temple which is where the General Authorities meet before General Conference to prepare.  It is a huge room in the top story of the temple that looks relatively like a stadium with many, many seats.  They asked us missionaries to help take down the chairs and store them and then clean the baptistry.  The whole time I was in the Solemn Assembly room I was taken aback by the beauty and elegance that went into the 40 year construction of the temple.  I could not help but think about the many consecrated hours of service and selfless talent that was spent to make every inch of the House of the Lord such a work of art.  The Solemn Assembly room especially.  As we put away chairs, swept, and vacuumed, I decided that I needed to put as much or even more care in the way I cleaned the House of the Lord as the people building it did.  The early saints of the Church went through SO much in order to build this temple and bring such an amazing blessing to each of our lives.  I thought about this pretty much the whole time I was cleaning and tried so hard to work just as hard and meticulous as the early saints!  I will never forget the wonderful peace and joy I felt as I went about cleaning the temple.
So, Elder Fuentes and I are in this ginormous area in the South Salt Lake Stake with only our own two feet to get us around.  However, we talked to the Stake President about how usually there is a car in this particular area and that without one we were wasting tons of time walking from place to place.  He really likes Elder Fuentes and me because we have been working as hard as we can and so he went out and got us bikes.  He got two bikes donated and then paid to have them repaired.  Grateful to have a faster way to get around, we started this week proselyting for the first time on bikes.  HA HA, E. Fuentes and I have had some pretty crazy adventures already on the bikes.  First night that we were out riding we got in a wreck.  The streets are really dark and some person put a gigantic pile of leaves in the middle of the bike lane of the street.  I was in front and saw it but it was to late to stop and mowed right through it.  I didn't know what it was other than a pile of something and seriously thought I was going to die for a good couple seconds.  On the other side of the pile, I breathed a sigh of relief while looking back to see if E. Fuentes made it through safely too.  He was not as lucky.  As I turned my head around I heard a grunt and a bike crashing to the ground.  I ran over to my companion who was face down in the pile of leaves.  I helped him up, brushed him off, discovered that he was fine, and we both started laughing hysterically!  We both wished that we had had a camera to film my reaction and his enormous tumble.
Then the next day, we were pedaling down the street and E. Fuentes was telling me how wobbly and unstable his seat was feeling.  Not knowing exactly what to do about it at the moment we just kept going.  At the next stop light, we were coming to a stop when E. Fuentes's seat came completely of the bike!  We then had to spend the next 30 minutes trying to figure out how to put on the seat and then do it exactly right so it didn't happen again.  We have many other problems with the bikes and have almost decided that they might be more trouble than they're worth.  We just laugh a ton as we recount our experiences to other missionaries in the Zone.
Well, I just ran out of time...but I wanted to quickly add that we had a great week and found many more great families to teach!  We are working so hard and see the hand of the Lord every day!  I love missionary work and thank Heavenly Father every day for the opportunity to be a missionary!!!  Thanks for the all the wonderful letters!  Aunt Mindy and Uncle Brandon, I really appreciate the letter you sent me.  Thanks for thinking of me.
Elder Janis

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A week of miracles

Hey Family,
Cold weather has finally come to stay and it is supposed to snow tonight and tomorrow!  The mountains are beautiful and I love the crisp cold air as I walk my area.  Me and Elder Fuentes think we walk upwards of 4 or 5 miles-a-day.  I am so thankful for the exercise because the Spanish ward here feeds us like kings at every dinner.  After most meals, I feel like just rolling around to all our lessons!
This week, Elder Fuentes and I had some AMAZING experiences.  What I am learning from Elder Fuentes that will really help me now and later on in the mission is to diligently follow all of the counsel and advice of our Mission Leaders.  I came into this area with no one on date for baptism and only one or two that were even close to reaching that point.  We discussed what we wanted to do in order to gain more investigators and help the ones we have progress.  The first thing we did was make a goal to talk to every person that we met on the streets and tract out the apartment complexes in our area.  The second thing we did was make a goal to hard commit someone to baptism everyday.  (A hard commit= "will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone holding the authority of God?)  The third thing we did was pray and have faith that the Lord will help us find one new investigator every day.  The fourth thing we did was commit to asking for referrals from every investigator, less active member, and recent convert we talked to.  The fifth thing we did was decide that we would do everything we could to enable ourselves for the Lords blessings such as obedience and really hard work.
After making these goals, we hit the ground running and have been working hard to meet every one of these goals.  Through this last week have added one or more investigators, received tons of referrals, and have put four people on date for baptism! I have seen many miracles this last week, but due to time I will tell you my two favorite experiences.
The first experience was with Rene Balan.  We were walking down 300 East when we saw a Latino man out racking his front lawn.  Both of us without really saying anything knew that we must talk to him because we had made a commitment to talk to everyone.  As we started up a conversation with Gorge, the man racking the leaves, we found out that he was a less active member.  We talked to him about coming back to church and the blessings that would come from following the commandments.  In this situation we would normally end with a prayer and go on our way, but as we offered to say a prayer he invited us in his home.  Inside his home, Gorge introduced us to his girlfriend Rene.  Rene then told us how she was interested in our church and had been taught a couple of times by sister missionaries.  Due to her working on Sundays, the sisters dropped her.  However, she recently become unemployed and has time for both the lessons and to go to church.  Elder Fuentes and I then taught her a couple of principles and then hard committed her to be baptized on the 20th of November which she then unhesitatingly responded yes.  We then made a calender of lessons for the next two weeks.  I know that the Lord had been preparing Rene for us and blessed us with the opportunity to meet with her.  This was undeniably a miracle to which I am so thankful to the Lord for blessing us with.
The next of my favorite miracles happened last night.  In the theater of the General Conference building, the church was putting on a musical theater production called "El Salvador del Mundo" (means "The Savior of the World").  It was an amazing depiction of the Savior's birth and post-Resurrection ministry.  I loved it and am thankful for the opportunity that I had to go.  However, the real miracle was who we went with to the theater production.
The Burton Ward and South Salt Lake Stake that we work in love Elder Fuentes and me.  On Saturday, they handed us an envelope of tickets to the show and desired that we invite all of our investigators to go.  We realized later that they had given us 30 tickets!  We have been working hard to gain the 10 or so really solid investigators and were not going to be able to find 30 investigators to go with.  That next few days and especially Tuesday, we worked as hard as we could on top of normal proselyting to get our investigators to go.  On Tuesday about 2 hours before we needed to go to the Conference Center, we had found only a couple of member families to take the tickets.  We didn't give up though.  We went to a young couple's home who we had just started out their lessons and asked them if they could go with us.  With only an hour to go before the the show, they surprisingly said yes and even invited some of their friends to come.
Not only had we been blessed to take investigators to the show but we were also blessed to meet two of their friends.  During the show, I could see them loving it and afterwards they thanked us many, many times.  This was just what they needed for their conversion and I anticipate they will be more excited to know more!  Also, since we met their friends we are going to start inviting them to the lessons.  Not only did the Lord bless us with two very solid people to go with, but we were also blessed with two very good potential investigators.  I even was blessed with the opportunity to go to the show also!
I love missionary work and am so excited to see what miracles are in store for Elder Fuentes and I next week!!!  I love you all tons and hope you have a great week because I know I will!!
Con abrazos,
Elder Janis

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Transferred from Cannon to Parley

Hola Familia!

This has been a great week!  I can't believe all the amazing opportunities I am getting while I am waiting for my visa!  First off, the wedding that we had this last Friday night was perfect.  Everything went according to plan.  We had at least 30 members of the branch at the wedding and the Ballesteros couple we married had at least 20 family members.  The members did an excellent job talking to the couple getting married and to their non-member family.  Some of the non-member family and friends of the Ballesteros agreed to let us come over and teach them and many of them are very interested.  All in all, it was a great experience in which we saw a family be married and even received some new investigators.  What could be better!!

The baptisms also went really well.  Ruperto Hernandez, the father of the girl with Leukemia, was baptized and then a guy named Juan Manuel was also baptized.  The service for Ruperto was a very happy experience because we and he knew that the feeling of the Holy Ghost and the gospel would bless his family as they go through their daughter overcoming cancer.  Juan Manuel's baptism was SUPER spiritual.  He had been wanting to be baptized for a couple months now but could not get off work without fear of being fired.  He was excited to finally get to the waters of baptism and he looked so happy and peaceful as he came up out of the water.  His 4 year old daughter exclaimed, "Daddy, you did it!!"  as he walked back to get changed. It was so cute to see a change come over the family and even see his young daughter excited for him.  I loved seeing both these guys get baptized and know they will make great disciples of Chirst.

So, today marks the beginning of a new transfer.  I surprisingly was the only visa waiter to be transfered.  Usually visa waiters are like a third wheel on a normal companionship but President Winn gave me the opportunity to be in a normal sized companionship!   My new companion is Elder Fuentes from Argentina.  I will get to practice my Spanish a lot more and from the little that I have gotten to talk to him, we will be working hard!  I am excited for this change and look forward to the things I will learn from a new companion and a new area.  I used to be in the Cannon Zone which is west of downtown Salt Lake.  Now I am directly south and can see downtown really easily.  I am in the Parley Zone now and that is about all I know about this new area and zone.

Part of transfers is saying goodbye to investigators, recent converts, and member families.  It was pretty hard to say goodbye to everyone.  The hardest family to say goodbye to was the Valenzuela family.  We helped this pretty disfunctional family start going back to church and are planning to baptize their 10 year son next weekend.  The two oldest sons were in trouble with the cops for doing weed and the parents are living with friends while they try to find a house.  I have loved meeting with this family and learning to love them.  Seeing them at church this last Sunday with all of them there, even the two rebellious older sons, and all dressed up and excited was such an amazing feeling.  I am so excited for this family!  Sister Valenzuela cried when we told her we were leaving as she conveyed her gratitude for what we helped her family do with the help of the Lord.  I had really grown to love each one of them and will keep praying for their further success as they enter back into the path to the Lord.

Being a missionary is such a blessing and I have loved trying to fill the role and calling the Lord has given me.  I love you all tons and hope you have a great week!  Thanks Mom for the Halloween package and my companions were very thankful also!  It was such a great surprise to get something from home.  Thanks also Aunt Tiffany for the package!  It was so kind and thoughtful of you.


Elder Janis

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SLC is colder than Mexico City

Hi Family!

Winter is finally upon us here in the Salt Lake Valley.  The past few days we have had 50 mph freezing winds and small hail.  Due to the fact that I only have clothes suited for the temperate climate of Mexico City, this cold weather means wearing practically every warm thing I own.  E. Chamberlain and I joke that we are finally being "really missionaries" (the kind you see in photos) rather than the pampered Salt Lake missionaries that we are.  Thankfully, my Zone Leaders found a winter coat that a missionary had left behind and are letting me borrow it until my visa comes. 

Speaking of visas, I should be getting it anytime soon.  I am planning on being here for another two weeks but will be happily surprised if it comes earlier!  I am excited that I will probably be here for the end of this transfer and get to see more of our investigators baptized.  This weekend we have two baptisms and a wedding!!  So many great things are happening and the Lord is blessing us so much.

With two companionships working in our tiny area, we are running out of progressing investigators and have started to teach less actives and recent converts.  This has been a really amazing experience as we have helped many less actives come back to church.  My favorite thing though is to talk to the recent converts about their conversion story.  They are so full of faith and devotion, inspiring me to try even harder to find people that are ready to hear the gospel.  One particular recent convert that we have talked to is Juan Jose.  He took and dealt drugs, has 24 DUIs, has an illegitimate daughter in Mexico, and was in jail for 5 years.  In jail, he read the Bible three times through and decided he wanted to change his life.  He was really interested in the Holy Ghost and didn't know where or how he was going to get it.  The day he was released from jail, he was in his mother's house praying to know what to do and where to find the Holy Ghost.  Right after he prayed, E. Chamberlain and another missionary knocked on his door and the first thing they talked about was the Holy Ghost.  Juan Jose knew at that moment that they were servants of God and he immediately invited them in.  The rest is history!!  He is such an amazing convert and has helped me grow in my testimony.  Right now he is helping us to talk to his 15 family members in the area that are all interested in the church.  Many exciting potentials!

E. Chamberlain and I have been really focusing on staying exactly obedient. The past week, we have had a very stressful time keeping the people we have on date for baptism.  One of our baptism-ready investigators just up and disappeared.  The wife and daughter told us that he does this from time to time and is gone for days on end.  They don't where he goes or how long he is gone.  This was Sunday night and worried about what kind of trouble he could be getting into, we decided to be more aware of our obedience and start fasting.  Monday morning at about 11am, Chan Hernandez called to tell us that he still wanted to be baptized and was sorry to run off like that.  An investigator calling us like that is super uncharacteristic of the Latinos.  We know that things are working out because of the faith and trust we put in the Lord.  However, like we teach out investigators, we put our faith into action by fasting and being as obedient as we possibly could.  I have no intentions to lose the fervor in exact obedience after this last experience and know that we will be blessed as we keep working hard.

We had this amazing lesson with a new investigator named Maria.  We walked into her home with plans to teach the Restoration, but the Holy Ghost impressed us to share the Plan of Salvation.  We rarely start an investigator out with the Plan of Salvation because it is so full of new information but we really felt that is what we needed to do.  When we got to the Spirit World, we found out why the Plan of Salvation was something she needed.  Three of her children had died and she had no idea where they were.  We explained the wonderful blessing of eternal families and that she would be able to live with her children again in the presence of God.  Maria gave the closing prayer and cried as she asked God to keep her babies safe.  The Spirit was so strong during the lesson and we could see it working on Maria the entire lesson.  We have a lesson with her this coming Friday and plan on finishing the Plan of Salvation lesson.

I love being missionary and thank Heavenly Father everyday for the opportunity to do His work.  I love seeing the amazing changes take place within the families that we are teaching. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

Elder Janis

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Who let the dogs out!

Hi Family!
Wow, this has been an eventful week!  As I briefly talked about in my last letter, we have dropped many investigators that weren't progressing.  This has given us more time to focus on the people who are progressing and even on some less active members.  The Spanish Branch that I am serving in had a rumored problem dealing with money causing many members to be offended and leave the church about a year ago.  We have the opportunity to help these people remember their baptisms and rekindle their testimonies.  Many of these couples are starting to come back and we hope to help many more start coming back.
This last week we had a baptism for Alejandro and Juan, the 10 and 8 year old from the family of 6.  Man was that an experience.  Well first off, the baptism was to start at 11am on Saturday but actually started at 12pm because it took the family a long time to get ready.  Despite the late start time, we got the service started and brought the Spirit strongly in the room with the opening song and prayer.  Everything was super organized, going great, and then it was time for the baptisms.  I got in the water and beckoned for Juan to come on in.  As Juan took one  step on to the font's steps, he slipped and came crashing into the water.  Recovering from the slip, Juan stood up completely drenched and looked up at the entire audience who were busting a gut at what just happened.  Juan's family was beside themselves in laughter especially Alejandro who was to be baptized next.  I quickly composed myself, helped Juan stop laughing, and as the room quieted down we performed the ordinance. 
I then went to the bathroom to change while E. Arnell (the other visa waiter) baptized Alejandro.  When E. Arnell came to change he related to me what happened after.  It turns out that Alejandro could not stop laughing and when it came time to perform his ordinance he barely got through.  To top it off, Alejandro swam underwater out of the font.  Worried that these inevitable problems wiped out a lot of the strong spirit that was in the room, we had the congregation sing some hymns while the kids finished changing.  Luckily, the Spirit did come back and we ended the service on a good note.
Despite the eventful baptism, the Holy Ghost had been there and really affected the parents.  On Monday night, E. Chamberlain and I went to Juan and Alejandro's house to talk to the parents.  Usually the kids greet us at the door and we taught them outside on the porch, but on this particular night, Luzmila (the inactive mother) invited us in to the front room.  Alejandro (the investigator dad) also stopped working on clients' cars and came in to talk to us.  We then had the most amazing lesson thus far on my mission.  This spiritual powerhouse of a lesson ended in the parents deciding that they would take the step of faith and get married.  I have learned that for Latinos, helping them see the importance of getting married is relatively easy but then getting them to do it nigh impossible.  The baptism and the Holy Ghost had been the help they needed to finally to get married.  We got their marriage license with them on Tuesday and will have a wedding on the next coming weekend.  The Lord works in mysterious ways and definitely blessed this family with the faith to get married.
Just so you know, I do not like dogs...E. Chamberlain and I were walking down the dark streets of our area when a rather large Pitbull sprinted from a side yard straight at us.  The Pitbull ran until it was about 10 feet away, screeched to a halt, and then ran back to the dark side yard.  Our hearts racing, we stopped running and let out a sigh of relief at how fortunate we had been.  We then went to a member's home who had asked us for some help the previous day with moving a bed.  After helping with some service, we started the walk back toward our home.  A little way down the street, my companion stopped mid-speech and point at the Pitbull who was in the middle of the street just staring right at us.  Freaking out a little, E. Chamberlain and I started walking fast.  The dog ran at us, barking crazily, and then ran off a little to be only joined by another dog of an even greater size.  This HUGE German Shepherd was absolutely scary.   Both the Pitbull and the German Shepherd then decided to come running right at me and had no intentions to stop.  I had no idea what to do because I of all people could not out run two dogs.  Out of nowhere, I did the last thing I would have thought to do in this situation, I yelled "BACK OFF!"  I yelled this as loud as I possibly could and with as much force as I could.  The dogs stopped their running, stood in the middle of the street, and started barking like crazy at us.  Then before they could start running at us again we sprinted as fast and as hard as we could.  A car came out of nowhere and almost hit the dogs distracting them from chasing us.  E. Chamberlain and I sprinted down the next 6 blocks to our house.
So as I sit here all in one piece, I can't help but realize that there are TONS of stray dogs in Mexico City...I have been told that I will have to kick many dogs.  However, the Lord protected my companion and me from being hurt and blessed us so much throughout the week.  This last week especially we have seen so many blessings.  At the awesome Zone Conference we had last week, we learned that when we are obedient in the morning and diligent in the afternoon, we will have success in the evening.  Putting this in practice gave us the specific successes of a marriage and safety from rogue dogs among many other miracles.  I am so grateful to be a missionary and love every minute of it!!!
Sorry my letters are so long! I will work on condensing in the next letter!  I hope you all have a great week.  I appreciate all the prayers and love sent my way; it really does make a difference!
Elder Janis

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shaking hands with a church leader

Hola Familia!
This week was crazy; the awesome kind of crazy!  We were told in the beginning of the week by our Zone Leaders that this coming week would be rough but that we would finish out with some great success.  This has definitely been the case this entire week.  First of all, E.Chamberlain (our Senior Companion) was stuck to the house for the week and me and E. Arnell took turns proselyting with E. Morris.  I enjoyed the times at home because they provided wonderful study opportunities in which I learned tons.  I specifically focused most of the study on the lessons in Preach My Gospel.  Slowly I am beginning to feel much more confident in being able to teach these lessons simply and in another language.

At the start of this week, my companionship had roughly 20 investigators, some more promising than others but a lot of them had potential.  We had 8 couples/families we were teaching that needed to be married before they could be baptized.  That is actually a huge problem in my mission with the Latinos.  One family, we are teaching and helping get married, has been together for 11 years and have 6 children.  Sad huh....but we are taking them down to the marriage office this week and will hopefully have a wedding for them this coming weekend!  As an added plus, 99% of the families married will eventually be baptized also.  At the start of this week we had these 8 couples and now only have 2 that are really sticking it through.  A couple families fell away due to unfinished divorces and one decided that their Catholic tradition was what they wanted.  We also had many people fall off date for baptism because they got drunk and their hangovers prevented them from coming to church.  After losing quite a bit of our investigators, the Lord blessed us with many new investigators that are even more ready to be taught the gospel!  We did lose a lot of people due to un-before-seen circumstances but now we have the ability to really focus in on some very good families.
This weekend we have a baptism planned for two children 10 and 8.  They are the oldest in the family we are helping to get married whose parents have been together for 11 years and have 6 kids.  They came to church this last Sunday and loved it.  Having already made friends, we have high hopes that they will help their parents start coming to church also.  The mom is a really inactive member that we hope to reactivate as we baptize the father this next weekend.  They are a great family and I have really enjoyed teaching them.  Another recent discovery was a sweet kid named Franklee who just moved to the Salt Lake Valley from Guatemala about a year ago.  We talked to him and his mom and they seem so prepared and very humble.  With many other potentials, we have tons to do and the Lord really is looking out for us.
I had a really cool opportunity for service this last week.  We received a referral for a lady in a huge apartment complex in our area. (by the way: about half of our investigators come from this apartment complex called the Seasons).  We met her once and set up an appointment to meet with her on a later day because she was on her way to therapy.  It turns out that she had polio as a child which really messed up her foot leading to painful limping walk.  With plans to meet her later we went on our way.  However, a couple days later we came across her in the apartment complex with a huge stack of flyers.  She had been hired by the Seasons to put the flyers on all the doors in the complex.  This meant that she not only had to painfully walk around the complex but had to climb stairs up to the third story.  After talking to her and finding out that this is what she was doing, I quickly offered her our help to which she gratefully accepted.  It had taken her over 4 hours to do about a third of the apartments in the complex and was only getting paid for 4 and a half hours of work.  So with 30 minutes left to finish, she didn't really know what to do.  However, E. Morris and I helped her do the last 2/3 of the complex in just over 30 minutes.  When we finished, she was so relieved and thanked us profusely.  She also promised Dominican Republic juice at our next appointment at her house.  Feeling pleased with this wonderful opportunity to serve, we left with a good feeling that Angelica (the lady with polio) would now be that much better of an investigator.
Today, has been one of the coolest P-Days I have had in the mission.  First of all, when we got to the Salt Lake Temple to do endowments this morning, there were security guards standing just behind the recommend desk.  We soon found that they were there because this Wednesday morning was the time that the 12 Apostles and the First Presidency go to the temple.  As we walked to the room just behind the recommend desk we saw Elder  L. Tom Perry and President Uchtdorf walk up the stairs.  L. Tom Perry didn't really see us standing their but man is he tall!  He was taller than most but would have been way taller but seems to be a little hunched over.  President Uchtdorf however saw us, waved, gave us a thumbs up, and then came over to shake our hands.  I got to look President Uchtdorf in the eyes, shake his hand, and say the first thing that came to my mind, "Good Morning."  WOW...amazing!  I will always remember his huge smile and warm greeting even to me, a complete stranger.  Then we had, as always, a great session in the temple! 
After the temple, a Service Missionary named Elder Burbidge drove us in his 1956 Chrysler Imperial to a Costco and bought my companionship what ever we wanted.  This is the same service missionary who brings our companionship over Marie Calendar Pies or Milkshakes every so often.  After doing something like this for us he would ask, "who's your best friend?"  Ha ha, he and his wife teach English to a lot of our investigators.  Sister Burbidge always tells us, "I am so lucky to see you missionaries work so hard in the field because I'm sure your mothers would do anything to be here right now!"  So basically, Elder and Sister Burbidge have put it upon themselves to be my companionship's "parents" while in this area.  Not only that but the Sporls (the Brazilian family who have us over every Sunday and who also helped my companions pull that prank on me) have also declared  themselves our parents and bring us food all the time.  There are tons of some very generous people looking out for us!
I decided to share my best experience this week for last!  Jesus Hernandez, who was baptized last week, was set to be confirmed this last Sunday.  Because of conference weekend, we had to wait more than a week before he could be confirmed.  All throughout this week we went by Jesus' house to check up on him and to also teach him about the Holy Ghost.  Things were going great until Sunday morning.  We went by his house on the way to church and no one was home.  We knocked and knocked and even tapped on some windows spending about 10 minutes waiting.  Unsure what to do and very worried, E. Chamberlain and I walked toward the church.  E. Chamberlain then suggested that we say a prayer and put our trust in the Lord.  He then gave me the opportunity to say the prayer.  After praying we resumed our walk toward the chapel.  About 10 seconds into our walk, I felt that we needed to return to Jesus' house.  I voiced this to E. Chamberlain who then lead us back to the house.  Upon returning, we found Jesus sitting on his porch as if almost waiting for us.  He was asleep and had not heard any of our knocking, but had just decided to come sit outside.  The hand of the Lord was undeniably in the work Sunday morning and blessed Jesus and us with the confirmation.  I will remember this event for the rest of the mission; this really is the Lord's work and His hand is always in any and all success.
This has been an amazing week and one that will be long remembered.  I was so lucky to have this usually long time slot today to write emails so I could tell you all about it!  I love you all tons and hope that you have a great week.  I appreciate all the prayers!
Elder Janis

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Conference Was Amazing

This last week was AMAZING and went by in raging fast blur.  I had some awesome spiritual experiences and learned tons.  The highlight of this last week was going to all 5 sessions of conference and going to the Sunday PM session with Mom, Dad, Laura, and Sarah.  Being a missionary in the SLC Mission brings you the amazing opportunity to go to every single session of conference in the Conference Center.  I have never learned so much or taken so many notes in conference in my life.  I'm sure writing more notes had more to do with taking the words of the prophet and other general authorities more seriously than just being in the conference center.  Throughout the 5 sessions many of my questions were answered and I was given more understanding of how to be a better missionary.  Seeing my family at the conference glory made it even that much better.  It was so nice to see your faces, give you huge hugs, and spend some time eating lunch together!    I was so excited when my Zone Leaders gave me the okay to see you and then even to sit with you in the conference center.  I love you tons and will always remember this specific opportunity.  I look to it as a catalyst to work harder and remember that my missionary service blesses my family too.  The harder I work the greater my family is blessed and the more useful I will be in the Lord's work.

Throughout this week I learned a pretty valuable lesson.  We started the week with some really amazing potential investigators and many plans to put people on date for baptism.  However, as the week unfolded, many people didn't keep commitments and a couple told us that they were no longer interested.  With so many hopes for these people in the back of my mind, I found it hard to let them go.  After learning that we could no longer teach a couple because they weren't married and the husband was still waiting on a divorce to finalize from his other marriage, a family we had a lot of hope for called and told us they no longer wanted us coming by.  Despite this sad news, me and my companion kept marching on.  We knew that the Lord would bless us as we kept our faith in Him and didn't let ourselves get too discouraged.  Sure enough, later that night we had a wonderful lesson with another family and put a person on date for baptism.  Neither of those blessings were expected and I know that they are blessings and even miracles given to us by the Lord.  From this experience, I learned in a real life setting that hard things happen but when you stay faithful and obedient the Lord will bless you.  I understand that this will not be the last time I have rough times in the mission, but I can get through them using what I learned in this experience.

I had a really embarrassing moment this last weekend during a baptism for Jesus Hernandez.  I volunteered to give the Holy Ghost talk in Spanish as part of the baptismal service.  Taking a little time during our lunch break, I quickly found a scripture and wrote an outline of what I wanted to say.  When the time came to stand up and give the talk, I silently said a prayer asking for peace and confidence.  I stood up in front, pulled out my scriptures, and started introducing what I was going to talk about.  After telling Jesus how excited I was for him to be baptized, I starting reading out loud the scripture I had planned.  Half-way through the scripture I realized that I had remembered the wrong reference and was reading a scripture nowhere near related to the Holy Ghost.  Realizing my mistake, I quickly decided to apologize for messing up with the scripture and paraphrased the scripture I meant to read.  With my mind amazingly clear, I was then able to give the rest of the talk without using my outline.  I know beyond any doubt that the Lord's hand was there to help me.  I was immensely embarrassed but through the clear mind and confidence from the Lord I was able to finish teaching about the Holy Ghost and bring the Spirit into the room.  It turned out to be a wonderfully spiritual service and am so happy for Jesus Hernandez!

My companion E. Chamberlain had his tonsils removed this last Monday and will be home bound for the next week or so.  In order for there to always be someone home with him during the day, we received another companion named E. Arnell.  E. Arnell was actually a member of my MTC district who is also waiting on a visa to Mexico City.  E. Arnell and I will take turns sitting at home with E. Chamberlain while E. Morris takes the one of us not at home to proselyte.  I am loving having only the two of us out there teaching and have had many more chances to teach this past week.  Also during the time when I am home and E. Morris and E. Arnell are out, I have had some really productive scripture studies and learned tons.

Well I am off to another week full of potential and maybe even a baptism of a family of 3!  Thanks again for your love and prayers!

Elder Janis

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Week in the Field!!

This has been an amazing week and I love missionary work.  There are so many people in my area that are prepared to hear the gospel.  We barely need to knock doors because we have so many investigators and referrals.  The only time we need to knock doors is when our investigators don't keep their appointments.  However, with our huge load of investigators there is almost always someone we can visit.
So I could probably write a novel about this first week in the field describing my thoughts, feelings, and experiences but unfortunately I don't have the time.  I will have however detail out some of the highlights!  One of my first things my companions and I did after P-Day ended (P-Day ends at 6pm) was visit an 8 year old girl named Yanice Avila.  Most of her family had gotten baptized but she wasn't 8 yet.  Her birthday was that day and so we went over the baptismal interview questions with her.  She then got baptized that next day!  I was at a baptism on my second day in the field.  We are working with the parents to get them baptized but they work a lot and are really hard to get a hold of.
Later that night, my companions said that we were going to knock doors for a while and then head home for the night.  We then walked down a street to which Elder Morris says, "I have been feeling like we should knock this street for a while, let's do it tonight."  We then went up to a house that we could tell people were home and knocked on the door.  The man who answers the door takes one look at us missionaries and sighs.  We, wondering why he had reacted in that way, asked if he had talked to missionaries before.  He then related that he had met with the missionaries before and had had many discussions.  He had ended the discussions because they were boring.  To that Elder Morris said, "well that was rude!"  In response to that, the man at the door takes out his phone, yelling at us that he was going to call the cops.  He then pulls a broom from inside the house and started to advance on us, raising it to hit us with the broom!  We started to run down the sidewalk, when I realized that my companions were laughing histarically along with the man who answered the door.  It turns out that the man who answered the door was Brother Sporl from one of the wards we cover and my companions had planned the prank on me for my first day!  Brother Sporl invited us in and introduced me to his laughing family.  They are the funniest and nicest people that I have meet thus far on my mission.  We all laughed about how I ran down the sidewalk; they got me pretty good!  Anyways, the Sporls are a family from Brazil who insist on having my companions and I over for dinner every Sunday.  Sister Sporl makes amazing Brazilian food and this last Sunday she made what is called Kippe.  There are so many just really nice members here.  Walking down the street, we get greeted almost every couple minutes or so!  I sure this is not something that happens in most other missions!
Another experience I had this week was when we contacted a referral.  At first when we knocked, no one answered but as we walked away from the door we heard talking from the side yard.  We went over to the side and found Facundo playing with his children.  He was referred by some members that he works with and was really happy to see us there.  We set a return appointment to teach him about the restoration.  Skip ahead to two nights later and we are sitting in house teaching him about the restoration.  This was the first real lesson I was able to teach since getting in the field and the Spirit was so strong.  I was given the opportunity to teach the part of the Restoration about the First Vision.  As I related the FV to Facundo, I could tell the Spirit was touching his heart.  It was such an amazing experience to teach Facundo and I know I would not have been able to do it without the gift of tongues.  Since then I have had other opportunities to teach and man were they amazing.  The Spirit is so real and made all the difference in how the lessons went that we have had and will have.  We left his house with another appointment to meet with him.
First door slammed in my face!  My companions after we had knocked on about 10 doors told me that the next one was all mine.  Excited to do this for my first time, I walk up to the door, knock, and then wait.  After about 10 seconds, a woman answers the door.  She looks at the three of us and instantly gets really angry.  She then yells, "NOT INTERESTED" and slams the door on us.  My first door approach and first slammed door all at the same time.  However, I surprised myself when this didn't affect me at all I was able to lead the next 5 or so door contacts.  I thought to myself, I am glad I got the door slamming out of the way and from now on it could only get better!  We ended up finding a really good family FULL of children that were very interested in the church.  I will have to let you know how it all turns out.
Yesterday, I commited two people to baptism!!  They will baptized on Oct. 16th!  They are part of a family that we have hopes to teach all of them, but two of the sons that I commited to baptism were the only ones home.  They are super excited to start going to "the church down the street" and really liked what we shared about Jesus Christ.  We gave them a calender with the dates of the lessons we will teach them and have plans to meet with the whole family!  My first baptismal commitments and definitely not the last.  We have a goal to baptize 6 people this week and have high hopes to actually beat that goal!  E. Morris, Chamberlain, and I are pumped and have so many good, high hopes for this transfer!!!!
Well, I wish I had more time to type out more but there is so much to get done on a P-Day.  Thanks for all the love and support.

Elder Ethan Janis

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ANOTHER Weekly Letter

Hey Family!
Guess where I am at this very moment!  I am in a Community Center in my first Area, having my first P-Day in the field, and am so very excited.  I met my new companions and trainers.  They are Elder Chamberlain and Elder Morris.  They put us in triples because they have no idea how long we will be here.  Both of them are from Texas and Elder Chamberlain is from Southlake actually.  Ha ha, so we had a fun discussion about our hometown rivalries.  My other companion is from Austin.  I did get reassigned to a Spanish speaking area and am looking forward to getting this opportunity to improve my Spanish.
So, a little about what today has been like so far.  I woke early this morning to pack and to have enough time to say goodbye to all my friends.  I then went to travel office and then boarded the only bus I have ever seen with seat belts.  Then we made the bus ride to the SLC mission headquarters where we got to meet our mission president, President Winn.  He is extremely nice and gave us each a hug as we came off the bus.  We then went into a room and were orientated for about 5 minutes.  We were then each given an opportunity to share our testimonies and a little about ourselves.  Based solely, on the Spirit and what we said, President Winn matched us with our companions.  When then went out to the parking lot and stood in a long line waiting to be told who our trainers were going to be.  It was pretty hilarious because all of us coming into the field today stood in a long line while the companions that were potentially our trainers stood there eyeing us.  After a little bit of just two lines facing each other President Winn called out our new companionship.
It turned out that my trainers don't have a car and did not have the ability to come and get me so the Zone Leaders came and got me.  We went to Walmart and did the weekly shopping and while we were there I met up with my companions.  After shopping for some groceries, we went to the member's house where I will be living for the next little bit.  After putting my luggage in the basement, we hopped in the ZLs car and drove over to this restaurant called Apple Spice Junction.  Cool thing about this mission is that a lot of the restaurants will give the missionaries free food and this was one of them.  Also while in Walmart, many people would come up to us and say hi.  We had one lady come up to us and tell us that she was praying for us missionaries.  I found this to be super cool and am having fun getting used to wearing my name tag in public.  After lunch we came to the community center were I now am!
The plans that we have for the day are a baptismal interview and I think two lessons.  All in Spanish!  I am so grateful that they are just throwing me into the work rather than letting me worry about what it will be like.  Tonight I will know and experience what being a missionary is really like!!!!!  I also found out that a lot of my area is filled with Polynesians who like to fill us up and then feed us some more.  I already got trained a little on how to get around getting too much food and maybe ways to decline more food.  This is all that I know so far about my area but I'm sure I will have a lot more information for you next P-Day which are normally on Wednesday.
So a little of the really fun facts about the Utah Salt Lake City Mission:

First, we are the highest baptizing mission in the the US and also the highest Spanish baptizing mission in the US.  Speaking of that, we actually have a baptismal service for this coming weekend!  We should have a baptismal service every weekend if we are working the way that we should and you know that I will!  How cool is that!!!
Second, we get the opportunity to go to the Salt Lake Temple every single P-Day!  I am so excited that they give us this opportunity!  I loved going once a week in the MTC and will love going once a week here in the field.
Third, I will have the opportunity to go the General Conference!  President Winn told us that we are given this unique opportunity to grow in our testimonies of our living prophet.  I have heard rumors that we may get to shake President Monson's hand and some of the Apostles.  Although we have to procure some tickets so if anyone can send some tickets my way for me and my companions that would be great!!!!
Fourth, there are 180ish missionaries in this mission.  170ish serve within a 55 block area in downtown Salt Lake City and 14 elders spread out to Wyoming to one side and 14 then to Nevada on the other side.  Crazy huh?!  This means that for me specifically, my area is really small and I will be walking every where!  This is good as I hear the Polynesians really do stuff you.
Well, that is the end of all that has happened to me since I have arrived here in Lago Salado.  My companions are extremely nice and I feel that we are going to have a lot of success!
Oh one more thing before I head out to play some soccer for P-Day.  I got to participate in some sealings in the Provo Temple.  What an awesome experiences.  We are so blessed to have access to a temple and for the blessing of eternal families.  I learned a lot and felt the Spirit so strongly in the Sealing Room.
Here is the address of the mission home:
Utah Salt Lake City Mission
3487 S. 1300 E.
Salt Lake City, UT 84106
Please send mail to this address.  If you use make sure it doesn't go to the MTC because they will just throw them away!  I love you all and am sooooooo excited for what this next week will hold for me!

Elder Janis

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Temporary Mission Reassignment

Hola Familia!
I think I am making the phrase "this was a great week" a cliché but it has definitely applied to every week I have been here!  Especially this week because I found what is going to happen to me and a little bit of what the Lord has planned for me.  I found out like I said before that I didn't get my visa and was put up for a reassignment.  I then had to wait a long four days until they had made reassignments and then had them approved.  So on Friday morning this last week I FINALLY found out where I got reassigned to.  Drum roll.....Salt Lake City Mission!!  I am heading out to the field on this upcoming Thursday.  I have heard some fun facts about the Salt Lake Mission like that it is the highest baptizing mission in the world and that I will have the chance to go to General Conference and shake the hands of all of the General Authorities!!  I am so stoked to have gotten this opportunity to serve instead of chilling in the MTC for the mean time and look forward to what the Lord has in store for me in the field!
Thanks Dad for sending me the BYU Football Shirt!  I actually was sitting at a table outside while the BYU vs. Washington game was going and could hear SO much noise coming from the stadium.  It was fun to think about all the great times I had at those games this past year.  I then quickly figured out that the noise from the game was distracting me and I had to move away to a more quiet spot to continue studying.  I hope that the team steps it up; I heard that they are having a rough start.  Anyways, this last Sunday I got to call home!  Wow, what a treat that was.  It was so good to hear your voices, Dad and Mom, and appreciate all the kind words you said to me.  I am EXTREMELY blessed to have your support and love and appreciate the wonderful examples you are to me.
So my companion, Elder Zylstra, left today for the Provo Mission (he was temporarily reassigned also) and I am with another Elder in my District named Elder Brewer from San Diego, California.  We laugh because outside of missionary work Elder Brewer and I would have been friends!  However, I miss Elder Zylstra so much and am grateful for all the wonderful, enriching experiences we had together.  We hit occasional rough spots but quickly came out of them and became better missionaries because of it.  That is one thing I have really learned is that I should not be ashamed or regret my past because it has made me who I am today.  It would have been better to not have made the mistakes I made, but I am who I am today from what I learned in overcoming the mistakes.  Overall, my experience here at the MTC has been amazing.  I have never felt closer to God in my life and have really anticipated every opportunity I can get to study the scriptures.  I know the scriptures are the word of God.  The scriptures provide opportunities for me to feel the Holy Ghost who then has brought stories and people to life.  I  am then able to get answers to pray and find good missionary work scriptures.  We are all so blessed to have such easy and plentiful access to the words of God!
One quick thought I had this week as it pertains to conference which is coming up soon.  There seem to be points and subjects that are referred to often throughout a given conference.  I have been reading past conference issues and discussing them with my fellow elders.  One thing we noticed is that they don't talk about not getting tattoos or body piercings or even the word of wisdom all that much.  Their greatest focus is on doing the small daily things such as praying and reading the scriptures.  I wish that I had more time to talk about this but I have 45 seconds!  Just ponder on that as the next session comes up!

Elder Janis

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Gift of Tongues

So this week has been a pretty full and very exciting week.  I have a lot to say and hope that I will be able to type fast enough to type all I want to in 30 minutes!
First of all, an Elder in my district got the flu this week and the MTC health clinic quarantined him for four days.  He was put in a room in the basement of a building where he was alone.  The health clinic then gave all of us in my district anti-viral pills that cost $100 a box.  They told us that we had probably been exposed to the flu virus and that the pills would help us avoid getting sick.  The Church spent $1,300 on flu pills to make sure that we didn't get sick.  I am so grateful they did because I really did not want to get the flu!
Another great experience of this last week was in the Teaching Appointment that E. Zylstra and I had.  We were given a teaching record which told us a little about the person that we would be teaching and had to make a plan out of what it said.  We then went in a did a task to get to know the investigator.  Usually a task involves doing a door approach or pretending they are a shop owner while we shop in their store.  This last week it was just a stop by and visit and then schedule a time for a complete lesson.  Before the task, I silently prayed that the gift of tongues would help as we got to know the investigator.  The task went super smooth and were able to set an appointment to meet with him later for a whole lesson.  Then we had a quick moment to revise our plan and then we went back in to teach.  This lesson went perfect.  If you tried to follow our plan you would have been lost.  Instead of sticking completely to the plan we made we applied the lesson directly to his needs as we found out more about him.  We were going to teach the second lesson but found out he had problems with the Word of Wisdom.  We relied completely on the Spirit and taught with testimony and scripture.  I am going to remember the immense Spirit I felt for a long time after.  Also, while E. Zylstra and I were discussing some things we could fix he commented on how fluid and correct my spanish.  Right then I remembered that I had prayed and the Lord had answered my prayer.  I am so grateful to the Lord's hand in my life and that He answers my prayers.  I know for sure that won't be the last time I ask the Lord for help with the language!
I had an interesting thought this last week.  E. Zylstra and I were discussing how ready we felt for the field.  We had discussed that our having made little dumb mistakes along the way aren't as important as what we learned from the mistakes and the person that helped me become.  I am going to confess, I am not perfect and feel sometimes I could have paid a little better attention in class or used my Missionary Discretion Time a little more effectively.  I can now say that I am much, much better about using my time more wisely and I have the seen the Lord bless me more and more.  One specific thought I had was if I were to go home right now, I would be a different person.  I then realized that I am ready for the field and that when I get there I will still have many opportunities to learn.  I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity to learn habits and gain testimony that will set a precedent and foundation for the rest of my life.  All decision I make now and then after my mission are affected by how well I serve the Lord.  Missionary work is an amazing blessing!
Lastly, I have news about my visa.  I found only about 25 minutes ago that I will not be getting a visa for about probably up to a month and that the First Presidency is working on a temporary reassignment for me as I write.  I will get this temp. reassignment either tomorrow or Friday.  I was pretty bummed at first because it could be a long while before I end up in Mexico but everything happens for a reason and I am in the Lord's hands doing the Lord's service.  I will go and the do things the Lord commands!  Anyways, it is pretty much like I am getting another mission call.  I am so excited to see where the Lord has decided to place me for the time being.
Well I love all of you so much and appreciate all the fun letters and support.
Elder Janis

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Elder Janis = Captain Moroni

Hey everyone!
This week has been great!  I am loving my opportunity to serve the Lord on a mission more and more everyday.  The Spirit is becoming a more constant and foundational part of my life here and I feel the Savior's love through this dependable companionship of the Holy Ghost.  Well, I thought that I would start out this letter with some bad news...they decided that since there are too many incoming missionaries that they are going to restrict the RC to only the Advanced Spanish speakers.  Before they would let the intermediate spanish speakers, me being one, have the opportunity to call also.  However, I do have some awesome news!  I should be getting my travel plans this week!  I will probably be telling you all about my plans the next time I get to email!
Well this last week has been full of a lot of changes.  I am not sure if I already told everyone about this but my district and another district were put together and then moved to a new location.  We got 6 new guys in our district and a new teacher.  I loved the way things used to be but I am also really enjoying the change.  I have gotten to know the news guys super well because I play soccer with them during our GYM time.  They are a lot fun and I have learned so much from them.  Our new teacher though is amazing.  She served her mission in Chile and is so intense about missionary work.  She has really helped us to have nativo pronunciation and not any gringo stuff.  She is a stickler for it but I have loved the fruits of her determination and mine.  She has also given some phenomenal advice and is key so far in my preparation for the field.  Her parents are converts to the church and her own convertion story was so cool to hear.  Hermana Alvarez definitely knows her stuff.  I feel that she is an answer to pray as I worry about how ready I'll be when it finally comes to heading out to the field.  Everyday I am feeling more and more ready and I have about 2 weeks!
So one of the suggestions Hermana Alvarez shared with us was that we should find and utilize examples with in the Book of Mormon.  We did this in class for Ammon and it was an amazing experience.  I decided the other day that for a personal study, I would do the same thing for Captain Moroni because of what it says in Alma 48:17.  It would be so awesome if I could legitimately substitute my name in there as a opposed to Moroni and it would mean the same thing.  I then read the entire verse taking special attention to the attributes it lists for Moroni.  I wrote them all down and then made some very specific goals to start applying his example in my life.  I have found that as I am reading the scriptures just how perfect they are for our day and age.  The Book of Mormon really was written for our dispensation and has so many wonderful truths.  I have loved taking the 45 minutes a day to really dig deep into the words of the pages and apply what I learn to my mission and then to the rest of my life.  We are SO blessed to have the restored gospel in our lives.
One of my most favorite things to do here at the MTC are the contacts.  A contact usually consists of my companion and I talking to another companionship, sharing our testimonies, and practicing our Spanish.  I have loved and cherished the opportunities to contact missionaries here because they give me the chance to use the knowledge I am gaining and my growing testimony.  Usually these experiences lead to opportunities to help other missionaries out with their troubles here or for my testimony and faith to grow.  E. Zylstra and I start our contacts out by getting to know them, asking them about their experience so far, and then listening to hear the Spirit tell us what to either teach or testify about.  My experience with Sister Maiava from one of my previous weeks is one of my most favorite memories here thus far.  I love the all the learning I am gaining here and look forward to all the future experiences I will have. 
I love being a missionary and putting on my name tag every morning!  It makes me so grateful that the Lord trusts me and has blessed me witht this opportunity.  Love you all!!!
Elder Janis

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

20 feet from Elder Holland

Well this past week has been one of my favorites thus far into my mission.  The biggest reason for that would be that on Tuesday last week we got the amazing opportunity to hear a devotional from Elder Jeffery R. Holland!!!  We had been hearing rumors all day that a General Authority was coming to the devotional but rumors like that seem to happen every Tuesday.  Luckily however, my companion forgot his card that lets us in for dinner in the cafeteria and so we skipped dinner and went straight to the gym where the devotional was going to be held.  Since we got there early, we were able to get seats within 20 feet from Elder Holland!  I kept thinking to myself as he walked in and sat waiting for the devotional to start how he really is a normal man with a calling from the Lord.  Sometimes because we only really see them on a TV screen during General Conference, the General Authorities look and seem like super heroes because of just how powerful their faith and testimonies can be. The Spirit was so strong right from the moment Elder Holland walked in the door and kept growing more and more as his talk went on.  One thing that he said in the introduction of his talk was that he loved us so much for doing all that we needed to do in order to be on a mission right now.  He then said that if he could possibly figure out some way to do it, he would have interviewed each of us missionaries one-on-one.  WOW, that would have been awesome!  Anyways, he said that he hoped the Spirit would touch us each individually by something he said that would make his devotional seem as if it were a one-on-one interview.  As he stood up there with out any preparation, paper, and only scriptures, Elder Holland gave us a talk and example of the Spirit putting words in the mouth of a faithful servant.  One thing that he said in particular that really hit me was when he was listing off some of the problems missionaries are having and that they need to be fixed.  He said that we need to teach with power at every lesson and this means we need to be spiritually tuning ourselves at every moment of the day.  Pondering on what it means exactly to preach with power I prayfully came across a scripture during my personal study.  It is 1 Nephi 15:25.  Nephi has has always been a great example of power and authority when teaching and he answered my question.  I wish that I had time to really relate more of the talk and my experiences after but I guess I will have to show my journal some day!
So I thought I would quickly fill everyone in on my RC investigator Sean.  He actually finally did meet with the missionaries in Maryland.  We called to ask him how it went and he told us that because of it that he was no longer interested in the church.  Sean was baptized into a church down his street and was found got really offended with the missionaries in Maryland ask him to be baptized with the priesthood.  He told us that he yelled at them and told them to never come companion and I are extremely sad for Sean and this situation.  However, Sean is still ok with Elder Zylstra and I calling back to checkup on him.  We have plans to continue to teach him so that he doesn't become to detached from the church.  He has such a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon.
I have such a strong testimony of God not only hearing prayers but answering my prayers.  I have been praying has the scriptures and Preach My Gospel teach and that is with all my heart in fervert, sincere communication with our Father in Heaven.  Then I would focus on that fact that the answer would come in the Lord's timing and not always immediately.  This last week I have gotten some immediate answers to prayer and sometimes I find the answer in a couple of days.  The scripture in 1 Nephi in the first paragraph is an immediate answer to prayer when I asked the Lord how can I learn what it takes to teach with power.  I have even come across even more scriptures that further enlighten my understanding of teaching with power.  Other answer to pray came as sudden inspiration to me as I was in the temple today.  I know that the Lord hears and answers our prayers and that we really can receive so many blessings if we just kneel down and ask for them.  I see the Lord's hand everyday in the work that we are going about here at the MTC and I know that I will see it everyday in the mission field as long as I ask in faith.
Elder Janis

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Possible Visa Delays

Hola Familia!
I had yet another awesome week here at the Missionary Training Center.  I am learning tons and the Spirit is amazing strongly all throughout the day.  I can't believe that it has already been one month.  Time is just flying by and I can already tell that I will need to always be diligent with time or it will just tick away.  My Missionary Discretionary times throughout the week are really beginning to have such a great impact on what I am learning and acheiving.  My teachers here at the MTC are also helping me become the best missionary possible and are such a wonderful blessing.  My teacher for the morning classes is Hermana Borgolthaus who served a mission in Fort Worth, Texas.  She is tons of fun and is great at teaching us all the Spanish grammar.  My afternoon classes are taught by a native to Equador who is going to BYU to learn English.  Hermano Galan speaks Spanish at blazing fast speeds and has the greatest ways to teaching us all the things we need to know from Preach My Gospel.  He teaches with such sincerity and has the ability to turn every class into a wonderful spiritual experience.  His fast speaking in Spanish is also really nice because rumor has it that Mexico will be even more fast.  Speaking of Mexico, only 4 more weeks!!!!
Well it could actually be more that just 4 weeks.  I have been waiting to email home the particulars about Visa problems until I had all the information that I could get gathered.  Mexican Mission Visas are being processed at slow speeds.  There is a huge pile up of missionaries that have completed the 9 weeks but don't have the ability to go to Mexico.  The record so far is 17 total weeks here in the MTC.  They have a special district for these missionaries in my zone comically called district X.  However, this last week, the Elders that were in this district were all reassigned for the mean time to different missions around the area.  Some went to Las Vegas, St. George, Salt Lake City, and Provo to wait until the Visas finally come through.  I am not sure what will be my case in 4 weeks from now but I will be fine with whatever happens.  Something I have been learning a lot since being here is that everything happens for a reason.  I'm not sure if I will  stay here for extra weeks or get temporarily reassigned but whatever happens I know it will be for the best.  I am still however praying that my Visa will come through as planned and that I can go to Mexico as soon as I can.
Thanks for all the love and appreciation from the home front!  I am doing great and love every moment I am having here.  The Lord has blessed me so much everyday here.  I know that He hears and has answered my prayers to which I am so thankful.  We really are all so blessed to be members of this church and to have the amazing faith and knowledge that we all have.  I hope everyone has a great start to a new school year.  I love you all so much.
Con mucho amor,
Elder Ethan Janis

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Helping out Sister Maiava

This last week has been the best week so far!  Everything seems to have started to click and I fell that I can really hit the ground running.  We started to have HSI, Habla Su Idioma, days where we only speak Spanish the entire day.  It started out really tough but has gotten progressively easier as I continue to keep working at it.  I am so grateful for the Gift of Tongues because I would not be able to learn Spanish this fast otherwise.  I also helps when my companion pretends to know no English on HSI days and keeps me striving for better ways to convey my thoughts and feelings.  Speaking of my companion, he is great.  We have a lot of fun and push each other hard to get the most out of our MTC experience.  I have learned so much from him and am astonished at his knowledge of the scriptures.  We definitely make a great team as we teach the voluteer investigators!
This last week I had a great opportunity to talk to my 15 year old investigator Sean!  We had a great conversation about the Book of Mormon where he bore his testimony that he knew that it was absolutely true and that he felt he was drawing nearer to God while he read.  Upon hearing this I asked if he would like to learn more.  He said that he would love to and now my companion and I are starting to teach the discussions to a real investigator!  We taught part of the first lesson to him on Monday and committed him to continue to read the Book of Mormon and go to church.  He said that he would do it!  We are going to call him and check in on him on Saturday and then finish the first discussion on Monday.  I am so grateful for my opportunity to teach Sean and am learning so much from the experience.
Another great experience I had this week was duing a Missionary Discretion Time where me and my companion were quitely studying in a garden area of the MTC campus.  At a table not far off was a solo sister trying hard to study while her district of elders were sitting not far off.  She was minding her own business when the elders started saying some very crude things out loud about sister missionaries in general.  I tried to block all of this out but couldn't help but notice the poor sister missionary uneasily shifting in her seat.  I then realized that all the crude things that the missionaries from her district weren't directly said to her but to she probably felt they applied to her directly.  When this realization hit my mind, I felt my stomach physically get sick for her.  I didn't know what to do to help her so I began to pray fervently that the Lord would help this poor sister out.  During my prayer, I got the distinct impression that I needed to go over to her table and contact her, get to know her, and then bear my testimony.  I did exactly that.  Me and my companion walked over, sat down, and started a conversation.  What started out as a contact turned into an opportunity where me and my companion really got to help Sister Maiava out.  We found out that her companion had been sent home after two days at the MTC leaving her as a solo sister.  Her district of elders were all very rude to her and she recounted many times where she would just cry at nights.  My heart just sank as she told me of her problems so far, but I felt the Spirit tell me I should bear testimony of how important missionary work is and that she is in the right place at the right time.  After I finished and my companion bore his testimony she looked at us and told us how grateful she was for us.  I have seen her around in the cafeteria and other places on campus and we will stop and chat.  Everytime she tells us how thankful she was that we stopped and talked to her and really cared.  I am so grateful my opportunity to be an instrument in the Lord's hands to help out this sister.
Well I really appreciate all your wonderful letters and prayers. Oh man, got to go....30 seconds!!!
Elder Janis