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 back...my 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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rerun of an Elder Bednar Talk

Hola Familia,
This past week has been awesome and so much has happened!  First thing I thought I would let you in on how my RC investigators are going.  Sadly the older woman that lives in Houston that I was talking to did not answer the phone the last time I called but I will not give up on her yet.  I have plans to call her back on Wednesday so hopefully she will be home and I can see how reading the Book of Mormon went.  However, Sean, the 15 year old in Maryland, answered the phone and we talked for almost a half hour.  We talked about his favorite stories in Book of Mormon and about how the Lord is already starting to bless his life.  I got a hold of the missionaries in his area and hopefully they will go and visit Sean.  He told me he knows the Book of Mormon is true and I have high hopes for him eventually being baptized.  I am gratefully already starting to see the love God has for his children.  This is the kind of love that I hope to have for all of the people I serve as a missionary.  I am planning to call Sean back and see how his visit with the missionaries went!
Another really cool experience I had this week was watching a rerun of a talk given by Elder Bednar here at the MTC.  Speaking on the Holy Ghost, he said that we can't think about whether what we are feeling the Spirit of just making the feeling up.  He says that it is basically a waste of time and that we should just "quit worrying about it and be a good boy."  He then promised in the name of the Lord, "I promise your steps will be guided and your mouth full."  I loved this message because I have already run into this sort of problem of deciding where this inspiration came from.  This talk struck home and has change my perspective!  Man do I love the apostles and prophets!
This week I also auditioned for a music presentation potentially for a fireside.  I worked with a friend that I have made in my district and perfomed in front of group of judges.  We worked really hard and it paid off because they loved our new arrangement of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."  Sadly, my friend is leaving tomorrow for the Peru MTC and they had no more openings.  They told us how sad they were that they didn't have any opennings but promised that if I prepaired a solo, they would let me not only pass the auditions but sing at one of the whole MTC firesides!!  I don't know if I could do that nerves-wise but I will think about it.
I have gained a huge appreciation for the scriptures this past few weeks but especially this past week.  As I have been searching for scriptures that apply to the missionary discussions, my testimony of the restoration and the plan of salvation has been fortified.  I also gained so much insight and advice from the scriptures in my daily reading.  With the Spirit as my best friend, by my side 24/7, I have learned so much from the scriptures.  I wish I could tell you all about the things I've learned but am running out of alloted time to time a letter.  I love the scriptures and look forward to all the wonderful things I will learn from them as I dedicate at least an hour a day to study them.
Well, I better get going.  Before I go though, I would like to tell my wonderful family how much I loved the package they sent me.  I had no idea that I was getting a package and it was an amazing surprise full of amazing goodies.  Thanks for all the wonderful letters everyone sending me.  I really enjoy hearing from all of you!  I am really seeing just how wonderful having the opportunity it is to serve a mission.  I feel so blessed that the Lord can trust me to represent Him and His church.  I know the restored gospel that we are blessed with is absolutely true and we benefit from this knowledge everyday.  I pray everyday to always be able to keep the Savior's trust and be an exactly obedient missionary.  I love you all and hope you have a great week!
Hasta el proximo tiempo con amor,
Elder Janis

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Second Week

Well this week was absolutely amazing.  To start out I thought I would relate to you all the experience I had in the Referral Center this last week.  First off the Referral Center, for those that do not know, is where missionaries have the ability to talk to potential investigators on the phone.  I have gone a total of three times since being here with the most recent one bring success.  I got on the phone with a lady in Texas who ordered a Book of Mormon and got the opportunity to bear my testimony to her.  She readily accepted it and I ask her to commit to reading the Book of Mormon.  I have plans to call her this coming Saturday to check up on the commitment and even set up a time to teach her on the phone with my companion.  I also talked to a 15 year old guy in Maryland whose read the Book of Mormon and told me he believes it is true.  He has actually been seeing the missionaries with his parents.  However, when I called him, he hadn't seen the missionaries for a couple weeks.  So I asked him to read some sections of the Book of Mormon and then I am calling him back this coming Saturday to see how it went.  I am going to either get the missionaries back there for him because he really wants to learn more, or I am going to teach him on the phone with my companion.  This two success, as I call them, have opened my eyes to just how amazing going about missionary work is.  I could feel confidence and knowledge come to me that wouldn't have been there without the guidance of the Spirit.  I love the RC and will look forward to every and any opportunity I have to go!  I feel the Spirit there so strongly and I so happy to be given this chance to teach even before actually entering the field!!
My RC experience hasn't been the only highlight however!  My week of missionaries to report are the first ones to be able to go to the Provo temple since it closed for repair and deep cleaning.  I am so grateful to the opportunities to go through sessions of the temple and have found so much strength from my time there.  I'm certainly happy for my dad and all the times we went together this summer.  It is such a blessing to have temples and to receive the blessings of attendance.  God really loves us and temples are a great showing of his love.
I have also grown to know of God's love for me personally to an even greater extent this last week.  I have been trying so hard to learn the gospel to the extent to where I can teach while also trying to learn Spanish that I often find myself disappointed when I miss a goal or am finding a Spanish grammar concept super difficult.  However, as I pray to Heavenly Father, I have felt his love for me and had some pretty amazing experiences.  One that I would like to detail would be after a certain day where I was so put down with how things went that day.  I said a prayer and fervently ask the Lord to help me get through this and continue with a good attitude.  After I finished my prayer, a simple thought came to my mind, read your patriarchal blessing.  Having received that distinct prompting I went and pulled it out.  I then had one of the most uplifting event in my life.  My patriarchal blessing had elements within that really helped me realize my potential.  After prayerfully studying the blessing, I realized that I had no need to be discouraged.  Since then, I have had opportunities to be discouraged but then I just remember what was in my blessing.
Well, I have to go but I wanted everyone to know how much I have appreciated your letters you sent me.  Thanks so much for all the prayers and love.
Elder Ethan Janis