Monday, February 28, 2011

The Most Smooth Sailing Baptism Thus Far

¡Hola Mi Asombrosa Familia!

We had an amazing week!  After the trials of last week, this was a week of mountains of success!  Maria Teresa was confirmed this week making the family all members of the church.  Each and everyone of them has changed so much and it is so cool to hear them talk about the experiences they have had.  I look forward to a year from now when I will go to the temple with them!

We had one of the most smooth sailing baptisms thus far in my mission.  We baptized a girl named Vanessa whose mom was baptized a couple months ago.  We are hoping that with her baptized also, the family will become more active.  Vanessa is excited to be baptized and has helped her mom start coming to church regularly!  Also most of the people here have never swam in a pool or been fully submerged and sometimes the baptism can take a while because they are scared.  With some people it takes four or five tries because they flail and kick and aren't fully submerged.  Vanessa went down smoothly and came up smoothly; my first one here that wasn't a problem.  She has changed so much and we are hoping that she likes the changes and will help her other siblings follow suit.

We have started teaching an alcoholic named Beto who is in such a sad state.  He cried tons in our first lesson with him in which he described to us the pain and sadness alcohol and his  addiction has brought into his life.  He confided in us that he feels we are sent from his "Jefe" or as we call Him, Jesus Christ.  We spent time writing down all of the things that he has been missing out on or that he has lost because of his addiction and also what triggers his drinking,  After we made the list, we spent a time thinking of ways that he can distract himself from drinking by doing his favorite things.  We helped him realize that his "Jefe" wants to help him and will give him the strength to overcome this problem.  He seemed so happy and excited when we left.  We left him a couple photos of Christ to put up in his room because he confided in us that the typical depiction of Christ on a cross is sad and he would rather remember Christ in a better way!  Not many people here feel this way, rather quite the opposite!  We are going to pass by him everyday this week!

We took another family to the Mexico City Temple and man are they sooooo solid.  Esperanza, the mother, keeps asking me if preparing for baptism is hard and what they will need to do to be baptized.  They are so ready right now they just need one more Sunday in sacrament meeting and the parents need to get married.  They are a great family and it never gets old watching and helping people change.  They are all Jehovah's Witnesses except for the father and it was a surprise how easily they accepted the message we share.

I am loving life and am so excited for this next coming week.  I know that the Lord will bless us for our obedience and diligence despite the hardships of last week and he has blessed us!  I love all of you and hope you have a great week like I am going to have!

Elder Janis

Monday, February 21, 2011

Like a Good Soldier of Jesus Christ

Hola Familia,

Elder Figueroa and I had a rather hard week.  We had 6 investigators get interviewed for baptism with three that were going to be baptized this last Sunday.  However, Saturday night one of the baptisms fell through because his mother wanted him to have his first communion and told us "déjenos en paz ya."  Meaning that she a wants nothing to do with us and wants to stay Catholic.  The day before she was all for his baptism and was planning on getting married in order to receive a baptism herself.  We are going to pass by the family again in a little while when they have settled down a bit.  The other two decided Sunday morning they had important things to do and that they weren´t going to come to church asking that their baptism could be another day.  This was especially sad because they know how important this baptism is and blessings they will receive.

Despite this dreadful ending to a week, I learned a valuable lesson.  We were obedient and diligent doing everything in our power and ability to help our investigators make this important step but ultimately they have their agency.  Every single one of them knew how important following the example of Christ is and made the decision to put it off.  I felt a lot of sorrow for these decisions but know that I did everything I could have done.  I felt peace and love from the Lord poured out upon us as we continued to work hard and be obedient despite the hard times we had.  I like to think that "estamos bajando para subir."  (we are having difficult times to only have better times!)  The Atonement was not a cheap or easy experience for the Lord, the Only Begotten of the Father, meaning that it won´t be easy for me as I bring souls unto the Lord.  I truly love the mission and this last week as made me love it even more.  The hard times are how we get to grow closer to the Lord and have provided me with opportunities to be even more firm in my diligence and obedience. On an amazing note, Alan received the Holy Ghost this last Sunday and Maria Teresa will this next week.  I am so grateful to have baptized this amazing family and love seeing their growth.  They are starting now to make preparations to enter the temple!

I love the Lord and enjoy every moment in His work.  I look forward to the successes that I will have and will endure the tribulations "like a good soldier of Jesus Christ."  I love all of you!

Elder Janis

Monday, February 14, 2011

Well, you´ve come to the right place! or Chamaca vs. Chamarra

Hola Familia!

I have some awesome news!  About two weeks ago, we baptized a 14 year old girl that changed so much as she prepared for her baptism.  She left behind alcohol and partying (something quite normal here) to do what she knew was right; even when it took a lot of effort and time to get permission from her mom.  Well, her mom and brother were baptized this last Sunday!  It was such a neat experience because her mom, Maria Teresa, is so converted.  She has even decided to leave her job and find another so that she can attend church each week.  Finding work right now in Mexico City is not an easy task but she told us that she will trust in the Lord.  She has already got a job that is lining up and we are praying that it all works out!  Alan is the brother who just turned 8 on Saturday and cried when Maria Teresa said that they were going to wait until this coming Sunday for the baptism.  She changed her mind and decided to do it this last week because of how bad Alan wanted to do it.  It has been such a joy teaching them and especially seeing how much peace they found in the Gospel.  I will miss stopping by to teach them but look forward to finding another family that I can help have the same experience!  We are going to talk to Maria Teresa more about how she can prepare for the temple and eventually do the work for her husband who passed away.  I hope to be here when she goes through the temple and gets sealed to her husband.

Elder Figueroa and I were out contacting in the street when we felt the need to stop by a less active member that we have been trying to get a lesson with for weeks.  We decided that this would be the last time we would stop by seeing as we have already tried a couple times.  We knocked on the door and her daughter answered the door to tell us that her mom wasn´t home.  Before we left, the daughter told us that one of her neighbors wanted to talk to us.  The neighbor invited us in and introduced herself as Lourdes.  She is a mother of a two year old and is hiding from her husband while they work out a divorce.  She told us that she really needs peace in her life and a friend told her that she could find that peace in our Church.  When we heard this we basically said, "well, you´ve come to the right place!"  She is on date for this coming Sunday to be baptized.  This experience has helped me grasp at the fact that we are guided by the Spirit even when we don´t really know it.

I had another rather embarrassing Spanish mistake that I thought you might enjoy!  I was holding Alan´s jacket when he told us that it was really cold outside.  Trying to remember the word for jacket, I told Alan to put on his "chamaca" thinking it meant jacket.  The response I got from him, his family, and my companion was tons of laughter.  Then, figuring it was the word I used for jacket, I asked Elder Figueroa what the word I said meant and what word I should have used.  He then told me that "chamaca" is slang for a girl and that the real word is "chamarra".  So basically, I told an 8 year old to put on his girl...I won´t be making that same mistake twice!

This last week I studied a talk in the last General Conference by Elder Scott about the importance of faith and character.  I absolutely loved reading this talk and many things started to click for me.  One thing in particular that I think about at least once a day is how far I have progressed and how far I want to have progressed by the end of my mission.  Elder Scott helped me realize that one of the most advantageous fruits of my mission would be a fortified character.  He talked about how character is built through faith, obedience, and diligent application of the things I am learning.  That is what a mission is all about: bringing souls unto God through faith, obedience, and diligent application.  It then dawned on me that a solid, fortified character built on these principles would serve and support me until the day I stand in front of God to be judged.  Elder Scott stated that our character will be a good measure of how well we used our opportunity of earthly probation.  I have taken to focus on these three building blocks of character this past week.  What an opportunity I have to serve the Lord and get a huge boost in gaining and maintaining the character that will carry me for the rest of my life!

Elder Figueroa and I had an amazing week and have all the plans for yet another.  I plan to focus on my faith, obedience, and diligent application as it will bring me results that I need and God has planned for me.  I hope all of you had a great Valentine´s day!  I love all of you!

Con mucho amor,

Elder Janis

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's the best two years for your life...

Hola Mi Familia Chida,
I thought I would use some of my Chilango vocabulary to describe me wonderful family!  Chida is the Mexico City way of saying "awesome" or "cool". 
So this week was a spiritual roller coaster and I have never felt as close to the Lord as I have this past week.  We had a district meeting, zone meeting, and then a zone conference where President Villarreal spoke.  The Zone Conference was such a neat experience because Pres. Villarreal always knows what to say to make us want to be even more dedicated and obedient.  One thing that he said that I have taken in to be my anthem for the week is "A mission isn´t the best two years of your life; it´s the best two years for your life.  God will challenge you to become the man that he needs and knows you can become."  The mission has its ups and downs but with this perspective I have looked forwarded to the hardships; the opportunities that I have had where all I could do is humbly kneel before the Lord, pray for strength and perseverance, and then get right back to work in the glorious vineyard.  I have come to love the implications and fortifying strength of hope, an attribute of Christ that comes directly from our faith.  I have found that even in the hardest moments here in the mission I can always see the light of hope that emanates from Christ.  My hope is that I can really learn from these experiences and show my love for God through becoming the man he has placed me here to become.
Not only am I learning to embrace the hardships but I am loving the sweet experiences of seeing lives change and hope ignited in those we are teaching.  Jaqueline, who we baptized this last week, got confirmed on Sunday!  She has changed so much and is such a strong example for the rest of her family to follow.  Her only family-mom and brother-will be baptized this coming week.  Alan, her brother, is turning 8 this coming Saturday the day before he and his mom get baptized.  We had a great experience this last Saturday when we took Jaqueline and her family to the Mexico City temple Visitor´s Center (VC).  Right when the bus pulled up along side the temple, I could feel the peace and love from God that can only come from being in or near a temple.  I was hoping that Jaqueline´s family could feel the same things as we took a tour around the visitors center.  The VC here in Mexico City has a Chirstus statue like the one that is in the Salt Lake City Temple Visitor´s center.  There was a narration of Christ talking while we sat in front of the statue that our investigators liked a lot and that has always made me feel so peaceful.  The mom, Maria Teresa, especially liked how the narration said, "if you love me, keep my commandments."  We then had a virtual tour of the temple where Maria Teresa was especially interested in the work for the dead in the temple.  She already has the desire to have the baptism and sealing for her husband that has passed away.  I have really grown to love this family so much and am so blessed to see the gospel change their lives for good.
Well, I am out the door to start another week and hit the streets looking for more people ready to hear and accept the gospel.  I know that Christ lives and his hand is guiding missionary work.  I hope to get better and better at discerning the promptings of the Spirit so that we accomplish the work we are meant to accomplish in this area.  This opportunity I have never grows old and I won´t let it!  I love the good times and cherish the hard times.  I hope every single one of you had an amazing week too!
Con inmenso amor,

Elder Janis