Sunday, March 27, 2011

That is what you call a family of gold!

Hola Familia!

Elder Diaz and I had an absolutely amazing week!  We had a baptismal service where a wonderful family was baptized.  Remember one of the stories that I shared in the last email home about a man who lived in Arizona, knew the church there, and contacted us in the street.  He and his family were baptized this last week.  We knew them for a little over one week and they were baptized!  That is what you call a family of gold!  What a sweet experience it was to pass by their house every night before the baptism to teach them and to see how they just accepted everything.  We are going to take them to the temple this next week to teach them how exactly they can become a eternal family.  The members are so happy to have another family in the tiny ward here.

I am so excited for Conference this next weekend and I am looking forward to learning tons.  I have read many. many talks this past few months and have enjoyed applying what they taught.  We are so blessed to have a living prophet and apostles.  Every time I teach someone that we have a living prophet and apostles it hits me harder and harder just how blessed we are.  We get to hear the mouthpiece of God talk to us twice a year.  I am going to pray that I will get the answers that I need from the divinely prepared talks that are going to be given.  Last conference I did this and received mounds of answers even for questions I didn't really know I had!

I love all of you so much and look forward to telling you all about how our coming week goes.  We have many great things planned and are working towards baptizing another complete family!!


Elder Janis

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Holy Ghost Speaks Softly and Quietly

Hola Familia,

We had a wonderful week and I am so happy to be starting another!  We are having a surprising amount of success and I am just loving it!  We had many new investigators and four complete families came to church with us this Sunday.  As I sat in sacrament meeting I could not help but be overwhelmed with gratitude for the families the Lord has given us to teach and that they are accepting what we are teaching them and coming to church.  We hope to baptize three of the families in this next coming week.  I am going to do EVERYTHING I possibly can to make this happen.

It was so fun to read about the trip to Disney World and I had fun remembering when we went way back when.  I couldn't help but laugh at my own memories of the Tower of Terror and how full of terror I remember feeling.  I am so happy to hear that it was a great break and that you all had a great time.  This makes me happy because I am having the time of my life and I don't want to steal all the amazing experiences in life! :)  If you can, please send me a couple pictures of what you did while there!

This last week I have had so many experiences that have proved to me one thing that I hope I always remember.  The Holy Ghost speaks softly and quietly; just go to work and make decisions which feel right.  The first experience I had was during nightly planning I felt that we needed to put a certain investigator as a back-up plan.  The next day we ended up needing the back-up plan and had a wonderful lesson with a family that we hope comes to church this next week.  As we left I felt that we should stop by a reference that is never home when we stop by.  We walked down a street that was different than normal to her house when someone yelled "Elders!".  We were stopped by a man who knew the church in Arizona and wanted us to come to his house to meet his family and to share our message with his family.  My companion and I were in a slight state of shock and my companion told me, "He just fell from heaven!"  They are one of the families that came to church and we are going to baptize them this coming week.  We then got to the reference and she was home!  After scheduling an appointment with her, I felt we should stop by a member who lived one street over and who after talking for a bit gave us three references.

Another experience was the other night, Elder Diaz and I were out with the Ward Mission Leader when the last two appointments fell through.  Thinking of the most productive thing we could do with this time I thought of all the new investigators we had received.  However, Maria Teresa, Jaqueline, and Alan popped into my mind and I didn't know why because they were doing fine and we needed to focus on the people we just started to teach.  After talking to my companion we decided we should stop by.  When we arrived it was clear that the hand of the Lord was behind us coming.  Jaqueline was in a horrible state of guilt and shame due to having broken the Word of Wisdom with another member at party this weekend.  She felt terrible and just cried and cried.  We helped her realize that the Lord doesn't want her to feel this way and that if she repents all the pain and guilt will go away.  She was so grateful for this advice and called her friend to give him the same advice.  Before going to call her friend she related to us that after church she felt so horrible and tried to think of someone she could talk to.  Her mom wasn't home and her friend was basically in the same state.  She was on her way to talk to a non-member friend when she felt that she should go back home.  On the way back home she almost gave up to deal with everything herself, and then I called her to see if they were home.  She hurried home to find us waiting to help her.

These experiences were started with just thoughts that popped into my head and turned out to be spectacular experiences.  First, we were just in the right place at the right time.  The second, an opportunity to give strength to someone that had almost given up on the church and all that she knew to be true.  I am so humbled by these opportunities to have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord and am grateful that I listened.  I am going to pay more attention from now on so that I don't miss even one whisper or Spirit-driven thought.

I really am having the time of my life and am learning things that I will treasure for the rest of my life.  I love all of you tons and tons!  Thank you Grandma Janis for all of the letters from the cousins and Kristina for the Birthday card.  I want to start thanking the people that write me in this letter home to my family so that you know it made it to me and that I am so grateful for them!  Oh, and Mom don't worry, I haven't received the package but look forward to the day it arrives!!

Con mucho cariño,

Elder Janis

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sorry for all the "poop" I gave you Mom

Hola Familia!

Wow, what a busy and successful week!  As I related in my last letter I received a kid this last week.  I could not have asked for a better missionary to train.  He is really smart, but super humble, something that takes an average missionary a while to learn.  Elder Diaz is his name and he is from Tampico, Tamaulipas, the Rock and Roll center of Mexico.  I have really grown to like his fun sense of humor and contagious excitement to work and work harder.  He was rather shocked by some of the cold shoulders we sometimes get as missionaries but resiliently he went back up to his high level of excitement.  In our training that we had on Monday, the President informed us that he put each trainer with a new missionary for us to learn from one another.  I am really excited to learn from my "verde" (greenie).  He constantly asks me "how did I do".  I think that I might start asking him the same the question because I am by far not done learning.

So, Mom I thought I would tell you something that might make you somewhat pleased in spite of all the poop I gave you about piano lessons all those years.  One of the members has a piano in their home and while she was making last minute preparations of the food, her kids asked me to play Moonlight Sonata on their piano.  She heard me play, told the other sisters in the ward, and now I play the hymns in sacrament meeting.  Almost every member has told me how thankful they are to finally have someone use the piano and how much they enjoy the piano compared to the CDs that they use here.  Despite my mistakes and awkward rhythms at times the ward members seem so pleased.  I know that the Lord is making me better at playing the hymns than I really could otherwise because sometimes I am asked to play hymns that I have never played before.  I am grateful for the help from the Lord because I wouldn't be able to play the songs the director asks me to play otherwise.  The Lord´s hand really is in every aspect of missionary work!

So a little update on Beto.  He has gone a week and half with out a sip of alcohol or smoking!!  We had a neat experience where Elder Diaz and I gave him a priesthood blessing which I know has helped him make it this far.  He was so excited for the blessing and is getting more and more excited for his baptism.  We had him planned for baptism but he failed his baptismal interview.  He has a girlfriend that he never told us about that he will have to either marry or separate from her.  He also has decided that he can't give up his Santos (Saints) seeing as they were given to him by his mother.  So basically we have a lot of work cut out for us with him but I know he can do it.  He has changed tremendously and all aspects of his life are improving.  The light that Christ emanates is definitely evident in Beto and I hope he does what he needs to in order to keep this progress and be baptized.

I read Elder Janis' (Damon) letter home and wanted to also convey my love for missionary work as second witness to what he said.  To all those that are preparing or planning to serve a mission let me tell you that will never EVER regret the decision.  I have had moments in my mission that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and cherish.  I love sharing the Gospel with people and that has brought me priceless peace and purpose seeing these feelings brighten the lives of those we are teaching. The joy and pleasure the Book of Mormon prophets describe to us is real and I testify to how I have never felt happier.

I know that we have a living prophet and that the power of God is on the Earth today. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and a palpable evidence to the love of Christ and the truthfulness of the Restoration.  I know that Christ died for us but now lives to make us free from sin and sadness.  Look to Him who did it all for us so that we would not have to suffer.  I love the Savior and I love the work He has called me to do!

Elder Janis

Monday, March 7, 2011

I'm a Dad!

Hola Familia!

Elder Figueroa and I had a wonderful last week of the transfer and I have some absolutely amazing news to tell.  First of all, we had two baptisms this last Sunday; one for Angelica and the other was for Jesús.  We have added a lot of young men and women to the ward and they are giving us referrals to their friends with hopes of converting all the students in their home room!  Angelica is a solid convert and addition to the Relief Society.  I have especially liked helping her find the light of the Gospel and see her overcome a lot of marital problems.  Her baptismal service was so full of the Spirit and the members are becoming more and more a part of our investigators´conversion.

Guess who came to church....BETO!!  We passed by and taught him everyday expect once this last week solving many doubts and encouraging him to leave alcohol and smoking.  Saturday and Sunday were two days free of drinking and smoking!  He is actively preparing himself to be baptized this coming Sunday which means he cannot drink or smoke the whole week or we have to push back the baptism another week.  His family was kind of annoyed by us when we first started talking to Beto but know all seem really happy when we pass by!  I am hoping that they will let us start teaching them soon.  Beto loved church and has so much faith.  Saturday night, I passed by with my District Leader after he interviewed Jesús.  Beto told us that he will not go to church because as he leaves alcohol he has attacks and convulsions, his breath stinks, and his foot is super swollen and blotchy.  We talked about how the Lord wants him to go to church and that if he prays for the Lord´s help, he will be able to go.  Miraculously enough, we arrived with a group of investigators to find him waiting outside the gate.  He was sweating like crazy after walking on his swollen foot.  It is amazing what the Gospel can do to the people we teach!

Ok, so today is the start of the new transfer and I have some pretty exciting news.  I am going to have a kid!  President Villarreal called me to train a new missionary this next transfer making me a dad.  I was planning on only being bumped up to Senior companion being in Mexico for only one transfer but was SO surprised to become Senior Companion and trainer.  I am so excited for this opportunity!  At the same time, I am super humbled by the responsibility of both these calls being given to me at the same time but I know that if the Lord trusts me to do it, then I can do it!  I don´t know who he is yet but in a couple of hours I am going to go to a training meeting, after wards I meet my new companion.  I am so excited for the things that I will get to teach my son including obedience and diligence.  This will be a crazy learning experience for the both of us but the Lord will qualify both of us.

Well, I have to head out to get a haircut and then go the mission offices.  I love you all and am so thankful for the letters you have sent me.  Every single one of them is super special to me and I appreciate the time you spent thinking of me.  CONGRATULATIONS Chad on being accepted to BYU!  You are going to LOVE it!

Elder Janis