Monday, May 30, 2011

Don't Be Afraid of Miracles

Hola Familia!
Elder Lubiano and I had a week unlike any other in my mission thus far!  The hand of the Lord is most definitely in every aspect of the work that I love.  We had many experiences that were absolutely amazing but due to the time I will share the two greatest.
We had interviews with President this last week.  Something I always look forward to because I learn tons and leave with a renovation of excitement for the work.  This last interview I talked to president about a goal that I have to baptize every week.  We discussed some of the things I could do to make it happen.  He then said something that I will never forget; "Elder, don't be afraid of miracles."
This stuck with me and for a while afterwards I couldn't help but think about what he had said.  We didn't have anyone with a baptismal date for the coming Sunday.  In the bus on the way back to our area, Elder Lubiano and I made a list of all the people that had been to church at least one time and aren't baptized.  Making plans for each and every one on the list we knew a miracle could happen.  The last person we wrote, we wrote rather reluctantly.  We hadn't seen her for two months and she previously had a baptismal date  The day of the baptism she went to her Christian church instead of her baptism.  However, one day we were close to her home when an appointment fell through.  We decided that we should give it a shot and see if she is the miracle God had planned.  When we knocked she was the one that answered the door and invited us in!  As we started the lesson with hymn and prayer I was praying silently that the words and scriptures would come.  After the prayer I started asking questions that came into my head and listened sincerely.  We asked the inspired questions that came to mind and listened for a couple minutes when the resistance to her baptism emerged.  She was praying and waiting for a sign from God to know if she should get baptized.  Seizing this opportunity we shared with her that God won't send an angel or appear himself to tell us if we should be baptized.  He sends us peace and assurance as little signs leading us to make the big decisions.  We then went through all the experiences she had had with us in church, lessons, and reading and praying on her own.  Together we were all enlightened as to the hand of the Lord in the conversion of Juana and that God had sent her all the signs she wanted and more.  After discussing all the small signs, I felt in a precise moment that I must invite her to be baptized.  As I started the invitation I felt a specific inspiration to do it for the Sunday 3 days away.  After giving the invitation, we sat there hoping that she would say what our hearts desired and what God wanted when she said the magic word, YES!!
This last Sunday we called her to tell her we were on the way to pick her up but she told us not to worry about it and that in 5 minutes she would arrive at the chapel.  She came driven with her own excitement and desire for her baptism.  This was definitely a miracle and I will never forget the important, powerful lesson I learned.  Never be afraid of miracles!
The other experience that we had was listening to an investigator, Raul, while he was bearing his testimony and experience about us missionaries to a member.  We walked in on them talking and heard that they were talking about us.  They invited us in and Elder Lubiano and I sat listening to a golden investigator, without doubt prepared by the Lord, tell the member that he was SO excited for his baptism.  He has a date for the 19th of June and will get married to his wife on the 16th of June.  I sat there just soaking in every word and I thank the Lord for having the opportunity to share the gospel with someone so spiritually prepared and in tune.  In the end of the conversation Raul and the member were crying due to the overwhelming sense of happiness we all felt hearing the testimony of Raul.
I absolutely love missionary work and feel so much gratitude for every single moment; the bittersweet, hard times and the extremely joyous and happy times.  I have never felt more happiness in my life than here serving our Lord and Redeemer.  I will never forget the things I'm learning and experiencing.  I cannot tell you how excited I am to start another week and search for more of these miracles; the moments when it is absolutely clear that this is the Lord's work and that we are instruments in His hands!  I love you all tons and tons!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Janis

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Power of Prayer

Hola Familia,
We had an awesome week!  It is so amazing the things we have seen the past few weeks!  To start off I thought I would let you all know just how awe-inspiring and slightly unreal it was to look Elder Oaks in the eyes and to hear an Apostle ask me how I was doing!  Elder Oaks came to our mission this last week and we all had the opportunity to shake his hand and share a quick few words.  He is so full of love and I don´t think there was anyone in the whole room and mission that didn´t have a huge smile on their face.  After the personally greeting everyone, he then gave a wonderful talk in which I learned so much and feel so much more pumped to work so much harder.  President asked that we all go fasting to the meeting because Elder Oaks told him that the words he says are dictated by the Spirit and that if we all came fasting he would be forced to say exactly what we needed to hear.  What a cool experience it was to see and feel the things the Lord needed me to hear and know from the words Elder Oaks said and the thoughts that have sprung into my mind during and after the meeting.  He seemed so normal just greeting us but the whole room felt different as he entered and when he spoke there was nothing that could have demanded more of my attention.  I am so thankful for the leaders of the church and all they do to help us complete our individual purposes here on the earth and return to live with God again.
Elder Lubiano and I had a pretty cool experience this last week with prayer.  We had baptisms this week and the days before the service are always so stressful.  However, I have realized and have seen that when I do everything I can in every moment God has given me in the mission field, I have the confidence that He will do the rest.  Every prayer that I offer, personally or in the companionship, is a plea that the opposition doesn't get the best of people preparing for baptism.  Everyday when we leave to work, I leave with confidence that God will grant us this help.
To expound a little more on this I will relate to you the experience one of the people we baptized had a couple days before her baptism.  She is the same lady that was robbed of 16,000 pesos.  The night before her baptism she told us flat out that she wanted to wait until the next week.  We asked her why and hoping that I would have the words to help her make the right decision, I almost laughed when she told us why she wanted to delay.  She wanted to buy a special new skirt to wear to church on her special day.  We helped her realize that she could buy the dress in the next week and have it for her confirmation.  This was a relief and pleasure to have her once again excited for her baptism.  However, the morning of the baptism is when we saw the miracles.  We stopped by her house on the way to the chapel to find her completely not ready to go to church.  She told us to just go ahead and go to the chapel and that she would meet us there.  She looked super exasperated and not in any state to meet us there.  We went to the church and while I stayed to prep the baptismal font Elder Lubiano went to pass by again.  He came back a little while later with her.  I went to see how she was doing and this is when she related her night before and the morning of the baptism.  She barely slept and when she woke up she had decided that she was not going to be baptized.  However, with a little bit of persistence from us and the power of prayer she somehow decided to come to church.  By the end of church she was so excited.
However, right before her turn to be baptized, a really tall man was baptized by my companion.  My companion had a hard time submerging him in the water completely and when he finally was under the water he starting flailing like crazy.  When he got control of himself he started coughing like crazy, accidentally swallowing some water.  Guadalupe, the lady with so much opposition, had huge eyes of worry and with reluctance followed me to the baptismal font.  I then had to spend the next 5 of so minutes telling her that everything would be alright and that she would feel so good afterwards.  Thankfully, her baptism went super smoothly and she came out of the water beaming.
I am so thankful for the power of prayer and that we have a kind Father in Heaven that cares, hears, and answers our prayers.  I will never forget these moments when prayers were answered, the experiences of the past, and experiences I will yet have.  I love the mission field and am so excited to start another week!!!!  Love you all!
Elder Janis

Monday, May 16, 2011

Que Guapo Estas

Hola Familia,
We had a rough week but it ended super well.  The rough parts were that our appointments on two of the days this week fell like flies.  However, we have three people with baptismal dates for this coming Sunday and they are so excited, each and everyone of them.  I enjoy teaching these wonderful people so much and look forward to their baptisms this week.
So a funny and very awkward story...Elder Lubiano and I walk down many streets here in Mexico City and people stare and quite often yell things at us.  I finally am starting to actually understand the things that they are shouting at us which is usually just a bunch of garbage.  However, one day we were contacting a woman on the sidewalk when a friend of the woman walks by.  They chat for a little bit and when the friend of the woman looks at me she starts off about how handsome I am.  I'm ignoring the friend because her embarrassing comments started at the point in the conversation with the woman when we were confirming when we could pass by.  I was talking to the woman we were contacting when the friend started walking in circles around our conversation continuing to remark "que guapo estas".  We started having passer-bys staring and as we settled on a time to stop by we left in a hurry.  As I tried to walk around the friend who was still going at it about how I look, she tried giving me a hug to which I nearly and so very thankfully avoided.  Laughing she continued to shout about what a "find" I was and other very disgusting things that I don´t think you what to know she said about me.  Ha ha, so basically, she must have be drunk or super drugged up to have even thought, let alone, say all of those things about me.
One of the people SO ready for baptism has only had one lesson with us.  She is in her mid-50s and when we passed by the first time we were hesitant to teach her baptism.  Unexpectedly, I felt that we should teach her baptism before any other doctrine and after teaching we invited her to baptism.  She very excitedly told us "SÍ"!!!!!  She then explained to us that she never liked the fact that when she was a baby her family got her baptized and she never got the chance to choose it for herself.  The idea of a new life and her very own choice were things she said she really needed.  Excitedly she has overcome many difficulties in order to prepare for the baptism.  One of which is that someone created a fraudulent bank account stealing 16,000 pesos which is about 1,500 dollars from her.   Being a bit older, not knowing how to read or write, and knowing nothing about banks, she has had a rough time working all of this out.  However, after learning how to pray she told us that it has given her a lot of peace and a sense that she is not alone.  We had a lot of pure joy helping her learn these wonderful truths and that she has a loving Heavenly Father.  Her baptism will be this week and we are excited to give her the rest of the lessons.
The greatest joy and happiness I have ever felt in my life really has been in the mission and I am so excited to go out for another week of hard work.  I hope to have great news next week.  I will work more diligent and obedient than ever to receive such a grand blessing.  I love you and hope you have a wonderful week!
Con amor,
Elder Janis

Monday, May 9, 2011

Appointment with the Lord

Hola Familia,

How amazing was it to Skype all of you even when we were all different places!  Thanks Dad for organizing and carrying it all out so that everyone could be there!  I really enjoyed hearing your voices and I feel even more excited to work harder.  I'm so glad to hear that everyone is doing so well.  I pray that things continue to be so well for all of you!

This week was exceptionally amazing!  Other than seeing the smiling faces of the people I love most, we baptized another family, another member of the Morales family, and had two baptismal services.  Elder Lubiano and I woke up at 4:50 in the morning on Sunday to go to the chapel early in order to clean the font. The window was left open to the font during the week and with the crazy storms we have had a lot of dirt settled and bugs entered and died.  Basically we spent a good amount of time cleaning the font, mortified at the thought of baptizing someone in what it was like.  The baptisms went super smooth and the wonderful sensation of seeing people take that step of faith never gets old, only better!

I LOVE studying in the morning.  President said something super interesting about studying in the morning and that it is "an appointment with the Lord."  I love this thought and have really enjoyed seeing what the Lord has planned for me every morning.  Each night I plan what I want and feel I need to study: Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Preach My Gospel, and Jesus the Christ are what I am currently studying.  I then read, search, and ponder the things I am learning.  I have had some amazing experiences this week, when I found a scripture that an investigator needed or my perspective of a gospel principle was widened, allowing for better application for another investigator.  I feel as if I really am putting on the armor of God every morning and that the Lord gives me the finest weapons to both find and teach His children, my brothers.  I love the "ah-hah" moments and the connections that come from a study that involves all the wonderful resources we Latter-Day Saints have.  Utilize these amazing fountains of spiritual strength and knowledge of the mysteries of God to give the Lord a chance to personally teach you everyday. Before the mission, I'll be honest I did not take advantage of such blessings but man I trying to compensate in the most wonderful two years of my life!

I love you tons and apologize for the shorter letter this week.

Con Amor,
Elder Janis