Monday, September 26, 2011

An Incredible Week That I Will NEVER Forget

Hola Familia,

I had an incredible week that I will NEVER forget!  I'm sure you are all thinking, "well that's what he says every week" but hey I am extremely happy and so very excited to let you all in on what miracle we saw this last week!

So last week, I told you all about how a teenage girl from an inactive family with whom we had been working with told us in sacrament meeting that she wanted to be baptized.  Well, this last week Elder Méndez and I had the opportunity to go to the house of this less active family to teach and instruct the family along with Anahi who was so excited to be baptized.  However, every time we passed by, the father was super rough and didn't really want to talk to us about the baptism.  I don't remember if I told you in the last letter but he has a look that kills and it appears to warn you if you say something a little out of place in his opinion you'll receive a fist in the face.  When we would pass by and would say anything about baptism he would yell from another room "you're not getting baptized."  The mother would just roll her eyes and tell us that everything was ok and Anahi would yell something back like you already told me that I could do it. 

The day before the baptism (I, having been in other areas of my district helping them out, finally had the chance to be in my own area) we passed by to talk to the father and figure everything out.  We started the lesson with the idea to start talking about the program and see where things got us.  We started the lesson and invited the father to join us this time.  The room, the moment he sat down, got so tense and the mother had a look of pure terror as to what his response would be.  After about 10 seconds of silence and not knowing what to do exactly, I felt the need to say with courage, that came from not from me but from the Spirit, "Brother Iraseo, why exactly do you not what your daughter to be baptized?"  He then began to tell us that it was just flat out not going to happen.  A little lost as to how to react we felt the need to describe the experience that we had the past week with praying for a miracle, passing by with Anahi, and that she received an answer from God saying that she needed to be baptized.  He then said "well, she can get baptized because it is something that Anahi and my wife want to do but I will NOT be going."  Elder Méndez then shared with all of us an experience he had in which he was baptized secretly so that his dad wouldn't know and how sad he was to this day that his father wasn't there.  The Spirit filled the room so strongly and I was praying that everything would work out.  Anahi began bawling like crazy and out of nowhere Elder Méndez says, "Anahi hug your dad."  She got up without hesitation and sat on her dad's lap and cried begging him to come to her baptism.  He then began crying, shook his head yes, and left so that we would not see him crying.  I could not believe it!!

Flash forward to the next day and we entered the chapel to find out that there was absolutely no light in the church and none in the colony around it.  We also found out that someone, thinking they were going to help us out, turned the cold water on full blast and upon arriving at the stake center, the maintenance people were fuming because the font almost overflowed.  Elder Méndez and I were instantly overwhelmed and didn't know what we were going to do.  On top of that, the family of Anahi came walking in with the father in the lead.  He had absolutely changed to the extreme and was an absolutely different person to us.  They began asking us if we could reschedule the baptism.  To our delight and sweet surprise, Anahi responded to the complaints and desire for a schedule change saying, "It's the opposition that is doing this and I want to do it with or without light."  I then ran with another companion to a store next door to buy candles.  That morning I had felt the need to put all the money I had in my wallet and didn't know why I should, but I knew why in this moment.  I bought as many candles as I could and we then started the baptism as a candle light service.  We were beginning the services when the lights came back on!  Everything happened almost flawlessly!!

Everything turned out beautifully and I am so thankful!!  I really wish I could give you tons more details but I ran out of time...sorry!  I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!!

Con amor,
Elder Janis

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pambazos and What Felt Like It Might be a Fist in the Face

Hola Familia,

I had a very wonderful week!  Although I had just sent you an email on Friday we have the regular P-Day today and everything is back to normal.  Elder Mèndez and I are seeing tons and tons of miracles.  Every week it is a neat to see what the Lord has in store for us as we as search for the people prepared to accept the Gospel of Christ.  In our search of finding someone to help get baptized this last week, we went to a super inactive family that haven't been to church in years.  It was due to fight the family had with the bishop over if they could use the church building for a birthday party.  When the bishop said no they got super upset and decided that they weren’t going to come back to the church again.  Sadly enough they have a 12 year-old daughter that never had the chance to be baptized.

We were praying and searching for direction as to on whom we should focus and the thought came to us to see what would happen talking to this family.  The first lesson was super awkward and ended with the parents mad that we even talked about baptism.  Very apprehensive we returned to see what we could do to gain the trust and confidence of
the family and then talk to the 12 year old, Anahi.  We stopped by and they were in the middle of eating dinner and invited us to eat some Pambazos (it is like french bread covered in salsa with sausage and mashed potatoes inside).  We talked to them for a while and ended with laughter and the tension eased up TONS.  We then asked if we could talk to Anahi and they let us.  We talked to her and put her on date for this coming Sunday.  We left her with the assignment to pray and ask God if that was something that he wanted her to do.

We then showed up the next day to do an interview and in the interview the Elder worked with her for almost an hour and a half.  When they left she said that she wasn’t 100% sure she wanted to do it still.  We invited her to church and she told us that she would be going.  In Sacrament meeting the theme was about missionary work and return missionaries talked about their missions and especially about baptism. The Spirit was so abnormally strong and present.  After the meeting Anahi came up to us and told us, "I want to get baptized next weekend on Saturday."  Elder Mèndez and I could not help but stand there a couple of seconds in utter surprise until we finally responded with excitement congratulating her on the success of getting an answer from God.

What a miracle!  She was completely sure with the choice and told us that having talked to her parents they were comfortable with whatever she decided to do.  She was super excited too and we know that this will help the family to begin to come to church once again.  I am so grateful for the blessings and miracles that the Lord is sending us.  We weren’t even sad that we didn’t have someone to baptize this next week because the baptism of Anahi is a HUGE miracle.  I wish I could describe to you how hard and tense that first lesson was with this family.  The father looks like if something we said didn’t go over well with him we would receive a fist in the face.  However, due to the Spirit, patience, and a lot of prayers we saw the miracle!  I am super happy right now and ready to see what the Lord has in store for
us this coming week!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Janis

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Hola Familia!
So are you all wondering why it took me so long to be able to write this last week.  Today the 15th of September is the shout ("el grito") of Independence and tomorrow is Independence Day here in Mexico.  In the center of Mexico City, el Zocalo o Plaza La Constitución, thousands of people gather together to shout the cry of independence.  The President of Mexico comes out onto a balcony and shouts things like "VIVA MEXICO!" and everyone shouts.  Instead of having P-Day on Monday, President Villarreal told us we could write on Thursday and have P-Day on Friday.  Tonight we are going to have a small party with the missionaries here in my zone (Tenayo), eat tacos, and then go home a little bit early.  There are going to be tons of pachangas (large parties) and you would say it was Christmas here a little early with everything that the people do here to celebrate.  The traditions and culture here are deeply rooted in the people.
This week was absolutely amazing!  We had two baptisms that were pure miracles.  One was Kelly who got baptized Thursday night and the other was Julia who got baptized Saturday afternoon.  It was a little hectic this week running from one area to another area interviewing the other district's investigators and then coming to our area to help the people we had with baptismal dates prepare for baptism.  My companion, due to the success we are having, is excited and does great work in the area when I can't be there which is a huge blessing.  He is such a great companion and is helping me learn how to apply the saying of an apostle "come what may and love it!"
So something I have taken to love learning more about myself here in the mission is.  I never thought about it before now but I didn't know much about myself before the mission but through the trails and success of the mission and especially this last week I have learned tons about myself.  I am learning what my strengths are and what are my weaknesses.  The thing that I really am loving is how I have learned to be able to apply the Gospel in my own life and gain strength and understanding from the Atonement.  I am learning that you can apply the Atonement in so many different ways gaining understanding, patience, and love for others.  This last week I started wonder why I was having this trial and that other trial but realized that was an opportunity to accept the chance to learn more about the Atonement, forget about myself, and work harder than ever.  What a blessing it is to have trials and afflictions.  It might sound quite weird to be saying that but I can really see myself learning and progressing more rapidly.  Every trial that I face is like God being a sculptor shaping me with time, thought, and love into the man/missionary that he needs me to be.  What a pleasure it is to face the trials and look for ways to rely more on prayer and the Atonement.  I am grateful for this perspective that the mission is helping me to gain.
I love all of you and look forward to telling about another miracle of a baptism and the other wonderful things we see as missionaries everyday this next Monday.  Thanks for all the love and support and especially for the prayers.
Con mucho amor,
Elder Janis

Monday, September 5, 2011

Another Amazing Miracle

Hola Familia!
WOW!! I cannot believe that people think that the heavens are sealed and that God doesn't work with miracles in our day and age.  After finishing this week, I can't even image thinking something so untrue and sad.  I literally participated in such an amazing miracle that even now as I write this letter I am humbled by the hand of the Lord in our lives.  Let me start out by telling you that Elder Mendez and I started out the week without anyone to baptize for the coming weekend.  We decided that we couldn't let that affect our excitement we HAD to work harder and smarter in order to find someone to help accept the gospel of Christ.  We were thinking about the amazing people that the Lord has blessed us to teach when we felt that we needed to put on date for baptism Pedro and his wife, Margarita, for this next Sunday.  However, we thought it would be amazing to baptize the two of them this last Sunday but we recognized that it wouldn't be easy.  They aren't married and Margarita was in Leon about 5 hours away from here and nobody knew when she would return.  Despite the seemingly impossible feat it would be to help them get baptized we decided to work with the hope and have faith that the Lord would help us make it happen.
Last Tuesday we taught a review of baptism and invited Pedro to be baptized.  He responded excitedly but as we explained the need to be married in order to be baptized he got super pensive.  We asked him rather apprehensively when Margarita would be home so that we could set goals and he surprisingly told us in the next day or two.  When we heard this we knew that we had felt the need to talk about baptism with Pedro for a reason and set the goals for Friday to be married and Sunday to get baptized.  We passed  by every day, Margarita came home on Wednesday, and Friday they were super excited to go and get married.  They got married by a member lawyer who helped us help them get married for super cheap and everything was perfect and working like a well-oiled machine.  However, Saturday in the morning as we were doing Personal Study (I was reading a Conference talk called "Come what may, and love it" about not letting the circumstances of life stop us from being happy [not a coincidence]) when we got a call from Pedro that his father had died and that he was going to leave for his father´s house and didn't know when he would get back.  Shocked and unsure what we should do we passed by his house before he left to give him words of comfort and to tell him that we could save the baptism for when they got back.  They were grateful for the words of comfort and rather surprisingly they told us that would still like to baptized on Sunday.
I cannot tell you how hard it was to not worry and work with a lot of excitement due to the last minute change in plans.  However, Elder Mendez and I decided we would pray first and then look for back-up plan for a baptism.  We then worked harder than I have thus far in my mission and had tons of unexpected success.  We helped someone that we thought was one of those eternal investigators accept a baptismal date for the coming Saturday at 4pm!  However, ending the day and starting Sunday we didn't have anyone with baptismal date for the day.  We just kept on working and didn't let ourselves get down and man was it hard for me to not be stressed but celestial help made it possible to work with happiness and excitement.  At 4:30 we almost lost the calm and confidence but decided that we were fasting and with prayer everything would work out.  At 5 o´clock we got a surprise text message from Margarita saying that they had just got home and that they wanted us to stop by!!  We sure did stop by and an hour later they were in the all white!!!! :)  They were so excited to have had the chance to be baptized this week and the service was especially wonderful.
I know that this was a miracle and evidence that this really is the Lord´s work.  Starting the week we had thought it impossible to have accomplished such a feat.  I feel so blessed to have been apart of this hard but trying experience that turned out to be so rewarding and special.  I have never had felt so happy in my life and it wasn´t happiness due to baptizing, it was what I call celestialized happiness brought from the success of others!  I have learned that when we put our eye single to the glory of God we receive the greatest rewards and blessings.  I know that this was a blessing due to the diligence and obedience that Elder Mendez and I did; everything we could to have this blessing.  I will never forget this week and look forward to seeing more of the miracles that the Lord always has prepared for me here.  I cannot explain to you all the happiness and love I have being here and never want it to stop!  I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Janis