Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in Mexico

Hola Familia,
This last week flew by!  However, the highlight was definitely talking to you guys.  It was such a great experience talking and seeing your faces.  I am so thankful that we had the means to accomplish that!  Afterwards, I could not be more thankful in all my life that every single one of you is healthy and happy.  What a wonderful blessing it is to know and see that!!  Elaine and Chad, I am so excited to hear where you will be heading out on the mission and I could not be happier to know that you are making such amazing choices with your lives.  You will cherish the mission and never, EVER, regret the decision you have made.  Even if I don't have the opportunity to see your faces in person before you leave, I will do everything I can to be a cheerleader.  It is so amazing to me that you have made the decision to get out in the field as soon as possible and I know the Lord will bless you for that!
It was hard to say goodbye the other day as we ended the call because I could have easily talked to you guys for hours.  However, I will have more than just hours to talk to you and look forward to that time!  It was like a short dream that I had while talking to you guys.  I get so lost in missionary work that the time goes by so fast.  The phone call was amazing and afterwards is was back to work as if nothing happened.
Well, Christmas here in Mexico is quite the scene!  The 24th here is a huge party in which the people start at about 8pm and don't end until 6 or 7 of the morning (25th) the next day.  We walked out the door Sunday morning and there was no one in the street and everything was dead.  However there were exceptions to this with drunk people sprawled out onto the ground, something that makes me sad to see.  When we trying to sleep there were tons of parties competeing with loud music and fireworks all night long.  Ha ha, but it is a wonderful time it which the lifestyle here slows way down and families get together and celebrate.  We as missionaries ate tons of food on the 24th.  We ate chicken in red salsa, ham, and spaggeti and tons of chocolate.  The 25th, I ate tacos of cow heart, liver, tongue, and other cow innards.  We also ate turkey with ground beef, beet salad, fish, and more ham!  As you can see the traditions here are to eat a ton and be together as friends and family.
I was so grateful for the opportunity the Christmas season offers.  We receive gifts from the Lord all year round and sometimes we rarely give him gifts.  We had the chance to watch the Christmas devotional by the First Presidency and I really loved what Pres. Uchtdorf said about the different gifts we can give and how that makes the Christmas season something special.  I have thought a lot about  that recently and the only thing that is really mine right now is my will and agency.  When ever I make the decision to do the will of God instead of mine own I am really giving a wonderful gift to the Lord.  That is something that we can do in all times of the year.  This last Christmas I gave to the Lord more of my diligence and have already seen miracles.  I know that every time we make the effort to do what the Lord wants us to do we can find more happiness, peace, and blessings in our lives.  Like in all things, the Lord was the greatest example of this while he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane saying to the Father that he would do His will instead of that of his own.  Thanks to this humilty and love we now have the way to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.  I am so thankful for my Savior and for the opportunity that I have to serve him everyday.
I love you all and hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and the happy new year!!
Elder Janis

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Sisters Started Balling and The Holy Ghost Filled My Mouth With Words of Comfort

Hola Familia,

I had the most incredible experience this last week and we saw tons more miracles!!! :) I had wanted to be able to tell you all about them but due to time I will only be able to write a bit.

We started out the week without anyone that could be baptized. We made a list of the people that had attended church and went by every single one of them.  To make a long story short: One of the first families we stopped by answered the door saying, "why did you guys stop coming by? We want to learn more and finally be baptized."  Extremely happy and surprised we were invited in and after the first lesson everything was made concrete for Sunday.  All week we passed by and they were excitedly preparing for their baptism.  What a special experience it was in their baptism this last Sunday!

Saturday night we had another opportunity to find another person that wanted to be baptized.  We stopped by a recent convert's house and found his 12 year old son there.  We asked him for a couple of minutes to share a message.  He reluctantly came out and gave us a little of his time.  In the 15 minutes that we talked, he went from super distracted and unconcerned to being SUPER excited about being baptized.  While I was trying to encourage him to be baptized, I remembered that he has had problems with his dad after his mom passed away.  I then started to testify that the only way to be with his mother again was through being baptized.  When I said this his eyes lit up and he started interactively asking questions.  We ended the lesson and the next day he was baptized.  I was amazed at the miracle because we talked to him for the first time Saturday, we talked with him 15 minutes, and the next day he was baptized.  If that isn´t a miracle, what is!!! :)

The Sisters had a rough week and called me the other night to tell me about it.  I sat there listening while they both started balling.  Now if there is anything I know really well about myself it is that I am happy to listen but when it comes time to talk the words are hard to come out.  I have come to rely SO much on the Holy Ghost, and in this moment the Holy Ghost filled my mouth with words that I hadn't even thought before.  After listening a long while, there came the pause in which the Sisters were hoping for words of comfort.  I opened my mouth and words just came flowing out.  I hardly remember what I said but the effect was miraculous.  They started working the hardest they have yet this transfer.  I could not be happier with how things worked out and am so thankful for the help the Lord gave me in this moment.  Elaine, I thought you might think it would be funny to know that I thought about you and the times we just talked and it gave me confidence to know what to do.  I love the opportunities I have as a missionary to be a literal mouth piece for the Lord and for my investigators and district.

Well, Merry Christmas everyone!  I will be Skype-ing the 24th (Saturday) because I don't want to pay to do it on Sunday in an internet cafe.  I am so excited to see your faces and hear your voices!!! :)  However, I am not sure what time I will be able to be here to Skype.  I am thinking that it will be anywhere from 3-6 pm.  I hope that everyone in the family can be there to Skype!!! Oh, I will receive my Christmas package on Thursday!!! Thanks!!!

Elder Janis

Monday, December 12, 2011

Feliz Día de la Virgen Guadalupe

Hola Familia,
Feliz Día de la Virgen Guadalupe!!!  Haha, the 12th of Dec. is a great, huge festival here with people partying like never to celebrate the birthday of the virgin.  Well, this last week was great!  We saw more miracles!
Miracle: The Hnas. (i.e., Sisters) have been working really hard and were quite upset that they weren't seeing fruits.  We read Alma 32:43, one of my favorite scriptures, and I felt prompted to promise them if they were diligent and obedient this coming week they would see a miracle.  However, when they came to church they came without anyone.  They looked super sad and stressed.  They came up to me and jokingly told me that I had lied...however, I was devasted to see them so sad.  I had no idea how to help them but just prayed that things would work out.  When we went to class I saw a new face and after introducing myself I found out that she had come for the first time and that she lived in the area of the Hnas.  After welcoming her to church and I hurried to tell the Hnas. who about cried with happiness.  It was such a great experience to see them work hard this last week and then after all the hard work see a miracle and tender mercy of the Lord.
We went to Costco the other day and, for the cold weather that we have been having, I bought a really sweet jacket that will last forever after the mission.  It was weird to be in a place so familiar but so far from home.  I couldn't help but want to buy potstickers and other appetizers but with limited money knew that I shouldn't do it!  Today for P-Day we went to Aldo Conti and they were having a huge clearance sale.  They were selling ties for 25 pesos which is like 2 US dollars.  They are super high quality and were a lot more expensive before.  We are going to have a present exchange as a Zone today and I am excited to give Elder Dearden a coin pouch and cologne.  He is another district leader and he lives nearby where we are going to live.  I found the things he wanted super high quality but cheaper in the Tianguis in the street.  Tianguis: a street market where a bunch of stands sell whatever you could think, lining up and down the street.  I am super excited to see how he reacts to the presents.  I really love giving!
I am looking forward to another Christmas in the field and the chance to give to the Lord all of my time and effort.  I feel such a desire to work super hard this Christmas season because I feel I have been given so much from the Lord this last year.  I hope to finish the year obtaining the goals I have and giving all that I have to the Lord.  I love you all so much and hope that you enjoy the season and the chance to show love for others likewise showing love for the Lord!
Elder Janis

Monday, December 5, 2011

Doing What Even the Apostles and Seventy Can't Do

Hola Familia,

Many wonderful things happened this last week!  To start out the week we had the chance to have a zone conference with Elder Johnson from the Seventy and man was it great.  I learned a bunch of wonderful things that are opening the door to a more effective way to work with the Holy Ghost.  I am loving the opportunities that I have every week to be more dilligent and obedient in order to have the Spirit as a constant companion.  We also learned about the importance of using the mission as an opportunity to be converted to the Lord.  He helped us reflect on how converted we really are or for what reasons we are here in the mission.  I am thankful for the time I have in the mission to start putting these things into practice and really start achieving the potential that the Lord has planned for me.   I have been concentrating my study on this recently and on how I can really take advantage of being a representative of Christ enjoying the opportunities of the Spirit.  I only have 8 months to enjoy doing what even the Apostles and Seventy can't do.

We had a baptismal service for Mario and the children of the family that miraculously went to church with us Sunday last week!  I had the opportunity to do the ordinance and it was such a fun experience to help each one of the children be baptized.  They left the water SO happy and the mom was SO proud and happy.  I then did the ordinance for Mario.  He is the investigator that showed up with a friend at sacrament meeting last week.  He was SUPER excited when he got into the water and it looked like he almost cried as I helped him into the water.  After he was submerged he had the biggest smile on his face!  We waited for the dressing rooms to empty out and I had the chance to talk to him about how he was feeling.  With his huge smile, he told me how great he felt.  I will never forget his happiness and joy as he explained to me how he felt.  It really doesn't get old serving and loving people with all that I have.  There really isn't any greater joy in life than that which you find serving!

We have several potential baptisms for this coming week and I couldn't be happier! :)  I love you all!!

Con amor,
Elder Janis