Monday, July 23, 2012

This is the last letter that I will be writing you from the mission.

Hola Familia,

This is the last letter that I will be writing you from the mission...it has been a crazy week!  I have been trying so hard to focus on the mission these past two years that it is almost super weird to start thinking about home.  I am now in the mission office with my "generation".  We have today to go do whatever we want.  I am planning to see a couple more things in the center of the city and visit some souvenir shops. Tomorrow we are going to go to Teotihuacan; to the pyramids of the sun and moon.  We are going to go with a tour guide that knows about church archaeology.  We are going to take an English Book of Mormon so that we can see the relation between the architecture of the pyramids and the Book of Mormon.  HOW COOL WILL THAT BE!!!

Wednesday we are going to go to the Temple and then have dinner with President and his family.  We are going to end the evening with a testimony meeting.  Thursday I will be beside myself with excitement as I wait for you guys to pick me up at the mission office.  I am SOOO excited to see you all!  I don't have much time to write but I thought I would make a couple suggestions of things to bring.

It is colder at night and it would be great to bring a little coat.  It is raining like crazy so if you could bring some umbrellas also.  Mine broke this last week...haha after two years of protecting me from the rain!!  So if you could bring me one also...

SUPER IMPORTANT:  It is so important if you could bring all my agendas from the mission.  They are full of directions and telephone numbers. They are in the box that I sent home with the members that stopped by Salt Lake.   I will need all of that to make plans and get together with the converts.  Many of them are SOOO excited to meet you guys.  I decided that my time here with you guys will be an awesome opportunity to not only visit the converts but also to help many of them come back to church.  The retention rate in Mexico is like 50% so there are actually many that I would love to visit and help them remember the experience of their conversions.  I feel like it will be a mini mission to reactivate the families along with giving you guys the opportunity to visit them!!  I really am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo excited; it will be a blast!

Thanks for all the support and prayers that you ALL were constantly giving me through out these two years.  I knew that I had protection and blessings because of all you were doing for me.  I have become a different person and I will never go back to be the person I was.  I overcame weaknesses and my love for the Lord is so much more real.  I have experienced the Atonement and seen miracles so amazing that have changed my life.  I will be forever in debt to the Lord for all he has done for me.  My mission will not be a pretty book I store on a shelf in my closet.  It will be a source of experience and strength that I will use everyday for the rest of my life!  For me I can say, they were the best two years of my life AND for my life.  I have made many goals and I feel the mission has given me the tools to be able to accomplish them.  I love you all so much will shortly be giving you all a huge, long hug!!

LOVE,
Elder Janis

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Rangel Family and Sergio

Hola Familia,

WOW, what a week to remember!  Miracles have been a super huge part of my mission but during this last week I saw some of the biggest!

The WHOLE Rangel family got baptized!!  The parents, who had gotten divorced with some wild idea of moving to the States to get married again weren't going to be able to be baptized. However, they went to the government offices to see what they could do about the divorce.  Due to the economic problems of the family this last couple of months they had missed a payment due to finalize the process of the divorce.  Miraculously, they were divinely given the opportunity to anull the divorce meaning that they would still be legally married.  They were beside themselves with happiness when they let us know.  The whole family has changed sooooo much.  They started reading the Book of Mormon and praying as a family.  Usually famlies will start doing that when we invite them to but they started from their own initiative!!  They will be a huge blessing for the ward and the church.  The Mom, Veronica, was especially happy and shared her testimony that she knew the church is true.  The ward has already wrapped around them and they have visiting teachers and home teachers.  The kids are going to go to the temple this next week to do baptisms in the temple!!  I love the Rangel family, Oliver, Veronica, Cristian, Jessica!!!

Sergio, the other guy who got baptized, is living a really hard experience.  He dropped his wife off at work on Friday morning and went to pick her up at 6 pm that same day.  He waited a while but she never came out.  He went in to the school and asked if she was still there and the other co-workers told him that she had left hours ago.  He then received a call at 2:30 am the next morning from her saying that she was going to move on.  She had the locks on the house changed, threw his clothes into one of his friend's house, and left him and their five year old kid without a place to sleep.  He moved into his daughter's house which is how we meet him.  He loved church the first Sunday and wanted nothing more than be baptized this last Sunday.  In every single one of the prayers he said at the end of the lesson he would thank the Lord for two things: for helping him find the true church and for the chance to be born again by baptism.  He was sooooo excited for his baptism and didn't want to wait until after church services but do it at the beginning.

I sent you all home two pictures to enjoy!  The first is the Rangel Family, my companion and me.  They were all so happy to be baptized and they love church.  I love the second picture because it is everyone in white!  The front it is my companion, me and the ward mission leader Erick.  Behind is the Rangel family and Sergio to the far right.

I hope you enjoy the pictures and I will work harder than ever this last week.  I will end my mission with another baptismal service!!!  I love you all and I cannot wait to see you Mom and Dad.  I think this might be my last letter...if not next week you'll get one more!  If it is my last, we will just have to wait to talk in person.

Love,
Elder Janis




Monday, July 9, 2012

A Photo in the City Center

Hola Familia!!!

I could not be any happier and grateful after the week that we just had!  I'll start with the sad note that was sad, but is now SUPER happy.  The Rangel family who were preparing for baptism this last Sunday fell off date because Veronica and Oliver (the parents of the family) aren't married.  However, they are going to see if this coming week they can make the decision and we will help them get married.  Their kids, Jessica and Christian, are still going to get baptized.  Oliver and Veronica want them to have the Holy Ghost as soon as possible.  This is a huge miracle because when we talked about baptism with them they were only talking about years before they would decide.  Fortunately the Spirit helped my companions to know that they needed to know about the Holy Ghost.  The Spirit was so strong in the room and they commented on how different they felt describing it as something they had never felt.  Jessica and Oliver are so excited for their baptisms this coming weekend!

Sunday morning we had a couple of new investigators that we were sure were going to come to church.  Unfortunately, not one of them did.....however, the Lord had other things planned.  We were helping someone baptized over four weeks ago to get confirmed finally when we were surprised to see that she had brought her father to get to know the church.  I sat next to him in Gospel Principles and did the best I could to gain his confidence.  After the class I asked if we could go by and share a message with him to which he seemed to reluctantly accept.  However, when we showed up to the appointment we quickly were able to have a connection of trust with him.  He had wanted to be baptized like Chirst for years and was so excited that we invited him to be baptized this coming Sunday!  We are going to be passing by everyday to help him prepare.  He also loved the church and enjoyed the Spirit he felt both there and in our lesson.  What a blessing and miracle!

Elder McMullin and I went to Zocalo, the center of the city, and I took him sight seeing!  It was tons of fun to see how he reacted to all the people that are just jammed into the metro and that line the streets and markets.  We went to different parts of the center and took many pictures.  I bought a new memory card so that I had one without a virus.  I can now without any problems take about 600 photos of everything I can before the mission comes to an end.  I took advantage and also sent home a picture of Elder McMullin and me in front of the huge flag in the center of the City.

I love you all and feel so assured that this week will be AWESOME!!!  I hope you are all enjoying the summer!

Love,
Elder Janis


Monday, July 2, 2012

Two Years Almost With The Same Greeting

Hola Familia, (HAHA two years almost with the same greeting!!)

This was a week to remember!!  Many, many miracles!!  I don't have much time but I thought I would let you all in on what amazing-ness happened this last week!

MIRACLE 1: We were visiting some recent converts when we had the chance to meet their niece, Atenea who is 11 years old.  She had gone to church and LOVED it.  We taught her the importance of following the example of Christ and being baptized just as he was.  She excitedly exclaimed that she would love to and that she wanted to do it as soon as possible.  Her aunt, a recent convert, shared her excitement but explained to us that she would need the permission of her father.  Rather directly, she told us that her father would probably not give Atenea permission because he barely let her even go to church.  We taught Atenea prayer and invited her to pray that her father would let her do something so important and special.  She finished the lesson with the prayer and asked the Lord to help her father give her permission.  Friday when we passed by again she happily informed us that he had given her permission!!  I was amazed at the power prayer and faith that Atenea had and the miracle that they produced.  I was humbled by that small lesson she taught me and I am so happy for her!!

MIRACLE 2: Francisco and Patricia get baptized!!!!!!!!!!!  That was the most amazing baptism I have had yet!  Getting them there was no easy feat and took a miracle.  Tuesday was the last time we were able to talk to them...and until Saturday we saw them.  President Fuentes, the 1st Counselor in the mission presidency, came to do special interviews with the two of them to help them repent of past mistakes; something they wouldn't be able to be baptized without.  We had been trying to call them all week but they never answered.  We later found out that he had run out of money on his phone and that's why he could never answer.  However, not knowing that made me worry a ton.  I had prayed and prayed asking for miracles and I was worried that it might be not them.  Fortunately, upon arriving at their house, we found them still there.  They were on their way out when the architect that is helping them with their 10th or 11th house they are building had shown up.  Miraculously, we were able to find them home.  President Fuentes talked to the two of them and they came out of the interviews having decided on being baptized the next day!

The baptism was so beautiful.  Many members came and were happy to see another priesthood holder join the ranks.  (side note: the ward doesn't have many priesthood holders and we have taken upon ourselves to find some!)  Paco and Paty were beside themselves with emotion.  We took a really great picture that I had hoped to send to you guys but my memory card with its viruses didn't let me...  Anyways, I baptized Paco and when he came out of the water with a huge smile, I met him with a huge hug.  He whispered a sincere thanks and I responded with congratulations.  I will remember the feeling of love I felt as gave him that hug, as if it were feeling a little bit of what the Lord feels for him.  Then Paty came around the corner crying her head off.  HAHA, literally alligator tears.  Thankfully, the member that had invited her to the first lessons gave her a hug and shared a moment of excitement.  Paty entered the water and Elder McMullin baptized her.  She came out with the hugest grin and determination.  They were each given a moment to talk about their experience to which they shared with us a Spirit driven desire to really leave their old life behind and start a new one!  I can hardly wait to see them progress.  OH, Mom and Dad, I told them that you guys were coming to pick me up and they REALLY want to meet you guys.  They want to take us out to eat while you are here!

Well, what a wonderful week!  We also had a family of four, the Rangel Cruz Family, come with us to church and we are helping them prepare for baptism this coming week!  I'll have to let you all know how things went!  I love you and I LOVED the pictures you took both in Manti and on the Daybreak letters!!  What a beautiful family I am blessed to be a part of!!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, June 25, 2012

I had never entered a home so lavish my whole mission...


HOLA FAMILIA,

What an AWESOME week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am walking on clouds and over water; I just feel so happy right now!  We are finding some amazing people to teach.  I ‘m not sure if it is because I am coming to the close of my mission or my capacity to love has grown but I would do anything for the families that we are teaching right now.  I thought I would let you all in on who we are teaching right now:

Francisco and Patricia - They were a member referral.  The first time we went by we were pretty intimidated by how much money this family has.  We walked through a pretty front gate into a huge garden with a fountain and a maid cleaning.  As we walked up the pathway we saw 5 cars such as BMW and Audi. As we got to the doorway the maid invited us to sit down and we sat there waiting a couple minutes until they came down.  I had never entered a home so lavish my whole mission.  HAHA, I’m used to sitting on plastic buckets in concrete rooms that more than one family live in.  They came down the stairs and straight away we could sense a little bit of conflict in the marriage.  We quickly saw that despite the large amount of wealth that they had, they were thinking about divorce and they argued a lot.  However, in the last two weeks of teaching, they have completely changed.  This morning we went by to visit them and they were actually sitting together on the couch, something that they had never done in any appointment before.  The Gospel is changing their lives.  They are excitedly preparing to be baptized this coming Sunday.  Elder McMullin is pretty excited for his first baptism!!  They are so repentant and have such a huge desire to do things the Lord’s way.

Rafael and Alejandra Palma - We found them when they were in the middle of fighting about something. We knocked the door and the wife said, "its the Mormons, don’t you let them in."  However, Rafael opened the door and let us in.  He commented after that first lesson how much better he felt and that he needed the guidance we were giving him.  He loves the Book of Mormon.  When we taught the Book of Mormon he excitedly told us that he had always thought that Christ came to America also.  He came to church without us even passing by and loved the church services.  At the end of services he explained that he would be coming every single Sunday!

We are praying that we find more elect of God.  We are doing everything we can to work by the Spirit so that we can continue to find the people who are ready to accept the Gospel!!!

Elder McMullin is doing great and progressing super fast.  He has started to give larger portions of the lessons.  It is a hard process because he almost doesn’t have any Spanish but the Lord is blessing him a ton. He is spiritual and has a strong testimony!  I am enjoying teaching him everything that I can so that he can be better than I could ever be.

I love you all and hope you see miracles this coming week!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, June 18, 2012

A lot of things have changed this last week...


Hola Familia,

A lot of things have changed this last week for me here in Mexico City.  I love the blessing God gave me to train during my last transfer. My new companion and last kid’s name is Elder McMullin.  He is from Redding, California and is super-obedient and ready to learn.  He got here the first day and hardly could say anything in Spanish.  It was hard to see him struggle and so I thought about waking 30 minutes earlier with him and doing a language study together.  He liked the idea and it has been fun working on Spanish together.  It has been great for me to review the grammar too.  I can already see progress and he is starting to take more and more initiative in the lessons. 

I love my new area!  Sadly, the members and other missionaries keep telling me that baptizing here is super hard and that all the people here are hard-hearted and will never accepted the gospel.  Satan is throwing negative thoughts at us from all directions.  However, I am doing everything I can to not let any of those thoughts take root.  The moment they appear in my head I throw them out.  Sometimes when people reject us or it starts pouring rain and no one is home the thoughts come but I do everything I can to not let them linger.  The success we will have here is going to come a lot from the mentality I maintain.  I want to think of this area as if it were any other "gold mine" area in the mission.  I know there are tons of families prepared.  The challenge will be purifying myself so that I am worthy of the Spirit as I find, teach, and pray by the Spirit. The Lord has blessed us with some wonderful people to start teaching.  Here are some of the families we found:

Familia Palma-They let us in and we started teaching the dad and daughter.  They seemed slightly hesitant at first but we taught baptism and the gospel of Christ.  By the end of the lesson they were so drawn in by every word coming out of our mouths.  When we finished the lessons we testified that the change in atmosphere in the house was the Holy Ghost testifying that what we taught was true.  They then explained how grateful they were because right before we arrived, the family had a huge argument and the Spirit had brought peace back to the home.  They then explained that they believed in Christ but had been lacking someone to tell them what they needed to do.  They were so happy that we had come and excitedly accepted another appointment.

Felipe-We knocked his door last night.  When he opened the door I noticed something different about him.  He had a sincere look in his eyes as I testified to him that we were Representatives of Jesus Christ.  He let us in the stairwell of his house that leads up to the house.  We taught him the gospel of Christ and when we invited him to be baptized like Christ he responded, "me encantaría!"  We could really feel he understood the wonderful blessings he would receive and he is excitedly preparing for baptism.

I am loving life and the mission!  I love you all and hope the best week for you!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, June 11, 2012

WOW, I am starting my last change in the mission


Hola Familia,
WOW, I am starting my last change in the mission...I don't know what to think or say only that I am so excited for this coming change.  I talked to President yesterday and he asked me to train my last change.  He explained to me that Elder Lubiano, who was my second kid that I trained a year ago and is a Zone Leader in another zone, wanted me to be his ZL companion to end the mission.  Jokingly he told me that he would never let something like that happen because he could never put Batman and Superman together.  He also told me that he wanted a "little Janis" and asked if I would like to accept this opportunity to train instead.  He then assigned me to one of the richest areas in the mission which are thought of to be the hardest areas in which to baptize.  Santa Monica is the name of the ward and I am so excited to be here.  I have the chance to help the Lord change the mentality of the missionaries.  It doesn't matter where you are or who you are with you will have success if you do the work the way the Lord wants.  I am going to make that my main focus in this sprinting run to the finish.  I am going to strive to be and do what the Lord needs and wants.  What a blessing and I can't wait to receive my new kid tomorrow and teach him everything I have learned so that he can be 10 times better than I will ever be!
Milagro!!!!!!  This last week Elder Barajas and I had been trying to help all the progressing investigators that we had to want to be baptized this last week but no one wanted to.  We had a possible who we thought was going to be the miracle convert for the week.  I went with another Elder down to a river canal to their house in the most dangerous part of my area on Saturday night at 8:30pm!  BTW, now that I am not there anymore...El Molinito isn't one of the most dangerous areas in the mission, it IS the most dangerous.  I am not there anymore but man do I have some crazy stories to tell you guys when we get back...HAHA.  Anyways, I was super hesitant to go down to the river canal and I wasn't sure what was going to happen.  We made it to the house of the possible and seeing as I had only taught her one time, I did the interview.  Sadly, despite the scary sacrifice we had made she was not ready to obey some of the commandments.  We left and surprisingly nothing happened to us...no one even took notice of us! 
However, this wasn't the miracle but you could say it was the recipe for the coming miracle.  We went to church and were greeting all the people coming in when an older lady comes walking in with a HUGE smile on her face.  She then explains that she had had visits from the missionaries before who had taught her the lessons.  In her last visit with the missionaries they had given her a blessing of health with oil and everything.  The missionaries had invited her to be baptized and in the moment she had not accepted.  However, this last week she felt that she had to do it.  Even though she hadn't met with missionaries in months she came to church ready to be baptized.  We got her the interview which she passed and even remembered everything really well that the missionaries had taught.  After talking to her a bit, Isabel was baptized and came up crying she was so happy.  She was crying as the ward congratulated her on her decision.  It was such a beautiful experience.  I don't feel worthy of such a HUGE miracle but I will never forget how merciful the Lord is.  I took a sweet picture of her but seeing that my memory has a virus I will not be able to send the pictures.  I will have to show you all afterwards.
I am so ready to make the most of this last change.  I am going to a training for the trainers tomorrow and I am so excited to learn from President.  I have the assignment to BAPTIZE, BAPTIZE, and BAPTIZE.  There is no other greater way to end a mission.  I love you all!!
Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Am Happy and Healthy

Hola Familia,

We had another incredible week here in Culturas! We were blessed with more miracles and I enjoyed helping our converts prepare for their confirmations.  I love them so much and it was so beautiful to see them WANT to do what the Lord asks.  They already have brighter eyes and happier faces.  HAHA, that sounded a bit cheesy but there is definitely a huge difference.

So I don't really have any time this week to write...I AM SO SORRY!!  I feel like I do this to you every week.  We are going to run to another area in the zone to get a head start on the interviews for this week.  I am happy and healthy.  I love you all tons and you are in my prayers!

Love,
Elder Janis 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We Were Bautizona for the Month


Hola Familia,

Miracles, miracles, miracles.  This was an amazing week here in the Culturas Zone.  I am feeling pretty exhausted but it was an amazing week.  It is not about the number of people we baptized or that we were Bautizona for the month (the zone that lead the mission in baptisms) that made the week/month awesome.  It was the obedience, dilligence, and conversion that are behind those numbers.  I have never felt anything more satisfying than seeing a noticeable difference for the better in the missionaries in the zone.  The spirituallity of the zone is improving and we (Elder Barajas and I) are praying to know what will help keep this progress going.  We saw the amazing amount of 21 souls saved this week in the promised land of Culturas.  What a blessing!

We also had the miracle of helping the Martinez Ortiz Family, the Mendoza Family, and a humble guy named Justino be baptized this last Sunday in our area.  I love these people so much and it was so sacred to have the  opportunity to help them accomplish this step.  A little about these families:

Martinez Ortiz Family:  We found them walking down the street when we felt we should talk to the young mother of a pouty kid.  Juana is the mother and the pouty kid is Hugo.  Hugo was mad that his mom didn't buy him a lollipop and this gave us an opportunity to cheer him up and gain more confidence of Juana.  She invited us to come to her house that next evening.  When we stopped by that first lesson she would not take her eyes off the person that was speaking.  She seemed to be trying to not miss a word.  We quickly learned that the Lord had prepared the family when she accepted everything we taught without any doubts.  Her husband, as named Hugo,  was equally as prepared.  Here in Mexico, finding a man as spiritual as Hugo is not very frequent.  He also accepted everything with trust in the Lord and in his promises.  They got married this last week, something that they were so excited to do in order to obey God's commandments they told us.  Then on Sunday we had their beautiful baptismal service.  They were so happy and there is definitely a huge difference in their  countanances.  I wanted to send a picture but the virus on my memory card didn't let me.

Justino:  We found him knocking doors.  He suffered a stroke and his whole left side of his body was left without movement.  The stroke was caused by a huge scare he had when two men stole his van at gun point.  The scare of the assault caused him to have the stroke.  He is recently regaining the movement of his legs and walks slowly.  We had so much joy teaching him and see his face light up at the promises the Lord offers to those who obey his commandments.  He wanted to be baptized the same day we taught the first lesson.  However, we explained that he needed to wait and prepare himself for the commitment he would make.  He was so happy to submit himself to the will of the Lord.  His baptism was one of the most spiritual baptisms ever!!

I would have written more but I ran out of time!!  I love you and hope you all have a wonderful week!!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, May 21, 2012

As a Zone We Brought 35 New Investigators to Church for the First Time!


Buenas Tardes Familia,
 
HA HA, I thought I would start with something a little different.  WOW, so Chad is already in the MTC!  I am so happy for him and look forward to hearing about how things are going for him.  He is going to love the experience the Lord has ready for him!
 
Elaine, you are going in this coming Wednesday!   What an adventure you have got in front of you!  I am so excited for you too.  I saw the picture of the spider you sent me and that is pretty sick... :)  You are going to have to smash one too and put in plastic like that to bring it home.  HA HA!
 
So this last week we saw TONS of miracles as a Zone!  We were going to baptized a pretty average amount on Sunday but my companion and I felt that we should be able to do more.  Saturday we did about 13 more interviews and saw tons more baptisms.  We are so amazed by the miracles the Lord is giving us.  We aren't sure why the Lord is blessing us so much but we are excited for the coming week because as a Zone we brought 35 new investigators to church for the first time!  We have our sights set on a high goal for this coming week and I am sure the Lord is planning something huge.  I am looking forward to a week of learning and one that will change even more lives!  I have found a ton of joy out of helping the other missionaries have success not only so that they have numbers but really because they are converted in the process.  I can't be more grateful for the opportunity to serve that the Lord has given me!
 
Elder Barajas and I were working all week trying to find a miracle baptism for this last Sunday.  However, nothing was happening.  We weren't having any success with the people we already had because they weren't progressing.  However, at 9 pm Saturday night we went by to check on a a guy we helped to get baptized two weeks ago.  We were going to do a quick stop by to make sure everything was ready for his confirmation and we got the chance to meet his kids.  One of them happened to be 12 years old!  We taught her baptism and the other things necessary for baptism and she excitedly accepted a baptismal date for the next day!  What a blessing.  The Lord definitely is merciful.  We are going to keep stopping by to help her learn and retain the lessons and even start teaching the wife.
 
So, I am looking forward to what I know will be an amazing week.  I love all of you and am already excited to report to you all the success of the coming week!
 
Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, May 14, 2012

Voy a echar muchas ganas esta semana! (I'm going to work really hard this week)

Hola Familia,

Aquí hay más español en mi carta en vez de solamente "hola familia"!  (Here is some more Spanish in my letter instead of just Hola Familia).  HAHA,  I really, really enjoyed the Skype that we had Sunday night.  Wow, it was so special to see all of you there, hear your voices, see Grandma Janis, and meet Rebecca (i.e., Derek's girlfriend).  Every time I talk to you guys I get an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for the blessings that the Lord is showering over every single one of you guys at home.  I can't wait for Chad and Elaine to leave on your missions!  You guys have so much to look forward to!

I thought I would let you all know about another miracle that I saw this last week!  They never get old!

This last Sunday, a young single adult brought her best friend to church that really wanted to get to know the church and get baptized.  We went by every day this last week and she accepted everything that we taught.  She would then do everything that we left as invitations; to pray or to read.  She loves the Book of Mormon and got a specific answer to prayer to be baptized this last Sunday.  We also had the opportunity put her into an interview with President's first counselor.  She came out so excited and SO ready for Sunday.  When Sunday came along she had insisted coming to church on her own.  We walked into church and she wasn't there...We tried calling and she didn't answer.  We left the church to go to her house and see what had happened when she came running toward the church.  She was so worried because she had woken up late and came running to church.  She looked so relieved as we told her that everything was ok and that it would all work out!  She got baptized and came out of the water with a huge smile on her face!!

Well, I am looking forward to a great week with a Zone Conference and many, many interviews and interchanges!  Les amo y les agradezco por las oraciones y amor que me evian.  Voy a echar muchas ganas esta semana!  (I love you and appreciate the prayers and love you send me.  I am going to work really hard this week!).

Love,
Elder Janis

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Answers to prayer come...a little here, a little there

Hola  Familia,

What a week that I will never forget!  We had a miracle baptism for Guillermo this last week!  The baptismal service will be something that he will never forget especially for the huge smile that he had on his face.  It made the whole experience so amazing!

My favorite part of the week, other than the baptism, was the higher level of Spirit I felt.  I realized something so very special this last week that has changed my life.  I attended a Zone Leader Council, later studied the scriptures, and finally when a super in-tune missionary and I were conversing, I received an answer to prayer with something I have been searching for months.  When the answer came, it came in pieces...a little here, a little there.  I knew the answer would come and it was not easy.  I meditated and searched, asked, prayed, and it came!!  I know that the Lord answers prayers.  I know He loves me!  I have NEVER felt more excited and blessed to serve in the Lord's work.

I will make the most of the time I have left!  I will have the opportunity to see many more miracles before I finish and I pray to be more and more converted to the Lord.  I want to be able to say that I gave Him my all.  I love all of you tons and tons!

So, the call!!!!!!!!  Happy Mother's Day!!!  I will Skype home at about 5-5:30 pm on Sunday night Mexico time.  I hope that it will work out good with your Sunday schedule. I can't wait to see all of you!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, April 30, 2012

433 Confirmations in One Month!


Hola Familia!
 
WOW, this last week we as a mission did something incredible!!  We had 433 confirmations in one month!  A year and a half ago the mission was only confirming less than 100 every month.  However, after all of us striving to be more diligent and obedient, the mission was able to accomplish something never before done!  What a great work to be a part of!  Not only that but this is just the start of the potential we are really capable of having.  We are looking forward to the coming month having 500 confirmations; something I feel is super possible.  This is the Lord's work and nothing can stop it or impede it.  Won't we go on in so worthy a cause?!  I feel so happy to be here and look forward to what the Lord has planned for us the coming few weeks!
 
So yesterday I got changes and I am now in a place called: El Molinito, Naucalpan.  It is one of the most densely populated areas in Mexico City.  I am so excited to be here and look forward to seeing tons of success as I work to finish up my service to the Lord.  I am with a new companion named Elder Barajas.  He is from Monclova, Coahuila!  He is a super energetic and I hope to learn tons from him!  I am going to be the Zone Leader here in the Culturas zone and am excited for the challenges and service that I will have here! 
 
The 7th of May I will have a Zone Leader Counsel and so I won't be able to write home until the 9th.  I think but I am not completely sure yet but the 13th I will be able to call home for Mother's Day!  That will be a blast!  Time seems to be flying since I last talked to you guys for Christmas.  I'll let you know the coming week what the plan on that is.
 
We saw an incredible miracle this last week!  We were contacting in the street when I felt impressed to talk to an older man that was walking by.  I testified and invited him, Bonifacio, to listen to a quick message to which he accepted.  We taught him baptism and invited him to be baptized like Christ was baptized.  He accepted and we made an appointment to come by another day.  A couple days later we were contacting in a street near by when a lady we were talking to informed us that her brother had talked to us the other day and had told his family that he was going to be baptized in our church.  Sunday morning, I was standing in the door way waiting for people to come to church when I saw Bonifacio walk up with a huge smile on his face! From a simple street contact he had decided to get baptized, overcome the family's resistance, and come to church without us even passing by.  He is excitedly preparing for a baptism and I hope to keep tabs on him to see how everything ends up!  This is proof to me that there are tons of people the Lord has prepared to accept the gospel.  When we do what is required the Lord will bless us with the Holy Ghost which makes miracles possible.  I feel an increasing understanding on how to listen to and be guided by the Spirit which I know will be a super necessary knowledge that will help me for the rest of my life.
 
I am now starting my second to last transfer that I will ever have as a full-time missionary and I cannot be more excited to get running.  This is such a amazing blessing and I feel right now a huge sense of gratitude to the Lord for all that I have seen, learned, and been blessed to do.  I hope that everyone one of you realizes that missionary service is not only a tradition or some other obligation.  This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  You will never forget it; your whole life needs it.  I will never be able to thank the Lord for what a blessing this has been for me.  I am so happy for the time that lies ahead of me and will get everything out of it that I can!
 
Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Tenayo Zone as a Whole is Rising

Hola Familia!!

What a super week!  I was hardly ever in my area with all the interviews, securing confirmations, and looking for miracles.  I mean that I hardly even know some of the investigators that we have right now as a companionship.  I am finding it so much more satisfying to find, teach, and baptize in other areas.  The Tenayo Zone as a whole is rising and we are seeing tons more success.  It has been an incredible experience seeing the Zone progress and over all the other things, watch the missionaries under my care grow, learn, and be more converted to the Lord and His glorious work to save souls.  What a blessing it has been to stay up late almost everyday discussing with Elder Sanchez plans for the next day and praying.  I think that the earliest I have gone to bed in the last few weeks is 11 or 11:30 to always wake up at 6:25am!  One night an Elder in the zone called me to get help with some problems he was having with his companion and area and I went to bed at 1:30am.  Even though I feeling a general sense of bodily tiredness I feel so happy to know that I am trying to do everything I can day and night!  There is nothing like feeling that the Lord is proud of your efforts and seeing the fruits of your labors flourish before you!

Last night, Sunday I went to an area in the zone to see if I could help them save a baptismal date.  Elia had gone to church but because of nerves had decided not to get baptized.  She let us in and we invited her to be baptized even though it was Sunday at night.  The Spirit helped us carry the invitation from our hearts to her heart and when she accepted, the room again filled with the Spirit.  I have learned that we can never deserve a miracle or blessing.  However, we can be worthy of the miracle and the grace of God makes the rest possible.  When we work diligently and obediently to carry about that which the Lord commands we are worthy of the miracle.  In the end the Lord's mercy and His all-knowing and all-loving will brings about the miracle.  I like to think of me as a hand-string puppet.  My mouth, hands, and feet are connected to strings that the Lord controls from the courts on high.  When we see miracles in our lives they are testaments and demonstrations of God's grace and love.  We never deserve miracles bu we can by the grace of God be worthy of receiving them.

These things have been on my mind a lot lately and felt impressed to share these thoughts with you.  I love all of you and hope everything is going good with the move.  I also sent a couple letters home and I hope you all get them soon!

Love,


Elder Janis

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We Were All Spiritual Giants

Hola Familia,

We had a rollercoaster of a week!  After the huge miracles we saw last week, we were all spiritual giants.  We had the chance to share in the Tuesday Zone meeting the things we learned and the things we felt during the week.  The Spirit was super strong as everyone shared the change of heart and conversion that they had experienced!  Elder Sanchez and I marveled at how we started out with only a thought that turned into a miracle that we will never forget.  Every single missionary learned a a special lesson tailored to them and their needs!  I didn't have my camera that night but I am going to get the picture from another missionary in the Zone and send you all a copy of the baptismal service with the whole zone there!

I am so sorry that I haven't been able to write much on these last few p-Days!  Just know that I love all of you so much and I am striving to really get everything I can out of the time that I have left.  Everyday is a gift that has no price!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, April 9, 2012

Miraculous Conversions Like the Book of Mormon

Hola Familia,

WOW!  This has been a week that I will never EVER forget!  I am so thankful for the huge miracles and grace the Lord is extending to us.  The whole zone has been working so hard and we saw TONS of miracles this last week!

Sunday, Elder Beutler and Elder Hernandez came to church with an 81 year old lady who they had met only the day before.  She had accepted baptism and came to church with a bag full of things.  When they got to church they found out that she had brought her towel, sandals, and other clothing.  When they asked her why she had brought all those things she responded, "I'm getting baptized aren't I?"  They explained to her that her baptismal service was planned for another week and that she would need to wait.  When she heard that she exclaimed, "why can't I do it today?!"  I did her interview which she passed and we called President to see what he would say. He told us that we could go right ahead with it!  We then started preparing the baptismal service.  I have never met a missionary more grateful and humble as Elder Beutler.  He gave a talk in her baptismal service.  As he began to talk he looked Maria de Jesus in the eyes and said "I know Hermana (i.e. Sister) that you are an elect daughter of God and that you are a miracle."  He could barely say it as he choked back tears of gratitude.  He kept telling me that he didn't deserve the miracle.  However, after he had done everything necesary to baptize that week, I am sure the Lord looked down on him with love and happiness extending a blessing of encouragement.  What a great lessoned learned: we do all that is NECESARY to see the miracle and the miracle will come.  I have seen it time after time!

This miracle accomplished every area in the zone baptizing except for one, Izcalli Piramide.  IP didn't know that they were the only ones that hadn't and so after talking, Elder Sanchez and I we decided that the day hadn't ended yet and we were going to go in for a miracle.  IP had four fechas (i.e., baptismal dates) fall through and were working harder than most of the other Elders in the zone and I could not handle seeing them be the only ones that didn't baptize.  We then called the zone and told them the plan; we were to go all 20 of us to the little area and look for a miracle.  I had thought that a few would respond saying that they had appointments and would not want to leave their areas.  Thankfully, I couldn't have been more wrong.  They all responded enthusiastically and when we all met in the chapel to organize everything the Spirit was so strong.  We said a prayer before going out and during the prayer a strong spirit of assurance entered the room and we all left knowing that we were going to see a miracle.  We worked from 6-9 and had found about 5 close calls.  We called President and got permission to stay out until 10.  Many had already headed toward home but as we called them to come back, everyone of them came again!!  We went back to work and I saw many missionaries running and talking to EVERYONE!  At about 10:20 pm a missionary called us explaining they had found someone contacting in the street that wanted to be baptized that same night.  After we heard about the miracle we ran to the house of the hermana and saw the zone outside axiously waiting.  Every single member of the zone was praying in their hearts.  The missionary came out of the interview with two thumbs up and we all headed to the church to baptize starting at 11:30 in the evening.  We shared a super special moment in the baptism all there together.  The hermana and her 8 year old daughter were baptized!  I could not have been more impressed with the response to the call of action.

Wow, this really is the work of the Lord.  We are His representatives and we will see and continue to see miracles as we consecrate ourselves.  We were a Bauti-zona which means that every companionship baptized!!  We are going for more and we know that we are barely scratching the potential!!

Love,
Elder Janis

Publisher's Note (i.e., from Ethan's Dad who posts his emails each week):

Many of you, especially those who have served missions, may wonder how baptisms come about so miraculously in Ethan's mission and how people can seemingly come in contact with missionaries one day and be baptized the next, or even the same day as in the story above.  One may also question whether those converts will stay faithful and active in the Gospel, especially given some of the guidelines and expectations of converts where we live.

It may be useful to remember that these kinds of miraculous conversions can be found plentifully in the scriptures particularly the Book of Mormon.  Often the Spirit of the Lord touched his children, changed hearts, and created amazing conversions that seemingly were instantaneous and resulted in baptisms.  Mindful of the fact that Ethan is working faithfully and consecrating himself among the descendants of the Lamanites who have been promised they would "blossom like the rose", we should not be surprised by the miracles he is reporting and should be grateful that we have an opportunity to read scripture quality experiences each week as they unfold.

Monday, April 2, 2012

General Conference was the best I have seen yet

Hola Familia,

What a neat surprise to see the new additions to the GRAND Janis Family.  Wow, they are so cute!! Congratulations!

General Conference was the best I have seen yet.  I just loved every single one of the talks and I learned so much.  Saturday, I didn't have the opportunity to go because we were looking for baptism miracles but we did have the amazing opportunity to go Sunday.  I had a great experience preparing for the conference.  I had been seeking guidance from the Lord, studied the scriptures, and talked to my companion about a certain doubt that was on my mind.  I sought many times through prayer the answer but I kept finding and receiving only parts of the answer.  I recognize that many times the answer comes line upon line but I slowly lost my focus on trying to find the answer.  However, Sunday morning before leaving the house I felt impressed to pray and ask for inspiration again.  One of the talks Sunday afternoon was EXACTLY the answer to my doubt.  I could hardly believe it!  I know that the Apostles and Prophet that lead and guide us are really called of God.

I don't have much time to write you all something more substantial but it was a great week!  We have so much to grateful for!!  The mission is helping me in my desire to become more and more like my Savior.  That is my goal for the last couple of months of the best two years of/for my life!  I love all of you sooooo much!!

Love,
Elder Janis

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Getting the hang of being a Zone Leader

Hola Familia,

I am finally getting the hang of being a Zone Leader.  It is such a beautiful oppportunity because I have had the chance to serve, encourage, and help convert the missionaries in the zone.  I have come to realize that missionary work isn't only baptizing, learning how to work hard, and seeing miracles...it really is the glorious work of saving souls.  The primary purpose of missionary work is to save my own soul, in other words, to convert me to the Gospel, the Church, and to the Lord by helping others come unto Christ: not only the Mexican people but the missionaries the Lord has blessed me to serve.  I have loved encouraging them to work hard and then sharing with them moments of miracles they never imagined possible.

MIRACLE:  I went with a companionship of Elders in an area that hasn't had much success for months.  They had been working harder than anyone in the zone leading everyone in contacts, lessons, and invitations to baptism.  They had no one to baptize on Sunday but had confirmed the attendance of someone that had been preparing for baptism for some time and just didn't want to make the decision.  I offered to go and do the interview during the sacrament services.  I felt confident that the Lord would bless them with a miracle because they had done all that was necesary during the week trying to baptize.  I stepped into the interview and felt the Spirit urge me on with complete confidence that he was going to say yes to being baptized.  If I hadn't felt what I felt starting the interview it would have been hard to have kept the faith.  He was FULL of doubts and resistance but as I patiently waited on the Lord the Spirit began taking down his walls.  However, there was a moment when I lost this level of hope and I almost gave up on him.  Suddenly, I imagined that the guy was Chad or Derek and knew that if they were the ones I was interviewing I would never leave the room without a YES.  I instantly felt a revival of the Spirit and the confident feeling that the Lord would win came rushing back into the room.  After a little more struggle and some phrases and examples I had never before thought of, Hugo agreed to be baptized that very same day!!  What a blessing!  I was so happy to help the Lord give the hard working Elders a miracle that would encourage them to never doubt the Lord and his promises.

We had a special baptism of a super awesome family of four this last weekend.  Their names are Teresa, Natali, Citlalli, and Daniel.  They never even faltered in their progression to baptism with faith that I haven't seen for a long time!! What a miracle!  I love them and it was a super special experience!

Love you all and hope you all have a wonderful week.  Sorry I didn't write Monday....we had a Zone Leader Conference.

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, March 19, 2012

Called to be a Zone Leader Dad

Hola Familia,

WOW!! I haven't really mentioned it to you guys before now, but the Zone in which I am in right now hasn't had many baptisms for months and months, up to even more than a year.  This last week Elder Monjarraz and I were able to help the Zone have double digits in baptisms!!  What a relief it was to see the success begin to spring forth after all the effort we are putting in.  This week we have 14 baptismal dates and 11 more possibles.  I am so thankful for the Lord's mercy that is allowing us to have this success.

There's a quote that I love and that sinks deeper and deeper into my heart as I get more and more time in the mission.  Elder Holland said, "Some blessings come now.  Some come later.  Some don't come until heaven.  However, for those that embrace the Gospel they come."  What a sweet promise made by an Apostle.  Everyday we see this apply.  When we see immediate blessings for responding to the promptings of the Spirit in the moment that we receive them or when we obediently follow the commandments although we don't know when we will see the promised blessings.  As I have embraced the gospel, my life is happier and I see it also brighten the lives of others.  Recently, I have come to love diligently searching the scriptures and finding answers through prayer and even hidden doctrine.  I have loved how studying the scriptures opens our eyes to the terrific gravity of the Atonement and necessity of not only taking the name of Christ upon us but acting as he would act.  I know and testify that daily striving to act as Jesus would brings the light of hope to our lives and an assurance of receiving the blessings the Savior has promised each and everyone of us.  We have got to keep the faith and never lose sight of that which is truly worth fighting for: our eternal potential as a family to have all that the Father has.  There is no promise more grander or of more importance.  All this and more we can have as we daily search the scriptures and pray sincerely, fervently, and intelligently.

Today we had changes and man do I have some wonderful news.  Wait,  sad news first...Elder Monjarraz was changed to another zone. I will never forget the wonderful things that Elder Monjarraz taught me, for his example, and for the person he helped me to become.  There is a huge difference between the Elder Janis before the change with Elder Monjarraz and the Elder Janis after the change.  He is and always will be a great friend.  He is so Christ-like.  Sunday night before the changes, I went to bed at 1:00 a.m. and he was still up packing.  In the morning I asked him at what time he had finally gone to bed to which he told me 3:00 a.m.  He then explained to me that he still needed to pack.  I was thinking to myself, how is it that he was up almost all night and didn't pack.  I found what he had been doing when I saw every one of my shoes shined and all my recently washed shirts ironed and hanging up.  This isn't the first time he did something like that for me.  Things like that made a lasting impact on me!  He also helped me overcome hurdles I thought almost impossible to overcome.

HAHA, so now for the wonderful news.  I was called to be a Zone Leader dad!  That means I will be training a new zone leader and showing him the ropes.  Not only that but I was also given two new district leaders in the zone who have never interviewed before and the responsibility to train them too.  With only one transfer as a Zone Leader I would be honest in saying that a certain thought crossed my mind: Am I capable of this?  If there is anything the mission has taught me (well, one of the million things I have learned) is that some one the Lord calls, he also qualifies.  I will be faithful holding to that promise because man do I have some great work ahead of me!  My new companion will be a huge help!  He is Elder Sanchez Zapata from Tabasco, Mexico.  He is a super consecrated missionary and has tons of potential.  He also has come to the table with tons of great ideas.  I know we will make a great team!

Well, things are going great! We have an amazing family preparing for baptism this coming Sunday and I look forward to also having another family work out for this Sunday also.  Many miracles are in the making and I couldn't be more thankful for the Lord's love and trust.  I love all of you so much and hope you are all doing well!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, March 12, 2012

Will you trust in God and be baptized this coming Sunday?


Hola Familia,
 
So as I said in my letter last week we planned to do tons of exchanges and that is what we did this week!!  It turned out to be a wonderful week where we saw many miracles.  Some of the companionships in the Zone hadn't baptized and after doing exchanges we were able to let them see miracles and almost everyone baptized this last week!
 
One of my favorite moments was when a companionship made an appointment for me to interview a guy who told them he wasn't going to get baptized anytime soon.  He was the only hope they had to baptize this week and so I decided to go ahead and give the guy an opportunity in the interview.  It turned out to be one of the most spiritual interviews I have ever had in my entire life!  I think what he really needed was someone that would listen to him and that's exactly what I had the opportunity to do.  He told me about the problems he was recently facing and about dreams he had had and many other things.  Usually we try to make the interviews short and powerful but I felt impressed to just let him go at it.  When I had the chance I would relate anything he had said to baptism and the blessings that it would bring to his life.  I testfied and felt my mouth filled as to know just what to say and to promise him.  In the end he agreed to be baptized but did not want to do it for a couple of weeks.  I shared with him a couple scriptures about not waiting to act upon things such as this and then felt impressed to have him pray.  That is exactly what we did and in that moment he prayed and asked God.  There was a powerful feeling of peace and assurance that felt as if we were both in a bonfire.  I think of it as something like in Helaman 5.  I then told him "As a Representative of Jesus Christ, I testify that we both just felt the will of God.  You must get baptized this coming Sunday.  Will you trust in God and be baptized this coming Sunday?"   He looked at me as we both felt the intense peace and looking me right in the eyes said "I will."  WOW, I will never forget that moment.  What was equally special was see the faces of the Elders for whom I had done the interview.  They were so surprised and SOOO happy.  There is nothing more satisfying than seeing the other Elders in my zone have success, see miracles, and prayers answered!
 
Wow, so I actually don't have anymore time to write anything else.  I am doing great and loving the experience of being a Zone Leader.  I am looking forward to another week full of exchanges!  I hope you all have a great week and I really appreciate the letters you are all sending me!
 
LOVE,
Elder Janis

Monday, March 5, 2012

Unity in Feeling the Spirit

Hola Familia!

WOW what an excellent week!!!!!!  To start off the week Elder Monjarraz and I organized a soccer game with the Zone and it turned out super fun.  We are pretty united as a Zone and we had a lot of fun together.  HAHA, while I was playing I thought that I would get fancy...when the ball came towards me I lifted my foot up to bring it down trying to time it just right to send it into the goal.  However, when I brought my foot down I ended up slipping and falling splat on my back.  I instantly got back up and started playing but about busted my head open all over the concrete...Thanks for all of the prayers of protection!! :)  Yeah so I am more than fine just super grateful nothing serious happened!

Speaking of gratitude for your prayers on my behalf, Elder Monjarraz and I have tons of unity in feeling the Spirit.  When we feel something and voice it about 80% of the time we are feeling the same thing.  This has never happened before but man have we had some powerful experiences seeing the Spirit work in our daily labors.  Anyways, the other day we were walking home at about 9:30 pm when we felt super strongly we should not be walking in the path we were walking.  We decided to go home another way and instantly we felt better.  Who knows what could have happened but I am so grateful for the prayers and protection the Lord is sending me from your guy's faith.  THANKS!!

On Tuesday, I had my first Zone Leader Conference.  What a blessing it is to have the experiences the Lord is blessing me to have.  The Conference was so great!  We meet together, talked about the progress of the mission, ideas to make things better, and President shared a super spiritual message that has changed my life.  I realize that I don't have that much time left here and I have many goals.  One of the most important to me is to come home converted; converted to the gospel, the Lord, and His Church.  That's really the core purpose of missionary work and if I am going to sacrifice two years of my time why not get EVERYTHING I can out of it?  That's my plan.  I am counting down my days and treating my mission time like a track race.  That last lap is going to be where I run the fastest and hardest I ever have in my life!  I am on that last lap and I WILL give it all I have got and more.  Cheesy, I know, but it is helping me stay focused and work harder than ever!!

This last week we made a record of baptisms they tell us in the ward!  We had a baptism on Friday night for a teenage girl named Paola and it was packed with her friends.  She was crying throughout the baptism and her friends that are members bore their testimonies and she was just SOO happy.  On Sunday, we had the baptisms of Paty and Paco (a young couple we found knocking doors and are probably the most golden investigators I have ever had) and Francia and Lorena (cousins we found this last week who had been to church many times but just needed a spiritual experience to help them make the decision).  The service was super special and Elder Monjarraz and I sang "Nearer My God to Thee" and it turned out wonderfully.  What a blessing it is to do the Lord's work!

Well, this next week I am going to be spending a lot of time outside of my area in interchanges to help some struggling Elders in the Zone.  This is a part of my assignment that I really love and I look forward to the opportunity to lift some discouraged missionaries and help them see some miracles!  I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, February 27, 2012

Trials humble us...

Hola Familia,

My thoughts this last week have centered on conversion.  The mission/life is a refiner's fire that purifies and cleans.  The high heat of afflictions and adversity won't consume me but rather will serve to burn off all the impurities and weakness that I have.  I found a scripture this morning that really opened my eyes to how I should react to trials.  In D&C 112:13, I learned that the burning off of weaknesses and impurities isn't magic.  Trials humble us and help us realize that which we can get rid of, what is weighing us down, and hindering our ability to draw closer to our Heavenly Father.  I read a talk the other day about how sometimes we pray to get out of the trials we have in life.  However, that would ruin the whole purpose of the trials.  The Lord knows that a little pain now will serve for protection and avoidance of a lot more pain in the future.  The Lord will bless us with the help we need to overcome the trial, receiving the experience and knowledge that will serve us in this life and in the eternities.

Judging by what I just wrote you are all wondering if I had a rough week!!  HAHA, is was pretty trying but a wonderful chance to burn off what is really not worth having and an opportunity to become more like Christ!!  We had a family of 5 that was going to get baptized but they weren't going to be able to complete 100% of the commandments and so we had to hold off the baptism.  This week we hope to help them make the necessary changes in order to be baptized this coming week!!

We had a miracle on Monday in which a family opened the door and told us that they knew we were coming.  They even told us that they knew we were representatives of Christ before opening the door!! How cool is that!!  Honestly, I was kind of like..."How does that work?!"  But, hey the Lord definitely prepared this family!  They came to church on Sunday on their own and are happily preparing themselves for baptism this coming week!

I had the chance two times this last week to be in Stake Presidency meetings with President and WOW was that a great experience.  There are many amazing examples to me in the Church and President is such a spiritual powerhouse (I cannot think of a better way to put it :) ).  I really enjoyed learning more from him!!  We also have a Zone Leader Council this coming week and I am excited to learn more from him and the other zone leaders.

We have 9 people this week preparing for baptism and I have a lot of hope for SUPER success this week!  I love you all lots and lots and hope you have a SUPER week!!  HAHA, by the way the word SUPER is a word the really rich people say here!!  HAHA, it made me laugh when I learned that!!

LOVE,
Elder Janis

Monday, February 20, 2012

Opening the area has been a little rough

Hola Familia!

So I planned out P-Day better and now I have the whole alloted time instead of the couple minutes I have had other Mondays.  Things are going so wonderfully; I love the opportunities the Lord has been blessing me with!  I mean, I am learning and growing like crazy.  Elder Monjarraz is exactly the companion that I have needed becuase I am finally learning how to really get lost in the work.  Like I said in the last letter we are literally running from place to place, teaching some of the most powerful lessons of my life, and finding the elect of God. 

Opening the area has been a little rough.  We have spent many hours knocking doors and talking to people in the streets and I have never received so much rejection.  However, one morning I was reading in my personal study about faith and how it is a principle that brings about the miracles.  I read in Ether 12:6 about how the testimony comes after the trial of faith.  I then remembered something that I had heard one time that in order to accomplish great big things we need great big faith.  I then started thinking about how we have a goal to baptize tons here in Santa Cecilia and in order to acheive the goal I need to adquire the faith necesary.  I then put two and two together and realized why things were happening like they were here.  We have a great big goal.  Right now I don't have the faith that is necesary to acheive it.  The Lord permits the trials of my faith and everytime I overcome a trial my faith grows and grows until I have the faith necesary.  I then had a great time being rejected, spit upon, and made a hiss and a byword because I knew that overcoming the trials would bring great rewards!

Amazingly that is exactly what happened! :)  About mid-week, the Lord blessed us with the opportunity to find someone to baptize and we found a HUGE family that came to church with us this last week!  Elder Monjarraz and I were walking on water with happiness as we realized the Lord had found us worthy of the blessings after overcoming the trials.  What a sense of peace and love from God I felt after reaching that conclusion.  I felt a satisfaction that fills you to the brim and that makes all the pain and effort worth it.  HAHA, I have to admit...it is addicting!!  Oddly, before the mission I don't think I could have seen me come home exhausted and spiritually spent grinning from ear to ear.  Sounds super cheesy but that is literally how I feel everynight coming home.  There is nothing more satisfactory than giving all that I can in the Lord's work!

MIRACLE:  We were teaching a new family that we found when one of the older kids came crying into the room with her fiancé yelling behind her.  The whole family was shocked, got up and left except for the mom of the family and the young couple.  Not knowing what to do, we just sat there and after we didn't go at first I felt that we should stay.  Not knowing why we were to stay I sat there listening.  Quickly the situation began to heat up and the young couple were talking about separating and the mom was saying tons of not so great things...the spirit in the room was dark and oppressive.  We waited for the moment to break and when it came we started to talk about the family and helping them realize the importance of forgiveness and repentance.  The Spirit filled the room, some were crying, and we finished with the problem solved.  The Spirit had resolved the problem in such a way that the couple had decided that they would get married and the rest of the family decided to get baptized  this coming week!!  As Elder Holland would say, "that was definitely a situation where a representative of Christ was needed."  I would never have known what to say but the Lord filled our mouths and miraculously the problems were fixed and we have baptisms for the coming week!!

Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, February 13, 2012

AMAZING EXPERIENCE


Hola Familia,
 
Wow, I absolutely don't have any time to write this week!  I am SOOOO sorry!  We are getting the hang of the area and zone and will be able to plan better the next P-Day.
 
I have never been so tired in my life!  I mean, I am literally running from appointment to appointment and contacting almost everyone that passes on the street.  I then get home and have the opportunity to plan for the next day and plan for the Elders in the Zone.  Being a Zone Leader is so beautiful.  I get the opportunity to serve and love 18 Elders and have had amazing morning studies in which I have received revelation from God to share with particular elders or the zone.  We are having tons of success and I wish I could tell you all about it.
 
AMAZING EXPERIENCE:  We were walking down a street we felt impressed to be walking down when we heard a young mother screaming, running down the street with her baby in her arms.  My companion told me, hey we should go and see if we can give a blessing.  We ran behind them and after they had entered into the doctor's office we presented ourselves and offered to give a priesthood blessing.  In a super stage of shock, they accepted and I ended up doing the blessing.  As I put my hands over the baby's head his eyes were crossed and he was rigid from not being able to breath.  I felt a super calm feeling and started the blessing.  I felt super sure and a very clear impression that I must bless the baby with an immediate recovery and that he would be healed in the moment.  As the words came out of my mouth the baby began breathing again!  WOW, what a miracle and such an amazing blessing to be a part of.  There is no doubt in my mind that we Priesthood holders really do have the power of God.  We MUST be worthy of such a huge blessing at all times!
 
Well, sorry for so little of a letter!  I love you and hope you all had a wonderful week!!
 
LOVE,
Elder Janis

Monday, February 6, 2012

Opening a New Area


Hola Familia,
 
Wow, I cannot believe the opportunity the Lord has trusted me to have!   This last Saturday night I was in a lesson when I got a call at about 8:30 at night from President Villareal.  He informed me that Monday morning, today, I would be going to a new area to open it with another Elder and that I would be assigned to be a Zone Leader...wow am I excited!!  He sent me with Elder Monjarraz from Sinaloa, Mexico and he is so great.  We are opening an area which means we have to learn the area together but also the President sent us to lead a Zone that has been known to have a couple of problems.  However, the district leaders that we have here are great, all super diligent and I know we will see many miracles this next week.
 
I was sad to leave Parque Via which was by far the best area of my mission and where I grew so much.  I am so thankful to the Lord for the opportunity that I had there!!  I am excited for the new trials and all the growing that I will do here.
 
Sorry I can't write too much...we have got to get going with making plans for the zone and working the new area!!  I AM SO EXCITED!!!
 
Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, January 30, 2012

I Look Like Robin Williams, Maybe

Mi Familia,

What another amazing week!  I don't think I have ever felt so tired in my life.  I mean I literally could not keep my eyes open when we were in a bus traveling from one part of the area to another.  I felt like a crazy wild man running around all week to make everything work out.  HAHA, in the evenings we would crash into our beds and I slept like a rock every night!

We saw a huge miracle this last week as we helped the Padilla Family get baptized.  They are a wonderful family that I had known for a while.  I met them the third day in this area when I felt a clear, strong impression to contact the mom.  We tried passing by the next couple of weeks to start teaching the family but the father always told us no.  However, we kept saying hi to them as we passed their "sope" and "quesadilla" stand.  One day when we were passing by I recognized the father of the family helping her make the food.  We went up and introduced ourselves and he responded asking if we were Mormons.  When we explained that Mormons was a nickname we have, he asked me why in our church we teach people to want to kill others.  Quite surprised by his question, I asked him if he really thought that our church taught something like that.  He answered no and then on his own invited us to come to his house the coming Saturday.

That first lesson went super well, they came to church, we got them married, and this last Sunday THEY ALL GOT BAPTIZED!!!!  I will never forget the miracle the Lord showed us.  It is such an example of the last verse in Alma 32.  With faith, patience, and diligence we WILL see miracles.

We also found a new family that in the first lesson told us that they knew we were sent by God and that they would do anything we told them they needed to do.  We had decided to knock doors and theirs was the first one we had knocked.  They all agreed to be baptized this coming Sunday and loved church.  When we talked about the Word of Wisdom, they were more than willing to make the sacrifice to stop smoking.  Overall, the greatest blessing I have found in knowing this family is the difference in happiness and light I see in every progressing visit.  In the first visit they sadly informed us about all the trials they were currently facing and their failing health.  The Spirit is definitely entering into their lives as they are starting to live the gospel.  I really enjoying noting the difference that people have before and after the lesson.  You can tell the difference in their face and especially in their eyes.  They are SUPER excited for this coming Sunday!

So its abnormally cold here and am actually using long sleeve shirts!  I am enjoying the "cold" weather but I know it is nothing compared to the snow that you are currently having.  HAHA, so funny side note: lately on the days that I wear my glasses, everyone tells me that I look like Robin Williams...HAHA.  Investigators, other missionaries, members; they all tell me that I look a lot like him.  I don't see it but I find it pretty funny.  I have lost a lot of weight and I am grateful I look like a famous actor and not like a famous sumo wrestler.

I really am so grateful for every single one of you and your loving and encouraging words.  They mean so much to me and I love reading your letters and knowing whats going on back home.  I know that they Lord is showering blessings upon me here in the mission for my service but it is also fulfilling to see these blessings being poured upon you guys.  I love you, every single one of you!!

LOVE,
Elder Janis

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sacrifice vs. Consecration

Buenas Tardes Familia,

I am feeling the happiest that I ever have in my life!  Well, I have been super happy before but the happiness that I feel right now is deeper, more real, and impressively peaceful.  I finally learned this last week the difference between sacrifice and consecration.  I had always thought that they were the same thing but I realize now that they only really have superficial similarities.  Sacrifice - when we do the will of God over our own (sometimes thinking - "I get done doing what I NEED to do and afterwards have the opportunity to do what I WANT to do.")  As missionary we think at times about the food, P-DAY, sleeping, or things about home.  We are outwardly working with all our might and strength but we aren't happy doing it.  We begin to be frustrated at the fact there is little or no time to do what we WANT to do because all the things we NEED to do.
 
Consecration on the other hand is so different.  To start, when we are truly consecrated our will becomes the Lord's will.  We stop thinking about the cost of fulfilling a duty/calling and think more about the promise in Matt. 19:29.  We realize that the only intelligent thing is to dedicate ourselves to making what we NEED to do all that we WANT to do.  There will still be tough times but deep in our hearts we will feel a happiness and peace that doesn't come close to anything else.  Our eyes will open up to a whole new view of the world when we take off our blurry lenses of self-interest and let charity fill our bowels (D&C 121: 45-46).  We begin to change and convert ourselves, becoming more like our Savior.
 
I testify that there is nothing more satisfying than this.  I feel it right now.  I hope that my thoughts above made sense.  I have lots of these ideas swirling around in my head and it was hard to put them down on "paper".
 
So we had a wonderful baptismal service for two people this last week.  We also brought two new families to church this last week and we hope to help them be able to take their baptisms this next week.  There are a lot of super exciting things going on right now.  I am learning so much right now and changing who I am to which I am SO thankful to the Lord.  I love you all and hope you have a wonderful week!!
 
Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Baptism of Tina Rojas


Buenas Tardes Familia,
 
All I can say is how blessed we are as a family!  I am so happy to know that our family as a whole is doing what the Lord requires of us in order to enter into his Holy House and receive power from on high.  In the world we live in, obedience to the commandments is growing more and more like a suggestion rather than divine laws to inherit our divine potential.  I know that the power promised by going through the temple and making the covenants that we do there is REAL.  I am astounded by the blessings I have seen in my life come directly from the things I learned and experienced in the temple and for the rich affect it is having on the rest of my life.  May we all remain worthy of such amazing blessings!
 
So last week I let you all in on the miracle decision of Tina Rojas to be baptized.  Well, everything went perfectly!  I have to say that this will be one of the conversion stories that I will never EVER forget.  She is a completely different person; a definite example of a change of heart.  First of all, the day of the baptism we went by her house to pick her up and saw a completely softer demeanor.  She seemed SO happy and resolved to carry out the decision she had made.  When we were on the way to the baptism, her husband was talking to her about the special decision she was making and bore his testimony about the wonderful difference it was going to make in her life.  The baptismal service was so simple and it was sweet to see all her family there to support her.  After the service we had the chance to congratulate her and with tearful eyes she thanked us.  We were so surprised to see all these changes in someone who before was always so hard, and dry about everything.  Another example of the change was when we went to solidify everything for the confirmation for Sunday.  Previously, she refused to go to church and told us that when she felt like it she would go and for no other reason.  "Cuando me da la gana" is what she really said.  However, she responded to the invitation to go to church with a surprisingly excited YES and Sunday morning there she was with her kids and her husband.  They could not have looked any happier!  This is what the Gospel is all about; seeing people literally change and be better,  happier people.  Changes that only Christ can make when he knocks and we let Him in.  Elder Thompson and I joke about how she was such a dry and hard person by saying, "We got a dry person wet!"  HA HA, it has a lot of pun to it and I'm sure you will all roll your eyes at the missionary humor but hey we are having fun!
 
So, today we are going to play soccer as a Zone and then go and buy Tortas (huge melts with a lot of different kinds of meat and cheese on them).  Sadly, I am in another zone that doesn't have very many sights to see and there aren't many opportunities to go sight seeing but I am going to get permission from President to go to Zocalo again and go sight seeing some more!  Well, I love you all tons and tons and hope that you all have a great week!
 
Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Three Best Things You Can Do Now To Prepare for Success in Missionary Work


Hola Familia,
 
WOW, Chad you are going to go to Germany!!!!  I can't believe it and even did a yelp of surprise here in the internet cafe!  What a great experience you will have there in Germany.  Man, for like two months there will be three of us in the mission.  What a blessing it will be to go on your missions Elaine and Chad!  Wow, I can't tell you guys how excited I am for you all.  There is nothing like the mission and nothing will ever compare to it.  I love it and every day is such a blessing!

The best thing you can do now to prepare yourselves is understand that all the success in missionary work comes from 3 things:  1) Obedience-Missionary work is impossible without the Holy Ghost and it is impossible to have the Holy Ghost without being 100% obedient.  President has taught us that we give fruits to the Lord and they aren't baptisms; they are obedience.  2) Diligence-With this amazing opportunity comes a great responsibility; we will be held accountable for what we do with the time the Lord has given us and there is no way you can be an instrument in the Lord's hands without lots of hard work.  Some of the most satisfying moments I have, other than a baptismal service, have been coming home beat tired, feeling that my legs are going to fall off, and emotionally and spiritually drained.  3) Desire-Faith and charity/love are expressed in your desire to work and look for the elect of God prepared to except the Gospel.

If you start the mission with these habits you will be SUPER powerful missionaries.  HAHA, I am going to be sending you both lots of advice like this and cheerleading you both on through your service so I hope you don't mind!!  I love you tons and tons and know you both were prepared from before this life to be where you were assigned to labor.
 
So, I had a pretty trying week with looking and looking all over for families prepared to hear the gospel.  We have set a goal as a companionship to find 7 families every week.  We found tons this week but none of them came with us to church.  However, the Lord had a little different plan for us this last week.  We did have someone come with us to church that is preparing for baptism but the baptism we were going to have fell through.  We went to our food appointment sad but excited for the opportunity to see what was in store for the coming week.  We were eating when we got a call from my Zone Leader who told me that the zone had 0 baptisms.  That is something that has never even happened while I have been here in Mexico.  I could not believe what we were hearing and Elder Thompson and I decided we were going to do everything that we could to baptize Sunday.  We made a list of all the people that had attended church and started making contact with all of them when a name came to our minds.  TINA ROJAS!!  She was someone we had left a couple of weeks ago because she angrily told us that she would be baptized when SHE felt like it.
 
When went quickly to her house and we found her family in the parking lot.  They asked us to come in and give her husband, who is member, a priesthood blessing.  We went in and gave the blessing and then sat the family down to see what miracle the Lord had planned for this family.  A quick side note: we had put into our backpack a talk by Elder Eyring called "algun dia" which is about not procrastinating repentance.  We had it there because we were thinking about using it with another investigator which I now know was really the Lord preparing all the elements for the lesson we had with Tina.  We pulled out the talk and read a couple parts and testified to the message it gave.  We started the lesson out with her usually hard hearted resistance but after reading the talk and testifying, the Spirit began changing her heart.  We saw a softness in her eyes and a change in her face.  We then invited her to be baptized that same day and she said YES!  We were excited and utterly surprised and tried to contain ourselves as we started to get things ready for the baptism.  That is when she expressed her desire that her husband be the one that would baptize her.  He, being super sick, couldn't do it so we made plans for the next possible day to do it which would be tomorrow!!  We left that lesson overly amazed with the display of the Spirit and the power of the Lord.  I can't wait for Tuesday!!
 
Well, I am so happy and excited to see what is coming this week and can't be more excited for you guys, Elaine and Chad!  Brazil and Germany have no idea what's going to hit them when you guys get there!!
 
Love,
Elder Janis

Monday, January 2, 2012

Feliz Año Nuevo from Mexico

Hola Familia,

Feliz Año Nuevo!!  Wow, Elaine I just read that you are going to Brazil!!!!  I am SOOOO excited for you! You are going to be such an amazing missionary and be a powerful tool in the Lord's hands.  I am so proud of you and happy for the choice that you have made!  Chad, I'll be anxiously waiting this coming week to hear where you will be going!

We had an amazing week!  The season right now made it a harder week than usual but we worked harder than ever.  I am so tired right now,  but man was it worth the miracles we saw this last week.  Elder Thompson and I put a goal to baptize, have 30 lessons, and 140 contacts and we were determined to get them.  This week being right smack in the middle of holidays was hard because many were out of town or didn't have time to visit with us.  However, we were blessed to find new families and were even able to help Liliana get baptized this week.  However, the contacts were a battle to obtain.  Many were not in their houses when we knocked doors and there were a lot less people in the streets.  Sunday we had two hours of open time between church services and missionary meetings in which we talked to 44 people!  We started unsure that we could finish the goal but we put ourselves to it and we were able to accomplish the goal!!

For New Years Eve, we as a Zone had a barbecue and ate steaks with nopales (cactus) and chocolate cake.  Elder Thompson and I went to our house and waited for the New Year and even had the blessing to start the new year with a Martinelli like we always do every year!  New Years Day we ate Pozole which is puffed corn with chicken in a chicken broth.  It was so delicious!  We in the evening then watched The Testaments.  Today we got permission from President to watch Kung Fu Panda 2 and Tangled which are going to be fun to see!!

Well,  I love you all and hope that you had a wonderful start to whats going to be an amazing new year.

Love,
Elder Janis