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!
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!


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!

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!!

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!!

Elder Janis