Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday, January 26, 2009 -- I Want to Be Baptized

[Thanks to] the members of the ward who sent me Christmas cards and letters. I wish I had time to respond to them all.
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That is wonderful that the Tylers [of the Redlands stake] have been called to be mission president and wife. That is one of the most important and influential callings in the church. As Elder [Quentin L.] Cook [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] said, the influence of a good mission president is one of the miracles of the Restoration. I’m sure that [the Tylers] will be a blessing in the lives of hundreds of missionaries and investigators wherever they serve. * * *

This week we were walking down the street on our way to an appointment when I saw a man sitting in a chair in his driveway. I felt like I should talk to him, so I did. We introduced ourselves and found out that his name was Eduardo, that he is from Veracruz. We also met his wife, who is in a wheelchair. She told us that she had been baptized in the Church as a young girl, but hadn’t attended the church for more than 20 years, and that she didn’t consider herself a member of any church. We talked to them for about 15 minutes and taught the message of the Restoration. They told us that that wasn’t their normal house, but they gave us their address and the following day we went there to give them a copy of the Book of Mormon and to invite them to church. When we arrived, Eduardo told us that he had read the pamphlet we had given him and that he and his wife wanted to come to church. I was excited.

During sacrament meeting I couldn’t sit with Eduardo and Elisa because I was playing the piano. But I noticed Eduardo and my companion whispering to each other. After the services, my companion explained that Eduardo had read 3 Nephi 11 and had underlined the verses that talk about baptism (I can’t remember the numbers, but they say that we have to be baptized to inherit the kingdom of God.) Eduardo told my companion that he wanted to be baptized. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and has a powerful effect on people who read it seeking to know the truth.

I love reading the testimony of Jesus Christ about his own church in Doctrine and Covenants 1. Like Him, I know that this is the only true and living church on the face of the earth. I know that Jesus Christ loves each one of us more than we can imagine, that he desires to clasp us in his arms if we will but come to Him (Mormon 5:11). Through Him, we will be together forever. Through Him, we will return to live with our Heavenly Father. Through Him, we can change. Through Him, we can find peace, happiness, and purpose in this life.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday, January 19, 2009: La Ley de Castidad

Saturday night the call came once again. I can't believe how fast this transfer has gone by. My leaders had told me that it was very likely that I would be leaving, that I was needed in other areas, so I knew what to expect. In fact, I even started saying goodbye. Then the call came. "Elder Rowley and Elder Zamudio both stay. There are no changes in the area." I thought it was a joke, because the first thing they say is always a joke. But when Elder Whatcott didn't start to laugh or say just kidding, I realized it was true. And I was very happy. I will be here in Juárez at least until March, and I am very glad.

This week we had two wonderful baptisms. They both were of women who had to wait awhile to be baptized because they weren't living the law of chastity. Each took a different solution. The name of the first will sound familiar to you. Joana and Jorge got married! And Joana got baptized! After six months of going to church every Sunday, she is finally a member. It was incredible. Hers was a very special baptism. The second baptism, Brenda, is another member of the Montoya family. She had been living with a man since she was 16, but the man mistreated her. When the missionaries taught the law of chastity, she knew she either had to marry him or leave him. She made her own decision and chose the second. There wasn't very much water in the font, and Elder Zamudio had to baptize her on her knees (after saying the prayer on their feet.) But she made it under the water. She too has come along way. I love seeing the changes that the gospel works in people.
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I'm sorry my letter isn't as long this week. I have lots to tell you, but my pictures are each worth a thousand words!

P.S. To answer your question, Lucy had not yet been baptized because she is not married to her husband. She is working on saving up the money, however, and very much wants to get baptized. Our goal is February 6 for her baptismal date.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009 -- The Cure for Cancer

What goes around comes around, as they say. I didn’t write to you on time last week, and so now it is my turn not to get an email from you. Don’t worry. My mailbox may be empty, but my joy is still full. I don’t need to see an email to know that you are in the hands of the Lord (D&C 100).

This week my companion and I had several experiences in which my testimony was strengthened of the power of the priesthood. A few weeks ago, my companion and I were walking down the street when a less-active sister called to us. We went over to her and she told us that her children were sick and she asked us to give them blessings. We agreed. She explained us the situation, but as still happens every once in a while, I didn’t understand what she was saying. (In this case, I think it was the gift of un-tongues.) Because I didn’t understand what she had said, I felt perfectly fine, under the influence of the Spirit, blessing the oldest daughter with a full and speedy recovery. After the blessing, my companion explained to me that the mother had told us that the doctors had said that her daughter could very easily die within a week. At first, I worried about the blessing I had given, but I knew that it was the Spirit that told me what to say, so I didn’t worry too much. This past week we went back to see how the mother and her children were doing. She told us that her children had completely recovered within three days of our visit and were not home because they were playing with friends. What a miracle!

This week a recent convert, Miriam, the wife of Roberto Carlos, asked us to give a blessing to their 4-year-old daughter Emily. She had been having nightmares and wasn't sleeping well. During the blessing, having recently re-read Elder Holland’s conference talk, I felt inspiried to bless Emily with the protection and comfort of angels. Miriam told us that she slept like an angel that night.

Another member of the extended Montoya family (the family from the Ranchito), Lucy, is preparing to get baptized once she and her husband save enough money to get married (this week or the next). They have a six-year-old daughter with cancer, who will be starting chemotherapy again this week. She too asked us to give a blessing to her daughter this past Friday. Personally, before I give a priesthood blessing I like to say a prayer, thanking God for the priesthood I hold and asking for His guidance in the blessing. As I prayed before blessing Sonia, I felt strongly to bless her with a fully recovery and long life, according to the faith of her mother. I followed the prompting.

How blessed we are to live in a time when the Priesthood has been restored! Every day I am more grateful for the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned in our conversation at Christmas, there are a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses in our area. This past Saturday, when we left the house, there were 13 on our street (not an exaggeration) we saw approximately 10 more though out the day. It is crazy to think how many of them there are in an area where my companion and I are the only ones with power and authority to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I view the Jehovah's Witnesses as an Elias, preparing the way for something better. I try to contact everyone, including Jehovah's Witnesses. Usually they are very friendly, but not very interested in our message. But they are always willing to trade pamphlets. (I don’t read them, however, because we are not allowed to.)

Time for a cultural moment. In many parts of Mexico, the people celebrate Reyes Magos, or the three wise men. On the seventh of January, the three wise men come in the night and leave gifts in the morning (it's like a second Christmas.) In the evening, the family all gathers together to cut Rosca, a long loaf of sweet bread. Hidden in the bread are little figures of the baby Jesus. If you take a piece with one of these figures, it means you have to make tamales for everyone on the 2nd of February. My companion and I were teaching in the Ranchito on the 7th, and when we went to visit the Montoyas, they were all together in the house of Doña Carmen, cutting Rosca. We were invited and decided to stay for a few minutes to participate. I was the second one to take a piece of bread, and the first one to have the figure hidden in my piece. Thankfully, Eddi, the father of the family who was baptized this past week, said that he would provide the tamales for me.

Yesterday, Miriam was called to be the secretary in the Young Women’s program. Roberto Carlos blessed the sacrament for the first time. He also ordained his brother, Eddi, to the Aaronic Priesthood in the office of priest. Juan Jesus was also ordained a Deacon. This Sunday, three more members of the Montoya extended family will be baptized. Doña Carmen, the matriarch of the family, is now active in the church agin, and has quit smoking and drinking coffee. This past Thursday there was a Montoya Family Home Evening with over 30 people present, including many children who will grow up in the gospel. I feel so blessed to be a part of the conversion of this family. In a year or so, they will all go to the temple and be sealed for time and all eternity. I LOVE MISSIONARY WORK! And I love the Montoya Family.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 -- Better Late than Never

[Editors' note: This is the second of two posts for January 6, 2009]

Breathe! I’m ok. In fact, I’m wonderful. Please forgive me for not writing yesterday. Yesterday we had a special event in the mission offices for all the missionaries here in the "city." It is an annual tradition in this mission that takes place around Christmas or New Year's. First, we had a sports tournament. We played soccer, volleyball, and basketball. I had a blast. I am not at all good at playing any of those sports, but I enjoy playing them anyway. After the tournament, we had a delicious meal followed by a mission talent show. Then we had a devotional where we listned to the testimonies of the "heroes" (those who are going home at the end of the transfer) as well as certain other missionaries who President asked to share experiences. Then President said a few words and we went home. We got home at 8:30, so we didn't have time to do any of the normal preparation day stuff, except clean the house a little bit. So we have today, until the 2:00 meal, to write, shop, etc.

This week has been a wonderful one. We have lots of people (including several families) that we are teaching. After the wonderful experience with Eddi and Olga, I am looking for more families to teach (as Preach My Gospel tells us to.)

The father of one of the families we are teaching is named Santiago. This last week we had a powerful lesson with him and his family. My companion and I had decided to read 3 Nephi 11 with them, because they hadn't had time to read it on their own. After reading it, I asked Santiago how he felt. "Wonderful," he said. "The word of God is so powerful. It is so smooth, yet so piercing. To be honest, when you have come in the past, I didn't really feel much, but this, the pure word of God, this is powerful." First of all, I was surprised at his obvious testimony that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Second, I was reminded of Preach My Gospel, where it says that the Book of Mormon, combined with the Spirit, is the most powerful tool that we have as missionaries. It was a lesson to me that I need to use it more in my teaching. Because like Santiago said, I don’t teach very well, my words aren't that great. But it is impossible to deny the power of the word of God.

Mom, you asked if there is anything I need. . . . Letters and pictures are all I really need and want . . . . With that said, I’m going to contradict myself a little and ask for [something]. . . . There is an Elder in my zone named Elder Valenzuela. He is from Peru, a convert of two years, and the only member in his family. He has been a missionary for nine months and not once has he received a card or letter or package, even from his family. During Zone Meetings, when the mail is passed out, he always goes to the bathroom. If you could send him cards . . . , I would be very grateful. . . .

Throughout the Earth, there is a famine. Not of bread or water, but of hearing the word of the Lord (Amos 8:11-12). People are searching for this spiritual bread, but cannot find it. As a famine is a matter of life or death, this is a matter of eternal life and death. Jesus Christ is the bread of life and the living water. If we come to Him, we shall never hunger or thirst. (John 6:32-35). Jesus Christ and His gospel is the solution to the spiritual hunger that exists in the world. God doesn´t want us to be in this famine, He wants us to feast upon the words of Christ (2 Ne 32:3). Blessed are we if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, for we shall be filled with the Holy Ghost. (3 Ne 12:6). My job as a missionary is to bring food to the spiritually hungry. There are many who are starving and who are searching for food, but they know not where to find it. I want to wear out my life helping them find this spiritual feast (D&C 123:12-14).

I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior in a very individual way. He truly is the Living Water, He has quenched my spiritual thirst. His gospel is the way to find peace, happiness, and purpose in life, no matter what problems we face. Joseph Smith is His prophet. This week we had an investigator ask us why we talk about Joseph Smith so much. I explained that we do not worship Joseph Smith, but we deeply respect him. The reason why we respect him so much is because God through Him, has put an end to the spiritual famine, has helped us grow closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 -- Two Pictures

The first is the picture from last week´s baptism. From left to right, Roberto Carlos (recent convert of three months, brother of Eddi, had recieved the priesthood that day and baptized the two children), Olga, Eddi, Me, Elder Zamudio, Juan Jesus, and Perla.

The second is a picture of my zone with our t-shirts that we made for the Sports tournament we had yesterday.