Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009 -- A Full-time Finder

The FHE with el Hermano Zavala was great. He is a great example of missionary work.

Now that La Semana Santa (I think it is called the Holy Week in English, I can't remember), is coming, our mission is giving out videos of The Lamb of God and Finding Faith in Christ. But unlike other campaigns, there are no TV commercials--it is purely by member reference.

Hermano Zavala went door to door in his neighborhood (all his neighbors call know him as “Hermano Zavala” even though they aren't members). Yesterday he gave us 21 references. Although he is a member of the high council, a temple worker, a volunteer in the family history center, a husband, father, and grandfather, and has a job, he is always willing (and excited) to accompany us in lessons with is neighbors. In fact, three of his neighbors are preparing to be baptized in two weeks. If all members were like unto Hermano Zavala, missionaries could truly be full-time teachers as Elder Bednar once taught in a General Conference.

Speaking of General Conference, it is only two weeks away! I'm excited.

* * *
[My sister] Rebecca asked if it is getting hot. Yes. The hottest season doesn't come until around June, but the heat has begun. That's OK. Heat makes me tanner and thinner, and helps me appreciate it even more when people let me into their homes.

* * *
[My sister] Rachel asked how many baptisms I have had on my mission. If you mean how many people I have baptized personally, the answer is five. If you mean how many investigators have been baptized while I was teaching them, the answer is 15. If you mean how many people that I have taught have been baptized, the answer is somewhere around 20.

[My brother] Benson asked what is my favorite Sunday song. That's a hard question. I think the answer is a hymn that doesn't exist in English, called “Placentero nos es trabajar.” I also like “Brightly Beams our Fathers Mercy” and “I'm trying to be like Jesus.”

* * *

We are currently going through a list of all the people who were baptized in our ward in the past year. Of more than 20, only the Montoyas have been ordained to the priesthood, received callings, and are still active. It made me sad to see that so many have fallen away so quickly. Callings and ordinations may not be something that you as members can help. But activity is. Be a freind to the new converts. help them feel at home. Help them gain a testimony. Help them want to come to church.

Yesterday Mauro Alfredo Montoya Perez was baptized. [He appears in the picture at left, flanked by Elder Hernandez and Elder Rowley.] It was a wonderful experience. Last week my companion and I went to the baptismal service of one of the Zone Leaders' investigators, and were impressed by how well planned and spiritual the baptismal program was. So we applied the same principles at Alfredo's baptism, and it was wonderful. Besides the baptism itself (which had to be preformed three times due to the low amount of water in the font), the most spiritual part was the closing hymn, a special musical number sung by Hermano Zavala, my companion, and myself.

Alfredo's is an incredible story. (It is Alfredo who quit smoking in three days.) When I first met him, he was always drunk and always smoking. He was always very nice, but he didn't want anything to do with us. But we were persistent. And little by little, he began to change. As his family began to convert to the gospel of Jesus Christ, they began to share their testimonies with him, and without us ever teaching the word of wisdom, he stopped drinking all by himself. When we taught him that smoking was also a sin, he stopped in just three days. He has a great desire to follow the Lord, and he is truly a new person.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009 -- How to Quit Smoking in Three Days

To answer questions about Elder Valenzuela, he was transferred, and I’m not sure where he is currently serving. The last time I saw him, however, he was well and happy and very grateful for all the mail.

This last week we had entrevistas (interviews) with President Mendoza. As always, it was a very uplifting experience. In my interview, he told me three very interesting and exciting things.
  1. Soon every missionary in the mission will have the opportunity to go to the temple once a transfer. (I can’t wait!)
  2. He is talking with the stake president about forming a branch in the ranchito where the Montoyas live.
  3. It is possible that this next transfer he will make our area smaller and add another companionship to our ward (that would make three in one ward.)
After the interviews, it is customary for Sister Mendoza to accompany us to our houses to make sure that everything is in order. As we were walking with her to the van, she asked me if I knew how to drive. Excitedly, I said yes. She then asked if I had my license. I had to admit that I didn’t carry it with me. "That’s a shame," she said, "you could have driven." (Owch, that hurt. Nine months without driving and I lost my chance.) But she gave me the hope that the next time there are interviews I will get a second chance. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost my licence. I don’t suppose there is anyway that the DMV can send me a new one without me going personally, is there?

As you know, last week was the baptism of Rhode Maria Montoya Perez. Like I told you, she had to wait a while because of her struggles to stop smoking. She has a brother named Alfredo who also has smoked for most of his life. We tried a different approach with him. Last Sunday, we taught him the Word of Wisdom, and we challenged him to stop smoking immediately, once and for all, instead of leaving it little by little. We knelt with him and his recent convert brother, Eddi, and asked for the blessings of the Lord in his efforts to stop smoking. In just three days, he stopped smoking completely. It was a miracle from the Lord, because of Alfredo’s desires and faith.

Two weeks ago, a generation of great missionaries here in the Monterrey East mission finished their two years and returned home. Two of them are close to you, Elder Lowe in San Bernardino, and Elder Munton in Yucaipa. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to give him my ripped pants to send home, but I did tell him to tell you that I love you if he ever sees you.

This evening my companion and I are going to a Family Home Evening with Hermano Zavala, one of the best member missionaries I have met. He has invited his entire neighborhood to come over. It should be great.

Thanks for your prayers, your support, and your inspiring letters.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009 -- Nothing Is Impossible

Greetings from Juaréz, Nuevo Leon, where the missionaries receive $400 (pesos) a month more than the other areas in the mission to pay for transportation, and still end up walking quite a lot.

Things are great here in Mexico. I have learned a lot from my new companion, Elder Dominguez (and I hope that he has learned a thing or two from me). He reminds me in a lot of ways of how I was when I recently arrived from the MTC (which wasn't all that long ago.) In a lot of ways, I have progressed a great deal, but looking back it seems that I have also lost some things. That's why I'm greatful that I can learn from the example of Elder Dominguez.

Yesterday we had two baptisms. Once again they are members of the Montoya family. I am so grateful that the Lord has put me here at this time when I can be a tool in his hand in bringing an entire extended family to the gospel light. Rhode Maria Montoya Perez and her son Ramon Rodriguez Montoya were baptized. It was a special day, for many reasons. One reason is that it was a baptism of mother and son. Another is that it was the first baptism performed by my companion. Another is that our recent convert Eddy gave his first church talk on the Holy Ghost (and did a great job). Another is that Rhode had been wanting to be baptized for a long time, but couldn't because she was smoking. She has smoked for over 30 years, and thought that she could never give it up. But with the Lord's help, nothing is impossible and she has now become dead to that sin, and has become a new person (Romans 6:1-6).

Yesterday two recently returned missionaries gave their homecoming talks in our ward. It made me wonder how I'll feel when that time comes. Luckily, I've still got 15 months before I have to worry about it. I don't want to have any regrets.

Here's something I've been thinking about lately: Joseph Smith in many ways was very similar to many people. The world is full of people who are confused and desire to know the truth. I talk to them every day. He wasn't even all that different in that he received a divine response to his question, for it is a promise to everyone that we can know the truth of all things by the power of the Holy Ghost. I also talk with many people who have received such a testimony. What made Joseph Smith different is that he had the courage and faith to act on that response. He was obedient and it didn't matter what happened. Unfortunately, many people who receive divine responses refuse to act on them, because of fear or laziness or the cares of the world, or for whatever reason.

Nevertheless there are people like Joseph today who act on the responses they receive, who follow the Lord's commands even when the times get tough. I have also talked with and taught many such people. I want to be one of them.

6,000 Words

Yours Truly with President and Sister Mendoza

Three Generations: Me with Elder Gonzalez (my tutor) and Elder Dominguez

The baptism of Lucy and Cristhian

The marriage of Lucy and Toño

As many of the Montoya family as we could find together in one place

Yesterday's baptism: Rhode y Ramon

Monday, March 2, 2009

March 2, 2009 -- The Most Important Transfer of His Mission

Funny that you should ask about my Sunday. When I arrived, I noticed that in addition to the bishopric, there was the entire stake presidency and another important-looking man whom I did not recognize. I later found out that he was an Area Seventy, Elder Julio Gonzalez.

Our ward is huge and there have been lots of rumors lately that it is going to be divided, so when I saw all the visitors I thought that was what was going to happen. As usual, there wasn’t anyone to play the piano. There are other piano players in the ward, but they all arrive late. I had asked the bishop to assign one of them to play every Sunday, so that I could sit with my investigators, which he agreed to do.

But yesterday the piano player didn’t arrive on time. The bishop asked me to play. I agreed, but told him he had to change the second hymn, as I didn’t know how to play it. He told me not to worry, the normal piano player would be there in time to play it -- I only had to play the opening.

But the piano player never came, and the bishop announced the sacrament hymn. So I had to sight read in front of the stake presidency and a member of the Seventy.
It turns out that they still haven’t divided the ward. I’m not sure why they came, but we had a powerful priesthood meeting with Elder Gonzalez.

This week we also had the opportunity as a mission to hear from Elder Octaviano Tenorio of the First Quorum of the Seventy. It was incredible. The most important things I learned where the importance of vision, and the three keys to success--diligence, concentration, and joy.

I’m sure you are all anxiously awaiting to find out the results of the transfers. I am staying in Juarez for at least 6 more weeks. Elder Zamudio has been trasnfered. I have been assigned to be a tutor, which means my companion is a brand new missionary. His name is Elder Dominguez and he is from the Federal District. I don’t really know much else about him. I met him today, but he isn’t with me until tomorrow.

The assignment to be a tutor is a greatly important one. I see the effects of the teachings and examples of my tutors, Elder Zobell and Elder Gonzalez, every day of my mission. President doesn’t like us to use the words "father" and "son" to refer to new missionaries and their tutors, so I won’t do it. But I see a great similarity between being a father and being a tutor. Each is both hugely important and will effect his son/new missionary for all his life/mission.

I am glad to have another transfer here. When it ends, I’ll have been here for six months. I feel as if the Montoya Family was a if not the major reason why I was called to this mission.

I was going to send you several pictures today, but I forgot the cable for my camera, so it will have to wait for next week.

Elder Valenzuela is surprised, happy, and grateful for all the mail he has been receiving. Thank you.