Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009 -- Spiritual Experiences and Scraps of Metal

My driver's liscence turned up this week! . . . Now if La hermana o El Preisdente Mendoza give me another chance to drive, I'll be able to take it.

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This week has been somewhat tough, but also has been full of great spiritual experiences. President Mendoza has taught us that there are three factors that affect someone's decision to accept the Restored Gospel: their agency, the quality of our teaching (which includes a lot, such as personal study and worthiness of the Spirit), and opposition from the enemy of all righteousness. My companion and I are doing everything we can to have the best quality of teaching, but our enemy is also doing everything he can.

Unfortunately, everyone we were teaching has used their agency to make decisions that cause the to leave our teaching pool. (Luis, Amner, and Axel, the boys from the family of five we found a few weeks ago, will be baptized soon, but in a different area—they moved. Everyone else stopped progressing or asked us not to come back.)
But my companion and I haven’t lost hope, and the Lord has blessed us. This week we have found several of His chosen, prepared children.

One day we were tracting when we saw a house with three huge "holy death" statues in front. ["Holy Death" is depicted as a skeleton in a robe. Her worshippers typically come from the criminal element in Mexico. -- eds.] Remembering that President Mendoza has told us to knock on every door, we ignored our fear and knocked. A young man answered, and didn't let us in, but let us teach him on his doorstep. When we came to our return appointment the following day, he wasn’t there, but we met his mom and sister, who invited us in. We felt inspired and changed the first lesson to focus on baptism. At the end, we challenged them, and they accepted baptismal dates in the first lesson! In our return appointments, I continue to be amazed by their willingness to learn and to follow the Savior.

Another day we had prayed about which street to tract and felt prompted to knock all the doors of Rio Panuco. Several of the people in that street let us in, and we found many great people, but one in particular. Her name is Karla. The first time we knocked, no one answered, we knocked again, but once again nothing, so we started walking away when we heard the door open and came back quickly. We met Karla, a 24-year-old who lives with her husband and baby son. She invited us into her patio, and we began to teach her the first lesson.

It was a powerful lesson. She told us that she has attended several churches, but that none of them seem to be completely true. When we taught about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, she listened carefully, but expressed a lot of doubt. But when we talked about prayer and the Holy Ghost, sharing our testimonies, her doubt seemed to lesson and her interest increase.

She then told us something very special. She said that she had been praying that God would send her someone to guide her to the right path for her life. In that moment, I felt the Spirit very strongly. I told her that we had felt inspired to tract her street that day, and that the Lord had sent us there to find her. I testified of our message, and invited her to pray and ask for herself. Her eyes were watery and my own cheeks were wet as I finished. Tomorrow we have our second lesson with her. I have faith that she will have read and prayed and received an answer.

I think I have mentioned before that here in Mexico, one often hears slow-moving cars with loudspeakers announcing that the driver buys or sells certain products. Yesterday [Sunday], the peace of the sacrament was interrupted by the sound of a truck driving slowly past, announcing that he was buying old metal and broken-down appliances.

At first, I was annoyed at the interruption. But then I began to think about the situation.

For most people, there is absolutely nothing of value in old rusty scraps of metal and refrigerators that no longer cool or washing machines that no longer wash. But someone sees in them enough worth to strap a loud speaker to his car, and spend the time and gas driving through the streets offering to spend his own money to buy them.

We are all like those scraps of metal. To most, it seems like we have no purpose -- there is nothing of worth in us. But there is someone who sees us differently, Someone who sees in us enough worth to take our sins and weaknesses upon Himself, freely paying with His own blood to ransom us. He did this so that he could take us and pass us through the refiner's fire and make us into something new, something wonderful.

Our Savior bought us all with an expensive price, in order to make us clean and new. I know that He truly lives and loves us all.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009 -- Effort vs. Outcome

Almost everyday . . . we drink ["Zuko" drink mixes at] our meals with the members. Once in a while, they give us fruit water with natural fruit, which is always delicious. . . .

The family of five, the family Garcia Urbina are doing well. Their oldest sons, Luis and Abner, went to Mutual this past week. It was the first time that they had gone out without their mom. They loved it and want to come back. We are hoping that this week they will all attend church together and accept their baptismal date.

Raquel is doing well also, but didn't accept a baptismal date. We are going to help her have friends in the Church and a stronger testimony, and then extend another date [challenge].

This last week we had interviews with President Mendoza. As always, in little time he taught me great things. I expressed concern that our zone and our area aren't reaching our full potnential, despite of my best efforts. In response, he shared with me doctrine and Covenants 124:49, which basically says that if we do everything we can, with unceasing dillginece, to perform the duties the Lord has given us, but because of outside forces we don't achieve our goals, the Lord accepts our offering. I've thought a lot about this these past few days. For God, our results don’t matter nearly so much as our efforts. If I truly do everything I can to obey and to achieve what the Lord has commanded me to do, I can be content.

But this principle works the other way as well. If we achieve great things, but do it grudgingly, it is as if we hadn't done anything (Moroni 7). Or if we have desires to do bad things, we are sinning even if we don't carry out those desires (Matthew 7, I think.)

Thanks for sharing the story of Roberta and Kyle [who were baptized recently]. I send my deepest congratulations. I'm happy to know that [my home] ward is having success in missionary work. Missionary work is the lifeblood of the church.

I just barely started, but my time is already up. I love you all a lot, I don't ever forget about you. You are always in my thoughts and prayers, no matter how busy I am.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009 -- Finding the Family of Five

I hope you all had a great Labor Day. I had a great day laboring in the work of our King, as it says in my translation of the Spanish hymn "Placentero Nos Es Trabajar."

BYU beat Oklahoma! That's great. I love it when good conquers evil. Ha ha.

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Unfortunately, because of computer problems, I don’t have very much time to write. But I want to tell you about an experience that we had this week.

When Elder Tenorio [of the Seventy] came to the mission last March, he taught us about being specific about our desires in our prayers. My companion and I have been working hard this week, but without the all the desired results. We have a goal to baptize ten people in September, but all the people we were teaching have fallen out of the teaching pool for various reasons.

So last Tuesday, we followed Elder Tenorio's advice. We told the Lord that we would be contacting a certain street at a certain time, and asked him to prepare a family of five who would allow us to teach them. All that day I was anxiously awaiting one o'clock, when we would be contacting 7th street in Cumbres. We were there on time and began to knock doors. With each new person, I had hope that they were part of our family of five, but we knocked on every door and no one let us teach them.

I was sad and disappointed, but we didn't let this affect our work. We went to eat, and then kept working in spite of the appointments we had. Later that day, we saw Raquel, one of our best investigators, in the street. We had stopped by her house earlier, but she wasn't home. It was the hand of God that we found her there, first of all because we needed to teach her, but also because she told us that she would be home in 15 minutes, and we had to find something to do for 15 minutes.

So we knocked the doors of some of her neighbors. There was one woman, with her 16-year-old son, who let us in. They were quite receptive, and the lesson went well. But that day we commited an error and forgot to ask about their family. When we came to our return appointment, I asked about their family. She said that she had three sons, ages 11, 15 and 16. I asked if they were home. She said yes. I invited them to come listen to the lesson. They did. It went well.

Yesterday, we met the father of the family. Usually, I dread meeting the father, because most of the time the men here reject us. But the father of the Garcia Rubina family is the most receptive. So last Tuesday we found our family of five without even realizing it! The blessings of the Lord are great!

My time is up, but I want to share a thought from my mission president, when I expressed my worries to him. It's in Spanish. . . .: "Hay otros buenos hombres que se esforzaron por ayudar a la gente y no lo lograron como era su deseo. Nefi a sus hermanos y cuñados. Alma a la gente de Ammoniah. Nefi, hijo de Helaman a la gente de Zarahemla. Jesus mismo, a los judios. José Smith en la restauración. Etc. Pero todos, como usted, hicieron su mejor esfuerzo. Gracias por ello y no permita que el desanimo se apoderé de su vida."

[Translation: "There are other good men who strove to help people but did not succeed as they wished: Nephi and his elder brothers; Alma and the people of Ammoniah; Nephi, son of Helaman, and the people of Zarahemla; Jesus himself with the Jews; Joseph Smith in the Resoration. But all of them, like you, did their best. Thanks for that and do not allow discouragement to take over your life."