Monday, June 26, 2017

Last Entry from the Field

This will be the last blog post of my mission. I suppose that leaves some temptation to be nostalgic and particularly reflective. There's not a great deal to report from this last week...we spent the majority of it chasing down contracts the mission needs urgently for the apartments of all missionaries. 

Which, I suppose leaves some room to reflect on my mission. I ended up serving in seven different areas. Each one consisted of a life, a new community, different worries and hopes, and different lessons to be learned. I started in Huánuco, where I spent the majority learning the language and entering into the mission life.

My second area was in Huancayo, the biggest city in the mission, where I learned a good deal about the realities of the mission and how to adapt to different situatons.

My third area was in Junín, the smallest town in which I served. I learned perseverance and how to keep your head up in faith. My companion and I wasted and wore out our lives trying to get our pension's daughter baptized, who was our good friend. It mattered a lot to us, and we both left the area dejected that even though she had her testimony, and we felt we were the missionaries meant to help her convert, it didn't amount to anything. To complete the lesson of the area, though, I was able to return to their house for a small moment in my travels for a Leadership Conference this last week. She told us she was getting baptized on Saturday. So time doesn't really matter when it comes to what we do here.

In my fourth area, I got to serve in the jungle, in a city called San Ramón. There I learned how to work with the Young Men's program and animate youth to go forward in programs and refrain from inactivity. We helped out with a lot of personal problems there as well, and I learned how to be sensitive to the different situations people live in.

In my fifth area, I returned to Huánuco, to what I would deem to be my favorite area. I guess one of the lessons I learned there was charity, because the members, the investigators, the missionaries in the zone, and my companions mattered to me a lot there. I learned how to ride the high wave while it's up and enjoy it when hard work yields great results. It was my first area in a zone leader position, so I also got to practice leadership skills.

After that, I returned to Huancayo, where I learned to deal with feelings of inadequacy in the work, which inevitably come. I learned how to be patient with other people, and that I was not solely responsible for the salvation of those around me. I also learned how to amp up the work, which perhaps was not suitable for that time, but came in handy in my following area.

Which brings me to my last Cerro de Pasco. I learned more about leadership here than anywhere else. I got to see missionaries change, and the dynamic of the zone become something wonderful to behold. I saw depressed missionaries get overjoyed with being bold in the work. I saw energy get renewed, and that did me a great deal of good. I also got great companions that brought out the best in me and made the work efficient in our own area. 

I hope you enjoyed the blog in these last years. Perhaps the greatest change throughout the two years came from trying so hard to do exactly what God wanted day after day. I can say I gave it my all. The work means everything to me. The Church means everything to me...upon believing that this is the truth, it logically means that it's the center of everything. The center of the two years, and the center of our lives. It's the center of my life. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I want everyone to know that. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet today. I know the Book of Mormon is true, and that Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice fuel our lives. I know God is our Father. I know the Plan of Salvation is the path to life eternal. And that's all I want, for me, and for everyone that matters to me. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Zone on Fire

It was another solid week. More than anything, I'm delighted to continue to hear of outstandingly memorable experiences from the zone. One companionship got permission to frequently visit a Police Station and share small messages with all the officers. Today will be larger, and they will be speaking with a great crowd there.

We have other missionaries who went to the edge of their area to a small town 15 minutes out from Cerro de Pasco and went on a diligent search for the most important person in town. They boldly asked if they might have permission to show church videos in a public place with help, and received it.

On our divisions, we take out missionaries and show them how many contacts are possible within a day. I feel like the zone is swarming with activity and spiritual experiences. I'm excited to see what kind of miracles come from the special effort. Yet I know none of this would necessarily result to anything if God did not multiply anything we give Him. It's remarkable.

I know that the work is guided by Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. I want Their will to be completed, as it certainly will be. The best thing we can do is blow in the same direction of the wind and have the giddy feeling that we're contributing.

Monday, June 12, 2017

On Being Bold

This week was a whirlwind. We started out with training with our Mission President. My companion and I spoke on the importance of being bold, and we took them outside to do some practice. Some went to a market as a choir, some went with President to make a table stand of pamphlets and magazines in the plaza, and some went with me to teach Lesson 1 to passersby in the street.

President taught about being a missionary who challenges. He explained as soon as someone feels the Spirit, they should be challenged to baptism. The zone applied both trainings this week in admirable ways with outstanding results.

There's this small town about forty minutes out of Cerro de Pasco with two missionaries. The town has the smallest branch in the mission and it can be a fairly hard place to be. There, the little town -- in Peruvian celebratory fashion -- celebrated their 183rd anniversary. About two thousand people crowded into the plaza for an endless parade of representatives from all over the area and speeches from important figures. The missionaries there asked the mayor for a moment to speak with everyone the day before the activity. While they didn't get the speech time they were hoping for, they did introduce themselves to the multitude and invite them to church. It was an impressive sight to behold.

We contacted a family about a week ago in a park, but they didn't answer the door until Sunday when we tried one last time. We were invited in and talked to a large family who are facing particular problems that the Plan of Salvation specifically answers. For instance, one of the daughters died two years ago and they're still coping with worry, heartache, and the question of what will happen to their daughter who wasn't baptized. We taught them the hope the gospel brings and applied President's training to challenge them on the spot. They accepted the last day in the area. We hope and pray all goes well!  They were certainly prepared, and if all goes well, will be a defining miracle in my mission. I know the church is true, and that God looks out for us.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Final Sprint

Back in high school, running track and cross country taught me a lot of things I've used in different ways throughout my mission and life. One of them is, on the last stretch, you train your mind to stop thinking and just sprint as hard as you can. Elder Bolaños and I are trying to take off here. We're focusing a lot on finding new investigators this transfer, so my companion and I are trying to be innovative in new and bold ways to do so. One of them, of course, is literally talk to everybody that you see. Another is the classic street meeting of yesteryear, where we stand up on chairs and teach discussions as people pass by in plazas. We also create a stand where we give out church magazines, contact cards, and pamphlets. 

To do such activities makes me feel finally satisfied...finally as though I'm really giving my all to get the message out to as many people as possible. The zone is coming to life as well, as they begin to work on a higher plane. We're facing, of course, our share of problems, including the impossible climate up here. In the last two weeks, we've sent three missionaries out of the city. But it adds a sense of urgency to the work, which is not bad. I hope you all have a great week, as summer returns to the States. Here in Cerro de Pasco, we'll still be sure to wear four coats, gloves, a scarf, two pairs of sock (as is the custom here), and a hat. ¡Que se cuiden, mis estimados!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Optimism is Realism

This week was super awesome. My new companion, Elder Bolaños and I, are having a ridiculously fun time. We're also both working hard and prepared to see a lot of miracles happen, both in the zone and in our area.

Firstly, an update on how the work goes. We still have our golden investigator who's going through all the lessons and faithfully coming to church each week. I'm impressed, once more, on how there really are people who are absolutely ready for the gospel and only need to be taught. In another family, two sisters are having a little more difficulty in progressing due to difficulties in attending. Nevertheless, they still have desires to be baptized, so we spoke -- particularly with their less-active mother -- on the essential principle of Sabbath-Day observance for the welfare of the family. Other memorable moments of the week included a contacting activity where we put up a table in front of popular places (the plaza, the high school, the market, etc.) and gave out pamphlets, cards, and magazines about the Church. It was enjoyable, more than anything because you really feel like you're completing your calling when you do such public preaching. You feel like you've become enjoined with the voices of missionaries from the past.

Another thrilling aspect of the week was the growth in the zone. Last transfer, we had a lot of things to iron out and things felt a little chaotic. After transfers, we got a lot of Elders with a high level of faith and energy, and my companion and I are focusing particularly on creative ideas to help the zone take off. We have high and fervent goals; we see Elders determined to change; we talk to others with a reverence in their eyes for what we hope to achieve in this transfer.

Optimism is realism. Brigham Young once said no one could have a real understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without being an optimist. We have too high of expectations, and we believe our benevolent actions have eternal consequences. Imagine what reality has in store when we note that it is the wellspring of all the happiest songs, triumphant stories, and majestic art. We sometimes suppose all of that is false aspect of the world; tremulous ideas we use to view the world in a better light. Yet everything has a tangible source. Incredibly, any song, picture, movie, or book was expressly created as an imitation of something the creator could discern from the world. 

That means that when we achieve some virtue of nobility, all depictions of said virtue are only attempts to portray who we have become. I know charity, love, optimism and happiness are not a perspective but rather the reality of our world. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Becoming Like Christ

Well, we witness the passing of another transfer. My good friend and companion Elder Phillips will be leaving to Huánuco, and hence begins my final transfer. I'm finally clambering up on the health ladder, overcoming a series of sicknesses. I'm on top, now!  The area is still looking extremely promising- we've seen a great many people miraculously start progressing on the steps of the Gospel of Christ. 

Lately, part of my studies have been inspired by a spiritual thought in a letter I received -- that the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 demonstrate the steps of the Gospel of Jesus Christ- faith, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end are related to steps like being poor in heart, weeping, being meek, being a peace maker, and suffering for the sake of righteousness. That reminded me of similar steps in Moroni 8:25-26, in which the attributes of Christ are once more outlined throughout the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And again, in Mosiah 4, I was amazed to see the Gospel steps are once more taught through attributes of Christ. I would invite you to study the same. 

I came to realize that the reason Christ focuses on these steps - their purpose, if you will - is to transform us into people like Christ. We unwittingly make the two statements, "Our purpose in life is to follow the Gospel,"  and "Our purpose in life is to become like Christ" without realizing we are making the same statement. 

I know the gospel of Jesus Christ will transform us to be like Him when we return to His presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Are We Not All Beggars?

This week we baptized a young man and friend with a wonderful testimony. The Atonement of Jesus Christ had a powerful impact on him, and the day of his baptism made him so happy. I've included a picture. 

The gospel provides a method by which we become officially forgiven - that Jesus Christ can literally have the final say, and erase all guilt. I was impressed by King Benjamin's speech this week in the first chapters of Mosiah. He first secures that we are so little on our own, and we can expect nothing but pain and misery without Christ. When he establishes this point well, he then points out the sacred grace that makes it so, as President Uchtdorf says, "Compared to God, we are nothing; but to God, we are everything". As his people (and, hopefully, we) are rejoicing in unspeakable gratitude, King Benjamin then spins it into action. "Are we not all beggars?" he demands. Aren't we all dependent on the same Supreme Being? How could we ever deny our goods, and our service, and our strength to the poor and needy (be it spiritual or physical)?

I know we need to help our fellow brethren, by any means we can. 

For your viewing pleasure, here are some more pictures: