Amar y Servir

Amar y Servir

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas, New Investigators, Baptismal Dates

So this past week it was a slower paced week due to the two days we stayed in for Christmas Eve and day.  I loved all the gifts and presents that you all sent!  We have been enjoying everything given to us and the great letters and expressions of recognition and love!  Thanks mom and dad for getting everything I asked for for Christmas.  I truly enjoyed reading the letters that everyone wrote.  They made that Christmas one of the best I have ever had.  

So I have solved the Rubix cube about 5-7 times already in my spare time. I have started more of the protein powder (I will jump higher ;).  The new case has protected my iPad-mini well (plus I get to stand out from all the black cases with one of my favorite colors, blue).  The letters warmed my heart and brought peace to my soul.  To see all of you was the best gift by far, however.  The love between all of us is so strong and I treasure every moment I get to communicate with you.  Getting to see all of you made my Christmas amazing.

Also, we have been dropping investigators lately and opening up more time to find new investigators.  Well... we got just that.  We were teaching people that are super close to being baptized, but the more we worked with them, we learned that we couldn't do more until they made the leap of faith.  So we starting looking for more people and all of the sudden we got three new families!  The husband is closed off to religion right now, but the mom is on fire!  The kids are cool as well.  Just to give you the picture of how prepared she is, our second lesson she accepted a baptismal date for January 17th! We have been working to keep lessons shorter to 30min and be better at setting expectations at the beginning of lessons.  To add, we have been focusing more on teaching simply and having members with us to fellowship and testify.  Due to this, the visits we have been having have been more packed with the Spirit, even if we haven't given as much doctrine.  

I am beginning to find that as we are sticking closer to what PMG teaches, the more success we have as missionaries.  Plus, being real people instead of weird robotic "hi we are missionaries (or members) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" repeating individuals, it is much easier to find people who are interested in talking to us!

This week is a little more laid back.  So I'll send you pictures!  

The Sepulvida Family gave us nice sweaters! I got a really nice red one!

From Grandma Hale!

Yummy enchaladas!

 I got others that I will send next week!

Monday, December 21, 2015

In this week, as you may know, we got to go as a mission to see the Mesa Temple Christmas Lights.  It was such an amazing experience to be able to walk through the brand new visitor's center.  There are new interactive video pods that talk about the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  There are a few other really cool exhibits that we actually taken some investigators to go see.  We spent about 2 hours there seeing the tools we have available to us and then we got to go in and do a session in the temple!  Super spiritual and good revelation and guidance for a better service in the work of the Lord.  Following which we went to a buffet and finished with the Christmas lights.  I got to see a good amount of mission friends and make some new ones.   (I'll send you some of my favorite pictures)

Fast forward to Friday (the next day.) where we had the ward Christmas party.  To give you an idea of how packed this gym was is that is was about the same size as our home chapel gym and we had all tables full of 350 people!!  Going to Sunday we upped assistance from a regular 220 to about 290!  That day we normally had 2 investigators, 4 was the high since I have been there, and it jumped to 8!  The Spirit of Christmas is touching everyone's hearts and they are more open to hearing about Christ and showing their love for Him.  We are putting a lot of effort to help those we are working with take the next steps. Those that have had slow progression, we have left them for a time and will wait for them to take some steps to show their sincere desire, otherwise we are going to focus on working on those keeping commitments and finding the people that are willing to do so as well.

Sunday night I have to say thank you for all the prayers in my behalf for the Christmas Conference performance.  I did a good job!!  My fingers were shaking pretty well being in front of about 125 people, but I was able to play the song well. (with a lot of praying as I was playing :)  There was a lot of compliments and I made 3 copies for people that wanted to learn the song.

To wrap up I want to say how impressed I am with all of you and for the amazing things you are doing, Brooke focusing on her friends and being so creative with her photos.  Haley shooting a beautiful buck and Dosm with the jaw dropping Bison and always bringing to light the great opportunity to be in the service of our Lord.  Mom for being such a selfless character and always supporting all of us in what we do. Finally, with Zach, for taking such a great step of faith and depending on the Lord in everything you do.  Miracles are being wrought in the lives of everyone around each and every one of you.  Even giving a sincere smile and a "hi" could be the mini miracle that the individual will need to get them through the day.  Now we know that we are doing our part to give more of ourselves than just that.  So with this knowledge we know that we are realizing multiple miracles in the lives of many to come.

Keep you focus on the Savior always for you are always the focus for Him.

Love you so much and Merry Christmas!

Those that participated in the ugly Christmas sweater contest! Back left to right (Sister Turville, Hna Argyle, Lawrence, Flores, Navas, Morris, Cabrera, Grover, Lewis, Gonzales, Elder Thomson) Front left to right: Sister Young, Elder Elliot, Benson, Hepler)

our gingerbread house, A-frame style

We now cover only half of the ward, so the baptism was technically in the other area.  The Long story made short, her husband was baptized about 6 months ago and the sister missionaries were working with her, but there was a misunderstanding so the Elders stepped in.  Then the Elders took over the entire ward for 3 months before the hermanas were brought back in, due to the mission having enough Spanish hermana missionaries to bring them back.  Long story getting wrapped up.  The second day the hermanas just "dropped by" and Magda said that she wanted to be baptized.  So we all got a part in helping he come to this decision, but in the end, when she started reading the Book of Mormon daily, she personally decided to be baptized!  One more year and they can be sealed together in the temple for all eternity!

This is a Christmas present from President and Sister Griffin! Super good book, Highly recommend it!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cleaning Crew and Miracle Meetings

This week was a "Spiritual high" as some may put it.  I could even go on to say that the past few weeks of refinement and requirement to better ourselves and to depend more on the Lord.  

On the previous P-day grandma had sent me a 12 days of Christmas initiative which I translated and will be starting (I'll just have to combine 2 days)  but should be a great thing to help get the ward members more focused on the spirit of Christmas.

The beginning of the week on Tuesday we had MLC.  This is a meeting where the mission leadership (zone leaders, assistants, and sister training leaders) come together and go over what the focus is for the month and what President Griffin wants to move forward.  This meeting is one of my favorites being that there are a lot of well put together presentations that provide many tools to hasten the work.  Just as a fun thing to look at is what we are doing as a mission.  

In our mission we have been talking for months about culture and vision. Right now we are working to establish a culture of service in our mission.  We have received many great documents that explain well on how to establish culture.  As the culture gets established, we can accomplish what our mission vision is.  This process has been long and methodical, but is showing a great amount of promise to having a very successful mission.  Right now our mission vision is "In the APM (Arizona Phoenix Mission) we will hasten the work of salvation by ministering the ordinances of exaltation to individuals and families through a culture of Christlike service."  

We're really making a push for this and as well as implementing this new plan that the quorum of the 12 has put out. It is a plan that Elder Perry had made about 2 years ago that was to get the ward more involved and on top of missionary work.

I'll send you some documents that you might enjoy taking a look see and maybe sharing them with the ward leaders.  This is really good stuff!

Anyways, fast forwarding to Thursday, we had the Dixon's come and inspect our apartment.  For me I was so grateful to see that our apartment was supplied with some of the top end cleaners and tools to help us clean our apartment.  After we had been supplied with Kaboom, bar keepers friend, lysol and so much more with a new mob and broom, we were given guidance on how to maintain and clean our apartment.  After this visit I was, as the scriptures would say, overjoyed that my fellow brethren were desirous to come closer to their Lord and Savior..., to clean our apartment. 

A notable Spirit has entered into our apartment and I can feel like it is more like a home than a missionary apartment.

I know that if we can keep our lives simple, not simplistic, and clean, not cluttered, we will have an abundance of the Spirit in our lives.

Going over this week we've had many spiritual lessons with investigators and are finding that the spirit of christmas is really opening people's hearts to Christ and the message that "A Savior is Born"  We've been working to plan better and also be in better contact with those we are teaching.  As we have been doing this there has been a jump in our work and we went from practically no indicators one week to booming the next!  All while focusing on the Spirit and working to have it more with us during this time of year.

There was one specific story that I would like to share. 

This investigator is named Elias.  The missionaries have been working with him on and off for quite a long time, easily over 8months, and little and slow progress would be made.  As we have begun to teach him again we were running into this similar growth.  Yet, the Spirit was prevalent every time we went over.  As we starting working closer and using the scriptures more in the lessons, in the span of about 1 month, we saw a man with little hope for the future and little faith in himself.  Now has eyes that show a greater hope and faith for a better look on life.  He is reading in the Bible frequently (complete books such as Job) and is praying more.

When we went to his house last night we were getting ready to teach a lesson on prayer and not dive into the Trinity, because we didn't want the lesson to go side tracked for an hour.  When we walked in we found ourselves showing the Christmas video about why Christ was born, then going from prayer into taking a transition into us explaining the Trinity for 30min.

This is where the miracle occurred.  As I started, I had many scriptures come to my mind that I used that transitioned well from faith (2 Corinth 5:7) and that we need to believe.  Then went to explain how they were all separate beings.  

  1. (2 Corinth 5:4-7) tabernacle is our body, just like Christ dwelled in a tabernacle of clay
  2. (John 14:9) To see Christ was to see the Father.  So Christ was such a perfect representative of His Father that seeing Christ was seeing the Father.  So logically Christ having a body must mean that God has one as well.
  3. Matthew 5:48 This was before Christ was resurrected, he was still going around and teaching the people.  He was commanding the people to be perfect like unto the Father.
  4. 3 Nephi 27:27 "...what manner of men ought ye to be? ...even as I am."  This was after Christ had been resurrected as was teaching the people in the americas.  By this time Christ being resurrected was perfect, and he had a body. (personal note: John 20:17 how could Christ tell Mary "touch me not" if had not a body? He couldn't have! So when Christ was raised from the 3 day tomb, he had a body)
  5. Then we dive into the necesity to have a testimony of Joseph Smith being called to be a prophet to restore Christ's church and that through him the Book of Mormon was translated and that he received other revelations from God in the latter days, otherwise this won't be worth anything.  D&C 130:22-23  Christ and God have bodies of flesh and bone and the Spirit does not.  That is why the Spirit can dwell within us and give us those feelings we experience, the love of God.
  6. What sealed the deal was not what had been planned to share.  It was evident that the Spirit was in complete control since the first scripture was shared. Yet, this is where the Spirit took us out of the equation.  Elias saw that I had made a footnote from over 9 months ago in my physical set in D&C. It was to Jeremiah 1:9 "the Lord touched my mouth"  This was obvious that we could say (well Christ wasn't born yet, this is actually Christ not God) however, we had the feeling to not open our mouths.  As we saw the Spirit work in him, he sat back and said "I cannot deny that they are 3 separate beings and that Christ and The Father have bodies of flesh and bone"

I sat back in amazement as I witnessed a miracle before my eyes as a man went from believing that the Trinity was one person, to being completely convinced, by the Spirit, that they were 3 separate individuals and were one in purpose.  

I know that we must study in our scripture daily and seek for the guidance of the Spirit and always follow his guidance. For if we do, one day, one day, maybe even if it is months, even years down the road, what we learned can be brought together in a way that we know that what we have strived to learn and understand, will be put into perfect clarity as we bear testimony through the Spirit to our fellow brethren.  I know this.  I experienced it first hand.  This I share in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Apparently Star Wars is getting big... so big that the action figures are nearly life sized!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving (the holiday) and Transfers (me and Elder Thurber are staying together)

So this past week was a blast, a refiner, and full of many other great memories.

So we had the two district meeting dynamic duo.  We started with Elder Hepler's district that consisted of a great deal of giggling and laughter.  Who would've guessed that putting 6 Sister missionaries together would yield such a reaction? (hint of sarcasm)  As a fun little joke, Elder Hepler put up the opening song as hymn #203 Angels we have heard on high, but I played #152 God be with you till we meet again, because Sister Fleener and Adams are going home next week. Got a good laugh.

Later in the night we met with [a sister] again.  She is opening up more with us and explaining the experience she is having.  Her mom, in short, has treated her poorly throughout her childhood and she has had a difficulty with handling the situation. (I can't blame her) But this builds my testimony that I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and that as we can overcome trials and difficulties.  The biggest and most crucial points to apply the Atonement is through keeping His commandments.  Of the many we can see, the most common would be that we must build a relationship with Him.  We must develop our love for our Lord our God and to our neighbor.  I have found the best way to do this is through daily and sincere prayer, daily scripture study, and weekly and faithful church attendance.  This past week she was given the guidance given is that she goes to the temple and prays for guidance on the temple grounds.  She has shown a lot of commitment and we pray that she can continue on the road back to conversion.

One other person that I want to mention is another investigator we have, his name is [E].  He has been taught for many months and has had a running theme of a lack of faith and no hope.  Many missionaries have had many spiritual lessons with him and have done much to help him, but little progress was made.  We felt a few weeks ago to visit the less active member that lives with him.  That night we had a really spiritual lesson with the member and set a return appointment.  The next visit we had another lesson that was great with [E].  Fast forward through them going to church and the temple visitors center.  We showed up to teach [E] and the man that showed little hope and was with shaggy hair and a grown out beard, had cleaned himself up and had a glimmer in his eye of greater light and that hope had filled in some of his emptiness.  We're still working with him and good things are in his future.

I am finding that the spirit of Christmas is so important.  When I got the Christmas tree, it was put together and decorated in no time.  When the lights turned on... something special touched me.  I remember the wonderful feeling that comes as the Spirit touches our hearts during this Christmas season.  It feels like part of my soul that yearned to serve, has bloused into greater bloom.  I am going to take advantage to invite a greater Spirit into this year.  Nothing better than helping others find the love of Christ directly centered on them.  That is the goal, help as many as possible feel the love of Christ.

The Martinez family, who we ate dinner with (we had dinner with two families) it was super delicious!

Elder Nathan Benson