Wednesday, October 20, 2010


October 20, 2010

Good Morning Family and Friends!

Thank you so much for your emails and your letters this week. We walked home one night this past week and we opened up the mailbox - and the letters just started flowing out! It was so full! (hahah) Thank you so much for all of your love and support. You have no idea how much that means to me!

I forgot something in my email last week, and I feel ashamed to have to say it, but mom HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!

I love you so much mom. And I am so thankful for all that you do! I am sorry that it's a week late but I know that you will forgive me :) I hope that you had an incredible birthday and that everything is going well! I love you mom!

In my email last week I mentioned that we were anticipating the baptism of a good sister and her family on last Saturday. We went over on Wednesday night to put the final touches on the baptismal plans with the family. While we were there, she described an unfortunate and rather large mess that has been going on in their lives. She has a son the age of 7 and he has been having problems with one of the teachers at his school. She has been basically been abusing the poor kid and treating him very roughly. Anyways, she went to visit her and this teacher had already been found guilty of child abuse. But she was still working in the school! Anyways, she had to take the case to the police and eventually to the courts in order to be able to do anything because no one else was helping her. She was so tied up with all of that going on her life, and having to run around and get of the psychology and lawyer stuff done, we moved the baptism to this weekend. So . . . in other words, the baptism did not happen last week, but it is going to happen this week.

It was a rough night for her as she explained all of it to us, But throughout the whole experience she kept saying "God is good. He hasn't left me behind. God is Good." She talked about how God had been blessing her every step of the way by putting people in her path that could help her. We were able to have the member who was with us give her a priesthood blessing. The spirit of peace in the room and in the faces of both her and her son was incredible. It was such an amazing experience to be able to see her recognize the hand of the Lord in all that is going on. She knew that even though she was going through a very rough experience with all of this, that God would take care of her. She is so faithful and so ready for baptism. We are so excited for her to finally be able to take this next step in her life and get moving on to the temple.

Last night we visited her with some of her member friends. She was able to just vent to them about all that was going on and it was so neat to be able to see that brotherhood and friendship that she has already created with the members. We asked her how she was feeling about baptism and she told us, "I cannot wait another week. I need that extra help in my life right now. I will not wait another week. It has to be this Saturday. This is what I need." The kids had the same feeling and so on this Saturday they are all going to be entering the waters of baptism together and we are so excited for what is about to take place.

On Sunday night we went back to teach the new family we found last week. They don't live in Ponce but told us that they are here every weekend. It turns out that they weren't here every weekend. We were a little discouraged because we were so looking forward to being able to talk with them. As we turned around and started making our way back, Elder Turner and I had the feeling that we needed to yell out at one of the houses. We yelled out and the thickest Puerto Rican left tackle that I have ever seen walked out and started talking to us. He has a family of four. And this gentle giant changed our lives.

We talked to him for a little bit about bikes and as we sat down to start the lesson, Elder Turner and I had a plan of what we were going to teach. But as we ended the opening prayer, I had an overwhelming feeling come over me that we needed to share something else. We started talking about the keys to the priesthood and the sealing power. This led perfectly into the restoration. He was loving every minute of it. He told us that he was studying to become a catholic priest. He was almost done but he said he got fed up with all of the false traditions that he found within the church. He told us a story about an elephant and he told us this is how he saw the churches in our day.

A good showman once took an elephant to an island full of blind people. When they landed on the island everyone on the island came to feel the elephant. They all had a great time feeling the giant creature and eventually the showman had to leave, along with his elephant. After he left the island the residents began to talk about what they had just experienced. They tried to describe and explain the creature that they had just touched, but everyone had a different opinion about what the elephant was. An elephant is a big long skinny thing that moves. No, an elephant is a big scaly trunk-type thing. No, an elephant is a smooth rock. Nobody could agree on what the elephant was because they all felt different parts of the elephant.

We were both shocked about the story because it connected exactly to the apostasy and the restoration of the gospel. We talked to him about how that happened and how God had called a prophet to restore the whole elephant back on the earth. He was so amazed and excited he kept asking us how he could know that it was true. We told him about the Book of Mormon and he said that he was so excited to know if this is what he had been waiting for his entire life. "I am going to read it tonight." he said. "I want to know if this is finally the whole truth, and not just the thing closest to the truth."

The spirit in the cita was absolutely incredible. We were all being lifted up together. I felt such a closeness to him. I knew that what we were teaching him is what we had promised to teach him in the pre-existence. And to think that we almost didn't teach it. After the lesson I told Elder Turner about what I felt after the prayer and he said that he had felt the exact same thing.

I know that God knows us. I know that he wants the best for every one of His children. He reaches out to us just as he did to this man and all we have to do is grab hold and follow His lead.

I know that this is His true church that it was restored through a true prophet. Joseph smith was one to whom the whole elephant was revealed (the complete gospel of Jesus Christ) and I am so thankful for that. We are so blessed to have all of the knowledge that we have and not just bits and pieces. Christ is our Savior! This is God's plan and families can truly be together forever. This man began to taste of that miracle this past Sunday and soon he is going to be able to participate and taste of the entire thing! What a blessing it is to be a part of this great work!

I love you all so much and I hope you know how much I appreciate your love and your support and your prayers.

WE ARE doing a great and important work, and I am loving every minute of it! I hope that you are too!

I wish you the best in your week ahead! Remember to read and pray! :)

All of the Love that I can Give

Una familia Dios Me dio, La Amo de Verdad.

October 13, 2010

Dearest Family and Friends!

I hope that you all had a fantastic fall week and I hope that everything is going well for you so far this week! Thanks for the emails that you sent! It was so great to hear from you mom and dad and grandma and grandpa! I am glad that everything is going well back home and that you are all doing great! I hope you all know that I love you and I am praying for you. I hope that all is going well! Oh and PS Happy October 12th :) I hope you had a good one! Love you!

Annette is scheduled for baptism this Saturday. We are so excited that we will finally be able to watch her make that commitment to the Lord. She has been changing every day since the day I first met her, always trying to become better. And I am so excited that we will be able to see her make that covenant with God and Our Savior and promise them to make that a permanent change. Her life has changed so much for the better in just these few months that the missionaries have been working with her. She is experiencing the atonement in her life. She has had a mighty change of heart and that mighty change of heart is touching and changing the hearts of everyone around her. That includes Elder Turner and I. We love her so much and too see the desire that she has to make this covenant with God is one of the happiest feelings that anyone can feel. Saturday is going to be a great day!

We have been really worried about her two children. She has four kids. One is like 22 and is being taught by the missionaries on the other side of Ponce. Annette has three other children still at home. There is a 17 year-old young man, a 13 year-old young woman, and a 7 year-old boy. We have been a little worried about the 17 year-old this past couple of weeks. Both his mother and his sister have dived right into the church and have had the baptismal date as their goal since day one. We passed by on Sunday night and sat down with the two older kids. We asked them how they were feeling about baptism. We talked about how it was their day and their decision, that nobody was there to push them. Anyways, we asked them how they felt and he got really quiet. He looked at us and said, "I am ready. I want to get baptized. I got my answer and I know its true."

They had to pry us off of the wall because Elder and Turner and I were absolutely blown away. We have been working with these two kids for so long and we had just not been able to figure him out. We had been praying for him all week that somehow his heart would be touched. And low and behold that is exactly what happened. It was such a sweet experience for us. Truly we had been part of a miracle. This young man, who we both love with all of our hearts, needs this gospel in his life so much. And we have been doing everything that we could to get him excited about what we were telling him. In the end, we didn't have to do anything. It was the Lord who did the work and it was the Lord who did the heart changing. I am so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who loves each and every one of His children. It was so neat to see the way that the Lord worked in him to help him feel that desire to follow his Savior and be baptized. But not just that, to have the desire to change his life for the better and leave behind the worldly things that aren't going to take him anywhere. The baptism is going to be on Saturday. It has been a while since I have had the opportunity to participate in a baptism and to be able to feel that excitement in the air when you know that something so sacred and special is about to occur. It is a feeling that I have been missing and I am so excited to be able to see that again. And to see this family move one step closer to becoming an eternal family.

On Sunday Elder Turner and I were out contacting some references that we had received from Salt Lake. We arrived at one home and we were shocked at how much the house just screamed "family" to us. We walked in and we both knew 100% that the Lord had sent us to that house to bring a very special message to that family. The family that we taught is a great family. The mom is a sister of the wife of our presidents brother. To make a long story short, she went to a baptism of our Mission President's niece and was so shocked by the spirit and the peace that she felt. Elder Turner and I were both aware that God had just handed us a golden opportunity and we were both really nervous that we would screw it up. As we sat down and began the lesson things just felt natural. It was such a special feeling to be able to testify about the family. I don't know if I have ever told you guys this but i always have my family, including Grandma and Grandpa with me when I teach, The Puerto Ricans love you guys - especially Mckays hair!

They were so impressed by the fact that our families could be together forever. We read with them in 2 Nephi chapter 31 and we invited them to be baptized. They said that they weren't sure about that commitment and we invited the father to kneel down and pray with us. The dad said such a sweet and humble prayer. The spirit touched each and every one of us. As he ended we asked what he felt and he said, "I know that this is what my family needs. We are going to do it. We will get baptized." Each member of the family prayed and each one had the same experience. The family felt the Lord touch their hearts Sunday night. With the spirit there they could not deny what they needed to do. They accepted a baptismal date for the 13th of November and we have begun preparations for their baptism. Families are the central part of God's plan for us and it was a very sweet and surreal experience for us to be able to see the spirit start to work within this family. We have been searching, praying, fasting, studying, eating, sleeping and breathing families for weeks now. And the Lord blessed us with one of the most incredible experiences in my mission. This family decided together that they were going to follow Christ. They decided together that they are going to do all they can to become an eternal family. It was incredible.

Last night Elder Turner and I were on a way to one of our appointments and we talked to a very nice young man. We talked to him a little bit and asked him if we could come back after our cita. He agreed right away and we were both really excited and eager to get back there because we knew that something amazing was going to happen. His name is Joseph and while we were teaching him, we both looked at this 22 year-old young man and we could see him with the name tag and a tie. We knew that he was going to be a future missionary and that something special was going to happen in the lesson with him. We talked for a while about all of the confusion in the world and then simply taught about what Christ desires of us and what He has in store for us. We invited him to be baptized and I wish I could have taken a picture of the huge grin that was on his face. He could not stop smiling nor keep from saying wow. He was finally able to get out the words, "of course, of course I will be baptized." We gave him the Book of Mormon and told him that it was the key for him to know if what we were telling him was true. We are on our way back towards the end of the week and we are really excited to get this kid on the way to the temple and out into the mission field.

It has been an incredible week for us. Elder turner and I are both humbled as we look at all of the blessings and miracles that we have received. God has truly been blessing his two worn-out missionaries in Ponce. There is no way that we could be doing these things ourselves. I know that God lives! I know that He loves me for I am His son. I have felt the Savior carrying me these last few weeks and I have felt His love and seen His every day miracles day after day. We don't deserve the blessings that we have been given nor the blessings that we are receiving but I know that we are getting them because God loves His children. When we put forth our best effort, even though it is so short of what is needed, He makes up the difference and miracles occur. I love each and every one of you and I am praying for you constantly.

Know that I love you. Even if you don't get letters from me or even if you don't hear from me or I from you, know that I love you guys and that you are constantly in my prayers.

This is the Work of our Lord and Savior and there is no where else that I would rather be at this time.

May He be with you till we meet again

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What a Great Conference!

October 6, 2010

Querido family and Friends

I hope that all of you are doing well. Thank you so much friends for your support. I got some letters this week and some packages too, These were complete surprises to me and I love it! Thank you so much for all of your love and support. You have no idea how much that means to me.

Our day has been crazy today. I was hoping to get around to writing you back and thanking you guys but I am not sure that I will get to it for each of you individually. I apologize. But I know that you all understand. Thank you for your patience and your love though! I wish that I could show my thanks with some action but, until I get some time, I hope a cyber "thank you" is going to have to work. So thank you, truly truly thank you!

I was doing some visits yesterday with President Alvarado and he made a cool observation about conference. He said that in the five sessions of conference that we had the opportunity to see, the scripture found in Amos 3:7 was used 11 times. "Surely the Lord God will do nothing save He revealeth His secret unto His servants los profetas." How blessed we were this past weekend to be able to listen to God's voice as we stood at the feet of His chosen servants. There was such a neat spirit present in each and every session of conference. I am so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who loves us and who has called a living prophet in our days along with 12 apostles and other men and women to lead us and guide us. Conference was incredible and the things that were shared were so valuable and precious. I hope that you all had as much fun as I did watching conference. What a blessing it was! I loved it!

In the Saturday afternoon session we had a really neat experience with our investigator Annette. Annette was able to attend almost all of the sessions of conference. We went over Friday night after the zone council that we had in Bayamon. We wanted to check up on her and make sure that she was still planning to come. She told us that "of course she was planning to come." She told us that she had been praying all week that God will help her to know if this was the true church. From the very first song and introduction on Saturday we could just feel the spirit so strong with her. She was crying all day and, after Elder Anderson's talk on Saturday, she turned to us and said "I am so happy you guys. I have my answer. This is it! This is it!" It was so special to be able to witness a conversion occur right in front of our eyes. The spirit was working in Annette so powerfully this weekend and she left with a new testimony of the truth of this gospel. She knows as well as I do that we have prophets and apostles in our days who truly receive revelation from God. It was such a blessing to see the joy come to her life as she listened to the council of these servants of God for the first time in her life. I cant explain to you the joy that I felt but it was big! And it was real! I love conference. It is truly the most wonderful time of the year. Annette loved it too. Her and her 2 teenage children. One of her children is 17 and we are going to get him on a mission. They are all set for baptism on the 16th. I am so happy for them and there is nothing more that I could want for them! Well there is one thing . . . a temple visit in a year ;)

This great experience all started on Wednesday night. We had set up a great cita in a familiy's home this week with Annette. The family has been attending a different ward in our stake because our ward doesn't have a lot of primary kids. We have been working with them to get them back to our ward because we need these kingdom builders in our ward and we knew that if we could get them involved with Annette, miracles would happen. We took them over on Wednesday and the spirit in the home was so incredible. We don't get the chance to teach investigators in member's homes very often and the spirit that we felt in that lesson was so incredible. We were able to set up before hand. We asked the member family to look up a favorite talk from President Monson. The dad showed it on something called an i-pad and it got both Annette and her family so excited for conference. It was an incredible cita! The spirit that we felt in that home felt just like a Utah home. I was amazed at the difference in the lesson within the walls of a member's home. We are so blessed to have this gospel in our lives we are so blessed to have the blessings of this gospel all around us and in our homes!

We had six days of meetings this week so if it seems like I am drinking from a dry well that is why. Nonetheless, the week was full of great experiences and I learned a ton. Just most of it probably doesn't really interest you guys at home. Yesterday we had a long day starting way early with President Alvarado. At night I had the opportunity to go out to Yauco and do a visit with President Alvarado. I was so excited because President Alvarado is a master teacher and I knew that I was going to learn something incredible. Yauco is a different area in Ponce and the missionaries there are working with an incredible family. During the lesson we talked about all of the things that they had learned during conference and they said that one of their favorite talks was President Packer's talk. (Imagine that :) ) Anyways, we just started talking with the family. We talked about so many things. We began talking about their lives President Alvarado asked about their marriage. Out of nowhere they told of how they had been divorced but because of the economy had come back together. It was so incredible to be able to testify about the family and the importance of marriage after we had just heard it from the mouth of one of the Lord's apostles. This couple could feel the fire that was burning in our hearts and they could feel the need to get back together and get baptized. We invited them to get baptized and they said they knew that they needed to get married first. It was really cool because President Alvarado invited them to get married and he said that he would be pleased to do it. He also invited them out on a double date this weekend with him and his wife. Just one of the blessings that you get when you have a young mission president. The family needs the gospel so much in their lives. They are so strong and so loving. The gospel is also changing their lives and I could see last night that they were feeling the truth of our message! They are set to get baptized on the 30th of this month and I am so excited to see the change that has come in their lives.

I love this plan that God has for our families. I know that we are here in these days for a reason. As we learned in conference, there is so much going on in the world, so much junk and so many distractions, we also noticed that almost every speaker talked about the war in heaven. We are blessed to have this gospel in our lives. The war still continues and each day I am so blessed to be a soldier fighting for God's Army. I love this work and I love you guys. Thank you for all you do!

I am sorry for the email that was all over the place. But it has been hard to focus. Right in front of my face there is a large Puerto Rican man teaching an email class to about 40 other Puerto Ricans. They are talking about scam emails, and it's quite a hoot for them. It makes it a little difficult to write a solid email. I love you though. Just forgive me and know that I will repent and be more focused next week!

Love you all!

Thanks once again for all you do. I'm not sure how I will do it, but one day I will find a way to return your love!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Its the most wonderful time of the year

September 29, 2010

Buenos Dias a Todos!

I hope that everyone had a great week this past week. Elder Turner and I had a busy week that just flew by. But we had a really neat week full of a lot of amazing experiences. I want to start by letting you know that I love all of you and I am thankful for each and every one of you. I know that your prayers for us were answered this week and I want to thank you for those prayers! I love you all and I hope that things are working out just the way that you want them to.

For the past three days we have been up in the northern part of the Island in Bayamon for another "boot camp." Just like the leadership training that we hand in July with our new mission president and all of the leaders. This was another one but this time we were only there for two days, But just like last time the spirit there was so incredible. I told you before that the last time we met our mission was implementing a new system that they call the fundamental principles of Preach My Gospel. the focus was the eight principles that the Brethren have selected that the missionaries all over the world could improve. We were blessed once again to be able to come together and discuss some of these principles that we first learned as a focus a few weeks ago, We are doing better but there are still some principles that we aren't implementing as well as we should. The spirit in the meeting was so incredible. And together we learned so much. As President Alvarado stood up the end of the first night, he challenged us to get out and find those families that were searching for us. He challenged us not to go back that night until we had taught two lessons to two different families.

We were able to get out and search for people to teach at about 7:00 that night. Elder Turner, Elder Zenger and I went to work. We were all amazed at how the Lord put prepared people in our path. We ended up finding three people willing to let us share our message. In one family the father was going into knee surgery the next day. We were able to share a message about the power of the priesthood and how it has been restored in our day. We told them that Heavenly Father gave men that power and it could be used to bless his life as well as the lives of his family members. We were able to give him a priesthood blessing and the spirit in the room was so incredible. The spirit was testifying to each and every one of us that what we had just done was correct and the will of Heavenly Father. I know that the priesthood power we have is real. I know that it is through that power that miracles are wrought, It is through that same power that our families can be sealed for all time and for all eternity. You have no idea what a blessing it is to be able to look a Puertoriqueno in the eyes and tell them that their wives and their children will be sealed together forever as they follow the example of Jesus Christ. There is no other church on earth that can offer that blessing because there is no other church on earth that is led and directed by our Lord and Savior Himself.

We were on a trade-off this week with one of my favorite Elders, Elder Bowcutt. I'm not sure if I told you this story last week but I will tell you again because we have already seen the fruits of what happened during this trade-off. Elder Turner and I have set some goals for our zone about what we would like to do each day so that we can achieve what the Lord has asked us to do. Every morning before we go out to work we read 1 Nephi 3:15 and then we are out the door. Tuesday night it was late and we were very tired and worn out. We had been running all over the zone all day and a lot of things had fallen through. In order to achieve our goal that we we had set we still needed three more contacts. We left the church after the meeting at around 9:00 to find those contacts. We knew that God was going to help us achieve the goal that we had set. The third man that we talked to that night is named Georgey o Jorge. He's a native Puerto Rican, or a Puerto Rican Indian. He is the first native Peurto Rican that I have met on my mission. We talked to him about the Book of Mormon and about God's love for all men. He told us that this is what he wanted in his life. We invited him to come to church with us that Sunday. We told him we would pass by at 8:30 to walk with him to church. Elder turner and I had some crazy things to get done Sunday morning before church and we got to church a little late (8:40). Thoughts of Georgy kept running through my head. There was a chance that we would be late to church if we went to get Georgy but something kept telling me that we could not let him down. We thought that there was probably no way that he would come, but that feeling, and the image of his face kept running through my me. So we ran to his house, and when we got there, he came out all dressed up and ready to go. We took him to church and he loved it. He told us that he was going to be coming to church every Sunday from now on. He doesn't live in our area but he now has a baptismal date for the end of October. Georgy was led to us and I know it is because we were doing what God has asked us to do. I know that when we keep the commandments of God and when we lose ourselves in His service, and humble ourselves before Him, and give up those natural desires, we are blessed with miracles. This is what happened to us and Georgy.

I hope you all know how much I really love all of you. i hope you also know how much I love this work that I am doing. I know I am not perfect. In fact, I haven't written to many of you in some time. There are also a lot things I would like to have given you that I have not yet done. But I am thankful for you and for your patience with me in spite of all of that. I know that you have testimonies of just how important this work is and for those of you who have been there since the start, I thank you for your support. I love you and appreciate all of your prayers and faith.

I wish you the best this conference weekend. How blessed we are to be able to be guided by living prophets and apostles. They speak the words of God. They speak the truth. I know that as we listen this weekend with ears that hear and hearts that feel, the truth will touch our hearts. I know (and I have seen) the truth of the gospel will set us free from those things that are holding us back! I love this work! I know that it comes from God! Conference is my favorite and I hope you all enjoy it! Save some conference goodies for me. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

Have a fantastic week

Life is Crazy, Not even time to think.

September 22, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

I love you! I hope that this week has gone well for you all and I hope that you are having a good day today. We are doing great here in Ponce. Thank you Mom and Dad for the letters and the package that you sent. It was so great to hear from you guys and the elders in our apartment are all loving the chocolate that you sent. We are loving it so much that Elder Turner and I have decided to start running at 5:30 every morning to make sure that we don't get fat!

This past week has been just incredible for me. I have absolutely grown to love my new area and the new assignment that I have been given. It is so fun to be able to work with all of these awesome missionaries and to learn from them. I have loved opening up our new area here in the city of Ponce! Elder Turner and I have started to work in an area of Ponce that usually doesn't get "worked" by the missionaries. They sent two more elders down here this transfer so Elder Turner's former companion took over all of the investigators that they had been working with in their old area and we have now gone to work to find some new ones in our new area! We had some great miracles this week in being led to some really prepared people.

One of the most amazing things that happened to us this week happened to us on Saturday. We were out trying to find a reference that we had been given and we ended up having to go way up into the mountains to find the person. We finally got to the house and it turns out that they weren't there. As we were searching for the house we were looking for we passed a house and Elder Turner and I both felt that we needed to talk to the people in that house,. We decided that we would stop and hit it on the way back from the referral. We stopped on the way back and started talking to the people that were living there. A man named Luis came out and started talking to us. After talking to him for a while we came to find that he lives in what we call our "hot pocket." Its the urbanization that we have picked out to work and work and work and work. It was an absolute miracle that we were led to him all the way up there. At the time we were about 30 miles from the urbanization. After talking to him for awhile we came to find that he has a family and that he has been feeling a little down lately. He said that he wants God back in his life and all he wants is his family to be happy. We sat down and shared a message with him about eternal families and the restoration of God's sealing power to the earth. He was so happy and so interested about the Book of Mormon. He told us that he would read it by the time we came back on Wednesday night, not just the assigned chapter that we had given him, but the entire Book of Mormon!

We had been praying for God to lead us to people He has chosen for us to teach since we do not have that many investigators right now. We had no idea that we would find anyone up there in the mountains. But I know that God knew that Luis would be there and that's why we were led to him. We have a cita tonight with him and his family and we are really excited to see how things turn out. Families are our focus and we are so pumped to have this family to work with!

We were out looking for a less active family this week. We had turned down the wrong street in our search. As we were talking to those we met on the street I felt that I needed to go and talk to this man who was sitting at the end of the street. After talking to him for a little bit, he told me that he was a member of the church! Elder Turner came and, after talking to him for a little while longer, we came to find that it was the exact man that we had been looking for. He told us to come back the next day. He said that he had been going through a difficult time and said "all I want is peace in my life again. All I want is to know that God loves me and cares about me."

We went back the next day and shared with him about the Book of Mormon and about how people in the Book of Mormon felt the love of God in their lives again after reading the scriptures and praying. We committed him to do so. We went back yesterday and he said "Elders, I am not going to lie. I haven't read the book. But I have been praying every day and I am starting to feel great." He volunteered to give the opening prayer and he gave one of the sweetest heartfelt prayers that I have ever heard in my life. It has been incredible to see the way that one week full of prayers has changed the life of our new friend Raymond. He is so much happier now and I know that it is because God is back in his life and he feels that he is doing what his Father in Heaven wants him to be doing! It is so amazing to see that change in people when they take those first few steps to start again doing the things that God always asks us to do.

We are working with another investigating family. The mom is Annette and she has two teenage children. Annette is quitting smoking so that she can get baptized once and for all. She has had 1 cigarette in the past 10 days and said that she has found her strength to quit through prayer, scripture study, and the love of her family. We have been passing by pretty often to help her to prepare for baptism and every time I am just amazed at the faith that she is showing. She is going through some pretty wicked nicotine withdrawals but she knows that this is exactly what God has asked her to do and she is so willing to do it. Her baptism is set for the middle of October and she is planning to walk into those waters with the two children that live with her, and her oldest daughter who is also listening to the missionaries in the other part of ponce. These people are changing their lives to follow their Savior. Every day my love for the Savior grows more and more as I see the atonement work in the lives of my brothers and sisters, and as I also see it work in my own life. I love Him and I know He loves me. I am so grateful that I can be here giving all that I have to him.

I hope that you all have a great week! You are in my prayers. Even those who think I have forgotten about you. Don't worry, I haven't :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ponce es Ponce, y los demas es parking

Buenas tardes,

Ponce is Ponce, and the rest is parking baby!

Hey family and friends! Thank you so much for all of your thoughts and your prayers this week. I know that your support was there behind me and I could feel every single one of those prayers. I love you all so much! I want you to know how much that support and love means to me. You are the fuel to my fire. Thanks for all you do! I love you all so much! Keep the prayers coming because they are going to be needed.

Like I said in the subject line of this email, right now I am no longer in Vega Baja Ahorrra. I am currently serving in the old capital of Puerto Rico, the city of Ponce. Yesterday I got transferred and the Lord sent me down to the south of the island to be with Elder Turner. He also gave me a new assignment to be a zone leader. As such the day has been a little hectic. We have been trying to coordinate the transfers and finish closing some apartments in the zone and also opening some new ones. But like I said, that love and support that you all have been giving me has really been helping me so keep it up.

I know that I am writing my email late and I am sorry about that. But we have honestly been running non-stop since about 11:00 am yesterday. And I have to admit that I stink and I haven't showered in two days (we got stuck in Bayamon last night . . . long story, but a good one). I am loving every second of it and to be honest, I am as happy as I was a few weeks ago! I am loving it!

Elder Turner is a great Elder and we are going to be able to get a lot of great work done here in Ponce! We are really excited to get going to work tonight. But I am sure you are all dying to know a little bit more about him. He's about as tall as I am, if not a little more. He reminds me almost exactly of Austin! (That stud - hay cuzz). Anyways, he played football for Weber State before his mission. So yeah, I think we are going to get along just fine :)

He was in the islands when I was serving down there so I have worked with him a little before. He is also from Utah and from what he has been telling me, he sounds like he has a great family too. Like I said, we are both pumped about the work and the assignments that we have been given. He is going to help me learn the ropes of this new assignment and I couldn't have asked for a better Elder to help me!

Oh yeah . . . the best part! Elder Blandon was supposed to go home today but he extended and is now serving here with us! It is great to be with him again. (hahah its crazy how the mission changes, but yet stays the same! I love it!)

Perhaps the greatest thing that I have learned these past few days is that the Lord loves us so much and he knows exactly what we need. My experiences in training Elder Martinez helped me to grow so much closer to the Lord and to learn how to rely so much more upon Him. I was so thankful for the blessing that he was in my life and for the things that I was able to learn. Now I'm moving on to learn some new lessons and to get completely lost in the work. This call could not have come at a better time and I am so excited for the challenges that lie ahead of us.

I know our Father lives and I know that He is just that -- our Father in Heaven. He is our perfect Father who loves and cares for each and every one of us with a love that is perfect and eternal. How grateful I am to be in His service and to be able to serve Him with all that I have.

I love you guys and I hope you have a great week. I will write more next week. Time is short and we need to get out to work!

Thanks for all you do.

Oh . . . this is my new address by the way! Ponce is a long ways from the mission office (about 2 1/2 hours) so its going to be a lot easier to send all the letters straight to my new apartment. It looks like we are going to be here for a while so memorize it!

Elder Oviatt
Urb. Villa Grillasca
Calle Modesto Rivera
Apt # 1751
Ponce, PR 00717

As always, if you don't want to send stuff here, you can send it to the mission office. We have meetings up there almost two times each month so I will still be able to get stuff there frequently!


Good luck with everything. I love you guys!

Your favorite Elder,

Elder Oviatt

Sweet and Sour

September 8, 2010

Good morning Family and Friends,

We just got done with tropical storm Gustav. It sounds like there are 3 or 4 more storms heading our way. One developed in the Gulf of Mexico and moving backwards? Elder Baines said that somebody told them about that storm yesterday and we are a little baffled by it. Anywho, thanks for all the prayers. I know that we will continue to be protected no matter what! So thank you for that.

Thanks, tambien, to those of you who wrote me this week. Your letters were peace to my soul. I hope you know how much your support means to me. No matter what happens, especially between us as family and friends, I will always be grateful for the support and will love you all forever . . . no matter what. You can count on that. Hope everything is going well for you guys! You are all in my prayers!

Anyways, this past week was been just an awesome week. Elder Martinez and I are on fire and we are working as hard as we can to bring about a great work her in Vega Baja. We have received some great blessings this week and had some great experiences. It was just an awesome week.

We had a really neat experience with one of our new investigators, Nelson. Nelson was a referral from the ward that is adjacent to the western boundary of our area. He lives in a city really close to that ward building, but his home is within our boundaries. Anyways, he lives in Florida which is about 45 minutes away from the chapel here in Vega Baja. We only had a phone number to contact him. We tried calling him a few times but the nice man on the other end started to get a little annoyed telling us that we had the wrong number! Anyways, luckily, Elder Bailey had been the one to give us the referral and he accidentally called him. Nelson said that he had been waiting to hear from the missionaries and he was so excited to finally be talking to them again. Elder Bailey set up a cita with him for Friday at his work in Vega Baja, and so on Friday we went.

When we talked to him we found out that he had lived in another city in our area where a pair of missionaries had been assigned a few years ago. He lived just a few houses down from the missionaries and had talked to them a lot. He was never able to progress towards baptism because he was studying and working two jobs at the time. He just never got around to doing those things that he needed to do to progress. He called the Arecibo ward asking them how he could get in contact with the missionaries again. We went on Friday and it turns out that his favorite topic is the Joseph Smith story and the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We had a great lesson with him talking about a loving Heavenly Father who has once again revealed the truth in our days. We discussed the doctrine of Christ and invited him to be baptized on the 9th of October. He told us that he knew that he wouldn't be there on the 9th. He said "I'm not going to be here on that day, is it alright if we do it on the 15th?"

Elder Martinez and I were just so pumped about having this blessing that all we could do was nod our heads and try to keep our grins from looking too goofy. We were so happy! We have had a great transfer together and we have learned so many lessons together. This was a blessing in answer to our prayers. It truly was something that we both needed and we believe Nelson was sent to us by our loving Heavenly Father. There is still so much work that has to be done with Nelson, but he told us that he had heard about the Joseph Smith story and had seen the video of the restoration. He knows it is true and he said that he is willing to do whatever he needs to do to follow Christ. he wants to feel that peace that comes when we know that we have followed the path that He showed for us. We have a cita with him tonight and we are both really excited to finally get back to teaching him. It has been a week and this time we are going to go search for his house in the mountains. Pray for us. We are going to need all the help that we can get.

We continue to work with some great families in our ward who have gone a little astray. We had the great opportunity to be able to teach the entire Torres family this week and it was just another great lesson. We taught about the restoration of the gospel and they absolutely loved it. Their grandchildren were there and some of them are not members. It was such a sweet blessing to be able to see these two less active grandparents explain the Book of Mormon to their grandchildren and doing a fantastic job. Their testimonies are just so strong. I'm not sure why they stopped coming to church. But they have the goal to get back and they have started to do those little things again that are going to help them get back to where they were. It's just sad to think of all that they have lost in just these few years of being inactive. All the lessons in church. All of the conferences. Everything has been missing from their lives. That is two years of spiritual growth that they will never get back. But the beauty of it is that God still loves them and wants them to be an eternal family. As they are willing to change and humble themselves, He is willing to forgive them and bless them with that incredible blessing of being sealed as an eternal family.

We also had a great experience with another family with whom we are working. Last week Elder Martinez and I were looking over the ward list and we noticed a family that lives in the area where we have recently moved. As soon as we read their names we both felt so strongly that we needed to go see them. We stopped by that afternoon and the mom answered the door! She was so thrilled to see us! "Elders! Wow! It has been so long! How are you?" We were both a little shocked by her reaction but we were both very happy to receive it. It turns out that the missionaries used to live in this family's house in an apartment in the back. When the missionaries moved they kind of lost all contact with the Church and stopped following the Lord as they had been taught. Apparently they have been inactive for a while. Anyways, the mom was more than willing to have us come back and share a message with them. We went by Monday night. As we sat around the table I felt that same kind of spirit that I felt when we were in the home of the Torres family. It was so incredible. We sat around the table and each had a copy of the Proclamation to the World. We read it and talked about God's plan for the families and how our families can be together. We discussed temples and it was such a sweet experience to be able to testify to them about eternal families and the joy and peace that comes to our families when we share that knowledge together. They had signs up all over their house. The signs were to help them keep peace in their home. They are looking for peace and it was so special to be able to think that the only thing that was truly going to bring peace to their lives and to their homes was for them to get back on the path that Christ has prepared for each of us and our families. They need to return to that path and qualify to make the covenants for their family to be sealed for time and all eternity. I love this work! I especially love this part of God's plan for us. Families are forever! It is as simple as that! That is what God wants for us. I am eternally grateful that I have been able to have that knowledge my entire life. What a sweet and precious blessing it is to know that no matter what happens, if we are faithful, we will ALWAYS be together.

I want to close by sharing my testimony. This week has been full of up and downs for me, I have had some of the best, sweetest experiences of my mission this week. I have also had some that made me suffer in shock and unbelief. But through it all, there has been something constant there, something that has been there my entire mission. The love of my Savior and the comfort of His spirit. Jesus Christ is my Savior. I love him with everything that I have to give. There is nothing else that I would rather be doing at this moment than to be in His service. He has been there for me every step of the way, even when I thought that no one else was there. He was! And he loves me, and every one of us, with a love that we cannot comprehend. I know He lives! I know that through Him, we can all be forgiven, for whatever we have done in this life. Through our Savior, we can find that strength, that peace, la plentitud de gozo, that each and every one of us searches for dia tras did. He lives and loves us. And this is His work. How blessed we are to all be a part of it.

I hope that you all have a fantastic week. Please know that you are in my prayers always and that I will love you no matter what happens between us.

Your eternal friend,

Elder Oviatt

Friday, September 3, 2010

" Hurricane" earl, Good Luck Mckay!

September 1, 2010

Good Morning all!

Today is September 1st. School started at BYU on Monday? I just cannot believe that it is already time for school and football again. I hope that this week has gone well for all of you! I hope the first few days have gone smoothly for those of you who have had school. Mckay, I hope that the move goes well and that you were able to make it safe and sound to your new home in California! Good luck man I hope everything goes well with the new job!

Oh and good luck to Jonny Harris! That is so cool that he is already off to the MTC, that is so cool. Where is he going? Wherever he is going I know he'll be great! Good luck elder!

Anyways, I am sure that you are all wanting to know what happened about the hurricane, so i will tell you! We woke up on Monday morning and ran to the store to get some last minute stuff like water and non-perishable food. We came back and during companionship study it got really dark and began to rain really hard and there was a lot of wind. It was on and off like that all day. We were out working and we actually had a lot of people to talk to. We also had a great way to start all of the conversations so it was sweet. Anyways, President Alvarado told us that we had to be back into the house by 6:30. The parts of the hurricane that were supposed to pass by us were supposed to come at about 8:00. Our power went out at about that time, but nothing more. I woke up once in the middle of the night and it was raining, but went back to bed without a problem. We woke up yesterday and things were back to normal. The sun was shining and nothing had really happened. So thanks to all of you for your prayers! We were sure blessed to not be hit big time by the hurricane. So thank you! I heard there is another storm coming so we'll see. I know that it is really scary to have a hurricane pass by, but the other Elders and I kind of want to see what its like. We also want to have a few days to just get out and serve. But I'm good with staying out of natural disasters for now. So no worries. All is good with Elder Oviatt. Paradise is still paradise.

As for the work that we did this past week things went really well. We received some great blessings and had some great experiences. I know it was because there were prayers going out for us so thank you so much for all that you guys do and for your love and support.

On Thursday Elder Martinez and I pulled over to talk to a pair of guys that we both felt we needed to talk to. One of the guys just started to rant and cry and talk about how he wasn't sure if he believed in God. He said he doubted because he couldn't see Him and he couldn't feel Him. He talked about all of the bad things that he was doing and how hard his life was. It was really sad to hear all of that and as he finished talking a question popped into my head. So I asked him, "what are you doing to look for God in your life?" He was silent and his friend just sat there looking off into space and said that is a really really good question. We had a great opportunity to be able to teach him a little from the Book of Mormon and King Lamoni's dad and how he had to give up all of his sins to know God. My companion just gave a solid testimony about some of the times that he had been blessed in his life. The spirit was so strong and the man knew that we were servants sent from God to help him find the path again. We asked him if he was ready to give up all of his sins to know God and with tears streaming down his face all he could do was nod. The spirit was touching this mans heart and he was teaching him something that we were not able to. It was such a neat experience to be part of. We were led to that man and then the spirit basically taught him through our efforts and helped our new friend William see what things he could be doing differently in his life so that he could feel more peace during these hard times.

Like I told you a couple of weeks ago, Elder Vinas came to Puerto Rico and we talked about how we can better build up the church here in the island. After that conference we went to our bishop and asked him what we could do to help in our ward. He gave us a list of names of some families to go visit who had gone inactive. On Sunday night we went and visited the Torres family. As we yelled his door, Brother Torres walked out and the first thing I noticed was the garment shirt that he was wearing. The first thought that ran through my mind was why in the world was this man not in church today? Why in the world have I not seen this brother in my time here in Vega Baja? After talking to him for a while we came to find out that he and his wife were both really strong leaders in the church but have gone inactive for some reason.

As we began the lesson I was just amazed at the love that I felt between all of us. The spirit that we felt in his room was just incredible. We talked about the sacrament and why we take the sacrament. We read in 3 Nephi and talked about how the promise that we receive in the sacrament helps us to become sanctified and clean with the help of the Holy Ghost. He kept saying over and over about how he was the one who needed help after all of these years of helping to rescue other members. It was now time for him to be rescued. In the short time that I have been in the mission, I have never felt more that I had been sent here to talk to this man. We strongly and powerfully told him of the need that he had to be in church and the need that the ward had for him to be in church. We invited him to come back and he said that he would do it when it was time. I looked at him straight in the eyes, and i said "Brother Torres, NOW IS THE TIME!" We sat there in silence for what felt like an eternity and he said, "OK, Hablare con mi esposa" (I'll talk to my wife).

I left that cita with a feeling that I had never felt before. I still get the chills every time that I think of the lesson that we had and the things that we talked about. I honestly feel that I knew him before and that I was sent here at this very time to find him and help him come back. It was an incredible experience and one that I will absolutely never forget. I know that God loves us no matter what we do, no matter how bad we screw up, no matter how prideful we are. I am amazed at how His hand of mercy is always extended to His children no matter what.

Last night we had another great opportunity to visit with Deborah, the recent convert who had moved away from our ward and been lost for a long time. I can't remember if I told you about her last week or not but we were miraculously led to her last week. We talked to her last night about coming back to church and helping her kids prepare for what is coming in the world. She said that there was no doubt that she would be in church on Sunday and that she knew that she needed to be doing this to help out her two sons. The member that was with us made a comment about how being this example to her sons is going to have an effect on her great grandchildren. My mind went to the pioneers and how the pioneers were like that. The first generation members, who did not understand 100 percent what they were doing, but they could feel that what they were doing was right. And they knew that what they had come to know to be true was something that was going to bless the members of their family for generations to come! It was a really cool experience.

Angel is coming along still. We are stuck at a wall with baptism but he told us yesterday that, without a doubt, he knows that this is the true church and that the Book of Mormon is true. He has been to church for about 10 weeks straight now but is just a little hung up about getting baptized. I love this man with all my heart and I would love more than anything to see him enter the waters of baptism. I'm not sure if I will "live" long enough to see that day but I know that he is going to be a leader in this ward in the future. I am so thankful that I have been able to know him.

We had a missionary sacrament meeting this Sunday. Three of the missionaries spoke in sacrament meeting and it was just awesome. Anyways, I had a way cool experience. We are currently working with a part-member family. The mom and the Grandma and the children are members but the dad is just a crazy guy. It is hard for him to give up the street life and the party life. Anyways, we have been teaching them for a few weeks and on Sunday we taught about the sabbath day. He told me that he wasn't sure if he could come to church because he was sealing his roof. And he couldn't leave the stuff in the rain so he really needed to get it done before it rained. I looked him in the eyes and I said "Waldemar, I can promise you that if you come to church tomorrow, it will not rain." Surprisingly, I was not nervous about what I had said. I had the firm faith that what I said was true. It wouldn't rain and I knew that if we needed a miracle would happen.

Sure enough, we woke up and it was a beautiful day. Church started and Waldemar wasn't there. I was a few minutes into my talk when Waldemar walked into the room holding the hand of his son. It was a great experience to see this great man entering the chapel with his family, leading his son by the hand. I felt right then and there that this family was going to be an eternal family. Someday it was going to happen and I was so thankful that I got to have that connection on Sunday.

I love you all so much. Thanks for your love and support. They say there are letters for me in the office so thank you for your letters and love from home!

I hope all of you are doing well with school and stuff now that school is back in full swing! You're all in my prayers, especially my friends starting school!

Good luck with everything. Lemme know that Mckay made it to California OK! I hope everything goes well for you buddy. Let me know how your first few weeks go! Good luck Brother! I love you!

I love you guys so much! Enjoy the fall! My favorite time of year!

Changing leaves in the mountains and hurricanes in paradise! Have fun!

President Alvarado and I Traded suits! 3 piece baby!

August 25, 2010

Dear Family and Friends!

Wow! I can't believe that school has already started! I hope that all of you are doing well and that school is going well for those of you who are already in school! I can't believe Trent is in high school now. That is really weird. But way to go kid! Now you are a t-wolf baby!

I have heard that BYU starts up this next week and that has me even more baffled. It felt like it was just yesterday that BYU had ended the school year and here we are once again to start another semester! Good luck friends! I love you all and I hope you do well in all of your studies. Don't do too well or else they won't let me back in! Just teasing! I hope the first few weeks of school go well for everyone! As always you are all always in my prayers and I love you so much!

So we had a district meeting this week in the mission office with President Alvarado. It was a really great meeting we were able to talk more about what Elder Vinas had talked about last week during our Zone Conference. We made some great plans about how we were going to step it up and work even harder to bring about success in this beautiful island. Anyways, when we were at district meeting President Alvarado said, "Elder Oviatt, there is a suit in the storage room. Go try it on to see if it fits!" When we had the training meetings with all the leaders a couple of weeks ago we had talked about trading suits. I thought he was just kidding but apparently he was being serious. I went back and the suit fit perfectly! How cool is that! I got a new suit halfway through my mission. It turns out that it was made in Guatemala and belonged to a Seventy and it is now hanging up in my closet. Its just an example of what a great man President Alvarado is and how much he loves us. I'll take a picture so you can see. Or maybe ill just wait. I haven't decided. Anyways, but yeah, I thought that was a cool story that I thought I would start this email with. Most of you probably don't care but hey, you still love me right (at least I hope so).

This week was a pretty rough week for me. Things just weren't going the way that we had wanted them to. These weeks of training have really helped me to learn a lot, and have humbled me beyond all belief. I have grown so much closer to my Savior through the experiences these past few weeks, These trials have made me so thankful for those challenges that we have in our lives. I was struggling through some things this week but I received some great answers from the district meeting that we had. I know that Christ is our Savior, and if we want to have any success in this life it is on Him that we must rely. We can't rely on only ourselves and when we do we often fail. I got to learn that this past week. And while it was a rough learning experience, I am so thankful that we have hard times in our lives so that we can grow so much more. I love this work. Dad told me that it will be filled with all of the joys and sorrows known to man. And they come and go so quickly. How true that is. But through it all, the Savior has always been there for me. I know he lives and that he loves us.

We have had some really cool finding experiences this week. I think this past week our finding efforts ended up finding more less-active members then we we did new investigators. It was pretty cool because that was one of the things that Elder Vinas talked about -- strengthening the church. So we were really blessed to be able to find some great new people to start working with as we continued to search for families.

We found one member named Maria. She was baptized about 15 years ago and had come to church regularly for 2 or 3 years. She had read the Book of Mormon and from what I can see she was a really strong member. She just stopped doing the little things and eventually fell away. We taught her on Sunday and had an incredible lesson. When we talked to her in the street she told us that she had some questions and some doubts. When we went by on Sunday she told us her doubt but it just didn't seem like a doubt to me. The conversation eventually led to the Holy Ghost. She has been attending a Pentecostal church for the past few years. Out of nowhere we asked her to tell us about her baptism into our church and specifically about her confirmation. As we continued to talk about that experience and talk about the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, the spirit flooded the room and we could all feel that peace and that warmth that he brings. I could see the spirit working in her heart and her mind. She knew that what we were telling her was true, not because we had scriptures to back it up, but because the spirit was with us and the spirit was teaching. We left her with a Book of Mormon and invited her to start reading it again. We passed by last night and it turns out that her sister lives next door. Her sister isn't a member, but the first thing that her sister asked was how can we know which church is true!? There are so many churches how can we know the truth? We had a great lesson once again talking about prayer and the spirit and her sister was really interested in what we had to say. But more importantly, once again the spirit was there and I know that Maria felt it. She has been gone for a long time. But those feelings that we cannot deny are starting to come back into her life and I can see the light starting to come back into her eyes. We have another appointment with her on Thursday and we are so excited to see where things go from here.

Yesterday we had some really neat experiences. We had felt that we needed to go work in a certain urbanization of houses. We started working there on Sunday and things have been going great. We had a bunch of appointments set up for yesterday evening and when the first one fell, we felt that we needed to go and talk to the next door neighbor. A mom opened the door and I could see little kids running around in the back. My first thought was that this is the family that we have been praying for. We talked to the mom about the proclamation to the world and she invited us right in. We told her we would stop by when her husband got home from work. Then as we went to our other appointments they all fell through too. By this time we started heading back to see if her husband was home. On the way there we felt to knock the door of the house. A young woman answered the door and came out and started talking to us. After a few minutes she says you know I was baptized in your church like a year ago! My jaw dropped. She was the recent convert that the entire ward had been searching for and we were led right to her door. She had been going through some crazy situations with her housing and stuff and has been all over the island. But she was now back in Vega Baja. We were able to talk to her for a bit and give her a Book of Mormon. We have an appointment to go back tonight and start teaching the lessons again. She was a complete answer to our prayers and, not only our prayers, but the prayers of the entire ward. We had lost one of our sheep but the Lord led her right back to us and we were so pumped to figure out who she was.

As we finished talking to her we returned to Josue and Maggy's house. By this time Josue had returned home from work. He was already getting ready to head out. He let us sit down for just a few minutes to explain while we were there. As we explained God's plan for families Josue liked what he was hearing, but I could tell his mind was elsewhere. As we finished, we both looked into his eyes. We just purely testified about families, and how, if we follow God and Christ, we will be eternally with them. His attitude completely change and I could see that something that touched his heart. It was a simple testimony offered by my companion and I but I know that the spirit was bearing witness to his soul that what we were telling them is true. They invited us to come back on Thursday and we can't wait to get back there and to get started on working with these miracles that God has blessed us with.

I love you all so much. I know that it is a busy time right now. So I am thankful for your prayers and your love. Believe me, your prayers are being heard. And this weak missionary in Puerto Rico is receiving the strength and support that he needs to keep going every single day. I love you guys and I love this work. I hope that you all have a great week and that everyone's school year gets off to a great start!

I love you all!

Good luck with school everyone! A++

Thanks for all you do,

Your favorite Elder,

Elder Oviatt

oh p.s. the pics are from Curacao, enjoy.

Summer In paradise

August 18, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

I hope that everyone is doing great! It sounds like you had a great week this past week and that you are all doing great! That's cool that the fam was able to take a quick trip down south! I hope that you had a good time and that you were able to enjoy that time together before school starts again and before Mckay is out and on the fast track! I cant believe that the summer is almost over. That is so crazy! But its good to hear that you are all doing well.

Well things here are going well. Training continues to be an absolute adventure but we are having a blast and we are learning a lot . . . both of us . . . a ton! I think I am learning more than my comp is but that's all part of the plan. We are having a fun time talking to so many people. We've had sort of a drop in our teaching pool these last few weeks. A lot of our investigators weren't doing the things that they needed to do and a lot of them just told us to stop coming by and wasting our time. So with that we have been doing a lot of finding this past week. But we have sure been blessed with some great miracles.

While I was writing my email to you last week we received a phone call from the office. On the other end was the secretary who assisted to the Vega Baja ward with me my first two transfers back from the islands. She was so excited! She said that a man had just come into the office and said that he was looking to change his life, that he had been involved in a lot of stuff, and he just wants to find the right path. He said that he wants to follow the Savior and he wants to find the true church. He told her that he was walking past the mission office and he felt so good. He felt like he needed to go inside and talk to somebody. He went inside and told them what was up. It turns out that he had a Book or Mormon given to him by one of his friends a while back. He had never really read it but he said that he has always felt good about it and liked what his friend had told him about the church and the doctrine. We called him as soon as we got out of the email place and he told us to come by the next day at 11:00.

We were teaching him, and the spirit prompted us to start teaching about the atonement of Jesus Christ. We taught him about it and read with him in the Book of Mormon. The spirit was so strong and he was really touched by the message. He said that he knows this is where God is leading him and that this is the path that he needs to be on. He told us he wants to get baptized and wants to get it started by reading the Book of Mormon. He was so excited to read it as we left. He is a miracle for two missionaries that have been working their hardest and really needed a miracle. This experience got both me and my companion fired up and we were excited to get out there and find someone else to teach.

We were able to pass by Joel and Virgina again and share another great message with them. We finally got to teach them about the restoration of the gospel and the Book of Mormon. They were really receptive to the message. When we talked about the great apostasy Joel said that it made perfect sense. That's exactly why there are so many churches in our day. He asked us how we could know when God is trying to answer our prayers? How we can know what the spirit truly feels like? We read with him in Galatians 5 where it talks about the fruits of the spirit. As we finished reading the scripture Virgina said very excitedly "Joel, that's exactly how I told you I felt when they left last week." She told us that as we had left she told her husband that she just felt good. She said she was in a great mood before we came, but after we left she was feeling something that she hadn't felt before. It was an incredible experience for me. She didn't remember all of what we had taught the first time we had passed by but the thing that had the greatest impact on her was how she felt and the spirit that touched her heart. I know that the spirit is with us here in this work and I know that its only through him that we can truly know the truth.

I had a trade-off yesterday with my old CCM companion Elder Zenger. He is our zone leader. We came back from the islands together, and he got sent to my first area, San Sebastian. Yesterday he was showing me his baptism pictures and he showed me a picture of a couple they baptized. I took a double-take and I jumped up and I screamed! "NO WAY! WE TOTALLY FOUND THEM!!!!" It was an awesome couple that we had found over a year ago. At the time they were building their house and going through some hard things. We taught them and helped them out the best we could but nothing was able to come out of it. Well at least that's what I had thought. He told me he found them once again and they were baptized within 3 weeks. I was so happy for them. I felt like a horrible missionary because we forgot to fill out a teaching record for them! But it was so neat to see the fruit of a seed that we planted. It was such a testimony builder to me. No matter what we are doing, if we are doing what the Lord wants us to do, good things are going to come out of it. Even if we never even get to see it in our lives and our efforts, our examples will change lives and bring people to our Savior.

Anyways, that's about it for this week. We have to get going. Once again we have a ton of stuff that we need to be doing. I wanted to leave you with something that I felt this week.

We had the opportunity to meet with Elder Vinas this week. He is the president of the Caribbean area and he spoke in general conference this past April. As we were with him in zone conference I couldn't help but think over and over again, about what a blessing it was to be able to be talking with a man called of Christ to lead and direct His church. I kept thinking of the scriptures, all of the stories that we read about the prophets and the apostles in the scriptures, we were able to live it this past weekend. I am so thankful that this Church is led and directed by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our leaders are called by God and He leads and directs them and their efforts. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the true and living church of Jesus Christ and I am so thankful that I can be a part of this great work!

Thanks for all of your love and support! Good luck with school everyone! I hope it goes well.

I'm A Daddy, and its very humbling

August 11, 2010

Good Morning Family and Friends,

I hope that you all had a great week this past week. I know that my email last week was a little scatter-brained. I got like five phone calls last week while I was writing the email due to the transfers and stuff like that. So it was hard to write a good email. But I hope this one goes a little better. Thank you for writing me this week you guys. It sounds like things are going great and that life just keeps moving along! I hope you know that all of you are always in my prayers and I hope you know how much I love you.

Anyways, one of the phone calls that I received last week was from one of the assistants. They told me that I needed to be at the mission office at 4 o'clock for a meeting and then they hung up the phone. I got to the meeting and all of the zone leaders were there for a conference they were having. I kept asking everyone why I was there and they would just smile and say "you'll see." Anyways, after a little bit President Alvarado walked in with the newest group of missionaries in our mission. He got them started on a little exercise and then he took me and a few other missionaries out of the room to talk to us. He sat me down and told me that I would be training Elder Martinez. He is a new member, a new missionary, and a great one at that, from El Salvador.

I was shocked and humbled by the call. I'm not the most incredible missionary there is and with the kind of relationship that I had with Elder de Leon I wasn't really sure that I would be able to do it. All I could do was pray and ask for the help I needed because I have nowhere else to turn. I have been humbled and brought to my knees more in this week then I have in my entire life. But it has been an incredibly spiritual experience and an amazing opportunity to grow closer to my Savior. It has been the hardest thing by far that I have done in my life but it has been great and I am loving every second of it.

Like I said, Elder Martinez is from El Salvador and he is on fire. He is 19 years old and is a convert to the church. He was baptized when he was nine and is the only member in his family. The rest of his family are Jehovah's Witnesses. Needless to say he has a killer testimony and I am learning more from him than he is learning from me . . . and I love it!

On Wednesday morning we had a meeting where we picked up our other companion. The plan was to have us work in a trio, but that eventually changed, and now its just me and Elder Martinez. Anyways, the three of us went to a house where a couple lived that we had contacted last week. We went to help them pull out some trees from their patio, Elder Martinez had been struggling like I did with homesickness. I tried loving him the best I could but there was just something that he needed that I couldn't give him.

We spent a few hours helping the family take out some trees and old plants and then we sat down to teach them a lesson afterward. The lesson was incredible. The spirit was so strong. Elder Martinez did a great job of teaching and Elder Baines and I taught about the doctrine of Christ. We invited them to be baptized and they accepted. Their names are Joel and Virgina. They are an awesome couple who are not yet married but have the plans to get married this year. We knelt with Joel to end the lesson and he prayed. He gave thanks that God had answered their many prayers in looking for light and guidance in the hard times that they were passing through. That night Elder Martinez his testimony with us about how that lesson changed his entire attitude about his mission. He said that he was feeling like going home (something that i can definitely relate too) but the lesson that we had, seeing the effect that the spirit has on people, and seeing a couple accept a baptismal date during the first visit, changed his whole outlook on the mission. He said that he had prayed the night before and asked God to give him strength and then it came the very next day.

As I looked at him I couldn't help but think back onto the experience that I myself had one year ago. I entered the mission and it was a total shock to me. I love you all with all of my heart and it was just a shock to realize that you weren't right there where we could talk and I could give you a hug or get reassurance. It was like you weren't with me and that it would be quite a while before it would be that way again. I too went through the same struggle Elder Martinez experienced and, I too received the answer to my prayers. These shared experiences only strengthened my testimony that God loves each and every one of His children the same. And He knows just how important this work is. He knows what a great missionary Elder Martinez is going to be and He knows how to comfort us exactly when we need Him. He is there to help us be where we need to be and become who we need to become. I love my Father in Heaven. I know He loves me -- and each and every one of us. That love is eternal and perfect and I am so thankful for that.

The rest of our week has been filled with trying to find new people. It has been an exciting and challenging thing to train a new missionary. A lot of times I have felt like I just cant do it. I get scared that I am not going to be able to train him the way that God wants me to. I am afraid that I am going to screw it up and be a complete failure and ruin everything. You know . . . just thinking things that satan wants me to think. But when I get those thoughts the phrase keeps entering into my head, "fear is not faith." And it has made me want to have a stronger faith in Lord Jesus Christ and in His atoning sacrifice for us. It has been a challenging week, but also an incredible week. I am so thankful for the atonement of my Savior Jesus Christ. I know that he knows what I have been going through and I am so thankful that His merciful hand has been there to give me strength and help me through this.

Angel and Mary are doing great. Angel keeps coming to church and he talks about the warm feeling that he feels every time he is in church. We were talking to him about that yesterday and it hit both of us that we needed to talk about the spirit and the confirmation after the baptism bestowing the Holy Ghost. We need to tell him how he will feel that same way after his baptism. It was a great lesson and I could see that the spirit really touched Angel. He is going to go on vacation this week and I am hoping that is exactly what he needs. We are hoping and praying that when he gets back he will be ready to take that next step.

Rafael came to church once again. That is now three Sundays in a row and we are so pumped for him. He is reading the Book of Mormon to know if its true and he told us he wants to know for sure this time. He is not going to let this opportunity slip through his fingers.

I told you that we were in a trio. But they put Elder Bailey with us too. Elder Bailey one of my best friends in the mission. He was my comp in Aruba. So it has been a great blessing. We are all in the same ward. This ward used to have 10 missionaries but has only had two for a long time. When the members saw that there were four missionaries serving now they were all pumped up. There was an energy and an excitement in the church that wasn't there before. It was awesome!

Anyways, it has been a great week and I want to thank you for all that you guys do for me! I love you all so much! I can feel all of your love and your prayers and I know that I am getting strength from that support so, thank you so much! I hope you know that I love you all and I am praying for you too. If I could write you all letters and emails I would. But I hope you know that one day I will make it up to you all.

I hope that you all have a great week! Mckay and Dad, good luck with school! I hope the tests go well!

Before I go I'll tell you a funny story. On Saturday we were talking to people on the street. We came to one house and there was a family there. We called from the street and they told us that we could come in if we could get past the dog. "Look out!" they said, "he bites." I thought they were just joking around and, being the brave guy that I am, I went for it. The dog started chasing me. It was awesome! He didn't leave the yard. I yelled thanks and kept moving on. They were all laughing and I got a good chuckle out of it too. But the best part was that Elder Martinez had run across the street. The traffic was flowing like mid-day Saturday traffic and he got across the street in like two seconds. I have no idea how it happened, but it was really funny. One second he was there, and the next he was gone.

Anyways, hope you got a good laugh out of my dog story! Have a great week!

Transfers - I had to close another apartment! :)

August 3, 2010

Good morning Family and friends,

We just got done with our 6:30 in the morning district meeting and now we are at the University in Bayamon using email while the car gets fixed. Its a busy preparation day but we are having a blast and we are loving every single minute of it. Anyways, I am sure that once again you are all surprised that I am writing to you on Tuesday instead of Wednesday. But it is once again time for transfers! I am sorry that I forgot to say something last week but I know that you will all forgive me. I know how exciting it is to hear from one another so I am sure that you are fine with it.

Anyways, I am sure that you are all wondering about transfer news, I will be staying in Vega Baja once again . . . YES!!!! I love the area and so I am more than happy to be here for a few more months. There is still so much work to be done so I am excited to keep up the work that we have been doing. Sadly Elder De Leon will be leaving. It has been a good learning transfer with him and I am sad to see him leaving so soon. But it is what the Lord wants and so it is what needs to be done. Anyways, that is why we are doing email on Tuesday. So far that is all the transfer information that I have for you guys up to now. I have a meeting in the mission office today at 4:00 and I am not really sure what it is for. I guess we can all let our imaginations flow about the purpose of the meeting, and maybe even make some wild guesses. I will let you know the purpose of the meeting next week.

Anyways, this week was an interesting week. We had preparation day on Tuesday, planning day on Thursday, moving day on Friday, and then a change-off Saturday and Sunday. So it went by really quickly. all of the different activities (moving and so on) meant we weren't able to have a lot of amazing experiences with our investigators because we were out doing other things. Anywho, the move went well. I felt like I was back in Curacao closing up apartments. We had to clean out the apartment and get it all perfect just so we could close the door and lock it and never see it again. hahah! But it was fun!

Anyways, our new apartment is right in the middle of the pueblo of Vega Baja. There is lots of noise and lots of fun. The apartment is not by the beach but it is right by the people and right by where we need to be, so I am really excited to see what this transfer has to offer.

We had a neat experience with Rafael on Saturday. We passed by to teach him the word of wisdom. As we talked about coffee, tears started to well up in his eyes. We asked him why he was starting to cry and he said that he had stopped drinking coffee 20 years ago and everyone had asked him why, but he could never remember why he did it. That is until he heard the doctrine of the word of wisdom again and then he knew exactly why. It was really neat to see the way that the spirit had touched him after all of these years. Even though he had forgotten, he he still knew that it was the truth and that it was a commandment from God and that he needed to live it.

After that we went to visit another investigator named Victor. We have been teaching Victor for a few weeks now. He works two jobs to support his family and so he works every single day. We talked to him about the importance of coming to church and we read with him from 1 Nephi that the Lord provides a way for us to live his commandments. He realized the importance of coming to church. He said that he was going to pray and talk to his boss to get some things worked out so that he could be at church. It was a really neat experience for us because the spirit was the one doing all the teaching. He read from the Book of Mormon. He heard our testimonies and the spirit touched him. Then he knew what he needed to do.

We had an investigator family that used to come to church every Sunday. This past week they showed up on Sunday out of the blue after like 4 months. We passed by them yesterday to share a message about the family and about how God has prepared a plan for us in the which our families can be together. We read the proclamation to the world and showed them a picture of the temple. As I looked into the fathers eyes I could see the spirit working in him. And I knew that he knew what we were telling him was true. My own testimony grew with that lesson. I am so thankful for the plan that God has prepared for our families. I know that we can live together forever and I know that this is what he wants for us. I am so thankful for my family. I love you guys so much! How blessed we are to know that our families can be together forever. That is a rock of my testimony . . . that through Christ and His atonement, our families can receive a prize such as that.

Anywho, I have to get going. I love you all so much. Keep me in your prayers! I think that this meeting today means that I will be training a new missionary! But keep that quiet because it is speculation and that is bad.

I love you all so much! With all my heart.

Have a great week!

The spirit is the Key

July 28, 2010

Good morning Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for your emails and your letters this past week! Your love and your support are answers to my many prayers for strength so thank you so much for all that you do. You are the angels that are around about me to build me up and I will forever be grateful for that!

It sounds like Trent and Shelby had a great week at EFY! That is so cool that they were able to go together. During the second day of our conference the mission president's 16 year-old daughter came in to share her testimony with us before she herself left for EFY. It was cool to think that Trent was there this past week and that she was going to be there this week. Anywho, I hope that Trent and Shelby had a great time, as I am sure that they did. EFY rocks!

Anyways, to answer a lot of questions that you had about the conference this past week, here it goes.

The conference was just incredible! We met together every day for four days to talk about the things that our mission president learned during his mission president conference in June. The church has developed a new program to help missionaries focus on some principles from Preach My Gospel that we aren't doing as well as we should. Things like inviting people to be baptized, teaching by the spirit, teaching the people and not just the lessons, and helping people to receive revelation through prayer and study of the Book of Mormon. Principles like that. Its nothing new and its nothing that our mission president invented on his own. Its a new type of training and a change that the church wants to take place world-wide and we are one of a few missions that are trying it now.

It was such an amazing experience to be gathered together with all of the leaders in the mission along with the mission president, Before the conference started I had read in Alma about when Captain Moroni. Teancum, and Lehi had a war council to discuss the strategy that there were going to use against the Lamanites. The meeting that we had this week felt exactly like that and the spirit that we felt and the things that we learned through the spirit were just incredible.

One of the things that I love about President Alvarado is that he understand his role as a teacher. Its not just to pump us full of information but to create an atmosphere and to prompt thinking that will help us to learn from ourselves. It was an amazing four days and I know that there is not a lot I can say that would give it justice other than it was four full days of working and learning by the spirit. Each day we talked about and practiced the principles then each night we would go out and work to apply the principles that we had learned. Elder De Leon spent the week working with the other elders in another area while I worked with another district leader, Elder Trejo In our area. Elder Blandon and his companion, Elder Turner, also worked in our area.

We had some incredible experiences. The first day of the conference we talked about the invitation to baptism and how we as missionaries need to teach the doctrine of baptism. We need to teach from the scriptures and then invite the investigator in such a way that our invitation will help the Spirit bear witness that what we are inviting them to do really is the will of our Heavenly Father and the Savior. We went and visited Angel on the first night and it was just incredible. The spirit was there and even though we had invited Angel before, he could feel that what were inviting him to do was the truth and what Heavenly Father would want. He accepted the baptismal invitation and we set the date for the 7th of August. We went by a few days later and once again he had decided to push the date back a little bit. The desire to change had us discouraged a bit but didn't take away from the spirit that he felt and that we felt with him.

After that we went to our Ward Mission Leader's home to teach his wife. When we pulled up to the house we talked about how we were just going to teach the doctrine and then if the spirit directed us to invite her we would do it. Her husband has been the Ward Mission Leader for four years and so as you can imagine many missionaries had given the same invitation. We read together from 2 Nephi 31 and the spirit was just incredible. As we were about to invite her to be baptized, the phone rang, and the spirit left. We sang a song and read some more scriptures and when we once again felt the spirit was back, we again attempted to invite her for baptism . . . and the phone rang again. We again read from the scriptures until the spirit was back and then we invited her to be baptized. She didn't say "yes" but the spirit that she felt was real.

We invited her to pray about it and she said she would. The next day the Ward Mission Leader told us what happened after we left. He said that she broke down with tears. He knew as well as we did that she had indeed felt the spirit and knew the message we shared is true. She has family pressures and is hesitant to take the step to baptism, but the experience that we had with her and the opportunity that we had to feel the spirit work with us that evening was just incredible. One of the biggest things we learned this week is that, that we need to be directed by the spirit in all that we do. And that night I definitely learned that without the spirit we are nothing. But with it, well that is the key. With the spirit miracles happen.

The conference ended on Friday night and now for what happened this weekend . . .

Saturday night we were out contacting looking for new families to teach. We contacted a young woman and her child. They are from New York and her child´s name is Heaven! It was an awesome contact and we asked if we could stop by on Sunday and she said that it would be fine. From the very moment I talked to her all I could think about was how much she needed to hear about the doctrine of the true gospel of Christ. I knew that if we extended a baptismal invitation as we had been practicing all day Saturday, things would go well. We went by on Sunday. It turns out she has had a lot of doubts about the Bible. Those doubts were expressed as concerns about the story of Cain and Abel. She was struggling with the reference in the Bible to the fact that after Cain killed Abel, he went to live with other children! Well where did the other children come from?!?!?!

We read in Moses 5 and talked about how this revealed scripture we shared is evidence of a prophet of God being called in our day. We then read from 2 Nephi 31 and taught the doctrine right from the scriptures. When we invited her to be baptized the spirit that we felt confirmed to me that it wasn't just us missionaries making the invitation. I felt as though it was coming to her from the Savior himself through the spirit that was there. She wasn't really sure so we invited her to kneel and to pray. She said a sweet humble prayer and as it ended you could see that she had received her answer. The spirit that we were feeling was amazing and we asked right then if we could return tomorrow and she said "you betya." We set a baptismal date for the 21st of August if she was prepared. I am really excited to see where Sonya and her family are about to go!

We had another great experience with our investigator Mary. She is Angel's wife and she has said from the very start that she didn't want to be pushed by us as we shared the gospel. We have been very careful about that but as we taught her the plan of salvation I could not shake the prompting that we needed to invite her to be baptized. We invited her and she said that she needed to learn more. We asked her if she had prayed about the message we were sharing and the Book of Mormon. She said "no." We invited her to pray right then and there, and we taught how to give a simple prayer. She is so filled with confusion and frustration because she has been looking for the truth for her entire life but felt she had not found it. We knelt together and she offered a sweet, simple prayer. As she prayed the spirit just flooded the entire room. As she ended the prayer I looked into her eyes and asked how she felt. I knew that she had received her answer because I could feel it.

The spirit was so strong and everyone there, including Angel, knew what had just happened. She began to cry. She knows the message is true! We asked if we could drop by the next day and she said "yes" without a moment of thought. We stopped by yesterday to talk a little bit more about what that feeling meant. It went really well. Angel talked about how grateful he was that his wife had no received an answer and he knew that she had. She is still a little hesitant but we are now leaps and bounds from where we were a couple of days ago.

So yeah, the conference went really well and we are excited to continue to apply the things that we have forgotten from Preach My Gospel. This work truly is the work of God, I have no doubt about that in my mind and heart. This church is true and it truly is directed by a living prophet and 12 apostles who receive revelation from the Lord and Savior Himself. How thankful I am to know that He lives and to know that this is the path that He taught so many years ago.

I hope that you all have a fantastic week! Once again thanks to all of you for your love and your support. I love you so much! Have a fun last week of July. School starts next month (if you can believe it!!!!) It's crazy how quickly time flies.

I hope you enjoy the attached pictures. That thing that looks like a kabob is called a Pincho. Its a kabob without vegetables and smothered in delicious sauce. Oh how I love Puerto Rican food!

I Love you all so much. I hope that you have a fantastic week!