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!

Writing you On monday today, Big conference this week

July 19, 2010

Well Good morning to all of you,

I am sure that you are kind of surprised that you are receiving an email here on Monday instead of Tuesday or Wednesday, but there is a good reason why! I hope that you all had an amazing week! It was still good to hear from you guys! Thanks for all of the letters I have received from my family and from Jenny. Thank you so much. You guys rock!

Anyways, this week our mission is going to be doing something new. All of the leaders are going to be meeting together every day for training and then in the evening we are going to go out and work together. So yeah, we are going to be meeting and having the conference on Wednesday too. So we had to move preparation day to Monday this week. And that is why I am writing you guys today instead of Wednesday. We are all really excited for this conference. We know that we are going to learn a ton and we are excited to get out and apply it.

But today I am in the office. We had interviews this morning to get prepared. And today is a holiday here in Puerto Rico so a lot of the regular email places are closed. As such, all of the missionaries are here waiting to use email and so I cant write as much as I usually do. But I know that you will understand. Just know that I love you guys and I am so thankful for all your love and support.

We had some really cool experiences this week with some part-member families, a few of whom we actually found. On Tuesday night we were going to an investigator's house to check up on them and we stopped to talk to the lady at the house next to the one we were looking for. She invited us right in and sat us down. It turns out that she was baptized about 15 years ago in the Dominican and hasn't been to church in a while. She is now married with kids. We shared the Proclamation to the World with her and the spirit was incredible. She was touched by the thoughts and the doctrine that God has something more planned for each and every one of us and our families. She invited us back to share more with the entire family next time,

Our investigators are doing great! Angel C is still stuck in his situation with that woman living in his house so his baptism has been pushed back a couple of weeks again. We haven't been able to get to him to set a new date but he still has the desire to get baptized. His testimony is still strong and he is doing what he needs to to keep it that way.

Mary and Angel are doing great. We continue to teach Mary the lessons in English and Angel is still coming to church every week and loving it more and more. We are hoping to invite Mary to be baptized and perhaps this will help Angel take the step that he has known for a long time that he needs to take. The family is eternal and I am so excited to see this great couple take that step together. We are hoping and praying that it will be soon!

We taught Rafael yesterday about the plan of salvation. This time we taught the plan all the way through and once again he loved it. And he bore his testimony to us about how much the plan meant to him and how he knew that it was the truth sent from God. He's doing great! He told us yesterday that he can feel the spirit when he reads the Book of Mormon and he knows that we are sharing a message that is coming from God. We are hoping that one of these days he will come back to church because I know the day he sets foot in the chapel again he will be hooked.

The families who were involved in the car accident are recovering. The grandpa was in the church yesterday after having been in the hospital last week. The man is such an example of Christ-like love and forgiveness. The pain he feels won't go away quickly but his faith and his desire to forgive and love has been an example to each and every one of us.

I've gotta get going but before I go, I want to share a really neat experience with you that I had this week. We have been living by the beach and it is nice, the problem is that we are about 15 minutes away from the church and most of our area. Anyways, they have been searching in our area for months for another apartment. We drove by and apartment for rent a few days ago that was pretty close to the church. On Tuesday night we had the feeling that we needed to drive by once again and grab the phone number so we could call about it. Anyways, we pulled up to the house and the family owning the home with the apartment were outside waiting for us. We asked if we could talk to them and they invited us right up.

They told us that they had prayed right then that God would send somebody who would be able to rent the house, somebody who would be trustworthy and honorable. They said that the very moment that they ended the prayer we pulled up. They have been going through a hard time with medical bills and stuff and so they were so thankful for the miracle that they received. It was really cool to be a part of the answer to their prayers. But the part that we are most excited about is that they are a great family and we are going to be moving in so we are looking forward to teaching them! What a great start to your relationship with the missionaries!

Thanks again for all of your love and support. Like I said, I don't have a lot of time this week so if I don't get back to you this week I will for sure next week! I love you all with all of my heart and I hope that you know that you are in my prayers constantly!

Have a fantastic week and know that I love you!


July 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Mckay! You are so old!! I hope that you don't feel as old as you really are. Take it easy. The body is going to start hurting soon. I hope that you had a great day yesterday with your test and I hope that you have an amazing birthday! Your last birthday in before you begin your job. That's so crazy! I hope you have a good one Bro. I love you so much and I hope that everything is going well! Lemme know how it goes!

How was this week for everybody? Sounds like you all had a great week and I was really excited to hear that! I hope that Mckay's test and birthday goes well. It sounds like Trent is going to have a blast at EFY! That's cool that he and Shelby get to go together! Maybe they'll get put in the same group! That's also really cool that Trent had his first high school home run! That's something that I have still yet to do. I did hit one in PE! I think? But that was on the softball field . . . and well it was PE. Things are a little different now it sounds like! But way to go slugger! You rock!

It sounds like the summer is moving along nicely. All of the stores here are stocked, stocked, stocked up with their back to school supplies. School starts here in the first part of August so the kids are all busy living up the last few weeks of summer that they have left. Its weird to think that school will be starting again. I know its still a while for all of you back home but I hope that everyone is having a great summer! From what I have heard, it sounds like it!

This week went well. I was battling a cold all week and I am finally starting to feel better. Its weird for me to think that people still get colds especially in the middle of the Caribbean. It wasn't too bad this week. I was still able to work without problems. I know it was because of the strength and the blessing that I received from all of your prayers. So thank you so much for all that you guys do for me, all of your prayers and support. I'm not sure you know how much it means to me but it means so much to me, so thank you!

The work went well this week. We weren't able to get by Janet until yesterday. We passed by and she was painting her fence. We tried to help her but people never let us help when we are in our proselyting clothes. I don't get why I really wanted to paint. We had trouble getting a hold of her but it turns out that her sister is here from New York and so things slowed down a ton, We were kind of discouraged by that but I still know that she has a ton of potential and we are really excited to get back to working with her, so keep us in your prayers. We are going to need all the help we can get!

We continued to work with Angel and his wife this past week. We began to talk about the plan of salvation and a bunch of questions came up. They studied for a few years with the Jehovah's Witnesses and so they were really confused about some stuff. We started to talk about the Kingdoms of Glory and Mary talked about how she thought that she wasn't going to be one of the 144,000 to live with God. All of this thought came to my mind, if only 144,000 get to live with God then why did Jesus Christ suffer for your sins, your pains and your afflictions? Why did he suffer for all of that for all of us? If what we need in order to live with God is to become perfect, and the only way to become perfect is through Jesus Christ, why didn't he just suffer for the 144,000 thousand who were going to live with God?

Anyways, I was a little perplexed by what I had just said and we all kind of thought about it for a second. I knew that the thoughts and the vocalization of the answer did not come from me because I had never had this thought in my life. But the more and more I have thought about that this week the more and more I have come to appreciate the Savior's atonement. He did all that for us. For each and every one of us so that we could return to live in God's Kingdom. And he did it so that we could return and live as families, not just by ourselves separated, but together forever. It was a really precious experience and I know you don't get the whole feeling of it through the email, but it was awesome to see the way that we were all taught that afternoon.

We talked a little bit more and both Mary and Angel were so excited about the things that they had learned about the plan of salvation. They loved that we know that in the spirit world everyone will have the chance to hear the plan, to hear about the Savior, and that is how everyone will have an equal chance. It was a really neat lesson and one that added a ton to my testimony. I love my Heavenly Father and I love His plan. I can't imagine heaven without my family because it wouldn't be heaven if we weren't all there together. Ahhh, I love the plan of salvation. It's so perfect!

I hope it doesn't seem like I am trying to bash on the Jehovah's Witnesses because I am not. I have all the respect in the world for them and what they stand for. But I am just sharing the experience I had. It was really neat and I wanted to share it with you guys today! I hope none of you are offended or rubbed wrong by what I said. If you are, I apologize. But what I said is true. The plan is perfect. How blessed we are to know about it.

We had a cool referral visit this week. We have a convert in our ward who was confirmed my first Sunday here. She had been baptized the day before Elder Lopez left to the islands. Anyways, her husband is a member and they are so awesome! Her husband has a few kids that live with their mom on the other part of the island. This week his 19 year-old son moved to Vega Baja to live with his dad. His dad told us to come teach his son the lessons now too! As soon as I walked into their house I saw this kid and I knew in my heart that someday he was going to be a missionary. His name is Luis and he's an absolute stud. Just a great, humble, down to earth kid who honestly wants to know the truth. We were teaching them the first lesson and talking about the importance of families and it was really neat to see the way that he and his dad were being brought together.

He has some reading problems, but they read every night as a family and he is becoming more and more familiar with the Book of Mormon and is really starting to enjoy the message. Monday we talked about the plan of salvation and he absolutely loved it. It was his first plan of salvation lesson and it couldn't have gone any better! We taught him on Sunday night too and I had actually lost my voice. It was hard not to talk because you all know how much I love to talk. Anyways we had planned before to watch the restoration movie with him and it worked out so perfectly! He came to church and Sunday and he loved it. We are really looking forward to where this young man is going to go!

We had another lesson with Rafeal on Saturday. While we were teaching we smelt smoke and then his brother screamed out his name. We ran inside and the hospital like room that his parents live in was covered in smoke. They got his parents out of there quick and after they got all of it figured out he said, "lets go, satan is trying to keep me from hearing the rest of the plan of salvation. I know this was his work and I am not going to let him him. Let's go finish." He too had some doubts about what I talked about earlier and once again the same thought came up! He loved the plan of salvation too and is beginning once again to grow a love for the Book of Mormon! He's on the path back to the truth and it has been amazing to be able to be a part of it with him. He still has a ways to go but already I have seen an incredible change in him and we are really excited for what he has left.

Well I better get going. Elder De Leon is looking really bored and I am sure you are all sick of hearing me babble. No, I'm just kidding. I love you guys and I hope that everything is going well back at home.

Oh, one more quick story. We were toking doors on Sunday night around 5 o' clock and at the same time all of the houses screamed. We knew the world cup was on but had no idea what happened. It was really funny. Every one at the same time! YAHHHHHh. They were all rooting for Spain. Sounds like it was a good one. I'll have to look it up when I get back.

Anywho, Hope you all have great week.

I know summer is a busy time so thank you for still putting the effort to keep in touch. I hope that all is going well for all of you guys and I hope to hear from you soon!

Have a great Birthday Mckay!

Hope you had a good 4th! Finally, Preparation Day

July 7, 2010

Good morning family and friends,

It's a little different to be writing you on Wednesday but that's just part of the change that has occurred in my life. So yeah, from now on I am going to be writing you guys on Wednesdays! I'm not sure if that will change when we have transfers or not. I will let you know as that gets closer but for now, you'll hear from me on Wednesday. Needless to say this past week was a long week between p-days -- a great week, just a long one. Sometimes we really just need a day to prepare, and so bienvenidos dia santo, hoy podemos descansar.

Thank you for your emails and for your love and support. I hope that you had a fantastic 4th of July weekend and that you had fun "burning money" as dad always likes to say. I should tell you though you should be thankful that you all get to do that. Here the people don't celebrate the 4th the way we do. To be honest, the people could care less why the had a free vacation day. And people honestly didn't know why, but they were all really excited to not have to work! The beaches were packed this weekend. That's how the Puerto Ricans celebrate our independence. Somebody told me that the Independence Day for the island is on the 25th and if that's the case, there will be a HUGE party so we'll see when that comes.

But yeah, just a little info for those of you who wanted to know what they do here. But thanks for all of your letters and your emails. Its great to hear that everyone is doing good and pushing on!

We had a really cool week this past week. On Friday we had a meeting with the new combined mission and the new mission president. We were all there early in the morning as we will be for all of our meetings from now on. And after studying for a while President Alvarado walked in and we all stood up. It was great to hear a nice friendly "buenos dias!" He walked about half way up the aisle and then invited his family to come with him. I don't know if I told you this but President Alvarado is pretty dang young. He served in the seventy and still has 3 kids living at home who are 16, 12, and 7. So there will definitely be a different feeling to the mission compared to how it was with the other mission presidents who were both retired with grand-kids out the wazoo.

The meeting was absolutely incredible! We sang "Love One Another" in Spanish and then President Alvarado got up and said "lets sing it in English" and it just brought chills. The meeting was incredible! We are now putting a new focus on the families in our mission and we left that meeting fired up and ready to go. President Alvarado has a ton of fire for the work and I am so excited to get to work with him. He's already started to do a lot of good things and I have seen a lot of blessings coming already from what he has been inspired to have us do. There are going to be miracles brought about here in Puerto Rico during the next three years and I am excited that I get to be a part of it.

One of the new things that we are doing is focusing more on the Proclamation to the World on the Family and how it ties into the lessons that we teach as missionaries. It has brought a new aspect in the way that we teach and I have already seen and felt a huge difference. We teach to the hearts of those who allow us and not just to their heads. The spirit is doing incredible things.

We had a really neat experience this week with a lady named Janet. Elder Moran and I had taught Janet last transfer but the lesson didn't go all that well. We tried to schedule another appointment with her but she said "no, just come back whenever you are in the area." We were working over there on Friday and all of our appointments fell. I had a prompting that we needed to go talk to her again. When we arrived she was outside and she invited us right in. We sat down on her porch and decided to get to know her a little better before we dove into the teaching. It turns out that she is going through some really hard times with her 22 year-old son who is living at home. He is stuck in the house with some really serious medical problems. She had to move back from New York to take care of him and she has been asking "why?" a lot lately. This gave us direction in our lesson with her and she really liked what we had to say. The lesson went smoothly and the spirit was so strong. The lesson was reaching her heart and it wasn't because we were doing crazy spectacular things. The spirit was reaching her heart and working miracles.

By the end of the lesson she had a really strong desire to read the Book of Mormon. After we gave her the Book of Mormon we committed her to be baptized and she said yes. She said that she knows she needs to follow Christ and do those things which He asks her to do. We were both so pumped! I'll admit it. I was a little shocked that she said yes but I know she has a desire to have the answers to her questions and the truth in her life. It added to my testimony once again that these are God's children. He truly does have a plan for all of us. We knew of this plan before the world began and God wants us to be able to know this plan now. I know something touched Janet that day. She had heard these things before and her spirit was recognizing it. It was incredible to a part of such a neat experience. Truly, as I have said before, this is the work of angels.

An update on Rafeal -- we extended a baptismal invitation to him on Saturday. The lesson was incredible! He loved the plan of salvation and kept saying over and over how blessed we had been to be raised in the gospel with this knowledge. That we were with God before and that we have a purpose for being here. We invited him to be baptized and he said, "I was already baptized in your church 30 years ago. I don't need to get baptized again right?" After talking a little bit more with him, sure enough, he had been baptized before. We all had a good laugh about that. I'll admit I've never invited a member to be baptized before. But it was still a really neat experience. We changed the lesson a bit and talked about the need to come to church. He's been inactive forever and is now looking for the truth. He committed to come to church this Sunday so we'll see what happens!

Angel is doing great. We had a lesson with him and his wife this morning and they are both reading the Book of Mormon. Angel was talking about what he had learned in the first few chapters of Nephi and I watched Mary, his wife, as he was talking and she was so interested in what he was saying. They are both so happy now that the restored gospel has entered into their lives. Not that they weren't happy before, they are some of the nicest people that I have ever met, but there is just a peace and light in their eyes that wasn't there before. We are still working on a baptismal date with Angel. I think he is waiting until his wife catches up in the lessons with him. She didn't want to listen to us until the last couple of weeks. She is reading in the Book of Mormon and loving every word! She has so many good questions and really wants to learn. I can see so much potential in this family and I can feel the love and desire that God has for them to become a forever family. I hope that I am here to be able to see their baptism because that is going to be an incredible day. But if not, I am so thankful that I have been able to hang on for the ride.

An update on the family who was in the accident -- their children are both in the hospital and are still in critical condition. The little boy has lost his memory completely has no idea who his mom is and doesn't even remember who he is. The little girl had surgery and sounds to be doing a little better, but things are still pretty bad. The mom, dad, and older brother are all out of the hospital now and they came to Sacrament Meeting on Sunday. They are still covered in bumps and bruises and the dad was having a hard time moving around with his broken ribs, but the testimony meeting was just incredible. The mother and grandma of the boy who died were also there and it was just really neat to be able to soak in the spirit and the love and truth that was shared during that meeting. The grandma of the boy who died said that the only way they could have gotten through this past week was with the knowledge that they have of the plan of salvation and the gospel of Jesus Christ. She talked about how we need to let the whole world know this message because when these hard times come in our lives, everyone deserves to have the knowledge that we do. It was just a really special meeting, and although it was a complete tragedy, it has been a really neat experience to be able to see the effect that it has had on this ward and how they have come together to help and bless these two families. Just like any fold of the shepherd should do.

Anyways, we continue to work as hard as we can, and the Lord is blessing us in more ways than we can imagine. I realize that summer is in full swing and that it is a busy time for all of you. I want to thank you so much for the love and support that you have still shown me! I am so blessed to have such a great support system as you guys are. You are the fuel to my fire so thank you for all that you do.

I heard the Netherlands won yesterday! GO ORANGE! You know it baby! I may not be in the islands there, but my team is going to take it all.

Don't worry. I'm still set apart from the world :) haha!

I love you guys with all my heart! Have a fantastic week for me! Enjoy the summah!