Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Transfer -- One more for me in Ponce



Received March 2, 2011

Dearest Family and Friends,

How are all of you this morning? How is it going back at home? I hope that everyone had a good night's sleep last night. I want you to know that I would have made you all banana pancakes if I would've been there, but alas, I guess you will have to wait. Just know that the banana pancakes were incredible! You'll just have to wait to see what I am talking about. They are even better on rainy days! :)

Anyways, I really do hope that all of you are doing well and that this last week has been an incredible week for the you. It sounds like Utah is having some pretty crazy weather back there. Dad wrote me a letter and he talked about how it was snowing a ton and then melting all in the same day. It's weird for me to think about things like that happening. I hope that everyone is doing well as they are into full swing with work and school. It's weird to think that it is almost time for midterms and that conference will be here in a month. But I hope that you all had a fantastic February and that March will be even better for ya'll.

Today we had transfers. I love transfer days because it always comes at the perfect time. It seems like it comes just when everyone is ready for a little shake up. That little shake up to the zone always brings about something fun and brings with it new life. Everyone always seems re-energized and ready to go out and work. A lot of you are probably wondering what is going on with me. I am still in Ponce and still working hard. This will probably be my last transfer in Ponce and my last transfer of serving as a Zone Leader. Then it will be off to the special assignment that President Alvarado has up his sleeve. This transfer is going to be a transfer of sprinting and I am so excited for what lies ahead of us. Elder Varner and I will be getting a new companion. He is probably the missionary that will be taking my place as a Zone Leader when I leave. His name is Elder Putnam. Elder Varner will be traveling throughout the zone and will eventually be called as an Assistant to the President, but basically for this transfer, the three of us are companions working together.

I know that I have mentioned Elder Putnam but I am not sure how much I have shared with you about him. He is a great missionary! He was baptized when he was 16. He had a pretty rough life growing up. Both of his parents were alcoholics. When they divorced his mom got into drugs and things went from bad to worse Then his dad was killed in a car accident and he got sent to live with his grandparents who were not the nicest of people. He said that he was lost. He started to run away from home. His football coach noticed what was going on and invited him to come dinner, and then share a family home evening with them. He said that from there the rest was history. I am really excited to be working with him this transfer. His testimony is so strong and he is so close to the spirit. He said that he was debating whether or not to serve a mission. He left work early one day and went and parked his car and then prayed for direction. When he finished his prayer he looked up and saw two missionaries riding right in front of where he had parked. He felt that this was and answer for him and and he knew that he was supposed to be here. So yeah, I am pumped! He will basically be my companion while Elder Varner travels throughout the zone getting a better feel of whats going on. You can basically say that I am ""Zone Leader" training. So that is all of the information on transfers.

We saw some huge miracles and changes in some of the missionaries that were serving here in the zone. Many of those missionaries left and are moving on to become district leaders and trainers. We saw some huge changes of heart in the zone this last transfer and it was all due to the way that the missionaries are working and the spirit that they are feeling. These are the blessings that come when we work hard in the service of the Lord. When President Alvarado showed us the transfer board I couldn't have been more excited for the missinoareis who were coming to our zone. We have received a lot of new missionaries who have come into the zone. They are here to replace the four of us that are serving here that arrived in Puerto Rico in my group. We will all be leaving in the zone in the middle of April. So yeah, this transfer is going to be incredible.

This past week has been an incredible week for us. Andres and Alexia are doing so great. We visited their family the other night and they were felling sick but wanted to visit with us. We sat together and had a great conversation about the Book of Mormon. One of the things that has amazed me throughout the course of my mission is to realize the type of opposition that comes to our recent converts and our investigators that we never see nor hear about. Andres was pulling out all of the foolish things that he had heard from people and he laughed about it. He said, "those people are so foolish." He shared his testimony that if they would just be humble and read the book and ask God about it, they would get an answer from Him and they would know. He said that whatever people say to him about the book does not matter because he knows it to be true because that's what God had told him. I was so amazed at what he said. I thought to myself, "how many members of the church don't even have that principle embedded in their hearts." He talked about how people from day one have made attempted to explain away the Book of Mormon but everyone has failed.

It was a sweet experience to hear such a powerful testimony from the Andres and Alexia. Both had done what the Lord asks of each of us. Search it out in our minds and in our hearts and then ask in faith. They both shared the answers that they received when they took that challenge. It was a sweet experience to see that this family is truly converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. What a blessing it is to be able to testify that these things are true. God loves us! Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. They have revealed the Father's plan once again through the Prophet Joseph Smith so that our families can be together forever. I know that because I prayed and asked God. With all my heart I testify that it is the word of God and that it came forth as a testimony and evidence to the world that this work is true. I love this work with all of my heart.

We had Zone Council on Monday and we talked a lot about faith. One of the members of the Mission Presidency talked about a talk that had been given by Elder Cook. Elder Cook talked about how faith is pushing our selves to the limit. Sometimes life (and our Heavenly Father's plan) requires us to reach so far to try and accomplish something that we learn that is can only be done with the assistance of the Savior. He alone will be the one who can help us. It requires a lot of humility to have that kind of faith to reach so far and to not know what will happen. That is to have the faith and the assurance that your Savior will be there and take care of you. It was great. It was something that I needed to hear as we are coming into this new transfer. Anyways, that night Elder Putnam and I went out to try and apply that principle to ourselves and our investigators.

We went and visited Ramiro and Dalia that night. I love them so much. I love going to their house because the spirit is always so present and so strong. As we sat down we could just feel that something amazing was going to happen as long as we would follow the spirit. We knew that Ramiro and Dalia would be accepting baptismal dates by the end of the night. We talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ and we talked a lot about the Holy Ghost and about the changes that the Holy Ghost brings to our lives. We testified of the feelings that we receive when we have the Holy Ghost with us and we know that we have received a remission of our sins. We got to the end and Elder Putnam shared an incredible testimony of his own baptism and then there was the invitation, "will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by one who holds the authority of God?" The spirit was so strong in the room. It was an incredible lesson and we knew that we were not teaching alone. There was no way that they could refuse the invitation. In fact, they both nodded their heads and said yes. We invited them to be baptized on March 26th. Ramiro put his head down and said that he wasn't sure and that he needed to think about it. The song "Think, Ponder and Pray" came to my head and we talked about that for a minute. I told him it was great that he wanted to think about it because that was exactly the thing that the Lord wanted him to do. Then we knelt down and we invited him to pray about it. He began his prayer. As soon as he said "Heavenly Father" the spirit absolutely poured into the room. It was so powerful that Ramiro couldn't speak. The spirit was working within him. He had accepted what we had taught and he had opened his heart to truly find what the Lord desired of him. As he started to pray again he asked the Lord for strength so that he would be able to do what the Lord required of him. As he ended his prayer I don't think that there was a dry eye in the room. Even Dalia had felt the spirit so strongly as her husband had poured out his heart to the Lord seeking the truth. We testified to them and left as soon as we could so that spirit could continue working in their hearts. It was an incredible experience to be a physical and spiritual witness and to see the interaction between a Heavenly Father and His son. I know that Ramiro wants to know the truth. He wants to do what God would ask of him. That is that he prayed for and the reason that he got an answer.

I love you all so much and I am thankful for all that you do. The church is true! The Church is true! There is no doubt about it. I know that God lives and that he hears and answers the petitions of our hearts. I have been led and guided by him in so many ways this past week and I thank you for your prayers and for being the Lord's instruments as you have played a part in him answering my own prayers. He lives! And He loves us! What a great message that is.

I wish you all the best of luck on this week. Please know that I love you all.

Happy President's Day

Received February 23, 2011

Dear Family and Friends!

Hey everyone! I have to say that this week has been just an incredible week. Thank you so much for all of the letters and the packages that you sent. Grandma and Grandpa, the ties are just great and thank you mom and dad for all of the things that you sent to the Rivera family, and for the other stuff that you sent. On Sunday the Rivera family invited us over for a dinner with them and some other people. I knew that it would be the perfect time to take over all of the things that you sent. I had just enough time to add one of the pictures that Grandma and Grandpa sent me along with the note from you guys. I wish that you could have seen the look on Andres' face as he saw us walking up the stairs with the big stack of books. They were especially grateful for the hymnbook. They have talking about getting a hymnbook for a while now and this was a huge surprise for us. When Alexia saw the picture of us all doing crazy things in front of the church on the day of her baptism, she was filled with so much joy. She started to cry and couldn't express how thankful she was for that great act of kindness. I want you to know how much I love you guys and how thankful I am for all that you do for me. I know that I couldn't do it without you so thank you so much!

This past week we had our zone conference and it was great. We talked about the Book of Mormon and we have started a new program in the mission called the "100 club." We took the challenge to read the Book of Mormon 100 minutes a day for a 100 days. Elder Varner and I wanted to do it so we have been waking up even earlier to get in that extra time reading the Book of Mormon. It has absolutely changed my life. I have always loved the Book of Mormon and the comfort and that it brings into our lives. As we have been making this sacrifice to read even more in that blessed book, and especially to start off our day with some study of the scriptures has helped me so much. I have been in a funk for the past few months and this was the perfect time to have an improved focus on the Book of Mormon. I know that our Savior lives and I know that He atoned for each and every one of us. I can't express how thankful I am for His loving hand in all parts of our lives. But I am thankful for Him and I love Him. I know that you love Him too and I am so thankful for that testimony that you all always share with me.

This past week we had the flood of Ponce in full force. Last week we only had the flood for one day but this week we had it for both days as we are going to have it in the future. It was awesome! I know it seems like a weird concept to a lot of you, but the miracles that we are seeing are just incredible. We have some areas in the city that haven't had any active investigators eight months that are now setting baptismal dates with families, and strong families too. The Lord is blessing us for making that extra push and I am so excited for the other blessings that we are going to see in the future. This past Monday I was with Elder Putnam and we were in his area searching for families. As we worked he said that he felt like we needed to go and pass by a family that they had visited a few times. We passed by and, for the first time, they invited us in to sit down for a lesson with them. We started talking about the Plan of Salvation. It was so interesting because at the start of the lesson they just seemed like "yeah, whatever. We will listen to these guys because they are nice and they always come over." But something happened during the lesson that brought a change to them. We talked about why we are here and we talked about the atonement of the Savior. We read some scriptures from the Book of Mormon and their ¿complecciones? seemed to just totally change. At the end of the lesson we talked about the gospel of Jesus Christ and what He expects of us as we come to know Him and know His path. By the end of the lesson you could just see it in their eyes. They wanted something more than they had. They wanted to be able to be with their family and be together forever. After the discussion we had with them they knew what they needed to do and they were willing to commit to do it. When we reached the end of the lesson it just felt right to talk about the baptismal date. It was like we didn't even have to invite them. They knew what they needed to do and they wanted to do it. At the end of the lesson we asked the dad (whose name just so happens to be the best name in the world . . . Jonathan) if he would offer the final prayer. He was a little reluctant and he asked if we would help him out a little bit. But as he started to pray we could just feel the spirit so strongly. He asked our Heavenly Father to help him and his family be prepared to get baptized on the 26th of March. As he asked it we all just felt a peace and a joy that came over us.

We passed by again yesterday to see how things were going with them. It seems that the opposition always comes really quick when we have such meaningful experiences with the people we find, but they are doing just great. They had both read in the Book of Mormon and we talked a little bit more about baptism and why we need to get baptized, and what it is going to be like. They have a little girl who is 8 years old and when she saw the picture of the little girl getting baptized she was so excited. They need the gospel so much in their lives. When they heard us talking about eternal families they couldn't be happier or more excited for what was awaiting them. It gave them the desire to do whatever they needed to do so that they would be able to live with God once again and be able to be there with their family members close by their sides.

Ramiro and Dalia are doing just great. Ramiro finished his other job that he has been trying to finish for the past few weeks. That other job was one of the biggest factors in them not being able to be baptized on their scheduled day. But he now has everything under control and he said that he wants to move ahead 100% now and is really excited to be able to start coming to church regularly. Dalia doesn't work this weekend and they have committed to come to church for the first time together! We can't wait to get them prepared for their baptism. They are such a neat family and they mean the world to me. Ramiro was an absolute miracle to us. It has been such a blessing to be able to work with. Every time we go over to their house the spirit is so strong and we are all uplifted together. They will be getting baptized in March and I cant wait for that day.

The Galarza family is coming along as well. We still cant get Nelly to accept a baptismal date but the spirit is working on her and its working very strongly. She is changing so much and she asked us last week to come and teach her son because she is worried about some of the things that he is starting to get into. They too will be getting baptized soon and that will be a miraculous day.

I cannot say the smallest part of what I am feeling right now. God lives and He loves each and every one of us. I can't express to you what a blessed work this is. It is so full of ups and downs. But every single one of them is a blessing and every single one of them is helping me grow closer to my Savior.

I love you all so much family and friends.

I hope that you have a great week.

Hope you all had a good valentine's day

Received February 16, 2011

To my Family and Friends:

I hope that you all had a great week this past week. I also hope that you were all able to have a very fine valentine's day on Monday. It was fun to be here for another holiday. It was a great chance to be able to get out there and to talk to all of the families that were out and about. That's one things that I love about this island. The family is a huge part of life and on days like we had on Monday they take every chance that they can to be together.

We had a some huge blessings on Monday night. On Monday afternoon we went out to start to work in a new part of our area. We have moved the sisters to a very humble part of Ponce. President Alvarado said that he sees them opening a new branch there in a few months just in that little part of Ponce, so we took the area that they were covering and divided it between us and the other two elders in our ward. We were lucky enough to get all of the houses out by the ocean. I say lucky not because of the beauty, but because there are so many humble prepared people who live out there. We went to see this really neat couple that we had talked to a few days before. Their names are Peter and Barbie (yes, that is her real name). Anyways, we were really excited about the appointment that we had with them because they have kids and they live right next to another family from our ward. Anyways, we showed up and it looked like they weren't home. We yelled out and then we walked on to the next appointment that we had feeling a little sad that they were not there when we were supposed to teach them. As we were walking down the street, we heard some man start to yell and whistle. We thought "what is all of the ruckus about" and there, at the end of the street, was Peter waving at us and telling us to come back. As we were walking back they started to pull out all of the chairs so that we could stay and talk to them for a while.

When we got there he told us what had happened. "We were about to leave," he said, "so I thought I would just let you keep going on. But as you left, I felt something tell me that 'no, I needed to listen to you guys,' so I called you back. And so here you are." We spent a few moments getting to know them before teaching a lesson. It turned out that Peter had been in the street for a lot of his life and had been doing things that really he didn't want to do. He has been trying to get out of it all. We talked about the family and he talked about how much his family means to him. We talked about prophets and about God's plan for the family and how families could be together forever. Both their eyes lit up when we told them about that. We continued talking to them and when we talked about how prophets help us to come to know God more fully, Peter said "THAT! That right there, that is what I need right now!" We testified to him about the power of the Book of Mormon and about the words that are shared therein. We left them with copies and they told us to come back whenever we could. I'm amazed at the hand of the Lord sometimes. This is a special family and I am so excited to be able to keep working with them.

After the cita we were walking back to our apartment. I pulled out my phone and noticed that I had like eight missed calls, all from one of the district leaders in the zon, and one from one of the assistants to the president. My heart began to race as I thought about what could have happened. We were finally able to reach one of the Elders that had called us and he said that his companion had been hit by a car while riding his bike and that they were on the way to the hospital. He said that it wasn't very serious but that they just wanted to get to the hospital to make sure that everything was OK. The missionary that got hit lives with us. He's the new Elder from Honduras, Elder Zepeda. I stayed with him for the rest of the night while Elder Varner and his companion went back to the apartment to get some sleep. It was a fun valentines day in the hospital. We were able to talk to a lot of people who were there. I am amazed at how diverse we are as children of God. We were there for a while so we got to talk to a lot of the couples that were there as well. Each and every one had a different story and they had different challenges. I could see how much God loved them and how much He had blessed them. It was a huge testimony builder to me that God truly loves and knows each and every one of us so perfectly. I am so thankful that I was able to feel of that love as I talked to all of those people.

The next day was the flood. We all awakened at 6:00 to get out the door and talk to all of the families who are out and about at that hour. Yes, believe it or not, they are out at that hour. I was with Elder Zepeda and we worked out the all of the insurance stuff for his hospital visit. After that, and for the rest of the day, we were able to work with the other Elders and Sisters in our zone. All 20 of us were here in Ponce. It was such a great day! All of the sets of missionaries working together were privileged with miracles meeting and teaching people. We were privileged to see some great miracles and changes happen in the hearts of some of the missionaries as well. We all came together in a spirit of unity and we all left uplifted and edified by the experiences we had. Some of the missionaries that we have been working with to uplift and inspire, were able to be uplifted and inspired as they just forgot about themselves and went out to work for their Savior. It was such a great day and we are going to be doing it every Monday and Tuesday from now on so I am sure that we will have some great miracles to share in the future.

Ramiro and Dalia weren't able to come to church this past Sunday. They had a death in the family, their uncle. So they were out with the family this weekend. It means that they won't be baptized on their scheduled date but that's OK. They are experiencing the power of knowing the plan of salvation and it is blessing them greatly. Tonight we have another cita with them and we are looking to get back on track with the baptism.

I love you all and I am so thankful for all that you do! I know that God loves us and I know that both He and His Son live!

I hope that you have an amazing week this week. Write soon!

Miracles Continue to Come our Way

Received February 9, 2011

Here is this week's email. One note Jonny sent in a personal email to me. He was teaching a man they contacted and he told Jonny that he was enjoying the Book of Mormon so much that he got into trouble for reading it while he was playing outfield in a softball game. I mean come on . . . what else is there to do in the outfield? Why would anyone get upset at him for reading while he is out there?

__________________________________________

Dear Family and Friends,

I am really really sorry that the email didn't work last week. Most of all I am sorry that you weren't able to get the birthday wishes that I had sent to you dad! I hope you know how much I love you and how much I hope that you had a great birthday! Sounds like it was quite the busy birthday with so much stuff to do but I just wanted to wish you happy birthday once again! Thank you for being the best dad in the world! Hope that you had a happy birthday pops! Love you.

Well this past week was a great week for us. It was a really, really busy week for us and we had a lot of work to do. We had so much to do outside of our teaching area, with meetings and tradeoffs, and the need to go and help some of the elders in our zone, that there wasn't a lot of time to do all that we really needed to do. But because that was the situation, and the circumstances that we had, it led to some great opportunities to see the hand of God in our lives and to experience some great miracles.

One of the miracles that we experienced had to do with some goals that Elder Varner and I had set that we were going to accomplish this week. When we attended the Zone Council this week we found that the goals we had set were very similar to something new that President Alvarado wants to bring to the rest of the mission, But he wanted to try it out on the zone leaders first to see how it would work out and to see the type of the results that had come. Elder Varner and I looked at the rest of the work that still needed to be done on Friday and we still had about 75% of our goals unmet. There were a lot of lessons and contacts that we needed to achieve and the only way that we were going to be able to get through it was through some big miracles.

So we went to work and we saw miracles happen again and again and again. Every single day we were seeing miracles come which were helping us move closer and closer to the mark for which we were shooting. Now, don't get me wrong, we weren't doing all of this just to get some numbers so that we could say that we had achieved some numbers. We knew that both of us had received what we felt to be a revelation regarding new goals that we needed to implement in our own area and in our own zone. Our attendance at the Zone Council helped us realize that the same revelation had also been received by the mission president, along with some great promised blessings. So we knew that we had to work hard to accomplish our goals because it was something Heavenly Father had asked us to do. When He asks, you can do it! We were not working to please ourselves or to please man. We were working so hard because we knew that revelation and commandment had come from God and "we knew that if we did not doubt, God would deliver us, because that is what our mothers taught us!"

Anyways, it all came down to Sunday night at 8:30. We needed one more lesson taught to a family. We had spent the whole day visiting and contacting every family that we knew. We had not had a whole lot of luck, but we knew that if we kept trying, somehow a miracle would occur. We thought of one last family that we could visit. We pulled up to their house and we yelled out but there was no response. We looked behind us and, a couple of houses down, we saw our dear friend Tito, who was sitting outside of his house. Tito is a great senior man who has recently lost his wife. He loves having us over because he feels so good when we are around. He just happened to be outside chatting with the daughter of the family that we were attempting to visit. We asked her to call her family and see if they wanted to come out and hear the message we were going to share with Tito. She did and our prayers were answered. The rest of her family came out and we were able to teach the lesson that we needed to reach the goal that we had set based on the revelation that we had had received. It was such a blessing because it wasn't just another lesson, Tito felt a very strong spirit with us. His friends felt the same. We invited him to come to church with his friends next week and he said that he would come. He said that he knew it is what he needed to do.

This week was such a testimony builder for me. At this point in my mission things like that don't seem as big to me as they used to. We get used to pushing ourselves more and more to the limit. This past week we pushed ourselves even further than we thought we could. And I was reminded again of a principle that I have learned over and over again in my mission. It doesn't matter how strong or talented we are, it will never be enough to accomplish the work that is truly needed here. This is the Lord's work. If you do all that you can as He has asked us to do. If we will give the work all that we have. Our mortal efforts alone will not be sufficient to accomplish the things which He has commanded. But He will bless you to be able to do it through His miraculous support. Just do your best in His service and the Lord will make up the difference

Ramiro and Dalia aren't going to be getting baptized this weekend. We are a little sad but not to bad. What happened is that his recent job change required that he work two jobs last week. He had to try and the work that he from the one while still working in the new job. Because of the time required for him to do both, we were not able to meet with them and finish up the last few things that were needed before the baptism. It was hard. Last week he told us that he thought he probably wouldn't be able to get baptized and he started to tear up. We assured him that everything would be OK and that we would be at his side to make sure that they could be ready within the next few weeks. We had a great lesson with Dalia last night. She has been reading in the Book of Mormon and she loves it. She has been praying about the messages and about whether Joseph Smith is a prophet. She said that she feels great. As we were talking about church last night the spirit was working in her and she knew that she needed to come to church this Sunday so that she could receive her answer and know for herself that these things are true. We committed her to come and she said that she will be there with Ramiro. Keep her in your prayers! We are going to need that extra help this week.

Yesterday we also had a huge miracle. A couple of weeks ago we had a member come down to visit his father. The member lives in Utah but we found him when his dad stopped us and told us to go back to the house. His dad lives in the another area in the mission and is working towards baptism with the Elders there. We had heard that they had been having some struggles with him and a lot of the time he is at his daughter's house which is in our area. It was 3:00 in the afternoon and all of our planned citas had fallen through. I was on a tradeoff with one of the missionaries that we had been working with and I knew that he needed to have a good day with me. I also knew that having nothing to do in the middle of the afternoon is never a good thing. I began praying and asked for guidance on what to do. I got the feeling that we needed to go pass by this house. So we went by the house and the dad wasn't there but his grandson was. Pedro Luis, who is about 30 years old, was there with his girlfriend. He looks and acts exactly like his Uncle. When I asked if we could share a message with him he invited us right in. We sat down and began talking to them. During our conversation we started talking about prophets. When I asked him what he would ask a prophet in our day he responded with perhaps the most inspired answer that I have heard in my mission. He said that he would ask three things: (1) How the prophet was called of God? (2) Why was it that God needed to call him? And (3) How is it that he (Pedro) could know that he was a prophet of God?

As he asked me those three questions I about shouted for joy. On the inside I could see that he was truly trying to think what he would ask and I could see the spirit working in him. Those three questions led perfectly into the message of the restoration and into how families can be together forever. He had been going through a really hard time lately with the loss of his job and some family problems. As we explained to him how a loving Heavenly Father had called a prophet in our day, and how he could know simply by reading the Book of Mormon, he was thrilled. There was such a big smile on his face and you could just see it and feel it. There was a peace in his life that just wasn't there before. You could see it in his face that he knew that he had found something special. We asked him to kneel and pray at the end of the lesson and to ask God if the things we had taught him were true. This he did. As he closed the prayer we looked at him and he said, "this feels really good."

I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet called of God. God has restored the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our days. I know that the answer comes as easily as a sincere and humble prayer and then the faith that comes to act on the answer. It's just like what I was talking about earlier. We can't do this work on our own. It is impossible for any man to be able to know the entire gospel of Jesus Christ in its perfection. Without divine guidance we cannot know the things that we have to come to know. And that's why God asks us to do the best that we can do and then He will make up the difference.

We have a return appointment with them tonight and we are so excited. As we left yesterday, his girlfriend was reading the Book of Mormon already and you could tell how excited she was to have another book from God! We are going to set some baptismal dates with them and get them on the way to an eternal family. We cant wait!

I am sorry that I have to get going. We had to take some time during email today to plan a big movement of missionaries that we are going to do starting this week! We are going to be bringing all 20 missionaries in the zone to Ponce to build up our center of strength here in the zone. It is going to be an amazing few days every week and we are excited to see all of the miracles that will come. But in order to get it set up, we had to look at the maps on the computer to get it all figured out (don't worry, we had permission to do it). So yeah! Keep us in your prayers. We are in about finding the elect and we are going to start to find them with this huge plan!

I love you guys so much. I love you for all that you do and for the people that you are. I know that Christ lives! And that He is our Savior. This is His work and this is His church. How blessed we are to be a part of it all.

Happy Birthday Dad!!!!!!

Sent February 2, 2011

Thank you so much for all of your letters and emails this week. It was so great to be able to hear about everything that is going on back at home and all of the fun things that you are all up to! It sounds like school and work is now back into full swing. I'm sure it feels like you have been back into full swing for a while, but life back here is now starting to fully pick up once again! I can't believe today is Groundhogs Day. In one of the emails I received somebody mentioned Groundhogs Day. This morning one of the other missionaries sat down with us to start studies and he commented on how Groundhogs Day was today. I told him that I hoped that we would get six more weeks of winter because this winter has just been great.

Everyone talks about how cool it has been down here and I get what they are saying! Aruba was so hot last year. Here it dips down into the 60s at night and I feel like I am about to die. Anyways, I hope that you all have a great day and that you can keep enjoying the beautiful weather that you have up there!

Dad, I hope that you have the most happiest birthday that a dad could have! I am sure that you guys will be able to find a fun way to be able to celebrate the day so I hope it is a good one for you! I just wanted to send my birthday wishes and wish you a happy 35th! I can't believe that you are 35 now! Pretty soon you will be 40 and then who knows what will happen! :) Don't feel too old dad.

Anyways, this last week has just been a great week for us! Ramiro and Dalia weren't able to come to church, but don't worry, they had a good reason. When Ramiro didn't show up we left church after Sacrament Meeting to see what had happened to them. We saw Ramiro at his house and he told us that he had received a job offer earlier in the week to start working for a company rather than working for himself. He told us that he was really sad and worried about not being able to come to church but, then he told us the best part.

"I know that I had to miss church today so that I could finish up all of the projects that I have to finish this week. But when I start my new job on Monday I will be able to only have to work during the week. So that means that on the weekends, on Saturday and Sunday, I will be free. Which means that on Sunday I will be able to come to church with you every week!"

It was a very bittersweet moment for us but by far, more sweet than bitter. We missed them this week but we are looking forward to having them in church with us every Sunday from now on. We stopped by on Monday night and Ramiro talked about how he had stopped by his old church the other day and was feeling confused. He said that he felt good there, and he asked why they both couldn't be true. It was an excellent opportunity to really hear his testimony about the Book of Mormon and about some of the experiences that we had experienced with him. He told us about how he could feel in his heart that the Book of Mormon was true. He said that he knew that we had been sent to him from God. We talked about how the day we had found him we had been led to him and how when we talked to him he had told us that he wanted us to come back because he had started to read in the Book of Mormon. We talked about the changes that were occurring in his life and the changes that he was feeling on the inside. By the time we were done with that conversation, there was such a neat spirit in the room and we were so thankful that we were able to see and experience that testimony of his. We still have some preparations to make but he is looking more and more prepared by the day.

The Galarza family had a huge swing this week. Things are starting to get really hard for them. Raul still hasn't found a job. They are just passing through a rough time. We went by last Wednesday and we sat down to talk with them. Elder Varner had the impression that we needed to talk about fasting and so we went for it. We talked about the power of the fast and blessings that come from fasting. They both happily committed to fasting and Nelly asked if we could do the fast the next day. We did it the next day and I was amazed by the change that had occurred in them.

Elder Varner and I have been pushing really hard to find a great family like the Rivera family, but our efforts are coming up short. But it seems like all of the blessings that are coming are being sent to the Galarza family because the change of heart that we are seeing in them is just incredible. They are now consistently praying as a couple and I am starting to see a huge change in the happiness in their marriage. Even though they are passing through an extremely hard time they are hanging in there together and they are trying to build their faith together. We went by on Saturday night and they told us of all of the miracles that they were receiving, not about physical miracles, but about spiritual miracles things that were occurring in their lives that they could tell were coming from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Nelly had looked up temples on mormon.org and she was so excited about what she had found. We talked about baptism and how that was the first step to start moving towards the temple. For the first time in our visits with Nelly she said that she would like to be able to be baptized with her family. She said that she still wants to learn everything and that there is a lot of time and preparation that needs to happen. But we asked her if she would start to prepare to be baptized at the end of February and she agreed to do so! We were so shocked and so happy. I don't think you can understand the frustration that we have felt with her. We have been trying everything to get her on board with her husband so that the rest of the family could follow. Her husband needs her and she needs him. This family needs each other! They have great faith and I know that they want to be together forever. That's the only thing that we want for them too! It's hard. Sometimes you just want to rip open their eyes and their ears and scream! WE HAVE WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR! WE HAVE WHAT YOU NEED! JUST LISTEN! But even if we could do that, it wouldn't work. But the spirit is working on them. As they continue to realize how much they need it the spirit is working with them. There is still so much work that we have to get done with them but we are looking forward to seeing this family moving towards baptism together!

We found a great new family on Monday. We talked to the father on Sunday night. He told us that he would love to learn a little bit more but that he already had his church. But he liked what we were teaching him about the family and being able to together forever. His name is Jose and he lives with his son named Nestor. Jose is in his late 50s and Nestor in his 20s. They both go to church. For some reason, as we sat down with them, the first thing out of our mouths was baptism. We had learned that the son had been baptized just a couple of years ago. It seemed like it was a subject that they had been thinking about for awhile. As we continued talking it was incredible the way the spirit guided Elder Varner and I through the lesson. We got out of the lesson and we both said to each other, "what got into you? You were asking questions and saying things that you have never said before in your life." I don't know why, but for some reason, the spirit was so so strong during that lesson. We continued to talk about baptism and we turned to 3 Nephi 11 to talk about it a little more. Jose read it and loved it. He just kept reading. It was a really neat lesson and although they didn't accept the invitation to be baptized, they were really really interested in the Book of Mormon and in what they had felt while we were with them. The lesson was a miracle to us. It has been awhile since I had felt so guided during a lesson. It was such a blessing. I know that this message is true. And I know it by the same source that you all know. It's because the spirit has testified to me that its true. And I am so thankful for that testimony.

I love you all and I hope that you have the best week that you can have! Thanks for all of the love and support that you give me. I hope that things start to warm up where you are!

Write soon! I love you guys.

Our Greenie Missionary

Received January 26, 2011

Dear Family and Friends!

It was so great to get all of the emails from you this week! It sounds like you are all doing great. Its so strange to hear everyone talking about snow and snow blowers and cold weather. A lot of Puertoriqueños have lived up north in New York and New Jersey and they always talk about how cold it was and how they almost died. The other half of the people we talk to tell us that they have never seen snow. They are usually the ones all bundled up in their jackets when its a freezing 75 degrees outside. I love it. Life is good. I'm not here for the weather, as you know, I am just not used to hearing all this talk about snow.

Speaking of letters and emails, we had a funny experience last night. We now have a new "greenie" missionary living with us. We aren't training him. His trainer is an Elder who also lives with us. The whole experience reminds me a little bit of when I was training Elder Martinez. This new Elder is from Honduras and he's just so excited to be here. Anyways, last night we all got home together and I asked him if he thought anyone had written him. I threw the keys to him and told him to check in the mailbox. At our apartment there are four mail boxes built into the exterior wall one above another. Ours is the top mailbox. He checked our box and there was nothing in it. Then he decided to search all of the other boxes as well in hopes of finding a letter that was placed in another box in error. When he opened the second to last one he pulled out a letter. Then he held up the letter and said, "hey Elder Oviatt! Did you know that this letter was in here?" I grabbed the letter and looked at the postmark. It was postmarked the middle of October! Caitlyn, I found your long lost letter! (haha) I am sorry that I never responded to it. It wasn't because I didn't want to write, or didn't have time, its just that it was hibernating in the wrong mailbox. But I have it now and I will be writing soon! I thought it was funny. I hope you all do too.

Anyways, this past week has been a great week for Elder Varner and I. Grandma and Grandpa asked if Ramiro came back to church! Did he ever! And he absolutely loved it. He wasn't able to come with Dalia. She has had to work for the past two weeks. But she is planning to come this Sunday so we are all really excited. They are both doing great. They are both reading in the Book of Mormon and they are learning so much. We are so blessed to have been able to be led to them because they were just ready for the restored gospel to become a part of their lives. Every time we go over there the spirit is so strong and we are uplifted together! I love it. Its the most incredible experience in the world to see somebody take the restored knowledge of the atonement of Christ and apply it to their lives. Then they begin to see the differences that start to come into their lives. They say that you know how true something is by its fruits. It has been such a blessing to be able to see many of those fruits throughout my entire mission. Now once again I see these fruits in the lives of Ramiro and Dalia. True doctrine understood changes behavior, and that's why this gospel changes lives better than anything else that the world has to offer, because its true. And it comes from God. They are working now to start reading and praying together as a couple and we are even more excited to see the change that will continue to occur in their lives. We still have a little work to do with Dalia. She has never been much of a church goer. But Ramiro is solid. He is so excited for his baptism on the 12th. In fact he is so excited that he was telling everyone about it! Keep us in your prayers. This is usually the time that the challenges begin to come to those in their position of study and prayer! But I know that its all going to work out great.

We had quite the experience with the Galarca family this week. Raul and Nelly have been going through some tough times. Raul is still looking for a job and is not having a lot of luck. There just aren't many jobs to be found here. Anyways, this last week they called the agency that has been giving them their unemployment benefits and there were no more benfits for them. Something has gone wrong in the system and they just don't have the money they need to be able support all of the people that need the benefits so they are just out of luck. Elder Varner and I have been praying about what to do to help them for a long time. An answer hit Elder Varner on Saturday morning. The stake was having a career fair but it was for people on unemployment. We had about a billion other things to do Saturday morning as well, but we just kept feeling that we really needed to pass by their house, so off we went! We get there and they were so excited to see us. We told them about the stake activity and Nelly was really happy to hear the good news and told Raul that we needed to get on it and go! That night we were able to pass by with the bishop and we read together in Doctrine and Covenants 121 and talked about how God will always be there for us and about how our hard times in this life will be for our good and if we can endure it well, and rely upon the Lord, it will all come out for our benefit.

Nelly then shared one of the most amazing things that I have heard her say in the months that we have known them. She said that they had finally prayed as a couple (which almost caused me to shout with joy because we have been talking about that for months now). Anyways, they had prayed that they would be able to find a way for Raul to find a job. She said that, for the first time in a long time, she was able to peacefully go to sleep and then get up the next morning with hope for a better day. She said that after a few hours of awakening with that new hope, we passed by their house with the news of the unemployment activity at the church. She said that with our arrival she knew that God had answered her prayers. It was a humbling experience for us to realize that we almost missed our chance at helping them to have that faith building experience that we had been praying for for them for so long. I am just so thankful that our Heavenly Father prompted us and allowed us to be a part of that experience. I have the faith that we were able to help their family out in just that little way. God truly does bring about great things by the way of small and simple things and I was so thankful for that opportunity that we had.

We stopped by on Sunday morning with waffles and invited them to church. They came to church but it was a little discouraging. It was like the powerful experience that we had with them the day before never happened. They looked so good all seated together as a family in church but I have never seen a better example of how important agency can be. We had a great Sacrament Meeting and one of the best gospel doctrine classes that we have had here, but some members of the family just didn't want to participate in the rich experience that was offered at church and ended up leaving early. It was hard for me to see that after the obvious answers to their prayers that had come just the day before. We love this family so much! They have been so good to us and all we want is for them to have all of the blessings that our Heavenly Father has waiting for them. I know that they want to go to the temple. Every time we talk about the temple in their home there is such a sweet spirit and you can see all of their faces light up. I know that each and everyone of them know that the things they have been taught are true. Truly families can be together forever and the sealing authority that allows this great blessing has been restored to the earth. But there are just a few doubts that we can't get them to reveal to us that we can help them get over the hump. But we continue to love them and we continue to pray and do all that we can do for them. It is all going to turn out well. We just need to learn a little patience I guess.

We found a great new family this week. The mom is studying to become a teacher (like you mom!) and she is such a cool lady. They have three young children, the eldest is such a sweet 8 year-old boy. Elder Varner and I have been searching since Alexia's baptism for more families to teach but we haven't had a lot of success. But we fell blessed by the Lord to find this incredible family. They are so sweet. As we talked about the Plan of Salvation and the Apostasy and Restoration, they were just so interested listened intently to what we were teaching. We weren't able to get as far as we wanted to in the lesson. We will be returning tomorrow to teach them about the Book of Mormon and invite them to be baptized. We are so excited for them. Heaven truly led us to them. They are both interested in the message. That is something that doesn't happen a lot here. We are excited for this opportunity. Thanks to all of you for your prayers. They are being answered!

I hope that you all have a great week this week and that school and work goes well for you all. I also hope that have a happy birthday Jen!

I love all of you so much and I am so thankful for all that you do for me! Enjoy the Game tonight, I hope its a good one.

Pictures of Baptism



Received January 19, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Thank you so much for all of your love and your prayers and your support. it was so great to hear from all of you this week and to feel of your love. I want you to know how much it means to me so thank you! Mom and dad, thank you so much for the package. It was so great to get everything that was inside. This morning, as the transfer vehicle came around, I sent the wrapped Christmas present off to Elder Martinez. I know that the shoes will make his year. Thank you so much for the love and support that you have given me as I have served. I love you more than you could ever know and I am so thankful for everything that you do!

This last weekend was a really busy weekend for us but we had a really neat experience. This past weekend was the Caribbean Area Conference. We were going to have a visit from President Uchtdorf who was going to come down to Puerto Rico and talk to the rest of the Caribbean saints from here. But for some reason that plan didn't work out that way. Instead, they did something really cool. They had all of the stakes in the Caribbean meet together on Sunday morning. The saints all sand the opening hymns and then there was an invocation. At 10:15 a broadcast started from Salt Lake and it was them! They were broadcasting a meeting all the way from Salt Lake City! I was so amazed! What a blessing it was to be able to see them right there even though they were thousands of miles away. And to know that they were focused on us, and only us, just for that short time, was really neat.

The main speakers at the conference were Elder Oaks and President Uchtdorf. They both gave absolutely incredible talks. Elder Oaks gave a talk that everyone down here needed to hear. He talked about differences in the cultures and that there the culture that exists here in the Caribbean, and the culture that we have as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was pretty strong with the members but to me it was exactly what they needed to hear. It felt a lot like a loving parent talking to a child and helping them see how they could do better. I was amazed at out how simple he made things. If the members will just do the simple things, and keep the commandments that they have promised to keep, he said that the Lord would build temples here. It was a great talk and I hope that I can somehow get my hands on it.

President Uchtdorf also talked about the same type of thing. But he said some really cool things that I had never heard before. He said that he loves the Caribbean. He said that he loves the warm weather here, but more than the weather he loved being around the people, who are even warmer and more loving than the weather. He said that when he was a pilot he would often fly to the Caribbean and that most of the vacations that he took with his family were to travel here! He talked about the youth in the church and all of the programs and opportunities that the church has for the youth of the world. That thought hit me really hard. Peer pressure is a big thing here and it is hard for some of the youth. But he talked about things that I had never really heard before and they were things that the parents of these youth needed to hear. If they listened, his words will help the parents better know how to protect their children and help them be ready to serve missions when the time for them to serve came. I am so thankful for the call that the prophet is making for more missionaries. There is no greater work than this work and it is something that every single youth needs to be involved in. What he said at conference was so inspired and something that has really impressed me. If you remember he said spoke about how unified the Apostles and the First Presidency are together. It was just a great weekend and an incredible blessing to be able to be a part of it.

We had two investigators come to the Area Conference and they both loved it. One of them was Ramiro Vega. I told you a little about Ramiro last week. He is the man who is preparing for baptism along with his wife. We have not been able to get him to come to church for the longest time, but finally we were able to get them to come to the conference! He showed up just as the conference was starting. As it finished, he ran to look for his sister who attends to another ward in the stake. When we finally found him we asked him how we liked the conference. Her responded that he loved it. When we asked if he would be coming back to church next week he said, "I'll be there." The way he said it almost seemed to say, "I'll be back. I'm here now and I am here to stay."

We stopped by their home on Monday night and we talked to him a little more about the conference. We then talked to him about the restoration of the gospel. It all made a little bit more sense to him now. We talked about how he felt during the conference and he said that he felt a peace that he had never really felt before. We asked him if he knew that the feeling of the spirit that he experienced actually meant those who spoke were called of God. And with conviction he said, "yes!" As we talked about the Joseph Smith story he began to tear up and he said "it gets me every time! I love it!" He and his wife have never been more solid nor more focused and resolved to make their goal of baptism on the 12th! I can't think of a better Valentine's Day present for them and their family. the only better will be in one year when they go to the temple to be sealed!

The Rivera family is doing absolutely fantastic! On Friday Andres attended the Duty to God training program held at the stake for all of the young men. I know that they announced the new Duty to God program last year, but they just now putting it in place this year here in Puerto Rico. I'm not sure if it has something to do with translating the program into Spanish, or if it was already implemented here but they are now putting a bigger focus on the program. But the meeting was really neat. We were able to attend and it made me think back on the years that I had as a young man and how all that I dreamed about was being a missionary. I left with a new found excitement to go on living the dream that I had so long waited for!

Anyways, back to the Rivera family. Andres loved the Duty to God meeting and it will really help him in his calling as the Young Men's President. You can see from the pictures I attached that there are a couple of young Riveras that will benefit from the program and their father's calling. On Sunday morning they all showed up in perfect Sunday attire. Andres in his white shirt and tie and their boys the same. They just look so good and the boys look like future missionaries! Its so exciting! They absolutely loved the conference. They were so excited to be able to hear from the apostles and when we asked them about what they heard they said that they loved the messages and that they now had additional direction and were really excited about what the apostles talked about that they could now put into place in their home.

They had Monday afternoon free due to the holiday and we went to visit them. They were dying to know more about Family Home evening. We explained what it is and Andres was so excited. We are going to have the first Family Home Evening in their home with them tonight. He told Alexia that we would show a great example so we have to plan it well because we have to kick it off with a success. I love the Rivera family! They still have a picture of the temple right there in the doorway entrance as you walk into the home. That is where they have the door of their tent directed and before a year has passed they will have visited the temple! I am so excited for them. There is nothing more that I could ever want for them then for them to be able to go to the temple!

Anyways, I hope that everything is going well back home. Things here are going great here . We just had transfers and Elder Varner and I are still together. I am really excited we have a cool plan to go to everyone's apartment tomorrow and leave a title of liberty on everyone's door (but shhhhhh! It's a secret. You cant tell anybody ok :)

I love you all and I hope you can all feel that love!

Have a Fantastic Day

Sorry for not writing last week. See you June 18th

Received January 12, 2011

Good afternoon everyone,

I hope that everyone had a great week this last week. I apologize for not being able to write an email. We celebrated 3 kings day here in Puerto Rico and with all of the celebrations going on, all of the places to do email were closed. It was pretty crazy. I felt bad that I wasn't able to get an email sent to you but I am glad to hear that you were able to get the letter before today. I wasn't sure if the letter would get there either because of all of the festivities. But it was a great blessing to hear that the letter got there!

It sounds like my father was kind enough to email everyone with the text of the letter that I had written them so I hope that you all enjoyed it! Alexia's baptism, like I said last week, was so incredible! I've got some great pictures to send you, but I can't connect them up today. I guess that you will have to wait until next week. But, by far, it was one of the best days that I have had in a long time.

It was such a scary decision when we decided to go ahead with the baptism of Andres even though his wife would not be getting baptized at the same time. It was scary because I have just seen way too many part-member families here and the only reason that they are part-member is that dad or mom got baptized before the other one, and then their spouse just got cold and never wanted to make that decision again. We knew that Alexia needed to keep the fire that she had and we knew that Andres would be able to help her. We were so blessed that the spirit had touched her and that she had received the confidence that she needed to have in order to be able to move forward, knowing that she is doing what her heavenly father wants her to do.

This past Sunday they came to church early so that Andres could be able to bless the sacrament again. He looks like such a natural and the spirit is so incredible when he says the prayers. Elder Varner and I got a huge shock when the bishop got up and announced that they were releasing the Young Mens President. Right away I knew who the new one would be and sure enough, they called and sustained Andres Rivera as the new Young Mens President. He has such a fire for his calling. He reminds me of a new missionary. He is just a ball full of fire and faith, knowing that he can take on the world, because the Lord is on his side. We went and visited one of the young men who is investigating with us right now. Andres did an excellent job. Then on Monday we went out and visited all of the young men in our ward. It was such a miracle for us. There are a lot of less active young men in the ward and we have been trying to get them to come back. But we just haven't been able to touch them with the right message to reach their hearts and have them come back. Andres was the man for the job. He was able to relate to them so easily. He talked about his mountain biking and his martial arts training and his Kinect system. I am so amazed at how truly prepared this family was for this ward. The Rivera family is going to be instrumental in the building up of the kingdom of God here and it has been my blessing and privilege to be able to witness their conversion process.

When we went over on Monday afternoon to go out and look for the jovenens, we noticed that Alexia had put up a beautiful picture of the Salt Lake City temple! We quickly commented on the picture and she said, "I love it. I put it there as a reminder to all of us that this is where will be in January of 2012! :) I wish that you could have seen our reactions and felt the joy that we both felt. To know the temple is what they are working towards means everything to me. I cannot wait until that day. I don't care if I have to go to the temple in the Ukraine, I cant wait to see this family become an eternal family.

We are still working with Raul and Nelly. They are both moving slowly reading in the Book of Mormon. But after we read with them once again, and talked about the temple, it finally clicked in their minds. They began to see the connections. They love to learn about the temple. The whole family is fascinated by the pictures of the temple, and even though its the same one that they have seen a hundred times, this time it was different. And they just looked so much happier. It finally seemed like it clicked to them. We are offering them what God wants for their family and all they have to do is accept it! And the way that they are going to know if its true or not is from reading and praying!

We have another family that we are working with. I'm not sure if I have mentioned them before but they are Ramiro and Dalia Vega. We met Ramiro a while ago. He stopped us and said, "Hey! I found your book in my house and I started to read it. And I love it! I want you to come by so that we can talk about it some more." We have been stopping by ever since. He has a sister who goes to another ward in Ponce and he has seen how the gospel has changed her life. Both he and his wife have been reading in the Book of Mormon and they love it. He now calls himself a Mormon-catholic because he loves what he is learning so much but he is struggling with the idea of leaving the church. He has a baptism date for February and it is becoming more and more solid with each visit that we make. Last night we went over with a neat couple from our ward. The sister in the couple was studying to be a nun and the brother was a normal catholic man looking for more. Anyways, the connection that they have with Ramiro and Dalia its just incredible. The spirit is always so strong when they are there. This last time we again pulled out a picture of the temple and showed it to Ramiro and Dalia. It was a blessing to be able to listen to the testimony of the other couple who was teaching with us. It was very obvious that the happiest day in their life was the day that they were sealed in the holy temple. Gardell (the brother) said that he has never felt something like that in his life and he wants so much to go back there once again. Ramiro and Dalia loved their testimonies Ramiro told us at the end that it was "finally time for him to come to church." It just so happens that this week is Stake Conference. It is going to be incredible to see Ramiro and his wife seated next to his sister. Its about the family. That's why we are here. ITS ABOUT THE FAMILY!

Things are going great here. I have a very stressful week on board with a zone conference that we are responsible for tomorrow and the stuff that we will be presenting during Stake Conference. But the Lord is carrying me through it. I love Him and I love His work! He is there, even for silly things like this. He is there and He is helping me through it all. I know that this is what He wants for us. God intends for His children to be happy. That's what he wants. And there has been no greater happiness that I have felt than to know that the joy that I feel with my own family is available to all my brothers and sisters here.

I want you to know how much I love you all and how grateful I am for your love and support.

I got the news this week . . . and I am so excited! It has been approved by the First Presidency! We will be extending our mission! The date that they have given us for our release date is the 18th of June, It's a Saturday, so I am sorry that I won't be able to mow the lawn in the morning. But if you keep it until the night, I would love to do it for you. :)

This is the work of Jesus Christ, and I am so blessed to be a part of it!

Happy Three Kings Day



Letter Sent January 6, 2011

Dear Family,

Happy Three Kings Day! I am sorry that I wasn't able to send you an email today. Today is Three Kings Day in Puerto Rico which is like Christmas Eve is in the states. We could not send emails because everything closed for the holiday.

This is the night when the Three Kings come and by and leave their gifts. It's like the 24th and Santa Claus but better. In order for the Kings to stop at your house you have to fill a box full of grass or hay. Then you put the box in your closet or under your bed. In the night the Kings come by and they leave you a coll gift. I think its an awesome tradition! i say that we do that in our family when I get back.

Anyways, you are probably all dying to hear about Alexia's baptism. It was so incredible! It had to be on of the BEST baptismal services that I have ever attended. By far, the best part of the baptism was when both Andres and Alexia were in the water and Andres raised his arm and recited the words of the prayer. He then ever so gently lowered his wife into the water and raised her again. There was an amazing and sweet spirit of peace in the room. What I saw and witnessed was the plan of God - a family together embarking onto the path that will lead them back home to our Heavenly Father.

On Sunday, Andres blessed the sacrament and said the prayer and administered the sacrament perfectly. It was his first time and he was concerned to do it right, but it was perfect. Then Alexia was confirmed and once again there was just his feeling of love and peace that came into the room. Alexia said that she had to hold back the tears becasue she had never felt something so powerful. Andres was so happy! All he wanted was for his wife to be baptized! When she told us a few weeks ago that she wasn't going to get baptized I felt so awful. I could just see the face of the Ward Mission Leader in Vega Baja whose wofe had not joined the church. It was so hard to remember his pain and I did not want Andres to have to feel that pain as well. But we were blessed that she and her mom were both touched by the spirit and that she made the decision to get baptized.

We passed by and visited with them a few days ago and they were both so excited about the gospel, finding the church, and sharing this covenant together as a family. Alexia asked us how long they needed to wait to go to the temple. They know that is the next step and they are so excited.

We are still working with Raul and Nelly. We have decided that every time we visit and Nelly has not read the Book of Mormon we are going to read it with them. Raul has a baptismal date of the 30th and we are going to get her there as well.

I have to get going. We are going out to start work early today.

I love you family! Happy Three Kings Day!

Hope you all had a great Christmas! Have a great new year as well!

Received December 29, 2010

Dearest Family and Friends!

I hope that you all had a great Christmas this past week and that you were all able to spend time together as family and friends! It was such a highlight of ours to be able to talk to you guys this past week. It is weird to think that it was seven months ago that I had last talked with you. On the way to the Ortiz family's house for the phone calls, Elder Varner and I were discussing how the time in the mission just moves by way too fast. But it was such a blessing to feel your warmth and to feel your love and support. Its a miracle that, even though we are far away, we have not grown any further apart as we have tried to support and love each other. Thank you so much for talking with me and for having a great time with me! I want you to know that I love you all and I hope that you had a very Merry Christmas! I hope that you have a fantastic new year as well!

Thank you so much to those of you who sent me letters and packages. I want you to know how much that meant to me that you were willing to think of and remember me and send me those gifts. I want you to know how much I love you and how much that means to me! I will try and make it up to you somehow. You might be getting some "three kings" presents or something, but we will see how it goes! I love you guys so much and I am so thankful that I have such friends and family as you!

I am sure that you are all a little interested to hear of some of the Christmas traditions that they have in Puerto Rico. Since this is my first Christmas in Puerto Rico, I have been learning a ton about the people here and what they do. It has been great. Perhaps my favorite tradition here is called a Parranda. The people to their neighbor's house at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning with all of their family. Using drums and guitars they sing way cool songs about the birth of the Savior. When they do this it makes it easy to feel the joy of the holiday we celebrate His birth. Its really more of a party than anything. The music is pretty loud with a quick tempo, but it is such a neat tradition to me. Last Tuesday they had a Parranda stop by during our Christmas conference and all of the Puerto Ricans in the mission, including President Alvarado, ran to the front and starting singing as well. It was incredible to be able to see the joy that they all had to be together as a family just having a good time. It made me think of the blessings that we have to have temples and to be sealed together. That joy they had as they were together and remembering the Savior is something that is available to each and every one of us. They don't have a temple here in Puerto Rico and that is what we are working towards. But I couldn't help but think that if that is what they did just to celebrate Christmas, I can't imagine what they would do here and in the heavens if they announced a temple for Puerto Rico.

My first Christmas in Puerto Rico went great! We spent the morning in a town about an hour west of Ponce. Elder Varner and I went out to help the Elders serving there get some work done. Elder Bryan (one of the Elders in Yauco) and I worked together. We went to the hospital early on Christmas morning to sing to the patients and try and bring them a little Christmas cheer. It was such a neat experience to be able to go from room to room and to visit these people who were missing all of the Christmas activities. But the spirit that was present in every single room and it was just an incredible experience. I have had some great Christmas activities in the past but to feel of the spirit that came as I adored the Savior on His day of birth was remarkable. Even more amazing was to follow the singing by talking with the patients and their families and testifying of His birth and the atonement to people who honestly need to hear that message of hope. It was one of the most uplifting things that I have ever done in my life. I wish you could have been there to feel of the love that was shared in those rooms. There were a few tears shed. But most of what we felt was just pure joy and gratitude that we had brought the spirit of Christ into a Christmas that they thought would be very cold and lonely.

After that we came back and had Christmas lunch with the Ortiz family. Then I got to talk to you guys. Afterward we went out and we had a great rest of the night with a huge miracle at the end of the day. We went around trying to find people and we were starting to get a little down by the lack of success that we were having. We thought for sure that we would find some great families together for the holiday and that they would invite us in to hear a message of His birth on Christmas (eh eh). It turns out that everyone was asleep! But we were able to talk to some great people and at the end of the night we were blessed for our efforts. We passed by Alexia and Andres at the end of the day to wish them a Merry Christmas and to make sure that Andres was still planning to be to his interview with the Bishop the next morning so that he would be able to get the priesthood. We talked about the plan that we had for them. In a joking way we told him that in the morning he would be interviewed and then in the afternoon be ordained. Then on Saturday he could baptize Alexia. We looked at Alexia and asked "what dya think? Will you be baptized this Saturday?" She just put on a huge smile and said "of course! Its time that I join my family. I need to get baptized!" Elder Varner and I both shouted for joys! We were so happy and excited. We thought that it would be a long process and we were worried that the Alexia's mom would just create a huge barrier to her daughter's baptism. After talking to her about it she told us that her mom had seen the difference in Andres and Andy and that she was a lot more relaxed about it. Alexia told us that she knows that she needs to get baptized and she was ready to go ahead and take that next step! I couldn't have asked for anything more from Santa Claus. That, by far, was the best Christmas present that I have ever received.

We passed by on Monday night for family home evening. That morning Elder Varner and I both received the impression that we needed to talk with them about tithing. We had taught them the principle before, and they said they were willing to live according to that commandment, but there seemed to be a little hesitancy on their part. We reviewed the principle again and it turns out that on Sunday night they had been going over their budget and realized that there just wouldn't be enough money left if they paid their tithing. They said that they are pretty tight financially because they had to do some emergency purchases of some big things last year. We explained to them that the principle of tithing was really an evidence of faith. As we pay our tithing the Lord opens the windows of heaven and bless us. Alexia told us that Andres had just read her that scripture and how they both knew that they needed to pay their tithing. She said that she wasn't sure how they were going to do it but they knew that it is something that they need to do to please God and develop greater faith. It is a commandment and they need to live it. And they said that they would do it!

I love this family so much! I am so excited for them! They have had so many trials along their way towards baptism. But their faith that they are showing is unlike any faith that I have ever seen before. They know what they want - they want and eternal family - and they know that they need to follow God and live His commandments in order to reach that goal. They are making the sacrifices that they need to make and they are passing through some huge trials together. But as they are enduring these trials and exercising their faith they are building some very strong testimonies. I know that God led us to them. I know that they are going to be a key in building the kingdom of God here in Ponce and I am so blessed to have been part of this process. I have seen the hand of God every step of the way and it has led to this - the completing of a baptized family on Saturday. And by 2012, another family will be sealed for time and for all eternity in preparation to be exalted In God's Kingdom.

I want you to know how much I love you and how much I love this work. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, I know that He was born and came into this world so that we may be able to have a chance to live with our Heavenly Father once again! There is nothing better than being able to serve Him and it is my privilege, blessing, and honor to be able to be in His service today.

I love you all and wish you the best new years that you could have!

HAPPY 2011 and Feliz Dia de Reyes!

Save a new years kiss for me haha :)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!


Received December 21, 2010

Dear family and friends,

It was a pleasant surprise to us to receive this email last night. We did not think we would receive an email this week. We are very excited to speak with him on Saturday!

We wanted to thank you again for your support for Jonny. He is continuing to grow in so many ways and we are grateful for the encouragement and support you offer which has helped him work through the many challenges and adversities that have led to his growth and maturity. We thank Heavenly Father in every prayer for all you are doing to support and help him.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas. We add our testimony to the testimony Elder Oviatt expresses below. We are grateful to know that the events we remember this Christmas season were real. The Savior's birth began the most critical events of the eternities for all of us. We are grateful for His teachings, His example, and His atoning sacrifice for all of us. We rejoice in His resurrection and the promise of Eternal Life. We are grateful for His grace which blesses and strengthens us and allows our redemption! He Lives!

It is our hope and faith that brings such joy this season. We offer this testimony to you with love and wishes that, without regard to the trials and difficulties we each face, we can rejoice together in the reality of our Eternal Savior. We love you and hope the best for all of you. Our home and our hearts stand ready to help you however we might. God bless you all. Merry Christmas!

The Oviatts
____________________________________________________________

Dear Family and Friends,

It was so great to hear from all of you this week! I was so surprised that we were able to email during our conference this week. I have been able to receive a few emails from you guys. That was so great so thank you so much!

You are probably wondering why I am writing to you when I told you that I would not be writing you, You may also be wondering why I am writing you on a Tuesday night. So I will tell you.

Right now we are at the mission office! Today we started our Christmas conference and it is going to go for two days. We have had a great first day so far. We started the day off by going to El Yunque, which is the only tropical rain-forest in Northern America. It was so sweet! We hiked to the top of the mountain and made a Title of Liberty for the mission. We raised it on top of a castle tower and we all went a little crazy. All of the tourists that are here on Christmas vacation were a little confused by us. But it was just awesome to be able to get united as a mission. We came back and went to one of the biggest and most popular malls in Puerto Rico. We went to do a "flash mob" or something like that.

Apparently that's when you go to a public place and just start singing. So we were all sitting in the food court and all of the sudden, one by one, we all began to sing Christmas songs. It was sweet! I think the best part about it all was that it made me think a little more on the reason why we celebrate the season. Here we were, in the middle of the busiest place before Christmas, and we were trying to help everyone remember the real reason why we celebrate this holiday season. It was unlike anything that I had ever done before and it was a privilage to be able to bring a little Christmas cheer to all of those people.

Anyways, so that is what we are doing. We just got done playing a mission-wide basketball tournament. Tonight we will party a little bit more and then tomorrow will be a day full of spiritual activities. Needless to say, we are way excited for what is about to come!

But I am sure that these events are the last things that you are wanting to hear about!

This past weekend we had the baptism of two of the three people we were hoping for. Don't worry, we aren't disappointed at all. Andres and his son Andy were baptized on Sunday in what was one of the most beautiful baptismal services that I have had in the mission. It was so sweet to be able to see a Dad and his son, two future holders of the priesthood, enter the waters of baptism together! Andy is so excited to be a missionary! And I don't think that I have ever met a convert more excited then Andres. They came to church and were confirmed. We passed by after church and Andres told us that he felt so great! He said that he could still feel the hands upon his head and that he had never felt so good in his life.

Alexis told us that she will be baptized in the coming weeks. Her mom is a very traditional lady and was putting up so much opposition and negative feeling towards her baptism that she just decided to let her mom cool down. She said the last thing that she wanted was to feel like she was doing something bad the day of her baptism. She said she wants to get the sabbath day holy thing down before she gets baptized. But the incredible thing is, that without the pressure of the quickly approaching baptismal date, the negative pressure from her mother is decreased and the spirit is now so much stronger in our lessons. She will be baptized within the next couple of weeks. And the best part of it all is that her husband, who will get the priesthood this week, will be able to baptize her.

I want you all to know how much I love you and how much I love this work. It is such a great blessing to be able to remember the Savior at this time of Christmas! I know that He lives! I know that He came into this world as the most important gift that anyone could have ever given us! How grateful I am for Him and for His Atoning Sacrifice for me. I know that because He was, we too may be able to be born de neuvo as well. I know that this is His church! I know that His gospel has been restored and that our families have the right to be together forever as we do what He asks of us!

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a white one as well!

Merry Christmas to all! HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I am dreaming of a white Christmas, AND ITS HERE!

Received December 15, 2010

Dearest Family and Friends!

Thank you so much for your emails this past week. It was so great to hear about all of the fun things that are going on in preparation for the holiday season. Thanks for telling me about Preston's farewell. It sounds like it was quite the spirit packed meeting and he sounds like he is full of that new missionary fire that we all love so much! It was great news to hear that he has made that step and is going to get out here! I am so excited for him and know that he's gonna do great!

It sounds like it looks nothing like Christmas back at home which is too bad. But hey, hopefully you'll get a Christmas miracle and it will start to snow. That's crazy that it got up to the 60s this past week . . . that is the temperature at 5:00 in the morning here . . . and I feel like I am going to die! I bet it feels incredible to you guys.

Dad, yes i bowed down to you. Congratulations and being declared that much more intelligent after having taken a few classes (hahah!). But really, congrats! And making it through those finals. And I am sure that many of the rest of y'all were busy with finals and last minute work of your own. I hope you know that I was praying for you guys that all would go well. I hope that you did great on your finals and that you are experiencing that feeling of freedom that comes after completing another semester of school and surviving finals week.

As for things down here, things are going absolutely great! We were so excited after the lesson that we had with Andres and Alexia last week. They went through some days of really bad headaches from their withdrawals but the kids were great and very patient with their parents. They are telling us that they feel so much better this week. They said they were absolutely shocked about the effect that coffee had on them. Alexia, has gained such a strong testimony of the message that we share through this experience. The principle in Ether 12 was so true for her this past week. She endured her trial of faith! She endured all of the pain and discomfort and at the end came a great testimony of the principle that we are asked to live! She is doing just great.

The road to their baptism this Saturday has not been without opposition though. We passed by the night after we had taken their coffee and their drinks and Alexia was happy to see us. Whe had doubts about whether she would be ready for baptism on the 18th. She was truthful with us which helped us because the spirit was able to guide us to know what to do. It turns out that her mom is not liking this change in her daughter's life well. Her mother is a very traditional Episcopal lady and she really doesn't want her only daughter to join another church. Alexia told us that her mom has been saying a lot of stuff to her and to Andy that have been discouraging towards their baptism. One of the things that she told Andy was that his Godfather wouldn't be his Godfather any more and that made him really sad.

We told her how much confidence we had in her and how we all had a great evidence of her faith the last week when she decided to do what God asked of her. We testified to her that the message we shared was true and it's truthfulness was evident in the changes that she has seen her family, especially in her husband. We left feeling great and we left knowing exactly what the spirit wanted us to teach when we came back.

We went back on Sunday with a member from another ward here in Ponce. The member had taken Andres to church over 15 years ago. At that time Andres had just started teaching and was still not married nor had kids. His friend heard his story of how he had always been looking for the truth. Andres told us that he had loved the church when he visited but for some reason or another had stopped coming. Anyways, it was really neat to be able to go by on Sunday with this member and see the look on his face as he was able to see the fruits of his labors. Even though he had planted that seed 15 years ago, it was just now starting to take shape and grow into a tree that is going to produce fruit for eternity.

We were able to explain clearly the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of baptism. The spirit was able to clear up all of the doubts that Alexia and Andy were feeling and as we knelt to pray on Sunday, Alexia told us that she was ready and exited to get baptized with her family on Saturday! It was hard not to let the excitement and gratitude Elder Varner and I felt interrupt the reverence of that prayerful moment. We were both so excited and grateful that we had been blessed to be part of this experience!

We passed by last night and the opposition is still there and growing stronger. But Alexia is so strong! She told us that she knows why her mom is doing what she is doing. But that she (Alexia) knows that this is what our Heavenly Father wants for her and she is not going to back down from the commitment that she has made!

SO ITS OFFICIAL, this Saturday there is going to be a blizzard in Ponce! And we are so excited to be able to see this family go into the waters of baptism. I wish I could have you guys feel what I feel. I love this family so much. The process, all of the things that we have gone through these past few months, has been an incredible experience for me. Every time I see them I seem to feel the love that their Savior has for them. I can feel how important this message is because it is the only thing that's going to allow their family to be a together-forever family. I love this family with all my heart and there is nowhere else I would rather be than right here with them. Andres told us this past week of how the message has filled a hole in his heart. He said he was sick of hearing that its a mystery of God, or a mystery of the bible. He said that every time he hears the word restoration, his heart starts to beat faster and faster. He knows that these things are true and he is so excited for the baptism of his family!

It is going to be a great weekend and we are so excited for the things that are about to come forth here in Ponce. I wish that I could tell you more about this week, but while I've been writing this I have had to answer four hone calls and take care of some problems in the zone. I love you guys and I am so thankful for all that you are doing for me. Your prayers are felt and I want you to know that you are in my prayers just as I have felt your prayers for me.

I probably will not be emailing next week because we will be having a Christmas conference as a mission. I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas! I want you to know that I know for myself that over 2,000 years ago, a babe called Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem. I know that child was, is, and will forever be Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World! He was born to bring to pass our immortality and our eternal life. He lives and He loves us with a love that I have still yet to comprehend. I know that He was born for us! That He lived for us, That He died for us. And most of all, I know he was resurrected for us! I know He is the Lord, the very Christ, the savior of all mankind! He has us engraved on his hands forever and I will be forever grateful for what He did for me. I love Him and this Christmas season there is nothing else that I would rather be doing than being in His service.

I wish you all the most Merry Christmas that you can have!

Have a great Christmas! It will be great to hear you again!

Christmas Miracles!


Received December 8, 2010

Dear Family and Friends!

Thank you so much for all of the great letters and emails that you sent this week. It was so incredible to hear of all of the great things that are happening back at home! I am thankful for the miracle that grandma and grandpa had and I am extremely thankful to hear of the incredible miracle that has happened back in the ward. What an incredible experience to be able to share and to be able to experience! I wouldn't expect anything less from the life of Brother Howe. I remember that one of the first activities that I had as a priest in the 6th ward was a hike to a waterfall near P.G. When we got to the top of the waterfall, Brother Howe jokingly asked us if he should jump off. I can remember Jesse Fowlke told him that he could do it and he would probably be able to fly and gently land upon the ground. He is truly an incredible man. And it is obvious that there are still lives for him to touch. I was so grateful to hear that there was enough faith for him to be able to receive another huge miracle. As dad was retelling me the experience, I began to tear up. I cheated and hurried and read the end because I couldn't bear to hear that Brother Howe might have died. But the part I read was, "It was the closest thing to a Lazurus experience that I had ever witnessed." My heart jumped up and I was so thankful to be able to read about the incredible miracle that we all had received! That is great news. I hope you know how much I love you Brother Howe! I am looking forward to our hike in a few months! Thank you so much for being such a great example to us all! I hope you know how much I love you and appreciate you!

This past week has just been incredible for us. We have been a little stressed out because transfers happened this week. But we were blessed because they came and they went and now all is well. We have some new missionaries in the zone and sadly Elder Turner will be going home. How sad that he will be home just in time for Christmas right? But we are really excited for the new blood that we have in the zone and we know we are going to see some incredible things start to happen.

A few of you mentioned that you had been praying for Andres and Alexia and Andy and Diego. I wanted to thank you for that and testify to you that I know that your prayers are being answered by a loving Heavenly Father.

Last Tuesday (as I think I told you) we were able to go over with President Alvarado and we had a great lesson with them. Towards the end of the lesson Andres mentioned that they were both feeling a little anxious about the baptism and they weren't sure that they would be ready by the 18th. It was great to have President Alvarado there because he testified to them that he knew they were ready. We set up a follow-up appointment and we were going to take the opportunity to be able to come back and explain a little bit more of why they were ready.

We sat down on Thursday and we explained the gospel of Jesus Christ. We had fun drawing a picture of a bridge over the water where some scary water animals lived. We said that the bridge the gospel to help us get safely to God. It was great to be able to just teach the kids, but to teach in such a simple way that we would be able to clear up the parents doubts without them knowing it. As we went through each step of the gospel and explained how it is a process -- faith repentance, baptism, gift of the holy ghost and enduring to the end, which means we do it all over again. The spirit was so strong and Elder Varner and I were both so amazed! The kids were learning and they were loving every second of it. We knew that it wasn't because we were doing anything special. The spirit was testifying to them of the simple truths that they were being taught. Towards the end of the lesson we went through the steps of few times and told them that we too, knew that they would be ready for baptism. We testified that baptism would lead them to be able to go to the temple. They talked about having such a strong desire to go to the temple and to be sealed together as a family. We told them that they could do it and they would be ready a year after their baptism. When they heard that they were so excited. I told them that they could come and have a white Christmas in Utah and we could all go together. They LOVED THE IDEA. So, Mom and Dad, I hope its OK but next Christmas we might have a few visitors with us for a few days :) Needless to say, those doubts about not going away have dropped considerably.

Last night was going to be another big test. Last night we were blessed to be able to teach them the word of wisdom. And we were even more blessed to be able to teach with a very strong family from our ward, the Ortiz family. This family is like a perfect match because they both have two little boys who have A LOT of energy. Anyways, it was a miracle that they were able to come with us last night because their witnesses added something to the lesson that we wouldn't have been able to give.

We sat down and went through the five things: alcohol, tobacco, drugs, tea annnnnnnnddddddd coffee. It was pretty funny because as we said the last one Alexia screamed "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!" and put her face in the Book of Mormon. Andres just threw his head back and started clapping his hands and laughing. It was all in good fun because Alexia was laughing along with us. She screamed "I KNEW IT!!! I KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO SAY IT!!!" Apparently she likes coffee. But what came next was one of the most incredible demonstrations of faith that I had seen in my life.

She knew that it was going to be hard. She kept talking jokingly about how everyone would have to stay away from here for the next few days as she would go through the withdrawals. But she never once doubted that she would be able to do it. It was great to be able to have Hermano and Hermana Ortiz there with us. Hermano Ortiz talked of prayer and about how this would be a great opportunity for her to gain an even stronger testimony, She would come to find and even stronger conviction that this truly is the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today. He told a story from his mission of the only Puerto Rican that he taught in California. He said he lived way out in the middle of no where, about 2 hours from the nearest store. When Hermano Ortiz and his companion taught this brother the word of wisdom the man left the room. While they were talking with the man's wife he ran away with all of the coffee. He said the man stopped talking to them for the next few days. But he eventually was moved by his testimony and gave up the coffee and got baptized. He and his family were later sealed in the temple and now his great-grandchildren are members of the true church. Apparently this story gave them an idea because what happened next was incredible.

We read scriptures in Ether 12 and in 1 Nephi 3 about trials of faith and living the commandments. Then we committed them to live the word of wisdom. Andres laughed and said "if Nephi and his brothers had to walk thousands of miles in the desert to follow the commandments, I think that I can quit drinking coffee so that I can follow God's commandments." Alexia also showed so much faith. She got up and got her canister that they used to keep their coffee gave it to us, telling us to get rid of the coffee. Andres mentioned that we should take the coffee maker as well. We took advantage of that opportunity. By the time that we left the house we had a huge container of coffee, a coffee maker, and the last of Andres' beer. (Don't worry mom and dad, we got rid of it all.

And unlike Mckay we didn't carry it with us into another church on the way home). It was a fun night and we all had a lot of smiles. But the faith that I saw in a mother giving up something that truly keeps her running was amazing. She did this that she could be baptized so that her family would have the opportunity to be sealed. It was a great blessing and a complete jaw dropper to me. The faith that I saw in that family last night was just incredible! I'm not sure that I would be able to do what they did last night. But they did it, and they are chosen.

I know that the spirit is real. I know that when the spirit touches are hearts a real change occurs. I have seen this change happen over and over again in my mission and it is happening so strongly with Andres and his family. They are changing so much and they have caught the vision of what God truly wants for his children in this world. They are doing all that they can. They are sacrificing many of the things of this world that they enjoy so that they will be able to go to the temple in a year to be sealed and become an eternal family. A lot of times we let little things get in the way of the blessings and miracles that God has given us, or that God has made available to us. I wish you could all see and experience what I had the opportunity to see and experience last night. Jesus Christ lives! He loves us! He humbly gave His life so that we could be able to live with Him and our Father again. He never once in life sought for glory or for honor, only to do what His Father asked. I love Him and I am thankful for His example. I know that He lives and I know this is His church! How blessed we are to be a part of it all!

Raul is doing great, He is loving the Book of Mormon. We are working with the family little by little. We were able to get a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and we gave it to the wife to read! She ate it up. She has a new fire to listen to us. Which is great because that fire kind of went away for a while. But Raul and his family continue to progress and I can see the power of your prayers working here!

I hope you know how much I love you! Thank you once again for all that you do! I hope that the Christmas season is treating all of you well!

I love you so much, family and friends! Stay strong and know that I love you. I know I'm not so great at writing back right now and I am sorry. But I always love to hear from you guys! You are my strength and the fuel that keeps my going.

Have a holly, jolly Christmas week, for truly this is the best time of the year!