Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New Companion

Hello Everyone!

Let's get this out of the way first: My new companion is Elder Calta. He is from Cuzco, Peru, and he and I are hitting it off rather well. His style is very different from that of Elder Caceres, and I like it! He told me he really wants to help me progress, and that when we work together, we can accomplish great things in the area, and we already have. He's a convert to the Church, as of just a few years ago, as I understand it.

Now for some more good news: Alicia, one of our baptismal dates that fell through, came back from Jalapa, and lives in our area again. We'll be reviewing some of the lessons with her, and we've set a tentative baptismal date for 11 February.
We've also been doing a lot more contacts, so we've found a lot more people to teach. He really knows how to follow the guidance of the Spirit, and I hope to learn a lot from him, in many aspects of this great work, and of life.

Yesterday, I started something which President Baldwin, President Brough's predecessor, had the missionaries here do. You take a standard blue copy of the Book of Mormon (the type we give away to people to read), and you choose one thing to mark, choose a color, and read the Book of Mormon while marking this particular thing. Then you read it again, with a different thing and a different color. Elder Caceres was given a Book of Mormon of this type in English to learn the language, but he decided to leave it in the apartment when he left, so I decided to turn it into an Utchi. Utchi is what they called these with Pres. Baldwin. It's a Mayan phrase that essentially means "and it came to pass." Anyone who has read the Book of Mormon knows that this phrase appears quite often therein. It is written with one symbol, which would have been easy enough to engrave on golden plates when writing an ancient record, rather than a whole sentence.

Anyway, I've started with the color orange, and I'm marking every time I see a name that refers to God the Father or Jesus Christ. Names such as the Lamb of God, the Holy One of Israel, and the Eternal God come to mind. I'm currently in about chapter 20ish of 1 Nephi, and I think I've only had one page so far that doesn't refer to either God the Father or Jesus Christ at least once. It's neat to see that even in this short time, the Book of Mormon really does testify of Jesus Christ, because according to what little marking I've done thus far, it talks about him a lot. Also, I'm finding a lot of awesome scriptures that I never noticed before, probably because I'm reading with a purpose, and therefore paying better attention to what I'm reading. This will be my fifth time reading the Book of Mormon, and I'm excited. In addition, I'm spending some time in Doctrine and Covenants and Jesus the Christ. After I finish D&C, I'll be reading the Pearl of Great Price and the New Testament. My next topics will probably be words spoken by Jesus Christ or the Father, scriptures that confirm or speak of the Bible, and possibly others afterwards, when I think of other things to mark. I bought a pack of Uni-Ball 207 pens in the MTC Bookstore with lots of colors, so I'll run out of mission before I run out of things to mark in the Book of Mormon, and colors to do so. (speaking of which, I've been out here for 5 months today. How the time flies!)

Yesterday during my reading of the Book of Mormon and D&C, I received a confirmation of testimony. I now know more than ever that Joseph Smith really was a prophet of God, that he translated the Book of Mormon, and that every word upon its pages is entirely true. This is my exhortation for this week: Make an Utchi. Read the Book of Mormon with a purpose. Look for something, and you'll find it. If you've never read the Book of Mormon, read it. I promise you, you will learn something new about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that you will be uplifted and feel the influence of the Holy Ghost more in your life. I would also like to give you an exhortation that Moroni, a Book of Mormon prophet gives in Moroni 10:4-5:
"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true. And if you shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."
These are the instructions. I promise you, as did Moroni, that if you put this into action, you will receive an answer. You will know that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a true prophet called of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is truly the Church of Jesus Christ here on the earth today. He answered me. And if he answered me, I know he'll answer you. Do it, you won't regret it!

This week, I'm going to finish with another Spanish testimony:
Yo sé que el Libro de Mormón es verdadero, y que José Smith fue un profeta verdadero de Dios. Yo sé que por medio de este profeta, la Iglesia Verdadera de Jesucristo fue restaurado a la tierra, y se llama La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días. Yo sé que hay un profeta hoy en día quien habla con Dios, nos da sus mandamientos y consejos para nosotros. Yo sé que este es la Iglesia verdadera, y que la autoridad para bautizar y efectuar las ordenanzas del evangelio, incluyendo las en los Templos, ha sido restaurado. Yo sé que por medio del Evangelio Verdadero de Jesucristo, las familias pueden ser eternas. Yo comparto este testimonio con ustedes en el nombre de Jesucristo, Amén.

Thank you always for your thoughts and prayers. They are much needed, much appreciated, and the results and fruits of them are seen daily here in the vineyard of the Lord.

¡Les quiero mucho! (I love you all very much!) Until next week!

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Interesting Week

As the subject indicates, this has been a very interesting week.

First of all, we had two baptismal dates scheduled for this past Sunday. In one day, both of them fell through.
Rosa changed her mind about being baptized, after having listened to the missionaries for an extended period of time.
Alicia had some changes in her life, and is going to live with her mother in Jalapa, which is in the G.C. South Mission. She wanted to be baptized, but a) We didn't think she was ready, b) we couldn't meet with her this week because of the move, and c) we're not sure if there's a chapel anywhere near where she's going, meaning that if she was baptized, she might not be able to go to church anyway.

We dropped both as investigators, and after that we only had a couple left who were progressing, so we basically had to start over. William, Jairo, and Jissela are still Pilas, so we're working on getting them to baptism.

One day, we spent most of the day contacting: knocking doors and talking to people in the street. My companion decided that it was my turn to be senior companion for a few hours and direct the work. I was a little frustrated, but when I concentrated on the work, the spirit was with me more constantly than it ever had been before, and we got a couple of new investigators out of it. We'll have to see how pilas they are with time.

Also, my companion and I are actually getting along pretty well this week. He had the inspiration to have a very open conversation with me on the way to lunch one day. We were very open about some feelings we had for each other, and it turns out we had just had a big misunderstanding that closed us both off a bit. We're getting along a ton better than we were before, and it's been great.

Sadly, this came the week of transfers. We received a phone call yesterday indicating that Elder Caceres will be leaving Jerusalém for a leadership position elsewhere, and I will be staying on in Jerusalém and receiving a new senior companion. I'll have to train him on the area, meaning the leadership of the branch, the investigators, less-active members, and geographical limits of the area. That basically means the area is my responsibility for a little while which will be hard. But it will also be good. It will make me work hard. And like I said above, the spirit will be with me if I keep working hard, being humble, and trusting in the Lord.

Now, I'd like to tell you a bit about Jissela. She was a reference from Hermana Petrona, our cocinera. Her husband lives and works in the States, and she lives here with her aging mother and 9-year-old son, Andrés. She's really nice, and pretty funny too. She has a lot of animals in/around her house because she likes them. One of those animals is a chicken, which usually walks around between our feet during the lessons. Since it moves, it draws my attention, and she just thinks it's absolutely hilarious. She refers to it as "El Chicken" whenever we talk about it. She said when it gets big enough, she'll cook it up for us! Last time we met with her, we called her and she was reading the Book of Mormon (for the first time outside of a lesson!). We went to her house, and talked about what she had read. We explained baptism, and the need for the authority to baptize. This Sunday, we picked her up for Church, and we brought her mother in a wheelchair. Her son came too, and he's a little rowdy, so it was kind of funny. He's friends with Hermana Petrona's grandson, so they had a good time. Andrés came into sunday school and asked his mom "When do they serve the snack?" After church, an 8-year-old girl in the branch was baptized, so she got to see a baptism, which was great for her to see. I'm pretty sure she'll be baptized, if we can get her to church every week.

Before I forget, I'm going to translate one of my new favorite hymns for you. It's Spanish only, and it's called Oíd El Toque Del Clarín (Hear the playing of the bugle)

1. Hear the playing of the bugle, it calls us to fight
The officials of Zion are beginning to march
They have their weapons ready, as do they their hearts
They are searching for soldiers with courage who will fight for Zion
2. I want to be a faithful soldier, on the side of the Lord
and fight for liberty with strength and courage
We will reject the cowards from our brigade
we want men of courage and firm heart
3. The armies of darkness attack with fury
but victory is God's, the king and redeemer
Oh, sinner, come to Jesus, the Eternal Savior
In him you will have consolation in all of your pain.
4. To the mount of Zion will come Jesus the Redeemer
He will give to the valiant crowns of honor
They will enjoy eternally happiness beyond compare
With them I want to enjoy celestial glory.

The music is really cool, too, and I got to play it in Church this past week! Sacrament meeting was about missionary work, and it was really cool, especially because we had a TON of investigators, as well as a lot of less-actives there, too. Our branch has had better attendance these past weeks than the ward just down the hill! But, for a branch to become a ward, there need to be 21 Melchizedek Priesthood Holders attending who pay tithing. We're just short of that, because there are a TON of sisters in our branch.

Well, I'll let you know what happens with transfers this week. I'll miss Elder Caceres, but he and I will both be moving on to bigger and better things.

May each of you be blessed, and know that I love you very much. Please continue your thoughts and prayers. As before, they are much needed and much appreciated.

¡Que les vaya bien!

Yours in the faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Elder Caceres & Elder Banks

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!


First of all, I would like to wish my dear mother a very Happy Birthday!! It sounds like you've been having fun, and I hope it continues. Keep being awesome.

Some interesting things have happened this past week.
First of all, something from last Tuesday. On the way to district meeting and internet, I saw a young man walking a PUG through the streets of Peronia! My comp said to me 'That's like your dog, isn't it?' I told him yes, but this particular pug wasn't nearly as handsome as Sampson! I saw the same man with the same pug two more times later that afternoon, but I haven't seen him again since. We also visited a less active family, the Torres family, and they have a little dog. I don't remember exactly what kind, but we got talking, and it turns out that he and I have a lot in common. He wears glasses, and he really likes to work with computers. He has a couple in his home that he's been building and changing out parts on. He told me he wanted a pug, but it was too expensive to get one when they went to get their dog. Its name is Puppy, which in Spanish is pronounced like 'poopy.' Another family, the Cordon family, has a dog named 'Dogie' (pronounced dough-gie).

Other than the few pet dogs, I usually just see the street dogs. Typically, they don't bother us very much, but one attacked my pants the other night. Nothing happened, really. He didn't even tear the pants, let alone my leg, just surprised me a bit.

As of right now, we have two set baptismal dates, with Rosa, and with Alicia, who I may have told you about. Alicia lives high up the hill in our area. We were on our way to meet with her last night, and we were near the home of another investigator, William, who has, at the moment, two cars. He asked where we were going, and he said "Wait here, I'll go get the car." He gave my companion and I, and Roberto, a member who often accompanies us to lessons, a ride in his car just about to her house. She lives down a little side-alley, so we couldn't get right there, but he got us up the hill, and I got to ride in a CAR! The last time I did that was in another area on exchanges with Elder Gomez.

On the 25th, there will be transfers here in the Central Mission. My comp and I are interested to see what will happen. First of all, I'd like to explain something. The word in Spanish for transfer is "Cambio" which literally means "change." Most of the North American elders here use the word change instead of transfer, so I'll probably use that a couple times here soon.
My companion will only have one change left, and he will go home to Honduras. We're interested to see who will stay and who will go of the two of us, or if we both stay for one more change. He's been begging for the president not to take him out of the area for his last change. He will have been there for 7.5 months next week.

Next, just something funny that happens on a regular basis. One of the security guards of our neighborhood likes to greet us in a rather interesting way. Usually they say "adelante" (forward, essentially 'come in'), Buenas, or Que les vaya bien, but one of these guards, whenever he sees us, says "Canche!" I understood, but I was just confused as to why he would say this. Canche is a word used to refer to someone of lighter skin tone. Of course, he was talking about me. If you're talking about a woman with lighter skin, you can say canchita, but I generally try not to use that word, because as I understand it, it's not very polite.

We also had a lot of less-active members at church this past week. Prayers were answered, and it was great. We also had Rosa and Alicia, both of our set baptismal dates, in sacrament meeting. They are both set to be baptized this following Sunday.

We also had zone conference last week. We learned a lot about prayer. As a result, I've changed how I pray a little bit, and I've really been able to feel the difference in my life. The Spirit is with me (us) more, and it's absolutely fantastic. President Brough spoke to us, as did the assistants and some of the secretaries. It was very uplifting, and drives me to work harder and to be better.

Thank you as always for your thoughts and prayers. Please continue to remember us. Prayer is a very powerful thing, and I've already been the witness of great things as a result of prayer. I promise you, if you make a greater effort to pray often, with reverence and great thought, the Lord will answer you. He wants to hear the desires of your heart, and bless you with answers to your prayers.

I love you all!

Yours in the faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Another Great Week

Hello Everyone!

The work is alive and well in Jerusalém! We currently have one set baptismal date for Jan. 22, and we have 3 other people with goal dates: 2 for the 22nd, and 1 for the 29th.

One of these dates is with a great guy named Carlos. We found him when we were knocking doors one night. My comp asked me 'where are we going to contact?' I felt that we should knock on a door, that turned out to be his. His wife Lucy answered, and we set an appointment for Christmas Day (right after talking to the family!) We've had a few visits since then, and he accepted the goal date yesterday. His wife has decided that she likes the Evangelical church she is currently attending, and has decided to not continue listening to our lessons, because she gets confused between the two churches. I think that we'll baptize Carlos, and Lucy and their kids will see how happy he is, and will want in. That's my hope for their family. They have a couple pre-teen to teenage daughters, and a toddler named Isaac. The last few times we visited them, my companion said to me afterwards that 'that was a great/inspired contact.' It's really cool to see how the Lord directs us, and I'm just barely touching the tip of the iceberg at this point.

Thank you for your birthday greetings. My mom told me about them, and I thank you all, even though I couldn't read them directly!

Things are going pretty well with my companion as well. We're still not best friends, but we're working well together, and things are still improving.

I'll have my first Zone Conference (along with an Interview) tomorrow. I'm excited to see what I get to learn. This is going to be really cool, because I know President Brough will speak to us, and possibly one of the area presidency of Central America as well!

But before I close, I have to share a funny experience. First, we were teaching Rosa, our set baptismal date, the other day. My companion was talking about the gospel, and suddenly said: 'Puchika, Hermana, que grande este rata!' (Wow, sister, that's a big rat!) There was a rat behind her going into one of the bedrooms in their house. She called her husband and brother-in-law, and they went into the room. One of them opened the door and threw something out, and she screamed and jumped. We went back to the message, and a couple minutes later we heard *thump* from the other room. After that, her husband came out holding the dead rat by its tail with a napkin and put it outside. After that, we watched Thomas S. Monson's biography, and all was well.

I discovered another cool Spanish-only hymn, that I will translate this week, and send the words of next week. It also has to do with missionary work.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers, they are felt here with regularity, and much appreciated, as well as needed.

Thank you. You are awesome. Until next week!

Yours in the faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, and Antigua!


This has been a great week. New Year's was fun, not near as many fireworks as the 24th, though, which was a blessing. The neighbors were having a really loud party, though, which wasn't a blessing, at least as far as I can tell at the moment.

This week I've been in a trio with me, Elder Caceres, and Elder Cook, who is in Peronia, the area adjacent to ours. His companion was called to a mission in Peru and is from Guatemala. He was here awaiting his visa for Peru, and it came through last Tuesday. He left, so Elder Cook came with us, since we were the closest. He did divisions with his ward mission leader and other members of his ward, so we could still work in both areas for this week. He's from Wyoming, but will be returning to California, since his family moved there since he left. He's really funny, and a really strong, bold teacher. He really helped us out with some of our investigators this week.

When you knock on a door or gate in Guatemala, the people yell ¿Quien? (who is it?). Usually we just say 'Buenas, Los Elderes' (a greeting, and us). Elder Cook said once or twice as a joke 'Agua Salvavidas' which is the biggest brand of purified water here in Guatemala. They do door to door service, kind of like a milkman, but with water. This is actually the only brand we're supposed to drink, because it's the only brand you can really trust 100%. Anyway, Elder Cook is awesome. His new companion, another Guatemalan Elder awaiting his Peruvian visa, arrived today, so he'll be back in his area. He also bought a cake for my birthday that we ate in district meeting. It was delicious!

Speaking of my Birthday, as you know, it's today. I opened the wrapped gifts from my Christmas package (thanks Mom for the pens, and the ties are really cool!) this morning. I just can't believe that I'm not a teenager anymore! 20 years is a big accomplishment! :)

But probably the greatest present I received was our zone activity yesterday, in which we went to Antigua Guatemala. This city used to be the capital of all of Central America, until Volcan de Agua erupted, and destroyed parts of the city. It's literally right there by Antigua, and it's pretty neat. I can see it from my area if the sky is clear. Sadly, yesterday, it was really cloudy, and we could hardly see the volcano. It's called Volcan de Agua (volcano of water) because in the aforementioned historic eruption, the crater had filled with rainwater, and it sprayed boiling water all over the city, as I understand it. Because of this, Antigua is no longer the capital.

In Antigua, you can buy many things which are harder to find in other areas of Guatemala. I bought myself a few presents! I bought a blue tie made of native fabric, which is awesome. The sister who sold it to us gave us each a pen that has been adorned with native threads, and embroidered to say 'Mission Central.' It's pretty cool too. Then, we ate lunch at the nicest McDonald's ever (there's a fountain and everything, and a nice little garden) and returned to another market where one of the elders' converts sells. He gave us great deals on some stuff, and I bought a neat leather and textile pencil case from him. We had been in this market in the morning, and I saw one thing which caught my eye. It was a table runner, I believe hand woven, which has the colors red, orange, yellow, and kind of a dark reddish pink. The colors are very vibrant and it's really cool. In the morning, they told me it cost Q90. I came back in the afternoon, and it was Q75. I managed to talk them down to Q50, and if I tryed to walk away, I probably could have gotten it lower, but I bought it for that. It's for my desk, to make it feel more homey, and to encourage me to keep the desk clean. And it's just cool! There were a lot of nice things, but I just bought a few things I can enjoy now in the mission. I'll definitely go back and buy some gifts, and things to enjoy after I get home. Overall, I spent about Q107, which works out to about $14 USD. I had a lot of fun, and I've got some great memories. Elder Caceres bought a bag, and Elder Cook bought a bunch of stuff for his family. Elder Cook has 9 months left, and Elder Caceres just two! (it's very possible that I'll be his last companion.) Sadly, Brother Arevalo, our member who sells shoes, wasn't selling in Antigua yesterday, so we didn't see him. That's okay, he's our neighbor, and I'll see him another time.

I also got some great pictures, which I will send soon, including a picture with Elder Caceres, finally! I also got some pictures of the ruins we explored in the morning. There's a church/monastery that was destroyed a long time ago, and it was a neat place to explore! Lots of pictures from there to come! I'm a little sad we couldn't see the volcano, but I'll be back I'm sure. And that was my cool day in Antigua. Next stop: Lake Atitlan! (hopefully!)

Now I would like to tell you about the work a little bit. If everything goes according to plan, we'll have 3 baptisms on the 22nd of January! We set 3 dates this week, at least for a goal for them. One of them is Rosa, who is part of a member family, and the others are William, and Alicia who is new. Alicia was a reference from one of our members. She's probably the most humble person I've had the opportunity to teach. She lives alone, with her two small children, one of whom is sick. She is unemployed, and is living on property where someone is letting her live for the time being. Her family isn't helping her at all, and she's really in a bad way. She came to our branch Christmas party, and her first question was 'How can I join your church?' We're doing our best to help her understand the message we bring to her, and some of the members want to help her out with some temporary help, and to find work, too. We're trying to facilitate that, but we want to make sure she'll be baptized because she has a testimony of the restored gospel, not just because the Church has an excellent welfare program. To me, she seems very enthusiastic and sincere. She's been reading in the Book of Mormon, and she's been praying every day. She didn't attend a church before ours for a long time, so she was even willing to change the way she prays to match ours. I think she'll be great, and I'm excited to be able to see the changes the Gospel can make in her life.

Well, the time is far spent. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers, and your love. It is all much needed, and much appreciated here on the receiving end. Thank you.

Always remember how much your Savior loves you, and no matter what happens, he is waiting for you to turn to him with open arms.

Until next week!

Yours in the faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks