Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another Week in the Work

I've had a pretty interesting week.

We had the confirmations of the kids who were baptized during Sacrament Meeting, and that was neat. Next week will be stake conference, so we'll have something a little different going on there. The branch always gets a private bus so we can get out to the stake center easily and without other consequences. I'm excited, and interested to see if we can get investigators to the conference!

This week, I'm supposed to be directing the area. Yes, I'm still the junior companion, but my companion has asked me to direct this week, and that's that. I'm nervous, but I'll just have to trust in the Lord and he'll help me overcome.

I also had divisions with Elder Squires, my District Leader on Friday. It was fun. I got to speak some English, and sing some English hymns with him which was great. We had a couple good lessons, and we found a new investigator named Noel, who looks to be really great. He's humble, and he's really willing to learn. He doesn't attend any church, and he wants to set an example for his kids (though most are grown) by putting them in the paths of Christ. One of his sons was killed in October, so we started by teaching him about the Plan of Salvation and Eternal Families. He's very receptive, and though he is busy, he sets aside time to be able to meet with us, and we hope to read and pray as well. I'm really excited to see where we can get with him!

Sadly, I probably won't be able to see what happens with him. This week is the last full week of the transfer, and myself, my companion, and our district leader are thinking that I will probably be transfered to another area.

Misión Central has three distinct regions: The Capital, The Coast and The Mountains. I am currently in the Capital. Many of the older missionaries are saying that I am headed for the Coast or the Mountains, but we'll have to see what happens. At this point, only the Lord, President Brough, and his Assistants, Elder Crittenden and Elder Child, know where I'm headed. I'll receive a phone call on Monday telling us who will be leaving and who will be staying, then Tuesday to pack and say goodbye to everyone, and the actual transfer will take place at a meeting Wednesday. Of course, I'll tell you what's happening next Tuesday when I write you.

Overall, we're just working hard. Not much else to say. The other thing I'm learning to do is chat with people. In the MTC you learn how to teach people in Spanish, but not how to chat. Chatting is important because that's how you win people's confidence. I've seen that several times in Jerusalén because my companion is really good at it, and we've made our way into several doors, or made contact with several people in this manner. By winning their confidence, they become more receptive to the message we're bringing to their homes.

Also, my companion asks me English words all the time. He always says "Hey! What's up?" To people on the street, and the tone of voice he uses is awesome. He'll sometimes finish "What's up" with "bean" "dog," or something to that effect. It's kind of fun, but usually we don't have time to teach him a lot more than that.

This week, my spiritual thought is about humility. I was studying humility in Preach My Gospel, and it says that humility isn't just not boasting, it's also accepting God's will, and submitting to it. Humility is not trying to put yourself above others, but to serve them. As Jesus Christ said, "He who desires to be great among you, let him be thy servant."

I love you all, keep being great and thank you for your prayers!

Elder Nicholas Banks

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


OK, I'm just going to say it: This past Sunday we had the 1st baptism of my mission!!!
Wanda, a 10-year old girl, and her 8-year old brother Omar were baptized. I probably said this already, but their parents are inactive members, so Omar wasn't a convert baptism, but Wanda was. Their mom's cousin baptized the kids, not us, but it was still really cool. My companion and I got to be the witnesses, and we had an investigator come as well! Both of the kids will be confirmed next Sunday in Sacrament meeting. It was a really cool feeling.

Sadly, one of our most promising investigators, Marisol, is acting like she doesn't care about our message anymore. She's getting harder and harder to find at home, though when we do catch her in the house she listens intently and everything. She's been reading and praying, as well as attending church. Before this Sunday, she was acting like she wanted to be baptized, too.

The good news is the Spirit is awesome. My companion and I have been knocking a lot of doors, because we had only a couple investigators when he came, and the President is really pushing contacting. We've found a lot of new people, but it's hard to find them at home for the second appointment. But contacting, especially yesterday, has been cool. He makes me do some of them completely alone, which I am usually able to do. If I completely fail, or it's a weird situation, he jumps in and helps me. Honestly, sometimes I wish he would let me do it more. The coolest part started yesterday. I would get a feeling to knock a door, and he would be just ahead of me, heading for the same door! Basically, that means that Heavenly Father wanted us to knock that door, because the Spirit told us both to do so. It's a really neat feeling. I love the work!

Also, on Friday, we had interviews with President Brough. I told him some things I'm working on improving, and he told me basically that I'm still new, but I'm on the right track. I also thanked him for putting me with my awesome companion, because I am learning a lot from him, and we are getting along really well. President Brough is very inspired, because some of the things he asked me and that he brought up in the interview were some of the very questions I had for him about things I wanted to improve. I'm learning a lot from him, and I'm really glad to have him as my mission president. He also pushes us hard, with a lot of goals and rules, because he knows we can accomplish them.

Yesterday was pretty uneventful, but it was still a good p-day. We made our own lunch, which was unusual, because usually on p-day we eat out, or we go to Hna. Petrona's house for lunch. We bought tortillas from my favorite tortilleria, and I ate them with some beans, and some fried plantains that I made, which were absolutely delicious! Plantains are baiscally big bananas with a slightly different flavor. They're usually served fried, but I've had them boiled, and apparently you can eat them raw, too, if you really want to. I'll definitely be buying and frying plantains again, because they're delicious. Who knows, I may even fry up some bananas, too, one of these days!

Also, I had the chance yesterday to write a couple of letters, so watch your mailboxes!

Also, we decided last week to stop giving English classes at the chapel. We were doing it every Saturday, but what kept happening was that nobody would show up, or we would have one or two people show up late, and that's it. We were doing it to find investigators and to serve the members a little, but if nobody comes, it's not worth the time. As they say in Katchikel (a native dialect here in the mission): Ishkamik! (dead)

In Guatemala, summer is about to start, and so is the rainy season. Basically, it rains from February or March until about October, which will be fun.

Well, That's about all I have to say this week. Thank you all for your prayers, they are much needed.
Always remember that when you choose the right, you will be blessed. The heavens open based upon obedience to the commandments, and the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

I love you all!
Yours in the Faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Another Great Week

Dearest Family and friends,

This week, we are scheduled to have the first baptisms of my mission! We are going to baptize two children, Wanda and Omar, whose parents are inactive members but want their kids to be baptized. The kids are great, and understand better than a good number of our adult investigators. Hopefully we will also be baptizing Marisol as well, who is a single mom. We didn't find her, she found us. She came up to us in the street and said "Are you from the church in the next street? I want to come to your meetings!" We set up an appointment with her, and from there it's just been great. She has a great testimony, and she's definitely ready to be a member of the Church. We'll be trying to work with the members more as well, because when you work with members, great things are accomplished.

This week, my companion and I have been studying repentance a lot. He pointed out that we've been called to declare repentance unto the people, and we have barely even been talking about repentance! So, we studied it, and, of course, we've been repenting daily of our mistakes. The biggest thing that I've learned is that repentance is hard, but the results are always worth it. The joy you experience afterwards is always worth the embarrassment, and the courage one needs to muster up to repent. It's a fantastic feeling, to be filled with joy and peace, and to know you're in good standing with your Father in Heaven. And remember, we all make mistakes, we all sin. Nobody is perfect it's impossible. So my exhortation for this week is repent! I promise you, you won't regret it if you do so, and your life will be filled with more joy and peace, and you will be a happier person. (Also, read the talk, I think it was by Elder D. Todd Christofferson, entitled "The Divine Gift of Repentance" from the October General Conference.)

This week was very productive. We contacted 199 different people, and we found 25 new investigators. And today in our district meeting, I really got thinking about why I'm here. I'm here not just because the Lord commanded me to be here, but because I love this Gospel, and I know it is true. Without the knowledge of the Gospel, I wouldn't be where I am today. Knowing that Jesus Christ suffered for me, all my sins, mistakes, sicknesses, pains, and everything of that type helps me to remember that I always have a friend up above on whom I can rely, and knowing the Plan of Salvation reminds me where I will go when I leave this world, and how I can make sure that I will be with my family for the course of Eternity. Heaven wouldn't be heaven without my family. There is no question about that. I am here in the mission because I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience the immense joy I have experienced from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Another thing I've been learning to do is joke around with people more. My companion is giving me more confidence, and teaching me more jokes. I've been using a guessing game a lot with the people: If an electric train is moving South at 60kph, and the wind is blowing to the West at 70kph, which way does the smoke blow? So far, only a couple people have fallen for it. The people here are pretty attentive to the words you say, it would seem, because usually I get the answer that "Electric trains don't make smoke!" I've also learned a few more dumb jokes in Spanish. One of my favorites is "What did one fish say to another?" the answer is "Nada," which means "nothing," but is also a conjugated form of the verb "nadar" which means "to swim."

Also yesterday, we had a zone activity for P-day, and we went to the Guatemala City Zoo. Unfortunately, we arrived at the gates to find out that the zoo was closed, so we went to the mission office to take care of some business, and then we ate lunch and went home. (thanks for the package mom!) We picked up some paperwork to get some people married, and we picked up some scriptures (bibles and triples) to give to people after they get baptized. We wanted to get some hymnals too, but they were out of the normal sized ones. Here, you have to bring your own hymnal to church in most wards. The normal sized hymnals cost Q7, but the pocket ones cost Q34.50. The church subzidizes hymnals and scriptures so everyone can get them (but apparently not the pocket hymnals). For example, a softcover triple costs Q8, and a softcover bible Q10. The most expensive book of scripture is the leather bible with tabs, which costs Q216, or about $32. There is no such thing as a quad in Spanish. Also, if we have time, we stop at a paca or two (basically used clothing stores) to look for ties. So far, I've bought two ties for Q3 each. One of them needs to be pressed, but it's branded J. Crew. The other was just neat, so I bought it too.

Always remember that you have a friend, and you are never alone in anything you do. Help through Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in any challenge is only a prayer away. "Ask, and ye shall receive, knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Amen." (D&C 6)

I Love you all. Thank you for your many thoughts and prayers.
Until next week!

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Interesting Week

Dear Family and Friends,
I'm just going to jump right in.

Yesterday was P-Day, and we had a district activity at the chapel in our district leader's area. All the chapels here are surrounded by a nice big fence, with heavy gates and a motion-sensing alarm on the building. We were in the chapel for the activity, which was supposed to be cook food and watch a movie. Then, the power went out. On this particular chapel, the gate is electric, opened and closed by a key fob. Sadly, when the power is out, electric gates really don't do much good. This gate has a smaller door-sized gate in it, but we didn't have the key to it. We had to leave, so this meant that I had to learn a new skill: how to climb a chainlink fence. I climbed up, and made it safely to the ledge near the fence. Then, I climbed down. Unfortunately, this didn't go quite so well. I made it down the fence, but the fence is on top of a short wall, but I thought the wall was a little shorter than it actually is, and I fell. I'm a little scraped up on my arms and legs, and I got a light sprain in my right ankle. Fortunately, after walking a lot yesterday after we got back, my ankle is back at about 95% to normal. It was hard, but I kept up with my companion for most of the afternoon. I was reminded of the Doctrine and Covenants, section 84, the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, where it says ye shall be sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of your bodies. I am very thankful for this. God has blessed me with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, so I didn't feel down all day. Sure, I was limping for a little while, but I didn't let that stop me. It was one of the best days of my mission so far.

And the good news through it all, was that I got to have some extra time to practice the piano!

That was really the biggest event of the week.

My companion is awesome. He's pushing me in the right direction. He's pushing hard, but with love. He tells me when I'm progressing well, and when I need to fix something. We get along really well! He has told me several times that he's here to help me succeed, and I love that. His new energy and faith has already  worked wonders in the area. Our weekly goal in the mission is to find 10 new investigators. Last week, we found 10 in one day, with 19 in the entire week!

Also, I've been reading in Doctrine and Covenants some. Section 31 is all about the blessings of missionary work, and what one has to do to receive them. It's really awesome, and it just reminded me that I have to keep trying harder. I love the work. I love the people.

We're also trying to help the members more. There are a LOT of less-actives or inactives in our area. More than those who come to church weekly, and that's around 100. We're trying to find them, and get them back to church, and cultivate more love between the active members as well. The Branch President, Pres. Mirón, is with us 100%, and we're trying to work with him and the rest of the leadership to get this area back to be a ward. We're on the border, we just need a little more Priesthood and we're there!

This week, I would like to share a spiritual thought as well. I would like to talk about love. Love for your fellow men, love for any random person you meet. Yes, sometimes it's hard to love. Sometimes someone's habits just irk you, or you don't like the way they talk or whatever, but I can tell you that the Lord can change hearts. I've been out here in the mission less than 6 months, and in the Field less than 4, and I already feel that I've changed. I still have a long way to go in humility and patience, but I know that the blessings will come as I try to forget myself and work for these people. As stated in Mosiah 2:17 "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God." Service is also a great way to develop love for someone. Serve them, and you will love them. Service doesn't have to be anything big, either. Maybe it's just a smile or making a bed, but it makes a difference. And remember, when you're in the service of your God, he will bless you. He loves you, and he wants to bless you. He just wants to see a little faith, and he wants you to ask in prayer, and he will bless you.

I love you all. As always, thank you for your thoughts and prayers.
They have made and continue to make a big difference. Thank you.

Yours in the faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks