Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another Week in the Vineyard

Dear All,

This has been another week of work in the Lord's Vineyard. I've been a bit quiet, and my comp is pushing me harder, so I'm trying to be a little more bold, and to exert myself more. My companion has been sick this week, so we've spent a good amount of time in the house. He's had a bad cold/flu and a fever. He's pretty much over it now, but it was hard. I tried to help take care of him the best that I knew how, and thankfully, all has now passed into health and hard work again.

Yesterday, I got my first taste of Guatemalan rain. My companion told me it's not even close to what they get in the coast, but I still got pretty wet. Last week, a member gave us each a big umbrella that's red and white, and says "Colgate" on it. We used them yesterday, and we were talking to someone across the street from her house, and she came out on her porch and saw us using the umbrellas she gave us! It was neat.

As far as investigators go, Jairon and Vilma are amazing. They have lots of questions, and really want to follow the Lord. They'll probably be baptized as soon as they get married. We're working on that with them, and we'll see what happens. I think it will all work out well.

As many of you know, General Conference is this weekend. We will be listening to the Lord's Prophet and his Apostles speak to us via satellite. We will be watching it probably in the stake center, but maybe in another bigger chapel in the stake. We are supposed to be participating in all the sessions, and depending on how many investigators show up, I may even get to watch it in English! Usually what they do here is set apart another room for the Gringos (both members and missionaries) to watch the conferences in English. If a lot of investigators come, I'll be sitting with them in the main room
in Spanish, but if they don't come, I'll be watching in English. We'll see what happens. The stake center is about an hour away by public bus, so we'll be in the Stake Center pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday.

The other big news is that I will be leaving this internet café not with Elder Calta, but with Elder Loayza. Our district leader (and companion of E. Loayza), Elder Flores, is going on divisions with my comp in our area today, so I get to get out a little for a change, to the area Panorama, and return to Jerusalén tomorrow. I've been here once before, with Elder Gomez during my first month, but this will be my first time working with Elder Loayza, who is also a Peruvian. My comp was a little disappointed, because he wanted to work with Elder Loayza, but I get to do so! I'm pretty excited. Elder Loayza is 6 weeks newer than me in the mission, and from what I hear and what I've seen of his teaching, he's an amazing missionary. I'll let you all know how it goes when I write you next week.

Because of General Conference, this past Sunday was Fast and Testimony Meeting in Rama Jerusalén, and I had the opportunity to get up and bear a simple testimony. I would like to share a similar simple testimony with you now.

I know that this is the true church of God upon the earth today. I know that Jesus Christ suffered and died for all of our sins,
mistakes, pains, sicknesses, and everything of that sort, and he understands us perfectly when we are passing through challenges. I know that there is only one way to return to our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ after we die, and that way is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His church, with his priesthood authority. Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End are the steps upon which this Eternal Life can be reached. I am very grateful to be able to know this Gospel, and to be able to share it with the people of Guatemala. I love the Gospel. I
know that our families can be together forever through the priesthood power found in the Lord's Holy Temples here upon the earth today. I know these things to be true in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thank you always for your thoughts and prayers. They are always needed for me, my companion, and our area and investigators. Their effects are being experienced, though we be separated by many miles. Thank you.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Monday, March 19, 2012

Good Week

Dear All,

This has been an eventful week in Jerusalén.

I'll start with the biggest news: BAPTISM!!! We were able to baptize Rosa, who we've been working with for quite some time. Elder Caceres (who is now at home in Honduras) worked with her for 7.5 months, and that wasn't the first time she'd received the missionaries. Her husband has been a member for years, and is a bit inactive, but moving in the right direction. Her father-in-law baptized her yesterday after church, and it was really neat. When I write Elder Caceres to tell him that she was baptized, he will be very surprised! Rosa and Edgar have the goal to be able to be sealed in the Temple a year from now, to become an eternal family, along with their two kids. It was really a great thing to witness.

The second big thing that happened: We received a phone call Thursday night advising us that we were going to have divisions with the Zone Leaders on Friday. It was short notice, but it meant that I got to get to know a different area for a
little bit! Our zone leaders are Elder Hansen from Draper, UT, and Elder Trejo from Honduras. We met up Friday afternoon, and Elder Hansen went with my comp back to Jerusalén, and I went with Elder Trejo to Villa Lobos 2. It's a lot more populated than Jerusalén, and feels a lot more like a city than does Jerusalén. It's also a lot flatter, which was a nice change. Elder Trejo is a really cool guy and a great missionary. I was worried that he and I wouldn't get along, but it was great! We ended the divisions early the next morning because the zone leaders had a meeting in the area of our district leader, so we met up there and went home.

The other thing starts with an expression here in Guatemala. The expression is "sacar el jugo," which literally means "take out the juice." As you can probably imagine, this means to take all the energy out of something/someone, and push it/them to the maximum. Let's just say that I'm running a little low on juice right now. My comp is really pushing me hard, but it's a good thing, because I need it. If I don't get pushed, sometimes I don't move, so I need a push in the right direction. It's really hard sometimes, but it's also really good sometimes.

This is another thing I've been wanting to explain about Latin America, which is how names work here. Just about everyone has two last names: The first from their father and the second from their mother, and are generally called by their 1st family name, which is from the father. Using my name as an example, I would be Nicholas William Banks Mulvey, referred to as Nicholas Banks. When a woman gets married, she keeps all four names, but her husband's last name is added with the word "de" which means "of" or "from." Using my parents' last names as an example, my Dad would have the last names Banks Reece, and my Mom would have the last names Mulvey Pavilonis de Banks. A few times, members have asked me my 2nd last name, and I tell them the truth: I don't have one. This is something that I learned my first couple of weeks here that I thought was interesting and that you might enjoy learning.

We're also going to be having a big baptismal service on April 1, the Sunday of General Conference for the whole mission (I'm assuming Zone by Zone, because we'll be in the stake centers to watch conference). We're working on getting Jairo and Vilma ready to be baptized on this day. It should be really cool!

That's all for this week. Stay strong and be the best you can. I love you all!

Yours in the faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interesting Week

Dear All,

Things are moving along here in Misión Central. The area is blossoming, and the members are starting to work with us more, which is excellent. President Hinckley taught that a new convert needs 1. a friend in the Church, 2. a calling, and 3. to be nourished by the good word of God. We're trying to get people to come to lessons with us so that we can get the friendship started, and have another testimony. As we read in 2 Corinthians: "By the mouth of two or three witnesses
shall every word be established."

The good news is that we're going to have a baptism this Sunday! Rosa, who was going to be baptized in January, just had her baby, and I think she was really close to the Spirit in this experience. My companion asked her "When do you want to be baptized?" and she gave us a date, which is this coming Sunday! We're just going to make sure this week that she's ready so she'll be able to be baptized and keep the covenant she's about to make. It's exciting!

We also have two more families who are almost ready to be baptized. Jairo and Vilma are great. We taught them a little about eternal families and the Temple, and it really piqued their interest. We brought them to the home of the Arevalo family, who were just sealed in the Temple a couple of weeks ago, and they taught about eternal families. We had to leave early because it was late, but apparently they asked a lot of questions to the members after we left! We're going to try to prepare them to be baptized April 1, in between the sessions of General Conference. They are absolutely great, we just need to get them married first.

Gustavo and Brenda are also pretty cool, but are experiencing some challenges. Gustavo just went on a "Spiritual Weekend" with another local church, and some of their neighbors who attend this church have been pushing them away from our church and towards theirs. The blessings they are experiencing as a result of learning the truth, they are attributing to the other church that is making itself present. Last night, we taught them, and they brought another family, which makes it hard to teach to their needs, because the other family is a different group with different needs. We brought some members,
and their testimonies were a huge help in the lesson. Carlos and Claudia, who accompanied us, are some of the coolest members in the branch. He's the executive secretary, and she usually leads the music in sacrament meeting. I think she's a counselor in Young Women as well. They have some really strong testimonies, and they are very open and friendly.

That's something that amazes and humbles me about the people here. The members have amazing testimonies. I thought I had a strong testimony when I left on my mission, but now I'm seeing and feeling the testimonies of all these great people, and I'm very humbled. They know the Gospel, and they know it's true. I would like to gain a testimony like the people here.

My companion is pushing me really hard. He wants me to improve. The great thing about Elder Calta is that he does it because he cares. He does it because he wants me to improve, and he knows I can do better. We also found someone this week who's been inactive in the church for 14 years! His name is Rolando. His wife and kids aren't members, but
something cool happened when we went to visit them. First of all, the family looks really positive. They are very willing to listen, and understand well. The other cool thing is that his cousin lives with them, and she returned three months ago from her mission, serving here in Misión Central! She served with my companion in another area of the mission, so it was kind of a neat experience. She also helped us in the lesson with her testimony. It was pretty cool.

We also had the opportunity to give some service. We helped a family dig a trench and install a drainage pipe in their house. It was a little weird piling up dirt in the living room, but we've been back to teach them since then, and everything has cleaned up pretty well.

Remember that Heavenly Father doesn't see you as the person you are right now, with mistakes, sins, and errors, but he sees you as the Celestial being you are capable of becoming. And the way to become all you can is to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It truly is the only way to return to our Heavenly Father, and therefore the only way to eternal happiness.

This week, I will loosely recite from memory Doctrine and Covenants 15:6 "I tell you that the thing that will be of greatest worth to thee is to call this people to repentance and bring souls unto me, so that you may dwell with them in the kingdom of my Father." This week, share the Gospel with someone. Us full-time missionaries can't talk to everyone, we need your help! Serve someone. Help someone who is feeling down. As the hymn says, "Have I done any good in the world today?"

I love you all. Remember to live each day better than the last!

Thank you for your thoughts, your prayers, and your faith. Know that they are greatly needed here, and gratefully felt. I know that alone, I probably wouldn't be here, I probably would have flaked out long ago. But thanks to the help I have received from above, here I am.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Great Week

Dear Friends and Family,

Well, the big news is... I don't have transfer tomorrow! I will be in Jerusalén for 6 more weeks with Elder Calta, after which I will probably leave, because if I stay for two more transfers, I'll be staying for three more because Elder Calta will be going home, and someone would have to train the new elder on the area. That would be 9 months in an area, which is almost unheard of. Elder Caceres being in the area for 7.5 months was pretty long, but 6 months is pretty normal, and that's what I'll be completing in this area.

The other day, we went to a really far away part of the area, called Aldea El Calvario. Translated, it means essentially "Calvary Hill." It's a perfect name, because it's a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem. You can see almost all of Jerusalén from Calvario, as well as the majority of the colony where we live, which is called Villas II. We then passed by Villas I, which is uphill of Villas II, and ended up in Mirador de San Cristóbal, which means "Lookout onto San Cristóbal." From there, we could see most of the rest of the area. I don't have a way to send the pictures this week, but I'll send some soon. We had a great day, and we got to know the area a little better. Our area is huge, and if there were more members, it would probably be two areas.

The other thing that's really been neat this week, is learning to follow the Spirit. One night, my companion let me direct (he took over for most of the week). Our appointment fell through, and he asked me "Where are we going?" I went to the main avenue of the colony, and I felt the distinct impression to turn right. I did so, then I felt impressions to turn down two other streets, leading us to a door which I knocked. They let us in the house, and we taught the entire family. They had lots of questions, and they gave us their phone number so we can set another appointment. I don't know if they'll progress, but it was really neat to be led to their house. The next day, we were in a lesson, and what happens is sometimes my companion will hand the lesson off to me, and I won't know what to say. This time, I just opened my mouth, and started speaking, and the words just came. The spirit was definitely there with us, and I absolutely love this family.

We also had Stake Conference this past Sunday. We had an investigator family come, which was great! The branch always gets a bus so we don't have to worry about getting there. We heard from several speakers, including President Brough, and his wife, and President Mask and his wife, of the Guatemala City Temple. They told some great stories, and it was a most spiritual experience.

On that note, the branch is now getting really involved in missionary work. The branch president will be extending a bunch of callings of people who will be helping us in the work. I am really excited to get the members involved, because we have some great ones.

I love the area, I love my companion, I love the Spirit, and I love the work. There is no place I would rather be at this point in my life than here in the Guatemala City Central Mission. Trust in the Lord, and he will lead you to where you need to be. He knows.

Thank you for your thoughts and your prayers. They are much appreciated and much needed.

Yours in the Faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks