I love the mission. This week has been fantastic. We've set up plans so that if everything goes according to plan, we'll be baptizing 15 people in May, including some complete families! My companion and I are getting along really great, and I'm working hard and enjoying it intensely.
As I expected, I'm the pianist for the Ciudad Real ward, just like I was in Jerusalén. The Bishop (who is amazing in a number of different ways) has basically given us free reign with the church keys, so I can go and practice any p-day I want to. I'm also teaching my companion a little about music and the piano. He really wants to learn how to play, which is awesome! Yesterday we went to practice, and he told me he learned a lot, and he said it was the best p-day he's had in his mission so far. He's been out for about 10 months.
This week I am also immensely grateful for my mission president, President Brough. He is very, very inspired. I don't feel like I know him very well, but whenever I talk to him, he'll ask me specific questions about my companion and my area, and that really lets me know that even though there are about 250 missionaries in the Central Mission right now, he knows each and every one of us by name, and what our challenges and strengths are. He really loves what he's been called to do, and he really loves the Lord.
My companion is also excellent. He and I have somewhat similar personalities, so we get along great. We both like to keep things fairly tidy, and we're both a little more relaxed and quiet than a lot of the missionaries here, so we really hit it off well. He's very dedicated and I love working with him. I really know he wants me to succeed, and that he's helping me to do so.
Yesterday I had a funny experience. I brought some of my family photos to show to some investigators. They looked at a picture that has my parents, me, my sister, and our pug dog, Sampson. We got talking about the dog with the man of the house, and his wife was looking at the family picture. All of a sudden, she said what basically translates to "Look(s) like your Mother." He then said to his wife (pointing to me), "Him, right? Not the Dog!!" or something to that effect. We couldn't stop laughing for about 2 or 3 minutes. It was awesome!
This week I also had a really cool experience with an older Gentleman named Franklin. We arrived at his home to teach him about the Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we had an excellent lesson. He understood everything we taught, and accepted it. We committed him to pray to know if it was true, and he said "I already know it's true. I've felt the Spirit of the Lord here with us." He then chatted a little with us, and asked us where we were from. When I told him I'm from the USA, he responded "You're different. You're not from the United States, you're from God. I can see it in your eyes." The best part of this whole experience was that I know it wasn't me. I spoke, and the words just came. I didn't do anything different, but the Spirit touched his heart through me. It was amazing. We even ran into him the next day with his wife, and he said to her (pointing to me) "He's got such a heart." It was really humbling, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. After we left this lesson, my companion told me "You really touched his heart, Elder. And you can do it again!" I'm not sure my previous companions would have said something like that to me, so it was really special, and that whole day really built up my confidence, and trust in the Lord. I've had a couple other moments in which what I have to say has really just come to my mind, which is an absolutely amazing experience.
Also, the ward is AMAZING. The Bishop is awesome. He told us in Ward Council that he wished he could dedicate all his time to go out and work with the missionaries, because he really loves it. He really takes amazing care of his ward, and he is full of love and enthusiasm. Our mission leader is similarly enthusiastic. We planned an activity last Sunday of a bonfire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows, and share testimonies to get the members excited about missionary work, and it was a huge success. We also had 6 investigators at church this Sunday. Saturday night they asked me to speak about the Blessings of Covenants. I didn't have a lot of time to prepare, but I feel like it went off pretty well.
As you can see, I really love it here. It's not easy, I'm not trying to say that it is, but like my stake president told me, "The mission is the hardest fun you'll ever have."
I know this is the true church of Jesus Christ upon the Earth today. It couldn't be any other. Jesus Christ lives, as does our Heavenly Father. They love us, they watch over us, and they hear and answer our prayers. Jesus Christ suffered and died with more pain than any of us could ever imagine so we would be able to return to live with him, and so we can have happiness in this life, and the life to come. The Temple is the House of God, and in the temple exists the authority to marry and seal families together for the eternities. I know this is the Lord's work, and I wouldn't be in any other place anywhere else in the world right now, other than where I am.
Thank you as always for your thoughts and prayers. They are being felt greatly here.
I love you all!
Yours in the Faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks