This has been a pretty great week.
First of all, the conference. Elder Maynes of the Presidency of the Seventy came to the conference, and he and his wife spoke. On the stand were also Elder Falabella, Elder Amado, and Elder Martino, the Area Presidency of Central America. Also on the stand were President Brough, President Watts of the North Mission, President Stay of the South Mission, and President Nikolaysen of the CCM. And their wives. And I was the closest missionary to them, because I was on the Piano! (That also meant that we got front row seats! Normally those are only for the Sisters, but we got to sit there!) They put some pressure on me when they left a half hour before the meeting to play prelude. I thought that there would be another pianist from one of the other missions, but it was just me! I played the prelude and it went off well, as did the opening hymn. The closing hymn was the surprise, and it went pretty well. I played it with mistakes, but I held it together, and I don't think that anybody noticed. President and Sister Brough both told me "Good Job!" afterwards. The message was inspiring, and edifying. I know that I need to keep working hard and not despair!
This Sunday we had a conference that I liked even more. Stake conference. The speakers included President Brough and his wife, President Ocampo, one of the counselors in the Guatemala City Temple Presidency, and Elder Cesar Morales, an area authority seventy from Guatemala. He spoke to us in the CCM, so I knew we would be in for a treat. Every single talk was inspired, and I really felt the Spirit. Stake conferences are amazing here. After the conference, we went to lunch with the Peña family, our neighbors. Bro. Peña is a temple worker, and has cars, so he invited President and Sister Ocampo to lunch as well, before driving them back to Zona 15, where they live near the Temple. So I got to have lunch with a member of the temple presidency!
Sunday we also learned that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven. We normally don't pass by a certain part of the area (where most of our work is) for investigators, because both the chapel and this neighborhood are far from the house, and it takes a lot of time. This Sunday, we went there to get investigators, and nobody we visited that morning could come to church. After the conference, we saw 2 of our investigators who had arrived late and listened in other rooms of the chapel, who came of their own free will! After that, we had a delicious lunch with a member of the temple presidency, and we had an awesome day. We worked hard. We contacted 26 new people, and we had 7 lessons, and 9 new investigators. That's an awesome day. Once, Elder Caceres showed me his planner from the best day he had in the mission, in which he had 9 lessons, which is basically unheard of. 7 lessons is a lot, and only once have I had more than 9 new investigators in one day. It was literally one of the best days of my mission thus far, and I'm really excited to see what we can do this week!
Now, there's no way we can't go pick up investigators from the area far away, because we need those blessings!
We also had a funny experience this week. To give some background, a few months ago, some members gave me a big umbrella that's red and white and says "Colgate" on it. I recently bought another, because I didn't want to have to carry those colors around all day, and the colgate umbrella had already started to break. I had been lending it to my companion. I walk fast, and he's usually a bit behind me. President Brough taught us that dogs always attack the person in the back. I learned that from experience a few weeks ago, but my companion learned it this week. I walked right past a couple of dogs, and they didn't bother me at all. About 15 seconds later, I heard barking and growling, and turned around to see the dogs bothering my companion. He tried to defend himself with the Colgate umbrella, but the dog bit it, and pulled it away. My companion then backed off, and I told him to leave the umbrella there if he didn't care about it. Nobody was hurt, we just lost an umbrella and got a funny story to tell. The whole thing really did look funny from in front, and we're still laughing about it. My companion has told some of the other missionaries and other people that "A dog ate my umbrella!"
Also, the Peña family ran out of space to park their cars. They have about 7, so they parked one in the driveway of our house. Sadly, they didn't leave the keys (just kidding!), but we've been joking about "Shall we take the car today?" And when we see the Peñas, we say "Thanks again for the car!" It's fun. They're a great family, and I absolutely love them.
This week we're on track to have another fantastic week. We've got lessons planned, and we've got members coming to accompany us. We're going to get to know all of our converts at least by phone if not in person so we can take better care of them. Our responsibility doesn't just end with Baptism, it includes keeping them in the church, but we can't do that without the members. I've written letters to some of my converts from Jerusalén, almost all of whom were baptized after I left! I also wrote to my family from La Corona, and I keep seeing Elder Guandique, because he's also training and we see each other at the training meetings. He became the district leader as well when I left.
Overall, as you can tell, everything is fine here in Guatemala, at least as far as Elder Banks and Elder Luna are concerned. Just like my stake president, President Richards told me, "The mission is the hardest fun you'll ever have." It's true. I love it here. It's not easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but in the Book of Mormon Moroni 7:33 says (translated): "And Christ has said: If ye have faith in me, ye shall have power to do any thing that is convenient in me." I have learned that this is true. If we have not faith, we have nothing. I exhort you to have more faith, and put it into action sharing the Gospel with your friends and family, and for those who can go to the temple, to go often, because the ordinances performed there are part of the same missionary work.
Thank you for your faith, for your love, and for your thoughts and prayers. You will never know how much they are appreciated.
Yours in the faith,