Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Another Great Week in the Vineyard

Dear All,

This has been a really great week. First of all, Alonzo was confirmed and ordained a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. It was pretty cool. We've also found some great investigator families.

Yesterday we found a family, the Mayen Smith family. Yes, you did read that right. Smith. It's the Mom's last name, and what's more, she has absolutely no ancestors in the USA or the UK, so who knows how she got that name! But they're really cool. They alreay want to come to church. They've come a couple of times with other Elders about a year ago, but they weren't baptized. We don't know why the missionaries stopped visiting them, because they're pretty awesome. I'm really excited to be able to know them and to be able to bring them into the Gospel. They're even looking for a church to go to right now, so the Lord let us come to them in the right time.

I also got to play the piano in a house yesterday! We went to visit a less-active family whose daughter is 11 and hasn't been baptized. The Dad is learning to play piano, and they have a little piano keyboard in their living room. I played them a couple of hymns and it was really fun. It's been more than a year since I've played a piano outside of a church building.
Our district is rather successful this month. The most successful district gets the prize of having a district meeting in the mission home with President, and with the new missionaries who are going to come into the mission the following day. We're in the battle with by previous district, Sonora, and the Office (the secretaries and assistants) to be able to win the prize. Prospects are good that we may win the prize, but that's not why we're here. It would be really fun, but we're not here for fun, we're here on the Lord's errand.

Yesterday was a really fun p-day as well. Since I discovered that my current jacket isn't waterproof, I bought another one at Megapaca, which is basically Guatemalan D.I. or Goodwill. It's black, and it fits me pretty well and is very classy, and most importantly, waterproof!! I also bought a couple of church DVDs there that actually have D.I. tags on them: "On the Lord's Errand" (Thomas S. Monson's Biography), which I can use in my teaching, and "Mr. Krueger's Christmas," which I can't, but I can watch when I get home! Overall, I spent about $9 on the jacket and the 2 DVDs, and I'm very happy with my purchase. Especially with the jacket.

Also, we had some visitors in our district meeting: Elder Israelsen and Elder Trejo, the assistants to the president. They're pretty cool, and Elder Israelsen was actually in my area almost a year ago, so he knows a lot of the members and we're still working with a lot of his converts. It wasn't too eventful, but it was really good. Now, I'll be going on divisions again, this time in La Hermosa with Elder Silva, and Elder Finau Ngalu will be with my companion in my area.
Well, that's just about all for now. Keep the faith, and keep the commandments. As says the hymn, "In this there is safety and peace."

I love you all. Have a fantastic week, as will I.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another Great Week, and Baptism!

Dear All,

First of all, to calm the worries of those of you who read the news, I'm not anywhere near Volcan de Fuego. I didn't even know it erupted until I read the email my parents just sent me. Yes, it is within the Central Mission, but the eruption was absolutely nowhere near my zone. I'm still in the capital, not in the mountains, where the volcano is.

Here in the Guatemala City Central Mission, we have a little saying. We always say "Nosotros Bautizamos Familias" ("We baptize families"). Here in Villa Hermosa, it seems to be a little different. As you will see in the attached baptism pictures of this week and last week, in Villa Hermosa, we say "Nosotros Bautizamos Viajitos," or "We baptize little old men." We just baptized Isidro, and this week we baptized Alonzo, and there's another gentleman named Augusto who may be baptized very soon. Usually the older part of the population isn't that receptive to listen to the Gospel and be baptized, because they "Already have their church," but here in Villa Hermosa, it's a little different, which is fantastic.

Alonzo was absolutely excited to get baptized. He wants to be part of the Church and serve in the Church. He's a widower and is retired, so basically has all the time he wants to be able to serve or work a little. During the baptismal service, he had changed back into street clothes, and he saw me mopping up some of the water on the floor. He said "Oh, no, Hermano, let me do that. Don't you worry!" He's got such a great heart and I'm so glad to know him. He'll be a great member of the Church! He's dressed in white in the picture, and the other guy is Hno. Batres, who really helped him get to baptism, and will really help him from here on out. Every new convert needs a friend, and Hno. Batres is Alonzo's friend within the church. He also knows several other members already, so he's right on the way to being a faithful member. We're going to see him again tomorrow, and I'm excited.

As far as the rest goes, it's been pretty normal. Yesterday we had a district activity. We ate delicious burritos made by Hna. Garcia, and we watched "The Other Side of Heaven." It was fun, especially because Elder Finau Ngalu is of Tongan descent and speaks Tongan. Also, there was a guy in the movie named Finau, which was kind of a funny coincidence! Overall, we had a great day, and got to relax a bit.

Other than that, it's just going great, working hard, working with the Spirit, and helping God's children return to him. It's really cool, and I'm really greatful that my Heavenly Father has let me be part of this work.

I love you all. Have a great day, and thank you for your prayers!

Elder Banks    

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Dear All,

This has been a pretty good week.

As last week we had district meeting with Pres. Brough, this week was different, too. We had a training session with the whole zone, which was pretty cool. We did some practices, looked through our area books, and watched a short video on the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and how it relates to missionary work. It was really powerful, and awesome. Our zone leaders are really cool, and our zone is fantastic. The secretaries and assistants are in our zone as well, so it's nice to be able to get things quickly.

Speaking of getting things, thanks to the Mulveys for sending me the notes from the 31st! It's so awesome to be able to hear from my aunts, uncles and cousins!

Yesterday we had a zone activity, and we got permission to go to Zona 1, where the central market is. I bought a little duffel bag made of "Corte" (typical Guatemalan fabric), a white shirt adorned with a little black-and-white corte, and a jersey of the Guatemalan soccer team. It was pretty cool, and it only cost me Q195, or about $25. The white shirt alone would have cost at least $15 in the states. It sounds like a lot to spend 195 of any currency, but for us North Americans, it doesn't really seem to add up to that much.

And it was perfect timing, too, because today I'll be going on divisions with Elder Finau Ngalu, who is from Australia. I believe he is of Tongan descent. He entered the mission with Elder Luna, so he's pretty new as well. Elder Silva will be with my companion, Elder Perez, until tomorrow morning. For the first time in a while, they took me out of my own area for divisions, because usually the senior companion stays in his own area, but due to some special circumstances, the divisions have been arranged differently this time. It should be really fun, and I hope to learn a lot from Elder Finau Ngalu.

We also have a baptism this Sunday! We will be baptizing Alonzo, who is 67 years old and a widower. He's got so much faith! We set his baptismal date last week, and taught him about the Word of Wisdom. Yesterday we went by to make sure that he hasn't had any coffee, because people who will be baptized have to give up these things for a certain amount of time before they can be baptized. We talked to him and he said "Since the day you taught me it was bad, I haven't had any coffee. I've had a few aches and pains because of it, but if it's bad, I won't drink it." What faith!! He's one of the coolest people I've met here. He told us he wants to serve in the church after being baptized. We also taught him that he can be sealed to his late wife, and have an eternal family. Now, we just need to find and baptize his kids! They don't live in our area, but we can always pass on the reference! This man came to church the first time 2 Sundays ago, and while there, asked us when we would be having baptisms. He reads the Book of Mormon and marks it, and is now reading the Gospel Principles manual the Ward gave him. I am so happy to be able to be associated with him!

I guess that in this area it's the older guys who are awesome. Isidro was just baptized (in the attached photo, I've got my arm around him), Alonzo will be baptized soon, and a guy named Augusto came to church for the first time this Sunday. It was funny, because the member of the bishopric who conducts welcomes in the meeting every person when there for the first time. The bishop and 2nd counselor can be funny, but the 1st counselor is really serious and almost never smiles. He was conducting, and said something really funny without noticing. The name "Augusto" sounds a lot like the phrase "A gusto," which means "to your liking" or "comfortable." Before church, Augusto said to us that he always feels "a gusto" in church, or something to that effect. Then, in sacrament meeting, the really serious first counselor said "We would like to welcome our brother Augusto, who is visiting us for the first time. Brother, we hope you feel 'a gusto.' " I was sitting at the piano, and I had to really contain myself not to laugh. It wasn't his intention to make a joke, but he said that, and noticed afterwards. I couldn't really see his face from the piano, but it was great.

I love the people so much here. They're so funny and full of love. Some are very closed to the Gospel, but most are very kind about everything. The people here would give us the shirt off their back if it were necessary, something which in the States just doesn't happen all that much. It's really a manifestation of charity, which is the pure love of Christ.

Thank you for all your prayers and your love. Never lose the faith!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Another Great Week in the Vineyard

Dear All,

It has been another great week in Villa Hermosa. It's actually a great name for this area, because it means "Beautiful Villa." It's one of the wealthiest areas I've had here in Guatemala. Our bishop lives in a community almost identical to one that was in my last ward, and the houses in this neighborhood are a lot like houses in Europe. The rest is typical Guatemala, but nice. Here we are in the city San Miguel Petapa, meaning that I've only had one area in Guatemala City. Jerusalén and Sonora 1 are parts of Villa Nueva, and now I'm in San Miguel Petapa, meaning that only in La Corona (Ciudad Real) have I been in Guatemala City.

On Saturday, we had a really busy day, beginning with a baptismal interview, then getting ready for a wedding, then the wedding, then a baptismal service. We baptized Isidro, after marrying him, then we confirmed him on Sunday. It was great, since I really saw a change in him. Last week they were having some family problems, but since he was baptized, everything has been peaceful, and he's just been a whole lot happier. It's amazing to see the power of God in people's lives. We just have to have faith that he can help us, and he will help us do whatever he needs us to do. As Moroni teaches us "And Christ hath said: If ye have faith in me, ye shall have power to do anything that is expedient in me." (Moroni 7:33)

I will send the picture of the baptism next week, because I forgot the camera today.

We just finished a great district meeting, because President Brough and Sister Brough came to the meeting. They do that sometimes, and it was the first time for me. President helped us out a ton with our investigators, and it looks like we're set to have a great month, we just have to keep working hard. Nephi teaches that "...by grace we are saved, after all we can do," and in my experience, it's not just about being saved, but rather this principle applies in whatever we need to do. If we work as if it all depended on us, then pray as if it all depended on God, then the problems are resolved, and depending on our faith, the miracles come. It's a two-part relationship, it's not just lazing around and waiting for God, nor is it just us working ourselves to a pulp and God doing nothing. Nobody cares more about this work than the Savior, so we work hard under his direction, and with his guidance through the Holy Ghost. This was taught in Doctrine and Covenants, I believe 42:14 "And ye shall receive the Spirit by the prayer of faith. And if ye receive not the Spirit YE SHALL NOT TEACH." (empasis added) And it's not just prayer, it's WORK as well that brings the Spirit. If you think you don't need to work, read D&C 58:26-29, and also remember verses 4, and 42-43. Something the people always ask us is "and when is your day off?" The answer of course, is my day off will be in September 2013, or rather, when I get home. The Lord doesn't give days off. The Lord makes us work hard, because he knows how important this work is. He knows that there is no other way to do it, and he knows how urgent the work is. That's something I'm still working on understanding, as President Brough always says: "¡Hay urgencia en la Obra!" ("There is Urgency in the Work!")

This applies especially now as I am in the home stretch of my mission. I feel really old, because I just passed the year mark. There are people waiting, and I can't leave them waiting, they need to be brought to the Fold! I didn't really do anything special passing the year, I just bought some ice cream. Ice cream is popular here, but it's funny because ice cream and what we would consider a popsicle (or "ice lolly" in England) are referred to with the same word, so you have to find what you really want to be able to eat it. We also had cake on Saturday, but it was for the wedding, not my "birthday."

They also asked me to play the piano in church on Sunday, the first time in months. It was great.

Thank you for your prayers and thoughts. They're a big help. It's good work, and sometimes hard work, so every little bit helps.

Keep the faith. Never forget who you are.

Elder Banks