Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Dear All,

This past week has been pretty uneventful, with a couple of exceptions, basically P-Day yesterday. We had a "Super P-Day" with the zone. We ate Domino's pizza and watched the Emma Smith movie. It's pretty good. After that, we went to look for some shoes for me. Last Monday, I went and bought a pair, but they aren't apt for missionary work, just for zone conferences and interviews. One of my pairs of work shoes is really about to die, so I went after the movie yesterday to look for another pair. I had been praying to God to help me find a good pair of shoes to do missionary work. We went to one megapaca store where they sell a lot of shoes, but there almost wasn't a selection in my size. My companion suggested that we go to the other megapaca that's down the hill that sells some shoes as well, among other things. Usually their selection of shoes isn't that great, but I prayed, asking if the shoes I needed were in that store. I then felt that they were, so I said "yes" and we went. When we arrived, the store had just received a new shipment of shoes that they were still putting out. A pair caught my eye. They were a little big, but fit me. They were Florsheim, one of the few brands Mr. Mac sells for missionaries, and they looked good and were comfortable. They were brand new, sitting among many pairs of used shoes, and they were waiting just for me. I bought them, and they are on my feet right now, I had my testimony and my faith reinforced that God really does answer our prayers, and he cares about the little things. If he answers a little gringo's prayer about finding a pair of shoes, he'll definitely answer prayers about the things that really matter in life. He'll answer the prayers for guidance about life's big decisions: marriage, parenting, repentance, callings, whatever it may be. He will answer. He will answer prayers about investigators, and being able to prepare them for the covenant of baptism. I love our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ, and I know they live and love us. Whether it be one of life's big decisions, or just a pair of shoes, he is active in our lives and loves us. Sometimes he works in mysterious ways, but it is always for our good, especially when it's hard.

Last Tuesday, during District Meeting, the other elders in the district mentioned that I've been losing weight. I'll have to find a scale to see if they're right!

Right now we're working with some great people. We have a family, Juan Carlos and Tamara, and they're amazing. They're educated, and want to follow God's will. We just have to catch them at home, because they're very busy. He works in the port, unloading ships, and she's a computation teacher at the local school. I love them so much, and I will do everything in my power to be able to get them ready and baptized. We also have some more people we're working with, and the other elders will be having a baptism this Sunday, so I'll be the one to interview their candidate for baptism, being the district leader.

I don't really have much else to share, just that I am happier than ever to be a missionary. I'll be doing my first divisions as district leader today as well. Elder Nolasco will be coming here with me to work for the day, and I'm excited. I love the work, I love the people, and I love Guatemala. But above all, I love our Heavenly Father, and our Savior Jesus Christ. I will follow them until the end of my life and beyond, and I will do my very best to always do their will and accept their counsel.
I love you all. Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for us.


Elder Banks

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another week in the coast

Dear All,

We just got back from district meeting, where the other elders told me that I'm losing weight. Again. So, yes, I'm getting used to the weather here, but it's burning me up! That's fine, because it's a good way to lose weight!

As for the area and my companion, things are going alright. As I may not have mentioned beforehand, my companion is Elder Ramos from Peru. He's my 2nd Peruvian. I now have had 2 Hondurans, 2 Peruvians, 2 Salvadoreans, and a Mexican as companions. Things are going pretty well. We have some stuff to work on, but that's normal. The area is huge, so we're trying to work it the best we can, concentrating our efforts where we feel that there's the most potential.

This week, I'll also be doing my first baptismal interview. As District Leader, I interview all baptismal candidates taught by other elders in the district, and my baptismal candidates are interviewed by the Zone Leaders. There's only one other companionship in my district, so if they have a baptism, I get to interview the person. I'm excited, but also nervous.

The branch here is really tiny. This week was about a normal week as far as attendance goes, and we had 70 there. It's a far cry from Sonora, the Utah-sized ward, but the people who do come to church are super faithful. There's one sister, Dora, who always passes by for our investigators if we call her, and brings them to the chapel for sacrament meeting. We also have some great converts, so if we can get over a couple little hurdles, there's success waiting here. The people are prepared to receive the Gospel.

This Sunday, we also had branch conference, which basically means that the leaders from the district (I explained that 2 weeks ago in my letter) come to visit and teach the members of the branch, and we get to sustain, or show our support for all the leaders related to the branch. In a stake, you sustain the Stake President, but in a district, you sustain the District President and the Mission President. It was pretty cool to be able to sustain President Brough in a sacrament meeting. I've never met either of his counselors (they're from Guatemala, and almost never work with the missionaries directly) but it was neat to sustain them as well.

This P-Day we're going to have what's called a "Super P-Day." This time, we don't really know what that means, but we know President Brough will come, and that there will be pizza involved. I don't know if it'll be Domino's, Pizza Hut, or Little Caesar's (all of which exist here), but it'll be pizza, and it'll be awesome.

Well, that's about all for now. Have a great day!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Another Week in the Coast

Dear All,

It's been another pretty good week here in the coast of Guatemala. Yes, it's still at least 90 degrees outside, often more than 100, and we're about to head into summer here. That's fine with me, because the Lord wants me to be here. If he wanted me somewhere else, I would be somewhere else.

We finished up divisions with the Zone Leaders last week, and that was fun. I learned a lot from Elder Acosta. Then, we had a meeting of District Leaders with the Zone Leaders on Friday. Since then, my companion and I have just been sweating and working hard here in Puerto San José. We've got some good possibilities for baptism this month as well. We have at least 2 people who could be baptized very soon. I'm happy to be here, and even though I pretty much never stop sweating, it's worth it, because the people here are really great.

I went to church for the first time in the branch this past Sunday. We have literally the smallest chapel I have ever seen, and we don't even fill it. 51 people attended church on Sunday, and most of them left after sacrament meeting. I blessed the sacrament for the 2nd time in Spanish (the 1st time was in the CCM) which was good. We teach the Gospel Principles class which is fun. We have some good converts here, and we have some good challenges as well. We'll have to get working with the leaders to get the members in action. Once we get the members in action, we'll have success. I know it. The members are vital in missionary work, because we leave after a couple of months, but the members pretty much stay here forever. They're here to be able to teach and support our converts after we leave, and to help us bring them into the church while we're here. That's what happened with Alonzo, who we just baptized in Villa Hermosa. We brought a member, they got along really well, and the following Sunday he came to church. He then asked us "Hey, when will you be having baptisms?" That's the best when they ask that question!

Yesterday was P-day, and we went to the beach. The whole zone came here to our area and we went to play in the sand. We can't get wet, but we can go play in the sand or just relax. It was great. The sand here is black, which is pretty cool. I guess it's because of the volcanoes that there are here in Guatemala, I imagine that this is volcanic earth, at least in part. The coolest part is that in part of the area, you walk along the dirt/sand road surprising a ton of little tiny crabs. They're literally about 3/4 inch in their biggest direction. Some are smaller, and some a little bigger, but most are basically about that size, about the size of a big spider.

As for my companion, he's a pretty good guy. He likes to go running in the mornings, so it's something that we've been doing. The area is really, really big, so we can do a lot of running if we want to.
I also directed my first district meeting today. I gave the lesson about how to begin teaching, how we can gain confidence, and how people can better understand our purpose as missionaries. Many people just think we're here to teach them and talk about God, but they don't realize that we're here to baptize them into the true church of Jesus Christ.

We've got a zone conference on Thursday, and all we know is that President Brough has some higher goals for us to reach. I'm a little nervous, but definitely excited to see what the Lord has revealed to President that he has in store for the mission at this time.

I love you all. Thanks for being great and keep up being great!

Elder Banks   

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Heat and Responsibility

Dear All,

I have been transferred.

The Guatemala City Central Mission is divided into 3 parts: The Capital, the Mountains, and the Coast. Up to this point, I have been in the capital. My 3rd area was supposedly in the coast, but it was really in the capital. I have now received the blessing to be able to get to know another part of the mission: the coast. I am now in the zone Escuintla, in the area Puerto San José. I have also received the assignment to be a district leader. First, I want to talk about the coast, then about the district, and then about General Conference.

As the subject line says, the coast is hot. And humid. I came to Escuintla once before for a zone conference, and I thought "Man, this is hot. I could put up with it, but it's pretty hot." That was the city of Escuintla, which is about an hour away from Puerto San José by bus. Puerto means "port," so, yes, I have a beach in my area. And no, I can't go swimming, it's a rule for safety reasons. Anyway, Puerto is a LOT hotter than Escuintla, which is interesting. I've been sweating a LOT, and because of that, my clothes get dirty faster, but I don't really care about any of that, because the people here are so fantastic! They are much more open and receptive than people in the capital, and while they may already attend their church, they don't make a huge deal about it, and listen to the message. There are a few who have heard something false about the Church from an outside source, and insist that they're right, but basically the people are a lot more awesome for missionary work here in the Coast than they are in the capital. They're very open-hearted and kind. Also, Escuintla is a Zone in the mission, and a District in church terms.

Since I have lived in Utah all my life, I never knew what a district was until I got here in the mission. In areas where there is a decent number of members of the church, the church is organized into wards (congregations), or if it's smaller, branches (smaller congregations). These wards and branches are then organized into stakes, which are groups of congregations according to the geographical area. In areas where the church is still developing, a district is established. A district is made up of only branches, not wards, and the district president operates under the authority of the mission president, whereas a stake president does not have to do so, he has his own authority for the stake. So here, there's a lot more work, and I'm excited to be part of it.

Now for the district. The district of which I am assigned as leader only includes 2 areas: Puerto San José, and Puerta de Hierro. It's a small, but great (and hot) district. As district leader, I will be required to interview candidates for baptism who have been taught by the members of my district. My investigators will now be interviewed by the zone leaders. I'm excited to be able to serve the Lord to an even greater level in this assignment, and I'm excited to be able to work hard, and bring about much success here in the coast.

Now for conference!!! I was pretty shocked when President Monson announced the new age at which young men and women can leave on their missions! Young men at 18, and young women at 19!! That's pretty exciting. And what it means is that we need more missionaries. I invite you all to read the talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from last October's conference entitled "We are all enlisted." Get ready, and go and do, just like Nephi (see 1 Nephi 3:7). This is the most spiritual experience I've ever had with Conference, and I really felt close to our prophet and the apostles, I imagine because we're engaged in the same work for the moment. I learned that it's important to repent, and always be ready, and that we need to find joy in the journey of whatever we may be doing. I also learned that no matter what area you're in, no matter what part of the Lord's work you're engaged in, if you're there on the Lord's assignment and doing you're best, it doesn't really matter what happens. Pres. Uchtdorf explained this in one of his famous airplane analogies. He compared flying a plane from the 1940's to flying with the Blue Angels. Both are work, and both are beautiful, but both are a very different type of activity. It doesn't matter if you're serving as a primary teacher, a bishop, a missionary in Guatemala, or an apostle, or if you do missionary work or family history work, the Lord has entrusted you with something, and you need to seek his guidance in taking care of it. And do your best, always. As we do this, the Lord will bless us with the guidance we need, and with many other things in every aspect of our lives (see Mosiah 2:41).

I know this is the Lord's true church newly established in these latter days, and I know that if we serve him well, he will bless us abundantly. He always remembers you, even when you don't remember him. So let's remember him together!
Thank you for your prayers.

I hope you all have a fantastic day!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

6 Weeks in Villa Hermosa

Dear All,

Now, for a little inside scoop about the Guatemala City Central Mission: the changes (transfers). If you come or go, it happens on Wednesday, without question. They always tell you Monday morning, so you can use P-Day to pack. When they call, they will tell each missionary if he is leaving or staying, and if he has an interview. If someone has an interview, that means that they will be receiving an assignment, such as senior companion, district leader, zone leader, secretary, assistant to the president, or retention leader. You get to the "change meeting" without knowing where you're going, and you leave the meeting with your new companion to your new area. From there, it's all history.

We received the call Monday morning about 11:15am. Our district leader told us that I will be leaving, that Elder Perez will be staying, and that both of us have interviews tomorrow at 8am. That means that my companion will probably become senior companion, and I will probably receive one of the other assignments. We won't know until tomorrow, but I do know that I won't be training this change, because President calls all the trainers on the phone during the week before changes. Also, district leaders have cell phones. They just received them a couple months ago. They can only carry them at certain times, and they can't let ANYBODY borrow the phone, but they have them. Zone leaders, secretaries, and assistants carry their cell phones always, and there is always one per companionship. Only the assistants have two phones. So who knows? I may be carrying a phone in the near future.

For know, I'll keep working, and go say goodbye to my converts here. It's been really great to be here, and it's been a little bit of a break from assignments. But I'm not here to relax, I'm here to work, so here I go, working on something new!
As for Villa Hermosa, it's been fantastic. Just like last time I was in this zone, I only stayed 1 change, or 6 weeks. And, just like last time I was in this zone, my companion is from El Salvador, and really wants to learn English. Elder Perez is fantastic, and will keep working hard, and keep the great relationship we have with the Bishop and the Ward Mission Leader.

And to tell you a little about the divisions I had last week with Elder Silva in La Hermosa:
We had some good little lessons, and we got to go have the correlation meeting with Hno. Samayoa, the ward mission leader. They fed us BBQ ribs, which were delicious, and they're a great family. He works for the Church, in maintenance of buildings, and I actually saw him once before, in the Amatitlan stake center, waiting to have my interview with President Brough. He seems pretty cool, and it would be great to work with him. It was a fun little excursion, and I got to learn a little more about the things a district leader does.

I just wanted to tell you how much I love the Lord, and how much He loves all of you. His love is infinite, and no matter what happens, He'll be able to take away your pain. Trust Him, and He will help you. As He says in Psalms, "Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalms 46:10) I know He lives, and I am honored to be able to wear His name on my badge every day, and to be able to represent Him in all I do. Don't ever forget how much He loves you.

Thank you for everything. I love you all.

Elder Banks