Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Another Great Week in Villa Nueva

Dear All,

It's been another great week here in the work. Last week I wrote so fast that I forgot to mention what we learned from Elder Christofferson! Silly me! So many things have been happening that it's just overwhelming. We learned a lot about how we are to preach repentance by preaching the gospel, because it is by the Gospel that people repent. He also taught us about the fact that only about 9% of investigators are listening for a doctrinal interest. The rest think it can improve their life in one way or another and they're right! So, our job as missionaries is to help them see HOW the Restored Gospel can bless their life. As the statistic shows, almost nobody cares about the actual doctrine, they're just looking for the blessings.

It was a great meeting, and really funny at the beginning, because as missionaries, we are taught to stand up when the presiding officer in a meeting (the leader highest in the church in the meeting) walks in. We were waiting for an apostle of the Lord to come in, the missionaries from the Central, South and North missions, and President Brough walked in. He arrived before Elder Christofferson, who is one of the Apostles of the Lord. When President Brough walked in, there must have been some missionaries from the Central Mission sitting in front, because everyone stood up when he walked in, because we were all waiting for Elder Christofferson, and we thought it was him! Then we all laughed and sat down again.

This week we had 4 confirmations, of the people in the attached baptismal photos. The family is Arturo and Graciela, and their son Randy, and the little girl is Debby, the daughter of an inactive member. They also asked me to give the closing prayer in sacrament meeting this week, which was cool. Now, to wait for the talk! ( I love speaking in Sacrament Meeting!)
Anyway, I'm a little short on time, but I just wanted to testify that I know that the Book of Mormon is true. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. If you haven't read it and you don't think it talks about Christ, read the following chapters therein: 2 Nephi 25, 2 Nephi 31, Alma 7, and 3 Nephi 11-29. Then pray about it. Then you'll know the truth about the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You'll know of the truth of these things as I have come to know. don't wait. Do it now.

"Do not weary by the way, Whatever be thy lot.
There awaits a brighter day to all, to all who weary not."
(See the hymn "If the Way be full of trial, weary not, from the Sunday Afternoon session of October's general conference.)

I love you all.
Elder Banks

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Back to Villa Nueva...

Dear All,

After the transfer, here I am, back in the city of Villa Nueva. This is my 3rd area within this big city, my first being Jerusalén, in Zone 7, then Sonora 1 in Zones 3 and 4, and now Villa Nueva 1 in Zones 1 and 6. It's a great area. There's a lot of potential here to be able to take advantage of. I feel that we'll have many baptisms here.

I am still a District Leader and in the district are my companion Elder Martinez and I, Elder Medina and Elder Zavala in Villa Nueva 2 aka "Tabacal," and Elder Mendoza and Elder Barahona, the Zone Leaders of the zone Villa Nueva, in the area "La Unión." This part of the vineyard needs some work, but we'll be doing that work, so there is no problem. We will be working even harder than we ever have.

My companion, Elder Martinez, is in the same group as Elder Muñoz. They were companions in the Provo MTC. So, it's kind of cool to be able to see how they've been doing. Elder Martinez is very energetic, and cool. It was funny when he entered the mission, because he looks the part of a Central American, and Elder Israelsen, the AP who was reading the changes said his name with a good Spanish accent, when presenting the new missionaries. After the new missionaries' names are called in a change meeting, they stand up and say where they're from. After that from Elder Israelsen, Elder Martinez stood up, and in his good North American accent, said where he was from: "Ogden, Utah." Overall, we're doing great, there are just a few things we're working on.

One tradition we have here in the mission is to call your trainer your "papá" or your "dad." Your 2nd companion is then your "padrastro" or "step-dad." This is my first time being a step-dad, and it's kind of funny, because Elder Martinez' dad is Elder Krantz, who came in with me to the mission.

This is the most city area I've ever had. We're basically in the center of Villa Nueva. There's an enormous city park, and a couple of malls and everything, all in our area. It's nice and big. The streets are pretty narrow, and there are a LOT of cars. The ward is pretty good, too, we have some great members, and a fantastic ward mission leader. This Sunday, we actually had 4 baptisms: a family, and another girl. I would love to have attached the pictures, but this computer doesn't have a functioning USB port I can get to, so it'll have to wait until next week.

We just had a great district meeting about the Book of Mormon. It really is the key to our religion, and it really is another testament of Jesus Christ. If you have not read it, I exhort you to do so. If you have read it, I would exhort you to do so again. I am now reading it for the 7th time in my life, and I always find something new that I can use in my teaching, or that I can apply to my life. The Book of Mormon is the evidence of everything I'm here for. I read it, I prayed about it, and I found out that it's true, directly from our Father in Heaven. And I know that he will answer you with the same process, no matter how many times you may have done it before.

I love you all. Please keep praying for us.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Surprises, Surprises.

Dear All,

Well it happened. Yesterday, the Assistants called me, and told me that I have a change (transfer) tomorrow. Today is my last day in Puerto San José. I'm really sad, especially because I love the members, the Branch President, and my companion. He's my favorite companion so far, and I absolutely love Elder Muñoz. They say you have a lot of companions in the mission, but only a few friends, and he's definitely one of the friends. I've never been able to teach with such unity with any of my companions. He literally knows what I want him to say about 95% of the time, and just says it. He's not afraid, and he'll become a great missionary. He already is one.

Since this isn't a normal transfer, they already told me where I'll be going, and who will be my companion, as well as who will be coming to finish the training of my companion. I'll be going to the area Villa Nueva 1 in the Villa Nueva zone, back in the capital. My companion will be Elder Martinez, who was Elder Muñoz' MTC companion! His companion right now is Elder Krantz, who came in with me to the mission. Elder Pierce, one of my friends here, will be coming to finish training Elder Muñoz, and to be the new District Leader here. I will continue as District Leader in Villa Nueva, but in a bigger district this time. So, I'll be back in the "cold" of the capital. I'm also pretty sure that Elder Tillman, who was in the district here, will be in the district again in Villa Nueva, but we'll see.

As for Puerto, I feel like I'm going out with a bang, even though this week hasn't been the most productive, because we got the branch president and his counselor working. As missionaries, we can separate from our companions if we're with another responsible Melchizedek priesthood holder (typically a male member of the church of 18 years or older), so on Sundays we do divisions with President Barrera, and Hno. Alonzo. One companion goes to visit less-active families, and the other goes to the appointments we had set previously. It's worked out pretty well. We also eat lunch in the chapel before going out to visit.

Overall, I'll miss Puerto San José, but I'll do the Lord's will. My will really doesn't matter, but if I do his, everything will be alright, and I will receive many blessings.

I love you all. Thank you for your prayers, because they really do make a big difference.

Keep the faith. Endure to the end. Love the Lord, do what He says, and everything will work out alright.

Take care,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Another Fantastic Week in the Work!

Dear All,

I know I'm going to freeze when I get home. Today we had a meeting in a chapel that has air conditioning, and I was FREEZING during the entire meeting. I hope that the winter isn't too cold when I get home.

As for winter here, "winter" is rainy season. Right now, summer is starting and it's HOT. But you all already knew that, so let's move on with things.

My companion and I have the best relationship I've had with any of my companions until now, and it really shows. We're really having some good progress in the branch here. We've got the leaders out working with us, we're activating people, and also baptizing. This Sunday we had our 3rd baptism here in Puerto. Her name is Silvia, and she's one of the coolest people I've met. She's super humble, and she stood up in testimony meeting and told her conversion story. She's one who will be enduring to the end, I can feel it! She loves the Lord so much, and loves the Church. She already has several friends here as well. She bore her testimony about keeping the Sabbath Day holy, and it really helped some of our investigators who were in attendance.

The cool thing about such a tiny branch is that it feels just like a family in many ways. Everyone knows each other pretty well, and it's fantastic. We've got a missionary activity this month to be able to get people out and bring us investigators and less-actives to teach. This branch is on the verge of huge success, we just have to give it a push, and then we can watch it fly! I couldn't be happier to be here at this time.

And yes, it's true, I am now 21 years old. No, I don't believe it either. But attached is the photo of my birthday party. The branch president and his wife found out, and gave me the piece of cake and the bottle of cologne that you see right there by me (his wife sells cologne and beauty products) and my companion bought the pizza! It was super fun! But there's nothing I would rather have done on my birthday than preach the Gospel. There's nothing that makes me happier than to be able to see someone change their life through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

This Sunday we also had a miracle. We had about 13 investigators in Church!!!!!! That's the highest I've had in any of my areas, ever! We'll be working super hard to get all of these people baptized this month, because the Lord expects 8 baptisms of Puerto San José this month. We received that as revelation. We have one, and three more great possiblities for this Sunday, and it'll be a great thing. Like I said, we just have to give this branch a push, and watch it fly.

As we start out this new year, remember our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Don't let a single day go by without thinking about him, and without praying to our Heavenly Father in his name. Your prayers will be heard, and you will feel their love and know of their reality as I have. I have never seen either the Father nor the Son, but I am certain that they live and love us. Being good and right before their eyes is the most important thing any of us will ever do in this life. "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God. Yea, the day of this life is the time for men to perform their labors." (Alma 34:32) We must perform our labors in this life: Faith, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End, including magnifying your calling. I'm helping people do it here. If you haven't done it, there's a missionary near where you live who is anxious to help you. If you need to (and we all do), repent, and keep on pressing forward. In Spanish, "Endure to the End" is "Perseverar hasta el Fin." This is the phrase we use. "Perseverar" directly translates to "persevere" in English, which has a lot more meaning. So, my dear friends and family, I exhort you to persevere until the end.

I love you all. Please keep your thoughts and prayers with us during this special time in the work.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Dear All,

It's been another great week in the work of the Lord.

First of all, the picture. This is Maricruz. She's probably the most humble person I know. She's passed through so many trials in her life, and she was really ready to accept the gospel. When she arrived at church a few weeks ago, we discovered that the branch president's counselor's wife has known her for a long time. This sister spoke at her baptismal service, and it was probably the most meaningful talk at a baptismal service I've ever heard. Maricruz was pretty much crying during it. She's just so full of love! I wish I could be so humble and full of love, because people like her are those who will enter into the kingdom of God (see Mosiah 3:19).

Other than that, it's been a great week. Guatemalans LOVE fireworks. The bigger, the better. And the more money you have, the bigger fireworks you can buy. And that's what our rich neighbors did last night. They started at about 10pm, and lit one off every couple minutes until 12am. They had some really big mortar fireworks, and at midnight, it felt like our house was under attack. And my companion slept right through it! I couldn't get to sleep. But that's alright, it was just one night. And it was fun.

Other than that, things have been pretty normal here in Puerto. We're getting into summer here, so it'll be even hotter than it was when I got here. We're just finishing up the cool season. And we're doing it with some fantastic work. We've got so many people who are prepared, we just have to get them to church so they can be baptized. Here, someone has to attend sacrament meeting 3 times before being baptized. We have SO many people right now who will for sure be baptized once they come to church 3 times. They already have testimonies and everything, they just need to come, and we'll get them baptized. We're going to do it. I finally feel that I'm finding myself as Elder Banks, and learning how to do this work.

Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. We need them.

Elder Banks