Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Changes, Changes and More Changes!

Dear All,

We got some BIG news this week. As many of you may have read in the Church News, there will be a new mission formed in Guatemala: Guatemala Cobán Mission! This will be a division of existing missions in Guatemala, and will affect every mission except the Quetzaltenango mission. The Guatemala City North Mission will lose the part that is Cobán and other nearby areas, and be renamed the Guatemala City East Mission, because Cobán is the northern part. The rest of the changes involve the Central Mission: the Retalhuleu Mission will lose the Pueblo Nuevo Tiquisate zone, and it will be added to the Central Mission, along with the missionaries in the zone at the time of the change. The Central Mission will lose the Mariscal and Nimajuyu zones to the Guatemala City South Mission, along with the missionaries serving in those zones at the time of the change. The division will take place on June 29th, after the transfers here on June 26th. It'll be interesting to see who ends up where, and what ends up happening to all the missions! It brings a new meaning to "I'll go where you want me to go!"

Other than that, things are pretty normal. The only exception is that I spoke in church this Sunday, and we found out that this ward is chomping at the bit to do missionary work. We now have a list of 25 different members who are willing and available to go out and visit with us during the week, which is most excellent. I passed the list around in Relief Society and Priesthood meetings, and people just started writing their names down. It was awesome!

We also confirmed all 7 of the Yumán family this Sunday. It happens in Sacrament Meeting before the Sacrament is passed. The sacrement was passed at about 10:30 (church starts at 10) because there were so many confirmations! It was really cool, since they're not only a big family, but also an amazing, faithful, endure-to-the-end kind of family. They even went to Seminary yesterday at 5am of their own free will! We were going to tell them about it and go drop them off, but they went on their own! It was awesome! They've also been assigned to help with the church cleaning, and really want to serve. They're some of the most amazing people I've ever had the privilege of meeting, and I'm excited to help them keep progressing in the Gospel.

Also, I found out that the Samayoa family (the other awesome family I've been able to baptize) is doing great. Elder Gabriel, my companion, was there in Sonora 1 when I arrived, and I replaced him there in that moment. But the chapel that Sonora uses is being renovated because it wasn't big enough, so the Sonora Ward attends at the Amatitlan Stake Center, where the El Lago Ward also meets, which was the area of Elder Gabriel right before he came here, so he saw the Samayoas every Sunday! I talked to one of the missionaries in the area, and he said that they've been called as a fellowshipping family for missionary work, so they're basically super awesome!

In these days of accelerating missionary work, the words of a hymn come to mind:

"The time is far spent, there is little remaining
to publish glad tidings by sea and by land.
Then hasten, ye heralds, go forward proclaiming:
'Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven's at hand!
Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven's at hand!'

Be fixed in your purpose, for Satan will try you,
the weight of your calling he perfectly knows.
Press forward, my brothers, for Jesus is nigh you
His arm is sufficient, though demons oppose,
His arm is sufficient, though demons oppose."

I bear my solemn testimony that this is the Lord's work. We are all enlisted 'til the conflict is o'er, and Happy are we!
Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, because the Lord will always remember you, and the covenants you have made with him. And as long as you are faithful to him, he will bless you if you put your trust in him.

I love you all.
Your continued prayers and thoughts are and will be greatly appreciated.

Elder Banks

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Baptizing a Future Bishop and his Family

Dear All,

This has been an absolutely fantastic week for the Central Mission, especially in Villa Nueva 1. We baptized the Yumán family! They overcame challenges of their son's accident, difficulties at work, and all kinds of things to be able to be baptized. They are probably the most faithful family I have ever had the privilege of meeting. I really feel that the dad, Edgar, will be a bishop, or have some other position in the fairly near future, due to his faith and diligence, and desire to serve and to follow Christ.

President Brough was at Stake Conference this weekend, and after the meeting, came up to meet their family. He shook their hands, counted the kids and said "1, 2, 3, 4 Missionaries!" (Not counting the little sisters). It was pretty cool. I had the privilege of baptizing Edgar: I baptized him, and he came up out of the water crying. He gave me a hug right there in the baptismal font. He was so happy! The next day, he told us that he felt in that moment the weight of responsibility fall on his shoulders, to endure to the end, and teach his family how to do so with him. The day after his baptism, people already started asking him questions about the Gospel, and he had some pretty good answers!

The kids also play games in their free time. They put on their ties, and they knock on the bedroom doors in their house and the other siblings answer, and they act like they are missionaries going to visit people! It's so cool! The Zone Leaders interviewed the family, and asked one of the kids what he wants to be when he grows up, and he said, "A missionary." Since they have to wait a year to be sealed in the temple, I'm planning on coming back to be there when they go through.

It was perfect timing for their baptism as well, because Elder Martinez left in the change meeting yesterday. He went to Mariscal, the same zone as my first area. Or, as we say it here, where I was "born." In other news, Elder Muñoz left Puerto San José, and opened an area and is TRAINING!!! He's parctically brand new, and he's training. I knew he would go far, because he's one of the better missionaries I know. Also, Elder Daniels, who entered with me, is training in the area where I was trained: Jerusalén.

My new companion is Elder Gabriel, from Huehuetenango, Guatemala, which is part of the Quetzaltenango mission. His native dialect is Mam, and he's had to learn Spanish here in the mission. He's doing pretty well, and he's a great Elder. He's also my first Chapín (that's what they call Guatemalans) companion. I'm excited to be able to work with him. It's weird though, because my last 2 companions have been from the USA, so I've gotten too used to speaking English with my companion! But there's no problem, because my Spanish is just fine.

I end my letter with a favor. The mission has set some big goals for March and April, to confirm 204 people in each of these months. We humbly ask for your support in the form of prayers. President Brough instructed us to pray as if it all depended on God, and to work as if it all depended on us. There are souls waiting to participate in this sweet salvation. Please help us find them.

I testify that Christ lives, and is our Savior and Redeemer. He and our Heavenly Father love us more than we could possibly imagine. And although Moses once said "Now I know that Man is nothing." (See Moses Chapter 1, the Pearl of Great Price), for our Heavenly Father, we are everything.

"Remember, the worth of Souls is great in the Sight of God.
And if it should be that ye should labor all your days, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the Kingdom of my Father!
And, if your joy should be great with soul that ye have brought unto me, how great shall be your joy if ye should bring many souls unto me!"
-Doctrine and Covenants 18:10,15-16

Thank you, I love you all!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Another Week in Villa Nueva

Dear All,

It's been a good week. The family I talked a lot about last week is doing great. The members are helping them out a ton! They visit them a lot, and they like it. They already have some great friends in the ward, and they're really excited to all be baptized on Sunday. I'm just happy and humbled to be a part of it. They already told me that they want to serve in the church, even if it's just cleaning the building! They're probably the most amazing family I've ever met. Next week I'll be sure to send you the pictures of the baptism, and how everything turned out. We're going to have a combined baptismal service with the Zone Leaders, because this week is stake conference and we share a chapel, and therefore use the same baptismal font. What we're doing we call a "white day" ("Día blanco"), because everyone will be dressed in white. The family will be 7 baptisms, and the Zone Leaders will have 2 or 3, then the other area, Villa Nueva 2, will be having two baptisms in their own chapel later that evening, for a total of 11, possibly 12 baptisms this week in our district! I'm so excited! Now, all we have to do is find the next big family to be baptized!

In the month of January, the Villa Nueva zone won the most successful zone in the mission, and yesterday, we had our reward P-day with President and Sister Brough. We played some games and ate Little Caesar's pizza (yes, it exists here, along with Domino's, Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and KFC.) We combined with the El Frutal zone to make it a little bigger, and it was fun. I got to see some of my best friends in the mission, like Elder Loayza from Peru, and Elder Snyder from Mapleton, UT, who are in that zone, and who I usually don't get to see, because they're not in my zone.

Speaking of zones, the Zone Leaders in both of the above zones are now training while being Zone Leaders, which is pretty crazy. They each have a "son," so there are now 2 more elders in my district, Elder Ellison frrom Utah, and Elder Parker from Chicago. They both came right to the mission from the Provo MTC because the CCM here in Guatemala was just too full to be able to fit them. It was pretty crazy. But they're both cool guys, and we're going to do great things here in the district, because now we basically have a whole other companionship, even though they all have the same area. They came in last Wednesday because there are changes in the MTC programs, like I told you, and that means there are a lot of missionaries entering the mission, and at different times. The change that is 9 weeks ends next week, in the "official" changes of the Central Mission, even though there have been 2 other change meetings in between this and the last "official" one. President will be calling all the trainers today or tomorrow, so they can attend the meeting for new trainers on Thursday morning. There will be over 30 missionaries entering, so there will be plenty of trainers.

This morning, I had a really cool revelation I would like to share with you. It happened while I was reading Alma chapter 50 in the Book of Mormon. In this  story, Captain Moroni is preparing his people and his land to protect it from the Lamanites, who are coming to war against them. I'll only share part, because it's kind of long, but he dug up banks of earth around the city, upon which he put works of timbers, pickets, and watch towers. There's so much symbolism in this chapter, but I'll just go over a little bit about how we can protect ourselves and our families spiritually. The banks of earth represent our testimonies: firm and strong in the faith of Christ, and based upon the foundation of his teachings, and those of his prophets (both modern and ancient), for it is the same (see D&C 1:38). The works of timbers are our obedience, made strong little piece by little piece. The pickets are good works, adding another level of strength onto our obedience and testimonies. The watch towers represent the Holy Ghost, who will be with us when our testimonies, obedience, and good works are where they should be, to warn us of dangers both physical and spiritual. Then, as the Nephites did, we can build our own "City of Moroni," or rather, our own eternal life, and our eternal home, with our eternal family. Then we can truly say what a popular hymn in Spanish says: "Las huestes de oscuridad atacan con furor, mas la victoria es de Dios, el Rey y Redentor." In English: "The armies of darkness attack with fury, but victory is God's, the King and Redeemer."

I testify of the truth of these things, that if we are "True to the Faith" and obey the Lord, trusting in him constantly, he will protect us from the real dangers that lie in wait to deceive us (See Ephesians 4). Through our obedience and good works, we will see the miracles that God has prepared for us, both in this life, and in the life to come. No, it won't always be easy, but things that are too easy are rarely worth it. As the hymn teaches us, Keep the Commandments . . . In this there is Safety and Peace."

Take care. I love you all!
Until next week,
Elder Banks

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Dear All,

This has been quite a week. The biggest events happened in the last couple of days.

On Sunday, for the first time the entire Yuman family came to church! They're a family of 8, with only one who's too young to be baptized. This was the first time for the mom, the rest had come at least once to church to see what it's all about. That means that we have officially set a date with all of them to be baptized on the 17th of February!

On Monday, we had a Family Home Evening with them in the home of Hno. Ramos, our ward mission leader. He's amazing, and their families get along really well. The lesson was really cool. We watched a video about the conversion of Wilford Woodruff, which is in the Doctrine and Covenants videos. It's really good, and you should all watch it. It's called "The Great Apostasy." The spirit was really strong. Hno. Ramos gave his testimony, and it was really powerful. Hno. Yuman told us that he'd started looking for a church to take his family to about 3 months before the Elders knocked on his door, and nobody from any other church had visited him. It was really cool.

Then, yesterday morning, Hno. Ramos called us. He told us that Fernando, one of the Yumans' children, had suffered an accident early that morning. The tire of a bus passed over his foot, and broke bones in his heel and his shin. Apparently, the family trusted Hno. Ramos enough to call him and tell him about what had happened, even before they called us. He told us to call them and to get some members to go and visit them. We called the Luna family, and they gave the young man a priesthood blessing and spent most of the afternoon with the family, laying aside their personal affairs.

We arrived to the Yumans' house about 5:30pm, and we had the most spiritual lesson I've had on my entire mission. We talked about being strong in our trials, and that the Lord strengthens us, and gives us trials to purify us. Talking about this, we usually use the analogy of Gold. To become beautiful, gold has to pass through a fiery furnace, and be hammered and polished with abrasive tools. The father of the family said "You mentioned that trials are what polish us and purify us like gold. Well, if we're going to be like Gold, we want to be 24-karat!" He cried during the lesson, out of joy. He also cried giving the closing prayer, which is rare for him. He's a very positive person, and he's already talking about the things the Lord wanted him to learn from this experience. He said it was so his wife could see the unity and love in the Church, because she had only attended once. I am so amazed by the faith, humility and love of this family. They are so united as a family, and it's fantastic. They are amazed with the love and unity in the ward, and I am sure that they will be a fantastic family, and do much good in the church. Their oldest child is 15, so they can all still serve missions. They are really what you call a tender mercy of the Lord. The thing that amazed me the most was what Fernando asked them while he was in the hospital. He asked 2 questions: "Oh no, how am I going to get to church this Sunday?" and "Will I still be able to be baptized?" My jaw almost hit the floor. It's the first thing that the family asked us when we entered their home yesterday. I love this family so much, and I admire them, that they are so strong and firm in the faith, even before becoming members of the Church! And, I know they have the faith to be able to receive miracles. I'll be talking to President Brough tomorrow to see if Fernando will still be able to be baptized with his cast on.

Aside from the miracle, it's been a pretty good week. Nothing much to report, really. We discovered a new neighborhood yesterday where we can go and contact today, and get the work moving along even more. This is such a fantastic area!
I love you all. Never forget the Lord. He never forgets you!

Elder Banks