Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I Have Work Enough to Do...

Dear All,

This has been a week of sacrifice and a week of miracles. Think for a moment about the words of the Hymn "Praise to the Man," especially where it says "Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven."  Think of the early Saints, the hardships they faced, the challenges they overcame, and the difficulties they encountered that none of us could ever have imagined to have lived. Then, watch the movie "17 Miracles" and look at the miracles they received. Read the accounts of the Pioneers and the enormous, miraculous blessings they received from God. Then look at your own life. How much have you sacrificed to be able to serve the Lord? How many miracles have you received lately?

I'll give you an example. This week, we had a lot of appointments fall through. For two days straight, we got caught contacting all afternoon. We knocked so many doors and not one opened to let us in. If they wanted to let us in, it was either a bad moment, or there wasn't a man in the house (if there's no man inside, we can't enter the home), or another invented excuse.

It's hard.

But it's worth it.

On Sundays, we've been struggling to get investigators to church. We kept working hard during the week, and prayed that we might be able to have the 8 investigators in church that we are expected to have every week. We've consistently been having one or two in church. This past Sunday, Sacrament Meeting started, and there were two, as far as I could see. Later on, I looked around from my seat at the piano, and I saw two or three more who had come in. Then, when they opened the door after the Sacrament, I looked, and there was a miracle waiting outside in the hallway. The Montejo family is an interesting family. The mom is a member, the husband no, and they are letting the kids decide which religion they want: Catholic, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The dad is pretty fixed in his religion, but sometimes he surprises them. This Sunday he said to the family "Wake up, we're going to mass." They all got ready, they got in the car, and everyone thought that they were going to the Catholic church, but Dad surprised them when he pulled up and parked in the Chapel parking lot, and they all walked into sacrament meeting! It was a miracle! The mom, dad, two sons, and the girl that lives with them and does housework all came to church! And it was especially cool because usually when they go to church, they go to the other ward, even though they live in our ward boundaries. I think the kids like the other primary teacher better or something like that.

In other words, miracles exist.

They don't come out of nowhere, they come after we sacrifice and do all we can, keep the commandments, and keep trying hard to do what we're supposed to do, the Lord will do the rest. We don't know when, where, or how the miracle will come, but if we pray for miracles, we will have miracles.

So when life seems hard, it's not because the Lord doesn't love you, it's because he does. He's trying to teach you something, and to prepare you to have the faith to receive a miracle.

So instead of praying for a trial to be over, it may be wise to pray that the Father help you to learn what you need to learn, and develop the faith you need to develop to be able to receive a miracle, because miracles don't come until after we have faith (See Moroni 7, The Book of Mormon).

The words of the hymn are true:
"Do not weary by the way,
whatever be thy lot.
There awaits a brighter day to all,
to all who weary not."
("If the way be full of trial, weary not," see October 2012 General Conference, Sunday Afternoon Session, closing hymn)

I testify that these things are true. That Jesus Christ "lives and loves us to the end," as does his Father. That this is his Church, his Work, and his Glory, and that we are all privileged to be a part of it. Shall we not go on in so great a cause?

Have a great week.
Keep praying,
Keep reading your scriptures,
and never let anyone tell you that "You can't."

Elder Banks

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Another Fantastic Week!

Dear All,

This has been a great week. We had some hard work, and a lot of meetings, but we came out alright in the end.

The miracle of this week is that Roxana, who wanted to be baptized, had disappeared for a few days and we couldn't get a hold of her. We talked to her yesterday, and on Sunday, and we're teaching her the last few things she needs to know before being baptized. She doesn't live in our area, but a family member, who is also her close friend, is a member of the ward here, and has been helping us a ton. We always have the lessons in her house, and she's always there, so we get to have that visit with a member present, which is excellent.

Wherever you are, I exhort you to work with the missionaries. Having a member who isn't a missionary at the lesson makes a HUGE difference. You don't have to teach anything, you just have to share your testimony and let the missionaries teach what they have planned. It's not that hard, and it makes an enormous difference in the Lord's work.

When I was in Villa Hermosa, I arrived and met an investigator who had been making a lot of excuses to not go to church on Sunday. Then, we brought a member to go visit him. That Sunday, he already had plans, but the following Sunday, he attended church. That same Sunday, he said to my companion "When will there be baptisms? I want to be a part of this." The last I heard, he comes to Church every Sunday, and he's super active in the activities, and everything that has to do with the Gospel.

And it all happened because a member took a little time out of his afternoon to join us for a visit. So even though you think your testimony is weak and that you don't make a difference, YOU DO.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (see Matthew 5, 3 Nephi 12)

Yesterday we also had a great zone activity, in which we went to Antigua Guatemala for the second time. It's a great city with some great views, and it's one of the most famous places in Guatemala. It used to be the capital of Central America, and it's where you can buy all kinds of typical fabrics, and just about anything made out of such fabrics. It's really fun, and I bought some nice, unique things to enjoy when I'm back in the states. Antigua is also the place where there are more Gringos than any other place in Guatemala, both living there and tourists. Some of the elders spent a while talking to some guys from Canada, and there were just a TON of white people there. There are Guatemalans that have light skin and light eyes, but it was really weird to see so many "canchitos" (white people) in the same place. They're everywhere in Antigua! Imagine how weird it will be for me when I get home!

I leave you with my testimony in the form of 2 scriptures from the Book of Mormon that have helped me a ton. Alma 37:6-7, and Ether 12:27.

Alma reminds us that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass," and in Ether, the Lord mentions that if we come unto him in our weaknesses in humility, he will make our weaknesses into strengths.

Recently, I have noticed some changes in myself. Changes with respect to challenges I have had for extended periods of time. And my faith really has grown, because little by little, by small and simple means, the Lord has changed me. I have tried to be humble and ask the Lord for his help to help me overcome my challenges (believe me, just being a member of the Church, getting baptized, going through the temple, or going on a mission doesn't eliminate the problems) and he has done so, little by little. I know that he has been listening to my prayers, and that he has been blessing me in his own time frame. And it works out better that way, because at the same time, he has helped me be more humble and patient, while waiting for him to help me. No, the challenges aren't over (far from it in fact), but I know that the Lord will strengthen me to be able to take it, and to overcome (see Mosiah 24).

I testify that the Lord does hear our prayers. He does bless us with miracles, and he does help us when it seems like there's nothing we can do. We just have to "Lift up our heads and be of good comfort" and have faith in him in keeping his commandments, and he will help us more than we can ever imagine. I have seen it, and I have lived it. "And Christ hath said: If ye have faith in me, ye shall have power to do WHATSOEVER THING is expedient in me." (Moroni 7:33) "And Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE to him that believeth."

I testify that these things are true. Jesus lives, and has done what no other man can do for each one of us. God has again called prophets to guide us in His ways, and that His church has been established once again upon the face of the Earth, all because of his love and concern for us.
And I testify these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

I love you all.
Thank you for your prayers.
Have a great week.
Elder Banks

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

President Brough

Dear All,

I just wanted to let you all know how awesome my mission president, President Brough is. I love him so much, and he has helped me in so many ways.

I forgot to mention last week that today we had our district meeting in the mission home, or as everyone here calls it, "La Casa del Presidente Brough." Then, Sis. Brough made us lunch, and we got to eat and chat a little with President and Sister Brough while we ate.

And since the meeting was a district meeting, and not a zone meeting, it was really cool, because only 8 missionaries were there in the mission home with President and Sister Brough. And, since it was a district meeting, the District Leader is in charge of directing the meeting.

The District Leader of the Villa Nueva district is yours truly.

But, it went extremely well. We had a practice about teaching The Gospel of Jesus Christ (What we refer to as Lesson 3), and I chose Elder Mendoza and his "beloved son" (the new missionary he is training) Elder Parker to teach two very special investigators, "Brother" and Sister Brough. It was really cool. President and Sister Brough asked some great questions, and we were able to learn a lot from him about how we can improve the work in our zone.

I'll also get to see him Thursday, because there will be a meeting for all the District Leaders in the mission, and on Saturday, which will be a zone conference.

Whenever he teaches, the Spirit is always present, and several times he has changed the topic of a zone conference, a district meeting, or some other meeting to fit the actual needs of the missionaries present. So, basically, I'm always super excited to talk to him, and I don't like it when meetings are over, because he really helps me and gives me the drive and confidence to keep working hard and doing my best.

My companion is excellent. I love him so much. He knows how to work, he follows my example, and we have a good time working. Since Elder Gabriel is serving in his own country, it's really cool to see his love for his own people. I love him and pray for him daily, and I hope that you all join me in prayer for him, for me, for our mission, and for each of our investigators. I don't know that I've ever had a companion for whom I've cared for so deeply. Elder Muñoz and I were just about best friends, but this is a different type of relationship, and I'm honored that the Lord chose me to be Elder Gabriel's companion. He's helping me to do what the Lord instructs us in 3 Nephi 27:27 "Wherefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am."

Also, Elder Zavala, one of the elders in our district, who is in Villa Nueva 2, will be sent to a different area tomorrow, and his companion, Elder Ward, will be receiving a brand new missionary, meaning that there are a lot of new missionaries in our district!

Anyway, I just wanted to remind you all of a principle taught in numerous places in the Scriptures:
"I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10)
"If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)
"Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ and shall endure to the end, thus saith the Father: 'Ye shall have eternal life.'" (2 Nephi 31:20)

The way in which we show our love to God and endure to the end is keeping his commandments, or obeying him. The first scripture in Spanish says "I the Lord am OBLIGATED when ye do what I say..." So really, we come to learn that he is completely obligated to fulfill the promises he has made us. If not, he would not be God. God is just, and he will give us whatever we deserve, both right now, and in the life to come.
May we all make an effort to be able to live more Christlike lives, and to be able to deserve the best that God has to offer us.

Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.
"I know my Father lives, and loves me too.
The Spirit whispers this to me and tells me it is true,
He tells me it is true."
"He lives, all Glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior still the same!
Oh, sweet the Joy this sentence gives:
'I Know that my Redeemer lives!'"
This is my testimony to each of you, and I hope it helped at least one of you to come closer to God on this beautiful afternoon.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Another Week, Working Hard...

Dear All,

Thank you for your prayers, I can feel them, and I ask that you can please continue, because we have some high goals this month that we're trying to reach, and we need all the help and support we can get.

Apart from that, things have been pretty normal, not really much to report.

We're still working, and the people we have are progressing, though it's been hard to find new people to teach these weeks. People just haven't been opening doors as much as usual. But on Sunday, we found a great family, the Batres family. They're evangelicals, but they seem pretty interested. They all said they would pray to know if the message is true. I felt the spirit in their home, and it was really cool. I hope that they progress, and if we can get them to church, I know that they will.

As for the rest, we're just fine. There really aren't any major problems, we just need to keep working harder. My companion is funny, and a great person. I'm happy to be with him.

"...The right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not, and Christ is the Holy One of Israel, wherefore ye must bow down before him and worship him with all your heart, mind and strength, and with your whole soul, and if ye do this, ye shall in nowise be cast off." 2 Nephi 25:29

That's what we do as missionaries and as Latter-Day Saints. We worship him with everything. Worship is not just go to church, pray, and sing hymns, worship is the way you live. Dedicate your life to him, and do all you can to serve him. That's what it means to worship Christ.

And I will forever be grateful for these two years he has given me to worship him. I know this is His church, His work, and His will. I know that He has a living prophet to give us His counsels for today. I'm happy to be serving him, and bring his children, our brothers and sisters, back to the fold.

I love you all. Have a great week.
Endure to the end. Don't forget to pray.

Elder Banks