Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Another Week in the Work... with Pictures!!!

Dear All,

Here, at long last, are the pictures!!!

The lady with the wavy hair is Roxana, and the sister with her husband is Candi, who was just baptized this past Sunday.
Candi is so amazing. Her husband, Byron, is a recent convert, and he prayed very hard that she would be humble and accept the Gospel. I had the privilege of baptizing her this past Sunday, and then they invited us over for lunch, because it was Ricardo's (Bryon's dad, on the left of the photo) birthday! We're  going today to have Family Home Evening with them, because Byron was working yesterday. They'll be a great strength to the ward here. I'm so glad to have been a part of their conversion. It's especially cool because Byron was baptized by Elder Lontine, who was my first Zone Leader in the mission, and will be coming to visit next month! so he'll see Candi now that she's been baptized.

We had divisions last week, which was really great. I went with Elder Mendoza, who was the only Latino Elder to come in with my group, and who is now my Zone Leader here in Villa Nueva. He and I are great friends, but that's not why it was such a great experience. He really helped me build my faith and diligence, and to be a more bold and challenging missionary and person. Thanks to what he taught me, there have been miracles this week in our area.

One of which absolutely blew me away. The Portillo family has been taking the discussions for about 2 months now. Elder Gabriel went to see them, along with Elder Huish during divisions. They started talking to them about the importance of coming to church, which has been their challenge. They hadn't come since we started visiting them, in spite of the fact that we'd taught about the Sabbath Day and everything. According to Elder Gabriel, they just told them that "You'll never know if it's the true church or not if you don't attend!" and apparently, it struck a chord with them, because about halfway through sacrament meeting, they walked in. It was a MIRACLE!!!! We were just about to drop them because they didn't come to church, but now they came. They're reading the Book of Mormon, they're praying about it, and they liked church, so we have to baptize them! We even had one of our most awesome member families, who live fairly close to them, volunteer to come visit them with us, and maybe have an FHE in their house with them! It was so cool! Those of the family who didn't attend committed to attend where they work in Escuintla (not too far from my previous area) so we'll see what happened there.

I just learned so much about the love the Lord has for us. He really wants to bless us, but if we're disobedient, he can't. We must obey him so he can fulfill his desire, and bless us. Our most important desires will also then be fulfilled.
Please take care of yourselves.

And for those who are asking when I will be home, you'll have to wait until September, because I'm going to keep working until the bitter end.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We All Have Work...

Dear All,

This has been another great week. We've had some fantastic opportunities to be able to teach, learn, and help people come unto Christ. After all, that's what we're here for!

Things have been pretty uneventful this week, with one exception: We will be having a baptism this Sunday!!! Candi, the wife of one of our best recent converts here in the area, decided to be baptized, with the help of our Father in Heaven. We challenged her to baptism, she said she wanted to wait, but then we challenged her (and her father-in-law) to pray and ask God if the 21st of April was the correct date. They live 3 doors down from the Yumán family, so we had the lesson in the Yumán's house. It was awesome, the Spirit was so strong, and Candi told us about her experience. She said "I didn't realize that God could respond so quickly!" She prayed, she received her answer, and though not all her doubts are gone, she is still happy and has made the firm decision to be baptized. I love being a missionary, because we get to see firsthand the miracles God works in our lives, and in those of the people we teach.

We also brought some of our recent converts out to visit this week: Alejandro Yumán and Estuardo Arroyo came out to visit with us, and it was really cool, because no testimony has a more powerful effect on an investigator than that of a recently baptized member. It's all still fresh in their heart, and they are super enthusiastic to be able to testify of the truth with all their hearts. It's fantastic to be able to see. Even if they're just "patojos" (kids) it's still fantastic, because they're so honest about the things that they know are true. Alejandro told us about how when he started to read the Book of Mormon, he felt a change inside him. Before, he would never go to church, or read the scriptures. But now he loves it, and he can hardly wait to turn 18 and become a missionary! And his parents told us that he used to be the first one to say "not me!" when they said "We're going to church!" And though I haven't told him this, I saw a visible change in him. When I first arrived, he was super quiet, and almost never smiled. Now, he smiles all the time. He's really experienced the "mighty change of heart" that Alma talks about, and you can see it just looking at him. The rest of the family has experienced similar changes, and they told us about what their extended family said about them when they saw them after their baptism. It's so cool to experience firsthand the tender mercies of the Lord.

"Wherefore, weary not of doing good, for ye are laying the foundations of a great work, and out of small things proceedeth that which is great."
-Doctrine and Covenants 64:33

This is a true principle that has helped me in my mission. There's no such thing as a small part to play in the work, because the work is made up of many little building blocks, as are our personal spiritual lives. Some may be Zone Leaders, some District Leaders, some Assistants to the President, but the work is done by everyone. Everyone has something to offer, so even if you feel small, or as if you don't have anything to offer, THAT IS SATAN TRYING TO DECEIVE YOU. He wants you to doubt your self-worth and take away your self-esteem. DON'T LET HIM IN. He will only destroy you, but God will bless you with miracles if you only have faith in yourself. As says the song from the movie "The Prince of Egypt," There can be miracles when you believe. Believe in God. Believe in Christ. Believe in the cleansing power of His Atonement. And last of all, believe in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, the Lord can't help you very much, but once you have faith, there can be miracles.

Take tons of care. I love you all!

Elder Banks

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

General Conference!

Dear Friends and Family,

This has been a pretty good week. It didn't start off too well, but it ended up alright. The Lord really humbled me and I have had a change of heart, after a very spiritual experience on Thursday. I am so happy now to be able to be here in the Mission, and there is nothing I would rather be doing but preaching the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Part of what inspires me now is that there is absolutely no reason to be sad. Ever. If the Lord is in our life, and we know that He loves us, there is absolutely nothing negative that can trump his love. The words of a beloved hymn come to mind:

"The Lord is my light, then why should I fear?
By day and by night, his presence is near.
. . .
The Lord is my light, he is my joy and my song.
By day and by night he leads, he leads me along."

I testify that everything happens for a reason. I know you didn't ask for the challenges the the Lord has sent you--neither did I-- but "know thou . . . that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good." (See D&C 122:7-9) And this is an experience that I will never forget. I can now truly say that the Lord Jesus Christ IS my joy, IS my song, and IS my light. We all get to a point where we think we know him, then we have another experience, and we come to know him even better. I hope it keeps happening, even though it will be hard. We become acquainted with God mostly in our extremities, or rather, our challenges and trials. Personally, I am thankful for this challenge I have had. I don't know if I'm ready to ask the Lord for challenges, but I am grateful when it's all over. I'm sorry, but this life was not designed to be easy. Salvation was not designed to be easy. "We all have work, let no one shirk!"

I was also very thankful for the talks given by President Monson and the Apostles this past weekend, as I was inspired and uplifted, and told to do better. I especially loved the Priesthood Session, which I FINALLY got to watch in English! For the first time in the mission field! I am happy that the Apostles reminded us of what president David O. McKay taught: "Every member a missionary!" We learned this weekend that as members of the Lord's church, it is our calling, our duty, and our obligation to do missionary work, and we are entitled to receive inspiration regarding how to do so. Elder Andersen said that we need to "paint a missionary badge on our heart." Just because I have one on my shirt right now doesn't mean that my companions and I are the only ones responsible for this work. Even in Utah there are opportunities for missionary work. Find out what you can do, how you can help, and do something. You can also help with the missionary work on the other side of the Veil: temple and family history work.

Here in Guatemala, there are churches everywhere. People have garages on the fronts of their houses, and they set up podiums and enormous speakers there and turn them into churches. The way the world sees a church and the way that the Lord sees his church are very different. In any church one can go, have faith, keep the commandments, and even receive miracles, because the requirement for a miracle is faith. Anyone can love Jesus Christ and be blessed for it. But because of the orderly manner in which God has established his kingdom since the beginning of time, there is a requirement to be able to enter into the kingdom of God: baptism. But to be able to have a baptism that God recognizes, the person who performs the baptism must hold the Priesthood, or the power of authority of God on the Earth. This authority was lost for centuries after the death of the original Apostles of Christ, and has been restored to us again by those same apostles through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The only place that true Priesthood Authority can be found is in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I don't say this to satisfy my pride, nor for any other reason, other than that the Holy Ghost has testified to me that it is true.

And trying to explain this to the Pastor and his Wife we visited yesterday was a little difficult. Especially because he is hard of hearing. But the truth is that God love us all, and wants us to follow him. This weekend, it was quoted from the Bible that the Lord Jesus Christ came to be the author of eternal salvation for all those who OBEY him. The only way we can do so completely is in His church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have prayed, and have come to know for myself that these things are true, and that is what I invited the pastor to do, and that is what I invite all of you to do. If you have already, do it again. If you haven't, do it. You won't regret it, and the Lord will greatly bless you.

I testify of the truthfulness of this work. It has changed my life, and I have seen it change many other lives. And no one can make me deny it.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Have a great week.
Until soon,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another Week, and a Baptism!

Dear All,

I apologize for not having the photo of the baptism, but I forgot my card reader this week. Roxana was baptized on Sunday, and I baptized her. She has had a lot of challenges in her life, but I know that she will find peace and comfort in the Gospel. She is probably one of the people I know that's had the hardest life, in just about every way. Financially, emotionally, in the family, she's just had it coming at her from every direction. And now she has God on her side to help her!

I'll start with a little more news:
President Brough, along with the First Presidency have opened up our privileges for e-mail. We are now allowed to write to ANYONE WE WANT, with the exception of:
-Persons of the Opposite Sex within mission boundaries
-Other missionaries from the Guatemala City Central Mission

From there, it's fair game. Therefore, I invite you all to write me. My email is nicholas.banks@myldsmail.net and I would love to hear from you soon. This may also be easier, since I never have time to write letters on P-day. We also have 75 minutes now to write to everyone. Please don't include itnernet links, because I can't look at them, nor anything inappropriate, because it will take my mind off of missionary work. But anything else, go for it!

I love missionary work. I love the Gospel. I just finished reading the Book of Mormon for the 7th time, and it just gets better every time! I felt the Spirit in a new way, that I haven't been able to understand this many things before, and it was great. I love to read of Jesus Christ and his servants, learning from them how I can become closer to Him. The key is in Alma 37:6-7:

"Now, ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me, but behold, I say unto you that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass, and small things in many instances doth confound the wise.
"And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes, and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise, and bringeth to pass the salvation of many souls."

What the Lord wants is our faithfulness and constance. He doesn't care what our circumstances are, he just wants our constance and our love. And we show our love for him by keeping his commandments (see John 14:15). If we do the little things every day, such as pray and read our scriptures, keep the commandments, and go to church every Sunday, the Lord has promised that he will help us to do whatever thing is expedient for him.

I so testify, that Jesus is the Christ, and that I have come to know him both in my extremities, and in my moments of joy. I love this work, I love the Lord, and I love our Heavenly Father. I am excited to hear from his servants this weekend in General Conference, as I know it will be a great experience, and I know the Lord will give me additional direction with respect to how I can do better.

I testify of these things with all my love for each of you.
May the Lord bless each of you as you do your best to follow him, and keep his commandments.

Take care, and know that He loves you.
Elder Banks