Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Greetings from Guatemala

Dear All,

This has been a pretty good week. My companion, Elder Arrieta, and I have been working hard here in Panorama 1. Things have been going a lot better since we got the sisters all situated last week, now we can really concentrate on doing what missionaries do: baptize! I'm so excited for the possiblities here! This is the richest area by far that I have ever had. This area is known for being one of the richer areas in the capital and it's evident. The majority of the members here have cars. Our mission leader, who is the head traumatologist at the biggest hospital in Central America, has three! The bishop has two, and many other members have one or more. It's nice, because it's a big area, so when we need a ride, we can call a member, or sometimes they just show up and ask us if we need a ride. It's a big help. Especially when we need to get an investigator to church or to an activity.

Yesterday we met a recent convert who lives here in our ward, but was baptized in the North Mission just a few weeks ago by one of my friends from the CCM! It was pretty cool when he showed me the photo, because I knew the Elder who baptized him.  It was also a really great chat that we had with him. He has a computer and everything, and he's super excited about family history. His name is Sergio, and his Dad passed away 11 years ago, so he wants to do the work for him in the Temple. He's like the Yumán family from Villa Nueva, he's that awesome! I also just saw some members from Villa Nueva 1 on the bus coming back from the stake center. It was kind of cool. The other day on the buses that go to Peronia, I saw one of the investigators I found in my first area, who was baptized a few weeks after I left. We set the baptismal date with her before I left the area. We also saw another member. Next week or the folowing week I'll be going there in divisions, so I'll stop by and say hi to some of the people I met there in Jerusalen.

Other than that, we're preparing for a missionary activity on Saturday in the stake center. We'll be singing a choir number, "We'll Bring the World His Truth" as a zone, and yours truly is the pianist. I had very little time to practice, but it'll be great because it already sounded good today, and we're going to add violin and some English verses and we're going to perform it for Elder Duncan of the Seventy, who is part of the Central America Area Presidency, who will be coming to visit us later on in June.

That's all for this week. Keep the faith, and keep on prayin'.

I love you all.


Elder Banks

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Deja vu

Dear All,

First, I'll tell you about what I was expecting, Then I'll tell you what happened.

This change, leaving Villa Nueva, I Expected to go to either Chimaltenango, which is the mountains, or to one of the zones leaving the Central Mission, Mariscal or Nimajuyu. My first area was in Mariscal, so I thought that my destination would be Nimajuyu.

Change day came. I went to change meeting . . .

"In the Mariscal zone, in Panorama 1, Elder Arrieta receives . . . Elder Banks!"

Let me explain the significance of this.

Panorama used to be one area, for a DL and his companion. They just split the area and opened Panorama 2 with sisters this change. I know, because we had to find them a house. My first District Leader in the mission was stationed in Panorama. I am now the District Leader here. And Jerusalén, my first area, is in my district!
And if that wasn't enough, my first Son, Elder Luna, is in my first area, Jerusalén!!

And if that wasn't enough, my first son, Elder Luna, who is in my first area, Jerusalén, is training HIS first son, Elder Mansilla!!!

How crazy is that?!?!?

And I get a front row seat to all of it! I've already seen 2 members from Jerusalén on the buses here, and one of them was one of my converts!!

I'm basically here to work hard for these last few months, and do my best to lift up the ward, and lead the biggest district in the mission, being 5 companionships. There are other districts tied with this one in being the biggest. Mine also includes 2 pairs of sisters, which is a blessing, because I don't have to manage doing divisions with 4 different sets of Elders.

If that wasn't enough, I now have had companions from every country in Central America, with the exception of Nicaragua and Panama. I have had companions from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica. And Peru, and the USA, but those aren't part of central america.

The bad news is that I will probably be sent to the South Mission, and will no longer work with President Brough, whom I love so much, but I know it was revelation from the Lord, so I don't complain. President Brough taught us that "it doesn't matter where you serve, but rather how you serve."

I testify of the truth of these things. The position doesn't matter, the where doesn't matter, the what doesn't matter, only the How.

So if the Lord sends you to be a Stake President in Southeastern Africa or a Primary Teacher in Provo, Utah, just do your best. In the Lord’s eyes, both are equally important.

Remember that He loves you, and that there is nothing you can’t do if you have faith!

Take care. Thank you for your prayers.

Keep the faith,

Elder Banks

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Well, it's happened again. Changes. For the rest of the world, it would be Transfers, but the word we use in Spanish, "cambios," literally means "changes" so that's what we call it here.

Tomorrow will be the change meeting. Since it's a little different in every mission, I'll explain how it works here:
On Monday morning (p-day) we receive a call with the changes, and they say, for instance, "In Villa Nueva 1, Elder Gabriel Stays and Elder Banks Leaves." Basically, they just tell us who has to pack. They also sometimes say "Elder Banks leaves and has an interview at 8am." If you have an interview, it means you will receive an assignment, such as being a district leader, zone leader, retention secretary, or assistant to the president.

Then all those who have "changes" go with their companions to a stake center in a place called Monte María (Mount Mary) to the Transfer meeting on Wednesday.

Changes are read by zone, in alphabetical order. The missionary who is staying in the area stands up, then, when his new companion is announced, he also stands up, they recognize each other, and sit down. It's funny, because the missionary playing the piano (which is sometimes me) usually doesn't get seen for a few seconds when his name is announced, because nobody remembers the pianist. New missionaries sit in the first rows, and trainers sit on the stand.

For example, when Elder Gabriel came here with me, they read "In Villa Nueva 1, Elder Banks (I then stood up) receives Elder Gabriel (who then stood up, then we both sat down).

It was funny when I went to the coast, because my companion had been joking with everyone that "In Escuintla, Elder x receives Elder Banks!" Then, that very change meeting, I went to Escuintla.

So that's where we'll be tomorrow, because I have changes. I will be leaving the celestial area of Villa Nueva 1, with awesome members, amazing recent converts, and plenty of great investigators.

And there we are. I feel that I might be going to one of the zones that will leave the mission, or to a certain place in the mountains. But I won't know until tomorrow.

Also, in Villa Nueva 1 there will be a trio. We know because they dropped off furniture on Saturday (desk, closet, bed, etc.) for another missionary to live there.

I'm really going to miss it here, there are so many great people, but I know that since the work is starting to speed up here, the Lord will send a great missionary (or 2) to take my place.

Anyway, I hope you are all well. Take care.
Trust in the Lord, and whatever happens, it'll be alright.

With love,
Elder Banks

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Here Comes Mother's Day!

Dear All,

This is the best ward I think I've had in the mission.
The missionary family from last week got us an awesome referral. We found him on Monday, and had a 2nd visit on Saturday. We gave him a Book of Mormon, and he said he'll be reading the WHOLE THING this week! We'll be going to see him on Saturday to see how it went. His name is Cesar, by the way.

This week's missionary family is pretty cool as well, the Hernandez family. They're an older couple with their YSA-age kids. The Dad was a counselor in the stake presidency at one point, and now he's the High Priest Group Leader. They live in a private community where we aren't allowed to contact, or even enter IF we don't have a set appointment, AND the people we are going to visit told security what time we're coming, so basically, getting an investigator in there is a great opportunity, so we can actually have work in that part of the area.

Private communities here are very different here from in the States. There are ALWAYS security guards. Sometimes they let you in with just the address or the name. Sometimes they're more strict, like the place described above. Sometimes. security calls the house of the person, and the person in the house gives permission to be able to let you in. I've only seen one that's MILDLY similar to the system used in the USA, and heard of another that's in another mission. There are also some that only control the cars going in and out, and bikes and pedestrians are free to come and go.

About half of our area is communities like this, with varying degrees of strictness in their security. But in any of them, (with 1 exception) they don't let us contact. So, as mentioned above, basically member references are the only way we can get into those communities.

Like these communities, just about everything here has security guards. Shopping centers, restaurants, gas stations, literally EVERY decent-sized business that's formally established has a guy with a shotgun (or several) to take care of it. It's nice to know that there are places like that where we are protected.

The chapels don't have security guards, but have high fences, often with barbed wire, and sometimes electric gates to go in and out. The clerk's offices are basically bank vaults, so nobody enters through the tiled ceilings or breaks in to steal the computers. If you don't have the key, you don't get in. Or out.

Well, enough talk about security. The most important security we can have is our testimony. As a missionary, our testimonies are tried a lot. Someone will come up to you in the street and try to convince you that the Book of Mormon is of the devil, because it's not in the Bible. They'll say that we worship Joseph Smith, and all kinds of other lies they've heard about the church throughout the course of their daily doings, from people who don't know, because they have never investigated. It can be trying at times, but knowing that one has received witness of the Holy Ghost that this is the Lord's church, and His work, it doesn't faze you. On the other hand, with recent converts, whose testimonies are still fragile, people tell them these things and sometimes they fall away. We must strengthen our testimony, and have this sureness and security so that we will not be "carried about by every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men" (Ephesians 4), and "when the Devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind . . . it shall have no power over [us] to drag [us] down to the gulf of misery and endless woe, because of the rock upon which [we] are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereupon if men build, THEY CANNOT FALL." (Helaman 5:12). That foundation is Christ, and the revelation that his Prophets receive from Him to guide us.

We strengthen our testimony by daily prayer and scripture study, weekly church attendance, constant obedience to the commandments of God, and regular temple attendance, if possible. We must be strong and strengthen our testimonies day by day, so that when the tough moments come, we will not be dragged down where we don't want to end up. I testify that we will all be blessed as we work on strengthening our testimony, and "lay up treasures in Heaven."

Take care. I love you all.
Happy Mother's Day!

Elder Banks

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Another Week in Book of Mormon Country

Dear All,

This week has been pretty crazy, and awesome.
Starting with Friday:
A man from our ward, Brother Fuentes, who lives in front of our house, came over to study language with us. He served his mission in Colotenango, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where my companion is from, and he speaks Mam, the dialect that Elder Gabriel speaks, so we got a little help on the language for him. We also just scratched the surface of the fact that the Mam language itself is proof that the ancient peoples of the Americas knew about the Law of Moses and about Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation.
2 Examples:
In Mam, the verb "lo'n" has several meanings:
To know,
To have seen,
To eat fruit. Not just any food, but fruit.

The word for body refers to the skeleton of a man, and means "the bone that is left." The word for Woman literally translated means "she who was made of the bone."

Any of that sound familiar? (See the book of Genesis, or Moses in the Pearl of Great Price)
There were several others as well, which I have written down at home, and which are really, really cool. I really want to learn this language, and visit this place, but it is part of the Quetzaltenango mission. Well, maybe I'll get to go when I come back to visit!

I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting. The members haven't really done much to help us lately, so what I did was that I outlined all the excuses that they always give us, such as "I'm too scared to teach the gospel" (we do the teaching for them) and "They already go to another church" or "none of my friends are ready to receive the gospel" and helped them to see that none of these excuses are relevant.

As part of the same talk, I announced the beginning of the missionary family program in our ward. Basically, one family per week is assigned to work with us a LOT: they come visit with us, introduce us to their friends and family, we have Family Home Evening in their house with investigators, etc. We've been trying to get a giant missionary name tag that says "missionary family" on it, but it's been hard, because the person who makes it lives far away so we started by just giving them a Book of Mormon. The Missionary Family then has to pray about who should be the next missionary family, and then give a 5-minute testimony during the announcements in Sacrament Meeting the following Sunday, and announce who will be the next week's missionary family. It's going really great so far! We started with the 2nd counselor and his wife (who was one of my teachers in the CCM) and they gave us an awesome reference on Monday night, and we have a 2nd visit with him today.

Tuesday: P-Day was changed to Tuesday because we received permission to have a zone activity to go to the Guatemala City Temple! We were able to be strengthened by the Spirit of the Lord, and receive revelation from God about what we need to do, what we can do better. I was also able to buy a set of CDs of the Book of Mormon for a convert who can't read, and some DVDs at the Distribution Center. So that's why I'm writing today instead of Yesterday. I think it's a pretty good excuse, don't you?

Interview with President Brough!!!!!
I love my mission president so much. He always has the Spirit with him, and he always has inspiration to be able to lift me up when I am down, and tell me what I need to do better. That's why I love it when he comes to interview us! I always learn something new and important about the Gospel, and about missionary work. Something he said to the entire zone confirmed a revelation I received several weeks ago: he said " It doesn't matter WHERE you serve, it matters HOW you serve." He then said that we shouldn't worry about if we stay here with the Central Mission, or if we go to the South Mission when the mission splits in June, because it really doesn't matter. The revelation I received can be summed up in "What e'er thou art, act well thy part." If the Lord needs you as a Stake President or as a Primary Teacher, it does not matter which it is, as long as you are faithful in your calling. If you are faithful, you will be blessed. If you are not, there's no guarantee. Just do what the Lord wants you to, and everything will be well.

Thank you for your faith and prayers.
Please know that the Lord loves each and every one of you. He knows you. He knows your name, and is very aware of your life and your doings.

Take care,
Elder Banks