Monday, June 24, 2013

A Week of Miracles

First of all, sorry I forgot to tell you that I would be writing today, but here we are.

Now, let's look at each miracle.

Starting with the Baptism. Noé (Noah) is the young man that was baptized this week. You may notice that the same person who baptized Isaac baptized him. He is Noé's uncle, Sergio, who became great friends with Isaac, too. In case I didn't explain last week, he's a recent convert who has already been ordained a priest, so he has the authority to baptize. It was a very special day. His non-member parents and brother came, along with his inactive grandmother. They all felt great, and all but the dad came to church on Sunday as well! That was pretty cool.

Before being baptized, Noé had to have his baptismal interview.

Before telling the story of this miracle, let me explain a little. The Bishop didn't used to like us. He had some issues that aren't worth mentioning, but the point is that he didn't like us very much as Elder Missionaries.

Then, he helped us a bit with Isaac. We dropped off a small thank-you gift and card at his house, and he now sees that we love him as a Bishop.

For Noé's interview, he came early to open the chapel, filled the baptismal font, turned on the water heater, and without being asked, came to bear a touching testimony to Noé's mother and grandmother, to whom we were giving a guided tour of the Chapel and teaching about the Restoration. It was amazing, and the Bishop wants us to baptize the mom (we already want to baptize her.) We then had to go do another baptismal interview in another area (Peronia) at 3pm, with the baptism to start at 4pm. We got there just in time, and the Bishop had already turned off the water heater, set up the chairs, invited his entire family and many others, and had made sure that Noé and Sergio were dressed in white for the baptism. We got there, took the picture, and started the baptismal service, which the Bishop then directed. At the end, he gave a touching testimony about the day he was baptized, and everything was very well done, and went off without a hitch. The next day, he finished the paperwork for the confirmation, confirmed the young man himself, and gave him the Aaronic Priesthood during Priesthood meeting.

He then invited all 4 of the full-time missionaries in the ward (us and the sisters) to speak in church next Sunday.
The lesson is: God works by love. I can't tell you the number of Elders who have fought with this Bishop, but the Lord won him for us, so now all we have to do is work hard and reap the fruits. As is says in 1 John "He who loveth not knoweth not God, for God is Love." Jesus Christ himself summed up all the commandments in two: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy might, and with all thy heart and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it: THOU SHALT LOVE THY NEIGHBOR AS THYSELF." (Emphasis added) That's what the Lord's work is all about. Yes, sometimes we have to push someone a little bit, but it's out of love for them. If we're contending or fighting, the Spirit will not be present and we will not be able to do the Work. If we have hard feelings or sins in our hearts, the Spirit cannot dwell there and we will not be able to progress or help the Lord in any way. We could have fought with the Bishop like the other Elders for the last 3 months of my mission, but we showed him love, and we're doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way.

I testify of the truth of these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

This week are the changes. I know I will be training, and will be changing companions, but I don't know if I'll be staying here, or going up or down, or leaving or what. They tell us tonight, which is weird. P-day is tomorrow this week. Also, on Saturday, this zone and one other change from the Central to the South mission. It really doesn't matter, but if I go, I will be missing President Brough. But as the beloved hymn says, "I'll go where you want me to go."

We also had the opportunity to watch via satellite the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting yesterday, along with our ward leaders. It was pretty neat, and missionary work is really going to change. The only technical difficulties were during Elder Perry's talk, about how the missionaries are going to start using more technology to contact and work with members and investigators. So I don't know the details, I just know that missionaries will be having more tech tools, so if anyone else watched the meeting and can fill me in on the details of that talk, I would appreciate it.

Take care all of you, And remember the Lord is obligated to bless you when you keep his commandments.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

News and Miracles

First the Miracles, then the News

Our investigator, Isaac, was Baptized! He had his baptismal interview on Thursday and was baptized on Saturday. He was baptized by another recent convert, who also gave him the Aaronic Priestood under the Bishop's direction on Sunday.

Isaac's an interesting case, because he hides his testimony inside, even though it is really super strong. He was so happy to be baptized, confirmed, and receive the Aaronic Priesthood that he brought us to his friend's house yesterday, and we taught the friend. Isaac then gave his testimony, and it was super powerful. His friend, who is a bit young and wild, I could literally almost see him with a short haircut, well-dressed and serving as a missionary. He agreed to be baptized when God tells him that these things are true. It was one of the coolest lessons I've had on the mission.

Attached are a couple of pictures. One is Isaac's baptism, the other is the big giant nachos we shared yesterday at the Mono Loco (Crazy Monkey) restaurant in Antigua.

Antigua was fun. I bought a couple of neat things, and the lady who sold me one of those things started to ask me about the Church. I invited her to give me her address so the missionaries could visit her, but she was just curious.

We also got locked in the chapel on Thursday. We were going to have a chapel tour with one of our best investigators who hasn't come to Church yet, and she came! She was right outside the gate with the members who brought her in their car. We pushed the button on the remote to open the electric gate (all the churches here have a big tall fence, and some, like ours, have electric gates to let the cars into the parking lot.). . . and the gate refused to open. Since the fence was so high, we were stuck. We had water and we were fine, we just had appointments we couldn't get to! The bishop called maintenance and they came to let us out and half-fix the gate.  It works now, but it's just going to break again. It's a self-destructive system the way it's programmed. For the sake of members and future missionaries, I hope they replace it soon.

President Brough called me this morning. He assigned me to be a trainer for the last three months of my Mission. I can't think of a better way to finish. The only thing is that I'll really miss President Brough. After the 29th, he won't me my mission president anymore, because this zone is changing missions to the Guatemala City South Mission. It's possible that he sends me out to open another area, but I doubt he will. I've had the feeling for a while, that I won't finish with Pres. Brough, but I'm not too worried. The important thing is HOW we serve, not with whom, nor where, nor in what position. The blessings are the SAME. The assistant to the president is just as important as the junior companion. The stake president is just as important as the lay member.

Anyway, thank you for your prayers. I can feel your love through the Spirit, and especially I can feel the Lord's love. We are never beyond the reach of His love. NEVER.

I love you all.
Take tons of care, and never forget that you are a Child of God.

Elder Banks

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another Week in Panorama

Panorama. What a name.

It's a good name for this area too, because we've got several good panoramas from here. Not as good as in Jerusalén, but that's okay.

Speaking of that, I've got divisions today. I'm NOT going to Jerusalen, but my grandson Elder Mansilla is coming here with me. (Here in the mission, we refer to our trainers as "dads" our greenies as "sons" and if our "sons" become trainers, we have "grandsons").

I'm happy for the opportunity the Lord has given me to serve him. I'm not here for my own glory, but for his. I will serve him however he desires that I serve him. I know he loves me, and will bless me, but that's not why I do it. I do it because I love him.

And I love the people.

One of those people, Ofelia, was going to come to church for the first time this Sunday. She didn't, and she made an excuse that "I don't want to." I've been more sure that she'll be baptized than any other person I've ever taught, so I'm not worried, but I know she'll be a great member of the church, so I know the enemy is trying to break her down before we can get the Spirit into her heart. But nothing is impossible for the Lord. I know we'll get through this stage with her, and that she'll be baptized.

Our appointment we had with her last week was really special. We went with some members who live near her home, and they are perfect friends. They got along super well. We also found out that Ofelia is a nurse, a seamstress, an electrician, a cook, a baker, a furniture maker, and is taking some computer classes. She's about 65 years old, maybe a little older, and she's abslutely amazing. I can already see her teaching classes and serving in the Relief Society. She's one I can't let go. She HAS to be baptized. I pray for the inspiration to be able to help her to be able to progress, because I love her, and I know she'll be a great asset to the Lord's kingdom.

Thank you for all your prayers. Remember that I love you all, but especially that the Lord loves you all. Tall or short, big or small, he loves each one of his children. And if he loves me this much, imagine how much he must love each of you!

Have a great week.
Keep the faith.
And remember His Love.


Elder Banks

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Another Great Week in the Work

Dear All,

This has been a great week. I love my companion, and we're having a great time working here in Panorama. Challenges, well, there are plenty, but I have the faith, and hopefully the knowledge and skills to be able to overcome them.

We are working with Isaac, who was supposedly baptized in Nicaragua a few years ago, but here in Guatemala, we have the area office, and we have members in our ward who work there, so we had them look for his records in the Church's central system for all Central America, and he doesn't appear. What does that mean? he needs to be baptized again! It's super complicated to be able to re-create a baptismal record that was lost, because you need to have 2 witnesses, the date, the ward and stake, and who performed the baptism. And here, it's kind of hard to get all of that information. So, basically, we'll be baptizing him soon, if all goes according to plan. But it will go according to Heavenly Father's plan, so I'm not worried about it.

We also have had several other miracles. Here in the Central Mission, we have a standard of excellence to have 50% of our lessons with investigators with a member present, which really is the best way to teach. This week, we came super close, and in an area where the members have extremely busy schedules, and it's diffucult to get them out of their houses, and the sheer fact that out of the fact that we had 43% was pretty great.

Also, my companion and I are starting to take exercise a little more seriously. It's a mission rule to exercise for 30min every morning, but sometimes we justify things that are just mildly exercise, like mild stretches for the entire half hour. We've really gotten into it now, with weights and stretches, and are exercising well and having fun.

My companion is excellent. I absolutely love him, and he and I are getting along really well. Elder Arrieta is very young in the mission (and I am very old), but he's already a great missionary. I wish I would have had some of his qualities when I was his "age" in the mission.

The thing I have learned this week is that the Lord can tell you anything, literally ANYTHING through the Holy Ghost. He has guided and directed me so much in these last few months. What you have to do is listen with your heart, then pay attention to what comes to your mind. Don't get too worried if you don't feel it, because feelings of worry and doubt overwhelm the Spirit. Relax, fill your heart with love for the Lord and for the people you serve, and the Sprit will fill you and direct you in what you need to do, where you need to go, and what you need to say. Sometimes, I don't even remember what I say in the lessons because it's the Spirit talking through me.

I testify that these things are true in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Have a great week.
I love you all.
Keep the Faith,
And keep on prayin'.


Elder Banks