Enduring Optimism

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I know I have not given a detailed mission report over the past two weeks (well, I guess it has been 3 weeks now). I have had a very difficult time the last two weeks having enough time to read all my emails, write responses to all the questions, upload photos onto the DropBox, and include a detailed mission report in the time I have available… especially when the internet here is so slow!

Well, you guys can finally rest in comfort knowing that I am still in the mission field. Today I will finally give you a detailed update.

Our Heavenly Father has really poured his spirit abundantly upon us recently. I have really felt strongly that He is guiding us in the work. We have had many faith-prompting experiences over the last 3 weeks… but also many trials.

The first faith-promoting experience came as a small prompting from the Spirit. We had traveled all over a neighborhood searching for the home of Oscar Mendes, one of the people we had met while walking the streets the day prior. We searched for over an hour, only to find out from Oscar’s neighbor, Ana, that Oscar wasn’t home. We took the opportunity to speak briefly with Ana, but seeing no interest, we moved on. As we were leaving the neighborhood, we felt prompted to go back to speak with Ana. After knocking on Ana’s door, we soon realized the reason we had felt prompted to reconnect with her. Upon sharing our testimonies with Ana, she appeared to have had a change of heart, and received us into her home.

The second faith-promoting experience involved Noemi, one of our other investigators, whom we have been working with diligently. We had been having some challenges in helping Noemi make progress in our studies of the restored gospel because she has been too busy to meet with us. One day we caught up with Noemi, and when she attempted to brush us off again, my companion and I felt prompted to sing her a hymn before we left. She felt so touched that she invited us in… either that, or we embarrassed sufficiently to where she invited us in to get us out of her doorway, and away from the glaring eyes of the passers by on the street. I’d like to believe that it was the strong Spirit she felt through our angelic voices that prompted her to invite us in.

The next faith-promoting experience helped me confirm my testimony that angels are among us, and often precede the missionaries to help prepare people to receive the restored gospel. When Elder Fris and I visited the Lopez family last week, we learned that they were so thankful of the two other missionaries who had stopped by the day prior to help them. The way they had described the other two elders, it sounded like they were describing Elder Golledge and Elder Salazar. However, when we spoke with the other missionaries, Elder Golledge and Salazar swore that they had never visited the Lopez Family. If I had to explain what happened, I would have no other explanation other than that the 3 Nephites are keeping busy preparing their ancestors here in Guatemala to receive the restored gospel. Unfortunately, when we promised Neo Lopez that if he accompanied us to church, he would be better able to support his family, he took that as an open invitation to start attend any church of his choice. Apparently, after we taught Neo and his family last week, Neo told us that our words had encouraged him to begin attending church again. Thanks to us, they have become acquainted with a new evangelical church close to their home, and now they don’t really want to have to switch churches again. I guess we need to be more specific when we extend invitations in the future. It looks like we are going to have to explain “the Restoration” again so that they can understand the importance of attending the one true church. Ugh!

We experienced another faith-promoting tender mercy from our Heavenly Father yet again this last week. It never ceases to amaze me seeing God’s hand in the work. This week, we were led to find Juan, one of Father’s chosen elect children who was ready and willing to excect the invitation to be baptized. Interestingly enough, my companion and I were looking for Hector, and we had mistaken the home of Hector with that of Juan. Now Juan just so happened to be home that day because his school classes had been canceled. There was no doubt in Juan’s mind that we were sent to his home that day for a reason. The biggest challenge we have had with Juan is that he is super busy with his college classes, and with work, that we have not been able to visit him since that initial contact.

The last experience I want to share with you concerns one of our other investigators, Felizana. Felizana is a member of the “Christian Evangelical Church.” That is the church in which I am supposedly ordained to preach after some random guy on a motorcycle had declared authority upon me (see Aug 25 post).  Anyway, Felizana had told us that she could only receive us on Sundays. When we arrived at her home, we learned that just hours earlier, the husband of her friend had just passed away. This gave us an opportunity to help her and her friend’s family prepare for the funeral. Felizana and her friend expressed that they felt strongly that God had sent us there that day for a reason. Unfortunately, Felizana was quick to forget the things that she said. When we returned to visit her the following Sunday, she informed us that she had decided to stay faithful to the Evangelical Church that she had been attending, and that there was no need to continue visiting her.

Nearly every one of these faith-promoting experiences over the past three weeks have ultimately had frustrating and discouraging outcomes. After leaving Felizana’s home, and after having nearly all of our appointments fall through last week, I fell to my knees on the side of a public street, and began pleading with God to pour out His Spirit upon us, to bring us comfort, as we were sorely discouraged. No sooner had we prayed, than we found Stuward. Stuward was on the brink of denying the very existence of God due to the rough life he has lived as a former gang member in L.A. After we showed up at his door, he told us that he no longer doubted the existence of God. We learned that his doorbell had never worked; that is until the moment we used it…and it hasn’t worked again since that day.  This simple miracle convinced Stuward that God was sending him a message that He actually does exist, and that He is aware of all the pain and suffering that Stuward has experienced in his life, and that He loves him.

I know that wonderful things come through our trials, and if we endure those trials well, we will always see more blessing in our lives than ever before. In our moment of despair, Elder Fris and I have continued to work with steadfastness in Christ, despite our discouragement; and Father has rewarded us for our diligence and faith. That faith rewarded came through having one of our investigators attend church yesterday.

To be honest, I really feel bad for Elder Fris, because after we finally had an investigator attend church, that same day he got word that he was being transferred. At this rate, I feel like I am going to have more companions in the mission than any other missionary.

Oh, and we just started teaching a family of Argentineans. It is possible that this family is only interested in receiving us because my companion is from Argentina. I guess we will find out when my companion is transferred this week. In the meantime, I have really enjoyed all the traditional Argentinean meals they have been making us each time we come to visit. If you know me well enough, you’ll know that I will never turn down any dish that includes “carne asada”!  Yum!

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