Whenever a person makes the decision to be baptized in the Church, Satan and his crew launch a full-on counter-strike

[I asked Jake to give us an update to see if they have been able to re-connect with Uriel (the one he nicknamed “Gru” from “Despicable Me”). This is Jake’s response:]

We tried to go back with Uriel to help him differentiate between the promptings of the Spirit and the promptings that come from our personal desires. Apparently he is never there when we pass by, which I think is just a load of bull. Hopefully the Lord will soften his heart enough again to receive the missionaries. It makes me sad that the very alleviation he was looking for his whole life was right at his grasp, but he let go.

Just when we thought that the cut from Uriel was deep, Alan dealt us another blow. If you recall, Alan felt the Spirit testify to him so strongly, and felt that being baptized in the Church was the only way he was going to be able to find the peace he desired to have in his life… even so much that he cried for the first time in his life. But at the end of the day, instead of telling us that he was going to continue with his plans to be baptized like we expected (especially after such a strong confirmation), instead he decided that pleasing his mother was more important to him than following the answers he received from the Spirit So sad! I really don’t understand what is up with all the family conflicts that arise in this area. Whenever a person makes the decision to be baptized in the Church, Satan and his crew launch a full-on counter-strike. That is the one thing that sucks about serving in a small village! Even though the people are more humble, they are heavily influenced by members of their families.

At least the Mendoza family is still looking good to be baptized. They now have four consecutive church attendances under their belt.

Transfers are not for another two weeks here. If I get transferred, it will probably we my last area in the mission before going home.

How do you get a Guatemalan to come to a church activity? You offer them free food!

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Our weeks have been pretty similar lately. Just as you guys had a ward activity this week, we did also. The only difference is that we didn’t receive any references from our activity like you did. We did have the Mendoza family show up, and Hilda and Vilma (the dumb Latina blondes). Speaking of the Mendoza family, it is looking likely that they could be getting baptized before transfers. They inquired if they had to wait to be baptized on the 8th of October, or if they could do it earlier. If it had not been for following the spirit, who knows if they would of expressed this same attitude. Up until just recently, Andres didn’t even feel he a need to be re-baptized. He was influenced during a conversation about baptism having two parts; baptism by water, and baptism by fire for the gift of the Holy Ghost. This conversation brought to Andres’s remembrance of a dream he had in which God commanded him to build a building, but he was unable to complete the building due to the two blocks he was missing. Upon hearing that baptism consist of two parts, this brought him to the realization that the two parts he was missing was baptism by water and by the fire; whereas before he had only been baptized by water. The only thing disappointing is that Andres was not able to come to church on Sunday due to a worker he had to pay that he was only going to be able to pay on Sunday in the morning. Andres was worried about his wife walking to church without him because she doesn’t know Tojocaz very well; not to mention the crime and lack of security where they live. She is also unable to speak Spanish well. But to our surprise, Maria told us in her broken Spanish that they were going to have faith, and they ended up coming to church on Sunday, with the whole gang!

Despite the great step forward with Andres and Maria, we also had our share of let-downs this week; there is always opposition in all things. First, a family member of Andres commented that “the Mormons have multiple wives.” This led Andres to fear that we wanted him to join the Church so that we could get with his wife. I can’t imagine why anyone would believe that we would want to get with a “corte lady” [a native woman wearing traditional indigenous dress]unspecified12 in the first place. Nevertheless, it did cause us to have to do some damage control. Following that, we got the bad news from a newly wedded couple we found last week that they no longer want to follow through with their plans to be baptized in October. We thought that we had found “a chosen family” due to the fact that neither of them had been baptized because neither had a church that they attended (which is a miracle in itself since everyone in Guatemala and their dog are baptized and go to some church).

This week we also happened to find one of our investigators laid out in the street drunk; this after telling us that she no longer had a drinking problem. Prior to this, she had a baptism date set for November. And then, on top of all this, I was really worried about one of our other investigators, Alan, not having a spiritual experience at church, due to the kid in the ward screaming bloody murder during the sacrament. Fortunately Alan recognized that his lack of preparation contributed to him not having a spiritual experience. He told us that he wanted to come to church more often so that he can form that habit of attending.

To boot, it doesn’t look like Keat’s parents (the brother and sister of Elivs and Fabiola) are going to allow their daughter be baptized after all. Fabiola’s sister is a big as a grudge holder, like Mitch, and is no longer letting her daughter go with Fabiloa to church because Fabiola recently pointing out her personality faults. When we asked Elise when she thinks to talk to her sister again, she said maybe in 2 years.

After all the opposition this week, what I learned was that if you want Chapins [Guatemalans] to put aside their religious differences so they come to church activities, you have to offer them free food. There was an evangelical velorio [visitation] in town on Friday, which resulted in all of our appointments falling through this week. Everyone went for the free food! 

8/29: Uriel (aka “Gru”) didn’t go the distance :(

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It looks like we are going to be able to wallow in disappointment together this week. Exactly how your investigator sent you a text on Sunday informing you that she has decided not to move forward, Uriel called us on Sunday to tell us that his mother had called him on Saturday, and she was not happy about him being baptized in the LDS Church. Just to make things short, Uriel told us that he will no longer going to continue attending our church, but an evangelical church instead. In case I have failed to mention in my previous emails, one of the main reasons why Uriel has been studying with us is because he wants to make his parents proud that he has turned his life around. He has received a confirmation from the Spirit that the Book of Mormon and the Church are true. Hopefully by explaining to him that pleasing God is more important than pleasing his mother, we hope we can get him to change his mind. The only thing that might be a challenge is seeing if we can convince him to let us come over.

Right now not only is it looking extremely ify that Uriel will get baptized, but now there is some question about the Hidalgo family. This is the family with the daughter with Down’s Syndrome. Both parents are now working daily, into the late hours of the night. They seem to have lost faith that, by keeping the commandments, they would be able to pay off their debts easier.

The good news is that the Mendoza family is progressing. Now that they have been attending church, they are looking good to be baptized in October. The father keeps telling us, “si pues” [oh, yes] every time we ask him if he is excited for his baptism.

We will have to wait and see if we can keep the dumb blondes going to church now that they are back from the coast. They threatened to kill us when I pretended to be a pizza delivery man, because they were certain that they did not order pizza. I guess you cannot joke with dumb blondes because they just take things too seriously.

And then there is Alan, who finally got permission from his boss to be able to go to church on Sundays! We will have to see if he continues to feel the same peace attending church as he felt when reading the Book of Mormon.

8/22:“yes, well, how joyful.”

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[This week I shared with Jake, and experience I had as Ward Mission Leader in which one of our investigators had a very negative response to being told she had to wait one year for her misdemeanor probation to expire before being baptized. Jake responded]

A DELICATE APPROACH WHEN TELLING SOMEONE THAT CAN’T BE BAPTIZED

True, you have to be very delicate in how you inform an investigator that they are going to need some more time to prepare before they can be baptized. If the message is not delivered with a positive spin, they can become disheartened. Case in point: Uriel! Our District Leader told him that he had found him unworthy to be baptized, and that he needed to have an interview with President Smith. This cavalier approach led Uriel to not want to have an interview with the Mission President, until this last week when he finally agreed to meet the President. When he became disheartened, Uriel stopped reading the Book of Mormon, and stopping going to church. He began to feel that no matter how hard he tried, he was never going to be able to be baptized. He didn’t understand that not passing the interview had nothing to do with his current way of living, and the current path he is on. When he let go of the iron rod, as we explained to him, his conviction was shaken, which is what led the Mission President to decide that Uriel needed a little more preparation before being baptized. Now that we got him grasped to the iron rod again, he has his goal set for being baptized in the month of September. Look how much drama that could have been avoided if our District Leader had just phrased things better in explaining why an interview with President Smith was needed. The important thing that you guys should be doing with your investigator right now is to help her understand the significance of Lehi’s vision so that she keeps reading the Book of Mormon, which is the most powerful tool in helping someone stay on the straight and narrow path, as Ezra Taft Benson taught. Otherwise she will surely never be able to completely enjoy the blessing of Christ’s sacrifice, the greatest gift that one can experience upon being baptized.  The main reason why members fall into forbidden paths is because they don’t read the Book of Mormon.

The same positive spin you were going to use with your investigator, is the same spin we used to help Otto’s wife to commit to being baptized. At first her daughter was going to be baptized in August, and she in October, when she had all her debts paid off with her boss so that she could start going to church on Sundays. Now we helped her become more committed by having her daughter wait to be baptized with her so that Otto can perform the ordinance.

Anyway… that is a super delicate situation with your investigator. I imagine it is going to take a lot of damage control. You will just need to have the faith that everything will work out. I will make sure that I keep your investigator in my prayers this week.

TRANSFERS

Through God’s grace, I was permitted to stay in Tojocaz for at least one more transfer, but sadly my companion did not have the same luck, and will be transferred after just being here for one month.

WELFARE IN GUATEMALA

I have heard that in the past, the Church had a lot of problems in Latin America with people joining the Church just because they heard the Church helps members with financial struggles. For this reason, I hear, the Church’s policy toward helping people out here is a lot stricter than they are in the States.

INVESTIGATOR UPDATES

We have an investigator named Alan whom we are teaching, who, after reading the Book of Mormon told us that it filled the void in his life. untitledBut once he stopped reading the Book of Mormon due to peer pressure he felt from his family, who judged him for listening to us, he began to make his way over to the great and spacious building. Now he had gotten a glimpse of the path that the iron rod would lead him. Ultimately he began reading the Book of Mormon again, and he is now preparing to be baptized the 1st of October.

We have another investigator named Roberto, who was very reluctant to accepting the message of the restoration, and reluctant to reading the Book of Mormon. But after we finally got him to read it, his entire attitude changed.

We have another investigator who we recently found. During the lessons, we assumed he was not paying attention at all. He answered every question we asked with “si, pues, es alegre” [translation: “yes, well, how joyful.” So we decided to have a bit of fun with it, so we invited him to be baptized, figuring that he was just going to respond the same way, “si, pues, es alegre.” But to our dismay, he spoiled our fun by actually answering that one question differently. It turns out that he really was listening the entire time. After explaining to him that it is not “playing with God” to be re-baptized, he surprised us by inviting us to come back to his home again on Thursday to teach him more, which is not usually something that happens. Now if that is not “alegre” [joyful], I’m not sure what is.

Do you remember me telling you about the Mendoza family? They are the family who speaks Mum (an native Indian dialect). We have never really been quite sure how much they really understand from our lessons. For example, we recently taught them the steps of a prayer.

  1. Direct our heavenly father
  2. Give thanks
  3. Ask for blessing and wisdom
  4. End in the name of Jesus Christ

So they did exactly that… and I quote, “Nuestro Padre Celestial, te pedimos, te agradecemos, te pedimos, te preguntamos, en el nombre de Jesucristo amen” [translation: Heavenly Father, we ask thee, we give thee thanks, we ask thee, we inquire of thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen”]. Well, yesterday Andres, the dad, left us speechless with the spirit that he brought when he totally poured out his heart to God, desiring to know if this is the true church of Christ. All this time we had been assuming that when we asked them if they had been praying to know if the church was true, we envisioned them just doing the same prayer they did when we first taught them the steps of prayer. It is so great to watch people grow in the gospel.

unspecifiedThis week we also found a lady that had been pleading with God that he would have mercy on her and send missionaries to her home again to help her with her rebellious son. It was humbling to her to have us show up at her door the next day.

Prayer is definitely one of the most powerful tools God has given us that we often take for granted. The scriptures repeat several times… whenever we ask in the name of Christ, if it be just, it will be granted unto us. If it was not for the fervent prayer of Alida, I doubt we would have found her. If it was not for my fervent prayers for Uriel and Alan, I doubt Uriel would have felt the change in his heart to talk to the Mission President, and Alan to receive us again. If it was not for prayer, I doubt Elvis would have ever got the strength this week to place his faith in God by paying tithing so he will be worthy to enter the temple in a year from now to get sealed to his wife. And he would never have seen his money double. If it was not for prayer, Uriel would still be fighting to be able to provide for his family. Now he has a job that provides him with sufficient amount of income. If it was not for prayer, Elise’s sick father would still be preventing them from going to church. If it was not for prayer, I probably would not have found any one of these people whom God has prepared for us to bring to the gospel.

And if it was not for prayer Elder Chirinos and I would not have had to walk home in the pouring rain, especially since we were shivering with a fever caused by “dengue.” Instead we would have gotten a ride from a drunk, who we later realized was completely wasted. When my companion asked him “a donde va hermano,” [where are you going brother], he responded, “Hay Dios Mio! Hay Dios Mio!” [Oh my God! Oh my God!], and then he laughed hysterically. We probably would have died if we had taken that ride, which I guess beats walking in the rain. For a second there, we thought he was going to kidnap us. He stopped to let us in, and told us that he wanted to bring us to his home to help him stop drinking.

But just so mom knows… I am 100% okay! I say that so she doesn’t act like a Nervous Nelly all week wondering if I’m okay.

8/14: Some Investigator Updates

All week I tormented myself, contemplating why Uriel kept coming up with excuses not to connect with us this week (bogus excuses, such as his family members feeding him at such a crucial moment in his conversion), it was such a tender mercy to be able to hear from Uriel when he did a surprise drop by on Saturday. He told us he was ready to meet with President Smith. The disappointing part is that President Smith feels he still needs a little more time to strengthen his testimony before being baptized.

The big Xutuc family is looking good to be baptized within the next coming weeks, having 3 constant Sundays of going to church… Whereas before, they could even manage to attend twice in a row.

We also have another new family we are teaching that is looking good for baptism in October. They have been very receptive towards us. Their father felt the prompting when he saw us that if we crossed the street to go talk to him it was going to be because we were going to be the help that he has been praying for God to send him. The only problem is that we can’t determine whether to say “yes” to everything we say. Their first language is Mum, and because they cannot understand us very well, they just say “yes” to every.

Currently we are also teaching three single mothers who would probably be considered dumb blondes if they lived in the states. But because there are not any blondes, in Guatemala I am guessing here they might be called dumb brunets. They always seem to get way off track during the lessons, asking us random stuff such as whether we think an evil spirit could have stolen their hair gel, just to mess with them, when in reality, they ended up just miss placing it. They are so desperate to receive the Lord’s help in raising their kids, that even though they were looking forward to go to a party all week, just by us asking them if the party is going to impede with them being able to keep the commandments, changed their complete view about going.

P.S. I left out in my update of the Hidalgo family last week: Otto is now in the process of preparing himself to receive the Aaronic Priesthood in October so that he can baptize his wife and daughter.

Gru’s Conversion and an exchange with the local Jehovah’s Witnesses

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8/1:

I have good news to share with you this week, and some bad news. I will start with the bad news and end with the good.

The bad news is that Uriel and his daughters did not get baptized this week. Gru’s past life as a villain has led him to need an interview with President Smith, which I was kind of expecting after hearing the thing he did in his past life. I’m guessing he had a pretty shady past.

As of Monday, it was uncertain whether Uriel would be able to get baptized. And then he had an emergency transfer to the hospital due to an ulcer erupting. After giving him a blessing on Tuesday, the doctor told him that it now appears as if he had never showed signs of an ulcer. If that doesn’t show you how much faith Uriel has, I don’t know what else could. For that reason, there is no doubt in my mind that President Smith will give him his blessing to be baptized.

On top of the drama of having Uriel in the hospital this last week, Rosa Maria (Otto’s wife and parents of the daughter with down syndrome) also gave us a scare when they informed us that her husband went on another drinking spree, and ended up in the hospital with both his feet broken from walking in front of a car while drunk. Rosa Maria was at a breaking point, ready to give up all faith on her husband changing. I suggested to her that maybe this trial that will finally wake up her husband, and inspire him to stop drinking. We also discussed her desire to quit her job so she is able to go to church on Sunday and get baptized. We convinced her to stay for now, and to prepare herself to get baptized as well. Sometimes if we endure our trials well, there is usually something good that comes out of it.

8/8 Update:

Uriel (a.k.a Gru) didn’t pass his interview with our District Leader. This led him to really consider what other areas of his life from which unspecified2he feels he needs to be completely cleansed of all guilt and remorse at the moment of his baptism. Consequently he decided not to show up at the interview with the Mission President. He felt he the needed to make amends with everyone he has hurt, in order to feel at peace with himself. Although it was difficult to see another week go by without Uriel getting ready for his baptism, when he already is one of the best members in the branch. Just his desire to make amends as part of the repentance process just demonstrates that once Uriel becomes a member of the Church, he will be converted for life.

In regards to the family who has a daughter with Down’s Syndrome… despite all the trials they have gone through these past few weeks (wife losing her job, husband fracturing his legs, talk of divorcement), in the end, it has led them to humble themselves enough to submit to the will of God; Like the poor among the Zoramites whose afflictions humbled them enough to accept the words of Alma.

We just talked to some a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses a few days ago. Since they are so reluctant in permitting you to share your beliefs with them, we just decided to ask them a unspecified1bunch of questions about their beliefs, hoping that it would get them to open their eyes a little more. Such questions as “how could God be Jehovah if in the Old Testament says that Jehovah created the earth and the New Testament says Jesus Christ created the earth?” Do they not know why the Jews killed Jesus? It is because he claimed to be the Great I Am, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What makes them any different from the Jews, if you also don’t recognize Christ as Jehovah? When I ask “how have you guys come to know that your church is true?” Their response was, “because we have the most correct interpretation of the Bible.” They then said, “we appreciate all your questions but we really have to get going.” Then I said, “thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, but before we head our separate ways, I just want to share with you that I know that I am in the true church… and it’s not because I have faith in my logic and reason and because of my superior interpretation of scripture, but because God has personally told me, through the Holy Spirit that it is true. Now what answer sounds more convincing to you?

Tender Mercies

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[Note: Estelita came from Xela this week to visit Jake in Huehuetenango]

Seeing Estelita in the chapel was definitely a tender mercy on a Sunday filled with many tender mercies. On Sunday we saw the Spirit effectively changing the hearts of the extended Xutuc family toward the Church. God has been merciful to me. I did not initially follow the prompting of the Spirit to contact the Xutuc family. The Spirit had the father track us down. He is seeking to help to be reactivated in the Church, and is wanting the rest of his family to accept the restored gospel so that they can have the happy family that comes through living the commandments. To boot, I am finally able to teach a family with a child with Down Syndrome!

Uriel and his daughter’s baptism date for the 30th is still looking good. God allowed him to go to church on Sunday with his daughter’s return date to school getting pushed back by one day, which allowed him to pick them up from his wife’s house today instead of yesterday, which is such a tender mercy considering the fact that he wasn’t able to go to church last Sunday due to his ex-girlfriend having to get her stuff out of his house. Uriel has been feeling desperate due to the problems he has been having recently with his ulcer. It really was a tender mercy that he was able to go to church this Sunday, to feel a confirmation from the spirit that everything was going to be okay with his health. After teaching him the Word of Wisdom he now turns down the offer anytime someone wants to give him coffee.

NEW COMPANION:  With changes being so unorganized this transfer, I had to move all the furniture from our house to the other elders’ house Supposedly the Zone Leaders were supposed to put me in a trio with a new elder that was going to be coming to the area. And one of the elders from another companionship until an elder who went home sick and returned to the mission. In the end, I just packed everything up for nothing! I ended up receiving a new companion that is from Honduras, who is from the same group as me, which is great because we already had a relationship before becoming companions.