Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 22, 2011 (1st Transfer)

August 22, 2011

Dear Family,

I love you all so very much and I'm so happy every single week that I get to read your e-mails.  It sounds like you had quite the adventure in Utah, unless you're still there.  It sounds like a lot of fun!  I'm always trying to have a good attitude, but this week was just a little bit hard.  I feel kind of neglected all of a sudden and like they don't really want anything else done to test for my disease, but all i was told by the doctor was that I definitely had Inflammatory Bowel Disease and that the test I took was just to figure out if I have Chron's or Ulcerative Colitis.  So I got kind of mad at the doctor for leaving me in the dark like that and not telling me anything, but didn't tell him I was mad obviously.  So I'm staying in Florida.  There's no hope for me going to Mexico, so that's that.  I know that I'm going to do just as great here and that this challenge is only to help me grow.  That's the thing about the Plan of Salvation is that it's not easy and I really just want to sit around and complain all day, but where does that get you?  Nowhere.  So I guess I'm just gonna move on and try to not let it bother me too much that I don't know what's wrong with me.  They told me in 6 months they can give me another Colonoscopy and it will be more conclusive or something and Sister Barry agreed and just told me that we are just going to wait until then.  I'm just on the Asacol still and I'll be taking it for who knows how long.  I just will press forward and as long as I'm feeling fine, there's nothing to be worried about.  I just really hope that in six months the results actually ARE more conclusive.

So other than all of that, the mission is going great.  I got transferred this week to Orange Park, just right across the bridge from San Jose, and I'm now companions with a native speaker, Elder Garnica.  He's from Mesa, Arizona, but his parents are Mexican so he's fluent in both and doesn't have an accent in either really...  Lucky!  But anyway, we've been out for the same amount of time on our missions.  That's what was so crazy to me.  When I first arrived here, I was a little bit nervous because we're both so fresh, but I know that there's nothing to worry about because God provides for his noobies.  We had some incredible miracles this week!

So a member of the church and her non-member husband moved from New Jersey this week into the ward and we went to go and visit them and the husband said he had been seeing the missionaries for about a month and going to church and studying the Book of Mormon and got out all of these notes and everything and it was amazing!  So we taught him a little bit about the Restoration and then committed him to be baptized and he committed to set a goal to be baptized this weekend.  There are a lot of families here in similar situations, the only problem is that everybody either doesn't have a car or works on Sundays.  We try to teach them the commandment to keep the sabbath day holy, but a lot of people just don't understand it!  So we set 4 baptismal dates in the past 3 or 4 days though and they were all pretty solid.  I can't believe the success that we're already seeing.

But anyway, back to this part member family from New Jersey...  He told us he would come to church this week, but didn't come yesterday because he was in the hospital with his pregnant wife.  I was a little bit worried about them and asked if there was anything we could do to help and he told us he was gonna come to sacrament meeting anyway, but then he didn't.  We figured he had a legitimate excuse, so we just called him around 6:30 last night and he told us that his wife miscarried.  How do you even respond to news like that?  It was so shocking and we just asked if there was anything we could do and they invited us over to teach a quick lesson.  I was so nervous, but Elder Garnica and I prayed to be led to know what to say.  So we went up and read a little bit of Moroni 8 with them and assured them that families can be together forever and a few other things and then we sang a Hymn and it was powerful. I really admire the faith of her husband and his knowledge that their baby is in a better place.  I just felt so warm inside afterwards, and I hope that we helped them out a lot.  They are an amazing family. 

This week we got a media referral from a finding faith in Christ pass-along card and went to go visit her.  We taught the first lesson and before we could invite her she told us she wanted to be baptized and that she knew the Book of Mormon was true somehow.  Haha it was just so wonderful.  We are basically just being given golden investigators straight from heaven.  This should be an awesome transfer!  We've just got to learn to do everything on our own.

I read those verses.  Those are some of the best chapters in the Book of Mormon in my opinion.  (The ones where Alma teaches his sons...)  It's really true and because it's true this is the only way!  There's only one name given under heaven by which man can be saved and we follow him under the instruction of a man in authority to receive revelation for the whole world.  I know that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ and that there is a living prophet today.  I know that God has a plan and everything that happens to us, only happens for our benefit and chance to grow and become better people.  I don't know why I'm just now discovering a lot of the things I am, but I'm glad that I am now and not never.  I'm reading this book called the Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball, and if you all haven't read it, just do it.  It's amazing and it is opening my eyes to how God really looks upon sin and sinners and the whole purpose of life.  I really love it so much.

There's not a whole lot that I can ask for from you guys.  I don't know!  You can send me a care package any day of the week and I'll be happy...  Pictures are always awesome or if you can somehow send videos of Sophie, Sadie, Maggie and Ellie walking and talking or whatever else.  I just don't really know what to ask for because I'm pretty content with what I have and don't really need much more than that.  Cookies, candy, pictures, whatever you think would help me out to be a happier and better missionary!  

I love you all so much and I am so grateful to have you in my life.  I hope you keep on being so amazing and happy and don't ever let the tests and weights of the world hold you down.  Always see the end from the beginning!



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August 15, 2011

August 15, 2011

Dear Family,

It sounds like you are all doing amazing.  I would love to be there with you as always, but only through this sacrifice I know that I'm learning so much more.  I have so many incredible miracles to share with you from all of the sacrificing that I've been doing lately it's kind of ridiculous. 

So we have a zone goal of 17 baptisms this month, and just predicting the end from where we were about a week ago, you would have never thought it possible, considering how investigators have to actually be interested enough to go to three weeks of church before baptism and confirmation.  So anyway, we just were going about our week with complete faith in the number 17 on mind and in every prayer and our companionship alone has come to find something like 3 or 4 people that have already been to church more than three times just from tracting and street contacting.  And they all have really strong backgrounds in the church.  One of their families is completely LDS and she told us that one of her dying grandmother's final requests was for her to find the Mormons and be baptized.  On top of that, we have all of these other people that are so faithful and just need to know how important coming to realize that they need to come to know on their own the truthfulness of this church.

I would tell you a bunch of teaching things you could use to help out your neighbors, but I really think that the only thing you need to know is that they need to read the book of mormon.  Commitments are the doorway into faith and eternal life.  If you're not doing anything to receive an answer, then nothing is going to happen.  I hope that helps a little bit.  And sometimes you just have to tell people like it is...  That you don't drink wine.  I really don't think they'll be offended and when you do tell them, just let them know why if they ask you and it would be a great teaching opportunity.  Also, I hear that play is really not dissing on mormons or anything, it just sounds like something making fun of how nerdy missionaries are, so it you want you can explain to them what missionaries actually do to clear that up.  The play "The Book of Mormon" is made by the creators of South Park and I know that it's probably really crude, but they were missionaries I think and now inactive, so I really don't think they would do anything to try to destroy the church or anything like that.  I just heard some stories last week of people that were converted to the church based on some of the things said in an episode of South Park that sparked their interest.  Haha but that's not really important.

I got the package from you this week with all the smarties and the SD cards and the notes.  Thanks so much!  I'll try to bring my camera with me more places so that I remember to take more pictures.  There were no pictures of the house or any of Hannah's senior pictures on the card.  It was just empty, but you could just send me a letter with prints in it if you want.  I know that would be easier :)  Thanks so much for all that you do for me.  I really love getting mail from you so much.

So I saved the best for last this time.  Get ready for the biggest miracle of all so far.  So I really think that the reason we've been seeing so much success has a lot to do with the fact that I went in and told President Barry some stuff to make sure that I'm sanctifying myself correctly and righting any wrongs, but anyway I got a call from the clinic this week and asked them what the results were from the blood tests.  And they said they were negative.  The tests came back that I didn't have Crohn's or IBD so I don't really know what's going to happen.  I might have a celiac disease is what this little packet says, whatever that means, but today I find out what Dr. El Hajj has to say about the results and how he would like to proceed.  UGH I was so happy I wanted to jump out of the car and dance, but at the same time I'm still just sitting in the dark.  I didn't have President Barry call you when I found that out because I still don't know anything, but knew you would love to hear that.  Just pray and pray harder that I don't have anything.  I am seriously so antsy, I can't even describe how amazing it would be if I could go to Mexico and see my MTC district and not have a terrible disease for the rest of my life!  So today is the day you'll get a call from someone if I don't have Crohn's Disease, and hopefully they can tell you something more useful. :)  What a miracle!  I thank God every day that I'm living for that call I got from that nurse.  I just am hoping that the test was accurate and that I just have to change some of my diet or something to stop destroying my intestines.  I'll go a little easier on the jalapenos.

I really had a great week and I'm just working hard every day to become a hard-working, diligent, obedient, worthy, and powerful disciple of Christ and am glad to hear you are too.  I hope I didn't miss anything in this e-mail, but if so just let me know next week :)  Oh yeah by the way I play the piano all the time.  I'm getting a lot better at sight-reading hymns because I get asked like 5 times a week to play at whatever thing is going on.  I wish I had practiced more, but I'm still good enough to play in sacrament meeting.  That's something I am seriously going to perfect when I get back from my mission if I don't while I'm out here.

Something else that I have been thinking a lot about this week is that if the book of mormon is true and this is the true Church of Jesus Christ, then he is the head of the church and we are the only people in the world that follow Him.  People try to make the excuse all the time that having Him on your mind and in your heart at all times is enough, but it's not.  If that's the case, then they believe in a different Jesus.  And when people say that Mormons believe in a different Jesus, they're right because Jesus works one way, and that is the way revealed to His prophets.

I love you a lot and hope that you keep staying so happy!


Friday, August 5, 2011

1st Baptisms! (and wedding) and other pictures from Jacksonville, FL

Joaquin, Guadalupe, and Bryan being counseled by the Branch President before their wedding and baptisms.

First they were married and then the parents were baptized. Their son, Bryan was to be baptized the following week!  A very exciting first week in the mission field for Eric.

Eric with his awesome companeros!

Dinner at a neighbors house!

MTC Pictures!

Eric just sent us some pictures from his mission and from the MTC.  Here is a sampling from the MTC:

He had a great experience in the MTC.  He just sent me his SD card from his camera so I can't write about who any of these people are.  I just know that he grew to love and appreciate everyone that he met there~!

August 1, 2011

Dear Fam,

I had another amazing week, of course and have so much to say in so little time!  Some of the highlights of this week were that we made 4 moves (God's not keeping me away from having to work with you even on my mission) and then just a bunch of other miracles that will come as I go... 

On Saturday we got to listen to a member of the 3rd Quorum of the Seventy speak to us for 3 hours about our mission and it was amazing.  He talked about how important it is that we are striving constantly to sanctify ourselves.  The recurring theme in my life that keeps popping up in everything I read is a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants that says something like "If you are exercising unrighteous dominion over anyone, the windows of heaven close, the spirit withdraws and that's AMEN to that person's priesthood power."  So I just am really repenting a lot this week haha.

Rally the troops!  Jeffery R. Holland is coming to speak to our mission the Saturday before transfers (I think it's something like the 14th) and I have never been so excited!  I've been studying a lot of his stuff to prepare for that spiritual feast that's about to come.  He really is the most amazing person at speaking on the earth in my opinion and I realized my favorite chapter of scripture because of a talk that I listened to by him.  It's John chapter 21 and I love it so much because it outlines how much the Lord expects of our devotion and how amazing of a person he truly was.  After everything was done and overwith everyone turned to Peter to know what to do next because he was now the head of the Church.  The Atonement was performed and the Messiah had ascended back into heaven, and Peter told his apostles "I go a fishing."  Completely left with nothing else on his mind, he returned to that way of living before Christ had come, to go and be a fisherman.  While the apostles were fishing, they had absolutely no luck and didn't catch a single fish.  They were all tired and exhausted and in the distance they heard a voice tell them to cast the net on the otherside.  Fatigued and probably even frustrated at the suggestion, they did it and could not pull in the amount of fish that they had in the net.  The next thing that happened was that John the beloved looked back over to see who it was and told Peter it was Jesus.  Without even thinking twice, Peter jumps off the boat and swims over to the savior and i'm sure had the most amazing reunion ever and then when Jesus talked he asked Peter if he loved him.  And it took Peter three times to realize that he couldn't abandon everything that he had learned and the power that was given him.  The third time Christ asked him if he loved and Peter answered a little bit sad and doubting in a yes, of course I love you, he told him to feed his sheep.  Of all of the years of following Jesus around and watching the dead be raised or whatever else, this was the moment when Peter became the man that anyone wished that his shadow would be cast upon them.  From the time that Peter realized his love for the Lord.  -That was just kind of a little bit of a paraphrase of part of that talk, but I hope that you can realize why it's so awesome! 

Mom and Dad, I was just thinking a lot about you yesterday when I was writing a talk that I gave in church (in Spanish) about obedience to our leadership.  I think that my talk was really inspired because I was supposed to talk about missionary work, but my mind just kept wandering away from the subject every time I would ask God what I should be writing.  I think the main point I was trying to make was that whoever wants to can claim authority over someone else, but really only those that are called of God to lead truly receive the revelation needed for that certain group of people they are called to preside over.  So, for example, regardless of whether it was Thomas S. Monson or the deacon's quorum President, they have authority from the same source and when we follow the instruccions of our leaders, we are following the instruccions of Christ himself.  (Wow I just spelled instructions in the Spanish way haha...  I'm not going to change it.)  So anyway, you two are the only two people with the authority to raise me on this earth as my parents, and I was thinking about the wonderful influences you have always been to me, so thank you so much.

There was an amazing miracle this week I need to tell you about before I go.  We went in to teach these two potential investigators and it was so awesome!  We taught them the first discussion and then invited them to be baptized and just expected what we call a "light commitment" after we do this thing called the invite test, but that's just too much to explain...  So anyway they just said yes the first time we asked and we are were a little bit shocked haha.  Then, the old man that was in there that we didn't think could speak any english just woke up from his nap and stood up and started to testify that our church was true and that they should get baptized and that he was baptized a member a long time ago in New Jersey and it was so awesome!  We still don't know if he's actually a member of our church or not, but he still helped us out so much, so we're teaching them right now and they're preparing to get baptized in three weeks.  Oh my gosh it was just so funny, but also so amazing!!  I also just love how much the people here over-exaggerate their emotions.  We told this Sister named Hermana Sonia that two of the missionaries in our companionship had never been over to her house and apparently she thought we had, so she pretty much yelled "NO ME DIGAS!"  which means something like don't tell me that!  haha and then they always go off and start talking for like 15 minutes without taking a breath.  And I mean that's not everyone, but just a lot of people haha. 

The weather is beyond hot, but whatever.  Haha I mean it's Florida and it's not like I wasn't expecting this same thing in Mexico.  The weather is just always really nice, but it's so humid.  When you step outside there's like a wall of water that hits you and it's just so different from Colorado hot.  The nice thing though is that the nights and mornings are not ever cold.  I think I'm starting to become a wimp to the cold like the Brasgas haha.  It's hot, but there's not really anything to complain about.  Our air conditioner works most of the time.  By the way that's ridiculous that school starts that soon.  It feels like I've been gone forever, but at the same time for only one day.  My Spanish is coming along.  Yesterday was awesome.  I could actually understand these two Mexicans that I was talking to.  I'm the first witness and prime example that the gift of tongues is something real!

Out of time, love you a lot!  I can't wait to get pictures of the new house :) 

Love you all so much and hope you're doing amazing!!