Monday, January 20, 2014

Wow! I Can't Believe he didn't mention one thing about coming home in 10 days!

Hello everyone!
I'll be pretty brief in how things are going.
Bradon Owens' baptism was great! There were a lot of people there (because he is dating a Hmong girl in the Asian branch so lots of members from that congregation came as well). Elder Gilray baptized him and I confirmed him the next day.  We also sang "We'll Bring the World His Truth" at the baptism and that went really well.  The best part was when Brandon bore his testimony at the end.  He talked about the story in the New Testament when Christ's apostles were toiling in the storm trying to cross the Sea of Galilee when Jesus walked on the water and Peter came out to him.  He recounted the story so well and told how Christ calls out to each one of us but most of us want to stay in the boat where it's comfortable instead of coming out to him as Peter did.  He said that the Lord had been calling to him for about a year before a specific pair of missionaries came to him.  The spirit was so strong as he bore his testimony. 
Brandon received the Aaronic Priesthood on Sunday and is going to the temple on Tuesday to do baptisms for the dead with the ward.  He is awesome! The night before his baptism we had dinner with him and his roommate, America at Casa Flores. It was fun to talk to them and talk about the baptism. Brandon had written something up that morning comparing what he has felt as a runner to what the scriptures say when they relate gospel topics to "a race".  It was really cool and Elder Gilray and I both got copies of what he had written to keep.  We also talked a lot with America. She is always interested to get to know the missionaries but never wants to stay and learn more. She considers herself Catholic but doesn't go to church. She sat in on one lesson with us 2 weeks ago and came to FHE last week. We convinced her to come to Brandon's baptism during her lunch break and also to come to church for Sacrament meeting the next day. We saw a big change in her over those 3 days. We're starting to teach her this week and we hope things will go well! She's great, just shy I'm sure because she doesn't know too much about the gospel and has fallen into the rut that many Latino people fall in by considering themselves "Catholic" more as a cultural thing than a religious thing.
We don't have any other investigators that are progressing too much right now. Brandon and Kenneth are both working on quitting smoking. We are looking for new people all the time.
I'm excited for this next week of missionary work and can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for us!
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sprint to the End!

Hello Everyone!
This week was another great week.
Elder Gilray and I have been continuing to work our butts off and give it all whenever we can.  We've done a lot of teaching and lots of finding.
We have been continuing to work with Brandon Owens.  He is going to get baptized this Saturday and I can't wait! It's going to be a great service. He is very prepared and loves to learn and study and he understands everything so well. This week we found out how old he is. He seems so mature that Elder Gilray and I both thought he was 22 or 23 but it turns out he's our age, 21 and turns 22 in May.  I'm excited to always stay in touch with him and see what's all going on in his life.  He is very much converted to the gospel and ready to be baptized this Saturday.
We weren't able to see Brandon Jones too much this week but he is working on quitting smoking. He still has plenty of work to do and we are helping him as much as we can.
Kenneth has been doing well as well. He went a few days without smoking but then had a cigarette the past 2 days. He really wants to get baptized and last night we set the tone with him so he can be ready for his baptism on January 26th.  Unfortunately he didn't make it to church because Josh was sick and he couldn't find his church clothes and we didn't know that was the problem until last night.
We have been working with a guy named Luis this week.  He really wants to get answers to his questions and keep learning. He feels the spirit every time we go over there, we just have to help him do his homework and make it to church at the end of the week.
We finally found Tara again. She was sick for a while and gone for most of the holidays but we found her and were able to talk to her again. On Saturday we helped put together some shelving so she can keep her snakes/cages more organized. She's excited to start meeting with us again and come to church and activities.
We also saw a huge difference in one of our new investigators named Nati. He changed completely in the week and a half that we didn't see him. He had almost completely stopped drinking and was very humble. He felt the spirit when we taught him and even committed to come to church yesterday. He came and hated it but that was OK. He was a little bit drunk and you could tell he felt very uncomfortable there (the Spirit/your own conscience will do that to you!).  He still wants to meet with us and tonight we will talk to him a little bit more.
We got to do two exchanges this week and that was a lot of fun. The first was with one of the district leaders in our zone and his brand new companion. They have been struggling the last 2 transfers to get anything done but we had amazing days with both of them. I brought the district leader to my area and showed him what we were doing and he was amazed and learned a lot. Elder Gilray went to their area with his companion and showed him all the work they could be doing in their area. The rest of the week they were on fire and were very productive and we were very happy to the be the spark.
The other exchange was with Elder Gurr, one of the assistants to the President. I always love being around Elder Gurr because he is one of the first people I knew in Sacramento. We sat next to each other on the plane ride from the MTC to Sacramento and got to  know each other very well. We had an awesome day with him and were able to learn a lot.
The end of the week was a lot of fun. It was Jovita's birthday so we went to their house to celebrate. We also had dinner with the Barajas family last night. They showed us all their pictures/videos from their trip to Mexico and continued to emphasize how much we missed out.  Hermana Barajas is trying to set us up with her family members too. She has a sister who's 21 and she said she's going to set her up with Elder Gilray some day because she's too tall for me but not for him. She said she's going to set me up with one of her cousins that's the better looking one of the two. Ha ha it was really funny to listen to that conversation because it's apparent how much they like Elder Gilray and I and want us to be part of the family.
We are continuing to work hard and are looking for more baptisms apart from the next two weeks so that when I leave it's the worst day of my mission because the area is doing so well that it will just kill me to have to leave.
I hope all is well! Les Quiero Mucho!
Elder Gaskill

Monday, January 6, 2014

We're teaching Brandon and Brandon and...

Hello Everyone!
I hope everyone is doing as well as I am! Elder Gilray and I are seeing tons of success and I love it. I'm trying to "aprovechar" every minute of every day I can before my time runs out.
I will give a quick update on some things that are happening.
The coolest thing was that Brandon Owen (who is getting baptized on Jan 18th) got his answer this week. When we met on Wednesday he was really excited to sit us down and tell us "some news". He said he was driving this week and he felt really strongly to change the radio station to a Christian station called KLOVE. They were reading the scripture of the day and it was 1 Chronicles 16:11. As he heard that scripture and the song that followed, the Spirit touched his heart very strongly, even more powerfully than when he decided to become a Christian. He said "I knew then that I needed to be baptized into the Mormon church". It was amazing to hear the story and he was so excited to tell us.  He is such a great guy and he wanted to know so badly and he got his answer!
We are also teaching another Brandon that we met on Monday. He wants to change his life around and he's going to get baptized on January 25th. His biggest problem is to quit smoking which is a challenge because he does a lot of that. We will see how we can help him do that.
On Thursday we had a really spiritual experience in our Mission Leadership Council. We talked about goals we wanted to set for the mission this year. The last year our mission has kind of been on a decline. A lot of really new missionaries have come in and a lot of them have had to train new missionaries when they themselves don't really know what they're doing.  As a result we have really spiritual missionaries but they don't know how to baptize.  Luckily that transition phase is at it's end and now we can grow and progress. The last two years we have fallen short of our goal. This past year there were 651 people baptized in the mission. We set a goal of 801 for next year. It's a lofty change but I know it's not only accomplish-able but one that we can exceed. In 2012 when we had 2/3 the number of missionaries we baptized about 750 people.  Now we have about 75 more missionaries and it's about time we show it. Elder Gilray and I decided to start off the year by being the examples. This week we broke all sorts of records with lessons taught and people to church. We're being very blessed and I'm doing everything I can to continue it.
We are also teaching a new friend of Josh's named Kenneth. He agreed to be baptized on February 1st and loved church yesterday. I gave him a hair cut Saturday night too. He had long hair and always wore a hat to cover it up but I cut it short for him and it looks a lot better and he was a lot more comfortable at church.
We also are continuing to teach Carole. She came to church and brought a friend from Lodi named Eric. He actually lived in Riverton Utah for a while and graduated from Alta HS in Sandy in '07. He really liked church and has been before. He says he has friends that are on missions right now. We are going to try and teach him tomorrow.  He seems to already know a lot about the church.
I hope everyone is doing well back there and that things continue to go well.
Les Quiero a todos!
Elder Gaskill

Friday, January 3, 2014

Investigaor Update

Hello Everyone!
I hope all is well back home. I didn't get to send an email last week but I'll update everyone on what's going on here.
Josh Jurado is progressing very well. He received the Aaronic Priesthood 2 Sundays ago.  He didn't get to participate in the Sacrament this past week because he was sick but he's excited to this next week. He is going to the Oakland temple tomorrow night with the ward to do baptisms for the dead for the first time.  He has a friend named Kenneth that has moved in and Josh is helping him stop smoking and trying to get him to come to church as well. He's doing great.
We are working with a lot of other people and the foremost is Brandon Owen.  He has been dating a Hmong girl that goes to the Asian Branch here in Stockton for about 6 months. He was taught before by missionaries and went to church a few times but started working every Sunday in the sheriff's department (he is going to school to be a correctional officer).  We stopped by one Saturday night and he told us his work schedule just changed so he will be coming back to church.  He has come to church the past 2 weeks and is preparing to be baptized on January 18th! He is very solid. He grew up in a Christian church and wants to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration so badly. I have never seen an investigator understand the scriptures as well as he has and have such a desire to learn.
We were working with a girl named Tara and she had a baptismal date for January 11th but we haven't seen her in about 2 weeks. Her phone got disconnected and we haven't been in contact for about 2 weeks. We think she's avoiding us so we probably won't be seeing her any more.
We met a really cool guy named Brandon this past week. The sisters in Lodi found him but passed him to us since he's Young Single Adult age. He's had a rough life but is humble and ready for the gospel.  We taught him about the Restoration a few days ago and invited him to be baptized on January 25th. His response was "What time? I have a birthday party for my nephew that I need to go to as well". Ha ha, he is great and will be an awesome investigator.
We are also teaching a friend of a returned missionary named Carole. She is baptist and just graduated from a Bible college and moved back to Lodi.  She has the belief that all you need to do to be saved is audibly pronounce "I accept Jesus Christ as my Savior".  We are working a lot with her to show her what the scriptures say and we hope she will accept what the Bible says. She really wants to find out more about the Mormon faith since her friend is such a great person but has trouble accepting anything that hasn't been put in her head by her church since she was born.  We invited her to read the first chapter of 1 Nephi and she thought we wanted her to read the whole book of 1 Nephi so she got through the first 10 chapters in 2 days, which was really impressive. Her friend is leaving today to go back to BYU so it will be interesting to see how the rest of the teaching process goes. She committed to come to church this Sunday and keep meeting with us.
We are also teaching 2 girls in Lodi that I taught when I was in the Spanish branch about a year ago. Their names are Rosa and Esperanza. They are really cool but they were hard to find last year and so we couldn't teach them.  They are really interested now though and we met with them once on Sunday and had to reschedule our appointment with them yesterday for Friday.  We are excited to keep teaching them.
We were teaching a guy named Paulo who is from Samoa.  He came to church 2 weeks ago and liked it but works from 6:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. and sleeps between so it's hard to teach him. He never answers his phone either. Last Sunday when we went in the morning to invite him to church we woke up his brother and he angrily yelled at us to get off his property. Hopefully we can keep teaching Paulo but we haven't talked to him since last Friday.
The last investigator we have is interesting. His name is Nati and he's friends with a recent convert in the Lodi branch. They grew up together but took two separate paths.  Nati is involved with bad people and loves to drink and party.  He is a typical teenager. His family is really worried about him and have been praying that something changes. About a month ago his cousin died from living the same lifestyle he's in and they're worried about him. Nati said he would be willing to listen to us and hopefully we can help him make some big changes in his life. His parents were crying when we left with gratitude that we were able to come and they are hoping we are the answers to their prayers.
I forgot to mention that 2 Sundays ago Elder Gilray and I sang in church. We sang "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".  We barely practiced but it went well. We showed up early to church to practice with an accompanist and I guess we sounded good because a lady came up to us and asked us if we would sing in a stake fireside that night.  We sang in Sacrament meeting and then sang later that night in front of the stake for a Christmas fireside. It went well, especially for not having practiced much.  Elder Gilray and I were both talking about how we enjoy singing but never did it before our missions.  Now as missionaries we have sung a lot of special musical numbers.  I thought about all the times between General Conference, Sacrament Meetings, Baptisms, Firesides, Confererences, etc and I have sung a lot. I never thought of it as a talent before my mission but I guess the Lord needed to draw upon something I enjoy as a missionary.
Things are going very well here. Elder Gilray and I are having a blast. He is definitely one of my favorite companions and we enjoy every second of every day. This transfer is flying by and we're doing a lot of good work as well.
I hope all is well back home.
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Josh was baptized!

Hello Everyone!
This week was great. The best news is that Josh got baptized and confirmed. It was a great experience. He really wanted Elder Fulks to do all the ordinances since he is leaving this week and that was a great experience. He is really strong in the gospel and will be ordained to the Aaronic Preisthood next week. His situation at home is crazy and he has really bad influences all around him but he is the glimmer of light in that home. We are trying to help the rest of the family change and I think our presence has rubbed off a little bit.
We got our transfer calls and my new companion is Elder Gilray. I'm very excited.  I asked for him to get sent to me so I'm glad they made it happen.  Elder Gilray started his mission 6 weeks after me but had to go home for knee surgery after a football game in Galt in the summer of 2012.  He was only home for 3 months and has been back for a while.  He is a really good missionary (Spanish speaking) so I'm excited to work with him. He's a lot of fun. He's from Dallas, Texas and I'm pretty sure was going to BYU-I before his mission. Elder Fulks is really sad to be leaving. It's just barely dawning on him that he's actually leaving. I'm glad it's not me yet.
We are working with the members to find a lot of new people. We dropped or were dropped by almost all our investigators last week. We got down to 1 but she's still cool. She hasn't been to church yet but has seen how different she has felt meeting with us and in the ward function she went to.  She almost was admitted to the hospital last night which would have been bad but she got out of it and so now we can keep teaching her.
I'm excited to be here in the Christmas season and remind people what they should really be focused on. I continue to hope and pray that we can be lead to the people who are being prepared to meet us. I love this work!
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Monday, December 9, 2013

The work continues to roll forth here

Hello Everyone!
This past week went very well.
The highlight of the week has been continuing to work with Josh.  He is still getting baptized this Saturday and is very excited for it.  This week we will prepare the program and find out who he wants to do what.
We spent a lot of time in Galt of Tuesday which was fun.  We had to go all the way up to Rancho Cordova for a meeting in the morning so on the way back down we stayed in Galt to do some work there.  We were really excited for an appointment with one of Brenda's friends but she had to cancel because her parents didn't want us coming over. We ended up going over anyway because we listen to the Spirit instead of people as missionaries and it turned out well. We found out that they had a recent death in the family and were able to offer comfort. We are still looking for a way to teach Mariana but we have something set up at Brenda's house this week that we are excited about. 
Tuesday evening we got our Thanksgiving dinner just a little bit late. Hermana Cardona made a turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.  She said it was our Christmas dinner but it seemed a lot more like Thanksgiving but it was really good! It was fun to spend some time with the Cardona family as well. 
Brenda finally got her mission call! We helped her finish her papers back in August before I left Galt but the branch president and stake president were slow in doing the interviews so everything didn't get turned in until a few weeks ago. Brenda has been waiting by the mailbox every day and the call finally came on Saturday. She opened it yesterday after church so we drove up at the end of the Spanish ward and watched her open the call. She's going to Baltimore, Maryland Spanish speaking! We were all very excited for her.  She reports to the MTC on January 29th, 2014.  I told her that since her mission starts the day before mine ends she will be taking my spot as a missionary just in a different part of the country and she will have to keep up the missionary spirit.  It was an exciting moment for everyone in the branch.
We started teaching a cool new person named Tara. She recently moved down from the Lodi hills to Lodi. She happened to move into an apartment complex where some Elders live and so when she asked for help from the apartment manager they referred her to the missionaries. They helped her and then passed her information to us. She has gone through a lot of rough things and is looking for more peace in her life. She's great and is getting along great with the ward. She came to our Christmas party and got to know a lot of people. She was supposed to come to Stake Conference yesterday but didn't make it so we'll have to find out why. She's great though.
We got to see the Rodriguez family twice as well. We were on splits with members of the stake high council and we went to see JJ but he wasn't there.  His parents didn't know we were coming either and they were with the teacher of the beauty school Jovita goes to and her husband. Right when we walked in they told us we had come at the perfect time because they were just talking about the church. Since I was the only Spanish speaker I was able to sit down and teach these people about the gospel and what we do as missionaries.  They live here in Stockton and so I am going to set them up with the Spanish missionaries here this week. Juan and Jovita were planning on taking them to the Oakland temple with the Spanish Branch to see the lights so we will have to see if that happened.
The work continues to roll forth here. It's getting cooler and closer to Christmas and I'm excited for this time of the year to be a missionary.
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pouring out all my heart, might, mind, and strength into this work!

Hello Everyone
The last week was another great one!
Thanksgiving was a great day! We went to Lodi and had Thanksgiving dinner with the Rodriguez family. It wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving dinner but I enjoyed it.  We had a good spicy chicken in a red sauce instead of turkey, and had lots of pasta/potato salads on the side with pumpkin pie at the end.  We ate a normal amount instead of stuffing our faces and still felt good afterwards.  Later on I missed the yams from the traditional dinner we have at home but the most important part was there: being thankful and being around the people you care about.  It was fun to be in the same home for both Thanksgivings on my mission.  Their extended family was there as well and it was good to see all of them again. None of them are members so I enjoy exercising my influence on them so hopefully later down the road it will add up and make a difference. 
 We came home at about 7:00 and it was really weird not having anything to do. As a missionary it kills me not being able to use my time effectively and efficiently.  My companion went to bed really early and I spent a lot of time reading the Book of Mormon, going through our area book, and cleaning.  I still had time and had nothing to do so I ended up tying every tie I have with a new knot I learned from our investigator Josh (called the Trinity knot). I was really bored! Eventually I sat down and began to look over pictures of my mission, pictures from before, pictures with my family, etc and had a really good reflective moment to think about all that I have in my life and especially the many blessings I've seen on my mission.  I was able to notice a lot of changes that I've seen and then make plans to continue to improve and set goals for where I want to be in the future.  It was a good, relaxing evening.
We were able to work hard the rest of the week. On Saturday it was the last day of the month and we had a lot of miles saved up so we decided to drive up to Galt and work there.  We went through our list of people to visit and no one was home.  We decided to stop by the Cardona's house to see if Brenda had any friends for us to go visit.  When we arrived she was anxiously awaiting to mailman because her mission call is in the mail and she was waiting for it to arrive any second.  While we were there on the doorstep with her the mailman came but sadly she didn't have her mission call.  She decided to come out with us and introduce us to one of her friends named Mariana.  She was nervous because she thought she was really Catholic but we talked to her on her front porch for a while and she was really interested in our message.  She told us she had kind of distanced herself from the Catholic church recently because she didn't feel comfortable there and has started going to a few other churches with her friends and said she would like to go with Brenda! Right now Brenda goes to the Lodi Spanish branch so we'll have her come to the YSA a few times to help us out.  It was a great contact. Unfortunately about 20 family members were on their way over when we showed up so we had to set up another appointment for tomorrow that we are excited about.  Brenda also took us to meet another member who used to go to the branch but moved to Yuba city a little before I got there.  Between the two of them they thought of about 8 more people in Galt that we should teach and we are excited to meet them this week!
The rest of the week went really well. Josh has learned almost everything from the missionary lessons and is excited to be baptized at 1:00pm on December 14th. He even fasted with us yesterday and made it the full 2 meals.  He is such an awesome guy and I feel very privileged to be one of the missionaries teaching him.
Last night we didn't have a dinner so we went to the Hixon's house.  The Hixon family feeds all 8 missionaries in the Delta Spanish ward every Sunday so Elder Fulks and I were excited to go back and see the family as well as the current Spanish missionaries.  Everyone in the family remembered both of us, even the kids so that made us both happy.  They Hixons have a picture up of every missionary that has ever eaten dinner at their house (starting from about 4 years ago) so they have pictures covering the space right below the ceiling that goes all around their kitchen and living room.  It was weird to see how many missionaries have come since I left Stockton in June 2012.  It was also weird to see the pictures of missionaries that I knew very well that finished their missions a long time ago.  It also felt like coming home and it was good to be back.
Things are going well in our area and Elder Fulks and I feel very blessed. I feel especially blessed because I have more time left than he does (he has 2 weeks left).  We both freaked out a little bit yesterday when it became December 1st because with every new month comes the beginning of the end.  I think I might have a heart attack on New Years but I hope not. Right now I'm just focused on one day at a time making each day the best it can be and pouring out all my heart, might, mind, and strength into this work!
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill