Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Great teaching this week

Hello Everyone!

This week went pretty well. Elder Hernandez and I are getting along really well and doing some good work.  I don't know if I wrote very much about him last week but he is from Orange County in Southern California.  He was born in Sonora, Mexico and came to the United States when he was 3 so he pretty much was raised here and just knows Spanish from speaking it at home with his family.  He's a cool guy, doesn't really play any sports but is a nice guy, the stereotypical California kid.

We had a really good lesson with Arturo this week.  We keep challenging him to get baptized and he always says he's not really sure and doesn't want to make any decision until he's sure and he can talk it over with his family.  Elder Hernandez and I went over there and we taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he understood it really well.  At the end of the lesson we all knelt down and took turns saying a prayer and then being quiet and listening.  There were 3 ladies in the other room being really loud and laughing but the Spirit was still there.  At the end we sat down again and bore testimony and I could tell something had definitely changed in him.  Normally he always looks at us as we talk to him but this time he was just staring down at his hands and listening to what we said.  Afterwards I told him I knew he was going to get baptized and he told me it was true, so I made him promise me that he won't deny the Spirit and that when it tells him he needs to get baptized that he will listen, to which he said he would.  He goes back home in about 2 weeks and I hope he decides to get baptized before then but if not I know he will get baptized back in Mexico.  His family is coming up on the 21st to spend the rest of the year between L.A. and here and so I'll get to meet his family soon too.  If Arturo doesn't get baptized here some missionaries in Ensenada, Mexico are going to get really lucky because he'll get baptized really soon and he has an awesome family so they'll get 4 more baptisms on top of that.  The most important thing is that he gets baptized and I just hope we can stay in touch after he goes back.

We also have a really solid investigator that will probably get baptized in Mexico too.  She loves the church, and loves anything you tell her about Joseph Smith and the Restoration.  She just has trouble coming to church because she's an old Grandma that has lots of physical health problems so she can't be by herself.  We taught her about the Word of Wisdom a few days ago and the only problem she had was with coffee because that's how she gets the medication she needs (through a special type) for her bone health, but she told us that she would stop drinking that and start taking the pills that do the same thing even though she doesn't like taking them.  She is a really solid investigator but lives in Mexico and is going back in 2 weeks as well.  She is just going home long enough to get her VISA renewed but she might very well get baptized while she's there.  She wants to get baptized but she needs to come to church more first and hasn't been able to in her situation.  She thinks it will take about 2 months to get her VISA renewed so she might come back here to get baptized too because she really liked Elder Martinez and I and wants one of us to baptize her.  We'll see how that plays out.

There were lots of Ward Christmas Dinners this weekend and that was fun.  We went to our branch's dinner and an English ward's dinner and there was definitely a huge difference in the livelihood and "alegria" that was there.  I don't think I'm ever going to be able to go back to an English Ward after my mission.  It was a lot of fun and the member's brought a couple friends that we're going to start teaching and hopefully they'll be really interested in the gospel.

Last night we had a big fireside that we have been planning for a while.  Our ward mission leader's son served a mission in Ukraine and married a girl from out there, so him, his wife, and his sister in law flew out from BYU for a weekend to do this fireside.  He is a really good singer and they are really good on the piano and on the violin so the fireside was a musical fireside with Christmas/Classical songs that featured a combination of voice, violin, and piano.  It was really good.  They recorded the fireside so I am going to try to get a couple copies of it to keep and send home.  It was a whole stake event and they advertised it in the newspaper so there were a lot of non-members that came.  Hopefully some of those people were touched by the fireside and decide to listen to the missionaries and accept the gospel that will make them truly happy.
This week has been great, Christmas time is coming up and I hope you all are remembering the true spirit of Christmas!

Les Quiero Mucho!
Elder Gaskill

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jorge's Baptism and another new Companion

Hello Everybody!

This week has been great!
The best thing that happened this week was Jorge Guzman's baptism.  It went really well and was a lot of fun.  Elder Guzman got to come back and baptized Hermano Guzman so that was cool.  It's been really awesome to see the change he's made over the past few weeks as we've taught him.  Over the past weeks he has been accepting everything we've been teaching and making a big change in his life.  He and his wife had had marital problems in the past but now they are very happy and plan to go to the temple in a year, and he is very happy and grateful for everything we've helped him do.  His son on the mission in Oaxaca, Mexico is also very happy and grateful.  Jorge's wife told us what really made a difference were Elder Martinez and I which was really cool to hear.  When I was confirming him and giving him the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday during church I had a cool experience.  My Spanish happened to be really good in the moment and as I said everything I wasn't thinking about what I was going to say and I even forgot I was in Sacrament meeting, but I was just talking and listening to the Spirit.  One of the things that surprised me was I told him that he would be the means for many more members of his family coming into the gospel by being baptized.  It could be true because he has 4 other kids that aren't members and all of his family that lives here in Galt are not members either.  Jorge also got the priesthood on Sunday and so it has been a very awesome week with him.

We also have another family that should get baptized soon.  About 2 months ago the Ortega family got baptized and since then his brother and their family have been coming to church every week.  They all really like the church but have been unsure about baptism and haven't been able to because the parents aren't married and that dad is still married to his first wife from 19 years ago.  They have been closed to the idea of marriage and baptism but something happened this past week and it all changed.  Now they are shooting to be married and baptized on Christmas Day.  We are doing a lot of work to find out if he can get divorced easily through the Mexican consulate or if we have to do it through United States' courts but hopefully we can get everything done really soon so they can be married and baptized with their 2 kids on that day.

We have been doing a lot of cement work recently.  On Saturday in the morning the two of us along with about 10 people from the Elder's Quorum laid cement in part of the driveway, a side patio, a back patio, and a sidewalk all the way around the house.  The amazing part is that we did it all in 35 minutes.  It was really impressive how well and quickly everyone works.  It's a lot of work and hard to do but we were running everywhere and working quickly to get it done.  The good news is now I know how to lay cement and I could do it on my own someday if I had all the tools.

We got our transfer calls last night and I think both Elder Martinez and I were disappointed.  He is leaving to go to the Sac 7 branch and I am staying here and my new companion will be Elder Hernandez.  We were both almost 100% sure we were staying together since we've been doing such good work and baptizing a lot but I guess not.  Elder Hernandez is a cool missionary but I would have loved to be another transfer with Elder Martinez.

Today we got to go to the Pulga (the flea market)  because our preparation day was on Tuesday instead of Monday and it was a lot of fun.  I bartered with a couple of the Mexican people there and got a US soccer jersey for $15 and a really nice Mexican style sweatshirt for $20.  We'll get to go back in a few weeks since we have our p-days on Christmas and New Years instead of the Mondays in those weeks.  I might buy some other cool things to send home too.  We were there really early and a lot of people hadn't set up their shops yet so we'll see a lot more things on those days when we go back.

I hope everyone is well! Everything's going well out here in Lodi!

Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10 months! Baptisms coming up on the 8th.

 (Note from John's Mom:  Sorry this week's post and last week's post are late.  John's little brother, Colin was born on Nov. 26th and it's been a busy time at our house so I got a little behind on the blog.)

Hello Everybody!

This week has been another great week! On Saturday I passed my 10 month mark in the mission and I officially feel old now that I'm in the double digits.  I hate how fast the time is going by.  Nevertheless, the work still goes on!

This past week we had some awesome experiences.  On Wednesday we were teaching Jorge Guzman the plan of salvation and then after we were asking him about how his prayers were going and if he felt like he had received an answer.  The last two times we had asked him he told us he was "close", really close.  This time he kind of laughed at us and said "what would I need to do to get baptized?".  We explained to him about the baptismal interview and he said "prepare it!".  We were so excited, Jorge is going to get baptized this Saturday the 8th.  He's finally ready.  He's been very prepared and his son on a mission asked him to fast with him this past Sunday so they all fasted and I'm sure it helped a lot.  We will have an awesome baptismal service Saturday.

This week has also been an interesting week with JJ.  Remember JJ from last week who is Juan and Jovita's son who accepted to be baptized? Well originally we had passed him to the the English missionaries to be taught and they passed him to the the YSA missionaries since he's a 21 years old.  He didn't like that church so he started coming to the Spanish branch again with his parents.  Last week we taught him and he accepted to be baptized. 

Thursday was mission conference and Elder Bruce D Porter of the Seventy came to talk to us.  It was an awesome conference and he talked a lot about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful because now I understand it a lot more, even though I thought I understood it before.  It was great to see a lot of the missionaries in the southern half of the mission again too.

Friday was the big "Multicultural Spanish Activity" that Elder Rivera and I had started to plan in Elk Grove.  All the Spanish wards and branches came from the whole mission and it was awesome.  We had about 500 people there and about 25% of them were non-members.  We got there really early to set up everything and practice how things would go so that everything would run smoothly.  It turned out to be a great event! The Book of Mormon art gallery was awesome! I took a picture of every single painting so you'll get to see them when the SD card gets home.  We gave a really awesome tour to Juan and Jovita, and Jovita's brother's family, and a couple other members.  Jovita's brother has a lot of doubts about the church but his wife seems to really like it.  At the end of the tour she took one of each of the pamphlets with her to read later.  When that tour ended the next part of the program started (switch from just eating to the devotional).  To begin the devotional every one of the Spanish missionaries (all 40 of us were there) went up and said our name and where we were from.  The told us to say we were from different places in the world to be funny.  Some elders said they were from other countries/states/etc and the people there thought it was really funny.  When Elder Martinez and I finished the tour we heard all the missionaries saying where the were from so we ran back into the gym.  We were the last two up there and we didn't notice at the time but the other missionaries told us they cheered a lot louder for us than for the rest of the missionaries.  I ran up there and said "Soy Elder Gaskill y vengo de Paranguara Cutirimicuaro" which is a kid's legend in Mexico that most people can't pronounce (especially white people) so they loved that.  Elder Martinez ran up and said "Don't cry everyone we made it" and got everyone to laugh and then said where he was from.  I guess the two of us were a big hit.  All the missionaries then proceeded to sing "We'll bring the world his truth" (in Spanish).  President Martinez talked for a little while and then the real fun began.  A couple professional dance groups danced folkloric dances from different part of Mexico and a professional singer sang a few songs.  It was really awesome and I took videos of a lot of it.  By the end it was 10:00pm and we had to hurry to get home.  It was really nice to see all the Spanish Elders and Sisters and see all the members from Stockton and Elk Grove again.  It was an awesome event and definitely a big party (:

Saturday we went and did a blitz for our roommates' area which is struggling a little bit.  They haven't had any solid investigators to teach for a while so the 8 of us missionaries got together and "blitzed" the area (sent everybody to work in their area) for 2 hours.  Elder Boeke and I were able to find a lady named Paula who said she already knew the church was true but never was baptized because she was afraid of committing.  She hadn't been to church in about 3 years but still knew the church was true.  We read Mosiah 18:8-10 with her and committed her to get baptized in December if she received and answer to her prayers that she should do so.  Sooooo now those elders should have a solid investigator for this month! We were really happy to help out and felt blessed to be able to find that truly prepared lady.

We didn't get to watch the Christmas Devotional yesterday because we were really busy teaching everyone but hopefully we'll get to watch it online for a Family Home Evening with a member this week.
Hope all is well back home and everyone is getting in the Christmas Spirit!

Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

November 26, 2012

Here's what happened in my short week after Thanksgiving.

Saturday we had our baptism of Hermana Diaz and that was really interesting.  Elder Martinez told me to baptize her so that was the plan.  We had taught her how the baptism was going to go over and she was ready to go.  When we got into the font, things started to go wrong.  The font had a little leak so there wasn't as much water in it as when we stopped filling it.  Hermana Diaz was also a little afraid of the water so it took a couple of times to get the baptism right.  She was afraid to bend over backwards and just tried to sit down the first time.  Then I didn't explain well enough and I told her we had to do it so that her whole body got wet so she began washing her face and her head with water from her hands.  Then we tried to do the baptism while she was kneeling and that didn't work either.  Eventually we had to get another member to put one of the baptismal suits on and come in with me.  We kind of pushed her under really quick and then brought her back up but it worked.  She was really happy after that and felt a lot better.  In the hour long baptismal service my appreciation for her grew a lot as I saw her struggling to do something that she knew was right, and eagerly listening to the talks and testimonies that were given at her baptism.

Sunday morning the fog came in really thick and we could barely see 20 yards in front of us in the car.  We were worried that a lot of people wouldn't come, but luckily they just came late.  Elder Martinez and I taught the gospel principles class and it went really well.  After church we went and ate with Jovita and Juan, our recent converts.  They have a 21 year old son who's never really been interested until his parents got baptized.  The English elders came by to teach him and then sent him to the nearest Young Single Adult ward in Stockton.  He didn't like the YSA ward at all so he decided to just keep coming with his parents.  We decided to go teach him and had a really good lesson with him.  He wasn't really talkative but finally we got him to open up a little bit.  We asked him why he wants to go to church and he told us he wants to find peace in his life, and come closer to his family.  We told him how he could do that and talked to him about the Book of Mormon and how he can find out that it's true.  When we asked him if he knew how the Holy Ghost work.s  He didn't.  I asked him if he had ever felt something inside of him telling him not to do something to which he said yes.  When I asked him how he felt after listening to that voice he said peaceful at times and relieved at others.  He then mentioned quickly how if he hadn't listened to it one of those times he probably would have died in a car accident with a few of his friends.  Then he began feeling the Spirit really strongly and started crying.  We told him more about the Holy Ghost and promised him that he would feel that same peace as an answer to his prayers.  He accepted the challenge to be baptized on December 8th! We should have another 2 or 3 people be baptized on that day so it's going to be an awesome day!

Well that's all that's happened since Thanksgiving.  When we were with Elder Guzman in Manteca this morning he got a call from President Lewis saying his Grandpa had died so keep him and his family in your prayers.

Les Quiero Mucho!
-Elder Gaskill

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Baptism This Saturday

Hello Everybody!
This past week has been very busy but very exciting.
One of the coolest things is that we have a miracle baptism coming up this Saturday.  There is a 70 year old lady who has been coming to church for a while.  She had records in the ward list so we thought she was a recent convert.  A member asked us over dinner if she was making any progress and if she was going to get baptized and that surprised us.  We went to work researching to find out if she was a member. We found out that the record we had was for a 46 year old family member that has a similar name but isn't her.  She really wants to get baptized and is getting baptized in 2 days! We're really excited for that and very grateful for the miracle of witnesses this baptism.
I'll tell some stories in a kind of jumbled order because it's been almost 2 weeks since the last time I reported:
One day I was on exchanges with a new missionary and all our plans feel through so we decided to go tracting (we never have to tract in Spanish work so I wasn't excited about that).  The third house we knocked on turned out to be a less active family that had moved away about a year ago and never updated the ward on where they lived.  They have been inactive about 5 years.  They started falling away from the church because the husband was working a lot of evenings/weekends as a CNA and then they ended up turning to some sort of "spiritualism" instead of going to church.  It was really sad to be in their home because they didn't seem happy at all and they turned away from the happiness they once knew.  I asked a lot of questions to try to understand why they did what they did and what their beliefs were.  What I concluded is that they believe in God but not in any religion, nor prophets, nor scriptures.  They pretty much took the Gospel and got rid of all structure.  They believe in God but they turn to meditation to be happy and are just lost.  I asked them a lot about what they believe about the purpose of life, what happens after this life, etc.  They told me they believe everyone is going back to heaven no matter what they do, no matter how bad the people are.  When I asked them what they believe the point of life was, they didn't know.  The best answer they could give me is that we were all here to learning something, gain some sort of knowledge, but they didn't know what.  When I asked them why we had to come here to learn these lessons and why couldn't we just stay with God and learn there they had no idea.  It was really sad for me to see how they had known the truth and been happy but had fallen away from it because they were never truly converted to the gospel and they ended up falling away.
A week ago I got to go back to Elk Grove for the baptism of Racquelle! I was really excited to hear that she was getting baptized.  I had to miss the wedding the week before but she got baptized the week after and I was really pleased to be able to go back and see that.  I got to see a lot of members and investigators again and that was awesome.
We did a little bit of marriage counseling last week.  There is a family that we're teaching that wants to be baptized, but the parents had been having problems for a while.  They've been married 14 years and they have 5 kids but the wife wants to get divorced and move back with her family in Fresno.  It was really sad to hear and we tried to help them as best we could.  The problems had stopped a while ago between the two of them (not coincidentally the same time they met the missionaries back in May), however the wife couldn't forgive him and get over what had happened in the past.  We talked a lot about repentance and the atonement but nothing seemed to make a difference.  The most frustrating thing is that she had made up her mind that she was going to leave and had given up on the marriage already.  We pleaded with her to ask her Heavenly Father through prayer if that was the best decision for her to make but she wouldn't accept His help even though we brought it up probably about 20 times in a half hour.  We'll see how that situation turns out in the coming weeks.
Elder Martinez and I probably taught the best lesson of my entire mission last Friday.  There is a family in the ward who has their 19 year old nephew living with them to study English for 2 months in the adult school here.  He has come to church every week since he's been here so we decided to teach him.  He asked if Catholicism or Christianity was older, so we taught him about The Restoration.  I don't know where the words we said came from but my companion and I taught the best lesson I have ever witnessed.  We answered all his questions well enough to evoke the response every time "wow, I really like what you just said".  The Spirit definitely worked through us to testify of the truthfulness of the message.  At the end of the lesson he told us how when he was young he was looking for the truth but never found it in any of the churches he went to so turned inward to find peace.  He still has that same desire but feels like religions just take advantage of you.  We told him that if he asked God if the message that we shared was true, he would receive an answer from God that no man could give him, neither take from him.  He really liked that because no one had ever suggested that he ask God what's true.  He told us that if he believed that any church was true it would be the Mormon church, and that if he were to ever join with any church it would be ours.  We could tell the Spirit helped us out a lot because he asked us if we go to school for a couple years to study to be a missionary first and was really surprised that we get all our training in just a couple of weeks.  We're going to challenge him to be baptized December 8th and we're really excited for that.
This past week we have worked a lot in a little city named Thornton.  We found a family that has been prepared and really loves everything that we say.  They had been taught 4 years ago when the lived in Galt and 15 years ago when they lived in Stockton but had lost contact with the church when they moved out to the fields where this little city is.  We've taught them twice and we'll see what happens in the coming weeks.
This past week during dinner we listened to 2 sets of parents talk about parenting and things like that.  One of the things they mentioned is that if a child ever is "rebellious" or a wayward child it's because their parents didn't give them enough attention.  I was thinking about my own history and my parents and I was thinking about how that wasn't true and I realized how grateful I was for my parents and everything they've done for me, and especially for never giving up on me even when I was really difficult and wasn't making the right choices.
Today we drove 2 hours into the mountains and went to a national park in Arnold, CA called Big Trees.  It was a lot of fun, lots of massive trees that had fallen over and been turned into a lot of different things.  I'll send a picture or 2 home today in an email but you'll have to wait for the rest of them.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I'm very thankful for my friends and family for the great influences they've been upon me in my life and for all the many blessings I have.
Les Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Busy Week

Hello Everybody!
This week has been really busy but went well.  At the beginning of this week I got to go on exchanges with the zone leaders and be in English work for a day.  We met a really interesting guy named Brad.  He knew the Bible really well but misquoted a lot of scriptures and doesn't really understand exactly what all the scriptures mean.  He told us he was confused about how he could find out if the Book of Mormon is true or not.  He doesn't believe that getting a spiritual confirmation/answer through the Holy Ghost would be good enough for him.  He thinks that God would give us a way that is a lot more sure to find out (ironically because he would deny an answer that God sends directly to him through the Holy Ghost).  He thinks the only way to find our if a book is true is by looking at all the prophecies the person who wrote it gave, and find out if they've all been fulfilled.  It was a really interesting lesson because the guy really wants to know if the Book of Mormon is true but he's stuck in his ways and doesn't understand the scriptures so won't do what he ought to do to find out for himself.
We found a couple really cool new investigators this week.  One's name is Lemuel.  He is a pastor at a church his dad founded called "The Church of Jesus Christ in the Americas".  When we found all this out and heard his name we were convinced that he was destined to get baptized and there was no way it could all be a coincidence.  He had questions about baptisms for the dead, how he could know if the Book of Mormon is true, and other questions about the Godhead.  He is only 23 and knows a lot but also misinterprets the scriptures and is confused about a couple things.  We're really excited to go back and teach him and see if he's willing to look to God for more understanding.  We also found a man named Jesus who (2 years ago) decided to start reading the Bible and living it's teachings and has a lot of faith.  He still feels like there's something missing in his life and we told him he could find that through the fullness of the gospel restored on the earth today.  We haven't taught him very much but his sister and her family have been to church twice and at least the kids really liked it.  We"ll see where that goes.
We got a call early in the morning this week from the mother of a recent convert who told us her daughter had been run over by a car the night before and had been in the hospital.  We rushed over there only to be greeted by an angry teenager who was really sore and didn't want us to be there.  It turned out that she had been hit by a car while crossing a cross walk and fell over and scraped her side and back but besides that she was fine.  We were relieved about all that.
The baptism of Jovita and Juan went really well.  Their son (who was baptized just under a year ago) flew in from Florida to baptize his mom and dad, and also confirm them the next day.  Jovita's sister also flew out from Florida, and her brother's family as well as her parents came to see everything.  There were a lot of people at the baptism and it went well.  The son didn't speak Spanish very well and had never baptized/confirmed anyone before so we spent a lot of time teaching him before the day of the baptism and also whispering the words to him while he was performing the ordinances.  Elder Guzman and Elder Mata came to see the baptism as well so it was good to see them again.  Juan and Jovita are really solid and it was a great weekend for them.
Saturday night we had a big ward activity talent show right after the baptism.  There was a lot of really good food there, and a lot of cool talents.  A lot of less active members and investigators came and it was a big success.  A lot of investigators came to church on Sunday as well.  For dinner we drove about an hour away into the "Lodi Hills" which are foothills of the mountains in California.  It looked a lot like Black Forest/Monument and reminded me of home.  It was also colder up there and a lot of fun to be out in nature.
I'll say a little bit more about my companion too.  Elder Martinez was born in Arizona but grew up in Puebla, Mexico until he was 14.  He is a really good soccer player and also a good runner.  He's a really funny guy and we get along really well.  His family has been members their whole lives.  He has been out on his mission about 15 months.  He studied business management at ASU before coming on his mission but will probably go to BYU afterwards.
That's all I've got for this week.  It's getting cooler here, hopefully it's not too cold out there.
Les Quiero,
-Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lots of work in Lodi and Galt

Hello Everyone!

This past week in Lodi has been great! Elder Martinez and I are having a lot of fun.  Missionary work becomes a lot more fun when your companion is also a really good friend.  The Lodi area is awesome too! It's a lot more like Stockton than Elk Grove.  There are a ton of Hispanic people here and there are some white people too but hardly any other cultural groups.  Galt is almost completely Hispanic or white as well.  The branch here is awesome and loves missionary work.  Ironically it is bigger than both the wards in Stockton and Elk Grove that I have been in but still considered a branch.

We have done a lot of great work and seen a lot of success.  We have 2 investigators that are going to be baptized this week that we are really excited about! Jovita is pretty much a member already, she knows everything and comes to every activity and is awesome.  Her husband, Juan is just as awesome but wasn't sure if he wanted to get baptized this week.  On Saturday we went over to their house and did a lot of service, had lunch with them, and then taught them.  We went over all the baptismal questions with them to make sure they were ready.  When the husband told us he still wasn't sure, I asked him if he believed that Joseph Smith restored the church and that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet on the earth today.  He told me he had a testimony of both of these things and we helped him realized that his testimony of everything else stems from these two beliefs.  Right now his only problem is leaving behind the idols that Catholics love but we told him that he would be able to do it and that he is prepared and ready for baptism.  He told us he would give us an answer the next day, and on Sunday at church we asked him and he told us he wanted to be baptized! We were really excited for that and he and his wife will get baptized this weekend.

Yesterday was a really great but busy day.  We had 8 investigators come to church and we had our hands full with them.  Our two investigators that are getting baptized this weekend came (Jovita and Juan), the family of a recent convert family came, an investigator from Galt came, and a new guy we had never met before.  The investigator from Galt's wife is a member, and has a few kids who are members, one of which is serving a mission in Oaxaca, Mexico right now.  This is his second time to church and I think he will get baptized soon.  The other investigator was the nephew of a member who is here in the states for his first time and is on vacation for about a month before he goes back to Mexico.  There was a baptism last night for 3 eight year olds in the ward.  There were just as many people there as there were in church that day; it was amazing! Jovita brought her brother and his family to the baptism, a few of our other investigators came, and the members brought two new families (their neighbors) that we had never met before.  We had our hands full trying to get to know them all and set up a time to come over and teach them.  It was the best!  Those are the best moments for a missionary.

Our area here is really big so we have a lot of work to do.  The mission is low on Spanish speaking missionaries so they had to combine a lot of areas.  One of those areas was Galt and Lodi.  Elder Martinez and I are both learning the Galt area since we have never served before but Elder Martinez is teaching me the Lodi area since he's already been here for 2 transfers.  We have more work to do than we have time or resources to accomplish but it will be great.  Hopefully a lot of new Spanish speaking missionaries will come  in December so they can separate the two areas again but for now we'll be working all day from sun up to sun down.

I'm really looking forward to this transfer and I'm learning a lot each day.  I think my Spanish accent is just about there because yesterday the 2nd counselor in the bishopric introduced me to the priesthood quorums and told them I was from Jalisco, Mexico and a lot of members were excited to talk to me about "our hometown" of Jalisco afterwards.  So my Spanish must have been good enough that it was believable.  One of the bonuses of having native speaking companions is they can teach me a lot about the language and I can master the accent by mimicking theirs'.

Well the work keeps going.  I can't believe 2012 is coming to a close already.  One of these days I'm going to wake up and be getting on a plane coming home.  It's going to come a lot sooner than I want it to but the time just goes by way too fast out here.  I love Lodi and Galt and it's going to make the time go by even faster.
I hope all is well at home!

Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Transferred to Lodi

Hello Everybody!
This week has been a really interesting one! I'll start from today and work my way back in the week.
So transfer calls came last night and I am going to Lodi to be with Elder Martinez.  Elder Martinez was in my district and ward my first transfer here but then left to Lodi after that.  He's an awesome missionary so I'm very excited to be with him.  I'm really sad to be leaving Elk Grove because I've really grown to love the ward, the people, and the area a lot.  The ward is kind of slow in helping the missionaries out but it is full of awesome people.  The person I will probably miss the most is Bishop Almendariz.  He has been an awesome influence on me during my time here and I feel like he and I are really close friends now.  We're a lot alike (except sadly I'm not even the least bit Mexican) but other than that we could be brothers (if the age difference weren't 45 years).  Luckily he's giving me a ride down to Lodi tomorrow morning so I'll get to talk to him and say goodbye before we leave.  We have a lot of investigators that I'm sad to leave to but I should be coming back on 4 different occasions for baptisms in the next 2 months so that will be great.
This morning we went to the temple and that was great! I love the temple.  The Sacramento temple is really beautiful and it was great to be able to go in.  Almost all the Spanish missionaries from the mission were there so it was nice to be able to see a lot of good friends as well.  I got to see Elder Guzman again, and talk to Elder Martinez.  I was sad to talk to Elder Gillray and learn he is leaving on Wednesday to go home to have knee surgery.  He is one transfer younger than I am and he's an awesome missionary.  He's getting released and is planning on coming back but knee surgery is a big deal and takes a lot of time to recover and so he might not make it back.  I sure hope he does though.

Last night we had a really good lesson with the Lopez family.  They've been involved in a rosary the last 9 days so we haven't seen them at all.  They were going to come to a baptism on Saturday but they got lost taking the train and ended up in Roseville when we went over to pick them up at 4:45 and then on Sunday Susanne's boyfriend got jumped and was in the hospital so they couldn't come to church either.  We had a really good lesson with them last night though because we got our transfer calls in the middle of the lesson and since I knew it was the last lesson I would have with them I really wanted to commit them to baptism.  The Spirit was really strong and they agreed to be baptized when they got an answer to their prayers.  They have been praying but they have been looking for an answer like a picture falling off the wall or a bird running into the window.  We explained how prayers usually get answered and now they are prepared to get an answer.  I'm really sad I have to leave that family but at least I will get to come back for the baptism.

Sunday was one of the best Sundays of my mission.  They bishopric got a new 2nd counselor this week so his extended family came.  Normally we have about 70-80 people to Sacrament meeting but this week we had 104! We had 6 investigators at church, all the normal people, a lady and her family that got baptized this past weekend, and a lot of less actives members that usually aren't there.  It was a great Sunday! If the Lopez family didn't have to go to the hospital suddenly we would have had another family of 4-6 people there.  It was a great day.

I can't really remember what happened the rest of the week so this email is going to be really short because it's 7pm and I'm at the church right now.  I have to say goodbye to everyone in the ward here for the trunk or treat activity so I'll be sad later on but a new time is starting in Lodi tomorrow!

I hope everyone is well! I'll let you know how Lodi is next week! (:
Les Quiero,
-Elder Gaskill

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The rainy season is coming

Hello Everyone!
Today the rains came and it's starting to look a lot like fall (or so I hear).  It also looks a lot like Chicago in the spring when it rains a lot.  The best part is it's cooling down as well.  It's been hot since I got to Sacramento in April and at long last I'm stuck in colder weather.
The week started out interesting without a car.  We finally got back down to Elk Grove from Fair Oaks at about 7 in the evening.  The other Spanish missionaries dropped us off at our dinner and then we had a good lesson afterwards.  We left the lesson at about 9:10 and began the walk home. Our lesson was near the north border of our area and we live outside our area about in the middle but on the west side.  We arrived at our doorstep at 11:00 pm which wasn't too good because we're supposed to be home by 9:30 and in bed by 10:30.  The next day we didn't do too much teaching because we were walking most of the day.  It was pretty hot too.  I enjoyed being outside the whole day but I would have enjoyed doing more missionary work instead.  Luckily, after we had walked about 2 miles an investigator happened to drive by and he turned around, picked us up, and took us to our first appointment which was another few miles away.  We taught a lesson to the Lopez family that they really liked.  One of the girls when we were bearing our testimonies asked "what would happen if I 'knew,' like you guys do that these things were true?" It was the perfect question and we talked to her about the last paragraph of the introduction to the Book of Mormon and what that knowledge would lead her to do. Unfortunately we had to get out of there quickly because we were in the corner of our area, it was already 9:30, and the Hmong missionaries that we live with were waiting for us to give us a ride home (we didn't want to come home after 11pm again).
We got the Lopez family to come play soccer with us on Thursday night and it was a lot of fun.  The two older girls didn't move too much while they played but their 12 year old brother really liked it.  Stephanie, the 10 year old didn't like it very much because she's really shy.  I told her that next week I would put on a really cool half time show with dancing, music, and lots of flashing lights to make it more interesting.  I also told her I would bring her food and she was excited about that.  So sometime this week I will have to figure out a half time show where I can make people laugh by making a fool of myself while also obeying all the missionary rules.  It will be interesting for sure.
On Saturday we helped out a recent convert by washing, waxing, and cleaning out his new (old '89 Toyota) car.  It was great.  We also helped fix some roofing on his shed in the back which was good because it's going to be raining a lot this week.  That evening we went up to do a temple tour for Racquelle that also went very well.  The temple is always beautiful but it was great to see it when the sun was setting and at night with all the lights on.  We also met a really cool guy in his late 50s that served his mission in Central America.  He spoke Spanish really well still and was a really funny guy.  He told us he has a daughter that is serving a mission in Latvia that I probably met once or twice because she came to the MTC two weeks after I did, was learning a language that the only taught on the floor above mine, and was in the MTC Choir that went to conference.  The spirit is slowly putting up a veil of forgetfulness on my mind of anything that happened before I got to Sacramento but it was cool to see how small the world is.
The Elk Grove Stake had stake conference yesterday and it was really good.  It's hard to get investigators there but I learned a lot so it was great.  We found some new Spanish families that go to English wards but want to invite us over to eat and are also willing to go to lessons with us which is really cool.  We also got to spend the rest of the day in Wilton afterwards.  We had a really good time eating dinner with Bishop Almendariz and his wife and then looking for Spanish people out in the rich area of Wilton.  We actually found a lot of really cool people that are Spanish speakers that we'll be going back to find in the future.
This transfer is ending kind of slowly and there have been a few problems here but I'm trying my best to work on my patience.  The hardest part is that I have to be loyal to my companion even when he's wrong, and it's getting us into problems with our zone leaders and the assistants.  Luckily everyone knows that I'm trying my best to cooperate and be a good influence.  This last week is going to be long but I will get through it and be a lot better off afterwards.
I love you all and hope all is well!
Les Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Car broken.

Hello Everybody!
This week went great.
The best day of this week was when I went on exchanges with Elder Torres in Rancho Cordova.  I love Elder Torres and I always have the best days with him.  We taught a lot of people but one of my favorites was this: We taught 2 people about the Restoration and it went really great.  The Spirit was probably the strongest of any lesson I have felt in a long time.  We were teaching in English (which both of us prefer) so we were able to 100% focus on listening to the Spirit, asking inspired questions, and teaching to the needs of the people there.  It was a really good lesson and all of the family there felt the Spirit.  They had a lot of really good questions and really understood everything. The dad came home and they all had to leave with him all of a sudden but we had almost finished so it was still good timing.  We left the lesson feeling great and the family was excited for us to come back.  We visited a lot more people and taught a lot more lessons but that was the highlight of the day.
This week we started teaching more of the Lopez family.  We had found the 19 year old daughter Susanna on Sunday and we went back on Tuesday and started teaching her 2 sisters, her brother, and a "roommate" that is living with the family.  It was really interesting how we started out with 2 of them and slowly the kids started congregating because something caught their interest.  We answered a lot of questions regarding the Godhead, the Creation, "Santos" (in Latino culture everybody is Catholic and worships the virgin Maria or a variety of other saints), Baptism/baby baptism, etc and they were all really interested.  We went back on Thursday and just taught the 3 girls outside but we were impressed that they stood outside with us for an hour even though it was really cold that day.  On Saturday they invited us over for a big party they threw at their house.  In the Spanish culture there are a lot of parties, usually for kids birthdays but what they do is rent a big bouncy castle, set up tables and make really good food.  Then the kids entertain themselves while the parents drink and party into the late hours of the night.  We went over there and met their parents (finally) and talked to a lot of their friends and neighbors.  It was a lot of fun and good for meeting new people to teach as well.  Unfortunately the kids couldn't come to church because they were leaving all day Sunday to go visit family but hopefully they'll be able to come this next week.
This week I was really happy to get some news about our recent convert Federico.  We heard that he and his little brother are still praying a lot and refuse to eat a meal without praying.  They also read the Book of Mormon too when they can (but they're pretty young still so they don't do that a lot).
We met one of our member's neighbors named Mike last Saturday and went back to teach him this week.  His wife is Catholic and usually doesn't let anybody in the house but she let us in and actually stayed and participated.  Mike told us the day after he had a miracle that he knew was because of us.  He had  his license suspended since 2010 because of inability to make child support payments and the day after we came he went to try to clear it up and the person decided to clear him completely and give his license back.  He was very happy with us and was excited to listen more to us.  He came with us to church this weekend and really loved it.  We found a unique problem though that I have never found before: someone who wants to come to church but there isn't a ward to accommodate his needs.  He doesn't speak Spanish very well but his wife barely speaks English.  He can only come to church after 12 o'clock because he has to take care of his wife and the only wards at 1:00 are Spanish and YSA wards.  We talked to our Mission President and determined the best thing for him would be to have him come to our ward and just translate for him.  He didn't understand very much in church yesterday but loved it.
Elder Rivera and I sang in church yesterday as well!  We sang "Abide With Me" in Spanish.  It went really well.  We didn't have any time to practice so we just figured out what we were doing 10 minutes before sacrament meeting started.  I sang the bass line, Elder Rivera sang the melody, and our bishop's wife offered her help and sang the alto line.  We did it all acapella and it sounded really good! If I could have recorded it I would have but the ward really loved it so I'm assuming it was good.
This next week is going to be interesting.  Today we are up at the mission home and our car decided to break down on us.  It's stuck in reverse and won't switch gears because the shifter cable broke.  Apparently they have to special order that part and we'll be without a car for about a week. That's alright with me except that 1) my companion doesn't have a bike and 2) he's physically "incapable" of riding a bike because of his knees.  We cover a really large area that's an entire stake so I have no idea how we're going to do our work but we'll figure out a way.  I'll let everyone know next week how it went (:
I love you all.  Hope everything is well!
Les Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

General Conference like Christmas

Hello Family!
I hope all is well.  Hopefully everyone enjoyed General Conference as much as I did! I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve the whole time.  The night before I couldn't sleep and I was up early and really excited all Saturday morning.  I wish I could have been this excited about it growing up too.
This week went really well!  The first two days we were on exchanges and so they were really interesting.  The first night we had 6 people in an apartment and only 5 places to sleep so I slept on the floor so I would get "the real missionary experience."  It wasn't bad at all.  The next night I was in "The Wilton House" which was completely different.  Wilton is a really nice area that is kind of the equivalent of "Royal Pines" in Black Forest so it's really nice.  The missionaries that work out there live in the guest house of a rich old lady.  I was on exchanges with the Zone Leaders but they are with another companionship in the zone for 10 days because one of the missionaries is having hand surgery and left for a few weeks.  It was really nice.  I had quite the opposite experience from the night before where I slept on a nice bed with memory foam and it was great (:    When we woke up in the morning we were in the middle of nowhere and the sun was shining and it was a beautiful morning and just awesome altogether.  We had some really cool experiences that day.  We were in a tri-panionship with one elder from Wilton and Shelton areas, one Zone Leader covering Young Single Adult and an Elk Grove Ward, and then me in the Spanish ward.  The first appointment that we had was for the Shelton area and instead of meeting an 18 y/o guy named Oleg we found his 16 y/o brother who was also really interested in what we shared.  It was really interesting because all 3 of us like to talk so we had to figure out how to take turns in that lesson.  Afterwards we went to visit a house where a member had just moved from and we wanted to see who had moved in.  It turned out to be a Spanish family that had just came up from Los Angeles and so I taught them and they were really nice as well.  Then we went to visit a less active member in the Elk Grove ward.  We asked him if we could teach him a practice lesson just to help us out.  He said that would be fine and gave us a couple of days to come back.  As we were walking away Elder Muir turned around and asked him if any of his neighbors might be interested in listening to us as well.  We ended up talking a lot more and he invited us in to sit and talk.  We found out that no-one in his family was a member of our church because the family we were looking for had moved away.  They were really nice and really respected what we do and wanted to learn more.  At first we thought they were members and we ended up finding a really interested family to teach.
Later in the night Elder Rivera and I went out to visit President Martinez, the second counselor in our mission presidency.  We are planning a really big activity for all the Spanish wards in the Sacramento area at the temple so we were meeting with him and his wife to eat and talk about plans.  It was really cool.  He and his wife are really nice and it was good to get to know them.  They asked me about what I was going to school for and what I wanted to be later in life and they thought I had some really good plans.  They told me I should consider being a lawyer or a politician because I guess I'm really good at talking.  We were at a Chinese restaurant and the fortune I got said "You will win success in whatever calling you adopt".  I thought that was pretty cool considering the conversation we had and so I'm hoping there's more than just coincidence to these fortune cookies (:
There wasn't a whole lot more that happened this week but it was a really great week.  General Conference was amazing.  I learned so much and took so many notes.  I can't wait to get the Ensign when it comes out and read them again.  There were lots of things said that were answers to my prayers.  I really loved Elder Holland's talk as well! It was great.  I was also very surprised to get the news about lowering the age for missionaries but that is perfect.  I hope that qualifies a lot of new missionaries for the service! Now the Elders can leave right after high school without too much time to make mistakes in college and girls can't use the excuse "I'll go if I haven't found the right guy to marry by then" ha ha.  I'm really excited to see a lot of sister missionaries in the mission because they are some of the best workers I've ever seen.  They bring a great spirit to the whole mission and people are a lot more willing to open their doors to sisters than they are to us.  I can't wait to get the news of friends and family who make the decision to serve missions soon! The mission is really the greatest thing in the world and there is no greater blessing or a better place that any young person around the age of 18 or 19 could be.
Love you all, hope all is well!
Les Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baptisms Yesterday!

Hello Everybody,
This week went really well, very stressful but it turned out all right.
We had our baptism yesterday and it went great.  It was originally planned for Saturday morning but we got a surprise call Friday night late telling us they wouldn't be able to do it then because the mom had to work.  We couldn't do it Saturday night because of the stake activity for the relief society session of general conference.    Eventually we got it worked out for Sunday at 12 right before church.  We were really busy trying to get the interviews set up for the little girls, getting a baptismal record, and making the program but it all got going on time.  I baptized my buddy Yisel (pronounced "e-sell") who is 8 and Elder Rivera baptized his buddy Aaliyah who is 9.  It was really great and an awesome baptism.  They got confirmed right after in church.  After we did that we got to participate in a baby blessing for their old sister's baby.  It was an awesome day.
We have been working a lot with a Colombian family that was referred to us by one of our members. They are really nice and we love teaching them.  The mom is single right now because her husband kind of ran away to Texas.  She has 3 kids: Alex (15), Andres (13), and Diana/Vivi (11).  The older two boys love soccer and so we get along really well and their sister is exactly like Hannah (my little sister).  They are an awesome family.  They really like us and you can see it in the mom's eyes that she wants to come to church and learn a lot more but she's afraid.  We're trying to figure out what's holding her back.  We had a couple really good lessons this week where the Spirit was really strong, and we even got the mom to pray.  It took about 10 minutes of awkward silence and then 3 minutes sitting there with our eyes closed waiting for her but she eventually prayeed and it was a great prayer.  We also had a lesson with them this week where Elder Rivera taught the Plan of Salvation while I played a 1 on 1 soccer game in the street with one of the sons.  It was a lot of fun for me because I was playing soccer while getting to know the kids and Elder Rivera was teaching and getting to know the mom better.
We had something called "language conference" this past week which was really cool.  It was like a zone conference but with all the missionaries that speak another language besides English.  They taught us things that were very specific to the people with which we work to help them more.  It was really cool and it was nice to see all the Spanish Elders in the mission and see how they were all doing.  We learned a good deal too.
Last Monday we went apartment shopping on P-day because our apartment is having lots of problems.  We live on the back side of the complex right next to a really bad area and the only thing separating us a 5 foot high wall. Our car has been vandalized a couple times at night, the cops are always running around looking for people on the other side, our apartment always smells like smoke because of our neighbors, and we have had a bug problem the last month or so.  We also live outside of our area and have to waste a lot of car miles every day.  Hopefully they will be moving us to an apartment we picked out that is in the middle of our area and pretty nice too.  I probably won't be living there for too long if the mission approves it but it would be really nice for a couple weeks.
This past Saturday we cleaned the chapel in the morning.  Right after we left bishop called and asked me if the shoes I was wearing were the only regular shoes I had.  I was wearing the pair of shoes I have with the toes that have almost ripped off and are barely holding themselves together.  I told him they were and he asked me if I wanted something new.  I told him only if I wasn't putting him out at all.  He said "Great, we're right behind you, follow us to Costco".  So we went to Costco and Bishop bought me new shoes and then bought Elder Rivera and I lunch.  It was the best present ever.  I love Bishop Almendariz a lot and he does so much to help us out of the goodness of his heart.
That's about all for this week.  Today I turn 8 months old in the mission which means I just completed 1/3 of my time as a missionary.  I'm sad about how fast the time is going by but decided to celebrate anyway by making banana bread for my apartment this morning.  I'm hoping that time starts to slow down soon but I know it will be just the opposite.  Before I know it I'll be where Elder Rivera is at: 22 months old with flight plans to go home already.  The time goes by so fast.  I'm very happy to be here and know there's no better place I could be.  I love the changes I have seen in my life and those I've seen in the lives of others as they've let the true gospel restored on the earth in our days bless their lives.
Les Quiero Mucho!
-Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hello Family,
I hope everyone is well at home!  I never heard about how the summer fires ended but our Bishop went out to Idaho this past week and he said the normally crystal clear skies of Nevada and Idaho and very ashy from all the fires.  I hope everything sorted itself out and in another year and a half Colorado is back to the beautiful paradise it was when I left.
This week has been great.  Elder Rivera and I have been getting along really well and I am learning a lot from him.  I don't think I said very much about him last week so I'll tell you all a little more.  Elder Rivera was born in Puerto Rico and lived there about 8 years before moving to the United States.  He has lived all over the East Coast and for the past few years has lived in Florida. He is a big University of Utah fan like I am because he did a year of school there before coming on his mission.  He has one younger sister and his family (minus his dad) are members, converts to the church.
We have been blessed to see a lot of miracles this week.  About 2 weeks ago we found a less active part member family that had an 8 year old and 9 year old girl that really want to get baptized and they are both going to get baptized this week! They love the church and although their family had a problem with a bishop in the past they are willing to come back and are really awesome.  I'm starting to be known as the missionary that baptizes all the little kids since so far I've baptized two kids that are 10 and 12 and now two more that are 8 and 9.  
We also found another part member family called the Tapia family (shout out to Jeremy!) who were all baptized about 3 years ago and were active in the ward they live in now before it split about two years ago but moved and the ward kind of lost track of them.  However, we found them and they are really excited to come back to church and they have a 10 year old daughter that hasn't been baptized yet as well.  We are excited to get to know them better, they are a really cool family.
We have been working a lot with Luz and Gustavo a lot this week too and they are getting close to getting baptized.  We just got all their papers filled out with the help of a lawyer in our ward and they're turning them in today.  We're hoping they get the divorce certificate this week and then we can get them married and baptized the week after general conference.
We had a really interesting experience this past week when we went to go teach the Ramos family.  They live in a very very very bad street, probably the worst part of our area.  When you drive down the street what you see is every house with big metal fences around it, mattresses and furniture in the streets; people's stuff that have been thrown out of their houses because they can't afford to pay their rent, little kids running around everywhere, dogs in the streets, broken cars and glass, pretty much about the worst of things that you can imagine.  The Ramos family lives there and I took Elder Rivera there to meet the family but only Brandy and Yanira were there.  We taught them for about 45 minutes and about halfway through the Ghetto Bird (the police helicopter) started flying around in circles over our heads and began announcing that there was a missing girl so if anyone sees anything suspicious they should call 911.  As we were getting in the car we noticed the were police cars on both ends of the "L" shaped street blocking it off.  We got in the car and as we did 3 police officers with bullet proof vests and M-16s came down the street with a drug dog.  As they rounded the corner where the Ramos' live, the dog took off running towards one of the next door houses.  The police officers took off after it and ended up in a standoff with some people in a house nearby.  We watched as the police officers yelled for certain people to come out and then watched a few people come out with their hands up and get arrested.  As we drove out of the neighborhood the were cop cars parked on every street corner just waiting so we figured something big was going down but we never figured out what it was.
We had some other miracles this week as well.  We cover a lot of nicer neighborhoods where plenty of Spanish people live but it is really hard to find them.  This week Elder Rivera showed me a way to use the white pages to find people with Spanish names.  We did that for a big neighborhood; wrote down all the names of addresses of people with Spanish sounding names.  That night Elder Rivera told me to pick a name because we had a little bit of time to start the list.  There was one name that I felt like we should go see so we went to her front door. It turned out that her husbands family was all Spanish and she spoke it more or less but her family prefers English.  She was really impressed with us and what we do as missionaries and told us they had just started going to a new church that was kid oriented but she knew a lot of LDS people and was really interested in learning more about what we believe.  She prefers English so we had to pass her information on to the English elders in the area but she will be a golden investigator for those missionaries.
We also went looking for Sylvia, our less active lady that just moved here and we ended up finding her brother in law.  He had a lot of really good questions about tithing and he ended up inviting us in and we taught him a really spiritual lesson about the book of mormon and the restoration. He was really interested and is really a "searcher" looking for the truth in the world.  He also lives out of the mission so we will have to pass his information along to some other Spanish missionaries but he will get baptized soon I'm sure of it, he is definitely looking for the truth.
This week although it has been short has been laced with miracles and I am really excited for the next 5 weeks of this transfer.  We are making a lot of big changes here and started a new time in the Sacramento 10th Spanish Ward here in Sacramento.
I love you all and I hope everything is going well wherever you all are.  I always keep you in my heart and in my prayers.
Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

New Photos!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another New Companion

Hello Family,
Our transfer calls came in last night! Elder Sarmiento is going to East Sacramento to be a Zone Leader for his last two transfers in the mission and my new companion is Elder Rivera.  Elder Rivera only has 2 more transfers in the mission as well so I will probably stay in the area 6 more weeks and get transferred after that.  Elder Rivera's family is from Puerto Rico but he was born and raised in the United States.  He speaks Spanish perfectly  I am really excited for the next transfer with Elder Rivera.
This past week Brandy Ramos got baptized and that was awesome.  We were really worried because we weren't able to talk to her mom for about a week and a half so we were planning the baptism by telling all the girls about it and then they would pass the word on to their mom later when she came home.  We got everything ready and the baptism went really well.  It got off to a late start though.  Elder Austin was supposed to come back to baptize Brandy but 15 minutes after it was supposed to start he still hadn't arrived.  We were calling his phone and trying to get a hold of him but never could.  So I got suited up and ended up baptizing Brandy instead of Elder Austin.  It was unfortunate because the Assistants had misinformed Elder Austin and told him the baptism was going to be Saturday instead of Friday so he was really sad he had to miss out on the baptism.
We have been making a lot of progress with Aurora this week.  She came to the baptism on Friday and loved it.  She felt the spirit really strongly and was crying and loved the testimonies and everything she saw.  We also taught her about the Restoration this weekend and she loved it as well.  She is going to be sad that Elder Sarmiento is leaving but life goes on.
We had a "Multicultural Activity" on Saturday where lots of people made a dish of a famous food from wherever they're from and brought it to share.  There was food from USA, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Argentina.  It was a lot of fun.  There was also some dances that people put on that were really cool.  Some Brazilian girls came and danced the Samba.  Before Saturday "The Samba" was just an indoor soccer shoe that Adidas makes but now I know it's a dance and it's really cool.
We met a less active family this week.  The parents are from Puerto Rico but have lived in the United States the past 40 years.  They have 2 little girls that are 8 and 9 who haven't been baptized but really want to.  They love when we come over.  They want to come to all the activities and want to come to church and they really really really want to be "baptitized" as they call it.  We are going to work on getting them back to church.  They got offended about 4 years ago because they didn't have enough money to pay tithing and their rent and I guess they don't understand the scripture in Malachi about the Lord "pouring out a blessing upon them so great that they won't have room enough to receive it".  The dad smokes a lot but he is open to coming back to church.  The mom is really mean and we're going to have to work with her.  Hopefully they let their daughters get baptized.
Yesterday Elder Sarmiento and I found two really cool new investigators.  One named Raymundo that was taught by the missionaries in '86 and really likes us and one that loved the message of the Restoration and asked us how she could get a copy of the Book of Mormon to read.  That was amazing because for some reason getting people to take 2 minutes out of their day to read a page in a book is a really hard thing to do.  We are really excited to teach them more.
Yesterday we also played soccer.  There are some tennis courts right next to a high school that are really old and have cracks all over them that have been converted into futbol surfaces with spray paint on the fence for goals.  We showed up to play with a couple members of the ward and there were a lot of younger guys there so we started a street soccer tournament and it was a lot of fun.
Everything is going really well here and I am very excited to have another transfer here in Elk Grove.  I hope all is well, and that everyone is as excited for General Conference in a few weeks as I am!
Les Quiero,
-Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Quick Note This Week

Hey family!

This week's email will be short because I don't really have any time today so I'm sorry.
This week we found a lady named Aurora Rojas who is really awesome.  She is from Peru.  We were really excited about her because Elder Sarmiento is from Peru and there are very few people here from Peru.  She's in her late 60s and has one kid and many grandkids who don't live with her.  She isn't married and used to live with her mom until she passed away about 2 months ago, so now she's alone.  She loved talking to us and told us she felt really good talking to us.  She has felt really lonely since her mom passed away but she said she felt good talking to us.  She told us she knew two of her neighbors that we actually used to be teaching named Francisco and Maria (the old guy who has lost all faith in God because of all the bad things that happen to him and his wife).  She liked our church because she has seen how it changed their lives and how they both stopped drinking and smoking and have been helped out a lot by the Gospel.  She told us how right before her mom passed away she gave her a hug and the mom told her that her life was about to change for the better.  Two months later we show up and she said she thinks that we are what her mom was talking about.  We can't wait to start teaching her, she is definitely ready for the gospel in her life.

This week I went on exchanges with Elder Jensen for a little bit because my companion and his companion were feeling kind of sick.  We went and taught a few lessons and they went really great.  Elder Jensen is the best, I love him a lot.  He only has a week left in his mission and so it was great for me to learn  by being with an experienced missionary for a few hours.  We taught some really good lessons and I learned a lot from him.

This week Brandy Ramos is going to get baptized and we're really excited about that.  She's ready to get baptized and we're excited for her.  It’s unfortunate that all the best people we teach are kids because they are so ready to do all the good things, but they can't always come to church because they can't drive and so they're dependent on their parents.  We're really excited for her baptism.

Well I hope everything is going well back home! You guys are the best.

Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill