So this week has been awesome. I love being out here in Stockton. It hasn't proved to be too dangerous but there have been a couple nights where we hear a lot of gunshots somewhere nearby.
I have been getting made fun of a lot by the other Spanish missionaries here because I speak better Spanish than most of the elders/sisters here besides the native speakers. They all tell me that I speak really well and the natives tell me I speak better than all the other white missionaries here and I only have a slight accent where a lot of the other missionaries have them pretty bad. We were in ward correlation this past week and I was talking to the ward mission leader about our investigators and all the other missionaries started laughing and I found out later that my companion was right behind me going "look! That’s my companion, and he speaks better Spanish than all of you" and everyone thought it was funny. Also, whenever we go to dinner appointments with member families I give the spiritual thought since I'm the newest missionary and after I give it the sisters like to tell the members that I've only been here for a week or two and when the members find that out they are amazed that I can speak clearly and quickly and understand what they say. So the Spanish is coming along really well! I guess my teachers in the MTC taught me well. I still have a lot to learn though; I still have trouble hearing what the native speakers say.
So I said I would update everyone on my investigators. The closest investigator we have to baptism is Eva Zapeda. She is about 50 and has heard all of the lessons and wants to be baptized but right now she is living with her "esposo" but they're not married so she needs to move out and wants to move out but we haven't found anywhere yet. It's hard to find a place since usually land lords want a social security number and since she doesn't have her papers she can't do that. By the way hardly anyone out here is legal. All the people that we talk to and a lot of people in the ward didn't come to the United States legally so it makes it hard for a lot of people to find jobs, find places to live, etc. But once we help Eva find somewhere to live she will be baptized!
We also have an investigator named Carolina and she loves the gospel and is really awesome and has a testimony of the priesthood because Elder Guzman and his last companion gave her and her husband a blessing and they got a lot better and know it works. Her only problem is she wants her family to learn and listen so she is being a little slow but I think eventually she will be baptized.
We also have a family that has 5 kids and the parents names are Antonio and Rachel. Rachel speaks English and Antonio speaks Spanish so our lessons are always really interesting. Rachel is really interested and Antonio isn't as much but I'm pretty sure they will get baptized as well. They came to a baptismal service with us last Saturday for an investigator that the zone leaders have and liked it. They're only problem is they haven't been to church yet and our investigators have to come at least 3 times before they can be baptized. We still have plenty to teach them as well.
This past Tuesday we were about to visit a less active family and we got a call from another less active family who told us about their granddaughter who is an alcoholic and wants to change. We immediately went over there and she told us her whole life story, about how she has 2 kids (is 29) and is separated from them and her husband right now. She wants to be in a 24/7 treatment place right now to get over everything because she recognizes it's a bad problem and she doesn't want to be somewhere with so much familiarity to her. I gave her a blessing and immediately she said she felt better and wasn't anxious or nervous anymore. We have some work with her because she came to us looking more for help with her addiction and not for the gospel but we'll see what we can do.
We found this 26 year old mother of 4 who really wants to learn more about the gospel and the Book of Mormon. She has such strong faith and I think she is going to be a miracle for us. Her husband is about to be deported so she had to go to Los Angeles for 15 days so we won't get to teach her for just about 2 weeks but I think she will be a miracle in our area.
Those are all our main investigators for now. We do a lot of work with less active members as well because this ward has about 500 members and over 350 are inactive. So we spend just as much time visiting less active members as we do teaching investigators and going tracting. We actually aren't even supposed to go tracting anymore, we're supposed to use other Preach My Gospel ideas to find people nowadays. They just changed all that this past week and so everybody is re-learning what to do.
Well, I'm loving it out here. I love my companion and the other Elders I live with and I love this work. Sundays are really stressful because we are trying to get investigators to church and a lot of them just don't come or have problems getting there. My first week there was hardly anyone there from the ward and we didn't have any investigators come but this past Sunday there were more than twice as many people, we had 3 investigators come, and two less active families that we've been working with the past two weeks.
A lot of people out here are really poor and it's humbling me and making me very grateful for all the blessings I've had in my family and growing up my whole life. Many people live day to day and do whatever work they can get and struggle to put food on the table, gas in the tank, and clothes on their backs. They Spanish people here are a lot more kind than the white people and they always talk to us and don't try to push us away. A lot of times when we go tracting the majority of the people we find are not Spanish speaking and they are the people who are rude to us.
Elder Guzman and I were in Manteca today getting the oil changed in our car and we went on a walk for about an hour and 5 different cars of people (that we were assuming were members) honked and waved it us and that hasn't happened anywhere in our area but it's cool that a lot of people know who we are and love the missionaries even if they aren't Mormon.
That's about all I have this week. I love you all! Have an awesome week until next Monday!
-Elder John Gaskill