Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Investigators at Church!

We got the Familia Guzman to church!

That was a big miracle for us this week.  We didn't get them all there but we got Rosalia (mom), Angela (10), Juanito (8), Pollito/Evilyn (3), and Evana (1).  Hermano Guzman and Ariana worked in the pulga so they couldn't come but we had some investigators to church so that was awesome.  They didn't have a ride either so we spent all morning looking for a ride.   Normally we can get investigators rides with 2 families in our area but one of them is in Mexicali right now and the other had already promised her family that she would cook a lot of food and go to their party with them.  We couldn't find anyone so we went over to see Marta even though she said she had to cook but when we explained the situation to her there was no way she could say no.  She's the best; she has such a strong testimony too.  Marta is the lady that we found who was baptized in Honduras about 13 years ago but when she moved to the United States 9 years ago she didn't know where the church was.  One day we found her and now she's coming back to church! But we finally got some investigators to church which is really hard to do here.  Elder Guzman and I also went to the pulga to look for them and that was a lot of fun.  The pulga is just the flea market but it looks a lot like a fair in Colorado where people pay to have spots and then they sell whatever they want to people that come.  It was cool to walk around and see what everyone was selling but we definitely stood out.  I wish they did the pulga on Mondays so we could go on our P-day and buy stuff but it's only Sundays.  Anyway, we got most of familia Guzman to church and they committed to be baptized on June 16th.  Before then we have to get the parents married so I'm going into wedding planner mode for the next few weeks.  We went to another wedding the other day and that was cool.  I didn't know the people but Elder Grow and Elder Guzman knew the bride.

One day this week we were driving home and were stopped at a red light and this man and lady were crossing the street and the guy looked at us and yelled "hey are you guys Mormon?" and when we told them we were hey asked us what ward we went to.  We told him we went to the Spanish ward and asked him if he was a member to which he said he wasn't.  So we asked him if we could get his information.  We pulled over and gave us his information and told us to come to his house and do a bible study with him and he also wants help learning Spanish.  Unfortunately we have to pass him off to the zone leaders since he speaks English but that was a really cool experience.

We're going to have a zone conference tomorrow and it will be my first one so I'm excited for that.
I've been trying to take lots of pictures and such and I'll send my next memory card home today so look forward to some more pictures!
Hope everyone is doing well and I miss you all!

Les Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mom was Right: practice those hymns!

This last week has been great like they all are! Here are some things that happened:

We had transfers.  One of the sister missionaries that was transferred was only one who could play the piano.  So I might be playing the piano every once in a while in sacrament meeting. Mom always told me when I was young that I needed to learn to play so that when I went on my mission and nobody knew how to play the piano that I would be able to play. I always said that would never happen but it looks like I was wrong and she was right. Luckily they just installed one of those new organs that play the songs by themselves and all you have to do is press the key to give it a tempo.  It is very loud though, and you can't hear anybody singing over it so they are still looking for a pianist.   Right now I play all the songs in district meetings and stuff like that but I'm not sure that I'm ready for Sacrament Meeting yet.  I can play probably 8 hymns that I know already but I can't just sit down and play whatever hymn I want.

Last night I had to translate part of a fireside into Spanish. So that was cool.  We have lots of stake leaders that come and speak in our ward and Bishop and Elder Guzman usually do all the translating for that but last night was different.  Instead of standing at the pulpit and translating every sentence after he said it, we were out in the hall with a microphone and we had to listen to what the speaker was saying and translate it too.  Some of the members who came had headphones on and were listening to what we were saying.  It was really hard because while you are talking you also have to listen to what they're saying and translate/say it at the same time.  It was really hard but they told me I did really well.  We had 4 missionaries there taking turns translating and it went pretty well.

We  had a solar eclipse (or whichever eclipse is the one that the moon goes in between the earth and sun) here in California yesterday.  It was pretty cool because I don't think I've ever seen one before.  You can only see it if you look at the sun but obviously you can't just stare straight at the sun so a lot of people use mirrors (even though that doesn't change anything), water, or a hole in a box to see the effects.  So we all put 4 pairs of sunglasses on and then you can look at the sun because the only thing you can see through 4 pairs of sunglasses IS the sun. So that was pretty cool.  I tried to take some pictures so you will be able to see those when I send them home.

This week my companion had to go to a meeting and there was another missionary whose companion had to go to the meeting so the two of us were companions for a day and we were in my area.  However, this missionary is brand new and is an English speaking elder so doesn't speak any Spanish.  So that was interesting.  Even though I am still in my 12 week training thing I was training another elder who had only been in the mission for a day.  Also I had a lot of responsibility since he couldn't speak Spanish but I'm confident in my ability so it went really well.  We taught one lesson were I talked the whole time and it was awesome.  So that was a fun day!  I was glad to have my companion back  later in the day.

We also found out who the new sister is in our district and she's the one from Colorado Springs! So that's cool, I have no idea who she is though and we don't know any of the same people.  She lives up in Black Forest on a street named Snowman which I have no idea where that is.  I told her that one of my best friends lives off of Swan and she said it was the next street over so I guess she lives pretty close to Michael! So that was kind of cool that she probably only lives like 20 minutes away from where I live.

I  met my “Grandpa” in the mission this week!  In the mission your trainer is your "dad" and so his trainer is your "grandpa".  My Grandpa's name is Elder Chirino and he just finished his service here in the mission last week.  He was going around with his dad and visiting all his older areas and converts and when he came down to Stockton I got to meet him.  He's a really cool guy whose family is from El Salvador.  He thinks he'll probably be going to BYU soon so I'll get to see him more in a few years when I go back to BYU.

We have an awesome member here who was baptized in Honduras.  She was inactive for about 10 years after she moved here because she didn't know where any of the churches were.  We found here last transfer and she is super awesome.  This past week we had dinner with her and her mother-in-law and sister-in-law who aren't members and a family home evening after which was a lot of fun.  During dinner we found out that Jessica (the sister-in-law) and I are extremely close in age but I never would have guessed that because she has a daughter who's probably about 4 or 5 already.  She's going to school right now and studying English and she was really surprised that I had started speaking Spanish 3 months ago because she's been in English classes for about a year and doesn't speak that much. So it sounds like I'm doing pretty well with the Spanish! Understanding people a lot better these days!

Well that's about it! We're seeing lots of progress here and are really optimistic about the area and doing everything we can to find people who are "searchers" and have been prepared to hear our message. Hope everything is well with everyone at home.

Les Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Transfer Week and Mother's Day

So we got to talk to John on Mother's Day via skype for an hour.  It was so wonderful to see and talk to him!  As he mentions in his letter, his brothers and sister were playing around with the visual effects on skype, which was distracting.  But for me, talking to John was the best Mother's Day gift ever!

This week has been lots of fun like they all are.
On Saturday we had a ward party for mother's day which was a lot of fun.  We didn't get home until 10 when we should be back between 8:30 and 9 but it was all fun.  There were a dad and his daughter who did a lot of traditional Latino dances from the different parts of Mexico and I took videos of some and sent them home.  That was really cool to see.  There were various people who debuted talents in the talent show, lots of dancing, and some singing too.  One of the ward members, Hermano Ramirez de Peru cooked all the food and he's an extremely good cook so that was really good.
Sunday we got to skype our families which was really nice, except mine was more interested in the skype effects than who they were skyping but it was good to be able to talk face to face with my family for about an hour.
I just finished my first transfer here and all the transfer calls went out yesterday so we found out who all is leaving.  Our district leader Elder Pickering is leaving to be a Zone Leader in South Sacramento which I'm sad about because I like him a lot and we get along really well.  A lot of the elders are staying because there are 3 of us being trained in our zone so we have to stay with our trainers for another transfer.  Elder Grow is coming back to take Elder Pickering's place.  It is really weird that that's happening because Elder Grow was in my area for 4 transfers (he has only been in the mission 5 transfers) and he's already coming back just to a different area in the same district.  Sister Novakovich is going to East Sacramento and her companion, Sister Landon is training! There are 2 new Spanish sisters coming to the mission this transfer and one of them is from Colorado Springs.  It would be interesting if she gets trained down here and we can talk about back home.  I saw her name once at the mission office and I didn't recognize it so I don't think it's anyone I've ever met but she's from the same place. And last of all....Elder Guzman (my companion) is going to be our new district leader! I'm really happy and excited for him.  I think he will be awesome.  The only thing I'm not excited for is I will have to go on exchanges a lot because the district leader is supposed to go on exchanges with every missionary at least once each transfer.  We'll see how things turn out this new transfer.
Today we have P-day on Tuesday which is different but it will happen every transfer week.  We went bowling as a zone this morning and that was fun but I didn't play.  I didn't want to waste my money on bowling so I just watched everybody else play.  No other exciting plans today, maybe zone sports if our zone leaders decide to be cool today, and grocery shopping.  Hopefully there will be time after that to write letters.
I hope everyone is doing well outside of my small world here in Sacramento. I miss you all!
Les Quiero
-Elder Gaskill

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Cinco de Mayo!


Another week down and I'm 3 months old in the mission and almost finished with my first transfer! After this week I will be half-way done with my trainer and starting my second transfer with Elder Guzman.  It was crazy for me to think that Troy hit his 1 year mark a few days after I turned 3 months old.

A week ago in church the bishopric told all the families in the ward that they need to do a better job at feeding us so we had lots of dinners last week.  On Monday we had the best tacos I've ever had in my life that the Gomez family made for us.  We had some other awesome meals during the week as well.  I love Mexican food so it's been awesome having real Mexican food.  And everything is spicy too, which is great because I love hot things.

I  got my hair cut... by a girl.  It was weird being around a girl in a setting where I'm not trying to share the gospel with her, although I did end up doing that.  She asked me lots of questions like "what are you doing later?", "are you married?", "do you live by yourself?", "what do you do when you're not teaching?” etc.  I couldn't tell if she was just curious or trying to flirt with me but Elder Guzman told me it was the latter because she took an hour to cut my hair when it should take 10 minutes and because she shampoed my hair for free which I guess normally costs extra. It was interesting though, I used it as an opportunity to tell her about what missionaries do and the message we share so it all turned out alright.

We were able to give a blessing to the son of one of our investigator's (Carolina’s) friends who is 2 and has leukemia and has to have a really risky transplant done this summer. That was a cool experience and we're hoping we get to start teaching her too.  One of our investigator families - familia Guzman - has been progressing a lot this week.  We taught them the plan of salvation which they really liked and a lot about temples.  Iban's mom was an awesome lady and died without being baptized or the gospel.  The pastor at their old church told him that she was going to hell because she hadn't been baptized which he didn't like at all.  When we taught them the plan of salvation and told him about baptisms for the dead they really liked that.  They are really interested and learning a lot but still haven't come to church because the dad works in the pulga (flea-market) every Sunday and so they can't get to church.  We are still hoping that they will find the desire and the means to get to church.

I was on exchanges with Elder Torres this week and we got a reference from a member to visit their neighbor across the street so we decided to go visit them.  There was a yard sale going on and the people who lived there weren't there so we started talking to the lady in charge of the yard sale.  She didn't seem really interested and we decided to ask to say a prayer with her out of nowhere.  While we were praying she started crying and told us after that she knew God had sent us to her to say a prayer for her.  We talked to her and her husband for another 45 minutes after that.  They told us how they had pretty much lost everything; jobs and their house and were looking for work and somewhere really cheap to live.  Everything that they were selling at the garage sale was their stuff and other things that the lady who lived in the house had given them to sell to make some money.  We never found out where they lived since they don't have a house but they told us they do the same yard sale every Thursday-Sunday so we will be going back to see them and to teach them this weekend! They are being prepared right now to accept the gospel and we can definitely see it.

We also found a new lady named Amelia.  Elder Guzman and I both felt like we needed to tract a specific street and the very first door we knocked on was Amelia.  We talked to her for a long time and she told us how her family didn't like what the book of Revelations says in the Bible and a lot about herself.  We left her with a Book of Mormon and set up a return for Sunday (yesterday).  We went back and taught her all of the restoration which she really liked.  She told us all about how her and her husband don't like how people worship saints, and the crosses and everything people focus on about Jesus' life that isn't actually about him (like focusing on how he died, his parents, or little things he did instead of the main message of why he came).  She loves to talk and pretty much told her about everything in her life and also gave us a return for this Saturday.  She is awesome and we are really excited to keep teaching her and to start teaching her family.

The other interesting thing that happened this week was Cinco de Mayo! Unfortunately we don't get to go to all the parties and celebrate but people here definitely celebrate it.  Almost every car had Mexican flags flying or covering the hoods of the cars.  Everyone was playing their music even louder than normal and people were selling Mexican flags and shirts everywhere all over the city.  Sunday they closed down the big streets again and had a parade which was pretty cool, that we saw driving by.  Everybody was out over the weekend and there were bbqs and parties all over the place.  Saturday night there were a lot of fireworks which we thought were gunshots at first but normally the gunshots don't start until about 11 and it was only 6 so we walked outside and realized they were fireworks.

My Spanish is continually getting better and I am loving the work out here.  I hope everybody is doing well, however I'll never know unless people send me letters (:

Les Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill

John did sent home some photos, but most were of the MTC.  I did post a photo with his MTC companions and a photo with his current companion, Elder Guzman in the side bar.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eating Lots of Tortillas


Hope everyone is safe at home and doesn't hear as many gun shots as I do every night! Saturday night was kind of scary because a lot of police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks showed up while we were home having dinner at about 8:30 at the houses right next to my apartment complex.  Elder Guzman said he saw a guy running away through our window but he kind of likes to exaggerate things so I'm not sure if I believe him.  We never found out what happened but there were a lot of people outside for a while and lots of emergency people.

So it turns out it was an asparagus festival that was going on! Monday-Thursday there were people setting it up all day and the festival was Friday-Sunday.  We could have gone and tracted with people but we would have paid $10 to get in so we decided against it.  Now they will probably be taking things down for the next 4 days and the roads will all still be closed.

The only good story I can think of from this week is about a girl named Monica.  On Wednesday I was on exchanges with the district leader because we have to do that once every transfer.  Elder Torres went with my companion in our area.  They went to visit a reference named Miguel and found him and ending up adding him and his sister (Monica) to our teaching pool.  Miguel is the husband of a lady that Elder Torres taught in Lodi and ended up baptizing, so I think he will be a good investigator.  Monica, the younger sister is about 17 years old.  Elder Guzman usually talks a lot when we are with investigators but when he gets nervous around girls het gets shy and quiet.  The first time we went over there Elder Guzman almost left before we had taught them anything or said a prayer so I had to make sure to jump in. 

We are still working really hard with Carolina and Eva.  Eva has moved out but has been sick all week and lives in a different area now so we haven't seen her.  We can only drive a certain amount of miles every month so we usually get about 35-40 miles every day and it takes that many just to get to her house and back.  She didn't come to church yesterday either and we're not sure what's going on with her.  Carolina is awesome.  We know she has a testimony and wants to be baptized but the only thing that's holding her back is her family.  She wants her family to learn and be as excited as she is but everyone is worried that she is going to change if she gets baptized.  We also think her husband is telling her not to do it.  We'll see how things work out with that.

We set goals every week and have had lots of plans but recently I have felt like we have focused more on finding people to teach than helping out the people we've already found.  So my companion and I have decided this week to focus more on the people that we already have.  We will be working a lot with Carolina and Eva, and also a lot with a guy named Angel.  He is probably the most committed person we have because he actually calls us to find out when we can come over and lets us now when he's not going to be there when we have a scheduled appointment. (It's kind of a Latino thing, but a lot of Latinos don't like commitments and they will always tell you that you can come back and teach them or set up a time to come back but a lot of the time they aren't there).  So Angel is really good but he has had some trouble with the law in the past and he says he would feel really guilty if he went to church but always reads what we ask him to read and is really interested.  We also have a family called familia Guzman (like my companion! but not related) and they haven't been coming to church but they are always really interested.  Last night we went to teach them and the dad (Iban) was really interested in the plan of salvation and was even teaching his aunt about things that he has learned and what we do as missionaries.  We are going back to teach them tomorrow and I'm excited.  We also found a girl named Violeta two weeks ago and she has been in LA but she just came back Friday and we have an appointment to teach her tonight so I'm really excited about that.

Everything is going really well here and I love it! Here's the answers to a couple questions I've been asked recently:
Eating with members - we don't eat with members all that much because a lot of the ward is inactive.  Yesterday though, the bishopric actually told all the members they need to feed us so we have a dinner every night this week! So that's exciting.  We get $127 every month for food and everything else.  We usually buy everything together (the 4 of us that live together) and just split it 4 ways.  Last week though, we ran completely out of food on Saturday. All we have had the past 2 days is tortillas.  No bread, no cereal, no milk, no fruit, nothing.  But we just bought lots of food so we will definitely have food this week.
Mail- mail is also weird.  The say that they forward it daily from the mission home but last Wednesday I got all my mail at the same time; a letter from Michael, a letter from my mother (which was supposedly sent on a Monday), and a package from home (which was sent on a Saturday).  Even though things were sent 4 days apart they came on the same day.  So I'm not sure exactly how it works. 

Well everything has been going good!  I don't get to work out and eat like I would like to but we usually play soccer every Thursday and P-day so I can live if I keep that up.  I'm still alive and loving everything out here too! We had investigators at church yesterday so that's good and we're just working on getting a baptism! Hope everyone is well at home, and I hope Forrest starts his mission papers!

Les Amo
Elder Gaskill

(John did send his photo memory card in the mail, so I'll get some of the photos posted in the next day or two).