Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lots of investigators at church!

Hey Everybody,
I hope all is well.
This week has been interesting.  We had to drive up to the office twice this week to get supplies and get our car fixed.  We have taken time to do transfer reports, done a lot of service, and done weekly planning (like every week).  Because of all these things we haven't had nearly as much time for missionary work but we somehow managed to keep all our numbers up in lessons, etc and had a really successful week.
One of the biggest blessings was that we had 7 nonmembers come to church from our area this week.  Luz and Gustavo came, as well as Frederico (who's going to be baptized this week), his 12 year old aunt Brandi, a boyfriend/grandpa/dad, an aunt, and then a girl we had never met before that the family had brought named Marta.  We were really blessed and had a lot of success getting people to church yesterday.
This week I had was lucky and got to go back to Stockton to be part of Jacqueline's baptism.  It was really hard to get there though.  I had set up a ride with a member about a week before and then the day before he called me and said an appointment had come up that he had to take his wife to that was at the same time and about an hour in the other direction.  I started calling everyone in the ward and I either couldn't get a hold of people or they were busy and couldn't take me.  We went to visit Nelson, our less active friend from Costa Rica and he offered to take me and I was really happy about that.  I was almost as excited to spend 2 hours in a car with Nelson and get to know him as I was to get to the baptism.  However, the next day Nelson called me and told me he wasn't going to be able to take me because when he woke up in the morning his daughter told him he needed to drop her off with his ex-wife a few hours later than he had originally thought and it was the same time hewas planning on taking me to the baptism.  So a couple hours before the baptism I was calling members all over the Elk Grove stake that I had never met trying to find a last minute ride.  Eventually I found a member who was willing to take me.  His name is Brother Bruljan and he was a really fun guy to talk to.  He reminds me of JD because he's about the same age and a retired military guy.  Brother Bruljan grew up in the same house he lives in now so he told me all about how Sacramento has changed over the past 50 years.  He told me about his experiences in the Vietnam War and lots of really interesting things.  
The baptism and my talk on the Holy Ghost went really well.  It wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be because none of my old investigators came to the baptism and all my favorite members weren't there.  It was great though.  Brother Bruljan even took me to Golden Corral on the way home and I had steak for the first time as a missionary.  I don't think I ever really liked steak before my mission but after eating Mexican/Guatemalan food for so long it tasted really good.
Today one of our members who works at a golf course took us golfing for P-day! It was a lot of fun.  There were 6 of us that went and one of the other elders was a golfer so he was pretty good and the rest of the elders were very interesting to watch.  Elder Webster and I spent a lot of time teaching the other missionaries how to swing a golf club and they got a little bit better throughout the 9 holes.  It was a ton of fun though, even though they were all short par 3 holes.  I got really good at using a pitching wedge because that's what we would tee-off with since each hole was pretty small.  It was all good fun.
We've been helping a member out a lot renovating a house.  What he does for a living is buy houses that are in bad condition and redo the whole thing while he and his family live there and then once he's finished it they move out and sell the place.  They are working on a house right now that is really run down and my first impression when I saw it was a haunted house I had visited in Utah.  Elder Austin and I helped cut down trees that were overrunning the yard, tearing out the carpet in the house, and demolishing the shelves, etc in the kitchen so that all new carpeting and appliances can be put in.  It's looking a lot better and soon the member's family will actually be able to move in to it.
The coolest teaching experience that we had this week was with Luz and Gustavo.  Luz has been waiting on her divorce papers so that she and Gustavo can get married and baptized the same day.  Originally she thought the were coming on August 4th because that's when her 6 months of waiting is over but she went to the court this week and because the city is running our of money the law/police/court system doesn't have very much money and are laying off people.  For this reason, they told her a judge might not be able to get to her case and she will have to wait longer.  She told us she had been reading in the scriptures about signs of the second coming and was watching the news at the same time and realized a lot of those things were happening right now.  She became really upset because she was thinking about what would happen if she died before she could ever get baptized.  It was a very humbling experience for me to see how badly she wanted to be baptized and how much she's gone through but has endured it patiently.  We were able to share the story of Alvin Smith with her, who died before Joseph Smith had finished translating the Book of Mormon, established the church, and received the priesthood and revelation in order to baptize.  In section 137 of Doctrine and Covenants it talks about how Joseph saw many people in heaven, among them being his brother Alvin who had died without being baptized.  We told her about temples and baptisms for the dead and promised her that she would see the day where she could be baptized on this earth, but even if she died she would have that ordinance done for her.  It was a great lesson but it made me so happy to see how badly she wants to be baptized and how much faith she has in our Heavenly Father and her desires to choose the right.
That's about all that's happened this past week.  We get transfer calls this next Monday and Elder Austin may be leaving since he's been here 4 transfers (6 months) so I may be getting a new companion. [I think I might be getting a brand new elder named Elder Mata but that's just my guess, we'll see if I'm right (:]
Los Quiero Mucho!
-Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Baptisms coming soon!

Hello Everybody,

This week we went to go have two different lessons with Luz and Gustavo. The first one we had with Gustavo was really cool. He hasn't showed a lot of interest lately but always seems to surprise us. They have been going through a lot lately and haven't had money to pay for gas to go places, buy food, and are even cutting it close on the rent. Gustavo told us that he had a really cool answer to his prayer because he was praying for help money-wise and out of nowhere his neighbor asked him how they were doing.  He said not so good, so the neighbor gave him all the cash out of his pocket (which was about $6) but Gustavo was very grateful because it was enough to get them through the day with food until he went to work the next day. Gustavo always surprises us and has lots of faith, we just need to help him stop smoking again. We also taught Luz a few days later when Gustavo was working and she told us about how she had been having a lot of flashbacks recently to when she was young (really horrible memories) and was asking us why God had made her remember all these terrible things. Immediately 2 Nephi 9:39 came to my head and I read it to her. Then the spirit started talking through me to say what she needed to hear. I was talking for about 15 minutes until I finally stopped and she just stared at me and said "wow, that was the answer to my prayer". Then she proceeded to tell us how every time she has a problem we show up as an answer to her prayers. She told me how she had been thinking about the question that she asked us when she was watering the plants yesterday and she knew that God had sent us to answer her question. Luz and Gustavo are really close to getting baptized.  The only thing is that they are still waiting on the divorce papers but they are going to come August 4th, which is really soon so we are excited for them.

We went on exchanges this past week and Elder Martinez and I had a really cool experience. We were teaching this lady who is about 60ish years old. When the missionaries found her a week ago, they left a Restoration pamphlet.  She has bad vision and can't read so they asked her grand kids to read it to her. We came back and they hadn't read it yet so we read it with them. We had trouble keeping the lady's attention and at the end of the lesson we asked the lady to say a prayer. She said she didn't want to but Elder Martinez told her we weren't leaving until she prayed. I told her "si se puede!" which means "yes you can" and after a few seconds of silence I said "the flies are waiting" which was a really odd thing to say but it came to my mind and 3 three of us started laughing uncontrollably. After some more silence I explained to her that a prayer is really simple and all that matters is what comes from the heart. All of a sudden she started praying and burst into tears. She prayed for about 10 minutes talking about all the people that were close to her that have died and all the hard things she was going through. Eventually she ended her prayer still in tears and got up and hugged Elder Martinez and I and wouldn't let us leave her, but eventually we got away. It was a cool experience.

Thursday night was a crazy night. At about 10:25 we got a call from... DELTA SOUTH (my old area). We were super surprised and Elder Guzman and I got to talk for a while. He told me he was calling because one of our old investigators (who has been taught about 6 months) Carolina Montiel just found that she has kidney cancer and it's really serious. She is not here legally so she can't get any treatment here so she is leaving to go back to Mexico as soon as possible. It was really sad news to hear because Carolina is awesome.  She has a strong testimony but just hasn't been baptized because her husband and family don't want her to and she doesn't want to be rejected by her family. Then Elder Guzman proceeded to tell me that Familia Guzman has not been progressing since I left and they are going to have to drop them. However, finally a bit of good news: Jacqueline Ross (a 9 year old girl we were teaching) is getting baptized this Saturday. We had to drop them when Elder Guzman and I were there because the mom was studying with the Jehovah's Witness and didn't have a car to get the family to church. We stopped by the day before I left and sat down with the mom and promised the mom that if she prayed about what she would do she would know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. Elder Guzman told me how she took our challenge and found out for herself that the church was true and because she's already a member, is going to start coming back to church and now her daughter is getting baptized. I'm really excited because I get to go back to Stockton for the baptism this week, give a talk about the Holy Ghost during the baptism, and see some old investigators and members down in Stockton.

Elder Austin and I are also excited because we have a baptism the 3rd of August. Frederico, the 9 year old son of a super less active lady is going to get baptized. We have been teaching him, his younger siblings, and a lot of his aunts (that are between 6-25 years old (it's an interesting family)). Frederico is the first of many in the family that are going to get baptized and we are super excited about that. He is awesome and hasn't been taught anything about religion his whole life but he loves to pray and read the Book of Mormon, and loves when the missionaries come over.

We committed the wife of Nelson, a less active guy we found from Costa Rica to be baptized in August as well! However she is Philipino and only speaks English and Tagolog so we are passing her off to the English missionaries in our area. But we had an awesome lesson with them and she is super solid. Nelson is also really cool and working on cutting alcohol out of his life again.

That's about all I've got for this week. Hope all is well!

Los Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Great Week in Elk Grove

Hello everyone!

It's been an awesome week here in Sacramento! Got up to about 110 two different days this week so that was really tough and unbearable. Elder Austin and I have been doing really well and having a ton of success this week and I am really happy about that!

This week we met a new lady named Zaida who is Venezuelan but has spent time in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Mexico and has gone through a lot in her life.  We met her this past Tuesday.  She had actually been robbed the Thursday before so we showed up at the perfect time like missionaries always do.  She thought we had been sent by someone because the timing was so perfect.  She recognized us as messengers from God sent to help her.  She told us about how she's been to pretty much every church besides the Mormon church but her mom and aunt are Mormon and she has a Book of Mormon too.  She told us how she didn't like a lot of things about a lot of other different churches and she knows a decent amount about religion but doesn't really go to a church.  This past Saturday we had a lesson with her in the home of a member family and it went extremely well. She loved everything and had all her questions answered and is on the fast track to baptism.  The only problem is that she has a foster child who is part native american and because of rules with him she can't take him to church.  We are working on talking to the Social Worker and the tribe that the kid is from so he can get permission to come to church with us.  Zaida is definitely a blessing and is an awesome investigator.

We started teaching a lot of kids this past week who were a referral from some English elders.  We are actually already teaching a lot of their parents/uncles/aunts.  The English elders tracted into the grandma's house where some other brothers live and so they got referred to us and we started teaching them.  It's really interesting that we are teaching about 3 different sets of parents and kids who are all related but live in different parts of town.  They are really cool too and we love teaching them.

We had a really awesome lesson with Francisco (the 78 year old guy who has lost all his faith) where we brought a recent convert named Ruben with us.  Ruben was perfect for Francisco because he is 66 and has been through a lot.  Ruben has lived all over the world, fought in the Vietnam war, got divorced when he had to go to Mexico on an undercover assignment from the government, went crazy and didn't know who he was and went to an asylum, got it all back together and got remarried to a lady who is using him to get her papers and for his life insurance.  He lost his house once before because his wife wouldn't help him out.  He's been through a lot and is an awesome guy and will be a good friend for Francisco.  We're going to try to set up another lesson with the two of them and make dinner for them and also get to meet Francisco's wife which we're really excited about.

Yesterday the Familia Ramos came to church which was awesome.  The mom was baptized a long time ago but was super less active.  Non of her kids have ever been to church and all of her sisters that they live with haven't either.  We've been teaching a lot of the kids because they are super awesome and love praying and reading the Book of Mormon.  Yesterday we got them to church and the mom brought one of her sisters who's about 21 who also seems to be really interested.  The ward was great too by "pouncing" on them after sacrament meeting and saying hi and that they had missed them and that they were glad they had come back to church.  We are going to have a lot of success with this family and all the sisters in the near future.

Yesterday we went over to see Jesus Alvarez, who is the old guy who has his own TV show about religion and does his own sermons on tv every week.  He showed us the last one he made which is all about the Book of Mormon.  He did it on Alma Chapter 1 (all about Nehor) and it was amazing that he understood everyone perfectly.  Jesus has a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon but he doesn't quite understand what it means and where it came from so we have to work with him on that.  He is also a little crazy (but really smart) so we have been working a lot with him.  

Elder Austin and I had an awesome week and look forward to continuing the fire into this week.  I'm thankful to everyone back home for all the support and for all the prayers, they really pray off and I can feel the love and I know there are a lot of people keeping me in their prayers.  I love this work and am so excited to be sharing the gospel with everyone around me.  Spanish is coming really well which is making me really happy!

Que les vaya bien (durante esta semana, hasta el proximo lunes)
-Elder Gaskill

Monday, July 9, 2012

Eating Boston Cream Toast

It feels like I just sent an email home and I guess that's because it's only been a few days since our last P-day. I sent pictures home last week so I hope those made it home. If they haven't yet they should be there either today or tomorrow.

This past week I went on exchanges with the zone leaders and that was fun. Usually the zone leaders are the missionaries who cover the young single adult wards. Our zone leaders also cover a family ward in Elk Grove so I got to do missionary work in two different spectrums and that was fun. It was a really easy day but I learned a lot about how the work correlates with the stakes and wards. We did a lot of "paperwork" that the zone leaders have to do every week.  They send them to the mission and also to the stake president when they have their meetings with them. I got to go to that meeting to see how it all works and we talked about all the missionaries and all the wards in the Elk Grove Stake with President Williams.  That was really cool.

Later in the day we went to dinner with a member and what we had was probably one of the most unhealthy things I have eaten so far as a missionary. It was called Boston Cream Toast and what you do is make a lot of toast, hard boil lots of eggs, make a lot of white gravy, and cook lots of those frozen sausage patties. Then you separate the hard boiled egg whites from the yoke, and cut up the toast. Then you put the sausage, diced hard boiled egg whites, and toast on the plate, cover it all with lots of white gravy, and put the egg yokes to a cheese shredder and cover the whole thing with egg yoke so you can't even see anything else. It tasted alright but I felt like I was going to suffer a heart attack in the middle of the night and never wake up again. Luckily I didn't and hopefully I won't have to eat anything that bad for me ever again.

We went to a Young Single Adult activity where they were playing water balloon volleyball. Elder Stephenson told me they are asked to go to all the activities for the Young Single Adult ward because that's how they find most of their investigators, through friends that the members bring to the activity. The water balloon volleyball activity wasn't too much of a success because nobody brought friends so we just ended up sitting there for about an hour waiting for more people to show up and bring friends.  It never happened.

We found a new family yesterday that we started teaching who are really cool. We were there for a long time because we were teaching the husband about the Restoration and then right as we were getting to the end his wife came home and she wanted to hear it so we started over. It was a really good lesson though and they seem pretty interested. The used to go to the catholic church but stopped going because of all the hypocrites there and the awful things that some Catholic Priests do. Now they just do a Bible study during the week with a couple other families that are in the same boat as them. We'll see how things go with them but they are really nice and we get along with them really well. All of their sons are soccer players so I could relate with them and a lot of things that they went through growing up. We'll see how it goes with them as we teach them more.

I met one of our investigators named Jesus for the first time and he was really interesting. He has his own TV show that is on every Saturday on the local channel.  He does random religious shows on random topics that he picks. He is a really funny guy because he's pretty crazy but he loves talking to us. He loves reading the Book of Mormon and every time we go over he wants us to tell him about a new prophet and then read a chapter with him so he can learn about some of the Book of Mormon prophets and what they said. He also wants us to be on his TV show.  We would have to get special permission from the mission President and the Stake PR guy and it's too much work so we just stick to teaching him.

I think I mentioned a little bit about Francisco last week.  We taught him again this week. He has so many questions about why there is so much suffering in the world if God loves us so much but won't accept anything we tell him. Part of the problem is that because he is like 80 years old and we're only about 20 he thinks we can't relate to him and offer anything to help him because we haven't gone through what he has. However, he tells us that it's our responsibility to make him believe again and help him have faith. It's hard because he thinks he's a weak person and that's why he's lost his faith.  He refuses to believe that all of our trials are for our benefit and learning. I came up with the idea to share with him a talk by Elder Hales that he gave in General Conference in October of 2011 that fits perfectly with his doubt. Elder Hales talks about how there are millions of hard things in this life but the key is "waiting on the Lord". It's an awesome talk and I would recommend reading it again but that's what we ended up sharing with Francisco.  He really liked it but didn't understand the main point behind it. So we still have some work to do. Today I am going to go buy some seeds from the store and give him a little cup with dirt and a seed and tell him "this seed is represents your faith. In order for our faith to grow we have to learn from the scriptures, pray, and be enlightened by the spirit. Every time you do one of these things your faith will grow and you can water your seed of faith so it grows." I think it will be kind of a cool demonstration for him so that even when he thinks he has no faith, he can see that the seed is growing and that he really does have faith. We'll see how it works out.

That's about all I've got this week. I just got the letter yesterday about what's been happening with all the fires. I'm glad I didn't hear about any of it until it was mostly over because I would have been really worried about all you guys for the past few weeks. Every time I meet new people and tell them I'm from Colorado they ask me if I live anywhere near the fires and until last week I didn't even know there were fires and I didn't know until yesterday that they were getting pretty bad and dangerous. I would always tell people my family was fine and it was nothing to worry about but it sounds like it was a much bigger deal than I thought.
Well I hope everyone is well! 

Los Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Transferred after all!

Hello Everyone!
Sorry I didn't let you know last week that I would be emailing on the 4th of July, I didn't know that our P-day was getting switched until a few days ago.  The good news though is that we have the whole day as a P day instead of only until 6:00 so that will be really nice.
So I have some big news.  Last week on Monday Elder Guzman and I received our transfer calls and they told us we were staying together another transfer! However, the next day right after I finished emailing we got another call from the Assistants to the President of the Mission while we were shopping in Wal-Mart. They said more or less, hey we're really sorry but we messed up a lot of people's transfer calls and yours were one of them.  Elder Gaskill, you're getting transferred to Elk Grove.  I was really devastated after that.  I really didn't want to leave Stockton, and all the ward members and investigators that we were teaching.  I probably cried on and off for about an hour.  After I finally got a hold of myself it was around 6ish in the evening and I wanted to go say goodbye to some people before I left.  The sister missionaries called us right as we were about to leave and told us they needed us to go with them to give a blessing to a lady that was in the hospital who had gotten in a really bad car accident who's sister they were teaching.  We went to the hospital, gave the blessing, ended up giving another blessing to another lady whose daughter saw us in the parking lot and asked us if we could give a blessing to her mom who just had surgery.  So we finally left the hospital at about 8:30 and then we went to go say bye to Familia Gonzalez/Banda who are two awesome families that live in our ward in our area.  We talked to them for a while and I said bye and got a picture with them.  Then it was about 9:45pm but I still wanted to say bye to familia Guzman before I left so we went over there.  The hermano wasn't home and the kids were in bed but Hermana Guzman started crying when I told her I was leaving.  We told her we would come back early in the morning to say bye to her husband since he wasn't home and left.  Right as we got home Hermano Guzman called us and said "wait, come back. I just got home"  It was already 10:00 so we couldn't go back but we told him we would come back in the morning.  Eventually I got off the phone with him and it was about 11:00 and I still had to pack everything up so I was up really late.
We got up at about 5 in the morning to get ready and drop off Elder Torres because he was getting transferred too.  After we dropped him off we went over to the Guzman's house to say bye to Hermano Guzman.  It was super hard to say goodbye to him but we stayed and talked about an hour.  I gave him all my contact information so we could keep him in touch and he said he was going to come visit me in Elk Grove a few times with his kids too.  I gave him the number that we have up here and said goodbye to him.  It was really hard to do.
Later that day I came to Elk Grove.  My new companion's name is Elder Austin.  He is about 10 months old in the mission and was Elder Grow's companion in the MTC.  He is a nice guy and went to West Point for 2 years before he came on his mission.  He's really nice and we get along well.  I miss Stockton and Elder Guzman a lot though.  It's a lot different up here.  There are still plenty of Latinos but there are a lot more white people, a lot more black people, and a TON more Asians.  It's a lot harder to find Spanish people to teach up here.  The area we cover is probably 2-3 times larger than our area in Stockton.  I'm getting used to the area, but it's really big.
Yesterday was a lot of fun because they did leadership training, and since my companion is a district leader I had to go drop him off and get a new companion for the morning while he was in training.  Since Elder Guzman and Elder Luttrell are also district leaders I got to see both of them and talk with them for a while! That was a lot of fun.  Most people don't get to see their trainers that soon after getting transferred so it was really nice to see my "dad" in the mission.
Today we got together as all the central zones in the mission played some games, which was a lot of fun.  We played football, volleyball, and basketball.  It was good to see Elder Torres and Elder Moors again, two elders that I served with down in Stockton.
We don't have too many investigators up here, but I'll tell you guys a little bit about the ones we have:
Aire - she's the wife of a member who was baptized about a little while ago.  She likes the church, but isn't sure if she wants to get baptized because her husband had a really cool experience when he prayed to find out the church is true and she thinks that is what's supposed to happen to everybody.  So she doesn't think she's ready yet.  Her husband told us that he heard her talking on the phone and saying she was sure she was going to get baptized soon but didn't know exactly when.  She's awesome and I know she'll get baptized soon. Unfortunately though they are moving about 20-30 minutes south to Galt soon, so she will probably be baptized there.
Gio- he is a 16 year old kid who is really cool and wants to be baptized.  His only problem is that his girlfriend got kicked out of her house once she turned 18 a few months ago and so now she's living with him and his family, and he can't get baptized while they're living together like that.  They just moved down to Los Angeles for the summer though to work so he might end up getting baptized down there.
Olga- she is a nice lady who has all the right questions and really likes the things we teach her.  Her one problem though is that she doesn't drive and her husband really likes the Pentecostal church.  His cousin just died in a bad car accident a few days ago so I think the plan of salvation is something that they will really like
Francesco- he is this really old guy who I love a lot.  His problem is he doesn't understand why God would let there be so much suffering in the world if he loves us so much.  We've taken every angle possible to explain it to him but he still doesn't accept it.  He is awesome though.  I think he knows he's going to get baptized but he's just trying to challenge us.  He talks like that for sure by saying that "it's our job to convince him to believe again".  He's really funny and I think he really likes what we're saying and has showed a lot of progress but is just holding out on us.
That's all we've got for now.  The big news is that I'm up in Elk Grove and have been here for a week already.
Hope all is well.
Los Quiero!
-Elder Gaskill