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