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