Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Great teaching this week

Hello Everyone!

This week went pretty well. Elder Hernandez and I are getting along really well and doing some good work.  I don't know if I wrote very much about him last week but he is from Orange County in Southern California.  He was born in Sonora, Mexico and came to the United States when he was 3 so he pretty much was raised here and just knows Spanish from speaking it at home with his family.  He's a cool guy, doesn't really play any sports but is a nice guy, the stereotypical California kid.

We had a really good lesson with Arturo this week.  We keep challenging him to get baptized and he always says he's not really sure and doesn't want to make any decision until he's sure and he can talk it over with his family.  Elder Hernandez and I went over there and we taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and he understood it really well.  At the end of the lesson we all knelt down and took turns saying a prayer and then being quiet and listening.  There were 3 ladies in the other room being really loud and laughing but the Spirit was still there.  At the end we sat down again and bore testimony and I could tell something had definitely changed in him.  Normally he always looks at us as we talk to him but this time he was just staring down at his hands and listening to what we said.  Afterwards I told him I knew he was going to get baptized and he told me it was true, so I made him promise me that he won't deny the Spirit and that when it tells him he needs to get baptized that he will listen, to which he said he would.  He goes back home in about 2 weeks and I hope he decides to get baptized before then but if not I know he will get baptized back in Mexico.  His family is coming up on the 21st to spend the rest of the year between L.A. and here and so I'll get to meet his family soon too.  If Arturo doesn't get baptized here some missionaries in Ensenada, Mexico are going to get really lucky because he'll get baptized really soon and he has an awesome family so they'll get 4 more baptisms on top of that.  The most important thing is that he gets baptized and I just hope we can stay in touch after he goes back.

We also have a really solid investigator that will probably get baptized in Mexico too.  She loves the church, and loves anything you tell her about Joseph Smith and the Restoration.  She just has trouble coming to church because she's an old Grandma that has lots of physical health problems so she can't be by herself.  We taught her about the Word of Wisdom a few days ago and the only problem she had was with coffee because that's how she gets the medication she needs (through a special type) for her bone health, but she told us that she would stop drinking that and start taking the pills that do the same thing even though she doesn't like taking them.  She is a really solid investigator but lives in Mexico and is going back in 2 weeks as well.  She is just going home long enough to get her VISA renewed but she might very well get baptized while she's there.  She wants to get baptized but she needs to come to church more first and hasn't been able to in her situation.  She thinks it will take about 2 months to get her VISA renewed so she might come back here to get baptized too because she really liked Elder Martinez and I and wants one of us to baptize her.  We'll see how that plays out.

There were lots of Ward Christmas Dinners this weekend and that was fun.  We went to our branch's dinner and an English ward's dinner and there was definitely a huge difference in the livelihood and "alegria" that was there.  I don't think I'm ever going to be able to go back to an English Ward after my mission.  It was a lot of fun and the member's brought a couple friends that we're going to start teaching and hopefully they'll be really interested in the gospel.

Last night we had a big fireside that we have been planning for a while.  Our ward mission leader's son served a mission in Ukraine and married a girl from out there, so him, his wife, and his sister in law flew out from BYU for a weekend to do this fireside.  He is a really good singer and they are really good on the piano and on the violin so the fireside was a musical fireside with Christmas/Classical songs that featured a combination of voice, violin, and piano.  It was really good.  They recorded the fireside so I am going to try to get a couple copies of it to keep and send home.  It was a whole stake event and they advertised it in the newspaper so there were a lot of non-members that came.  Hopefully some of those people were touched by the fireside and decide to listen to the missionaries and accept the gospel that will make them truly happy.
This week has been great, Christmas time is coming up and I hope you all are remembering the true spirit of Christmas!

Les Quiero Mucho!
Elder Gaskill

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Jorge's Baptism and another new Companion

Hello Everybody!

This week has been great!
The best thing that happened this week was Jorge Guzman's baptism.  It went really well and was a lot of fun.  Elder Guzman got to come back and baptized Hermano Guzman so that was cool.  It's been really awesome to see the change he's made over the past few weeks as we've taught him.  Over the past weeks he has been accepting everything we've been teaching and making a big change in his life.  He and his wife had had marital problems in the past but now they are very happy and plan to go to the temple in a year, and he is very happy and grateful for everything we've helped him do.  His son on the mission in Oaxaca, Mexico is also very happy and grateful.  Jorge's wife told us what really made a difference were Elder Martinez and I which was really cool to hear.  When I was confirming him and giving him the gift of the Holy Ghost on Sunday during church I had a cool experience.  My Spanish happened to be really good in the moment and as I said everything I wasn't thinking about what I was going to say and I even forgot I was in Sacrament meeting, but I was just talking and listening to the Spirit.  One of the things that surprised me was I told him that he would be the means for many more members of his family coming into the gospel by being baptized.  It could be true because he has 4 other kids that aren't members and all of his family that lives here in Galt are not members either.  Jorge also got the priesthood on Sunday and so it has been a very awesome week with him.

We also have another family that should get baptized soon.  About 2 months ago the Ortega family got baptized and since then his brother and their family have been coming to church every week.  They all really like the church but have been unsure about baptism and haven't been able to because the parents aren't married and that dad is still married to his first wife from 19 years ago.  They have been closed to the idea of marriage and baptism but something happened this past week and it all changed.  Now they are shooting to be married and baptized on Christmas Day.  We are doing a lot of work to find out if he can get divorced easily through the Mexican consulate or if we have to do it through United States' courts but hopefully we can get everything done really soon so they can be married and baptized with their 2 kids on that day.

We have been doing a lot of cement work recently.  On Saturday in the morning the two of us along with about 10 people from the Elder's Quorum laid cement in part of the driveway, a side patio, a back patio, and a sidewalk all the way around the house.  The amazing part is that we did it all in 35 minutes.  It was really impressive how well and quickly everyone works.  It's a lot of work and hard to do but we were running everywhere and working quickly to get it done.  The good news is now I know how to lay cement and I could do it on my own someday if I had all the tools.

We got our transfer calls last night and I think both Elder Martinez and I were disappointed.  He is leaving to go to the Sac 7 branch and I am staying here and my new companion will be Elder Hernandez.  We were both almost 100% sure we were staying together since we've been doing such good work and baptizing a lot but I guess not.  Elder Hernandez is a cool missionary but I would have loved to be another transfer with Elder Martinez.

Today we got to go to the Pulga (the flea market)  because our preparation day was on Tuesday instead of Monday and it was a lot of fun.  I bartered with a couple of the Mexican people there and got a US soccer jersey for $15 and a really nice Mexican style sweatshirt for $20.  We'll get to go back in a few weeks since we have our p-days on Christmas and New Years instead of the Mondays in those weeks.  I might buy some other cool things to send home too.  We were there really early and a lot of people hadn't set up their shops yet so we'll see a lot more things on those days when we go back.

I hope everyone is well! Everything's going well out here in Lodi!

Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

10 months! Baptisms coming up on the 8th.

 (Note from John's Mom:  Sorry this week's post and last week's post are late.  John's little brother, Colin was born on Nov. 26th and it's been a busy time at our house so I got a little behind on the blog.)

Hello Everybody!

This week has been another great week! On Saturday I passed my 10 month mark in the mission and I officially feel old now that I'm in the double digits.  I hate how fast the time is going by.  Nevertheless, the work still goes on!

This past week we had some awesome experiences.  On Wednesday we were teaching Jorge Guzman the plan of salvation and then after we were asking him about how his prayers were going and if he felt like he had received an answer.  The last two times we had asked him he told us he was "close", really close.  This time he kind of laughed at us and said "what would I need to do to get baptized?".  We explained to him about the baptismal interview and he said "prepare it!".  We were so excited, Jorge is going to get baptized this Saturday the 8th.  He's finally ready.  He's been very prepared and his son on a mission asked him to fast with him this past Sunday so they all fasted and I'm sure it helped a lot.  We will have an awesome baptismal service Saturday.

This week has also been an interesting week with JJ.  Remember JJ from last week who is Juan and Jovita's son who accepted to be baptized? Well originally we had passed him to the the English missionaries to be taught and they passed him to the the YSA missionaries since he's a 21 years old.  He didn't like that church so he started coming to the Spanish branch again with his parents.  Last week we taught him and he accepted to be baptized. 

Thursday was mission conference and Elder Bruce D Porter of the Seventy came to talk to us.  It was an awesome conference and he talked a lot about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful because now I understand it a lot more, even though I thought I understood it before.  It was great to see a lot of the missionaries in the southern half of the mission again too.

Friday was the big "Multicultural Spanish Activity" that Elder Rivera and I had started to plan in Elk Grove.  All the Spanish wards and branches came from the whole mission and it was awesome.  We had about 500 people there and about 25% of them were non-members.  We got there really early to set up everything and practice how things would go so that everything would run smoothly.  It turned out to be a great event! The Book of Mormon art gallery was awesome! I took a picture of every single painting so you'll get to see them when the SD card gets home.  We gave a really awesome tour to Juan and Jovita, and Jovita's brother's family, and a couple other members.  Jovita's brother has a lot of doubts about the church but his wife seems to really like it.  At the end of the tour she took one of each of the pamphlets with her to read later.  When that tour ended the next part of the program started (switch from just eating to the devotional).  To begin the devotional every one of the Spanish missionaries (all 40 of us were there) went up and said our name and where we were from.  The told us to say we were from different places in the world to be funny.  Some elders said they were from other countries/states/etc and the people there thought it was really funny.  When Elder Martinez and I finished the tour we heard all the missionaries saying where the were from so we ran back into the gym.  We were the last two up there and we didn't notice at the time but the other missionaries told us they cheered a lot louder for us than for the rest of the missionaries.  I ran up there and said "Soy Elder Gaskill y vengo de Paranguara Cutirimicuaro" which is a kid's legend in Mexico that most people can't pronounce (especially white people) so they loved that.  Elder Martinez ran up and said "Don't cry everyone we made it" and got everyone to laugh and then said where he was from.  I guess the two of us were a big hit.  All the missionaries then proceeded to sing "We'll bring the world his truth" (in Spanish).  President Martinez talked for a little while and then the real fun began.  A couple professional dance groups danced folkloric dances from different part of Mexico and a professional singer sang a few songs.  It was really awesome and I took videos of a lot of it.  By the end it was 10:00pm and we had to hurry to get home.  It was really nice to see all the Spanish Elders and Sisters and see all the members from Stockton and Elk Grove again.  It was an awesome event and definitely a big party (:

Saturday we went and did a blitz for our roommates' area which is struggling a little bit.  They haven't had any solid investigators to teach for a while so the 8 of us missionaries got together and "blitzed" the area (sent everybody to work in their area) for 2 hours.  Elder Boeke and I were able to find a lady named Paula who said she already knew the church was true but never was baptized because she was afraid of committing.  She hadn't been to church in about 3 years but still knew the church was true.  We read Mosiah 18:8-10 with her and committed her to get baptized in December if she received and answer to her prayers that she should do so.  Sooooo now those elders should have a solid investigator for this month! We were really happy to help out and felt blessed to be able to find that truly prepared lady.

We didn't get to watch the Christmas Devotional yesterday because we were really busy teaching everyone but hopefully we'll get to watch it online for a Family Home Evening with a member this week.
Hope all is well back home and everyone is getting in the Christmas Spirit!

Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

November 26, 2012

Here's what happened in my short week after Thanksgiving.

Saturday we had our baptism of Hermana Diaz and that was really interesting.  Elder Martinez told me to baptize her so that was the plan.  We had taught her how the baptism was going to go over and she was ready to go.  When we got into the font, things started to go wrong.  The font had a little leak so there wasn't as much water in it as when we stopped filling it.  Hermana Diaz was also a little afraid of the water so it took a couple of times to get the baptism right.  She was afraid to bend over backwards and just tried to sit down the first time.  Then I didn't explain well enough and I told her we had to do it so that her whole body got wet so she began washing her face and her head with water from her hands.  Then we tried to do the baptism while she was kneeling and that didn't work either.  Eventually we had to get another member to put one of the baptismal suits on and come in with me.  We kind of pushed her under really quick and then brought her back up but it worked.  She was really happy after that and felt a lot better.  In the hour long baptismal service my appreciation for her grew a lot as I saw her struggling to do something that she knew was right, and eagerly listening to the talks and testimonies that were given at her baptism.

Sunday morning the fog came in really thick and we could barely see 20 yards in front of us in the car.  We were worried that a lot of people wouldn't come, but luckily they just came late.  Elder Martinez and I taught the gospel principles class and it went really well.  After church we went and ate with Jovita and Juan, our recent converts.  They have a 21 year old son who's never really been interested until his parents got baptized.  The English elders came by to teach him and then sent him to the nearest Young Single Adult ward in Stockton.  He didn't like the YSA ward at all so he decided to just keep coming with his parents.  We decided to go teach him and had a really good lesson with him.  He wasn't really talkative but finally we got him to open up a little bit.  We asked him why he wants to go to church and he told us he wants to find peace in his life, and come closer to his family.  We told him how he could do that and talked to him about the Book of Mormon and how he can find out that it's true.  When we asked him if he knew how the Holy Ghost work.s  He didn't.  I asked him if he had ever felt something inside of him telling him not to do something to which he said yes.  When I asked him how he felt after listening to that voice he said peaceful at times and relieved at others.  He then mentioned quickly how if he hadn't listened to it one of those times he probably would have died in a car accident with a few of his friends.  Then he began feeling the Spirit really strongly and started crying.  We told him more about the Holy Ghost and promised him that he would feel that same peace as an answer to his prayers.  He accepted the challenge to be baptized on December 8th! We should have another 2 or 3 people be baptized on that day so it's going to be an awesome day!

Well that's all that's happened since Thanksgiving.  When we were with Elder Guzman in Manteca this morning he got a call from President Lewis saying his Grandpa had died so keep him and his family in your prayers.

Les Quiero Mucho!
-Elder Gaskill