Thursday, December 19, 2013

Josh was baptized!

Hello Everyone!
This week was great. The best news is that Josh got baptized and confirmed. It was a great experience. He really wanted Elder Fulks to do all the ordinances since he is leaving this week and that was a great experience. He is really strong in the gospel and will be ordained to the Aaronic Preisthood next week. His situation at home is crazy and he has really bad influences all around him but he is the glimmer of light in that home. We are trying to help the rest of the family change and I think our presence has rubbed off a little bit.
We got our transfer calls and my new companion is Elder Gilray. I'm very excited.  I asked for him to get sent to me so I'm glad they made it happen.  Elder Gilray started his mission 6 weeks after me but had to go home for knee surgery after a football game in Galt in the summer of 2012.  He was only home for 3 months and has been back for a while.  He is a really good missionary (Spanish speaking) so I'm excited to work with him. He's a lot of fun. He's from Dallas, Texas and I'm pretty sure was going to BYU-I before his mission. Elder Fulks is really sad to be leaving. It's just barely dawning on him that he's actually leaving. I'm glad it's not me yet.
We are working with the members to find a lot of new people. We dropped or were dropped by almost all our investigators last week. We got down to 1 but she's still cool. She hasn't been to church yet but has seen how different she has felt meeting with us and in the ward function she went to.  She almost was admitted to the hospital last night which would have been bad but she got out of it and so now we can keep teaching her.
I'm excited to be here in the Christmas season and remind people what they should really be focused on. I continue to hope and pray that we can be lead to the people who are being prepared to meet us. I love this work!
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Monday, December 9, 2013

The work continues to roll forth here

Hello Everyone!
This past week went very well.
The highlight of the week has been continuing to work with Josh.  He is still getting baptized this Saturday and is very excited for it.  This week we will prepare the program and find out who he wants to do what.
We spent a lot of time in Galt of Tuesday which was fun.  We had to go all the way up to Rancho Cordova for a meeting in the morning so on the way back down we stayed in Galt to do some work there.  We were really excited for an appointment with one of Brenda's friends but she had to cancel because her parents didn't want us coming over. We ended up going over anyway because we listen to the Spirit instead of people as missionaries and it turned out well. We found out that they had a recent death in the family and were able to offer comfort. We are still looking for a way to teach Mariana but we have something set up at Brenda's house this week that we are excited about. 
Tuesday evening we got our Thanksgiving dinner just a little bit late. Hermana Cardona made a turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie.  She said it was our Christmas dinner but it seemed a lot more like Thanksgiving but it was really good! It was fun to spend some time with the Cardona family as well. 
Brenda finally got her mission call! We helped her finish her papers back in August before I left Galt but the branch president and stake president were slow in doing the interviews so everything didn't get turned in until a few weeks ago. Brenda has been waiting by the mailbox every day and the call finally came on Saturday. She opened it yesterday after church so we drove up at the end of the Spanish ward and watched her open the call. She's going to Baltimore, Maryland Spanish speaking! We were all very excited for her.  She reports to the MTC on January 29th, 2014.  I told her that since her mission starts the day before mine ends she will be taking my spot as a missionary just in a different part of the country and she will have to keep up the missionary spirit.  It was an exciting moment for everyone in the branch.
We started teaching a cool new person named Tara. She recently moved down from the Lodi hills to Lodi. She happened to move into an apartment complex where some Elders live and so when she asked for help from the apartment manager they referred her to the missionaries. They helped her and then passed her information to us. She has gone through a lot of rough things and is looking for more peace in her life. She's great and is getting along great with the ward. She came to our Christmas party and got to know a lot of people. She was supposed to come to Stake Conference yesterday but didn't make it so we'll have to find out why. She's great though.
We got to see the Rodriguez family twice as well. We were on splits with members of the stake high council and we went to see JJ but he wasn't there.  His parents didn't know we were coming either and they were with the teacher of the beauty school Jovita goes to and her husband. Right when we walked in they told us we had come at the perfect time because they were just talking about the church. Since I was the only Spanish speaker I was able to sit down and teach these people about the gospel and what we do as missionaries.  They live here in Stockton and so I am going to set them up with the Spanish missionaries here this week. Juan and Jovita were planning on taking them to the Oakland temple with the Spanish Branch to see the lights so we will have to see if that happened.
The work continues to roll forth here. It's getting cooler and closer to Christmas and I'm excited for this time of the year to be a missionary.
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pouring out all my heart, might, mind, and strength into this work!

Hello Everyone
The last week was another great one!
Thanksgiving was a great day! We went to Lodi and had Thanksgiving dinner with the Rodriguez family. It wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving dinner but I enjoyed it.  We had a good spicy chicken in a red sauce instead of turkey, and had lots of pasta/potato salads on the side with pumpkin pie at the end.  We ate a normal amount instead of stuffing our faces and still felt good afterwards.  Later on I missed the yams from the traditional dinner we have at home but the most important part was there: being thankful and being around the people you care about.  It was fun to be in the same home for both Thanksgivings on my mission.  Their extended family was there as well and it was good to see all of them again. None of them are members so I enjoy exercising my influence on them so hopefully later down the road it will add up and make a difference. 
 We came home at about 7:00 and it was really weird not having anything to do. As a missionary it kills me not being able to use my time effectively and efficiently.  My companion went to bed really early and I spent a lot of time reading the Book of Mormon, going through our area book, and cleaning.  I still had time and had nothing to do so I ended up tying every tie I have with a new knot I learned from our investigator Josh (called the Trinity knot). I was really bored! Eventually I sat down and began to look over pictures of my mission, pictures from before, pictures with my family, etc and had a really good reflective moment to think about all that I have in my life and especially the many blessings I've seen on my mission.  I was able to notice a lot of changes that I've seen and then make plans to continue to improve and set goals for where I want to be in the future.  It was a good, relaxing evening.
We were able to work hard the rest of the week. On Saturday it was the last day of the month and we had a lot of miles saved up so we decided to drive up to Galt and work there.  We went through our list of people to visit and no one was home.  We decided to stop by the Cardona's house to see if Brenda had any friends for us to go visit.  When we arrived she was anxiously awaiting to mailman because her mission call is in the mail and she was waiting for it to arrive any second.  While we were there on the doorstep with her the mailman came but sadly she didn't have her mission call.  She decided to come out with us and introduce us to one of her friends named Mariana.  She was nervous because she thought she was really Catholic but we talked to her on her front porch for a while and she was really interested in our message.  She told us she had kind of distanced herself from the Catholic church recently because she didn't feel comfortable there and has started going to a few other churches with her friends and said she would like to go with Brenda! Right now Brenda goes to the Lodi Spanish branch so we'll have her come to the YSA a few times to help us out.  It was a great contact. Unfortunately about 20 family members were on their way over when we showed up so we had to set up another appointment for tomorrow that we are excited about.  Brenda also took us to meet another member who used to go to the branch but moved to Yuba city a little before I got there.  Between the two of them they thought of about 8 more people in Galt that we should teach and we are excited to meet them this week!
The rest of the week went really well. Josh has learned almost everything from the missionary lessons and is excited to be baptized at 1:00pm on December 14th. He even fasted with us yesterday and made it the full 2 meals.  He is such an awesome guy and I feel very privileged to be one of the missionaries teaching him.
Last night we didn't have a dinner so we went to the Hixon's house.  The Hixon family feeds all 8 missionaries in the Delta Spanish ward every Sunday so Elder Fulks and I were excited to go back and see the family as well as the current Spanish missionaries.  Everyone in the family remembered both of us, even the kids so that made us both happy.  They Hixons have a picture up of every missionary that has ever eaten dinner at their house (starting from about 4 years ago) so they have pictures covering the space right below the ceiling that goes all around their kitchen and living room.  It was weird to see how many missionaries have come since I left Stockton in June 2012.  It was also weird to see the pictures of missionaries that I knew very well that finished their missions a long time ago.  It also felt like coming home and it was good to be back.
Things are going well in our area and Elder Fulks and I feel very blessed. I feel especially blessed because I have more time left than he does (he has 2 weeks left).  We both freaked out a little bit yesterday when it became December 1st because with every new month comes the beginning of the end.  I think I might have a heart attack on New Years but I hope not. Right now I'm just focused on one day at a time making each day the best it can be and pouring out all my heart, might, mind, and strength into this work!
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello Everyone!
This last week went really well.
Zone Conference went great! Elder Baxter inspired us all and taught us a lot of great things.  The coolest part was afterwards we had a special meeting with the 6 of us zone leaders, President & Sister Lewis, and Elder & Sister Baxter. They gave us some instruction on how to be better leaders. The coolest part was at the end we all knelt down and he said one of the best prayers I have ever heard and left countless blessings with us.  After, we tried to remember what all was said and we couldn't. We decided it was like 3 Nephi 17 where the words of the Savior couldn't be written. We have very strongly impressed upon our hearts how we felt though.
We got to have dinner with 2 of my favorite families this week: the Rodriguez family and the Barajas family.  It was great to go visit with them. I felt right at home.  We have dinner again tonight with the Rodriguez family for Thanksgiving.  We also got to see a lot of the families from the Lodi branch on Sunday while we were waiting for the Barajas to pick us up.  We got to see the Cortez, Cazares, Cardonas, Sheldons, Lopez, etc and it was great.  I got ambushed and didn't even make it to the building, we just ended up talking to everyone in the parking lot.
I got to go to Sacramento for Mark's baptism on Saturday and perform the ordinance. That was great because he had overcome so much to be baptized. It was a very sweet moment. There weren't many  people at the baptism but the Spirit was there and that's the most important part.
Last night we got to play in the Turkey Bowl that the institute put on and people came from all over Sacramento, Lodi, Stockton, and Manteca to play so it was a fun event.  My team ended up winning it all so that was an added bonus. We hardly ever get to play sports so that was a rare delicacy.  I got sick from all the other elders in my apartments so my lungs were really congested and not doing so well but I ran through it anyway and pretended like it was normal and had a lot of fun.
We have been doing lots of teaching.  We have taught a lot of people that don't seem like they're going to progress too much. Josh however is doing great and progressing towards his baptismal date of December 14th very well.  It was hard for him to hear the Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity being a 20 year old who's never had religion in his life. However, he's so humble that he readily accepted it and is trying his very best to do it! I gave him a pair of pants, a white shirt, and a tie so he would have church clothes to wear and he looked great at church; fit right in.  He has changed so much over the past few weeks since we first met him and he is very excited to be baptized.  He learned how to tie this really cool knot on a tie and taught it to us yesterday. In exchange we taught him how to tie a normal knot on a tie.
It's nice to have a break today to relax and eat some good food!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Elder Gaskill

Monday, November 18, 2013

Missionary Work Keeps Getting Better and Better!

Hello Everyone!
I hope everyone is doing well! This was another great week in the mission.
Our investigator Josh has been progressing a lot! We introduced him to a recent convert named Carlos and they get along really well. Carlos can give him rides too since he has a car. We took Josh on a tour of the church and he loved it and was excited to come to church with us.  He is very willing to change and as soon as we taught him about the word of wisdom he made changes to  start living that commandment.  He came to church yesterday and loved it! Carlos brought him and he stayed  4 hours (Carlos had an interview after church to get his limited use recommend & get a calling).  He is doing great.
We also had Daniel, Tommy, and Lyn come to church yesterday.  Tommy is ready and has learned everything but has to get over one last thing first before he can accept a baptismal date. Daniel keeps moving around so we can't find him but we are working with him as well.
On Thursday we were with Elder Morley all day (one of the APs). It was good to be around him again and reminisce about good times we had together in El Dorado for 3 transfers.  We had a really productive day as well.
Earlier in the week we were at Hermano Ku's house (the Lodi Spanish Branch Ward Mission Leader) to get a referral. While we were there his nephew Diego walked in.  Hermano Ku's sister-in-law and family live 3 houses down the street and their family is very catholic.  Diego said he came home, no one was home, saw a missionary car and felt like he should come over and talk to us.  We talked to him about the Plan of Salvation and answered some of his questions for a while.  His family has had a lot of experience with the church and so he was interested in listening. We knew it was definitely a prompting of the spirit that got us and him there at the same time.  He didn't see it that way though. The next day, 3 more missionaries found an old referral for his mother and decided to stop by and they found Diego as well. We went back down with Elder Morley the next day.  It seems that the missionaries are all on the same wavelength (the Spirit) so we're hoping that Diego listens to the spirit as well.
On Thursday we stopped by the Barajas family and it was great to see them again.  Only Hermana was there with Andres so we had dinner with them and talked for a little while.  Andres had bought me a shirt and told me not to look at it until I got home. When we came back I looked at it and it's an awesome tank top that says "Most Dope"  haha.  We're having dinner with the whole family this Sunday and I'm excited to see them again!
We also found an old investigator up in Galt that we were teaching named Valerie and she has a lot more time now so we are going to start teaching her again!
I am excited for this coming Saturday because Mark is getting baptized! I will get to go back to North Sacramento and perform Mark's baptism. I'm excited for this weekend.
Also this week is Zone Conference. Once a year a general authority comes and tours the mission and so Elder Baxter from the Seventy is coming to all the conferences and to tour the mission.  Instead of the AP's conducting Conference they are asking the Senior Zone Leader to conduct so I will have to introduce Elder Baxter and that is kind of intimidating but it will be a cool experience!
This week will be awesome! Missionary work keeps getting better and better!
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Monday, November 11, 2013

Getting Reaquainted with Stockton

Hello Everyone!
I hope all is well.
This week was another great one!  It's been full of memories.  It's good to be back in Stockton. The last time I was here was July of 2012 so it's been a while.  It's weird to drive around some of the same streets. We mostly work on the northern side of the city, a different part than where I served the first time.  I know the main streets but am getting to know everything a lot better.  It was really weird to drive down to the southern area to visit some people.  We stopped by a few of the Spanish members homes because they have kids that are YSA (Young Single Adult) age and we wanted to invite them to some activities.  It was great to see everyone again.  Elder Fulks and I both served in Delta South near the beginning of our missions so the members remember both of us.
The work is very different here.  We work almost purely by referrals.  Ideally we want the whole family to be interested so we only get to teach them once the parents have expressed their disinterest and then we take over teaching the YSA age young adults.  It's a lot harder to fill our time so we have to find ways to find new people.  There are two colleges here: Delta college and University of the Pacific, however it's not very effective to walk around on campus contacting people so we're trying some other ways.
We are working with a few cool people.  My first appointment in the area was with a young guy named Josh.  He doesn't really know anything about God or Jesus Christ so we have been teaching him a lot.  He loves everything we share with him and after saying it a couple times it sticks with him.  He accepted the invitation to be baptized on December 7th so we are excited to help him work towards that date.  There is another investigator named Tommy who was supposed to be baptized a few weeks ago but had some problems come up so we are continuing to work with him and help him get baptized the end of this month. 
We also met a really cool guy named Steve who is dating a girl in Modesto who is a member of the church.  He used to be a Jehovah's Witness growing up but distanced himself from the church a few years back because of "the politics".  He loves everything and had trouble accepting that Joseph Smith saw God because of the scriptures in Exodus 33 that says "no man can see God and live".  We hear that a lot so it's easy to help people understand what the scriptures mean and explain the First Vision a little better. There is also another guy named Daniel who the missionaries were teaching but he disappeared for a while.  He showed up to church by himself yesterday and was really excited to be back.  He has figured a lot of things out and we are happy to start working with him again.
I also got to see a few members of the Lodi branch recently.  Last night we went up and visited with Juan, Jovita, and JJ Rodriguez (luckily JJ is in the YSA ward so it gives us good reason to go visit the family).  It was a very sweet experience because yesterday was November 10th, exactly a year after the day Juan and Jovita were baptized.  I love that family so much and I am so happy to see the progress they are making and the strength of their testimonies.  JJ's year anniversary is coming up on December 29th so I will also be here for that.  I think the plan is for the whole family to go to the temple in January to get sealed.  I hope the plan sticks so I can still be here to accompany them to the temple!
Yesterday I also got to confer the Aaronic Priesthood on a new member of the YSA ward named Carlos.  He was baptized about 2 weeks ago and I was surprised that he picked me to perform the ordinance since I had only known him for 4 days.  It was a really cool experience.
Things are going great and I am very happy to be a missionary!
Les Quiero Mucho!
Elder Gaskill

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Going back to Stockton

Hello Everyone!
This past week was another great one!
The big news this week are transfers. My transfer call came and I am getting transferred to the South Stockton Zone in the Pacific Young Single Adult ward.  My new companion is Elder Fulks (another Spanish speaking missionary). He goes home at the end of this transfer so I will be his last companion.  Our zone is pretty small (there are 2 in Stockton).  In Our zone we have 3 English companionships, 1 Hmong, 1 Lao, and 1 Cambodian.  All the other Spanish companionships are in the North Stockton zone. I am sad to be leaving such a great zone and companion in North Sacramento but I'm excited to go back to the valley.  One of the things I'm excited for is our YSA ward also covers Lodi and Galt.  That means I can go visit the Rodriguez and other families in Lodi (and JJ will be in the YSA) and also the Barajas and other families in Galt! It will be fun. I feel like I get to go home for the holidays (:
This week was a lot of fun! It was a little bit slow because of some meetings we had to do and other trainings but it was a lot of fun. On Halloween we got together as a zone and watched a new movie that came out from Deseret Book called "Ephraim's Rescue".  It was pretty good and about a man who was prepared his whole life to help rescue some of the pioneers in a handcart company that wouldn't have made it to Salt Lake otherwise.  Afterwards Elder Ross and I did our zone training.  We made it a lot of fun.  We started out by bringing everyone into a room with the lights out filled with fog (from a fog machine). Elder Ross and I had blankets on so we looked like something creepy.  We had flashlights shining up at our faces and creepy music on in the background. We welcomed them to zone training and then moved into another room to actually do it.  We were training on commitments so at the end we practiced by trick or treating.  Except we had the missionaries dress up in costumes (mummies with toilet paper, ghosts with sheets, crazy hair wigs, etc) and go "trick-or-treating" by teaching the people behind the doors and giving them a pre-decided commitment.  They were rewarded with candy if they did a good job. It was a lot of fun.
The most exciting thing that happened this week was with Mark. We didn't hear from him all week so we used our secret agent skills and found out where his parents live (which is where we moved).  We were waiting for him to contact us and just listened to the Spirit in the meantime.  On Saturday we felt prompted to go to his old place of residence where Kelly was.  She was there crying and in a lot of pain because she was really sick.  We offered to give her a priesthood blessing but needed a guy to come over.  She told us Mark was on his way over so we waited for him.  When he got there he told us he was sorry but his phone was out of minutes so he wasn't able to get in touch with us all week.  We gave Kelly a blessing and it went really well.  She told us all day she had been praying that someone would come over to help her out and we told her we were prompted to go over there.  Mark also told us he was prompted to pick up the phone and call her that morning and that's why he had come over.  It looks like we were all on the same page and things worked out!
Mark came to church yesterday and now he is 100% ready for baptism! We set a new baptismal date for November 23rd with him! We are all very excited!
That's about it for this week. New adventures to come in Stockton!
Love you all! Les Quiero!
Elder Gaskill

Monday, October 28, 2013

Unexpected Blessings

Hello Everyone!
I don't have a lot of time to email this week but we had an amazing week!  We found so many solid new people and things are going well.
We found a lady named Leah who has a 10 year old daughter named Heavenly.  They used to meet with the missionaries and she loves everything she hears.  She accepted the invitation to be baptized on November 23rd and we are trying to start teaching her daughter as well.
We also got a referral for some really cool people on Saturday named Kisa, Uriah, and Jai.  It is a mom and her two kids and they were really excited to come to church.
Unfortunately Emmanuel and Alexandria both dropped us this week.  Emmanuel is too stressed out with not working and so many bad things going on in his life so he put us on hold until some things get worked out. The same situation happened with Alexandria's mom so she doesn't want us coming over anymore.
We also met with RJ & Jessica and they were really excited to come to church.
We had 9 people lined up for church this week but not a single one came.  RJ was in the hospital sick so they weren't able to come.  Kisa, Uriah, and Jai had some family troubles and weren't able to get ready on time.  We're not sure what happened to Leah and Heavenly but we had a miracle even though so much DIDN'T happen:   We were only able to see Mark once this week.  On Monday we got a call from him and he told us that his "wife" that he's lived with for 8 years is actually still married from a previous relationship so they can't get married right now anyway.  He was really sad and said it looked like he wasn't going to be able to be baptized for about a year.  We said so many prayers trying to know how to help him and felt like nothing happened all week.  He was busy with midterms so we didn't get to see him until Saturday and read 1 Nephi 17 with him.  Sunday he didn't show up to church but during Elder's Quorum he texted us and said "I broke up with Kelly this morning and moved out. That's why I didn't come to church".  It was definitely a miracle that made up for the rest of our investigators not coming to church.  We haven't been able to get in touch with him yet to find out where he moved to but we are hoping to get in touch with him today and have a miracle baptism this week! My testimony of faith and prayers coupled with good works was definitely strengthened this week and I know that miracles happen!
We were really disappointed this week because we were supposed to have 5 baptisms in the zone and not a single one happened.  One of the investigators is having trouble believing in modern prophets and went back to her old church.  Another is getting deported to Mexico this Saturday because his work just ended. Two we found are involved with relationships where either them or their spouse is married to someone else and living with a person who is already married, and the last one didn't get permission from her mom to get baptized.  It was a really great week for Elder Ross and I but it's been a sad month for the zone.  Luckily I've learned to roll with the punches and can share my experiences and I don't get down when bad things happen in the work.
We are looking forward to more success in the coming weeks.
I forgot to mention that we have another investigator named Johny with a baptismal date for November 23 as well.
I love being a missionary!
Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

Monday, October 21, 2013

Everything is Great!

Hello Everyone,
Another great week is in the books!
We're still continuing to work with Mark. We're trying to help him get baptized this Saturday and help our zone/missions reach the goals we have.  He still has the issue of not being married. Right now he doesn't have the money to buy a ring and he can't move out and leave his girlfriend alone because her health is really bad. So we're hoping that some money comes out of the sky this week.
Other things went really well this week.  We found a few new people to teach that sound really promising. After we left a lesson with Mark we had an appointment for dinner 15 minutes later and it was about 10 minutes away. We decided to go visit one more person first even though we didn't have much  time.  We stopped at the house of an old referral from almost a year ago.  The lady who opened the door wasn't the name we were looking for.  We continued to talk to her anyway and tried to share the gospel with her.  It turns out that this lady's mom got baptized when she was a little girl but she wasn't involved in the church very much since her parents were split up.  She only spent about 3 months of the year with her mom and the rest of the year she spent with her dad and step-mom who are Jehovah's Witnesses.  She got really confused between the two churches and now as an adult has distanced herself from any specific church.  She said her LDS mom is great and the church might be something missing in her life.  She told us that recently she has been praying for change.  We said a quick prayer with her and then she told us she felt that we were definitely an answer to her prayers and were sent from God.  It was an awesome contact that most missionaries only dream about.  We are teaching her for the first time tomorrow and are very excited! Her name is Lauren.
We also found a couple that is really cool and loves learning.  They aren't very good at keeping commitments or appointments.  The guy's best friend growing up was a member of the church so we are going to see if we can track him down and have him help us.  The names of these two are RJ & Jessica.
Our investigator from Ghana named Emmanuel also came to church for the first time and loved it.  He wore his clothes from his home country and he looked really good all dressed up in gold.  He definitely stood out because he was also wearing khaki shorts and sandals but it was good because the ward members actually noticed him and then were able to come up and introduce themselves to him so he has more friends in the church.
We are also working with a few more people that have been coming to church and things are going really well with them right now.  Everything is going great. My health is good, my schedule is busy, and I don't have time to think about anything but missionary work.  As a zone we are struggling to meet our goal of baptisms for the month of October so any free time I have is spent finding ways to help the zone achieve our goals.  My companions continue to remind me that my mission clock is running down so it's a good thing I don't have any time to notice how fast the time really is going by.  The holidays are coming up soon so hopefully we can continue to get more people to teach as moods begin to lift and members invite their friends to the ward activities.
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14, 2013

Hello Everyone!
This week was an interesting week and not a whole lot happened but I'll share the most important parts.
We worked a lot with Mark this week trying to get him married so he could be baptized this week.  Things didn't end up going through.  When he talked to his "wife" about getting married she told him that she wasn't going to marry him until he got her a ring.  He was a little disappointed that he couldn't be baptized but was excited for one day down the road when he could.  However, missionaries aren't nearly that patient, especially when they have such a little time to make a difference in people's lives.  We asked him to pray about if he still needed to get baptized.  This first time he got a weird answer that he wasn't comfortable about because he felt like it wasn't an answer that came from God (which he was right about because it was really negative).  We tried to get him to pray with us again the next night but he felt like a lot of bad spirits were keeping him from being able to do it so we helped calm him down and he committed to do it again that night.  The answer he got the next night was better and we were able to help him recognize the spirit and the promptings it was giving.  The big thing that we are working on now is to be able to talk to his wife so we can help her understand why they need to get married.  They're "anniversary" was this past weekend so they were going out and Mark was going to sit her down and have her watch the Restoration DVD and then try to talk to her.  We were letting him get up for church and over there completely on his own, but he didn't show up so we'll have to figure out what happened and get him married and baptized by the end of this month.  More to come on Mark.  He's awesome but he needs lots of support to make it sooner rather than later to this step.
This week Elder Gurr came down from the mission office to do exchanges with us and other Elders in the zone.  What we do on these exchanges is we do quick "team ups" with most of the companionships in the zone.  We meet up with the companionship, the AP goes with new missionary/younger companion and we go with the other missionary.  They are supposed to set up as many appointments as they can and we go with them and make the time we have with them as spiritual and motivating as possible to help the missionaries learn and get to know them better.  We went on 6 exchanges throughout the day and it was amazing to see the work that was done in just an hour or two.  At the very beginning of the day we found a girl name Sabryna who was supposed to get baptized that weekend but the missionaries hadn't been able to get in touch with her for about 2 weeks.  We found her, recommitted her for baptism in October, and put the fire back in her that had been lost for a little while.  Later in the day we found a few new investigators, invited them to baptism, and taught some really good lessons.  My favorite part of the day was when we were able to split with the Spanish missionaries and I got to speak Spanish again! We taught a  few people, and committed an investigator named Maria to be baptized on November 16th.  It was a lot of fun that day.  
Those days are the most draining physically because you have to be on your A+ game for every minute of the day to lift and inspire the missionaries you're with. Normally on a typical day of missionary work you will teach 2-3 lessons and maybe find a new person to teach and then have lots of other contacts and missionary activities during the day.  When we totaled up all that we had done, we taught 9 lessons, got a few referrals, added 3 new investigators, visited 4 less actives, and committed 2 people to baptism on specific dates.  It was an amazing day and filled with miracles.  It was a great opportunity to be able to help so many missionaries.
This Sunday was probably one of my favorite Sundays of my mission.  The talks that were given in Sacrament meeting were by a new couple in the ward that have young kids and are both returned missionaries.  They talked about receiving revelation and it was really inspiring.  Our gospel principles class talked a lot about modern day prophets and that was great as well.  In Elder's Quorum we talked about missionary work to top it all off.  Sundays are always the best and so refreshing!
It was a great week and as always I'm looking forward to this next one!
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Believing, Bold, Baptizing California Sacramento Missionaries

Hello Everyone
Hope the last week went well.
This past week we had lots of exciting things happen in the mission. On Tuesday we had our Zone Leader Round Table meeting and talked about how the mission was doing.  We were disappointed at some of the recent outcomes of baptisms in the mission so we decided to make a training for all the leadership positions in the mission that Thursday.  It turned out to be a great meeting and was really inspiring.  We heard lots of great ideas on being "Believing, Bold, Baptizing California Sacramento Missionaries".  The thoughts that were presented were really cool. We took the same training to do it in our own way for our zone.  One of the interesting things we did had to do with believing.  We talked about the word "believe" meaning "to allow" because you can't exceed the limit of what you believe you can do.  We gave an example of having everyone write down how many cups of water they thought they could drink in 30 seconds and then we did the challenge.  It was a lot of fun and really instructional as well.  Some of the missionaries were able to drink as much as they could and had extra after 30 seconds while some weren't able to reach their full potential because they were only given the number of cups full of water that they thought they could drink.  One elder managed to chug 5 cups of water (about 80 fluid ounces) in 30 seconds which was really impressive.  He almost threw up after but he didn't so everything turned out OK.  We're excited to see a lot of success in our zone in the months to come.
One thing I forgot to mention about my companion.  The first time I met him was his first couple months in the mission.  We were both in the Lodi zone.  My companion was Elder Martinez and Elder Ross was in the Lodi Hills with Elder Gurr. After a zone training we were driving back to our areas. While my companion was driving we were side by side to Elder Ross and his companion.  I motioned for him to roll down the window.  After he did I pulled out a little nerf gun I had in the car and shot him in the ear.  They continued down the road and we turned away to where we were going.  We were never really around each other so we never talked about it but the first day we were companions (a year later) he brought it up to me and we had a good laugh about it.  It seems like we're always laughing and we get along great which is awesome.
We've been working a lot with Mark and he has been progressing nicely.  We have one last kink that we have to work out though.  We found out that he's not married, he's just been living with his "wife" for 8 years.  We told him he needs to be married and so he decided to ask his wife to get married.  However, she said no because she wants a ring and he doesn't have one or money to get one because of his financial situation with school and everything.  Mark's baptismal date is this Saturday so we're working with him a lot to either figure out how he can get married or how he can move out so that he's not breaking the law of chastity.  It will be a lot of work but I have the faith that the Lord will help us so that we can meet our goals and Mark can receive these blessings.
General Conference was great and I was very inspired by it! I can't wait to apply the messages I've heard.  I hope a lot of members get the hint about what so many church leaders talked about (member missionary work)! It's an exciting time to be a missionary and I love every minute of it!
Les Quiero Mucho!
Elder Gaskill

Elder Russell, Elder Gaskill, Elder Guzman: Three Generations

Elder Gaskill dying his companion's hair brown from red

Finished Product: Brunettes!

Martin Camillo's baptism

Elders got "heart attacked"

Barajas Family

Saying Goodbye to Hermano Ku, ward mission leader and Hermana Ku

Saying goodbye to Nara and Lopez families

Haydee Barajas baptism

Monday, September 30, 2013

Still Busy!

Hello Everyone!

Hope this last week went well. We had a great week here!
I guess I forgot to talk about my companion so I'll tell about him.  His name is Elder Ross and he is from Grand Junction, Colorado (and his family has since moved to Montrose, Colorado).  He is 24 years old and has been out about 13 months in the mission.  He actually just got an email right now and his parents are moving to Texas very soon. Anyway he's a good missionary.

This past week was awesome!  Wednesday morning I dropped Elder Baryshnikov off at the mission office and picked up my new companion.  It was really interesting seeing good missionaries that I am close to in their final moments as a missionary. I've had good friends leave throughout my whole mission but I was at the office for a few hours and it was interesting to see how everyone was.  A lot of them seemed excited but at the same time really nervous and sad to be ending a great time in their life.  I was grateful that I was dropping one of them off instead of being the one dropped off.  It was also really cool to see the two ends of the spectrum. At the same time one group of missionaries prepares to leave, another one is just arriving in the mission. We stayed and watched the trainers get their new trainees and that is always an emotional experience. 6 new Spanish speaking missionaries came to the mission and I am so excited for each one of them! I hope I can share my testimony of the Spanish work with as many as them as possible. 2 of them are in our zone and I look forward to being with them a lot.

Since Elder Ross and Elder Thompson are the new elders in our apartment, we had to put them through the initiation process. There is a snowboard mounted on our wall with all the Elder's names that have ever lived there. We get dressed up in hoodies/blankets, use a fog machine to fog up the room, turn all the lights out and our flashlights on, turn on the Halo song (a creepy Monk sounding song) and then have them come in and give them a speech and then have them sign the board.  It's a fun tradition.

We have some cool investigators we are working with:
Mark is progressing greatly towards his baptism on October 12th. He has learned about almost everything (from the missionary lessons), has come to church 3 times, and is really excited to get baptized. He always has really good questions and is willing to make the necessary sacrifices. The biggest things for him have been quitting coffee and coming to church since he works in the evenings. He got a cool blessing that he got a job interview for the same type of job at a different place that will let him off 2 hours earlier so he can get more sleep before church! He's really excited about that. I love Mark a lot and am excited to continue working with him.

We are still working with Alexandria but her dad doesn't want her to get baptized (according to the mom) so we are trying to work with both of her parents on that. She will keep coming every week with a friend (to a different ward) but can't be taught the lessons or get baptized right now.
Our biggest disappointment is with a lady named Theresa.  She has an uncle that is a member and referred herself to the missionaries.  She loved hearing about the restoration and was very excited to be baptized.  However, her husband told her she has to choose between him and the church.  That's one of the most shallow things anyone could do and it really hinders her progress. She told us that she has to think really hard about it before she makes her decision and has no idea how long it will take.  I've been doing a lot of praying and fasting and will continue to have people try to encourage her but we definitely don't want her family to split up.

We are working with a few other people and I'll share more about them as they start to progress. We are teaching a guy from Ghana named Emmanuel that really has the desire to learn and study. There is a guy named James who went to a Bible school and used to be a minister at a Baptist church but is really open to learning more. A couple other people too!

Yesterday we got to participate in a missionary training academy that the Stake puts on.  It was really cool to help youth preparing to serve missions develop missionary skills.  It was funny to try to think about where I was 2 years ago and I'm glad I couldn't remember very well because I probably wouldn't have been a very good teacher to people that depend on me to learn about the restored gospel.  As my companion and I talked about it after, and discussed the little to no preparation we did before being missionaries, we realized how much the setting apart changes a person and how much the Lord really blesses us and molds us amidst our imperfections. I'm grateful for everything the Lord has done to change me, especially at the latter end of my mission to help me become the person I want to continue towards becoming throughout my life.

Well the work is going great. We've been very busy and I don't have time to do anything but think about my investigators all day and then all night I have to figure out the things I forgot about or did wrong so I can do them better the next day. The weather is starting to get a little bit cooler, it's getting a little bit closer to the end of my mission, but I am excited for each new day that I wake up a missionary.

Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lots of Great Missionary Work Happening!

Hello Everyone!
I hope everyone is well! I haven't had a chance to send anything for the past two weeks so there may be a lot of information here.
2 weeks ago we were playing basketball and I popped my companion's shoulder out of socket.  He had done it before so we tried to put it back in but it wasn't working so we had to give him a blessing and then take him to the ER. We drove pretty quickly since he was in a lot of pain and almost blacking out but we eventually got him there and they fixed him up. Unfortunately hospitals are really slow so it took a huge chunk out of our P-day but he was OK which is the important thing.
Last week we did a couple service projects and one of them was cleaning the church.  It just so happens that the people in charge of organizing it own a professional cleaning business so they are very on top of things.  The church got very deep cleaned and air fresheners were even put up in the rafters as a finishing touch.  The next day the church was extra clean and even smelled better than normal and I felt like it made a difference in the day that was very noticeable.  We did another service project that involved taking a lot of yard waste to the dump.  I have never been to a dump before and I never want to go back! It was hard to breathe it smelled so bad.  It was very dusty and we had to breathe anyway so I spent a while when we got home cleaning out my nostrils an mouth of all the crap that I had to breathe in.
That night we had dinner with a family that has a son serving in Hermosillo, Mexico.  It was really fun to talk to them since Daniel Woolley is in that mission.  Their son reported to the MTC on February 8, 2011 (one week after I did) so I probably saw him at the MTC as well. They were a really nice family.
The past 2 weeks have been interesting working with a man named David Gaines (known as Dave the Philosopher).  Dave has been taught by missionaries for over a year and hasn't been baptized because he is an analytical, fact-based thinker and isn't very well acquainted with the faith and spiritual side of things.  My first week in the area we challenged him to be baptized on September 21st.  We have been working with him a lot and it is amazing to see the change he has made.  We've helped him out a lot and even did his laundry (full of cat hair) to help him come to church.  Last week he was interviewed by a member of the mission presidency and was approved for baptism.  He was baptized Sunday the 22nd and is going to be confirmed next Sunday.  It has been a miracle and I'm amazed at the changes that he's made in his life.
We've had a couple miracles the past few weeks. About a week ago we got a call from our bishop and he told us of a less active family he just heard about through a bishop in San Francisco and said we needed to go see them.  We met them and they were awesome! They have a 13 year old unbaptized daughter that we are going to baptize in October.
We met another lady named Theresa through the referral system.  We knocked on her door, she came out, we told her who we are and asked if she would be interested.  She surprised us both by saying "yes, I've been waiting for you".  We came back and taught her on Friday and the lesson went really well! She accepted the invitation to be baptized on October 19th! She loved everything and even cried. We got an interesting message from her on Sunday that may slow things down a little bit but she was definitely a miracle.
We have still been working with Mark Duanez. He is getting baptized on October 4th and is really excited. He came to church for the 2nd time on Sunday and is a great person. I love teaching him!
The last cool spiritual thing that happened to me was I got a letter from the Barajas family this past week. Haydee told me things were going really well and that her husband is starting to come to church and listening to the discussions! Andres and Grace have backed off a little bit which was sad to hear but I know sooner or later they will come around.  At the end of the letter Haydee bore her testimony to me very powerfully.  She followed up with me and told me that at her baptism she felt exactly the same as she had dreamed about.  She said she felt completely clean and wished she could go straight to heaven right then but knew it wasn't her time.  It was an awesome letter to get! I can't wait to see more good things happen with that family!
The end of the week was also the BYU v Utah game! Last year I didn't know about it since I was in Spanish work but this year being in English work everyone talked about it. We wore our red ties, and patiently awaited the ending results of the game and then screamed and yelled when we found out we won. It was a great week overall.
That's about it, hope everyone is well back home!
Les Quiero Mucho!
Elder Gaskill

Monday, September 9, 2013

Short Note = Busy Week!

Hello Everyone!
This week will be another short email because I have very little time and not too much to tell.
The exciting events of this week were zone leader round and the following zone training. The mission is going through lots of changes as we get more missionaries and the standards/rules for the missionaries are changing.  For our zone training this week we created a game show and made up a character called "Bold(o) the Baptizer" which was me.  The game show involved either me or the contestants  doing exercises depending on if they answered the question correctly or incorrectly.  It was a lot of fun and (I think) really well received by the zone. If nothing else, now they know the standards of excellence really well.
Apart from that we have a new investigator named Mark who is really cool.  He is really excited to be baptized, we just have to get him to church more and teach him more.  He goes to school 5 days a week (college) and then works evenings from 6pm-2am.  He came to church yesterday and loved it! He is going to get baptized on October 4th and is really excited for that day.
I'm doing great, loving the mission and every part of it.  Everything I'm doing right now is really different but I love the opportunities to learn and grow.  The hardest part is keeping my companion focused since he's almost going home and engaged already but that doesn't keep us from doing the work! I'm excited for this next week and all the opportunities I have to serve the Lord.
Hope all is well!
Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Interesting 2 weeks.

Hello Everybody!
Who knows how long this letter will be but there is a lot to tell about!
Last week when I didn't write I didn't have too much happen.  The highlight was a big multicultural event that the stake had been planning to do for a little while.  There were a lot of booths set up for different cultures and food/clothing from each one.  There were lots of dances by the Hmong, Tongans, Latinos, etc also that were cool to watch.  There was a pretty good turn out and  it was a lot of fun!
Last P-day something cool happened as well.  We were playing soccer in the gym when someone flagged me out in the hallway.  I walked out, out of breath and sweating profusely.  The lady said that she found this guy and he only spoke Spanish so she wanted me to talk to him.  This is more or less how the conversation went:  He told me his name is Miguel Sanchez.  He came to the church because he has a friend from work that told him about the church and that the missionaries come visit his friend.  He said he wants to feel the same peace and happiness that his friend has and wants to meet with the missionaries and come to church.  He had just barely moved to the area from another part of California and didn't even know his address.  We got his phone number, got his information to the sisters that cover the area and now he's going to be baptized at the end of this month! It was definitely a miracle.
This past week has been full of excitement.
I met a really cool family that lived next door to our members and they're a Spanish family.  We talked to the mom for a while and she was really interested.  She said her husband is Catholic and her family is Jehovah's Witness but she doesn't believe in either.  She asked us about our beliefs and was really interested in learning more.  We decided to come back another time when her husband was there.  We went back last Saturday and just like in every Mexican family the dad told us to go away and that they weren't interested.  He wouldn't give us a reason or even tell us what church he went to, just said no.  I was really heart-broken because I was excited for this family and had been looking forward to it all week and the dad had shut us down.  We'll keep going back  and trying to get in the door.
We have been working recently with a less active guy named Martin.  He's been trying to get a truck so he can leave and go up to his kids that were taken away by the government and put in Idaho.  This past week about 5 elders were at his house and we were pushing an old truck out of his yard so he could hook up his new truck to the trailer he has.  As we were pushing the car out, a silver Honda pulled up right behind the car in the driveway and parked.  A guy got out of the car and asked if the guy we were helping was named Martin Fitzpatrick.  As he did another 5 cars pulled up in the next 15 seconds.  All of a sudden the guys were yelling at him to get on the ground and pulled their guns on him.  They arrested him and took him away.  We were all stunned and had no idea what was going on.  The police officers were nice to us and just told us we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The didn't say what the guy had done but they said there was a $2 million dollar warrant out for him and he would be in jail for life.  They got our information and then let us leave.  That was a really interesting experience that I probably won't have again on my mission.
We also had a little bit more fun and decided to go do "The Blazin' Challenge" at Buffalo Wild Wings.  Working up to the moment we did it was probably the most nervous I have ever been in my life.  Elder Baryshnikov had done it once last transfer and told us how hard/painful it was and that they had gotten blisters on the top of their mouths from the hot wings.  The last time I had tried them was on my 16th birthday and I remembered them being really hot.  Nevertheless, we did it! It was a crazy experience.  Our faces were red, we were crying, snot coming out our noses, and my whole face was tingling/numb but it was a great experience.  Unfortunately I felt like vomiting so I only got through 6/12 in the 6 minutes and Elder Bennet only got through 5/12 but Elder Baryshnikov did it again! It was a lot of fun and I plan on doing it again soon so I can actually win this time! It was a tender mercy as well because we were there at the exact time that Bayern Munich and Chelsea were playing in a final game so I got to see most of the 2nd half and a PK shootout at the end!
Today was the mission wide Spanish activity that they had been planning for a long time.  Normally today is our P-day but for all the Spanish missionaries it got moved to tomorrow.  Since I'm not in Spanish work anymore I had to ask permission to go.   I was allowed to go but I had to sacrifice my Pday to do it.  It was a lot of fun.  The activity was a big soccer tournament between 8 teams, zumba & tai-chi classes, jump houses, and a big carne asada (bbq).  I ended up playing soccer with everyone and it was a lot of fun! I played with the Lodi team until we lost, then they recruited me for the Manteca team, and eventually I ended with the Stockton team and we won! I'm really tired now but it was a lot of fun.  It was good to see my ward families from Stockton, Elk Grove & Rancho Cordova, and Lodi and Galt again.  I had a lot of fun and was surprised at how many people remembered me by name.  It was great to see so many friendly faces that I haven't see in over a year.
Well anyway that's most of the big events that have transpired lately.  I'm working on developing my love for the English speaking people again.  I feel like I've lost a fire I had for missionary work because I had come to love the Latino people so much.  The highlights of my day are when I get to speak Spanish and when we teach Latino families that speak both Spanish & English.  I'm trying to find the love for the English speaking people again.  I'm trying really hard to get it without losing the passion I have for the Spanish.
Anyway, things are going great! I hope everyone is well!
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Haydee Barajas Baptism

Hello Everyone!

This week was a great one as they all are but very different.

It is different being in English work but I'm doing the best I can to remember all the English I used to use.  You wouldn't think that it's weird since I spoke English most of the time anyway, but it really is a big difference.
Elder Baryshnikov and I are doing great.  I'll tell you a little bit more about him.  He is the same age as I and is from Sandy, Utah (just as many other good missionaries I've served with).  He was born in Russia and came to the United States when he was young but he speaks Russian pretty well because his mom always spoke it.  He's pretty tall (probably about 6'3") so I feel short again being around him.  He likes snowboarding.  He's a really nice guy and I'm excited to be his last companion.

This week has been pretty good, doing a lot of things to get to know the area better.  The zone is doing really well and our area is doing really well but we don't have any investigators that are really really close yet.  We have an investigator that has been taught for over a year working towards getting baptized on September 21st.  We'll have a crucial lesson tonight to help us know if he'll be ready for then.  We have another investigator named Immanuel.  He is from Nigeria and moved here recently and moved in with a less active lady.  He wants to get baptized but needs to move out from where he's living since he doesn't want to get married to that lady.  This past week we found him a place to leave and he's moving in on the first of September and he should be able to be baptized shortly after that.  We have plenty of other people that we're beginning to work with, so we'll see in the next week who sticks out from the rest.

The highlight of this week was when I went back for the baptism of Haydee Barajas.  Grace and Andres didn't end up getting baptized with their mom but that's OK with me because when they're ready I'll get to go back for another baptism in Lodi (: The baptism went really well.  Elder Lee and I were the lead missionaries for the 2 that got baptized but since we got transferred the week of the baptism things were organized by the younger missionaries and could have been better but were good opportunities for them to learn.  I was really happy to see that the whole Barajas family came to the baptism; even the husband.  We talked a lot and he was really sad that I had left but made sure to let me know that anything I need in the future he would love to help me with.  The Barajas family is also excited to meet my family someday down the road.  We also have it worked out so that they can take me to Mexico with them in December 2014 (they go every December during winter break but that will be the first one that I'm home for).  I got to baptize Haydee and it was a great experience.  I didn't get to witness the confirmation but I'm sure it went great.

Today I got to go to Coloma (where gold was discovered) with a bunch of missionaries.  In the California Sacramento Mission they always take the missionaries to Coloma 1 Pday before they go home so a lot of the missionaries I came out with and I got to go to Coloma and it was a lot of fun.  We didn't find gold but it was a good time.  I won the horse shoe throwing competition with my companion though!

Well I'll try to find some more things to talk about in my new area next week!

Les Quiero,
Elder Gaskill