Monday, January 28, 2013

1st week in El Dorado

This week was a great week but sad.  Tuesday night I had to say goodbye to everyone in Lodi and that was really sad.  I hate goodbyes so usually I would just avoid them and leave without saying anything but I knew some people would be mad at me.  We went to the church for mutual (youth night) and I said goodbye to most of the member.s  Then we went to say goodbye to all my converts.  We went to the Ortega's for dinner and they surprised me and somehow knew it was my birthday the next day so they made me "mole" (pronounced mole-eh) which is awesome.  It was the best I've had my whole mission.  Apparently her mom brought a big bag of ingredients from Mexico to make it so they only make it for special occasions in the family.  It was awesome and they got me the best birthday card I've ever seen with lots of monkeys and some good chocolate stuff that I had to leave.  After that we went to Jovita, Juan, and JJ's house.  We stayed there a little while and they brought out more gifts.  A few weeks back when we had to go get fingerprints done in Sacramento for Elder Hernandez they took us to the historic/visitor's side called Old Sacramento.  We went to one store that was a Peruvian store and there was a really cool jacket I liked. They went back and bought it for me for my birthday! I was very happy but I will miss them a lot.  After that we went to Galt to say bye to the Mendozas and the Guzmans.  The Guzmans weren't home, unfortunately but the Mendozas were home and we had a good chat and firmed them up to get baptized on February 23rd so I will get to go back to visit then.
The next day I took off for El Dorado! We live about 1500 ft above sea level and the highest it gets in the mission in our area is about 5000 ft above.  So it's nice to be back in the mountains! The area reminds me a lot of mountain towns like Aspen or Vail mixed with Woodland Park or Manitou Springs (before they burned).  I like it a lot.  My companion's name is Elder Fullwood.  He is a redhead from Katy, Texas! (My family lived in Katy when I was 3 until I was 5)  woohoo! He's an interesting guy for sure and we get along really well.  His family raises Border Collies and he was home-schooled.
It was a really weird birthday because I kept forgetting about it.  I was awake packing at 2am when I was born so I said happy birthday to myself but then went to bed and forgot about it the rest of the day until at about 10:15 that night when President Lewis called and wished me a happy birthday.  I got some presents a couple days later when the mail came and that was awesome! Elder Fullwood's birthday is tomorrow (the 29th) so we are really close in age.
This zone will be interesting because there are a  lot of sister missionaries here.  There used to be just 2 but now there are 6 and 4 of them are brand new. I think 2 of them are 19 and from somewhere in Texas and the other 2 are 21 and from Bountiful and somewhere else in Utah.  The sisters that are training are pretty cool too.  I've never served around sisters yet so it will be interesting, especially with the younger sisters that still act like high school girls.
The Spanish unit is also very different up here.  We are a group that meets with an English ward.  We have one family of members and one family of investigators in the group so it's very small.  The Spanish members wear headphones and we translate everything they say at the pulpit.  It's very weird.  There is a lot of room for growth and I'm excited to help the work go forth.  There aren't very many Spanish people here.  There are a few big apartment complexes and mobile home parks in each city and that's about the only place we can find them.  It will be a lot different from the rest of my mission but I am very excited and feel blessed to be here.
We met 2 really cool families this week since I got here.  The first is a family with the mom named Maria.  We were driving by and say this mom with 4 little kids walking and saw that they were Hispanic so we pulled over, asked if we could give them a card, got their address and then left.  The next day we went back and visited them and she was very interested.  She was raised Catholic and her husband Jehovah's Witness.  We taught her the Restoration and she wanted to know which church was the Church of Jesus Christ.  She felt the spirit very strongly and we are excited to go teach her again tonight.
We also met a family last night that was really awesome.  They are Catholic but don't like that everyone worships the Virgin Mary and the saints. (That made us so happy because most people don't know enough about the bible to know that they're breaking the 2nd commandment).  They were really excited to read the Book of Mormon and pray by the end of the lesson as well. We're already seeing lots of success!
That's all for this week.
Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Transferred to the Mountains!

Hello Everybody!

The big news out here is that I'm getting transferred.  I'm really sad about it because I love this area and it's weird that I'm leaving after only 2 transfers here but it's in the Lord's hands.  I'm going to El Dorado Hills which is all the cities in the mountains.  So I will feel a little bit closer to home!  It will be really tough though because we only have a group there with just a few members and there aren't too many Spanish people out there so we'll have to find them.  I'm sad that I have to leave Lodi, especially on my Birthday but hopefully there are good things in store out in El Dorado.

This week was really great!  Ana and her two daughters didn't end up getting baptized.  When President Martinez from the mission presidency came down to do her interview we decided it would be better to wait and have the whole family get baptized together! Now all 5 members of the family will be getting baptized in February instead of just 3.  I'm excited to be able to come back for that baptism.

We also found a really cool new investigator named Juan Carlos.  He had come to church the week before with a recent convert family.  I went to talk to him after church and everyone around us told us that we looked like twins.  He came to volleyball on Thursday night and then we went over to the member's house on Friday and he was there! We talked to him and it turns out he lives in Stockton right now but is moving to Galt with this family soon.  We talked to him a little about the church and he said he grew up Jehovah's Witness but fell away from that church when he found out he wasn't allowed to go to college (unless he went to Beth-el which isn't a really college, just a JW college).   He has been looking around at a lot of different churches.  We asked if we could come back the next day when we had more time to talk and he said yes.  We came back the next day and taught him the Restoration and he loved it! We watch the 20 min Restoration movie as part of the lesson and he said he felt the spirit really strong when Joseph was in the woods and felt like he could relate a lot to him.  He really wants to read to Book of Mormon and is coming to church and wants to be baptized! That will be another baptism I will have to come back for.

Elder Burentia told me this week I was talking in Spanish in my sleep so that was also cool to hear.  I think that's the first time I have talked in my sleep because I have been sick this whole week and have not slept very well.  I know all my dreams have been in Spanish that I can remember, and in all my dreams I'm a missionary teaching Spanish people so that's why I'm talking in Spanish.  Regardless, it was cool to hear that.

I had two birthday parties as well that were surprises.  On Sunday after church we had dinner with the Cazares family.  They were throwing a party for their daughter Amy who was turning 5.  The bought her a nice princess cake and made me a really good cheesecake chocolate cake.  The party was a lot of fun too.  My first Spanish birthday party ever!  We had a lot of fun and taught a lot of the Cazares' family members and friends that are not members of the church.  Hopefully something comes of the ones who live in Lodi or Galt.
My second birthday party was last night with the Orozco family.  We did a Family Home Evening with them to teach some of their neighbors and afterwards they surprised with a big cake that said "Happy Birthday Elder G".  It was a lot of fun and they gave me "Paris for Men Body Lotion", and two teddy bears from the girls named Elder Gaskill and Teddy.  It was a lot of fun, but also a really sad family home evening.  Our transfer calls came while we were singing the opening song.  Elder Hernandez ran into the back room and I could tell from what I heard that he was going to be training the new missionary which means that I would have to leave.  I told everyone that and the mom started crying and the rest of the family started pouting.  They told me that the last of the good missionaries was leaving Lodi and Galt so I had to reassure them that they would still have good missionaries.  It was really hard to concentrate on the lesson and everything the rest of the night.  Every time I looked up someone was looking at me with tears in their eyes or a frown on their face so I had to look back down.  I love that family a lot and it will be sad to leave but I'll see them again.

Tomorrow is my birthday and the beginning of a new part of my mission that will be very very different from what it has been thus far but I am excited to learn and to grow.

Love you all,
Elder Gaskill

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Busiest Day of the Mission so Far...

Hello Everybody!
This week got going kind of slowly but it ended very busily.
On Friday we had the most busy day of my mission.  We had an appointment every hour from noon to 8:30 at night.  I was a little nervous going into it and was praying really hard that I would have enough spiritual energy and time management skills to get through the day.  It was really tough. Spanish people love to talk and it was really hard to get to know them, keep them focused, teach them a lesson, leave the commitments, pray and get out with enough time to get to the next appointment.  We had some good lessons though.  
There was a guy named Jose Franco that we taught who was interesting.  The English speaking elders were the ones that found him for us and they had actually run into him once before about a month and a half ago.  The first time they wrote down his address and phone number wrong so we weren't able to find him.  All he wanted was a Book of Mormon.  The second time he happened to see the missionaries riding by the park and he flagged them down.  It was two different missionaries though so they didn't remember him.  This time they got the information right so we were able to go visit him.  He really likes the Book of Mormon and has seen videos about it before.  He doesn't understand that every church can't be the church of Jesus Christ. He loves to talk too and it was very frustrating.  Hopefully he turns out to be a better investigator down the road.  We had a couple new investigators that we had really good lessons with but none of them came to church so we'll see what happened to them this week.
We have a few people from the Mendoza family getting baptized this week.  The missionaries have been teaching this family off and on since May of last year but they've had random problems so they haven't been able to make it to baptism.  A few weeks ago Ana called me on a Sunday and told me how she had figured everything out and needs for her and her kids to be baptized.  She is so resolute on getting baptized this Saturday it's crazy.  She's a little bit of a drama queen and amplifies everything but she's really sincere.  She and her two daughters will hopefully be getting baptized this week.  The older one wants to but the younger one is unsure still.  Her mom says she just doesn't want to get wet in front of everyone and she says she feels like she doesn't know enough about the church.  We'll be working with them a lot this week so hopefully we work through things. Ana's husband Daniel is going to take a lot more time though to get baptized and her son Jose is going to take a lot of time too. We'll definitely have our work cut out for us.
I'm really hoping I don't get transferred next week but we'll see what happens.
Love you all and hope everything is going well back there!
Les quiero!
Elder Gaskill

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rosca cake

Hello Everybody!
This has been another great week in the mission.
We did a couple exchanges this week so two of the days I was with English elders that didn't speak Spanish but they were still fun and successful days.  I like talking a lot so I got to do all the talking most of the time which was nice.  Most Spanish people understand English more or less and just don't speak it, so my companions could do some of the teaching too.  There was one lady that didn't speak any English at all though and it was funny to see her reaction when my companion said "Hi, my name is Elder Burentia".  She looked very very confused and just looked at me and told me she had no idea what he was saying.  We still had lots of success though.
On Thursday during our zone training we found out the church is changing from banking with JP Morgan to Bank of America.  The business side of me couldn't help but think about the devastating effects that would come upon that company. If we have 55,000 missionaries in the church then probably at least 20,000 of them are in the united states.  So that means 20,000 accounts are closing just for missionary purposes alone, added with all other accounts the church headquarters have that will be changed.  That was just an interesting thought I had.
This week is the last week that Arturo and his family were here which was really sad.  They went to the Oakland Temple on Wednesday and really liked it.  They said they all learned a lot and really liked how they felt.  The mom even told us that she got a really strong desire to read the Book of Mormon.  We stopped by on Thursday night to visit them and say bye but turned out staying a lot longer.  Our dinner cancelled so we happened to get there at the perfect time.  They were doing a "carne asada" which is the same thing as a bbq in our terms.  We helped them grill all the carne asada, chorizo, and nepales and then sat down to eat.  The little girls were all preparing a play to do on their cardboard stage/theater that they made so afterwards we watched that.  Then the parents gave us a few pictures of Joseph Smith and the Sacred Grove and so we did a little improvised play about the First Vision that was actually really spiritual.  Afterwards we sat down and got to talking about religion and a lot of doubts/concerns that they had.  We talked about a lot of things and had a really good conversation/lesson/testimony meeting with them all.  Eventually we heard the clock strike 10:00 so Elder Hernandez and I needed to go.  They main fear they were expressing was not being able to keep up with all the church sociality; being Family Home Evenings, mutual, and church every week as well as other activities.  They are kind of a shy family all around so breaking out of their shell is kind of hard for them too.  I interrupted and told them we needed to go and shared with them the last 3 verses of Matthew 11 and then shared my testimony and the spirit was very strong and it was a cool moment.  The main reason we went there was to get a picture with everyone and to say bye but it was already after 10 so we told them we needed to go but would come back the next day before they left that night.  They told us they were going to visit the city of Old Sacramento and would be back at about 4:30.  Our night was really packed after 5:00 so we stopped by right at 4:30 but nobody was there.  I decided I wanted to get Arturo a gift so I picked out the first tie I ever got (the light green/blue striped one from land's end) and put it in a box and wrote a note with it.  In one of the gospel principles classes we had, we got off topic like always and started talking about how when people first start coming to church they wear normal clothes, then eventually they wear a collared shirt, and then eventually a white shirt and tie.  In the note I told him how he had changed from normal clothes to nice clothes and the only thing he's lacking is a tie.  I told him how that was the first tie I got when I started wearing a tie to church and now it will be his tie to start wearing to church.  I also bore my testimony to him and told him I knew he knew the church was true and that I was confident that he and his family would be baptized in Mexico.  I was sad I had to leave the box on the front door and couldn't get a picture and say bye but it was better than nothing.  As it turned out, our last appointment fell through so at about 8:00 we rushed back because the family had called us when they got back and said they were home.  However when we got there the girls were the only ones left and told us we had missed them by about 10 minutes.  I was sad all over again but we finished working and then went home for the night.  As it turned out the didn't leave that night but were leaving the next night! However, no one told me and so I still didn't get to visit them the whole next day.  At 8:00 on Saturday night I got a call from them saying they were leaving and that Arturo wanted to say bye.  I talked with Arturo on the phone for a little bit and then said bye.  He told me he wrote a letter to me that I could get the next day from his aunt/uncle when we went over to visit them.  The letter he wrote me is the best one I have received my entire mission and will be something I will always treasure.  In the letter he told me how he considered me more than a missionary or acquaintance but a very good friend, the kind that are hard to find.  He told me his contact information and said we will always be good friends and that it wouldn't be the last time we saw each other. He also said "I also know that in the near future WE WILL BE BROTHERS IN THE CHURCH!".  I guess that's his way of saying he wants to get baptized but it made me so happy and I knew it and I knew he knew it, I just knew it would have to happen in Mexico and not here.  He told that of course I would be updated as to everything there and so at the very least I will get to know when he's getting baptized and a picture of the baptism.  It made me so happy to read that letter and I can't wait to hear from him again!
So there are also a few other things that happened this week as well.  In the Mexican culture they do something called "the rosca" on January 6th of every year.  In Mexican culture almost everybody is Catholic and worship lots of saints and one of them is "Nino Jesus".  So January 6th every year the do the rosca which is just an excuse to have a party.  As part of the party it's someone's turn to bake a big cake in the shape of a donut.  In the cake they bake 1 very little plastic baby.  When everyone gets a piece of cake, the one who gets Nino Jesus is the one that has to throw the party next year.  One of our members made a cake and but instead of doing a party they just do a FHE afterwards.  The one who gets the baby has to do a FHE.  In the cake they baked they put 3 in and the night before they ate the first half of the cake and only found one.  So we had part of the cake with dessert.  Elder Hernandez and I both but our slices of cake and where we cut happened to be the exact places where the other 2 babies were! So I found Nino Jesus in my first ever rosca and now we get to prepare a family home evening for another night in the month.
I got to go to Mike's baptism back in Elk Grove on Saturday and that was awesome!  They didn't tell him that I was coming back for the baptism so when he saw me come in he jumped up and ran and gave me a hug.  I was giving the talk on baptism and the holy ghost and that went really well.  They had to delay the baptism about 30 minutes to wait for me to get there too.  My ride wasn't ready when i got there and we had to jump start the car and go get gas but eventually we made it to the baptism safely.  The baptism went really really well.  Mike is a BIG guy, about 300 pounds and Elder Branchini baptized him but everything went really well there.  Afterwards I spent a lot of time talking to Mike and he told me he was really sad when they transferred me because he had gotten really used to Elder Rivera and I.  Normally he wouldn't have ever let missionaries in but he felt different with us and saw a lot of miracles in his life through Elder Rivera and I so it was tough to have one of us leave.  He told me how much he has progressed, how thankful he is, and how spiritual his conversion has been.  He even told me that it was really hard for him to give up coffee, and so he prayed to God for a sign to know if he should stop drinking coffee and two days later his coffee machine broke.  Cool Experience! The baptism was awesome and I was really excited to be back in Elk Grove and see Mike taking the step of baptism.
The Mendozas are progressing well towards their baptism.  The mom and the 2 daughters should get baptized on the 19th and the dad will probably take at least another month but I'm pretty sure he'll get baptized.  The guy we met at the New Years party also came and really liked it.  I just found out he actually lives right on the border of our stake and the Elk Grove stake but lives technically out of our area.  He drives 45 mins to get to church but it would be just as far to go to the other church.  He has member friends that live in Galt and Lodi and might be moving back to Galt soon so we're hoping we can still teach him.  We'll see how that goes.
That's about all for this week.  I miss you all and hope you all are doing well back home!
Les Quiero Mucho!
Elder Gaskill

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Hello Everybody!
This past week has been great!
This past week Arturo's family came from Mexico and the day after Christmas we got to meet them.  They are all really cool.  They are really interested in joining the church and had a lot of questions for us.  Through answering their questions about the church we in essence taught them the restoration, a little of the plan of salvation, the gospel of Jesus Christ (especially baptism), the word of wisdom, the law of tithing, church organization, the priesthood, and temples.  As far as missionary teaching goes the only thing we didn't teach them was the law of chastity, which happened to be the topic of gospel essentials in church on Sunday.  They loved church, went to the temple, came to the new years eve party last night, and loved everything.  They say that when they are back in Mexico they will talk about it as a family and make a decision.  I know they're going to get baptized and be very strong members of the church.  I'm sad I won't be able to be at their baptism but I really hope Arturo keeps me updated and we can get in touch with the missionaries down there. 

 Last night at the New Year's Eve party I was pretty busy and at 9:30 we were rushing to get out of the church and home on time.  I went to say goodbye to Arturo and when I said "Bye, I have to go home" he thought I meant I was leaving Lodi and wouldn't get to say bye before I left so he jumped up and ran over to me and gave me a hug.  I made sure to clarify that we would at least see each other one more time before they go back to Mexico this week but I got a little sad thinking about that fact that they're leaving soon.

This week we found an investigator named Victoria who told us she already knew the church was true. That was surprising to hear.  It turned out she had been an investigator a long time ago but she has been living with a man that she's not married to and doesn't want to get married to.  We got lucky because her "husband" is finally going back to Mexico after he has a surgery in January so she can finally be baptized.  She also wants us to teach her son and his girlfriend so that could potentially be some more good investigators to teach.

A little over a week ago a member brought a friend named Mari to church and she really liked it.  They had to leave church pretty quickly so we weren't able to get her information.  Through the member we got her number and approximately where she lived, but when she called us she said she didn't want us to come over until the following week when all the holidays were over.  We decided to stop by on Saturday even though the week wasn't over yet and surprise her.  She told us she was sick and that she was embarrassed that we caught her just out of bed, sick, and not having showered yet but she still stayed outside and talked to us for about an hour before we left.  She is really nice and is interested in learning more so we're excited to go teach her this week.

JJ's baptism was on Saturday and it was awesome!  We all squished into Jovita's car and headed down to Stockton.  I was really happy to see JJ finally getting baptized and making all of his family members of the Church.  Now we just have to teach and baptize Jovita's brother Ricardo and his family, and Jovita's parents that also live here.  It was great to see Elder Martinez again too. We talk every once in a while but it was good to joke around with him and let him know how everyone was doing here in Lodi.  There were more than double the number of people at the baptism from the Spanish Branch as there were from the young single adult branch.  Besides the people that were participating in the program there were only 3 other members that came to the baptism.  We filled all the seats though with our devoted families from Lodi and Galt.  The most important thing thought is that he got baptized and will be a strong member of the church.

On Sunday we had another miracle! There is a family in Galt that the Spanish missionaries have been teaching since May but they have not been able to get baptized because of some problem or other that comes up in the family.  The mom got mad at Elder Martinez and I and they were having a lot of problems so we just kind of dropped them for a few weeks.  After church on Sunday the mom called me and apologized and said she had figured everything out.  We went over that night and everyone seemed really happy and it really seems like she has figured everything out.  She told us the most important thing to her right now is that her kids get baptized.  She even wants us to somehow teach her 18 year old son who has been in jail and is a little hard headed.  At the very least Ana and her 2 older daughters will get baptized this month and we will have to work a little harder for the older brother and dad.

At the Branch New Year's Eve Party last night we also had a cool experience.  A less active that we were teaching brought a friend to the activity that is really interested.  I told a lot of ward member's to go say "hi" to him and now he has a lot of friends.  When our Elder's Quorum President sat down to say hi he ended up talking a lot about the gospel and we taught him the plan of salvation, and a few of the commandments in 30 minutes while there was really loud music and a lot of dancing going on around us.  It was really hard to focus while worldy music (that I miss a lot) and Spanish music (that I don't know yet but will some day) was blaring around me but I was able to focus and get a really solid investigator.  He already has a lot of the same beliefs as we do, and really wants to come to church this Sunday and listen more to the message.

Today has been awesome too.  It was hard for me to be obedient and go to bed at 10:30 last night (because New Years/Eve is one of my favorite holidays) but I did.  We were able to go to the Pulga today as well.  A lot of people that normally comes to sell or buy things didn't come today because it was a holiday but there were still plenty of people.  I always love going to the Pulga dressed in normal clothes because I can surprise people when I speak Spanish.  About 80% of the people there are Mexican while the other 20% are white/asian/black.  I look 100% American too with my blue eyes and white skin so people are always very happily surprised when I speak Spanish to them.  They always say I speak really clearly and with the native accent too so I'm guessing most Americans that learn Spanish don't speak it that well. It's always nice to get that compliment to make me feel like I'm doing a good job.

Well that was a lot but hopefully it makes up for no email last week. Hope all is well y que les vaya bien!

Les Quiero Mucho,
Elder Gaskill

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