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