For some reason I haven't shared one of the most important things I've been learning recently. I've spent most of my mission rushed, feeling like I need to keep my lessons to half an hour so I can get out and teach someone else or get something done. People's personal interests or personalities didn't really interest me that much. I considered missionaries like navy seals: highly trained individuals who come in with a specific job to do. You need friendship? Well yeah, I care about you, but that's what the members are there for. I never took time to get to really get to know people, have any fun with them, or let them get to know me. What I've been learning over the last several weeks is that in order to really help people receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they have to know you care, and they have to trust you. Otherwise, they don't open up about their real obstacles or concerns, and we're almost wasting our time. As one of the apostles said in the Work of Salvation broadcast in May 2013, "love is the lifeblood of missionary work."
Here are some pictures:
1, This is a less-active member we ran into. That little guy is Rocky, his pet squirrel. Yep.
2. Rocky likes Coke.
3. I finally got to be in downtown Dallas! We helped out an interfaith organization with a multi-cultural event last Monday and with TubaChristmas (as seen in this photo) on Christmas eve! Over 200 tuba players played Christmas songs and the audience kind of sang along.
I know the Savior lives, and He will help when we trust in Him. He knows us. Again, it was great to see y'all. Till next week!
We had a pretty good week. We've been having some incredible experiences as we visit with members and investigators. Yesterday Alfonzo, the boyfriend of Ana and stepdad of Analee, got up in front of Elders quorum, and said that finding the Church and being there with his family is the best Christmas present he has received. He bore his testimony, and sat down. It was awesome! This Christmas, I have been humbled and deeply impressed by God's love for us. By the truly inexpressible gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. It fills me with peace when I consider that we have such a Father, and that Christ really is as loving as He is. I often feel inadequate to wear His name every day and know that I am among His representatives on earth. I can only do so because I know that through His Atonement the Lord permits me to.
"For unto usa child is born, unto usa son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mightyGod, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."
I testify that He lives. Of that I feel certain. The best I can say, as the prophets and apostles put it in The Living Christ, is this: "God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son!"
I love each of you, and I'm so sorry for any lack of support or care I've showed throughout the years. Thank you for everything you are and do. I can't wait to talk on Thursday!
There's not too much to write about this week, but we're blessed. We've seen a great change in some of the people we've been working with. Alfonzo and Ana, the family we've been working with for months, are really making progress. They came to church again yesterday, are talking about getting married, and are a lot more open with us. Alfonzo, who 3 weeks ago was hiding from us, now calls US to confirm our appointments and offers us rides. Personally I think it's because he's feeling the Spirit more in his life and wants more of it.
Also, we had a great experience with a young man last night right before we finished visiting for the day. He's been a less-active member for years, and made any attempt to come closer to God for a long time. Last time we talked to him we invited him to pray and bore our testimonies of how it would help him with all the stresses and problems he was facing. When we saw him last night (two weeks later) we told us he prayed that night. He said that when he started, he just felt like someone was listening "all-ears". He told us he has more energy, feels better, and even prayed for and received help to resolve an argument with his girlfriend. We were amazed in the change we saw in him.
This winter has been awesome! We wear short-sleeve shirts during the day and just have to throw on a jacket at night. We'll see what happens in the coming weeks, but I'm ok if it stays like this.
It's Christmas time! The decorations are starting to go up in our apartment, and we've been listening to Christmas music since I got here 4 months ago. We are prepared. And we've had another good week! On Monday all the missionaries from the Dallas stake got together and played sports and had lunch, which was a lot of fun. Here's something I learned from the experence: leaving hotdogs in an oven, even if the door is open and the temperature is on "low", does not keep the hotdogs warm. It chars them. (Anyone remember Mike's charred chicken sandwiches? It wasn't that extreme, but they were getting there).
The temperature has been surprisingly warm here over the last two weeks or so, which has been a huge blessing. We've seen a lot of good things happening with the work as well. Just as an example, the less-active families we're visiting are opening up more and more, and Ana and Alfonzo (Analee's mom and soon-to-be step dad) came back to church after about a month of working Sundays.
Something I'm coming to believe firmly is that, as President Sabin once said, "People only get into trouble when they do not understand who they are or they have forgotten." This last week I studied different parts of the Book of Mormon trying to better understand what contributes to and damages unity. The understanding I came to as I read about the well-known cycles of pride and humility is that pride really comes down to this: forgetting our relationship with God, losing the influence of the Spirit, and basing our self-worth on comparisons to others or on having nice things rather than our identity as a child of God who is loved by the Savior and has access to His Atonement.
I'm sorry, but no pictures again... I'll harder try this week. We might be going to the temple on Friday, so we'll try to at least get some there! Love, Elder Gaughan
P.S. I just have to share this again. If you haven't seen one or either of these videos, please check them out. They really will give you more hope and make your day better.
We had a good week. Thanksgiving was pretty good. We had two delicious meals and had a first visit with a family of 8! It turned into a long visit, but they asked us why there are so many churches today and we had a great discussion with visual aids.
He is the Gift. You've probably already heard about, but if you haven't seen it yet, watch it. It's incredible. And after you watch it, please pray to know how you can apply the message and who you can share it with. http://www.mormon.org/christmas. If you share it please let me know! It inspires me.
Not too much more to say except that I feel like my understanding of what it means to really apply the gospel is growing a lot this transfer. It's honestly been painful and frustrating as I try to change a lot my mindsets and behaviors, but I'm feeling the Spirit more and feel more peace.
Remember the Rodriguez family? They are one of the most fun, generous, and rewarding families to work with that I've seen in my mission. Unfortunately, during their trip to Mexico last week their house was robbed. As Elder Del Aguila and I talked about this this morning, this quote from Joseph Smith came to mind:
‘You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, andGod will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.’
To be honest, I don't know anything about that. But I have met and talked to many people who have, and I know it is one of the most difficult yet essential parts of our mortal experience. I know that through the enabling grace of Jesus Christ that we can overcome and be better because of our hardships and sufferings.
Alright, so this week has been what you might call a LEARNING EXPERIENCE. I'll share a small portion of it.
This last week we had the opportunity to attend a monthly meeting with leaders from all over the mission. It's called the Mission Leadership Council, and although about 30+ missionaries attend, our mission President really does treat it like a church council in which we have a guided conversation as we try to resolve difficulties or different things with the mission. More than anything it was amazing to me to see how the Spirit guided. This time the main issue we discussed was how to help missionaries use their time more effectively between the hours of 10:00 and 5:00, when many people are working and not available to be visited or taught. More than once I had a specific thought that I felt needed to be shared but couldn't find a window to do so with all the comments that were flying back and forth, when someone else raised their hand and shared the exact same thought! At the end I was especially amazed. The meeting ended up running going three mornings straight, and at the close of the final council, during the closing prayer, I had the question come into my mind, "Ok, we've figured out a good way to balance our time as missionaries, but how much should I dedicate to the zone? I know at the moment it's not enough." As the closing prayer ended, President Taylor stood up and said, "We could spend another three days talking about this, but I'll keep it down to 2 minutes. How much time do you think you should dedicate to helping your zones?" People began to suggest time percentages and it was quickly agreed on that about 25% of our time was reasonable. President Taylor seemed to agree with it, and that was the last thing discussed. Incredible, right?
Also, Elder Del Aguila. The truth is, as a missionary there are a lot of things we are instructed to do, be, and teach, and report, and if you're not careful, you can become more caught up in fulfilling the things you've been trained to do than really worry about the eternal welfare of the souls of the members and nonmembers with which you work. Elder Del Aguila is a convert to the church of about 5 years, and is different than many missionaries I have met in his way of thinking about the work, teaching, and interacting with his companion. During the last two weeks as we've come to know each other, I've been able to reflect upon and see more clearly the priorities I've had as a missionary, and take off the "missionary goggles" that can sometimes actually impede us from having true charity and a focus on the eternal well-being of others. I've reflected a lot recently on the follow scriptures:
2 Nephi 2:30
And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls.
2 Nephi 33:3-4 But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people. For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry.
And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.
That's about all for this week! But I'm doing well, and the people we're working with are coming along line upon line.
So, as you already know my time with Elder Pigott ended up being pretty short. I almost put "unfortunately" at the beginning of that last sentence, and then I remembered that our mission president and the assistants spend several days praying, counseling, pondering, and seeking the inspiration of God as they make these decisions. So, although I don't know why, the Lord has blessed Elder Pigott and I with new companions. There was room to do better on my part, but I really enjoyed being with him, learned a ton, and we're staying in touch! So all is well.
Seeing Tommy at transfers was way exciting! That morning was pretty interesting because they totally changed the way they announce which missionaries are going where.
My new companion is Elder Sergio Del Aguila. We've been acquainted for a long time (he's been out for 20 months) but I never really new him. Interestingly enough, he's my third companion that is the only member of the church in his family. I'll try to write more about the perspective that's given me in an email soon. He's also a great teacher and missionary (and is just fun to be around) so it will be a great transfer!
Truth be told, I haven't had to endure a lot of hardships as a missionary. Last night an investigator was telling us how she felt bad for everything we went through after she saw "The Other Side of Heaven," and I just laughed--honestly, it's not even CLOSE. No starvation, life-threatening diseases, or rats chewing on our feet at night here in Texas. Life really is great. We are so blessed here! The hardest physical or circumstantial challenge I've had to face is being on a bike area in winter. Obviously that doesn't even begin to compare, but going through it this time (I was in a car last winter) has me reflect more on the sacrifices of the early Saints crossing the plains, and the hard, unpleasant, challenging things that others before me have done to follow God or help those they love.
And speaking of the cold, it snowed last night!
Our investigators are doing alright. If you could please keep Nora Rodriguez and the Saucedo/Chinchilla family in your prayers, I would really appreciate it. Of all the people we visit they have the most potential and have grown and progressed in my time here, but they both need some miracles and a little more help to make the steps toward full repentance and baptism.
Love you! I think I might have said this last week, but I just love being a Gaughan! I love it when I get to talk about y'all when other missionaries, members, or investigators ask me about my family.
Elder Gaughan Bonus Picture! This is the Rodriguez family!
I had a pretty cool experience on Friday and Saturday this week. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had the opportunity to see Steve Valdez, a man my trainer and I found the first week of my mission in Oak Cliff, be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Well, on Friday we did exchanges with our zone leaders, who are currently serving in Oak Cliff, and Friday night we picked up Brother Valdez and he came to our lessons! If you had told me that would happen a year ago, I never would have believed it. It's amazing to see how he's changed and grown, and I could tell by the way he speaks now that he's put his trust in the Lord in a way he didn't before. Haha it was a little surreal when he accompanied us back to Grand Prairie to exchange back and met Elder Pigott, seeing as they are two of the biggest miracles of my mission. It struck me how the Lord really does send us tender mercies and miracles that increase our faith.
There's a possibility that one of us will get transferred tomorrow, but we still don't know! Normally we get the call Saturday night, but this time we'll get the call tonight just to know IF we'll be transferred, and won't find out where to or who will be our companion until we get to the meeting on Tuesday.
I learned a pretty important last night about helping ourselves and other repent and keep the commandments. As Chapter 3 of Preach My Gospel points out in the section about the commandments, “God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption” (Alma 12:32). We're teaching a couple that is living together but are not married, and yesterday we felt the need to talk to them about that. Rather than just jumping into how they are breaking a commandment and it's really important that they start keeping it, we tied it back into really good lesson we had a week or two ago about the plan of salvation, the role of the Atonement and what we need to do in order to access its power. It tied the commandment back into something they already understood and accepted as important, and why a change is necessary in their lives in order to progress in God's plan. They understood, and accepted the invitation to pray about it.
As in all things, God is our perfect example. It's important that we explain or consider the plan of salvation--our purpose, who we, our Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ are, the importance of His sacrifice, and where we're going after this life--as we strive to live or help others live the gospel. It gives it clarity, purpose, and strength do what is difficult and not give up on God when things when things get hard.
Love you! I hope each of you have a great week!
The Molina family. Bro Molina is the Elders Quorum President, and their whole family is awesome!
Bishop & Sister Weenig. Bishop Weenig served in Salt Lake Spanish speaking, and is one of the most missionary-work oriented leaders I've ever seen. Another great family! He's also a hard core Star Wars fan, in case you were wondering.
The result of our struggles two weeks ago with the time change:
This week I'd like to start off with a thought from our mission president, President Taylor. Every week he sends an email out to all the Texas Dallas missionaries, and part of his message this week really impressed me.
Speaking of Moroni 7:48, he said: "[It teaches] the singular eternal truth that ‘when he shall appear we SHALL be like Him.’ ‘we shall be like him’ means in every way we will be like Him, not that we will just look like him. Then, the beautiful attendant doctrine that should give us great cause to be filled with continual hope – ‘that we may have this hope, that we may be purified even as HE IS PURE.’ To become perfectly pure and purely perfect is the eternal blessing of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and is His inestimable blessing upon and hope for us all.
That is often a hard thing to comprehend. Can we really be so thoroughly forgiven and perfected? Can we really come anywhere near His infinite love, mercy, courage, patience, knowledge, power, discipline, and wisdom? Personally I have a hard enough time satisfying me own standards and goals, or raising my let alone becoming like our Savior. But the answer is yes! An incredible, unexpected, merciful yes. As we talked about obedience with a family this week, the wife asked us, "But we can't become perfect in this life, right?" My response was something I myself needed to hear. I told them that no, we cannot keep God's commandments with perfected exactness and integrity. But, if we will enter into the path of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and striving to do our Heavenly Father's will, we may retain a remission of our sins, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, be accepted as perfect--perfectly pure--and be welcomed into our Father's presence.
We had a pretty stinkin good week. Unfortunately we saw two people that we visit and love make some poor minor choices, but a lot of great things happened as well. For example, Alfonzo, the guy I talked about last week, read the assignment we left him in the Book of Mormon, came to church again this week, and accepted the invitation to work towards his baptism on December 21! As you've probably noticed by now, these dates fall through more often than not. However, if he keeps up like he is and we continue visiting the family, by the grace of our Lord he will be ready. He told that he feels more peace since he started coming to church, and his girlfriend, Ana, said that she has felt more love towards her family since she began to listen to the missionaries. It's always awesome to hear things like that and realize that, even sometimes people don't show it or recognize it at first, the things we share are making a difference.
Halloween was pretty uneventful here--we had a zone meeting and played sports for the night, which was really fun!
In case any of you are wondering if your intellectual skills/knowledge will decrease during your mission, the answer (at least in my case) is yes. I am praying they will quickly return to me when I get back into school. Saturday night, as you know, marked the end of daylight savings time. And honestly, Elder Pigott and I felt like we were dealing with advanced college-level logic trying to figure out how to be sure we woke up on time. We always wake up to our phone's alarm, and we weren't sure if the phone's clock would automatically fall back an hour... so after about 15 minutes of debating how to solve the problem, I went to the bathroom, and Elder Pigott used our whiteboard to write out the possible outcomes if we left our phone alarm at 6:20 (see his email for a picture), and everything turned out fine.
Love you all! Hope you have a great week! And please pray for opportunities to serve and share the gospel with those around you! They will come, and as Elder Ballard said, " These opportunities will never require a forced or a contrived response. They will flow as a natural result of our love for our brothers and sisters. Just be positive, and those whom you speak with will feel your love. They will never forget that feeling, though the timing may not be right for them to embrace the gospel. That too may change in the future when their circumstances change.
It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord’s errand. While the outcome is a result of the exercise of one’s agency, sharing the gospel is our responsibility." ("Put Your Trust in the Lord," Oct. 2013 General Conference)
We saw another miracle this week! The boyfriend of Ana (the mom of Analee, the girl that was baptized 3 weeks ago) came to church yesterday! This absolutely blew me away, because for the entire time I've been here he's been hard-core avoiding us. Last week he got into some problems and ended up in jail for 4 days, and from our conversations with Ana and the family, it seems like he's reconsidering his life a little bit. The other miracle is that Ana was planning to come to church before we even invited her! Ever since she's known the missionaries she's needed a lot of exhorting and encouragement to do things like read the scriptures, pray, and especially come to church, but yesterday morning when we called her she said, "Well yeah I'm coming, that's why I'm up at this hour."
My supervision of Elder Pigott's cooking continues with some fantastic results. On Thursday he made 6 loaves of banana bread and about 15-20 muffins. Not surprisingly, I snacked on the batter and bread until I was almost sick. Haha that night when we got home Elder Pigott made a joke about having some more and I said, "Elder, I don't think I could even touch banana bread at this point. That stuff is evil." What was I doing 20 minutes later? You guessed it. Eating banana bread.
I'm sorry, I don't have too much more time today. Elder Pigott and I are doing well and seeing the Lord's blessings in this work.
It's been a somewhat eventful week! The biggest news is that Analee Chinchilla was confirmed yesterday! I'll send another email with a picture from her baptism.
We started teaching a woman named Marina about a week and a half ago. We had two fairly good visits with her, but the third one was intense! We had invited her in the previous lesson to pray about the story of Joseph Smith and ask God if he really was a prophet, and when we followed up, she said, "I prayed. And what came to my mind was the Book of Mormon." Elder Pigott and I were both shocked when we heard that, seeing as we understood that her only interaction with the Church had been casual conversations with previous missionaries that had passed by. She then told us how 22 years ago she met the missionaries for the first time. They visited with her for awhile, gave her a copy of the Book of Mormon, and apparently lost contact at some point. But she told us how for a long time she was in an abusive relationship with a man that heavily drank, and that what brought her peace and hope and helped her believe that things could get better was reading the Book of Mormon.
We brought a member with us who then shared with Marina a portion of Alma 7 and we testified to her that Jesus Christ not only suffered for her sins, but for every hardship and wrong she has ever experienced. I'm pretty sure she felt the Spirit. We invited her to be baptized; she expressed some doubts and didn't to commit to anything, but said she would read from the Book of Mormon and pray about baptism. Pretty amazing though, right?
We also attended a CRAZY baptismal service on Saturday. Long story short, the woman being baptized, Alma, had an epileptic seizure right after she was baptized. Elder Pigott and I were giving a presentation to everyone in attendance when one of the sister missionaries came from the bathroom, poked her head in and whispered to us, "She just fainted!" and then took off again. At that point we just awkwardly stood in front of everyone for a few minutes, seeing as they already had people in the bathroom taking care of her. So we weren't really sure what to do. We ended up saying a prayer for her, sat down, and waited it out. As it turns out that's a normal thing for Alma, so after the seizure was over she just got up, got ready, came back out, and we continued the service! But there's one baptism I'll never forget.
Well, being companions with Elder Pigott (I almost wrote "Kyler" again) has been a pretty good deal. He's an awesome cook, which I definitely can't say for myself or most of my previous companions. Like, we eat real food in the apartment! This is a first. Yes, cereal and sandwiches are still the main staples, but last week we had full-on gourmet pasta with beef for dinner! And we had leftovers from our own dinner! Also, as you can see, we (a.k.a. Elder Pigott with my supervision) made biscuits.
1. A young girl we've been teaching named Analee was baptized this week! Her grandmother was baptized this January o February, and the missionaries have been working with their family for awhile. We had to put together almost the entire baptismal service, and I forgot how many details there are to work out! Programs, refreshments, the baptismal clothing, the baptismal interview, filling the font, the baptismal record, who's going to say the prayers, give the talks, perform the baptism, etc. It strengthened my testimony that 'if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear" (that's somewhere in Doctrine and Covenants), and that the Spirit can be stronger when everything is prepared and in its place. It went well though! Analee was happy and told us she felt great after her baptism. Funny story though: as we were getting everything in place just minutes before the baptismal service started, I called out to Elder Pigott to leave something alone, and with everything racing through my mind with the baptism I said, "No Kyler, it's fine like that." I surprised myself when I said that, and the other companionship that was standing nearby got really wide-eyed and just stared at me. Haha they new our situation though and I apologized quickly.
2. We got to see "Meet the Mormons" as a mission last week, and it's incredible! I'd highly recommend it if you haven't seen it, whether or not you're a member of the Church. It's interesting, inspiring, funny... if I keep going this is going to sound like a cheesy movie review, but seriously! It's good! Go see it.
That's the biggest stuff from the week. Elder Pigott is great--he's bold, he's Spanish is improving like crazy, and his cooking is awesome. I haven't had many companions that can really cook. And we get along well! It's been great getting to know him better since we didn't spend a ton of time together before.
Unfortunately we don't have the pictures from the baptism today, but I'll try to send the next week!
Well, I know you already know, but I feel like this requires a second announcement: I'm Elder Pigott's companion!!! To answer your possible questions, I never said a word to our mission president about him coming, yes it was VERY weird the first few days, we do our best not to talk about home too much (haha that's probably the biggest obstacle of the situation), and yes, Elder Pigott is a great missionary. He's bold, motivated, obedient, and trying to help the people we teach come as close to the Savior as possible. And his Spanish is incredible for not having any pre-MTC experience. Almost every missionary I told about Elder Pigott said I would be his first companion, but I didn't believe it! It seemed to good to be true.
Here's the crazy part of the story: we had some complications with our ride to transfers, and we got there about 40 minutes late. We got there and waited in the foyer while the Mission President and Assistants finished their comments in a meeting with all the missionaries coming, leaving, and being transferred to a new area. What you have to understand is that I still thought I was a long ways off from finding out which new missionary I would receive, which is usually the last thing they announce after training the "trainers" (the missionaries that will be companions with a new missionary) and the new missionaries.Then a missionary friend came out to the foyer to greet me during the closing hymn of the Transfer meeting and said, "Hey, I met the missionary you're going to train--he said you grew up together!" I asked how he knew it was my companion and he said, "There's only one Spanish Elder coming in." Long story short, I was the only spanish-speaking Elder that would be training, and he was the only spanish-speaking Elder in a group of over twenty new missionaries.
And we had some crazy miracles when he got here! Yesterday a young girl from a family we visit (if you remember Ana from two or three weeks ago, it's her daughter) passed her baptismal interview and will be baptized this Sunday! Also, Nora, a woman the missionaries have been visiting since early this year, announced to us Friday night that she wants to be baptized!!!
Now, quick lesson about trusting impressions and revelation. About 4 weeks ago we were lost as to what to do with Nora. She felt confused and unable to decide between the church she grew up in and our church, even though she had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the divine calling of Joseph Smith. She told us how she had felt the Spirit as we visited with her, and had seen a positive change in her husband. As I prayed one night over what we needed to do with her, the answer came very strongly, "Drop her." "Drop" is the term we use to describe when we no longer visit a person or focus our efforts on them. Elder Fisi'iahi agreed, so the next day we told her that we would continue to stop by occasionally to visit her recently baptized husband Alfredo, but that we would not focus our lessons and visits towards helping her prepare for baptism.
For the next few weeks we looked back and ask each other, "Why did we give up the best investigator we had?" She stopped attending church with us and reading the scriptures, and started attending her current church weekly. We wondered if we had lost her forever. We continued to see her and share messages with both her and her husband, but she didn't seem to respond very well. Then, Friday night we came by and she told us that she had been reading the Book of Mormon and that her previous confusion was waning. She said she felt more confident that this was the right path to follow, and that she wanted to be baptized.
The Lord's answers do not always make sense to us immediately. Think of how Joshua was instructed to conquer Jericho, or how the Lord initially guided the Brother of Jared to build boats without means of obtaining light or air (compliments to a good friend Allison Walker for pointing that one out to me). He knows the correct way, and if we will follow His promptings, even if it seems like foolishness for a time, He will, to roughly translate a Spanish hymn, "reveal His purposes with all splendor."
Running out of time, love you and pray for each of you!
And here's a picture! Elder Pigott also got some sweet ones of a storm that hit Grand Prairie the other day, but then he accidentally deleted all of his pictures...
It's hard not to slip and call him "Kyler"! Elder Pigott still just sounds weird. Haha also, we weigh exactly the same and are exactly the same height. From the same town. I'm pretty sure he could visit my old areas and impersonate me.
Last week we had a big meeting with our Mission President, and we gave us a message that has really stuck with me. He told us how he read a study of members of the church that showed the most important factor in staying an active, faithful member was "personal religious observance". In other words, personal prayer, scripture study, etc. As he continued to ponder about that, he noticed the opportunity to make an acronym: PRO, which he changed to Pray, Read, Obey. We've been sharing that with people and it's been impressed on my mind more than ever that the "Primary answers" really are the best way to increase our faith, improve our character, draw nearer to the Savior, find answers to our questions and concerns, and make it back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Fefe hake? (that's Tongan. I'm totally trilingual now.) (Not.) This week I want to start off with my companion. Being with Elder Fisi'iahi has been a really great experience. The more we talk the more I realize that our backgrounds are very different. Attitudes towards the gospel growing up, family culture, social circles, etc., but for that reason we've learned a lot from each other. The changes he's made since he came out on the mission are astounding and have seriously bolstered my faith that people find the power to change as they accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. Without going into details, he made some decisions this week that truly amazed me.
Life is pretty good! We had a rough week in terms of finding and teaching, but we're expecting that to improve soon. And we haven't had any problems with our bikes for almost a whole week! There's really a lot to be grateful for here. We live 8 minutes away from the church (on bike), directly behind our apartments is beautiful park, across the street is the most hispanic neighborhood in our area, AND we get to represent Jesus Christ every day.
We had a pretty cool experience with a woman we talked to outside a "washateria" (that's spanglish for laundry mat) the other day. She was looking for her car key, so we asked if we could help her and she accepted. After about 5 minutes of searching without success, she said she would try looking inside the laundry mat, but thanked us for helping and asked us to share our message with her. We offered to pray with her first that she would find her key, which we did. We then talked for a few more minutes about our message and wrote down her information to visit her. As we started to bike away she called out, "Look, my key!" We turned around to see her picking it up in the parking lot right in her path to the door of the laundry mat. She then said something like, "Isn't God great? Have a blessed day!" My companion and I were pretty shocked at how fast the prayer was answered. I'm telling you, God is especially willing to work miracles and make great things happen when we're trying to serve others and bring them to Christ (see Alma 17:26-39).
I love you! Each of you! And I'm trying to make my mission something I'll be proud to tell you about when we see each other again. Thank you so much for being there for me with your example, emails, love, and everything else. Elder Gaughan
This has been by far my most interesting transfer in terms of transportation. We've basically been playing "musical bycicles" (like musical chairs) here for the last few weeks. Thrown in there are several flat tires, broken parts, trips to Walmart and bike shops, and going on foot for several days. For three days this last week I was on a bike that was stuck in the lowest gear (the one made for biking up Mount Everest) and a seat stuck almost as far down as it can go. Haha just picture that scene from Sherlock Holmes 2 when everyone is traveling on horses and Sherlock is on a donkey, and that'll give you a pretty good idea of what it looked like.
Things are good though! Really. A woman we're teaching, Ana, has been receiving the missionaries for almost a year, and has never shown very much initiative in putting what she's been taught into practice. This last week we talked to her about our temples and how families can be sealed together for all eternity, and she became much more interested. We asked her what she would be willing to do to help her family get to the temple, and she said," Whatever it takes." Two days later we came back, and she had prayed and read the scriptures on her own time (for her, that was a big step). Yesterday she came to church and for the first time stayed for all three hours.
Elder Fisi'iahi and I have started singing in our dinners and lessons, and it's been sweet! It's made a difference in our lessons and usually invites the Spirit stronger than what we teach does. We recently had a missionary meeting where we discussed the importance of making use of the talents the Lord has given us during our missions in order to help others come closer to Christ, and it's totally true. Like 1 Corinthians 12 teaches, God has given to each of us a function to fulfill and special abilities that we should use to build up His kingdom. And why do we sometimes have to serve alongside people who irritate us or towards whom we don't naturally gravitate? Because they have something to offer or teach us and those we serve (see verse 18).
One other thought. Something we've been sharing at dinners recently is Mosiah 27:14. It struck me as I was reading this scripture recently that Alma the Younger did not by any means merit a heavenly visitation. He was among the "most vilest of sinners" as described later on. It was the prayers of a loving father and community that trusted in the power of God. Our prayers for others can truly send forth angels to watch over those whom we love. Our prayers can change the eternal destination of another.
1. Elder Fisi'iahi and I at Family Home Evening with the Rodriguez and Salas families. 9 kids. 3 adults (and two missionaries). It was a little. crazy.
2. At another Family Home Evening with some of my favorite people in Grand Prairie: Brother Cortez, Brother Rodriguez, and the Vargas family
3. Our district. From left to right, Sister Kirkham, Sister Gonzalez, Elder Fisi'iahi, me, Elder Lynn amd Elder McBride
So... It's Labor Day. Unfortunately for us that means that libraries are closed. They gave us one hour on a member's iPad, so it's going to be very short today. Lo siento! Just know l love each of you and I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve the Lord. We're teaching a great woman named Nora that has received a strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and is just having trouble giving up some of the traditions she has grown up with. As we talked about her in companionship study today we decided to share Matthew 4:18-20. When the Master calls, the only thing to do, however hard it may be and however much faith it may require, is to drop the nets we have held (perhaps for our entire life) and follow Him.
Well, things are a little different here than my last area! I didn't realize it but I was literally sent to the other side of the mission--Longview (my last area) borders Louisiana and Grand Prairie borders Fortworth. And let me tell you, it is different. I'm now on a bike for the first time, and we cover a section of one city. It's still the same great work though and it's been a good week.
I'll start off with the best part of this week. The man in this picture is Steve Valdez. You might find something about him in my emails from July and August of 2013 when my trainer and I knocked on his door and started visiting him. Yesterday I saw him receive the Melchizedek priesthood!! The last time I saw Brother Valdez, he had no intentions of being baptized and had told us that he felt that the Book of Mormon was fiction. Yesterday, hardly believing what I was seeing and hearing, I listened to him describe how after I left the area, he kept listening to the missionaries, reading the BoM, started attending church, and how he started to open his mind. After much fasting and prayer, he received the answer that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. With time, he gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and finally was baptized. He just looked so happy! And he had changed.
If you know someone that has turned away from God, fell off the path, or isn't open to listen at the moment, don't give up on them! Keep loving, serving, and inviting. I've also learned in a very real way that anyone who will read the scriptures, pray regularly, come to church, and earnestly seek to know if this Church is true and what they should do to follow Jesus Christ, will receive an answer. Not only that, but their hearts and minds will be softened, and they will find strength and hope.
My new companion is Elder Fisi'iahi. He's from central California, has only been out for 4 months, and is a great missionary. He definitely grew up in a different situation and culture, but we've been able to find things in common (for example, we both played rugby and volleyball before the mission), and are learning a lot from each other. And we get along well! He's really strong and told me he used to get into some pretty serious fights during high school, so I'm trying really hard to keep it that way. A member from Longview taught me some Tongan phrases the night before I left like "ofa lahi atu" (I love you a lot) and "fefe hake" (how are you?), which made Elder Fisi'iahi pretty excited.
That's all the big news though! We've had the opportunity to help some really special members and investigators this week, and we're excited to see what happens.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a guy that we were teaching who, all of a sudden, sent us a text saying that he had issues with God and didn't want to meet with us. Well, we're pretty sure he was drinking when he sent us that, because he let us come back! He's had a lot of questions about God and why the world is so cruel, and it's amazing to see how he's put his faith and God and begun to find answers. When we explained the Plan of Salvation and God's purpose for us, he said, "You just answered a question I've had for years. Nobody has been able to give me a good response until now." He still has a long ways to go, but it's been amazing to see the hope he's found and the ways he has showed his faith.
Mom, you asked me about Aramis and her family. They're doing pretty well! We had a really good visit with them last week, and she explained to us her conversion story. She said that before she met the missionaries, she liked to drink on the weekends, go to dances and parties, and look for ways to distract her from a feeling of emptiness that she usually carried within. When she started learning about the gospel and living it for herself, she said those other things just fell away. That empty feeling was replaced by a peace and tranquility she had never experienced, and she no longer needed the cheap distractions she had sought before.
I immediately thought of a talk I recently read by President Spencer W Kimball in which he said, "Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual." From what I've seen, that makes sense. It's the same thing that one of our investigators said when we asked him why he drinks: it's a way to forget all the bad things in his life, and numb the hurt of being separated from his family. I've never fully understood this scripture before, but in light of what I've studied and heard this week it rings very, very true:
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
I know that as people strive to live the gospel, God changes their hearts and desires. Without fail, when people who are accustomed to live in the world begin praying sincerely and daily, read the scriptures, and hearken to the voice of the Spirit, they find happiness, understanding, peace, strength, forgiveness, and guidance, and they change. Of that I have no doubt.
Also, I'm being transferred this today! We got the call Saturday night, and I'm going to an area west of central Dallas called Pioneer. The funny thing is that I'm replacing one of my old companions, Elder Trujillo, and will be with a missionary that he just finished training. My new companion is Tongan. I don't remember his name because it's very Tonganish, but I'll tell yall about him next week! Also, I'll have to get a few more pictures before I go just to show you how beautiful it is out here in Longview.
1. Dionisio Cadenas (our branch President) and I
2. The Plascencia family. This brother has a pretty cool story, I'll be sure to tell you all about him some day.
3. Juan Castillo, Elder Ballstaedt, and I. I wrote about him a couple of weeks ago I think. We haven't been able to meet with him in two weeks, but he's a great guy and we've seen him make some good progress.
Things are going pretty well. One of the missionaries in our district is going home next week, so we cut out a little email time to celebrate. Sorry if it's a little short this time!
We saw a small miracle the other day. We were working in the neighborhood of a member that we visited, and at one house we found a woman that is a member of the church! Her name is Aramis. She was baptized 5 years ago in Mexico, and has only met one member since her family moved to the US. We were blown away to find her, especially because we just decided about a week earlier that we wanted to work more with part-member families. She told us she had had no contact with the church for years, but that just the day before she had seen one of our cards in a store and thought about how long it had been since she had seen something from the church. The next day we went back and had a great conversation with her and her husband, and we're going back tonight!
Here are some of the highlights from this last week:
-I've been learning recently (again and again), that oftentimes preparation precedes revelation. Many of the greatest studies, lessons, and meetings we've had are the ones we was best prepared for (that's good grammar in East Texas), and therefore felt the confidence to follow the Spirit as necessary.
As I pondered Monday night over what I would study the next day, the thought that came to my mind was, "questions about the Plan of Salvation." As I tried to think of specific questions or doubts to answer, the question of, "Are we born with sin?" came to mind. I've almost never had someone bring that up as a serious doubt in a lesson, but I searched out the answer anyway, and found various scriptures to help provide an answer. Of course, that very night the subject came up in a lesson. Surprised and excited, I quickly turned to the scriptures I had found on the subject just hours before. Juan, the man we were talking to, seemed satisfied with the answer and we were able to move on.
It's something small, I know, but I've discovered that God is much more willing to help us when we demonstrate our sincerety by planning, preparing, and studying things out beforehand, and then trust in His guidance as things unfold.
-Our attendance at church just about doubled this week due to a baby blessing. It was an exciting opportunity to see people who had never been to our church before, and others who hadn't attended for a long period of time. One sister came forward and shared her testimony with tears in her eyes, and explained how good it felt to be back. Going to church definitely isn't everything, but God has given it to us for several important purposes, and He blesses us greatly when we go.
There is, as always, a lot to learn and improve. But things are good! The branch president and mission leader were both called within the last month, so it's been fun working with them and learning some things together.
Sorry again for not sending out anything last week. Here are a couple of the big updates:
-I don't know if you all remember when I talked about Maria Socorro, but she was baptized! I taught her almost daily for about 3 months, and when I left that area I wasn't too sure how things would turn out. But she made it! And to make it even better, the companion I found her with baptized her (Elder Trujillo), and my next companion confirmed her (Elder Nebeker)! She's not very good at writing, has bad eyesight, and doesn't have email, so I haven't had any contact with her, I've heard it was a great baptismal service and she should be doing well.
-We saw a "milagrito" (little miracle) the other night. We were coming back from a city about 30 minutes away from Longview, and we found ourselves almost home with 10 minutes to spare before 9:00 (when we need to return to our apartment). We turned off into a mostly American-populated neighborhood near our house wondering where in the world we were going to find a Hispanic to talk to. Incredibly, we quickly spotted the house of a Mexican family that had been busy the first time we came by, so we walked around to the front of the house to find a woman with three of her children on the front porch. We started to talk, and she told us she had had a pretty bad day due to marital problems, so we talked to her about how God can help, said a prayer, and set up another day to come by.
-We're teaching a man named Juan that has grown a whole lot closer to God since we met him. To make a long story short, for the first time in his life he started recognizing the influence of the Holy Ghost and receiving revelation. The last time we came by he told us that things were clicking, he felt different, and he was spending more time with his kids. He prayed about Joseph Smith and the restoration of Christ's Church, and he said he felt good about it. In the end of the visit we set a baptismal goal with him for September 20th!
-We found ourselves riding bikes a good portion of the week due to a lack of allotted miles on our mission car, which always makes things a little more interesting!
-Last week I spent a day with an English missionary serving here in Longview, and it was an interesting experience. Seeing as Elder Ballstaedt and I only speak in Spanish to each other, it felt a little weird speaking English all day. At one point without thinking a started talking to him in Spanish, and didn't catch myself for about twenty or thirty seconds. haha we both got a good laugh out of that one.
-Sequedas. They are everywhere. Also, the have wild, 400 lbs hogs here. That's East Texas for ya.
So things are good! We definitely have a lot to improve, but it's amazing to see how God guides and helps us and others as we seek out His will.