Monday, May 26, 2014

Transfer Time!

It's transfer time again! After 7 and a half months, Elder Vasquez is leaving our area to be replaced by Elder Ballstaedt. haha when the Branch President announced that he was leaving in church yesterday, an audible gasp went through the congregation. He's been a great companion and I've learned a ton from him, but I already know Elder Ballstaedt and I think we'll have a great transfer. 
       Remember the family I talked about last week that seemed to have a lot of potential? With the grandfather and the little grandkids that don't know very much about God? Well, turns out they have a LOT of potential. We had a great lesson with this week with Martin and Elizabeth (the grandparents). The couple explained to us that God had been working wonders in their home since we showed up--their son that was into gangs decided to change his life and go to college, Elizabeth felt less pain from a medical problem she has, and they said the whole spirit of their home has improved (the last occupant of the trailer prayed to the Santa Muerte and they said they've felt and seen some eerie stuff). 
     Elizabeth kept telling us about herself and their family, and she expressed that she and her husband have never been married in a church, which was her dream. She said she wanted to have a marriage that was recognized by God, to make a solemn commitment to her husband, to have something that "seals" them together as she put it. Elder Vasquez and I both knew at that point they needed to hear about eternal marriage. While I don't think they grasped the full significance, they really liked that and said that's what they want.
    They came to church yesterday, stayed the whole three hours, and loved it. They both said they want to come regularly, and Martin said afterwards, "I can't believe how many years we wasted going to [our previous church], we hardly learned anything. And in yours we learn so much!" Especially considering we found them on a street Elder Vasquez had knocked 3 times previously, this family is really a miracle. 
      We also had an experience last night that made me reflect. We stopped by a part-member family and taught the non-member father, Benito, who has been receiving the missionaries for about a year. He wants to get baptized and really likes the church, but he's not married to the member he's living with. Almost every time we went by this transfer we just read something out of the Book of Mormon, asked if they were reading the scriptures and praying, and invited them to church. We knew Benito had already received all of the pre-baptism lessons, so we never bothered to do anything more. Last night we did the same thing as usual and read a chapter from 1 Nephi, but at the end, we asked Benito, "Have you ever prayed to know the Book of Mormon is true?" He said, "Yeah, I ask for help and guidance from God." We asked a few more questions to verify his understanding, and he started to express that he had never considered or heard of the need to pray about the Book of Mormon, and what he really wanted to know was which church is true. 
     I couldn't believe that this man who had been receiving missionaries for a year didn't understand the significance of the Book of Mormon or our message that anyone can know that this is Jesus Christ's true church through study and prayer. It showed me the importance of making sure that we and the people over whom we have a stewardship truly understand the basic principles of the gospel on an intellectual, spiritual, and practical level. Do we truly know what it means to repent? Do we understand what we promised God and what God promised us when we were baptized? When we went to the temple? Do we understand all of the requirements to go to the Celestial Kingdom? 
      I'm very grateful for the opportunity to study, teach, and strive to live the simplest principles and doctrines of the Gospel every day. I have seen, heard, and felt many things that testify that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I hope you all have a great week and feel the Savior's love!   
Elder Gaughan

Monday, May 19, 2014

Another Good Week

It's been a good week! Unfortunately we still aren't seeing the success in numbers that we would like to but, we are working hard and, as our mission president's wife recently invited the missionaries to do, count our blessings.
   We did manage to find a great family this week that seems to have a lot of potential. We knocked on their door one afternoon, and a man in his 50s or 60s answered and let us right in. He immediately directed us to his two little grandsons, and told us that they needed to learn about God. He explained that his daughter (their mother) had gotten into a bad crowd that lead to drugs and a bad lifestyle, and that he and his wife are essentially taking care of them. He told us their mom hadn't taught them anything about God, and that he had taught them what little they knew. The 3 year old wasn't paying much attention, so we focused on the 6 year old, Angel, and explained that God created everything, is our Father, and wants us to be good. He's a really intelligent kid, and understood everything and asked great questions. We taught him to pray and set an appointment to come back. 
   When we came back, the grandfather (Martin) and his wife (Elizabeth) said Angel had changed a TON in just the 3 or 4 days since our visit. They said he was praying every night and behaved a lot better, and Elizabeth said, "I'm Evangelical, but I'll convert to your church if it's what my grandchildren need." Obviously we need to talk to them about motivations a bit, but the great thing is that their hearts are open and they recognize us as servants of the Lord. What made it even better is that the grandkids' father pulled up as we were talking on the porch, so we introduced ourselves as we were leaving. He told us he is from Guatemala, and when we asked if he had ever heard of our church he said, "Oh yeah, I always attended your church. I knew missionaries like you." He said he'd be willing to meet with us, and that he would come to church! Unfortunately he and the kids went to the city to the city on Sunday which stopped the family from coming to church, but they seem very prepared and we're excited to see what happens. 
   In Preach My Gospel it recommends that as we try to get referrals, we should ask people if they know anyone who recently had a baby or a death in the family, or recently moved to the area. We realized that the latter was the one we need to focus on, because the religious competition in Longview is fairly intense here. A week or two ago we saw what looked like LDS missionary impostors--two clean shaved, young men in a white shirt, tie, and slacks. Elder Vasquez told me he's bumped into them before and that their from a local baptist church. Go figure. 
     I've been praying a lot recently to strengthen my testimony in the Book of Mormon, and something that keeps popping up is the Testimony of the Three (and Eight) Witnesses. Most members of the church already know this, but it's pretty hard to explain away why all three of the original witnesses--Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer--never denied, and even zealously defended, their testimony of seeing the plates and hearing the voice of an angel, even after leaving the church. When accused of denying his testimony of the plates decades after leaving the church, David Whitmer went so far as to seek out and obtain dozens of signatures from prominent people in his city, affirming that he was of a sound mind and an honest man, in order to disprove the accusation. To the day they died, every one of them affirmed the truth of what they saw, and the divinity of the Book of Mormon.  
    The Book of Mormon is true, and the Holy Ghost will testify of that to anyone who sincerely asks. For those who object or doubt, they must face the witnesses of 11 other men besides Joseph Smith, Jr., of it's veracity. 
   I love this gospel, and I'm grateful for my Savior. Thank you for your prayers, love, letters, and packages. They boost me up and help me move forward. Until next week, 
(and with love,)
Elder Gaughan

Monday, May 12, 2014

After Mother's Day

First of all, it was so great to get to talk to you all yesterday!! 
One of the things I mentioned yesterday is that we've been working with some less-active members of the branch, and that's been where we've seen the greatest progress. One of the brothers we've been working with that we've been really happy about is Hermano Aguilar. He got married to a life-long member and was baptized a few years ago, but he's never been very active. We visit or talk with him at least one a week, and he's really been stepping up recently. He's starting to come to church more, and even told his boss last week that he wasn't going to work Sundays anymore so that he could go to church with his family. His wife is going through the temple this weekend, and he'll be waiting with the kids outside. We're hoping and expecting that the spirit there will motivate him to make the temple a goal for himself  personally and his family. 
    That's really the big news this week. Something our Mission President talked about in a meeting recently was the idea of "ponderizing" the scriptures. He's always invited us to memorize a scripture every week, but this time he invited us to ponder a scripture before we memorize it, and to review it in our minds during the day--hence, "ponderize" (ponder + memorize). I've been far from perfect in doing this every week, but the scriptures I have done it with have become a part of me like no others. In part, I think that's what the scriptures invite us to do when they say things like "feast upon the words of Christ," "abide in His word," and let our hearts "ponder upon them continually." 
"Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man." -D&C 84:85
Elder Gaughan

Below is a picture from when we ALL got to Skype with Elder Gaughan on Mother's Day! 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Faith change things

As you may know, Gladys Knight has an LDS gospel choir called Saints Unified Voices. And guess where they came for a series of firesides? That's right--the Texas Dallas Mission. On Friday we went with a less-active sister and two of her non-member friends, and it was REALLY impressive. It was also unlike anything I have ever seen in an LDS chapel in my entire life--there was clapping, "amen's," live electric piano and bass guitar, the whole shibang. Imagine if a baptist preacher and his choir converted and was put in charge of our Sunday services, and that might give you an idea. 
   A sad truth I have learned as a missionary is that literally about 85% of people have their TV on at any given hour of the day, and such was the case when we stopped by the home of a less-active family yesterday. As we talked to them in their living room, I caught 5 seconds of a commercial that really struck me. It showed a young boy, about 8 or 9 years old, staring at a cashier on the other side of a counter. He placed a couple of dollar bills and some coins on the counter, and then the shot showed the cashier looking at him as if to say, "that doesn't come even CLOSE to how much this product costs." The camera then showed the boy staring back at her, fully and naively expecting that it was enough, and that he would get whatever it was he wanted to buy. Then she looked up behind the young boy and saw his father, who showed her his credit card. She then took the child's change as if it were enough.
    It immediately made me think of the Savior. Many times what we offer God is so, so small in comparison with the true cost of the blessings He blessings He promises. And sometimes the trap we fall into is not that of thinking the Savior isn't capable to help, change, or save us, but that we, being so imperfect, short-sight, and flawed, do not deserve His grace. In that five seconds I was reminded of one of the most important lessons of the gospel--that we can have full confidence that we can receive the blessings of the gospel, and even receive eternal life, not because of our own efforts, but because the Savior stands behind us to offer the Father everything we cannot. 
    I know Jesus is the Christ, and that faith changes things. 

Elder Gaughan