Monday, August 25, 2014

From 15 cities... to 10 square miles

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. 
Ofa lahi atu!
Elder Gaughan

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Lesson from Elder Gaughan with Pictures!

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 shall give him shall never thirstbut the water that shall give him shall be in him well of water springing up into everlasting life.
(John 4:13-14)

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. 

Love you! 
Elder Gaughan

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. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Short and Sweet.

Hey guys! 
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! 
Love you! 

Elder Gaughan

Monday, August 4, 2014

Things are good.

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.
Love you!
Elder Gaughan