Saturday, February 22, 2014

Week 13

We have sister missionaries in our area now! This past week has been a crazy one. Our ward hasn't had sister missionaries in like 8 years! Our mission president didn't split the area so now we can work however we really want. Having sister missionaries is a huge advantage in our area because there are a lot of widows and less active women in our area. We went over our investigator list, and gave the sisters both of our investigarors who are single moms and a widow. Since my companion and I (Elder Webster) can't go into their homes alone, it's way easier for the sister missionaries to visit them.The 2 sisters in our area are Sister Ramirez (she was in my district in the MTC) and Sister Hernandez (she just got to the mission on Monday). They are just as pumped as we are to work, and bring a great spirit to the area. 

I am no longer in a trio, it's just Elder Webster and I now. Being in a trio these past 6 weeks was a very different experience, and I learned a lot about working in a "team". For a while it was hard to teach because we didn't really know how to split up the lessons. Towards the end of the cycle however, we got the hang of it and teaching was a piece of cake. Now that I'm back to a normal companionship, I feel weird. My companion, Elder Webster, is still learning spanish, and this past week has been a little hard because I've been doing most of the teaching. I have been relying even more on the Lord's help to make sure I can teach effectively and also have my companion teach. When we were in a trio, Elder Webster would usually wrap-up our lessons, and Elder Leifson and I would teach. Now that it's just the two of us, we'v been experimenting on more effective ways to teach. I've been praying for help, because at times it can be a little overwhelming to teach. Thankfully, the Lord has heard my prayers and has granted me with patience and more love for my companion. 

This past week, something miracoulous happened. You guys remember Jonathan Roman? Well, let me jog your memory real quick. Jonathan was one of our most progressing investigators. He had a baptismal date for a couple of weeks ago, and he was doing great. Then, out of nowhere, he stopped talking to us and stopped progressing. We had to put his baptism off, and then decided to let him go. We kept praying for him though, and we prayed that one day he would come back with a change of heart. Well, this week, he came back! He called us really early in the morning on Tuesday and the first thing he said was "When can I get baptised?". At first I was in a weird shock because we hadn't taught him in a while and I had no idea what was going on, then I realized that my prayer had been answered. We met with him 20 minutes later at the church and talked to him and his brother, Abel. As soon as Jonathan saw us, he gave us the biggest hug ever and started crying. He explained to us what had been going on these past few weeks and all the trials he has been facing. He realized that he needed to get closer to God, and realized that he needed a baptsim. He has his interview on Friday, and we are praying ferverently that he will keep this commitment. 

After we taught Jonathan, we taught his brother Abel. Abel is 21 years old, and very eager to hear about our church. Jonathan had been talking to him about the Church this whole time, but he hadn't had the chance to talk to us because of his job schedule. We finally sat down with him and gave him lesson 1, The Restoration. Abel was awesome, and we could see in his face the desire to keep learning. We set a baptisimal date, and he accepted without hesitation. I told him how important and serious this commitment was, and he accepted and even told us that he wants to prepare to serve a mission once he gets baptised. I have faith that we will lead him to the waters of baptisim.

This week I read a scripture that has been burning in my little head all week long. It is found in Mosiah, chapter 28. Just a quick reminder of what's going on during this chapter. In the previous chapter we read about Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah (Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni)  and the climateric change they have in their lives. They then have this enormous desire to go out and preach the Gospel to "every creature". My favorite verse is verse 3. "Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble." I LOVE this scripture because it expresses so greatly the yearn they had to really preach and proclaim the gospel, so great was this yearning that the very thought of knowing that a soul would perish made them tremble. Do we tremble when we think of our neighbors and friends who haven't heard the Gospel, and think of their salvation? Just somehing to think about.

I love you familia,
Elder Velazquez
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Preachin' in Action
That was the last day I was with Elder Leifson

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My Area: Pradera Dorada (The star is my casa)

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Week 12 (End Of Cycle 2)

Hot hot hot, it's so hot right now. The weather here in Juarez has been nuts this past week. We had just gotten used to the freezing winds we had gotten these past few weeks and now it's really starting to heat up. It's really hard to tell what the weather is going to be like because you look outside and the sun is out and shining and then you step outside and it's freezing. Juarez is nuts. This past week has been all about preparing for the new changes coming up on Monday. Since this is the end of our 6-week cycle, the office has been roaring with activity and preparation for the new missionaries and changes. This has been the last week I will probably be in a trio companionship, and it's hard to believe that this cycle is over.

Even though we've been working hard in the office, we´ve also been working just as hard outside the office too. Last week we beat our zone for number of lessons given in a week and we've been working harder than ever to stay on top. I checked my feet last night for the first time and came to find out that I have a bunch of little blisters all over my foot (that was kinda cool, but gross at the same time). The hard work has paid off though, because we found a bunch of new investigators this week.

First off, is Nicholas Dominguez. He lives with his mom and his great great uncle was part of Pancho Villa's original gang. Quick history lesson about who Pancho Villa was. Pancho Villa started off as a bandit who was later inspired by reformer Francisco Madero, helping him to win the Mexican Revolution. In 1910, while still living as a fugitive, Pancho Villa joined Francisco's Madero successful uprising against Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz. Pancho Villa later became a military General who won many battles up here in the North (First Battle of Ciudad Juárez, First Battle of Agua Prieta, First Battle of Nogales, Battle of Columbus, plus a few more) and later became Governor of the state of Chihuahua. ANYWAY, back to our new investigator, Nicholas. He lives at home with his mom who is very catholic (surprise!) but was very interested in the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. His brother is a member in our ward, and we hope that he will keep his commitments.

In our area we have a lot of investigators, but we have come to notice that not a lot of them are progressing. I love all of my investigators, but I learned a valuable lesson from one my zone leaders. He told us that a lot of the time we focus all our energy on trying to convert people who are really really really tough and set in their ways, and not on the people who are more prepared than we imagine. This past week, we had to stop visiting one of our previous investigators who we had been spending a lot of time with, Fernando. It was really hard to let him go, because we have really come to love him and want the best for him. Unfortunately, he has been postponing baptism for a long time, and has expressed to us that he needs more time. So we let him go, but we have still been praying that his heart will soften and will be ready for baptism soon.

This week we had a baptism programmed for one of our investigators, Jonathan. Jonathan had been progressing so much and was just a golden investigator, or so we thought. We had taught him all the lessons and he was only missing his interview, but something has happened to him this last week, and we haven't even seen him. He got a new job 2 weeks ago working at a restaurant, and has not had any time to see or hear us. He has been having a lot of hard trials lately, and it is so incredibly frustrating and sad to see him so close...and then just drift away. AHGHHHH. As a missionary, you grow this inexplicable love for everyone, and it is devastating to see them fall. We have decided to stop visiting him, and focus our time on others. I pray for him every night, and I pray that he will draw closer to God soon.

I have really learned to be more prudent with my time here in the mission. Time is so precious, and it is crazy how fast it goes by. We are hastening the work of Salvation, and we cannot afford to be wasting time. 

Sorry I don't write much (I've seen some of the letters from other missionaries and it seems like they're writing a novel) but I have had experiences here in the mission that I won't ever forget. Stay safe and happy everyone.

Elder Velazquez

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Letter 11

This past week I have been talking a lot about eternal families (figures, I have a new little sister and I'm showing her off). We have met 3 new families this week, and we are eager to continue teaching them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how they can grow to be a happy and eternal family. 

The first family is the Ramirez Family. The family is made up of Mario (dad), Daisy (mom), and their 2 little children: Adeli (5) and a baby Eddy. The way we met this family is very interesting. They were a reference from a little boy named Jonathan. Jonathan is 11 years old and his birth-dad is Mario. He doesn't live with Mario, and his situation is a little complicated. When we got the reference, I felt Jonathan's eagerness and love towards his birth-dad. Jonathan wants to be a missionary and wants his whole family to know about the Gospel. When we went and visited the Ramirez family, we were kindly received by Daisy (the mom). She sat us down and talked to us about how she's always wanted to go to church that focuses on the family. As we sat and talked to her about the Church, her husband came down and the first thing he said was, "We are a Catholic family." Daisy stared at him funny and told him to sit down and listen. We taught that the family is the most important social group in this life and the next, and how they can become eternal through God's plan for us. Daisy and her little girl were very excited and wanted to come to church. Mario was still a little stubborn, but after we ended the lesson in prayer, his heart was softened. We asked him to give the final prayer, and as he prayed, the Spirit worked inside of him. At the end of the prayer he asked us to stay a little longer because he had a lot of questions. He offered us a cup of coffee (of course) and when we kindly refused, the questions came pouring in! We told them to ponder about the lesson, and that we would gladly answer all their questions...the next visit (mwahaha). We were so glad that Mario had finally sparked some interest in what we were teaching, that we decided to leave him hooked for the next visit.

The next family we met was the Nancy Olivas family. Nancy is a recently divorced woman and a new single mom. Nancy works all week at a nearby Applebees, and she is currently raising 3 little kids. Her life is a hectic one, but she wants to grow closer to God. Her brother and sister are members, and she has seen that their families are different than all the other families. She wants her children to grow up in a religious ambient, and wants them to start going to church. She is doing all she can to provide for her kids, and I have a huge amount of love and respect for her and her little ones.

The final family we met this week was the Ariza family. The Ariza family is made up of Fermin (dad), Sarah Ariza (mom), Diana (15), and Eduardo (11). Hermano Ariza is a recent convert to the church, but comes to church every once in a while because of his job. His wife issuper catholic (she doesn't leave home without her Virgin Maria hanging around her neck) and his 2 kids love to hear our about the Gospel. Hermano Ariza has a strong testimony of the church, and although he can't go every Sunday, he is constant in his scripture study and prayer. When we met with his family, he expressed how much he loved them all and how he wanted an eternal family. His daughter, Diana, was super interested and even went to church and a church fireside this last week. The mom isn't too happy that we visit them, and she's very firm in her beliefs. We assigned a family to go and visit them and help them feel more comfortable in the church. 

I know I'm starting to sound a little cliche when I say that the weeks have been flying by, but that is what is going on. I wake up and get ready, and the next thing I know, I'm at home puttin' on my pijamas and chugging down a ramen before bed. I thank you all for your letters and for your love.

Elder Velazquez

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Letter 10

I am so happy about my new little sister! It had felt like an eternity waiting for her to be born! I am so excited to see her on Mother's day!

On Sunday, Elder Leifson, Elder Webster, and I spoke. We talked about the Work Of Salvation. We focused on 3 main aspects: The work of the members, retention of recent converts, and activating the less-active. This was the 2nd time I've had to speak in church about the Work Of Salvation, and this shows me just how important this work really is.

I spoke about activating less-active members. I shared an example found in the scriptures about a less-active lamantish woman who helped her people believe in Christ. In Alma 19, we learn that King Lamoni had been taken away by the Spirit and had been in bed for 2 days and 2 nights. His wife, the queen, becomes worried and calls to Ammon for help. Ammon goes and sees the queen and knows that Lamoni isn't dead, but that he had been "carried away in God" (Alma 19:6) Ammon tells the Queen that King Lamoni will awaken the next day. The next day, just as Ammon had foretold, King Lamoni awakens and testifies to his wife about Jesus Christ. Once the Queen hears this she is also taken away by the Spirit and is "sunken down". Soon, Ammon, King Lamoni, the Queen, and all his servants are taken away and fall to the ground. Everyone except Abish, a servant of King Lamoni who had been "converted unto the Lord for many years" but she "had never made it known" (Alma 19:16-17). As soon as she sees all of this, she "knew that it was the power of God" and she goes out and testifies house by house to all the people. Later, all the people are reunited at the house of the King and see what had been done. There is some confusion as to what had happened and even some contention, but soon the Queen, King Lamoni, and Ammon are awakened and they testified of Christ. "And it came to pass that there were many that did believe in their words; and as many as did believe were baptized; and they became a righteous people, and they did establish a church among them." (Alma 19:35) I loved this scripture story because it shows how anyone can testify and preach the Gospel of Christ, and the effect it can come to have in other people's hearts.

This week we met with an investigator, Fernando, who we have been working with for a while now. He has had almost all the lessons, but he is still hesitant when we talk about a baptism date. Just a quick reminder, he lives and takes care of his mom, and also lives with his sister. His sister is a less active member of the church (like 20 something years) and know that her brother is hearing the missionaries, she has been more active. Well, this week we finally broke new ground. We sat down with just Fernando (his sister is always there with us) and he opened up to us as to why he had been running around in circles with us. He told us he has had many problems with the law of chastity and he feels unclean and shamed. He said he hadn't said anything because he felt awkward with his sister around listening, but he felt that he had to be completely honest with us, and more importantly, God. We thanked Fernando for his courage and honesty, and set some goals with him. Fernando expressed great repentance and will to change. I am so thankful that he finally opened up to us and has put his full trust in the Lord. 

We have really seen a big change in this ward in the past week. When I first got here, the number of lessons taught with a member was way low (like 3 per week). Well, after a few pep talks, we have finally gotten that number to climb up. This last week we had 11 lessons with members, and it has made a HUGE difference in our work and lessons. Our investigators feel more comfortable going to church, they feel more comfortable around the members, and the members are starting to see the Work of Salvation really unravel. Our president has told us that these lessons are key because they allow members to connect directly to the investigators...and to each other. When this connection is made, it's less likely that our converts will fall inactive. 

I am praying for you all always, and thanks for your prayers.

Elder Velazquez

Estoy muy contento con mi nueva hermanita!  Parecio una eternidad esperando a que naciera! Estoy tan emocionado de verla en el día de la Madre!

El domingo, el Elder Leifson, Elder Webster, y yo hablamos en la reunión sacramental. Hablamos de la obra de la salvación. Nos hemos centrado en 3 aspectos principales: el trabajo de los miembros, la retención de conversos recientes, y activación de los menos activos. Esta fue la segunda vez que he tenido que hablar en la iglesia acerca de la obra de la salvación, y esto me demuestra lo importante que es esta obra. Hablé acerca de la activación de los miembros menos activos .  Compartí un ejemplo que se encuentra en las escrituras acerca de una mujer lamanita menos activa que la ayudó a las personas creer en Cristo. En Alma 19, leemos que el rey Lamoni había sido llevado por el Espíritu y había estado en cama durante 2 días y 2 noches. Su esposa, la reina, se preocupa y llamo a Ammón por su ayuda. Ammon va con la reina y sabe que Lamoni no está muerto, sino que había sido " transpotado en Dios " (Alma 19:06 ) Ammón le dice a la reina que el rey Lamoni despertariá al día siguiente. Al día siguiente , tal y como Ammón había predicho , el rey Lamoni se despierta y da testimonio a su esposa acerca de Jesucristo. Una vez que la reina oye esto, ella también es llevada por el Espíritu . Pronto, Ammón , el rey Lamoni , la Reina , y todos sus siervos son tocadospor el Espiritu y caen al suelo . Todo el mundo excepto Abish , sierva del rey Lamoni que había sido " convertida al Señor por muchos años ", pero que  " nunca se había dado a conocer " (Alma 19:16-17 ) . Tan pronto como ella ve todo esto , ella " sabía que era el poder de Dios ", y ella sale y da testimonio de casa por casa a todas las personas. Más tarde , todas las personas se reúnen en la casa del rey  a ver lo que se había sucedido. Habia confusión en cuanto a lo que había sucedido , e incluso cierta contención , pero pronto la reina , el rey Lamoni y Ammón se despiertan y dan testimonio de Cristo. " Y sucedió que hubo muchos que creyeron en sus palabras; y cuantos creyeron, fueron bautizados; y se convirtieron en un pueblo justo, y establecieron una iglesia entre ellos. " (Alma 19:35 ) Me encantó este relato de las Escrituras , ya que muestra cómo cualquier persona puede testificar y predicar el Evangelio de Cristo, y el efecto que puede llegar a tener en el corazón de los demás .

Esta semana nos reunimos con un investigador, Fernando, con el que hemos estado trabajando por un tiempo ya. Él ha recibido casi todas las lecciones , pero todavía es vacilante , cuando hablamos de una fecha de bautismo. Sólo un recordatorio rápido, vive y cuida de su madre , y también vive con su hermana. Su hermana es un miembro menos activo de la iglesia (como 20 y tantos años ) y desde que su hermano está escuchando a los misioneros, ella ha estado más activa. Bueno, esta semana por fin abrimos un nuevo camino. Nos sentamos  sólo con Fernando ( su hermana siempre está ahí con nosotros) y se abrió a nosotros en cuanto a por qué había estado dando vueltas en círculos con nosotros. Nos dijo que ha tenido muchos problemas con la ley de castidad y se siente sucio y avergonzado . Él dijo que él no había dicho nada porque se sentía incómodo con su hermana alrededor, pero sentía que tenía que ser completamente honesto con nosotros, y lo más importante ,con Dios. Dimos gracias a Fernando por su valentía y honestidad , y establecimos algunas metas con él. Fernando expresó su gran arrepentimiento y voluntad de cambio . Estoy muy agradecido de que finalmente se abrió con nosotros y ha puesto toda su confianza en el Señor.

Realmente hemos visto un gran cambio en este barrio en la última semana. Cuando llegué por primera vez aquí, el número de lecciones que se enseñaban con un miembro estaba muy baja (como 3 por semana). Bueno, después de unos pocas palabras de ánimo, por fin hemos podido hacer que ese número suba. Esta última semana hemos tenido 11 lecciones con los miembros, y ha hecho una gran diferencia en nuestro trabajo y lecciones. Nuestros investigadores se sienten más cómodos yendo a la iglesia, se sienten más a gusto con los miembros, y los miembros están empezando a ver la obra de salvación realmente aflorar. Nuestro presidente nos ha dicho que estas lecciones son fundamentales porque permiten a los miembros conectarse directamente a los investigadores ... y entre sí. Cuando se realiza esta conexión, es menos probable que nuestros conversos caerán inactivos.

Estoy orando por todos ustedes siempre, y gracias por sus oraciones.

Elder Velazquez

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 The view from my window.