Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 20, 2012

First nap in two years.

May 15, 2012

“Welcome Home” cake with a Mexican flair.

May 15, 2012

Meeting Wrigley for the first time.

May 15, 2012

May 15, 2012

The wait is almost over.

May 16, 2012

Passing the time until our missionary arrives.

May 15, 2012

Querida familia,
This last week has been great. Teaching, contacting, preaching, inviting, exhorting, expounding. . . .
I would just like to mention two significant things that happened this last week.
The first experience has to do with something that I heard years ago and that has stuck to me ever since. I mentioned this before, but I will just remind you all for the purposes of understanding what happened this week.
When Dad's mission president (President VanDam) came to visit our house in Virginia while I was still in high school, the one thing I remember that was said was right before President VanDam left for the night. We were sitting in the living room and he looked over and said, "J.J., I just want you to know what kind of a missionary your father was. He had integrity. There were some missionaries that I had to worry about--where they were, what they were doing, who they were with. But I never had to worry about your father." That comment really stuck with me, and I decided that during my missionary service I would strive to be the same kind of missionary that my dad was--someone who President Cook could trust. I have reflected on President VanDam's words repeatedly throughout my mission.
Fast forward to last Wednesday, when I had my exit interview with President Cook. . . .  It was great to sit down and talk with President Cook about the things I have learned on my mission and my goals and plans for afterwards. As we were wrapping up the interview, President Cook paused and said, "Thank you for your service, Elder Gibbons. I just want you to know that I have never had to worry about you."
I know that he was inspired to say that, because when I heard it, I thought immediately of what President VanDam had said about Dad. I am so grateful that the Lord was kind enough to let me know that my righteous desire had been fulfilled.
Experience number two happened last night, in what turned out to be the last lesson I will ever teach in these incredible two years. We were teaching a new member lesson to Dasy (the convert whose husband baptized her two months ago) and as we were wrapping up I wrote down my contact information and gave it to them so we could stay in touch.
As she took the sticky note, she said, "We're going to miss you a lot. Thanks for helping us. We're sad that you're leaving, but we know that the Lord needs you somewhere else now."
Another inspired comment. Every other time I have been transferred throughout my mission, I have thought that exact thing to "ease the pain" of being transferred, but it never occurred to me that it applies just as well to this final transfer meeting of my mission. I wish I could continue as a full-time missionary because I love doing it, but this last week it has distilled upon my soul as the dews from heaven' that my time is over. I have loved it and I am sure that the Lord is pleased with my service, but it's time for me to take on something different. Even though one amazing chapter of my life is closing, I know that means that another is starting.
Even though I'm sad that I'm leaving, I know that the Lord needs me somewhere else now.
I am very excited to see everyone again (I think I may have gotten taller, but I will have to wait until Wednesday night to verify).

Hasta pronto,
el élder John gibbons

May 15, 2012

Me with Juanito Mercado, possibly the most consecrated ward missionary of this entire dispensation.

Our awesome district. Definitely my favorite district of my entire mission.

My second (and last) son.

Us with the bishop's family. The oldest son leaves for his own mission in a month and a half!

May 8, 2012

Querida familia,
I have my exit interview tomorrow with President Cook. That is all I wish to say on that unpleasant subject.
Another great week in the Lord's service. The Rancho Santa Margarita elders had a baptism on Saturday (the first baptism in that area in over a year!). We had a new investigator there and she loved it.
We translated for a funeral last Saturday for the Spanish-speaking relatives of a member of one of the English wards who had passed away. It was a lot of fun, but it got very difficult when one of the speakers pulled out a sheet titled "24 things to remember and 1 to never forget" -- basically, 25 clever phrases and idioms that don't translate well, at all. Hopefully the listeners got the idea.
We had two new people show up at Church unexpectedly on Sunday! One is a man who has been coming to our English classes pretty regularly. After sacrament meeting we set up an appointment for right after Church, and he is now officially an investigator. Same thing happened with a cousin of Dasy (recent convert from Guatemala)--her cousin is here for 6 months to work, and he showed up unexpectedly with them to Church and loved it, and after Church we set up an appointment for later that night. He understood everything really well (by pure luck, he was able to see a testimony meeting, a confirmation, and someone being ordained to the priesthood...not to mention the fact that this week's Gospel Principles lesson was about the Restoration!).
I really don't know what to make of my situation. When I entered the MTC I felt like I had an eternity ahead of me. The more I don't want to stop being a missionary, the faster it seems to go. I really have grown to like President Monson's talk "Finding Joy in the Journey":
"Day by day, minute by minute, second by second we went from where we were to where we are now. The lives of all of us, of course, go through similar alterations and changes. The difference between the changes in my life and the changes in yours is only in the details. Time never stands still; it must steadily march on, and with the marching come the changes.
"This is our one and only chance at [being a missionary]—here and now. The longer we [serve], the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now."

I especially have come to appreciate President Uchtdorf's words as well in "Your Potential, Your Privilege":

"During my career as an airline pilot, I had the opportunity to be a check and training captain. Part of this job was to train and test experienced pilots to ensure that they had the necessary knowledge and skills to safely and efficiently operate those magnificent big jets.

I found that there were pilots who, even after many years of flying professionally, never lost the thrill of climbing into the atmosphere, having “slipped the surly bonds of Earth and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.” They loved the sound of rushing air, the growling of the powerful engines, the feeling of being “one with the wind and one with the dark sky and the stars ahead.” Their enthusiasm was contagious.

There were also a few who seemed to be merely going through the motions. They had mastered the systems and the handling of the jets, but somewhere along the way they had lost the joy of flying “where never lark, or even eagle flew.” They had lost their sense of awe at a glowing sunrise, at the beauties of God’s creations as they crossed oceans and continents. If they met the official requirements, I certified them, but at the same time I felt sorry for them.

You may want to ask yourself if you are merely going through the motions as a priesthood bearer—doing what is expected but not experiencing the joy that should be yours. Holding the priesthood gives us abundant opportunities to feel the joy that Ammon expressed: “Have we not great reason to rejoice? … We have been instruments in [the Lord’s] hands of doing this great and marvelous work. Therefore, let us glory … in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice.”

Brethren, our religion is a joyful one! We are most blessed to bear the priesthood of God! In the book of Psalms we read, “Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance." We can experience this greater joy if we but look for it.

Too often we fail to experience the bliss that comes from daily, practical priesthood service. At times assignments can feel like burdens. Brethren, let us not pass through life immersed in the three Ws: wearied, worrying, and whining. We live beneath our privileges when we allow worldly anchors to keep us away from the abundant joy that comes from faithful and dedicated priesthood service, especially within the walls of our own homes. We live beneath our privileges when we fail to partake of the feast of happiness, peace, and joy that God grants so bountifully to faithful priesthood servants.

Young men, if coming to church early to help prepare the sacrament feels more like a hardship than a blessing, then I invite you to think about what this sacred ordinance might mean to a ward member who perhaps has had a challenging week. Brethren, if your home teaching efforts don’t seem to be effective to you, I invite you to see with the eye of faith what a visit from a servant of the Lord will do for a family that has many unseen problems. When you grasp the divine potential of your priesthood service, the Spirit of God will fill your hearts and minds; it will shine in your eyes and faces.

As bearers of the priesthood, let us never become hardened to the wonder and awe of what the Lord has entrusted to us."

I know that there is a reason that the Lord doesn't let missionaries go on as long as they want. First of all, some of us might never go home! And there are other things that He needs for us to do. But even knowing that doesn't make it hurt any less to have it coming to a close.
There are always a few things that we hear as we go through life that really hit us and stick with us. Probably the one thing that I most remember about this past week was said as we were driving away from an appointment with Pablo, a 19-year-old in our ward who is leaving for his own mission in June. He comes out with us a lot and we have gotten to know him really well. I mentioned my frustration at the fact that I was about to hit my 15-month-mark and I felt like I had just hit my 14-month mark, and Pablo asked me, "Elder Gibbons, you really love your mission, don't you?" I looked back and said, "Yeah, I do." And he told me, "I can tell."
Next week I will send pictures. I look forward to seeing all of you again! If I sleep for 2 straight days when I come home it is because I am going to work Elder Chavez to the death this last week.
Talk to you on Sunday!
Elder Gibbons


May 1, 2012

Our district at the Newport Beach temple this morning with Pablo, who will be leaving in July for his own mission to Fresno.

We were contacting last Thursday down in an apartment complex in our area and I talked to a woman who was in a hurry to go to work, and after a short conversation I gave her a Book of Mormon and she gave us her phone number. We called her and set up an appointment to come over. The first time over we only had a short time, so we talked about the Book of Mormon quickly and gave her a Restoration pamphlet. When we came back the second time, I found one of the best-prepared new investigators I have ever come across on my mission. She studied the entire pamphlet, even looking up all the scriptures and answering the questions at the back. We had such a spiritual lesson, and you could tell that she was really "hungering and thirsting after righteousness."
Remember the new investigator that we set a baptismal date with? We have taught her twice since then and even did a Church tour with her and her member friend last night. We taught her about the Sabbath day and at first she said she wouldn't be able to attend, because she has a contract to work Saturdays and Sundays, but after thinking about it and reading 1 Nefi 3:7, she decided to switch her schedule to go in to work after Church ended. That's an awesome start, and definitely a large step of faith!
We were so busy yesterday. Not a single appointment fell through from 3pm to 9:30pm. We even had a cool lesson with Angel, a 17-year-old kid. In district meeting yesterday we practicing extending powerful baptismal invitations, and the district goal for this week is to invite every single investigator who doesn't currently have a date to be baptized. Right after we were teaching Angel, and he had already turned down the baptismal invite before (already baptized), but we decided to just go for it because of the district goal, and to our utter amazement he said yes!
I am working hard to stay focused. It is so easy (the natural man) to let up your focus little by little in the last stretch of your mission, so to be able to stay focused you have to make a concerted effort to be even more focused than ever before. To avoid slowing down, you need to step on the gas. I have had the strong impression that there are still things that God needs me to do here (before my world comes crashing down around me), and I want to be able to know that I did them all.

Monday, April 30, 2012

April 24, 2012 - A pair of my shoes received an honorable discharge last week. They fought valiantly and almost made the two years.

I felt my first seismic tremor yesterday! I have been waiting almost two years to feel some sort of earth-shaking, and I was worried that my two years of California would come and go with nothing. It lasted all of 3 seconds and most people didn't notice it (not exactly a seismic Armageddon), but it was sweet!

 We are still working with the man who has been an investigator for 35 years. We are hoping to baptize him on the 12th of May! We have gotten him addicted to family history (although it is somewhat difficult to do since he is from Colombia).

 On Thursday we had several appointments fall through in the morning, so as we were taking home Pablo (the bishop's son, who helps us with appointments), we took a different route home from that which we usually take, and in the process ran into María, the Peruvian sister who was baptized a few weeks ago, and we were able to go to her house and teach her! She said it was a miracle that we found her because she was having a rough day. Somewhere along the way, I had forgotten that God controls even whether appointments fall through or not. Appointments falling through doesn't mean that our schedule is shot--it could mean that God has other plans for us.

April 17, 2012

Last week I spent an unusual amount of time in Rancho Santa Margarita. Our district leader went to a meeting in Carlsbad for two days last week, and so we had his companion, Elder Hunt, with us and we worked in both areas on Wednesday and Thursday. Then, on Sunday-Monday we did our normal exchanges and I went with Elder Hunt to Rancho again. Rancho Santa Margarita is like an island of rich people isolated from the rest of Orange County (probably intentionally) by vast wilderness. Nonetheless, we were blessed to be able to find a lot of awesome people. We were able to contact someone that Elder Chavez and I had met and passed to the Rancho elders last transfer, and it turned out that I had also already met his wife back when I worked in San Juan Capistrano. Miracles! I am grateful, however, that I live on a ground-floor apartment. The Rancho elders live on the third floor (no wonder they are skinnier than we are).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 10, 2012 - Evelyn's baptism, with her mom and her uncle (who baptized his wife and daughter a few weeks ago).

Wednesday of last week was absolutely insane. Our entire day consisted of driving from one appointment to the next, teaching lessons, and eating (we were given no less than three meals that day.....). We were exhausted by the time we stumbled into our apartment at 9:30pm.

We have been blessed with great new investigators. We started teaching a woman who invited the elders over to tamales on Christmas and who has been going to the English classes at our church building since December. She said she reads our Church's pamphlets ("The Restoration","The Plan of Salvation") in English to practice. We also set a baptismal date with a man who has been an investigator for 35 years. (Just so you know, that wasn't a typo). He has finally decided to get baptized!

So, we were given a tender mercy of the Lord this last week. As you know, we have been battling to try to get one of our investigators to come to church here in Mission Viejo instead of in San Clemente, and she really hasn't been progressing much. On Friday, after unsuccessfully trying to convince her son to come to Mission Viejo, at 8:45pm we were walking down the street in his neighborhood trying to figure out what to do to help them. We were a little frustrated because we felt like we had been running into the same brick wall over and over. Then all of a sudden, a lady who was driving by in a black car pulled over and yelled, "Hey! I have something to tell you two!" We looked at each other and my first thought was "Great. She's going to tell us that there is no soliciting in this neighborhood."

To our complete surprise, she looked at us and said, "I don't have time to talk right now, but I love you guys. I wish my sons had turned out more like you. Every time I see you it just reminds me that there are still good people in the world." And she drove off, leaving two stunned missionaries in her wake. I don't know why she decided to pull over, but I'm sure it had to do with the Spirit. God takes care of missionaries, especially in our scattered and short moments of frustration.