Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30, 2010

Querida familia,

How is everything going? I cannot believe that tomorrow is December. I feel like I entered the MTC yesterday. I hear we got a new dog, but forgive me if it did not come as a surprise to me that Sami got a new dog. We are all doing great here in Oceanside, although it has gotten a bit chilly as of late. I didn't realize that it got so cold over by the ocean. Me and my companion, Elder Driaza are doing great. We got two Thanksgiving dinners (we planned to eat with one family, and then the family immediately after that we visited to teach had been planning on feeding us too...so we had to eat two full-size Thanksgiving dinners back-to-back. I thought I was going to explode). We had turkey and ham with tortillas, salsa, móle, and Mexican rice (sort of a combination of an American and Mexican Thanksgiving meal).

Christmas will be a lot of fun (the streets over by the beach have been getting decorated with Christmas lights). We actually have two Christmas trees in our apartment right now, because Elder Knudtson is obsessed with Christmas. I think I forgot to mention in my last letter that we live with the zone leaders, which is pretty nice. I get to talk to them and get to know them better and can get their advice on stuff easier. Elder Knudtson is hilarious, and Elder Stevenson is actually from Cedar City (next to Parowan, where our family lived).

We have some interesting events coming up here in the mission. This week, of course, we have the First Presidency Christmas broadcast, so we will be trying to get some investigators to that. On the 21st, we will get to go to the San Diego temple as a district, and since we are an all-Spanish district, I asked President Cook and he said we might be able to have an endowment session in Spanish! Then, on Christmas Eve President Cook has decided to have a mission-wide Christmas party from 1 to 4, so we will all be getting together in Vista to have dinner. And zone conference is coming up!

We are teaching a lot of great people. We found this lady named Judy, who rents a room in an apartment and has two kids. She agreed to a baptismal date in the first lesson! We have been working really hard to find some new investigators. We have so many Spanish speakers in our area. It's so great. There are sections of our area where it is almost completely Mexican. I feel like my Spanish is getting better every day, especially having Elder Driaza as my companion.

Well, that's all for now. Enjoy your week!

Sincerely, Elder Gibbons
November 23, 2010

Querida familia,

Greetings from my first Preparation Day in Oceanside, California! I am serving in the Oceanside 5th Spanish-speaking ward. My companion is Elder Lucas Driaza. He is from Florida but was born in Colombia and speaks español (and Spanish) perfectly. There are three companionships here in the Oceanside 5th ward (the ward is divided into three proselyting areas because it covers the entire Carlsbad stake), and my companion and I got lucky (or unlucky) enough to have the beach in our area! This is the best part--my district is entirely Spanish missionaries! It's the three companionships here in the Oceanside 5th ward (President Cook has divided the mission into more zones than before, so districts are becoming smaller), so we have district meetings and everything in Spanish (it's a lot of fun). Yesterday, for the district meeting I wrote on the chalkboard, "The field is white already to harvest" and then during my training I erased "white" and put "brown." It was sweet.

We have been working really hard. The other elders had baptized most of their solid investigators already, so we are doing a lot of finding right now. For the first time in my mission, I knocked doors and talked to people on the streets for almost an entire day last Friday. It's a lot of fun. We found a family yesterday (ironically, named Jesús and María) who have actually come to our church on their own once before recently, but have never taken missionary discussions. We also found a couple people who had been taking discussions years ago. The first night was a bit challenging, because we were "whitewashed" into the area (it's what we say for when two missionaries get stuck into a brand-new area), so we spent the first night trying to figure how to get around. We actually found a great young couple our first night and got a return appointment for the next day, only to find out later that we had made a mistake and they weren't actually in our area (the sisters in our district say they are doing really well, though).

Everything is going great. We had our first baptism on Sunday. Yeah, we're that good. (Just kidding. The elders who were here before had been teaching this 10-year-old son of inactive parents named Isaac, and we just happened to luck into being the missionaries who had the baptism). We're teaching this really nice guy named Rafael who tries to give us food every time we go over (asks like three or four times, in spite of our repeated 'no'). We are in a car-share, so we bike around three days out of the week. Which reminds me, I am pretty sure that we set a mission record for flat tires. In the space of less than half an hour, Elder Driaza and I got flat tires on 4 out of a possible 4 tires (both of our tires on both of our bikes). We had locked up our bikes on this little vacant lot that had a metal sign sticking out of the ground, and when we came back, we realized that the ground was littered with these little thorns from some sort of plant. We quickly realized that we had ridden over them and acquired a hefty amount of little punctures. So.....we're going to have to take care of that today.

Other than that, everything is going great. We're starting to get to know our area a lot better, and I love the people in our district. We get to go to the San Diego Temple on December 21st! I had no idea how much of difference temperature-wise there is between Escondido and Oceanside--it's super cold here at night (especially since the sun goes down early). I'm hoping that we are allowed to wear sweaters when we are proselyting. But the good news is that since the Escondido South and Carlsbad stakes are touching, I will get to go back when Yesenia, José and their family get baptized!

Enjoy your week and Happy Thanksgiving! (Feliz día de acción de gracías!)

Elder Gibbons

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 16, 2010

Querida familia,

Well, I am writing from Escondido for the last time. I have a little less than 3 hours before transfer meeting in Carlsbad. Unfortunately, I got notified on Saturday night that I am going to be getting moved. Luckily, Elder Silva will get to stay, but it's too bad we both couldn't stay. I still don't know where I am will end up tonight (the way transfers work here, is they call you on Saturday night and tell you if you are going or staying. All the missionaries and their companions who are leaving meet at the Carlsbad stake center for transfer meeting, and during transfer meeting President Cook reads off who is going where and who the companionships will be, and then everyone goes to their new area and gets to work). I also got a call from President Cook on Sunday night, and he told me that I was going to be the district leader in my area, and I am also going to be a trainer. I started packing last night, but quickly realized that right now, the whole of my earthly possessions consist of scriptures, clothes, and a bicycle. So, packing was pretty easy. It's been really sad saying goodbye to all of the people that I got to know so well, but Elder Kendell (one of the Assistants, my district leader before I become district leader) called me and promised me I am going to love my new area. So, it's been sad saying goodbye to everyone, but at the same time I am really excited to get to work somewhere else in the Lord's vineyard.

This week has been really interesting. We are still teaching Yesenia and José and their family, and are so great. He reads like 5 chapters out of the Book of Mormon every day, and she and her two daughters are getting baptized hopefully on the 4th of December. He hasn't accepted a date yet, but I'm sure with him reading the Book of Mormon so much, there isn't much need to worry about him. We also found this great new investigator who has two kids and has been looking for various churches and liked ours on Sunday. I wish I could come back for her baptism. Next Sunday, Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy is coming to the Las Posas sacrament meeting, but it turns out that I won't be there. I'm going to miss Las Posas ward. I'll be back soon anyways for Yesenia and José's baptism, and for a few sealings and endowments for the people I have taught.

Well, I hope you all have a great week. I won't have time today to be able to write letters to Sami and Katie this week because I have to pack and go to transfer meeting, but I hope you all have a great week!
November 9, 2010

Querida familia,

Buenos días! Everything is going great here in Escondido. The weather has really cooled down, so it has been in the 50s and 60s and sunny all this week. We had stake conference with President Haynie last Sunday, so that was a lot of fun--President and Sister Cook came and spoke. We have our Primary Program this Sunday, and we have a surprise visitor coming for our Church services--Elder L. Whitney Clayton, of the Presidency of the Seventy. Apparently he is in our area, and he was given a choice of wards to attend, and he picked the Las Posas ward! (We got a text from our zone leaders telling us to make sure we are on time and we look sharp. I assume that also means don't do anything dumb). So in district meeting I told our district to try and get as many baptisms as possible on the 20th so we can have a line of people getting confirmed on the 21st (just kidding).

Everything is going great. Unfortunately, I didn't get to eat any more chapulinas last night, but I did get to eat some napale (cactus), which was pretty good too. We also had a small miracle when we were tracting last week. As sort of background information, Elder Snyder always used my Spanish hymnbook because he lost his long before I got to the mission (and his previous companion's as well; he later lost mine as well). Well, the other day when Elder Silva and I were tracting, we had just gotten rejected at a house of English-speakers (in an area where Elder Snyder and I had barely ever gone), when we spotted in the garden at this house a little green book, covered in mud and wet from rain. When we picked it up, we found Elder Snyder's name on it. I have no idea how that hymnbook ended up in that random person's garden, but it was interesting.

José and Yesenia are doing amazing! Ever since he came to church the first time two weeks ago, he has developed an addiction to the Book of Mormon. He's in 1 Nefi 17, and says he will get baptized when it's his time. Yesenia, his wife, wants to get baptized, so hopefully we can have her baptismal service on the 20th. They are a great family, and have been feeding us a lot of amazing food (although yesterday, they jokingly told us that they decided to just never get baptized so that we don't stop visiting them). Hopefully we can baptize one or two of their kids as well. We also found an amazing new investigator who is a single mom who went to both the Catholic and Lutheran churches at one time but didn't like either and loved the 1st lesson that we taught her. Everything is going great.

Unfortunately, transfers are coming up again. This Friday or Saturday we will get the transfer calls telling us whether we are staying or going. I know that I am going to have to go somewhere else eventually, but I'm really hoping for just one more transfer in Las Posas so that I can spend Christmas here. It feels like my home. Unfortunately, the longer I stay here and the better I get to know the ward and the people here, the more at risk I am of getting moved. Oh well. I know I will be just as attached to my next area, too.

Well, that is all for now. Thanks for the letters and e-mails. Enjoy your day!

Elder Gibbons
November 2, 2010

Querida familia,

Hello again from sunny California! We are having another great week. I attached a picture of me, María (on the left) and Reina (on the right) at the baptism last Sunday. It was great. Reina, especially, has been waiting since May to be able to be baptized (Alberto has been a bit slow in deciding to be married).

Well, last Thursday, Elder Zwick of the Seventy came, and we had a multi-zone conference with the entire southern half of the mission. It was such a great zone conference (and we had pork barbecue sandwiches for lunch!). President Cook announced some changes that he was making to the mission, because he said that he has been recently worried that our mission is doing "too much scheduling, and too little planning" and said that we all need to think about the difference between "activity" and "accomplishment." It was really good. President Cook is so amazing. It wouldn't surprise me to see him give a talk at General Conference someday.

Then, Elder Zwick gave us a 2-hour lesson. It was great. He started off with the question, "Do you know Jesus Christ?" He told a lot of amazing stories, including one that happened 13 years ago in Brazil. Suddenly, the government decided to restrict the number of religious visas it would give (60 per month, to be divided among all churches applying). Obviously, that wouldn't do for the Church, which at that time already had hundreds of missionaries waiting to get visas to enter Brazil--and more were getting called. Additionally, the Brazilian government imposed a requirement that anybody who applied would need to have at least a bachelor's degree in religious theology (which no Elder in Brazil had). So Elder Zwick (who knows Portuguese) and a Brazilian member were asked to go and meet with the President of Brazil and the Secretary of State and plead the case of the Church. They prepared a presentation to try to show that the time spent by the average missionary in Primary, Young Men, seminary, and religious college classes was equal to a bachelor's degree, so that their missionaries could be considered for the visas...but they said they still had no idea how to ask for a higher allowance of visas.

The day finally came for the meeting, and Elder Zwick and the member (Moroni Torbillon) were sitting outside the president's office, when a secretary told them that the president of Mexico had arrived unexpectedly, and that the president could not meet with them at that time. He said they could either meet now with the Secretary of State and a representative of the president, or they could wait and meet with the president (and risk losing the Secretary of State). They decided to meet at that time with the Secretary of State and the president's representative, who ended up being from the department of Education. Before they could even start their presentation, the representative (who had only been minimally briefed on what the meeting was about), immediately started talking to the secretary of state, and said, "Mr. Secretary, I would like to tell you about two Mormon missionaries that I knew a long time ago. They used to visit my family quite frequently to teach us, and even though my family and I never joined their Church, I have always been impressed with how punctual and professional they always were. They were always on time, very obedient, and always had well-prepared and clear material to talk about. Mr. Secretary, based on personal experience, I would recommend that the Mormon Church be given as many religious visas as they require."

Elder Zwick said he and Moroni couldn't believe what was happening. The Secretary of State looked at them and said, "How many visas would you like?" Elder Zwick said he asked for 200 per month, and then the Secretary said, "I will personally see to it that you get 60 every week." Elder Zwick said that in the 13 years since then, Brazil has been baptizing about 80,000 people every year----all because of the examples of two missionaries, many years before, who taught a family who didn't want to get baptized. Elder Zwick said to always remember who we are and to show by our actions who we represent. Two obedient missionaries unknowingly saved all of the missionary work in Brazil.

Everything is going great. My second week as a district leader was just as busy as the first, but I'm getting used to it. We are teaching so many great people. An investigator who came to Church on Sunday told us that he felt "something" inside during the Church services, something great, and he said he was in a good mood all the rest of the day. We got to help rip up carpets and move furniture, and Bryan (the kid who brings me everything) even brought me a can of Coors Light the other day (I politely declined). Yesterday at a family home evening, we had these amazing taquitos. They were chicken taquitos, rolled in tortillas, and then placed on a plate and covered in lettuce, chile (salsa), crema (basically, really runny, thin sour cream), queso fresco (crumbly white cheese) and jalapeño peppers. It was so good. Although, jalapeño peppers don't seem hot at all to me any more. They seem more like candy.

Also, yesterday, I ate for the first time, chapulinas, which are.....(prepare yourself)......grasshoppers! They are seasoned and then deep-fried, and people eat them in handfuls like peanuts or popcorn (you can still see the legs, too). They were actually not too bad. They tasted sort of like the pretzel salt on giant soft pretzels. Let me know if you want me to send you some. Or, if you prefer, I can get the recipe and you can catch your own. Let me know.

Well, that's about all for today. Enjoy the rest of your week!

Elder Gibbons

October 31, 2010

With Maria and Reina on their baptism day.

October 31, 2010

The view from the hill in Escondido where he lives.