Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 29, 2011

Querida familia,

Well, I am writing this letter from the third area of my mission.

I am in..................San Clemente! It is the southernmost city in Orange County, along the coast. In Oceanside I was right along the southern edge of Camp Pendleton and now I am right along the northern edge. It's about 30-45 minute drive. We live on top of a hill and very close to the beach, so you can see the ocean from our apartment complex! The church building here is one street away from the beach, on a hill (you can see a full view of the ocean from the church parking lot). The weather here is amazing. I was hoping to not go inland (Ramona, Fallbrook, Valley Center) because summer is coming up, and I got super lucky and got put right smack dab on the coast! It is beautiful here.
I am serving in the San Clemente 3rd ward (Spanish-speaking, obviously), and my companion is Elder Luis Ochoa, from Lima, Peru (he's so native he's not even an American citizen--he's here on a visa). I have gotten very lucky to get two out of the three native Spanish speakers in the mission for companions (President Cook must think my Spanish is awful). It works out exceptionally well because he is helping me learn Spanish and I am helping him learn English. The ward is about the same size as the ward in Oceanside (probably a little smaller), but one of the most interesting things is that the bishop here is 28 years old! When we went to meet him I thought he was the bishop's son or something like that. We cover half of the San Clemente stake and the sister missionaries in our ward cover the other half, so we have a full-time car. Our area includes all of the cities of San Clemente and Dana Point. (Most of the cars in our mission are Chevy Malibus or Toyota Corollas, but the car that is assigned to this area is a 2009 Mazda 3, one of the only two in the mission. I love this car. It is so much fun to drive).
My district here is a lot bigger than my Spanish district in Oceanside. We have myself, Elder Ochoa, two sets of elders and two sets of sisters (all the missionaries in San Clemente, Dana Point, and San Juan Capistrano). Orange County is so different from San Diego County (the southern part of the mission). There are a lot of super rich people here, which is why there are only 4 Spanish missionaries in the stake. In Oceanside and Escondido we could go anywhere and find Mexicans, but here missionary work involves finding scattered pockets of Mexicans (the only way to get to Orange County from the south is interstate 5, because of Camp Pendleton, and there is a border patrol checkpoint on 5North, so a lot of Mexicans don't try to get here).
We have been doing great, though. We have found some great people already. We are teaching a couple named Giovani and María, and Giovani wants to get baptized. We also found a very inactive sister named Quintina and as we were talking to her, she told us that she hasn't gone to our church for years and that she is Catholic now and isn't going to change, and we asked her why not, and she told us that her husband was Catholic and wouldn't go to church with him. By coincidence (or maybe something else), her husband pulled up as we were talking to her, and we said, "Well, let's ask him!" So we started teaching him and now they read the Book of Mormon together. Turns out her husband is the older brother of a recent convert in our ward, as well. The sister is so happy with us that she feeds us everytime we go over, whether we want to or not. Yesterday she gave us posoli, a Mexican soup, which was delicious and in very large quantities (she gave me and Elder Ochoa both a serving bowl full of it--more than we would have eaten in two helpings with a normal bowl). And they had this great habañero chile sauce that we put in the soup. It was so hot that even with just two drops in my soup, I was sweating and red by the time I finished (delicious!).
We also went by and started teaching the cousin of a recent convert, but the coolest part was that for almost every scripture that we showed him in the Book of Mormon, he looked at it and said that his cousin had already read that to him. When we tried to leave him a Book of Mormon, he said his cousin had already given him one. It was so cool. His cousin basically taught him a first lesson!
Well, that is all for this week. We are having fun here in San Clemente. I can't wait for General Conference this weekend! It's so funny that to missionaries, General Conference is like Christmas. But wow, the time is flying. October conference feels like it was yesterday. Well, that's all for now. Enjoy your week!
Elder Gibbons

“Elder Driaza has unusually intense personal study.”

March 22, 2011

“So, first off, I got transferred. Elder Driaza gets to stay here in Oceanside, and I am going to go be a district leader somewhere else. I have no idea where. I know that the Spanish district leader spots in San Clemente, Valley Center, Peñasquitos, Del Mar, and San Marcos are probably up for grabs, so I will just have to wait and see where I go (if I go to Valley Center, we get to live on a farm and drive a pickup truck). So, like you said in your newsletter, you will have to wait until next week to know where exactly I am (or if I'm even still alive). We're a little sad, because we have gotten to be really good friends, but that's how missions work. . . . I have been packing like crazy and had to leave a few things behind (including my collection of Watchtower magazines that I have confiscated from investigators, unfortunately...). I am looking forward to coming back to Oceanside for Edgar and Ana's baptism, and excited to be able to work in a different part of the mission!”

“Me and Elder Driaza with Edgar (our investigator), who drove us to the temple this morning!”

March 15, 2011

Querida familia,
Everything is going great here. We got to spend Wednesday and Thursday mornings in Mission Viejo for leadership training with President Cook, so I learned a lot. It was so great. Unfortunately, transfers are coming up in a week, so we will get the transfer calls this Saturday night. Me and Elder Driaza are both nervous, because we have no idea who is going to get moved.
We got to go to the San Diego Temple this morning, which was great like always. Out of the three times I have been, today was the first that was actually sunny, and it was a beautiful day. The celestial room faces the east, so when we were sitting there the morning sun was so bright and coming through all the windows. It was so great. The ordinance workers in my endowment session were the youngest I have ever seen. It was a couple, and I know they couldn't have been more than 25. It was pretty cool. The best part, though, was that in Elders Quorum when we asked for someone who could drive us 4 elders to the temple on Tuesday, Edgar (our investigator) raised his hand and volunteered, so we got to ride down there and he got to experience the temple (at least, the temple grounds and the lobby). It was amazing. He walked into the front lobby with us and then stood there and said, "Wow, the Spirit is so strong here." From now on, I think I am going to ask investigators to drive us to the temple instead of members. It was such a great experience for Edgar. He wants to get baptized as soon as possible (he wanted to get baptized before one of us got transfered, but that probably won't happen).
As for the tsunami, we haven't heard much (at least not directly, since we are cut off completely from conventional sources of current events (if only Katie was here to tell me about all her morbidly favorite news stories of despair and tragedy). On Friday, me and Elder Driaza were sitting eating lunch when we got a call from the sisters in my district, and when I answered I heard a nervous, "Uh, Elder Gibbons, have you heard?! There was an earthquake in Japan and the whole country is underwater and now there is a tsunami coming to hit California at 6pm tonight! What do we do if there is a tsunami?" Me and Elder Driaza looked at each other and laughed and replied, "Well, just make sure whoever you are teaching at 6pm has a second story." And then Elder Driaza said, "And if you see cats and dogs running up the street, run for it!" Turned out the sisters were a bit misinformed as to the magnitude of the danger to California, because the tsunami had already happened that morning anyways (all the Californians went to the beach to watch it....).
Everything is going great. The weather continues to be amazing and we are having lots of fun. We have been doing heavy advertising for English classes, and it is amazing how much more receptive the Mexicans are to English class than us coming over to share a gospel message. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing... I figure that as long as we can get them in the church building for an English class, then we can seal off the exits and corner them (just kidding). We have been coming up with a lot of fun finding ideas. Here's one we are really looking forward to: we are going to get buckets, soap, and towels, and on Thursday we are going to go to a Spanish-speaking area with lots of houses and just knock doors and ask if we can give them a free car wash. Who could turn down a free car wash? That way, we can interact with them and have real conversations with them for a much longer period of time than a 1-2minute door approach. We are really looking forward to it.
I hope you are all doing well. Thanks for everything!
Elder Gibbons

"One of the streets in our area down by the beach. Missionaries in North Dakota and Sweden can only dream of weather like this in winter.”

March 8, 2011

“Good grief, in 4 days I hit my 10 month mark. Ugh."

“We . . . ran into a crazy guy on the street the other night. We were contacting this mom with her kids on the street, and we hear this guy yell, "Hey! Get away from them!" We look over and it's this sort-of crazy looking guy with a long white beard and combat boots coming over. We just ignored him and kept talking but he yelled, "Hey! You trying to start something?! I said get away!" By this point he was close to us now (10 feet or so), and so Elder Driaza turned to go talk to him, "Look, we're just trying to share a message" and the whole time I was still talking to the ladies (who were a bit nervous and wanted to leave, for obvious reasons) but watching out of the corner of my eye at this random crazy guy, who is cursing up a storm and threatening Elder Driaza. I was for sure he was going to punch Elder Driaza (he didn't), so I was paying close attention. When the ladies walked away, me and Elder Driaza just walked past the guy down the street, and he actually started following us from a short distance (yelling and cursing about Bibles and how we are going to hell and trying to drag people down with us). Luckily, he didn't follow us for very long, because if he had we would have just called the police. But it was definitely a funny experience (first time on my mission I thought someone was going to try to fight us). Definitely a good memory.”
March 1, 2011

“Buenos días! Everything is going great here in Oceanside. This last week has been great. The couple we are teaching is doing great. They have actually been keeping the Word of Wisdom and reading every day! On Thursday, we went and visited the guy at 11am (he has off on Thursdays) and talked to him, and when we showed up he said, ‘Hey elders, I made a decision. You're going to like it.’ He told us about how he had got up that morning and felt like going to buy a beer, but decided to just drink water instead, and so as he was eating breakfast and drinking water alone in his apartment, all of a sudden he started to hear a quiet voice actually talking to him, and he started to have a conversation with this voice, and by the end of it he had decided that he wants to get baptized!”
“Since I've been on my mission, I've never fasted for something that didn't happen. It's amazing.”