Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 31, 2011

Wow, what an amazing week we have had! Elder Carey and I love San Juan Capistrano. This place is becoming perilously close to becoming my favorite area of my mission. So, this Saturday we are going to have the baptism of Isabel, the mother of the three girls that were baptized three weeks ago. She is so excited--when she had her baptismal interview, she came out shouting, "I passed! I passed!" and almost dancing for joy. It was so funny. . . .

We are teaching so many great people. This area is really exploding. The Peña family are such good missionaries! They have invited so many of their friends and family to listen to us. They are on fire and ruthless! Right now, we are teaching 4 of their family members and 1 of their friends, and they gave us a referral for the mother's sister in law and her family of 5! Last night we taught the daughters and the mom about missionary work (not like they needed it) and we challenged them to give away a Book of Mormon (as in, 1), and when we handed it to the mom, Adriana asked, "Do you have any more of those? How many can I have to give away?" Shoot, she can have a box of them if she wants! They are so awesome.

This morning we got a call from the referral secretary at the mission office, and she said, "Elders, I have a special assignment for you two. I got a call from a woman in Irvine today who said that she is a member, and she found out a couple days ago that the young couple that cleans her house have been reading the Book of Mormon every night and telling her their favorite stories from it. They said they were going to baptized but couldn't because of the church schedule. Would you be able to go visit them and see if they would be still interested in being baptized?" We reluctantly replied, "Sister Denos, this is a hard thing that you have required of us." We couldn't believe it. We called the husband and he sounded pretty excited to talk to us. . . .

We had an amazing zone conference. President Cook showed a devotional address that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave in the MTC a couple months ago talking about being consecrated missionary. It was such a powerful talk. He told the story of Peter and how after Christ's crucifixion, none of the apostles (who, he added, were all recent converts of 36 months or less themselves) really knew what to do, and Peter, the chief apostle, said "Well, this has been a nice 36 months. Let's go fishing." So that's what they did. Then the Savior came and called them to the shore, and asked Peter the famous three questions, "Lovest thou me more than these? Then feed my sheep." And Elder Holland said (again displaying his unique ability to be yelling and yet still inviting the Spirit) "Jesus was saying, 'Don't you understand, Peter?! You can't go back! You can't ever go back to where you before. You can't go back to who you were or your old life. When I said, 'Leave your nets', I meant forever! I've told you once, I'm telling you twice, and I don't want to ever have to tell you again! You cannot go back!'...And with that three-question interview on the beach, Simon Peter changed forever. The moment he said 'yes' was the moment he strode into eternity and became the Great Apostle, the man who, when he would come into cities, people would lay their sick on the streets in the hopes that his mere shadow would pass over them! He never again went back." And then Elder Holland added, "So missionaries, it is the same for you. Your 24 months will one day end, but you can never go back to just fishing. You have signed up for the eternities." It was such an amazing talk.




May 24, 2011

Querida familia,

So, the best news for this week is 4 baptisms!!! Elder Carey and I had three baptisms in our area, Adriana, Melissa, and Isabel on Thursday, and then the next day we were invited to go down to Oceanside to see Edgar Hernandez (my favorite Oceanside investigator) finally get baptized! Elder Driaza was able to come from Vista to see it, too, so it was a lot of fun, especially to see all the great people from the Oceanside 5th ward. They were both a ton of fun!

So, the Thursday baptismal service was quite an adventure in and of itself. We got there early to fill the font but discovered after filling the font and then turning off the water for half an hour that the font isn't actually watertight--the drain at the bottom leaks (you would think such a critical piece of the font would be carefully maintained, but apparently not), so we tried to fix it in several different ways (the last resulting in me falling and getting my left shoe and pant leg soaking wet), so we took off our shoes and socks, rolled up our pants, and waded into the half-full font to try to make the drain more secure. After that, we filled it up, and went on to perform three saving ordinances.

Cool miracle: earlier that day I was on an exchange with one of the Assistants, and we were walking to a lesson with a less-active and saw a guy and a girl trying to carry a huge TV into their apartment, so we helped them out. We started talking, and we asked them if they knew who we were, and the girl said, "You're Mormons, right? My three cousins are getting baptized in your church tonight." And I said, "Oh, Adriana, Melissa, and Isabel?" And she said, "Woah! How did you know?" (well, I thought, we sort of have a monopoly on LDS baptisms in this city...). So she said she had been invited to come to the baptism, but she didn't know if she would because she had to work, so we told her to try to get off early, and later that day we prayed for her to be able to get off early, and she showed up during the opening hymn! It was so awesome. We taught her on Sunday night and we are teaching her again tonight.

As for Edgar Hernandez's baptism, we had another interesting moment when we got there. So, Elder Carey had served in my area in Oceanside before me, and me and Elder Driaza replaced him, so we have been able to talk about investigators and members in the area a lot. When I got the call for Edgar's baptism, Elder Carey asked who it was, and I told him that Elder Driaza and I had found him, so he just figured he didn't know him. When we showed up, the two recognized each other! Turns out that Elder Carey remembered trying to talk to him on the street, and him giving dumb excuses and running away, and Edgar remembered avoiding him on the street! It was so funny, but it was really a testimony-builder that no effort is wasted in missionary work. A guy who was a completely non-interested street contact for Elder Carey was 6 weeks later my best investigator, and shortly after was a baptism for the Oceanside missionaries. Awesome!

Everything else is going great. We have zone conference tomorrow, so Elder Carey and I have been working on our training portion all this weekend. We have to give a training that is 75 minutes long, and we are going to be helping the missionaries use the Book of Mormon to be able to help people become truly converted, because we feel like our missionaries aren't really using the Book of Mormon as well or as often as they should. It should be great. Enjoy your week!

Sincerely,

Elder Gibbons

P.S. It occurred to me that you probably don't know who José is (from the picture with me and Elder Driaza). He is the (soon-to-be) brother-in-law of the famous ward mission leader in Oceanside. The day before transfers, we found out that he wanted me and Elder Driaza to help him get baptized. So, he is getting baptized this Saturday!

May 24, 2011

With Elder Carey, Melissa, Adrianna, and Isabel



May 24, 2011

With Elder Driaza and Edgar in Oceanside.


May 24, 2011

With Elder Driaza and Jose in Oceanside.



May 17, 2011
Querida familia,

Everything is going amazing here in San Juan. Well, to start off, we are having three baptisms this Thursday! The people getting baptized are three young women named Melissa (14), Isabel (21), and Adriana (17). They are the granddaughters of a less-active who has been reactivated, and they are super excited to be baptized. We are also going to be baptizing their mother in a few weeks, but the mother didn't start taking the lessons until several weeks after her daughters. They are so awesome. Even in the two weeks that we have been here, you can tell that their faith has grown so much. . . .

If that were all that has been going on in San Juan Capistrano Spanish work, that would definitely be more than our fair share of blessings. But wait, there's more! We have been really blessed in the last few weeks. The mother of the three girls started crying when we told her the story of the First Vision, and she has really been trying to read the Book of Mormon, even though it is hard for her to read. Yesterday we started teaching Olegaria, who was taught years ago in San Clemente by sister missionaries. It was sort of a funny situation--me and Elder Ochoa talked to her in a park in San Clemente the week before transfers, and she said that she lived in San Juan, and so we said we would send the San Juan missionaries to her. Then transfers came, so it turned out that the San Juan missionary who began teaching her was me! . . . .

I love this area. We cover the entire city of San Juan Capistrano, but since it is a very wealthy area, we spend most of our time in smaller parts. There are really only three areas where we spend time, and 90% of our time is in a neighborhood known as La Zanja (Spanish for "The Ditch"), where there are probably two or three square miles filled with Mexicans--including lots of members to help us. A lot of times, the members already know the people we are teaching, without us introducing them. It is a Spanish elders' dream to have an area like this. (And to top off the image, you have to cross a set of railroad tracks to get to it.) . . . .

So, I saved the best for last. I don't remember how much I have told you about Francisco and Marisol, but they are the miracle of our transfer so far. On one of our first days in the area, Elder Carey was calling all the former investigators to try to find someone to teach, and by complete coincidence called Francisco, who gave us the number for his wife Marisol, who told us to come by. Background: about a year and a half ago the missionaries came and taught Marisol frequently, who absolutely loved it. She was telling us stories about how she felt the Spirit when she went to Church on Sundays and how she loved the Book of Mormon and especially the hymns. In that time, Francisco (the husband) wasn't interested at all, and rarely participated in missionary lessons. Marisol wanted to get baptized, but it just didn't work out, because of work and her having a baby. She suddenly became super busy, and the missionaries dropped her. After that, they moved to a different street in La Zanja and Marisol changed her telephone number, so the missionaries were unable to contact her after that. Now, we have started teaching them, and they love it--Marisol says she comes home and sees Francisco reading the Book of Mormon in his spare time.

They read every night and Marisol has already accepted a baptismal date (hopefully she and Francisco can get baptized at the same time). Once, we taught about the Sabbath day and coming to church and told them that church was at 1pm, and Marisol said she had a soccer game at that time. We kept going with the lesson, and then she said, "Well, I guess I will just have to sacrifice my soccer game and put God first." Elder Carey and I could not believe it (few investigators say things like that of their own accord). They are doing great, and are good friends with almost all of the members here in La Zanja. They are such an awesome family. . . .

Well, that is about all for now. Hope everything is going great in Virginia!

Sincerely,

Elder Gibbons