Thursday, July 27, 2017

The One With B-DUB's, J-DUB's, and White Chocolate 7/24/17

Hey everyone!!

This week we had a member take us to Buffalo Wild Wings. He looked at us both and said "Oh you guys don't eat spicy food, right?". I'm not saying I was offended or anything but I told him whatever he was getting, I wanted. So he ordered some of the medium wings to start it off. We ate them so then he ordered some of the mango habanero wings. The member started going to town on the wings so I took one and bit into it. It took a few seconds, but when I swallowed the first bite, fire started to engulf my mouth. "Elder, is it hot?" he asked, "No, hermano" I replied with  some difficulty. I ate four more wings after that. My mouth was on fire pretty much the rest of the night, but it was well worth it.

On Friday we tried to teach some of our investigators. While we were walking to the house, we passed by four or five pairs of Jehovah's Witnesses. All throughout the rest of the day we saw a lot of them, which is weird because I haven't really seen any since I got here until that day.

That night, we had sport's night where we invited our investigators and less-active members to go play sports and get acquainted with some of the members. It was mostly teenage kids that showed up and because of the difference in ethnicity, I was dubbed "White Chocolate" by some of the players. I don't think I even scored many points but it was a good turnout.

So we have been teaching this guy named Jose, who's stepdad is in jail and his mom used to investigate the church. We had a few lessons with him this week about the Restoration and Plan of Salvation. While we were teaching him his friends came over, and he asked them to wait outside until we left. We are going to try and set a baptismal date for the middle of August.

Love you all! Happy Pioneer Day!

Buffalo Wild Wings

The One With the Jar of Peaches 7/17/17

So this week was a little busy.

Last Monday, we had to leave Tracy super early to go to Turlock for a doctor appointment. On the way back up, traffic was super bad and we got lost a few times so when we got back up, we barely had any time to wash our clothes and get shopping done. That night when we were proselyting, we stopped by our investigator's house. She's a really sweet old lady who wanted to be baptized about three years ago but her boyfriend (who she has kids and grandkids with) is very Catholic and refuses to marry her, thus preventing her from being baptized. We finally met him last Monday. The lady let us in the house and the boyfriend tried to go the other room, but she made him stay and listen. We talked about faith and some of our beliefs. At first he didn't seem very interested but the more we talked, the more he started to agree with us. We finished the lesson with him saying that anytime we wanted to stop by, please do so later in the evenings when he is home. We now consider him a friend.

The next morning, when we were walking around, a guy stopped us and told us he had some questions about the church. He asked us these really deep and sometimes tricky questions. We felt the Spirit as we answered the questions honestly and after a while, I said "Now I have a question for you". He looked puzzled, I asked if he had ever read the Book of Mormon and prayed about it. He said that he has read the book, but never prayed about it. My companion and I promised him that if he would read it again and pray about it, he would receive a confirmation through the Holy Ghost that it is true.

So yesterday we went teaching with the Elder's quorum president- an 83 year old Peruvian guy who converted to the gospel 2 years ago. We went to visit a less active elder. We pretty much just let President talk the whole time because he is so direct but loving (If any of you have listened to a LeGrand Richards talk, that's pretty much what he sounds like). The member opened up as to why he wasn't going to church and committed to go to church this coming Sunday. When we were walking away, he told us how much he loves teaching with the missionaries, he then said "Elders I got you a present to show my appreciation", he reaches under the seat of his car and pulls out a jar of peaches! He hands it to my companion and tops it off with "Hope you guys aren't diabetic" with a chuckle and then peels off.

The One With the Correct Answer 7/10/17

Hey everyone!

So this past week was super hot- over 100 degrees for most of it. We have been trying to get an appointment all this week and last week with this guy under house arrest. We can't wait until his step-dad gets out of jail sometime this month so we can teach them as a family. The dad was apparently learning from the missionaries right before he was put in jail, so we'll have to start from lesson 1 with all of them. They are a super nice family and they accepted the Book of Mormon instantly. We are pretty excited to meet with them more.

Last Friday, we went way down to the rural part of Tracy to visit a less active member we are working with. When we went down there, he was working on a car, which he apparently does as a side business. He told us he has a Mercedez he's going to work on later this week and if we wanted to come, we could help him fix it. He topped the offer off by saying he would feed us tacos. We both said yes as soon as he said "tacos".

The family we have been working with has had a hard time understanding Priesthood authority, so we showed them the Restoration video. They loved it! We asked them if they had any questions and the kids started asking about really deep stuff (mostly about marriage). Then the mom was like "oh yeah, my husband wanted me to ask you guys something". We were waiting for some crazy deep question when she asked if they could take us out to dinner. "Yes!" I think we gave the correct answer.

Earlier this week, we had a mission conference where I saw my old companion that I was with for six months, and a lot of the other missionaries I got really close with Back in Stockton. It was really good to see them. My companion saw one of the missionaries he trained, which was pretty cool.

One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Timothy 1:7

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

It makes me wonder just how much power the Lord has given and gives us.

Love you all! Hope you had a great 4th

The One Where I Almost Got Run Over 7/3/17

Hey everyone!

So this past week my companion and I were focusing on potential investigators that never got followed up with. We knocked on the door of one woman and asked if Maria was there. She gave us a weird look so we introduced ourselves. "I know who you are," she replied "you can come back Friday morning.” We were a little scared because people who usually act like that try to bash with us- but we came back. We got to know her and found out that the missionaries who found her three years ago set a baptismal date, but her boyfriend who she has been living with for about 20 years is Catholic and refuses to marry her. They have children and she takes care of the grandchildren while everyone is working during the day. She still wants to get baptized and more than anything wants to go inside the temple, but her boyfriend just doesn't like the church so we're going to try and meet with him sometime this week.

A less active family that we have been working with since I got here finally went to church on Sunday! Along with some other less active members and investigators we are working with.

While we were walking down the street the other day, we saw this really nice Camaro ahead of us. He was stopped at the entrance of the parking lot, just in front of the sidewalk and facing a street. The guy was looking down so I pulled out a pass along card to give him and when we got right up to the car, it lurched forward! The guy was laughing pretty hard and then took off, just barely missing my leg! My companion and I decided he did not want the pass along card, so we'll have to catch him next time.

Have a great 4th of July!

dinner on Saturday 

! Mexican soda that was super good an investigator gave us!

           trying a charcoal mask

By faith all things are fulfilled 6/26/17

Hello everyone!

Last week went by pretty slow, we just had a lot of meetings and tried to get lessons with people. We had a lesson with some of our investigators on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and committed them to pray about it. It was a really short lesson so we're going to catch up later this week.

We also felt like we should stop by one of our eternal investigators. An older couple from Mexico that we haven't been able to teach for a long time. We walked over to them in the backyard of their trailer and they invited us in. The husband greeted us with probably the most awkward hug I have ever received in my life. He told us he saw us when we were biking the other day when it was 105 degrees outside and told us we must really believe what we teach to be out in weather like that. Especially when few people are likely to open their doors. We told him we were happy to see him and when we asked to share a message, we felt prompted to testify of the Book of Mormon. We went through a little background of the Book of Mormon and explained how it helps us understand doctrine. Undoubtedly, they have received this lesson many times from many missionaries, but this time it felt different for all of us. We felt the Spirit working with us and they apologized for not taking their commitments seriously in the past. They then committed to read a chapter out of the Book of Mormon every day for the next week. It's really amazing how the Spirit helps people understand what we are trying to teach.

Just another quick story from this last week. My companion and I have been talking a lot about tender mercies for the past few weeks. Little demonstrations that the Lord loves both of us, and knows our hearts, thoughts and desires. Through my childish and hyperactive imagination, I compared tender mercies to a giraffe. When we stopped by the Bishop's house later that night, right next to a picture of the Savior in his house, we saw a statue of a giraffe that neither of us have noticed before. We of course talked about tender mercies with the Bishop and on the way out, next to the door, is an even bigger statue of a giraffe that for that family was just a nice decoration, but for me was a sign that the Lord both loves me and knows my thoughts- enough to send a small message that meant a lot to me. This example seems insignificant, or even coincidental, but it just added to my testimony that the Lord and his work is very real.

Love you all, have a great week!!

The One With the Lamb Tacos 6/19/17

Good morning!

This week has probably been the hottest of my mission. I think it hit under 90 a few times at night but for the most part it hovers around 100 degrees this time of year. My companion and I walked a lot, which was pretty cool because a lot of people offered us water. One guy pulled over and actually asked if we were crazy. We went on exchanges with the zone leaders this week, which is always really fun. The Elder I was with went with me to dinner and a couple appointments. He doesn't speak any Spanish so when we shared messages I had to translate his testimony when I asked him to give it. It was really interesting.

Yesterday we decided to go visit a less active member who lives way out in the rural part of Tracy. The day before we tried to visit him, but when we stopped by, he and his friends were cleaning out a lamb they just killed! Everyone was messy and when we tried to talk to our member he gave us the classic "this is a bad time" look on his face. So we stopped by yesterday and he and the other neighbors in the trailer park were having a party. They invited us in and offered us food. I had never had lamb tacos until yesterday but they were fantastic! We had a really powerful message with him about the tender mercies of the Lord (1 Nephi 1:20).

We got transfer calls last night. It looks like I will remain in Tracy with Elder Gifford as a district leader.

Love you all!

Here's me in a tractor at the less active member's trailer park

The One With the Raccoons 6/12/17


This week we had a chance encounter. We invited some of our investigators to a ward party and it turns out that one of the ladies in our ward is the supervisor of our investigator's supervisor. They sort of recognized each other and are friends now. It was really good to see them go to the party because when they went to sacrament meeting, they had friends to sit with!

We tried to visit one of our investigators yesterday so we went to his trailer and knocked on the door and asked him how he was doing. He was only a little drunk this time but told us he didn't have time because it was cold outside and he didn't want to get his jacket on... We're going to try him when it's a little warmer outside.

When we were going away from a less active member's house we saw something fly across the street. We stopped and were looking around to see where it went, then my companion looked in the rain gutter and found a family of raccoons! Just looking at us. We tried our best raccoon impression to get them closer so we could pet them but it didn't work, but we'll keep practicing.

Not too much else happened this week- we get transfer calls next Sunday so I'll keep you all posted.

Love you all!!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Coincidences 6/5/17

Hey everyone!

This week, my companion and I were looking for former investigators. When we knocked on this one door, a lady answered who turned out to be a member that just moved here from Mexico and hasn't been able to find a chapel here. The family that she lives with used to be taught by missionaries about ten years ago and were excited to talk to missionaries again. We only had a 20 minute lesson but the entire family went to church yesterday and they loved it!

In the same complex, we found another member who has not let missionaries in the door in almost a year. They invited us in and we had an incredible lesson. He couldn't come to church because he works two full time jobs (1 picking in the fields and another in a factory), but he is going to try to get work changed so he could come again.

Yesterday, a member came up to us and asked if he could go teaching with us. We told him about one family that lives in a trailer park way out in the empty parts of Tracy. He told us he wanted to still go so we went about twenty minutes outside the city to this trailer park. We knocked on the wrong trailer but the guy answered and invited us in. It turns out he is also a less active member and he was thinking about the missionaries that taught him right when we knocked on the door. He's a really awesome guy and we're going to start working with him a lot more now.

Love you all! Have a great week!

The One With the General Authority 5/29/17

Hey everyone!

So last Monday we had a mission conference with Elder Weatherford T. Clayton which took up most the day. The conference was awesome! He taught us some really cool stuff about the Restoration and about prayer.

The rest of the week was pretty normal, but yesterday I gave my first talk in sacrament meeting. It was about missionary work. Later, after the talk, three or four members of the ward come up to me and said "Elder, I didn't know you speak Spanish". Some of those members I have had lessons with, I guess I just looked different or something.

We then went to one of our investigators houses and he was having a party. He invited us in and gave us probably some of the best food I've had in my life. We had a really good lesson and the Spirit was really strong.

Nothing much else happened last week. Hope you all have a great Memorial day!

The One With the Yelling 5/22/17

Hey everybody!

So this week, my companion and decided to walk to all of our visits because it seemed like a nice day. We started walking and when we got like a mile away from our apartment, it started to get a little warmer. We knocked on the first couple doors without answer and walked to the next neighborhood to try some of the other potential investigators. At the first house we saw some family members playing outside. We started talking to the dad and the only thing he said was "We're Catholic" which I'm pretty sure means "not interested" but we really couldn't tell.

After that, we stopped by this park which had a bathroom and drinking fountain so my companion started to inhale water from the drinking fountain while I used the restroom. I heard some shouting outside and when I got out the door, this huge group of homeless people that wasn't there before were yelling at each other, and when we walked by, they were super nice to us but when we passed they went back to yelling- pretty weird.

My companion's name is Elder Gifford and he's super cool. The new apartment is awesome- two bed two bath and easily twice as big as the last one in Stockton. Tracy's pretty cool- it's a richer area so most of the Hispanic people here are pretty Americanized. It's really just a quiet, calm little town so pretty cool. There's no taco trucks which is a pretty tough adjustment but I think I'm getting used to it. To be honest, I really miss Stockton. I may go back one day, but until then, I'm just going to try and work hard here. The ward's pretty cool. No one in the ward can play the piano so they do all the music off someone's phone.

Love you all! Have a great week!!

Panda Attack 5/15/17

Hey everyone!

This week was pretty exciting, they moved me out of Stockton after 9 months and put me in Tracy, one of the quietest and wealthiest cities in the mission. The work here is a little slower than my previous area but it's still pretty cool. My new companion is a pretty cool guy, he's from Utah and has the exact same amount of time here on the mission.

So yesterday for lunch, we went to a member's house. When we walked in and I introduced myself she looked a little confused and asked "Where are the other Elders?" She had made enough food for four missionaries. We told her that it was just the two of us, which was awesome because of all the food. So we had to eat all this food (which was super good) but at the end of it, when my companion and I were about to die, she brought out this huge pan of flan, which is like a really dense cake. The food was amazing, but we pretty much had to roll out of the trailer park.

So Friday night, a member gave us gift cards to Panda Express because she got called to work unexpectedly and couldn’t feed us dinner. We went there and loaded up because we were hungry. When we finished we realized we were late to sports night so we rushed over there because some less active members and investigators showed up. We were doing pretty good at first, but then we got super bad cramps which made us lose. By the end of the night we were lying on the floor and gasping for air. We decided that if we have Panda again next week, we'll probably take it a little more easy for sports night.

Love you all have a great week!

Flooding the Earth With the Book of Mormon 5/8/17

So this week I have been reflecting a lot on the Book of Mormon, and how much power the prophets of the church seem to generate when they testify of the power of the Book of Mormon. I also thought about how much power it seems to give us when we read its words and follow its counsel.

That being said,

This week was a pretty good week. We taught some of our investigators on Tuesday and had a really powerful lesson. It was a pretty bad day for all three of them but the Spirit was still there. This week was really hot- like in the 90's all week! It was also Cinco de Mayo this Friday and it was crazy! Lots of parties and even two neighboring houses had two huge parties with live bands at each house that were pretty much competing.

Yesterday we visited some less active members, which resulted in them feeding us tacos. My companion is gluten free, which usually isn't a problem in Spanish work but the members gave each of us a huge, custard filled donut. Just as we gave each other the "oh no" look (because turning down food in the Escobar household is pretty much a sin) - a miracle happened- their water jug out of nowhere burst and they ran over to stop water from flooding on their floor. Then my companion looked at me and said "eat!". So I stuffed the massive, dense donut in my mouth after being filled with tacos. I finished the first one and went to work with the second one. I finished the second one right as they finished. It was pretty much a miracle.

One more thing- transfer calls were last night and I am being moved to Manteca with another companion after six months with Elder Nelson! And nine in Stockton. I'll miss Stockton a lot but I'm super excited to see what Manteca has to offer.

Love you guys!!

our bikes

watching a Cinco de Mayo parade from the park

the tail end of the parade

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I Almost Stepped On a Snake 5/1/17

Hey everyone!

This week was pretty amazing. We went to go visit one of our investigators on Tuesday and we knocked on his door but nobody answered. But we heard something so we turned around and in the field across his house, our investigator was riding his horse, so we waved to him and he took off! We decided he probably doesn't have too much interest.
After that we had dinner with a member as we walked away from dinner, my companion grabbed me and pulled me back. I couldn't see it in the dark but I almost stepped on some snake that was like four feet long. Not sure if it was poisonous or not but I didn't want to find out!

The day after that, we went to teach some of our investigators. The last visit we asked them to pray and ask God if He exists. We came back to follow up and when we asked them about it, their faces lit up and they both talked about this amazing feeling they felt. One of them went to church this Sunday and we are excited to see what happens next.

We went to visit a less active member. We gave her a blessing back in January because she was having really bad stomach problems and she had been having them for a while (which is bad because she works in the fields). She told us that since the blessing we gave, she hasn't had a problem with her stomach, which was really cool.

Hope you all have a great week, love you guys!

I Ripped My Pants... 4/24/17

Hey everyone!

So on Tuesday, Elder Nelson and I were teaching a family we have been working with. Two members of their extended family decided to join in on the lesson and now they are super interested in hearing about the gospel.

The next day, as we were waiting for a meeting to start, and we saw some kids playing basketball. When we got a closer look, we saw that it was two on one. It was pretty easy to see that the one just wanted to fit in and the two were picking on him so my companion and I joined the one (which was pretty fun because they were all in like fourth grade). We started off terrible but we got to the point where the kid on our team was making all the shots- he even made a three! We were super proud of him and the other two kids got along with him better after the game. The only down side to the game is that I tripped and tore a hole in the knee of my favorite pair of slacks- but I feel like it was worth it.

We had interviews with President Palmer this week and he told me that everything I do now has to be in Spanish- studies, shopping, everything. He told me that not every missionary has the  ability to become fluent but my companion and I do... so we should.

One of the youth we have been working with just got his mission call last night to Salt Lake City South (Herriman's in the mission) so if you meet an Elder Gonzalez would you please feed him and his companion? His family have made sacrifices and gone out of their way to make sure we didn't go any nights without.

BTW for Nick (Joseph’s cousin, who just got his mission call to Malaga Spain)- tell his parents to have him speak Spanish as much as possible- it will help him immensely if he can learn how to pronounce the tricky common words in the scriptures. He doesn't need to worry about eating spicy food- that's really only a Mexican thing but starting now to learn Spanish will be a great blessing. Learning doctrine is important also and he may get the gift of tongues but just like anything else in the gospel it won't come unless he puts in work first. Just some advice from missionary who's lived it.

The rest of the week after that, not much happened because I got sick, so just a lot of rest and practicing Spanish!

Love you all!

Miguel's Baptism 4/17/17

Hey everyone!!

So last Monday we went over to teach Miguel after a lot of prayer and study and the lesson went incredible! The Spirit was really strong and he got really excited to be baptized on Saturday!

The baptism itself was pretty interesting. The first problem that happened was that Miguel's baptism clothes were too tight. We rushed and found some bigger ones, right as it was supposed to start. Nobody else showed up until 20 minutes after it was supposed to start, including the bishop. The sister of our investigator was being baptized first and slipped the first two times so it didn't count and the third time she decided she didn't want to do it. So our ward mission leader decided to throw baptism clothes on baptize and her himself! She agreed to do it but didn't want anyone to watch so we closed the doors and had the witnesses watch from the other side! It was valid but didn't go exactly according to plan but it was pretty good nonetheless.

Last night for Easter, the ward member who had us over for Christmas invited us over for Easter dinner. Last time we ate dinner with their family, his daughter's hair caught on fire but this time we spent like an hour putting a bike rack on her car while it was raining. They told us that the sister missionaries were on their way to dinner But we had to tell them that Elders and Sisters are not allowed to eat together in this mission so we had to scarf our food down and rush everything, but he gave us each a pie.  They also gave us easter gifts, he's really awesome.

My companion and I are collecting souvenirs to send home. I'm looking for a "Straight Outta Stockton" t-shirt so when I find them I'll send them.

Hope everybody had a great Easter, love you all!

The One With the Jehovah's Witness 4/10/17

Hey everyone!

So while my companion and I were studying there was a knock at our door. We opened it and it was a Jehovah's Witness!! He introduced himself and gave us a flyer telling us that we were invited to go to their kingdom hall to celebrate the Savior's death. I told him that we actually belong to another church and he said "Oh yeah, and what church is that?" so I said "We're missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and if you have a few moments we would love to tell you a little bit about what we believe". He didn't seem too interested in hearing from us, asked for the flyer back, and just about ran off! We now keep a stack of Books of Mormon by the front door.

We went on exchanges with our district leader and I got to go with his companion, who we discovered also has ADHD. Haha we spent most of the exchange trying to figure out where we were but we had a really fun time.

Earlier this week, we taught our 10 year old investigator and at the end of the lesson we asked him if he was excited to get baptized and he responded by saying no. We spent the rest of the week preparing for our next lesson with him on Saturday and praying for him and when we had the lesson, he seemed different. He listened more intently, asked a lot of really good questions and when we asked him if he was excited to get baptized, he told us he knew he needed to, and wanted to; but just didn't feel ready. We told him to read 3 Nephi 11 with his mom and pray about whether he should be baptized or not. He promised to do that and we are following up tonight, so we'll see.

Love you all! have a great week! watch Prince of Peace!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I Almost Got...Haha Um... 4/3/17

Hey everyone!

So this week, while my companion and I were riding past downtown to get to our dinner appointment and a lady called us over from across the street. We decided to come over, eager to give out some of the brand-new pass along cards for Prince of Peace. We saw that she had a bottle in one hand so we were a little cautious and when I got within what the Boy Scouts call the "Blood Circle", she threw an arm around me and tried to kiss me! She was maybe 50 years old and drunk so not really my type. She wouldn't let go so I jerked back, out of her death grip and my companion and I took off! We still try and avoid that street.

A few nights later we were teaching one of our investigators who is a really cool guy. He races cars to pass the time and is a mechanic. When we were teaching him, he told us that he really wanted to know about the end of the world, so we told him about the book of Revelations and some passages in the Book of Mormon and D&C. We took his mom's Bible off the counter and flipped open to the book of Revelations and right there, marking the page, was a pass along card with Jesus on it. The last set of missionaries to teach him weren't here when that type of card came out. And we didn't put it there, so he got pretty freaked out- but set a return appointment.

Conference was fantastic!
The talk that really stuck with me was the conversion story of the guy from Argentina, Joaquin E. Costa of the seventy. And they quoted Elder McConkie! Some of my favorite talks were given by him (He's up there with Hugh B. Brown and William R. Bradford). If any of you have not seen Conference or the Prince of Peace video, I would highly recommend it.

 This is Hermano Bernal, our assistant Ward Mission Leader
He fed us enchiladas last night, there were two more pans that we had to eat


And an angry hissing duck