Thursday, December 22, 2016

He is There

December 21, 2016

Let me share with you a Christmas miracle that we have seen this week. On Monday Elder Trantham and I went to La Moraleja, a very posh area of Alcobendas, to give an English copy of the Book of Mormon and “Meet the Mormons” to an American family that he had met a couple of weeks before. We had taken the time to wrap these gifts making them a Christmas gift for this family. As we got there and rang the door bell the dad who was waiting in his car, got out and told us that he was waiting for his daughter and that we could move along without bothering them. We left understanding that part of his family could have benefited from this Christmas gift but also with the faith that we could find another family, English speaking, that would enjoy our gift. So we went down the street to knock another door and to our surprise the woman who opened the door was very American, in fact so American that she had worked in Nashua, NH. We spoke for a minute but she didn't really want to hear from us, we offered the gift thinking that she was the one who would use it but she rejected it saying, "Give it to someone who will use it". That was the line as we spoke with several other English speaking families that night, "Someone else will use it."

As the night drew to a close we decided to be done for the night and head home. I felt down not knowing why we had come to La Moraleja and come so close to giving out a simple gift all night long but hadn't been able to do so. We both felt disappointed and ready to be done. Until we saw a dark-skinned kid walking up the street and Elder Trantham said to me, “he's the one.” I thought no way he's South American and probably won't come close to speaking English enough to read the Book of Mormon. We slowed down and casually greeted him and he walked past but Elder Trantham came to a stop and stopped this kid. We began talking to him in Spanish he introduced himself as Leron and somehow the fact that he speaks English came into the conversation. What do you know, this kid from South America is actually an American born and raised in Ohio. During the following minutes we had a great conversation about how God still guides his people through prophets and we were able to give him a Christmas gift that we hope can influence his life for good. It taught us the importance of continuing until the end. There is no stopping, there is no being done, keep going there is someone ready for the gospel.

I am grateful for this and all the other wonderful lessons that I have been taught over the past two years. I came to Spain hoping that I would become someone different because I could change myself during two years. I was hoping that along the way I could be able to help someone, to show someone what the gospel is. I have realized that in two years I have not changed myself, I have not changed people's lives, but I have been changed, and I have been an instrument in the hands of the Lord who is in charge. He is the master and there is no other. In two years I have come to understand that I am nothing when I am alone, but I know that when the Lord is with me I can see Him work miracles. I have had the incredible privilege to see Him work miracles in the lives of those around me. I am grateful to have found a best friend on the mission. I have always wanted a brother, what I haven't realized is that I've always had one. I am grateful to my Savior for the opportunity that He has given me to be here. I am grateful for the many chances that he has given me to repent and to change. He has been merciful with me, allowed me to change, comforted me when I was in need. I know that He is my Savior, my Older Brother. I look forward to his continued companionship as my life takes a turn and I start a new chapter. I love Him. I invite you all to seek Him in your times of need, He is always there, always willing to forgive, always quick to strengthen, always loving. He has always been there for me and He will be there for you.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

The Best Two Weeks

December 12, 2016

This week has been absolutely amazing! I more or less got transferred out of the office. I have been transferred to work with the APs for my last three weeks. It was a solution to a couple of problems with me leaving the office. First, I am still close by with any problems that might arise in the office. Second and most importantly, I know all of the members in our ward and won't have to worry about getting to know a new area and completely new people in three weeks. It has been such a blessing for me to focus 100% on teaching and finding and working with Elder Boyd and Elder Trantham.

This week we have been able to do some pretty cool things. There is a missionary choir that has been practicing for weeks to do several performances throughout Madrid. We went into Puerta del Sol a big square in the center of Madrid, and Plaza Mayor. As the choir sings we get to go through the crowd handing out wrapped copies of the Book of Mormon talking with people and being able to spread the name of the church. It has been a really cool experience to see how music has opened the doors for conversations about the gospel.

Elder Trantham and I went this week to suburb or San Sebastián de los Reyes called La Moraleja to knock doors. It was such a cool experience. As we walked down and into that area there was an almost immediate change. It is a pretty high class area. It was interesting to see that as we spoke with people they were far more willing to be polite and courteous even though many still rejected the message. We did find a family from Puerto Rico that invited us to come back this next week. I look forward to going and getting to know them better.

This week at church I had a pretty special experience with a member here. Over the past many months this member and I have become quite close. I was quite concerned when he didn't show up for church. When
he got there right before the third hour he didn't look like he was doing very well. After the meetings were over we went into another room and he cried on my shoulder and told me about a devastating experience that he had gone through the night before. As we talked I felt such love for him, someone that I met just a couple of weeks ago.

It is amazing to be able to understand in a small part how the Savior feels about someone as you minister to them. I am grateful for my Savior and the love that he has for me and all his brothers and sisters.

I love being a missionary there is nothing better because I get to focus my mind and my heart completely on the service of others. I am so grateful to be finishing my time as a full-time missionary in the field teaching my brothers and sisters how to find true happiness as I have found it. These will be the best two weeks.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Light the World

Madrid Temple with Tono and other Elders

December 3, 2016

Today has been an amazing day! But let me back up a little bit. We have been working with Toño a member that returned to activity about two years ago and we have been able to help him in that process. We have been working on his genealogy, focusing on finding his relatives to do their work in the temple. This morning I got to go to the temple with Toño to perform the work for his ancestors. It was a special experience that we got to share together. I love the spirit that accompanies us we serve our ancestors and our fellow man. There is nothing so sweet as to walk out of the waters of baptism knowing that lives have been changed.

This week we also went to pass by a woman named Tania. She has not been to church in several years and we were able to get in and talk with her last Monday! She is a wonderful lady who has just needed an invitation to come back to church. It was a great opportunity to talk about the role that Christ has had in her life and what she does to show that light to those around her. She committed to coming to church tomorrow and then on Monday we are going to visit her again. (It also doesn´t hurt that she is baker, very experienced in the art of Gluten Free cooking!)

One of our main focuses this last week has been on spreading the Church´s new initiative Light the World: 25 ways in 25 days. If you have not already watched the video at and if you are not looking for small acts of service every day, I invite you to start today. Look for a small way in which you can emulate our Savior Jesus Christ and his life of service, every day from now until Christmas.

I have been able to feel that as I have started to ask "What more can I do today to serve someone else today?" the love of Christ even greater in my own life. When we get down, distracted, or lost the key is to get up and follow the Savior´s example of service. I know that you too will feel the love of the Savior even more in your life this Christmas season as you focus on how you can serve others, in small ways each day.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson  

P.S. I might be getting a transfer out of the office for the last three weeks in the field. That being said, I might or might not write on Saturday depending on what happens with transfers. My P-day will probably change back to Monday the following week.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


November 26, 2016

There is a lot to be grateful for this week, as there is every week, but I will share just a few of the things that I am grateful for this week.

Zone Conference

I am grateful for gluten free food. This week we had zone conference on Thursday, which I´ll talk more about below, after zone conference we had pancakes as a zone. I am grateful for Elder Stulen, a new Elder from Norway who is also gluten free, and that we could share our Thanksgiving feast of toast and Nutella together. Over the past couple of months, we have been able to become good friends as we bring each other different gluten free foods to zone and mission activities. I am grateful for gluten free friends. After our zone conference the missionaries in our ward went for pie at the mission home. When we got there, we were given plates of real Thanksgiving dinner to take home for lunch the following day. Then they pulled out the pies, and Hermana Pack, amongst all the other things she had done and cooked for her family that day, had made one of the pies with a gluten free crust so that I could enjoy it as well. 

While we were at the Pack´s home we talked about some of the things that we are most grateful for. I thought about something that I had been reminded of in Zone conference that morning, focus on the people, they matter the most. I had made a list of some of the people that have most greatly impacted my mission, and as I thought about these people I realized how much I have come to love them. It is hard to express what it means to have seen the atonement work in people´s lives and create bonds and then have to leave those people. I love the Spanish people, their culture, their food, their personalities, their faithfulness. I am grateful to be serving with them here in Spain. I have been very blessed to be taught by them as we have sat in discussions together talking of things that are of the greatest importance.

After the Pack´s I had the opportunity to Skype my family. (I was given special permission to change my skype date because I will be going home two days after Christmas.) I am very grateful for that opportunity that I had to talk with my family through video calls. I am grateful for the technology that we have that makes communication over long distances so much easier. During that call I was impressed by the strength and power that radiated from my family. There is very little for which I can be more grateful than the family that I have. Parents who honor sacred covenants and who taught me the ways of the Lord. For an older sister who has finally found me a brother, and who she will marry in the Temple sealing themselves together for not just time but eternity as well. I am grateful for two wonderful younger sisters who radiate virtue and love in a world that scoffs at morals. I am grateful for my family.

I am grateful most of all for the love of a Heavenly Father who is my constant companion. I am grateful that I have the Holy Ghost to instruct me and to guide me. I am grateful for the power that comes from a constant daily scripture study. There is no way to have joy in this life if it is built upon anything other than having a close relationship with our Father in Heaven. I am grateful for the mistakes that I have made. They allow me to see with more clarity and help me not to fall in the same places again. I love my Savior and could never express sufficient gratitude towards Him for His sacrifice.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Talavera P-Day

November 19, 2016

Today I have been in Talavera again. What a joy it was to be with the people that I love so much. It was so fun to fit back into that role that I filled in that branch. I am so grateful for the faith of the members there. 

Manuel, one of my good friends

Eduardo, Tati and their girls

Saturday, November 12, 2016


La Granja - old Summer Palace of the King
November 5, 2016

We recently have received an addition to the office, Elder Tullis from Maryland. He has been a great blessing to us in the office. He is focused on being a missionary and is helping us to get out of the office on time and making sure that our focus is on people and not things. As we have made changes and been better at focusing on people we have seen miracles. We saw a huge jump in our English class attendance last week and are beginning to teach some of those who are coming to English class. We had a couple stay for our Family Home Evening “Minute to Win it” Activity which was awesome. We also have a race car driver trainer who is working to strengthen his English skills and has expressed desires to hear more about the gospel. We will be meeting with him when he gets back from a tournament in Barcelona.

Another miracle that we saw was when we had about fifteen minutes before a lesson we decided to go off contacting and Elder Douglas and I stopped a Muslim man. At first he was very defensive and didn't really want to talk but as we asked him questions that related to him and his faith we built on a foundation that a relationship to God, however you want to call Him, is fundamental to happiness in this life. He opened up to us and told us that he would be going in for two heart surgeries in the next week and the doctors have essentially told him that he will not live through it. His response was that it didn´t matter to him whether he died or not because he knew that he had a connection to God. That was the whole focus of his life. He wakes up every morning to praise God at five in the morning. I was amazed be the power of this man´s faith in a Loving Father in Heaven who knows us and is watching over us.

We continue to teach Miriam who is wonderful. I love meeting with her and hearing her thoughts on the power of the Book of Mormon as it changes her life. I am so grateful that she found us. I am grateful for a family from Boston that has shared their faith with a nonmember friend through their example and by word that is causing an impact on me and the life of Miriam.

I know that as we try and work to improve the Lord magnifies our small efforts and turns them into miraculous things. I have seen it this week over and over again.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Palace Gardens Aqueduct
Segovia Aqueduct

Enjoy the Journey

October 29, 2016

I am grateful to be here in the office. This week I was reminded to recognize the joy in my journey here in the office. I wanted to share a couple of the moments of joy that I have found this week in my journey. On Tuesday, we had a lesson with one of the less active members that we are working with. We got to sit with him and talk about the force and power of the Atonement in our lives. We talked about the story that Elder Uceda shared about ignoring the promptings of the spirit several times before finally realizing the consequences and his need for God. When he called out to God in need God heard and answered providing the help that he needed in that moment. I loved how he ended his talk with these words, "[God] is not one to say, “No, I will not listen to you now because you only come to me when you are in trouble.” Only men do that. He is not one to say, “Oh, you cannot imagine how busy I am now.” Only men say that." As I reread that statement I realized how true it really is. God is never going to desert us in our time of need, we are the ones that will separate ourselves from His presence but when we repent He will be there to comfort, guide, and support. He won't usually take the problem away but He'll give you the answers that you need to get through.

Another highlight from the week was a conversation that I had with Elder Young. The other Elders had gone to the store to buy a new mattress and Elder Young and I were in the office together. He shared the following wisdom as best as I can recall:

When you are on a boat all alone out in the middle of the ocean you start to hear things. You think to yourself is that my boat falling apart? Is that a rogue wave coming to tear my boat apart? When I began sailing I had no idea what I was doing, I had sailed before but there was a lot of waste, I didn't trim my sails correctly to get full power etc. I learned by doing as I went along. When I started out my journey around the world I went to Mexico and there I realized a couple of things, 1st that everything on my boat was going to break and I would drown, 2nd a rogue wave was going to sink my boat and I would drown, 3rd I was for sure going to drown. (Let us remember that Elder Young at this point in his life has gone through the Military, he has seen things that few of us could possibly imagine.) I stayed there for a time but could not get myself to shove off. You see it is fear that stops us from making progress. Fear is what halts any forward movement and you have two options with that fear, run away or get up and get going. There came a point in Mexico when I had to decide to go. I shoved off. That didn't mean that the fear had gone, I still knew that those three things were going to happen but I had decided to move and to see what would happen.

There is a lot of reality in what he said. We can stay where we feel comfortable or we can get up and head out to find, grow and learn making us more powerful servants of the Lord. I am not suggesting that we all must sail around the world but yes we must do things that are difficult that challenge us, that we are afraid of but that are good so that we can experience growth and self-mastery. I remember a couple of years ago when making a phone call was the most terrifying experience that I had to go through and now every day I am speaking with landlords in Spanish about things I hardly know anything about. I am grateful for the times when I have had to step out of my comfort zone into areas that have pushed me, where I have been afraid but have been able to deal with it, get it done, and progress. A couple of weeks ago some new missionaries asked me "When will the mission get easy?" I responded in a way that probably didn't help their nerves but I said, "It really never does. It is not supposed to get easy." And it hasn't. Challenge after challenge in life and the mission it won't ever get easy. Eternity I don't think will be easy either. Existence is not about being easy it is about getting up and getting on despite what happens.

I think about how this principle relates to the atonement. Christ did not passively go through the atonement. He went with full knowledge into what he was doing. He didn't hide under the covers when the terribly frightening image of everyone's sins was revealed to Him but instead he called out "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me nevertheless not as I will, but what thou wilt." He could have left out that final clause and ended His suffering that a mortal could not have borne but he didn't. I don't think that words could cover the gratitude that I feel towards my Older Brother who decided who willingly asked for my sins to be put upon Himself. I will forever be indebted to Him for His sacrifice.

Let us keep pressing on. Let us enjoy the journey that we have undertaken even though it is hard, it is a joyful journey. I am grateful for each one of you.

Elder Gustafson 

District activity doing a jigsaw puzzle

Night of Nations - Celebrating the uniqueness of our cultural differences