Saturday, December 26, 2015

Feliz Navidad!

Christmas with members and Santa Clause came.
 December 25, 2015

I am so grateful for Christmas. This beautiful time that we have to reflect specifically on the birth of Christ. During this time we have the great privilege of singing about his birth and the joy that that brings. I have found great happiness as I have sung these hymns for the past two months and I wanted to share today some of my favorite lines and messages. I have put them in Spanish and English they are not exactly the same but I hope you will be able to understand what I am trying to convey.

¡Regocijad! Jesús nació,
del mundo Salvador;
(Joy to the world, the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King!)
In a world of so much sadness and hardship let us rejoice! The Lord has come! These things shall pass away. Our hardships and trials will pass we will learn and grow. Let us embrace Him and experience the joy that we receive from the knowledge that He came and that He lives!

Te pido, Jesús, que me guardes a mí,
amándome siempre, como te amo a Ti.
(Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.)
Tiny Christus
I echo this plea. There has been no better gift that I have received this last year than becoming closer to my Savior. In Spanish in the second line is the the request that He loves me always as I love Him. His love is perfect and never will fail. He will be there always but we must show Him our love for Him by doing as He has asked. Let us be obedient to Him.

Escuchad el son triunfal de la hueste celestial:
Paz y buena voluntad; salvación Dios os dará.
Cante hoy toda nación la angelical canción;
estas nuevas todos den: Nació Cristo en Belén.
Escuchad el son triunfal de la hueste celestial.
(Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise;
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King!)

Because our Savior is born we can receive Salvation. Every nation understand that message so that they can sing and give glory to Him. I am grateful to be in Spain sharing this message with those who can now sing with me in this great joy that I feel because I can live with God and Jesus and my family forever! Let us all share his message with those that we love!

Noche de luz, noche de paz;
Ved la luz de Su faz.
Es el alba de la redención;
Dios, por Él, nos dará salvación.
¡Oh bendito Jesús!
¡Oh bendito Jesús!
(Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth;
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.)

Night of light, night of peace. See the light of His countenance. Christ is light. He is the dawn. Light expels all darkness. Light is warmth and happiness. I am grateful for the Light of Christ which is given to all men to discern the good from the bad so that we can choose for ourselves to follow that light. I invite each of us this year to keep our eyes focused on the example that our Savior left us. Let us follow his light.

Have a Merry Christmas!

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Christmas morning with stockings from home
Elder Johnson opening his stocking.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Attitude & Faith

With Elder Johnson from Odgen UT

I have been thinking a lot this week about Laman and Lemuel. Laman and Lemuel get a bad rap in the Book of Mormon because they were rebellious and whined all the time but I think that sometimes we don't give them quite enough credit. They still left Jerusalem with their family and then they went back to Jerusalem twice, and they still crossed the sea to get to America. Sometimes we believe that, there is no way that I would ever end up as Laman or Lemuel completely off track but it happens very slowly and it begins with our attitude. The difference between Laman and Lemuel and Samuel and Nefi is that the younger brothers were willing to go and do with faith and hope for the future. Let's not go to church or read our scriptures or pray because we have to but instead because we want to. It is a wonderful blessing that we have to be able to this great knowledge that we do. So what does that have to do with my adventures of this week? This last week Elder Johnson and I arrived in Talavera and as we got here we heard "this is a hard area" "the people here are very hard headed" "you are going to struggle in that area", we am here to say no to all that. We are here in an area where the members are excited to work and want to do everything they can to see their little branch progress to become a ward. It is an area where they have vision and leadership. It is an area that has the faith to see miracles happen. We are here to help them accomplish their vision and progress the work of the Lord. I know that there are people prepared here. I know that it will take diligent work but that is required in any area of any mission.

I am grateful that I have been taught that we can do miracles according to the preparation that we put into the work. In Moroni 7:29 we learn about miracles when Mormon asks and responds to his own question "have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay" as he continues he says in verse 33 "And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me." I know that this is true. I ask for your prayers and your faith so that we can see miracles happen here in Talavera.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Monday, December 7, 2015

Talavera de la Reina

With Elder Hendrix at the temple
Well it is once again transfer time. Due to Christmas our transfer got shortened to 4 weeks and I have left Torrejón. It has been an amazing learning opportunity here in Torrejón. I am so grateful that I have been here and for the friends I have made. I have very mixed feelings about leaving. Very sad to leave the great people here that I love but also grateful and excited for a chance to start fresh and do better. I will be headed to Talavera de la Reina which is by Toledo down at the southern part of Madrid. I am still uncertain as to who my companion will be because I once again have the great opportunity to train a new missionary. I am so grateful for Elder Hendrix. I am grateful for his ability to work and his love for the savior. I am so grateful for his amazing musical ability. I am grateful for the times that we spent together studying the scriptures. One of the best things about Elder Hendrix is to ask questions as we study the lessons and the scriptures together. I have learned so much from him and will miss him. 

This week I just wanted to share how grateful I am for my Savior. Last night we went to see a choir on temple square (in Spain) sing. I am grateful for that moment that I had to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ. The birth of Jesus Christ is more than a day to buy presents or eat delicious food. It is a day to spend with your family remembering who makes it possible that you can be together forever. I am so grateful for Christmas. The lights, the hymns to Christ, the happiness and atmosphere that prevails. I remember a couple years ago as a family we talked in a family home evening about what Christmas really means and whose birthday it really is. If I remember correctly my mother invited us all to take a moment and think of what we were going to give to Jesus this Christmas. We all took a little piece of paper and wrote what it is that we were going to give to the Savior and then we put it in a box and put in the center spot under the tree. I invite each of you to think about what it is that you can give to Jesus Christ this Christmas.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson
The Torrejon District with Felix

Christmas lights in our apartment

My signature was the first on Elder Hendrix guitar.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

I am grateful for...

Preparation day with part of our zone in Madrid at Sol.
November 30, 2015

I am grateful for...

A bag of carrots

This week we met with a member here in Torrejón. He doesn't have a whole lot of money, not even enough to pay the light bill in his piso. We set a meeting with him on Thursday in the afternoon and as he walked into the church he came in swinging a plastic bag full of big carrots. It was very clear that they had been carefully washed and prepared for us with love. He handed us the bag apologizing that he didn't have anything better to give us. We thanked him for his wonderful Thanksgiving gift to us. I know the sacrifice made in order to give us a bag of carrots and they are probably the sweetest carrots I have ever eaten.

The power of a testimony

I am so grateful for Felix and the testimony that he has in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been teaching him about the law of chastity and modesty. As we taught it to him he told us that he had an appointment to go and get a new tattoo that he had already paid 500€ for. As we talked he told us "I know what is the right thing to do. I've gotta go cancel it." I am grateful that he has a solid testimony of what is right. It is one of the coolest things to have an investigator who we can teach and have an incredibly spiritually experience with but who is also one of my best friends.

A mission president's wife

This week we had a training with all the hundred and something missionaries serving in the Madrid area. It was a great training, we talked about the way that commandments are a way of keeping us free. Sometimes we think of commandments as things that keep us chained up, or sometimes we think of commandments as a fence that keeps us inside the boundaries so that we are free within our fence to move, but I believe that the commandments are even more than that. I believe that the commandments keep the evil trapped in and keep us outside and free. Sometimes we can't see more than the fence right in front of us and don't know which side is inside and which is out. After this great conference we had a full on Thanksgiving Dinner complete with Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, etc and even included Pumpkin Pie at the end. I am grateful for this sacrifice of time and resources from Hermana Pack and all those who helped her in this endeavor.

A hard working companion

I am so grateful for my companion. He is a great example to me. I am grateful for the things that he has taught me these past two transfers. This week in particular though I am grateful for his dedication to work hard even when we are out contacting meeting few who wanted to hear the word of God. When I asked him how he was feeling he said terrible. We talked about going and taking a rest for a minute but he said essentially there is work to do let's keep going. I think about Brigham Young and his companion who upon leaving for their missions, and being very sick, stopped the wagon rose and shouted Hoorah for Zion!

My family

I am grateful for my family. I don't give my family the credit that they deserve in my letters home. I am so grateful for every member of my family. I never realized how great I had it until I left and probably won't until I have a family of my own but I know that I owe everything to them. I am so grateful for a Mother who has shown me love in everything that I have done. I am grateful for her example of love she shows me the importance of demonstrating our love to others through our actions more than just through words. I am grateful for a Father who teaches me to work diligently and to spend time working for others,selfless service. I am grateful for Mckenna who teaches me the importance a of being true to yourself and what you value. I am grateful for Eliza who teaches me that love comes from the heart. I am grateful for Andrea who teaches me the importance of being engaged in good causes. I love my family and am grateful for the ordinances that bind us together for eternity.

My Savior

Above all this Thanksgiving I am grateful for a Savior who allows me to change who I am. I am grateful that through Him I can become different than the person that I am right now. I am grateful for the relationship that I have with Him and the opportunity that I have to help others build this relationship with others.

I love you all
Elder Gustafson

PS this week I am ponderizing the scripture Alma 26:22

We are Children of God

November 23, 2015

This week has been a great week. I love you all. This week has been super fun. I got to do an intercambio with Elder Bailey our Zone Leader. (I did between 4 and 5 intercambios with him back in Pontevedra and so it has been great to be back with him.) Life really is good. We had a conference with a General Authority this week which was awesome. He talked about the importance of knowing our identity. He talks of when we know what our identity is we can conquer Satan and we will always have purpose in what we do. I have been studying Moses 1 as a follow up and it has been cool to see how God emphasizes the importance that he is a Son of God. My invitation to you all this week is to reflect on what it really means to be children of God.

Felix came back from his trip this week so we are super excited to have him back with us. We are loving the work here.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Another Week

Elder Gustafson and Elder Hendrix with an Elder just leaving to serve in Argentina.
Another week has gone here in Torrejón. Life here is good! We have had kind of an interesting week. We have had the privilege to do a lot of service for ward members. We got to teach in an Elder's Quorum activity about studying the scriptures which was interesting. We taught about how to really learn from the scriptures and talked about at least 7 points of doctrine that we can pull from the first verse of the Book of Mormon. I love being able to be taught from the scriptures by the Holy Ghost as we read. Really having the Spirit with us as we study is the way that we learn through the studies that we have. We then talked about answering the questions of the soul with scriptures. We posed the question "If God loves his children why do bad things happen to good people?" And then gave them 7 minutes to find a scripture verse or story that answered that question. One of my favorites to answer that question is in Doctrine and Covenants 58:2-4. I challenge each of you in your next study of the scriptures to search for one of the questions of your soul or to take the one presented above and look for answers in the scriptures. As we do that with a spirit of humility and prayer we will find answers.

We have also been helping a lot of the Africans here with talks that they are preparing for sacrament meeting. It is really cool to be able to get to know so many different cultures here in Spain. We have Romanians, Africans of all countries, South Americans, Central Americans, and a couple of Spaniards here and there. It makes the area really interesting. I realized last night that we had not taught a full out lesson in Spanish in a week because most of our investigators are African. I love it though and African food is delicious. On Friday we had intercambios with the Elders in Azuqueca and so we all eat together at about 2 o'clock. Later we went to an African lady's house and ate African fried rice with Turkey which was delicious but she brought out a pot of rice about a foot in diameter and just as high just filled with rice that we were expected to eat. We did the absolute best that we was a fun experience until we walked out and my companion threw up behind a car. The next day he was completely out of commission. Good news though, he is better now.

Other happenings from this week, Leo is not really engaged anymore in learning because he needs a job so bad that he can't focus on other things such as the gospel. He needs our prayers now more than ever. I am grateful for your prayers on his behalf. We also have been continuing in our teaching of Felix which has been absolutely great! He is starting to involve himself more and more in the YSA activities here which is super cool to see that transition starting to happen from the missionaries to the ward members. He is really just the coolest person ever! Keep praying for him and his progress. He came to church for all three hours this week!!!!
Anyways we are doing well here in Torrejón life goes well. I pray for you all back home every day!

Elder Gustafson

Monday, November 9, 2015


Put on the whole armor of God - In Sergovia with a "knight."

Felix and Leo came to church! This has really been a great week! It was so great because we just have awesome investigators, an awesome district and my companion is a boss. It was great also because the members threw me a surprise party on Tuesday. It's even greater because the Torrejón District survived transfers with everyone staying. So all said it has been an awesome week to be a missionary here in this time and in this place.

Let's start by talking about how cool Felix is. Felix is progressing really well he has really sincere desires to learn and make the changes in his life so that he can be baptized in December. This week we taught him about the law of chastity and he told us that he wants the Hermanas to start teaching his girlfriend so that they can learn and progress together. On Sunday in Sunday School we talked about eternal marriage and he leaned over to my companion and said I don't just want to get married, I want to get sealed. It was a super cool moment. Thank you for your prayers on his behalf. I know that prayers are answered.

Leo also came to church this week! He has been coming regularly but for some reason he hasn't picked up his phone for the last 2 weeks. He never called us back and so we didn't know what was up. We were worried that he was going to drop us but as we called him on Saturday he picked up and told us that he would come to church this Sunday. He came and we were able to have a long talk afterward about what was going on and help him feel of the peace of Christ. I am so grateful for that peace. Sometimes life as a missionary just gets crazy trying to keep all the people that we, teach, visit, and are concerned about in order but the peace of Christ stays with us as we are worthy to have it.

Life is great in Torrejón. Please keep praying for our investigators.

I love you all!

Elder Gustafson

Surprise Birthday party with members and missionaries

GF cookies at the birthday party

Sword I got in Segovia

(It's really only about 4 inches long and isn't a sword at all, just a letter opener!)

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Love of Spain

Torrejon District in Segovia at the Roman Aqueduct

Cathedral in Segovia

Top of the castle in Segovia Spain
 We have just had the best day here in Segovia today. We went out to Segovia to see the aqueduct and castle that are here. And it’s been a really fun pre birthday treat! (Pictures to come if the bus wifi lets me send them.) 

This week in Torrejón has been a blast! It really has been an awesome week! I got to go on intercambios with the elders from Coslada which was really fun. I went with Elder Aussant who is Canadian and just a great missionary. We hit the streets hard and were able to see some miracle people come out which was amazing! We met a woman from Tanzania who told us that Akuna Matata (from lion King) actually does mean no worries in Swahili, and then accepted a follow up visit to continue learning about who we are and why we are here in Spain. I love intercambios because of the miracles that we see as well as all that you can learn from the other person. During this intercambio I realized that I have been more focused on teaching lessons than I have on teaching to the needs of our investigators and involving the members in the needs of our member not only in the lessons with our investigators. When we make sure to focus on needs we have success and they feel our love because we have addressed not what we want to teach but what they need to prepare themselves for baptism.

We have been meeting quite frequently with Felix this week which has been a real blessing for us. He is an amazing investigator. He essentially has discovered what it means to have a personal relationship with God which will help him immensely in receiving an answer. Please pray that he has the desire and strength to get up and come to church on Sunday after working late into the night.

We have struggled to meet with Leo this week but he decided to come back to church this Sunday for which I am very grateful! He is a wonderful man, I'm sure that I have expressed that before but really he is one of the most sincere people that I know. I am so grateful for the love that I have come to feel for these people here and the love that they show to me. It is through love that I get up every day and keep working for them. I am so grateful to have the blessing of devoting my life to them. I am sure that I receive far more blessings than the little that I do merits but I am grateful for everything that I have and feel here.

I can't believe that once again transfers are only one week away. It freaks me out how fast time is flying in Torrejón. As I have gotten busier this transfer the time has gone twice as fast. I am so grateful for Spain. I am so grateful for the people here. I am so grateful for the experiences that I am having here, the good ones and the hard ones. I love this country. I can't imagine being in any other place or doing anything else right now. Love comes through service. I am grateful for this blessing of love that I receive for the people here from my Savior. I know that through His atonement all will turn out alright in the end, if we harken to his voice and call. I love Him.

I am grateful for and love you all!

Elder Gustafson

 Stained glass windows from the castle in Segovia.

Birthday Week - Elder Gustafson Nov 3
Hermana Kelelman - Nov 5
Hermana Graff - Nov 2
Elder Wade - Nov 4

Another great district meeting.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


October 26, 2015
Hola a todos!

This week I have been thinking a lot about consecration. What is consecration? Why should we be consecrated? What does it mean to be consecrated? How do we become consecrated? Etc. I would love to share my thoughts with you all. On Sunday in one of the classes we talked about the story of the Rich Young Man. In this story a rich young man comes up to Jesus and his disciples and asks how he can inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, and the young man replies that he has done that since his childhood. Jesus then tells him to sell all that he has and to follow him and as the scriptures say he went away sad. The young man was not willing to give everything that he had to follow the Lord. As I thought about this story I thought about the applications in my life. Am I giving all that I have to the Lord? The answer is no. There is always something more that we can give to the Lord. As we ask the Lord he will let us know exactly what else we must do to become more consecrated to Him. We must be willing to accept that counsel and act upon it.

So why was I thinking about consecration? Leo. Leo is a great man who I love with all my heart. I have spent much time studying, pondering, and praying, about him and how to help him progress towards covenants with God. We all have or have had barriers that separate us from God. Sometimes it is being disobedient to his commandments, sometimes it is pride, sometimes it is not repenting, sometimes it is focusing too much on the things of the world. Whatever it is we must take the step of faith that, in that moment, the rich young ruler was unable to take.

Consecration is not easy to achieve because it has a cost to it. In a talk by Elder Tad R Callister called Becoming a Consecrated Missionary he talks about the cost of becoming consecrated. He says, "Some time ago I saw a movie on the life of Martin Luther. He was about to be tried for heresy. Shortly before he was to meet with the Court of Inquisition, his spiritual mentor (a monk who had trained him and loved him) was cutting his hair with a razor. At one point the monk reprimanded Luther for having turned the world upside down, leading the world in revolt - Protestants against Catholics. Then in a stirring moment, Luther grasps his arm and asks: 'You wanted me to change the world. Did you think there would be no cost?'" As a missionary my purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ. There is a cost for both myself and those that I invite to come unto Christ. We met with a man named Steven (an investigator of the Coslada elders but they were sick so we filled in) and he told us that he wanted to come back to Christ after having turned away in his adolescence. We talked about the path back to Christ he knew that he would have to make changes in order to return to Christ and is willing to make them. He knew that he will have to consecrate himself completely to Christ in order to conquer the obstacles that will come up as he works his way back. We as missionaries have to do the same we must dedicate ourselves our whole heart, might, mind, and strength to the work of the Lord. As we do that we see miracles. As members when we put Christ first and do everything in order to advance his kingdom that is where we find true joy!

I believe it was Elder Holland that said you cannot have one foot in Babylon and the other in The Kingdom of God. It is true! I know that this gospel is true I love it! The gospel makes us free! I am here to give freedom to all who will accept it. I get to be a part of the best work in all the world!

My invitation for you all is to find out through prayer how you can become more consecrated to the Lord and then make the changes that you need to. It is something that one of the APs challenged us to do and it is a beautiful invitation and one that will make us even happier.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Fun following District Meeting

Torrejon District at the Night of Nations

Gluten free sandwiches provided by members at the Night of Nations.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Changes in Torrejon

Torrejon District at Stake Conference at the Temple complex

 Today as a District we went to the mall here in Torrejón and we were talking about the ward here and the changes that we have seen over the last couple of months. As we talked we realized that there has been a change in attitude towards the missionaries here. It really is one of the greatest blessings that we have seen here in Torrejón. Even though we haven't had the greatest number of lessons every week or the most number of investigators who have committed to baptism I am grateful for the change in attitude from the members and the missionaries in working together as opposed to working against each other. It is true that a ward will not grow without a focus on missionary work, working with the missionaries and the missionaries will never have success if they forget that they must serve, love, and work together with the members in this great work of the Lord. 

So how did we begin to see the change take place in this ward? First, prayer and fasting to the Lord to know how to help them. Second, forming relationships with the members in order to understand really what their needs are. Third, serving the members according to their needs. We have been privileged to be asked to give members blessings in times of need, to make members cheesecake, to accompany members to the hospital for an operation that they are going to have, and the blessings go on. As a result the members are engaged and want to help us in the missionary work. After a lesson on Saturday with Estafania and a member that we brought with us, the member asked us to call him every time we were going to visit Estefania and he would be there to help us teach. Another example, we brought Diego, a young man in the ward who will be leaving on a mission to Argentina in a couple of weeks, to a lesson with Leo and he was able to clearly and specifically identify the need of Leo without having talked with him too much beforehand. It was a solid lesson and he also told us to let him him know when we can go visit more investigators. I am grateful for the work that the Lord is doing here in the ward of Torrejón.

Speaking of our awesome investigators, we are still meeting with Felix. He is going through some hard times right now and could use all of the prayers that he can get. He especially could use prayers for him to get Sunday's off at work so that he can come to church and work towards his baptismal date in December. Also we are meeting with Leo who is progressing really well and wants to be baptized. He however is still looking for a job and so doesn't want to get a job where he has to work on Sunday's and go inactive after being baptized. It is a great desire but he needs many prayers for him to find a job in the afternoons or Monday through Saturday. He is awesome and a great man but just needs a little boost this week! We also have Estefania who has great desires to keep learning and progressing we had a great lesson with her about faith and repentance the first two points in the gospel of Jesus Christ where she told us that many of her questions were answered and that she is feeling really good about what she is learning in the church.

Anyways life is good! My companion is a champ and you can all thank him for the photos from this week. He is doing really well changing into missionary life but as always with any change could use your prayers as well.

I love you all!

Elder Gustafson
District traveling in the Metro

My Companion loves taking selfies.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Many Miracles

Beautiful sunset!
Torrejon District with Felix
I love miracles! I believe that as we see miracles in our lives that is when we know that we are doing the will of God. We have seen so many miracles this week and I am grateful for them. 

Miracle of Felix

This week Felix our investigator from NYC sprained his wrist! It was a miracle! It was a miracle for us because for the first time in almost three weeks we were able to spend P-Day with him and then teach him again later on Friday. It was amazing. His wrist has healed and he is back to his busy life of school and work but has committed to prepare for baptism by meeting with us every week and asking for Sunday mornings off at work.

Miracle with Leo

I don't know how much I have said about Leo but Leo is awesome! Leo has real desires to learn and progress which is a real blessing. He comes to everything, baptisms, Ward activities, general conference, stake conference etc. his only problem is that when he ends up finding a job that if he is required to work on Sunday he will do it and stop coming. He is an amazing guy with a testimony of the principles of the gospel he just can only see how much he needs a job. We have been praying that he finds a job Monday through Saturday and can continue progressing in the gospel. One of my favorite parts of the mission is being devoted to others all my time, always trying to better myself so that I can help others along their journey.

Miracles in Coslada

This transfer they opened a brand new area inside of our area if that makes sense. They essentially put another set of Elders here in Torrejón and assigned them to work in a city that is just next to Torrejón which is also in our area. Anyways so to help them get started over there this week we spent an afternoon contacting. Contacting is one of my favorite things to do because we see so many miracles when we do it with an attitude of prayer, faith, and hope. We went on mini splits for the afternoon and I was with Elder Phillips. We had three distinct miracles from Coslada that I would like to share.

#1 The Little Boy on His Bike

We were walking along and saw a little boy ridding on a tiny little bike. He stopped and said hi and asked who we were and what we were doing. We crouched down and started talking with him, his dad walked up and Elder Phillips went to talk with him as I was in the middle of this conversation with this little boy. Turns out the guy was from England and spoke English to Elder Phillip's delight, (Elder Phillips has been in the mission for about two weeks now). Then the mom walked up and I began talking with her and we were able to receive an invitation to call them and speak more with them, all because a little boy wanted to talk with some funny looking Americans.

#2 Little Kids in the Plaza

We went and approached a woman sitting on a bench in a Plaza and tried speaking with her. Turns out that she hasn't been in Spain very long after moving here from Romania, but her little kids and their friends spoke Spanish. We had about ten little kids 6-8 years old running around all trying to ask us questions and talk with us so we went and sat and on the next bench right next to their mothers and started answering their questions about who we were and what we were doing their in Spain. As we answered their questions about what are missionaries one little girl asked us "did you come from heaven?" It was a neat experience and when we left they all had their little pass a long cards with pictures of Jesus and one of the women who had been listening to us talk to their kids accepted a Book of Mormon and the invitation to keep learning more.

# 3 The Women with the Dogs

As we continued throughout our afternoon talking with absolutely everyone that we could we ended up in a small little park surrounded by trees. We saw a woman sitting on a bench with two little dogs. Elder Phillips made the approach and we started a conversation with her. As we talked we learned about some of the trials that she was going through in her life. She told us about how hard the passing of her parents, the year before, was for her. As she opened up she gave us the opportunity to testify of the Plan of Salvation, that we know that we can live with our families again after death. There is more to life than simply this time we have on earth. I felt the spirit so strongly sitting on a park bench talking with a woman who I had met maybe ten minutes earlier. It was a beautiful miracle we had the privilege to be a part of.

We saw a rainbow on the way to send our emails.
I am so grateful for the miracles that I see every day in my life and in the lives of those around me. As we seek to find the miracles that happen every day I know that we can be happier and we can better align ourselves with God's will. I love being a missionary. I can't believe how fast time seems to be flying right now, it makes me nervous that if I blink I might miss it. I love my Savior and what He did for me and for all of you. I love you with all my heart!

Elder Gustafson

Homemade GF corndogs with Elder Hendrix

Paola, a recent convert and baker, has been making me GF cookies so I am happy here :)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Faith to keep moving forward

Torrejon Elders
Hello to all of my wonderful friends and family back in the United States! This has been an absolutely wonderful week here in Torrejón. I am here with Elder Hendrix from Arizona. He is a boss! He is super excited to be here and to work hard. We also received two other elders into Torrejón and they live just down the street from us which is a blast. We go eat lunch with them and we played basketball with them and with our investigator Felix. Life here is awesome!

This last conference was absolutely awesome! To me I received many answers and a rejuvenation of the soul. I am grateful for the many inspired messages which were shared by our leaders in the church and look forward to going back and reviewing them again. I especially enjoyed the emphasis on faith that I heard in this conference. For me personally one of the strongest messages was faith. Make sure that you have the faith that you need and proceed according to your faith. Faith is more than just an idea or a concept. Faith is actually taking that step into the darkness and having the confidence that as you live worthy of His guidance he will give it to you. The Lord will not always tell us exactly what we must do in every situation but must learn for ourselves through study and we must pray that He will guide our paths as we take these steps of faith. Sometimes we start out crawling with the faith that we have but as time goes along we will be able to get up and walk as we gain trust in God and as we follow more closely the inspiration that we receive. This was one of the best lessons that I learned during the conference. I am grateful for the Spirit that was there and testified to me of the truthfulness of the messages.  
With Elder Hendrix

This last week we had a great week. There have been a couple of moments with the Spanish language that is sometimes complex that have led to some funny moments but it is really through our mistakes that we learn the most. We have this great opportunity to teach, help and love our companions which is amazing. I love being here with Elder Hendrix he is helping me to have a great time while working hard in our service to the Lord.

I know that the Lord loves us and that He watches over us. I know that our savior died for each one of us and wants us to be happy. I encourage all of you to re-watch and re-study the words of His Prophets and Apostles.

Elder Gustafson

Helping set up for General Conference

Monday, September 28, 2015

Changes in Torrejon

This week we are going to have some changes here in Torrejón. We are getting another set of Elders and Elder Peña is leaving. We also have 43 new missionaries coming into the field tomorrow which means that I will have the opportunity to train. I am super excited for what is coming. I know it will be challenging but also a great time. We are going into Madrid to find out who our next companions will be. Also I'm super excited as I will have the opportunity of serving as the District leader here in Torrejón. I think what I'm learning is that there are always more surprises and changes in the mission.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson
A small package from home with treats and deodorant from the US. Yay!

P-day activity with some members in Torrejon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Be Still and Know that I am God

September 21, 2015

What a week this has been. It has been a week different from all the rest here in Torrejón. We have had the great opportunity to work a lot with the members this week. It has really been a great week. On Friday we taught Osasu, one of the recent converts, here in Torrejón. Together we watched a video about Zion's Camp, a group of men led by the Prophet to go and help saints in Missouri. They expected to fight and so embarked on a 900 mile journey. Along their path they suffered many trials including sicknesses, weariness from hiking 20-30 miles over rough terrain, bad food etc. Before they arrived at the assistance of the saints they received word that the Governor would not send his support to help the saints reclaim their land. Joseph Smith then received revelation that they would not fight but that the Lord would fight their battles for them. They then returned to Kirtland suffering more sickness on the way back. The thing that I love about this story is that the Lord required these men to do hard things, and it was only after they had exerted themselves willing to put their lives on the line that the Lord stepped in to fight their battles. (D&C105)

At the end of the video was a scripture from D&C 101:16 that struck me it says, "Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God." Sometimes all we need is to be still and know that God is in control. When we seek His vision for our lives we will have success. Osasu, the recent convert, told us after we shared this video with him that his full name, Osasumven, means God Leads Me in his native dialect. That is what I want for my life, I want to be Osasumven.

Other great news from this week: on Wednesday we were teaching Felix and had a great lesson about being people who act. After finishing we left but about twenty minutes later we got a phone call from Felix telling us that he had lost his keys, it was now about 10:30at night, and he had no place to stay the night except at his girlfriend's house something we didn't really want. As we prayed that he would be able to find his keys we got a call telling us that he had found them on a bridge that he had crossed on his way home. I know that it was a miracle that he was able to find his keys.

On Saturday we had a ward barbecue and had a great time. We got to interact with the members and help four of our investigators feel more comfortable being at the church and establish friendships. During the barbecue we gathered together the young men and women and two investigators from the ward and went inside and
watched a video and then had each of them share their testimonies of how the gospel has changed each one of their lives. I am grateful for the youth of the church here in Spain. They live in a different culture than I did and I am grateful that they stay strong in what they believe.

I love this work, and I love my Savior.

Elder Gustafson

What is Love?

September 14, 2015

A great week herein Torrejón. This week we have really been focusing on our relationship with the members. Due to a couple of incidents with missionaries of the past the members do not have a whole lot of confidence in the missionaries right now. We are working to show them that we are here to serve them and be obedient to the Lord. Really the members are the the key to success as a missionary. We can spend all day in the street talking with people and without anyone accepting our invitation to learn more, but when members invite their friends who already have seen the light of Christ through their friends than we find success.

This week is a lesson in love. Love really is the key to all that we do as missionaries. We show love as missionaries by taking the time to serve others by listening. An example, we went to a lesson with one of our investigators but her husband wasn't home and we could not enter. We asked how she was doing and we learned that really she was having a tough time. We went and sat on the steps and just listened as she talked through what was going on in her life. As we just listened she talked and we shared a scripture and our testimonies with her. In that moment the love that I felt for this person that I have talked with for probably 2 hours in total, is the miracle of sharing our time and in that way show our love for her. As we show our little bit of human love that we can the Lord fills us with His love for that person. Charity is the pure love of Christ.

Another experience this week that was miraculous. I was on exchanges with my District Leader this week and we taught a lesson to a recent convert who feels the difficulties of being the only member in her family and trying to leave on the mission. Once again I learned the importance of listening and teaching with the power of the Spirit. We went in with a lesson prepared but threw it out as we started to talk with her and she told us again how she was feeling. As we listened to the Spirit we were able to talk with her and share some experiences from our lives and experiences from the scriptures to help her. We shared with her the story of Job. Job was a man that was very righteous and even though he had many riches he still put God first in his life. Still he had a trial of extraordinary measure, he had everything taken from him, his family, his wealth, and his health. When he questions God, Job is advised in the following manner: "17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: 18 For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole." (Job 5) And after all of this in chapter 19 Job says: "25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me."

Sometimes we seem like Job where we feel like we are not receiving our just treatment but God will always reward those that are just and in the end Job received more than he had before his great trial. God loves us to make us who we can best become. In this lesson she began to feel the love of God for her and left happy ready to keep fighting the good fight.

Really love is something mysterious. It is something that I am just at the very beginning in my understanding but I know that it is what binds us together and what should motivate us in life. Our responsibility is to make sure that we have our love based in the right things and in the right priority. I know that God loves each one of us his children and that our Savior performed the atonement in the greatest act of love ever shown. I love my God and my Savior.

I love you all and hope you all have a great week filled with miracles.
Elder Gustafson

Yummmmmmm. Mystery meat lunch at the Kebap. This is one of my favorite
foods here!

The Week of a Missionary

September 7, 2015

Usually when I write letters I try to think of a theme for the week in something that I am studying or something that I feel that I have been taught through my experiences this week, but this week I don't even know what it is that I should write about, there is so much that has happened and so much that I have learned. Hopefully I figure it out by the time I finish writing.

First of all I want everyone to know how awesome my companion Elder Peña is. I am grateful for the ability that he has to love. He is teaching me so much about the importance of loving everyone and doing everything that we do out of love. If we do the right thing only because it is something to do we become robots. Driven by tasks and lists and check marks on what we have done that day. But if we do the right thing because we love the Lord and those around us we become disciples of Jesus Christ. With love we go above and beyond the check marks and lists for the day (they still get accomplished) but we also have sought to go the extra mile to do a little bit more. Or in other words we are engaged in what we are doing with our heart as well as our minds. For example last night we had our weekly phone call report to our District Leader and while I was talking on the phone my companion made me dinner. It wasn't in his to do list for the day nor is it written that we have to make our companion's dinner but he saw an opportunity and took it to show me his love. This is just one small example, it seems that he is constantly looking to do that one extra thing to better the world around him and to show that he cares.

Second, the Lord works miracles as we try our best. On Saturday we had an activity in the church and got stuck there pretty much all day long. I was kind of frustrated because several things had not gone to plan and certain key people had not shown up until very late, but the Lord works miracles still. At about 9:30 one of the youth told us that her nonmember friend was going to come to talk with us. We went out in the street and talked with him about the Resurrection and the next day he came to church, and we met with him again last night. It was a miracle because after what looked to be a less productive day still the Lord blessed us through our relationship with the members.

Third, we have an investigator from New York named Felix, who is really cool. But he is going through a hard time right now. One of his best friends died in a motorcycle accident a couple days ago and he is struggling to understand why someone so young has to die if there is a God. I know that even though this is a hardship for him in the end it will be a blessing because Felix is turning to God and the Scriptures to find the answers to his questions for which I am grateful. I know that in the scriptures we can find the answers to all or our questions no matter what they are.

Fourth, I know that when we judge others it is because we can't see ourselves clearly. There are two lessons that I am learning this transfer. The first is that we need to look in the mirror first. Usually if we have a problem with someone it is because we are selves don't want to find fault with ourselves and so we push blame on others. We compare ourselves to them saying I do this and this better than them and so I am better but it is not true. There is a phrase that I don't remember exactly but it goes something like, never think that you are any better or any worse than your neighbor but always just as good. When we compare we fail. When we try to follow Christ and better ourselves without comparison we succeed. The second lesson is that we need to try walking in the other person's shoes. We must try to see as they see the world and then we can have understanding and compromise. But we first must make an effort to understand them. We really don't know the struggles of others until we take the time to get to know them.

Fifth, everything in its own and proper time. Victor our investigator from Pontevedra was baptized this last Saturday. I am super excited for this and it is something that I have prayed for that he would be ready and able to take this important step in his life.

Sixth, thank you to the person that sent me a package that I received this week. I am grateful for your thoughtfulness and kind words. You were an answer to my prayers. I know that God works in mysterious ways and an orange envelope with some goodies was a blessing to me.

Finally, I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. That through the Atonement we can be lifted during times of difficulty. I know this because I have felt it with all my heart. I also know that when we make mistakes, we can repent and change and be better all through the Atonement of Jesus Christ again. I know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ and that I have been called and set apart as His representative to bring this knowledge and access of the Atonement to others. I love being a missionary and seeing His work move forward here in Spain.

Elder Gustafson

He Knows Best

August 31, 2015

This week I have learned many powerful lessons. It has been a week of prayer and disappointment and joy. I have learned more than anything this week that the My Father in Heaven knows exactly who I am and He knows what I need to learn and grow. There is a story by Hugh B Brown quoted in a talk “As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten” by D. Todd Christofferson in the April 2011 conference "God uses another form of chastening or correction to guide us to a future we do not or cannot now envision but which He knows is the better way for us.”

President Hugh B. Brown, formerly a member of the Twelve and a counselor in the First Presidency, provided a personal experience. He told of purchasing a rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet (1.8 m) high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:

“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”

President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’” 

Years later, President Brown was a field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When a superior officer became a battle casualty, President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, and he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, it was denied him because he was a Mormon. The commanding general said in essence, “You deserve the appointment, but I cannot give it to you.” What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping, praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination. Continuing his story, President Brown remembered:

“I got on the train and started back … with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. … When I got to my tent, … I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, ‘How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done--that I should have done--that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?’ I was as bitter as gall. “And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, ‘I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.’ The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness. …

“… And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to [God] and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”

This week I felt a little bit like the current bush. It has been an interesting experience transitioning on the flip of a dime. With that transition there is always growing experiences which are not easy. But the Lord will always be there besides us. I know that He loves me and that He loves each of you. Even though there will be times of difficulty there will always be miracles.

One of those miracles that we saw this week was with our Investigator Felix who moved here from the U.S. when he was little. We have been trying to get in contact with him and set a time but it just hasn't worked with his schedule. So on Friday we were going out to the outskirts of Torrejón to visit an investigator out there and we just started our walk when we heard someone yelling at us out their car window. We went over talked to him for a minute and told him where we were going. He told us he lived in that very same building and so we were able to get a ride with him and talk for a minute. Really it was a blessing from the Lord for which I am grateful.

Really what I have learned this week is that the Lord knows best. As we humble ourselves to His will He will lead and guide us in all that we need. I am grateful that as we make mistakes that we have the Atonement to overcome our mistakes and improve our weaknesses. I know that because he rose we can be free of our sins.

I love you all
Elder Gustafson

The Firehose is Back On

August 24, 2015
With Elder Pena

Just when I thought I had the mission thing figured out it got turned upside down and inside out. From a branch of 15-20 to a ward of 140, from a companion with an American background and members there whole lives to a companion from Peru who speaks only Spanish and is the only member of his family, from a tranquil city in northern Spain to a city just outside Madrid. We ain't in Kansas any more. And I love it all. It is great to be here and fun to be learning alongside Elder Peña who is a humble powerful teacher who loves all. I thought after getting adjusted to the mission field the Firehose of learning and adjusting and transitioning wouldn't come back on. But it's back on and I get to learn and experience more. I am grateful for this experience that I am having because it is helping me to learn and grow.

BYU Basketball Team
Lesson 1 from Torrejón. One night this last week we had the privilege of going to a BYU basketball game in the center of Madrid. It was a great experience and really fun to take our recent convert Paul to. There were probably 50+ missionaries there from throughout Madrid. Lesson learned, every person is on a different level of learning and understanding and it doesn't really matter how much time we have in the mission. I loved being able to see some of my missionary heroes there that have taught me so much and really I could see why they were different, they did what was right even in a crowd. In this they followed the example of Jesus Christ. I have been reading and studying about the life of Jesus Christ in my studies and never did he let the will of anyone but the Father influence His decisions. This is lesson 1 from Torrejón stand for the right in any situation.

Lesson 2 the Lord has a plan for me even when I don't know it. I love it here in Torrejón and the members here are great. I am going to be honest though and say it's been a bumpy transition. It was hard to leave my zone of comfort and friends and family in Pontevedra, to come to an area that I don't know but I know that the Lord has a plan for me and that as I do my best to work hard, and pray for his help he will always be there for me. He is molding me and changing me in ways that I never thought possible. I know that He is my Master and that as I obey His will for me He will create me to be the person that I can best be. I know that to be true for all of us as well.

I love you all and pray for you,
Elder Gustafson

The Boomerang

A castle from the train window.
August 17, 2015

This week has been a week incomparable to all the rest. This last week has been like the "Boomerang". A little explaining. This last week has been festivo in Pontevedra and along with any great festivo come carnival rides. There is one ride called the Boomerang that is like the pirate ship that swings back and forth except that you are strapped in and do full loops upside down. For PDay last week we went and rode on the Boomerang and it really is how our week went. First of all Victor. His baptism did not go through this week. We decided to take some more time before his baptism to make sure that he understands the covenant that he is making. Along with that decision came a lot of prayer and thought about him and what he most needs. We met with him everyday, to listen and try to bring the Spirit into his life, but with all that he needs more time. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do to tell him that we would have to wait because I love him but sometimes we must do hard things to help those we care about. So Victor will get baptized one day I have no doubt but that day will again come in the Lord's timing and not mine.

Second, on Friday we received a message from a recent convert family that they have decided to take a break to rethink the church. It was super sad because they had stopped coming to church because both parents work on Sundays and because of that they have been caught up in the world. But we had already set a lunch appointment to visit their branch mission leader and so afterwards went and stopped by their house. They weren't answering their phones or their door and so we went back to the car and wrote them a little note. As we were writing the dad came out and invited us up. We went and had a really great spiritual experience with them. Talking about some of the things that they are going through right now and how the Savior is always here for us no matter where we are in life or what we are going through. I know that really this is true that when we have great weeks or we have difficult weeks or days or hours or minutes Christ is there for us.

Third, I'm leaving Pontevedra. It is not a surprise but it feels like I just got here. I have grown to love the people here and they have really become my family away from home. I am grateful for the time that I have had to learn from and form lifelong relationships with the members and investigators here. I I have been served by and have tried to serve them with all my heart. I will miss them all. When we serve our fellow man we grow to love them. The same happens when we are served. But when we both try to serve each other we form relationships unforgettable. At this same time I am excited for another opportunity to form more relationships and get to know a new area. I am excited to be with my new companion,

Elder Peña. Change is always hard but it is also where we learn the most. I am excited to grow and to learn.

I love the work and I love being a missionary. I love the Lord and I love you all.

Elder Gustafson