Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Spirit will bring the message to the heart

View from the hike to our mountain top rama (branch) activity.

I´m going to start this letter with the probably funniest moment of my mission, shared with permission of Elder Giforos. On Saturday we had a rama activity and we were responsible for bringing some sort of desert, and we decided to make brownies. So we bought all of the ingredients that we needed and came home and of course had to make sure that they were delicious so we decided to make a small batch. Elder Giforos is a great missionary and is exactly obedient and so when the directions of the recipe said mix ingredients by hand he stuck his hand into the egg, flour sugar, chocolatey mess of the bowl and started mixing it with his hand. I look over and just start dying laughing. He turns to me and says, "What?" I explained to him that it meant without an electric beater. He pulled his hand out covered in chocolate mess dripping off his fingers. It was a great moment that has kept me laughing all week long. I´m just glad to have a trainer who is exactly obedient.

Other than that this week has been pretty good! On Monday after P-day we had a wonderful discussion with some Testigos de Jehova which was really interesting as it always is. I am so grateful that with our message no one has to believe our words. What I mean is that they can and must find out for themselves that our message is true. I could show people scripture after scripture that show that our church is the church of God on the earth but that is not how we work. Obviously we share scriptures and stories and our own testimony in order to help people strengthen their desires and their faith to take action but they need to take their own action and read the Book of Mormon for themselves and pray and then they can receive that answer from God that we are promised. 

This week we also found another really cool investigator. She is a professional triathlete here in Pontevedra who gets to travel all around Spain competing in triathlons. We contacted into her late one rainy night and she seemed kind of interested, and then when we called her she was in Madrid for a triathlon and said she didn´t have time for the missionaries. Then about a week ago Elder Giforos sent a mass text to all of the contacts that we hadn´t had more than a first street contact with. She responded thanking us for not forgetting about her and that she would love to meet. When we had our first lesson with her she told us two great things first that if she receives an answer she´ll be willing to take the steps necessary to be baptized and second that she has a friend as well that she thinks would be interested in hearing our message. It was an amazing miracle in Pontevedra.

On Saturday we had our Rama activity which was super cool. One of our investigators came and we had ribs cooked over a fire up on a mountain which was really cool! I think that was when I realized how sad I would be if I had to leave this this area. (That night we would be getting transfer notices) We bonded with the members and our investigator bore a testimony up on top of the mountain right before our spiritual thought which was really cool! It was a really great day and ended even better when I found out that night that I would be staying in Pontevedra with Elder Giforos for another transfer and probably another after that because he goes home the end of this transfer. 

Sunday was a day of reflection for me. It was a great day, I gave a talk in church and that went well or as good as my broken Spanish allowed, but it was good to feel the Spirit. We still haven´t seen recent convert at church since his confirmation which is really sad because he can´t leave the family business to come. It is difficult and we just keep praying for him. After church and later that night we had an appointment that made me realize that the only thing that we can do as missionaries is invite. Even if people refuse to accept the message for themselves there is still nothing more that we can do. The Spirit can convey our message to the hearts of all but only those who chose to let it into their hearts will ever be truly converted. We all must look to see where our own faith is and not belittle others because of their mistakes or sins. Love is the key and there is no other way to help anyone besides love. This is something that I am trying to improve on. Loving everyone. It is super easy to love your friends and your family but when you have to love people that are making such poor decisions in their lives this is hard for me. I am grateful though that through the atonement of Jesus Christ my weaknesses can be made strong. This I believe with all my heart.

The work here in Pontevedra is great. We see miracles every day. I am so grateful to be here in Pontevedra at this time with my great companion. I am praying for you all and hope your lives are filled with the joy of the gospel that mine is filled with.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

My new little friend!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Lord Guides

Ferry to the Illas Cies

Light house, Illas Cies
Sun, heat, and sunburns. On Monday this week we got to go the Illas Cíes, an island just off the coast of Vigo. It was probably one of the best P-days I´ve had so far. We  hiked up to the top of the island where there is a super cool looking light house, and then went and played beach soccer and waited for our ferry to pick us up. It was a great day! The great sunburns are definitely worth it. We went to a member´s house last night and they told me I was looking tan which is the first time that has ever happened in my life.
Ferry ride with zone missionaries and President and Sister Jackson

On Tuesday we had Zone conference with the APs and President and Hermana Jackson. It was an amazing experience. We were taught about covenants by the APs, especially the importance of the sacrament. Pres Jackson told us that the sacrament is not the renewal of a covenant but a new covenant that we make each week to take upon us the name of Christ and to be willing to follow His commandments. There is a clear and distinct difference between renewing and making a covenant. Renewing would be like getting an extension on the time you can keep a library book but to make a covenant each week is like going to the bookstore and buying a new copy of the same book that you had marked up and written on the last week. This was impactful to me because it really shows that we get to start fresh every week at the sacrament. When we sin or cross out parts of the book it becomes of less value but I know that every week at the sacrament I can make a new book and try better not to cross parts out and always keep it clean.

Vigo Zone Conference May 2015

I have a testimony that when we are in the right place at the right time doing the right things the Lord always puts people in our paths. We were out contacting and we were looking for our Romanian family Los Stefan, when we found them. They were talking with a girl named Tania. She is in a wheel chair and we had passed her earlier that day on our way to an appointment and only had time to say hello but now we had the opportunity again and we got to know her a little better. We didn´t get her number because our focus still was more on Los Stefan but we left peaceably and went on to our next appointment. Later that night we saw Tania again stopped and talked with her and she told us she was interested in listening to our message. It was great. We had a cita with her and she is great, willing to read and pray to find out if it is true. Tonight we have our next cita with her and I´m super excited. I know that God  has to hit us over the head repeatedly sometimes before we can see the blessings that He is trying to give to us but He blesses us as we try to do what is right.

Richard is doing well. He is busy with work but he is coming to the great YSA events they have at the church and He´s just a great guy and friend. We are praying for him that he´ll be able to get work off on Sunday so that he can attend church and receive the Aaronic Priesthood which is going to be great!

Raquel is also doing well. She was going to come to church on Sunday with the kids that she babysits but their parents didn´t want that to happen. So she had to stay with them. She did tell us though that she wanted to start looking for a new job so that she can come to church! I am grateful that she is looking to make changes in her life so that she can get baptized on her baptismal date. I appreciate your prayers on behalf of our investigators and us here in Pontevedra.
Beautiful view on the Illas Cies.

I know that this is the true church of Jesus Christ and that He is a part of this work.

Elder Gustafson

Go into all the world

Spain Madrid Mission Conference, May 2015

May 11, 2015

What a wonderful week we have had! On Wednesday we went down to Madrid for a mission conference, which we all thought would be about iPads but in reality was about being agents not objects. Technology is an object and we are the masters of technology and therefore we must not let an object control us. We have been given this great gift of agency and just like any other addiction we cannot let objects take this gift away from us. I am so excited for the opportunity that we will have as missionaries to use technology to further the work of the Lord. Along with these new tools will be new rules as well which I am excited about. The first is that there will be no secrecy on these devices. We will audit our companions´ devices and our leaders also can audit our devices as a point of accountability for our actions. The second is that we must always have a purpose for turning the device on. There must be reason to use technology or it is using you. I am excited to use these and the other principles that we were taught to become the masters of technology. We still have not received the iPads but they will be here in the next couple of weeks. We do have some pretty cool cases that they gave to use at the conference so we know for sure that they are coming at some point.

Other than that this week we have been trying to keep in contact with Richard and Raquel who both work a lot and sometimes we have problems with contact, but we keep trying and are excited for what this next week will bring. I know that the Lord is blessing the work here and I know that with the technology that the Lord has blessed us with we will be able to fulfill and do His work with more efficiency and success. To close my quick letter this week I want to share a scripture that applies to missionary work with technology and social media that my companion shared with me this week.  "Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature." - Doctrine and covenants 84:62

I love you all
Elder Gustafson

(Mom's note: We were able to Skype with Elder Gustafson on Mother's Day. It was great to see him and hear of his growth and service in Spain.)

Monday, May 4, 2015

How great shall be your joy!

Elder Giforos and I with Richard before his baptism

 "Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!"
- Doctrine and Covenants 18:14 - 16

There is no better way that I could express my thoughts and feelings than these. I am so grateful for the baptism that we had on Saturday night. It was an incredible experience to finally see why I came on my mission. It finally made me appreciate fully why I chose to serve a mission. That purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ and the only way to do that is through repentance and baptism. I am grateful for Richard, the great guy he is and the choice that he made to find out for himself what God´s will for him is. I met Richard the first day I was in the field. We went to meet him with Hermano Pompin. Richard invited us in and we sat and talked with Him about the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, restored to the earth in this time. Our next visit we extended him an invitation to be baptized and he accepted having faith that God would answer his prayer to see if our message was true. After teaching him the lessons and seeing him grow and gain a testimony, in my time here, there was no greater opportunity that I had than to baptize him and then afterwards here him bear a strong testimony of the basic truths of the gospel. The spirit of his testimony filled our little chapel.

"But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever."
- Alma 26:11 - 12

I am grateful for the Lord´s blessing upon us as Ammon rejoices because of the success that he has seen among the Lamanites so to do I rejoice for the success that the Lord has blessed us with here in Pontevedra. I am so grateful to be a missionary at this time and in Pontevedra. It is hard to remember the worry and the difficulties that we have had when the Lord blesses us so abundantly. I love the mission and the ability that we have to be instruments in the Lords hands. Richard was prepared and the light of the gospel can now shine through him. I remember that first visit to his testimony on Saturday night and what a change it was. He was a great kid before but now with the light of the gospel he is going to be a tool for the Lord to use.

Besides that great event this week, we have also been working with Raquel still. She is great and working to make the changes in her life that she needs to in order to be able to be baptized. Please pray for her and also for us as missionaries to know how we can better help her. I know that God answers our prayers and I thank you for those that have been offered on behalf of the missionaries and the investigators that we are working with.

One last story to end this week on: On Wednesday we had exchanges with the Elders in Ourense. I was with Elder Bailey and we were out street contacting. I was talking with a woman and my companion went to talk with a Latino man and his two boys that were walking along the street. As I finished with the woman I went over to Elder Bailey and he introduced me as his companion and we continued with the conversation but the man got very frustrated with us and started to tell us what it was that we believed and what it was that our church had done wrong, and how bad we were. Eventually, when he could, my companion told the man to stop fighting with us, that all we were trying to do was to have a conversation and share our beliefs but, the man reaches out and pushes my companion in the chest. At this point I´m starting to get worried, I really don´t want this to turn into anything more, but my companion, after recovering his balance goes and pushes the man right back. The adrenaline started pumping now even more than before and I start thinking that there is no way to get out of this one, we need to leave right now. This Latino man was probably 6´2" and big. The man stumbles back and just I as I think we are both done for he and Elder Bailey start laughing. The Latino man is actually a member of the rama in Ourense and it was all a big joke on the new missionary. It is in actuality really funny but in the moment it felt intense. 

Elder Bailey, myself and the member from Ourense
Anyway, the work moves along here in Pontevedra. I love being able to laugh and have a good time while still working hard and having the Spirit. I love the mission, the good days and the hard ones. All of them are what makes it worth it. Thank you for your examples to me, testimonies, love and prayers.

Elder Gustafson