Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fear and Faith Do Not Coexist

July 22, 2015 
I love being here in Pontevedra. As our branch president always says this is the best Rama in the world. We have had a great week. Great news from this week comes in the form of quotes from investigators or people we talked with on the street.

Waiting for the ward mission leader
An older lady named Amable stopped us and told us, "you two are very handsome. If I weren´t Catholic I would be a member of your church just because you two are so handsome."

When we asked an investigator how he was doing giving up smoking he told us, "Smoke? I don´t do that anymore."

From Victor, talking about trying to find work that he could do without having to come home in pain everyday, "I don´t work to die, I work to live"

When teaching our invetigator Pili that if she reads the Book of Mormon, prays to know that it is true with a sincere desire, and comes to church that she can receive an answer from God through the Spirit that this is the true church, she said, "If it is so easy to receive an answer from God and know that it is true why then is not everyone in the world members of your church?"

This is a great question and one that I believe has many reasons but one of them is fear. In the scriptures there are two types of fear, the first is the fear of God which is a respect and love of God that leads to obedience and progression. The second, is the fear of worldly things or people. This type of fear leads to a stop in progression, every time. I realized this last week that I have had a fear of failure, in school, in learning, in trying to be innovative, in opening my mouth and speaking as much as I should. For me this is a problem because this type of fear does not come from God. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul writes, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." If something does not come from God it comes from the World. For everybody fear is different, sometimes this is a fear that people will reject you because of your beliefs or will ask obnoxious questions if you come back to church or that your boyfriend will dump you because you are meeting with the missionaries, but no matter what it is it stops or at the very least slows progression. Over and over again it is this fear, especially a fear of change that stops people. People become comfortable in the situation in which they are and don´t want to change because change is hard and as humans we are sometimes frightened because we do not know what change will do to our lives. But, change is good as long as it is a change that leads to good. 

On Sunday our branch president gave a talk and said today is the day to determine what our future will look like tomorrow. In reality we often times cannot change the situation that we are in, in an instant of change. But as we continue making daily changes in our lives we will see the future begin to look brighter. I love that as a missionary I have the opportunity to invite others to make and keep commitments and eventually covenants that will be a blessing for their lives. We have found investigators who only need an invitation to act and make changes and they do it without fear. Others we have found and invited and lost because they were afraid of what might happen if they took steps to act. This is so sad because on occasion we are blind to our own faults or the things that we should be doing that when we receive an invitation by someone who knows that it would help us we choose not to accept it. I love being a missionary because I can invite, teach and re-invite people to take these steps and commit or recommit themselves to living the standards of the gospel, and see the light and joy that comes from overcoming fear and changing. I am trying to get rid of the fear that I have in my life and to increase my faith in my Savior, and my invitation to you is to do the same, look and see if you have fear of doing something good whether it is sharing the gospel with your friends, or going to church every week, or whatever it is that could be stopping progression and just do it. That is the best way to overcome fear. The Savior is there to help us, over and over again we are promised that if we are working to do better and overcome our fear that the Lord will be there by our sides. This I know to be true as I have felt Him over and over again by myside as I´ve had to do something difficult.

To finish, a quote from Elder Giforos who said, "If serving a mission means loving people it never stops." Love is the key, in the mission and in life. Our goal should always be love. In 1 John 4:18 we read "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Love is the key to overcoming our fear. If we love God more than the World, more than our possessions, more than our own selves, more than everything there is nothing good that we cannot do. I love the Lord and am grateful to be His servant here in Spain at this time. I love you all and pray for you.

Elder Gustafson
The Pontevedra Triathalon swimmers
We had lunch at a 50s dinner in Vigo with Elder and Sister Arnett and the other missionaries.   

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Sower

Sunset over beautiful Pontevedra from our piso window

What a great week here in Pontevedra. We have been really busy which has been really good. I love being busy but it makes the weeks seem to fly by. News from this week: we received iPads and have been able to use them to teach and to study which has been really cool. I love being able to share videos in lessons or quotes from talks from the apostles and prophet. There is a great spirit that is brought in as we watch the bible videos made by the church detailing the life of Jesus Christ. I love being able to show part of His life and testifying that He lives and that we are part of His restored church! This is why I love the iPads because they help us testify of Jesus Christ and share our message in a more relatable way. (Also the camera is really good and we can capture the sunsets that we see each night from our piso window.)

This week in my personal studies I have been studying the parables taught by Jesus Christ during his ministry. One of my favorites is the parable of the sower which talks about a sower, someone who plants or sows seeds in the fields, and the types of earth where the seeds fall as they are sown. I love this parable because of how I can identify with it as a missionary and as a disciple of Jesus Christ. There are four types of earth where the seed or message of the gospel falls. The first is the hard trodden path where the seed falls but cannot take root and is eaten by birds. For me these are the people that we talk with in the street who are content with what they have in their life not wanting to improve or change anything to better their lives. These are the same people who lack faith to take action. The second type is those who land upon rocky soil. They grow in the gospel but when they encounter any difficulty they give up wither and die because their roots in the gospel where not strong. The third instance is those seeds that fall among the thorns. The thorns can be the things of the world. The seed is in good soil where things will grow but gets caught up in the things of the world and is cut off from the gospel. The fourth type is those seeds that land in good soil. In the good soil they can grow and receive nourishment in the gospel, but even still some seeds bring forth 30x, others 60x and others 100x. As a missionary I have the opportunity to see all four types of soils and it is a great blessing because it has helped me to see that those who have the most happiness are those who are trying to produce 100x the grain. They are giving their all to the gospel and trying to help others. As a disciple of Jesus Christ I love this parable because I can look at where I am spiritually and make sure that I am in the good soil, have the good roots to overcome the trials that will surely come, that I do not let thorns grow around me even if they don't appear to hurt me, and that I am trying to produce 100x what I am. In "Jesus the Christ" by James E Talmage he writes of this parable and says "In the parable we are considering, the Teacher depicted the varied grades of spiritual receptivity existing among men, and characterized with incisive brevity each of the specified grades. He neither said nor intimated that the hard-baked soil of the wayside might not be plowed, harrowed, fertilized, and so be rendered productive; nor that the stony impediment to growth might not be broken up and removed, or an increase of good soil be made by actual addition; nor that the thorns could never be uprooted, and their former habitat be rendered fit to support good plants." Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can always change. We can increase our soil and be producing 100x what we are. 

Other news this week we had a great couple of  lessons with Julio a joven (young) kid that stopped us in the street. He has desires to learn and to find the truth in his life. We also found a woman in the street named Pili. She is a teacher for the Catholic Church. It was really cool that as we were teaching her and answering her questions it was apparent that light bulbs were going off and she understood that which we were teaching in her heart. As we taught her about receiving an answer from God about which church is true she realized that she was going to have to visit our meetings. Even better than that though she came to church on Sunday with her son! It was really cool to see her there and we are excited to meet with her again! Victor wasn't able to come to church this week which was really sad but we are hopeful that as we continue to teach him he will feel of that Spirit again and have that desire to come. I could go on all day about the great people that are here in Pontevedra but we don't have time for that. I know that the Lord is guiding His work here in Pontevedra and that he has prepared people to hear the gospel. 
We have also been teaching an 8 year old boy whose sister has been bringing him to church but whose mother is less active. It has been really fun to teach him and get to become friends with him. His baptism was on Saturday and it was a really great experience. Always at baptisms there is a great spirit testifying that the step that that person is taking is correct. I love being a missionary for those days when we get to see another person taking steps to come unto Christ.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

We went to the concert of our ward mission leader as our cultural
event (we get one cultural event approved by President Jackson). He
played the piano and his friend sang.
This is us with the Serranos.


Monday, June 8, 2015

The Power of a Testimony

We visited some waterfalls today.

The weeks keep moving along faster and faster than the last. I can´t believe that I´ve been here for over three months already. But really they have been some of the best ever. I love the opportunity I have every day to be a missionary and spend all my time focused on that without the worries of money, a job, girls, etc. I feel blessed to have these two years to leave all of that behind. I love being able to see people´s lives change as the Spirit of our message enters into their hearts and they begin to make changes in their lives.

This week we have seen many miracles in our work here. On Tuesday we had a great day, even though we spent most of it in the streets contacting. We met an older gentleman that day in the street, and as we started to talk to him he told us that he had no time nor any interest in what we had to share. As we persisted in trying to share what we knew would bless his life he started to change. The look of "I´m never going to change, I´m too old to change," became in an instant as we shared our thoughts about our families, an expression of hope. As we bore testimony that if he followed Jesus Christ he would be able to live for eternity with his family he started to slowly move away. He said to us, "You both are very convincing and I have to go" It wasn´t us that had convinced him but the truthfulness of our message that had touched his heart. I wish I could say that he had then given us his phone number and that we´ve been teaching him but I can´t. I can however say that I hope that the next time that he talks to missionaries he will remember what he felt when talking with us. The power of a testimony is that it can never be denied by anyone else. The way that we feel can never be denied by anyone else. In 1 Peter 3:15 we read "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:" (Fear being translated in Spanish as reverence). I love this opportunity to always bear testimony of who Jesus Christ is and why He is so important to the world and all of mankind. I challenge all of you to be always willing to give an answer to those who ask why you believe what you believe.

Also this week we have been able to do a lot of service which has been a great blessing. On Tuesday we were on our way home for the night and we made one last contact before the piso. It was a woman named Marilo and she told us that she had no time to talk or anything but as we stood there and asked her more about herself and shared our testimonies of the gospel she opened up to us telling us of her beliefs, but again reminded us that she had no time to meet with us. We offered to help her as a means of service and she readily accepted. It was a great opportunity to get to know her better. Another miracle was that as we were helping her the rest of her family stopped by and we got to know them and share who we were and what we are doing here in Spain. It was really cool to see that as we serve the people they are so much more likely to listen to us than if we simply stopped them in the street. We will have the opportunity to meet with them this week to talk with them and share our great message of happiness. 

Another miracle this week was a lesson that we had with our investigator, Tania. We had an amazing lesson with her and committed her to baptism. It was a great lesson that was guided by the spirit. I am excited for her and know that as she chooses to act and do her part she will be able to receive her answer that this church is true and that baptism is the gate that leads to eternal salvation. Victor was not able to come to church this week because he was sick, which was really disappointing because it means that we must push his baptism back. Always there is something that comes up before a baptism.

Other than that for this week, just know that this is the best area in all the world and I am grateful to be here with Elder Giforos. I know that we are always happier when we are doing what is right and that as we share our testimonies they grow. The more that we share our testimonies the more we seem to have. It’s an amazing principle.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Today for P-day we went to a water fall. It was super cool and had mills all along it. The hut picture is one such mill. The mill stone would turn by the power of the water running underneath the mill in little canals. It was a beautiful place.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

It Will All Work Out

This has been a hard week in Pontevedra. It was a great week but it's been hard, as well. It is a blessing though to be able to learn from those hard times, as well as the good.  I was sick for the first time this week which is a blessing that I haven't been sick more but it wasn't fun (I'm better now). There is nothing that I dislike more than not being able to do those things that I need to do at the level that I want to do them because of something completely out of my control, for example like health. That being said I believe that my personal relationship with God is strengthened in those times. When I need or want to do more, but can't do anything about it, the only person to turn to is my Father in Heaven who is in control of all things. I don't think that I have ever prayed so hard or felt His presence so close as I had praying to be able to get through this next lesson or this next hour of contacting or whatever it was that we were trying to accomplish. I know that He does bless us and is always with us and for this I am grateful. 

This week we have been blessed with great miracles. I've started writing down the miracles that I've seen that day each night during nightly planning. It has really helped me to be more grateful for the things that the Lord is blessing me with, which has helped me to be happier in this work. On Thursday we had a great day planned out with lessons filling almost all of our time which is always our goal. During studies that morning slowly all but one of our appointments cancelled on us. Again something that I have no control over that I'm learning to turn to the Lord for help with. We were disappointed to see our great day turning into passbys and contacting which is great but I'd rather be teaching all day. But we were able to set another cita (appointment) with a less active member that morning and had a great lesson with her. She even came to the District Conference (like Stake Conference but for Districts) that we had on Sunday! Then that afternoon after mediodia (midday) we were finally able to get in contact with Richard and talk with him which brought great peace and comfort to us to know that he is still keeping his commitments and trying to get to church when he can get time off from work. Later, we went to our set cita to teach Tania with our branch president but she failed to show up. We went out looking for her in her usual places but couldn't find her. We really didn't want to have wasted our Branch President’s time, as well as his efforts in walking 40 minutes back to his home. As we searched for Tania, almost about to go back and tell him that we were sorry we weren't going to have a lesson after all when we ran into our investigator named Victor. He is from Nigeria and a super cool guy. We found him on a park bench a couple of weeks ago and hit it off because he used to rap and knew all of the rap artists from the U.S. Anyways we've taught him before but this time we met in the chapel and showed him the Restoration movie and talked about his desires to receive an answer from God. When asked what that would mean if God answered his prayers he immediately said “I would become a member because I want to do what God wants me to do.” We then committed him to baptism when he receives his answer. The Spirit was there testifying to me that that was what we needed to be doing in that moment not what we had planned, that even though we were stood up the Lord always has a purpose. As we were talking with Victor as he was leaving the chapel he turned to us and asked when we were supposed to have met. We responded saying that we had set a cita with him for Saturday the last time we had met. He then said something like "it is amazing that we met tonight then, we had an appointment for Saturday but God led us to meet tonight." I know that God led us to meet with Victor that night and that He is really in charge. I am so grateful for the comfort that that gives to me that I am not in charge and that as long as I am trying to do the best I can God can use me as an instrument to help others. 

In other news from Pontevedra we have not heard from Raquel in almost three weeks. We had a cita with her on Friday but we got a text from her boyfriend saying that she wouldn't be able to make it. It was such a miracle when we found her and we are still praying that she can make the decisions that she knows she needs to make. I hope that we will be able to keep teaching her and to see her progress and achieve that joy that can only be found in living the gospel. 

iPad update: we will be receiving iPad minis on the 10th of June but I don't believe that we will be able to access Facebook yet, although that will be coming as a proselyting resource in the future.

I love you all and am praying for you!

Elder Gustafson