Thursday, December 22, 2016

He is There

December 21, 2016

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

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

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

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson


The Best Two Weeks

December 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson



Thursday, December 8, 2016

Light the World

Madrid Temple with Tono and other Elders

December 3, 2016

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

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

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

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

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson  






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


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Grateful

November 26, 2016

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

Zone Conference


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

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

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

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

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson


Talavera P-Day

November 19, 2016

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

Manuel, one of my good friends

Eduardo, Tati and their girls



Saturday, November 12, 2016

Magnification


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

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

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

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

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

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Palace Gardens Aqueduct
Segovia Aqueduct




Enjoy the Journey

October 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love,
Elder Gustafson 

District activity doing a jigsaw puzzle

Night of Nations - Celebrating the uniqueness of our cultural differences



Office Missionary


October 15, 2016

We had some pretty good lessons this week. It was really good to be able to get out of the office and to teach and act like normal missionaries. We talked with an elderly lady in our ward. In our last visit, we spoke about how to help others come unto Christ and shared with her a specific invitation to share a message with Clara one of her friends. During the lesson she shared with us her experience in sharing the gospel with Clara and her plan to help her start meeting people in the ward. I over and over again realize how grateful I am for those that take the initiative to go out and share the gospel in some way with their friends.

This afternoon we are meeting with Miriam again and we are very excited for her progress in coming closer to Christ. Even though she already has a strong relationship with our Savior, without the blessings of covenants there will always be a distance there. She continues a rigorous study of the Book of Mormon.

In the office we are doing well. Nothing has caught on fire so we are doing pretty well.

I Love you all,
Elder G

We visited Valle de los caidos. This is a monument to those that died in the Spanish Civil War. The arquitectura is amazing.

Sunset over Madrid

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Have Joy!


District Temple trip

 What a week we have had! We had transfers and it was the smoothest that they have ever gone but the most tired that we have ever been. It required a lot of a carbonated beverage that shall remain nameless as President Uchtdorf would put it. Let me see if I can give you a little insight into what transfers are like for the Office Elders. On Wednesday night we were given transfers by President Pack. That started the craziness for Elder Douglas who began planning the movement of all the missionaries. Over the next couple of days, he stayed busy buying tickets on planes, trains, and buses for the missionaries who were traveling over long distances. Elder Kirby and I began planning our logistical rollercoaster of getting people to the airport at the early hours of the morning, getting missionaries their suitcases, picking up other suitcases to load into the storage closet etc.

During the excitement of planning and buying we were able to watch General conference which was amazing this time. It usually is but going into it I had some very specific questions that I wanted answers to. President Nelson in his talk on joy in the gospel said, "My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives." He then goes on to explain how Jesus Christ was able to perform the atonement. He said, "In order for Him to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy! And what was the joy that was set before Him? Surely it included the joy of cleansing, healing, and strengthening us; the joy of paying for the sins of all who would repent; the joy of making it possible for you and me to return home--clean and worthy--to live with our Heavenly Parents and families." It is interesting and profoundly simple that we must focus on the joy of life. As we focus on the joys of life the hardships that continue to exist appear to be easier to handle.

After conference on Sunday night we went to the train station to pick up an Elder who was set to come in at about10:45. His train was repeatedly delayed until he got in at about 12:30. We got home and got to bed at about 2:00 am. It was a painful morning when the alarm clock went off at 4:50 so that we could get a group of missionaries to the airport by 5:30. After dropping off the missionaries we went to the Stake Center on temple square to meet the missionaries that would be flying out the next day. We loaded up their suitcases, collected money and IPADs and headed up to the mission home. On our way we stopped for Salchibrasas (huge pile of French fries, shredded chicken and German sausage, covered in BBQ sauce) At the mission home we ditched the outgoing luggage and picked up the incoming Island missionaries luggage and went off to the airport to pick up an Hermana and run her to the train station in time to catch her train up to Galicia.

While at the train station I had the opportunity to interact with several missionaries including those that are serving in Talavera. Throughout all of the chaos of transfers this was one of my favorite parts because my perspective was widened and no longer was it just running from place to place but instead it was putting the Lord's will as to where people should be into place.

Afterwards we went and picked up Elder Kirby from the mission home and came back to the office to try to get some normal office work done. Until we had to go pick up the missionaries going home from the mission home and take them back to our piso to sleep. Once again we got home late at about 11:30 and didn't get to bed until at least12:30.

Tuesday morning started early at 5:30 when we got up to get an elder to the mission home by 6:30 to be released by his stake president before going on a trip of Spain with his parents. After that was finished we went to temple square to drop off missionaries that were being picked up by their parents and to pick up the missionaries that would be entering our mission from the MTC. As we left the MTC I had with me five new Elders and one of them had lived in Boston about a year ago. As we talked we spoke about the different people that we knew until it came out that in a combined EFY for a Day we had been in the same group. Turns out he is Elder Randy Openshaw one of my friends from Boston Stake and we got to talk more about Boston and all he great things and people there. It was a cool experience that I hadn't had before on the mission.



New missionaries at Paracuellos de Jarama

We then headed off to Paracuellos de Jarama for a devotional from President that helps us to visualize the size and people that are ready to hear the gospel in Madrid. After his devotional Hermana Pack helps us to understand the principle of leaving our areas better than we found them. We then begin to clean up the area around the lookout picking up trash. As we spread out to pick up garbage an Hermana came up to me and asked about Dad's name? Turns out her parents are some of my Dad's old college friends.

After our time in Paracuellos we went to the mission home and dropped off the missionaries for training and instruction with the APs and the Packs. Until it was time for lunch - homemade Cafe Rio which is delicious every transfer. After lunch we set off to temple square for a training with the trainers during which time the office Elders get to explain some of the more logistical and temporal things to the new missionaries. It is always fun to see what crazy stories Elder Young might tell to the brand new missionaries. We just pray that they can understand what he really is trying to say to them.

When everyone has found out who their new trainers are and where they are going they take off and we waited for the islanders (missionaries headed to the Canary Islands) to rearrange their suitcases before taking them back to the mission home to sleep for the night before we pick them up in the at 5:00.

After dropping them off at the airport early Wednesday morning we took a couple of missionaries to get their residency done before they headed off to their areas. All in all, it was a couple of really fun days filled with a lot of adventures but without any big problems. But it still doesn't end there because on Wednesday afternoon I get a call from President asking when we were going to have our driving exams. I had no idea, he told me that he had just gotten a text from the driving school saying that we were going to have our tests the next day at 11:30. That is when I started praying. I knew that I needed to pass, I had no other option but to pass and I also knew that I would need a miracle to pass. As I was having my nightly conversation with my Father in Heaven I was reminded that I needed to smile. It didn't make sense but I thought okay.We went through our tests Thursday morning. I made a couple of goof ups but after each one I was told just smile and get through. When I would smile I would relax and could keep going without making bigger mistakes. In the end...I passed! I am officially licensed to drive in the EU for the next ten years :) We went out to celebrate at Tierra a burrito bar in Madrid.

And thus my week seems to settle down until today when we went to Casa Olivares a restaurant in a small town outside of Madrid. In the patio of the restaurant are many types of birds that will sit on your shoulder and you can take pictures with them. I will attach some of them. It was one of the best P days that we have had in a while.

                   



I apologize for having written a novel but I hope that you have been able to get a couple of the messages that I wanted to share with you today. Remember to have joy in your lives!

I love you all!
Elder Gustafson 



Casa Olivares with Elder Douglas

A Father in Heaven

September 28, 2016

In the last 5 days we have had a lot of work here in the office. We have been running around trying to get pisos closed and open new pisos. Life is good.

This morning we went to the temple. There was a stark contrast between the world and the temple that I have not noticed in a long time. Inside the temple is the opportunity to be reminded of who we are in relation to God. I am grateful to be His son and be able to feel of His Peace in the middle of a world that is filled with stress. I have been having difficulty with a landlord in one of our pisos and after some tense phone calls the afternoon before I loved entering into the temple where the world just slips away and perspective returns. We are children of our Father in Heaven who loves us. There is nothing that I am more sure of than that He is quite literally there and that He wants to be involved in our lives. In our District Meeting this week one of the Hermanas shared the idea that if we act in front of God, as in we aren´t honest in the way that we act or the way that we talk to Him He will be more than happy to sit and watch but when we invite Him to act through honest sincere prayer He will be an active participant in our lives.

I love you all and am grateful for you.
Elder Gustafson




Piso (Apartment) Finding Miracle

September 23, 2016

I apologize for the change in P-Day once again this week we are changing our P--day to today, Friday because tomorrow we are going to translate for a self-sufficiency conference in Madrid. Next week we will be going to the temple on Wednesday so I will be changing P-Day for the week to Wednesday.

This week has been another normal week in the office. Lots of work to do and little time in which to do it. But it is somehow getting done and the mission hasn´t fallen apart yet so we are feeling pretty good. I have been working this week on a more efficient way to manage our bills and have really enjoyed the work that I have done with that. It has included many meetings with the gas company and has been an interesting leap into a real world job.

We have also been trying to get pisos for the new areas that have been opened and will be opening up in the coming weeks. It has kept me busy but we have definitely seen the Lord´s hand in the work. A couple weeks ago I sent one of the senior couples to Puerto de la Cruz in Santa Cruz de Tenerife with a list of Real estate agencies and a list of requirements for a piso there. We prayed that they would be able to find something because after several weeks of looking online I had not been able to find anything of consequence. They arrived and found that most of the real estate agencies were closed for the month of august, but after some digging around and finding a phone number on a flyer for an apartment being rented out where able to get ahold of the agent. He took time off from his vacation and went to show them two pisos. The second one that they saw was a perfect match to what we needed. We signed the contract on that piso this last week.

Other than that, this week has been a lot of running people around, paying bills, working with dueños, and all of the fun implied by my job.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Growth of the Church in Spain

 
Mile marker 0 from which all road measurements in Spain are calculated.


September 19, 2016

This week we had the special privilege of having zone conference with some special guests who attended. We had there, one of the counselors in the Temple Presidency who was one of the first missionaries in Spain when it was opened for missionaries, the first member baptized in Madrid and the first Spaniard baptized who continued living in Spain. It was a very powerful experience to see how far the work in Spain has come over the past fifty years. When the first Spaniard was baptized he had to leave the country in order to be baptized because it was illegal for anyone to be baptized in a church other than the Catholic. He spoke to us about the need to keep stepping forward. If he and others like him had given up, the church never would have gotten to the point where there are now 54,000 members in Spain. Little by little, contacting everybody they could they were able to grow despite all of the persecutions and hardships that they had to go through.

As he spoke to us he shared with us his love for the Spanish people. He spoke of the need to love those that we see on a daily basis. Maybe that person will reject us in the moment but there will be a time where those people will be the ward mission leaders, bishops, stake and temple presidents, and faithful members that Spain needs so desperately. Don.t give up was his message love them even though in the moment they might not know to love you.

I am grateful for the love that I get to feel for this special people of the Lord. There is nothing as important as to be able to serve them during this time. I love the moments that I get to be with them and see how the gospel changes people and makes them the people that they need to become. I love the Lord and am grateful to be doing a small part in His work here in Spain.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson


Old Town Madrid
Old Town Madrid

Oldest operating restaurant in the world. Opened in 1725.

Peter outside the Royal Palace


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Strength

View from our piso
It´s been a great couple of weeks here in the office. Lots of fun, running people around, finding new apartments, getting bills paid etc. We have been having a lot of fun. This morning, I sent a picture of a hand with some bloody knuckles to my Mother, forgetting to attach an explanation, and received the following email back.


Dear Elder,

Thank you for the enclosed photo of your bruised and swollen fingers. An explanation would be appreciated! :D

Love,
The Mother



I hope to be able to provide an acceptable answer that will also draw some gospel conclusions. This story begins when an MMA fighter was called as the new Assistant to the President. Elder Trantham loves fighting and is very good at it. He has his gloves with him. As we have talked he offered to teach me how to box. Of course, not being able to refuse the offer I took him up on it. We wake up early as a district to go out and play sports, futbol, frisbee, or basketball, while Elder Trantham teaches me how to box. We hit pads and so the only thing that gets damaged are my weak hands that are protected by gloves but still breaks open a couple of my knuckles. So what is the point in going out and boxing several mornings a week? The beauty of it is that my hands heal and as they are healing they become stronger. And not only my knuckles but the rest of my body. There is great power in the pattern of being broken down in order to heal again.

As I look over some of the lessons that I have learned and that I continue to learn there is a major theme. It is the idea that we must continually progress forward. And if we stop pushing ourselves along our Loving Father in Heaven will always be there to push us, to give us something that makes us return to progression towards Him.

Those that understand that sacrifice, or pushing ourselves, for good things is a requirement of happiness, are people that truly have found success in life. I see examples of them all around me every day. I see a Mission President who pushes himself every day to put on a smile and love those that he serves with and then goes home to be a dad all the while still dealing with the problems that exist in the mission. I see it in the ward mission leader in Talavera who even though he still has not regained full use of his hands, has gone and found five possible pisos in Talavera that he will be going to see in the next week because of a conversation we had about the needs of the missionaries there. I see it in our Bishop in San Sebastian, who along with consoling those that need comfort, worry about those that are of need in his ward, and all the other things he worries and thinks about has come up with a plan that is one of the most inspired teachings I´ve heard about how to help his ward members share the gospel. On top of that, on a day that he was prohibited from going to work by his doctor, because of an injury, went on splits with us to go and present his plan individually to the leaders of the ward. The list could go on and on. I am grateful for those that sacrifice to bring something greater to come to pass.

In conclusion, going out in the mornings to box is not a sacrifice, getting bloody knuckles is not a sacrifice when compared to the examples listed above, but it is similar in the idea that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven. Boxing brings its rewards, being able to be more productive after a good exercise, feeling confident and not like a lazy bum sitting in an office chair all day, growing physically. The spiritual and temporal sacrifices like those of the men above, bring real spiritual strength into the lives of all those who sacrifice big things or small things for the Lord. My invitation for all of us this week is to find one way to sacrifice a little bit more for the Lord this week, so that we can become spiritually stronger.

Thank you for your examples of spiritual strength to me through your examples and letters.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

The office
District SanSe



Call to the Office

August 29, 2017

This last week has been nuts but it has been fun. I feel like I just wrote a couple of days ago but in the last couple of days ago we have had some awesome experiences. We have been working a lot with the Ayudantes in our area. President has been trying to help us find the way to have a more missionary like experience as we work in the office. And so we have essentially combined areas with the APs and are working together to bring souls unto Christ. It has been awesome to be able to teach and feel the spirit with them.

I want to tell you about an office miracle that happened a couple of weeks ago. A woman called the office looking to meet with some missionaries in San Sebastian, we sent the Ayudantes and they taught her a little bit and then got a follow up appoint. Because they needed another man they called us and I was the lucky one who got to go out with them to their lesson. We sat down in the lesson and she came with a list of questions for us that she had about the church. And they were great questions! We talked about covenants and baptism and the importance of revelation in our faith. We also found out that the reason that she called us was so that she could understand her LDS friends that live in the States. I have very rarely seen someone with so much curiosity about who we are, who does not have the intention to Bible Bash but instead learn and understand that that learning can bring her closer to God. I am grateful for this miracle that fell in our laps.

It is great to see the miracles that God puts in our paths. It appears that this really is His Work that he leads and guides. I know that to be true.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson


An Anchor of Peace



August 24, 2016

I´m sorry that this letter is coming to you a couple of days late, we have had several incredibly crazy days here in the Madrid Mission. To start it off on Monday one of my companions and our Secretary in the office went home for some medical tests. He has a blood clot in his leg and has been having chest pains that the Spanish doctors haven´t been able to identify a reason for. The good news is though that the American doctors they have talked to sound confident that they can find the problem and that it won´t hinder his desires to continue onward in his missionary service. Elder Douglas will be coming back in about two weeks to resume his position as Secretary. We are praying that things go well for him. In the meantime, Elder Kirby and I are holding the office together with the Youngs.

Anyways, we spend the day running around trying to make sure that all the people who have trips are able to catch their planes and trains and buses. We only had a set of Hermanas miss a train and an Elder on a bus which broke down and who waited on the side of the road with the other people there until someone from Madrid could travel the hour and a half out to fix the bus. All in all, for us it was a pretty smooth day just long hours.

Then we get to Tuesday. Tuesday is probably a day that I don´t really feel like recounting simply because we made some mistakes that should not have happened, such as getting lost several times (I was driving), waiting at the wrong terminal for new missionaries and getting word that they had gotten in, waited, and finally gotten a taxi to the mission office, a nice new scratch on the mission van etc. We were all looking forward to the day being over. And it did when we went to bed at about midnight.

This morning, I was writing in my journal and was thinking about all of the dumb things I had done and just feeling sorry for how the day went when I started to realize that during the past couple of days I have seen the way other people have been able to show to me that the Lord knows me specifically. On Monday night we had about two hours when we were called to give a blessing to another missionary. Amongst the craziness of transfers, it was such a blessing to step back from all of the temporal logistics and see what really matters. To be able to feel the joy that comes from ministering.

The next day I saw the same type of miracles. I saw how a missionary in one of my old areas was able to help me focus again on my purpose as a minister as he called to talk about the area and how he could help the people there. I could tell you about the delicious food that the Youngs left out for us at the mission home after a day of not having a whole lot of time to eat. Or about the Elder who at 11 o´clock at night was thanking us for having picked him up and taken him to our piso up so that he could more easily make it to his flight instead of whining about the flight that we had gotten for him. I am grateful for the matrimonial couples that are out serving and who have been helping me to find pisos. They push, encourage, and are understanding and for them I am grateful. I am grateful for Elder Kirby and his ability to get through tough situations with his head intact. I believe that going through hard things is possible if you have the best people around you, and Elder Kirby is just one of those people. I am grateful for the faith and love that Elder Douglas has shared with me. Focused on other during probably one of the most difficult moments of his life. He is one of my heroes.

I am so grateful to be a missionary. I am so grateful that I have a knowledge of the restored gospel because of the inner peace that I can find during times of turmoil. When we talk with people on the streets one of my favorite things to talk about is what they are looking for out of life. This usually leads into a discussion on happiness which in my mind is peace. Being able to be at peace with oneself can only come about as we fully apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness. I was reading this morning in Ether where it teaches us these principles. Ether a prophet goes out to teach the wicked people and Ether´s teaching is summarized in the following verses.

"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."

Let us let hope which comes from faith be an anchor for the days of turmoil ahead. I know that He is watching over each of us. In his plan he has put people that fit together perfectly so that they can be ministers to and ministered by those around them. Let us keep our priorities in line with the will of God and what joy shall we feel when we can be the instrument in the Lords hands even unto one other soul.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson


Love One Another

August, 15, 2016

Last night I got to go on splits with Elder Boyd, one of the APs, and it was an incredible blessing. We went out contacting on the way to a lesson with an inactive member. We stopped a woman and her husband. They ended up being from Poland and Cape Verde respectively. They had talked with sisters in the streets a year before but had never followed up with the sisters to receive a lesson. Elder Boyd brought up eternal families and it was amazing how the wife´s eyes sparkled as she learned that she could live with her two sons and husband for eternity not only until the end of life. We received their information and are hoping to get in contact with them again to be able to share this hope with them.

We then got to our lesson with a young man in our ward who felt like he didn´t have the determination that he needed to be able to continue onward. As we started with a prayer he thanked us because for the first time in a long time he had felt the Spirit touch him as we prayed together. We got talking and had the opportunity to share an experience that I passed through and the options that I had to choose. It was exactly what he needed and we were so grateful for the Spirit that guided us so closely in that lesson to be able to be instruments into his heart. 

I love being a missionary. I treasure these small moments even more so now that I am in an office. In our weekly office meeting President Pack gave the spiritual thought and reminded us that the work that we are doing is a spiritual labor. I was reminded of that on Sunday with Elder Boyd. I am so grateful for the Spirit and the comforting power that he has to help us and guide us so that we can bless the lives of those around us, if we look to do so.

I love you all,

Elder Gustafson


Monday, August 8, 2016

Keeping Life in Gear



This week has been a great time to reflect and think on the things of life. With the end of the Piso Tour that the Packs have done our work here in the office is about to take a huge jump. We are going to change out probably about 15 pisos in the next four months, along with a number of repairs and upgrades to the pisos that we have. Life is going to get exciting.

Amid the craziness we are going to experience, I have been thinking a lot about the basics of life. As you might know I´m driving a nine passenger manual van through the streets of Madrid and trying not to stall going up hills. As my companions and I have talked about driving stick and following the Spirit we came up with the following analogy. As you try to start out driving a stick shift you have to find the bite on the clutch, the point where the gears and the engine engage to form forward motion. If you don´t find that bite just right the clutch does not engage correctly and you stall. When you find the bite it feels good, you know that things are going to go well as you increase the gas. It is far easier to engage the gears going down a hill and more difficult going up a steep hill. The same thing happens in life. On the mission we are Spiritually driving down a hill we can fly and the Spirit comes into our lives easily because we are in a routine of studying every day and focused on Christ. When I came into the office that routine and focus shifted and starting off every day was a little bit more difficult because I now had other responsibilities and things to focus on. There might have been some days where I stalled, but I as with everything we can learn and improve and realize that the basics of reading praying and remembering our covenants are the center point of our lives, not how much work we have to do. This is the sweet spot when we are tuned into the Gospel, living it so that our lives mesh with God´s will and we don´t stall.

As we align our actions with God´s will we will feel that sweet spot and keep progressing. That doesn't mean that we won´t have obstacles in our path or traffic that make us change our gear and realign with God. We can be more prepared for those things as we keep our engines tuned through spiritual experiences such as going to the temple, fasting, and partaking of the sacrament every week. All that is great but does not replace the need of constant daily adjustments through scripture study, prayer, and keeping Christ as our priority. It all goes back to the basics. As we have a powerful experience with the Spirit every day we can feel comfortable that our lives are in gear and we can continue pressing forward. Let´s all keep our lives in gear with the Spirit.

I love you all
Elder Gustafson

P.S. I just wanted to share something that I found this week in the history of my maternal Grandfather and how it relates to me and the work that we are doing here. He wrote about his time with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and said, "The choir was my opportunity for expression. I looked forward to each rehearsal night as an experience which I needed and wanted. I would often still get a lump in my throat as we would begin ´Gently Raise the Sacred Strain, for the Sabbath´s Come again´. The choir is a great missionary tool for the church and I am proud and privileged to have been a part of it." When I was up in A Coruña there was a recent convert whose family we were teaching. They were golden and ready to receive the gospel because of the work of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This man had heard and loved listening to the recordings made by the Choir even though he speaks little English there was something that struck him on the inside. He was baptized and we were able to teach his family and help them progress towards baptism which should be happening in the next few months. I am grateful for my grandfather and the work that he has done. I feel privileged that I get to follow him and see some of the seeds that he planted here on the earth and reap some of his harvest.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Mighty Change of Heart

Outside the Prado with the office crew and the Hermanas

August 1, 2016

This past week we met with one of our friends that is struggling with addiction. It is very evident that it is eating him up. He is starting to realize that he cannot do it by himself and so has started reaching out for help. As we read with him in 2 Nephi 2 yesterday there were a couple of phrases that stuck out to him that I wanted to share with you. "Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered." We cannot repay the broken law by ourselves. It is impossible. The only possible way to overcome sin is through the merits of Jesus Christ who gave us everything. I love seeing the atonement work in the life of this friend. To see the beginnings of the change in his heart not only in his actions.

As we pass through the trials of life let us rejoice in the fact that we can change. We can become clean again. All through the grace of Jesus Christ which he offers to us. Let us cry as Nefi "Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul." We are not here to be sad but instead to rejoice. Let us remember that men exist so that they might have joy.

I love being a missionary and serving here in this time because it is where the Lord needs me to be.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Cleaning the mission van after an explosion of "Frutti Fresh."




Enjoy the Journey


P-day soccer

July 25, 2016

Well, another week has come and past and I´m trying to remember what has happened. On my part it has been a lot of trying to get the Packs ready for their Ready or Not 2016 Piso Tour. They are visiting all of the pisos in the mission which is an adventure to visit 100 pisos and do interviews within three weeks, I get to run all of the fun stuff on the backside making sure that they have the supplies that they need which included a late night trip to the local department store and a run up to the mission home to drop off supplies. 
I planned out the trip, the routes they would take and created the inspection sheets they are using to judge the pisos. Then I coordinate with missionaries after the fact to resolve problems and get their pisos up to shape where the Packs would like them to be. It is fun but the work is just starting. I've attached some of my favorite pictures they have sent to us from their trip.

Late night run to the Mission home to pick up old Smoke alarms and give the Packs the stuff for their trip.
We came out with fruit and soda :)
Elder Doxey in his new piso testing out his new detectors


President and Sister Pack embarking on their journey!

On another note we have had a great week preaching the gospel. We went up to a little pueblo up above Madrid to visit a family who haven´t gotten a visit in a long time. We had the most beautiful drive up there that was a blessing after a long day. The family wasn't home but we left them cookies on their doorstep and a smiley face on their door. 



This morning we went and helped a family to move. It was a great experience as we had about 30 minutes sitting with a nonmember while we waited for the van to come back. While we waited we talked and the subject of happiness came up. What the differences are between happiness that comes from the world and happiness as defined by an eternal perspective. Happiness does not come from stuff as much of the world thinks. It is not just going to work all day but instead spending time with the family and enjoying the journey are the parts that are most important. It has to do with living in the moment and enjoying the parts that we can along the way. The best part about that conversation was that these conclusions were arrived at by a man struggling with depression. Anyways, we hope that we will be able to help him in the future to progress and remember what role Christ has in his life.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson




Monday, July 18, 2016

Become as Little Child

Office Elder generation photo

In the last couple of days I've been thinking about becoming as a little child. I want to share just a couple of the experiences that I have had in the last couple of days that are helping me to remember this principle and become as a little child.

There was a baptism of a Chinese man living here. The Elders found him through a member and have been using the missionaries in France to teach him in Chinese. It was amazing as he was baptized to think about his journey to find Christ, having to emigrate from his country, and his process in finding the church through one of his friends and the conviction that he has because of the adversity that he has had to face. As he rose from the waters of the pool where he was baptized he looked at everyone just happy as can be. He was then able to bear his testimony, in Chinese, and even though it was not understood with the mind it was definitely understood by all because of the emotion that poured into what he said. I am grateful for Chun because of his example of his ability to communicate even though he doesn't use a lot of words, that we can understand.

Another experience from this week happened when we were waiting for church to start. I was sitting there, we were about 45 min early and no one else was around, when a little girl walked in and sat down next to me and just starting talking to me. For the next 45 minutes we sat there talking and becoming friends. I love how little kids are able to make friends with anyone, they aren't worried about what others think about them, they just love. As our intermediate hymn we sang "Come, Follow Me" or in Spanish "Venid a Mi". It is one of those hymns that aren't translated word for word and I love the Spanish version, as it goes through several of the invitations that Christ invites us to do. In the fourth and fifth verses we sang (in rough translation) "Let the children come to me. He commanded with great love, and in his arms he took them and blessed them. Make yourselves into children such as these, if you want to enter into my kingdom in order to inherit my glory and enjoy eternal life." Essentially, as Christ teaches in Mathew 18 "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." We must be humble in order to enter into the kingdom of God accept Him and His commandments so that we can return to be with Him.


Pictures we drew together!
I am grateful that I have this opportunity to serve the Lord and focus on serving others completely for two years.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson




Parque Europa

Parque Europa - Atomium, Belguim
 
Parque Europa - Trio with the Eiffel Tower, France

Parque Europa - Fontana de Trevi, Italy







How many years before the "money cut" on a pine farm?

July 13, 2016

This week I have been looking for the tender mercies of the Lord and I wanted to share some of those with you all this week.

Many nights after planning and companionship prayer Elder Kirby, the Brit, and I wrestle to relieve stress and show our love for each other by pinning each other. After I got twisted into a human pretzel and had to tap out, we gave each other a hug and Elder Kirby, who has three sisters as well, said, "I finally have a brother" It was a little comment but it was something that made me reflect on how grateful I am for my companions that have become my brothers on the mission.

Another tender mercy this week occurred with Elder Doxey. He received his transfer out of the office and is going up to Asturias. We were talking and he helped me to understand better and change my attitude about the office. He gave me the advice to stop worrying so much about myself, the mission is about learning to forget yourself and going to work. The Lord called us to Spain to do what He asked us to do not what we most desired to do. The Lord has called me to the office and has asked me to simply change the way in which I sacrifice for Him. It was a new viewpoint that was enlightening and empowering.

Another tender mercy from this week was the transfer process. I got to see and say goodbye to many of my friends in the mission who are heading home. I got to take Elder Aussant to the train station, I got to “fight” one last time with Elder Bartholomew, I got to spend the day on Tuesday with Elder Peña before he headed back to Peru. It is kind of crazy that the Hermanas that came in with us went home yesterday. During this transfer craziness the Lord has blessed us with success on the piso front. We have finally found a piso for the Hermanas up in Santiago which was a miracle because of the amount of time that I was not in the office and the way that we were able to find it, see it and hopefully sign the contract with the very little time. It shows to me that the Lord is worried about his missionaries not only spiritually but temporally as well. Christ taught us this principle in 3 Ne 13:28-33 where he taught, "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, even so will he clothe you, if ye are not of little faith. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." I get to see how that promise is true for all of His missionaries.

Another tender mercy this week has to do with President Pack. I am very grateful for him and the things that he teaches us, such as the way to grow pine trees. He has a pine tree farm and during the twenty years of growth of pine trees you get to pull out four different cuts. One at five years, one at ten years, one at fifteen and one at twenty where the trees are big enough to rake in the big bucks. Just another random piece of information from the life of President Pack. Really the lessons that he teaches have more to do with loving others. Taking a missionary to the airport at 10:30 at night after an incredibly long week. It is amazing to see how strong he is when he has a moment to minister to others. He is an example of sacrificing for others.

I love you all and am grateful for your support, your prayers, your letters and your love.

Elder Gustafson