Friday, January 29, 2016

Traffic Stop

January 25, 2016

This week has been another just amazing week! First of all we had a worldwide missionary training meeting that was super amazing. It was entitled Teach Repentance and Baptize Converts. Really that is our objective. Our purpose is larger than that but if we fail to teach repentance by the power of the Holy Ghost there is no way that anyone can ever become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We only baptize those who are converted. We have seen that retention is one of the great problems here in this mission that sometimes people are baptized before they are ready, or because they were converted to the activities of the church or to the missionaries. Speaking of being converted to the missionaries, Felix from Torrejon no longer has a baptismal date, I would ask for your prayers on his behalf. In the conference we learned from Elder Bednar about the importance of being the conduit for the Spirit to let the Spirit teach people. Sometimes we go into a lesson with a great plan about what we are going to teach and forget to let the Spirit do the teaching as we follow the impressions that we receive. The thing I took away from his talk was to get out of the way and let the spirit teach. I wish that I could share everything that I learned in those two hours but suffice it to say that I love the way that the leaders of this church can receive such revelation and communicate it to us in such a meaningful way.

Other than that we have seen more miracles this week. It's really just incredible. Like I'm not really sure how I would describe it if I didn't know that there is a God and that He can do all things. One day this week we went and stopped by the church and as we were there one of our old investigators with whom we had lost contact came walking into the church and told us that he had been on vacation and that, that day he had felt prompted to go stop by the church to see if we were there. (Considering that we are not usually just at the church it was a miracle in and of itself that he found us there not to mention that he had felt the need to come talk with us.)

Another miracle this week, last night we were out trying to contact as many people as possible in the street but not getting anything. As we kept going we saw a car pass by and then stop pull over to the side, sort of, put on his hazards and jump out of his car and come running across the lanes of traffic to stop us. He asked us if we had a church in the area, that he had family living in Utah and that he wanted to come and visit our church on Sunday. I was dumbfounded for a second, then gave him a card with our address and meeting times, got his phone number and then he excused himself to move his car, behind which was a growing line of angry drivers blaring their horns. It was one of the strangest things I've seen. I know that that was a miracle sent straight from the Lord.

We have also seen progress with our investigators, especially with Jose Luis and Manuel. When Jose Luis came into church on Sunday he was really excited to tell us that he had been reading the Book of Mormon that morning and that he had found an answer to one of the questions that he had all his life. I love the power of the Book of Mormon and the ability that the Spirit has to change our lives when we invite it in. Manuel as well is making great progress, his attitude towards the church is changing he has started referring to the church as we as opposed to you and is beginning to read from the standard works again. He knows he needs to be baptized and he feels of its importance. Please keep praying that the correct things will happen in his life so that he can make that step that he needs to. Lucy as well is doing well, she has been very busy this week and so we haven't been able to visit her but the change that we have seen in her is 180 degrees. It is so exciting to see the change that the gospel has made in her life. Life in Talavera is amazing! Things are great! He Lord is amazing!

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Monday, January 18, 2016

Gratitude in Talavera

There are so many things that I am grateful for this week. We have seen so many miracles once again here. I want to share with you some of my feelings of gratitude for the things that have happened this week.

This week I am grateful for the inspired leaders that guide this church. I especially am grateful for the work and efforts of our branch president that was released this week. He has traveled every week for the past 2 1/2 years to Talavera from Mostoles, a trip of about 120 km. I am grateful for the sacrifices that all of the members here in Talavera make. They really are pioneers of the church pushing to see growth and while we see many of the same problems that hit members at the beginning of the church they keep pressing on. They are powerful and strong because of the things that they pass through. I am grateful for a member in our branch who is so dedicated that he has accepted the callings to be Ward Mission Leader, Elders Quorum President, and Branch Secretary. I am grateful for a member who is now serving for his fifth or sixth time as Branch President. I am grateful for a Relief Society President with cancer who calls us twice a week to stop by her house so that we can pick up food that she has prepared for us. I am grateful for a family that shares the gospel not only with their friends but with people they see and then bring their friends to us to teach in their home. And so many more. I am grateful for the miracles that the Lord puts in our path. On Sunday night we were out contacting and we had fallen into a rut of contacting this last week and so last night we decided that we were going to go 100% and pray to see miracles. As we began talking with everyone with energy that could only come from Christ, we started to see a difference we got to share our message in the street with a father and his little son, we also ran into a woman named Milagros (Miracles) who we had run into before and passed to the Toledo missionaries where she lives. Turns out that she is staying here and we will have the opportunity to begin teaching her. These are just two of the many miracles that we have seen this week for which I am grateful.

I am grateful for my companion. I am grateful that he is here with me. I am grateful for the experiences that we are having together. I am grateful for his patience with me as I make so many mistakes. I am grateful for his generosity as he is able to share so freely. I am grateful for his ability to take everything calmly.

I am grateful for our investigators, Lucy, Manuel, Jose Luis, David y Conche, etc. Lucy once again expressed her testimony of the church to us is week. She is amazing! Manuel continues to show signs of progression as we continue to meet with. After one of the classes on Sunday one of our Stake visitors asked why he had never met such a solid member before. David and Conche are an adult son and his mother, whom we just began teaching this week and we have a lot of hope for them. We found David and his girl friend out on the street before Christmas but haven't been able to get in contact for quite some time until this week.

Anyways things are going really well here. We have been in Toledo today looking at swords and all manner of cool stuff. We are also having a world wide missionary training on Wednesday which is really exciting. I'm not quite sure what to expect but it is going to be awesome! I am grateful to be here at this time.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Not a sword, but close...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Love in Talavera

Elephants in Toledo for Three Kings Day
These last couple of days I have been thinking quite a lot about the importance of love in missionary work. I'm sure that the application can be made to life in the real world as well. Sometimes I feel like I live in the missionary world and everyone else lives in another dimension. It's kind of a weird feeling. Anyways, in my many experiences this week love has taken a central role, trying to make sure that what I am doing is because of a love of God. Am I trying to do the work in the way that I think it should be done or have I really consulted Him, whose work it is? The answer is that there are adjustments to be made, and while God won't command us in all things He has asked us to counsel with Him in all things. I am grateful for the opportunity to counsel, with God, with missionary leaders, and with my mission President. I know that there are inspired men who are ready and willing to help when we need counsel and correction. I am grateful for the love that I have felt as I have counseled with great missionaries about how to change and become better. I know that the Lord is pleased when we seek His guidance and the guidance of His servants. 

This week we have had amazing experiences that have brought my companion and I closer together as well as seeing the hand of the Lord working in the lives of our investigators and less actives that we are working with. The couple that stopped by the church last week didn't show up to church which was disappointing but I know that a seed has been planted and one day it will sprout. Speaking of investigators at church, we had an amazing week! We had 8 investigators at church in a branch of about 25-30 people. It is not us, it's the amazing members we have here who are so excited for missionary work. This is the first area where I have seen the real power that members have when they are excited to see growth in missionary work. I know that members have power and the ability to bring people into the church. We as missionaries are just here to guide them a little bit. There really is no better feeling than to see a member family show up at church with a mother and her son who want to know more about the gospel because they had received an invitation to come from their member friends. I wish I could express my joy more fully with the miracles that we have seen because of the efforts of dedicated members.

We have seen amazing progress with an "eternigator," an investigator that has been investigating for a long time without progression. His name is Manuel. We were talking with him a couple days ago and he bore his testimony of how he feels the need to be baptized! It might take a little bit more time to overcome some of his doubts but he already knows what he must do. He has started staying for all three hours of church something that he did not do before and has started wearing a tie and jacket to church! We also have been working with a less active man named Joaquin who told us that he has never really had a testimony. As we talked about the Plan of Salvation he opened up and shared with us his feelings and doubts and frustrations with the church and the gospel. It has been amazing both with Joaquin and Manuel the importance of listening. As we listen and show that we care about them, they will say things that we never would have learned if we had gone in, showed them how to fix their problems that we could see on the surface and then left. They need to feel more than that we are the missionaries here to fix their problems and leave but really that we are representatives of Jesus Christ here to minister to them and love them. And it works.

And the great, exciting news doesn't end there. We had another lesson this week with Lucy. As we showed up at her house she had her niece there with her. We then had the chance to teach both of them the restoration. We had one of the young men in the branch come with us and he taught about the first vision and testified powerfully of the truthfulness of this event based on what he had felt as he had read the Book of Mormon. At the end of the lesson we invited Lucy to prepare herself for a baptismal date at the end of February and she agreed!

We are so very excited to see so many great things going on here. I understand to some degree the feelings of Ammon as he says in verse 3 of chapter 26 of Alma "Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work." Our work is not done but I feel so blessed to be an instrument in this place in this time. I love this work, I love my Father who has sent me to be in this place, I love my Savior who allows me to make mistakes and then change and become someone new. I love you all and am grateful for your prayers on my behalf, my companion's, and for those that we teach.

Elder Gustafson

New Year's Day feast at Burger King.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Faith Brings Miracles

written  January 4, 2016

I am grateful for the faith and prayers of the members in Talavera that this branch will grow. It is because of their faith and dedication that we have seen so many miracles this week. These are just some that we have seen.

First miracle in Talavera, we have an investigator that has been around investigating for about a year but he hasn't progressed in some time. Manuel doesn't want to accept the idea of tithing but knows and feels that this is the true church. He also comes to church every week for the first two hours (Sunday School and Priesthood) but never stays for Sacrament Meeting. Yesterday he came to church dressed very nicely with a shirt and tie, which also doesn't usually happen, and decided that he would stay for all three hours of church. It was great to see him start to change just a little but in very significant ways.

Second miracle, we are teaching a young man named Aaron. As we showed up at our lesson we saw there was another kid with Aaron. He had brought his friend, Mateo, to hear what we were teaching! There is nothing better than investigators who bring their friends to learn more about what we are teaching.

Third miracle, we taught Jose Luis on Tuesday with our ward mission leader, Eduardo. (Side note on Eduardo he is awesome. He is a tough serious Catalan but is one of the most warm hearted generous people that I know.) It was a great lesson Eduardo shared his conversion story and his solid testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We set a return appointment for Friday but couldn't get ahold of Jose Luis to confirm it. He didn't show up and we continued on, he has never failed us before nor failed to pick up his phone we were a little bit worried. When we called him on Saturday to invite him to church once again he failed to pick up the phone. We started to think, had something happened? Anyways church started on Sunday and about ten minutes late in walks Jose Luis :).

Fourth, on Saturday morning my companion and I had to stop by the church to pick up something that we had left there the day before and as we were there, in walked two strangers. It was a little bit strange but we started talking and they shared that they had come into the church in order to find a picture of Jesus that wasn't of him on the cross or in agony as so many churches here portray. We were able to talk about Jesus Christ and the real purpose of our message that the Heavens have been opened, that we can speak with our Heavenly Father and that he will communicate back through the Holy Ghost. We talked about creating a personal relationship with God and the joys of having a living resurrected Christ.

It testified to me that sometimes we find prepared people, in other moments prepared people are brought to us. I know that miracles and faith are directly linked. Miracles could not exist without faith and the faith in this branch could move mountains if required. I am grateful for the real privilege that I feel to be serving among these saints. I love my Savior and am grateful for Him.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

The Best Christmas Ever!

An old castle wall
written December 27, 2015

This has been the best Christmas ever. I have received so much this Christmas, far more than I could ever have asked for. First and foremost I got to Skype my family which nothing can beat. I am grateful for a family that supports me so much and is anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Another great part about Christmas here in Talavera are the members. They are amazing, excited to work towards growth in their branch which sometimes lacks in bigger wards. It is amazing that on Sunday we had four investigators come to church. There are two that I specifically want to highlight. Jose Luis, a man we met on the street on Monday who loves learning. He wants to find out who is God and really what is the relationship that we can have with Him. He is a great guy and we are very excited to be teaching him. Second is Lucy. She is a woman who is friends with our Relief Society President. She was brought to church two weeks ago by her friend and we went and ate with them after church. As we talked after the meal her friend shared a powerful testimony and Lucy told us that when she gains a testimony that she would like to be baptized. :) God shows us miracles when we pray, and work hard to bring people into his fold.

Another Christmas miracle may take a little bit more of an explanation. The story starts the day after Christmas. As you probably know missionaries go through amazing days, incredibly amazing experiences that build and lift us, but the opposite side of that is that we also go through rough days. Days that hurt. We know that without those hard days we wouldn't be able to fully understand the joy and exuberance that we feel most of the time. Anyways this was one of those days due to some things that had happened and the way that I had responded to them. As I was thinking on Sunday about what had happened the day before, I was quite discouraged and didn't know who to talk to. As I was sitting there in the first hour of church you would never believe who walked into our little chapel, Felix, Veronica, Paola, Alejandro, Adrian, and Sebastian some of the people who I have grown closest to in my time here, visiting me from Torrejón. They had planned to surprise me at church as a Christmas gift to me. It was an answer to my prayers. I know that the Lord knows who I am specifically. He knows me well enough to send some of the family that I have found here in Spain to be with me. I love Him. I am grateful for his infinite and atoning sacrifice that allows me to make mistakes and learn from them. I am grateful for his grace which comforts me when I get down. I love Him.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson


With the Torrejon gang