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.

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