Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Gallego again!

Toledo sunrise

March 7,2016

These past two days have been very bitter sweet. I am leaving Talavera and am headed up to A Coruña in Galicia. I am very excited to be able to go up and serve in Galicia again, a chance that very few missionaries get. I love Galicia, the people there Gallegos, the food, the dialect, Gallego, and the beautiful coastline and greenness of Galicia. But never has it been harder to leave an area. I love the people of Talavera. They say that Manchegos (people from Castilla La Mancha) are harder than rocks but as the first counselor in the branch presidency said in testimony meeting, the one thing that breaks open rocks is love. I want to share with you a little bit from the things that I learned during my time in Talavera which has stretched and pushed me to the point of breaking but at the same time the sense of peace and love that I have felt from my Father in Heaven have been stronger and more pronounced than I have ever felt before.

Elder Johnson, I have learned so much from Elder Johnson. I have given every one of my companions an animal that I feel like represents their strengths and abilities. Elder Johnson is a bat. Besides the fact that bats are nocturnal and Elder Johnson loves to sleep walk and sleep talk, bats can't see they use echoes to be able to "see". Elder Johnson does have full use of his eyes but just like anyone with a brand new language struggled to understand Spanish. Even with this challenge he understood and would tell me things that would surprise me. Things that he was able to understand about the needs of our branch and investigators without being able to fully understand their words, that I would not realize until after he had pointed it out to me. I am grateful for the time that we had together, we struggled at first but these last couple of weeks have been absolutely amazing. He has become a brother to me. 

Eduardo and family
Eduardo, our ward mission leader, has taught me the reality that faith produces miracles with lots and lots of work on our part. Living the gospel in Spain where the Church is relatively new, not to mention in a small branch of about 25-30 members is very difficult. The faith required is demonstrated by Eduardo. Let me share a story about Eduardo, Eduardo one day was at work, a temporary job that he received, and was changing a fluorescent light bulb in the parking garage. He was on the top of a 3 meter high ladder when he began to wobble and fell, he slammed his head on the cement floor of the garage, broke both his wrists, and bruised his ribs very badly. As he lay there the first thought that came to his mind was "Thank you God that I am still alive". He was able to get up and was taken immediately to the hospital where he was examined and monitored for two days. He was able to come home and recover there. He knows that it was by the grace of God that he suffered so little damage, a gash above his eye, badly bruised ribs, and two broken wrists. There are many people who don't walk after a fall like that or that never get up. He focused on what he was grateful for, he didn't curse God and ask why He had let him fall but gave thanks that he had survived the landing. There is so much more I could say about Eduardo but suffice it to say that he is one of my heroes because of the faith that he shows on a daily basis. 

Manuel, has taught me more than I could explain in an email. I have spent quite a bit of time talking with Manuel. Some of the most spiritually charged lessons that I have had in the mission have been sitting around his table discussing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has taught me the importance of listening. As I have listened and we have conversed together the Spirit has testified. When I say listening I don't mean casual listening, because that isn't what he taught me, he taught me to listen to the words in between the words. Please pray for him, on Sunday he told us that he would like to be baptized, I just pray that he can keep these desires.

Fuensanta, a member in the branch, has been going through a rough spot in her life with several different trials coming at her all at once. But she has taught me to face the tough things with a smile. She is always ready with a joke or a smile or something to cheer up others especially when they are going through a rough patch without thinking of herself.

The stories and the people go on for a long time and I could not mention everyone and everything that I have learned from them. I hope that you have gained a very small glimpse into some of the people who have made such a great impact on my life.

I love you all
Elder Gustafson

Monday, March 7, 2016

Rainbows Come After Rain

February 29, 2016

"And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth." Genesis 9:8-17

I am grateful for rainbows in gray skies. This week has been full of rainbows in gray skies. This week we have been working to talk with everyone. Our mission President challenged each missionary to talk with 25 new people each day it has been a blessing to be able to focus on the people as opposed to getting tasks done. At the same time it is sad to see so many people who really just don't care that God exists. But there are rainbows in the midst of the gray clouds, Lucy is one. We went and taught Lucy this Friday and when we got there she was very discouraged with the way that she had been treated by a member and different family and work problems that she is going through. As we began talking, we talked of faith and that we receive no testimony until after the trials of our faith. She changed completely as she began to be taught by the Spirit that this was a time of trial but to keep pressing through and that she would receive a testimony as she did what she needed to do. And it worked. The next day we had a Family Home Evening with Lucy, Manuel, and another investigator and a family. We talked about revelation. We watched one of the Pattern of Light videos by Elder Bednar and discussed how we personally could receive revelation. It was great! Later as we accompanied Lucy to the street she expressed to us that she had received an answer and that she had a testimony that truly this is the Church of Jesus Christ. I am so grateful for Lucy that has been a rainbow for us this week. After our lesson with her on Friday we left her house and saw one of the most beautiful rainbows. We all love rainbows they are a beautiful phenomenon but do we remember why we have rainbows? They are a sign from God that never again will he send a flood as he did with Noah. We have another promise from the Lord that the gospel will never again be taken off the earth. I am grateful for the ability to see rainbows after hours of work and thought and prayer. The Lord is good to us in Talavera.

This week we have continued to work with Manuel. I don't remember if I've told you this before or not but Manuel is teaching the Self Sufficiency class on Saturday mornings. It is a blessing that we get to go and support him and to learn from him and his vast knowledge about how to improve yourself personally. I have no doubt that the progress that he is making will lead to visible results in the near future.
Remember that rainbows only come after rain, testimony only comes after the trial of your faith, and miracles come only after all that we can do. Have an excellent week!

Elder Gustafson
Lunch with members and missionaries
Zone Conference