Friday, April 29, 2016

The Voice of the Good Shepherd

A portrait of Christ in white robes with a white head covering, looking over to the right side.
April 25, 2016

This week one of my goals has been the improvement of the time that I have to study every morning. I have always loved this time but this week as I have been studying in the book of John I have loved how the pages have come to life and how they apply to me and to my investigators. One of my favorite verses that I reread this week is found in John 17, verse 3 "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." How important than is that relationship that we have with God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our Savior! I love how many times we learn in the scriptures of God's desire for us to know Him. There is nothing more important in this life than to arrive at the understanding that He is our Father, and that we have the potential to be like Him, while at the same time he never compels always letting us choose between happiness and eternal life or misery and damnation. Joseph Smith taught this basic principle stating, "Salvation cannot come without revelation". I am grateful for the revelation that I receive on a daily basis because it feeds me and drives me to work harder and be better.

In John 10 I found one of my new favorite discourses on leadership. Christ speaks in this chapter about himself being the good shepherd. He teaches that all must enter through the gate, including the shepherd. (If we remember the gate is baptism) There is no getting to God by jumping over the fence it doesn't matter how much someone believes, because Christ our shepherd has shown us the way. He continues teaching us that the sheep hear his voice as he calls them by their name. Because of His atonement He knows exactly who we are and what our needs are, and so can call our names. It is our responsibility to be listening. And when all have been taken out of the fold He goes before them. Christ leads trusting his sheep to follow Him. The burden of responsibility rests on our shoulders not His. We can choose to know his voice or we can choose to ignore it, once again we see our gift of agency. If we follow Him, we know that He will give all to protect us and allow us to live with Him again. While others will turn and run so that they are not hurt when the wolves come Christ does not. He then teaches us one of the most important principles of leadership, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father". The best leaders know not only their sheep but also those that lead them and most importantly God. Once again we return to the need for a personal connection with God. The best leaders are those that follow. Those that are able to do things in the way and in accordance with the will of our Heavenly Father. I love his idea of shepherds and sheep. We are all sheep and at the same time we are all shepherds. Are we good shepherds? Do we harken to the voice of our Good Shepherd?

It is such a blessing to be a missionary and have the responsibility for a flock here in A Coruña. I am grateful for the old lady with a heavy load that we were able to help to her next destination, I am grateful for the woman that we stopped on the street who told us that she was grateful that we had stopped her to talk about God, I am grateful for Yeiry and her family who have seen changes in their home that they didn't think possible, I am grateful for Iris and the joy that rests in her eyes, I am grateful for Kandy and Iago who are seeking diligently to make sure that baptism is the right thing to do, I am grateful to my Father in Heaven who knows me and has put me here because it is where I need to be at this time. I know the call of my Savior. I have heard Him call to me through the Holy Ghost. I know that He loves me and each of you.

Elder Gustafson

Fried chicken, fried beef, fried pork, fried sausage, fried potatoes,
fried bananas...heart attack but it's a delicious way to go.

Time for new shoes!!

Friday, April 22, 2016

City of Rain

April 18, 2016

The members here take good care of us!

A Coruña is the city of rain. I'm not quite sure if I live by the sea or in the sea some times. I kind of feel bad for the people in Noah's time after having been warned that they needed to repent for forty years, Noah goes in his arc, locks the door and it starts raining, and keeps raining and keeps raining and just won't stop raining. It must not have been very pleasant but that's what comes from disobeying God. I'm just glad for beautiful days like today, sun shining, beautiful blue sky, sweater weather, life is good! "For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things." -Lehi.

Yesterday at church we had an amazing day. We had six of our investigators come and three of the less actives that we are working with! We confirmed Iris which was great. She has such a strong testimony of how the gospel can bless her and how it will help her and her family change and grow. I loved from general conference, Elder Bednar explained that the phrase "Receive the Holy Ghost" is a divine commandment for us to follow, not only a blessing pronounced upon us. I am grateful for the Holy Ghost and the guidance that I have received in my life from that still small voice.

I also got to speak in sacrament meeting on the reason why we invite others to come unto Christ. It was a great topic that I love talking about. I invite others to come unto Christ because I know of the peace and joy that has come to me as I use the atonement in my life. It is only through the waters of baptism that we can come into full access of that atonement. I invite others to come into the waters of baptism because I want them to feel what I have felt and be able to confront trials and temptations with the protection of the Holy Ghost. There is absolutely no better gift to show the world than this. I love this work. I love my Savior.

Elder Gustafson

Beautiful Coruna!

Monday, April 11, 2016

La Cuesta Cuesta

"The Hill Costs" or essentially it requires great effort to get to the top of a hill. 

A Coruña is full of hills both physically as well as emotionally. We hit a great peak last week with all of the many miracles that we saw. We had a splendid view of the world of God's hand in our missions, then we got to Monday. That evening we went to visit Cauini and she told us that she didn't want to talk with us again. It was a rough blow after seeing a baptism the day before and knowing the powerful future that she can choose. We are praying that she has a change of heart. We know though that the hard times are just to get up to another beautiful peak. 

Baptism of Iris and Jose Antonio
In the following days we visited a mother, Yeiri, and and her two kids. We had a beautiful lesson with them where the Spirit testified of how the gospel could bless their family. At the end of the lesson we asked them, If you were in our shoes what would you invite yourselves to do? The little girl said "Go to church", her brother soon followed, "read the scriptures and go to church", finally the mother said very quietly "to get baptized". Without wanting to jump the gun we went and started with the girl, setting a specific goal to come to church, then with the boy giving him specific things to read, then finally with the mother, "Did you say get baptized?" She had and was able to pick a date for her and her two children to get baptized. Miracles happen. They are real. They are not wrought by man but through him when the Spirit is with him. I know that her decision was based on her desire to unite with God and His principles in His church by His Authority because His Spirit had testified to her. I love my Father and the miracles that are happening around us here in Coruña.

I also want to take some space to tell the world that I have the greatest family in the world. I am grateful for their examples to me. They lift me and inspire me. I am grateful for them and their prayers on my behalf and on behalf of the people that I have the opportunity to teach. I am so grateful for the blessings of restored priesthood keys that bind not only on earth but in heaven as well. I am grateful to be able to live with them for eternity.

Quizás la cuesta cuesta pero vale la pena. Maybe the hill requires great effort but it's worth it.

At the top of every hill there is a beautiful view waiting for us. Let us never forget that. One day we will be able to reach the top of the mountain and be able to live with our families in eternity and continue in the quest of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Remember the vision, always have it in mind and the trials and difficulties will be made light.

I am grateful for you all.
I love you all.
Elder Gustafson
Elder Gustafson with a cannon.

Missionaries on a cannon

Elder Gustafson and Elder Hathaway with the Tower of Hercules in the background.

A Coruna

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Best Week

Zone Conference with President and Sister Pack

April 4, 2016

This may have been the best week of my mission. Starting with Zone P-day and then Zone Conference on Monday/Tuesday, then an intercambio in Pontevedra (the area where I started my mission), then the baptisms of Iris and Jose Antonio, finishing with an amazing General Conference! I have been blessed this week. Thank you for letting me share these experiences with you!

In zone conference we talked all about growing the faith to find new people to teach. That is one of the biggest struggles in our mission, probably everywhere as well, we have been really focused on how to more effectively find. How do we improve how we contact? 1 be yourself, don't pull a hi I'm a missionary from the Church of Jesus Christ and we would like to share a message with about once every hundred people, 2 have or develop the faith that the Lord has prepared people and will bring you into contact, 3 talk with as many as possible every day, and 4 recognize the hand of the Lord, in your efforts to find, every day in prayer. Essentially have fun being a missionary, trust in the Lord, work, and return and report. It was a conference spiritually uplifting.

Then, an intercambio in Pontevedra! Wow what a blessing! We are on opposite sides of Galicia but thanks to my companion who had to do an intercambio with the district leader down there, made an exception and let me go down to Pontevedra and what miracles we saw! First I got to meet with Victor (African investigator who got baptized after I left). He has been inactive in the recent past and we went and talked with him. At the end of the lesson he told us, "I will go to church this Sunday, but I will not go for you or the missionaries or President or the members. I will go because I need to and God wants me to." We were very excited! Then the following day we met with Pili, one of my favorite people here in Spain, who is still investigating. She has recently left off of meeting with the Elders but she has recommitted to rereading the Book of Mormon every day (she has already read it once) and to continue searching for an answer to her questions! At the end of the lesson she said, "I believe that one of the reasons you came back up to Galicia was to help me get back on the path." Yes! Yes! Yes! She's coming back around! That alone might have made my week the best week ever, but it gets better.

The baptisms of Jose Antonio and Iris! What joy and happiness does someone feel when they get to participate in such an incredible step. When Jose Antonio came out of the baptismal font and I got to give him a hug in his dripping wet clothes what joy! The Lord has been good to me. I feel like I have done very little in the teaching of this family as I just arrived a couple weeks ago but have received a pay day that was sweeter than any monetary payment could ever bring. I am grateful for the efforts of the many missionaries who have passed through teaching this family it is thanks to them and the Lord that I had the privilege of being there.

Finally, General Conference was the best I have ever been to. It is such a blessing that we have to be able to hear the words of God as they are shared by His prophets and apostles. There were several key messages directed towards me in the conference, among them: the importance of prayer and its relationship with power, putting your desires behind the needs of others, and knowing who you are and the authority that you hold. Thinking about this last idea as it applies to missionaries, the keys of the gathering of Israel restored to the prophet Joseph Smith by Moises allow me and all other missionaries of this church to not only represent the church but also to be representatives of Jesus Christ, something that no other church has regardless of how extensive their missionary program is. These are just a few of the treasures that I loved about General Conference. I hope that you were able to watch and enjoy of the recharging spirit of the conference.

I love you all!
Elder Gustafson

Reunion with my awesome Pontevedra Friends

Parable of the Talents

March 28, 2016

This week I was showering and got hit by revelation (a great time to receive revelation) and have been reflecting on it for the past week. It came in the form of the parable found in Mathew 25:14-30.

"¶For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

For the first time I really understood this parable. I essentially realized something that I have known for a while, the Lord calls each of us with the talents and flaws that we each have because he wants us to use those talents in our work. If we burry our talents because we don't believe they can help us, we must begin to be creative and use our minds, not burry our talents putting them out of sight. How does that apply to missionary work? Today I'm with Elder Hendrix in Vigo for a Zone Pday and Zone conference tomorrow, and he has magnified this principle. One of his talents is being able to solve a Rubic's Cube and he has begun using it to teach the Restoration on the bus and in the street. He shows a completed Rubic's cube representing the Church of Jesus Christ just as He established it. He then scrambles the cube representing the fragmentation of the Church of Christ and great apostasy. He is able to show that there are many different versions of the Doctrine of Christ that aren't correct but with the knowledge and power that comes from revelation and ordination the cube can be exactly the same as it did before. So be who you are because the Lord called you to be there and your strengths will be magnified and work to overcome your weaknesses.

Other than that is week has been pretty good! We got to go see the new chapel which was a wonderful experience. It is the first chapel in Galicia and the Spirit that was there as we entered the Sacrament Room was beautiful. I am grateful for the faithful Galician saints who have fought and gone through much to get to where they are today, still with struggles but growing and getting stronger. (Besides the wonderful Spirit, the chapel is awesome with its Samsung tablet on the wall that controls all the lights, heating, and even automatically fills the baptismal font! Not to mention the white board that rises out of the wall to the side of the pulpit, and the surround sound system throughout the entire building. It's pretty amazing!) We are also working with Iris and Jose Antonio for their baptisms this weekend! We had to postpone the baptism of Cauini but please pray that she can find a job that permits her to come to church.

I love you all!
Elder Gustafson
Reunion selfie with Elder Hendrix

Coruna Changes

March 21, 2016

Well this has been another great week in A Coruña. Time is flying so fast that it seems that I was writing just yesterday. The work here in Coruña is going so well, we have so much to do. We are teaching every day. I feel blessed to be here at this time, after the work of many many missionaries I get to see and benefit from their efforts to find and our teaching pool is great. It helps as well to have a stud companion who is one of the best missionaries I've served with. We had baptismal interviews with Cauini, Iris, and Jose Antonio and so we are getting very excited for their baptisms the first week of April! We have started working with Rafa, a less active member, so that he can prepare himself to go on a mission, which is his desire, and he came to church on Sunday! We also are teaching the wife and son of a recent convert, Kandy and Iago, and they told us on Sunday night that they want to be baptized so things are flying here and we are just pumped. Those are just a few of all the miracles and blessings here in Coruña.

It was a big change coming from Talavera to A Coruña, going from a tiny branch to what should be a ward, going from training for six months to having an older companion, and having to start all my relationships over again with the members and investigators. Change is never easy but always a time of great growth. I am grateful for the ability that we have been given, to overcome new challenges and grow. God always knows what we need and when we need. When I got here I didn't want to be here. I would have preferred to have stayed in Talavera but I am grateful that I am here and the things that I am learning about, especially what I am learning from my companion. He has taught me so much in the last couple weeks through his example and our conversation. There are different ways that the Lord helps us to grow, by giving us extreme challenges that seem impossible and he also gives us people to learn from that will push us and help us grow just because of their example. I am grateful for both because I must use the atonement in order to grow in both ways. This week as we prepare to celebrate Easter I invite you to mediate on how you can use the atonement more effectively in your life. There is great, even infinite, power in the atonement if we choose to use it.

Elder Gustafson

In the Crown

 March 14, 2016

Well, I'm here in Galicia again and I love it. The beauty of A Coruña (the crown in Gallego) is incomparable with that of the rest of my areas. The work here is exploding! It is super cool to see how much work we have and the progression. We are even opening the new chapel (the first chapel building in Galicia) the first of next month! Not to mention the three baptisms that we are expecting to have next month as well. It is a great time to be a missionary in Coruña.

We are teaching a part member family right now. The dad and son were baptized about three months ago and the Mom (Iris) and other son (Jose Antonio) will be baptized this next month. We are very excited for their progression and the way that things are working out. We are also teaching a woman named Cagüini and she is excited for her baptism the same week as Iris and Jose Antonio. Please pray that she can find a job that allows her to attend church every Sunday. And we are teaching a young woman named Venus who is progressing really well and we are very excited for her desires to progress towards her Heavenly Father. This next week I'll be able to give a more complete update on what's going on as I get to know the area and our investigators better.

My companion Elder Hathaway is from Indiana and just a solid missionary. He has been out about six months longer than I have and I am super excited to learn absolutely everything I can from him in the coming months. He enjoys discussing doctrine and has helped me to learn a lot in just the last couple of days, so I'm excited for what I'll be able to learn in the next weeks.

Elder Gustafson

In the ship of Captan Nemo in the aquarium of A Coruña (my companion
is right next to me, then Elder Pulotu from Hawaii, and Elder Goodman
from Utah) My companion and I, two blondes, attract a lot of
attention walking down the street.

Galacian Coast