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

Happy Fourth of July!

Fourth of July American style

July 4, 2016

We started our 4th of July out taking a driving class to be prepared for our test at the end of next week. Then our day got awesome when we went to President's house and ate pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, melon, and watermelon for breakfast that was delicious. I am so grateful for the Packs and what they do for us.

We then went out to Torrejon for a Zone BBQ and guess who was there...FELIX!!! He has been going through a really rough time recently with a lot of opposition from his family to get baptized, please keep praying for him, that he has the strength to get through the challenges that are coming. It was really good to see one of my best friends once again.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

We baked a cake.

Torrejon Reunion

Office Life

June 29, 2016

Well, I sit here amongst a pile of work that will get done at some point, I wanted to let you know how my week has been, not sure how much I remember, this week has been a blur.

Elder Bartholomew came down from the north after finishing his assignment as a secretary, to clean out the member lists, and so we got to spend a couple of days together which was really fun. It was great to catch up on old times again.

I also passed my drivers license theoretical test with a practical in a couple of weeks. We received a new companion in the office quadruplet, Elder Douglas, who will be taking over as Transport Secretary for Elder Doxey in two weeks. That´s pretty much all of the big news, along with all the normal office work that´s not all that interesting.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Yeiri, Yesairi, and Samil got baptized up in Coruña this last week :) 

The Average Phone Call is 2.2 Minutes

June 20, 2016

Did you know that the average phone call several years ago was 2.2 minutes? Without fail every year the data showed 2.2 minutes. That little piece of information is just one of the great things I've learned from my relationship with President Pack over the past couple of weeks. I've also been able to learn from his teachings to us, for example, this morning we were sitting around his table and Elder Doxey asked him about how to help ward leadership get involved in missionary work and he shared with us his insights. He told us that as leaders they have quite a bit of work to do with many different priorities that they need to accomplish, and most of them understand the importance of missionary work and so the best approach isn't preaching to them but instead inspiring them, the same goes for us in every aspect of our lives, nag and tell over and over again might not help but if you can inspire someone to do something for themselves they will have much greater success.

This week I wanted to focus on my favorite parts of being in the office, one of which being my relationship with President and Sister Pack. Another one of the great parts of being in the office is my companions, Elder Doxey and Kirby. We are currently in a trio which is really fun, when one of us gets down there is always someone there to crack a joke or push you into a bush or something to make you snap out of it and lighten up a little. It is great to learn from them and the way that they teach and interact with others. (It will also fun to be two Americans with a Brit on the 4th of July we are looking forward to it)

Another great part about the office is the time to learn new skills. Such as renting and getting rid of pisos, getting landlords to fix things, communicate on a business level in Spanish, keep a very organized schedule, learning to deal with emergencies, and learning to drive stick and getting my Spanish Driver´s License. I love being able to learn new things, even though it wasn't something I thought I would be doing during my time here in the mission. I am grateful to be driving. Today we had the theoretical test and we will find out the results tomorrow.

The most important thing that I love about the office is that God is still in the details. On Thursday we received a phone call from one of our landlords demanding rent for several months that he claimed we had never paid him for dating back to 2012. A whole bunch of red flags went off and we went running back to the office to get it figured out and why he hadn't been paid, or what had happened. After several more hours of searching records and looking into accounts we went home. As we got out of the car, a little disappointed for having missed our time to be missionaries we started to play, kick the empty cigarette carton through your companions legs, when a Dominican girl walked up to us and asked about who we were and what church we represented. She said that she had been to church back in the Dominican Republic and wanted to come again. It was a gift from God to literally put someone right in our path after a stressful evening.

I love being a missionary because He has a plan for me and knows what I need. The same is true for each of you.

Elder Gustafson