Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Growth of the Church in Spain

Mile marker 0 from which all road measurements in Spain are calculated.

September 19, 2016

This week we had the special privilege of having zone conference with some special guests who attended. We had there, one of the counselors in the Temple Presidency who was one of the first missionaries in Spain when it was opened for missionaries, the first member baptized in Madrid and the first Spaniard baptized who continued living in Spain. It was a very powerful experience to see how far the work in Spain has come over the past fifty years. When the first Spaniard was baptized he had to leave the country in order to be baptized because it was illegal for anyone to be baptized in a church other than the Catholic. He spoke to us about the need to keep stepping forward. If he and others like him had given up, the church never would have gotten to the point where there are now 54,000 members in Spain. Little by little, contacting everybody they could they were able to grow despite all of the persecutions and hardships that they had to go through.

As he spoke to us he shared with us his love for the Spanish people. He spoke of the need to love those that we see on a daily basis. Maybe that person will reject us in the moment but there will be a time where those people will be the ward mission leaders, bishops, stake and temple presidents, and faithful members that Spain needs so desperately. Don.t give up was his message love them even though in the moment they might not know to love you.

I am grateful for the love that I get to feel for this special people of the Lord. There is nothing as important as to be able to serve them during this time. I love the moments that I get to be with them and see how the gospel changes people and makes them the people that they need to become. I love the Lord and am grateful to be doing a small part in His work here in Spain.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Old Town Madrid
Old Town Madrid

Oldest operating restaurant in the world. Opened in 1725.

Peter outside the Royal Palace

Saturday, September 10, 2016


View from our piso
It´s been a great couple of weeks here in the office. Lots of fun, running people around, finding new apartments, getting bills paid etc. We have been having a lot of fun. This morning, I sent a picture of a hand with some bloody knuckles to my Mother, forgetting to attach an explanation, and received the following email back.

Dear Elder,

Thank you for the enclosed photo of your bruised and swollen fingers. An explanation would be appreciated! :D

The Mother

I hope to be able to provide an acceptable answer that will also draw some gospel conclusions. This story begins when an MMA fighter was called as the new Assistant to the President. Elder Trantham loves fighting and is very good at it. He has his gloves with him. As we have talked he offered to teach me how to box. Of course, not being able to refuse the offer I took him up on it. We wake up early as a district to go out and play sports, futbol, frisbee, or basketball, while Elder Trantham teaches me how to box. We hit pads and so the only thing that gets damaged are my weak hands that are protected by gloves but still breaks open a couple of my knuckles. So what is the point in going out and boxing several mornings a week? The beauty of it is that my hands heal and as they are healing they become stronger. And not only my knuckles but the rest of my body. There is great power in the pattern of being broken down in order to heal again.

As I look over some of the lessons that I have learned and that I continue to learn there is a major theme. It is the idea that we must continually progress forward. And if we stop pushing ourselves along our Loving Father in Heaven will always be there to push us, to give us something that makes us return to progression towards Him.

Those that understand that sacrifice, or pushing ourselves, for good things is a requirement of happiness, are people that truly have found success in life. I see examples of them all around me every day. I see a Mission President who pushes himself every day to put on a smile and love those that he serves with and then goes home to be a dad all the while still dealing with the problems that exist in the mission. I see it in the ward mission leader in Talavera who even though he still has not regained full use of his hands, has gone and found five possible pisos in Talavera that he will be going to see in the next week because of a conversation we had about the needs of the missionaries there. I see it in our Bishop in San Sebastian, who along with consoling those that need comfort, worry about those that are of need in his ward, and all the other things he worries and thinks about has come up with a plan that is one of the most inspired teachings I´ve heard about how to help his ward members share the gospel. On top of that, on a day that he was prohibited from going to work by his doctor, because of an injury, went on splits with us to go and present his plan individually to the leaders of the ward. The list could go on and on. I am grateful for those that sacrifice to bring something greater to come to pass.

In conclusion, going out in the mornings to box is not a sacrifice, getting bloody knuckles is not a sacrifice when compared to the examples listed above, but it is similar in the idea that sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven. Boxing brings its rewards, being able to be more productive after a good exercise, feeling confident and not like a lazy bum sitting in an office chair all day, growing physically. The spiritual and temporal sacrifices like those of the men above, bring real spiritual strength into the lives of all those who sacrifice big things or small things for the Lord. My invitation for all of us this week is to find one way to sacrifice a little bit more for the Lord this week, so that we can become spiritually stronger.

Thank you for your examples of spiritual strength to me through your examples and letters.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

The office
District SanSe

Call to the Office

August 29, 2017

This last week has been nuts but it has been fun. I feel like I just wrote a couple of days ago but in the last couple of days ago we have had some awesome experiences. We have been working a lot with the Ayudantes in our area. President has been trying to help us find the way to have a more missionary like experience as we work in the office. And so we have essentially combined areas with the APs and are working together to bring souls unto Christ. It has been awesome to be able to teach and feel the spirit with them.

I want to tell you about an office miracle that happened a couple of weeks ago. A woman called the office looking to meet with some missionaries in San Sebastian, we sent the Ayudantes and they taught her a little bit and then got a follow up appoint. Because they needed another man they called us and I was the lucky one who got to go out with them to their lesson. We sat down in the lesson and she came with a list of questions for us that she had about the church. And they were great questions! We talked about covenants and baptism and the importance of revelation in our faith. We also found out that the reason that she called us was so that she could understand her LDS friends that live in the States. I have very rarely seen someone with so much curiosity about who we are, who does not have the intention to Bible Bash but instead learn and understand that that learning can bring her closer to God. I am grateful for this miracle that fell in our laps.

It is great to see the miracles that God puts in our paths. It appears that this really is His Work that he leads and guides. I know that to be true.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

An Anchor of Peace

August 24, 2016

I´m sorry that this letter is coming to you a couple of days late, we have had several incredibly crazy days here in the Madrid Mission. To start it off on Monday one of my companions and our Secretary in the office went home for some medical tests. He has a blood clot in his leg and has been having chest pains that the Spanish doctors haven´t been able to identify a reason for. The good news is though that the American doctors they have talked to sound confident that they can find the problem and that it won´t hinder his desires to continue onward in his missionary service. Elder Douglas will be coming back in about two weeks to resume his position as Secretary. We are praying that things go well for him. In the meantime, Elder Kirby and I are holding the office together with the Youngs.

Anyways, we spend the day running around trying to make sure that all the people who have trips are able to catch their planes and trains and buses. We only had a set of Hermanas miss a train and an Elder on a bus which broke down and who waited on the side of the road with the other people there until someone from Madrid could travel the hour and a half out to fix the bus. All in all, for us it was a pretty smooth day just long hours.

Then we get to Tuesday. Tuesday is probably a day that I don´t really feel like recounting simply because we made some mistakes that should not have happened, such as getting lost several times (I was driving), waiting at the wrong terminal for new missionaries and getting word that they had gotten in, waited, and finally gotten a taxi to the mission office, a nice new scratch on the mission van etc. We were all looking forward to the day being over. And it did when we went to bed at about midnight.

This morning, I was writing in my journal and was thinking about all of the dumb things I had done and just feeling sorry for how the day went when I started to realize that during the past couple of days I have seen the way other people have been able to show to me that the Lord knows me specifically. On Monday night we had about two hours when we were called to give a blessing to another missionary. Amongst the craziness of transfers, it was such a blessing to step back from all of the temporal logistics and see what really matters. To be able to feel the joy that comes from ministering.

The next day I saw the same type of miracles. I saw how a missionary in one of my old areas was able to help me focus again on my purpose as a minister as he called to talk about the area and how he could help the people there. I could tell you about the delicious food that the Youngs left out for us at the mission home after a day of not having a whole lot of time to eat. Or about the Elder who at 11 o´clock at night was thanking us for having picked him up and taken him to our piso up so that he could more easily make it to his flight instead of whining about the flight that we had gotten for him. I am grateful for the matrimonial couples that are out serving and who have been helping me to find pisos. They push, encourage, and are understanding and for them I am grateful. I am grateful for Elder Kirby and his ability to get through tough situations with his head intact. I believe that going through hard things is possible if you have the best people around you, and Elder Kirby is just one of those people. I am grateful for the faith and love that Elder Douglas has shared with me. Focused on other during probably one of the most difficult moments of his life. He is one of my heroes.

I am so grateful to be a missionary. I am so grateful that I have a knowledge of the restored gospel because of the inner peace that I can find during times of turmoil. When we talk with people on the streets one of my favorite things to talk about is what they are looking for out of life. This usually leads into a discussion on happiness which in my mind is peace. Being able to be at peace with oneself can only come about as we fully apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness. I was reading this morning in Ether where it teaches us these principles. Ether a prophet goes out to teach the wicked people and Ether´s teaching is summarized in the following verses.

"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."

Let us let hope which comes from faith be an anchor for the days of turmoil ahead. I know that He is watching over each of us. In his plan he has put people that fit together perfectly so that they can be ministers to and ministered by those around them. Let us keep our priorities in line with the will of God and what joy shall we feel when we can be the instrument in the Lords hands even unto one other soul.

I love you all,
Elder Gustafson

Love One Another

August, 15, 2016

Last night I got to go on splits with Elder Boyd, one of the APs, and it was an incredible blessing. We went out contacting on the way to a lesson with an inactive member. We stopped a woman and her husband. They ended up being from Poland and Cape Verde respectively. They had talked with sisters in the streets a year before but had never followed up with the sisters to receive a lesson. Elder Boyd brought up eternal families and it was amazing how the wife´s eyes sparkled as she learned that she could live with her two sons and husband for eternity not only until the end of life. We received their information and are hoping to get in contact with them again to be able to share this hope with them.

We then got to our lesson with a young man in our ward who felt like he didn´t have the determination that he needed to be able to continue onward. As we started with a prayer he thanked us because for the first time in a long time he had felt the Spirit touch him as we prayed together. We got talking and had the opportunity to share an experience that I passed through and the options that I had to choose. It was exactly what he needed and we were so grateful for the Spirit that guided us so closely in that lesson to be able to be instruments into his heart. 

I love being a missionary. I treasure these small moments even more so now that I am in an office. In our weekly office meeting President Pack gave the spiritual thought and reminded us that the work that we are doing is a spiritual labor. I was reminded of that on Sunday with Elder Boyd. I am so grateful for the Spirit and the comforting power that he has to help us and guide us so that we can bless the lives of those around us, if we look to do so.

I love you all,

Elder Gustafson