Monday, March 31, 2014

I love the scriptures.

The rain actually hasn't been too bad. We tried to get a Hermano to come with us to a lesson on Wednesday. His construction crew decided to work till one in the morning Thursday that night to prepare for the intense Thursday rain-that never came. So he got back up again at 5am and went to work. Then he came with us to a lesson that night. The rain really hasn't been too bad, one night we had some sweet lightning as we knocked doors.

I believe that a former president of the church once said something like "tell me what you think about all day, and I'll tell you what you are." Thoughts are really a powerful thing.

We were finally able to see the mother-who already had The Book of Mormon. brought RM/bilingue hermano Escobedo with us. She desperately wants God's help and answers, and is facing a lot of opposition and confusion. After reading 60 pages in the Book of Mormon she's decided to start over again. She had us explaining the brass plates, how many people survived the flood, how Constantine started his own church, how confession works in our church, and other crazy things. The highlight was when we watched The Restoration movie. I'm positive she's on the right track. She's a really special lady with a lot of faith in God and a lot of desire to do right. She has a lot of spiritual needs that aren't being met, that's why she's become so actively Catholic and reads so furiously. The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is really what she is looking for. Her problem is she hasn't prayed specifically to know the truth-to know if The Book of Moron is true. She is afraid of questioning God. After two packed hours of explaining, questioning, and crying we finally got out of there. Though there were a lot of things I wish we'd done differently, we did our best to answer her questions, to be patient with her misunderstandings, and really invite her to act. We felt the spirit strongly and are confident she and her family will accept the Gospel. The bad part is, she's not letting us come back for two weeks.

Our recent convert is doing great. He is trying to go home teaching this week, he's reading a ton from the Book of Mormon, and he's coming to conference this weekend. All he really needs is to keep going. He was the easiest person to teach I've ever met. But then, he was already going to church every single week before he became an investigator.

My testimony of scripture study has really grown since being out here. Just a few verses do make a difference. There is power and help in the scriptures. It doesn't matter how much you think you know or how many times you've read them, it isn't really about the words at all. The scriptures invite the spirit. They are a gateway to revelation. They are a gift from a loving Heavenly Father who is anxiously waiting for us to just take all the answers, guidance, and direction he's already made available to us. Just the fact that we can understand letters on a printed page to mean something is a miracle itself. I love the scriptures.

I'm excited for all the great things God has planned for us this week in conference. I'm betting somebody will talk about Family Home Evening, just a little guess


Elder Decker

Sunday, March 30, 2014

era pura calidad aquella cena

March 24, 2014

Mom,

We went and knocked out in the rain again this week, expecting a miracle just like the last. Apparently that isn't what God had in mind. Elder Downey wants to ask the zone leaders to make our area bigger. I told him we would when we've knocked every house. That shouldn't take too long at the pace we're going. So we knocked a lot, and didn't quite find, but we still had a great moment. As we left a house (the 27-years in prison guy) we found someone (a less active, we think) and his friend next to our bikes. I asked him if he had prayed. Again he said no. BUT, he told me he was looking for a shirt to go to church in, that he had read the verses we gave him in Alma 36 about escaping from bonds, that he had even continued reading and really like "the book," and even suggested that we come two days sooner than our set appointment which he had remembered! Not only that, but his friend is a really great guy, and really interested. Elder Downey thinks he's the guy that had been tattooing friends when we went by one day, but I'm not sure. He does want to change his life around. We'll teaching both of them tomorrow.

We had stake Conference this weekend. It helped me understand a lot more about what the church is like here. There is a lot of translators and everything. We have 70 missionaries in this stake. That blew away a visiting Idahoan family we talked to. And Christina (old white lady the English elders teach now) came! I also got to see a lot of great people from Pasadena, and Julio from the English ward. Also there was an area seventy, and President and Sister Crawford. It was a great meeting that focused on Missionary and Temple work. I don't know how much you know about the Crawford's, but they are really great.

Other good stuff: we had another successful pupusa day. I can't remember the things I tell you about yikes. Every Wednesday a member's non-member mom's pupuseria has 1$ pupusas. This time we took some chili-lime Frank's redhot hotsauce in Elder Downey's backpack.
era pura calidad aquella cena.

Mom you should check out chapter 11 of Preach My Gospel: How do I Help People Make and Keep Commitments? PMG has changed everything I think about teaching. You can't take away people's agency, but teaching well and giving good commitments (like I know you do) makes it as easy as possible for someone to choose the right. And that's what the Gospel is all about in the end, making a choice.

pic: we ate really good last week. Bread (under the queso) with eggs and beans and fried plantains and some rolls. Super good central American stuff.


Elder Decker 

Monday, March 17, 2014

A few minutes in the rain

Elder Downey and I feel really good about this last week, we didn't make any huge adjustments, we just had a little more patience, and a lot of blessing. We didn't end the transfer lazy, we got our best numbers yet as a companionship. We got an investigator to church yesterday!

Saturday in the pouring rain we found a fantastic family. As we knocked on the door a women asked us "we are catholic, can you still teach us?" of course we said yes. She offered us ten minutes, we ended up taking about 90. This family isn't the ordinary catholic bunch. They go every week, they go to Bible study, they READ the Bible, they go to catholic camp. Interestingly though, the Mother isn't even a member. She's a "catholic lost sheep". Her baptismal record from when she was an infant has been lost in El Salvador. She isn't allowed to take what is called "the body of Christ" at church, which she is afraid means she's going to hell. Early on we also found out she had already been given a Book of Mormon, which she reads and compares to the Bible. For eight years she has clung onto it without knowing what it is. Her catholic friends tell her its from the devil and that she should throw it away, she has always refused. It took a really long time, with a lot of help from her daughter to explain what the BOM is. What's more, As we explained the restoration (and that Joseph Smith isn't Jesus) her daughter took notes inside her restoration pamphlet, found all the scriptures we shared in her phone, and filled out the additional study section in the back, all while we sat there teaching them. We spent way too much time there, answering question after question, but I really enjoyed it. We saw a big miracle, and all it took was a few minutes in the rain to make happen.  

I have been reading a whole lot in Jesus the Christ during breakfast. I am love his example of perfect missionary. Surprisingly, he does a lot of bashing with the pharisees. You would probably call it teaching. He definitely teaches to people's needs and situations, sometimes driving throngs of people out of the temple with a whip, sometimes teaching a parable to one women by a well. He took large measures to never glorify himself, always referring to the Father from whom he had been sent. He was extraordinarily patient; he answered the same questions and the same accusations repeatedly. He took time for himself, on occasion, to prepare for his service, fasting in the wilderness and praying on a mount. He knew what he taught. He lived what he taught. He loved those he taught. And what he taught was a great treasure to all who accepted it. 

Sometimes we missionaries feel like we're just professional people hunters, bicycle enthusiasts, or door knockers, and forget how really special this time is and in whose service we are in. Remembering our Savior and his example keeps our priorities and anxieties in check. That's why we have the sacrament, that's what the church, and the Gospel is for. To help us remember what we've always been taught, even before this life. 

Just some thoughts.   

Elder Decker

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Things never just happen.

Mom,

Baptism is something many members can take for granted. We often don't recognize the difference it makes because we've had it our whole lives. I've learned a lot from so many converts I've met out here, who can testify to literal and powerful difference that covenant makes.

Speaking of helping people get to church: we left Spanish ward after sacrament with a member to bring an investigator to church. Everything was against us: we hadn't talked to her since the night before, day light savings time, she was sixty years old, she didn't have a phone, and she had a stroke 3 weeks ago and can barely walk. Everything was riding on this moment. We hadn't brought one investigator to church this transfer. We had done everything possible to make it work and........ she wasn't ready. Well good thing church is every week.

Really though things never just happen. Every bit of progress anyone makes is because we lead them, sometimes literally, by the hand. With a whole lot of faith and plenty of works we can make things happen.

We finally got two people to read the Book of Mormon, but both of them are in the process of getting switched over to the English elders, an unfortunately difficult process. I think we'll try doing one lesson zebra style: one elder from each companionship teaching just one "transition lesson." It worked once really well last transfer (now a Mormon).  It'll be good.

I had a really big moment just a few days ago. I had been going a week feeling really down and unsuccessful. I had been praying a lot, but I didn't seem to get anything in return. I remembered what our zone leader had taught us about changing our perspectives and changing our faith. So I knelt in prayer, and with a sincerity I  had been lacking before I prayed asking God to remind me how much he had already done for me. Instead of begging for relief from present worries, I asked to be reminded of so many answers I had already received, how many times I had already been forgiven, and how many times I had felt his great love for me. And then I thanked him for it. I finally felt the Spirit again, and a burden was lifted. I realize that changes in our lives, our surroundings, and in our happiness only come when we change ourselves and our perspectives. And that's a big reason I came out here in the first place, to change. It's about time I get around to doing it.

Love,

Elder Decker 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Four-colored pens are a marvelous way to stay organized.

This week we taught more lessons then I ever have in this area. Estoy contento, pero no satisfecho. 

Old man Raphael wants us to rake his yard again just to prove to his provider that we'll do it for him. His provider is getting evicted from her house, so he's been pretty helpless this week. We washed his dishes and swept his floor while he finally read the first page of the Book of Mormon (this moment has been coming for 4 months).

The weather is pretty unpredictable right now, but one thing is certain- it's always humid.

I couldn't actually say what a forsythia is, it may be down here. I do know the plants down here are a lot different. Here we can pluck oranges out of front yards, trim Raphael's palm tree, and try tiny flaming chile pecin right off the bush. It's a good place. 

Tell Dad good luck, and that four-colored pens are a marvelous way to stay organized.

This week we finally got in contact with the less-active familia. The hermana told us she used to really feel something at church, including at her baptism, but was pretty confidant she would never return. She expressed her doubt and confusion about the Bible, The Book of Mormon, her dislike of hypocrisy and gossip at church, and other very understandable and common concerns. She told us about her future plans and family. I tried to express to her, as well as I could, the great blessings that God wanted to offer her. She finally allowed us to set an appointment for this week. I hope to be able to help her live without confusion, doubt or regret. I know that re-accepting the Gospel of Jesus Christ will do more good for her and her family than anything else we could possibly offer her. I hope to share Elder Uchtdorf's talk from general conference: Come join with us. 

We found a fun family last night. Elder Downey and I biked through the windy Texan cold and knocked on the man's door for about 10 minutes until his neighbor called his phone for us. We werent' about to go all that way for nothing. To our great joy he finally let us in; we were met inside by two vicious and biting little chihuahuas and a super nice old white lady, who barely speaks Spanish, and just had a stroke: Miguel's American wife. We shared a message about the restoration, switching from Spanish to English as needed to suit the needs of both our hosts, and ended with a two prayers, one from each of them. We are actually pretty excited to go back and teach another quirky, but spirit-filled, lesson. The woman was especially enthusiastic about returning to a church this Sunday after a very long time. Now we just need to figure out which ward to send them too. 

que tengan a fantastic week

Elder Decker