Monday, February 23, 2015

Baptisms and Miracles

Hey family!! So this week has been busy! super busy!

First off, we had like no time to work this week. (I realize that doesn't quite fit with the first sentence).  Argentina just had it's "Carnival." It's a huge parade thing, but missionaries are asked to stay inside during most of festivities. Also, there have been fairly constant protests in all of Argentina against the President, so missionaries stay inside during those too.

Zone Conference

On Thursday, the entire zone headed up to Resistencia though for a multi-zone conference which included all the missionaries in Corrientes. We were able to rent a minibus for the day, so we rode up in style ...very nice. During the conference, Presidente and other leaders talked about the importance of baptism and what we need to do to encourage investigators to come unto Christ. I was actually pretty surprised about this because our zone is baptizing a whole lot more than we used to, but you can always do more, right!? Also we made these 72 hour kits which was pretty fun. Oh, we also got to watch the "Meet the Mormons" movie (awesome!) and a slide show of the mission. So all in all, the multi-zone conference was effective and fun.

Valentina y Lucas

Sooooo Valentina y Lucas were baptized this week! :D :D These are the 2 happiest kids I think I have met on my mission. They are so sweet, and they just love the missionaries sooo much. :) They were truly HAPPY to be there, just laughing and smiling the whole time! The mom was thrilled as well. She sent us a message at the end of the night thanking us for what we have done for her family, and arranging everything for the baptism.

Valentina y Lucas were baptized this week! :D :D

Bummer ...can't eat either one :-(
Made somebody happy though :-)
Oh get this, so often after baptisms, the branch opens up this little snack area behind the chapel -- for cakes, pop, cookies, etc. So our Branch President went out and bought 2 cakes because we were anticipating like 50 people at the baptism ...turns out one of the cakes was a coffee cake, and the other one had alcohol in it. Bahahaha, I mean bahahah, bahahahah was a complete accident, but super funny. We ended up giving them to strangers in the street, and went out and bought 2 more. Other than that, the baptismal service was awesome.

So I have 2 miracles to tell you. Do you remember Viviana? She had the sister that wanted to sue us. Ya, so last Thursday she came and found us and told us that she wanted to get baptized, and she didn't care what her sister thought. She came to church, and then to the baptism on Saturday, and she is now set to be baptized this coming Saturday. Whahoo!! We've already called Presidente and explained to him the situation, and he gave us the green light to go ahead and baptize her.  So she is going to be baptized this week if all goes well!

Next miracle. Remember Mirta? She has been an investigator of ours since I arrived here in Goya. She hasn't been able to be baptized because she and her boyfriend have been living together without being married. But they have been working on the paper work to be married. And the entire time I've been here she's gone to church almost every week, pays fast offerings, allowed her daughter Joana to be baptized, read the entire BoM and is currently reading DyC, and many many more remarkably faithful things. She is just incredible. So out of nowhere, she and her boyfriend have decided to live in separate houses to fulfill the commandments, and will move back in together when their paperwork is finally finished and they eventually do get married. So now she is worthy to be baptized, and we've scheduled that also for this coming Saturday!! :D

I would like to believe these miracles were blessings from God in answer to our prayers. Elder Felkins and I had a special fast this last week asking God to help us find new people He has been preparing for baptism, and to help our current investigators overcome their obstaculos ...and look what happened!!

Oh another noticia!! I received 2 letters from the Micheli family in Reconquista!!!!!!! :D They are so faithful!!! They go to church every week! And are preparing to go to the temple!!!! :D :D Bah! I am so happy!!! :D They told me that their dream is to be sealed as a family. :D I can honestly say I have never felt such instant happiness as I did when I read those letters. It just made me so happy to know that they are going strong and are happy to be in the true church. :)

I love the mission. I just love it, and I don't want it to end. I love being able to help people receive the blessings of the Gospel and see the amazing changes in their lives. Like I have said many times before, true happiness is found in the service of others. I know it is true, for I feel the joy that comes from it daily. I know the BoM is true, that this is Christ's church, and that He leads us to salvation.

I love and miss you all,

Elder Clemóns

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A simple truth that has now been engraved on my soul

Hola Familia!

This last week was a little busy because transfers happened a little bit early. But everything has finally settled down, and we are back to normal work. :)

Right now, our mission's goals are to baptize more, retain more, and reactivate more. We've also made these the focus of our zone here in Goya. After nearly 4 months, I believe I have finally gotten a grasp on how to be a Zone Leader. And I think we're doing pretty good as a zone; I think we're on track to have more baptisms this month than for the past year. The goal was 10, and we have 5 scheduled already so far, and have 3 more we can set later this week. On the retaining goal, we are making sure that each new convert has at least the first lesson re-taught every week, and has multiple visits each week. So far, very few of the new converts have gone inactive. Yay! And we are really working hard with reactivating the members. Each week the zone reactivates around 5 people, and for Elder Felkins y Yo, we have reactivated around 23 members so far.  We've also had tons of success just sitting down with members and recent converts, and just reading the BoM with their families. So things are looking pretty good.

There is a part of me that wants to stay in Goya as a Zone Leader, I really enjoy being able to influence so many missionaries.  But I also want to train again! Haha. I have mentioned it multiple times now to Presidente Franco, so I am pretty sure this next transfer I am going to train again.  That'll be fun!. But whether I stay as a Zone Leader, or become a Trainer again, or just work in the Lord's vineyard as a normal missionary, the calling is the same; to just serve the people. And that is what brings true happiness, service.

We have a multi-zone conference in Resistencia this coming week. So we've rented a mini-bus to travel up there together as a zone! Oh man, I am so excited! a MINIBUS!! Traveling by mini bus is a lot faster than using the local Collectivos. While it usually takes about 5ish hours to get up there, with the minibus, it'll only take about 4, and it'll be lots more fun. That'll also give us more time to sleep! :D

So Elder Felkins and I are hoping for 2 baptisms this week, Valentina y Lucas. They are the children of a recently reactivated member named Lucia Lopez. Valentina y Lucas are twins! Pretty cool! And the kids are super intelligent, like super intelligent. They understand nearly everything. In fact, we basically don't even really teach them.  We just tell the mom what we are going to "teach" on our next visit, she teaches her kids ahead of time, and we just verify to make sure it's all good.  And I feel really good about these baptisms because we will be completing a family. So far, only the mom's been a member; but after this week the whole family will be members. My only fear is that the kids won't go through with their baptisms because they are super shy. I don't know if they're going to be able to handle having a bunch of people watch them as they get baptized and confirmed. But we will practice a bit with them to help them get more comfortable with it.

This brings up another point I've been feeling for quite a while ...I've been getting a little frustrated in the mission because I have not baptized very many adult males. While I've had lots of opportunity to bring the Gospel to several women and children, I'm having a much harder time reaching the men. My frustration has nearly reached the point where every time I see a man sitting outside somewhere, I go and contact him and try to share a Gospel message.  All too often, they just don't accept our message; or sometimes they'll let us in, but only to talk with their wife and kids, but not with them. Haha. But that's exactly what the church needs down here: Priesthood leadership.  I'm obviously "a man on a mission," and so I'm energized to teach the Gospel and bring people into the church.  But I'm starting to realize the best way to do that is through the Priesthood. I'm really hoping that if I  keep striving and contacting, I'll start to find some men prepared for the gospel.

I love bringing people to Christ. When returned missionaries say that the mission was the best 2 years of their life thus far, I can vouch that it's not a lie. I have loved every moment of my mission. From walking in the baking sun to walking through flooded streets, I have loved every day of the mission. My nightly prayers have become really special for me as I reflect back on my day and just thank God for how great the mission is. It's really a sweet moment as I feel a ton of gratitude and love for my mission during these prayers.

I know God lives, and that he loves us. This is a simple truth that has now been engraved on my soul. The Book of Mormon is true, and everything else follows. The Gospel is simple and brings happiness. I love being able to be a messenger in the hands of God to bless the lives of others. Yup, I love the mission.

Love Elder Clemóns

Monday, February 9, 2015

Each one was just shining with the Spirit...

Wow, I am going to miss Elder Leon!!
Hey, good news ...we now have 2 hours to write all of our letters home!!!! WOOOT!!!! I'm so glad the rule has finally changed! :D

Also, we had transfers yesterday, we were going to have them this Wednesday, but for some reason we had them yesterday, so I will tell you what happened to me.

Sadly, after 4.5 months, Elder Leon and I are no longer companions. He was called to be a trainer in Saenz Peña, and I stayed here as a zone leader with my new companion, Elder Felkins!!!!!!

Elder Felkins has been in the mission only 6 months! ...and has already been called to be a Zone Leader. And it's no surprise to me because he's super dedicated, faithful, and hard working. I'm super excited to learn from him.

Elder Felkins is my new companion ...only 6 months in the mission!
Also, every single companionship in the zone changed again, except one, La Valle. So once again, I get to "get to know" a lot of new missionaries. :)

Saying goodbye to Elder Morrin y Elder Sibaja

Zone Conference
Our week was pretty busy. On Tuesday we had the big meeting with all the leaders in Resistencia. We talked about the new rules in the mission and how to improve our teaching abilities. We also got to watch Meet the Mormons! Wow, a super good movie! I loved the part of the Navy Coach. Also, the part of the missionary mom made me a little teary-eyed. It's just impossible not to miss your family while watching this movie as a missionary. I just want to watch it again.

Also at this meeting, we got to hear the testimony of of the "honrables" (the missionaries that are going home). This was my favorite part of this meeting. Each one was just shining with the Spirit, and each one of them had these just amazing experiences. Each time one got up to talk, you could just feel the room fill with the Spirit. Their testimonies were so real and so sincere. I hope one day my testimony will reach that level.

My Zone just before the transfer...

Right now in our area we have a lot of potential. We are working with Mirta, Marta, Taresa, Valentina y Lucas, and Telia y Mingo. I would asked that you can pray for each one of them.

Pray for Mirta so her lawyer can finish up the paperwork so that she can be married and baptized, Marta so that she can stop smoking and have more peace in her home, Taresa so that she can receive and recognize the answers to her prayers, Valentina y Lucas so that they can understand the doctrines of the Restored Gospel and want to be baptized, and for Telia y Mingo so that they can feel the Spirit testifying to them that they should be married.

Please pray for them all so that they can overcome their obstaculos, and pray for us so that we can know how to help them.

We had a really spiritual experience with Telia. She's 20 and lives with her boyfriend. She has a friend who is a member, and the friend has come with us to most of her lessons. We had a baptism in the zone this last Saturday, and so we invited Telia to go to see it. It was a nice service. There were about 60 people in assistance. The branch president somehow found out that I'm able to sing, so they asked me to sing "Abide With Me" in Spanish with another Elder. I'd say it went pretty well, and I think one could easily feel a spirit of love and truth during the meeting.

As we finished up the baptismal service, we went to the back of the room to eat some snacks and cake in celebration. My companion and I noticed that Telia and her friend were slow to get up, so we went over there to invite them to eat some of the deserts with the rest of the group. We found Telia silently crying, and her friend trying to comfort her. When she calmed down a little bit, we asked her what had happened, and the first thing that she said to us was, "When can I get baptized." She went on to tell us that she had never felt such love and unity in her life like she had felt during the meeting. We testified that these feelings were from God as a testimony of the divinity of the Restored Gospel, and that this was indeed the Lord's true church.

We asked her what she would be willing to do to get baptized, and she said "anything."

The very next day she got herself up and walked to church with her member friend. She stayed for the entire 3 hours. And once again, after the meeting we found her teared eyed but happy. We have another lesson scheduled with her today, so we'll see what the Lord would like us to do to help her progress.

This just stands to me as another witness of the truthfulness of this work.

God loves each and every one of us. And for this reason He has restored His church. What Telia said was correct, that love and unity are found in Christ. I know Christ died and rose for us. I know that as we come closer to Him, we also grow closer to one another.

I love the mission, I love the missionaries that I work with, and I love my family.

Love Elder Clemóns

Monday, February 2, 2015

Billions of missionaries...

Ya sorry, but there isn't very much time this week to write home. :p But, this week was pretty good.

In recent days we have been finding some new, solid people to teach.  We now have 5 solid people. 2 of them are the twins Valentina y Lucas; they have baptisms scheduled for the 14th of this month, and everything is going well with them.

We are also teaching an old investigator named Marta.  Missionaries had passed by her home and taught her some of the lessons about 3 years ago, but she wasn't able to get baptized at that time because of a smoking problem. When we met her again about 3 weeks ago, she was still smoking about 10-15 a day.  But she wanted to commit to quitting.  I know it's hard, but she's already down to 2-3 a day, so that's huge progress!

We are also teaching the sister of the branch secretary, Teresa. She's had billions of missionaries pass by her house, but we are the first ones that have been able to make the right connection with her.  For some reason, she's able and willing to understand the message of the restoration from us.  Don't know what we're doing different, but whatever it is, it seems to work! :D  She recently came to church for the first time ever! :D

And we've started working again with Mirta, who I've written before about in past weeks.  Her lawyer finally got back from vacationes, and we can begin to work on the marriage paper process.

So random news
I got sick this last week ...and I'm still at this moment :P  Ummm, I think it's because of my sun-burn from last week.  My whole neck peeled off and also the back of my legs.  I don't quite know how that happened.  And now I'm even more white than I was :p

Tomorrow we have our big leadership meeting in Resistencia.  So, yup, I gotta get up early again tomorrow :p!  Woot!!!  You never stop as a missionary!

Love the mission! sooo much! :D

Elder Clemons