Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The beautiful gift of Agency

Sometimes you just gotta snap a quick jungle selfie

Holy cow. January's already gone!
It's ridiculous how the time flies when you're walking around all day! hahaha. Also, on an other note, I've learned how to make hand made tortillas and pupusas pretty well now. By the time I get backed I'll be a certified chef at this rate ;)
I learned how to make popcorn like a big boy! haha

I'm so happy I decided to come here on a mission. Looking back, I've gained so much from that one decision. There's no other choice in my life that could have made me happier than I am. This one decision has changed my life dramatically! And the lives of a few other people here in San Ramon, too. Even though I had to give up some things, and there were a few reasons that I didn't want to go, I'm so glad that I took the decision to go.
Actually, I wanted to talk about a little thing called Agency today. Our ability to choose. I've been thinking about it a lot this week!
We're all children of God. All of us lived with him in our spirit bodies before we were here on the Earth. I testify to you that that is the truth. But, even way over there in the pre-mortal life, we got to make a choice. There was a war in the heavens, where we had to decide to follow the Plan of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father, or the Plan of Lucifer, later known as Satan.
Revelations 12:4 says:

And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them
the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready
to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.

Later in the chapter, it explains that this dragon is Satan. He was exiled from the presence of God, along with the third part of our Brothers and Sisters.

We're all here, and we all have bodies! We have chances to experience joy and sadness, injustice and grace, good and bad. We have all these opportunities as a consequence of our choice, the choice to follow the Plan of Salvation!
One third part of our brothers and sisters will never have bodies, or have the chance to experience everything that we experience. All those opportunities were taken away from them as a consequence of their choice.

My point is that Agency is a sacred gift, something far more important than we often times think.

Just like how our heavenly choice gave us the opportunity to live our lives, my earthly choice to go on a mission has brought me more blessings than I can list. I have grown in knowledge, in love, in patience, and in confidence. I can tell that I am closer to being the person that God wants me to be. A little closer to the example that Jesus Christ gives us!

Many times we take this opportunity, this ability, for granted.

This world isn't ours. We didn't make it, or buy it, or anything! One could say that we're living on rented space. No matter what we do to 'pay' our Heavenly Father back for the opportunity he gave us, we're just giving him what's already his.
What we have, that's our own, is our agency. Our right to choose. That is absolutely and definitively ours. Nobody can strip away that ability. They can influence it, sure, but at the end of the day it's our choice.
As we do what God wants us to do, we will grow like we have never grown before. We will see miracles in our lives that are as important as the vision was to the blind man, or the blessing was to the Lepers. We will gain blessings here on earth and in the heavens. There's a word in Spanish, Demasiado, which I don't think has a direct translation. It expresses the feeling of having more than you can deal with, or count. Really, as we Obey God's will and his plan, we receive Demasiado blessings. More than we could ever count.

But there's something even more beautiful to me about our Agency.
As we give our agency, through our actions, to God, we're giving him something that he doesn't already have. He has all the power in the universe, and really he owns everything, but he doesn't have our agency. He doesn't have our choices. But as we give him our agency, as we choose of our own will to do what he wants, we give him all that he ever wanted. We give him the chance to see his children, his kids, happy. That's all God ever wanted for us. He sent the third part of all his beloved children to exile, just to give us the opportunity to progress and be happy.
Giving our agency to God isn't giving up anything. Rather, it's receiving the greatest blessings ever. But there's nothing that will make that Heavenly Father of ours happier.

I love you all so much! Make sure to use that Agency of yours well this week! :-)
-Elder Henry
Elder Guirola and nice view from a part of our area, Zarcero, which is like an hour away in bus.

Beautiful Zarcero!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cow Tongue is delicious!

Hiking to a volcano (FOGGY volcano) and waterfalls for a District pday! Bonding, yeah!  This plant is called Poor man's umbrella or something like that. Huge little bugger haha

Selfie with the Guatemalan!

Me, with fog!

Me with the first waterfall

Some weird little waterfall thingies

Me with the 2nd waterfall

The District!
Cow tongue is delicious! I didn't know it was cow tongue until I tried it. I was like, holy cow (no pun intended), what is this meat? It's so good! So I asked the lady and it was cow tongue. It is seriously tasty stuff!

This week has been pretty good :) I hope all of you are well and safe and healthy too!

This week has been a lesson for me on patience.

Starting Monday, we were just injected with the spirit. We were feeling so great! Elder Guirola and I were dedicated to start doing better. And we did!

We were more obedient, including running to the house to get there before 9:00 (and we arrived at 8:59 on several occasions). We saw the fruits with a GREAT Monday and Tuesday (and maybe Wednesday too?)

Then the challenges came. Even though we were improving, we just saw all of our appointments falling through! It was really frustrating. What were we doing wrong?! Well, obviously, a lot of things, but if we were improving why weren't we seeing the fruits?!

I've come to realize that, sometimes, God doesn't give us the reward right away. Of course, he helped us know right away that we were doing what was right, but then he gave us a little trial to pass through.

God wants us to really improve as people! He wants his teachings to penetrate us to the very core of who we are. But sometimes, to do that, it can hurt a little bit. I like to think of it a bit like a dentist, giving me a filling. On the other side of the whole ordeal, my tooth will look a whole lot better, but first the dentist has got to drill drown and get rid of all the junk.

In 2 days, Elder Guirola and I found that obedience is important. But had we really learned our lesson? With a full week of trials, really "drilling" out all the gunk, obedience with exactness is something that's been well applied into who we are. And it's a whole lot better than just using it because it seems to work! We have a firm testimony that it's true.

The analogy of a refiner's fire is often used in relation to our mortal experience, because that's just how it is. Following all the commandments doesn't mean that all our problems are going to go away. Look at Jesus Christ! He was the perfect example, and never disobeyed our Heavenly Father, but he had to carry the greatest burden of all!

This purpose of this life isn't to look for excuses and slide on by. It's a time of probation, a time to really refine who we are through experiences, challenges, and actions. Just like refining a metal can take a little bit of time, our challenges might last for a little bit. But, in the end, that's all this life is! A little bit of our existence as children of God. All that's required is that we put in our effort! That we accept Christ! That we 'refine', or sanctify, ourselves, little by little. Christ has paved the way for us, and he's there to help.

To all of you who are in times of trial, be patient. Patience doesn't mean just suffering through it, but accepting the Lord's timing over your preferred timing. Keep on refining yourselves! This trial has a purpose. Take it week by week, or day by day, or hour by hour. As you break it down into tasks, you'll find that you have the power to overcome it. As 1 Corinthians chapter 10 says:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; buwill with the temptation also make away to escapethat ye may be able to bear.

Don't worry about overcoming the challenges. You have the promise of God that there is a way to overcome them. Just worry about finding that way, and putting in your effort to do it!
I love you all so much! Have a great week this week :)

-Elder Henry 

This church in Grecia totally looks like a gingerbread house  

This is the volcano crater...with fog

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lessons in Repentance, or "I'm a Goofy Goober"

Adios, Tatiana! She's headed out for the mission this week!
You can see why this place is called Valle Escondido (The chosen Valley)!
Super beautiful views.

Fun fact, cocowate (not sure how it's spelled) means something like goofy in Spanish. So in the Spongebob Movie in Spanish, the song is Soy cocowate si, Eres cocowate si, Somos cocowates si, coco-cocowate!
Things you learn from Latino companions :)

This week has taught me alot about humility and repentance. Elder Guirola and I aren't two peas from the same pod, and we have a lot of differences. We had to settle a lot of those differences this week, because they were causing problems in our companionship. As we both, mutually, humbled ourselves and set goals, we've been able to gain confidence in each other, in the members, and now we know that the spirit's with us.

I'm not really going to write about Monday through Wednesday, because they were not good days, and not important.

Jessica's baptism!
Thursday was a strange day. After a long, long talk with my companion, we went to the baptism (Jessica was baptized!!! =D ) and then to an activity in the church. everything felt better after talking, but not exactly joyful. But then, as we put goals together Thursday night, we felt the unity that we should feel as a companionship. As we started to work towards those goals, we became less and less two companions and more and more one companionship, how it should be. We're getting along beautifully right now, and for our repentant hearts the Lord is blessing us with success.

I was studying today in Alma 5, and I found some things that I really loved that related to this experience. In this, the prophet Alma (the Younger) is talking about what how we need to be ready to meet God.

 27 Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?
 28 Behold, are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God. Behold ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life.
 29 Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared; and I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come; for such an one is not found guiltless.
 30 And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doeth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?
 31 Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!
These verses really hit home to me. He noted 4 things specifically. He asked if we are humbled, if we are stripped of pride, if we are stripped of envy, and if we mock or brothers, or persecute them.

All 4 of these things are things that are frequent problems here in the mission. Comments like "Oh I wish I was in that area, that area is so much easier" or "Have you heard about so and so when he did this and that"? Are frequent.

Pride strips away our accomplishments, making us lust after more instead of realizing the good works that we may have done.

Envy makes us dissatisfied with the many blessings from God that we have.

Mocking our brother, or, in more modern terms, Gossiping, destroys our faith in them, takes the spirit away from us, and lowers the chances that the recipient will be successful in whatever they might be doing.

We should be quick to repent. I realized, as I was reading this chapter, the significance of repenting of our sins today. When is says in verse 29 that the hour is soon at hand, and he knoweth not when the time will come, it puzzled me for a second as I thought about how this was written more than 2000 years ago. But then, I realized that in our personal timelines, the hour is close at hand. We never know if we'll be here tomorrow. Often times we take this time of probation, this life that we've been given so that we might repent, way too lightly. It's a gift of God, and we ought to be taking advantage of it to repent of all our sins. If we're not repenting, we're not progressing. Repentance is our (literally) god given right to improve our own situation. It is our chance to achieve Eternal Life. It is our only hope of salvation from our sins. I have felt the joy of repentance this week, and it's a feeling which I would like to feel every week for the rest of my life. I know that as we repent, we will all feel better, and so, for that, I invite all of you to accept Christ in your life, and give him your sins.

I love you all so much. I really hope you all have great weeks!
I got to baptize somebody in Grecia this week! All their priesthood holders were gone or busy, so we traveled up there to baptize her.
With the Sisters from Grecia, Hna Hales and Hna Canales.
Went to teach a lesson in this house/farm dealio, which was good fun. TONS of animals!
A big pig!!
Two big pigs!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Man vs Body

This week has been an interesting twist to the normal pace of missionary work.

First off, I had an ingrown toenail. There's some pictures floating around in some place of the operation haha. I didn't want to go to the doctor and have the whole nail removed (I wouldn't be able to play soccer for like 2 months or something like that), so Elder Conisds, our District leader, a Guatemalan with like one semester of schooling in Medicine, injected me with some painkiller in my toe and then removed it with Nail Clippers, tweezers, and a rather large pocket knife. That lasted about an hour and a half, and hurt like a BUGGER. Hahaha. At the same time, this whole week I've been sick (since last Tuesday). So I was barely eating and basically felt like junk the whole week.

So Friday was the 'operation', and then Saturday we had an appointment really far away in Concepción. There's only like 5 buses in the day that go out there, and from the (final) bus stop it's like 3 or 4 kilometers of walking. But, lucky for us, a member was going to drive us there!

So, we're going to meet this member in the church at 4:30. We get there 10 minutes early like good missionaries, but they decided to pass by the mall so they get to the church at about 5:20. That's alright, no biggie.

We start going and like half a mile in the car dies. Oh dear. The last bus has already gone out there, so we're not gonna be able to get out there without this car! But, luckily, it starts again.

Then dies again. Then starts again. Then Dies again. This goes on and on until it dies a Little more permanently, in a Little 2 lane windy road when we were going up a hill. Oh dear.

Luckily, my companion's worked in automobile engineering! Sweet! So he checks the car out. Turns out, there's a rather large hole in the radiator. Like, it's completely busted. So we run to the only 2 houses there are nearby (we're out in the boonies by this point), and ask for wáter. 12 liters of wáter later, the radiator's got wáter in it again. That is, after my companion pulls off the cap that says that we should 'never in our lives under any circumstances remove this cap while the car's warmed up'. Luckily, he didn't get any 3rd degree burns because there wasn't any wáter.

So, the car gets going up this hill to find somewhere a Little more flat with sickly old me and my companion running behind it, and it's just leaving a river in it's path. ALL the wáter is spilling out! But, it gets to the top eventually. And there just so happens to be an engineer there! He takes a check, finds the same problems that my companion found, and we toss some more wáter in that radiator. He also hotwires the ventilator, because the fuse blew because the car was so hot from not having wáter. The wáter barely lasts until we get to the people's house that we're going to teach, and now it's a Little after 7 PM. Everything nice and 'calm'.

We get in the house and I realize that I'm not feeling so hot. I ask them if I can use their bathroom, and 20 minutes later I'm feeling a Little better. We start the lesson, and it went well, and we ended it and everything went well. Except that there's no way to get back. The last bus passed approximately 2 hours ago. So we have to wait for a taxi, which takes about 30 minutes to get there, and we head back to the house at about 8:40. All in all, it was about 4 and a half hours.

It was an interesting day :)

But really, with that and everything else that happened, this week was tough. I've never liked doing anything when I'm sick. I felt like I was being barraged on all sides by sicknesses and accidents and toenails and just everything. But the Lord has a plan for us. Everything turned out OK. I'm better now, the car's fixed, and the toenails gone. All they are now are fun stories to tell!

Really, in all moments of our lives, we're going to pass through tribulation. It's how we face that tribulation that makes the difference. If we're willing to be stopped by a Little bit of tribulation, then Satan will always have a Little bit of tribulation to put in front of us. If we wait until calm waters to progress, we'll find that we never move out of our stormy seas. We have to take a leap of faith, run a Little faster than we think we can, and we will always find the support we need. We can always trust in our Savior and Redeemer, Jesús Christ, to help us in whatever situation we might come across.

We can be debilitated by our circumstances, or we can choose to grow and overcome them. All it is is a choice, but only one choice will let us progress in this life.

Adam fell that men might have joy. But that Joy isn't free. As we push ourselves to follow the Example of Jesús Christ a Little better, that joy comes along. Let us all endure through whatever problema we might have, growing instead of shrinking at the sight of trouble.

I love you all! Have a great week :)

-Elder Henry
We had to take the other Elders' clothes to the cocinera (cook)'s house at the same time, and I had to bring like 3 kilos of rice and some other things, so I was pretty well loaded up for that walk hahaha

This car is the funniest thing I've ever seen. Oh my gosh. Hahahhaaha. it is TINY! And it tries so hard to be a van or something like that but it's just tiny... hahaha
I was nice and comfy on our long bus ride back from La Paz haha