Attached are some photos of recent. There are two different towns in the mission that have "This Way" and "That Way" streets. They both intersect of course. It reminds me of "Who's on First". Also, as far as church billboards go, I was pretty impressed when I saw this one.
Thank you for your continued to prayers. They are being abundantly answered here in the mission and in my area. This has been one of the best weeks of my entire mission! Last Wednesday, we were on exchanges in my area. It was Elder Ayala, Elder Larson and I and we went and visited a man named Hermano Duran. I think I have mentioned him before, but a month ago he was completely less-active and had been for years. He grew up in the church and his mom is a temple worker right now in El Salvador. Anyways, he has been coming to church, reading the Book of Mormon every day and participating in all the YSA activities. We began talking to him for a few minutes and then he asked if we could say a prayer. He said a beautiful prayer and upon finishing looked at Elder Larson and said, "You're new. I want you to know that I have a testimony and I am going to share it with you right now". He then proceeded to bear one of the most powerful testimonies of the restored Gospel I have ever heard. He testified of the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph, the Plan of Salvation, the Savior, and repentance. It brought tears to my eyes as I thought of this man and the miraculous change that has taken place in his heart and in his life. He then told us a story about a man at work looking at him and asking what had happened and telling him that he looked different and happier. When Hermano Duran said it was because he started going back to the Mormon church, his friend responded, "No, that can't be it. Mormons don't believe in God". Hermano Duran had a heyday with that and taught the whole Restoration and invited the man to come to church to feel the Spirit. It was a neat experience to listen to him testify of the Gospel and tell of missionary experiences.
After that lesson, we went to teach Saul and Sophia with Hermano Portillo. It was an incredible lesson and the Spirit was so strong. They still don't want to pray about Joseph Smith but are reading from the Book of Mormon pretty regularly. We went back and taught them again Monday night and finally gave up on them praying about the truthfulness of the Gospel and just tried to help them to pray at all. Saul prayed at the end of the lesson and they committed to pray nightly as a family. I love them so much and just want them to have the blessings of the Gospel in their lives. They will come around, I just know it. Please keep praying for them. And pray that they will have a desire to pray about the Book of Mormon.
Thursday night we taught an active family about tithing. There husband just won't pay tithing and the wife has been asking us for a while to teach and commit him to pay his tithing. We had a wonderful lesson and he committed to pay. We fasted with him on Sunday and he payed his tithing. I was grateful that I could testify of the blessings that have come into my family as we have diligently paid tithing all these years. It was eye opening for the hermano when we read these words in Malachi 3:
Yewith a curse: for ye have robbed me, this whole nation.
We then asked if he wanted him and his family to be cursed or if he wanted Heavenly Father to "open [him] the windows of heaven, and pour [him] out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it". The answer was obvious.
On Friday things just got better. We stopped by Johnny's house and talked with him about his baptism. He is so excited to be baptized on November 10th. He came to church again. It was the primary program. I asked him what he liked about it and he said it was heart-warming. The young men in the ward are really fellowshipping him and he loves the church. After church we followed up with him about his reading assignment. We had left him with 2 Nephi 31:17-21 with the question, "What do we have to do after we are baptized?" He pulled out this note card with the best answer possible on it. He did his next reading assignment yesterday while at school when he had some free time and just loved it. It is incredible to see how quickly he is becoming converted. As it says in Alma 13:24
How true that is. On Sunday night we stopped by la familia Padilla. It is a dad, two boys and one girl. We still aren't sure why there is no mom. They came to church on Sunday as well and loved it! We watched the Restoration video with them upon their request and after the video, Elder Ayala began to testify. He said, "I know that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I know that he was called to be a prophet and I know that the feeling that you feel right now is the Holy Ghost." The dad then spoke for a while and shared that he too believed that everything portrayed in the movie was true. Then the 15 year old girl, Eva, rose her hand like she had a question. She looked Elder Ayala square in the eye and asked, "Como sabia? Como sabia que lo senti?" (How did you know? How did you know that I felt it?). She was so perplexed that he had told her how she was feeling. She then described the feeling as not only touching her heart but she said it was as if her soul was opened and she was filled with light and warmth. He older brother then testified of the Holy Ghost and how he knew these things were true. We then asked the little boy. His response was really cute. He said, "the only things I felt was cold" (he was shivering). Anyways, la familia Padilla accepted to be baptized the 23rd of November. They committed themselves to come to church and were asking if they could come to a baptismal service first just to see how they were. The Eva and Tony (the two youth) came to mutual last night and just loved it! The youth all committed to begin only speaking Spanish so that they will feel more included (la familia Padilla just moved here from Mexico and only speak Spanish).
We are just being so blessed here and we are so incredibly happy! We walk out of every appointment with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and desire to pray and thank Heavenly Father for the blessings and the miracles that are being poured out upon us.
On Saturday morning, the three Houston missions and the San Antonio mission had a leadership training meeting. All the mission president's, their wives, and the assistants got together and Elder Callister and his two assistants (Elder Foster and Elder Teh) as well as Elder LeSeur trained us on the role of an assistant and the role of a zone leader. It was a neat experience to be with them and learn from the Lord's chosen servants. Elder Callister taught about the difference between rules (the Law of Moses) and principles (the Law of Christ). We learned a lot from them and they really wanted us assistants to know that our role is to support our mission president, and then to find, teach, and baptize. They said they wanted us to get rid of the things we do that take us away from finding, teaching, and baptizing.
One last story. On Saturday after being with the General Authorities, I met up with my companions and asked where we were going. They said they didn't know. I felt that we should visit Denise Garcia, a less-active we are working with to come back and to baptize her nine year-old son. She lives in a trailer park that is just not the most pleasant place. When I think of what serving in the Latin American countries is like, I imagine this place but probably even worse. We knocked on her door and she answered with bloodshot eyes and a tear-stained face. I asked if she was ok and she said yes. I then asked, "Are you sure?" and she said no. She said she had been up the entire night and had been crying for hours and hours. We found some chairs and sat down outside. We said that we didn't know what was going on but that God loved her and that He had sent us there to comfort her and help her feel of and know that love. After a prayer, she explained how her boyfriend (one of our investigators) had cheated on her again and how she didn't deserve to be treated that way and so on. After 15 minutes or so she finished telling us and was silent. We just sat there in silence and I had an internal battle. My thoughts were, "I don't know what to say...the scriptures say open your mouth and it shall be filled...do I really believe God will tell me what to say...He has done it before...I don't think I will say the right thing...just have faith...". Finally, I looked into her eyes and felt the pain of her soul and said, "Denise, I don't know what to say but God promised me that He would tell me." The words that came were not my own. They were of comfort and love, peace and assurance. They were words that quoted Isaiah when he said:
What a glorious Gospel this is! The Gospel of Jesus Christ truly does "bind up the brokenhearted" and offer the "oil of joy" instead of mourning. I am a witness to these things. I have seen the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ heal hearts that almost seemed too broken to heal, too shattered to bind up. I testify along side Elder Holland that "It is not possible...to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines" (The Laborers in the Vineyard). Jesus Christ is the Shepherd of our souls and the Healer of our hearts. I know He lives. I love Him. And because I love Him I will forever do my best to be His hands and to bring His love to these our brothers and sisters.
I love you all. Thank you for your examples to me. Please pray for Johnny and la family Padilla (Tony Sr., Tony Jr., Eva, and Ramon). Also, please pray for missionary experiences in your own lives. You will be richly blessed as you do so.