Monday, December 26, 2011

La Gente

I hope everyone had an AMAZING Christmas, because I know I did! Thank you all once again for the packages and loads of "Clown Food", aka candy, haha. I spent my Christmas in my apartment with Elders Rollins, Noris, and Tanner. We opened our gifts and made our calls home. I loved talking to my family. They are so supportive and loving. It's kind of weird because as a missionary you are in “missionary mode” and sometimes you forget that the world is still spinning haha. Everyone else is doing their things and meanwhile my whole world revolves around the people here. I talked to my mom about why I love my mission. It's not because I am here in sunny California or because I am doing what my friends are doing. It’s because of the people. I LOVE the people so much, every single one of them. I have created friendships and special bonds with the people here. I have seen THEM grow so much in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have had the privilege to see that and I have been able to see the "big picture", to see what really matters in this life. In the end there is nothing I would trade for these last five months. A lot of people say that serving a two year mission is wasting part of your life, but I say that if you are NOT serving a mission or serving others in some sort of way, that you are wasting your precious time on this earth.

I had an experience yesterday on Christmas Day that I will cherish forever. We planned on picking up one of our investigators for church at 8:30 a.m. His name is Victor. We hadn't seen him in a month because of his work schedule and because he just had surgery on his bad leg, but he wanted to come to church this Sunday. Our mission leader, Hermano Alvarez, was driving and we were running about 10 minutes late to pick him up. As we were driving I saw a man walking down the street in the distance. As I saw his face I could see it was Victor! We quickly pulled over and told him to come in. He was wearing a light sweatshirt and it was super cold outside, probably 40F plus heavy winds. This was a man that has been hobbled for the last three years because of an accident that happened at work. He was walking to church, and one month ago he could barely stand due to his surgery. I will always remember that experience of seeing Victor walking to church in the cold on a bad leg and seeing his face and his great faith. He was the only investigator that came to church. I love experiences like these because I see the faith of the people. I see them want to change their lives for the best through this gospel.

Every time I lie in bed and think about my mission so far the only thing that comes to mind es La Gente. The People. Even though the language may be different and the culture is different, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the same. I love Fairfield and am crossing my fingers I will stay here another transfer! I will keep you posted with my new address if I get transferred, but am hoping I stay here! Thanks again everyone for all you do for me and for your love and support. AMO MI MISION!!!!!!

Les Amo Muchisimo!
Elder Vance
p.s. Today we have some time to play some hoops!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Because He Came

This past week I have been thinking a lot about our Savior, Jesus Christ. With the Christmas season there comes snow, presents, trees, cooking and baking, and family. But there would be no Christmas without Jesus Christ, for this is the time we celebrate His birth and recommit ourselves to following in His footsteps. There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus Christ.
Recently, we had a Christmas party at the church where we were able to participate in singing and activities with the members of our branch and guests. It was great to feel the spirit of those people, especially the young ones, and just have a fun and special time with them. They have such a strong spirit of family and so many Christ-like qualities.
This past week we had an all-mission "Christmas" conference. Elder Barrett (my Zone Leader) and I performed "Away in a Manger". It was awesome. Elder Rollins played on the piano and the spirit was so strong as he put "The Rollins Effect" on it and made it sound amazing and original. The intro sounded like a music box, it was SO GOOD! No one does it better than him. As we sang I could feel the spirit of God so strong and I felt like I was bearing my testimony that I know He lives and I know that He stays “by my cradle till morning is nigh”. It was an experience I will never forget … the power of music, the power of worship.
At the mission conference there was a man that talked about the addiction recovery programs in the church. He said, “It is impossible to overcome addiction without God." He told us a story about how he was talking to a doctor that studied addictions and how to overcome them. The doctor said to him, "Recovery programs for addictions are not successful." This man said to him, "Our program is." The doctor said, "Is it religion based?" and the man replied, "Yes". The doctor quickly replied to this man, "Those are the ONLY ones that work." Our program works because it involves Jesus Christ. President Boyd. K Packer said, "Many people believe that the Atonement of Jesus Christ only applies at the end of our mortal ministry. That is NOT true. It can be applied every day." This man that was speaking to us talked about that. He said, "Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ WE BECOME SAINTS."
Many people nowadays believe that in order to be a saint one must die for a righteous cause or for someone. I believe that dying for a righteous cause is honorable, but I also believe that instead of dying for something, why not LIVE for something? Every day we have an opportunity to become better through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through His Atonement we can become SAINTS. We can walk in His footsteps every day if we choose to and live as He did. I love Christmas because we celebrate the BIRTH and LIFE or our Savior, Jesus Christ. We only have one opportunity to live, and I am forever grateful for this opportunity to be a representative of Jesus Christ.
President Thomas S. Monson spoke at the Christmas Devotional we watched a couple weeks ago and I love the emphasis he put on our Savior, Jesus Christ.
He said, “Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow. As we strive to become more like Him, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. It is His example which, if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others.
Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.
Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or distress, wherever they may be.
Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.
Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life.
Because He came, we are gathered tonight to worship Him, in bonds of brotherhood and love.
May His precious Spirit be with us, and may He ever be the center of our celebrations and indeed of our very lives, I pray in His holy name, amen."
I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that it is only through Him that we can be saved. I am so grateful for my family and for the love and support they give me each and every day as I serve here in California for two years. This is the greatest Christmas present I could receive and have right now in my life … serving a full-time mission. My mission has changed me forever and I have received so many blessings already in my life. Thank you all for your beautiful testimonies you have shared with me and for the packages! Have a Merry Christmas and always remember the true meaning of it. BECAUSE HE CAME we can return to the presence of our Heavenly Father and live in the celestial glory of heaven with our families forever.



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

There Is No Higher Calling

It’s crazy that I have already been out for 4 months on my mission! It is going too fast and I know that it is only going to go faster. This last week was amazing! We found so many new people that we contacted. At the end of every night I am so exhausted … missionary work is definitely NOT a walk in the park! I love it because every day you talk to someone you have NEVER met before in your life and share your testimony with them about the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's always fun because we do meet a lot of interesting, crazy, and inebriated people. "Inebriated" is a proper term Elder Rollins uses when saying someone is "high" on drugs or "drunk". To see how low some of these people are in their lives is sad, but we see them in a different “light”. When you look into someone's eyes you can see a light. Yes, at times it may be very dim, but there is a light, and that light is the light of Christ. Missionaries are sent out to help that light grow in people.
This week I read my patriarchal blessing. A patriarchal blessing is a blessing we receive, usually during our teen years, and is given by a stake patriarch. It is then recorded and typed out for us to keep, but it is a very sacred blessing and it must be kept that way. I like to look at it as a letter from heaven. It is a blessing from our Heavenly Father, and as long as we are righteous and keep His commandments, He promises to bless us. As I was reading my patriarchal blessing I felt this overwhelming sense of peace. I felt like I am truly on a righteous path and that this is where I need to be. I know what my purpose in this life is … to do His will and not my own. I know that God has a plan for each and every one of us and that He has given us a way to return to him.
I was named after one of the latter-day prophets of our church. I know that during his time he was called as a prophet in these latter days and that he, along with the prophets before and after him, receive modern revelation for us the children of God. President Spencer W. Kimball said that "there is no higher calling than to be a missionary". I love that, and I love that I have so many friends serving faithfully on their missions. Elder Spencer Butler (my twin)- Spanish Provo Utah; Elder Jaden Talbot- Montreal Canada; Elder Mark Carlson- Argentina; David Bryant- Paraguay; Gilbert Marchant- Sweden; Paul Skousen- Honduras; Elder John Henstrom- New York South, and so many more. Soon to be leaving are Elder Kent Thalman- Honduras; and Hermana Olivia Baeza- Los Angeles California, and many more. There is no higher calling. We are all literally representatives of Jesus Christ. I love the feeling that I am not only serving the people here, but I am serving my Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ. I know that the gospel is true and I know that anyone can know of its truth through sincere prayer and reading in the Book of Mormon. Thank you all for your strong testimonies and for your packages/letters. They are MUCH appreciate and enjoyed!
Con amor de mi corazon
Elder Vance

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Greatest Joys

First of all, I got word that the Packers are killing it this season! YES! Superbowl … Round  #2 anyone?! YES! That is great to hear and hope they go all the way again. THE PERFECT SEASON! Thank you Grandma and Grandpa Vance for the Packers Beanie! I LOVE IT! REPRESENT!

This last week we were able to do service for this man in our Spanish branch. His name is Hermano Flores and he is awesome. We got to use some of our testosterone on this huge tree we were cutting down, branch by branch. A couple hours out in the rain doing "MAN" work, haha. It was so much fun and we got to use his Guatemalan machete, saws, and tree clippers to destroy this tree. He is an older man and his wife is so nice to us as well. Overall it felt great to tear down that tree bit by bit and to get a workout in hauling logs and tree branches. I felt like I was at an Eagle project in my ward. It seemed like there was always an Eagle project happening and I loved taking part in those. It also reminded me of my Eagle project and how that seems like so long ago even though it was only about four years ago. I love service because you grow close to those you serve with and the people you serve. Elder Rollins, Elder Tanner, Elder Norris and I helped Hermano Flores with his tree. Elder Tanner was here last transfer and Elder Norris is a brand new missionary that filled in for Elder Glaus. Elder Glaus went home! His two years were up! Elder Norris is from Los Angeles and is already fluent in both Spanish and English. So he didn't even go to the Missionary Training Center. I was able to go on an exchange with him this last week. He has only been a member for two years and his testimony is so strong. He is the only member in his family, and to see his desire for the work is amazing. I know with him serving here in Fairfield and in the Tolenas Spanish Branch, the people will be blessed and we are going to DO WORK!

Being a missionary has really strengthened my faith. Every day people try to shake our faith, and to shake our beliefs. Some even seek to destroy and disprove the sacred things in which we believe. Our church respects all religions and people, because we believe that every single person on this earth is a child of God. But sometimes it is tough when individuals accuse you of being someone you are not, and make ridiculous judgments based on the twisting of sacred truths. This last week there have been many times where people have literally yelled at us and accused us. All we can do in situations like that is to bear our solemn testimonies, that we know these things are true, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ is for EVERYONE and it can change their lives for the BEST. The only way they can know these things are true is if they ask God. Everyone has their agency and that is part of our Heavenly Father's plan for us. We are here to be TESTED and to learn how to CHOOSE the right.

I was watching a Mormon message on the other day and this quote hit me from President Henry B. Eyring, "He has offered us the FAMILY as an example of an ideal setting in which we can learn how to LOVE as HE LOVES. That is because the GREATEST joys and the GREATEST sorrows we experience are in family relationships. The JOYS come from putting the welfare of OTHERS above our own. That is what LOVE is." I LOVE this … because I have seen those JOYS in my life. I have seen my family lift me up when I have been down. I have experienced their love when I have been in darkness. I have seen my father look after his only son. I have seen my mother care for and raise her children. I have been fortunate enough to witness these things in my life. I consider myself a lucky young man. I have family members that have loved me even when I was on the lowest step of the ladder. I LOVE my family. And I know I am going to be with them forever.

The other day we were doing service and raking up leaves for this elderly lady. Something struck me and I was taken over by a flashback. I remember making huge leaf piles with my sisters in Brookfield, Wisconsin. My dad starting a fire, burning up the sticks and leaves. All of us were playing together and having fun, and my mom was working hard and helping us take all the leaves and put them into one HUGE pile. Those moments are the molecules that make up eternity. Raking up leaves with three other missionaries was different, but we still made huge piles of leaves and had our fair share of FUN!

I love this Christmas season when we get to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ and grow closer to him. I love this scripture … in 2 Nephi 9:21 of The Book of Mormon it says, "And He cometh into the world that He may save ALL men if they will hearken unto His voice; for behold, He suffereth the pains of ALL men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the FAMILY of Adam."

I love my mission. I love CHRISTmas. I LOVE MY FAMILY. Thank you all for your support, letters, and packages … just want to let you know that you are ALLOWED to send Christmas packages (haha!).


Elder Vance

Monday, November 28, 2011

Find The Lost Sheep

"But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent (or testimony) which I have given unto them, because of FEAR of MAN....if they are not more shall be taken away, even that which they have." (D&C 60:2-3)

As Spencer Vance it was sometimes hard and frightening to talk to people about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. But now, being a representative of Jesus Christ, I have asked myself, "why was it so hard to talk to people before my mission?” This is the greatest present you could ever give to someone. Many people today wander in darkness because they don't know where to find the light. I love representing that light.

Yesterday I had an experience that changed my mission. There was a group of teenagers sitting on a bench talking loud and being obnoxious. We walked up to them and started talking. I was kind of shocked because they didn't make fun of us or cuss at us. They asked questions about why we became missionaries and asked about some of the rules we live by as missionaries. We actually knew one of them. Her name is Josefina(16) and her older brother Danny, who is 18 years old, was there as well. Danny instantly became intrigued and started talking to us. He told us his beliefs and asked us many questions. We talked about numerous topics, but the one thing that stuck out to me the most was, "Is there forgiveness?" I was able to bear my testimony of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, and how that ONLY through HIM we can be completely forgiven, and that our purpose was to help people come closer to Him. It was an amazing experience and we ended up talking to them outside in the cold for almost two hours. They all had questions and concerns about why they were here and where they were going. They were LOST and some thought they could never be found, and that there was no hope for them. They told us some of the bad things they did and how they felt terrible about those things; and about how hard it was to change. We told them that through this gospel they all can change and can all be saved; that through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end they can ALL be FOUND. It turned my day from kind of crummy to one of the best experiences on my mission. Danny had all these little concerns like, "I believe in Jesus but God seems too high for me", and was hung up on all kinds of other little things. We taught him to see the BIG PICTURE and that he would KNOW these things are true because we have read The Book of Mormon and prayed about it. We told him that our Heavenly Father loves us and that there is hope for EVERY fallen man. We testified to Danny and the other people that were there that Jesus Christ lives and that we can all know that this is the Church of Jesus Christ in all its fullness here on the earth today by praying and receiving confirmation through the Holy Ghost. I know that I will NEVER forget days like that. We found the lost ones and now we have to bring them back to the fold. Some days are really hard, but if we put Jesus Christ first in our lives, those same difficult days are the ones when we really learn who we are. I love this gospel and I love being that light in the lives of the good people here. The changes this gospel brings to people are ones that can only be found through Him. Thank you all for writing me and for sharing your amazing testimonies with me. Be A Light and Find the Lost Sheep in your lives.



Monday, November 21, 2011

His Arms

Hola! I found out that I am going to be staying in Fairfield, California for another TRANSFER!! Haha YES! This next transfer will end January 2nd, so my Peachtree address is the one you all can continue to write to until at least then. Elder Rollins (my trainer) and I are tearing it up! This last transfer was hard work, but so fun, because we are opening up a new area and everything was so new. WE LOVE IT HERE, and now we have met everyone and our love for the people grows every day. I wanted to stay because we have four progressing investigators and I know that they are going to enter the waters of baptism soon! Our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us and He knows our wants and desires. As missionaries we want to love the people and to help them onto the path back to our Heavenly Father. We know that through the gospel of Jesus Christ and making sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father, starting with baptism, they can have the most happiness and peace in their lives.

Service!!! I love doing service because afterward you have such a great feeling, because you go in and expect NOTHING in return. Through service you get to feel just a piece of that Christ-like love for the people you serve. A couple weeks ago we helped this lady move out of her apartment. She is an inactive member of the church and is trying to come back on a regular basis. We went to her small apartment and were appalled. You COULD NOT see the floor. Luckily there were four of us missionaries there ... Elders Glaus, Tanner, Rollins, and myself. She had to be out of there, packed up and everything by the next morning, so we began the gross job of organizing and picking up "mystery" items, not knowing what might be under everything. It was all covered in kitty litter and tobacco products. There were plates of food left out and I didn't even know where she laid down to sleep. Everything was layered, so you picked up one thing and saw 20 other things under it. It was a tedious job and once we saw carpet we had a glimmer of hope. The vacuum we used began to smoke because it was so filthy. We took out about ten garbage bags of trash out to the dumpster. Everything smelled terrible, but we did it. We put her things in boxes and moved her furniture. Two hours later everything was set for the next day and her move out. I definitely needed a shower, but we all felt so great after. She said, "there is no way I could have been ready without you young men. Thank you." We weren't looking for acknowledgment, we were just looking to serve and help. Christ never stopped and asked himself, "should I help him?" He just went and did it. It was a great lesson for me; and I hope to do that in my life ALWAYS.
I began reading the Book of Mormon once I got into the mission field. I am currently in 2 Nephi and the spirit and blessings I have received from diligent study in The Book of Mormon is incredible. I keep a study journal for every chapter and answer the same four questions for each chapter I read. 1) Give a summary of what I read. 2) What principles are important? 3) How can I apply the things in this chapter to my personal life? 4) More importantly, how can I apply the things I read to the lives of my investigators? As I have answered these questions and really pondered what I have read, I have begun to understand why the Book of Mormon is so crucial for EVERYONE to read. Before my mission I had read The Book of Mormon, and we read it as a family as well, but I guess I never really DOVE into it. I never had a STRONG DESIRE to partake of it. But right now I am strengthening my testimony of The Book of Mormon and understand WHY this was given to us. As I have read from it every day, I bear testimony to everyone that, along with the Bible, it is the word of God. I have seen The Book of Mormon change my life and, more importantly, it is changing the lives of those we are teaching. The Book of Mormon is The Iron Rod.
A few days ago I was walking through an apartment complex and we talked to a man that was shoveling dirt. He said he wasn't interested and I asked him, "What would it mean to you if you knew your family could be together forever?" He busted out laughing and mocked me for my question. We moved on without delay and talked to more people about this amazing gospel. Yesterday we came across the same man ... but he was different. I looked at him as my brother and said. "Hey, how are you doing today?" He was cleaning his car and looked up at us. I could tell he really wanted to know; he wanted to know THE TRUTH. So we began to talk to this man and he opened up about the problems in his life. We taught him about The Restoration and about The Book of Mormon and how it could CHANGE his life forever. He told us his uncle and cousin had joined the church recently and wondered what was behind them giving up smoking and drinking. We taught him that through the gospel of Jesus Christ we can all find happiness and joy in this life; that we are here for two years to help people understand that becoming closer to our Heavenly Father happens through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was an amazing experience. He saw the light, the very light we try to carry with us, and that he tried to put out three days before. He wanted the light and God knew it. In the end I learned a lesson … there is HOPE for EVERYONE. No one is excluded from this gospel and from the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Never give up on anyone.
I was reading in 2 Nephi 1:15, “But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld His glory, and I am encircled about eternally in THE ARMS of HIS LOVE.” That struck me, because there have been times in my life when I have been saved. I have literally felt HIS ARMS around me to comfort me. Through The Atonement of Jesus Christ we can ALL be forgiven and cleansed. We can form a fresh view and rededicate ourselves to be better. I have lived with the guilt and sorrow that comes with an imperfect life, and I have felt my Savior’s arms around me and the cleansing power of His Atonement. He lives. He loves each and every one of us.
This week is Thanksgiving and I am so thankful for the things in my life that make me truly happy. I am grateful for my wonderful family, this gospel, and for the opportunity I have to be a representative of Jesus Christ. My life will never be the same because of these things. Thank you all for your love and support. Every week I receive inspiring letters filled with testimonies of our Savior Jesus Christ. There are many things I am thankful for and I hope you all take a few moments to think about what makes you TRULY happy in your life and to thank our Heavenly Father for those things. In the midst of this declining world of darkness and immorality, we will always have Jesus Christ in our lives if we open that door. LES AMO MUCHISIMO!!!!!!!

Elder Vance

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Desire

Time is flying by. It’s crazy to think that I have been out on my mission for three months already. It's going too fast!!! But I am loving every second of it and every day I learn something new and grow so much. I do want to share a couple funny stories/experiences/tips.

1) Don't let a well-meaning, but inexperienced, person cut your hair. I experienced that today.  Let’s just say I left her house with craters in my head. Don't worry; I got a recovery shape up from another church member SOON AFTER.
2) I LOVE talking to crazy people. Actually not really talking to them ... just listening to them is hilarious.
3) Our apartment consistently smells like someone hot boxed it with marijuana. I believe it’s the people that live below us and it seeps through the vents. Miserable=Memorable.
4) It is very entertaining to listen to the people in our small branch sing. They definitely are 100% tone deaf. They don't have a clue what a song is supposed to sound like. They sing loud and proud, even in church with the hymns. Every week I just stop for a second and listen. It sounds like a high pitch screech and mosquitos mixed in there. HILARIOUS and I love their spirit.
5) There are probably 30,000 people in Fairfield ... and 1,000,000 cats.
6) Have found out there are some crazy, rude, and mean people out in the world today; so much hatred and violence. But through Jesus Christ and THIS GOSPEL so many people can change.

STORY #1-We were out contacting and this guy came up and started to talk to us ... his name was RAY. He just started talking to us and he was NUTS! I almost started laughing because he was saying these random weird things, and I QUOTE, "Light is the medium in which Angels and Demons travel. I am A DRAGONSLAYER man. Until I can train other dragon slayers I am on my own on the front lines slaying Demonic Beings. That guy over there could be in the body of Christ. But his trials/afflictions can travel onto me. Through the third eye. Then I go home and yell at my wife and I don't know why. All I have to do is keep the FIRST two commandments and I am a good man, ya’ know? You all are not gonnna get through to nobody dressed like that. You gotta dress how they dress, so you can go behind enemy lines and slice off the head of THE DEMON. TACTICS. If I see someone doing drugs, I’ll sit and smoke a joint with ‘em, to make that common ground to get in with them. Keep doing whatch’all are doin’". WOW. Crazy man … I was cracking up once we turned and left. Dragonslayer; for real? COME ON...hahahaaa

STORY #2-We were in this sketchy apartment complex and we were talking to this guy and these two little shaggy kids were playing by us. All of a sudden a man yells out the screen door. "Hey KIDS!!!! Stay away from them, they're dangerous!" It was their dad I guess. I was thinking that of all the things you could say about us Mormon missionaries … the thing you say is that we are dangerous? Wowww …  haha, I died laughing.

This last week we had a day where we had seven appointments scheduled. We have an average of two to three every day, so the day was packed full of potentially great visits. It was a super rainy day and very cold. We went throughout our day and EVERY lesson fell through. This did not add good feelings to the crummy weather. It was a really tough day because it seemed like no matter where we went nobody was home and nobody wanted to talk to us. We searched for more people and called everyone. But no one was willing to listen to us that day. My attitude was not the best at the end of the day because I felt we had been cursed for the day. But that night I said a prayer and asked my Heavenly Father, "Why? Why would you give us such a crummy and hard day?” But as my prayer continued I realized that I NEEDED that day. The Lord does not apologize for making things tough for us. Because He knows it’s for our own good. I learned that no matter how tough the day is or how cold or wet it may get, I must always have the burning DESIRE to go and serve THE PEOPLE, to bring them closer to Christ. We will have challenges and tragedies in this life, but if we turn to Him (ALWAYS), He will help us. That day definitely was a humbling experience, and helped me see that I am NOT ENTITLED to see the success of my work in the vineyard of the Lord. As long as we work hard, the wages will be great.
Every day I strive to keep that "Greenie Light" … that fire or desire. To talk to EVERYONE I see and to be the best missionary I can be. Thank you everyone for supporting me and for boosting my spirits and strengthening my testimony through your letters. By the way, I have heard that my friend Olivia Baeza is going to the California - Los Angeles Spanish-speaking mission! She is going to be such a great missionary and I know she will touch the lives of many there. LIV, you are EL MEJOR! Anyway,  thank you once again and the next transfer is coming up next week. I am 99% sure I am staying here in Fairfield with my awesome trainer, Elder Rollins. Oh, and we finally got one investigator and three inactive members to church on Sunday!!! YES! It's been hard opening this new area, but the Lord is preparing many people for us here in Fairfield. GRACIAS POR TODOS!!!


Elder Vance

P.S. - Heard "Billie Jean" for the first time in 3 months! Haha, it was crazy. Our neighbor was blasting it and I couldn't resist to stand by their door and listen for a few seconds. Good times. I miss dancing, my family, and friends. But right now THIS is where I am needed and this is where I need to be! Look forward to a post-mish Vance Dance! haha

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Big Picture

"Thou Hast With Unwearyingness Declared The Word"- Helaman 10:4

This last week I had some amazing experiences and would love to share them with you. Last week I saw the "big picture". I really saw the faith of one of our investigators, Domingo, and how much he has really changed. I saw that he has so much hope for himself; that through baptism and using the Atonement of Jesus Christ he could be free from his sins. He has been keeping all of his commitments and his desire to CHANGE is amazing. Last week we taught him about repentance, and the best part of that whole lesson was when he stopped and said, "God was saying, ‘you two go and teach THAT guy. He wants to learn but he doesn’t know where to start.’ You guys are ANGELS." Those four words will stay with me forever. As he finished saying that, tears came to my eyes. It made my purpose as a missionary that much more important … to bring others unto Christ. I am literally, in all ways possible, a representative of Jesus Christ. I bore testimony to him that this gospel can give him and his kids a better life. I saw his faith and the strength of his spirit. At that moment I could feel our Heavenly Father's love for him. He is MY brother and the Lord sent us to save him. I will never forget those words he spoke because this work isn't about selling some product. This is about eternal life.

Last Thursday I was able to go to the Oakland Temple. WOW. What a gorgeous temple of the Lord. As we arrived I felt this overwhelming peace and spirit that can only come in the temple. I am not sure why, but I had some distinct impressions while I was there. This temple is already so special to me and I would love to be married there someday. We were able to do an endowment session there as a district that day, and as I was sitting in the celestial room I said a prayer, thanking our Heavenly Father for my life and for my family. I thanked him for my missionary experience. I was thinking about my future family and how we could all be together forever if we will be faithful. I picked up un Libro de Mormon. As I was reading it I felt a strong feeling that someday I will teach my own children Spanish in our home, that they might have a love for the language that I pray and bear testimony in every day. It was an experience I will remember forever.

My mission has forever changed my life. We can always be missionaries and I feel every day that this work can be done by everyone. I love this gospel and what it has done for my own family. I feel like the Lord has blessed me in ways that I haven't even seen yet. My relationship with my Father in Heaven has been strengthened and I see miracles every day. The gift of tongues is real. I see it every day. The Lord prepares His people. I can't even imagine where I would be right now in my life without the fullness of this gospel.
Gracias por todos! Les Amo!!!!

Elder Vance

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Never Stop

"Never Stop. One always stops as soon as something is about to happen." – Peter Brook

I love that quote. This applies not only to missionary work but to life in general. We always need to seek to understand more in our lives. To LOVE more, to SHARE more, to BE more. Our eternal progression never stops. We can always be doing more and working harder. Every day we NEED to be strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ, building up our testimonies and looking back as well. Before my mission, I thought I had a pretty strong testimony. But the things I have experienced and the times where my faith has been tested have stretched and built up my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ so much. I have the privilege and opportunity to see miracles every day. We should NEVER STOP counting our blessings and miracles in our lives. NEVER. The Lord is waiting to bless us, and all we have to do is TURN to Him.

I love this quote from the prophet, Joseph Smith, "After ALL that's said, the GREATEST and most IMPORTANT duty is to Preach the Gospel." I have had many opportunities to plant seeds about this amazing gospel in my friends and family. I know with time those seeds will want to grow. We may never know it in this life, but I know after this life there will be people that will thank us for being that LIGHT and BEACON in their lives and talking to them about the gospel.

This last week we had a lesson with an investigator. His name is Domingo. He has had a tough life. He is 23 years old with two kids. He has the desire to change and we have promised him blessings and the Lord has come through with those blessings because he has been keeping the commitments the Lord has given him. As he was talking in the lesson about his faith and how he wants to repent, I looked into his eyes. I think it is a gift we receive as missionaries because I looked into his eyes and saw the Light of Christ. The spirit within him was reaching … reaching for the truth. He wants to learn and wants to follow the example of Jesucristo. We have only been teaching him for two weeks and his life has been totally different. He says he feels like he is clean and happy. Even his friends notice that difference. His countenance has changed. I know our Heavenly Father loves him and I love him. He was my lost brother, and now I am helping him slowly come back into the fold. It's these experiences that change my life, because I learn to love as Jesus Christ loved, to see everyone as a child of our Heavenly Father. Never GIVE up on ANYONE. Just because they reject it now does not mean you failed (they are just not ready yet). Remember that the enemy of GREAT is GOOD. Don’t be satisfied with GOOD, be GREAT! I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. Through him, we can all return WITH our families to the presence of our Heavenly Father. I leave estas cosas con ustedes, en el nombre de nuestro salvador, Jesuchristo, Amen. Amo Mi Mision. Todas los dias.

Les Amo Muchisimo!
Elder Vance

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Voice Can Still Be Heard

HOLA USTEDES! This last week has flown by and was definitely better than my first week. I am finally starting to understand mission life, little by little. I have so many experiences to share with you all but unfortunately I have to just pick the best ones because I don't have a lot of time to type. My companion, Elder Rollins, is awesome and he has taught me how to really be patient. He has such a sincere heart and such a strong desire to share the gospel with all the people. We had the opportunity to teach A LOT this week which was great. In the MTC, I really prayed to the Lord to prepare people for me and to open the hearts of the people here in Santa Rosa. I can testify that He has done that. This week He has uncovered some people for us to teach that are SO ready to learn and to grow in this gospel. He has prepared people for ME; now I have to prepare and do my part to teach them. I love the Hispanic people here so much and so unconditionally, and there is simply nothing that they can or could do to offend me. I feel like some of our investigators are literally my family. Every night I pray to have even more love for them so I can focus on them and do ALL I CAN to give them the best opportunity to accept the gospel. There have already been some days when I have looked up and prayed, "Lord, I am having a rough day, I need help. Please help me". And after that it seemed like I had the determination, energy, and the desire to do more and be better. I know during those moments He looks down on me and says, "Keep going my son; keep going”. He carries me and He carries all of us. He is there for us, and He ALWAYS loves us, no matter what we do.

This past Saturday we met Elias. He was a former contact by Elder Tanner y Glaus (they are the two other Spanish missionaries in our branch). We went over and Elias let us in. He makes marble counters for a living and is actually a pretty well-off man. He is a young father of two little kids and has a wife. He let us in and we talked to him more about La Restauracion. He was taught once before by the other two missionaries and he loves history. We shared Lesson 1 and the First Vision. His eyes lit up every time we dove into the Book of Mormon. We turned to Joseph Smith History and he said, "I WANT THAT"! We were shocked because he is so prepared and his desire to learn all about the gospel is incredible. We told him we could get him a triple combination and he was so excited. He is one who has been prepared by the Lord. I know that in a couple of years he is going to be an amazing elder’s quorum president. If we do our best and work hard I know the Lord comes through. We had been working hard for almost two weeks and then Elias came into the picture. The Lord provides a way for His children to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Never be afraid to talk to anyone. YOUR VOICE can change someone's life. Be a missionary before, during, and after your mission. This gospel is available for EVERYONE. I have talked to people that look like they would never accept or be open to our message, but they ALWAYS need it, and once they feel the spirit, EVERYTHING changes. I love this gospel and missionary service. Without missionary work, I would not be on a mission and possibly not even on this earth right now. Look at everyone as a child of God. Your whole perspective will change. I love my mission and everyone here. Remember that only through Jesus Christ can we be saved. 

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's Only The Beginning

HOLA EVERYONE!! I am officially in California!! It is so crazy and I am currently serving in the Fairfield Spanish area. My companion is … Elder Michael Rollins! He is from my stake back home and it was nuts because about five months ago I wrote him and said, "What if we are companions?" He is an amazing trainer and he has been out for about one year. He has taught me so much and he is really helping me become a better missionary. We are opening a new Spanish area here in Fairfield. Currently only about 30 people attend church and we have our sacrament meetings in a big relief society room. The branch here is not independent yet, but they are going to be in January, so at that time they will begin to have their sacrament meetings in the chapel. I love the Hispanic people here … they are so humble and they have such a special spirit about them.

My mission president is President Bunker. He has been serving as a mission president for almost two years now, so halfway through my mission I will receive a new mission president. That is kind of a bummer because he is so great; I hope our next one is just as good. President Bunker has really turned this mission into a "Standard of Excellence" mission. Before he came, this mission was not doing too well and from what I hear he has basically flipped our mission 180 degrees. He is a great man and he is truly a man of God.

When I came into the field there was only one Spanish-speaking elder, and there were only two Spanish trainers … so I had a 50/50 shot of ending up with Elder Rollins or Elder Vasconcelos. My first day here we went out and to contact people. I went out with Elder V (that's what I called him because his last name was too long, haha). As I approached my first door to knock, my heart was racing, but I felt confident. We were in a rundown apartment complex. I knocked and the lady just looked at me through the screen window and said, "Sorry I'm Catholic". I said, “okay” and was on to the next one. Door #2 - nothing. Door #3 - I knocked and a 19 year-old young man walked out and almost fell on me. The smell of smoke was so strong … not just tobacco smoke either. We talked to him and I bore testimony that this could change his life. His name was Alex and he wanted us to come back a different day, so we took his information and wrote it down. I was pretty shocked, it seemed like everyone we ran into was "hollow". Drugs and addiction had taken control over them. It was sad to see, but we were bringing the light and the love of God to them. I told Elder V that, if I wasn't a missionary, I would be totally “sketched out” walking down these streets in the late afternoon, in the middle of ghetto Santa Rosa. The Lord protects His servants and we are blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Overall, my experience in the mission field so far has been a bit shocking; not because of what I am experiencing or seeing, but because of what I CAN DO for these people. I have seen people feel the spirit and notice something different about us. I KNOW I can CHANGE lives through Jesus Christ and baptism. Always have faith and avoid fear and discouragement. I love something one of my MTC teachers (Brother Flynn) said; “Faith and Fear cannot reside in your mind at the same time. HAVE FAITH. Don't ever be scared to talk to people about this gospel. YOU could be the one to bring them to Jesus Christ.” That is why I love my mission … because I have that opportunity. I was asked to bear my testimony in Sacrament meeting yesterday. What an amazing experience that was. The Gift of Tongues is real. I HAVE SEEN IT. Without the Lord there is no way I could be talking to people in Spanish. I ask myself and the Lord how I am going to achieve everything I need to do each day; and then I go and do. In my mind, you do all you can and don't waste time. Do your best and the Lord will do the rest. Sorry this is so short, I have very limited time to write and I wish I could share all of my amazing experiences so far. Every day is a miracle, everything is. I love this gospel and I love my Savior, Jesucristo. I leave this testimony with you all en el nombre de Jesuscristo, Amen.

Les AMO Muchisimo!!!!!

Elder Vance

P.S. Since I will be transferred at times during my mission, the Mission Field address at right will always be the same, but the mission office will then forward it to me, which will take an extra two days to get to me. My direct address for at least the next five weeks is: 
2281 Peach Tree #2
Fairfield, California 94533

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's Always Better To Look Up

First off, I must say, only one more week in the MTC!  Next Monday I am taking off to Santa Rosa, California! If you want to write me in the field, my MISSION FIELD address is on the right side of this blog. This will be my last blog post from the MTC. It is definitely bittersweet. I am so excited to head out, but at the same time I will miss my brothers and sisters here in my zone. I definitely will not miss the MTC Food (Jeremiah 4:19 – “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart …”) Don't ask how I found that scripture. But I will miss all the friends I have made here and the spirit that I felt here every day. This place HAS changed my life. I can't imagine being in a better place to learn and prepare to be one of the Lord's missionaries. The last 8 weeks have gone by in a flash and I know the next 22 months will also go by just as fast. That is why I am trying to cherish and learn from every moment I have, because these are truly wonderful times, being this close to my Savior, Jesus Christ.

I had a leadership meeting that really struck me this past week. It was with Hermano Staples who served his mission in Argentina. He talked about the things we can do to help this zone as leaders.
1. Love your District.
2. Lead by Example
3. Correct Inappropriate Behavior
4. Encourage others- see the end goal and show them how FAR THEY HAVE COME.
5. Set Expectations
He then said, "People don't want to REACH ACROSS to leaders, they want to reach UP to leaders. Be a LIGHT that comes into a room for everyone to see and look up to." It was a great meeting and it really helped me understand how to be the best leader I could be.

Last Tuesday we had an amazing devotional by Don R. Clarke of The Seventy. He said, "I hope and pray you understand what your mission means to you. It determines who you marry, how you do in school, what your children will become, and where you end up after this life. LET YOUR MISSIONS RUN THROUGH YOU. I have learned more on my mission than in any schooling or in any job. I hope and pray you remember and know what it means to have a missionary badge. The TITLE of ‘Elder’ is lent to you for only two years. I hope you remember what that title means to you. In the premortal existence you were MEN and WOMEN of exceeding action. I hope you never say ‘I'll try’ and I hope you always will be as Nephi and say, ‘I will go and do’. If you do your part the Lord will do His. If you have faith, you will not fear. The opposite of faith is fear. Pray for the people in YOUR MISSION. As you begin to pray for them your whole missionary experience will change. If you want our Savior’s arms around you, BE OBEDIENT. That which is written in your HEART, nobody can take out. DETERMINE the missionary you are going to be and write it in your heart. If you LOVE them, you will PUSH them. You are on a wonderful journey; the journey will be determined by you. The Holy Ghost is your guide and will help you. There are many BATTERED and TORN by sin and they NEED what we have. Eternity will be changed by you, only if you do ALL you can." That talk was so inspiring. And it really inspired me to be the BEST missionary I can be.
This last week we received a new district into our zone on Wednesday. They have 8 elders and 4 sisters. It is a HUGE district. But I love them all already. Elder Latham and I helped them feel welcomed and loved and gave them orientations on Wednesday and Thursday. They ALL looked soo shocked and brain dead. But that's what we were there for! I still remember my first day and how crazy that was and how the zone leaders helped us out. It was a cool experience to train this new district on how to conduct themselves as representatives of Jesus Christ. I love serving them because in the end it seems like I receive all of the blessings. I get to love them and that is the blessing. It reminded me of all the years of EFY's, youth conferences, and college orientations. How I always looked up to my leaders and became so close to them. When I return, maybe I will be an EFY counselor for one summer, because I loved EFY and I always loved my counselors. The new district is doing well and they are really obedient. I know they will all be GREAT missionaries.
This last Thursday I received my travel plans which is always THE BEST! There are 13 people in my travel group and so it should be a fun trip. I bought two Books of Mormon, one in English and one in Spanish. My goal is to place these two Books of Mormon before I get into my mission. I don't want to be scared to talk to people. I want to break down that barrier so I can be effective from the start. I want my “greenie” light to shine (haha)!!! I just want to GO FOR IT every day. So I feel like this is the best way. :) It seems like I got here yesterday and now I am off into the world with my missionary badge, my companion, and my scriptures. I feel like I have been prepared my whole life for this and this is truly the work of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
I love my teachers here at the MTC. They are soooo amazing. They inspire me every day to be a better person. I definitely want to work here after my mission. Not only is it the highest paying job on the BYU campus, but the environment of the MTC cannot be beat and the spirit here is so strong. I LOVE THE MTC!!!
General Conference was AMAZING!!! Loved every second of every talk. It seemed like I got more out of the talks than ever before. It must be because I am now a missionary (haha). But I loved Elder Carl B. Cooks' talk. He said, "I had just been called to the Quorum of the Seventy. I was on my way down in the Church Office Building elevator. I was looking down because I was overwhelmed with my new calling. The elevator stopped, someone got in and then the elevator continued to go down. I didn't look up to see who it was. Then a familiar voice said, ‘What are you looking at down there?’ It was the Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I said, ‘Oh I don't know’. With a grin he said back to me, ‘It's always better to look up’. We need to have the faith to look up and to ALWAYS remember our Savior, Jesus Christ. Burdens and sins are lightened as we look to Christ." That talk just hit me so hard. I felt the spirit and it made me realize no matter how tough it gets in life, we can always LOOK UP.
I would go on and talk about ALL the talks I loved from General Conference but I do not have the time or energy to recap everything. But one other talk I applied to my life was by W. Christopher Waddell of the Seventy. He spoke on missions. He said, "The Lord knows where He wants every missionary to serve. FOR BLESSINGS TO CONTINUE POST-MISSION- you must apply the gifts you received on your mission to your life after your mission. This will determine who you will really become. IT IS NEVER, NEVER too late to apply those gifts you received on YOUR mission. Look, Be, and Act the part as a missionary FOREVER." I love this because that is exactly what I need to do AFTER my mission. Apply EVERYTHING I learned to EVERY aspect of my life. And for those who haven't used those gifts always, it is NEVER too late to do so in your life.

I am going to end with a few quotes from Our Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson who ended with some powerful words in the priesthood session. He said, “We may be the minority or even ALONE. Do we have the moral courage to face the challenges that come our way? We need to be firmly ROOTED. Dare To Be a Mormon. Be WILLING to stand ALONE. God has saved some of His strongest children for now. We should not be in doubt about what is moral and what is NOT. Wherever we go the PRIESTHOOD goes. Stand in Holy places. You cannot do anything to put a curtain between you and the ministering of angels. THERE IS A WAY BACK, THERE IS A WAY BACK. The process is called REPENTANCE. It is not easy but the promises are REAL. We must have our own testimony. Be ready ALWAYS, when the time for decision comes, the time to prepare has passed. To every man that holds the priesthood, Honor THAT PRIESTHOOD. Guard and Defend it." WOW....I know that we have a modern day prophet today. His name is President Thomas S. Monson.
I love my mission with all my heart. It is something sacred to me. I have learned to love and to be kind; to see everyone as children of God. I know that the Savior, Jesus Christ, can help us and relieve us of our pains, sins, and sorrows. Through His atonement we CAN return and live with our families FOREVER. I know Jesus Christ will put His arms around us if we ask in sincere prayer for help. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the ONE and ONLY church on the face of this planet with the FULLNESS of the gospel. Our Heavenly Father has a plan for each and every one of us. He is waiting to bless and help us all, and all we have to do is ask. I love the people of Santa Rosa, California and I haven't even been there yet. I know I was called to that mission for a reason. If I have learned one thing on my mission so far it is TO ALWAYS, ALWAYS trust in the Lord; and to love each other as our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ loves us. Without this gospel, my life would be totally different. I would not enjoy the happiness I have today. We all can really be so happy ... and have eternal happiness. By living the gospel, there comes the knowledge that we can return to live with our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ for eternity. I love this gospel. I know the Book of Mormon is true. Read it and LIVE it, and by His Spirit you can know the truthfulness of all things. I love you all … you are ALL in my prayers. I love hearing from you and ask you to STAND for who YOU are; a disciple of Christ. DO the right thing at the right time, with no delay; and ALWAYS LOOK UP.   :)
Elder Spencer Guy Vance