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