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

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