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