Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Consuelo in Spanish means "Comfort". This past week was a tough week for a couple different reasons. It was probably one of the toughest weeks of my mission. We saw Noe (one of our investigators that had a baptismal date for the 4th of February) this past week and he told us he moved to an apartment complex next to the church. Unfortunately, there are about a hundred or more apartments there and we still have no idea where he lives. He didn't come to church on Sunday and we haven't been able to contact him for a while. Because of this he will not be able to be baptized on his date. It is frustrating at times to be a missionary. It seems like you do ALL you can but still fall short, but I can testify that Heavenly Father knows the desires of our hearts, and that through the hard times our Heavenly Father is there, carrying us. I know that we have done all we can with Noe, but it is sad to see someone so close and then slowly falling away. We are going to continue to try to make contact and see what happens. We hope and pray we can make contact with him again here soon.

On Saturday, Elder Arredondo and I did some service. We basically did a neighborhood cleanup. The project was under the direction of the police department and it was so much fun. We cleaned up some of the apartment complexes where we actually go almost every day. A bunch of the Hispanic kids that live there wanted to help so we gave them some gloves, garbage bags, and garbage pickers. They had a blast and so did I! It was shocking to see some of the things we found and threw away. So many cigarettes, alcohol bottles, trash, and even knives! All I could think about was the kids. They deserve better than that. They deserve to have a sanctuary of safety where they play. I love the people here. I was able to play some hoops after our service project with a young kid named Jesus. We played the classic game of HORSE on their rusty 9-foot basketball hoop with this ball that was almost popped it was so flat (We actually played PIG because it was taking us too long to make any of the ridiculous shots we were taking, haha). It was definitely junkyard ball with mud everywhere and broken cars all around. While playing with him I kept thinking about my childhood. How magical those memories are to me. I remember playing HORSE with my Grandpa Vance (and beating him at the age of 8, haha) and even being taught how to shoot backwards from the free throw line by my Grandma Vance! I taught him that one and he loved it. I said, "I learned this one from my grandma, so watch out!” I had to put him away and beat him with an over the backboard shot. I love making these special bonds and friendships with the people. Moments like these, like doing service with these kids or playing junkyard hoops are ones I will never forget. How could I forget? These are the best two years of my life. I am so grateful for my wonderful family and for all the memories I have shared with them. That service project definitely lifted my spirits for the rest of the week. I have learned that the people you serve are the people you love.

I love the scriptures. They have given me so much strength, courage, comfort, and hope here on my mission. I really enjoyed this scripture during the week … in 2 Nephi 29:5 it says, "And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers." I love that. That is what I am doing here …bringing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to the people here in Fairfield, California. Through reading in the scriptures and praying with a sincere heart, we all can feel the comfort and love of our Heavenly Father in our lives. I know that because I have felt it, and even needed it just to go on at times. He always listens. ALWAYS.

I love you all. You are so dear to my heart and each one of you needs to know that YOU are a son or daughter of God. He Loves You.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Thursday, January 26, 2012

One Love

This last week was great, but I did have a terrible cold/congestion/sinus issue. It lasted a good four days. No Bueno! Three “diseases” in three weeks; from food poisoning to pink eye to a hard- hitting cold, but I feel my immune system is up again and I am pressing onward! Elder Arredondo and I love it here in Fairfield. We continue to find and teach people every week. He continues to harp on my Spanish, and sometimes I give him some attitude about it, but in the end he is helping my Spanish a ton! We are getting along super well and I hope I can squeeze out one more transfer here in Fairfield. That would make 6 months here if I get to stay another transfer, and hopefully I can stay with Elder Arredondo because he is really helping my Spanish. We shall see what the Lord has in store for me. It's also been raining for days! The winter has finally hit and the rainy season is up ahead. Time to throw on the raincoat! Also, big news … I have been selected to be an online missionary! Basically, every day I go online (Facebook) for 45 minutes and spread the gospel online. I deactivated my old Facebook account and am solely friends on Facebook with my investigators and members here in my mission. I am so excited because post-mission I will be able to stay in contact with ALL of my people. I cannot add friends from back home or school (or family), because I am still a MISSIONARY online, so it is important for me to stay focused. I am so pumped!

This week I want to talk specifically about "my people" here; the people who I have grown to love as Christ loves, and those who will be forever close to my heart.  These are some of the people that I love so dearly here in Fairfield, California.
First, I want to talk about Hermana and Hermano Jaimes. Elder Rollins and I went tracting in our area about two months ago and came across the Jaimes. They opened the door and we told them we were missionaries. Right away huge smiles came on their faces as they said, "Somos miembros!!" (We are members!) We were kind of shocked because … uhhhh … that never happens (ha!). They gave us a return appointment so that we could come back another day. The next time we came back we had a sit-down lesson with them. We found out that they had been inactive in the church for 8-10 years. Their daughter was a member and she was really nice. She was married and had a young daughter. The Jaimes told us they went inactive because they were offended by something, but couldn't remember why anymore! They were super nice and said they wanted to come back. They began reading in The Book of Mormon again and slowly but surely they came back to church as we continued to teach them more and more. It is amazing to think that was only two months ago because now they are completely active members. What a treat it was to hear their sweet testimonies last week during fast and testimony meeting. It was one of the sweetest experiences of my life to hear their testimonies and to hear them bear witness that Jesus Christ is their Savior and Redeemer. During their testimonies I just kept thinking, “what if we wouldn't have knocked on their door? They would still be lost”. I sat by Hermano Jaimes yesterday during priesthood meeting and I just had this overwhelming love for him. Now Hermano Jaimes is receiving the Aaronic Priesthood next week and he and his wife want to be sealed as a couple for time and all eternity in the temple.  They will be special to me forever.

I want to give you an update on Noe, one of our investigators that I talked about on the blog last week. As of right now, he is getting baptized on the 4th of February! We had to push his date back a week because he is having some issues with his ex-girlfriend over who is going to have custody of their child and some other issues. He also won't be able to make it to church this Sunday because he will be in Santa Maria figuring that out. It's so sad to see these problems he faces in his life and all he has to go through, but I know that this gospel is going to bless his life so much and we are happy he has made the decision to be baptized. We know that this is the most important thing he can be doing and that it will change his life forever. We are fasting and praying for him so that he can do all he can to make the right decisions and everything will turn out okay.

In previous blog entries I have also talked a little bit about one of the investigators Elder Rollins and I were teaching at one point. His name is Domingo. I became really close to him and there is definitely something special about the relationship we have. Domingo is the brother of Rosi, Noe's ex-girlfriend, so Domingo was actually living with Noe and Rosi when they were together. Domingo was under house arrest while we were teaching him, but due to some money issues and not being able to pay fines, he had to go to jail. That was about a month and a half ago, and during that time I have written Domingo a few letters of encouragement. I also sent him a couple pictures and a poem to brighten his day. He has responded to those letters and I am always filled with great joy when I receive letters from him because it has been so long since I have seen him. My eyes filled with tears as I read the letter he recently wrote me and I would like to share a couple excerpts from his letter. He knows Spanish and English, so he writes in both (haha). He said, "Dear Elder Vance, Gracias for writing me. To be real, it was tough the first weeks but I never forgot what you guys were teaching me when I was out there. The more I ask and it pray it became just another day, but a bright day. Right now it is complicated but either way I will be out on the 4th f February (which just so happens to be the day Noe is getting baptized!! He doesn't know about the Rosi and Noe situation yet). Tu hermano Vance tu eres mi Angel. (You Hermano Vance, you are my angel.) Every word, testimony, and tear in your eyes opened my eyes. You guys showed me and woke me up when I was falling asleep in the dark. I thank God that you guys were sent in my path. Gracias por sus oraciones y bendiciones. Le quiero mucho hermano. (Thanks for your prayers and blessings. I love you brother)”-Domingo
Tears welled up in my eyes as I read his words. Knowing that I am truly making a difference in someone's life here on my mission is a feeling I cannot describe. As a missionary you are always making a difference, but at times you don't get blessed to see that. I believe Heavenly Father wants us to learn before He gives us something to "see". We are not entitled to see the entire success of our work because this isn't our work, it's the Lord’s. But being blessed with these little pearls of happiness or with a baptism is something that is given to us as a gift. I believe with all my heart that these people have been prepared for ME, so that I can help them. The Lord prepares HIS people. Every missionary is sent to THEIR mission because that is where THEIR people are waiting. I LOVE MY PEOPLE.

This last week I read a quote from a former prophet of our church (President Spencer W. Kimball) that I really enjoyed and that put my mission into an even better perspective. His article, which was entitled, "A Mission Is The School For Eternity" said “Your mission is preparation. It is YOUR school for ETERNITY. You won't forget that, will you? This mission is not just a two-year stretch. This is the time when you cultivate the seeds of godhood so that you can help other people on their way toward EXALTATION. How small are we who think of the mission as JUST being a stretch of time, some physical things to do, a little studying to do, some praying. This is the MOST purposeful thing that some of you will ever do. It's up to you to let this be the prelude to your life, to let it be the BEGINNING of a GREAT and GLORIOUS life." I love that quote. I myself know some return missionaries that put their mission in a box and stuff it under their bed. That is NOT the intention of their missions. As missionaries we receive so many gifts through our service; spiritual gifts, qualities, strengths, and knowledge. If we don't open those and share them with everyone, then there was no point to receive them in the first place. Some day my two years here will be up, but I want to do all I can to share my experiences and my testimony with everyone around me even when my time as a missionary is over, because I know what I have received from my mission already can bless the lives of my friends and family. My mission is preparing me for the rest of my life, for my future family, and for eternity. I have seen how far I have really come. I still have a long way to go, but through this gospel we can all be on that path back to our Heavenly Father, progressing bit by bit and following that ultimate and perfect example Jesus Christ set for us.

This last week I watched the film "5000 Days- Two Brothers." It is a documentary of two brothers and their journey from childhood up until they serve missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If you do not have a copy of this in your home, YOU NEED TO GET IT! It is amazing and you get to taste of the love a brother has for a brother and a missionary has for HIS people. I think everyone needs to see this film. I felt the spirit so strong during this and it put my mission in a more special and spiritual light. Here is the link; it is an instant MUST BUY. http://deseretbook.com/5000-Days-Project-Two-Brothers/i/5071746

This last week my father sent me a big picture that was taken of him the day he was baptized over 26 years ago. On the back of the picture he bore his testimony and talked about the time 20 years ago as he was expecting "me", his first child. It was probably one of the most special things I have ever received. To see this big picture of my dad dressed in all white and smiling … smiling with the knowledge that he was going to be opening the gate, for not only his salvation, but for the salvation of his future family. I gave a 15 minute talk yesterday … in Spanish! That’s crazy, right? My topic was how Jesus Christ was a missionary. I talked about how Jesus Christ was perfect in his example and as a missionary. I read 3 Nephi 17:1-8 when Christ visits the people in the Americas. Jesus speaks to the people and is preparing to leave them. It says in verse 5, "And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer." Christ realizes that the people cannot soak in any more of his words and he has compassion towards them. Instead of continuing to speak to them, He SHOWED them. In verse 7 Christ says, "Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.” In verse 8, “For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you." Amazing. Jesus Christ was the perfect missionary. He had compassion towards them and taught them through his actions and I love that. After I shared that scripture, I talked about the two sister missionaries that baptized my father. I showed them the picture that my Dad sent me a couple days before and said,"El Estaba bien feliz" (He was so happy). The spirit was so strong. I said that I will be forever grateful for those two missionaries, because without them, I would not be here. They are my angels and I hope one day I can meet them and say, "Thank you … because of you I have had this life here on the earth and have had an opportunity to love MY people. Thank you."  I bore testimony that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer and that we are ALL missionaries in this church. It was such an uplifting and amazing experience. My love for the people has grown so much and that love is the light of Christ; and just as my father loves me, our Heavenly Father loves His children. I LOVE my mission. It has opened my eyes to the wonders of God and to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Thank you all for your continual support and your testimonies. AMO MI GENTE.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Prayer

This last week was great except that somehow I got pink eye! AHH! It seems like these past two weeks I have just been diseased, but now I am 100% recovered from my pink eye and overall I feel great. By just being here on my mission and working hard I have found that the days are so much more fun if I am completely focused on the people. They are my life for two years and I love them.
I love these verses in 3 Nephi 15: 9-10, in The Book of Mormon. It says, "Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life. Behold, I have given unto you the commandments; therefore keep my commandments. And this is the law and the prophets, for they truly testified of me." He is the light in my life and He is the law in my life. Without Jesus Christ I would be lost. I love my Savior so much, and that is why I decided to serve a full-time mission.
I had an experience this last week that really touched my heart forever and strengthened my testimony of prayer. We have someone who has been investigating the church for almost a year now. His name is Noe. He knows this gospel is true and he wants to be baptized, but there have been some obstacles. He loves his girlfriend and has wanted to respect her decisions and desires. She is not interested in the church at all, so it was hard for him to progress in the gospel. He was torn between the gospel of Jesus Christ and his girlfriend. This past Friday his girlfriend left him for good and moved with his daughter to Santa Monica. He was torn apart and was so upset about his situation, so he got down on his knees and began to pray to our Heavenly Father for peace and comfort. During that prayer we knocked on his door, and when he opened the door and he was crying. I asked him, "Noe esta bien?" (Noe are you ok?), and through his tears he replied, "No." I instantly knew that something had happened and asked, "Esta Rosi?" [(Is Rosi here? (his girlfriend)] He replied, "Ella no esta. Tienen un momento? Por favor pasen." (She is not here. Do you have a moment? Please come in.) He wanted us to come in, so we came in and sat down. He told us what had happened and began to sob. He was so upset and I felt so bad for him, yet I knew that as hard as it was for him, it could be a blessing in his life. I felt like NOW he could follow the example of Jesus Christ and progress in HIS church. Now he could feel that fullness and happiness in his life. We talked to him about the gospel of Jesus Christ and about how through it we can have peace and comfort. I know that in the toughest hours of my life, Heavenly Father has been right there next to me, carrying me and helping me through. Without this gospel those tough hours would have been so much worse. We told him, "By reading in The Book of Mormon, praying daily, and coming to church again you can feel the love of our Heavenly Father in your life. Through Him we can overcome the struggles and challenges in our lives. The only one that knows exactly how you feel right now is Jesus Christ. Not only did He suffer for our sins, but for our physical and emotional pains and sorrows as well. This is the way Noe. We are here to help you. We want the best for you and we know that our Heavenly Father loves you." That is the best feeling in the world … to be an answer to someone’s prayer. That night we were put in his path for a reason … we were the answer that our Heavenly Father sent Noe. That is why we are missionaries. Noe needed us … to be instruments in the hands of the Lord. Heavenly Father ALWAYS listens to us, no matter WHERE we are or WHO we are. We are ALL His children and He loves us. All we have to do is humble ourselves and get on our knees to offer up our hearts and desires to our Father in Heaven. The best part of this experience?  Noe has a baptismal date set for January 28th.  It brings me great joy to see my brother making this decision in his life and opening this door to his salvation. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of it and hope and pray that it actually happens.
We had an amazing Zone Conference this past week in Davis, CA. I love Zone Conferences not only because you see people from other parts of the mission but because of the messages that are shared. President Bunker gets fired up sometimes, and I love it. He definitely lets us know the things we need to work on in our lives and in the work here in the Santa Rosa, California Mission. I love him. He is truly a man of God. I know that all he wants to do is magnify his calling and do all he can to love us missionaries. President Bunker gave his "State of the Mission Address", as he put it. He talked about his vision for the mission for this upcoming year and how we were going to achieve it. Our goal for the mission this year is 520 baptisms collectively as a mission. That is not only our goal, but our purpose as missionaries … to baptize. As missionaries we are responsible for the salvation of the people in our area and our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through FAITH in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, REPENTANCE, BAPTISM, receiving the Gift of the HOLY GHOST, and ENDURING to the end. The mission is about people and not just numbers, but goals and numbers stretch us and help us grow. It helps us gauge how the work is going. I loved Zone Conference and felt so juiced up to get out there and invite others to be baptized!
My prayer is that I can be that instrument in the hands of the Lord every day; that I can love every person here enough to have the courage to bring the light of Christ into their lives. I pray that I can be an answer to other people’s prayers. I feel so blessed … I AM so blessed. I feel like I gave up nothing to come out here, because the blessings I receive in return are so much greater. Every night I thank my Father in Heaven for this opportunity; to serve him in the name of Jesus Christ, to be His servant and to be a witness of Jesus Christ. This privilege has changed my life and I wouldn't trade anything for these last 5 months. These experiences have molded me into someone I thought I could never be. I like to think that we should always shoot for the stars, because ANYTHING is possible with the Lord. Thank you all for your letters, your love and your support. I know this church has the fullness of the gospel on the earth today. Amo Mi Mision.
Les Amo,
Elder Vance

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It Is I

Last week was great. Elder Arredondo and I are getting along super well and I feel like the people here are really starting to progress. I remember I was talking to Elder Jaden Talbot the last day he was at the MTC and he challenged me to read John 6. I never got the chance to read it until this last week. It is the chapter where Jesus feeds the five thousand and walks on water. That chapter gave me so much strength. I especially like John 6:20, the verse that take place when the disciples are on the boat and they see Jesus walking on water. "But He saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid." That verse stuck with me all week. Talking to people here, I have come to understand that people FEAR God and Jesus Christ too much and TRUST in them too little. Faith is the root of our testimonies. Without faith, there is no foundation and we are lost. Sometimes we are afraid, but there is no need to fear, because through Jesus Christ and His gospel we can return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Spanish is really starting to come along. Elder Arredondo is helping me a lot and I feel pretty comfortable using my Spanish everywhere. I can understand it really well and as time goes on speaking that language gets better as well. I love the language, but it is different than missions in foreign countries, because here in California we are surrounded by English-speaking people and stores everywhere. It’s different than serving in a place like Guatemala, where EVERYTHING is in Spanish, but I like it because I get a lot of practice going back and forth between English and Spanish. I think my retention of the Spanish language will be really good after I come home from my mission. On any given day I generally speak or am surrounded by "Spanish" for at least 3 hours, but if we have a lot of lessons it can be up to 6 hours or more. Additionally, we have language study for an hour a day and always have dinners with members of the Spanish branch. I LOVE SPANISH!!!!!!!!
Funny/TRAUMATIC story … a week and a half ago I contacted a guy named "T" that said he cuts hair. He said he had his license and cuts hair all the time, so Elder Noris and I went over to his place last week. He looked pretty legit; he had his barber stuff on and got all ready. But then I saw the quality of his combs and clippers … TERRIBLE! It was pretty bad. We were already there and we were kind of trapped … sooo … we just decided to let him do it. His comb had parts missing in it and his mirror was broken. Wow.  So I told him I wanted him to trim my flow … basically just a trim. I don't know if he misunderstood me, but before I knew it he shaved me down to a 2! I was like AHHHHHH! It looks like I am a marine!  It seems like I can never find anyone that TRULY KNOWS HOW TO CUT HAIR! At least I can take comfort in the fact that my hair grows back though, haha. I am glad I am having these bad haircut experiences now, so that when I go home I will be grateful for GOOD haircuts.
This past Sunday was amazing. It was Fast & Testimony meeting and for the first time since I have been here almost all the seats were filled. I felt prompted to bear my testimony on missionary work. As I was walking up to the pulpit I was filled with the spirit of God, and as I began to bear my testimony in Spanish I felt so close to my Savior, Jesus Christ. It felt like He was standing there as I looked into all the eyes of the people in front of me. It was hard for me to talk at first, because of the love I have for the people here … it is something I cannot describe. I began my testimony by saying that I will be forever grateful for the two sister missionaries that taught my father so that I could be here today. Those two missionaries changed my life forever … because of them I am physically and spiritually here today.  I love this gospel, because without it, I do not know where I would be in my life. My beliefs, my religion, and my family all contribute to the man I am today. There is something special about sharing spiritual experiences with people … it binds us for eternity.  I can't say it enough; I love my mission. I know God has a plan for me and my mission is the greatest gift I have ever received.
Les Amo,
Elder Vance

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Hopes of Glory

Happy New Year Everyone!!! I hope you all had a great last year and I look forward to hearing how things are going throughout this year. I also hope we all take some time to think of some things we need to work on in our lives.
I found out that I am staying HERE in Fairfield for another transfer! My address will be the same and I am so excited to have the opportunity to continue to teach the people here and to feel of the spirit they carry in their hearts for another month and a half. Elder Rollins is being transferred to Vallejo and it's hard to see him go. We have been working together for the last three months and he is so great. Looking back on our time together I only see the good stuff. All missionary companionships have their differences, but seeing us overcome those little things so that we could serve the people is what I love to look back on. As a companionship we have really grown so much and it seems like just when you start to work really well together one of you gets transferred; but I know he will be a blessing to the people in Vallejo. Elder Arredondo will be my new companion. He is a native Spanish speaker so I am excited to learn more about how to speak better Spanish! He has been out for about 20 months, so he is almost done with his mission. I am excited to work with him and get to know him better. Elder Tanner is leaving to go to Santa Rosa for his last transfer to train a new missionary before he goes home. It's sad to see him go as well, but Elder Noris is still here in Fairfield and he will be paired with a new elder (Elder Bittner), which should be fun.
Like many of you, during this past week I have been thinking a lot about where I used to be at this time last year in my life. I was getting ready to go to my second semester at BYU-I and was preparing to submit my mission papers. I was anxious to start another fun-filled semester, but I was also a lot different then. I think about those times and compare the person I was to the person I am now. I like to remember who I was because I can see how far I have come. Everyone has their own story, their own journey. I know that my journey would have been a lot different without this gospel, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and preparing to serve a full time mission. Now that I am here, time is going by waaay too fast and I am trying to cherish and learn from every moment.
I have grown to love The Book of Mormon because I have found answers to my problems and comfort from the pages of that great book. I love the story about a missionary in The Book of Mormon. His name is Aaron and he teaches the king of the land of Nephi (the father of Lamoni) about eternal life and repentance. In Alma 22:14 Aaron says, "And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king." I LOVE that scripture. It is only through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can be CLEAN and OVERCOME physical and spiritual death.
This past week had its highs and lows. On the high side, we were able to teach a lot of people during the week, but the low was definitely the food poisoning over the weekend. I felt SO sick as my body was rejecting the food I ate earlier that day. I had to stay close to the toilet and was in the bathroom in the middle of the night shivering. As my body was shaking, my stomach felt like it was being torn apart. I honestly felt like my body was shutting down. My whole body felt weak and I knelt down and said a prayer to my Heavenly Father; a plea of help to stop the pain in my stomach and my convulsions. I got this overwhelming sense of peace and the pain slowly subsided. My shaking came to a stop and I was able to get control of my body and crawl back into bed. I know Heavenly Father heard my prayer. I know He LIVES. He listens to us and is ALWAYS there for us. All we have to do is turn to Him, as He is literally our Father in heaven, and He loves us so much.

I look forward to hearing from you all and to see what happens this year in 2012!

Les Amo,

Elder Vance