Thursday, March 29, 2012

That Which Cannot Be Contained

Last week was simply amazing. I have been out for almost 8 months but it seems like time has just flown by. My mission really has changed me for the better and forever, and I really believe that ALL young men need to serve one. I am staying here in Davis for another transfer (at least another six weeks) and my new district is going to be awesome. Elder Lopez and I love the challenges and the good times as well. It seems like it rains here all the time these days, but we press on and enjoy the work with a few treats along the way … like Elotes! It is grilled corn on the cob jammed onto a stick then drowned in a limey mayonnaise sauce, rolled in crumbly cheese and sprinkled with lime juice and cayenne pepper. They smell terrible but taste soooo good! They are pretty fattening too but they are awesome. People laugh at us when we eat them because they just know how good they are! Good times!

In Chapter 7 of Alma, in The Book of Mormon, it says regarding baptism:
15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.
 16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.
On Sunday (March 25th) I had the opportunity to baptize Juan. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. More than witnessing his baptism with my eyes, it is what I felt that I will never forget. Elder Cordova from the Quorum of the Seventy recently spoke at the last stake conference here and said, "The difference between happiness and joy; is that joy comes through the spirit." In the scriptures it talks about groups of people feeling "exceedingly great joy." I can testify that is exactly what I felt this past week. It is something that I cannot do justice to if I were to put it into words. It's a feeling that was put into my heart and soul, and even if I tried, I could never deny the truth I felt. After church Juan and I dressed in white. I told him, "You will remember this day forever." With a smile he responded, "Yo se (I know)".  After a short program we entered the baptismal font. What a special moment that was for me as I performed the baptism, and baptized him in the name of our dear Heavenly Father, His son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. After the baptism I had this overwhelming feeling; not so much of happiness, but a feeling of joy. It is a feeling that I know can last more than for today or tomorrow, but forever. That moment took me back to my baptism when I was 8 years old, when I received a full remission of my sins and made my promise with my Heavenly Father to stay faithful forever. I remember my father baptized me and how that memory will be burned within me forever and ever.
The memory of Juan’s baptism is a sweet and tender one. I will never forget the feeling when he came out of the water, fully and completely clean from all of his sins, making a special promise with our Heavenly Father to keep His commandments and always remember Him. Our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us. We are HIS children. He wants us to return to Him once again. This is the way. As a missionary I am a representative of Jesus Christ, who is the gatekeeper to our eternal salvation. I love being a missionary and being able to feel of all of the joy that Heavenly Father has in store for me. It is truly a blessing to witness a baptism as a missionary. Some people think the harder you work the more baptisms you will see, but I disagree 100%. Yes, we need to work hard, but to be able to witness someone’s conversion is a gift granted by our Father above. Being able to witness this has strengthened my testimony and, in a sense, it has helped me become more fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and come closer to Him.  I am grateful every day for the rain we walk in, for the badge we wear, and for the people we get to see grow in their faith in Jesus Christ. These are the blessings of my life. It is Pure Joy; that is what I feel at this very moment because I am close to my Heavenly Father and I have the spirit of the Lord with me. I hope to continue to be able to see the blessings of His work and have more opportunities to see more baptisms throughout my mission. It is that which cannot be contained; my LOVE and JOY for my people.
Les Amo,
Elder Vance

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Till He Comes

"Envision the day you make it through the Lord's coming". Those were the words spoken by my inspired and dear mission president, President Bunker. I really let those words sink into my heart this past week. I thought about my life here on my mission and about some of the things I still need to change. I thought about those things I can never return to, because they were my past. I made a list of things I need to leave behind in my life and mind so that I can become a better person and missionary. I also made a list of things I want to gain from my mission/life and the areas I want to grow in my life. I made a similar list back when I was in the MTC. There are some similarities between my two lists but there are also new things that I need to do. I have found that my life has changed so much just over the last seven months or so. I have come to realize what is essentially important in my life and those things that have eternally importance; and how serving a mission was not only something that was really important to me but to all the people I will be in contact with for the rest of my life.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a devotional at the MTC and he said, "You cannot go back. When you were called to be a missionary it was forever. When you were asked to leave your transgressions behind it was forever. This is who you are. You are representatives of the Lord, Jesus Christ. You can never go back."
President Bunker also said, "God doesn't see you as your past, He sees your future." I love this quote because it's so true. We can CHANGE. Little by little, we can change if we look forward and if we are willing to turn to our Heavenly Father. If we look back and all we see is the guilt, sorrow, and pain, then we are going to walk that road of darkness. Through Christ we can be cleansed from all of our sins, and we are here on this earth to gain experience and to learn. As I was thinking about that I asked myself what I have to do to be prepared to meet Him. What is it that I have to do to prepare myself for the second coming of our Savior? The answer I found is that I need to KNOW Him; on a very real and personal level. It is through reading in the Bible and The Book of Mormon, and receiving answers through the Holy Ghost, that I have come to know that my Savior lives. We must all learn of Him and come unto Him; and put one foot in front of the other and look ahead to our own futures. The past is the past, but we can BECOME that FUTURE that our Heavenly Father sees in us if we choose to follow the example of Jesus Christ.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland also said, "To yearn to go back to a world that cannot be lived in now, to be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances and have only dismal views of the future, and to miss the here-and-now-and-tomorrow because we are so trapped in the there-and-then-and-yesterday (is a mistake). I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives."
Last week I got to witness that kind of faith in many, and see where their lives are headed because of that faith. Faith truly does bring blessings.
I did a baptismal interview for a couple (Evelyn and Marvin) that were baptized this past Saturday (you can see them with me in my green tie in the photo below). They are investigators that were being taught by a couple sister missionaries in my district. Evelyn has cancer and has been fight for her life. Her faith is just so strong and it was really neat to listen to their testimonies and feel the spirit that they both have. Their baptism was truly a special one that I won't ever forget. They are so humble and so strong and I have such a love for them.
Juan had his own baptismal interview last week and it was great! He is ready to be baptized on the 25th of March. It has been a special privilege to be part of his life. He has asked me to baptize him. What an honor it will be to help a child of God enter into the Kingdom of God. I am so proud and excited for this decision he has made to be baptized. I have a ticket for a front row seat to the greatest show that ever happens on this earth. I get to witness the faith of one of my brothers, and see it blossom and bloom as he reaches out and walks to the gate of his eternal salvation. I have seen Juan’s faith; and it has been a testament to me that by faithfully looking at our eternal importance and potential, and seeking more out of life, we ALL can prepare to meet our Savior, Jesus Christ when He comes again. I love my Savior. That is why I decided to serve a mission. On the hard days I think about why I am here, and it always comes back to Him and to the people I am helping bring unto Him. I am still very imperfect, but I know that this is the right path for me. I know these things are true with all my heart and soul and look forward to the day when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will come again.

Les Amo,

Elder Spencer Guy Vance

Friday, March 16, 2012

Stand Out

Last week was amazing. I had the opportunity to participate in a double mission conference. My mission (The Santa Rosa Mission) and The Oakland Mission came together near the Oakland Temple, and we had the unique opportunity to hear from an apostle of the Lord. Elder L. Tom Perry spoke to us and the spirit he brought as he walked into the room was overwhelming. He talked to us about the importance of this magnificent work here on the earth right now. With all the missionaries and things happening in politics, people want to know what we believe and why we believe it. It is our job to help people understand what we really believe and how we have seen the gospel bless our lives. Technology helps us do that, and people can even meet with missionaries just like me online these days ( One thing that really stuck out to me was when Elder Perry said, "You will STAND OUT in the world when you are close to the Lord." I really thought about that for a while. I realized that in my life I have stood out. It's not that I am perfect or a great person, but that I have tried to follow Jesus Christ in my life. I have stood out because my beliefs rise up to the Lord as the beliefs of the decaying world in which we live continue their downward slide. I was raised in a home where I was taught about His gospel and how to follow Him in my thoughts, words, and actions … and for that I am eternally grateful. I have been able to see the difference between the lives of those that follow the world and those that follow Jesus Christ. The closer we are to God, the farther we will distance ourselves from the evils of this world. I love that.

C.S. Lewis said, "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." I love that quote because when you STAND OUT to someone they don't always see the gospel of Jesus Christ, but they DO see everything else. They see the person you are through your words, actions, and deeds. People will always notice.

I will always remember those times in high school when people made fun of me for what I believed in and noticed that something was different about me. Right now I truly understand that it was because I have always had the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life, and that foundation has given me the light and the strength to keep going strong every day. I have often felt different from others and I guess I always have been. Again, this isn't because I have done great things in my life, it's simply because I have chosen to follow the example of my Savior, Jesus Christ. We can’t ever be afraid to let people know who we REALLY are.

This past week we were able to teach Juan and Veronica. We are still working with Veronica but Juan has his baptismal interview this Saturday.  We are so excited for him and for this decision he is making to be baptized on the 25th of March. His life has been changed and it is going to continue to change, forever. I feel like I have truly been an instrument in the hands of the Lord. There are people out there just like Juan searching and they are thirsting for the truth. I would like to invite all of you to STAND OUT so that someone notices you and your example, because I know it will help bring them closer to our Lord, Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and as we strive to become more like Him, we will be filled with light and happiness. The Lord needs people to stay close to Him and STAND OUT to others, and the world needs good people everywhere to stand up for what is good and true.

Les Amo,

Elder Vance 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Filling The Void

Every person is born with the light of Christ. Everyone has it and we all yearn to bask in it. With some people, we often see that over time that light can be dimmed, and dark voids can replace certain parts of that beautiful light. I think the hardest part about being a missionary is finding those "voids". We all have them in our lives ... some deeper and darker than others. But I know all of those voids can be filled with the light and power of Christ. I know that because I have seen it. As a missionary it's so crucial to be in tune with the Spirit so that you can know where those voids are in someone's life. It is through this gospel that we can maintain and grow that light of Christ within each and every one of us.
Last week I talked about finding Juan and inviting him to be baptized. He is 23 years old and has such a strong faith in Jesus Christ. This last week we also met, taught, and invited his older sister, Veronica, to be baptized. She accepted as well! They are both planning on being baptized on the same day, March 24th. They are both so great and have such a special spirit. We had a few lessons with them this past week and she even made us some Mexican food with REAL tortillas. They were sooo GOOD! They both came to church on Sunday and it was our testimony meeting. Members bore their own testimonies about how they had come to know that this gospel and church are true. It was such a powerful meeting and Juan and Veronica said, "We feel different here. There is something special here". After that we went into a classroom and taught them about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We taught them that through Christ we can be cleansed from sin, about having faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. When we were talking about baptism Veronica stopped, and with tears in her eyes said, "Before you came over, I had so many problems in my life. I was doing bad things and I didn't feel good about myself. But when you came over something felt so peaceful, it felt wonderful. I feel different now. Something filled me in my heart. I want to follow Christ and I want to be on this path." Her brother also said, "The moment you said the first prayer in our house, I felt peaceful. I felt uplifted by this feeling; by the Spirit." It was a great lesson. It is such a blessing to see how this gospel changes people, how it FILLS the voids of the children of God. I am merely the vessel carrying this light and this truth to bring people out of those dark places. There are so many that are trapped, fallen, or hanging over an abyss. But I know that this gospel can bring people out of those dark places. Not only have I seen it in the lives of the people here, but in my own life as well. I would not be here today without this gospel; it is not just a part of me, it's who I am … forever. I cannot deny the things I have felt throughout my life. I am here to serve others and to invite others to come unto Christ. HE IS THE LIGHT that penetrates all of the darkest of voids. I love this simple yet powerful scripture out of the New Testament, in John 12:46.
"I am come a LIGHT into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness."
At times I have walked the dreary road into darkness. But He has penetrated my sphere of darkness so that I could be free. Life is difficult and we all will fall, but light will always overcome the darkness. His hand has been there for me, and all I had to do was take it. Let Him do the same with you. He suffered and died for us so that we can free from sin. He suffered so that we don't have to … so we don't have to walk in darkness. Spread the light and love of Christ with all you come in contact with and you will be blessed. I know any void you have or feel in your life can be filled with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I appreciate and love having that knowledge and this gospel in my life, for I know it is true. You are all in my prayers, I love my mission, and I know that I am a son of God.
Les Amo,
Elder Vance

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Make The Turn

Last week was a great one. Elder Lopez continues to stoke my fire for my mission. He is such an example to me and he has a giant heart. I love him and I feel like the missionaries that come into the field now are so great. Last week I went to a Leadership Training meeting in Santa Rosa. One thing President Bunker said that really struck me was, “Ask yourself why someone is in your life. You are on your river of life. There are things we experience or people on the banks that sometimes we don't see. Stop and notice. Don't miss a thing." I loved that. Everyone around us is put on the river of our life for a reason. I have a testimony of that.

On a hot day last week, after sharing a lesson with a new contact, Elder Lopez and I went out knocking on doors. We were about to head to dinner, but there were a few doors left, so we agreed to finish knocking on them. We got to apartment #9 and knocked. A shirtless Hispanic man opened the door. I explained to him that we were missionaries and Elder Lopez talked about our message; about Jesus Christ. He paused and told us he wanted to go get a shirt and then let us in. His apartment was a mess, with bicycles, old food and junk all over. We found out his name is Juan. We began to talk to him about Jesus Christ and about our purpose as missionaries. He had a strong faith in Jesus Christ. I felt prompted to invite him to be baptized. I followed the prompting and said, "Seguira el ejemplo de Jesucristo y se bautizara por alguin que posea la autoridad del sacerdocio de Dios? Tendremos un servicio bautismal en el 17 de Marzo. Se prepara por esa fecha?" (Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized by someone that holds the priesthood authority of God? We will be having a baptismal date on March 17. Will you prepare to be baptized on that date?). The spirit filled the room and almost immediately after he said, "Si". He told us he wants to follow Jesus Christ and that he now feels something different when we come over. But that one word, "Si" could not have had more power and impact in my life. It is one of the best feelings in the world when an investigator commits to follow Jesus Christ and to be baptized by someone holding the proper priesthood authority of God. I love these experiences. They help me see all the things I have been given in this life and all the things that have helped me become a better person. As missionaries, we are the only ones that can do this marvelous work. I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of it.
I was reading Mosiah (chapter 7) in The Book of Mormon this past week. It talks about the TURN we need to make to receive freedom from bondage. In verses 29-33 it says:
 29 For behold, the Lord hath said: I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them.
 30 And again, he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the chaff thereof in the whirlwind; and the effect thereof is poison.
 31 And again he saith: If my people shall sow filthiness they shall reap the east wind, which bringeth immediate destruction.
 32 And now, behold, the promise of the Lord is fulfilled, and ye are smitten and afflicted.
 33 But if ye will TURN to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.

One of the greatest things I have learned on my mission is that the Lord is not going to bless people for transgressing. He just isn't going to do it. It is up to us to make that turn to the Lord and humble ourselves towards Him. As we do so, we can have real happiness in our lives and fill those spacious voids that at times Satan creates. I am a missionary. I help others TURN to God. My job isn't to MAKE them believe this gospel or this message, it is to invite them and help them SEE; see that they CAN turn to God and receive answers, joy and lasting happiness. We can be thrown off in our lives, but if we turn and focus on the straight and narrow path we can return to live in the presence of our Heavenly Father with our families after this life. I know this to be true. I love these people. There are my brothers and sisters and I invite you all to refocus and make the turn in your lives.
Les Amo Muchisimo,
Elder Vance