Thursday, March 28, 2013

We Are Here

This past week was so great … we had an apostle come to our mission! There is such a power that comes with the apostolic calling. Elder Quinton L. Cook came and spoke to our entire mission. He told us that, "this is a time when the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ is going to be done like it has never been done before. We knew before this life that Jesus Christ would come and atone for our sins. It is our responsibility to open our mouths and spread the light of Christ." He talked about the flood of new missionaries that are beginning missionary service due to the age change, and I felt so proud to have a sister in the MTC right now! It is great to hear that my sister is having wonderful spiritual experiences and loving her mission. I know that she is going to change France one person at a time. Before Elder Cook ended his remarks, he left a blessing on all of us and upon the Santa Rosa, California mission. He said, "You will come to understand this is not only the most important thing you can do for yourself, but also for your family and friends. You will be blessed for the rest of your life because you decided to serve a mission. You are here right now for a specific reason. I promise you that as you serve diligently here, your families and friends will be blessed and strengthened." 

I know that I am here because I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and I know He has sent me to Santa Rosa, California to invite and help others to come unto Him. We are here as missionaries to bless the lives and homes of those that will receive us. This truly is an exciting time to be a missionary. I love being a servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ. There is nothing greater I can be doing with my life right now. Thank you all for your emails and continued support! I miss you all!

Los Quiero,

Elder Vance

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Tender Touch

Last week was both a good and tough week. The mission department visited our mission and trained us on some new ways we can INVITE and HELP others come unto Christ. It was hard for me and Elder Mahoney to apply the things we learned because, after doing missionary work a certain way for 19 months, it is tough to change! haha! But as we applied some of these new ways that we can bless families and their homes, our missionary work has changed completely. We feel the power that comes from really understanding our purpose and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

During our preparation day last week Elder Mahoney and I had the chance to play tennis with President Alba. He can smack the ball pretty good, and it took me a bit to get back into it, but my love and passion for tennis came roaring back by the time we were finished. It was a really fun time and great to hit the ball again … and great to spend some casual time with President Alba … love him!

Saturday was tough for us as we walked and talked to 30-40 people and it seemed like no one wanted to listen or invite us into their homes. It really weighed me down and it seemed like my faith was running on fumes by the end of the day. We continued onward and prayed throughout the day for divine help. We ate at a less active member’s home and were exhausted after a tough day. A man there named Steve was telling us stories over the dinner table. He cracked us up! He made us laugh soo hard from his stories about a lady trying to tell him he needed to spray down the ceiling with bleach at his work. In his rough voice he said, "If I did that my clothes and hair would be white!" It truly lifted our spirits and I am grateful for that tender mercy of the Lord. He told us, "You guys, you know what, you are so great." He has been less active for 20 years, but his perception of what Mormons really are has completely changed. We have served him and helped him come closer to the Savior, but that night he really helped us. We love Steve and his desire to come back has greatly increased. Helping someone who has been less active come back carries the same amount of joy as having a baptism. I love missionary work. The days are hard but I feel the hand of the Lord is present in our lives. He gives us tender mercies because He loves us. I love being a servant of the Lord. Thank you all for the letters and emails and thank you for your prayers. 

Te Quiero,

Elder Vance

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Storm

Elder Mahoney and I continue to love serving here in Santa Rosa in the Brush Creek ward. Things are going great! Matt came to church again and is excited about his baptism on the 23rd of March. I love being here and I love these people. I have only been here for about three weeks, but I feel like I have known them for my entire life. I know that at one time before this earthly life we all knew each other.
I had some challenges and trials last week, but I know that the Lord helped me through them. I know that it is through trials and challenges that we have the opportunity to grow. This past week, during one of my prayers with Elder Mahoney, I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to send us "the storm" … to give us some trials and challenges. Well, let me tell you, they surely came. Two days later I went on an exchange with Elder Farnsworth about an hour north of Santa Rosa to a place called Ukiah. We had a great night as we taught two amazing people, and everything was going smoothly, but during that night I woke up feeling terribly sick in my stomach. I went to the bathroom and I was up every half hour the rest of the night going to the bathroom and/or throwing up. It was one of the worst and most painful nights of my life. My body was drained of fluids and I couldn't keep anything down. I remember about a year ago I got really bad food poisoning and a similar thing happened, but this was ten times worse. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor, shaking, and just praying throughout the night to my Heavenly Father. The pain never completely went away, but I did feel comforted and I was given the strength to endure it.  I received a priesthood blessing the following morning and stayed in bed for most of the day. I was picked up by my companion and taken to a member’s home here in Santa Rosa, where I rested the next day as well. Heavenly Father sent me a challenge … he sent me a storm this past week to test me. That experience really helped me understand that this life isn't supposed to be easy … that it is truly is a test of our faith. We need to be tested and we need to have things thrown at us so that we can progress. Sister Alba invited all of us to do that; to pray for "the storms" and go through the storms Heavenly Father gives us or allows us to experience so that we can come out of them with an even greater amount of faith. I have begun to understand that these "storms" are blessings, even if they don't seem like them at the time. Even though they seem like the worst things that can happen to us, they are blessings because they give us opportunities to grow. I know that even during the storms, when we feel like no one else knows our pain, there is someone that truly does. His name is Jesus Christ. I know He felt my pain that night when I was writhing on the floor and aching with pain from head to toe. I know that He has suffered my pains and afflictions. That is why I love him so dearly, because He knows me and He knows everyone and what we go through every day.
I was reading in 1 Nephi 18 one of those nights I was recovering because I couldn't sleep very well. Nephi and his family are on the ship during their journey to the promised land (the Americas). His brothers tie him up because they become upset with him and hard hearted. The Lord sends the storm and Nephi is tied to the mast of the ship for four days out in the storm and his brothers would not let him loose. But Nephi, being full of faith says;
16 Nevertheless, I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.
What amazing faith! He did praise God even through his afflictions and pains. I know that Jesus Christ lives and that God, our Eternal Father lives. I love you all and I invite you all to praise God through the storms that life throws at you. Go forward in faith, always believing.
Los Quiero Mucho,
Elder Vance
p.s. I am now able to communicate with friends and family via email, so I encourage you to send me a message at my missionary email address:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tears Streaming

This past week was so amazing. Elder Mahoney and I continue to get along super well and Matt came to church again! He is continuing to progress towards his baptismal date on March 23! He is changing every day, in fact, he even fasted on this past Fast Sunday! I love Matt so much because when we teach him about a certain commandment he is so willing to keep it. On Sunday, while he was fasting, he said, "I gave up alcohol, coffee, chewing tobacco, my tea, AND FOOD! haha!" He has such a humble and sincere heart and we love teaching him. On March 23rd an apostle is also coming to our mission. We still don't know who it will be yet, but we are excited to have him come and, hopefully, he can even make it to Matt's baptism, which would be such a cool experience.  I love being here in the Brush Creek ward ... the members are so willing to help us find more people to teach. 
Last week I was lying in bed and pondering my mission. Tears of joy filled my eyes as I thought about the people I have been able to teach and help come unto Christ over the past 19 months. The spirit was so strong and the moments were so vivid in my mind. While I was thinking about the experiences that have shaped my mission into what it has become for me, I felt angels around me as I thought about "my" people whom I love so deeply and so dearly here. I gave thanks to my Heavenly Father during that experience because I knew He was reminding me and bringing me back to these deep memories that will make up the molecules of my eternity. It helped me realize how fast time goes on a mission, and it helped me recommit to giving it all I have, to leave every drop of sweat here in the mission field. I love being a missionary. There is a special joy that comes from sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone. No matter where they are ... on the street, in a home, by a dumpster, or in a car ... they are all my brothers and sisters. These tears of joy came from the love I have for them, the joy there is in serving them and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that this is the Lord's work. Thank you all for your continual love and support. Everyone needs to serve a mission!
Los Quiero Mucho,
Elder Vance