Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Calmed Soul

My last transfer begins today ... NUTS! Elder Mahoney and I are so excited that we are able to finish our missions together. I love serving with Elder Mahoney … he is so diligent and bold and we both work really well together. For the next transfer we will be training Elder Johansen to be the new assistant to take our position once we both leave in August. I actually served as a zone leader and lived with Elder Johansen in Napa. He is an awesome missionary and we are excited to tear it up as a trio for these next 6 weeks together! I have decided it is going to be the best transfer yet. Elder Mahoney and I have gone through too much to let up or give up. Miracles are happening here … we have so many families and investigators that are soo close! We know they will be part of the "101" in July. As of yesterday, we have 103 baptismal dates for the month of July in the Santa Rosa mission, so this next week we are going to try to pump that up and try to help more of our brothers and sisters commit to following the example of Jesus Christ and be baptized.

On my mission I have experienced hardships and trials. Sometimes it is discouraging to see the people I love so dearly decide not to follow Jesus Christ. I feel like the Lord tests us in this life to see if we will choose to come closer to Him and accept the strength and peace that comes from us relying on the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This past week was really a trial for me, as I just felt torn down and discouraged. The Adversary was pushing my buttons, telling me that I couldn't do it and I couldn't fulfill my potential. I remember praying that day and just saying, "Heavenly Father, help me”. It didn't come all at once, but after talking with my companion and focusing on our people, I was able to feel the spirit once again. Light entered into my day as I continued to choose to lean upon the Savior and trust in Him. I felt at peace with who I am and with my purpose here on my mission. I love this hymn we sang at church on Sunday called, “Where Can I Turn For Peace”, and I really felt comforted as we sang it.

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

I am so grateful to know where I can turn to find true and lasting peace. It is through the Savior, Jesus Christ. I know it is a peace that can only be obtained by acting on His loving invitation to "Come Follow Me". I testify that the Savior's arms of mercy are extended to each and every one of us and that we can never travel outside the bounds of His divine love. He will always be there and He will give us peace. I invite you all to take your first step of faith towards Him. I have experienced the peace of the Savior in my life and I know that it is real. I know that He knows us and our trials. He can calm our souls.

Los Quiero,

Elder Vance

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Earthly Father, Heavenly Father

It has been such a great week. Selena and Gabe both came to church and it was so wonderful to have them there and to sit with them. They already seem like members. They both want to be baptized, but they have to wait until they are married in November. They are faithfully reading from the Book of Mormon every night. They have told us that every night before bed they read and they feel like they can't put it down. There is a special promise in the Book of Mormon; that we will be filled with the Spirit of God when we read it and that it will draw us nearer to God than any other book. I know that I have seen that and felt that in my own life. I also have seen the light that has entered into Selena and Gabe's lives. It is such an amazing thing to see. Their questions about life and what their purpose is are being answered because they choose to listen to us, read, and pray. I know that anyone can receive answers from God and that He does live. I know He listens to us and that He is our Father in Heaven. 

This past Sunday was Father's Day, and I came across this scripture in the Book of Mormon: "The words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart." 
- Enos 1:3

How grateful I am for a father that has guided me and led me on the straight and narrow path that leads towards eternal life. I am grateful for his testimony of the Savior and for his knowledge of the gospel. I am grateful for his righteousness as he continues to be a worthy priesthood holder and faithful father to my family. I will always remember my father bringing us to church, helping us read the scriptures together as a family, and being there for me. He has taught me how to follow Jesus Christ in my life and for that I am grateful. Being the only son, I have looked up to my father so much. He has been my hero, protector, teacher, coach, and friend. I know he wants what is best for me and wants me to succeed in life. I know that the love he has for me is an extension of God's divine love for me. I know that by living the gospel of Jesus Christ I can experience true happiness forever. I know that because my dad has lived it and I have seen him live it. I am so grateful for my Heavenly Father who comforts me and helps me overcome my trials, and I know that both by earthly father and Heavenly Father are there for me, and I love them both dearly.

I want to be a faithful father in the future. I want to be like my earthly father and my Heavenly Father. I want to be an example to my children and help them understand that through the gospel of Jesus Christ they may experience pure joy in this life and in the life to come. I know that we are all God's children and, like our earthly fathers, God wants to hear from us. By not knowing who our Heavenly Father is it is impossible for us to know who we are. I talk with and see so many people who don't know who they are because they don't know who they come from. But we can find out who he is through prayer. It is through prayer that we can communicate with Him and he will listen to us. I know that He wants us all to return and live with Him again.

"Of all titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to deity, He has asked us to address him as FATHER." - Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

For all of you fathers and future fathers, watch this video … it is amazing!! Enjoy!

Los Quiero Mucho!

Elder Vance

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trust From Above

This past week they did a “mini mission” with the Santa Rosa Stake youth. We had two mini missionaries living with us for three days! It was a blast! Elder Mahoney and I had the opportunity to divide and conquer our area. We had “Elder Henderson” and “Elder Anderson” with us and they truly became brothers to us. The first morning, "Elder Anderson" and I went out contacting. The first lady we talked with was a lady I had talked with before, and at that time she had rejected us and told us to stop coming by because we would give her children cards with pictures of Jesus Christ on them as they were playing in the streets. But that morning she was out waiting for a ride and she seemed depressed. I felt impressed to go and talk with her again. Her name was Monica. We began to talk with her about how a relationship with Jesus Christ could help her overcome the trials she was going through. She struggled with knowing her purpose in life and what she was to do at this point in her life. She really opened up to us. The spirit touched her heart as she realized we were servants of the Lord, Jesus Christ. She wanted us to come by and teach her children. It was such a miracle and the next four people we talked with also asked us to come back. It was an amazing morning filled with miracles, not the least of which was that the young mini missionary I was with receiving his answer about going and serving a mission as a result of how strongly he felt the spirit that morning. His desire for missionary work grew as we found families to teach, taught investigators together, and invited our brothers and sister to be baptized. I felt as if the Lord knew that I needed to be with him for three days and he needed to be with me. It was such an uplifting experience for me and Elder Mahoney and I wanted them to stay with us! It was sad to see them go … a special bond was formed and created because of the spiritual experiences we had together. It was great and I felt trusted by the Lord.
Those few days really gave me an opportunity to stop and do a self-evaluation to see how I can improve as a servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ. I want to become more Christ-like and do all I can while I am here. I love recognizing my weaknesses so I can go to the Lord and improve. I feel the Lord is guiding me more than ever in what I say, how I act, and who I am. I know that I am going to have to rely on Him for the rest of my life. I feel like he is watching over me and protecting me. I want His trust forever … there is no better feeling than to know that you are trusted by the Lord with His sheep. I want to feed as many of them as I possibly can before I go home. At times it is hard to do the will of the Lord because of the natural man inside of each one of us, but I am willing to listen and to heed His council because I have seen blessings and miracles as I have been obedient. I truly love Him for all that He has done for me. I feel the Atonement working in me and changing me. I want to continue to become like Heavenly Father and to leave my “yesterday self” behind, and focus on how I can come closer to my Heavenly Father today. I love serving and being set apart from the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is absolutely nothing else that I could be doing right now that could substitute for this marvelous experience I am having. I want to be stretched and leave it all here. I love being here and love being trusted from above.
Los Quiero,
Elder Vance

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Walk For Him

What a great week! So many miracles are happening here in our mission. I had the opportunity this past week to baptize my brother, Mauricio. It was such a cool experience. The first time I was serving here in Santa Rosa (about 9 months ago), I was able to teach Mauricio a couple of times. He was searching for the truth … he wanted to know which of all the churches was true. I remember testifying to him and telling him that he could know through the power of the Holy Ghost if the things we were sharing with him are true. He was prepared by the Lord to receive the gospel. He grew up in Guatemala and all of his life he was searching and looking for direction. He knew that something was missing in his life, and by reading the Book of Mormon, praying, and coming to church he came to find out that this is the true gospel in all its fullness. So a couple weeks ago, I got a call from the sister missionaries telling me that he decided to be baptized, and they told me that he wanted me to perform the baptism. My heart swelled with joy as I heard that. You never know the effect you have on someone and how it can truly affect their lives forever. So this past Saturday, I baptized him. It was a powerful experience for both of us, and when he came out of the water he had a huge smile on his face. The spirit was so strong as we embraced. I know that God's power was made manifest as that sacred ordinance took place. It was a special moment for both of us. I know that I helped him enter through the gate which leads to eternal life. Tears filled his eyes as we stepped out of the baptismal font. I asked him, "How do you feel?" He paused and said with tears in his eyes, "I feel amazing. I feel like this huge weight has been lifted off of me." I then told him, "Never forget how you feel today. I know that Heavenly Father is proud of you." It was a moment I will remember forever.
I love being a servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ. I know that we walk for the Savior … it is because He cannot be here at this time that He sends his servants to help those He loves so much. There are so many people that deny and reject us, and there are many who do not believe. Serving a mission is not easy, but I know that the life of our Savior was no easy task to fulfill. He was rejected and persecuted for being who He proclaimed to be. He walked for miles and worked miracles among the people and yet they still denied Him. I know that everyone can choose to follow Him or not. His famous words to those He taught were "Come follow me". That is what we do as servants of Jesus Christ … we invite others to follow Him and become disciples by being baptized into His church. I know that the Savior lives. I know that He is going to return in His righteousness and glory. I know that this is the time for us to prepare to meet our Heavenly Father. By following in His footsteps, we can stand for righteousness and we can walk for him here on this beautiful Earth.
Los Quiero Mucho,
Elder Vance