Monday, May 22, 2017

When Life Knocks You on Your Back

Email written: 5/22/17

This week we were able to work all day everyday as my back was feeling better, but like the subject says, it was not easy. We were so excited to get back to the routine of finding but even with our best efforts, nothing happened. We kept getting what we started calling "almost miracles" Like for example we got 20 references from the church offices and other missionaries and NONE of them existed. We said "oh well" and kept going. Then we had a zone conference and the whole zone with president and his wife went out to share books and the majority were in our area! only 1 of the 14 was willing for us to pass by again. We are lost and we don´t really know where to go from here. The only thing that has given us hope is  Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21 "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." Obedience brings blessings, but sometimes we have to wait for them. We can´t give up even if no one wants to even look at us in the street. 

One of the reasons why we didn't want to give up was a street contact we did a few days ago. It was getting late, people were being very openly opposed to us and we were getting frustrated and everything. I said a prayer that was basically "we´re trying so hard and you know it. why has it been almost 3 weeks with nothing?" and then I saw a lady walking and I thought "You have nothing to lose, just do it" and we did. It was one of the most powerful contacts ever. She started crying and saying how hard life had gotten and how she needed something like this, and we could feel God´s love so strong in those few minutes. It made that hard day worth it.

Something that I have been thinking about all week was something that my uncle mentioned about the principle of agency. It´s our ability to choose and it´s the only thing God can't take away from us. Even if we do our best to help some one, in the end it´s on them. We can´t change some one´s mind, but we can do our best to make them feel the desires to change.

pic- from the balcony of the other elder´s apartment, I could see 3 of my areas (the far right Parque Avellaneda, in the middle is Nueva Pompeya, and the far left back Soldati)

-Elder Steele

Monday, May 15, 2017

This Week Took My Breath Away

Email written: 5/15/17

Literally. So to start last week, I slipped in the rain and fell right on my back (and got winded so I lost my breath for about 30 seconds) so the rest of the week was me trying not to hurt my back more. Luckily my companion had a home made heating pad, which he made out of sewing 2 socks together filled with rice and then we heat up in the microwave. Because I´m basically an expert in back pain already thanks to the mission, I knew kind of what to do (and not to do) so we took it slow this week. We still were able to leave and go out, but only to the appointments we had already set up since last week. It was frustrating because the whole zone is growing and finding more people to teach and baptize and we got stuck with nothing. As I was laying there, I was asking "Why? Why now? I just want to end well. I´m doing my best to stay focused on the mission and not think about the end. I´m working harder than ever before and there is so much to be done, but I have to stay in bed. Why has everything that could go wrong these past few weeks gone wrong?" and I didn't really get an answer for awhile. 

Then on Sunday, it was another week of people telling us they'd come to church and then not come and it was kind of sad to see almost no one in the gospel principles class. But at the same time I kept thinking "We've already committed this much to work outside the villa, why would we just give up?" and then I just felt good. I felt at peace that what we're doing is going to pay off, and even though I not might see it, the ward will, and that´s what´s important. Whether we have 10 or 0 baptisms, we've worked so hard and will continue, and some very valuable lessons have been learned, and will continue being learned.

Most of the time we focus on the destination or the end goal, like for example on a road trip from Utah to Canada. It was easy for me to only think about getting to Canada to take the cruise and enjoy the vacation that I was starting to not be able to appreciate all the points in between, from the amazing scenery to the conversations with my family and grandparents. At one point my grandpa even took a detour to have a more scenic drive, at first I got impatient then I realized the lesson that he was trying to teach. That's how life can end up, we can focus on the destination being heaven and we forget that we came here to get experience and to learn to prepare us for the destination, not just show up and get to the destination as quickly as possible.

I came here to baptize, that is my commission, but more than that it is to invite others to come unto Christ and that very much involves helping others on a journey of change and that's where the lessons are learned and the joy is felt. It has taken me 21 years to figure that out, that life is just made up of a bunch of experiences and how we enjoy them will determine how much we get out of life. We´re still going to work hard to do out part to baptize, but this week has given me peace in my efforts and I know that nothing is wasted.

Pics- Soccer, dinner, and the homemade heating pad

-Elder Steele

Monday, May 8, 2017

Count Your Blessings

Email written: 5/8/17

Well, at least we're alive (Don't worry Mom, nothing scary happened) that's about all we can say this week. This week was brutal. Elder Comp and I are staying together here in Pompeya and we were ready to keep working and see miracles. We were all set up to have 2 or 3 baptisms this week but they all fell through and then we lost every other investigator. We were so confused because we had been doing everything we were supposed to do following the counsels of President Smith along with talking to literally everyone, fasting, praying, and focusing on being obedient to make us worthy of miracles and in the end.... nothing.  Like for example, Franklin. The kid who by miracle showed up and is so ready for baptism. His parents had changed their minds so we made a plan, fasted and prepared so much. We even filled the baptismal font and set up as if we were going to have a baptism to show our faith and desires. We had the best lesson planned and when we showed up, that plan went out the window and it did not go how we planned. They said they want to wait a year to baptize Franklin and then we invited them to be baptized and they didn't give us a clear yes or no and it was so frustrating. I was frustrated because we had done everything to show God we were ready for a miracle, and to get nothing was really hard on us. On Saturday we went to the youth activity to teach a lesson and they asked me to give a spiritual thought (I was not in the mood to do it) then as I thought about what to share, the youth theme this year is James 1:5 which basically says that if we want to ask something from God, He will answer. That at first bugged me because we had been asking and we didn't receive but then I was reminded of the example of Christ found in matthew 26:39 and how even He was asking for something that he didn't receive. That made me realize something. It´s not that we're not going to see a miracle, it's that God has something a lot better and bigger planned for us and we'´re only going to get it if we keep up our efforts. Yesterday during testimony time, a few members gave incredible testimonies and the ward just seemed happier. Then one pointed out it was that they've all started reading the Book of Mormon as a family. One sister got up and was crying tears of gratitude for our challenge in having them read the Book of Mormon. While it's not technically what we were working for this week, it was rewarding to see that we are still doing good. 

Yesterday in Gospel Principles we talked about Fatih (in Spanish it´s Fe). One of the members made a joke because Fe on the periodic table is iron. That made me think a lot about how our faith can be. Iron is a metal, which means it´s strong and pretty hard to break, but at the same time it can be heated up and bent and twisted and reshaped. We need to be firm in our faith but also allow God to put us through the heat to purify and reshape us. We have no idea why last week was so discouraging, but we know something is going to change soon enough. 

Pics- My belt finally broke, and the inside of my agenda (to help keep me focused) 
-Elder Steele

Monday, May 1, 2017

What Storybook?

Email written: 5/1/17

This week started out as one of the greatest ever! Saturday we had interviews with President and it was an awesome interview. President Smith really helped me understand a lot of things and it was the best. This week we also had the new idea from President to leave every morning at 10 until lunch to focus on sharing the Book of Mormon and finding new people. We worked hard trusting that we would see miracles and they started to come. The ward is so excited in sharing the Book of Mormon and they are now so willing to help us (we're eating so much more now haha). We really do have the best members and bishop here. We have found a lot of people and we realized that we can start baptizing more and we were so pumped. On Friday we had the baptism interview of Franklin (the kid who just showed up and asked to be baptized) and things looked good. The baptism was at  5:00 and at 5:20 his family still didn't show up. We called and his dad said that they changed their minds. I was mad. The bishop was with us and he told us to stay calm and he called the ward mission leader to come in with us and the 4 of us made a plan of how we were going to teach and baptize not only Franklin, but the whole family.

Then just like they say "as one door closes another opens" a member who we helped come back to church showed up with her daughter and told us we need to teach her because she had just moved from Bolivia to study.
We started teaching but because we were so excited we kind of overwhelmed her and then we worried we blew that miracle too. Then on Sunday of the 7 investigators we were waiting for, none of them showed up and that was just another hit. I was frustrated and asked God "Why don´t I ever get the storybook ending. Why don´t things ever turn out" and then the question came to me "well, who's writing the book?" and that made me think a whole lot. I'm going to be honest, I don't know why a lot of things happen, but I realize I have to just trust and keep going so we can still achieve great things. 

Pics- making donuts and fried oreos

-Elder Steele

Monday, April 24, 2017

Way Up, I Feel Blessed

Email written: 4/24/17

This week started out as a learning one. We did divisions and the zone leaders were talking about how the whole zone could end up baptizing this week and we had 2 possibilities. We haven´t really taught them for their lack of time but they've come to church for the past 2 months. And we got permission from their parents and everything seemed good. Then as we realized that neither of them were ready, but we felt a lot of pressure to do everything possible to get them baptized. I kept feeling that we should wait but everyone else was telling us it was ok. I thought a lot and prayed a lot about what to do. 2 things helped me: this article which talks about sometimes the answers we get are just feelings of peace  and this talk which asks the question "which way do you face?" (in referring to if we try to please God or people first). We made the decision that we were going to wait, they both felt happier and we felt at peace. 

We still weren't 100% confident in our decision until Saturday morning. We were going to have an activity with the youth to go out and share the Book of Mormon, and as we were waiting a kid showed up asking about the other ward. He then saw the other Elders cleaning the baptismal font and asked what they were doing. He talked about how it´s where we do baptisms and he said he only got baptized by having water sprinkled on his head as a baby and asked if he could get baptized that very moment. He said he´d been coming to church for the past 4 months and really likes it. We figured he was from the other ward, but then he said where he lived... OUR AREA! We then talked to him about meeting his family and last night we met his mom and brother and they are an awesome family! Then the activity started and the youth gave out 25 copies of the Book of Mormon and now we have a lot of people to visit this week. On Sunday another member brought her friend for the 2nd time and we are going to start teaching her too. The bishop´s wife then asked us if we eat dinner and we said we can but no one ever gives us dinner. So then she said she put a new goal to serve every day
and said that every night we could pass by for a tupperware of food (the best part is that they live half a block from us). So now we have 4 great people to teach and a ward that loves us and is so excited about missionary work! 

Pics- we made zone shirts (zone Chacabuco + baptism = Chacabaps) 

-Elder Steele

Monday, April 17, 2017

Better Than An Easter Egg Hunt

Email written: 4/17/17

These past few days were just the greatest. So like I had talked about the miracle last week about finding Agustin in the street, he got baptized on Saturday! It was such an amazing moment, and the ward was so happy! The best part was Agustin, we can already start to see changes in his life. He is a lot happier and recently figured out better what he wants to do with his life. And the ward has been very supportive. It´s still hard to believe how great a miracle could happen. We knew we were working but we hadn't seen the results we wanted until recently. Our faith and patience were tested and all the work we put in, in part paid off. Now we just have to keep going! This Sunday after Agustin was confirmed, 3 young men received the Aaronic Priesthood. This made me think and remember about what happened 4 months ago. When Elder Howard and I started we had talked about putting goals towards baptizing priesthood and youth outside the villa. And we hadn't seen a lot of results until this Sunday. Agustin, and these 3 young men (who's family we had visited and invited back to church and they just started coming back) were us reaching our goal. And it was a great lesson to me about goal setting and work. 

This morning we had the opportunity to have a meeting with President Nelson and 3 other general authorities (Elders Texeira, Bragg and Packer) and it was incredible. Everyone and their wives spoke and there was so much I learned. Some of the things I really liked were how there was a focus on our premortal existence and how truly great each and every one of us is and the potential we have. They also talked about how to get wisdom we need experience and to get experience we have to act, and that has inspired me to keep working even harder to have these experiences that are waiting. President Nelson also encouraged us to do our family history work, but not just from familysearch but also in studying our patriarchal blessings and the Abrahamic Covenant and he said that as we learn more about who we are and where we come from our lives will change and in turn we will help change the lives of others. 

-Elder Steele

Monday, April 10, 2017

This is no April Fool's Joke

Email written: 4/10/17

This week after being built up spiritually after conference we were so ready to work. But as the week went on I was just exhausted. We had been walking around and talking to everyone non stop and even though we are so happy, it drained us. After lunch I was just like "Can I get a miracle today? Just something to give us more energy" So we set out to our first appointment, who didn't answer. We kept on and we felt impressed to talk to someone outside their house. About halfway in the contact I saw someone walking on the other side of the street and then recognized the hat. It was Agustin! He was our investigator in February who almost got baptized and then moved to Bolivia. He came back last week and he said he was ready to come back to church! I seriously wanted to cry I was so happy. And then on Thursday there was a nation wide strike so there was no public transportation and we had to walk everywhere and of course it was the day we had appointments all over the place, but then we realized the opportunity that we had to find basically everyone in their homes. So then we went to some old investigators and the member with us invited them to be baptized! The work is exploding here in Nueva Pompeya and it´s incredible to me because we haven´t really done anything different than before.
This week the senior couple missionaries told us they would come to inspect our apartment so we made extra sure to keep it clean and every time it got a little dirty I would stress out. There came to a point where I just said, "Forget it, there's not point in cleaning because we are going to make it dirty again" and then my companion said "That's silly. Just think of it like repentance. We always need to do it." and that really stuck with me (and not only to keep cleaning the apartment). We always need to repent and it is always a blessing to do it! 

-Elder Steele