Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Out of the MTC and currently in Togo!

Well, it has taken me 50 minutes with this terrible internet connection to get on myldsmail so I could write to you all. I'm in a computer pub, if you will, and I had to pay 1,500 CFA for ten hours worth of connection. Which is great, because that's approximately 3 US dollars.

  I'm currently in Togo and I have a French-speaking companion from Cote D'Ivoire (or Ivory Coast) named Elder Dioulo. Thankfully he speaks enough English to help me understand what he's saying when I don't know what he's saying, which is all the time.
 The French here is very hard to understand, but there's something I've learned while in the MTC: When a bird lands on your head, shew it away before it builds a nest. So, the moment a thought of discouragement arrives, I get rid of it from my mind right then and there. I'm really glad I picked up this trait right away because if I hadn't, there would be no way I'd be able to have the Spirit. And if I didn't have the Spirit, I couldn't learn and wouldn't be able to teach the little that I know in French.

 Speaking of teaching, I taught three people my first day basically right after I arrived. Teaching here is actually really great because the investigators understand me when I speak with the Spirit. By the way, contacting is not in anyway an issue because if we chose, we could easily talk to hundreds of people a day because there are thousands of people out and about doing their thing. It's also nice here because people listen to what we say and always want to learn more about the church.

 Before I left, I prayed to go on a mission where I'd have the most success; well, I sure got it. I'm so happy that I've been called to serve here in Benin. Despite being a run down, almost third-world country, this place is full of love, faith, joy, and moto's (motorcycles). Seriously though, thousands of moto's pass us by each day. It's pretty crazy. But even if I nearly get ran over by a moto every day, the work is wonderful. Don't get me wrong, the work is hard, but it sure brings me a great amount of joy.

 Everywhere I go, the children, and sometimes the adults, call me out and say, "Yovo! Yovo! Ca va / bonsoir?" Yovo, by the way, basically means "white man" in the Togonese language. The majority of people here have never seen a Hispanic American so people are always interested in meeting me. I really wish I knew how to make solid conversations because I'd love talk to and share the Gospel with even more people.

 Please keep praying for me so I can continue to have a good attitude and that I'll be able learn this language! If I can, I want to learn in two months time; however, it may end up taking three. Either way, I want to speak French in the shortest amount of time possible so I would genuinely appreciate some extra faith from you all.

I'm so glad that you are continuing to read the scriptures every night. Remember that it is so important to have family and personal study. It may not seem so at times, but I can promise you that reading the scriptures, pondering the messages and praying to know if it's true is absolutely critical to know the truth and to have the capacity to come unto Christ. I've restarted from the beginning in my French Book of Mormon and I'm to read it entirely before the end of my training which is three months time. So, with that in mind, I'll issue a challenge for you all to read the BofM cover to cover. I know that by doing so, it will help me and yourselves to become better missionaries and fellow disciples of Jesus Christ.

 If you're able, please do all that you can to help and serve others, especially non-members and the missionaries. It's so important to step out of our comfort zones just as Peter the Apostle stepped off the boat so he could walk on water to Christ. In the field, the greatest success we've ever had is when the members of the church helped us by teaching with us or giving us referrals. So please, will you render missionary work and do all you can to see to the needs and concerns of these people? We've all been given talents, so let us not bury the wonderful blessing of the Gospel like the frightened servant but unreservedly share the truths we know to be true with others. It is hard, but the more you do it, the easier it will become and it will bring others many wonderful blessings.

 Anyway, like I was saying, everything is going very well over here and I'm happy as can be. 
 I hope you know that I love you all so very much and you're in my prayers continually.
A la semaine prochaine,
Elder Gonzales

Friday, December 12, 2014

First ripped slacks!

 My first ripped slacks that tore while wrestling one of my zone leaders. Note to self: Don't wrestle in slacks, or at all because I'm a missionary and should not participate in contact-related sports. I figured out how to sew fairly well because of a couple other incidents so hopefully I'll be able to fix it.

 It is very hard for me to not be able to be there for you all to help our family in every way I could. However, I'm in the Lord's hands now, and tomorrow I fly out to Benin where I will begin the proselyting and serving portion of my mission.

 This scripture in Mosiah 2:41 describes three things: The Doctrine that God is our Heavenly Father, the Invitation to keep His commandments faithfully to the end and to remember that "these things are true", and the Promised Blessings that follow by doing so, which include "blessings in all things, both temporal and spiritual" and "they may dwell with God in a state of never ending happiness."

 I'll invite you all to read on your own Alma 50:20-23. These scriptures really pertain to the scripture in Mosiah. I also think that this scripture can really relate to us in our time of hardships. However, despite all that we have to suffer through, I know that as we do as these scriptures direct and remain faithful to the end that everything will be okay. In fact, more than "okay" because we'll be blessed in All things. The Lord is aware of us and will deliver us from our sorrows and pains. All we need to do is continue to rely on the Atonement and place these burdens on Him who suffered alongside us.
Indeed, we are blessed!

I love you all so very much,
Elder Gonzales

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"We have so much to be thankful for."

How blessed are we to live in the promised land. Never take what you have for granted. Based off of all that I've seen these past few weeks, we have so much to be grateful for.

Last week, when we went to the temple, I had the priviledge of being one of the missionary's escort while going through an Endowment session in French. It was such a great experience!

But oh man, did we celebrate Thanksgiving. We had an awesome breakfast which consisted of a crape, a huge chunk of pineapple, and eggs.

For lunch, we celebrated Thanksgiving and had mashed potatoes and gravy with a side of onions and green peppers as well as glazed carrots, which were fantastic, and grilled, boneless chicken. This was probably by far the best Thanksgiving meals I've ever had only because this was the best meal I've had since I've been here. We also had sugar cookies, a pack of icecream, and a slice of cake. Best enjoy this while I can because I probably won't be able to celebrate Thanksgiving next year.

 After lunch, we were able to watch the movie Meet the Mormons from the projector in the chapel. That movie was actually really great! If you guys have an opportunity to go see if, you really should go for it. This movie is a really great means in which the church can show what it is that we
truly worship. It portrays members throughout the world who are just normal people who love and serve God, Jesus Christ, their families and others.

As much as I've liked it here in the Ghana MTC, I'm also really grateful to finally be out of here in less than two weeks.

Will you please continue to pray for my and the other missionaries who are learning the language, that we may continue to have success in our labors and that we may have the strength to continue to press forward? Once I get to Benin, I'll have to say good-bye to English for a couple years and so a little extra help and faith will truly mean the world to me.

I'm so grateful to be out here, having left everything behind for a short while to serve God and His children in Africa.

 Je vous aime, ma famille! Je parlai avec vous semaine prochaine! Aussi, bien jour de reconnaisance!

 Avec amour, votre frère et fils,

 Elder Gonzales

I miss you all very much and I look forward to seeing you all again. But, before I do, I got a couple years of precious and sacred work to do.

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Still going very well"

Well, it's been difficult learning French and it has been pretty frustrating, but my district and I are making our way through. I've been able to speak and read in French really well, but hearing French from the people here and trying to respond when they talk to me is hard because I sometimes have a hard time understanding them due to their accents. But, everything else is still going very well and my district along with my companions help me out a lot.

Life is still going very well here in the MTC, I'm fed super well and I love the food; although, I am starting to miss American food a little bit. I get my clothes washed once a week (sometimes I have to wash my clothes in a bucket). We have PA (physical activity) time every day so I get to play soccer a lot with the African elders which is super fun and I'm acclimating to the humidity fairly well. I haven't gotten sick yet, which is awesome, but I did have a small cold for a couple days last week. Here's something really cool, I got to meet one of the Seventy sometime last week! I'm afraid I forgot his name but it was really neat to meet him and shake his hand.

 As a representative of Jesus Christ, I would encourage you all to continually keep praying and studying the scriptures as frequently as you are able. I know that God loves us and He cares for us very dearly. Never forget how much our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ loves you. Never lose hope and always have trust in Heavenly Father. I know this is a sacred work the Lord has for me to do. Despite how difficult its been, I know God will provide me a way to learn French so I can serve His children here in Africa.

Here are a few chapters in the Book of Mormon that I thought would be great for you all to read: 2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11 and 27.
Avec amour,
Elder Gonzales
P.S. Tell my friends on FB to send me an email or two.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

First P Day

It's only been a few days and me and the other U.S. elders are getting used to the heat; if fact, we actually are starting to like it. The MTC has AC in all the rooms and so it's nice to get some fresh, cool air every now and then, but we usually end up turning it off because we get really cold.

French is coming along really great; over the past few days I've been learning how to make casual conversation, how to pray, and how to teach/testify in French. I can really feel the Spirit working with me and the other elders who are also learning French because when I had to testify to one of our teachers to see how much I've learned so far, the Spirit brought to my rememberance of all sorts of things that I've read in the scriptures in the past. I wasn't even regularly studying the words I said and I was still able to speak the words clearly and with great pronounciation. Tell you what, the Spirit can do some pretty amazing things through us.

I went to the Accra Ghana Temple today and I was able to go through an Endowment session. It was really great, although, I kept dozing off during the session cause the French-speaking African Elders woke me up at 3:30 a.m. this morning as they were getting ready for the day. Usually the Elders get up around 5:00 a.m. before the sun rises at 6:00 a.m., but we were supposed to get up early (for the U.S. Elders) at 5:30 a.m. to go to the temple and come back for lunch, but the others got up extra early and decided to slam the door and yell just like they do every day. Its actually fairly tolerable (except when it's 3:30 in the morning), once you get to know them; besides, ever since I got over the jet lag, I don't even sleep in past 6:00 a.m. anymore.

Accra city is absolutely ridiculous! The place is jam packed with people! Hundreds of merchants stand in the middle of the street during traffic with huge baskets of merchandise on their heads selling said merch while hundreds of other people are walking everywhere else. And if you think Utah driving/traffic is bad, then you haven't seen the worst of it. There are definately cars here, and  everyone drives very aggressively. But despite all the craziness and the weird stares we white boys recieved constantly, we made it to the temple safe and sound and we had a great experience. We were also given three pairs of garments for free at the distribution center across the street from the temple which is SO NICE!!!

Well anyway, I just wanted to let you know that things are going so great over here and I absolutely love it. Learning French can be a bit frusturating at times, but it's all a part of the process. Me and the other six U.S. Elders, along with two African elders are in a study group named "Abinadi" and we are as cheerful and happy as can be. Well, I'm out of time so I've got to go.

Je vous aimez avec tout mon coeur et je prier pour vous tout les jours.

Take care and I hope things are going well for you guys!
Avec amour,
-Elder Gonzales

Friday, October 31, 2014

He made it!

 The journey to get here has been a long and arduous one, but its been really exciting all at the same time.
 The flight to London took forever, but I sat next to a cute French girl who can speak both French and English and I asked her if she could "help me" read Moroni 10:3-5 in Frech. We also read the "Missionary Purpose" in PMG page 1 in French. Talking to her though was great practice because she has never heard of the church and she didn't know what a missinonary was so I was able to sort of explain it all to her.
 While in the London airport, which was monsterously massive, we ended up meeting three other missionaries going to the same mission as us! The flight to Ghana from London was great!
 Once we got out of the plane, a blast of heat, humidity and smell came over me. It constantly smells like the Hogle Zoo, if there is no AC on I'm soaked in sweat in a matter of seconds, the air is really thick and so it's really hard to breathe, but despite it all, I absolutely love it here!
 But hey, I made it to Ghana safe and sound and I'm doing super great so don't even worry about me.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

There he goes!

He gave us all a hug and then took a deep breath, all the while not being able to contain the huge smile on his face. He gave a quick wave over the shoulder and walked towards his next spiritual adventure, as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.