Monday, November 16, 2015

"We're not expected to be perfect, but we are required to do all that we can."

Salut ma famille!!

 Well, my last companion, Elder Adjei, was taken by the assistants to go to Benin where he will have his final interview with Pres. Morin and then take his flight home to Ghana. I had a great time working with him, he was a great companion, we had a lot of fun and got a lot of work done, and he had shown me an excellent example as to how I should end my mission once I get there.
 My new companion came in on Wednesday, this has been one of the best weeks I've had since I've been in Bè-Kpota, one of our investigators named Fr. Eloge was baptized last Saturday. Elder Miyasaki and I have been eating very well since we've been living together, although, we ought to make a better budget. We've been doing our shopping in American-equivalent stores. My new companion is from Layton, Utah, his name is Elder Joseph, he is African-American, and he came into the mission with Elder Whitt. My new guy is really cool, we get along very well and we've been working great together so far. 

 Well, everything has seemed to be turning out for the better this past week. I've been making a lot of great friendships with ward members and investigators and I've been able to develop more Christ-like attributes that I've been striving really hard to acquire. 

 So, last Sunday, I finally had the opportunity to watch the morning and evening sessions of conference at church with the ward. I had a difficult time understanding what was being said because the speakers in the room weren't functioning very well. There was, however, one lesson in particular that I retained from what had been said by of the new Apostles. I forgot which one said this, but one of the Apostles said something that stuck out to me, that is, the fact that we need the constant, daily companionship of the Holy Ghost. We have been promised that if we heed and listen to the words of the prophets and continue living according to the principles and ordinances of the Gospel we will have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I know that we can be worthy to have His constant companionship as we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ along with His promises and His Atonement, as we apply the Atonement in our lives through sincere and daily repentance, as we live in accordance with the baptismal covenants that we've made and as we endure faithfully until the end by praying and reading scriptures personally and as a family, by going to church to renew our baptismal covenants, and by performing righteous works, rendering service, and keeping the commandments to the very best of our abilities. We're not expected to be perfect, but we are required to do all that we can (Moroni 10:32-33). I know that as we do so, the grace and mercy that come from the Atonement of Christ are sufficient to change our lives for the better, to enable us receive the forgiveness of our sins, to help us overcome our trials and our weakness, to enable us to improve ourselves and to eventually obtain perfection that will inevitably come to all those who willingly accept and do all that which had been previously said.

 There's a fantastic book that I've been reading called Believing Christ that I highly suggest that you read because it completely changed my perspective in many different aspects of my life that has helped me better understand the scriptures along with the Atonement and learn how to apply it in my life. I highly encourage you to read the book because is has also helped me learn about what is expected of me in order to receive perfection and it has given me hope in that I no longer worry about whether or not I'll receive Celestial Glory because I know that that it is completely and 100% obtainable thanks to the Atonement of Christ.

 I know this Church is true, I know that the fullness of the Gospel along with the authority of the Priesthood have been restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. Thanks to the Restoration, we have a sure knowledge of the true nature of God. He is our Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; however, He is different in that He is a perfect, glorified and resurrected being. I know that He knows exactly who we are and I know that He loves us with all His heart. Because He loves us, He sent His son Jesus Christ to the earth to suffer the price of our sins by performing the Atonement, by being lifted up upon the Cross, and then being resurrected so as to give all of His children the possibility to return to live in the presence once again. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and contains the fullness of the Gospel. I know that as we diligently study this book and put into practice that which is there written, we can know exactly everything that we need to do in order to obtain eternal life and that we may know for a surety that Joseph Smith was indeed a true prophet.
 I'm afraid I'm out of time, but I'd just like to let you all know that I love you so much and that I hope you had a wonderful week! Take great care of yourselves and of each other, continue doing great things, and I'll talk to you next week!

Love, your brother and son,
Elder Gonzales

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

"One year mark!"

 Every week, I try as diligently as I can to write a weekly letter to my Mission President. He has asked us as missionaries to write to him about two things: the highlight experience of the week along with our personal progress. This time was a little different from the usual for on 31 Oct. 2015, I have accomplished my official "one year mark" in the mission. The following paragraph is what I wrote:

"This mission has been one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding experiences that I've had in my entire life. I'm so very grateful for the opportunity that the Lord has granted unto me to have one more year to serve Him and to make difference in the lives of His children here in Togo. I've become a better man since I've been here and I see myself becoming an even more effective missionary in the Lord's hands with every passing day. I've developed so many qualities, talents, and abilities that I know I would not have otherwise received unless I went on this mission. Despite the many difficulties and trials that I have to overcome every single day, I've genuinely love this mission for it has brought unto me along with all those with whom I've interacted many wonderful blessings and life changes. There are three things for which I'm particularly grateful which consist of the new-found doctrinal knowledge and reinforced testimony that I've obtained, the many people whom I've been able to meet and render service to, along with the many friendships that I've been able to make since I've been here."
As for my new companion, he's really great and we've been working very well since we've been together. He's extremely tired (only having one more month to go before he goes home), but he's really patient, super kind, considerate, respectful, and is always willing to serve and help others. It's crazy to think that my guy is getting ready to go home.
  The start of the first week was really rough due to trying to get comfortable with the way of which my companion teaches along with getting to know all our investigators, recent converts and members. I had a hard time having charity towards the people in my secteur because I'm not always treated with a lot of respect, but thanks to a lot of prayer I've been able to develop a stronger love for all those who are around me. The secteur that we work in is filled with members along with a ton of non-active members, all of which we see on a day to day basis. There is a vast multitude of people here, a lot more numerous than that of the other secteurs that I've worked in. I particularly appreciate the members in my ward (yes, I'm in a ward) because there are very kind, they love the missionaries, they interact with us a lot, for the most part they are making a great effort to magnify their callings, and we receive a lot of help from their part which has been a fantastic change from Kégué. The new calling has been quite a neat experience thus far and has put me in a position to be an example, which has helped me to become a better person and leader, which has made me more courageous and bold, and to have more opportunities to serve others which has been really great.
 Even though it takes thirty minutes to walk there and then thrity minutes to walk back every day, our secteur is filled with members who live amongst one another and interact and colaborate with each other far better than any other ward that I've seen since I've been on the mission. The members are superb in that they get along and they do everything they can to get us contacts and they work with us very frequently and whenever they are avaible. This is by far the best ward I've ever been in and I thoroughly enjoy interacting and working with the members.
Great news!!! Bro. Frank and his entire family have been baptized!!!!
 The baptism of this Nigerian family was an excellent experience and I'm grateful to have been able to attend. I actually almost was not able to go. I asked the assistant, who acutally happens to be Elder Dioulo (my trainer), if I could attend and he said no because it wasn't in my zone. However, I sent a text to our Mission President, asking if I could attend and he authorized me to go to the baptism the day the service took place. I won't lie, it was quite the scramble.

 Well, Elder Tapusoa told me that I should be the one to baptize the family because he was going to confirm them as members the next day. Although their baptisms weren't by any means the most graceful due to their fear of water and seeing that they don't know how to swim, it was a great experiece nonetheless. By the looks on the faces of Bro. Frank and his wife Sr. Carol, I could tell that they looked slightly concerned due to what I felt to be doubt, but the fact of the matter is that no one is perfectly ready to be baptized (particularly those who are baptized into a church whose members only speak Evé and French).
Fortuneately, the family will be moving to Ghana where the members speak English sometime next month and so they'll finally be able to hear what the Church is all about with their own ears and comprehension.
They've made what I felt to be a courageous decission due to their current situation; however, I know that they will be blessed for the great amount of trust and faith that they had demonstrated unto the Lord. I sincerelly hope that they will remain faithful, strong and active in the Church so that they may one day be able to go to the temple so as to be sealed as a family for time and all eternity. Please do me big a favor and remember this family in your prayers.
 At times I dream of home, perhaps more often than I should, but my mind is steadily becoming more fixed on my missionary purpose. I have one more year left of this and it will all be said and done sooner than we think. My prayer is that I will be able to conquer my weakness and consecrate the remaining half of my mission in rendering diligent and dedicated service with a genuine desire to teach, invite and encourage others to come unto Christ  with more enthusiame and out of the goodness of my heart. Charity has been a difficult attribute that I've been constantly trying to improve due to the way that I'm frequently treated; however, I've become a lot more patient and loving than I've ever been in my entire life since I've been here and I have the Lord to thank for that.
 Though my course has not yet been accomplished, I feel as if I've had a mighty change of mind and heart since I've been in the mission.

  I know that our Heavenly Father lives and that He loves and knows each and every one of us. He's given us weakness so that we may learn from our mistakes and then rely on and turn to Him so that we can become strong (Alma 38:5, Ether 12:27). Because of Heavenly Father loves us, he sent to us a Savoir through which, thanks to His infinate Atonement, we may receive the forgiveness of our sins through sinere repentance, the strength we need to overcome our weakness, and a way by which we all may return to live in His presence (John 3:16-17, 1 John 4:9-10, Alma 7:11-13,14-16, Moroni 10:32-33).
I sincerely appreciate the many wonderful compliments and counsel that you've given to me along with the news feed on what has been happening back at home. I truly apprecaite the heed and diligence that you've made in following the words of the prophet, apostles, the seventy along with the other auxillaries leaders of the church. I know that if you continue to do so, you will be sincerelly blessed and you will be able to improve yourself in every aspect of your life more than you've ever been able to do so before (Mosiah 2:41).   

 I'm afraid it's time for me to go. I love you all so very much and I hope that you've had a wonderful week! Take good care of each other, keep making good choices and keep on doing that which is right.

Elder Gonzales
P.S. No joke though, I'm living on prayers over here.