Monday, February 29, 2016

Baptisms here are usually never stressful, however...



Dear Family:

 Hello everyone! I'm glad to hear that all is going well over there for you.

 Baptisms here are usually never stressful because everything works out the way that they should, even if the services start about thirty minutes to an hour late. The baptism of Sr. Terrez, however, was the most frustrating yet. First of all, the baptismal font wouldn't fill up with water due to a problem with the pump. We went to the church earlier in the day to fill up the font with water so that when we came back it would be filled. The font was being filled as we were leaving; however, shortly after we left, the water stopped coming out.

When we arrived to the church and started to set up everything in order to get the baptismal service started, we saw that the font was empty and that the water pressure pump stopped working.

The brother-in-law and sister of Sr. Terrez who brought her to the church with their vehicle started freaking out when we told them that the font wasn't able to be filled due to the lack of water pressure.

They began saying that we were the missionaries and that it was our responsibility to fix this problem and that we needed to do something about it. Quick pause in the story -- you must realize that the church here is still really undeveloped. In fact, the church has only been here for about ten or so years. That being said, the responsibility of organizing things that should be organized by those who have the calling to do so sometimes doesn't happen the way that it should.

In any case, everyone looked to me in order to figure out what to do. I ended up calling two missionaries in my zone who thankfully had a baptism on the same and at the same time. I asked them to keep the church doors open and to keep the baptismal font filled so that we could hold the baptismal service there. Fortunately, the other missionaries were still there and had not yet emptied the font. I told Sr. Terrez, who was also a bit unhappy, along with her siblings that we would be going to the Souzza Chapel in order to hold her baptism over there. They collaborated without question and we split up so that we, the missionaries, along with a few kids who came to the baptism could take a taxi to get there.

We ended up taking two taxis to get there; however, the only problem was that I nor anyone else with us knew how to get to the Souzza Chapel. I called the other missionaries who would explain to me that they would meet us at big hotel not too far away from the chapel in order to show us the rest of the way. Addresses here don't really exist which is why land marks with which many people are familiar such as the hotel are used as a means of getting from place to place. However, as we made our way to the hotel, our driver got lost and we ended up driving all over the place until we finally found it. Once we got to the front of the hotel, the taxi man threw a fit about having had to drive so far in order to find the hotel and then kicked us out of his vehicle by refusing to take us any further. 

Thankfully, the other missionaries, as promised, we there and waiting for us. Those who were in my taxi and I along with the other missionaries were able to hitch a ride in the other taxi that was containing the rest of our group to take us the rest of the way there.

When we arrived, the first counselor in the Bishopric named Fr. Thomas along with the brother-in-law, who got there before we did, came to me demanding to know who was going to baptize Sr. Terrez along with what we were going to do to start. I was on the verge of bursting out due to my frustration, but I didn't and remained calm. I told Fr. Thomas that as a member of the bishopric, he is the one to preside and to lead out the baptismal service. As for the brother-in-law, I invited him to baptize Sr. Terrez, but he refused and said that I can do it because he wasn't prepared. Due to how I was feeling, I really didn't feel like doing the baptism. I asked him if he thought that I was prepared and he said yes because I'm a missionary and that I'm always prepared for these kind of things. So I simply asked Sr. Terrez herself who she wanted to baptize her. She ended up picking me to baptize her anyway and so I decided to get my act together, to remain calm and to just do it.

Once all that was taken care of, everything started going a lot more smoothly. It took a couple hours to get to this point, but the service went out as planned, Sr. Terrez was able to be baptized, and we were all able to leave the chapel in peace.

Though I felt awful due to the turmoil of frustration and pride boiling within me throughout the course of this event, I could still feel the Holy Spirit supporting me and trying to help me overcome the emotions that I was experiencing.   

 Though this mission may be easier in certain aspects and considered to be harder in others, the difficulties have been some of the hardest that I've had to overcome in my entire life. Though I can overcome everything I have to go through, this has been without a doubt the hardest thing I've ever done in my whole life.

As for your questions, as for dental care, I'm not even sure if that exists around here. I do know of a dentist office not too far from here. That's where the missionaries go when they have any serious problems with their teeth. The facility is really small, but it's decent enough; however, I pray and hope that I never have to go there for any reason in particular.

And as far as hygiene is concerned, there are boutiques all over the place selling soaps, lotion (the people love it), shampoos, cosmetics, perfumes, cologne, and so forth. The people love and always strive to be clean, but they live in a very dirty place so it doesn't last long. The children, on the other hand, play in the dirt all day long and are therefore very dirty. They especially love to jump on me, hug me, and put their dirt-lathered hands on me whenever I wear my clean, white, hand-washed, button-up shirts, which would be every day. As inconvenient as that can be, I don't really mind because I love the kids that I teach, they're super fun to play with and my shirts end up getting dirty from the dust in the air in about two days anyway.

 Well, I am pleased to announce that relations between E. Joseph and I have improved much better than before and we've actually started to become really good friends. It's not that we weren't before, but we've started to become what I would consider to be true, genuine friends. I'm not sure what kind of change took place within him, but it seems like a mighty one has taken place within his heart because I've noticed that he's been making an actually noticeable effort to speak with me more and to treat me a lot better than he had before. A lot of prayers have been answered within these past couple weeks and I hope and pray that we'll continue to become even better friends.

 It's seems that the Lord not only has a work and a plan in store for those we teach but for us personally as well.

 Life has been improving immensely since relations have improved and I've become happier and more relaxed than I've been for quite some time. Nothing really seems to bother me anymore and I feel at ease and at peace.

 E. Joseph, E. Atherton and I have decided to eat together this upcoming transfer which will be great because I'll be able to eat much better than I have for the past month.

 Well, my family, I'm all out time. I love you all so much, you're in my prayers, thank you for keeping me in yours, and I hope that you have a most wonderful, upcoming week!! 
Elder Gonzales

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Never, ever take movie theaters (or anything) for granted!"

Dear Family:
 Great news!!! I've not been transferred, but I received a new companion!!!!!
I've not made mention of what has been happening between my last companion and I in an attempt to focus on better things and to be more positive, but I'll just tell you now that despite all the baptismal success that we've had, he was the laziest and least diligent missionary with whom I've served thus far.
  I am, however, grateful that we were, at least able to get the vast majority of our work effectively and sufficiently done. I'm also thankful that, despite his laziness, he and I were able to effectively teach and work together and we were able to develop a great relationship with our investigators and recent converts; which, I suppose, is all that really matters in the long run.
  I have, though, learned many important lessons while working with him. Some of which consist of the following: never judge nor worry about what others are doing; just focus on what you're doing and make sure that you do what you know to be right; charity is imperative to a happy life and unconditional love is necessary to have in order to get along with others with different perspectives and so forth. At least good things have been the result of working with him in the end.

 Wow, all sorts of awesome things have been taking place over here as of late!!

 The Lord is filled with goodness and has been exceedingly generous to me in granting unto me a countless amount of tender mercies through out the entirety of my mission. Not only that, but He has kept His promise made to me through Bishop Roberts when he conferred upon me the Melchizedek Priesthood. I was promised that while on my mission that every worry that I would ever have would been taken care of by the Lord. It has been a very wondrous and reassuring blessing in which I've learned to believe with all my heart, for the Lord has made manifest this blessing more times that I could count.

 Well, so far my new companion is quite an interesting person. He is patient, adaptive, easy to get along with, very diligent, ridiculously motivated, appreciates hard work, has a desire to do all that is required of him, is excessively clean (far cleaner than any missionary I've ever meet), and respectful.
  It's nice having such a wonderful change -- a clean apartment along with a diligent companion. He's also very respectful and willing to do everything that's required of him. Oh, how I love answered prayers.

 The district that I am now in, consists of Elder Atherton from Utah and his companion Elder Joseph (my old companion) along with my new guy named Elder Ndibu from Congo, Ninchasa and then me. In any case, my guy and I have been doing what we need to be doing and it's been great. Although, it is somewhat difficult to catch up to the pace that I've been wanting to run at, after having been coasting by for so long. It has been a bit of a spiritual work out, but that's exactly what I've been praying and hoping for so it all works out for me.
 Prayers on my behalf to overcome the tiredness that I've experienced this past week would be much appreciated. I want to be able to get through this mission at full speed without being held back. If my tiredness increases within the upcoming months, I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will be with me so that my integrity and will power will be strong enough to overcome it. The things that motivate and push me to do my best to do what I need to do from day to day are my investigators and recent coverts. I couldn't help them if I wasn't willing to help myself by doing what I teach others to do in order to help them come unto Christ and be saved.
Productivity is back up to speed! I've been able to do companionship study and leave to the secateur on time every day and it's been absolutely fantastic!!
 In any case, all is going extremely well, investigators are progressing, recent converts are doing great and have been progressing more and better than ever and I am at last content and happy with all that I've been able to accomplish along with all that I'm able to now do.  
 Family, may I be so bold as to exhort you with every thing I got to never, ever take movie theaters for granted!!! Despite how expensive it can be, its completely worth it!
 There are no theaters, or cinemas as they are called in French over here; however, the majority of the people in this part of the city have TVs. The people here have movie nights from time to time where large groups of people gather together along side of the road and watch a movie set up either on a TV or a projector screen. The father of my recent convert Sr. Nicole installed a projector screen made from a large slab of white painted wood posted into the ground in the courtyard situated in front of their house and that of their neighbor's. There are long benches positioned before the screen made of cement, on which movie viewers sit.
 Actually, we should strive to never take anything for granted, for we have been given more than we can possibly imagine! Although, let this serve as a warning and an invitation to us all to be ready and willing to act by rendering service at every given moment and opportunity, by magnifying our callings to the best of our abilities, by wisely spending our time and consecrating as much of it as we can to the Lord, by setting time apart for the temple, family and friends, and by realizing that we will be held accountable for the works that we will have accomplished or failed to do so at the judgment bar of Christ. Let us all remember that "to whom much is given, much is required" (I forgot the citation).
 I've learned many things as a zone leader within the past four and a half months of my mission, especially within the past week.

  I'm distraught to report that during our last zone meeting, there were Elders who are new and old in the zone that literally challenged everything that my companion and I were teaching by asking us ridiculous questions and by trying to provoke us so that we would negatively react to what they were saying. Never in my entire life have I seen such derogatory behavior. I was surprising calm at first due to having dealt with these kind of situations all throughout my mission; however, to have that actually directed towards me by people who are supposed to support me and be on my side, try to tear me down and make me look bad in front of the entire zone astounded me. There are many cultural differences that have yet to be overcome, but there are some in particular that the Elders from the surrounding countries have difficulty to maintain, which are pride and envy for leadership power. I've come to learn that the only reason why I was treated in such a way is because of where I'm from, because of who I am, and because I was chosen to be in this position and they were not. My companion has had much experience with these kinds of situations, seeing that he was, at one point of time, on their side of the spectrum; he was, therefore, able to quite cleverly handle the situation, which was quite impressive. My companion, to whom I will be forever grateful for this, supported me and confounded their words so that I could keep directing the meeting and do what was required of me. On top of that, and to my surprise, there were several sister African missionaries who stood up for me and told them to stop what they were doing and to listen to what I had to say so that they could learn what they needed to know in order to accomplish what our leaders have asked of us. They also told them that as missionaries, they should be supporting and sustaining their leaders rather than try to bring them down. As sucky as of an experience as the last zone meeting was, I learned many what-to-do's and what-not-to-do's during a zone meeting and that experience had shown me how great it's going to be to have a wife who will be courageous to stand up beside me in order to sustain me. The amount of support that I had withdrawn from them was astoundingly amazing.
 I thank you all so much for you prayers and for everything else that you do for me. Oh, speaking of which, I just received the package that you sent to me for Christmas! Thank you so much for that! I really appreciated the letters that you had written to me! They're the best part of the package! They were very encouraging and filled me with joy, faith, hope, and love. That being said, I'll be keeping them forever!

 Well, my family, duty calls! You're in my prayers and I love you all so much!!! Until next week, God bless you and I hope you all have a most wonderful week and that everything works out for your favor.     
Love, your brother and son,
Elder Gonzales