Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Be careful what you fast and pray for!"

Dear Family:
 This was a very challenging week and I'm amazed and grateful to the Lord for having been able to overcome it.
  I tell you what though, if you fast in order to become more patient, the Lord will sure let you have it. So be careful for what you fast and pray for!

 Well, I'm not exactly sure what triggered it, but sometime after we went to bed (on couch cushions that we had laid out onto the living room floor), I had fallen terribly sick to the point that couldn't sleep all night long because of it. I woke up feeling terribly weak, I had a pounding head ache, my back was incredibly sore, I had to urinate a lot (but thankfully I didn't have any diarrhea) and I was extremely hot yet super sensitive to the cold air blowing on us from the ceiling fans above us. I was worried that I had gotten an unexpectedly intense fever or I had gotten malaria. 

 All I did during the night was silently suffer as I tried to get comfortable and cool myself down by rolling a bottle filled with water that I had left in the fridge over my face, chest, stomach, sides and back. I was given a sheet that I'd use as a blanket, but I had to take it off from time to time in order to cool down even further from the cool breeze of the ceiling fan. It was a little frusturating whenever I'd take off the sheet because mosquitos or other insects would try to bite me and then the cool breeze felt colder than it actually was due to my fever. However, as I had been praying and fasting that I become more positive, grateful, and auspicious, I thankfully didn't compain, nor get upset, nor murmure throughout the night. I think I could consider that to be a win. Although, due to all that would take place to me, my capacity to endure to the end with patience had worn out by the end of the week.

 Eventually, I was able to get some rest, but it didn't last very long for I had woken back up before the alarm to get up turned on. It was extremely hard, but I managed to get up, get dressed, travel to and then attend our leadership meeting with all the other district and zone leaders in Bénin. The leadership meeting was great and had motivated me to press forward, to continue to do the best that I can and to serve more fully with all my heart, might, mind and strength before I return home. I had a little bit of a hard time staying awake at certain parts during, but I managed to pay attention nonetheless. I was hurting all morning long and the pain that I was experiencing continued until I returned to my apartment.

 Well, long story short, after the conclusion of the meeting, E. Moss and I along with all the other missionaries seperated ways and then returned back to our respective apartments. E. Moss called in a taxi driver, who had taken a while to get us and then it took a while before we were able to get back due to a long line of traffic on the main road (yeah, I know, go figure), but we managed to take a few back roads in order to gain some speed. On top of all this, once we got to my drop off spot, our companions took a while to meet up with us.

 The moment I returned back to my apartment, I was so exhausted that I took off my clothes down to my garments, sat underneath our ceiling fan as I drank water in order to cool down, and then I went straight to bed where I'd sleep for the next eighteen or so hours.

  The next day, my companion and I didn't go into the secteur in the morning, but we cleaned up the apartment instead since our mission president was coming over in the afternoon. I felt much better when I woke up, but I was still weak so I didn't want to do anything too physically exercing. Well, the President and his wife eventually came and E. Kabuya and I had our individual interviews with him, during which he gave me and my companion a blessing. After we had our interviews, my companion and I had an appointment at the Church with Fr. Ezekial whose questions we answered and with whom we read from the Book of Mormon. 

 The following day, we had weekly planning in the morning and then in the afternoon, we saw an investigator named Sr. Dorkas with whom we spoke about prayer and then a convert named Sr. Charlotte with whom we went over her genealogy that she's filled out very well in a small booklet called My Family. Afterwards, we went to the Church where we'd have our weekly coordination meeting with the other missionaries and our ward missionary leader.

 My health, by the way, had been regained in that I no longer suffered from my fever symptoms and pains; however, the day after I'd been healed which was today, I had some kind of throat infection unexpectedly appear out of nowhere. The infection consisted of sore, red lumps in the very back of my throat along with white bumps around the edges of the hole leading from the mouth to the throat which made swallowing very painful and talking very difficult. Can't get any more stressful than that, right? Well, I had successfully not complained and had simply called our mission president's wife who's a nurse to ask her what I should do. She told that me that she would schedule an appointment for me to go to the hostipal so that a doctor could take a look at it and then prescribe me some medication.

  My appointment had taken place this morning and the doctor who I had consulted explained to me what was happening to my throat and then prescribed certain medication for me to take that would help the infection to go away. Thankfully, the medication that she had prescribed me has worked very well and has gotten rid of the bumps and the swelling. 

 Well, everything that had happened to me during the week had finally broken my scale of tolerance, patience and longsuffering. We had other RVs, but they had fallen and so my companion and I went to the Church where we'd speak with Fr. Ezekial about missionary work and then polygamy (which is a very large problem here in Bénin) and then, from there, we'd return to the apartment. It was nice to be able to speak with Fr. Ezekial, in fact, it always is because he's filled with so much faith, joy, happiness and goodness dispite his extreme financial difficulties. He is a great means of happiness, comfort, peace and hope for me because I know that he'll make a great and very positive influence in the Church here in Calavi one day.

 In any case, we'd spoken with him about these two topics in function to what he'd explained to us. He shares our message with a lot of people and happily and willingly gives out brochures that we give to him, to his family, neighbors and friends. He has a strong desire to participate in missionary work by sharing this message with others (which he does so frequently) and by helping them to overcome their trials and problems through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Today, he had explained to us that he has friends who practice polygamy and so we had given him advice as to how he could help others receive this message so that they, too, could benefit from the same blessings as Fr. Ezekial. 

 Fr. Ezekial serves as a living testimony to me of that truthfulness of the Gospel and of the Atonement, for he has had a great and marvelous change of mind and of heart as the Apostle Paul and the entire quality of his life has changed for the better in every aspect and in every way.

 Sunday was a very great yet difficult day for me. It was great in that we had about twelve to fourteen investigators at Church (the most the we've had at one time come), we had attended an interview for Fr. Olivier with the Branch President concerning his reception of his patriarchal blessing, I had spoken with E. Moss and E. Colby (two American missionaries who've been very supportive to me and have been great friends) about what I could do to overcome a lot of non Christ-like attributes that I had been experiencing as of late and then we went with them and their companions to a family night in one of their secteurs. We stayed too long at the family night and so we weren't sure if we'd be able to find a taxi or a bus and so we had called our zone leaders if we could spend the night at their apartment. They said that that would be alright and so we spent the night over there and it was absolutely great! We played a lot of card games and had a lot of fun. However, today had been difficult in that I had gotten angry, frustureted, and irritated with my companion several times throughout the day for a lot of little things for which I should've been more patient. Well, I have my limits and they had been completely busted and broken to the ponit that I lost my composure, said some things that I shouldn't have, and then admitted to my companion that because of all that I've been going through that I didn't want to finish my mission and I just wanted to come home. 

 Well, I'm glad we had our sleep over, it really helped me to reduce the tension between me and my companion. Today, my companion and I openly spoke with each other again as we usually do when it comes down to resolving our problems and finding solutions. Well, we've managed to reconcile, as always, and found it within ourselves to forgive each other and now we're currently doing our best to keep moving forward as if nothing had happened. Thanks to the conversation that he and I had, along with the one I had with E. Moss and E. Colby, they had all encouraged me to keep moving forward, to keep my eye on the prize, to stay focused, to remain strong and to keep working as hard as I can. They had given me a lot of counsel, support, and advice that I had really taken into heart. I really hope to be able to do all that they'd encouraged me so that the last remaining three weeks be a blessing rather than a curse for me.

Well, my family, I love you all so very much and I so grateful for all the love and care that you've shown me, for all the support that you've given me, and for all the many faith-filled prayers that you've made on my behalf. I just want you to know that I'm doing the very best that I can every day and that I'm putting my full efforts to serve with all my heart, might, mind and stregnth. I know that I can and that I will complete this mission that has been assigned to me. I know that you and I can face and then overcome the challenges that have been placed before us. I know that as we rely on the Lord and on his grace and have faith and trust in him and in his promises that we'll be able to endure to the end and then have eternal life together in his celesital kingdom. 

 Stay strong and may you have a wonderful upcoming week (only three more left before I return home)!!
Love, your brother and son,
Elder Gonzales

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