Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Elder Almen Thorpe - April 27, 2014

Hello family! 

The week went great! We had two of our investigators who have set the date for the tenth of May to be baptized, show up for church the other day! The best part is that they both stayed for the full three hours! Veronica and Antoine are brother and sister. The members did a great job in making them feel welcome and two of our members who are also brother and sister, have been asked to fellowship with Veronica and Antonio. They hit it off great. They all get along and the brother and sister that are members went and to pick up Veronica and Antonio for church. It was an amazing Sunday! Veronica is 18 and Antoine is 14. Their mom is Catholic but approves that both of them to be baptized. The great thing about this miracle is that Veronica and Antonio's older sister is married to a member. They both expressed that they want their brother-in-law to baptize them! Elder Wiedrich and I fasted for all five of our set investigators. They are all set for sometime in May. It feels like a miracle that these two came to church and are ready to enter into the waters of baptism. 

We also had a miracle in finding a lady sitting down on a log with bags of food she was carrying while taking a rest. It was no accident that we ran into her. She and her husband used to have missionary discussion's. It's just her boy and her husband that live at home. She told us that even though she is Catholic she doesn't feel like the Catholic church is for her. As soon as she said this my companion and I looked at each other with astonishment! She said "I only go to the Catholic church on Sunday because if I don't go I feel guilty for not going, but still I don't feel it fits me". This all came from just asking her if she needed help carrying her groceries! We later helped her carry her bags back to her place and met her husband and 12 year old son who is, by the way, about 6 feet tall as a twelve year old. They want us to come back this week and visit with the family and get to know them. We are excited and feel they are ready to be taught more.

What a wonderful week!! Loved it and had a blast! Still going strong and no place like doing missionary work! Hope all is well and all of you are doing great! Miss you all. Please keep all our investigators in your prayers! Love you and I'll talk to you all on Mother's Day!! 

From Elder Thorpe 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sister Courtnee Wood - I Will Follow God's Game Plan

Sister Wood and Sister Bacalla and the Marlon Family. Basketball.....who would've thought!

Hey hey hey!
Happy Easter for all of those who are at home! I think it is still Easter there. So many of you probably wonder what Easter is like here! Well, it's nothing! Haha I am not joking. I have probably heard the word Easter maybe 4 times this last week. It is just not celebrated like it is back home. Well they have a catholic holiday that I am not too familiar with that has lasted this whole week and everything shuts down, but that's about it. Everyone here is remembering our Savior though, so I guess that is all that matters. Our sacrament meeting was really great yesterday and was all about our Savior. The Spirit was strong, my companion spoke and Sister Richards sang. It rocked. As far as Easter bunny type stuff, there is no such thing. I was just showing my companion pictures of my nephews at the easter egg hunt, and she had never seen anything like that in her life! So, we definitely snazz it up at home. Umm.... I was just randomly thinking this week and I thought you would all like to know that there is no real milk here, and no real cheese here. We used this powdered artificial milk stuff and I don't like it. Sister Richards and I just sit and talk about the taste of a cold glass of real milk and real cheese. Makes our mouth water. Anyways, there is that. The mission gives us calcium pills for the sisters to take, to make sure we get the nutrients, so no worries. 
This week kind of seemed to revolve around the theme of basketball. Which I am cool with. Now I will tell you why! First, a couple of weeks ago, we were at the church waiting for a fellowshipper and were watching the guys play ball. They weren't the regulars, they were actually tall and big and good. Plus, all of them were wearing REAL nike gear. In case you didn't know, all of the brands here are fake. But me being me could tell they were wearing the real stuff. Hey, it caught my interest. We had to leave, but we told ourselves we were going to find out who they were, because they obviously had money. Not to mention that one of them was super white, so I was curious what he was. They would be good potential investigators! Plus, we are seeking out the middle class. The next week at the same time they were there playing again, and so I just went up and started talking to them before they started. The more white kid is named Jason Anderson hahaha such a white kid name. He is half filipino half scottish. He is going to the UK next month to visit, so that of course sparked conversation. Plus they all spoke english. One of the first things he said was that he was born again when we went over there, but we weezled our way in and got the whole teams names, where they lived, and their numbers. And yeah, they have money. ONe's family owns the biggest gas thing here. I sat and talked to them about where they buy their nike gear and stuff and he was wearing the jordan socks i used to wear to practice in high school so i told him that haha. Too bad they were all in the Elder's area though. It's okay, we got it done and they are super sweet referrals. Not to mention, we used Brother Alcantara, the basketball fanatic to get some info on them too! Just another way to BRT. :) Second, was friday we had MCM, so we got all ready, like put make up on and stuff to go, and the church is locked. No one is there. Besides some little boys playing basketball. I wasn't just gonna sit there, so sister richards and I went and played 2 v. 3 against some little boys. In our skirts, all dressed up. We were dripping sweat, it was so disgusting. My shirt was wet and I had to put my hair up. Got a little too intense. But we destroyed them, so that's all that matters. Second to last event, we finally got a lesson appointment with the Alcantara family (basketball fanatics). Finally agreed for all of them to be there for it as well. It was a miracle quite frankly. BUT, the time they set it was the time we were supposed to have exchanges. We personally thought that this appointment (first and last one with them) was pretty important, so we kindly told the sister training leaders that we will need to reschedule exchanges for another time. I would just like to thank all of you for your prayers because since the Alcantara's finally said we could teach them, WE DIDN'T HAVE EXCHANGES!!! Hahaha. So, there is nothing to report to you all on how they went! Woohoo!!! I was terribly sad, I wanted that opportunity... Jokes. I was thrilled, but only cause we were going to be able to teach that family! Hehehe. ;) Now, on to the lesson. I will tell you how it went. Well, I had spent a lot of time preparing something for it related to basketball. I mean because it is the only way they listen and are interested. We came up with the the topic I will follow God's game plan! I made basketballs with things that are a part of God's plan and then Fouls that go against his plan! Anyways, I was so pumped to teach this because on the front of each ball or foul was something you would do in a real game. We got to their house and only the mom was there. She is kind of the stingy one that isn't very welcoming. She told us that the others aren't home and that they are still at the gym. Not giving us much hope. I texted Marlon, the dad but there was no reply. She told us that ususally if he doesn't reply he is still busy. I was kind of bugged, but i literally said a prayer in my heart that they would show up. I kid you not, right after, Kurt his son, walks in the door and then Brother Marlon follows in. I was just dying. In shock quite honestly. They had come home right then just for our lesson even though things were still going on at the gym. Such a miracle from Heavenly Father. We taught their whole family together and it was my favorite lesson I have ever taught here in Aparri. All of us were dressed in basketball jerseys because we are on God's team! It was SO MUCH FUN! We talked about God's plan and game plans. Everything was related to a ball game, but it worked so well and the Spirit was there! We talked about when we foul or we sin, we can come back. We have another chance to start again! I had brother marlon tell a story of a team that was way behind in a game and came back and won it. We related it all to the gospel and it was just so great, there isn't any other way to describe it. Not to mention they were sincerely happy! All the little basketalls and fouls we passed out and had them read some how were all the things the individually need. Don't know how it happened, but not a coincidence.
The "Game Plan" that Sister Wood made to teach the Marlon Family
They love my basketball picture, so I am giving it to them today haha. I am so grateful for Heavenly father's help with that family. Little bit by little bit, they will come back! So now, back to the sweet basketball player referrals we gave to the elders. They haven't contacted any yet, but with the transfers that happened, Sister Bacalla and I will now be in their area and will get to contact our own referrals! It is going to be so fun. I can't wait to start working in that area tomorrow! So I will be in Aparri for at least 6 more weeks! It will be good. I am now in Branch 1 and not Branch 2, so that is the only difference, plus with city area instead! Well, I think that is the low down on this week! Thanks for all your loves and emails and stuff! If you have written me a letter I love you even more, and will hopefully get them soon. No mail has been delivered out here to Cagayan for a while haha. Time is flying by quick and it is freaking me out! I am grateful for this time to really really think about our Savior. I feel like I have come to know him so much more this last little bit. I love him and am so grateful for what he has done for me. Everything really is BECAUSE OF HIM!
Ofa Atu.
- Sister Wood


Elder Zach Taylor - April 21. 2014

Another week in Carlos Antonio Lopez.. it´s been great as usual.
On Tuesday I had to go to Asunción to fill out papers so that I can legally be here or something.. but it was fun. We got to go visit the Temple and the distribution center. I bought a New Testament, Book of Mormon hard cover, and Preach My Gospel small version.. I was pretty happy haha. We also got to eat Lomito arabe for lunch.. which is like a Paraguayan burrito and is one of my favorite foods here.. just to make the day even better.
The rest of the week we were just teaching and finding new people to teach. We´re hoping to see a couple baptisms the 3rd of May, the week before my companion goes home. There´s a member here named Juana, and we´ve been teaching her two brothers, Hugo and Silvano. They´ve had problems with drinking alcohol, but they´ve been doing good so  far in stopping! Also that member has another sister, Petronila, who pretty much considers herself a member already, she just needs to be baptized. All three have been coming to church since we´ve been here. Also Hermana Beatriz, who is one of the daughters of Hermano Ramirez (which is the guy that holds the church meetings in his house), went with us to visit her neighbor María, who also came to church yesterday with her two daughters. There´s one other family, the Barrios family, that we found by ourselves that really like what we teach. We brought one of the sons, Ricardo, to church as well yesterday. It was awesome how many people showed up, the whole room was full with people spilling outside on the porch as well. That made us pretty happy! 
This week was also semana santa.. or holy week I guess you would say in English.. which is a big deal for people here. Brother Ramirez´s two sons that live in Asuncion now came over to spend the week.. they were really awesome. Both returned missionaries as well. 
Well I hope I´m giving enough details in my letters.. I know how much my mom loves details.. haha. I´m really growing to love this area and these people more and more every day. I wouldn´t hesitate to say it´s my favorite area so far. And my companion just makes it even better. He´s a lot of fun. It´ll be sad so see him go in 2 weeks. My testimony has grown in many ways and my desires to share the gospel are growing. Hope you all have a good week!
Elder Taylor

Elder Kaden Barlow - April 16. 2014

Elder Brockbank, Elder Barlow, and Elder Cunico
This week has been great!! :) I’ll start with the best part! We got transfer calls and I received Elder Granados here in Villa Carmen C!! :) I’m super excited.

Elder Granados and I get along great :) Seems like forever since I have had a companion that has wanted to go out and work hard :) He is from Utah, Provo I think, but he is Mexican and came to the CCM [MTC] for only two weeks because he already knows Spanish. He has the same time in the mission as me. He is helping me a lot with my Spanish because in the street we always try to speak it :) Just from lesson one with him, our unity was so much better than me and Elder Ponce's and we have had some great lessons.

Day 2 of being with him we set a baptismal date with Carolyn! I don't know if I told you the story with her. We were teaching her sister Estefani for awhile, dropped her, and then came back. But really I think it has all been for Carolyn. She has progressed a ton. She was overhearing us teach one day and came out and was basically like, why aren't you guys teaching me? Anyway we taught lesson 1 and about the Book of Mormon and she started reading and said she was really touched and started crying and just really understands! Hopefully this date doesn't fall through. We have got a bunch of new investigators this week and have been rejected a lot too.... some people are ridiculous.

As for other things. We had a great service activity this last Saturday. We spent almost all day painting a house of some people in Villa Carmen. It was super fun, although I don't recommend trusting the missionaries to paint your house...but it actually turned out very well in the end! :) Also our ward got ward missionaries!!! I think we are one of the only wards in the Dominican republic with ward missionaries I was pretty excited! We could actually have people to teach our recent converts after they are baptized!! haha

We decided to try to teach a bunch of Latinos how to play flag football. Elder Cardoso and I stayed up last night and made flags out of a bunch of old pants and shirts that were laying around. It went ok but they really didn't get the concept of when a play stops and that you don't continue passing the ball forward after the initial throw.... but it was fun! :)

Let’s see…funny story for the week. Elder Cardoso fell asleep on top of his phone and at 3 in the morning accidently called President Hernandez! Imagine being a Mission President and getting a call from a missionary at 3 am. What would you be thinking? Anyway he tried calling back, but, well, Cardoso was asleep. Then he called back in the morning, but he just laughed about it so that was good. I got a good laugh out of that.


Elder Barlow

Elder Zach Taylor - April 14. 2014: Yay!!

This week has been one of the hardest working weeks I´ve had so far. Since we´re kind of on our own here, we´ve just been clapping doors most of the time.. but it´s actually been pretty great! People kind of have a natural interest in who we are since there have never been missionaries here before. It´s kind of nice. We had 5 investigators show up to church, too, which is the most I´ve had in one meeting so far. It´s mostly thanks to my companion, he´s helping me learn how to work harder. There´s also this member here that has a few siblings that haven´t been baptized, and we´ve been helping them out this week. Her two brothers and one of her sisters came to church. There´s just so much to do here! We´re also in the process of renting out a building for the church, since surely there are going to be more people in the weeks that come. I just have this image in my mind of the church well established here.. it´s so exciting to be able to start the whole process!
We had kind of a weird experience this week... we were teaching this catholic lady named María about the book of mormon, and her brother walked in. He asked us if we believe in the virgin mary, and we said we respect her because whe was the mother of Jesus, but we don´t pray to or worship her. Usually people are okay with that and respect our beliefs..but he got mad and told us we need to repent, to go to his church and confess our sins, even grabbed my head, looked me in the eyes, and basically told me that if I don´t start praying to Mary I¨m going to hell. You know, if people don´t like what we believe, I´m okay with that. I´m okay if they tell me their beliefs, there´s nothing wrong with that. Pretty sure this guy was just...a little different. it was pretty interesting. Definitely one of the weirdest moments I´ve experienced so far. 
I get to go to Asunción again this week for visa stuff.. so that should be fun. We´re hoping to even surpass our accomplishments this week, so we´ll see how it goes! Talk to you next week, 
Elder Taylor

Elder Almen Thorpe - April 13. 2014

Up date on my week! Hey family!
This weekend was just so filled with meetings after meetings after meetings...and yes I did fall asleep in some part of the meeting but only because I went into a deep sleep of revelation...joking, I just accidentally zoned out on one or two general conference talks.
So, since New Zealand is a day a head, the people in the states had to record the General Conference program for us. It  took a week for us to get the video so if any of you are wondering why my last email wasn't about conference that would explain much hopefully.
Conference was a spiritual uplift for me! Wow, how powerful was Elder Hollands talk on the first day!? My companion and I looked at each other in awe because Elder Holland challenged every single member of the church with boldness but also kindness! I still can't get over how power and strong he was in delivering his message. It is true what he said because we as members can't be afraid of our religion. That is an everyday life for a missionary being tested by others who believe in another religion. I never thought about how big religion was and how big of a war we are in, in standing up for our own beliefs.
I also loved President Eyring's talk on "Hero's". Even though we have athletic, comic, and storytelling hero's, the most important hero's we have are the Priesthood Hero's! When I think about it, I have been surrounded in my life by a lot of good Priesthood holders who are hero's. At the time I wasn't thankful for all the examples that God put in my life and now I am very grateful for that. If it wasn't for all those priesthood holders who were an example to me, I wouldn't be here. It is so important to be that example for the next generation because they are the special generation. The kids growing up don't know what is in store for them. We as priesthood holders, family, friends, and parents need to be that hero for the little ones. They are growing up in a world were technology will become big in their life. Being out a mission has shown me how blessed I was to be using technology. Now, not using it every day helps me even more because I can concentrate and open my mind and eyes to what I want in life rather than what I "wanted" life to be like. Life is not all about money, big houses, shoes, clothes. What you need and what you want is different than what is needed for the family.
Overall, all the speakers were great! It is amazing to hear from the prophets of the Lord. When you think of it, they know so much but they teach with the level that everyone can understand and grasp the message. They don't teach to tell us "hey we are smarter than you" kind of teaching, but a teaching of "hey we know what you are going through is tough, we love you for your hard work and effort and we are here to help, and we know you aren't perfect that is why we are here to help".  The prophets teachings are teachings like Jesus Christ's   teachings when he was here on the earth. 
Also during this week my companion and I found another person to teach. His name is brother Maka. We found him on a TWE (talk with everyone). We showed up at his house and taught him the restoration. From there we figured out that Brother Maka is an aviation engineer! Similar to President Uchtdorf. Brother Maka works on planes and tests them out to make sure they are good for the pilots to fly. We is seeking!! As we were teaching we found out that he didn't know that having the authority is something really important because anybody can get baptized and dunked under, but if you don't have that true authority, that dunking down in the water and back up doesn't mean much. He wants to learn more and is seeking to learn more! He is an elect soul! He sets an hour a day to read the Bible so we are going to give him a Book of Mormon and he will be reading that. We will be meeting up with him today, later tonight! It will be exciting! We found him about two weeks ago randomly on the road. The Lord works in many ways! He has truly put someone for us to teach in our path! Please keep him in your prayers! 
Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Miss you all and love you! from Elder Thorpe.
Can't wait until mothers day! Keep up the good work! 

Elder Brandon Wallis - April 8. 2014

Elder Wallis
Between moving, transfers, and General Conference it was a pretty slow week, but we were able to set up a lot of stuff for this next week! We're keeping our fingers crossed that we can get some more people on date for Baptism. We have 7 that we could potentially get on date, that have either had a date before and need to reset it, or have progressed enough to where we can extend an invite. Open with prayer, spiritual thought, TESTIFY AND INVITE THE SPIRIT!, then INVITE THEM TO BE BAPTIZED while the spirit is really strong. Works more often than not. Getting them to progress and keep commitments is where people tend to struggle. We did commit Jennifer (the Wilson's daughter who's 28) to come to church this Sunday! We have some members that are going to pick her up. May Wilson (the mother) said she would come the following week. Mike Wilson... we have to figure out his work schedule. He has a testimony, he has to act on it though and ask for Sundays off. Keep your arms crossed and heads bowed praying that it'll work out! There's a few other investigators that we're starting to be able to meet with again, they've become more receptive and willing to have us over again. That's been pretty cool. The Scotts are a returning to activity family and we're teaching 3 of their daughters. Ages 8 and two are 9. They are on date for the 26th of this month! They seem pretty solid, two of them have some autism, and the lessons can be pretty interesting and hard to keep their attention. But they are learning and want to be Baptized. They also committed to come to church on Sunday. Janice Rivera is a less active that we teach and she's been doing pretty well. She really struggles with the spiritual side of the Gospel. She tries to live the Gospel but has a hard time believing that it comes from God. BUT she knows that it's a good thing. She has two twin sons that are 7 years old. They're awesome. We teach them as well and they've been absorbing a lot of it. They come to Church pretty much every Sunday now. Jonathan and Justin have asked if I'd Baptize them! I was so touched. I can't remember when their b-days are, hopefully I'm still in this area!!! Other than that, not a whole lot else has happened. We have several people that we're hoping to pick up as official "new investigators" this week. We've talked to them before and have their info. We'll see how it
General Conference was the BOMB!!! I've loved every General Conference on my Mission. can you believe that I only have one more??? That blew my mind. In a way I'm kind of sad. Dad you're right, something about being on a mission and watching General Conference, you seem to get so much more out of it. A couple of my favorite parts were President Uchtdorf's talk on Gratitude, and President Packer's talk... his was a powerhouse! Did you catch his round about way of saying that he's seen the Savior? That gave me chills. President Uchtdorf gave me a lot to think about... Am I only grateful during times of happiness and ease? Or am I also grateful for the hard times that make me grow and mature? In hindsight I'm grateful for my trials because I learned from them and grew, but what about when I'm experiencing them? So I've been trying to change my attitude of picking when I'm grateful depending on my blessings, to having a attitude of gratitude, just like President Uchtdorf counseled. Right away I've been able to see a difference. Generally I'm more happy and I'm able to not only endure trials and temptations but enjoy almost relish the challenge because God knows what my limits are and will only give me tribulations that will help me. IF, I have the ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE. I know that we have modern day Prophets. There's no way that this Church could be false. There's too much good in it... it is PURE TRUTH. Like I've told some people on my Mission, why would I come out here for two years to tell people a lie? Why would 15 million people be so firm and steadfast in a lie? It is only through Jesus Christ that people are able to be this steadfast and immovable. Above all my other goals in life, my first priority is to be able to call myself confidently, a Man of God. The Gospel is where I have found the most joy in this life. So naturally, this is where I will stay. There is so much I have to learn, there's an infinite amount of knowledge if we use the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I love this Church, not because I think it's a good church or because of the people, I love this Church because it is Jesus Christ's Church. By continuing to progress in this Gospel and sharing our testimonies, we can all become truly converted to Christ. It is that point that I am striving to get to, where anything we do in this life is a conscious decision to do good and to bring us closer to Christ. This is my testimony and my witness of the Savior, that He lives, He loves us, and wants us to use His Atonement to return to our Heavenly Father. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
I love you all! I hope you enjoy the other pictures that I've been uploading! I hope you have an awesome week. Stay safe, stay healthy/get healthy.
Elder Wallis

Elder Christian Tanner - March 24. 2014: It was raining, it was slippery, it was dark, it was scary!

Hej allihopa! Hur står det till?

 It's fair to say that stress has been a big part of my service here in Utby. Although, I feel like it is getting better slowly. We currently have 6 investigators that we are meeting with on a regular basis. One of them is a Finnish man named Eero (pronouced: Arrow). We have met with him 3 times over the past 5 days and we're meeting with him tomorrow. He has been drinking for a lot of years. He has basically lost everything he has. His kids don't want to talk to him, he has no wife, he lives alone, and he can't stop drinking. But he wants to change! We are working intensely with him. So far, he hasn't taken a drink since the first day we met with him. That is already incredible improvement from where he was when the missionaries first met him (he was dropped a while ago). Pehzman is coming along. We met with him 1 time this past week. We talked a lot about Priesthood Authority. He told us that our church claiming to have the only authority was a big claim. That bothered me for a few minutes. I thought we had scared him away. Thankfully we haven't. Working to get him baptized within the next few weeks. We have a meeting tonight with a guy named Johny. He came to church for the first time my second week here. This will be our first official meeting with him. He's really positive so we'll see how things go. We are also teaching an 18 year old kid named Jacob. He has a lot of interest in religion. Met with him once last week and we have a meeting with him in a few days. So as you can see, we have a few investigators. We have a few others but they will be mentioned as we find out more about them.

I have discovered a lot about other religions recently. We try to avoid JW's because they just want to bible bash with us. That's not to say, however, that they don't contact us. We have been contacted by several JW's. Discussions on the street can last well over 30 minutes. It's definetly not worth our time. But it is interesting to see the difference in doctrine. We had an investigator whom we dropped this past week. He is Muslim. He is the same guy who asked us the simple question of why we need a Redeemer. We went back and answered his question. When we got there he said "I know without a doubt (he's were I started to get excited) that Islam is the true religion (and then came the big sigh)." We tired to say "okay, well, we'll see ya later" and leave, but he just kept going and going. He explained how they want everybody to be Muslim and they are willing to take arms to do it. I didn't know that! Kinda creeped me out. So, as you probably know, we won't be going back to that guy any time soon. But like I say, learning what other religions believe is interesting. I never would have though that coming on a mission to teach OUR doctrine with cause me to learn so much about other doctrine.

I got a good story for ya'll. On Tuesday we were with a family for dinner. They live about a 25 minute walk from the church. We had a meeting at the church right after dinner. We missed our bus to be at the church on time so we tried to ask for a ride. It didn't work. So we either had to wait for a bus or walk. It was 5 minutes faster to walk so that's what we decided to do. We pulled out our handy-dandy GPS and routed our map to the church. We looked at the phone and decided that we could cut through the little forest to save 10 minutes of walking. It was raining, so we needed to save time anyways. We are walking through the forest and everything is going good. FInally, we get to right where we are suppost to meet up with where the GPS said we were suppost to be walking again. At the very edge of the forest we discover a 50 foot cliff. It was raining, it was slippery, it was dark, it was scary! But the sight was beautiful over the town. Lights were on and you could see the enitre city lit up. We started going back the way we came from keeping an eye on the cliff and making sure we were a good ways away. Finally, we made it back on the correct path. Now that we were on the correct path walking to wards the church, we were out of the way of harm. We could see, however, as we were walking past the cliff, how big the cliff was and how dangerous it could have been. We finally made it to the church and by some miracle we were only 5 minutes late. What story is this related to? I'll give you a HINT! Its in the Book of Mormon. It is also a dream given to a Prophet. YEP!!!!! THE TREE OF LIFE. Our GPS was our iron rod. The Tree of Life was the church. The cliff was death and hell. The beauty of the city was temptation and sin (sometimes sin and temptation look pleasing and we want whatever it is). We gave into temptation and let go of the rod! We almost fell off the cliff and died and went to hell. Figurativly speaking, of course. And just like in the story there was mist and darkness and they couldn't see. We couldn't see the cliff because of the trees, the rain and the darkness. It was scary! So if we just take my version of the Tree of Life and apply that to life, its the exact same thing. If we let go of that rod things are going to get slippery and scary. Don't seek the worldly things too much or you will let go of that rod. Sure, you can get back on the rod, but its much easier to stay on the rod the entire time. Don't let pride get in the way. Don't think you know what you're doing. Because you dont! Things arn't always as they seem! So that is my wise words of wisdom for this letter. Stay on the good side of things. It's much better and it's still fun :)

Sorry about the pathetic letter. But that was my week. In short: fast, stressful, eventful, and a good week on the mission. If I remember anything more I will send it if I have time. Have a good last full week of March and we sees you around! HA DET BRA!!!!

Äldste Tanner

Elder Zach Taylor - March 24. 2014: My Real Last Week In Obligado

Just a side note - in another short email, he told us that a package that we sent in November finally arrived! So Mom, your chocolates finally got to him! He says "thanks!" It only took 4 months! Ha ha! :)
I guess I´ll start off with the biggest news. I´m getting transfered! It´s called Carlos Antonio Lopez (or as President LaPierre always says, CAL), which is the same area I was going to get moved to last change but didn´t because of some difficulties with the apartment. My new companion is named Elder Chumacker.. or something like that. I´m not sure where he´s from, but I think he´s Latin. My zone leaders told me he´s a really good guy, so that´s comforting. This next change is also his last one in the mission, so I get to ¨kill¨ another missionary.. woo! They haven´t told me exactly what day this week I´ll be leaving. All I know is that CAL is close by, so thankfully it won´t be too long of a trip. As for Obligado, I don´t know what´s going to happen to it. President Muñoz said he talked to the mission president and heard they´ll put sisters here. So that might be the case.
This week´s been kind of a strange one, with Elder Hemenway ending his mission and all. It was also kind of a gloomy week.. it rained almost nonstop from Monday to Friday. The mud did wonders to my shoes. The best part of the week was District conference yesterday. We spent a good part of the week trying to invite as many people as possible to go, and we had a pretty good turnout, some 40 people. President Muñoz was awesome in putting together a bus ride and a small lunch to eat on the way back. It was really fun for me, my last big event with the people of Obligado/Trinidad/Hohenau.
My companion was also really happy to see some people from Coronel Bogado, his favorite area of his mission which is close by here. He was freaking out the whole time over because he hadn´t seen those people in over a year. It made me happy to see him that happy.. I hope I find an area that means as much to me as Coronel Bogado means to him.
The truth is I´ll miss this place.. I´ve learned so many things here, and so much from the example of my companion. He´s just one of the funnest, frendliest guys ever, and people in Paraguay absolutely love him for that. I´ve grown in a lot of ways during my 12 weeks in this area.. The good thing about being transferred, I guess, is that you get a fresh start to put everything you learned in your past area into practice. I´m really going to  try to make the most of my first couple days in CAL.
Well anyway, have a good week!
Elder Taylor

Elder Almen Thorpe - March 23. 2014: Good Day?

Elder Thorpe
Hello! How is the family? 
This week is going by fast, transfer's are this Thursday...my companion and I try not to talk about it that much because it brings tears to our eyes...well kinda. We will know by Tuesday night if my companion and I will be transferred or not. By next Monday I will let you know if anything else has changed, but it is so good to hear from you. I'm glad that the weather over there is getting a lot better, the clouds down here are starting to move in and the sun is starting to disappear. Seeing that video of Kasen made me smile! He is getting so big and smart! Please give him a hug for me. I miss him so much!!!. 
During the week I had some very spiritual events that happened to my companion and I. After a day of having a trade off with the other Elders, my companion and I swapped back to be together and having no impressions we decided to walk a different way (we had no success seeing any of our investigators). This was on a Thursday evening. We walked past the pool and as we were both walking I looked over to the other side of my companions shoulder and noticed a girl sitting and just leaning against the fence. As missionaries of the New Zealand Auckland Mission we talk with everyone, that is our motto, so with no hesitation my companion and I both decided to go up to her and talk to her. We got closer and all of the sudden I recognized who the girl was. It was one of our investigators partner named Rane. Rane was partners with one of our investigators named Kaua who is a Cook Islander. Kaua was someone who drank, did weed, and a lot of bad stuff. A month ago my companion and I heard screaming coming from Kaua's house. On Thursday as we talked to Rane on the sidewalk she told us during that night she was beaten up by Kaua and sent to the Dr. office. This all happened because Rane caught Kaua with another girl. She got angry at him and he got really angry at her and decided to beat her up. At the time we saw her, Rane was thinking of killing herself by jumping off a bridge. Not only has she lost her kids at court and gotten beaten up but her own family but she was kicked  out of her own house. Her mom and dad didn't want anything to do with her.
In the middle of our conversation my companion had an impression to take Rane up to the chapel which was only around the corner. On our way to the chapel we saw the other two Elders walking towards the chapel as well, we made it to the chapel and my companion took one of the other Elders with him to go get one of our bishop's counselors whiled I stayed back with Elder Blake and Rane in the room where the baptismal font is. Elder Blake and I started to talk to Rane to make her feel comfortable. She had a lot of questions on her mind and with the spirit we were able to comfort her! This is a 20 year old girl who has been beaten up, kicked out and thinking of taking her own life. With Heavenly Father as our guide we were able to express how He really feels about her. Brother Kata who is in the bishopric showed up and Elder Blake, Brother Kata and I were in the room with her while my companion and Elder Blake's companion stood outside in the hallway. I am not going to take any credit because I'm not going to boost of myself, but boost of my God! He is the one that did all this, He is the one that reached out to her, He is the one that truly cares about His daughter, our sister, that has been going through some trials.
I was reading in Alma today and how the sons of Mosiah went into the Lamanites territory to preach the gospel and how in all their struggles they turned to God. When they were presented with a miracle they didn't boost in themselves but they gave all their thanks and love to God. For example, Ammon didn't say he saved all the Lamanites from getting killed or saving the king's  sheep, he gave all his love and effort and gratitude to the Lord.
During that time with Rane, I could feel the spirit of God literally working with her. She felt His comfort and love. I have a strong testimony that He is literally there!! I cannot deny that! Heavenly Father will never turn his back on us, even through our struggles in life He will find a way to make sure that we will feel His love. He is not going to leave us in this world all alone!!! Please, whoever you see sitting alone, if you have a prompting to go see someone don't ignore that feeling. You'll never know if you can change that persons life just by saying hello or stopping to see if they are okay. I have seen it with my own eyes, the miracle that can happen when you do listen and act on the impressions of the Holy Ghost.
After we talked to Rane, Brother Kata took some time to talk to her one on one. She will be getting some help. We drove her back to her place to make sure she would make it there safely. Rane's attitude towards everything changed. She said she couldn't believe how she was so close to giving up her life and how that was not a very smart idea.
Later that day we met up with one of the YSA boy's named Scott. He was there with the other Elders when they were walking up to the chapel. Scott told us when he saw us walking up to the chapel with Rane, he saw a personage above Rane all dressed up just like we were dressed up. What an amazing miracle to hear. I am so blessed to have been a part of this wonderful miracle. I can't express the joy and happy feelings that overcame me. It was a feeling that was indescribable and something that I will always hang onto dearly in my heart. Just thinking about what might have happened if my companion and I didn't show up at that spot at the time Rane was there is something that I am grateful for. Heavenly Father puts us in the right places at the right time for a reason, no dought about it. That just shows that He is there and He is watching everything that we do. 
That was my favorite miracle that happened this week with my companion and I. You don't need big miracles to have proof that Heavenly Father is there, all you need to do is walk by faith and He will put you in the right spot. You may not know why, but he does. Believe in Him and all that He has done. I have a testimony that He is literally there, always watching us with His open arms. He loves every single one of us. He wants to help us. I know this to be true because I have seen it happen in my life. I love Him with all my heart and my soul. I am thankful for Him giving me this time in  my life to get closer to Him. He is my everything, He is my friend and most of all He is my Father.
We also learned at church today that fathers have amazing priesthood power to do miracles just like our Savior did. I have also seen a miracle with that on and off my mission with my nephew Kasen who was going through some struggles early in his life. With that power of the Priesthood that dad held I got to see that power really work through him. Dads should always strive to keep the commandments and be worthy of that priesthood. I am blessed to have seen that beautiful miracle happen as I helped dad give Kasen many blessings. Now my little nephew, Kasen is growing up big and smiling a lot. Dad's are sons of our Heavenly Father who all learned from Him before this life, learning how to take care of their families, to be that good example to their kids and always strive to do activities with them in sports, school, or etc. I am blessed to have a wonderful dad that works hard to keep our family safe, with a roof over our head, food on the table and pillows and blankets on our beds. Dad you have been an example to me ever since I was little, thank you. You are my example and helped me to be who I am today. You did so much for me and I appreciate everything you are for mom, how you treat her with love and care for her because she is your wife and she is a daughter of God. 
I hope all your week goes well and everyone stays safe. You are all in my prayers everyday. I love you all. have a wonderful week!!! Keep on working, everything we do has to deal with work work work! Loose yourself in the work! 

LOVE ELDER THORPE! p.s. happy be-lated Birthday Reese!! 

Elder Kaden Barlow - March 19. 2014

Elder Barlow
Hey family!!
Wow sounds like you guys had a great week! I loved reading your email even more than usual for some reason! :) Yes dad it is getting hotter! It was super ridiculous because every day we don´t have power from 11:30 in the morning to around 2:30 or later so when we are in the house after lunch it just is really not great when our fans don´t work. Just as the temperature has gone up a ton, the power has been out two nights! I swear it was over a 100 in the house and then with all the mosquitoes!! It’s ridiculous.  Rainy season is coming up here in about two months maybe that will cool it down?? Somehow I doubt it :)
As for the work progressing here in Mendoza (My ward is Villa Carmen but I work in an area called Mendoza). It’s a big neighborhood that only has about 10 active members. Actually I was talking to a member of the stake presidency yesterday and the plan is to make Mendoza a branch! But it will be after I leave this area most likely. But right now the work is a little slow. We don’t have too many investigators progressing. Just James. But we are working with a lot of new people. We even found a family that we are working with so we will see how that goes.
We had an exchange on Tuesday. I went with Elder Cardoso in the morning and that was really cool. He is a good missionary and we taught James probably the best lesson that I have had with him! We had never practiced together and totally changed what we were going to talk about. The spirit was there and that was cool. I really learned this week to recognize when the spirit enters a lesson how to grab it and kinda how you have to roll with it and not over use it. I have been able to do this more because when ever Elder Ponce is grumpy he doesn´t talk, so I have been giving a lot of lessons almost solo this week. Kinda fun actually!
Elder Marin and Elder Cardoso had a baptism this Saturday. All the Elders (there were close to 20 there) at the end sang “The Spirit of God.” The first verse was Spanish and the second was English and then they did both for the third and then the congregation joined for the fourth. I played the piano!! :) I made a mini arrangement nothing too special but I’ll tell you the spirit was super strong during that song! All the missionaries had the chills and we had a ton of members tell us we have to do musical numbers at every baptism haha :) It was really cool. Also Elder Cardoso and I gave a talk during the time that the converts were changing after the ordinance. Basically we just taught the restoration but I was super nervous because there were a ton of people there! But it all turned out great!
On our p-day we did a zone activity at the Acuario Nacional [an aquarium] which was really cool! It’s actually only like 5 to 10 minutes from our house in a taxi and there is the ocean too!! I didn't even know it was that close! The sign on the front said it was either 60 pesos or 3 dollars to get in so I’m glad that I can read Spanish because it’s pretty much double if you don't realize that haha. My Companion and I went to Elder Kirk and Elder Cunico’s apartment where we had sloppy joes (SOOO GOOD! It’s been so long!) and mashed potatoes!! Oh... you have no idea! I felt like I was in heaven! I mean I love rice and beans and really don´t have a problem eating it every day but it was nice to have a change especially for American food. One other cool thing we did was one night we went up on the roof and played some dominoes under the full moon looking out over all of Villa Carmen! It was super beautiful and I always love me some dominoes.

Elder Brandon Wallis - March 18. 2014

So the work is going really well! We had a rough week last week because we were sick the previous week and had no appointments set. BUT, this week is looking amazing! We have another person that wants to be baptized! The Begay family is an inactive family that's returning and they have a son that wants to take the lessons and a daughter that's also interested. SWEET!!!! We just met them a few days ago. Awesome family. Savanna is still doing great we're hopefully going to have her baptism interview this week. Sean and Kelsie are doing pretty good too. They're still talking about the wedding date, and hopefully the next time we meet with them they'll have a date we can start working with. I read them the emails you all sent of your testimonies of different topics. They loved them! Kelsie especially liked hearing your testimonies and is even more excited to raise her family in the Gospel. The Shorty family is a recent convert family. The dad was inactive and decided to come back to church and brought his family along. They were Baptized a few months ago. Their son, Grant, got the Priesthood! He went with us to Louis Wadely in the nursing home to give her the sacrament. It took him a few tries, but he got it! He loved being able to serve with the Priesthood. Things are really moving along. Our Mission President, President Miller, set a new standard for our meals with members that we're also really excited about. We're only allowed to eat with two active members a week, and the rest of the meals need to be a teaching opportunity. So active members can have in-active or non-member friends over and that counts. We're really excited to put this new standard to work. President told us to be bold when we're talking to the non-members we know and the less actives, simply tell them that we're having a tough time filling our dinner calendar and would love to join their family for dinner sometime in the next couple weeks. It'll be interesting to see how that is received. So far most of the members seem on board with it as well, we were a little worried about that.
All in all, things are going great! Love you all!
Elder Wallis

Elder Zach Taylor - March 17. 2014: Obligado Week 11

This week was awesome. The highlight of the week was the conference we had Thursday in Encarnación with President Zeballos and his wife. President LaPierre also gave a discourse. It was just filled with the spirit and it helped me see things in a different light. The conference was mostly focused on the extremely important role the Spirit has in our work as missionaries. There were a few points that I thought I´d share with you. It was talked a lot about how being obedient to what Heavenly Father asks assures that we can have the spirit with us. We need the spirit in every moment as missionaries, whether it´s while we´re walking in the street to know who to talk to, or during our studies, our daily and weekly planning sessions, or while we´re teaching to know what it is we should say. And the only way we can have that influence is if we are doing all that He asks. The crazy thing is that some of us are still here trying to do things how we think we should do them. The only thing we need to learn how to do is submit ourselves completely to the will of God, and after everything falls into its place. Now it doesn´t matter where you are on the scale of obedience right now, whether you are an obedient person right now or a rebellious one, what matters is the direction you are going; because this, the true gospel of Jesus Christ, is a gospel of progression. It´s not something we learn just once, but it is a way of life that we develop as we submit ourselves to God´s will. And the more we learn how to do that, the more we become like Christ. He never did anything that was in contrary to the Father´s will. Anything that made the Father happy made Him happy.. and that is what made him perfect.
The whole conference was just amazing, I wish I could tell everything, but I just said what I found most important. Besides the conference, we were also able to visit Osvaldo, the guy we met on the collectivo. We talked with him about his time as an active member. We found out that he had served a local mission here, had even gone to the temple. Then he got married (to someone who wasn´t too fond of the church at the time), and slowly stopped going. Now it´s been 10 years that he´s been inactive. If there was anything I learned, it´s that nobody, even the most active of members, are safe from the influence of the devil. Anyone can fall, and that is why we constantly need to be on guard against the many influences of evil in this world. When we invited him to come back to church he said nothing more than ´It would be interesting¨. I left 1 nephi 8 for him to read. He said we could come back later this week.
We did find a couple more people to teach this week as well. The only problem that we´ve found here is that everyone is always too busy. We find people once, then when we try to return they always have something going on. What can we do but carry on, I suppose.
I really have been able to feel the influence of the spirit in me during this week, and I can feel myself becoming something more than I was before. New goals and challenges are being placed in front of me every day, and I´m doing my best to learn from them. Until next time!
Elder Taylor

Elder Almen Thorpe - March 17, 2014: How ya doin?

Hello! Family! 

Dad, it is good to hear that you are still teaching someone even though you are out of your mission! I know now what it is truly like to be in your shoes when you went on your mission and may I say...I'M HAVING A BLAST! Saving souls every day, talking to random people every day, making new friends, and preaching about the gospel of Jesus Christ every day, is the life of a missionary.

I can say that the dream that Megan's friend was no accident, Heavenly Father reaches out in many ways. It could be from missionaries, church members, through the Holy Ghost and in our dreams. He always has a way of reaching out to every single one of us, we just need to grab that feeling or dream and act on that feeling. It is no accident that her friend had felt like that, that he is mad at his family in his dream and that he is wanting to stand up for Megan. I will keep Megan's friend in my prayers and hope for him to find the the truth for himself.

The Holy Ghost can testify of all things, the Holy Ghost is how we can know for ourselves when we truly feel his divine love for all of us. There's a scripture in Galatians that talks about the spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23), its says " but the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law". Everything that we feel, act, and do is from the spirit. I hope all goes well and that Megan's friend will someday want to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints and be part of this growing family. As missionaries and members we don't judge or force people into doing something they don't want to do because as a disciple of Jesus Christ we invite others to come unto Him and by talking to all the people we see, they will get to that point, that they want to open up to us and come unto Christ. 

This week we had a special training meeting for the zone. President Lekias was talking to us about work and when we work we forget ourselves in the work and rely on that spiritual help, which helps us to endure to the end. Everything that we do is all about WORK! The reason I emphasize work is because when we put forth the work for Heavenly Father, He will bless us.

There's a quote that President Monson said " life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature. There seems to be an unending supply of challenges for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions to such challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required". This is what I try to use every day while being out on my mission. Just like the sons of Mosiah having that desire to go out and preach the gospel to the Lamanites,  their brothers. In (Alma 26) it describes them going to their brothers with full knowledge of knowing what might happen to them when they do go. Even though they were spit upon, stoned, slapped in the face, and thrown out of many places, they still had that desire of love for their brothers. While this all happened to them they practiced their patience and faith in their Father to help them out get out of bondage and reach out to their bothers. In reward, thousands of Lamanites were converted and awakened from the abyss of darkness that blinded them from the light of God. Just like the sons of Mosiah we need to practice our patience in the Lord and our faith in Him. The time may be long and hard but he will be there to help us solve our problems and bring those who have been blinded of the world unto Him. I have seen that happen on my mission, a lot of miracles have happened when my companion and I practiced our patience and faith in Heavenly Father and have also seen the bad tragedies that happen when we loose focus, and get off track. We need to focus and not just say that is good enough for me, or I'm good were I am, because when we don't work or have patience, and we don't use our faith, we seem to go back into the darkness of the worldly actions. When we stay on track and ignore all the temptations of the worldly events, just like the sons of Mosiah, we can help our brothers and sister return to our Heavenly Father. 

It is so good to hear from all of you, thank you mom for the scriptures and your favorite hymns. My favorite songs would have to be "Did you think to pray?", "Have I done any good in the world today?" and "I need thee every hour". Those are the main three songs that I sing while walking and riding my bike everywhere. I'm doing very well and having fun, time is flying a little too fast and I'm putting myself in the work. That is my happiness, when I'm lost in missionary work. Giving gratitude for everything that I have because the Lord is the one working on me and through me, everything he is doing for me and His children is because of His love.

I hope you all have a safe week, the month of April is coming and the Elders and I will be playing a couple of tricks..its a good thing I have green to wear. I won't be getting pinched a lot. 

Love you all miss you every single day! have a wonderful week! tell we meet again! 
Elder Thorpe