Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween! "Sweet week" in the Mission Field!!

Hi Everyone! Happy Halloween!                                                       Oct. 31, 2016

No spooky Halloween cats here! Just me goofing around
while sympathizing and pondering the life of a cat.

This week was another amazing week here in Guapilo and we are having so much success thanks to the help of the members!

Below are pictures of the missionaries I have the opportunity to serve with in my zone and district.

A group picture of all the missionaries serving in our zone.

Jumping for joy with the missionaries in our District
This Saturday Selbi is going to be baptized! We are so excited and hopefully her grandpa will be able to baptize her. She is so special and has been so prepared.

Yesterday we got to meet with Sonia again, the older lady who lives across the street from us. She has a smoking addiction and yesterday we taught her about the Word of Wisdom. She told us it is something she would like to change. We know it is going to be very hard for her, but I am so excited to help her overcome this!

The really sad news is that this week Secundino left to another part of the country to work. He left a note at the Bishop's house, but never said goodbye to us. I was pretty crushed because he was progressing so well and had read so much of the Book of Mormon! Hopefully he will be able to meet with missionaries wherever he is, but we are going to try and call him soon to coordinate that.
Also, yesterday we invited familia Cespedes to be baptized! They accepted and are going to read and pray about the Book of Mormon in order to receive an answer. They are such a great family and it is really exciting. Their son and daughter are 14 and 15 and already have made friends with the youth!
Last week we began teaching a 13 year old boy named Lucas. He works with the Bishop and his mother is a member, but he doesn´t know much about the church. This week as we were teaching him about prophets he asked, "Do you guys believe that there will be prophets again? Because I think that someday in the future there will be another prophet." This comment really hit me hard as I thought to myself, "Oh my friend, that day has already come!" Sometimes we forget how amazing the message of the restoration is. There are people who are still waiting for God to call prophets, and we are so lucky to know that He already has! It is our privilege to show them that God has again called a Prophet and that His church is once again on the earth!

One miracle we witnessed this week was on Wednesday, when we attempted to find a new family to teach. We had walked around a neighborhood for 20 minutes just looking for families who were home when we decided to say a prayer. I prayed that we could be led and guided to find those who the Lord had prepared. We decided to go to a house we had previously contacted. No one was home. Then we talked to a woman in the street who gave us a reference farther down the street. There was only a little girl home at this house, but we contacted her neighbor. He had met with missionaries before, but was not interested. Finally, we went all the way back near where we had started to find that family we were not able to teach last Sunday because there were only women. They were also not home.
At the exact moment we arrived at that house, a neighbor came outside of her gate. We began talking with her and found out she had received a priesthood blessing once when she was extremely sick, and that her illness had never again returned after that. She said she would like to meet with us and has a husband and 2 kids. 
This truly was a miracle for us. We walked for almost an hour and talked to so many people before finding the family who had been prepared. Sometimes we can't see the fruits of our efforts but the Lord is guiding us!
I love my area, my companion, and this work! Have a great week!
Elder Harris

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Always Remember Him

                                                                                                Oct. 24, 2016

Hola Familia! Thank you all for your emails and support!
I just want you to know how much I am loving my mission! Although it hasn't really been easy, it has been completely worth it.

This week was an amazing week! We worked harder than ever and the Lord blessed us with so much success.

Last Sunday after having a pretty disappointing week we decided that we needed to teach a lot more lessons with members. We made goals and plans to have a member with us at every lesson and the Lord provided. So many members sacrificed their time to help us and to bring their brethren unto Christ!

Some updates on our investigators - Selbi is progressing so well and is going to be baptized on November 5th! She is reading the Book of Mormon and came to our Ward yesterday for the first time and really loved it. She is so sweet and pure and it is amazing to see how the Spirit has touched her heart.
Secundino still has not prayed about the Book of Mormon, which is really difficult because without doing so it will be nearly impossible for him to overcome his doubts about the church. He is starting to make more friends in the Ward though, and this Saturday we are having an activity with the Elder´s Quorum to help befriend him!
Claudia and Ximena are having trouble progressing as well, but this week we found two new families to teach that we are really excited about!
We are also still teaching Sonia. She is the nicest and funniest old woman I have ever met. She is so loving and warm to us and too funny. During one of our lessons we asked her about the chapter she read in the Book of Mormon and she was telling us about everything she read. I looked down at my Book of Mormon and realized she was just reading the chapter summary! Elder Sierra and I laughed and it was hilarious. She smokes and hasn´t been able to come to church yet, but this week we are going to help her overcome these challenges!
Yesterday we went on splits with a priest and Elder from the Ward and they were super successful! The members help us so much and their influence on the work is irreplaceable.
Just a quick thought - after having an amazing experience during the Sacrament yesterday, I thought about what we can do to have experiences like that during the week, because we are promising each Sunday to remember him all the other days. It is amazing that we can take a few minutes each day to study the scriptures and pray to Heavenly Father in order to remember Him. The sacrament is short, but a powerful reminder of the atonement. So it can be with our scripture study and prayer.
I love you all and hope we can each do more to remember Him throughout the week! Have an amazing week!
Elder Harris

Monday, October 17, 2016

First, we are obedient!!

                                                                                                           October 17, 2016
Hola Family!

Great to hear from everyone today! We weren´t able to visit several of our investigators this week so I am sorry I can´t give you all updates, but I learned so much this week and it has been a great week!

Yesterday we had Stake conference in La Pampa, and a seventy Elder Godoy came to speak to us.

He had a powerful talk and there were so many good things we learned. One thing that I loved that he said is, "the indicator of the depth of our conversion is how we treat others."

This is so true! It is so important how we love others and show that love in each thing we do because that is the second commandment we received from the Lord. Our love for Him will be shown in the way we treat others!
Another thing he talked about was the importance of our covenants. He talked about how our covenants should firmly anchor all of our actions. When we start to make exceptions and rationalizations, we are wandering from our covenants.
As missionaries our ultimate goal is to help people make and keep covenants. It is ultimately obedience to these covenants that will bring them true
happiness in this life and salvation
in the life to come.

Last night we had an interesting experiencing. We weren't able to find many new people to teach this week and we wanted to find a family last night. It was nearing the end of the night and we found a family who agreed to let us talk to them for a few minutes. They brought chairs out and there was a male inside the house, but only the women wanted to listen. We are not allowed to teach lessons without another male older than 18 present, but we were really desperate and we had been trying to convince them to listen to us for several minutes. When we realized we would not have a male to accompany us, my companion said, "Its your call." I thought about it and decided that we would not teach this family. 
As I made this decision, the thought came to my head "First, we are obedient" Whatever comes as a result of following the commandments and mission rules may come. We missed out on an opportunity to teach, but obedience always comes first.
A big challenge here is self sufficiency. People are so poor here that it is difficult for them to pay tithing and not work on Sundays. Part of the area  goal for self sufficiency is tithing and keeping the Sabbath day holy. I realized that these are not the end or the goal, but rather the means by which people will be come self sufficient.
First, we are obedient, and then the Lord will be with us and pour out his blessings upon us. It is such a privilege to be taking part in the gathering of Israel in these last days!
I love you all and hope you have a great week! I pray for each of you daily and hope you know how much I love you!
Elder Harris

Monday, October 10, 2016

Mission of Miracles

                                                                                                      October 10, 2016
Hola Familia!
Como están? Espero que todo estabien y estoy tan feliz para ver sus fotos y leer sus cartas!
I am sorry for alarming you last week with our crazy story. I realized after emailing that I forgot to tell you that everything was okay and safe! We don´t work in that area much and things are totally back to normal now so no worries!

Elder Sierra and I out exercising on our Preparation day
So this past week was cambios,(transfers) and.........NOTHING CHANGED!

Elder Sierra and I are still companions and will remain in this area. We were both very surprised because he started his mission in this area and at the end of this Cambio, he will complete a year of his mission. We also thought that they would open another area in our town which didn't happen either, so we get to keep all of our investigators! So he will finish my training and we are both pretty excited to do more this cambio.

The official name of our mission is, "Bolivia, Santa Cruz, Mission of Miracles!" And this week I really got to see why. On Friday we were able to see so many miracles!

After lunch on Friday we taught a woman named Sonia. She is an older woman who lives across the street from us and her granddaughter is a member. It was only our third lesson with her and we taught her about the Book of Mormon and then invited her to be baptized! She accepted for the 4th of November and we are so excited for her! She is just the sweetest lady and always gives us apple juice when we visit her haha.
In the evening we had a lesson with Familia Baudevin. Last week a little girl came up to us in the street and asked us to teach her family. Her name is Selbi and she is eleven years old and most of her family are less active members. During our second lesson with her on Friday, we taught her the message of the restoration, and then Elder Sierra invited her to be baptized. She immediately said yes. He then asked, "And why?". After a few moments, Selbi said "For happiness", and then with tears streaming down her face "and because I want to be a member of this church!" It was a powerful moment for us and she is so ready to take this step!
After this lesson we taught Claudia and Ximena. We talked to them a lot about baptism. They still don't feel ready and don't want to be baptized, but we testified that they don't have to be perfect before baptism because that is the reason we are baptized. They are putting more expectations on themselves than the Lord has for them. We invited them to be baptized in November, and Ximena said she doesn't want to, but Claudia said if she feels ready she will. At the end of the lesson, I was prompted to tell them that we love them and pray for them each night. As I spoke these words I was filled with the Spirit and felt an incredible love for them! It was a powerful moment and a great lesson.
Finally, yesterday we had a lesson with Secundino. He finally came to church yesterday which was a huge victory because he always tells us he is going to come and then doesn´t. Yesterday afternoon we taught him about the plan of salvation, and as we talked about baptism he told us that he has been feeling the changes the gospel brings to his life. He no longer feels like drinking or doing something bad and we testified that the Book of Mormon and his decision to follow the Savior are changing his life. We are so excited for him to continue to change and progress!
This week we saw so many miracles and had an amazing week! This is the Lord's work and it is so amazing to work alongside him! I love this area and these people so much and can't wait to see them enter the waters of baptism! 
I love you all and hope you have an amazing week!
Elder Harris

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Faith is Optimism

                                                                                                         Oct. 3, 2016
Hi Everyone! Great hearing from all of you and hope everyone is healthy and happy!
This week was pretty crazy...on Friday in one part of our area there was a mass eviction where lots of people were forced from their homes. The police came in with riot shields and it was very chaotic. One of these families were members so we spent a few hours helping them dissemble their house in what I can only describe as the most chaotic church move I have ever taken part in. Houses were being bulldozed and it was really sad to see.
On Saturday, things got worse, and as we were driving through the area we heard several gunshots and people were lighting straw mattresses on fire to burn their homes. We asked our taxi driver a few minutes later if he knew what was going on back there and he said completely seriously "Ohh there´s a championship soccer game! Yeah there are two teams..." and he went on giving details about this soccer game completely oblivious to what we had just driven through. Elder Sierra and I just cracked up. It was crazy!! We ended up inviting him to come to Conference.

Conference was amazing! I had to watch the first two sessions on Saturday in Spanish because there was no English transmission, but it was really special because when you can´t write down exactly what they are saying, you write down exactly what you are feeling. I really enjoyed President Uchtdorf's first talk and the Spirit was so strong throughout that day!
On Sunday morning we got to greet all the saints as they gathered in the Stake center in La Pampa! It was the happiest moment of my week to see so many righteous Latter Day Saints gathered to hear and sustain a Prophet of God! Unfortunately, none of our investigators attended which was really sad for us as missionaries, but we made several visits and calls to each one of them and did our best so there is nothing to regret!
This week I learned an important principle: optimism is an essential part of faith. I am a new and naïve missionary with a pure optimism at times simply because I do not know reality yet. Sometimes my companion and others around me tend to dampen that optimism because they "know better" or have experienced so much rejection before, but if we are to be faithful we must be optimistic. If we act without a sincere belief and hope that something is going to happen, we are not acting in faith.
Updates on investigators: Claudia y Ximena haven't progressed much this week but Secundino read 10 chapters of the book of Mormon on his own! It was amazing to hear this! I love this work and love all of you!
Elder Harris