Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Mar 22 - The day that changed my life

Hey all!

Well I know that the day that I am about to describe will be hard to convey over email, and I know that only feeling what I felt for myself can truly allow one to have been impacted in the way that I was. First of all, the first part of my mission I was really into saying well I know that I will come home the same person that I left, just like a more spiritual version. But, after last Saturday, I know that is a complete lie, because that is not God´s plan. If I go home the same person that I was 2 years earlier, I have failed, I have failed to let the mission have the effect on me that God intended. We teach everyday how Christ can change the lives of every person that we meet, but the question sometimes is, is if we really let Him do that for us? After this day, I know that He can, and I know that He will if I, if we, just open our hearts and let Him do it, let Him in. I love my Savior Jesus Christ, I know that He lives, and I know that he can save and help us. I came to understand Him so much more, and that understanding is what changes our lives. Elder Penrod and I have both been thoroughly convinced that we may never have such a spiritually exhausting, testimony building or heartbreaking day as last Saturday. Sorry if after that big build up its not that cool of an experience for those reading, as I said it was a day of personal growth, but I will share pretty much all of my email from that day.

So, Saturday was the much awaited baptism of America and her daughters Alexa and Zoe. When I got to this area, Elder Penrod had just told me that pretty much all of the really good investigators that they had had just been baptized so we were kind of starting from ground zero. Our first week here we contacted America in the street and she received us immediately. These las 2 months we have grown to love this family so much! Finally, the date that they had set for their baptisms came. Friday we spent all evening with them in their baptismal interviews and everything to get them ready (which was a fiasco and a whole other story by itself). But, everything seemed so ready for Saturday, Alexa chose me to baptize her, and Zoe chose Elder Penrod and America had chosen President Mecham who had done her interview. We were so excited for the most spiritual baptism ever.

Then, on Saturday we went to go pick them up to all go to the baptism together. America was already in her white dress and everything, and seemed nervous and excited, Elder Penrod and I just couldn’t stop smiling. That is until she said that she needed to talk to us and she sat us down. That’s when Adan, her husband came out. He has listened to us since the beginning, but he is what we call a Buddy Investigator, that he just kind of likes to be our friends, he listens to us, but he isn’t super excited to change his life to put it in line with Gods teachings which is the reason that we were moving forward with just the baptisms of the rest of his family. He just said, ´´Well, Elders. I have bad news. My daughters aren´t going to be getting baptized today. ´´

He went on to explain to us that at the last moment some figure from the Catholic church had called with him (and by last minute, I mean just hours before we got there) and had just really messed with Adan about how the church was going to view him, and his family, and just a bunch of stuff about that. The real rotten thing (in my opinion) is that not at one point was anything mentioned, like hey if this is the right church and they change, they might set themselves up for some bad stuff. No, it was just all political, and it just messed with his head. We couldn’t even believe what we were hearing, I think we literally went into shock. The daughters came out just absolutely bawling and started begging their dad, then he started to cry too and just told us how confused he was. Well, thirty minutes of talking and we got nowhere, the decision had been made, only America was going to be getting baptized.

When we got to the church, Elder Penrod and I went off to a separate room and I was able to say one of the most powerful prayers that I have said in my entire life. Something that I have loved learning about prayer, is that just like a blessing it can be guided by the spirit and that’s just what happened. I started to pray asking God to please soften Adan’s heart so that the daughters could get baptized. But as I prayed and I felt the tears start to come on, I felt the words just come out of my mouth, ´´But, Heavenly Father, if it be not Thy will that these precious daughter be baptized today, we ask Thee to make this a spiritual experience for every person in attendance.´´ Elder Penrod and I got up, and hugged, still so sad for the decision that Adan had made, just sad because of how much we love those girls and want the best for them, but with a strength that I cannot describe that came from knowing that whatever happened it was God´s will.

The baptismal service was incredible. I cannot even describe the Spirit that was felt there. The first speaker was a member of the Stake High Council, and the second speaker was a recent convert. There was a special moment in each talk where the speaker looked up from their paper, and literally started to say things meant especially for this family that they could not have known that they needed. The second speaker even tried to apologize to us afterwards, because she didn’t even realize that the Holy Spirit had taken over to guide her words.

After the talks it was finally time to be baptized for America. She and President Mecham went down into the font. President Mecham gave the prayer, and it seemed as though he may have been starting to choke up from emotion as he did it. Afterwards we went out into the hall to congratulate them, and President Mecham told us, this is such a special hermana, such a special family, it will all happen, don’t worry elders. Then we asked the hermana America if she wanted to share her testimony with everyone (before she had told us that she would never ever do that because she hates public speaking) but we had recieved an impression from the Holy Ghost that we HAD to ask her. So, we did and she said yes.

That was the crowning moment of the baptism that this Hermana stood up in front of a room filled of members and non-members alike and testified of the truthfulness of everything she had experienced. She shared a powerful testimony of how she knows she will see her recently passed away again, how she wants nothing more than for her daughters to grow up in this path, and how she just felt like a new person. She had been looking for this for so long, and finally had found it. There was not a dry eye in the entire room. Elder Penrod and I were outright bawling because the spirit was so strongly present to testify of what this daughter of God was telling us. She single handedly invited a spirit so strong that three of our investigators in that moment got the answer to their prayers and decided that they too needed to be baptized.
That was the moment that changed my life. I know that prayer I had offered had been answered. Even though my heart had literally broken to see Alexa´s and Zoe´s faces when their dad told them they couldn’t be baptized. Even though we have been working so hard here without a lot of success. Even though I personally have been working for so long, with a lot of heartache and hard times with sometimes little success. Even with all of that, in 5 minutes, the Spirit testified to me that just with America my whole mission was a success. It was all worth it. I learned in that moment something that I have always known but I guess never completely understood. The why of missionary work. America had the door opened to her not just for a better life here on Earth, not just for some blessings, but she truly had the door to heaven itself opened that day. She is a changed person with a glow, with a light in her eyes that has no other source than from God. I was shocked to the core to finally feel for myself the promise that the Lord gave is a true one, O how great will be our joy if we labor ALL of our days and bring just one soul unto our Father. I know that God loves her as he loves us, and was so happy that day. I know that this is the most important work on the planet. This isn’t just getting to know people, or teaching some cool stories from a little blue book. This is a question of eternity. I have never loved a family as I have loved the Olivares Puebla family, and I am so grateful that God has blessed me to be able to feel just a fraction of the love that he has for them, and for all of us. I know that He wants what is best for us, and that in His time and His way all things will come to pass as he desires. I know that the hermana made a decision that has changed her life, and mine as well because after that we both came to know Jesus a lot more than before. I have started to understand just a little more of the price that he paid for every single one of us, for the love that He has for each one of us, and the immense joy that we and He can feel when we accept. There is no other way. I hope that these things are on everyone’s hearts and minds this Easter week. I know these things with all my heart and I share them in His name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Elder Stout

Monday, March 14, 2016

Mar 14 - The Prophet Today

Hey all!!

So first of all is the big news of the week is that Elder Penrod and I are going to be staying together in Churubusco for one more change! WOOHOO!!!! That means that I will get to be his last companion and that its almost certain that I will be here until at least June and maybe even July! I am so happy! Elder Penrod and I are working so hard, and are really seeing the results of our labors; he is such an awesome Elder and person, I am so thankful that I will be able to keep learning from him for 6 more weeks; and that also means that I will be spending quite a bit of time in an awesome ward and area! The Lord is blessing me so much, and I know that he must have a lot of work that he needs me to do here, so it’s time to buckle down and just go get it all done.

A really funny experience that we had last night is that right now we are preparing America, Alexa and Zoe for their baptism. We have had a little bit of a hard time teaching Zoe because well she is 8 years old and has the attention span of an eight-year-old. For example, if we ask her at the beginning of a lesson what a prophet is, she will tell us, like its someone who has God’s power, and we will say good job and then go on to explain more of what a prophet is. Then, when we end the lesson we will ask her so what did you learn about prophets and she gives us the exact same answer as before....haha so we decided to give them a bit of homework, with a bunch of questions about the things that we’ve taught them and have them look for their answers in the scriptures and online and just in whatever way they can. We gave it to them when we went to eat with their family last Tuesday (pic attached).

We went back yesterday to check in and Elder Penrod and I literally were laughing for about 15 minutes as we read one of Zoe’s answers. The question was, ´´Who is the prophet today?´´ and she put, ´´the prophet today is a very very good man and a good prophet who is named Today.´´ haha so I guess we have to go back and focus a little more on helping her get a testimony of Thomas S. Monson, hahaha. But, they are still moving forward good for their baptism this Saturday, keep praying for them so that nothing gets in their way.

On Saturday I also had the incredible opportunity of conducting a baptismal interview for the elders in Espartaco, I haven’t the opportunity to do one for a while, so it was such a good reminder to me of the changes that really happen in a person´s life as they prepare for baptism. As we are teaching the people we sometimes are oblivious to that, but when its someone else’s investigator its way easier to see. Her name was Alicia and she just shared with me the strongest testimony of how she knows she’s not perfect but that she just wants to follow Christ, before I even started the questions the spirit testified to me so strongly that she was ready. We were both crying during the interview and it was just a very spiritual experience overall.
Tamara and Rubi are getting ready for their baptism too, we were able to pass by with them a few times this week and we watched Meet the Mormons with them last night with the Ortiz Muñoz family. It’s awesome, Rubi is already set on serving a mission, and she told us she already wants to start preparing, she’s only 15 and not even baptized yet, she’s the best!

Well those are the updates from here! 

Best Wishes,

Elder Stout

Friday, March 11, 2016

March 8 - best week yet!

Hey all,

Well I like the idea that my mom does to start from the most recent and then write going backwards because I think that makes it a lot easier to remember everything that I have to say!

So I want to start off talking about a leadership council that we had with President Mecham yesterday. We only have them once a month and they are by far my favorite part of my new assignment! There are 23 people that participate in this council, the 14 zone leaders, the 2 assistants, the 5 sister training leaders, and then President and Sister Mecham. This week we just went in praying about ways to help the mission find the people that the Lord is preparing and help them to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives, and how we as leaders can help the missionaries in the mission to do that better. It turned out to be one of the most spiritual experiences of my life, where we truly learned that if we do all that we can, the spirit WILL be there to testify of the truthfulness of these things, it doesn’t matter if were about to go home and have 23 months of experience, or if we were in our house yesterday, but we have to do our part, of obeying the mission rules, studying, and preparing to teach these people!

Then President just started talking about the vision that he has for the mission, he told us he is kind of scared for the future, of what will happen, because looking around that room, when my generation goes home, everyone else will have already gone home that was on that leadership council. He just started to cry and tell us who much he needs and loves us, and how much he has learned from us. Then he said, you may not have known it, and I can’t say this just to any person, but every single one of you is in my journal, and I will never ever forget you. It was an incredible meeting that helped me just leave ready to serve even better in the work of the Lord! What an opportunity!

Fast and testimony meeting from yesterday. Yesterday was the best Sunday that I have had in my entire mission (and maybe even my entire life), Elder Penrod and I noticed a couple of weeks ago how Sundays are usually super stressful because we have to help all of the investigators that come to church, we usually end up teaching classes, we are helping the bishop, we are worried about all of the people who don’t come to church, we are just always super stressed, so this week we decided to enjoy church. I have never been so uplifted by the testimonies shared as I was this week. Pretty much every deacon (all 3 of them) got up and shared their testimony about the brotherhood that they feel in their quorum. Jose Armando (from the pics last week) got up and bore his testimony about Elder Penrod and me. He just got up there and was like ´´this week Elder Stout and Elder Penrod came by and taught us the coolest lesson on the armor of God, I just wanted to share it with you...I can’t wait to be a missionary, I want to be like them.´´ I was full on crying while he said that, I just feel the pure love of Christ so much right now! I just love every person that we are teaching, and every person in this Ward, the Lord is blessing me so much!

Also, Ana, and Valeria Ortiz Muñoz bore their testimonies which is super cool! This family all got baptized right before I got to this area, and they are incredible (the pic is with them) and Valeria is preparing for her baptism as well (she’s the only one left). This week we had so many people come to church with us! Azul and Tamara and Rubi all are still working towards their baptism dates, and had a great time there. Also, America and her 3 daughters were there! I love that family!!! If all goes well they should be getting baptized next week!:) They even signed up to give us dinner today in church. Also, I included a picture of how Zoe decorated me during church, haha it was awesome!

Last week we had a really cool experience with Tamara and Rubi too. We asked them so like how have you liked all of this so far? And Tamara said, if you had told me all of this 6 months ago, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye or thought twice, But that was because the Lord had not finished preparing me. I am so thankful you two found me, I am so excited for what you have been teaching me, and I just want to do what God has planned for me in my life. This is the most beautiful message I have ever heard and I have felt and know that it is true!

Wow, what experiences I had this last week! I am hoping to have even more this next week!! I hope the best for you all as well!!

Elder Stout

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mar 1 - Short Note

Hey all!
Well just to let you all know that this is probably going to be one of the shortest emails that I have written because I spent a good 50% of our pday writing time just trying to get my computer to sign in, so on top of the fact that I don’t have very much time, I am a little frustrated and am not able to think super well about what happened this week.
So better I will just describe the pictures of the week.
First of all there is a picture of me with a young man from the stake because there was a big stake wide young men’s activity where they split up all of the YM on divisions with missionaries from the entire zone to spend one day in the life of a missionary. It was a really cool experience, my comps name was Alam Rojas, and it was cool to be able to answer questions that I forgot that non missionaries might even have about mission life. Another cool part of the whole thing is that President and the APs asked me to share my testimony to get the whole thing kicked off. It was such an incredible experience to be able to share my missionary with those youth and the zone about the importance of preparing the next generation of missionaries. If there are any youth of mission age, or almost there, reading this and thinking about serving a mission, I invite you to serve now. Not for you, but because the Lord truly needs you, he has prepared you to be in the best generation for missionaries that the world has ever seen; every generation is better than the last. I know that this is a work that will continue going onward, but the Lord needs our help!!
Another picture was of a family that accompanied us to a lesson, the family Morales Rangel. They only got baptized a year and a half ago, but the dad is the Elders Quorum President! They are an incredible family. About halfway through the visit I realized that the son, Jose Armando had just been ordained a deacon like Jake, so as we left I asked him when his bday is and he told me the 3rd of February, just one day after Jake. It was a special moment for me to think that he is practically the same age as my little brother and it made me feel really close to him.
Elder Penrod and I have had the bad luck of losing signal pretty much every night this week, but we also have the responsibility of reporting with the missionaries at night, so here is a picture of us when we had to go out at night to find service and report by the side of the road.
Lastly, we have made it a Monday tradition to run up to the top of the cerro de estrella here in our area, so here is a picture from the run this week!
Well that’s the weekly rundown, once again I am sorry that it’s so short, I hope that you guys all had a great week!
Elder Stout