Monday, September 29, 2014

Una semana purete


Well this was one of the greatest weeks of my mission. It seemed like every door we clapped on was just a miracle. We clapped on Cirpriano´s house and his sister had been baptized a few months ago and he said he was way excited to talk to us cause he always wanted to check out the church and talk with the missionaries, but he thought he had to be invited by us first. I almost did a fist pump mid-lesson. He is way excited to learn more and way pumped for general conference.

We also met Romina. We talked a bit about her life and she said that she was single when she was 7 months pregnant with her child who now is like 8 months old and I was just trying hard to listen to her and feel the Spirit and the question came: How did you feel when you were pregnant with your child? After that she just completely opened up and told us about how she had considered aborting her child and her first husband with whom she had already separated was not letting her see her first child and how she made the incredibly difficult decision to move away with her new child and another man to try to make a better life for her new child. She cried when she talked about how much she regretted considering taking the life of her child and how horrible she felt for being with a man that she wasn´t married to and how she has no hope and is afraid of God and doesn´t want to pray to him. And then the words came and we told her how she is a child of God and He always wants to help her and the second time we visited she was a lot better and at the end of the lesson she offered one of the most heartfelt prayers I have ever heard. My eyes started watering when I heard it and after I was just thinking about how if everyone felt the same way when they sinned that there would be a lot less sin in this world. It is always amazing to see how I learn more from these people than they learn from me.

We also had a baptism on Saturday: that was a baptism of the branch's but because we are basically the church leaders here we were responsible for organizing it all. One of the churches had a broken water system so we had to change it last minute and then we couldn´t find the key for the baptismal font.. So we entered in from the back door where the people go in to be baptized and started trying to break it open... Which did not work. There is a pretty sweet video which I will show when I get back. But finally the branch president from the other branch came and opened it for us cause he found the key. Crisis averted. We almost were gonna do it in the river which would have been sweet, but the important thing is that she got baptized. She is so tiny.

Elder Ollerton got sick this week so we were stuck in the apartment for the day, so I made a new map for the area using the google map print out that someone else had made. I had to use my math skills to make an exact copy only 3 times bigger. Also, I made Elder Ollerton soup but we had nothing to measure the water, so instead of eye balling it I took measurements of the container and poured it in until it reached the point of 1 liter. Needless to say I was pretty pumped about that. haha.

Today we gave a training in our zone meeting and we drew in 20 bricks on the wall each one for 4 years of life and drew in a half brick to represent the mission to show how we need to take advantage of every minute. We also talked about how if we lose time in little things every day that it adds up to a lot. Everyone left more excited to work so we were pretty happy. The Lord helped inspire us with that one. It is crazy that I have less than 11 months left. I don´t want to think about it, but I am so grateful for this time I have to dedicate everything to the Lord. I love being a missionary.

Con amor, Elder Hawk

More pictures of the well

The Bricks of our Life

Baptism Day

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mi presidente es un jefe‏


Well it was an awesome week yet again. We started out in divisions with the Elders in this tiny little unit of like 10 people that is falling apart cause one family is doing crazy things and offending everyone. So that was interesting. But they called yesterday and settled their differences with the family; and a super inactive member came to church who will probably end up being branch president cause he is excited to start working and helping the church grow. So that was way exciting!

This was also the week of President LaPierre because I think I spent more time with him in this week than in like all of my mission combined. He showed up to San Pedro on Tuesday and talked about the problems they were having and later talked with the crazy member; which helped out a lot. Then we had interviews with him on Friday. We were talking with him about some of the struggles in our area and the problems with some of the members and he said: " You are not meant to be just a couple of young men knocking on a few doors. You are the defenders of the faith.. and the faithful. You are fully commissioned. Do what you need to do. I trust you completely." It was powerful and we asked him if we could write it down after he said it. ha ha In my personal interview we were talking about the mission and he asked me to talk about how the mission is compared with the vision that he has because he knows he doesn´t see all that really goes on, so he asked me a lot about that. We talked about a few other things, but at the end he asked if there was anything else and I said "Just thank you." And he looked at me and said; "It´s not me." And began to describe how he has been sustained and supported in his time as mission president like he has never felt before. He talked about how ideas come to his mind that he knows could never possibly come from him. And then he said that when things start to go good and he starts to feel a little bit prideful that the Spirit whispers to him
 "It´s not you." I didn´t know what else to say to him, but I saw humility in its truest form. He wasn´t saying it to try to look humble, but because he truly believes it and he lives it. I realized that while I have improved that I also need to recognize that it´s not me. It´s always the Lord.

Later, he gave a talk in district conference and talked about how life is a trial and sometimes the greatest trial is the church itself, especially the members which I thought was very interesting. And he always talks using cool stories and is very expressive and at one part when he was talking about how being a member of the church can be a trial he looked at everyone with big eyes and his hands stretched out to the side and said "Welcome to the university of eternity: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints" and then talked about how it isn´t easy but it is where we learn and prepare for eternity.

Then on Sunday he came to our little group and talked about how we need to see the different clashing personalities that we have as opportunities to improve and learn about ourselves. Everyone was just like mesmerized listening to him. Afterwards he hung around awhile longer and we got to talk to him a bit more just casually. As they were about to live Sister LaPierre asked him what he did with the keys and he said that he had given them to her and she said she didn´t have them and they had a tiny argument and it was pretty funny. I don´t say all of this to try and praise him or anything, because the biggest thing I learned is that him and Hermana LaPierre are just so real. In the interview, in front of a congregation, with a group of missionaries, casually talking one on one they are always the same. They are constant. They don´t try to seem like more than they are or puff themselves up, but they just are who they are.

I am so grateful that the Lord sent me into the best situation for me with the mission president I need. He is a great man.

In other news we dug a well this week. I am still a bit sore. I think Elder Ollerton will be sending pictures for me to Mom and Dad so you can forward them to everyone else. I love you all and am so grateful for all of your support!

Con amor, Elder Hawk

Elders Hawk and Ollerton with Jorge after digging a well! 
"We ended up at 21 feet down so far!!"

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ita Paso no "Un tipaso"‏

Ba´e la porte chera´a (Not sure if it is spelled right but it means what´s up in Guarani)

Well it has been a pretty sweet week getting to know the area and my new companion. We have to walk a lot in this area cause there is one big neighborhood and then a few smaller ones far away. The Elders before have contacted every house here like 5 times, so we are trying out some of the other neighborhoods. It is weird to have an American companion after over 6 months of Latinos. It is fun to be with someone who has had a lot more similar experiences and we have a good time together. Today in our zone meeting we were super pumped cause we planned one of the coolest meetings of my mission. Here the church is super small in some places. Two areas have less than 20 members that go to church and ours has like 30. The topic of the meeting was helping strengthen our groups or branches. So we played the newlywed game with the missionaries to get to know us better and then talked about how our relationship has a strong effect on the members. Then we had a discussion about the challenges and ideas to strengthen the church here and at the end we did a practice where a superhero member moved into the ward because of our fervent prayers and we had to ask him about his conversion experience and got to know him to figure out who he was and then asked for a reference with his conversion experience fresh in his mind. It was way funny because when we did the demonstration and the beginning the Elder was Spiderman and when I figured it out I said "I have always said that with much power comes much responsibility" and everyone started laughing and we used it to receive the reference of his friend whose father had recently died in a terrible accident. It was fun and I think it will really help the missionaries to realize how to better involve the members in the work by using the Spirit.

The area is beautiful. It is like 45 minutes away from the city part and there are some way pretty views. (But I forgot my connector to download photos. Sorry..) The missionaries before were working way hard so there are several recent converts we are working with, though some of them have some pretty serious problems. The Velasquez family was way prepared to get baptized and President LaPierre had done their baptismal interview and was way excited about them and they got baptized, but haven´t come to church in two months. We went to their house and Elder Ollerton doesn´t know them super well either so the thought came into my mind to just start to share with them about my life and gain their confidence. I talked about a few of my funny experiences before the mission and we were all laughing and then I talked about my family and shared about Jace. I got choked up a little bit when i told them that as a five year old I always wished that he would get better when we crossed the cattle guards. But we talked about eternal families and the huge blessing they have to have found the gospel. They opened up more and we are going to help him dig his well on Saturday. I hope they come back.

We also had a sweet experience when we showed up at a house and the daughter of a member who doesn´t want anything to do with the church and who I had never met was sitting with some kids doing a school project. We shared them about the cool story where you fold a paper and then rip it and a cross comes out. I´m not sure how to explain it, but she loved it and is another step closer to accepting the gospel. Bu the coolest thing we did is have a meeting with the active members and we were going to just talk about all the problems and say what we needed from them, but right before I felt impressed to just introduce topics/problems and let them talk about it and come up with their own solutions. They left a lot more excited and we had way better ideas than what we could have thought of. If the members really follow through there is going to be a huge amount of success here.

I´m loving life down here and I am way happy! I love you all!

Con amor, Elder Hawk

Monday, September 8, 2014

No lo esperé‏


Well, the week went pretty well and we had some way cool divisions with the elders from Hernandarias. I was with Elder Taylor first who is really quiet but plays the piano like a boss and we worked really hard and at the end of the day he said that what he learned is that he can do more than he thought. It made me feel really good that I helped him to gain more confidence and see his potential. He is now señor companion in his area.

I also had divisions with Elder Mendoza who is our district leader. He used to be my zone leader and is way awesome. We were working and it was all pretty normal but then we went to visit Ana Toledo and she started talking about how she wanted to change because she feels like she has a hard heart and wants to change some things in her life. A few weeks ago she was telling us about how she has epilepsy and was really down about it and I gave her una receta (what the doctors give to people) of reading the scriptures and saying prayers and she started to do it and you can really feel the difference in her house and in her life. But as she was talking about this I shared a scripture in Mosiah about repentance and we taught her very simply about how to repent. It was just the true doctrine for her circumstance. We told her she had already recognized her sins and we challenged her to take a moment that night and think of the pain her sins have caused in her life and for others and for Christ and then pray asking for forgiveness and making plans to not do it again. The Spirit was so strong even though we were just teaching a simple concept. I talked with Elder Mendoza after and he said when we were teaching her he felt the desire to change and realized things he needed to change. I also felt the same way. But as I reflected on this I realized that after a year in my mission I am finally beginning to grasp the basic principles of the gospel. I think the majority of the problems in Paraguay (and there are a lot of problems) is that the members of the church don´t know how to truly repent. Someone drops the cane on them and they change for two days and then go back to how they were before, but Elder Bednar is a lot smarter than us and taught the people about repentance in the multi-stake conference. Teaching the true doctrine is what really changes people. It was awesome to see the Spirit guiding my words in the lesson and to see that I learned more than she did. That is when we know we are teaching by the Spirit.

Then on Saturday night I got a call at like 10 o clock and they said that I needed to take all of my things with me to Encarnación with my companion and that I would also be leaving, but they didn´t tell me anything else. So I packed my bags and we went to church on Sunday and told the bishop and ward mission leader. I bore my testimony and told them if they are going to remember anything about me I hope they remember that I loved the people and had a strong testimony of this work. It was sad to say goodbye. That place became like my home. I was there for almost 6 months. But we took a bus to Encarnación and I was thinking the whole time of where I would go, and then they called me and I will be serving in Ita Paso as the zone leader of Encarnación with Elder Ollerton. I haven´t gone to my area yet, but they say it is a tiny little town. I am way excited for a change and the zone needs a lot of help so I am excited to get to work. I didn´t see this coming but I am way excited! I will send pictures of the members in my last area and some of my new area next week.

I love you all and am so grateful for your support and prayers!

Con amor, Elder Hawk

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Edificar mi iglesia


Well I have officially completed one year as a missionary. I feel like even in another year more, I will never see or fully understand the impact of the service I have given, in my own life, and in the lives of others. Yesterday we were in the council of leaders and the missionaries in Oberá informed me that the daughter of Ramona who was my investigator was recently baptized, that her daughter is preparing to be baptized and she is progressing a lot more. She was healed of here heart problem because of the blessing we gave her and she said she is going to write us a letter because she wants to tell us her testimony again because she knows we didn´t really fully understand her when she told us. Her family still talks about me and Elder Muñoz. I will never really see the fruits of my labor.

However, the fruits that are a bit more apparent to me are the changes in my own life. I was reading my journal entries from the beginning of my mission and I realized how much I have learned and how much I have changed. At the beginning of my mission I didn´t have very much faith that I could do all that the Lord asks of me, but after seeing the words that He sends to me by His Spirit and the strength that He sends to me in times of trial I know that I can meet any challenge that He sends to me. And I can´t help but feel that more challenges are coming to test my faith.

This week I gave a talk in sacrament meeting. It rained and only 31 people were at church and during the class the people started talking a lot about how when the rain comes everyone loses their faith, but I felt like they were kind of acting like they were a bit better than those who did not come. So  talked about Peter and Christ. Peter started out with very little faith, but Christ used His faith to grow Peter´s faith. When Peter walked on water but then sank, Christ didn´t tell Him "Too bad, it is your fault for not having faith. Save yourself." Instead He stretched out His hand and gave Peter a chance to show his faith again. Later, just before He is about to suffer for the sins of the world and take upon himself an agony indescribably infinite, he tells Peter that He is pleading that the faith of Peter will not fail and then tells him to strengthen others with his faith. Later Christ tells him three times to "feed my sheep." I think that sometimes as members of the church we think we are better than others for doing right things. But if we spend all of our time thinking we are better than other people we will not have time to help them to strengthen their faith as Christ did with Peter. So I asked the question: What are we doing to help these people grow their faith so that they too can have faith strong enough to come to church in any circumstance?

This is related to what we discussed in our leadership council: What does it mean to build the church? To me it means to help individuals and families develop faith in Jesus Christ and make and keep covenants. If this does not happen, then the church will never grow. What are we doing to help others grow in their faith? Do we expect them to just do it all on their own or are we extending them a hand as Christ did with Peter? I think I have been expecting the members to just start working. To just do it. but I have not been doing my part to help them grow their faith to the point in which they can do it. We need to start truly building the church.

Con amor, Elder Hawk