Monday, July 30, 2012

Ire y Hare (I will go and do!)

Hola mis queridos padres! Les amo con mucho fervor! En serio, gracias por las emails que mandaron...senti bastante el espiritu testimonio sobre estos principios bastante importantes, diezmo y los templos. Yo se que sus experiencias me van a ayudar a mi a ensenar a mas personas. Seriously, thank you so much!!
(Hello my dear parents! I love you very much! Seriously, thanks for the emails you sent ... I strongly felt the spirit testifying of these important principles, tithing and temples. I know that your experiences will help me to teach many people.)

First is the news....I will be staying in Snow Canyon! For three more months! And training...again!! I was super surprised to hear this news...I guess it’s really possible that I could spend half my mission in this area. I am amazed, because I feel like I know EVERYONE in these three stakes, but after 9 months I guess we shall see :) I do know that President Leonard has priesthood keys and that he is inspired of God.  Like Nephi, it is just our pleasure as missionaries to say "Ire y Hare!" (I will go and do!),  or in my case "Quedare y Hare!" (I will stay and do!). We told our stake and branch leadership about the transfer calls, and they just laughed and smiled :) They kept one Elder in Snow Canyon for 7.5 months before, but it looks like I will take the crown for most time in this area now! 

On another note it is funny to think about... Heavenly Father prepared me for 19 years to go on a mission...and I really feel strongly that this is the area I was prepared to be in.  The language, the members, the investigators...I feel like this is my little piece of God's Kingdom that I get to tend. It’s the best! :)
So I am finally sending pictures :) The first one is of the tie from Zone Conference The last one I like to call "Oh, St. George!" Just a little snap shot of how I love "crying repentance unto this generation". 

The mother's name is A and she got baptized with her youngest daughter, J, who is 8.  Their baptism was going great. We had practiced with J beforehand (thank goodness!), but the poor girl, when she saw the font, got really scared. She even started to cry. (The S family told me that is somewhat common for little girls). I wish this moment was recorded, but I will describe it to you. As I stood in the water and beckoned to her, I just prayed so hard for the Lord to comfort her. A, the smart mother that she is, suggested that she get baptized first to show J  the way. That calmed J down at first, but when A was submerged, the fear was back in her eyes. A, so smart again, offered to stay in the water while J gets baptized (which is totally kosher by the way), and that really helped. So nervously, J came down the steps I took her tiny arms and the impression just came to me to rub and pat her back and just help her feel more comfortable. Well...the Spirit really came in and she calmed right down. That was a really special ordinance for me, for a lot of reasons.

After the baptism, Bro M, one of our Branch Missionaries came up to me and said. "I don't really have any better words for this but I just need to say this. You are a stud, a gospel stud. When I saw you down there patting her back and talking to her, I looked and that picture [the Savior with a little child], and I knew that is exactly what he would have done." He gave me a big hug and it was hard to not cry. 

I realize though, that during the whole time...I was super, super calm. Elder Barrales was getting worried that J  wouldn't be baptized, but I wasn't worried. That is one of the huge things I have learned on my mission. To be constant and calm in the face of a storm-because that is what these people, and the world, and my family some day, all really need. I rarely get really stressed out or not able to think now- I definitely feel the pressure and importance of what we are doing, but I have learned to "Be Still" more than ever, and just go to work following the Spirit. I realize now that as I have been working harder at loving and serving with all of my heart and might, the Savior has become more fully a part of who I am. I want to speak the words that He would speak. Do the things that He would do. And save His children as He would.

Sorry this email is kind of enveloped in one kind of has dominated my mind these two days. So...I love you so much!! I am so excited for a new transfer and 3 more months in the area I love. I know you all say that the real measure of my success is in the hearts of the people. That is so important. The Lord has also taught me though that if I will trust in Him, be obedient, and work hard to follow the Spirit, we can find, teach, and baptize those who are ready. That’s what we do in this mission, and that’s what I am going to "go and do."

Los amo!
Que vayan con Dios!
Elder Michael George Stewart

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peace that Passeth all understanding

Dearest Mother and Father and all that are reading,

Los amo muchisimo! Gracias por su amor sus oraciones y su confianza en mi. Siento el poder de tu amor y fe y al pensar en sus ejemplos me quiero esforsar aun mejor. La mision es lo mejor!
(I love you very much. Thank you for all your love, prayers and confidence in me. I feel the power of your love and faith and … My mission is the best!

First I have to give a big cyber hug to my best bud Mitchell Hadfield! Serving the Lord in Kyiev Ukraine! When I read that, I felt the Spirit really strong, and I know that you will do so much good for so many people in Ukraine. We will be on the same team in two different parts of the world for almost 2 years! You are the best!

This last week was week 11 with Elder Barrales, and so he took the lead in everything. It was fun playing the part of "junior companion" and it also made me remember how much I have learned in such a relatively short period of time. Even just small things take practice! An invitation to pray, taking the lead in planning situations, working with our ward council...there are a lot of small things that we learn to do. Now at six months it is a good time out to reflect, to make goals and set plans to get even better as a missionary. I am so excited for the coming transfer (we get calls on Sunday), the coming month, and the coming year and a half!
This week Heavenly Father has been kicking me in the pants [I have a feeling that I will be leaving Snow Canyon after this next week...but I don’t really know] :) It was hard to get in doors for the first little bit of this week (it’s a learning process that Elder Barrales had to go through) but I had an amazing spiritual experience one night praying where I asked "do you accept the sacrifices and work I have done for your children?" I thought of the 9 people I have been blessed enough to help come in to the church (we have 2 more this week end!!), the hours spent declaring the gospel on street corners, on doorsteps and even in Walmart, and....I was filled again with a peace that just passes all understanding. It made me want to work even harder to bring even more of God's children into his fold.  I have a strong testimony that this is God's work. I know there are many good paths to take in the world, but the restored gospel of Jesus Christ offers blessings far beyond any other path. I know this is true!

I also was really touched by the Spirit this week in our church meetings looking around at the faces of everyone there. The topic of one of the classes was President Eyring's talk "Families Under the Covenant" and I just looked around at all the families that I know have been to the temple, those that I know are preparing for the temple, and the investigators we had at church for the first time. You can see in their faces the power the atonement of Christ has had making and shaping those who have made covenants by his priesthood power. The power of Godliness is really made manifest in the ordinances. I studied the article later and was struck again by how true and how essential the temple is. Thank you both of you for being worthy and emphasizing the temple in your lives. I know it has blessed us so much. And even really made me want to keep finding families to teach!

Speaking of families, a lot of really amazing things happened this week to the families in our teaching pool. We had a lot of opposition, but we have learned that even in the times of opposition, God can do miracles with us. One really big surprise came for us when our recent convert A talked to us and said he was thinking about "stopping everything, and not coming to church anymore". He said he talked with his wife and she just didn't want to come to church anymore or be baptized. I was really devastated to hear this! The very next day (after lots of prayer and planning) we went over to talk with the F family and we just sat and listened for a while. It was amazing to watch the Spirit teach A the importance of repenting and keeping his covenants. Then Elder Barrales and I opened up to Helaman 3 (which we had studied together that morning) and A just sat and nodded his head for a while. He then spoke and said "I was thinking about stopping, but I am going to keep going. If she doesn't want to right now, M and I will keep going". Later we found out that Bro. M had been praying in the temple for them earlier that day. It was important to the Lord that A feel the Spirit that strongly in that moment. All we did was show up!

One of the goals we put as a companionship is also to strengthen our recent converts. We were really happy then when at church G and R asked us "where are the tithing envelopes? We need to pay" What faith!! I know that they will continue in activity and rearing their family how the Lord wants. 

We kept having great lessons with A S and her kids, and they are preparing for baptism next week. A asked us a fun question about polygamy in one lesson. "When I get baptized, will I have to marry 7 men?" We had a great conversation after that about revelation through prophets and that no, no you will not have to marry 7 people. The amazing thing is though...that she was willing to go through with it no matter what was required :)

De veras, estoy muy agradecido de que tengo esta oportunidad de compartir el evangelio que amo tanto. Yo sé que Cristo vive y que nós ayuda todos los Dias. Y atraves de él sufrimiento, nos podemos cambiar la naturaleza para el mejor. Tengo gran testimonio de que Su expiacion. Es real y es la cosa mas importante que podemos compartir con los demas.
(Really, I am very grateful that I have an opportunity to share the Gospel that I love so much. I know that Christ lives and that we can help every day. And through his suffering we can change our nature for the better. I have a strong testimony of His atonement. It is real and it is the most important thing we can share with others.)

Los amo muchisimo!
Que vayan con Dios,
Elder Michael George Stewart

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thank you so much for all your love and support and mail!

I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH! Thank you so much for all of your love and support and mail :)

This week, I really just want to start by bearing my testimony. We went to the temple today for our main Preparation Day activity and it was a really spiritual experience for me. I just kept thinking of the people I meet every day, the families and individuals we are preparing for baptism, and the varying attitudes that confront us every day.  I really KNOW that the church is true.  I know that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that his successors have held God's only priesthood authority on the Earth.  I have a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and that really is the basis of my testimony of everything. The Book of Mormon and the Bible have taught me of a real and living Savior, who wants to help us in every way in our individual lives. His tender mercies can be ours every day if we just ask!  I look back on almost six months (yikes!) and all I see is a string of blessings that the Father has given me.   I left on this mission to give back and to bless other people, but I feel like I have gotten the lion's share of the blessings.  I know God lives.  He loves us! And he sends missionaries to His children to call them home.

This week Elder Barrales and I had a ton of success. In every phase of the work, we got to find, teach, and baptize, all in one week! I will start with the amazing finding story :)

So Elder Barrales and I were in a new neighborhood that didn't look to have too many of the  key indicators but we passed this one house on our way to an appointment and we both looked at it and decided to go there later. Well, the appointment cancelled, so we got to check out that house right away. The door had a "Este Hogar es Catolico"  (We are Catholic.) sticker on it, but we fear no man :) We knock and a really nice hispanic mother answered the door cordially, but didn't look too interested in talking. Well it was 114 degrees outside, so we asked,  "can we just grab a drink of water?" and next thing you know we were in the door. We met the husband and started teaching the two,  and the dad kept telling us "you are nice, we respect you, but we are catholic." But for some reason we just kept on sharing the message of the Restoration with them. Normally, I am not so persistent in these situations but...the Spirit definitely told us to keep going. We were sharing the First Vision with them and we just got done saying "...hear Him!" (Escuchalo!) and the mom said "how can I know that is true?"  That was really amazing! She asked our next question!! We shared with her a Book of Mormon, and got a return apt. We came back on Sunday, and found out that she has been curious for a long time because she works with an LDS couple in a Dr.'s Office (thank you,  St. George) and was impressed by the quality of their family.  After that lesson...we are super hopeful for future work with her!  I am not sure if I will be able to see anything happen with this sister because she won't be able to have an appointment in the next few weeks, but what a great contact!  I have a testimony that the Lord will guide us as missionaries, if we let him.

This week we kept teaching A. S. and her kids.   This lady really wants to be baptized.  It is to the point where she is asking us who she can invite, what she needs to bring, and all the other details weeks away from her baptism! We found this lady just at the right time, and, as we've seen a lot,  she was really receptive to the Spirit that we've brought into her home. Thankfully, she has been coming to church too,  so that she can actually progress! We taught her and her kids the plan of salvation this week, and she at first said "I don't understand.  Why was it necessary to have the devil and opposition?"  Thank you Scripture mastery for the answer :) 2 Ne 2 : 11 "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility."  The Book of Mormon is the best!

We also had a great baptism this weekend! And her father got to baptize her as well (not sure why they didn't  baptize her on time...but that is why we are here!) We found this family...3 weeks ago :) Thankfully, the father was worthy enough to baptize the daughter. Our next step is definitely getting them all to the temple. The best part of the baptism was that a lot of their family attended: the whole room was full! And very very few of them are members. My favorite thing to do at baptisms now is afterwards go up to the branch and stake leadership and say "Let’s do it again!"  They get a really big smile, but it also shows them that we are working here with them.  Elder Barrales and I have been really blessed with our success and great relationships in this area.

My last reflection this week also came in the temple. I know that as missionaries we are messagers from our Father. I was reflecting over Dad's conversion story this week (send that in to the Ensign!)  I liked what he said about Heavenly Father not letting the fact that someone didn't get the gospel in this life stopping Him from helping them.  Heavenly Father has a plan for each of His children, and I have really seen firsthand  that missionaries are an important part of that plan. When people humble themselves by being obedient to the Lord and the invitations of His servants, then they follow the Gospel plan and make changes in their life.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints safeguards the priesthood of God on earth- which is the only power that can administer God's saving ordinances. I love the Gospel! Sharing this with everyone is the best!

I really do love you so much. Next week I will send you pictures from Zone Conference and from our baptism. As a last note, at Zone Conference I got a tie awarded to me for "The Best Baptismal Record in July" (DL's fill out the Baptismal Record forms).

I do love you so much! The Church is true! Families are meant to be sealed together forever! And right now I get the opportunity to share that blessing with other families who are just waiting for it! Keep us in your prayers!

Que vayan con Dios,

Elder Michael George Stewart

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sanctify Yourselves!

¡Buenas! Hello mother and father! It was an amazing week here in San Jorge, with the fourth of July, lots of conferences and lots of teaching to do. I just want to first express how grateful I am for being able to serve the Lord at this time and in this place. There are some more exotic places we could be in the world, but I have been blessed with the opportunity to TEACH a lot, speak a different language, and baptize a lot of prepared people, and work with great stakes that want to keep our converts active! I really just have a lot of love in my heart for this area and these people. I will miss the familiar roads and places of this area if they ask me to leave. BUT! Right now there is way too much to enjoy to think about such things :)

As a disclaimer, I had a whole bunch of notes written down, but I left them in the apartment. So I apologize for the lack of organization of my thoughts. The most...different...thing that happened this week was the 4th of July. We were prohibited from knocking on nonmembers' doors that day, but instead visited fewer actives, other members, and did service. We had a DELICIOUS barbeque with one of our service missionaries in the branch who served his mission in the mountains of Bolivia. That is such a different mission experience from my own! His stories were fun to listen to (baptizing in bath tubs and lake Titicaca alike), but I am really grateful for the current missionary program the church has , that helps us focus on our purpose and working hard with the local units as well. So the fourth of July was weird...because we just wanted to be teaching people :) 

We also got to help our recent convert F G move and basically build his new house this week. Elder Barrales nailed posts to the wall below and I did the posts above---an effective division of labor :) F was at first trying to do this work all on his own, but we told our ward mission leader and shortly all of the priesthood descended to help him out. I know that this has been a really stressful time for Brother G with work, moving, and building his new house, but this week he realized for the first time that the branch family is there to help him. It was a really sweet experience, seeing the relief in his face, and hearing the gratitude in his voice when we brought more people to help him out. Yup. Serving is the best :)

We had a leadership exchange this week with our Zone Leaders as well, and one of our ZLs right now is a Samoan from Hawaii. I love our district. We have a Chilean, an Argentinean, a Venezuelan, a Samoan, a German, a Sister from New Zealand, and just a handful of Americans. The Gospel is for all of the world. Even serving here in Utah, that is obvious to me.

This Sunday when our branch meetings started there were more white people there than Hispanics :) Our ward mission leader kept "score" with us while we watched the Hispanic families walk in late. But when they did they arrive in numbers! These last few Sundays the branch has been pretty packed, and it is really heartening to see less active families and convert families we have taught make that decision to come to church on Sunday. Especially the H family! This is a really worthwhile experience we have been having with them. Basically, months ago our branch president told us to go by and teach this family (the mom and the dad were less active, and the girls are unbaptized) and at first the mom was really apprehensive to talk to us because of bad past experiences. She learned to trust us though, and this Sunday, even though she was working, she called and reminded her husband and daughters to go to church. I loved watching all of the branch members just come up to Brother H and give him a hug a kiss (Latin culture...we avoid this by extending our hands proactively for a handshake...these sisters are just very cariñosas) and after the services he said "I needed this for a long time. We will definitely be coming back every week." I love it :)
This week though our district was also hit pretty hard and had a hard time meeting all of its goals. As leadership, it is our opportunity to bless, lift, and inspire these missionaries to keep it up, and to keep trying. And boy, does the Lord help you in your assignments. Last night as a part of companionship calls, the district decided to start a week of Sanctification-or trying to work harder and be more obedient than ever before, so that Heavenly Father will be "bound" (D&C 82:10) to bless us. Elder Barrales and I started it earlier...and boy did blessings just fall out of the sky! Yesterday we found, four new investigators, and our goal for the WEEK was three! One of the new investigators we got was a particularly good experience...his name is A, and his wife has wanted us to teach him ever since I first came into the mission. Well, they moved, A got falsely apprehended and put in prison (not too uncommon for these people), but while he was in there he asked his wife for a Book of Mormon. And in jail, he read 100 pages! After he got out, he went to church 3 times in a row! Our first lesson was yesterday in a chapel, after we invited him to be baptized he said (roughly translated) "In one way or another I have put that as my goal and I need to keep studying, keep coming to the chapel, and definitely praying a lot to be firm in my decision. I have a lot of faith in God and the Book [of Mormon] has a great spirituality to it and I know it is from God." Then we said..."So that is a yes?"  We all just smiled and there was a great spirit between all of us. The wife's testimony was a key as well, she said "After I was baptized I felt a great relief and we left the chapel and I was like 'what am I forgetting?' then I realized that I had left all of my sin behind." =] It was an incredible experience!

Solo quisiera compartir mi testimonio con uds. de que yo se que Dios vive y que nos ama mucho. El mandó a su Hijo Jesucristo acá a la tierra para mostrarnos con su ejemplo y para que nosotros pudieramos tener la vida eterna atraves de el. Ningun hombre dirige su Iglesia hoy, es la iglesia de Cristo y Él esta a la cabeza. Como sus misioneros podemos recibir su ayuda como nunca jamas en nuestras vidas. Testifico que el me ha hecho saber de estas cosas por medio de su espiritu. Lo amo con todo mi corazon, y él me ha ayudado a progresar y a cambiar en maneras maravillosas. Estar en la mision es la mejor cosa que yo pueda estar haciendo en este tiempo.
Entonces, los amo muchisimo. Tengan cuidado con las tormentas y con el calor (y aun mas la humedad). Casi no siento el calor ya :) ¡Los amo! Sigan mandandome sus oraciones!
(I just want to share my testimony with you. I know that God lives and loves us very much. He sent his Son to Earth to show us by his example that we can gain eternal life through him. No man directs His Church today, it is the church of Christ and He is its head. As missionaries we receive your help like never before in our lives. I testify that He has taught me about this through the spirit. I love Him with all my heart and he has helped me grow and change in wonderful ways. Being on a mission is the best thing that I can be doing right now.

So I love you very much. Be careful with the storms and the heat (even more the humidity). I hardly feel the heat already :) I love you! Keep praying for me!)

Que vayan con Dios,
Elder Michael George Stewart.

Monday, July 2, 2012

There is no substitute for WORK!

Buenas! Lo que pasa es que... los amo muchisimo a ustedes :) Esta semana se me fue volando, y tuvimos much exito en todas fases de la obra! Me encanta ser misionero en esta mision, en este tiempo, y en este area. Somos muy bendecidos.
(Hi! I love you a lot. This week I was flying and had a lot of success in all phases of the work! I love being a missionary in this mission, this time and in this area. We are very blessed.)
I have decided that I don't really feel the heat anymore. Elder Barrales and I look at the thermometer every morning and say, "Oh, 103, no big deal". I must say that I am partial to the dry heat. Humidity is the true culprit of summer suffering. I am still as always just struck by the beauty of the place where I am privileged to serve. We get pretty hikes, great views from our apartment, and great work, and great member support. What more could a missionary want?
Early this week we had a leadership training meeting with President Leonard. This my favorite. He trained us on the importance of getting investigators to church and of how to involve members in our teaching more. I have to say, this applied perfectly to the work in our area. It seems like the Holy Spirit is always anxious to teach us something if we just listen. Also at the meeting we took a "posterity picture" with Elder Hultgren (the tall one next to me), one of our old Assistants. In that meeting alone he had 9 missionary "descendants" (trained by him, or trained by those trained by him). In the mission he has even more posterity, making him pretty much the Abraham of the Utah St. George Mission. I can really say that I am seed of Abraham. (The other picture is a picture of the district from last transfer-I love this place!)
The Lord has a way of giving us reminders of who is really in charge of this work, and we got one of those reminders when I did an exchange this week with Elder Gomez in his area waaaaaay up north (not really way up north, but the temperature difference is noticeable). We went out to teach with one of his Elder's Quorum presidents (a recent convert cowboy, who is a really inspirational model), and the EQ President took us to visit and teach one of his friends who turned out to be a new investigator. So we are in this little trailer 20 miles out of our area teaching a lady I've never met before, and there is a knock at the door. We answer it and it’s the cable guy...BUT! This cable guy is a recent convert from a stake in my area that I just happened to know. So the cable guy goes out to work on the TV and we keep teaching. We come to the part where we are committing the investigator to read the Book of Mormon and teach her about baptism and we all take turns testifying. After we have all ended, I turned to the cable guy (who was by this point quietly observing us, not asking to be paid or anything) and said "I know you're here on a job, but how has being baptized, reading the Book of Mormon, and keeping the commandments blessed you." Then this cable man began to just bear his soul to this investigator and tell us his entire life story, and how getting baptized has blessed his life. The spirit was really there, the investigator was touched, and I'd say she has a lot of real intent to find out if the Book of Mormon is true. It’s funny...If I hadn't have met that recent convert before, or hadn't been on that exchange, the cable guy would have come and gone without bearing his testimony. It is a good thing that when we make goals and plans as missionaries, but there is a Master Planner pulling the strings above. I know this is his WORK. It really is work that we have to put in to plan, teach, go the extra mile every day, but our efforts give the Lord instruments, "boots on the ground", to work with. And I know that He does work with us.
We had an incredible lesson this week with A F. In the end I am not sure if she totally accepted the Spirit that she felt, but I know that she felt it. She told us how she really doesn't want to leave behind the Catholic traditions that her parents have given her. Let me tell you...we hear that a lot. So we began to open up the scriptures and testify to her. Mathew 3:13-17, how Christ was baptized and how we should follow his example; Acts 8:15-16, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost by the Laying on of hand; Exodus 20:3-6 don't worship images. The scriptures are so clear, and they do help people to see how they need to change. Add to that lesson A's love of the Book of Mormon, and Testimony of the church, and she ended saying "What you just told me has completely changed my perspective. I won't be losing what they taught me, just gaining even more. I'll tell you soon your answer [when I will be baptized]". I just have to testify right here that I saw the Spirit work on this woman. We felt a lot like Ammon and Aaron, who had to pray, have tons of faith, and WORK HARD to show people how the traditions of their fathers are not the Doctrine of Christ. The best part is though...we never have to fight to do it. We share the scriptures, explain them, and invite people to pray and read the Book of Mormon and come to church; the Spirit does all the rest.
And to finish it all … three beautiful baptisms. The T-T-C family has to be my favorite. They are sooooo active. They love classes, and when the grandma got confirmed, she was crying. We just have to baptized the dad!
Tengo gran testimony de la doctrina de Cristo. Hay que seguirlo a el en todas las cosas. Os amo mucho. La iglesia es verdadera, y es mi privilegio ahora efectuar el gran cosecho de almas. Lo amo!
(I have a great testimony of the doctrine of Christ. We must follow him in all things. I love you very much.  The church is true, and it is my privilege to be in the great harvest of souls. I love it!)
Que vayais con dios,
Elder Michael Stewart