Monday, November 25, 2013

Loving it!

Hello family! It’s been a great, if a little cold, week here in Gunnison. We had snow and some wintery mix a few times this week. But thankfully Gunnison doesn't get hammered with snow like other towns in the area. Yes I am staying warm.  But I am also going to buy another sweater today!

This week Elder Becerra baptized M. We almost thought that M's baptism wasn't going to happen this week. His work took him all the way to Oregon to pick seed in the mountains. But he drove all the way back to Gunnison on Friday for his baptism on Saturday. He is such a humble man, and he felt that the Lord had great blessings in store for him if he decided to go through with his baptism. There was definitely a way provided for him to come back down to be baptized!

We also taught a young lady named H who was baptized this week.  Her dad was worthy to baptize her and they her family has have been really good about coming to church together, except for her mom who works on Sundays in the jail. They are probably in my favorite ward in this area, the bishop, ward mission leader, and a lot of the members work so hard to find and fellowship investigators.

We worked really hard this week. I am surprised at how much effort is still required for each baptism to take place. The formula doesn't change no matter how long you have been on your mission! Faith and Works are always the qualifications for miracles. I am just so happy that I still have the energy to go after it every day in this area.

Some highlights from the week: we went on a lot of splits to cover all of our lessons. Elder Becerra told me that he has grown a lot in this last month, and that was a little payday moment for me. I really love him and I want him to leave this area ready to tackle any challenge in the mission. Every day we study and practice so that we can each get better, and it is definitely paying off!

This week we also went all the way down to Central Valley (see that on a map of Sevier County) to teach a Peruvian man who is working as a sheepherder. That was a great experience. We are the only Spanish speaking missionaries right now that can cover this big area and so we got a ride all the way down to Richfield and then from Richfield to Central. We stopped in a field in front of a tiny, tiny trailer. Seriously, our dinner table would not fit inside of that trailer. My companion sat in front of J as we taught him the first lesson in that tiny space. He has been to church before, loved it, and his English teachers have given him a Book of Mormon in Spanish. I wouldn't be surprised if he got baptized soon. We are going back there this coming week to teach him again.

Also, we kept teaching the Bs. And the whole family came to church this Sunday! The Bishop and ward mission leader were kind of surprised to see them all there, and we were too honestly! The mom and dad are members, and their 19 and 24 year old daughters live with them and were never baptized. They don't read very much so we spend time reading from the Book of Mormon with them in the lessons.

We continued teaching the Ms too! That was such a great experience. All of their kids come and listen to the lessons as well, and they have read the Book of Mormon together and prayed together as a family. This week they came to church too! The mother said that she is surprised to see changes in herself to where now she WANTS to have us come over and she WANTS to go to church. The father is also coming along well (he is a nonmember); he said that he understands more about the Gospel than ever before.

Teaching families all together has been such a great blessing. We are teaching 5 families right now and a smattering of other individuals. Before I got transferred from St. George I had the impression that I would be focused on teaching families in this last part of my mission, and it’s so good to see that come true!
Thanks for your emails too! It’s so funny, here raking leaves is definitely not the process that it is back home. The trees are smaller and have smaller leaves too. Thanks for the details too about the return trip home. I won't be out of Utah very long!

I love you all so much! I definitely know that this gospel is true. I continue to learn more and more about faith, repentance, and baptism on my mission. As you preach the first principles of the gospel again and again, your understanding and conversion really grows. I am realizing that they are all inseparable. The gate to enter is repentance and baptism, not just baptism. We need to help our investigators endure to the end too. At the same time, we're not afraid or ashamed to teach the necessity of baptism either, after all the Savior commands us "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost". That scripture is still carrying me this day!

I love you so much!! Take care!

Elder Michael Stewart

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What more can I give?

Hello mom and dad,

 This week I learned great lessons, I hope a lot of what the Lord has been teaching me for 2 years is getting internalized. Let me start by telling you of some of the impressions I had this week.

A young single father who is inactive and struggling with the Word of Wisdom asked us to come teach him and give him some help this week. He is divorced for several reasons, lives alone, and only gets to see his girls every other weekend. One impression that I had when I was in his home is that life, marriage, and companionships, are not about "What’s in it for me?" The world wants us to think about ourselves, about our own pleasure, achievement, health, and enjoyment, but that is backwards with God. Any human relationship does not last if we are just in it for ourselves. That was a pretty powerful lesson that was driven home to me.

This week was awesome! We had several lessons that were just flawless. We taught the Restoration to almost all of our investigators this week and it was great to see that Elder Becerra and I are getting to where we can really teach as a team. It’s taken a lot of work and practice to get there!

Let me tell you about one lesson that we had and then I have to go, sorry!

We were teaching a part member family (The N’s, they aren't active and their 15 year old B is an investigator).  Elder Becerra said the previous contacts with the N’s hadn't been too successful in the past. We were reading the first chapter of the Book of Mormon and a Spirit came into the room that was clear and sweet. The parents and the daughter who we were teaching had tears in their eyes as we testified simply of the Book of Mormon and they committed to read it every day! Just little simple experiences like that go a long way for me.

I love you! Gunnison is great! We are having a few baptisms next week! And we are inviting everyone else to be baptized too.

Con Amor,
Elder Michael Stewart

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sanpete for Life!

This week we had a baptism the missionaries had been working on for a while before I arrived. We have been focusing on the mother of a family, and this week I invited her to read the Book of Mormon.  She did!  I was so happy when she kept that commitment.  She is a less active member, but I was very happy when she decided to read the scriptures again. Reactivation is just as rewarding as converting.  This week we baptized her son.

 To give you some perspective, I feel good if we find 2-3 new investigators in a week because I expect about 1:3 of them to be baptized. This week we found 7 new investigators! I love finding new people to teach! It’s one of the most exciting things for me as a missionary. Thanks for your prayers for me to find! Keep praying! There are a lot of people waiting for us to give them the gospel up here.

Most of the new investigators are coming from referrals that the bishops have been giving us. It’s so good to know all of the bishops in this area and to have relationships with them. One new family we picked up this week is the H’s. B and E are each in their second marriage, he is a member and she isn’t, and they have a 12 year-old son and a 14 year-old   who aren't baptized. They are very kind and right now we are focusing hard on having them all read the Book of Mormon, especially E. One thing I know is that the Book of Mormon has the converting power we need as missionaries.

We also picked up a family named the B’s. Brother and Sister B want to come back to church, and their 19 year-old and 24 year-old daughters aren't baptized. When we went to contact the referral, the 19 year-old daughter opened the door, and said "I’m glad you came, we wanted to get my children blessed in the home." Right place at the right time! We took them on a church tour (just across the street from them!) and mom was making plans to attend the week after Stake Conference. She wants to come and wants her daughters to be baptized! They are an answer to prayers.

We also have been trying to teach K. He is 16 and lives with an active family. They are his aunt and uncle who are also his legal guardians too. He plays football and is really busy, but we really want to help him!
Last of all we this week we met A. That was a great miracle! Elder Becerra felt we needed to stop by a certain home and we started talking to a less active young adult who wants to come back, and pretty soon all the other roommates drifted in, and it turns out that one of them is a nonmember young lady, A, who wants to be baptized! We set a goal for everyone to read the Book of Mormon from the beginning, Elder Becerra and I had just finished our last read through, and they all wanted to start. Hopefully we will be able finish before I come home in February! That’s the goal!

This week we also kept teaching the B family, and H is ready to be baptized!  Dad is activated; we are just working on Mom! She works on Sundays at the prison, but she has a really good testimony.

Also, M committed to be baptized this week! He said he has been waiting for the invitation and really wants to do it! It will be good to have a Spanish Speaking baptism again! I haven’t been involved in one since last July.

At this point on my mission, it’s just so fulfilling to see things come full circle. This week I got several emails from people I have taught in other areas that are getting baptized soon. The work of God continues! I am really humbled that I can play a small part in the salvation of others. 

I know that this church is true! Being a member missionary should be such a privilege to all of us! It lets us share that which is most meaningful to us with family and friends who need us. This week think and pray about someone you need to share the gospel with. Then set a goal about WHAT you will do to help them and WHEN you will do it. I know that when we give Heavenly Father all of our heart, might, mind, and strength, he will help us to do his work and we can all successfully invite others to come unto Christ.

I love this work and I love what I am doing. I am constantly grateful that the relationships that I get to build here can last my whole life and into eternity. It is comforting to know that when we help someone be strengthened in the Gospel they become our true friend, and if we are faithful to the end, our family and friends are eternally with us.

Los quiero mucho!!

Elder Michael Stewart

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Welcome to Gunnison!

Hello there mom and dad!! Writing you is a considerable more rested, more peaceful, and COLDER Elder Stewart. I am sitting in the city hall of Gunnison watching coal trucks rumble up and down Main Street. The coal trucks never stop up here!  I bet that’s a good thing economically, I’ve heard that the SUFCO mine is really good for this area. 

Oh Gunnison!  It’s a great place. Serving up here in the fall/winter reminds me of when I was in Richfield last year. Crisp air, fall leaves, and beautiful stone and brick chapels. All of our buildings are older. I'm with a Mexican companion too.  We cover 9 family wards (6 in Gunnison/Center field, 1 in Mayfield, Fayette, and Axtell each) and we also have a Spanish branch and a YSA branch. Our area is more or less on a straight line up highway 89. We cover all the Spanish work south to Salina and maybe soon to Richfield and Monroe. There is so much to do here! 

My companion is great! Elder Becerra was born in Puebla, Mexico and has been living in Salt Lake since he was 10. He is one month older than I am and he has been out for 4.5 months, serving in Gunnison the whole time. He is very humble and willing to work. He is pretty buff and people say we are an intimidating companionship.

This week we felt prompted to meet with all the Bishops to coordinate the work with them. We have gotten many referrals from those meetings. If there is one thing I have learned about how to do missionary work it is to work with the members. This week we are going to invite everyone that we found last week. If even half of them accept our invitations we will have a teaching pool of over 10 people. 

We are working with a young couple right now named the M. They are both nonmembers and just had a baby. He works on a farm so his work is slowing down this week and hopefully he will be able to have more consistent lessons. There is also a family from Guatemala, one from Mexico, and several Part-Member families that we are working with. There should be lots of baptismal dates soon!  

Well this will be my home for the next 4 months.  I want to do the best I can right up to the end of my mission. I am so grateful that whenever I need strength to keep going that I can just ask and I feel that the Savior is right there with me. Elder Stewart doesn’t really have the strength to do this work, but I know that the Savior can work through me. This church is true and I love to invite people to learn about it and live its doctrines every day.  

I love you so much! 
Con amorcito,
Elder Stewart