Monday, November 30, 2015

Winding Roads, Temples, and Repentance

Dear Family,
This week on Monday-Friday we traveled to Tarija and to Bermejo. We helped President with a Conference down there. It was cool to see a few members of my old ward there in Tarija. We got to eat with the Bishop and spend the rest of the day visiting investigators. We then in the night went to Bermejo. Its about a 3 hour drive on very very curvy roads. I usually dont get carsick but after about 2 hours or so I was feeling pretty dizzy. A member who lives in Bermejo drove us. He works for a minivan company that drives people all day long. He is know as the driver that speeds the whole time. We were going about 75 the whole time. Way too fast for the car we were in and the road we were on. In Bermejo we were able to help the District Leader prepare for the conference President did the next day and we also did divisions in their area to help them find more people to teach. It turned out really well. The whole three days we traveled in the night to have more time with the missionaries during the day but after 3 days of not sleeping very much, we were pretty worn out. On the flight home early in the morning Thursday, we sat next to a Brazilian in the plan. My companion was pretty good at talking to him in Portuguese. I tried to talk to him too but then he responded in English. Turns out he spoke 4 languages, conoce todo el mundo, and loves God! It was really neat to talk to him about the Book of Mormon and the power it has in our lives. He read 3 Nefi 11 right there in the plane. Even though we werent in our area during those 3 days, I feel like God was looking out for our investigators. 

Thursday-Sunday were wonderful days. The members offered to help us more and more and on friday we had a great coordination meeting with the ward mission leader and the ward missionaries. We planned how to help the investigators attend church, how to help them progress and everyone got pretty excited. On Saturday night we made a few calls to remind the ward missionaries of their assignments. Sunday came along and it was raining really hard in the morning. When it rains here, no one leaves the house. The Cabrera Family (ages 62 and 60) committed to going to church but the mom (Aida) is a little sick and its hard for her to leave the house and even worse if its raining. We changed around the plans a bit and in the end, the 2nd counselor in the Bishopric picked them up in his car and brought them to church. It was wonderful to see them there. They have a baptismal date for the 19 of dec and its wonderful to see them progress. Their main goal is the Temple. We have talked so much about the temple with them. They just want to be married forever. 44 years ago they got married and in 1 year they will be married for the eternities.

As I studied this week, the topic of repentance came up a lot. I think because I have to do it a lot. I've always studied that its the 2nd principle of the Gospel, it makes us clean, its hard, etc. But I have never realized how essential it is to our eternal salvation until I read a talk by Elder Christofferson from the Oct. 2011 General Conference. I just want to share a few parts that I liked a lot. 

- Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace. Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration.

- Repentance is the necessary condition, and the grace of Christ is the power by which “mercy can satisfy the demands of justice” (Alma 34:16).

- The invitation to repent is an expression of love.

- With repentance we can steadily improve in our capacity to live the celestial law, for we recognize that“he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22).

- For our turning to the Lord to be complete, it must include nothing less than a covenant of obedience to Him. We often speak of this covenant as the baptismal covenant since it is witnessed by being baptized in water (see Mosiah 18:10).

- “The choice to repent is a choice to burn bridges in every direction [having determined] to follow forever only one way, the one path that leads to eternal life.”

- Confessing and forsaking are powerful concepts. They are much more than a casual “I admit it; I’m sorry.”Confession is a deep, sometimes agonizing acknowledgment of error and offense to God and man.Sorrow and regret and bitter tears often accompany one’s confession, especially when his or her actions have been the cause of pain to someone or, worse,have led another into sin. It is this deep distress, this view of things as they really are, that leads one, as Alma, to cry out, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death”(Alma 36:18). 

- With faith in the merciful Redeemer and His power, potential despair turns to hope. One’s very heart and desires change, and the once-appealing sin becomes increasingly abhorrent. A resolve to abandon and forsake the sin and to repair, as fully as one possibly can, the damage he or she has caused now forms in that new heart. This resolve soon matures into a covenant of obedience to God. With that covenant in place, the Holy Ghost, the messenger of divine grace,will bring relief and forgiveness. One is moved to declare again with Alma, “And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I [do] behold; yea, my soul [is] filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20). Any pain entailed in repentance will always be far less than the suffering required to satisfy justice for unresolved transgression. 
I know it was a lot but all these paragraphs were important to me. 

Hurrah for Israel!
Elder Gehring

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Lost Sheep

Dear Family,

This week was a good one. I want to share a few things I learned. 

1. The importance of planning. President put us in charge of part of the zone conference this week and we prayed and thought about what it was that we needed to talk about. As we discussed our ideas with President we came to the conclusion that as a mission we really are not very good at coming home every night and planning really well for the next day. My companion and I studied Preach My Gospel, the District videos and realized the importance of not just putting names down in a time slot. We need to plan important activities for every hour of the day. Even our goals should be so specific that we can fulfill them every 30 minutes - How many people are we going to talk to, how many Book of Mormon copies are we going to give away, what street are we going to talk to about Family History etc. We have seen a huge difference in our companionship and in our effectiveness as missionaries just by being better about planning. 

2. We went yesterday to a members house to follow up about a referral they had given us. We got there knocked on the door but no one was home. We then saw that they were pulling 2 huge branches that they had cut off from a near by tree. We offered to help pull them. We set them down and almost immediately a small group of about 12 sheep came running around the corner. They frantically started eating every leaf in sight. I tried to touch one but it got scared and ran off. To my surprise, the other 11 followed the one startled sheep as if they too were frightened. Then after about 30 seconds, one brave sheep inched toward the branches again. It took a bite and immediately all the rest bolted around the corner without the slightest bit of fear. I realized how much they not only physically stayed together but seemed to share an emotional bond. When one is scared, the others too are scared. When one is happy, the others too are happy. When one is brave, the other too loose all fear and are brave. I asked the member a few things about why they acted like this and he explained that all sheep are like that. And immediately I thought of Christ's parable of The Lost Sheep. 

4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?

 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.

 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.

 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

Not only will the man who lost his sheep have a fullness of joy, but also his sheep! This member explained to me that when one sheep is separated from the rest, it cries, and cries, longs to go back, and gets so scared. Sometimes, he said, they even die from being so scared and from crying so much. Christ saves us from such anguish. Not only is the shepherd blessed to have found his one sheep, but also the one sheep will be fill with such comfort that never again will it leave his flock. I realized how often I am the lost sheep. I don't have to be inactive from the church to be a lost sheep. The lost sheep is a representation of the pains and guilt of sin. Every tiny sin brings guilt and sadness which can only be healed by repentance. The joy which heaven feels when they see us repent is the same or even greater than the joy we personally feel when we repent. I love the Savior and I am so grateful for the Good Shepherd that He is. 

And dad, you inspired me to share what I am thankful for this week. 

I am thankful for my companion and the example he is to me. I am thankful for my President who inspires me by who he is. I am thankful for my investigators who teach me patience, love, and diligence. I am thankful for my parents who have never failed to be everything I could ever want. I am thankful for internet that allows me to write my thoughts and feelings every week! I am thankful for the Holy Ghost who purifies, guides, and comforts me even though I am far from perfect. I am grateful for the scriptures that provide and endless source of personal revelation and guidance. I am thankful for medicine that heals me in Bolivia when I need it. I am thankful to hold the priesthood through which I have the duty to serve others. I am grateful for miracles which help me see that God loves me. I am thankful for Jesus Christ who is my example and all that I wish to become. And I am thankful for His eternal sacrifice that provides, as long as I repent, the eternal promise of forgiveness, happiness, love, and, in the end, life with Him. 

Hurrah for Israel!!
Lots of Love,
Elder Gehring

Monday, November 16, 2015

Puerto Suarez and Lots of Miracles

Dear Family,

This week we traveled to Puerto Suarez which is the last city before crossing over to Brasil from Bolivia. We traveled in what is called a Suite Cama. Its really nice. Full A/C and big leather seats that turn into beds. (I sent the foto with the other email). All the fotos I sent were from the trip. Its pretty different from here in Santa Cruz. More jungly. And waaaaay hotter. While we were there it got up to about 44 C and the week before it hit 51-52 C. Really really really hot. And its all super humid. I've never sweat so much just standing in the shade.

We came home and had a great week. Anselmo Coca was rescued and received a calling to be a ward missionary. He is going to start coming with us to visit. He got to church late because he didn't know what time it was. Elder Santos gave away his watch so it wouldn't happen again. 

The Cabrera family is progressing a lot. Aida (the mom) went to church and loved it. She had never felt so happy before in a church. She loved the classes and Relief Society. In the Gospel Principles class we talked about the signs of the second coming. We got to talking about temples and we showed a few pictures of the Cochabamba Temple and Aida got so excited. When we visited them Sunday night she gave it pretty hard to her husband (Leoncio) that he hadn't gone. It worked well I think. He felt bad but in a sense to be better. She told him about the temple and how beautiful it was and she told him ''We are getting married there, okay!?'' We are excited to see their progress. 

It was also Presidents Birthday on Saturday and Elder Santos and I gave him a tie. You know how sometimes kids make homemade ties for fathers day?? That's what we did but with the colors of Bolivia. We ran to his house on Saturday Morning and then left it on his doorstep. I think he liked it! It was fun to make. 
On Saturday and Sunday we found several new families who are excited to learn about the gospel! I hope you all too can share the gospel this week. Set goals, make plans, and pray that the Lord will help you succeed. Maybe start with 1 Book of Mormon a week. Then 2, then 3, then invite someone to church, then invite someone to meet the missionaries, maybe even to be baptized!! God will bless you.

I love you all. 
Hurrah for Israel!
Elder Gehring

Monday, November 9, 2015

Happy Families

This week was full of work, miracles and happy families.
The new missionaries got here on Tuesday! They are great. I love being with them. They are always so excited, willing, and ready to work. Elder Santos and I were able to eat lunch with them, help them with a few practices, training situations, and we were there with them in their first family home evening. On Wednesday President put us in charge of the transfers in the Trompillo Chapel and then we went with the trainers to help them a little. The trainers are always the best missionaries. They all were so excited to meet their new companions. We helped them and trained the trainers a little in the Training Model of 
                      1. Explain 2. Demonstrate 3. Practice 4. Evaluate 5. Re-practice 
The new missionaries then joined us. We ate lunch together and then with the new missionaries and their trainers we practiced, practiced, and practiced some more. The first thing we focus on is the baptismal invitation as outlined in Preach My Gospel. We always always always invite EVERYONE to be baptized in the first lesson. Sí o Sí. We practiced inviting as it says in Preach My Gospel. We practiced facing our fears, overcoming the language barriers, etc. It was a wonderful experience. We then practiced asking for referrals which we do with every person we meet too. The newbies are wonderful missionaries. I wish I could start all over again like them. Its the best.
Then President got there and he kind of took over. We were there to help explain a few things too. I am amazed by the ability President has to teach a group of people but at the same time personally teach gospel principles to each missionary individually. Well at least he did with me. He asked each trainer to share their testimony in the native language of their companion. Some of the Latin trainers had to speak in English which was hard for some. Then he got to Elder Santos and I and asked us to share our testimonies too. Elder Santos (from Brazil) shared his testimony in Portuguese because there was one Brazilian missionary who is new. Then President asked me to share my testimony. I stood up and then he said ''In Portuguese'' I thought he was joking! So I stood up and looked at him. He looked at me and I realized he was very serious. I started to share what I could in Portuguese. I was so nervous and scared. I tripped again and again over my words but as I came to what I made to be the end of my testimony an overwhelming feeling of love and comfort rushed through my body. I couldn't hold back my tears as President thanked me for my testimony. I don't know what I said and I don't even know if anyone understood me. But I do know that I needed the simple lesson taught by a Mission President called of God. I felt like a new missionary. I was scared, I didn't speak the language and I couldn't say but just a few words. President stood and said to us all ''Great missionaries can do great things but God can do miracles''. I realized how prideful I had been. No one else saw that but I felt it. I think I have relied on my own words more than one during my mission and I learned that as I trust in God, He works the miracles in my life.
The rest of the week was full of trials and laughing. Miracles and sadness. And lots and lots of prayers. The mission is baptizing more which is great but we still have a ways to go before meeting the year goal of having 2037 baptisms and rescues. As I study DyC 20:37 I have opened my eyes about the simplicity but importance of the ordinances of salvation. Our goal is baptize families. Families that can in one year go to the temple and be sealed together forever. Families + Ordinances = Eternal Happiness. That's all I want in my life!! A family united with ordinances! 
We found this week in our area several families who are ready to receive ordinances. As we searched member referrals, talked to people in the street, visited less active members, and prayed a lot we were able to find 2 families who have previously had some kind of contact with members of the church. One sister who now has her husband and kids was filled with joy as we contacted her as we looked for a referral from a member. She had gone to the church many times before she was married and now we have the opportunity to teach her and her family. We also met Wilbur. He lives with his wife and kids. He too attended the church several times and is now excited to receive the missionaries in his home. I love being a missionary!!! And I love that I have a family with ordinances! 

Hurrah for Israel!

Lots of Love,
Elder Gehring