Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Those Fechas

Hello!
Well my title refers to two things. Baptismal fechas (dates) and the whole time period of Christmas and New Year's. This is one of the toughest times of the year because everyone is busy and with family and everything is a blur... it's a bit crazy. But the Lord blessed us this week and we were able to have decent results. We even put a fecha with Ana Maria, one of our investigators! She is really awesome, but her husband isn't too keen on letting her get baptized. It's really difficult to find him at home, so we left Ana Maria a scripture to share with him, and she said that she's praying that he changes his mind. The spirit works in people in interesting ways. It's even so subtle sometimes that I find myself doubting the investigators when they say that everything makes sense and they want to be baptized. I get the thought that maybe they're not really being honest or something, but then I just have to rely on the spirit and trust that He really is working with them and testifying of our words. I think one of the greatest experiences in the mission is to see people change. I haven't had a lot of experiences yet in my short 5 months out here, but the small changes I have seen are spectacular and testimony building. The Holy Ghost is real. He is the third member of the Godhead, and He is always with us if we give place for Him. He testifies of truth, and touches hearts. He changes lives. Let Him change yours, and then be the conduit for Him to change the lives of your friends and family.

Love you all, and have a wonderful New Year!

Elder Benjamin Jackson


Dear family,
Skyping you guys this week was so awesome! it was hard stopping it at an hour, but it was wonderful. I hope you all have a great week and not get sick. On guard has been extremely helpful for me these past couple of days. Mom, be proud of me for taking it even though it tastes like el trasero de una vaca. Ask Brian. [I am embarrassed to translate this into "the back end of a cow". I personally really like the spicy clove and cinnamon flavor]
 
Love you all, and even more, the Savior loves you :)

Elder Ben Jackson

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wait... It's Christmas??

Hello!
I just have to say, it does not feel like Christmas. There's a lot of decorations, and constant fireworks, and I've even bought like 3 quarts of eggnog, but it does not feel like Christmas! Frankly, I just feel weird. I don't feel baggy, or miss home, everything just feels a little surreal. But it's been a good week. 

We had Christmas Zone Conference on Friday, and that was amazing! My first zone conference. President Caffaro is awesome. He's a football coach, so he's a natural born leader, and carries a lot of authority along with his massive build. He is also really funny. We talked mostly about the Book of Mormon, and how we need to use it as often as possible. He told us very straightforward: "If they (the investigators) don't want to hear about the Book of Mormon, they aren't prepared. Drop them and find someone new." Also he told us that we should go back to old investigators that have a copy of The Book of Mormon and ask for it back. He did that in his mission, and said that the majority of the time, they didn't want to give it back, and decided to listen to the lessons again. The Book of Mormon is extremely powerful. It is the keystone of our religion. It makes everything about our Church true, or it makes everything false. I know it's true. Joseph Smith is a prophet, and through him, Jesus Christ himself restored His church on the earth. 

We have also started teaching a woman named Ana Maria. She is elderly and has 7 sons, but has a very strong testimony of Jesus Christ, and wants to be baptized. We first contacted her about 2 months ago, walking from her field where she had just fed her cows. It was late, but we walked with her to her house. After talking a bit, we had to go so we didn't miss the buses back to San Juan. After that we never went to visit her, but I always thought about it whenever we went to that part of our area. Finally, I decided that we would pass by again, and when we did, we had a really good lesson and she accepted the challenge to be baptized, but she wants to talk to her spouse and her children first. I know that the Lord has prepared her to accept our message, otherwise she wouldn't have stuck in my mind as "the cow lady" for 2 months. 
 
As we listen to the Spirit, we will see ourselves become the instruments of God in doing great things. Maybe baptizing one person isn't a great miracle, or even a whole family, but the great miracle is that we are saving souls, even generations of souls in the future, and generations of souls in the past. This is  the Lord's work. We have the privilege to be a part of it. Thrust in your sickles and reap the blessings that have been prepared for the faithful and valiant.

Have a wonderful week! And MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Love,
Elder Benjamin Jackson

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week of Changes

Hello everyone!
I now have a new companion! His name is Elder Loria from Costa Rica. He has one year in the mission and is a great missionary. This week has been a bit sad just because now we're only two instead of four here in San Juan. It's a lot more quiet, and there's a lot less laughter happening, but I'm still enjoying it here. The Christmas Season has sure kicked in! Yesterday there was a big parade, and there are always people lighting fireworks. And I mean always.

The missionary manual says that holidays are great times to work and find people because more people are at home, but that's really only for the states. Here, nobody's home on holidays. If they are, they're with their whole family in a party and don't want to talk. We went to San Pedro to work yesterday, but it was basically a ghost town because everyone was in San Juan for the parade. Holidays are rough here.

This week has been up and down but Elder Loria really wants to focus on working with members, and I think once we get everything planned out well, things are gonna start falling into place. We have some really pílas (really awesome) investigators that can easily commit to baptism within the next week. 

The Lord truly prepares people to accept the Gospel, and our job as missionaries, and more as members is to find them. As missionaries we can knock doors all day and maybe we'll find a few, but really it all comes down to you guys; the members. I have talked with many missionaries here, and most of them have never baptized someone who they contacted through proselytizing. The successful conversions come through the members. They are your friends, your family members, the ones that have been placed in your path so you can be an instrument in the Lord's hands to bring them into His fold. You don't have to do everything; that's where we come in. You share what you know with them, then invite them to talk with the missionaries. We can teach them exactly what they need to know, and you guys support them and help them feel welcomed and loved. The field is great, but the laborers are few. The Lord needs every single one of us out there working to prepare it for the harvest. Let's get to work. I love you all so much and I thank you all for your support.

Til next time!
Elder Benjamin Jackson

Monday, December 8, 2014

Last Minute Miracles!

Hello Everyone!
District at Mayan ruins last week
It's the end of the change, and my comp is leaving. Also the sisters are both going and closing their area for a change, so my work is gonna double. We have the change meeting tomorrow where we find out who our comps are and where everyone is going. 

We had a baptism!!!! Our friend Luis was going to be baptized on Saturday, but we were thinking of changing it to next week because we hardly are able to visit him. But he called us Wednesday night and asked if he was still going to be baptized on Saturday. We told him that we were probably going to change his date and he was like "seriously? If you want you can come by tomorrow. I've been thinking and I really want to be baptized." So we went and taught him the last
Way up somewhere (Ben is first..."I'm thinkin. I'm thinkin...)
couple of commandments and went over the interview questions, and he had no problems with any of it. So we quickly coordinated with the Zone Leaders and President Flores to make everything happen, and we baptized him Saturday at 3pm! My comp performed the ordinance but I got to be witness so it was still awesome!

The Lord truly blessed us for our work these last 2 changes. We both didn't think we were going to have a baptism together, but then, right at the last moment, He hands us the opportunity and opens all the doors for it to happen. I know the Lord watches over us, and is waiting to bless us at every opportunity. If we can make it through the hard times with faith, diligence, and obedience, there is always a blessing waiting on the other side. Open your eyes, stand up, and get to work; you will begin to see the fruits of your labors as the hearts you touch change from little buds, into great oaks. Share the Gospel with your friends; they are precious souls, children of an Almighty God, waiting to discover their full potential. We have a light; live it, love it, and most of all, share it. Fear not, only believe.
So glad they didn't jump off but they were thinking it.....

This church is true. Jesus Christ lives. He is waiting for us to return to Him. Don't come alone. Bring your friends along so they can reap the great blessings that await them in eternity.

Have a wonderful week!
Elder Benjamin Jackson



Ready? Set. . . . .
Dear Family,
I like the trial and temple comparison. Honestly you can relate the temple, trials, fire, the Holy Ghost, and The Celestial Kingdom quite well. Like a fire, trials refine us and make us perfect. The fire is the Holy Ghost, who purifies us and makes us worthy to enter into God's presence in the Celestial Kingdom. When we are pure, we become sanctified and holy, a place where God can dwell, a temple. But we can't be pure without first being cleansed in the fire.

Les amo muchisimo! [I love you a lot]
Elder Benjamin Jackson
. . . . . JUMP!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week of Forgotten Events...

Hello!
His District at Mixco Viejo
I honestly can't remember what happened this week. It was a good week, but everything slipped out of my mind. Well, on Monday we made tones and ponche with a member. Tones are tortillas filled with beans and cooked. Then you put guacamole, radish, lemon, and salsa on it and shove it your throat as fast as you can so can get to the next one. They're delicious. Ponche is a Christmas favorite. It's a hot drink with papaya, coconut, platanos, apples, cinnamon, and a bunch of other fruits all boiled into it. Also amazing. Tuesday we had our district P-day and went to Mixco Viejo. It's the largest Mayan ruins site in our mission and it's pretty cool. We had a great time taking photos and playing games. My district is awesome.

Mixco Viejo - Mayan Ruins
In the mission work, we had a good week. We found some really cool investigators and I am excited to work more with them. I don't think we are going to have a baptism before Elder Bankhead leaves, but I am very grateful for these two changes with my "dad". He is a really great missionary and he has a heart of gold. I always feel in debt to him because he loves to buy things for other people. Especially his comps. He is also humble. He loves to joke around a lot, but he recognizes ways that he can improve and become better and is willing to do them. He is a bit impatient sometimes, but that's where I come in. I help him not get frustrated and take a step back. I can testify that patience truly is a virtue, and I am eternally grateful to have learned how to apply it effectively. I can't even explain all that I internally understand about patience and how it has helped me, but if one can master patience, the quality of your day to day life, and your understanding of the purpose of this life will increase immeasurably. Things don't always work out, but those moments are lessons that God is waiting to teach you. Trials are how we become more like God. Be happy for trials. It means you are becoming like your Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is our Savior, this church is His church, and when we do all that He asks of us, we will be saved in the Kingdom of God.
Tall socks in honor of Sister Ochoa who hates them (she's taking pic)

I love you all,
Elder Benjamin Jackson
 
 
Dear family,
I forgot to attach my letter to the other one again. It might be hopeless. You guys had a lot of people for Thanksgiving! We didn't do anything special, but we gave a lot of thanks in our prayers. Saturday night the Sisters had our comedor (food lady) make big plates of spaghetti and we had a competition to eat all of it with no hands, just our faces. I would like to count that as Thanksgiving dinner. The sister missionaries are such a blast. They make fun of our Spanish sometimes, but it's all in good fun.

Thanks for all your prayers and support. I love you all and you are always in my prayers as well. 
Love,

Elder Benjamin Jackson
Walking in each others footsteps! (Sis Ochoa without socks!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Hello everyone!
It's late I know. This week we're having our district P-day but the place we are going to is closed on Mondays so we're doing it tomorrow. Today we worked like normal but we are writing now so we have more time tomorrow. It's all approved so don't worry. 

This week has been a great week. I honestly don't remember most of it, and the days are flying by, but I know it was good. I can't believe that there's only two more weeks in this change! That's kind of depressing actually. My comp will probably be going, plus Hermana Cerrato is dying as well as Elder Ramos in our district. The district will change quite a bit. But I'm also excited.

This week my comp decided to change the way we contact a bit. We have started working on sharing only short lessons when we enter houses and prepare them for our next visit, then go on contacting. We have had a lot of success. I'm so lucky to have a comp like Elder Bankhead. He is willing to change when things aren't working, and willing to submit to new rules even when they seem too restrictive. I have been truly blessed since I got out here. 

I have learned so much here it's impossible to write a hundredth part. Now I know how the Book of Mormon prophets felt. I love studying the scriptures every morning and sharing what I learned with my comp. I recently finished The Doctrine & Covenants for the first time all the way through. I also started reading the New Testament from start to finish for the first time. Jesus really is The Great Teacher. I just wanna slap the Jews for not understanding what He was talking about. It all makes so much sense to me. But I also think in analogies and parables, so I have a specific connection with that. Jesus Christ has become a significantly larger role model for me. I always wanted to be like Him, but now I just feel so much closer to Him. Reading His words and the things He did makes Him so much more real to me. He is my example. He is my friend. He is my teacher. He is the Savior of the world. Of that I can testify with no doubt in my mind. His love is sufficient for all. Let Him in and He will lead you on the path to eternal life. I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Church of Jesus Christ restored upon the earth today. I know Thomas S. Monson is a prophet called of God to lead us. This is my testimony and nothing change what I know to be true.

Have a wonderful week!

Elder Benjamin Jackson
 

Dear family,
Mom I'm so glad you had a great birthday. Dad you're a perfect husband and if I could treat my future wife half as good as you treat Mom I'd be golden. The days pass like a dream here. Only I gotta work on making it a dream worthwhile. You guys are all amazing and I still wonder what I did to deserve you all as a family. Jess, rip it up and don't ever get discouraged about the language. You'll learn it. Take each day at a time and make it the best one yet.

Love and a thousand hugs and thanks, 

Elder Benjamin Jackson

Monday, November 17, 2014

Semana Mixta [Mixed Week]

Monday, November 10, 2014

Patience - Perseverance - Perspective

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dead Cold

Hello everyone!
So now it gets cold. Also November 1 is El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) where everyone buys flowers and goes to the cemetery for a huge fiesta carnival thing to honor their deceased. We didn't know what it was going to be like, so we went to see if we could contact some sad families mourning for their dead and teach them about the Plan of Salvation... Yeah nobody was mourning. But we bought churros and this amazing coconut dulce. So, fittingly, after Saturday it has been super cold. 

This week has been a good week. Pretty slow, and rainy, but there have been some ups. On Friday we visited one of our recent converts who has been struggling with drinking. It had been a while since we had asked him about his progress, so I asked how he was doing. He told me that after he had met with President Flores like we suggested he basically made a covenant that he would not drink one more glass. He couldn't afford it, he said. He couldn't afford to hurt his family anymore, he couldn't afford to use that money that should go to his family for food, he couldn't afford to use the money that he would need to return to his family after working. He's a truck driver so he is often very far away. He is a really amazing man, and in just the short time I have been here I have seen his faith and strength grow tremendously. The Lord can work miracles in us if we let him.

So Hermana Cerrato is one of the sister missionaries that we work with in our area, and she goes home this change. She dies. So, my comp bought one of the many wreaths being sold on El Día de los Muertos, and we gave it to her in honor of her death. We took great pics and had a good time.

I know the Savior lives and loves each one of us. I feel His strength every day. He is my rock and my salvation, and Him will I praise for ever more. Thank you for your support and love.

Have a wonderful week,
Elder Jackson


Dear family, 
Ugh I'm really out of time. I got a lot of emails and I'm really slow at typing as you know. Most of the people here are Catholics only by name. They understand basically nothing of the doctrine or the practices. It's a challenge because we always have to teach very simply. They hoodwink themselves into thinking they can't understand the Word of God. I love you guys so much. 

Have a great week!

Monday, October 27, 2014

First Change Over

Hello!
Well we made it through the first change! Both my comp and I are staying, which I figured would happen, but you never know. This week has been great, though we've had some rough days. At least 3 days this week all of our appointments fell through, and we haven't been able to find one of our investigators with a baptismal date. We are pretty sure that she's fallen through. Still, things are looking up, and I know that as we keep working hard the Lord will bless us. This week I was in divisions with another missionary in the district, in my area, and we had a really good day. We went to find some future investigators and ended up entering into three consecutive houses and had lessons with all of them! That sort of thing doesn't happen very often.

Right now in the ward we are preparing for a temple trip in a couple weeks, and we've been working with our recent converts that haven't been to the temple with their family history so they can take some names with them. I really wish I had done more indexing before my mission, it really is awesome. But I guess sometimes you don't know a good thing til it's gone. Well I know for sure that when I come back I will want to do some more family history. Being out here teaching people the gospel and helping them to do the work of salvation for their own families has really opened my eyes a little more to the importance of helping the millions of people on the other side that are waiting to be baptized. 

This is the Lord's work, both here and on the other side of the veil. We are all enlisted, and He needs our help to gather in the wheat amidst the tares. We are His servants, and we can choose now to be a slothful one, or a true and faithful servant of the Lord, worthy to be counted as His friends. I know the Savior lives. I know that through His infinite grace and mercy we have the ability to repent of our sins and be forgiven. I know that one day we will stand before Him to be held accountable of everything we have done in this life. As for me, I am going to make sure I can enter into His presence, free of guilt, and full of love. I hope we all are willing to do what it takes to make it back to our Father in Heaven. I love you all and know the Lord loves you as well.

Have a wonderful week!
Elder Jackson

Monday, October 20, 2014

Gonna Be a Pro!

Hey everybody!
So this week has been great! We have been working hard and we now have 2 investigators with baptismal dates! Our work is definitely picking up and it's only gonna get better from here, as long as we keep working hard and following the spirit. We also have some really promising investigators that we just need to get back with. We taught the restoration to a man named Jorge, and he was relatively interested for most of it, but then at the end I bore my testimony of Joseph Smith and how he (Jorge) could pray and, just like Joseph Smith, receive a personal witness of the truthfulness of the things we taught. His countenance changed a bit, and when we asked if he would pray that night, he was silent for a little bit, and then said that he would really like to know if it was true. We have another appointment with him on Wednesday and we plan to challenge him to baptism. I know the Lord is preparing people everywhere around the world for us to find and bring to the knowledge of the truth. 

This morning I bought some futbol shoes, and I'm gonna go wreck it up with the zone this afternoon. I'm pretty much already better than Messi. No, the Latinos get a good kick out of my gringo skills. That pun was absolutely intended. I'm not as bad as I thought for basically never playing soccer, but I still have a lot of work to do. I have really come to enjoy futbol even though I didn't like it much before. I'm gonna be playing it a lot, and basically I'll be a pro by the end of my mission. 

I love the Lord, and I am eternally grateful to be a part of His work. I love it here, and I love the people, although they tend to be a bit stubborn up here in San Juan. But no matter, I love that so many of them have such a firm faith in Christ. This is the Lord's work. Right now is the harvest, He has called us to the field to work, to thrust in our sickles, and gather Israel under His wings, to fulfill all the words of the prophets. We are fulfilling prophesy. I love you all, and I wish you all a wonderful week!

Elder Jackson
 
 
Dear family,
This Wednesday we had our greenie meeting. That was really fun and I got to see all the old gang from the CCM. Also, we shared a lot of great advice with each other, and got to ask advice from President and Sister Caffaro. I got the photo album at meeting, so now I have pictures of my entire family, thanks a bunch :). 

Something potentially awesome that I've been meaning to ask you about since the CCM; does Grandma have a brother named Ron Gee? Because if she does, I am most likely related to Elder Gee from my district in the CCM and he's in my zone now. He asked his family but they didn't respond, so I'd really like to know. That would be super crazy cool. He's an amazing missionary. [I just went digging and if Elder Gee's grandpa is named Ronald Keith Gee then Ben and Elder Gee are 4th cousins! Great-great grandpas were brothers, kinda fun!]

Tell me how many dates Hyrum goes on now that he is 16, I'm curious. 
Wow I'm not so sure I want to work for BYU security when I get back and go to BYU. Brian, you truly are spicy hot now [story of Brian getting pepper sprayed in the face as training for security officers]. 

Love you all so much! You guys are the best family I could have ever asked for. And I would like to bet that there were A LOT of other spirits begging to be children of Marcy and David Jackson. Somehow I got the slot. Maybe God knew you guys could straighten me out ;)

with love,
Elder Ben Jackson
 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Still Alive! Late P-day this Week

Hello everybody,
Elder Bankhead and the Sisters and ???
Yeah I was going crazy waiting until I could finally write. We had our district P-day yesterday and we didn't have time to write, and this morning we had district counsel and then my comp had a leadership meeting because he's district leader. So now I can finally get on the computer. This week has been pretty good, we're having more success, plus we can finally go to the other parts of our area. What was happening has all cooled down and our restrictions are gone!

I did meet a really cool young man who started speaking to me on the bus. He has a friend who is a member and he's a bit interested, and he asked me what time our church is. He didn't end up coming this week, but we'll definitely follow up with him
 
Okay, put the suits back on...you look like little boys at the park!
So yesterday we had district P-day. We went to this really awesome park place up in the mountains on the other side of the capital. We brought up our lunch, and spent the whole day hanging out, taking pictures, and swinging on big awesome swings. Also we played a bit of futbol. I'm not as bad as I thought at futbol, but the Latinos still get a good laugh out of me. 
 
This week is looking up and I know as long as we continue working hard with patience, perseverance, and the right perspective, we will begin to have a mountain of success. The Lord knows all; He knows every one of us perfectly, He knows what we're capable of, and He knows the people we are meant to find. As we diligently seek to know His will, and then commit ourselves to do it, we will receive all the strength necessary to overcome, achieve, and surpass all things that we are given to do. 
 
I love you all, and wish you well from the beautiful country of Guatemala!

Til next week,
Elder Jackson
 
 
Dear family:
So I got you're letter that you sent snail mail. Thanks a bunch for the pictures, I felt a bit left out that I couldn't share any pictures of my family with people [totally forgot to send him a brag book of his family]. 
 
Ben told us about this awhile back. That is San Antonio Temple!
The oils I brought with me have helped a lot with my feet and keeping away blisters and fungus. Perhaps an extra bottle of lavender would be good. I'll let you know if I have any other things that you can put in a box with the chocolate and cold cereal.

So, Hyrum is gonna be 16 this week huh? Well, advice I would give; Hyrum, I want you to read Preach My Gospel, at least one page or section a day. Or even add it on to family scripture study. Brian told me to read it and I didn't. I regret that decision every second I'm out here. Plus it's a really, really good book! In fact it's one of the most inspired manuals ever written. So read it. Also let me know if you get the job at Firehouse. It's a great place, just make sure you always stand in Holy places, like Lynnae. I always think of her story about working at the Bread Basket. That will stick with me forever I hope. And just let them know you're my brother and they'll treat you significantly better. 

Well, here goes another week! Tomorrow all the greenies meet up again for a checkup meeting and to receive counsel, so it will be fun to see the old gang again! Minus Elder Pilling. I hope he's doing great over in Nicaragua. I love you guys, keep being amazing, and keep living every day to it's fullest!

Elder Benjamin Jackson
 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cumplemes 2!! (2nd Monthly Anniversary)

Hello to all!

Today I have officially been on a mission for 2 months! It flies but doesn't at the same time. In retrospect it feels like a day, but more often than not it goes a little slow during the day. Everyone says it speeds up a lot though. Our area is still struggling a lot and it's been hard to find new investigators, especially with the traveling and time restrictions.

Man, this general conference was amazing! I had to watch Saturday in Espanol but I watched almost all of Sunday in English because Presidente Flores brought his laptop for us. I was so excited when that speaker started speaking in Korean! At least I guess it was Korean [actually, Cantonese]. And everyone that was there for conference got so happy when the other Seventy spoke in Spanish. I tried my best to understand the Spanish translations, but I feel like I lost a lot. That's okay though because we get the Liahonas in English and Spanish every month.

me, conference focused a lot on missionary work (there's a big surprise) and a lot on my future family. I loved Elder Scott's talk (I always do) about the 4 tools to being able to fortify ourselves and our families in this world. Prayer, Scripture study, regular family home evenings, and regular temple attendance. Also I loved Elder Bednar's talk. It was a perfect topic to wrap up General Conference I thought.

Well, there's not a whole lot else that I can think of that happened this week, but I went to a kid's birthday party and enjoyed the pinata experience first-hand for the first time!

Jesus Christ lives, and he loves every single one of us. He is here with me, helping me become the missionary and the man He wants me to be. It's not easy, but it is worth it. Patience and perseverance are the keys to success and growth in this life. I love you all, and wish you all a wonderful week filled with blessings and joy. Never let a moment pass you by!

With love,
Elder Jackson

 
Dear Family,
Wow, I really ran out of time today. Mom, I love you so much and you're amazing in everything you do. Dad, I already talked to you. Lynnae beat up all the stupid guys, and I give you permission to get married while I'm gone. Brian, you rock, have fun doing that school stuff (what's school?) Jess, enjoy every moment in the CCM and study like crazy, because it won't be enough, but it'll give you a head start. Hyrum I talked to you.

 Love you all, and I hope you all got great things out of general conference. I was a little disappointed that no new temples were announced, specifically one in Austin, TX. Still got 3 more conferences to go. I'm hoping.

Love,
Elder Ben Jackson

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gettin' the Ball Rolling

[I finally mapped where he is and San Juan Sacatepequez is 25 km, or 30 minutes, northwest of Guatemala City. Population in 2002 census was 82,000]

Hello all,
Well my second week is officially over, and things are speeding up slowly but surely. We've got a few new investigators and we were so stinking close to being able to put a baptismal fecha! (date) Next week for sure, but Hermana Ofelia just feels like she needs to know a bit more.
CCM Companion - Elder Pilling

It's been pretty hard to work with the less actives and recent converts recently because we haven't been able to leave our main part of the area because of minor safety reasons. There's been some protesting happening in our area and Presidente Caffaro wants us to stay where we have a direct route to the capital just in case. The thing is most of our converts and less actives live out in the satellite towns. It's been tough, but we're really working on getting the members more involved to keep them active. 
CCM District at Wendy's!!

I've had 2 divisions (splits) this week and both have been really helpful. Our district is struggling right now so we're going to be doing a lot of divisions to get things up and going again. My second one was on Friday with one of the zone leaders. His name is Elder Rocha from Mexico. He fed me some real salsa and I was really happy. Here in Guatemala they don't flavor their food much and it's a little bit depressing. He helped me a lot with my Español as well. I'm coming out of my shell little by little and my contacting is improving a lot. I know I just need to be patient and work hard and the Lord will bless me with the courage to do everything he has prepared me to do. 
Guatemala's equivalent to the USA White House

This church is true and the message we carry is the message of salvation. All the world needs what we have, and now is the time to share it. There's 6 billion people walking in darkness, and we have only 80,000 working full time to bring them the light. But we have 15 million that could be helping. Everyone who isn't serving a mission, you are the real missionaries; you are the friends, the coworkers, the family members, the teammates; the ones who can have a lasting impact on those around you. Don't be afraid to preach the Gospel, the Lord will fill your mouth if you open it. Share the light, share the love, share the Gospel. They will listen.

I love you all so much and I thank you for your prayers,
Elder Jackson



Dear family,
Elder Jackson's Apartment
Elder Bankhead is from Missouri and he has 14 months in the mission. He wants to be an orthodontist so we talk about that and dentistry a bit. I think a better analogy for me would be a little turtle launched by a catapult miles away from his pond. But I'm emerging inch by inch. [this in in reference to my letter about our family being a flotilla of strong sea faring vessels ready to weather any storm. Alas, we have a turtle in the flotilla....]
The TRAINER - Elder Bankhead


This second week has been one big learning experience for me with divisions, and lots of other things happening. I still love it here, and I plan to always. Elder Bankhead and I are the only ones in our apartment, but the Hermanas who we work with live just down the road. They're super pilas (hardworking/awesome) from Honduras and Mexico. 

I can't wait til General Conference either! It's going to be amazing, even if I have to listen to it in Español. I love you all so much and I hope you all just keep being awesome! Though I'm still waiting on emails or letters from others.

Til next week,
Elder Ben Jackson

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

First Week in the Field!

Dear Everyone,
Man it's been too long since I wrote last! I assume you got the email photo from Presidente Caffaro that I wasn't dead. Well, I'm in the field, and my first area is called San Juan Sacatepequez (we'll see if dad can pronounce that). It's outside the capital, so I get a bit of a different atmosphere here. I like it.

My trainer is Elder Bankhead, or in Español Banco-cabeza. He's really cool and we get along really well. Presidente and Hermana Caffaro are amazing! They just got here in July and my group was only their second wave of new missionaries! Poor Hermana Caffaro knows less Español than we do, but she's awesome. They've been making a lot of changes in the mission too apparently, and I'm pretty sure they're for the better.

My first week has been pretty good so far. I came in at a low point for our area, so we don't really have any investigators and we have to start from the bottom, so we haven't been having a lot of success, but Elder Bankhead and I are getting the ball rolling again.

The culture didn't hit me as hard as I was expecting, but the whole language thing has been a bit rough. Elder Bankhead says I already speak way better than him when he first got out, so I guess I'm doing pretty good, and I'm not too worried, but I do get a bit stressed when I am trying to say things that I want to, but I don't know the words. I am really loving it here, and I am super pumped to be out of the CCM at last! I am working on building my courage to talk to people more, I'm pretty timid at street contacting, but I am doing what I can, and I know the Lord will support me and help me improve. It is only the first week after all. I love you all so much and I thank you all for your prayers and support.

Til next week!
Elder Jackson
 
 
 
Dear Mom and Dad and Hyrum,
We have a brother in our ward named Hermano Celestino. He is the only one who speaks much English in the ward and he's really awesome. I feel the Savior's love and your love every day and I know I am being supported. I'm still getting over a bit of a cold I got the day before I left the CCM, but I'm doing great. My feet are getting used to the walking, and I've been really enjoying the food. I even ate sliced cucumber! [that deserves way more exclamation points than one] 
I promise I will write more next week.
 
Love you all sosososo much,
Elder Ben Jackson
 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Arrival in Mission Verified!

Elder Jackson with President and Sister Caffaro
[Here is the picture we just got today. Still no letter from Elder Jackson but we can wait for that. We know he is in good hands!

Gotta love his proud Texas tie! thank you mission prep teacher, Sis Covington!]

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One Week to Go!!


Hello everyone,
This is my last week in the CCM and then I head out into the great big world! I've been learning so much and I am so excited to get out there! I won't lie, I've been a little nervous, but I trust completely in the Lord to support me. I will most likely not be able to understand a word anyone says , but I'm just planning on smiling and enjoying every minute. We must first pass through the hard things before we can begin to feel the blessings, so why not just be happy during the hard things so you can be happy all the time? Besides, if we can overcome our trials with happiness and faith, our blessings that come afterwards will only increase. 

So our big trip to the market last Tuesday. We got our cameras back for the trip, but we had to give them back again so no pics until after I leave. We stopped at Wendy's for lunch (that was so good!) where we were all in heaven for a half an hour. Then we bused over to a big relief map of Guatemala that was made like 100 years ago! It's still one of the most accurate maps of Guatemala! The guy who made it rode around on a horse for 14 years straight. We got some pictures there and then we went to the central market. There was a lot of really cool stuff there, but I only ended up buying a couple pens. That's a place I would go back to after my mission to buy awesome decorations for my house. We were all so happy to finally actually get a good look at the city, since we really can't see anything from inside the CCM. Even though there are a lot of poor people here, and the streets are small and relatively crowded, it is a surprisingly clean city. Those who don't have jobs simply work for the city to clean up all the trash and do small repair work anywhere they can, so it's a fairly nice place.

Other than that, not much has been happening besides the daily routine of class, food, class, teach, food,  more class, and bed. Elder Pilling and I have really come together this past week and we've started being able to teach with a lot of spirit and power. He is such an amazing person. He had a rough couple of years, but he's come out of it to be a truly wonderful missionary. I am so blessed to have had him as my first companion. I know the Lord loves me, and I know he loves every one of you. I love you too and I thank you for your prayers and thoughts. 
Til next week,
Elder Jackson

Dear family,
I am so glad to hear everything is going well. Mom, just keep letting the spirit teach through you. He is the teacher, we are the mouthpiece. He knows exactly what those youth need to hear and if you let Him, you will be able to speak those words to them. I love you so much Mom. Be sure to thank Uncle Duane a thousand times over for me! The little thoughts are what make me happy. I'm so happy to know that Brother Lawrence is doing well. I actually got a feeling in the temple the other week that I would be able to see him again after my mission. Give Jess all the best of wishes, I sent a quick note to her today and I've been thinking about her a lot. Hyrum, tell me what's up in your life. Dad, you're the best and I love you more than any other dad in the world. I know, you're the only dad I have, but that's not the point. I could've chosen anybody, but I picked you. 

PS The Dear Elder letter took 3 weeks to get here and regular mail takes about a week. Send me one of both as soon as I'm in my first area and we'll see how it works out in the field.

Love you all sooo much
Elder Ben Jackson

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Perspective

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Power of Goals!

Hello all once again,
This week has been great, as usual. I can't believe I've been out 3 weeks! This week I've come to recognize the power of goal setting. It's amazing what can come just from writing a few words! On one of my days this week I wrote, "make at least 3 shots in basketball today" I made 4! For some reason I was significantly better that day. The next day not so much because I hadn't written a goal down. Don't ever be afraid of writing down goals, even for simple things like making some shots in basketball.

Presidente Cox is back! He's been in the states because of health issues since before I got here, but now he's back, and he's amazing! He interacts with everybody all the time, he's hilarious, and he teaches with amazing power. It was also his birthday the day after he got back so the cooks made some delicious cake for all of us, and brought in a Mariachi band to play some songs. All the missionaries enjoyed that. This Sunday he talked to us about High Expectations. How we can do anything as long as we are obedient, prepared, and if we believe in ourselves. He had a companionship when he was president of one of the Mexico missions that was baptizing 50 and 60 people per month, and they were retaining them! Those elders knew why they were there, they knew about and had a testimony of what they were teaching, and believed in themselves. They also set goals, and stuck to them.

I've been setting goals with Elder Pilling as well to strengthen our companionship. Since he is struggling with the language a lot more than I am, it is really easy for me to take over when we teach lessons and do it all myself basically. I've already done that a couple of times. So, we have talked about it and we are working on ways to be more unified, and to balance out our teaching time. Another goal we've made has been to do at least one act of service for each other and at least one act of service for someone else each day. That has made a huge difference already. When we make goals that are righteous and are in line with the Lord's plan, He will work miracles in our lives. They don't have to be big, they can be simple everyday things, but as long as they make us better people, Jesus Christ will use His divine power to help us accomplish them. What can we not accomplish with divine power?

The same power that created the earth, and everything on it, and the sun, and the stars, and the planets in their working order is readily available to us when we ask in faith. The same power by which the Brother of Jared removed a mountain, the same power by which Elijah called down fire from heaven to destroy the priests of Ba'al, the same power that divided the Red Sea by Moses' word, is given to us. Surely with that power we are able to make 3 shots in a basketball game, or baptize 50 investigators in a month. All we need is a mustard seed. The Lord has already blessed me so much in these short 3 weeks, I can hardly fathom what will come from the next 101. I only hope that I can help some few people of Guatemala receive those same blessings. For those blessings continue on for generations, and generations, blessing hundreds, and thousands of people in the future.

I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and the Redeemer of the world. That through His power I can do all things. I love Him with all my heart, and I love you all. The thought of home always brings peace and courage to my mind, and I thank you all for your support.

With love,
Elder Jackson




Dear family,
I figured school would be starting soon. I'm so glad seminary is going great! The teaching of pure simple doctrine is unmatched in power and effectiveness. At least a part of the Gospel - Faith, repentance, baptismal covenants, the gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end, - and how it all ties in to the Atonement should be incorporated into every lesson you teach. 

Thoughts of home really have been a huge strength for me. For some reason it doesn't make me homesick, just happy and at peace. I get "other stuff"-sick. Like I was missing Blue Bell ice cream the other day, and I was really pining for some good old vocal harmony until I sang for fun with one of the new elders that came in this week who's really good. There's a disappointing shortage of vocally talented Elders here. That elder and I are probably going to sing in sacrament meeting soon.

And yes, we do have American sisters here! The three who reported with us are all in my district, and I honestly really enjoy the mixture. The guys complain about not being able to be gross in class, but I'm betting that the Hermanas think the same thing. Hermana Tapusoa is from Hawaii and she's really cool, and the other 2 are from Utah. Basically half of the missionaries here are from Utah. A ton of them know each other too! Some of them are best friends who opened their calls on the same day even! Being with the sisters doesn't bother me either, thanks to the advice mom gave me about when she was on her mission, and watching the elders. Some of the elders here are getting really bad missionary goggles. I just laugh at them and give some of the same advice. I am still a guy so I acknowledge that some of the sisters are attractive, but it changes nothing, and I don't dwell on it.

I realized also this week that I miss the stained glass of the San Antonio temple. The celestial room in the Guatemala temple is beautiful, but it's on the interior so it has no windows. Also you should bug my friends to read my blog if they aren't and tell them to write me.

I love you so much. Hyrum, you need to read the Doctrine and Covenants this year while you study it in seminary. Dad, don't stop being an awesome priesthood holder. Mom, don't ever change. Brian, keep up on that Espanol for when I get back. Lynnae, beat up all the lame guys in your ward. Jess, read Preach My Gospel and prepare for a stinkin awesome experience! You are all in my thoughts and prayers always, you are the best family in the world. Also thank Val for her advice to me about keeping the music close to me. I've really been trying to take that to heart.

Lotsolotsolots of love,
Elder Benjamin Joseph Jackson

Ps I really love my name now, and my nickname is now Stonewall. All the Latinos bring up Michael Jackson when I tell them my name....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Spirit Filled Prison?

Dear Family and everyone,
Still busy as ever, but I'm used to it now. I feel kinda bad to say this, but the CCM is a little reminiscent of a prison. Mostly for security reasons, but there are cameras everywhere, big tall fences on all sides, Security guards with guns on the perimeters, and an hour each day "in the yard" (aka Basketball courts and gym). We honestly feel pretty secluded here. The spirit here is so strong though, and I love every minute. Okay almost every minute of it, it can get tedious. My teachers are amazing! Hermano Menendez is hilarious, and he teaches us all sorts of fun games to help get the stress of the language off our minds, but really helps us learn in a great way. Hermana Chavez is a little more serious, and she doesn't put up with punks much, but I love her. She teaches the doctrine with such great spirit and I can tell this Gospel means a lot to her. I would say she is probably one of the best teachers I've ever had. Ever. 

Since there are only about 100 missionaries here, the community is much tighter than you would find at the Provo MTC. Last night, the Six-weekers and the Latino Elders left to go to the field, so we packed (I think we counted about 102) people into one tiny bedroom, and sang Called to Serve, Ye Elders of Israel, and God Be With You Til We Meet Again as loud as we possibly could. I have never sweat so much in my entire life. I was even standing on the window sill where the fresh evening breeze was coming in, but I still nearly died. It was awesome, don't get me wrong, but it was SO HOT!  We get the new batch of Elders today and tomorrow, and I can't wait!

Elder Pilling and I have been doing our best at learning the language and learning how to teach in Espanol, the biggest roadblock for me is trying to say what I want to say, but not being able to. I just want to bear my testimony of what I know to be true and put feeling into it, but I still don't know how to say a lot of stuff. When I get frustrated though, I just take a step back and remember that it's all in the Lord's hands. He has a lot in store for me to learn yet, and I've already learned the hard way the need for unity in teaching with a companion, even if he doesn't know the language as well. I don't miss home yet, at least not in a bad way. I think about home a lot, but it doesn't get me down, it boosts me up. I love all of you guys, and I'm so thankful to have you supporting me back home. 

Til next week!
Elder Jackson


Dear Mom and Dad,
Sorry this part has to be short, I ran out of time. I actually wasn't very suprised to hear you got called to be a seminary teacher Mom. I love you all so much, and I definitely love Val too. I know it's because of the teachings and lessons I learned at home that have gotten me this far. I couldn't have chosen a better set of amazing people to be my parents for this mortal journey. Lynnae, Brian, Jess, and Hyrum, especially Hyrum since you're still at home, don't ever take for granted what they can teach you. They are my secondary backbone while I'm out here. (My main backbone is Christ, sorry Mom and Dad) I love you all so much.  
 
[No need for him to apologize! That is the best compliment we could ever receive!]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Semana Uno Equals BUSY!

Dear Family,

What a crazy first week! Tuesday I flew out and was at the LA airport 7 hours before my connecting flight and was the only missionary there for about 2 or 3 hours! Eventually they started to trickle in, and then at the end like 20 missionaries from Utah came in! Some of them were best friends going to the same mission! That's just crazy to me. We got to the CCM (MTC) Wednesday morning and were welcomed in. After some confusion I finally ended up with my real companion who showed up a few hours late because he came from New Zealand and missed one of his connecting flights. Elder Pilling is really awesome and although he has basically no Spanish background is doing well. 

We got right to work in the first few days. Spanish classes sprinkled in between the meals and devotionals and personal study time. It's been a little exhausting, but I've been finding the energy I need. Sunday we watched a Christmas devotional from a couple years back with Elder Bednar and his wife. It was the best Christmas I've ever had! He did a question answering session where they passed out phones and the missionaries from MTCs all over the world could text their questions to his iPad! He had some amazing advice! One thing he said was "This isn't church doctrine, but I would very much think it's worthy of consideration; might I suggest that while Jesus was suffering in Gethsemane, if He did not feel, for at least a brief moment, one by one, every living being's specific pains, sorrows, and afflictions." He went on describing how "one by one" is the epitome of Jesus' life and ministry. He said that six times in the Book of Mormon it says that phrase, and that he wouldn't tell us where, other than when He comes to Bountiful and they feel his hands and feet one by one, but that we must find them ourselves.

My first full day in the CCM we had to teach an "investigator" a lesson in complete Espanol! That was stressful, and Elder Pilling and I ran out of the stuff we wrote down halfway through, but I somehow managed to finish the rest of it without notes. Okay, not somehow, it was the Holy Ghost for sure, but it was so amazing! My first day speaking Spanish, and I had already experienced the Gift of Tongues! Guatemala is beyond beautiful, and greener than anybody in Texas has probably ever imagined. As we flew in we could see all the volcanoes around and the coastline in the distance, while we looked down on the sprawling expanse of Guatemala City; it was the most gorgeous sight I had ever seen! I wish I had taken pictures. Also we had our cameras taken up for the time that we are in the CCM because there have apparently been past incidents of really immature missionaries with cameras. So I wont have any pictures for you guys for the next 5 weeks. Sorry!

Mom and Dad, thank you so much for everything you've taught me. I love you both so much, and even though the past few months were rough at times, I took in every word of advice you told me. I know I didn't emulate that all the time, and I hope you'll forgive me for my stubbornness. I've been fine as far as thoughts and feelings go, and I know it's because of your patience, advice, and love, as well as the Spirit's whisperings to me of the right thing to do. I know it was stressful for both of you, and for me, but I am so grateful to Heavenly Father. I have been taught that I can do hard things; this has taught me just how much you love me; it taught me that others love me; and it taught me to love myself. I would probably be so frustrated with myself and feeling completely worthless and helpless right now if I hadn't learned how to see myself as Christ sees me, and as others see me; that I matter not only in His eyes, but that I have worth in the eyes of others.

The strength I have received through personal covenants is beyond what I had ever imagined it would be. When we make that personal effort to bind ourselves to the Lord in a way that He hasn't even specifically asked us to, He is going to do everything He can to make sure we keep that. I feel like the people of Lamoni and the Anti-Nephi-Lehites, when they made a covenant of their own to do something of their own free will. For if they should not do that, they might perhaps lose their souls. Jesus Christ is my strength, and I trust in Him completely. 
 
Love, Elder Jackson