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

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ben's Solo

Enjoy listening to Ben practice the solo he sang at Church the day he spoke

Savior Redeemer of My Soul

©2012 Rob Gardner Music, ASCAP. All rights reserved. www.spiremusic.org


We just have a couple minutes to let you guys know how were doing so this one will be short. Im on a Spanish keyboard so forgive my grammar. Our flight made it safely to Guatemala this morning around 5 or 6 am. By the time we left there were about 30 of us missionaries in LAX! For some reason I was the only one who had to get there 7 hours early. Were all reaally tired and glazed over but its great!

Love Elder Jackson

Off to Guatemala!

[So this is still mom here filling in on what happens with Ben until he actually writes. [brackets indicate mom's thoughts] Ben was set apart as a full time missionary on Monday night. Cousin Val was with us and we had a wonderful hour with our Stake President Hollingsworth. Lots of great council and advice. Remember you are still Ben. Be obedient. Listen to the Spirit. Focus all you do towards Christ. Let the music ring through you to reach others. Use and develop your talents.

Monday morning we finally got Ben's itinerary that he was flying out Tuesday at 4:00pm with a long layover in LAX and the final leg being his flight from LAX to Guatemala from 12am-6am Wednesday morning. We haven't heard anything so that means they have him safe and sound at the Guatemala MTC.

Yesterday, Jackson Zamora and Warren Park came to bid farewell and it was great to see them all smile and play the guitar one last time. This Priest quorum has been great for Ben and a huge strength. Jackson & Jamison Zamora, Calvin Woods and Ben are all either on their missions or soon to be. The younger priests are following well in their footsteps!

Yesterday we got Ben all ready and packed and did the triple check of everything. We arrived at the airport on time, if not early and Ben got out of the car and said, "Oh no! I forgot my suit jacket!". No small amount of panic waved through us and quick calculating on our watches of how much time to drive back home and get back before the flight left. Then I called my dearest neighbor Angie. She said she could walk directly out her door, go to our home, get in through the garage, grab the jacket and drive to the airport. Thirty-five minutes later there she was with a huge smile and Ben's suit coat at the curb of the airport drop off! I should have taken a picture of her as she pulled up! Alas, we didn't get any pictures at the airport. But we have bunch coming from our photo shoot Monday of the whole family dressed up for the setting apart (on a very hot Texas evening!).

So, emotionally I have been a fine rock of a mother up to yesterday when we drove away from the airport....then it finally hit me my sweet, quiet Ben was gone. No tears, but close enough. I had to text Lynnae and ask for some support and comforting words. David turned on a movie to distract himself from his own thoughts. I really didn't want to watch "Rocky II" but ended up in there anyway to distract myself! Whimpering was not unheard of yesterday!

I think this sending children off on their first solo life flight is getting harder each time I do it. We have joked about Hyrum being velcro-ed to mommy for years. I fear I will be velcro-ed to him when it is time for him to leave! But in all honesty, David and I are much too excited now about preparing ourselves to serve missions that I know we will be willing to let all our children go.

Today I am full of faith that Ben is being well cared for and in the middle of jumping into a whole new life of greatness and rich experiences. I am never more serene, happy or calm as when I truly surrender my children to God, who has first claim on them anyway.]