Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Those Fechas

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??

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!!!

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...

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. 

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