Sunday, June 25, 2017

Week of June 19 - 25

This week was sweltering with temperatures in the 100's up to 112 degrees. Thank heavens for air conditioning!

Tuesday morning we picked Elder Cruz up at 6:30 am in Taft where he is serving. As he left the apartment he said "I love you" to his companion and the other companionship that were there. That was so sweet! We drove him to Sacramento for his noon appointment at the USCIS (United States Citizenship Immigration Services) to have his fingerprints and picture taken.  His mother also had the same appointment. We arrived early at about 11:15 and Elder Cruz was finished in a few minutes, so we waited for his family. At first, he just wanted to leave without seeing them. We told him that would be mean since they were expecting to see him. They arrived shortly after noon and it was quite a reunion. His mother hugged him and cried for the longest time. She didn't want to let go. He almost had to pry her off. His 17 year old sister, 12 year old brother, and 15 year old cousin were also there. After Elder Cruz's mother finished being fingerprinted, she said let's go eat. James was torn as to what to do, but finally decided it was the right thing to do and I agreed with him. We went to California Burrito nearby and enjoyed our lunch and watching this family interact. When Elder Cruz finished eating, he got up, sat across from his mother, put a very serious face on, opened up the Book of Mormon, and began teaching and testifying to his mother and family. (His brother is the only one who is a member of the church.) Elder Cruz talked about the importance of his mission and shared his testimony of faith, prayer, and the Book of Mormon. He read them some scriptures and invited his mother to also read and ask of God. It was powerful and is mother was in tears as she listened. She said she would. Elder Cruz wrote the steps of how to pray in the front of the Book of Mormon before he gave it to her and signed it, Elder Cruz, "your son". Elder Cruz told his brother to read the Book of Mormon with her. There were more hugs and we all said goodbye and drove off our separate ways.

Elder Cruz has been on his mission for four months. He barely knew any English before his mission, but now he can carry on a simple conversation quite well in English. He is learning English quickly even though he is on a Spanish speaking mission. Elder Cruz told us more of his story all those hours we were driving in the car. He joined the church when he was 14 years old in Mexico; only four years ago. A lady his mother knew introduced him to the church. He made good friends at church with four other boys about his age. On a trip to the temple, they promised each other that they would all go on missions. So far all but one are on a mission. A couple years later his father and little brother joined the church. His family was pretty well off with several businesses and land in Acapulco, Mexico.  The cartel kidnapped his mother and held her for ransom in exchange for all their land and businesses. After they got what they wanted, she was released and told not to report it or they would kill her. She was able to escape the country with her two children, but they lost all their earthly possessions. His mother was granted political asylum here and wears an ankle bracelet to track her whereabouts. It was hard, but they all did what they could and have been able to make it. Elder Cruz worked and handed his paycheck over to his mother. His mother worked several jobs. In the evenings, Elder Cruz and his little brother would collect cans and bottles for the recycle money. His sister now works at a restaurant also. It was a real sacrifice for Elder Cruz to leave his mom and siblings to come on his mission because he was basically the "man" of the house, but he knew it was important and that is what the Lord wanted him to do. His family has been blessed. The rest of the story. . .after the kidnappers released Elder Cruz's mother, they found out his father was part of the cartel. He is still in Mexico and doesn't really have anything to do with his family. Elder Cruz talked to him on the phone last Christmas and said it seemed like his dad didn't care how hard it has been on his mom and the family. We also talked about service and Elder Cruz said that before his mission he never really understood about service or the power of service. On his mission he realized the best way to get along with his companions was to serve them. He started ironing his first companion's, Elder Thomason, shirts. After a couple of weeks, Elder Thomason turned the service around and ironed Elder Cruz's shirts the rest of their time together. Now Elder Cruz likes to make food for his current companion, Elder Barney.

Last Wednesday morning we found out that the Stephenson's, the senior missionary couple coming to replace us and the Balls, wouldn't be coming this weekend as expected. Their 47 year old son died, and they left the MTC to help with the funeral arrangements. President Layton told us he suffered from depression for years and it got the better of him. We don't know if that means he committed suicide or if it had something to do with medications. Nonetheless, it is terribly sad. The Stephenson's said they were still going to come, but it will be a week or so later than expected. We were going to train them in our responsibility areas next week, but that is not going to happen now. We may have one day with them depending on when they get here.


Elder Bankhead and Elder Bennett

Elder Hatchcock and Elder Hulet

Thursday we took the Assistants, Elder Bennett (Pocatello, ID) and Elder Bankhead (Wellsville, UT), out for lunch. That evening we treated Elder Hulet (Cedar City, UT) and Elder Hatchcock (West Valley, UT) to dinner at Black Bear Diner.

Friday I worked with Sister Layton in the office for about four hours on the 2017 mission history. She was a big help because she can name all the missionaries really quickly. I have to label underneath all the pictures who is in them. I had gotten a lot of the zone conference pictures and other pictures off the CALBAK-Layton Facebook page where she posts them. We decided they were a little blurry, so we went thru and replaced them all with the pictures directly from her phone sent to the mission email. I want to have the mission history finished up through June when we leave so it will be easy for the next person to finish the rest of the year.

James has been calling all of the missionary companionships to tell them what their new monthly mileage amounts are, reminding them of the proper way to fill out their daily mileage reports, and telling them goodbye while he is at it. He has called about three fourths of them, but still has more to finish up.

Friday evening we took Ingrid & Bruce Ball out to dinner and they took us to the movie "Wonder Woman". 

Saturday we moved most of the furniture out of our apartment over to apartment #173 where the Stephenson's will live when they come. We only left the couch, our bed, some folding chairs, and a portable table for our computer. We are packing up our stuff, so everything won't be left to do at the last minute.

Saturday afternoon we went to a baptism for Robyn Rockwell. Apparently she was baptized when she was a child, but went  inactive for many years. She found the church again, but her records could not be located, so she was rebaptized. Her mother and sister and her family came from New Mexico for the event.                                        (Sister Manning played her flute.)

Saturday evening we attended the baptism of Craig Davis who is almost nine years old. His mother and his other five siblings are the ones who live in a hotel room.

James gave a talk in the Spanish group Sacrament Meeting today on "Our Responsibilities as Members of Christ's Church". He has gotten more fluent in Spanish since we have been here because he has been using it quite often. James has been able to use his language skills to benefit the mission. He is the one we all turn the phone over to if someone calls or we need to call someone who speaks Spanish. He has been able to help the incoming missionaries who do not know English understand what is going on, get settled, and answer their questions. President Layton asked us to be the ones to take Elder Cruz to Sacramento this week because James speaks Spanish. It has been a real asset to this mission. In general, James has the gift of being able to talk to people, motivate them, and make them feel good in any language. The Balls, Elder Morris, President and Sister Layton, and others have commented on his connection to people and how he communicates with them. Sometimes James feels bad because he cannot write very well and does not read or write Spanish. However, we happened to read a couple verses of scripture recently that made him realize many great men were better in communicating verbally than in writing. We read in 2 Nephi 33:l ". . . neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men." and in Ether 12:33 Moroni says, "And I said unto him, Lord the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing, for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them."

We gave away two Book of Mormons this week. One to Charlotte and Alan, our neighbors, who like to sit out on their patio in the mornings and read. The other one was put in The Villas club house library.

After the baptism on Saturday, Elder Stewart commented on James's nice purple tie and said he really liked it. Well, James took that tie to church today and gifted it to Elder Stewart.


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