Monday, June 30, 2014

Mi Cielito Lindo. My cute, little Heaven.


I felt that an appropriate greeting now that I'm working with Elder Auelua. It's funny how most of the branch members say 'aloha' to him every time they see him. He is basically everything you would think an Islander would be like. Whenever a member has a guitar he has them bring it out and plays and sings for them. I've learned a few songs myself. "Ay, ay ay, ay! Canta y no llores! Porque cantando se alegran cielitos lindos los corozonez!'

This area that I'm in now is smaller than my last area but there seems to be plenty of things to do here. Like go to different churches! We have already gone to two, a nice youth group Christian one called Victory: World Church and a Jehova's Witness service in Spanish. Both nice and full of friendly people and great messages. In the JW one I even raised my hand and participated. In every faith you can find truth. Our message is simply that the fullness of the most important truth for us has been restored or brought back to the earth. Simple, right?

This Wednesday we get to meet our new mission president and his wife. They also have a disabled daughter who they will have with them. I am sure that they will be amazing like all mission presidents are, especially because they are coming to the best mission in the world! I have already heard good things of them. :) I'll give you the juicy details next time, aight?

I'm excited to see you all when I get back. I electronically send my love to each one of you. Thanks for the support and love you've shown me as well. And if not soon I'm sure at one point or other in the Millennium we'll see each other. ;D

-Elder Vance

Us trying to pull off swag.. or whatever.. Right after that picture we ran like scardy cats from a wasps nest that we then destroyed. Yep. :)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mourning With Those That Mourn

Letter from June 23, 2014

Buenos dias mis compadres. It feels like it's been like over 600,000 seconds since I've talked with you all! (I know you want to do the math to see if that's accurate..) 

Transfers has once again sneaked up on us. I actually didn't realize it until yesterday. I wasn't too worried because I've only been in this area for three months and in all my other areas I was there for four and a half months. BUT turns out I am leaving. I am going to the PeachTree Corners branch with a Hawaiian companion named Elder Auelua. He is actually from Laie on the island of Oahu right next to where the Temple is. My grandparents are actually spending time there right now and I believe they are in same ward that he is from. Small world, huh? 

So I am not happy to leave because I love so many of the people here!! I love them all, actually! And we are going to be having a baptism in about two weeks! 'Never mind, all is well - I am well enough off.' (Joseph Smith quote for the win) My efforts don't go wasted just because I can't see some of the major fruits. I am content with going where He wants me to. :D

We are sad here in Lilburn thought because of the passing of a recently baptized member of the English ward. He passed last night the day that he received the Aaronic Priesthood. He went to bed on the couch and never woke up. My companion and I grew somewhat close to him too because he is from Puerto Rica, thus he speaks Spanish. He was a bomb missionary and was not afraid to talk about the Church with anyone. He had a wife and three kids too who were all baptized six months ago. It is a shock to us all here but we all have the image of him dressed up in a suit at church for the first time, ready to receive the Priesthood. Looks like God needed another great missionary on the other side of the veil. God bless, my friend.

In times of change we all should take an inventory of where our testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is and what we are doing to nurture or ignore it. "For as is Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." - 1 Corinthians 15:22

-Elder Vance

Ward Father's Day activity- they love their pinatas!

 Super Hero!

Elderly lady playing musical chairs

"Mira! Alla hay luz!"

Letter from June 11, 2012

As I sit in front of a computer screen each Monday, I search in my mind through all the memories of the past seven days and try to pull something out that might be enjoyable for someone else to read. It's all the same, really...

We went tracting. We spoke Spanish. We assumed someone spoke Spanish when they didn't. We got rejected. We ate some great food. We got really rejected. We made someone else laugh. We learned more about other faiths and beliefs as we testified of our own. We got rained on. We felt the heat of the sun and the humidity in the air as we worked. We gazed occasionally at the planes high in the sky passing above us. We shook off the thought of air planes and got back to work. We were anxious. We are in desperate need of Divine assistance. We told a guy at least fifty times in the same conversation to stop drinking or we couldn't help him. We prayed. Tears of sorrow were wept. Tears of joy were shed. Tears from chopping onions were there at least once. We talked about how to improve. We wondered if miracles could happen for us. We committed to working harder. We woke up wondering how we were going to survive that day feeling so tired! We shook the feeling off. We parted our hair (well, at least I did). We left our apartment. We opened our mouths.

You hear it once you hear it thousand times, right? Though it is true that though we do the same things each week, each one is very unique. The people are different every day; Every door! The ways we get rejected range from the hilarious excuses to straight up door slams. The tone of the dogs barking in the windows ranges from squeaky rat to ferocious grizzly bear (And it's kind of funny when you have a companion who is just a bit afraid of big dogs). Oh, I could go on, but I'll save the rest for later. But for now I want to share one quick experience that at least for me is noteworthy. 

There is a less active family that we visit every so often. They have five kids or so and they are all super shy! The littlest kids will at least glance at us but there is a eight-ish year old who would turn her head and not look at us as she sat on the couch in front of us. She never said anything no matter how hard we tried! Not a word! But just a couple of days ago we went by to see them. It was a bit darker and the kids were outside. I noticed they had a bottle with little glowing things inside. They were catching fireflies! For one I thought it was crazy that not even the little girl was scared to touch a bug, but I decided to join them. By the end of the visit all of the kids were laughing and playing as we would all spot a blinking light and then chase it until we caught it. The girl who never spoke was laughing her head off at me as I tried to catch those little lighting bugs as well as pointing them out by saying, 'Look! Ther's a light!'. When we left I told them I would play with them again the next time we came. I love things like that. When the kids of a family start seeing us awkward white guys in ties as the good guys. It definitely goes better when the kids of a family like you.

With mucho amor and a few glowing lights in a bottle,

Elder Vance

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

So, Barber shops aren't only for cutting beards? We learn things everyday.

Hey friends and family! Amigos y familia!

This week has been a lot like the rest but of course each week brings it's uniqueness. We ended up having no investigators at church. :( But we still do have a few great investigators. It's tough for missionaries when we just want the people to accept the restored Gospel right now! 

"C'mon, it's easy! Just read and pray and BOOM! Baptism! Yep, there is opposition but just keep praying and going to and all will be well."

Yet, we are not the ones to decide when one is ready or not. We have not final influence on when a person's heart is truly softened. We are really just supposed to go to whom the Lord wishes and do the best we can. Maybe that person won't accept it now or maybe even in the near future, but you might just play a vital role in their conversion process. 'Tis tough, though, when we can't always tell what part we play or  where they are at in their journey. But that all has to do with walking by faith, I suppose. :) One new investigator we got was a 21 year old girl from Guatemala. Well, her family is from there but she speaks perfect English. She is super smart and we have high hopes for her!

One thing as a missionary I have also had to 'walk by faith' with is getting my hair cut. There isn't always a 'Great Clips' or 'Super Cuts' near by where you know that you will get a very decent hair cut for the same price you are sued to. That is the case around here in Lilburn. There are, however, many random Barber shops and salons in many languages. So this morning while I traveled in search for a place to get my hair cut I decided on the first Barber's shop I found. I mean, anything would be better than getting my hair cut at Walmart. (Yes, there is a hair place in our Walmart. Yes I went there. Twice. Not really the smartest decisions ever.) The place I went to this morning turned out to be a Dominican one. I had heard that Dominicans were really good at cutting hair, and it turned out to be true. I think that was the best hair cut I've ever gotten! And it was speedy! I was able to talk to the man in Spanish for a bit and tell him we were missionaries and that I was so pleased with his work I wanted to come back. I love this whole speaking Spanish thing!

I love you all. Miss you mucho. I'm glad you are still interested enough in how I am doing to read these interesting emails.

-Elder (Guapo por su corte de pelo) Vance

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

So, I know I can't kiss girls right now but what about cows?

Hey world! 

No time on hand so this will be quick!

This week went great. Last Zone conference with our current mission president, progressing investigators, old investigators found again, and less actives coming back, and a great fast and testimony meeting yesterday. I may have shed some tears in Spanish.

I also ate a cow tongue. That about sums it up. I love you all so much! Don't you dare stop saying your prayers!!

-Elder Vance

p.s. the cow tongue was actually really good. Wish I had got pictures :(
Advertisement for Crest White strips....

Painted on the wall of their apt....

Libre Soy

Letter from May 26, 2014:

My, oh my, another week has gone by.

Another great week here in Georgia with all of it's rain, mud and mosquitoes alike. Though I really am not fond of the mosquitoes. I have, like, five bites on my right arm right now. Not too fun. On the bright side my hand-eye coordination and fox-like agility are increasing as I continually try to smash those little buggers! Watch out, mosquitoes in Las Vegas and Utah! This Elder is returning with more than just his testimony.

I hope everyone has been having a great Memorial Day. I wasn't aware that today would be Memorial Day until yesterday, which really helped explain all of the many flags and names of war veterans around town. We met a friendly, old war veteran the other day. He spoke to us of how the standards of the world were really dropping. How right his was. We love when we meet people who share morals with us, not matter what religion. :) We are actually going to go back and help him trim his yard this week. 

Have you seen the movie Frozen? I have...not. But i have seen bits and pieces as it has been played in the many homes of the people we visit. I was able to catch most of the song 'Let it go' in Spanish. It's called 'Libre Soy', which literally means 'I am free'. I like that. I am free. As you have most likely seen I enjoy seeing things as they apply to the Gospel. So naturally the phrase 'I am free' fits perfectly. The Gospel of Jesus Christ really is the only way to be completely free. Free from what? Well through Christ's love and mercy we are all unconditionally free from the permanent effects of physical death. And through our faithful obedience to Him we can be freed from the shackles of sin, fear, doubt, and darkness as well as ultimately be freed from spiritual death. Now of course those shackles may not be all loosed at the same time, but that is why God requires patience. It all ends up fitting together in one, big learning and growth process for us that leads us to a glorious end that lasts forever when we can at last say, 'Librey soy. I am free'. Pretty neat, huh? I love the verse that touches on this subject in the Doctrine and Covenants:

"Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now.. wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected." (D&C 67:13).

Sorry, it's required in my contract that I write lots of spiritual messages in these emails home. Hope you don't mind. :) But of course I am no better off or have more knowledge on these subjects than the next guy. Just trying to add my 'two cents' to the inspirational conversation.

Que dios les bendiga mucho y que les envie mucha lluvia!

-Elder Vance