Monday, February 9, 2015

4964.75 Miles Away

Wow! A lot of amazing news! Jake's finishing his mission... tomorrow! Jason is back in Japan after a few medical issues, and Talmage is going to Africa to serve a mission! I have the biggest smile on my face. I'm so happy.

Things are fantastic here in Pontevedra! It's pretty cold though man. I'm even having to wear the double sweater every now and then! It's so beautiful up here though. Galicia is one of a kind.

It seems like where the church is small, there can be big problems. Because of these Satan derived problems, the last few years have left the retention rate of recent converts and activity of members here in Pontevedra very low. There is a lot of work to do here. I can honestly say that I've learned so much over the last few weeks about how to help people spirituality survive in an environment of little "member support." We've dealt with financial problems, calling struggles, and just good old drama. Luckily the few leaders we have are converted, consecrated, and not going anywhere. Our Branch President is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. His family and him literally hold this tiny branch together. We have seen many blessings and much success working together over these past couple of weeks. I love this area and I want to do everything I can to help.

I was able to study a little about some pioneers and the history of the church this last week. For example, Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson and Francis and Betsy Webster Kingsford who were from the Martin Handcart company, as well as, Bodil Mortinsen and James Kirkwood from the Willie Handcart Company in Rocky Ridge/Rock Creek Hollow. I invite you all to look up their history. It amazes me the dedication they had to the Lord. It reminded me of my farewell talk back in July of 2013. As the pioneers did, we need to "go before to prepare or open up the way for others to follow."

We have an awesome investigator right now who is from Ghana. We'd been teaching him, he'd been progressing, but there was something wrong and we didn't know what it was. Our last visit we had with him we watched as a big light bulb clicked in his head. For some reason or another he had not understood that the Book of Mormon is not the Bible. (Take note that he speaks very.. very.. broken English) Once I figured that out, I held my Bible up in my left hand and my Book of Mormon in the other hand. With my left hand raised I said, "This book.. the Bible." He nodded agreeing. Then, with my right hand raised, I said, "This book.. is not the Bible." He looked at me with probably the most puzzled look I have ever seen in my life. Then him and his buddy yelled, "Uh huuuuuuh!!!!!" "AHHHH!!!". They started laughing so hard, realizing the mistake they had made. We then explained the Book of Mormon again and they understood it perfectly.

S, who is the investigator from Ghana I was just speaking of, came to church for his first time on Sunday. He loved all 3 hours of it. Before the meetings he told us that that morning he put one of his really nice jackets on that he hadn't worn in over a year. He started to put something in one of the pockets and noticed something was in there.. 10 euros! He was so happy and he told us that the Lord blesses us when we do what is right! He thanked us for inviting him to church.

On Wednesday, down in Vigo, President and Sister Jackson came to our District Meeting. They took us out for Italian food after and we had a great time with them. We were joking around with President talking about the crazy people we sometimes come across throughout the mission. He shared a quote with us from Gordon B. Hinckley regarding these people, "The FBI can't find them, the CIA can't find them, but they sure do find us!" It was an awesome lunch.

We have an investigator from Romania who is the sweetest lady ever. The other day we saw her sitting next to the door of a grocery store with her little beggar's cup, that's what she does for money. She saw us and started yelling, "Elders! Elders!" We went over and as we talked to her for about 30 minutes her cup just started filling up with money. I've noticed lately that every time we've talked to beggars here, they seem to receive more money than usual. She noticed it too and just kept saying, "Yipee!" pointing to heaven. Then to top it off, someone walked up to her and gave her a big bag of food for her and her family.

The meetings on Sunday were awesome. Our branch president gave a talk about... well a lot of things. He talked about reading, understanding and applying the scriptures. Also, he spoke about how God wants us to become like Him. God gives us the commandment "Thou shalt not lie" because He doesn't lie. He gives us the commandment "Thou shalt not steal" because He doesn't steal (In fact, everything is His anyway!) These are just examples of commandments He gives us so that WE can become more like HIM.

I was studying a lot about diligence this week, seeing as the Mission Tour next week (We're having a mission tour next Thursday down in Madrid (I get to go visit Madrid again!) and Timothy J. Dyches, of the Seventy, is coming) will be about Diligence.

We all know that it is so easy to say great things but applying them or putting them into action is always the hardest part. The phrase, "The things I say, but the way I live" comes to mind.

Neal A. Maxwell said in his talk called, "A Wonderful Flood of Light,"

"Let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon."

Jesus Christ was a perfect example of someone who put into practice everything he taught and said. 100% of the time. I know that if we're diligent and faithful in all things the Lord will pour out his blessing upon us.

D&C 93:1 says, "Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am."

We will see Him one day, and we will recognize Him. He will, with outstretched arms, embrace us, and cry tears of joy over our long but divinely short journey as we are welcomed back into our Father's kingdom.

In Bruce R. McConkie's final talk before he passed away titled, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane" he says, "I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears."

I may be 4964.75 miles away but I still love you all!

Elder Giforos

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