Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 27, 2014

Hello, hello.

Hey Fam! What up?! Haha, that just made me think of something. So you all know that my companion is pretty new, but there is another Elder in our piso with us, who is also pretty new, only one transfer more than Elder Galeano, I think. The funny thing is that they have new slang that I don´t understand. Seriously, half the time I have no idea what they are talking about! And they just laugh and talk about how long I´ve been in the mission. I feel old. It´s weird! This is just one of the many things that makes me not want to go back to the US. Do you think they can release me here and I can just stay in Spain? You all can come visit me. . .

Buuuueno. So, news for this week. We have very few investigators. But! We set baptismal dates with 2 of them this week! Fue guay. First with Joaquin and then with Domi, the Dominican guy that I met in the metro. We had a really cool lesson with Joaquin where we talked about baptism and what it means to him and if he wants to be baptized. He said right away that he wanted to be baptized and then he explained to us what it means to him and it was exactly what baptism is. He talked about making a promise with God and about starting a new life. He is more than ready. He said too that he believes that it is really God´s church and talked about how amazed he is with all the church and it´s members have done throughout its history. He is fascinated by the church and he has a strong testimony. The only thing is being able to come to church because of Emilia. So we set the date for a little farther in the future, March 8th. I´m confident the Lord will provide the way for him to come enough times before his date. Sadly he didn´t come yesterday. Emilia just couldn´t make it. So we met with him last night, re-enforced the importance of attendance and promised the Lord would provide. In the end he came up with a solution. He decided that he would be able to leave Emilia alone for an  hour in order to come at least to sacrament meeting. The requirement is actually just that they come to sacrament mtg various times. And as he comes I know that with time he´ll be able to come to the classes as well. So we are pretty stoked for Joaquin.

Domi has also committed to be baptized, but he is having a bit of a challenge with it. We set the date for the 15th of Feb, but I think we will have to push it back because he still hasn´t made it to church. He is super good, we have had some really spiritual lessons with him, but for some reason he won´t quite accept it fully. I think he knows that what we have taught him is good and that it comes from God--like I said we´ve had some really spiritual lessons and I know he has felt it, you can see it in the lessons, but he is afraid, I think. I´m not exactly sure what of--making changes in his life, leaving the Catholic church, the opinions of his family. I think it´s his family more than anything. I think maybe they belong to other religions and maybe have been talking to him about other doctrines, or even disapprove of his meeting with us. I´m not sure, but we need to find out. He is such a good guy, such an example of charity to me. He always has a drink or food ready for us and it´s just obvious the love he has for other people. I want him to be able to accept the Gospel completely and continue developing the gifts he has from God. He definitely has desires to follow the Lord. Please pray for him to be able to overcome his doubts.

We also found Dilmer this week who is a miracle from heaven! We had one of the coolest, best lessons of my mission with him. Dilmer is an intellectual, a thinking man, which is cool because he is open to new ideas. He said right from the start that he had a lot of questions and one that he most wanted answered. He said that he´d met with a lot of different religious groups but that none could answer his questions well enough. His main question was: "if God loves us, why is there so much suffering in the world?" If I could tell you how many times I´ve heard that question in my mission. . .  And I´ve never been able to help people understand, unitl Dilmer. I´ve thought a lot about that question, because I´ve been asked it so many times. Here is my conclusion and what I explained to Dilmer. We know that we come to this earth to gain experience and learn and grow as people and sometimes that comes through trials. Also we know that everyone has their agency. Most of the suffering in the world comes from the bad decisions of other people. So the question then is, if God is just and loving, why does He let that happen. First of all He will never take away our agency, but He is also just. The key is that sometimes His justice comes after this life is over. And that´s why people don´t understand, they can´t see past this life. But, as I explained all that to Dilmer, his face lit up. He understood. He said that no one had ever been able to answer that question for him before, but that we had done it. Even better he said that as we spoke he felt something that he described by putting his two hands in front of his face and slowly opening them just a little bit so that he could see, just a little of the light. Illumination is the word. We testified that was the Spirit, that the Lord was revealing to him the truth. It was amazing to me, because it was both logical and spiritual. That has always been a foundation of my testimony of the Church, that it makes sense. It all makes sense to me, mentally and emotionally, in my head and my heart if you will. And it was amazing to see that happen in another person who I feel is similar to me. Sadly he also couldn´t come to church, but we are going to meet with him on Wednesday. Oh, he also said during the course of the lesson that he no longer wanted to do what he wanted, but what God wanted. He wants his life to follow God´s pattern. Talk about someone who is perfectly prepared for the Gospel. And you know what´s even better? He´s a husband and father of 4 kids who are here with him. So. Excited!

One other piece of news. Contrary to what you may believe, we did have an investigator in church yesterday. Her name is Patricia and we have met with her just once! We found her when we went to visit a less active woman and her 16 year old daughter. She is the woman´s sister and she just got here from Honduras. We didn´t focus too much on her in the lesson, more on helping the family come back to church, but the fact that she came yesterday shows that she has interest in learning about the church. I´m really excited, she already has the support of her niece who is amazing! They came together yesterday and she was helping Patricia out with everything. I feel like she will definitely progress quickly. We have a Noche de Hogar with the 2 of them and a member family tonight. Should be good. 

All in all we have some good things going on. Our numbers for this week look terrible, but my companion said that he feels like we are doing a lot more now that he did last transfer. They contacted a ton! and taught a lot of first lessons, but that was it. He said he feels like now he is actually helping people instead of just working. That makes me feel good. :) 

Alright, quickly, below is what I want to share for missionary month.

The thing that I learned from Missionary Month that has been the most help to me during my mission is the simple doctrine of the Gospel and being familiar with the missionary lessons in Preach My Gospel. The Gospel is simple and powerful and Preach My Gospel is the way to teach it so that it reaches people´s hearts. Study Preach My Gospel. Know the doctrine so that you can teach it simply and from the heart. And always remember that the spirit is what brings the message to people´s heart.
I have a huge testimony of missionary work and the power this Gospel has to change people´s lives. I know it is the Lord´s work and I plan to be a part of it throughout my life. I have also found more joy in this work than in any other thing in my life. My joy in missionary work comes from what Alma says in Alma 36:

 24 Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
 25 Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors;
 26 For because of the word which he has imparted unto me, behold, many have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know; and the knowledge which I have is of God.

I have felt the changing power of the Gospel in my life and there is nothing better than being able to share that with others. I love this work with all my heart. I would not trade my mission for anything in the world. I know better who I am, what God´s plan is for me and how I can be truly happy than ever before. Go on a mission. You will never feel a stronger love for your Heavenly Father and you fellow man. It will change your life. This is my testimony. 

I hope that that is what you were looking for. I hope it will help someone. All of it is true. I love this work with all of my heart. And I never want to stop being a missionary, in whatever way I can. Thank you for raising me in the truth, for giving me this opportunity to grow in incredible ways and feel love and joy like I´ve never known. Oddly enough, despite being so far away, my love for you, my family, has grown so much in my time here. I wish I could tell you some other way than just saying it over and over again, I love you guys so much!

With that, I´ll end. Take care, be safe, be good. I love you. Until next week. 

Elder Cousins

PS Here is a gorgeous picture of Madrid that Elder Moreland took. Save this, it´s going on a wall in my house some day. I love this city! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 20, 2014

Happy . . . Regular P-day! 

It always makes me laugh how you guys always put the holidays in the subject line. I never remember that it´s a holiday until I see your emails. I would put in a line every time there was a festivo here, but I can´t keep them all straight. There´s a lot. Nevertheless I hope you are enjoying Martin Luther King Jr Day. Listen to "Pride" and "MLK" at least once each to celebrate, or rather commemorate that great man (Dad will know what I´m talking about). 

Things are going pretty well over here in Spain-land. Any week that you have a baptism is a pretty darn good week. It´s also always a very very busy week. I´m tired. Also, we had to teach her about half the lessons in this last week in order for her to be ready for baptism by the date set. So we were there everyday, which I´m grateful for because I got to know Alejandra a lot better than I would have otherwise and that made her baptism a lot more meaningful for me. Ay, the baptism! I think this was the closest call I´ve ever had. I don´t know if I told you already but her husband Hector was baptized about 4 months ago and she picked him to baptize her, which is awesome! But it almost didn´t happen. They showed up right when the service was supposed to start, both of them dog sick! And Alejandra said that Hector got mad about something as they were leaving and she almost, almost didn´t come! But thankfully they showed up, sick, but they showed up. You could tell things were a little tense at first. The mother of this amazing family gave a talk (seriously it´s thanks solely to this family that the baptism turned out, they did everything! She spoke, her husband conducted and did the confirmation, she brought a dress and food for afterwords, on and on. Literally, they did everything.), then Elder Galeano spoke (he was a little nervous, but did a great job) and then Hector baptized Alejandra. She was a little scared going into the water, but it all went well and as they walked back to their seats afterwords, she and Hector were holding hands. That made it worth it. This week we are taking them to the temple to do a tour and talk about sealing and becoming an eternal family. I cannot wait! 

At the end of the baptism Alejandra shared her testimony (even though she didn´t want to) and it was really touching. She thanked everyone there and us for helping her get to that point and talked about wanting to continue forward and about Hector and the changes that she has seen in him and now in herself as well. It was really beautiful and stilled some of my worries about her. She is wonderful and she was supposed to be baptized and she was ready, but we are going need to continue giving her and Hector a lot of support and encouragement. This is just the beginning. 

That´s pretty much the news from the week. We really don´t have investigators now. We haven´t met again with anyone I told you about last week except for Joaquin. Sadly they couldn´t make it to church this week. They tried but they ended up having to turn back because of Emilia´s knee. She has problems with it and the rain and cold on Sunday made it impossible. We do have Domi, though. I don´t remember if I told you about him. I met him in the metro on the way to B2 in transfers. We met with him for the second time this last week and had a super spiritual Restoration lesson with him. It was really cool and he came to the baptism, but not to church. The lesson was great but on Saturday I couldn´t tell if his interest had gone down since or not. We haven´t been able to get in touch since Saturday, so we´ll see this week what happens. 

We didn´t meet with any of the investigators that the Bravo family told us about because they´ve been sick all week :(  But we are definitely going to get on that as soon as possible. It´s interesting here because now I have to learn how to work effectively with the members. In B5 it was all about creating trust with the members and getting to know them and helping them out, but here they are already prepared, they have a lot of trust with the missionaries and are excited about the work. It´s like before we were preparing to work with them, now I need to actually work with them, and I´m seeing that I have a lot to learn about that. 

The members are from all over the place as well, though there are a few Spanish families. Actually the ward and the area remind me most of all of B6, but a lot more lively, which is good. In some ways I feel like I´m at the beginning of my mission again. It´s a weird feeling. 

My companion and I are getting along really well. I can see a stark difference between myself at the beginning of my mission and now. I am a lot more patient and a lot more loving towards my companions than I was a first. I still have a lot to improve in, don´t get me wrong, but I know the mission has changed me a lot. I´m really glad to be with Elder Galeano, though. He is really great! He has a lot of desires to serve and to improve. He is humble, which will help him a lot. I´m glad to be with him and I hope I can help him out a lot in this part of his mission that is so important. 

Truthfully we slip in and out of Spanish and English a lot. It´s pretty cool. :) 

Well, I think that´s about it for this week. Thank you so much for Sarah´s talk. I was blown away. She has obviously grown so much spiritually. Her testimony of Christ and the Atonement were so powerful and really resounded with me. I´m so proud of her! She´s also grown a lot physically, apparently. Are we sure she´s really 17?! Is that right? There were a few moments where I thought I was listening to Bekah speak too. I don´t know if I´m going to recognize any of you when I get home! 

I attached some pictures of the baptism. Oh and we bought a jam leg. Mmmmmm.  . . jamon . . . :) 

Thank you all so much for everything. I keep you in prayers everyday. Thanks for your support and prayers for me and my investigators. I love you guys so, so, so much!! Have an awesome week!

Elder Cousins

Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014

Week # . . .  who knows?

Hello family! How´s it going? It´s so good to hear from you all again! You all are the best, you know?

So one week in B2 gone by. It´s been an interesting week. This area is pretty dang big! I still haven´t seen most of it and this last week I´ve just felt lost the whole time. But things are getting better. I´m starting to get the hang of it. We´ve spent some time passing by old investigators out of the area book so that helps me get to know the area. As it turns out some parts of Madrid do look a lot the same. I´ve been reminded a lot of all my past areas walking around here. It´s definitely different than all my past areas though, in different ways. For starters there are families here! A lot of families! We ran into a big old group of Spanish kids the other day that stopped us and asked who were were and what we were doing. It was pretty entertaining. So that´s something that´s really cool. The ward also has a lot more families, certainly than B5 anyways. It´s cool. 

The members are probably the best part about this area. We´ve been focused on visiting as many members as we can this past week because I´d heard about how great they are here and because I know it´s the best way to work, and it´s been awesome! The members here are so excited about missionary work, and so involved already! In B5 we had to gain the trust of the members and build their excitement before we started to see success, here it´s all already done. They are ready to go. We just need to visit and start working with as many of them as possible. We met with this one family in particular that hadn´t received a visit from the missionaries in about a month, and they spoke to us about 2 different families they know that they want to invite over to learn about the gospel. Wow. That does not happen often! But here it appears to happen a lot. I´m so stoked to just work closely with this amazing members right from the start. 

Which will be especially important because we have no investigators right now. Very few. But, we do have a baptism planned for this weekend. Well, actually, we still have to do all the actual planning, but she is getting baptized on Saturday. Alejandra is the wife of a recent convert, Hector. She has seen the huge changes in Hector and that is what started her interest in the gospel. Before, I´m told, she wouldn´t even listen when the missionaries came. Now she is super excited for her own baptism. I think she´s begun to see how the gospel is helping her change as well. She reads everyday with Hector and she says she feels peace when she prays. She was a little hesitant a few days ago saying that she didn´t feel ready to be baptized, but through prayer she has been able to overcome that and she has asked Hector to be the one to baptize her. We´ve visited with her nearly everyday since I got here and we want to everyday this week too to help her be totally ready. In such a short time I´ve gained a lot of respect and love for her by seeing her overcome her challenges. It´s a little weird. I don´t know if I feel like this is one of my baptisms or not. I guess in the end it doesn´t really matter. This is the part I have to play in her story and I´m glad to do it and I´m still so happy to see her baptized! They also have a 2 year old little girl who is more than a handful. But it will be beautiful to see a family united as members.

Other investigators, we have Joaquin who is awesome! Joaquin is Spanish, from right here in Madrid! In fact his mom (she is 87 years old and he lives with and takes care of her) was born on one of the streets I walked in B5, how cool is that?! The two of them are the best! There is something you have to know about me and that is that I absolutely love old Spanish women. I love Spanish in general, but old Spanish women are the greatest. They are always like Emilia (Joaquin´s mom), super old, but in great shape (she still walks around without trouble), super nice and just hilarious! We hit it right off (how could you not?) on the first visit and I just loved it being there with both of them. She has a bit of memory loss so I guess she was telling all the same stories she always tells (it´s true, we´ve been back since) and I was just loving it. I love hearing old people talk about their lives. All the things they´ve seen and done and thought and said! It´s amazing! Anyway, I´m rambling. So Joaquin has been investigating for a while, his problem has always been that he can´t come to church because he has to take care of Emilia. He can´t leave her alone. But when we went this week he told us that she wanted to go and that they were going to try getting there in the bus. So we called Saturday night to see how they felt about it and he said she really wants to go. So we set up to meet them at the bus stop. Long story short, they did it! They made it all the way there and we helped them walk (Emilia holding on my arm the whole way) from the bus stop to the church. We got there and got all settled in and they were super happy. We made it all the way to the sacrament hymn before we ran into to trouble. All of a sudden Emilia got really really dizzy and Joaquin and a woman from the ward helped her out. We followed after the sacrament and found them in the hall feeling a little bit better, but they decided to leave. So sad! But we went by that afternoon to visit them and Joaquin talked about how impressed he was with the members. He talked about how much he liked the heat he felt from the people, the sister that helped them out and got a glass of water. A brother got a seat and put it out in the hall for them without even saying anything. He was really touched by that. We talked and he said that he thinks that Emilia could adjust if she keeps going (it was just all the people and the noise and heat there that made her dizzy), so they decided they are going to keep coming every week, even if it´s only for a few minutes, and see if she adjusts. We promised them that the Lord would bless them for their efforts even as He did that day. In the end it was a good experience. Just like Arthur says, everything happens for a reason. 

Other than that Domingo and Raul are our investigators. Domingo is new and Raul is not really progressing, so pray for them both. 

Oh, I guess I better tell you about my companion. Elder Galeano is from Nebraska and I´m not really training him. He already has one transfer in the field so I´m just finishing his training. And he´s teaching me the area and everything. It´s crazy how much better he is at everything than I was when I first got here. Which is good, that´s how it should be. His dad is from Ecuador and his mom is from Puerto Rico, so the Spanish thing is not really an issue. Which is nice. We already have a pretty even rhythm in teaching and he has no problems with contacting people in the street. I feel like we´ll get a lot of good work done together here. Hopefully I don´t ruin him :P 

Sorry everybody´s back to school. That´s life. If you send an MP3 I shouldn´t have any trouble listening to it, but I don´t know if you can attach it or not. I´m glad Bekah got home safe and I hope she gets her stuff back soon. Thank you for the money! I wasn´t really expecting that. I bought some new shoes today for 50 euros (which I feel like was a good price), but I guess that´s covered already. Just so you know. That´s awesome that you met a woman from Barcelona!  

Well, I think that´s enough for this week. You must all be sleeping by now. :P I hope things are well. Good luck with school and don´t let the cold get you too down. "In the end it is only a passing thing, the shadow. The sun will shine again, and when it does it will shine out the brighter" 

Thanks for everything, take care, be safe, be good. I love you!!!

Elder Cousins