Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jesus Christ is the gift

Dear Mama and Papi, 

First of all, I'm glad you think I look wonderful, because I've gained weight here in Champotón... Haha. I'm so glad to hear that the twins are home! Truly much faith was involved due to the blessings and also numerous prayers on their behalf. It is a grand testimony that our Heavenly Father hears our prayers and blesses us when we are obedient and exercise faith.

This last week was kinda low for work, but something that's getting me excited because of the results they give us is something that the church is using worldwide right now, which is something called "He Is The Gift". It's the church's reminder to the world about the true meaning of Christmas and of what the true gift of Christmas is: Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father in the flesh. I was having a bit of trouble getting in the Christmas mood too, because for me, Christmastime means snow, my Guess coat/blue scarf combination, the family (of course), and Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney. As you know, it's nearly endless sun out here, so it just doesn't feel too much like Christmas, however, when I put things into perspective, things started to change. Us as missionaries are doing a ton to promote "He Is The Gift" ("Él Es La Dádiva", in spanish.) because it reminds us exactly why we are filled with joy or should be filled with joy this season. The Christmas devotional last night really lifted my spirits as well and I just loved the spirit. (My face was filled with a smile as the choir performed. Ah...)

For you, mama, what you have with your friend that you're training at work is a golden opportunity to share this message with her, being that it is the holiday season. "He Is The Gift" is composed of three crucial steps: discover the gift, accept the gift, and finally, share the gift. We must first discover and understand what is God's gift to us. Jesus Christ is the gift, and it is through Him and ONLY Him that we can receive the blessings that await us in the eternities. After we understand Christ and His atonement, we accept Him as our saviour through baptism by a priesthood authority, receiving the gift of the Holy by the laying on of hands, and enduring to the end. When we are truly converted to Him, we then share the gift with others whom we love. With "He Is The Gift", we remind others of this, especially during this Christmas of 2014.

I invite you (and all who read this) to talk to your local missionaries about this and take part in a worldwide reminder of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They have special pass along cards right now that help immensely to start a conversation about this. (Which lead to a special site with a special video.) This might sound like a shameless plug, being that I'm a missionary, but this is truly an inspired opportunity that brings joy and a special spirit. Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Please say hi to Bishop for me, as well as Brother Edwards, Brother Crowther, and the rest of the ward, please. Ne'er has there ever been a ward family like them, and I love them dearly. Well, that's all for this week! Later!

Love, Elder Manuel Antonio Santos

PS, Para mi biejo: Feliz 12 de Diciembre!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The mission isn't a cake walk...

Date: 12/1/14 2:41:33 PM

Dear Mama and Papi,

I look pretty good in white, don't I? Haha. His name's Jarli (like Harley-Davidson) and he's doing pretty good so far! He's been having a pretty good time with the LDS Library app since it gives one access to pretty much every type of gospel material that the church offers. (Yeesh, sounds like a sales pitch. Haha.)

To be honest, we had a tough week. Appointments were canceled, folks weren't at home. Yeah, it was just a tough week. We took some time to talk about that in our district meeting today because all the elders (the Fab Four of us) in Champotón had a rather difficult week. What we've concluded as being a factor is that we're teaching more lessons than people and that our investigators aren't able to feel the spirit. Neither pair of elders had an investigator in church this week. Also, the attendence in general was way low. We're seeing that the branch is at a falling point right now, even in the branch council.

We've much work to do, but right now, I'm just trying to stay positive. Our plan of action right now is to visit families (active and less active) this week to lift them up spiritually and see what we can do for them. Tomorrow in the evening, we're going to put on a dinner for all the members of the council to let them unwind, but also to lift them up and get a better unity going on. Please pray that I can stay positive. That's my biggest weakness right now. (Mother, I think you of all people understand that all too well. Haha.) We have a couple of baptism dates, but we need to talk with those investigators because they're not keeping their commitments and won't make their date. It's a tough time right now, but I'm doing my best to stay sane. Haha.

The mission isn't a cake walk, but that's okay, because it was never meant to be that way. Something I learned from my wonderful mission president during a training meeting he had with us a couple weeks ago is that we need to thank God for the afflictions and problems and trials etc. that we receive, because if it weren't for these things, we would NEVER receive the blessings of exaltation. It just wouldn't be possible, because there must needs be an opposition in all things. I know these things are true and I testify of them in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Aw, please thank grandma for the money and tell her how much I love and miss her. Wow, you found Elder Wilcox??? That's great! He writes me every week. He's a good man. And yes, I did learn how to make pancakes. Haha. Empanadas are good, depending on what's in them. Oh man, I'm excited for my package. The pecans are a nice lil' touch. I'm not sure how it's going to work out for Christmas at this point, but don't worry, I'll let you know the details when they arrive. (And yeah, it's like a 2 hour difference, according to my watch.) Well, till next week! Love you all tons!

Love, Elder Manuel Antonio Santos

PS, Please wish Kohl a happy birthday for me. His birthday is on Friday.

We can't do it alone.

Date: 11/24/14 2:55:20 PM

Dear Mama and Papi,

Just to give an update, my voice returned. Haha. I appreciate the prayers on my behalf. It's almost gone. I think it came because of the slight change in climate. It's starting to get a bit more breezy and stuff, so people catching colds is pretty common. Yes, I'm taking my Cold-eaze as well, but I do need to take my vitamins. Thanks for reminding me. Haha.

Well, really, the one thing I have to report this week is that... WE BAPTIZED!!!!!!!

Been waiting two transfers (almost 3) for a baptism, but I am very humbled that we were able to baptize, especially since it was with my son, since it was around this time during my first transfer that I baptized with my dad, Elder W. (Well, actually, his name is Dave now, but you know what I mean.) Really, it just makes me feel good. Plus we had the opportunity to work with one of the assistants to the mission president, and that's always a nice fresh mix. Plus it helped us a ton.

My companion's mom is on FB. Look for a L L from Puebla. My district leader (my gosh, I can't believe I forgot to tell you...) is from San Pedro Sula. Neat, huh? Haha. Don't worry. I've learned more or less to be patient. Haha.

Thank you for the words of encouragement and the talk. I've been feeling loaded a bit, but a different perspective helps a lot. It's sometimes hard especially with the goal of the mission to baptize every week and to prepare them, because one really does wonder if its just numbers for them, but I've done a lot of contemplating and a good training with our president eased me a bit. While I still can't stand the pressure of it all, I understand more now. The goal we have is the goal the Lord has given for our mission because He knows just how important it is for these people.

There's so much iniquity, especially with the law of chastity. It's killing families and baptism is so so necessary for them so that their families can be saved. We can all reach eternal life, but exaltation can only be achieved together as a family. We can't do it alone. To end with the spirit of thanksgiving, I just want to tell you how thankful I am for this gospel as well as my family. I don't know just where I'd be without my precious family. While I miss them all so much, I'm so grateful that through the blessings of this restored gospel, we can be together forever, if we all desire it and do our part. To those who are still with us but have left the safety of the church, I still have hope and faith that you will realize just what you are missing. I say these closing words as a direct caution of love: without the blessings of the temple, following this life, there is no family, which is why we should do all possible to take advantage of these blessings while there is still time. I love you all so much, especially my small precious family of three. Till next week!

Love, Elder Manuel Antonio Santos

PS, The twins shoulda been born a day later.

Just gotta make the best with what's been given...


Dear Momma and Papi,

Well, another week has passed and I'm trying all I can to just think that I'm only going to be turning 17 or something like that. Haha. In regards to how this past week has went, it wasn't the best week by any means, however, there were a few gems amidst all the rubble. We've been experiencing difficulties in the area with our investigators. We have good investigators, but my companion and I have noticed that there's just something missing during the lessons. One investigator commented that she's grateful for our visits and stuff (because we met her during a time where she was looking to renew her faith) but that when we come she doesn't feel anything, that is to say, she doesn't feel what she feels in her church. I'll be honest, that killed my spirits pretty bad because it made me wonder if it was the same with other investigators. Needless to say, we had a training meeting this week with the zone and we learned how we can make plans and set goals in order to reach our vision that we have for our area. My companion and I sat down and talked about how we can become better so that all our investigators can feel the spirit and also have the desire to progress and be more that just listeners.

It's been a long and frustrating week, but I'm just trying to relax a bit and just focus on things day by day. Sometimes I think and wonder about the joy and happiness I've been promised throughout my mission. Not that I haven't experienced it, but in regards to times of sorrow or desperation, sometimes it just lasts far too long. But then I recall that this isn't the first time that I've felt like this and realized once again that if it wasn't easy for the Savior, it sure as heck won't be for me because the road to salvation is by no means an easy journey. Just gotta make the best with what's been given. Plus there's just a lot of pressure right now by my leaders for a baptism.

I'm gonna be super honest and say that that really just gets on my nerves sometimes, like alot, because I know that they're just wanting me to help reach the goal for excellence of the mission (which is baptize every week) and also because I haven't baptized in two transfers now, but I just don't know sometimes. Just feels like they're getting on my case. I love my leaders, but just, yeah. Just please pray for myself and my companion that we'll be able to baptize this transfer and that our investigators can progress.

The one wonderful thing I have seen this week is some answers to prayers, and for that, I'm grateful. In regards to my birthday greetings, thank you so much! As much as I would love to spend this birthday at home with you and those whom I love, the love you send me is something that is felt even miles away from my beautiful, green, state. I appreciate so much everything you and dad have done for me throughout my life leading up to now. Thank you both for the love you've demonstrated me and also for all that you've taught me, regardless of how I reacted to certain teachings. Haha. Seriously, though, I love you all more than you can understand. I look forward to spending a ton more birthdays with you in the future. (As I increasingly grow older. Seriously, turning 20's gonna feel odd. Haha.) Till next week!

Love, Elder Manuel Antonio Santos

PS, A couple of photos. One with my son, Elder Lopez, and the other with a long awaited wedding invitation. I've been waiting forever for this! Had me a hoot pranking the other missionaries saying that my girlfriend skipped the "Dear John..." and sent me a wedding invitation as a breakup announcement. I'm terrible. Hahaha... Also, on a random note, we had the rule changed (slightly) in regards to music that we can listen to. We can now listen to any CD that has the church's approval on it, (It would have the church's logo on the back. There's a movie called Meet the Mormon's, so I'm sure that the soundtrack would be something.) so just some ideas for Christmas or something. Haha.

PSS, Sending the biggest hug ever as well, only bigger.