Monday, March 16, 2015

Leadership Council & Clara's Baptism

March 9, 2015 Letter

Hola Familia,

Congrats JT! I'm sure your excited for your call (JT got accepted into BYU) and congrats to Elana and the Hammond Family (on her baptism); what a wonderful step!

Well this last week, school has started down here. Summer break is officially over for the Uruguayans.

This week was wonderful! We had Leadership Council this Tuesday and were able to change some of the regulations that we use as a mission that should help us to work and teach much better. We now are going to require as a minimum 3 church attendances to the 3 hours before baptism. We are also going to make a strong emphasis on Doctrine and Covenants 20:37 to make sure that the person is meeting with EVERY requirement set forth in the scripture. 

We also gave some training on the teaching, and commitment that we leave those we teach. We have also put plans to work more with the less actives, and recent converts (the recent converts must also come to all three hours if we want to include them in the retention indicator).

We are trying to increase the amount of CONVERTED MEMBERS, not just membership ID numbers.

We had the baptism of Clara Rosano this weekend. It was a beautiful service. We had many members who could attend along with two of her children and two of her grandchildren. She is so special. She is a woman with so much faith. She was diagnosed with bone cancer about 7 years ago received a wheel chair from the church a few years later (one of her therapist is a member and was able to nominate her for one). 

She has had a very hard life, but has never stopped believing in God and in Christ. She was outside one day when we went to contact an inactive member from the directory, so we talked to her and she told us that she had received the wheel chair and that the missionaries had passed by a few times but never again passed by. She lives in a very large terrain about 60 yards from the road behind 3 other houses. 

On normal circumstances we would have never found her because she almost never leaves her house and we would have never made it back to her house. We started teaching her and she accepted everything, and was so desirous to keep learning more and more. She read everything we would leave her. One of the many miracles that we got to see with her was that she was able to quit smoking.

She was talking to us one day about when she "USED TO SMOKE" and she always talked in such a way. Like she used to but now she doesn't. Sometimes it can be mildly ambiguous in Spanish. So from the clues she was giving us we decided to teach the other lessons before the working on the Word of Wisdom because it wasn't a very urgent thing at the time.

It turns out that the day after she met us she felt an impression that she shouldn't smoke anymore. We hadn't taught her anything about smoking or anything of the sort, but she followed that impression and went from smoking 40 cigarettes a day to zero. And now she says she hasn't even felt the urge for them.

We should have verified with her much before, otherwise it could have been an impediment in her progress, but she has been so in line with the spirit that she knows exactly what she needs to do.

She has a 3rd grade education. In the interior of the country, when she was a girl it wasn't a requirement to go to school. She stayed home and took care of her brothers and sisters after her mother died when she was 10. She can read everything we give her and understands every concept clearly.

For the baptism we had 3 of us in the font. Two to hold her and one to do the ordinance. It was a wonderful experience that I'll never forget.

Well that's that.
I love you all so much!

Élder Benjamin Taylor

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Conferences & Baptism of Nefi

March 2, 2015 Letter

Hola Familia! ¿Como Están?

Congrats Plainfield High for your first IPA Contest. That's super awesome! Hopefully the first of many.

This week has been great! We had some conferences this week. We met with Élder Viñás (Élder Viñas). It was great and has challenged us to focus our work on the establishment of the church. We have been trying to work in such a manner, but he gave us some wonderful councils and provided an environment in which we could receive more inspiration to be able to accomplish the overall goal of making Uruguay a strong point in Zion and not a stagnant area. 

He pointed out that the "real growth" has been halted because we have not focused on increasing the amount of active worthy priesthood holders.  He taught us from various examples from the Book of Mormon that before the church was ever officially established or reestablished there must always be a strong base of priesthood.

Moroni 6
Verse 1 "And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it." [Focusing on priesthood holders]

Verse 2 & 3 "Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins. And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end." [Obviously all the women and children were not denied the same opportunity, but it was not the focus of those early establishers of the church, because they knew that if there was not enough priesthood the church could not continue. At that time, the worthy priesthood holders who could exercise their priesthood was 1:50 ratio. Now a days the church is requiring a 1:20 ratio.]

Right now we are still in a stage of growth and development as with almost every other country except for the USA, Peru and Mexico (who are currently sending more missionaries than what they receive). And that ratio is far out of balance which is why in these years the growth has been far smaller and less retainable. So our focus now is to strengthen families, especially the head of the house, through reactivation and rescue efforts.

This has been something we for the last few weeks have been trying to do. We have seen many blessing in the way of people that have returned to church, that are now working with the bishop and us to put their lives back together. One was recently ordained to the office of an elder and is preparing to go to the temple. Another has left behind years of Word of Wisdom problems and is now reading and praying with his family every day. 

The most amazing part of making this change in our focus is that every other aspect of our work has improved. We've found families where not everyone is a member. Using references from these members, we've got a few people that are starting their family tree and already have some names to take to the temple. It's been at least more than a year since our ward has had such a high attendance, or had so many Less active families, or Less active families that have officially "reactivated" in church. 

So until the church is stronger at it's base, it'll never be able to grow well or strongly. Así que, we are responsible for that work, of establishing Zion and giving her a good foundation on which she may build her kingdoms

In other news:

This Saturday we had the Baptism of Nefi (Nephi) Facini Mendoza. 

He is 9 years old and is super funny. He reminds me a lot of Talmage, my cousin. 

He is the grandchild of two families from here in the ward. One pair active, and the other pair (the ones he lives with) have been inactive for a few years, but not any more!. We've been working with the family for these last few months and now they are considered active because they've gone for more than a month straight and had a few interviews with the bishop [We're going to keep working with them very closely for at least the next three months until they are on a good track towards the temple to be sealed]. 

They're great, they've completely changed from the first time we met them. They are now working really hard to read the scriptures and pray daily with their 4 grandchildren that live with them.
It's been really neat to see the changes this family has made.

Well I love you all a lot and I hope everything is going well back home for you.

Élder Benjamin Taylor

New Investigator-Heart Prepared for the Gospel

February 24, 2015 Letter

Hola Familia!

What crazy weather you all have had lately. I really miss the snow, I hope the winter that I get home has a lot of snow. Wow! I can't hardly believe that Emma is already home, and that she's engaged. Congrats!At least for now I don't have plans get engaged in at least the first month of returning, but we'll just see won't we. 

This week we were blessed to have many beautiful experiences. Our unity as a companionship has improved so much and I feel like we are teaching with more power and we are learning how to rely more than ever upon the spirit.

We are teaching a new investigator who we found last week. We have been working a lot with the ward directory looking for less actives/inactive that were at one point Endowed but have expired recommends. We were looking for someone, but they had moved and no longer lived there so we went next door to ask the neighbors if they knew something about her. 

A lady and her mother (the mother´s name is Clara) in a wheel chair were outside of the house next door so we talked to them about the person and in the end ended up sharing with them about what it is we teach. Clara is about 65 and has bone cancer and other spinal problems. About 4 years ago other missionaries made contact with her after she was nominated for a wheel chair from the churches wheel chair fund (LDS Philanthropies). She used to listen to the missionaries but we think both the missionaries were taken out suddenly and they could never find her again because she lives in a very hard to find place very far from the majority of the area.

She has so much faith, she has lost her daughter recently, but despite that she continues trusting so much in God and is getting ready to be baptized the 7th of March.

Since we found her at the end of the week, we couldn't find anyone that could go pick her up. So we left early Sunday morning from the house at 7:15 to go get her. She lives about a 45 min walk from the church, but I didn't think her wheel chair would make it all the way without breaking through the dirt/rocky roads. 

We were able to take her to the closest bus stop and take the bus (which recently in the last 2 months have received hydraulic ramps for people in wheel chairs) to the church. 

Everyone was so kind to her when we got there. Everyone said Hi, gave her a kiss (that's how they say hi here) and tried to get to know her. She was there for all three meetings and almost every leader approached us and asked us what they could do to help her.

She loved the experience, even though it was physically exhausting for her, but she was so excited to come back she told everyone on her way out "see you next week!"
We talked with the President of the Young men and with the elders quorum and they are already organizing for at least one youth and adult to go by to pick her up. They were so excited for the opportunity to serve.

It was such a blessing to first of all meet her because my faith has been strengthened so much; and second of all to serve her and make it possible for her to go to the chapel. And I'm so excited for the Charla we have with her tonight. We're going to bring some members so they can get to know her.

I know that this is a true work, and that the Lord is always preparing the hearts of the people to be able to receive the gospel, we just need to be diligent and look for them.

Well, I love you all and hope everything is going well for you all back home. 


Élder Benjamin Taylor

Trip to Cancun (not really) Ward Event

February 16, 2015 letter

Hola Familia,

So good to hear from you. Sounds like it's been a pretty busy week for all of you. It was fun to hear about drumline. Thanks mom for all the work that you and the other parents do. Sounded like that was quite a bit of hemming. 
Congrats durmline on 3rd!!! What class are they in in IPA and in WGI???

Today we went to say goodbye to Gustavo at the Airport (with president´s permission). He's a young adult recent convert of Elder Eraso, who always hangs out with us on Pday and accompanies us to lessons. He got baptized about a year and a half ago and now he is on his way to the Spain Madrid MTC to learn Italian to serve in Italy. So that was cool to be with him for that moment.

This week was awesome and we were extremely busy. We had the baptisms of Santiago and Allistair this Saturday. It was an amazing service. It was then followed by a ward activity put on by the missionaries. 

It was called a Trip to Cancun. It starts out with every missionary making a little carnival game where people can win or loose fake money. You play for a while and at the end you have the people buy their plane tickets with that money. Those who have a lot of money can buy a ticket in 1st class, those who have some money get a Family Class Ticket, and everyone who lost all their money gets an economic ticket.

We start the plane ride towards Cancun with plane sounds, lights, flight attendants, and captains. Then later, the plane has problems in the flight and it crashes. The lights go out and an Angel/missionary dressed in white appears from the Chapel with lights behind him and reads the parable of the talents. 

We then divided into three groups with an angel at the head that takes them to the three rooms we had decorated to represent the 3 kingdoms Celestial, Terestrial, and the Telestial. The Celestial is decorated in White, has soft music, food, flowers, and nice soft chairs. The Terestrial is like a normal room with the lights turned off but the window open for light (you can't talk in this room). The Telestial was the smallest room we could find. We turned on the gas stove to make it hot, left a radio in the corner with white noise (static) playing, and the windows and lights were covered with black trash bags so it gave off a very small amount of light, and they needed to sit in the little kids chairs.

It was super fun and was a great way to teach about the plan of salvation. There were a good number of investigators there and lots of less actives. It required so much work but it was completely worth it. I think it would be really fun in Plainfield. If it worked here so well with just 4 Kid Missionaries organizing almost everything, imagine how a gigantic ward with lots of people, resources, a bigger building, and well functioning organizations could make it a huge success.

My game for the carnival section was learning the piano. I taught three songs- Hot Crossed Buns (easy), Mary Had a Little Lamb (med), and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (hard). I had it all written out on little poster board for them to use. Elder Gutiérrez did something with a nerf gun and stuffed animals. Everyone enjoyed and then we all had a great time playing.

One more thing. We are going to the temple in a few weeks, so if there are any names that I could do for our family (from Baptism to Endowment), we are going to be able to do all of them. I already went to FamilySearch and printed off the cards for a super distant family member, but if there were someone else, closer I would love to do it. So send me the Sheet that I can scan in and I'll do it.

Love you all lots!

Elder Benjamin Taylor

Here are some pictures from this last week. Our Lunch, Sleep over the last night of the change, Leadership meeting: Me, Elder Espinoza, Elder Morales, Elder Eraso, and Elder Gutiérrez.

Baptism & Lessons in Leadership

February 10, 2015 Letter

Hola Familia!

So good to hear from you. Life here is great! We had the baptismal service of Andrea Baraldo. She was the lady that Elder Muñoz and I were teaching in Buceo (the offices), who was going to get baptized there until we realized that she lived an hour away in Belloni. We had to pass the reference to the missionaries here in Belloni. But there were some things that happened and in the end she had never been baptized. 

So, when we got here, one of the first things we did was call her and set up an appointment. It took a few weeks for her to feel ready but now she is doing super well and was baptized this last Friday (02/06/15). 

She was actually the first person that I baptized (all the other converts that I taught have been baptized by a member from the ward, or by my companion.) 

It was a very cool experience.

Because of some family problems Allistair, who was going to be baptized with Andrea, was not able to be baptized but will be getting baptized this Saturday along with Santiago. So... prayers for their well-being would be much appreciated if possible.

Last night we received the transfers and I am staying one more change here with Elder Gutiérrez. The work here is amazing and I am loving every minute being in this ward. The members are so willing to work and are helping so much.

Concilio was great and we learned a lot. We talked a lot about leadership. The Administrative and Ministry sides. It was really interesting and I feel like it will serve me for the rest of my life. In a short explanation: I learned a lot about Ministering when I studied the word Stewardship. Stewardship is when I have been trusted with someone’s land, business, or possessions and I am expected to take care of it as if I were the legitimate owner. 

When you are a minister or someone who ministers something, you are charged with a responsibility or task and are expected to carry it out in the same way that a steward would care for his masters possession.

This helped me recognize the importance of the ministry that has been trusted to me as missionary.
   the spiritual and physical well being of the missionaries in my zone
   the work here in the zone as well as in my own personal area
   the conversion of the members, and non members here in my area
   my own personal conversion

And I must fulfill every one of these responsibilities that I've been given in the exact same way that the Lord would do it. With love, charity, mercy, patience, righteousness, and with a willing and submissive heart.

I think this lesson will help me for the rest of my life in every calling that I have; be it Nursery Teacher or Gospel Doctrine Teacher, from Greeter to Ward Mission Leader. What ever it is, I need to complete with it in the Way the Lord himself would.

I love you all so much,


Elder Benjamin Taylor

Pictures from this last week, intercambio with lunch in the gym set up for the wedding of some converts and the last Zone conference.