Week 20 - HOLA FAMILIA!!

The Leadership of our Zone
February 2, 2015
Pics of my family skiing in Utah -
just over the mountains from Reno!
Hola familia!! Como estan? I love you guys!! Sounds like you had a fun trip to SLC!! I sure was jealous when I got the picture last week of all you guys skiing....!! But it’s ok, because we had a great week here. It was a weird week, because I had two straight days of meetings, and then we did exchanges with another missionary - Elder Katoa. So we didn’t have a ton of great lessons, but we set a record for our area and had 4 investigators at church!!! (Which isn’t saying much cuz the old record was 1...) 

But Juan and Laura both came again...and took notes during the whole thing. Laura was practically copying the Gospel Principles book, until I told her she could have one to take home!! Of course for Priesthood yesterday we were combined with the English group, and Juan speaks almost no English, so I had my first experience translating and lets just say if I want a career as a translator then I have lots of work to do! 
But their 7-year old son, Adrian, went up and bore his testimony to the congregation in Spanish, it was the craziest thing!!! The amazing thing is that we didn’t see them at all this week until Sunday! They didn’t have any time for us to come over, but that really shows that they are just progressing a ton!! I am so excited for them. They even signed up on the dinner calendar that was passed around for all the members. We have an appointment on Wednesday with them, and we are looking forward to that.

Elder Johnson and me...matching
So I was lucky enough to be invited to a two-day training session for all the leaders in the mission. It was kinda like general conference, with lots of long meetings, but I loved it! I loved hearing from the other leaders and what they had to say. I was very nervous to give my training, but I think it went well! I was the only district leader to give a training, and the only person to train solo as well!! So it was really weird, but I managed to get through it. The rest of the trainings were given by the assistants, a few of the ZLs and a few of the STLs. (Sister Training Leaders). It really inspired me to consecrate myself more – and work so that Short and I can be exactly obedient…and I truly think that is why we are already being blessed by having people come to church and really progress. I am trying to consecrate myself by giving up everything.

If you guys have some time, I would encourage you to read the "the fourth missionary talk" because its something President gave us to read and apply. It talks about truly giving every single thing we have for these next two years. I love it and have read it like three times and am now translating into Spanish for my language study. When we were in a class back at the MTC in Mexico City, one thing that another missionary said really struck me…said we can know how consecrated we are by what we think about as we fall asleep. Like am I thinking about boats and trailers? Or am I thinking about the people I am serving and how I can help them come closer to Christ. That has really been going through my head lately, and so I am truly trying to consecrate myself more.

Our crazy awesome day we had planned last Saturday...
first time in my whole mission that we had a lesson
planned in every hour of the day.
I am really glad that I am serving here in Sun Valley. I was originally bummed after Rivera and I got transferred out of the Rama Vista into the small group, but the Rama Vista is actually headed backwards...they got turned into a group last month. While on the flip side our group is just about ready to become a branch. I know that the Lord has called me and Elder Short to Sun Valley to help the people here.

So you asked to know the details of a lesson we had this week…two weeks ago we got a referral from the stake president to go see this person. So we went and saw her, and she was really weirded out by us and how we came to her house. But we were persistent nonetheless, and eventually ended up having a lesson. It was our first sit-down lesson with them, so we did what is called "How to begin teaching" which you can read more about in Chapter 10 of Preach My Gospel. But basically, we just talk about our purpose and find out what they expect from us, and what we expect from them – and set the stage for what we will be doing.

So we did that, and we had planned the night before to focus on families with them, because they have a nice, young family. So we did that, and then I felt prompted to introduce her to the Book of Mormon. So I pulled it out and we read through the introduction together. We discussed it and talked a little bit about where it came from, and then committed her to read 2 Nephi 31 by herself and pray about it. We then knelt in prayer, and I challenged her to pray right then and there in front of us. She wasn’t quite ready for that – so we taught her the basic steps of prayer, but she was still hesitant. Then I offered to have Elder Short say a prayer, so that she would be able to follow his example and know what to do.  She agreed to that, so that’s what we ended up doing.

Elder Short is awesome!  I am happy to report that "Like-father-like-son"…he drove an F-250 diesel truck and has a ski boat, and loves all things having to do with boats and trucks. More importantly, however is that he has a powerful testimony that is just incredible. You wouldn’t even know he was a greenie if we only taught in English. His Spanish is coming along slowly but surely….just trying to speak Spanish as much as possible!!

Missionary football game created by my
awesome little bro, James!
Well I hope I answered some questions and that all is well back at home. Please keep all of my people in your prayers.

I love you guys! I was excited I got to change my family calendar to February so now I have new pictures to look at haha. But you guys are the best. I know that this is the Lord's kingdom on the earth, and we are so blessed to be a part of it. Have a great week!!!!

Elder Todd

Our new set-up
Our fancy lunch we made the other day...frozen pizza,
vegetables, and delicious honey chicken
with Elder Tiaou

Week 19 - I'm a TRAINER and a DISTRICT LEADER!! (And still a Greenie!)

With my awesome new companion - Elder Short
January 26, 2015
Wow!! My life just got turned upside down overnight this week!   When I went to bed Monday night, I was a junior companion. When I went to bed Tuesday night, I was a Trainer, a Senior Companion, and a District Leader!! So needless to say, I have a lot more stuff I gotta worry about. Nothing too dramatic last week, but this coming week is a little crazy.  I will give my first district meeting tomorrow, and then on Thursday and Friday we are having a mission-wide leadership meeting for all the ZLs, DLs, and trainers. And I have been asked to give a 30-minute training session.  I found out about that and I was like Holy crap haha! So I have been freakin out about that and have spent all my personal studies lately planning for that. Hopefully it goes well on Thursday!!

Meeting Elder Short for the first time!!
So I have a brand new companion!! Elder Short!! He is from Paradise, Utah. He's not-so-Short, though….he is like a couple inches taller than me. And he is awesome!! I am pretty sure he came pre-trained. His testimony is super strong and he is already a great teacher. We are just working on his Spanish. He has good Spanish, but needs me to translate a lot, which is okay. This past week I ended up doing like 80% of the teaching in the lessons, but eventually I want to grow to be equally yoked. But no worries, we will use our language study we have every day very effectively!! They say the best way to learn something is to teach it, so hopefully that is the case with me right now as I teach Elder Short how to teach the gospel as well as the Spanish language. 

The Greenie (me) and his Greenier companion (Elder Short)
We had a great week as far as teaching goes! Elder Short hit the ground running and on his first night in the mission, Juan and Laura chose a date to be baptized….the 28th of February!! It was so exciting. They have both been reading the Book of Mormon a ton, so we had a few great lessons with them this week. They read it and take notes and highlight it, just like we do, its great!!! We were planning to teach them the Restoration the other night when we got there, and they had some questions about 1 Nephi 4, so we actually re-read it with them, and explained it, and that led perfectly into the discussion about them getting baptized!! It was so cool to see how the Spirit guided us and led us so that it could fit into such a perfect lesson. And we also found out that they actually are married, but they just didn’t change their names. So that is a huge relief. 

Noche de Hogar (Family Home Evening) activity
And then we had dinner with them Saturday night, and after dinner we had a "Noche de Hogar" (Family Home Evening in Spanish) at the church, and they came, and brought a cousin who is like 25 and has 2 kids, and who is also extremely interested!! Noche de Hogar was a great success, and we actually had more investigators than members there. Hermana Noble gave a 20 minute lesson on what FHE is and families, and then we played games.  We split up into adults and ninos, and had two separate games for them, and then at the end we had some family relay races and dessert for everyone. It was awesome!!  Then yesterday Laura and Adrian (their son) came to church and LOVED it. She took notes on EVERYTHING. It was great. I mean I have never seen someone so into all the little details of the classes and stuff. Juan had to work, but he said he would be there next week. So they are at the front of our minds, and please keep them in your prayers!!

We also had dinner with the Familia Lira this week, which was great!! They hadn’t been doing their prayers, but we committed them to start again, and they said they would. So we will see what happens with them. When we went over for dinner, it was Elder Short and I, the Lira family, and like 3 other families from their church, including their pastor!! They were all bombarding me with questions and stuff, and I was the only one who understood what was going on, so it was kinda a crazy experience for me, but we placed a few Libro de Mormons and a bunch of pamphlets that night, so I guess you could call it a success. They were all super nice, and showed quite a bit of interest.

Bird on my back!
One thing that I love about the Spanish language and I find very interesting is that when we pray in Spanish, we use the "Tu" form of all the verbs, when talking to Heavenly Father. In the Spanish Language, people only use the "Tu" form when talking to peers and little kids. Otherwise we always use the "Usted" form of all the verbs. Like when I talk to people on the streets or I teach lessons, we always use "Usted" But when we pray, we use Tu. I find this so interesting, because it shows that Heavenly Father wants to be our peers, and our friends. I know that Heavenly Father is our Father, but he is also our friend, and he wants the best for each one of his children. I absolutely love being a tool in his hands to help out his children, and bring them back closer to him. It is fun to see the change in our investigators as they read the Book of Mormon and get closer to Heavenly Father. I hope that we can all have His Spirit to be with us so that we can learn and grow ourselves.

Thank you guys so much for all of your love and support and letters, I love hearing from all of you!!! I am so lucky to have a great family who supports me as much as you guys do. I love you guys!!!

Love, Elder Todd

Posterity picture...my "dad" (Elder Rivera), my "brother"
(Elder Shepher), and my "son" (Elder Short)
Elder Gomar burning one of his suits the day before he
goes home....it's a mission tradition
Old man wearing a helmet while he's out for a walk...
we got a kick out of this
Elders Hortal and Gomar who went home last transfer :( 


At the temple with Elder Rivera before he was transferred

January 19, 2015
Pic of my little brother, Spencer
after losing his first tooth
Hey guys!! How are you doing?? I got a LOT of letters this week, and I loved every single one of them!! Congrats to Spencer for losing his first tooth!!! I will write you guys back, but it might take time because I only can write letters home on Mondays!!

Elder Rivera and I had a great week together. We both got called to train new missionaries yesterday (we got a text from the Mission President). It was funny cuz Rivera got his text first, so we thought that I would be leaving the area, and he would be training someone.  But then like 10 minutes later we got another text that asked me to be a trainer and a District Leader too. We didn’t know who would be staying in the area and who would be getting Double Transferred into their new area. But then the Zone Leaders called us last night and let us know that I would be staying in this area with my new greenie and Rivera would be going to Sparks in the Vista Branch with his new greenie. I also got called to be a District Leader of the Sparks District, which includes three sets of sisters and two sets of Elders. So that means I have to go on exchanges with each individual Elder, as well as teach district meeting once a week. So we will see how it goes!!

At Red Robin with Isaac and Verduzco
So we finally got the chance to take Verduzco and Isaac out to dinner, we went to Red Robin. They loved it! Verduzco told me to tell you guys "muchisimas gracias" which means lots of thank you - haha. But we had a fun night. Those two guys are awesome. 

So finally the Lira family is all moved in, and you should see their house now! It looks and feels like a real home!!  But so we have been trying to start teaching them, and we decided to do the activity with the bowl of water and pepper and soap with them, the one that Elder Capt did 
The Lira's house now that they're all moved in
for our family a while ago (I don’t know if you remember) but we did that and talked about how that relates to Jesus Christ. We were talking about the importance of following His example and stuff, and the impression came to my mind to share with them the scripture 3 Nephi 18:21, which talks about family prayer. 

So I shared that with them, and invited them to have family prayer every night, which is something they had never done. Hermano Lira said that it was something that he wanted to start. So we knelt down with them, and asked him (Hermano Lira) to pray. He was hesitant, but we taught him how to pray, and he said he would do it. He then started to pray, and about half way through he paused, and after like 5 seconds or so of dead silence, he started to cry, and as he finished the rest of the prayer he had tears streaming down his cheeks. When he finished and we all opened our eyes and look around, all of us had wet eyes. It was one of the most, if not THE most powerful moments on my mission. I have a testimony that there is true power in prayer, and that this gospel is real. Our Father in Heaven is aware of each and every one of his children, and he truly wants each of them to have success. I am so incredibly grateful for the chance that I have to be a tool in His hands and help bring his children happiness. 

My favorite native speakers...
two of them go home tomorrow :(
We also had the chance to go and do a session at the Reno temple here this week!! We went as a Sparks zone, and it was so cool! It is super-de-duper tiny compared to the Washington DC temple back at home, but it is nonetheless beautiful!! It is placed up on a hill outside of Reno, it is so beautiful!! Especially at night, when it is all lit up on the hill. It was so cool to go through with the other missionaries that I have become close to. I hope sometime in the future I can do a session in Spanish (I have a long way to go) but that would be really cool. Maybe be a temple worker in Spanish or something.

Our shower curtain that looks like it was handed down from
Moses himself!!  (Missionary life...)
I absolutely love where I live!! “The Sparks Loft” as we call it is so fun. It is fun because missionaries have been living here for a while, so there are lots of dumb traditions...I think one of them is never clean the bathtub...but it is really a lot of fun. It is also fun to live with other missionaries that you can hangout with on p-days and help keep you obedient! But I am really grateful to live there, and it sounds like I will be living there for at least the next 6 weeks!!

Chillin with the Sparks Loft Homies...notice I'm wearing
Well that’s about all I have to say for this week! I love you guys!! The church is true!!

Love, Elder Todd

Doin our best to dress like the old guys at church
("high-priestin' it"...which means wear different color
jacket and slacks.) Don't worry...we didn't leave the apartment like this!!

Old Span-Am District
The cutest little Spanish girl Andrea and her bag of
popcorn "palomitas" that's bigger than her!
Service project...I was measuring, cutting, and laying sheet rock!
Who knew I would get work experience like this on my mission!
View of Reno from the temple
Ghetto swimming pool
Updated wall above my bed with all the wonderful
pictures and letters I get
Sad to see Elder Rivera packing