Week 100: The Last One

With the Coto Family after their baptism on Saturday!

August 15, 2016
Hello everyone!!

Well folks, as the subject line says, this will be my last email home as a full-time representative of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It still hasn't hit me, and I don't think it will until I am on the airplane.

I am truly overcome with emotions as I reflect back upon the past two years and all of the miracles, memories, and experiences that I have had. I wouldn't trade them for anything. 

All eight dressed in white
That being said, I couldn't have asked to end my mission on a better note. On Saturday, August 13th at 1pm the Coto family was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was an exciting and very spiritual service. The room was packed with people from the branch and others who came to support the Cotos.  Seeing their family dressed in white was an experience that I will never forget. I had the privilege of baptizing the father of the family, and Presidente Castiblanco baptized the mother. My two companions each baptized one of the daughters. We then all confirmed them on Sunday in sacrament meeting. The Spirit was so strong in the service…Hermana Coto was emotional throughout the whole thing.

Hermano Coto and me before the baptism
There were a few people in the congregation who didn't speak Spanish (including the Stake President and President and Sister Chesnut who came to support us!) and it was interesting to hear their thoughts afterwards. They said that though they couldn't understand a lot of what was going on, the Spirit of what was being said carried it to their hearts and they knew what was going on. One English member commented to some other missionaries the next day, "I went to a baptism yesterday of a family of 4 and it was so incredible! I couldn't understand anything but the Spirit was so fantastically strong!"

With Presidente Castiblanco
I know that the Spirit is manifest when the Priesthood of God is used worthily and righteously. The Spirit testified to me in the service that Heavenly Father was pleased with their decision to get baptized, and that they were doing exactly what he wanted. I can't put into words how blessed I have been to know the Coto family and be a part of their first few steps on their journey in the Gospel. I plan to come back in a year and attend their sealing when they enter into a temple of God and are sealed for time and all eternity. We did a temple tour with them the night before the baptism and it was cool to see them get excited for coming back. Hermana Coto said that she had already picked out her dress for when they get sealed...!!!

La Familia Vasquez-Trigeros
We also had two lessons this past week with Alicia!! She is so funny. We have gotten to know her better and she is really a funny person. They have a great family and will be great members of the church one day. We had a family home evening set up with them on Tuesday and they showed up 30 minutes late, but we were still able to share a short message with them. Then we met again on Thursday and it was basically a question and answer session with Alicia and her husband, Isidrio. They still have not given us their address, but we accidently came across where they lived. I found out the street that they lived on but it is a long street and we had no idea where, but then last night we were driving down that street and I recognized their car and their little daughter was playing outside. So we found them!!! They still aren't comfortable with having us over to their house, so we are going to play it by ear. We might "accidently" go tracting right down their street sometime. 

Teaching the Restoration with Elder Lyman
I know that this Gospel is true. I have spent two years studying it, living it, and inviting others to live it, and I know that it is real. Jesus Christ directs his Church, and this is His Gospel. I have had the privilege to wear His name on my chest for the past two years and it has blessed my life and changed it forever. Even though we spend lots of time talking about scriptures, commandments, prophets, baptism, faith, and all that good stuff, at the core of all of it is our Savior. It is all about Him. He lives. He loves us. He lived a perfect life and died for us, for our sins and mistakes, but also for our sorrows, pains, and temptations. He rose three days after his Crucifixion. He is real. One of my favorite scriptures about the Savior is in the New Testament:

With Jose (Mileishka's brother)
"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."

He did everything he did for the rest of us. It is now our responsibility to accept Him AND follow him. I love my Savior Jesus Christ. 

I am so grateful for the opportunity that my Father in Heaven has given me to come and serve for two years here in the Holy Deserts of Nevada. I have loved my mission and I will be eternally grateful for the people that I have met and the experiences that I have had. I am not perfect, and I have made many mistakes, but my mission means everything to me. Thank you to all who have supported me in your prayers, your thoughts, your letters and your packages, I love you all!

I'll see you on Thursday!!

Elder Todd

The District together at the temple
The Chavez Brothers
Hermano Carrasco
Hermano Caballero
Three (Spanish) Musketeers before the baptism
I made apple puff pancakes for all of us on the morning
of the baptism
The Zone together at the temple
The Wanlass Family!
My Reno!

Week 99 - Fill up the Font!

With Hermano Chavez
August 8, 2016
Howdy from the great state of Nevada!!

This week was the annual “Hot August Nights” event, where people come from all over the US and bring the antique autos to show off. So there was tons of traffic all over Reno and tons of sweet antique cars driving everywhere. It’s a fun vibe.

What do you get when you put a Mexican, a Peruvian, and an American together in a trio....? Straight MIRACLES! The life of a trio is nonstop fun. Although trios can kind of be hard at times to teach and take care of normal missionary tasks (such as putting three bikes on a bike rack vs. two bikes is a BIG difference...), they sure are a lot of fun. This week has been another week full of good things going on. 

Soooooo…the big news is that the entire Coto family will be baptized this Saturday at 1pm, including Hermano Coto!!!!! Our prayers and fasts have been answered. We went over to their house on Monday night for a lesson and they told us, "we have some exciting news for you!" And then Hermano Coto said, "All four of us are going to be baptized on August 13th as a family." My companions and I about jumped out of our pants!! We were pumped!! They came to an English baptism on Saturday night and then afterwards they all had their interviews. They are super excited. Thanks to everyone for all of your prayers for them, this truly has been a miracle.

Noche de Hogar (Family Night)
with the Coto and Castiblanco families
Everyone in the Spanish branch is super pumped.  They haven't had a whole family get baptized in forever, so the entire branch has been rallying around the family and supporting them super well. They are already part of the branch family…Hermana Coto went and helped clean the Bishop's storehouse the other day, and Hermano Coto went and played soccer with a bunch of the other men in the branch. The two girls love church so much they told us that they want everyday to be Sunday so they can go. They are on fire! Their cousin, Jose, will not be baptized with the family due to a few small hiccups, but he still loves the church and has been reading from the Book of Mormon. He told us in one of our lessons that this is what he has been looking for. 

We had a family home evening with the Coto's and Presidente Castiblanco and his family last night at the Castiblanco's home and it was a lot of fun. Doing gospel-related things with other people is just a total party. The Spirit was strong, and they commited to start doing FHE on their own. 

This past week I went on exchanges with Elder Lyman again, and I went with him to his area, which is the YSA ward in Reno. We went and did some street contacting on UNR campus again, and it was weird because in just a few weeks I will be on the other side of things. But we had a lot of fun together. Serving in YSA is awesome, because we are teaching people that are our age! So it is a lot easier to relate to them than someone who is 40 years older than you and grew up in Mexico. But that’s ok, the Spirit makes up the difference in those situations. 

My boy Arturo
Francisco is doing well. We still teach him regularly and he still tells us every lesson that he wants to get baptized, but he still works Sundays. It will probably be a little while before he is actually baptized, but maybe when he does get baptized that will give me a good excuse to go back to Reno and visit.

We are all set to have another FHE with Alicia and her family tomorrow with another family! She still comes to church and has been reading the Book of Mormon like crazy, but she still isn't comfortable with giving us her address! It is so funny because every Sunday she comes to church and asks us like a million questions and we always say to her, "Well we'd love to come by sometime this week and answer all of your questions and teach you more!" And she always says, "Ok let me talk with my husband and I'll call you." But she is really a great lady and has a great family. They will also be solid members in the future. 

Today I was studying the topic of charity, and what charity really means. Twice in the scriptures it tells us what charity is, in Moroni 7 and 1 Corinthians 13.

It tells us that, "...charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail." (Moroni 7:45-46.)

After reading this, I think it can really help us determine what we can get better at. I know for myself there are times when I envy a lot, or when I get puffed up and seek my own. However, when we struggle to have charity for someone or in general, in verse 48 it tells us what we need to do to get that charity, "pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ."

So when we lack that charity that we all want, we can pray to God and ask for it with real intent, and then we are told that we will be filled with more of Christ's love. I can certainly have more charity, and so this week I am going to strive to be more charitable and loving. Thankfully, Jesus Christ always loves us with His perfect, endless love. So even when we fall short, he still cares about us and wants us to succeed. 

I love you guys, and I know that this Gospel is true.


Elder Todd

Week 98 - The HEAT!

Look who arrived in the Reno Mission!!!
My homie from Tuscarora High School...Elder Noah Anderson
August 1, 2016
Hey everyone!

It sounds like across the country it was pretty hot last week, and it was no different here in Reno. But honestly we have kind of gotten used to it, we just throw on the sunscreen and take tons of water and hope for the best!

But as I always say, it seems the heat is proportional to the miracles! There has been no shortage of good things happening this week.

The Three Spanish-Speaking Musketeers!!
Elder Gonzalez, Elder Torres and me
So Elder Torres and I are now in a trio with Elder Gonzalez! He is fresh from the MTC and he comes from Dallas, Texas. His parents are from Mexico, and he has lots of family from Mexico, and so he considers himself Mexican. My two native companions and I have been ballin' out here in the Holy Deserts, and being in a trio is a total blast...until we all have to use the bathroom at once. But other than that it is really a lot of fun.

It has been fun to take Elder Gonzalez to all of our investigators and have them get to know each other. There is something so fun about seeing other people get excited about the gospel for the first time, and Elder Gonzalez has loved seeing our investigators make and keep commitments and progress!! 

With Hermana Puentes - a HILARIOUS member of the ward
The Coto family is doing well. We taught them a few times this past week and the daughters and the mother are still 100% on board for the 13th of August for baptism. The 15-year old shared with us her testimony about how she came to know that the church was true and it was really powerful. I love hearing converts talk about what they felt because that is really how one gains a testimony. She told us that she just felt so good at church and she wanted to have that feeling more and then when she went to girls’ camp she felt the spirit even more. She came back from girls’ camp a convert to the church. The whole family read a chapter of the Book of Mormon together this past week – which we were super pumped to hear. Having served for almost 2 years as a missionary, it is not very often that a family of investigators sits down and reads a chapter of the Book of Mormon together. We were ecstatic. The father is still moving forward for baptism and he still wants to do it with his family, but he has yet to receive a spiritual confirmation. He asks us tons of questions and 90% of them have to do with after baptism or the actual ordinance. Please keep them in your prayers…I know that Satan is working hard on them so that things fall apart before the 13th.

My boy HALIM
(President Castiblanco's son)
Last week I mentioned that the Coto Family brought their cousin, Jose, to church. Well, Jose came to church last week and LOVED it. He himself has been struggling to overcome some trials in his life, but on Saturday, in our lesson with the Coto Family, we had a super strong impression to invite him to be baptized on the 13th of August also, and he accepted. He said that the first night that we met him he just felt that we could help him and so he has kept coming back. Yesterday, he brought his 12-year old son to church for the first time, and he seemed to like it also. The gospel is spreading like wildfire in the Coto family.

Another miracle: Do you guys remember Jesus (pronounced “Hey-sus”) from a few weeks ago? He came to church and Presidente Castiblanco got up and spoke to him personally from the pulpit. He went incognito for a week and a half and we didn't hear much from him, but then yesterday morning he walked into church!! We were thrilled and we found out that he had been sent to Elko to work for the week, but was back and wanted to meet with us again. That was a fun surprise for us.

My boy Francisco is doing well. He is a total homie now. He stills works Sundays with the new job he got with Hermano Scott, but we have a lot of fun teaching him, and a few weeks ago he asked if we knew a mechanic who could come help him with his car. He has a car in the garage that doesn't work and he wanted to fix it and sell it. We asked in Elders Quorum if anyone could come help us, and Hermano Coto volunteered, so we had an investigator come and help an investigator this past week and we got to sit there and watch the fellowship happen! That was a neat experience.

Going to lunch with Elder Han and his
family at the end of his mission!
Because Hermano Coto is still waiting to receive an answer, I have been studying a lot about getting answers from the Holy Ghost. There are many examples in the scriptures of people who had to pray to receive a testimony. I really like the example that Nephi gives us. He had a desire to know if the prophecies of his father were true. I'm sure a part of him had to doubt because nobody wants to leave all of their gold, riches, friends and home just to go and walk in the desert because their dad said so. However, if that revelation was really from God, then Nephi understood that it was indeed worth it to leave everything behind and go live in a tent.

So, in 1 Nephi 2:16 he says, "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father."  

Nephi received his answer from God. Once he received it, he was willing to act on it and so he didn't fight his father like his older brothers did. We all can do the same. Sometimes Heavenly Father asks us to do really hard things that at first glance don't make any sense. But when we pray and receive an answer from God through the Holy Ghost, then it makes perfect sense, and we are willing to do whatever it takes to follow that answer, even leave everything behind and go walk in the desert.

I love this Gospel. I know it is true. It brings families closer together and makes individuals stronger. I love to share it with others.

Have a great week. I love you all!!

Elder Todd

p.s. Shout-out to the Han family...on Wednesday after they picked up Elder Han from the mission office they took me and my two companions out to lunch. It was fun to see them and got me excited for BYU…(see photo uploaded).
Saying goodbye to Elder Han!! 
Saying hello to Elder Anderson!!