Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012

Mommmma y Fam:
Ok, sickest thing I've ever heard in my life that you had Elder Rindy and his fam over for dinner!!!!!!!!!!!!! How crazy is that? That's seriously so so so dope. And how crazy that I put something about that in my letter the week before? Haha, but I'm and so super stoked right now to hear that. That is so great that he came over with his fam. Elder Rindy was an awesome trainer and comp. A few weeks back I wrote him a letter so I hope he gets it pretty soon. I'm so happy to hear you guys all had a get together. It was so weird,  first, to see a pic with you two standing with my old comp, second, to see my old comp in a white shirt and tie without a missionary tag and third, to see both our fams together.  Three months ago we only had pictures of our families while we were sitting in a tiny house in the middle of downtown Madero, Mexico.  Haha that's straight sweet.
So this week has hands down been the greatest week of my mission, it is up pretty high in the list of greatest weeks of my life. I'll get rollin on tellin y'all about it.
So this week I'm absolutely convinced that I'm seeing the fruits of obedience and hard work over the first quarter of my mission. In a really miraculous way, we put together 3 baptisms for this coming Saturday, all throughout this last week. Lucia, Hermana Alicia's oldest child, came back from vacation early and we got her all ready this last week to be baptized. Christian, the 19 year old from church last Sunday who asked us what he has to do to be baptized, has progressed super fast and is doing awesome. He will also be baptized this next Saturday. We've been teaching him everyday. He's a super cool guy and yesterday was asking a bunch of questions about serving a mission. As part of creating a strong support system for him within the ward, Elder Castillo and I along with our super dope Ward mission leader launched our own reactivation program for JAS (YSA) aged kids in our ward. We have goals to reactivate 4 in this coming month and we introduced it to the ward counsel this last week and it's going pretty well. Also, Jessica continues to love reading in the Book of Mormon. She has already had her baptismal interview and should be baptized this Saturday as well, but depending on her work, it might be Saturday the 11th as well. Either way this week has been miraculous. Even with all the success, that wasn't the best part.
The best part was that I got a package this Thursday night. It was a small, crudely wrapped package, but what was in it has made me maybe the happiest person on Earth. I opened it, and inside were letters, some pictures, and a baptismal program. The package was from my friend Elder Castro, and it contained letters from the Familia Preza and one from Elder Castro, and pictures of us all together and of their baptism. I looked at the pictures first and I was so happy, literally jumping for joy! All four members of their incredible family dressed in white standing with Elder Castro and President Jordan. I literally couldn't stop smiling. Next, I read the letter from Elder Castro who is without a doubt the greatest missionary in the entire mission. He described how great a service it was and how the whole family has continued to progress. Lastly, I opened up the letter from la Familia Preza. This one brought me to tears. The whole thing was incredibly sweet but the last few lines really got me good. Translating it, they wrote: 'You and Elder Castro are the reason that our family is so incredibly happy living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that the Book of Mormon is true and that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. We miss you so much. The Familia Preza Cruz. P.S. We are anxiously awaiting our sealing as a family and hope that you will be at the temple with us in a year.'
As I read those lines, I finally understood what Jacob 5:70-75 was talking about when it says that as we labor we will find great joy in the fruits of our labors. What I felt all that night and since that time has been mainly 3 emotions. First and foremost is joy. I feel so so happy for that family. I feel so happy that they are all members of the only true church upon the face of the planet, protected under priesthood power. I feel so happy that they have a firm testimony of Christ and of the Book of Mormon as another witness of Christ. I felt so happy that they have taken part in a valid baptismal and that they have done so as a family. Second, I felt overcome with gratitude to my Father in Heaven. I know that it is no coincidence that Elder Castro and I found that family on the day we did and in the way we did. I know that God ordered and provided. I feel so grateful that he has afforded me the incredible opportunity to be in his service and to have been an instrument in his hands in providing the truth of the healing and strengthening power of the Atonement to this family. Thirdly, I felt really excited and anxious for this time next year. I know that they have made an excellent choice to be baptized, but the temple is next and they all still need to end up there. That is now the subject of my prayers. I hope that la Familia Preza, Joy and Rachel, Alicia Luis and Lucia, Jessica, Christian and all the other converts can understand and then act in such a way that they will not only be baptized, but that they can end up in the temple a year after. I am so happy for them and I have great faith and confidence that in a year we will all be in Tampico for their sealing as a family.
This week has been incredible. I have grown so much. I have thought a lot on different things that Brandon has told me in letters this last week but one of them has stuck with me more than others. He said, If you love them, you will baptize them. I think that's a pretty good theme to live by. Remember that, If you love them (whoever it is that's them), you will baptize them. I love you all so much. I hope more than anything that I can make you all proud every single day.
All is well in Victoria, the Lord is blessing me and helping me grow in ways I could have never imagined 7 months ago. A mission is worth whatever sacrifice it requires. Whether it's money, time, school, or bad habits, give it up because there are incredible people prepared in every part of this world waiting to hear the gospel.  You will change their lives as you labor diligently and follow the spirit, but more than anything else, they will change your life.
Elder Stockard

Monday, July 23, 2012

July 23, 2012

Yeah Momma, you're telling me, time is flying like crazy. The days here seem like I blink and it's over. This week has been very good. Very hot. Lots of contacting in the streets.  Lots of spiritual experiences.
It's really fun for me to hear about all the fun Utah trips that are already taking place with the Midway house. I'm gonna be so stoked to see that when I get back. I hope Alyssa's dance camp is off the chain. One of these trips when you're up there, you should call up my boy Elder (well not anymore) Jared Rindlisbacher. He's up in Logan but if you can get him down to Midway, it would be worth it, the dude is straight off the chain and he will have some really good mission stories from our time together in Madero.
This week here in Victoria was really good. This week we didn't have a ton of lessons, but the ones we did have were really good. We have been working with a part member less active family named the Familia Villanueva and they have come to church the last two weeks. They are really cool and have a son named Jeiro who is a really good kid. He's 17 and we've been talking with him about a mission in the coming years. We also had a really good lesson with Jessica this last Friday with our Ward Mission Leader Hno Giovanny who is straight sick too. But Jessica is doing awesome, she has now attended church 4 straight weeks, she loves it and she has read almost all of the Book of Mormon. She is for sure a golden investigator, the only problem is finding times to teach her because she works out of town. But she will be baptized during this transfer either August 4th or 11th. She said something in the lesson that really made me think and is a lot of what you said to me too Mom. She said something like, I haven't had some angelic witness that the Book of Mormon is true, but as I've read and learned from it, I've seen changes for the better in my life.
This is exactly how I would describe my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I was blessed to grow up hearing the stories and reading from it almost everyday of my life (which is a crazy huge blessing and I've come to learn that in my time in the mish), but I don't think I started to have a really strong personal testimony until I started reading it everyday personally in March 2011. I started reading because I was having trials and I was looking for some direction or support, mostly I had a lot of questions, but what I found was the best answer I could have ever asked for. I have learned that the Book of Mormon is true because it teaches one of our central messages as missionaries, the gospel of Jesus Christ, better than any other book that has ever been written. The gospel of Jesus Christ is our road map, it's the thing here in this life that God has given us in order to obtain peace and happiness. As we strive to have faith in Jesus Christ, and then we repent, we are more happy and our view of others and of life changes. That's what I've learned from the Book of Mormon: faith, repentance, and living the commandments brings joy; it is the only source of happiness that doesn't wither away in this life. As I read the Book of Mormon, my view of the world changed, my view of others changed, my view of what is important in this life changed. I felt closer to the Savior Jesus Christ than ever before in my life. I found verses of scripture that I was sure were written just for me. The Holy Ghost testified, and continues to testify that that book is true because every time I read it, I feel an undeniable burning in my chest that makes me happy, that brings me peace. I continue to find answers and direction within every page of that book. I was so happy to hear Jessica say that she had seen some of the same things that I had seen as results of that incredible book. When she said that I smiled slightly and just said, 'Oh, you have no idea.'
We had one other cool experience yesterday in Barrio Victoria after Sacrament meeting. A menos activo that we had visited showed up in Barrio Victoria yesterday along with a nonmember friend who we had never seen before. After Sacrament we introduced ourselves to them and the nonmember introduced himself, told us he had been attending in another ward and that he wanted to know what he had to do to be baptized. I'll tell you what, that is the greatest question in the world to hear haha. It really taught me to trust in the promise in Preach My Gospel that when we do all we can to find and teach prepared people, the Lord will put prepared people in our path. We hadn't had a lot of success in finding people throughout the week from contacting, but when we obey, work as hard as we can, and have faith, the Lord will always order and provide.
I've also been doing my best How to Win Friends and Influence People swagg that I can. haha.  People LIVE for compliments, remember that. haha.
I love you so much fam and friends. Read the Book of Mormon, invite people to hear the gospel. If you love them, baptize them.
#143 #DYT #JakeHeaps,
Elder Stockard

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

July 16, 2012

Ok, first of all so sick to see the pic of Had, Miles, Ryan and Logan all together at the MTC drop off!!! Haha that is soooooo dope that they all got to see each other there. Haha. I'm glad that Ry got to go up to Utah with them, that sounds like a lot of fun. So you guys have had quite the week back at home! That's really awesome to hear. Leaving the Cyber Cafe last week after our email, I just couldn't help but feel two things: 1.How blessed I am to have the family and friends that I do and 2. Just how proud I am to have these same people in my life. I hear about both you and Dad and how well you guys are doing in your new jobs, Laur getting ready for the Y, Ry with B ball, and Lys with dance and I'm just so proud to be apart of the Stockard Fam.

Our week was really awesome as well. Although I'm not 100% sure, I'm almost positive that la famila Preza was baptized this last Saturday back in Francia, and also we had the chance to baptize Luis, the son of Hermana Alicia this last Saturday, so that's 5 awesome people that all took part in a valid baptism this past Saturday which I'm very happy about. To answer your question, yes Alicia and Luis and their fam have an awesome tandem of visiting teachers and also they have been very active in all the activities so far. This last Saturday they went to a huge stake family activity and really had a great time. They're awesome and progressing very well. Jessica works out of town and was a church this past week but once again, it was in the town where she works. We have a ton of other investigators that we're working with, not a huge amount that are progressing right now, but we stay busy trying to find new investigators every single day.
I probably can't email you the Questions of the Soul document that we did, but all we did was make like a bookmark with these on it and we use it in a ton of different ways. We use it when we contact people in the street, at their door, in lessons, in readings (lessons where the only thing we do is read/explain a chapter or part of the Book of Mormon) and tons of stuff. You can find them. There's a big list of them in Preach My Gospel Chapter 5. We've had some especially good experiences with it in our reading of the Book of Mormon with people this week. There is not a better way to invite the Spirit to testify that the BofM is true than by reading with your investigators from it.

Mom, I really liked what you told me about the Relief Society lesson in Midway. It's so true that a huge part about helping people to come unto Christ and be baptized is our people skills. Smiling is key. I've learned a lot about this and it's so true. We can't expect others to get excited about the gospel if we aren't willing to do so as well. I'm convinced that very soon "How to Win Friends and Influence People" will be a staple of the mission library haha jk.
This last week, and not really sure why, I've thought some in how blessed I am to have so many friends on missions right now with me. It really is a blessing that I had to have so many good friends growing up and also at college, and my 2 cousins and now those fools are all over the world sharing this message in tons of different languages. It really is such a blessing to have them as an example.
Mom, Ive been taking tons of pics, but today I forgot my camera cord haha. Sorry, don't worry, I'm still gorgeous haha jk... But like for real I am ;). I weighed myself today and I still weigh 168 pounds, crazy what the sun will do to you here. I love you all so much, I pray for you and I'm so blessed to know each of you. Thanks for all your love and support.
#143, #JakeHeaps #DYT(DoYoThang)
Elder Stockard

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9, 2012

Wow, what a week it was for all you guys back home! That's a lot for one week for sure! It sounds like overall it was a lot of fun! Dad, major congrats on getting sworn in.  Judge Stockard. I'm so happy for you.  That's so dope that Logan and Sean Deaver came down for Had's farewell. I've still never met Sean Deaver but from what Had, Log, and Miles have told me, the man is straight sick wit it. I'm sure that made for a fun week.
Lauren, Happy birthday! Ryan, Happy Birthday today big dog. I can't believe its already been a year since all of us, Lalo, and Miles drove up to Tahoe to watch Ryan play ball. Mom, do you remember that? That seems like yesterday to me, haha.
I'm really glad all went well with Travis and his wisdom teeth, I'm super excited to hear where he gets called to. I'm still pullin for Benin with Pres Weed, but we will see for sure. More than anything I can't believe that Had enters the MTC this week. I don't know if he got my last letter I sent him yet, but it was like a 6 page ode to him and so I hope that someone will get that to him if he hasn't gotten it yet. Had, love you bro, you're going to do great.
This week was a really cool week. We've had some great progress with some investigators and found some really good new investigators. Hermana Alicia's son, Luis, is 13 and we will baptize him this Saturday. It is really awesome to see all of their family progressing because I guess last change when Alicia was baptized, neither of her kids wanted anything to do with the Church. Her daughter Lucia is 16 and will be baptized in the coming weeks but she is visiting her Dad in Veracruz right now. Its really great to see their family progressing. Seeing them and also the Familia Preza had made me remember a quote from Elder Packer in this last conference that I love. It says something to the effect of, The goal of all activity in the church is to see a family all gathered together in their home, safely protected under the sealing power of the priesthood, living their covenants and progressing together. Not exactly word for word, but it's true. Everything that we do in the church builds towards the sealing of families. Also, we have a super awesome investigator named Jessica who I talked about last week. Well we couldn't meet with her at all this week because she works out of town, but we've been in contact with the Elders in the city where she works and she went to church with them and she's been reading and praying and really progressing well. She will be baptized later this transfer as well!
Last change when I was in Francia with Elder Castro, we did something has really paid dividends across the whole mission. We took from Preach My Gospel an idea that has been awesome. Chapter 5 of PMG is all about the Book of Mormon. One section within it is titled, The Book of Mormon Answers the Questions of the Soul, and then there is a huge list of questions that so many people have, and the chapter within the Book of Mormon where we can find the answer. Elder Castro and I typed these questions out one P Day, added also the page numbers, and then made 100s of copies. The idea has really worked well and has spread across a huge part of the mission. All of zona Victoria is using it, Elder Castillo and I use it every day in contacting, and it really has helped us as missionaries show in a more personal way, the importance of the Book of Mormon. When we present the Book of Mormon as a tool that can help and bless these peoples lives, many more people are at least curious to read and find out if it really does have these answers. Once this happens, it's like giving the ball to Kobe with 6 seconds left: game over. The Book of Mormon is true. 100% of the time. It contains a promise, all that read and then ask in prayer, with faith, if it's true will know that it is. These questions of the soul are a way to really get people interested personally in the BofM and it has really helped to strengthen testimonies.
Last experience. Yesterday I was sitting in Barrio Victioria's Sacrament meeting, and the Spirit just washed over me like a wave. All I could think of was the parting words of President McKee when we left Nashville: "Remember that it's all true." I don't exactly know why, but at this very moment, in a tiny chapel in downtown Victoria Tamaulipas, it just really clicked. It's all true. This is the truth. Christ is at the head of this Church. He established it and He guides it. It's all true. Make no mistake, I love and miss you all so much, I think of you often, but there is nowhere else I would rather be right now than here in Mexico. I am learning and growing so much every single day, in ways that I never could have imagined. And more than anything, I know that I am involved in the work of the Savior and I love being apart of it.
Love you all.  Thanks so much for all your prayers and support. 143
Elder Stockard

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 2, 2012

Well, it's been another week and the work and time continues to move on. This week has been sooooo much different than any other before in my mission. But it's been really good and I have learned so much! First of all, incredibly glad to hear that you went to the temple with Hadley. If I were you I would say for sure go again. There is nothing like the temple and when he is out in ViƱa Del Mar, he's going to want to go and not have the option. Go again this week! But it sounds like it's been a great week for everyone at home!  I can't believe that it has already been over a year since Kev, Mitch and Hub left. This summer Miles and Had leave and the next Kev, Hub and Mitch will be home. Time is an interesting thing especially as a missionary, because for sure there are times when every missionary thinks that 2 years is forever, but for the most part, if you're working hard, 2 years seems incredibly short.
The biggest event of the week was for sure the Zone meeting with President and Sister Jordan. President Jordan served his mission in Uruguay with Ed Swapp and then they were both in the MTC together so it was fun to talk to him about that. Pres and Sister Swapp had talked with them in the MTC is what President Jordan told me, so that was kind of cool. For sure keep all the new Mission Presidents in your prayers. It has got to be incredibly overwhelming to step into a mission and all at once have it all under your command, especially in a foreign country. But the meeting was super fun. President speaks super good Spanish and seems like a really fun guy. To answer your question mom, there are 24 missionaries in Cuidad Victoria and about 300,000 people live here so its a little bit bigger than Fallon, probably more comparable to Reno but not as many members. It's a really pretty city though and probably a little more Americanish than Madero. Both Francia and one of our two wards (barrio Victoria) were like right downtown in the centro but Victoria's centro is a little bit more Americanish I think. There are some huge mountains here which are really pretty and something I haven't seen in a while haha. Victoria has a much more dry climate than Madero, but it's also wayyyyyy hotter. My first day here it was 112 degrees. You are thirsty alllllll day long haha.
It is so different being here because Francia was a tiny area, as in 12 x 20 blocks was our whole area haha. Here we have two wards and in total I would guess that our areas here are probably 12 times bigger than Francia. It's a whole different dynamic, also it's been fun learing a whole new area after 3 months in Francia where I knew everything by heart haha.
The biggest difference though has been going from trainee to trainer. My past three companions were comparable to the 3 wise men, the 3 Nephites or something like that. Elders Swenson, Rindy, and Castro had the whole mission thing down. Now it's a whole new ball game. Elder Castillo is a really awesome, happy guy with a really strong testimony but it's a whole new set of strengths and weaknesses working with someone fresh out of the MTC.  He has an awesome testimony and some great personal experiences to draw from which has been really great. It's been really different taking the lead in every lesson, every comp study, and every planning session but I have seriously learned so much this past week and really felt the help of the Lord in this last week as well.
We have some really awesome investigators up here in these wards and it was fun to meet/teach them this week. There is a lady who was baptized last transfer named Alicia. She is a super awesome new convert now and we are teaching her two teenage kids who now want to listen. Their names are Lucia and Luis. They are really awesome and their family is on the right track. Also we received a really great reference from missionaries in another area of a lady named Jessica that they had been teaching that works in their area but lives in ours. They taught her the 1st lesson on the Restoration and we took over this week. She is really awesome as well, her comprehension is super super high. She has been reading in the Book of Mormon and was asking us questions about which church is the Great and Abominable in 1 Nephi 13, which is something that usually is way over people's heads when they're first reading haha. But all three of them came to church this last week. We also have a really good investigator named Oscar who is really progressing well.  The problem is he works on Sundays. But, we taught him the commandment of the Sabbath Day and committed him to talk to his boss about changing his work schedule. Were confident that that will work out well.
Yep, another week in the books and things are only picking up speed. I love you and hope that you are all still mindful that I want each and everyone of you to pray and consider who you could share the gospel with, and then when you know, DO IT! Invite your friends, family, and loved ones who aren't members to hear the message of the Gospel. EVERYONE needs it and YOU have it. SHARE IT!
I love you all so much,
Elder Stockard