Monday, October 29, 2012

October 29, 2012

Eyyy Yo Family:
¿¡Que Hay? Another week has blown by me and I find myself sitting back here in this tiny little internet cafe thinking back on another super week. So we had the first weather change since I've been here. It was actually like a really big change. In like 10 hours it went from 95 degrees to 55 degrees. Haha it happened Friday night to Saturday morning and when we headed out Saturday morning you would have thought people were preparing to take on a blizzard. I have never seen so many people so bundled up to brave the elements against 55 degree weather haha. It was really funny but I enjoyed it. It's hot again today but Saturday and Sunday were really nice, for like the first time since I got to Mexico I slept under a blanket and without a fan blasting air on me all night.
As for our week, it was another really solid one. I'm not at all sure what's going to happen, if I'll get another 6 weeks in Victoria or if they'll move me, but I'm really trying to enjoy my time here while I have it.  I have absolutely loved Cuidad Victoria, it is unlike any other city I have ever seen in my life. It makes me kind of sad that there are so many people who I love so much here that I will legitimately never see again once I leave this city. But that's part of the mission.
This past Saturday, we had the baptism for the youngest girl in the Guerrero family that we have reactivated, her name is Alexandra. She is 8 so it doesn't count for the mission, but as we reactivated them, we have gotten to know their family really well so it was still really cool to see. We directed and ordered the whole thing and one of the other Guerreros, Sean who yesterday started his mission papers #soStoked, baptized her. It was a really great experience. Also this week, as part of the Obra de Salvacion, Elder Garry and I have been teaching a ton of active families the lesson of the Restoration and at the end using them as resources to find more part member menos activo families. Well, obviously the first family we went to was President Maldonado and his fam and they told us of a ton of fams that we could try for. We did so and found a new fam who we taught this week. Ellos se llaman la Familia CaƱas, and only the Dad is a member. We taught them Saturday and really tried hard to commit them to come to church with us. They wouldn't commit and I wasn't counting on them coming to church honestly, but Sunday morning I was really praying hard that they would come. Well, it turns out that when we showed up at Church they were already all there seated in the first row!   That was really awesome to see. All in all, we have seen a ton of miracles this last week. We had a bunch of investigators in church this week and also 12 menos activos! Barrio Victoria has doubled in average attendance in the last 4 months! The Lord has really blessed us as we have worked hard. Also, another cool thing this week is that in my morning prayers I have been making certain promises to Heavenly Father for things that I'm going to do in that day, for example, numbers of lessons taught, numbers of people I will contact in the street etc... In return I have been asking that he will put certain blessings in our way and it's really been working well and it's been a good way to push myself to get better and do more everyday.
Another thing that I've learned in the last few weeks is something that I think everyone can apply. If someone wants to be the best basketball player, what do they do? They practice and study the greats. Well, I've really been trying to do that as a missionary. The Bible and the Book of Mormon are full of examples of some of the best missionaries to ever walk the face of the Earth and I've been reading a lot of those missionary chapters with specific teaching skills in mind to see how they taught and how I can apply it to my teaching in order to improve. It's really helped, I feel like my teaching skills have gone out the window as a missionary, which they should since that is like all we do all day everyday.
I just seriously can't get over the enormity of the blessing of the gospel in my life, and also in the lives of others. Elder Garry and I were talking one day and I said that no matter what after the mission, the one thing that I don't ever want to fade in my life that I have learned here on the mission is the knowledge that the Gospel is the only true source of happiness. I can't get over how clear that is to me here as as missionary and how clouded that perspective is to so many others. The problem is that so many who don't have the gospel, or even those who do, let so many other thing into their lives that it distorts reality and doesn't allow them to see what is really important. THE GOSPEL BRINGS PERSPECTIVE. LIVING IN BABYLON MAKES YOU LOSE THAT PERSPECTIVE. The gift of the gospel is something that I will never be able to thank my whole family for. What a blessing it is to be born with that knowledge and to have parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends who taught me to have that perspective. I've said it before and I'll say it again that if you are a nonmember and you are reading this, better talk to the missionaries, gain a testimony and get baptized quick because you are running out of time and only robbing yourself of blessings that your Father in Heaven wants to give you. Straight up.
I love you all so so much. I'm so blessed to know all of you and I feel your prayers lift me to be better and to press forward everyday that I am here.
#143 #GMC$ #JakeHeaps
Elder Stockard

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22, 2012

Que Hay Familia:
Yo so another good week up in Victoria. It's been such a good 4 plus months up here, I would give anything to have another 6 weeks here. We have cambios the 5th of November so we will see what happens but until then, I'm just living up my time in the Promised Land with my boy Elder Garry. We are having a killer time everyday that's for sure. We had some good success this week in the Obra de Salvacion program and and it's been a lot of fun. The Obra de Salvacion is a program that President Johnson, the Area President of Mexico, is trying out as a way to find, baptize and reactivate families. He is trying it in 4 missions here in Mexico and it's been pretty sweet. The essence of it is that working with the active members, we invite menos activos to hear all the 4 missionary lessons again, if possible in the home of a member or in the Chapel. Elder Garry and I have taken it a step further planning wise, where we have a target group of 5 less active or part member families in each ward and we are teaching them one missionary lesson a week. This week we had 10 menos activos in church and a couple of investigators as well! It's been sweet.  When Elder Castillo and I got here, the first week barrio Victoria had 28 members in attendance, last week we had 59! We've been tearing it up, Barrio Mainero has really grown as well. It's been really good to see. Here in Mexico seriously so many people are inactive just because they think that nobody cares. We have really seen some good success as far as reactivation and baptism here through the program.
We taught a ton of lessons to part member families and less actives this week as well. One family that we have reactivated is la familia Guerrero. They are a super cool family of 7, they are from Victoria but lived in Utah for like 7 years or so and then moved back here to Victoria, but their kids speak perfect English. We are almost done teaching them everything and they have come every week to church for the past month! They are fully active now, their son Sean is 19 years old and is preparing now to serve a mission and their youngest daughter will be baptized this Saturday! It's been sweet to see their progress. We have been helping them read the scriptures again and get into the habit of daily prayer as well.
With Sandra we have hit a major road block.  Her husband doesn't want to get married. We are trying everything we can to help her out and find a way to fix the problem, but as of right now, she's pretty well blocked as far as that. We have another sweet investigator named Manuel who is still progressing super well, he should be baptized in the next week and a half. Also this week we've started working more with one of my recent converts, Jessica, with her husband Carlos. Carlos has come to church with Jessica (who is a total boss, she's read like legitimately almost the whole Book of Mormon and has only been a member 2 months) for like the last 4 weeks or so but he is hard to teach because he works super late, but were gonna start teaching him more and more.
Another thing that I've really been doing personally that I really like is giving an accountability to the Lord in my prayers. So many times in life we set goals or want to improve, but we never follow through. The reason is we don't have somebody else to hold us accountable. The sweet thing is that as we give an accounting to the Lord at the end of each day,  He not only holds us responsible for what we have done, but it's also an awesome way to repent, and He also helps us to get better and we see almost daily improvement and progression in our lives. Just a thought as something to try.
It is so crazy for me to think that Jake is no longer Elder Johnston! Sounds like he gave a great talk, thanks for telling me all about it, Mom. He is totally right about working with the members. Lessons always go way better in a member's home, the spirit is strong, they already have a support system that way, and they don't just go inactive when "their missionaries" leave. Between all the Spanish speaking missionaries that will be coming home to Fallon in the next year and a half or so, there will legitimately be like a Spanish Stake in Fallon by the time we all get home. Haha we are seriously gonna have some great member missionary work to do with the Fallon Latino community.
I loved Ryan's "Jake Heaps" lawn mowing job! That was just way too much swaggg. Glad to see that Lil Bro is still reppin' the #JakeHeaps hardcore and holding it down for GMC$ while it's out of commission.
Well, that's about it from Ciudad Victoria. I love you all to death. I seriously must be the most prayed for Elder in the world because I feel the blessings daily. #143 #GMC$ #JakeHeaps.
Elder Stockard

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15, 2012

Queridos Familiares:
So first of all, I was thinking about this a lot last Saturday, I cannot believe Elder Johnston is home! Time straight up flies on by, doesn't it! I still remember when he got his call. That was probably the first time it ever really hit me about how excited I was to go on a mission and how close it was. Now that's been well over two years ago. He's gone and come back. Great work Elder Johnston. Now try not to convert everyone in Fallon before the rest of us get home, haha. I will seriously love having a chance to sit down with Elder Hubbard and Elder Johnston one day to talk Mexico, we will all have some crazy stories to tell, that's for sure.
So it's been another good week here in Victoria. It's been a lot of fun. My guess is we are still in the high 80s or low 90s every single day here, it's straight hot, not gonna lie, although I will take hot over freezing cold any day. Can't really complain there. Everyone told me in September it gets cooler, but September has come and gone, haha, so we will see if it actually ever cools down.
President Jordan was up here in Victoria this last week and we had a really great zone conference with him. He is really pushing this new program that's called the Obra De Salvacion that is all about finding through menos activo families that we teach and reactivate. We've had some good success and some baptisms with it. As of right now, we have reactivated three families, including a family of 7 whose daughter is getting baptized this week (but she's 8 years old so it doesn't count as a baptism for us haha) and it's really going well. President Jordan also talked a lot to us about teaching the Book of Mormon more as part of the Doctrine of Christ. As he talked about that, it just totally clicked for me. As missionaries we totally have this problem sometimes where we launch off into teaching the Restoration and throwing all these crazy facts and statements at them and at the end, we explain the Book of Mormon and how it's evidence of it all,and we ask the investigator to pray to know if the Book of Mormon is true... And that's good, they need to know that it's true, but for all you How to Win Friends and Influence People fans out there, you know that people don't want to hear just all this information and pray to know if something is true. They want to know what all this can do for them. It hit me that I need to teach the Book of Mormon less as the key to know if our Church is true and more as what it really is, that is the Guide of How Find Happiness in this life and How to Qualify for Eternal Life. The Book of Mormon is our guide of how to change and be better. It teaches the Doctrine of Christ, which teaches us how to become better, how to perfect ourselves, it makes us better. Elder Garry and I have started teaching the Book of Mormon more in this way and having investigators write down specifically things that they want to change in their lives, and then praying specifically for the power to change those things. We commit them to read and pray and watch the miracles happen, and so far so good.
Also, this week Brandon sent me a really cool article all about making covenants and exercising "perfect faith" in a moment in order to build a working relationship with the Lord. Elder Garry and I started applying this and we've seen some miracles. The article talks all about how we should pray specifically, and then act in all obedience and some of the miracles that can come from this. It was a really cool article and we learning how to apply it as we work.
This week we had like a record high of people in church since we've been here in Mainero. We had almost 90 people.  Our goal before the end of the year is 100, so we're on our way there! We have had a ton of support from the ward and worked well with reactivation and baptizing. Mainero has been a really small ward for a long time, but now it's really growing so that has been super good to see. The Lord has really blessed us.
Well, I love you all so much, I'm really working on encouraging both Lauren and Logan to go on missions so everybody help me out with that. I would have never suggested that before, but now that they've changed the age to 19 I think a lot more girls will serve.  I've seen the change and progress that comes on the mission. There is nothing else more important and more rewarding than the work of the Lord.
Love you all,
 #143 #JakeHeaps #GMC$
Elder Stockard

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012

Yo so probably the greatest General Conference since King Benjamin himself threw down the laws of exaltation! That was such an awesome weekend. Every week I'm not sure how I'm going to top the week I just had, and every week,we do. It's so funny because it always happens in a different way as well. It's not like we just run it every day of every week the exact same way, it's always something new that happens: new challenges, new people, new lessons, new successes every week!
So we were able to have some super good success with getting people out to conference this week! Manuel, an investigator who let us into his house because a lightning bolt struck like 10 feet from us when we were talking to him outside (#ThankYouMotherNature did I tell you guys that story?) came to the priesthood session with us and had an awesome experience! The next day Sandra and her family (the ones who are the referrals from los Maldonados) were all set to come to the Sunday morning session and... they didn't come. Sandra is pregnant and her husband works out of the city, and Sunday morning when la Hermana Maldonado went to pick them up, Sandra told her she had been in a ton of pain all night, hadn't slept and wouldn't be able to go. Los Maldonados told me this as the Sunday morning session was starting, and then, lo and behold, President Monson pulls out this classic talk about following the promptings of the spirit. As he spoke on that, I had this idea the we should go with the Familia Maldonado between sessions and offer Sandra a blessing. It would help her feel better, and maybe she could even go to the afternoon session. So that's what we did, we canceled our food appointment, and headed over to see Sandra. When we got there, Sandra just looked tired. She has 4 kids and they are all pretty young. We explained what a priesthood blessing is and what purpose it serves, she accepted and we started. As I finished the blessing one of the most spiritual moments of my mission happened. Sandra just started bawling. Like uncontrollably crying. She said how she had never felt so good before in her entire life. She told us how she had felt so alone and like she just couldn't do it all on her own. She told us that she just felt so so so good. The Spirit was straight out of control in the room.  It was incredible. Sandra and her whole family will be baptized in these next couple weeks and they all came to conference. It's just a lesson that when we do what's right, and have a thought to help someone, we probably don't have to guess whether it's the spirit or not, we should just do it!  In the words of President Kimball,  DO IT! You can't risk waiting, you don't know what will happen, or worse, what won't happen if you don't go. The Lord trusts his worthy servants with such ideas and then he expects them to act and bless and bring salvation to those who need it and are ready to receive it. President Monson is the prime example of this. I loved his talk.
I had such a great conference and got so much out of it from the way I took notes this session. Elder Bednar gave a talk of how when we write down just what was said, it does nothing, we have our own version of the large plates. It serves us nothing. When we write down what the spirit tells us and what we feel, then we have our own small plates. Those help us and are revelation for us. That's what I did, the week before I thought of and wrote down questions that I wanted to find answers to during the conference and then listened specifically for those answers. I got a TON of answers. One question that I had was if President Monson is really the Prophet of God. Well, I got a crazy sure answer of that during Priesthood Sesh. There is no doubt in my small little mind that he is God's chosen servant who walks on the Earth today. No doubt, he is the senior Apostle, he is God's mouthpiece and special witness. He leads and guides the only true church on the face of the Earth. Sorry non members who read this, if your church doesn't have TRUE prophet and the priesthood, it doesn't matter how good of a person you are, you are robbing yourselves of the blessings that your loving Heavenly Father has waiting for you, one of which is salvation. If you aren't a member, become one. If you are inactive, get active because you're running out of time. There is not a doubt in my mind that God guides his children through Thomas Spencer Monson.
Well, that was pretty much my week. I read some letters dad sent me from Miles, holy smokes, that dude is a stud, way to go Elder Adams with the attitude of baptism. That dude is growing up and is gonna do miracles for the Lord in France and Belguim. Also, I absolutely loved all the packages I got and especially the banner. I wanna hear the story on that. Did you ask for all of those photos? That was so awesome thanks so much. Gma Dot as well and G ma and G Pa Andros thank you all so so much. I love you all. The Church is True.
#GMC$  #143 #JakeHeaps
Elder Stockard

Monday, October 1, 2012

October 1, 2012

Dear Fammmm:
Yes, it continues to be so true that the time just keeps on runnin'. I think it has run faster in these past couple weeks than ever before in my mission because we are having more success right now than ever before in our mission. Elder Garry and I be straight runnin' Victoria. We are the only area in the entire mission that covers two wards but I couldn't be happier with the situation because both of our wards work super well with us and we are baptizing like it's hot!! I'll get to that in just a second. Also, I didn't know that Elder Parry was training! I'm so stoked to hear that, he is seriously one of the greatest missionaries that I have ever met, he has such a big heart, he will do wonders with a new missionary. I talked to his old Ward Mission leader up here in Victoria and he just raved about all the good work that he did up in Victoria and how they miss him to death up here.
So today I finally got a huuuuuggggeee stack of letters! Thank you all so much. It's hard, I don't get 'em very consistently in Victoria because we are 4 hours from the mission home and I'm going to try to respond to some today, but the time is very limited.  I do appreciate every one, especially from Lalo, Brandon, and Dad who have hit me up every week. I love hearing from you all, thanks so much.
So this past week was straight nuts!! Elder Garry and I are having such a great time, let me start by telling you that we had a baptism yesterday. I told you a few weeks ago about the Obra de Salvacion that we started doing where we work with the Ward counsel and pick families to teach the mission lessons to in an effort to reactivate them. Well we have been working with a less active family, la Familia Hernandez Sacramento, and yesterday we baptized the daughter of the family. Her name is Paulina and she's 11 years old. It was a great service. The whole family was there and have gone 4 of the 6 Sundays since we started working with them. Nothing like a baptism in a family to get them remotivated. That was really great. But that really doesn't even scratch the miracles from this week.
Let me start with telling you about the greatest missionaries in Ciudad Victoria, La Familia Maldonado. La Familia Maldonado is our greatest ally. President Maldonado was the stake president until last year up here in Victoria, he is only like 39. They have a son named Eduardo who has his mission call to Guatemala and leaves this month. One day this week we got a call from Pres. Maldonado and it went something like this, "Hey Elders how are you doing? Guess what, we have a family that is going to be at our house at 6 o clock tomorrow night, they want to listen to the missionaries, can you be here at that time?"
In case anyone is left wondering, yes... yes that was the greatest phone call of my life hahaha. The Hermana Maldonado had gone over and invited a family (that she didn't even know) to her house to hear the missionaries. Well that was great. We taught the family, Sandra (mom) and Carla, and Andrea (daughters over the age of 8, the dad was working out of town). They loved our message and it was a great lesson, so that was awesome. Then Saturday we had a lesson all together at the chapel and set baptismal dates with all of the family. They were all at the baptism we had yesterday and at church! It was super awesome. That is how missionary work is supposed to work. If more members had the attitude that President and Hermana Maldonado had about missionary work, the work would progress 100 times faster and retention would be 100 times easier. When the have friends in the gospel even before they walk in the chapel two things happen: One, they have a way better system of support that doesn't change areas every six weeks and two, they aren't so attached to the Elders that teach them that they go inactive as soon as they leave. Everyone who reads this should follow the example of the Maldonados and do the same! It is how the Lord wants missionary work to happen.
So that was probably one of the sweetest parts of the week. Elder Garry and I have had some incredible spiritual experiences this past week, too many to count. We set 11 baptismal dates this week with a wide variety of new investigators. We are straight up loving the work, I don't think that I've ever been so happy or fulfilled in my entire life. The wards help and support us like crazy and as we work together, we are seeing miracles. I say it almost every week but it's because its so true, Obedience brings blessings! Its the only way. You don't obey, you don't qualify for the Spirit. It's a lot like Ryan failing his drivers test the first time, he did great work, he scored great, but he disqualified himself from the get-go by not obeying. Haha my bad little bro, but it really is a great mission analogy. We can work hard, but if we don't do it and obey it serves us nothing.
Well the work goes forward. Victoria is still the promised land. Elder Castro and I are still on track to be at the temple next July with la Familia Preza. The Church is still true. And yeah, that's about it. I love you all to death. I miss you all, but only while I'm writing you haha. Jk... But seriously.
#143 #JakeHeaps #SpecialK #GMC$
Elder Stockard