Monday, April 25, 2016

Week 44

Hanging out with other missionaries after Stake Conference
More missionaries! 
 Trying to stay in shape!  Glad Elder Smith bought some dumbbells!  
Learning all kinds of new things!  Hand washing clothes!  No washing machine.  Jeff says there is always bleach involved!
On the hills of Saltillo.  A Christ statue similar to the one in Rio, but much smaller. 
Hello Saltillo!   
Happy Elder!

Dear Family and Friends, 

This was another calm and normal week here in Saltillo. It was nice to be able to get another week of work in with Elder Smith! I can´t believe that we have been together for 14 weeks! My mission is only 102 total so I am going to spend a long time with him!  I am coming up on the halfway point very quickly! It´s amazing how fast time goes by when you are working all day everyday for the well being of others. 

This week was highlighted by the new shoes that I bought! I hope that my feet don´t hurt or smell as bad this week! After 10 months, walking in the same shoes multiple miles a day, Elder Smith has told me that my feet smell pretty terrible in the evenings. :)

I also had my last interview with my Mission President, President Rodriguez this past Wednesday. I can´t believe that he only has 2 more months here in Saltillo and then President Cahoon is moving down from Utah to lead the mission! I have really come to admire and love my President, he is incredibly wise and has taught me innumerable things about the Gospel and life in general. 

The best moment of the week was Sunday at stake conference! Elder Smith and I achieved a personal record and a record for our area when we saw that 8 of our investigators came to church! 8!!!! It was incredible! Our man, Francisco, who is doing well, came to church, and is excited to get baptized in a few weeks. We also had a family of 7 that came and we are hoping that they get married and continue to come to church. It is always incredibly gratifying to see the fruits of your labor! Of course, even if they hadn´t come, I would be have been happy with my work because I am giving it my all every day but it was super special to see 8 people join us on Sunday! 

My favorite lesson from the Stake Conference was the talk given by my mission President, President Rodriguez. He spoke about the 5 Prophetic Priorities that the Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and the members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles are emphasizing around the world this year. He said that they are stressing that we focus our teaching and personal study in 5 categories, which are:
1. Teaching repentance and baptizing converts. 
2. Temple work and family history work. 
3. Keep the Sabbath Day holy. 
4. Teaching and instructing in the way of the Lord, or by the Spirit. 
5. Having and developing faith in Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and His Gospel, and His infinite Atonement. 

He spent the majority of his time focused on how we as members of the church need to develop our faith, and make it a daily habit to develop our faith. In order to truly have faith, he shared three attributes or essential aspects of true faith.  He said first, a person that has true faith, has an understanding and the conviction that God and His Son, Jesus Christ exist. Second, this person needs to develop understanding and a conviction of the attributes of God and His Son and the Holy Ghost. Third, also the most important aspect, was that we need to KNOW that our lives and the decisions that we make everyday are in harmony with the will of God and the teachings of His Son, Jesus Christ.

This last aspect really jumped out to me and I would like to stress the importance of it with all of you as well. To have true faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, our lives need to be in harmony with them. In other words, we have to follow the commandments and try our hardest to be like our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Even though we know that we are going to sin and make mistakes, true faith is developed when we try our hardest to be like Him! I want to encourage all of you to continue praying, reading your scriptures, and attending all of the church activities and services that you can attend with these 3 points in mind. Do I really know that God exists? Can I describe his attributes? This character, attitude, and who he really is for me? And finally, is my life in harmony with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his teachings? I am sure that there is something that we can all improve on so we can become more like him. I invite you all to try to improve a little bit this week and become more like him. 

I know that this work is the work of the Lord! I know he lives! I know that the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ have been restored through modern day prophets and that through them, God reveals his will for all of His Children! I love being a missionary and am really enjoying everyday! 

All the best, 
Elder Shipley 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Week 43

 Jeffrey's church building
 Walking the streets of Saltillo in jeans!
 Don't worry...Book of Mormon and name tags still on!
 Building a room on a house.
 Jeffrey's new house.
 Study area
New kitchen!  Wow...he might have to cook now!
Random Trolley Jeffrey found on the street.

Dear Family and Friends, 

This will be a rather short update because this was a calm week here in Saltillo with my son Elder Smith.  I am so grateful to be able to stay with him for another transfer! We are going to spend almost 1/5 of our missions together! 

This week, we finally were able to do some service and helped one of our investigators move to a new house and build a room for his new house! It was a lot of fun to hang out in the streets in my BYU shirt and jeans! However, the sun is super strong here so we had some pretty rough sunburns as well. 

This week, we had a ward activity and watched, Meet the Mormons, I would really recommend that you all watch it. Even if you have seen it! The last part, which explains the life of a missionary mom definitely gets you when you are a missionary. Miss you Mom! :) 

The most spiritual part of this week is when we met a new man, named Francisco Javiar, who went to church with his friend from a different ward. Turns out, after Elder Smith and I had met him, that he lives in our area! After lunch on Sunday, we went to visit him, and he shared with us an incredible life story.  He has been struggling with trials. He mentioned that he had been robbed, assaulted, watched his son die, and that his wife left him. However, he also said he has an enormously strong desire to change his life and improve. 

We shared with him some scriptures about the power of the Atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and assured this elderly gentleman that he can repent to change his life and find the strength he needs to overcome his trials and have the peace he is seeking. This man said he wanted to be baptized in a few weeks and continue accompanying us to church. 

I love lessons and moments like this. My companion, Elder Smith said it well when he said, "man, when we have lessons like this, we know that we are doing our job."  I love my mission and am learning so much. Every day my testimony grows stronger and I know that Jesus Christ is the savior of all of us. It doesn´t matter if you are 8 or 78, you can use the power of the Atonement and the process of repentance to become clean again. 

Have a great week!
Elder Shipley 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Week 42

Jeff's District 
 The Zone!
 Jeff with Elder Smith ad Elder Newman
 Jeff threw up in the street and came up smiling!
 The baptism of Mayra Rivas
 Hiking on P-day in the hills about Saltillo

Dear Family and Friends,
Today is transfer day here in Saltillo! We found out this morning that I am going to stay here with my companion Elder Smith for another 6 weeks in the Corona Ward! I am SO EXCITED! Our other companion, Elder Domiciano is changing areas but staying in the zone. Elder Smith and I are going to be the only 2 missionaries in the ward so we are going to have a very large area and a lot of responsibility but we are very happy and grateful to be able to stay together for 6 more weeks. 

This week was incredibly difficult to be honest. On Tuesday, I went to another area on splits and walked for about 4 hours straight without a single door opening for us. I also found out that my companion Elder Smith threw up and got sick on Tuesday so Wednesday we stayed in the house until 5pm. Then Thursday, I felt pretty bad in the morning but powered through our study and planning session and even made it to lunch with the family in the ward but about 15 minutes after we had finished lunch, I threw up all over the street and we had to go back to the house and rest. After sleeping for 15 hours straight I woke up Friday and we finally were able to work and teach like normal. Friday was also very difficult because after a week without working, we had very few appointment scheduled. 

However, Saturday morning, we were able to see a true miracle of the mission and the power of the Holy Ghost in action. Elder Smith and I were about to finish the last session of his training, we were doing practice baptismal invitations when I received a text message. I didn´t pay attention at first because I wanted to focus on the practices. However, Elder Smith left for a second and I checked my phone and it was perhaps the most beautiful text message that I have ever seen in my life. 

Sister Mayra Rivas, the mother of William, and the daughter of Alberta (our baptism from last week) sent me a message that said, ¨can I still get baptized today¨? I started jumping up and down and shouting for joy because I was SUPER EXCITED! Mayra was going to get baptized in February with her son, and then later committed to get baptized with her mom, however, both times, she told us that she didn't feel ready and wanted to wait more time. We, of course, accepted and respected her answer, and continued inviting her to pray and read her scriptures and to ponder the wonderful blessings that she will receive if she decides to follow the example of our Savior and be baptized. 

This was one of the largest surprises of my mission! I was certain that Mayra was going to get baptized someday, but I truly didn't know when. We were with her and her family on Wednesday and she told us that she still needed more time, so we told her to tell us when she was ready and WOW! Saturday was the day! We started scrambling to prepare everything! And just as always here, we had to empty the baptismal font by hand, prepare the program, and call a bunch of people so that Mayra could have a special experience. 

The baptismal service that we held on Saturday night was truly the sweetest ending to one of the most difficult weeks of my mission. Once again, William, with the nicknames I gave him "pure power" or "power punch" entered the baptismal font for the second time in 6 days but this time with his mother. It was so special! 

The testimonies that the members of the Rivas family shared were so awesome. I was very excited to hear the experiences and testimonies of this great family. I was also still very curious as to why Mayra had to decided to change her mind and get baptized and was hoping that she would share what happened in between Wednesday and Saturday. 

She explained that she had followed our advice to pray to find out when she should get baptized and described her experience. She said that during her prayers, she had felt such a strong desire to get baptized that it made her cry. She then prayed again to make sure and felt the same desire, so strong that she knew she had to get baptized. It was so special to be able to see and feel her testimony. After 2 months waiting and not knowing, she was finally able to join her son and mother as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and yesterday received the Holy Ghost. 

On Saturday evening, I was talking with Elder Smith, just like a Father and son chat ;) and said that it was amazing to me how incredibly difficult a week can be, yet end with one of the most spiritual experiences of my mission. I think the closing comment of the testimony of William/¨pure power¨ summed up the entire experience. He said, ¨thanks to the answer that my mom received, and the decision that she took to be baptized, we are going to be an eternal family¨. It was beautiful phrased and I hope that in a year right before I finish my mission, I can accompany this wonderful family to the temple so that they can be sealed for time and all eternity. 

Thank you for all of your support and love, 
Elder Shipley 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Week 41

 At the church 
Evening on the streets of Saltillo
 Walking to Conference
 More photos
 The taxi driver who drove them to Conference and then joined them for the afternoon Sunday session. 
 Hanging out in the Mission Office
The hills of Saltillo
 William and his Grandma Alberta
Picture in the building 
Family picture outside the church building

Dear Family and Friends, 

For most of the week, I was working with my half transfer companion, Elder Domiciano from Brazil. He is the only Brazilian in the mission and I am learning a little bit of Portuguese! Elder Smith spent Monday-Thursday with one of the assistants to the President.  On Friday morning, Elder Smith returned to my area in Corona and we continued working as a trio. It is really different working in a trio and we have had to adjust but it has gotten better! 

Our weekend was the best! The highlights were General Conference and also by the BAPTISM we had last night! General conference is so special and even more as a missionary. I learned so much and had many of my questions answered! 

I loved the talks on Saturday about forgiveness, humility, the talk by President Uchdorf about happiness, and many others. The Priesthood session on Saturday evening was even more special because I got to watch it in English!  I loved hearing the voices of the Apostles and learned how I can be a better leader by being a better follower of Jesus Christ. 

However, perhaps the most special moment of the weekend was the baptismal service that we held last night at our chapel. It was incredibly special because our convert, William, who was baptized at the end of February, baptized his Grandma! I was SO happy and almost cried when I saw one of my best friends, William, who is 16 years old and authorized to baptized with the Aaronic Priesthood, lead his grandmother into the font and performed the ordinance. When his grandmother, Berta, had been baptized and they started to exit the font, William said, "Welcome Grandma"! It was one of the most powerful moments I have had on my mission. Afterwords, I gave him a huge hug and picked him up, even though he was soaking wet. It didn't matter that I also got soaking wet because I was so proud of him and all of the great steps he is taking to serve a mission and return to our Heavenly Father. 

I learned a great lesson from this experience and want to share a scripture to help explain it. In Alma 26: 1-3:

 And now, these are the words of Ammon to his brethren, which say thus: My brothers and my brethren, behold say unto you,how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the land of Zarahemla that God would have granted unto us such great blessings?
 And now, ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us?Can ye tell?
 Behold, answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, werein darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how manyof them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! Andthis is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that wehave been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.

Ammon asks his brethren, did you ever think we would receive such wonderful blessings from the Lord? However, he doesn't let his brethren answer the question and just shares with them the answer. He said that the greatest blessing that these great missionaries had received from the Lord is that they were "instruments in the hands of God". 

That is truly all that I and my companions are for 2 years. We spend all of our time serving the people of Mexico and helping them come unto Christ through faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the end. This past weekend, and especially last night during the baptism, I truly felt grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission for the people of Mexico, for people like William who accept the Gospel and help others come unto Christ, and to serve with all of my heart for Our Heavenly Father. It is truly a blessing to be here and I will be forever thankful! 

Have a great week! 
Elder Shipley