Monday, February 28, 2011

Build my House Upon the Rock

Hey family,

Thank you for the opportunity to become closer to Christ.  (For those wondering, we are following a 21 day program to get closer to Christ.)  Mom challenged me to join and read along.   As we read, we ponder how understanding your divine nature as a son or daughter of God affects our relationship with Christ and helps us to be closer to Him.  We pray for confirmation that God knows us as an individual by name. I had a blast looking up the references and answering all of the questions. I spent some good time looking up references of when God actually says the name of a person, not when Jesus says their name but God himself. There are lots and lots and lots of times. Wow. Thanks also for sending pictures, wow, that was really cool. I like to see you guys from time to time too. Well, super odd, you all look… not saying that you guys are ugly or anything like that, it just that I am just so used to seeing Latinos that it was strange to see North Americans. You all look a little different than I remember, and the pictures that I have in the album. Wow, Saydi the most. Saydi is starting to look old. I think that it will be strange when I come back and see her again, taller and more... women-y. I would love to see some pictures of John and Aubrei and give me the update on how they are doing. Nice to see that you guys are all looking healthy... I miss you guys some times.

Well this week I had a few interesting events happen. I realized this week that the experiences that I am having on my mission really are like no other experiences I will ever have had.
Experience 1: We were walking in the lower market of Belen searching for an investigator. The lower market is dirty, smelly and they sell almost every kind of stinky animal meat you can think of. Well as we were walking through the market we stumbled upon one of the vender stalls of a member of the church. She was not selling meat, but was selling a variety of objects, for example q-tips, combs, toilet paper, matches, balloons, flash light or things of that nature. Ok,  I don’t know what "nature" that is but ya, that kind of stuff. I had a piece of chicken in my tooth from lunch and BAM!! She had dental floss. Perfect! So we were talking with this hermana (sister) I asked how much the dental floss was. She promptly told me 1 sole. One sole is the equivalent to 33 cents. Yes, wow, not very much. We were about to leave in search of our original purpose when I heard her say “thank you, with this sole I can feed my family today… this is the first thing that I have sold all day.”  Well I felt like she had taken a giant spear and pushed it straight into my heart. I turned right back around and spent ten more soles on things that I really didn’t need. The look of pure gratitude in her face was indescribable. I fed a family.  
Experience 2: We were working with the ward this last Sunday to get references, or in other words new people to talk to. We received a reference from a Hermana (Sister) and Tuesday of this last week we went looking. We found a family. This is great because if you can baptize a whole family then they have more motivation to help each other stay active. We began talking to the parents and come to find out that they have a son that is on a mission right now, and they promised this son that they would investigate the church but they really didn’t know where to begin looking. Needless to say we began to teach them and invited them to church. We got through the entire first lesson and said the closing pray. We were about to leave when … the mother called us back. She told the rest of the family, her husband, her 20 year old daughter and her 16 year old son to leave the room. She wanted to speak to us alone. When they had all left the room… she began to cry. My companion and I now completely in shock didn’t know what to say. After some time she calmed down enough to explain to us that she had been wanting someone to put her 16 year old son on the right path… because he was starting to make some bad friends. She then excitedly told us that God had not sent just one person… but two. She then begged us to befriend her son and show him a more righteous path. I made a new friend.
What have I learned this week? That more and more the Lord asks of me He also provides me experiences that shake the foundations of my soul. I have to choose today to either build my house upon the sand or build my house upon the rock. Who is the rock? Yes, I know you know. I believe in Christ!
Con amor, Elder Harris

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pictures sent to us from a Ward member in Canto Chico Lima, Peru

Sharing a message of Christ.
Elder Harris with his first companion Elder Xicara
Sharing the Gospel with help from the Young Adults from his Ward.
    Passing out a Book of Mormon in the Park.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Hunger for the Word of God

Wow, from your letters it sounds like everything is going great in the big old U.S.A.

We had a baptism, his name is Carlos Cadenez Melendez and he is 68 years old. He is a strong old man. He has such a strong testimony. The first day that we met him was in the street. It was pouring rain and my companion and I were both soaked. He was just standing there on a street corner, under an overhang out of the rain.
Side note: this is one of the benefits of rain, when it starts to rain all the people in the street just stop what they are doing and watch.
We walked over and introduced ourselves as the missionaries and asked him if he had ever heard of the church. He was so excited to talk to us that he told us to come to his house the next day and speak with him about the church because he had to work today. Of course we wrote down his name, address and the following night found him outside his house waiting for us. We were quickly ushered in and found that this man, for lack of better words was lonely. His wife abandoned him about 20 years ago and his kids live somewhere that he himself doesn’t know. He quickly latched on to us and us to him. Basically he needed a friend and found us. I remember that first Sunday 2 weeks ago when he came to church and how happy he was. We laughed so hard when he came because he was so upset that he didn’t have a tie to wear. The next Sunday my companion gave him one of his ties and Carlos cried. This last Saturday we baptized him and yesterday he received the Holy Ghost.  He then was ordained a priest in the Aaronic priesthood. Moral of the story is this, it is never too late.
Carlos, though he is physically strong, he has horrible vision. He has really bad cataracts and cannot pay to get them removed. He has to shine a flash light on the scriptures so that he can read them. Literally he is a testament of what the lord said in Amos 8:11-12 that the people will not have a hunger for bread or water... but a hunger for the word of god. Yesterday he said something to me I don’t think I will ever forget. He said "Elder Harris I wish that I had found the gospel when I was young, because I feel like I have lost so many opportunities."  How blessed are we that we live in the United States of America, that we were born in the covenant and that we have a loving family that looks out for us. Some times I think that we forget about all the things that the Lord has given us and we become surrounded in our pride and vain ambitions. I was reading in Helaman 10:3-5, this is a part of the scriptures when Nephi is disappointed and down hearted, amazing to me is the response that God gives to him, that encouragement of a loving father. I don’t know... it just was so impacting on me this week. 

Cool side note: I finished Jesus the Christ Tuesday of this week, and I have started to read it again. I have printed out the home work that you have given me and on this next Monday I will send you my thoughts.  Just know that I love you.   –Elder Harris

Harris Family Side Note: Our Stake Presidency challenged us to get to know Christ personally.  Our ward Relief Society provided us with a 21 day challenge which we extended to Jaren that he called his “homework.”  If you are interested in following along here is the first seven days. 

Day 1: Come unto Me
Read the account of the fisherman in Mark 1:16-18 and in John 1:38-39 Evaluate what fills your nets.  Are your priorities of home, family, work, electronics or entertainment keeping you from developing a deeper relationship with Christ?  Try to find more ways to invite the spirit into your heart.

Day 2: He knows you by Name
Read JSH 1:1-2, 8-20; search the scriptures for accounts of God calling His children by name.  As you read, ponder how understanding your divine nature as a son or daughter of God affects your relationship with Christ and helps you to be closer to Him.  Pray for confirmation that God knows you as an individual by name.

Day 3: Follow in His Footsteps
Read Luke 2:52  Study the footnotes and cross references.  Consider and pray about ways you can increase in your life.  Write in your journals the ways you can increase yourself mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Day 4: Pray, Listen, Follow
Read Moroni (Book of Mormon) 7:26, D&C (Doctrine & Covenants) 46:7, D&C 109:4, D&C 6:27, D&C 8:10, D&C 121:8  Ponder the five characteristics of prayer in these verses.  Chose one to work on for a while, then move to another.

Day 5: Faith
Read Mark 9:14-29 Contemplate in what areas of your life are you not enough.  Pray to the Lord, acknowledging your shortcomings and asking for greater faith to allow Him to make up the difference.

Day 6: Seek Forgiveness
Read Luke 15:1-7  Take some time to evaluate your actions.  Are there things for which you should seek forgiveness?  Turn to the Lord for strength and courage to take the steps which will correct your mistakes.

Day 7: Self Mastery
Read Ether 12:23-41  Consider how well you control your thoughts and passions.  How do your thoughts affect your attitude and actions?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Agency, to eat or not eat Cake!


Well I am super happy that you all had a great week this week. For me this was the hardest week of my entire mission. Sundays are a day of either a ton of joy or a lot of depression. All week we go out and teach the gospel, knock on doors, contact people in the street. All the work that we do during the week is summarized and funneled into Sundays. What I am trying to say is that all of the investigators that actually come to church are sort of like a gauge of missionary success. Right now we are teaching 15 people consistently... last week we had 13 attend church... this week we had 5. I tended to question a little why. We worked so hard this week. We tried so hard to get people to come to church. Hmm... All in all, I learned a valuable lesson this week. That being, people still have their agency. Agency has always been a key part of the plan, if not the focal point.  Just think.. That first argument in heaven was basically over this debatable topic. Why did we come here to the Earth? There are two reasons, one to gain a body... and the other to experience "joy" Nephi 2:25. How do we experience joy without experiencing sorrow? This is the reason Adam and Eve needed to partake of the fruit, in order to bring opposition into this world. I now know with a little more clarity what it means to experience God´s love and sorrow. I honestly love my investigators, I think about them every day, I pray for them, I teach them, I counsel them. I sincerely felt sad when my investigators didn´t come to church. It’s kind of like a cake behind a glass window. I am on the inside, just a salesmen of this (gospel) cake, inviting people to come in and eat of its richness. My investigators are the people outside the window, on the street, not knowing what they are missing. I know the cake tastes great, I know what it costs and I know where to find it because I work for the baker. The problem is the cake is chocolate and everyone outside only wants vanilla. Sad because chocolate is so stinking good, it’s the best. Darn it.

From Dad’s letter
Today’s lesson was on the first vision and I found it interesting in JHS 1:20 that Satan knew that Joseph would pray that day. The first time Joseph says he ever prayed out load and the first time he prayed in the place that would later be known as the sacred grove. JHS 1:20 - It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? This got me thinking about you and the great work your doing as Elder Optimums Prime and how angry that makes Satan.  Remember keeping all the mission rules not only do you have the spirit with you to guide and protect you but you also strike a blow to Satan, like smashing Megatron.

Dad that was super interesting about Joseph Smith, it leads me to this train of thought about Jeremiah. There is a scripture in the first chapter in Jeremiah that proves that we lived with God before this life. Look in Jeremiah 1:5. It basically says that God knew us before this life and if that is the case, we all knew each other. Thus inferring that Satan too knew what Joseph Smith would end up doing.

Wow, there has been a ton of rain. Elder Paiz and I are working really hard in our area because before the end of the month it will get closed down. Elder Paiz and I have two areas. Sachachorro and Venecia. All of the houses on poles are in Venecia or the other name for that area is called Belen. We won’t be able to walk in there soon because the river is rising. I cannot wait for you to come. I really want you to come to Iquitos... it is like nothing you will ever seen in your entire life. You will never experience all aspects of life in less than 5 minutes; rich, poor, old, young, cold, hot.

Con amor elder Harris

P.S. Facts:
Health: great
Weather: stormy with a chance of preaching the gospel.
Work: hard this week, but moving on.
Investigators: 15 Ages ranging from 11 to 68. All of them are either in a family or super old and solo. They all live about 1-9 blocks from my house. All within walking distance.
Church building: 3 blocks away.
Baptisms: No baptisms this week but next week yes, Hoping for three.
CD: I am sending you another CD today with tons of pictures. You should get it in like 8-14 days sorry. Did you get my package I sent you with dad´s present?
Food: Yes I have tried some interesting food. There is a ton of fruits here that don’t really exist outside a jungle environment. I don’t know all the names but we are going to eat them all when you come because I know what they look like.
Pensionista: so, so. She makes ok food; the one good thing about her is that she likes to make keke. or cake.
Companion: I LOVE MY COMPANION. A.K.A. (me, Jaren, in Latino form.) He is super outgoing, funny, loves to joke, talks about video games, basically me, but grew up in Guatemala and speaks Spanish.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Calling... The Mantle... of a Missionary

Hello from the great country of PERU!!

Well it is really disappointing that you are not getting my letters or the cds that I sent you. Wow! I will try again but know that it is really expensive to send stuff. Ok, so Mom always has about three hundred questions to ask me, let us begin.

My room is super cool. I live on the second floor in the house of the first counselor of the stake presidency. My room is really small but we have another room that is for studying and it is just right. No, the shower is not outside, lol.  It is inside but there is a large open window next to the shower ..ergo this is how the lizard entered.

Well because I am thinking of animals, for your information I have held three different types of monkeys, a sloth, and a baby crocodile. When you come, we can do the exact same thing. It is really cool.  One of the monkeys was just a baby, and was no bigger than my thumb.

About my health..No problems at all. I am super safe with everything. If I don’t know what it is then I don’t eat it. The same principle applies for all things: smell, touch, drink.

Yes, Mom I have a poncho and yes I use the mosquito net that the mission provides because it is better than the one that I came with, otherwise everything is super cool. So it is around 75 degrees here but because it is super humid I just sweat and sweat… crazy sauce.

A little more about my area, the name of my new area is called Sachachorro and Venecia districts. We have two wards.

Oh, I forgot to tell you!  Yesterday we had another baptism.  It was super awesome. We baptized a 12 year old named Kevin. We baptized him Saturday, confirmed him Sunday, and in priesthood he received the Aaronic priesthood. yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! Super exciting.  He was my first baptism of a male. Ok, that sounds odd but we basically baptized him so that he can go on some day and be a missionary, baptize more people. The work goes on and on and on.

A little about the work, I had a moment this week that almost brought me to tears. We were walking on the street and contacted this man.  He really did want to talk to us but he referred us to another man named Juan. We went to the house and found Juan there. We began to talk to him and he was overwhelmed with excitement. We talked to him for almost an hour, about his life and come to find out he is a member, just super inactive. This was on Wednesday of this week. On Sunday in testimony meeting, he came and bore his testimony. His words were "gracias por la visito de los dos angeles, por que estaba en la oscuridad y otra vez ellos me mostraron la luz" which means "I thank those two angels that visited me, because I was in the darkness and again they showed me the light."  The calling... The mantle... of a missionary sometimes is very difficult, very heavy, but there is always blessings for those that keep the commandments. I have never been raised above the status of human being to that of an angel. I am deeply humbled to know that this is where I need to be right now.  The Lord needs to use me as an instrument in his hands.  More than ever I am grateful to be a missionary. I am really starting to feel what it is like to me a messenger of the Lord... a representative of Jesus Christ. I love this work. 

Con Amor, Elder Harris 

P.S.  So about the skype thing.. I have an interview with the president this Thursday.  I will ask him.  The interview is a regular interview, nothing bad, we have interviews every change.
P.S. Off to play soccer again.. lol.. like every dia de preparacion. I am getting really good.. lol