Monday, January 27, 2014

Time is flying by

     This week has had its ups and downs. Both have made for some good learning experiences. Elder Rose has been having a pretty tough time getting adjusted to missionary life. Something to be expected to any new missionary. Luckily we have a great Mission President, and Mission Mom that have been about to talk and counsel us. Elder Rose is in a tough situation. White-washing into a new area is never easy. Especially when you don't have a car and the area is not a very bike-friendly area. I know that the Lord placed Elder Rose here with me for a specific reason. I am here to help him in whatever way that I can. We have been working at teaching in unity and talking with everyone, slowly but surely things are coming together. 

     We had a great lesson this week with Yolonda. Goodness, she is smart as a whip! We were able to teach her the Plan of Salvation. One of my favorite things about teaching the Gospel is watching the truthfulness of the things you teach unfold before your eyes as you teach them. Yolonda is my favorite type of people to teach. She has a pretty good biblical knowledge. I feel like a lot of missionaries are scared of people that know a lot about the Bible, because they might try to bash or prove you wrong. In reality though, they are the best people to teach! Because they have a lot of the pieces of the puzzle up in their head, they are just waiting for someone to help them connect the things that they've learned. This was the case with Yolonda. We taught her about the Pre-mortal life, a doctrine that is not taught in mainstream Christian churches. A doctrine that was lost during the apostasy but was taught in Jesus Christ's church! A true doctrine! As we taught her about this true doctrine you could see light bulbs starting to go off in her head, and pieces of the puzzle being put together. She started so say things like, "Oh say that is why God told Jeremiah 'Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee.' That makes sense." And "Well I knew that one-third of the hosts of heaven were cast out with Satan. I've never considered who the other two-thirds were. It makes sense that we were that other two-thirds!" As we continued to form the puzzle from the pieces that she already had she grew more and more excited. We went from doctrine to doctrine. From the fall to the spirit world. As we went on the picture that was being made was more and more beautiful to Yolonda. At the end of the lesson she began to get very emotional. Because just like us, she could see the truthfulness of our message unfold before her very own eyes. She has been seeking truth for awhile, and wants to go where her Father wants her to go. She is so scared to leave behind her Church home, she is scared to make the transition. Yolonda is awesome, and I know that as she gains stronger relationships with the members and continues to read The Book of Mormon, her desire to follow God's path for her with trump over her fear of joining a new Church. 

     The Reynolds family is doing pretty good. We found out some unfortunate news this week though. Turns out Regina and Alvin aren't married, as we had before supposed. They've been together for 16 years and have four children together, but have never tied the knot. The lesson that we had with them when we found this out was a very good lesson. The really guided the lesson where it needed to go. They opened up more this lesson than they have in any of the other lessons that we taught. They were awesome about discussing this little predicament. It isn't necessary to go into too much detail about all of this. It is probably going to take a little time to get them married or in a position to where they can be baptized. Nevertheless they are still awesome and amazing. Regina loves Church and so do all of the kids. She called us yesterday and asked us if the kids could still be baptized despite their living situation. She has very real intent and loves everything that she has learned. I love this awesome family and can't wait till they all go into the waters of baptism. 

      I don't have too much more to write about this week. This week was not as eventful as I would have liked… Hopefully that will change this week. 

      I am so excited for the future. I am so excited to start the next stage of my life. I know I am not going home tomorrow, but before I know it I will be back home. One of my favorite scripture is Matthew 10: 39. Nowhere have I found this scripture to be more true than in the mission field. As I lose my life in this work for the Lord's sake, I find more and more what I want for my life. I have learned so much from my mission. So many life lessons that can't be learned in any books, they just have to be experienced. My desire to have a family and raise them in the true and living Church has never ever been stronger. There is nothing that I desire more in life than a family. Absolutely nothing that I can even think of could be better than having a family. And I know this because I have seen it! I have been in the homes of the richest of the rich! Homes that should be on MTV Cribs. And I have been in homes many homes that have probably been on the show Cops. Some very sad situations. However, without fail, the people that I have met that are the most happy are always the ones that are living the Gospel. The tangible spirit that is in the home of families who are firm in the faith is incredible. It has changed my life and my view of what I want for the future. It is just incredible what you can learn and gain from visiting many different homes of individuals and families. Almost nothing has touched my heart more than sitting around the dinner table of an active family and hearing a child's prayer. 

       I don't know why but I am going to take a tangent real quick and talk about something. I have talked with and met with lot of people that disagree with the Church's way of teaching Children. They view it as "brainwashing" or a taking away of the children's agency. When they see a parent whispering in the child's ear  to help them learn how to pray they see a parent brainwashing a child to believe the way that they believe, or do the things that they are doing. They see the primary songs as trickery to brainwash children. They don't feel that is it right to make choices for their children before they are able to make choices for themselves. Sometimes they feel so strongly about this that it is one of the reasons that they fall away from the Church. Let's think about this way of thinking for a minute... The idea that it is wrong to make choices for your children before they are old enough to make choices for themselves is a slippery slope. First, I think that you have to understand the definition of truth. Truth is the same for everyone, if it was relative to the individual then there would be no such thing as truth. Truth is how things are, were, and will be. Regardless of if you believe it or not. There is truth in everything. Truth is something that needs to be past down once it is figured out, or else there will never be progression. Could you imagine if Einstein just said, "Yeah, I've figured out what's true. But I'm not going to share it with you until you're smart enough to figure it out on your own." Of course that would be ridiculous! Inherited truth is a good thing. However inherited falsehoods are a bad thing. The real question is "what is true, and what is false?" Because of course no parent has any qualms teaching their children what's good to eat, why we don't play in traffic, why we don't eat what's under the sink, and why we brush our teeth. We don't have any problem in teaching those truths! Because we know that the teaching of those truths will benefit our children. So why would we withhold the truth that can be found in the Gospel? We don't want our children to have to get hit by a car to know that playing in the street is a bad thing, or get a ton of cavities to know they should've brushed their teeth. If we don't wait to teach our children these truths, then why would we wait to teach our children about the truths found in the Plan of Salvation, Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, or even about the truth found in prayer! Should we really wait for them to discover it on their own? Or wait till they're old enough to decide for themselves? Is it necessary for our kids to have to go through an unplanned pregnancy to know the truthfulness of the Law of Chastity? Or go through addiction recover to know that they should have obeyed the Word of Wisdom? Or even wait until they are on their deathbeds to try and answer the unavoidable question, "Where am I going after this life?" Would it be reasonable when Granddaddy dies and our children ask us, "Where is Grandpa?" to say back to them, "Well Junior, you're just going to have to wait to figure that out for yourself."  Of course not. The only reason you would withhold that answer is because you aren't confident you have the truth. And you don't want to spread a falsehood. The only reason that anyone would have doubts in sharing their beliefs with their children is because they themselves are not confident that what they have is truth. So back to a child's prayer, what is so bad about teaching a child how to pray? Should we wait for our children to have a tragedy to teach them that they can turn to their Father in Heaven for comfort? Of course not. The only reason that we would not teach them is because we ourselves are not confident prayer really works. So in reality by not teaching our children certain things, such as prayer because we are doubtful that it works, we are passing on ideals unknowingly. A child's thought process could easily be, "Well prayer isn't going to work, because Daddy and Mommy don't pray, so why should I pray?" So whether or not you like it, you're always influencing your children by either sharing information, or withholding information. In my opinion the most important thing that we can teach our children is how to find truth. The process that it takes to come to know something is true. In religion it is you read, ponder, pray and repeat. In science it is you study, form hypothesis, test the hypothesis and repeat. Both very similar in principle and important to teach and understand. Teaching our children this process is the most important thing that we can do. It is a process that we MUST go through for ourselves, so that we can know that the things we are teaching our kids are true! For those who do have qualms in teaching their children the Gospel, or doing it before they can decide for themselves. Ask yourself, have I done what it takes to know the Gospel is true? Have I read The Book of Mormon, sincerely pondered on its teachings and its mere existence, and have I prayed about it to know that it's true? Have I made a sincere effort to test out the Gospel by living it? Because just like any truth, if it is true for you it is going to be true for your kids. Drinking the Scrubbing Bubbles kitchen cleaner under the sink will hurt your health just as bad as it will hurt your kid's health. What's true for you is true for your kids also. It is an obligation as a parent for you to discover as much truth as possible. Because if you don't, your ignorance will become your children's ignorance. 

        Well, sorry for that tangent. I love you all so much. The Church is true. 

-Elder Ryan Romero 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Good Week

      This was a pretty good week. A very busy week. I have a lot to talk about. I'll start off first by telling you more about my area. Snellville is much more of a city than Dallas was. A lot more people and buildings. Just like anywhere you go in Atlanta there are rich parts and poor parts of the city, and they are not really separated. You'll go down one neighborhood that will be very poor, and then you'll go to the adjacent neighborhood and it will be very wealthy. People are pretty easy to talk to around here. I really have a gift for talking with people and quickly becoming their best friend. I have really liked most of the people that I met in Snellville. It is very easy to just go up to people and start talking to them about their lives, interests, or occupation. Most of my stories this week come from just talking with everyone.
      Just a couple of days ago we were in Goodwill looking for some people to talk with and I noticed this one guy looking at children's books. I approached him and started talking to him and found out he was trying to find some books for his kids. We must have talked for fifteen minutes. He was awesome. He's a musician, a programer, and an artist. He was very interested in what we were doing as missionaries and has met with missionaries in the past. He was very welcoming of us coming over and meeting with him and his family. We will be meeting with him tonight.
       Next I have to tell you about Olga! This is the neighbor of one of our investigators. We knocked on her door and she comes to the door and opens it and tells us that she doesn't talk to strangers and that she is happy where she is it. Before she could go back inside I said, "Wait! We don't want to be strangers." And immediately I pull out my wallet and she her my drivers license, BYU-ID, and debit cards. I told her, "We've got nothing to hide! We don't want to be strangers, we want to be friends!" She thought I was funny, and wasn't expecting I'd open up to her like that. I told her about what I was studying back at BYU, and what I did back home. I told her about my family and all sorts of things. She was very touched by our willingness to leave all of that behind and come out and preach the Gospel. We got to learn a lot about Olga, after we opened up to her she opened up to us. We found out that she moved here from Russia about 25 years ago and her and her husband buy old BMW's and fix them up and race them. She's awesome. She told us that she doesn't attend any particular Church because she doesn't like how many different denominations there are. As we were nearing the end of our conversation she asked us if she could give us money. After we declined she said, "Well how do you all survive." I told her that usually people have us over for dinner. I told her instead of her giving us money, she could feed us dinner! She thought that was a great idea. Haha. So we will be having dinner with Olga and her awesome family soon. 
        Now I have to let you know how our current investigators are doing. We have been so blessed this week. Our investigators are really progressing. We have been teaching a lady named Yolonda that the previous Elders have been teaching for about four months. Yolonda is a great lady and really loves the visits from the missionaries. Unfortunately she has never really been taught a clear lesson about the Restoration before. She told us the previous Elders would read the Book of Mormon with her each time they would come over. When we asked her what the Book of Mormon was about and why it is so important, she did not give us a cohesive answer. She told us that she struggled reading the Book of Mormon by herself. We dug deep and tried to find her real concern. After digging for a bit she told us that she doesn't understand why we have The Book of Mormon when we already have the Bible, and she feels that everything that we need is in the Bible. We quickly realized that she was being apathetic about the Book of Mormon because she did not understand what it is, or why it was important. We started to teach her clearly and to her understanding. We explained the importance of the Book of Mormon and went over basically the whole Restoration. After teaching clearly she said, "Wow, now I actually want to read the Book of Mormon." We knew that what we told her really stuck and we were affective teachers because we met with her again two days later that Saturday night. She came over to a family's home in the ward, the Byrd family. She brought her 19 year old son named Isaac and we had dinner and a lesson. Before we started teaching her what new things, we followed up on what we taught her last time. She had been reading the Book of Mormon by herself, and what really amazed us was how well she understood and remembered the Restoration. We would ask her questions like, "What is the Priesthood." And she was able to tell us its purpose, how its given, how it was lost, and how it was restored. When she was telling us about how Christ's church was restored I was blown away. What she remembered and got out our lesson previously was astounding. As she told us about the first vision she almost said it word for word the way Joseph Smith described it. She even said, "Personages". Now of course this is because every time we tell the first vision as missionaries we use Joseph Smith's own words. I was just amazed by how well she remembered. Elder Rose and I were not the only ones amazed, the members we flabbergasted. Haha. It was clear that Yolonda now understood our message, but now she just has to come to know that our message is true through study, prayer, and coming to Church. We discussed that night about how to gain a testimony and we went around to each member of the Byrd family and had a little testimony meeting. It was a really great lesson. 
          Now its time to switch gears and tell you about the family we are teaching, Reynolds family. Sister Reynolds is blind. She and her husband have three incredible kids. This family has been prepared to hear our message. Sister Reynold's best friend is a member of the Church in Mississippi. We have taught her all of the lessons and she and her children are ready to be baptized. We originally scheduled Sister Reynold's baptism for the 25th of January, but have pushed it back because we feel that our Father in Heaven would really like for the whole family to come into the church together. Brother Reynolds is an incredible guy and is not against our message whatsoever. He is a very sincere seeker of truth. He loves me and Elder Rose and loves everything that we have taught him and his family. He really wants to make sure that this is the right decision for him before he gets baptized, which of course is the right thing for him to do. However Brother Reynolds has not made the effort to come to know these things are true like his wife has. He told us that he has not been able to read the Book of Mormon yet. Brother Reynolds is not against his family being baptized, and would be very happy for them if they were. We told him that it would be so incredible if he could come to know these things are true for himself so that he could be baptized along with his wife and kids. He agreed and has committed to do what it takes to receive an confirmation of the truthfulness of our message so that he can be baptized with his wife and kids. We invited him and his family to work hard to come to know together by the first weekend in Febuary so they call all be baptized that day. I love this family so much. I am just amazed by the love this family has for each other. Their kids, Tre and Dantavin, are only 10 and 12. But are so obedient and loving to their Mother. Tre really takes the lead in helping her in all situations and being a good example for his little brother and little sister. This family is going to make the best members of the church. I am blown away by the effort that Sister Reynolds has put into receiving her own spiritual witness. We have only been teaching her for two weeks, we are the first missionaries to teach her and she is already in the Book of Mosiah. She is so intelligent and sincere. She keeps all her commitments. Elder Rose and I are so blessed to be able to teach this incredible family. 

       I don't have anyone else that we are teaching to tell you about, but I have another great experience that I would like to share from this week. As I mentioned before in my previous email, our ward mission leader's son is dating Bellen Albanes. His name is Luke. This week Luke came down from school to come to Church with his family. When I met him I told him how much I love the Albanes family and asked him if he could just text them for me and tell them that I say hello. He laughed and said that he would. Little did I know that the Leonard family (my WML's family) was planning a little surprise for me. Right before sacrament meeting Sister Leonard came up to us and told us that we are going to want to sit with her family today. I was confused why. After we moved our stuff Luke came up to me and told me to follow him, so I did. He took me out to the Church parking lot and just getting out of their car were some familiar faces! The Albanes family! Oh my goodness, it was so great to see them all again. After Church we all got together at the Leonard's home and had a really good reunion. I love that family so much and they really love me too. Brother Leonard was so happy to see how close I was with the Albanes family and how well I've gotten to know them. It is amazing how God has worked to help me gain the trust of these members here in the Snellville ward. I am so happy that I worked hard in Dunwoody to get to know everyone and be obedient and work hard. The trust and friendships that I gained in that ward are still affecting me today.
          I want to write really quickly about some things that I have been pondering on and some things I've learned over the past week. This week I have been studying some teachings from President Boyd K. Packer.  I am studying his teachings because Elder Packer is a master teacher, and I would like to become a better teacher. Some of the things he says are so interesting, and I want to write about them real quick. He says that teaching is, "The finest of the fine arts." It is one of the most important gifts to work to gain. He explains by telling how the Savior was a teacher himself. He is usually referred to as "Master" or "Rabbi" which both words mean "teacher". He was the perfect teacher. The thing that I have been thinking about is, "Why is it so important to become a teacher?" The Savior was a teacher, but why should I be one? And I am necessarily speaking from a missionary perspective. It is obvious why a missionary needs to be a good teacher. Missionaries spend two years working to become master teachers like the savior, but why is that an important quality to have among returning home? Because I don't intend on being a High School teacher, or work in any school really. Maybe a Univeristy after I finish my solo career. I think that only a few people want to become a "Teacher" by profession. So then why is it essential for me to become a teacher? Well after studying Boyd K. Packer's teachings I have come to realize that becoming a great teacher is really the most important trait that I can gain from serving my mission. He emphasized the fact that ALL parents need to be good teachers to teach their kids. They have to teach them how to be honest, how to have faith, and how to live righteously. Teaching these things to our children is perhaps the most important work we will ever do! After learning this I have really grown a new desire to become the best teacher that I can be while I am still out on my mission and continue to teach once I get home. I want to be a master teacher so that I can teach my children. A lot of the times throughout my mission I ask myself, "Why did God send me to Georgia. Of all places, Georgia? Really? Didn't the Lord know that I would've been great at learning another language? I would have loved to learn a new culture too." This thought conversation with myself has often got me down, more at the start of my mission than now. When reading what Boyd K. Packer had to say about teaching it was almost like an answer to my question, "Why Georgia?" Because the Lord wants me to become a great teacher. He intends for me to teach his Gospel throughout my lives. To my future family and in other Church callings. I am so happy with what I've become and the knowledge that I've gained from my mission. I love the Lord and I love his Gospel. And there is nothing that I love more than Preaching his Gospel.

Love you all, 

-Elder Ryan Romero
 Elder Romero, Elder Rose and the Leonard's

Albanes, Leonards, and Elder Romero and Elder Rose
Elder Romero, Elder Rose and the Albanes


Monday, January 6, 2014

Where to Begin?

 I am noticing this common trend.  Every time I sit down at the computer I am overwhelmed by the thoughts in my mind and how I am going to write them all down in a coherent way so that you all can understand what has been going on in my missionary life.
     As you all know I have been transferred. I whitewashed into the Snellville Ward. I am training a new missionary and his name is Elder Rose. Great Elder, I'll tell you more about him in a minute. I came into this area with the understanding that this area had a car. Because normally the assistants will tell you if you need a bike or not in your new area, and they did not mention anything about a bike when they called me. When I was dropped off in my new area and realized that there was not a car I was confused. Turns out that my new area is a bike area. Unfortunately the Elder's whom we replaced packed up their bikes with them when they got transferred. Looks like I am going to get fit again, I'm excited about that. Currently Elder Rose and I are on foot as we track down some bikes that we can use. 
     Elder Rose is fresh out of the MTC, and it is quite obvious. Elder Rose and I did not get into the area at the same time. His arrival was delayed due to a flight not coming in on time. Luckily I got to spend some quality time with my new Bishop. His name is Bishop Clay and he is a great guy. Elder Rose was dropped off at the Bishop's house and seemed a little shell-shocked. Probably due to the 3 hours of sleep that he was running on. He was excited to finally be in the field though. To tell you a little about Elder Rose, he is from Sandy Utah and just graduated high school. His height is a little shorter than mine, and he is pretty quite. He has a POWERFUL testimony of this Gospel and is so excited to see its changing affects on the people that we find and teach. Like I said, he is a pretty quite kid, but he loves this Gospel and knows it is true. He is a sincere missionary and is only out here to please his God. Those are my favorite type of missionaries. I am excited to get to know Elder Rose even more and to become his best friend. I feel like the Lord has given me Elder Rose for a reason. I know that I can be a very good influence on him and to set a positive tone for the rest of his mission, and for the rest of his life. I am dedicated to loving Elder Rose and being as patient and helpful as I can to him, an opportunity that the Lord has given me times before in my mission, but I'm afraid I have not lived up to the calling. I am going to be the best example and friend I can be for the short time that I have this new missionary. 
     The members of the Snellville ward have been extremely helpful. I am excited to be serving here and the future of this ward looks bright. They have had some difficulty with missionary work in the past. The trust in the missionaries of this ward has been limited in the past. I do not know the reason for the whitewash, nor do I need to know the reason. I am sure that the missionaries that were here before me were sincere and love the Lord. All I know is that the Bishop and Ward Mission leader expect me and Elder Rose to make a significant effort to gain a strong relationship of trust with the members of the Snellville ward. I feel that is something that Elder Rose and I are very capable of doing. Luckily, I've already gained quite a bit of rapport from our Ward Mission Leader. His name is Bro Leonard. His son is dating a girl named Bellen Albanes. That last name might look familiar because I have surely wrote about that family in past emails. The Albanes family was one of my favorite families in the Dunwoody ward. Bellen Albanes was on her mission in Salt Lake City while I was serving in Dunwoody, so I haven't had the chance to really get to know her. But Sister Albanes has told me a lot about her. Well, I guess Brother Leonard was texting the Bishop the first night I can into the area and asked who the new missionaries were, and Bishop said, "Elder Romero, but haven't got the new one yet." Brother Leonard was with his son and Bellen as he received this text from Bishop. He told his son and Bellen who the new missionary was and Bellen says, "Oh wow. Well there is only one Elder Romero. And my mother LOVES him!" Hahaha. Brother Leonard told me this story last night as he was taking us home. I was laughing so hard. I love the Albanes family so much. Brother Leonard told me after this conversation that that is exactly what he is looking for me to gain in this ward, relationships with the ward members like the ones I had in Dunwoody. 
      I will tell you about a lesson that we had with  a part member family this week. Their name is the Ide family. The family just consists of Sister Ide and her non-member husband Bro Ide. We had dinner with them on new years day and had some great conversation. We had some good casual conversation over the feast that Sister Ide prepared for us. I asked Sister Ide about her conversion story and it was powerful. I then turned to Brother Ide and said, "You're not a member of the Church, is that right Bro Ide?" And he said, "Not yet." Hahaha. Well I jumped right on that answer. After some more conversation we found out his two qualms that have held him back from joining the church. He felt that it was arrogant of the Church to claim that we are the only true church, and that it was also not fair to say that only people baptized into this church will inherit the kingdom of God. We were able to answer address those qualms he  had and explain them clearly, he said, "Well, you make a good case." Hahaha. We asked if we could come back on Saturday and teach him the Restoration to address his concerns further. He agreed. So we came back on Saturday night with the Bishop to teach the Restoration. This was a powerful lesson, and we went in depth into the scriptures. My love and knowledge of the New Testament and other scripture has overcome my love and knowledge for almost anything else. I have become so good at teaching from the scriptures. I told Brother Ide at the very start of the lesson that to grab his scriptures and that we are going to "step into the scriptures." As if I was the guy on Reading Rainbow. Haha. But for reals I told him, "We are going to go back into the New Testament time and see what life was like back then. We are going to understand and visualize how Christ's Church was back then." Scripture after scripture we painted a picture together of Christ's Earthly ministry and the Church he set up while he was here. We learned about how that Church was ran after he left, and we learned about what happened to that Church. As we went from the Gospels to Acts to the Pauline Epistles to Peter and Revelation, it felt like we were there. As we stepped into the scriptures it became so clear to Brother Ide that Christ did set up the only true Christian Church, and that you had to be baptized into that Church to enter into the Kingdom of God. It became clear that an apostasy did indeed occur, therefor there was a need for a Restoration. It was an incredible lesson. 
       I am so excited for the future. The unknown that exists in this area excites me. Elder Rose and I are going to do amazing things in this area, with God's help anything is possible. I love you all so much. I can't believe how much time has gone by. It is so strange to me. I love you all. 

-Elder Ryan Romero