Monday, December 31, 2012

Mosiah 2:17

It was sure good to see everyone on Tuesday.  I don't know if I'm weird or just adapt well, but it wasn't strange to me to talk to all of you.  A lot of other missionaries said how strange it was and how awkward they were, but I didn't feel like that.  I felt mostly normal.  Either way, it was great to see everyone and get the latest news.

This week was mostly slow.  E. Christensen and I (district leader) did exchanges one day and had a really good day.  Unfortunately, that was the only good day we had.  My companion is struggling to do just about anything right.  I'm trying to teach him, but he's not very focused and is always talking about the MTC or home.  I'm not quite sure what I can do to help him get into the real missionary world, but it needs to happen soon, or he'll end up with a lot of bad habits that won't be easy to break.  The good news is that we had a cool experience on Sunday.  The ward brought together a bunch of food and presents for a family that's very much in need.  A few months ago, they built a room for a sister to get her out of a bad family situation, but never finished, so she's been living very destitutely.  We took her all the groceries and toys for her 6 year old daughter as well as some building materials as a promise to come back and finish her room.  The Spirit was so strong in that little "house".  I knew that we were on the Lord's errand, helping two of His daughters.  It reminded me of the time that we got secret santa'd.  Even though they may not have been the gifts I was hoping for (aside from the laptop, that was perfect), I do remember that I felt very loved by whoever brought us everything.  It was a very special experience on Sunday, and I'm very grateful we got to take part in it.  

I've tried so many times to teach "get out of the way" to missionaries here, but nobody seems to get it.  Everyone always thinks it's good enough to teach "with" the Spirit or that feeling the Spirit as you teach is good enough, but it isn't.  The Spirit has to do everything.  We have to teach "by" the Spirit, or like a talk from April conference said "after the manner of the workings of the Spirit".  We're just tools in His hands, and nothing more.  It has to be done like it says in D&C 50:13-22 or it isn't the Lord's way.  I'm glad the missionaries there understand that.

Well that's too bad that we're selling the Joker.  Tell him I'll miss him dearly.  If there're plans to get another car anytime in the future when Dad starts making money, I want in on the decision.  If not, I guess I'll have to start saving.  

Here's the ward letter:

Windsor 7th Ward:
Here we are at the beginning of another new  year.  I've pondered about what I should write you this month, and I've got nothing.  What follows will be pure inspiration.
Often, people make new year's resolutions these days.  I'm all for that.  I'll be doing it tonight as well.  What do you suppose will happen with those in a week?  A month?  In June?  By next new year?  If we follow most of our past years' traditions, we'll have forgotten about them before long, and no changes will be made in our lives.  This gospel is about progression, not stagnancy.  Conversion, not commodity.  I think that's the key word: conversion.  When we make these resolutions, it's because we want to convert ourselves into something better.  Granted, this requires doing small or large things that lead to this conversion, but that's the ultimate goal.
Let's approach resolution-making from a gospel standpoint.  What does conversion require?  First, we need a testimony, a knowledge that what we're doing is correct and beneficial to our eternal souls.  We must then rely on the Lord to give us the ability to fulfill our desires.  We do all within our power, making plans, setting goals, and then put it in His hands, knowing His grace is sufficient for us all (2 Ne. 25:23).  As we consistently seek the Lord's help and strive to live according to the knowledge we've been given, we become more Christlike.  I would invite you to review Elder Bednar's talk from the October conference, and apply those principles to your resolutions.  Let us go on in so great a cause!  The Lord is on our side anytime we want to do what's right, and seeking to improve ourselves is certainly something right.  I testify that the Lord's grace can make us more than we even know we can be.  He loves every one of His children, all of you included.
I wish you all the best in your resolve to become more Christlike by setting worthy goals,
Elder Facer

I know that this is the Lord's work.  I know that He guides us and directs us as we participate in it.  I know that following Christ's example makes us more like Him and more happy.  I testify that serving others is one of the very best ways to do this.  I know that the Gift of the Holy Ghost is very real, and that Heavenly Father can speak to us all personally because He knows us perfectly.  I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real.  He did suffer for us.  He did die for us.  He did resurrect so that we may all achieve the greatest blessings of eternity: "all that the Father hath".  I know that we are never alone when we are in the Lord's work.  I know that D&C 84:88 is absolutely true.  I know that the Lord loves all of His children, even those who have died without the gospel.  I know that temple work is one of the greatest examples of selfless service, and brings us great joy.  I know that families can be united eternally through Heavenly Father's plan and the Atonement of Christ.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Already?

It sure seems strange that it's already Christmas.  It was weird enough turning 18 months on Saturday.  Time is just an interesting thing.  Anyway, things are going alright here.  Missionary work is still slow, but it's going a little better.  We're finally starting to figure out how to get more referrals, but none of them are interested.  Other than that, finding through our own efforts hasn't produced any semblance of fruits, and things are still rough in that aspect.  It doesn't help that my companion is also fairly disobedient.  I was hoping that, being a new missionary, he wouldn't have fallen into those habits yet.  He's essentially a personality replica of Elder Sotelo.  That makes things hard, especially when he doesn't take any kind of correction well at all.  I tried to let him know very nicely that we need to wake up at 6:30 and he gave me a half hour of excuses and off topic stories from the MTC that essentially ended in "I know we need to get up at 6:30, but I don't because it's hard".  I would give anything to have another Elder Peña right now, but I guess this is my lot in the mission: disobedient companions that love losing time with members.  I'm trying as hard as I can to love him and teach him, but I know I can only do so much.
The good news is that I feel like I'm making a lot of personal progress.  I've started taking the small PMG that Brig gave me everywhere and studying any spare moment we have, and it's been helping a lot.  As much as I've learned during the last 18 months, there's just so much more that I still need to learn, and I'm getting a good start on that.  We finally got the conference Liahona as well, and that was a welcome new reading material.  I have conference issues back to 2008, but there's nothing like the most recent issue to bring the Spirit.  I'll finish the Book of Mormon tomorrow morning as well, and then I get to figure out how I'm going to make time to read the standard works one more time before I finish while still studying PMG and for our few investigators and what not.  I think daily personal study won't be a difficult thing when I get home.
We had our missionary Christmas devotional on Friday, which was good.  We always do a tie exchange, and Elder Gaytan sent me a tie as well (I secretly gave him one when he left, too), and the one from the exchange and the one he sent are the exact same tie.  Sweet.  Just one more present that I can give away.  All the Call family came, so that was fun, and they put on a good program for us, even though they had lots of screaming children.  It took me right back to Utah where there actually are lots of children.  The good news is that I also got a letter from Sharon after not having heard from her in a while, but the bad news is that it was the only letter I got.  I haven't heard from Alyssa in several weeks despite having had many opportunities to get mail.  That was a bit of a downer, but the conference Liahona made me happy.
That's great that Lys had her baby.  Mom thinks he's tiny, but according to Lys's stats, he was pretty big.  21 inches and 8 lb 3 oz.  That's longer than I was and only a little bit lighter.  Anyway, I'm pretty excited to meet the little guy tomorrow.  I'll be excited to meet Scott and Alicia's new baby, but in May as well.  Speaking of those two couples, happy anniversaries to both of you.  If I remember correctly, Scott and Alicia was the 16, and Lys and Manuel was the 20.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but either way, congratulations on babies and still being married.  I liked that experience that Dad shared.  There's just no feeling like giving of yourself to help others.  I'm also really glad that you're working again.
Skype will be at 7:30 my time.  I realized I forgot to specify after writing last week.  That'll be 6:30 your time.  Thanks for making sure Alyssa knows.  I'll appreciate it very much.  
I know that this gospel is true.  It is the only true gospel, and the only way that we can return to the Father's presence.  I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior.  His Atonement is infinite, and we are all included, not only in the culmination of His suffering, but also in the bounteous mercy and grace that flow from Him as a result.  I know that we can all be lifted by Him, the Holy One of Israel, if we will but come unto Him.  There is simply no other peace that will suffice in our trials aside from that promised by the Savior Himself: "Peace I leave with you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you".  Peace has been taken from the world as a sign of the second coming.  We can only find peach through the very Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.  I testify that His mercy and grace are always sufficient for us, and we are never forgotten.  No matter how alone we may feel, He is always waiting with open arms to receive us.  I know that as we strive with all our heart, might, mind, and strength to follow Him, we will be encircled about in the arms of His everlasting love.  I know that God's plan for us is real, and it allows us to receive the greatest blessings in this life and eternity: an eternal family living in His presence, becoming as He is.  That is true happiness, and the world can never give that.
A very Merry Christmas to you all, remembering why we celebrate this special day (If you've forgotten, you may read the preceeding paragraph).  I'm very excited to see you and talk to you tomorrow.

Elder Facer

Monday, December 17, 2012

D&C 84:106

                                          Elder Vicente
Transfers came today, and I'm no longer with Elder Gaytan.  He went to Huehuetoca (the next area over), but I just hope I did everything I could for him before he left.  The surprising news is that I'm training!  Holy cow, I didn't see that coming.  My new companion is Elder Vicente from Oaxaca, but he's just waiting on his visa to go to Buenos Aires (North mission).  Either way, I was super excited to find out that I would be having my firstborn son (now I know how Lys and Alicia must be feeling).  I even got sick this morning before leaving, so I had labor pains and all, just like a real live birth.  But probably not.  Really no, I know it's a little (or a lot) harder than that.  He said they've about assured him that he'll be leaving early January after they open the consulate again after Christmas, but we'll see.  The good news here is that I have felt that this is exactly what I needed right now.  If I knew before that the Lord knows us and our needs, I know it a whole lot more now.  They mentioned several times in the trainer's training this morning that we were chosen to train because we are the best missionaries in the mission, and both president and the Lord have deposited a lot of trust in us.  A few weeks ago, I'd probably have agreed with that, but I've been very much humbled since then.  Although I feel undeserving of this privilege, I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to have this impact on a new missionary (who is also a recent convert).
Mostly, we had a slow week, but I feel like things are going to really blow up here.  I just feel a new excitement for missionary work now, as well as a huge responsibility to be as close to perfect as possible.  Before, I knew I needed to do things right and try to improve every day, but now I just feel like that isn't enough.  I'm going to be the biggest influence on Elder Vicente throughout most of his mission, and I couldn't be ok showing how an ok missionary is.  He needs to know what a Preach My Gospel missionary is, and it's my job to show him.  I see many great things in the next few weeks or transfers or however long he's going to be here.  Along with D&C 84:106, I think D&C 82:3 describes fairly well how I feel.
For Skype, we're going to do it Christmas night at 7:30.  Could you please make sure Alyssa gets notified?  Her email is  I hope she'll read this, but please make sure she's aware, even if she's aware in Mexico.  
Brig, Dad, and Lys, thanks for writing this week.  Don't feel like you're taking my time by writing.  I can read through your emails fast enough or just print them so as not to take up much time, but it means a lot that you all write.  I just barely got Emily's letter from October.  The mail has been pretty slow lately, and I haven't gotten letters from Alyssa in a couple of weeks.  We'll see when the next one comes and if any got lost.  I appreciate all of your compliments and encouragements from everyone who writes.  
It's just amazing to see how much this mission has impacted me.  I remember talking to Alyssa shortly before I left, and I told her that I thought we were both mature enough that we wouldn't change too much in just a couple of years.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Serving the Lord full-time can't not change a person.  All we have to offer Him is our will, and doing so puts all of us into His very capable hands.  Doing so every day has wrought changes in me that I didn't think would ever occur.  I'm still essentially the same Joseph, but at the same time, I've become so much more than I thought I could be.  I trusted so little in the Lord before I left, and still don't have the faith that I know many of you have, but I know that the Lord can change us.  He gives us weaknesses to humble us and incite us to come to Him and make them strengths.  It's kind of a manipulative move, but in such a loving way.  The only smart thing we can do is go to Him and let Him take away our weaknesses  and make us so much better.  His grace is sufficient for all men and all of their weaknesses, and His greatest desire is to help us make them strong and, ultimately, make us like Him.
I know that this is the Lord's work.  He directs it.  His hand can be seen in every aspect of it.  It is nothing short of a miracle that I, as weak as I am, have been able to do this.  I know I'm not alone when I'm on the Lord's errand.  He goes before my face, He is on my right and on my left, His Spirit is in my heart, and His angels have definitely lifted me up on many occassions.  I know that this is the only true church of Jesus Christ on the earth.  Nowhere else is salvation made available to the sons of men.  Nowhere else is the fulness of the love of God manifest than in the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  I testify of the infinite nature of the Atonement.  When we use this special gift in our lives, everything improves.  There is no aspect of our lives that isn't made infinitely better by applying the Atonement.  I know that Jesus suffered infinitely, descending below absolutely everything, to give us an escape and a relief.  I testify that the promise He gives in Matthew 11:28-30 is true.  As we come unto Him, giving Him our cares, burdens, sorrows, and pains, He will wrap us in the arms of His love.  Interestingly, only by "taking His yoke upon you", the heaviest yoke ever borne, do our yokes become light.  Just giving Him our yoke isn't enough, we must take upon ourselves His.  I know that He loves us perfectly.

Elder Facer

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Still in the same...

Things are still going about like they have been for the past transfer.  If I'm totally honest, this is really hard.  I'm certainly not getting discouraged, but it's hard not to be frustrated.  Elder Gaytan and I had a talk last night and he just said "I know I'm not getting any better, I know I'm not making an effort, and I'm not doing anything to change".  We went to the offices to talk to President today, but I don't know what's going to happen.  President promised me that I can still have success, and I know I need to have faith in that promise, but it's going to be a hard thing for me.  It's a good thing that in our family, "we do hard things".  As stupid as I used to think that was, I can't tell you how many times I've had to face a challenge and just say that to myself in order to get through it.  I know I can do hard things.
I'm glad to hear things are mostly well for everyone.  I got a letter from Alyssa L. as well, and she's just fine from the sound of things.  Thanks for writing.  I sent you a letter through Alyssa S., so watch for that.  I'm glad people like my expressive writing, but do they mention feeling the Spirit or having the desire to do the challenge I issued?  I would be very disappointed if that only got to "good writer" status.  Brig, I hope finals went well for you.  I'd sure love to hear from you sometime.  I'm sorry things are a little rough for Tara.  I spent a lot of my teenage years thinking about things like that, and you just have to push through it with faith.  I've really started to understand how important even simple faith is, and I can promise it will help you in the big decisions you've got coming up.  We're out of the rainy season.  I haven't been able to give away the christmas presents yet.  I'm trying to figure out who's going to be just the right candidate.  Emily and Sean, thanks for your contribution.  I don't know if you're still writing your monthly letters, but I haven't been getting them.  Either way, thanks for your support.  I'm so grateful for all you've done for me.  Our new apartment puts us closer to the comer (supermarket), but there's really nothing to shop for in our area besides food.  Our whole area is really far from all the other elders in the district and zone.  No matter where we are, we're far from them.  I haven't been able to use the music book Alyssa sent me.  I've played through all of them, but nobody ever has special musical numbers for any occassion.  The people here really just don't appreciate sacred music that much, to be honest.  We almost never teach in the branch.  They just don't give us opportunities.  I've got to know the members fairly well, and I feel they have a lot of confidence in me, but they still aren't helping us out much.  We're still trying to work with the mission leader.  He's decided that we can at least have weekly coordination meetings for real now, but only because he needs our progress records because the stake is going to check that he has them every three months... it's a start at least.  The ward has also started to try to make a ward mission plan, but nobody knows what it is, and they just want us to make it.  It's also difficult because only 4 or 5 members of the ward council come every week.  
I'm not really sure why I've been getting struggling companions lately.  There's obviously a lesson I need to learn from it, but I just haven't been able to figure out what.  I've been doing my best to help them, but it doesn't seem like my efforts really yield any fruits.  Elder Cox's new companion told me he's doing well, but he didn't give details.  Speaking of Jurica, Alfredo Jr. got baptized and Flor (Alfredo's wife) is now going to activities, but not church meetings.  That was very happy news.  Anyway, and now Elder Gaytan is doing worse than ever before even though I've received the witness that the help I'm trying to give is what the Lord wanted me to do.  I've learned a lot from the experience, but that doesn't make it a whole lot easier.  I definitely have learned to love more unconditionally, to be more tolerant and understanding, and I've developed a whole lot of patience.
Also, thanks Dad, for your email.  I don't have time to respond to everyone individually, but I'd still enjoy hearing from you more.  I'd sure love a word of counsel from you, or at least your thoughts on what's going on right now here and at home.
I know that Jesus is the Christ.  I testify of the infinite nature of His Atonement and of the healing and lifting powers it has.  I know that applying the Atonement will makes us better every day.  I know that any wound, hurt, sorrow, affliction, sin, or otherwise negative feeling can be healed.  The Son of Man did descend below all things.  None of us is too far gone, too alone, or too hurt to not be healed through Christ's Atonement.  I testify that the Book of Mormon is true, and was written for our day.  We are participating in the fulfillment of a great deal of the prophecies given therein, and a real study of the Book of Mormon will bring us closer to God, and give us the capacity to overcome, even as Christ overcame.  There is no greater knowledge in the world than the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We must freely share that which we have received, or even that which we have will be taken from us.  I testify that discipleship is the way to happiness.  Christ has "marked the path and led the way".  He is our leader, our King, and our Savior.  Difficult though it may be to follow exactly in His footsteps, I know the He will carry us in the paths that we for ourselves are incapable of following.  Our weaknesses can become strengths through His grace and His infinite love.
Elder Facer

Monday, December 3, 2012


Well things are still going a little rough here in all aspects.  The good news is I gave a really good testimony in church yesterday.  However, my companion is now waiting on the decision from President if he stays or goes, but he wants to go.  Really, I feel like I've done all that I can.  At least once a week we take almost half of the day talking, trying to work through things so we can try to function as a real companionship instead of wasting time, not being effective, and not making improvement.  I've made a very concerted effort to follow the Spirit in this, and I've never done it just to correct him (even though President told me I should if I ever need to), but I can't make him change.  Every time after we finish and we go out, I make sure that I did things as the Lord would have me do it, and I always have felt His approval.  I guess if he doesn't want to be here, he doesn't have to be, and really shouldn't be, but I'm still going to do all that I can as long as he's here.  Unfortunately, that means the work still can't progress.  One lesson I've learned for certain is that real success will never occur without a successful companionship.  I baptized 3 people with Elder Sotelo, but I didn't feel even a little bit successful.
Today we moved houses to Teoloyucan (we've been in the process since I got here), so it'll be nice to have a change of scene, a nicer house, and not be so dang far away from everything.  We're basically right in "downtown" Teolo, so transportation, food, and members are all close by.  Happy day, all is well.
I was wondering why I didn't see Sister Gerdy in the Christmas devotional.  It was really good, though.  I think I'm getting an even deeper testimony of music, and I sure love that.  That's awesome that Mike is doing so much better.  I wish I would've been a better friend to him from the start.  We had some common interests, and I maybe could've helped him out, but I'm really happy for him.  I'm glad things went well with your "preemie" missionary visit (that just sounds like they aren't quite going to make it to full-term...).  It sounds like it was well planned by the leaders, and even by the boys (14 year olds probably couldn't cut it as full-time missionaries, though).  Alyssa Shirley also thinks I'm quite eloquent, but I don't really see it.  I'm glad that letter will get some circulation, though.  Like I said, I felt quite inspired writing it.  I'd be fine being the music and the spoken word guy, but I'd rather be the tabernacle organist.  I can't tell you how much I miss playing a real organ, and I had a very strong prompting last week that I need to keep learning and practicing the organ.  I liked Tara's "regular" story with the temple.  I plan on being a regular as soon as I'm back.  Maybe they could come to know us as the famous brother-sister pair that does baptisms every Friday morning.  That's good that Brig is finally getting his cast off.  I showed the pictures you sent to some members, and a couple of girls immediately fell in love with Brig and think he looks like some famous actor whose name they don't remember.  I told them good luck.
Jose and family have been MIA lately.  They had a daughter in the hospital and getting married at the same time, and we haven't been able to find them.  Chava is doing ok.  He's quit drinking for the last week, but doesn't want anything to do with the church.  Right now, our only two real investigators are both member's husbands.  Genaro has all the lessons and is working to quit smoking, but yesterday his wife told me that he's pretty discouraged.  He's got a date for the 16, so we're hoping everything goes well with him.  Jorge is living with a less-active member who just had a baby.  He's had all the lessons before, but they never had money to get married and wouldn't accept help.  They're finally planning their wedding for sometime soon (they still don't know exactly when), and he said he wants to be baptized after getting married.  That was definitely heaven sent.
I think that's about it for this week.  Hopefully we have better news next week.  Also, I got a letter from Alyssa from 10/30, but it took forever to get here, like double the normal time.  We should be getting letters this Wednesday (but for me Tuesday because I have to go to the offices then to DF to sign my visa), so I'm hoping for maybe 2 more.  Also, Christmas Skype will be in the afternoon.  The family that's going to let me use their computer plays sports all day Christmas, so they said around 6 or 7 Mexico time.  I'll keep you posted.
I know that this is the Lord's work.  He takes part in it and prepares the way for us to do what He needs us to do in it.  I know that we have all been given very special, specific gifts and talents to help in the Lord's work here on earth.  I know that we can all participate, and He will help us be successful.  I know that President Monson is a true prophet of God today.  Joseph Smith restored the true church and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Book of Mormon is absolutely true.  I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior.  As we strive to follow His example, we become more like Him, and better prepared to return to live with Him.  I know that His Atonement is real, and that only as we use it can we be cleansed from our sins.  That is the central truth of the gospel, and we must take full advantage of it every single day.  I know that repentance brings us great joy, and can make us so much better than we could be without it.  It is a gift for all.  I know that Heavenly Father loves us.  We are His spirit children, and He knows us all perfectly.  I know that He hears and answers our prayers, and that His plan for our salvation is perfect.  I love this gospel, and I know with all of my being that it is true.

Elder Facer