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28 May 2012

Week 27: Six Months Ago

My dear family - It's hard to believe that almost 6 months have passed, just like Dad wrote to me! In two days I celebrate my 1/4 mark. I can't even believe it. It still feels like we drove into Provo just last week. Unbelievable. It's crazy how fast the time has been flying, and it's almost June already.

Mom - I'm so sorry to hear that about your dad. :( I hope all is going well down there, and that everything gets taken care of. I hope and pray that you have a safe trip, and that all works out there. I will keep praying for you. I love you, Mom!
Dad - A solar eclipse?? That's awesome! Did you get any pictures or anything by chance? Either way, that's really cool... The members here sometimes give us food, sometimes not. There's a couple families that we pass by, and when we do, they usually feed us, so that's nice. But overall we're pretty much on our own here haha. How did money and stuff work back then for you guys? And were transfers the same way, every 6 weeks? It's so cool to read about your mission, and I always look forward to it!
Marilee - You already know, but I'll respond to yours separately.

Anyway, this week had its low points, but overall, it was a pretty good week! We were able to work with Zondy really well, and he's gone like 9 or 10 days now without smoking, so he's on track for his new baptismal date of June 9! That actually turns out to be his birthday also, so what better day to be born again than on the day you were first born? I just hope I'm here to see it, since it's three days after transfers. I have a feeling I'll be staying in Guayanilla, but really nobody knows except President and the Lord haha. But we had a really great lesson with Zondy and a couple of members this past Thursday. The high councilor over missionary work and the first counselor in the Stake Presidency came down from Penuelas to this lesson, and it was an amazing lesson. They bore such powerful, sweet testimonies, and the Spirit was definitely there. Zondy is still progressing, and he's making the changes he needs to so as to be ready. I'd love to stay for his baptism because it would be my first! But the important thing is that he gets baptized, and keeps following on the path to exaltation.

Besides Zondy, we were able to go up to Penuelas on Saturday. The old Stake President, Hno. Doel Irizarry, is one great man. He drove all the way down from Penuelas to take us up there, then stayed with us all that afternoon as we contacted a referral and set up an appointment with him the next day, and visited a less active and a recent convert. Incredible. He then brought us back home later that day. And then on Sunday, he drove back down to pick us up, and take us to our appointment which he offered to hold in his home! Sadly, the man was busy, and said he'd call us... so hopefully we'll be able to get into contact with him and teach him, because he is looking for the truth, and I firmly believe that once we start teaching him and helping him come unto Christ, he will know that this is the true church. It's so good to start seeing some changes here in Guayanilla. :)

On top of that, we got a ton of referrals from the members this past week! So now we have a bunch of people to contact, and it's even better because the members are more willing to work with us, since they are worried about their friends. Also, one member brought a couple of her friends to church yesterday, and we were able to set up an appointment with them for this Thursday with the ward mission leader. So really, miracles can happen when the members truly put in a little effort to help out the missionaries. That's when the real growth comes, and it's been so great to finally see the changes and blessings that come when we work with the members, and seek to truly strengthen them and help them. While there were slow days, and days where we had to just contact and visit less actives, it was really good, because we started to see a little bit of change in the way we work with the members here. An overall good week. :)

Anyway, I'm doing pretty good here! It's getting hotter every day, and I get burnt a little bit, but it's all good. Puerto Rico is beautiful, and I'm loving it here. It's hard work, and every morning I wake up a little more tired, but it's good. :) Oh! Before I forget, one day this past week, I think Tuesday, my bike decided to start acting up on me. The back tire just deflated when we were far away from the apartment, so I tried pumping it back up, but it just deflated again. So I found the hole (the seam on the inside of the tube had just split) and tried to patch it. It held for a bit, but didn't really fix the problem, so I ended up having to buy another inner tube. That was obnoxious. So basically I had to take off and repair my back tire twice. Such a pain. But it's all good. Life is good, and keeps pushing forward. :)

I love you all so very much my dear family, and I hope you're all doing well. I keep you in my prayers morning and night, and I always look forward to hearing from you on Mondays. :) Mom, again, I hope all is going alright for you and everyone in Argentina, and I will keep them in my prayers as well. Thank you for your support and prayers and for everything. :) I love you!

Con mucho amor,

Elder Kimball Ray Gardner

Puerto Rico San Juan Mission

21 May 2012

Week 26: There's Much Work to Do

Well, another week has come and gone already. Time just keeps pushing forward and we keep doing our best! It was great to hear about all your experiences this week, although the painful ones were not as nice to read haha.. but I'm glad you're all doing relatively well! 

Mom - First off, I am sorry you twisted your ankle! It's no fun... you know as well as I do the times where I rolled/twisted my ankle, so I completely understand what you're going through right now. But I hope it's getting better for you, and that you start feeling better soon! It's crazy to hear about what's going on down in Argentina, and I hope that's all working out well and everything. And Elder Paxman's lost 20 pounds?? I'd say that's about how much I've lost, but I don't have a scale or anything, so I don't know for sure. That's great though, I'm sure he's doing some great work down there. :)
Dad - Don't worry about not sending the package yet. I don't know when the next time is I'll be going to the office, but if you are looking for ideas, maybe you could send the new For Strength of Youth pamphlet? Elder Hammer got one and it's really cool, and the mission hasn't gotten them yet, so I think it'd be cool to have a copy if you could? Also, my Captain Moroni tie bar is getting pretty beat up (it was old before I left), so if you want or whatever, maybe you could send a new one? Thank you again for your experiences. It reminds me so much of my first few days here... and it's great to be able to read about your experiences. I really do look forward to reading them every week! And that Stake Conference sounds like it was incredible. You'll have to update me on that as well!
Marilee - I already wrote you back, sis. :)

Anyway, the week! I think I'm going to start writing about my week differently, since writing about it day-by-day gets a bit slow, since a lot of the days are the same with just riding around contacting or trying to find people. Basically I think from now on I'm going to just talk about our investigators and how they're doing, and anything cool that happened. But if you like the other way better, let me know! That way is more organized and everything so if you like it better, I wouldn't mind keeping it that way. We'll just try it out this way this week and see how you like it. 

So starting with Zondy, our prime investigator, we were able to teach him a few times this past week, and on Saturday morning he gave us a call and said that he didn't smoke that morning! We were very excited, and happy for him because it's a step in the right direction. We had to cancel his baptismal date for this coming weekend, but we're going to set a new one for him in June to work for. He did come to church yesterday, and didn't smoke yesterday either, so that was awesome. He really wants to change, and I know he wants to do the right thing, and he is such a humble young guy, and I just want the best for him. He's so close, but Satan is working hard on him. But he's going to come play basketball with us today, so that will be good for him to get out and everything.  

This past week was kind of rough because we weren't really able to work with the members very much. It's been difficult getting members to come with us, but this week we're going to try really hard to get members to come out with us, because it's when the members come out with us that the miracles start to happen. Something interesting from this week was on Wednesday, Elder Mangelson had a district leader meeting in Bayamon, so Elder Keller from Ponce came here to Guayanilla, and we worked for that day together. That night we had a meeting with the bishop, and he gave some good ideas to work better with the members, so that was really helpful. The problem was, on Sunday, al lot of the members were up in San Juan for some Army testing thing, since a lot of Puerto Ricans are in the Army. So yeah, it's been difficult working with the members, but I think we'll see some change in a bit here. 

With other investigators, we don't have a ton of other investigators right now... :( We found a really cool lady though, who has a family and everything! Her name is Priscilla, and I guess she's talked to the Sister Missionaries in Ponce, but lives in Guayanilla, so we're planning on talking to her and teaching her family. She seemed really cool and pretty interested, so I think there's some potential there. There are also a couple of other families we found, and we offered to help them move this past weekend, but when we passed by there, they weren't there. So that was too bad... but hopefully we'll be able to find them on another occasion and start teaching them. 

But yesterday we had a cool experience in Yauco. The Tesch's, which are the senior couple in our district, invited us over there (they work in all of Ponce), and we taught a less-active family, the Feliciano family, and we and the Yauco Elders helped in the blessing of the mom who was sick, and the dad who needed some strength. But it was a really cool experience and I think it will really help them progress.

Anyway, besides that, nothing too crazy happened this week. :) We keep progressing with Zondy, and helping him, and I think we'll be having a good week this week! I really hope that all is going well for you, and know that I love you very much. Thank you for all your support and all that you do. Thank you for everything my dear family! I love you!

Con muchisimo amor,

Elder Kimball Ray Gardner

Puerto Rico San Juan Mission

14 May 2012

Week 25: Great Mother's Day

My dear, dear family. Might I say, it was GREAT to hear from you last night!! It was definitely the highlight of the day, week, transfer! It was so good to hear how you're all doing and to just sit and talk with you all. :) I loved it.

Mom - Thank you for the pictures! And that's pretty scary about the break-ins... I hope that it doesn't happen to you guys.
Dad - About your mission experiences, that is cool! Do you happen to remember your apartment building and classroom building numbers? Just curious, 'cause maybe we were in the same buildings! Not likely, but maybe haha. It's cool to read about your experiences though, and I look forward to reading more.
Marilee - I just replied to your email. :)

Anyway, just a quick review of the week, since I think I basically told you everything big that happened on the phone.

Monday was P-day, and that night we talked to a crazy man named Benny, who believes he's had a supernatural, extraterrestrial experience. He's absolutely out of his mind haha.. so... we're not going back there.

Tuesday was an okay day. That night we drove to Ponce for a "center of strength" where the members go out with the missionaries to less actives, but there weren't enough members there, so we had to drive back. It kind of destroyed our night, and we weren't able to work that night. It was dumb. But the idea behind it is good, they just need more participation.

Wednesday we rode our bikes a lot, and rode out for a while in our area, and we contacted a bunch of people. It was hot and I got a little burnt, but it's okay, I'm getting tan from it. :) Nothing too big happened that day though.

Thursday also was kind of slow (it's been a slower week for us), although we did get a member to come with us to Zondy's house. We taught him a good lesson to review the Restoration. After, we packed up and headed all the way up to Bayamon, and stayed the night with the AP's. That was interesting, and Elder Mangelson and I got the one room without A/C. Blech. I hardly slept that night haha... but then Friday morning was Zone Conference, and it went from about 8:00 to 6:00. It was LOOOONG. But it was good, and we received a lot of instruction. It was really cool too, because Pres. Glazier was there from the DR! (He was the CCM President there). So that was really cool to see him again, and when he taught with Pres. Alvarado, it was so intense in there, and the things they were trying to tell us were pretty geared to our work on the field.

Saturday, we had a big day planned, but a lot of citas fell through and whatnot, so we ended up only getting a few lessons in, one with Zondy. That was really cool though, because we taught him about the Priesthood authority, and then we asked if he wanted a blessing to overcome smoking, and he said yes. So we gave him a blessing of strength, and he said he felt really good. So hopefully he's progressing and doing better. He didn't make it to church yesterday because he was sick, but I think he's going to do better. This morning we had our "district meeting" with the whole zone here in Ponce, and Pres. Alvarado was there, and basically Elder Mangelson and I figured that we need to focus more on what Zondy needs to do now, rather than what the end result will be. It was a good meeting today, and I think it helped a lot to get us refocused on what he really needs. But yeah, that brings us to today!

Anyway, I'm sorry this was a kind of shorter, but the other elders seem to be in a bit of a rush. Just know that I love you all oh so very much! And again, it was so good to talk to you yesterday and hear your voices again! It was great to hear how you're all doing and to hear what's going on in everyone's lives. I keep you in my prayers always, and I hope that everything stays well with you. I love you all so much, and thank you so much for all your support and everything. It means so much to me. :)

With more love than I can express,

Elder Kimball Ray Gardner
Puerto Rico San Juan Mission

07 May 2012

Week 24: New Place, Different People, Same Gospel

Dear family -

Another week has come and gone. Crazy! It's been a little strange adjusting to a new area, but it's been great at the same time. It's been good to finally use my bike, and since we don't have a car in this area, that's all I've been doing, is either biking or walking. So yeah, I get a bunch of exercise haha, which is good. Anyway, not a terribly eventful week, but a pretty good one. I'll get to it in a second.

Mom - So my little sister has taken over the mowing, eh? Good for her! I hope she likes it at least a little. I almost can't even imagine cold mornings anymore haha… living in one of the hotter parts of the island, it's hardly ever cold. It's been raining a little bit more lately and I have a crazy story for you in a bit, but I guess hurricane season starts next month all the way to December, so that will be interesting!
Dad - It's good to hear the garden is in, and that that went well. I hope Rexy boy is doing good! How is he? There's a ton of dogs around here (all mutts and strays) but they make me miss the dogs back home a little bit. Regarding the letter from the High Council, I haven't gotten mail since the last transfer day, and so I don't know what I've gotten. Zone conference is this Friday up at the office, so we'll see if anything is there or not. Anyway, I look forward to talking to you on Sunday!
Marilee - I already replied to your email. :)

Anyway, this past week was a nice, wet, rainy week. Hurricane season here we come! Last night one of the members said that this year the moon got the closest to the earth, and that it does that every few years, and when that happens something really bad happens, like Katrina, or the Tsunami in India and stuff like that, so he was basically saying that there's going to be some really bad hurricanes this year. We'll see, but I don't know how much truth is behind all of that. Anyway, I'll be buying some stuff for my 72 hour kit today, just in case.  :)

But moving on, last Monday we didn't have any money for anything, so we just went and played some basketball, since there's nothing to do in Guayanilla or Yauco. Monday really wasn't all that eventful either, we just did a bit of contacting, and then visited a member family. Nothing too big happened there.

On Tuesday, we were able to go and teach our investigator, Zondy. He is such a humble, great guy, and he knows he needs to be baptized. He's such an amazing guy, and I know he's doing all of this for the right reasons. He's trying really hard to stop smoking, and actually called this morning because he gave in and smoked. So we talked him through it and everything, and we're really trying to help him. He's dedicated and very receptive. That night, we weren't able to get him a ride to institute that he really wanted to go to, so he started walking. He did get a ride from a friend, but he was dedicated to walk the whole way. And then there was no institute, because the teacher cancelled, so he met with the bishop for a little while and we had a nice lesson.

It was really good for the bishop to finally meet him, because on Wednesday, we went over to Zondy's house with the bishop and had a really great lesson about the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement. It was a pretty dang good lesson. Besides that, nothing too special happened on Wednesday. The main focus this past week has been working with Zondy and really trying to help him quit smoking. He is so close, too! So yeah, we did some contacting the rest of that day, and visited some members.
Thursday we did a lot of riding around trying to find people, and contacting. It turns out that institute was actually that night, so we went with Zondy, and he enjoyed it pretty well. However, the few members there started talking about some crazy stuff that he'd never heard of before, so on Friday, we passed by and cleared some things up about the temple and stuff. Nothing too deep, just stuff that is normally taught after baptism.

Anyway, Friday was a bit crazy. We were out riding around in an area called Quebradas, which is a fair distance from our house. And then it started POURING rain. I mean POURING. So we started riding back home. I was soaked. We passed under an overpass, and Elder Mangelson asked me if we should stop. I figured we were soaked enough already, that we might as well just keep going. So we did, and rode through puddles, and cars drove by and got us all wet and stuff, and so by the time we got back to the apartment, I was DRENCHED. It was seriously as though I had jumped into a lake. I dumped out a ton of water from my shoes. And then a car drove by through a puddle and got me even more wet as I stood by the door waiting for Elder Mangelson to unlock it haha. It was crazy. My shoes weren't dry until yesterday. Goodness. We basically then just dried off, waited out the rain, and then went back out on foot. It was still drizzling a bit, but not pouring anymore haha. Too crazy.

That was Friday. Moving onto Saturday, it was kind of cloudy, but not too rainy. It was still wet, but not like Friday. We did teach another investigator though, named Felix. He's kind of a weird guy. He was in the army, and told a bunch of crazy stories of him flying and stuff, but he's kind of weird haha. We taught a good lesson though, about the Plan of Salvation, and he was pretty receptive. I think it was a pretty decent lesson. Besides that, we visited some members, and got Zondy a ride to church, and started fasting. Other than that though, nothing too exciting.

Then yesterday, Zondy came to church! He really liked it, and the bishop actually talked about him in the middle of Sacrament meeting, talking about how great of an example he is, and that he walked all the way to institute and stuff like that. All the members the rest of the day were complimenting him and stuff. During Gospel Principles, the teacher basically taught straight to him, and committed him to baptism again... and then in Priesthood they were all talking about how Zondy is going to go to the temple soon and all this crazy stuff. It was a bit wild, but Zondy enjoyed it all. He said he really loved the testimonies. So yeah, he's progressing and I think he knows it's true, he just needs to stop the smoking. But yeah, then after church we contacted for a while, and then passed by an investigator, Miguel, but he was with some friends so couldn't let us in, so we went to a member's and that's where we set up the phone calls for next week and stuff.

And then this morning, the senior missionaries in our district made us breakfast. :) They're the best!

Just 6 days and I’ll be calling. Just be ready around 3:00 and I'll be calling. I love you all so much, and keep you in my prayers. You are all an unfailing source of hope and support to me, and I am forever thankful for all that you do. I love you all very much. Talk to you soon mi querida familia!
Les amo mucho- mas que puedo decir.

Con mucho amor,

Elder Kimball Ray Gardner
Puerto Rico San Juan Mission