We love to travel, no doubt about it. One of our favorite destinations includes The Bay of Banderas surrounding Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In the fall of 2014, working as business management consultants, we had been laboring extraordinarily hard in packaging and selling a sizable aviation company for one of our clients. This project brought with it, an immense amount of work with long days and even longer nights. The sale was to close and was to fund at the end of September. Thinking we would be sorely overdue for some R&R, we booked a two-week celebratory trip, to span the last two weeks of October, to Riviera Nayarit, just to the north of the City of Puerto Vallarta.
The Bay of Banderas, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico as photographed from our “office”.
We could see the finish line for the sale project on the horizon. As the trip grew nearer, the closing date kept creeping up and threatened our departure. Then the inevitable occurred– The deal was now firmly set to close in the middle of our Mexican beach escape! We made the conscious choice to continue with our trip and we would manage the details of the closing, remotely. The temperatures at home in Oregon were starting to dip below freezing and the beach was a welcome sight when we arrived, although it would be a few days before we actually stuck our toes in the warm sand. Most of the first week was spent tidying up loose ends and unexpected tasks for the project. The foreign internet connection was shaky at best and Skype calls turned into marathon re-dialing sessions. We kept reminding ourselves that at least our “office” view was outstanding. We would regularly open the sliding door to our lanai and take in the sounds and smells of the ocean below. By the end of our first week in paradise, the deal successfully closed and so did the lid on the laptop.
When we got married, one of the promises we made to each other was that we would make a fervent attempt to attend church, no matter where our travels took us. It is a slippery slope into inactivity. One Sunday can easily turn into a month of Sundays.
“It is a slippery slope into inactivity.
One Sunday can easily turns into a month of Sundays.”
Using LDS.org, we found a chapel that served the Barrio de Ixtapa. (Ixtapa Ward). We made plans for our journey to our first foreign country meeting house. On Sunday morning, we shook the wrinkles out of our church clothes and headed for the taxi stand. We arrived at the church building a bit
Ixtapa LDS Ward building carretera a las Palmas 370 Km 3 Puerto Vallarta
early. Due to the language barrier, it was difficult to tell if it was because we had crossed the river into a different time zone or if we underestimated the alarming speed of the taxi ride, or both.
The air conditioned chapel was a welcome sanctuary, not only for worship, but from the oppressive heat and humidity in the streets.
We observed a few other visiting tourists. Some in flip-flops, shorts, and Hawaiian shirts, some in dresses and slacks. As the prelude music stopped, the building filled with what appeared to be mostly local residents, many who spoke no English. Two Elders, wearing the tell-tale name tags of missionaries were assigned to give talks. We sat and intently listened to the talks and testimonies given by these two young men–all in Spanish. While our Spanish vocabulary is limited, we were both overwhelmed by the spirit we felt during the talks that day. When the Sacrament meeting was over, we sought out these Elders to introduce ourselves and provide our email contact information. We were intent on obtaining a copy of their talks so we could read the message that we had just felt.
One of the things that continually amazes us is how The Church functions and ordinances are exactly the same, regardless of where we attend. Excepting the language, we learned that The Church in Mexico is just like our Church back home.
With great anticipation to talk with a church member in English that day, we continued our discussion with Elder Barrientos and Elder Hermansen. Judging by the blonde hair and the European name, we had a good idea that Elder Hermansen would speak English, and he did. One note about his English; We observed that his immersive experience in Spanish, and being led by the Spirit to succeed on his mission, it did not come as easy as he expected. Nonetheless, we had a great conversation with them both, thanked them for their talks that day, and left our email address with them. After a quick lesson from a local about the bus routes and directions back to our hotel, we scurried across the street to catch a bus headed to the tourist district, suddenly with a couple from Arizona in tow.
Bob and Twyla Knox were standing at the exit to the chapel debating whether to call a cab. Overhearing them, we shared that we were looking to get back to our hotel too. Providentially, they were staying at the same hotel. While we thought for a moment that we would share a cab for the thirty-minute ride back, we quickly scrubbed the idea and went the more adventurous route. They had never utilized the public buses in the region while we had had previously enjoyed reasonable success with this mode of cheap transportation.
Obisbo (Bishop) Bob, as we call him, and his delightful wife boarded the bus with us for the teeth-jarring ride to the tourist zone. We made new friends that day. Bob, serving as Bishop of the Apache Junction, AZ Ward, shared with us small insights into the challenges of serving at the head of a Ward. We had discussions on The Gospel and learned about each others’ respective families. We toured the city together and shared some delicious desserts in their condo. What an amazing place to meet some fine American Church members–on the back streets of Mexico.
After enjoying our second week on vacation, largely sans work, we departed for what we call the “Arctic Tundra”, also known as the high desert of Oregon in the winter. In no time, we were back in the swing of things. Mexico was becoming a distant, albeit fond, memory. On December 1, 2014, an email from Elder Hermansen hit my inbox. We were quite excited to open it and read the words of the talks we heard them give that day in Mexico. They were just as good as we had imagined. These inspired young men, giving two years in service to the Lord, one in a foreign land, made an impression on us that we will not forget. Seeing firsthand that the Gospel is the same truth across this Earth, is a real testimony builder. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
The talks from Elder Barrientos and Elder Hermansen appear in their entirety below, in Spanish and English.
One day in my last area, on a P-day my companion and I decided to grill meat. I remember that in my house every weekend we grilled meat and we enjoyed our time spent together. Those were happy times for me. That’s why I wanted to relive those moments with my companion in the mission. I suggested to my companion that I prepare the meat while he washes the clothes. I gathered the charcoal and tried to light it… But it wouldn’t light. After one hour it still wouldn’t light. At the hour and a half mark, my companion felt desperate and came to help me and together we lit the charcoal.
In this moment I learned the importance of teamwork.
Every member of this church, when they were baptized, lit a flame in their heart, and Sunday after Sunday they feed the flame. But when we distance ourselves from the church for whatever problem- economic, social, family etc – the flame in our heart goes out little by little. It is in these trying times when we, members and missionaries, work together to revive the flame of our brethren who have let their testimony die.
When the Savior spoke with Peter he repeated three times “lovest thou me? Feed my sheep”
Every home teacher that strives to visit the less active families and less active members and try without success to revive the flame, this is when we need to double the effort and together blow on the charcoal until once again the fire is lit.
But how do we do it?
In the Book of Mormon Alma said
34 O Lord, wilt thou grant unto us that we may have success in bringing them again unto thee in Christ.
35 Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee.
Alma 31:34-35 Brothers and sisters this work is a work of love and I know that when you are in the service of your fellow man you are only in the service of your God.
In the name of Jesus Christ amen.
SPANISH: Fue un día de preparación en mi área pasada y mi compañero y yo decidimos tener un carne asada. Tengo bellos recuerdos de mi casa cuando cada semana mi familia reunía para un carne asada y solo disfrutar estando juntos. Por eso quería revivir esos tiempos con mi compañero. .Sugerí a mi compañero que él lava su ropa mientras yo preparaba el carne.Junte el carbón y me esforcé para encenderlo, pero no quiso encender. Pasó una hora y todavía nada. Después de una hora y media, mi compañero terminó lavando su ropa y vino para ayudarme. Juntos bloqueamos el viento, soplamos y encendemos el carbón. En este momento aprendí la importancia de trabajar como equipo.
Cada miembro de esta iglesia, al bautizarse, encendió una llama en su corazón, y cada semana, damos vida a la llama al participar de la santa cena. Sin embargo, cuando nos alejamos de la iglesia, por cualquier motivo, sea económico, social, familiar, etcétera, la llama en nuestra corazón se apaga poco a poco. Es en estés momentos de prueba cuando los miembros y los misioneros tenemos que trabajar juntos para revivir la llama de nuestros hermanos quienes han dejado morir su testimonio.
Cuando el Salvador habló con Pedro, repitió tres veces, “Pedro, Me amas? Apacienta mis ovejas.”
Cada maestro orientador que se esfuerza por visitar las familias menos activos y los miembros menos activos y sin exito trata de revivir la llama, tiene necesidad de doblar el esfuerzo. Juntos soplemos el carbon hasta que nuevamente el fuego se encienda.
Pero como lo hacemos?
En el Libro de Mormon, Alma dijo:
“¡Oh Señor, concédenos lograr el éxito al traerlos nuevamente a ti en Cristo! ¡He aquí, sus almas son preciosas, oh Señor, y muchos de ellos son nuestros hermanos; por tanto, danos, oh Señor, poder y sabiduría para que podamos traer a éstos, nuestros hermanos, nuevamente a ti!”
Hermanos y Hermanas, esta obra es una obra de amor, y se que cuando esta en el servicio de su semejante, solo esta en el servicio de su Dios
En el nombre de Jesucristo, Amen
There once was a young man from Puebla named Gilbert. Once every year his town held a Mole cooking competition. Gilbert’s mom had a great recipe so one year he decided to enter. He registered in the contest and then went home and began his masterpiece. Finally he finished what he considered to be the best Mole ever. Upon arriving at the presentation of Moles, the judges asked him for his recipe. He started listing the ingredients: cookies, chocolate, pepper from Puebla, large banana. The judges interrupted him and asked if he had not received a letter in the mail. Gilbert vaguely remembered that something had arrived, but he was so busy making the mole that he never read it. The judges informed that the letter contained instructions forbidding the large banana from each recipe. Gilbert was destroyed. He begged that they could overlook the detail but the judges couldn’t accept it. He had received the letter and chose not to read it.
In like manner, we are in a competition to return to live with God. The good news is that we can all win IF we follow the instructions given in the letter, that is the holy scriptures. In 2 Nephi 29:11 we read “For out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.” Today I want to give special emphasis to the Book of Mormon. I’d like to ask a question that you can meditate. Have you read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover? If yes, have you done it twice? If you’ve read it a hundred times, are you reading it again? President Gordon B Hinckley taught, “Those who have read the Book of Mormon prayerfully, be they rich or poor, learned or unlearned, have grown under its power… Without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts… the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.” (Preach My Gospel Page 108) I testify that his words are as a prophetic and true today as they were when he pronounced them.
We are all missionaries. repeatedly we hear the valiant and prophetic cry, ” Every member a missionary!” As missionaries we have many tools to help us help others, however, Preach My Gospel teaches us that the Book of Mormon combined with the Holy Ghost is our most powerful tool. (Page 104) The same book, Preach My Gospel, declares that before we teach the Book of Mormon as missionaries we must first have a personal testimony that the Book of Mormon is true. (Page 103) We all must read all of it!
I want you all to remember that your forefathers suffered and made great sacrifices so that we can have this book in these days. Let us receive the words of this book as Jacob hoped we would in Jacob 4:3 “with thankful hearts… with joy and not with sorrow neither with contempt”. In the name of Jesus Christ amen.
SPANISH: Habia un joven de Puebla que se llama Gilberto. Anualmente su pueblo lleva a cabo una competencia en cocinar Mole. La mama de Gilberto tuvo un receta excelente entonces un ano el decidio entrar en la compentencia. Se registró en la competencia y inmediatamente empezó a trabajar en perfeccionar so mole. Despues de mucha preparacion, finalmente preparó lo que el consideró ser el mejor mole en el mundo. Al llegar a la presentacion de los moles, los jueces pidieron su receta. Gilberto empezó a dar una lista de ingredientes: galletas, chocolate, chile poblano, platano macho… pero ahi, los jueces iterumpieron. Preguntaron si no habia recibido una carta de ellos. Gilberto recordó vagamente que algo llegó pero estaba tan ocupado con el mole, que nunca tomó el tiempo para leer la carta. Los jueces informaron a Gilberto que en la carta habia intrucciones que prohibieron el uso del platano macho. Gilberto fue destruido, rogó que ellos podian ignorar esta detalle, pero los jueces no podian hacer nada. Él recibió la carta, y él escogió no leerlo.
En una manera similar, todos estamos en una competencia para regresar a vivir con Dios. Las buenas nuevas son que TODOS podemos ganar! PERO tenemos que seguir las instrucciones en la carta, o sea las santas escrituras. En 2 Nefi 29:11 leemos “porque de los libros que se escriban juzgaré yo al mundo, cada cual según sus obras, conforme a lo que esté escrito.” Hoy quiero enfocarme especificamente en el Libro de Mormon. Me gustaria que mediten esta pregunta. Ha leido el Libro de Mormon de principio a fin? Si la respuesta es sí, entonces lo ha leido dos veces? Si lo ha leido cien veces entonces esta leyendolo de nuevo?
Presidente Gordon B Hinckley ensenó “…Los que lo han leído, orando respecto a él, fueran ricos o pobres, eruditos o ignorantes, han crecido espiritualmente gracias a su poder… Sin reservas les prometo que si leen el Libro de Mormón y oran acerca de él, no
obstante las muchas veces que lo hayan leído antes, sentirán el Espíritu del Señor en su corazón… se fortalecerá su resolución de obedecer los mandamientos de Dios y sentirán que aumenta su testimonio de la viviente realidad del Hijo de Dios” (Predicad Mi Evangelio Pagina 113) Testifico que sus palabras fueron verdad cuando los pronunció y que todavía son verdad.
Todos somos misioneros. Repetidamente escuchamos el grito profetico, “Todo miembro un misionero!” Como misioneros tenemos muchas herramientas para ayudarnos ayudar a los demas, sin embargo, Predicad Mi Evangelio nos ensena que El Libro de Mormón, combinado con el Espíritu, es el instrumento más poderoso que tenemos para la conversión. (Pagina 108) El mismo libro, Predicad Mi Evangelio, declara que antes de predicar y testificar de este libro, “usted debe primero tener un testimonio personal de que el Libro de Mormón es verdadero” (Pagina 107)
Quiero que recuerden que sus antepasados sufrieron e hicieron grandes sacrificios para que tengamos este libro en estos días. Recibamos el Libro de Mormon como Jacob pidió en Jacob 4:3 “con corazones agradecidos, y las consideren para que sepan con gozo, no con pesar, ni con desprecio”
En el nombre de Jesucristo amen.