October 24, 2016

My Last Multi Zone Conference:

 

First things first, we are gonna be having a baptism this coming Saturday! Our dear sister, Hilda Puelles has finally decided to be baptized! She is a very old, very sweet (and very sick) lady so everybody pray that everything turns out smoothly for the baptism!!!

This last week was the last time I will be participating in a Multi Zone Conference. By the time the next one rolls around, I wont be Elder Cruz anymore. Given that reality, this past week has been a real reflective one for me, a time to really take a look back and see how much the mission has changed me.

The theme of our Multi Zone was that of Discipleship. What it means to truly call oneself a follower of Jesus Christ. It was impactful and inspiring. A central theme of our conference was the importance of honoring the Lords Atonement and applying to gain access to real, sincere repentance. I myself have been a witness of the blessings such a process brings, for I have suffered many imperfections both before and during the mission. I am moved to feelings beyond words when I ponder the words of Doctrine and Covenants 19: 16-19

16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all,that they might not suffer if they would repent;

17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;

18 Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—

19 Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.

I gave my final testimony during our meeting. It was a short 6 minutes or so I stood there at that pulpit. I have seen many good friends say their farewells at the very same pulpit. It was almost unreal for me to finally be one of them. I bore my simple yet sincere witness of the reality of the Gospel. I would like to share just a little of what I expressed in my testimony that day. I testify Christ lives, that he is the Redeemer of the world, and that salvation can come to any and all men and women who sincerely look to him and are searching for something better in their life. I have seen the light of the gospel that shines in the eyes of a repentant soul and I testify with solemnity that happiness in this life is only attainable through the gospel of He who walked a perfect path and lived a perfect life. The gospel blesses families, this I know for I have seen it. The Restoration of the Gospel and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon are true and real events of which I have received a personal witness. This Church is Gods Kingdom on Earth and within it are held the keys and authorities to bind families together for eternity and prepare the perfect pathway back to our Heavenly Home. Christ’s atonement and sacrifice are infinite and all powerful, and He can and will redeem any and all souls who desire to repent and change. I am one of those souls.

 

This is my testimony, and I share with all sincerity as a computer screen can possibly allow me.

 

Elder Cruz

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October 17, 2016

The miracles just keep on coming

I have been pondering a scripture a lot recently that seems to have taken on a very special and deeply profound meaning for me. In the Book of Mormon, chapter 9 of Mormon, Moroni talks of God as being a God of miracles. I have thought several times over his following statement:

15 And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourselves a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken?Has the end come yet? Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles.

16 Behold, are not the things that God hath brought marvelous in our eyes? Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God?

When I first got to the mission, in my first interview with President Rowley, he asked me a question I still remember strongly: Elder Cruz, have you seen the hand of God in your mission? I don’t quite remember what I said right then and there, but many times throughout the mission I have experienced miracles, blessings, guidance, and sometimes what seems to be just pure luck and so I think I can safely answer now, more than a year later, that yes, I have seen His hand in my mission and in my life, and it has been life changing.

Last Sunday we had 10 investigators present in our sacrament meeting, many of whom we weren’t even counting on. The ward was astounded to say the least, just as much as we were. When they I asked us, “Elders, did you guys bring all these people?” all I could say was “I suppose so?”. Truly it was a miracle, one that Elder Norman and I have been praying for since our first week as companions. Among these investigators is an older sister named Hilda who we will be baptizing on the 29th. It was hard for to sit through sacrament since she suffers from severe leg pains and she needs to keep her feet elevated. There isn’t too much room on the church benches unfortunately. We provided her with her own personal bench to sit on during gospel principles class haha, but she had a great time. I am always amazed at how God can touch the hearts of people and make them willing to come to his chapel and partake of his spirit. I don’t know how it is in other places of the world but for the people her, attending church Sunday morning is a ridiculous sacrifice and challenge. I was sincerely not counting on such a blessing this week but once again God has shown me that he does indeed work miracles and just like it says in Mormon, I cannot comprehend fully the “marvelous works of God” but I know they are real, for I have seen them.

Elder Cruz

October 10, 2016

October is now in full swing and here in the mission we are all pretty pumped to keep the work going. We had our zone meeting this past week and once again Elder Norman and I were able to rock the house. We got some good news this month. Our mission has made incredible changes and has improved substantially in the time I have been a missionary here. President Rasmussen shared with us in our last leadership council meeting that in the average baptismal rate now for a single companionship in our mission is about 12.4 per year. In December of 2015, Elder Godoy of the 70 came to our mission and told us that Peru, Piura was the worst mission out of the 30 that exist in South America Northwest. The average baptismal rate for a companionship was only 4 per year. Well, its been less than a year and we have managed to triple that number. Miracles indeed never cease and just looking back on the last 20 months of my mission, if there’s any word that could describe all that I have seen and lived through it would be this: miraculous.

 This past week was full of meetings, meetings and more meetings. The highlight of our week was probably on Sunday when a drunk man asked us to help him find his way back home and ended up trying to get into a fight with us. We tried giving him a little pass along card but he decided to tear it up right in front of us. We just walked away after that and he tried to follow us but he was a little too dizzy to move very fast. Kind of annoying, kind of sad, but all hilarious.

 Among other things, we are working hard with a wonderful new family. The Dad is named Jorge and his wife is Jessica. They came to church last Sunday and decided to stay the whole 3 hours. The fact they even came is a miracle because their whole family lives way out in the middle of nowhere. Literally they live in the middle of the desert, there’s not even a real road that goes to their house. But they came, and they loved it!

 Last Sunday Elder Norman and I visited a good friend of ours named Pedro Pardo. He is the grandfather of our recent 13 year old convert, Julio. His wife is a member as well but Pedro still cannot bring himself to make the decision. We entered his house last night and with the help of another faithful member of the ward, we decided that the best thing we could was have a testimony meeting. The spirit was powerful, the ambience was almost indescribable. Julio’s mother, who also has refused various times to be baptized ended up crying. Pedro was left almost without words. Now, I would like to say that this whole thing ended up with Pedro accepting the baptismal invitation but that’s not how it turned out. But I can say this, that as I left that lesson and went home that night I got down on my knees and thanked my Father in Heaven for putting power in our words. I thanked him for putting conviction into my heart and for allowing me to be his instrument through which he could bring the Spirit into Pedro’s home. These are all amazing families and I can only hope that our efforts will bring about change in their lives.

 Elder Cruz 

October 3, 2016

The Adventure in Piura Continues….

 

Another 6 weeks have flown by and once again transfers are upon us. Looks like my adventure here in Lopez Albujar here with Elder Norman will continue because he and I did not get transferred out. Hallelujah. We will be welcoming a brand new sister missionary straight out of the MTC into our little zone here in Piura Central so we are excited to see a new face, lets hope she adapts quickly.

 Just a little note about the Guinea pig we ate last week just to make you all laugh. Turns out that when we gutted the little guy, we forgot to take out the gall bladder. It was so small we didn’t even notice it. When we threw the Guinea pig into the pot to cook, the gall bladder exploded and the bile was cooked into the meat. When we actually served and ate the Guinea pig we noticed there was like a slight sour, bitter taste to it but we paid no attention. Only afterward did we realize our error. Haha so yeah basically we screwed up a little bit, but it was all worth it.

 

This past conference weekend was incredible. I could feel that all of the talks were 100% inspired and directed by the Spirit, and the Spirit was able to guide me just as it guided the speakers. I was especially impacted by the themes of repentance, real faith, true worship, and not losing sight of just how marvelous, promising, and awe inspiring the gospel is. Also, shout out to Sister Rhynard for performing in the Saturday afternoon session! We are so proud hahaha!

 Elder Norman and I had the blessing of meeting and bringing to church this past week a small, frail old lady named Hilda. She is from a mountain community named Huancabamba where the Church is not yet officially established. Hilda, despite her age, was very open to our message and continues to read the book of Mormon every day. She accepted our invitation to be baptized but cried when she confessed to us her fear of not being able to attend church for her poor health. She cannot walk very long distances and tires out very easily. We assured her that we would be at her side every Sunday so that she could come to the chapel, and we would do whatever it takes. It was heartwarming to bring her to conference. Due to her age, she normally has a very worn out, tired look to her, but when the Prophet came to the pulpit, she sat up straight and her eyes visibly lit up. She listened intently as President Monson expounded on the Lords plan of happiness. It looked like she was absorbing every word. I was certain that Hilda managed to find an essential piece of her testimony that day.

 Another 6 weeks lie ahead of us and Elder Norman and I are ready to take em on.

 Elder Cruz

September 26, 2016

 

Baptisms, miracles, and dead little animals!

Elder Norman and I celebrated the close of this last week with an exotic Peruvian lunch. We went out to the market this morning and found some guy who was willing to sell us a live rabbit and a Guinea pig all for the total of about 15 dollars (50 soles). Now, being missionaries we cant have pets, but we didn’t go out today looking for pets. It turns out that Peruvians like eating Guinea pigs (which are known as “kui”) so we called up some members and in no time we were cooking up some Guinea pig and rabbit in a giant pot. Unfortunately, I had the task of slicing the Guinea pigs throat. He didn’t enjoy it very much (neither did I). My friend Elder White taught me how to skin the fur off, that was cool. There was lots of blood, but hey it tasted great.

 The reason for celebration is because last Saturday we were blessed to see our good friend Oscar Gomez enter the waters of baptism. Oscar is a good man who hasn’t had the best of luck with his wife and family. His wife left him many months ago and has permitted very little time for him to be with his three kids. She didn’t even let them be present at his baptism. He suffers from many financial debts and the pain of no longer living with his kids, but as I saw him step into that font, I had no doubt of his faith. In the past months I have seen this man make some huge changes in his life, to from learning how to pray to leaving alcohol behind to being willing to pay tithing even if he doesn’t even make enough money to support himself. He is a man with a sincere heart, and I am just glad to say we could be instruments in the Lords hands to bring him to this point in his life.

 Elder Norman and I continue to find miracles everywhere we go. The ward is starting to catch the wave on missionary work and new investigators pop up out of nowhere, just letting us know that God is always conscious of his children. Its been fun this past week.

 Elder Cruz

 p.s We finally caught the rat in our room!

 

Sept 19, 2016

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We had companion exchanges with the Assistants this week so I cleaned my room and got on my A Game for this one. It was a really incredible experience because in spite of the fact that all our appointments fell through, we still managed to find the Lords miracles.

 Miracle number 1: All of our plans had fallen through basically and it was around 6:30 in the afternoon. Elder Vasquez suggested that we go and knock doors until our next appointment. I sat down on the curb and told him we should say a little prayer to know where to go. I said the prayer and as I soon as I opened my eyes, I saw a house that caught my attention. We knocked and a man in his 40s or 50s walked out with that little look on his face that people get when the Elders come to bother them. He clearly knew who we were and what it is we do. As we talked, he confessed that he was a less active and had been very dedicated to the church before. He had received up to the Higher Priesthood and was a local leader in Piura Central but for various reasons he had fallen away and lost his testimony of the Church.


It was funny and incredible at the same time when he asked us “okay, who sent you guys?”. Clearly he thought that some church leader had sent us to go look for him. I looked him right in the eyes and all I could say was, “Well, God did”. We told him we had just said a prayer and were instantly led to his house. Needless to say he was a little surprised and this little experience got us another appointment on Tuesday.

 At the end of the day, the assistant, Elder Vasquez, complimented me a lot on my teaching skills. He said I was one of the best teachers he had seen in his experience working with Zone Leaders. Not to get all proud of myself, rather it was humbling to see that God sent one of his missionaries to help me see the good in myself. I am always trying to improve of course, but its nice to know how far I have really come, from that awkward Asian looking gringo from Washington who couldn’t even understand a normal conversation, to an effective instrument in the hands of the Lord. I am grateful for what it is I teach, and for what God has taught me.

 Coming up next week we have the baptism for our good friend Oscar Gomez. Pray everything goes well! This man has come a loooooonngg way and his mother is ridiculously happy that he is taking this step by being baptized. We are indeed excited as well.

 

Elder Cruz

September 12, 2016

 

We ran out of water but God answered our prayers

 

So to start this week off let me mention that we had recently suffered some sort of terrible drought this past week. We woke up one day and went right to a service project. We get back to the room and to our horror there is no water coming out of the shower or the sink. And so began a terribly annoying 5 day drought. We just ended up hauling buckets into our room from the next nearest water source. It wasn’t that fun. The waters back now so all is good in the neighborhood.

 Last Saturday, God once again put a little miracle in our path just to let us remember once again just how intricately and delicately he directs His work. I remember months back Elder Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 came to our mission. Among many things he left us with this little nugget of wisdom: “As servants of the Lord, He will never send you anywhere without a purpose”. I had the chance to see that promise fulfilled last Saturday.

 We had planned appointments for every hour of our day and we were feeling good, but one by one they all fell through, every single one of them. It was 7:00 at night and we had nothing to do. I was kind of annoyed at the whole situation (we were even fasting at the time). My companion and I decide that its time to say a prayer. We each pray and after about 5 minutes of quiet reflection, my companion says he think we need to go “that way”.

 We walk for like a good 10 minutes without any purpose really when we stumble upon a small house made out of mud bricks. We can see that there is no electricity in this house and the only light we see is a little candle. We knock on the door and a man named Luis comes out. We just tell him “we felt that we needed to come here. Will you let us in?”. And he does.

 As we begin our visit we can see that the wife is physically and emotionally drained. They told us that times were hard for them and that they had recently given birth to a child who was born 2 months early. The baby was very weak and for the past 5 months it had been in the hospital. We were able to share a sweet message about faith and trust in God, and in the little candlelight I could see a tear slide down the wife’s face as we talked. They happily accepted another visit for the next week.

 It was a powerful moment, and I am once again very humbled to see just how God leads us to those who need us.

 Elder Cruz