"Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah."

Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:8

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Jack, and a Crazy Week!

(A letter from Jace to his little brother Jack, who is also a ginger.  He is such a good big brother!)

JACK!!!!!!!!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hey buddy I feel like a horrible brother for not wishing you a Happy Birthday last Monday!!!  I felt bad about it ALL week, trust me. I even wrote in my planner like 3 times!! I wrote it once to remind me to email you last Monday, I wrote on the 19th (in Poqomchi) " Jack's birthday" (see photo..) so that I wouldn't forget. 

So if you felt like I forgot I'm really sorry. But I want you to know that I didn't forget. I could never forget my little bro's birthday :) I was praying for you the day of your birthday so that you would have a really good day and so that you'd know that I was thinking about you. I miss you a ton buddy and I really just want to tell you that I love you and appreciate you a lot. I started thinking about that one video that we have when you were in the hospital for your fire ant bite and I came in and you shouted "Jacey!" and hugged me. (Even though I was all mad in the video haha) But you've always been one of my best friends. I'm sorry that sometimes before my mission that I didn't make time enough to hang out with you more and trust me that here on my mission I've felt sometimes like a bad older brother for not having spent as much time as I should have with you. But I promise that when we get back we are going to hang out a ton ok? I know that you look up to me sometimes because I'm older, but really I want to be more like you. You are such a righteous young man and a good example to me. Keep working hard to be more like Christ every year of your life, especially from your early age. I love you Jack and I want you to know that you'll always be my best friend. 

Ok enough of that before I start crying dangit! haha. 

Anyways, your email is completely blank, so I don't know what you wanted to send me but I didn't get it. But I heard from mom and dad that you guys did some really fun stuff and that you had a lot of fun together. I'm glad you had a good b-day and that you were able to crush the competition in bowling! Now you just have to beat dad. (and me when I get back! =P) What did you get for your b-day? Tell dad to buy you a fun video game for me =P Well Jack, I can happily say that this will be your LAST birthday that I will miss out on! Next year I'll be home! WOO! :) alright well I better write the rest of the family too. Keep up the good work Jack. You're a great kid. Love you and miss you tons!

Elder Norton

(PS- the last picture is me wishing you a happy bday from Guat) 

Hey Guys!

Sounds like you guys all had a great week. Sorry to have missed out on celebrating Jack's birthday with you all but at least we know it will be the last time that I miss out on it! So happy birthday to Jack and congrats to dad who won in bowling due to the fact that I wasn't there to school him. =P

Well, this week has been BUSY. In fact it's been the craziest week of my mission so far I think. It started out Tuesday when we had to go BACK to Santa Cruz to contract the house for the new area that was opened last week. The first person told us that they weren't going to contract with us anymore so we had to run around looking for another. We found another, but the guy was kind of iffy on whether of not he was going to give it to us. After to talking to him for like an hour, he finally told us that he would give it to us. So we had to fill out the contract which took a while, then we ate lunch and got on the bus to make the 2 hour ride back to Salama. We got back just in time to clean the house a little bit before the assistants came. They came to do divisions with us before the conference the next day. We went with them to work and I got to work with Elder Thacker who is a STUD missionary. I met him back when he entered into the Polochik and so he's a good friend and he's pilas because he knows Q'eqchi'. Right when all of that was happening we were going through the proccess of getting a few new elders in our zone because of the emergency changes. We got a call saying that they didn't know where one of them was at all and that the other 3 were stuck in Coban. So it was a joy figuring all that out with Elder Thacker. We eventually found our lost sheep and got him to his area. Wednesday was the conference which was really great. It was all focused on faith. President Watts gave a great lesson on exercising faith by setting and acheiving goals, my companion talked about faith in planning and how we need to plan for success if we want to have it, I talked about how to rend the veil of unbelief and it turned out ok, and the assistants talked about a lot of stuff. So it was a great spiritual experience. Thursday was the only normal day of the week.  SO, early today in the morning we got up and went to pay for the publication of Danilo and Reina's marriage in the newspaper and then we got on a bus to come back here.


So, that was a joy, but in the end it was a huge blessing because we needed to go to the cap to pay for the publication anyways. Other than that, Familia Polanco didn't come to church Sunday because they were sick, but we had all of the other investigators that had come the week before plus Ana who is our investigator that has read the whole book of Mormon who came for the first time. So that was good. We also put a baptismal date with the sister who came up to us last Sunday and told us that she wanted to get baptized. She'll be getting baptized the 4th of February. So that's awesome. 

Ok, a few quick personal comments:

Mom- The Q'eqchi' Choir sounds awesome! I'm really excited for it if it will be right when I get done with my mission!! But I am pretty darn sure that I would rather that you guys ALL come to pick me up. There really wouldn't be any problem at all in having all of you here with me. The buses are big enough, we'll be in all safe areas. We won't make the kids eat anything that bad, hotels we can figure out easily, and I'm sure that if I'm there to be on "peace control" that there won't be any problems. Because I really just want to see everyone. If not I would rather come home first and then go back to Guat later. Another thing, YES I am 100% ok with you guys getting rid of the old desktop.  So do what you want with it haha :) As for my package, the thing that I've MOST been craving for lately are...chocolate oranges! Someone had one in the cap and gave me a piece and I decided I needed one. Or two :) haha. Just that I think. And just so you know I love your guts out too haha :) Love you Mom. You're the best! Thanks for praying for my investigators!!

Dad- hey dad thanks for that great example with Samuel. I actually can think of a few families that REALLY need to hear that story! So thanks dad, you rock. I'm glad you won in bowling, but just know that when I get back I will have to show you my newly acq  (that's how his letter ended.  I guess when time's up, it's up : )

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Faith Brings Miracles!

Dear family,

I hope to be able to write all that I want today because I have a LOT to write about. So here goes.

This week was a week of faith and a week of great miracles here in Salama. At the concilio last Tuesday I felt that the focus of the whole conference was faith. A few elders and President Watts talked a lot about faith and how we need to have a lot of it so that the Lord can work miracles through us here in the mission. I always had thought that I had a decent amount of faith, but I had never really thought about faith in that way. That I really needed to believe in the Lord, that he could literally work miracles according to our faith here in Salama. Anyways, I came back to Salama thinking a lot about faith. Faith to repent, faith to work as hard as you can, and faith to wait for the blessings of the Lord to come. My companion, Elder Lemus, and I set goals for who we wanted to bring to church and who we were going to work with to have a baptismal date. We filled up a whole whiteboard making goals and plans for who we were going to work with and what to do to help them. After doing that we prayed and asked the Lord to give us faith in Christ so that through His help we could achieve the goals that we had set. After that, we set out to work. We went to the local municipal building in Salama to get the facts straight about marrying Danilo and Reina. They told us that we just need his license, birth certificate, and a certificate saying that he's not already married, and that from there we would have to publish their marriage in a Central American newspaper, (a cost of Q200) bring that newspaper to the office here in Salama and pay Q20 to get them married. We have faith that they will finally be able to get baptized the 28th of this month. They are really excited and so are we!! Please pray for them a lot. Especially pray for Danilo so that he won't smoke at all in these next couple of weeks so that he can get baptized the 28th with his wife. Anyways, we visited Familia Polanco every day this week since we got back from Guate and we visited them with 3 different members to make them feel welcome and loved in the branch. Saturday we went to their house and washed dishes for them and helped them to clean and do their chores so that there wouldn't be anything keeping them from going Sunday. We started a fast Saturday after lunch for our investigators so that the Lord would bless them to be able to come to church.

Sunday morning came and we got up, got ready, called Familia Polanco to make sure they didn't sleep in, and then went to go wake up Danilo and Reina and take them with us to church. Danilo didn't end up going because he said he had to work. (We think he's worried about the money to publish his marriage in the newspaper since they have pretty much no money at all. We  told them to give us their best and we'd take care of the rest. Little do they know that I we would happily pay the fee if they didn't have enough money.) We got to church and it was a normal, same as always sacrament meeting. The only difference was that there was a change in the branch presidency. Other than that it was just another regular Sunday. We got there right around 8:45 and it  was already pretty full in our small chapel. By 9 when we started there weren't even any seats left. Then Familia Polanco came at about 9:10 and they brought around 4 friends with them. We had to pull out a bunch of seats and put them just outside of the chapel in the little hallway. Elder Lemus and I didn't hardly hear any of the talks that were given because so many people came that we had to keep pulling out new chairs, looking for room to put another row of chairs and help people get to their seats. 180 people came to church yesterday. 16 of them were investigators just from our side of the area. We had one brother come from a place called "La Cumbre" which is above Salama looking down into the valley, about 30 minutes by bus. I taught him once during my first change here with Elder Contreras. We didn't really think he seemed interested and he lived pretty far away so we only came back once and only found his wife to teach. He came yesterday saying that he had tried to come once before but had gotten lost. He stayed with us for all 3 hours and said that next week he is going to bring his wife and kids. We had another lady that came from another village even further than "La Cumbre" and it's about 45 minutes away by bus. I saw her at the beginning and talked to her but didn't think that she was an investigator, but at the end, she came up to me and said "Excuse me, I've been investigating the church for a year now and I've decided today that I want to get baptized. Could you come visit me this week?" I told her YES. We had old investigators that came to church as well that hadn't come for a while. Elder Lemus and I felt kind of like Peter when the Lord told him to cast his net over the right side of the boat. We could hardly handle all of the investigators that came. It was a miracle. 

So, the 28th of January we are on track to  baptize 9 people, and possibly 10 with the lady who told us she wants to get baptized. Please keep all of them in your prayers. Danilo and Reina, Roselia and her kids: Gloria, Wendy, Evelyn, Gabriel; Erik and his wife Rosy; Bonifacio and his wife; and Marta. Next week we have the faith that the Lord will bless us with even more people there if we work hard and do our part. I know that God is a God of miracles. He loves His children and wants to bless them. I've been studying a lot from the Book of Mormon this week for a talk that I'm giving Wednesday for a zone conference we are going to have here. I've been studying about walking by the light of faith and about rending the "dark veil of unbelief" that is talked about in few places in the Book of Mormon. I feel like the brother of Jared who began to see the hand of the Lord giving His light to him. I am beginning to literally see the hand of the Lord in His work here in Salama. Like the brother of Jared, my faith is beginning to be unshakable and is being converted into knowledge, nothing doubting. I love the Lord and His work and I know that He is the source of all miracles in our lives. If we have the faith enough to rend our personal veils of unbelief, we will see the great light of our Redeemer and we will see His hands working for our good here on the earth. I love you all and thank you all for your prayers in my behalf and on behalf of my investigators. Please keep praying for us and I know that the Lord will bless us so that people will flock behind us into the waters of baptism.

Well, my times up for this week, but I love you all tons! I'll reply to some of the personal stuff this week next week! Love you!

Elder Norton

PS- mom, I found spinach here and wanted to know what you usually do to make spinach smoothies? love you!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Comp!

Hey guys!

Ok well first of all I just want to say What the heck?? You didn't tell me Camille was going to be coming this week. I guess it doesn't really matter all that much though since it's not like I could have been there anyways haha but still it was surprising. Well the point is that I'm jealous that you guys are all playing with the Xbox dance game without me. But things are going GREAT here for me too. (Other than the fact that I'm kind of sick with a cold. It's not too bad though. I'm also sunburned because we ended up playing bball outside and I forgot sunscreen...) 

This week was pretty good. First good thing of the week: I found in a paca (think DI or Goodwill but on the level of Guatemala...and in someone's house..) a brand spanking new, classic, wooden box set Monopoly for Q50. That's approximately $6.25. So I bought it with a little bit of the money Grandma sent. (Thanks Grandma!) While we were waiting for the changes on Wednesday we played a few times with  other elders in my zone that were also waiting for new comps. Let's just say I pretty much dominated the board after the first game. So that's pretty cool and will be fun for disctrict activities and stuff. And it's a nice box so it won't get ruined. 

Then came changes and I figured out that my new comp would be Elder LEMUS! It's really funny because they did the same thing that they did to me with him. When I left Tactic he took my place and trained twice there. He was just senior companion and trainer but they made him my comp. He's a really cool guy. He's from El Salvador.  He's a convert since 2005 and his whole family got baptized I think. He has  older brothers and a younger one too. It's great because he's in the same group as me: in other words, we both go home at the same time. He's really great and I'm excited for the work we're going to do together. At the same time it's kind of weird having a different companion after having been with Elder Contreras for almost 5 months straight 24/7. But we are already seeing a lot of blessings and miralces from the Lord. This week we had 10 investigators at church! It was so amazing. We have been teaching a family, familia Polanco for EVER and they never came to church all of the 5 months that I've been here. We always invited them and the mom would say "we'll see if God wants us to go." Then we decided Saturday to teach them about agency and about how they can take control of their own lives and that the Lord expects them to make these kinds of decisions on their own. Sunday the whole family came with her nephew and his wife as well. So we're hoping this week to work really hard with them so they will come again next week. We also had a good lesson with Familia de la Cruz. They are the most humble people on the face of the whole PLANET! I just love that family so much and I'm already decided that I will NOT leave Salama without baptizing them. They are both reading the Book of Mormon and they really like it. Saturday night we had an appointment with them. Their daughter got sick and they had to take her to the doctor but they made sure that someone would be home to be there for our appointment. It was really touching. This week we are going to teach them in the church on Saturday and we are really hoping that they will come to church this week. PLEASE remember all of them in your prayers: Familia Polanco, and Familia de la Cruz. Hopefully this next week we will have even more investigators in church.

This Church is true. I know it with all of my heart. There's no other like it in the whole world. There can't be. God himself has formed this Church with His own hands. Who could ever compare any other church established by men with the workmanship of God's hands? I know that the work that I'm doing here is God's work and that no power on earth will or could ever stop it. I'm so blessed to be a part of this great work, but you all should know that God's work is not limited to missionaries. Keep your eye out for people that need this gospel and then boldly open your mouths to just talk to them. Someone will listen and their lives will be changed. Love you guys tons!!

Ok here's some quick personal comments-

Mom- Elmer Catalan is a member here in Salama! He's a really fun guy. So yes you should be his friend. And don't worry he only looked for you because one night he looked to see if he could find my facebook and he couldn't but then I told him to look for yours and he found it. No worries. He's from Tactic originally and I got to know his family really well. His brother, Edílsar and his wife Milvia, were investigators of mine there as well. Glad that you guys had fun with Camille and Carson! Don't have much time left! Love you mom!

Dad- thanks for the advice. I think my feelings are pretty much summed up in the words of George Albert Smith when he told Lucy Woodruff "If you're looking for someone with money, that someone is not me. I've already decided that I will not dedicate my life to making money, but rather to serving the Lord." So yeah I know I need to have sufficient money to support my family which I plan on doing. But I'm not looking to get rich. Thanks for the advice about Samson too. Love you!

OK, sorry guys times up and I have to go catch a bus to Coban and then to the capital for concilio tomorrow. Write you all again next week!

Elder Norton 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

6 Months in Salama

Hey guys!

Sorry I'm writing so early, but because my comp's going home he wants to go and say goodbye to everyone and has to do a bunch of stuff to get ready. But it's ok because I'm still feeling great from when I called a week ago.

Alright, well we got transfers last night and I will be STAYING in Salama at least another change and will be getting a new comp. I'm actually pretty excited because I'm fairly certain we are going to baptize a lot next change. We have like 3 families that are investigating the Church a lot that are all really interested. We just have to be diligent, work hard, and pray really hard and I know we're going to have success this next change. It will be nice to hopefully have a "younger comp" (or in other words a comp who isn't going home soon.) In fact it would be really nice to have someone that has less time than me in the mission since that's never happened before. We'll have to wait and see, but I already feel like this next change things are going to go really well here.

My New Year's resolution is to work my guts out for the last 7 months of my mission. I was reading a lot about the people of Ammon and how they buried all of the sins and their past for good, and then just went and did what was right. I've just decided that I'm going to do the same. I'm burying all of my past life and just going to bury the natural man that's in me, and then for these next 7 months dedicate myself completely to the Lord's work. I am just so grateful that God allows us to change and become better through His Son, Jesus Christ. It's a miracle and I just feel so blessed that I can change. So that's what I'm doing for this New Years. But in reality it's not a New Year's resolution, it's more of a "new life's resolution." Sometimes I don't really understand completely how it is that because of Jesus Christ I can change and become a better person, but I know and feel that it's true. And I know that this is His church, the only church on face of the earth, that has His authority to perform sacred ordinances that allow us to access that miraculous changing power and teach us how to keep that change and "retain the remission of our sins" forever. I love the gospel! And I love all of you guys. Thanks for being such a great family. 

Alright sorry guys to cut this email a bit short but I'm pretty much out of time. Here's some personal comments-

Mom- haha sounds like a fun New Years. Don't worry I didn't do anything either. I just went to sleep at 10:30 as usual and got half woken up at 12:00 by the tremendous noise of the entire town lighting what could be used as semi-lethal BOMBS for 10 minutes. Other than that I didn't do anything. But it was a great New Years and I felt the Spirit a lot :) Next year we will have to have a HUGE party. And we'll have to watch some movie trilogy new years day haha. :) Ok, as for "Taylor", if you could refer to him by his REAL name, Twoody, I would appreciate it. And the answer is ABSOLUTELY yes. I couldn't think of any better roommate than Twoody. I was so happy when I read that haha because a lot of times on the mission you meet a lot of other good friends and they make plans to room together and stuff. But I'm glad Twoody is a true friend. So yeah I'm not sure how that's going to work but I would like to room with Twoody and Matt and Mark if Mark wants to. Mark might already have plans but I'm not sure. You should email his mom and ask. It would be a ton of fun to room with Twoody and Matt and Mark. But let me know! Love you mom! :) 

Dad- yeah how did the Kings game go with the Lakers?? I'm assuming they probably lost because you didn't say anything exciting like that, but how did Jimmer do? He's a stud for sure. Which bowl game did BYU play in? I finished the Book of Mormon a little while ago too and I'm going to start it over again. I love the Book of Mormon! It's so awesome. Let me know on any insights you get from reading it. How's seminary going with the Old Testament? Any cool things you have learned? Haha yeah I'm sure that gearing your resolutions toward July will make things go faster haha =P Love you dad thanks for being such a great example to me and for your prayers for me. Take care and good luck at work! 

Alright, well times up guys. Hope you all had a great New Year's and that we can all strive more to be more like Jesus Christ in this new year of our lives. I love you all and I'm working hard for you guys.

Elder Norton