Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mis Compañeras

The parable of the talents is pretty straight forward (Matthew. 25:14-30).  If you practice and use the talents you have been given, you will develop them and find more along the way.  While on the other hand, if you sit around like a lump on a log, you won't get any better...  obvio.  In fact, you can loose that very talent you were first given.  

Considering myself a Jack...(or Jane?) of all trades, dabbling a little in everything, keeping the little talent I've got while pursuing others is quite important to me.  So while I was out learning Spanish,  preaching the good word, and acquiring Mexican tastebuds, I wanted to make sure my creative fingertips could still do their thing after 18 months time.  Therefore, I made a goal to keep a sketchbook throughout my mission... something quite difficult to do when every moment of your day is planned out.  But I managed to knock out a few sketches every now and then, especially of my companions.  I place them before you now for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, June 5, 2015

René Lopez Balderrama

I have officially returned home from my mission.  My 18 months came and went (something that I hope you've gathered from my last post from the field) and now I'm back to limitless hours of internet and chile-less freezer dinners.
As I was reviewing my blog and all of the posts in it, I noticed that one of them was missing!  A very special post that I wrote January 26th of this year (2015) about the baptism of my dear friend René.  He was my first baptism in the Azteca ward and I can only suppose that the choppy internet service caused that this post never arrived in my mothers email-box.  So after digging through my old mission emails, I discovered the original post of his baptism and have posted it here for your reading enjoyment.

Meet Rene.  He's a dreamer.

When I arrived at Azteca he was one of the two sure investigators that we had to work with.  My first lesson with him I showed up with the intent to move up his baptizmal date from Febrero to 24 de Enero, and he accepted.  Why?  Because he had a testimony in the Book of Mormon.

My companion told me that just a few weeks before he wasn't asi.  Happy to listen to their messages, but not ready to make that kind of commitment.  Hearing this, my companion challenged him to ask God through prayer.  And so he did.  That was when he had his first dream.  In his dream, he was walking in a large field and as he walked, he began to see a tree in the distance.  Aproaching the tree, he found that it had fruit.  A simple dream, no?  The next day, reading in the Book of Mormon, he came across Leih's vision of the Tree of Life.  Imeadiatly he made the connection and knew that the book had to be true.  He accepted the idea of baptizm quite joyfully after that.

His only stumbling block was coffe.  He was doing his best to quit drinking bit by bit, going down from drinking cup after cup all day long to just 4 a day.  It was quite an achievement, but we knew he could do better.  We reminded him the importance of keeping the Word of Wisdom, the blessings he would recieve, and invited him to pray for strength to drop this addiction.

Two days latter, stiting in his book-filled living-room, we asked him como le fue con el cafe.  His response? "Nada. Nada nada nada nada nada."

Seeing the shocked looks on our faces he began to share his story.  After our latest lesson he whent to bed like any other night.  But this night he dreamed.  He dreamed that he felt something odd in his mouth. So feeling around a bit, discovered a small string that whent down the back of his throat.  He began to pull on it.  Pulling, pulling, pulling, the string never seemed to end untill he had formed a pile of string mountain high.  Finally, seeming to reach the end, he pulled out of his mouth the last of the string, but to his great astonishment found at attached to the end of the string, as small devil.  He woke up with a sweat, breathing heavely, not sure what to do other than to pray.

Since then he hasn't had the slightest desire to drink coffe.  Sure, his body is going through side effects, trying to clean the substance from his system, but he is determined to stay strong.  And he has been.

The baptizm of Rene was last Saturday.  Unfortunatly, at the same time there was some construction work going on in the streets.  I've learned that when there is construction work in Ensenada, that means that in houses everywhere there is no water, or the water is dirty.  Por lo menos, we had enough water to fill the baptismal font.... downside: the water was dirtier than the River Jordan.  The eyes of everyone who saw it bugged out and their eyebrows whent sky high, but that didn't fase Rene.  As calm and happy as one could be, he stood in mud colored water, ready to make his first covenat with God.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Brown Heart

Dear Heavenly Father,
Well, my time is up.  18 months have come and gone.  18 months in which I promised to give you my all, represent your Son, and wear His name proudly.
I can´t help but laugh when I think about what I used to say.  That school was more important.  Remember how mad I would get when others hinted at the idea of a mission?  Not required, not expected, not for me.
But you knew my heart.
I think Nauvoo is when you first lit the flame.  And as time passed by, with a comment here, and a special moment there, you kindled the fire within me.  Little by little until you dumped on the whole gallon of propane with that famous announcement of October 2012.  But you never rushed me.  You let me go at my pace.  To study, pray, investigate, and analyze every solution, every possibility.  And when I was ready.  When I was willing.  When I was humble after the long process.  You let me know what you had planned for me all along.  Thank you for that Easter morning.  Thank you for those Jerusalem bird songs.  I have cherished that moment for these past 18 months.
And so the girl who always said no, said yes.  And look at what´s happened since.
Use whatever metaphor you´d like.  Refiners fire or a pruning gardener, I´m not the same as I was.  What seemed like so much time turned out to be so little when filled with the experiences that you´ve given me.  And now I find myself begging for more. Not wanting to go home.  Denying the idea that there could be anything better than working in your vineyard.
I´ve met people and I´ve loved them.  They've changed me and I hope I could help them in return.  I've learned a language, a culture, new music, food, and candy.  My heart arrived here Caucasian, but It´s going home brown.  And after all that has been said and done, the lessons, the contacts, prayers, and testimonies; I just have one question left for you.
Did I do okay?
Did I do what you had planned for me to do?  Did I use your sacred time as you wanted?  I messed up a lot, I know.  And I´m sorry for that.  But I did what I could.  I put all I had on the altar.  Was it enough? 
I know you wont be able to tell me until I see you again, but I hope I can hear you say, "Yes"... or even better, "Sí."  But until that day comes I want you to know that I´ll keep working.  You´ve made me a tool in your hands and I want to stay that way forever.  I´ll go where you want me to go, do what you want me to do, BE what you want me to BE.  I´m not perfect, I don´t even feel good; but I´m trying and I´m asking you to help me.
Don´t let me forget them.  Don´t let me forget this time.  Let it burn forever in my little brown heart.  And if it´s not too selfish of me, don´t let them forget me either.

Your servant and daughter, forever and always,
Hermana Eden Lance

"Un relevo como misionero de tiempo completo es un llamamiento como misionero de toda la vida."

Friday, May 1, 2015


I don´t want to sound like a cliche missionary, but here it comes.  I love this work.  I love teaching this gospel to those who are hungry for it.  Seeing the change in their eyes as they hear what they´ve been waiting for for so long.
We have a few investigators like that right now.  Jorge mentioned to us that he has a past that he would like to forget.  Guilt that haunts him day in and day out.  He´s looking for forgiveness.  A new start.  And that´s what we have to offer him.  When we teach him about the power of prayer, repentance, baptism, and the love that his Heavenly Father has for him, the Spirit is so strong.  

This is why I´m here.  To spread hope to all I can.  Hope for new beginnings.  Hope for forgiveness.  Hope for truth.  Hope for peace.  Hope for something better.  And even though it sounds cheesy, that hope is found in Christ.  It´s incredible how the Gospel works.  How simple it is, but what joy it can bring!  Everyone is looking for it.  You can see it in their soul, even if they don't realize it. 

I´m not here to teach 45 lessons, find 12-15 new investigators, and contact 200 people in a week.  They are great goals, but what feels even better than meeting those goals is meeting these people and seeing the change that they go through.  That´s is something you CAN'T put on paper.  Trust me, I´ve tried.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Star Cab

This life is New York City, New York.  The Big Apple.  

There are lots of people, all going to different places, doing different things, different choices, clothes, hair, habits, jobs, words, beliefs, etc...  Some only focused on work, others on the disco clubs.  Some have a lot, others have a little.

The church is like a Taxi.

There are lots of different taxis, and different drivers.  Some pass by the Statue of Liberty, and others by Yankee Stadium.  Depending on where you want to go, you choose your cab. Out of all the different taxis to choose from, only a certain company will take you home.  Pass by your house and drop you off with a friendly wave. 

What so many people don´t understand is that the gospel works the same way.  There are lots of good churches.  All talk about God, how He loves us, that we should have faith, serve others, be good people.  But not every taxi has the same route.  Even though a church is good, doesn´t mean it will drive you to the golden gates.

We need the right taxi.  We need the power of God, His authority, the priesthood.  Not every chauffeur has that. And after spending a good chunk of time trying to convince some stubborn headed Mexicans this very fact, I´m even more sure that it´s true. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Something I´m gonna miss

It is quite incredible how the Lord works sometimes.

My whole mission I´ve said to myself: I don´t want to be a good missionary, not even a great one.  I want to be an instrument in the Lord´s hands.  I want to be His tool.  Be where He needs me to be in the moment He needs me to be there.  And most often missionaries want to see it happen in the very moment.  Feel the impression and know exactly where the Lord wants them to be or do.  But to be honest, I´ve never seen it happen that way.  I´ve never felt it that way before.  But that doesn´t mean that it doesn´t happen.

Saturday we had a day full of lesson appointments.  Literally every hour was planned with an investigator.  Leaving the apartment in the morning I felt so good and sure that we were going to have incredible lessons and help everyone go to church the next day.  ... Big shocker that that did not happen.  ALL of our plans fell through, as well as plan B, C, D....  So we started contacting,  knocking doors, and looking for references.  TWO HOURS LATER we found ourselves without results and itching to teach somebody.  Desperate, we walked over to where a sister lived so my companion could get to know her and we could share a message.

It wasn´t until we were siting there with the sister when I realized why we had walked so much with what seemed to us for no purpose whatsoever.  I
f we had gotten there just moments sooner, she wouldn´t have been there and we wouldnt have been able to listen and help her.  She needed us in THAT moment.  And so the Lord made sure we were there in THAT moment.

There is no other feeling like it.

....but are you ready for this?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The last testimony of them all... He lives!

Last Monday was the beginning of my last transfer.  I received Hna. Jimenez (yeah, my same companion from Aguacaliente) as my new/old/last companion here in Ensenada.  The only difference is that I´m now training her to be a Sister Training Leader before I go.
In the movie "Monty Python and the Search of the Holy Grail" there is a quite... pointless scene that always makes me laugh.  Walking around with a wheelbarrow a man yells out, "bring out your dead!"  Another walks out, with whom we can only assume is his grandfather on his shoulders.  His mind intent on throwing him into the wheelbarrow.  "But I´m not dead yet!"  The old man cried.  "Actually, I feel like going for a walk!"
The members of my Ward and my fellow missionaries are trying to toss me into the wheelbarrow.  The moment that Hna. Jimenez stepped off the bus and saw me she said, "Hna. Lance, ya se va!"  ...Gracias hna, good to see you too...  Everyone feels the need to remind me that I´m leaving soon, or warn me from getting trunky.  Even when complementing me.  The other day Hna. Jimenez told me, "Sentí tanto el espiritu cuando testificó Hna.  ¿Por que tiene que ir?!"  Uhh, thanks sister, but I´m not dead yet!

This week we´ve been promoting the new church video, Because He lives.  So we started by talking to our neighbors and inviting them to watch the video.  One of them, an elderly man, thanked us for the invitation, but warned us that he didn´t believe in God, Christ, or Religion.  With faith, we told him that we would like to visit him anyways and made an appointment for the next day.
Arriving and entering into his little home I noticed that his walls were covered with paintings and immediately felt a connection with my artistic brother.  Sitting down, I said a prayer in my heart, hoping that as we taught about who our Heavenly Father is, he would be able to feel the spirit testify that He is real...  Sadly, we barely finished the opening prayer when he began with his negative comments.  Now I don´t want to go into details.  That would take too much time and be rather depressing.  Just know that this child of God has a lot of pent up anger against his Heavenly Father.  "He abandoned me, so I abandoned Him."  If there is so much injustice in the world, how can He be a just God?  If there is a God, He is an irresponsible God.  He (our neighbor) gave us every example of injustice from the history of the world that you can think of, the majority attacking the U.S.A. (uh, hello... American gal sitting right here... thanks).  God never helped him.  Never helped anyone.  Religion destroyed his family.  Religion is business; using good, innocent people like ourselves and manipulation us with our faith. The cherry on top being that the Mormon church is one of the two "mas ricas" churches in the world.
Contention is of the devil, and there was a lot of it.  Don't get me wrong.  He wasn´t rude in anyway towards us.  Just made his feelings plain and clear.  But I could also tell, that after nearly an hour of trying to explain our message, he wasn´t going to let us get a word in.  All I could do was testify.  That´s what I came out here for isn´t it?  Open my mouth and share what I know.  As did my companion, and the members who were joining us in the lesson.  We didn´t say anything special, but the Spirit filled the room.
The next day, while watching G.C. and looking at the general authorities, I couldn´t help but think, "and if it really is all a sham?"  Just for a sliver of a second I remembered all that our neighbor had to say.  Then, during the 2 hour break, a few Mormon messages came on.  I believe it was called "the Hope of Gods light."  And the spirit hit me again.
It HAS to be true. I know it is.  It´s the only thing that makes sense.  I love it, and I´ll testify it until the end.

(and if you guys didn´t catch it, my old mission prez, Armando Carreon, just got called as a new member of the 70!!!)