Friday, May 30, 2014

Focus On the Positive

This was the best week of my mission!!! We are seeing incredible miracles DAILY! At the start of this transfer our mission president issued the challenge for each companionship to have a baptism in this 6 week transfer period. Already our zone has had 3 baptism and some really awesome finding stories. Let me share a few:

Dameyon and Desmond were baptized on Saturday which was the most amazing baptism I've witnessed. At the end of the service they both had the opportunity to share their testimony. Dameyon shared how there were so many things that were uncoincidental that led to us meeting him and him accepting the gospel at this time in his life. His father recently passed away and that was devastating to him. The lessons and church have brought peace back into his life. Desmond testified that the first time he met us he felt something that he couldn't describe. Over the weeks he's come to recognize that it was God's love that he was feeling and he hadn't felt that before. He feels lighter and feels joy now, something he hasn't felt in a very long time.

One of the sister missionary companionships in our zone have been teaching a man who has been taught for the past 2 years and won't commit to being baptized. He was planning on leaving town for the summer in two weeks but the other day during a lesson he told them that church is more important than his summer job opportunity and he wants to be baptized!!

Two weeks ago me and Elder Hyer gave a priesthood blessing to a young boy who had rashes erupt all over his body causing pain and doctors couldn't figure out what was going on. We stopped by a week later after the blessing and there wasn't even a trace of the rashes left. That was a very powerful experience for us to see the power of the priesthood!

I'm learning so much every day. One of the lessons I'm learning is to focus on the positive. There is so much negative. BUT there is more goodness in this world.. Gordon B. Hinckley said, "I have seen much of ugliness in this world. Most of it is the work of man. But I think I have seen much more of beauty. I marvel at the majestic works of the Creator. How magnificent they are. And they are all the work of the Son of God." How true that is! Light always overcomes darkness. In our personal lives it is our decision to allow darkness to creep in our to allow Christ to erase it with his light.

I pray that all who read this will allow Christ to erase the sadness with his joy. You do that by living the commandments and by living the principle of faith. Having faith is an active characteristic. It is something you demonstrate.

I love you all so much! I'm having the greatest time of my life!!! I hope you all are too!

Love Elder Janis 


1: Group picture with some members that helped in the teaching!

2: Elder Janis, Desmond, Dameyon, Elder Hyer

3: Desmond!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Low and Behold Spencer Was There!

Hi Mom!!!

WOW. Your schedule is almost as crazy as mine I feel like! ;) All of that would wipe me out! In some ways it must be very nice to have the time to sit down and read books and things! That is something I REALLY MISS!!! In homeschool you taught me to love reading and as a missionary we only get an hour of personal study every day and that just isn't enough time for me!! I want to soak the scriptures up and read conference talks and pray and read preach my gospel!! I've been having extremely powerful personal studies lately that have really brought the spirit and increased my knowledge of the gospel and how to help people repent and change their life. Today I studied the topic of people who are "past feeling" as Nephi put it. It is very easy for us who live in this physical world to become desensitized to the feeling of the spirit and the only way to become sensitive again is to repent and live the gospel. 

Maricopa is so awesome! As a zone we were the most productive in our mission this last week as far as finding new investigators and teaching member present lessons. The week previous was a little lower so Elder Hyer and I set a goal with our zone to reach a certain number of member present lessons by the end of the week and we had each companionship text us each night how many member presents they had had and when a companionship hit their goal we would send a forwarded text to all the missionaries announcing the success. The result was a massive increase and a huge boost of excitement and energy!!! As a mission we care about numbers but not because they're numbers. We use them to set our vision higher and to help us reach more of God's children each week. President Toone could care less if any of us baptize a single person on our mission. He cares about the personal conversion of each missionary. He also understands that if a missionary has a baptism it will definitely pump them up and strengthen their faith.

Last night we had a mission presidents devotional where missionaries can bring people they're teaching to come hear two converts testimony and listen to President Toone speak. The event is held at the ASU institute building and low and behold Spencer was there!!! It was awesome to see him and introduce him to President Toone, my companion, people I've taught throughout my mission, and previous companions. In so many ways I feel like my mission has been closely linked to my family.

The family that we've been teaching and preparing for baptism on the 24th is doing amazing!! They were able to come to church and to the mission presidents devotional this last week and loved all of it. Our members really love them and have welcomed them in as family.

There's a youth we're teaching who is currently on probation and house arrest and in the middle of a lesson with him in the front room of the house, the front door opened and his 6 year old brother with his friend walked in. The little brother pointed at the young man we were teaching and said to his friend, "He's on house arrest." Then like nothing happened they walked out of the room. L threw his arms in the air with a face that said "What the heck! Go tell the whole world why don't you?!" It was so funny to me! 

Earlier this week we went on exchanges with two awesome missionaries in our zone. I got to go into the other missionaries area and serve for the day with Elder Coyle who is from Alaska and has only been on a mission for a month. It was really fun to be with a new missionary again. It was a great reminder to me of how I was when I first got here and how much I've changed over the last year. For the exchange we focused on talking to everyone that we saw. We ran into these two guys out in the garage drinking some beers. We initiated a conversation and became best friends quickly. One guy was sober but the other was a little drunk. The one who was sober asked me if his friend was going to go to Hell for being an alcoholic. I responded that I'm grateful to not be the judge and only God could judge him but I promised that if we can't quit our addictions here on earth they will follow us to the next world. Then just for fun but also to raise a voice of warning I read to them Alma 34:32-34 and told them not to procrastinate the day of their repentance. I came down pretty hard on the guy who was drunk and his friend was backing me up trying to get the guy to toss the beer right then and there. Elder Coyle I think was pretty shocked at what was happening and was mostly observing. In the end both guys wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon and wanted us to come back. The lesson learned is that if the spirit is telling you to be bold with someone and rebuke them, DO IT. Because that person may need a loud voice telling them they need help. They also need to know that your motive is love and not anything else. That's what these two guys needed and now they're investigating the church. 

The mission is the best. Nothing can compare to the experiences I'm having out here! I LOVE MY MISSION.

Love Elder Janis

pic 1: funny old lady that likes to punch missionaries in the arm. Met her at the Easter Pageant and got a picture with her :D

pic 2: Joelouise guzmans baptism!!! I got permission to go back to Gilbert for the baptism.

pic 3: at the mission presidents devotional. Left to right: Sister Walker, Brother Walker, Sister Crandell (awesome member who makes great food), Dameyon (He and his family are preparing for baptism on the 24th!!!), Damia, Elder Hyer, Stephan Bailin (awesome young man in the ward who goes out to teach with us all the time)

1: Typical.....

2: The boys

3: We have a good time

Monday, May 12, 2014


Yes, things continue to "explode" in Maricopa!! Maybe a better word to use would be "increase" or "progress". There are so many people who literally are waiting around for the truth to be delivered to them because they have searched and searched and haven't yet found it. So when two young missionaries meet them on the street and share the truth with them they are ready to listen. Or, when a friendly neighbor invites them to partake of the joy of the gospel with them, they don't refuse. Sometimes we call Maricopa "MiracleCopa".

The second best experience this week was helping a family commit to live the Word of Wisdom. There were smoking problems and alcohol problems that none of the victims wanted to participate in but had become so dependent they could not overcome the addictions by themselves. This week we stripped the gospel down to the basics and focused on Faith in Jesus Christ unto freedom. As they studied the scriptures and prayed and allowed Christ further into their lives, they were ready this weekend to dump the alcohol down the drain and hand over their packs of cigarettes, ashtrays, and lighters. So far they are doing AWESOME! We also had them sign a paper titled, "Declaration of Independence" which talks about independence from addiction. It was awesome to see how happy they were to give it all up and then feel the spirit confirm the decision was right in God's eyes. The whole family came to church this week which was really exciting for the ward and it was fun for us to introduce them to everyone.

My testimony of Jesus Christ continues to grow. Preach My Gospel has a chapter dedicated to Christ-Like attributes and how we can acquire them and I've made it a focus to work on them. As I've done this I have developed a greater relationship with Him. I look at Him as my teacher and example and the more I grow the more I recognize the need for improvement.

Earlier I paraphrased my story by calling it the second best experience of the week. That is because the best experience was talking to my Mom, Dad, and WONDERFUL sister Emily!!! It was great to see their faces on skype and catch up!! They looked amazing even though they seemed tired and VERY hungry (due to an awesomely extreme diet!). I love my family so much!

Love Elder Janis

Monday, May 5, 2014

Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep

This is the title of my letter this week: Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep

Hahaha in companionship study this morning my companion Elder Hyer was sharing what he had learned in his personal study and he had read a talk by President Hinckly with the same title and it just seemed like a motto or something so we both committed to using it as the title of our weekly email.

The work in Maricopa progresses! We now have a solid teaching pool and lots of members in the ward are FIRED UP about missionary work! It's like a chain reaction, as soon as people start seeing success in missionary work it becomes contagious and all the fears of finding and teaching people melts and every member becomes a missionary. The struggle for most wards is getting that kick start to ignite the chain reaction.

I've never been happier in my life. I know I'm doing what I should be doing and the work is blessing in me in countless ways. One of the greatest blessings is the friendships that I'm developing with the people I'm teaching and the members here in the Maricopa 4th ward.

I got a super cool experience to go on exchanges with the one and only Elder Diaz! I've mentioned him a few times in past letters. Me and him came to Arizona on the same day although he is a spanish speaking missionary and I'm English. He lives in Argentina and since Houston airport is a huge south american HUB we are both assuming we'll be flying home to Houston on the same flight :) We're super close friends though so it was really exciting when I came to Maricopa and learned he was a District Leader in the zone. His area is way way out in the boonies. He covers the little town of Gila Bend and Ajo which is a total of perhaps 500 square miles. It's HUGE. Me and him spent the day in Gila Bend and had a great time teaching the gospel to EVERYONE. As a zone a big focus for us is to live up to our call as missionaries and open our mouths and be teachers. Preach My Gospel says that we should avoid the habit of asking people if they have a minute we can share a message with them but rather just start teaching them so they can feel the spirit. One of our opening lines in conversations with people that day was "Are you the Golden's?". People were pretty confused so we just explained that we were looking for the Golden family but then proceeded to teach them. It was funny for us and left them a bit confused but it kept them from just shooing us away so it worked well :) The blessing of it was was that we found a golden family they just had a different last name :D

There's a young man we're teaching here in Maricopa that is a blast to teach. He loves football so we make a lot of sports analogies. The fellowship we have for him is a priest in the ward who is the funniest kid ever. He's super energetic and a little quirky but so cool to take out with us. Before one of our lessons with L, we asked our priest to invite him to church with him at the end of the lesson. He agreed and we went in and taught. At the end I said, "Now Stephen has an invitation for you L." Stephen looked at me all funny and then said, "I hate it when the missionaries do this to me..." He paused for like 5 seconds and then said, "It would be a huge privilege to me if you would let me baptize you." Me and Elder Hyer were so confused but L said yes and so we put him on date for the 24th! After that I invited L to church which he also agreed to. Hahaha it must have been the spirit giving Stephen a stupor of thought which kept him from remembering that he was supposed to invite him to church and not baptism.

(I'm inserting a portion of Elder Janis' letter to his dad here):

"I had a really great week! We taught a TON of lessons and had some really great experiences! Since I got in the area we focused a lot on finding and now we're preparing multiple people for baptism which should all happen in the next few weeks. I love the people that I'm teaching so much. We're becoming close friends. Here are some of the people were teaching and working with:

L: 15 year old kid who's had a tough life but wants to play in the NFL one day and wants to be a mormon. He's getting baptized on the 24th this month. His lessons are super fun because we try to make football analogies to any principle we teach.

D: 30's and is super sincire and wants to find truth. He's been looking his whole life and has never been satisfied with what he's found. He is hard core studying the Book of Mormon which is really inspiring to see his commitment. If he finds a testimony he will be baptized on the 24th as well.

G: 40's grew up in the R-LDS faith and is now married to a latter-day saint. His lessons are fun because his beliefs and doctrines are very close but in some areas are slightly off. It would be easy to get into arguments about little doctrine with him but if we play it off then he bends and accepts our doctrine as the truth. It's hard to fight the spirit :) He'll be baptized near the beginning of next month. We're working on nailing down a date.

M: 30's played basketball in college at University of Wisconsin. Super cool guy and hasn't been very religious in his life. He's married to a mormon lady as well and has been to church with us twice. He's interested in learning more and is seeking for a testimony.

Mrs. B B: 82 and is the sweetest lady EVER. She has never heard much of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and is excited to be meeting with the "Mormon Missionaries". We love her and she has a very open mind for her age."

This week was amazing! Next week will be even better! I love you all!

Love Elder Janis