January 25, 2016

Blessings Come Through the Trial of Our Faith

fun pets...

Guatemalan fruit

I get to serve in a beautiful country...

Look around you and see the beauty of God's creation
"To be humble is to recognize gratefully our dependence on the Lord—to understand that we have constant need for His support. Humility is an acknowledgment that our talents and abilities are gifts from God. It is not a sign of weakness, timidity, or fear; it is an indication that we know where our true strength lies. We can be both humble and fearless. We can be both humble and courageous." --LDS.org under "Humility"

"Jesus Christ is our greatest example of humility. During His mortal ministry, He always acknowledged that His strength came because of His dependence on His Father. He said: “I can of mine own self do nothing. … I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).

The Lord will strengthen us as we humble ourselves before Him. James taught: “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:6, 10)." --True to the Faith (2004), 86-87

Highlights for 25/1/16:

Highlight #1: Music. Music can have a very great impact in our lives. I had one of those moments this week. I was listening to one of the new LDS Youth Theme 2016 songs titled "It's Not About You." This song went straight at my heart, I felt like the message was just for me! This song talks about losing ourselves in the service of others. It really helped to bring the spirit and taught me a HUGE lesson on losing myself in this work. AND IT WORKS! This week we were able to have some great success with my bomb companion! (I'll talk about him in a second) We were able to have some really pilus lessons and contacts. But for me the big success of this week, other than my happiness, was have 2 investigators we have been visiting for awhile accept an invitation to attend a Family Home Evening in the home of a member near their home. We had an amazing lesson, the spirit was super strong. We were able to place baptismal dates with them both for the coming month. They are both reading the Book of Mormon, praying, and searching for guidance from above. The one sister though (because the 2 are sisters) has told us she knows that the Book of Mormon is scripture of God, but still had some doubts about "playing with God" by changing churches. But in this lesson she accepted to attend church this following Sunday, YES. Please keep her and her sister and their families in your prayers, that they will be able to recognize the answers to their prayers God is sending, and when they attend this Sunday that it may be a spiritually uplifting experience. I'm pumped! ("Nothin Can Separate Us Now" is another great LDS Youth Theme song to check out :))

Highlight #2: Changes. This week brought changes for me and this area :) And I am so grateful for the change! My companion is awesome! He is from Nicaragua, a convert of 6 years, has been in the mission ALMOST a year, only has one younger sister, and is a boss. This is his 4th area and I'm his 6th companion. It is a blast working with him! The area is doing a lot better and progressing. AND I'm happy :)
Meet my awesome new comp!

Highlight #3: 18 Meses...uh, oh ;) Well, the mile-marker came this week...and then it went. As tradition calls for and requires, 6 months=a tie, 12 months=a shirt, 18 months=a pair of pants...So, a poor pair of pants met its fate Saturday night as it burned its way into history. It was actually a lot of fun! :) And of course we took plenty of pictures :) :) We also had a mennonite baked Apple Pie, with Ice Cream, and Sparkling Cider (Grape Flavored, without Alcohol). All in all a great way to end my 18 months as a servant of the Lord! :) Lots of FANTASTIC memories and lessons learned I've had...and who knows what new and amazing things the following 6 months have to offer :) Now...not to go overboard but realistic, 18 months from now I will be turning 22, have completed another year of college and...be married? Ashley on her mission? In an internationally touring a cappella group? Who knows! :) HOW EXCITING!!! :)
I made it to 18 months!! Here's our celebratory goodies!
18-month tradition...

I spy the temple, can you??!?!

This one is a little tougher, can you still see it?? :)
"The way to feel better about your own situation is to improve someone else's circumstances." --Ezra Taft Benson, "Chapter 16: The Elderly in the Church"

"Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon recorded the following after a sacred experience:

'And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

For we saw him' (D&C 76:22–23).

Their words are my words.

I believe and I am sure that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that He lives. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, and 'by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God' (D&C 76:24).

I bear my witness that the Savior lives. I know the Lord. I am His witness. I know of His great sacrifice and eternal love for all of Heavenly Father’s children. I bear my special witness in all humility but with absolute certainty, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen." --Testimony of Pres. Boyd K. Packer

With love and prayers,
Elder Flake
These shoes have seen a lot of miles of Guatemala! 

Worn out in His service...time to start my new pair and see how much I can do in the 6 months I have left!

January 18, 2016

Last week of the first change of the year

On the internet with our families!
"Reaching out to rescue one another, under any condition, is an eternal measure of love." --Elder Ronald A Rasband (The Joyful Burden of Discipleship)

Highlights for 18/1/16:

Highlight #1: Division. This week we had surprise divisions with the Zone Leaders and I was able to go with someone from my group! :) It was refreshing and fun, especially to be with someone that I knew in the MTC. We had some great conversation, I learned a lot, and I got some tips of what to change to be even better. We had some good citas and met some great families. It was awesome to have a entire day of effective work :) :) And then we ordered pizza to wrap-up the fun :)

At the temple during divisions...

Highlight #2: Changes. Well, the moment of truth. The highlight you've all been waiting for...with bated breath...and the moment has arrived. Last night the zone leaders called (now that has some great significance to anyone that knows how changes work) and wanted to talk to my comp (even more, ideas?)....but then i had to use the bathroom (sorry, just going play-by-play and that's how it happened)...when I got out (knowing the answer) i asked my comp what they had wanted. To which he replied that he was to pack his things and be at the changes Tue morning. My comp's got changes....we'll see what the next 6 weeks have to bring now :)

Highlight #3: Food. This week's food highlight is pork tacos....spicy pork tacos. And they were SOOO good! We were celebrating someone's birthday. It was a lot of fun! :) And SUPER DUPER yummy! :)
I celebrated my half birthday this week! Any excuse for some yummy treats!
"My beloved brethren and sisters, my heart is full and my feelings tender as we conclude this great general conference of the Church.

We have been richly blessed as we have listened to the counsel and testimonies of those who have spoken to us.

As a special witness of Jesus Christ, and as His humble servant, it is now my obligation and privilege, as the Spirit dictates, to bear pure testimony and witness to that which I know to be true. (See Alma 4:19.) This I will do.

I testify that we are the spirit offspring of a loving God, our Heavenly Father (see Acts 17:29; 1 Ne. 17:36). He has a great plan of salvation whereby His children might be perfected as He is and might have a fulness of joy as He enjoys. (See 1 Ne. 10:18; 2 Ne. 2:25; Alma 24:14;Alma 34:9; 3 Ne. 12:48; 3 Ne. 28:10.)

I testify that in our premortal state our Elder Brother in the spirit, even Jesus Christ, became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation. (See Mosiah 4:6–7; Alma 34:9.) He is the captain of our salvation and the only means through whom we can return to our Father in Heaven to gain that fulness of joy. (See Heb. 2:10;Mosiah 3:17; Alma 38:9.)

I testify that Lucifer was also in the council of heaven. He sought to destroy the agency of man. He rebelled. (See Moses 4:3.) There was a war in heaven, and a third of the hosts were cast to the earth and denied a body. (See Rev. 12:7–9; D&C 29:36–37.) Lucifer is the enemy of all righteousness and seeks the misery of all mankind. (See 2 Ne. 2:18, 27; Mosiah 4:14.)

I testify that all those who come into mortality accepted our Father’s plan. (See Abr. 3:26.) Having proved faithful in their first estate in heaven, they are now subject to the test of mortality in this second estate. That test entails doing all things whatsoever the Lord requires. (See Abr. 3:25.) Those who prove faithful in this second estate will have glory added upon their heads forever and ever. (See Abr. 3:26.)

I testify that God reveals His will to all men through the Light of Christ. (See Moro. 7:16; D&C 93:2; John 1:9.) They receive the additional light of the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands by God’s authorized servants following baptism. (See A of F 1:4;D&C 20:41.)

I testify that throughout the ages God has spoken to His children through His prophets. (See Amos 3:7; Hel. 8:13–20.) Only when His children rejected the prophets were the prophets taken out of their midst, and then tragedy followed. (See 1 Ne. 3:17–18; 1 Ne. 7:14; Hel. 13:24–27.)

I testify that Christ was born into mortality with Mary as His mother and our Heavenly Father as His father. (See1 Ne. 11:18–21; Mosiah 3:8.) He lived a sinless life, providing us a perfect example. (See D&C 45:4; 3 Ne. 12:48; 3 Ne. 27:27.) He worked out the great Atonement, which, through His grace, provides for every soul a resurrection and, for the faithful, the means to become exalted in the celestial kingdom. (SeeA of F 1:3; 2 Ne. 25:23; Mosiah 4:6–7; Alma 11:41–45;D&C 76:50–70; D&C 132:19.)

I testify that during His mortal ministry Christ established His church on the earth. (See Matt. 16:18;Acts 2:47; 3 Ne. 21:22.) He called and ordained men to be Apostles and prophets with authority so that what they bound on earth would be bound in heaven. (SeeMatt. 16:19; John 15:16.) They received revelation, which provided new scripture. (See 2 Pet. 1:20–21; D&C 68:4.)

I testify that a world so wicked that it killed the Son of God soon began killing the Apostles and prophets and so plunged itself into a spiritual dark age. (See 2 Thes. 2:2–7.) Scripture ended, apostasy spread, and the church that Christ established during His earthly ministry ceased to exist. (See 2 Ne. 27:4–5.)

I testify that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820, thus bringing to an end the long night of apostasy (JS—H 1:15–20). To Joseph Smith appeared other beings, including John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John, who ordained him with authority to act in the name of God (see JS—H 1:68–72; D&C 27:5–13). The church and kingdom of God was restored in these latter days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with all the gifts, rights, powers, doctrines, officers, and blessings of the former-day Church. (See D&C 65; D&C 115:3–4.)

I testify that through the Book of Mormon God has provided for our day tangible evidence that Jesus is the Christ and that Joseph Smith is His prophet. (See D&C 20:8–33.) This other testament of Jesus Christ is a scriptural account of the early inhabitants of America. It was translated by Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God. (See D&C 135:3.) Those who will read and ponder the Book of Mormon and ask our Eternal Father in the name of Christ if it is true may know for themselves of its truthfulness through the power of the Holy Ghost, provided they will ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ. (See Moro. 10:3–5.)

I testify that America is a choice land. (See 2 Ne. 1:5.) God raised up the founding fathers of the United States of America and established the inspired Constitution. (See D&C 101:77–80.) This was the required prologue for the restoration of the gospel. (See 3 Ne. 21:4.) America will be a blessed land unto the righteous forever and is the base from which God will continue to direct the worldwide latter-day operations of His kingdom. (See 2 Ne. 1:7.)

I testify that there has been, and there is now, and there will be legal successors to the Prophet Joseph Smith who hold the keys of the kingdom of God on earth, even the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See D&C 21:1–7; D&C 107:91–92;D&C 112:15.) He receives revelation from God to direct His kingdom. Associated with him are others who are prophets, seers, and revelators, even those who make up the presiding quorums of the Church, namely the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. (See D&C 112:30.)

I testify that wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. (See D&C 1:14–16; D&C 84:49–53.) It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. (See Ether 8:18–25.)

I testify that the church and kingdom of God is increasing in strength. Its numbers are growing, as is the faithfulness of its faithful members. It has never been better organized or equipped to perform its divine mission.

I testify that as the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. God’s wrath will soon shake the nations of the earth and will be poured out on the wicked without measure. (See JS—H 1:45; D&C 1:9.) But God will provide strength for the righteous and the means of escape; and eventually and finally truth will triumph. (See 1 Ne. 22:15–23.)

I testify that it is time for every man to set in order his own house both temporally and spiritually. It is time for the unbeliever to learn for himself that this work is true, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom which Daniel prophesied God would set up in the latter days, never to be destroyed, a stone that would eventually fill the whole earth and stand forever. (See Dan. 2:34–45; D&C 65:2.) It is time for us, as members of the Church, to walk in all the ways of the Lord, to use our influence to make popular that which is sound and to make unpopular that which is unsound. We have the scriptures, the prophets, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Now we need eyes that will see, ears that will hear, and hearts that will hearken to God’s direction.

I testify that not many years hence the earth will be cleansed. (See D&C 76:41.) Jesus the Christ will come again, this time in power and great glory to vanquish His foes and to rule and reign on the earth. (See D&C 43:26–33.) In due time all men will gain a resurrection and then will face the Master in a final judgment. (See 2 Ne. 9:15, 41.) God will give rewards to each according to the deeds done in the flesh. (See Alma 5:15.)

I testify to you that a fulness of joy can only come through the atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to all of the laws and ordinances of the gospel, which are found only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See A of F 1:3.)

To all these things I humbly testify and bear my solemn witness that they are true, and I do so in the name of Him who is the head of this church, even Jesus Christ, amen." --President Ezra Taft Benson (I Testify)

I testify that we, members and participants in the last times, have servants of God who below the instruction and inspiration of God relay God's message specifically for us to us. I testify that this is the work of the Lord and He guides His servants in His work. I testify that Christ lives, that He loves us, and that He knows us individually. I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

With Love and Prayers,
Elder Flake

January 11, 2016

Obedience: The Joy of Life

My area has a volcano!!

"God's commandments are not given to frustrate us or to become obstacles to our happiness. Just the opposite is true. He who created us and who loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live our lives in order to obtain the greatest happiness possible. He has provided us with guidelines which, if we follow them, will see us safely through this often treacherous mortal journey. We remember the words of the familiar hymn: 'Keep the commandments! In this there is safety; in this there is peace.'" --Pres. Thomas S. Monson (Keep the Commandments)

Highlights for 11/1/16:

Highlight #1: Dia de Reyes. The 6th of January is celebrated here as the Day of Kings (or more specifically the Three Wise Men). So a member invited us over for a special lunch to celebrate. The tradition calls that the children in the family receive one more "Christmas" gift, as the babe Jesus received gifts from the wise men. So the kids love the opportunity to receive another gift. I, personally, enjoyed a wonderfully prepared lunch. We had Spicy Curry Chicken on lettuce garnishes and fresh lemonade. See, it WAS good ;) haha :)

Highlight #2: English. My comp's learning English!!!! WOOOOHOOO!! It took 10 weeks to crack his fear, shyness, and in-desire to learn English but I finally DID IT! :) WOOHOO! Every time we visit some of the members they had been trying to convince my comp to learn English and he always would say that he couldn't. So one day this last week I straight up asked him how he thought I learned Spanish...he responded that it was through the gift of tongues and God's help. I then asked if he thought that that was only a blessing and gift to gringos. To which he responded NO. "So...the gift of tongues you can have too?" "yes" "alright, so when are you going to act on your faith and rely on Him?" Our apartment is now covered in yellow sticky notes labeling EVERYTHING (food, doors, walls, tables, chairs, windows, EVERYTHING). And he now carries a little notebook to practice and write down new words during the day. And do you know what? In a week he now understands most of the conversation that happens when we talk in English, still can't respond, but he's understanding! THAT IS AWESOME!! THAT'S PROGRESS!

Highlight #3: Interviews. This week we had the opportunity to have interviews with President and Sister Smith. Great (as always)!! :) I learned a lot, felt the Spirit and progressed in my gospel knowledge and life preparations :) :) We talked about obedience, spiritual progression, applying God's servant's instructions to our lives, and more :) It was uplifting, encouraging, and gave me a breath of fresh air. I'm trying to make those things last as long as I can...

"My greatest strength through these past months has been my abiding testimony that this is the work of God and not of men. Jesus Christ is the head of this church. He leads it in word and deed. I am honored beyond expression to be called for a season to be an instrument in His hands to preside over His Church. But without the knowledge that Christ is the head of the Church, neither I nor any other man could bear the weight of the calling that has come.”
“In assuming this responsibility, I acknowledge God's miraculous hand in my life. He has repeatedly spared my life and restored my strength, has repeatedly brought me back from the edge of eternity, and has allowed me to continue in my mortal ministry for another season. I have wondered on occasion why my life has been spared. But now I have set that question aside and ask only for the faith and prayers of the members of the Church so we can work together, I laboring with you, to fulfill God's purposes in this season of our lives." --Testimony of Pres. Howard W. Hunter

This next week bring changes...we'll see what the Lord has in store. Next P-Day I can let you guys know what's happenin' for me :) Keep the prayers coming! :) I pray for you guys every day! Really! And in a very non-baggie way ;)

With Love and Prayers,
Elder Flake
Dinner with the Bishop and his family :)

Elders entertaining themselves...

New Year celebration fireworks

January 04, 2016

Happy New Year!!

"I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up." --D&C 84:88
This is not just a promise meant only for the called full-time missionaries. This is a promise to those who are living worthy and looking for opportunities to serve, share, and lift. This is a promise for YOU. :)

Highlights for 4/1/16:

Highlight #1: New Years. This week we had a great New Years celebration with a member here. She prepared an awesome BBQ with rice (the BBQ for the gringos...the rice for the Dominican). She prepared steak, potatoes, garlic bread, sausage, and then a very good set of Guatemalan sausage as well. We had a great time sharing mission stories, playing some games, and eating! I enjoyed it...weird to think the next time I celebrate New Years I will be 2800 miles from here! Weird!
New Year's on the roof

Highlight #2: District Activity. Today we had our district activity...it was a lot of fun! :) We got together to play Risk and have a little bit of fun! It was great to get to chill again with E Roca, it's been un buen rato since the last time we could just chill. In the end E Cudney won, but I MUST say...I ALMOST won. But then I didn't...and do you know what (this comment is for all those that know me and my personality when it comes to winning) I was fine with not winning. I had a lot of fun and that's what matters :) Then we ate Chinese food...and that is ALWAYS a good thing :) OH, that's something cool here...all the fast food restaurants deliver FREE! What could be better?? You can wake up, order a McFlurry, take a shower, and when you get out...BOOM! there's your McFlurry! ;) It's pretty awesome! And yes, I use it with caution and prudence and follow the white handbook's instructions to not do it too often. But it's still COOL! :)

Highlight #3: Food. I have included this week a picture of a traditional Christmas and New Year's food. It is called a pache. I know I've mentioned it before. But something this good you can't mention TOO much ;) haha! There are MANY different types...but there are 3 main groupings: Maiz, Rice, and Papa...then each of these have their varieties (ie spicy, sweet, with chx or beef or pork, etc). They are pretty good!!! :) All y'alls are missin' out ;)
Pache is cooked in a banana leaf.


Highlight #4: Miracle. This week during divisions me and E Shoemaker were contacting and came across an AWESOME family! Turns out that about 2 weeks ago my comp and I were contacting on the street and met a pair of sisters. We were able to visit one of the sisters (because her directions to her house were correct) but the other we never could find again. Well, we found her....and her ENTIRE FAMILY! And they are amazing. Other side notes: They have an AMAZING view of the temple from their house (that is about 3 blocks above the temple), they have wanted to know more about the "Mormons", and the sister had been looking for us in the streets because they had moved (no wonder we couldn't find her house...). So we now have a pretty positive family to start visiting and ponerlos pilus! :)

"Jesus is my friend. None other has given me so much. He is my exemplar. He is my teacher. He is my healer. He is my leader. He is my Savior and my Redeemer. He is my God and my King. From everlasting to everlasting, He will reign and rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. To His dominion there will be no end. To His glory there will be no night. None other can take His place. None other ever will. Unblemished and without fault of any kind, He is the Lamb of God, to whom I bow and through whom I approach my Father in Heaven. I know that God, our Eternal Father, lives and that He stands at the head of this work. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of the world, and that He is the living head of this Church, whose name it bears. I know that the conversation which took place between the Father and the Son and the boy Joseph was as intimate and as real as is my conversation with you, that the Book of Mormon is true, that the priesthood is upon the earth, that this is the work of the Almighty, and that its great challenge and destiny lies ahead of it, and that it will continue to move forth until it has accomplished the mission for which the Almighty has outlined for it. I'm grateful for that testimony. I love the work. I love the faithful people of this Church. And I leave my blessing with them. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, amen." --Testimony of Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley

What a testimony! I was reading that testimony this week and seeing, in small part, that I can say the same things! My testimony may not be as grand or with knowledge perfect. But I can and do testify of these things each and every day! This is an amazing work! The work of Salvation. The work of redemption. A work of Faith. A work to bring repentance and a remission of sins to MY brothers and sisters here. What a calling...and the days are passing TOO fast! If you are sitting on the fence if you are going to serve a mission or not, JUMP OFF THAT FENCE!  And then hit the ground running (to the bishop's office) to start your mission papers. The Lord needs your talents. The Lord needs your experiences. The Lord need YOU!

With love and prayers,
Elder Flake
Santa does visit missionaries! ;)

Merry Christmas! Who will play this with me at home?? You might have to learn Spanish!!