Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Blessed to Baptize

To start off, shoutout to baby brother David for making it to 17 years!! Felìz cumpleaños muchacho!! Also, way to go at state vikes! happy to hear my home town still has some glory on the soccer field! (kidding) Seriously everything is going well at home! For the most part, everything is going well here too.

I just got done washing all my clothes by hand (yet another reason why I love America), but at least they're actually clean again. I come home every night smelling worse than roadkill, because of how hot it is and how much i sweat from it. 

But speaking of clean, holy cow I had my first baptism this week!
So, we´d been working with some sixteen year old twins for the most part of the 6 or 7 weeks I have been here. Heres the thing-they've been coming to church for their entire lives with their mom, but their dad isn't a member and up until this point he has refused to let them be baptized. Despite all the sets of missionaries and tireless work of the members of the stake, he had never let up. It was to the point that they were worried it might not happen until they could make the decision on their own. 

I would like to say that my companion came in and talked their dad into allowing it to happen, or that some angel like the one that came to Alma the younger came and rocked his world, but the truth is that nothing like that happened. What happened, as far as I know, is that we worked with the twins and their mom, teaching them all the lessons, and he just out of nowhere changed his mind. He just said "ok" one day. But what I dont get is why. What changed in him that made him change his mind? I dont know what really happened, but what I do know is that the Lord works in mysterious ways, and by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. (Alma 37:6-7) We have prayed and fasted for them, and apart from that we had them write down their testimonies and give it to him for his birthday. Then on Saturday, we went with them down to the baptismal font.

I had the opportunity to baptize Melani, one of the twins, and my companion the other, Milena. Needless to say, I was super nervous leading up to it. This was my very first ever! I had no idea what it was going to be like. But when we were down in the water, the overwhelming peace and calm of the spirit came over me, and everything went perfect. When I brought her up out of the water, I could see that she wasnt the same as before. She came up, and she was glowing. She was so happy, so pure, so light. I will never forget it.

I thought about what would have been if I had decided to put my mission off for a couple of weeks or so. After the accident, I was pretty shattered, and in all honesty I had no idea what to do. I talked about how I recieved an answer to my prayers that I needed to just get out in the mission field and in the work that Sunday, but I never really knew why. Truthfully, I still might not know exactly why, even now. What I do know is that I wouldn't have been here to see this miracle, and neither would my companion, who would probably still be zone leader in his old area. Although I miss the people at home sometimes, and wonder where I would be right now if I had waited, I couldnt be happier with the work than I am now. I love the mission. It's the best decision I have ever made - the decision to serve. 

I´m not the same person that left small town Middleton, I have changed in ways that I cant really begin to express. I love you all, I miss you all, and I want you to know how blessed I am to be a missionary.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Feeling the Fire

He's feeling the "fire" of missionary work...
let's just hope he doesn't burn the house down!

So first off- dad, thank you so much for the pictures! I love to see how the family is doing! unfortunately, im not able to save any of them, due to the fact that all aour memory cards and flash drives have been collected for the assistants to the president to go through. Also, aunt nan! Love the emails from MJ! i will try to write him if i can find the time! A new nephew? wow!! he looks good, way to go Mats and Nikki! And Kaden, Congratulations on the mission call man! Hey, if you can write me, a guy in my mission has some pretty sweet stories from his dad, who served in the same mission! (ps. theres a legend about black panthers down there - and its true). Also, mom, I sent a personal letter home for the family, but i dont know how long it might take to get there. I hear in can take up to months back and forth. ok, now for what has been going on here:

So it turns out we had a problem with fruit flies in our room. HAD. But now, i think i may have solved the problem. yet i may have also created a new one. I have instructed the latinos in my room the art of creating a handheld flame thrower with a can of axe spray and a lighter for the sake of ridding our house of the pestilences. We are fresh out of ways to do so humanely, and so we have taken very drastic measures. So far, its worked out pretty well. At least, we dont have a fruit fly problem anymore. Howe3ver, they havent quite given up the technique. I now call the guys who live with me the Peruvian Pyromaniacs, because they really are. But we are almost out of axe spray and lighter fluid, so i think that theres a chance that we wont end up burning the house down.

My companion and I are very blessed and fortunate to be having success in our mission. We have 4 baptismal dates scheduled, and are working with a family that looks very promising. We have three baptismal dates in the next three weeks, all of which are about prepared and are looking to be confident and strong members in the church. I ahve been blessed with the oportunity to baptise my first convert this Saturday in my mission! I am very excited, and know that it is only through the strength, inspiration, and guidance that the Lord has blessed my companionship with that these miracles are being prepared to take place.  

I am starting to see the power of the Priesthood more and more throughout my mission. So far, I have been able to take place in 4 priesthood blessings, 3 of which I have been given the opportunity to offer. Every time, I have no idea what I am going to say going into it, but as I open my mouth, the spirit fills it with words. I dont remember a lot of what I say in those blessings, partially because they arent really my own words, but what I have seen come to pass I will never forget. For one, a man who´s ankle had been swollen for two months lost all of its swelling just days after the blessing, and he was able to walk comfortably on it again. Elder Adams had been sick to the point that he could barely get off his bed and walk around for a week and a half or so, and a day after the blessing, he was up and working to full capacity again. My companion hurt his hand, and it was swollen, and looked bad. The morning after the blessing, he told me he felt no pain in it afterwards. To be honest, I was very humbled. I had struggled believing that the Lord´s power might be able to work through someone as imperfect as I, but through the mercy and grace of God, i have seen and have taken part in these miracles. I feel as Ammon in the Book of Mormon, where he says that as to his strength he is nothing, but through the Lord, he can do all things. Now, I am nothing comapared to that guy, but i feel as he does. There was nothing I could have done for these people, except for do my best to administer in my calling to them, but the Power of God has made them whole again.

Well, I am sorry if this email didnt make a lot of sense, but my thoughts are a little bit scattered, haha. But just know I am safe, I am happy, I am Elder Kofoed, and I am a missionary. (kind of dramatic, but i like it).

Monday, October 12, 2015

Humble Circumstances and the "Bandito"

This letter made me cringe - and then it made me cry....

Hey guys!! Woah this has been a crazy and great week. The truth about it all is that I really have no idea where to start. I am at the point where sometimes its a little hard for me to talk and think in English because my mind is kinda starting to switch over to spánish, so if something I say doesnt make sense, just roll with it. Anyways, I say this week has been pretty crazy because it really has been crazy. I am sorry to inform you mother, I did indeed meet a "bandito," and I met him two nights in a row. But he wasnt harmful or anything-all he took from me was my blue pen out of my shirt pocket. The second night, when I was with another gringo, the zone leader actually, he came after us again. We got away, thankfully, without the loss of any of our writing utensiles. He wasn't  too sketchy. As a matter of fact I haven't run into anything really sketchy besides the one time I saw a machete fight in the middle of a busy street, and that was about 3 minutes after I i had been pen-pocketed (haha). I also met a convict from the United States who is living here hiding from the law. He begged me to help him return to the states, said he would do anything, pay me however much I wanted, and a bunch of other stuff. I told him that I am a missionary, and im not really allowed to get into that stuff, shook his hand to leave. He tryed to pull me in for a hug, but i kind of yanked my hand out of his and walked away, to be brief. 

The poverty around here is pretty bad-i cant believe how many people live without a home around here. However, I have never seen a more generous, loving, type of people. There are tons of people who sell food on the street here, and though they dont make very much money for themselves, they are always more than willing to give some of their food to the homeless. You don't always see that in the States. At first, I wouldnt go near any of the homeless, but I learned a valuable lesson from one of them that I will not forget.

We were making a contact on the street, and while we were talking with the contact, a homeless man I often see walked up to us. I hid my hand with my watch behind my back just for safekeeping. But the man didnt want any of our stuff. He didnt ask for money, or for food, or for anything else. He simply wanted to "listen to the good word of God" as he put it. That knocked me off my heels for a second (and not becuase of the smell of his breath). Ok sorry for the joke. But really, here was a man who had nothing more than the clothes on his back and the plastic bag in his hand, and he wanted to hear our message. He, even through is circumstances and poverty, believed that our Heavenly Father was looking out for him, and that He loves him, just like any other one of His children. What an inspiration that was to me. In all honesty, if I were living his life, I wouldnt believe in any sort of Supernatural Being, let alone a Heavenly Father such as ours. But here he was, "listening to the good word of God." I found a soft spot in my heart for this guy. Although we couldn't teach him for various reasons, and though we couldnt help him much more than the pamphlet that we gave him, I hope the best for him, and for his circumstances. I am thankful for the humbling experience. 

I used to think that my current circumstances in my area were difficult, but I thank my Heavenly Father every morning night and other times I pray for everything I have been blessed in abundance with; a family who loves me and cares for me and has helped set me up for the rest of my life in ways of truth and right. Im thankful for the blessings of the gospel that i may have squandered before. If I had any advice for the people back at home, it would be to count your blessings at the end of every day. You dont realize how lucky you really are until you see some of the things I have seen- people who can barely walk for the want of hunger and nourishment-people that live every day of their lives on a street corner-people that dont even know about the United States of America. I tell people that I have a small herd of cattle at home, and theyre amazed to know that I have even 1. I show them pictures of my family, and they see a little bit of my daily life is like, and they tell me they'd give anything to live one day like I used to. 

Okay, i gotta go, but love you guys, and really think about what I have said, and never take for granted the daily pleasures of life back home.

Elder Jonathan Lane Kofoed
Ecuador Guayaquil West Mission

Monday, October 5, 2015

Beautiful Explanation and Testimony of the Atonement

So, since my first email never sent for some reason... I will try my best to update you all about my current circumstances as briefly as I can:

First of all, I am living in an apartment with three other guys from Peru that speak no English whatsoever. In other words, Im suprised that I am here at this computer writing, because the stress over the language hasnt yet caused me to jump out of window. However, I have learned a lot of the language and am adapting to be able to hear and comprehend what these locos are talking about. Just kidding I love these guys. We get along great, except when Elder Vela catches us digging in to his snack-stash. (the guys a sugarholic he{s got oreos packed away like you wouldnt believe). Anyways, you might have seen the pictures of Guayaquil, Ecuador. I tell you its like the most ghetto place on earth. It makes the streets of Queens in New York look like Disneyland.The guys tell me, though, that it is the best area in the mission, so i am trying to stay optimistic.

Now for the good stuff: Holy wow did you guys SEE General Conference!?!?!?!? It was so good! Sometimes it was a little bit difficult to understand in the spanish language, when they would use people with different types of spanish dialects, but I picked up on a lot. Some of the things that stuck out to me: 

The importance of the Sabbath Day (particularly the sacrament and the ordinances and blessings therin), the power of prayer and personal revelation, the plan of salvation (with particular interest in the importance of families), and my favorite, and most especially, the Atonement. That is what I want to talk a little about today.

First off, in the Bible, whenever it talks about Jesus going to the Garden of Gethsemane, it never uses the word: Expiacion - or Atonement in english. So where did the word come from? In another scripture in John, it talks about the offering of sacrifices of blood for the sake of remission for sins. Basically, what we learn is that Atonement means simply a sacrifice or offering of blood. Sounds pretty intense, but what more fitting of a word for the suffering that Jesus went through in the Garden of Gethsemane, where it says the His sweat were as great drops of blood. 

I have been thinking a lot about the Atonement since the Saturday morning session. Why is it that we really can find strength, peace, and comfort through the Atonement? The scriptures talk about how Christ suffered for ALL the pains, sicknesses, afflictions, sorrows, and more for the world. He suffered all these things, both physically, mentally, and spiritually. Why? Obviously, because He loves us. Like I said, sometimes we marvel at the power the Atonement has, and its ability to help fix ourselves. Something clicked in my mind that morning in general conference. I have probably heard it so many times, but maybe i just needed to hear it said a little differently. When Jesus suffered in the Garden, even before His death on the cross, He went through it all. He felt every burden, great or small, and suffered it, that we might be able to cast ours off with the power of the Atonement. Incredible no? But there is more. Now, we have problems in our lives. we are afflicted. we are burdened. we are plagued with sins and temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary (Satan) in our daily lives. The only hope for relief that we have is that great act our Savior did for us. Why does it help us? Becuase we actually have someone to sympathize with. Christ says "I know how you feel," becuause He really, truly does. Then, He says "Here, let me take those away, " and He does. And then, after all that we can do, he says "Be thou healed," or "Go thy way, and sin no more." 

Gotta go, love you all and Have a great week 

Elder Jonathan Lane Kofoed
Ecuador Guayaquil West Mission