WELCOME to Elder John-Gregory Sierra's mission blog! For the next two years Elder Sierra will be serving as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the California Sacramento Mission. We hope you will enjoy his experiences, shared through weekly letters. We will post his letters each week and any pictures he may send.

Write Elder Sierra

WRITE ELDER SIERRA!

Missionaries love to get letters (and care packages)! If you'd like to write to Elder Sierra, please use the following addresses:

MISSION OFFICE:
Elder John-Gregory Sierra
California Sacramento Mission
8267 Deseret Ave
Fair Oaks, CA 95628

EMAIL:
john-gregory.sierra@myldsmail.net


Friday, December 13, 2013

I WONDER AS I WANDER

Here's an email we received from a senior missionary who is serving in the office of John Gregory's mission. It was very kind of her to share this moment with us.

Hello Bro. and Sis. Sierra,

Today I had the great privilege of accompanying Elder Sierra on piano while he sang I Wonder As I Wonder for 4 zones of wonderful missionaries in the "Mormon Center", a chapel next to the Temple utilized for special occasions. The missionaries attended the Temple as part of this special day.

Elder Sierra's song was the last musical number on the program, just before the prayer. First there were a variety of musical presentations,  the reading of the Christmas story from the scriptures with missionaries in beautiful costumes, short Christmas videos, and talks by missionaries and Pres. & Sis. Lewis.

Before he sang, Elder Sierra spoke to the missionaries about imagining themselves in the place of the person singing the message, promised them they would be blessed for doing so. Then he sang to a captive group of missionaries, many of whom had tears in their eyes and on their faces before he finished. It was a sacred moment for us all.

All is well in Zion for one more day. That young man shows a lot of promise ahead of him.


Love, 

Sis. Richardson

Monday, December 9, 2013

'TIS THE SEASON TO CELEBRATE CHRIST!

Hey Mom,

I did get the package with the advent chain (makes my day, every night) and the one with the 4th day of Christmas (not opening it until required time, I promise lol). I am not surprised at the fact that you guys are running yourselves ragged again, but I think that's cool how you and Dad are focusing more on scriptures to read than activities. May I suggest a couple of chapters to look at? 1 Nephi 1 (focus on the interpretations) and Alma 7:9-12. Both of those scriptures are the main ones I have been sharing with my investigators and with the people we contact because they talk about the Spirit of Christmas and are from the Book of Mormon. Because the purpose of having the BOM is that it is another Testament that Jesus is the Christ. All of our investigators, especially Marcos and Miguel, have really enjoyed it and felt a sweet spirit enter in. 'Tis the season to celebrate Christ. 
 
Work has been picking up very fast, usually does around December, and we have been VERY busy, whether it's teaching, serving, giving blessings, visiting members that are struggling a little, or helping out other missionaries with their areas, not to mention practicing for the missionary conference (I am singing I Wonder as I Wander and helping put together All For a Baby and Run To the Manger). Also, Sister Lewis asked me to give a talk on the Spirit of Christmas and, the Nativity here asked Elder Sempf and me to give the Nativity tours and be in charge of the dress-up booth. And, to top all that off, we have been asked to be in charge of giving temple tours in español for the next week or so, because so many people, including our investigators, are going on tours. So yeah, we are pretty booked too. 
 
This has been my 2nd-fasted transfer so far. Fastest one is still the one I had with Elder Russel. So, rumors are spreading about transfers again. Everyone thinks I am leaving to go to another area (I will be ENRAGED if that happens to me again!) It would be my 4th time spending only one transfer in an area. My companion thinks I'll train, and my DL wants me to go District Leader. Wouldn't mind it too much, but rather not do it during the holidays. I would be real busy if either of those two things happened. Like I said, 'tis the season... to be working, non-stop. 
 
Well, Mom, that kinda sums it all up. As for sunglasses, I don't care what brand, I just need because I hate having the sun in my eyes all the time. No tree needed; we got a fake one and we will be spending the night at the DL's apartment for Christmas anyway (they have a real tree that the members got them). Thanks for the packages, Mom! Both Elder Sempf and I are doing awesome. Really would like to stay with him one more transfer. Love you Mom.
 
Elder Sierra

Monday, December 2, 2013

IT'S GONNA BE AN AWESOME CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!

Dear Mom,

I'm happy to hear Thanksgiving went great for you guys. It had to be if Uncle Bob and Aunt Angela came up to visit. How are their kids doing? They still cute as a button? And also, thanks for showing me pics from family. I really needed to see that. Thanksgiving without seeing family kinda stinks lol. But, I had my companion to spend it with and he is real cool. Elder Sempf hails from a small town in Wisconsin. A red cheese head by far (the guys a ginger) and is full of patience, having a positive outlook on everyone. He is kinda teaching me a thing or two about how to control my temper a bit. It's hard for me to be mad, though, especially since we just had Marcos and Miguel show up for church, and they loved EVERY MINUTE OF IT!!! Man, I love these guys! After the first couple of hymns, Marcos turned to me and said, "Las canciones estan perfecto. Me gusta el sentimiento de gozo que siento." (The songs are perfect. I like the feeling of joy I feel.) (awesome comment # 1). During sacrament, he asked me some pretty inspired questions pertaining to the Atonement and, after answering them, he says, "Oh I get it, so we are saved after ALL we do. Jesus makes up the difference (and that He does. awesome comment # 2). They were completely bewildered by the testimonies during the first hour and by the end of the meeting they looked at us and said, "THAT'S IT?!! That went by WAY too fast. Will it be like this next week, same time?" (I couldn't believe it cuz to me it was kinda long. Miraculous awesome comment # 3 and *ding* *ding* *ding* we have a WINNER!!) Both of them asked us when we could stop by again we told them Friday (usually when we see them). Miguel then asked, "Friday is fine, but can you come Wednesday, too? We should be done with homework by 3." My companion and I looked at each other and were like, "Uhhhh....sure thing." (This usually NEVER happens). So, Elder Sempf and I are PUMPED!! And we can't wait to continue teaching them. They are bright, young men and, in fact, our branch president was their middle school teacher. He took us aside and said, "Those boys always stood out in my classes. You make sure you teach them well." Yeah so....no pressure whatsoever. 
 
We have been adding many families. Our teaching pool is now 16 people/families and we are excited for what the mission and the Lord brings. It's gonna be an awesome Christmas. Happy Holidays everyone and I sure do think of all of you in my hearts, especially you Mom. Love you all.

Elder John-Gregory Sierra 
I'M DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS!

Here's Elder Sierra's letter from last week.

Hey Mom,

Sorry for forgetting to tell you that I wouldn't be able to write to you last Monday. And unfortunately, I couldn't get enough time to email you today due to all the chaos of Thanksgiving, but I received permission to talk to you tomorrow so don't worry I will have a real conversation with you. Anyhow, I would like to share with you a miracle. We have been working with the Familia Guerra for quite some time. They all love what they are learning and have a desire to go to church. Each of the family members has accepted a baptismal invitation, but just a few days ago, we invited Marcos and Miguel to be baptized on December 21st and they have accepted. The Spirit was very powerful as both brothers (they remind me of Benjamin and me) looked at each other, and then at us, and exclaimed that they wanted to be baptized into la Iglesia de Jesucristo de Los Santos de Los Últimos Días. Everyone told me that I wouldn't be able to get much work done here, that West Sacramento was in a drought. Elder Sempf and I proved them ALL wrong. We are excited to have a REAL White Christmas by helping to bring two truly converted souls unto Christ. Mom, Dad, Benjamin, Ralynne, family, friends, Happy Thanksgiving! You are what I am thankful for. I love you all so much. It hurt a little to wake up and to remember that I would not be eating in a home or at a table surrounded by my loved ones from home. However, there are many loved ones that I have here that need me. Happy Holidays. Felíz Día de Gracia! Les Amo!

Elder Sierra

Monday, November 11, 2013

IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Dear Mom,

This week has been interesting for me. I have been switched back into Spanish work and it is the opposite of English work and 6 weeks is more than enough time to lose your touch. However, the Lord has blessed me with another awesome companion, Elder Sempf, and I can't be more grateful (although, I will admit that I was a bit worried coming here.) All the Spanish missionaries I knew told me that the 7th Branch was hard to work with: the members aren't that helpful in the work, the branch president is very difficult to work with, and the people living in the area are very stubborn. After being here for almost 6 days, I want to [go back to] every elder that told me those things [and set them straight]. The people here are wonderful, I love the branch president and am excited to work with him, and the members and their families here are beautiful and have such joyful spirits. We meet in a humble building that is very old, but I have never seen a brighter and happier branch in all my life. They are all so humble and willing to serve everyone, especially us.

We have been doing great work here so far. We have already picked up 5 people/families and one in particular, Elena Leyva, has already accepted a date for this November. Yesterday was a special experience that I'd like to share. While we were tracting, we found a girl named Kylee (another English one) and she opened the door excitedly. She said that she always wanted to know why we knock on everyone's door. We began to teach her about the Restoration that soon transitioned into the Plan of Salvation after she asked several questions about the purpose of life and the life that awaited after this one. While we were explaining to her that, after this life, we are reunited with our bodies in a perfect, resurrected state, she began to cry (uncontrollably). We were stunned. We had no idea what to say. My companion asked her if everything was okay. She then explained that she has chronic meningitis and is in pain almost every day. She used to be a soccer player and can't play anymore because neither her nor her family can afford the medication that she needs. She passes kidney stones frequently and gets very fatigued very easily and she just wants to be normal again. It was hard for us to hold back our tears. A thought then reminded me of Kim and I explained to her how I knew of someone that was in the same struggle as her. I told her how Kim, even though she was feeling pain that has sent her to the hospital numerous times and has passed many kidney stones, as well, that through all of her trials I have never seen her get discouraged, ever. She always presses on, never giving up. Seeing that really inspired me to continue through some difficulties I was going through at the time, as well. Kylee asked me, "How is she always happy?" "I don't know actually. I don't know how she does it. I'm sure she has gone through quite a few rough patches, but I guess, maybe, she got tired of letting it affect her happiness. She's just always smiling, as if she never was sick. It's incredible. One day, maybe I'll ask."

We ended the lesson sharing a scripture from D&C 122: 7-9. (7. And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
 8. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
 9. Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.)
Afterwards, she asked us, "Can I get baptized?" We laughed and said, "What a coincidence! We were just about to ask you the same." She is set for Dec. 7th. We are very excited for what more we can do in West Sacramento.

I love you, Mom. As far as the Christmas list you wanted me to send, I wouldn't mind some guitar/ukelele books. I don't know what else to ask, really. Love you Mom.

Elder Sierra   

(ties sound good, some vocal point cd's, $$ or gift cards, Spanish music that is uplifting is approved.)
A BLACK EYE AND TRANSFERS

Elder Sierra's letter from last week
Dear Mom,
My transfer call was this.
"Elder Sierra you have been called to go back into Spanish work. Your new assignment is West Sacramento. Your new companion will be Elder Sempf and you will be serving in the Sacramento 7th ward."- President Lewis
Me - "Alright, cool."
Pres. - "That's all you have to say?"-Pres.
"Yep."
"No yelling, no defying, nothing?"
"Nope."
"Well, Elder I am impressed. And you may not want to get too comfortable being in West Sacramento either. We may have plans for you."
So, yeah, I am back in Spanish work and from what President is telling me, I will probably only stay there for, like, a transfer (two if I get lucky). I am driving and from what Zone leaders are tellin me, they think I'll go train next transfer, or something like that... but all is well. I have done quite a bit here in Folsom and am excited to go back into Spanish work. My Spanish has been getting a bit rusty. So, my Thanksgiving will be in a Spanish ward and district. I am looking forward to it, though. Everyone says Sac 7th is the best Spanish ward. And, I know who my companion is and he is pretty awesome, so it will be fun. 
Unfortunately, I don't have too much to write about other than the fact that I had a little sparring match with a random guy I met on the street the other day (I was close to Ranch Cordova area). These guys were amateur boxing and my companion and I were on splits (it always happens on splits) and these guys were antagonizing us to box with them quick. My zone leader was looking at me cuz he knew I was not one to shy away from a challenge and was like, "Remember, fight the good fight elder. Don't give in." So I was gonna ignore it, then he commented about Joseph Smith. That was it for me. I told him alright, I'll take you on. If you beat me, I'll give you my wallet and my name tag, if you lose, you listen to the message of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said, sure, and we can all kinda guess who won. So, we taught the restoration with a black eye that was oozing a bit (I did punch a little too hard in that little scuffle, but I thought he could handle it)) and he and his friend have a date for December. HAHAHAHA!!! Man, I love being a missionary. I love you Mom. Hope you ain't mad!
Elder Sierra "your wonderful, beautiful, angel son"
A follow-up to mom's concerned reply:
Mom,

Everything is fine. That was the first time in a LONG time that I have had an incident like that. And you know what, maybe that was or wasn't the best way to do it, but in the end, it is what I was impressed to do. I did not turn to him to beat him up because I was angry that he insulted Joseph Smith. I could've done that without putting on gloves and taking time to set up a deal with him. Honestly, it's the way the Spirit works through me (no lie). I felt prompted to go and box with him. It is the truth. Afterwards, I got him ice, sat him down, hugged him, shared the wonderful message of Christ, and he was crying. I told him how much I loved him and he replied, "How? You don't even know me!" Me: "Of course I do! You're my long lost brother that I just found. I loved you before I even started talking with you." I should've included that because I realize it probably does sound more like a conquest when I didn't include that. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

BITS AND PIECES OF MULTIPLE EMAILS TO FAMILY LAST WEEK

Elder Sierra has transfers this week so his letter will come on Tuesday. Here are some thoughts from last week:
 10/28/13
Ralynne, 
...I have been tirelessly trying to do everything I can to Find, Teach, and Baptize. I have reached my 8 month mark, so I am 1/3 of the way finished. It' s kinda sad because I truly do love my mission with all my heart and the time seems to go by faster and faster. [Here's] a little quote I thought of: "Take the mission day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, then your done." It's a little bittersweet, but it does ring true to how short a time we have here...

Dear Mom,
I can barely recognize that kid [Benjamin]!!  ....Well, thanks for sending the package. I'll call the office to make sure they have it. To confirm the claim that Benjamin made about me learning the ukelele, it is true, although I have been putting aside the uke so that I can learn to play guitar. I can play quite a few songs and some of the members want to get me a book so that I can keep teaching myself how to play. By the time I am off the mission I should know how to play guitar, the uke, the harmonica, and the piano decently. I [want to] perfect them when I return home, along with playing bass guitar and the actual BIG Bass (always wanted to play that). So, yeah, been trying to stay musical...
As far as the work here goes, Linda is doing great; we have another lesson with her tomorrow night. We also have a new referral by the name of Kevin. He referred himself to us from Mormon.org (those are usually the best). We also have Nick Nelson who now has a date for the 30th of November and Steve Grove who is progressing well, he just doesn't have a date yet (haven't felt impressed to push him to do that yet). That is all the updates on our investigators right now. We are doing good and are still going strong. It's a lot of fun out here in Folsom and I am hoping I stay for at least one more transfer. I really want to see this zone baptize. I love you Mom.

Elder Sierra

Hey Dad,
I just heard about Benjamin's last game. It sounds like he has really  been coming along. I can see him one day playing in college like I
did. 

I am happy to say that the Mission President and I are just fine. We have our differences and still view things differently, but we are
still of one purpose in bringing souls to Christ. I think in either the next transfer or the transfer after he is going to make me a leader
of some sort. I'd rather just go senior because, like you said, I just got the mechanics down and am working on improving certain areas. 1/3 of my mission is now officially complete. It's kinda sad. The time just keeps on slipping away. I can't believe Ralynne is about to go home from hers. 
Well Dad, I received your letter and thank you. I like the hand-written stuff you send me... Thanks for the sweet quotes. The work here is goin good. Talk to you next week. Christmas is almost here. I will be able to skype again then.

Elder Sierra


Monday, October 28, 2013

A NEW TAKE ON 'GETTING YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR'!

Letter from last week, Oct. 21, 2013

Hey Mom,

I'm happy you got those pics. I'll try and do that now when I am with
people that I'm teaching or visiting. Have them send you a pic if it's a nice occasion. 

Linda is doing awesome. She couldn't come to church but she wanted to do something so she asked if there was something she could watch. My companion and I were thinking about something and then she said would watching conference online count? Unbelievably, I asked president about it and it does, apparently, count. So that's exactly what she did. No surprise her favorite speakers were President Holland and President Uchtdorf. She said those were her favorites. Also, she said there was something about the way President Monson speaks that was so touching and so soft and full of sunshine. She asked us who he was (we forgot to tell her who the prophet was) and I said, "Oh yeah, that's the prophet." She is so funny and is so full of energy. She exclaimed, "I knew it! That had to be your prophet." She is incredible. We can't
wait to see her baptized. 


As for the pact mom: yeah, sure, no prob. I got this haha...except for last night, though. We were walking home and someone was cussing us out. I told him to come downstairs.  He wouldn't come down, so I came up to him. He realized I wasn't messing around and tried to run to his apartment. I stuck my foot out to block him from shutting the door. And then said, "You can't insult servants of the Lord and expect to walk away." He was kinda freaking out. He asked, " What do you want?" I just said, "My buddy and I just want ten minutes of your time. Just sit down and listen and depending on how you feel you don't ever have to see us ever again." We taught him the restoration/plan of salvation in less than ten minutes and he sat there quietly. My companion then bore a sweet and penetrating testimony and with that, we said, "Thank you for your time", and were just about to head out the door. He told us, "Stop. Can you guys come back next week same time?" I said, "Sure thing brother :)" His name is Jace. He is our newest
investigator haha. 

Well that's all there is Mom. I hope everything is working out well over there. Also, I entered a chili contest need your recipes mama. 
Love you,

Elder Sierra

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

 A GREAT REASON TO GET BAPTIZED!

Dear Mama,

Man, these kids are gettin' way too big and too old and new little guys are just coming out of the woodwork. I can't believe how fast time goes by out here and also, how fast things change back home. Tell the Kirklands, the Lindseys, and the De Costas I say congrats and good luck. 
 
Sister Lewis, Mission President's wife, was asking me, once, what dreams I want to achieve when I get home (kind of a trunky question, right? lol) and I told her I just want to finish school and get into the spec ops team that I want to be in. She was stunned and said, "You don't want to be a Father?" I was, like, "Absolutely NOT!! I'm terrified of the thought of being a Dad." Yeah, so my companion and I were invited over to their house for dinner and it was pretty sweet. President commented on that conversation, saying, "Now, now, Elder Sierra has a little while to think about that, however it is a suggestion that you get engaged 6 months after the mission." So, in short, I'm being bombarded on all sides here, haha. 
 
Anyhow, back to the work. Things have been progressing. Our teaching pool is ever increasing and we had the opportunity to take an investigator on a temple tour yesterday. Her name is Linda Reynolds and she is a high-spirited 68-year old lady who truly can recognize the Spirit. After the tour, she was crying, saying that, "I know this has to be true, but I don't want to join for the wrong reasons." I asked her what reason that would be. She responded, "To be with my husband for eternity." My companion and I smiled. "Linda, there is no greater reason than the one you just mentioned." Linda Reynolds has a baptismal date for Nov. 12. Hopefully, I can still be around for it (probably not). 
 
We are very excited about our investigators. We pretty much have many miracles just waiting to happen. Our bishop and ward mission leader sent a letter to our mission president asking him to allow us both to stay in the area (I'm leaving for sure now). I was touched that the ward trusts us and loves the work we do here. They have been very supportive and missionary-minded from Day 1. I really don't want to leave Folsom, but I am pretty sure I will be back in Spanish work next transfer coming up in about 2 weeks. Speaking of Spanish work, we have been teaching 6 Spanish families and have invited each of them to church this coming Sunday. If things work out, then we will have made the first Spanish group here in Folsom and will have opened up Spanish work here for the first time. Needless to say, I am exhausted. 
 
Mom, my only advice from the mission to you this week is that I have learned that, if we continue forward, not thinking about all the work and challenges that must be overcome, the Lord will naturally lift us up and remove them from us. It is when we do not focus so much on our trials that we then become happy, encouraged, and have a continuous desire to serve others. Do not be discouraged. All will be recompensed soon, and more abundantly than you could ever imagine. Continue to Rise up everyone.

Elder Sierra

Monday, October 7, 2013

RISE UP! THERE ARE MIRACLES IN FOLSOM!

Hey Mom,

I wanna first off say sorry for not being able to talk to you last

week. A missionary that I loved broke his nose (my fault) [knee to the face (little sporting competition)] and I had to help him get to the hospital. I couldn't find a darned computer and felt terrible that I missed you. 


So, I gotta little bit to talk about: There are miracles
in Folsom. As a zone, we were pumped up by President to Find, Teach, and Baptize here in Folsom, because there have been little to no baptisms in Folsom. The companionships here went from 5 to ten, with two Spanish missionaries in two different areas. NEVER has happened in the history of Folsom missionary work. 


I came here and met my awesome companion Elder Stradling. He was companions with Elder Amos!! (Elder Amos is from our old stake in Orlando, FL.)  He and I loved swapping stories about that guy. He is by far the humblest guy I know. He told me coming in that I may have heard some stuff that Folsom is hard to baptize. All I told him was, "Whatchu talkin' bout boy? We came here to fix that!!" He couldn't help but hug me. He really didn't want another companion that was depressed about the circumstances. 

These last 2 weeks have been unbelievable. We have an investigator, named Bernard, who referred himself to us and loves the gospel. We have him set for a date at the end of this month. Another sweet spirit we found is a wonderful woman named Heather. She has been investigating the church for 20 years!! I kinda told her, "Heather you are done investigating. You need to
decide to join the church or not now. The Lord needs your talents and this is an urgent gospel. Will you be baptized?" [She replied]  ".....yes, I think I have held it off long enough." That's two planned for the month. Also, we were teaching a family of 5 (plus a boyfriend) and as we taught we committed them to read the Book of Mormon and, upon receiving their answer that it's true, followed up with them inviting them to be baptized. They said yes. That's 8 for the month. Also, we just got 6 referrals that another Spanish elder and I are going to teach this coming Wednesday
. All of them are Spanish families and we are doing exchanges that day.

Our Spanish group is about to start in Folsom. I just called President for the translating equipment, because I already have 5 Spanish investigators and Elder Echanique (the other Spanish Elder) has 6. Folsom is exploding. I never believed for a second, that we would not baptize here and that is what's happening. I truly do believe that I am needed here in this place at this time. I have no "Ammon Moments" to report yet, but I will get on it later. However, I will leave a little spiritual thought taken from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk and mixin it up a bit: "Champions are not measured by how many times they are victorious, but by how many times they fall and Rise Up to meet the next challenge." My family, brothers, sisters, and friends, we will all, at some point, fall, but what makes us great is when we RISE UP!! This is the Lord's Kingdom on the Earth that we are blessed to be a part of. We cannot dwell in despair. Our Father in Heaven has promised us that He will lift us up and exalt us on high if we endure our trials well. We are Sons and Daughter of a King, ALL of us, including those not of our faith. And as a missionary, I remind them of their divine destiny, for our Father in Heaven wants all of us to come home to him. Just as it hurts me to leave my family for two years to serve people that I don't know, some that would love nothing more than for me to drop dead, I will gain a testimony and help others come unto our Savior. My friends that follow my Mother's blog, we are
all on Missions. It pains our Father that we must leave Him and that
we may risk the chance of not coming back to Him, but think of the joy that will come when we do come back to see Him again, better than what we were before. This is the way I want to return to my Father, Mother, and my best friend, Benjamin. My friends, whether you are a little lost right now or not, come and bring your sorrows to the Lord, for He loves us unconditionally. There is always a place for you here. I love you all so much. I love you, too, Mom.

Elder Sierra

Saturday, October 5, 2013

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES, BUT THE FOOD IS GREAT
 
The server was down so we did not receive a letter from Elder Sierra, just a short reply to an earlier question about his eating.
 
Note from Sept. 30, 2013:
 
Yeah, mom, I'm eating very well. The Lord really does provide when you're not concerned about your next meal. Just work and it all comes to you. I remember down in Manteca, I was working with Elder Lee and we were just knocking on doors all day and we had not planned dinner and we had no food at home and it was almost 8pm. We were also out of funds. I told Elder Lee, "Let's just knock one last door." We did and a very nice lady, named Maria, opened the door and she invited us in. We shared a message of the Restoration and she loved it. She also asked us if we had eaten dinner yet. She fed us homemade quesadillas (meaning every part of it including the tortilla was homemade) and it was probably the best I have ever had on the mission. So, don't worry about my eating; I'm doing just great, especially now that I'm in English work.


Friday, September 27, 2013

MUSIC, ENGLISH, AND A TRANSFER!

Lots of short notes to family this week. Sometimes it's fun to pull them all together:
 
Hey Mom,

Well transfer calls came in and I am leaving Manteca (really wanted to stay another transfer) and I am going into Folsom (all the missionaries want to go to Folsom) and to add to that, I'm going into ENGLISH WORK!!!! When I got the call I was like, ummm.....I think you mixed my call up with someone else's. The AP's were like, "No, Elder Sierra, your assignment is to go into Folsom. We really agree with President that you can do great work there. And, we have a companion there that we really want you to help out." I was pretty [upset]. I'll email details to you about that later Mom. But anyhow, I kinda accepted the assignment somewhat bitterly cuz I love the Spanish people and teaching them and felt that it was WAY too early to take me out of Spanish work. So, I'm pretty mad about it all, but after talking to [my President] about it, I calmed down and accepted the call. So, I don't like it, but I'm gonna do it. 

Anyhow, on a somewhat brighter note, we have 4 baptisms lined up and I may not see them (go figure) because Folsom is pretty far up north, from what I hear. So this seems to be the cycle of my mission: I go out, I find 'em, may see a few go down into the font, but usually leave, or they leave somewhere else, before I see it happen. A lot of frustration, but at least I am bringing more and more back into the fold. Anyhow, I love you Mom. I'll write to you quick before I log off.

Elder Sierra

Letter #2:
 
Okay mom I feel we are having bipolar conversations right now...so bear with me, haha. Remember that I am your beloved first born haha. Yeah, after the APs gave me the call I told them, "Umm, yeahh, where's Prez?" They told me he is very tired and just returned home. I told them "Well, I'm gonna call him.  This is stupid." *click* APs war again lol. I called President asking him, "I know you're tired, but I need to talk to you. Can you spare the time?" He, of course, said, "I always have time for you, Elder Sierra," and I told him my concerns about losing the Spanish I gained and going into English work so early. He told me, "I had a feeling you'd call me about that. Even I didn't want to give you that calling at first, but Elder Sierra, I am putting you there, actually, because many missionaries have told me the need to start a Spanish group in Folsom. So, I am sending you to actually do Spanish work there, but at the same time, I need you in Folsom because you need to teach your new companion how to baptize and to prepare yourself for leadership very soon. I know you don't want to do leadership but this is something I need you to do. Also, I know amazing things will happen in English work. Also, if you find any more crips, you can baptize them." With that, I calmed down and realized that it will be a change, but that it's necessary. So, I called the APs back, apologized and packed my bags.
p.s. [To answer mom's question], I dont wanna be a leader cuz I like just working, but I know I need to so I will anyways. Mom. it's time for me to go.  Love you SO much. Bye

Words of Wisdom From Elder Sierra's Letter to Benjamin:

I have calmed down a lot more. I made a goal this [past] transfer to be strictly obedient and to learn my Spanish to a point where I can teach smoothly without stumbling. I have achieved both....
We need to get back on instruments bro. I am learning piano and am playing the guitar and the ukelele out here so you need to get back on piano and pick up an instrument, as well. I promise, as a representative of the Lord Jesus Christ, it will strengthen our brotherhood, help us to be of better service to others, it will be fun, and it would make Mom VERY happy. Love you bro,
Elder JG



Saturday, September 21, 2013

ELDER CHICO AND ANGELITO
Letter from 9/16/2013

Hey Mom,

This week has been tough! No new investigators and not many sit down lessons this week. Kinda depressing, but I was depressed about my first couple transfers because we had a hard time, and it did me no good, so I can't get mad and bog myself down. Instead, I take it out on soccer every week when we play on p-day. Pwning people really helps to get the stress out, haha.

Nick's father is coming along. He has been recognizing, little by little, how much the Church means to him and his family and we are SO CLOSE. He comes to church every week and has great insights on the Book of Mormon. His favorite story is about the testimony of Abinadai and how we all need to be exactly like him: ready to put your life on the line by following the example of Jesus Christ, to which I responded, "Pues hermano, usted es listo. ponga su vida in los manos de nuestro Salvador y sera bautizado?" (translation: Well brother, you are ready. Will you put your life in our Savior's hands and be baptized?) GOT HIM GOOD!! We have a date in October that we are working for. He wants us to help him finish preparing to take that final step. We are very excited for him.

Also, on October 5th, we have a date for a member's (Angel) wife and son. The wife (Teresita) used to HATE the missionaries and now loves us coming over and always wants to feed us. We couldn't believe the change she went through. I love her son, Angelito. He and I are tight. I took some time with him to read about the 2,000 Stripling warriors and how he is likened unto them. I then asked, "Are you ready to join the ranks of those amazing young men and be baptized?" He was like, "Elder Chico (his nickname for me), I have been waiting for that forever. When can I get baptized?" This kid is a little ball of fire, so full of joy and of the Spirit.

Even through the hard times there are always little miracles to be had. I love you Mom, and good luck with everything back home. I do pray every night for you all... I can't think of how I miss Dad's advice to me and his sense of humor, the love I received from my mother giving me a hug and kiss before I walked out the door, or watching my brother grow up, becoming an amazing Man. If I do, I begin to miss home, but know that I think of you often and I love you all so much.
Elder Sierra
p.s. I have been singing for members and we have a music night for one of them.... I told them if we do that they have to send the videos to my mom cuz they want me to sing Phantom of the Opera and other things like that.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

CUBANO WITH A CASTILLIAN TWIST 

Letter from 9/09/13
Hey Momma

Yes, Benjamin was telling to me about his (soccer) game. It'll be good to watch him when I come home. I wish I'd paid more attention to his martial arts and other stuff that he was doing while growing up. I miss them. Anyhow, I am feeling better now and I am trying to work at a better pace... It's hard to stay diligent and not collapse, but after talking to the zone leaders (cuz they were getting a little worried) they told me to take 20 minute naps every day. In fact, it's a rule! Didn't know that. 

Here's my spiritual moment of the week: We went by to see a less active family called the Castros. Very beautiful family. Five kids and they are all very nice. We were sitting with them and talking with them about life and a little about ourselves. They commented on my Spanish. They said it sounded different. Sister Castro said it sounded very clean, like from Spain. Her husband thought it was very fast, like it was from Cuba. Both were right on the mark haha. I told them how my Father is Cubano and my Mother served her mission in Barcelona. They thought it was awesome how I was apparently mixing the dialects while I was learning the language, especially since I am surrounded by a Mexican culture. I was proud (obviously). 

Later on, we talked about the gospel. They then asked me what was it that helped me gained my testimony. I told them a very short, summarized portion of how I humbled myself to pray to my Father in Heaven and how that lead to me opening my heart to want to learn more for myself. The spirit filled the room. I then went on to say that I wanted my testimony to be likened unto Moroni's. "For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ And I, Moroni, will not deny the CHRIST." 

In these days, we live in a world where we are constantly being tempted. Sin is right at our every doorstep and the snares of temptation are more cynical and lines between right and wrong are blurred. Families are under siege, the philosophies of man are preferred over scriptural doctrine, the adversary is very busy trying to remind us that we are sinners and that we have no chance of returning to our Father. People continue to bash the church with false impressions that we believe in something that is too incredible to ever happen to any man.

I just had the opportunity to bear my testimony to a man that was insulting us as we were walking by, and I could no longer take it. He said that Joseph Smith was a fraud and a liar. I ran up to him, before my companion could stop me, and testified to him. "SHUT your mouth and listen to what is TRUE!! This is the true church on the earth. It was restored by Joesph Smith, who saw God. He translated the Book of Mormon and testified that JESUS is the CHRIST! I can understand if people hated him if he said he WAS Christ. Or that someone else is Christ. Or that there is NO Christ (that part's from a talk). But, he merely testified to those that thought they knew Christ that he saw Him and spoke to Him. He is a modern living witness that Jesus is the Christ and our message is the greatest message on the Earth, ever since the angels testified that our glorious Savior, our King, the Holy one of Israel, was coming to redeem all mankind. This is my testimony to you." He was completely dumbfounded. I left a Book of Mormon on his step and walked back to my companion. Never be afraid to testify. It strengthens your testimony and it helps us to overcome the temptations of the world. Through Christ we can overcome all things, but it requires humility.  Love you Mom.

Elder Sierra

Friday, September 6, 2013

 Letters from Tuesday, 9/3/2013
 
TWO LETTERS AND A LION'S ROAR

Hey Dad, 

I'm happy that you saw my area and that you all loved the package I sent home. I also appreciate my package, Dad. My companion, Elder Lee, and I were thrilled to see the snacks in there and especially, the Red Robin's gift card that we are HITTING UP TODAY after our shopping trip to Bass Pro Shop haha. The members are hookin' us UP!! 
 
So, you guys were all in my area!!! (Mom and Dad had a business trip which took them to Elder Sierra's mission. Afterwards, we sent pictures of where we went!)  Ripon is part of my area!! You actually were VERY close to where I was serving. Definitely walking distance. Stockton is not my area. 
 
The mission is good. I'll explain more about it in Mom's letter but yeah, we are finding small miracles everywhere we go. I hope you felt the Lord pouring out His Spirit throughout Sacramento, cuz He is. I love the work that's going on and I have been trying my hardest to love my ward and the members with all my heart. This is the work of the Lord and it can't be stopped by any man. I continue to try and be as Bold as a LION and love everyone. 
 
Father, you are my example and no one compares to you. I love you and I will talk to you next week. Thanks for honoring my work and not seeing me, as much as I am sure you wanted to. However, if you did, it would've destroyed the sweet reunion that we will have in about 18 months. Time flies fast Dad. Before you know it, I'll hit a year. Then it'll be 6 months, then one week left. Then I will be home. And I will scream this when I come off the plane. "I'm BACK SUCKAS!!!" And you will know it's me. 

Love you,

Elder Sierra

Hey Mom,

Entonces, You had a lot to write this time. Which makes me have to write more. Don't like that haha, but I loved every bit of your letter....  
 
I finished the Book of Mormon today in personal study and the last 30 minutes of my study I was praying to God, asking Him again if the Book of Mormon was true. And he answered me with a burning bosom in my soul,  to which I responded in humble and loud praise, an everlasting prayer of gratitude for blessing me to be born of goodly parents, for my parents taught me to walk uprightly before God. For behold, I am a SON of GOD, a latter-day stripling warrior. MY MOTHER taught me to have faith in Jesus Christ, to pray always, and to praise God. Yea, it was my MOTHER who turned me into a Faithful young man. And I watched and learned from my righteous Father, daily, striving to be a righteous and worthy PRIESTHOOD HOLDER... You taught me the truth of God. I know my purpose. It is to save souls, love them, cherish them, and FIERCELY, WITH ALL OF MY BEING, PROTECT THEM! 
 
I am happy you saw my mission. My home away from home. The members here are wonderful. Oh, how I wish you could meet them. Many came from very humble backgrounds, but are so loving. They have enlisted me and my companion in their choir. My companion and I look forward to choir practice. It is a lot of fun. We look forward to serving these people every day and we are constantly exhausted. 
 
This transfer has been hard. I have not gotten any sleep.  I'm struggling to stay awake in lessons, at times, and especially, in Sacrament meeting on Sundays. I fall asleep without even realizing it, even when I think I am paying attention. It does bother me. My companion has been great about being patient with me. He knows I'm trying to work hard every minute and he even said, "Elder Sierra, I cannot possibly ask anymore of you because I am afraid that you will push even harder than you are now and drop dead." Sadly, I pushed too much and fainted yesterday. Luckily, it was after our last lesson and my companion placed me in the car, drove us home, and threw me into bed. I couldn't have asked for a more amazing companion. He is [very much] a brother in my eyes. 
 
Mom, the work is going very well. Our baptism that we had with little Nick was amazing. We are working with his father, and are continuing to help our other investigators come closer to Christ. I have never loved more, I have never cried more, and I have never prayed more in my life. The gospel is true. I love you Mom.

Your Stripling Warrior,

Elder Sierra 


 

Monday, August 26, 2013

ROOT BEER AND A BOOK OF MORMON

Aug. 26, 2013

Hey mom, 

I'm happy to know you and Dad are doing all right as far as work and house stuff goes. Benjamin has been telling me some pretty sweet things he has been doing, as well. Hope he keeps on staying active. I know I am out here in the field. 

I do agree that I could've been nicer to that one lady I mentioned last week, but that was the short story of the moment and I didn't have time to explain more fully about it. Well anyhow, I got mad because she was literally blocking the way of our referral. That's why I yelled. She kept slandering our church and kept making these threats and terrible attacks on our church which, honestly, I couldn't ignore after that. That's when I snapped and then she moved out of the way. So that's why I yelled, but it was not in vain. Not only is the referral that we got getting baptized, but also that same lady, Mrs. Everton, asked us to talk with her for a moment. This was a couple of days ago after teaching Claudia.  

When we were walking back to our car, she stopped us and asked us to sit down. I did it reluctantly because my companion wanted to (he said c'mon, man, after you told her off like that, you OWE her a little chat). So 
I sat down, annoyed with the whole ordeal, as she went inside her apartment for a minute. I thought that she was getting all of her anti-mormon garbage and I was SURE that she was gonna be trying to bash with us, or whatever, and waste our time, but my companion insisted on us staying. REALLY was almost about to throw a tantrum, I was so freaking mad. However, she came out with two mugs of ice cold HOMEMADE ROOT BEER and with a Book of Mormon in her hand. After she gave us the mugs she said, "I'm sorry for what I said the other day. My husband has recently passed away and I was very angry before you came by. But after you left, I wanted to prove to you that your religion was false so I read the Book of Mormon (she broke into tears). I have read many of these chapters and have felt a stirring that I have never felt before. Will you please explain to me what this feeling is?" I almost broke down. My companion kinda gave me that "told you so" look. We taught her a beautiful lesson on the Plan of Salvation and she wants to be baptized, but we have to PASS HER OFF!!! So angry, but she wants to stop by at least once a week and we WILL, cuz she makes the best root beer known to MAN! So, in short, I learned my lesson. Don't scream at old ladies cuz in the end you will be burned!!

Love you mom,

Elder Sierra
DAD GETS NEWS FROM EL CUBANO (THE CUBAN)
Letter dated 8/19/2013

Hey Dad,

It's been a while since I have heard from ya. Thanks for the advice. I have been trying to lose myself in the work. If there is anything I want people to remember me by, it is that I worked hard and loved the people with all my might. 
California is pretty legit. It's hot right now (not as hot as FL), but it's all right, since I am still in a car. My companion is the "relief society president" (district leader of A LOT of sisters haha). Our District consists of Elder Lee, and me (our visa-waiter just got his call to Argentina, so he is gone), and 6 other sisters. It's tough...
We have a baptism set up for this coming Saturday. His name is Nick. He is 10 years old and we are trying to see if his father will choose to be baptized or not, since he comes to church EVERY Sunday and loves it. His mother is a member and is very excited and continues to plead with us to continue to teach her husband and invite him to be baptized. He is soooo close!!!!!!!! I know he will be baptized soon. He loves the gospel and he believes in everything that has been taught and has a firm testimony that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet (it is a miracle how he has NOT committed to baptism yet). 
Work is tough at times, but we press on. Spanish is coming along great. I can teach the lessons in Spanish without any struggle now and can keep up any conversation in Spanish. Oh, and Dad, I want you to buy me a book or something that can help me learn the Cuban dialect. I think Benjamin wants to speak more like Mom, but Dad I wanna speak like you do, porque soy Cubano CHICO! Cuba es mi herencia y me encanta la cultura. Papi, yo he escuchado que podemos volver a Cuba oltra vez si tenemos familia alli o si tenemos sangre cubano. Padre, siento que hay una familia alli que necesitamos ver. No se por que, pero si hay una oportunidad ir a Cuba, hacemoslo. Entonces, como esta trabajo? Es todo bien con Mama y Benjamin y otra familia? Estoy animado hablar con ellos en espanol. He practicado y todavia estoy aprendiendo la idioma. Queiro [hablar con] fluencia en 6 meses mas. Despues de eso he [decidido] aprender portuges y frances (es una historia largo). Me encanta esta obra papi... Te Queiro. (translation: ...because I am CUBAN! Cuba is my heritage and I love its culture. Dad, I've heard that we can return to Cuba if we have family there or Cuban blood. Dad, I feel that there is a family there that we need to see. I don't know why, but if there is an opportunity to go to Cuba, let's do it. So, how is work? IS everything good with Mom and Benjamin and the rest of the family? I'm excited to speak with them in Spanish. I've practiced and I am still learning the language. I want to speak fluently in 6 more months. After that, I've decided to learn Portuguese and French (it's a long story) I love this work, dad. I love you.)

Tu Chico,  (Your Son)
Elder Sierra

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FINALLY, SOME PHOTOS!! 
AND ELDER SIERRA RECEIVES HIS FIRST TRANSFER...=)

Letter from Aug. 13, 2013
Hey Mom,
Today is transfer p-day and I have been called to go tear it up and baptize down in Manteca. Word on the street is I'll be getting a new comp named Elder Lee and he and I are shotgunning (meaning to put two missionaries in the area to replace the old ones) Manteca. My new comp will be the new district leader. We are also getting a visa waiter, so our companionship is a trio. It's gonna be a lot of fun. Can't wait to start tearing it up. Also, I am free and no longer reporting directly to Mission President. (It's such a relief.) The new ap, Elder Gurr, is cool and I've got no problems with him so, we will see where this all goes. 
Anyhow, Antonio WAS BAPTIZED LAST SATURDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Left my area with a baptism, baby! We have 8 lined up for every Saturday of the upcoming weeks. I cannot wait!! The Lord has truly blessed us with success. It truly was a miracle. I love the work I do. I sang "Come Thou Fount" in the baptismal program and the Spirit was powerful. It truly felt like it descended upon us like a very soft and velvet blanket. It was a peaceful and wonderful feeling. Everyone in the room was moved and filled with tears. Missionary work is definitely something that I continue to constantly enjoy.  It is going to be sad to leave Rancho Cordova. I loved the ward so much. Saying goodbye to these beautiful families and to my AWESOME companion will be tough. But, it's part of the job. 
Thanks, Mom, for all you do.  I am grateful for all the support you have been giving me. Sorry for not sending pics. It's really hard to find the time to do that. I honestly don't know how Ralynne squeezes in time to do that. I am literally running around proselyting 24/7. I block out all my times in my planner with people to teach. To be quite honest, [Elder] Russell and I are exhausted. He told me today, "Elder Sierra, before we go and do sports, I need an hour power nap. I love to work hard, but we are killing ourselves here."  Gotta do whatcha gotta do to baptize, right? haha 
Anyhow, I love you, Mom, and I am starting out on my 5th transfer. Pretty insane, right?
Elder Sierra
quick follow up chat: 


Elder Sierra: I hear it's (Manteca) the dumpster of the mission so, haha, it figures that they'd wanna send me to that one lol...They didn't tell me what it was like, just that it was run by Crips and that there are A LOT of Mexicans.
Mom: Not more crips! Did any of the others get baptized? Juan too? And, can you come back for any of the ones you have planned?
Elder Sierra: yeah, they (the crips) did, by English elders, and Juan is finding a job before marriage and then he will have his baptism. And yes, I can (come back for the baptisms that are scheduled already) 
Mom: Awesome. That's pretty incredible. Did ALL 12 crips get baptized?
 Elder Sierra:Yeah, they did, and from what I've heard, most of them are moving to FAR North Cali (California) to get away from the influences down here. Smart choice.
Mom: Absolutely. John Gregory, your courage and love has made such a difference in their lives for generations to come. Proud of you. And the English elders should love you for handing them a boat load of baptisms!!
Elder Sierra: Yeah, I know. I got ticked. I even said, "President, why do they reap the benefits from my hard work?" and he says, "cuz you keep teaching crips." haha
Antonio and me right before his baptism. He wants to serve a mission, btw
Downtown (Rancho Cordova) is my area. It's nice.

My bro, Oscar Aguilar. Wonderful member.


We are both pretty crazy!

Mi fiesta!


My favorite little chico (boy). (My godson, Aaron.)
My favorite member family, the Perez family.

My dogg, Elder Russell

 The Capitol Building

Monday, August 5, 2013

 ELDER SIERRA IS FLOATING ON AIR
 Letter from Aug. 5, 2013

Hey Mom,

Mission life is treating me good! This week, Antonio's baptism is set for Friday, Olivia for next Saturday, and Chewy for the 17th. My companion and I are trying to get a baptism for every week of August. So far, missionary work is good. We are teaching another crip haha. I don't know how I find 'em, but it's a blast. He loves the gospel and accepted a baptismal invitation for the 24th. Unfortunately, we have to pass him off since he does not speak Spanish.  It's sad, but we are counting him as ours anyway. And the bishop in the Rossmor Ward, the one Ricky is going to, is petitioning to have the Presidency allow Ricky to be baptized now rather than waiting a year to get his ankle bracelet off. We are praying and keeping our fingers crossed. 
The group is doing very well. (Elder Sierra is helping form a branch of the church in Rancho Cordova.)  I've been learning a lot more Spanish this transfer because I need to translate some of the speakers. It is tough. I ask the members if they hate the way I translate, but they all say I sound fine and I speak like a Cuban. So, I've got no complaints haha! That'll make Dad proud. Also, we talked to the stake presidents and also with the mission presidents and they are in agreement in creating a branch in RANCHO CORDOVA, BABY!!! Our hard work FINALLY paid off!!!!!!! Take that AP'S!! (They told us not to do it, BUT I DID IT ANYWAY!!!) The members are very excited. It saves them a 30-minute drive to the church and it will take, at the max, maybe 5-10 minutes to get there. So much easier and a lot of less actives (because it's hard for them to do that and, some don't have a car) can't wait. It's such a relief to know that if I transfer I left my area looking better than before. So, President Lewis is happy that we talked to all the right people to set this up and believe me, it took A LOT of work. So, in my first 3 transfers we created a new branch, a new Spanish area for the mission, divided up the boundaries to make everybody's life easier, and have brought 15 souls unto Christ (mostly English-speaking guys that we passed off and Spanish investigators that moved somewhere else to be baptized. Go figure). Love the work! It is so freaking hard, but it is SO much fun, too. If I knew a mission would be this fun, I would have gotten better prepared a LONGGGG time ago. 
Well Mom, I love you. Tell the rest of the family I say, wassup! And, I am about to pass my 6 month mark in a couple of weeks. Te amo.

Elder Sierra

p.s. Don't worry about my funds! We just moved in with a member and he makes some pretty awesome food!! (he's Italian/Russian)

A few extra tidbits:


Mom: Holy Mackerel! I cannot believe all you've done!... I thought Olivia had to be passed off? Are you still able to baptize her?...And yes, where DO you find these crips? And speaking of that, why does Ricky have an ankle bracelet on? How can he come to SLC with that on his leg?

I am so proud of all your hard work young man. And yes, preparing sooner would have been wonderful, but the Lord knows all and you are where you need to be, when you needed to be there. 6 months! Unbelievable. Miss your face.

Elder Sierra: Yeah its pretty sick. Just gotta be yourself and follow the Spirit and it all works out. Not follow all the mission rules out of fear. President even quoted me on that. I am ROCKIN THIS MISSION! Gonna turn Sacramento UPSIDE DOWN! And yes, I did bury the hatchet (with the APs), but they are still being themselves, but it doesn't matter, I still only report to President for this transfer. It's all good! Oh yeah, we still get Olivia, haha, then we give her to the other ward lol. We scored on that one. I dont know how I find the crips. Honestly, I think they find me and they are my favorite investigators. They keep me down to earth and normal... BE YOURSELF PEOPLE NOT A ROBOT! Anyhow, Ricky can go anywhere in the world as long as he wears the bracelet and he can be tracked. That's all.

He was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time but had a record from previous juvenile stuff so they sent him [to jail] for a month and he has been on parole for a while now...
He won't be going to Utah for about a year now and by then he will be a baptized and active member. The guy has not missed a Sunday since we invited him.
He loves church and they gave him a proxy calling teaching gospel principles haha
It's real cool. He teaches it in ebonics (the way young people talk haha). They love it. The ward is in love with him.
Oh, and they made new new rules for the mission.
Now I can wear more ties. They've gotten pretty relaxed with the rules. Apparently, they wanna make the missionaries look more hip. We can wear khakis and any kind of conservative sweater without having to wear a suit, as well, and we can wear tan and other colored suits, as long as they aren't flashy.
Lovin' the mission right now.
And also, we are not required to wear a part (in the hair).
Yep, we can wear brighter colored ties and also solid colors.
Love my life.
I'm floating on air right now.

LETTER FROM 7/29/2013

WHO EVER SAID MISSIONS WERE EASY?


Well Mom, I have been out for over 5 months now! (Feels like 2) Missionary work just took another unique twist. We had 7 baptisms lined up for August, but our area boundaries got switched up a bit, so I lost 5 of them. SO TICKED OFF!!! Kinda feel like I will never see a baptism. It's all right, technically, I have a lot just haven't been able to see them. Anyway, Antonio is going through a hard time with his Mom (who is a Jehovah's Witness and schizophrenic), so we rescheduled his date for August 10th. It's very difficult. Olivia, on the other hand, has been coming to church and LOVES IT with all her heart. She has a date set for August 17 and we just passed her off (ANNOYING). I called President and just left a message saying, "Really Pres! Really?! You just took 5 of our investigators with dates away!" He called back leaving me a message saying, "Keep up the good work." Kinda hurt my pride a bit so, yeah, my companion and I are going through a rough patch. But we are still working. 

Well Mom, I have been thinking about what you said and I will try to make peace with the Ap's. I will call President and see if he can put me on a call with them so we can sort this out. A lot of "blood" has been spilt but hopefully, we can bury the hatchet.  

Elder Russell and I have been enjoying the area and he is by far my favorite companion. He knows how to work hard and knows how to play hard (I like that part). Also, we got in trouble.... Elder Russell and I were eating in Taco Bell after 9:30 (lost track of time and forgot), and President called us. He heard the background noises. So yeahhhh......gotta write a brief explanation to the mission why eating out late as a missionary is not the best use of time. I wrote only a sentence saying, "Well guys, just don't get caught eating at night. Peace out!". Wasn't really thinking at the time and I tried to make light of the situation. President called and didn't like that  Don't know what my reprimand is gonna be yet. So, gotta shape up right now.

Anyways, I love you and tell Grandma Williams not to mow her lawn with a broken arm. She has grandsons to do that for her. Oh, and tell Dad I would like to hear from him. Also, my investigator Ricky wants to write you a brief message. He is here with me right now. 
 
Ricky: Dear Sister Sierra, thank you so much for helping my new brotha JG to encourage him to serve a mission. He has changed my life for the better. I love the gospel and he has literally saved my life in more ways than one. I love him very much and I may be going to Utah to get a job near Salt Lake City. I would very much like to meet you while I am there. I will have Elder Sierra email after I set the date to come up to Utah. Thank you again Sister Sierra. Since you are the mother of my brother, I sincerely thank you and love you just as  much as I love your son here. Thank you.
 
Well Mom, hope you're proud of me in some small way, as much of a problem as I usually am. Love ya!
 
Elder Sierra

Some excerpts from a follow up chat:
 
Mom: Tell Ricky we would love to meet him. When is he thinking of coming? And yes, I am proud of you. Remember the "I will obey ALL the mission rules" pact? If you would do that, you would not be getting in trouble, right? And, when you do mess up, for goodness sake, be humble and take it seriously! That was a dumb thing to write. Take your punishment like a man! ;) I am really sorry about all your investigators, though. Good grief.
 
Elder Sierra: He is planning on it in about a month or two. Well, IT"S A STUPID RULE! We hadn't eaten and we were hungry!! I mean c'mon, I'm creating a branch, I am working in the 2nd biggest and hardest Spanish area in the mission, and my companion and I are not fluent in Spanish yet. Give me a break, we were weak lol! But yes, it was a dumb thing to write... It's so hard to resist a late night Taco Bell though....
 
I'll try to fix things with the aps...
 
...the branch is moving slowly, we have enough for a group and we have classes in Spanish but we can't do a Spanish sacrament so we translate in our broken Spanish (really stinks) 
 
Mom: That's so neat about a branch.You are at ground level with the church there. Even more so than I was in Spain. It is tough work and the president must trust you. Just work on your patience and forgiveness and anger! Try not to overreact... The Lord is throwing everything at you at once. haha
 
Elder Sierra: All right, will do. The branch is definitely an experiment and yes, it's tough. Well,  it's hard to work on those attributes when I'm dealing with all of them at the same DANG time!

 AND...It's frustrating. They (APs and older missionaries) are working and having us work as if we are filling a quota and it's not the way it's supposed to go which is why when, for every number I put down for a goal, I associate that number with a person...[just filling quotas] takes a lot of fire away from missionary work.

Mom: Missionary work is a tough balance between goals and people. It's so hard. You want the numbers but you have to remember they are people too...