Monday, April 28, 2014

More Families Can Be Together Forever :)

Jorge Luis's baptism from April 2013
Family and Friends,

This Saturday we had the tremendous blessing of attending the sealing of three families from the  Andres de Vera ward in Portoviejo where I served a over a year ago with Elder Carrillo and Elder Tibanlombo. A young couple, a family of less actives who were reactivated, and my great friend and convert Jorge Luis Briones and his wife Johana Solorzano were sealed together for all time and eternity. It truly was one of best days of my life and such a blessing to see old friends, converts, and hear about how well many converts are doing :) wow! 
In February 2013 my first Sunday in Portoviejo, an active and wonderful member Johana Solorzano brought her nonmember boyfriend Jorge Luis Briones to church and we taught him with her and put a baptismal date. He didn't accept very well and said that he was Catholic and needed much more time to think about it. A week later he fell off the map and no matter how many times we called or tried to visit him he never answered and we didn't see him for over a month. 

Fortunately, his girlfriend Johana was very strong in the gospel and very determined and insistent that he would be baptized and they would be married in the temple one day :) every time she saw us she asked how Jorge was doing and always tried to make things happen and bring him to church and never gave up no matter how uninterested or tough he was. She wasn't overbearing, rude, or pushy but she wasn't timid or lazy about it. She applied what Elder Scott and Elder Ballard taught in their excellent talks last conference. She was bold and persistent and gave a good follow up (Alma 38:12) in many ways. For example we told her that he never answered us, she asked him why, he said he never answers unknown numbers, she gave him our number and had him save it in his phone, then she told us to call him again. Finally at the end of March she brought him to an activity and we taught him again. I'll never forget the awesome lesson we had with Elder Tibanlombo when we read and analyzed Alma 32 together with him and he totally "got it" that he had to do his part with diligence and patience and faith to make the seed grow. He went to General Conference. The seed grew. And he was baptized on April 13th 2013. As they say the rest is history. 

A good follow up, persistence, and never giving up really paid off for my dear friend Johana. At the end of the sealing she had tears of joy that poured down her cheeks as she stood by her eternal husband hugging and shaking hands with everyone who passed by to congratulate them. When it was our turn she gave me a huge smile and said "Thank you so much Elder Remington for teaching and baptizing him!" Truly, that was one of the tenderest and sweetest moments of my life. 

It was also quite fun and entertaining to see all the members and converts. I don't have time to write all the details but literally 90% are strong and active especially the Gonzalez family, Michele, Cesar, Walter, and many many more. One of the members that is now the boyfriend of Michele thanked me sincerely for the work I had done there and told me the details of the lives of all the converts we had and the progress they're having in the church... he smiled and said you did a good job there! Few things make a missionary more happy than hearing about the progress and achievements of his converts in the church. 

I am very grateful for the wonderful leadership that the Andres de Vera ward has. I know for a fact that 90% of the converts wouldn't still be active if it weren't for the fantastic Bishop they have there. He truly is a saint and a stud. He is loving, kind, patient, strong, and he never tolerates gossiping or criticizing others in his ward. He knows that gossip and getting offended are some of the biggest reasons that people leave the church or that a ward doesn't function well. I testify that such is the case. He is a wonderful example to me of what a leader and father should be and I plan to follow his example in my life. What a blessing to have served in such a strong, happy, and united ward :) there are many friends for life in that ward for me :) 

There are many more things I would love to share but there isn't enough time... 

I love you all with all my heart and hope you are happy and well.

Elder Remington

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Families Can Be Together Forever

Family and Friends,

I've been humming that lovely primary song all weekend. This Saturday April 19th, 2014, the Cortes family was sealed together for all time and eternity. For those of you who aren't members of the church, one of the most precious truths we treasure as members of the church is that when a couple is married in the temple by someone who holds the authority of God, that couple will be sealed together with their future children as a family not just "til death do you part" but for all time and even after death they will be together as an eternal family. After a year of being baptized and learning and growing in the church you have the opportunity to go to the temple and be sealed as husband and wife and if you already have children to be sealed to them as well and thus sealed to all future children that you may have as a forever family :) 

Jonathon was baptized on December 22, 2012 and he baptized Maria Fernanda on February 16, 2013 [Elder Remington mentioned her baptism and was sent a picture in previous post entitled "Exciting News! :)"] and ever since then my old companion and great friend Elder Ayala (He's not an Elder anymore but thats how I remember him and he's still Elder Ayala to me ahha) and I have been following up on them through letters, occasional visits with President's permission as an AP, and facebook on Elder Ayala's part. As with all new converts, they had some trials but with our help, the help of some wonderful members in that ward, the strong testimony and consistent example of Jonathon (he really is a rock, he finished the Book of Mormon in 6 months, magnifies his calling as young men's counselor, goes to church always, shares the gospel, and has been constant in work to achieve his goal of going to the temple),  and above all the divine help of the Lord :) they made it to the temple :) wooooohoooo!!! Honestly words can't fully describe how happy I am :) this is a dream come true that I've been praying and working for over a year and it finally happened! Even if all other people in Ecuador rejected me and I didn't baptize a single other person in my two years would've been worth it to find Jonathon and Maria Fernanda, teach them, baptize them, confirm them, and see them endowed and sealed as a forever family :) 

I had the privilege of being Jonathon's escort in the temple and Elder Ayala and I were the witnesses of their sealing. The temple worker explained to us that the two witnesses aren't just there in that moment but that their signature will forever be on the certificate of marriage and that they commit themselves to be guardian angels and look out for the family that sealed and always be an important part of their lives :) we both smiled and said that we had already been doing that and already had planned to continue to do so and that now with even greater dedication and with even more motivation and duty we would do so :) I'll always be there for this wonderful family and I'm so grateful that the Lord trusted us enough to put them in our path and help them. 

Jonathon's two children Domenica and Santiago (James in English) are normally very rambunctious and noisy and frankly I was nervous that when they entered the sealing room that they would be loud and distract from the Spirit. But when they entered the sealing room all dressed in white like little angels with big smiles and a glow in their eyes... the Spirit filled the room so strong that I couldn't stop smiling from ear to ear the entire time :) I looked at Elder Ayala and we smiled and didn't say a word... words can't describe what we were both feeling. The two children happily, quietly, and reverently took their place around the altar with their parents and when the sealing was finished the four of them all gave each other big hugs and kisses and everyone in the room was smiling and a sweet heavenly exquisite peace filled the room. The temple worker said that this was a taste of heaven for all of us.... this was one of the best and tenderest moments of my life and utterly unforgettable. As the saying goes, missionaries leave their families for two years so that others can be with their family for eternity. 

Elder Ayala and I were reminiscing and remembering the good times when we did companionship studies and practices dedicated to Jonathon and helping him finally accept a baptismal date :) and how much we had to work with Maria Fernanda before she finally opened up and went to church with us :) it was awesome seeing Elder Ayala and being with him again and he and the Cortes family will be lifelong friends :) it was also wonderful seeing many of the members from Albonor again and remembering the good ole days haha they will be lifelong friends as well :) After the sealing, the Cortes family invited us all over for lunch and we had a great time together at their house and I had a flashback remembering when we first contacted their house over a year ago and how much one contact has changed our lives forever (Alma 37:6-7). 

After the lunch we were able to go to the terminal and return to Quevedo just in time for the Stake Conference that night and good thing too because I had to give the first talk! (By the way, we had President's permission to attend just in case you're wondering hahah President has always said that we need to focus on families thus the motivation is that all missionaries who baptize families will get to go to their sealings :) yay! Thanks President!) I love public speaking. My talk was on the Work of Salvation and how we can work even better together as members and missionaries :) based on Elder Ballard's last two conference talks especially "Put Your Trust in the Lord" that I definitely recommend reading and applying. We made a little PowerPoint sideshow of some of the baptisms we had in the stake the past few months through members giving referrals and it was great it really invited the Spirit in the room and motivated the members. One of the last pictures was of Carlos and Cristina's baptism and I had his brother Ricardo Romero share his testimony at the end of the joy he felt while sharing the gospel with his brother and the happiness he felt as he baptized his own brother and saw him baptize his wife a month later :) I know a good opportunity to invite the Spirit when I see one :) it was awesome he did a great job! There were 3 key points that as members we need to do
  1. Pray asking specifically for missionary opportunities and be looking for those opportunities.
  2. Share the gospel in a normal and constant way (first presidency message by President Uchtdorf that is great on that; "A Firmly Set Anchor")
  3. Give a quality referral to the missionaries at least once every three months (quality means that you help teach them and support them look up PMG quote by President Hinckley [Found in Chapter 13]). 

I love you all very much and hope you are enjoying life :) remember thats why we're here (2 Nephi 2:25

Elder Remington

Monday, April 14, 2014


Family and Friends,

I loved General Conference :) I especially loved the talk by Elder Scott about being gentle and loving with people yet firm in helping them be better. Also I loved the talk by Elder Zwick about effective communication and being a peacemaker. Elder Ballard was great in his talk on the Work of Salvation and committed all of you to study PMG and share with your missionaries what you learned... therefore I am waiting to hear from all of you what you learned! You can do it! For all you future missionaries out there I can testify that reading PMG from start to finish before my mission was one of the best things I did before that most helped prepare me. I strongly recommend it and for those who aren't future missionaries remember that we are all always life long missionaries and we have to know what PMG teaches to work in unity. Just do it. 

In these last few months we have been keeping an extra clean and tidy house and trust me that it greatly helps the Spirit be there and makes you feel so much better when you get home. Keep a clean and organized house and you'll be happy. 

One of my questions before going to conference was, "How to best be in the world and not of it?" As our Prophet taught at the beginning and announced the temples that are being built, the Spirit reminded me of a great habit I had developed while at BYU that really helps us be in the world but not of it. That habit is regular temple attendance. While in Provo living so close I had the blessing of going to the temple every week and I remember often times remembering that I would be going to the house of the Lord that week would help me walk away when an inappropriate joke was said or spend time with other people when I remembered that I'd be going to the temple. Going to a little piece of Heaven regularly helps us not be of this world. 

Remember the wise words that my father always taught me, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." 


Elder Remington 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mission Leadership

Family and Friends,

Last week we had the wonderful and interesting privilege of doing inspections with President Amaya and the Assistants Elder Rounds and Elder Curriden. As leaders we have a copy of the keys of every house in the zone and from time to time we show up unannounced in the morning to see if they are being obedient and to make sure they are taking good care of the house. Frankly, I've never been a big fan of doing inspections mostly because of what my dad taught me about not trying to be a police officer for your missionaries and I prefer to follow Joseph Smith's advice of teaching correct principles and letting people govern themselves. My dad taught me that it is much better to just motivate your missionaries and be a good example to them and love them and catch them doing good things and compliment them instead of trying to trying to always catch them doing something bad and lecture them about it. He's right. And there are definitely many leaders who sadly haven't learned that and they fall victim to pride (D&C 121:34-40).

However, occasionally when done with the proper amount of humility, maturity, and the correct perspective and trusting but verifying and wanting to help them not hurt them or make them feel bad... inspections can be important, wonderful, and necessary. Thus we went and inspected all of the houses with that attitude and it was awesome. There was one house where four missionaries lived and the week before President asked us to decided out of three of them had who we recommended as the new district leader (our other district leader is a zone leader now and very well prepared I might add). It was a tough decision and we took some time to think it through because two of them had a lot more time in the mission, had been district leaders before, and were very dynamic outgoing and talented. The other missionary had less time and is a little shy but he is super obedient, pure, loving, happy, a great teacher, and really has a great spirit about him. Despite that he was a little shy and had less time on the mission we both felt that he was the right choice and we told President. Therefore, when we arrived at their house at 7:58 to do inspections what we found brought a calm reassurance to my heart and I knew the Lord had inspired us to make the right choice. Two of the missionaries were scrambling to get their ties on and get to their desks. One missionary was just barely coming out of the shower. And the humble and obedient missionary that we had recommended as district leader was completely dressed, knelt down praying at his desk, and had a serene and peaceful spirit about him. It was awesome. The difference in power and spirit between those missionaries was palpable. 
The other missionaries received a loving but firm correction to improve and the obedient missionary received a big hug, big smile, and a big congratulations from President Amaya. I couldn't help but smile and think of what it'll be like when the Lord comes will he find us? Obedience really does have its rewards.

 There was a missionary who arrived in our zone a few months ago discouraged, disobedient, and a little lazy but WOW has he had a drastic change. You can truly see more light radiating in his eyes these days. We were persistent, loving, and patient with him and he has a great companion to help him and he has improved and transformed into a loving, happy, upbeat, obedient, smart, hardworking, direct, bold, brave, and wonderful missionary. I know that one of the keys was that when he first got here we didn't get frustrated or give up on  him and just classify him as a problematic and disobedient missionary and that was the end of it. Instead, we saw the potential he had inside and saw what he could become and helped him reach it. And when we arrived at their house unannounced early in the morning it brought a big smile to my face to find them both dressed, alert, diligently studying, and with the house clean...not perfect... but clean. Its wonderful to see what a change people can have :) 

Lots of leaders in the mission spend their time looking all over for tips and keys for success and they ignore or undervalue or forget to study and apply the divine guidance given by the First Presidency. Often times in my personal study or in my free time while in the bathroom or waiting for a baptismal interview, etc. I'll pull out my Missionary Handbook and go over the leadership section. I highly recommend it. I would like to cite a few pearls of wisdom on leadership from the Missionary Handbook page 60, "A leader helps other missionaries most when they feel a leader´s love. They should feel that a leader is motivated by a sincere concern for their welfare, not by his or her own interests." This is one of the most important and perhaps most underrated aspects of successful leadership. Everyone knows that you have to be strong, smart, efficient, have results, and reach the goal. But they often forget that if you just focus on the results and walk over people to get them then you won't have happy people nor will you likely have good results. Remember the following from the Missionary Handbook page 57, "A missionary leader must be an effective administrator in keeping order and carrying out the work of the mission. A leader's most important influence, however, comes through ministering to others in harmony with the Savior's teachings and example." You have to pray for them all by name everyday and really watch out for them and care for them and love them. Be willing to go the extra mile. If there is a companionship that is really discouraged and struggling be willing to go to their house listen to them, let them vent, love, give them kind advice with scriptures and PMG, and give them a blessing each one to improve and strengthen them and they will LOVE you for it and know and feel that you are there to help and serve them not just to use them to have better results for your own selfish reasons. When they feel that they will follow you out of love and respect not out of fear or for obligation and thus they will trust you and won't question your motives and they'll work better. Thus you will have happy people and happy results :)


Elder Remington