I Love Christmas And What It Represents!


Hola everyone! I don’t have a lot of time today, so I just want to talk about Christmas a little bit.  I love Christmas a ton and I think I love it even more in the mission.  It is very hard not being home with family and snow and a warm home (well its plenty warm here), but this is a new perspective on Christmas for me. As missionaries, we are called as representatives of Jesus Christ, and this holiday we celebrate His coming to the earth, so it should be very special to us.  We also don’t have snow, and it’s ninety degrees, so everything is really different! But I love Christmas and what it represents! How joyous this season is, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  How exciting it is to remember that He came to the world to save us from our sins. His whole life was an example for us:  his humble beginnings, his gracious acts and teachings, and eventually his sacrifice and death for our sins are all an example for us, and they were a gift as well.  

I’m so thankful for His example and gifts.  I hope the gifts we give and receive this Christmas will be a little different this year.  I’m so glad that He came to this earth and organized His church, and that we have it on the earth today.  I’m thankful that I can be a part of it and teach it to other people for two years. I’m thankful for His sacrifice that allows us to gain eternal life and live with our Father in Heaven again. I’m so thankful that because He suffered for my pains and sorrows, when I’m suffering or in despair, I can think that He knows what I’m feeling. I’m so thankful that because He paid the price of my sins, I can be forgiven of all of the things I may do wrong when I repent and strive to be better.  I can’t quite describe it the way I want to.  It sounds much better in my brain, but it’s just such a blessing to me to know that Christ lives, that He loves each of us.  I know that He came to this earth and lived his life for us. His whole purpose for living was to save us from our sins.  How merciful it is that He came to earth and in every possible way served us. His life was completely selfless, a total example of love that we can’t fully comprehend. We can only understand so much, and as we are able to understand the full effect of His life and Atonement after this life, I’m sure we will be even more grateful.  I know He lives and that He will come again, and I hope to be prepared when that day comes, that He can look at me and say that He is pleased with me.  I hope to be able to serve Him and this church for my life.  I love it so much.   Merry Christmas everyone!  I love you all, and miss you all!

Love, Elder Ollis

As We Get Discouraged, We Lose Faith


…As for Christmas here, it’s nothing like in the states.  People here in my area are really poor, so it’s not like presents and stuff.  Really it’s a whole lot of eating.  Tamales are pretty much like Christmas ham.  And I’ve heard that people are crazy with fireworks and stuff, so who knows. I don’t really need anything.  Things are all good.  Just wish I could come home for Christmas day or something.

Things with my companion are alright, just with six weeks, things start to get a little unstable.  But I need to be patient, and look for ways to help him out and show that I’m his companion.  Because we are companions till February! ….. The language is hard. I feel like I’m stalling, and I get frustrated when my companion corrects me, but I need to be more humble and just trust that the Lord will let the people know what I’m trying to say.  Faith is something that is very hard for me.  I feel like we don’t have people to teach a lot and it’s hard to have faith that we will find people that want to listen.  I don’t like finding new people because I still don’t understand a lot and I can’t talk that well, and no one wants to listen.  But I know its necessary and that there are people that are ready to hear the gospel.  That is why it’s so critical to have the spirit with us as a guide.  …I was frustrated the other day because I couldn’t talk well, the people didn’t want to listen to us, and I felt like I was having a hard time feeling and recognizing the spirit.  But I read something encouraging in Preach My Gospel. It said that we can’t get discouraged, because as we get discouraged, we lose faith. As we lower our expectations, our productivity decreases and we have a hard time feeling the spirit.  Having faith and feeling and recognizing the spirit are things that are really hard for me and I’m learning how here in the mission.  I know they are important. I’m so glad that we have the spirit as a guide.

This week we had a really awesome thing happen.  The couple that has been waiting to get baptized finally got the money to get married and we might have their baptism this week! I’m super happy for them, and I know that they have that money because of their righteous desire to get baptized.  It’s hard to understand why it took so long, but all things are in the Lord’s time.

…But I love you guys and I miss you a ton, especially this Christmas season! But I’m loving the mission still and I’m going to try and smile more and be happy.  And have more faith that people will listen, and try and listen more for the spirit.  I’m realizing how slow the mission is, not in a bad way.  In a way, we sometimes get caught up in running around and teaching, and we just need to take a minute and listen for the spirit.  During lessons, in the street, in all places.  That’s something I want to try to do better; just slow down and listen.  But anyways, I love you all! Sorry for the short letter! Talk to you soon!

Elder Ollis

The Missionary Church and the Member Church are the Same Thing


We had a baptism this past Saturday! Yup, my first one! And it turned out a little disappointing because we had planned for lessons by members, prayers by members and a musical number by the primary for the services.  Guess how many members came?  One! Our ward mission leader came twenty minutes late.  The Relief Society was in another room making Christmas decorations though. So the branch will be ready for Christmas at least!  Then afterwards we had cake that we made. The baptism we had was for three kids.  I baptized two of them. It was amazing!

On Sunday we brought them and some of the families to the Christmas Devotional broadcast, which was awesome.  We had seven investigators there and two of them we haven’t even been able to get to come to the church.   Anyway one of the kids, he’s probably five, kept grabbing my hand while we walked and I was swinging him up and over rocks while we walked.  I love that family and just playing around with the kids.  We kept walking and I was just thinking, this is what it feels like to be a father.  And he’s not even my kid.  But it just made me so excited to be a father one day. Kids are so trusting and we can learn so much from them.  I don’t know if that’s weird, but it was a cool experience.  

Dad, yes I agree, the lesson that we can’t control certain things is always a hard one I think!  As humans, we love to have control of everything and we can’t!  We try to manage our schedule, our weight, our money, our emotions, our spirit, our families, etc.  It’s overwhelming sometimes.  But when we let go of the things we can’t control it definitely gets easier. That is something I’ve learned very quickly in the mission. And I think I relearn it about every month.

I really want to talk about how important members are, but I feel like I’ve already done that.  But I’ll do it again anyway.  So... here I go. I feel like missionary work is looked at wrong in the church. It’s like a “special sector” of the church and I feel that as members, we don’t know what it really is.  I know I didn’t before I came on the mission. The missionaries were like different people to me.  But there is a quote, I think by Spencer W Kimball (but I don’t know for sure), that says, “the missionary church and the member church are the same thing.”  It really is.  

As missionaries we teach nothing more than you would hear in church. In fact, we teach quite a bit less, just the basics. So why are we afraid to help as members?  All we do as missionaries is bear testimony of what we know.  Members do that every month in fast and testimony meeting.  So why can’t we do it every once in a while with people that are investigating the church? My question is why would members leave the job of bringing people into the church up to 18-year old boys!  The girls are doing great, they don’t have problems. I would think that there would be a desire to help us, since we are only 18 to 20-year old young men. Doesn’t that scare people enough to help out? ha ha Now I’m not saying I don’t know why I’m here, or why 18-years olds are doing this work.  And I’m not trying to take away from the special calling I have, or the sacredness of my call.  I know it is special, but I’m a member just like every one else. I have a calling just like you or the Young Men’s president or the Bishop has a calling.  Mine comes in the mail from the first presidency, and yours may come from the Bishop, but a calling is a calling.  We are all set apart to work in our callings.  Now I’m not trying to down play a call to be a missionary, because it really is special.  But so is any other calling FROM THE LORD.  

I’m trying to help you see that we all have a calling to do missionary work, just like other callings.  Missionaries aren’t super human preachers that members should be afraid of.  We are as normal as 18-year olds get. Don’t be afraid of what the missionaries are doing.  They are teaching about the church that we are all a part of.  So go out with the missionaries! Help them out!  Part of the struggle with missionary work is getting new members to feel included in the ward. President Hinckley taught that every member needs a friend, a calling, and the word of God.  You can be a friend when you go with the missionaries to teach. As you go to teach you can help that investigator feel welcomed and loved and important. And as they have a friend in the church, it won’t be quite as scary to go to church.  A story in Preach My Gospel talks about how hard it is for new investigators. It says that the church really is a new life.  Investigators change their lives to be a part of the church, and at the same time, they are introduced to a new culture.  Think about it.  The LDS church has its own little culture.  And I’m not a convert, but I’m sure its pretty weird at first. I know when I got to Honduras, it was a new culture and it was definitely weird.  So as members, we may not be able to put on a white shirt and a tie, grab our plaque and head out to some other country, but we still have a responsibility in missionary work.  You can help do the part that the missionaries can’t. You can be a friend and help the investigator grow in the gospel.  Missionaries are only in one area for a few months.  So as members, we need to go and help teach with the missionaries.  Get to know the missionaries and their investigators.  Be a friend to them. Answer their questions. Make them feel important. Help them to feel that the church isn’t something scary and don’t let them feel alone, because if they do, it will be a burden to go and they will become less active very quickly.  When they have a friend at church it will be easier to go, and as they go, their testimony will grow.  That is how we should keep people active. 

There is also one other view I have of how members can help.  Like I said earlier, missionaries are only in one area for a few months.  It’s impossible to know an area in those few months without the help of the members. They don’t know the streets, the people, the ward, the members and they never will in a few months.  But with the help of the members, it will be a whole lot easier.  When members help the missionaries know their areas, they can spend more time teaching people and helping the ward grow, instead of trying to figure out where they are.  I know this from experience. In Honduras where I am, there aren’t addresses on any houses.  There are main streets with names and that’s about it.  And it has taken me two months to figure most of them out.  Members here are critical because they know where places are and which streets you shouldn’t walk down.  Which is really important to know.  My companion and I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the area because we don’t have a lot of help from the members here. So help the missionaries out!

Another key part that members play, is providing references.  Tracting takes a lot of time, and yields little results.  It’s very rare to find someone who is willing to listen to a message when we contact houses here. References are so awesome because they cut the time that we spend searching and gets us right to the people that might listen to us.  They are like gold and are really important!  It may get annoying that the missionaries ask [for a contact] every time you talk to them, but they need them so think carefully and help them out!  It’s really frustrating when someone says, no we don’t have anyone that you could teach. You have to know someone that could benefit from the gospel.  It’s just impossible to not know someone we could talk to and it helps us out a ton.

So that’s all I have today.  Hopefully it moves some people to action!  Love you all a ton!  - Elder Ollis

(Make sure you check out the new pictures on the Mission Field Pictures tab!)

We Call, Place Our Order and Hang Up


This week I don’t really have much to share.  I’ve been studying in Preach My Gospel about the spirit and its role in conversion and other things.  It is so critical in missionary work, especially here.  People here are really uneducated.  You ask a direct question and rarely do you get a direct answer. So it’s really critical that the spirit carries the message to the hearts of these people.

I also read about prayer and how powerful it is in seeking for the spirit.  Prayer is awesome. I have had experiences with prayer here in the mission that are awesome. I remember one day my old companion and I had nothing to do because all of our appointments had fallen through.  I didn’t want to go home because we still had an hour until we should go home.  So I said a prayer that someone would be put in our path or we would be guided to someone to teach.  After, we went and talked with some members for a little while and lo and behold, in walked one of our investigators. I know that was an answer to my prayers.  I just feel bad because my companion and I are working so hard and at the end of the day, it’s really hard to say meaningful prayers.  And quite frankly to stay awake! But I know that as we try to say meaningful prayers, and when we meditate about our needs and the needs of others before we pray, prayer will take on a special significance.  One of the things I’ve noticed about my companion is that after we pray he sits for a second with his eyes closed.  I never understood why until one day it hit me. He’s listening for the spirit.  I have never thought about doing that.  But I have learned how critical it is.  A quote in Preach My Gospel by President Hunter (I think), says that we all too often come to think of prayer as a grocery call-in order. We call, place our order and hang up.  I sometimes find myself doing that. In my morning prayers, I pray, finish, stand up and go eat breakfast. I know I want to try and use a little more time after I pray to listen for the spirit.  I know that when we do that, prayer will be a powerful tool in our lives to receive revelation and counsel.  Anyways, just a short tidbit for today.

…Dad I would love to send you some conversion experiences, but honestly we only have one.  We are working on a baptism of a couple right now, but we need money and papers, and in a corrupt country it’s really hard.  So you’ll hear about one soon I hope.  …you guys, I love you so much and I’m so glad you are my parents.  Till next week!

Elder Ollis

Those Who Have Gratitude Are Content


Well, I don’t feel like I have much to write today.  Sorry I’m a day late.  We had to stay in the house for three days because of the elections here. So I guess that’s why I don’t really have much to write. We haven’t done much the past few days.  But the past week we got to see a bit of the really crazy side of Honduras.  In Cofradia it’s pretty peaceful, so we didn’t have much of a problem, but I don’t know about other places.  

I just want to share a small quote I heard in a multi-zone conference we had recently.  It’s by Jeffery R Holland. He said that missions aren’t easy because salvation isn’t easy.  It was never meant to be easy.  The Savior didn’t have it easy so why should it be easy for me?  Typical Elder Holland, just blowing my mind. So I have thought about that.  The mission is hard.  People don’t want to listen, and I remember he also said that we get just a tiny taste of how the Savior felt when the people didn’t listen to Him. That is so true.  I cannot begin to imagine all that the Savior felt, but I know it’s hard, just from what I have experienced.  I know that this quote will also give me strength when I have hard days.  I can think about how the Savior had His mission which was indescribably difficult. And then I can think about how He accomplished his mission, and I know that will give me strength to accomplish mine.  

I just want to talk a little about tithing.  The pamphlet we give people explains that when we pay tithing, we learn to be happy with what the Lord has given us, and trust that he will provide enough for us.  That was something I never thought about. It definitely is true that those who have gratitude are content. And that is something I’ve learned here as I’ve realized what a good life I have had. I need to continue to be grateful and look for the little things!  Our mission president actually talked about being grateful at our zone conference. He talked about how we should all make a list of 100 things we are thankful for.  And yet again you were right on topic.  Love you mom and I’m so grateful for you!

I’m so thankful I have two years to be a representative of Jesus Christ, to really learn the scriptures and the gospel, and share it with others. I’m so very thankful for all that I have learned so far and that I have 20 more months to keep learning!  And I can’t believe how fast these past months have been.  I don’t want to go home and I promise I’m not worried about that.  I’m so thankful for my companion that can help me improve my Spanish, and that he wants to work hard.  I’m so thankful for our house that has running water and electricity.  I’m thankful for the members that feed us and that I never go hungry. I’m thankful for the scriptures that I can read and learn and feel the spirit and receive revelation. I’m thankful I have the opportunity to talk with my Heavenly Father through prayer.  I’m thankful for our investigators and for all the people that have given us the opportunity to share the gospel. I’m thankful for the priesthood and the opportunity I have to hold it and to serve others with it.  I’m thankful for my family more than I can explain, especially my parents.  I’m so thankful for the way I was raised and the things I was taught. Without my parents constantly prodding me before my mission, I don’t think I would be here. They are so amazing and I now realize why they do the things they do for me. And I feel bad I was such a turd before my mission.  I’m thankful for my leaders at home that helped prepare me for this mission and I’m so thankful that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me. I’m thankful that I have a Savior who atoned for my sins, so I can return to live with God again, if I am righteous.  I’m thankful for the modern day prophet we have to guide us.  I’m thankful for so much, and I’m not really a good writer, so I can’t describe them all.  But that’s all I have right now. Love you all and thank you for being my family!  Have a good week! And buy a dog!

Elder Ollis

A New Companion, and It Turns Out We Both Studied Charity


Sunshine and Rain in Paraiso 

To answer Sydney’s questions about my area…the houses are either cement or corrugated metal and wood.  A lot of houses don’t have windows.  Having a washing machine is for people that are well off.  People throw their garbage in a pile and burn it.  Most roads are dirt.  It’s always hot and humid and rains a little in winter. When it rains the people go inside and sleep or drink coffee because it’s cold.  Motorcycles are popular. Moto taxis are used a ton and school buses are frequently driving around as the city buses. There are tons of different churches and people put religious stickers all over their cars.  We are surrounded by mountains…. and the light every morning on the mountains out our window is awesome.  My camera doesn’t do it justice. I will try to get a good picture for you sometime….  Corn is a staple here, rice is very common and chicken is the most popular meat. We have corn tortillas with every meal.  Dogs, chickens and cats run free in the streets. Lizards and frogs are common too.  The people are really uneducated so it’s hard to teach and we have to teach simple lessons. They are also pretty poor. Kids run around naked pretty often, which is a little odd. I have a ton more I could share but, that’s all for now.

…We had transfers and I have a new companion, Elder Reyes. The first day was pretty rough and I couldn’t believe how sad I was about Elder Rivera leaving. But my new companion is from Guatemala and he’s awesome. He lived in Utah for his sophomore and junior year so he speaks a little too much English for my liking, but we are working hard and my Spanish is getting better.  He has five months here and I have three.  We are both eighteen so we are really inexperienced, but we are working like crazy.  He’s really good about talking with everyone and that has helped me grow more confident in my Spanish and talking with people.  I’m exhausted every night.  Elder Amezcua and Chuqisala had to tell me to go to bed one night because I fell asleep kneeling by my bed.

…Mom, I just want to say, that for the past three weeks your topic of choice has been something I learned in the week.  Service and charity, it’s like we have phone calls Sunday night and talk about these things and coordinate them.  Love you much and so glad you’re my mom!  So, this week I got a new companion. In my personal study one morning, I was studying in Preach My Gospel about how to begin teaching investigators. There were scriptures beginning with Moroni 7:46 and to the end of the chapter, and I read it and my study took a whole different approach.  These scriptures are about charity. I learned that I need to have more charity.  Charity suffereth long, beareth all things, endureth all things.  Right now in this area, I need to have charity and bear through the challenges we are facing.  Charity is also the pure love of Christ, and that is what I need to show towards my investigators. I learned a few things from these scriptures and told myself that I would have more charity this week; that I would smile and be happy at all times so these people can see what the gospel can do for them.  I also had been skimming through Preach My Gospel and the section about serving and I read over it too. I prayed for opportunities to serve people this week.

A Week of Service
Then we began companionship study and my companion asked what I studied. It turns out we both studied charity.  We talked about charity, and we both made a resolve to look for opportunities to serve people. God really does answer prayers.  We helped a man move some metal out of the back of his truck and then gave him a pamphlet.  We helped a couple move their belongings into a new apartment.  We have a return appointment with them.  I know that as we serve these people they will see our love and they will be more open to the gospel.  I know these opportunities were an answer to my prayers. As I’ve tried to smile more to everyone and really tried to show my love for these people, this week has been so much better.  Things right now are awesome. My new companion loves working and we are working hard and talking with everyone.  I feel so much more comfortable talking to people. The Spanish is slowly just unfolding in my mind.  

This week was also pretty challenging because I had to show my new companion the area. Turns out I don’t know the area really well.  There are no addresses here in Honduras, so it’s really hard to find places.  Also, my old companion didn’t show me half of our assigned area.  We learned we have another area to go teach in now and that doubled what I thought was in our area. It’s pretty sketchy too.  We walk down in a ravine, over a river and then back out. It looks like something out of The Jungle Book.  We won’t be going there at night. But we met some investigators that the previous companionship had been teaching and they are close to baptism.  So right now, I’m just loving this mission.  

We are working hard. I can understand almost everything right now and I’m still learning more.  It’s awesome here! I’m so tired at the end of the day, and I love it.  I have faith and hope that a few of our investigators will be baptized soon, and also that the ward will get more involved in this work. We are working on getting the branch to have ward councils and missionary coordination meetings.  I have hope that this will work, and the work will move much faster and progress into something better. I love this work and I’m so glad to be here.  I can’t believe it has been three months. Time is flying.  I’m so thankful to be here. That’s all for me.  
Love, Elder Ollis

Dad, you have been an amazing influence in my life. You have taught me so well.  I now realize why you did some of the things you did with me the last few months before I left.  I’m so glad that I have the dad I do and that you are so strong in the gospel and willing to serve. You are an amazing example.  I’ve learned how to work because of you.  My only wish is that I would have listened more to you…I’m so glad I get to come home and help Thomas prepare for a mission.  I’m so excited for him….  You are an amazing dad, and honestly when the time comes I will try to be a father like you. I love you so much and I miss you a ton.  But I’m so glad for the things you are doing at home with school.  Happy Birthday and don’t forget your colonoscopy! 
Love, Elder Ollis