Friday, May 15, 2015

Love with 100% of your heart

wow, it was so good to see my family on Skype this past Sunday! I first want to give a huge shout out to my cousin and best friend since birth, Savanna Reilly for getting her mission call to the SANTO DOMINGO, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, WEST MISSION!!! YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW STOKED I AM! haha. Unfortunately we will never get to see each other, but we will both have the opportunity to serve the amazing people of this country! And it´ll be way fun to talk to each other in Dominican when we get back! :D
As I got to here the crazy exciting news from her over Skype on Sunday, I also got to talk to her dad, (my cousin) Russ. Russ gave me some super good advise, and especially opened my eyes to something I had not realized. He told me that he reads every email I send home and that they are great and filled with great experiences and all that, however I still lack a major thing... Truly loving the people with 100% of my heart. He reminded me of various experiences I had when I was quick to judge and wasn't as accepting of the people and there ways like I should always be. For example, the day of Rosario and Ysidro´s wedding when our members were super flaky and didn't come to pick us up because they were "Too busy" playing basketball at the church. "Well," he told me, "You need to forget about the fact that they were flakes, and be happy they were even at the church playing basketball in the first place." And it is so true. How can I say that I truly love these people if I am judging them and thinking negatively towards them? They could have totally been somewhere else like a bar, or dirty club, or running away from bullets flying towards them. I should have been happy that they were at the church playing basketball rather than those things. Now obviously they should have helped us and followed through with what they promised us they would help us with, but it is my job to help them realize that, be an example to them, and love them. Not judge them. Because who am I to judge another when I have so many flaws myself? It is all about our perspective, and choosing to be like the natural man which is to judge, or change ourselves and be like Christ who would love no matter what, lead by example and do what he can to help the people repent and become followers of Christ. There are so many people breaking the law of chastity, not married, not having desire to be married, not following the commandments, ect... But you know what? I am still going to love them. They aren't married and don't want to be either? Well, that saddens me, but I love the fact that they are happy together. Now I will love them, and do what I can to help them change and live the commandments of Christ. My point; You cannot truly love the people if you don't accept them and love every thing about them 100% no matter what. That doesn't mean I should be happy or accept that they are sinning and do nothing about it, it means I should love them no matter what and help them come unto Christ. It reminds me of a quote I once heard in conference; "Don´t judge me because I sin differently than you." So next time I am quick to judge, I will tell myself those exact words and rather than judge like the natural man, I will love like Christ would, did, and does. I hope you all will try to put that in practice too.
Big shout out to my wonderful family and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to talk to them, especially my dad and mom on Mothers Day! Love you.
Lastly, big shout out to my stud cousin, Sister Sidney Reilly who just got home TODAY from tearing it up, bringing souls unto Christ, and serving the Lord in her mission in Indonesia. I love you and am so proud of all you did, learned, and taught. Those people you served are forever changed and blessed by your service and the gospel. You may be way sad that your mission is over, but in reality, your mission is never really over. There are always people throughout our lives who need us and the gospel of Jesus Christ. So keep that fire and keep being Sid the Kid!
Elder Greer

Friday, May 8, 2015

Companionship Success!

This week started off really hard. Our lessons and plans were falling through because people weren't at there houses or didn't have time and stuff like that. On Sunday we literally walked our entire area having zero success at all. Sunday night was rough as well because my companion didn't want to help me report the numbers like we have to. And I was just feeling way discouraged about our relationship and his testimony. I have been working so hard to help my companion. He is an awesome guy and a really fun, funny person, but he has had a really rough life and is struggling a little bit right now. So I have been doing everything I can think of to help him. I prayed many times for him and just for help. Because I want so badly for him to gain a stronger testimony and remember why he is out here. Then I realized that we are two very different people. So I humbled myself and remembered that I need to change before I can expect others to change. I remembered that he is a very fun, crazy, energetic person. So if I am just boring and always correcting him, of course he isn't going to like me or want to work with me. Having lots of experience with funny, crazy, energetic people while living with 5 guys from the hood when I was running in Australia, I just stopped being so ¨Elder you cant do that¨ ¨Elder, we need to do this¨ and mixed that in with my fun, crazy, energetic self that all of you know me as! Right away I could see that as we played and joked and really had good talks with one another, we were a lot stronger of a companionship and he actually opened up and started to have a love for the work. On Monday, we had a zone meeting in the morning and it was the absolute most perfect meeting we could have had! The Assistants to the President were there and they talked about some great things that we all really needed to hear. Two main parts were companionship's and having desire. Those two things hit both me and my comp hard and later he told me how he really learned some great things from the meeting. That day we contacted a bunch of new people and took turns talking to the people in union. I finally felt so great about this companionship and felt that he was progressing so much! Then yesterday, we had a zone conference with the President, the Assistants, and like 5 other zones. Again we were humbled and learned so much. All the words that were said were exactly what we needed to hear. I left feeling pumped up to apply everything I had just learned. During the afternoon and night teaching, my companion and I reflected on the day and the things we liked from the conference. We ended the night having a great lesson and committing an 18 year old guy named Christopher to baptism! I have no doubt he will gain a strong testimony and eventually be baptized. When we got to the house, we had a great, detailed planning session. The AP´s want us to discuss every night 3 things we can do and change to help our area and the people. At first my companion didn't want to talk like he usually doesn't, but I just had to push him a little. I told him if he just came up with one thing we can do, I would come up with the other two. He ended up having something so great and important to share and say! ¨Wow, that is awesome! I never thought about that. Awesome Elder!¨ I said.  I really tried to encourage him a lot. ¨See, you know what we need and have some great input, you just need to talk to me so I can know. Had you not shared this point, I would have never thought about it. Thanks buddy!!¨ I told him.
I could tell he felt pretty good about himself. Another thing I have really been encouraging him to do is pray with real intent. Usually he just says very simple, recited prayers that, in all honesty, dont have meaning. I have been trying to help him realize that if we want blessings, we have to pray long and hard and say our thanks for all the blessings we have. So when we knelt down to pray that night after our planning session, he said the most meaningful, detailed, heart felt prayers I have ever heard!! I was so excited! When he finished, we kept kneeling for a minute, then I looked up at him with a huge smile on my face and said, ¨Compa!! Wow, that was amazing! That was the best prayer I have ever heard compa!!¨ Then I gave him a big hug and we laughed. When he went to bed, I said, ¨Good night compa!... Looooove yaaaa!¨ in a goofy way. He stopped, looked back at me, and said ¨Love you too compa. Forever!¨ Wow. I have been so blessed. When you have trials and difficulties, especially with others, it is so easy to put it asside and let it just never get batter. But I promise you as we put our faith in the Lord and ask for help and do all we can, He WILL help and bless us immensely! I love my companion so much. It has not been an easy 3 and a half weeks, but I would not change a thing. We both have grown and learned so much. And I know that not only is he changed, but especially am I.
Love those who are hard to love. You will, in the end, learn more and appreciate the challenges. And they will too. Even if it doesn't seem like it.
Happy Mothers day this week mommy! Cant wait to see your beautiful face on Skype!!

Elder Greer

Monday, May 4, 2015

Samana Beach Visit

Hey everyone!
So this week was a bit better lesson and teaching wise! We worked really hard to get our numbers up, especially because our area might be closed next transfer :/ We had interviews with my President last week and he told me to keep up the hard work and that he is proud of me, but that he has to close 5 areas this next transfer, so he was thinking about closing mine. So I am working so hard to not let that happen! But it is very challenging because not many people here trust my companion and he has a lot of problems here for a few reasons. So on Sunday I was asked to give a talk on whatever topic I wanted. I ended up sharing my mission call experience and a spiritual experience from the mission in my last area. I shared how I got my mission call the day before the biggest and most important race of my life thus far and how i was going crazy that night because I was so nervous for the race the following day, and wanted to know where the heck I would be going on my mission! I ended up just saying a long prayer for help and guidance, and Heavenly Father was so quick to give me an answer. I had such a strong impression to read verse 1 of Helaman chapter 12 after reading that chapter like 10 times already but not being able to focus. That verse helped me immensely as it told me to put my faith and trust in the Lord and that He would take care of me basically. I knew that I had nothing to be worried about for the race the next day because I had done what I needed to in order to be successful, and that wherever I was to be sent in the world on my mission is where I needed to be. The next day in the morning, I ended up breaking the school record for the mile and did exactly what I went there to do. Later in the evening I opened my call and was stoked on life to be going to the Dominican Republic speaking Spanish!! After I shared that experience, I shared a spiritual experience I had during a lesson in my last area where I needed some guidance and remembered my experience with my race and mission call and how the Lord was so willing and quick to show mercy on me and answer my prayers. All I had to do was act, have faith, and put my trust in the Lord. The members of my ward all seemed to love it as many of them thanked me for my message and that it was refreshing and great to hear. I knew how important it was to win there confidence so they would trust me enough to teach their friends and family and help me here in this area where I need all the help I can get. I also just really wanted to be real and share something that meant so much to me that I knew would be meaningful to others as well.
On Monday, my zone leaders came to our District meeting and commented on how well we did last week and to keep up the hard work. Then on Tuesday we went on exchanges with the zone leaders in San Fransisco (of the DR) and the next day for P Day, we got to go to Samana, one of the nicest parts of this country and play volleyball on the beach. We of course could not go in the water, but man how I would have liked to because it was hot hot hot! It was a long trip back, especially because we had to ride like 4 hours in the back of a pick up truck, but so worth it. I also don´t believe in sunscreen, however I am thinking about changing my mind about that because I am totally fried and my missionary farmers tan is ridiculous...
I am working really hard with my companion because he is having a lot of challenges and isn´t super excited about the work and not too willing to be obedient, however step by step, with a lot of patience and love, I know this time I have to help him and his testimony grow, will be a humbling and grateful time in my life. I testify like I testified to him this morning, that when we are obedient to the Lord and his commandments and ¨rules in the mission¨ we will be blessed and see many miracles throughout our lives. Not only for us, ourselves, but especially for our families and people in our lives who need us. So next time you are being challenged to be obedient or make a right choice, think not about yourself, but the people it will effect and the blessings you will receive for yourself and others. 
I love you all and am never tired of this great work. Shout out to my cousin Sidney Reilly, I read her email this week about her companion. That was exactly what I needed to read being challenged with my companion right now. I never stop learning from her example and love to serve the Lord. Happy to call her family! Now I hope to do the same for others :)

Mucho amor

Elder Greer
We went to Samana today and it is one of the best places in the country to go to the beach! There is a beach there that is the number 5 beach in the world but we didn't go there, but where we went was pretty great too! And some members from nagua where elder rodriguez is at, took us there for free! Such a fun day! And i am now fried  :)


Somos Sus Manos

Hey! Friends and family! Don´t worry, still here, alive and breathing haha. I would put a winky face, but this computer doesn´t have that ability apparently.
Anyway, so first off, I realized how blunt and detailed I was last week. The last thing I want any of you to do is worry about me! It really isn´t even that dangerous here, it just gets a little crazy sometimes. I reread my blog from last week and kind of forgot that things that are so normal here, are definitely not the same way in America haha. If anyone knows me they know that I am all about crazy experiences and stories to tell haha. So forgive me if my Dominicaness ever takes over or shows.
So the riots ended on Wednesday night and the next morning there were reporters in the road and police making sure everything was secured. I totally tried to at least get in the background of one of the news reporters haha! Didn´t really work though. We took a break from the craziness and went to do a service for a very, very poor family in desperate need of help. It is a woman and her 7 kids all living in something I don't even know if I can call a shack because it is basically a tiny shack but made of scraps of old, trashy metal. We are going to build a house for them! We went there Thursday in the morning, but no one was there, nor the materials that we needed. So we were supposed to do it Friday instead, but our leaders again didn´t show up, so we went to a members house near by to see if she needed us to do something. She had us clean up and water her garden and front porch. Then she made us a huge, delicious lunch! She lived in California for 46 years, so we knew her food was going to be amazing! And if that wasn´t good enough, she made us a huge Chocolate Cake as well! I didn´t know that even existed in this country! One thing about the Dominican people is that food is not a big thing here, nor spices. It´s always about the same meals everywhere you go. And desert? Forget it... They don´t know what that is. I made cookies one time for a couple families in my last area and they were amazed at what they put in there mouth. And now they think I am some sort of chef. So the fact that we had chocolate cake was pretty great.
Then on Saturday we traveled to San Fransisco about 45 minutes away to do another service with all the missionaries in our zone. I love doing services! My only time to get dirty haha.
Concerning my living conditions.... Let´s just say I miss my house in Los Cocos because i now have a lot of appreciation for bucket showers. Because bucket showers are better the no showers which is what we have right now haha. I am now on day 2 and a half of not showering because there is a problem with our water system that we get from the city. But for some reason us and like 2 other houses are the only ones it is effecting so that´s kind of a bummer. And a bit of a pain because we have to walk to the church to go to the bathroom haha. But ya know, life of the mission! And I wouldn´t give it up for a thing! I just hope I don´t smell too too bad haha. But don´t worry, I am going to just buy big jugs of water take bucket showers that way. Again, I would put a smiley face, but this outdated computer wont let me.
We are having a bit of trouble filling up our agendas everyday because we don't have much work in my area as of right now, but we are working hard to find knew people and receive references from the members. We do, however, have a few really awesome less actives that we are working with. We teach this family named familia Almanza who are awesome but just need a lot of help with all there problems. They are struggling with some pretty serious things so I love that I have a role to play in there reactivation. Their testimony is so strong. They just need some guidance and strength. I love the fact that we will always in our lives, no matter what, need the strength of Jesus Christ. He is at the door, we just have to be willing to open it and let ourselves fall into His gentle arms. I am so thankful for my loving Savior Jesus Christ and the fact that through Him, families like Familia Almanza can get back on that straight and narrow path that is so easy to go astray from. Take advantage of the Atonement! Jesus didn´t just suffer every pain and affliction and die for us all just because. He did it so we can be clean. It´s like whenever I end up getting water again, ya´ll best believe I am going to take advantage of that and become clean! It´s the same with repentance, except that option is ALWAYS there. We just need to act.
I love you all and am forever thankful for your prayers, love, and support. Elder Bannon Greer is doing absolutely great and loving every second, even the crazy ones!

Elder Greer

My front porch is a WARZONE!!

Wow... Quite the week it has been here in the Compton of the DR. Basically I have been stuck and hiding inside my house for the past 2 days because there is a full on war on my doorstep between the police and a bunch of hoodrat gangsters...I am not joking about it being on my doorstep either. I dont know the last time I slept because it is kind of hard when bullets are being fired and bombs are going off right outside your house. The cops shot a bunch of tear gas bombs on our street because that is where the bad guys are. They actually even found a hiding spot under our house. We live on the top floor so they were right below us shooting at the cops. Anyway, tear gas bombs suck because they make you ball your eyes out and choke and burn like crazy. Just picture cutting 100 onions at once. Then times that by 6. Thats what a tear gas bomb does. So our eyes were swollen and ren and it hurt to open or close them. We were all like on the floor crying and laughing and rolling around in pain all at once haha. It was definitly an experience... We couldn´t leave our house for the past 2 days streight and we are out of drinking water, toilet paper, and our water pipes broke so we cant do dishes or shower or flush the toilet. I think it is over now because it has been pretty calm the past couple of hours and we even mannaged to find an open internet center, so for that reason I am writting right now. Walking down here we saw like 40 new bullet holes on the walls and in light polls and stuff. But the cops are super heated because a cop was shot and killed. Our house is on the busiest street in all of Salcedo and the most dangerous too. At one point, there were more than 12 gangsters at once shooting at the cops like 15 feet from our house. I have a huge head ache now and I think i am deaf haha. I feel way bad for the greeny missionary who lives with us. This is his first week in the mission! He would probably be tramatized, but he is from Mexico, so Im sure he is used to all this haha. But don´t you worry mom, I am alive and well and have nothing to worry about because I am in the Lords work! I would put a smily face in right there, but my ghetto computor wont let me... haha.
Anyway, other then my area and house being a warzone, my area is pretty ghetto in all parts. We mostly have city, but there are a good amount of country sides here too. MY area is pretty dead and we dont have much work at all. So I am treating it like I am white washing it and starting from skratch. Our ward is tiny but they are all aweosme and want to help us. They are willing to come with us to lessons and are all just super great. So I am hoping these dang riots get over with so we can finally leave and start teaching.
I hope this email didn´t terrify anyone or anything. I am really completly fine and it has been quite the exciting couple of days in this new life I live. Luckily I got to go out today because I was going insane in my house after being in there for 48 hours streight not being able to leave. Just prey my water will start to work again so we can shower! haha.
Love you all. And welcome to the Dominican Republic!
Some of my family from Los cocos

After the tear gas bombs...

The gangsters blocked off our road with shattered glass bottles so the police couldn't drive down it

Bullet outside my door haha....

Handkerchief to block out the gas from my eyes and throat

Finally Transfered!

Al fin! No mas un greenie!
I have finally been transferred from my first area! I have had such a blast in Los Cocos and have so many great memories and experiences there and will miss it, but I was so ready to leave and take on a new area!
I am extra stoked because not only did I get transferred to a new area, but I got transferred to literally the most dangerous, sketchy area of all my mission and possibly the country... Sweet!! There are riots and shoot outs and crazy stuff going on all the time. Apparently hearing gun shots outside our window is a norm. There is supposed to be a two day long huge riot on the 14th and 15th, so we aren't allowed to leave those two days straight! Luckily I have plenty of studying to do and church movies to watch! Right before I came here, and elder was telling me about how when he was here in this area, he saw a lady chop a guys arm off with a machete! My house that I live in also got broken into a few months back while the elders who lived here were sleeping. So now we are missing a window and have to cover it with a big wooden board and block it with my study desk so people cant climb through again... Just a few minutes ago, we were walking the streets for my first time and within 2 minutes, I saw a bullet hole in one of the stores metal walls. On top of being super sketch, I am also the first white missionary in this area since a while ago. So I should have an interesting time here for sure. I am so excited and stoked though! Crazy, dangerous area?? Heck yeah! ;P I live in a house of four now, so that should be way fun. My new companion is a big, dark Dominican from the capital. He seems way nice and a pretty loving guy, but I think I was specifically sent to him for a reason. Apparently he isn´t the most easy to be companions with, but I am up for the challenge! The other two Elders are awesome too. One is from Utah and he is training a brand new missionary (Greeny) who is from Mexico. He definitely looks like a new, excited greeny ready to take on this crazy place!
The following takes place while I was still in Los Cocos.
So last Friday, my companion and I didn´t have any one to teach specifically because it was a week off for everyone here so everyone was gone or doing things. So we decided to go to Salamanca, an area that is apart of our area but is like an hour and a half away on foot. My convert Ruth and her family have family there so they went with us. We left in the morning and traveled there by walking beside the river that leads there. It was a super fun walk there. We brought a ton of pamphlets and Books of Mormon and things to give away and were going to share the Easter video with every one and see if anyone from there was interested. However, apparently Salamanca, which is usually super calm and quite, is the place for everyone from Los Cocos to go party at on Holiday´s. So when we got there, everyone was drunk and swimming in the river and all that stuff. So we shared with Ruth´s family that lives there, they fed us, then we were unsuccessful in finding really anyone to teach, so we headed back. On our way, we walked past the main party spot only to find our progressing investigator with a baptism date for this month drunk and fighting some other drunk dude. So you could say that was super devastating and didn´t make our unsuccessful day better. So we laye it down on him hard when we went and visited him this week. He felt really bad and said he just needs a little help to change. So Friday was kind of a waist of a day, but kind of a fun little adventure, especially with Ruth and her family (Minus the part where we saw our drunk investigator.)
Then Saturday and Sunday we had General conference which was AWESOME! I especially loved the talk by Dallin H Oaks when he just laid it down hard on people and especially teens using there phones during church and sacrament instead of paying attention like they should.
Easter was great, except it didn´t at all seem like Easter. Just another normal day in the mission. We got to have dinner at Ruth´s house with her family, so that was fun. Her birthday was on Monday, so I made German Chocolate cake mix cookies and they were so impressed! Cookies, or really any dessert, aren´t really a thing here... 
Then on Tuesday we had transfer meetings! I was so nervous and jittery all morning. The when it came time to announcing where I was going, my zone leaders played a prank on me and said that Elder Haws was leaving instead of me. When I heard that I was absolutely devastated and super bummed. Everyone was just silent and looked at me as I probably looked super sad/mad haha. But then they were like, "JK! You´re going to Salcedo!" So then I was super happy and dancing and stuff. Not that I don´t like my area, I was just very ready to explore more of this island and get to know more people and all that. Then I went home, packed my bags, and said my goodbyes so my family and people of Los Cocos. I am for sure going to miss them all. Especially Ruth´s family who are now my family too. Her mom cried as I said goodbye and walked away. But I´ll visit when I can!
Anyway, lots of things have happened this week and I am so excited to take on this crazy place called Salcedo! Wish me luck and that I don't die! ;)

Elder Greer

Happy Easter

Semana Santa!
That means "Holy Week." So instead of just Easter, they have a whole week to celebrate it here because Dominicans love holiday's. But Easter Sunday is the most important day to them too. They don't hunt for eggs or have any American traditions that I am used to, but it'll be interesting to see what they do and how they celebrate it.
On Sunday we got 7 investigators and 2 less actives to church! We were way stoked about that. Ysidro has a date for baptism on the 18th of April!
Empenitrez, unfortunately, is never at her house much because she is often taking care of her sick dad in another town. So it has been hard for her to progress, but her desire is still there. So keep her in your prayers that she will start to progress again and work towards baptism.
On Monday we had an awesome lesson with a family who has been progressing for a little while. Their name is Familia Colon and the mom of the family has such strong faith. She is very Catholic, but loves talking with us. She prayed about the book of Mormon to know if it is true, and she got an answer and felt that it is. So she knows the Book of Mormon is true, just is having a really hard time accepting that. The last lesson we had with her and her family, we left and me and my companion could both feel that there was tension. So we were worried she wasn't going to want to continue with us. So we brought our bishop and his wife who are awesome and we had such a great lesson about families and how families are eternal. We read the proclamation to families and it was a perfect lesson for them. I bore my testimony about families and talked about how much joy my family and I have because of the gospel and it brought me to tears as I realized, myself, how blessed I truly am to have such a strong family and that we have the gospel in our lives. I testify that families really are eternal and that the example and love of a mother and father are essential. I am so thankful for the opportunity I have had to participate in bringing the gospel into many families lives and even help two families get married and baptized.

This video attached is about Christ and Easter. I love this video for many reasons. Not only is it filmed and shot so well with perfect cuts and use of art, music, words, and emotion (obviously I took video production in high school) But also and especially because it goes to show that Christ really is our Savior. He really did suffer and die for each and every one of us. He really is with us in every moment. He knows our burdens. He knows our challenges. He knows our weaknesses. He knows us. Because He suffered every pain and affliction possible. I know that He really does live and that He really is with us every step of the way in our lives. Words cannot explain my thankfulness to Him for that.

Have an amazing Easter filled with the love of Christ.

Elder Greer

Aqui les dejo la foto de  recuerdo de la conferencia de zonas de santiago con Elder Martinez Feliz dia :)

We learned how to pick and peal "Wan Dules" (Dominicanized Green Beans)
Lifted the load off the back of a tired and sick lady :)

Today we had a BBQ with the missionaries in my District.