Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Hello everyone! This is George. Due to medical reasons, I have returned to the United States from Argentina. I've spent a few days just resting and recovering and I'm doing much better now. It was quite a different experience to be there and unfortunately there were several incidences that had a profound effect on my health. Not having any available water or food due to a water shortage and money issues was quite a challenge, physically and emotionally. It amazed me that I found myself wondering when I was going to eat next. My companion and I were also in a bus accident and thankfully neither of us was seriously injured. After a lot of prayer and thought, with the counsel of my family and my Mission President, the decision was made that I should return home. Although I was only in Argentina for two weeks, my eyes have been greatly opened to the wonderful blessings I have in my life. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. After I have fully recovered I will be considering my options to continue my mission. Thank you all for your prayers, support, and encouragement.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

February 15, 2016

We received an email from Elder Sheko today. He arrived in Argentina safely and spent the first night in Mendoza at the Mission Home. While visiting the town, he was able to teach 2 random people about the Gospel. Way to go! George arrived Thursday at his pension (apartment) in his first location, the Los Pinos area of San Juan, which is about 3 hours from Mendoza. Unfortunately, the living conditions in this area are somewhat difficult. The area is socioeconomically challenged and the water has been shut off to that region of the city since arrival. George has had difficulty purchasing needed supplies because the area is residential and there are no stores, only kioscos (homes with a window from which residents sell mainly cigarettes and Coca Cola) that accept only pesos. His debit card can't be used in the area. He and his missionary companion (who is from Chili) will stay with another set of missionaries until the water situation is resolved. George's first week has been a struggle to adjust to an entirely different country and culture. But, it has definitely opened his eyes to the circumstances of the people that he was sent there to help and to teach. With this struggle will come growth and also gratitude for the many blessing received from the Lord. We are praying that conditions will improve and that George will adjust quickly.

Matthew 11: 29 - 30
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

February 10, 2016

We finally received an email from the secretary to the Argentina Mendoza Mission President. George has arrived safely in Mendoza. We are looking forward to hearing from him by email soon! It was great to talk to him while he was at the Atlanta Airport on Monday 2/8/16. His Spanish is amazing!

Here is a picture of some of the kids from our church youth group with a special Valentines message for George.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Last update from George before he heads to Argentina:

Hello everyone! This is my last week in the MTC. It's gone so fast! So just a few awesome facts... I've gained 10 pounds while I've been here (I wish I could say it's all muscle, but it's not). On Monday, we have about a 36 hour trip to Mendoza which involves two flights and a long bus ride. My Spanish seems great now, but I'm sure it'll be a challenge still when I get to Argentina. My six weeks here have taught me that God is always with us. He never abandons us even when we feel alone. He has guided me every step of the way as I've studied the Gospel and the Spanish language. Prayer has been a blessing. Anytime, anywhere, we can pray for help, strength, guidance, and for anything else we need. It's been tough at times, but I know Heavenly Father blesses us and our families. I'm so excited to get down to Argentina. It will be a totally new experience, but I know I will love it. I hope all is going well for everyone reading this. Never forget that you are children of a loving Heavenly Father.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

When George posted that he would have a 12 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, it got me thinking about how large the country of Argentina actually is.  Here is an overlay of Argentina to North America. Very impressive.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Here is the latest update from George on 1/27/16. Unfortunately, no pictures this week, but he will send some next week.

Hello everyone! It's been a crazy week. My companion and I are now the zone leaders and we just received a new district today. We leave for Argentina in 11 days. It's gone so fast. We should be getting our flight information on Friday. It's going to be a long trip. I believe we will be flying from here to Atlanta, then down to Buenos Aires (About a 12 hour flight), then riding a bus from there to Mendoza (About a 12 hour bus ride). I'm super excited! We've had the opportunity to teach investigators on skype who are in South America. It's really cool knowing that you're speaking another language to someone in another part of the world. The Lord has blessed us here. We spend ten hours a day studying our Spanish and it's truly amazing what we've all been able to learn. I don't have a lot of time to write today because we have to do some stuff for the new missionary orientation, but I just wanted to say how grateful I am to have this opportunity in my life. I hope all is going well for everyone.

-Elder Sheko

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Here are a few of George's pics from this week:

Birthday Pic!

This is my 'Zone' of Elders and Hermanas.

Update from George 1/20/16

Hello everyone,
With week 3 complete, the half-way point here at the MTC, I have all kinds of great stuff to talk about. We had Janice Kapp Perry, the sister who wrote many of the primary songs we sing, come and speak to us at our devotional on Sunday. Today we got to view an international missionary devotional. There was a lot of great stuff said, but what really stuck out to me is that the purpose of missionaries is not to bring the Spirit into the investigator's hearts; it's to bring the Spirit unto the investigator's hearts and they have to allow it to enter. I had a wonderful 19th birthday, and although I don't feel much older, I feel closer to my Savior as I study and learn more and more of His Gospel. One of our "investigators" accepted our invitation to be baptized. Even though Antonio isn't a real investigator, it was one of the best feelings to invite him and hear him say yes. I can't wait for the opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with each and every person I meet in Argentina. I hope all is going well for everyone! I look forward to keeping everyone updated as I get closer to going to Argentina!
Elder Sheko

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Update from George 1/13/16

Hello everyone! This week at the MTC has been great! Last night we had a devotional and Neil L. Andersen came to speak to us. My companion and I are in the choir and apparently they panned right over us while we were singing. I don't think there's a way to go back and watch it though. Neil L. Andersen talked about how simple life is. All we have to do is follow the Doctrine of Christ. Have faith, repent, get baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. It was a really great talk. We get to have devotionals every Sunday and Tuesday. They always have really good speakers. The language is coming along really well. I'm so glad that I took five years of it in school. It has given me a great foundation. They feed us a lot here. I've actually gained five pounds since I arrived 2 weeks ago. I used to skip breakfast most days before I came to the MTC but now that I'm eating it everyday my metabolism has gone way up. Hope all is going well for everyone!

This is Called a placa in Espanol.

This is a view of the mountains and temple gates across the street from the MTC.

It's beautiful, but really COLD!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Here are a few pictures that George sent us on Wednesday of this week.  He is doing ok and really having a good time getting started at the MTC. We love you George.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

On Jan 6, 2016, at 5:41 PM, George Briton Sheko wrote: Hola! The MTC is pretty awesome! Took a couple of days to get adjusted but It's great. I have an awesome companion, Elder Roan. He and I work really well together and we have a lot of fun. The language is awesome. I'm so grateful that I took 5 years of Spanish in school. It's helping a lot. We've been teaching two "investigators" and it's been going really well. One of them is very difficult so It's very realistic. I see how hard it is but I'm up for the challenge. The food is pretty good, and we have a nice room. It is truly amazing how much I can get done when I don't have the distraction of a cell phone or computer. We spend 6-9 hours in the classroom each day, most of the time without a teacher and they leave it up to us to plan our lessons, study, and learn the language. It's been a crazy first P-Day (personal day) so I dont have a lot of time to write. I just want to leave you all with a few things that have really stuck out to me this week. The Holy Spirit works in many ways. It's amazing. I heard an awesome quote that said "Work like everything depended on you. Pray like everything depended on the Lord." I really thought a lot about that. Alma 37:37 is such a great scripture, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good ; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” It definitely applies to all of us missionaries, and everyone else as well. Next week I will have my schedule figured out. It changed last minute because of New Years. I'll write a better blog post next week. Adios!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Here is my handsome young missionary, Elder Sheko. We just dropped him off at the Missionary Training Center on December 30 in Provo, Utah. This is truly the hardest thing I have ever done! But, I know he will do great things on his mission. I love him so much and I am so proud of him for making the choice to serve The Lord.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

George's Church Farewell Address 12/20/2015

Good afternoon. For those who are the new in the ward my name is George Sheko. Four months ago I received the call to serve as a missionary in the Argentina Mendoza Mission and now the time has come to answer that call. I report to the Provo Missionary Training Center in 10 days. I will never forget the feeling I had when I opened my mission call and read aloud the first few sentences. I was shocked and overjoyed as I had waited for that moment my entire life. I'll be honest, It seemed like such a long time to wait and I thought the beginning of my mission would never come, but it has come so quickly. I feel so much gratitude in my heart for each and every one of you who are here today.

It's wonderful to have Jacob Crandall back with us. I look forward to hearing about his missionary experiences in his talk. As I was writing my talk I was reflecting on some of our experiences together over the years, and I'd like to briefly share a few of them with you today. We've lived across the street from each other since I was in 1st grade. As very young children, Jacob and I were always enthralled by the magic tricks my dad performed as a hobby. One day we decided to attempt one of our favorite tricks that we had seen him do several times, placing a dollar bill in an envelope and making it disappear. Despite our best efforts we could not make that dollar disappear, and we tried everything. My mom recalls walking into the room and observing us with our heads bowed and our arms folded, praying to Heavenly Father to make that dollar disappear. Fast forward a couple of years. On a hot summer day, still as young children, we decided it would be a good idea to catch bees using butterfly nets. It was fun and exciting until curiosity got the best of us. It was not enough just to keep them in a container. We had to touch them. We learned an important lesson that day. Running in circles and screaming does not ease the pain of a bee sting. Having gained an ounce or two of wisdom from that experience we decided to spend our time doing safer activities. Moving on to our teenage years, I particularly enjoyed our trip to the thrift store to get clothing for the tacky prom dance, one of my first dances, when I was 14. We looked good wearing pajama pants with Hawaiian shirts and we even had worlds hottest Mormon buttons pinned onto our shirts. All jokes aside, As we grew older I saw what a great example Jacob is to everyone around him. Having spoken with him about his mission since he returned, I hope to follow in his footsteps and gain as much from my mission as he has from his.

The Lord has declared that missionary work is the responsibility of all who follow Him. It is not limited to full time missionaries. All members of the Lord's Church can, by the goodness of their lives and the strength of their testimonies, share the gospel message to all; family, friends, and non-members. There are currently 85,147 full-time missionaries serving in 406 different missions, teaching the gospel in 188 different languages.

Today I will not only be speaking about the mission I am about to serve, but I will also be speaking about the greatest missionary to ever come to Earth, the perfect missionary, Jesus Christ.

As we get closer to Christmas we reflect on the birth of our Lord and Savior. This was the beginning of his mission. In a talk given by Elder Russell M. Nelson titled: The Mission and Ministry of Jesus Christ, he discusses the two main objectives of Christ's time on the Earth. The first objective, as stated in Moses 1:39, was to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. The second objective was to set an example for all of us with the hope that we would strive to be like him. In John 13:15 Christ says "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done." He states in his talk (QUOTE) "His first objective I have defined as His mission. His second objective I would like to identify as his ministry." (END QUOTE) Christ's mission of the Atonement was to die for our sins so that we could one day return to live with him. "He came to pay a debt he didn't owe because we owed a debt we couldn't pay." I often hear this quoted and It really shows how much love He has for each of us. As missionaries we are not asked to suffer through the same things that Christ did, however we are asked to sacrifice 2 years of our lives to spread his ministry around the Earth, teaching about the sermons that he gave, the parables that he taught, and the things he requires of each of us to obtain salvation.

Christ himself was mocked and ridiculed and put to death for His ministry. Even today, missionary work is hard. Elder Jeffery R. Holland said, (QUOTE) "Missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and His is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never easy for Him?" He goes on to say, "I believe that missionaries and investigators [and all members of the church] to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token that same price. For that reason, I don't believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our souls."

Serving a mission requires great faith in Jesus Christ and it serves to further our faith as we teach His gospel. There will be trials throughout all of our lives and we can rely on the Lord and his power to receive the strength we need to continue into the unknown. We see countless examples of great faith in the Lord throughout the scriptures. It amazes me how much faith Nephi had as he and his family went into the wilderness, and experienced trial after trial. He never once questioned the Lord and he always relied on Him as they made the journey to the Promised Land.

Elder Boyd K. Packer said this about faith, (QUOTE) "Faith, to be faith, must center around something that is not known. Faith, to be faith, must go beyond that for which there is confirming evidence. Faith, to be faith, must go into the unknown. Faith, to be faith, must walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness." (END QUOTE)

A major question I had that became very important when I turned 18 was When and why should I serve a mission? There's many answers to that question. Yes, it is a commandment from God for every worthy and able young man to serve a mission, and yes there is a great pressure by all those who have served before to serve a mission yourself, but there's so much more to it. Years ago I decided for myself that I was going to serve a mission, but when the time came to truly be serious about it I desired to receive the true revelation as to whether I really should serve a mission. I can recall receiving a very pleasant feeling after praying one night and I knew it was what I needed to do and that the time to serve was now. For me personally, I desire to serve a mission so I can bring others the happiness that I've felt in my life that can only come from the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are so many children of God who have not heard of His gospel and do not know where to find it. I've had it easy. I've grown up in the church and learned about the Gospel since primary. I've always had a great group of friends who are so strong in the gospel and have taught me so much. I want those I get to teach on my mission to have what I have. I want them to have reassurance when when they lose a friend or family member. I want them to know that they can repent of their sins to better themselves because that's the reason we are here. I want them to know of the Spirit and the constant companion that it is to each of us. I want them to know of the power of prayer and what it can do for them.

Prayer has always been the most comforting thing for me. I can pray anywhere, any time, verbally or in my head. There is no limit to how long my prayer can be or how long it has to be. I strive to have faith that I will receive an answer to my prayers, whether it is immediate or in the future. There have been many occasions in my life that an answered prayer has had such a great impact on me. I'd like to share one particular occasion.

When I was 9 years old my dad and I purchased a remote control airplane. It required a large area to fly due to its power and size. We went to the biggest field that we could find. It was apparent that the grass had not been cut in a while but it worked just fine. We launched our plane and the fun began. After quite some time the battery was low and we had to replace it with the extra one that we had brought. I had to go to the car to retrieve it. My dad handed me the keys and I quickly returned with the new battery. We once again launched the plane and it was my turn to fly it. Still having the keys in my possession, I set them down on the ground to free my hands so I could operate the controller. We followed the plane wherever it went to stay within range of it. Eventually the sun began to set and it was time to go home. We traveled back to the car and with a feeling of dismay, it dawned on me that I had set the keys down somewhere in the massive field. My dad and I searched through the thick grass for close to an hour. The darkness had set in and it was difficult to see. The thought popped into my head that I should say a prayer so I kneeled down and prayed that I would find the keys. I finished my prayer and with an overwhelming feeling I knew I should turn around. There they were directly behind me and I knew from that moment on that Heavenly Father answers prayers.

The primary song "Love One Another" has always been one of my favorites. The lyrics are so simple yet so spiritual. "As I have loved you, love one another. This new commandment. Love one another. By this shall men know. Ye are my disciples. If ye have love one to another." As a missionary I desire to love and care for each and every person I teach. I want to love them as much as Christ loves me. Love is such a strong emotion and love for the Gospel and of Christ is crucial to obtaining salvation. Love invites the spirit to testify of truth to those around us. Even in this world of chaos there are always acts of love that can be seen and felt as we all strive to love one another. I read the following story on Facebook and I thought to myself what a perfect example of love it really is.

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. It was a cowboys life, a life for someone who wanted no boss. What I didnt realize was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives.

I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, made me laugh and weep. But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick four-plex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was to pick up people leaving a party, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. “Its nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”. “Oh, youre such a good boy”, she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?” “Its not the shortest way,” I answered quickly. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “Im in no hurry. Im on my way to a hospice”.

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening. “I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I dont have very long.” I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes shed ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “Im tired. Lets go now.” We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. “How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse. “Nothing,” I said. “You have to make a living,” she answered. “There are other passengers,” I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.” I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light.

Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didnt pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I dont think that I have done anything more important in my life. Were conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Brothers and sisters. I want you to know that I have so much love for all of you and all that you've helped me to become. I have so much love for the Lord and all he has done for me. I pray that we can all feel his love through prayer and through acts of kindness. I testify that this is the true church. Thomas S. Monson is the true prophet of God on the Earth today. I testify of the truth of the Book of Mormon and the guidance of the Spirit. I know these things to be true with all my heart and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.