Sunday, April 3, 2011

March 2011

Excerpts from the month

March 7 2011

Hey everyone! :)
It was great to get the email this week and hear about everyone's week. Mom and Dad, sounds like you had a great anniversary and a great time in Oregon. 
This past week has been a really good one for me too. I say that every week, but it's true.  Life here is so wonderful, and the constant company and influence of the Spirit can't be beat. Every day is a chance to learn something new, something that will help me for the rest of my life. The Gospel is true, and I love it. :)
Well, now for what went on this past week here in Balancán. We ended up doing quite a bit of unexpected traveling this week, which was fun but also tiring. On Wednesday we had a district meeting - those are normally held every week, but given that here in this zone all our areas are so far away (the closest missionaries are an hour and a half away), this was the first meeting that we've had in the six weeks I've been here. Afterward, my comp and I rode a bus to Triunfo to make our weekly visit, and at night another bus back to Balancán - making almost four hours of travel that day. I got home, collapsed on the couch, and promptly fell into a deep coma. :) It's strange, but sitting for hours on end (what I used to do all the time before the mission) now tires me more than walking around all day in the hot sun (something I only did before the mission when forced to). Things certainly change, huh? Hah.
This week I was asked to help out with the branch choir. They have to sing in about six months in district conference, so there's no rush or anything (and I won't even be in the country at that point), but they wanted a few pointers and some help with the piano, and they recruited me. It was a lot of fun; we had a two-hour rehearsal yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. I've never had anything to do with a choir before, but it was neat; I basically just played the different voices and helped them match their voices, get the volume right, breathe right, etc. Cool stuff, and it turned out really well. It's really nice to have my musical abilities come in handy. I'm not good enough at the piano to play the hymns in church or anything - although I have been practicing and have improved, but I'll save that surprise for when I come home :) - but with things like this I can definitely help out. When I get home I mean to pick up the piano again so that I can play hymns and more songs and stuff. I regret not practicing more when I had the chance.
We're meeting a lot of new people, but none of them pan out; it seems like I've come up against every obstacle in the book these past few weeks. It's okay though. Perseverance always pays off in the end, and in any case, it's fun just to preach the Gospel. As Alma and the sons of Mosiah before me, I'm happy to just be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. The calling itself is a joy, and with that I'm content. 
Mom, you asked about the members here. For the most part, the branch here is strong and united. Quite a few sisters seem to work in the healthcare/medical profession, and a lot of the men work on ranches or with... animal husbandry? I guess that's the right term. There are a lot of farms and ranches outside town, and most everyone has something to do with one, whether as owner or worker or something. As a result, the people here are more focused on agriculture and being outdoors - it helps that they live in the middle of the jungle. :) Of course, there are a few lawyers, businessmen, and the like, but most people work with their hands and outside. It seems like a pretty nice life.
One nice thing is that they are more involved in missionary work than in other wards I've had. We receive a lot more referrals here and often teach lessons in members' homes. It helps us out a lot.
This weekend we're going back to Zapata for district conference. It should be really nice. The mission and temple presidents speak, and all in all it's a good experience. Also, we had a zone activity planned for today for going to Palenque - the ruins this time - but it was canceled at the last second. We're trying to get it rescheduled for sometime soon. 
March 14
Hey everybody! :)
... it's been another great week here in Balancán. We've had heat, humidity, torrential rain, a regional conference, teaching, preaching, expounding, exhorting, inviting others to come unto Christ, and eating delicious tacos. It's been pretty satisfying. :) ...
I guess I'll begin with the conference yesterday ... we headed up to Zapata Sunday morning ... Turns out that it was what I guess would be a Regional Conference - intended for all of southern Mexico, something like 52 stakes/districts. It was a broadcast from Church Offices in SLC and the speakers were Elder Robbins of the Seventy, Sister Allred of the RS Presidency, Elder Nelson, and President Monson. Needless to say, it was a wonderful conference and I really loved it. P. Monson mostly repeated his talk from 2009 called "To the Rescue," but it was a bit different and very moving; Elder Nelson spoke about making the most of our time and used a lot of quotes that I should have written down because I really liked them. :) In all, it was a great meeting, and everyone came away from it uplifted and spiritually energized. It was neat to chat with the missionaries in the zone for a while and stuff, too. P. Castañeda stayed in Villahermosa, so we didn't talk to him, and there was no mail or anything for me, but the zone leaders are heading to Villa tomorrow for a meeting and hopefully they'll bring back some surprises. :) Anyway, the conference was great.
Investigators. We had a good week, and found some new people that seem very interested in the Gospel, but given the travel requirements for Sunday we weren't really expecting any of them to make it out. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Rosa and her daughter Blanca (the ones from el Triunfo) at the conference, as well as a couple people from Balancán. Rosa and Blanca in particular were very excited about everything; they loved the talks and made us promise to visit them this Wednesday when we head out to Triunfo. We always go there and visit them, but it was really nice to see their enthusiasm. Things seem to be picking up with our investigators, and we're hoping to place a few baptismal dates this week...
As I mentioned, we had some pretty intense weather lately. It's been heating up lately, but slowly, so no one day has been too unbearable... until Wednesday night. Man. It was terrible. I couldn't sleep because it was so hot in our room - I showered around midnight, but even then I couldn't get comfortable. I drank two liters of water and almost the same amount of milk (after running out of water) at 2 am or so, and finally managed to sleep. When I wake up - it's pouring rain, and I'm very cold. I was thinking, "What the!" :) It was kind of weird, the sudden change in weather, but I was glad that it cooled off a bit. The problem with the rain is that it makes it pretty hard to work - it makes it pretty hard to even leave the house, actually, because everything floods and gets all muddy. We did our best on Thursday, and I did enjoy walking around in the pouring rain for a while. Friday it was still cloudy but no longer rained, and since then it's been warming up again. 

I've really enjoyed being with Elder Grimaldo. We seem to connect well and we're always talking or laughing when we're at home or in the streets.  

Thanks, everyone, for all that you do. I love you all very much, and hope that this week is a good one. Chow for now. :)

March 21
Hey hey! It's another sunny Monday afternoon; it's a beautiful day and I'm feeling really good right now. Life is still wonderful and - surprise! - I'm still having the time of my life out here. :) It's great to have a day of rest, too, because with everything going on during the week there's not too much time to just sit and reflect on what's been happening. That's exactly what Monday gives me, especially given that I spend most of the morning doing laundry. :)
It was wonderful to read the email from home and hear how everyone's been doing. It sounds like things are going well. Also, I appreciated the photos; it seems like Reagan's become a utensil-using fool! :) 
This past week has been a really good one, and seemed to sail by.  Before I knew it Saturday rolled around... and yet another month in the mission was over. I now have a full 19 under my belt - only five more left! I really can't believe it. Sometimes it seems like a dream, and yet I'm doing the best to make the most of the time I have left out here, and I've had some amazing experiences, enough to last a lifetime. 
We've yet to see any fixed baptismal dates here, but we're not letting that slow us down; instead, we're just working hard, praying a lot, and accepting whatever comes. I think trying to fix the "success" label on what we personally want can be kind of risky, because that's not always what the Lord has in mind, and if we're too focused on our desires - as worthy as they might be, like "baptize this week," for example - we don't notice the real success that we have. Hence, I've tried to not worry about the results - which are mostly, if not completely, out of my control -  It's a continual learning experience, and has to do with patience, faith, and diligence, but I think I'm getting a little better at it. It's so interesting how the Lord changes us and makes us better than we imagined. In a nutshell, I am happy. :)
I'm still helping out with the choir. This week I used some music composition software to record the four voices for the four hymns that they'll be singing. I think this will really help out because now the choir members will be able to practice their voices during the week. I enjoy the chance to play the piano a bit, and I like associating with ward members too. I've made some good friends here in Balancán.
I sent some fun pictures of a little kitten I found - it was adorable. Also, we had a chance to play a little bit of basketball Thursday night. The branch has a weekly sports night, where the youth get together and play basketball, soccer, and just kinda hang out. I joined the basketball game they had going on, and played for a half-hour or so. It was lots of fun, and I actually played pretty well, despite the tie-yanking distraction tactics from the other team. :)
It sounds like my week was just fun and games, huh? Well, we also contacted over 160 people, taught about 30 lessons to investigators, and worked with several less active families, plus studied, traveled, slept, ate, and enjoyed ourselves along the way. I'd call that a successful week.
Hmmm... what else is there to say? Well, Dad, you guessed right - I'm 0-5 on the Palenque trip. In fact, I commented to my comp yesterday that I'm going to stop telling you guys about planned trips, because I keep saying the following Monday: "No, we didn't go to Palenque this week... but we rescheduled for..." haha. 

March 28
Querida familia,
Hey! :) How is everyone doing? It was great to read this week's email...It sounds like you all had a good week; I did too. It's definitely been a hot one, though. These last few days especially; I felt like I was going to melt. Balancán's rumored to be the hottest area in the mission, and they say that April is the hottest month. Hence, I'm a little less-than-enthused about the weather for the coming weeks... but luckily the joy of sharing the Gospel makes up for it. :)
First, some updates on investigators and their progress. Florencio and Rosa and their family are doing really well. They have really strong testimonies, and in every conversation we have they express their joy at having been introduced to the restored Gospel. Their children are also building their own testimonies and developing more faith in the Savior; I talked to Florencio (the son) this week, and he told me how much he's loved reading the Book of Mormon. It sounds like he's been devouring it in the last two weeks. They're a great family, and the Gospel is really blessing them a lot. 
We've also been having success here in Balancán with finding new investigators; an older lady went to church yesterday, and we had the chance to chat with her for a few minutes. She's been to church a couple of times before, but this past week really felt the need to return, enough so that she arrived early and stayed for all of sacrament meeting even though it meant arriving late to some sort of meeting she needed to get to. We set an appointment for this week, and from the looks of things, the Spirit has been working on her and it very well might be time for her to become a member of the Church. We've also made a couple great contacts and received some seemingly golden referrals that we need to contact; it really seems like things are picking up for us. The Lord has been blessing us even more than usual this last week, and it's a further testimony for me than persistent and diligent hard work really pay off. I really think that the work we've been doing in the last couple of months has been preparatory, and that now we're going to start reaping the success of our labors. Cool stuff all around. :)
On Wednesday we had a district meeting in Tenosique, the second I've had in my time here. We caught a ride with some members (one of whom leaves for the mission in two days) and had the meeting with the elders from Tenosique and Candelaria (a couple hours up north, in the state of Campeche). The meeting was good; it was uplifting and focused.
Also, on the way back to Balancán, we passed some ruins called Pomoná, and given the opportunity we stopped and checked them out for about an hour. They're pretty neat ruins, a lot like those at Reforma, and totally hidden except to those who are familiar with the area. We wandered around the ruins for a while (a couple of pyramids, some sacrificial altars, and a few other buildings), and then entered the small museum they had. They've collected about a hundred pieces of Mayan relics, things like pottery and tablets with carvings and stuff. I took pictures of everything, and I'll send a batch after finishing this email. It was a neat little diversion, and I actually learned a few things about Mayan culture along the way. Fun times in Pomoná.
A few days later (Friday, to be precise), we went with those same members out to their grandpa's ranch a few kilometers outside of Balancán to do a little service. We rarely get the chance to help out with anything big, so we jump at every opportunity. The ranch was beautiful (and I say ranch because it's "rancho" in Spanish, though it doesn't really remind me of a cowboy ranch from back at home - just a very green place (like everywhere else) with a little shack, a well, some tools, and a big field with trees and cows and sometimes horses). We helped cut down some mangos (mangoes?), which then turned into our breakfast; we helped fix a broken fence, and we participated in (ie watched) the vaccination of a couple cows. We didn't really do much, but boy it was fun watching them chase these cows around trying to lasso them. We did lend a hand - or rather a body - by piling on top of the felled cow to keep it down whilst the shots were administered. We were there for a few hours, and it was nice to just be outside and in the country and do some honest work. :) Plus, fresh well water is delicious. Haha.
As for the rest of it, things have been pretty much normal. I helped out with the choir yesterday, which was fun; they're really starting to sound good, and it's nice to practice the piano a little. That's one skill I mean to re-master when I get home, because I really enjoy playing. This coming weekend is Daylight Savings - answering that question from a few weeks ago - and also General Conference, which I'm so excited for. I had almost forgotten about Conference, so it's a pleasant surprise to have that to look forward to. It's also the last General Conference for me in the mission. Make sure, everyone, to take notes of the impressions received; I'm sure we'll all have a ton to share next week. As a suggestion, each of us should go into conference with at least one specific question or need we wish an answer to.  As the prophet and apostles say, if you do this, you will be prompted by the Spirit and receive an answer.  Let me know how it goes; it's going to be a good weekend.
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

Tuesday, February 22, 2011



From Feb 7 2011

Hey everyone! It's been another wonderful week here in Balancán. Time is so strange. On the one hand, I've only been here two weeks, but it feels like months of experience. On the other hand, my entire mission seems to have been compressed into a few short weeks or even days - it doesn't seem like I've been gone very long at all.

This past week has been really special.  I felt the wonderfully peaceful presence of the Spirit throughout the week, received and followed many promptings, and was immensely blessed personally (meaning my happiness, my understanding of the gospel, ability to teach others, alertness, patience, kindness, charity, and inspiration as to how I might improve). That alone was more than enough, but the far great share of blessings came for the work we did this past week here in the Lord's vineyard. We were able to find new people to teach, teach inspired and spiritual lessons, resolve doubts and questions, help less actives and recent converts, contribute to the spirituality of the ward, and have plenty of investigators in church yesterday. This past week went really well for us, and the blessings haven't stopped.

I just want to use that personal example to illustrate how even a slight increase in our efforts to be obedient brings innumerable blessings. This is most easily seen in the mission field, I think, but of course applies to every daily situation in which we find ourselves. And I also think it's a lesson more readily learned here than when engulfed in the hectic pace of "normal" life - school, work, family, social life, responsibilities, etc. But hopefully we can all put into practice this message in this coming week. I know that each one of us can put forth just a little more effort, and I promise that said increase, though slight to our vision, will bring down the blessings of Heaven. Sometimes it seems like being just "a little bit better" isn't worth it, but I testify that it is, because I have experienced it. (I really wish I'd have understood all of the things I've been learning as a missionary before coming out, but oh well.) Hence, the invitation for everyone this week is to be just a little bit better - to stretch a little further, be more patient and kind, learn just a bit more about our Savior Jesus Christ. And then, of course, follow the impressions received, and record the experience so that it can be of future benefit as well. Does that sound good? ¿Están de acuerdo? Good. :)

This past week was my first chance to go out to el Triunfo. Dad, you were right; it's pretty much a glorified train station. :) (To any English-speaking Eltriunfonians who may be reading this: Your town is very beautiful. It's just also very deserted. :) I hope you're not offended.) It's about the same size as Balancán, but is much more rural and there aren't nearly as many people who live there. There's no chapel, just a... hmmm... prayer house? I'm guessing on that one, since I never heard the term before the mission. It's really pretty, though, and it seems like we'll be able to have success there (Florencio and his family live there, for example). I'm excited to go back again this week; we'll be there Wednesday, Saturday, and probably Sunday as well. Hopefully we can help the branch grow and have better attendance.

The branch here in Balancán is doing great. We had 88 people in sacrament yesterday; that's a jump of about 20 people from last week. The members are strong, the branch president is awesome, and we're working hard. Life is good.

A couple cool things happened this past week. We (meaning I) started some Saturday English and piano classes. The first try went over pretty well; we had a bunch of youth come out, and afterward they played games and had a mini-FHE with some branch members. We'll see how things go this weekend. I liked it, although I realized it's kind of hard to teach the piano - there's so much to learn and I don't really know where to start teaching them. But it's been fun, and I enjoyed it.

Some other things... Oh! I saw crocodiles this week!  Basically, this little crocodile was sunning himself in the pond/lake thing by the chapel, and we snapped a couple good photos. It was cool. :) We didn't make it out to the ruins this week as we had planned, but I think we're going to try to go this Friday. I hope so, because they sound pretty cool. I'll let you all know next week.

Let's do some personal responses now, shall we? :)

... Heya Gabs! Here are the answers to your questions: 1: Did you eat anything weird this week? Well, today we had fried fish. It's not really weird, except it's the entire fish, head and all. But oh so tasty with tortillas, onions, tomatoes, habanero salsa, and lettuce! :) 2: Did you go exploring or see any monkeys this week or any wildlife? We didn't really go exploring, but the wildlife came to us. We saw frogs, cows, dogs, bats, snakes, and lizards, but those are commonplace. :) And, of course, we saw crocodiles (see above). That was very awesome. :) As for your request to shake hands with a monkey, I'll shake all four! Hah...

Miranda: Hey hey! Sounds like things are going well. You mentioned talking to some people from down here on facebook - I don't recognize all those names but it's cool that you're able communicate with them.  and stuff. That's neat. Some people from Mina have emailed me a bit, and it's nice for me to keep in touch with them as well... As for college applications, I don't think I ever finished my application for Harvard, although I wish I would have, just to say I got accepted there (but I could say that without doing it! haha). . You asked last week for a quote on decision making - there's a CES fireside talk by P. Monson called "Decisions Determine Destiny" that I really like. You should read it - it's online at,4945,538-1-3310-1,00.html (there are several talks by the same name, so be sure to find the one from 2005).  I hope you have a great week! :) PS - congrats on the Miss T nomination. :)
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

From February 14

Buenas tardes, everyone! :) I hope the day finds you well, happy and healthy and excited about life. There are so many wonderful things to experience and be a part of in this life, and we should do all we can to take advantage of them and live them to their fullest. At times, I reflect on the memories I have from before the mission (so very long ago.... haha), and I don't remember a single worry, preoccupation, or bit of stress that felt during those 19 years; rather, the first things that come to my mind are wonderful moments spent with family and friends, including vacations, church activites, and the normal, day-to-day events that sometimes seem routine but in fact build the foundations for our future happiness. A thousand great memories flood my mind and make me smile as I recall those precious moments of my past. The thing is, when I think about what I miss the most from home, nothing huge or climactic comes to mind; rather, I remember the small things, like taking a drive at night, or having a FHE with my own family :), or playing basketball with my friends, or going to family reunions and hanging out with everyone. (Also: carpet, and a hot shower. Hah.) The point is, life is wonderful and I'm enjoying it to the fullest here in Mexico. I hope that everyone back at home is able to do the same, and that all of us can look above our troubles and daily concerns and can see the beauty of life. Because, truly, life is beautiful.

(I think the sermon was a success...) :)

It's been another full week, and another relaxing P-Day, and here I am again, in the air-conditioned cybercafé, listening to teenage kids playing Guitar Hero in the next room. Feels like home. :) This past week has been a really good one, and the work is starting to pick up here in Balancán. Let's get down to some details.

... a very awesome thing happened this last week. It's something I've been hoping would happen for a long time, and finally it did - and was a complete surprise. It's also something that I can sort of brag about for the rest of my life to practically anyone I'll come in contact with. It doesn't have much to do with missionary work, but it's cool anyway.

I ate iguana.

Okay, so maybe it's only a cool thing for me, but I'm really happy. There are so many iguanas everywhere that I was bound to eat one before long. Here's the scoop: on Saturday we went to lunch with the branch president of Triunfo (he lives here in Balancán though). He served us up some sort of meat in a red sauce with rice and black beans. We were kind of suspicious, but he said it was chicken, and acted like nothing was up. After we finished, he told us he had killed an orange iguana the week before, and decided to cook it up for us. My comp and I both agreed that, although it tasted nothing like chicken (many people had told us that it does), it was delicious. Add that to the list of awesome Mexican mission experiences. :) (Someone is keeping a list like that, right?)

... I was reminded of something that Dad said last week in the email; he mentioned that people here probably see me like a rockstar. While that may be exaggerated, it has some truth - especially here in Balancán, because we visit some smaller towns and less-populated, more rural areas. Lots of people stare at me as I walk by, and even point and comment from a ways off. Little kids especially - they run up and gather around me to talk in English. People always ask if I speak English, and seem surprised/amazed when I say yes, or when I say that all my family speaks English. I'm not sure what they expect, but they always seem a bit taken aback to be talking to a real-life gringo. :) Kinda funny for me.
From February 21 2011

... I've got a few surprises to relate. :)

First, we had some special transfers. Around 4 pm last Tuesday, I received a call from the zone leaders; they told me that my companion needed to pack up his things, because he would be heading out to an unknown destination ... Later that night, the AP called to let me know a few more details. He said Elder Rojas was going to Coatzacoalcos to be district leader (pretty quick jump), and that I was to be given a new companion, Elder Grimaldo ... We took the bus to Villahermosa, Elder Rojas caught another for Coatza, and Elder Grimaldo and I had to wait five hours at the bus station for the next one available heading back to Balancán ... and let me say that five hours in a bus station with nothing to do is very boring. :)

... Elder Rojas was pretty surprised too, and I was sad not to have spent more time with him, but I'm sure he's having a good time in Coatza. He's been able to escape the Tabasco heat wave, for one thing. :)

The next big thing that happened this past week: interviews with P. Castañeda. He shared a lot of advice and wisdom relating to missionary work, patience, and love for the people, and I was able to learn a lot from what he said. He also highlighted the fact that a Priesthood interview is a chance to give an accounting of our stewardship unto the Lord. That gives the normal interviews that I had back at home with the Bishopric a new meaning - and makes me miss the PPIs we used to have, Dad. Hopefully we'll be able to start them back up in just a few months. :) I liked the way the President said it - "The Lord wasn't able to come interview you, so He sent me instead, an authorized servant. Therefore, this is your chance to counsel with the Lord about your mission." Powerful words, and it set the interview in a different tone.

... Also, during the interview and training we were given mail, and I raked in. :) Here's what I received: a letter from Lisa, a letter from Laura, the ward newsletter and a note from the Windleys (all of those almost expected hah), the Christmas card Mom sent out, a mystery letter, a letter I had sent that was returned, and two packages, both from Mom (or the whole family, I guess). :) As always, a big thanks to Lisa, Laura, and the Windleys; I always appreciate your words of advice, counsel, and inspiration, as well as hearing a bit about home. Mom, the Christmas card turned out really nice; I especially liked the pictures of the Sherlock Holmes party, as I hadn't seen them before. :) And thank you very, very much for the packages ...

... The returned letter was one that I sent to Ms. Holmes, my government teacher from high school, about three months ago. Turns out she moved since then. Rats. I'd like to try again (I feel bad that it's been so long) - perhaps you could shoot her an email again? Her address is ...

And now for the cool mystery letter. The return address said "R. Johnston" from somewhere in Nevada. Since I don't know anyone there, I thought it might have been a mistake, but since it had my name and info on it... I decided to stop guessing and actually open the letter. :) Turns out to be very interesting. It was from one Brother Johnston; his son is in this mission, currently serving in Coatza, and has the same amount of time in the field that my old companion Elder Harrison has. It seems that since for several months now B. Johnston has been following my blog, and wrote to thank me for my example and hard work and praise me for the good I am doing (his words, not mine - hah). It was a very nice letter, and a real surprise. So, Dad, your comments about the blog being public and the stats showing hits from all over the world (Netherlands, Russia, etc) seems to turn out for the best.  Assuming that he may read this at some point: Thank you for your letter; I really appreciate it, and will deliver the message to your son. :) I definitely thought it was cool to get a letter like that.

Now for some updates on missionary work. :) We have a baptism set up for Saturday ... and the others are doing well and will hopefully have dates set for next week or the following.

... well, I hit the 18-month mark on Saturday. Pretty exciting, and very hard to believe for me. I'm three-fourths of the way done, but it feels like I'm just starting. I guess that's a good thing, though. It's exciting to be in the mission and to be able to work here in Mexico for another six months. Oh, and it looks like we'll be going to some ruins this week in a place called Reforma (there's a Reforma, Chiapas, but it's not there; I think it's about 90 minutes from Balancán, if you want to look it up). Sounds like a cool place, and I'll be sure to take lots of pictures (and maybe some with me in them - haha).

Well, everyone, that's it for this week. I love you all very much and wish you all a great week. Draw near unto the Lord, and He will draw near unto you, and we will all be blessed by that association. I love you all very much! :)
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Surprise Transfer

I been a slacker in posting Justin's letters to this blog. My apologies and thanks to those who have sent me emails of encouragement to get on the ball  ;)

Here are a few highlights from Jan 10, 17, 24, followed my his most recent letter Jan 31 which describes his transfer and new area.  Mark

From January 10, 2010 (excerpt)

Today for p-day we had our normal zone activity (the one from a couple weeks ago was a special Christmas one). We rented an astro-turf soccer field and went to play for a couple hours with the other zone here in Mina. It was pretty awesome; we were there for about three hours.  For the last hour we played football, which was a little better for me since everyone down here has played soccer since birth.  I must have been getting a little cocky after my third touchdown, because when I intercepted what would have been a game-winner, instead of letting the play end, I sprinted down the sideline for another score.  After some jigging and jagging, in all the commotion and hubbub I tumbled to the ground when they tagged me, and because it was astro-turf I went down pretty hard and skidded a good five feet, followed by a few rolls.  Aside from a few bruises, the only damage was a nice raspberry/carpet burn type wound that scraped me from forearm to elbow. Not a big deal, but boy, did it sting - and more so when I washed it out and cleaned it with alcohol later on (antiseptic is for sissies - ha).  But the point of this long-winded story, is that later a nice member would not accept that I'd done enough to clean it.  Her suggestion? "Pour lime juice on it".  I'd never heard of such a thing, and it didn't sound like a very fun thing to do.  But she wouldn't let it go. She can be very persistent. So finally, after a dozen "no, really, I'm okay"'s, I relented.  Wow!  Stung twice as much as the alcohol did, if you can believe it.  Last time I listen to someone giving obscure mexican treatment ideas!  (It did scab over rather quickly, though).
The work has picked up quite a bit since I last wrote. This is in part to the hard work we put in last week (we hit the 140 contacts goal, for one, and were exhausted at the end of every day, which is a good sign), but mostly because the Lord was blessing us a lot. As of right now, we have one investigator with a baptismal date, and three or four who are progressing, and that's all due to our work this week. The lady with the date is María del Carmen. We're planning the baptism for the 29th. We met her contacting, and she accepted everything right from the beginning....we also met and taught several others. Your prayers in their behalf are appreciated...
...A question for Miranda and Gabbie - do you know what a tangerine is? (I'm sure this sparked discussion or memory of Tangerine Road, too.) Mom, I'm sure you do; Dad, a little less sure, but I have faith. :) Well, apparently I never knew what a tangerine was, or somehow forgot. When I arrived in Mexico, they gave me this orange-looking thing and told me it was a mandarina. I tried it, and it basically tastes like an orange, but a little more acidic, and it's a little darker in color. I thought, well, this must be a mandarin orange - you know, those little orange slices they sometimes put in salads. I had never liked them, really, but the mandarina tasted good, and I soon started eating them often (they grow everywhere down here). I just sort of assumed they were big mandarin oranges. Well, last week in the grocery store, I was looking through the juices, and found a brand that said the names in Spanish and English. And, to my great surprise, "mandarina" actually translates as "tangerine"! :) It turns out that I really like tangerines. Who knew? :)

Mom - you asked about my new companion.  His from Bountiful and is the third of six children. His older brother served in Mexico City a couple years back. He's pretty fun to be around and has a good sense of humor. I know that if you vote for Elder Harrison for President, you will... haha. Just kidding. It just seemed like a bit of a testimonial. He's a good guy though. I laughed at the thought of how new the idea of an iTouch must seem to Grandpa... the world sure has changed a lot ... funny about Reagan and his shenanigans. Little autistic boys will be themselves, you know. :) 
One quick favor. There's a talk my MTC teacher read us called "The Fourth Missionary" by Elder Lawrence Corbridge. I'm almost positive you can find it online, but can't search for it myself, of course. I was wondering if you could look for it, and send it as an attachment or something for next week? It's a really neat talk and has a lot of cool ideas about missionary work.
Exerpt from Jan 17, 2010
This past week, although fun, has actually been pretty tough. It rained really hard from Wednesday through Friday, and it seems like that just killed missionary work in our area. Nobody was in the streets, no one wanted to open their doors, our investigators weren't home, we got drenched, etc. It was kind of discouraging for a day or two there, and again last night as we totaled our numbers for the week and realized how little we had been able to accomplish. A little disheartening. But, let me say that I'm not discouraged or upset, but rather I'm feeling very happy and excited. My spirits were dampened (no pun intended - hah) a bit this week, and there were a few moments when I wasn't too happy, but I bounced back rather quickly, and I realize that this is just part of life. How fitting that yesterday we talked about sacrifice in church, and that Dad commented on that today. The trials come and go (and come back again), but we can do all things with a cheerful countenance if we understand God's plan and have the right attitude.....

...... Last week we also had Zone Conference, which was very awesome. The President spoke a lot about diligence and about doing lots of little things every day to follow the Savior. I thought it was good advice, not just for the mission, but for everyone. We aren't judged solely on the big things, but on all the little things too, and in the end they might have more say in our eternal happiness. Let that be motivation for all of us this week; let's all try to be just a little bit better.....

..... Another good part of the conference was the mail! I received a letter from Lisa, a letter from the Windleys, and, as a big surprise to me, a package from Greg's family! :) It included notes from everyone and a ton of goodies - Pop-Tarts, beef jerkey, peanut butter, hot chocolate, candy bars, cookies, Nutter Butters, and other tasty treats. It was awesome to receive it. This is for Greg, Suzette, Casey, Mikey (que onda primo! haha - do they speak in vos in Guatemala?), Spencer, Sam, Sadie, Ali, and Wil - thank you all so very much. I really appreciated the package, and loved reading your letters. Thank you for everything - I really appreciate it, and it truly brightened up my day.......

What else, what else... :) Yesterday we spoke in church. I based my talk on D&C 58:26-28, and talked about a couple different things there. It went over well. My companion spoke on faith - he wrote his talk in English, then translated it, and I made some corrections (he's new from the US). He spoke really well, and did a good job. On Friday we made no-bake cookies with a sister here in the ward. They turned out just like I remembered them. :) Thanks again, Mom, for the recipe......
Excerpt from Jan 24, 2010
Hello everyone! It's early Monday afternoon and I feel a little overwhelmed as I sit down to write this email. Overwhelmed maybe isn't the right word... desubicado. There we go. It translates more as "disoriented," but is slightly different in Spanish. Sort of taken aback, or not sure what to think or do. The reason? Transfer calls... and not what I had expected.
First, they didn't come in until Sunday night (usually Saturday morning), so I figured I was in the clear. Second, I've only had two transfers here in Palmar, and expected to stay another transfer at least. Also, I've only been with my last three companions one transfer apiece, and thought that I would stay here longer with Elder Harrison to continue training him and all that. I was about 95% sure that I'd be staying here. (Shows how much I know!) Yes, I'm being transferred. Here are the details: I'll be going to Balancán y Triunfo, in the Zapata zone, Tabasco. My new companion will be Elder Rojas. I leave tomorrow at 9 am. Elder Harrison is staying and receives a new companion, Elder Luna (don't know him either)........
Letter from January 31, 2010
Hey hey everyone! It's another great Monday afternoon after a surprisingly great week, and I'm excited both to have received the family's email and to have the chance to write a bit about my past week here in Balancán. There's a lot to say and, as usual, little time, so let's get down to it.

First off, I absolutely love Balancán. Yes, I was a bit sad to have to leave Palmar, and still miss some of the people there and everything, but wouldn't really want to go back now that I've been here for a couple days. And I loved being there, too, so that says a lot. Why, you may ask, do I love this new area so much? Well, it could be for the beautiful scenery, the great members, the imminent success, the nearby ruins, the baptisms, the monkeys, or a host of other cool things. Basically everything is summed up in the definition of "Balancán" in some Mayan language: "land of tigers and snakes." Pretty easy to understand why I like it so much, huh? :)

I spent almost all of Tuesday on buses - first from Mina to Villahermosa, then down to Zapata, and then over here to Balancán. I had to wait a couple hours in between each bus ride, so I didn't arrive here until around 7:30 pm. I settled it, unpacked, and all that, and then the next day got to work in the area, got to know some members, recent converts, etc. My companion is Elder Rojas. He's from México, DF (the capital), is 26 years old, has been a member for just over two years, and has been in the field almost 5 months. He's extremely nice, compassionate, good-hearted, and an all-around good friend; so far, I've really enjoyed being with him.

Our area includes the Balancán branch, which covers all of Balancán (it's not really that big), plus a bunch of outlying towns and communities, and also the Triunfo branch, which I guess is about an hour from here. I haven't been yet, but we'll be going this week. My companion says that not very many people live there; branch attendance is rarely higher than 15, although the members who do attend are very faithful. Balancán has attendance of around 65-80, so it's actually doing really well. So far, all the members I've met are extremely nice and supportive, and they seem really focused on helping us out - referrals, food, rides, et al. I've really enjoyed being here so far.

The weather hasn't been too bad, though the past two days have been very toasty and things are heating up. They say it gets hotter here than in Villahermosa, so I guess we'll see on that. :) But regardless it's a beautiful area. We are surrounded by foliage and wildlife. In fact, we had a pretty special treat last week. We have an investigator who lives about a five minute walk outside of town, in a little forest thing. As we are walking over, I hear a bone-rattling death shriek from about a quarter-mile away, and start looking for a scrap of paper upon which I can write a final message to my family before being devoured by some scary Mexican monster. My companion notices my fear and laughs, telling me not to worry and that it's only the monkeys. :) (google a monkey scream, then multiply that by 1000 monkeys and you'll know what it was like!)
Anyway, at that, I perked up a bit, and he explained that although he had never seen them, lots of monkeys live in those woods. Well, being senior companion and all, I took things into my own hands, and the next day we went exploring. :) Yes, we saw monkeys. Lots of monkeys. :) They were little guys - half my size, if that - and stayed up in the trees, but made a bit of a ruckus and shouted at us a lot. One tried to urinate on us. (Where is this story going?) We were with a ranch guy who was on a horse, and he told us that these monkeys are completely harmless. We took pictures and videos. I'm going to send a picture or two this week, and next week I might send a video. It was one of the coolest non-teaching experiences thus far in my mission. :)

As far as the work goes, things are great here. We have a lot of investigators in our teaching pool, and should be having lots of baptisms this coming month. In fact, we already had three - Lupita, José Luis, and María del Carmen (ages 13, 12, and 10). They're really awesome kids and I've become good friends with them in this short week I've been here. Her mom just needs to get married and then she's going to get baptized as well (and that's in the works too). Elder Rojas baptized them and I had the chance to confirm Lupita (the branch president confirmed José and another member confirmed María). Their baptismal service was awesome and very peaceful, and they're going to make great members and examples to their friends and family. I'm really excited to be able to continue working with them.

This coming week we have some cool things planned. On Thursday we're going to have interviews with President Castañeda, which is always inspiring, and we'll be doing a little traveling to Zapata for that. Then on Friday we're going with an investigator (who will soon be baptized, her name is Coral) to some ruins about an hour south (I think). I'm really looking forward to that. On that topic, yes, Palenque is in my zone (the mission does cover just a little part of Chiapas still), as well as a bunch of other ruins, waterfalls, and awesome historical sites, and so I'll get the chance to go pretty soon here. :) Then on Saturday we're probably going to have another baptismal service - we just need to get things nailed down, but I'm confident we'll have success. :) Things are looking really good in the future here. :)

Hmmm... what else, what else. Well, I spoke on Sunday, a quick improvised talk when the assigned speaker didn't show up. ("Welcome to Balancán," my companion said. Hah.) It went well. The members seem to be taking to me well. I'm the first American here in about a year, which is neat. Oh, and I've been suffering neck pain this past week because I started sleeping on a pillow again. In my last three areas I haven't had one, but now I do, and on day three my neck just seized up and I couldn't move it. It was kind of funny in the baptismal service, when people behind me wanted to get my attention and I couldn't turn around to look at them. Haha. Anyway, another elder told me that a similar thing had happened to him, and that I should keep sleeping on the pillow and the pain would go away. And it has. (Sweet story, Greer.) I'm almost completely back to normal now. Just another interesting anecdote from my missionary life. :)

Well, I don't know what else to write about. I feel a bit scatterbrained. I always prepare for my email by writing some notes, but didn't do so this time, and with a lack of time to write I can't really say too much more. I'm going to respond a bit to this week's email, something short, and send off a few photos, and then next week I'll fill in the gaps and give more info and all that. Sound good? :)

Dad (cue wild cheering at the privilege of being first): Hey! Sounds like there's been a lot of missionary goings-on in the past week. Give my congrats to everyone. I'm especially jealous of Tim's mission, but oh well - I'm pretty sure there are no wild monkeys in Manchester. :) Mom didn't mention that the Bowns got my letter - cool stuff. And I really liked your mini sermon. I was a bit sad leaving Mina, but quickly cheered up; however, it is very interesting what you said about free agency, and why things happen. I have many thoughts on that, but will save them for next week. Thanks for everything - I love you very much, and look to you as a strong example in my life. Have a great week!

Mom (might as well go in descending order): Hey! Thanks for the email. It was great to hear about what's been going on this week. No, nobody had told me about Lori getting married; as far as I knew, she was already in the mission field. :) Cool about the wedding plans though. New Beginnings sounds like it was a success (let's celebrate... hah), and sounds like the girls and Reagan are behaving. How strange. :) haha. Thank you for writing - I'm sorry it's so short this week, but I'll write more next week. I love you very much, and hope that you have a great week! :)

Gabbie: Gabber-dabbers! Hey! I don't have much time, but thank you so much for writing. Sounds like you did well last term in school and that you had a good week last week. It was cool to hear your story about the trolls; Dad had mentioned it to me before, but I hadn't heard it from your point of view. :) I'm not so sure about your 11th commandment, but horse riding sounds like it's going well. :) I love you very much, hope you have a great week, and will write more next week! Te amo! :)

Miranda (so much for descending order, huh?): como te va en su español? Me parece que si puedes escribir un poco, pero puedes entender lo que digo? :) Haha. Sounds like you too have had a good week and did well in school. Congratulations! :) Any decisions yet on the college issue? I love you very much, hope you have a great week, will write more next week, and will look for a scripture like you asked. Until then - chow for now! :)

Well, everyone, that's about it for me. Kinda rushed, but oh well. I love you very much, and hope you all have a great week. See you next week! :)

Con mucho amor,

Elder Greer

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year

<Here's a bit of Justin's letter before Christmas, and following that is his letter from January 3rd>

Hey everyone! It's been another great Monday and week...  in addition to the family letter, I got one from John's family (they've been really good about emailing me monthly), two forwarded letters from Josh (so yes, I heard the news - that's totally awesome), and, of course, an inspiring message from the President. He included as an attachment "The Living Christ," so I will accept your challenge, Miranda, and see you a "Joy to the World" video and a night of caroling to the neighbors. Haha. Just kidding - but I will do what you suggested; I think it'll really bring home the meaning of Christmas. Anyway, on to the letter. (My emails, I think, are pretty good, but these introductions could use some work.) :)

First things first. We've got the phone call all set up for Christmas the 25th (Saturday) at 5:00 pm my time. I'm pretty sure that's 4:00 your time, right? I'll trust you, Dad, to figure that out. :)  I'm looking forward to it. Also, Dad, you mentioned last week that the Bowns will probably be over at that time on Christmas Day - if they're there, it'd be cool to talk to each of them for a minute too. I'm sure it'll be a great experience and a good Christmas present for all of us. :)

Well, time for an update. The biggest news from this week is, of course, my new companion. His name is Elder Harrison, and he's from Bountiful. He's the third child of six; his older brother served in the Mexico City North mission a couple years back. We get along pretty well. :) He's a little on the timid side...He's cool though, and really excited to be here. He's very eager to work hard, meet new people, and learn a lot. He studied Spanish for two years in junior high, but speaks very little Spanish - the basics, but less than I did when I hit Mexico (and even less than I did when we went to Chile, for that matter). It's hard for him to understand people, and even harder to form answers or say what he's thinking. But that's pretty much how every gringo is when he gets here, so it's no big deal. :)...I know he'll be a blessing for the people here of Palmar. Another cool thing about being with him is that it requires me to talk a lot more (I thought I was talking more!). Thanks for the advice on training, Dad. I'll put it into practice.

We had the special stake conference yesterday, and both P. Castañeda and P. Johnson came (mission and area presidents). They spoke and their messages were very powerful. P. Johnson kind of got after the stake for their fast offerings - he said, "I'm going to suggest to my wife that we move here to Minatitlán, because apparently the average meal here costs 4 pesos!" Everyone laughed, but they got the message, and hopefully they'll increase their fast offerings and receive the blessings. All the speakers talked about Christmas and the birth of the Savior, and it was really neat to reflect upon that message and think about Jesus's birth...It was a very neat conference and I could feel the Spirit very strongly. Afterward, P. Castañeda and I spoke for a few minutes in English; he speaks pretty well, but is trying to improve, and it was a pretty fun conversation. He says to send on a Merry Christmas to everyone at home, by the way. :)

I read in Josh's emails and the one from the family about his mission call. That's so very awesome. I'm so excited for him; it's going to be a wonderful opportunity. Congratulate him for me, and tell him I wish him the best of luck and I know he'll do a great job.

Letter January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!! :)

Okay, so I'm a little late on that, but it's the best I can do. I hope everyone had a happy New Year and is ready to start 2011 and make it a year of success, joy, love, and learning. I'm really looking forward to this year; I feel like it holds many blessings for me and I can't wait to discover which ones they are.

This past week was a good one, but sort of difficult as far as outward success is concerned. We actually did better this past week than in the few weeks preceeding it, which is quite the achievement if you consider the fact that this week absolutely NO ONE was at home or in the streets (except for drunks that coughed blood on us and tried to speak in English, and a Jehovah's Witness who wanted to contend... yeah, fun times). The city was just dead this week. We had some finding success in the first couple days, but from Thursday to Sunday we could barely get anything done. It wasn't from lack of trying, either; we worked really hard every single day. I'm really satisfied with our efforts this last week, and looking forward to doing the same this week, but with more success.

As far as investigators go, we don't have many. We have a couple people who are sort of progressing, but need an extra push, and then we have a couple others who are kind of flaky. So, this week we're going to be talking to everyone and tracting a lot, and I'm confident that by next week we'll have a bunch of new investigators who will be sincerely looking for the truth. There's not much else to say about the past week, except that I'm pleased with the work we did, and this coming week will be a good one too. Today, Monday, has been a lot of fun as well. We had the perfect P-day planned, and everything went right. I finally got my haircut, I took out $20 to buy a 4GB SD card (more pictures!), I bought some "strawberried peanut butter M&Ms" (I'll have to tell you next week how they taste), and we ate tacos for lunch. It's been a great day. :) So we're both feeling really happy and excited about this week, and a good outlook can work miracles. :)

Personally, I'm doing really well. I've been learning so much lately, from personal studies, experiences in the street with my companion, from the letters from home and friends, and from the Spirit in general. Let me here reiterate that the packages I received were awesome, everyone! :) I was so happy to get them because it was like a second Christmas for me, and I've really enjoyed using all the presents. The religion pamphlet has been really interesting, as have my friends' letters from the mission - they've really given me a boost and made me more excited for the work. I love the candy and letters, of course, and the cds are wonderful as well. All in all, they were great Christmas packages, so thank you again for sending them, Mom (and everyone else involved!). Nothing new so far, but we'll probably get mail sometime this week, so I'll let you know.

We spent New Year's pretty well here. We were inside early, as I mentioned last week, so we didn't see anyone burn the viejo (that's what it's called here - represents the old year and the old person). Dad knows what I'm talking about, but for everyone else, they're dummies (scarecrow-type things) dressed up to represent all your old habits. They're given beer bottles, cigarettes, etc. and set out in front of the house. Then, at midnight, they burn the viejos to represent starting the New Year fresh. Some people packed the viejos with fireworks, too. We didn't see any of them get burned, but boy, did we hear them! The shouts and fireworks woke us up at midnight. It sounded pretty crazy out in the streets. But I just went back to bed. :) It was cool, though, to have that tradition going on. Throughout the week they also had a bunch of kids dressed up as women dancing in the streets in costumes and stuff. Kind of odd, but interesting for sure.

Gabbie: Hey Gabs! Let me begin by telling you that you are hilarious. All of your emails include a bunch of silly humor and jokes. For example, the whole "Guess what?" thing has taken on a new life of its own. What you wrote as my response was pretty funny. :) Also - let me just quote a part of what you wrote, because it made me laugh a lot: "Oh, Dad just told me that they also gave their farewell the same day you did. I told him, "oh, well, tell Justin that", but Dad says "he already knows. He was there". And I said I know, I was just reminding him, dad. So...there you go." Haha. Gabs, you make me laugh a lot. :) I think the American food I've been craving lately has been meatloaf. And chocolate shakes. And apple pie. Yum. :) I'm glad you had fun at Tucano's and on New Year's. Hopefully you'll be able to enjoy school this new semester and that you'll learn a lot. You mentioned Santa... here's a scripture for you to look up: Zechariah 2:6. Have a great week, Gabs! :) I love you very much!

Miranda: Hey! Sounds like school's going great... haha. Pay attention! :) The snow and ice news sounds cool too. I'm glad to hear it's been snowing, and that you've been able to go snowboarding and all that. It sounds like it was a lot of fun. Hopefully you'll be able to go a bunch more before the season ends. How has lacrosse been going? Have you started up yet? New Year's sounds cool - for us it was just normal, but it's weird that it's now 2011. Time goes by so quickly. Have you finished all your college applications? When do you hear back from them? No, I haven't eaten anything weird lately, nor have I dressed up as anyone. Let's see what this week holds. :) I hope you have a great one - I love you very much! :)

Mom: Hi Mom! :) I was glad to hear that you got all the pictures. I laughed at your comment about my "inflated" corn. I didn't know the right word to use; I wanted to say popped, but knew that wasn't right, so I went with "inflated." The downside of learning another language. :) I'll have to put together a collection of recipes from around here so that afterward we can try to make some different foods. Thanks again for the Christmas packages. I'm glad everyone had a fun New Year's. You'll have to let me know if you come up with any resolutions. I remember when we would all sit down and write out our resolutions on that yellow legal paper... and then they would be stored away, not to be looked at for an entire year. Haha. Hopefully this year we can actually achieve some of our goals. By the way, I've noticed something the past few months or so. The first year-ish of my mission, in almost every email you would say "I miss you very much, love you, etc...", but as of about two months ago, you haven't really said "I miss you," but have instead just expressed love, pride, and appreciation. I think that's cool. Obviously, I know you miss me, but it's interesting that I now don't have much time left, and so now we're counting down instead of up, and all that. I don't know if that makes sense, but it was cool before, and it's cool now. Things have progressed.... or something. I think all this warm weather is affecting my brain. :) Anyway, Mom, thanks for your email, and for always supporting me. I hope this is a great week for you. I love you very much. :)

Dad. Whew - what a doozy of an email! Let me respond to what I can. Cool about the SS class; you'll have to let me know what that's all about (did they invite you because they think you need the help? haha). Yes, I got the Ensigns in the package; thanks. I've been reading through a couple talks lately, and have really learned a lot. Sounds like it's been a good week, with you attending when Josh wnt through the Temple and such. I sent him a quick email today, though I didn't mention that. I'm glad it was a good experience for him. Thanks for the info on Matt and Brett. I hope Matt can get back into the field soon. I'm actually glad you didn't look up anything on the white stone this week for me - I did, and found out that a topic I thought was going to be this big (fingers two inches apart) is really this big (my arms aren't long enough to demonstrate). I've been studying the Bread of Life, taking Christ's name upon us, the meaning of eternal progression, and so on. It's been really interesting, but I haven't finished studying it or forming my conclusions, so we'll save that for next week. :) It's some cool stuff, though - as is what you wrote this week. Man. Receiving the Lord, and being accepted by Him. I'm going to read through again what you wrote a couple times, and study it a bit more, but it's pretty cool insights, and I really like the connections you made. I'll try to write more on that next week too. Oh, as a comment, last week in the district class I asked the elders to answer the following questions with hard or easy - "The mission is ____." Half put hard, and half put easy. Then I used what you said last week about what Nephi said to Laman and Lemuel, when they complained that what Nephi was asking was hard, and how nothing is hard in the Lord, if we put our faith in Him all is possible.  So I then taught them that for the Lord, the mission is very easy. By the end, they had all switched it over to the easy column. :) Hah. It was a good lesson though, and I think it helped out. Oh (part two), another comment - in the announcements today they said that we should ask our families not to put "religious images" on letters or packages. Who knows why, since it seems like putting that image of La Virgin de Guadelupe has been effective for me, and allows the packages to arrive instead of being stolen.  One more thing - your email, when talking of Reagan, ended like this: he messes with me sometimes (sneaking up and punching me (ouch) then running, or clicking the keyboard when I am trying to prepare my lesson, with the sole objective to mess me up so I will chase him) and during it all he laughs hysterically. A really deep, funny, contagious laugh. We all crack up hearing it. Then of course, he also runs outside with only socks on in 8 degree weather. (new paragraph) So, keep on keepin' on. Love you. (Back to me) Haha. I just thought it was funny, the transition there from Reagan trouble to "Keep on keepin' on." Just made me laugh. Thank you for everything, Dad. I really appreciate all the advice and support and love. I hope you have a great week. More next Monday. Chow for now. Love you! :)

Thanks, everyone, for all you do for me. I love you very much. Have a wonderful week! :)
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Elder Grinch ~ And playing Santa

From December 6, 2010
Hey everyone! It's another beautiful afternoon here in Mina. This past week we had a couple of pretty chilly days (I actually had to use a blanket at night - imagine that!), but yesterday and today it's warmed up a bit. It's still pretty cloudy today, though, which is nice. (They say you shouldn't start a novel with a weather report, and I think the same applies for a missionary letter. Let's get on to the stuff that matters.)
Well, the first cool thing to relate is that Yaqui (Yaquelin) was successfully baptized and confirmed this weekend. The baptism had a good turnout with lots of family and friends, her sisters spoke, the Primary sang a couple songs, and her dad baptized her. Yesterday her dad was able to confirm her and, since it was fast and testimony meeting, practically her whole family bore testimony. It was really neat. They're a strong family and everyone looked so happy to see Yaqui be baptized. It was a cool moment for us too. We've become good friends with her, and her family. I have quite a few pictures I want to send, including of the baptism, but unfortunately I left my cable in the house (do we call it a cable in English? The USB connection thing...), so those will have to wait until next week. Which is really a shame, because I have some pretty awesome pictures... more on that in a moment. :)
So, the baptism went through wonderfully. Our other investigator, Julieta, seems to have moved to live with her daughter... we haven't been able to get a straight answer on that, but looks like she won't be baptized this Saturday. Hopefully we'll be able to at least pass on the referral. We're now in a desperate search for people to teach, since we're kind of lacking in the area. One cool thing is that we received 12 referrals this past week from members. That's a lot for just one week, and we're in the process of visiting them to see if they're interested. This week should be a good one - lots of door-knocking and meeting new people, which is always fun. I'm excited for it.
Last Thursday we had our interviews with President Castañeda. The interview went really well, as always, and he gave me some great advice. I asked him about having the family come down to Mexico when I finish, and he said that won't be a problem. He told me that in March you should call the Missionary Department to coordinate your flights with mine and the details and stuff, and they'll arrange things, and at that time I'll set things up on my end with him, but that there's no need to worry about it until then. Kind of cool to know that it's more of a sure thing now. Are you still planning on coming down? I think that would be awesome. But no need to worry about it for another three months.
I received a package and two letters, the letters from Lisa and the package from Grandma and Grandpa Bown, Laura, Lisa, and Ben. It was great. They sent me candy (much to the delight of my companion), a BYU shirt (which I am currently wearing), a Libro de Mormón, and an instrumental cd called "Take Time to Be Holy" (which I really like. Very beautiful music). Please pass along my thanks to them; I really appreciate it. Yes, the present were all wrapped, but I couldn't resist the temptation and opened them up. Haha. :) So far that's all I've recieved, but I'll keep you all updated. Oh, and we were told that we can have the phone call home between the 22nd and the 27th, and we have an hour(ish) to talk, like the last time. Since this is the last week of the transfer, I'll wait to set things up until next week, but when would be a good time and day for you guys? Just let me know and we'll discuss more next week. I'm looking forward to it.
The President had some cool news for us - we're having a special mission-wide Christmas activity this Thursday. We're all heading to Villahermosa, and we're going to listen to a message by the President, watch some sort of video presentation, eat, take a photo together, and go through the Temple. I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a wonderful experience, and I just can't wait. :) It's been a while since I've been able to go through the Temple, and it'll be cool to meet up with old companions and such and chat with everyone.
Speaking of Christmas, we had the opportunity to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional last next, and man, I loved it. What a special message. I liked the fact that President Uchtdorf incorporated the Grinch into his message (which only started up once more my old nickname, "Elder Grinch," among the members here haha - their pronunciation of "greer" sounds like grinch to them anyway), and the themes of service and love. I loved the music of the Choir, especially "O Come All Ye Faithful" - I could really feel the power and beauty of the season with that hymn. I know the Savior loves us, and what a glorious thing it is to be able to remember him more fully in this month. I hope we can all find the true spirit of Christmas in our lives and can make this time of year one of service and love.
Well, that's all from me this week. I have a couple quick responses for this week's email...
Gabbie: Hey Gabs! First off, your Spanish is coming along nicely! And secondly, your emails are getting more and more inventive every week. :) They always make me smile. I'm trying to think of things to suggest to you for Christmas, but nothing really comes to mind, maybe because I've been away from civilization for 15 and a half months. :) Haha, just kidding, but I'll give it some thought and let you know next week. Mom says that you have a lot going on in school this week - I hope it goes well and that you can have a lot of fun while getting everything done. Thank you for writing me, Gabs, and I hope you have a great week. Te amo mucho! :) Adios!
Miranda: Sounds cool about the college plans. Whatever happens is cool with me, though I do think it would be a lot of fun to go to BYU together, still be living at home, sharing a car, all that. We'll have to see how things play out. But yes, a Jeep would be fine by me. :) Hopefully you are able to go snowboarding this week and that you enjoy it. Make the most of the snow and cold - I'm missing it down here! :) You mentioned how you like to live day by day... there's a quote by President Monson where he talks about how we need to learn from the past, plan for the future, and live in the present... something like that. It's good advice. Set good habits now so that when you hit college you can enjoy it to the fullest and don't miss out on anything. Also, enjoy where you are in life, because it only happens once. Those are my brotherly words of wisdom for the week. :) Thanks for writing and for being a good sister and friend. I appreciate it a lot. I hope you have a wonderful week. I love you very much! :)
Mom: Hi Mom! :)  Is it still snowing? Steve emailed me this week and mentioned a blizzard warning or something this past week, but said that nothing out of the ordinary happened. It made me miss the snow and the cold. The only thing cold here is the ice cream from Dairy Queen that's right down the road. :)  I can't believe there are only 19 days left until Christmas. We don't have any specific plans yet, but I'm sure we'll spend the day with members and celebrate it that way. We might do another gift exchange among missionaries, too, so that will be fun. No, no one recorded me singing... I hope. :) haha. It was cool to hear about the baptism of Wil - it's crazy to think that he's the last grandchild for them. Also, I enjoyed hearing about Reagan's trip to the dentist, and I'm surprised and glad that it went so well. That's cool - it sounds like little by little he's progressing and getting better. It'll be interesting to see what he's like when I get home, and to see the differences. Thanks for keeping me updated on the family and on what's been going on. I hope you have a wonderful week. I love you very much - thanks for everything! :)
Dad:  I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures; you mentioned the "squishy pulling meat off the bone" sound I used to hate, and now that I think about it, it doesn't really bother me anymore. I guess if I can handle pulling legs off a whole turtle then the turkey should be no problem!  Very interesting about the blog, and that it gets so many hits from all over the world. I figure it's okay if we just leave it how it is - unblocked.  And, hey, maybe someone stumbling upon it will become interested enough to request more information about the gospel. (anyone interested should go to and request some free literature, or a free bible! :)
I really loved the symbolism you mentioned about the Temple and the degrees of glory and all that. Since I can't always read thoroughly the email, I only scanned through that part, so I'll take some time to study it this week to really understand it, but it sounded pretty cool. Next week I'll also take some time to mention some of the cool things I've been learning lately. Thanks for sharing all that with me. Home teaching here kind of wavering between "decent" and "doesn't really exist," which is kind of sad. I've never heard of an investigator having home teachers assigned before baptism, either, probably because here most members don't even have home teachers that actually visit them. But that's why I'm here, right? - to build up the kingdom! :) I hadn't heard about Janessa - that's very cool that she's planning on serving a mission. Good for her. (I give my vote of approval. Hah.) Well, Dad, thanks for everything, and for always teaching me something new. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much!
Thanks, everyone for all your prayers and support. I love you all! Have a wonderful week! :)
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer
From December 13, 2010
Hey everyone! Thanks for having me on the show today - it's great to be back. I see some new faces here today, as well as some old fans, so hopefully this will be interesting for everyone. You know, a funny thing happened to me on the way over here...
Haha. :) I'm not really sure where that came from. But it's been a great week, and I'm excited for this next one too. I don't have much time to write today, because with transfers and some other things we've been a little short on time. So I'm going to try and write as much as I can, and I'll make up for it next Monday when I have a bit longer to write.
First off, transfer calls came in yesterday. They usually call us Saturday morning, so we almost thought there weren't going to be transfers, but finally around 7 pm the zone leaders called and let us know the deal. My companion is taking off, as expected; he's heading to Benemerito, an area in Tabasco right on the border of Guatemala. He's pretty excited about it, though sad to leave Palmar. It's a great area, and he's been a really good companion; I'm sad we didn't get to spend more time together. I'm staying here in Palmar as district leader, and I've been given another assignment... trainer. Yep, that's right, I'm receiving a new missionary. :) The ZLs told me he's probably going to me an American, but nothing's definite yet. My comp heads out tomorrow morning and the new guy will get here around noon on Wednesday, so in the meantime I'll be with another companionship in our district. I am really excited for the chance to train. It's going to be different - if he is American, it'll mean a lot more talking and teaching and everything for me at first, until he gets a hang of the language - but I'm looking forward to the opportunity and I think I'll enjoy it a lot. Next week I'll be able to tell you all the details about my new companion (starting with his name). For now, I'm in waiting mode. :)
That means I'll be spending Christmas here in Mina, and New Year's too. That will be fun; the ward members are awesome, and it will be fun to spend the holidays with them. There's a stake activity on Friday and a Christmas devotional Sunday, and more things to come as we get closer to the 25th. I'm going to set everything up for the phone call this week. I'll figure out the day and the time (and, of course, the phone number), and I'll be sure to let you know next Monday. I'm really looking forward to the phone call - it's been 7 months since the last one. And this weekend I hit 16 months as a missionary... yikes. Time flies. :)
So that's that for what's coming up this week. Oh, and we have a special conference with President Johnson, the Area President. Should be cool. We're slowly building up our teaching pool; the referrals and door-knocking of the past week helped a lot, and we've met some good people. More info on that next week as they continue progressing. This past week was a good one, especially with the Villahermosa trip. We headed out in the wee hours of the morning, but I dozed on the three-hour bus ride and arrived in Villa ready to go. We took a mission photo, went through the Temple, ate a delicious meal, watched a video of the history of the mission (all the baptisms since July, video of when the President and his family arrived, different activities, etc.), sang Christmas songs, and received lots of candy as presents. :) No packages or letters for me, though I hope for something to come this week. I'll keep you posted, as always. Going through the Temple again was a wonderful blessing. I love feeling the Spirit there and being able to learn so much more. It was a chance to receive a lot of personal revelation and direction for my life right now. I'm diligently keeping a day-to-day journal, a study journal, and a "spiritual experiences" journal, so even if I don't remember to write something here, it's getting recorded. :) Also, I've mentioned having a few experiences in the mission and haven't given much details, and it will be awesome to be able to share those experiences when I get home. Anyway, this paragraph has been a bit rambling, but the trip to Villa was great, and I loved going through the Temple. :)
What else, what else... I forgot to mention this last week (I think), but I played Santa in an elementary school last Monday. A sister in the ward works there, and asked me to dress up as Santa so the kids could have their picture taken. It was an all-around awesome experience. It was so much fun to shout "Ho-ho-ho!" and "Feliz Navidad, niño!" and see the kids' faces light up. A couple kids were scared, too; one girl burst into tears upon seeing me. :) But the rest were excited, and several ran up to give me a hug and show me their letter. It was pretty neat, and the sister gave me a 2011 calendar with my picture there. If I have time, I'm going to send the photo today; if not, I have a bunch of them to send next week. It was cool to be Santa. :)
Well, I think that's it for me. Sorry it's a bit short this week. A few quick comments, and I'm outta here.
Gabbie: Hey Gabs! What awesome Spanish! :) Oh, and good luck with your health test! Except... I guess you've already taken it by now. Oh well. You'll have to tell me next week how it went. You are an awesome sister and I hope you have a great week. I look forward to talking to you too! See you next week! I love you very much! :) PS Chow for now! :)
Miranda: Hola!  Sounds like you've been having a fun, Christmasy week, what with school activities and snowboarding and all that good stuff. I hope this next week is just as good and that things go well for you. Thanks for being a great sister and friend. I love you very much! :)
Mom: Hi Mom! It was funny to hear your description of the Blizzard of 2010 and also very cool to hear about the things the family's been doing the past week. Please send my condolences to Grandma Greer.... or just tell her I hope she gets better soon, because "condolences" sounds way too formal. :) Anyway, wish her a speedy recovery from me. Thanks for all the love and support I feel. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much! :)
Dad: Hey! :) Quick comments from your letter - first, I used what you wrote last week about the Temple of Jerusalem and the Garden of Eden in my district class last week, and tied it in to humility and standing in holy places. It was pretty cool. Thank you for all the cool things you teach me and your great example. I love reading and rereading the weekly emails. I think about all the great times we've had, and look forward to more. In the meantime, though, the Lord has a work for me to do, and I'd better get to it. Have a great week! I love you very much! :)
Well, everyone, thanks for everything. Enjoy this Christmas season and do lots of good in the world. Enjoy the beauty in your lives and have a wonderful week. Hasta pronto!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From November 22

Hey everyone! Well, it's been another great week, with lots of changes and new things going on. It's another warm and sunny Minatitlán afternoon, but here I am in an airconditioned cyber with a new weekly letter from the family. Things couldn't be much better. :)

Well, let me start off with the important information. The transfers took place Tuesday night, meaning that Tuesday was my last full day in Paquitál. We headed up to Canticas for the day, so I had the chance to see a few people and say goodbye. I talked to Juan Carlos for a while - he had been kind of upset on Sunday, like I mentioned last week, but had headed down to the train tracks to cool off and study the Book of Mormon. When I talked to him Tuesday, he was up to 2 Nephi 26 - over a hundred pages in just a week. Pretty cool. He had calmed down and understood the importance of being confirmed. Unfortunately, due to the transfers, I don't know if he was confirmed yesterday or not, but I hope so. I told Elder Silva to write me and let me know if the confirmation went through, so with any luck I'll hear something soon. But Juan Carlos was doing a lot better when I left, and Perfecto was really excited for his baptism (as far as I know he was baptized Saturday), and I felt good about leaving the area in good conditions.

I arrived in my new area, Palmar, Tuesday night, and got right into the work the following day. Palmar is right near the center of the city (colonia Centro) where all the shops and more touristy things are, which is kind of cool. It's a fairly big area and has a strong ward (around 120 in attendance on Sundays). In the last transfer, my companion Elder Valencia baptized four people in Palmar (and seven people in the other ward he was formerly assigned to), so it seems like we'll be able to have lots of success here. However, we don't really have many investigators that we're teaching at the moment - all the upcoming baptisms that Elder Valencia had planned are for the other ward, Nueva Mina, which now has its own missionaries. In a way, we're starting from scratch, but that's okay. In the few days I've been here we've found a handful of people that we'll be teaching this week, and we're hoping to have a couple baptisms by the end of next week. I feel like Palmar is capable of giving great fruit; I think there's a lot of potential here, and it's time to open things up. I'll keep you all informed on the investigator side of things as we see progress.

Elder Valencia is pretty awesome. He's from Mexico State (you didn't know Mexico was a state, did you? :) haha), but lived in Arizona from age 1 to age 17 and then moved back to Mexico, so he actually speaks English better than he speaks Spanish. That's been pretty fun, even though we pretty much always speak in Spanish anyway. He's very easy to get along with, smart, and fun to be around. Beyond that, he's a hard worker and upbeat, so we're able to work really well together. I'm excited to get to know him better and work hard this transfer.

We live in what I imagine would be a pension from your mission, Dad; here it's a cuartería (technically a "roomery," meaning a cluster of rooms that are rented out to different people). Basically, a member family is renting us out a part of their house. It's small, but comfortable and has everything that we need. The plus side is that the family is always inviting us to dinner and breakfast. Yum. :) They're pretty cool and I've been getting to know them a little bit. The members seem really nice here. More on (huh?) that when I actually get to know them better. :) But so far so good! :)

Well, that's really about it. This Thursday the President's coming into town to do interviews, and I'm going to use the opportunity to ask him about you guys coming down to pick me up after the mission. I'll let you know what he says. The ZLs said some letters arrived for me and my companion, but we won't pick them up until tonight, so I don't know from whom. No Christmas packages yet, but I'm sure they'll arrive soon. :) That's it from my end - on to the better part of the letter.

Gabbie: Hey Gabberdee! ;) How's it going? You always make me laugh with your comments in the email, like when you tell me to guess and other little things. You're quite the jokester, huh? :) Sounds like your experience with Shilo (horse) was pretty crazy... I bet I would have been scared. I'm sure you handled it like a pro, though. :) How has school been going lately? Mom said you're reading The View From The Cherry Tree. I like that book a lot. What else have you been up to? What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas? Excited about winter vacations coming up? When do they start? Well, Gabs, as always, thanks for being an awesome sister. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much! :) P.S. I have a secret for you, but just so Miranda doesn't understand, I'll say it to you in Spanish... ¡tú eres mi hermanita más bonita! haha... ;) love you Gabs!

Miranda: Hey! :) No worries about the lack of a letter last week. I only cried a little... haha. Just kidding. I understand how time gets. Sounds like you've been up to a lot of fun things lately. I've been meaning to ask you - have you received any Facebook friend requests (I think that's what they're called) from Mexicans? The members always want to see my pictures from home and they always ask everyone's name. I think a girl I met in Coatza might have added you on Facebook, and possibly others... up to you on accepting them or not, just thought you might like to know why all of the sudden a bunch of foreigners want to be your friend. :) But anyway, you sure made up for last week with what you wrote this week! You mentioned Sonny Hill, and it got me to wondering how all the rest of the missionaries from the ward are doing (only occasionally do I hear of them).  Pretty cool that you're already applying for college... the best times of your life are yet to come. :) Are you leaning to any particular one of the four you mentioned? Do any of them have a good reputation for the whole physical therapy field? How are the applications coming along, and when will you find out the results?  I personally love Shakespeare's plays - which one are you reading now? I also loved 1984, but hey, to each his own. :) It's good to hear that you're still enjoying school, for the most part. Keep working hard up to the last minute - it takes effort and self-discipline, but it's definitely worth it in the long run. Trust me on this one. ;) Well, thanks for writing so much and keeping me informed on what's going on. I hope you have a wonderful week and that you enjoy it. I love you very much! :) P.S. no creas lo que le dije a Gabs - tú también eres muy bonita. :)

Mom: I feel there's a special holiday coming up, but I can't remember what it is... oh, yeah, that's right. Thanksgiving! Hah. Just kidding. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :) :) :) (I did, in fact, remember, but Dad helped me out with a giant reminder at the beginning of the email. Haha.) I hope you have a wonderful birthday tomorrow and that all your dreams come true. :) I wish I could be there - but I'll be there for the next one! And I'm sure that Dad, Miranda, Gabbie, Reags, and Nikka will make it a great day - they had better! ;) Remember, Mom, that I love you very much, and am very appreciative for the person you are and the example you set in my life. Have a great birthday. Say hi to everyone at the Thanksgiving feast; I'll see what I can whip up down here. But, as you said, the most important part is the giving thanks, and I definitely have a lot to be thankful for. You asked questions about the transfers and the new area - I'm not sure why so many missionaries came all at once, or why they didn't come two weeks earlier, and they haven't really told us, so I'm only assuming it was visa problems. I think the President only had a couple days' notice, which is why we didn't find out earlier. My new area is about 5 or 10 minutes in taxi from the old one, but it's a different stake (there are two in Mina), so I don't know if I'll see any members I know. Yes, I'm still district leader and senior companion (Elder Valencia has been out 6 months, by the way), and I'm excited to get to know the elders in the district and to be able to work with them. Most people don't have anything around their houses - either they don't have space (houses go right up to the sidewalk), or just dirt or weeds. Landscaping hasn't really caught on here yet. :) Our service projects are kind of random; whenever we get the chance, we do service, but so far we haven't established any sort of routine or system. Thanks for sending things for Christmas - I'll keep you posted (no pun intended - haha). Also, thanks for telling me about the girls and Reagan. It's great to hear that everyone's doing well and having fun. Sounds like Reagan's been mellow lately and enjoying himself. That's good. Thank you, Mom, for everything you've done for me. I hope you have a great birthday and week. I love you very much! :)

Dad: Too bad about Matt blowing out his knee (I hadn't heard anything). Say hi to him for me when you get the chance. I hope everything works out and he can go back to Brazil, but either way it's in the Lord's hands. I imagine it'd be pretty tough, but I'm glad he's accepted it. I hope he recovers soon. How many zones were there in your mission? Did you have more than one ward at a time? How many areas and companions did you have? (I'm sure you've told me before, but I forgot - hah). It's cool to hear that my emails are still being read by many. It would be interesting to know who reads the blog. Maybe you could try that "send a brief message to Elder Greer" thing again - might be cool. Oh, one more thing, now that I was thinking about your mission - one day I said to Elder Tanner back in Villa, "Blah, see, blah!" (without any context or explanation) and he replied, "Is that a mafia ghost?" Haha. Turns out we're both fans of Scooby-Doo. :) Well, that's it for me this week, I think. Thank you, Dad, for everything. I love you very much. Have a great week. Chow for now. :)

Thanks, everyone, for all your love and support. I love you all very much. Until next week -
Elder Greer

From November 29

Hey everyone! Good afternoon! Isn't the weather just wonderful? :) Well, for me it is - nice and warm and sunny... perfect for playing basketball and soccer and enjoying some pizza, which is what I did this morning. However, for you guys back at home... seems like things are a bit chilly. I miss the snow, in fact, but am also enjoying the warmth here. It was great to see the pictures from home and hear about all the snow. But more on that in a minute.
I am doing really well. Happy, healthy, and excited about the work. I don't have any regrets and, for the moment, life is pretty much perfect. I think that's more about being grateful and accepting the situation at hand than being placed in a paradise... but again, I'm getting ahead of myself. How about a summary of what I've been up to lately? Since you're all in agreement, I'll begin. :) (I remind myself of Gabbie now...)
Well, the work is moving along nicely. Things have been a little slow - I talked last week about the lack of investigators and all that. This past week we really focused on finding new people and being obedient and we were successful. President Castañeda has set a goal of 140 contacts per week per companionship, a contact being where we present ourselves as representatives of the Savior, bear testimony, and invite the person to hear our message. It's a pretty high goal, and we don't always hit it - it requires a lot of diligence, patience, and efficiency in the work, and sometimes we fall short - but this week the whole zone made it to 140. We were really pleased and happy to have made the goal, and we were also able to see the blessings throughout the week. And, of course, we will be further blessed in coming weeks as we continue to work hard and do even better than our best.
The Lord has really been blessing us. We have two investigators with baptismal dates, and several others in the process. The first is named Yaquelin (pronounced exactly like Jaqueline in English). She's a nine-year-old girl; all her family are members that were recently reactivated. We've been waiting for her dad to be able to baptize her, and finally everything's all lined up. She's going to be baptized on Saturday. We're really excited for it, and so is she (and the rest of her family too, of course). It's been a lot of fun working with them and I know the baptism will be a great success. Our other investigator is named Julieta. She's around 60 years old and her son is a member in another city in Veracruz. We found her knocking doors and she was very willing to accept us and our message. She went to church yesterday with her seven-year-old granddaughter and just loved it (I think that's partly because it was the Primary Presentation), and she's really excited to be baptized on the 11th. We're going to be working a lot with her this week, as well as focusing on finding even more people to teach and to keep the work moving forward. All in all, I'm very happy with where I am and the things that are going on, and I'm looking forward to the blessings and the experiences of the future.
That's really about it for the big news. I now just have a bunch of little stories or comments. First, last week we didn't have the interviews with the President because something came up on his end, but this Thursday we should have them. I'm looking forward to this as well, as I really enjoy talking with the President and always learn a lot from him. I received a little from Lisa last week. No packages yet. I'll probably receive whatever mail there might be next week, because I think we'll be having another leadership training. I'll let you all know more as it happens. November's drawing to a close and December's almost here... It's crazy. I can't believe it's almost Christmastime (or that Thanksgiving passed by without a sound), and that 2010 is fast drawing to a close. Time moves so quickly.
The ward members here are pretty awesome. The Relief Society secretary, Verónica, is about my age and is a really good cook. She gives us lunch about once a week and it's always something awesome. Last week our dessert was a banana split. This week she made us KFC (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw, all homemade), and for dessert gave us a strawberry version of key lime pie. It was delicious. The rest of the ward is really nice and they help us out a lot. Mom, you asked what the family that we live with gives us to eat for dinner and breakfast - well, I'll answer that fully further on, but one thing they let me try this week (my conmpanion refused) was turtle. :) It's something I've been wanting to eat my whole mission, and I finally had the chance. It was pretty tasty - it smelled like seafood but tasted like chicken. It was a little difficult prying the shell open, but once that's done, the legs and the rest of the meat pull off fairly easily :) My comp wouldn't try it though. Ha. I'll send a picture when I finish the email. Pretty sweet. :)
I forgot to mention last week, but my first Sunday here I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. I spoke about being of good cheer and believing Christ - basically, a Dad-inspired talk. :) It went over really well. Every third Sunday we speak in church here, which I'm looking forward to. The stake choir is putting on a Christmas program in the next couple weeks, and while we were watching them practice yesterday they asked me to help out with something. What did I have to do? Sing a duet with one of the sisters for the rest of the choir. And, surprisingly, I did it without much problem. Let me explain. :) One of the songs they're going to sing is O Holy Night (which, by the way, isn't in the Spanish hymnbook either, but they found the lyrics somewhere). They're going to sing the first half in English and the last half in Spanish, and it sounds pretty amazing. But they were having a bit of trouble getting the hang of the English. The sister (around my age, I think) who directs the choir speaks fairly good English, and so I was asked to sing the song with her so that the choir could hear how it's supposed to sound. Now, all of you are familiar with my singing and my personality in general - but I did it without much hesitation. And it went over well. That's not to say that I sounded great (I actually have a bit of a cold right now), but I wasn't really embarrassed or shy about or anything.
Now, you may be thinking, "What have the Mexicans done with Justin?!" :) But really, it's just part of how the Lord has helped me develop my personality a little more and grow as a person. I feel like I'm a little more confident of myself, or at least a little more willing to put myself out there without worrying what others think. I'm becoming a little bit more like Casey. Hah. It's kind of cool for me, especially because it didn't really cost a superhuman effort to sing, it was actually not that hard. Kind of neat how that sort of thing happens. Just a neat little anecdote from this past week. :)
Today we had a zone activity. We played sports, ate pizza, and watched UP. :) And, Gabs, I absolutely loved it. What a good movie. And I think that's about it for me this week. Time for the better part of the letter, and then I'll despedirme. :)
Gabbie: Hey Gabs! Your email this week was probably the best one yet! (Mostly because it was full of all sorts of jokes and funny things). Dad sent me some pictures of your adventure and they looked pretty awesome. Your story about crossing the ice and then seeing it break afterward when Dad threw a rock was a pretty crazy one. I bet that was a lot of fun and made you feel like an explorer from UP :) Sounds like you're all having lots of fun with the snow. Have a snowball fight for me, okay? :) To answer your first question, no, I didn't really celebrate Thanksgiving. I spent the day thinking about all my blessings and wrote in my journal about all the things I'm grateful for, but that's about it - nothing in the way of food. Well, Gabs, keep having lots of fun and being the funny little girl you are. Have a great week! I love you very much! :)
P.S. Chow in Spanish (chau) and in Italian (ciau) means goodbye. So "chow for now" is "goodbye for now." Chow also means to eat a bunch, as in "chow down." I don't know if that one applies here though. :) Love you! :)
Miranda: Seems like it's been a pretty good week for you, too. Cool to hear that you finished with the BYU application. Yeah, I too felt a lot more excited about college once my application was in and I didn't have to worry about it so much. And at times I felt nervous or apprehensive about going to college, but once I got there I realized that I liked it a lot more than high school, as fun as high school was.  It was cool to hear about Thanksgiving, your adventures in the kitchen with your omelets, and driving (fishtail powerslide in the snow) up the hill with Dad. Haha. I remember doing that a lot and I always liked it too. Have a great week and remember that I love you very much! :)
Mom: Hey Mom!  You asked me about the island - it's pretty small and not too many people live there, but there are a few members and yes, the only way to get there is by boat. Maybe you can pull it up on Google Maps or something - it's at the southern end of Mina. About half my area was badly affected with the floodings from awhile back, and a lot of people are still recovering, repainting their houses, etc. We eat fish probably about once a week, most often fried and served whole, but sometimes prepared like the picture I sent.  Elder Valencia lived in Mesa, Arizona, and yes, he's pretty cool and very easy to get along with. The district is pretty small - us, another companionship, and the zone leaders. It's cool that way though. For breakfast the family gives us eggs, pancakes, empanadas, and similar things. Dinner is sometimes sandwiches, soup, fried bananas, and the occasional turtle. :)  Cool to hear about Casey being engaged - tell him congratulations for me! Thank you, Mom, for always writing me and for being so supportive. I love you very much and hope you have a great week! :)
Dad: Congratulations on the mortgage test! :) I knew you could do it... best score in the state?...the whole world? ha.  I really liked what you had to say in the day's sermon :) about gratitude. It's something Josh talked about in his email too, and I really liked the thoughts you mentioned. I'm going to study those this week, as well as President Monson's talk - thanks for sending that. The gratitude journal sounds like a very good idea, and I liked what you said about knowing now the things I didn't know at the beginning of my mission. I'm going to focus on using what I know to make the most of the time that's left. It's going to be a good time. :) Well, Dad, thank you for writing me every week, and for all the help you give me. I've very thankful to be your son, and to be a part of this family. Have a great week. I love you very much.
Well, everyone, thanks for everything. I hope that all's going well. See you all next week - chow for now! :)
 Elder Greer