Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Bells are Ringing

Hey everyone! 
I loved talking to everyone. Like I said, it was a really good recharge - it renewed my desires to work my very hardest and be the very best I can be. My comp feels the same about his call, which is really cool - we're going to be stepping it up this week for sure. Thanks again. 
It turns out there were a few things I wanted to say in the phone call that I forgot about; plus, I want to tell you more details about my week -so here we go. 

Last Wednesday we had a present exchange as a district - the typical draw names out of a hat sort of thing. Elder Reategui, one of the zone leaders, had my name, and he bought me this awesome Mayan tablet thing. I'll send a picture of it, but it's about half the size of a piece of paper and weighs maybe six or seven pounds. It has awesome carvings and stuff on it. It's exactly the kind of souvenir I'd want from Mexico - something that would fit perfectly in your office, Dad. It's pretty dang awesome. :) 

I meant to ask during the phone call - I was remembering the other day about how Will and Sadie had kidney stones or something, and it was a really big deal and everything, and I realized I haven't heard anything about that in like a year. What's the deal with that? Do they still have problems or did it go away and I just forgot?  let me know. 

Next Monday (or sometime next week, anyway) we're going to have a zone activity - we're going to this canyon at the northeastish side of the city. I think you can see it from one of the pictures I sent last week. I have no idea what's there, but regardless (or irregardless, I should say) it will be a lot of fun. I'll take plenty of pictures. 
This past week was good. We were contacting in an area we'd never been before and encountered a Japanese-Mexican named Rigoberto. His Spanish is pretty cool to listen to because even though he's a native here, he speaks with a little bit of a Japanese accent. Anyway, we contacted him and he said he'd talked with missionaries before, so we asked him what he remembered. Turns out he has a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon - no doubts whatsoever. It was pretty awesome. We've taught him twice now. He's basically ready for baptism - the only problem is that his family and ancestors are very set in their traditions (both Catholic and some indigenous Japanese religion) and he says it's hard for him to get rid of those traditions. We're going to keep working with him, introduce him to some members and everything. It was pretty exciting though. 

The investigators I mentioned last week, Miguel and Julieta, are still doing really well. They came to church yesterday and had a really good time, just like last week. We're going to try and give them a baptismal date this week. I'm pretty positive Julieta will accept; Miguel's a little more hesitant, but he should follow suit the more he gets to know the church. 
We also started teaching a referral from an RM. His name is Enrique. He's Catholic and is one of those who actually attends church and everything, but he's looking for more because he feels like something's missing. He's talked a lot with his friend Fernando (the one who gave us the referral) about the church, and he says he believes everything Fernando's told him. We taught him once and it went really well - we're going to return on Wednesday when his wife is there and see how their prayers and reading went. I feel really good about them too. We have a couple other investigators too, and they're doing fairly well - we'll see what happens. 

A couple other noteworthy things from this past week. We were walking through a foresty area in between two main roads - dirt path, bushes and trees, the usual. I hear a rustle in the bushes to my right, so I look over, expecting a bird or a dog or something. What do I see? A man wordlessly emerging from the shadows carrying a giant box of candy. We didn't say anything either, but speed-walked out of there as fast as we could, trying not to laugh. It was so bizarre - hilarious as well. I can't imagine he gets much business out there, but who knows. :) Also, a few nights ago we decided to pick up some burgers for dinner from a roadside stand. Boy, they were delicious, and as big as my head. I have a picture of those as well. Tasty tasty. 
Anyway, those are the highlights from this week. Now for a couple things from last week's email - not too much, since we talked two days about, but a few items of interest... 

Gabbie: You asked me about UP. I've sort of seen it. :) I never saw it in the States, but we ate at a member's house a few weeks ago and they had it playing for their kids, so I caught a few glimpses. :) I really do want to see it though - we'll have to watch it together when I get back. It sounds like the ward party was a blast - I'm sad I missed out. I loved talking on the phone with you!! I thought it was funny that you had to have Mom tell you what to say. Haha. But it sounds like everything's going really well and that you had a very fun Christmas. What are the plans for New Year's Eve? How's the sledding going, and the playing with Nikka? I hope everything's still going well. Love you Gabs! (PS - Happy New Year!) 

Miranda: Congratulations on the ACT!! That's really good; I'm very proud of you. Keep up the good work! Let me know how your grades turn out for this term and everything too. I reminisced a little too, remembering all the things you and I did together - movies, concerts, hanging out, etc. It was all a lot of fun - we'll have to pick up where we left off when we're both in college. :) I'm glad you're still having fun reading - the book you're reading sounds really interesting. Yes, I did read Secret Journal, and really liked it. Again, it was awesome talking on the phone, and I'm glad to hear things are going well and that you're having fun. I'll answer all the questions you asked in this new email next week. Until then - I love you! :)    

Mom: I laughed about the postcard arriving here earlier than at home. I guess I am closer, though. :) It sounds like you're still having fun with Activity Days, too; that's really cool. The story about Reagan putting Nikka in the shower with him still makes me laugh. That's something I'd really like to see. Thanks again for all the Christmas presents and the love and support. It was wonderful to talk on the phone and hear how you and everyone are doing. Tell Lisa and Laura that I enjoyed talking to them and that I appreciate their emails; someday soon I'll write them back. Mom, I love you! Thanks for everything. :) 

Dad:  I liked your comments aout Brother Hicken's talk, and especially what you said about President Eyring's message. I read that just yesterday, and really loved it, especially when combined with what you had to say. I'm looking forward to reading this week's letter, as well, since it looks like you have lots of good stuff. :) Again, the Nikka adventure story makes me laugh very much. I love hearing those (mostly because I don't have to be there for the smell). Thanks, Dad, for everything you have done and continue to do for me. I'm going to try to send some pictures right now, but no promises - computers are a little slow today. In any case, thanks for everything; the phone call was awesome and gave me an extra boost. I love you very much. Two taps! :) 
With much love and appreciation, 
Elder Greer 

Letter from last week (I forgot to post it.. Mark)
¡Feliz Navidad! (Read the letter again on Christmas for added effect) :)
Hey everyone! It's been a great week here in La Salle. Lots of work, lots of fun, and some pretty good success, too. I'll tell you all about it - but first, the phone call. So here's the info....and I'm super excited to get to talk to everyone! :) 
Okay. With that done - this past week was really good. Friday we had a ward Christmas activity. The different organizations presented dances and skits, the bishop gave a message, and there was food afterward. We had five investigators there and a handful of less active families too. Everybody loves food, right? :) It was a lot of fun though, and it really helped people feel the spirit of the season and have a little more unity within the ward.
Saturday was the 19th - my 4 month mark! I've said it a lot, but I'll say it again (and don't try to stop me!) - time flies by. One-sixth of the way done with my mission. It's kind of saddening, really - I love being out and I don't like the thought of time moving so quickly. I really am having a lot of fun every day and enjoying each day as it comes.We've made some good progress this week with the work. We have three investigators that are progressing really well. Two are husband and wife, mid-50s or so, and really open to the Spirit and the message. The wife, Julieta, started crying during the first lesson when we said the closing prayer, and Miguel, her husband, told us home much he really likes everything we teach him. They came to church on Sunday and just had a great time. I'm really happy with the progress they're making. We're going to teach them in the next couple days and set a date for their baptism - they've already accepted to be baptized. It's really wonderful to see the changes in people's lives that the gospel can bring - the happiness and peace. The gospel of Jesus Christ truly is something special. Sometimes - a lot of the time - we lose sight of that. Especially having grown up in the church, it's something I think I've taken for granted most of the time. But when we stop and really think about the blessings we have, the peace that comes from the Plan of Salvation, the joy of having an eternal family, the excitement at getting to learn and progress for the rest of forever - wow. It's too much to take in all at once. I love it! :)
A piece of other exciting news - it's been raining the last few days. Reminds me a lot of our Scotland trip. Yesterday was perfect - drizzling and cloudy and slightly windy, cool but not too cold. I enjoyed it a lot, even though we got pretty muddy knocking doors. I'm trying to enjoy the cold while it lasts.
Now, last week's email.Gabs: That's super exciting that you got to go to a Flash game! I went to one once, back in February or so. I really liked it. Too bad you didn't win the TV... oh well. There's always next time, right? :) I couldn't believe it when you said I only had 66 more days until the 6-month point - but then I checked and you're right! Less than that, now. I already have four months on the mission. Time goes by fast, doesn't it? It's flying by for me. Did you end up going to the space center? How was it? I loved going there when I was younger... even though it was scary sometimes. Haha. How was the week without sugar? Did you die? (Nemo - haha.) How's your tailbone doing? Mom told me you hurt it. She also said you read a book called Rules. It sounds really interesting. Did you like it? What are you reading now? Well, Gabs, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and I'm really excited to talk to you on the 26th! Can't wait until then! I love you! :)
Miranda: Man (girl?), I loved what you wrote. Not only do I really liked those lyrics, but I loved your interpretation of them and how they apply to the gospel. Very profound. I love doing that with songs - it makes them more personal and meaningful. If you haven't before, check out "O' Child" by Nevertheless. One of my favorite songs and it's all about coming unto Christ. I liked the quote you shared that you got from Sister Norman - I've heard it before, but it's always good to remember. Some things in life you have to accept, and some you can stretch for. It's important to recognize the difference, too, so that we don't wait time on the unachievable. Snowboarding sounds like a lot of fun - we'll definitely have to go when I get back. I fall down a lot, but that's okay, huh? :) I recently read the message by President Uchtdorf in the July Ensign - about achieving spiritual lift. I really liked it. Read it if you can - it talks about breaking above the clouds and seeing the light of the gospel. Kind of relates to what you were talking about with Brick By Boring Brick. I skimmed over your email today and laughed at your story about the ACT (plus the pirate/Shakespeare accent haha). I'll of course answer what you said next week, but I really liked what I had time to read. Let me know how you do in school and on the ACT when you get the results - assuming you don't get kicked out again. ha. Have a wonderfully merry Christmas! I'll talk to you on Saturday! Love you! :)
Dad: Once again, a letter full of awesomeness - this week and last week's both. Your conversation with Josh about weakness was really cool to hear about. I really like that part of 2nd Nephi. I especially loved what you said both weeks about only feeling a sliver of God's love - we have to progress line upon line because there's no other way we could handle it. Plus, there's more excitement and enjoyment that way - we enjoy every little piece of new knowledge and light that we receive. Kind of like taking things one day at a time; there's so much to be enjoyed in each day, but too often we look to the future and forget about right now. Matt's farewell sounds really good - it's really exciting to think about how many of my friends are in the mission field (/MTC), doing the same thing I'm doing and having the same kinds of experiences. 2nd Nephi 31 is one of my favorite chapters - I use it all the time teaching, because there's so much good doctrine there, and just for day-to-day application it's really good. The scriptures in general are amazing - I love the opportunity to study them every morning and learn something new. And it's true that we have to change ourselves first - only then are we able to help others. (And like you said - sometimes we realize that WE'RE the bad guys. Haha. I loved those nights of watching movies in the wee hours of the morning - we'll have to resume when I get back!) I'm glad, too, to hear about good time playing in the snow with Gabs and with Miranda and Reagan too. Sounds like everything is going really well. I love you very much - I'll talk to you this weekend. Have a merry Christmas! Love you! (Two taps.)
Mom: As for your questions, I'll be in my area and with my comp at least until January 10th. We have changes every 6 weeks, but the trend in this mission has been that we stay in the same place with the same companion for quite a while. I'm really hoping to stay here for at least one more transfer, but I'll take whatever comes. :) I sent some more pictures today - I'll keep trying to do so whenever possible. It's really pretty here. I'll also try to take pictures with members and send them whenever I can. I'm excited to open up my presents on Christmas Day. :) I hope Reagan's feeling better now - that's cool that he knows how to fold his arms.  I laughed at the description of playing outside in the snow with him, shoveling snow on Nikka, etc. Well, I love you very much, and I can't wait for the phone call on Saturday! Have a wonderful Christmas, Mom. I love you! :) I love you, everybody. You're all in my prayers. :)Elder Greer 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guadalupe Day

¡Hola a todos!

Well, another Monday has rolled around. I swear it was yesterday that I was in here writing a letter - and just the day before that I was back at home taking a Sunday nap on my bed. Where has the time gone? :)

Regarding the subject of this email - December 12 is Virgin of Guadalupe Day here in Mexico. (based on story of the Virgin Mary appearing at Villa de Guadalupe near Mexico City 500 yrs ago). Saturday was the annual celebration. Parades, fireworks, songs in the streets - the works. We were forbidden to contact that day - as President Velasco said, all the Catholics will be offended because it's their holy day and all the other Christians will be angry at the Catholics and not in the mood to listen. Haha. It really is a huge deal, but the worst has passed. :)

This week has been really good. I had several cool experiences with prayer - small things, but important to me nonetheless, and it's really the small things that add up into a testimony. I've come to realize how dependent I must become on the Spirit and the Atonement. Like you said in your last email, Dad, we learn little by little and find out there's a whole lot more left to learn. And we can't do it without the Spirit and without becoming humble, meek, receptive, obedient, diligent, and all the rest. Becoming like Christ is the goal of mortality, and we have to do it little by little, every day learning a little bit more and putting it into practice. It's a wonderfully long process. I'm very grateful for that - it means we have the opportunity to feel of God's love in our lives every single day. We have the opportunity to become better every single day. That, to me, is really amazing. What a great blessing to have this life - and all eternity - to progess and learn and feel joy.

We're still lacking for investigators - we are teaching one man though. His name's Luis. He likes to study but struggles with the faith and prayer side of things. We're meeting with him tonight - I'll let you know how that goes next week. We're working really hard though, trying our best every day, and little by little we'll start seeing progress and success.

Here's what I know about the phone call. We're allowed to call any day from Christmas to New Year's, and we're going to do it in a member's home. I think Christmas day is going to be a little busy, so we were thinking we'd call on Sunday the 27th. How does that sound? I hope that works. I'll give you the number in my email next week. We're allowed an hour to talk.  Let me know if that day will work and when would be a good time - I'll let you know the specific details next week. I'm really excited for it. :)

This past Saturday was Zone Conference. It was great - I really learned a lot and was very edified. I received the 3 packages and one envelope Mom sent and Lisa's package too. I opened the Halloween candy, the Christmas tree, and the photos, but I'm saving the other presents for Christmas Day. :) Thank you so much for everything you sent. I was really excited and happy and could feel of your love when I received those things. Also, I got two letters from Grandpa Greer, a postcard and letter from Lisa, a letter from Matt, a letter from Steve, and a letter from Ms. Holmes (high school teacher). All of them were wonderful. It was great to hear how everyone's doing. Steve's letter was especially cool.

Now for last week's email.

Dad - I kind of mentioned this already, but I loved your spiritual thought. Everything you said is definitely true - and it's awesome that we have the chance to learn more for the rest of forever. I also think it's really cool that everyone in the family has been able to see blessings from my service. I've been so blessed myself, but it's even cooler knowing that those blessings aren't just limited to me. I liked the comment about Enoch and how he was impressed by God's personality and love. I've been thinking about that a lot lately - how God really knows each one of us. I'm working on a letter to send home and I put some more of my thoughts about that there.  Also, I'm really glad to hear about your time with Josh and Matt. I'm excited for them both, and proud of them too. Thank you for all your advice. I'm working day after day to develop my faith and to aim higher and higher - to work harder and be better and follow the Spirit. It's a gradual process, but it really does bring blessings, and I'm just happy to have the opportunity to grow. I love you very much, Dad. Thanks for everything - the memories, the advice and counsel, the friendship. Love you.

Gabbie!: First off, I loved seeing the pictures of you in your Mario costume! It looks pretty awesome, I have to say. I loved all the pictures. Halloween looks like it was really fun. I also liked the changes you've made to my old room. Lookin' good! :) I'm glad to hear you've been putting up Christmas decorations and everything - we don't have many decorations here, and it doesn't really feel like Christmas because there's no snow! Be sure to enjoy it for me, okay? How was bringing Stephanie to gymnastics? Oh, and Mom told me last week that you made your hair curly? Tell me about that! I'm glad to hear that everything's going well and that you're having a lot of fun. Keep it up. Always remember that I love you very, very much. Until next week!

Mom: Sheesh! That was a long, long letter! I loved it. It sounds like Activity Days is going well. You'll have to tell me about Tyson coming home - his stories and everything. It doesn't seem like two years since he left. That's pretty exciting. I was glad to hear the van made it up the hill in the snow, too. :) Your Friday morning sounded really funny... like most of the morning before school that I remember, actually. :) Haha. It brought back good memories. Thank you so much for all of your words of advice and counsel and encouragement about missionary work. I loved everything you said and learned a lot from it. Your advice to accept your situation and learn to enjoy it really helped me and will continue to do so. Thanks for all of that. I'm glad you got the chance to talk to Josh and Matt about all the guys - I'm glad to hear all is well with them too. Give Reagan a hug from me and tell him to behave himself this week  :) That's cool he learned to say "Jesus". Tell him to say it once for me. Mom, I love you very much. Thank you for all the advice and encouragement. And thank you so much for all the presents! I'm really excited to open them, and excited to get to call home soon too. Thanks again - I love you very much. :)

Miranda: Sounds like snowboarding is going well! Christmas tree bodybags...haha. Now, about the ACT - did you get kicked out the first time? Is this something I should already know about? If so - I've forgotten. I don't have time right now to read all of your email from today, but I skimmed it and really liked everything you said - I'll print it out and respond to it next week though. Thanks for being such a good example to me, and such a good friend. Keep up the good work and keep having fun! I love you!

Everyone, remember how much I love you, and know that I'm very thankful for your influence, example, and love in my life. I'm very happy and I just love missionary work. At times it's tough, but it's very worth it. Thanks for all of your letters. Until next week - I love you!

Elder Greer

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Doesn't feel like winter....

¡Buenas tardes! Well, it's December! Doesn't really feel like it though. Still very hot. Humid. Sweltering. Sticky. What's the word?... sultry. The night was sultry. Haha - little movie quote for you dad. :)

All is well in Zion! Things are indeed going very well - at least on our part. We're working hard and learning a lot. We did exchanges this week, and I went with Elder Reategui, one of the Zone Leaders. He's from Peru and is an awesome missionary and an awesome guy in general. We stayed in my area and taught a few investigators, less actives, contacted, etc. I learned so much from him - lots of ways to improve my teaching and to really find the people who are prepared for the message.

I've realized that there are a lot of people who are willing to listen to the message, but who aren't actually interested in it. The way to tell if someone is really looking for the truth is when they keep their committments. If they don't - well, we drop them pretty quick. We're not here to cajole or influence them into praying, reading, etc. If they're ready, they'll do it more of their own volition. Of course, we have to teach them well, invite the Spirit, and all of that. But I think we've been wasting some time with a few investigators who maybe are just being polite but really haven't been interested. We've decided to change that and I think we're going to see a lot more success in the future. So, for right now we really don't have any progressing investigators, but I'm sure we'll find some soon.

As for Raymundo (you mentioned this, and come to think of it, given Spanish pronunciation, he probably DOES spell his name Reymundo. I never thought about that - "King of the World!" haha) - he did come back early last week, but left the next day for another two weeks. Rats.  We'll have to see where he's at when he gets back and go from there, but I think  the chances are good he'll be baptized.

Not too much else happened this week - oh, except we went to the temple again, my comp and I. The President wanted us to have a chance to go through a session, so he gave us permission to go again. It was awesome; I loved it. Turns out being late actually worked out to our benefit. :) The Tuxtla Gutierrez temple is really pretty.

Other than that, the work goes on! Things are going well. We're learning every day, and trying our best to work hard. My Spanish is coming along pretty well, as is my understanding of the scriptures. It comes little by little, but steadily, and I can tell I'm making progress. The blessings are constant in the mission. I'm really happy to be here. Sometimes we stand for 20 minutes in the hot sun waiting for a combi, and that's no picnic, but even then I'm still happy to be here serving a mission. I feel very blessed.

Now, answer time!
My health is good, everything good. We don't get too many chances to get cardio exercise - we're not supposed to meet together as a district except for district meeting, and we don't have a basketball or anything, but we're going to try and find something to do. I exercise every morning though - jumping jacks, stretching, pushups and situps, and one of those resistance band things. It's been going pretty well, actually, and I'm determined to keep at it. My clothes fit fine, although I do think I've lost weight. I feel very healthy and everything, which is a very nice feeling.

Sounds like everything at home is going well - with Josh and Matt too. Give Matt my best - actually, here's a message for him: "Matt - I'm really excited that you're heading in just a few days! The mission is wonderful. Tough at times, but so much fun, and so fulfilling - the greatest work to be done. Remember your counsel to me, about challenges and blessings. It's true. Thanks for being such a great friend and example to me. We'll meet up in two and have a blast. Feel free to email or write me if you have the opportunity. I'm praying for you. Love you - Elder Greer." If you could pass that on, that would be nice. I'm also excited about the news about Josh - sounds like things are simply awesome. No better word for it.

As for email situation. If anyone in the family wants to email, they're welcome to, although if there are too many I won't have much time to read it - so I'd just prefer handwritten letters. But if it's email or nothing for some people, definitely email me once in a while! As for Grandpa/Grandma Greer - I guess I didn't get their letter mailed correctly when leaving the MTC. I'm going to write and send them a letter today (I have to give the letter to a member to send it, though, since the equivalent of the post office is out of my area). That won't get to them for a while, though, so can you pass this on too? "Grandpa and Grandma Greer - I just wanted to take a second and write you a message. Thanks for all the letters you've sent, for all your advice, counsel, and humor too! I'm absolutely loving my mission, and really learning and lot and feeling the Spirit often. I'm going to send you a handwritten letter soon, but it might not get there for a while. Thanks for all the fun times we've had together throughout my life, for all the love and friendship. I'm very appreciative of your presence in my life; I've learned a lot from both of you. I love you both very much. Hope to hear from you soon, but in the meantime, all is well! Love, Elder Greer."

Dad - You went to investigage the "ruckus"? Could you describe the ruckus? Haha (another movie quote ha) It sounds like the big wrestling tournament with the cousins at Thanksgiving was a lot of fun. I also think it's cool that Scott and Lily asked about me and the mission - it was neat getting to know them last year.  Hopefully the fact that I'm serving, and the experiences I share, can have some sort of influence on those that are kind enough to take the time to read my letters.  I think what Uncle Bruce said is pretty cool. :) Tell him thanks for me. How's his family doing? Anything going on with any of them?
Car battery troubles again... oh boy. Who's going to help you push it through traffic in the snow this time? Haha. Hopefully the fix is something simple and cheap, and that you don't have too many problems with it. (but that was kinda fun last year... in a way. :) I was thinking about the music video the other day, and wanted to ask how it's going. I'm excited to see it when I get home. You'll have to let me know how it all turns out when it's done, and what everyone thinks of it. I think we (you) did a really good job with it. Thanks, Dad, for everything. I'll read the letter and reply to it next week, as usual. I'm really very grateful for everything you've done for me - your example, friendship, and love. Some of my favorite memories are the times we've shared together - writing conferences and Scotland trips, but also long hikes with Nikka, talking about our books, or eating spicy hot dogs and watching a movie at 1 am. All of it has been great. Thanks for everything. I love you.

Mom: I'm glad you had such a fun birthday and that everything went well. No Costco cake? Haha. It sounds like everyone is doing really well, especially Reagan, and it makes me really happy to hear that. The Lord blesses all of us all the time, doesn't he? I'm glad to hear you're still trying to work in the yard too. :) Has it snowed any more yet? Are you getting ready for Christmas? I love you very much and always love hearing from you. Thanks for everything you've taught me. :)

Miranda: Ahh, speed basketball. Sounds like Thanksgiving was a blast. Let me know everything is going, any cool Mexico mission stories you hear from Chad's homecoming, how school is going and all that. Ender's Game is one of my favorite books, so enjoy it! Dad's read it too, so talk to him about it while you're reading. I was thinking the other day - I'll get home right before the fall semester starts, and you'll have graduated... so we could be going to BYU together! :) Even sharing some classes... I think that would be really fun. Of course, that depends on what you decide to do college-wise... but something to think about. Anyway, I hope things are going great. I love you very much. :)

Gabbie!: I was excited to hear that BYU won! Sounds like a regular party at the Greer home. Nikka running around like a madman... Haha. Gabs, you're a pretty good writer and storyteller, you know that? I always love your letters. I'm glad you got to see your teachers sumo wrestling too. I bet that was fun. How are you treating my room?? :) I love you very much and can't wait to hear from you again! :)

Well, my half-hour at the cyber cafe is up. It's been a great week and time is just flying by. Thank you very much for all the love and support; I truly am blessed by your prayers and am praying about each of you as well. Life is wonderful. I love you all!
Con amor,
Elder Greer

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Adios Noviembre

¡Hola todos!

Once again a great week down here in the volcano. (It's actually a little cooler lately. Mid-80s or so. Positively freezing! ... not really. Still sweating all day. Oh well.) But the sun is shining and the work always moves forward. I'm just excited to be a part of it. Even with challenges, it's always a lot of fun.

That's about all I've got for this week... just kidding. Some other things happened too. One thing was Thanksgiving! Well, sort of. They don't celebrate it here. We were thinking about fixing up something special for dinner, but 1, we don't really having the culinary appliances (or know-how) to make many things, and 2, we were fasting all day. It was kind of a weird experience, fasting on Thanksgiving. Definitely a first.

Nonetheless, the spirit of Thanksgiving was still there, at least for me. I focused on all the blessings I have in my life and the wonderful experiences I've had and people I know. I realized that with all of those good things, there's no room for any sadness or disappointment in my life. It's hard to be sad when you think about your blessings. We've all been very blessed in our lives, and those blessings and experiences can help us when tough times come.
Speaking of fasting - we fasted on Thursday because on Friday we had the chance to go to the Temple! Believe me, it was a wonderful opportunity; I've really missed being able to go. Our entire zone went. As it happened, my comp and I got a little lost getting there - based on some misinformation about combi routes - and we arrived at the temple right after they started the session. So, instead, we got to do initiatories for about an hour and a half. I hadn't done them vicariously before, and it was a really neat experience. It really gave me a spiritual boost and a good feeling that's stayed with me since. It was a great opportunity.  (Side note: I started my journal entry for Thanksgiving this way - "Thanksgiving! Day 100! Wow! What a bird!" haha. Just thought I'd throw that in there for you, Dad, you know that book we read about Mexico)

I had a cool experience with prayer and the influence of the Spirit this week. A couple days back, we were planning for the next day and wanted to visit with a less active, so we decided to pray for specific guidance as to who we should visit. I said the prayer, and immediately afterward picked up the list of members in the ward. The first name I looked at was of a less-active family nearby that we've visited once before. We decided to pass by them the following day. Next day comes, we go to the house, and the 17-year-old daughter answers. We talk with her for a while, and turns out her younger sister's sick with dengue. We ask if she wants a blessing, and she accepts. We give her the blessing, it's a cool experience, and we leave the house feeling really good about it.

That alone would have been enough. But then yesterday at church, the 17-year-old shows up. She hasn't been in a couple months, so that was another blessing right there. Now, the ward secretary is a single guy, maybe 25 years old, and he had brought a friend of his to church - a girl about the same age (a woman, I guess) who's not a member but interested in finding out more. The less-active girl and the nonmember were at some point introduced, and by the end of the meeting it was like they'd been best friends forever. They were talking and laughing and everything. We're going to follow up with the nonmember later this week, but it was clear that she had a really good experience at church, and that was largely due to the other girl's influence. It was yet another testament to me of how we really are in the work of the Lord and are guided by His hand. Who knows what will happen from here on out or whose lives might be changed, and all because of a simple prayer for guidance. I thought that whole sequence of events was really cool.

This weekend we're most likely going to have a baptism. His name is Raymundo - his wife was baptized a couple months back. He's had problems with alcohol and lots of other things, but he's really humble right now and has repented and wants to change his life. He doesn't know how to read or write, though, so teaching him is sometimes a little slow, and plus he's been gone for the last two weeks; he just got back last night. He still wants to be baptized this Saturday, but we're going to see how it goes. If not this weekend, most likely the next. He really has a lot of faith and is the perfect example of humility.

One other thing I wanted to share - Mosiah 21:19. I read that scripture this morning and spent quite a while studying and thinking about it. It talks about how King Limhi doesn't want to leave the city without his guards, because in some way or another the Lamanites might attack him. I really like the words the verse uses. I thought about how it compares to us spiritually - we never know when or how temptation will hit us, and the natural man can't be trusted in a situation like that. So first, we need to be humble and recognize situations where we might be tempted. Also, we need to remember to bring our "guards" with us. We don't know when or where we might be tempted, so we have to be prepared to face whatever comes. Guards can be things like prayer, faith, testimony, scripture study, obedience, family, church attendance. The basics of the gospel, really. They protect us against the world and against the natural man. If we make sure we're surrounded by those things every time we leave the house, we'll be protected against whatever might come against us.

Now for some questions from last week's letter.
Gabbie (my favorite sister... shh, don't tell Miranda): Hey Gabs! Sounds like you got lots of cool things from Lisa and Laura's trip to Egypt. Where are my presents? Haha. You mentioned in your email that you were playing hide and seek tag with the Bowns. I remember playing that all the time... we don't get to play much on the mission though. :) When I get back home, I'm going to have lots of catching up to do, so better start practicing now! It sounds like you're having lots of fun with everything that's going on, though, which is awesome. Keep having fun!  It also sounds like you're getting ready for Christmas - man, I can't believe it's almost Christmas! It's going to be different being away from home, and probably different without me there. Just pretend I'm there though, and you can have all my presents. :) I'm going to find you some sort of cool present from Mexico, but I might have to give it to you at the end of my mission. :) Thanksgiving at Greg's sounds like lots of fun - actually, everything you've been up to sounds like fun. Gabs, Ilove you, and I'm glad you're doing well. Keep it up! Love you!

Miranda (my other favorite sister. haha): Have you been down to the DMV yet? Let me know when you do get your license. (Also, when you get into your first accident. Haha... just kidding, I have complete confidence in you.) It's pretty exciting that you're about ready to be driving on your own and everything. Time sure flies. Mom says you bought a pass to Sundance - that sounds really fun. I've been to Brighton (broke my thumb there, remember?) and Snowbird (lots of fun), but never actually snowboarded or anything at Sundance - so you'll have to tell me how well you learn to board, all of that. Sounds like everything is going well - keep up the good work! How your Spanish? Mine's doing okay. :) Let me know how school and everything goes. Keep working hard and playing hard too. I love you very much. :)

Mom - I'm glad to hear your birthday went well, and that Thanksgiving did too.Thanks for the help all those years with making me write down my homework - I finally see the value of writing down goals and making plans. I laughed a lot when you told me about Reagan moving your seat while you're driving. That little boy is a road hazard, but it does make driving a lot more interesting. Haha. I'm glad he's been doing so well lately, especially with swimming and everything. It also made me feel good to hear that he still gets excited when he sees my picture. Not that I'm glad that he misses me or anything, but you know what I mean - it's a feeling of love. I'll keep you posted on when I receive letters and packages and stuff. Thanks, by the way. :)  I love you very much and I hope you have a great week!

Dad: I'm really excited for your mailed letter - can't wait to read all about everything.
I think it's cool that Lisa and Laura were able to bring you back a rock from the pyramids and the Nile to go with your collection of pieces o Hardian's Wall, Machu Picchu, Blarney Castle ... Eventually you'll have stolen a piece of every country in the world! I thought Josh Aiken's questions were really cool - tell him I'm absolutely loving the mission. It's cool that he showed that much interest in it and everything.

My Spanish is coming along pretty well. I won't say I understand everything, by any means, but I can follow and participate in most every conversation, and it's easy to ask for clarification if I need it. I speak Spanish with my comp most of the time - English when I need to or when we want to express ourselves better, though. We teach about 25 lessons a week and do about 90 door-knocking contacts, on average.
As always, I have much more to say, but we're short on time.I love you very much. Thanks for everything, Dad.

Well, everyone, have a great week and remember that I love you all very very much. Can't wait to hear from you next week. Everything's great here.
Elder Greer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


So I heard a rumor that it's someone's birthday today, but I just can't remember who... haha. Dad, thanks for the helpful hint (or seven). Mom, happy birthday!

I hope it's a great day and that you realize how much everyone who knows you loves you. You are a great example of charity and service. Honestly, where would I be without your help? No Eagle Scout. No high school graduation. No practical knowledge of any sort. Likely no common sense. I'd be sleeping all day and eating Cocoa Puffs in front of the tv all night. (That doesn't sound too bad...)

But really, I owe so much to you. Thank you for always being there for me and for teaching me so much. I wish I could send a present or something. Once more, happy birthday! Everybody else - I hope you're making it a great day for Mom.

Not too much new stuff to report this week. A few things, though. We gave talks yesterday in Sacrament. It was a pretty fun opportunity. We had a day's warning and each talked for about 10 minutes or so. The theme was missionary work (what a surprise!). I talked about Lehi's vision of the tree of life and how after he had tasted of the fruit, the first thing he wanted was that his family could do the same. When he saw them by the banks of the river, they looked confused and lost. So he called out to them, pointed and waved and everything, and they came over and joined him. I mentioned how it didn't take too much work on Lehi's part for the faithful members of his family (Sariah, Sam, and Nephi) to partake of the fruit - all he had to do was open his mouth. It's the same thing with the missionary work that we can all do as members. The Lord has prepared people to receive the gospel. With them, all we have to do is open our mouths and say something, and they come eagerly. In D&C 123 it talks about those who search for the truth but don't have it simply because they know not where to find it. As members, we've received so many blessings from being part of the church, and we should take the opportunities that come to share that happiness with others. Anyway, that was the gist of it. Pretty fun.

Also, we had a ward FHE Saturday night. We gave the message (about how to have a Heavenly Home here on Earth), and then we had refreshments and played... Fruit Basket? Here it's "coctel de frutos." That game where you run around and switch chairs and generally have a lot of fun. And it was - the whole night was a lot of fun, and we had some investigators come too, which was cool. Good times. :)

Last night we talked with a man named Guadalupe. We contacted him a couple weeks ago and decided to stop by again, since he had seemed somewhat interested. He's studied the Bible and knows a lot of passages, but that's kind of his downfall - he can't accept anything unless it's concretely founded in the Bible. He also doesn't believe in personal revelation or direct answers to prayers. We did the best we could, bore heartful testimony, and left him with a pamphlet of the restoration. It made me realize that for all his knowledge of and belief in the Bible, without prayer and without a living prophet, it does him no good. I really am thankful for the truths we have, and especially for the opportunity to pray wherever and whenever for the help, guidance, and comfort that we need. Faith really is the foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This week is week 6 - the last week of this transfer. I doubt I'll be changing areas, though. The trend in the mission has been 3 or 4 transfers in the same place for most missionaries. I hope I stay here longer - I really like the area, and we're starting to really get things moving. Who knows though - I'll know by next week!

Two other random things from this week.  I know I'm supposed to be separated from the world, but we were at a member's house the other day, and Seinfeld was on, turned up loud, and in English. I didn't watch, but couldn't help overhearing, and it made me laugh just to hear that show in english down here. Second thing. An RM in the ward told us that down the road, in one of the evangelical churches (there are dozens), they like to take popular songs and Christianize them (Coldplay, the Killers, Green Day, etc.). He didn't know any of the songs, but I thought that was interesting and kind of funny.

Okay, so let me answer the questions and respond to what you said last week.

Gabbie (first the best of all!): Sounds like you've been having lots of fun making your Christmas list. I remember when I was your age and a little older than I would cut out pictures from magazines and make my list and everything. It was pretty fun, I thought. Nikka's up to her same old tricks, huh? Barking at nothing. Haha. Keep trying to make her speak. Teach her to say "Elder Greer." That might be easier than teaching Reagan, who knows. :) I had totally forgotten about the haunted house decoration! Haha I remember how Reagan loved it so much. That's really cool that he remembers it and everything. Sounds like it's been super cold there! 30 degrees? You said you can see your breath, and you were also right about me being able to see my sweat. Haha. During the day it's not terrible... well, okay, sometimes it is. Sometimes we're out on the street contacting in the hot sun and humidity for a couple hours and I start melting. But otherwise we're inside (usually with fans blowing) or walking around and moving and stuff, and sometimes a nice breeze kicks up, and then it's not so bad. I'd love to be in Utah right now and feel cold again. :) Well, Gabs, take care of everyone this week. You're the man of the house now. (Huh?) Make sure everyone's being nice to you. If they're not, give them a smack and tell them I said, "Knock it off!" :) haha. Let me know how school and everything's going, okay? I hope you have lots of fun this week. I love you very much. :)

Miranda: I liked what you said about the butterfly effect that can come from baptized someone. Dad's talked to me before about that a lot. He said, "You can count the seeds in a single apple, but you can't count the apples from a single seed." It's definitely true - look at Abinadi. He only had one convert (and he didn't even know it), but that convert was Alma, who went on to baptize so many people, and then had his son Alma the Younger, who baptized hundreds more. And then those people and their kids... and so it goes. One person really can have a great effect on lots of other people, but it's all about setting an example and doing the best you can. Congratulations on the A on your math test! That's a first ;) haha. You still have a 3.9? Getting excited for your driving test? Don't worry about it; it's pretty much a piece of cake. That's awesome that you'll have your license though. You're growing up... :) I like that idea of having a thankful journal. It's important to remember all the blessings we have. Keep it up, with that and your reading of the Book of Mormon and studying in school and all of that. It's pretty important, all of it. Keep me in the loop. And keep having fun, too, and remember that I love you! :)

Mom: Happy birthday again! Haha. I'm glad the pictures came through okay. I am indeed happy and healthy and having a lot of fun. The baptism in Spanish was fine - the words aren't too complicated and the actual baptism's the same, so it all went well. I can't believe it snowed and it's so cold there. I mean, it's almost December, thinking about it from where I am... I'd love to be cold again. :) Sounds like Lisa and Laura really had a good time. Let them know I'm glad and hopefully they can send some pictures sometime. I'm glad Reagan had a good birthday, and that he's doing really well. That's just the way I raised him... :) I really liked what you said about the heavens still being opened. I've shared that thought several times this week, actually, after you told me about it, and it's been really powerful. It's important to remember that those blessings are always there for us - we just need to ask in faith.
I too sometimes order a Brick Oven pizza and watch TV for lunch, but you're right, it's just not the same without you. :) (kidding) I've been gone three months - can you believe it? Crazy. Two years will go by in no time. I'm going to try to make the most of every day I have. Mom, thanks again for everything you've done for me. I love you very much and hope you have a wonderful day today.

Dad: Sounds like we both spoke in Sacrament on the same day! I'm excited to read you talk and all the other parables/Hardy Boys adventures that you have. You talked about how Uncle Bruce was baptized around the same age as Benjamin, and how important he said it was that he had friends in the ward and everything. I'm happy to say that seems to be the case for Benjamin. He's making friends and is always really excited to come to church and activities and everything. It's really cool and we're going to make sure he continues having friends other than us. Nice job on the Scottish accent recognition. :) Man, that trip was fun. I'd love to go back to Scotland some day - Isle of Skye and everything. I loved it. Thanks again for that opportunity.

Pretty cool everything you said about Paul Cardall and Sam Payne's history with him. You definitely should go to that concert and take Miranda and Gabbie - sounds like a really cool opportunity.
   I'm one-eighth done... wow. I can see how much I've progressed and grown, though, and I'm excited to continue to do so for the next 21 months. Time really does fly though. How's your wound/surgury thing healing up? What an adventure. Your mention of Braveheart reminded me of our trip to Macloud Castle on Isle of Skye, and Highlander's, "There can be only ONE!" I'm going to use that in my next street contact ("there can be only one true church! haha).
   Your questions about the mission: there are about 10 zones and 200 missionaries in the mission, and roughly half are Americans and half Mexicans. Maybe a dozen sisters. There are islands off the coast of Tabasco, like you mentioned, and they're part of the mission - my friend Jeremy is there right now, I'm pretty sure. Thanks for all the encouragement you've given me and everything. It really helps and strengthens my testimony. Writing down spiritual experiences is something I've been focusing on a lot, and it's really helped. It's a great idea. I'm excited to hear about yours. Dad, thanks for everything. I love you very much.
Until next week, and with lots of love,
Elder Greer

P.S. Okay, a few more things. Sorry no pictures this week - I'll take some good ones for next week. Everyone give Reagan and Nikka hugs and kisses for me (maybe not a kiss for Nikka). Oh, and you asked how people pronounce my name, (since with dad it was "Elder Grrreeet - or, "EverCrisp" ha) But here most people say "Grrrr" when they try to say my name. Either that or Elder Grinch. Haha. It's pretty awesome. -JAG

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One month in Mexico


Hey everyone! Man, it's hard not to read the emails I get. I scanned through the one you sent, then printed it out. I'll have a chance to read it more in detail tonight. It costs a peso a page to print. The exchange is 13 pesos to a dollar, so not too bad at all.

Once again it's been a great week. Four weeks in the field already. On Thursday I'll hit 3 full months. Crazy. I've said it before, but time is flying. Feels like I was home just yesterday.

So, the news from this week.
We put four baptisms as our goal for the weekend of the 5th of December, and early last week we found a family that we hope will be ready by then. Also, we ran into the cousin of a member while at that member's home, and she's already heard most of the lessons and is pretty much ready to be baptized. It's amazing how much faith can do, and how much the Lord had helped us in the work. So, all of that's pretty exciting.

I had the chance to eat fish for the first time in the field last Friday. We had the usual stuff - shrimp cocktail, normal shrimp (cooked with the heads and stuff still on. That was a new experience), and some other type of fried fish. But we also had some oysters (cooked in this weird sauce, not bad exactly, but just different) and a giant fried fish apiece (they just fry the whole fish and put it on your plate. In some places they expect you to eat everything - head, fins, etc. - but the members we were with said they just stick to the normal stuff, so we did that - no fish head for me, thank you). We also had empanadas de tiburón - shark! Those were extremely delicious - probably my favorite part of the meal. All in all, everything was really tasty.

That reminds me. Yesterday... no, Saturday I ate cow tongue, heart, and intestines. Also not too bad. Not something I'd eat every day, but pretty good. So, those are my food adventures for the week. Last night we had a lesson with a Seventh Day Adventist that we had talked to once before. She has a lot of faith in Christ, she reads the Bible diligently, and she really understands concepts like "faith without works is dead" and so on. Her belief in the Savior is really strong. The problem with that is that she's so cemented in her faith that it was a struggle trying to get her to accept Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. We kept trying to leave a copy with her, so that it can do the real converting, but she kept refusing. We had a great talk with her despite that - it lasted almost an hour and a half, and we covered lots of topics. Toward the end, I kept feeling the Spirit tell me that I should just testify to her and leave it at that. That's one thing they taught us in the MTC - if you don't know what to say, just testify of the Restoration and the Spirit will take over from there. So, at an opportune time, I read the last two paragraphs of the Introduction of the Book of Mormon and testified to her about what that says. I talked for a few minutes, just bearing my testimony, not trying to convince her or anything, and then my comp did the same. She finally accepted that we leave a copy of the Book of Mormon with her. We did so and left. Who knows what will happen with her, but the real lesson of the night was for me. I felt the Spirit prompt me very strongly and testify to me that what we're preaching is definitely the truth.
Even though nothing might happen with the investigator, my testimony was strengthened. That's why it's such a blessing to be out here - even if we don't have any success with other people, we can always have success with ourselves and our own testimonies. In short, the mission is wonderful.

Something kinda cool - my comp said that last night I was preaching the gospel in my sleep. I didn't say much, just something about how God loves us and listens to our prayers. I thought that was cool. Practically every night I have some dream in which I'm preaching the gospel or contacting or something. It's almost like I never get a break! But it's cool - seems like the missionary life - and the Spanish - is really starting to sink in.

One thing I've been focusing on the last few days is my Patriarchal Blessing.  I'm really starting to understand parts of it more and I'm learning a lot from it every time I read it. It's such a blessing to have (no pun intended) and I want to remember to read it more often.

Lately I've been reading in Mosiah. I've been studying in chapter 4 (I think...haha) where it talks about having the name of Christ written in your heart. I read that talk of President Eyring's again, Dad, and I've been looking up some other scriptures about it too. Sounds like that's what your talk is going to be on? I really like that scripture, and the talk as well. Another thing I really like from Mosiah is in chapter 13, which is where Abinidi gives the 10 Commandments to King Noah. Afterward, he talks about how you can't be saved by the law - that you must understand that only through Christ can salvation come. He adds how all the prophets - and he gives some examples - testify of Christ. Everything always points to the Savior. He really is the focus and the key to everything. There's a real power in reading the scriptures - I feel it every time I study, and it encourages me to improve and work harder. What a blessing.

Okay, so I'm going to answer (hopefully) everything that I missed last week from last week's email. First, Miranda. You asked about what it's really like being on the mission, and what it was like the first day. Well, the first day was a mixture of the emotions you mentioned - nervousness, excitement, fear. Once I got into it, though - once I started talking to people and everything - everything left but the excitement. I think that's the way with a lot of life. We're afraid of the unknown - but once it comes, we realize we can handle it. The mission really is so much fun. In one of his letters to me, Mike (Lanham) said that the mission is great. There's no worry, no stress, no guilt. You just focus every day on Christ and on talking about Him, and it leaves you with a sense of peace and love. Of course there are still challenges, but really, that's what the mission has been like for me so far. I'm just happy pretty much all the time. I love being here. I love preaching the gospel every day. Even when people don't listen, I still love it. It's a blessing to be here - every day a blessing. I'm glad you're studying the scriptures so much. I've been doing that too, really trying to study and learn from them, and I truly have learned and felt so much. They are very powerful, and it's important to learn as much as we can from them, because they really do help us in real-life situations. You talked about learning by experience, and that's also very important. Studying is crucial, so that we're prepared, but we learn the most from what we experience. In his email this week, Dad talked about how spiritual experiences are the most helpful to the person who actually experiences them, and it's true. We learn a lot from personal experience, especially when we can apply what we've already learned and studied. Keep going with your studying and experiencing as well. I can tell from what you write that you're growing and progressing, and that's awesome. Sounds like you've got some exciting things coming up (ie New Moon movie-ha), and that's great. Keep telling me about school, friends, music and movies, your daily activities - that sort of thing. I enjoy hearing about that as well. I love you! :) I miss you as well - I miss the whole family - but I do love hearing from and writing everyone.

Mom - That's pretty much all I can think of for Christmas. Surprise me! :) I really like reading what you've written me - about the things you've been up to, about Reagan, etc. I forgot to say this last week, but wish him a happy birthday from me and give him a hug and kiss. 8 years old already. Wow. Not much more to say but that I'm working hard, trying to improve every day, and just loving the work. Thanks for all the support you've given and still give me. I love you.

Dad - Sounds like all is going well - except with your infection thing. Yikes. I bet the chance to go to PEC

and have those visits is fun. Josh emailed me, and it was a great letter. Just like you said, he sounds like he is doing so well. I'm really excited for him and his calling and progress.

For your questions - our area goes past Libramiento Sur in some places. It's like our area is the shape of a Ping-Pong paddle, with the tip of the handle being where we live and then extending out to the southeast. We actually go out to the city limits in that direction, though we've never gone that far. From where we've been tracting and teaching it's probably an hour's walk from one end to the other. That's the most populated part of the area. We take the colectivos and stuff, though, so it's maybe fifteen minutes from one end to another. We do walk a lot, but not overmuch. Sundays are lots of fun. Church is great. We get to interact with the members and talk to people and everything. After church ends at 3, we eat and then go out to contact and teach some more. It's nice to get a bit of a break though.

All in all, everything is going great. As always, there's more I'd like to say, but I'm always pressed for time. Thank you very much for the email - I'll read it tonight and I'm sure half a dozen times more in the next few days. All is well here. I'm loving the work and really just very happy. It's a great life. I love you all very much, and I'm so grateful for the chance to be a part of this family. Truly, I have been very blessed. Can't wait to hear from you again next week. Until then, as always, you're in my prayers. I love you all.

Elder Greer
P.S. If you could send the Ensign, I'd love that. We get the Liahona, but not too promptly or anything.
P.P.S. Gabbie! Don't worry, I didn't forget about you. I love you lots and hope you're having lots of fun. Give Nikka and Regs a hug from me. Love you. :)

Monday, November 9, 2009

First baptism

¡Hola todos!

Okay, so I just read through everyone's letters. Couldn't help it, but I'll still have time enough to write! The good news is, yes, I can print whatever I want - so I printed off the family letter for later perusal, and also Josh's (though I also just read them both). What I think I'll do is print off the letters from now on, to read later and respond the following week. I think that's the only way I'm going to be able to read and reply to everything. We'll see how it goes.

Okay, so this past week was amazing - primarily because we had Benjamin's baptism on Saturday! It was incredible. We set up the service, gave the talks, etc., and then I had the opportunity to baptize him. It went perfectly. Afterward he said he felt really happy - 'es como una luz apareció en mi corazon,' he said (as if a light appeared, blossomed, in my heart).  Pretty awesome. He bore his testimony of the gospel and then all the members of the ward who were there (about 20 or so) had the chance to congratulate him and talk to him. It was great. Yesterday he was confirmed (I took part in that as well), and after church he received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained a priest (the bishop said, 'We might as well do it right away, since we know he's worthy!'). All of that was very, very cool. Missionary work is definitely very awesome. It's such a privilege just to be here in Mexico, studying and trying my best to become better. But to have the chance to share the gospel with others - and then to have them accept the message, and see the change in their lives - and then to actually baptize them and help them enter the road to eternal life and exaltation - wow! It's indescribable. Such a fulfilling work.

Other than that, this week has been about normal. We still do a lot of contacting, but the members are really helpful and give us people to teach. We have five or six investigators who are progressing really well, and we're hoping to set baptismal dates during their lessons this week. It's really cool when we return and talk to people after they've prayed about our message and received an answer - it almost surprises me sometimes. Growing up with the gospel makes it seem more commonplace - almost like I've taken it for granted, or at least not realized how powerful and amazing it is to have the Spirit in my life so much and to be surrounded by things of God. Hearing investigators talk about their testimonies is really, really cool.

A couple other things I wanted to mention. Our area covers the limits of the La Salle ward, so that's where we attend and those are the members we work with. The bishop is really helpful and so are lots of the members. They do have a ward mission leader, but he's inactive and has been for quite awhile. We going to try and visit him this week, hopefully get him back to church, but in the meantime we teach the gospel principles class. I taught yesterday. It was pretty fun - a simple lesson, since I can't teach the way I would in English, but that's okay since the class is intended to be simple. It was on faith, which is something I've been studying a lot lately, so that worked out. Miranda, I liked what you said about faith - everything you mentioned was exactly right. Faith without works doesn't actually help us at all. It's great if we know about repentance and service, but that knowledge won't help us unless we're actually doing those things, putting them into practice. Faith is a principle of power, but only if we actually DO things.

We have district meeting every week. It's pretty good - me and my comp, the district leader and his, and the zone leaders. Pretty basic, but always fun too. We also had zone conference this past Wednesday, and that was awesome. The President and the APs spoke and taught some great things. I learned a lot. They also passed out letters - so that answers the question about when the next one will come - six weeks, roughly, from this past Wednesday. I had two Dear Elder letters, both from Dennene and, from what I can tell, from sometime while I was still in the MTC. I guess sometimes it works like that. Dear Elder is pretty nice though, if anyone wants to check it out. Anyway, you have a couple weeks to get stuff sent, and hopefully it'll reach me by the next zone conference. As always, letters from anyone are greatly appreciated.

Thanks, everyone, for your emails. I'll keep reading through them and try to respond to what you said in more detail next week. But for now, a few comments.

Gabbie - Saturday sounds like lots of fun! I'm glad you're feeling better and I hope you're still having fun. Wii Sports Resort is very fun... maybe if you ask Santa nicely, you'll get it! Let's hope so. :) I hope things are going good and I love you!

Miranda - again, I liked everything you said about faith and works. To answer your questions, the mission is amazing. Yes, I miss things about home - but I'll be coming back to those things in less than two years. (In the meantime, I can always listen to the High School Musical soundtrack here in the cybercafe. Haha.) Those things will always be waiting for me. But for now, this is the best thing I could be doing. It's honestly a lot of fun. And I'm growing every day, learning more and more. That in itself is worth it. Seeing the change in other people's lives - wow, it's incredible. Amazing. I do think you would be a great missionary, and that you'd be fine in the mission field. I'll write more about that next week or in a letter or something though, give you some advice and talk more about school and everything as well. Thanks for writing, I really enjoyed reading it. I love you! :) ('It all comes down to right now, it's up to us...' something like that. Haha.)

Mom - yep, everything is all fine with me now, my sickness really wasn't too bad at all and down I'm back to normal. Yes, we fix breakfast and dinner for ourselves. Usually cereal or eggs for breakfast and hot dogs or fruit for dinner - basic but tasty. For laundry, we use the members' washing machines or a laundromat, it just depends. So far so good. :) As for Christmas - what I want the most, aside from things like letters and pictures, would be root beer. :) I've been missing it, and you can't find it down here. Other than that, I really can't think of anything... I'll give it some thought this week though. Going swimming with Reagan sounds like lots of fun! I'm glad he got to go. I'm sorry to hear that he got sick at the store and threw up! That sounds pretty terrible, and hard to handle with him and such a mess. At least Josh's mom was there - that's really lucky, since it sounds like no one was helping out at all. Give him a hug from me. :) And if you hear from Lisa and Laura or anything, tell them hi from me. I'm sure they're having lots of fun in Egypt. Thanks for all the encouragement and support, Mom. I love you very much too. :)

Dad - yeah, that really is too bad you weren't at the store with Mom and Reagan... (cough). I'm glad things are going well. Never heard of Arbol de Navidad, but I'll ask around. Sounds like things are great with you and Gabbie. That's so cool. Keep it up! I loved the joke about the Dog Star. It's gold, Jerry, gold! :) Legitimately funny though. Well done. As always, thanks for everything. I love reading your letters. I love you very much.

Everyone, thanks so much. I love the letters. I love you all very much, and I'm having a great time on my mission. Until next week --
Con amor,
Elder Greer
PS: Do me a favor and thank Josh for his email. I wanted to write him, but I don't know if I'll have a chance today. Thank him for me. Love you.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Teaching, Knocking Doors, and the Dengue Fever

Hey everyone! :)

So here we are, hanging out in the cyber, listening to Journey and writing our letters. Haha. It's quite the experience. The walls are covered with posters of High School Musical, the Jonas Brothers, and Smallville. Miranda would be jealous. :)

I can't believe I've already been here two weeks! That seems just incredible to me. It really doesn't feel like that much time has already passed. I also figured out the other day that I had just finished the first tenth of my mission. Think about that - one-tenth of the way done! That's a little sad, because it makes time seem like it's passing really fast, and I love being on a mission.

This week has been amazing. Some ups and downs, but lots of fun. We're still preparing Benjamin - I think I mentioned him last week, but maybe not by name. He's 17 and his baptismal date is for this Saturday. He's extremely ready and excited for it. We've talked to him about serving a mission and receiving the priesthood (not in that order) and he said he's excited for both of them, which is really neat. Assuming all goes well - and I see no reason why it won't - he'll be baptized and confirmed this weekend. We're teaching another family - Maria, the mom, and her son Francisco - and we were planning to set a baptismal date for them this week, because they're really strong even after only the first lesson, but we never actually managed to talk to them. Maria has cancer, and from what I understand (and can see) it's pretty tough. She's no longer taking any treatment, just medication for the pain, and it honestly seems like death is right around the corner. The three or four times we tried to visit this week, she was sleeping, and since she has such a hard time sleeping, we didn't want to wake her. With her sickness, it's really hard for her to get around, so she hasn't come to church yet. We're trying to get some members to help us with that so that she can progress. Her son Francisco is 14 and he's just like his mom - open, eager, and receptive. We're going to focus on them this week and hopefully make that happen soon.

The sisters who were here before us left us a couple of investigator families that at the time seemed pretty good, but turns out... not so much. We have another family we're going to visit that might be pretty close to baptism, but otherwise, we're starting from scratch and building up our teaching pool. Which is still fine - there are a lot of humble people here, and we've had some really good contacts that will hopefully keep listening to us. I'll keep you posted as time goes on.

There was a little bit of a downer this week, and that's that I've been sick. I've debated whether or not I should mention it, for Mom's sake :), but it's really no big deal and I'm almost better now, so what the heck. Around Wednesday or Thursday I started feeling really weak, dizzy, headache, that sort of thing. On Friday I had a fever and some nausea and such as well. Also, I developed this weird rash on both arms - like thousands of tiny tiny mosquito bites. All of that together was a little worrisome, so we called the mission doctor and then on Saturday went to see a doctor here in the Stake with the Bishop of our ward.

He said it's most likely dengue fever. It's something caused by mosquitos and is pretty common in Tuxtla right now. It's not serious or anything. He gave me medication and stuff to drink. So far it's been working. I'm at maybe 80% capacity today and still getting better, so nothing to worry about, everything's perfectly fine :) - it just meant that we couldn't work Saturday or yesterday, which was kind of sad. At least I got a lot of studying done. Anyway, that's that. Again, don't worry, I'm doing great.

It's awesome that you could pull up my street and stuff. To answer's Mom's questions, neither the temple nor the mission home are in my area - where we live is right at the northwest tip of our area. And, sadly, we don't get to go to the temple until the end of our missions. We're here to do work for the living, not for the dead, apparently. Who knew? :)

I was going to try to send some pictures today - but it looks like this computer doesn't have the right setup. I have a cord that will work with my camera. For sure I'll figure something out for next week and send some home.

Our days are pretty fun! We're up at 6:30, take a nice frozen shower and get dressed, eat breakfast (so far it's been eggs or Frosted Flakes), and study until 11 - then we hit the streets. Most of the time we have appointments with people. If not, we contact or look up references and such. I like contacting a lot, but I love teaching people. It's a lot of fun and always a powerful experience. Around 2 we head to the house of one of the sisters in the ward. They have a schedule for making sure we're fed. We eat lots of chicken, rice, beans, tortillas, vegetables and fruits... those are basically the staples here in the city. So far it's been really great - only a couple things were a little so-so; most of the food is really tasty. We drink lots of juice and lots of soda... and water too, of course. You can't drink the tap water, but they sell 5-gallon jugs of purified water for less that 50 cents, so no big deal. I'm liking the food a lot so far.

The last couple of days have been interesting for the weather. It's been overcast, rainy, windy, and - dare I say cold? Not really cold, but not hot by any means. I love it. :) It's still humid, but not as bad. It's not even terrible when it's hot either. So far so good. (80's)

I'm sorry to hear about Granny Bown - tell her I hope she feels better and I'll be praying for her. And thanks, Mom, for telling me all about Halloween. That sounds like a blast. I'd like to see pictures of everyone's costumes and everything.

Dad, in some ways it does seem like another world, but it's very similar to South America, and even to the UK in many ways. After these two weeks, I feel right at home. Nothing so far has been too strange. I liked what you said about 1 John 4. I actually read that recently; I was studying conference talks about love and related scriptures. I really like that chapter, and everything you said about it - perfect.

I don't have a ton of time left right now - there were some issues with the computer and stuff - but I wanted to mention that I was reading in Mosiah chapter 7, and I really like what king Limhi says. I don't remember the verse, but he talks about how they are soon to be saved by the Nephites after a long time of struggling in vain. Then he adds, I think there will yet be a good fight to be had before then. Something like that. I saw that as a parallel to our day, and also to the struggle we all have with sin. We could fight forever and accomplish nothing without Christ. But even when we are assured in Christ and trust in Him, there is still fighting to be done. I could go into it more, but I hope you get the idea.

My comp said he didn't know about being related to Andrew Skinner - he asked his parents though, so we'll find out. I wish, again, I could comment more on everything - next week for sure. I'll come better prepared. :)

Mom, Dad, Miranda, Gabbie, Reagan, Nikka. I love you very much. I'm having a blast our here and working hard, but I'm always thinking of you and praying for you. Hope things are going well and I hope to hear from you next week and hear about everything you've all been doing. I love you!

Con amor,
Elder Greer

Monday, October 26, 2009

Justin's First Letter from Tuxtla Gutierrez!


Wow. Has it really been almost a week already? That's hard to believe - just like with the MTC, time is kind of weird. The days seem long until nighttime, and then it seems like they went by in a flash. I figured out that in about a week I'll be one-tenth done with my mission. Crazy, huh? Of course, most of that time was spent in the MTC, but still. It really doesn't seem like that long at all.

Okay, down to business. I'm in a cybercafé that I'm pretty sure is also someone's house, typing on a Spanish keyboard (not much different except with where the punctuation is), and down the row a little ways there's someone using a computer and he's a little too into it. He's laughing loudly, jumping around in his seat... all sorts of things. I'm sure he's got some kind of problem, so I don't blame him or anything... it's just kind of unusual. Anyway. :)

Now for the important stuff. My comp's name is Elder Skinner. He's from Ogden. His mom's from El Salvador, so he speaks English and Spanish fluently. It's been a pretty good match. He's a hard worker and we've been having lots of fun. My area is in Tuxtla Gutierrez - an area called La Salle.

The area covers maybe 8 or 10 colonias... I'm actually not sure what the equivalent of that is. Kind of like how NYC has Broadway, Midtown, Queens, etc. What would you call that? Anyway, it's a pretty good sized area; we do lots of walking and also take lots of colectivos - they're called combis, small little buses that cost around 30 cents and where they cram 20 people inside a space meant for 6. Our area's in the southeast(ish) section of Tuxtla; we live on a street called Pino Suárez, if you want to look it up online. :) I think it's #805, but good luck finding that - the numbering of houses isn't too organized and often is in completely random order, which makes it tough to find places sometimes. But look it up and you can kind of see what our neighborhood is like.

Speaking of where we live - it's pretty awesome. And by pretty awesome I mean very third-world. I took some pictures, but I don't have my camera with me, sadly. I'll make sure to bring it next time. Our house is three rooms and a bathroom. Pretty simple furniture and everything, but it gets the job done, so no worries. The bed's comfortable and we have a couple pretty big fans, so all is well. :)

Ah, the weather. Remember that day at Mount Vernon? Welcome to Tuxtla! :) Picture it a little cooler and a little more humid, and you get an idea of what it's like. And we're hitting the cold season now, too. I can't imagine what it's like in the summer. It's not terrible. I don't think you can really get used to the heat so much, but at least you get used to sweating and to always being thirsty. I love it when it rains, too. It rained for the first time on Saturday - and when I say it rained, oh boy did it rain. It picked up pretty quickly - like, within 30 seconds - and it just poured and poured. It rained elephants.

And then, after about an hour, it cleared up, but was cloudy and windy the rest of the day, which is absolutely wonderful with the heat. We were inside, fortunately, when it was raining then, but it's rained off and on since. I guess it'll start raining more and more from now on as the rainy season hits full swing... and we'll get drenched. Oh well. :)

I'm liking the food so far. One thing that's a little odd is that I have almost no appetite anymore. For the last week or two it's been like that. I'm not sick or anything - I feel just fine, and I do get hungry, but I just can't eat much before I'm full. It's kind of strange, but oh well. I've lost some weight, too, and not in a bad way, just from exercise and not eating much and drinking lots of water. Blessings all around. :)

The city is awesome. I love it here. It reminds me a lot of Santiago or the other cities in South America. I'll send some pictures next week so you can see what it's like. The whole city is enclosed within a bowl of mountains - a lot like Utah Valley - and a lot of times we're up on the side of the hill right next to, or slightly within, the jungle. At night you can look out over the city and see all the lights. It's way cool. It's definitely a big city, not some village in the middle of nowhere, but it's awesome. I'd like to experience both while on the mission, but I guess we'll just see. :)

The work is coming along really well. Both my comp and I are new to the area, so we're still trying to ubicarnos :) and get everything figured out, but it's coming along. We spend about half our time contacting and the other half with members or investigators. The ward's really strong and the members are awesome. They have a schedule set up and we eat lunch with someone every day. Right now we have a baptism set for the 7th - an investigator that the sister missionaries who were here before us were teaching. We also have a couple more investigators/families that we're teaching that we hope to set dates for soon. We've contacted two families so far that have accepted the commitment to be baptized once they receive an answer. It's crazy how humble and accepting the people of Tuxtla are. It's awesome.

My Spanish is coming along. Sometimes people speak too fast for me to understand, but for the most part I understand what's going on and can more or less communicate. Dad, I appreciate your advice about being outgoing; I'm going to try to focus more on (moron?) that. I've done a dozen contacts or so and I teach about as much as my companion when we're teaching a lesson, so I've already gotten into the work a bunch and I love it. I love feeling the Spirit and testifying and having people accept what we're teaching. It's not always so easy - some people just aren't open to our message - but for the most part we're well received. I'm studying Spanish as much as I can and learning more every day.

Okay, now for how you contact me. Here's how it works. You send letters or packages to the address of the mission home. Mail is kind of unreliable here, or so I've been told, so what happens is that they collect all the mail there and disperse it every six weeks. So every six weeks I'll receive whatever mail has been sent in that time.

For that reason, it's probably better to email me - at least for the family. We have 30-60 minutes of email time per week (P-days are Monday, by the way, as I'm sure you now guessed), so I should be able to read whatever I receive and still have time to email out. We're only supposed to email family, from what I understand, but anyone can email me. I can also print the emails out (probably) and read them later if necessary. But I'd also love to receive letters, so for anyone who wants to write me, that would be great. Just know that I'll only receive them once every six weeks. I'll try to write some letters too every so often, but I don't know how often that will be, so email will be the main form of communication between us, I'm thinking.

As for packages - it's probably not very cost-effective to send very many. I imagine it costs quite a bit, and I have access to most everything I need here anyway. There's a grocery store in our area and a Wal-Mart somewhere in the city, so if I do run into something that I need, I should be able to find it here. I really do want to hear all about how everyone's doing and how the week's going, so feel free to send a long email if you want, and tell friends, family, or anyone else that I'd love to hear from them, preferably through letters.

Well, I should probably wrap up... which is too bad, because I feel like I'm talking to you when I email (like you've mentioned, Dad), and I want to keep doing that. I loved talking to you on the phone last week; it was awesome to hear everyone... especially Reagan. Haha.

My heart is very full right now. I'm having lots of fun and I love you all very, very much. Mom, Dad, Miranda, Gabbie, Reagan, Nikka: I love you so much. Thank you for all your support and love. I hope things are going well and I can't wait to hear from you. I really am just filled with love right now for all of you. I'm not homesick or anything, because it really is fun here, but I'm just extremely appreciative of everything you've done. Hugs and kisses all around from me, two taps plus a bonus one, and a wave from the top of the stairs. I'll write again next week. :)

With lots of love,
Elder Greer

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 13 - My last email from the MTC!

Felicitaciones! :)

Well, this is it -- my last MTC email! I leave next Monday! We got our travel plans last Thursday... ready for it? I leave the MTC at 3 am on Monday, October 19th. Our flight leaves SLC at 6 and we arrive in Dallas/Ft Worth at 9:30. At 12:15 we leave for Mexico City; we arrive there at 2:45 pm. We don't leave for Tuxtla Gutierrez until 6:45 pm, and we should hit Tuxtla around 8:15. Needless to say, I'm extremely excited about this. I can't wait to get to Mexico. Leaving at 3 am is a little creepy (witching hour!), but oh well. The sooner the better!

There are 8 of us heading to Tuxtla Gutierrez, but I don't know who anyone else is except my companion. In our district, 4 are going stateside and then we have an elder going to Oaxaca and an elder to Merida, which are on either side of Chiapas. So we'll be on the same flight up til Mexico City, which will be lots of fun.

Another thing we learned is that in Mexico and other South American countries you can't have a backpack with two straps, because they're too hard to get off in the event of being mugged. (Sounds like a strange reason, but a missionary was shot because his assailant misunderstood what he was doing... anyway, that's not the kind of story to tell someone as they're going to sleep :) and I'm sure I'll be fine, but that's why it's a rule.)

We haven't actually heard about our visas yet -- sometime this week we go up to Salt Lake and meet with the consul and do some other stuff. They haven't given us any other details, but as far as I know the plans we have are correct. I'll let you know if anything changes.

It shouldn't be too big of a deal with the traveling. I'm really looking forward to it. On the subject of calling, I can call from Dallas, or somewhere between 4 and 5 am from SLC. The one is while the girls are in school; the other is super early. So if you want to decide which would be better, I'll do that. It doesn't really matter to me either way. But I am really looking forward to the phone call. :)

I'm really excited to leave. I've fully enjoyed the MTC, and I haven't gotten sick of it or anything, but I'm definitely ready to get out into the field. My Spanish has been picking up a lot recently; it's coming pretty fast and I usually don't have to think about a lot of the things I'm trying to say. It's really cool. I still have a long way to go, but being immersed while in the field will help with that. No worries about the language or the culture or anything; I'm just pure excitement. I really can't wait. :)

One thing I've learned from the MTC is that this is really the best way to live. Obviously, after my mission I don't intend on keeping the same schedule I have here. But the focus placed on studying the scriptures and filling my life with things of the Lord -- that is something that I want to be doing every day for the rest of my life. It's amazing the effect that living this lifestyle has on me. The Spirit is powerful and I can feel it so often; I'm studying and learning new things every day; and I'm just constantly happy. What an incredible opportunity!

A couple things that have happened this week that I really liked. The devotional last Tuesday was Ben B. Banks, an Emeritus Seventy, and he talked about how important the Spirit should be in our lives. He mentioned how there are many ways to feel the Spirit and quoted about 10 different scriptures that talk about
those ways. We all feel the Holy Ghost in certain ways, and we need to learn how we are best prompted so that we recognize impressions and insights when they come. This goes along with what you were saying, Dad, about how the gospel was written for us; and who is "us," if not "you"? :) The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a personal thing. Heavenly Father has a plan for each individual son or daughter. There are indeed parts of scripture written specifically for me, and for you, and for everyone else. Similarly, the Savior knows us -- personally! I think that's why we're always told to "be of good cheer" -- it's hard to feel sad or depressed when you understand that the Savior and our Father know us personally and have specific things in store for us. That knowledge really takes away a lot of the frustration of life. When you place your life in His hands, you don't have to worry or fear anymore. That's something I've been gradually learning during my time here.

One last note -- at the fireside on Sunday, Stephen B. Allen spoke (he's spoken to us before). He said something that I loved. "Feelings or temptations don't make us evil. They make us human." That concept goes along with being of good cheer -- if I had more time I'd talk more about that, and what I've learned, but in any case I really find solace and comfort in that quote.

Well, the timer's swiftly heading for zero and there's not much more I can say in less than a minute. I love each of you very much. I miss you, but not in a homesick way at all. I love where I am and what I'm doing. I'm so excited about the work.
Con amor,
Elder Greer