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.