Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Elder Grinch ~ And playing Santa

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From November 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From November 29

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A very successful week ~ and a surprise transfer!

Hey everyone! Good afternoon!
It's a warm, sunny day here in Mina, and the smell in the air is that of summer back at home. And for me, it totally feels like back home - that is, until I remember that we're halfway through November. Weird. I read Josh's email (I think from last week) and he has pictures of Halloween and Thanksgiving things. Not having more than one season is kind of strange. :)
Well, it's been a great week, and there have been a few surprises. First, let me talk about Juan Carlos's baptism. The baptism part went off without a hitch - he asked me to baptize him, the branch showed up and was very supportive, and the service was beautiful. All cool there. I've got a picture that I'll try to upload in a second here. In his family, his mom and younger sister (age 10) are members. He has another younger sister of 7 who also attends church. His dad's your typical deadbeat drunk (sounds harsh, but it's true), and doesn't really give him a lot of support, but doesn't stand in his way either. His mom's really strong in the Church and emphatic about her chilren being faithful too. The baptism was awesome, but there were a few complications with the confirmation. It's a bit of a long story, but here are the details - Juan Carlos was electrocuted about a month ago (I think I mentioned this last week-a live cable near his eye, traveled through his body, tore part of his foot on exit), and so his left foot's in pretty bad shape right now, so he needs to wear flip flops everywhere. Yesterday morning he wanted to wear church shoes to church, and his dad told him not to, and that turned into an argument, and Juan Carlos got angry and refused to go to church. I went to Canticas Ward this week (we switch off every Sunday), and so after sacrament I headed over with a couple members and his mom to talk to him, but he had ransacked the place and was nowhere to be seen. I guess he did the same about a year ago (looking for money and then bailed by train to Mexico City), so we were kind of worried, but later his mom called us and had found him down by the railroad tracks reading the Book of Mormon. (Kind of a neat end to a worrying situation.) I think he's still pretty emotionally affected by his childhood and the way he's been living since - it's been rough - and that he just needs some time to get used to things. He says he's going to church for sure this Sunday. I hope so. Regardless, he's a cool person, and it's been fun getting to know him.
Javier and Susana still haven't made it to church (he works every other week), but they're doing really well; we had a very powerful lesson with Javier last week - the three of us shed tears - and he's devouring the Book of Mormon. Perfecto, in Canticas, is getting baptized this Saturday and it should be awesome. Cristina has been hard to get ahold of, but seems to still be interested. Deysi and Guillermo are still there, just waiting on paperwork. Another woman named Reyna, from Canticas, is just waiting on a birth certificate to get married and baptized. So we're teaching quite a few people, and should see lots of success in the next few weeks...
...and I won't be there for any of it! :( Yep - special transfers! (Mission-wide special transfers, so it's not my fault haha.) Turns out we're getting a batch of 28 gringos tonight, and so the President is making some huge changes, opening and closing areas, etc. Who knows why they're coming today instead of in four weeks - maybe they've been waiting on visas or something, who knows. It's kind of strange, but oh well. So Mina's getting six more missionaries and things are getting moved around. (Also, an entire zone - called Los Tuxtlas - is getting closed. I didn't know that even happened...) My companion's staying in Paquitál with a new companion from somewhere else, and I'm going to the area Palmar, still here in Mina. My companion's name is Elder Valencia; I've seen him around, but don't know him very well. And I'll still be District Leader - but they're dividing the zone, and I'll end up in the other one. It's pretty crazy; the whole mission is having changes like this. I totally didn't expect this - who would? - and was a little sad to be leaving Paquitál, since I've really enjoyed being here and was looking forward to the upcoming weeks. However, I know that Palmar is where the Lord wants me right now, and I have the feeling that great things await me there. So, it's kind of a mixed bag, but overall I'm excited and looking forward to the changes. Tomorrow morning I head over to the new area, and next week I'll be able to tell you all about how it is.
Well, that's really all the big news of the week. Oh, Saturday morning we went to Canticas to help a sister and her daughter out with some yard work, and I mowed her lawn! With a lawnmower! Yards are rare here, and I didn't even know lawnmowers existed, to be honest. :) It was pretty fun; I haven't mowed the lawn in a while. Cool stuff.
Yep, I think that's about it. On to the replies! :)
Let's mix things up this week...
Dad - I figure that for once you can go first, so that I can finally say everything I have in mind. :) You asked about our daily routine and knocking doors. We usually have a couple appointments in the morning, but if not we use that time to contact in the streets and knock doors; it seems to be more effective in the morning or right after lunch. We try to talk to as many people in the streets as we can in between appointments, and then we go street by street, depending upon where we are, knocking every door and looking for people to teach. The number of people who accept us changes depending on the hour, the place, and the day - sometimes everyone opens up for us, and sometimes we'll get 30 houses before even talking to someone. But, for the most part, people are pretty willing to let us in, even if they have no interest in the message. I forgot to take a picture of a typical house/street - I'll do that this week - but they're pretty small and painted lots of strange colors. :) haha. It's true though. Most people seem to have jobs - practically half the city works for Pemex (petroleum company with a bunch of plants here). You asked how it compares to Chile - I think the closest is the house of the old branch president we visited. Mina reminds me a lot of being there. It's really not that big of a city, to be honest. As for the native missionaries, there are a lot of them that want to work hard, but I'd definitely say that many native missionaries are much more (how shall I say?) relaxed? (lazy missionaries).  I've met Elders from Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Bolivia - oh, and I've heard of some from Canada. :) The rest are gringos or Mexicans. I really liked your comments on the stake conference from last week - I found a cool correlation between the two talks. The one talked about standing in holy places, and carrying that holiness with you - well, the phrase "lift where you stand" from General Conference (in April, I think) came to mind, and then I thought, "purify where you stand." Kind of a neat idea - disciples of Christ carrying His light around the world and making different places and people just a little more holy by their example. That, of course, ties in perfectly with the tapestry idea from the other speaker. The two ideas kind of came together in my mind and it seems cool. We should all make the world more holy, wherever it is that we are, and in that way we create just a little bit more of the Gospel tapestry. In the President's email today he talked about how we should focus every day on doing things that we won't regret - filling our lives with goodness. Kind of goes along as well, in a way. Oh, and that poem was wonderful (the one from last week). I absolutely love it. I have read it a bunch this week, and really pondered on it. Very cool. Thanks for sharing that. I really liked your comments this week on hymns. Cool thing - I have a Tabernacle Choir disc called "Called To Serve," which I have listened to many times now, and two of my now-favorite hymns are from that disc - Redeemer of Israel and How Firm a Foundation. Funny you mentioned both of them. Man, what good lyrics and powerful messages. They inspire me every time I hear them. Hymns truly have a lot of power. Also cool your thoughts about them. Well, as always, more next week. Thanks for everything, Dad. I really appreciate it. I love you very much. :) (Oh, and - two taps!) :)
Mom - Hey Mom! :) Thanks for sending the Christmas packages and stuff (no, I haven't received them yet, just thought I'd thank you in advance haha). I'll let you know when they arrive. You asked about church responsibilities - I teach Gospel Principles every other week (trade off with my companion), and every month or so they have a missionary speak in sacrament meeting. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to do so here. Rats. Doing splits with the youth is cool; it lets me get to know them more and is a good experience for them too. No rush on the new address for Grandpa and Grandma Greer - I probably won't head to the post office until December. I should have a bunch of letters ready to mail by then, though. It was cool to hear about what Reagan's been up to; sounds like he's happy and having a lot of fun. I'm glad. Miranda and Gabbie seem to be doing well, too. And Neeks? I'm sure she's still zipping around. I can't believe it's snowing there... :) Sounds like this week should be a busy one! I hope you enjoy it, though. Thanks for everything, Mom. I love you very much! :)
Miranda - Still excited for Harry Potter 7? I'm sure you'll have a good time. Also, tell me a little bit more about The Kite Runner and what else you been reading? How's school been going? Did you get your English paper finished? ;) Mom said you finished the Book of Mormon and your Personal Progress - that's awesome! You'll have to let me know more about that next week too. How's everything with your calling in the Laurels? Keep me up-to-date on the BYU application and everything else that's going on in your life. I hope you have a wonderful week! I love you very much! :)
Gabbie!: Hey Gabs! :) I have to say, your story about riding Goose last week sounded pretty cool. You're getting to be quite the horseback rider girl, aren't you? :) From this week, I recognized the first Toy Story quote, but not the second one... I'm sure it's just the English-Spanish confusion. Haha. How's your reading coming along? Did you ever pick up The Westing Game? You asked about the number of youth here - in the ward, about 15 altogether, and about 7 in the branch. Not many, compared to at home, but still not too bad. I'll let you know next week about the new ward. The Bishop's Youth Discussion sounded pretty cool too; I'll definitely have to try that activity you mentioned with some investigators sometime. Gabs, thanks for being so awesome. Have a great week and enjoy the nice weather! :) I love you! :) PS - congratulations on your grades! Woo! :)
Thank you, everyone, for all the things you do for me. I'm having the time of my life out here. I love you all very much, and know that the Church is true. Be strong and faithful and seek the Lord's blessings. Have a wonderful week, everyone! :)
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 8 + previous 2 letters

<Justin's had a successful couple of weeks and the work is moving along. I will post excerpts from letters a couple weeks ago, then this week's letter and we're caught up!  Mark>

Excerpt from October 25
This past week we've been knocking a lot of doors, looking for new people to teach, and have found moderate success. I've been studying the New Testament a lot this week, reading through the Gospels and focusing on the testimony of the Savior found therein; I really enjoy reading some of the firsthand accounts of His miracles and teachings. But aside from all of that, it's been a pretty normal week - enjoyable, quick, and full of work. The only thing that stands out is the baptism we had on Saturday.
Saturday was the baptism of Inés Peña Gutiérrez. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned a little bit about him. He had started off being a bit shy around us (and everyone else, for that matter), but as we taught him more we became pretty good friends and he opened up a lot. He was really looking forward to his baptism and didn't seem the least bit nervous. The baptismal service was really nice; we had a lot of support from the members and the talks were pretty spiritual (if I do say so myself - I gave one on repentance haha). My companion, Elder Silva, performed the baptism, and it went off without a hitch. Yesterday was Inés's confirmation and it was equally spiritual. I think he's going to be a strong member in the church (every time we've passed by for him to go to church, he's dressed and waiting outside for us - seems pretty eager about everything). He should be able to help his family a lot with his example, and we're hoping that further along they'll want to follow him into the Gospel. For the moment, all is well with Inés, and I'm really grateful to have been a part of his conversion to the Lord's Church.
What else, what else... well, this week we have Zone Conference on Thursday. I'm looking forward to that, and hopefully will receive some letters/packages. I'll let you all know next week how it went. This is also the last week of the transfer, so I might have news next week - though I feel like my companion and I'll be staying here another transfer.
Gabs - Hey Gabs! How's it goin'? I laughed last week at what you said about Lauren's new sister... something along the lines of "I don't know if anyone told you that Lauren's mom is pregnant... well, she had her baby this week." Haha. I don't remember anyone telling me about it before - kind of skipped the whole nine months! :) Sounds like things are going pretty well in school and that you're getting pretty good grades - keep it up! Oh, and speaking of Lauren's sister - thanks for reminding me - you mentioned remembering drinking chocolate milk in the hospital when Reagan was born. My first memory is of drinking chocolate milk and watching Lady and the Tramp in the hospital with Grandma Greer when Miranda was born. Cool, huh? Your hike up the mountain from last week sounds like a lot of fun. That's one thing I've missed in the mission - we do lots and lots of walking, but never just for pleasure or checking out the scenery; we always have to get somewhere and teach a lesson or something. I'm looking forward to going on hikes with you and Dad and Nikka when I get back. How did your CTE with Laura go? (I guess I should just check the email from this week to see if you say anything about it, huh?) You asked about Chinese food - yeah, there's Chinese food down here, and it tastes pretty much like the Chinese food back at home, but there aren't many opportunities to eat it for us. Gabs, thanks for always writing and for being such a great sister. I love you very, very much and hope that you have a wonderful week! :)
Miranda - Hey! Continuing with the theme of things my sisters said last week that were funny, you talked about how your guy friend admitted "on Facebook, and to the world," that he enjoyed watching Gilmore Girls. I imagined Dad making a comment about how Facebook is not the same thing as "the world," and it made me laugh. Dad, feel free to make such comment here. :) Anyway, on to more important things. Mom says you've been working hard on the English AP practice tests. How's that going? And how's the rest of school going - how are all your classes? Still enjoying them? Learn anything cool this week? :) What are your plans for college? You mentioned going to the U... I keep thinking it would be pretty cool if we both go to BYU when I get home - we could even have a class together or something. Might be kind of neat - what do you think? Have you made any plans yet, or just focused on the present? :) Well, Miranda, thanks for your emails. I always enjoy reading them and they make me laugh. Thanks for being such a great sister. Have a wonderful week! I love you very much! :) PS - how goes the Book of Mormon? :)
Mom - Hi Mom! :) It sounds like Reagan has been doing pretty well lately, all things considered. Is he still making improvements, or has he hit another plateau? Give the little guy a big hug from me, okay? :) You asked this week about my sickness - I know at one point I had a throat infection, but I don't remember what the shots were called and the doctor never told me exactly what it was I had. The whole "going to the doctor" thing works kind of differently down here, it seems. Oh, and he was just a normal doctor, not from the mission or anything. Thanks for always telling me about how everyone's doing - I always love hearing that kind of thing. I hope you have a very wonderful week, Mom. I love you very much. :)
Dad - How's it going with the writing? I always enjoy hearing about what you've been up to, the critiques, the plans (schemes, etc.) and all that. Are you still going to submit for Writers of the Future? We were eating with a member last week and I saw an interesting book on the table - "Creámosle a Cristo," or, for the rest of you heathen folk back home (hah) - "Believing Christ." I remember you mentioned having read the book, and we've talked about that concept a lot before (in fact, it's one of the "Seven Rules for a Successful Mission" you gave me back before I hit the MTC - thanks for those, by the way. They're really good). I skimmed through the book a bit and really liked what he talked about - the whole idea of allowing Christ to free us from guilt and accepting forgiveness when it comes. Cool stuff. It was interesting, too, what you said in weeks past about grace - I've been studying it this past week a bit, and I realized I always kind of played it down in my mind, preferring to focus on works or other things. But the concept of grace is powerful. In fact, I have an Ensign article I found about it that I really liked - I forget which one, though. Maybe for next week I'll let you know; I really enjoyed it. Anyway, as you said, the time passes quickly, so we should be focused not just on our goals, but also on enjoying the journey. I feel like I really have fun each and every day, and I think that's important - to live in the here and now, and not be so focused on the future that you don't notice the beautiful scenery. It was neat to hear about Mikey coming home, and interesting that it's taking a little bit of effort for him to get used to being home. I wonder how it will be for me. So far, I've been in cities in every area, and from what I understand Mexico's better off than Guatemala as far as economy and all that, but who knows - maybe I'll end up finishing the mission in a little pueblito too. It'll be interesting to see what happens, and very interesting to come home and adapt to "normal" life again. I'd love to hear from Mikey, by the way, if he has the time to write a bit one of these days. Thanks for sending the conference talks. I really enjoy reading them. Just keep sendin' them along, I say! :) Well, that's about it for time. Thanks for always writing me and supporting what I'm doing. Thanks, as well, for your great example. I love you very much and hope that you have a wonderful week! :)
Thanks, everyone, for all you do for me. I love you all very much. Have a great week!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer
From November 1 2010
... Some cool things happened this week, though. We found and are teaching a woman named Cristina who recently had surgery on her upper leg, and so she's basically confined to her house for the next few months (though she can walk around a bit and go places if in a car). It makes a really good situation for us, since she's pretty much always at home and available. :) She's also really willing to listen, and it seems like she's open to our message. We'll be working with her a lot this week. Please keep her in your prayers.
Things are going pretty well with Deysi and Guillermo - they're getting the money and paperwork together to get married and then baptized. I'm thinking that in about three weeks they'll be ready with everything - in the meantime, they're continuing on firmly (poor translation from my Spanish-thinking brain) and are enjoying the Gospel more and more each day. Good stuff there.
Inés is also doing really well. He's having a great time in church and his mom has started listening in on our lessons. We're hoping that she'll make the decision to be baptized pretty soon here. She's come to church the past two Sundays, and we're seeing some progress there. Oh, and Inés received the Priesthood yesterday - he was pretty excited about that.
We had Zone Conference last week, and it was wonderful. The President talked a lot about the living Christ - in fact, he recited "The Living Christ" from memory and it was a pretty powerful part of the conference. My testimony of Christ as our Savior and Redeemer was strengthened and deepened. Every so often I have those moments where my mind seems to expand a little, the Spirit testifies to me, and I grasp the concepts of the Gospel a little more fully and in a more profound and personal way - those are wonderful experiences, aren't they? Kind of like a little glimpse into the other side of the Veil, seeing and feeling the truths that we once lived and were a part of. Well, the conference, and some of the things I've studied lately, have had that effect in my life, and it's been incredible. The Gospel is definitely true - and more than that, it brings such a love and light into our lives. :)
In the conference I did indeed receive some mail and packages. :) I got a letter each from Lisa, Laura, Brother and Sister Windley (I really need to write them a letter soon - they're so awesome and consistent in writing me, and I love reading their words of wisdom), and Mom. The card from Mom had the new debit card in it - it arrived safe and sound, so you can go ahead and activate it. :)  Also, I received a package from Mom and one from Lisa and Laura. Theirs had a video ("To This End Was I Born," which is a great one), some HLJ (CTR) rings, a pamphlet thing on the family, and a note - it was pretty cool. Pass along my thanks and gratitude. The package from the family had an extremely smashed Pop-Tart (that one made me laugh - still tastes great, though!), a great tie, and a much-appreciated watch (I finally know what time it is. Haha). Thank you very much for all of that. I really appreciated everything. And it was cool that something finally came through, too.  
(My companion just read me an email from his older brother, who served a mission ten years ago and pretty much went inactive six months later. In the email, his brother says he's had a complete change of heart and is back in church. Pretty awesome.)
One other cool thing from this past week - I played baseball this morning! The zone got together to play a game with some members (men and youth alike) from around here. We played a couple hours and I had an absolute blast. It was great to step up to bat again and find that I hadn't lost everything - I connected pretty well a couple time and made three runs. :) Also, I had a chance to pitch a little bit (not in the game, because we were just throwing soft, but afterward, where I could really fire it in there), and it was a lot of fun. It felt great to work my arm again like that. To be honest, I miss playing baseball, and hope to be able to play some when I get back. Playing today was a lot of fun.
Con mucho amor y un gran abrazo,
Elder Greer
November 8 2010
Hey everyone! :) Man... what a wonderful thing life is. Sometimes it's nice to just take a second to pause, take a deep breath, look around you, and realize the magnificence of all of God's creations. (I'm looking around me here at the cyber, and all I see are kids on Facebook and other kids playing violent videogames. Hah. Maybe this activity works better in the mountains or something...) I love being able to check my email once a week and read of all sorts of amazing things from people I love. I get to read Josh's emails, which are very inspiring; occasional emails from Lisa, Laura, Grandpa Greer, and other friends out on missions, which give me great advice and let me smile and laugh a little; and, of course, I read the email from you guys (the family), and it always makes me feel really happy to know that things are going well and life is good. It makes me appreciate a little bit more the blessing of life and the chance we have to interact one with another. I've commented on this before, but relationships are truly the most important thing we can create in this life - aside from them and our memories and knowledge, what else can we take with us? So dedicate a little time this week to strengthening and enjoying these precious relationships that make life so wonderful. Get it? (Got it.) Good. :)
Well, it's been another wonderful week. Elder Silva and I started off the transfer with renewed energy and it really paid off. We were able to find and teach a bunch of people this week, and place the groundwork for our labors the rest of the transfer. The Lord is truly blessing us, and in part it's for our efforts to obey and work diligently (and the other part is due to His tremendous mercy and love which He continually showers upon us). I've felt so good this past week - in tune with the Spirit, focused, happy, and at peace. It reminds me of something that Elder Lanham said in one of his letters to me about a year ago - "there's no guilt or remorse in missionary work, just one focus: Christ. We try to be like Him, and our lives become swallowed up in His love, and little by little we come unto Him." It's a pretty special process, and I feel like it's been highly accelerated throughout my mission - I've had so many wonderful experiences and I have grown so much. I'm still the same person, just a better version of who I was before, and a little bit closer to the person God wants me to be. It's pretty neat stuff. :)
Info on investigators. Cristina's doing well; she's practically accepted a baptismal date, just has a little bit of hesitation and wants to pray about it. She went out of town this weekend and wasn't able to come to church, but we have another appointment on Wednesday and we're going to try to get her whole family together (plus bring some members along to fellowship). I feel like she's going to make it to baptism; we'll be working hard to help her this week. Javier and Susana are doing well too. I'm not sure if I mentioned them before - we first met with Susana, and then the following day taught Javier, her husband (they're a young couple), and he really took to the message of the Restoration. He seemed kind of unwilling to listen to us at first, but then the Book of Mormon got ahold of his heart and opened it right up. :) We left him the first day with Alma 32 - he read it twice, then started at the beginning and read all of the introductory pages leading up to 1 Nephi. He felt the Spirit very strongly while he read and told us he had been pondering what he had learned and applying it in his life. It's been pretty awesome with him. They weren't able to come to church yesterday either, but we're going to do our best to get them to go this week. Javier's really excited about baptism, and with a little bit of work Susana will get there too. I'm really excited to be able to teach and help them this week.
Deysi and Guillermo are waiting for some tests and paperwork... we figure they'll get married and baptized the first weekend in December. So far so good there. Inés is going strong, and little by little his mom is accepting the restored Gospel and changing her life. Also, we met two other great investigators this past week. The first was Juan Carlos. He's 15 and the son of a member who lives in the Canticas branch. He's always been pretty rebellious (always running off to the US, hah), but about a month ago that all changed. He was riding atop a train trying to get to the States (remember the newspaper articles we read before the mission about accidents in Chiapas?) and was electrocuted by a low-hanging cable. It was pretty intense - half of the bottom of his left foot is missing (just... gone!) and he has a pretty nasty wound near his right eye, where the electricity entered. It's pretty crazy. He made it home with the help of some friends (and the police), and has had a total change of heart. He wants to make things right in his life and follow the Savior. He's getting baptized this Saturday. :) It's made me really happy to see the changes in his life and I know he'll be a strong member and a future missionary. I'm really looking forward to this weekend. He could use your prayers so that everything goes well. Also, we met a man named Perfecto (cool name, huh?), also in Canticas; his children are all faithful members, but he's always been a drunk and hasn't wanted anything to do with the Church. Well, he too has had a change of heart; he's stopped drinking, and we've planned his baptism for the 20th. And this is just the start of the success we'll be having! :) I'm looking forward to working with all of these people and I'll be sure to keep you informed on their progress.
Well, that's about it for now. Time for the good stuff. :)
Mom - Hey! :) You talked about the Windleys (and Dad too - send them my best, especially with the operation business going on). They've written me every single month; they always send the ward newsletter and a handwritten note. I really appreciate that; it means a lot to me. One thing's for sure - I haven't suffered too much in the mission, with such great support and love from home. :) Wish Reagan a happy birthday from me and give him some sort of awesome older brother gift, okay? :) Only 285 days left? Yikes... :) Well, I'll have to write more next week. Thank you for everything Mom, and I hope you have a great week. I love you very much. Talk to you next week! :)
Miranda - Congratulations on the 4.0! Whoo! :) I think I've heard of The Kite Runner, but never read it. What's it about? It's cool to hear that you're enjoying the Shakespeare class; I've really liked all the plays I've read, and definitely learned a lot too. As for the Spanish AP test... hmmm. There are parts where you have to record yourself speaking and answering some test prompts... written parts, where you answer questions... listening parts, where again you answer questions... and a part where you have to write a bit. I don't really remember too well, since I took that test three and a half years ago, but I do remember that. It's a test of general comprehension, so basically there's nothing specific to study; or rather, everything you study will help you. Unfortunately, the only advice I can give is to come to Mexico for a few months and then you'll pass without a problem: :)  Yeah, el día de los muertos is celebrated here - lots of candlelight processionals and other creepy things. We just avoided most of it. :) And Thanksgiving... probably not, unless I can get some members to celebrate it and invite us haha. Oh well. Good job with the Book of Mormon! Let me know when you finish. I'm looking to finish again before the end of the year... I'm in Mosiah right now. I love that book. Thanks, Miranda, for being an awesome sister, and I hope you have a great week. Love you very much! :)
Gabs - Hey Gabs! :) Your horseback riding adventures sound pretty awesome! I laughed a lot at your Ace Ventura quote. :) It seems like you're getting pretty great at riding horses - I'm excited to see you ride (and maybe try it out myself) when I get home! :)  What else have you been reading lately? Well, Gabs, your part is a bit short this week. Sorry - next week will be a whole email just for you! :) haha. But thank you for being a great sister, and have a wonderful week! I love you very much! :)
Reagan: Hey Reags! Happy birthday! (Somebody give him a big hug for me, and again on his birthday, okay?) Nine years old. Wow. :)
Dad - I really liked your thoughts and what you said about Stake Conference. It sounds like it was pretty good. I just loved that poem you put in there - it's really profound, and has a powerful message. As for the baseball - yeah, we rounded up some mitts from ward members and had enough to all play. An older man who's a coach for a local team let me pitch to him a bit, and said that I throw hard. :) Baseball's not too popular here in Mexico, but there are still teams here and there, and it was fun to play again and to remember the good old days. As for knocking doors, we usually tap on the gate with a coin or shout "buenas tardes" until they come outside. Some people have doorbells, too. But maybe this week I'll try the cartwheel idea... :)  Yeah, I'm looking forward to staying a second transfer in this area. It'll be fun. Thanks for everything, Dad. Have a great week. I love you very much. :)
Thanks, everyone, for all you do for me. I love you all very much. Have a wonderful week!  
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

Monday, October 25, 2010

October Letters

(Justin's last 3 letters, october 4, 11, 18.
From October 4
Well, as usual, it's been another great week. This past week was kind of different, though, in that we spent a lot of our time helping flood victims. As I mentioned last week, the flooding was pretty intense, and it left a lot of people without a home to dwell in for quite a while, plus ruined a lot of furniture and food. Since last week, it hasn't rained too much - but the problem has been that Veracruz is pretty much at sea level (being right next to the Gulf, of course) and the surrounding states, Oaxaca and Puebla and others, are mountainous and of higher elevation, and the hurricane hit pretty hard there to. Hence, all the water that was dumped in Oaxaca is now flooding into Veracruz, and since that water can't escape into the ocean, it's instead filling up our once-lovely highways and byways. Great. :) The centro here in Mina is pretty much completely flooded, and the water levels are only rising. My area is perfectly fine now, and people are recovering from the damages, but there are a ton of people in the city who have been forced out of their houses. Four chapels have been turned over to the city government and heath departments to use as shelters for the affected people, and we've spent a bit of time there this past week, helping people out, giving blessings, and, of course, teaching wherever possible and helping people feel a little more hope in this difficult situation. They say that the water won't completely be gone until about two weeks from now, so in the meantime there's a lot of service to be given and we've helped out as much as possible. This past week we moved furniture, fixed appliances, carried food donations from members, and cleaned up some houses that were positively filthy after the water finally went down. It's been a pretty interesting week, but very enjoyable at the same time; I was "called to serve," after all, and I've done a lot of that in the past few days.
The other interesting and enjoyable part of this past week was, of course, General Conference. We were able to attend all of the sessions in full except for the first half of the last session of Sunday (had to wait for a couple investigators to get ready so we could accompany them to the chapel to watch conference), and I truly loved every single moment. I could feel the power behind the words that were spoken, and felt as though each talk without fail contained something specifically directed toward my life. I learned so much and felt uplifted by the Spirit, and came away from Conference with more peace and serenity in my heart and a newfound determination to improve. I'd love to be able to share what I learned, but I'm afraid that I might not have time this week; I'll be revising my notes in the coming days, and little by little will include some thoughts in the coming emails. (That's the plan, anyway. Haha.)
Gabbie: Let me tell you, your horse riding lessons sound pretty awesome. Mom says you're always really excited about going and that you're really having fun. That's awesome. By the time I get home I'm sure you'll be a professional rider. :) What are the speed levels of horses? By that, I mean, I've heard of gallops, trots, walks, runs, and now lopes, but I'm not exactly sure how fast each word means. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? How fast can horses run? Oh, and your extra credit project for US History sounds pretty awesome. You'll have to have Dad send me a picture of the finished project. Also, pictures of your dragons. You asked about the Mexican Independence Day a week or two ago, and I never answered; yes, we celebrated it here, and it was pretty huge. Remind me next week, and I'll tell you more about it in detail, okay? Gabs, you're the best 12-year-old sister anybody could ask for! Thanks for being so awesome, and have a wonderful week. I love you very much! :)
Miranda: Okay, for starters, I think this was the longest email you've ever written me. Thanks! Secondly, I would like to draw your attention to President Monson's talk about addictions and what he said about texting... Haha. I'm just kidding. But I did think his words were really interesting and I learned a lot from what he said. (oh, a random note here that is for everyone - David Greer served in Puebla, didn't he? In Coatza there was a family who had lived in Puebla, and they had a card with a picture of all the missionaries, and I saw his picture there). Anyway, Miranda, sounds like you've been having a good time this week and things are going well. Good luck with the blood drive (I liked how you were unsure about the name of the club haha) and with the ACT next time, and in school and all that stuff. Keep up the good work; I'll write more about what you wrote next week. Chow for now, as Dad says (and I have now picked up that habit). Have a great week! I love you very much! :)
Mom:  You mostly asked about the flooding and the members and area. Well, once again I don't have much time to answer those questions, but next week for sure. However, I'm doing fine, nothing of mine got wet (except my shoes and pants from walking around in the storms), and none of the members here were seriously affected. By the way, we have a ward and a branch; the branch was just barely created and is in a little town about twenty minutes out of the city. We've been there a couple times and hope to be able to go there more this week and get to know the members better. So far I've really enjoyed being here in Mina and have had a great experience. I'll let you know more next week, and send some pictures. I love you very much, Mom. Thank you for everything. Have a wonderful week! :)
Dad: I'm about out of time, but let me answer a couple questions you had at the beginning. I have an hour to use the internet here in the cyber. In that hour I have to check the announcements from the President (in an email), email him (just a brief report on how I'm doing and so on), and then write you. I read emails from others when I get them (Lisa and Laura, grandparents, etc.) but don't often write back, given that I want to use all the time I have to write the family. I'm in the process of writing everyone a handwritten letter, and will hopefully get those out soon. Generally, though, just you and the president. Thanks for all the stuff you included this week. That would be awesome if you could send me periodically GC talks with your thoughts on them, like the last conference; I really enjoyed that. I have a bunch of stuff I was going to say from the other emails, but my hour is up - next week I'll come better organized and I'll type faster. :) I love you very much and hope that you have a wonderful week! :)
Thanks, everyone, for all that you do for me. I feel your prayers and am grateful for them. Until next week! :)
Con mucho amor y un abrazo para todos,
Elder Greer
PS - Dad, yes, President Castañeda gives the abrazo with the cheek-to-cheek thing like you got on your mission :)
October 11
Hey everyone!
So, I'm writing this email a little later than usual, and with a pretty short time limit. It's been a busy day, and we have a FHE shortly, so I'm slightly rushed - but I'll do the best I can.
This week has been a pretty interesting one - my companion and I both got sick, and we ended up barely working all week. My companion came down with some sort of flu/head cold thing that pretty much knocked him out Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday we were finally able to get out there and start working - and Friday morning I wake up with the same thing (though it turned out later that I had/have a throat infection). Needless to say, this week didn't go too well for us in terms of missionary work, and by Saturday night we were both going crazy, having been stuck inside all week. However, we're both pretty much better by now. We went to a doctor on Friday (an evangelista who talked our ears off about witchcraft and faith healings) and got some medication, and are both doing pretty well now. By Wednesday I should be completely healed up. It wasn't the sickness so much as the inability to work that bugged me, but we're starting a new week and we've both rested up quite a bit, so things should return to normal. :)
A few things of interest. This week there's a series of training meetings for leaders in Coatzacoalcos with the President, and being DL I'll be there (oh, I can guarantee it, I'll be there - haha). They'll be held Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I'm really looking forward to it - it should be a lot of fun, spiritual, and very instructive. Also, we'll be eating with the missionaries who are in Coatza, so I might get the chance to say hi to a couple ward members from my old area. Anyway, I'm excited to get to go and next week will have a lot to say about the things I learned.
As far as the work, things are going pretty well. We have a 13-year-old kid named Ines that will be baptized on the 23rd, and two couples that we're teaching who will be baptized as soon as they can get married (which should be pretty soon; we're in the process of helping them get the necessary documents). This week we're hoping to find lots of new people to start teaching so that we can continue to have success in the coming weeks. We're both excited about the work and dedicated to working hard, so good things are in the immediate future. The Lord is blessing us a lot, and I feel very good about where I am and what I'm doing - so happy just to be serving. It's a wonderful opportunity.
And as for my responsibilities as district leader, things are going well too. There are four companionships in my district (including mine), and two of the elders I knew from previous zones (one, Elder Piña, was once companion of my former companion Elder Tanner). They all seem to be working pretty hard and have been having success. I'm enjoying the chance to serve as DL and have found that it brings me many blessings too. Things are going well there.
Yes, I received the forwarded email from Josh. Reading it sent tingles down my spine - it seems like he's definitely changed a lot in the last year, and that missionary work really suits him. It's awesome to hear about his experiences and I hope his dad continues forwarding his emails. Pretty awesome to hear from him.
Well, that's about it for time. I now have to print off everything everyone sent me (the family, John's family, and Josh), and head to the FHE. I'm doing extremely well and am very grateful for the love I feel from all of you. Mom, Dad, Miranda, Gabbie, Reagan, Nikka - I love you all very much. Thanks for everything. Sorry, again, that it's short.  Have a wonderful week! I love you all very much! :)
 Con amor,
 Elder Greer
October 18
Hey everyone!
It's been another wonderful week here in Mina. I finally have a solid chunk of time to email, so I hope to get in an update on the things I haven't been able to talk about in the past weeks, and answer some questions. 
Okay. First things first. This past week we had the three-day training meeting in Coatzacoalcos - Wednesday through Friday. It was a completely wonderful experience; I learned so much, felt the Spirit really strongly, and was rejuvenated for the work. I'm just loving missionary life and the precious experiences I have almost every single day. The training really reminded me of why I'm out here and the joy of serving the Lord. It's almost like I'm fresh out of the MTC, but with a bit more experience and knowledge. It's pretty neat. :) I'm really looking forward to the coming week. We talked a lot about the basics of Preach My Gospel, which, by the way, is a wonderful book not just for missionaries but for members too. We discussed the doctrine of Christ, receiving personal revelation, and the whole point of missionary work. I learned many things that have helped me become a better son of God, Priesthood holder, member, and missionary in the Lord's service, and I'm confident that the fruits of my work will show that I did indeed learn a lot. I have a lot to improve, but with the Lord's help, little by little I'll get there, and the journey will be wonderful. We also talked about the Sacrament, the Temple, and other special Gospel topics and the Spirit was very strong. I don't have my notes with me, but maybe next week I'll share a couple things I learned, because they were pretty neat.
Okay. Training was awesome. However, I slept on the floor both nights. That wasn't the bad part - I actually slept pretty well - but I think my sickness (I mentioned that last week, right? throat infection?) kicked back in because of that, because Saturday morning I was barely able to lift myself out of bed. I ended up going to a doctor who decided that the best way to help me was three painful shots in the rear end. I had one Saturday and one today, and the other's coming tomorrow. Ouch. I'm kind of sore... Like the kid in School House Rock videos... 'Hey, that's not fair, giving a guy a shot down there!' Ha. :) Haha but I'm actually doing a whole lot better. I'm not sure what I had, some type of infection, but it seems to be clearing up. We're back to working hard and I'm feeling pretty much great. So no worries on that front, but the shots aren't too fun. :)
Today we had a zone activity, and it was a lot of fun. We played some soccer, ate a delicious lunch, and watched a movie. One of the ZLs is an American, and he grilled up some ribs, mushrooms, and squash, and made a bunch of mashed potatoes - it was delicious. And the President approved a movie for us to watch - guess which one? Toy Story 3. :) And, yes, it was awesome. It was in Spanish, so I understood it all, but missed out on some of the humor and other things that don't translate or are hard to pick up on when it's not my native language. All in all, a cool activity today; I enjoyed it a lot.
Okay. Now for some info on my area, the district, and our investigators, in that order. :) I'm in Paquitál, Minatitlán (pretty sure you knew that already, though), and we have a ward and a branch - the ward is Paquitál and the branch is called Canticas, about 20 minutes in a bus outside of the city. The branch is brand new; up until two weeks ago it was a... family group? I'm guessing on the translation, but basically it wasn't really anything. The members there are really excited to now be a branch, because this will help them out a ton and they'll be getting a lot more support now. We're going to be heading out there twice a week to work with the members and to find new converts so that the branch can be strengthened and soon become a ward. We already have three people who live there who are relatives of members and they say they want to be baptized, so it seems like we'll be able to have a lot of success there. I'm looking forward to getting to know the area and the members.  The ward here in Paquitál is pretty nice; there aren't too many active members, but those who do go are very strong and help us out a lot. It seems like there's a lot of work we can do both within and without the ward, and we're here just for that, so we have our hands full and our days packed - always a good thing. :) But yeah, no complaints on my area or the ward or branch; all is well. Mina's pretty green and reminds me a lot of Coatza, except there's no ocean. There are, however, a bunch of petrochemical plants, so at times it kind of smells, but otherwise it's a nice place to be.
Mina has its own zone (answering a question of yours, Dad, from several weeks ago), and within that zone two districts - 16 missionaries in all in the city. My district has four companionships, including my own, and they're all good elders. We've been having a lot of success as a district, so I've interviewed a lot of people for baptism, and I enjoy it. I also enjoy teaching the district class every Tuesday - I find it not only helps them work harder, but I help myself be more focused and I learn a lot in the process too. It's very rewarding.
Okay, investigators. We have a young kid, Inés, who's going to be baptized this Saturday. His dad's kind of a drunk and his family sells beer for a living, so it's not the easiest situation, but he really likes church and is really excited about being baptized. We're hoping his family will see the blessings and become interested soon - we've been trying to help them out, and they're all for it for their son, but don't show much interest themselves. It's sad, but we do our best to help, and leave it in the Lord's hands. Anyway, Inés is really looking forward to his baptism, and it's going to be pretty special. We are teaching a couple, Deysi and Guillermo, who have been attending church for the past few months but haven't been able to get baptized because they're not married. Well, we finally got the necessary papers, so in the next two weeks we're hoping to get them married and into the water. :) They're kind of odd, to be honest, but very humble, and the Gospel has really changed them, so it's pretty neat to work with them. We also have those three people I mentioned in Canticas, plus another couple we met a couple weeks ago (the wife's name is Reyna, but we haven't really met the husband yet), and we're in the process of getting her birth certificate so that they too can be married and baptized. It seems like living together is a big thing here in Mexico... which is really too bad, because it can cause a lot of problems. But, at the least, the people we're teaching are willing to make the changes in their lives, so things are going well. This week we're going to focus our efforts on finding new investigators and we're going to work out tails off to do so. :) It's going to be a successful week, and I'm really excited.
Okay, so I still have to write quick, but now for personal replies.
Gabbie: You are awesome, you know that? All your emails are cool, and they get cooler every time. :) Everyone but you told me about riding horses last week - they all said that you did really well! That's awesome! You'll have to teach me when I get home. :) The Last Olympian... sounds familiar... what's it about? You asked for a mystery book suggestions last week - I know the perfect book: The Westing Game. I have it somewhere in my books, or you can check it out or something. I think Mom might have read it. It's really good. It was really cool to hear about Sister Butler's baby - congratulate her for me, okay? Thanks, Gabs, for always being an awesome sister and for always writing me. I really appreciate it and love reading your emails. Have a wonderful week! I love you very much! :)
Miranda: I keep laughing as I reread your emails, especially at the use of the word "dope"; apparently that became popular again. Also, I thought what you said about "über" was funny too (with my fancy Spanish keyboard I can get the little dots in there... haha). As Dad would say, every generation thinks they invented English slang. :) Haha, but really, your emails are always very interesting, and I love reading them. Thanks for all the updates on what's going on.  What else is new in life? No, the trees don't really change color here... at least, not from what I've seen. I'll keep you posted. Sorry it's not longer, but thank you for writing. I really appreciate it. I hope you have a wonderful week - I love you very much! :)
Mom: The weather has pretty much calmed down. They say it's going to keep raining the rest of the year, but I don't think it'll flood again, just normal rains. I actually get cold some nights. It's been pretty nice in the day, though; not too hot or anything. It's been neat to hear about what you've been doing.  It's crazy to think that Mikey comes home this week - it seems like just yesterday that he left on his mission.  As always, it's great to hear about Reagan and the rest of the family and see what everyone's up to. Thanks for always writing me so much. Thanks for everything you do. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much! :)
Dad: Thanks for the General Conference talks - this format works perfectly, and I've loved being able to read them. I have a big post-it note here full of things I wanted to say from your last few emails and from the talks, but, as usual, time gets the best of me. At least I feel like I caught up somewhat this week. Next week should be more relaxed, and I'll get off a handful of pictures too. I hope you, too, have a wonderful week. Thanks for all the support, encouragement, and love. I love you very much. :)
Thanks, everyone, for all that you do and have done for me. I love you all very, very much. More next week!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hurricane ~ Transfer ~ Flooding

Hey everyone!
Well, here we are, Tuesday afternoon... a lot of things have happened in the last week and a half, so let me see if I can explain. :)
First off, I arrived safely in Minatitlán and am doing great here, really loving the area and the ward and my companion. The reason I'm writing today is this: Yesterday we headed over to the house of a few members in the morning to wash the clothes, and by noon we were trapped by flooding. Well, not exactly trapped, but the water out in the street was up to our knees, and we were kind of hesitant to get wet, so we waited with the family for a while. Eventually the rain let up enough for us to go back to the house and shower and change into missionary clothes, with the intention of making it to a cyber and going to a few appointments. However, by the time we were ready the heavens had let loose with a torrential downpour over the city. We abandoned the search for a cyber and headed toward the bishop's house for a signature from a baptism my companion had the week before I got here. We were pretty much soaked within twelve seconds of stepping into the street, despite the heavy coats and raingear we had on. We started the trek towards the bishop's and found ourselves in a river where the street used to be. The water was up to our needs and had a pretty strong current. Later on the water was up to my waist in a couple parts, though we were mostly able to avoid those areas - and all the while raining lions and tigers.
So, we press on and finally make it to the bishop's, and wait there a while to see if the storm will let up. It didn't, so eventually we headed back out and were about halfway home when a member of the bishopric from a different ward saw us, picked us up, and drove us most of the way home. At that point it was just crazy outside - flooding in all of the streets, some areas completely covered in water, cars unable to get anywhere. Oh, and the wildlife! I saw more eels and snakes yesterday than I have in my entire life. Plus alligators and crocodiles and turtles. I only saw the turtles, but members have told us that they've been seeing crocodiles in their backyards. The church has been converted into a refuge for the members who need somewhere to go and we're pretty much just visiting all the members and making sure they're okay. It's pretty wild, and the rain hasn't let up. They say it's going to rain again in the evening, just as hard as yesterday. Oh boy.
So, that's why I'm not writing until now. Sorry for the delay, and thanks for getting both emails to me, And despite the weather I'm doing perfectly fine. I'm happy, healthy, and having fun, and really enjoying the rain (apart from the damage it's doing, of course). I've heard Coatza's in about the same shape. Hurricane Karl is here called huracán Karl, by the way. They've been talking about Matthew, but I haven't heard if it's a hurricane or a storm or what - but I guess it's doing some damage around here too, or will be. 
I don't really have much time right now, but a few quick things. I've done three baptismal interviews so far (jumping in with both feet, huh? - is that the correct phrase? hah), and they've gone well. I'll have to give more details next week, but being district leader has been pretty fun so far. Dad, the things you mentioned about my responsibilities were right on; looks like it hasn't changed much.
My companion is Elder Silva, has been out only one transfer, and is from Chihuahua. He's easy to get along with and a hard worker, and we're going to have fun and success together. Oh, and send Josh my best wishes and keep me posted on whatever news you hear from him, okay? I'm sure he'll do a great job as a missionary.
Thanks for the emails. Thanks for being who you are. I'll write more next week, send photos, and give a good update on how things are going. But again, no worries about me - I'm doing great and loving every minute. The people of Veracruz could use your continued prayers, however.
Thanks for everything. I love you all very much. Until next week!
 Elder Greer
Excerpt from 8-16
Hey everyone! It was great to receive this week's email ... 
First, last Tuesday at 6:30 am the bus left from the ADO station in Villahermosa. I was in the terminal by 6 with a bunch of other missionaries waiting. I got to talk and say goodbye to several of them that I've become good friends with over the past few months, including my companion, and then we loaded up and headed off. The ride was about two and a half hours and was pretty peaceful.
I got into Coatzacoalcos around 9:30 am. My companion's name is Elder Caudillo and he's from Chetumal, Quintana Roo - the state where Cancun is. He's been out for almost five months now. We have two wards, Gaviotas and Tesoro, and they both seem to be really strong.  I had the chance to meet many of the members and they've all been really nice. One sister last week gave us a baked potato for lunch - the first time I've had one here in Mexico. It seems like we have a lot of support in the work from the members here; they're very willing to accompany us, stop by for investigators on Sundays, and fellowship them at church (fellowship? befriend? I'm looking for the translation of hermanar...). We have around ten investigators who should be able to be baptized in the next month or so - a couple this week, a couple next week, and a couple families whose parents just need to get married and then they'll get baptized. So, the work is well under way here and it seems like the people are very accepting. Elder Caudillo is a hard worker and very eager about getting to work, so I'm really exciting for the coming five weeks; we should be able to see a lot of success and many blessings.
So far, I've really enjoyed Coatzacoalcos. The weather is nicer; a good ten or fifteen degrees cooler. It's still pretty humid, but also windy (off the ocean) and it rains fairly often, so things cool down nicely. In the nights I actually do get kind of cold, which to me is funny. Cold in Mexico? :) The area here is really beautiful, too. Very green and peaceful in my area. We border the Gulf of Mexico and I can see the water from our house. Next Monday we're going to head down to the beach to walk around; there's a place that looks like that one spot in Ireland - I want to say Giant's Staircase - where we can walk around and check things out. I'm excited for that, and also to get to know the area more and get into the swing of things here. I'm happy here - very pretty, very nice people, and nice weather. :)
I think I'll get into replies now and answer some of the questions you've asked.
Gabbie: I think it's pretty cool that you can check what the weather's like here all the way over there in Utah just by looking at Dad's phone. You'll have to keep up-to-date on the weather here and let me know if there are any huge storms coming, okay? The Lindon parade sounds like it was fun. I didn't know Lindon had a parade either, for that matter. :) I thought it was kind of funny that they would through candy at people's faces, though. But hey, free candy is free candy.  I don't think I can compete with how much you said you love me. :) But I do love you very much and I hope you have a wonderful week! Keep being an awesome little sister! Love you Gabs!
Miranda: Wow. That's pretty much all I can say - that motorcyling and fourwheeling experience sounds pretty crazy. I'm glad you had fun and that you didn't get seriously injured.  We may just have to go sometime after my mission and you can show me how to do it all. :) I'm glad you've been having a good week and that everything's going well. Keep it up and keep enjoying what little remains of summer! Thanks for being a good example to me and continue to be so for the rest of the family. I love you very much! :)
Mom: Both the family reunion and Steve and Alyssa's reception sound like they were lots of fun. Thanks for telling me all about it and say hello back to everyone who was there. It was cool to hear about what everyone's been up to and very strange to realize that school's just about to start up again. I've been out of school - and a missionary - for a year. Well, this Thursday marks the year for me in the mission... crazy! :) It really doesn't seem like it's been that long. I'll write more next week, but slightly pressed for time at the moment - my first preparation day here and there is a lot to take care of. I love you very much and hope you have a wonderful week! Love you Mom! :)
Dad: - thanks for your advice on being senior companion. From what I've experienced so far, that advice is exactly what I need to put into practice. And thanks for everything else you said - I'll have to reply more thoroughly to the questions and everything you wrote next week. Thank you for your great example and everything you've taught me. Say hi and congratulations to Steve and Alyssa for me. Have a wonderful week. I love you very much! :)
 Con mucho amor,
 Elder Greer
 Excerpt from 8-23
Hey everyone! Greetings from Coatzacoalcos! :) It's been a wonderful day - overcast and rainy and windy almost all day. I'm really liking this kind of weather. The only downside is that we washed our clothes in the morning and left them out to dry all day at a member's house - but then about an hour ago it started to rain pretty hard. So we had to rewash a few things and now we're waiting for them to dry again. Oh well. :)
Today was pretty neat though. We headed out to the beach, to the place I mentioned last week - Las Escolleras. It's this pier sort of thing that extends out about a kilometer into the ocean, with a little lighthouse and lookout point and stuff. We spent about an hour out there, taking pictures and hanging out on the rocks and having a good time (myself, my companion, and Elders Rodriguez and Faisal, making it our whole district). I snapped a bunch of pictures and I'm going to try to send some of them on today. It was pretty fun and I had a really good time. The only bad part was that my companion's camera fell into the ocean... :) He had set it up on a rock to take a picture of the four of us, but the rock wasn't level and it fell off. We distinctly heard it bounce off three rocks and then plop! into the water. He looked for it for a while, but no luck. The screen was broken anyway, so it wasn't a complete loss, but still - he lost a bunch of pictures. He didn't take it too hard, though; he was laughing with the rest of us.  It was, as you asked, Dad, pure awesomeness. :)
This past week has been pretty good. We're still working with eight or so investigators who are progressing very well, and are constantly trying to find new people to teach so that we can have a steady flow of baptisms. The people here in Coatza are pretty accepting and that there are plenty of them ready to hear the Gospel message. We just need to focus, plan well, and be diligent, and soon we'll see a lot of success.
Since I wasn't able to last week, let me talk a little bit about the investigators we're teaching at the moment. ("Let me," as if I need permission. Hah.) First, we have Janet and her daughters, Kenia and Dayani. The three of them are pretty much ready to be baptized.  They're really nice and we've become really good friends. After every lesson I teach them a little bit of English :) and we always have a good time and connect really well every time we teach them.
Next, Ariana.  She's a single mom with two little kids. She lives in pretty humble circumstances, but just found a new job and so it looks like things are picking up. She went to church last week, but wasn't able to come this week because something came up with her family. She's really interested in the church, though, and also wants to be baptized; her baptism should also be next Saturday. She had been looking for work and we had taught her once or twice, and we went to her house on Saturday to invite her to church. We taught the lesson and invited her; she accepted, saying that she felt like she needed to draw nearer to God to help her family out and to make the right decisions. She had barely finished speaking when her phone rang; the caller offered her a job and told her she could start working that Monday. She was pretty excited about it and it only reinforced her determination to join the church and live the Gospel. 
We're also teaching a lady named Liliana who's pretty special. Her husband (or partner, I guess), Carlos, is a member but had become inactive many years ago. Carlos has now returned to church and his testimony is really strong again; he talks about how now, no matter what, he's never leaving the church and is going to continue serving the rest of his life. Liliana has taken to the Gospel like a duck to water; you should hear her pray. She truly has a two-way conversation with the Lord and it's evident that the Gospel is planted deeply in her heart. The only thing that impedes her baptism is the fact that she's not married to Carlos, and due to problems in the divorces of their former spouses (they've both been married before), they need to travel to Oaxaca to obtain some papers in order to get married, and they're also in a tough financial situation and don't really have the money to travel or to get the papers. We're kind of in a waiting phase with them, but we're looking for ways to help out to make things move faster. The ward is also really concerned about them because they've made good friends there and everyone wants to see Liliana officially join the church. I hope we'll be able to see some progress quickly, and with the Lord's help I'm sure we will.
We're also teaching a few other people: Marco, Yazmín, and their son Enoc (just waiting for some papers to arrive so that they can get married and then be baptized), Olga and Pedro (a young couple we found this past week who are getting really excited the more they read from the Book of Mormon), Alex (a friend of Kenia's who just needs his mom's permission and then he can be baptized), and a handful of others who are in various stages of teaching and progression. The work is going well, and with each passing day we can push it even further and find even more people to teach.  I truly have been blessed in many ways and with more exact obedience come more specific and powerful blessings.
Oh, another cool thing from this past week. I, like you, Gabbie, gave a talk in church yesterday! Mine was about testimonies: what they are and how to share one. I would include it here (like you did), but for one thing, I gave it in Spanish :) - and plus I only wrote out a couple of notes and scriptural references to guide me. I was only asked to speak for about eight minutes. I think it went over pretty well, and I received quite a few compliments afterward. It was a good chance to present myself in front of the ward and let the members get to know me a little better, and it was fun to prepare and give the talk. I've come to really like speaking in church or in front of crowds of people; I've done it often enough on the mission that it's become a pleasure and a lot of fun. Oh, and Dad, I shared your story about being young and hearing everyone else testify about receiving a testimony through some great experience, and then praying and being told, "Hey, you've already got one." (At least, that's what I remember from the story. Haha.) I shared the scripture you had told me about in D&C where the Lord talks to Oliver Cowdery about his own testimony. Like I said, it turned out pretty well and was a fun experience.
What else, what else.... (Chinese food guy). Ah. Next week we have the opportunity to have a conference with Elder Johnson, the Area President of Mexico.  I'm really looking forward to it. He is such a powerful speaker and person and I know we're going to learn a lot of new things. So, next week (or perhaps the week after) I should have a lot to report on. I'm also just really excited for the week that's coming up - new chances to push myself, fix my mistakes, help other children of God be happy, and learn more and improve. It's going to be fun. :)
Oh, and one more thing. I received mail. I got a couple letters from Lisa, one from Laura, two from Brother and Sister Windley, the card that you (the family) sent, and a letter from Kiley, all of which were very awesome to read.  It's so nice of the Windley's to write, and it always gives me a smile to read their words and feel of their love. It's great to hear from friends as well. 
Thanks, everyone, for all you do for me. You are in my prayers, as I know I am in yours. Until next week!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer
Excerpt from 8-30
This past week has been a good one. I've pretty much slipped into the groove of working here, and we've started to see an increase in our success. We've been working a lot with four investigators: Janet, Kenia, Dayani, and Ariana (I mentioned them last week). Well, all four came to church yesterday, and are going to be baptized this Saturday! :) They're all really excited for their baptisms, and so are we. This week we'll be visiting them practically every day to finish up the teaching, prepare them further for baptism, and have their interviews. Saturday will be a good day. I'll be sure to send pictures and everything next week. I've become good friends with them and it's been a real blessing to get to know them and learn from them.
Another exciting thing this week is that we'll be having the special conference with Elder Johnson, the Mexico Area President, this Friday. It'll be in the nearby city Minatitlán, which means getting up early to catch a bus. I'm really excited for it, especially since I've already listened to Elder Johnson speak (back in February or so) and he'll definitely teach me a lot and help me improve. I'm looking forward to it anxiously, and next week will also report on the things I learn.
Oh, and Dad - happy birthday! :) I hope it's a great one. Let me know how it goes. Chow for now! :)
 Con amor,
 Elder Greer
Excerpt from 9-6
Hey everyone! :) It's great to once again sit down and relate a bit of what has been going on the last seven days here in the Villahermosa Mexico Mission. (Here in Mexico they would say "the last eight days," which sometimes makes it pretty confusing. Haha.) 
First, I was glad to hear that Dad's birthday was enjoyable. I too celebrated the day by going to Dairy Queen after our district meeting in the morning and buying a Blizzard. :)
Okay, a quick update on our investigators. Ariana, Janet, Kenia, and Dayani were supposed to be baptized this past Saturday. They all had their baptismal interviews and they all passed... but none of them were baptized. :( For whatever reason, last-minute things came up that made them postpone their baptisms. However, they're all still excited and still want to be baptized, so this week we're going to focus a lot of them and make sure that this weekend they hit the water. It was kind of sad that all of them fell through, but it taught me something about obedience. President Castañeda has set some goals for us as missionaries each week (30 lessons a week, etc.) and has promised us that if we complete with these goals and are obedient, we will have a baptismal service each week. This past week we were pretty busy with getting ready for the baptisms and kind of slacked a little on the other goals. We did well, but didn't quite hit all of them - and I think that's the reason (or at least part of it) why they weren't baptized this past week. Now, of course, I recognize that everyone has their free agency and that many factors were involved (temptations, random occurrences, their possible hesitation or doubts, etc.), but I do know that the Lord can work miracles if we as His servants are obedient. For me it was a little kick in the pants, a reminder to keep working hard every single day and give my all. So this coming week should be pretty awesome. :)
Oh, just in passing, we also have an investigator we're working with, Pedro, who's pretty excited and interested in the Church. He is willing to be baptized; we just need to teach him first, and he needs to get married. He's really funny; he reminds me a lot of John (my uncle), if John were Mexican and had a history of drinking and living in the streets. Pedro's a mechanic and is always telling jokes and saying off-the-wall things that are pretty clever. It's been fun teaching him and I'm looking forward to seeing his progress this week.
This past Friday we had a special conference with President Johnson in Minatitlán. We had to get up around 4 am to get there on time. It was a wonderful conference. President Johnson began the meeting by reading a part of D&C 72 where it talks about the Atonement and the doctrine of Christ, and then asked for comments. For the next three hours we gave comments, quoted scriptures, shared thoughts, and listened to his explanations and advice. He taught us a lot, but the Spirit taught us even more as we learned about the Atonement and how to apply it in our lives and the lives of others. It was a really special conference and I learned a lot. I especially liked a scripture mentioned - 1 John 4:19. I've always liked it, but we discussed it a little more in depth, along with the humility of Christ and how He gave His life for us, not only on the cross but in every moment and with every action. He was completely humble and completely selfless, and that gave Him power. I wish I could capture all that was said and felt during that conference and transmit it home. It was a great experience and really taught me a lot more about how to follow Christ's example and be obedient.
Well, everyone, it's been another great week and the one that's coming should be even better. Remember to always hang on to the iron rod and follow the impressions of the Spirit. I love you all very much. Have a wonderful week!
Con amor,
 Elder Greer

Excerpt from 9-13
... It rained super hard last night, and there are a couple areas here in Coatzacoalcos where it floods pretty badly. One of them is pretty close by, where the family lives with which we usually wash our clothes. We headed over there in the morning to do the laundry, and they were completely flooded. The water was up to our knees as we were just trying to get to their house. We went inside and found that there was a good foot of water in their house (and muddy dirty water at that). They had been up since four am trying to clear the house out and move everything off the floor. So, we spent all morning helping them clean up their house and get things dried off. It was a mess at first, but ended up okay at the end. Then we had to wait for the water level to drop sufficiently outside so that we could get to the washing machine. The sister made us pizzas for lunch as a recompense, which was awesome, but it killed a lot of time that we would have otherwise used for normal P-day activities. 
Ariana was baptized and everything went very well. She wasn't able to be confirmed yesterday, due to a conflict in her schedule, but she will be this coming Sunday. She was really happy and the members really welcomed her in with open arms. If I can, I'll send a picture today; if not, it'll have to be next week. We had planned the baptism of Janet, Kenia, and Dayani, but then a couple things happened. First, on Thursday Kenia told us she didn't want to be baptized, that she wanted to wait a while. Then, on Saturday, the actual date of Janet and Dayani's baptism (they still wanted to go through with it), they were nowhere to be seen. We went to their house, their grandma's house, called them, and nothing. Same thing yesterday. We really don't know what went on, but we're going to stop by tonight and see what's up. Hopefully they're fine and that we can still keep working with them and that this will only be a temporary setback. Maybe they just had cold feet at the last minute... it's sad, but I guess it happens, and we'll keep doing our best to help them make the right decision. But to reiterate, Ariana's baptism was awesome and everyone was really happy. We're still working with Pedro and he's doing pretty well, and we have a baptism planned for this Saturday - it's an eleven-year-old named Cristina; all her extended family members are members of the Church, but she just hasn't wanted to get baptized... up til now. But right now she's really excited and looking forward to it. She could use your prayers to make sure that everything goes well this weekend.
So we have some pretty exciting things coming up, and it's going to be another good week. Also, it's the last week of the transfer. My companion's been here for three transfers now, so I'm guessing that he'll be transferred and that I'll stay here - but you never know.
That reminds me. I received a package this week! :) I received as well a letter from Lisa and one from the Windleys; send my thanks to them. The package was from Mom and contained a red tie (a very nice one) and a package of gummy frogs (delicious, and now gone). If I remember right, it was sent near the beginning of August and arrived in Mexico around the end of August. This might be a good sign; maybe packages will start arriving without problem (maybe even the lost ones? Let's hope so! :) Thanks, Mom, for sending it. I appreciate it a lott.
Lastly, I was sad to hear that Reagan's been having a bit of trouble lately. Everyone, give him a big hug from me. Maybe that'll cheer him up. :) Keep doing good things and working hard, and keep being an awesome family. Mom, Dad, Miranda, Gabbie - I love you very much. I pray for you all continually and I feel your prayers. I feel very blessed to have you all in my life, because thanks to your influence I am where I am right now.
 Keep on keepin' on, as Dad would say, and have a wonderful week! I love you all! :)
Con mucho amor,
 Elder Greer
Excerpt from 9-20
Good afternoon everyone! Greetings (and farewells) from Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz! It's a warm, sunny day here in Coatza, and I imagine it's something similiar back home in Utah. I hope everyone's well and that everything is going great for all of you. It's been a good week here for me, and the week that's just beginning is sure to be filled with many new adventures. Let's get down to it!
I'm slightly low on time since I have a slow computer, I had a bunch of things to email to the mission offices, and I'm backing up my photos to a flash drive I just bought (first time in the whole mission) - so this is going to be quick. Sorry. Anyway, transfer call came in - and to my great surprise, both I and my companion are being changed! They're sending an ex-AP and a greenie to fill our places, which should be pretty interesting It's very rare, from what I've seen, that they pull two missionaries out at the same time, but cool by me. I really have enjoyed Coatza and I'm going to miss the members here a lot, but I'm off to new adventures.
I've been assigned to serve in Paquitál, Minatitlán, as District Leader, and my companion's name is Elder Silva. I was pretty surprised by the jump up to district leader, but hey, it's going to be a new adventure and I'm pretty excited for it. Mina is a nearby city and is currently experiencing some flooding, from what I've heard. 
This past Saturday we baptized Cristina, an 11-year-old girl, and it was pretty cool. Also, I had the chance to confirm Ariana a member yesterday; also very neat. It has been a good week for us, and we'll be leaving the area in pretty good condition for the nest Elders.
Also, today I received an email from Josh telling me about his trial mission and everything. I wrote a quick reply. Totally and completely awesome to hear about it, and I know he'll be an awesome missionary. I'm excited to hear about his adventures.
 I love you all very, very much. I'm still having the time of my life and loving the work here in Mexico. Keep being wonderful and having a good time with life and I'll talk to you more next week. Have a great week! I love you all! :)
 Con amor,
 Elder Greer