Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! :)
It's a wonderful and sunny day here in Villahermosa, and I'm doing really well. The email from home was especially great this week and I'm glad to hear everyone's doing well and having a good time. Things here have been going well too. We finally caught the mouse in our house, for one thing. :) Also, the zone conference was very inspiring, we have a baptism this weekend, and General Conference and Easter Sunday are pretty much here. Things couldn't be better.

The President and his wife talked a lot about perfection, how it is truly the goal of every missionary (indeed, every member), and how we should not be satisfied with breaking rules or "slipping a little" but should instead be focused in every moment to obey with exactness. Obedience is the fundamental law of the Gospel, and every blessing we receive is predicated upon that obedience. Seeing that we are in the Lord's service and trying to help His children, shouldn't we want all the blessings we can possibly receive to remove every hindrance in our path? Even further, as representatives of Jesus Christ, shouldn't we seek to act exactly as he did? Very good questions, I think. :)

The President gave us two examples. in summary, one was about an air traffic controller who has a 98% success rate. This means that for every hundred planes that come in, two of them crash and burn in a fiery inferno that consumes everyone inside. (Quite the pretty picture, huh?) Normally we might say that a 98% success rate is wonderful. So let's say you go to the airport because your family's coming in to visit you. They call you up to a security desk and the air traffic controller comes up and says, "Listen, the plane crashed and everyone died. Sorry about that. But hey, nobody's perfect!"

The President gave this second example using a surgeon: You go in to have your appendix removed. They lay you down on the table and start preparing you, and the doctor leans over and whispers, "Look, I should tell you right now that I'm not exactly sure where to find the appendix. I mean, I went to school and everything, but anatomy was in the morning and I'm not really a "morning person," so I didn't always go - but hey, you know how it is, I was a college kid and was just trying to get through school and have fun. Anyway, let's see what we can do." You wake up after the surgery and the doctor shrugs and says, "Well, to be honest, I opened up the wrong side of your body. Turns out the appendix is on the right!  My bad on that one. But hey, nobody's perfect!"

The question is: Which doctor do you want operating on you, the one who studied or the one who slept in? Applying it to missionary work: Who will be a better representative of the Savior, the missionary who studies diligently every day and obeys with exactness, or the one who woke up at 6:31 instead of 6:30?  Truly, what does one minute change? Well, it changes me from an obedient missionary entitled to the Spirit of the Lord and the authority from being His representative to a disobedient slacker who doesn't understand his calling enough to wake up on time. (Sheesh. Kinda harsh there.) Which do I want to be?

Two more things that I liked that tie in with this - one, the myth that nobody's perfect. First, God is perfect. So is Jesus Christ. We have the Father's spiritual DNA, if you will, and it is a promise of the Gospel that we can progress to become even as He is. Secondly, a number of people mentioned in the scriptures were perfect. Visions of the Celestial Kingdom show Abraham, Enoch, and others there - they achieved perfection through the glorious power of the Atonement. The key is that they didn't do it alone, but with the help of the Lord. So it is with us. We can't do it alone, but with God's help we can obey with perfection and receive the promised blessings. The other part I wanted to mention was a reference to the 2,000 stripling warriors of the prophet Helaman. Alma 57 talks about what happened when they went to war. Verse 21 says that they obeyed and observed to perform every commandment with exactness. The Spanish word for "observe" there is "procurar," which signifies that they both sought to perform every commandment and were successful. The stripling warriors didn't just give obedience a shot and then say, "Oh, nobody's perfect" - no, they did obey with exactness every commandment given them. This resulted, as the verse says, that they were successful in their endeavors; we read that though many were wounded, none were killed, and they were the key element in the Nephite's victory over the Lamanites. They obeyed with exactness and were exceedingly blessed.

Zone Conference definitely gave me a lot to think about and a lot to work on. I'm really excited about this new direction - perfect obedience - because it means a way to obtain the blessings of heaven and see the Lord's hand even more in my life. Bring it on, I say! :)

As for how the work is progressing - as I mentioned, we have a baptism this weekend! Maritza decided earlier this week to be baptized right after the Saturday afternoon session of General Conference. She didn't quite meet her goal of reading through the Book of Mormon before baptism (the Isaiah chapters of 2 Nephi slowed her down, and I don't blame her), but she's finishing up Jacob right now, which is a pretty great achievement in itself, and she realized through her study and prayers and church attendance that what she really, truly needs is to be baptized. I couldn't be happier about it. She understands really really well what she reads in the scriptures and really studies and learns from them. Having the gift of the Holy Ghost with her will help her even more as she continues along the Gospel path. It was a cool surprise for us (especially given that it's Elder Enriquez's last Saturday in the mission), and we're really looking forward to it and thanking Heavenly Father for helping her take this decision. Thanks, everyone, for all the prayers of support; your faith has helped. :)

We also had a really cool experience this week with contacting - we met a man named Rojer who's extremely excited about hearing the message.  He told us that he saw us in the street as he was heading back to his house, and wanted to talk to us because he felt the prompting that he should, but didn't have time because he needed to get home quickly - and fifteen minutes later we show up at his door. That in itself was pretty cool, but when we returned the next day to teach him about the Restoration - man, it was incredible. He was so excited to hear about all the things we taught him - excited enough to exclaim "¡Que padre!" after hearing the First Vision, or the history of the Book of Mormon, for example. Haha. It was so much fun teaching him because he really ate it up. The Spirit was really strong. He accepted everything and kept exclaiming how cool everything was and how he couldn't believe he hadn't heard these things before. Teaching him about the nature of the Godhead was pretty cool - after hearing about the First Vision, he had a question about it, and I explained to him that the Father and the Son have bodies, that the Holy Ghost is just a spirit, etc. Afterward he just shook his head in amazement and kept saying, "That is amazing. It makes perfect sense, but I've never heard that before. How incredible!" He was thrilled to receive a copy of the Book of Mormon and treated it like it was made of gold. Truly, this man has been prepared by our Father in Heaven to listen to the message of the restored Gospel, and I'm so excited to continue teaching him and helping him come to know the Savior and His teachings better. This is the whole point of missionary work, and I love it. :) A very neat experience all around, and I'm extremely grateful for being a part of it.

I'm also really excited for General Conference.  This weekend will be incredible. I can't wait to listen to the counsel and teachings of the Prophets and Apostles of the Lord. I hope (and encourage, and exhort) that everyone will pay very close attention and will listen with an open heart and mind to the whisperings of the Spirit. Also, take notes - not necessarily of the words said, but of the personal revelation received; it will help very much down the road and prove to be a blessing. I can't wait to compare what we learned next week. It will also be really cool for you all to be able to go to the Sunday morning session - say hi to President Monson for me! :)

Gabbie: Hola hermanita! :) I laughed at the story about Nikka in the park, and also the "just in" joke. I'd never heard that before! ;) Mom and Dad have said that they wanted to make my middle name "Time." Get it? :) (Of course, that wouldn't really work, since I'm usually late to things. Haha. But hey, at least they got it right with your name, huh?) Sounds like a good time with Lisa too. By the way, part of the new "being perfect" thing is following the mission rules with exactness - meaning that I can now only email the mission president and immediate family (Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters). So, Gabs, it's your official job for this week to tell everyone that I appreciate all letters and emails, but I cannot reply by email.  Put on your "mean man" face and report back to me next week! Dad told me about your negotiation skills with buying those trolls from a lady off ksl, so I think you are up to the task! Haha.
Sounds like things are going good all the way around - can you believe it's almost April? You're getting closer to 12 years old! Crazy! Yes, Gabs, I know that you love me very much (though it seems you love my room more - haha). I miss you too, and love you just as much! I hope you have a fantastic week! Thanks for writing such a great letter! Corazon, Justin. :)

Miranda: What an email! - thank you; I really appreciate it. Do me a favor and give Steve and Alyssa my congratulations, tell them I'm excited for them, and that I expect letters and details and pictures and all that nonsense. :) Congratulations on the GPA - that's not bad at all! What's your cumulative like now? Can you keep it above 3.89?  Keep up the good working in the coming couple of months of school - it will definitely be worth it, both now and in the future. Crazy stuff about you and Jen - a dislocated rib? Yikes. Be careful! At least you're getting it all figured out, and learning a lot about physical therapy at the same time. It's evident from your vocabulary that you're learning a lot and really getting into it. Someday you might just be as smart as me! :) Haha. Just kidding. Seriously, though, awesome that you're learning a lot and doing well in school and getting good grades. That makes me proud.  Awesome that you went to the Festival of Colors! I liked the picture Dad sent. Remember when I went last year? Who did you go with? I loved it and I'm sure it was a lot of fun. Pretty crazy though, huh?  Be sure to tell me next week about your thoughts about conference, including the YW broadcast and everything. It would be really cool to share insights and impressions. Thanks, as always, for the wonderful letter and for being such a good friend. I love you very much. Have a great week! :)

Mom: I can't exactly picture you being lazy next week (note to everyone else: if Mom really is lazy at any point, be sure to take a picture to document the once-in-a-lifetime occurrence!), but be sure to take advantage of the relaxed schedule and have fun! That was a good question about the typical job of the people here. Quite a few are teachers, and a lot of them go out to the little communities and ranches out in the country to teach there. Every other person has a little store in their house (the word they use for these little stores is "abarrotes," which is also food storage - a pretty good description). A lot of people work in food service - restaurants and fisheries and selling tacos or hot dogs at the side of the road. A good majority of the sisters who work do so ironing or doing laundry or cleaning for other people during the day. There are also a lot of mechanics, carpenters, etc. and a lot of car washes (not as much here as in Tuxtla, though). That's what I've seen so far, though I've also met lawyers, doctors, and so on. Those seem to be the major jobs though. Fish is pretty common here, and computers not as much.
As for sangria, I too had heard of it as a type of wine, but here they also have it as a normal soda beverage like Sprite or whatever. The picture looks almost exactly like grapes, and it tastes a little like them too. Or maybe I'm just getting drunk every other day. :) Haha. Pretty funny. It's really tasty stuff though. At the conference I received two packages from you and one from Laura. I'm assuming the third one arrived just slightly too late and that I'll see it in 6 weeks. :) Speaking of, thank you very much for everything you sent. I should have expected the overabundance of CDs (Dad, did you see what she put it there? Then again, you know how my mother gets...). Honestly, though, thank you very, very much. I love waking up to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Thanks! :) I laughed a lot picturing Reagan during PE. I can only imagine trying to make a dozen autistic kids run laps. How they do it, I don't know, but cool to hear that Reagan enjoys it. Also, I loved what you said about how people say you should take time to stop and smell the roses, but you like to smell them while you are weeding around them. I think that was really profound - though I'm not exactly sure just yet what it means in full. Blessings come during moments of trial? Or when we work for them? Or when we're down on our knees? Ooh - I like that a lot. :) Thanks again for everything you sent, and for the email and for everything else you've done for me throughout my mission and my entire life. I really appreciate everything and love you very very much. Have a great week! :)

Dad:  I still want to address what you talked about last week, like I said, but that involves telling you about an experience I had and that will take quite a while. Perhaps better if I write it in a letter and send it, kind of the same way you did.  In the meantime - as always, I enjoyed all your comments. Awesome to hear about Reagan. That's really a great thing that he's drinking that stuff and getting a little more nutrients in his diet. I always pray for his health and happiness and it's great to hear about improvements like this. Hopefully Josh's call comes this Wednesday. I really liked what you said about repentance and forgiveness. The Guide to the Scriptures in the Spanish Book of Mormon talks about how repentance is turning toward God and is a new way of looking at God, oneself, and life in general. It also mentions how it springs from a love for God and a desire to obey Him. It's true that we often think of repentance as a necessary evil, but in fact it's a necessary good, as you said - very well put. Repentance is the way to become more like Christ. It doesn't just bring us from sin to neutral ground, but toward righteousness and purity and virtue and becoming more like the Savior. Thus, repentance is a joyful act, a purifying action that lets us partake of the love of God and grow and mature spiritually.  I really like that story in the scriptures (Luke 5, man with palsy), of how we really should look at being forgiven as the greater of the two miracles.
Right now I'm in 3 Nephi, actually, and planning to finish through to the end before conference on Saturday - part of a goal I set a couple months back. But I'll be starting it up again immediately afterward, so if you want to go from the beginning that would be cool. I would love to share insights back and forth that way as we both read through it.

This is the last week of this transfer - which, by the way, means I will probably write next Tuesday, rather than Monday - and so next week everything could change. (There's a decent chance I might become senior companion this transfer - yikes!) I'm pretty sure I'll still be here in Villahermosa though. Just expect the email on Tuesday. But anyway - thank you, Dad, for everything. Your example has taught me so much and I love that I continue to learn from you. I love you very much. Have a great week.

Thanks, everyone, for the continued love and support. I'm happy, healthy, and having the time of my life. Enjoy conference and Easter, remember the Savior, and I'll talk (write) to you next week!
Con amor,
Elder Greer

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saludos de Villahermosa

¡Buenas tardes, y saludos de Villahermosa!

It's been another week - another very, very short week, to be honest. Time is flying for me. We work hard and have fun and then I look around and find that another week has passed, when it truly feels like it's been only a day.  Anyway, to sum up: time's going by quickly for me, and I'm loving every minute of it.

This past week, the weather's been a little strange. People keep telling me that the weather's supposed to pick up (they see that I'm sweating and dying of heat stroke and they tell me that it's nothing and describe to me how much I'm going to hate my life in April and May; I want to say, Hey, you're not really helping the situation!), but this past week has been off and on. We had a couple days of heat interspersed with rain and clouds. Today's been cloudy and cool, though no rain so far. It poured yesterday in the morning. But hey, I'm all for a little more rain before summer hits, so all is well.

The work continues to move forward, as always. We haven't seen much of Adriana, Taira, and Carlos this week, but we're hoping to pass by Adriana tonight or tomorrow. I think they're progressing; we're going to keep working with them to help them fully re-integrate with the Church and the Gospel. The less-active that we reactivated a while back, Carlos, is doing awesome in his YM calling and seems extremely happy every time we see him. It's awesome to see that long-term changes that small and simple actions can have, and the effects of the Spirit on the human soul. Neat stuff. The three kids are doing well too; they're always excited to go to church and to activities and everything and they love to learn more. They've got some bright futures ahead of them, especially considering that their background is pretty rough. Also very cool.

This week we had a good experience with an investigator named Hipólito. He's the "golden contact" I mentioned last week. We had a lesson with him on Tuesday and it was pretty much perfect. We'd left him with 3 Nephi 11 and he read it several times and loved it. We asked him how it went and right away he told us how he liked the part where the people heard the voice of God three times, but didn't understand the first two, until finally the voice penetrated to their hearts and it was then that Jesus descended. He compared it to us as humans; a lot of times we don't listen when God is calling to us, but when we really pay attention and seek to understand, we instantly see the marvelous blessings He has in store for us. Needless to say, we were surprised by the comment, and very grateful, because it was evident he had read the chapter with real intent and an open heart.  We then asked him about his prayer, and he basically explained the fruits of the Spirit to us (see Galatians 5 - it mentions love, peace, kindness, patience, etc.). He used pretty much the words we always use to teach people how God answers prayers. He received an answer to his prayer and recognized it for what it was. Very exciting. We then taught him a bit more in-depth the message of the Restoration, with a focus on priesthood authority and the need for baptism. He understood and accepted everything very well and provided several comments that were dead-on and exactly what we were trying to explain. It was an amazing lesson, short and sweet and full of the Spirit. He told us that he wants to be baptized once he's prepared himself and investigated the church a little more. Perfect all around. We left him with another section of the Book of Mormon to read and set a time to return. Unfortunately, his job is kind of hectic and we haven't been able to really talk to him since - we've only seen him in passing as he was about to leave and things like that. He wasn't able to come to church yesterday because he was working, but he said he's going to talk to his boss and see if he can get Sundays off to come to church. He's extremely willing to learn, to make commitments with God, and to come unto Christ; it's been a really neat experience every time we've had the chance to talk to him. We're going to be teaching him more this week and I'm excited to help him progress toward baptism and receiving the blessings of the restored Gospel in his life. We have definitely seen the Lord's hand in helping us find him and blessing us with the Spirit in the lessons and in Hipólito's life. More good is sure to follow. :)

We have Zone Conference on Wednesday and I'm really looking forward to it (in part because I'll (hopefully) receive some letters and such, but mostly because of the instruction we'll receive and Spirit that will be felt). The focus is on perfection. It's something I've been really excited about lately; we were told a week or so ago that we are expected to be perfect missionaries and that we should settle for nothing less. Often we hear/say the phrase, "Hey, nobody's perfect," but President Velasco told us that's no excuse and that we should strive for perfection. The zone leaders have talked to us a lot about the topic, and it's pretty interesting and I feel it will really help the work improve - but I'm sure I'll have more to share after the conference, so I'll save it for next week.

On a sad note, yesterday my companion's grandpa passed away. I guess they amputated his leg at the knee a while back and it didn't close up right and became infected and ended up being too much for his body. The President called him yesterday to talk to him about it, and he ended up getting online to talk with his family about it for a little while. He's understandably very sad about it, but today has picked up a little and with time I'm sure he'll be okay. He's made the determination to work these last two weeks of his mission like crazy, which will help as well and is something I'm excited about. One helpful thing is that he's a missionary and blessed with many opportunities to feel the Spirit and to seek God's help to get him through this difficult time. It's rough, but everything will work out okay in the end. That is the promise of the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Gospel in general, after all. It's what we preach every day.

And that was more or less this past week :)

First off, I wanted to tell you that, as it turns out, Mexico DOES practice Daylight Savings Time... I think. :) I'm not sure when (that might be useful information) or how much time goes forward or backward (also could come in handy), but my companion says that he thinks they do it somewhere near the end of April "or something like that." A little vague, but oh well. :) It sounds to me like you've been having an interesting week! I'm glad the arm's doing good, but I was sorry to hear about the falling-on-your-back incident. Ouch! Good thing Dad came, huh? (because he can fix anything! ha) What you said about your no-sugar week was pretty funny. Maybe next time you'll get all the way up to three days! :) And Reagan and BYU from yesterday sounds really awesome. I bet it's really cool to see him learning more and more and still being the same old Regs. Sounds like the flute is coming along pretty well, but I have a question. Now, it's been a while since I've taken music, but isn't B# the same thing as a C? Or have I gone completely out of my mind?  As for finding a frog on my leg - nope, I was pretty lucky this week. No strange animals crawling up me in the shower. Though I will tell you about something strange. There are these little lizards that live everywhere; they're harmless and don't really do anything at all but run around really fast, and they're always climbing up people's walls and on their ceilings and stuff. At first it kinda freaked me out, but after a while I got used to it; nobody really pays them any attention. (But picture a lizard as long as one of your fingers just crawling around your house wherever and whenever it wants... kinda strange, huh?) A couple weeks back, though, we were eating in a member's house and we saw a black-and-red one on the ceiling (they're normally yellow or green), and it was at least three times as big as normal. And, Gabbie... it jumped. It was super fast and it could jump a good two feet in the air. Also, this kind bites, and some of them are poisonous. Let me tell you, it kinda freaked me out - and everyone else too; they're really rare. Not a fun experience, and it put me on the watch again for crazy little jumping lizards. Fun times, huh? :) Gabs, as always, thanks for your wonderful letters and for being a great little sister. Keep up all the good work, and have a wonderful week! I love you very much! :)

Sounds like lacrosse has been going well, despite losing. Keep working hard at it, but most importantly, keep taking care of your knee (and the rest of your body too). I'm glad you liked the story about Taira; it was definitely a cool experience and a strong testimony-builder that God truly does work miracles in our lives. I think it was President Kimball who said something like, "God sends his angels among us to lift our burdens and help us in our lives. Often, however, these angels are mortal beings just like us - the people that cross our paths every day and are given the inspiration to lift us out of whatever situation we find ourselves in and set us on a course for the better." It's definitely an amazing experience to be a part of something like that, to know that God used you as an angel to make someone's life better. Sounds pretty incredible, right? It is - and it's not something that only applies to missionaries or Church leaders or doing service projects, but to everyone. I've been studying my Patriarchal Blessing a lot (as always), and it mentions several times about how my childhood and the things I've learned are to be guides for me throughout my life to lead me where I should go. And I've been thinking about how really, truly, the small and simple acts are those that change people's lives and make the world a better place, as it says so often in the scriptures.

Okay. New paragraph, and watch how I masterfully tie this all together. :) God places other people in our lives to help us learn, progress, and be happy. That's one essential reason we have families - it's all for our benefit. God often works through us to help others, and through others to help us.  So, through those "small and simple means," great things are brought to pass in my life - I learn faith, humility, love, charity, and a whole bunch of other things. Truly, those small acts of faith and kindness are really what make the difference - in relationships and in people's happiness. Those small acts lead to great things. We can be angels in the lives of our friends and family.  It just requires a little bit of attention and forethought, and a little bit of selflessness, and I promise the blessings are great. Amazing things happen. Something like spending time with someone in the family doing what they want to do, or telling them you love them, or something small - those are the experiences that will bring us the most happiness and joy in this life. Those are the memories that stick with us.

Well, this sort of turned into a sermon; sorry. :) I guess the point of all of that is that I am extremely appreciative of everything that each one of you has done in my life. Anyway - I hope some of this has been relevant or helpful to all of you. Miranda, back to you. :).

You talked about eating spicy food - I'm pretty sure I'm building up my tolerance for it, because believe me, I've eaten some extremely spicy things here. Jalapeños? No problem now. (I suck 'em down like Coca-Cola! haha.) It'll be interesting to come home and see if the things that used to be really spicy still are. (The frog was cute though!) Does it really seem like I've been gone for a long time?  Well, Miranda, you're a great sister and a great friend, and sounds like you're doing well. Keep working hard and having fun, and have a wonderful week. Thank you for the great email. I love you very much! :)

I laughed about you having to take the girls back to school or bring them things that they've forgotten. Well do I remember elementary school and always forgetting things. :) Pretty exciting that the flowers are starting to come up a little. To be honest, I actually miss working in the yard a little. I had a lot of fun doing it. You'll have to send me pictures of the yard and house when spring and summer really hit and everything is in full bloom. By the way, I loved the pictures of Reagan and Nikka, just hanging out and having fun... man. Awesome. :)  The Spanish is going really well for me. Practically everyone I meet tells me that I speak Spanish really well, even down to the accent and everything; after speaking in church, they told me that I speak almost like a native. Pretty cool, huh? I do think in Spanish a lot; not always (for example, right now is pure English), but often, and it's becoming a lot more natural to speak in Spanish. I don't have to focus so much on the language; I just talk and listen and understand. The Lord has definitely blessed me with that.

218 days? Wow. That sounds like a long time. :) But you're right, who's counting? Haha. Mom, thank you for all the support and love and for your example to me. I always love reading the emails and hearing how everything is going. Have a wonderful week. I love you very much! :)

Dad!: Man, I loved your email this week. Lots of cool things you talked about. There is definitely that underlying peacefulness about being a missionary that you mentioned. It's a life free of worry and stress and problems, and filled instead with love and Christ and the Gospel. Sure, tough times come, but it's like we've talked about before: it's a wonderful experience and a blast and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now. I've learned so much and become a little more like the Savior, and have seen amazing blessings in my personal life. I've learned more patience, more kindness, more unconditional love. Truly a great experience. As for the whole "American" thing: yeah, people have commented, "Hey, we're Americans too!"  What happens more often is that they ask me where I'm from, I say the US, and they respond with something like, "Well, that's obvious. When I asked where you're from I meant where in the United States." Haha. Kinda funny. Honestly, everything you said about "why do we worship God?" was awesome, and I learned a lot and really liked your insights.  I had an incredible experience about a month back, and it kind of ties into this topic, so I'm going to reread what I wrote in my "spiritual experiences" journal (thanks, by the way, for urging me to have one) and next week I'll comment more fully on what you said.  Also, very neat what you said about the homecoming talks.  I liked the fact that you said that Sister Silva's talk was so powerful and that it consisted of pure testimony. Alma talks a lot about the virtue of the word and the power of bearing pure testimony, and I can also say that a pure testimony is something incredibly special and powerful. (By the way, what are you studying in the scriptures these days? I'm nearing the end of Alma right now.) That's why I love the method of contacting we've been using. Testimonies can change people's lives by inviting the Spirit and allowing God to work miracles. Truly an incredible thing. Sounds cool about the merger, and also your comments about Reagan. He's definitely a cool kid, and my favorite brother. :)

Thanks for keeping me posted about Josh. And thank you for everything you said about being proud of me and everything. Those things really do help me keep going and give all that I have, and I appreciate hearing things like that from everyone. Dad, thanks for everything and have a wonderful week. I love you very much.

Take care everyone. Remember that I love you and remember to trust in the Lord. Until next week!
Elder Greer

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reactivating and knocking doors

¡Buenísimas tardes! Sounds like everyone's had a pretty good week. I enjoyed reading the email very much - as usual. Right now I'm sweating to death despite sitting directly under a fan. Boy, it's a hot one, but I'm starting to enjoy the heat and humidity a little. Once you get used to it, it's not terrible.

Well, this week was lots of fun.  I'll start off with today. This morning we had an activity with the young mens' quorums in our ward where we met at the church and played soccer for a couple hours. The zone leaders came with us and the four of us faced a couple different teams of young men, playing four-on-four and switching out whenever someone scored. We did really well and only lost twice - out of an hour and a half of play, that's not too bad, especially considering that Elder Jackson and I are gringos and therefore can't really do much but follow the ball around the court like kids in kindergarten. :) Actually, I played better than I thought I was going to - even scored a goal or two. It was a lot of fun. I haven't been able to really run and play a sport like that in months and it was great to be out in the fresh air and hot sun and just play. We all had a good time. That reminds me - we wore our zone shirts; I'll have to send a picture next week of what they look like, because I don't think I've done so yet. Also, I'm sending a picture of my face after playing. I got a little sunburned. :) All in all, it was very fun and refreshing.

Yesterday I gave a talk in sacrament meeting. The topic was, of course, missionary work. I formed the talk around Zenos' allegory of the Lord of the vineyard and the experience of Alma and the sons of Mosiah, and talked about member missionary work and how crucial it is and so on. I think it went over pretty well; I delivered it just how I wanted to, and received a bunch of compliments afterward. I hope this will bring us more help from the members as far as the work is concerned, giving us references and all that. I read a quote from President George Albert Smith where he says that we can't receive our exaltation unless we share the gospel with other people. I think that probably helped the message I was trying to deliver. :) Really, it all ties in with what Elder Johnson taught us in our zone conference - we're here to teach and baptize, not to prepare or plant seeds (though incidental seed-planting always helps). The members are part of the preparatory work, and the people who end up getting baptized are almost always references from members. Sharing the gospel as members is crucial. Anyway, it was a fun experience and I had a good time giving the talk. I also really enjoyed preparing it; I love the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 and how much it teaches.

I think I mentioned in the last week or two that we're been working with a less-active named Adriana and her 13-year-old daughter Taira. Adriana is separated from her husband and they've been inactive for about two years, but as of about a month ago she started feeling the need to go to church again to help out her family and her daughter and everything. She even had a dream where someone told her that the Elders would be passing by her house and that she needed to listen to them. :) A couple weeks back someone (who turned out to be her husband) gave as a reference to other missionaries her name, and she lives in our area; we went and visited her, and discovered that she was actually a member, so we started stopping by, teaching her, and helping her return to activity. She has jumped back into the church with both feet; she's attended the last three Sundays, has started reading the Book of Mormon again, and paid her tithing yesterday. Her daughter, Taira, was baptized and used to be really excited about church, saying that she wanted to serve a mission and everything, but in the last couple years has cooled off and now is a little more hesitant about coming back. She came to Mutual this week and really seemed to like it, but ended up not coming to church on Sunday; we'll be chatting with her about that this week. :) We had a FHE with the two of them and the bishop's family on Thursday, and it went over really well, but right at the end the night took a turn for the worse. One of the reasons why Taira's parents are separated is that her dad has taken up drinking again - a habit he had before being baptized that he turned to again. Taira's really upset and sad about this, and I think that makes it harder for her to come to church (even though it would be the best thing for her, of course). Anyway, at the end of the FHE we hear a taxi pull up and the passenger, obviously drunk, step out and start talking really loudly with the driver. We head out and turns out it's Taira's dad. He sees us and instantly drops his beer and starts begging forgiveness and everything from us. He was completely gone, but at least he still recognized that we were missionaries and that drinking was bad. When Taira saw that it was him and that he was drunk, she burst into tears and ran into her room. Seeing that nearly broke my heart; I felt so bad for her. Alcohol is so damaging, especially to families and children. The look on Taira's face was something I'll never forget. Very sad. But, as some good news, her dad came to church on Sunday with her mom. He seemed really embarrassed but looked like he enjoyed it a lot. We're going to be talking more with the whole family this week and we're praying constantly that they can get back together and start coming to church regularly as a family. That's the story this week of Adriana and Taira - sorry if it's kinda all over the place. Things are looking up and with the Lord's help this family will be reunited in the gospel.

On Saturday we ate stuffed peppers for lunch. They were tasty, but caused my stomach some problems later. :) Giant spicy peppers filled with meat, potatoes, green olives, mushrooms, and carrots, with a side of white rice. Delicious and a pretty powerful combination. Also, the other day there was a mouse in our house (sounds like Dr. Seuss). Not a big deal, actually, since it's not the first time and they haven't really done anything to us yet. Oh, and that reminds me - my comp was showering Saturday night and suddenly shouted and ran out of the bathroom - apparently a tiny frog was climbing up his leg. We went and checked, and yep, there was the frog, barely even an inch long. Cute little guy, but not while taking a shower, it seems.

This Friday I hit 7 months. Time continues to fly by. With so few hours in the day and so few days in the week, we simply must make the most of every second and not hold back any energy for the things that really matter. Reminds me of President Eyring's talk from a few conferences ago - I think it's called "This Day," and they quoted it in one of the Mormon Messages that they have on lds.org. I'd recommend checking that one out - I really like the movie they put together and the talk is really inspiring. Good stuff.

Okay, not too much time today, so I can only write a couple comments. Sorry. But here we go.

Gabbie - your shots don't sound like too much fun. I remember it hurt pretty good when I got the tetanus shot too. How's your arm feeling now? And you're already starting to learn how to play the flute? That's pretty cool. When I get back we should form a family band. I laughed a lot at what you said about Little Italy. I had completely forgotten about that. That was pretty funny, huh? That was a very fun vacation too. We did a lot of cool things. How are things going in school - are you starting to feel ready for junior high or does it still seem kind of weird?  Gabs, sounds like everything's going well and, as always, I love to read your emails. I love you tons and hope that you have a great week! :)

Mom - How did the field trip go today? Where did you go? Did Reagan have fun? I'm jealous of the snow - but actually getting used to the heat. It's really nice in the evenings after the sun has set; it's still humid, but not stifling, and the temperature's around 85 or so. It makes the body feel good and is pretty enjoyable. I wonder how it's going to be when I come back home; I'll get home in August, so it'll be hot but completely dry. I imagine the change will take some getting used to. Mom, thanks for always writing and always setting a good example for me. Thanks for everything you've done. I love you very much. Have a great week! :)

Miranda - Youth Conference does sound like a ton of fun. My friend Maria used to work at Aspen Grove, and Josh and Mike and I went up there once and hung out a bit, so I know what you mean about the food being really good. All of Aspen Grove seemed like a lot of fun. Were you able to use the facilities there and everything? (And by that I don't mean going to the bathroom - haha.) I liked everything you said about the testimony meeting and activities. I miss that too - having youth activities and going to EFY and everything.
The testimony meeting really does sound awesome and I'm glad you got the opportunity to get to know people better and share in the joy of the gospel and the Spirit with them. Keep it up. :)  Keep taking care of yourself, having fun in school and with friends, and progressing and learning more in the gospel. You told me once in a letter that it was cool to see my testimony grow - well, it's equally cool to see yours grow through your letters. I love reading what you say about things like that. Keep me posted on all that goes on in your life, as you have been doing, and keep enjoying every new day that comes. I love you very much. Have an amazing week! :)

Dad-dad-daddio :) - So the merger thing is all set now? How's it all looking? How's the economy and everything doing, by the way? Seems like things aren't doing too well worldwide, but oh well - just have to keep pressing on. Hopefully work is still going well for you.  I was thinking the other day about when we went to St. George for the writing conference, or all of the time spent together.  Not just vacations, either, but everything, from baseball to writing to movies to those PPIs. (Yes, I actually do miss the PPIs - hah.) The work is going really well. I'm learning a lot about hard work and initiative and just enjoying the gospel. I read often your "7 Rules for a Successful Mission" and it helps me focus more and keep working hard. I've learned so much as a missionary and really enjoy everything that comes, the blessings and the trials alike. Sometimes I just marvel that life is so wonderful - it takes me aback to see how blessed I am and how wonderful of an opportunity I have right now. Life is an incredible thing, and my mission is helping me see how to make the most of it.

Answers to a couple of questions....

Door knocking-
We were knocking doors yesterday and decided to do so with the Book of Mormon. We often talk about it and present it, but yesterday we were really direct and more or less said, "This is the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I know that this book is the word of God and that it will help you in your life. Would you like a chance to read it and to listen to our message?" It worked really well; testimony plus Book of Mormon is a good combination. We contacted a man who seemed like the golden investigator. He let us inside, and we taught about the Apostasy, the First Vision, and the Book of Mormon in about 3 minutes. He asked some great questions and understood really well, and seemed eager to have the chance to read the Book of Mormon. We left him a copy and are going to return tomorrow to see how it went. It was quick and to the point and full of the Spirit; a really neat experience. We also found a couple other people that could have potential, and we're still working hard to find new investigators.

Teaching people to pray-
What you said about prayers was pretty much exactly the way it is here. We have those same four points and we often end up writing them out in the back of the Book of Mormon so that they can remember them. (Address our Heavenly father...thank thee...ask thee....close in Christ's name) It hasn't happened too often, but every once in a while someone just reads right through the points without adding anything. Also, it's very common that other people make their comments and say their own prayers while we are praying, which is why we usually say beforehand, "Cuando oramos, solo una persona habla, y los demás ponen atención. Al final, decimos la palabra amen." Even so, quite often they talk during the prayer, just like you said. Like you said as well, though, as long as a prayer is heartful, it's okay, but sometimes it is kind of distracting.

Thanks for the news on Josh - I was glad to hear how things are going. (I remember Elder Hinckley's comment - I may be the only General Authority sustained despite a disclaimer from the prophet. Haha.) I'm really excited to hear what happens with him - keep me posted (though I'm sure he will too). About Sean McClellen - tell him congratulations from me.

Well, everyone, I love you all very much, and hope everything is going well! Until next week---
Con amor,
Elder Greer

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Baptisms last Saturday

Hey hey hey! ¿Qué tal todos? ¿Cómo les va este día? Les amo mucho y quiero que todos sepan de eso; además, quiero que todos estén bien de salud, ánimos, y el Espíritu. Les doy mi testimonio sincero que este Evangelio es poderoso. Jesucristo vive y nos ama muchísimo, de tal modo que sufrió y murió para salvarnos del pecado y la muerte. Les testifico que Él tiene el poder - y el deseo - de sanarnos, de quitarnos nuestros pecados y de ayudarnos al enfrentar las tentaciones y pruebas del mundo. Quiere que vengamos a Él porque tiene la manera de ayudarnos con tristeza, desesperación, y carga. Ruego que podamos recordarlo siempre y usar lo que nos dejó. Les testifico que José Smith restauró de nuevo la plenitud del Evangelio y la autoridad del sacerdocio, y que Thomas S. Monson es guiado por Dios hoy en día.

I like starting the letter in Spanish, and even more so with a testimony. Miranda, how much do you understand? Mom? Gabbie? Reagan? Nikka? :)

I do hope everyone is doing well and exciting about the week that's beginning. From the email, it sounds like that's the case.  First off, I forgot to mention this last week, which I was planning on doing, but - happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! :) How was it? What did you do? I hope it was a good day. 21 years of marriage. Happy Anniversary, and here's to another 21 years.
The highlight of the week was the baptism and confirmation of Victor, Sergio, and Diego Perez Trujeque. I had the opportunity to baptize all three of them and it was a really neat experience. We taught them almost every single day last week, making sure they were ready for baptism and trying to figure out a good way to teach them the Law of Chastity and things like that. We did up an awesome program and had a pretty good turnout. On Sunday the bishopric confirmed them, and they're now officially members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It's an amazing feeling to have been a part of this change in their lives and to have helped them get to this point. They've taught me a lot as well, and I'm really grateful for the whole experience. We're going to keep teaching them and helping them learn and progress.  It made me think about the covenants I made eleven and a half years ago and want to keep them more completely from here on out.

Along with that is something cool we found out Tuesday or Wednesday when we were teaching them and talking to their mom. As you know, she cannot get baptized until she marries the man she's been living with for years.  They are a family, and so of course it would be wrong to break them up - but we need to help them get things in order first (sometimes it's difficult to get things legal down here with messy paperwork, past marriages, non-official divorces, etc).  Anyway - we were talking about how much their family is changing and how they're really taking the Gospel to heart, and she told us that we are angels sent to help her and to help her children.

Then she said more or less the following: "You two have been a literal answer to my prayers. Two weeks ago, I came home one day and found that everything was a mess and that they had done nothing to help out. Victor ran off to an arcade and the other two were playing soccer in the street and fighting. I started washing dishes and trying to clean up the enormous mess. I was very frustrated and angry; I felt like I couldn't take another minute of trying to deal with them. I prayed and asked God to send me something that would help me and them - something, anything, but that it come quick because I was at the end of my capabilities. I heard someone calling at the door and went out to see who it was, still feeling exhausted and desperate. I found you two at my door. You greeted me with a smile and told me that Jesus Christ had sent you to help me. You testified to me of a prophet on the earth who gives us revelation to help us in our lives. I knew at that moment that God had answered my prayers and called for my kids." By the end of the story, she was crying, and I felt like doing so as well; the Spirit was so powerful in that room. I felt it so strongly and truly rejoiced in the mercy and goodness of God, in the chance to be a messenger and a vessel for the truth, for the chance to be that answer and to help this family find their way in the world. This has been the most spiritual and powerful experience of my mission so far, and something that I'll remember forever. It's infused me with even more desire to work hard, testify, and be that missionary that God called me to be, so that I can have more experiences like that - for me and for my family, but also for the people whose lives I can influence and affect. Truly this has been something of a miracle, and my testimony was definitely strengthened by hearing these words. Very cool. :)

The husband drinks a ton, but I've never heard him talk about anything that wasn't related to Christ or God or the Bible, and he always encourages his kids to read the Book of Mormon and pray, so we might be able to work with him and get them married. He's quite an interesting character. Anyway, we'll just have to pray hard and see what happens.

Answers to some questions:

Do you knock doors / how does that go / does rejection bother you?
Most of the time when people don't want to listen they say, "Oh, but I already read the Bible" (to which I want to respond, and your point is? - but of course never do), or, "I would like to listen, but right now I'm about to leave" (when it's obvious that's not the case since the last ten people said the same thing, not one of them has left their house yet, and the person is in their pajamas watching tv), or "Well, I'm Catholic/Protestant/Evangelical/etc" (I want to tell them, yeah, that's the point - that's why we're here - but again, I never do).

Sometimes getting rejected a bunch is a drag, but I've found that I really enjoy contacting when it's done with a testimony and when I have the Spirit with me. If I think about it in the right light, it's a lot of fun. I've had some insults/comments shouted out at me in the streets (once about wearing glasses that day, but mostly about being American), but so far nothing serious. Sometimes, though, we're in the middle of a lesson and out of the blue they ask, "You're not from around here, are you?" It's kind of funny because it's happened not infrequently. It's like, hey, pay attention! :)

I'm fairly tall for here - 90% of the people are shorter than I am by at least four inches or so. There are a few tall ones, though, so I don't stand out too much for that. We have Domino's in our area (delicious!) and there's a Carl's, Jr. and a Dairy Queen nearby - and a McDonald's somewhere around here too. That's what I've seen so far.

Well, hey, I think the cyber's about to close. Have a good week and thanks for everything.
Love you all!
Elder Greer

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Febrero es loco, and Marzo un poco

Hey everyone!
Espero que todos se encuentran bien de salud, animos, y situaciones. Ojalá que todos podamos seguir el Espíritu en esta semana que acaba de empezar y pedirle ayuda a nuestro Padre Celestial para poder soportar las pruebas que siempre vienen. También espero que siempre recordemos y veamos la belleza de este mundo y que podamos tener un poco más de alegría al poder vivir aquí y tener esta experiencia mortal. :)

The first thing that you'll probably notice is that I'm writing from a new email address- MyLDSMail recently made a program switch over to Google mail (everything eventually ends up at Google, huh?). All the old mail is transferred over, so there shouldn't be any problems.  The new system should work better, and maybe it'll be easier to upload photos now, too.

This week was wonderful. Honestly, just when I think things can't get better, they do. And I know I've said something to that effect many times throughout my mission - that's because it just never stops! It's almost like, Okay, now it's as good as I can ask for - and then Heavenly Father just pours out more blessings. That then makes me more grateful, more humble, more obedient, and more desirous to serve and work hard, which of course leads to further blessings. Kind of a neat cycle, huh? :)

We continued teaching the three kids I mentioned last week - Diego, Sergio, and Victor. They're going to be baptized on Saturday. :) They've made some amazing changes in their lives, and I've only known them for just over a week now - it's incredible how receptive they are to the Spirit and how willing they are to listen, learn, and apply the message of the restored Gospel. They brought their mom to church yesterday and she seemed to enjoy it a lot. The fact that her kids are changing is starting to change her attitude as well, and we're going to continue teaching her. I think soon enough she'll accept the baptismal invitation as well. The kids have gone from stealing and talking back to behaving, working hard in school, and being really nice to their mom. It's a cool difference to see, and having the gift of the Holy Ghost will help them continue progressing. It's going to be a good weekend.:)

We're continuing to teach Maritza as well, and she's doing well with her Book of Mormon reading and prayers, so all good on that front. We've worked a lot with members and less actives this week too, and five of the inactives showed up at church yesterday! We had 95 people in sacrament meeting yesterday, which is about 20 higher than what we saw a month or so ago. Oh, and remember Carlos, the less active I talked about? Well, he's been completely reactivated now; he was set apart yesterday as second counselor in the YM presidency. He's really excited about his calling. He gets along really well with the teenagers and they seem to have a lot of fun with him too. I love seeing him at church and at Mutual and how he's working hard and helping others in the ward. Again, it's amazing the changes that the gospel can have on people's lives, and a blessing to see and be a part of it firsthand. Missionary work rocks. :)

Something interesting that I forgot to mention last week - I met a sister in the ward who used to live in Orem - in an apartment complex "right over by Gold's Gym and the mall," she told me. So, basically, in Grandma's backyard. I didn't have a chance to talk to her very much, and she has a stake calling so I can't always find her at church, but I'd be interested to know what ward she was in. Mom, can you ask your mom the name of her bishop or something? And if she happened to meet someone in church who is from Tabasco? :) hah. It was a pretty neat coincidence, though, and cool to talk to her.

I mentioned that this week was wonderful, and it truly was. We worked hard and saw the fruits of that labor yesterday, in addition to experiences throughout the week. I had several neat experiences personally throughout the week, too. I discovered (invented? haha) a few things in my Patriarchal Blessing this week, and said to myself (like Reagans little autistic classmate, who only knows these two words) "What the!" I also wondered, "When did they slip that in there?" I swear that document is like the Liahona; the writing seems to change when I'm faced with different situations, problems, questions, and experiences. It's amazing how much I can learn each time I read through it. Right now I'm studying "being faithful to the Lord," since it seems my blessing mentions it at least a dozen times - even though I don't remember noticing it before. :) I've learned that being faithful has a lot to do with loyalty - meaning that we rely on and stick with the Lord, whether things are good or bad in our lives. Like you said, Dad, we do need to pray and seek the Lord's help in everything, and then be loyal and make good choices and govern our lives as best we can, learning valuable lessons along the way. Sometimes His way of teaching us is by letting us make decisions on our own and through trial and error. He'll help us avoid the wrong decisions, but if something isn't necessarily UNrighteous, maybe He'll just leave it up to us so that we really learn through experience. I liked what you said about this life being the time for us to practice. I think that's true. We're not going to get it right the first time - that's where faithfulness comes in; we need to stick with it, trust in the Lord, and do our best, knowing that things will come out all right in the end. This reminds me of something Mike Lanham said to me in a letter once; he was talking about missionary work, but it applies to all of us. He said, "If you just walk out the door and stick your finger in the air and the Spirit tells you where to go, you're not going to learn very much." The example of a father teaching his child how to ride a bike is an apt one. Heavenly Father will help us throughout our lives and will always be there for us, but sometimes He lets go of the bike, lets us make our own decisions to help us practice and learn and grow. Anyway, I'm discovering some great things through reading and pondering my Patriarchal Blessing and it's been really cool. I've felt the Spirit's guidance more overtly this week and felt more than once a specific prompting followed by immediate blessings when I obeyed the counsel. It's really cool to have that sort of thing happen and I hope to be able to continue progressing and growing this coming week.

Man, this week's letter is a good one. (They're always good, but I meant in terms of length... and quality too. Good all around. Good job, family.) Time for a few preguntas and respuestas.

Miranda - Sheesh, that's quite an email! Or letter, I guess, since you wrote it by hand. (Don't you people have jobs? haha - I know that's a movie quote, Dad, help me out on this one). Seriously, though, very cool. What you said at the beginning about attitude is completely true and a very good thing to know. Much of life depends on how you look at things and your perspective. I remember reading a couple Conference talks quite a while ago about optimism and staying positive, and they gave some really good counsel. Optimism is something I've always felt I had, but it's something we need to practice and work at, because sometimes life gets a little tough. But really, your attitude makes all the difference. The problems are going to come (ir)regardless, but you can't do anything to fix them if you spend all your time whining about it - plus, if you're complaining all the time, maybe the Lord might send you another trial just to teach you a lesson. :) The best way to do things is just to be happy and be obedient. Not always easy, but always worth it. The snowmobile jump sounds pretty awesome. That's something I've never done - snowmobiling in general, I mean. I'll have to give it a shot when I get home. It sounds like you had some good times up at Kelsey's cabin and in the snow and caves and such. Also, your classes for next year sound pretty cool. A lot of my friends took medical anatomy and they said they really liked it. As for dissecting things - we dissected frogs once in biology, but that's all I remember. It wasn't terrible... but good luck haha. :) Computer tech is fun and easy, same with PE (obviously). Seminary is a great one, and I loved Film Lit. It's with Saxton, right? Man, I loved that class. You basically watch movies and music videos all the time, and your homework is either to watch something or write about it. So you're having fun, and at the same time learning a lot about film techniques and other cool things. The Shakespeare class sounds neat too. I've really liked everything I've read by Shakespeare, and I think it would be cool to take a class at college when I get home. It would be sweet if you can do that internship, and likely help you out a lot for your future. The rest of your classes sound good too. Who are your teachers?

Your insights and comments about Alma 51 and the Sunday School lesson were pretty cool. I liked what you said about how we waste time (and make things worse) fighting in the wrong place, when we should be focusing on our spiritual preparation. And, all too often, we fight against the people who are on our side (like family, friends, going to church, etc.), making us more vulnerable to temptation and sin. Captain Moroni's an amazing example of getting things done and fighting the battles that really matter in life. I like that whole last half of Alma a lot. It sounds like you're learning a lot and really taking the scriptures to heart - keep it up! And keep telling me what you learn, too; it helps me in my own study and understanding.

The new phones sounds awesome. Everybody commented about them in the email. :) Also, exciting to hear about lacrosse - congratulations! That's really exciting. Have you started practicing yet? When does the season begin?
Well, Miranda, as always, thank you very much for writing and sharing about what's going on, and for being a good example to me. Keep working hard and having fun, and remember to enjoy life the best you can. :) I love you very much! Have a great week!

Gabbie! - Haha that just reminded me for some reason of the video Dad made: "The Gabbie Show". :) Remember Mean Man and "Crazy Horses"? That was pretty funny. We'll catch up on mean man when I get home - even though I'm a little afraid of how strong you'll be by then! Your letter was fun to read, because it sounds exactly like you talking. :) So you're done with the Percy Jackson series, huh? "Don't you have a good book to read?" (Dad - hah.) I recommended to Miranda a series last week, and I think you'd really like it a lot too - it's Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson. See if you can check it out of the library or something. I read the first two books and they're really really good. Give 'em a shot! Your solar system journal sounds pretty cool too. Mom said she'll send me pictures when she can - I'm excited to see them. You're really good at art and I bet it turned out great. And congratulations on the new babysitting job! :) The cash is going to start rolling in... Well, Gabs, have an amazing week, play some Mario for me, and give Nikka a good run around the yard. Throw in a hug for Reagan, too. I love you too! Adios!

Mom - Thanks for the prayers on my behalf and for the investigators - actually, that goes to everyone, since I'm sure you've all been praying as well. Things have gone really well with the people we've been teaching, and with the Lord's help this week will be even better. That's cool that you got to talk with Sister Thurlow about Shawn - I'd been wondering how he was doing. I'm glad to hear he's doing well too. That's exciting about Heather Johnson's mission call, and sad about Bryce. Hopefully things heal up well and that whatever he decides to do goes well. Gabbie does sound like she's doing good - I laughed about the puppet show for the Last Olympian. That's Gabbie! :) Also, the comment about Miranda being a "driving fool" (loves driving). I remember, like you said, how last year she always talked about not wanting to drive and not wanting to get a license. Turns out that it's kinda fun after all, huh? Has she had any experiences with Reagan Interference yet? (Reagan likes to sneak out of his seatbelt, get down behind the driver and adjust the seat forward and back) I guess I could be asking her these questions. :) It does sound like the girls are doing really well, though, which is good.

I was shocked - floored! astounded! in slack-jawed amazement! (what a bird!) - at the news about your new phone. Haha. Sounds like it's a pretty slick new thing - which is funny, seeing how long you went for years with a broken screen and a lack of all functions but calling and receiving. Maybe by the time I get home the girls and Dad can teach you how to use it all. :) Haha. That's funny though. Times are changing indeed.
Anyway. Reagan sounds like he's doing really well too.  The singing at school sounds funny. I can picture everyone singing except him, while he just pulls his paper hat over his face.  I'd really like to see a class of autistic kids singing and doing actions together. Actually, a class of autistic kids doing just about anything would be entertaining. It's touching to hear that he misses me - I think a lot about what it'll be like when I get back in those first few hours. Remember how he was after we got home from Scotland? It does sound like he's doing really well, and that's awesome to hear.
Oh, and thanks for finding out about the YW medallions. Those are the gold ones? Sounds kinda cheap. I'll talk to the sister and see if she needs further help with that. Thanks.

I liked the "thanks for being in the pictures you take." :) I'm slowly learning... Thank you very much for your email. Oh, and for the pictures you sent - especially the one of Reagan dragging Nikka with him into the shower. That was hilarious. I always love hearing from you how everyone's doing. I'm working my hardest, eating healthy, take care of myself, and having an amazing time. I love you very much, Mom. Have a great week!

Dad - Sheesh. One of these days I'll learn to type faster. My hour is almost up. Oh well :) Your comments about Mom and her phone and emailing and everything were funny. Also, what you said about Gabbie made me laugh. :) Sounds like she's turning out all right, huh? (Not too bad for a shaved-down monkey we taught how to walk! Haha.) Yeah, I'd heard about the earthquake in Chile, but not as many details as you mentioned. That's pretty crazy. And everything lately has been out of the ordinary - first Haiti, now Chile, the tidal wave warning in Hawaii (I was glad to hear nothing happened)... I heard there was a similar warning for the Gulf of Mexico area (ie, where I am... yikes). We're really coming to the latter days, huh? Glad to hear things turned out as well as they did in Chile though. Your comments about Paul and your own experiences are true and important to learn. It really is a choice between happiness and sadness in the end. And you've got to watch out for that "reaper of percussions" - he'll get you every time. :) I also liked you comments about answers to prayers. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, and rereading your discurso letter and studying the scriptures and pondering. It seems like a lot of what you and I write about each week comes back to that same idea. And each time and each letter adds a new piece to the puzzle. I liked a lot what you said last week about repentance, as I mentioned - I'm printing it out today to read it more this week, because you said some great things.

A quick mention of something I studied this morning that I really liked. I read the book of Enos today (yeah, that's right, I read the whole book... it's no big deal). I always like and focus on the length of his prayer, his desires, his belief in God's words, and what I can learn from that, but this time I paid more attention to what happens after that experience. He talks about himself and many other prophets traveling the land and preaching to the people. I really like what he says in verse 23, about how they continually preached the same topics to the people to keep them in the fear of God and on the narrow path of the Gospel. It's like you've talked about before, how we always hear the same things in church and conference and everything, and there's a reason for that. We need to be continually reminded and continually nourished. We can't learn just from one talk or one lesson and be good for the rest of our lives - we need to constantly learn so that we don't fall back into the dumb ways of our natural man. (Reminds me of what my mission prep teacher at BYU used to say: "Repeat after me. My natural man is an idiot." Hah.) We need to be constantly reminded of the consequences of our choices so that we remember to exercise our agency correctly. The verse is really good, and so are the references - I looked up every single one, and really learned a lot. I'd recommend reading that verse and the corresponding references. It's pretty cool. I especially liked Alma 4:19, which talks about bearing pure testimony and stuff. It was a pretty great study session this morning and I learn a lot - give those verses a look when you can.

Reagan looking at pictures and watching the vides is cool to hear about. Oh, and I laughed at your comments about taciturn dwarves - haha. It's all coming together now... :) And, Dad, thank you for all the prayers, the love and support, the movie quotes and jokes and good memories, the experiences we've had and the things you've taught me. Thanks for everything. I love you very much. Have a great week. :)
Con amor,
Elder Greer

Tuesday - Not Monday

Hey everyone!
Sounds like everyone had a good week.  It has been a good one for me too. The first thing I'm sure you noticed is that today is Tuesday, not Monday. There's a reason for that - transfers. No, I wasn't transferred this time; I'm still in Villahermosa and still with my companion, Elder Enriquez. But the zone leaders told us that from now on, when there are transfers (every six weeks) the p-day in the entire mission changes to Tuesday. Remember how six weeks ago I was traveling all Monday and thus wrote on Tuesday? They decided to make that standard for all missionaries, whether or not they get transferred, to make things a little more uniform. So, every six weeks I'll be writing on Tuesday instead of Monday. I'll try to remind a week ahead of time so that no one has a meltdown. ;)

Now, down to business. This past week was a good one. We worked really hard and got quite a bit done. I came home every day feeling just exhausted, and that's a really satisfying feeling. We're refocusing ourselves a lot, especially since it's the start of a new six weeks of work. It's a time to reevaluate our goals, take a look at where we are, and plan for the future. Of course, every day should be like that (see the article by Elder Holland in the January Ensign, for example), but sometimes we get a little caught up in the routine and aren't able to see our progress. It's definitely cool to look back on the last six weeks and see how far I've come, though. For one thing, they tell me I'm not quite so white anymore (and I thought I was getting pretty tan before too), that my Spanish is sounding better all the time, and that I've lost weight (sickness plus exercise plus healthy eating). And, naturally, the spiritual blessings have been amazing. Honestly, I've grown so much, and in just six short weeks. I've realized as well how much more there is for me to learn and become. With the Lord's help, our potential can be achieved, but it's essential to rely on Him - as you mentioned in yesterday's letter, Dad, it's impossible to do it without His help, but a sign of humility and spiritual maturity to lean on Him. It's a show of strength, in fact, that we are willing to ask for the Lord's guidance and assistance. Humility and faith equal power, because we are opening the door to let the Lord work miracles. I've indeed seen miracles these last weeks and months, and I know there are plenty more that the Lord is ready to send - depending, naturally, on obedience, faith, and hard work. This really is "a marvelous work and a wonder," and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now.

Some exciting news, as well - we have three investigators who accepted baptismal dates! They're three young brothers - Diego, Sergio, and Victor. They've had a pretty rough life and are being raised by their grandparents, whom we happened to contact on Saturday. The kids have had trouble with lying, stealing, fighting, etc., but really have good hearts; they just need direction, love, and friendship. And, of course, the Gospel. We brought them to church Sunday and they absolutely loved it, and afterward you could see the change in them. Their grandma commented on it later - she said that they were more helpful, more obedient, kinder. It didn't last forever, but we're going to keep working with them a lot and help them become integrated into the ward family. We're also going to keep teaching their grandma - I think she'll be baptized pretty soon here too, but might take a little more convincing. :) It's so cool to be able to see people change, even younger kids, and to see the effect that the restored Gospel has on their hearts. I'm looking forward to teaching them more and helping them get to baptism and find more peace and love and direction in their lives. Please remember them in their prayers as they work to come closer to Christ. :)

We're also continuing to work with Martiza, who is still progressing very well and is exciting about the church, and we have a few more investigators that we're teaching. One is a teenage girl named Bellaflor - she's really hard to pin down because she leads a busy life, but she told us she received an answer to
her prayers and knows that Joseph Smith was a prophet. She's extremely open to the message and a fairly ideal investigator - we just need to find a time when we can teach her and help her learn more. All in all, the work here in my area is starting to pick up, and we're starting to see the blessings of hard work. Now we just have to keep at it and keep relying on the Lord, and I know great things will come to pass here.

I'm excited to be here in Grijalva for another six weeks (at least), to be with my companion, and to be allowed the privilege of representing the Savior and helping convert other people to His message to the world. I feel incredibly blessed and profoundly thankful for those blessings; I want to work the hardest I possibly can to pay Heavenly Father back just a tiny fraction of what He has given me. I'm constantly amazed by the wonderful experiences I'm having and have had all throughout my life. When I take a second to be still and look around me, the world surprises me with how intricate and vivid it is. It's a joy just to be alive, and when you add to that families, friends the Gospel, learning, and experiencing all that our bodies and the world have to offer - well, no wonder we shouted for joy in the premortal life! :) This is my brief spiritual thought for this week - take the time to enjoy every second and every opportunity life has to offer. This mortal experience is something magnificent. :)

Okay. Who's up first?
Mom - First, I have a couple of questions. Actually, now that I think about it, anyone in the family could find this out, but I thought of you first haha. The bishop's wife was wondering how much the gold Young Women's medallions cost - they aren't available here (the golden ones, anyway), and her daughter receives hers pretty soon. I think a friend is going to the US soon, and she wanted to know how much money to send to buy one. If you know or can find out, I'd appreciate it. Also, for the record, I have only eaten out of the trash... well, maybe once or twice. ;) Haha but never here. I'm not quite sure how I got the flu; it was probably something I ate, but I don't really know what. It really wasn't too bad - it just drained me of energy, which made it hard to do much. But I recovered fully and am doing good now.
The way doctors work in the mission is that the church employs (or maybe it's just a calling - I think it's a job
though) doctors that are assigned specifically to missionaries. Ours is Doctor Brunt, and he covers our mission and a couple others. He lives in the States and has his normal life and everything, but he's on call for the missionaries. We call and tell him the problem, he gives an over-the-phone diagnosis, and we follow his instructions. Of course, if anything is life-threatening we go straight to a doctor or hospital here, and if things don't get better after a day or two we do the same. But I followed his instructions and got better just fine. That's the basic setup of the way it works though.

Sounds like President's Day was fun - say hi to the Clemons the next time you see them. How were the Olympics? How's the good ol' U. S. of A. doing? :) Miranda and Gabbie sound like they're doing well - I'd like to see a picture of Gabbie's coat of arms sometime. Good luck with the homework this week! John's birthday sounded cool too. Wish him a happy birthday for me, okay? And as always it's awesome to hear about Reagan. I'd love to be able to see him sign and show off what he's learning. That sounds so cool to me. Give him a hug and a kiss from me. I'll see what I can do about sending home a short video clip of me talking to Reagan - I agree that it would be a cool thing to do.

190 days - really? Wow. That's a long time, huh? It doesn't feel that long to me. Time is really flying by here. Mom, I hope you know how wonderful of a parent you are (you and Dad both, but this is your section). You have influenced me and taught me so much, and almost every day I remember something you taught me or something you do and realize how much you know about life (and cleaning and planning and organizing haha). I really appreciate everything you've done for me, and all your love and support. You've done a wonderful job and continue to do so. Thank you for everything - I love you very much! Have a great week!

Gabbie - Hey Gabs! How's it going? It was cool to hear what you've been up to. When you mentioned Plants Vs. Zombies I had to laugh - we went to the house of one of the young men in our ward who got baptized about five months ago to see how he was doing, and he was playing - guess what? - Plants Vs. Zombies! It was pretty funny. (He was pretty good, too - not as good as you or Randa, though.) That was a pretty fun game.
The hike with Nikka sounds like fun, as always - when I get back we'll have to go on lots of hikes up in the mountains to make up for the lost time. That little puppy's always chasing something, huh? I wonder what she would do if she saw the iguana I sent a picture of... probably try to eat it. :) Gabs, you sound like you're doing really good. Good luck with all the homework this week! When you have to say your poem, pretend I'm there and giving you a little wave from the back corner. :) Keep having fun and doing lots of good things!
Thanks for always writing me. Have a fantastic week! I love you very much! :)

Miranda - Congratulations on the license! That's pretty cool. I remember I didn't do the parallel parking perfectly, but good enough. I also messed up on some U-turn thing too - but hey, still passed. :) Just keep practicing and driving carefully. That was sad to hear about Timp Lacrosse being canceled - kinda dumb. If you can play for PG, though, that might be pretty fun. You could meet new people and still get to play - I guess it depends on what you prefer. Let me know what you choose and how it goes. Going up to Kelsey's cabin sounds like a blast - I miss the snow! :) All that snowmobiling sounds fun. What classes are you taking next year? How was it talking to Matt and Cam's brothers? Oh, I was reading in the scriptures, and 2 Nephi 27:29 reminded me of our discussion a while back, and your comments on them. This chapter is talking about the Book of Mormon coming forth, and I really like the way it describes the Gospel message in this verse - it fits in nicely with what you said about the song. Cool stuff. :) By the way, how's your scripture study going? Where are you now? What cool things have you learned recently?

Keep up the good work, work hard in school and have fun with your friends, be good and enjoy life. :) Thanks for your letter. Te amo también, y me gusta mucho leer tus emails y ver tu progreso. Estás creciendo y progresando mucho, y me encanta verlo. Gracias por ser una amiga y mi hermana. :) Thanks for all your support and friendship - I love you a ton! :) Have a great week!

Dad - Man. As always lots of great stuff - your letters always teach me a lot, and always seem to fit in with what I'm thinking about or studying at the moment. It's really cool to read your insights and learn more. I don't have a whole lot of time at the moment - we have to get to a lesson right now that we scheduled without knowing that today would be p-day.  We're going to head to the lesson and then if we have time I will stop by the cyber and finish my part to you.  But I'm going to send this off right now just in case. And, in case I can't write until next week for whatever reason, remember that I love you very much and look up to you as one of my best friends and my example and hero. Thanks for everything you've taught me and experienced with me. I'll write more in an hour or two. I love you. Chow for now.
- Elder Greer