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!