¡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....
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---