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

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