Hey everyone! Wow. What a great letter. It's been a wonderful week, and I'm looking forward to sharing a little bit about it. So let's get into it...
This past week has been very, very hot. A couple days back we heard it hit 40 degrees Celcius - 104! And yesterday was mid-90s. When it's that hot and extremely humid as well... man, it's almost unbearable. Definitely something to remember, though. One of those experiences that isn't fun at the time, but makes for a good story or memory (like getting into a barfight in Ireland or being taken captive in the Amazon... haha. Remember that, Dad?). It's especially tough around 3 pm, because it seems like that's the hottest point of the day and that's right about when we finish eating and head back out to work. Oh, and at night - sheesh! I take a cold shower right before going to bed, and sleep with a fan directly on me, and often wake up in the middle of the night unable to sleep until I shower again. But I'm learning to cope. The work goes on!
Speaking of the work, a few cool experiences this week. We were contacting on Wednesday, knocking doors and everything, and a girl named Dalia came out and accepted the invitation to hear a message. We shared with her the message of the Restoration. As we taught, I felt a powerful spirit come over us, and I felt my words being guided by the Spirit as to how I needed to explain the different principles. It happened the same with my companion. Afterward, I asked if she had any questions about what we had shared or anything that had come to mind, and she told me no, that we had explained everything perfectly. The way she said it reminded me of a part in my Patriarchal Blessing where it talks about how I will be able to explain the Gospel in clarity and detail. It was a really neat experience for the three of us to have. We have another appointment with her tomorrow. I'm praying that everything will go well and that we can continue to teach her the things she needs to know and the things she's searching for. But whatever happens, that lesson was something special.
Also, we've been teaching a girl named Karla (don't know if I've mentioned her); we invited her to baptism this past Wednesday and she accepted. The baptismal date is May 15th. We're praying everything goes according to plan (and the Lord's will) and that she can be baptized on that date.
Another neat thing that happened this week was a blessing we gave to a woman on Saturday. We knocked on her door and she was interested in listening to us, but in a very hoarse voice told us that she was sick. She truly did look worn out and really tired. My companion asked her if she would like a blessing, and she said yes, and opened the door for us. That was a show of faith, and it brought the Spirit into her house. Her son was there. He has Down's Syndrome and was lying in a hammock splashing water on his face because they don't have a fan. She sat down and just looked completely exhausted. We explained a little bit about the Priesthood and about how a blessing requires faith, and then I anointed her and Elder Luna sealed the anointing and gave her the blessing. His blessing was very much guided by the Spirit; he mentioned things and promised blessings that I know the Lord intended specifically for her in that moment. We plan to visit her either today or tomorrow to see how things are going. The funny thing is, neither of us remember her name at all, even though we both said it several times, including in the blessing. Kind of strange. But it too was a sweet experience and another show of God's love for His children.
A few other odds and ends. Our zone conference is going to be next week - either Tuesday or Wednesday - so I'll probably receive some letters and packages then (hopefully haha). This transfer is going to be one week shorter than normal because Elder Gonzalez of the Presidency of the Seventy is visiting the mission in two weeks, and that kind of changes things up. A week from this Saturday I'll find out if I'm going to be staying here in Villahermosa or heading somewhere else. It's pretty exciting; I'm looking forward to the conference.
And now for the good part! :)
Gabbie: Hey Gabs! How are you? One thing from last week I was going to ask you about is your iguana toy. Mom mentioned it in her email. It sounds pretty cool - when did you get it? What's it look like? There are dozens of iguanas all over the place here; I see them every day. Something you might be interested in - the green ones are females, and they're usually smaller and more timid. The orange or purple-ish ones are the males, and they're a little more aggressive. There are also black and red ones, and they're a different species and very dangerous. My companion says that normally iguanas don't attack even if you grab them, but if they do bite you, you're in some pretty big trouble. So we'll see what happens... haha just kidding.
A billion times a trillion times the number of square mm in the universe? Sheesh. That's a pretty big number. Haha. But I love you a lot too, Gabs. You're my third favorite little sister in the whole world (haha ;) just kidding!). Keep being such a fun kid and learning new things and have a wonderful week! I love you very much! Talk to you next week! :)
Miranda: How is everything going? I read your talk again and really like it a lot. I'm sure you gave it pretty well. I hope everything's going well and that you've had a good day today. Elder Jackson said something yesterday - it's a quote from a song (Story of the Girl)," which I'm sure you've heard - by the way, ask Josh about that song and if he remembers Mike's version of it in fifth grade) - and it says, "Don't let the sun set on today before it rises on tomorrow." I like the message there - every single day is important, and we need to remember to live in the present. I started thinking at the end of high school that once it ended, the good times would be over and that everything would change. Dad told me it was otherwise, and he was right. College was a blast, even more fun than high school, and my mission is incredible. I'm also extremely excited for when I come home and head back to college with all my friends (and you too!) and I know that will be even more fun that what I've already experienced. So living in today also means doing what's right and making the small decisions that lead to big blessings, and being strong and steadfast and everything else. Basically, it means do your best today and have fun doing it! Make the most of every day, because time is a very precious thing. And thus concludes the sermon for today. (I think it was a big hit. Haha.) Seriously, though, you're in a fun time of life and you should enjoy it and make the most of every part of life. Well, Miranda, I hope you're having a wonderful week and that things are still going well. Remember that I love you very much and I am praying for you. Thanks for being such a great sister. Love you! :)
Mom: Hey Mom! :) Thanks for your letter. It was interesting to hear how everyone's week has been. First I wanted to answer some of your questions from last week. You asked about the food we eat every day. Well, today was a little out of the ordinary (KFC). Traditional food is chicken, rice, beans, tortillas, and limes - pretty much standard Mexican food. Here we eat fish every so often - the most common type is called mojarra, it's like a trout or something but I'm not sure what it is in English - tastes good though. :) There's also shrimp and other types of fish around here. There are some huge ones in the river that we see people catching - about the size of Gabbie's head! Haha. But really, they're about the size of Gabbie, and look pretty tasty. So those are the basics that we ate in Tuxtla as well. Here we've eaten spaghetti quite a bit as well, and different kinds of fried meats. Tacos are also really common. We eat enchiladas a lot too, and here in Villahermosa I've eaten a lot of mole (pronounced mo-lay). It's a brown sauce used with chicken or enchiladas or things like that. I really don't know what it's made of, though; maybe you could look it up online. Also, we drink pozol pretty often. It's basically water with cornmeal and sometimes cocoa or milk and sugar. You have to continually swirl your cup while drinking or the corn settles to the bottom. We drank it in Chiapas too, but it's a traditional drink of Tabasco and much more common here. It took some getting used to, but now I really like it.
You also asked about how many areas there are in the mission. Well, there are about 180 missionaries in the mission, so that would be 90 areas. Every three or four areas are grouped together in a district, each of which has a district leader (one of the missionaries). We have a class every week and give our weekly numbers to the district leader, etc. The districts are then grouped together into zones, and there are two zone leaders for every zone. Villahermosa is the biggest zone - we have 16 companionships.
As for what I want for my birthday - hmmm. Good question. :) Actually, a couple things have come to mind but I keep forgetting to write them down. (One was Honey Bunches of Oats - the normal kind. Haha.) I'll give it some serious thinking and let you know. It's still a little ways off...
Now for your letter this week. Yes, it's tough to lose investigators, but we just have to move on and keep working and have faith that one day they'll be ready to learn more. I know the prayers from home help very much. Something Grandpa Bown said in a letter really stuck out to me - he said that if you think about all the people praying for me (family, friends, and all the Saints worldwide), it's really quite remarkable, and that there's no way I can fail with that much help from everyone. I've definitely felt that help and I'm very thankful for your prayers - both from you and from everyone else. They really do mean a lot.
Cool to hear about Casey going to Spain. Wish him luck for me! Also cool to hear that everyone had a good week, and that your parents and Dad's parents are all doing well. Lisa wrote me today - tell her thanks and that I always appreciate hearing from her. I think that about covers it for this week. Thanks, as always, for your letter and for all your support, Mom. I hope you have a wonderful week and that things go very smoothly. I love you very, very much. Adios! :)
Dad: Wow. First off, just - wow. The news about the Storymakers Conference was awesome. I was extremely excited to read about what happened and that you won - not just once, but twice. Man, that's so cool. I feel proud and excited for you (With my help, you became the best! Hah.) Also cool that they liked your voice and storytelling style in addition to the ideas and actual events. Funny to hear about you and Reagan playing with the dogs, and going bowling. You can have your fancy 300 scores, but nothing better than a good, solid 80. :) Sounds like it was a lot of fun. I can picture him running after the ball too.
Interesting what you said about "What would Jesus do?" - and about following the Spirit. I've had a couple like that recently. Promptings like, talk to that person, or go down that street - but also, don't look over to the left, or don't take that taxi. Interesting, because I haven't really seen the outcome of following those promptings (other than that I'm still alive and healthy, of course), but I know that I was protected from something. Like you said, a lot of times I'm curious about what it is - but then I've thought, hey, I just received a prompting and now I'm going to fly right in the face of it? It's kind of a neat experience, though, to receive those little whisperings.
Your last couple paragraphs in the email were awesome. Very cool, Dad, that hearing about my mission is important for you. Makes me want to work that much harder! :) I like the saying "keep on keepin' on" - kind of the motto of missionary work most days. But the work is fun and I still love it. I'm learning a lot and having a blast. Thanks for all the love and support. Remember that I love you very much, and that it's due to your influence - and that of the rest of the family - that I'm here and having the experiencies of a lifetime. Thank you for everything. Love you! :)
Thanks, everyone, for all you've done for me. Until next week! Have a good one!