Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Companion

Buenas noches de Villahermosa!

Hey everyone! First off, sorry for not emailing last week - and I also apologize in advance for the fact that this email's coming late and I don't think it'll be too long because we're short on time. As you mentioned, last week we were busy with transfers and my companion's phone call home and everything just got a little hectic. But Tuesday Elder Luna headed off to Tapachula and Elder Tanner, my new companion, arrived. He has been out for about 16 months and is from Spokane, Washington. Simply put, he's an awesome companion. He's funny, fun to be around, very spiritually minded, and extremely easygoing. (Plus, he's American. Hah.) We get along very well and we're going to have a great time working together this transfer. He's already been teaching me a lot - I like the way he teaches and talks to people; he's very warm and friendly and acts like it's the best day of his life every time we head out to work. He has a really good perspective and it's going to be a lot of fun working with him.

So, the reason for the craziness today - tomorrow we have a special four-zone conference with Elder González of the Presidency of the Seventy (and an Area Seventy's coming as well, but I forget the name), and today missionaries have been coming in from all over the place to stay with us in the house and so on. Plus, it was a normal P-day and we had a bunch to do (we actually went shopping in Wal-Mart today. It was pretty neat). So, we've been running back and forth a lot today, and time got kind of short. Also, it stormed up a pretty good one about two hours back. When it rains here, it pours and floods the streets and everything. It was rough, because we were caught washing our clothes and then had to walk for a bunch in the storm. But all is well! :) It stopped raining, our clothes are washed and dried, and we're going to be heading back home shortly. I'm really excited for the conference tomorrow. It should be very helpful and I'm certain I'll learn a lot. I'll tell all about it next week.

A couple things about what we've been up to. We have around 10 people or so that we've been teaching lately, but it's been sporadic and hard to get ahold of them sometimes. Karla (the one who had the baptismal date) has been working for two weeks in the feria (state fair type of thing) and so we had to do some rethinking about the whole situation. This week we're going to see if we can find her at home and talk about baptism. She's kind of cooled off, but we'll see what happens. We had a less active sister and her nonmember husband come to church yesterday, which was awesome; he's really excited about learning about the gospel, and beyond that, they have two kids who aren't baptized either. We'll be working with them a lot this week. Beyond that, Elder Tanner and I felt during our weekly planning that there's a family of four waiting for us somewhere this week. We're going to be working extra hard and looking for those people who are just waiting for us to find them (like the scripture in D&C that says some do not have the truth only because they know not where to find it). We've got some good plans for this week and I'm very excited for what we're going to be able to do with the Lord's help.

Today for lunch we ate seafood soup (some sort of trout, oysters, and shrimp in broth) and mojarra, then mangos for dessert. It was delicious. :) And, looks like we have to go now - man, that wasn't nearly as much time as I wanted. Sorry, everyone. Oh, but one more thing. Dad, you mentioned about how, on your mission, you would remember old pre-mission conversations with friends, but the memory would be of them speaking in Spanish. That happens to me all the time. I remember talking to family or friends back at home, and I remember the conversation in Spanish. It's really strange, but happens often. I thought it was interesting that you mentioned it.

Miranda, Gabbie, Reagan, Mom, and Dad - I love you all very, very much. I'm doing really well and having a great time. The phone call was wonderful, and thank you for writing. I hope you all have a wonderful week, and I'll be able to write much more next week when things calm down. Thanks for everything - lots of love!
Con amor,
Elder Greer

Friday, May 7, 2010

Alligator fish

Greetings from Mexico! :)

Hey everyone! It's been a wonderful week, and it was great to read the email and hear how everyone's been doing. We've had some pretty cool experiences this week and I'm sure we'll have more coming up... so here we go!

Okay, first things first - the phone call. We actually have a home phone where we live; we can't call out, but we can receive calls just fine. So, this is the plan - you call me Sunday (May 9th) at 6 pm my time, using the number that I'll send you in the next couple days. Sound good? I'm really excited to be able to talk to you all so soon.

Now for this past week. First, the smaller events. We stopped by to talk to Dalia, the contact from last week - and she moved. :( Rats. She still lives in Villahermosa, so we passed on the address to the elders in her area. We're hoping that she'll continue investigating the church, because that experience with her was a good one, and she seemed really interested in learning more.

As for Karla... things aren't going as well as we hoped, but we're again hoping and praying for the best. The bad things? She smokes and is something of a drug addict, and her "husband" is in jail for assault. Those things do put a damper on the conversion process and everything. However, there are some good points - she's read the Book of Mormon every time we've left an assignment, she came to church, and she's prayed and said that she believes it's true. Those are all very good things. But, from what we've seen, she might not be willing or ready just yet to give up her old habits. We're going to work a lot with her this week and see what happens. But the Lord can work miracles in the hearts of His children, so we're not giving up hope.

So those two things were a little depressing, but we've been exceedingly blessed in this past week as well. One cool this is that we found a woman named Lirio and had a wonderful first lesson with her. We were contacting and knocked on her door; she told us she was a devout Christian who attends a church down the street. When that's the first response people have to what we say, it usually means they're not interested in listening - but she let us in and we started to teach her. She was extremely attentive and asked all the right questions; several times she commented on feeling goosebumps or feeling different listening to us, and because she has a religious background recognized it as the Holy Ghost. It was neat. I was teaching her about the Restoration and recited the First Vision to her. I then asked her, "What would you ask Jesus if you had the chance to talk to him face to face?" She started crying and told us how she would ask why her daughter was taken away from her so young. Her ten-year-old got sick and died about a year ago. Well, the story that she told us then turned into a wonderful chance to teach and testify about the Plan of Salvation and that she'll see her daughter again. We then tied that back into the Joseph Smith story and taught her how that is all possible. It was a really special lesson and all of us felt the Spirit very strongly throughout the whole of it. Usually lessons aren't supposed to exceed 45 minutes (and we try to keep them to around 25, because there's only so much people can take in at once), but we were there for almost two hours. It was wonderful though. She was going to come to church yesterday, but an emergency came up with a family member elsewhere and she wasn't able to. We're going to visit with her either tomorrow or Wednesday and continue teaching her - I'm really excited for it. Every single experience I have like that only strengthens my testimony of God's love for each and every one of His children. This is His work, and He is involved in every part of the process of collecting His errant sheep back into the fold. It's incredible to be part of this.

Let me throw in one quick story.  A few days ago we ate fish for lunch - this time one called pejelagarto. I'm going to send a picture of it, but they say it's a mix between a fish and an alligator (the name is a mix of those two words as well). It sure looks like one! It tasted good - just like any other fish (so, as Dad would say, like licking the bottom of the ocean - but I liked it), and really good with lime and salsa. Yum!

I had a great experience meeting an American named Garrett Bishop, and giving him a blessing, but I think I'll save this story to tell in person (sort of) on Sunday. It's a little more detailed than I have time for right now. I'm sure I'll remember, but remind me about it anyway - it's a very special experience.

So, now time for responses to the wonderful emails of my beloved family...

Gabbie: I just love The Gabbie Show! Haha. It's always really neat to hear about what you're up to and to see your personality come through in what you say. I can't even believe you're almost twelve! Wow, time passes fast. You're getting old! :) Time does fly really fast here. Sometimes the days are long, but the weeks go by really fast, and the months even faster. Your toy iguana sounds really cool. I wonder what Nikka would do if she saw a real iguana... the dogs here try to eat them, but the iguanas just climb the trees and they're safe. Haha. It's pretty funny. Congratulations on completing your Faith In God! That's so awesome. Good luck in the interview!! Don't worry, the Bishop's not too scary... haha. Really, though, Gabs, good job. Keep up the good work. And where did you ever learn the word googleplex? Sheesh, you're getting smart. Well, Gabbie, have a wonderful week, and an amazing birthday. Thanks for being such a fun sister. I love you very, very much. I'll talk to you on Sunday!! :)

Miranda: Hey! So nice to finally hear from you... haha just kidding! I laughed at hearing how you just want to be done with school - I think that always happens around this time of year. Yeah, I felt like that toward the end of senior year (just fourth term - for the rest of it I was okay)  But just stick in there and keep working hard - it'll pay off in the end.  Funny to hear about the weather turning cold again - here it's just stayed pretty hot, but I'm getting a little more accustomed to it. One important thing is drinking a lot of water - if I can have a glass every fifteen minutes or so, I'm okay. :) Haha. It's a scorcher, but it's not terrible. It sounds like even though you didn't win any lacrosse games you still enjoyed it and had a good time, which would be the most important part. Hopefully next year Timp will have a team again. Also, the "whole day in Spanish" thing was interesting. I remember doing that in high school and also in the MTC. Now it's become so second nature that I really just talk without thinking about it much. It's kind of cool. On Sunday we'll have to see how your Spanish is going. :) Well, Miranda, thanks for writing and for being my sister. Thanks for being a good friend and a good person all-around. I love you very much. Have a wonderful week - and I'll talk to you on Sunday!! :) Adios!

Mom: Hey! I'm glad you enjoy my emails and that at least occasionally I remember to answer questions and things. I'm become so accustomed to some things that I forget that they're not normal back in the States - which is why questions always help me know what to talk about. Dad forwarded some emails from Mikey, Cameron, Jason, and Kevin, and I found them really interesting to read. I noticed how their language crept into their English for some things. Well, Jason not so much - but both Kevin and Cameron said a couple things how they're translated, but not how we'd say it in English. The only example I remember is when Cameron said he'd have to wait until the money "drops." Well, I wouldn't say it that way in Spanish either, but it makes a lot more sense in Spanish and actually sounds right, and I'm sure in Portuguese that's the verb used. And Mikey threw in half a dozen words in Spanish that we use here as well, so that was a pretty neat thing. It will be really interesting to compare his mission experience with mine when we get home. Anyway, it was pretty neat to read those emails.
Zone Conference is tomorrow, and I'm really excited about it, as always. I'll let you know Sunday what I received. :) We'll get transfer calls on Saturday sometime - so I'll also tell you about that on Sunday. I personally think I'm going somewhere else... but who knows?  I laughed that you tried pozol but with flour... I'm pretty sure water with flour would be kind of disgusting. :) Then again, water with cornmeal doesn't sound too good either... it's definitely an acquired taste. One thing that's nice is that it kills your thirst for quite a while - which is one reason why they drink it so much here. But yeah, maybe you can just wait until I get home and we can try some. :)  As for the package - a couple things came to mind. Oh, but first - just a reminder about renewing the National Merit Scholarship thing, I think the time is coming up when that has to be done - though I'm sure you're on top of it. Now, what I want for my birthday. Elder Jackson recommended to be an LDS a capella group called Eclipse that's really good. They have a CD that's just hymns. If you see that somewhere, that might be a good choice. (Oh, and you can always send me burned CDs if you want or if easier - and again, thanks for what you've already sent!) Also, I would enjoy a box of Grape Nuts, if there happens to be one on hand. :) Photos of the family are good - as would be of friends (if you have any pictures of them), vacations, etc. And one thing that I would really like is a shoeshine kit. It's pretty cheap to have it done here in the street, but it would be nice to be able to do it on my own. More than those things... well, ties, socks, the usual. What you sent for Christmas was perfect. Feel free to surprise me! :) Mom, thank you for all that you do. Thank you for all the support you've always given me. You're the greatest example to me of charity and selfless service. Thanks for everyone. I love you very much, and hope you have a great week. Talk to you on Sunday! :)

Dad:  As for the cinco de mayo thing - I heard the same thing you did, that it's just a Mexican-American thing. I haven't heard anything about it yet - but I guess we'll just see in a couple days.  It is interesting to hear from you the weather forecasts for down here, because often I don't know exactly how hot it is or what's coming up.  Now for what you asked about the day-to-day experiences: There isn't a day that goes by that we aren't asked for money by somebody on the street. About half the time we give them a couple pesos, but we start to recognize them and it's obvious they just get drunk over and over. (Reminds me of what you said about a companion handing out bread in your mission - I'll have to try that.) There aren't any really dangerous areas where we are, but a couple where we need to be careful at night - one of the colonias is pretty poor and there are a lot of drunks at night. It used to be that taxis wouldn't ever take people there - like 15 years ago, though. Also, we're always crossing bridges and underneath them at night there can be a bit of danger. So far, though, we've been really careful and nothing at all has happened to us. Yeah, every so often someone comes up and tries to speak English, then laughs and runs away. Sometimes it's a profanity they've heard in a movie... that's always kind of a shock when I hear it (unless they pronounce it so badly that I don't understand, which also happens). The other day someone stopped us and asked how to say beer in English - I told him it was "sin." Haha. :) Nobody's called me rubio thus far - here it seems to be strictly blonde-haired - but I have been called gringo, güero, and chelo, all of which mean more or less white. Church is mostly the same, from what I've seen (down to the discussions of "deep" doctrine in Priesthood, hah), and mostly the people here are favorable in their views toward Americans. But I have seen some of what you said, about how they think that we think that they're inferior or something. Which reminds me - people from Tabasco are called chocos, and they have a distinct accent. They drop the s's in lots of words, like how Chileans do, or they speak it with a "j" sound (or an h in English). Sometimes it makes it hard to understand. I'll have to show you more how it sounds on Sunday. That story about Celia was pretty cool - I hadn't heard it before. It definitely does teach the different things you said - and the experiences I've had with following the Spirit have also left me grateful I did so and that I was listening, and make me want to do so more often to be there for the people who need me. I also liked what you said from Elder Maxwell's book - effecting the right kind of conversion is essential, because only when people truly have a testimony will they stay active in church. I've got some more thoughts about testimony and the Spirit - but they relate to the story I want to tell on Sunday, so I'll save them. Suffice it to say that I again loved your insights and they've made me think quite a bit, and redetermine to do even better. I liked what you said about me being a good influence on everyone in the family - I think about that a whole lot, but the other way around, how everyone in the family has had and continues to have such a powerful influence on who I am. :) I love you very much, Dad. Thanks for everything. I'm excited for the phone call on Sunday! Chow for now. :)

Thanks, everyone, for all that you've done and for writing. The work continues forward and I still love it. Until Sunday! :)
Con amor,
Elder Greer