Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Hey everyone! :)

Thanks, everyone, for all the birthday wishes and the messages. I really enjoyed reading through what everyone from the family wrote and I'm sure I'll enjoy it more tonight when I can actually sit down with calm and read it through. ("With calm" is one of those phrases that works in Spanish but not so much in English. Oh well.) Thank you all very much!

So, a quick recap of the day's events. I slept in, had breakfast in bed, went and caught the afternoon showing of Prince of Persia, and then headed back home for a party with all my friends. Oh, wait - that didn't happen at all! Ha. Yes, I'm still a missionary, and behaving as one.  This is what really went down. I woke up, exercised, had our hour of personal study. Then during the second hour (companionship study) Elder Jackson tried to make me a cake. The problem is, we only have a hot plate and a microwave to cook with, and with the lack of supplies on hand he did the best he could. We had pancake mix and so he tried to make a bunch of large, thin pancakes so that they could be stacked up into a cake-like creation... they turned out tasting more like crepes, but with syrup and peanut butter and crumbled chocolate chip cookies on top, it tasted pretty awesome. They went to a little store nearby (the kind that's on every corner, because here people just sell things out of their houses) and bought a giant candle and stuck it in the middle. I'll see if I can send a picture; it was pretty funny. They sang happy birthday and the Mexican equivalent (las mañanitas - look it up if you can) and we all ate and had a good time. Then we kept studying and went about normal P-day activities. For lunch we ate fried fish with radishes, tomatoes, carrots, and broccoli. (Sounds like an unusual combination - especially when you throw it all in a tortilla - but I've gotten used to it down here haha.)  It was a fish called róbalo; I'm not sure what it would be in English or anything, but it tasted really good.  Sister Velasco, the mission president's wife, called me around 9:30 am to wish me a happy birthday. She said to say hi and send her greetings and appreciation to the family and told me to keep working hard and to enjoy being 20 years old. It was pretty neat and very thoughtful of her to do that. And so that was basically how I celebrated my birthday - cake (sort of) and fish. No presents, really, but being a servant of the Lord is its own present and definitely more than enough. :) Plus, I received quite a bit of birthday wishes today - Lisa emailed me with messages from everyone on Mom's side of the family and Grandma and Grandpa Greer emailed as well. Please tell all the cousins and family of Greg, Cheryl, Uncle Bruce, etc thanks for their comments :)

Now let me say a few things about what's been going on this week. First off, the rain. It has been raining intermittently the last week or so, but yesterday and today have been crazy. It pours - and I mean it just comes down it sheets for anywhere from 2-10 minutes, and then just stops. The sun comes back out, even. But then five minutes later, the rain hits again. We'll be walking down the streets and it starts to rain, so we put our jackets on. Five minutes later, the sun's shining again and we're too hot, so we take them off. And so it goes... all day long. At one point yesterday it rained for no longer than seven seconds (pouring rain) and then just suddenly stopped. Seven seconds, and that's it. Weird, huh? But it's been pretty fun. We were hoping that seeing us soaking wet would make people let us inside out of pity or sympathy, but it doesn't seem to have worked. Oh well. :) The weather has been pretty crazy lately, and the river's rising a lot and threatens to flood if it continues like this, but I prefer cool temperatures to the customary heat, so all is well.

Our investigators are doing pretty well. María Luisa (Rosa's grandma) came to church yesterday and loved it. We set a new baptismal date for her on July 17th. She's doing really well and is always a lot of fun to talk to and teach. We taught Rosa and Ricardo about marriage and the law of chastity and "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" and it was really spiritual. They both want to get married (they have the cutest little two-year-old daughter), but they're kind of afraid of the commitment (yes, I see the irony). So we gave them some time to think about it, pray, and discuss the issue, and we're going to see what happens. We're meeting with them tonight and we're hoping for the best. If not now, I'm sure they'll be baptized eventually, but of course the sooner the better. I'll let you know how it goes next week. As a side note - it's really interesting how the Lord helps us as missionaries, especially when we don't always have experience with things the investigators go through. For example, I don't know what it's like to have a child nor to be married, but the Spirit helped us teach them about those things in a way that I think really got through. It's pretty cool when things like that happen. The little experiences with the Spirit are what make up our testimonies rather than just huge events.

Feliciano has to work on Sunday for a little while now. He's an albañil (which translates as stonemason, though it's not exactly the same type of job here) and they're working on a house that requires him to work on Sundays. He says they should finish soon, and that he wants to continue going to church when he can and that he still wants to be baptized, so we're going to keep teaching him as often as we can. He's still reading the Book of Mormon and progressing really well. I hope that his work schedule goes back to normal soon, because he has a pretty good testimony of the truthfulness of the Restoration and really wants to become more involved in the Church.

We're teaching another family, a referral from a member in the ward - her inactive son and his nonmember wife and daughter. They seem willing and dedicated to do what's necessary to gain a testimony. More news to come. Beyond that, we're teaching a handful of people and working our tails off to find new investigators. We had a cool experience giving a blessing to a less active girl this week - it cured her of her fever and really renewed her interest in the Church; we're going to start working with her family too. So there's plenty of work here and things are going well for us. This past week was full of good successes and we're hoping this coming week will be even better. The work moves forward! :)

Regarding the mission split - we still don't know when transfers will be. I'll be here for at least another week, and what the new president will probably do is keep things the same for this next transfer - meaning I'm likely not going anywhere for a while, which is perfectly cool by me. He arrives in Villahermosa in a couple days and we'll see what happens from there.

Well, that's about it for general stuff. I'm doing really well and still loving missionary life. I think I'll now move on to the "replies" section of Elder Greer's Weekly Letter... :)

Gabs: Hey Gabs! :) Your "happy birthday" greeting was pretty awesome - definitely the biggest of them all! Thanks! To be honest, I feel the same as I did yesterday. It's strange thinking that I'm now 20 years old. I guess that's how it always works, huh? Girls' Camp sounds like it was a blast! I liked how you described everything you did. It made it so that I could picture all the activities and everything. I bet you had a lot of fun and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I also laughed at the last part of your email - "i got car sick on the way home so when i got home i puked. :( :( then i was fine i ate a bread stick. then i got stung by a hornet then i cut my tongue. mom says to wrap it up." Haha! The way you said that made me laugh a lot. I asked myself, "A breadstick?" and then I remembered that I haven't eaten a real breadstick in a long time. Mmmm. I also thought it was funny that Mom told you to wrap your tongue. Maybe she was hinting at something... haha. :)   I hope you have and equally fun time this week and that you keep being such an awesome sister! Thanks for writing! I love you very much! :) (Oh and PS have fun at Lake Powell!)

Miranda: What a letter! :) Nice job! It's a little weird being 20, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. It is pretty interesting how everyone's growing up - imagine that! ;) Also weird to think that Mom and Dad will be in their 50s when Gabbie's my age... (I bet that's a comforting thought, Mom and Dad!). Your dream was pretty hilarious and I laughed quite a bit about it - still laughing when I think back to it. Maybe it was some kind of prophecy... :) I really liked reading everything you said about Girls' Camp. It sounds like you had a great time and that it was both fun and very spiritual.  It all sounds pretty neat and I'm sure all the girls were uplifted (I was just by reading about it!). You mentioned staying up late, and that made me think - I used to really enjoy staying up late before the mission (and eating a few chili dogs while I was at it - ha), but right now I'm all too ready for 10:30 to come so that I can go to bed. We work hard all day and when we come home there's not much time to relax. We plan and then I eat something, change my clothes, sometimes shower, read for a bit and then head to bed, and I'm often dead tired by the time I lay down. (Oh, speaking of, I forgot to mention that they finally gave us real beds. Pretty cool, huh? I think I'll still use the hammock every so often though.) I couldn't get anywhere near staying up till 2 or 3 am right now... uh-oh! I'm turning into Mom! (Haha. Just kidding, Mom!) Thanks for your letter and for being a great sister. I'm glad you had a good week and I hope this one is just as fun. I love you! Adios! :)

Mom: I remember way back when I was only 19 years old... (haha you never miss a year). Thanks for the birthday wishes. Nope, no packages or letters or anything yet, but they'll probably make their way up here soon... or eventually. :) I had a good birthday though. Different, but still fun. And I felt a lot of love coming from home, especially reading the email today. Let me know how the birthday celebration in my honor at home goes next week. :) It was really cool to hear about Girls' Camp and what everyone did. It sounds like you had a good time and I'm sure it was a good opportunity for everyone. I was glad to hear that Reagan survived the week too. ;) It was funny to read how he typed his "message" - I can definitely picture it. It seems like everything is going pretty well with everyone. Thanks for having been a good mom to me for these 20 years - here's to another 20 more! :) Thank you, Mom, for all of your support and love. I hope you have a wonderful week. I love you! :)

Dad: First off - I forgot to wish you happy Fathers' Day last week, so here it is: Happy Fathers' Day! :) Sorry about that. This week's letter is quite a doozy, but in a good way. It was really cool to hear from everyone you pasted at the end. It sounds like you had a really good time with Reagan. It was neat to hear about what you did and that everything went cool. (Not that I doubted, mind you... hah.) I bet it would be fun just to spend some concentrated time with him. It was also neat to hear about the Stake Priesthood thing; I'm glad it went over well and I'm sure it would have been cool to see. I wanted to comment on one thing I've been thinking about - remember how you always "accused" me of having no work ethic? (Haha. Kidding. Reminds me of the "you think I'm Satan" comment.) What I mean is, how we've talked about that before and you've always encouraged me to develop one. Well, I'm starting to realize what you meant. Whenever we talked about it I always thought, hey, I can work; if someone tells me to do something, I'll do it. I now understand that a work ethic is working when nobody's telling you to. It's one thing to work because you have to, but to go out and work as a missionary all day every day as hard as you can without anyone breathing over your shoulder? Well, that's something different. I think I've actually been developing a true work ethic out here and it's been really neat to learn that and to see my progress. I'm still not perfect at it, but I'm truly seeing the results. Just thought you might want to know that all of your lectures... er, I mean, all of our conversations have paid off. :) Seriously, though, thanks for always teaching me how to be better, and for all the advice you've given me. It's really helped me out, and continues to do so. Thanks for including all the comments from the family and for forwarding Mike's letter and pictures, and also from all my friends on missions, and cousin Mikey. Sounds like he's doing really well too. I would like to write more, but I'll have to save it for next time. Thanks for the letter; it was awesome. I'm glad things are going well and I hope they continue thusly for the coming week. I love you, Dad. Chow for now! :)

Thank you, everyone, for the birthday wishes and for writing a bit and telling me about what's going on. I really appreciate it and it makes me feel very loved on my birthday. I know the Church is true and that our Heavenly Father loves us. Until next week! :)
-Elder Greer

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cooling off

Hey everyone! It was great to read this week's email and hear how everyone's been doing. This past week has been a great one and I'm excited for yet another. It seems like the hot season is mostly over, because it's been a bit cooler this week, and they tell us the rains are coming up in July. Pretty cool; I'm looking forward to it. I might actually get to use those rain-proof shoe coverings I've been carrying around since I left home. :) Speaking of, today I cleaned out my room and luggage and stuff and reorganized everything, and I decided to throw out the three tubes of sunscreen that have also gone unused thus far. I never used it at home, and now that the hottest part of the year is drawing to a close, I think it's safe to say that I won't be using it anytime soon. I actually didn't throw it out, but left it in the cupboard, in case a future missionary wants it. Haha.
A couple interesting things happened this week. First off, the investigators. Things kind of took a dip, but we're confident (and praying) that things will still work out. None of the four investigators with baptismal dates showed up to church yesterday, so we had to go find them in the afternoon and figure out what was up. Feliciano's wife told us that his boss switched his work schedule around at the last second and so he wasn't able to come. We're going to stop by tomorrow in the morning to talk to him. He won't be able to be baptized this Saturday, but his wife said he still reads the Book of Mormon every night after work and that he's been really happy in the last couple weeks, so we're pretty sure he still wants to be baptized and that it'll happen soon. (By the way, his wife is a member of some other church - I think "La Iglesia de Dios en México," which seems kind of a weird name, and a bit presumptuous, but oh well :) - and it's funny because she tells us she's been trying for years to get him to church and he's never wanted to go, but now he's finally going to a church and it's not hers. She always says, well, maybe he's rejected my church, but at least he's going somewhere. Hah. It's kinda funny.) The lesson we had with him last week was, as always, very spiritual. I'm sure things will go well tomorrow. As for María Luisa, Ricardo, and Rosa - well, María Luisa is around 70 years old and her arm sometimes bugs her from a fairly recent injury, and she didn't feel well the morning of. From what she's told us about wanting to go to church, I know it wasn't her will to stay home. Ricardo and Rosa didn't show up either, and Rosa's mom told us that they aren't legally married (a big problem here, and it's kind of difficult to get married sometimes, which is hard too). So, we're going to work on that one as well - we have an appointment with them for Wednesday. I'm confident María Luisa will get baptized as soon as possible, and it might take a little more time with Ricardo and Rosa but they seem really desirous to be baptized, so I think it'll happen. Your prayers will definitely help. Saira is doing pretty well - still hesitant about the whole baptism thing, and she didn't come to church yesterday either, so tomorrow we'll see what's up, but she's doing well with reading the Book of Mormon and everything. She keeps saying that she'll be baptized eventually, and mentioned August and then said, "That's pretty far away, isn't it?" So I think it'll be fairly soon that she makes that decision - but we'll just have to wait and see. We're working with some other people, but those are the strongest right now. We've also started working with a few less-active families and are seeing some good results, so the work in general is going well and there's plenty of it. We're pretty busy - which is great.
Another thing I wanted to share was something cool that happened on Wednesday. We eat on Wednesdays with a sister named Adriana - I mentioned her a while back, her daughter's name is Taira, she recently returned to church - and afterward we wanted to share a spiritual thought with her. We hadn't really planned anything, and what we do in those occasions is just pull out the scriptures, pick one that we like, talk about it, and let the Spirit be our guide. (I don't want it to sound like I don't put any thought into what we're teaching, just that we hadn't planned this one.) As I pulled out my scriptures, I said a quick little prayer and asked Heavenly Father to help me know what to share. The number 15 came into my mind and I had the impression that I should share verse 15 of whatever page I opened up to. Now, I've done that before just jokingly - "I'm going to open up the Book of Mormon and the first verse I see is my answer" - and it usually doesn't work so easily. But, of course, it's possible (Dad, your experience with choosing to extend your mission came to mind), so I decided to give it a shot. I opened up the Book of Mormon to Alma 46 and read verse 15 to myself, then sort of put together an idea of what to say and went with it. Basically, I shared what I called "the Moroni Formula." In that chapter it talks about how Moroni makes a stand (creating the Title of Liberty), prays for the Lord's help, trusts in God, and then goes out among the people to rally them to his side (he acts upon his decision). I talked about how that is a good example for us - we need to make firm decisions about our moral standards or who we are or what we are going to do, pray for guidance, trust that God will help us, and then go and do. It was a pretty cool little lesson, and it was 100% on-the-spot inspiration. It was really neat to have been a part of that, and just another testimony to me that God loves His children and wants to help them.
This week I also completed 10 months in the mission. As always, it seems like time is just flying by. I only have 14 months left. It's cool, but makes me want to work even harder to make the most of those months. Being a missionary is a great opportunity and I want to make the most of it. I'm starting to be more outspoken, a little bolder, talking to everyone and proclaiming the gospel and teaching them about the Restoration. It's neat to see the changes in other people and to also see them in myself. It's amazing what the Lord can do with a willing heart (1 Nephi 16:29... "by small and simple things..."). To sum up (because there's just too much to explain): I'm loving my time out here and becoming even better than I was before (if that's even possible... haha just kidding!). This is a wonderful experience and there's nowhere else I'd rather be right now.
That's about it for cool things this week - on to the good stuff.
Gabbie: Pretty exciting about Girls' Camp! That should be a lot of fun for you - especially with Mom and Miranda there. You'll have to tell me all about it when you get back. You can pretend you're down here in Mexico when you're out in the wilderness hunting iguanas and building fires... oh, wait, that's what I did in Scouts. What exactly goes on in Girls' Camp? Haha. :) I can't wait to hear about it! I hope you have a great trip. I remember the Autopia ride in Disneyland, and the drivers licenses they give out. Actually, I remember getting a license from Legoland and keeping it for a while - I may, in fact, still have it somewhere. Pretty funny that you got yours laminated. Now it's official! :) Mom's been telling me about you on swim team. I thought it was funny that you didn't go to the one in Payson because it was too early. Drive! Ambition! The will to conquer! ;) haha. Anyway, Gabs, sounds like a lot of fun things have been going on, and I'm excited to hear next week about your time at Girls' Camp. Have a great trip, be safe, and have a wonderful week! I love you (un sinnúmero de veces más de lo que me amas)! :) Adios! :)
Miranda: Yep, still going with the hammock, though the past few nights my companion has been giving it a try. It's really comfortable, but yeah, you can't really be on your stomach. The hammock at home has pieces of wood at either end to hold the hammock in a square position, right? Real hammocks come to a point, and it's a little easier to sleep on them that way. (I'm learning so much out here! haha.) I'm totally fine with being in the new mission. For one thing - wherever the Lord wants me to serve is fine by me. :) Plus, the new mission includes part of Veracruz, and it'll be interesting if I end up going there. Also, like you said, it'll be cool to say I served in two missions, and fun to get to know the new president and his wife and everything. Tabasco's the hottest part of the mission, and in Chiapas it rains more in the fall. I think there are more "roaming animals" in Chiapas - there's a lot more jungle and more little towns there. So it will be interesting to get to know Tabasco better, though it'd be cool to be in Chiapas too - I guess what I'm saying is that they're both good, but I'm happy being in the new mission. Tell Chantelle's parents I'm doing well and having a good time. I think that's cool that they ask about me. As for the earliness in inviting people to baptism - we try to do it as early as possible to get people focused on that goal. That's really the point of us teaching them, and if we have that set right up front, it makes the lessons a lot more focused and motivates the people more. It takes courage to accept the invitation so early, but the people who've been prepared usually have enough to say yes. But yeah, it's pretty neat that people do say yes so early on. 
 I bought a handful of drink packets (Tang) of various flavors that we don't have in the States. I'm going to try to send them home one of these days. The flavors include tamarindo, guayaba, jamaica, maracuyá, and tuna (no, not actual tuna - it's a fruit). They have some cool candies here too - sweet and spicy at the same time. Weird, but cool. Toy Story 3 sounds like it was really good and the story about Reagan grabbing a handful of a stranger's  popcorn made me laugh a lot. Good ol' Regs! :) Give him a hug for me, just for doing that. :) Girls' Camp should be exciting and it'll be cool to be there with Mom and Gabs. I hope you have a fun week and are safe. Talk to you next week (on my birthday!). Love you! :)
Mom: Come to think of it, it would be a pretty close race between Grandma Bown and Sister Velasco. I've seen some really short people here. :) Yeah, the picture was the entire zone. And yes, the split does take place on Monday - or maybe July 1, I'm not positive. But I probably won't be going anywhere for a couple more weeks, so that's cool. I like where I'm at and who I'm with. It'll be neat to see the changes in action. Don't worry about the fact that other things you've sent didn't arrive - I'm sure my birthday will be more than memorable enough, and they'll get here eventually. :) I took out some money a few days ago from my debit card and my companion and I might get pizzas or do something cool (and allowed) for my birthday. So don't worry about it at all. Plus, getting the family email on Monday will be present enough. :) Girls' Camp (as I've said for the third time now, haha) sounds like it's going to be really fun and I'm sure you'll all have a good time. You'll have to tell me all about everything that you did next week. I like how all you said this time was "Dad and Reagan should have fun." Haha. Acceptance at last! ;)  I thought what you said about making Miranda eat fish on my birthday was pretty funny. You celebrate it there and I'll do the same here! :) Thanks, Mom, for all that you do for me, and thanks for writing. Have a great week and I hope everything goes well. I love you very much! :)
Dad: I really liked what you said about Gideon, and also loved what you said this week. I want to read that a couple more times and really think about it, because I like the concepts a lot. The whole idea of continuous improvement, the Atonement, and coming to know God is really interesting. Seems like a cool book, too. Also, about how we must submit ourselves to the will of the Lord, and the parable in the Gospel Principles book (we had that lesson yesterday too!) is really neat, and very true. I laughed at "2-27 weeks" too - and don't worry; I'm perfectly fine just waiting until what was sent arrives, whenever that may be. No big deal. (I do it all the time... huh?) Saira says her name Sigh-ra. There's a sister in the ward named Viané - I really like that name. Thanks for the compliments and what you said about me - reading the emails always boosts my confidence and excitement a little - and thanks for answering the church question. That's a pretty good point, too - you'll never regret going to church. I remembering hearing, and enjoyed remembering, the story about not going out for Chinese food on your mission. A good lesson to be learned from that one. I'll definitely keep that in mind this next Monday. :) But really, it makes me think about how important it is to be choosing the right all the time - because God is always watching, isn't He? Also the question about going into town to escape missionary life - isn't that the opposite of what we should be doing? I smiled at the "two taps" part and it's cool to think about things like that. Grandpa Greer emailed me today, as he does fairly often, and wanted me to let him know through you if I get his emails. So, if you can tell him that yes I do, and appreciate them very much, and am planning to respond when I can - and that I do love reading the letters and that they help me out a lot. I'll do what you said as soon as I can. Tell both sets of grandparents thanks for me too. Thank you, Dad, for everything you do for me, and I hope you have a wonderful week. It should be good, just hanging out with Reagan. I love you a lot. See you next week!
Thanks, everyone, for all of your love and support. I'm doing well and loving the missionary life. Have a wonderful week! :)
Elder Greer

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mission Split - I'm now in the Villahermosa mission

¡Muy buenas tardes de Villahermosa! :)

How is everyone? Things are going wonderfully well here in Villa. I think I always say that (because it's true), but this week has been an amazing one and I'm feeling especially good right now. So let's get to it!

For one thing, the weather's pretty nice. As you mentioned, Dad, it's high 80s. That sounds hot, but for me it's a huge relief.  was actually cold last night. It's all cloudy and has been sprinkling off and on. Very nice to have a bit of a break from such intense heat. They say that within the next month the rainy season starts. It'll still be hot, but it'll rain a lot and that should cool things down some. They also say that there are flood rumors going around again. Three years ago, Villahermosa flooded (in some places up to thirty feet), and people had to evacuate (or move to higher ground) for almost a month; they say Tabasco itself almost just slid away into the Gulf. It always floods a little in the fall, but they say this year might be worse than normal. So, I guess we'll see how that goes. :) I'm sure I'll be fine though.

We had Zone Conference this last Friday. It was the last conference with President and Sister Velasco, and as such it was really special. We talked about avoiding hypocrisy, being pure inside and out, and solving problems by relying on the Spirit. One part I liked was that President Velasco taught us that when we are tired or discouraged, we should get to work even harder and start testifying and sharing the testimony that we have. Then, the Spirit will come and lessen our challenges and burdens so that we can be able to deal with them. I thought that was pretty profound. I heard a quote once that said that God doesn't get rid of our challenges, but he increases our capacity so that we are then able to solve or overcome them. That's definitely true. If I'm feeling tired or unexcited, the worst thing to do is stop working - but whenever I've continued and worked even harder, the Spirit came and suddenly I felt fine again. We also talked about a talk given by President Monson called "To the Rescue" and we were given photocopies of the painting he mentions in the talk. It's a really interesting message and has a lot of cool points. You should look it up and give it another read through - very motivating and with lots of good examples and quotes. All in all, the conference was wonderful and I really learned a lot. It was kind of sad to say goodbye to them, because I've learned a lot and had a good time these eight months (almost) in Mexico, but I'm excited to get to know the new president and have that experience. Plus, President Velasco gave us his email and I'll be able to keep in touch with him that way.

As for the question of the new mission - I'm officially in the Mexico Villahermosa Mission. There won't be any more changes between missions and the new president arrives June 28th (my birthday!). We don't know when transfers will be, because normally they'd be that same day, but they'll probably be delayed two or three weeks so that the new president can get to know us a bit before making changes. That's fine by me. I really like being here and working with Elder Tanner and I'm excited for what we're doing and going to be doing in the coming weeks. (By the way, I do know the new president's name, but keep forgetting. Haha.) As far as sending letters and packages goes - they haven't given us the new address yet, and have told us that everyone can keep sending things to Tuxtla and they'll just ship it up to Villahermosa. So no worries on that front, and I'll let you know the new address as soon as I know it. I received a couple letters and a package this conference. Two letters from the Windleys - which is really cool. I appreciate their support so much. Tell them thanks from me and that I love their letters. Two letters each from Lisa and Laura. Also, a letter from Sister Endicott and the Primary children. That was really cool. They thanked me for being a missionary and asked questions and stuff. Pretty funny, some of them. I really appreciated the thought put into it and am working on sending a reply sometime soon. The package I received was from Lisa and Laura and contained Cocoa Pebbles, Honey Bunches of Oats, and root beer. I couldn't have asked for anything better. :) I thoroughly enjoyed the root beer and am still working my way through the cereal. Lisa and Laura, thanks a ton! :) I know, Mom, that you've send packages (and Dad, you too?), and I think they'll probably get here soon. I might get them at the end of the month when they make the mission switch, but I'm not sure. I'll let you know though.

So, a little bit on this past week. We had some great success this week. Feliciano came to church and had a great time. He's still really excited about his baptism and I'm loving working with him. Every visit with him is really spiritual and he understands really well. We also now have three other investigators with baptismal dates! Their names are Ricardo, Rosa, and María Louisa. Two weeks ago we were contacting and found Rosa - she was busy, but told us to come back a few days later. We did so, and found out that her mom is a less active who used to live in Cancún but is now here to stay. She's come to church the last two weeks and seems like she's becoming active again. We started teaching Rosa and her husband, Ricardo, along with Rosa's grandma, María. When we went back for the second lesson, we invited Ricardo and María to be baptized and they accepted without hesitation. The following day, we returned (Rosa had been sick that first day), and she accepted baptism as well! We heard that Rosa's aunt just was baptized in another part of the city and that her cousin is listening to the missionaries in yet another area. So this family is golden and are doing really well. Their baptismal date is set for July 3rd. I'm really excited for it and hope to still be here to see the baptism. We're having a great time teaching them and helping them progress. Also, Saira, the investigator that we've been teaching for a while, finally came to church and really liked it. We're going to talk with her tomorrow and we'll see how that goes. :) Basically, the work has been going really well and I'm extremely excited for this coming week. We'll continue working with these people and search out other brothers and sisters who need the gospel. It's going to be fun. :)

In essence, that was this week. It was a great week and I'm thinking this one will be even better. I'm loving missionary work and continually improving and learning a lot. In the interview with the President we had a really good talk and the things he told me will help me become even better and be a more effective missionary. I feel really excited to get out and work and talk to people. And now for the good stuff... :)

Gabbie: Hey! Sounds like you had an awesome time in Disneyland! I'm so jealous that you were able to go and have so much fun. I thought it was funny that you actually did eat a turkey leg. Were they the same ones as before? If you have any pictures from the trip, get Dad to send them next week! I'm really glad you had so much fun and it sounds like you did a lot. Now that you're back and you have all of summer ahead of you, what are you going to do? Any cool plans or goals? Well, Gabs, as always I appreciate your letters very much - especially this week's multicolored "I love you." That was a very nice touch. :) I love you so much too! Have a great week! :)

Miranda: The Asian weekend sounds pretty fun! (I laughed last week at what Dad said: "I think the proper nomenclature is Chinaman week." Haha.) It seems like a good experience all around; I would have liked to have been there. Any chance that one of the places you went was a Chinese (perhaps Japanese) market on State Street by that Greek restaurant? Josh and Kevin and I went there a few times and would buy drinks and chow mein and snacks. Pretty tasty stuff. I thought it was funny that the drinks exploded and I laughed at the dried baby crabs... yum! :) When does Toy Story 3 come out? I've been seeing ads for it all around the city and it looks pretty cool. I wonder what Reagan will think. Laser tag must have been cool - I've never played free-for-all, though. That would be interesting. Thanks for your answer on why you like church. I sounds like you've been having a good summer so far. Excited to start working around the house? :) It'll be good though - I really grew to like working in the yard (after summers of hating it, however. haha). One thing that came to my mind this week - do you remember watching Darkwing Duck and Chip 'n' Dale? Those were some good times... :) Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful week! Thanks for writing me! Love you! :)

Mom: Everything is going great! :) I did like how you switched up the opening to your email. I thought it was funny. Sounds like you've been having a busy week (maybe because you said "this week has been a really busy one" haha). I'm sure you can trust in Dad for watching Reagan and I'm sure you'll have a blast at camp too. The news about Reagan sounds good, except for the whole bathroom thing of course. I hope he gets better on that, the way he was a couple months back. But it sounds like he has a fun summer lined up and that he'll enjoy himself. Gabbie sounded like she had a great time at Disneyland and I laughed at the story about them on the plane. It's great that she had so much fun. It's always cool to hear about everyone in the family and see the progress from week to week. I can't believe I hit the 300-day mark; that's pretty weird. Saturday I hit 10 months. That seems like forever. It doesn't seem like I've been out that long, but when I think about all that I've experienced and everything that I've learned, I guess it has been. I'm glad you're doing well and thankful that I can always hear from you and hear about the family each week. Remember that I'm always praying for everyone and that the Lord is watching over us. I love you, Mom. Have a great week! :)

Dad: I skimmed through the stuff about Gideon because I don't have much time right now, but I'm going to print the letter out (I always do, and have quite the collection going now) and I'll read it tonight. From what I did read, it sounds really interesting and I'm looking forward to rereading the chapters and your comments on them. I also liked the "The Lord needs us because of our weaknesses" thought. I think that's true and that it can have a lot of meaning for us. We should learn to develop our talents and strengths, and also lean on the Lord in our weaknesses. Our imperfections might actually turn out to be strengths, or might bless us in some way, and we just never know. But the Lord always does, and is always willing to show us His love if we let Him. Funny what you said about the medical thing - I'd heard of them before, but nothing like firsthand experience, huh? :) It was something new and will make a good mission story. Seems like everything's fine now. I finished the "treatment" and haven't had any further problems. I always like your final words - words of encouragement, advice, and support. And they always include something new that I try to focus on in the coming week. I've definitely seen the blessings from doing so. I just got the pictures you sent and laughed at them. Cool stuff. :) Cool to hear about Mike and Chris. I laughed as well at what you said "I got published by spite. Spite motivated me." That was a pretty good one. Well, as always, Dad, thanks for writing and for everything you teach me. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much! :)

I love you all very much. Thanks for writing and for being awesome. :) Have a great week! See you next Monday! :)
Elder Greer

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coming into hot season

Hey everyone!

Awesome to get your email - always a treat. We've had a good, successful, and interesting week here in Villa. I don't have much time today, so I'll get right down to business.

First off, the heat is really kicking in. We were at a member's house earlier washing the clothes and she showed us online that the current temperature is 102. They have the little "feels like" part where they calculate humidity, windchill, all of that. Apparently here it feels like 118 degrees. Yeah, I'm not arguing that one. :) It's almost funny how quickly we start to sweat - and when I say sweat, I mean when we start dripping with sweat, because we're always a little moist (hah). A couple days this past week I was sweating while in the shower. Cold water is running down the front of my body and my back is sweating. Does that make sense? Oh well. :) It's actually not bad; I've gotten used to feeling like this, so it doesn't really bug me anymore. A great example is that we played soccer for a couple hours today and when I was done, I put my normal missionary clothes back on, intending to head back to the house and shower and change and everything - but then decided not to because I felt perfectly normal. So what I've discovered is that the sweat and heat accumulated after playing soccer outside in the hot sun for two and a half hours is roughly the same as how I would be just standing there. They say there's an absolute zero... I think I've found the other end of the scale. :) In reality, though, I'm mostly used to it by now and it's not really a big deal. Actually kind of neat.

Today we had a zone activity - we played soccer, football, and threw water balloons at each other for a couple hours, and then ate pizza. It was neat. I haven't been running in a long time and I became winded a lot faster than I usually do. I exercise almost every morning, but don't have the chance to run very much. It was nice to run around and have fun. We have the biggest zone in the mission - 28 missionaries - and everyone had a good time. Also, zone conference will be this Friday, and I'm really excited for it.  Apart from receiving mail and talking to everyone, I learn so much and find new ways to improve my teaching and to become a better person. I'm sure I'll have lots to say about it next week - and of course I'll let you all know what I received mail- and package-wise. :)

This last week picked up a lot. We've been working hard but it seemed like things were progressing pretty slowly for a while. But this past week went really well and we had plenty of success. We have a couple investigators that are doing well and heading for baptism. One of them has a baptismal date set - June 26th. His name's Feliciano. (A mix between "feliz" - happy and "anciano" - old person. Haha. That's what we say, anyway.) He's around 60 years old and seems like he was just waiting for us to come around to teach him. We left him with 3 Nephi 11 to read and he read up to chapter 15 or so - and understood and remembered most of it really well. It was cool. He's excited about coming to church this week and is doing really well. Saira is doing well, but still hasn't come to church; that seems to be her big challenge. What we try to do most of the time is promise specific blessings in return for coming to church (peace, direction, understanding, answers to prayers, etc.), and I was curious if you all could think of a couple reasons why you like going to church - things that might draw nonmembers to come. Do you think you could help me out with that? It'd be interesting to see what you say and we might find something that will help her specifically. Dustin Montana has been working like crazy so we haven't been able to visit him this last week, but we're hoping to this week. Beyond that, we have a couple other good people who have been doing well, and additionally we've been teaching a lot of less actives and seeing good results there. It's been a successful week and I feel like it's just been preparation for this week, so we should be seeing some good things happening in the next few days.  As always, I appreciate your prayers and support from home - and really, I do feel it all the time.

I'm still doing really well personally. I'm very happy. I'm having the time of my life and enjoying every new moment. (Interruption - the cyber owner is listening to music pretty loud, as usual. What's playing right now is a live version of the traditional Scottish song "I Would Walk A Thousand Miles" (brings me back to planning the Scotland trip, Dad), but the lyrics have been changed to talk about eating 1000 cakes. Pretty weird. Anyway.) I just read an email from Kevin that his mom forwarded and he talks about how he's always learning new things and he's surprised by how much he learns every day. It's exactly the same for me. It continually amazes me how much I learn each day and how much the Lord is molding me to become what He wants me to be. I love studying and teaching and talking to people and feeling the Spirit. Being a missionary is wonderful.

Gabbie: Sounds like a pretty crazy week without the AC! (Ahem... welcome to a cold version of Villahermosa... haha.) Also - have fun in Disneyland! I'm sure it'll be a great trip. Remember to ride Splash Mountain for me and to eat a giant turkey leg for us all. :) Thanks for writing and I hope your week is awesome.  Remember that I love you very much - doscientos veces más de lo que me dices que me amas! :) Love you! :)

Miranda: Sounds like the beginning of summer has been pretty fun! I'm glad you've been having a good time. The camp planning and everything sounds cool too. You're right - doesn't really sound much like 'rough' camping. My life here is more camping than that!  Everybody mentioned the AC being out, and trying to sleep in 86 degrees upstairs, which I found kind of funny, but I guess it's all relative. Someday everyone will have a chance to visit here in Villahermosa and then you can see what I've been talking about with the heat. :)  The Asian weekend sounds really fun. Well, Miranda, thanks for your letter and for being a good sister. I love you very much! Have a great week! :)

Mom:  I'm still doing really well, enjoying being with Elder Tanner a lot, and having a lot of fun. We have a really interesting ward with lots of cool/unusual people. Next week I'll have to tell you more about some of them. We still eat every lunch with members and every so often they invite us to dinner (which is always nice!). Sounds like summer has been going pretty well. Dad sent pictures of the garden box thing and it looks cool. I eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables every day and so it'll be nice to be able to continue that coming home - a pretty good habit to have, I think. I laughed at the description of Gabbie's swim cap for the swim team. I think it's cool that she's doing that. Sounds cool about your projects and everything. And, like Dad said, what you think is a mess is probably just normal.for most of us :) Haha. Thanks for always writing and letting me know what's going on. I love you very much and hope that you have a wonderful week! Love you! :)

Dad: Funny what you said about learning what happens in the family by reading the letters, the breakers in the house, and Reagan and swimming. Haha. What an interesting life, huh? Thanks for the scripture references; I'll look them up tonight when I get home or tomorrow in my studies. I've been learning some cool new things lately - but I'll have to share them next week. Also awesome what you said about Reagan. Very interesting, and touching as well. I like hearing about things like that. Thanks for always writing and helping me out so much. I love you very much and hope you have a wonderful week! :)

Here's the paragraph you asked for, for the stake camp thing:
Preparing to serve as a missionary of the Lord is an interesting task. There are many things that can only be learned by hands-on experience and that varies from mission to mission and person to person. However, I've learned a few things here in southern Mexico that would have helped me out had I known them beforehand. One thing is the importance of letting my own testimony and personality shine. The Lord calls us to serve with our strengths and weaknesses exactly as they are because He knows how to use us to find and recover His children. There are many people in the world ready for the gospel, but sometimes it takes the right person to find them. Testimony is an important part of that finding process, and also is invaluable in teaching and aiding in conversion. A testimony doesn't have to be perfect, for as Alma teaches us, faith is not have a perfect knowledge of things. But testimony does have to be sincere and must be shared frequently. I would have read the Book of Mormon more before my mission to help me increase that testimony and learn how to follow the Spirit. Also, I have learned just how much fun being a missionary is. I knew it would be rewarding, but I never would have guessed a mission would be so fun.  Every day is filled with wonderful experiences and it's something to look forward to and anticipate with great excitement. The Lord prepares those He chooses to serve. I know that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ and that He is our Savior and Redeemer. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and Thomas S. Monson is his authorized and anointed sucessor. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and is invaluable for us in these the latter days. I testify of this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thanks, Dad. Loved the pictures. I'll write more next week. Chow for now - two taps.
Love you all!
Elder Greer

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Daily Life on the Mission

Good afternoon everyone!

It's been a great day and week and I'm excited to be able to write a little bit about them. Time is flying by and I'm being incredibly blessed. I couldn't think of a better place to be right now (though somewhere slightly colder would be nice - ha) and I'm truly having the time of my life. These 288 days (thanks for the count, Mom!) have been such an incredible experience for me, and I'm happy to know that I still have plenty of time left as a missionary - though it's going much faster than I would like.

For me, this past week has been one of setting new goals and taking the decision to push myself even harder. I think I've hit another one of those points where the Lord expands my vision a little more and I see the areas where I can do better and the ways I can improve - what we've talked about before, Dad, and how life is full of those moments (assuming we continue to progress). I read a quote that a member has in her home that talks about how when you make a decision or choose a course in life, you should go for it with all your heart and forget about the other paths you might have taken. Letting your mind turn back to a former lifestyle or to other possibilities will only distract from the task at hand and will draw your thoughts away from where they need to be. It reminds me of Elder Holland's talk in the Liahona (that's Ensign to you) a couple months back; he talked about how the sin of Lot's wife was looking back longingly at her former life - in her heart, she wanted to go back there and continue living that lifestyle, and that was at least part of the sin she committed. As missionaries, we're expected to have our... man, I forgot the wording of D&C 4 in English, but in Spanish it's "mira puesta únicamente en la gloria de Dios." Eye fixed solely on the glory of God? Something like that, I think. That's why we limit our contact with the world as much as we can - to keep ourselves focused completely on the task at hand. I think as members in general this is a good concept to put into practice; we too must be centered in the Gospel and we shouldn't look back longingly at former habits or ways of living that weren't as righteous as those we have now. Anyway, Elder Tanner and I have been talking a lot about how we really want to push ourselves, work as hard as we can, and make this transfer something amazing. This is going to require lots of concentration, prayer, and effort, but it will definitely be worth it. So, I've set new goals for myself: more diligent studying, more fervent prayer, more efficient and focusing work, talking to everyone I meet, speaking with power and authority, being perfectly obedient. Those kinds of "small" things.:) But it's a course I really feel will help me - trying to be just a little bit better. I know I'll see the blessings as I work my hardest and rely on the Lord to make up for my imperfections.

The work is going pretty well. Elder Tanner and I work really well together and have a lot of fun. He has a very strong testimony of the Gospel. We've become good friends and have a lot of fun together. We're still working with a couple people I've mentioned - Saira, Dustin Montana (yes, that's his real name, even though he's Venezuelan - kind of weird, huh? I'll have to ask him about Hannah Montana though. haha), and a few others. We've found a couple families who seem interested, and we knock a lot of doors and stop people in the street pretty often, and little by little we find the people who are ready for the restored Gospel and we'll see the fruits of our labors. This coming week should be a successful one and I'm looking forward to it.

I thought I'd write a little bit more about the food here. Today we ate spinach-stuffed chicken breasts with cole slaw and black beans. It was really good. I don't think I'd ever eaten much spinach before the mission - but everyone always talks about how it doesn't taste good, so I think that's what I expected, but I've found that I really like it. Go figure. I've also overcome the dislike of Jello - now I look forward to it whenever they give it to us. Weird, huh? :) I still don't like flan very much (remember Chile, Dad? haha), but I'm getting used to it. I've mentioned, I think, that we drink a lot of juice. Most of the time it's actually fruit water rather than juice. They throw chunks of fruit into a pitcher, fill it with water, and blend it up. Sounds kind of strange - like it'd be watered down or something - but it actually tastes really good and helps with thirst a lot. The only fruit I don't really like is papaya. I've learned to love mangos, and of course there are all the classics like pineapple, grape, strawberry, orange, etc. They have a couple fruits and drinks here that I'd never heard of in the States - guayaba, tamarindo, jamaica, and maracuyá. They all taste really cool, and they sell packets of drink mix so I make them a lot at night in the house. Do any of those have US counterparts?

Speaking of that - I've been thinking that it would be cool to buy some presents on my mission. On the bridge there's this guy who makes backpacks out of turtle shells. They're really cool and only cost around 20 dollars. It would look really cool hanging in your office, Dad... just a thought! :)  I'll keep my eyes open for cool things. Oh, and another thing that just came to mind - in the June Liahona (May still hasn't come yet) there's a "letter from the readers" thing (might be in the New Era, actually) and one of them is from none other than Andrew, my old college roommate. (Wow. I have old college roommates. That makes me sound a whole lot older.) I was kind of surprised to see his picture when I opened it up. Kind of a cool thing.

In my scripture study I'm still reading Nephi's vision and conversation with the angel - I'm in 1 Nephi 14. I think it's really interesting how he depicts the church of the devil - I referenced it to Revelations and there's some pretty cool imagery that drives home how destructive Satan's traps and lies are for us. Three key points that Nephi learns about are pride, filthiness and lust - three pretty key points that the devil hits us with. But, of course, Nephi also sees the promises the Lord has made us - the colonization of America, the Revolution, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, etc. It's really cool to see this pattern of how the Lord warns us of danger, promises us blessings, and then teaches us how to be righteous and receive them. I love reading the scriptures every day and they teach me so much. I really recommend it for everyone - it's a great way to build up spiritual strength against temptation and find peace and happiness even in rough times.

Okay, now for some responses to this week's letter.

Gabbie: No, Elder Alarcón didn't actually eat the mouse - but the picture was pretty funny, huh? And yeah, that's the size of the frog, actual size compared to the sink and everything. It's super small. I named him rana (frog in Spanish) right before I kicked him out of the bathroom - I haven't seen him since. Uh-oh... I bet you're really excited that school's out! Man - elementary school is over! Cool! And that's cool that you're going to be doing swim team - you have to tell me how it goes! I miss swimming, actually. And getting rained on isn't quite the same thing. :) Also, I bet you're super excited for Disneyland - I forgot (or maybe you never said), but how long are you going to be there? Have an awesome trip and go on lots of rollercoasters for me! :) Are you liking Beehives so far? Sounds like you had a good time at Brother Payne's and playing with their dog. Well, Gabbie, as always I love hearing from you every week. I'm a little short on time but I'll write more next week. Have a great week and keep being such a cool little kid. Enjoy your summer vacation! I love you very much! :)

Miranda: Yeah, I was one of those stupid smart kids that mess up the grade curve for you... but thanks for being so forgiving. ha - just kidding :)  I remember one in precal - he gave us a mini-test, but told us he would only put it on our grade if it helped us. I already had an A so I just didn't bother taking the test seriously - I napped for most of it.  Well, he didn't put it on third term, but decided to put in in for fourth term - so I started out with an F. Thankfully, he let me redo it and I ended up getting a good score - just kinda funny though, and I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere :). Yeah, I do remember the whole piano duet thing, but had completely forgotten about it. Haha. Too bad our plan didn't work out, huh? Your b-day meal sounded pretty cool.  Speaking of chicken hearts - try eating a chicken foot. There's meat inside, but you kind of have to suck it out... yeah, it's pretty gross. I'll leave it at that.  As for the investigators and if you can do anything to help... well, that's a good question. I'll think about it and let you know next week, okay? Thanks for writing and for being a great sister. Have fun this week, be nice to the family, eat your vegetables... all those good things. :) I love you! :)

Mom: Yes, the mouse was in our house. I don't think it's due to a lack of hygiene, because we keep the place pretty clean - I think it's mostly just because we're in southern Mexico. Haha. But we got rid of it and haven't seen any more since. Elder Tanner and I have indeed been getting along really well and I think we'll end up being good friends after the mission - he'll be going to BYU, for one thing. His siblings served in Brazil (two of them), Italy, and his sister in Geneva, Switzerland. Cool, huh?  He has a picture with all of them together with scarves saying the name of their missions. It was really neat seeing Elder Christiansen - he has been out for about 16 months and is doing well. The hammock is actually really comfortable - I've been sleeping really well lately. It's pretty fun. :) Lisa writes me pretty often and says that she's been studying parts of Preach My Gospel - I'd recommend it; it's really helpful just for members in general to learn more and develop more Christlike attributes. It's always cool to hear about how everyone in the family's doing and all the things you've been up to.Thanks for all the support and love, Mom. Have a great week. I love you very much! :)

Dad: To start off with, another interesting things - one of the drinks they give us every so often is agua de betabel (beets). Weird, huh? I came to like beets back in Tuxtla, and now I like beet water. (What a bird! ha) I hadn't heard about the hurricane, and so far no flooding - but three years back Villahermosa got hit hard, pretty crazy stuff. Most houses still have the watermarks. I've getting used to the weather - it's still really hot and humid, but it just doesn't surprise me anymore. "I go outside and I start to rain," says my companion, and it's true. Haha. Oh well. I laughed too about Orson Scott Card's response to you, especially given that it's one of those MAKE-BELIEVE stories. Hah. Go figure. Cool stuff about singing with Reagan - I laughed about the brainwashing thing, but hey, it might just work. (That idea might just be crazy enough... to get us all killed! Ask Miranda or Gabs where that's from.) Cool about Heather Johnson's farewell, say hi to the Wilsons for me. I liked what you said about not judging other people, and how the Savior didn't go around judging people, but loving them. I like that image. This week my MTC teacher wrote me, and quoted a scripture in Alma (chapter 26, I think), where it talks about how the priests, after teaching the people, went out to work because they weren't any better than the congregation. Kind of a neat image and a good thing to remember when preaching the Gospel and teaching others. It's crazy to think about where I was a year ago and how fast time has gone. I'm doing really, really well. Healthy, happy, and enjoying life very much. I couldn't ask for better. :) Thanks for all the thoughts, the love and prayers and support and for making me laugh. Have a great week, Dad. I love you!

Thanks again, everyone, and remember that I love you all very much. The Church is true and Jesus Christ is our Savior. Read about Him, study His life, and try to be like Him - each day just a little bit more. Have a great week!

Con amor,
Elder Greer