Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Letters From July 12 and July 19

Hey everyone! It's great to hear from you, as always; I love reading an update from home and hearing the new and the happenings and all the Reagan shenanigans. :) It sounds like everyone's doing really well with what fits (con lo que cabe... another Spanish-English translation).

First off, we have two new investigators with baptismal dates, Jaime and Javier. Jaime is the father and Javier's his 16(ish)-year-old son. We found them contacting on Thursday and taught them about the Restoration, then invited them to baptism on August 7th. They both accepted! I'm starting to see firsthand that this whole "invite baptism in the first lesson" scheme really works! :) Haha. They seem really willing and eager to learn. Marlene is progressing really well; she's starting to memorize the Articles of Faith with her member friends and is really enjoying studying and learning more. She's really excited for her baptism, and we are too - it's going to be a great one. We were teaching an investigator named Lupita a couple weeks back who went out of town - she let us know yesterday that she's home again, so we'll be teaching her again this week and we hope to put a baptismal date with her. We have a few other people who are progressing as well, so we're doing well and seeing the blessings of the Lord in our work. Things are going well and this week will be even better.

The highlight of last week was the Youth Convention held here in Villahermosa all week long. It's basically an EFY/youth conference type of thing - young men and women from all across Chiapas and Tabasco come up for a week to have activities, firesides, a dance, etc. It seems like a pretty awesome thing; there were a whole lot of people there, and they had a good time. As missionaries we put on a little demonstration thing one day of how to give a Book of Mormon to a friend - my companion and I explained it in front of three different groups of 50 kids. It was pretty cool and we had a good time with it. Another thing I really liked from this week is that Friday we visited María Luisa (who was beaming with happiness, as always), and we helped her pull weeds for about a half-hour. By "pull" I mean "cut with a machete" and by "weeds" I mean "giant tree-plants growing out of the cracks in her front walk." :) It was pretty fun though. I enjoyed doing some yard work again, since it's been quite a while. :) It really helped her out too, so that was nice. Also, Wednesday night a missionary was rumored to be "running away", and the Mission President wanted to talk to him first, so he asked us to watch for him at the bus station until he could get there.  Turns out that the president showed up, but the missionary never did - he'd gone back to his apartment. Kind of interesting all around. :) Hopefully he works things out and continues his mission.

Miranda:  You wrote a short letter so I will do the same. The hauling hay thing up in Heber sounds pretty fun. Well, that's about it! Talk to you next week! Haha. Just kidding. Actually, I was going to say something else too - something Dad wrote about how we spend out time reminded me of my "teen years", and of a quote by Thomas Edison. He was asked how he invented so many things and had so many great ideas, and he replied something like this: "Well, the difference between me and someone else is how we use our time. We both have 18 hours available to us each day. Most people spend those 18 hours doing a number of completely unrelated things. I, however, spend them focused solely on one thing, and in that way I'm able to actually get something done." Dad was talking about being focused on the moment and not drawn away by distractions and other things. I've definitely seen this in practice on my mission. Practically every minute of every day I do something related to the gospel and am thinking about the scriptures and the Savior. All that focus on just one thing has allowed me to really broaden my understanding and deepen my spirituality. I now recognize answers to prayers much more easily, and I find that the Spirit can be my guide and my protection if I keep my thoughts and actions pure. Basically, I've become a lot stronger in the gospel, and it's partly because of the amount of uninterrupted time I spend on it. So I think Thomas Edison had a good point. If we're doing something, we should do it with all our energy, and not be distracted by other things, so that we can enjoy that thing fully and get the most out of it. It's like if you tried to watch two movies at the same time - you might be able to follow them (mostly), but you wouldn't enjoy either one nearly as much. So that's my inspirational thought for you this week. :) I hope you're having a lot of fun, learning a lot, and enjoying your summer. Thanks for yor letters - your comments and thoughts are very profound and helpful. Thank you for being a great sister and friend; I hope this week goes really well for you. I love you very much! :)

Gabbie: Hey Gabs! How are you doing? :) From the sound of things, really great!  Something I always like about your emails is that you always include little jokes or things people said that were funny throughout the week, like talking about cleaning up or what Dad told you about not being a drama queen. Ha. They always make me laugh and help me picture being at home a little better. I laughed remembering the green bean bag thing - I had completely forgotten about doing that, but I remember how you would just fly through the air.  Thanks for the message from Reagan and for being such a great sister. Keep an eye on the little guy for me this week, and keep having lots of fun all the time! I love you Gabs! :)

Mom: Hey Mom! :) As always, it was great to get your email and hear about everything that everyone has been up to. With your email I always get a broader view of the whole family, and then with everyone else I read more about specifics - so it's really neat. We've actually seen the President a handful of times since he's been here, what with conference and the convention and a couple other things - but normally it might be about once a month, and that's only because he's here in Villahermosa.  My companion, Elder Tanner, will complete 18 months on Wednesday - so he's three-fourths done with his mission. He says it's gone by really fast. There are now around 140 missionaries in the new mission, but I don't know how many are American and how many are Mexican yet. Today I will email you a map that shows the new mission boundaries. Grandma and Grandpa's anniversary sounds like it went really well and that they had a really good time. They emailed me today and talked a lot about the party and how much they enjoyed it. I'm almost ready to send them a handwritten letter, and one to your parents too.  It's good to hear that Reagan's mostly back to normal (normal? haha) and still doing well. Mom, thank you for writing and for all your love and support. I hope this week is a wonderful one! I love you very much! :)

Dad: I really liked what you said last week about free agency and everything. You made a lot of very good points. Men become free agents unto themselves, and can choose between good and evil - which is really the choice between life and death, happiness and sadness. So, the question becomes - is what I'm doing right now making me eternally happy and leading to eternal life? If not... well, that which is not light is darkness. Interesting to think about - and rewarding to put into practice. Your insights about secret groves, plus the scriptures from Isaiah and Mosiah, were very profound, and I really liked those ideas. Thank you for sharing them - they help me out a lot. I'll be thinking about those things and trying to apply those lessons this week. As for emailing rules - still the same, I think. I can only email family directly, but can receive from friends. Transfers will be the second week in August, and I'm pretty sure I'll be transferred, so we'll see what happens. As you said, some days are easier than others, but all are a part of the experience and I'm still loving the mission. Time is still moving fast. Send everyone my best wishes (and the accompanying firm handshakes haha) and let them know I really appreciate everything they do for me. Thanks for always writing and for your example. I hope you have a great week. Love you, Dad. Two taps.

Thanks, everyone, for everyone, and I hope this week is filled with love and service and the joy of the gospel. Until next week!
Con amor,
Elder Greer

FROM JULY 12, 2010
Hey todos! I hope todo les vaya bien and that today you can give yourself count of how many blessings el Señor les ha dado en esta vida. :) I figured since Dad went with some Spanglish, I might as well try it too. To answer the question about that - yeah, we end up speaking a weird mix of the two languages a lot. I think almost all the time in Spanish now, and so even when we're speaking in English, Spanish words come out - there was a funny one a couple weeks back where we were talking and I said a phrase in Spanish in the middle of a bunch of English and didn't realize it until my companion pointed it out.

Well, everything is going really, really well for us down here in Villahermosa. There's plenty to talk about; let's get right to it.

First, Zone Conference. Let me begin by saying that President Castañeda is a very powerful, very spiritual man. From the first abrazo through the messages and in the interview, I felt the Spirit very strongly and I can tell that he has been called by the Lord to be here at this precise moment. I also know that this is where I'm supposed to be, too, so we're going to see great things happenening. In Conference the President helped us realize how essential it is that we invite people to baptism from the very first chance we have to talk to them. He mentioned, "Talking to us might be the only chance they ever have in life to be invited to be baptized by the authority of God - and if we don't offer it to them, they'll never receive it." Zone Conference was amazing all the way through. I also received two letters from Lisa, one from Sister Windley, and Dad's package with music, letters from my friends, and Liahonas. I'm very appreciative for everything that I received, especially the package, Dad. Listening to that music you sent has been great in the last couple days, and it was wonderful to read so much from all my friends on missions and see some of the similiarities and differences in the work. Also, the Liahonas have come in handy - I've given one out so far and kept one for myself, and love reading through the messages and really studying them. Thank you very much for sending all of that! :)

Friday I had my first interview with President Castañeda. We mostly just chatted, and he shared scriptures and insights that were very meaningful. I told him about how you met his old mission companion, Roman Lopez, and he was thrilled to hear about it. I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost very powerfully. President Castañeda loves us very much and is a dedicated servant of the Lord, and under his guidance the mission will soar to new heights.

Speaking of that - the leadership council that took place last week have placed a goal for the mission - 1820 baptisms in the next 6 months, which comes out to one baptism per week, per companionship. I know that God will help us along the way and will show us the ways to meet than goal. And with the baptism on Saturday, I only have 25 left to go! :) (See how easy that is?)

As for the baptism - it was wonderful. I'm going to send a couple pictures today, so you'll see María Luisa, but she's 74 years old and pretty short and not in the greatest health conditions. She's so humble and willing and was so excited this past week about being baptized. Her daughters and granddaughter came and supported her, as well as many members. There were a couple of setbacks - the font malfunctioned and the whole stake presidency worked on it for an hour just to get it going. And then the water only came to my companions waist, so he had trouble getting her all the way under, and it took a few times.  But María Luisa bore her testimony afterward and a sweet spirit filled the room. She was so excited and happy. She also bore her testimony yesterday in Ward Conference after being confirmed, and that too was really neat. She'll make a wonderful member and is so excited to have joined the Church. Overall, a great experience, and a privilege to be a part of.

That makes six baptisms for me so far (seven counting you, Gabbie!), and I hope and look forward to many more. The friend of the member family I mentioned is going to be baptized on the 31st of this month (her name is Marlene). We've taught her twice more and she accepted the invitation without the slightest hesitation. Truly a golden investigator, and I'm really looking forward to teaching her and helping her toward baptism. The 8-year-old girl, Sheyla, will be baptized this Saturday and is really looking forward to it as well. Her family has been reactivated, and things are going well with them.  We're working with a couple other people to try and put baptismal dates with them. The work is progressing really well and there's plenty of hope and excitement for the future. I thank you all for your many prayers and words of support; I do feel it coming from back home and it lifts me up and supports me through sometimes difficult days.

I don't have that much time left for today, though, as always, there are many more things I would like to say. Let me make a few brief comments and then I'll close out; I'll try to make up for it next week.

Gabbie: I smiled hearing about Reagan waking you up at three am wanting to watch a movie. Your camping trip sounds fun too! Gabs, thanks for writing me and for being an awesome little sister. I'll write more to you next week, and I hope this one is great! I love you! :)

Miranda: Man, that's quite the email! :) I really enjoyed hearing about your EFY experience. It sounds like you had a great time, felt the Spirit, learned a lot, and enjoyed yourself. I liked what you said about not settling for low standards. I think we should also expect great things of ourselves, and shouldn't justify bad decisions, but should instead strive to be better and to be the best we can be. We're still going to make mistakes, but the Lord will bless us and make up for those.  Thanks for also being such a great little sister! :) I love you! :)

Mom: What you said about what every new member needs was right on the money. President Hinckley (remember your prayer that one time?) said that every new member needs a friend, a responsibility, and to be "nurtured by the good word of God." And that's definitely true. Being busy and having that sort of help allows people to grow and develop and helps them stay active in the Church and strengthen their testimony. I was sad to hear about Reagan, and of course I'll continue to pray for him and the family constantly, especially right now so that he can start to feel better. Give him a hug for me, okay? And wish Grandma and Grandpa Greer happy anniversary for me, too. That should be a lot of fun. 50! What a milestone. Mom, thank you for all your love and support, and for always being there for me. Have a wonderful week, and remember that I love you very much! :)

Dad:  I laughed at your Spanglish, at what you said about how you had to open and close every discussion with a hymn. That would certainly be interesting. :) It's also true what you said about the new president taking charge - he's definitely receiving revelation, and he'll guide the new mission just the way the Lord wants him to.  You did tell be about "The Continuous Atonement," and the insight you shared today is pretty profound.  I'll be thinking about all that this week and let you know what I come up with. I'm going to reread 3 Nephi 9 - that whole book is amazing and so inspiring, and I really like learning more about the Savior and seeing His great love for us. And thank you for sharing your testimony; it means a lot to me. I hope you have a great week and that you are guided by the Holy Ghost to make the best decisions for the family. I love you very much! :)

Well, everyone, the Church is true and so is the Book of Mormon. If we trust in our Savior and learn of Him, if we seek to follow His guidance and His divine example, we will see His holy hand in our lives more abundantly and will see the blessings. Thank you all for everything you do for me, and have a great week! Chow for now! :)
Con amor y un abrazo,
Elder Greer

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New President ~ New Mailing Address

Hey everyone! It's a wonderful day in Villahermosa and change is on the wind. My heart is full, having just read the email and felt of the love from everyone at home. Life is amazing and there is so much to be done and so much joy to be experienced. The work has been going really well this week and I have some exciting things to report.

First, let me talk about a couple investigators. María Luisa is doing wonderfully. She came to church yesterday again and had a great time. In fact, she's going to be baptized this Saturday! We had set her baptismal date for the 17th, but that day a handful of ward members will be out of town, and María is anxious to be baptized, so we decided to move it up one week, which was fine with her. We'll be visiting her almost every day this week to finish up teaching a couple things and run over the baptismal interview. The baptism is at 6 pm this Saturday. I'll send pictures and info next Monday. :) We're also helping an 8-year-old girl get ready for her baptism, and at the same time teaching her family. It's not really our responsibility, since her family are all members and active and everything, but she wanted us to teach her and we figured it would be a good opportunity to get to know the family and everything (they recently moved back here, having lived about 45 minutes away for the last few years). Turns out we were right - yesterday we watched the Restoration video with them, and a nonmember friend of the family who works for them on weekends was there and watched it with us. Afterward she was all questions. It was pretty funny - she asked, "Is that really true?" and five people answered back at the same time, "Yes!" :) We talked with her a little bit and she's a pretty golden investigator. We're going to meet with her on Saturday to teach; it should be a good one. We're also teaching a youngish woman named Lupita; she was a referral from a member and has also been very prepared to receive the message. We think we'll be putting a baptismal date with her very soon (in fact, we're sure of it... I'll tell you why in a moment). We're still working with a few other people and have been having some good success. We should start to see baptisms more consistently very soon. Also, two less-active families that we visited on Saturday showed up for church yesterday. It was really cool to see them walk in. All in all, the work is going very well; we're having lots of success and finding out that the Lord truly does bless us for obedience and hard work.

Now on to a couple other things. President Castañeda has been here in Villa for a week or so and has made some pretty big changes. We're going to have Zone Conference on Thursday (I'm not sure if they'll have sent mail up from Tuxtla yet, but I'm hoping), and so we'll find out more then about how we're going to be doing things, but so far they've told us a bit and I'm really excited. With President Velasco, we changed the way we count and report numbers a little bit. Normally we report several areas of progress, including teaching appointments, baptismal dates, investigators' attendence at Sacrament, and so on. President Velasco had changed things around - we only counted those with actual baptismal dates, which made us focus a lot more on baptism (which I personally think was a good idea - it truly made me a better missionary, for one thing). Now, President Castañeda has switched things back to the normal way of counting (which is the way explained in Preach My Gospel). It's a better way of looking at overall progress, to be sure, but the change is still a little weird. And then, to keep us still focused on baptism, it's now a rule (with some, but only a few, exceptions) that we must invite someone to be baptized (with a specific date) in every lesson. That means every lesson and every contact have to be focused on baptism. It sounded a little crazy when they first told us, but I'm sure that as we put it into practice we'll see the fruits. The mission has a goal of one baptism per companionship every week, and this will help us reach that goal. Anyway, it's going to be really exciting to go to Zone Conference and to meet the President and hear his counsel and teachings. Sorry to bog you all down with the technical details - hopefully it was understandable. It's going to be really exciting working with him and I'm sure I'll see great things happen in the mission.

Oh, and one other thing. Still not positive, but we're pretty sure they won't be making any changes for the rest of this transfer - meaning I'll likely be here in Grijalva until August sometime. Cool with me - Elder Tanner and I are having a really good time working together and we're starting to get things moving.

That's about it for things that happened this week. It was a really great week; we worked hard, I learned a lot, I felt the Spirit often, and we had lots of success. It's just that sometimes when Monday rolls around it's hard to remember all the details - also, sometimes the week is just filled with lots of little experiences that make the whole thing great. That's what my journal is for - I'm trying my best to diligently record what happens each day, because truly a lot happens and I don't want to forget it. Oh, on thing I wanted to mention was what we ate on Saturday - I thought it would be interesting for you to see the typical day in the life of a Villahermosa missionary. Saturday was a little different than normal, but not that unusual. For breakfast I ate two slices of pizza and drank a liter of cranberry juice. :) Haha - off to a good start, right? The pizza was leftover from the night before (every so often we order something cool to eat at night) but warmed up in our microwave. In the morning we were given mango juice, Sprite, a drink called atól (no idea what it is, really, but this one was pineapple flavored), and a cinnamon cookie. For lunch we ate a little piece of carrot-stuffed chicken, some carrots, squash, corn on the cob, and mashed potatoes, with an apple for dessert and pineapple juice to drink. In the afternoon we were given jamaica juice (made from the jamaica flower, and really good), Fanta, apple soda (very popular here), and a slice of cake. Saturday was pretty filled with fruits and vegetables; a little more so than most days, but still not that surprising. I like having this kind of diet. :) I really feel a lot healthier when I eat those kinds of things instead of the normal greasy fast food and stuff. Not that I won't head over to Wendy's when I get home... but it's nice to have developed these kinds of good habits. Also, as you can see, people are really generous here. It's not such a terrible sacrifice as sometimes I saw (or Dad told me about) in Chile, because most people here can afford to give us these things, but still, it's a very special show of concern and care for other people. It's really nice to be so loved, and it makes me love the people in turn and want to serve them even more.

Miranda (just to switch up the order for once!): I smiled hearing about you scraping your leg. Not that you got hurt; that sounded pretty painful. But I thought it was interesting the way you told the story - it was definitely obvious that you've been studying anatomy or physical therapy (or whatever that thing is... hah) from the words you used and the way you described it. It's always interesting to read the emails and see or hear about some changes that are going on at home.  Also, the Fourth of July celebration with the Bowns sounds like a lot of fun. I always really looked forward and enjoyed family parties like that, and it sounds like this one was a good one. I'll for sure have to try out those games when I get back... and actually celebrate the Fourth of July (we didn't do much). I did notice that there was something different about your email, but not until you said that Lisa typed it for you did I realize what it was: grammar :) Also, it was cool to hear that you're going to (or actually at right now, I guess) EFY, and that you're in Cedar City. That should be a cool experience, and being EFY it should be great all around. Have a fun week and learn a lot and have a good time and meet new people! :) You'll have to tell me next week about what you did and the things you learned. Anyway, Miranda, thanks for writing and I hope you have a great week. I love you! :)

Gabs :) : Wow! That week sounds like a pretty crazy one! I was excited to hear about all your adventures down at Lake Powell and I'm glad to hear that you had such a fun time. It must have been cool to go with the Butlers and do all that. I'm glad you came back safe and sound and had so much fun. Also, I was impressed that you learned how to knee board - I've never done it, but it seems kinda tricky. I'll have to try that next summer (I'll be home for the end of next summer. Weird, huh?) and see how it goes. It seems like everybody missed you at home, too, which is cool - that means you're doing a good job taking care of everyone for me! Keep it up and keep being such an awesome little sister! I hope you have a great week! I love you! :) PS I really liked the message from Reagan. Tell him "oh shooo" from me and give him a big hug, will you? :) thanks Gabs! :)

Mom: I was glad to hear that everyone had a good time celebrating my birthday for me. :) The story about the Mexican food was interesting, and I also laughed last week that Josh said he would eat cake for me. That's pretty much what I expected, to be honest. Also, today I read emails from Jason and Steve, both wishing me a happy birthday. It was really neat to hear from them. I also got a forward from Kevin and a quick letter from Lisa - both cool.  It was really neat, as always, to hear about what everyone's been up to, and to hear about Reagan and his shenanigans.  I was excited to hear about Lori putting in her papers - she had told me back in one of her letters to me in the MTC about her plans to serve a mission, but I had kind of forgotten about it. It was a cool surprise. I'd add my vote to Dad's and Peter's for going on a mission - it is such an amazing experience and such a blessing. Not something I would have ever wanted to have missed out on.  Also nice to hear that people say hi from the ward (tell them hi back!) and it was neat to hear about Chris and Tregani's reception. I'm glad it all went well. Mom, thank you for writing and for being the kind of example in my life that you are. I've learned so much from you and continue to do so. I hope you have a wonderful week and that everything goes smoothly. I love you very much! :)

Dad: Wow - lots of awesome things in the email this week. But first - I sent my first weekly email to the new president today, and he sent me back a reply. It was pretty neat, because usually that's kind of rare. He said the following: "Esa es también mi fe y mi confianza [I said something about how the Lord would bless him in his calling], el Señor prepara la vía y capacita a sus siervos, usted lo ha sentido y a medida de nuestra rectitud personal y diligencia lo sentirá más claramente. Preparese para las responsabilidades que el Señor le dará. No olvide contactar a todos, sin prisa, con amor, viéndoles como el Salvador les ve. Le envío un abrazo, saludos de mi esposa. -Presidente Castañeda." Pretty cool stuff, and I can tell even from this that there are going to be great things happening soon. I'm really excited for it. Now, back to your letter. The story about Ramon Lopez was very awesome. I'll mention that to the President on Thursday; I'm sure he'd think that was a cool thing to hear about. And, speaking of the food - I actually tamales are not my favorite - unless they have lots of salsa to keep from sticking in my throat. But they're basically the national food of Mexico (although they actually don't eat them that much - they're more of a treat kind of thing). It was funny hearing about Mom and the girls' reaction to them. It was cool that you got the chance to eat some more authentic Mexican food and experience a little more of what it's like down here. I liked your comments on the Constitution, the Book of Mormon, and the founding of the US and everything. I thought everything you said was really interesting and will be reading it many times more over the course of the week. My history teacher in tenth grade sort of instilled a strong sense of patriotism in me, and I really am grateful to be a citizen of the US (even though a little far from home presently). It makes me want to be more involved in the issues that are around us and to stand up for God and freedom and democracy and everything (just like Captain Moroni of old!). I loved reading again that poem as well (My Native Land, Sir Walter Scott) and like how you applied his verse on patriotism to the gospel as a whole.  Well, Dad, thanks, as always, for your wonderful letter and the support and love I feel. Have a wonderful week. I love you very much! :)

Thanks, everyone, for all your support and love and prayers. The Church is true and the Lord will help us when we turn to him in faith and humility. Have a great week!
Con amor,
Elder Greer