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!