Well, here we are, Tuesday afternoon... a lot of things have happened in the last week and a half, so let me see if I can explain. :)
First off, I arrived safely in Minatitlán and am doing great here, really loving the area and the ward and my companion. The reason I'm writing today is this: Yesterday we headed over to the house of a few members in the morning to wash the clothes, and by noon we were trapped by flooding. Well, not exactly trapped, but the water out in the street was up to our knees, and we were kind of hesitant to get wet, so we waited with the family for a while. Eventually the rain let up enough for us to go back to the house and shower and change into missionary clothes, with the intention of making it to a cyber and going to a few appointments. However, by the time we were ready the heavens had let loose with a torrential downpour over the city. We abandoned the search for a cyber and headed toward the bishop's house for a signature from a baptism my companion had the week before I got here. We were pretty much soaked within twelve seconds of stepping into the street, despite the heavy coats and raingear we had on. We started the trek towards the bishop's and found ourselves in a river where the street used to be. The water was up to our needs and had a pretty strong current. Later on the water was up to my waist in a couple parts, though we were mostly able to avoid those areas - and all the while raining lions and tigers.
So, we press on and finally make it to the bishop's, and wait there a while to see if the storm will let up. It didn't, so eventually we headed back out and were about halfway home when a member of the bishopric from a different ward saw us, picked us up, and drove us most of the way home. At that point it was just crazy outside - flooding in all of the streets, some areas completely covered in water, cars unable to get anywhere. Oh, and the wildlife! I saw more eels and snakes yesterday than I have in my entire life. Plus alligators and crocodiles and turtles. I only saw the turtles, but members have told us that they've been seeing crocodiles in their backyards. The church has been converted into a refuge for the members who need somewhere to go and we're pretty much just visiting all the members and making sure they're okay. It's pretty wild, and the rain hasn't let up. They say it's going to rain again in the evening, just as hard as yesterday. Oh boy.
So, that's why I'm not writing until now. Sorry for the delay, and thanks for getting both emails to me, And despite the weather I'm doing perfectly fine. I'm happy, healthy, and having fun, and really enjoying the rain (apart from the damage it's doing, of course). I've heard Coatza's in about the same shape. Hurricane Karl is here called huracán Karl, by the way. They've been talking about Matthew, but I haven't heard if it's a hurricane or a storm or what - but I guess it's doing some damage around here too, or will be.
I don't really have much time right now, but a few quick things. I've done three baptismal interviews so far (jumping in with both feet, huh? - is that the correct phrase? hah), and they've gone well. I'll have to give more details next week, but being district leader has been pretty fun so far. Dad, the things you mentioned about my responsibilities were right on; looks like it hasn't changed much.
My companion is Elder Silva, has been out only one transfer, and is from Chihuahua. He's easy to get along with and a hard worker, and we're going to have fun and success together. Oh, and send Josh my best wishes and keep me posted on whatever news you hear from him, okay? I'm sure he'll do a great job as a missionary.
Thanks for the emails. Thanks for being who you are. I'll write more next week, send photos, and give a good update on how things are going. But again, no worries about me - I'm doing great and loving every minute. The people of Veracruz could use your continued prayers, however.
Thanks for everything. I love you all very much. Until next week!
Excerpt from 8-16
Hey everyone! It was great to receive this week's email ...
First, last Tuesday at 6:30 am the bus left from the ADO station in Villahermosa. I was in the terminal by 6 with a bunch of other missionaries waiting. I got to talk and say goodbye to several of them that I've become good friends with over the past few months, including my companion, and then we loaded up and headed off. The ride was about two and a half hours and was pretty peaceful.
I got into Coatzacoalcos around 9:30 am. My companion's name is Elder Caudillo and he's from Chetumal, Quintana Roo - the state where Cancun is. He's been out for almost five months now. We have two wards, Gaviotas and Tesoro, and they both seem to be really strong. I had the chance to meet many of the members and they've all been really nice. One sister last week gave us a baked potato for lunch - the first time I've had one here in Mexico. It seems like we have a lot of support in the work from the members here; they're very willing to accompany us, stop by for investigators on Sundays, and fellowship them at church (fellowship? befriend? I'm looking for the translation of hermanar...). We have around ten investigators who should be able to be baptized in the next month or so - a couple this week, a couple next week, and a couple families whose parents just need to get married and then they'll get baptized. So, the work is well under way here and it seems like the people are very accepting. Elder Caudillo is a hard worker and very eager about getting to work, so I'm really exciting for the coming five weeks; we should be able to see a lot of success and many blessings.
So far, I've really enjoyed Coatzacoalcos. The weather is nicer; a good ten or fifteen degrees cooler. It's still pretty humid, but also windy (off the ocean) and it rains fairly often, so things cool down nicely. In the nights I actually do get kind of cold, which to me is funny. Cold in Mexico? :) The area here is really beautiful, too. Very green and peaceful in my area. We border the Gulf of Mexico and I can see the water from our house. Next Monday we're going to head down to the beach to walk around; there's a place that looks like that one spot in Ireland - I want to say Giant's Staircase - where we can walk around and check things out. I'm excited for that, and also to get to know the area more and get into the swing of things here. I'm happy here - very pretty, very nice people, and nice weather. :)
I think I'll get into replies now and answer some of the questions you've asked.
Gabbie: I think it's pretty cool that you can check what the weather's like here all the way over there in Utah just by looking at Dad's phone. You'll have to keep up-to-date on the weather here and let me know if there are any huge storms coming, okay? The Lindon parade sounds like it was fun. I didn't know Lindon had a parade either, for that matter. :) I thought it was kind of funny that they would through candy at people's faces, though. But hey, free candy is free candy. I don't think I can compete with how much you said you love me. :) But I do love you very much and I hope you have a wonderful week! Keep being an awesome little sister! Love you Gabs!
Miranda: Wow. That's pretty much all I can say - that motorcyling and fourwheeling experience sounds pretty crazy. I'm glad you had fun and that you didn't get seriously injured. We may just have to go sometime after my mission and you can show me how to do it all. :) I'm glad you've been having a good week and that everything's going well. Keep it up and keep enjoying what little remains of summer! Thanks for being a good example to me and continue to be so for the rest of the family. I love you very much! :)
Mom: Both the family reunion and Steve and Alyssa's reception sound like they were lots of fun. Thanks for telling me all about it and say hello back to everyone who was there. It was cool to hear about what everyone's been up to and very strange to realize that school's just about to start up again. I've been out of school - and a missionary - for a year. Well, this Thursday marks the year for me in the mission... crazy! :) It really doesn't seem like it's been that long. I'll write more next week, but slightly pressed for time at the moment - my first preparation day here and there is a lot to take care of. I love you very much and hope you have a wonderful week! Love you Mom! :)
Dad: - thanks for your advice on being senior companion. From what I've experienced so far, that advice is exactly what I need to put into practice. And thanks for everything else you said - I'll have to reply more thoroughly to the questions and everything you wrote next week. Thank you for your great example and everything you've taught me. Say hi and congratulations to Steve and Alyssa for me. Have a wonderful week. I love you very much! :)
Con mucho amor,
Excerpt from 8-23
Hey everyone! Greetings from Coatzacoalcos! :) It's been a wonderful day - overcast and rainy and windy almost all day. I'm really liking this kind of weather. The only downside is that we washed our clothes in the morning and left them out to dry all day at a member's house - but then about an hour ago it started to rain pretty hard. So we had to rewash a few things and now we're waiting for them to dry again. Oh well. :)
Today was pretty neat though. We headed out to the beach, to the place I mentioned last week - Las Escolleras. It's this pier sort of thing that extends out about a kilometer into the ocean, with a little lighthouse and lookout point and stuff. We spent about an hour out there, taking pictures and hanging out on the rocks and having a good time (myself, my companion, and Elders Rodriguez and Faisal, making it our whole district). I snapped a bunch of pictures and I'm going to try to send some of them on today. It was pretty fun and I had a really good time. The only bad part was that my companion's camera fell into the ocean... :) He had set it up on a rock to take a picture of the four of us, but the rock wasn't level and it fell off. We distinctly heard it bounce off three rocks and then plop! into the water. He looked for it for a while, but no luck. The screen was broken anyway, so it wasn't a complete loss, but still - he lost a bunch of pictures. He didn't take it too hard, though; he was laughing with the rest of us. It was, as you asked, Dad, pure awesomeness. :)
This past week has been pretty good. We're still working with eight or so investigators who are progressing very well, and are constantly trying to find new people to teach so that we can have a steady flow of baptisms. The people here in Coatza are pretty accepting and that there are plenty of them ready to hear the Gospel message. We just need to focus, plan well, and be diligent, and soon we'll see a lot of success.
Since I wasn't able to last week, let me talk a little bit about the investigators we're teaching at the moment. ("Let me," as if I need permission. Hah.) First, we have Janet and her daughters, Kenia and Dayani. The three of them are pretty much ready to be baptized. They're really nice and we've become really good friends. After every lesson I teach them a little bit of English :) and we always have a good time and connect really well every time we teach them.
Next, Ariana. She's a single mom with two little kids. She lives in pretty humble circumstances, but just found a new job and so it looks like things are picking up. She went to church last week, but wasn't able to come this week because something came up with her family. She's really interested in the church, though, and also wants to be baptized; her baptism should also be next Saturday. She had been looking for work and we had taught her once or twice, and we went to her house on Saturday to invite her to church. We taught the lesson and invited her; she accepted, saying that she felt like she needed to draw nearer to God to help her family out and to make the right decisions. She had barely finished speaking when her phone rang; the caller offered her a job and told her she could start working that Monday. She was pretty excited about it and it only reinforced her determination to join the church and live the Gospel.
We're also teaching a lady named Liliana who's pretty special. Her husband (or partner, I guess), Carlos, is a member but had become inactive many years ago. Carlos has now returned to church and his testimony is really strong again; he talks about how now, no matter what, he's never leaving the church and is going to continue serving the rest of his life. Liliana has taken to the Gospel like a duck to water; you should hear her pray. She truly has a two-way conversation with the Lord and it's evident that the Gospel is planted deeply in her heart. The only thing that impedes her baptism is the fact that she's not married to Carlos, and due to problems in the divorces of their former spouses (they've both been married before), they need to travel to Oaxaca to obtain some papers in order to get married, and they're also in a tough financial situation and don't really have the money to travel or to get the papers. We're kind of in a waiting phase with them, but we're looking for ways to help out to make things move faster. The ward is also really concerned about them because they've made good friends there and everyone wants to see Liliana officially join the church. I hope we'll be able to see some progress quickly, and with the Lord's help I'm sure we will.
We're also teaching a few other people: Marco, Yazmín, and their son Enoc (just waiting for some papers to arrive so that they can get married and then be baptized), Olga and Pedro (a young couple we found this past week who are getting really excited the more they read from the Book of Mormon), Alex (a friend of Kenia's who just needs his mom's permission and then he can be baptized), and a handful of others who are in various stages of teaching and progression. The work is going well, and with each passing day we can push it even further and find even more people to teach. I truly have been blessed in many ways and with more exact obedience come more specific and powerful blessings.
Oh, another cool thing from this past week. I, like you, Gabbie, gave a talk in church yesterday! Mine was about testimonies: what they are and how to share one. I would include it here (like you did), but for one thing, I gave it in Spanish :) - and plus I only wrote out a couple of notes and scriptural references to guide me. I was only asked to speak for about eight minutes. I think it went over pretty well, and I received quite a few compliments afterward. It was a good chance to present myself in front of the ward and let the members get to know me a little better, and it was fun to prepare and give the talk. I've come to really like speaking in church or in front of crowds of people; I've done it often enough on the mission that it's become a pleasure and a lot of fun. Oh, and Dad, I shared your story about being young and hearing everyone else testify about receiving a testimony through some great experience, and then praying and being told, "Hey, you've already got one." (At least, that's what I remember from the story. Haha.) I shared the scripture you had told me about in D&C where the Lord talks to Oliver Cowdery about his own testimony. Like I said, it turned out pretty well and was a fun experience.
What else, what else.... (Chinese food guy). Ah. Next week we have the opportunity to have a conference with Elder Johnson, the Area President of Mexico. I'm really looking forward to it. He is such a powerful speaker and person and I know we're going to learn a lot of new things. So, next week (or perhaps the week after) I should have a lot to report on. I'm also just really excited for the week that's coming up - new chances to push myself, fix my mistakes, help other children of God be happy, and learn more and improve. It's going to be fun. :)
Oh, and one more thing. I received mail. I got a couple letters from Lisa, one from Laura, two from Brother and Sister Windley, the card that you (the family) sent, and a letter from Kiley, all of which were very awesome to read. It's so nice of the Windley's to write, and it always gives me a smile to read their words and feel of their love. It's great to hear from friends as well.
Thanks, everyone, for all you do for me. You are in my prayers, as I know I am in yours. Until next week!
Con mucho amor,
Excerpt from 8-30
This past week has been a good one. I've pretty much slipped into the groove of working here, and we've started to see an increase in our success. We've been working a lot with four investigators: Janet, Kenia, Dayani, and Ariana (I mentioned them last week). Well, all four came to church yesterday, and are going to be baptized this Saturday! :) They're all really excited for their baptisms, and so are we. This week we'll be visiting them practically every day to finish up the teaching, prepare them further for baptism, and have their interviews. Saturday will be a good day. I'll be sure to send pictures and everything next week. I've become good friends with them and it's been a real blessing to get to know them and learn from them.
Another exciting thing this week is that we'll be having the special conference with Elder Johnson, the Mexico Area President, this Friday. It'll be in the nearby city Minatitlán, which means getting up early to catch a bus. I'm really excited for it, especially since I've already listened to Elder Johnson speak (back in February or so) and he'll definitely teach me a lot and help me improve. I'm looking forward to it anxiously, and next week will also report on the things I learn.
Oh, and Dad - happy birthday! :) I hope it's a great one. Let me know how it goes. Chow for now! :)
Excerpt from 9-6
Hey everyone! :) It's great to once again sit down and relate a bit of what has been going on the last seven days here in the Villahermosa Mexico Mission. (Here in Mexico they would say "the last eight days," which sometimes makes it pretty confusing. Haha.)
First, I was glad to hear that Dad's birthday was enjoyable. I too celebrated the day by going to Dairy Queen after our district meeting in the morning and buying a Blizzard. :)
Okay, a quick update on our investigators. Ariana, Janet, Kenia, and Dayani were supposed to be baptized this past Saturday. They all had their baptismal interviews and they all passed... but none of them were baptized. :( For whatever reason, last-minute things came up that made them postpone their baptisms. However, they're all still excited and still want to be baptized, so this week we're going to focus a lot of them and make sure that this weekend they hit the water. It was kind of sad that all of them fell through, but it taught me something about obedience. President Castañeda has set some goals for us as missionaries each week (30 lessons a week, etc.) and has promised us that if we complete with these goals and are obedient, we will have a baptismal service each week. This past week we were pretty busy with getting ready for the baptisms and kind of slacked a little on the other goals. We did well, but didn't quite hit all of them - and I think that's the reason (or at least part of it) why they weren't baptized this past week. Now, of course, I recognize that everyone has their free agency and that many factors were involved (temptations, random occurrences, their possible hesitation or doubts, etc.), but I do know that the Lord can work miracles if we as His servants are obedient. For me it was a little kick in the pants, a reminder to keep working hard every single day and give my all. So this coming week should be pretty awesome. :)
Oh, just in passing, we also have an investigator we're working with, Pedro, who's pretty excited and interested in the Church. He is willing to be baptized; we just need to teach him first, and he needs to get married. He's really funny; he reminds me a lot of John (my uncle), if John were Mexican and had a history of drinking and living in the streets. Pedro's a mechanic and is always telling jokes and saying off-the-wall things that are pretty clever. It's been fun teaching him and I'm looking forward to seeing his progress this week.
This past Friday we had a special conference with President Johnson in Minatitlán. We had to get up around 4 am to get there on time. It was a wonderful conference. President Johnson began the meeting by reading a part of D&C 72 where it talks about the Atonement and the doctrine of Christ, and then asked for comments. For the next three hours we gave comments, quoted scriptures, shared thoughts, and listened to his explanations and advice. He taught us a lot, but the Spirit taught us even more as we learned about the Atonement and how to apply it in our lives and the lives of others. It was a really special conference and I learned a lot. I especially liked a scripture mentioned - 1 John 4:19. I've always liked it, but we discussed it a little more in depth, along with the humility of Christ and how He gave His life for us, not only on the cross but in every moment and with every action. He was completely humble and completely selfless, and that gave Him power. I wish I could capture all that was said and felt during that conference and transmit it home. It was a great experience and really taught me a lot more about how to follow Christ's example and be obedient.
Well, everyone, it's been another great week and the one that's coming should be even better. Remember to always hang on to the iron rod and follow the impressions of the Spirit. I love you all very much. Have a wonderful week!
Excerpt from 9-13
... It rained super hard last night, and there are a couple areas here in Coatzacoalcos where it floods pretty badly. One of them is pretty close by, where the family lives with which we usually wash our clothes. We headed over there in the morning to do the laundry, and they were completely flooded. The water was up to our knees as we were just trying to get to their house. We went inside and found that there was a good foot of water in their house (and muddy dirty water at that). They had been up since four am trying to clear the house out and move everything off the floor. So, we spent all morning helping them clean up their house and get things dried off. It was a mess at first, but ended up okay at the end. Then we had to wait for the water level to drop sufficiently outside so that we could get to the washing machine. The sister made us pizzas for lunch as a recompense, which was awesome, but it killed a lot of time that we would have otherwise used for normal P-day activities.
Ariana was baptized and everything went very well. She wasn't able to be confirmed yesterday, due to a conflict in her schedule, but she will be this coming Sunday. She was really happy and the members really welcomed her in with open arms. If I can, I'll send a picture today; if not, it'll have to be next week. We had planned the baptism of Janet, Kenia, and Dayani, but then a couple things happened. First, on Thursday Kenia told us she didn't want to be baptized, that she wanted to wait a while. Then, on Saturday, the actual date of Janet and Dayani's baptism (they still wanted to go through with it), they were nowhere to be seen. We went to their house, their grandma's house, called them, and nothing. Same thing yesterday. We really don't know what went on, but we're going to stop by tonight and see what's up. Hopefully they're fine and that we can still keep working with them and that this will only be a temporary setback. Maybe they just had cold feet at the last minute... it's sad, but I guess it happens, and we'll keep doing our best to help them make the right decision. But to reiterate, Ariana's baptism was awesome and everyone was really happy. We're still working with Pedro and he's doing pretty well, and we have a baptism planned for this Saturday - it's an eleven-year-old named Cristina; all her extended family members are members of the Church, but she just hasn't wanted to get baptized... up til now. But right now she's really excited and looking forward to it. She could use your prayers to make sure that everything goes well this weekend.
So we have some pretty exciting things coming up, and it's going to be another good week. Also, it's the last week of the transfer. My companion's been here for three transfers now, so I'm guessing that he'll be transferred and that I'll stay here - but you never know.
That reminds me. I received a package this week! :) I received as well a letter from Lisa and one from the Windleys; send my thanks to them. The package was from Mom and contained a red tie (a very nice one) and a package of gummy frogs (delicious, and now gone). If I remember right, it was sent near the beginning of August and arrived in Mexico around the end of August. This might be a good sign; maybe packages will start arriving without problem (maybe even the lost ones? Let's hope so! :) Thanks, Mom, for sending it. I appreciate it a lott.
Lastly, I was sad to hear that Reagan's been having a bit of trouble lately. Everyone, give him a big hug from me. Maybe that'll cheer him up. :) Keep doing good things and working hard, and keep being an awesome family. Mom, Dad, Miranda, Gabbie - I love you very much. I pray for you all continually and I feel your prayers. I feel very blessed to have you all in my life, because thanks to your influence I am where I am right now.
Keep on keepin' on, as Dad would say, and have a wonderful week! I love you all! :)
Con mucho amor,
Excerpt from 9-20
Good afternoon everyone! Greetings (and farewells) from Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz! It's a warm, sunny day here in Coatza, and I imagine it's something similiar back home in Utah. I hope everyone's well and that everything is going great for all of you. It's been a good week here for me, and the week that's just beginning is sure to be filled with many new adventures. Let's get down to it!
I'm slightly low on time since I have a slow computer, I had a bunch of things to email to the mission offices, and I'm backing up my photos to a flash drive I just bought (first time in the whole mission) - so this is going to be quick. Sorry. Anyway, transfer call came in - and to my great surprise, both I and my companion are being changed! They're sending an ex-AP and a greenie to fill our places, which should be pretty interesting It's very rare, from what I've seen, that they pull two missionaries out at the same time, but cool by me. I really have enjoyed Coatza and I'm going to miss the members here a lot, but I'm off to new adventures.
I've been assigned to serve in Paquitál, Minatitlán, as District Leader, and my companion's name is Elder Silva. I was pretty surprised by the jump up to district leader, but hey, it's going to be a new adventure and I'm pretty excited for it. Mina is a nearby city and is currently experiencing some flooding, from what I've heard.
This past Saturday we baptized Cristina, an 11-year-old girl, and it was pretty cool. Also, I had the chance to confirm Ariana a member yesterday; also very neat. It has been a good week for us, and we'll be leaving the area in pretty good condition for the nest Elders.
Also, today I received an email from Josh telling me about his trial mission and everything. I wrote a quick reply. Totally and completely awesome to hear about it, and I know he'll be an awesome missionary. I'm excited to hear about his adventures.
I love you all very, very much. I'm still having the time of my life and loving the work here in Mexico. Keep being wonderful and having a good time with life and I'll talk to you more next week. Have a great week! I love you all! :)