Monday, October 25, 2010

October Letters

(Justin's last 3 letters, october 4, 11, 18.
From October 4
Well, as usual, it's been another great week. This past week was kind of different, though, in that we spent a lot of our time helping flood victims. As I mentioned last week, the flooding was pretty intense, and it left a lot of people without a home to dwell in for quite a while, plus ruined a lot of furniture and food. Since last week, it hasn't rained too much - but the problem has been that Veracruz is pretty much at sea level (being right next to the Gulf, of course) and the surrounding states, Oaxaca and Puebla and others, are mountainous and of higher elevation, and the hurricane hit pretty hard there to. Hence, all the water that was dumped in Oaxaca is now flooding into Veracruz, and since that water can't escape into the ocean, it's instead filling up our once-lovely highways and byways. Great. :) The centro here in Mina is pretty much completely flooded, and the water levels are only rising. My area is perfectly fine now, and people are recovering from the damages, but there are a ton of people in the city who have been forced out of their houses. Four chapels have been turned over to the city government and heath departments to use as shelters for the affected people, and we've spent a bit of time there this past week, helping people out, giving blessings, and, of course, teaching wherever possible and helping people feel a little more hope in this difficult situation. They say that the water won't completely be gone until about two weeks from now, so in the meantime there's a lot of service to be given and we've helped out as much as possible. This past week we moved furniture, fixed appliances, carried food donations from members, and cleaned up some houses that were positively filthy after the water finally went down. It's been a pretty interesting week, but very enjoyable at the same time; I was "called to serve," after all, and I've done a lot of that in the past few days.
The other interesting and enjoyable part of this past week was, of course, General Conference. We were able to attend all of the sessions in full except for the first half of the last session of Sunday (had to wait for a couple investigators to get ready so we could accompany them to the chapel to watch conference), and I truly loved every single moment. I could feel the power behind the words that were spoken, and felt as though each talk without fail contained something specifically directed toward my life. I learned so much and felt uplifted by the Spirit, and came away from Conference with more peace and serenity in my heart and a newfound determination to improve. I'd love to be able to share what I learned, but I'm afraid that I might not have time this week; I'll be revising my notes in the coming days, and little by little will include some thoughts in the coming emails. (That's the plan, anyway. Haha.)
Gabbie: Let me tell you, your horse riding lessons sound pretty awesome. Mom says you're always really excited about going and that you're really having fun. That's awesome. By the time I get home I'm sure you'll be a professional rider. :) What are the speed levels of horses? By that, I mean, I've heard of gallops, trots, walks, runs, and now lopes, but I'm not exactly sure how fast each word means. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? How fast can horses run? Oh, and your extra credit project for US History sounds pretty awesome. You'll have to have Dad send me a picture of the finished project. Also, pictures of your dragons. You asked about the Mexican Independence Day a week or two ago, and I never answered; yes, we celebrated it here, and it was pretty huge. Remind me next week, and I'll tell you more about it in detail, okay? Gabs, you're the best 12-year-old sister anybody could ask for! Thanks for being so awesome, and have a wonderful week. I love you very much! :)
Miranda: Okay, for starters, I think this was the longest email you've ever written me. Thanks! Secondly, I would like to draw your attention to President Monson's talk about addictions and what he said about texting... Haha. I'm just kidding. But I did think his words were really interesting and I learned a lot from what he said. (oh, a random note here that is for everyone - David Greer served in Puebla, didn't he? In Coatza there was a family who had lived in Puebla, and they had a card with a picture of all the missionaries, and I saw his picture there). Anyway, Miranda, sounds like you've been having a good time this week and things are going well. Good luck with the blood drive (I liked how you were unsure about the name of the club haha) and with the ACT next time, and in school and all that stuff. Keep up the good work; I'll write more about what you wrote next week. Chow for now, as Dad says (and I have now picked up that habit). Have a great week! I love you very much! :)
Mom:  You mostly asked about the flooding and the members and area. Well, once again I don't have much time to answer those questions, but next week for sure. However, I'm doing fine, nothing of mine got wet (except my shoes and pants from walking around in the storms), and none of the members here were seriously affected. By the way, we have a ward and a branch; the branch was just barely created and is in a little town about twenty minutes out of the city. We've been there a couple times and hope to be able to go there more this week and get to know the members better. So far I've really enjoyed being here in Mina and have had a great experience. I'll let you know more next week, and send some pictures. I love you very much, Mom. Thank you for everything. Have a wonderful week! :)
Dad: I'm about out of time, but let me answer a couple questions you had at the beginning. I have an hour to use the internet here in the cyber. In that hour I have to check the announcements from the President (in an email), email him (just a brief report on how I'm doing and so on), and then write you. I read emails from others when I get them (Lisa and Laura, grandparents, etc.) but don't often write back, given that I want to use all the time I have to write the family. I'm in the process of writing everyone a handwritten letter, and will hopefully get those out soon. Generally, though, just you and the president. Thanks for all the stuff you included this week. That would be awesome if you could send me periodically GC talks with your thoughts on them, like the last conference; I really enjoyed that. I have a bunch of stuff I was going to say from the other emails, but my hour is up - next week I'll come better organized and I'll type faster. :) I love you very much and hope that you have a wonderful week! :)
Thanks, everyone, for all that you do for me. I feel your prayers and am grateful for them. Until next week! :)
Con mucho amor y un abrazo para todos,
Elder Greer
PS - Dad, yes, President Castañeda gives the abrazo with the cheek-to-cheek thing like you got on your mission :)
October 11
Hey everyone!
So, I'm writing this email a little later than usual, and with a pretty short time limit. It's been a busy day, and we have a FHE shortly, so I'm slightly rushed - but I'll do the best I can.
This week has been a pretty interesting one - my companion and I both got sick, and we ended up barely working all week. My companion came down with some sort of flu/head cold thing that pretty much knocked him out Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday we were finally able to get out there and start working - and Friday morning I wake up with the same thing (though it turned out later that I had/have a throat infection). Needless to say, this week didn't go too well for us in terms of missionary work, and by Saturday night we were both going crazy, having been stuck inside all week. However, we're both pretty much better by now. We went to a doctor on Friday (an evangelista who talked our ears off about witchcraft and faith healings) and got some medication, and are both doing pretty well now. By Wednesday I should be completely healed up. It wasn't the sickness so much as the inability to work that bugged me, but we're starting a new week and we've both rested up quite a bit, so things should return to normal. :)
A few things of interest. This week there's a series of training meetings for leaders in Coatzacoalcos with the President, and being DL I'll be there (oh, I can guarantee it, I'll be there - haha). They'll be held Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I'm really looking forward to it - it should be a lot of fun, spiritual, and very instructive. Also, we'll be eating with the missionaries who are in Coatza, so I might get the chance to say hi to a couple ward members from my old area. Anyway, I'm excited to get to go and next week will have a lot to say about the things I learned.
As far as the work, things are going pretty well. We have a 13-year-old kid named Ines that will be baptized on the 23rd, and two couples that we're teaching who will be baptized as soon as they can get married (which should be pretty soon; we're in the process of helping them get the necessary documents). This week we're hoping to find lots of new people to start teaching so that we can continue to have success in the coming weeks. We're both excited about the work and dedicated to working hard, so good things are in the immediate future. The Lord is blessing us a lot, and I feel very good about where I am and what I'm doing - so happy just to be serving. It's a wonderful opportunity.
And as for my responsibilities as district leader, things are going well too. There are four companionships in my district (including mine), and two of the elders I knew from previous zones (one, Elder Piña, was once companion of my former companion Elder Tanner). They all seem to be working pretty hard and have been having success. I'm enjoying the chance to serve as DL and have found that it brings me many blessings too. Things are going well there.
Yes, I received the forwarded email from Josh. Reading it sent tingles down my spine - it seems like he's definitely changed a lot in the last year, and that missionary work really suits him. It's awesome to hear about his experiences and I hope his dad continues forwarding his emails. Pretty awesome to hear from him.
Well, that's about it for time. I now have to print off everything everyone sent me (the family, John's family, and Josh), and head to the FHE. I'm doing extremely well and am very grateful for the love I feel from all of you. Mom, Dad, Miranda, Gabbie, Reagan, Nikka - I love you all very much. Thanks for everything. Sorry, again, that it's short.  Have a wonderful week! I love you all very much! :)
 Con amor,
 Elder Greer
October 18
Hey everyone!
It's been another wonderful week here in Mina. I finally have a solid chunk of time to email, so I hope to get in an update on the things I haven't been able to talk about in the past weeks, and answer some questions. 
Okay. First things first. This past week we had the three-day training meeting in Coatzacoalcos - Wednesday through Friday. It was a completely wonderful experience; I learned so much, felt the Spirit really strongly, and was rejuvenated for the work. I'm just loving missionary life and the precious experiences I have almost every single day. The training really reminded me of why I'm out here and the joy of serving the Lord. It's almost like I'm fresh out of the MTC, but with a bit more experience and knowledge. It's pretty neat. :) I'm really looking forward to the coming week. We talked a lot about the basics of Preach My Gospel, which, by the way, is a wonderful book not just for missionaries but for members too. We discussed the doctrine of Christ, receiving personal revelation, and the whole point of missionary work. I learned many things that have helped me become a better son of God, Priesthood holder, member, and missionary in the Lord's service, and I'm confident that the fruits of my work will show that I did indeed learn a lot. I have a lot to improve, but with the Lord's help, little by little I'll get there, and the journey will be wonderful. We also talked about the Sacrament, the Temple, and other special Gospel topics and the Spirit was very strong. I don't have my notes with me, but maybe next week I'll share a couple things I learned, because they were pretty neat.
Okay. Training was awesome. However, I slept on the floor both nights. That wasn't the bad part - I actually slept pretty well - but I think my sickness (I mentioned that last week, right? throat infection?) kicked back in because of that, because Saturday morning I was barely able to lift myself out of bed. I ended up going to a doctor who decided that the best way to help me was three painful shots in the rear end. I had one Saturday and one today, and the other's coming tomorrow. Ouch. I'm kind of sore... Like the kid in School House Rock videos... 'Hey, that's not fair, giving a guy a shot down there!' Ha. :) Haha but I'm actually doing a whole lot better. I'm not sure what I had, some type of infection, but it seems to be clearing up. We're back to working hard and I'm feeling pretty much great. So no worries on that front, but the shots aren't too fun. :)
Today we had a zone activity, and it was a lot of fun. We played some soccer, ate a delicious lunch, and watched a movie. One of the ZLs is an American, and he grilled up some ribs, mushrooms, and squash, and made a bunch of mashed potatoes - it was delicious. And the President approved a movie for us to watch - guess which one? Toy Story 3. :) And, yes, it was awesome. It was in Spanish, so I understood it all, but missed out on some of the humor and other things that don't translate or are hard to pick up on when it's not my native language. All in all, a cool activity today; I enjoyed it a lot.
Okay. Now for some info on my area, the district, and our investigators, in that order. :) I'm in Paquitál, Minatitlán (pretty sure you knew that already, though), and we have a ward and a branch - the ward is Paquitál and the branch is called Canticas, about 20 minutes in a bus outside of the city. The branch is brand new; up until two weeks ago it was a... family group? I'm guessing on the translation, but basically it wasn't really anything. The members there are really excited to now be a branch, because this will help them out a ton and they'll be getting a lot more support now. We're going to be heading out there twice a week to work with the members and to find new converts so that the branch can be strengthened and soon become a ward. We already have three people who live there who are relatives of members and they say they want to be baptized, so it seems like we'll be able to have a lot of success there. I'm looking forward to getting to know the area and the members.  The ward here in Paquitál is pretty nice; there aren't too many active members, but those who do go are very strong and help us out a lot. It seems like there's a lot of work we can do both within and without the ward, and we're here just for that, so we have our hands full and our days packed - always a good thing. :) But yeah, no complaints on my area or the ward or branch; all is well. Mina's pretty green and reminds me a lot of Coatza, except there's no ocean. There are, however, a bunch of petrochemical plants, so at times it kind of smells, but otherwise it's a nice place to be.
Mina has its own zone (answering a question of yours, Dad, from several weeks ago), and within that zone two districts - 16 missionaries in all in the city. My district has four companionships, including my own, and they're all good elders. We've been having a lot of success as a district, so I've interviewed a lot of people for baptism, and I enjoy it. I also enjoy teaching the district class every Tuesday - I find it not only helps them work harder, but I help myself be more focused and I learn a lot in the process too. It's very rewarding.
Okay, investigators. We have a young kid, Inés, who's going to be baptized this Saturday. His dad's kind of a drunk and his family sells beer for a living, so it's not the easiest situation, but he really likes church and is really excited about being baptized. We're hoping his family will see the blessings and become interested soon - we've been trying to help them out, and they're all for it for their son, but don't show much interest themselves. It's sad, but we do our best to help, and leave it in the Lord's hands. Anyway, Inés is really looking forward to his baptism, and it's going to be pretty special. We are teaching a couple, Deysi and Guillermo, who have been attending church for the past few months but haven't been able to get baptized because they're not married. Well, we finally got the necessary papers, so in the next two weeks we're hoping to get them married and into the water. :) They're kind of odd, to be honest, but very humble, and the Gospel has really changed them, so it's pretty neat to work with them. We also have those three people I mentioned in Canticas, plus another couple we met a couple weeks ago (the wife's name is Reyna, but we haven't really met the husband yet), and we're in the process of getting her birth certificate so that they too can be married and baptized. It seems like living together is a big thing here in Mexico... which is really too bad, because it can cause a lot of problems. But, at the least, the people we're teaching are willing to make the changes in their lives, so things are going well. This week we're going to focus our efforts on finding new investigators and we're going to work out tails off to do so. :) It's going to be a successful week, and I'm really excited.
Okay, so I still have to write quick, but now for personal replies.
Gabbie: You are awesome, you know that? All your emails are cool, and they get cooler every time. :) Everyone but you told me about riding horses last week - they all said that you did really well! That's awesome! You'll have to teach me when I get home. :) The Last Olympian... sounds familiar... what's it about? You asked for a mystery book suggestions last week - I know the perfect book: The Westing Game. I have it somewhere in my books, or you can check it out or something. I think Mom might have read it. It's really good. It was really cool to hear about Sister Butler's baby - congratulate her for me, okay? Thanks, Gabs, for always being an awesome sister and for always writing me. I really appreciate it and love reading your emails. Have a wonderful week! I love you very much! :)
Miranda: I keep laughing as I reread your emails, especially at the use of the word "dope"; apparently that became popular again. Also, I thought what you said about "über" was funny too (with my fancy Spanish keyboard I can get the little dots in there... haha). As Dad would say, every generation thinks they invented English slang. :) Haha, but really, your emails are always very interesting, and I love reading them. Thanks for all the updates on what's going on.  What else is new in life? No, the trees don't really change color here... at least, not from what I've seen. I'll keep you posted. Sorry it's not longer, but thank you for writing. I really appreciate it. I hope you have a wonderful week - I love you very much! :)
Mom: The weather has pretty much calmed down. They say it's going to keep raining the rest of the year, but I don't think it'll flood again, just normal rains. I actually get cold some nights. It's been pretty nice in the day, though; not too hot or anything. It's been neat to hear about what you've been doing.  It's crazy to think that Mikey comes home this week - it seems like just yesterday that he left on his mission.  As always, it's great to hear about Reagan and the rest of the family and see what everyone's up to. Thanks for always writing me so much. Thanks for everything you do. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much! :)
Dad: Thanks for the General Conference talks - this format works perfectly, and I've loved being able to read them. I have a big post-it note here full of things I wanted to say from your last few emails and from the talks, but, as usual, time gets the best of me. At least I feel like I caught up somewhat this week. Next week should be more relaxed, and I'll get off a handful of pictures too. I hope you, too, have a wonderful week. Thanks for all the support, encouragement, and love. I love you very much. :)
Thanks, everyone, for all that you do and have done for me. I love you all very, very much. More next week!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer