Excerpt from October 25
This past week we've been knocking a lot of doors, looking for new people to teach, and have found moderate success. I've been studying the New Testament a lot this week, reading through the Gospels and focusing on the testimony of the Savior found therein; I really enjoy reading some of the firsthand accounts of His miracles and teachings. But aside from all of that, it's been a pretty normal week - enjoyable, quick, and full of work. The only thing that stands out is the baptism we had on Saturday.
Saturday was the baptism of Inés Peña Gutiérrez. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned a little bit about him. He had started off being a bit shy around us (and everyone else, for that matter), but as we taught him more we became pretty good friends and he opened up a lot. He was really looking forward to his baptism and didn't seem the least bit nervous. The baptismal service was really nice; we had a lot of support from the members and the talks were pretty spiritual (if I do say so myself - I gave one on repentance haha). My companion, Elder Silva, performed the baptism, and it went off without a hitch. Yesterday was Inés's confirmation and it was equally spiritual. I think he's going to be a strong member in the church (every time we've passed by for him to go to church, he's dressed and waiting outside for us - seems pretty eager about everything). He should be able to help his family a lot with his example, and we're hoping that further along they'll want to follow him into the Gospel. For the moment, all is well with Inés, and I'm really grateful to have been a part of his conversion to the Lord's Church.
What else, what else... well, this week we have Zone Conference on Thursday. I'm looking forward to that, and hopefully will receive some letters/packages. I'll let you all know next week how it went. This is also the last week of the transfer, so I might have news next week - though I feel like my companion and I'll be staying here another transfer.
Gabs - Hey Gabs! How's it goin'? I laughed last week at what you said about Lauren's new sister... something along the lines of "I don't know if anyone told you that Lauren's mom is pregnant... well, she had her baby this week." Haha. I don't remember anyone telling me about it before - kind of skipped the whole nine months! :) Sounds like things are going pretty well in school and that you're getting pretty good grades - keep it up! Oh, and speaking of Lauren's sister - thanks for reminding me - you mentioned remembering drinking chocolate milk in the hospital when Reagan was born. My first memory is of drinking chocolate milk and watching Lady and the Tramp in the hospital with Grandma Greer when Miranda was born. Cool, huh? Your hike up the mountain from last week sounds like a lot of fun. That's one thing I've missed in the mission - we do lots and lots of walking, but never just for pleasure or checking out the scenery; we always have to get somewhere and teach a lesson or something. I'm looking forward to going on hikes with you and Dad and Nikka when I get back. How did your CTE with Laura go? (I guess I should just check the email from this week to see if you say anything about it, huh?) You asked about Chinese food - yeah, there's Chinese food down here, and it tastes pretty much like the Chinese food back at home, but there aren't many opportunities to eat it for us. Gabs, thanks for always writing and for being such a great sister. I love you very, very much and hope that you have a wonderful week! :)
Miranda - Hey! Continuing with the theme of things my sisters said last week that were funny, you talked about how your guy friend admitted "on Facebook, and to the world," that he enjoyed watching Gilmore Girls. I imagined Dad making a comment about how Facebook is not the same thing as "the world," and it made me laugh. Dad, feel free to make such comment here. :) Anyway, on to more important things. Mom says you've been working hard on the English AP practice tests. How's that going? And how's the rest of school going - how are all your classes? Still enjoying them? Learn anything cool this week? :) What are your plans for college? You mentioned going to the U... I keep thinking it would be pretty cool if we both go to BYU when I get home - we could even have a class together or something. Might be kind of neat - what do you think? Have you made any plans yet, or just focused on the present? :) Well, Miranda, thanks for your emails. I always enjoy reading them and they make me laugh. Thanks for being such a great sister. Have a wonderful week! I love you very much! :) PS - how goes the Book of Mormon? :)
Mom - Hi Mom! :) It sounds like Reagan has been doing pretty well lately, all things considered. Is he still making improvements, or has he hit another plateau? Give the little guy a big hug from me, okay? :) You asked this week about my sickness - I know at one point I had a throat infection, but I don't remember what the shots were called and the doctor never told me exactly what it was I had. The whole "going to the doctor" thing works kind of differently down here, it seems. Oh, and he was just a normal doctor, not from the mission or anything. Thanks for always telling me about how everyone's doing - I always love hearing that kind of thing. I hope you have a very wonderful week, Mom. I love you very much. :)
Dad - How's it going with the writing? I always enjoy hearing about what you've been up to, the critiques, the plans (schemes, etc.) and all that. Are you still going to submit for Writers of the Future? We were eating with a member last week and I saw an interesting book on the table - "Creámosle a Cristo," or, for the rest of you heathen folk back home (hah) - "Believing Christ." I remember you mentioned having read the book, and we've talked about that concept a lot before (in fact, it's one of the "Seven Rules for a Successful Mission" you gave me back before I hit the MTC - thanks for those, by the way. They're really good). I skimmed through the book a bit and really liked what he talked about - the whole idea of allowing Christ to free us from guilt and accepting forgiveness when it comes. Cool stuff. It was interesting, too, what you said in weeks past about grace - I've been studying it this past week a bit, and I realized I always kind of played it down in my mind, preferring to focus on works or other things. But the concept of grace is powerful. In fact, I have an Ensign article I found about it that I really liked - I forget which one, though. Maybe for next week I'll let you know; I really enjoyed it. Anyway, as you said, the time passes quickly, so we should be focused not just on our goals, but also on enjoying the journey. I feel like I really have fun each and every day, and I think that's important - to live in the here and now, and not be so focused on the future that you don't notice the beautiful scenery. It was neat to hear about Mikey coming home, and interesting that it's taking a little bit of effort for him to get used to being home. I wonder how it will be for me. So far, I've been in cities in every area, and from what I understand Mexico's better off than Guatemala as far as economy and all that, but who knows - maybe I'll end up finishing the mission in a little pueblito too. It'll be interesting to see what happens, and very interesting to come home and adapt to "normal" life again. I'd love to hear from Mikey, by the way, if he has the time to write a bit one of these days. Thanks for sending the conference talks. I really enjoy reading them. Just keep sendin' them along, I say! :) Well, that's about it for time. Thanks for always writing me and supporting what I'm doing. Thanks, as well, for your great example. I love you very much and hope that you have a wonderful week! :)
Thanks, everyone, for all you do for me. I love you all very much. Have a great week!
Con mucho amor,
From November 1 2010
... Some cool things happened this week, though. We found and are teaching a woman named Cristina who recently had surgery on her upper leg, and so she's basically confined to her house for the next few months (though she can walk around a bit and go places if in a car). It makes a really good situation for us, since she's pretty much always at home and available. :) She's also really willing to listen, and it seems like she's open to our message. We'll be working with her a lot this week. Please keep her in your prayers.
Things are going pretty well with Deysi and Guillermo - they're getting the money and paperwork together to get married and then baptized. I'm thinking that in about three weeks they'll be ready with everything - in the meantime, they're continuing on firmly (poor translation from my Spanish-thinking brain) and are enjoying the Gospel more and more each day. Good stuff there.
Inés is also doing really well. He's having a great time in church and his mom has started listening in on our lessons. We're hoping that she'll make the decision to be baptized pretty soon here. She's come to church the past two Sundays, and we're seeing some progress there. Oh, and Inés received the Priesthood yesterday - he was pretty excited about that.
We had Zone Conference last week, and it was wonderful. The President talked a lot about the living Christ - in fact, he recited "The Living Christ" from memory and it was a pretty powerful part of the conference. My testimony of Christ as our Savior and Redeemer was strengthened and deepened. Every so often I have those moments where my mind seems to expand a little, the Spirit testifies to me, and I grasp the concepts of the Gospel a little more fully and in a more profound and personal way - those are wonderful experiences, aren't they? Kind of like a little glimpse into the other side of the Veil, seeing and feeling the truths that we once lived and were a part of. Well, the conference, and some of the things I've studied lately, have had that effect in my life, and it's been incredible. The Gospel is definitely true - and more than that, it brings such a love and light into our lives. :)
In the conference I did indeed receive some mail and packages. :) I got a letter each from Lisa, Laura, Brother and Sister Windley (I really need to write them a letter soon - they're so awesome and consistent in writing me, and I love reading their words of wisdom), and Mom. The card from Mom had the new debit card in it - it arrived safe and sound, so you can go ahead and activate it. :) Also, I received a package from Mom and one from Lisa and Laura. Theirs had a video ("To This End Was I Born," which is a great one), some HLJ (CTR) rings, a pamphlet thing on the family, and a note - it was pretty cool. Pass along my thanks and gratitude. The package from the family had an extremely smashed Pop-Tart (that one made me laugh - still tastes great, though!), a great tie, and a much-appreciated watch (I finally know what time it is. Haha). Thank you very much for all of that. I really appreciated everything. And it was cool that something finally came through, too.
(My companion just read me an email from his older brother, who served a mission ten years ago and pretty much went inactive six months later. In the email, his brother says he's had a complete change of heart and is back in church. Pretty awesome.)
One other cool thing from this past week - I played baseball this morning! The zone got together to play a game with some members (men and youth alike) from around here. We played a couple hours and I had an absolute blast. It was great to step up to bat again and find that I hadn't lost everything - I connected pretty well a couple time and made three runs. :) Also, I had a chance to pitch a little bit (not in the game, because we were just throwing soft, but afterward, where I could really fire it in there), and it was a lot of fun. It felt great to work my arm again like that. To be honest, I miss playing baseball, and hope to be able to play some when I get back. Playing today was a lot of fun.
Con mucho amor y un gran abrazo,
November 8 2010
Hey everyone! :) Man... what a wonderful thing life is. Sometimes it's nice to just take a second to pause, take a deep breath, look around you, and realize the magnificence of all of God's creations. (I'm looking around me here at the cyber, and all I see are kids on Facebook and other kids playing violent videogames. Hah. Maybe this activity works better in the mountains or something...) I love being able to check my email once a week and read of all sorts of amazing things from people I love. I get to read Josh's emails, which are very inspiring; occasional emails from Lisa, Laura, Grandpa Greer, and other friends out on missions, which give me great advice and let me smile and laugh a little; and, of course, I read the email from you guys (the family), and it always makes me feel really happy to know that things are going well and life is good. It makes me appreciate a little bit more the blessing of life and the chance we have to interact one with another. I've commented on this before, but relationships are truly the most important thing we can create in this life - aside from them and our memories and knowledge, what else can we take with us? So dedicate a little time this week to strengthening and enjoying these precious relationships that make life so wonderful. Get it? (Got it.) Good. :)
Well, it's been another wonderful week. Elder Silva and I started off the transfer with renewed energy and it really paid off. We were able to find and teach a bunch of people this week, and place the groundwork for our labors the rest of the transfer. The Lord is truly blessing us, and in part it's for our efforts to obey and work diligently (and the other part is due to His tremendous mercy and love which He continually showers upon us). I've felt so good this past week - in tune with the Spirit, focused, happy, and at peace. It reminds me of something that Elder Lanham said in one of his letters to me about a year ago - "there's no guilt or remorse in missionary work, just one focus: Christ. We try to be like Him, and our lives become swallowed up in His love, and little by little we come unto Him." It's a pretty special process, and I feel like it's been highly accelerated throughout my mission - I've had so many wonderful experiences and I have grown so much. I'm still the same person, just a better version of who I was before, and a little bit closer to the person God wants me to be. It's pretty neat stuff. :)
Info on investigators. Cristina's doing well; she's practically accepted a baptismal date, just has a little bit of hesitation and wants to pray about it. She went out of town this weekend and wasn't able to come to church, but we have another appointment on Wednesday and we're going to try to get her whole family together (plus bring some members along to fellowship). I feel like she's going to make it to baptism; we'll be working hard to help her this week. Javier and Susana are doing well too. I'm not sure if I mentioned them before - we first met with Susana, and then the following day taught Javier, her husband (they're a young couple), and he really took to the message of the Restoration. He seemed kind of unwilling to listen to us at first, but then the Book of Mormon got ahold of his heart and opened it right up. :) We left him the first day with Alma 32 - he read it twice, then started at the beginning and read all of the introductory pages leading up to 1 Nephi. He felt the Spirit very strongly while he read and told us he had been pondering what he had learned and applying it in his life. It's been pretty awesome with him. They weren't able to come to church yesterday either, but we're going to do our best to get them to go this week. Javier's really excited about baptism, and with a little bit of work Susana will get there too. I'm really excited to be able to teach and help them this week.
Deysi and Guillermo are waiting for some tests and paperwork... we figure they'll get married and baptized the first weekend in December. So far so good there. Inés is going strong, and little by little his mom is accepting the restored Gospel and changing her life. Also, we met two other great investigators this past week. The first was Juan Carlos. He's 15 and the son of a member who lives in the Canticas branch. He's always been pretty rebellious (always running off to the US, hah), but about a month ago that all changed. He was riding atop a train trying to get to the States (remember the newspaper articles we read before the mission about accidents in Chiapas?) and was electrocuted by a low-hanging cable. It was pretty intense - half of the bottom of his left foot is missing (just... gone!) and he has a pretty nasty wound near his right eye, where the electricity entered. It's pretty crazy. He made it home with the help of some friends (and the police), and has had a total change of heart. He wants to make things right in his life and follow the Savior. He's getting baptized this Saturday. :) It's made me really happy to see the changes in his life and I know he'll be a strong member and a future missionary. I'm really looking forward to this weekend. He could use your prayers so that everything goes well. Also, we met a man named Perfecto (cool name, huh?), also in Canticas; his children are all faithful members, but he's always been a drunk and hasn't wanted anything to do with the Church. Well, he too has had a change of heart; he's stopped drinking, and we've planned his baptism for the 20th. And this is just the start of the success we'll be having! :) I'm looking forward to working with all of these people and I'll be sure to keep you informed on their progress.
Well, that's about it for now. Time for the good stuff. :)
Mom - Hey! :) You talked about the Windleys (and Dad too - send them my best, especially with the operation business going on). They've written me every single month; they always send the ward newsletter and a handwritten note. I really appreciate that; it means a lot to me. One thing's for sure - I haven't suffered too much in the mission, with such great support and love from home. :) Wish Reagan a happy birthday from me and give him some sort of awesome older brother gift, okay? :) Only 285 days left? Yikes... :) Well, I'll have to write more next week. Thank you for everything Mom, and I hope you have a great week. I love you very much. Talk to you next week! :)
Miranda - Congratulations on the 4.0! Whoo! :) I think I've heard of The Kite Runner, but never read it. What's it about? It's cool to hear that you're enjoying the Shakespeare class; I've really liked all the plays I've read, and definitely learned a lot too. As for the Spanish AP test... hmmm. There are parts where you have to record yourself speaking and answering some test prompts... written parts, where you answer questions... listening parts, where again you answer questions... and a part where you have to write a bit. I don't really remember too well, since I took that test three and a half years ago, but I do remember that. It's a test of general comprehension, so basically there's nothing specific to study; or rather, everything you study will help you. Unfortunately, the only advice I can give is to come to Mexico for a few months and then you'll pass without a problem: :) Yeah, el día de los muertos is celebrated here - lots of candlelight processionals and other creepy things. We just avoided most of it. :) And Thanksgiving... probably not, unless I can get some members to celebrate it and invite us haha. Oh well. Good job with the Book of Mormon! Let me know when you finish. I'm looking to finish again before the end of the year... I'm in Mosiah right now. I love that book. Thanks, Miranda, for being an awesome sister, and I hope you have a great week. Love you very much! :)
Gabs - Hey Gabs! :) Your horseback riding adventures sound pretty awesome! I laughed a lot at your Ace Ventura quote. :) It seems like you're getting pretty great at riding horses - I'm excited to see you ride (and maybe try it out myself) when I get home! :) What else have you been reading lately? Well, Gabs, your part is a bit short this week. Sorry - next week will be a whole email just for you! :) haha. But thank you for being a great sister, and have a wonderful week! I love you very much! :)
Reagan: Hey Reags! Happy birthday! (Somebody give him a big hug for me, and again on his birthday, okay?) Nine years old. Wow. :)
Dad - I really liked your thoughts and what you said about Stake Conference. It sounds like it was pretty good. I just loved that poem you put in there - it's really profound, and has a powerful message. As for the baseball - yeah, we rounded up some mitts from ward members and had enough to all play. An older man who's a coach for a local team let me pitch to him a bit, and said that I throw hard. :) Baseball's not too popular here in Mexico, but there are still teams here and there, and it was fun to play again and to remember the good old days. As for knocking doors, we usually tap on the gate with a coin or shout "buenas tardes" until they come outside. Some people have doorbells, too. But maybe this week I'll try the cartwheel idea... :) Yeah, I'm looking forward to staying a second transfer in this area. It'll be fun. Thanks for everything, Dad. Have a great week. I love you very much. :)
Thanks, everyone, for all you do for me. I love you all very much. Have a wonderful week!
Con mucho amor,