Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From November 22

Hey everyone! Well, it's been another great week, with lots of changes and new things going on. It's another warm and sunny Minatitlán afternoon, but here I am in an airconditioned cyber with a new weekly letter from the family. Things couldn't be much better. :)

Well, let me start off with the important information. The transfers took place Tuesday night, meaning that Tuesday was my last full day in Paquitál. We headed up to Canticas for the day, so I had the chance to see a few people and say goodbye. I talked to Juan Carlos for a while - he had been kind of upset on Sunday, like I mentioned last week, but had headed down to the train tracks to cool off and study the Book of Mormon. When I talked to him Tuesday, he was up to 2 Nephi 26 - over a hundred pages in just a week. Pretty cool. He had calmed down and understood the importance of being confirmed. Unfortunately, due to the transfers, I don't know if he was confirmed yesterday or not, but I hope so. I told Elder Silva to write me and let me know if the confirmation went through, so with any luck I'll hear something soon. But Juan Carlos was doing a lot better when I left, and Perfecto was really excited for his baptism (as far as I know he was baptized Saturday), and I felt good about leaving the area in good conditions.

I arrived in my new area, Palmar, Tuesday night, and got right into the work the following day. Palmar is right near the center of the city (colonia Centro) where all the shops and more touristy things are, which is kind of cool. It's a fairly big area and has a strong ward (around 120 in attendance on Sundays). In the last transfer, my companion Elder Valencia baptized four people in Palmar (and seven people in the other ward he was formerly assigned to), so it seems like we'll be able to have lots of success here. However, we don't really have many investigators that we're teaching at the moment - all the upcoming baptisms that Elder Valencia had planned are for the other ward, Nueva Mina, which now has its own missionaries. In a way, we're starting from scratch, but that's okay. In the few days I've been here we've found a handful of people that we'll be teaching this week, and we're hoping to have a couple baptisms by the end of next week. I feel like Palmar is capable of giving great fruit; I think there's a lot of potential here, and it's time to open things up. I'll keep you all informed on the investigator side of things as we see progress.

Elder Valencia is pretty awesome. He's from Mexico State (you didn't know Mexico was a state, did you? :) haha), but lived in Arizona from age 1 to age 17 and then moved back to Mexico, so he actually speaks English better than he speaks Spanish. That's been pretty fun, even though we pretty much always speak in Spanish anyway. He's very easy to get along with, smart, and fun to be around. Beyond that, he's a hard worker and upbeat, so we're able to work really well together. I'm excited to get to know him better and work hard this transfer.

We live in what I imagine would be a pension from your mission, Dad; here it's a cuartería (technically a "roomery," meaning a cluster of rooms that are rented out to different people). Basically, a member family is renting us out a part of their house. It's small, but comfortable and has everything that we need. The plus side is that the family is always inviting us to dinner and breakfast. Yum. :) They're pretty cool and I've been getting to know them a little bit. The members seem really nice here. More on (huh?) that when I actually get to know them better. :) But so far so good! :)

Well, that's really about it. This Thursday the President's coming into town to do interviews, and I'm going to use the opportunity to ask him about you guys coming down to pick me up after the mission. I'll let you know what he says. The ZLs said some letters arrived for me and my companion, but we won't pick them up until tonight, so I don't know from whom. No Christmas packages yet, but I'm sure they'll arrive soon. :) That's it from my end - on to the better part of the letter.

Gabbie: Hey Gabberdee! ;) How's it going? You always make me laugh with your comments in the email, like when you tell me to guess and other little things. You're quite the jokester, huh? :) Sounds like your experience with Shilo (horse) was pretty crazy... I bet I would have been scared. I'm sure you handled it like a pro, though. :) How has school been going lately? Mom said you're reading The View From The Cherry Tree. I like that book a lot. What else have you been up to? What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas? Excited about winter vacations coming up? When do they start? Well, Gabs, as always, thanks for being an awesome sister. I hope you have a great week. I love you very much! :) P.S. I have a secret for you, but just so Miranda doesn't understand, I'll say it to you in Spanish... ¡tú eres mi hermanita más bonita! haha... ;) love you Gabs!

Miranda: Hey! :) No worries about the lack of a letter last week. I only cried a little... haha. Just kidding. I understand how time gets. Sounds like you've been up to a lot of fun things lately. I've been meaning to ask you - have you received any Facebook friend requests (I think that's what they're called) from Mexicans? The members always want to see my pictures from home and they always ask everyone's name. I think a girl I met in Coatza might have added you on Facebook, and possibly others... up to you on accepting them or not, just thought you might like to know why all of the sudden a bunch of foreigners want to be your friend. :) But anyway, you sure made up for last week with what you wrote this week! You mentioned Sonny Hill, and it got me to wondering how all the rest of the missionaries from the ward are doing (only occasionally do I hear of them).  Pretty cool that you're already applying for college... the best times of your life are yet to come. :) Are you leaning to any particular one of the four you mentioned? Do any of them have a good reputation for the whole physical therapy field? How are the applications coming along, and when will you find out the results?  I personally love Shakespeare's plays - which one are you reading now? I also loved 1984, but hey, to each his own. :) It's good to hear that you're still enjoying school, for the most part. Keep working hard up to the last minute - it takes effort and self-discipline, but it's definitely worth it in the long run. Trust me on this one. ;) Well, thanks for writing so much and keeping me informed on what's going on. I hope you have a wonderful week and that you enjoy it. I love you very much! :) P.S. no creas lo que le dije a Gabs - tú también eres muy bonita. :)

Mom: I feel there's a special holiday coming up, but I can't remember what it is... oh, yeah, that's right. Thanksgiving! Hah. Just kidding. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! :) :) :) (I did, in fact, remember, but Dad helped me out with a giant reminder at the beginning of the email. Haha.) I hope you have a wonderful birthday tomorrow and that all your dreams come true. :) I wish I could be there - but I'll be there for the next one! And I'm sure that Dad, Miranda, Gabbie, Reags, and Nikka will make it a great day - they had better! ;) Remember, Mom, that I love you very much, and am very appreciative for the person you are and the example you set in my life. Have a great birthday. Say hi to everyone at the Thanksgiving feast; I'll see what I can whip up down here. But, as you said, the most important part is the giving thanks, and I definitely have a lot to be thankful for. You asked questions about the transfers and the new area - I'm not sure why so many missionaries came all at once, or why they didn't come two weeks earlier, and they haven't really told us, so I'm only assuming it was visa problems. I think the President only had a couple days' notice, which is why we didn't find out earlier. My new area is about 5 or 10 minutes in taxi from the old one, but it's a different stake (there are two in Mina), so I don't know if I'll see any members I know. Yes, I'm still district leader and senior companion (Elder Valencia has been out 6 months, by the way), and I'm excited to get to know the elders in the district and to be able to work with them. Most people don't have anything around their houses - either they don't have space (houses go right up to the sidewalk), or just dirt or weeds. Landscaping hasn't really caught on here yet. :) Our service projects are kind of random; whenever we get the chance, we do service, but so far we haven't established any sort of routine or system. Thanks for sending things for Christmas - I'll keep you posted (no pun intended - haha). Also, thanks for telling me about the girls and Reagan. It's great to hear that everyone's doing well and having fun. Sounds like Reagan's been mellow lately and enjoying himself. That's good. Thank you, Mom, for everything you've done for me. I hope you have a great birthday and week. I love you very much! :)

Dad: Too bad about Matt blowing out his knee (I hadn't heard anything). Say hi to him for me when you get the chance. I hope everything works out and he can go back to Brazil, but either way it's in the Lord's hands. I imagine it'd be pretty tough, but I'm glad he's accepted it. I hope he recovers soon. How many zones were there in your mission? Did you have more than one ward at a time? How many areas and companions did you have? (I'm sure you've told me before, but I forgot - hah). It's cool to hear that my emails are still being read by many. It would be interesting to know who reads the blog. Maybe you could try that "send a brief message to Elder Greer" thing again - might be cool. Oh, one more thing, now that I was thinking about your mission - one day I said to Elder Tanner back in Villa, "Blah, see, blah!" (without any context or explanation) and he replied, "Is that a mafia ghost?" Haha. Turns out we're both fans of Scooby-Doo. :) Well, that's it for me this week, I think. Thank you, Dad, for everything. I love you very much. Have a great week. Chow for now. :)

Thanks, everyone, for all your love and support. I love you all very much. Until next week -
Elder Greer

From November 29

Hey everyone! Good afternoon! Isn't the weather just wonderful? :) Well, for me it is - nice and warm and sunny... perfect for playing basketball and soccer and enjoying some pizza, which is what I did this morning. However, for you guys back at home... seems like things are a bit chilly. I miss the snow, in fact, but am also enjoying the warmth here. It was great to see the pictures from home and hear about all the snow. But more on that in a minute.
I am doing really well. Happy, healthy, and excited about the work. I don't have any regrets and, for the moment, life is pretty much perfect. I think that's more about being grateful and accepting the situation at hand than being placed in a paradise... but again, I'm getting ahead of myself. How about a summary of what I've been up to lately? Since you're all in agreement, I'll begin. :) (I remind myself of Gabbie now...)
Well, the work is moving along nicely. Things have been a little slow - I talked last week about the lack of investigators and all that. This past week we really focused on finding new people and being obedient and we were successful. President Castañeda has set a goal of 140 contacts per week per companionship, a contact being where we present ourselves as representatives of the Savior, bear testimony, and invite the person to hear our message. It's a pretty high goal, and we don't always hit it - it requires a lot of diligence, patience, and efficiency in the work, and sometimes we fall short - but this week the whole zone made it to 140. We were really pleased and happy to have made the goal, and we were also able to see the blessings throughout the week. And, of course, we will be further blessed in coming weeks as we continue to work hard and do even better than our best.
The Lord has really been blessing us. We have two investigators with baptismal dates, and several others in the process. The first is named Yaquelin (pronounced exactly like Jaqueline in English). She's a nine-year-old girl; all her family are members that were recently reactivated. We've been waiting for her dad to be able to baptize her, and finally everything's all lined up. She's going to be baptized on Saturday. We're really excited for it, and so is she (and the rest of her family too, of course). It's been a lot of fun working with them and I know the baptism will be a great success. Our other investigator is named Julieta. She's around 60 years old and her son is a member in another city in Veracruz. We found her knocking doors and she was very willing to accept us and our message. She went to church yesterday with her seven-year-old granddaughter and just loved it (I think that's partly because it was the Primary Presentation), and she's really excited to be baptized on the 11th. We're going to be working a lot with her this week, as well as focusing on finding even more people to teach and to keep the work moving forward. All in all, I'm very happy with where I am and the things that are going on, and I'm looking forward to the blessings and the experiences of the future.
That's really about it for the big news. I now just have a bunch of little stories or comments. First, last week we didn't have the interviews with the President because something came up on his end, but this Thursday we should have them. I'm looking forward to this as well, as I really enjoy talking with the President and always learn a lot from him. I received a little from Lisa last week. No packages yet. I'll probably receive whatever mail there might be next week, because I think we'll be having another leadership training. I'll let you all know more as it happens. November's drawing to a close and December's almost here... It's crazy. I can't believe it's almost Christmastime (or that Thanksgiving passed by without a sound), and that 2010 is fast drawing to a close. Time moves so quickly.
The ward members here are pretty awesome. The Relief Society secretary, Verónica, is about my age and is a really good cook. She gives us lunch about once a week and it's always something awesome. Last week our dessert was a banana split. This week she made us KFC (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw, all homemade), and for dessert gave us a strawberry version of key lime pie. It was delicious. The rest of the ward is really nice and they help us out a lot. Mom, you asked what the family that we live with gives us to eat for dinner and breakfast - well, I'll answer that fully further on, but one thing they let me try this week (my conmpanion refused) was turtle. :) It's something I've been wanting to eat my whole mission, and I finally had the chance. It was pretty tasty - it smelled like seafood but tasted like chicken. It was a little difficult prying the shell open, but once that's done, the legs and the rest of the meat pull off fairly easily :) My comp wouldn't try it though. Ha. I'll send a picture when I finish the email. Pretty sweet. :)
I forgot to mention last week, but my first Sunday here I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting. I spoke about being of good cheer and believing Christ - basically, a Dad-inspired talk. :) It went over really well. Every third Sunday we speak in church here, which I'm looking forward to. The stake choir is putting on a Christmas program in the next couple weeks, and while we were watching them practice yesterday they asked me to help out with something. What did I have to do? Sing a duet with one of the sisters for the rest of the choir. And, surprisingly, I did it without much problem. Let me explain. :) One of the songs they're going to sing is O Holy Night (which, by the way, isn't in the Spanish hymnbook either, but they found the lyrics somewhere). They're going to sing the first half in English and the last half in Spanish, and it sounds pretty amazing. But they were having a bit of trouble getting the hang of the English. The sister (around my age, I think) who directs the choir speaks fairly good English, and so I was asked to sing the song with her so that the choir could hear how it's supposed to sound. Now, all of you are familiar with my singing and my personality in general - but I did it without much hesitation. And it went over well. That's not to say that I sounded great (I actually have a bit of a cold right now), but I wasn't really embarrassed or shy about or anything.
Now, you may be thinking, "What have the Mexicans done with Justin?!" :) But really, it's just part of how the Lord has helped me develop my personality a little more and grow as a person. I feel like I'm a little more confident of myself, or at least a little more willing to put myself out there without worrying what others think. I'm becoming a little bit more like Casey. Hah. It's kind of cool for me, especially because it didn't really cost a superhuman effort to sing, it was actually not that hard. Kind of neat how that sort of thing happens. Just a neat little anecdote from this past week. :)
Today we had a zone activity. We played sports, ate pizza, and watched UP. :) And, Gabs, I absolutely loved it. What a good movie. And I think that's about it for me this week. Time for the better part of the letter, and then I'll despedirme. :)
Gabbie: Hey Gabs! Your email this week was probably the best one yet! (Mostly because it was full of all sorts of jokes and funny things). Dad sent me some pictures of your adventure and they looked pretty awesome. Your story about crossing the ice and then seeing it break afterward when Dad threw a rock was a pretty crazy one. I bet that was a lot of fun and made you feel like an explorer from UP :) Sounds like you're all having lots of fun with the snow. Have a snowball fight for me, okay? :) To answer your first question, no, I didn't really celebrate Thanksgiving. I spent the day thinking about all my blessings and wrote in my journal about all the things I'm grateful for, but that's about it - nothing in the way of food. Well, Gabs, keep having lots of fun and being the funny little girl you are. Have a great week! I love you very much! :)
P.S. Chow in Spanish (chau) and in Italian (ciau) means goodbye. So "chow for now" is "goodbye for now." Chow also means to eat a bunch, as in "chow down." I don't know if that one applies here though. :) Love you! :)
Miranda: Seems like it's been a pretty good week for you, too. Cool to hear that you finished with the BYU application. Yeah, I too felt a lot more excited about college once my application was in and I didn't have to worry about it so much. And at times I felt nervous or apprehensive about going to college, but once I got there I realized that I liked it a lot more than high school, as fun as high school was.  It was cool to hear about Thanksgiving, your adventures in the kitchen with your omelets, and driving (fishtail powerslide in the snow) up the hill with Dad. Haha. I remember doing that a lot and I always liked it too. Have a great week and remember that I love you very much! :)
Mom: Hey Mom!  You asked me about the island - it's pretty small and not too many people live there, but there are a few members and yes, the only way to get there is by boat. Maybe you can pull it up on Google Maps or something - it's at the southern end of Mina. About half my area was badly affected with the floodings from awhile back, and a lot of people are still recovering, repainting their houses, etc. We eat fish probably about once a week, most often fried and served whole, but sometimes prepared like the picture I sent.  Elder Valencia lived in Mesa, Arizona, and yes, he's pretty cool and very easy to get along with. The district is pretty small - us, another companionship, and the zone leaders. It's cool that way though. For breakfast the family gives us eggs, pancakes, empanadas, and similar things. Dinner is sometimes sandwiches, soup, fried bananas, and the occasional turtle. :)  Cool to hear about Casey being engaged - tell him congratulations for me! Thank you, Mom, for always writing me and for being so supportive. I love you very much and hope you have a great week! :)
Dad: Congratulations on the mortgage test! :) I knew you could do it... best score in the state?...the whole world? ha.  I really liked what you had to say in the day's sermon :) about gratitude. It's something Josh talked about in his email too, and I really liked the thoughts you mentioned. I'm going to study those this week, as well as President Monson's talk - thanks for sending that. The gratitude journal sounds like a very good idea, and I liked what you said about knowing now the things I didn't know at the beginning of my mission. I'm going to focus on using what I know to make the most of the time that's left. It's going to be a good time. :) Well, Dad, thank you for writing me every week, and for all the help you give me. I've very thankful to be your son, and to be a part of this family. Have a great week. I love you very much.
Well, everyone, thanks for everything. I hope that all's going well. See you all next week - chow for now! :)
 Elder Greer

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