Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy New Year

<Here's a bit of Justin's letter before Christmas, and following that is his letter from January 3rd>

Hey everyone! It's been another great Monday and week...  in addition to the family letter, I got one from John's family (they've been really good about emailing me monthly), two forwarded letters from Josh (so yes, I heard the news - that's totally awesome), and, of course, an inspiring message from the President. He included as an attachment "The Living Christ," so I will accept your challenge, Miranda, and see you a "Joy to the World" video and a night of caroling to the neighbors. Haha. Just kidding - but I will do what you suggested; I think it'll really bring home the meaning of Christmas. Anyway, on to the letter. (My emails, I think, are pretty good, but these introductions could use some work.) :)

First things first. We've got the phone call all set up for Christmas the 25th (Saturday) at 5:00 pm my time. I'm pretty sure that's 4:00 your time, right? I'll trust you, Dad, to figure that out. :)  I'm looking forward to it. Also, Dad, you mentioned last week that the Bowns will probably be over at that time on Christmas Day - if they're there, it'd be cool to talk to each of them for a minute too. I'm sure it'll be a great experience and a good Christmas present for all of us. :)

Well, time for an update. The biggest news from this week is, of course, my new companion. His name is Elder Harrison, and he's from Bountiful. He's the third child of six; his older brother served in the Mexico City North mission a couple years back. We get along pretty well. :) He's a little on the timid side...He's cool though, and really excited to be here. He's very eager to work hard, meet new people, and learn a lot. He studied Spanish for two years in junior high, but speaks very little Spanish - the basics, but less than I did when I hit Mexico (and even less than I did when we went to Chile, for that matter). It's hard for him to understand people, and even harder to form answers or say what he's thinking. But that's pretty much how every gringo is when he gets here, so it's no big deal. :)...I know he'll be a blessing for the people here of Palmar. Another cool thing about being with him is that it requires me to talk a lot more (I thought I was talking more!). Thanks for the advice on training, Dad. I'll put it into practice.

We had the special stake conference yesterday, and both P. Castañeda and P. Johnson came (mission and area presidents). They spoke and their messages were very powerful. P. Johnson kind of got after the stake for their fast offerings - he said, "I'm going to suggest to my wife that we move here to Minatitlán, because apparently the average meal here costs 4 pesos!" Everyone laughed, but they got the message, and hopefully they'll increase their fast offerings and receive the blessings. All the speakers talked about Christmas and the birth of the Savior, and it was really neat to reflect upon that message and think about Jesus's birth...It was a very neat conference and I could feel the Spirit very strongly. Afterward, P. Castañeda and I spoke for a few minutes in English; he speaks pretty well, but is trying to improve, and it was a pretty fun conversation. He says to send on a Merry Christmas to everyone at home, by the way. :)

I read in Josh's emails and the one from the family about his mission call. That's so very awesome. I'm so excited for him; it's going to be a wonderful opportunity. Congratulate him for me, and tell him I wish him the best of luck and I know he'll do a great job.

Letter January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!! :)

Okay, so I'm a little late on that, but it's the best I can do. I hope everyone had a happy New Year and is ready to start 2011 and make it a year of success, joy, love, and learning. I'm really looking forward to this year; I feel like it holds many blessings for me and I can't wait to discover which ones they are.

This past week was a good one, but sort of difficult as far as outward success is concerned. We actually did better this past week than in the few weeks preceeding it, which is quite the achievement if you consider the fact that this week absolutely NO ONE was at home or in the streets (except for drunks that coughed blood on us and tried to speak in English, and a Jehovah's Witness who wanted to contend... yeah, fun times). The city was just dead this week. We had some finding success in the first couple days, but from Thursday to Sunday we could barely get anything done. It wasn't from lack of trying, either; we worked really hard every single day. I'm really satisfied with our efforts this last week, and looking forward to doing the same this week, but with more success.

As far as investigators go, we don't have many. We have a couple people who are sort of progressing, but need an extra push, and then we have a couple others who are kind of flaky. So, this week we're going to be talking to everyone and tracting a lot, and I'm confident that by next week we'll have a bunch of new investigators who will be sincerely looking for the truth. There's not much else to say about the past week, except that I'm pleased with the work we did, and this coming week will be a good one too. Today, Monday, has been a lot of fun as well. We had the perfect P-day planned, and everything went right. I finally got my haircut, I took out $20 to buy a 4GB SD card (more pictures!), I bought some "strawberried peanut butter M&Ms" (I'll have to tell you next week how they taste), and we ate tacos for lunch. It's been a great day. :) So we're both feeling really happy and excited about this week, and a good outlook can work miracles. :)

Personally, I'm doing really well. I've been learning so much lately, from personal studies, experiences in the street with my companion, from the letters from home and friends, and from the Spirit in general. Let me here reiterate that the packages I received were awesome, everyone! :) I was so happy to get them because it was like a second Christmas for me, and I've really enjoyed using all the presents. The religion pamphlet has been really interesting, as have my friends' letters from the mission - they've really given me a boost and made me more excited for the work. I love the candy and letters, of course, and the cds are wonderful as well. All in all, they were great Christmas packages, so thank you again for sending them, Mom (and everyone else involved!). Nothing new so far, but we'll probably get mail sometime this week, so I'll let you know.

We spent New Year's pretty well here. We were inside early, as I mentioned last week, so we didn't see anyone burn the viejo (that's what it's called here - represents the old year and the old person). Dad knows what I'm talking about, but for everyone else, they're dummies (scarecrow-type things) dressed up to represent all your old habits. They're given beer bottles, cigarettes, etc. and set out in front of the house. Then, at midnight, they burn the viejos to represent starting the New Year fresh. Some people packed the viejos with fireworks, too. We didn't see any of them get burned, but boy, did we hear them! The shouts and fireworks woke us up at midnight. It sounded pretty crazy out in the streets. But I just went back to bed. :) It was cool, though, to have that tradition going on. Throughout the week they also had a bunch of kids dressed up as women dancing in the streets in costumes and stuff. Kind of odd, but interesting for sure.

Gabbie: Hey Gabs! Let me begin by telling you that you are hilarious. All of your emails include a bunch of silly humor and jokes. For example, the whole "Guess what?" thing has taken on a new life of its own. What you wrote as my response was pretty funny. :) Also - let me just quote a part of what you wrote, because it made me laugh a lot: "Oh, Dad just told me that they also gave their farewell the same day you did. I told him, "oh, well, tell Justin that", but Dad says "he already knows. He was there". And I said I know, I was just reminding him, dad. So...there you go." Haha. Gabs, you make me laugh a lot. :) I think the American food I've been craving lately has been meatloaf. And chocolate shakes. And apple pie. Yum. :) I'm glad you had fun at Tucano's and on New Year's. Hopefully you'll be able to enjoy school this new semester and that you'll learn a lot. You mentioned Santa... here's a scripture for you to look up: Zechariah 2:6. Have a great week, Gabs! :) I love you very much!

Miranda: Hey! Sounds like school's going great... haha. Pay attention! :) The snow and ice news sounds cool too. I'm glad to hear it's been snowing, and that you've been able to go snowboarding and all that. It sounds like it was a lot of fun. Hopefully you'll be able to go a bunch more before the season ends. How has lacrosse been going? Have you started up yet? New Year's sounds cool - for us it was just normal, but it's weird that it's now 2011. Time goes by so quickly. Have you finished all your college applications? When do you hear back from them? No, I haven't eaten anything weird lately, nor have I dressed up as anyone. Let's see what this week holds. :) I hope you have a great one - I love you very much! :)

Mom: Hi Mom! :) I was glad to hear that you got all the pictures. I laughed at your comment about my "inflated" corn. I didn't know the right word to use; I wanted to say popped, but knew that wasn't right, so I went with "inflated." The downside of learning another language. :) I'll have to put together a collection of recipes from around here so that afterward we can try to make some different foods. Thanks again for the Christmas packages. I'm glad everyone had a fun New Year's. You'll have to let me know if you come up with any resolutions. I remember when we would all sit down and write out our resolutions on that yellow legal paper... and then they would be stored away, not to be looked at for an entire year. Haha. Hopefully this year we can actually achieve some of our goals. By the way, I've noticed something the past few months or so. The first year-ish of my mission, in almost every email you would say "I miss you very much, love you, etc...", but as of about two months ago, you haven't really said "I miss you," but have instead just expressed love, pride, and appreciation. I think that's cool. Obviously, I know you miss me, but it's interesting that I now don't have much time left, and so now we're counting down instead of up, and all that. I don't know if that makes sense, but it was cool before, and it's cool now. Things have progressed.... or something. I think all this warm weather is affecting my brain. :) Anyway, Mom, thanks for your email, and for always supporting me. I hope this is a great week for you. I love you very much. :)

Dad. Whew - what a doozy of an email! Let me respond to what I can. Cool about the SS class; you'll have to let me know what that's all about (did they invite you because they think you need the help? haha). Yes, I got the Ensigns in the package; thanks. I've been reading through a couple talks lately, and have really learned a lot. Sounds like it's been a good week, with you attending when Josh wnt through the Temple and such. I sent him a quick email today, though I didn't mention that. I'm glad it was a good experience for him. Thanks for the info on Matt and Brett. I hope Matt can get back into the field soon. I'm actually glad you didn't look up anything on the white stone this week for me - I did, and found out that a topic I thought was going to be this big (fingers two inches apart) is really this big (my arms aren't long enough to demonstrate). I've been studying the Bread of Life, taking Christ's name upon us, the meaning of eternal progression, and so on. It's been really interesting, but I haven't finished studying it or forming my conclusions, so we'll save that for next week. :) It's some cool stuff, though - as is what you wrote this week. Man. Receiving the Lord, and being accepted by Him. I'm going to read through again what you wrote a couple times, and study it a bit more, but it's pretty cool insights, and I really like the connections you made. I'll try to write more on that next week too. Oh, as a comment, last week in the district class I asked the elders to answer the following questions with hard or easy - "The mission is ____." Half put hard, and half put easy. Then I used what you said last week about what Nephi said to Laman and Lemuel, when they complained that what Nephi was asking was hard, and how nothing is hard in the Lord, if we put our faith in Him all is possible.  So I then taught them that for the Lord, the mission is very easy. By the end, they had all switched it over to the easy column. :) Hah. It was a good lesson though, and I think it helped out. Oh (part two), another comment - in the announcements today they said that we should ask our families not to put "religious images" on letters or packages. Who knows why, since it seems like putting that image of La Virgin de Guadelupe has been effective for me, and allows the packages to arrive instead of being stolen.  One more thing - your email, when talking of Reagan, ended like this: he messes with me sometimes (sneaking up and punching me (ouch) then running, or clicking the keyboard when I am trying to prepare my lesson, with the sole objective to mess me up so I will chase him) and during it all he laughs hysterically. A really deep, funny, contagious laugh. We all crack up hearing it. Then of course, he also runs outside with only socks on in 8 degree weather. (new paragraph) So, keep on keepin' on. Love you. (Back to me) Haha. I just thought it was funny, the transition there from Reagan trouble to "Keep on keepin' on." Just made me laugh. Thank you for everything, Dad. I really appreciate all the advice and support and love. I hope you have a great week. More next Monday. Chow for now. Love you! :)

Thanks, everyone, for all you do for me. I love you very much. Have a wonderful week! :)
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer

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