Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Surprise Transfer

I been a slacker in posting Justin's letters to this blog. My apologies and thanks to those who have sent me emails of encouragement to get on the ball  ;)

Here are a few highlights from Jan 10, 17, 24, followed my his most recent letter Jan 31 which describes his transfer and new area.  Mark

From January 10, 2010 (excerpt)

Today for p-day we had our normal zone activity (the one from a couple weeks ago was a special Christmas one). We rented an astro-turf soccer field and went to play for a couple hours with the other zone here in Mina. It was pretty awesome; we were there for about three hours.  For the last hour we played football, which was a little better for me since everyone down here has played soccer since birth.  I must have been getting a little cocky after my third touchdown, because when I intercepted what would have been a game-winner, instead of letting the play end, I sprinted down the sideline for another score.  After some jigging and jagging, in all the commotion and hubbub I tumbled to the ground when they tagged me, and because it was astro-turf I went down pretty hard and skidded a good five feet, followed by a few rolls.  Aside from a few bruises, the only damage was a nice raspberry/carpet burn type wound that scraped me from forearm to elbow. Not a big deal, but boy, did it sting - and more so when I washed it out and cleaned it with alcohol later on (antiseptic is for sissies - ha).  But the point of this long-winded story, is that later a nice member would not accept that I'd done enough to clean it.  Her suggestion? "Pour lime juice on it".  I'd never heard of such a thing, and it didn't sound like a very fun thing to do.  But she wouldn't let it go. She can be very persistent. So finally, after a dozen "no, really, I'm okay"'s, I relented.  Wow!  Stung twice as much as the alcohol did, if you can believe it.  Last time I listen to someone giving obscure mexican treatment ideas!  (It did scab over rather quickly, though).
The work has picked up quite a bit since I last wrote. This is in part to the hard work we put in last week (we hit the 140 contacts goal, for one, and were exhausted at the end of every day, which is a good sign), but mostly because the Lord was blessing us a lot. As of right now, we have one investigator with a baptismal date, and three or four who are progressing, and that's all due to our work this week. The lady with the date is María del Carmen. We're planning the baptism for the 29th. We met her contacting, and she accepted everything right from the beginning....we also met and taught several others. Your prayers in their behalf are appreciated...
...A question for Miranda and Gabbie - do you know what a tangerine is? (I'm sure this sparked discussion or memory of Tangerine Road, too.) Mom, I'm sure you do; Dad, a little less sure, but I have faith. :) Well, apparently I never knew what a tangerine was, or somehow forgot. When I arrived in Mexico, they gave me this orange-looking thing and told me it was a mandarina. I tried it, and it basically tastes like an orange, but a little more acidic, and it's a little darker in color. I thought, well, this must be a mandarin orange - you know, those little orange slices they sometimes put in salads. I had never liked them, really, but the mandarina tasted good, and I soon started eating them often (they grow everywhere down here). I just sort of assumed they were big mandarin oranges. Well, last week in the grocery store, I was looking through the juices, and found a brand that said the names in Spanish and English. And, to my great surprise, "mandarina" actually translates as "tangerine"! :) It turns out that I really like tangerines. Who knew? :)

Mom - you asked about my new companion.  His from Bountiful and is the third of six children. His older brother served in Mexico City a couple years back. He's pretty fun to be around and has a good sense of humor. I know that if you vote for Elder Harrison for President, you will... haha. Just kidding. It just seemed like a bit of a testimonial. He's a good guy though. I laughed at the thought of how new the idea of an iTouch must seem to Grandpa... the world sure has changed a lot ... funny about Reagan and his shenanigans. Little autistic boys will be themselves, you know. :) 
One quick favor. There's a talk my MTC teacher read us called "The Fourth Missionary" by Elder Lawrence Corbridge. I'm almost positive you can find it online, but can't search for it myself, of course. I was wondering if you could look for it, and send it as an attachment or something for next week? It's a really neat talk and has a lot of cool ideas about missionary work.
Exerpt from Jan 17, 2010
This past week, although fun, has actually been pretty tough. It rained really hard from Wednesday through Friday, and it seems like that just killed missionary work in our area. Nobody was in the streets, no one wanted to open their doors, our investigators weren't home, we got drenched, etc. It was kind of discouraging for a day or two there, and again last night as we totaled our numbers for the week and realized how little we had been able to accomplish. A little disheartening. But, let me say that I'm not discouraged or upset, but rather I'm feeling very happy and excited. My spirits were dampened (no pun intended - hah) a bit this week, and there were a few moments when I wasn't too happy, but I bounced back rather quickly, and I realize that this is just part of life. How fitting that yesterday we talked about sacrifice in church, and that Dad commented on that today. The trials come and go (and come back again), but we can do all things with a cheerful countenance if we understand God's plan and have the right attitude.....

...... Last week we also had Zone Conference, which was very awesome. The President spoke a lot about diligence and about doing lots of little things every day to follow the Savior. I thought it was good advice, not just for the mission, but for everyone. We aren't judged solely on the big things, but on all the little things too, and in the end they might have more say in our eternal happiness. Let that be motivation for all of us this week; let's all try to be just a little bit better.....

..... Another good part of the conference was the mail! I received a letter from Lisa, a letter from the Windleys, and, as a big surprise to me, a package from Greg's family! :) It included notes from everyone and a ton of goodies - Pop-Tarts, beef jerkey, peanut butter, hot chocolate, candy bars, cookies, Nutter Butters, and other tasty treats. It was awesome to receive it. This is for Greg, Suzette, Casey, Mikey (que onda primo! haha - do they speak in vos in Guatemala?), Spencer, Sam, Sadie, Ali, and Wil - thank you all so very much. I really appreciated the package, and loved reading your letters. Thank you for everything - I really appreciate it, and it truly brightened up my day.......

What else, what else... :) Yesterday we spoke in church. I based my talk on D&C 58:26-28, and talked about a couple different things there. It went over well. My companion spoke on faith - he wrote his talk in English, then translated it, and I made some corrections (he's new from the US). He spoke really well, and did a good job. On Friday we made no-bake cookies with a sister here in the ward. They turned out just like I remembered them. :) Thanks again, Mom, for the recipe......
Excerpt from Jan 24, 2010
Hello everyone! It's early Monday afternoon and I feel a little overwhelmed as I sit down to write this email. Overwhelmed maybe isn't the right word... desubicado. There we go. It translates more as "disoriented," but is slightly different in Spanish. Sort of taken aback, or not sure what to think or do. The reason? Transfer calls... and not what I had expected.
First, they didn't come in until Sunday night (usually Saturday morning), so I figured I was in the clear. Second, I've only had two transfers here in Palmar, and expected to stay another transfer at least. Also, I've only been with my last three companions one transfer apiece, and thought that I would stay here longer with Elder Harrison to continue training him and all that. I was about 95% sure that I'd be staying here. (Shows how much I know!) Yes, I'm being transferred. Here are the details: I'll be going to Balancán y Triunfo, in the Zapata zone, Tabasco. My new companion will be Elder Rojas. I leave tomorrow at 9 am. Elder Harrison is staying and receives a new companion, Elder Luna (don't know him either)........
Letter from January 31, 2010
Hey hey everyone! It's another great Monday afternoon after a surprisingly great week, and I'm excited both to have received the family's email and to have the chance to write a bit about my past week here in Balancán. There's a lot to say and, as usual, little time, so let's get down to it.

First off, I absolutely love Balancán. Yes, I was a bit sad to have to leave Palmar, and still miss some of the people there and everything, but wouldn't really want to go back now that I've been here for a couple days. And I loved being there, too, so that says a lot. Why, you may ask, do I love this new area so much? Well, it could be for the beautiful scenery, the great members, the imminent success, the nearby ruins, the baptisms, the monkeys, or a host of other cool things. Basically everything is summed up in the definition of "Balancán" in some Mayan language: "land of tigers and snakes." Pretty easy to understand why I like it so much, huh? :)

I spent almost all of Tuesday on buses - first from Mina to Villahermosa, then down to Zapata, and then over here to Balancán. I had to wait a couple hours in between each bus ride, so I didn't arrive here until around 7:30 pm. I settled it, unpacked, and all that, and then the next day got to work in the area, got to know some members, recent converts, etc. My companion is Elder Rojas. He's from México, DF (the capital), is 26 years old, has been a member for just over two years, and has been in the field almost 5 months. He's extremely nice, compassionate, good-hearted, and an all-around good friend; so far, I've really enjoyed being with him.

Our area includes the Balancán branch, which covers all of Balancán (it's not really that big), plus a bunch of outlying towns and communities, and also the Triunfo branch, which I guess is about an hour from here. I haven't been yet, but we'll be going this week. My companion says that not very many people live there; branch attendance is rarely higher than 15, although the members who do attend are very faithful. Balancán has attendance of around 65-80, so it's actually doing really well. So far, all the members I've met are extremely nice and supportive, and they seem really focused on helping us out - referrals, food, rides, et al. I've really enjoyed being here so far.

The weather hasn't been too bad, though the past two days have been very toasty and things are heating up. They say it gets hotter here than in Villahermosa, so I guess we'll see on that. :) But regardless it's a beautiful area. We are surrounded by foliage and wildlife. In fact, we had a pretty special treat last week. We have an investigator who lives about a five minute walk outside of town, in a little forest thing. As we are walking over, I hear a bone-rattling death shriek from about a quarter-mile away, and start looking for a scrap of paper upon which I can write a final message to my family before being devoured by some scary Mexican monster. My companion notices my fear and laughs, telling me not to worry and that it's only the monkeys. :) (google a monkey scream, then multiply that by 1000 monkeys and you'll know what it was like!)
Anyway, at that, I perked up a bit, and he explained that although he had never seen them, lots of monkeys live in those woods. Well, being senior companion and all, I took things into my own hands, and the next day we went exploring. :) Yes, we saw monkeys. Lots of monkeys. :) They were little guys - half my size, if that - and stayed up in the trees, but made a bit of a ruckus and shouted at us a lot. One tried to urinate on us. (Where is this story going?) We were with a ranch guy who was on a horse, and he told us that these monkeys are completely harmless. We took pictures and videos. I'm going to send a picture or two this week, and next week I might send a video. It was one of the coolest non-teaching experiences thus far in my mission. :)

As far as the work goes, things are great here. We have a lot of investigators in our teaching pool, and should be having lots of baptisms this coming month. In fact, we already had three - Lupita, José Luis, and María del Carmen (ages 13, 12, and 10). They're really awesome kids and I've become good friends with them in this short week I've been here. Her mom just needs to get married and then she's going to get baptized as well (and that's in the works too). Elder Rojas baptized them and I had the chance to confirm Lupita (the branch president confirmed José and another member confirmed María). Their baptismal service was awesome and very peaceful, and they're going to make great members and examples to their friends and family. I'm really excited to be able to continue working with them.

This coming week we have some cool things planned. On Thursday we're going to have interviews with President Castañeda, which is always inspiring, and we'll be doing a little traveling to Zapata for that. Then on Friday we're going with an investigator (who will soon be baptized, her name is Coral) to some ruins about an hour south (I think). I'm really looking forward to that. On that topic, yes, Palenque is in my zone (the mission does cover just a little part of Chiapas still), as well as a bunch of other ruins, waterfalls, and awesome historical sites, and so I'll get the chance to go pretty soon here. :) Then on Saturday we're probably going to have another baptismal service - we just need to get things nailed down, but I'm confident we'll have success. :) Things are looking really good in the future here. :)

Hmmm... what else, what else. Well, I spoke on Sunday, a quick improvised talk when the assigned speaker didn't show up. ("Welcome to Balancán," my companion said. Hah.) It went well. The members seem to be taking to me well. I'm the first American here in about a year, which is neat. Oh, and I've been suffering neck pain this past week because I started sleeping on a pillow again. In my last three areas I haven't had one, but now I do, and on day three my neck just seized up and I couldn't move it. It was kind of funny in the baptismal service, when people behind me wanted to get my attention and I couldn't turn around to look at them. Haha. Anyway, another elder told me that a similar thing had happened to him, and that I should keep sleeping on the pillow and the pain would go away. And it has. (Sweet story, Greer.) I'm almost completely back to normal now. Just another interesting anecdote from my missionary life. :)

Well, I don't know what else to write about. I feel a bit scatterbrained. I always prepare for my email by writing some notes, but didn't do so this time, and with a lack of time to write I can't really say too much more. I'm going to respond a bit to this week's email, something short, and send off a few photos, and then next week I'll fill in the gaps and give more info and all that. Sound good? :)

Dad (cue wild cheering at the privilege of being first): Hey! Sounds like there's been a lot of missionary goings-on in the past week. Give my congrats to everyone. I'm especially jealous of Tim's mission, but oh well - I'm pretty sure there are no wild monkeys in Manchester. :) Mom didn't mention that the Bowns got my letter - cool stuff. And I really liked your mini sermon. I was a bit sad leaving Mina, but quickly cheered up; however, it is very interesting what you said about free agency, and why things happen. I have many thoughts on that, but will save them for next week. Thanks for everything - I love you very much, and look to you as a strong example in my life. Have a great week!

Mom (might as well go in descending order): Hey! Thanks for the email. It was great to hear about what's been going on this week. No, nobody had told me about Lori getting married; as far as I knew, she was already in the mission field. :) Cool about the wedding plans though. New Beginnings sounds like it was a success (let's celebrate... hah), and sounds like the girls and Reagan are behaving. How strange. :) haha. Thank you for writing - I'm sorry it's so short this week, but I'll write more next week. I love you very much, and hope that you have a great week! :)

Gabbie: Gabber-dabbers! Hey! I don't have much time, but thank you so much for writing. Sounds like you did well last term in school and that you had a good week last week. It was cool to hear your story about the trolls; Dad had mentioned it to me before, but I hadn't heard it from your point of view. :) I'm not so sure about your 11th commandment, but horse riding sounds like it's going well. :) I love you very much, hope you have a great week, and will write more next week! Te amo! :)

Miranda (so much for descending order, huh?): como te va en su español? Me parece que si puedes escribir un poco, pero puedes entender lo que digo? :) Haha. Sounds like you too have had a good week and did well in school. Congratulations! :) Any decisions yet on the college issue? I love you very much, hope you have a great week, will write more next week, and will look for a scripture like you asked. Until then - chow for now! :)

Well, everyone, that's about it for me. Kinda rushed, but oh well. I love you very much, and hope you all have a great week. See you next week! :)

Con mucho amor,

Elder Greer

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