Sunday, April 3, 2011

March 2011

Excerpts from the month

March 7 2011

Hey everyone! :)
It was great to get the email this week and hear about everyone's week. Mom and Dad, sounds like you had a great anniversary and a great time in Oregon. 
This past week has been a really good one for me too. I say that every week, but it's true.  Life here is so wonderful, and the constant company and influence of the Spirit can't be beat. Every day is a chance to learn something new, something that will help me for the rest of my life. The Gospel is true, and I love it. :)
Well, now for what went on this past week here in Balancán. We ended up doing quite a bit of unexpected traveling this week, which was fun but also tiring. On Wednesday we had a district meeting - those are normally held every week, but given that here in this zone all our areas are so far away (the closest missionaries are an hour and a half away), this was the first meeting that we've had in the six weeks I've been here. Afterward, my comp and I rode a bus to Triunfo to make our weekly visit, and at night another bus back to Balancán - making almost four hours of travel that day. I got home, collapsed on the couch, and promptly fell into a deep coma. :) It's strange, but sitting for hours on end (what I used to do all the time before the mission) now tires me more than walking around all day in the hot sun (something I only did before the mission when forced to). Things certainly change, huh? Hah.
This week I was asked to help out with the branch choir. They have to sing in about six months in district conference, so there's no rush or anything (and I won't even be in the country at that point), but they wanted a few pointers and some help with the piano, and they recruited me. It was a lot of fun; we had a two-hour rehearsal yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. I've never had anything to do with a choir before, but it was neat; I basically just played the different voices and helped them match their voices, get the volume right, breathe right, etc. Cool stuff, and it turned out really well. It's really nice to have my musical abilities come in handy. I'm not good enough at the piano to play the hymns in church or anything - although I have been practicing and have improved, but I'll save that surprise for when I come home :) - but with things like this I can definitely help out. When I get home I mean to pick up the piano again so that I can play hymns and more songs and stuff. I regret not practicing more when I had the chance.
We're meeting a lot of new people, but none of them pan out; it seems like I've come up against every obstacle in the book these past few weeks. It's okay though. Perseverance always pays off in the end, and in any case, it's fun just to preach the Gospel. As Alma and the sons of Mosiah before me, I'm happy to just be an instrument in the hands of the Lord. The calling itself is a joy, and with that I'm content. 
Mom, you asked about the members here. For the most part, the branch here is strong and united. Quite a few sisters seem to work in the healthcare/medical profession, and a lot of the men work on ranches or with... animal husbandry? I guess that's the right term. There are a lot of farms and ranches outside town, and most everyone has something to do with one, whether as owner or worker or something. As a result, the people here are more focused on agriculture and being outdoors - it helps that they live in the middle of the jungle. :) Of course, there are a few lawyers, businessmen, and the like, but most people work with their hands and outside. It seems like a pretty nice life.
One nice thing is that they are more involved in missionary work than in other wards I've had. We receive a lot more referrals here and often teach lessons in members' homes. It helps us out a lot.
This weekend we're going back to Zapata for district conference. It should be really nice. The mission and temple presidents speak, and all in all it's a good experience. Also, we had a zone activity planned for today for going to Palenque - the ruins this time - but it was canceled at the last second. We're trying to get it rescheduled for sometime soon. 
March 14
Hey everybody! :)
... it's been another great week here in Balancán. We've had heat, humidity, torrential rain, a regional conference, teaching, preaching, expounding, exhorting, inviting others to come unto Christ, and eating delicious tacos. It's been pretty satisfying. :) ...
I guess I'll begin with the conference yesterday ... we headed up to Zapata Sunday morning ... Turns out that it was what I guess would be a Regional Conference - intended for all of southern Mexico, something like 52 stakes/districts. It was a broadcast from Church Offices in SLC and the speakers were Elder Robbins of the Seventy, Sister Allred of the RS Presidency, Elder Nelson, and President Monson. Needless to say, it was a wonderful conference and I really loved it. P. Monson mostly repeated his talk from 2009 called "To the Rescue," but it was a bit different and very moving; Elder Nelson spoke about making the most of our time and used a lot of quotes that I should have written down because I really liked them. :) In all, it was a great meeting, and everyone came away from it uplifted and spiritually energized. It was neat to chat with the missionaries in the zone for a while and stuff, too. P. Castañeda stayed in Villahermosa, so we didn't talk to him, and there was no mail or anything for me, but the zone leaders are heading to Villa tomorrow for a meeting and hopefully they'll bring back some surprises. :) Anyway, the conference was great.
Investigators. We had a good week, and found some new people that seem very interested in the Gospel, but given the travel requirements for Sunday we weren't really expecting any of them to make it out. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see Rosa and her daughter Blanca (the ones from el Triunfo) at the conference, as well as a couple people from Balancán. Rosa and Blanca in particular were very excited about everything; they loved the talks and made us promise to visit them this Wednesday when we head out to Triunfo. We always go there and visit them, but it was really nice to see their enthusiasm. Things seem to be picking up with our investigators, and we're hoping to place a few baptismal dates this week...
As I mentioned, we had some pretty intense weather lately. It's been heating up lately, but slowly, so no one day has been too unbearable... until Wednesday night. Man. It was terrible. I couldn't sleep because it was so hot in our room - I showered around midnight, but even then I couldn't get comfortable. I drank two liters of water and almost the same amount of milk (after running out of water) at 2 am or so, and finally managed to sleep. When I wake up - it's pouring rain, and I'm very cold. I was thinking, "What the!" :) It was kind of weird, the sudden change in weather, but I was glad that it cooled off a bit. The problem with the rain is that it makes it pretty hard to work - it makes it pretty hard to even leave the house, actually, because everything floods and gets all muddy. We did our best on Thursday, and I did enjoy walking around in the pouring rain for a while. Friday it was still cloudy but no longer rained, and since then it's been warming up again. 

I've really enjoyed being with Elder Grimaldo. We seem to connect well and we're always talking or laughing when we're at home or in the streets.  

Thanks, everyone, for all that you do. I love you all very much, and hope that this week is a good one. Chow for now. :)

March 21
Hey hey! It's another sunny Monday afternoon; it's a beautiful day and I'm feeling really good right now. Life is still wonderful and - surprise! - I'm still having the time of my life out here. :) It's great to have a day of rest, too, because with everything going on during the week there's not too much time to just sit and reflect on what's been happening. That's exactly what Monday gives me, especially given that I spend most of the morning doing laundry. :)
It was wonderful to read the email from home and hear how everyone's been doing. It sounds like things are going well. Also, I appreciated the photos; it seems like Reagan's become a utensil-using fool! :) 
This past week has been a really good one, and seemed to sail by.  Before I knew it Saturday rolled around... and yet another month in the mission was over. I now have a full 19 under my belt - only five more left! I really can't believe it. Sometimes it seems like a dream, and yet I'm doing the best to make the most of the time I have left out here, and I've had some amazing experiences, enough to last a lifetime. 
We've yet to see any fixed baptismal dates here, but we're not letting that slow us down; instead, we're just working hard, praying a lot, and accepting whatever comes. I think trying to fix the "success" label on what we personally want can be kind of risky, because that's not always what the Lord has in mind, and if we're too focused on our desires - as worthy as they might be, like "baptize this week," for example - we don't notice the real success that we have. Hence, I've tried to not worry about the results - which are mostly, if not completely, out of my control -  It's a continual learning experience, and has to do with patience, faith, and diligence, but I think I'm getting a little better at it. It's so interesting how the Lord changes us and makes us better than we imagined. In a nutshell, I am happy. :)
I'm still helping out with the choir. This week I used some music composition software to record the four voices for the four hymns that they'll be singing. I think this will really help out because now the choir members will be able to practice their voices during the week. I enjoy the chance to play the piano a bit, and I like associating with ward members too. I've made some good friends here in Balancán.
I sent some fun pictures of a little kitten I found - it was adorable. Also, we had a chance to play a little bit of basketball Thursday night. The branch has a weekly sports night, where the youth get together and play basketball, soccer, and just kinda hang out. I joined the basketball game they had going on, and played for a half-hour or so. It was lots of fun, and I actually played pretty well, despite the tie-yanking distraction tactics from the other team. :)
It sounds like my week was just fun and games, huh? Well, we also contacted over 160 people, taught about 30 lessons to investigators, and worked with several less active families, plus studied, traveled, slept, ate, and enjoyed ourselves along the way. I'd call that a successful week.
Hmmm... what else is there to say? Well, Dad, you guessed right - I'm 0-5 on the Palenque trip. In fact, I commented to my comp yesterday that I'm going to stop telling you guys about planned trips, because I keep saying the following Monday: "No, we didn't go to Palenque this week... but we rescheduled for..." haha. 

March 28
Querida familia,
Hey! :) How is everyone doing? It was great to read this week's email...It sounds like you all had a good week; I did too. It's definitely been a hot one, though. These last few days especially; I felt like I was going to melt. Balancán's rumored to be the hottest area in the mission, and they say that April is the hottest month. Hence, I'm a little less-than-enthused about the weather for the coming weeks... but luckily the joy of sharing the Gospel makes up for it. :)
First, some updates on investigators and their progress. Florencio and Rosa and their family are doing really well. They have really strong testimonies, and in every conversation we have they express their joy at having been introduced to the restored Gospel. Their children are also building their own testimonies and developing more faith in the Savior; I talked to Florencio (the son) this week, and he told me how much he's loved reading the Book of Mormon. It sounds like he's been devouring it in the last two weeks. They're a great family, and the Gospel is really blessing them a lot. 
We've also been having success here in Balancán with finding new investigators; an older lady went to church yesterday, and we had the chance to chat with her for a few minutes. She's been to church a couple of times before, but this past week really felt the need to return, enough so that she arrived early and stayed for all of sacrament meeting even though it meant arriving late to some sort of meeting she needed to get to. We set an appointment for this week, and from the looks of things, the Spirit has been working on her and it very well might be time for her to become a member of the Church. We've also made a couple great contacts and received some seemingly golden referrals that we need to contact; it really seems like things are picking up for us. The Lord has been blessing us even more than usual this last week, and it's a further testimony for me than persistent and diligent hard work really pay off. I really think that the work we've been doing in the last couple of months has been preparatory, and that now we're going to start reaping the success of our labors. Cool stuff all around. :)
On Wednesday we had a district meeting in Tenosique, the second I've had in my time here. We caught a ride with some members (one of whom leaves for the mission in two days) and had the meeting with the elders from Tenosique and Candelaria (a couple hours up north, in the state of Campeche). The meeting was good; it was uplifting and focused.
Also, on the way back to Balancán, we passed some ruins called Pomoná, and given the opportunity we stopped and checked them out for about an hour. They're pretty neat ruins, a lot like those at Reforma, and totally hidden except to those who are familiar with the area. We wandered around the ruins for a while (a couple of pyramids, some sacrificial altars, and a few other buildings), and then entered the small museum they had. They've collected about a hundred pieces of Mayan relics, things like pottery and tablets with carvings and stuff. I took pictures of everything, and I'll send a batch after finishing this email. It was a neat little diversion, and I actually learned a few things about Mayan culture along the way. Fun times in Pomoná.
A few days later (Friday, to be precise), we went with those same members out to their grandpa's ranch a few kilometers outside of Balancán to do a little service. We rarely get the chance to help out with anything big, so we jump at every opportunity. The ranch was beautiful (and I say ranch because it's "rancho" in Spanish, though it doesn't really remind me of a cowboy ranch from back at home - just a very green place (like everywhere else) with a little shack, a well, some tools, and a big field with trees and cows and sometimes horses). We helped cut down some mangos (mangoes?), which then turned into our breakfast; we helped fix a broken fence, and we participated in (ie watched) the vaccination of a couple cows. We didn't really do much, but boy it was fun watching them chase these cows around trying to lasso them. We did lend a hand - or rather a body - by piling on top of the felled cow to keep it down whilst the shots were administered. We were there for a few hours, and it was nice to just be outside and in the country and do some honest work. :) Plus, fresh well water is delicious. Haha.
As for the rest of it, things have been pretty much normal. I helped out with the choir yesterday, which was fun; they're really starting to sound good, and it's nice to practice the piano a little. That's one skill I mean to re-master when I get home, because I really enjoy playing. This coming weekend is Daylight Savings - answering that question from a few weeks ago - and also General Conference, which I'm so excited for. I had almost forgotten about Conference, so it's a pleasant surprise to have that to look forward to. It's also the last General Conference for me in the mission. Make sure, everyone, to take notes of the impressions received; I'm sure we'll all have a ton to share next week. As a suggestion, each of us should go into conference with at least one specific question or need we wish an answer to.  As the prophet and apostles say, if you do this, you will be prompted by the Spirit and receive an answer.  Let me know how it goes; it's going to be a good weekend.
Con mucho amor,
Elder Greer