Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 28, 2008 -- The Best Week

[Editors' note: This is the second of two posts published today.]

In my call letter it says that “greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await” in my missionary service. This week I saw the fulfillment of that promise.

One reason why this week was so great was that I was able to talk to all of you [at home]. That was wonderful. The sweetest sound in all the world is the sound of a loved one's voice saying, “I love you.”

Another reason why this week was wonderful happened yesterday. When I talked to you on Thursday, I said that we wouldn't be having any baptisms this Sunday. I was wrong. The family of Eddie and Olga arrived home early from their Christmas vacation. We happened to be in the ranchito on Friday, and there was Eddie. It was a miracle. He, his wife, and two of his children were baptized yesterday. I baptized Eddie and Olga. Roberto Carlos, brother of Eddie and a recent convert of three months, baptized their two children, Juan Jesús and Perla. He had just received the priesthood earlier that day. It was an incredibly spiritual experience. At the end of the services, Roberto Carlos and his wife, Miriam, shared their testimonies. After them, Eddie and Olga shared their feelings. They talked about how much the gospel had already changed their lives, about how happy they felt, and about how they knew the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I couldn´t stop smiling. Or crying. It is a beautiful thing to see a family of true converts. I have no doubt that in a year I will be going to the temple with this family to see them be sealed for time and all eternity. There are two more members of the immediate family who are not yet members. One is a married daughter who lives in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. My previous companion, Elder Tovanche, was transferred to the area where she lives, and is now teaching her. (Interesting how he was sent to that area, eh?). The other is a 22-year-old son whom we are also teaching, and who is planning to be baptized on January 11.

More good news: Johanna, the wife of Jorge, the taxi driver who didn't want to get married (and the one who first introduced the missionaries to the ranchito where the families of Roberto Carlos and Eddie live) is finally going be married this month. The heart of her husband has finally softened and he agreed to marry her. I am hoping that she will be married and baptized before transfers this month.

* * * I'm sorry I couldn't write more. I had problems with the computer today. I'll send you a picture of the baptism next week.

Christmas 2008 -- Elder Rowley's Testimony

Editors' note: LDS missionaries are permitted to call home twice a year -- on Christmas day and Mother's day. During his Christmas call last week, we asked Elder Rowley to share his testimony in Spanish. You can hear it by clicking on the video presentation below.

We apologize that some of the English captions are unfinished. Our translation department is working on the problem.

The picture of Elder Rowley was taken in 2007, about a year before he became a full-time missionary.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008 -- The Worth of Souls

I hope you don't mind, but I am going to philosophize for a minute here… As missionaries, we often look for what we call "golden investigators." That is, investigators who are standing at the door, waiting for us to knock so that they can get baptized. In our search for gold, however, we often forget that there are other metals just as precious, just as beautiful. The truth is, not all investigators are golden, in fact, most aren't. But some are silver, others platinum. Some may be rubies or diamonds. And all are valuable. The worth of souls is great in the sight of God. Some may not be a precious metal right now. But coal becomes a diamond. But not overnight. In Preach My Gospel, there is a chapter all about Christ-like attributes. Patience is one of them, and I have been studying it this week. Patience is related to faith, faith that the Lord will keep his promises, being willing to wait for the time of the Lord. I have also learned that it is related to love. When we love the people with a Christ-like love, we understand the worth of their souls, and we are willing to go through a refiner's fire with them to help them reach their potential. This week my companion and I have found all sorts of jewels. We have been improving in our efforts to contact everyone, even on the buses. Through our efforts this week we have found a drug dealer, a single mother, a worshiper of the Santa Muerta, a twelve year old boy, and many others. My goal is to help them realize their potential, the potential they have because they are children of God.

I can't deny that I miss you all a lot, especially at Christmas time, the season of family togetherness, service, tradition, and, most importantly, remembrance of our Savior. I'm looking forward to the hour [I] will be able to talk [with family] this Thursday. But I want you to know that there is no place I would rather be right now than where I am, because I know that it is where the Lord wants me to be.

I sincerely wish you all a very Merry Christmas. . . . And remember the reason for the season . . . . The best Christmas gift was given on the very first Christmas, a gift from our loving Heavenly Father, the gift of His Son and through Him, the possibility of Eternal Life (John 3:16). He gave us that gift because he knows our worth. I hope we all give a gift to [our Heavenly Father and His Son] this Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008 -- [Hard Times and Hope]

To be quite honest, this week was probably the hardest one I've had on the mission. You know me, I'm a stresser, and I still feel overwhelmed with my new responsibilities. I really don't know what I'm doing, and this isn't just any work, this is the work of the Lord. Luckily, being involved in the Lord's work entails receiving the Lord's help. I've needed that help a lot this week, and I've learned to appreciate it even more.

Preach My Gospel teaches that as missionaries we should do everything we can to help people keep their commitments. Commitments such as reading, praying, going to church, keeping the commandments, and getting baptized, are extremely important in the progress of every person and of their testimony. Without commitments, we don't grow. (That's why covenants are so important, they are our commitments with the Lord.) After all that we can do, however, people still have their sacred agency and they sometimes use it to not keep commitments. When that happens, I get sad. It hurts me to know that people are rejecting the best thing ever invented (because it wasn't invented, or at least not by man.) It is a lot like what Dad described in a letter to me when he talked about Pilate error or . . . (I forgot his other name for it[*]), when people are too busy with the everyday to care about the all-important. It hurts even more when the decicions of [some] impede [another's] progress. This week [has] seen a lot of that with husbands who don't let their wives go to church, or things like that.

I'm sorry if my letter has been a little depressing until now. Don't worry. I'm happy and healthy. Although this week was hard, it was also great. For example, six different people agreed to take the ever-so-important step of baptism later this month. We have also found lots of great new people to teach. Right now the Church here is having a media campaign, giving away Joy to the World DVDs. (Things here aren't like things in Salt Lake, where missionaries have DVDs all year round to give to people.) The campaign consists mainly of commercials on the TV and pass-a-long cards. My companion and I were given 20 and were told that we weren't going to get any more. We decided that the best way to use them was to give them to members to give to their friends, which we did, but first we made over 500 copies. This week we will have to make more copies, because we are almost out.

Even though things have been hard, even though life as a missionary can sometimes be stressful or sad, there is hope! -- hope, as [President] Uchtdorf[**] said, that "transcends the trivial and centers in the Hope of Israel." (I hope I quoted him right.) I know that the cause in which I fight is the cause of the Lord, and that everyone will eventually have a chance to hear this glorious message. I am building Zion, as are each of you. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that He is our Savior and our Friend. Nothing we face in this life can beat us if we just remember that simple fact.

I try not to get distracted from my work, but in this Christmas season I can't help but think about my family all the time. I think about all of our traditions of service and family togetherness, of caroling, bread-making, "remember when-ing," and giving. * * *

My time is up. In a little over a week I'll be be able to say in person [by phone], as they spell it in Mexico, "wiwichu a meri crismas an a japi nu yir."

[*"Pilate Error" refers to the incident when Pilate answered Christ, saying "What is truth?" This was not a sincere inquiry but a sarcastic put-off that ended their conversation. (See John 18:37-38). "Pilate error" thus consists in the denial or devaluation of truth. The "other name for it," to which Elder Rowley refers, is the "Athenian Attitude." In this version of it, the error consists of being preoccupied with novelty or fashion rather than truth. It is called the "Athenian Attitude" because, in Acts 17:21, we read that "the Athenians . . . spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing." -- Eds.]

[** Dieter F. Uchtdorf is the Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church. The First Presidency is the highest governing council of the Church. It consists of a president and two assistants or "counselors." --Eds.]

Monday, December 15, 2008 -- 1,000 Words

The four missionaries from the Juárez ward. From Left to right: Elder Zamudio (mi compañero), Elder Valenzuela (from Peru), Elder Whatcott (from Lehi, Utah), and yours truly (or, as they say in Mexico, "a servant" (that means me.))

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008 -- "And the Transfers Are . . . "

Cambios (literally “changes,” called “transfers” in English-speaking missions) are an interesting thing.  After six weeks of working in an area, getting to know and love your companion, your ward, and especially the people you are teaching, there is a possibility that you will suddenly be moved to a different area far, far away.  When the last Saturday of the transfer, everyone is nervous, because that night you will get the call.  You try not to let it affect your work, but it is there in the back of your mind all day—“this might be the last time I walk down this street,” or “this could be the last time I teach this person.”  When you arrive home, you pray and plan as normal, but it is really hard to keep your mind in it, because only a few minutes separate you from the knowledge of where and with whom you will be working for the following 6 weeks. Then the call comes.  It is almost a guarantee that the first thing your district leader tells you will be a joke, but you always end up believing it anyway.

“Elder Rowley se va . . . a quedar en Juarez!”  (Elder Rowley is going . . . [long pause] . . . to stay!)  Yes!  I am staying in Juarez!  “But he's going to Juarez dos.”  (What? The same city, the same ward, the same house, just moving bedrooms and companions and areas.  Can they do that?  That means I'll still get to see Roberto Carlos and Eddie and Johanna every Sunday, but I won't get to teach them.  I think he's kidding, but he sounds so serious.)  “Just kidding! Elder Tovanche is going to Matamoros.  Elder Rowley is staying in Juarez uno, as the senior companion.  His new companion will be Elder Zamudio.”

When I heard that, I was even more surprised than the first time.  (Senior companion? I'm so not ready for that.)  But this time it wasn't a joke.  Part of me was happy to hear that, but that's the part of me that I try not to feed—the pride side.  Most of me felt very much overwhelmed.  I am not ready to direct an area.  Now it's up to me.  The souls of every one of the people we are teaching are my responsibility, [insofar] as their agency is not compromised.  I also am in charge of helping and leading my companion.

Saturday night I prayed.  A lot.  As I did, I was reminded of a talk by President Eyring from when he was called to be in the First Presidency, called “God helps the faithful priesthood holder.”  It was exactly what I needed.  In summary, it says that when God gives us an assignment, he will give us the means to fulfill it.  He will help us remember past times when he has helped us.  He will give us the desire to pray for and a great love for the people we will serve.  And He will tell us to go to work.  I have experienced all three of those things in the past 48 hours.  I still fill a heavy responsibility, but I know that I can do it, with the Lord's help.

To finish my description of transfers, the day after the calls, Sunday, is spent like a normal Sunday, except the visits are directed towards those whom the departing elder most wants to say goodbye too.  Then Monday morning is packing time, until 1:00 where everyone meets at the office.  There we meet our new companions, have a little devotional with President and the Assistants, eat lunch, and return to our areas.  Yes, transfers are hard.  But we know that it is the will of the Lord.  The hymn “I'll go where you want me to go” is a perfect description of the general feeling of transfer meeting.

Last week there was a special conference in which President talked a little about transfers.  He used me and Elder Billings as an example.  Elder Billings has been in his area for 7.5 months. He has had 3 areas in total during his 21 months as a missionary.  I on the other hand, have had 4 areas in 6 months, not to mention two missions, 8 companions, etc.  President Mendoza said that each of our missions is different, but each is directed by the Lord.  I have a testimony of that, and I'm very glad that the Lord willed that I stay in Juarez this transfer.

My new companion is named Elder Zamudio.  He has 3 months in the mission, and I am his first companion after his tutor.  He is from the state of Mexico, and is 18 years old.  He seems like a wonderful missionary, and I can tell that we are going to have a great transfer.

Things in the ranchito are going well.  This weekend they had many of their relatives come from out of town, who we also taught.  Eddie, one of the family members, is really excited about the gospel.  He and his wife and children will be getting baptized soon.

Last night I was able to go to the Christmas devotional, along with Johanna and Jorge and Eddie and Olga and others from the ranchito.  I loved it, especially the last hymn, "Silent Night."

Speaking of Christmas, we will be speaking at Christmas! This week they should be telling us the details, and I'll let you know in my next letter.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008 -- Las Leccionotas en el Ranchito (The Big Lessons in the Little Ranch)

My Thanksgiving was great . . . . We worked just like it was any other day, but my companion and I bought two little pies to celebrate.

This Thursday I will complete six months as a missionary. It is really hard for me to believe. It has gone by, as they say, de volada, that is, really fast. All the clichés as to how fast time can fly apply to how I feel. Six months is a quarter of my mission. Today we had a special conference in the morning (we have one the last Monday before transfers every transfer.) In it, all of the "heroes," or departing missionaries bore their testimonies. It made me think of how I want to be when that time comes and I realized that I have so much to change, and so much work to do. I don't want to waste a single minute of the 18 months of the Lord's time that I have left. Once again, I am recommitted to giving 100%, everyday.

Everything here in Villa Juarez is going wonderfully well, especially in the ranchito. Roberto Carlos and Miriam are incredible missionaries. We are teaching many people because of them, including nearly 20 members of their extended family. Our lessons with the Montoya family (the extended family of Roberto Carlos) are always quite interesting. Usually, there is at least 10 people there, but the mix varies. Doña Carmen, the less active matriarch of the family is usually a constant, as is Miriam, the recent convert. Besides that, there are investigators at various levels of progress, and of various ages. Almost every time we go, there is a new member of the family whom we haven't taught before. Sometimes Sonia, one of Roberto Carlos' sisters comes down from Matamoros. She and her husband were baptized a little over a year ago and were just recently sealed. Another Sister, Nena, is an anti-Mormon who likes to express her opinion (but refuses to read any of our pamphlets or books, preferring to believe what she finds on the Interenet.) Whenever we go to teach one person in particular, the others join in, so we always end up teaching everyone all at once. I'm learning a lot about teaching at several levels at once. Our first baptism from that family will hopefully be this Sunday (if he conquers his drinking problem). If not this Sunday, it won´t be too far in the future.

I have a vision of the Montoya family in a few years, gathered for a sort of Grand Family Home Evening, like we used to have when everyone [on Dad's side of the family] lived in California. Everyone will be faithful, active members, united to reminisce, enjoy the company of loved ones, and to strengthen each other. They will be raising children in the gospel and will be serving in various callings. I am working for that vision.

It's been a while since I wrote a cultural moment. There is a phenomenon that, from what I understand is unique to Monterrey and its suburbs. It is the phenomenon of the lunche (pronounced lunch-eh). Instead of sending their children to school with their lunches, the Moms around here flock to the school at break time in order to personally deliver snacks and treats to their children. They are not allowed to go in, so they surround the fences and hand their children the goodies. It’s a little thing, but it makes me happy to see that there are lots of mothers who take good care of their children, because I see a lot of the opposite every day. It is also a great time to find young families to teach, but I've learned to contact those walking away from the school, not towards it, because when they are bringing the lunche they don't have time to talk.

. . . [T]his week I have been reading in the war chapters of the Book of Mormon. (I'm convinced that it could become the best movie ever made if Peter Jackson converted to the church and set his talents to it.) There are many jewels to be found in these chapters. This time, I was especially impressed by the Stripling Warriors. There is a lot to learn from their example. They had much power in fighting, despite their lack of experience. This power came from lots of things, but most especially their exact obedience. As a missionary, there are lots of rules and many of them seem insignificant, but I really notice the power that I get from obeying the Lord.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008 -- Pictures in the Mail

[These pictures arrived today. As noted on the envelope they came in, they were sent on November 10, 2008. Each had a caption on the back, as follows. -- The Editors.]

Baptism of Angelica (Aug 24, 2008). [L. to R.:] Elder Puente (one of my MTC companions), Elder Zobell (my companion during both transfers in Salt Lake), Elder Shruis, Angelica, Elder Beard, me.
What missionaries do first thing when they have a layover. The two on the left are playing "rock, paper, scissors" for the last phone.

The view from a bridge in my area.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008 -- Ranchitos

Greetings from Mexico, where it isn't always extremely hot. This week marked the change in the weather. I was surprised to find out how cold it can get here. (It was only really cold one day this week, but they say that more days like it are around the corner.) The cold doesn't last long, though. From what other missionaries have said, by Februrary I'll be tanning in the hot Mexican sun once more.

I'm doing great. . . . I love my area more than ever. Our area is huge and I still haven't been to all of it. This past week we have done a lot of work in the small
ranchitos, little colonies of a hundred houses or so in the middle of nowhere (more details to follow.) Since our area is so huge, there are tons of people to teach. (This week we found over 30 new investigators.)

I also love our ward. It is one of the biggest in the mission (we have an active membership of about 150.) There are two companionships in our ward (we live together). And from what I understand, the ward should be splitting before too long. I usually play the piano for sacrament meeting in this ward as well, although there is also a Sister who can play.

* * *

I´m sorry to hear about BYU [vs Utah in football]. We'll do better next year.

Happy Thanksgiving! Unfortunately, Thanksgiving isn't really celebrated here. The other American Elder in the house and I were thinking about cooking something, but unfortunately Thanksgiving falls near the end of the month, when missionaries have no money for things like mashed potato flakes or canned corn. That's all right. I'll be extra grateful on Thursday. * * *

Yesterday I had a bit of a disappointment. We have worked really hard this week, and were expecting over 10 investigators to come to church. In the morning, we left the house an hour and a half early to wake some of them up. None of them answered the door, but I still expected that those who were going to come on their own would be waiting for us when we got the chapel. None of them were, however. None of our investigators came to church. I was sad. It seems the harder we work, the harder the devil works. He loves to give people excuses not to come to church. But this week we'll do better. We're going to make sure all of our investigators understand the importance of coming to church, and also make sure that they have rides to get there.

Now I said there was more to come about the
ranchitos. I can't remember if I've told you anything about Miriam and Roberto Carlos and their children. They are a family that were baptized the day before I was transferred to this area. They are incredible. They have such strong testimonies and grow in understanding every day. I wish I could tell you everything I've learned from them, but time doesn't allow. Anyway, they live in one of these little ranchitos, and many of the other families there are relatives of theirs. Yesterday we were scheduled to eat with [the Carlos family], so they we drove with them after church. After the comida (the big mid-day meal), my companion and I spent the whole day in the ranchito teaching family and friends of Miriam and Roberto Carlos, people whom they had invited to hear the missionaries. It was incredible and taught me a lot about the importance of members in missionary work. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a new branch formed in the ranchito before too long, filled with people who were introduced to the gospel by Miriam and Roberto Carlos.

Every week brings new challenges, but also new blessings. Missionary work is the hardest thing I've ever done, but usually it doesn't seem like it. I love every day. I love seeing the way the gospel of Jesus Christ changes people, including me. Jesus lives, that I know, as does our Heavenly Father. He loves each of us more than we can understand, and is willing to do anything, [other than taking] away our agency or [breaking] His own laws, to help us return to live with Him again.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November 17, 2008 -- What a Weekend!

Greetings from Mexico, "the center of the LDS church" last weekend, as Elder [Russell M.] Nelson put it. I am doing wonderfully well, and have just had a weekend that I´ll never forget.

[Picture: Elder Tovanche and me dressed up for the Apostles]

Elder Russell M. Nelson (I was mistaken, Elder Ballard didn´t come) and Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, as well as Elder Claudio R. M. Costa of the Presidency of the 70, came to Monterrey this weekend. Last Friday, we went to a meeting where they spoke to all the adults here in Monterrey. It was incredible. I was in a building of about 1,500 people (there were two different sessions). Saturday, however, was even better. They held a special conference with all the missionaries in Monterrey, from both missions (about 300 missionaries).

Lots of incredible things happened in that meeting, and I learned and felt a lot. Elders Scott and Nelson were kind enough to greet every single one of us missionaries individually. Elder Nelson said my name as he shook my hand, and Elder Scott said "mucho gusto." (Elder Scott and Elder Costa both speak good Spanish (Elder Costa is from Brazil, so Spanish is not his native language.))

The most memorable and powerful of my experiences with the Apostles, however, was not shaking their hand. It was hearing them bear witness of the Savior. As they taught, I felt the Spirit strongly. When they testified, I was overwhelmed. What an incredible privilege we have to live in a time when we have Apostles and prophets on the Earth again!

Saturday night was also wonderful. I was reminded of my love for music and dancing, something I´ve put on hold for two years. My favorite moments of the cultural event were seeing Presidents Monson and Eyering dance as part of the "dance of the old people.¨ I also loved it when 800 or so missionaries marched onto the field singing "Called to Serve." It was a powerful moment.

Sunday, again, was wonderful. The rededication service was beautiful and powerful. I love temples, and grow in my understanding and appreciation for them every time I go. They truly are the house of the Lord, and I could feel his presence during the dedication. (I also felt close to all of you, knowing that you were participating.) The blessings of the Restored Gospel are incredible. I hope that we can all show our gratitude and do our part by participating in temple work, including geneology.

This week, after weeks of fasting, I was able to feast on letters from home. President Mendoza went to Texas and I received two packets of letters and a few others (any big packages are still in the office until my zone leaders pick them up for me.) It was wonderful. I love the work here and I don´t let thoughts of home distract me, but I can´t deny that I look forward to hearing from you. Even if letters don´t say anything important, I am filled with happiness just knowing that someone I love wrote me a letter. And none of you have ever sent me a letter that didn´t say anything important. The Bible Dictionary defines scripture in a broad definition as anything inspired by the Holy Ghost. Using that definition, many letters you have sent me are scripture to me that offer me the support I need.

* * *
Dad asked me how my Spanish is coming along. The Lord has greatly blessed me in this regard. I hardly ever have difficulty understanding people now, unless they have a different accent (like this week when I met a man from Veracruz whom I couldn´t understand at all.) I still find it hard to express myself in Spanish, however. But I often feel the same way about English. Still, it is getting easier every day.

Johanna is doing well. She and Jorge still aren’t married, though. In fact, Jorge was a little cold to us this week. But we have an appointment with them to have a Family Home Evening this Wednesday, and I have faith that his heart is softening.

* * *
I remember one night in Scouts a few years ago when Brother Palmer taught me a lesson I´ve never forgotten. "The more you know," he said, "the more you can know." I´ve thought a lot about that statement and learned that it is true. I´ve also learned that the same principle applies to other things besides knowledge. For example, the more you love, the more you can love. This week, I learned that the more you contact, the more you can contact. As you know, I am naturally a shy and quiet person. But as a missionary, I am supposed to talk to everyone I see. At first, that was really hard for me. But it isn´t so much anymore. When I think about the message I´m sharing, I can talk to anyone. Usually, the first contact of the day is hard, but it´s all downhill from there. The more you share the gospel, the more you easy it is and the more opportunites you see.

I had a long list of things I wanted to write about today, but my time is up. I want you all to know that I love you and that I know that Jesus is my Savior, that Thomas S. Monson is His prophet, and that the Book of Mormon testifies of Him.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 10, 2008 -- Tres Taxis

From what I hear, everyone in the United States is overjoyed to have Obama as a president, except for the racists. I think it is wonderful that we live in a time when a black man can be president of the United States. And there are a lot of things that I like about Obama. But there are also some things that worry me, especially if the Democrats have the majority in the House and Senate as well. But I have a year and a half before I have to start worrying about US politics again (although I have to admit that last Tuesday and Wednesday I missed them terribly.)

* * *

As I've mentioned before, talking to taxi drivers in Monterrey is a finding technique specifically mentioned in
Preach My Gospel. (There is a story about a taxi driver who gave a ride to missionaries in the rain and ended up joining the church becuase of it, but I can't remember what page it's on.) This week I had three experiences with taxis that I want to share with you.

One of the stories starts before I got to this area. There is an investigator we are working with named Johanna. She is incredible. She has an incredibly strong testimony, and she already knows more doctrine than many members, although she has only been investigating for two months. There is only one thing holding her back from baptism—she is not legally married to her husband, and he doesn't want to marry her legally, but we have hope that that will change very shortly.

What does Johanna have to do with a taxi? Her husband, Jorge, is a taxi driver. One day he gave a ride to some missionaries who talked to him about the gospel. He gave them his address. When a different pair of missionaries stopped by his house to check the reference, he wasn't home, but his wife was. At this time, Johanna was an atheist, and laughed at her husband for what little religious beliefs he held. But she let the missionaries in and her life changed.

Although Johanna has not yet joined the church, she has given the missionaries over a dozen references, and four people here in our area have joined the church because of her. None of this would have happened if it weren't for a missionary who contacted her husband.

Last Sunday, my companion and I fasted for Johanna, that her husband's heart would soften and that she would be able to get married and baptized this month. I have developed a great faith in the power of fasting, especially after my experience with Angelica in Salt Lake.

Monday while I was saying my nightly prayer, I was praying for Johanna when a thought came to my mind. "Tell Jorge about the temple dedication." (The rededication of the Mexico City Temple is this weekend and Johanna cannot attend unless she is a member.) I talked to my companion, and we decided to do just that.

Jorge is hardly ever home, but we had faith that we would find him on Tuesday. We went to visit Johanna in the morning, but Jorge wasn't there. We were disappointed and decided to try again the next day. About an hour later, we were still in the same colony when the second taxi experience happened. All of a sudden a taxi pulled up behind us and somebody yelled "Hey, can I have a book?" Surprised, I began to hand them a pamphlet on the plan of salvation. "No, a Book of Mormon," they said. Even more surprised, my companion handed her a copy. Before he could talk to her or ask why she wanted it, however, the taxi drove away. It was a strange experience. But sometimes I wonder why everyone doesn't yell at us and ask us to give them a Book of Mormon.

Anyway, we took this as a sign. (We associate taxis with Jorge.) We decided to try again at Johanna´s. As we were walking up the street, I thought to myself "what if Jorge pulled up right now?" Just as I thought that, my companion pointed to a taxi coming up the road. "That's him!" he exclaimed.

There were just too many coincidences. Before going into the house, I stopped and said a prayer of gratitude and also a plea for the Spirit to guide me as we talked to Jorge.

Johanna was surprised to see us again, but this time we were there for her husband, not her. We began to talk to him and we explained how great a privilege and blessing it was to be able to participate in the temple rededication, and that a prophet of the Lord would be leading the ceremony. Jorge listened, and I could tell he was affected.

To make a long story short, Jorge hasn't yet given his permission, but he has strongly hinted that his mind has changed. I don't doubt that soon I will be telling you about the baptism of Johanna.

The third taxi experience happened a few days later. We had an appointment in five minutes on the other side of our area. We were waiting for the bus, but the bus wasn't coming. My companion wanted to take a taxi so that we could get there on time, but I didn't want to spend the money. Several taxis passed us by, and the bus still didn't come. Then, all of a sudden, I felt like we should take a taxi, so we signalled the next one to pass by.

The moment I stepped in, I felt like I should talk to the driver about the church. It was the strongest feeling to contact someone I have yet experienced. So I did. And he listened attentively. As I shared Joseph Smith's experience, he turned off the radio and I could feel his interest. His name is Victor and I expect to be telling you about his baptism in a few weeks.

This week I read a story in the Liahona about a man who received an email from a boy he had given a pamphlet to on his mission over 30 years before. He didn't even remember the boy, but the boy ended up joining the church because of it. As
Preach My Gospel says, no effort is wasted.

I am extremely excited for this weekend. Friday night there is a special meeting for all the adult members in the Monterrey area with Elders Scott and Nelson of the twelve, as well as Elder Acosta of the Seventy. Since my area is considered part of the city, I get to go. Saturday morning, there is another special meeting with them, this time only for missionaries. That evening is the broadcast of the cultural event from Mexico City. Then Sunday the temple will be rededicated. Since every stake center where it is broadcasted will be a part of the temple for the ceremony, if [any of] you go, we'll be in the same temple at the same time!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November 3, 2008 -- PICTURES

Finally! I got it to work! One of the pictures is of Elder Gonzalez and me eating campechanas in our favorite restaurant. The other is of the two of us at the temple (yes, we got to go-- it was wonderful!)

Monday, November 3, 2008

November 3, 2008 -- A Big Area and a Big Change of Lifestyle

I am doing well. I love my new area. It is HUGE! In our ward, there are two sets of missionaries (we live in the same house), but even though the ward is divided into two areas, mine is still gigantic. I thought I walked a lot in my last area, but it was nothing like this. We also use a lot of public transportation. In my last area, all the houses were connected, in one continuous city. In this area, it is still considered one city, but the different colonies are separated by a kilometre or two. The walks from colony to colony are beautiful. There is a small river we cross most days. We are teaching a family in a small little colony that takes a half hour of walking through nature to get through. The mountains are farther away, but I can see more of them. I love it. The only thing is, a lot of the beautiful areas are polluted with all sorts of litter. It makes me sad to see all the trash that people dump. But I still love the nature here.

I arrived in the area the day after my [new companion] Elder Tovanche and his previous companion baptized a family. It is amazing to see their spirit. When we come over, they treat us like kings and hang on every word we say, which makes me more appreciate my calling and increase my desire to magnify it. They truly have a testimony and desire to learn. Their lives have greatly been blessed by the gospel, and their lives will be a great blessing to other members of the church.

So the election is tomorrow. I have no idea how the polls are or anything and I probably won´t find out about Proposition 8 until you tell me (but I´m sure I´ll hear about the new President from someone.) I still haven´t gotten my ballot, so my vote won´t be counted, but I pray that [Proposition 8] passes.

Speaking of Proposition 8, Dad asked me about the convert in my last area who had overcome homosexual feelings. I asked my companion about it, and this is what he told me (note: names have been changed and you might not want to read this to all the kids.)

Elder Gonzalez and Elder Meyers had not had any success for weeks. No one seemed to be listening to their message. So they decided to have a special fast. During their fast, they were walking down a street on their way to check a referral. They noticed a woman standing at her gate, who started at them when they walked by. On their way back, she was still there and looked at them in the same weird way. They decided to talk to her.

When they first started teaching Paula, she was depressed and in bad emotional and mental shape. But as they continued teaching her, she began to change. She believed what they said and the gospel was bringing light into her life. As they taught, however, they became suspicious of her living situation, but when they taught the law of chastity, she didn´t say anything, and so they figured there was nothing wrong.

When the time came for the baptismal interview, Paula didn´t want to do it. She said she wasn´t worthy, but she wouldn´t tell the missionaries why. They explained that the interview was not a test, but to help her prepare for baptism and overcome any remaining obstacles she might have. Finally she agreed to do it.

She came out of the interview crying and asked to talk to Elder Gonzalez and Elder Meyers. She explained that she had confessed to the other missionary and felt much better for doing so. She told them that since they had helped her so much, she wanted them to know what she had gone through.

Paula was married at the normal age and had several children. For one reason or another, however, she ended up as a young single mom without the means to take care of her many children. While she was in this state, she met Angela, another young woman, who befriended and helped Paula. Eventually, they became good friends and moved into the same house to be able to save money. Paula knew that Angela was a lesbian, but Paula wasn´t. She thought it was gross.

After a while, however, Paula felt like she ought to show her gratitude to Angela for all her help and support, so she began to do her ¨favors.¨ At first, Paula didn´t enjoy it at all, but only did it ¨to help her friend.¨ Soon, however, they were living a very lesbain life and Paula began to enjoy it. They lived like that for 20 years.

After many years, Paula began to feel guilty for the way she was living. She knew it was wrong, but she didn´t know how to get out of it. She became extremely depressed.

That´s when the missionaries showed up. As they shared their message of love and hope, Paula believed and her life changed. Little by little, she gave up smoking, drinking and other sins. After her first baptismal interview, she prayed hard to have the courage to talk to Angela. She did. It was hard at first, and at times she slipped, but she was able to completely overcome her lesbian lifestyle.

For cases such as Paula´s, the mission president has to interview them prior to baptism. Paula was interviewed by President Taylor (the president at the time), and was declared to be ready for baptism. She was overjoyed.

When I met Paula, I would have never guessed how her life was before. She has an extremely strong testimony and shares the gospel with everyone she meets. She and Angela are still very close friends (in fact, with President Taylor´s permission, they continued living in the same house.) Angela is also changing, little by little. Her journey has been harder than Paula´s, because her tendencies were more ¨natural,¨ but she too is listening to the missionaries and her life is better because of it.

Wow, that took a lot longer than I expected. I love that story, though. But my time is up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

October 27, 2008 -- Constant Changes

It is hard to believe that a whole six weeks have already gone by here in Mexico. Today is the first day of my second transfer in Mexico and my fourth transfer in the mission field. With this new transfer comes many changes.

With this fourth transfer, I am in my fourth area, living in my seventh house/apartment and I´ll be working with my seventh companion (or more, depending on how you count it.) It seems my mission thus far has been a mission full of changes, including a change of missions, and a change of countries. I feel like the common saying ¨the only constant is change¨ is a perfect summary of my mission so far. (Although I don´t completely agree with that saying—there is one who changest not (see the hymn "Abide with Me")). Changes are hard. I love my old area, my old ward, and my old companion, but I know that my calling comes from the Lord. Still, I feel like my work in Tres Caminos has not finished, that I will be going back before the end of my mission.

I didn´t move very far. My new area is practically neighbors with my old one. I am no longer in the city of Guadalupe, however. My new area is in Villa Juarez. It includes half of the ward of Juarez of the stake Andalucia. I am a little bit further away from el Cerro de la Silla, but I can see the whole thing from my new area. It is still considered a city area, but it is a lot bigger and more spread out than my last one.

My new companion is Elder Tovanche from Coahuila, Mexico. I don´t know much else about him as of now, he has only been my companion for 3 hours. But he seems like a great missionary, and I can tell that we are going to have a great transfer.

I have two funny stories for you. One happened only a few minutes ago. My companion and I took a taxi from the offices to our new area. I was enjoying the ride, looking at the scenery, and talking with my companion and the driver. All of a sudden I noticed that the taxi was slowing down for no apparent reason. Soon we came to a complete stop in the middle of the highway. ¨I have a problem,¨ said the driver. ¨the gas just ran out on me.¨ Luckily, we were only about a quarter of a mile away from the nearest gas station. So Elder Tovanchi and I got out of the car, and started pushing with the driver. Soon he jumped in and started to steer as Elder Tovanche and I pushed and ran. It must have been a funny sight, two missionaries in full suits running behind a taxi, pushing it. The two missionaries who share our ward and our house passed us on the way and started to laugh. It was a good ice breaker for my new companion and I.

My other experience happened last week with Elder Gonzalez. There is a teenage girl, a friend of a member of our ward, who we had been teaching for two weeks or so. Her name is Nancy (yes, I think of Mom every time we visit her.) For some reason, she had been somewhat cold to us in our recent lessons. This time, we could hear music in the house and we were pretty sure that she was in there, but when we knocked, nobody came to the door. (Not an uncommon experience.) After waiting for a few minutes, I asked my companion if I should knock again. He told me to go for it.

In the United States it is not an uncommon thing for people to knock in the pattern DAH-duh-duh-DAH-duh, hoping for a DAH-DAH response. (I hope you can understand what I am talking about.) It is a friendly thing that people do all the time [in the U.S.]. I decided to knock using this pattern, and to do so loudly so that it would be heard above the music. After I did so, I turned to my companion and was surprised at the shocked look on his face. "Elder Rowley," he said, "no haga esto, es groceria" (don´t do that—it´s very rude.) He then explained that knocking or honking a horn in that pattern here in Mexico symbolizes about the most offensive thing you can say to somebody. I was extrememley embarrassed. I don´t know if Nancy was home or not, or if whoever was there heard our knocking, but nobody came to the door after I knocked. It gave my companion lots to laugh about, however.

* * *

I have some bad news. It seems like President doesn´t go to Texas as often as I thought. I still haven´t gotten anything from the P.O. Box, including my ballot, which means I won´t be able to get it in on time. But that´s ok. It means that when he finally goes it will be like Christmas come early.

One of my most powerful spiritual experiences this week was with a man named Jacinto. We found him because he called out to me in English, and I stopped to talk to him. (Lots of people call out random words when I pass by, and usually they are the only words they know, but I try to talk to them all, because if they do speak English it is a great way to build a relationship and talk about the gospel.) Anyway, Jacinto learned English in the states, where he worked for a few years. He is a good man, and I can see his need for the gospel, but I can also feel that he is hiding something when we visit him. This past visit was the first time we taught him in his house. When I walked in, I felt a definite sinister presence ( it probably didn´t help that my companion and I had just been talking about his experiences with witches and demons.) It was not a pleasant feeling. My companion asked if we could pray and sing a hymn. We sang "Abide with Me, 'tis Eventide." When we finished, there was a definite change in the feeling of the house. The power of the hymns is incredible.

I found out this week that the Apostles who are coming in November are Elder Ballard and Elder Scott. President Monson and President Eyring will be participating in the temple rededication that same weekend. It will be amazing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October 21, 2008 -- Don´t worry! I´m OK!

You can relax now. I´m fine. I´m sorry for the worry that not recieving a letter from me yesterday must have caused. I spent all day yesterday in the mission offices. First for a conference (which was really good) and then waiting while my companion went to the doctor (don´t worry, he´s fine.) I was able to use the time in the office to write, study, and learn from some of the other missionaries who were there, which was wonderful. But we didn´t get home until 9:00 and so had no time for normal preparation day activities. President said that we could use today to write to our family, buy food, and wash our clothes, however.

I have some big news, but I think I´ll save the best for last...

* * *
Now, for this week´s cultural moment: tiendas (stores). On almost every block here there is a house that part of which has been converted into a store of some type. Usually they just sell snacks and sodas. Sometimes they are ¨mini supers¨ (an oxymoron if I´ve ever heard one.) I like them. They make the neighborhood more friendly, everyone goes to the neighborhood tienda if you run out of one of the basics (including tortillas). It makes life a lot easier. There are also lots of traveling stores, as I call them. On foot, on bike, or in car, there are all sorts of things that people travel around selling. (Like icecream trucks back home). Usually, but not always, it is food. And usually it is great tasting but not so good for you. My favorite is la camionette de pan dulce (the sweet bread truck). The pastries here are different from the states, but every single one I´ve tried is delicious. If I didn´t have to worry about money or health I´d buy pan dulce every night.

This week has been wonderful, but also sad. We have lost a lot of investigators, which really hurts. One we lost because her husband beat here when he found out she was talking to other men (we are trying to get the relief society to help us--she is a wonderful woman who really needs the gospel light in her life.) Others we lost because they told us never to come back. And there are a few that we decided to drop because they will not read or pray or go to church. They all hurt for different reasons. I don´t understand why people don´t run up to us in the streets and beg us to teach them. It is even harder for me to understand why people refuse to change once we find them and share our message with them. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to happiness, in this life and the world to come. We have a fulness of truth, of love, of peace, of joy, of purpose, of happiness, of everything. Agency is precious, but it is hard for me to understand why more people don´t use it to accept our message. Maybe I don´t teach it very well.

Thankfully, we have also found lots of new people this week. Almost all of them have been found while working on updating the records. This week we updated more than 100 names, which we have to do for the next three weeks as well if we are to finish on time. We are going to do it.

In other news, changes (transfers) are next Monday (so if I don´t write again on Monday, don´t worry). I hope Elder Gonzalez and I stay together, but whatever happens will be the Lord´s will.

Now for the big news: I found out two things yesterday. On Sunday, the 16 of November the Mexico City Temple will be rededicated, which will be broadcasted throughout all of Mexico (like was done for Winter Quarters and Nauvoo.) The day before will be a huge cultural event in Mexico City, and President Monson will be there. This also will be broadcasted throughout Mexico and we will be allowed to go if we bring investigators. Finally, the day before the day before the dedication (November 14), two apostles are coming to Monterrey. There will be a special conference for all adult members, and there is speculation amoung the missionaries that there will also be a special conference for missionaries. That will be a great weekend.

Well, my time is up. Time to get back to work.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 13, 2008 -- Meet the Comp.

I realized the other day that I haven't said much about my companion (or about any of my past companions). My current companion is Elder Gonzalez. He is from San Luis Potosi. He is 25 years old and has been a missionary for 18 months. Before his mission, he completed 6 years of schooling, studying stomatology [the study of the mouth and its diseases] and is a fully certified doctor. He was also the president of the student body at his university. Pretty impresive. He really is very smart and is a great missionary. He has taught me many things, including patience. We don't always agree on everything, but we have learned how to compromise. We get along and work well together.

This may sound strange, but I have been thinking a lot about parenting lately. I see many different styles of parenting here, and the affects of those styles. I see some things that I want to do, and some that I never want to do. I also see the affects of my own parents. Mom and Dad, thank you for being such good parents to me.

This week I have rediscovered the truth in the Book of Mormon statement that by small things great things are brought to pass. There are three things in particular that seem very small, but are extremely important in the daily life and eternal welfare of every single person. They are weekly sacrament meeting attendance, daily scripture study, and constant sincere prayer. They really do make all the difference in the world. If only every investigator were willing to read the Book of Mormon, pray, and come to church!

In the same way, there are things that some people would see as small things, but actually ruin the family. I have seen many broken homes, homes without fathers, or homes that, to be honest, would be better off without the fathers that they currently have. The two biggest causes by far of these problems are violations of two simple commandments: the law of chastity and the word of wisdom. Keep the commandments! In this there is saftey and peace, for ourselves and for our homes!

This week's cultural note is brought to you by public transportation. There are three types. The first (which I guess techinically is not public transportation) is taxis. Everywhere you look there are green taxis, usually Nissans. Preach my Gospel specifically mentions talking to Taxi drivers in Monterrey, and I did that for the first time this past week. Second are the Camiones or buses. They are usually jam-packed with people, sitting and standing. The drivers think that they driving the little green taxis rather than huge busses, and dodge in and out of traffic, and try to stop on a dime (or a peso). Riding them is quite fun. Third is the metro, which consists of two parts, one are the buses that connect the stations, which are more or less camions. Second are the trains. Unlike the metro in NY, for example, the metro here is above the city rather than below it. All public transport is a great way to talk to people, as there are many and usually nobody is busy, or even talking.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008 -- Fed Spiritually and Physically

[General] Conference was absolutely amazing. Dad, I agree--it gets better every time. It is amazing to me how I can be one of millions watching, yet I feel as if each speaker were talking directly to me. Honestly, I feel as if they had been reading my journal and eavesdropping on my prayers. I feel wonderful. Conference really did give me exactly what I need.

You know, I think my description of conference also applies to the Atonement. It affects everyone, but it affects each person in a deeply individual, profoundly personal way. What a miracle. As my favorite song says,¨oh, Hallelujah! How I love my Savior!" I am here so that mourners and everyone else in Mexico can love Him too.

I felt close to home watching conference. I was actually able to watch nearly all of it in English. There are some youth in the stake who were born in the states and who feel more comfortable with English, so the American missionaries were able to watch it in a classroom with them. It reminded me of times spend in Grandmother and Grandaddy´s basement, or times spent in our living room playing general conference bingo. It was nice to know that all my loved ones were watching at the same time.

For this week´s cultural update, I´ll talk about food, since Mom has asked me about it. Like I´ve said before, I love the food here, although it isn´t always the healthiest. (My no sugar and no red meat diet has been put on a two year hold.) So far, I haven´t eaten anything really strange. The strangest food they have here is probably menudo, a stew made from a cow´s stomach, but as yet I haven´t had the opportunity to try it. I have eaten a lot of cactus, though. It is delicious! Usually the members give us some kind of soup, although there are many varieties. My favorite is called Pozoli (spelled something like that.) With each meal, no matter what it is, there are three things you can almost always count on. One, tortillas, usually corn. Two, something picante. Picante comes from the verb picar, which means to sting, to chop, or to do both to your tounge (aka to be spicy). I love food that pica, to the surprise of many people here. The third common element of a meal here is limòn. I still haven´t figured out if limòn is a lemon or a lime, I think it can be either. But in soup, on tacos, whatever it may be, limòn is usually there.

There is also quite a bit of American food here. McDonald´s is as common here as it is in the states, although the buildings are a lot fancier here for some reason. I have a goal to not eat at any such american fast-food restaurant for the whole two years I am here.

The Mexicanized american food, though, I love. Most of the time it tastes better than that from the states. For example, here they really dress up their hamburguers. Last week I had one with the regular hamburguer patty, ham (they take the ham-burger part literally), two types of cheese, onions, jalapeños, something that was like an alvocado but different, tomato, catsup (always spelled that way here), and pinapple. It was delicious. The most interesting american food is the Mexicanized-Americanized Chinese food. The drinks here are also delicious. Like I said, coke is big here. The people don´t seem to drink much pure water. Every time that they offer us water it usually ends up being some type of juice. My favoirte "water" by far is horchata.

This past week I was fed physically and spiritually more than I could wish for. Now it is time to convert it into energy, into action. One of my favorite talks was that of Elder Holland. I have had a lot of angels in my life, before and after my mission, from both sides of the veil. Thank you all for being angels to me in times of need. I pray that God continues to send angels to help you.

Speaking of prayer, I hope that we can all do what president Monson asked and pray for the opening of more areas of the world to missionary work.

My most powerful missionary experience this week was a simple lesson one, about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have already taught it more than 100 times, but it hasn´t lost any power. Whenever I hear my companion reciting the first vision I feel the Spirit testify. What an important event that was, for Joseph and for all of us. Because of it we know that God loves us and answers our prayers. We have a correct understanding of God and His son Jesus Christ. We have Their church, with its authority and true doctrine here on the earth. What a miracle!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008 -- I Can See Clearly Now the Rain Is Gone

Greetings from the land where it rains for 36 hours without stop and where the missionaries keep working in spite of the rain!

Last Tuesday it rained. All day. Hard. My companion laughed when I put on my rain coat and grabbed my umbrella in the morning. ¨That will help for maybe an hour, but then it won´t matter anymore,¨ he said. He was right. At first, I thought it was funny how he was soaking wet while I was nice and dry, but the dryness didn´t last long. Soon I was just as wet as he was, only I had the extra weight of a soaking wet coat to drag along too. Before my mission, I loved the rain. If I wasn´t a missionary, I´m sure I´d love the rain here too. It´s not that the rain stops us from working, but the rain really does make things harder. It is fun to walk around in the rain, to trudge through puddles up to your knees, to feel wetter then you would if you were swimming, but people don´t want to let soaking wet missionaries into their house and the few people who are in the street don´t want to talk because they are busy getting to somewhere dry.

The rain is gone now, though, and this week is supposed to be completely sunny. I guess you can take that literally and figuratively. Last week was tough for me in many, many ways. In the past few days, however, I have figured out some things that I need to change, and the Lord has helped me clear up my dark skies. Now the rain is gone, and I expect this week to be full of bright, warm sunshine (plus a lot of sweat).

This week my companion and I had a great teaching experience. We went to visit a 13 year-old boy who has been coming to mutual with his friend. When we got to his house, we met his mother and invited her to join us, but she coldly turned us down. Because of the small size of the house, however, she couldn´t help but here everything we said. After a powerful lesson about the Restoration, she came out and quietly asked us why bad things happen to good people. I could tell that this was truly a question of her soul (PMG, ch 5), and over the course of the conversation she explained that she had deeply, painfully personal reasons for asking that question. My companion gave a beautiful answer talking about the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation, and I bore my simple testimony. When we returned two days later to give her a copy of Elder Scott´s talk from last conference and a copy of the proclamation on the family, she was different. She told us that she had prayed and that she knew that the church was true. She still has a long road of healing and changing in front of her, but she has finally found the solution to somethign that has been causing her pain her whole life. Jesus Christ truly does have the power to change lives, no matter what that person has done or gone through. His gospel is what everyone in this world needs to find the purpose, peace, and happiness that so many people lack.

My third Sunday was great. Like I said before, I love Sundays at church. I feel peaceful and happy there, no matter how busy the week was. I think I have already become the official piano player for the branch, which makes me feel like I am back in Redlands, playing for the Lugonia Branch. For general conference, we will be going to the stake center for every session. Here in Mexico, the area authorities have encouraged that everyone go to the stake centers to watch conference rather than watch it on the computer (it isn´t on TV here.)

Today we did a lot of cleaning in the new house, but there is still lots of work to do. There still remain several areas that need cleaning, and next week we are going to paint the walls Sometime this week we are going to get new locks on the doors (we actually can´t lock our doors right now, so we left all of our valuable stuff in the old house temporarily.)

Unfortunately, I still haven´t recieved any letters. There were three letters waiting for me when I got here, from people who didn´t know that I was serving in Salt Lake. I´ve heard that the average time to get a letter [sent directly to Mexico] is 2 months.. . . .

* * * [I need] copies of a pamphlet called "God Loves His CHildren," or something like that. It is made specifically to help people who struggle with homosexuality. There are several people here who would benefit from that pamphlet. . . .

Here´s your update on Mexican culture for the week: every single boy from age 7 to 11 who I have seen (not an exaggeration), always has with him a toy called a trompo. It is kind of a mix between a yo-yo and a top. You wind it up on a string, and then flick it out and the top detaches from the string and spins on the ground. You then use the string to pick it up while spìnnning and to do various tricks.Another interesting phenomenon here in Monterrey is the handshake. From what I understand, it is unique to the Mountain Kings. It starts with a normal handshake, but then you detatch all your fingers but the thumbs, which you use to pivot your hands so that your thumbs are connected and your other fingers wrap around the bone connecting the thumb and the wrist. It is very popular among the men here, but I´ve never seen a woman do it.Thank you all for all you do for me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Comments Reach Their Destination

We remind our readers that we do forward their comments to Elder Rowley. This is an easy way for you to say hello or get a word of encouragement to him. Your comments will be included in our weekly correspondence.

So take advantage of the comment link at the end of each post whenever you have a thought to share -- short or long.

--The Editors

Monday, September 22, 2008

September 22, 2008 -- From the Land of the Mountain Kings

Greetings from the land of the Mountain Kings! (Mountain Kings is a nick name for the inhabitants of Monterrey, which in itself means mountain king.)

I don't have words to describe this last week. Part of that might be because I am getting out of practice of speaking English, and part is because I don't think words exist to describe it. It was good, but it was hard. In the MTC we saw a talk from Elder Holland called "The Miracle of a Mission," in which he said that his mission meant everything to him, but that it was the hardest part of his life. In Salt Lake, I understood how the mission meant everything to him but not as much about how it was hard. Now I understand.

Don't worry, I am doing fine. I am healthy and happy. I love my companion, and the people here. I am a little overwhelmed with all the work to do, but I'm glad to be here doing it.

This week I have learned a lot about compromising. My companion is wonderful, and has some strong ideas. I also have strong ideas that are often different than his. This week we have done a lot of compromising, and I have learned that I am not always right, and that sometimes it is better to compromise to keep unity and good feelings.

I really do love it here. As Ammon would say, I desire to live here for a time. (Although not until the day I die--I do want to come home eventually). I've already noticed that some of my first impressions of Mexico were very wrong, mainly things that I didn't like (with the exception of the streets--I'm not sure I'll ever get used to those).

All the missionaries throughout Mexico right now are working on updating the records of the church. The records here are a mess and although the church has asked, nothing has been done about it. So the First Presidency has asked that the missionaries do it. We are visiting every family whose names appear on the records to make sure all their information is correct (names, dates, etc). We are supposed to finish by mid-November, which means we have to visit 10 famililes a day. It is a lot of work, but I enjoy it. I am helping to make the Lord's house a house of order. It is also a great way to find people to teach, both less-actives and investigators, both of which are important.

My companion and I have been asked to move to a house in our area that was not lived in last transfer. The last missionaries who lived there before were not the best and President Mendoza has asked that we regain the confidence and trust of the members and neighbors in that area. The house right now is a mess and it is going to be a lot of work, but I am ready to do what president asks.

* * *
[Y]ou [in California] might be interested to know that the same work you are doing with Prop 8 I am doing here. There are actually a lot more homosexuals here than I expected. My first day here, in fact, I met a lady who had been a lesbian but had joined the church. Her testimony was one of the strongest and most sincere I have ever heard. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes hearts and lives for good (by "for good" I mean for the better and for ever.)

Yesterday, Sunday, was wonderful. Sundays have always been my favorite day and that is still true here in Mexico. Church was great (and yes, I did play the piano). I feel the most happy and the least homesick when I am at church (not that I am usually sad or extremely homesick, but that what little of that I feel disappears in the church.)

By the way, if there are mistakes in this letter, they be the mistakes of a missionary who [in Monterrey] doesn't speak much English usually and who is not used to a Spanish keyboard (they are somewhat different).

Because of all that my companion have to do wtih our new house and everything, I won't be able to write letters to anyone for a while. Those of you waiting for letters, please forgive me and be patient.

Monday, September 15, 2008

September 15, 2008 -- Mexican Independence Day

Greetings from Mexico! I made it! And I have so much to tell.

First of all, my companion. I just met him today. This weekend I was with another missionary temporarily because today was cambios (changes, what they call transfers here.) Here they don´t call them trainers, but tutors. And I am not a trainee or a son but a disciple. At first, I didn´t like that name, but then president described it as a disciple of Christ, not a disciple of our companion, and now that I understand I love it. My companion is Elder Gonzalez. He is from San Luis Potosi, and doesn´t speak English. (I'm glad that I already know Spanish, or this would be a lot harder). This transfer they are trying something different, where the zone leaders are not companions, but they live in the same house. Elder Gonzalez is one of the zone leaders. So my so mission so far I have been with zone leaders as companions. I don´t really know much about him right now, we just met a few hours ago.

I love President Mendoza. He doesn´t speak any English either. He is incredible. His wife is also very nice. For our first dinner, she wanted to cook us American food to help us feel at home. It wasn't American food, but it was delicious.

I don't know what the name of my area is, I just got here. But it is a city area (there are two types of areas, city or border). It is close to one of the most famous things in Monterrey -- El Cerro de la Silla, a beautiful mountain peak.

This mission is a lot different than Salt Lake. The people here are different and therefore the approach has to be different. Of course our message is the same. One thing that I love about this mission is the emphasis on working hard. I can´t describe how much my feet and legs hurt, nor do I desire to disgust you with a description of all the consequences of walking constantly, but it does feel good to know that I am truly working with all my might.

Mexico is a lot different than I expected it to be, and there is so much to describe. I´ll start with the only really bad thing and then tell you about all the good things.

The one thing that I really don´t like here are the streets. I live in mortal peril of them. The drivers here are crazy. There seems to be a mutual disrespect between drivers and pedestrians. Some streets have lines, but they seem to be more for decoration than anything. Turning signals and seat belts are also mostly for decoration. Putting on my seat belt when I get in the car just screams "gringo," but that is something I will gladly bear. There is a constant chorus of honking, usually either to let the car in front of you know that the light has changed (the split second it happens), or for the ubiquitous green taxis to signal to the pedestrians that there is no one in their car. Also ubiquitous are the bear bottle caps that litter the gutters.

This weekend I experienced my first famous Monterreyan rain storm. [Hurrican Ike? -- eds.] It rained a ton, and the streets were instantly flooded. Unfortunately, there was no taxi driver to offer us a free ride and hear about the gospel (see Preach My Gospel, pp. 157-158 [which tells such a story of a taxi driver in Monterrey]). The rain didn´t stop us though. We continued right on through it, and it was a welcome relief from the extreme heat and humidity.

I love the food here. I´ve heard about some things that I might not like so much, but so far everything has been delicious. Here the main meal is at 2:00, la comida (the food). That is when we have assigned meals with the members rather than in the evenings. You can see the influence of America in the food here. There are Carl's Jr, KFC, Pizza Hut, everything you can think of. Usually, though, these restaurants are the biggest and brightest building on the streets, a lot fancier than any fast food restaurant in the states. Everyone here drinks Coke, usually from glass bottles. I don't like drinking caffeine, but the people are offended if you don't accept what is usually the best they have to offer. Another interesting thing about the food here is that most of the time people don't use utensils. What doesn't come wrapped in a tortilla is scooped up in one. I love the food here and you would think that I am in danger of gaining weight, but I have heard that the average missionary of my size here in this misison loses 40 pounds in their first month.

Speaking of pounds, another thing that is different is the measurements. Kilometers, liters, kilograms, Celsius, and pesos are all things that I am trying to get used to.

I love the people here, even though I have difficulty understanding them a lot. Most are very poor, but they are always very kind to the missionaries.

There is no carpet to be found anywhere here. It is all tile. The churches are the same way. The chapel has a tile floor and no fixed benches. There are chairs you can put up or benches that can slide across the floor.

My first Sunday here was wonderful. I was asked to play the piano for the ward (here if you have 25 members you have a ward) which made me feel at home. Because the last Sunday was stake conference, it was time for testimonies last Sunday. Even though there are so many different things here, the testimonies were still the same, and were very powerful.

My time is nearly up. Before I go, I need to warn you about the mail. I here it is very slow. From what I understand, it is reliable, however.

Friday, September 12, 2008

September 11, 2008 -- NEWSFLASH -- Border Crossing!

Elder Rowley received his visa this past week. On 9/11 he boarded a plane (yes, on 9/11) and flew to Monterrey, Mexico, just in time to give hurricane Ike a high five. He was able to call home the night before and the day of his departure. He sounds well, very well. Stay tuned. --The Editors

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

September 2, 2008 -- The Great Disappointment Overcome

Greetings from the recently rainy land of Kearns, Utah.
* * *
You are probably wondering what I meant by my subject line today. Let me explain. Last Friday, I got a call from Elder Williams, who is the senior missionary in charge of mission finances. He called to tell me that I would not be getting any more money because Salt Lake said that I should be in Mexico by the end of the week. I was excited. But Friday, Saturday, and Monday passed and I didn't get the call to go to the consolate, although 20 other Visa-waiters did, which means that I will be here for at least another week. Yesterday when I found out that I wasn't going, I was really disappointed. It's not that I don't like it here or that I want to leave, but that I have been getting super-excited about going to Mexico. Recently I have talked to lots of people from Monterrey, and every time I get more and more excited (for example, in a few months there will be the "civil war" when the two soccer teams from Monterrey play each other and every thing in the city shuts down.) In fact, I already have my first person to teach in Monterrey. Beto, who we have been trying to work with, is going back to Monterrey and he gave me his phone number so that I can call him when I get down there. It took me a while to get over my disappointment, but in the temple this morning I felt strongly that there is a reason that I need to stay here for now. Besides, being here next week means I will be here for Mission Conference, when Elder Marlyn K. Jensen of the 70 is coming to speak to us for 6 hours!

Yesterday and the day before we had a huge storm pass through here. On Sunday night, it was raining incredibliy hard, and we had run out of miles for the month (as well as gas) so we had to walk. The family that we wanted to see lives about three miles from our house, but we set out to walk in the pouring rain. Luckily, people stopped to give us a ride on the way there as well as on the way back, but we still ended up walking a good 2 miles in total. It was wonderful! I love the feeling that no matter what obstructions lie in the way, we will always do our best to bring the gospel to God's children.

In the past three weeks, we have been incredible blessed with golden investigators. The first one, Sergio from Uraguay, showed up at church and asked us if we can baptize him. His girlfriend is LDS and he wants to be able to get married in the temple. He is addicted to smoking and coffee, but in the two weeks we have been working with him he has gone from two packs a day to 6 cigarettes a week. This week he hasn't smoked at all, so we are planning his baptism for Sunday.

The second's name is Javier. He was nearly baptzied a few months ago, but was offended by the missionaries. Last Sunday, however, he came back to church and said he is ready. He should get baptized soon.

The third we found yesterday when I was trackting with Elder Dudley. His name is Gustavo, and he has attended the church in Mexico and wants his children to grow up in the church. What a blessing all of these investigators have been!

Lately we have been trying a wide variety of new finding tools (putting in practice what President Laney taught us at our last Zone Conference). This week we have put up posters for free English lessons, as well as two study classes we are starting at the church. One is a "questions of the soul" class, where we answer many of life's deepest questions with the Book of Mormon (see Preach My Gospel chapter 5). The other is more of a scripture study class where we use all scripture to support each other. The first class starts tomorrow and I am excited to see how it will work out.

One thing I will miss in Mexico is being able to experience different cultures from all of Latin America. I have talked to people from Mexico, Guatamala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uraguay, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and Bolivia! I love learning about their similarities and differences, and experiencing their culture, especially their food. This past week, Angelica, who was baptized two weeks ago, made us traditional Columbian Arepas, which were delicious (I got the recipe so I can make them when I get home.) Still, I am excited to be immersed in the Mexican culture too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

August 26, 2008 -- The Best of Weeks, the Worst of Weeks

This is the second time I am typing this. My computer died right after I finished the first time, so I don't have as much time to write as usual this week.

Unfortunately, there was some kind of problem with the mail, and I didn't get a single letter this week (yes, that hurt).

This week was a microcosm (or however you spell it), of the common saying that a mission is the best two years and also the hardest two years of your life. I won't bore you with a long description of the bad. Suffice it to say that an angry landlady, companionship drama, lots of rejection, and no mail are not very fun. I will, however, tell you why this week was so good for me.

The best part about this last week was that I was able to attend two baptisms. I am very blesssed to be in a mission and area where their is so much work and where I have such good companions. The first baptism was of a young girl named Jenny from my last area. I was able to get permission to go back and see her baptism. It was wonderful. Not only was her baptism a spiritual expereince, but I loved seeing the streets I used to walk down, the members I used to work with, my old companions, and most especially the people I taught. It felt kind of like going home.

The second baptism was last Sunday here in this area. It was of a woman named Angelica Montague. She is from Colombia, and is the one we fasted for to get to church (she actually lost her job because of it, but has been blessed with a new job where she doesn't have to work Sundays.) Her baptism was a miracle and was a wonderful experience. I found it interesting that she was late to her baptism because she stopped to buy pizza for everyone (yes, we did teach the Sabbath Day). We plan to teach her more about the Sabbath this week, but I think that her actions show her kind heart and her excitement about her baptism. It also got me thinking. Baptism is also known as being born again. When we are born physically, we are not born knowing and understanding everything, but just the opposite. Such is baptism. It is the begining of our spiritual life, a life of growth, experience, learning, and maturation.

This week despite our many rejections we were given 15 new investigators from the Lord, many in miraculous circumstances (such as a referral for a family of 5, or tracting into a family of 6.) New investigators means new people to teach about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am so excited!

This week was also wonderful because we were able to go to the temple (we can go every week as long as we have transportation.) I love going to the temple, every time I learn so much and feel so renewed. I often end up writing poems or new verses to hymns after I go.

The latest on the visa is . . . nothing. People who came into the MTC three weeks after me are starting to leave, though, so I imagine my time will be soon. It comes when it comes. I love it here, and I'm excited for Mexico, so I'm content to wait.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

August 19, 2008 -- 69,500,000 seconds

Things are going very well for me here in good ole Kearns. Although to be honest, they weren't so good a few days ago. Last week was without a doubt the hardest month [week?] of my mission so far. I won't go into much detail, but let's just say I tracked A LOT, worked very hard, but didn't get any results. The only rewards I recieved were dropped appointments, slammed doors and companionship issues. It was hard.

By Sunday afternoon, I was feeling very discouraged. It was especially hard because it was Mom's birthday and I couldn't even call her. So while my companions slept durring our lunch hour, I was in the room praying and reading my scriptures, trying to overcome the negative feelings I was having. It worked for a while, but by that evening I was once again feeling down. We didn't teach a single lesson that night, and we got home late which really bothered me. I just didn't feel good, and nothing I did seemed to be helping.

Monday, however, I received several tender mercies from the Lord. The first came in Zone Meeting. The Zone Leaders, my companions, gave a training about self-motivation and enduring trials, drawing from D&C 121 and 128. I think they were aiming it right at me and I think they were inspired to do so--it made me feel a lot better.

Tender mercy number two came when I was able to work with Elder Robledo for the afternoon while my companions were in meetings. He was in my last zone also. He is from Chile and is the type of missionary I want to be--full of zeal for the work and never discouraged. As we walked and worked, we sang the hymns of Zion, something which never fails to cheer me up.

That afternoon I recieved six tender mercies in forms of letters, most importantly from mom and dad, as well as from my three best friends who are all on missions. By then, I was feeling better than I've felt in a long time.

My final tender mercy was also an important lesson for me. I found out that afternoon that Jorge Lopez from my last area had been married and baptized last weekend. I knew he was going to get married, but I had no idea that he would be baptized that soon. (I didn't get permission to go to the wedding, unfortunately.) I would have liked to have gone to his baptism, but instead of feeling sad or jealous, I was very happy to know that he had made that important step, something he had been wanting for a long time. Not only did it lift my spirits, but it also taught me that sometimes it takes a while for things to pay off. It has been three weeks since I left that area and he is now getting baptized. Maybe all my work this last week didn't have any immediate effect, but that doesn't mean I didn't start anything. It will takes weeks to years to really know that. Its a lot like all those plants I planted before I left--the full growth won't be visible for a long time to come.

Today, I couldn't be better. There is sunshine in my soul, for Jesus is my light. That light will shine independent of whatever else is going on in my life, no matter how stressed I feel or busy I am, as long as I trust in and rely on Him. What an amazing blessing!

To switch gears, you are probably wondering why the subject of my email is 69,500,000 seconds. According to another elder in my zone, that is approxiamtely how many seconds are in a mission. I don't want to waste a singe one of them more than I already have. To God, my mission is only 175 seconds long (if 1 day to God is 1,000 years to us.) Like I said before, I plan to sprint the whole way.

Speaking of sprinting, my companions and I have been doing well at exercising. Unfortunately, some of my old eating habits that I thought I had under control are creeping back up on me, but I'm working on it. I try not to worry about that stuff too much though, only so much as I stay healthy and fit so that I can better serve the Lord.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August 12, 2008 -- A Good Week

Things are going well for me here in Kearns.

It seems like the Olympics are everywhere I turn this week, including on our land lady's TV everytime I walk in. I have also seen copies of "Breaking Dawn" [the recently-released book by Stephenie Meyer] lying around in several people's houses. I can't deny that I have been tempted with both a few times, but I'm content to wait for 22 more months before I worry about that stuff again (although minor updates from the family wouldn't hurt.) ;-)

This last week my companions and I had a wonderful experience with one of our investigators. We have been working with a woman named Angelica for a while. She is incredible--she has read half of the Book of Mormon already, she accepts everything we teach her, she has a testimony, and she wants to get baptized. The only thing that is holding her back from making that important covenant is her inabillity to attend church. She really wants to come, but she has to work on Sundays. Two Sundays ago, we thought she would be able to come, but things changed at the last minute and she wasn't able to.

This week my companions and I decided to have a fast for her. As we closed our fast on Thursday, I felt strongly that the Lord would help her be able to attend church. However, the last thing we heard from her on Saturday was that she would have to work on Sunday morning. But we didn't loose hope and we kept praying.

Sunday morning, we waited by the doors before church started, but Angelica wasn't there. Five minutes after the meeting started, we decided that it was time to sit down. About 15 minutes later, however, Angelica came in and sat down right in front of us!

She had gone to work that morning as usual, but when she got there she was informed that someone had taken her shift for her and that she was free to come to church. She came immediately.

What a miracle! I can't tell you how happy I was to see her at church. The experience really strengthened my testimony, both of the power of fasting, and of the fact that the Lord always provides a way for us to keep his commandments (1 Ne 3:7).

Last weekend my companions and I were also blessed with two baptisms. They are two little girls, 8 and 9 years old, and are sisters, and the daughters of a recent convert. They are very smart and sweet and were ready for baptism. Their baptism and confirmations were a sweet experience for me.

I don't know if you remember Clifton Dudley, but he was my friend from BYU who got his call on the same day as I did to the same mission. He left the MTC last week and is now also in the Salt Lake South mission, in my zone. Yesterday, while my companions were at zone leader meetings, he and I were able to work together. It was incredible. He is an incredible missionary. We worked hard together and it was one of the most successful days of my mission so far (we taught a total of six lessons, found two new investigators, and gave one of them a baptismal date.) We were also able to reminisce a little about BYU, although we were careful to not get carried away and distracted from the work. I really hope that he and I can be companions in Mexico some day.

Speaking of Mexico, I still love it here very much, but I am now more excited than ever to go. And if rumors can be believed, that could be happening in a week or two. (More detail to come as more information comes to me.)

Last Saturday, my companions and I had a shift at our mission's booth at the Salt Lake County Fair. Fairs would be a great place to talk to people almost anywhere, but my honest opinion is that they don't work too well in Utah. We talked to many people and tried to get referrals, but we didn't have any success.

About halfway through my shift, I noticed a group of people in front of my booth who I recognized. I went up and said hello, and they stopped and looked at my name tag. It was [mom's] Uncle Earle and Aunt Carolyn. It was nice to see them, we had a good conversation, and they told me to say hi. (I also asked them for referalls, but they didn't have any.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

August 5, 2008 -- Ghetto Greetings

Transfers last Wednesday was a suspensful event. As I said in my last letter, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen, but I was very wrong. You never know when and why President Laney will change his plans.

I thought I would be leaving my companions and going to a far corner of the mission. Elder Zobell had requested to President that I stay with him, but I didn't think that that was very likely to happen. The forth or fifth slip of paper out of the treasure box (which they use to announce transfers), however, said that Elder Zobell and Elder Jarvis would be the zone leaders for the Oquirrh Mountain Zone, serving in the Kearns 2nd area, and that Elder Rowley would be their companion.

My area is again on the Northern border of the mission, more to the west than my last area. A lot of people call Kearns the ghetto of the mission, but I don't think it is at all. I love it here. There are so many hispanics and therefore so much work to do. My Spanish is increasing dramatically, and I am improving in my missionary skills everyday. My companions are very hard workers and very good misisonaries, and we are busy all the time finding and teaching people, and we never run out of people to visit.

You have already heard about Elder Zobell, and I am very glad to still be his companion. Elder Jarvis is also a very good missionary. He has been out 21 months, but is not at all trunkie. He is actually from Greensboro, NC, and knows [our relatives there].

In my last area we lived in an apartment, so this is the first time I have experienced living with members. I live in the basement of the house of an older widow named Sister Gray. For the most part, I like it better than living in an apartment--there is a lot more space.

I still haven't heard anything about the Visa. Some say it could be two weeks, others say it will be until at least the end of this transfer. I prefer the latter. I didn't think I would say this, but I love it here so much that I am considering asking President Laney if I can stay here. I don't know, though. I am very excited about Mexico still, but I love it here. We'll see.