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.