Monday, December 28, 2009

Saturday, December 26, 2009 -- The Best Christmas Ever

Yesterday was a great day. It was wonderful to be able to talk to family. . . .

As I mentioned in our conversation, yesterday was my best Christmas ever. Not because of the gifts I got, or because of the parties or food. It was great for two reasons -- one, because I got to talk to my family, and two, because of the baptism of Ranulfo.

I consider Ranulfo as my gift to the Lord, as well as His gift to me. My companion and I have worked hard with Brother Villegas to help him be ready for this great day. Like I’ve said, Ranulfo is a great person. He is a learned and well educated man, who thinks a lot. Yet he is humble and listens to the counsel of God.

As I mentioned, the temple played an important part in Ranulfo’s decision to be baptized. Several times a week, Ranulfo visits Montemorelos for part of his work as a lawyer. The highway to Montemorelos passes right in front of the temple. He told us that every time he passes the temple he thinks to himself, “I’ll soon be able to enter.”

It was a great baptismal service. The water was freezing (the boiler doesn’t work in our chapel), and Ranulfo is a big man and didn’t go all the way under the first time, but the warmth of the Spirit made up for the water. I love hearing new converts pray at the end of their baptismal service (something which President Mendoza has invited us to have them do.) Ranulfo said a powerful prayer thanking the Lord for sending him the missionaries and pledging to keep his baptismal covenants.

This was also a good Christmas because it was the first in which I got to be Santa. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night to set out gifts, but I did spend Christmas eve delivering Christmas packages. This past week the office has been filled with packages that have arrived through local mail and shipping services and that Preisdent Mendoza had picked up in McAllen.

President Mendoza wanted all the missionaries to get their packages before or on Christmas. So Thursday we toured the border. First we went to Reynosa, where we met President Mendoza with another load of packages from the P.O. Box, then we traveled to the different zones delivering packages to Reynosa, Rio Bravo, Matamoros, and Valle Hermoso. Friday we did the same thing, visiting the city zones, which include five zones in Monterrey and the suburbs, and an independent distrtict about an hour and a half to the east, including the cities of Linares, Allende, and Montemorelos.

I enjoyed the time with my companion, listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and talks from general authorities, seeing the beautiful scenery, and seeing the happy looks on the missionaries’ faces.

Saturday, December 26, 2009 -- Pictures

  1. Me and the other office Elders in front of the temple
  2. Me and the other office Elders in front of the Christmas tree
  3. Me and the other office Elders in an art museum on a preparation day
  4. Elder Olguin, Ranulfo, and me at his baptism yesterday.

Christmas 2009 -- Testimonio

Greetings from Elder Rowley -- Christmas 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009 -- Christmas Baptisms

¡Feliz navidad!

Next Friday, my next preparation day, is Christmas! There could be changes, but the current plan is the following: as I am in the mission offices, and the missionaries talk with their families in chapels, [the family] can call me here. . . . As usual, we will have one hour to talk. I’m looking forward to it.

Before telling you about my week, I want to thank [those who] . . . help[ed] with the missionary Christmas gifts. . . .

This past week President Mendoza asked me to start preparing to receive the new mission president. He told me that I need to be like Mormon, observing everything so that I can explain it all to the new president. He also told me something that sobered and humbled me. He told me that from the moment I arrived in the mission, he knew that I would be the assistant who would receive the new mission president. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for helping me prepare.

President Mendoza is going to McAllen today (a day earlier than he had planned). But there shouldn't be any problem, the things you mailed Monday and Tuesday should be there. I sent with him the mission Christmas card. I didn't have time to label all my [former and present] companions and the missionaries I know, like I did last year, but I hope you enjoy looking for them. Elder Tovanche, Elder Zamudio, Elder Dominguez, Elder Chuc, Elder Samano, Elder Hernandez Pacheco, and Elder Olguin all appear.

I have written to you before about Ranulfo (Jose Ranulfo Villegas Zamudio.) He is the lawyer who appears more like a stake president than an investigator. I love teaching him because he understands, thinks, and applies everything we say. But he hasn't wanted to accept a baptismal date because he wants to “put his life in order” first.

This past Wednesday we had an appointment with him. Using the book True to the Faith, we talked with him about the Holy Ghost and how it will help him understand the gospel, resist temptations, and much more, after his baptism. As we were talking about the marvelous gift of the Holy Ghost, I felt Him give me a prompting. I asked Ranulfo what his plans were for the 25th. His reply was what I expected. As he lives alone, is divorced and all his children are grown up, he planned to spend Christmas day alone. So I said, “Brother Villegas, I can think of no better way to celebrate the birth of our Savior, than for you to experience your own personal re-birth. We are preparing your baptismal service for the 25 of December at 4:00 PM. Will you be baptized that day?” He smiled and said yes. This will be a memorable Christmas.

You will also remember Adriana, the woman who arrived miraculously at church and was progressing marvelously, but suddenly disappeared. Another miracle happened this week! We had called her, left notes on her door, and talked with her fellowshippers without results and were about to lose hope.

But one morning my companion decided to give it one more try. We called her earlier than we had tried before--at 9:00 AM--and she answered! She told us that because of the busy Christmas season, her work schedule has changed. For this month she is working seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM, making it impossible for her to be found within the normal missionary schedule.

Fortunately, President Mendoza had recently taught us about the principle of “managing the exception,” which basically means changing the missionary schedule in order to see a person who otherwise would not be able to be taught. So we set an appointment for the next day at 8:30 AM.

Adriana is every bit as spiritually sensitive and prepared as she was two weeks ago. In fact, she is more so. One of her fellowshippers is the sister of the returned missionary who invited her to our ward, who works with Adriana. During the two weeks that we were not able to see her, she kept talking to her friend about the gospel, and helped her to live gospel principles, like praying over their food together at their lunch breaks.

This week we have seen Adriana three times in the morning. We have taught her the plan of salvation, the law of chastity and the Word of Wisdom, and a lesson which we prepared especially for her in which we read the Christmas stories in Matthew, Luke, and 3 Nephi. After reading the stories, we read in Alma 7 where Alma prophesies about the birth of Jesus Christ, then talks about His Atonement, and invites his listeners to come to Christ and be baptized. We extended that same invitation to Adriana and she accepted. The first Sunday of January, when her work schedule returns to normal, she will be baptized.

Time is flying by faster than ever. It seems like just yesterday that I was in my first week in the offices preparing transfers with President Mendoza, Elder Rivera, and Elder Olguin. That was six weeks ago! This week we again carried out the sacred process of transfers. One of the great things I’ve learned from President Mendoza, which also comes from a quote in Preach My Gospel from Elder [Dallin H.] Oaks, is that not every decision requires revelation, that many can be made correctly with common sense. This round, many of his decisions about transfers were so obvious, that they were made by common sense, and then confirmed with the Lord through prayer.

This Monday we will say goodbye to four heroes. (One of them is my personal hero and past companion, Elder Samano.) Later that same day we will welcome eight valiants--three Mexican Elders, one Sister, and four Elders from the United States. It will be a great day.

* * *

Merry Christmas, everyone! I love you all!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009 -- Tithing

Wow, every week goes by faster than the previous, especially when you are really busy. . . .

Last Sunday we had a great sacrament meeting in our ward. One thing that made it special was knowing that we were all fasting for the same purpose, as are all the Saints in Mexico. You may have heard that the Area Presidency here sent us an epistle a few months ago inviting us to rededicate our lives to the Lord. One of the several specific invitations that they made is that we all fast together the first Sundays of November, December, and January so that the members of the Church may have the desire to be obedient to the Lord’s commandments and that the leaders of this country can make good decisions.

It is great to be a part of this period of rededication. Every day we should evaluate ourselves and rededicate ourselves to God.

Another thing that made sacrament meeting special were the testimonies that were born. One sister, the Primary President, had had a miscarriage that week, but bore her testimony about the plan of happiness. (Can you imagine how it must feel to pass through such a situation without a knowledge of God’s plan?)

Carlos Angiano, the recently re-activated father of Melisa and Alejandra, the young women who were baptized a few weeks ago, also bore his testimony. He spoke about tithing. He said that when the missionaries had taught him and his daughters about tithing, he was skeptical. He said that one of the missionaries (me) had shared a story about a miracle that his parents had experienced for paying their tithing (the story Mom told me about when you paid tithing first and received a check in the mail for the money you needed for the rent.)

Carlos said that he thought that the missionary was lying, making up a story. He said that he thought that the Church just wanted to get rich off its members. But, he said, the missionaries read him a scripture in which the Lord invites us to put Him to the test (Malachi 3:8-10), and he decided to take that challenge.

Carlos currently is without a job, as are many people these days. So paying his tithing means making a sacrifice. He told us that he had received 7,000 pesos that were to last him three months. Tithing would mean 700 pesos. The first thing he did when he received his money was pay his tithing, although he didn’t know how he could last.
As he bore his testimony, he told us that he had never gotten so much out of so little. He told us that he still had a large amount of that money that he had received weeks ago. He told us that he no longer doubted the principle of tithing, and told us all that the Lord would bless us for paying our tithing as well.

I, like Carlos Angiano, have a testimony of tithing. I have seen blessings in the lives of my parents and of many people here in the mission. Last week I mentioned a letter I received from one of my converts, Tere. She is also going through hard economic times, but pays her full tithing and has been richly blessed. Paying a full tithe is the first and most important principle in being economically sound.

These past two weeks the mission offices have been converted into a card and disk factory. Two weeks ago we were working hard on the Christmas card, which is now completely finished and looks great. This past week we have been producing several hundred CDs, an album we made of Christmas hymns and scriptures to give to people. Being part of an office team is a great feeling, all working together for a good cause.

The truth is that before I lived here, I never appreciated all that the office Elders do for the mission. For example, this past Wednesday we took a third of the mission to the temple. This time all the missionaries who haven’t gone [to the Monterrey Temple] are assigned to areas in the border, so they had to come stay in the offices Tuesday night (the session started Wednesday morning at 7:00 AM). We had to get ready to have 50 missionaries staying here.

Really the offices are equipped for only about 20, and President Mendoza told us that he wanted the missionaries to be able to sleep comfortably. All day Tuesday was spent buying food, cleaning rooms, moving mattresses, buying blankets, and other such things, so that all would be ready when the missionaries arrived.

It made me ponder on the times when I came to stay in the offices before being an Assistant. Everything went so smoothly that I didn’t even think about it. And when things didn’t go smoothly, many missionaries were quick to complain. Now that I am on the other side, I am grateful for the sacrifices that those other office missionaries made for me.

All the sacrifices that may be required are worth it to go to the temple. I gladly sacrifice so that others can have the opportunity. As always, I had a wonderful experience in the temple. After asking President Tenorio (the temple President, brother of Elder Tenorio of the Seventy and the Mexico Area Presidency) if it was appropriate, I brought my patriarachal blessing and read it in the Celestial Room. I felt such comfort and direction as I did so. Thinking about what I had just learned and how I was feeling gave me new light and understanding about what the Lord wants from me in my life. I want to sharpen my axe to be the best tool I can be in His expert hands.

You will remember Ranulfo, the man who looks more like a Stake President than an investigator. He is still coming to church in his suit and bringing his Bible, Book of Mormon, and Gospel Principles manual. Last Sunday he accompanied us to the First Presidency Christmas devotional, very excited to hear from the living prophet. President Menodoza was there and greeted him and, as always, gave him a baptismal challenge. Ranulfo still hasn’t accepted a specific date, but has told us that before the year ends, he will be baptized.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009 -- It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

Here in Monterrey, its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Perhaps it’s the Christmas tree and decorations that were recently set up in the mission offices. Or it could be the fact that we have been planning and preparing for the mission Christmas activites. (We finished the mission Christmas card this last week, the one I sent you last year with pictures of all them missionaries. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have made the card this year if it weren’t for the experience and knowledge gained from being a photography editor for the Hobachi.)

Another reason for the Christmas spirit could be the cold. Even though I lived in California for a few years, I’ve always associated Christmas with bitter cold. I quite enjoy it. I love being bundled up warm and sharing a warm conversation while it is cold outside. I think about how the gospel offers us warmth and comfort while the world around us is suffering the cold. How much they need this message! Think about how much good it would do them to feel the Spirit of God like a fire burning!

Last Christmas was one of my best. Of course I missed being with all of you, but we got to talk on Christmas day. What made last Christmas the best were the gifts I got and gave. I’m not talking about the cookies or the ties, or even the letters (all of which I appreciated.) The best gift we’ve ever gotten is the gift of God’s Only Begotten Son. Last Christmas I was able to understand that gift better than ever before. It is through Him that we receive another great gift, the gift of eternal life (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7).

Last Christmas I was able to help give that gift. I remember as if it were yesterday three days after last Christmas, when the Montoya Leal family entered the waters of baptism.

* * *

It is funny that mom should mention investigators who stop progressing. You will remember Adriana Perez, the investigator whom I told you about last week. Every lesson with her is an amazing spiritual experience. She is very sensitive to the power of the Holy Ghost and has desires to know and obey God. This Sunday she had to work, but attended an earlier ward in order to be able to partake of the sacrament. She was progressing wonderfully well.

But all of a sudden she disappeared. She wasn’t at home when we went for our appointment, and doesn’t answer our phone calls. We haven’t seen her since Sunday.

Now, I don’t know what has happened, and I am full of faith that we will be able to find and teach and baptize her, but this experience has caused me to think. It could be that she has lost her desire, for fear or family pressure, or whatever reason. But at least we planted a seed. In fact, her situation in this case would fit exactly Jesus’ description of some of the people who hear the word, “that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it… [but] when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Matt 13:20-21). I think it is more likely that she has been busy with her work, or attending to her sick daughter.

This experience has also caused me to think about how I view her and my other investigators. We have been really stressed this week because we haven’t been able to find her. Why so stressed? Because she needs a lot of lessons before her scheduled baptism this Sunday. In other words, I was viewing her as a baptism rather than a daughter of God who needs our help. I pray for more charity, for the ability to see others as God sees them and love them as He loves them.

Yesterday I had a wonderful blessing. I received a letter from a convert. You may remember Tere (Santa Teresa de Jesus Torres Flores) from Puerta del Sol. I try to write to my converts on a regular basis to encourage them and remind them of the things they know, but I hardly ever recieve a response. So it was with great joy that I received her letter. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. She is going through some hard times financially, but she is paying her tithing. She has family problems, but has faith in God and puts her trust in him. She is really busy, but makes time every day to read the Book of Mormon and prepare her class for Sunday (she has a calling as a primary teacher).

I think back on how she was when I first met her, and I can’t help but be amazed. The gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives.

President Mendoza went to McAllen yesterday [to get mail] and I got my Missionary Mall shirts and ties. . . . During December, he has to go at least once a week or the post office won’t have room for all the Christmas packages that come.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009 -- A Sunday Miracle

Greetings from Mexico, where the “canicula” (the hot, dry summer) has passed and the cold is setting in.

Never have I been busier than these past three weeks. Last week we had almost no time in our area, as everyday we had zone conferences to attend. But the Lord blessed us greatly with success and rich spiritual experiences. I will never forget this last Sunday.

In sacrament meeting, my companion and I were sitting with a part-member family we have been working with. The father is a member, his wife and children are not, but soon will be. (In fact, we had woken them up that morning by serenading them with a special rendition of “Welcome, Welcome Sabbath Morning.”) As is customary in every ward of the Church throughout the world, several people walked in late after the sacrament. As we had been expecting a few people who had not yet arrived, I paid attention to see who it was.

I saw someone enter, but stay next to the door. It was a young woman, about 25 years old, with a little girl. Just one look at her outfit (jeans and a t-shirt) and the nervous, out-of-place look on her face told me that she had never been to church before. She seemed to be looking for someone. Recognizing her as someone in need of help, I nudged my companion and we got up to talk to her.

We introduced ourselves to her and learned that her name was Adriana Perez. As we asked her if someone had invited her, she began to cry. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t know why I’m crying. But I feel something special here.”

She didn’t know why, but we did. So we explained to her that what she was feeling was the Holy Ghost, telling her that she was in the right place. I told her that she was a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves her and that what she was feeling was that she was at home. I also felt like crying, and I was filled with love for someone who I had never seen before.

A minute later, her friend arrived. His name is Alex Garcia, and he is a recently returned missionary. He is not a member of our ward. In fact, he lives in the other mission. He had met Adriana because she works with his sister. He had invited her to church, but instead of inviting her to his ward, he invited her to the ward where she lives. (He had arrived late because he was with another investigator that he had invited in Juarez, about 45 minutes away.) He sat with her during the services, and set an example of a great fellowshipper—presenting her to the bishop, lending her his scriptures, bringing her daughter to Primary, etc.

Once again we had a great Gospel Principles class. (I love Gospel Principles. The Prophet was truly inspired to make it the course of study for the whole Church for the next two years.) Adriana was attentive and interested throughout all the services. After the last class, we offered to give her a quick tour of the chapel, and she accepted.

When we arrived at the baptismal font, we taught the doctrine of baptism. We explained that through that sacred ordinance she could become pure and clean and enter the path to live with God. As we explained the gift of the Holy Ghost and told her that she could always feel as she had felt that day, she once again began to cry. We bore a simple testimony and invited her to be baptized. She accepted a baptismal date for December 6.

Our experience last Sunday was truly a miracle and a blessing from God, and I learned many lessons. I learned from Alex how to be a good member-missionary, and about the importance of following the order of the Church. (I’m not sure that Adriana would have felt the same at-home feeling in a ward that wasn't hers.) I learned that the Lord is preparing His children, that there are people who are ready and waiting for our message. And I learned for the millionth time that I love missionary work, the happiest work on earth.

I can’t remember if it was in my last letter or in the letter that got erased and I never sent that I talked about how much I learn from President Mendoza. When President Carlson set me apart to be a missionary, he promised me that I’d learn great things from my mission president. (I remember thanks to Mom, who wrote down the blessing that President Carlson gave me.) That promise has been fulfilled many times, but never so much as now that I am able to work with him closely almost on a daily basis.

Being a mission president is probably the most difficult and time-consuming calling in the Church outside of being an Apostle. Yet despite all the work and having to deal with difficult missionaries (and unfortunately, there are quite a few,) President Mendoza is always cheerful and optimistic. Lately, in preparation for Christmas and the end of the year, as well as all of our weekly and monthly chores, we have been very busy. President Mendoza gave me some advice that may seem simple, but really affected me. He said, “hay muchas cosas que hacer, pero hay que hacerlas bien.” (There are a lot of things to do, but one must do them well.) In other words, if I finish all my work, but do a mediocre job, its better to not even do it.

President has also taught us to use every spare minute to do something good. He often says something like “the other day I was driving to Reynosa, and pondering on this or that, and I realized that we should make this change.”

Following his example, I have tried to be more diligent, use my time more effectively, and think more about my experiences. In fact, there are two experiences I had this last week while driving (we drove a lot, visiting all the zones in the city, and all but one in the border.)

We always start our car trips, even if it just to the gas station, with a prayer. But for some reason, we forgot to pray one day last week when we left Matamoros. As you all know, road trips are great but can easily cause stress and crankiness.

During the journey, things got a little tense, and it didn’t help things when we got hopelessly lost in Rio Bravo. I was at the wheel and wasn't feeling very happy. So I pulled over and told my companion that we had to pray. We prayed, asking for the Lord's protection and guidance, and pleading that He would help us to keep His Spirit, our Divine "Third Companion," with us. It was amazing how quickly the atmosphere in the car changed. Elder Olguin and I apologized to each other, and the rest of the journey was spent listening to MoTab (how I love that choir), enjoying the scenery, and talking about great things.

My companion and I have gotten lost a lot lately, and consequently have lost some valuable time. We have had to make several trips to areas to bring materials, make emergency transfers, and the like. One day, it occurred to us to use the Guia Roji, a map book of Monterrey. Our next trip was incredibly easy. We knew exactly where we were going and what streets we had to take to get there.

Life, I think, is a lot like that. When we don't have a map, we are confused, frustrated, and lost. But with the eternal map that God provides through the scriptures and living prophets, it is a whole lot easier to know where we are going and how to get there.

Speaking of prophets, this last week we had the privilege of bringing a third part of the mission to the temple (every other week now one third of the mission goes). I always learn great things in the temple. This time I was greatly impressed by the importance of following the Lord’s true messengers, and only them.

My time us up. I love you all.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009 -- Weekly letter, second try

Tomorrow we will be going to the border so we are taking our preparation day today.

* * *

So a funny thing happened just now . . .

I was writing you a really long letter and just when I was finishing, the computer shut down. My letter was lost.

In my letter I talked about Ranulfo Villegas, an investigator who came to church with us on Sunday. It was the first time that I have had an investigator come to church in a suit. He is also one of the most intelligent investigators I have had, and he was amazed by the gospel principles class about the plan of salvation. Ranulfo is a lawyer and a very smart and educated person, but not so much that he doesn’t want to hearken to the counsel of God. The only problem with teaching him is that he is a busy lawyer and we are busy assistants and it is hard to find him.

Speaking of being an assistant, Dad asked if being an assistant lasts for the rest of my mission. My first day in the offices, President Mendoza told me that I would be here for the rest of my mission. Since I plan to extend, that means that I will welcome the new mission president next June.

In my letter I also mentioned that this week the zone conferences start and that President Mendoza has decided to have us come with him this time to check the area books and to train about inviting people to be baptized. It is an interesting experience teaching the same thing and watching President Mendoza teach the same principles to different zones every day. I learn a lot. It is also great to see each zone leader teach his assigned topics in his own style. Tomorrow we are heading for the border to make a tour of the border zones.

Dad mentioned Elder Brizzee. I recognized him the moment I saw his picture on President Mendoza’s transfer board. I saw him last Tuesday in a zone conference, and he is doing well. He didn’t recognize me, but I told him that I was from Redlands and that I had seen him in various activities when Yucaipa was part of our stake. His first companion was Elder Chuc, one of the best companions I've had.

In the offices I've learned that one of the best ways to communicate with a missionary is through We get a package of "dear elder" letters and packages every week. So if anyone has been waiting to write me because they wanted a cheap easy way, is the solution.

* * *
Smile of the week: Here in the offices we often have to talk in English to Salt Lake or to parents of missionaries. But we have lost our fluency in that language. One missionary forgot how to say "zip code" and said "post code." The man with which he was talking said, “Pal, you've been in Mexico too long.”

For me, there is no such thing as too long in the work of the Lord.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday, November 13 -- In the Airport

What a week! Yesterday afternoon was the first time we were able to do proselyting work in five days! But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t been busy in the Lord’s work.

Last Monday was transfer day. That meant that Saturday and Sunday were spent with the heroes, the missionaries returning home, and Monday and Tuesday with the heroes, the newly arrived missionaries. I had many interesting experiences with these two groups.

The most interesting experience was Monday morning in the airport. First, we said goodbye to the heroes. It was interesting to see them and how they were feeling. The departing generation has some of the best missionaries our mission has seen, as well as some of the worst. Among the eight missionaries returning home were two assistants and other true heroes, but also a few missionaries who did not make the best choices during their missions -- including one who, in spite of the fact that he had endured to the end of the two years, was not returning with honor. Their feelings of excitement, contentment, or regret and nervousness were evident.

Then we waited to receive the heroes. As we were waiting, we saw a missionary returning home from his mission. A group of 20 or so of his family and friends was waiting with signs and balloons. The first thing he did was hand his luggage to his dad and give his mom a big, long hug. The joy was tangible.

A few minutes later a group of missionaries arrived from the Mexico MTC [Missionary Training Center] (this transfer we aren’t receiving any American missionaries). Eight of the Mexican missionaries arrived for our mission and about five for the other. You could feel their excitement but also nervousness. I remembered how I felt that day not so long ago. They had a spirit much brighter than several of the returning “heroes.”

My experiences in the airport made me think. I realized that these two years truly do fly by. We come, we make choices, and we go. Depending on those choices we leave better and more prepared than we came, having done good in the lives of others, or we leave just the same or even worse than when we arrived. Life is like that too. It really is a short time. We arrive, make choices, and depart. I wonder how I will feel in my homecoming -- both my homecoming after my mission in Mexico and my homecoming after my mission on earth.

After picking up the new missionaries, we took them to the mission home, where Sister Mendoza prepared a delicious breakfast (she is an amazing cook), and we spent some time learning from President Mendoza. Then we went to the mission offices, where we had the transfer devotional. That is where I made my debut in front of more than half the missionaries. I was nervous, but I think it went well. I stole an idea from Dad and talked about how we are all like Mom’s bread: with the ingredients to be a good missionary, but having to go through the oven to reach our full potential.
Monday and Tuesday we spent with the Tutors and Disciples. (One of the tutors is Elder Dominguez, the missionary I trained. It is great to see how he has grown these past 6 months since I last saw him.) Wednesday we made a trip to the border, bringing the tutors and disciples to their areas. Following the instructions of President Mendoza, we took advantage of the time we were there to bring supplies to the zone leaders. I returned to Reynosa, and also got to know the cities of Rio Bravo and Matamoros.

Yesterday we worked in the office in the morning, and after the 2:00 meal we started to work in the area. It felt great. I love missionary work!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009 -- Carta de Elder Rowley 6 Nov 2009

Greetings from the mission offices in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon!

. . . The mission office is located within the Libertad Stake Center in Guadalupe, close to the city of Monterrey. In the offices there is President Mendoza's office and a large office shared by the assistants and the executive, financial, record, and material secretaries. There is also a room where the assistants and the secretaries sleep and keep their personal belongings. There is a kitchen, a bathroom, a large courtyard, and a room full of bunk beds called the “heroes hall,” where the missionaries stay on their first or last night in the mission, as well as when they have to come to the offices for a conference or a sickness or something like that.

I have a lot to learn and a lot to improve in order to be a good assistant. I'm very excited for this time that I have to work closely with President Mendoza. As [Redlands stake] President Carlson promised me in the blessing when he set me apart, I have learned great things from my mission president.

This week we have been working with President Mendoza in what he calls “the sacred process of transfers.” It has been an incredible experience. In President Mendoza’s office, there is a huge board covered with cards that show the picture and information of every missionary in our mission. Because every six weeks we have heroes who leave and "Valiants" who arrive, as well as situations that require changes in certain companionships, it is necessary to make many changes to that board, symbolizing the transfers that will take place in the mission. We start with the zone leaders, then the district leaders, then tutors, then senior companions, then junior companions. It is amazing. It is like a huge puzzle mixed with a giant Risk game, because it requires strategy and forethought, analyzing the needs of every area and every missionary.

We take into account everything from the missionary’s personality to how long he has been riding a bike. But the most amazing thing about transfers is how much we rely on the Lord. We are constantly praying and seeking inspiration. When we decide on something, we pray seeking the Lord’s confirmation and approval. Transfers are not the will of President Mendoza, or his assistants. They are the will of the Lord.

Right now I have two companions, Elder Rivera and Elder Olguin. Elder Rivera will return home on Monday, leaving Elder Olguin as the senior assistant and me as his companion.

This Sunday we will have two baptisms here; and in Cumbres, the area I left in Reynosa, Claudia, Perla's mom, is going to be baptized. The two baptisms here are Melisa and Alejandra, two teenage girls. Finding them was an interesting experience. You will remember that a few weeks ago I spent a day working with the assistants when I came to visit the mission offices. While we were working, I contacted a teenage couple sitting on a park bench. The girl in that couple was Melisa. Elder River and Elder Olguin visited her and her family and found out that her father was a less active member (he is now attending church again and is very excited about the gospel.) They also met her younger sister Alejandra and began to teach them. I arrived just in time to finish the missionary lessons and to see their baptism this Sunday.

* * *

Mom, thanks for everything you do. I feel bad about asking for more things, but as an assistant it is important that I set an example in everything, including my dress and appearance. I only have two pairs of pants that are really wearable, because the others are faded, or torn, or both. I also only have one suit. In regards to white shirts, with two more short sleeved shirts size 17.5 from Missionary Mall, I'll be fine. The suit and the pants I will buy myself here. In fact today we are going to buy clothes. I would appreciate it if you could put a little more money in my checking account. But after today I shouldn't need any more clothes for the rest of my mission.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009 -- My New Assignment

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

Once again I am full of feelings of inadequacy. Once again I have received a new assignment.

Today we had a special conference with President Mendoza. As usual, it was a great spiritual experience. Afterward, President was talking with his assistants and he called me over to talk with the three of them. He told me that I need to be in the [mission] office tomorrow at 11:00 to help make the transfers. He told me that I am his new assistant.

It is difficult to describe how I feel. Part of me is excited--excited for the new opportunities I will have to serve and work with President Mendoza and all the missionaries in the mission. But I also feel nervous. I don't feel like I have the qualities to be an assistant.

President Mendoza told me I was chosen in the same way that the Apostles chose Matthias in Acts 1. In other words, by revelation. That gives me comfort, as does one of my favorite quotes from President Eyring, "God helps the faithful priesthood leader."

When I was in the MTC, I set a motto for my mission. (I now have three others.) My first motto was, "One hundred percent, every day." That will keep being my motto in this new assignment--one hundred percent obedience, diligence, and dependence on the Lord.

Elder Uchtdorf gave a wonderful devotional address last night. I loved what he said about Hamlet, that the question isn't "To be or not to be," but "What do have to do and be to live up to my potential?" . . .

This last week we had lots of meetings. On Wednesday, we had a council of leaders. Then on Friday we had an all-day council with the zone, teaching them what we had learned on Wednesday (the first time that we've done something like that in the zone). I love the things I learn here in the mission, and all the spiritual experiences I have, both in the field and in zone meetings and conferences.

One of the thigns we discussed was a talk that Elder Holland gave in the MTC entitled, "The Divine Companionship." I could talk for hours about the things I learned, but I don't have hours to write. There were two things that called my attendion more than anything.

  1. I need to be the most divine companion I can to my companions in the mission and someday to my future wife.
  2. If the Holy Ghost is not my senior companion, I need to change so that he can be.

Elder Hernandez and I had a great experience this last week following the advice of Elder Holland and relying on the Spirit. We were teaching Claudia, the mother of Perla, our most recent convert. We taught the plan of salvation, as we felt inspired to do. She began to ask questions of the soul ("Where is my mom right now?") We answered with scriptures and testimony. The member, Perla, bore her testimony. The Holy Ghost bore testimony. We invited her to be baptized and she accepted. This Sunday she will be baptized, and soon after will go to the temple to be baptized for her mother.

Today, as you know, is the Day of the Dead. The cemeteries here are busier and more crowded than Disneyland. I like to take the time to reflect about those who went before me, those who gave me the great legacy I have. In fact, President Mendoza has asked that those of us with pioneer ancestors send him information about them, their stories and their sacrifices. . . .

P.S. As an assistant, my preparation days will now be Fridays.

Monday, October 26, 2009 -- Service and Virtue

As always, my list of things to write about is much longer than time allows . . .

* * *

This has been a great week.

Last Tuesday we were talking to Isabel, who was baptized with her daughter, Flor, about three months ago. She had to take out a loan to fix a leak in her roof, and is having to make payments of 50 pesos (less than five dollars) to feed her family for the week. Nevertheless she is grateful that she always has something to give her children, even if it is always beans.

Talking with her, I felt so grateful for the blessings that I have received, and how I have never had to worry about having food to eat. I also thought about how I have sometimes been wasteful or ungrateful with what I have.

That night I got an idea. In the house we have lots of food that past missionaries have left behind--canned vegetables and the like--that nobody wants. It is just sitting there, going to waste. So Wednesday morning we changed form our normal exercise routine and decided to go for a bike ride. We loaded ourselves with bags of food and a card saying, "Para la familia Torres Casique--Dios les ama." We rode past their house, left the food on their doorstep, and quickly rode away.

A few days later we visited her. She told us how they had found food and a card on their doorstep on Wednesday morning. My heart swelled as she told me about how excited little Flor was, and how good it felt to be able to eat something other than beans and rice. She asked us if we knew who it was, but we denied everything.

It's amazing how grateful she was for things that we likely would have thrown away. It makes me sad to think about how many times I have wasted things that could have given food to a hungry child. It is also amazing how good I felt to see her joy and gratitude. Service feels good.

This week as a mission we have been studying virtue. Here are some of the things I learned:

  • Being virtuous doesn't mean that we never make mistakes or that a bad thought never enters our mind. But Preach My Gospel teaches that a virtuous person immediately repents and eliminates inappropriate thoughts. Virtue is speed--speed to repent and to chase away bad thoughts.
  • How we act and what we think when we think no one is watching is a clear indication of our virtue.
  • Our mind always has to be thinking. The best way to keep our thoughts pure is to be always focused on good thoughts.
  • As Nephi taught in 1 Nephi 19, what some men esteem of great value, others trample under their feet. We as members of the Church esteem virtue to be of great worth, and we seek for everything virtuous. Yet the world, though its language, music, dress, movies, etc. daily tramples virtue.

Time flies when you're having fun--and when you're a missionary writing to your family. I must go now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009 -- My Week in Monterrey

This has been a very interesting week. As a zone leader, when the missionaries get sick, we have the responsibility of taking them to the hospital. That happened this week, with a missionary who got really sick because he ate something he shouldn't have in the streets. We ended up having to go to Monterrey, and so I spent a few days in the mission offices. I was there from Wednesday night to yesterday afternoon.

I had a lot of interesting experiences while staying in the mission offices. (For example, I got to drive the mission van! It was the first time in 16 months that I have driven.) The office missionaries do their office work in the mornings after their studies, then leave to eat the two o'clock meal and work from three to nine.

I helped the office missionaries with their jobs in the morning, doing things such as calling the families of missionaries who will be arriving home at the end of the transfer, helping with the mission periodical, and preparing a Powerpoint presentation for a training that Elder Rivera, an assistant to the president, is going to give.

The assistants invited me to work with them in the afternoon for a few days. I have to admit that I was extremely nervous. I thought that they were evaluating every word I said. But then I began to think. I don’t do missionary work to impress the assistants or any other man. I work to serve God and to bring souls to Him.

We had some great experiences working together. We were knocking on doors in a certain street. When it came my turn, a woman answered with a tomato in one hand and a cutting knife in the other, and with children running all-around. She looked busy, but I felt inspired to teach her about eternal families. Some missionaries, upon seeing her state of busyness, might say something like, "We'd like to come back some other time when you're less busy." But the Spirit told me to say, "Allow us to come in and share this message with you and your family." To my surprise, she immediately agreed. In fact, she called for her husband to join her.

It was a great lesson. We taught the message of the Restoration, focusing on families. And we taught a complete family. I love teaching families. Families can support one another in their efforts to live the gospel, and families can go to the temple to be sealed together forever. Whenever I teach a family I think about how much the gospel has blessed my own family, and my gratitude grows.

Another day I was working with Elder Holbert, the executive secretary, and Elder Sutton, the record secretary. They had prayed about which street to knock and had felt inspired to knock one far and out of the way. Despite the inconvenience, they followed the prompting. The first door we knocked opened and a woman named Teresa answered. As we began to contact her, she interrupted and invited us in.

We sat with her in her living room and began to teach the first lesson. She empathized with Joseph Smith. She too has been confused by the religious excitement that is found everywhere. As Elder Holbert was teaching beautifully about the Book of Mormon, Teresa asked "What do I have to do to be able to read that book?" Joyfully, Elder Holbert promised to bring her a copy in our next visit and bore his testimony of that pearl of great price.

In another experience, we were greeting all the stake presidents in the mission, who came for a meeting wth Presdient Mendoza. After the fact, I learned that one of the men I had greeted was Elder Benjamin de Hoyos of the Seventy and Area Presidency!

Lately as a mission we have been studying a Christ-like attribute from Preach My Gospel every week. This past week we studied charity. Preach My Gospel teaches that we develop charity as we strive to be obedient. It also teaches that when we have charity, we obey. In other words, the more we obey, the more we love, and the more we love, the more we obey. As [the late] Elder [Joseph B.] Wirthlin [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] taught, when we love the Lord, obedience becomes a delight.

Charity is a gift of the Spirit, a gift that is worth "all the energy of heart." When we are obedient, we are worthy of the Spirit's presence, which helps us develop charity.

My time is up.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009 -- The "Perla" of Great Price

[Picture: "Six Missionaries at at Table." Elder Rowley is second from right. -- eds.]

Creo que voy a empezar a escribirles en español, porque es más fácil para mí. Hablo, leo, pienso, y sueño en español. Solamente les escribo a Uds. y en mi diario en ingles. Espero que entiendan. Estoy excelentemente bien, y como siempre encantado con la vida misional, aunque ya no hablo ingles.

[Translation: "I think I'll start to write in Spanish, because it is easier for me. I speak, I read, I think, and I sleep in Spanish. I only write to you and in my journal in English. I hope you understand. I am exceedingly well and, as always, happy with missionary life, although I do not speak English any more" -- eds.]

Just kidding! I still remember how to speak English, I think.

This has been a great week. Why? Because we had a baptism! My companion and I have been working harder than ever, but have had faced a lot of opposition the last few months. But the Lord blessed us with a pearl. In fact, that's her name, Perla ("pearl" in Spanish.)

We found Perla in an interesting way. One day we were contacting a street. We passed a house with three Holy Death statues in front, but we remembered that we should knock on every door. A 19 year-old young man answered. I thought it would be a waste of time, but my faith-filled companion began to teach him. He accepted a return appointment.

We really have never taught him again since that first day, but looking for him we met his sister Perla. Both Perla and her mom accepted baptismal dates in the first lesson. Her Mom hasn't been baptized because she works on Sundays and has trouble coming to church, but she will soon follow her daughter's example, as will Perla's brothers.

Mom asked about the zone activity last Monday. It was simple. We went to play sports for a few hours and then ate
carne asada. (I think a good carne asada or pollo asado is one of the foods I will most miss when I get home.) It was a fun activity. I played ultimate Frisbee and basketball. It felt great to run and jump. I love exercise a lot more than I used to. It was great to see the missionaries enjoying time together.

I love missionary life. The habits I am developing here in the mission field are habits I hope to put in practice all of my life. Not just reading the scriptures and living the gospel, but also daily exercise, hard work, setting goals, and serving my companion. I
learn much more every day than I teach people.

I'm sorry my letters haven't been so long lately. I have more to write to President Mendoza as a zone leader. But I always love and pray for you, all day, every day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009 -- Little Time but Lots of Love

I feel really bad that my letter is so short today. Today we had a zone activity (it went wonderfully well), but it went a little longer than planned, and has cut out some of my preparation day time. I have to finish writing before 6:00 to be obedient, even if it doesn't give me a full hour.

This week I received new shirts, shoes, and scriptures (the new Spanish Bible). I also received a renewed testimony and desire to work thanks to inspired letters from loved ones and inspired messages from servants of God. (The 17.5 shirts fit perfectly.)

Thank you to those who have sent me letters recently, including my parents, my sisters, Uncle Mike, Andrea, and ex-Elder Zobell. I want to respond, but I just don't have time right now.

I loved General Conference. I did my best to make it available in English (we have one missionary in our zone who has only a week in Mexico and still speaks nothing of Spanish.) But some of the sessions we wern't able to receive in English for technical difficulties. For me, that's not a problem. I understand Spanish better than English these days, but I do feel bad for Elder Selfridge. I loved both talks from President Monson, the talks of Elder Christofferson, Elder Holland, Elder Ballard, and many more. Once again I heard just what I needed to hear.

This past week we had a planned a lesson with a member family present, but at the last moment they canceled on us. Our investigator was going to leave work early to be with the members, so we did everything we could to find a different family, but no one was available. Finally, we remembered a new family who moved into our ward a week ago. We called and asked them to accompany us. The lesson ended up being with the new sister (a returned missionary) and her less-active sister. They both shared their testimonies, and her less active sister began to cry, as she re-found her testimony. I think she was blessed more than the investigator, although she also had a great experience.

I was going to send you pictures this week, but I don't have time. Please remember that even when I don't have time to write, I always have time to pray. You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. When the going gets tough, thoughts of my family get me going.

Monday, September 28, 2009 -- [Reflections on Robbery and the Week's Menu]

I was quite shocked at the news [that our home had been robbed]. You never think it is going to happen to you until it does. I'm glad that everyone is OK, and I appreciate the eternal perspective of Mom and Dad.

Your email reminded me of a General Conference talk. The truth is I don't remember who gave it. Maybe Elder [Quentin L.] Cook [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles]. [Actually, it was Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Twelve. -- Eds.] He spoke of a family who, in a natural disaster in a South American country [Peru -- eds.], had lost everything—their house, their possessions. But the mother of the family was smiling as she told her story. Wondering how she could be so happy in such a hard time, someone asked her why she smiled. She replied something like this, "we have a knowledge of the Restored Gospel, we have this wonderful Church, and we have each other, eternally sealed together in one of the Lord's temples. We'll start again with the rest and we'll be OK." I'm happy to know that you have the same attitude.

If the loss of the material goods means a tighter budget, don't worry about sending me packages and things. All I need is your love, prayers, and weekly email updates.

I also appreciated your gratitude for the service that members of our gospel family gave you. This transfer I went through the pile of old Liahona magazines in the house and took out all the stories about the lives of the prophets and Apostles. I noticed that all of those great and busy men are extrememly service-oriented. Selfless service is at the heart of living the gospel.

You asked what I ate this past week. Let's see if I can remember . . . [sic]. Yesterday we ate chicken tostadas with the Hernandez family. Saturday our Relief Society president, Hermana Reyna, made us a special dish of meat, squash, and corn. I have no idea what it's called, but it was tasty. Friday, my companion and I were in Monterrey for the zone leader council. Usually La Hermana Mendoza makes our food, but she was out of town, so President Mendoza took all of us 26 zone leaders and the 3 assistants to a buffet. Thursday, my companion and I also ate outside of our area. We were in Miguel Aleman doing baptismal interviews, and ate with the familia Lopez. They made us hot wings, at the request of Elder Moro, one of the missionaries serving there. Before Thursday, I really don't remember. I just remember that they have given us mole (chicken in a sauce made with chile, peanuts, chocolate, and about a million other things) quite frequently lately.

* * *

I also apologize for the short email. Today is transfers. My companion and I are staying together, but we have a lot to do to send and receive missionaries as well as preparation for the next six weeks.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009 -- Spiritual Experiences and Scraps of Metal

My driver's liscence turned up this week! . . . Now if La hermana o El Preisdente Mendoza give me another chance to drive, I'll be able to take it.

* * *

This week has been somewhat tough, but also has been full of great spiritual experiences. President Mendoza has taught us that there are three factors that affect someone's decision to accept the Restored Gospel: their agency, the quality of our teaching (which includes a lot, such as personal study and worthiness of the Spirit), and opposition from the enemy of all righteousness. My companion and I are doing everything we can to have the best quality of teaching, but our enemy is also doing everything he can.

Unfortunately, everyone we were teaching has used their agency to make decisions that cause the to leave our teaching pool. (Luis, Amner, and Axel, the boys from the family of five we found a few weeks ago, will be baptized soon, but in a different area—they moved. Everyone else stopped progressing or asked us not to come back.)
But my companion and I haven’t lost hope, and the Lord has blessed us. This week we have found several of His chosen, prepared children.

One day we were tracting when we saw a house with three huge "holy death" statues in front. ["Holy Death" is depicted as a skeleton in a robe. Her worshippers typically come from the criminal element in Mexico. -- eds.] Remembering that President Mendoza has told us to knock on every door, we ignored our fear and knocked. A young man answered, and didn't let us in, but let us teach him on his doorstep. When we came to our return appointment the following day, he wasn’t there, but we met his mom and sister, who invited us in. We felt inspired and changed the first lesson to focus on baptism. At the end, we challenged them, and they accepted baptismal dates in the first lesson! In our return appointments, I continue to be amazed by their willingness to learn and to follow the Savior.

Another day we had prayed about which street to tract and felt prompted to knock all the doors of Rio Panuco. Several of the people in that street let us in, and we found many great people, but one in particular. Her name is Karla. The first time we knocked, no one answered, we knocked again, but once again nothing, so we started walking away when we heard the door open and came back quickly. We met Karla, a 24-year-old who lives with her husband and baby son. She invited us into her patio, and we began to teach her the first lesson.

It was a powerful lesson. She told us that she has attended several churches, but that none of them seem to be completely true. When we taught about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, she listened carefully, but expressed a lot of doubt. But when we talked about prayer and the Holy Ghost, sharing our testimonies, her doubt seemed to lesson and her interest increase.

She then told us something very special. She said that she had been praying that God would send her someone to guide her to the right path for her life. In that moment, I felt the Spirit very strongly. I told her that we had felt inspired to tract her street that day, and that the Lord had sent us there to find her. I testified of our message, and invited her to pray and ask for herself. Her eyes were watery and my own cheeks were wet as I finished. Tomorrow we have our second lesson with her. I have faith that she will have read and prayed and received an answer.

I think I have mentioned before that here in Mexico, one often hears slow-moving cars with loudspeakers announcing that the driver buys or sells certain products. Yesterday [Sunday], the peace of the sacrament was interrupted by the sound of a truck driving slowly past, announcing that he was buying old metal and broken-down appliances.

At first, I was annoyed at the interruption. But then I began to think about the situation.

For most people, there is absolutely nothing of value in old rusty scraps of metal and refrigerators that no longer cool or washing machines that no longer wash. But someone sees in them enough worth to strap a loud speaker to his car, and spend the time and gas driving through the streets offering to spend his own money to buy them.

We are all like those scraps of metal. To most, it seems like we have no purpose -- there is nothing of worth in us. But there is someone who sees us differently, Someone who sees in us enough worth to take our sins and weaknesses upon Himself, freely paying with His own blood to ransom us. He did this so that he could take us and pass us through the refiner's fire and make us into something new, something wonderful.

Our Savior bought us all with an expensive price, in order to make us clean and new. I know that He truly lives and loves us all.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009 -- Effort vs. Outcome

Almost everyday . . . we drink ["Zuko" drink mixes at] our meals with the members. Once in a while, they give us fruit water with natural fruit, which is always delicious. . . .

The family of five, the family Garcia Urbina are doing well. Their oldest sons, Luis and Abner, went to Mutual this past week. It was the first time that they had gone out without their mom. They loved it and want to come back. We are hoping that this week they will all attend church together and accept their baptismal date.

Raquel is doing well also, but didn't accept a baptismal date. We are going to help her have friends in the Church and a stronger testimony, and then extend another date [challenge].

This last week we had interviews with President Mendoza. As always, in little time he taught me great things. I expressed concern that our zone and our area aren't reaching our full potnential, despite of my best efforts. In response, he shared with me doctrine and Covenants 124:49, which basically says that if we do everything we can, with unceasing dillginece, to perform the duties the Lord has given us, but because of outside forces we don't achieve our goals, the Lord accepts our offering. I've thought a lot about this these past few days. For God, our results don’t matter nearly so much as our efforts. If I truly do everything I can to obey and to achieve what the Lord has commanded me to do, I can be content.

But this principle works the other way as well. If we achieve great things, but do it grudgingly, it is as if we hadn't done anything (Moroni 7). Or if we have desires to do bad things, we are sinning even if we don't carry out those desires (Matthew 7, I think.)

Thanks for sharing the story of Roberta and Kyle [who were baptized recently]. I send my deepest congratulations. I'm happy to know that [my home] ward is having success in missionary work. Missionary work is the lifeblood of the church.

I just barely started, but my time is already up. I love you all a lot, I don't ever forget about you. You are always in my thoughts and prayers, no matter how busy I am.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009 -- Finding the Family of Five

I hope you all had a great Labor Day. I had a great day laboring in the work of our King, as it says in my translation of the Spanish hymn "Placentero Nos Es Trabajar."

BYU beat Oklahoma! That's great. I love it when good conquers evil. Ha ha.

* * *
Unfortunately, because of computer problems, I don’t have very much time to write. But I want to tell you about an experience that we had this week.

When Elder Tenorio [of the Seventy] came to the mission last March, he taught us about being specific about our desires in our prayers. My companion and I have been working hard this week, but without the all the desired results. We have a goal to baptize ten people in September, but all the people we were teaching have fallen out of the teaching pool for various reasons.

So last Tuesday, we followed Elder Tenorio's advice. We told the Lord that we would be contacting a certain street at a certain time, and asked him to prepare a family of five who would allow us to teach them. All that day I was anxiously awaiting one o'clock, when we would be contacting 7th street in Cumbres. We were there on time and began to knock doors. With each new person, I had hope that they were part of our family of five, but we knocked on every door and no one let us teach them.

I was sad and disappointed, but we didn't let this affect our work. We went to eat, and then kept working in spite of the appointments we had. Later that day, we saw Raquel, one of our best investigators, in the street. We had stopped by her house earlier, but she wasn't home. It was the hand of God that we found her there, first of all because we needed to teach her, but also because she told us that she would be home in 15 minutes, and we had to find something to do for 15 minutes.

So we knocked the doors of some of her neighbors. There was one woman, with her 16-year-old son, who let us in. They were quite receptive, and the lesson went well. But that day we commited an error and forgot to ask about their family. When we came to our return appointment, I asked about their family. She said that she had three sons, ages 11, 15 and 16. I asked if they were home. She said yes. I invited them to come listen to the lesson. They did. It went well.

Yesterday, we met the father of the family. Usually, I dread meeting the father, because most of the time the men here reject us. But the father of the Garcia Rubina family is the most receptive. So last Tuesday we found our family of five without even realizing it! The blessings of the Lord are great!

My time is up, but I want to share a thought from my mission president, when I expressed my worries to him. It's in Spanish. . . .: "Hay otros buenos hombres que se esforzaron por ayudar a la gente y no lo lograron como era su deseo. Nefi a sus hermanos y cuñados. Alma a la gente de Ammoniah. Nefi, hijo de Helaman a la gente de Zarahemla. Jesus mismo, a los judios. José Smith en la restauración. Etc. Pero todos, como usted, hicieron su mejor esfuerzo. Gracias por ello y no permita que el desanimo se apoderé de su vida."

[Translation: "There are other good men who strove to help people but did not succeed as they wished: Nephi and his elder brothers; Alma and the people of Ammoniah; Nephi, son of Helaman, and the people of Zarahemla; Jesus himself with the Jews; Joseph Smith in the Resoration. But all of them, like you, did their best. Thanks for that and do not allow discouragement to take over your life."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday, August 31, 2009 -- God Helps the Faithful Zone Leader

As always, I have a lot to say and little time to say it.

* * *
As in California, it has been quite hot here in Reynosa, with the exception of the past two days. After three full months without rain, yesterday and today it poured. The streets flooded and the missionaries were soaked. I love the rain, even though it makes missionary work harder. When it's hot, I think about the Savior's love. When it rains, I think about the blessings of the Lord (Malachi 3).

* * *
I'm glad to hear that there are convert baptisms in our [Redlands] ward. Send my congratulations to [the new converts]. Thanks for supporting them. Member participation is essential in convert retention.

I still don't have the pictures of my shoes. But my missionary mall shirts are size 18½, and are quite big on me. I still haven't received the package you sent a few weeks ago, and President Mendoza went to the P.O. Box last Saturday. I think something must have happened to it.

I think I mentioned this before, but the LDS edition of the Bible in Spanish is going to come out this month. I am very excited. I would love a copy. . . .

Mom asked about my week. Part of it I can describe as "wonderful," and part of it as "tough." I'll start with the worst and finish with the best.

Most of what didn't go so well this week has to do with my duties as a zone leader. Being a zone leader means I have to deal with problems that come up. The problems that are a natural part of missionary work, while stressful, I don't mind so much. But what is hard is when the problems should never have happened. I won't go into detail. Suffice it to say that I've prayed more fervently then ever these past weeks.

Our zone still isn't reaching our potential, and I feel it is because we are not always doing what we should be doing.

Sunday we had a whole list full of people to pass for [that is, pick up] on the way to church. Here in Cumbres, finding rides for people usually isn't too hard. The bishop's wife has a big van (like ours, but with even more seats) and every Sunday she helps us with everyone we need to bring to church. But yesterday her van had a flat tire. So with little time to warn everyone, we made various phone calls, asking members to pass for [pick up] one or two people.

We called Adiel, a 17-year-old recent convert, to pass for us [pick us up] and to help us with two other people. When he pulled up infront of our house, his engine was smoking. My companion and I tried to help him, but none of us know anything about auto mechanics.

A young man passing in the street came and offered to help us, saying that he knew about cars. He opened a part of the engine and told us to pour water in it. I was somewhat doubtful, but as I know absolutely nothing about cars, I did what I was told. We had poured in two whole gallons, when Adiel's dad arrived, and asked what in the world we were doing. The young man, startled, explained that the engine needed water. Adiel's father agreed, but told him that we were putting it in the wrong spot. We had filled the oil tank with water.

Luckily, Adiel's dad changed cars with us and we were able to go and pass for [pick up] the people we had invited to church. To our dismay, nobody came. Many members went to bring people, but no one was home.

Although it was a sad experience, I learned a lot. First of all, I have decieded that one of the first things I want to do when I get home is learn basic auto mechanics. Second, I was amazed at how quickly the ward mobilized to help us. My companion and I have been working hard to improve relationships with the ward members, and it seems to have paid off. In fact, this past week we had 14 lessons with a member present. Lessons with members are always great, especially when the member offers a simple testimony and sincere friendship to the investigator.

Friday I went in divisions [team-ups] with a missionary who has had a hard time contacting people in the street. On average, he has three contacts a day, well below the ten-contact standard. I went with the purpose of helping him. The Lord blessed me that day with an increased ablility and desire and we had 30 contacts between the two of us, and he has improved in the past few days in his contacts. I love helping missionaries.

Last Friday we also had a zone conference with President Mendoza. At first I was stressed, because we didn't have the key to open the sacrament room of the chapel where we were going to have the conference, but at last minute one of the missionaries opened it. (I'm not sure how.) When President Mendoza saw me, he taught me a great lesson. "Never let a technical detail take away from the Spirit," he said. I love that man. Every minute with him is a great learning experience.

Our zone conference, as all of our personal study lately, was about the Book of Mormon. I never cease to be amazed at the power of that great book. Here are some of the many things I have learned about he Book of Mormon this week:

  • The Book of Mormon is the best missionary.
  • The Book of Mormon is the keystone of my testimony of every doctrine -- even of my testimony of the Bible.
  • The Book of Mormon has the power to bring many thousands of souls to Christ.
  • With the Book of Mormon we can answer almost any question or doubt.

I wish I had more time, but my time is now up. I love you all dearly. Don't worry about me. Even though I'm sometimes stressed, the Lord is always with me. He is helping me and teaching me a great deal. That's what I've learned this week. As Elder Eyring says, "God helps the faithful priesthood bearer."