Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009 -- And the Transfers Are . . .

As you know the famous transfer call was last Saturday. This time I did a lot better than past transfers. The week before I didn´t stress out or think about transfers too much, and I didn´t let it affect my work. But when I got home on Saturday night, I was anxiously waiting for the call.

I knew what would happen. But I didn´t want it to. I knew that 7.5 months is a long time to spend in one area. But I didn´t want to leave. At 10:00 the phone rang. It was Elder Farrier, my district leader. First, he told us about Elder Dominguez: “Elder Dominguez is going to . . . stay! His new companion will be Elder Morales. Elder Rowley is going to the ward Puertas del Sol in the city of Reynosa. His new companion is Elder Chuck. Elder Rowley will be serving as district leader.”

As soon as he said that Elder Dominguez was going to stay, I knew that meant that I was leaving. I´m not going to lie. I cried. I love this area and ward. I love the members and investigators. Most especially, I love the recent converts.

Saying goodbye to the Montoya family was very difficult. Even more so because Elder Alcayde, my zone leader, and Elder Gonzalez (my first companion) came with me. Today they will be arriving home, having honorably served two years. Everyone in the ranchito was crying, including me. I´ll never forget how everyone was outside in a line, crying as they waved goodbye as we drove away.

But we know that the goodbye is temporary. In a few months I´ll see them in the temple when they are sealed. And then six months later we´ll see them together when I finish my mission and you all come with me to meet them.

Although I am sad to leave my area, I feel satisfied. I know that I have done my best here, and that it will progress with Elder Dominguez and Elder Morales. My “son,” Elder Dominguez, is a great missionary and will progress a lot as well in this new transfer.

I am also excited about what is waiting for me in my new area. My new companion is from Elder Dominguez´s generation. I will be what some missionaries call a “step-father” (his second companion). We are going to work hard and have lots of success together.

At the same time, I am nervous about my new assignement as district leader. I don´t feel ready. But I didn´t feel ready to be a tutor, or a senior companion, or even a missionary. As Elder Eyring has helped me to understand, God helps the faithful priesthood holder, and I know that He will help me as he has in the past.

Do you remember the kid who asked me if I have a brain? Well he and his mother and brother have accepted a baptismal date. They are a wonderful family whom I will dearly miss. Suzana, the kid's mom, said her first prayer with us last week. It was such a tender and sincere prayer. I love hearing people praying for the first time. Her three sons are so smart and funny.

A few days ago we taught them the Plan of Salvation. When we started to talk about what comes after death, Suzana asked her youngest son, Sebastian, who is six years old, where we go if we behave. “Heaven,” he replied. “And if we don´t?” “I don´t know,” he said. “To hell,” she answered gravely, upon which Sebastian uttered a shrill scream. It was actually quite funny. (Now they understand that it isn´t quite like that.)

I´m sure that there are more people like Suzana and her children, and like the Montoya family in Reynosa. I´ll go where the Lord wants me to go.

I love you, Mom, Dad, Truman, Sarah, Hannah, Rachel, Rebecca, Benson, and everyone else who reads my letters.

With love,
Elder Dallin I. Rowley

P.S. You asked for more cockroach stories. I don ´t remember which ones I told you. But when I took out my suitcase the other day (that had been months sitting under the bed), I opened it up to find a family of four huge cockroaches living there. I don´t know how they got in, because it was zipped shut.

P.P.S. Reynosa is in the “frontera” (border) part of the mission. I´m pretty sure it is in the state of Tamaulipas, but I´m not sure.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009 -- Two Parts

My letter today comes in two parts.

Part one: responding to Mom's letters . . . .

* * *

Thank you so much for the oranges. Usually, packages are delivered whenever the zone leaders have a chance to go to the office, and then see us, usually in a zone conference. But last Saturday, they called me and told me to go to the office and pick up my package because it had oranges in it. (I'm not sure how they knew.) They were delicious! I miss the juicy, sweet, huge, beautifully-colored Redlands navels. The oranges here are good, but they just can't compare.

* * *

Today was our heroes testimony meeting. It was wonderful. There are three departing missionaries who are special heroes for me, Elder Alcayde, my current zone leader, Elder Christiansen, an assistant and an incredible example, and my tutor, Elder Gonzalez.

Funny you should ask about Cinco de Mayo. I didn't notice a single person doing anything special that day. It seems it is not as big here as it is in the United States.

We are no longer wearing face masks (thank goodness), but we continue to be especially careful with our health.

* * *

To answer your question, sometimes I dream in Spanish, but usually in English. My companion said that I talk in my sleep and usually it is in English, which means I still haven't completely mastered Spanish.

* * *

Part two – What happened this week.

The leaders and missionaries in our ward have been planning a ward missionary activity in the ranchito for a long time. We finally were able to do it this last Saturday. Friday, we knocked on every door in the colony and invited everyone to come. Saturday, the ward hired a bus on which eight missionaries and the leaders of every organization headed to the ranchito. We set up tables for every organization, representing their purpose and showing how they help their members. Then we showed a short video. Then the people went to the missionary table, where we offered to teach them more. The tour finished with refreshments.

At first, no one showed up. We missionaries decided to go and invite everyone again, which we did, but it didn't help. Then we asked the members who live in the colony to go invite their friends, which they did, but still nobody came. But just when we were starting to lose hope, a few children showed up. Then a woman. Then a family. Little by little, people came. And they showed interest. In fact, we found 18 people or families to visit.

We were going to keep going until 8:00, but at 7:30 it started to rain. Hard. In fact, it was a miracle that it hadn't rained before. The whole week they had been forecasting rain for Saturday. But, thinking of an experience that President Monson shared this last conference, I prayed hard that the Lord would delay the rain. As our Bishop said, first we planted the seed, then the Lord sent the rain to help it grow.

Sunday, the bishop hired the bus again to bring the ranchito people to church. Unfortunatley, the only nonmember people who came from the colony were two little girls. But the activity was still a success. We found people who, even if they haven't yet come to church, are willing to listen to us, and who will progress. It was also a success because it strengthened our ward unity as well as the testimonies of our converts who live in the colony.

This Monday is transfers. I hope they don't move me, but I think it is time. I'll tell you what happens.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday, May 11, 2009 -- Families and Cockroaches (Two Very Different Things)

It was great to talk to family yesterday! Everyone is growing up -- I can't believe it.

Here in Mexico, every once in a while, people shout out to me in English. “Whats up?” or “Whats your name?” or “What time is it” or “How are you doing?” Many missionaries just ignore it and keep walking, but I like to take the risk that they may just want to joke around and talk to them when they talk to me. I've found some great investigators that way.

This last week, for example, my companion and I were walking along and a man called out to me in English. I immediately headed towards him and started to talk to him in English. I soon realized that he didn't really know how to speak English, but he told us in Spanish that he had worked for a while in the US, building churches. Speaking of churches was a perfect way to talk to him about the gospel, which we did, and then we set up an appointment.

A few days later, I woke up one morning feeling great, as usual. As I was studying, I felt that we were going to have a good day. In fact, I felt that we were going to find a family. I told my companion how I felt and I prayed, asking the Lord to help us make it come true. That day we had our return appointment with Ricardo, the man who talked to me in English. As we approached the house, we saw Ricardo out front with a lot of kids. They were the family we were looking for. Ricardo and his wife Erica have five children: Wendy (10), Ricardo (10), Jonatan (8), Kayla (6), and Eric (4). I love teaching children, and I love teaching families.

To change the subject, now that it is getting hot here in Mexico, the cockroaches are coming out. There are lots of cockroach stories to tell. Every morning without fail we find two or three in the house. The other night I saw one on the wall and shouted “a cockroach, bring the Raid.” Then another one appeared (“now there are two!”) Then three, then four, until there were ten cockroaches on the wall.

A different day I was eating my breakfast when I felt something on my leg. I looked down and there was a cockroach sitting on my lap.

Sorry my letter is a little short today. I love you all.

Sunday, May 10, 2009 -- Mother's Day

Here is Elder Rowley singing for his mother.

Here is Elder Rowley bearing his testimony -- in English.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009 -- Cultural Moments

Without exaggerating or being a pessimist, I can tell you that this was the worst week of my mission. No, it wasn’t because of rejection or lack of success. It was because I couldn’t work. I was home sick for a week.

Please don’t worry. I’m better now. I didn’t have anything serious, just a cold. But because of the influenza panic, I was told that I should stay home, because a runny nose and a cough can scare people to death these days.

Speaking of the panic, how are things in the states? Here, the schools are closed and we didn’t have church on Sunday. Our conference with Elder Gonzalez unfortunately was canceled as well. The streets are relatively deserted, and the majority of those we see wear face masks. (We, too, have been required to wear them when outside of the house.) It’s the first time in my mission that I really miss being able to read or watch the news everyday. I don’t know what’s going on, or how serious it really is. But President Mendoza knows and he tells us what we need to do to protect ourselves.

Since I didn’t leave the house, I don’t really have any stories from this week. I can tell you that I learned a lesson—it is much better to be preaching than to be in the house. I am sad that I had to lose a week of my mission. I hope to make it up by working twice as hard this week.

I don’t have stories, but I thought of a couple of cultural moments.

I don’t know how it is in the rest of Mexico, but here in Juarez, it is election season, and it is crazy. There is a corner of the main street where on one side of the street is the local headquarters of PAN and on the other side the local headquarters of PRI. But instead of seeming a political rivalry, it seems to be more like a battle of the bands. Each has his special music, usually a popular song with the lyrics changed to talk about the elections and they blast the music at full volume. There are also cars who are paid to drive in the streets blasting the same songs. (The words vamos a votar por Luis have been stuck in my head for days.) They are also competing at how many times they can post their candidates’ names in various parts of the city, whether it be on bumper stickers, posters, billboards, or painted on walls. The other day I counted 85 times that I saw the name Luis Garcia in 30 minutes.

I have to admit to you all that I have fallen in love. No, I haven't broken any mission rules, nor have I opened my heart. I could't help it. It was love at first taste. I have fallen in love with Jalapeño chillis. Here, in almost every meal, there is a bowl of Jalapeños, sometimes whole, sometimes sliced, and usually in vinegar. Jalapeños taste great with everything, and I have discovered that most American food tastes better with Jalapeños -- pizza and hamburgers for example.

* * * Chicken is one of the most common things that they feed to us missionaries. Everyone told me when I got here that I'd soon be sick of it, but I still love it. Chicken is the best!

* * *
One of the things I did to keep myself busy this week was a lot of studying. In fact, I finished reading the Old Testament and started the New. I also finished a project I started eight months ago to summarize the Book of Mormon chapter by chapter (kind of like my personal chapter headings.) My testimony of the scriptures has grown. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I also know that the Bible is the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly. By reading them, we find guidance and comfort. By reading them, we become more sensitive to the Spirit, who will tell us all things which we should do. I'm grateful that I was raised in a family where personal and family scripture study were taught.
* * *
P.S. I turn "11" today! I can't believe it.