Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009 -- Walking in Holiness and the Worth of Soles

Attached is a picture of [the bottoms of] my shoes. It’s the same pair that was replaced last time (size 13). The other pair is doing well still, but before too long will need replacing as well. The holes are big enough for a pencil to go through. The inserts have worn out, making walking very uncomfortable.

Monday, July 27, 2009 -- The Lord Is Preparing People

Cultural Moment: here in Reynosa we are really close to the states. So there are a lot of Englishisms, such as "troka" for truck, "puchar" for push, and "parkear" for park, all words that really don't exist in Spanish. When I first arrived in this area, my companion and I spent hours looking for a reference that we never found, in a street named "Mi Ranchito," which seemed to not exist. So we decided to return the reference.

This last week, a member called us and told us that he wanted to introduce us to a friend of his. He brought us to her somewhat hidden house, but she wasn’t there. But when we asked him about her, he said that her name was Lupita España, and we discovered that the street was "Mi Ranchito." It was the same reference from a few weeks earlier.

It is amazing how the Lord helps us find the people he wants us to teach. Lupita is one of the most prepared people I have met to accept the gospel, and her story is an incredible one. In fact, she and her family had recently watched The Other Side of Heaven and she said, ¨I want my son to be a missionary like Kolipoki."

My time is short today. . . . Keep praying, keep reading the Book of Mormon, and keep looking for ways to share the gospel.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009 -- Picture (baptism)

Monday, July 20, 2009 -- Hating Sins and Loving Sinners

You asked me how my training went at last week's zone conference. The truth is I was extremely nervous, and if I hadn't written an outline I would have forgotten everything I had to say. But it turned out all right. In fact, President Mendoza congratulated me on my "powerful training." I just hope it had an effect on the missionaries.

The training was about contacts, or what I call invitations to learn. My goal was to inspire the missionaries to talk to everyone and to teach them techniques to help them do it well. President Mendoza said that I am an example in my contacts, and this week I have been trying to live up to what he said.

Two weeks ago you asked me for cultural moments. I have thought of two.

This last week my companion and I were talking as we walked along. During our conversation, I wanted to say "she found out" ("ella se enteró") but I said something similar, "ella se enterró," which, being interpreted is, "she was buried." My companion was shocked until I discovered and corrected my mistake.

I have developed a great love for the people here in Mexico. They are so friendly. For example, when we ask people for their addresses, the most common response is "your house is located at . . . .¨ In other words, they present their house as yours. And when you go, they really treat you as if you were at home.

I am especially grateful for their hospitality in this time of great heat. If they didn't offer me water in every house, I don't know what I'd do. We are currently in the time of year known as the canicula, which basically means the time when the heat is almost unbearable. Luckily, I don't seem to feel it as much as others. This past week I gained a new perspective on the heat when one of the sisters in my distict, Hermana Torres, said that every time it is hot she thinks about the hymn that says "Our Savior´s love / Shines like the sun . . . .¨ "Think of how much He must love us!" she adds.

Yesterday my companion and I had a beautiful baptism for Maria Isabel Casique Ecebedo and her daughter Flor. It was beautiful for many reasons. One, because it was part of a family (and we hope the rest is soon to follow). Also, my companion and I sang a special musical number, "I Know that My Redeemer Lives," to the tune of "A Poor Wayfairing Man of Grief," which turned out quite nicely. Also, Flor recited the Articles of Faith after her baptism. Most of all, it was special because of the trials that Isabel has passed this week in order to be baptized. They are things that I can't tell you about right now, but I greatly admire her strength and faith.

This week I have learned what it means to hate the sin and love the sinner. We are working wth a couple who are both alcoholics. It is sad to see what their addiction has done to their lives. I love them so much and want to help them, but it is hard. Alcohol is so common here and destroys so many lives. I love the people I work with, but I hate alcohol.

I had a lot more to say, but my time is up. . . . Remember that Jesus lives. Read the Book of Mormon every day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009 -- Pictures (The Zone and Geraldo´s baptism)

Monday, July 13, 2009 -- The Book of Mormon

I've learned a lot in this first week as a zone leader. We have an excellent zone and my companion and I are doing everything we can to help and inspire them. In fact, today we have a zone conference in which I will give my first training as a zone leader (in front of President Mendoza).

Cumbres is great, although I greatly miss Puerta del Sol. Yesterday my companion and I had a baptism. He is a future missionary named Geraldo Guillen. He is one of those people who was prepared by the Lord and the missionaries came along at the right time. It was really a miracle.

* * *
It's great that you are bringing more investigators to church. One thing you can learn is that new converts have the missionary zeal and invite all their friends. I love missionary work.

This past Friday was the best day of my mission. From seven in the morning to ten at night we read the Book of Mormon all day. I haven't read a book for so long since Harry Potter 7. And the Book of Mormon is way better.

I've read the Book of Mormon many times before, but never have I read so much in one sitting. I was able to see patterns and connections that I hadn't seen before.
One of the things that most impressed me in my reading was the valiance of the prophets and missionaries of the Book of Mormon, their faithfulness and diligence. I want to be more like Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Abinadi, Benjamin, Alma, and Amulek.
I had hoped to read the whole book, but I only got to Alma 10 -- maybe because I was reading in Spanish, maybe because I thought a lot about what I was reading. But it doesn’t matter. I have plans to finish it and then read it again. And again.

At about 9:30 I stopped reading and went to Moroni 10:3-5. I studied Moroni's Promise and put it in practice. For about 30 minutes I meditated on the mercy of the Lord, from the time of Adam to the present. I thought of His great mercy in preparing a redemption from the Fall. I thought of his mercy with Lehi and his family, with Enos, with the people of Limhi. I pondered on His many great and tender mercies in my own life.

After pondering, I prayed. I told the Lord that I already knew that the Book of Mormon was true, but I asked Him to confirm it. He did. By the power of the Holy Ghost, I know that the Book of Mormon is true.

Saturday we had several incredible experiences with the Book of Mormon. One was with a less active member going through hard times. We read with him the story of Alma and his people in bondage and applied it to his life. Another was with a good Christian man who loves the Bible. We taught him about the Book of Mormon and shared our testimonies with him.

The Book of Mormon is true. It testifies of Christ and will bring us closer to Him than any other Book. It is the keystone of my testimony and of our religion. I invite everyone to read it, or read it again. It will bring you closer to the Lord, it will help you have His Spirit in your life, and will give you answers to your questions and challenges.

Last night we had a zone testimony meeting about the Book of Mormon. Everyone of the 24 missionaries in the zone shared his or her experience from Friday, as well as his or her testimony. It was an incredible experience. One of the sister missionaries said something that really impacted me. She said that the best gift she had received was a copy of the Book of Mormon. The best gifts last forever and are priceless. I invite you to give such a gift to your friends and family that you love.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009 -- Pictures

  1. Me with Adrian, who was baptized last month in Puerta del Sol.
  2. Me with Elder Dudley in the Bronco Stadium here in Reynosa during last Monday's zone activity.
  3. Me sitting in front of the immigration offices when they made me get off the bus last Thursday.

Monday, July 6, 2009 -- What a Weekend!

What a week this has been! Last Wednesday, at about 3:00 PM, as we had just finished eating with the Valencia family, my companion and I were walking to an appointment when our phone rang. It was the zone leaders. Not a big surprise -- being a district leader you get used to talking to the zone leaders on a regular basis.

It was Elder Samano, the senior zone leader, who is one of my heroes and also was my zone leader back in Juarez when Elder Zamudio was my companion. He told me that tomorrow in the morning I needed to meet them in front of Soriana Hidalgo (Soriana is like a Mexican Wal-Mart) and that I needed to bring clothes for three days. I thought that was strange, but I said that it was OK. He then passed the phone to his companion, Elder Tovanche, one of my past companions. "Congratulations, my friend, you are coming with us to the zone leader conference. You are a new zone leader!"

At first I didn't believe it. I'm not ready to be a zone leader. There are many missionaries with more experience and abilities who should be zone leaders. They must have been mistaken.

It’s a good thing that I have learned that transfers are inspired, or I might have refused to go.

Thursday was spent in buses. Lots of buses. First we went to a far-away branch, Miguel Aleman, to do baptismal interviews. The plan was to go directly from Miguel Aleman to Monterrey. During the bus rides between Monterrey and the border cities, there is always a pause when bus stops and Immigration gets on to check to make sure that everything's alright. Usually they don´t say anything to the missionaries. But this time, maybe because I was the only American, he asked for my papers.

I didn't think it would be a problem. I always carry with me the copy of my visa and passport that they gave me when I got here (the originals are kept safe in the mission offices.) But he said that the copies weren't valid. He made me get off the bus.

I was worried that they were going to put me in jail or give me a big ticket or something. But when he saw that we weren't worried (Elder Tovanche and Elder Samano were taking pictures of the whole ordeal) he was soft on us. He let us go back to Miguel Aleman and told us that we had to report to the immigration offices the next day.

We cheated. From Miguel Aleman, we went to Reynosa, and from Reynosa to Monterrey. We arrived at the mission offices at about 1:00.

Friday was the zone leader conference (details to follow.) Saturday morning we returned to Reynosa, and then to Miguel Aleman. I brought my visa and passport. I celebrated the Fourth of July being within 20 yards of the states. Luckily nothing happened. They told me to always carry the original with me and they let me go. I was grateful.

Saturday night came the transfer calls. After only one transfer in Puerta del Sol, I'm leaving. But I'm not going far. My new area is Cumbres, Reynosa, about ten minutes away from my last area. Elder Samano, my hero, is my companion, and I am the Junior Zone Leader of the zone Lehi.

The Zone Leader Council was incredible. We started at 8:00 AM and finished at 10:00 PM, stopping only to eat (delicious food prepared by la Hermana Mendoza) or use the restroom. Fourteen hours with 20 zone leaders, three assistants, and President Mendoza. The truth is I felt somewhat out of place among such spiritual giants.

We discussed all sorts of things, from how many baptisms the zone had this month to how to help the missionaries gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I could see more than ever how much President Mendoza does for us. He is truly consecrated to the work of the Lord.

I am very nervous, but also very excited about my new assignment. I am excited about the things I will learn, and the opportunity I will have to serve. I know it will be an experience of much growth for me.

Saying goodbye to the members, investigators, and converts of Puerta del Sol was hard as usual. But the good thing is that I'm not going far and that I'll be able to see them in stake meetings.

In other news, Elder Dudley, my BYU friend, has been made a Tutor. He's in my zone. I'm excited.

Elder Chuc and I had an interesting experience this past week. As I told you, we have been making the effort to contact all the families that the Lord puts in our path. When we went to the appointment we had set with one of the couples we had contacted, we didn't find them, but we met Alma, one of their relatives. Alma is what President Mendoza calls "prepared." It is interesting to see how the Lord puts people in our path one day so that we will be in the right place to find someone the next day.

* * *
P.S This friday will be Parley P. Pratt day in the Mexico Monterrey East mission. We will not leave the house the whole day, but will spend it reading the Book of Mormon. It is going to be an incredible experinece.

Monday, June 29, 2009 -- Lots of Things

I have so much to say and so little time.

* * *
It was great to read Jonny [Palmer]’s emails you sent me. It is interesting to see how he and I are having a lot of the same experiences, but specialy tailored to our individual needs.

This last week President Mendoza taught us that we have been fororedained to come to this mission, that the Lord has sent us here because the people (our mission president, our companion, the leaders of the wards, the members, and the investigators) and experiences we will face in the mission are what we need to mold our spirit and character to what the Lord wants them to be.

He also taught that we are here because there are people waiting specifically for us. It's great to know that Jonny and my other missionary friends are being molded to what the Lord wants them to be as well. I look forward to seeing them later and rejoicing in the fact that we are still brethren in the Lord.

* * *
Mom asked about the heat here. There’s a lot. I’m greatful for the invention of sun screen, or I’d be a baked tomato every day. But the heat is just one of the trials of being in the furnace that purifies the gold.

We have bikes here in our area, but this week we decided to ditch them. It's true they help us to get to our appointments more quickly, but they also make talking with everyone more difficult.

Speaking of talking with everyone, my companion and I are on a quest. Our quest is a quest to find families. Here in the Mexico Monterrey East Mission we have a rule that any time we see a couple in the street, young or old, we make every effort to talk to them. My companion and I are following that rule every jot and tittle. Preach My Gospel teaches the importance of finding and teaching families who can support each other in living the gospel.

I saw how wonderful it is to teach a family with my experience with Los Montoya back in Juarez. So Elder Chuc and I have been searching. We have found a lot of couples, (in fact it seems like there are a lot more young married couples here in Mexico than in the United States, excluding Utah). We are hoping that our efforts will lead to finding many families to teach and baptize and bring to the temple, which is what missionary work is all about.

Angel walked to church again yesterday. In fact, he was expecting to get baptized. Apparently he didn’t understand when we told him he had to get married first. But tonight we are going to talk to his wife about getting them married. I hope and pray that it works out.

My district is improving. I have been trying to inspire rather than scold, and the Lord has blessed me for my efforts. Our district is full of potential and we are now starting to reach it.

The other day as we were walking along, I tried to talk to a woman in the street, but I soon saw that she couldn’t hear or talk. She is sorda muda, or deaf and dumb. So I pulled out a pass-a-long card and pointed to the word Jesucristo. I hope she understood the message. Unfortuntately we talk to lots of people every day who are sordomudo spiritually. It’s a good thing that through the Atonement we can be healed of all types of blindness, deafness, and dumbness.