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.