Speaking of my last transfer, although I am very happy and excited at the prospect of seeing you all again, of being with you and doing all the good things you do with you, and for all that will happen in my life in the next months and years, I am trying to avoid thinking about it. It's not that thoughts about home make me "trunky" or want to work less (it is quite the contrary), but the thought of finishing my mission hurts. I've loved almost every minute of my mission, and the minutes I didn't love so much have been the source of great growth and learning for me. I love being in the service of the Lord, and I love His children whom I serve. I know that there will be other opportunities to serve, and to learn and grow, after my mission, but as President Mendoza has said, it will never be the same. These two years are unique and unrepeatable, and I don't want them to end.
But, like I said, I am excited for what's to come. I will do my best to the end of my mission, and do the same in the next phases of my life.
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Mom asked me about my scripture study. I think that there are a lot of great ways to study, and it all depends on one's needs and wants.
Right now, for example, I am reading the Book of Mormon in a manner suggested by Preach My Gospel, marking references to Christ, His words, His attribtues, and His doctrine and principles each with a different color. This method of study has greatly strengthened my testimony of the Book of Mormon as a testament of Jesus Christ.
I have also read it out loud, read it checking every footnote, read it in as short a time as possible (Parly P. Pratt day), and in many other ways. Each time I have learned something different.
One thing is certain. "Effective daily study must always begin with prayer." (Preach My Gospel page 17). For study to be effective, we need the Spirit, and we recieve the Spirit through prayer.
I think it is great that [my little brother] Benson has found a love for Harry Potter and for reading in general. I have never missed movies during my mission, but on occasions I have missed reading a good book. I look forward to reading with him when I get back.
Since last Sunday I have spent several hours each day with President Mendoza. As always, I have learned great things from him. This week I got to see him in ways that I haven't before, but everything he does he is a good example. I am reminded of what President Carlson said in his blessing when he set me apart, "You will learn great things from your mission president." Or what Elder Cook has said: "The influence of a valiant mission president is one of the great miracles of the Restored Gospel." Here are some of the situations in which I have seen President Mendoza this last week:
Transfers. This time around, transfers have been a difficult process. We started early (Sunday instead of Monday) and finished late (yesterday at about 7:00 PM), with an average of six hours each day working on the sacred process of transfers. There are two basic reasons why it was more difficult this time: President Mendoza wants to leave everything, including the zone leaders and the organization of the missioin, in perfect condition for the new mission president, and because of certain situations we have had to close some areas. But President Mendoza never got tired or frustrated. He is always very happy and cheerful, thinks every decision through, is concerned for the mission as a whole but also each missionary as an individual, and always seeks the Lord's guidance.
His Birthday. Yesterday was President's birthday. It was full of surprises for him. When he arrived at the offices in the morning, we were all hidden in his office, which we had decorated with balloons and banners. We bought a cake to eat with him. It was his favorite (and also mine), rollo de mango (mango roll). Then, from 6:30 to 7:30 he was surprised to recieve a phone call every five minutes from the zone leaders of each zone to congratulate him on behalf of their zones.
But the biggest surprise came at night. We said goodbye to him at about 7:15 when he left the offices, and he said, "see you tomorrow." Little did he know that we would be seeing him less than an hour later. We had been helping sister Mendoza plan a huge surprise party for him for a few weeks. He left his house last night thinking that he was going to the movies with his family, but when they passed through the park, he got a huge suprise as he found the stake presidents, Area Seventies, and other friends from Monterrey (including us) there waiting for him.
It was a great party, although I felt really weird being there. (We played the part of waiters.) Sister Mendoza had contracted a Mariachi band to play. I had never seen a real, good Mariachi group before, and it was incredible. There is a lot of Mexican culture which I have come to love, and last night I found one more thing to love, with Mariachi music.
The best part of the party for me was watching President Mendoza. For example, after the Mariachi entered by surprise and played their first few songs, President Mendoza inturrupted them to say a prayer to bless the food. He said to the band, in front of everyone, "Señores, everyone here in this party is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormons. Have you seen those young guys over their before? (and he pointed to us). Well, talk to them. As members of the Church, we are used to saying a prayer before blessing the food . . . and explained how to pray." He didn't hesitate for one minute to "contact" the entire Mariachi band in front of everyone. What an example!
Sister Mendoza had asked the band to play some of President Mendoza's favorites. I watched as he tearily sang along to one called "Mi Querido Viejo," about a father. I watched as he hugged Sister Mendoza tightly as they played one called "Alma, Corazon, y Vida," about love. I watched as he tried to dance with Sister Mendoza to a more up-beat song. (She resisted dancing in front of everyone.) I had never seen this side of President before, but even in a party, he is a good man, a good husband and father, a good friend and a good host.
As coach. Today he came to the offices to play with us on our preparation day. We played volleyball and ping pong. He soon realized that all of us are pathetically out of practice in any sports (for some reason he is not at all out of practice, or maybe just a natural.) So we took some time doing some exercises. Once again his belief in us, his patience, and his way of teaching were incredible.
I have learned so much from President Mendoza, things that have helped me be a better missionary, and things that will help me be better through the rest of my life. I am sure that a major part of the reason why I was called to this mission was to be taught by him.
Even though we have had little time in our area this week, things are going well. Our efforts to teach the message of the Restoration to the members (a suggestion we found in Preach My Gospel) this week led us to two new part-member families. Teaching families is the best.