Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Week 5

The two other Missionaries from Oregon in my District and Hermano Tinoco, GO DUCKS!!!

It´s so weird to think that it´s spring break back home already. We are still hard at work here at the CCM. Today I´m going to try to work on summarizing my week better because I know once I get out into the field it´ll be extremely hard to get out what I want to say since the time allotted is a lot more strict.

Last Tuesday we had a devotional given by Elder Ernesto Toris of the 70 who oversees Mexico. He gave use advice on how to be an excellent missionary. First we need to be loyal to Heavenly Father, second loyal to our mission presidents, third know how to work with local church leaders, fourth know how to work with your companion and other missionaries, lastly to always, always, ALWAYS work through "Predicad Mi Evangelio" (Preach My Gospel). I very much agree with the last one because I've gained a lot of respect for that book now that I know the background of how it came about and that I've actually studied hard out of it and used it to guide my lessons and study. I'm very grateful to be a missionary during this time when we have this amazing inspired manual. And lastly a quote I loved from his talk was "Don't forget who you are". As long as I remember that I am a representative of Jesus Christ and strive to act as he would, I know I can accomplish all that the Lord has in store for my mission.

Wednesday was a day full of hard work, spending our service time moving furniture and teaching two lessons throughout the day that my companion and I weren't prepared for since service cut out a lot of our study time. I know service is important though and I feel a desire to help the workers here because of how much they do for us without an ounce of hesitation. Thursday was the opposite in terms of study time because my companion and I only had to teach one short lesson the whole day which gave us an extra hour of study time and plus without the service we had another hour and a half on top of that. It's funny how much I cherish the study time I have and I honestly wish I had more time to study because I see the results my hard work puts out. Luckily the time at the CCM is nothing compared to the rest and so I'll have plenty of time to study my guts out in the field.

My District w/ Hermano Tinoco

On Friday I felt like a ton of new information was hurled at me and I hope I was able to retain some of it. Friday is the day for our District to pass off our memorized scriptures which is always stressful for me since I set a pretty high goal of memorizing one scripture a day, and these are all in Spanish. I remember in Seminary when I had a whole school year to pass off 25 scriptures in English and I thought that was hard. Now I am, trying to pass off 30 scriptures in a new language and I have roughly 40 days in total to accomplish that goal. I've discovered that taking things one day at a time really works. I've been trying hard to set and keep my daily goals and it really helps keep me on track. I am really grateful for the many things I have learned here that will help me continue to progress throughout my Mission and the rest of my life.

Party on Saturday watching The Testaments and playing with candies

Saturday was a really fun day. Our District had a party during our Gym time in class with Hermano Tinoco because his last day of teaching us was Yesterday. He brought us Churros which were delicious and we watched a movie called "The Testaments" which we had watched a few Sundays ago but wanted to watch it again. During our afternoon class that day with Hermano Cayetano we played Mormon Mafia during language time which I thought was really funny for missionaries to be playing but we had to speak in Español so I guess it was good practice.

Hermano Tinoco and Me

Now for my favorite day, SUNDAYYYYY!!!! First of all I received a huge compliment/encouragement during our District meeting. We were sharing our thoughts and my companion Elder Clark spoke out and talked about how good of an example I am to him for constantly working so hard and how I'm without a doubt the hardest worker in our District. Also how at the beginning I had barely any knowledge of the language and would always ask him what a word is in Spanish, but now he's the one who asks me for words every once in a while. I had never even noticed this drastic improvement and so I'm really grateful that he said that. I know I'm still not even close to having the highest level of Spanish in my District, but I know I am progressing at my own pace and I just need to keep going at it and never let myself be satisfied with my level no matter how much I improve.

Next we had Class with my favorite member of the CCM Presidency, President Call. He talked on the atonement and answered something I haven't been able to understand about it. The thing I was opened up to is the third aspect of the atonement. The first is how all can and will overcome physical death because of his resurrection, the second is we all can obtain forgiveness for our sins if we repent and are faithful, and the third and new one to me was how we can overcome all our challenges. These challenges include things like pain, suffering, sorrow, sickness, and all other manner of afflictions. I knew Jesus Christ had taken upon himself not only all our sins but all our afflictions as well, but I never understood how we can take advantage of that sacrifice until now and I still have a long ways to go in terms of understanding the extent and depth of it. The way we can use this aspect is by calling upon the Lord in times of peril for strength beyond our own to get through our trials. The important thing he pointed out is how we need to pray for help to press through and that God won't change our circumstances most of the time because he wants us to learn and grow through these experiences. I wish I could have retained more of the amazing things he spoke on and I don't have time to share them all, but I'm just glad to have this aspect of the atonement opened up to me because it has led to an even greater love and appreciation of this ultimate sacrifice Jesus Christ made for everyone.

Cool never-ending mirrors I noticed while waiting to get my hair cut with my Compañero Elder Clark

Lastly on Sunday we watched a Devotional broadcast of Richard G Scott and he spoke on prayer. Amazingly I learned something I had never known about prayer either. He explained how prayers are always answered when we ask in faith, but there are three ways this generally occurs. First is a feeling of peace and comfort telling you the decision or your thoughts are correct, second is an unsettling, stuper of thought telling us we are wrong. Third is the one I didn't know which is we receive no answer. Wait didn't he just tell us how our Heavenly Father will always answer our prayers? And this is something I've always known to be true so how can this happen? Well it turns out that God's answer to our prayers sometimes can be to not give us any feeling or response. When this happens it is because he trusts us to continue forth and make the right decisions and if we end up making a mistake he will let us know through impressions. Elder Scott then explained how we should give thanks to our father in heaven when we don't receive guidance or responses to our prayers because that means he trust us and wants us to work it out on our own because he knows it's what's best for us in order to grow and progress furthest. This concept is hard for me to wrap my head around, but in the end it makes sense to me and these are the inspired words of an Apostle, so I know they are true. 

My District leader and I after a workout today

Wow I can't believe how hard this is, I tried to shorted my week summary but I couldn't help explaining these wonderful experiences and things I've learned this week. The weather has been off and on sunny and cloudy with one other decent storm last night, but not like the last one. Plus overall it has warmed up a lot which has been nice. The language is still hard, but I am understanding more and more every day and I know I will be able to get to where I need to be to effect the lives of many wonderful natives during my mission, I just need to have patience and continue to work hard! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Week 4

Holding the best book in the world!

Hola everyone:) This has been a long week full of incredible experiences and growth and I love every minute of it.. Starting off with later in the day last Tuesday we had a devotional broadcast and this one was special because it was a LIVE broadcast from the Provo MTC. Quentin L. Cook and his wife Sister Cook spoke and I thoroughly enjoyed it. First of all Sister Cook talked briefly and she brought up Primary songs and how they contain many gospel principles and she sang little bits and pieces of some of her favorites. This touched my heart as I was taken back to my days as a primary child and envisioned myself singing those songs.. It was really powerful to me because it made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in the gospel. Although at the time I was too young to understand a lot of the messages, but now I can see that these gospel principles became an impression on my heart. I just want to thank you Mom and Dad for raising me in the Church, my love of my life has grown considerably since leaving and so has my love of those I left behind. I know that my Heavenly Father is looking out for all of you, and what a wonderful assurance that is. This idea was actually spoke of by Elder Cook in his Devotional. He spoke on how serving a mission will bless everyone you love, but what really hit me was when he further endeavored on the subject by explaining how it will not only bless your family now, but also in the future it will bless your spouse, your children, as well as everyone else you come in contact with for the rest of your life. It´s amazing to think that my hard work I put in now, will directly benefit my family, now and in the future. There is literally nothing better I could be doing with my life at this point then serving my mission. I doubt many people in the world can confidently say that and what an incredible blessing that is. It brings me so much joy to know these things and I know these impressions could not come from anyone on this Earth. My Father in Heaven loves me and wants me to be happy which is why he called these wonderful Apostles to lead his Church.

After the Devotional we headed to our classrooms to discuss what we learned just as we always do. My District has a spiritually uplifting discussion during which we started talking about our circumstances leading up to our missions. As we shared our thoughts a storm was brewing outside. The wind picked up first; followed by lightning and thunder and finally hail as big as marbles shot down from above with great force. The storm grew so furious that the sound overcame our voices and we had to yell to each other and finally the power went out after a bolt of lightning so close that the thunder followed immediately and the tremendous crack silenced us. The room was pitch black and silent for almost a minute when the lights came back on finally. After the power came back on our District came out of our room and heard that an Hermana next door was having an anxiety attack and needed a blessing. She was frightened by the storm so much that she was in tears. Roughly ten of us Elders encircled her and laid our hands upon head as Elder Reese gave her a blessing. Immediately as the first word came out of his mouth, the hail directly above us ceased and the storm quieted significantly. He gave her comfort and ensured that she would be kept safe that night. I truly believe this was a miracle because while we gave the blessing the hail parted from above us, but I could still hear it next door and outside. It made me think of a story in the New Testament where Jesus and some of his Apostles were in a fishing boat and a storm almost overtook their ship when they pleaded for help from their Master. He then proceeded to calm the skies and they did not perish. I hold the same power and authority that Jesus Christ used to perform all the mighty miracles during his ministry. That power is called the Priesthood which is the power and authority to act in God´s name. Also as a Missionary I have been called and set apart specifically to represent Jesus Christ. I have heard this statement many times since arriving here at the Missionary Training Center in Mexico, but I never realized what that truly means until after this experience. After the blessing all the Districts in our building came together and began to sing Hymnos together. I don´t know who´s idea it was, but I am very grateful someone thought of that because it was another powerful experience. Almost 50 missionaries were singing and it was amazing. Our voices soon overtook the storms fury and it brought great comfort to all of us. Once the storm for the most part was gone, we then said a prayer and gave thanks for our safety thus far and asked to be watched over as we walk to our houses. We all did arrive home safely, but our streets were flooded and in one street near my house it flooded so much that some missionaries were out there in shorts wading in it. That wasn´t very smart of them though, because it´s against mission rules and being exactly obedient is what keeps Missionaries safe, but I´ll talk about this in a minute. All this happened between after I sent last week´s email and that night when we went to sleep.
Wet bag from the storm
Wet suit from the storm
Many, many wonderful experiences occurred this week and I wish I had time to share them but I´m already starting to ramble so I´ll try to summarize my favorite parts of the week. On Wednesday in class we watched a section of a Devotional by Elder Bednar and he talked about a question a lot of missionaries have and that is how to be lead by the spirit. He explained how rarely if ever will you know in the moment that you are being lead by the Spirit. usually this comes later when you think back and realize that it had been there guiding you all along. The way we can know we are being led by the Spirit is if we are being "good girls and boys" as he put it. That means we need to be exactly obedient in all things. That means following mission rules, keeping all commandments and standards, and diligently striving to become like Christ.

On Thursday I got discouraged after a rough lesson with our "Investigator" Miguel. He asked us questions about baptism that we didn´t know how to respond to and there was a silence for a good three minutes. Ultimately I just told him we are sorry we don´t know how to answer his question right now, but that we would study about it and come back next time with some answers. Luckily later that day my confidence came back when we had TRC which is where we give a lesson to a real native speaker, generally they are a member but it´s still a really good experience. I was amazed at how much I had improved since last week and how much more I could understand. Of course I still missed a lot of what they were saying and spoke slow and probably with a lot of mistakes, but I´m almost getting to the point where I´m functional at the most basic level. And it had only been roughly 3 weeks. How´s that for a miracle! This is the Lord´s work so he provides a way. I know I have a long ways to go with the language and even farther with understanding the gospel, but I also know that if I strive to study and search diligently, I will accomplish many things that will be in store for me.

On Friday our afternoon teacher Hermano Cayetano gave us some words of advice that we need to take our language seriously if we want to reach our full potential of growth at the CCM. He challenged us as a District to commit to speaking completely in Spanish. All day every day. It was a bold challenge but it´s also exactly what we need. The language will never come unless we are practicing continually. It´s what improves our speed and ability to speak Spanish. We took this challenge seriously at first and it was a really cool experience. We were able to for the most part refrain from using English. Of course our talk we very simple, but we were functioning. Sadly this has kind of broken up since then and we aren´t keeping the commitment. Some of us are trying to continue this task, but it´s hard when not even our whole District is following our example and also hardly any other non native missionary takes this seriously. I know that if I try my hardest to speak as much as I can without using English, that my skills will grow tremendously.
Working out in the awesome weight room the CCM has, I´m going to miss it :´(
Saturday was PIE DAY!!!! Not only that but at 9:26:53 PM it was 3-14-15 9:26:53. 3.141592653, that's 10 digits long!!! I hope you appreciate this as much as I do Mom, it won´t happen again for a very long time. I love math!! And I miss it too which is kinda funny to think about. Anyways also this day a helper named Hermano Polo gave us a pep talk explaining how the general trend of Missionaries here at the CCM is that when they arrive they are super excited, but as the time passes by their excitement slowly diminishes. He encouraged us to break this trend and try to constantly strive to be happy and excited because we should be and he´s so right! I´ve been working really hard on this because I realized that I am habitually down looking and sometimes appear angry even when I´m not actually. I´ve already started to see a change in my outward appearance and it actually makes me feel even happier and positive just by trying to do it. Fake it ´til you make it I guess. haha.

I LOVE SUNDAYS!!! I´m sorry if I always say that but it´s so true! The spirit is so much stronger, I receive answers to my prayers, I am able to hear amazing words of wisdom from Mission Leaders, General Authorities and from fellow Missionaries and also this week I was able to sing in the CCM choir! That was a lot of fun, we sang a medley of "Hark all ye Nations" and "I hope they call me on a mission". It was really cool and also another Elder asked me how long I´ve been taking voice lessons which was a huge compliment, but I know I´m really not that good. I just love singing in a choir and since there weren´t too many Elders singing so I sang super loud. I can´t let the Hermanas overpower the Elders! Anyways later our CCM Presidente Tenorio spoke on "Specific Prayers". This is something I´ve never been taught before and it´s super cool. It´s pretty self explanatory; it´s very difficult, but also very possible. Basically it´s asking for something very specific in prayer. This takes a lot of practice and you must be very in tune with the spirit. I hope to be able to say power prayers like this someday, but I realize I am still fairly inexperienced and need practice.

Later we heard from the Director of Training and Operations for the CCM named Shawn Cates. This man amazes me. He is only in his early thirties and yet he is very successful both in landing such a high up position, and more importantly his understanding of the gospel and missionary work. He talked about the Gift of Tongues and how we can qualify for it. I´ve already seen the influence of the Gift of Tongues in my growth in the language, but I realized I wasn´t fully taking advantage of it and I still am working on qualifying for it in it´s full glory. The first thing is to be motivated by your love for the people and the culture enough to learn the language.. Second we need to have the spirit which means we need to be exactly obedient. This was the overall message I took from this week. Exact obedience. Third we need to speak and study the language as much as possible. To make a commitment to do everything we can at all times to practice the language. This is a big difference for missionaries growth is how much they are practicing the language and it´s a fairly simple concept, but also extremely difficult to follow be cause of the temptation to speak your first language. Fourth we need to cry our guts out for the gift of tongues constantly. This is something I´ve neglected because I didn´t really understand how it works. Then the last thing Cates talked about was the importance of leaving our life before our missions behind. We can´t keep one foot stuck in the past and expect to succeed in the future. He told us how he had this problem at first on his mission, but he saw a huge change in his growth and success when he finally made an effort to let go of his life before.. I don´t think I have this problem as much as a lot of missionaries do, but I recognize that I do find myself thinking about my life before and everything. Of course we aren´t expected to completely forget our lives before like our families and friends, but we don´t need to be constantly dwelling upon them because they will be taken care of while we are pushing forward in the Lord´s work.

One last experience that was one of my favorites. Yesterday while our District was studying in our classroom, Hermano Polo came in and asked if anyone had consecrated oil on hand. It took me a second but then I remembered my little vial on my keychain that Bishop Alston had given as a mission present before I left so I offered it to him. He then told us that an Hermana was having problems with a stomach sickness and needed a blessing. He said that he would anoint the oil in Spanish and asked if I could say the blessing, but that I could say it in English.

I was terrified at first because I´ve never given a blessing before and I didn´t even know how, but I quickly turned to the back of my Missionary Handbook and found out how to say it. The necessary part is fairly simple, but the rest is kind of on your own. I agreed to give the blessing and we headed over to her classroom. I was still nervous, but as I put my hands on her head with some members of my District, I took the leap of faith to open my mouth and that´s when the spirit kicked in. Looking back afterwards I realized that for the first time I truly felt like I had been a mouthpiece for the Lord and that he had filled my mouth with words. I am really excited to strive to progress and be able to act as a mouthpiece more often because it´s an incredible experience. This week has been incredible and I love being here. I will be sad to have to leave in two weeks, but I´m also super excited at the same time.
Taking a break on Preparation Day

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Week 3

The Temple in Monterrey.

It's been a crazy week full of wonderful experiences just as each week has been like here at the CCM. Last Tuesday night, we had a Devotional given by a member of the 70 over Mexico named Omar Villalobos. He and his wife both spoke about many things but the message that got through to me was one that has been shining through almost all Devotionals I've experienced so far and that is that I need to "face challenges always with happiness because we know what is to come when it is all over". This is something essential for Missionary work because when people out there who are struggling see us walking down the streets with a big smile, they'll want to know why we are so happy. How can someone who is spending two years away from home in varied conditions and are working hard every day without getting paid be happy? Well it's because they have the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all it's fullness and glory; never to be taken off the face of the Earth again. Plus, they are being rewarded with something that is far more valuable than money or anything tangible in this world and that is to see the discovery, growth and happiness that occurs in the hearts of those who we share our messages with.
Something that has been talked about a lot here is how we need to be our first convert as missionaries and that as we grow and come to love the Gospel, our love of sharing the Gospel grows simultaneously and so does our love for the people we are teaching it to. My love of the Gospel is growing every day and I can feel this change occurring within me. Pretty soon I won't be able to rest until I have done everything in my power to find those who have been prepared of the Lord to hear the message of the restored Gospel. I am so blessed to have been born of such wonderful parents who raised me in the Church and to truly know what my purpose is in this life. I'm surprised at how much I've already changed in these short 3 weeks and I'm very excited to see where my mission takes me.
The Christus in the Visitor's Center at the Mexico City Temple.
This week I was also humbled a lot. My companion and I taught our first lesson with our second "investigator" named Miguel. Our teacher Hermano Tinoco is playing the part and I wasn't expecting him to get into it as far as he did. It was extremely hard to teach him because, first of all, I could hardly understand him and also he didn't seem interested at all and looked at his phone most of the time. At the time it seemed really harsh and mean to act that way, but he was only trying to be realistc which will help us in the long run. As this week has progressed, we have been able to open Miguel up a little bit and it seems that he is at least partly interested now and I can understand more of what he is saying. I know this has only been possible with my Heavenly Father's help because there is no way I could accomplish what I am accomplishing here without it. I have had problems with becoming discouraged at times, but through prayer and hard work I have been able to overcome these negative thoughts. Being a missionary is hard and stressful in many ways, but the rewards outweigh it all. I don't know where I would end up in life if I had not decided to serve a mission, but now that I'm here, there is no way I would ever change my mind or want to leave my mission. I love it so much and I'm very excited to continue the work of salvation.
Last Thursday my whole District and some other had to leave the CCM to have something done for our Visas. I really don't understand how Visas work because I swear there are way too many steps involved and it is way overcomplicated. We spent most of the day on this trip which was fun because we were able to see a lot of cool places in the central area of Mexico City. When we got to the immigration building it really didn't take too long and all they needed were our fingerprints and a signature to ensure the fingerprints are real. Afterwards we had a little bit of time to walk around and it was really cool! A bunch of Elders even bought street tacos from a vendor but I didn't want to risk getting sick quite yet eating at a random corner taco stand. It was nice to get out of the CCM and see more of the city. 
In front of the Mexico City Temple (with Elders Clark, Turner, Tuia, Te, Inskeep, Haggard, and Willis.)
The trip was planned last minute and so we got behind in our lessons which meant we all had to make up for it. It was extremly hard since we had almost no time to prepare our lesson before giving it. It ended up being a good experience to teach on the fly the way we did. I've enjoyed spending time with our new afternoon teacher Hermano Cayetano. Our District has a lot of fun joking around with him and also teaching him slang words in English. He is planning on going to BYU later this year and he says he's going to find a wife which I think is hilarious because people always joke that it's the reason members go to BYU. Also our District teases Hermano Tinoco about getting married because he has a girlfiend named Leslie and they were high school sweethearts. We asked him when he's going to marry her and he told us in 3 years because he wants to save up more money. I think he's joking about the 3 years, or at least I hope he is because that would be really hard to wait that long because getting married in the temple is what we are all looking forward to. I know he is going to be an amazing father and he will be very blessed for his serving a mission and striving to do what is right.
This Sunday was AMAZING!!! I love Sundays here sooooo much. The spirit is so strong and we always hear the most amazing messages and also I always receive answers to my prayers. One thing I prayed about on Saturday was that I would be chosen to speak on Sunday because while I was preparing my talk I felt the spirit so strongly I couldn't bear not to share my thoughts. They choose speakers randomly and we have to speak entirely in Español (or at least try to), so it is something most of us are terrified of. I felt that way the last two weeks, but the spirit helped guide me and give me confidence and so I was ready, willing and truly wanted to speak. Sure enough when it came time our Branch Presidente announced me as one of the speakers! I successfully gave my talk entirely in Español and I could feel the spirit working through me. My grammar was probably terrible, but that'll come with time and practice and giving this talk was very good practice. 
The entrance to the "History of the Church in Mexico" part of the Visitors' Center.
Later we had class with the MTC Presidente Tenorio and he explained something that is very important to understand. He spoke on marriage and how there is no such thing as a "soul mate" or "true love" at least in the sense of there only being one person out there that is meant to be with you. I used to stuggle with this as well and it's something I talked to Krystina about and she told me the same things that were explained in this meeting. There is no such thing as a perfect soul mate because there is no such thing as a perfect human being. Of course when you end up finding someone and getting married you'll think of them as your true love, but that doesn't mean that if they had wanted to marry someone else that you wouldn't be able to find someone else and be just as happy with them. This is an important thing to understand and I know that many people struggle with this topic just as I had. In fact, some of the members of my District had discussed this topic and had varied opinions which is probably why Heavenly Father inspired our president to speak on this subject.
After class I stayed for Choir practice with another Elder in our District named Elder Haggard. We practiced singing a hymn blended with a primary song in Español for an hour and it was really fun. I am so thankful for my musical talents, I really enjoy singing and I know that Heavenly Father enjoys hearing his children sing praises unto him as well. We are singing tonight just before our Tuesday night Devotional and I'm really excited. 
Last night we had a devotional broadcast by none other than Elder Holland!! He's my favorite! It was given in January of 2013 to the Provo MTC I believe, but it applies just as strongly to us and to me individually too. He said so many wonderful things and he spoke with firm and caring words. He spoke on how some missionaries want nothing more than to return back to "real life". Holland than spoke firmly "This is real life, there is nothing to return to." This is something I have learned and continues to be taught that a mission is not an end, but an eternal beginning and that applies to me as strongly as anyone because of how much I've changed and am excited to continually grow in this Gospel. So much more has happened and I wish I could share all the wonderful experiences I've had. 
A few other things: It rained a few times this week and even poured one night extremely hard for a little while. The food has been wonderful as always; we've had a huge variety of foods, but all have been good. I have been consistently waking up at 5 with my District leader Elder Tuia to lift weights at the gym which has been a really nice way to wake up each morning. I'm just glad there is someone else in my District crazy enough to get up with me. We have a little gym time during the day but we prefer to play games with other Elders during this time. I actually feel more awake when I get up earlier and plus I'm trying not to get out of shape and gain weight which is really easy to do here with how much amazing food is available here. I should find out next week when I'm leaving the CCM which is a really scary thought, but also super exciting! I just hope I'll be ready to get out and preach the gospel in Español by then. This campus is a little piece of paradise and I'll be really sad to leave it. I'll miss my amazing District of Elders, our teachers Hermano Cayetano and Tinoco, and also the many workers and leaders that work so hard to make our experience as incredible as it is. I miss everyone back home, but I know this is where I'm meant to be and I wouldn't be this happy anywhere else at this point in my life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Week 2

A cool painting (on real canvas) that is in the auditorium lobby.

It's been almost two weeks now which means the oldest group in my Zone have left this week and we will be getting new missionaries in our Zone! I can't believe how fast time is flying, but more incredible is the amount of growth my district and I have done in such a relatively short period of time. This week has been full of excitement and lots of amazing stories. On Wednesday we had our first service activity as a District and it was pretty nice to be able to give a couple hours of work back to the amazing workers here at the CCM. Btw, my District somehow ended up with all 8 of us being Elders which is really rare, but it's been a blast having a strong group of Elders all working together to learn and grow in both the Gospel and in speaking Español. We were paired up with this worker named Fernando who had us take down curtains out of the rooms of the departed missionaries that were to be washed. It was really funny talking to Fernando because he was trying to learn English from us but also helping us practice Español at the same time. 

Me in front of a mural in the main reception office.
The stone cut off a little at the top is a real artifact that has hundreds of references to Lehi's Dream, SO COOL!
There was a vitally important turning point, at least for me, in our experience here and that was when our teacher Hermano Tinoko checked on both how well we were using our planners, and also if we were making and keeping daily, weekly and goals for our time here at the CCM. I wasn't taking my planning and goals seriously for the first little while partly because I felt as though I was already overwhelmed enough without adding in taking time to elaborately plan and track goals. That's where the need for humility came in. I realized that I'm not going to reach my full potential unless I allow others to help me and in this case my teacher knows exactly what he's talking about because he just returned from a mission not too long ago. There is a reason he was chosen to fill the teaching position for missionaries, and I'm so grateful to have his instruction. After trying hard to take the time to plan and make daily goals, I slowly began to realize how effective it can be to go about your day when you have already scheduled out what you are to do. Now it's been just under a week and I can already see the difference. I hope to continue to find ways to improve my study so that I can serve the Lord in my highest potential possible and fulfill my purpose as a missionary.

One of the coolest moments of this week was when our new teacher to give us lessons in the afternoon arrived. It was supposed to be a huge surprise because he was the first "investigator" we taught, but we had figured out that he was already a member and that he was going to most likely become our teacher in the future and we were right. That is super smart of them because he knows first hand what our strengths and weaknesses are and how to help us grow. His real name is Hermano Cayetano, and the coolest thing is he served his mission in MONTERREY EAST and only came back a year ago! It's so amazing because half of our District will be going to that same mission! It's been so cool to talk to him about his mission and what we have in store for us. Also it's really nice to learn from him because personally I can understand him when he speaks Español fairly well. Overall though I've been amazed at how much more I can pick up in Español, and I know it's all because of the blessings we receive as missionaries and the hard work we dedicate. 

Now we have two new "investigators" this week, each being actually our teachers, but the cool thing is they are playing the part of investigators they really taught on their missions only a short time ago, so it's very good practice for when we get out on the mission field. My companion Elder Clark and I taught our first lesson yesterday to "Alberto" whose a 25 year old living alone and trying to find a job. In preparation for this lesson we talked about what his needs are and what we should teach him and all the necessary planning and then resumed working on our Español. I was trying to put into action the wisdom we received in a Devotional on Sunday given by Elder Bednar. The specific words were how too many of us wait for the spirit to fill our mouths before we speak when what we really ought to be doing is have the faith to open our mouths first, and then the spirit will fill our mouths with words. Of course this doesn't rule out preparation, in fact it makes preparation that much more vital. We need to be so prepared that we have the faith to trust in the Lord and open our mouths. I went into our lesson with only my scriptures in Español, and a few notes to help keep the lesson going, but all my notes were in English. Basically I had no help whatsoever with the language part. Amazingly I was able to speak to "Alberto" and did fairly well. Looking back there are a lot of things my companion and I could have done better, but overall our improvement is quite amazing! Just a few days ago I was still reading off phrases I had translated previously to teach the lesson, which is really ineffective considering you can't look the investigator in the eye. I am so blessed to be in the Lord's work and see the amazing program that helps missionaries like me prepare to go out into the field.

Mi Casa

Sunday was again by far my favorite day this week. Nothing else really compares which is saying something considering every day here I can feel the spirit stronger than most spiritual experiences of my life combined together. It was fast Sunday here which is a little different in Mexico because lunch is generally the biggest meal of the day comparable to the way dinner is back home. The trend here is to start fasting after lunch on Saturday and then not eat or drink until lunch on Sunday. I was worried at first because I had never really fasted a full twenty four hours before since back home I usually ate up until bedtime Saturday and broke my fast around 4 or 5 Sunday. In reality I think it was a lot easier because I never got too hungry Saturday night and then I slept through most of the hardest part, plus in the mornings I usually am not all that hungry anyways. Although this was different than I was used to, the biggest change was the significance of the fast. I felt a lot more confidence that my fast would effectively make a difference, and I know that is because I represent Christ as a missionary. Sacrament meeting was really nice this week. I was able to hear the amazing testimonies of quite a few members of our Zone, including many that would be leaving shortly. I love living among incredible missionaries that have the same beliefs and standards that I have and live them. It's been a huge change from when I only had a handful of LDS friends I went to school with in high school. It makes it so much easier to stay busy and work hard when I have so many wonderful examples around me in every direction. After Sacrament meeting we had a Sunday school of sorts we call Lessons with the MTC Presidency. We had the pleasure to learn from one of the counselors President Call. He's one of my favorite people to hear talk because of his amazing faith and simpleness in teaching. He gave some amazing teachings on the difference between having a testimony and being converted and for the most part it is that if you are truly converted, then you are willing to act upon the testimony you have. One of my favorite quotes from his lesson was that "God is not going to answer your prayer if he knows you aren't willing to act upon his response." I think that is so accurate, but I had never thought of it in that way before. It's something I need to work on as well and I hope I can be ready so that Heavenly Father can give me all the guidance possible. 

Later that night was when we had the wonderful devotional by Elder Bednar. His overall message was on how to become a Preach My Gospel Missionary, but here are some of my favorite quotes and highlights from the talk. He reaffirmed an idea that has been emphasized throughout my time here saying that " A release from service as a full-time missionary is a call to becoming a life-long missionary." This is an amazing concept and I hope that I can take that to heart and always continue to strive for growth throughout my life. Another thing he said is that our job as missionaries is to bring the word of God unto the hearts of the people. Then comes their personal responsibility to allow that message to come into their hearts. Bednar gave us the counsel that once we bring that message unto them, we need to then "constantly do our best to get out of the way." I thought that was pretty funny to think about it that way, but it's very true. Lastly the part that touched me most spiritually was when Elder Bednar took the time to tell us "You can do this" over an over, expressing his love and comfort. I could truly feel his love for each and every one of us. That kind of experience is what keeps me going with confidence that I really can do this, with my Heavenly Fathers help of course. I am so happy to be out here doing the work of the Lord and I'm becoming more and more excited each day to be able to get out and share his message with the people of Monterrey.

An awesome CCM T-Shirt I bought at the store

That's just a small piece of the experiences I've had here spiritually and I wish I could tell them all. I found out that it's basically Summer here in Mexico City which explains why its been in the 70´s-90´s most of the time with clear skies. It really hasn't been too hot though, so I've enjoyed the weather here. I am starting to miss the rain though and I'm sure that'll only get stronger as the days go by. The food has still been really good and it's funny how often we have "american" food like hamburgers, pizza and such. I think my body is finally for the most part adjusted to the food here, which is nice but it never was a big issue from the get go. I've been able to play a lot of soccer, basketball and volleyball here. In fact today we played cage soccer for almost two hours, and I forgot to wear sunscreen so I probably got a little burnt today. I think my skin is already getting used to the sun though. The tienda (store) they have here is really cool and is full of good stuff. I was happy to find that they have Manzanita Sol here!!!! It's the apple soda I've been talking about that could only be found on the fountain drinks at Taco Bell back in Springfield. I bought some today for the first time and it was AMAZING. 

My obsession with Manzanita Sol (JK I love it but I've only bought one so far)

Also on random thing I didn't know is that in Mexico, for the most part they don't have public hymn books so everyone generally has their own. Luckily when I went into the store to look for one they had a couple nice mini bound Spanish Hymnos so I bought one. Turns out they've been out of those ever since! It's really nice to have because it even fits in my suit jacket pocket. Luckily the nights aren't too hot here so I haven't suffered too much without my fan at night. I've been able to continue to use their really nice weight room here and I'm going to miss it when I get out into the field and have only my body to use to stay in shape. I wish I could continue on but I don't have much time so one last thing. Besides the missionarypackagemx thing, a good idea for sending me either things I need or just want is to shop online at walmartmx and have things shipped straight from the walmart closest to my mission home. That way it gets there a lot quicker and also won't get lost like packages from the US.  

A map of all the missions in Mexico, there are a lot more than I thought!