Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Week 9

Wow I can't believe I'm turning 19 tomorrow! I haven't got the package yet because it takes a while even from when it reaches the mission office. It then has to be organized and given to the Zone Leaders to take to meetings which we have every Tuesday morning, so hopefully I'll receive it tomorrow which would be exactly on my birthday!!! How cool is that:D

Alright so it hasn't been very long since my last email, so I'll make it short. We have been continuing to work with a family to getting married, and I'm pleased to announce that they finally have a date set up to get married this Thursday and we've went ahead and started planning their baptisms for next Sunday the 3rd of May!!:D I believe there will be 6 of them getting baptized in all, it'll be quite the event! I'm super super blessed to have been placed in the area to start out where I already will have been a part of 7 baptisms in my first transfer period!

(My companion and I making Gorditas Azucares (basically sugar cookies, but instead of baking them, you fry them like burgers on a flat stove) It was for a fundraiser to help the family Villela Esqubel to pay for their wedding documents and it was a huge success thanks to all the members who were willing to help out by buying the little goodies: )

Alright so I don't really have anything special planned for my birthday, but today we played a bunch of games as a Zone and afterwards my companion and I went shopping and I was able to use some of the birthday money to get a few things. The thing I'm m ost excited about is a new FREEZER MUG!!! And it's of a local futbol team named the Monterrey Tigres :D Finally I can have my cold milk again, I've been suffering! haha Anyways, I  also bought some goodies like cookies, ´peanut butter and hersheys spread for toasted reeses sandwiches (heavenly!!) and also some crackers and a new sauce I'm in love with called Salsa BBQ Sauce!! It's the best sauce ever. I have pictures of the stuff I bought, but I forgot to bring them this time, sorry! Anyways that's about it, thanks again for the birthday money, I can't wait to drink cold milk again!  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Week 8

Baptism of Graciano Garcia Dominguez

I can't believe I already hit 2 months last Saturday, I'm nearing 10% completion of my mission already!! That's super exciting but also I little nerve racking because I want to be able to grow a heck of a lot more before my time is up, so please slow this train down a little! Ha ha! The Mission life is the hardest thing I've ever experienced, but also the most incredible, rewarding, spiritual, beneficial and purely awesome:D Alright so this week was super busy and crazy. We have been continuing preparing some of our investigators for baptism. The first is a 73 year-old man named Graciano Garcia who I'm pleased to announce was baptized this last Sunday April 19, 2015 by my companion Elder Toledano!!! The actual baptismal service was a little disorganized since my companion and I hardly had any time to plan it, but I really liked the simpleness and humility of it. It was nothing more than a few hymns, a few spiritual thoughts, the actual ordinance and a welcome to the ward, but I felt the Spirit strongly the whole time and could tell that it was a very special experience for Graciano. Also we have him scheduled to be confirmed next Sunday in sacrament meeting and he asked me to perform the confirmation! Wow what a blessing:) I'm pretty terrified in reality because I've never done a confirmation before and it's in Spanish in front of the entire ward, but I know that if I study hard and prepare as best I can, the Spirit will fill my mouth and help me to accomplish this great task.

The program from Graciano's baptism

Then the other investigators close to baptism still need to get married and we have been helping them raise money to be able to. We have been working with another member of our ward to make little pastries and also tortillas to sell to other members of the ward. It's been a little harder than we expected, but I've really enjoyed doing this service and I hope we can get them married soon so they can be baptized as a family. Also during one of our lessons with this family, all the kids were together in the house for the first time (they have 6 kids). It was a really spiritual experience teaching them about the importance of family prayer, scripture study, family home evening and also to just plan something fun to do as a family every once in a while. At the end of the lesson my companion and I asked Jorge (the father) if he would like to say the closing prayer. He was a little hesitant at first, but proceeded and during the prayer he expressed his thankfulness for his family and then was silent for a while. He was overwhelmed with emotion and I could tell that the Spirit had touched his heart through our lesson. Finally he gathered himself and finished his humble prayer to his heavenly father and we said our goodbyes for the night. I'm super grateful to be able to see the influence of the Spirit in these people's lives.

We have a lot of other investigators we are teaching right now, but so far none of them have been progressing, meaning they aren't coming to church or following up on commitments, but I keep praying that something will click within them, to spark the desire to truly allow the gospel to change their lives. It's a little hard at times to be patient with this, but it's been really good for me to learn this lesson of patience because I know I'll need a lot of it for the remainder of my mission and life in general.

My companion Elder Toledano and me at the Monterrey Temple!!
Temple Plaque

Today I had the opportunity to attend the Monterrey Temple early in the morning. It was my first time going through in Spanish, so it was a little strange, but for the most part I was able to understand everything which was really cool because there's no way I would have been able to understand as much as I did without the Spirit and the gift of tongues. The Temple isn't actually in my mission; it's just outside, but we still have the opportunity to go there once during every six week period. I feel super blessed to have this opportunity:) The Temple is located in a huge valley without tall mountains on either side covered with green vegetation and trees, and in a very nice part of town. Afterwards we walked to a taco stand for some street tacos which were delicious!

My District at the Monterrey Temple!!
Temple Selfie;)

Alright so about the language. It's been a crazy ride for sure with times where I feel I'm finally catching on, only to find myself totally confused in the next experience. Overall I know that I'm making progress little by little every day. The important thing I have been trying to keep in mind is that no one is expecting me to be an expert in the language...I mean I have only been out for 2 months. Plus ultimately, as long as I am working hard to improve every day, I will reach the levels I need to reach when I am needed in the process of someone's conversion. There is a path set for me, all I need to do is keep at it, and trust in the Lord.

The weather has been super sporadic lately. One day it's almost 100 degrees, the next it's overcast at 70-75 degrees, and then it's downpouring so hard that the streets are overcome by rivers of water the next day. It's actually kind of nice to have a mixture like this because it keeps things interesting for sure. I've been hearing a lot about the super hot season the locals call the "canicula" :P which lasts from around June-August and where it's constantly above 100 and sometimes reaches as high as 120-125. Yikes! That'll be fun.

Oh and also I had my first Zone Conference last Wednesday which was super cool. President Bird, Hermana Bird and the 2 assistants to the president came and we had a big meeting of learning, sharing and practicing. Also we had some snacks and I got a Milky Way since my birthday is coming up, yummmm!

My District Leader from the CCM and I, reunited!
My study area now that I've started to get settled:)
The "boxed milk" that I heard about. It actually lasts way longer than refrigerated milk since it doesn't need to be refrigerated until it's opened. I had a bad experience with the refrigerated milk at the store so I'm sticking with the boxed kind:P

Monday, April 13, 2015

Week 7

My companion Elder Toledano and Me

Alright so this week has been pretty crazy! I found out that the family we were going to baptize yesterday actually haven't been married yet and so we had to postpone their date for now. Apparently, to get married here, you have to go to an official place and it's not much of a big deal. The problem is you have to pay a fee of around 1500 pesos and they can't afford that right now. My companion Elder Toledano and I decided to do a fundraiser for them. We are going to find out how to make these special Mexican pastries and have the family sell them in their store (their house is also a little corner shop´which is unusually common here even though there are 7 Eleven and oxxo's everywhere also.) It's going to be a lot of work but we have a lot of help once we get it all figured out and it'll be worth it when they get married and their whole family is able to be baptized.

We have one other baptism date for next Sunday and that one seems to be going through. It's for this 73 year-old man named Graciano Garcia who is very ready for baptism. He had his baptismal interview yesterday and our District Leader Elder Burnette agrees that he is ready as well. I can't wait for my very first Convert Baptism! Other than that we have been doing a lot of contacting and trying to find more people to teach. We have a couple people we have taught a few lessons with and one of them I am pretty hopeful for because he has been keeping his commitments.

This week has been really hard too with the crazy weather, little bit of budgeting issues and some feelings of self doubt. First of all the weather has been everything from high 90's and blazing hot, to a couple of big storms these last couple nights. Last night was by far the worst. We were walking home through the normal street market that we live right next to and all of a sudden the wind picked up. It started pouring and lightning flashed across the sky. It was so intense it started blowing all the booths over and everyone started panicking and running. The worst part was the rain blasted our faces so we could hardly see as we tried to weave through the chaos. I honestly felt like I was in a disaster movie!! Luckily our house was fairly close and we made it home completely fine, other than being soaked. I felt really sorry for all the people in the market who were suffering and my companion and I said a prayer for them. During our prayer, right as I was asking Heavenly Father to help´the people stuck outside in the storm, I was interrupted by a pounding on our door. I quickly ended the prayer and we opened the door to a family of 4 who's kids were crying and terrified. We let them come in and talked for a while. One of their sons is super afraid of the lightning and so they were desperate to find refuge for a few minutes. I remembered I had some cookies hidden away so I gave them to the kids which helped calm them down for a little as we waited for the storm to pass. After the worst of the storm was over, the family left and we got their information to come visit with them later on. I never expected myself to be part of the answer to our prayer, but I am thankful for the small way we were able to help and maybe this will lead to a new family to bring into the gospel. Also it rained so bad that it started flooding into our house through the back door and also a window upstairs. We had to use a mop to soak up the water and squeeze it by hand into a pitcher over and over. Luckily the rain slowed enough to where it stopped flooding in and we were able to finish cleaning it up. All in all it was a crazy experience, but nothing we couldn't handle and I'm happy to be able to experience these challenges because they are helping me to be humbled and also understand what a lot of these people go through.

Another noteworthy experience was a crazy big feast we had on Thursday, at a member named Hermano Roke's house. My whole District was there and there were mountains of ribs, roasted chicken and salchichas (like hot dogs but way better) and tortillas, salsa and guacamole. It was an amazing meal and really cool to have us all in one place like that. I found out this week that my Area was actually only part of a ward and that my whole District of 9 (soon to be 8 when a member of a trio of missionaries leaves Wednesday) oversees the same ward. I guess that's because this ward has a lot of success and needs the man power to keep up with it. I'm really grateful to be a part of this ward as my training location because I've heard there are some very small wards that are tough to work with. Yesterday was the first actual Sacrament meeting I had with the ward and it's pretty huge! Pretty close to as big as my home ward in Springfield.

Alright a little about my struggles only to show the reality that a mission isn't an easy thing, even though it is definitely worth any troubles or hard times it brings. The first is I've been experiencing some feelings of self doubt and inadequacy at times. This is mostly because of the language, but also because I have been struggling with comparing myself to others. For example my companion. He is a super awesome missionary with a huge testimony and a lot of knowledge. Next to him I feel as though I'll never be able to be good enough at times. Luckily I spent some time reading this manual we are given about adjusting to missionary life and I learned a lot about how to overcome all this. First of all I need to stop worrying about being able to progress enough with the language or gospel or lessons. My ability to speak the language is already improving a lot and as long as I work hard and do my best, I'll be able to get to where I need to be so I can fully serve God's children in their own language. Also I need to stop comparing myself to others because we are all different. We all started in different spots, we all grow at different rates and we all have varied experiences and time out on the mission and so there's no reason to try to compare anything. I just need to be grateful and work with the talents that have been given to me.

Another thing that has been hard is trying to figure out how to budget my money effectively. I've never really had to worry about money in the past, and so this is a really good experience for me to learn. It's not that I don't have enough to get by or anything like that. I have everything I need, but I'm learning how to rule out things that I really can live without and focusing on the necessities. It's been difficult as I'm trying to adjust to everything and don't really know anything yet since this is just my beginning area, but I'm super grateful for these experiences I'm having.

Overall, I really do enjoy the mission life and don't want to let anything get in the way of me enjoying it now, because I know that when it's over, I'll miss it more than anything and if I don't enjoy it now, I'll regret it later and my overall experience will suffer. I have already changed a lot and have been trying really hard to continue to become more like our perfect example Jesus Christ every day. I truly to love my mission and wouldn't rather be anywhere else but here, giving my full time and attention to the Lord:) 

My bedroom. Thank goodness there is a fan!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Week 6

Hermano Cayetano (my afternoon teacher) and me

Alright this has been a CRAZY week! Crazy awesome, crazy challenging, crazy amounts of growth, crazy amounts of encouragement, crazy amounts of doubts, crazy amounts of the spirit, and so forth. First of all a quick recap of my last week in the CCM and the Trip here. The last week at the CCM was really great, we had a full day just for meetings and training for the field where I learned a ton. Sunday night ended with a testimony meeting with only the missionaries that were leaving. That was really awesome to hear around 30 different missionaries bear their testimonies in different ways. The actual trip was pretty quick, although I had only gotten two hours of sleep before leaving since I had to finish packing and get up at 3 to get ready to leave. The airport was smooth and the flight took only an hour ten. The first day in Monterrey was great, we threw our stuff down in a room, studied and waited for an interview with President Bird, then went out on exchanges with other missionaries. I found myself sitting in my first real lesson in a matter of a few hours.

Both my teachers, Cayetano y Tincoco, and me

The view of the CCM from the airplane while leaving Mexico City, it really stands out because of the big fields.

Alright so this week. I got my first companion on Tuesday. His name is Elder Toledano, he's a native of Mexico and went to the school that used to be where the CCM is. Luckily he knows a good amount of English which is really helpful since I still have a lot to learn. The adjustment was really hard for the both of us for many reasons. First, I am his first trainee. Second, he is new to our area as well. Third, the last missionaries didn't leave very great instructions or take very much care with updating things for us and lastly, our area is huge. So basically these first days have been absolute madness with him trying to train me while we both need to get to know the area and people simultaneously. After things have started to settle down a little, it's gotten better, but it's still really challenging.

The good news is I am growing in ways that would never be possible in a more comfortable position, and I know I am where I'm supposed to be. I'm already starting to get to know the culture and the people here and I love it. The circumstances are a lot more humble than I am used to, but I'm grateful for the chance to experience this and I know it'll change my perspective in life a ton and help me towards becoming a better person and closer to Christ, our ultimate example. The language has been really hard since everyone speaks so quickly and don't pronunciate all too well sometimes, but from what other missionaries are telling me, I'm actually ahead of where most missionaries from the United States start out, since I can understand the gist of what someone is saying occasionally. My patience has really been tried and will continue to be tested while I struggle to learn the language. The good news is it hasn't even been a full week and yet I've learned a ton and am already starting to understand the language more and more everyday. I'm excited to continue to learn the language until I am able to fully understand my investigators and meet their needs.

About conference and Easter and basically the whole weekend. I only heard about 3 talks in English during the first session on Saturday because a member set up his iPad for us in the other room, but the internet was too slow, and I ended up watching the rest of the entire conference in Español. That was really hard because I could pick out words and occasionally phrases and sometimes have an idea what they were saying, but it wasn't really enough to understand the messages and receive revelation. The bright side is I spent many hours listening in Español which was really good experience. So I don't really have a favorite yet, I'm hoping to be able to get an Ensign in English with them later on. Elder Hollands talk sounded like it was amazing, and I wish I could have understood more of it. He's one of my favorite speakers.

Me eating my first Campechana (basically an amazing soft taco with tons of meat, tastes amazing, but it probably super bad for me so I won't eat them too often haha)

Alright now for a crazy experience I had yesterday. My companion woke me up at 6:15 telling me something about how we were moving the "horario" (word for schedule) up an hour. Being as tired as I was I refused to get up any earlier than 6:30. He finally got me up at 6:25 and I quickly got ready. We started studying at 7 and I figured he just decided we needed extra time for studying. I was told the schedule for general conference on Sunday was 11-1 and 3-5 so when he told me we needed to leave at around 9, I was confused. But being the junior companion, I followed his lead and left with him. We arrived at 10:05 and I thought we were an hour early but it turns out we were 5 minutes late...weird. Then after session one we had to travel to a members house far away for lunch and I was curious why we had 3 hours in between instead of 2 since the second session was supposed to start at 3. I wondered if it was actually going to start at 2 or something, but my companion told me different, that it starts at 3. Since our lunch was so far away we barely made it back by 3. After arriving I soon found out we had missed half of the session so it had actually started at 2. I guess my companion knew we were going to be late, but yet he still insisted it had started at 3 since we had argued about it a little earlier. I shook that off and listened for the last hour. After conference a member of the ward wanted us to go with him to give a pregnant woman a blessing which was a really cool experience. Later we went out proselyting and at around 7:30 my companion told me we should head back to our house. I was confused and told him I thought we should keep going since it's still early but he insisted since we need to tally up our weekly numbers we need to return, so I gave in and we went back. After quickly eating since we were starving and then doing planning and totalling our numbers he told me to call our District leader to give our numbers. I refused and was confused because it was only 8:30 and we don't report numbers until 9:30. He insisted I call him and so I finally did. After I asked him why we were calling in an hour early at 8:30 and he was confused and told me no...it's 9:30. After arguing for a little while it finally dawned on me after wondering for several minutes why I've been off by an hour today....hmm what could it be...oh wow. Oh my goodness!!! I freaked out when I realized it was daylight savings time and I hadn't changed my watch or alarm clock!!! (Note: In Mexico, they turn there clocks forward later than we do.) I was completely oblivious throughout the entire day that my watch was off. I felt soooo stupid and couldn't stop laughing to the point where I started crying. My companion and I laughed for probably a good 5 minutes. I just can't believe I managed to be that oblivious and also that he hadn't figured it out earlier either. I will never forget this day for the rest of my life.

Last few things. It's super hot here, got up to 97 one day and it's not even the hottest part of the year yet. It also rained one day and felt cold even though it was only 70 outside. It's almost constantly around 80 degrees in my house which I've started to get used to and we have a fan in our room thank goodness! Our house is cement with two stories, but its pretty tiny compared to what I'm used to. Elder Toledano tells me it's a nicer place relatively so I'm grateful to have it. The food has been great, we eat with members every day for lunch but so far we haven't had anything too crazy. Pizza two times, spaghetti tacos (yes that's a real thing, iCarly stole that) and beans rice and meat another time. Also I ate at subway once between conferences on Saturday. Overall my conditions are definitely a lot different and hard, but I know it's good for me and am truly happy to be here:)