We've had a dynamic week; because of a zone conference and a few other things, our time was pretty complicated, and we didn't get as much done as we had wanted to. However, as the week drew to a close in the crunch time of Saturday and Sunday, things seemed to start suspiciously going our way. Sister and Elder De Hoyos of the Quorum of the Seventy visited this week, so we spent a morning in Los Mochis for a Zone Conference. There were a lot of helpful and edifiying things that I took from it. Presidente Cantù spoke about how we can never rest from our work because of whom we represent. I need to always be prepared for those I come into contact with: alert, observant, with a smile. "We must pay the price; there is no other manner," said Presidente Cantù. Sister De Hoyos explained the possibility of exact obedience. When looked at as a whole, being 100% obedient seems like a difficult task; we have a lot of rules and a cramped schedule. However, if you look at each rule individually, they're not so hard to follow, and they are certainly possible. For example, getting up on time - 5:30 a.m. here in Angostura - only requires a bit of will and self-organization.
She also mentioned the concept of: “The Kingdom of God or nothing.” Any sin, however minor, that we make is something willingly chosen that can genuinely limit our divine, eventual potential. I don’t want to do anything to limit myself, to stop myself from recieving the greatest consequences that I have the oppotunity to recieve. Elder De Hoyos gave us some interesting tasks to complete, such as rewriting a mission acceptance letter to the First Presidency of the Church, annotating the First Presidency message in Preach My Gospel, and memorizing the Articles of Faith. The message he shared was pretty unique; he was talking about our daily work in very down-to-earth way, giving advice about how to be more efficient in finding references, or how to teach specific principles. Zone Conferences are great, and very difficult to leave because of all the other missionaries that I want to talk with whom there's usually no time.
A lesson that I've had to learn repeatedly (and still don't seem to understand) is the importance of NOT judging, especially from a first impression. In Costa Rica, Elder Merrell and I were eating in a member's house and a woman entered and walked by us. I greeted her with a cordial, "Buenas tardes!" and when I didn't recieve a response, I just thought to myself that she was quite rude. Turns out, she is not rude, just deaf. Elder Merrell ended up teaching her for a while in the best sign language he could muster. I really want to become better a recognizing people's intentions - which are usually good - and understanding their motivations in stead of making conclusions based on unfounded observations of environment, clothing, economic status, or anything else.
In the weekend, we had to make the preparations for the baptismal service of Guadalupe, the mother of a recent convert, Agustin. It seemed like things were going to be extremely complicated because of the over-filled schedule we had, but a lot of little miracles happened and everything went smoothly. Among these little miracles: Elder Monroy and I were the area of the other companionship in our district for a baptismal interview, and needed to make it all the way to Angostura for a lunch appointment - for which we were already a half hour late - and then organize all of the travel for the service in Guamuchilm where there is a baptismal font that would be easier to enter than the one we have a in Angostura, which involes climbing up ladder-staircase rig. Elder Monroy said, "Elder, we need to pray for a ride." He said a quick prayer, and the next truck that came let us hop in, and then went straight to Angostura and nearly to our doorstep; it was by far the most effecient ride I've had in this area. En route, we said another prayer in gratitude for the perfect ride. There were a lot of other things that went really smoothly that day and in the following Sunday in order for Guadalupe to be confirmed as well. It's made me realize that I need to be better at recognizing my spiritual experiences. I think I often get caught up in observing the culture or trying to find experiences that will make for funny stories later on, and I get a bit distracted from what's most important. If I think back on the time I've spent in Mexico so far, few experiences pop out as genuinely miraculous or edifying, just because I'm bad at paying attention and reording those that I know I've had. So, I want to pay more attention to recognize what I'm in the middle of.
Every other week when we go out to Cerro de los Sanchez for the extended Sacrament meeting, we hop in the bed of Hermano Cornelio's truck with Hermano Ambrosio (or Bocho) and shout hymns against the strong winds throughout the small trek. It's really fun everytime; Hermano Bocho is such a jovial, funny character that I can't help but just laugh the whole ride. I'll try to explain the characters and relationship between Hermanos Bocho and Cornelio sometime, but I nearly can't do it justice. They're like a sitcom about two grumbly old guys that seem to argue a lot, but really couldn't be one without the other.
In the first month or so of my mission, I thought everything was pretty easy. I've realized that was because I couldn't speak or teach all that well, and I was very green, so I just followed along behind Elder Davis and Elder Brassard and didn't have much responsibility. As I've gotten further into my mission, the responsibility has been heaped upon me, and with it has come an understanding of why a mission is difficult. Each Sunday, it's like entering the field again a being nearly overwhelmed. I love it. It is so fulfilling to try my hardest each week, sometimes fail, and come out better for it.
Mexcio Celebrates the Birth of Charles Daniel Schrohowsky! Parades (there's actually a parade of a band and about a hundred guys on horseback passing the cyber right now) and fireworks in the streets throughout the night! Everyone gets baptized!
It's strange to join the ranks of unclehood, especially when I think about how cool all of my uncles are. Charlie looks really good, and slightly Asian. I'm excited to meet him. Congratulations Kate and Daniel!
The Mexicans have their own versions of the hymns. I don't know where they came from, but they're the same in everyone branch I've been to. There's just little differences between the tune that everyone sings and the music. It makes playing piano pretty exciting; sometimes I'm just sitting at the bench trying to hold back laughter and find where I am in the music.
Two separate members of the ward approached us and mentioned that we would need to come by there houses and possibly perform exorcisms this week. So we scheduled some appointments, and we'll see how that goes.
Elder Monroy is the man. He is a really faithful and humble missionary. His love for the people comes through in nearly all of his actions. I'm really enjoying working with him.
I've realized that it's all about the basics with those we teach. The "first lesson" is about the restoration of the Gospel, or how the church and authority that Jesus Christ established were lost, and later restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. If we teach some part of that in our first visit with someone, the whole intent of the lesson is to help the investigators see the importance of reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it to know if it's true. And really, if they are missing that basic understanding, progression is difficult. We're working on simplifying our teaching of the first lesson to really help other's understand that concept. Once they basics are down - a testimony of the Book of Mormon - everything else can fall into place.
We had a really good planning session on Friday that helped me to look at our investigators and see that many of them lacked the basics. Good planning leads to success!
The area of Angostura is comprised of many small towns. Some of them are VERY small. This geography means that we spend a lot of time traveling each day. We hitchhike every day to different ranchos in our area. In one of the furthest towns, Cerro de los Sanchez, we have an extension of the sacrament meeting on Sundays. It's under a tree! I'm often reminded of the early missionaries and the beginnings of the church when I'm in little places like this where the church is just beginning to grow. Whenever we go out to Cerro de los Sanchez to teach, we usually only get a ride part of the way there, and then have a long, long walk. On one side, there are endless fields of corn. On the other, there is a canal - where we skip rocks - and then endless fields of corn.
The church building in Angostura is not a chapel, but instead, a house of prayer. It's quite a bit different than other church buildings, because it's just a house that has been converted to be a church. It's pretty nice though; it has everything we need, including a keyboard! I was able to play for the branch on Sunday on that little keyboard. I remembered that the sun gives you cancer, so I started using sun block. I'll be teaching the youth's class in church each week. I was called to be the teacher for my Elder's Quorum in my ward at BYU, which was mostly comprised of return missionaries. I didn't do great, but I did learn a bit about how to teach to a class. I really want to gain a love for teaching during my mission; I'm comfortable teaching to investigators, but I was bit nervous to teach this class on Sunday. It ended up going really well, and I have a strong desire to become a better teacher and always be prepared to teach.
I have left Costa Rica! After four months there, I felt like I knew everyone, and that had been my whole mission thus far; and so, leaving that place was very strange this morning. I think I was able to finish strong with this last weekend that we had.
On Friday night, we had a missionary activity in the chapel: a movie and sports night. We were inviting people all week, and lots of the members were really pumped about it and inviting friends as well. We set up a huge screen and watched "the Testaments." Afterwards, Elder Merrell and our branch mission leader, Hermano Salvador Cervantes, asked trivia questions and threw treats out to those who got them right. Afterwards, we had soccer and volleyball set up. It was really fun, but we didn't have the amount of success that we were expecting and hoping for. I really want to find ways to do missionary work well through activities such as one.
On Saturday, we had a baptismal service for Angelica and her daughter,Julisa, and Silvia and her daughter, Biasne. Silvia ended up being extremely nervous about getting in the water, and decided to wait until next week. But, we baptized the other three. It such an amazing experience everytime. They're so excited! And we're so excited! That was a great service, and we did the confirmations in the sacrament meeting the next day.
Sunday was a very normal, and therefore insane, day. I spoke in both branches and taught in all three hours of my own branch. None of the members of the branch presidency were there, so our ward mission leader was presiding by himself. We taught a few lessons in the afternoon and shared some parting messages with my converts. At night, got to call home for Mother's Day! Happy Mother's Day, Mom. Talking to the family was very fun, and verystrange,and I felt like it was only 5 minutes long.
This morning I left early from Costa Rica, and got to spend some time with all of missionaries going through the bus center in Culiacán while waiting for my bus. Elder Brown is doing really good. And now I'm in Angostura, Sinaloa. My companion is Elder Monroy from Mexico City - who was in Costa Rica before, so I've heard lots of good things. I've only been here a few hours, but I know I'm going to love it. Mostly because of the trees. I am going to be destroying the missionaries' house with a scrub brush and some soap very soon.