Monday, June 18, 2012

I almost got turned into a tortilla.

El Dorado continues to be a a great part of the vineyard. We've seen some really cool miracles this week. Also, I love the area because it feels cliche. I think that whatever I'm doing is pretty much what you'd imagine Elder Tingey is doing on his mission in Mexico: riding on dirt roads through fields of corn, teaching people sitting on buckets in houses made of... stuff, sweating. It's the best!

Lights Out, Apostasy
We had a funny experience during a lesson in one of the "Edward Scissorhands" style neighborhoods that are pretty popular here known as infonavit. Each night, the mosquitoes go on a rampage from 8:00 to 8:30, so whatever lesson we're in at the time turns into everyone periodically swatting themselves every few seconds, and me swatting mosquitoes off my companion while he teaches. We were teaching about the restoration, and right as a I started on the great apostasy, the power went out, and the whole neighborhood went dark. When my companion started teaching about Joseph Smith, the lights came back on. It's too bad we can't get that to happen during every lesson.

No BrakesThere's this giant John Deere vehicle that all of the field workers drive. I have no idea what to call it in English, but it's about the size of four elephants and has giant spikes on the front. It nearly takes up two full road lanes, but people seem to just drive it around as if it were a normal car. Earlier in the week, I arrived at an intersection where one was about to pass by, I pulled my handbrake, and the wire snapped! And I almost got turned into a tortilla. So now I've just been flying around town with no brakes all week. When I come to an intersection, I just say a prayer, and then pedal harder, and any cars that are coming usually just slow down for me.

Chile HandsIf anyone ever asks you to help them take all of the seeds out of chiles to make chorizo (it's like sausage, but completely different), be warned: that stuff is potent. I washed my hands afterwards - foolishly - and wiped the chile particles all over my hands. It basically felt like I had really bad sunburn on my hands for the rest of the day, even while I was trying to fall asleep. They say that eating spicy chiles makes you speak Spanish better, so I'm assuming that my hands being chilified will lead to a huge jump in my Spanish guitar skills.

Oh, RanchosMy district is just completely unrailed this change. We're now a trio - Elders Tingey, Amaller and Soto. (Team TAS!). One of Elder Soto's investigators is named Silverio. His wife, Máxima, was baptized on Friday, and he and their granddaughter, Ramona, are set to get all kinds of baptized next Friday. Silverio is 90 years old (he's older than the Great Depression!). He's had his arm suspended in a bandanna since I met him, because he recently got hit by a truck that one of his neighbors was driving. Silverio was knocked unconscious and the driver drove off. But then, the driver supposedly paid some people off so that the ambulance never came, and so that the civil registry wouldn't do any investigation on the accident. Elder Soto has been running around all week talking to lawyers and doctors and government workers just to try and get the poor guy a check-up appointment. But Silverio's a tough guy. However, I think he might be older than toilets, because yesterday at church I had to show him where the bathroom was after he tried to go out behind a tree next to the chapel.

San JoaquinWe rode out to a rancho called San Joaquin to contact a reference. It's way cool. I love little places like those. Everyone seems to have livestock. We just asked "Where does Laura live?" without giving a description or last name or anything, and were pointed to the right house right away. On the way back, we were riding down the dirt road, and an SUV stopped next to us with two muchachos. We through our bikes on top of the SUV and they drove us to our next lesson while we taught them about prophets and Adam and Eve (it was a jumpy conversation, because they were kind of drunk [but don't worry, we were only going like 5 mph]).

Three-Legged YahtzeeThere's a bunch of guys who play volleyball on this sand court every evening in our area, and the missionaries have had a running joke of telling them that they'll come by later when they yell at us to invite us to come play. So, I went over and made an appointment to play a game on our P-Day! During the whole week, kids were coming up to us like, "Hey, are you guys really going to play on Monday?" I figured it was gearing up to be a big showdown. When we got there this morning, nobody showed up. A kid came out and told us that everyone went to work in the sugar factory, so we just played three-legged yahtzee (for those of you Catalina Islanders that remember that game).

And Now, Missionary Relevant StuffOne of our coolest investigators is Luís. He's a few years younger than me, and we just found him while we were trying to find a reference that was "Maricela who lives in a green house in la Aviación". While knocking on all of the green houses, we found Luís! We taught about the doctrine of Christ and how to make some key changes towards repentence and turn his life around a bit. We brought him to the branch's family home evening, where I was asked to share an experience (I told everyone about how that fan hit me in the head, and related it to how the dangers in the world can harm us when we allow ourselves to become comfortable with them, even while knowing that they are dangerous.) Luís's uncle goes to a Christian church and doesn't like Mormons much, so Luís is kind of testing out his options right now.

We've been applying the recent advice of Elder Tenorio about specific prayers. It's an amazing tool for missionary work and has allowed to see some cool miracles this week. We pray for something specific, consagrate our actions to the Lord, and then act, doing everything we can to bring about what we've prayed for, while having faith that the Lord will prepare the way.

I had a really great interview with President Cantú. We talked about how important it is to do things with the right motives, because in the end, it's just between me and the Lord. Even when it seems like nothing is going right, and we're not having success, all I can do is choose the right. If I do what's right and do my best, the Lord knows, and he's happy with the work I've done. So, missionary friends, just focus on always doing your best, and it's sufficient for the Lord, regardless of what others think or say or expect of you. Keep on keeping on.

Mosquitos eat right through my socks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bus Accident


Well, this is turning out to be one of the most complicated changes ever for the El Dorado district. We received cambios especiales today. (...emergency transfers?) Elder Maldonado is heading out to Guamuchil tomorrow and Elder Amaller is coming to be my new companion. (He was Elder Schwab's companion in my last district). I'm really excited and sad at the same time, because Elder Amaller is really cool, but so is Elder Maldonado. And Elder Maldonado happens to know the area a lot better than me, because I've hardly been here at all this transfer. I haven't even met many of the new investigators from the last week while I was at seminary. But everything should go as smoothly as things ever go in the mission. 

New experience of the week. First car accident! Except I was on a bus. The Culiacán buses are notorious for being like a night club on a roller coaster. They're decked out inside with strobe lights and neon and banda music blasting (some even have big plasma TVs with banda music videos playing). And the drivers are generally insane. Some other missionaries and I were heading to seminary in the morning during the week, and a car tried to cut off the bus, so we ran into it. And then we walked the rest of the way through the city. We were only going like five miles per hour.

Seminary was great. During four days, we had classes with President and Sister Cantú for most of the day, and went out to work in Culiacán for a few hours to apply what we were learning. We learned a lot of really good stuff. The importance of representing Jesus Christ and acting accordingly. Working with the appropriate motives (love for the people and desire to help them come unto Christ). How to utilize specific prayer in order to work miracles and find the elect. 

Applying what we were learning during the week went really well. Elder Cruz and I taught a woman named Nancy, whose husband had recently passed away. I've never felt like the plan of salvation applied so well to someone as we explained the doctrine. She came to realize that her husband is being taught the Gospel as well as her, and is probably accepting it and  hoping that she does too. It was a very spiritual lesson even though her baby was screaming the whole time. We also managed to have a really cool lesson with a couple who goes to the church of the Jehovah's Witnesses. They had a marker board up on the wall, and on it we drew the cycle of dispensations and apostasies, and the organization of Christ's primitive church as we taught.

Bye! (No luck with photos).

Monday, June 4, 2012

Conference and Semana Santa



We brought an investigator, Luís, to the priesthood session of general conference. He has a bit of a complicated family situation, and currently is living separated from his wife. When President Eyring spoke on family relationships and how to solve conflicts, he was really deeply affected and inspired. And he loved President Monson's talk as well. It was really cool to see how the conference affected him, while battling through all of the unrecognizable church jargon of "quorumes" and "diáconos" and so forth. Conference really was great. Working to bring investigators to conference, I recognized that I'm really not serving a mission for me, but for the people I serve. I think most of the Spanish in the conference talks went over my companions heads, but we were able to bring a few people to come a really hear and feel what was being said. Which is ultimately the point.

In our area, I feel somewhat like we're now starting from square one. We were able to find new people during the week, but they've all been dropped now, and other investigators who we had aren't really progressing. So, we're really pumped about finding new investigators this week! And this week is actually "Semana Santa," which should be interesting. I guess it's kind of Easter. I'm not really sure. But, everyone seems to separate into two groups: those who celebrate by watching the religious movies and thinking a bit more about Christ, and those who celebrate by drinking and partying a lot. We'll be looking for the first group, but it's almost certain that we'll have to wade through lots of people from the second group to find them.

Trip to Hawaii 6-4-12

 We had a really great week. The biggest event was the "Viaje a Hawaii" activity that we put on. It's a presentation of the post-life part of the Plan of Salvation. It goes a little something like this: Everyone arrives and sits in the "waiting room" where we have church movies going. A stewardess comes out and tells them that they're plane is ready for boarding, and a group goes into the "plane," where simulate take-off and even have in-flight refreshments. Then the plane crashes,
and everyone dies. The stewardess comes in and tells them that they've all kicked the bucket and she'll now be their guide through post-mortality. They go to the spirit world, final judgment, and the three kingdoms of glory and learn about each one. It really turned out successful, and a lot of investigators were able to have a cool, spiritual experience. It was pretty stressful putting everything together, but turned out really fun and we found some new people as a result.

At the end of the event, everyone comes out and Elder Soto and I had a table with a bunch of materials there so we could teach everyone who came out. Araceli, whose sister is a recent convert came to the table and I started teaching her, and we talked about what she thought about baptism and why she hadn't been baptized yet. On the table, I had originally had seven or eight copies of the Liahona, but there was only one left, which I told her to take. She opened it up, and inside,
it had her name written down! The missionary who originally started teaching her had intended to give it to her and her husband, but it never made it for some reason. We both just started laughing by the surprising, seemingly coincidental occurrence. She told me that in the morning, she had been praying to know what path she should take in terms of the Gospel. Receiving that Liahona originally intended for her was a cool little confirmation.

We also had a baptism in branch this week, this crazy kid named Alan. I played guitar at his baptismal service, and we watched the John Tanner movie while he and Elder Soto were changing after the ordinance.

Work hard, work smart. I've been thinking about something lately. I've often felt like there's an unfortunate phenomenon in the mission: Sometimes when I feel like I'm working my absolute hardest and just exhausting myself, I seem to have no success. And then, when I slacken up a bit, success seems to come out of nowhere. I know that diligence is completely necessary, but I've learned that diligence alone isn't enough. Going out and knocking on every door in your area shows that
you're tiring yourself out, but it's probably not the what the Spirit would tell you to do. If I want to have true success, I have to work really hard, and I have to work smart. I have to be in tune with the Spirit and be valorous enough to follow His impressions. 

I've also learned that I'm not going to become perfect anytime soon. Maybe eventually, but for now I have to get used to making mistakes and being humble. Often, after I learn a lesson from a trial, I expect to never run into the same problem again, but that's just not how it goes. Line upon line, precept on precept.

Another really cool investigator we're teaching is named Minerva, who is a friend of the recent convert who is Araceli's sister. Or something. We haven't even gone to her house because she lives out in some place called Manguito, where I imagine they eat nothing but tiny mango pies and drink tiny mango water. We had a family home evening
and watched the "Prophet of the Restoration" movie with her and a member family last night. She's progressing really well. In the first lesson, she just said, "This is great! I feel like a niña, learning new things."

Side note, I am currently in COSTA RICA! It's awesome! I'm here with Elder Larkin and Elder Aylesworth for a few hours on our way to Culiacán, where I will be all week for seminary. (That's far, far too long to be out of my area, but seminary is really great). This is the first time I've been in Costa Rica for a year, and I've already run into tons of people I know. Costa Rica is among my favorite areas in the mission.

I also have gained a very strong testimony of fasting this week. Commandments are so cool. I'm starting to feel like they're just a vending  machine for blessings. God really blesses us when we obey his laws and are aware of the promised blessings.

So, Zion is extending gradually here in Sinaloa. Here a little, there a little. Cuídense mucho!

Photos of the "Viaje a Hawii"Activity:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dangerous Lizards 5-28-12

 Dangerous Lizards

 El Dorado is awesome. It's an adventure just riding around the place. Everyone I talk to engages me in crazy stories. For example: Elder Soto and I were teaching a woman in her backyard and a lizard crawled out onto the wall. She said, "Those lizards are really dangerous."
"Why? Are they poisonous or something?"
"No, it's because they eat lots of bugs and stuff."
"What? I don't really see why that-"
"One time, one of our neighbors was making chocolate milk for her daughter, and the lizard fell into the milk and she didn't notice. The little girl drank it and just fell over and died. Those lizards sure are dangerous." Lesson learned. Check chocolate milk for lizards.

We have Nuvia's baptism scheduled for this week. However, due to her complicated situation, it's sort of dependent on us finding a job for her that lets her take Sundays off. 

When I first got here, our bikes were broken, so we walked everywhere the first day. My companion ended up with really bad blisters and couldn't walk. So I spent two days running around the area with ward members and I don't know to find investigators I've never met. It's been interesting.

New fruit of the week: Chicos. I think they only exist here in El Dorado. It looks like horse poop on the outside. I can't really compare it to anything. It's... sweet. Rating:7/10