*****Family and Friends****** I am starting this letter sort of in the middle. Riley is describing pictures that he sent to us. I left part of this in, even though I can't figure out how to publish many pictures on this blog, just because there is a shout out to Jordan Hadley, and his cousin, Ellen. And, as usual, it shows Riley's true personality. So, please bear with us.********
Masterburger is the second best burger place on the face of the planet. It's really good. Also, it sells shakes, which are something of a rarity down here. In fact, the Masterburger shake was the first shake I've had since....I don't remember. We don't get ice cream that much. For somebody coming from Provo, home of the Malt Shoppe and Snuffy's, this has been a hard transition. Masterburger has made it easier. Also, you might catch a glimpse of Elder Nataren, my district leader. He's a goofy guy. He only has six months in the mission, but that's two more than Elder Edwards and I and four more than his companion, which comprises our entire district. We don't have much experience. Many missionaries are still amazed that Elder Edwards and I are companions because we technically are still training. So we have fun as a district. More about Elder Nataren: he's from Monterrey, he's 21 years old and a recent convert, he worked with Jesús Cabrera (the recently returned missionary in our ward) before his mission while Jesús was on his mission, he can´t drive, he makes frequent attempts to steal my ties, those glasses actually do ABSOLUTELY nothing, he only wears them to look smarter, he's convinced he's going to marry Ellen after seeing her picture, and he's my friend. He's not very serious, but he's a good guy and trying to be a good missionary. I'm glad he's my district leader. People not appearing in the pictures of wonderful food are Saulo (my Elder's quorum president), Ezra (his younger brother), and la Hna Angela (their mom). Saulo and Ezra are both returned missionaries. Saulo served in San Diego and therefore can speak English and understands the pain of being a newbie in a new land with a new language. Ezra served in Leon and was assistant for the last six months of his mission, which ended in about september. Yes, Jordan Hadley knows him. Saulo also is going to take us to the Sierra this week, which is part of our area but only accessible by car because it is two hours away. It will be the first time we go if we go. Also, we are teaching Saulo's girlfriend/essentially fiancé. They've been dating for quite a while and she has listened to three pairs of missionaries before us. Like Saulo, she is very intelligent and has a bunch of questions. We've only taught one lesson but it might've been the coolest lesson I've participated in in four months. I really can't explain how strong the Spirit was, but she summed it up pretty nicely: Saulo told her, during his testimony, that this is the fourth time now that she had taken the discussions and every time the feeling is the same and that feeling is the Spirit. She cut him off there and said, "No. No es lo mismo esta vez. Es más fuerte," which means no, no it's not the same this time. It's stronger. Yeah, that was pretty cool. Saulo told us afterwords that he thinks this time she's going to get baptized. Go them! Ezra is actually leaving this week. He's going to America to study English and I think he's kind of nervous. He's a little bit of a momma's boy. He doesn't like to study. I think he'll be living in Provo so Taggart, if you meet an Ezra from Oaxaca, befriend him.
Next is a picture of Mannuel and I playing cops. I was waiting for an investigator to show up, don't worry! I don't waste time. Also, Mannuel is part of a less active family, so it wouldn't be wasting time anyways. Also, he is my favorite person. They don't have much money (that wall is part of their house), but they love missionaries. Mannuel will be coming to the U.S. with me when I come home, so make room for a eight year old. He is awesome and my best friend.
Story from this week: so one night, we had set up a time to meet the Hno Cabrera in order to have a lesson with a member. We were going to teach Adolfo, who lives in San Francisco Tutla, which is at one end of our rather large area and Hno Cabrera lives on the other end. So we had to wait a bit for him to show up. Our meeting place was outside the house of the Hno Flores and as Elder Edwards and I were waiting, the Hna Flores showed up. We talked. As I have said, I don't have a sweater. I was wearing short sleeves at the time because it is hot during the day, especially when you walk everywhere. But at this point, it was night and kind of chilly. The Hna Flores, being awesome as she is, offered me something and I didn't know what it was. However, I am senior companion and have to at least appear to know things so that the members don't lose faith in their missionaries. I accepted the thing. Turns out is was a full blown Sherlock Holmes style coat that her son had left behind after he returned from his mission. And she refused to take it back. So now I have this coat and I don't know what to do with it because I don't like to wear it during the day and I can't store it in my backpack. I'll just solve crimes in it, I think. Christmas crimes because I also have a Santa Hat that unfortunately I am not allowed to wear very often.
The last picture was inspired by Colton. In his last email to me, he asked for a description of my neighborhood. Well, this is the art that greets me as a turn onto my street from Camino Nacional. You'll see Jack Skellington if you'll look, as well as an alien/bug/predator that I call chuppy in tribute to Aubrey. Don't worry, my neighborhood is very nice and peaceful. Honestly, the graffiti makes it "homey." It's not Oaxaca if it hasn't been painted.
Well, a little bit about my first full week with Elder Edwards: tiring. I am exhausted every night. Elder Juarez and I didn't work this hard. It's a good exhausted because it is exhausted in the name of the Lord, but I am still tired all the time now. And, although we work harder, our numbers are lower because we actually follow the Preach My Gospel definition of a lesson and others don't. But we might have found a way around that. See, most people envision a lesson as sitting down in a house, teaching for 30 minutes to an hour, beginning and ending with a prayer. We realized that we didn't need the house or the thirty minutes. We were going to do it in the street. So one night, we were walking and some guy, seeing to Gringos, called us over to his pick up. We went. He had lived in North Carolina for four years and actually spoke quite a bit of English. It was perhaps the weirdest conversation I've had because all three of us were switching between the two languages interchangeably, sometimes midsentence. Yet we all understood. We began to contact him. We shared a short, five minute blipit about prophets. He challenged to pray about it. He accepted. And then we said, "hey, could we leave you with a prayer?" Now you would think that just randomly leaving a guy and his nephew sitting in their pickup at 8 o clock at night with a prayer would be a little weird, awkward, and/or uncomfortable. It wasn't. He was just like, "cool" and we said the prayer, invited him to the English classes we are starting next saturday and left. Not gonna lie, just leaving your contacts with prayers changes everything. Why? Because a contact turns into a first lesson with a prayer and instead of leaving the contact with a challenge or an appointment, you leave the with the Spirit AND those other things. It's good.
Well, point is, we've found some new people to teach this week and we have a ton of work and no time. By the by, yes, we have our choir every week but it is now a choir AND a play based on A Christmas Carol, Plan of Salvation version. We have a performance this Saturday in Atoyac and this Sunday in Amapolas (my stake). We don't do anything the weekend of Christmas, which I will be spending with the Cabrera's because it's a tradition. See, poor little (not that little he's 11) Ricky Cabrera has his birthday on the 24th which means he has never had a party with friends in his life. Instead, he gets the missionaries every year and I would hate to disappoint. So we are going to bring a gift as well because the Cabrera's deserve it. They are THE family of our ward.
I have to get going cuz I still owe Colton a letter. I love and miss you all, and I will have a very Merry Christmas if you promise me to have a very merry Christmas. Deal? Peace out