January 27, 2013

Still a Jedi

****I had given Riley a little bit of a hard time about the quality of his letters lately.  The first paragraph is his response.*****

I am sorry that I appear disinterested/disrespectful/disengaged/something else that begins with "dis." That would be my bad. Let me tell you the truth: I blame it on my quickly worsening English. I don't think I know how to read anymore, I just misspelled the word English 7(!) times, and when I try to speak, a weird, alien mix of gibberish spews out of my mouth like a poisonous vomit. So that's why my letters are bad. Also, I have been trying to reduce my time in the internet so that I have more time to visit and teach. Don't worry, I think I've found our limit though. MY comp is ready to kill me because I scheduled citas at 3:30, 4:30 and 6 today. Ooops. Can't disrespect the missionary's Sabbath day. So my emails will be better in the future.

As far as not having much to report, it's the result of two principal factors: my journal writing has died since I decided to become an area book master. After all the effort I put into being organized(!) and filling that baby out, I'm exhausted and don't write in my journal. Therefore, I don't remember the cool experiences I had during the week. Sorry. The other factor is that missionary life has just become normal. I'm officially an old person in the mission now. The Pres called me out in a conference we had on Tuesday as one of those "about to return home." I'm hoping it's just an honest mistake. Where was I when the world council official decided that seven months equated no time at all? I would have definitely voted against that movement.

Okay, now, about BYU because I think we received revelation at the same time that maybe it is time to start thinking about college. Again. As far as what you sent me, I have no current plans about where to live.  Also, I need you to start investigating when my class registration date is. I will end up doing that in the mission when that comes up. I've already got Pres's permission (he asked me about it. Probably because I'm "about to return home." Sheesh). 

I hope that answers your questions. I'm shocked to hear about Daniel. I'll keep him in my prayers. It's weird when tragedies like that happen. I just met a missionary who has fourteen months in the mission. His brother died two months ago. I can't imagine. There's another one who's dad died during the mission. I won't lie, I'd probably go home if that were the case for me. It's a testament to the faith and testimony of these two missionaries that they are still here and still working. The Lord truly sends us His Comforter in these terrible times. He is the only one who can do that. And, as I ofter ask my investigators, what in the world does a Comforter do? He comforts, in a way that the world cannot (See John14:26-27). I hope he gets better.

Okay, on to mission related stuff. Kidding! First, I want Cody's email address. I'd like to see how he's doing. Alright, no more false starts. This week we traveled....a lot. I was in a van traveling through windy mountain roads for a grand total of 18 hours this week. I lost two entire days of work to traveling, first traveling to the conference on Tuesday, then traveling to Tlaxiaco to do a baptismal interview. In the mean time, I also did divisions with the zone leaders and worked a LOT with the members, as the Pres has indicated. It's been good. We've shared President Uchtdorf's "The Joy of the Priesthood" talk a lot in order to remind the active members that they have to stay active, stay encouraged, and stay working, no matter what type of ward you are in. It's really worked well. We also met a super prepared investigator.  Her cousin is a member who lives in California. He's going to be serving a mission in Salt Lake City soon. Supposedly, she promised him that she'd be a member before he got back. So far, so good. She's already been to Church three times, the last one coming by herself, and participates in class. She's really cool. I think we are going to put a baptismal date with her today. It's funny, but I've learned more than anything else in the mission that the Lord prepares people. He doesn't want me to prepare people, just like He doesn't want me to convince people. He is going to prepare people. He is going to convince people. I just have to be His mouthpiece. 

Not all prepared people start out super pilas though. Some need patience and time. All need love. You can tell if somebody is prepared or not by their willingness to keep their commitments. It won't be easy, but if they keep their commitments, they are prepared. I love God.

I was almost bit by a dog again this week. As I was l leaving the bishop's house, his dog broke the chain. I made a sick Indiana Jones type move and dodged him while shutting the door in his face. So yup, in case you were wondering, I am still a Jedi.

Guys, I am out of words. Just so you know, lose yourselves in service. It's such a joy. I don't know how to describe it, but worries, pains, and stress go away when you serve, especially when you serve in the way of the Lord. So do it. Do something nice. Go out of your way. Break the routine. Plan something for FHE centered on service. It truly makes you happy.

I guess I'll see you in a year. "About to return home" my butt. Peace out,

January 10, 2013

Once again...

Dear fam fam,

I am once again a district leader. President changed me instead of my comp who already had three changes in the area (he's going on his fourth now) and he sent me to Huajapam de Leon. It's a city (i think....it may be a pueblo) that is super far away from EVERYTHING! Seriously, three hours from Oaxaca and three hours from the other missionaries. Nobody is close. My companion and I are literally by ourselves. I am SO excited! I love it when the Lord just leaves me alone and let's me be the best missionary I can be. 

By the way, my companion's name is Elder Babb. Despite his English sounding last name, he is actually from Costa Rica, which brings the total number of my companions' nationalities to 7. I have almost had more companions from outside the U.S and Mexico (6) than from inside (7). Elder Babb seems really cool. He only has two weeks in the mission, so I'm training again too. He speaks English because his grandpa is from England, but we're speaking mostly Spanish so that I can improve my now defunct second language. 8 weeks with a Canadian will do that to you. Gosh I loved Elder Piereder though. He was a fun guy. 

Anyways, so we did have four baptisms last week. It was a crazy day on Saturday. First, we had three baptisms in Miahuatlan. We went to this BEAUTIFUL river with the world's cleanest water (yes, believe it or not, the world's cleanest water is, in fact, found in Mexico. You just have to go high up to the mountains to find it) and baptized Pedro and his two kids. We also brought an entire family of investigators to come see it and our recent convert, José Santiago, bore his testimony about his own conversion. I was so happy I almost died/jumped into the river to go swimming. Luckily, I resisted the urge. The best part, though, was that after the baptism, as custom, I invited every to go congratulate the newly baptized people. This they did, but I almost started crying when, unprovoked, Felipa, Pedro's wife who has not been baptized, came up and gave Pedro the world's biggest and happiest hug (also found in Mexico.)

Then, with the bishopric member in tow, we rushed to Ejutla for our fourth and final baptism. It was of a 10 year old kid named Daniel, the child of a reactivating family. It was short and sweet. The father, a tough, silent sort of man who absolutely loves the Gospel, baptized him in a tank of water. His older brother, Carlos, 16 years old, bore his testimony. Afterword's, Carlos confessed to us that he was actually fasting that day. We are proud of him and his little brother.

I think the best part of last week though might have been Sunday. After the four confirmations (that took a little bit of time), we had fast and testimony meeting. Although the most pilas family of the branch wasn't there, we went overtime. Carlos bore his testimony again and did a great job. The biggest surprise was when Pedro, recently baptized, shy, and soft-spoken, rose up to bear his testimony near the end. He explained how he is coming to see this not just as a good church but as the only true Church and that he knows that his baptism was the best decision he ever made. It was beautiful. I was sitting at the piano (I play piano in sacrament meeting now, by the way. Those lessons didn't go to waste afterall!) and I had to hid my face for a bit. It was to shiny and happy and I think I might have distracted the congregation.
Well, I got a package from the Greenhalgh's. I love that family. I just barely opened it, but I already love it. They gave me Star Wars candy. It's pretty ridiculously awesome. I send them a very grateful thank you. I love you all too and I guess I'll see you in a year or so!

Elder Johnson