Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Week 76 The End of the World as We Know It... May 25, 2015

Monday we went to Heroes (my previous ward) to visit the Ayala Family. They are doing really well! Especially Ernesto...he now teaches the priesthood class! He has come SO far! The rest of the family is also doing awesome and I love any time I get to spend with them. Later we went with the Lopez Family for dinner. They are some of my favorite converts here in the mission. You'd think they had been members for years! Both Omar and Patricia are busy with their kids, work, and church callings and the kids are busy with school, seminary, and preparing for missions. I still remember the day when Hermana Bennett and I first taught them like it was yesterday. And, well, from that day on they've just been golden! I can't wait to go through the temple with them in just a few short months!
Lopez's little boy
Tuesday we visited Bertha and she is more excited than ever for her baptismal date. She mentions it all the time! Even in her prayers she prays that God helps her to prepare...THAT'S how you know that they really have a true desire.

Carlos is also progressing really well. He has written in his Book of Mormon "June 7th" as a constant reminder of his goal. He hasn't drank once! He also has almost every one of his books all marked up: his Book of Mormon, his Liahona magazines, Gospel principles..he LOVES the gospel.

Tuesday we also met a member for the first time from the Elder's old area. Her name is Guadalupe and she's dying because of a softball-sized tumor she has on the side of her neck. She was almost literally a skeleton sitting there on her bed. There were around 20 people there visiting her (she could die any minute) and none of them were members. We sang a hymn to her, prayed, shared a scripture, and what we hadn't noticed was that everyone in that room was crying. Because of the tumor she could barely speak...it was really really hard to make out anything she said but you could tell she absolutely loved us being there. As we got up to leave she said, "When I die, I want my funeral service to be in the church and I want the both of you to be there....tell that to the bishop for me." It was REALLY sad but it was amazing to see how happy she was despite what she was going through.

Wednesday Alejandro had his baptismal interview with our District Leader, Elder Lee but needed a special interview. Luckily, the President was in the stake center so we were able to go with him almost right away. He passed and we headed back out to our area to teach some more lessons.

Thursday morning we started divisions..I went to Juan Estutia with Hermana Tirado (newer Hermana from Tijuana) and Hermana Bennett went to my area with Hermana Taylor. I LOVE Hermana Tirado...she works hard and she's just a blast to be around. She has A LOT of potential and I know that she'll be able to help a lot of the Hermanas here in the mission.
The end of the world...
As we were walking to divisions we noticed that EVERYONE was looking up to the sky. As we looked up we saw it too...I've never seen anything like it...there was a circular rainbow surrounding the sun! It was so strange! People here thought the world was ending...literally. There were people praying in the streets asking God to forgive them of their sins...(it was similar to what happens when there's an earthquake here). Everyone was asking us to interpret the meaning of it, if we were all going to die, etc. At lunch the lady couldn't stop looking out the window begging God to not let anything happen to her family and to forgive her of everything bad she'd ever done. I said the closing prayer, ended, and she panicked and said, "You didn't ask Him to protect us from whatever is about to happen!" So, she made me pray again! And the world didn't end.

Friday we finished divisions and headed back to our own areas just in time for lunch. First off...they forgot we were eating with them so the dad had to figure out what to give us...and he gave us the absolute worst option possible: chicharron en salsa verde. When he handed us our plates I looked at my companion and mouthed, "I'm not doing this...." You all probably think I'm really dramatic...but it is so gross...it's like eating giant loogies...(that's the best way I know how to describe it). I think God answered my prayer because the dad left us to eat alone (that never happens). Hermana Taylor quickly grabbed a plastic bag from her bag, we both emptied our plates into it, she sealed it up, and quickly stuffed it back into her backpack. Just as we finished it the dad came back in and said, "Wow! I didn't know you two love chicharron so much!" I had to act like I was super full so that he didn't force me to eat another plate.
Hermana Taylor with our emergency bag
Later we got a text from Alejandro telling us that he wasn't ready to get baptized the next day. Of course we went right away to his house to see what was up. He invited us in and told us various things: First, after his interviews he felt embarrassed for whatever it was he had done in his past and he didn't like remembering it. Second, he started to search things on the internet and found a lot of anti-mormon literature which brought up a lot of doubts. I have no idea what he went through in his past...but it REALLY effects him even to this day. We talked to him for a while and came to the conclusion that that night he was going to pray and read to know if tomorrow was right for him to get baptized. Satan works SO hard...I can't stand it! One of the hardest things about being a missionary is not being able to control the decisions of others. I have such a HUGE desire to help these people and it is so sad to see someone make a choice that isn't right. I just want them to understand...but it's not that easy. Everyone has their free agency...and that's the worst sometimes. It's hard to explain...but I know that everything happens for a reason and sometimes we can't do a whole lot to change the situation...but God can and sometimes all we can do is trust in Him.

Later that day it rained SO HARD. Within 3 minutes we were absolutely soaked from head to toe. And that's how we had to teach English class. To make it a little better I went to the bathroom and wrung out my shirt and my skirt. Mission life...;)

Saturday we visited Alejandro...and well, he had pretty much decided that he wasn't ready to get baptized. We tried sharing all kinds of things...but it was to no use... Turns out he still has a few doubts about whether or not Joseph Smith is a prophet (thanks to the anti-mormon literature). He told us that he was going to work double-time this upcoming week on getting an answer and that he'd have an answer by Thursday. He used to be a professional marathon runner...he was sponsored and everything! He got paid to run marathons all over the United States and ran marathons in 2 hours and 40 minutes (that's running at about a 6 minute/mile pace). He told us that in those days, if he wasn't fully prepared for a marathon, he would work and train twice as hard to make sure he was more than ready to compete. So, that's his plan...but instead of training for a marathon he's training for baptism...I have faith that he's going to do it! Pray for him!

Sunday Bertha, her daughter and her left-handed son came to church! Alejandro also came at 7:00AM (an hour early) for a priesthood preparation class. Can someone tell me why this guy isn't baptized already?!;) He even showed up in a white shirt and tie for crying out loud! Edith came (she always does). Rosa, Israel and their son Victor also came. Unfortunately, Carlos didn't show and we couldn't get ahold of him...hopefully he's ok!

Overall this week was a great week! I can't believe that I only have 2 weeks left...I'm full of mixed emotions! I think I'm going to go crazy! ;) I love the mission SO much but at the same time I can't wait to see my family!
Dinner with the Lopez family

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Week 75 Angels With Backpacks May 18, 2015

Monday after our district meeting we decided we'd look for our investigator Carlos. We haven't been able to find him in a while...he doesn't answer our phone calls anymore and hasn't come to church. Normally we would've stopped trying to find him but something kept telling us that we should keep trying. So, we knocked on his door and there he was, absolutely drunk. Right as he opened the door you could smell the alcohol. It was actually pretty surprising to us because he had told us that he didn't have a problem with alcohol. He admitted that he had been avoiding us because he didn't want us to see him like that. You could see the pure sadness in his expression. He told us that he needed help and that he knew we were capable of doing the job. We left pretty disappointed but we made an appointment with him for the next day; ready to do whatever it took to help him.

Tuesday was an amazing day. In the morning we stopped by with Gustavo (convert) to take him with us to the appointment with Carlos. (Gustavo was an alcoholic before and we figured he would be able to help us help Carlos.) We knocked...nothing. Knocked again...nothing. Finally a woman answered the door and told us that Carlos was there but that he was really drunk. My first thought was that we should make another appointment...but Gustavo walked right through that door and went to find him. We followed, and sure enough there Carlos was...drunk. Bottom line...he has a HUGE desire to change. I was pretty happy about that. We invited him to attend an addiction class that night (Adolfo teaches it) and Gustavo offered to pass for him. Sure enough later that night he and Carlos were there at the class! Progress!

Later we went to see our investigator Bertha. When we got there her husband was there and wasn't too happy to see us. He told us that we were just a bunch of hypocrites and that he wasn't too fond of us teaching his wife. But, he let us stay and left to work as a mototaxi driver. We got talking to Bertha and ended up setting a baptismal date for the 7th of June. She accepted it before I even finished asking the question! That doesn't happen too often! She then told us about her brother (member) and how the other day she was in the car with him driving to the store. They passed an LDS church and she said, "I'm a part of that church now!" (this was before she had even been to church). He thought she was making fun of him and asked her to not joke around like that. She said, "No! I'm serious!" He couldn't believe it. Apparently later that night he called her to check to see if it really was true and then said, "When you get baptized, call me. I want to be there." Isn't that amazing???

That night we went to visit our other investigator, Alejandro, who expressed his need to know more before getting baptized. We found out that the Elders hadn't taught him any of the commandments and nothing about the Plan of Salvation. There was a lot he needed to learn before he was ready to be baptized just a few days later. He paused and said, "Listen, I trust you two girls. If you think I'm ready to get baptized this weekend...I'll do it. But you tell me." Both Hermana Taylor and I felt better about waiting until the next weekend. So, we moved it for this Saturday. He has changed so much. He started out as the most "machista" man ever. He used to tell us that it was hard for him to even listen to us because we're women and he was raised to think that women were created to be beaten, commanded, to clean, cook, and nothing more. (That's really common here) He told us how hard it was for him to love his wife and kids...but that by listening to us and by feeling the spirit that we bring, he has finally learned to love his family. It's the first time he's felt that way. Now he understands that women are worth something!

Wednesday we finished the last 6 months of the Training Plan for 2015-2016 with the President , his wife, and the assistants. The missionaries are going to learn so much in these next 12 months!
Flooded Streets
After having returned to our area to work we got out of our 1st lesson to flooded streets. Let's just say that the drainage system here in the State of Mexico doesn't do anything... What happens is that the garbage clogs the drains and the water builds up in the streets. But you want to know what else happens??? Since the water can't drain where it should, it drains into the sewage system instead...and, well, the sewage system only holds so much until it too begins to overflow. So as we were leaving that lesson, the sewage had already overflown, and it smelled AWFUL. And the worst part was that in order to get home we had to walk right through it...so gross! Once the water disappears...the street is covered in a layer of black sludge (I don't even want to know want it consists of) and men dressed in yellow vests come and shovel it up...I'm just grateful that that's not my job!

Thursday we visited Carlos...and he was completely sober! Woo hoo! It sure is a lot easier to teach sober people;). I forgot to mention the reason he had gotten so drunk in the first place. His first job is repairing electronic devices...his other job (which he hadn't told us about) is that he sings at events. He puts himself into situations where there is a lot of alcohol and he doesn't stop at a few drinks...it lasts for days. Anyway, we got talking and he had just gotten an offer to perform on Friday. He accepted, and the guy paid him right then and there. The same guy showed up this morning and told him that the event had been moved to Sunday. He paused, grabbed the money he had been paid, handed it back to the man and said, "I'm sorry, but I have a commitment this Sunday." As he was walking away Carlos called out to him and said, "And don't worry about coming back...I quit!" He's no longer going to sing because he knows that that's the only way he's going to quit drinking. What a sacrifice! Later he told us, "Ustedes son ángeles que han llegado a mi vida. No traen alas...traen mochilas!" (You are the angels that have come into my life. You don't have wings but you have backpacks!) He's a funny guy.

In the afternoon we taught Alejandro the commandments. In the past he was an alcoholic and drank 15 cups of coffee a day. Now? Nothing! We started talking about paying tithing and he shared a story with us. In the past here, the catholic church had people pay tithes. Alejandro was the leader of an anti-tithe group that ran against the Catholic church. Because of that group, the catholic church here no longer requires its members to pay tithes. In my head I was thinking, "Oh great....he's not going to accept this commandment...we're doomed." But no! He said, "I know that his is the true church! And whatever it asks me to do, I'll do it!"

Our last appointment of the day was with Bertha. The first thing she mentioned to us was that she had a few questions on keeping the Sabbath Day holy (that's what we had taught her in the previous lesson). They are in a tough financial situation. Her husband works as a mototaxi driver, they live in a TINY apartment (bedroom and kitchen combined and an outhouse outside...tarp roof to keep the rain out, etc.) and they are about 9000 pesos in dept. That is a TON considering they make on average about 60 pesos a day here...about $4.50. She said, "My husband wanted me to ask you two your opinion on whether or not we should work on Sundays. He wanted to know what we can do to dedicate every Sunday to the Lord." That's the same man that called me a hypocrite! Miracle! What an act of faith...they are having HUGE financial problems but are absolutely willing to drop work on Sunday and count on the promise in Doctrine and Covenants 59: "Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours..." THATS how much she trusts in the Lord!

Saturday morning we visited Bertha again. After teaching her we got talking about her 2 year-old deaf son. The times we've visited both Taylor and I have avoided talking to him knowing that he woudn't be able to hear us...we usually just waved at him or gave him a high 5. Almost every time she talks about him she mentions that he's "sordo" (deaf). Even when we first met them she introduced him and said, "This is my son Jonathan. He's 2 years old and he's "sordo". So, right from the start it was clear that he was deaf. Today, as we were talking to her, she once again mentioned something about him being "sordo". That's when I decided to ask how he became deaf and how they realized. She responded, "Oh, it's because he uses his left side for everything. He draws with his left hand, eats with his left hand, and even kicks with his left foot." In my mind I was thinking, "What does that have to do with being deaf??" I was so confused and so I asked, "Your son is "sordo"?" She busted up laughing and said, "No! He's "zurdo"!" (That means left-handed.) All 3 of us started laughing hysterically. This whole time I thought the kid was deaf! And who introduces their son like that?! "This is my son Jonathan...he's left-handed." And she mentions it almost every time we see her! I was crying I was laughing so hard! So anyway, Bertha, who is right-handed, is progressing really well. We love their right-handed daughter, Allison. She talks a lot about how she wants to be a missionary like us someday. And their left-handed son Jonathan is cute too!;)
Israel, Victor, & Rosa


Saturday afternoon we went to the temple visitors center with Gustavo (convert), Alejandro, Rosa, Israel, and their son Victor (investigators that can't get baptized yet). That place is amazing! You feel so happy just by stepping foot on the temple grounds and almost every person I've taken there mentions the immediate difference they feel. We took a tour as a group and we saw an amazing video about how families are forever. At the end we started talking about what we liked about the video and Victor (7) raised his hand and started talking. It wasn't more than 5 seconds later that he was totally bawling. He started talking about how he really missed his little sister and how he wanted to be able to see her again. (His little sister was murdered a little over a year ago.) It was SO sad. It had almost everyone in the room crying too...but it was awesome to teach them in that moment that someday they would be able to be sealed for time and for all eternity in the temple and that he would be able to see his little sister again. I love that family so much! I can't wait for the day that they can be baptized and start to prepare to be sealed as a family!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Week 74 May 11, 2015

I bet your family didn't bring the pet goat to your Mother's Day Skype session! (my family is crazy!!!;))
On Monday we went to a market place called Ciudadela with President and Sister Stutznegger. They sell Mexican clothes etc. there and with only 4 weeks left in the mission, I need to find something to take home to my family. We always have fun with the president. I love them so much and am really going to miss them. But...my family plans to come back and visit in September. I can't wait for them to meet the people that I love.
I'm really going to miss these people!!
Tuesday we were able to find a new investigator (after having walked for 3 hours straight in the hot sun...it was worth it). Her name is Bertha and she has two kids; a 7 year old daughter and a 2 year old son who is deaf. She's married but has been struggling from day 1. I'm really excited to teach her! She showed up to church this week too which is always promising!

After lunch on Tuesday we took the metro to the President's house to spend the night. Wednesday morning we had a meeting with the President, his wife, and the assistants to create a training plan for the next year. That means that we planned what would be taught for every district meeting, zone meeting, leadership meeting, and zone conference for the next year. It's wierd planning for something when you're not even going to be there for but in that time I sure did learn a lot about receiving revelation. We only finished about 6 months worth of our plan before calling it a day and heading back to our area to work. We will be going back again this week to finish the rest of our planning. I love being able to stay at the Presidents house. It is so clean and comfortable and the spirit there is awesome.
Israel, Rosa, and Victor. (The two that need to get divorced before they can get married so they can get baptized) They are AMAZING!
Thursday morning we started divisions with the Hermanas Ortiz (one of the newer sisters) and Valdivia (going home with me). I went to Oriental in the Distrito Federal with Hermana Ortiz and was able to learn a lot. She's from Aguas Calientes, Mexico and will end up being a great missionary!

We recently began teaching a guy named Alejandro who was an old investigator of the Elders who just go taken out of the area. He had come to church several times (8) but wasn't at all interested in getting baptized. The first time we taught him he didn't even believe in the Book of Mormon let alone the Bible...Hermana Taylor and I knew that it was going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of prayers to help him. So with lots of faith we decided that in our second lesson with him we were going to set a baptismal date (he had never accepted one before)...and so that's what we did. When we set it he once again expressed that he wasn't ready and that he'd let us know when he was. Taylor and I were too stubborn to accept that answer! So, right then and there we told him that we were going to kneal down with him and that he was going to ask God if his date was right and if that's what God wanted him to do. So, we knelt down and he began praying...I've never heard a more sincere prayer in my life. I was praying my heart out the whole time! In his prayer he specifically asked God if his baptismal date was right for him and if he was ready to take that step. After he finished, we waited there for a good 3 minutes. He sat up, sat down in his chair, and said, "Never in my life have I felt so much happiness and peace as I am feeling right now...I think that's my answer!" (Galatas 5:22) (Galatians) Alejandro is finally preparing for baptism!

Isn't that amazing? We can ask God specific and direct questions and He promises us that He will answer. Don't forget that that's the same God that moves mountains, that created the earth, that created all mankind; that same God takes the time to hear and answer our prayers. Why wouldn't we talk to him every morning and night???
Mother's Day Skype!
Photo Bomb (We got to meet Hermana Taylor....so fun!)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Week 73 May 4, 2015

Mexico City MTC (aka Heaven)
Monday we left our apartment early and headed to the mission offices to meet the arriving missionaries. As we got there we left with the assistants to go to Benimerito (the Mexico City MTC) to pick up some of the new missionaries. It was amazing! There you are driving through the ghettoes of Mexico City when all of a sudden you drive through some gates into what seems like heaven. Plants, trees, open space, birds chirping...it was also the first time in all of my mission that I had smelled the smell of cut grass! It was like a whole new world! We found the missionaries jumped in a van and headed back to the mission offices. Only one Hermana came this time. Her name is Hermana Wong and she's from a town called Mexcali in Baja California. She's 26 years old and speaks English, Spanish, French, and Italian (she went to school in both France and Italy). She'll do awesome here in the mission as she is very independent and very confident. At the offices we trained them on the basics of the mission and then we headed to the President's house with Hermana Wong for the night. It's always a blast getting to know the new missionaries and hearing about their conversion stories and the reason they decided to come on a mission.

Tuesday we went to Neza for changes and Hermana Wong was assigned to her new companion. Five sisters also finished their missions. We're losing everybody! As changes finished we were surprised as a Mariachi band entered the back of the room and started playing. Turns out Adolfo (one of the converts here in Polanco) planned it out with some other ward members and they all pitched in to pay for the band to come. We've definetely never had a mariachi band come to changes! Afterwards we hopped in the car with the departing missionaries and headed back to the President's house for their goodbye dinner and a testimony meeting. The Elders went back to the offices and we stayed with the Hermanas Nance (Utah), Monarrez (Chicago), Luque (Argentina), Williams (Idaho), and Mercedes (Dominican Republic). We had a lot of fun!
My district leader, Elder Hixon, just became Zone Leader!
Wednesday we got to go to the airport and drop off the missionaries. The first missionaries to go were Luque and Mercedes. We woke up at about 3:00AM and drove them there...it was the first time I had ever seen what it was like to say ggodbye to missionaries who were going home...it was SAD! They were both crying and that made us all cry. The entire time I had a pit in my stomach thinking that in just a short 6 weeks that would be ME. So, that continued for most of the day on Wednesday....it was like repeating a sad movie trailer 4 times!
Saying goodbye at the airport
That afternoon we grabbed a taxi and went back to our area to work for the day. Because there are so many missionaries leaving and so few coming, the mission is dropping in number of missionaries and companionships, which means we are having to take missionaries out of a lot of areas. One of those areas is in our ward which means that Taylor and I now have to cover the entire ward boundary by ourselves (we used to share it with other missionaries)...and it's HUGE. We now officially have the biggest area in the Nezahualcoyotl zone....lots of walking! That night we slept like rocks! We had been up since 3:00AM and had been walking like crazy!

Thursday we were walking through the streets when we were approached by an older lady walking in the opposite direction. At first she didn't really say much...she was just staring at me right in my eyes. Then she looked at my companion and said, "Take care of your companion...and make sure no one steals her!" Then she turned and just stared at me! We told her we had to go,...we said bye and as I was trying to leave she brabbed my hand, yelled, "Chula!", and then she slapped me in the face! (Chula is slang for beautiful.) Yes, a random lady in the street slapped me across the face!
This one's for you mission moms!
Later we were looking for a less active and had to cross one of the biggest and busiest streets in our area. (They're called avenidas or avenues in English.) Most avenues are filled with homeless people and others doing whatever they can to make even a few pesos. Some carry a bottle of cleaning fluid and a hand held squeegee and wash windshields, others carry giant black rags and clean your entire car from any dust, some sell cigarettes and pieces of gum, and others dress up as clowns and juggle flaming torches. It's actually quite entertaining to see what kind of show you get to see at a red light. Anyway, Hermana Taylor and I had to cross this road....and it was really busy... As we waited for a break in traffic we were approached by a young man selling gum (it was my convert David's son), a windshield washer who was doing drugs at the same time, and a homeless man and woman dressed up as clowns...all at the same time. The young man was nice and just wanted to have a good come to Jesus talk, the drugged window washer was practically speaking a whole different language he was so out of it, and the 2 clowns were fighting over who was going to trade eyes with us. I think both of us were a little nervous but we were stuck there until we could get past the traffic. It was quite the experience...we were talking to the young man about God while trying to avoid the window washer and making sure the 2 clowns didn't try to steal our eyeballs. Finally the break in traffic came and we got out of there! I don't think we're going to try and cross that big street ever again...I prefer to have my eyes INSIDE their sockets.
Hermana Taylor, Adolfo, and me (no one smiles unless we tell them too...its a Mexican thing)
So, as I mentioned last week, Taylor and I are the only 2 missionaries in this entire ward. We'll be leaving here in about 5 weeks...and after lots of prayer, it has been decided that they won't be sending more missionaries to take our places...Polanco is going to be closed. When we first heard the news we were pretty sad...I kept wondering how the ward was ever going to progress without us. What about the converts? Who would be there to teach them? Taylor and I thought a lot about it and it wasn't until this week that we realized what a blessing it would turn out to be in the long run. Long story short...missionaries and other leaders have had a few problems here with the ward leaders. The ward relies so much on us as missionaries that they don't do much for the ward or its members. Saturday we had a meeting with the Bishop and the Ward Mission Leader and we filled them in on what would be happening in 5 weeks. They were stunned. But we were able to see them recover and make a game plan as to how they would change as a ward. From that moment on, I've never seen the ward come together as much as they did in all the time we've been here. Sometimes what we think are trials actually turn out to be our greatest blessings. I'm excited to see what the future has in store for Polanco.
Makeshift basketball hoop at the mission offices (the Elders cut the top of a plastic bucket off and drilled it to the wall)
The mission Cougars! Go BYU!!!
Bag saran wrapper (so no one gets into your bag and steals things...that would have been useful coming here!)

Elder Evans (Canada) showed up with a cotton laundry bag as one of his suitcases....Elders...they wouldn't let him take it unless he wrapped it up.