Monday, April 28, 2014

Variety is the spice of life

Qué chido pero lástima que hace 3 años yo no podía sacar una foto así con el gran Henrique Knox...

I have the biggest news of the mission so far. I am going to have had 4 mission presidents in total by July 1st. If it's not unique, it's not Abram.

I believe an explanation is in order. On Wednesday the whole mission was told we were going to have a surprise meeting with Elder Johnson of the 70, area president of Mexico. Many thought he was coming to correct us or to felicitar us for good work or something, or possibly to clear up new rules the first presidency just put in place. However, usually the area president doesn't randomly visit a mission one day unless something really needs to be done, so I had a feeling something was aloof. What occurred was not at all what I expected.

Elder Johnson first announced that as of Tuesday President Lopez was released as President of the Mexico Xalapa mission 'to take care of personal matters'. He told us that President Monson had called a temporary mission president to serve until 30 June and on 1 July a new President will be put into his calling for the full 3 years. He presented us to our new President - President Saucedo, who served as the Guadalajara mission president until 2012.  So within a period of 3 months I will have 3 mission presidents, plus President Black from Vegas makes 4. Variety is the spice of life, they say.

President Saucedo and his wife talked to us in the same meeting so we could get to know them a little bit. Church headquarters called them on Tuesday and told them they were needed the very next day. Off they went, only packing basic needs in suitcases.

If you could send me the lyrics to the French National anthem I would love it. 

Elder L te manda un besito y dice gracias por los libros y dice que te quiere mucho y quiere agregar caritas :* aquì sale con unas tortillas hechas a mano, què talento tenemos ¿no?
lo que me gusta del libro es que asì hablan mis amigos de verdad. todo lo del 'Spanglish'' como parqueadero en vez de estacionamiento y wachar en vez de mirar.

In Papantla when you need to buy something, you buy it from these guys who ride around on their motorcycles honking their horns and selling things at random.

This guy's got some real talent. It's quite sad that such fun people like him live in total poverty. I gave them some pocket change.

Que no tengas pena, dice Elder Lopez. Lo importante es que haya sido con mucho cariño de lo cual no cabe duda. Espera saludarte cuando hablamos el 10 de Mayo porque se nota que eres muy ''chilera'' (jerga guatemalteca que significa ''cool'') besos.

Yes, he got the English books. I'll tell him about our gift of ordering things only to find the order is missing something or broken later. I had just forgotten because it's been a year since I ordered anything.

Marathon Monday

Meb won???  That is awesome! I hope all is going well for Dad today as he gives it his all.  I'm glad Dad got a nice run in on a not as competitive brain mode (for his injury)!I remember a year ago the mood there was totally different. Glad to know the runner's spirit is unbeatable.  I want to live in Boston. Really after two years in Mexico I'll be grateful to live just about anywhere in my own country but Boston is such a neat city. I have the picture of you and me by the Knox monument with all of Boston in the background taped on the wall by my study desk. Sadly the dates are starting to slip my mind here as 15 September and 5 May become important to Mexicans. How fun to go on trips to the whole Boston area there!

This week felt pretty good. We're now required to set apart time in the day to do street contacts every day and are required to talk with everybody we see as a primary method of finding interested people. It feels like I'm an actual missionary now. While contacting this week (that feels weird to type), we ran into a family of 5 - the dad, A, is an inactive member from many years ago and he told us he was just saying he wants to come back to church soon. There is no other way we would have met this family if we weren't just roaming on the street talking to people. I wonder how it ever got to be a rule to not do contacts in the first place. Anyway, the kids came to church Sunday. We'll see how it goes with them. His son, also named A, reminds me of Joel. If Joel just learned Spanish he would be twins in personality with 10 year old A. They have all the same quirky smiles and random jokes out of nowhere. A therefore reminds me of home and makes he happy just to be teaching.

C left for Mexico City on Tuesday so he couldn't get baptized this week, but at the latest he'll be back on Mother's day to get baptized. His mom is also waiting until he gets back, which I completely understand so we didn't force her to get baptized this week anyway. Common sense. This week on Sunday we have planned out the baptism of an old lady who can't read or write and whose second language is Spanish. Her native tongue is Totonaco, a dialect that very very few people speak anymore, but she's been a lot happier since she started going to Church and saying her prayers everyday. She can't read but we're memorizing hymns with her as a substitute. She's been such a funny old lady to teach.

With my French studies so far, I can read about 80% of French and be able to translate it back. I haven't memorized all the verb forms enough to write or speak them all yet, but I can recognize them whilst reading. My favorite thing I learned this week - creme brulee is just burned cream. Duh. I'm still listening to it more and more to get the hang of how it's pronounced before I start to hook a bunch of mispronounciations in my head and have to unlearn them.

Some questions! The word et is always pronounced without the t even when followed by a vowel? and est as well? (thus, C'est is only pronounced 'say' even with vowels in front?) Are the conjugations for il and ils pronounced the same even though ils has three more letters?

I love playing Risk.  This was with C's family for FHE.

This is a petroleum sucker.  I have no idea what it is really called, but it is super loud.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Giant chips!

Freaking out about ants on the keyboard, you should really come to Mexico. Hay hormigas en todos lados. Zachary's church outfit is prodigiously stylish. I'm digging it, bro! And congratulations on Noah's ripped shirt in sacrament meeting.

This week went fantastically. First off, the transfer news... I am staying in Xanath ward to finish training Elder L. We were one of just a handful of companionships in the mission who didn't get changed up this time. I am super excited to stay mostly to be able to be at C's baptism on Friday and also to have another 6 weeks with some outstanding members. In these 6 weeks I will have my mission yearmark and my birthday, so the owner of Dulcelandia (2nd counselor in the Stake Presidency) is likely going to throw me a Mexican party in his house on the 9th.  Now I can also work out details about the Skype call on May 10th!

Xanath is a wonderful ward. Honestly the unity the members have here impresses me - the attendance is always around 200. I love hearing members tell us that after 2 weeks of not going the Bishop or Relief Society President had already visited them. Miracles are found in simply ministering as the prophet directs us to.

Next news. On Sunday we baptized J, the one who didn't get baptized 6 weeks ago because  he wasn't ready. Well, now he is. It just took some time.

My iPod was stolen this week. I always just leave it in the bedroom we have, but because it's so hot and our house is an oven without windows in the bedroom, we had been leaving the windows open in the other room. One day our neighbor in the apartment left the front gate open so some people got into the houses while we were out proselyting and grabbed some stuff, among them also my food I had bought for the week. My charger was also taken, but surprisingly they left the mission DVD player right there. Thankfully they saw no value to anything else I have so I'm good. But, I would like to ask for some CDs to replace my most listened to music: The Lord of the Rings, Paul Cardall hymns, sacred piano and his album Life and Death, other Cds, Handel's Messiah, Bach Empire brass, and Yo Yo Ma Baroque Cds. Thankfully Elder S had previously given me some music on a USB, too.

Yeah, that guy's in for a surprise for an iPod in French with just classical music that can only be reformatted using a computer that's 72 hours away in bus. What a steal, right?

My birthday is so soon! And my year mark!

Thanks for your comment about my charming adults ability. I didn't realize you had noticed that about me.

Another random note (please add to letter): The mission rule has changed to have more than an hour of writing now. After much deliberation with how to get missionaries to be more obedient with technology, President just decided to let us write more time. Hip hip hooray!

French/English revelations in my study.
Laissez-faire - just let it do its thing. Literally.
Deja-vu - already seen
Rendez-vous - meet yourselves there

cache - literally, just a hiding spot. A 'hidden'

The ruins of Tajin are just so close to where we live!

This picture was right before J's baptism.
 We hung up some manly curtains this week.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Tell Timothee and Marc that they are my favorite missionaries we ever had at home. They rock. Also tell Timothee that I hope he'll skype with me when I'm at BYU again so I can practice my French with a real French friend!

Tell Grandma Dorrough thank you so much for writing me letters. I appreciated the handwritten one and think it's funny that Windows XP is getting taken down because it's all I've seen in Mexico! I also love what she said about Grandpa Bradley. Let him know I can feel his prayers and I love him.

I got to visit Tajin today.  It is an incredible city.  But it is amazing that only 500 years ago the people there were still worshipping the wind!

Things are going well with my comp. He gets a little cranky at times, but fortunately with my life's experience as oldest brother I know how to react to essentially any type of childish behavior in the most positive way, so things are always resolved quickly and we get along well.

The work is also going along well here. We've been getting the hang of taking lots of people to Church - it's a matter of simply being a friend and showing sincere interest by actually listening, that way people want to listen to you. A new friend and investigator, C, has added us on Facebook. He's going to get baptized on his birthday, April 18th. I hope to still be in Papantla on that day because transfers are just before! You can actually see the transfers Monday morning on the Facebook page of the mission and send me an email about what they are so I don't have to wait forever to hear about it. Things have been going really well for the work ever since I left Puebla so I don't know what to expect for transfers now. It's not by any means a guarantee that one who starts a training finishes it in this mission, so even though it's be more likely I stay here 6 more weeks, who knows! 

Anyway. Tangents. C is super cool. He falls well on me. He's one of the people who had the seed planted a long time ago but just waits for the right moment to be harvested. It just took time and somebody specific to resolve his doubts he had, but now he's good to go. We somehow randomly run into each other a lot in the street, too...

I'm not even sure what Apple TV is... you guys will have to surprise me when I come back!

At this point I'm still good with the clothes I brought. De las diez camisas que me traje solo 3 ya no me sirven y 7 son suficiente para una semana. Pero cuando necesito algo de ropa te aviso. Okay. Shaking off the Spanish brain. My birthday is coming up soon! Shoots! I didn't really realize. . As for my birthday... Just some art from Zachary and Savvy.

Conference was amazing but it'd take too long to detail all my thoughts about it. I will share my humble but sincere testimony that I know we are lead by Jesus Christ Himself who speaks through our dear friend President Monson. If we follow his lead we will always be in the right.

Una divertida tradiciòn papanteca - ¡los voladores!

Conference in English!
 Another shot from Tajin.  It's not as cool as Cantona, but still a very impressive ruin.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Everything happens for a reason

Everything happens for a reason.

A few weeks ago when you sent me a Book of Mormon in French and other French language books, and the package got lost for a month, you sent another Book of Mormon and more French books. When it turned out both packages actually arrived and it seemed like I just had an extra French Book of Mormon, I love the words you wrote: "Everything happens for a reason." You already had the plain confidence that for whatever strange reason in the Lord's plan I needed two of them. For a couple weeks I had been looking at the book on my desk just taking up space wondering when it was going to come in handy. After all, there are no French people in Veracruz. Here's the reason I needed two.

This week my companion had to go to Xalapa to take care of his Visa. The day and hour of the bus ticket was at 4:30 PM Thursday. Wonderful. Because I was to stay two days with other missionaries in the mean time, I also packed a bag of clothing and books. When I thought I had finished packing, I had a feeling that I should add the Livre de Mormon to the bag. It doesn't weigh a lot, I figured, and I will need something during language study time. I obeyed the prompting and put the book in the bag.

We made it thirty minutes early to the station and waited for the bus to arrive. Whilst sitting and chatting, we noticed quite easily that two white people walked into the station. The fact that there are no white people in all of Veracruz and the fact that Papantla has a very small bus station aided our discovery. Before in my mission, I had only seen one other white person who was not a missionary, a high school exchange student. Now seeing a couple in their 20s with giant mountaineering backpacks and hipster-ish clothing on was a complete surprise to me. ''I'm going to contact them after they buy their tickets,'' I told my companion. We watched as they walked over to the ticket counter and set their ginormous tourist backpacks on the ground. I took the care of noticing their airport baggage claim tickets attached to the backpacks. I read six letters: MEX and FRA. To my complete and utter surprise, the Lord had placed two French people right in front of me. In Mexico. In the town of Papantla. I was absolutely astonished. Just a few weeks after I had started studying French and a day I randomly happened to go to the bus station at the same time the only French tourists in this part of planet earth were also purchasing their tickets and I just so happen to have a French Book of Mormon to give away. Go time.

At this point the other missionaries I was going to be staying with also arrived, one of whom speaks English. The French couple brought their bags over to the benches to wait and the man took off for a few minutes. So, I decided to just talk with the lady. First I simply introduced myself in French and asked how it was going for them. She said fine and they had just come from Mexico City. Then she asked what languages I spoke and I said Spanish, English, and a little French. The other Elder said just Spanish and English. She said she had also learned English in her school so she started to talk in English. She is from Brittany. We talked for a few minutes about what they were doing in Mexico. They are out for about a 3 month trip in the whole country just seeing sights and doing fun adventures. Then she asked what we do. We explained we're missionaries who go on a two year service for the Lord and a lot of people know us as Mormons. We offered her the Book of Mormon and she politely declined. Then her boyfriend came back. He spoke basically zero English. ''Zhou are zhe chef!'' he pronounced in an extremely heavy French accent. I told him it was okay and spoke in French a little bit with him. I simply said we wanted to give him a book that talks about the ancient inhabitants of Mexico and stands as another testament of Jesus Christ. He gladly accepted. He even pulled out his wallet and asked me how much it costs. I told him there was no cost. He said he would read it all and told me merci beaucoup for the book. I told them goodbye and headed out.

So. I don't know what will become of that couple or even what will become of that book, but the vast amount of situations, occurrences, and minute decisions that all had to occur in a very specific order and at very specific times for that meeting alone to occur and for me to be able to give away that Book of Mormon are astounding. The fact that they accepted it also amazed me. For my first contact ever in French, it went pretty well, I'd say. The Lord truly prepares His servants. Everything happens for a reason. Even when you lose a package in the mail.

In other news, this week we baptized U! He was super happy and is so glad to be a member of the Church.

This week in Papantla

I'm glad I've still got another year to think through what to study and what direction to head for my career... because I'm still not totally sure yet, either. But if I were to do business/international relations with an ability to communicate with the English/Spanish/French world, that could get me a sweet job translating or doing international something or other in an office. Still got time to think it over.

I will be praying for Great Grandma this week. (She fell recently and suffered a concussion).

This week was a fun week because we had four Elders in the same little house for 5 days. In the mix of all the house complications, two Elders moved all their stuff in and studied on the floor for several days in our house while they found a new house. I thought it was quite a blast.

I had an interview with President this week. Short as usual. He said just to make sure I'm helping my comp with his English books the mission gives him. ''Just help him learn English while you're studying... well, languages.'' Also that he is very content with my work recently. My package of the completely new 501 verbs book (I didn't even recognize it at first) plus dictionary also arrived. In combination with watching The Restoration in French, I'm getting more or less a grip of how things should be pronounced. Maybe you could do like you did with the Livre de Mormon and send multi language DVDs the Church makes for me to be able to listen to it more.

This week we also taught one of the coolest lessons I've seen. We went to teach the mom of one of our investigators the Plan of Salvation and she told us about a dream she had just had - in which Christ came and taught her the whole plan of salvation. So she basically taught herself the whole lesson right there. No standardized lesson plan needed. Just obedience and the Spirit.
This raccoon is named Pacumeni.