Monday, November 29, 2010

Some New Pictures

Week 18

Well this week was my 4 month mark. Not too much exciting happened this week. I'm trying to get to know everyone again, and its hard. We now cover two stakes and have a ward and a branch. The missionary work is good in the ward but is really bad in the branch, and we just dont have time to work with people and try to fix an area so we'll se what we can do. This last week in my other area we now have 6 people on date for baptism. Everything I did there was building up to this and it is still going. I'm still sad I had to leave there after everything, but oh well. We have some good investigators here. We had a baptism on sunday, but it was for a guy that I didnt really know, but it was still nice to see. There wasnt actually room inside the room so I had to stand outside with some other Elders, but I was one of the witnesses for the baptisms. The reason there were so many people there was because there was also an 8 year old who was baptized on the same night. I'm not sure why they set it up like that, but it was crowded. To tell you a little more and answer some of your questions, we cover two stakes (one ward, one branch). Every night we eat at one of the spanish members houses. Pdays are pretty busy. We wake up, have studies, today we shoveled one of our investigators driveways, then we go shopping, picked up drycleaning that we get done for free by a member, then we usually come email in the family history center in the church, then we have a zone activity where we play basketball or dodgeball or something like that, then we go home and eat, and then we have to be out working again by 6. We used to have a temple day on wednesdays when our pday was on monday, but now we dont have a time to go to the temple except for pday and we have to go before studies which means the 6 oclock session, meaning we'd have to wake up at like 430 to make it..sooo, I dont think i'm going to get to go to the temple. We also need members to take us to that because we cant take a mission car outside of the zone. We have district meeting every thursday at 10 am, except this week we dont have it because we had zone conference yesterday. My companions are named Elder Martin and Elder Meuller. Elder martin is from north caroina and has been out for 8 months. He is the district leader, but he hasnt been one before. His spanish is pretty good, we havent been together long, but i think things syhould be fine. Elder Mueller has been out 16 months. His spanish is good and he is a good teacher. He has a very strong personality and it can get a little frustrating at times, but i think everything should be fine there as well.

This week was good. There are a few people that I am excited for. there is the Ramirez family. It is a mom dad, 18 year old daughter monica, 15 year old daughter Malinda, an 11 year old daughter Mariana, and then a 5 year old boy. We have taught them a little bit. The first time it was just the mom, dad, and the 11 year old daughter. the mom and the daughter are pretty excited about everything and have been reading and coming to some of the ward activities (including the baptism). We went over there the other night and we taught them two separate lessons. We taught one lesson to the two other daughters who hadnt been taught before, and another lesson to the mom dad and mariana. It was kind of funny because it just sort of happened, but there were two lessons going on at the same time, in the same room. We'll teach them all together now though becuase they should all know the same things. Mariana surprised me when we asked her if she'd read. She had read a little bit out of first nephi, but then said, I bet I could read it in 2 weeks. We challenged her to read it in 4 weeks and to mark some things that she liked as she goes through, which she has already started to do. I am excited for this whole family to get baptized soon. They do have some problems though. The dad went in for surgery today. He cut himself really bad at work. He went this morning to get surgery. Thats why we went and dug out their car this morning.

Yesterday was quite the experience getting form appointment to appointment. We walked into dinner at 430 and there was no snow on the roads or anything. We then got a text around 5:00 right before we left and they said that all cars were grounded. We walked out about 30 min later when we were done with everything and it was a blizzard. There was like 4 inches of snow already and it was windy and pretty crazy. There werent too many cars out so we just walked in the roads. It was pretty fun, but it was pretty cold too. I was glad I had the stuff that I did for sure, but my face got pretty numb ha.

A story that is pretty cool that happened this week happened at dinner on thursday. We walk into the house and start talking to the family. They ask who we are and stuff and I brought up that I'm waiting for a visa. He then asked where at. I said Mexico in Tabasco. He said which mission in tobasco, and I said Villahermosa. He then smiled and said my brother is the mission president there! It was literally the craziest thing every haha. It made a pretty good connection though and we had some good talks about mexico and his brother for the rest of dinner and then I took a picture with him and his family. I'll attatch that to this email. He told me on saturday when i saw him at a ward activity that he called his brother and emailed him the picture and that his brother (president) was really excited and knew me and everything. Small world. Also last pday I was pretty down about transfers, thats why my letter was pretty bad, and i'm still pretty mad about it, but i'm trying to get over it. The lady that we live with is also really really nice. She made us hot chocolate and soup and stuff last night when we got in and we talked to her for a while. She is a widow and lives with her son who just got back from his mission, but i havent seen him at home yet. She also has a piano upstairs and I've gotten to play that a lot while i wait for food to cook and stuff, so that has been really nice. I dont really have too much music, but i'm getting really good at playing things by ear. I can play basically any song I can remember how it goes, but that list is getting shorter and shorter ha. Also some more good news about my last area is that Jose wants us (them) to teach him again. I think its still kind of what i said before. I dont know if he'll get baptized soon, but he 'll get baptized eventually. He is trying hard to do what is right and is working hard. He picked up the other elders from the baptism this sunday and so I got to talk to him. I joked around with him about hearing that he was going to be baptized and got to talk to him for a bit which was nice. I gave him a flyer that I found to help him get his GED and also gave him a referral for a place that I found that he could get a job. Hopefully things will start to turn around for him and he'll be able to be baptized. He has done the challenge I asked him to do where he drives off by himself and reads and prays twice now and I asked him about it and he said it went well. I told him to do it again. He'll get his answer eventually in one way or another, he just has to realize it.


Elder Smith

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Week 17- Transferred Again

Hello everyone. Thank you for your letters and emails. I always appreciate getting things from you all. Things have been pretty well this week. Biggest news is that I got transferred again today. I moved one area over, so i'm basically right next to my area, but cant go see any of the people. Elder Mungia is going home tomorrow, so i was kind of lucky that I got to go with him and say goodbye to everyone sort of, but I didnt think that i'd be leaving so i didnt really get to say good bye to that many people. It's hard to get transferred so soon over and over again. It's hard to feel like this is my mission when they dont let me stay anywhere, I feel like i'm just getting thrown around places a little bit. It also kinda stinks that I dont have my permiso. Hopefully everything will go well here in another new area and I will get to know the people fast, but its hard to change.

Other than that, the week has been good. We taught a lot of people and found a lot of new people that I am really excited about. We have taught one family, the Vasquez's, only two times, and have stopped by and talked to them a few more as well, but they came to church this sunday and stayed for the next class and participated in answering questions and everything. It was really cool to see. they have a 17 year old daughter who had friends in the ward too. They also have an 8 year old daughter who listens in the lessons. We haven't had a lesson with the older daughter yet though because she's still at school usually when we teach them.

Last Wednesday I went to "el salvador del mundo". It is a play put on by the church and is actually in a theater in the same building as the conference center. It was pretty cool and fun to go see. we went with a family we're trying to get more active and who we're teaching their grandpa, and also had a few of our investigators come as well. This week I was getting more excited about the Soltelo's. They are making progress and hopefully will be able to accept a baptismal date soon. They are opening up, and our lessons are going well with them.

This week also we met a guy named adan. we taught him the first lesson, and though he was a little unsure about the book of mormon, he was great and accepted what we said and we had a really good talk with him. We went by the next day though, and he asked us to watch a movie with him. We said we couldnt cause it was against the rules and that we could maybe watch it the next time if we got permission. We asked him what the title was, or if we could see the case, and he was like "oh, idk i'm not sure really. Its just about the stuff we were talking about yesterday, like about jesus christ and stuff." We said that we thought it would be fine but needed the title, we asked him to look at the disk. He went over and got the disk and it was "The Bible, Versus Joseph Smith" He then basically tried to relate the things from that movie into bashing us, but he didnt do a very good job at it because i'm pretty sure he'd just watched it right before we got there. It makes me a little mad when people do things like that. Act like they know what they're talking about and are totally closed when they really have no idea. He was willing to learn from a anti mormon dvd and except it as truth right away, but wasnt willing to pray or read the book of mormon or even consider it possible because there wasnt physical proof. Its like having a prosecuting attorney without a defense. We basically told him we were going to leave, after trying to explain some of the things. I bore a powerful testimony about moroni's promise in the end of the book of mormon in my life and then elder brown did as well, then we left. A testimony is something that no one can argue with. I know what I felt. I know that moroni's promise was fulfilled in my life. that if we read the book of mormon, and ask with a sincere heart and intention to act on the answer and with faith in christ, that we will receive an answer. I know that anyone who tests that with a sincere heart that you will receive an answer. It's hard to deal with people like that though, and I'm still a little frustrated about it and just everything, but i'll be alright.

A good thing that happened last night is that I went over to a members house. The people who took me to El salvador del mundo, to say good bye. We talked for a little bit, and it came up if we played any instruments. I told them I played piano and guitar. They said they had two guitars but didnt know how to play them and asked if I wanted to see them. Of course I said yes, and so I got to tune their guitar and then play for a few minutes. I miss music a lot and its hard to not be able to play very much. Maybe i'll be able to buy one in mexico someday, if I ever get there.

Well thats basically it. Nothing too exciting. I'm probably forgetting some stuff, but Nothing big I dont think. Hope you all have a good week and do well with whatever you have going. I love you and miss you and am grateful for all of you in my life.


Elder Smith

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Week 16

Hello everyone! I hope that you all had a great week and that everything is going well. things are good here in Salt Lake City, though this week proved to have its own challenges as well. Last pday was an interesting activity. Elder Mungia wanted to go visit one of his old companions before he went home so we went to their area for part of pday. We met at this family fun center place that the missionaries get in free for. I thought it was like a zone activity with lots of missionaries, but it ended up being only 5 of us, including us three, and then 2 others showed up too. It was probably the most awkward I've felt as a missionary. It was us in our missionary clothes walking in, and then about 50 kids running around and then moms. It was basically like Bullwinkle's except it had a roller skate rink. We got there and the other 2 missionaries wanted to go on the inflatable bouncing thing. Elder brown was still kind of sick and writting letters so I decided I was just going to finish my letter to Elise haha. They went and did that and basically i sat there for a little bit. Then we ended up playing laser tag which was pretty fun. It was us 7 elders, every man for himself, so it was fun. then we went home, but yeah the whole experience was very awkward and I felt out of place.

This week we had something that was really hard for me. We went over to have a lesson with Jose on friday. We knocked on the door and then he answered and said he wanted to cancel for tonight. Then he stepped outside and told us he didnt want to have lessons anymore... This was a shock and then we had about a 30 minute conversation with him on the doorstep about it. We all talked a lot and shared how we felt about it. There was a lot said and a lot of really spiritual things said. I felt the spirit the whole time, but in the end he still didnt think he could do it. He wasnt ready to give up the worldly things and change. He really is so close to making it, but he cant see how far he's come, and he cant see how close he is. Hopefully he will change. I left him with a commitment to take his book of mormon, drive somewhere where he could be alone, pray, read, and pray again, and to pray with all of his heart and with an intention to act if he got an answer. He said he would do it, so we'll see. I have faith in him, that he'll make it. This is a really rough description of what happened, but it was truly something really hard for me. Jose was the one that i was the closest with, and I know the gospel with turn his life around and bless his family so much. His wife sandra just got her temple recommend the week before.. This was our last appointment for the night, and then we had a long walk home where I had to think about it. as soon as we turned the corner from their house though I started to cry. Its hard to see him so close and not make it. I was pretty down and didnt really talk for the rest of the night and most of the next morning, but the good thing about a mission is that your forced to be happy, or else your not going to make it. I talked to more people the next day, taught lessons, and kept living and being a missionary, and though I'm still sad for Jose, I am trying to help him, and trying to not let it happen to the rest of our investigators, but in all honesty, this next week might be hard too because we might have to drop some of them. We cant get anyone to commit, they all feel like their not ready and are turning into inturnigators.. I have faith that a miracle will happen. That we'll find someone that has been prepared and is ready.

I had some good experiences this week as well. Monday we had exchanges. I went out with Elder Neves who is a visa waiter going to veracruz. He is in an english area and we stayed in the spanish area, so i was the one who lead. It was a really great experience, though at the beginning of the day seemed pretty daunting. Elder brown did spanish and took all of the appointments, and elder mungia did english with another elder and did their appointments. This means that me and elder neves had to come up with something to do for the whole day, without any plans, and I dont really know that many people or the area that well. It was an adventure for sure, and to top it all of it was stormy and snowy all day too. This day was really great though. I had the opportunity to speak a ton of spanish and to make the conversations with everyone and the plans and i felt very guided by the spirit. I received a lot of help as well. My spanish is better than it was, but its still hard. this whole day, I understood everything just about (as in I only had to say Si, nodding my head, and smile without really knowing what they said a few times ha). I was also able to explain myself and what I needed to say in a understandable manner, and without stumbling over my words at all. Also at one point in the night, we'd gone by all the people that I had planned to go by and we started riding back one way. I then felt like we should turn around, so i said to elder neves that we were going to go this way. I had no idea where we were, but just felt like going the other way. We got down and ran into a dead end, and were about to go back when I looked at a car. I parked my bike knocked on the door, and nobody answered. I then walked down the driveway and looked over and saw that their neighbors had lots of cars out front. I knocked on the door and talked to a white guy who was a member and he gave us three referrals, one being the house I'd just knocked on. We came back later that night and knocked again. We have an appointment with the house that I knocked on first, and one wasnt home, and the other one was a kind of odd story, but included a lady who wasnt a member, taking her kids to the lds church a few weeks earlier. We didnt get an appointment with her, but we'll probably stop by them agian soon. This exchange I also stopped by Jose. He let us in and we talked for a while. he told me how terrible things were going. There were some problems possible with Sandras pregnancy, he still cant find a job and its getting worse, and sandra is mad at him for church and some other things. Basically he told me that its basically the hardest time in his life. I gave him some counsel on what I thought he should do, and talked to him for a while. I shared a scripture with him that I thought would help, and told him that he needed to put god first and that he needed the gospel in his life. I re-committed him to do the solitary book of mormon read and pray thing that I'd asked him to do before and i hope he'll do it. Some other cool things happened on the exchange too, and it is another witness that god will qualify us if we do what we're supposed to. We talked to someone who gave us a job for jose, and we taught and set up another appointment with a family that the dad usually doesnt let us in, and where they have some members of the family who arent members.

Also this week we started teaching a lady named Leslie and her dad Cesar. We had our first full lesson with them yesterday and it was amazing. Leslie just got out of jail a few months ago, but she is really nice and spiritual, and studied and learned about the church in jail. Her dad is also very receptive and nice and willing. He had already read the whole intro and testimonies and started nephi before we'd taught the lesson to him, just based off of our first contact. I'm excited about them and am excited about continuing to help our investigators old and new.

I am loving my mission here, even though there area some hard times. They make the good times that will come that much better. I am working hard, and trying to improve myself in every way I can, and it is amazing to be able to feel the spirit so much in my life. I love you all and hope that you are having a great week. I love to read your letters and hear about how you are all doing. I will talk to you in a week. Next week is transfers. I'll probably stay here, but ya never know. Elder mungia is going home and leaves us on monday to do some mission things for the last two days so it will be me and elder brown for a while. I'm excited for my opportunities to serve and to teach and I love it here. Thank you for all of your love and Support.


Elder Smith

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Week 15

Hello everyone. It has been another amazing week here in West Jordan. Things have been going well, though there have been a few different challenges. One of our main investigators, Karla, left early to go back to mexico. It was hard and we went over one last time to see her the night before she left. She had a testimony of the book of mormon and would have been baptized soon, but we knew she had to leave so it didnt make any sense. We had a lot of really great teaching experiences with her and the change in her was amazing to see. She will be in mexico anywhere from 1 - 6 months. Either way, it is 100% sure that Elder Mungia wont be here, I probably wont be here, and Elder Brown may or may not be here. She isnt able to meet with the missionaries there because she said if her mom found out that she was listening to the missionaries, that she'd probably kill her ha. So we told her to keep reading and praying and to try to go to church as much as possible and then that she could be taught everything else when she came back and be baptized. Another hard thing this week was that Indira, the lady that we had on date to be baptized, fell off date because she didnt come to church. She also hasnt really read much or prayed much either. I dont really understand because she accepted baptism, but she's just really busy with her little kids I guess. Tonight we have a lesson scheduled with her at a members house and are trying to have her aunt watch the kids so that she can focus more. Hopefully this will be what she needs and she'll be able to better prepare herself and really feel the spirit.

Things with Jose are going well. he lost his job so he has been looking around for one. He is only smoking 3 a day now so he is making progress. He also told us about a time yesterday when he was driving around looking for a job. he was really frustrated and craving a cigarette really bad, but he had already had three. He took one out and was holding it in his hand about to light it, then he flicked it away before he did, and said a prayer! When he told us that story it made me so happy. I cant believe how much he has been able to change and it was amazing to hear that story. He is beginning to read a lot more and to pray every morning and night. We have basically just been reading with him lately. We will probably start re-teaching some of the lessons soon, but for now we are just reading and he has been doing it on his own too. Reading and praying is the most important thing that we want our investigators to do, becuase that is how they gain their testimonies. We can bring the spirit and teach them everything, but until they read and pray on their own, nothing's going to happen.

Luis is also getting a little more progress. We have been able to have his daughter and her family actually stay in the room and participate in the last few lessons and it has helped him a lot. Before, even if they were home and we were teaching him, they'd say hi and then just leave. Now they are all there and participating and we are all friends and it is a really great atmosphere. Luis has read all the way through 2nd Nephi and is in Jacob now. He is doing great on the reading part, but he hasnt really prayed. We taught him the rest of the first lesson, and it was a really spriitual lesson and I got to challenge him to pray to receive the witness that the book is true. Hopefully he will do it and he will be able to be baptized soon.

On saturday I had the opportunity to go to the baptism of Angeles, Diana (angeles' daughter), and Celia. It was an amazing experince and I am so thankful for their decision. Angeles especially had to make a lot of changes and go through a lot in order to be baptized and it was so great to see her and see how she had been able to do it. It fullfilled the promise that I made to her almost a month ago now that I knew that if she had faith, that the things that were keeping her from being baptized would fall into place. Everything worked out for her. She is now living with her friend, got a car, has a job, and got baptized! This is really something that i am realizing just now, that as a missionary, the lord really does sustain your words when you speak through the spirit. It also taught me a lot about the prinicple of faith in Christ, that like Angeles, faith in christ allows us to overcome whatever challenges we are faced with. When I had hard times this week, I was able to find comfort in the scriptures in Helaman 5:12 especially, and also in 2 Nephi 4:17-21, and in 2 Nephi 22:2. I have loved the opportunity I have had to get to know the scriptures better and to receive revelation for myself and my investigators through them. They truly are the words of God. The baptism itself was amazing, and just like with all of the other previous baptisms, each time they went down into the water and came back up, I felt the spirit so powerfully and it was such and amazing thing to be able to experience.

At the baptism it was also very nice to see some of my old companions (elder pence and elder carr) and also to see some of the Brothers that helped us out A LOt. Brother Wilcox and Brother Ed Smith. it was also nice to get a letter from brother smith this week as well. They are great men and examples to me, and have a lot of really good stories and incites in life that help me, especially as a missionary.

The last thing is that this saturday we had a mission lockdown. Halloween is on saturday in utah and sometimes people dress up like missionaries and do dumb stuff so for safety and other reasons, from 5-10 saturday night we met at our zone building and played basketball and dodgeball and got to watch some approved movies (how to train a dragon and part of cloudy with a chance of meatballs). It was a fun night and a good break, but really really weird. It was weird to not be doing anything, and just felt like a normal saturday night, minus the presence of girls hah.

This sunday our companionship gave a talk in church. I gave mine on faith and repentance. I wasnt too nervous and i gave a pretty good talk. I ended up talking for almost 20 minutes! afterwords, everyone told me that I did a good job and that my spanish was really good. I know I made a lot of mistakes still, but they said they understood everything, and it was nice of them to compliment me. My spanish is coming along and I get better everyday.

Also this week elder brown and mungia have been kind of sick, along with about half our zone ha. I've been fine though which is good, and we've been able to go out every night still so we've been lucky, but have had to do a few weird exchanges. Also it has been warm here this week. Thank you for all of the clothes. We'll see if i get to use them. the last few days I've just been going out in a short sleeve shirt and my suite jacket and have been fine. I usually wear gloves though cause its kind of cold. Also another side note. I got two flat tires this week. That makes a total of 4 in the three weeks i've been here, and then my bike got stolen in my last area. My luck with health is pretty good, but it is about as bad as it can get with bikes ha, but i'll survive.

I love you all and miss you very much. Thank you for all of your letters and for your love and support, it really means a lot to me, and helps keep me going. I love my mission, even here in salt lake city, and have been able to receive so many amazing blessings, and am so greatful for my opportunity that I have to serve and to learn and grow. Have a great week!


Elder Smith