Monday, June 30, 2014

(Week 5)

Well this was certainly a week of challenges, and yet it has also been one of my happier weeks on the mission. The start of this letter is gonna be a little depressing, but I want you to know that every single time something happened this week I got to see some act of kindness because of it. So because I am new they decided to not really give me money, which is kind of bad when you have to pay things like rent and electricity and the like, so they shut off our lights after 10 days of not paying. Normally I would not care, I have a flash light, but in Veracruz, it is so hot that it gets to be 90 degrees (which feels like 100+ in this humidity) in our room without airconditioning. Because it rains with huge winds and thunderstorms, you cannot open the windows either. So because we figured we´d be spending the rest of the month without clima, we went over to a local members house to ask if we could iron some of our shirts. The dad (who is not a member) looked at me, and said come here, I´ll go pay for the electricity. We still had to spend one night before they reconnected the stuff, btw that night was just awful. When we went back to thank that family the next day, they had prepared some food for us, because they knew that we had no money to buy any, and I was just so thankful and happy. On Wednesday I do not know what I ate, or what, but I was throwing up enough that it like burned my throat. I ate some white bread and was fine, but the miracle today was as soon as we finished with me throwing up, we went to an investigators house and he just absorbed everything we said and agreed to get baptized on the 27th (we have a baptism planned for this Saturday too) Then on Saturday we were going around with a local priest and he took us to one house. Well (and you have to realize the average male height here is 5´6´´) I was looking down at him talking, and I hit my head on a cage. It knocked me over, and while my companion was laughing his head off, the boy noticed that Part of my hair was turning red from blood. Woopsies!! I had to go to the hospital, and I was fine, but I still have giant cut on my head (no stitches). Anyways, in this case, again we did not have money to buy medicine so that I do not have a welt the size of Texas on my head. So when the Bishop heard what happened, he and his wife bought us a small dinner and the medicine.

I just really want to tell you guys how much respect and love that I have for the members of this ward. They have nothing, absolutely nothing. The poorest people you know have more than the members of this ward, and yet they still take care of us and show us such kindness. I will admit that there are some investigators that we have that I just love, they are honestly trying to learn, and though htey may be simple people, they try their best. I will admit there are others I am trying not to feel just extreme dislike for, but hopefully those feelings fade with time. 

What I really wanted to share, on a much happier note, is on the power of prayer. I really had never felt like so many of my prayers had been answered for the longest time back home. Ever since I came on a mission, it is amazing, not a single one of my prayers has gone unanswered. It really is powerful just to see that if you pray to receive references, you receive references, if you pray that things will go well at home, they go well at home. If you pray to be able to understand people, you can understand them. I want to testify of the simple power of prayer, you are not talking to a genie or to the air or to anything like that. You are talking to your Father in Heaven, who loves you, and who may sometimes answer no for our own benefit, but who listens and answers every prayer.

Although this week was a hard week in terms of the stress (it was also President Trevino´s last week as President, meaning we had to plan a bunch of festivities and stuff like that) I must admit that I was simply so much happier than I have been in the past. I´m starting to grow into my place here, and I´m learning, slowly but surely. My Spanish is passable, I can understand what people are trying to say 90% of the time, and I can explain what I want to say even if I do not know a word. 

I love you all lots, and miss you, but I really just want you to know that missions are great, they give you  chance to face the different aspects of yourself that are simply weak, and to try and overcome what you are faced with.


P.s. It turned into like death silence here for 2 hours when Mexico lost, and no one wanted to outside or talk (a little funny) But I´m sure everyone knows what that´s like and will be watching the US game back home tomorrow because we all love soccer so much :)

Monday, June 23, 2014

2nd Week in Mexico (Week 4)

Here is Kevin's Letter for week 3 in Mexico.  I have also included some pictures from when he was in the MTC...I am still waiting for pictures from Mexico.
Thank you for all your support this week!!! Charlene

Well, there are baptisms here in Veracruz. If you know me, well then you know that I love the show How I met Your Mother, well this week we got to baptize a man who was basically a 60 year old version of Barney Stinson in how he had lived his life. He had been taught by different missionaries, and he shrugged them off, saying that he shouldn't`t have to obey the law of chastity because Jesus did not and stuff like that (that is not true btw). Anyways, he was fascinated by the fact that I was from the US and wanted to know all the immigration laws (which I am fully unaware of as a whole), but because he kept wanting to know more about me, and would listen to me, we were able to teach him and show him how it would change his life. When he went in for the baptismal interview, he completely cried his eyes out, and repented of everything that he had done in front of our zone leaders, it was amazing to get to see. His baptism had a couple funny and scary moments, but he was baptized, and that`s what matters. 

So lets see, by the way, my area is called Nueva Era 2 in Reforma section of Veracruz city. It stays right around the upper 80`s all day, which with this humidity basically means that I have gradually become used to the feeling of being in a swimming pool. This week was much better that last, and I have really started to see my purpose here. The people of Veracruz that I have taught so far are very childlike. They have humble, believing, open hearts, but if you try and use any form of logic as opposed to emotional appeals, it simply does not work and they get confused. So what you have to do is speak very simply and use powerful simple statements, which my companion is a master at doing, and I simply am not. What I noticed however is that certain investigators have been investigators for a long time, but no one reaches them because these ones are very intellectually oriented. So there are certain investigators that I am able to help and reach in a way that like m trainer has difficulty with. The food here is great, and members feed us these gigantic lunches, but until July, I have basically no money so I am living on honey and peanut butter with some cheap bread in the mornings and evenings. My companion and I get along about as well as two people from such different backgrounds could. We both want to get along, and sometimes there is a bit of a language and a cultural barrier, but with that exception we are here to work together. He has taught me a very different method for finding people than what I would expect. We basically visit members (hang out and chat in their houses) until we get references, then contact the references, then teach who we can, but there is absolutely no street contacting and knocking on doors (which here you do by yelling buenos tardes) is against the rules. 

In case you all did not hear (I think my mom told most everyone) I had an incredibly hard time the first week of my mission (I didn`t want to share it). In all honesty,the poverty the culture, everything was just so hard for me, and the mission is so different from how we live our lives. I always tried to live my life in a world of black and white, where I would not be forced to choose any form of grey, but here there are miles and miles of grey, and you have to do the best you can. If everyone (including your companion) is trying to watch the mundial, and they refuse to turn the TV off or down, what do you do? If your companion doesn`t want to do something that`s in the rules, what do you do? When it`s pday and you've spent all day prepping the President`s farewell party, and you haven`t emailed your parents or done laundry yet, and it`s 6 o'clock, what do you do? You have to make a decision, trying to do what`s right, and what the savior would do, but it is never easy. Anyways, it was so hard on me, the first week, and I had such severe depression, I set up an interview with the mission president to talk, and started packing my bags a little. Right before my interview, I went to zone conference, and as I sat there, I realized that I did not know why in the world I was on a mission, and I finally realized it. I have said I came on a mission because it is what is right, while I logically know this, it really doesn`t capture my emotions. In all honesty I came on a mission because if you want to get married in provo you have to. That is the emotional reason that I never wanted to admit. When I realized that, (and I think the emotional reason is the same for a lot of us) I knew I needed to find a better reason because it simply would not do for the next two years. It finally hit me like a brick wall, if I believed everything that I preached, if I honestly believed, wouldn`t I be happier here than any other place in the world. Wouldn`t heavenly Father bless me for being here. Also, wouldn`t returning home be denying the different covenants that I have made before God, given what I know. Yes, yes it would be a complete violation. How could I possibly even think of going home when Jesus Christ gave everything for me and suffered everything, and all he asks is that I live slightly below my usual standard for two years. No, to go home when it`s hard or when I don`t like the living conditions would be simply to deny the truths that I know, and nothing short of that. I want you all to know that I will never do that, no matter what happens. Because I know this Gospel is true with everything that I am, and that is why I didn`t buy an airplane ticket back home. I love you all more than you can possibly imagine. If there was one thing that changed in me immediately from when I was ordained an Elder to before, it is this, I look into people`s eyes, and I see them for who they are, and for those who I can understand, I love them and just want to bring them to the temple with me in their family. And as I think about so many people from back home, I just want you all to know how much I love all of you. You are wonderful, and there is not a thing in the world I wouldn`t do for you guys (speaking to family friends and ward).


p.s. Spiritual thought I`ve had It is our desires that show who we truly are, and what we truly want in this life. It is who we are that determines where we go in the world to come, and our standing with Father in Heaven. How do we change our desires, through repeated action in a particular method, but if we are trying to draw closer to God, it must also be through the power of the Holy Ghost. It is only in and through the power of the Holy Ghost that we can come to truly desire what God does, and change ourselves. to how he would want us to be.

Monday, June 16, 2014

One of Kevin's friends from the MTC sent these today.  I thought I would send a follow-up post.
I was excited to see him!!!

1st Week in Mexico (Week 3)

Here is Kevin's letter from his first week in Mexico.  He is having a harder time then he lets on in the letter and would really love to hear from everyone.  You can send him a free letter through the "Dear Elder Pouch" mail and I know he would really love to receive as many letters as possible.  Here is the link to Dear Elder, you choose Pouch(FREE) on the left side and choose Mexico Veracruz, then write a missionary.
Thank you everyone for your support and prayers for Kevin, he really needs it right now.  Charlene

Well, this as certainly an interesting first week down here in Veracruz, and wow is it different than I expected. But there is a little story that goes along with all of this. So first off, I finished out my last week at the MTC as happy as could be. It is a wonderfully spiritual place, and I have so much respect for all of the people who serve there. Things are a little fuzzy from that long ago, but I´ll try and share some of my thoughts later. Anyways, it is soooooo hot down here in Veracruz, like I literally must be smelt from a half mile away with how much I sweat. It{s very green, but if you have ever seen a swamp, that about describes my city. I am in the rich portion of the city right now (which means the people earn about 10,000 dollars per year), and I cannot describe to you the complete and total state of poverty that is here. The smallest home that you can think of back home would be considered a rich person´s home here; and yet somehow everyone seems to have the nicest plasma screens I have ever seen in my life. Right now is the world cup, and so when Mexico plays, it is literally impossible to teach anyone. Missionary work down here is completely different than how you would imagine it to be. It basically entails visiting members all day and asking them for referrals, and then calling and visiting referrals. For every 5 referrals we get an investigator, and for every 10 investigators we get a baptism. So right now we are looking at about 2-4 baptisms coming up. I will only really talk about 2, one is named Juan and I helped give his second lesson, and he seems to really like me for whatever reason. He is living with a woman and they have a child together (like no one is married down here), but they are not violating the law of chastity because they really don´t like each other, she is using him for a place to stay, and he is using her to see his child. When we told him they should not sleep in the same bed together, he agreed, and so the next time we came by, she flipped the heck out, like yelling at us and telling us Juan would never change and stuff like that. I could really feel he spirit telling me to get away from her as soon as I could. The other investigator is an agnostic we are teaching, and he basically can accept what we are telling him, he just needs to have doubts answered. So my companion and I are just basically having him ask us questions and resolving the doubts that he has, and ever so gradually he is progressing. Down here, everyone works 12+ hours a day, 7 days a week, so it is really hard to get people to come to church. As far as the language goes, I am far from perfect at it, and I regularly have to ask what was just said, but I can communicate with everyone, and as long as they re a little patient and explain things in a little different words. Fun facts, Veracruz has the fastest Spanish speakers in the world and I really am not exaggerating in the slightest. This mission also has the highest number of baptisms in the world! 

The weather he is craaazy! It decides to rain every night, and when it does, occasionally the rivers over flood, and you will get water up to my navel, along all of the streets. The drivers here are also crazy, I have nearly died every single day on my mission because rules of the road simply do not exist down here. The streets are also crazy, while I agree that de Gamma was an important historical figure, naming 3 or 4 streets within a 1 mile radius after him is simply silly. My companion is a native named Elder Benitez, and I would be lost without him, unfortunately he does not speak a word of English. I was a little discouraged to not get to talk English at all, so I prayed for an investigator who would want to speak English. Within the minute, a one eyed man walked in the door, who go figure, only spoke English. Unfortunately he was a pastor from a nondenominational church, and wanted to try and convert the people (how he planned to do this speaking English I have no idea) and proceeded to tell me that Salt Lake was holding girls captives who could not escape. I decided that God has a sense of humor at this point, given the irony.

So some spiritual thoughts that I have had as of late. We must be Jesus Christ for our investigators if we want them to follow us. Our individual relationship with the savior is and must be the same as our relationship with the investigator. We want them to pray more earnestly, well Christ wants us to pray more earnestly. We want them to make and keep sacred covenants well then so must we. We have to love them as he loves us. In all things, our example must be the same as his is  for us. Second thought, why is it that everyone assumes this work will be so easy, when the work was never easy for Christ. People think well because I am keeping the commandments then I will be not suffer. If that is really a true statement, then we must ask why must Christ suffer. The salvation of  others is never easy, it requires sacrifice from each and every one of us. We have to remember who these people are, and do everything within our power to change their lives. I cannot describe just how much I miss home, I really love you all lots, and loving hearing from you guys.

Elder Standridge

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Kevin's First Letter has Arrived!!!!! (Week 2)

Well I have just finished (basically) my first week, and wow what an experience. I must admit there were quite a few surprises since getting here. So when I first landed (as I am sure my mom has probably told everyone told everyone by now <3) one suitcase got lost in transit, and although it was a little worrying for the first day, I got it by the end of the night (all be it a half an hour before bedtime). Surprise number 2 was that I would not be leaving in 3 weeks, I would be leaving in 12 days because the mtc does not provide language training for those in the advanced section. I really didn't know how to feel about this, but I guess I am happy because even if I ahve difficulties teaching, I think I would learn more spanish and be a more efficient teacher if I am in the field than if I am here for a couple of weeks. Having been here for about a week I think the description of it as hard, really doesn't capture it. So far, it has not been overly stressful or difficult in any particular way, but the days are extremely long, and there is absolutely no time to relax, whatsoever. I will mimic what everyone said, you just have to get to Sunday and the days progressively shorten. With this in mind, the MTC pushes you in ways that you are different from being pushed. I have to throw in some kind of analogy, if college is like running 3 or 4 400 meter dashes, then the MTC is like a marathon. I will not lie though, some of the rules like not singing non church songs and not giving high fives to hermanas is a little hard, but you get used to it. I love both of my teachers, one believes that no matter where we are in the mtc that we should speak only spanish, which believe it or not is really quite difficult, and will cause you to accidentally speak to lunch ladies in spanish only to get blank looks of impatience. However, I really want to testify in the gift of tongues, because I never could talk with natives before I got here, their accents were just too heavy, and they spoke too fast; but as soon I got here, I was able to not only understand what they were saying to me, but able to respond and say just about whatever I wanted to (although in a little bit of a roundabout way because of my limited vocabulary) My companion's name is elder Windsor, he is from Arizona and really just a big softie. He is pleasant but pretty quiet, and does not like interacting with too many people (needless to say I end up doing most of the talking). He had never really worked out much before coming to the MTC, which really changed because I cannot be focused at all if I don't. So I've convinced him to run and lift weights and all that good stuff, and I cannot describe how important that gym time is to both of us, because it is our time to unwind from constantly learning, and just get our energy out. Oh by the way, I learned from my companion. and everyone else around me, I am a little chipper and energetic in the morning, which is apparently rather unusual, but I tried being a little glum, and it really just didnt work that well.

He and I really struggled with the lessons at first because we really were not thinking about addressing the needs of the people as individuals, we were just trying to teach lessons. I think the biggest lesson I've learned so far up here is best summarized by a quote from Elder Bednar, "who cares about you". This really is not about me, and it really does not matter if I am tired or sad or upset or missing home, who cares, that's not what's important. There are real people out there who are struggling with their lives, and who I not only have a responsibility to help, but want to help to. Once I realized this, and that there is no one without problems, which the Gospel would help resolve and fix, the lessons really started going better. I think that is the real essence of Preach my Gospel, is helping people with the problems in their lives with the Gospel. We as missionaries come to where the investigator is, and bring them out of darkness and into light with an example, just how Christ did for everyone he encountered. This is so important because we are representatives of Christ and we must follow his example in our teaching, and our relationship with our investigator should have a similar relationship with us to what we have with Christ. We beg them pray earnestly, study their scriptures more diligently, and keep the commandments given by Father, and Christ wants us to do all of those same things. If we are not setting the example, how can we expect anyone to follow us. If we set the example and do our best to be the best we can be, then Christ and the Holy Ghost inspire us with what we need to do, and where we need to go to serve his children. With that said, the Holy Ghost, while it will occasionally guide us through a strong feeling or impression, it more often just guides us without us knowing that we are being given an impression. This means that we just need to do everything we can, and not worry if something is our own thoughts or an impression, and just trust that if we are doing our best, and doing what is right that we will be guided. Anyways, that was just my little rant on my thoughts since I've been up here. This is definitely my longest email since this is the only time that I do not have to email my mission president.

Oh by the way, my companion and I were made Zone Leaders (Mom, ask someone what that is) for our time here at the MTC, which really is not that big of a deal since there were like 20 elders total in our zone, and 10 were leaving soon, it just means that we host orientation, resolve conflicts/help people who need it or are stressed and are in charge of organizing other missionaries so that they get to their flights without issue, and preferably with a companion. Anyways, I am going to go up to Mexican consulate today, to try and sign some stuff to get my visa, which unfortunately means that I will be missing the only time that I have to go to the temple, because I am going to be leaving Monday morning at 2 AM from the MTC for Veracruz, probably arriving at the airport at 630 pm local time. Let's see, oh Bro. and Sis. jones, I got to see Sister Jones and on the Sunday devotional, which was nice, and however difficult it may be, or long the days, I have never seen her look happier in my life. Since being here, I miss home unlike how I felt at college, but I would not trade being here for anything because this is where I know I need to be at this point in my life. I love you all more than you can know, and I really miss you all. I hope to hear from you guys soon.

Elder Standridge