Monday, July 28, 2014
First off, I know haven´t said anything but congratulations to all of the kids who have gotten baptized recently, I really want you to know what an awesome decision you´ve made (there are quite a few 8 year olds with member parents who don´t down here) and that it will bless you for the rest of your life. Try and remember that day as best you can, because while you can do the temple baptisms, that is the only one that gets done for you (unless they lose your baptismal registration form and you have to be rebaptized, which unfortunately I must admit that if a leader in the mission is pressuring you to get a baptism this week is quite a blessing for the missionary) Well this was certainly just the most wonderful week, but it was certainly full of temptations. This week in Santiago there was a festival celebrating the apostle (if you don´t know Santiago is Spanish for James). I was really hoping to find some way to speak about Santiago 1:5 but after a lot of thinking about how to use the festival to help us, I found that my accountant brain really does not have the creativity for interesting activities to contact people (plus they´re generally ineffective anyways) so we worked fairly normally. I just wanted to talk a couple minutes about the cool things down here in Santiago. So Santiago is a fairly small city (although it is urban) even for the jungle area of the mission. It is right next to the larger San Andres which is where we have most Zone conferences and the like. It is beautiful and while most of the roads we walk on (because more people live near the middle of the city) are actual roads, about half are mud or dirt. The Tuxtlas (the jungle area of the state) really struggles for work in general, and for a good portion of the people the only time that work may be available is Sunday. During the festival people came from all across the Tuxtlas and there were stands of various candies and clothing setup all over town. Although since I´ve been here they've had a mixture of what I believe are shotguns being shot off into the air, and fireworks, which is cool except at like 4 in the morning. They also go section by section throughout the city, and the Catholics all walk around carrying an alter with the virgin marry and a banner, and singing this song really loud, which is great and all until you are teaching an investigator. It is pretty dry right now, which means it only rains two or three times per week, although occasionally it can get raining pretty hard (you have not lived until you have seen rain the size of softballs). As far as the festival goes they had some pretty awesome events, such as the climb the three story pole covered in grease (idk if that is how you spell that kind of story, English is fading), also the chase down the giant pigs (the pigs here are significantly larger than I am in length and width) also covered in grease. They also had some cool ones where four guys stand on top of this giant wooden pole 4 stories high, it has beams that stick out at the top. All 4 jump off simultaneously with ropes attached to their feet, and the tower/pole spins so that they are going really fast. Then right as the last second before they hit the ground, they flick their feet and land as if it´s nothing and walk off as if they had just been in one of the space saucer rides.
Unfortunately I was unable to see that particular event but everyone has toys of it and talks about it (duty called). Oh and they called norco ¨horsetown USA¨, it may not be in the US, but I think this place has them beat. They had a parade of horses (and they would dance and stuff). My companion and I crossed through the parade after watching it for a few minutes, went up, taught a lesson, came back, and people were still going by for the horses (everyone was in traditional Mexican dress and everything). There was a lot of cool stuff going on this week. Anyways beyond I want to talk a little bit about the work here and some of the things that i´ve seen in that regard.
I think I´m gonna go backwards from yesterday. So last night, something really sad happened. Everyone knows the parable of the good Samaritan, and to most of us it seems remote although we understand the principle. Well there is a homeless man who sits on a street corner and does not move because he is unable to walk. Occasionally people will toss him a tortilla in the street which he kind of crawls too, but he lives very poorly, and has to sit there through rain and lightening and dogs and everything. Anyways, my companion and I were passing by, and we saw him lying in the street for some reason. We didn´t know what he was doing there, and since we were a long ways away we just passed on by to an investigators house. I felt really guilty, and on our way back, he was still in the street so my companion and I walked up, and someone had roughed him up quite a bit, and he had no strength whatsoever. So my companion and I dragged him out of the middle of the street back to his corner, and bought him some bread and water. He was a little unconscious, through this, but what amazed me was that cars drove around him, people walked pass him, and everything (including us) and we were literally just like the levite in the parable. I wouldn´t have slept if I did not help him, but that really impressed me strongly. Next, we are getting fairly strongly pressured because we might get a cambio blanco (no baptisms for a transfer) which basically means you get called up by everyone in leadership to find out what happened. So we are under a lot of pressure right now to find a baptism in some form. So I´m stressing about that a little right now. At the same time we did divisions twice this week. Elder Killpack is the district leader here, so he did some with some of the missionaries in the zone, which means I worked with Elder Cortizar for the day. He was really cool, and we worked hard and everything, but as a whole in our area, we are having a heck of a hard time finding people more than once to teach, which means its hard to get them to church. The second time we did divisions was with the Zone leaders, an I went with Elder Lehikainen for the day, and that was really fun. He goes to UVU and is from Modesto so was super relatable (loves lifting and that kind of thing too). That was was just a really cool day to get to see how he worked in the area. Really just something special. Anyways, I doon´t really know how I am sitting with my training, but I hope good, I am trying best, but we shall see. At the end of this week we will have interviews with President which will be interesting as well. Oh and by the way, today was my cumplemeses, which means that I know have 2 months in the mission! Now that´s hard to believe. I am starting to forget some of the things from BYU as time goes on, I wonder what it will be like at the end of the mission.
Anyways, I love you all, and remember to go out and try and bring someone home to Father this week, there is nothing more important.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Hola todos!!!! Wow, I am loving Santiago Tuxtlas and my Companion Elder Killpack (I still love that his name sounds like a killstreak in Halo), they are simply beautiful rays of sunshine in my life. So anyways, I told yall about the small branch here, well this weak we actually had 30 people at Church! While to most of you, that may sound like nothing at all, to me, that was absolutely awesome, twice the normal amount. Sure we should have had 50 with all the people that comitted to go to church, but hey, pickers can´t be choosers (why is that a saying). Anyways, a quick note to Davis Garner, get ready for a quite hot next 2 years, by the end of it, most peoples collars are black and shirts are closer to yellowish brown than white. Luckily Monterrey is a significantly richer state than Veracruz, that being said, to anyone that goes to Mexico, say goodbye ot any and all fitness that you had before the mission. I am trying to out run getting fat (you can only run maybe 15 minutes by the time you pray get dressed and get your companion downstairs, if he is willing to walk down and wait for you to run).
Anyways, we have a lot more nuevos here, and we are working with them to try and get them ready for baptism, but honestly it is pretty darn hard when no one wants to go to Church. One of the biggest things that you have to watch yourself on a missionary is baptizing for the numbers because boy could you baptize if you wanted to. I honestly could sit with someone for 30 minutes, while my companion has the font filling, and baptize them that day if I wanted to. It really is not that hard to convince someone that the Church is true down here, what is hard, is to get someone to logically take an answer that they feel they have received from their prayer, and change their life. We are not here to baptize, we are here to bring people home to Father, and honestly that is no where near as easy. I just have so many random things to say, so here goes, this week we are going to be having a festival, so fun letters to come. Divisions are great in the mission, you can cover twice the ground that way, and your key indicators are twice as good. Peace with your companion is really important, but we also have to keep the rules, that´s really important, Elder Killpack has been a blessing to me, because he taught me a lot of the rules that I did not know before. I did not actually do divisions with the Zone Leaders because their baptism fell through, so unfortunately I did not get to do that. Although we did spend a night over at their house, and honestly Elder Lehikainen (zone leader) is awesome. He´s such a fun guy, and a great missionary, so that was fun. Wow having a really active family member who is a member, especially like someone´s brother helps so much because they can testify, but they can also put pressure on investigators in ways we cannot, which helps them to progress more quickly. Oh we had zone conference this week, and wow that was just like a ton of fun. President Cordova really talked to us about the importance of family history work in missionary work (we think of them as separate, but really they are one in the same). When you do that, people will have a reason to strive for the temple, but it is also a good way to help people catch the spirit of the gospel, and to give references. Honestly, the mission is a lot more enjoyable than it used to be, and though we spend all day walking around in the hot sun and talking with many people who are just random strangers (and occasionally get grabbed on by drunks/jumped by dogs), every second of it is absolutely worth it because we are helping people to come unto Christ. IF we are looking from the position of Lehi´s dream, we are the Holy Ghost who guides people to the path home. Ultimately however, our role as missionaries is to guide people all the way to the temple, and from there they walk alone (if the stray after we help them back). Presidente Cordova said something interesting, he looked us in the eye as he way talking and he said these are not your converts, they are not your baptisms, they are not your investigators, so quit thinking of them like that, they are the Lord´s. Sure you helped guide them, but at the end of the day, they are the Lord´s and that is so true. I love all the people who helped me find this church and brought me to it, but at the end of the day, I do not belong to them, nor to I belong to the missionaries who taught me, I belong to Heavenly Father.
I just want you all to know how powerful my testimony is of this Gospel. It is true, one hundred percent true. There is no mistake, the 14 year old boy with no education (I´ve met quite a few of those here) could not write the book of Mormon. I could not write the book of Mormon. I do not know anyone who is talented enough writer to do so either. When you sit and close your eyes, if you are anything like me, you cannot imagine not existing. Sure you can think of a ¨point in time¨ when you did not exist, but you cannot honestly cannot conceive of it. The reason for that, is because we have always existed, and always will exist. Sure there are holes in our memory, but one fact rings true in my mind more surely than any other, that I am a Son of God, and the people that I am here to save are my brothers and sisters. I have always existed and always will exist, and so have all of you (you did not always have a body, but you always had a spirit). This earth life is short, and a time of trial, the mission is shorter, and a time of bigger trial. But all of this rests on on fact that I know to be true, The Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated for us today to testify of Jesus Christ, that he lived and died for each and every one of us. I have seen this book change lives already. A man sat and prayed immediately after we gave him the Book of Mormon, he looked up, stared me in the eye, and said, I know for myself that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God, just like the bible, thank you. I want to echo that man´s words.
I love you all so much, and want you to know that you are always in my thoughts and prayers, I cannot describe how much I miss you all. I enjoy your letters and your emails, and I try my best to respond, I am a fast typer, but not that fast :). (emails are better, letters take forever)
Monday, July 14, 2014
Well, this certainly was just amazing week. This new area is absolutely amazing. I walk out myback door and I have a waterfall. There is ever color green imaginable, andI ma just absolutely in love with this place. Mycompanion´s name is Elder Killpack, this is his last transfer, although this is his first area since being in the offices, so I think he is happy to be out(if you get called to the offices, you are there for a minnimum of 6 months, he was there 8). The branch here is chicito! There are about 20 people who go to church, but a Branch President that is simply divine. He works like no one I´ve ever seen before, and is quite the example to me. He speaks quite good English and lived in the States for about 10 years. Anyways, because the branch is so small, it´s hard to baptize here, but there are also inactives galore, so we may be focusing more intensely with them.
This week something interesting happened. You have to understand the attitude of this Mission, everywhere you went under Presidente Treviño, the focus was baptize every week. Now that was a great focus to have, it got everyone motivated to work and was very results orriented. I must admit it was very hard for me to gte behind that idea, I have and still do believe that the onlynumbers that matters are the number of families that are sealed togteher in the temple, and how many people are progressing home to Father in Heaven. So Presidente Cordova comes in to speak to all ofthe people arriving (my generation finally arrived from the MTC) and he said I do not care how many people you baptize, we are tryingto bring people home to Father in HEaven, and that is all that matters. Not gonna lie, I was about ready to cry for joy (never actually done that, so big deal). Anyways, it will be intersting to see how this changes the mission, but I am very happy.
I came to a couple of realizations this week that have really had a great effect on me. First off, there are 20 member of this branch that are active (most of whom in this area I am pretty sure make less than I did as a BYU gardener) and yet somehow I am still fed pretty well here. If we ask for references, they give us all of their friends theycan think of, and will go with us to the meetings if they are able. How is it that these people can be so excited to help out in the missionary work, and yet so many of us (and yes I include myself in us, because I never helped out in missionary work) do not even consider it most of the time. The missionaries in our wards should never want for references or for food or for anything becasue we have the ability to provide for them, and because we have that ability we have the duty to provide for them. This leads me into my second realization, in Matthew 7, Jesus talks about how people will say have we not done these works in thy name, and he will respond depart I never knew thee. Those people never learned to care about other people or to want to help them, and for that reason they never knew Jesus Christ and who he was. This is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 13, if you have not charity you are as a tinkling cymbal (useless). When I speak of charity in this instance we have to realize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the biggest source of comfort in the world. It changs lives and brings people hope comfort and support when they need it most. Why is it then that we never want to share it with our friends. If we honestly share it, truly, and for the right reasons (not to bring people into the church, but in order to help them in their lives) then they will be able to see it. Never fear what our friends may think, because when we act out of love, that is never a bad thing. Often we interpret that scripture in 2 Nephi (I believe it is 9) that says ´´some will say all is well in Zion´´ to mean that some people just wont see theyre doing wrong. I think that in this case we could see it more in terms of how things are right now. This is the last great time that we have, as members to bring people into the church. President Hinkley built all of the temples so people could go to them, now it is our turn to fill them up. When we are all together with those at the time of Moses or Abraham and we can say that we lived in the time of the Prophet Thomas Monson, and were in charge of missionary work, I want to be able to say that I did everything I could to help out, and that I did not sleep through the restoration. Anyways, that whole blurb has been going through my mind this week, and I really feel a compulsive need to work hard at the moment. (In the tuxtlas because you have minnimal member support, it is all about your own hard work (the hills do not help), and so its pretty low baptizing area)
Anyways, as far as investigators and all of that, we dont have a whole lot of nuevos, but we are working as hard as we can to try and find some (we just got a ton of references). Reactivation is tough here, becasue sunday work is nearly a must to survive, and you have to take what you can get, plus no one has cars, and the church is far away from the center of town. Overall however, I love my little Santiago. Luckily we found someone who can get baptized anytime last night, becasue we were gonna be the only area in the zone that did not baptize someone this week, so thats good. With any luck we should be able to get a good number of baptisms this exchange. Oh btw my companion seems to believe that I will be here for at least 4.5 months, and I cannot send pictures in this area because the internet is too slow (sorry mom). So we will just have to wait for my 6 month anniversary to send some. I lvoe you all more than you can imagine, and I really do miss you guys a ton. So many of you occupy my thoughts and prayers.
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Monday, July 7, 2014
Okay so if last week was the week of challenges, this week was definitely the week of wrapping things up. I´ll start off by saying that I am leaving this area (which is super fast to leave an area btw), but more on that later.This week was really interesting because my companion and I started off kind of bickering, and I really started to realize something new and interesting; we always have the choice over how we react to things. I started off responding to my companion yelling and getting angry by responding in turn, which is typically how I respond to anger. But after a while I realized that I was loosing the spirit, and was not able to concentrate on what I needed to, so I started meditating and focusing on not getting angry. After a while, I realized that no matter how frustrated and angry my companion got, if I just said I am going to be happy and not to let him get to me on that. After a while, we both calmed down, and had peace again, which was really nice. He and I both work as hard as we can, we just have grown up in such different worlds, that culturally it is hard to bridge the gap sometimes (like on washing clothes for example). Anyways, we ended on a good note. Well remember how we baptized Barney 2 weeks ago, this week we got to baptize his friend, who we´ve been working with since I got here. His friend has been abandoned constantly throughout his life, so he feels like nothing is important to him. I don´t want to go into too much detail about him, but there is a funny story about him. So we´d been trying to commit him to baptism for a while, and every time he just skipped out and didn´t want to do it. So he finally said that he would do it Saturday at 9. So we got to the chapel that day and he never arrived. Well come to find out, he had worked 16 hours the day before (for about 12 dollars btw) and he had lost the keys to the building and so had to stay. We found him at Barney´s house later that night, and w asked him when he´d like to be baptized. He said well right now sounds good (words every missionary wants to hear). So we rushed him over to the chapel, and luckily the Bishop was there. He ended up getting baptized at 9....at night. He still has a long way to go, and a lot to work on, but at the very least he has started down the path.
Anyways, beyond him, I had a really humbling experience with an investigator this week. He had an extremely bad infection and so could not speak to us, and could only write. He asked me to explain a philosophical question in terms of our religion (if God is the equation, how is man the result). After a long question and answer explanation, he finally was satisfied, but looked me in the eye and said that I did not have a testimony of what I was saying. He said (I am extrapolating and changing what he said a little bit) that you have a testimony of certain truths, such as that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and the like, but you do not truly have a testimony of all of the things that your prophets teach. Sure they make sense to you intellectually, but do you really feel that you can truly become like your Father in Heaven. Which made me wonder how much do I feel what I am preaching, especially on issues such as tithing and Chastity. Do I really feel that the Lord has given me everything that I have, and that I am only giving him tithing to show him that I have faith in this point; do I really feel the importance of only having children within marriage because this power is sacred. It is a difficult question to think about because if we do not have a testimony of these points, it is very hard for us to preach about them.
Anyways, I have had one thing on my ind this week, and that is what is a successful missionary. My companion and I disagree on a single point, and that is what is a successful missionary. He says that a successful missionary is one who baptizes, and I must admit that there is definitely some truth to that, because there is a correlation between how good the missionary and the number of baptisms. However for me, I felt that there was something more than that. After a lot of prayer and study I think I finally understand. A successful missionary is one who has learned to put others in front of himself because of his love for them and for God, and has put this into practice in the mission field. If we have done this, then we can be satisfied with our work, no matter the baptism number (although the baptisms will come if you do this). When I say this, you do have to be smart as a missionary, you do have to work hard, and you do have to baptize, but I think for me, that is how I will judge my success.
With all of that in mind, I want to say how I feel about coming on a mission for people in general. I remember up in Provo, there was absolute panic about whether or not girls should go on a mission and things like that, and I heard a lot of interesting things said by a lot of different people on the topic. After being here, I think that I realized that all too often, people would pray if they should go on a mission and then complain that they did not get a strong prompting in one direction, and that God did not tell them what they should do. I do not believe that this is really how revelation works. We pray for the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and if we feel strongly prompted to go on a mission, or not to, (or whatever topic) we listen. If not, we study it out in our minds some more, ask again, and if there is still nothing, we make our best decision and try trust God to take care of and guide us. In D&C 4 it says we are called here based on whether or not we desire to go on a mission. So why would anyone want to go on a mission when they could en up living in the middle of some jungle, getting fatter by the day (I am fighting this as hard as I can, and the struggle is real), and making school harder for when they get back. Sure, you will help people an change lives, but for most of us, this is really a hard topic to grasp without us actually seeing them and how they live. For me, if you really want to know why I think missions are so awesome, its because of what they do for you. You learn so much, you are exposed to challenges like you cannot believe and you overcome them. Also, and I really can testify to this, the Lord is more receptive to your prayers and answers every single one. You also receive blessings from your Father in Heaven. Really it can all be summed up in this, in being out here does anyone really believe that Heavenly Father would let your life be worse because you chose to serve, of course not. This is not to say a mission is right for everyone, some people really do receive promptings not to come, but if it were up to me, and I did not feel prompted either way, despite the rocky start, I would come out here; it is worth every second of it.
Finally, (wow I have written a lot today) I got a call last night, and they are sending me to the jungle. I am going to be exposed to a whole new set of challenges I am going to be with Elder Killpack (whose name sounds like a killstreak in Halo btw), and he only has two more transfers on his mission, so I should be with him for 3 months. Anyways, I am a little sad to leave my area, but given a tropical storm is coming this week, and my area is prone to waste deep water throughout all of the streets, I cannot say I am overly disappointed with the timing. I would like to note however I will miss the members terribly and I love them, they are simply great. Oh, Presidente Trevino is dead (what happens when you end your term, so yes I get to kill killpack), and Presidente Cordova was just born. I don´t know him, so I am really excited. I love you all lots, and I cannot write but a hundredth part of everything out here. Nos vemos!
Elder Kevin Standridge