Tuesday, July 29, 2014

That one time I got sick in Mexico

I had a really long track record.  For an American gal to come to Mexico, where youre not allowed to drink anything but bottled water, where there are more bugs than people living in your apartment, and where the people eat chili like sugar,  I lasted pretty long without getting sick.  Actually, thats being modest.  Ward members were AMAZED to see how spicy I liked to eat and to hear that I never got sick.  And as far as I know, I lasted the longest out of all of the Americans that came to Tijuana with me.  Okay, I will step down from my Rameumptem now.

But really.  It was impressive.

And then Heavenly Father had to kick me down from my high horse.

About a month ago, Hna. Bautista and I were chillin and sharing a message with Lucy (remember her? The convert).  Now Lucy has a ton of grapes growing in her backyard, and as we were getting ready to leave she cut us a couple clusters off the vine (grapes directly off the vine people, its pretty cool)  and handed them to us to snack on. 

Flash forward an hour or two.  We are in the house of Hna. Lulu to eat lunch.  Remember, lunch for Mexicans is like dinner for Americans in portion size.  And Hna. Lulu in particular likes to give extremely large portions of rice, chicken, and salsa.  Usually I can handle it.  I have also begun to pride myself in my ability to eat any size portion of food that the members give me (and every size is a BIG size).  However, in this moment my stomach had begun to evolve into a tiny Jacuzzi inside of me, hindering my appetite.  Nevertheless, I continued to eat.  Determined not to offend this kind sister by leaving a portion behind...  

It was probably one of the greatest struggles I have had, and will ever have in my life. 

But I did it.  I ate it all (and am now fully confident that I can win one of those pie eating contests at the country fair).  However, I could no longer deny that something wrong was happening inside of my body.  So I went to the bathroom, knowing that something had to come out of me.  Didnt know how it would come out, but I entered that dark and dingy cement bathroom with a firm determination to come out with a "lighter load"...

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

TJs vs. Mormons

It's funny how the spirit works sometimes.

A little over a month ago Hna. Bautista and I were desperate for investigators.  We had several contacts that we wanted to follow up on but they weren't seguros, so as we were walking away from another rejection Hna. Bautista started talking about a tienda that sat at the end of the street.  Apparently a few days before she had seen a couple of Jehovah Witnesses talking to whoever worked there.  We decided that if they were willing to listen to a couple of TJs (Testigos de Jehova), then they would be happy to listen to us.  So we went over, bought some cookies, and contacted Bryan.  He listened to us, we presented to him the Restoration, and he accepted a second visit.  

We did not baptize Bryan.  He likes learning about other religions, but doesn't have any plans to change his own in the near future.  When we went back for our second lesson, we met his aunt Sonia.  Instantly we hit it off.  She accepted a baptism date in that very first meeting and has agreed to everything that we have said since. 

Sometimes it was hard to tell exactly what Sonia thought about what we taught.  She doesn't express a lot of her emotions.  But when she does, it's always something very special.  She explained that even though she didn't understand all of the Book of Mormon, when she reads it, the way she feels nearly makes her cry.  All she wants to do is obey Dios
Sonia's Baptism

So Saturday
she was baptized.  And It was her birthday too!  Now she has signed up to feed the missionaries every week and brings her little grandson to church every week.  Through her he is learning how to pray and, well, everything!  Even though the rest of her family hasn't  shown an interest in the church, through her changes will happen.  The spirit will grow in her house, and she will touch even more lives.

And all because we felt a little competitive with the TJs.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Divine Connection

Miguel is one cool cat.  

Why is he such a cool cat?  Well, quite simply because he speaks my language.  Literally, he knows a decent amount of English, but mas que eso, he studied Graphic Design, one of the many career fields that art has to offer.  And now he is looking into film directing.  All things creative and imaginative.  My kind of language.

One sunny Sunday Hna. Bautista and I were outside of the stake center, having just left a meeting with all the missionaries in the stake and the ward missionaries.  Hna. Beatriz, our ward missionary, kindly offered us a ride back to our apartment and as we approached her car, we met Miguel, her son, and our ride home.  She introduced us, and although he seemed skeptical about the situation, Miguel accepted an appointment for us to come by the house and teach.  And so it began.

He didn't make it easy.  Due to his work scheduled we could only meet with him Saturday and Sunday nights.  And Miguel is very... pensive.  He thinks deeply about a lot of things, which is great in some ways.  Like when we gave him chapters to read in the Book of Mormon, he almost always read them and  analyzed what they said and how they applied in his life.  But sometimes it caused difficulties, like having to explain to him why it is a resurrection instead of reincarnation.  but it has always been interesting, each lesson we've taught with every question he's had.

What surprised me the most has been his strong desire to find a clean connection with God.  Even before he met us he recognized that there were "laws of the universe" that we needed to follow to have a stronger "Channel" with whatever was this divine being.  That's what he was looking for.  We just had to tell him who He was, what were these leys (*cough*cough* the commandments), and why baptism was important to clear the "channel".   Of course, we didn't know that we were the answer to his internal prayer until after he told us.  It was very special to learn that we could be the tools that Heavenly Father used to help Miguel.
Miguel and Family

Miguel's Baptism

I love my job.

Oh, did I mention the fiesta we had after Miguel's baptism?  It was awesome! We had a chocolate fountain and brincolin just for us!!!  That's right, a bouncy house just for the elders, hermanas,  Miguel, and his brother Roberto.  I never thought that I would have so much fun in a bouncy house with a bunch of 20-30 year olds.  Not only did we jump, but believe it or not, we even played duck duck goose in there.  Quite fun really.  I highly recommend it for those of 20 year or older.

Best part of it all,  Hna. Beatriz has been praying for 3 years for her family to join the gospel.  Last October her husband was baptized.  Now Miguel.  All that's left is Roberto and then they have their eternal family. They've now become my family too.    

Chariot of Fire

Not this week, but the one before we received a new mission president.  Very much like Elijah, President Carreon and his family left us suddenly in their modern day chariot of fire, and President Garcia received his mantle to guide the Tijuana Mexico Mission.  
Farewell to President and Sister Carreon

It was hard to say good bye. 
Reason #1:  My first area was the ward of the mission president and his family so I got to know them pretty well.  We ate dinner with them Christmas eve and everything.
Reason #2:  He was really fond of my singing voice and often randomly asked me to sing in zone conferences.
Reason #3:  He always knew what to say and had an answer to every question.
Reason #4:  He watched me struggle with, and then overcome the obstacle of learning Spanish.
Reason #5:  As a Hermana.... I couldn't give him a hug goodbye.

There are other reasons why I love and miss President Carreon and his family, but I can't list them all now.  He was my president for nearly half of my mission.  But now President Garcia is here and I'm very excited to see what changes he will bring.

We had un consejo liderazgo last week and I had the opportunity to meet President Garcia and his wife.  One of the first things that he told us was how he acknowledged how President Carreon was like a father to all of us... which is true.  Well, President Garcia is quite a bit older and can't quite be compared to a father for us.  But it's for our benefit he said.... the grandparents always love us better then our parents do. :)  It was quite ironic that he said that actually, because he reminds me a lot of my Grandpa DelHoyo.  That's right, they have the same way of talking, sharing stories, and jokes.  It's kinda awesome.  Oh, and he lived in Detroit, Michigan for several years!  Instant connection with the Mission Prez!

So who know's what's going to happen in these next 10 months.  Changes, that's for sure.  But I like changes.  I like new things.  It will be hard to let go of the old, but that's what memories are for.  Time to turn a page and start writing a new chapter!

Diamond in the Rough

Ruby is 9 years old and very much like our friend Aladdin, a diamond in the rough.  This sweet, very shy, little girl was piled underneath a large family of less actives and non members.  We've been teaching her since I arrived here in Fuentes, and it has not been easy.  It took a lot of digging and polishing to get this ruby to shine.  For starters, it's hard for her to remember things, so we had to teach lessons over and over and over again... and then one more time just to make sure she got it.  But couple that with how shy she is... she hardly ever spoke when we asked her questions and never liked praying in public.  Trying to get her to church on Sundays was another thing all together.  With an alcoholic, non member father who kept her less active mother from going on Sunday, we were left with only the support of her cousin, an R.M., and the only active member of her family.  Oh, and did I mention that we had to get permission to baptize Ruby from her father that didn't want anything to do with the church (trust me we tried teaching him).

But we did it.  I still can't believe it, honestly.  There were times, especially in that last week before her baptism, when I thought of washing my hands from the situation and saying, "Alright, Padre Celestial, you want her to get baptized?  You make it happen.  I ain't got nothin' left."  And if there is anything we can learn from the scriptures it's that if you taunt God with your hand of a full house, He'll show you His 20 stacks of pure Aces.  But I'm not one for card games so if that analogy doesn't make since....well, you get my point.  He made it work.  All the tiny, oddly shaped puzzle pieces managed to fit together an Ruby was baptized and confirmed.

Ruby will be an example for her family.  Even though she had a hard time remembering everything we taught, she never faltered in her desire to be baptized.  She new it was important and regardless of what others said she wanted it to happen.  Through her, her family will reactivate, and her dad will join the church.  I just know it.
Ruby's Baptism

If Johnny Depp were a missionary....

Cipriano is that old man in your favorite television series that doesnt have a main part but is always there to say some random thing to make you smile.  I should also mention that he has a fake eye.  It took me awhile to figure out what was different when I first met him, but once I noticed it, it was obvious.  While one eye is bouncing around all over the place, making eye contact and expressions, the other one just sits there.  It´s spooky, but hilarious at the same time.  When I finally figured out that it was fake my brain instantly went into Pirates of the Caribbean mode.  Wondering if he ever popped it out to give it a good cleaning or if it was a key token to enter into a secret Tijuana drug dealing club.  But no, he´s just an adorable old man that no matter how many times you remind him, "It´s Hna. Lance." he´ll keep calling you, "mi hija."

We found Cipriano visiting a sister in the ward.  We had hopes of finding and teaching her nonmember daughter but discovered her equally non member husband instead.  It has been an interesting journey teaching Cipriano.  Not only have we been teaching him the gospel, but how to read and write again too.  That is quite fun.  With glasses filled with strawberry flavored Fanta (no matter how many times we tried to tell them that we only wanted plain water they insisted on soda.  I´m quite certain that my liver has permanent soda damage now)  we used the lesson pamphlets and had him search for and circle certain words or letters.  He also has a little notebook in which we leave him words or phrases to practice writing..... which happen to always be related to the gospel.  Names of commandments, parts of prayer, his baptismal date.  I promise it´s not mental manipulation... :)

The greatest challenge for Cipriano was the Word of Wisdom.  He has been smoking for over 40 years, which is why he has lost all of his front teeth and it´s quite difficult to understand him.  But in the 5 weeks in which we worked with him he managed to quit it.  Coffee too.  That was a of miracle due to prayer, fasting, and priesthood blessings.  I´ll admit that my faith wavered a little bit in this aspect because Cipriano, as similar to a little boy filled with sugar as he is,  is quite old and forgets himself sometimes.  You ask him what he needs to do to follow a certain commandment and he´ll respond the same way for each one, "Hacer buenas cosas y obedecer a Dios."   Which caused me to worry that when someone offered him a cigarette or cup of coffee he would accept out of habit.  And that happened at first.  But as the weeks went by the cigarette and coffee smell disappeared.

Cipriano was jumping and running around his baptismal day.  The bishop (who gave him the blessing to help him stop smoking) baptized him and now in one year, when the temple here in Tijuana is completed, he and his wife can enter and be sealed for time and eternity!

Cipriano's Baptism!