Tuesday, December 30, 2014

La Segunda Navidad

The whole month of December has been filled with road trips and concerts.  Just like for Easter, the mission got together another group of missionaries to form a Christmas choir.  3 Sisters and 4 Elders.  All of October and November we met together to practice and arrange the Hymns we would sing.  Some turned out better than others, but considering that we're a bunch of 20, 21 year old misfits, I think it turned out okay.  We had 5 concerts in total.  3 in different Stakes in Tijuana, 1 in Rosarito, and another in Mexicali.  If it wasn't for these concerts, I don't think I would ever step outside of Tijuana.

Christmas Missionary Choir.

Quick story about the concert in Mexicali.  There wasn't enough time to return to Tijuana that night so we had to stay the night with the missionaries who serve there and attend their services the next day.  Let me tell ya, there are a couple loose screws in that Ward.  It was fast and testimony meeting and the Spirit was strong... but then, with a smile like he had a secret,, a young adult stood up at the pulpit.

"Primeramente quiero decirles que hoy....es mi cumpleanos.  Muchas gracias.  Hoy cuplo 26 anos.  Tambien acaban de intregerme nueve informacion de (insert names of a young couple in the Ward here.)  Todos sabemos que son novios, pero mas que eso estan enamorados.  Uno de la otra.  Lo que no sepan es que en el ano 2015, ella no sera a novia de el.....va ser la mia!"  Followed by a quick testimony that these things are true and a reminder of when the church Christmas activity is.  All of the choir missionaries were cracking up!  But it didn't end there.  Next we went to Gospel Principles, where the Sister Missionaries were teaching about the Millennium.  At the end they asked if anyone had questions or comments and one member raised her hand.  She shared a story about when she was a missionary 23 years ago and saw strange lights in the sky at night.  Long story short, she has a strong testimony that there is no reason to fear the sights of  Aliens.  They are just other children of God, our fellow brothers and sisters on the other planets checking up on our progression to the Millennium.  I'm just glad I didn't have investigators in that class.

Other fun facts about the concerts.  In Rosarito there is a popular restaurant known for it's GIANT burritos.  We stopped by after the concert for dinner.  Folks, I pride myself on never having left food on the plate during the mission, but I couldn't even finish HALF of a burrito, they are huge, but oh so good.
the rosarito burros!!!

The concerts in Tijuana were nice.  I was able to return to old stakes where I served and see old companions and members.  One time, after taking us out to eat after one of the concerts, and due to a suggestion by Presidente  Garcia, the restaurant's Santa Claus asked us to sing a song for him.  So smack-dab in the middle of Sterloin Stolkhom, with what felt like millions of iPhones recording us, we sang "Carol of the Bells" for Santa.  Check that off of my bucket list.

But the best part of it all was the Spirit that could be felt.  Whether with a big crowd or small, sound system or not, cracking voices or clunky keyboards, the Spirit was there.  Music has a beautiful way of speaking to the souls and hearts of mankind in a way that words cannot compete.  Which is why I usually prefer to sing than give talks.

As a Thank You/Christmas present to all those who participated in the choir, the President took us to the San Diego temple.  The timing was perfect.  For several months I had been thinking a lot about, and craving to go to the Temple.  Taste of that reassuring peace once more.  And so the 20th of December we went, crossed the line, and my feet touched U.S. soil otra vez.

Me with Marlen and Diana and their Xmas presents from the temple
There's not much to be said about the Temple that I haven't said before.  It's absolutely breathtaking and was the perfect remedy to recharge my battery after 13 months of hard work, physically and spiritually.  As a side note, my percentage of understanding the language has dramatically increased since my last Spanish session in April.  And as a second side note, before crossing the border to Mexico again we made a quick stop at Deseret Book where I happened to see (but not read) 2 sequels to series by Gerald N. Lund and Chris Heimerdinger. *cough* hint, hint * cough* of which I will be expecting when I get home.

Tijuana is a strange place to be for the holidays.  It is so close to the border that the people know about every holiday, American and Mexican, but hardly do anything to celebrate.  An excuse to eat, drink, and be merry, but as for traditions, there aren't anything.  A couple people put up lights and a tree, and the only places where you can find Christmas music are grocery stores.  Every other house is blasting Bonda from their windows or car radios.  The only common sight you can find are 10 year old boys playing with tiny firecrackers in the street.

The more I think about it, the more fitting I find the situation.  As I mentioned before, all of December the mission has been focused on the "El es la Dodiva" initiative.  Showing with all the true meaning of Christmas.  A message of peace in a world filled with stress, competition, criticism, and worries.  A message that Christ came.  That He taught, healed, counseled and saved.  That He does so today.  When He came there were no neon lights, just the stars in the heaven.  No shinny wrapping paper, but swaddling clothing.  No tree, candy, Santa, stockings by the fire, or Christmas feast.  Just a choir of angels singing hosanna to a few lowly shepherds....not even a Micheal Buble Christmas Album.

Last Christmas I didn't have much time to analyze the situation.  With barely a week in Mexico I was a little more focused on learning the language and Preach My Gospel Lessons.  This year however, as I write, my mind has been reflexcionando.  As a missionary, I don't have a tree, stocking, Michael Buble, or anything close to a Snowman.  There is nothing to do but focus on the real meaning of Christmas.  It was a gift of love.  Pure and eternal.  And it costed a lot.  Del parte del Padre y del Hijo.  The least we can do is be grateful and accept it.  Always remember Him and show our gratitude and love by keeping the commandments.  The feast really isn't necessary and as I've tried to tell my Mom time and time again, nobody even likes the "Frog-eyed Salad" anyway.

Christmas Eve!
Even though it's my second Christmas in the mission, I'm sure it's the most realistic that I'll ever have.  I've felt frustrated, like Joseph at the Inn.  Sore feet, like the donkey caring Mary.  And lots of self evaluating, heartfelt pondering as I'm sure Mary did all the way to Bethlehem.  But hope is always there.  The hope of all the world came, and for that we have a season to rejoice, and share the good news with all the world No matter what comes our way, let us carry this hope in our hearts, and let us all press on.

Feliz Navidad Everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Time to talk about companion number 7.

  • 23 anos
  • Her family learned about the gospel when she was 1 year old
  • From the Dominican Republic
  • First companion who is taller than me... by a centimeter..
  • LOVES bread.  She'll stick three slices with cheese in between in the microwave, then cover it in mayonnaise and cream.... that's what she considers breakfast.
  • Just completed 4 months in the mission
  • Is studying architecture
  • Has a bad habit of popping her knuckles
  • If I had to describe her personality with one phrase it would be, "A sassy black girl who speaks Spanish"
Our house is freezing!!!

Bundled up for some companionship study time.

Christmas Day Nail!
Hna. Jimenez and I now have a month working together and I've really enjoyed it.  Even though she had just barely finished her training when we became companions she is chalk full of animo and ideas.  Not gonna lie, sometimes we but heads with our different ideas, but we both want whats best for the area, so it always turns out alright.  Shes a good counterpart for me.  I tend to get a little impatient and want to GO! GO! GO! WORK! WORK! WORK! if a bus doesn't show up on time, fine! We'll just start walking!  but she reminds me to take a step back and rationally think things over.  As a team we've seen little miracles and that's what keeps us going, reminds us why we are here.

As for unforgettable experiences together:

Once upon a time, in a testimony meeting (I'm sure you know where this is going).  The priesthood was passing the sacrament, everyone was silent...with the exception of a few baby cries, when a cellphone began to ring.  Quickly, the phone stopped ringing and everyone supposed that the owner turned it off.  Think again!  In the middle of the silent chapel, thoughts turned to the Atonement of the Savior were interrupted with a booming voice, "Bueno?  Estoy en la iglesia.  Hableme en una hora."

Missionaries turned to look at one another.  Several in astonishment, others trying to keep the laughs from bursting out.  In the end, all keeping silent..... just waiting for the services to end and explain things to investigators.

Only in Mexico...

Friday, December 19, 2014

Here's a little advertising for you.

In case your local stake presidents, bishops, or missionaries haven't announced it yet in your areas, the church has started a "Christmas Initiative" this month of December.  It's called "He is the Gift".

The church has gone crazy in publicating this initiative.  They've bought Facebook, YouTube, billboards in Time Square, and a bunch of other media sites so that everyone can hear about and watch this 2 minute video.  As missionaries, we are running all over town making sure everyone gets to hear about the video.  Why?  Because its got some serious spiritual power.  I have no doubt that there will be people who will randomly come across the video and have a desire to learn more about the church because of it.  We have found new people to teach just this past week because of it.

Okay, so now I'm asking you, if you haven't already been doing it, to start sharing the news as well.  Its easy.  Just hand out the pass a long cards.  The missionaries have bucketloads of them.

I promise you will see the blessings

or if you'd like the spanish version:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ninas Pequenitas

One lunes, exactly 5 weeks ago, I mentioned a lovely family that we found and began teaching.  La familia Paz Gomez.  For the past month this family has been my pride and joy as well as my tears and sorrows.  One Sunday night, dark and chilly, Hna. Cabrera and I were walking around with our Ward Mission Leader.  Our appointment wasn't home so we went to plan B.... who wasn't home either.  However, the son of our investigator, cigarette in hand and mumbling into his scarf, kindly helped us schedule another appointment to stop by.  After which, our mission leader asked him for a reference of anybody that could benefit from our message or that has had problems recently in their life or family.  We pulled out of him the name of Miguel, his neighbor. With a Muchas gracias, que tenga bonita noche, we moved over to Miguel's house.  It was dark, the lights were out, and seemed like nobody was home, but with a voice like thunder Hno. Chava (the ward mission leader) yelled out for Miguel.  A window opened, a head peeked through, a voice called out  'Hay voy!'   And we waited.  In 2 minutes Miguel came down, we contacted,  and put an appointment for the next day.

Little did I know how much I would come to love this little family.  We haven't been able to baptize Miguel and his 'wife' yet because they aren't married, but their two angel daughters si!  Pray for this family with all you got por favor!

Marlen y Diana and their little sister Joseline.... she wanted to be in a white dress too.

Chillin' with the Lamanites

Another transfer come and gone.  Another companion (Hna. Jimenez se llama), another start.  It always amazes me how fast each transfer goes by... and considering that I only have 6 months left... scares me too.

Speaking of those 6 little months, last week I was so busy trying to upload pictures that I didn't leave myself very much time to write, and I know everyone has been anxiously waiting to hear great words of wisdom from a 1 year old missionary.  So I'll end the agony now.

I don't actually feel any different... besides the fact that I speak another language now.  I guess I can check that off of my New Years goals.  But yeah, besides speaking Spanish, eating chili, and wearing a skirt everyday I feel the same.  Actually, not true.  I've noticed a few changes in my behavior.  For example: How I walk.  I don't want to be prideful or anything, but before the mission I had a very elegant walk.  In jeans or sweatpants, no.  But when I put on a dress and high-heels, the grace naturally came out as I walked.  It's true.  You can ask my grandmas, they'll vouch for me.  But gracias to one year of climbing the mountains of Tijuana, that elegance has disappeared.  It ran, hid itself, and I honestly have no idea where to find it.  All of my companions and several of the ward members have told me that I walk more like a solder than a girl in a skirt.  What can I say?  I take pleasure in hearing it now.  We've got lessons to get to, hills to climb, people to find.  I don't care if I'm in a skirt, I will rock-climb if necessary.  But all my companions laugh and I can't help but be a little scared for the day when I try to walk in high-heels again.  I think I'll need to attach training wheels.

But besides changing how I walk and talk, I've learned a lot in this past year.  My eyes have been opened to what mission work really is and I've learned to love it even more.  Not trying to be cheesy or anything, but the thought of being back home in mi casa in just six months makes me more sad than glad (sorry mom and dad).  I love the Lord.  I love this gospel.  It is the only way to find REAL happiness in this life and the life to come.  I wish I had more time to serve, but meanwhile, I'll use all I got to serve among these lamanites.