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!


  1. So....you don't like your Mom's frog-eye salad but you love a burrito as large as your leg? Hmmmm, you have been on your mission a long time. Love all the photos and I am saddened at missing the Missionary Choir, but thrilled that you got to the Temple again. You are building a miraculous mission. Love you lots!