Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mis Compañeras

The parable of the talents is pretty straight forward (Matthew. 25:14-30).  If you practice and use the talents you have been given, you will develop them and find more along the way.  While on the other hand, if you sit around like a lump on a log, you won't get any better...  obvio.  In fact, you can loose that very talent you were first given.  

Considering myself a Jack...(or Jane?) of all trades, dabbling a little in everything, keeping the little talent I've got while pursuing others is quite important to me.  So while I was out learning Spanish,  preaching the good word, and acquiring Mexican tastebuds, I wanted to make sure my creative fingertips could still do their thing after 18 months time.  Therefore, I made a goal to keep a sketchbook throughout my mission... something quite difficult to do when every moment of your day is planned out.  But I managed to knock out a few sketches every now and then, especially of my companions.  I place them before you now for your viewing pleasure.

Friday, June 5, 2015

René Lopez Balderrama

I have officially returned home from my mission.  My 18 months came and went (something that I hope you've gathered from my last post from the field) and now I'm back to limitless hours of internet and chile-less freezer dinners.
As I was reviewing my blog and all of the posts in it, I noticed that one of them was missing!  A very special post that I wrote January 26th of this year (2015) about the baptism of my dear friend René.  He was my first baptism in the Azteca ward and I can only suppose that the choppy internet service caused that this post never arrived in my mothers email-box.  So after digging through my old mission emails, I discovered the original post of his baptism and have posted it here for your reading enjoyment.

Meet Rene.  He's a dreamer.

When I arrived at Azteca he was one of the two sure investigators that we had to work with.  My first lesson with him I showed up with the intent to move up his baptizmal date from Febrero to 24 de Enero, and he accepted.  Why?  Because he had a testimony in the Book of Mormon.

My companion told me that just a few weeks before he wasn't asi.  Happy to listen to their messages, but not ready to make that kind of commitment.  Hearing this, my companion challenged him to ask God through prayer.  And so he did.  That was when he had his first dream.  In his dream, he was walking in a large field and as he walked, he began to see a tree in the distance.  Aproaching the tree, he found that it had fruit.  A simple dream, no?  The next day, reading in the Book of Mormon, he came across Leih's vision of the Tree of Life.  Imeadiatly he made the connection and knew that the book had to be true.  He accepted the idea of baptizm quite joyfully after that.

His only stumbling block was coffe.  He was doing his best to quit drinking bit by bit, going down from drinking cup after cup all day long to just 4 a day.  It was quite an achievement, but we knew he could do better.  We reminded him the importance of keeping the Word of Wisdom, the blessings he would recieve, and invited him to pray for strength to drop this addiction.

Two days latter, stiting in his book-filled living-room, we asked him como le fue con el cafe.  His response? "Nada. Nada nada nada nada nada."

Seeing the shocked looks on our faces he began to share his story.  After our latest lesson he whent to bed like any other night.  But this night he dreamed.  He dreamed that he felt something odd in his mouth. So feeling around a bit, discovered a small string that whent down the back of his throat.  He began to pull on it.  Pulling, pulling, pulling, the string never seemed to end untill he had formed a pile of string mountain high.  Finally, seeming to reach the end, he pulled out of his mouth the last of the string, but to his great astonishment found at attached to the end of the string, as small devil.  He woke up with a sweat, breathing heavely, not sure what to do other than to pray.

Since then he hasn't had the slightest desire to drink coffe.  Sure, his body is going through side effects, trying to clean the substance from his system, but he is determined to stay strong.  And he has been.

The baptizm of Rene was last Saturday.  Unfortunatly, at the same time there was some construction work going on in the streets.  I've learned that when there is construction work in Ensenada, that means that in houses everywhere there is no water, or the water is dirty.  Por lo menos, we had enough water to fill the baptismal font.... downside: the water was dirtier than the River Jordan.  The eyes of everyone who saw it bugged out and their eyebrows whent sky high, but that didn't fase Rene.  As calm and happy as one could be, he stood in mud colored water, ready to make his first covenat with God.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Brown Heart

Dear Heavenly Father,
Well, my time is up.  18 months have come and gone.  18 months in which I promised to give you my all, represent your Son, and wear His name proudly.
I can´t help but laugh when I think about what I used to say.  That school was more important.  Remember how mad I would get when others hinted at the idea of a mission?  Not required, not expected, not for me.
But you knew my heart.
I think Nauvoo is when you first lit the flame.  And as time passed by, with a comment here, and a special moment there, you kindled the fire within me.  Little by little until you dumped on the whole gallon of propane with that famous announcement of October 2012.  But you never rushed me.  You let me go at my pace.  To study, pray, investigate, and analyze every solution, every possibility.  And when I was ready.  When I was willing.  When I was humble after the long process.  You let me know what you had planned for me all along.  Thank you for that Easter morning.  Thank you for those Jerusalem bird songs.  I have cherished that moment for these past 18 months.
And so the girl who always said no, said yes.  And look at what´s happened since.
Use whatever metaphor you´d like.  Refiners fire or a pruning gardener, I´m not the same as I was.  What seemed like so much time turned out to be so little when filled with the experiences that you´ve given me.  And now I find myself begging for more. Not wanting to go home.  Denying the idea that there could be anything better than working in your vineyard.
I´ve met people and I´ve loved them.  They've changed me and I hope I could help them in return.  I've learned a language, a culture, new music, food, and candy.  My heart arrived here Caucasian, but It´s going home brown.  And after all that has been said and done, the lessons, the contacts, prayers, and testimonies; I just have one question left for you.
Did I do okay?
Did I do what you had planned for me to do?  Did I use your sacred time as you wanted?  I messed up a lot, I know.  And I´m sorry for that.  But I did what I could.  I put all I had on the altar.  Was it enough? 
I know you wont be able to tell me until I see you again, but I hope I can hear you say, "Yes"... or even better, "Sí."  But until that day comes I want you to know that I´ll keep working.  You´ve made me a tool in your hands and I want to stay that way forever.  I´ll go where you want me to go, do what you want me to do, BE what you want me to BE.  I´m not perfect, I don´t even feel good; but I´m trying and I´m asking you to help me.
Don´t let me forget them.  Don´t let me forget this time.  Let it burn forever in my little brown heart.  And if it´s not too selfish of me, don´t let them forget me either.

Your servant and daughter, forever and always,
Hermana Eden Lance

"Un relevo como misionero de tiempo completo es un llamamiento como misionero de toda la vida."

Friday, May 1, 2015


I don´t want to sound like a cliche missionary, but here it comes.  I love this work.  I love teaching this gospel to those who are hungry for it.  Seeing the change in their eyes as they hear what they´ve been waiting for for so long.
We have a few investigators like that right now.  Jorge mentioned to us that he has a past that he would like to forget.  Guilt that haunts him day in and day out.  He´s looking for forgiveness.  A new start.  And that´s what we have to offer him.  When we teach him about the power of prayer, repentance, baptism, and the love that his Heavenly Father has for him, the Spirit is so strong.  

This is why I´m here.  To spread hope to all I can.  Hope for new beginnings.  Hope for forgiveness.  Hope for truth.  Hope for peace.  Hope for something better.  And even though it sounds cheesy, that hope is found in Christ.  It´s incredible how the Gospel works.  How simple it is, but what joy it can bring!  Everyone is looking for it.  You can see it in their soul, even if they don't realize it. 

I´m not here to teach 45 lessons, find 12-15 new investigators, and contact 200 people in a week.  They are great goals, but what feels even better than meeting those goals is meeting these people and seeing the change that they go through.  That´s is something you CAN'T put on paper.  Trust me, I´ve tried.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Star Cab

This life is New York City, New York.  The Big Apple.  

There are lots of people, all going to different places, doing different things, different choices, clothes, hair, habits, jobs, words, beliefs, etc...  Some only focused on work, others on the disco clubs.  Some have a lot, others have a little.

The church is like a Taxi.

There are lots of different taxis, and different drivers.  Some pass by the Statue of Liberty, and others by Yankee Stadium.  Depending on where you want to go, you choose your cab. Out of all the different taxis to choose from, only a certain company will take you home.  Pass by your house and drop you off with a friendly wave. 

What so many people don´t understand is that the gospel works the same way.  There are lots of good churches.  All talk about God, how He loves us, that we should have faith, serve others, be good people.  But not every taxi has the same route.  Even though a church is good, doesn´t mean it will drive you to the golden gates.

We need the right taxi.  We need the power of God, His authority, the priesthood.  Not every chauffeur has that. And after spending a good chunk of time trying to convince some stubborn headed Mexicans this very fact, I´m even more sure that it´s true. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Something I´m gonna miss

It is quite incredible how the Lord works sometimes.

My whole mission I´ve said to myself: I don´t want to be a good missionary, not even a great one.  I want to be an instrument in the Lord´s hands.  I want to be His tool.  Be where He needs me to be in the moment He needs me to be there.  And most often missionaries want to see it happen in the very moment.  Feel the impression and know exactly where the Lord wants them to be or do.  But to be honest, I´ve never seen it happen that way.  I´ve never felt it that way before.  But that doesn´t mean that it doesn´t happen.

Saturday we had a day full of lesson appointments.  Literally every hour was planned with an investigator.  Leaving the apartment in the morning I felt so good and sure that we were going to have incredible lessons and help everyone go to church the next day.  ... Big shocker that that did not happen.  ALL of our plans fell through, as well as plan B, C, D....  So we started contacting,  knocking doors, and looking for references.  TWO HOURS LATER we found ourselves without results and itching to teach somebody.  Desperate, we walked over to where a sister lived so my companion could get to know her and we could share a message.

It wasn´t until we were siting there with the sister when I realized why we had walked so much with what seemed to us for no purpose whatsoever.  I
f we had gotten there just moments sooner, she wouldn´t have been there and we wouldnt have been able to listen and help her.  She needed us in THAT moment.  And so the Lord made sure we were there in THAT moment.

There is no other feeling like it.

....but are you ready for this?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The last testimony of them all... He lives!

Last Monday was the beginning of my last transfer.  I received Hna. Jimenez (yeah, my same companion from Aguacaliente) as my new/old/last companion here in Ensenada.  The only difference is that I´m now training her to be a Sister Training Leader before I go.
In the movie "Monty Python and the Search of the Holy Grail" there is a quite... pointless scene that always makes me laugh.  Walking around with a wheelbarrow a man yells out, "bring out your dead!"  Another walks out, with whom we can only assume is his grandfather on his shoulders.  His mind intent on throwing him into the wheelbarrow.  "But I´m not dead yet!"  The old man cried.  "Actually, I feel like going for a walk!"
The members of my Ward and my fellow missionaries are trying to toss me into the wheelbarrow.  The moment that Hna. Jimenez stepped off the bus and saw me she said, "Hna. Lance, ya se va!"  ...Gracias hna, good to see you too...  Everyone feels the need to remind me that I´m leaving soon, or warn me from getting trunky.  Even when complementing me.  The other day Hna. Jimenez told me, "Sentí tanto el espiritu cuando testificó Hna.  ¿Por que tiene que ir?!"  Uhh, thanks sister, but I´m not dead yet!

This week we´ve been promoting the new church video, Because He lives.  So we started by talking to our neighbors and inviting them to watch the video.  One of them, an elderly man, thanked us for the invitation, but warned us that he didn´t believe in God, Christ, or Religion.  With faith, we told him that we would like to visit him anyways and made an appointment for the next day.
Arriving and entering into his little home I noticed that his walls were covered with paintings and immediately felt a connection with my artistic brother.  Sitting down, I said a prayer in my heart, hoping that as we taught about who our Heavenly Father is, he would be able to feel the spirit testify that He is real...  Sadly, we barely finished the opening prayer when he began with his negative comments.  Now I don´t want to go into details.  That would take too much time and be rather depressing.  Just know that this child of God has a lot of pent up anger against his Heavenly Father.  "He abandoned me, so I abandoned Him."  If there is so much injustice in the world, how can He be a just God?  If there is a God, He is an irresponsible God.  He (our neighbor) gave us every example of injustice from the history of the world that you can think of, the majority attacking the U.S.A. (uh, hello... American gal sitting right here... thanks).  God never helped him.  Never helped anyone.  Religion destroyed his family.  Religion is business; using good, innocent people like ourselves and manipulation us with our faith. The cherry on top being that the Mormon church is one of the two "mas ricas" churches in the world.
Contention is of the devil, and there was a lot of it.  Don't get me wrong.  He wasn´t rude in anyway towards us.  Just made his feelings plain and clear.  But I could also tell, that after nearly an hour of trying to explain our message, he wasn´t going to let us get a word in.  All I could do was testify.  That´s what I came out here for isn´t it?  Open my mouth and share what I know.  As did my companion, and the members who were joining us in the lesson.  We didn´t say anything special, but the Spirit filled the room.
The next day, while watching G.C. and looking at the general authorities, I couldn´t help but think, "and if it really is all a sham?"  Just for a sliver of a second I remembered all that our neighbor had to say.  Then, during the 2 hour break, a few Mormon messages came on.  I believe it was called "the Hope of Gods light."  And the spirit hit me again.
It HAS to be true. I know it is.  It´s the only thing that makes sense.  I love it, and I´ll testify it until the end.

(and if you guys didn´t catch it, my old mission prez, Armando Carreon, just got called as a new member of the 70!!!)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Fasting can cause a lot of really awkward situations.  We fast every week.... which makes awkward moments on a weekly bases.
Last week, in such a moment, Hna Aviles and I arrived at the house of a new investigator (remember the breaking-into-the-car contact?  Yeah, we finally got an appointment with her).  Like every other day in Mexico, it was pretty hot and naturally our investigator offered us a glass of water (which is Spanish for soda) to cool off.  We said no gracias, that we were just fine, but while she went off to take a quick shower, she sent in her cousin with two large glasses of Manzanita Sol.
Awkward.  If you consider it bad manners in the US to not eat/drink what you're offered, it is REALLY bad manners here below the boarder.
What could we do?  The cousin went back into the kitchen and left us alone in the living room with a puzzle to solve.  We began searching for anything to dump the soda into.  A hose plant being the ideal choice, but alas, there were none to be found.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a open window.  Quickly, but silently I dashed to the window, and with a prayer in my heart, peeked outside for salvation.  God heard my prayer and a potted plant was found sitting directly below the opened window.  Slinking over to my companion I shared my discovery and we plotted our next move.
It was a flawless plan.  I placed myself in the sofa to keep watch on the activity in the kitchen while Hna. Aviles moved over to the chair in front of the open window.  As I played guard duty, Hna. Aviles, with Manzanita in hand, slyly slipped her arm through the window behind her to dump the soda in the plant.  In and out again for my glass and within seconds the deed was done and we could breath freely again.

The investigator didn´t suspect a thing.  But I would love to have seen the faces of the people outside who past by to find my companion´s arm hanging out the window with glass in hand.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Elliott Ricardo Chinas Pena

Elliott and his family were a reference from another ward.  My second week here in Ensenada we went to visit them and the very next day they showed up at church.  Elliott (9 years old) lives with his mom and one of his sisters.  His other sister lives in another part of Mexico and his dad is Marine, which means that he is off at sea for three months at a time and comes home for about a week.  When we stated visiting Elliott and his family, that was the reason why his mom, Leticia, was always depressed.  All day long she was in the house, her kids at school, husband at work, and with nothing to do.  But as she began to learn about the gospel, you could see a light begin to grow in her eyes. 

Since then they have become a solid family in the ward.  Participating in every activity and eating up all that the gospel has to give them.  Leticia has even shared the gospel with several of her friends.  Now just has to wait until her "husband" gets home so they can get married and she can be baptized.


But meanwhile, Elliott was baptized!  Super excited, he told me after his baptism, "my sins were up to here! (pointing to his forehead) and now I don't have any!!!"  He's going to serve a mission some day.... :)

In other news, I have the opportunity each week to go on exchanges with the other sisters working her in Ensenada.  Last Friday I spent the day in the only Hermana area with bikes in Ensenada.  First time in all of my mission to ride a bike... in a skirt.  Stick on a pair of leggings underneath and a Hanna Montana helmet on top and your set to go.  

I felt like I was in a video game.  10 points to hop the speed bump.  15 if you can wave hi to the kids hanging out of the pickup truck passing by. 30 to weave around the dead dog.  50 if you can squeeze between the buses.  What a rush.  Would it be too cheesy if I said I felt so ALIVE!?  Or that's how it felt for the first 10 minutes.  Then I began to realize that I wasn't in such great physical condition as I thought...  With my head held high I can say that I never once crashed, but we might have needed to take a couple breathing breaks.  At the end of the day I rode the bike standing.  I'm fairly certain that the torn up bike seat made a few bruises where the sun don't shine.  The next day I woke up with wobbly legs.  To those of mis amigos who served missiones on bikes, my respects.

If you can't beat 'em, join ém

I haven't had too many dog stories during my mission.  One happened around my three month mark (of which I've already written about), and the other about two months ago.

Azteca is a big area, therefore we earnestly search for any shortcut we can find that's manageable in a skirt.  Thus this story came to be.  We were running late for a lesson and Hna. Aviles and I were new in Azteca and still trying to find our way around.  We came across a large, empty field, innocently lying there, waiting to be walked upon.  There might have been a sign saying "Private property.  Prohibited to walk upon."  Perhaps it was there...  I don't remember too well...

We made it half way through until giant dogs of every species came chasing after us.  I'm pretty sure that one of them was Fluffy from the Sorcerers Stone.  Barking, growling, saliva flying everywhere they came right up on our heels.  And we just kept on walking.  My heart beating right out of my chest, but my feet as calm as a Sunday afternoon stroll. One of them bit the skirt of my companion.  And I responded by opening my umbrella in it's face. HA! 

And that's how we continued.  Slowly walking, trying to not provoke them more, until we came to the end of the field,... and maybe passing by another "Prohibited" sign.... maybe.  Like I said, my memory doesn't serve me too well.  But the dogs knew there limit and didn't follow us beyond that point.  ...And we haven't made that shortcut since.

As for more recent news: in a desperate search for new investigators, our zone got together last Friday and put up a couple of stands in the famous Globos of Ensenada (it's like a giant garage sell.  you can go there and find anything you can imagine really cheap).  We looked like a bunch of T.J.'s (testigos de jehova).  Talking to anybody we could about their families, genealogy, the restoration, the gift of tongues.   Strange people, strange experiences.  A couple of English tourists came up and asked to take a picture of me thinking I was part of the tour I supposed.  They also asked if I was Mexican (goal!)

Fun fact:  Nobody knows why, but there is a Japanese statue in our area.  Random, but great for picture taking.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Another Drop in the Ocean

We´ve been struggling a little here in Azteca these past weeks.  We have some great investigators that will be getting baptized in these next few weeks, but can´t seem to find new people to teach.  Lots of canceled appointments, 14 or more contacts a day, but no one interested in the good news.  We´ve even resorted to knocking doors... but few stories of success.

You know, the typical.

Having just been told from a new investigator that they didn´t want us to visit them anymore, we were walking through a neighborhood looking for somebody new to teach.  We came across a lady struggling to break into her car, having accidentally locked her keys inside.  Like typical missionaries we offered our help, and like typical strangers seeing two gals in skirts, she said thanks but that she could handle it (who´s going to make girls in skirts work?... story of my mission).  She and her neighbor (who was not wearing a skirt) continued working on her car while we awkwardly stood there watching.  Refusing to leave until we contacted her, but not knowing how to draw her attention away from her car.  Finally, tired of waiting I said, ¨Pues, nosotros sabemos que Dios pude hacer cualquier cosa.  Aun abrir su carro si quiere.  Cree que podríamos hacer una oración y pedir por su ayuda?¨  She said okay to the prayer and so standing there, in the middle of the street, while her neighbor continued shoving a metal stick into her car door, I said a prayer.  And as I finished the prayer... the car door didn´t open.  Talk about an awko-taco.  So I continued to contact the lady, hoping that she would realize that the prayer supposedly failed.  But as I contacted the neighbor continued to work on the car door, and after a minute or two, POP!  The door opened.

The lady didn´t accept a return appointment.  Actually, I´m not even sure she made the connection of the prayer and opened door.  But for me, it was a tiny miracle that strengthened my companion´s and mine testimonies.    
¨you´ll only find this in mexico¨

Thursday, March 5, 2015

I've been doing this for too long...

Something really strange has happened to me.  I've hit a road block.  I quite literally can't think of anything interesting or enlightening to write this week.... and as a self proclaimed creative writer I feel quite ashamed about that.  I guess doing the same thing day in and day out has made everything seem... normal.  And very difficult to remember something abnormal to share.  I wake up, study, contact, teach, walk, plan, and sleep each day.  Sure every day is unique... but as Syndrom from The Incredibles said, "And when everyone's special... no one will be."  Regardless, I promise that next week I'll have something incredibly amazing for you all to read... but while you're waiting on that just know that the church is true, the work is good, chili adds more flavor, and here's a montage of pictures from the last 6 months (mas o menos) of my mission.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Some are Sowers

Status update.
Last week we had transfers aaaaannnnnndddddddd...... nothing happened.  Hna. Aviles and I will be staying together for the next 6 weeks here in Azteca.  Which I´m happy about.  We make a pretty good team and have lots of plans for this next transfer.  We´re finding lots of new people to teach and now only need to sift through them all to see who really is going to progress.  Two new Hnas arrived last Monday as well to open area in Azteca 2.  We officially split the area and they started contacting to find new people to teach...  They had about 3 days to work before one of them became sick with the chicken pox and now they have to stay locked up in their apartment for who knows how long.  A missionary's nightmare.  So we´re currently trying to figure out how we might be able to go on divisions so their area doesn´t sit there and collect dust.  De seguro I can´t get to close to the Hna. because I´ve never had Chicken Pox and even though I´ve got the shots and everything, it´s still possible to catch it.  It´s an awkward situation all together.

But moving on from that.  It´s time to get spiritual.
As many of my dedicated followers may remember, I hit a moment un poquito dificil in my second area and about in the middle of my mission.  I was training, I was contacting, I was teaching, but nothing seemed to be going right.  No one was progressing towards the waters of baptism and honestly, I felt a little bit like nothing that I was doing worked.
One day, as we climbed one of the many hills in our area, we passed by a man cleaning his front yard.  La verdad, I was going to keep walking, but something told me to talk to him, so I did.  It was awkward, just like every good contact, but we discovered that he lived several years in Utah before getting deported to Mexico.  There he came in contact with the church.  Never listened to the missionaries, but heard a lot about our beliefs.  Obviously, we invited him to church the next day and to hear our lessons.  And while making fun of my Spanish, he told us that although he wouldn´t be able to receive us in his house, nos veremos alli in la capilla (meet in the church).  Contact completed.
He never showed up at church.
And for the rest of the time that I served in Las Fuentes, I never saw him again.
Flash-forward to 2 months ago.  Hna. Pacheco and I were siting on a bus, leaving Tijuana and heading to our new areas in Ensenada.  Excited to see each other again, we began to relate everything that happened since the end of her training.
She told me that one Sunday, as she and her companion walked into the church, they found Bendito (the contact) sitting in the back row.  To make a long conversion short, they began to talk and he accepted an appointment for them to teach him, which lead to another and another.  Which eventually lead to him being baptized and then joining the missionaries to share his testimony with other investigators.  Now he has the priesthood and is miembro fiel.

I nearly cried when she told me that.
Every effort is worth it.

P.S.  Some cholos unknowingly vandalized a wall with Lehi´s Dream.  Clearly descriptive es the arbol de la vida, the great and abdominal building, and Lehi with the most precious of all fruits.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cynthia Linneth Ruiz Salazar

This past Saturday, Cynthia was baptized and joined her mom and 2 sons as a member of the true church.  She began to listen to the missionaries nearly a year ago with her sons, Josue y Efrain.  She wanted to be baptized along with her sons, but because she was living en un union libre, couldn't until she was married.  So that became su prioridad #1.  Her sons were baptized in April 2014, and Satan began to put obstacles in her path.

First she had to get a divorce.  She was still technically married to her first husband (she married him when she was 16 years old...when I was 16, boys still had cooties...) but he wasn't faithful to her, so she left him and found a new boyfriend.  So before getting hitched again, she had to go through a long and expensive process of Divorcio.

And as if that wasn't enough, doctors discovered a tumor in her brain.  After a major haircut and brain surgery, familia Ruiz Salazar once again found themselves low in funds but high in testimony.  

While Cynthia was in the hospital she was blessed with powerful, spiritual experiences.  When we taught her about the plan of salvation she commented that after her surgery, there was a moment when she slipped into a comma.  She is quite certain that where "she went" in her comma, was the spirit world.  A bright place, where everything was wrapped in gold and silver.  There she found her two sons who died shortly after they were born.  Happy, and grown up.  And in the center of everything, a giant, magnificent tree.  And beneath the tree, Heavenly Father, watching over all.  She said that she felt such peace there, but knew that her time had not yet come.

After she awoke from her comma, the doctors were amazed how quickly she was improving.  Being able to eat normal foods, walk around, and such.  She recognized it as the effect of a priesthood blessing that she received before the operation.  And while in her last days of recuperation she read her Book of Mormon.  A fellow patient asked her what and why she was reading all the time.  Cynthia explained what is the Book of Mormon to her, shared her testimony, and gave her new friend her book, saying that she could easily obtain another one (which we gladly gave her).

Now, even though her hair has grown since then, you can still see the operation scar on her head.

And now we were left with only 2 problems.  1st: Collecting enough money to pay for a civil marriage.  Resolution: bodas colectivas para 14 de Febrero.  Solo cuesta 1 peso.  Now that's what I call cheap.  2nd:  Legally Cynthia had to wait 1 year after her divorce to marry again.... and February was too soon.  Answer: Fast.  My testimony has shot up in regards to the power of fasting.  Worried that the government would shut down Cynthia's request to be married due to her divorce, she, Hna. Aviles, and I fasted specifically for that cause.  In two weeks, with fingers crossed, we went to submit her papers, and they put an appointment for her marriage.  Not saying a single word about her divorce.

So Thursday she got married, Saturday was baptized, and Sunday confirmed a member of the Church. The whole ward was amazed that it was finally able to happen.  

It was a good week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Work and My Glory

What happens after 15 months of walking in the same shoes.

I´ve been doing a lot of thinking this past week.  I always think a lot... but this week my mind has been focused on a certain topic, The Deadline.  Or in other words, the eminant, and quickly aproching day in which my mission ends. Don´t call me trunky, o frita, o muerta.  It´s not my falt that has been on my mind considering that everyone who asks me how much time I have in the mission responds with, "Oh ya esta en su casa!", as soon as they hear 15 meses.  Es el contrario mis amigos.  For that same reason I´m working even harder than before.  The only difference is that I´m buying souvenirs as I contact.

Back to the point.  As we´ve been walking to our lessons, I´ve found myself contemplating, not only on the newly developed hole in my shoe, but mostly in the purpose of missionary work.  It´s rather a strange thing when you think about it.  The prophet sending off snot nosed kids fresh out of high school to go to a foreign land, to spend two years (or 18 months) talking to as many people as they can about the church... in a language that they don´t even know.  From a worldly point of view, it doesn´t make much sense.  Why not people who know a bit more?  Those who have studied the Bible and know the history of the world?  

Easy answer, the testimonies.  "And the mouths of babes shall teach them", said Jesus.  But what has been puzzling me for the past week is, why do they have to put a deadline on  it?  They call you, set you apart, give you the authority to call all to repentance, and expect you to do it sin error.  But when your time is up they kick you to the curb.  The badge is gone, they thank you for your service, and you´re back in jeans eating ice cream on the living room couch.  Why?

Ensenada Cruises
I think I´ve figured it out.  Something that I heard Elder Holland say in a MTC talk long ago.  Lowering the age of missionaries, opening up new missiones, most think that it is part of For the Strength of Youth.  HA!  No, Elder Holland said, that it is to HASTEN THE LORDS WORK.  Okay, numbers speaking that´s easy to understand.  Now there are more missionaries out in the field than there ever were before.... but then I began to think about what I´ve learned in the mission.  I´ve learned how to talk openly about the gospel, how ward counsel should work, how we can effectively work with the members, how to help new converts progress, how members should participate in lessons, and this list goes on and on....  

I´ve noticed a few things as I´ve seen older and wiser missionaries finish their missions and go home.  ALL OF THEM talk about how they are going to work in la obra de salvacion when they get back to their home wards.  How they are going to be the member that they always wished they had to help them during their mission.  How they plan on spreading the gospel and being a member missionary ALL THEIR LIFE LONG.  I hope I´m not to proud to say that I consider myself as one of them.

and chowin down on some sweet sugar cane... mexican style

That´s when it hit me.  So many people say that the mission is the MTC for life.  It helps you become a leader, know how to manage money, buy food, live on your own, and work hard.  I´d rather call it the MMTC.  The Member Missionary Training Center.  La obra del Senor no es una obra para los misioneros.  It´s what the Lord expects everyone of us to do.  He knows that the best way to do missionary work is though the tiny things that we can do everyday as regular people.  As members, there is so much that we can do to make the work move forward.  The RMs know that, and they know how to do it.  I am quite certain that THAT is why the Lord has called for such a great boost in missionaries.  He´s not expecting that we change the world because we have a name tag on.  He´s just preparing another great army of member missionaries to work in their wards, stakes, neighborhoods, work offices, schools, and everywhere they go.  THAT is how he is hastening the work.  

As a future RM I now realize that is my calling.  Going home still scares me.  I still would love an extension of my call, but as a good friend of mine recently told me...  even if I get home, hit 40 and I´m still unmarried,... my wards will double in size.  They have to split every stake that I work in. haha

They might take my badge, but they wont take my glory. 


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hermana Aviles

Hna. Aviles:

Is from Guerrero, Mexico.
20 years old.
Her imitation of The Sermon on the Mount

Was baptized at 11 years of age como nino inscrito.
Has 7 months in Mission Mexico Tijuana
Loves to eat bananas.
Hates salsa Valentina  (...which I happen to love)
Like me, her greatest weakness in the mission is music.
I'm slowly teaching her English through song.
Deep down inside is a wannabe graffiti artist.
Just like I've had my whole mission in Tijuana, she's spent all her mission in Ensenada.

Hna. Aviles and I have an interesting relationship.  We're sisters!  The great and powerful Hna. Torres trained us both.  Actually, the same day when I started training Hna. Pacheco, Hna. began training Hna. Aviles.  This past transfer, the beloved Hna Torres regreso a su casa (may she rest in peace).  As though to help us two recently orphaned missionaries, President Garcia muy amablamente put us together, and in the very area where Hna. Torres began her mission!  I suppose that it was so we might console one another about the recent death of our mother.  (Shout out to Hna. Torres!!!  I know you're reading this!)

It's been really fun being companions with Hna. Aviles.  The last transfer was pretty hard on her, lot's of crazy stuff happened, and I've really enjoyed being able to help her see once more the beautiful, fulfilling side of the mission.  We have had a lot of laughs, and by we, I mean that she's laughed a lot while I've done some pretty ridiculous stuff.  I can't think of a better companionship to have as we try to raise this ward from the dust.  We've seen some serious progress together, so much that they are going to split our area and send another set of Elders to serve in Azteca with us.
As for funny moments together, there are a ton, but I have just enough time to share one:
Last week, el presidente de hombres jovenes, asked us to teach the young men about how they can share the gospel in their mutual night.  Super excited for the chance to make tiny missionaries out of them all, we tried to think of a fun but educational way to teach them.  A visual example that my mom often used in Seminary classes came to mind.  I quickly ran to the kitchen, grabbed a bag of lemon tea, emptied out the continents and told my comp, "stick out your hand!".... but in Spanish.  She did so, I propped up the now empty bag on the palm of her hand and told her, "Ahora, no importa que pasa, no puede mover so mano."  And then presumed to light the tea-bag on fire.

Now what should happen is that the tea-bag will burn until it nearly reaches the hand, but just before touching skin, lifts off into the air.  An excellent example of faith. 

The side affect of our Abinidi incident
I will put it in simple terms.... that did not happen.  Perhaps the tea-bag needs to be made of a certain type of paper... I don't know.  The point is, my comp stood there, looking at her hand on fire, but faithfully not doing anything.  Quite Abinadi-like.  Needless to say that we did not use that example in front of the young men.  Instead, all this past week Hna. Aviles has been asked "que paso con su mano?" We just say that she was sweeping....

(Editor's Note:  In order for this object lesson to work you need Bigelow Tea Bags)

Friday, January 23, 2015

Si Dios Quiere

In these past two weeks I have come to realize exactly how well my Heavenly Father knows me.  Having accepted the idea of serving all of my mission in Tijuana, being transferred to Ensenada was the last thing that I expected.  I THOUGHT that Tijuana was better for me.  I THOUGHT that was what I wanted.  I THOUGHT that was where I was needed.  I THOUGHT I knew how the last 4 months of my mission would end. But then I arrived here to the Azteca ward.

As I mentioned in my last post, we are unofficially opening the area Azteca.  Starting from scratch.  The first week was rough, but as I mentioned last week, full of tiny milagros.  Second week, also rough, but the milagros continue.  That´s to be expected of course.  But what was not to be expected was how much this ward needs me, and how much I needed this ward.  

Now I´m not trying to claim that  I´m all that and a bag of chips, al contrario, I feel very inadequate as a missionary.  But I have realized in this area more than any other that the Lord really needs certain people at certain times in certain places.  

My companion needed me, someone who walks ridiculously fast (and if necessary, runs) across our gigantic area to get to our lessons on time.  Needed someone who has 14 months worth of ideas to find, teach, and animate.  The ward needed someone who knows the rules and isn´t afraid to tell them what they are.  Needed someone who could mas o menos sing, to help reactivate a brother who gives voice lessons for a living. Needed someone who was willing to eat absolutely anything to avoid offending the sisters.

I needed Azteca to start fresh.  I needed a challenge to get my blood running again.  I needed our members to give us support.  I needed to be here and they needed me too.  And Someone knew it the whole time.

I know you're not supposed to think too much about the numbers, and I´ve learned not to.  But I feel like sharing just 2 will help demonstrate my thoughts.  Last week we had just 2 investigators join us at church.  Yesterday we had 7, and all with a date to be baptized. Dios quiere.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Open for Buisness

I'm suffering a culture shock. Ensenada is just so,.... nice.  Paved streets, stoplights, trimmed neighborhoods, toilets that work.  I don't know what to do with myself!  Not to mention that everything is as flat as an ironing board.  What happened to my lose-weight-quick hills?!

I guess I'll just adjust.

Hermana Miramontes
My first week out of Tijuana has been an interesting one.  I got here last Monday to find out that we didn't have a house to live in.  That was a delightful surprise.  Due to some security issues, the sisters in the transfer before me had to leave their old house and start looking for a new one.  So for the past month (and my first week here) they/we have been living in the house of a sister in our ward, Hna. Miramontes.  I swear, if my mom aged another 10 years and loosed a few screws in the cranium, she would be this lady.  Super kind, but rather crazy, so we get along great.  She has a daughter out in the mission as well so she is always curious to know how we are doing and what's the latest "gossip" of our investigators.  Anyways, that has been our housing situation for the past week, living out of our suitcases until they tell us when we will have our own house again..... which happened today.  Por fin they found us our very own little house and, with the help of the priesthood brethren, we moved everything in.  There is a lot of organization needed,.. and a boiler for a warm shower, but it's got the essentials.  Cold water wakes you up faster anyways.

Other fun fact about Azteca.  One transfer ago, my companion (Hna. Aviles) and her old companion were sent here to open the area.  But not only were they on a house hunt all of last transfer, but for the last three weeks the other sister was stuck in bed due to a fractured ankle.  So last Monday, the mission pulled her out and sent me in.  We are starting from zeros.  My comp barely knows the area and a few of the investigators and members who live close by.  It's been an adventure fo'sho'.  But although it has been a little stressful getting everything up and running, those of you who know me wouldn't be surprised to hear that I secretly like the challenge/responsibility.  It's been incredible to see the miracles that have happened in just this past week.  Our footsteps have literally been guided by the Lord.  Of that I have no doubt.  There is no other way that we could be randomly walking down streets, not quite sure we were and with no secure plans for several hours, and find lost sheep in our path.  It's going to be a lot of hard work, but if I'm meant to stay here for the last 4 months of my mission, I'm making those months count.
Azteca is about to get a face-lift.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Never say Never

La verdad, no se que debo escribir.  No puedo piensar bien o entender mis propios sentimientos.  This whole past week has been a crazy roller coaster of emotions, of which I don't have enough time to explain, but I'll do my best to give the highlights of everything.
First things first, I LEFT TIJUANA!!!!!!!  No puedo creerlo todavia.  14 months in this beautiful, colorful, mountainous, cultural, cholo-filled city.  Sure, at the beginning of my mission I wanted to leave, visit other cities and what-not, but now I've learned to love it.  It's all I know.  How the people are, transportation, personality, and even the never ending hills.  That's what I've come to know as my mission.  I was born there, served there, had a child there, suffered there, grew there, and was ready to die there. Mission Mexico TIJUANA...literally.
How can I leave?  Honestly, I'm still in shock.  But it's all good in the hood.  Actually, I find it quite fitting.  All of ano 2014 I served in Tijuana.  Now that a new year has begun, why not a new faze in the mission?  Just need a couple of deep breaths and.....

....wish me luck.