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)