Six Weeks in Mexico

Hello Everyone!

That’s good you got to see Kim and Luana a little bit! Sounds like a fun weekend! That’s some cool stuff you found in our family history! Haha here in Conejos it seems like there are only about 3 or 4 families. Almost everyone is related and we’ll often find entire extended families with their houses all right next to each other. Nathan I found a funny scripture for you in Alma 39:10! But you have to look it up in Spanish for it to be funny, because it doesn’t really say it exactly the same way in English (if you don’t have a Spanish BoM, look at it on lds.org in spanish). Haha when me and Elder Garcia read the scriptures we always find verses that are really funny to give people! Have you looked into joining FBLA? You would be really good at it and have a lot of fun I think! Sounds like you had a good time at the Women’s conference Mom and Tanya! I am really excited for conference this weekend! I don’t know if I will be able to watch it in English or not yet. I think that might be kind of hard to get through the 10 hours if I have to watch it all in Spanish, but we’ll see how it goes.

Well, this week was pretty much the same as last week. It all kind of starts to blur together after a little while. Something kind of weird happens with Spanish. Sometimes I feel like I can speak it but can’t understand and sometimes I feel like I can understand but have trouble speaking. Right now I can speak but can’t understand. Hopefully that will go away pretty soon though. One of the Elders who has one more change than me is training this transfer. I think they are getting quite a few new elders and a lot are leaving in the next little bit. Apparently it is pretty likely I will be training in 6 weeks, so I guess I will just have to prepare as best as I can just in case. I went to the offices on Tuesday with all the other missionaries with the same amount of time as me and they gave us a two hour presentation on adjusting to mission life by using our red manual. Haha, it wasn’t too useful but it was fun to go and see everyone I came with! I don’t think I really ate anything weird this week. It all just seems pretty normal now, and I am developing a pretty good taste for spicy stuff. The weather is still the same. It is usually pretty hot, but it hasn’t rained much this week. We have a fan that we leave on all night when we sleep because the sun shines on our apartment all day and makes it like 90 degrees. We had a giant moth flying around our room all night last night that sounded like a bird because it was flapping so loud, so that was interesting! There are some massive bugs here!

We got some disappointing news this week that Macario left to go help with the corn harvest in his home town, and we don’t know when or if he will come back. We have one other really good investigator, Adolfo, who got his answer to the Book of Mormon this week and that was really awesome! We were so excited! After that we started teaching him the commandments like Word of Wisdom and he accepted to stop smoking and drinking coffee immediately. And also his girlfriend is going to stop those things as well. She is a less active member and she is getting active now because of Adolfo’s conversion because she is going through the process with him. They are really good and read 2 chapters of the Book of Mormon together every night! That is probably the most important thing a person can do to be strong in the gospel is read and study the book of Mormon. It is amazing to see how strong the dedication of our investigators is as they get their answers that this gospel is true. Our recent converts of Sixto and Yazmin and their family are super awesome. Sixto taught the lesson in priests quorum on Sunday on preparing for a temple marriage. They are really excited to get married in the temple in a year! I will probably get to go with them when they go through the temple so that will be super awesome. They have a huge thirst for knowledge that is really cool to see, because the more I study, the more I feel that same thing where I want to know more. If you want an awesome framework for studying the gospel, read the talk The Answer is the Doctrine by Elder Bednar and use that model to study by themes like faith or prayer, or whatever you want to learn about. He also wrote a cool talk about how to have sincere prayers. Well, hopefully we’ll have some more investigators by next week. We have a family that we are really hopeful about, but it is hard to find them all together at the same time, so we don’t get to teach them that often. Well, back to work!

Love you!

Elder Black

The View from Conejos

Hola Familia!

This week was pretty much just a normal week, except for I went on interchanges with one of the zone leaders who was the trainer of my trainer. It was pretty fun! I went to his area in Apaxco and his comp came to Conejos. His area is a whole lot nicer than Conejos, but it kind of stinks because you can smell the sewer system. It was really fun though. We had a couple good lessons and he taught me quite a bit. We ate tacos al pastor for dinner and I think that is my favorite food here so far! The only thing that we have better is the view. Conejos is kind of on a hill, so you can usually see pretty far and for some reason the sky and the cloud formations are amazing. They have the best sunsets ever here.

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I finally feel like I can teach the Restoration well and we taught it to the family I told you about last week. They are really good. Funny story, when we were on our way to visit them on Friday evening, it started raining really hard and we had left our umbrellas at the house. We stopped at a members house real quick and he lent us some umbrellas of the kids. Mine was bright pink and blue with frogs and parrots on it and my comps looked like a dolphin! They were super small too! It pretty much only covered my head and shoulders barely. We walked past a group of kids and they all started laughing so I just smiled at them and waved. I’m sure it was a pretty funny sight to see a 6 foot 4 white guy walking down the street with a tiny pink and blue umbrella! When we got there, they were out hunting Chilincuilies, because they only come out when it thunders and there was a lot of thunder! When the sun was setting, everything got tinted bright yellow and it was super cool looking! I had never seen anything like it! The lesson went well though and we are going to visit them again tonight. I am almost sure that they will have read the Book of Mormon because they were very sincere in searching for the truth. They are one of the very very few families here that actually knows the Bible really well. I am excited to keep working with them! My Spanish almost feels like it is staying in the same spot, even though I know that I am still learning a lot. It just doesn’t make quite as much of a noticeable difference in my ability to communicate. I can pretty much say what I want to now, but one of our investigators I can’t hardly understand a word he says! Its just that some people here talk so badly that Elder Garcia who is from Mexico has a hard time understanding them. I didn’t really eat anything weird this week. I can’t remember if I told you about Chicharron or not, but it is deep fried pig skin, so we ate that. I think its pretty good though! Especially in a taco with hot sauce. That chili sounds pretty good though Mom!  Yeah we can pretty much always get into the homes of less actives whenever we want. They are nice and everything, but they rarely change anything por causa de our visits. (sorry I couldn’t think of a good way to say that in English). We try to work with the less actives, but it is not usually the best use of our time because we also need to find new investigators. That’s pretty cool you got to see the temple dedication with Elder Bednar and President Monson! I read a lot of talks from Elder Bednar and he is a very wise man. He has a lot of good advice like in “the answer is the doctrine”. That is a good one to read. Well have a great week! Love you!

Snowballs in Mexico

SNOWBALL FIGHT IN MEXICO!!!!!! This week was super weird and crazy and pretty fun! A few days ago it started raining really hard and we had forgotten our umbrellas, so we took shelter in a members house, but by the time we got there we were already soaked! After a few minutes, it started hailing super hard with ice pieces as big as marbles! Me and Elder Garcia got the bright idea to go have a snowball fight, so we ran out in the rain and got soaked again, but we were already so wet it didn’t really make a difference. It was super fun though! Never would have expected that to happen.

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For being in a desert, it sure does rain a lot. Almost every day in fact. And the streets get flooded and turn into rivers! It is pretty cool! It is a weird climate, but just about anything grows here. A lot of times there will be palms and banana trees growing next to giant pine trees. But it is super nice here. It is always about the same temperature. The only difference is whether its sunny or cloudy. I ate another great Mexican delicacy this week! This time it was fried chilincuilies (pronounced chee-link-kweelies), which are worm-like caterpillar things. They come out of the root system of the mague plant at this time of year when it rains a lot. They actually weren’t too bad! Better than grasshoppers at least. I ate some plain first and then in a taco. They put everything in tortillas here. Absolutely everything.

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I went to Mexico city on Tuesday to sign my temporary residence card, so that was fun because we got to eat at Carls Jr. and talk in English! I actually had hamburgers twice this week, because one of the families in our ward cooked us some American food on Wednesday! That was awesome! I am finally starting to get used to all the chile they use here, even on the candy. The only thing bad about it is they ruined the perfect cheese blend in the nacho cheese Doritos by putting chile in it. Spanish is good. When I have the spirit with me, I am pretty much comfortable talking and understanding all but a few of the people with particularly difficult accents. I really like reading in Spanish, because i can understand it a lot better written than spoken. 

Yeah I know Chris, Tanya. That is cool that his mom is your teacher. Keep having fun at school, but I’m sure you’ll have some times of pretty hard work also. Where were you playing dunk ball Nathan? Are you getting some good basketball in? Sounds like you’re having fun! Keep practicing and maybe you can beat me when I get home ha-ha! I haven’t even seen a basketball except for in Wal-Mart! Some people are pretty open to other religions in that they will listen to you, but others are just set in their traditions and think everyone else is evil pretty much. There are a lot of Catholics here, and about half of them are nice and will talk to us and everything. If you have the book Jesus the Christ, study chapter 40 about the Great apostasy. It is pretty interesting and it proves beyond all doubt that the priesthood authority was lost after the death of the apostles. Also I have been studying the plan of salvation a lot and have learned some really incredible things about the nature of souls and God, and the whole scheme of the plan in general. I don’t have anywhere near enough time to explain it though, but there is a really good talk on it by Skousen about why the atonement is necessary and why it works. That is fun that Steve and Lindsey and Ashley came! Sounds like you had a good time getting the truck in the barn! Ha-ha sounds like a fun activity mom! Although being punctual wouldn’t do you a whole lot of good around here. Church starts like 25 minutes late usually because there is no one there at 9:00 when it is supposed to start. Good news! We might be getting a ward mission leader pretty soon. It is going to be Hermano Sixto, who we just baptized a couple weeks ago. He was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood yesterday and should be getting ordained to the Melchizedek soon. He is the only eligible candidate in our whole ward of 700 people (although most of them are inactive). Lets just say there is a lot of work to be done in our ward! Tell Brandon good luck on his mission! That is pretty exciting! We were able to keep working with Macario this week, but Adolfo is a traelero (trucker), so he is always gone pretty much. We are running out of people to teach. We had a baptism of Rosaura yesterday and that was good!

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We are down to hardly any investigators though. We have been contacting a lot, and we might have found a family, but we haven’t actually taught them yet. We just set an appointment for this week. It is not very effective to contact though. Its just that nobody ever has any references, so we don’t have anything else to do but knock doors. Oh I almost forgot, we had a stake activity on Friday that was super fun. It was La Noche Mexicana, and we celebrated Mexican independence. There was dance performances of the youth, and a ton of food. All the missionaries in our zone could come to it and it was fun to see all them too. Well that’s about it for this week. Love you!

Love,

Elder Black

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Week Three

I‘m finally kind of getting used to Mexico after 3 weeks.  We have a stove and a kitchen, but we don’t use it much, mostly because we don’t have anything to cook! You can’t really buy much real food here in Conejos. Also, we don’t have time because we don’t go back to our apartment in the evening until the day is done. We have only cooked once in our apartment when we made hamburgers a couple weeks ago. Mostly I eat cereal and snack food in the apartment, but this morning I found a store in Conejos that had 2 loaves of bread and some strawberry jam, so I bought some of that. I’m not a huge fan of cereal, and I mostly just bought it because there was nothing else. I think I’ll be eating a lot of bread and jam because I like that a lot better. I have lost a lot of weight and my pants are getting looser, but they still fit just fine. We use our neighbors washing machine for laundry, and we fill it with a hose because there is no plumbing hook-ups. We are lucky though because most people have to do it by hand. There are no cockroaches or anything, and the bugs aren’t too bad. Ha-ha that’s funny you ate a jalapeno Nathan! There is a whole lot of spicy stuff here, but I am already pretty much used to it. P-days here are super boring because there is absolutely nothing to do in the way of recreation. We can’t have zone activities or district activities and the most that missionaries can be together is 2 companionships. They have made a ton of new rules recently that are kind of frustrating because we can’t hardly do anything in Conejos. It would be kind of like having a p-day in Elwood. We have a gas station here too. And that is it. Today we just ate at a taco stand and went and hung out in the church for lack of anything else to do. That is the right address that you have, I just wasn’t quite sure on the numbers. Just send everything to that address through regular US mail, or it won’t make it. The zone leaders and assistants deliver mail and packages whenever they come around. I got to teach everything after the first 2 PMG (Preach my Gospel) lessons, so I was there for most of the teaching for the family we baptized. Something awesome happened this week.  Marcario is the first investigator that I was there when we found him, and the 1st lesson was great, but then his uncle died two days later and he left for the funeral and also his mom had some problem, I think she broke her leg or something, so we weren’t expecting him to come back for a few months. We stopped by to talk to his cousins who are recent converts this week though, and he had come back! We have been working with him a lot lately and he got an answer that the Book of Mormon is true! He came to a baptism on Saturday and liked it, then to church on Sunday. He is really a golden investigator. We also have another investigator Adolfo who we found this week. He is really good too and he came to church on Sunday as well. He is already planning on getting married and we have only taught the 1st lesson! Grass hoppers don’t taste like anything else I have ever eaten, so it is impossible to describe the taste. The 15th of September is Mexican independence day and we are going to have a stake activity for it this week, so that should be fun! Apparently on the 15th, there are no police or anything, so it gets pretty crazy and dangerous, so we have to be in our house a couple hours early that day. Spanish is coming along a lot better. I can read almost fluently now out of the Book of Mormon or PMG and I set a goal to read out loud in the Book of Mormon for an hour a day to practice pronunciation. I will finish in about 29 more hours is what I estimated, so I think by the 7th of October I’ll have it finished. I’m doing that because one of the apostles said if you read the whole BoM out loud in your mission language, you will be pretty much fluent by the time you finish, or at least really comfortable talking. I can already communicate decently though, and understand anybody who doesn’t have a crazy accent. I really enjoy studying the gospel and it is amazing how you can learn new things all the time from the same verses of scripture. Everything is going pretty good and it keeps improving little by little, especially as I improve my Spanish. I love you, have a great week!

Love,

Elder Black

First Baptism on Week Two

Hola Familia! 

Sounds like you have all been busy! This week has been really good! We had a baptism on Sunday and it was my first one that I have done! Sixto is the one I baptized, and his wife Jazmin and daughter Reinata were baptized by Elder Garcia. They got married on Saturday and baptized on Sunday, so that was super awesome! They also have 2 more boys, but they are not old enough to get baptized yet.

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Spanish is going good. I am understanding better, although there are still quite a few people that are hard to understand because their accent is a lot rougher than most. I still have never had a headache in my life, but if I could get one, I probably would have by now. My companion teaches me a lot of Spanish, mostly because I pester him with about a million questions a day of how to say things haha! Luckily, he has a good accent, so we don’t have any problems communicating other than that I don’t know all the words yet. I keep a list though, so I’m learning fast! After we leave a lesson, I always ask him what they said exactly, because it is easier to understand from him. We tried speaking Spanish during the day and English in our apartment because he knows a decent amount of English, but that kind of fell apart because we just reverted back to Spanish! Guess what? I ate tacos de chapulín (grasshopper tacos) this week! We went to Sixto and Jazmin’s house to visit them and they were eating dinner when we got there, so of course they made me try them when they found out that I had never eaten grasshoppers before. They thought it was pretty funny! They actually don’t taste that bad, but I didn’t like it too much. The feet stick to the back of your throat.

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Basically the only thing they sell in Conejos is truck parts and snack food, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a loaf of bread or not. The snack foods are really good here though. They have Queso Ruffles here, but they are different than the US and that is probably my favorite. The food at the members houses is pretty much always really good though. We had roast sheep and a soup yesterday. I also spoke in Sacrament meeting, and I think it went pretty well. It was longer than my farewell talk actually. It was at least a solid 15 minutes and I talked about home teaching and the Book of Mormon and what they can do as members to help with the missionary work and strengthen the ward.  We have 15 or 20 members that are awesome and help us out a lot, but hopefully we can spark some more participation. This area is really pretty and there are a lot of incredible views, especially when we are walking around in the hills. There are quite a few little trails that we use for shortcuts, so sometimes it feels like we’re hiking!

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In conejos, most of the men are traeleros (truckers) and they get called to work at a moments notice, so most of our appointments usually fall through, so that is disappointing sometimes, but we usually just walk to another house nearby and just talk to one of our other investigators or contacts. We walk a lot, probably 5 to 10 miles a day or more, but I don’t mind because I just practice Spanish and ask Elder Garcia when I come to something I don’t know how to say. Have fun in St. George and good luck with school and work! Love you!

Love,

Elder Black