So this week has honestly been an incredible testimony builder to me. So as I mentioned last week we have been working with M, and we visited her 3 or 4 time this week to prepare her for baptism. Yesterday we were able to baptize her! My first convert! And she chose me to baptize her, which was sooo cool! I was really nervous i would mess up the prayer but luckily I didn't, and i got her name right too! haha, but the whole process and her progress have truly been incredible. It was truly incredible to me to see the spirit work through us to be able to change her heart, and I know that God prepared her for us to find to bring into the gospel. We also were able to baptize D, who is the daughter of a less active sister in the ward. So that was really cool experience. I willl send you guys the pictures:)
So apart from that, this week we have continued working with A, and we feel like he could be ready pretty soon as well. So we're really excited! We also have been working with another family this week who we're pretty excited about too. Hopefully we will be able to continue working with them.
Today is the end of my first cambio here in Mexico, it's crazy how fast the time has gone by. More than likely I will still be with Elder Islas in this area because I am still being trained, but we will find out for sure tonight when the leaders call us. Elder Hernandez went back to his area after the zone meeting on Tuesday so we have been back to just a companionship this week, which has been kinda nice to just be able to work in our area.
Strangely enough, it's actually been pretty cold this week! We've had to wear our sweaters a few days and it has rained a few days too which we DESPERATELY needed because it is drier than dry here.
So looking back at when I first got to Mexico, I can say that my Spanish has definitely improved. Thank goodness. Haha, I think I told you guys already but i carry around a little notepad with me and everytime i hear a word i don't know or see something i don't know how to say, i write it down. And i counted last night and there is over 450 words already! Haha, it's crazy to realize how little I really know. But that little notebook has helped me SOOOO much and I have had many people tell me how impressed they are with how fast my Spanish has progressed. But really, I'm still horrible at it. Haha, but i'm motivated to get better (so I can talk to Dad in Spanish in a few weeks:)
Oh man, this week has been a crazy one. We've had cita after cita and walked more this week than i think in the whole 5 weeks I've been here combined. BUT it's been good! Today we had another zone activity and we went to the centro in Saltillo and checked out a few markets and then went to this Gordita buffet, which was a lot of fun. BUT a lot of walking for a P-day.
Haha, but good news this week. We have a fecha fija with M, who is the mom of a 15 year old young man in the ward. She is planning to get baptize on Sunday! Wooh! So we're going to do everything we can this week to make sure it doesn't fall through. We first began teaching her last week and she was really hesitant because her entire family is Catholic and she thinks getting baptized will cause problems in the family, but she believes everything we have taught her. I have slowly been able to contribute more and more in lessons and the feeling after teaching someone and seeing them change and being able to bear your testimony to them is unbelievable. It makes me so much more motivated to be a better missionary and find more people to teach. We have also been working with A, who is the son of a newly converted family. He is really cool and really funny but is struggling with the concept of God because he says he is happy where he is in his life and doesn't see the point of changing. But all in all we have had some really good lessons with him and he is always really excited to have us come back. Something that I've been thinking about a lot this week is the WHY behind the gospel, why we need it, why we should make the effort to live it, because I have heard that a lot with people we have talked to. But the reason the gospel is so great is because it's ONLY purpose is to make us happy. Because God's plan is one of happiness. Something we have been talking to A about this week is that just because God's plan is one of happiness doesn't mean we won't have trials, everyone has trials. We need trials to grow. Sometimes the blessing that God gives us IS the trial, which isn't always easy to accept. But with the gospel we can better know how to face these trials and overcome them with more hope and strength.
We've gotten a ton of references this week but haven't had too much luck in finding many of them, but we have this week planned out to revisit all of them and hopefully we will have luck with some of them. The problem with our area is it is HUGEE!! To walk from end to end would take about an hour and a half. So we really have to plan in detail with where we are going to work each day so we don't spend most of our day just walking.
Elder Vargas is still in recovery in Monterrey so Elder Hernandez has been with us all week again in a trio, which has been a lot of fun, and pretty interesting to work with 2 other missionaries. He literally only has 8 days left of his mission and he actually completed his 2 years yesterday. So he's got lots of experience. I feel pretty lucky to have experienced what i already have in the mission field. Like i told you guys at the beginning this area had been closed for many months so nobody knew we were coming and we had to start completely from scratch, but it has been really good for me to see how it works. And also being in a trio has given me the opportunity to learn from 2 experienced missionaries how to teach and how to work more effectively.
So we got some BIG news in this last week's newsletter... Jeffrey R. Holland is coming to the mission to speak to us!!!!! wooh!!!!! I am SOO excited! He comes at the end of May. So we're way stoked for that. Also, they are allowing American sisters to come to the mission now so in not too long we should have American sisters here, which should be pretty cool!
I can't believe Lori, Doug and Grandpa are in the Congo! That sounds way fun! I read the letter and it sounds like they're having a great time. Also, way cool that Grandma Chapple could come into town this week! It makes me miss our usual Pei Wei trip! ha ha. It sounds like you guys had a busy but fun week and that Grant and Caden were studs again in their basketball games . . . No surprise. Wow, and Kendall had her Spring show! wish I could have seen it, but i'm sure she did great. And Kendall be sure to tell Audrey that i'm NOT messing up in the mission :) haha, she makes me laugh. it was great to hear from you guys this week! I forgot my cable for the camera so i don't have pictures this week but that just means you will be getting more next week!
So i realize that today i have been in Mexico for exactly 4 weeks! Almost one month to the day. Sooo crazy! This week has been super eventful and way busy, but it has been another good one:) So on Tuesday we had zone conference, and the AP's and President and Sister Swapp came and we had some trainings and practices and lots of food! It was really cool and super helpful, the big theme that President Swapp talked about was gratitude, which wasn't what I was expecting at all. But it made me realize how important gratitude really is. He told the story of Jesus and the 10 lepers (idk if i spelled that right, everything on this computer is in Spanish so it says i spell every word wrong), but out of the 10 lepers only one came back to thank Christ, and for that he was blessed. It's so easy to take things for granted and to not give thanks where it's due, but it's so important! But zone conference lasted until 5 or 6 so we didn't have too much time to work but we were able to visit some references and set up some dates throughout the week!
Wednesday though, oh man. EVERYTHING went wrong for the first half of the day! So first the family we were supposed to eat with called at like 6:15 in the morning to cancel on us, and then we had a scheduled meeting with our ward mission leader, who lives about 45 minutes away at noon, and when we got there he wasn't there! So we waited for a while with no luck and decided to go get something to eat. We've literally been trying to eat Chinese food since the day we got here so we decided to walk the 45 minutes back to the Chinese restaurant and of course... it was closed! So then we were right by a Soriana, which is basically a Walmart, and they have a cafe in there so we decided to eat in there but we can't go in with our backpacks so we have to put them in a locker at the front of the store but you need a 5 peso coin piece to use the locker and we only had 1,2, and 10 piece... haha. so we asked around for a good 30 minutes before we found someone with a 5 coin piece so we could put away our backpacks so we could finally eat. It was kinda funny how bad our luck was. BUT later that day we met M.! Who has been our most successful investigator this week. She is the mom of a 15 year old in the ward named Enrique. So we met with her on Wednesday and taught her for about an hour and she agreed to come to church this week! And this week was fast and testimony meeting and Enrique bore his testimony and it was SUPER powerful and she came up to us after telling us that she felt the spirit and wants to be baptized. Wooh! so as of now our plan is to meet with her Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday so that we will have everything ready by Sunday to baptize her. Her one challenge right now is that she is afraid to get baptized because her entire family is very catholic. But we have been working with her and she has accepted everything we have taught her. So that's been way cool! We also had some luck with another investigator this week, Alejandro, who is the 19 year old son of a less active family. But he actually contacted us in the store last P-Day and asked us to visit him so we did on.. Thursday and we have plans to visit him again this week! He is really interested in everything and seemed really excited for us to come back. So as of now those are our 2 most promising investigators, but i will bring more news next week :)
So since... Thursday we have actually been in a trio with Elder Hernandez! His companion, Elder Vargas, had to get surgery and so is in the hospital in Monterrey until Thursday, so Elder Hernandez has been with us for a few days. And it's been fun! He's the goofiest guy I've ever met and we've had some crazy stories with him the last few days. and he only has...15 days left on his mission so he has a lot of good tips. But i think he is going with other Elders in our district tomorrow so we will be back to just me and Elder Islas. Some good news of the week, we finally got gas! A hermano who lives across the street took us to refill our gas tank and so we finally have hot water. BUT, the problem is with no gas, we have freezing cold gas. If the gas is on for more than 2 days then the water is SUPER hot, and you can't adjust the temperature or anything. So we have to switch the gas on and off every other day so we don't freeze/burn. But having warm water has been way nice.
So at the Zone conference they passed out Liahonas from the past few months for us to have in the house, and luckily there were some in English! So I got the last conference session edition and have been reading all the talks, and there was part of a talk by.. i don't remember. haha, i didn't write down the name. But he said this: ´´Conversion is not a onetime event, it is a lifelong quest to become more like the Savior. To know is not enough, to be truly ´converted´ requires us to DO and to BECOME´´ And i've been thinking a lot about that this week. one of the big problems in this area is the retention of the members of the church, they will be baptized but then become inactive shortly thereafter. And all the inactive members that we have visited say almost the exact same thing: that they have a testimony of the gospel, but it's just hard to go to church. And I have been thinking a lot about that, because I have always learned the importance of gaining a testimony. Which, obviously is super important. Your testimony should be your most precious possession. BUT, it's what you do with that testimony that matters. Become truly converted to the gospel means acting on that faith. In James 2:17-18 it talks about faith, without works is dead. Faith is important, and it's essential that we have it, but if we don't act according to the teachings of Christ with that faith that we have, then our faith is "dead". A scripture I have come to love so far in the mission is Alma 37:6-7, by small things are great things come to pass. And it's the little things we do, the little actions of faith, that will make a huge difference in the long run. Most of the time we aren't going to have the results that we want without doing the little things. And it's through these little things that we do to act on our faith that will help us become truly converted unto Christ, and this is a message that we have been teaching to our investigators, and I think it's one that as lifetime members of the church we sometimes forget. So, I invite you guys to try to concentrate on what little things you can do to strengthen your faith in Christ and to become more converted to Him. I Love you guys! miss you! Also, I'm excited to see pictures of Lori and Doug and Grandpa's trip to Africa! I'm kinda jealous! and when is Ebranezra due? and when is Kevin and Courtney's wedding again?! I forget these things! I love you guys! have a great week :)
So this week has been really, really great. It's been super busy, but super productive as well. As of now we have 14 potential investigators, which is sooooo great! We went from 0 to 14 in one week. Which is way cool. We're really excited to work this week. I will hopefully be bringing news of baptismal dates in next week's email:) One of the people we met this week was M. G., who was a street contact. We started talking to him and he literally wanted to argue with everything we said. He didn't believe anything and he was asking really weird questions to throw us off, but Elder Islas did a really good job of just keeping it simple. After about 30 minutes we just bore our testimonies and left, and he actually asked us to come back! So, we'll see how that goes.
So some interesting stories from this week, on Tuesday they turned off our water! So.. we didn't have water for a day and a half. So to say we smelled bad would be an understatement... haha but we paid the bill on Monday so I guess it just took time to process it? I don't really know, but we now have water again thank goodness. Also there have been some crazy things going on this week. It hasn't rained since i got here and my area is literally the definition of a desert. Last night there was a giant fire in the hills/small mountains by our house that wasn't put out until this morning. So that was kinda scary, and then today on our way here to the Ciber there was a giant cloud of dust that had spiraled up and looked kinda like a tornado. I tried to get a picture but i couldn't get to my camera fast enough. We also indirectly killed a kitten this week... it was sitting on the sidewalk outside the gate of a house and we heard the rest of them inside the gate so we thought we'd try to help and put it back in the gate. We put it in the little crack between the gate and the house and we turned around for 2 seconds and next thing we know it had walked into the street and we watched it get run over... way sad. i don't even like cats and it was really sad.
Umm, my Spanish has definitely gotten WAY better since I got here. The hardest thing for me is all the modismos, is what Elder Islas calls them, which i think more or less means the sayings or slang. But there are things that people say here that, when translated to English, kind of make sense, but you would never say it like that. Example: to say it is really hot, they say ´´El calor es muy fuerte´´, which directly translates to: ´the heat is very strong´, which kinda makes sense, but you would never say it like that. And a lot of the time the order of the words in the sentence is way different. The way Elder Islas told me to remember it is to try and speak like Yoda, because most of the time you have to say the person or the subject at the end of the sentence. Which is really weird! Its super confusing in my head. But i'm kinda getting used to it. Also, it's hard to type on a Spanish keyboard. Haha, i'm still not used to that.
Like i think I've said before, everyone and their dog tries to speak English to me. Most of the time it's just the "f-word" in one variation or another. But some funny questions i have gotten this week : ´´what time is your name?´´ and.. ´´when are you from?´´ Haha, so it's kinda funny. I know i have probably said much dumber things trying to speak in Spanish, but oh well.
We have eaten SOOOO good this week! We've eaten hamburgers, enchiladas, Little Caesar's, and a bunch of different kinds of meats. A snack that we had 3 or 4 times this week is called... i can't remember what they call it. haha, but it's cut up jicama with chili powder and you squeeze lime on it, and it's soooo good! They put chili powder and lime on everything here, even the watermelon, which kinda threw me off, haha, but the food here is way way good. I'm not gonna lie, i think i like the food here way more than the food in the U.S. So far my favorite food still are the Campechanas. I took a picture of them so i'll send those after this.
Also, i have a mailing address! it's not actually our house, it's a member's right across the street, but that's just because we aren't ever home really so we're using their address for packages and letters and all that. So... it is:
Elder Austin Bird
Calle 13 1448
Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico C.P. 25016
Please send me stuff! I would LOVE to get some handwritten packages, or packages, or anything :) i'm not sure exactly how long it takes to get mail here but..send me something and we'll find out! I just want to say thanks to all the e-mails i've gotten already from friends and the family, it's a huge help and i love reading them, and just because i haven't responded doesn't mean i haven't appreciated them!
So unfortunately we only got to watch the Priesthood session of conference and the 1st session on Sunday because of appointments and meetings we had. BUT, i learned so much this weekend. It makes me wish i would have been more attentive to listening to the talks before I came on the mission. Ha, but first i wanna talk about what I learned in the Priesthood session. I really enjoyed all the talks, but specifically Elder Uchtdorf's and Elder Tad R. callister from the 70. I hope Grant was listening to Elder Callister's because he was talking to the Deacon's quorom's president! I was also thinking that next Priesthood session Caden will be able to go! That blows my mind. But one of the points he made was that the priesthood is just as powerful in a boy as it is in a man if exercised correctly. And that was really powerful to me because already as a missionary we have been asked to give blessings multiple times, and the power that we hold as members of the Priesthood really is so powerful and we truly have the power of God, all of us, Deacons, teachers. priests, elders, high priests, everyone! But the one point that I think was my absolute favorite out of all the conference that I got to watch (which we got to do in English in a little room), was this: God puts his trust in young people, in the weak, in the inadequate (because we all have short comings in comparison to God) because he knows of our infinite potential. And i have thought a lot about that, and it reminds me of my favorite scripture Ether 12:27. We all have weaknesses, and short comings, and we really don't deserve the love and blessings that God gives to us, but we have these weaknesses so that we can turn to God and come closer to our potential that we have, step by step. There's a scripture in 1 Corinthians 15:9-10 where Paul is talking about how he feels like he is the least of all the apostles, but through the Grace of God and his faith in Him, he has been able to do great things. And I know in my life there have been so many times where I have felt like the ´´least´´ of something, but it's through the power and grace of God that we are able to overcome our weaknesses to become more like Him and to become stronger. And I have already experienced that so many times in my mission, I'm constantly being humbled everyday and I have to rely on the Lord. And the help and blessings He has given me have already made me a better missionary, and a better person. The thing I have loved so much about the mission is that it gives you the desire to be better, to be better in all aspects of your life, so that you can get closer to that potential that you have. There was a quote I heard in the MTC, i don't remember exactly who said it, but it says ´´Never doubt, never settle for anything less than your absolute best´´ And that's something I want to live by, because i want to try to reach my potential, and it's not necessarily easy, but the things that will make a difference in your life never are. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, that's what i've learned so far in the mission field. i'm excited to work this week and hopefully we will have some success in the next few weeks! Love you guys!!! Glad to hear you guys are doing so great! I loved that i got an e-mail from all of you guys. I'm going to try to respond to them before we have to leave. Love you all! Miss you guys!
So this week has been quite the roller-coaster. So as i told mom and dad already i got sick on Wednesday with food poisoning or something and was throwing up for 2 days straight,Ii lost about 10 pounds in the process and i just barely am getting my appetite back. So that was no fun. This week we have had ZERO luck with investigators, it's vacation week, and holy week, so everyone was either out of town, or out in the streets drinking. So we had only a few lessons and we would visit houses for hours straight not getting a hold of anyone, which was a little frustrating. I also pulled a muscle in my neck earlier this week, and is just now getting better. So this week has definitely been a test of my patience! But, i figured i'd start with the bad things before i got to the good things, because there were also some really good things about this week too:)
So on Wednesday night we had our first meeting with the bishop, and he is way cool! but he's been sick all week so he asked us to give him a blessing. and he asked ME! so i was a little nervous to say the least, but it went really well and i definitely could feel the spirit working through me to say the things in Spanish that needed to be said. So that was really cool. Then the next 2 days I was sick, but then Saturday and Sunday we were able to meet a lot more of the members which was good. Church yesterday wasn't really what i thought it would be at all, it seemed like it wasn't even Easter. But it was still good! Just a little different. I definitely was missing you guys yesterday thinking about the Easter egg hunt i knew you guys were having! I bet that was a lot of fun. But after church Yesterday we ate with the Barrajas family, who is the family of the ward mission leader, and they remind me a lot of our family! and their son is literally Caden's Mexican twin. But the fed us menudo, i am not sure how to spell it exactly, but it's cow intestines! i had no idea what i was eating until after, but I had an idea that it was something weird, i just didn't want to know for sure until after i finished eating. haha, but it was alright, really weird texture. but yep! so that was the weird food for the week. We finally did some cleaning in the house which was much needed, so now there aren't as many cockroaches everywhere. And it turns out i kinda like washing my clothes outside, i feel like it gets the job done better. But i have lots of pictures to send so you can see my work:) Also, we didn't get a chance to buy gas yet but i think we are going to try and do that after this so hopefully we can have some warm water finally. I actually haven't minded the cold showers so much this week because it's been super hot the last few days. I have gotten like 7 shades darker. Sorry if my emails seem scatterbrained, i write down things in my journal throughout the week that i want to remember to write about, so i just have a bunch of random thoughts i want to share. But anyways, today was the best day here by far! We had a zone activity and went to a military exhibit in Saltillo, which was WAY cool. I will send you guys all the pictures after i send this. but that was way way fun, and then we went to.. Sirloin i think it's called, which is a buffet. Which was EXACTLY what i needed after losing 10 pounds this last week, i'm pretty sure i gained half of it back today. but i really like our zone a lot, there's a lot of cool guys. in my district there are 8 elders, 5 Latinos and 3 Americans. So a pretty good mix. there's on elder who is my generation brother, Elder Watts, and then our district leader, Elder Hernandez, only has a month before he goes home. But today was a lot of fun! we just barely got back before coming in here to write. Some interesting culture things about Mexico here that i noticed this week i that people don't fill up their own gas, there's a guy who does it for you. so that was a little weird. Also, the age limit to work here is different, idk if there really is one, i'm sure there is, but there are 11 or 12 year old kids that work in almost every store or restaurant we've been in. I have made an effort to make goals this week so i can see my progress, especially in Spanish. and it has made a HUGE difference. I can see myself slowly progressing and getting better, i still have a really long way to go, and i still can't understand a lot, but i am getting better and more comfortable, which has been a huge blessing. So this week i've really been focusing on putting my trust in the Lord. It was really tough at some points but i have been able to find peace knowing that God has a plan and he knows what is best for me. A scripture i have read a lot this week is Proverbs 3:5-6. Which talks about trusting the Lord with all your heart. And that is so essential for us, because we are always going to have trials in life, but God knows what is best. I love you all and you all sent me super long emails so i am going to print them out and read them more thoroughly throughout the week so i can respond to them better in my next email. Pay attention to conference this week! There will be some great lessons taught to us and i'm excited to listen to our leaders. Also i'm interested to see what it's like in Spanish... ha. But i love you! miss you! thanks for all your support! :) Elder Bird