Monday, October 31, 2016

Week 14: Halloween or Pre-Día de los Muertos

Hola, Familia!

I finally received a package and two letters this week! One was dated Aug 23, so obviously mail is a little slow here.....está bien :D

Thank you for the veggie straws and candy and peanut butter! Hna González, as most people are, was pleasantly surprised by the tastiness of the veggie straws.

The day of the Dead is a VERY big thing. Also, San Judas! I´m not entirely sure who he is, but there were a lot of people celebrating him the 28th. But nobody works or goes to school these three days, and everyone is definitely celebrating hard. We were talking to somebody in the street, and I happened to glance at a window and about jumped out of my skin when I saw a little girl with her face against the window, face painted as one of the dead.

I learned that there are flowers that bloom in February in some trees here, and apparently they’re REALLY beautiful. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it just makes me kind of laugh, thinking of the icicle-covered, barren trees of South Dakota in February.

I had my first really GOOD contact this week. I talked with them, and understood their address, and actually managed to kind of have a conversation with them! I was very satisfied with myself, but I also know that I definitely had a LOT of help. I also talked to a taxista [cabdriver], and he was another success! He was really open to the gospel, and elders will be visiting him in his house very soon :D

I believe I told you about Victor, Carmelita, and Jaseli? Well, this was an AWESOME week. They attended church yesterday, but more importantly, they accepted a baptismal date when we taught them in the temple Friday! Needless to say, Friday was AWESOME. Hna Paty, a recent convert, went to the temple for the first time and so we were able to go with her and teach Victor and his family. It was a really awesome experience because when we asked them, Jaseli just nodded like, "Yeah, I need this in my life..." It was really cool. It’s pretty incredible, the Spirit you can feel in the temple. We took pictures, and I’m looking forward to a year from now when we can take them when they’re sealed as a family :D The Spirit was just SO STRONG.

Something really important that I encountered in my study this week is the definition of patience in Preach My Gospel [the handbook for doing missionary work]. "Patience is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated, or anxious." I’ve always known that I’m not a very patient person, but even more so now. I´m having a delay of the language right now, and so I need to be patient.

Well, I’m content to say that this was a good week, but I definitely know that I´m being stretched by Heavenly Father right now.

Hasta luego! Les amo!

Hermana Owens

I believe that these bananas don´t fit half of Daddy´s criteria.
[Vance is pretty picky about bananas.]
Me and Hna González in front of the temple of Tuxtla Gutiérrez :D
Hna T, Obispo [Bishop] T, Hna Paty, Hna González, after the temple! 

Victor, Carmelita, Jaseli, Hna González, and me!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Week 13: Hola, Familia!!!!

Hola, all!

First of all, my new fruit of the week: papausa. You can crack it open, and then there are a whole bunch of seeds inside of it, and each seed you can peel out with a bit of fruit on it, and then you suck on the seed. It’s super weird, and SUPER delicious.

I feel like I’m super disoriented time-wise here. First, because time flies, but second of all, because there´s no temperature change to tell what time of year it is. Although it’s not raining as much as it did when I first got here.

People have been asking me about monkeys and wild animals, and before all I could say for wild animals was dogs, but.....

Stray goats!!! Checking out the street garbage :) This was the first time I’ve seen goats out and about here. They probably aren’t actually wild, but they were just wandering around, soo...... They´re not monkeys, but almost!

The miracle of this week is pretty awesome :) We fasted Saturday that people would be able to attend church because we had the primary presentation [once a year, each ward has a sacrament meeting that is prepared by the children], and so we really wanted people to be able to come. The two investigators that we were going to pass by for couldn’t come, so we were feeling a little down about that, but then when we got to the place to wait for the combi [bus], the family and friends of this one member were waiting! We were really happy about that. And then, church had just started when this family that we contacted into last week walked in!!! I don’t think I’ve ever felt so happy in my life. The dad in this family, we taught him on Friday, and at the end he asked, "Okay, what do I need to get baptized?" But we didn’t really think that he was going to come. We were SO happy. Normally we have one investigator, Hermana C, but this week we had nine!!!! Also, with the presentation, the attendance was 106 people. Pretty much double our normal. I think that we’re going to be fasting every week :D

Unfortunately, Hermana C could not be baptized because her husband worked the day that she was supposed to bring the forms and money and everything for her marriage. However, she’s still ready, so we’re figuring out a new date :D

Something I learned in my study this week is the importance of the Bible. I realized that I just don’t know the Bible well enough. Just like I’m studying Spanish so that I can share the gospel with people in their language, the Bible is their "spiritual language," it’s what they understand. So if I want to touch their hearts, I need to know the Bible as well as I know the Book of Mormon.

Somos Chiapanecas!!!!!! [We are Chiapanecas!] Me wearing a traditional dress of Chiapas. I felt very white. :D

I just want to close with my testimony. I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that through the Atonement, all things are possible. This week I was studying the light of Christ, and I realized what it actually means. It’s the light of Christ because it’s possible through Him through His Atonement. The Atonement is in EVERYTHING in our lives. It’s the ultimate gift, and I’m so grateful that even with all my weaknesses and insufficiencies, I can be who I need to be through Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and the Bible, too. I’m so grateful for this time I have to share the gospel with people. I love the people of Chiapas. :D I love the gospel!!!

Hasta luego,

Hermana Owens

Monday, October 17, 2016

Week 12: Haaaaapppy birthday!!!!!!

Hola, Familia!!!!!

For food this week, I learned about a bunch of new fruits!!! First of all, rambutan. When I was first offered rambutan, I was really scared because I thought they were strawberries that had gone REALLY bad. They look like strawberries with weird, scaly fur. But they´re DELICIOUS, and you peel them. Also, jocote is like a baby mango, and guayava looks like a pear but better. And chicharon, which is a big flat chip bread sort of thing. It´s really good. I also think that when I return I'm going to be like Seth, in that I'll put red pepper flakes on everything. Because there´s always spice here, and it's delicious.

We had intercambios [exchanges with other missionaries] this week!!! I was with Hna Romero (who speaks English!!!) in Tuxtla, the city, and it was really cool. It's definitely really different being in the city, rather than a fraccionamiento [division], because there's just always people. And, water! (as in running water. They even have a washing machine in their house!) It was really cool to see how different people plan, and contact, and teach, and EVERYTHING.

 After our intercambio! Hna Romero y Hna Ibarra, and us :)

We met a family of 8 people, and none of them can read. In the little places we teach, like Tres de marzo or Riviera Playa Vista, a large majority of people can't read, so we´re figuring out a way that we can teach people without being able to give them pamphlets or the Book of Mormon. If you have any ideas....!

My really bad attempts at selfies with Rosita and her family, the family that can`t read.

Hopefully, Hermana C is going to be married and baptized this week! She's a little short on money to pay for the marriage, but we're helping her figure out what to do.

Another really bad selfie with Hermana C and her son, after we went to get her papers so she can be married!

We contacted a family in their yard, and they gave us seats and lemonade and we basically taught them the first lesson. It was really cool. People are really open to listening. I don't know what it's like being a missionary in other places, but I feel like people here are just ready to listen to us.

This week for training I studied how to teach the Evangelio de Jesucristo [gospel of Jesus Christ], and WOW. If there´s one thing I’ve learned so much about while I've been on my mission, it´s the Atonement. It´s absolutely incredible. During my prayers when I've felt down about the language, or how insufficient I am as a missionary, I can almost literally feel the Savior´s presence, like his arms are around me, and I can feel his love for me so much, and I know this is because of the Atonement. The Atonement is incredible, and we'll never understand everything about it, or even a fraction of what it means for us, but I have a testimony that the Savior knows me, that even now he feels for me. The Atonement is infinite because he didn't just suffer in the garden and on the cross, he also understands how we feel NOW. I love the Savior so much.

Pres. George [the Mission President] wrote me this this morning: “I just love to hear your enthusiasm in spite of the difficulty with the language. I learned a poem in Bolivia years ago:
Stick to your task til it sticks to you.
Beginners are many, but enders are few.
Honor, power, place, and praise
Will always come to the one that stays.
Stick to your task til it sticks to you.
Bend at it, sweat at it, smile at it too,
For out of the bend and the sweat and the smile
Will come life’s victories after a while.”

He also wrote: “I loved something Elder Alderman's grandpa told him; Faith can move mountains, but don't be surprised if God hands you a shovel.” Presidente George is really awesome :)

Hna Vicky y Hno Javier. They have a lemon tree inside their house
and I wanted to take a picture of their cauldron boiling over a fire,
but I got a picture of them instead :) They`re awesome.
I love you guys! Sorry, this is a little short this week, but there it is!

Adios! Hasta luego! Les amo!

Hermana Owens

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week 11: La Semana de Milagros!! (the week of miracles)

Hola, Familia!!!

Emma asked a while ago if I’ve made any embarrassing mistakes in speaking while I`ve been here. Besides the fact that my grammar is pretty terrible, I think I don`t really mix up words. However, understanding is a little interesting...We were talking with some people, and this lady asked, "Si caida nieve?" Which means, "Does snow fall?" where I live. However, I thought she asked about "Zika" (si caida, zika, it`s all the same), so instead of talking about snow, I talked about how Zika isn`t really a problem where I live. Everyone looked at me for a second, and then Hna Gonzàlez realized what I was talking about, and then explained. It was pretty funny...maybe it`s a had to be there thing...

So, the other day, we went to eat with a sister in the ward, and she made this really delicious drink (speaking of which, if you ask for agua, here, don’t hold your breath for water. Agua could mean ANY liquid. It’s kind of funny), so I asked her what was in it, and she said guaya and alfalfa! Later I was talking with Hna Gonzalez and I told her that for my house, alfalfa is more commonly for cows. Now she mocks me about drinking cow food.

We have an extra hour during these first 12 weeks for training, and we’re watching videos about planning and stuff. We wrote in the Area Book [the record book for their area] I think twice my first week, and then never again. So I proposed to Hna Gonzalez that we catch up and write in the Area Book. The day after, we had an awesome day. I think that we were blessed for being even MORE obedient, more EXACTLY obedient.

This week really was pretty incredible, though. We contacted into some pretty awesome people. First of all, we saw this older lady moving pieces of wood across her yard, so we stopped to help her. We asked if we could stop by again, and she agreed, so the next day we came by. Only her husband was there, so we talked to him, and we found out that he was a member!!! He used to be an alcoholic, but 35 years ago the missionaries taught him, and he hasn`t had a drop since. Even though he isn`t active, he STILL followed the commandments. I think that shows just how powerful this message is.

We also contacted a friend of Hna Paty`s, Adriana. She lost her daughter a couple years ago, but it was incredible to see the hope that she had that she could see her daughter again. I`m so excited to teach her the plan of salvation so that she can KNOW her daughter`s okay :)

I think that`s what excites me most about being here. There are people here with STORIES, with challenges that I can`t even imagine, that are just waiting for us to contact them in the street, for their friend to refer us to them, for us to show up on their doorstep. I think that`s why I can keep going even when I`m ridiculously frustrated by my inability to speak, or my really bad contacting, or generally just talking with people. I`m here so that I can help other people, and what little I can contribute right now is what I will contribute. This work is for helping people grow and become more like Jesus Christ, both the investigator and the missionary. As I keep working, and keep contacting, and have the courage to open my mouth when I feel the prompting, I will help these people, and so will help myself.

This Sunday was also the Sunday of new beginnings: Hna Alba was confirmed! She is now officially a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! Two babies were also blessed, which is always really special. The picture is us with the family of Hna Chabelita, Emmanuel, and his sister Lluvia (her baby was blessed).

And we have a new bishop [leader of the local congregation]! Obispo [Bishop] C has been serving for about nine years, so it`s a pretty big change. But I`m really excited, because I think Obispo T really wants to help us in missionary work and basically it`s just going to be awesome. We also had 84 people attend church, and our usual numbers are about half that.

This really was just an incredible week. I feel like I`m learning so much more than I can even comprehend. It`s incredible!!!

I love you all so much!!! Please, continue writing me!!! Everybody, not just Emma, should send pictures! Even if it`s just Zoey [our dog and the apple of Vance’s eye]. Although I would prefer a little variety. Thanks!

I just remembered something from the multizone conference that I wanted to share with you but forgot. They gave this example of how applying the Atonement in your life is like practicing for piano lessons your parents have paid for. I know I’ve heard that example before but it really hit me this time because I had to play the piano for Alba’s baptism, and now people know that I can play, but I’m really just not good. I just didn’t practice enough, and I’ve never felt just how ungrateful that was. It’s like not repenting, not using this incredible gift that Jesus has given us. HOWEVER, I can start practicing now, or when I get off my mission because I really don’t have the time now, and I can still get better. It’s never too late to use the Atonement, to repent of things you’ve done. The gospel is incredible!

Les amo,

Hermana Owens

Monday, October 3, 2016

Week 10: General Conference and a BAPTISM!!!!!!!!!!

Hola, mi familia!!!!!!! ¡Cómo está?

I am GREAT!!!!!!

This week was so crazy and wonderful! Hermana Alba was baptized this Friday!!!! I got more than a little teary-eyed when she bore her testimony after being baptized. It was so amazing to see her be baptized, and just think that she is CLEAN. It´s such an incredible opportunity to help people discover the Gospel of Christ.

It was kind of funny...we showed up a little late to our own baptism (I was dying), but it didn´t end up starting until about half an hour late because it wasn´t ready. And people ended up coming in that time, anyway, so it was okay. But I know Daddy would be dying. It was awesome, though. Hermana González spoke, and I sang When I am Baptized, that children’s song, and the Bishop's bienvida [welcome] to the ward was pretty great :)

It´s kind of funny, I don´t actually have a picture of just Hermana Alba in white with us. It was hard to get a picture of just us, because everyone that was there would hop in the picture! :) Everyone is just so friendly and wonderful :)

We also had a multizona conference [lots of missionaries!], which was awesome, because President George [the Mission President who watches over and directs all the missionaries in that area] was there. The zone leaders gave a really awesome example of why we should always preach repentance to people, focus on teaching that first. They had a missionary, their investigator, hold a seat in his hands while they taught, which represented his sins. So, first of all, it was hard for him to see them, it was awkward, but then they started teaching. They gave him pamphlets, and then some scriptures to read, and then more and more things for him to do, and put these things on the chair he was holding. The more commitments, the harder it was for him to hold the chair. His arms were shaking by the end. It was a really awesome example that 1) we need to focus on the needs of the investigator, and 2) if these elders had first taught him repentance, all their commitments would have helped him, but instead they hindered him. It was really powerful for me.

Also at the zone conference, I saw Elder Meyer and Elder Jones!!! [Missionaries from her MTC District.] I was soooo happy to see them! I should have gotten a picture....ah, well. It was kind of nice to talk a little in English, but also really weird. I feel like my brain just doesn´t know what to do anymore, in either language :D

We met a really cool family in the park the other day, Gladis and her son Oliver. When we visited them later, Oliver grinned the whole time we were teaching. I love teaching kids here. They´re so SMART. Gladis told us that Oliver had told his dad about us the dinner after we contacted them. He said, "There´s an Hermana that talks in Spanish, but it´s like English!" I got a good laugh out of his sweet, childish, hilarious way of describing an accent.

I´ve determined that there´s one thing that scares me about Mexico: nobody here refrigerates their eggs D: I don´t know if maybe they have a different way of preparing their eggs for eating that makes it so they don´t have to refrigerate their eggs, but.....I still refrigerate our eggs. I don´t know. Call me crazy....... :)

What I´ve learned this week is that I now LOVE reading the Book of Mormon. Before my mission, I would read it every day. Without fail, I read every day. And I received inspiration from what I read. But it was a requirement, something I had to do because I couldn´t NOT read a day. [Tess is pretty obsessive-compulsive like her father.] It wasn´t necessarily a chore, but it was something to check off a list of daily things to do. But now, I LOVE reading the Book of Mormon. I love the book of Alma, with Captain Moroni describing the armor the Nephites used against Zarahemnah, and the Lamanites FEARED them. I´ve been putting in my own footnotes in the BoM, and I referred to Ephesians 6:11-18. If we put on the whole armor of God, Satan will fear us like the Lamanites feared the Nephites. I´ve been learning so much MORE while reading the BoM this go around, and how it applies to me, or the people here, or missionary work. If I learn nothing else on my mission, I'm glad that I´ve learned how to receive revelation through the BoM, because I believe I can keep this with me, this new skill I have.

And finally, CONFERENCE. [Twice yearly, our church has a broadcast from Salt Lake City from our church leadership. It lasts over two days.]

I listened on someone´s phone to conference in English on Saturday, but then we didn´t have wifi on Sunday, so I listened to the morning session in Spanish. I had been feeling a little bad about my understanding of Spanish before the conference, so then when I found out I had to listen in SPANISH (gasp) I basically felt like the entire world was against me and that this was the hardest of all things that a person could endure. But then, between sessions, hna González and I had training time, and I talked a bit with her, and I felt SO much better. Hna González is pretty incredible. She knows EXACTLY what to say (in Spanish!) for me. She´s a great companion. But anyway, we went into the next session, and even though it was still in Spanish, I got so much more out of it, because I wasn´t a ridiculous grumpy Gus. But then Hno Fabricio, this really sweet older guy, came over and told us to come with him, and he took us to the clerk´s office, where he had set up the computer to play in Spanish, with English subtitles. I'm not going to lie, I may have cried a little bit. These people are just so GIVING. I love them so much. So then I watched *read* the second half of the afternoon session in English. It was quite the experience.

One of my favorite talks was Elder Ballard´s, that we can´t let offending things in the church stop us from living the gospel. When sharing the gospel, we´re not sharing that Bishop so and so is perfect and that Sister this and that is a wonderful leader of this group, we´re sharing that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that through Him we can live with God again, if we have faith in him, repent, are baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. That´s pretty powerful. Also, a weakness, with faith, can be a strength. I love general conference. Also, there were a lot of talks that mentioned the sacrament. It´s really important that we remember the Savior every week when partaking of the sacrament, but also that we remember Him every day, all the time.

I´m so happy!!!! I love it here!!!!!!

Hasta luego!!!!!!!

Hermana Owens