Monday, December 29, 2014

{Week 55} Polanco - December 29, 2014

Merry Christmas! It was really strange to see you all Christmas - like you said Dad, very surreal. And afterwards I sat by the computer for about five minutes just thinking about you all and what you'd be doing after we hung up. I loved seeing you all - you've all grown up!
 The YW card arrived! Thank you!

For Christmas Eve we worked until 6:30 - at this time we all had to be with a member or in the house. It rained all day and was miserable and wet. It was cold! I can stand the cold in the street, but what gets me is that often it's colder inside the houses than outside. They don't have heating in the houses here, so it's always cold inside right now (and dad, we use Celsius here, not F). We spent Christmas Eve with Josefina and her daughter Diana. They made us spaghetti and a hamburger helper type thing. They also made us lemon pie and a fancy jello. It was good and we enjoyed our time with them, then they brought us home about 8:30.
Diana and Josefina - lemon pie and jello!
Josefina gave us treat bags!
Then Hna Luque and I were just chatting, sharing all the Christmas traditions that our families have. The next thing we knew, it was midnight! So we opened our presents. I had a few things from you all, and something from Hna Luque, but her parents didn't send her anything (Argentina is a bit far and it would cost a ton - she hasn't gotten any packages her whole mission). So I had made or sneakily bought her a bunch of presents so she'd have something to open. They don't really do gifts here for Christmas. A few families might have Santa come, but most just wait till 3 Kings Day - when the 3 kings bring them gifts. But they don't really exchange gifts. Hermana Luque and I also sang a few Christmas hymns together. It was really sweet and I loved it - definitely the strangest Christmas ever, but very sweet.
Our Christmas present stash.

And then on Christmas, we went to the first counselor in the bishoprics house to have breakfast and skype! That was fun :) It made me cry. Then we went with the family Maldonado for Christmas dinner. Then we went home and slept! Lots of members, converts, and a few investigators sent us texts wishing us a Merry Christmas which I really appreciated. And that was my Christmas!
(Our side of the skype with Hna Taylor.  She's meeting her 6 month old niece Addison for the first time and everyone is trying to get Addison to smile for her auntie.  Didn't work!) 

Church was a lot of fun on Sunday. I don't know why, but I just really enjoyed it. Remember Jorge? one of Edgar and Adolfo's friends? He came to church and has decided that he wants to get baptized! We haven't seen him in like a month and a half, and then out of nowhere he came to church! That got us pretty excited. And Vianney and Monse (two sisters, 16 and 18) came to church too. And they really liked it! Things are looking good! And then in Relief Society they gave us cake. Cake always makes things better. And Josefina was super sick, but still came to church because she was so excited to be confirmed. I love confirmations!

I love Christmas. I love the music of Christmas. I love the lights, the food, and I love to remember the reason for the season. I know that Christ gave everything for us. I know that He loves us. There is a video by the Mormon Tabernacle choir called ''What shall we give to the babe in the manger'' or something like that. It's beautiful and I highly recommend it. He has given us everything, and Christmas is a great time to remember and to think about what we are going to give Him this year.

I love it here. I love all of you. Sorry it's a short letter today. I hope you all have a lovely week. Thanks for sending me dad's talk. I printed it out but haven't read it yet.
Have a great week, and I'll talk to you next year! Be good, say your prayers, and love everyone!
-Hna Taylor
What could it be?

"We love our Moose"
A family photo calendar for the new year!

(Picture on the front of the calendar.  Hna Taylor is the giant stuffed Moose being hugged by her sisters.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

{Week 54} Polanco - December 22, 2014

Dad, I would love a copy of your talk if you have one. It sounds like it was a great talk. I love you so much - you're awesome.

Jordy and Katia, thanks for the letters. I love you both!

SKYPE!  I am so excited to see you all again! Even if it is just through the computer. I love you all tons and can't wait to hear all your voices!

So we've seen several miracles this week! And it's all due to the spirit of Christmas.
We went Christmas Caroling! Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, us, the Elders, and several YSA (Young Single Adults) and youth went Christmas caroling - we sang to everyone. Members, less actives, investigators, and houses that we randomly knocked on. And it was amazing. I want to tell you all the miracles that happened each day:
- the first people we sang to were Adolfo and Edgar. Then we invited them to come with us. Adolfo was busy and couldn't, but Edgar came, and brought Adolfo's 6 year old son Issac. This was one of the biggest miracles of all - because Edgar got to know the other people we brought with us, and they've been helping to fellowship him and he's suddenly been getting a lot more excited about the gospel. He had been feeling kind of rejected lately in church because of all his tattoos and his past. He was a bad guy before and has changed so much. He said he couldn't believe he was singing Christmas songs in the street with ''churchy'' people, and that he was enjoying it so much. And he was singing with all his heart - even though he didn't know the hymns. It was so awesome! We didn't think he'd come with us again, but Wednesday he was the first one there.
- Issac (Adolfo's son) was super cute. We gave him a stack of cards that say ''He is the Gift'' that have the website for the video and our phone number on the back, and he ran around giving these cards to everyone we saw. Super cute! He'll be a good missionary some day!
- Vanessa is 18 and is less active. She came with us too and also loved it. And our amazing YSA friends that came helped her to feel welcome.
- We sang to Gustavo's family - he's in another part of the city working right now, but we went to sing to his mom and aunt and cousins, and his mom and aunt just cried. They are now taking the discussions from us - haven't come to church yet, but there is hope!
- While we were singing to a less active, a drunk taxi driver behind us got out and asked if he could sing with us. We said sure why not! So he started following us in his taxi from house to house and singing with us. After about four houses he started crying and telling us how he wanted to change his life. So we got his address and sent the missionaries! But it's a different stake so I don't know what happened after. His name was Fernando.

Christmas Carolers! - we're with gustavo's family here.
- we sang to a lot of random people this day. We'd be singing to a family that we know, but then the windows of all the neighbours would open and they would see us, so we 'd go sing to them afterwards. And several gave us appointments!
- we sang to one family of converts that is super poor - they have hardly anything and recently sold their stove to get a bit more money. They were all in tears. The lady just kept saying ''thank you.'' It was really humbling and powerful.
- at the end we went to Isabel's house (one of the YSA) and her mom gave us all ponche - it's like an apple cider type drink but with lots of different fruits. Really good!
More Christmas Caroling
- this day we were running out of people to sing to, so we started knocking on some random doors and a few accepted us!
- we also sang to lots of investigators and old investigators - and several cried and asked us to come visit them again. It was amazing to see them feel the spirit so strongly.

And even more!

And on Sunday, Josefina got baptized! That was so beautiful - it was one of the most spiritual baptismal programs I've been too. Lots of tears. Hna Luque and I sang ''I Like to Look for Rainbows'' and Josefina cried through the whole thing. Elder Hixen baptized her, and she was just so happy. We couldn't find the white baptismal jumpers (our ward mission leader lost them) so one hermana let us borrow her white temple dress for the baptism. Josefina was super happy with the dress and she looked beautiful. She was so happy and peaceful - and at the end she bore her testimony. That was beautiful - she said she knows that José Smith was a prophet and el Libro de Mormón is true, and that this is the true church. She said that when she entered the water she had an overwhelming feeling of peace and joy. It's amazing because I've known her since I arrived in this area. She lives in the same house as a YSA in our ward. But she never wanted to listen to us - was always giving excuses and stuff like that. But then she finally agreed to come to a FHE - and loved it and started listening to it. Five weeks later, she got baptized! It's these moments that make it all worth it. I can stand 1000 rejections to see one person change their life and come to feel the Spirit and the love of their Heavenly Father so strongly. It was beautiful and I am so happy for Josefina. I love her so much!

Elder Hixen, Hna Luque, Diana (Josefina's daughter), Rosio (the YSA who lives in the same house), Josefina, and me!

It was a great week here for us. I'm learning lots these days, and feeling the spirit really strongly. I love this gospel so much! And I love Christmas! I hope you all have a great Christmas. Remember the reason - and remember all that Christ has done for us. I love my Savior and I know that He loves us. It will be a different Christmas - no snow, no finger food, no family... But I know it will be a great Christmas.

I love you all. Be good, say your prayers, and have a Feliz Navidad!
Love Hermana Taylor

Monday, December 15, 2014

{Week 53} Polanco - December 15, 2014

¡¡Feliz Navidad!!
Hola mi hermosa familia! This week has been really different... lots of Christmas parties! But more about that later...
Jordy, I loved your letter. I always knew you'd make an amazing missionary... hint hint lol.
And it's a miracle! The mail does work! I got two packages - one with ketchup chips (thanks mom!) and the other with sweet chili heat doritios and Christmas presents! That was awesome :) And I love all the Spanish sayings you sent me!
So Cambios! We did not have them! So that means that I'll be staying in P till the beginning of February! That means that 9 months, half of my mission, I will be here. It was funny because yesterday a whole bunch of members were saying goodbye to me because they all thought I'd be having changes... oops! Elder Evans and his comp, Elder Chok, will be staying too. They had us all speak in church on Sunday, and at the last minute they announced that we'd be singing a special number too - but we hadn't practiced anything! We sang ''Jesus en pesebre'' - ''Away in a Manger''. They also forgot to mention that we'd be speaking in church on Sunday, so I had to make up a talk right there at the pulpit. I talked about the story of Christmas among the Nefitas, and then tied it all in to keeping the commandments. I thought it went well, although there had been technology problems and we had to do it without a microphone - so I felt like I was shouting the whole time.

We're also using the ''He is the Gift'' video, but for us it's called ''Él es la dádiva''. The funny part is that a lot of people don't know what ''Dádiva'' means because it's like a really fancy way to say gift. But it's a really nice video - I love how clearly it expresses the meaning for the season. The church did another video similar to ''He is the Gift'' called ''Because of Him'' (I think it's called that - I've never seen it in English.) I also love that video.

So! About those Christmas parties... on Wednesday we had a party as a mission. We all met in my stake center around 9, where we ate muffins, then had a devotional that was beautiful filled with music and Christmas messages. Then we had a talent show! That was a lot of fun and just a little bit crazy. And Hna Luque and Hna Cardenas convinced me to sing with them! We sang ''O Holy Night'' but in Spanish, and we were so nervous! It sounded good, but our practices were a ton better. It was lots of fun. Then they gave us a lovely Christmas dinner... but not going to lie... noodle salad with raisins and dry turkey with a weird sauce wasn't exactly the best Christmas meal I've ever had... but no importa! Then they had 4 different things we could do - play basketball, play futbol (soccer), play futbol americano (football) or..... watch FROZEN!!!!! We opted to watch Frozen. I had Hna Mercedes on one side and Hna Luque on the other. They both hadn't seen it and were killing themselves laughing. They both got so into it it was hilarious to watch them. And I hadn't seen it for a year, so I also thoroughly enjoyed it. It was so nice to enjoy a good movie. The only movies we've watched in a long time are Finding Faith in Christ and the Restoration. And I love them and all, but we watch them a ton for FHE's or with investigators... it was nice to see something different. We got back to our area around 6 that day to work.
With the mission president.

Watching the Talent Show.
Then on Thursday we had to return to our house at 7, and Friday we weren't allowed to leave our house for anything. It was Virgin Day - when they celebrate the Virgin of Guadelupe (what they call the Mary, the mother of Jesus - it's a long and complicated story how they changed the name. I'll tell you later.) So this day all the Catholics (which is everybody) celebrate, and a lot of them kind of get drunk. There were fireworks all day long. And, on this day, everyone walks to the Basilica of Guadelupe. Some live close and just have to go a few hours, but others start a couple days early to walk there. And the really devout ones go on their knees. It was crazy - the main streets all filled with people walking to the Basilica. We could see them Thursday in the streets, then we locked ourselves in our house. That was a fun day - we kept busy all morning studying and stuff, but about 3 I got pretty bored. We slept a lot. Good times lol.

And then on Saturday at 5, we had our ward Christmas party. That was fun! We started out breaking some piñatas and then had a Christmas dinner. The piñatas were hilarious! Every organization had to bring their own piñatas, so us 4 missionaries got to thinking that we wanted to break a piñata too... And Gustavo was nice enough to make us a piñata! That was a ton of fun to break - I may just want to break a few when I get home! Hna Luque went first, then me, then Elder Evans - he broke it. Elder Chok didn't even get a chance pobrecito lol.
Us with the piñata - our ward mission leader is in the middle.

Me breaking the piñata.

The Ward Christmas dinner.

Josefina is doing great - she'll be getting baptized Sunday after church. I love her so much and am so glad I'll get to be here for her baptism. Keep praying for her though - the last week is always the toughest. That's when the most trials come.

I LOVE being a missionary. I can't believe I've been doing this for a year. We took your advice and went looking for some of our old investigators - and found a family that we never wanted to drop, we just couldn't find them ever again. And they've started reading el Libro de Mormon - ójala that they progress!

And I wanted to share my testimony with you all - but especially for Jennafer. I've been thinking about you a lot lately Penny - and I wanted you to know how much I love you. I want you to know that I know that Jesus lives and loves me and you. I know that He is our Savior - and that He knows us personally. He loves us so much and has done so much for us. 1 Nefi 19:9 is one of my favourite scriptures - I know that He did so much and suffered so much for us because He loves us! And like it says in Alma 26:12 - alone I'm weak, but with Him I can do all things. I know that alone I never would be enough. But thanks to Him, we can rise above the challenges and the weaknesses, and come to be like Him. I love Him. And I know that He loves us. Always remember that He loves you and is with you.

I love Christmas - miss my white Christmas, but it's pretty awesome Mexican style too.
Hope you all have a lovely week, and I can't wait to talk to you on Christmas!
Be good, say your prayers, and remember that He loves you.
Love you all
-Hna Taylor
 I saw this sweater in the tianguis and just HAD to buy it - only 15 pesos!

Monday, December 8, 2014

{Week 52} Polanco - December 8, 2014

Dad, thanks so much for your letter. I loved it so much. Thanks for your advice - it always helps a lot. Coming up on the one year mark and knowing that I only have 6 months left as a full time missionary is shocking - I can't believe how fast it's gone.

I loved the Christmas Devotional. I especially love the music - Christmas music is amazing, and it's the only part that's in English lol. We've been singing Christmas music in all of our lessons these days, and I love hearing it and singing it. And Hna Luque and I have started Christmas carol contacting! We knock on doors and then sing a Christmas hymn! And as we're singing the whole family comes running to listen to us, and then afterwards they almost always give us another appointment. That's been tons of fun - and a few people have almost cried as we sing to them. There was only one sour old lady that slammed the door on us while we were singing lol.

And tell Randi ''¡Felicidades!'' for me. That makes me so happy!
And I can't wait to meet Addison! She sounds adorable!
And good job with the basketball girls! You make me want to shoot some hoops!
Still no mail... those packages that you sent haven't arrived yet.  (Note: there are 5 things we know of on their way to her, some back from August and September, even letters from the Activity Day girls and Young Women, and a more recent one mailed from in Mexico . . . )

Skype! I'm planning to do it on the 25th. What time of the day do you want to do it? We won't really be doing anything that day, so as far as I know any hour is fine. We haven't found a place to do it yet, but we'll work on that this week. And then of course it's possible that I have cambios! (I hope not...) But I'm looking forward to it!

We went on divisions this week. Hna Cardenas came here with me, and Hna Luque returned to her old ward for a day. It was fun and we learned some good stuff. Hna Cardenas is one of my favorite hermanas - she is so sweet and just has a lot of love for everyone. I enjoyed being her comp for a day.

We went to visit Gustavo the other day. He let us in and told us not to mind the balloons because they were from a birthday party from the other day. Then we sat down and said the opening prayer. Then as soon as we finished, the lights went off and the birthday music started and Gustavo's whole family came in singing their version of Happy Birthday. They threw me a surprise birthday party! And apparently Hna Luque was in on it lol. It was so sweet - they apologized for being almost 2 months late lol. It was super sweet of them. I love them all, and although Gustavo's family hasn't wanted to listen to us (yet!) they are super special people for me, and I love them all tons.
The birthday party - Gustavo, the kids are his nieces and nephews, the girls are his cousins, and his mom is by me. I love them all!

My cakes - somehow they figured out my name and they put it on one of the cakes lol.

So Josefina is progressing really well - but a few trials have come into her life that are making it hard for her. But so far she's been putting her trust in the Lord, and He's helping her to keep going. Although, she almost didn't come to church on Sunday. She called us early, and told us she wouldn't be able to come, but we talked her into it. And then 5 min before it started, she called again and said she wouldn't be coming again. So we talked to her, testifying about how coming to church would help her overcome all these trials, and she agreed to come. She was 20 minutes late, but came just in time to hear all the testimonies - and the stake president's wife bore a powerful testimony about how the Lord helps us overcome our trials. She was crying and Josefina was crying, and at the end, she thanked us for being so stubborn and making her come because ''vale la pena'' - it was worth it.

We had a really good week - worked super hard and had more lessons than I've ever had my whole mission. But then only Josefina came to church. And if the investigators don't come to church, they can't progress. And then there are a ton of new members, less actives, and even actives that sometimes decide to work Sunday because they have lots of economic problems. But I know that when we put our trust in the Lord and dedicate Sunday to Him, we receive such great blessings. And the moment that we disobey we lose all the blessing that He has promised us. I never really understood until my mission the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy, but I know that when we keep this commandment, the Lord helps us in all aspects of our lives. So keep the Sabbath day holy! But like really dedicate this day to the Lord - no movies (unless they're church ones), no music (unless it's hymns) and no computer (unless you're indexing or writing me a letter lol).

I love Mexico. I love Spanish. I love my comp and I love all the people I'm meeting here. It's fun to be a missionary. Sometimes super hard and frustrating, but lots of fun. And the spirit is always strong.

Hope you all have a lovely week. Be good. Say your prayers. And have a snowball fight for me! It's so strange to see Christmas lights and Christmas trees and hear Christmas music... but not see any snow! Enjoy it for me!

Love you lots -
Hna Taylor

Monday, December 1, 2014

{Week 51} Polanco - December 1, 2014

This has been a pretty good week - a few tears and a few laughs and lots of miracles.
I want a picture of Jordyn in the dress!
I'll try to have the university stuff for next Monday
Still no mail...
And I was wondering if you could send me a picture of our house at night with the Christmas lights on?
And Jordy and Carlee, I'm so proud of you both. I know that you'd both make great missionaries (hint, hint...)

I can't believe it's December! The nights are getting really cold, and there have been a few days that have been chilly, but the weather has actually been really nice. Like today it's beautiful outside. They tell us though that it's not normal to have such beautiful weather still... supposedly it should be chilly all day everyday. Everyone always teases me when it's cold and they see me in my coat, saying ''you're from Canada, this is nothing for you!'' but I guess I've gotten used to the heat because I get cold!

So sadly, we went to visit Guadelupe on Wednesday (her birthday) and as soon as she let us in we could tell something was wrong. She told us that she loves listening to us and reading The Book of Mormon and that she loved going to church... but that her husband has now forbidden her from listening to us and coming to church. It was really sad. We all cried. But we left her with The Book of Mormon, and an open invitation to come to church. And her fellowshipper is doing her best to pass by every week to keep being her friend. It was sad, but I know that one day she'll make it.

And then on Thursday (American Thanksgiving) all the sisters in the mission went to the president's house for Thanksgiving dinner! That was a ton of fun. Their house is huge and gorgeous... and very formal like you're in a church... but really pretty. And it was so fun to help make mashed potatoes and turkey and ham. And it was delicious! That was the best turkey I've ever had! Then they gave us flu shots (it was all a trick - they invited us to eat turkey just so they could inject us - mwahahaha) that was funny. A few girls cried. Then we all just sat and sang while we waited for the combi to come pick us up! It was a ton of fun to be with all the sisters and the president and his wife for Thanksgiving. At one point I actually got really homesick - every once in awhile I've missed you all, but this was the most homesick I've been in my whole mission - it was when we went around the table and everyone said what they were grateful for... I instantly thought of you guys. I had just barely been helping make mashed potatoes and it was something so normal - because life here is very different - and doing something so normal made me remember all of you, and miss ya'll a ton! When I'm working my mind is always focused on my investigators and where we're going to go next and who we're going to talk to next that I never have time to miss you guys. But a normal day, with mashed potatoes and 19 other hermanas, made me miss you all a lot. But I got over that and enjoyed my day. It was a fun time. I loved it!
Celebrating American Thanksgiving in Mexico City.

Preparing potatoes!

Hna's Mercedes and Luque admiring the mashed potatoes - Williams is in the background.

Hna Bennett and President Stutznegger!

Me with the Stutzneggers.

The Hermana's at the Stutznegger's house.

Look at that lovely food!

A few of the hermanas - with Hna Luque acting natural!

The combi ride.
More of us in the combi.

We haven't been able to find Reyna again, she's never there. But Josefina is progressing really well. We went to visit her the other day, and she told us that she wants to get baptized. She said by praying and reading and coming to church, she knows it's true and want to get baptized. She came to church again Sunday, and is loving everything. And we've started teaching her 17 year old daughter Diana too.

We worked hard this week and saw some miracles. There is one family that has been less active forever except for the dad, because the mom is alcoholic. She now hasn't had a drop in a month and they've come to church every week for about 2 months now. And her son that never wanted anything to do with the church has now done a 180 and wants to be baptized - he lives in another ward though. And they've cleaned up their house that has been cluttered forever, and they've put a big picture of the temple and are very focused in their goal to go there one day to be sealed as a family. I love this family, and am so excited to see them start progressing like this. Miracles!

And there is another less active who also hasn't come forever. The other day she finally opened up and told us what's stopping her from coming to church. We had planned to teach her about keeping the Sabbath day holy, but we both felt like it wasn't right. We were just sitting there in silence all looking at each other. Then I asked her why she doesn't come to church. We had asked before, but she had always given some excuse. This time she didn't answer right away. We all sat in silence for literally like 5 minutes until she finally opened up and told us. We ended up having a great lesson on repentance and the spirit was strong. We were all crying. It's been great to see these people that I care about so much start progressing like this. Miracles!

We found tons of new investigators this week. None came to church. That's a little frustrating but we'll just keep working hard.

Sadly, Edgar started smoking again. So to help, we copied what Elder Tyler Hansen did and made him his own special pack of cigarettes. Each one is a scripture and every time he wants to smoke he has to read the scripture then decide if he's going to smoke.
Edgar's smokes. We made the box and everything.

And I just wanted to ask a special favor... that you could send a couple extra prayers our way that we'll be safe. It gets darker a lot earlier now, and we don't know the new half of our area very well, and we feel like the guys in the street talk to us a lot more these days... I know that the Lord protects us but a few extra prayers would be welcomed. Thanks!

And I just wanted to mention my loverly companion Hna Luque. She is marvellous and we laugh so much. We're best of friends and it makes us just a little bit sad that we live on opposite sides of the world...

But yeah! I think that's all!
It's been lovely talking to you all again. Hope you have a great week! Nos vemos lunes!
Be good, say your prayers, and have a snowball fight for me!
-love Hna Taylor
We found this lovely craft in the Stutznegger's house...