Monday, March 30, 2015

{Week 68} Oriental - March 30, 2015

Hi family! It rained this week. We got wet. And the cheap flats I bought at Walmart don't last as long in the rain as the Crocs do...

They said there was an earthquake, but no one felt anything...

Jordy, congrats, sounds like it was a fun two weeks!

This has been a pretty good week! We didn't find any new people to teach, which kind of stinks, but we received several great referrals, and this week we have appointments with all of them.

And Raul is doing so great! He is progressing a ton - He came to see a baptism on Saturday and walked around telling everyone that he was going to get baptized too on the 25th of April and that they were all invited. He's so sweet! And yesterday he told us he was down to three smokes a day. He smoked a ton before so that's a huge improvement. He told us that the other night he couldn't sleep, so he started reading the Book of Mormon and praying - and he said he started to feel so happy that he started to cry! He told us that had never happened to him before, that he had never felt like this before. We testified to him that that was the spirit bearing witness of the truth. He's so great!

And no one knew at what time the Women's Broadcast was - half the people said 6:00, and the other half said 7:00. So we went to the church at 6:00 (and we were dripping wet because it was raining) and no one was there! There was a Primary activity in the cultural center, so there were lots of people there, but there wasn't any sign of a Women's Broadcast. Finally we found someone in the stake that helped us set up the broadcast, but as usual there were a few technical problems, so we finally started watching it at 6:45 - we missed the first half! And there were only about 30 people there in total - and five were men. and six were missionaries. But it was still really nice to see. I love the choir when they sang ''Love at Home''. It reminded me of all the Sunday's when we would have our family gatherings and grampa would always start singing it and we'd all join in. I loved it!

And we're super excited for General Conference! It turns out we're not going to work Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, because Easter week for the Catholics can get a bit crazy... we're only allowed to leave the house for the conference. I'm so excited for conference! We've been sharing messages with everyone about the conference to get them all excited to come. I'm excited!

And Nicolee is the sweetest girl that exists on the face of the planet, and I love her and her mom, but her mom is getting down because she can't hear anything in the church, and feels like there is no point in her going. Nicolee is super faithful though - comes to all the activities and stuff. And Nicolee came to church yesterday, but her mom didn't. And the tough part for us, is we can only see her mom on Sunday because she works all week, and yesterday we didn't get the chance to visit her. They could use a lot of prayers.

And now we're off to Polanco! We got permission to go visit my old area. So we're headed there right now. I love you all tons and hope you all have a great week. I'll talk to you next week!
Be good, say your prayers, and enjoy conference!

-Hermana Taylor

(These pictures courtesy of Hna Stutznegger from yesterday.)

Well something must have been funny!

President Stutznegger, Hna Taylor and Hna Ramirez.

And . . . she sent us her flight itinerary today!  We'll be picking her up at the airport at 4:59pm on Wednesday, June 10.  And, as she said, "AHHHHHHHHH!"

Monday, March 23, 2015

{Week 67} Oriental - March 23, 2015

Richelle! Happy birthday! You're getting so old! ''una viejita''
Katia! Happy birthday my beautiful 10 year old! I hope you have a great birthday!
Smalls! What beautiful teeth you have!
Jordy, felicidades. Silly string everywhere lol.
Jenna, poke poke poke.
Mackie, I love you so much!

And Mom and Dad, thanks for your letters. I love hearing from you both.

So this has been a really good week! Tuesday morning we were walking down the street contacting, when all of a sudden, a guy approached us and asked if we were Elders. I said '' sort of - we're Hermanas!'' Turns out he listened to missionaries in California 25 years ago, but wasn't willing to stop drinking and so didn't get baptized. Also he didn't really understand anything because apparently it was all in English lol. So he gave us an appointment for the next day, but said we couldn't go to his house so we made the appointment for the church. The next day we were in the church waiting for him, and after 30 minutes we decided he wasn't coming, so we left... and he was there in front of the church waiting for us! He said he was embarrassed to open the door and come in. So we taught him the Restoration, and it went really well. It turns out he's been friends with our ward mission leader for the last 50 years. He came to church on Sunday in a suit and tie, and is progressing really well. It was funny, because after we explained the story of Joseph Smith, the first thing he said was ''my friend Larry told my that Jose Smith was a drug addict.'' We assured him that that wasn't true lol. The next day when we saw him, he had read the pamphlet of the Restoration and told us that he had prayed and knew for sure that Jose Smith was a prophet and not a druggie lol. His name is Raul and he is 59 years old. We love him! He's such a sweetie, and is working really hard to stop smoking. That was a great blessing to receive after all of our other investigators had fallen through.

And on Friday, our stake had a party to celebrate the Relief Society Anniversary. Each ward presented a dance and it was great. And, I saw a ton of members from my first area Aculco there! It was so great to see them all and we were hugging and laughing and crying. And today, we went to visit Aculco, and a ton of members gave us food (I've never been so full in my life - it's kind of rude to say ''no'' to the food here, and they all gave us food to eat.) It was great to see them all and see what's happened in the last year.

Hna Gurley is now training! Her new comp is Hna llaguarima and is from Ecuador - the same mission where Hna Gurley's brother is serving! Hna Llaguarima (Jaguar - Ima) is 26 and is really sweet. and our District Leader, Elder Moreno, is training an elder named Elder Keyes - and he is from Calgary! Heritage ward... do you know him Gates Family? It's funny because he doesn't speak anything of Spanish - reminds me of when I first got here!

Just wanted to ask... Jordy, Carlee and Jenna ... how's your Personal Progress going?

I had to speak in church on Sunday... I talked about testimonies and how we can help others obtain a testimony. And it was great because two of our less active families came to church! That made me super happy, and the Bishop called someone from each family to say the closing and opening prayers. I really love this area. The members are great and I love working with them. This is the same area where Elder Evans started his mission.

And Hna Ramirez is great. We get along well and we work hard. She's talking more in the lessons, and is contacting... it's great! We're working hard and enjoying our time here. In April it's possible that my comp could be training, which means I would be in a different area my last 6 weeks... I'm hoping that I can stay here to finish my mission, but I'll go wherever the Lord sends me, and I'll go willingly. I love being 24/7 in the service of the Lord. I love Mexico. I love Spanish. I have to translate every word in my head back to English to be able to write you all. I'm teaching English classes every Saturday at 12, and it's hilarious because sometimes I forget English words lol...

I hope you all have a lovely week. I love you all and am super proud of our basketball team. (go Pandas!) Thanks for your love and your prayers - I can feel them. Be good, say your prayers, and wish Chelle and Katia a happy birthday for me. Love you!

-Hermana Taylor

Monday, March 16, 2015

{Week 66} Oriental - March 16, 2015

Dad, I would love to go camping. That would be amazing. And I want steak, mashed potatoes and gravy when I get home :) But I don't want to talk about that stuff for at least 86 more days (Thanks mom - not a number I wanted to know.)

Tell congrats to Kennedy if you see her for me. And when does Jaime get home? And Jordy I love you! Thanks for your letter! I always love hearing from you.

I have bad news. Michelle's dad has decided that she's not allowed to get baptized. She's only 17, so we need permission from him to do it, and before he said yes but has since changed his mind. And on Friday, Michelle moved. They just up and left and went to another part of the city to live. We didn't even know until Saturday night. But I have her email and I'm keeping in contact - she'll be 18 in July and she's planning to go live with her aunt in Baja California in July and she's planning to get baptized over there. Hopefully that works out. We're sad that she's gone and we couldn't say goodbye.

So this week we lost almost all our investigators due to several different circumstances... but the miracle is that we found several new ones! And in the activity, we've received a ton of references that we'll be teaching this week! And a lot of them are for families! Please pray for my area so that the people here will be ready and willing to accept the gospel and change their lives!

We've all been kind of emotional in our house right now - Hna Cárdenas has reached the end of her 18 months, and is less than 48 hours away from being at home with her family. None of us cried until Saturday night when we did a quick FHE after the contacting activity to say goodbye to Hna Cárdenas. All the missionaries said a few words - and being the crybaby I am, I bawled lol. She was in my first district and helped me a ton when I first got here. It's funny because she was in her first area for seven and a half months - but returned to the same area for her last cycle in the mission (6 weeks). When she first came back, she was questioning why the Lord wanted her to return to her first area - but during the cycle, they were able to find and teach a 22 year old guy named Axel. And he got baptized yesterday - so Hna Cárdenas finished her mission with a baptism of a golden convert. She is a huge example to me and although we were never comps, I'm so glad I've gotten to live with her for the last 6 weeks. She worked super hard and to the end. I love her and I'm going to miss her! And Hna Gurley is going to be training now - so it'll be us in the house together with our ''daughters''!

There is a scripture in Jacob 7:26 that says ''our lives passed away like it were unto us a dream''. I feel like that's my life right now - the days are just flying past, like it were a dream. I love it here. Sometimes (not very often!) I think about you all and miss you all. But I feel like the mission life is the normal life, and the real life back home with all of you is the dream. I love being here so much - sometimes I never want it to end. But I was called by the Lord to serve for 18 months and I'm planning to serve with all my heart, might, mind, and strength right up to the end. I love being here. I love serving the Lord. I used to always think that I would give the Lord 18 months of my life, but the more time I have here the more I come to understand that I'm not giving Him this time, He's giving it to me, and I'll never be able to repay Him. All I can do is serve Him and give it all I've got - as Elder Holland said ''run hard, run fast and to the tape''. And that's the miracle, because when I'm tired and frustrated and feeling down, He's there to raise me up and give me the strength to keep going. I love the poem ''get up and win the race'' (If you'd like to insert it here in the blog mom, I wouldn't be upset).

The Race by D. H. Groberg

“Quit!” “Give up, you’re beaten!” they shout at me and plead,
“There’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.”
And as I started to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
And hope refills my weakened will as I recall that scene.
For just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; now I remember well.
Excitement, sure, but also fear; it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope. Each thought to win the race
Or tie for first, if not that, at least take second place.
And fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son,
And each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one.
The whistle blew and off they sped, as if they were on fire
To win, to be the hero there, was each boy’s desire.
And one boy in particular, his dad was in the crowd,
Was running near the lead and thought, “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field, across the shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arm flew out to brace,
And ‘mid the laughter of the crowd, he fell flat on his face.
So, down he fell, and with him, hope. He couldn’t win it now.
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished he’d disappear somehow.
But, as he fell, his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win the race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit, that’s all.
And ran with all his mind and might to make up for the fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
His mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”
But, in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face.
That steady look that said again, “Get up and win the race!”
So, he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last;
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight or ten,
But trying so hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running more. Three strikes, I’m out…why try?”
The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away.
So far behind, so error-prone, a loser all the way.
“I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought, “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But, then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “Get up and take your place.
You weren’t meant for failure here; get up and win the race.”
With borrowed will, “Get up,” it said, “You haven’t lost at all,
For winning is no more than this–to rise each time you fall.”
So up he rose to win once more. And with a new commit,
He resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been.
Still, he gave it all he had, and ran as though to win.
Three times he fallen, stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.
They cheered the winning runner, as he crossed the line, first place,
Head high and proud and happy; no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen crossed the finish line, last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last, with head bowed low, unproud,
You would have thought he won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad, he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me you won,” his father said, “You rose each time you fell.”
And now when things seem dark and hard and difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy helps me in my race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
“Quit!” “Give up, you’re beaten!” They still shout in my face,
But another voice within me says, “Get up and win the race!”

I hope you're all having a wonderful snowy day back home. I love you all tons. Be good, say your prayers, and always trust in the Lord.

-Hermana Taylor

Photos courtesy of Hna Valdivia.  These are from a few weeks ago.

Street contacting outside the church.

The District

Probably Hna Cardenas birthday - she looks like she's ready to blow out candles.

Hermanas Ortiz, Valdivia, Gurley, Cardenas, Taylor and Ramirez

Monday, March 9, 2015

{Week 65} Oriental - February 9, 2015

I can't believe that I've almost got 15 months here! Time has gone by so fast... I feel like I have about 5 or 6 months here. Honestly it scares me to think that ''the end'' is finally here... so generally I try not to think about it! But I'm going to work as hard as I can these last 3 months.

Jordy, congrats on your grad date. Now you don't have to worry! haha It's crazy to think that when I left you were 16, and now you're 18! And Jenna, you were 12 when I left, and now you're 14! Felicidades! One day I'll sing ya'll the ''mañanitas''.

Have you all seen ''Meet the Mormons"?  We watched it at 7:45am on Wednesday in the church before our zone conference. I loved it! I especially liked the last story about the mom who's son gets his mission call and leaves on his mission. It was a bit of a tear jerker lol.

So we go to church in the stake center, and there is one other ward that meets there. And the two wards have gotten together to do an activity! We've set up a bunch of giant posters in front of the church, and we contact people in the street and bring them in and give them a tour. We start with a Mormon Message on a screen outside the church, and then take them through the church yards where there are a bunch of youth explaining things about Family History Work. Then there are two teens dressed up as bride and groom in front of a giant poster of the temple and they talk about temple work, then we take them inside to the Family History Center, then give them a brief tour of the church ending in the Sacrament Room! That's where I wait - I welcome them and explain a bit about what we do there, then I show them the video ''Because of Him''. I share my testimony about that, and then Elder Young sings them a hymn ''I Know that my Redeemer Lives'' and then shares his testimony, then I get up again and invite them to take the missionary discussions! We've gotten several references out of doing this and the spirit is always super strong with every person that enters. Several of them have cried. We started Saturday and we're going to be doing it every Saturday and Sunday night for about a month.

And thanks for all your prayers! Michelle is doing a ton better - on Tuesday we went to visit her, and she was really confused - didn't really know what she wanted to do. But we left her a chapter in the Book of Mormon and told her to pray, and when we came back on Wednesday, she had a new light in her eyes! Through the course of the lesson, she started talking about the commandments, and how they're not actually that difficult, and that she's more than willing to keep them all, and then she was talking about how she just wants to follow Christ... So I told her to read Mosiah 18:8-10. She did, and said ''Oh yeah... I should get baptized!'' She then set her own baptism date. The Spirit was strong and it was great to see her understand and decide to live what she knew was true. But keep praying for her!

And David is also doing great. His mom took him to the baptism of a little boy in our ward all by herself (we were at a meeting) and they both loved it. At first the mom never wanted to sit down for our lessons. But now she's the first one there waiting for us, and we all read together the Book of Mormon kids version that we gave to David. It's been great!

I love seeing the hand of the Lord in the lives of the people here. Watching them slowly change and see their eyes fill with spiritual light is an amazing experience and I am so blessed to have this chance to see it.

This week we had a zone conference, and President Stutznegger shared something that President Uchtdorf had shared with all the new mission presidents. It was beautiful and I really loved it - he talked about how we are disciples of Christ (3 Nephi 5:13) and as such, we ''fear no man''. I loved the conference, and then later, Pres Stutznegger gave us all a copy of the talk by Pres Uchtdorf. So the next morning I read it in my personal study. These last few months I´ve been kind of struggling with the idea that I'm almost done my mission, and I've been thinking a lot about what I can do to make these last few months the best ever. At the beginning of my mission, I always felt the spirit super strong... but I think with time I'd kind of gotten used to it, and it didn't seem as strong anymore. I've been trying really hard these last few months to increase my spirituality - become a better person so that I can have the constant companionship of the spirit with me. And when I read that talk, it was an answer to prayer. I went to our bedroom to be alone and offered a prayer to thank my Heavenly Father. At the end of that prayer, I felt the Spirit so strongly. I felt so happy - so joyful. I was so happy I was crying from happiness. I just wanted to share with you all that this week my testimony of the love of our Heavenly Father for his children has been greatly strengthened. I know that He loves us, and His plan for all of us is much greater than what we can even imagine. And as disciples of Christ, we have been called to share the knowledge of this plan with the whole world. And we have no reason to fear, because He is with us. I know that our Savior lives and loves us. And if we put all our trust in Him, he will lift us up and support us. Alma 26:12 - we are weak, but with His strength, we can do all things.

Zone Conference photo from Hna Stutznegger

Zone Conference - the picture is of some Elders, but I like the Hermana's visiting in the background!

I love you all so much. I love it here in Mexico. I am learning tons and I feel the Spirit here so strong. Be good, say your prayers, and share what the Lord has given us with everyone you know. I love you!
-Hna Taylor

PS - She sent a little email saying:  "mom! I have to send the airplane information to the offices! I'm freakin out! I love ya'll but don't want to come home yet!" and asked which airport she should fly home to. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

{Week 64} Oriental - March 2, 2015

I wanted to start by telling you all that the mail works! Today I got the primary girls cards and the Gates Christmas card, and last week I got the Heggie's Christmas card!

Carlee, your skill on the piano amazes me - and I haven't even heard you play. That's one of my goals for after my mission - brush up on the flute and learn piano.

I say that the dress is white and orange and my comp says it's white and brown.

AND! Paquita and Rodolfo gave us a basketball! And we found out that there is an outside exercise park with a tiny basketball court in our apartment complex! So now we go there and shoot hoops for our 30 minutes of exercise every morning at 6:30! YAY! But the hoops are stuck right on the wall, so the other day when I was doing a layup at top speed (lol) I ran right into the wall and now my hip is a lovely purple color.

Feliz Cumplaños Jordyn and Jennafer! Hope that you eat lots of cake and that it's delicious!

So on Tuesday we did an activity as a district - we set up one of those tables of pamphlets outside the church and contacted everyone that walked by. A few of them even came inside the church with us for tours, and we received a ton of referencias. But only one of them was for our area. But we had a lot of fun doing it.

Me at our pamphlet table.

Hnas Ramirez, Ortiz, Gurley, Cardenas, and Valdivia

My lovely district contacting the people.
And we meet in the stake center with another ward, and the four missionaries from the other ward (Hna Gurley, Hna Cardenas, Elder Young, and Elder Moreno) are teaching English. And they put a big poster outside the church, so a TON of people are going! And a ton of people always contact us in the street asking about the English classes. Hna Gurley teaches the more advanced class on Wednesday, and Elder Young teaches the basic class on Saturday. And they told us that last Saturday, they had over 50 people in the class! So Hna Ramirez and I are going to start going on Saturday too and we're going to divide it into three classes so that it's more personal and we can connect with them more! So that's super awesome.

I seem to recall that last week you asked if I'd seen guns, and how dangerous it really is here... I have seen guns - but only on security guards. Every store here that's even remotely fancy has a security guard outside with a gun - and not like a handgun, it's like a giant rifle/shotgun type thing. And you know how the Walmart in Canada has the little old lady that checks your receipt and gives you the smiley face sticker as you walk out? Well the Walmart here has army dudes in full military gear with handguns that stand at the door and check your receipt. I honestly hardly ever feel scared in the street - everyone says it's super dangerous, and they're always telling us stories of how everyone gets robbed, but I've never seen anything like that or felt scared like that. And I've honestly told you everything that's happened to me here. The guys always talk to me and say dirty things, but I just ignore them. But they never try anything... I know that the Lord is protecting us, and sometimes when we feel like we shouldn't walk down a street, we don't, and who knows what would have happened if we did. But we try to always follow the spirit, and the Lord takes care of us.

We've been working a lot with Michelle lately. The last week we've been teaching her sister Katherine a lot too... And they were both progressing really well... but then they didn't come to church on Sunday. We were going to go get them, but they had already left with their dad. He took them around buying them stuff, and when we stopped by that night around 6, they were all getting ready to go the the Christian church at 7. Katherine wasn't there, but we talked with Michelle for awhile. She says she wants to know more, and her parents have given her permission to listen to us and get baptized, but they're really against it and are constantly making remarks and criticizing and stuff like that... Michelle asked us if we could hold off for a few months on the whole baptism thing. So we talked a lot about prayer and the importance of getting a testimony, and then following God. It was a super spiritual lesson, and we were all crying. She knows that it's true, she just gets confused with so many people talking at her. But if you could all send a prayer this way remembering her, that would be great!

We placed six different baptismal dates this week... but they all fell through because nobody came to church. Except David, the 9 year old kid. He came and his mom came again. Last week we gave David one of those Book of Mormons for kids - like the ones we have with the pictures. He loves it, and is always reading it, and we start every lesson by reading one chapter. It's been really great. He needs a lot of prayers too - the other day his mom wasn't there, just his grandma, and he told us that he wants to get baptized so that he'll become a good boy. That way his mom will stop ''punishing'' him. I don't think she hits him (at least not very hard - a lot of parents hit their kids here. It's ''normal'') but he said that sometimes she doesn't let him eat... like all day. She's already back with her boyfriend that stole her kid awhile back, and she's always buying treats for her other two little boys, but never for David. And he's honestly not a bad kid! A little rambunctious, but really smart and he LOVES going to church and reading his Book of Mormon. He's got this idea that if he gets baptized his mom might start loving him. We feel so bad for him. So we're working a lot with his mom too... and she came to church on Sunday so that's a good sign. But this little boy could use a lot of prayers too.

I love this ward. Our bishop is great and is always giving us references. And his wife always comes with us for lessons (first time in my mission that the wife of the bishop is willing to come with us). The leaders all work hard, and it's been a lot of fun to be here. And Hna Ramirez is great. We've got one month together now, and she's been progressing a ton. I love her!

Hope you all have a great week. I love you all tons! Be good, say your prayers, and enjoy your day, because we are honestly so blessed.

Con amor, Hna Taylor