ants, a wheelchair, and Christmas cookies

mi y mi companera by the temple
Dearest family,

Disclaimer: This email is going to be a quick one so that I can send pictures — we don't have much time to write, and so I figure that pictures are worth more than words sometimes, right? Entonces, my week in bullet points: 

+  contacted an hermana that believed Mormon missionaries kidnapped children. We quickly corrected this belief and hope that our visit with her has changed her view of the Church forever.

+  our progressing investigator Hna. Jenny has become somewhat of a grandma to us because she feeds us every time we teach her. Our last visit included hot chocolate and cookies that tasted like Christmas. It was perfect. 

+  everyone here is getting sick because the weather has dropped a total of ten degrees (as in, its still about eighty degrees or more every day). It is slightly hilarious because everyone wears sweaters and sleeps all day. 

+  it is a dark day when the fact that dead ants floating in my morning granola doesn't phase me anymore. We consider it a type of protein and are still working on ridding our casa of this plague. 

+  the most exciting event of the week: Hna Martinez is now confined to a wheelchair for the next two weeks, and so we now walk the streets with her in the wheelchair and me pushing from behind (does this sound like a story for the Ensign? We think so). My companion has a perpetual problem with her knee and has to have surgery, and so for the time being we are utilizing this new addition to our benefit — as in, we think people have more pity on us and listen to us more because they feel bad for our current situation. It is slightly comical to be walking through these crazy calles with a wheelchair, but it is a grand adventure. My companion is an example of steadfast faith and diligence, and refuses to rest or stop working. She has taught me so much in the way of how to be a fully dedicated missionary, and I love her mucho. 

+  this past Sunday was the Primary Program (the theme being Familias Son Eternas — I may have cried a little during the whole thing, because 1) my family is my joy, and 2) listening to small Mexican children sing about the family is almost too much goodness in one sitting). During this whole program, my heart existed in a moment of pure gratitude for all of you, my dear family. How lucky I am to have been raised in a family that taught me about the light and goodness of the Gospel. Every good thing I have and every good thing I know comes from what you each taught me in the home — those principles of love, happiness, and joy that come from a family founded on Jesus Christ and His teachings. It is a privilege for me to be able to testify every day about my family and the happiness and love that we have in our home because of the Gospel, so thank you, parents, for raising me in the knowledge and light of Christ and teaching me to love my Savior and His teachings. And thank you my dear siblings, for being living examples of this light and love. My heart could not be more full of gratitude for everything that you have each taught me, and I feel joy in the fact that these feelings of love within our family are eternal. 

Sorry for the randomness of this email and for the short time I have to write, but I love all of you and send you all my heart full of love and gratitude!

mucho amor,

Add caption

a selfie featuring the wall where i killed the cockroach and the fan where I accidentally killed the lizard.


conocer vs. saber

mi familia,

Turns out one learns many important skills here, such as: how to kill a cockroach in ten hits with a broom, and how to survive off two meals alone each day. I learned the first skill on Thursday when my companion made me get rid of a cockroach that was living in our bedroom (note: our new casa is great besides the fact we have a slight ant problem — think Mexico Vacation circa 2005 — and lizards are abounding on our walls). After accomplishing the horrible deed concerning the cockroach, I felt quite awful for becoming an insect killer, made even worse when I accidently killed a lizard that was hiding in our fan. I am still dealing with post-traumatic stress with this whole ordeal. As for surviving off two meals a day . . . we have taken to buying packages of Mexican cookies every day that have become my absolute favorite. Sometimes we even buy goodies from venders that are literally on every corner. Moral of the story: Mexico has good cookies, and it's a miracle I havent gained a hundred pounds. 

Our investigators are progressing well. This week we taught one of our most recent investigators, Hermano Cristino. He is sixty-something years old, with weathered skin and an honest face that has long searched for God. It is always a great moment when we get to sit outside his house on cinderblocks and teach him about the Restoration. He has a hard time understanding things, and most of the time he pretends to understand and so we have to verify a lot of principles with him. But I love sitting under the Merida sun with this man that wears well-worn leather sandals and has a will to do good always. We also taught Hermana Rivera this week, along with her most darling grandson that cries whenever we sing hymns and kisses us on the cheek whenever we leave. After one lesson with her, she already believes the Book of Mormon is true and came to church this last Sunday. She is a type of grandma for me — giving us chocolate milk and cupcakes and showing us pictures of her family. Our other family, Celene and her two sons Rene and Jose, are basically golden. Rene talks all the time about getting baptized and is quite concerned he doesn't have a white button-up shirt yet. There home feels like safety to me. On Saturday (our second lesson with them), Hermana Celene told us that she had dreamed about us the day before we first met them, and that it was an answer to her life that had long since become weary. I thanked my Heavenly Father in that moment for reminding me why I am here — because when the days are long and the language is hard, I will now remember that this mission is about people like Hermana Celene and her family; about the people that have long since been waiting for rays of light in their darkened worlds. 

I tell you all about these people now because the people here are quite wonderful and so good. In Spanish there are two verbs for "to know": saber, as in to a fact or knowledge about something, and conocer, as in to know someone or something in a familiar way. I am beginning to know and love these people in a conocer way — the type of way that the pink house with a flower on the fence has become like another home, and the dusty roads are becoming well-accustomed to the beat of my walking feet. There is a renewed desire within me to know these people and this place in a familiar way. This desire mostly comes from the deepened reality of knowledge I have that Christ knows each of us in a conocer way. We teach about the Atonement every day here, and there is no doubt in my growing faith that Christ knows these peoples' sadnesses and their trials, their heartaches and their hopes. Christ has walked the path that we are all walking; he has long been familiar with the rising and sinking of our hearts with the coming and going of life and all the experiences that come with it. I consider it a privilege to be able to testify every day about Christ and His wonderous Atonement, and the truth that He has long been familiar with us. 

Most nights here, I look up at the darkening sky and breathe in the Mexican air with the knowledge that my sky is just one hour ahead of yours. The word for sky and heaven in Spanish are the same, and I like the idea that each night, we are all looking at the same heaven. Thank you for being a most beautiful and good family to me — I think about you always and love you even more. 

love always,


vuelve a casa

Dear Family,
This week of Moments in Mulsay:
I have now officially learned the phrase for "look out," maybe because my companion and strangers on the street say this to me a little too often, every single day. I guess my street smarts still haven't really kicked in yet ...
Hermana Martinez and I bought a new house on Wednesday — yes, we bought a house. Apparently our current living situations are less than subpar (even though it hadn't really phased me, even when a colony of ants was carrying a dead fly up the wall of our shower). Since they didn't teach us vocabulary relating to real estate in the MTC, I didn't understand a thing for the whole two hours and just signed a few papers. Our new house is quite beautiful and I am excited to move (today)!
Hermana Martinez made me THE BEST food last night. Since we only eat two meals a day here (breakfast in our casa and a big lunch with members every day), we sometimes have midnight snacks after planning each night — and by midnight I mean 10. Thirty-second Food Network interlude: fry a plantain in a pan, drizzle some cream over it and dip them in refried beans. It is seriously heaven in a few bites.
Dogs and cats run wild here. It might be my favorite thing/also a problem because I want to name them and take them home with me. However, for now they simply remind me of Truly, and that makes me happy every day.
We contacted two new families this week and have seven new baptismal dates. This week was in fact a week of miracles, as we are seeing the hand of the Lord every single day. One family (a mom and two sons), are possibly the most story-book family I've ever encountered. The oldest son is twelve years old but has the intelligence of a twenty year old — we left them with a pamphlet about the Restoration after our first visit to prep them for our next, and by the time we returned, he had read all of it and knew it like the back of his hand. He is truly golden, and sometimes during the lesson he gives me a handheld fan because he thinks I'm over-heating. They came to church this Sunday (yay), and said they think they will come every Sunday now (double yay). During these miracles of finding families and investigators accepting baptismal dates, we also encountered four intoxicated men, all within two hours (disclaimer: the fact that I've learned the word for "look out," and met drunken men this week in no way implies that it is unsafe here, lest mi papa y mi mama start to worry — I am quite safe). Anyways, these encounters ended up being one of my most spiritual experiences of the week. We ended up sharing a hymn and a prayer with a man who some missionaries had contacted before, but who has a serious problem with drinking. During our hymn about light and Christ, this man started to cry and talk about the pains of his heart and his life. We listened and the Spirit testified to me so strongly in that moment that this man before me was a child of God; that God remembers Him, that God loves Him, and that God is not disappointed in him because of his weaknesses or his pains — God just wants him to return home. When the Spirit touched my soul like that, it was not hard for me to love this man in a wrinkly white shirt and tears in his eyes, because I knew that God loved him and that I should love him, too.

 It is becoming more and more apparent to me that this life is all about the home — not only this earthly home of ours and our family home, but also the home of God. At times people feel that they do not belong or that they do not even belong to themselves because of their weaknesses or faults that take them away from who they really are and who they were before with God. How grateful I am for the knowledge that we all have a heavenly home prepared for us and waiting for us always, because God is our home and God is always there. I know that by sharing this good Gospel of Christ with these people in Mexico is in a way calling people home — to a place that they may not be familiar with, but a place that is always theirs to claim.
Thank you for being my home, here and in the eternities. I love you each with all my heart.
mucho amor,



people with believing blood and a God who speaks Spanish

mi dearest familia, 

If I could build my own city, it would probably take on the same pattern of beauty as Merida, Mexico. It is as if God has collected all of my most favorite things and put them in one place, because: the food, the people, the architecture, the colors--I love it all. Amidst all this loveliness, there exists many perks of being one of the few white people here, such as: I now have the best singing voice in the whole city, because turns out nobody here can really carry a tune. Among some of the not so perks: I still have not learned how to hold on tight enough during bus rides and tend to get thrown around quite a lot, and my sense of direction has yet to improve among the many calles we walk every day. 

The vegetarian haters will be pleased to hear that I ended that lifestyle within the first twenty four hours here. Meat and fizzy drinks are a daily occurrence (my favorite, right?), and although it was a little hard at first, I have ben blessed with the will to eat everything and not get sick. Along with meat and fizzy drinks, I sleep in a hammock every night, take bucket showers every morning, and receive ten new bug bites a day (the count is now up to 42). My trainer and companion is Hermana Martinez--the kindest 29 year old Ive ever met, with a spirit that is almost too good and talented. I am pretty sure shes the best missionary in the mission, mostly because everyone has told me so--I am so lucky to have her! We are in the area Mulsay, about twenty minutes outside of Centro. It is the best of both worlds, because we are in a neighborhood thats not too big, and we get to come into the city about four times a week for meetings and such, so I have been able to be in the mission office a lot and around the greatest missionaries in the world. 

In terms of teaching, we taught twenty six lessons this week and I havent taken the time to count how many investigators we actually have. They range from inactive families to kind of inactive families to people who are hearing the good word of God for the very first time. These people--all of them--really do have the desire to believe in something greater than themselves. It has impressed me so much that no one is afraid or ashamed to talk about God or what they believe. Everyone has open hearts and a seriousness to things pertaining to religion--it makes the work a little more easy. A couple of our most dear investigators are Juan and the Espinoza family. Juan is the epitome of humility--a young twenty something year old with a girlfriend and child who is trying to do his best in life. I have never felt so much love at once than when I am sitting in their home. The Espinoza family is a less active family in our ward--they have the most beautiful children that tell me the words for things in Spanish, and sometimes we go to their house for FHE. It is the best feeling being around families and knowing that they are the same all over the world. 

If anything, these past seven days have taught me that God speaks everyones language--both in words and in the heart. Even amidst the poverty here, I have never felt doubt in the fact that God loves each of His children. I feel as if I have been able to feel a particle of His type of love while Ive been here, as my heart feels too full with the lives of these good people. God speaks our language because He speaks the language of the heart-- knowing what we need and what we feel and what we hope for. 
I love you love you and am already planning the day when we will walk down these streets together, eating dried bananas with salt and loving every minute. 

with mucho amor,