free to act for themselves

dearest family, 

Supposing that you are all relaxing on the beach in Coronado and visiting Burger Lounge and Yogurt Escape with great frequency, here are my highs and lows of the week that you can read when you are all gathered together for dinner and Olivia begins the family tradition:


+  Hno Cham — so we can't really remember his first name (we think it is Samuel. Or Marcio. Or something like that). He is one of our investigators that we have been teaching for a few weeks now, and one that was progressing really well despite the fact that we had to explain everything really simply and slowly. He is so kind and humble, always giving us fresh orange juice or mangos from his tree (don't worry, I found out that I am not deathly allergic like the rest of you, and that it is actually my new favorite fruit). We have our lessons outside of his house around a marble table he made himself. Sometimes whenever we ask him to commit to pray about a certain priniciple in order to know that it is true, he starts praying in the middle of the lesson. As in we asked him to pray about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and he just started praying right in the middle of the lesson, asking God to give him an answer and a testimony of everything we had been teaching him. It is my favorite thing. Because he prayed and because he is humble and pure of heart, he received answers to his prayers and was beginning to gain a testimony. We were super excited until we received a text from him telling us that we can't keep teaching him because his wife doesn't approve. At first we didn't understand the text because he wrote it in English (which was slightly hilarious because it didn't make any sense and also because we didn't know he kind of speaks English). It was really sad and now we will never be able to go back to his house with the golden lettering on his handmade pillars and handmade table. 

+  Hno Nicolas — another one of our investigators that we have been teaching foreeeever and who was super great because he had taken the discussions when he was 14, so he remembered everything and was excited to be baptized. However, we haven't been able to teach him for weeks now because he is never in his house, and because we think he left to serve a mission ... for the Catholic church. No joke. When we found this out, we felt the same feelings we had when we opened our front door to find a parade for the Catholic church marching down our street, with one of our less actives walking and singing along. I'm not sure if people really understand what it means to be members of a church here.

+  we think that one of the less actives we have been visiting for a while now is involved with the black market. For reals. We arrived at her house to find a new car, new furniture and a new TV about the size of her wall. None of these things were there before. And her husband is in prison for some unknown reason. 


+  Hna Blanca: a woman that I contacted on the bus weeks and weeks ago who we just started teaching and has a slightly eccentric husband that sometimes talks about her as if she is not in the room listening to him (they are great and I love them). She doesn't belong to any religious sect, and in our first lesson with her she started crying because no one had taught her how to pray, and it was the only thing that she had ever wanted to do. So we taught her how to pray and now she knows how to talk to God. 

+  Hno Rene: received the priesthood and passed the sacrament this Sunday with a new white shirt and tie. We think he understands the sacredness of the sacrament and what it really represents more than a lot of the others who have been members their whole lives. He is incredible and we love him so much. 

+  Womens General Conference: we watched it in Spanish at the Stake Center and I was able to understand about 93% of it. They talked a lot about the family, which made me think of you and how happy I will be when we are reunited once more — the thought made my heart sing just a little louder and grow a little fuller. Sometimes I wonder if that is how God feels when He thinks of us returning to His home. 

Wishing you a most lovely vacation in our most favorite place! Love you and miss you always.

Hermana Rhondeau


watching a (Church) movie in our hammocks — we promise we went to bed at 10:30

a pretty house and tree

names of ancestors from some of the members in our ward

a Merida sky

when courage doesn't roar

buenas dias dearest family of mine,

This week started off with another accidental animal killing (I don't know why I have such a knack for ending the lives of the little creatures that live in our house — I promise every single one of them have been accidental). I was boiling water over our little (as in it is tiny) stove and upon returning found that a little lizard had decided to take a plunge, therefore ending its rather short and probably half-lived life. I spent the rest of the morning/week feeling really guilty and actually quite sad, and rededicated myself to avoiding any circumstances that could result with the possibility of another unintended death. The past seven days under the ever heating sun brought several experiences that resulted in feelings similar to those that I had after the water boiling accident — the types of experiences that are off-putting but also hilarious. For example: we taught a lesson to one of our contacts who had a bunch of random questions that have no relation to our salvation or Christ or the Gospel — mostly questions about where God lives and praying for animals and the Church's stance on tattoos. When we answered his question relating to tattoos, he retaliated by informing us that it is a sin to wear earrings and that also we shouldn't take the bus when traveling to church on Sundays or when traveling any day if we didn't want to sin. It was interesting, but also a little sad realizing that all these questions and answers were never going to help this man find Christ and follow His Gospel in order to live the life that God intended him to inherit. 

We also contacted two Spaniards that are living in Merida for unknown (possibly slightly sketchy) reasons. We had a lesson with one who is quite a character — so much so that Hna Huerta and I might have started laughing during the opening hymn...he couldn't understand any of my Spanish and basically knows everything about the Church. We are excited to continue teaching him. On the same day we ran into our new Spaniard friend, we also happened to only have two lessons. TWO LESSONS. It was a day of walking and contacting and trying to make people listen even when they didn't want to. This day made me appreciate Christ a whole lot more. I think that He probably walked a lot more than I do, was rejected a lot more than I am, and was a lot more tired than I will ever be. And yet, he kept going. He kept teaching. He kept healing. He kept saving and searching. There is no one else that I would rater be like than Christ — a Being of perfect kindness and obedience and diligence; the greatest example of love and service without recognition; the very model of someone who was quietly courageous and brave in a world that wasn't (and still isn't) a world that honors those quiet acts of courage and faith that are unseen and unapplauded. I see these types of courage every day here in the people we find and teach: the mom who takes her two young children to church every Sunday without the presence of her husband; the father who listens to the Gospel of Christ with his two children while his wife waits inside the house, refusing to listen; the man that admits he has to change and wants to repent but doesn't know how to receive forgiveness; the working dad who doesn't have any money but who always gives us a mango from his tree or a piece of bread from a vendor. These people and their lives of bravery may not seem that courageous to some, but to me they are the great and nobles ones of this earth — the quiet and the bravest, the ones that will inherit the greatest and most prized place at the right hand of God in those eternal days because God noticed their courage even when they didn't want to be brave. 

I have no doubt that Christ was a quiet and brave one, and that there are hundreds of others that follow his same path. I have no doubt that God knows when we choose to do the right thing even when it is hard; when we choose to wake up in the morning even when the day holds no light; when we decide to speak words of comfort and love even when we are the ones who are needing these same words of hope. God notices our acts of courage, however quiet they may be. 

Sending all my love and light to you, courageous family of mine,
Hermana Rhondeau


Hna Vargas (feat. her husband in the background) cutting open coconuts

coconuts plus knife

pretending that I'm strong enough to open a coconut

we had an invasion of ants and were forced to pray kneeling down on our chairs to avoid them.

photo evidence that I eat meat now (we don't really know what happened in this photo, only that Hna. Huerta took it and that it is not a selfie). This particular meat dish included three different types of meat. 

Hna Huerta going in for the kill (these scorpions look small in the photos, but really, they were huge)

Hno Rene and Hno Oscar, a member in the ward that baptized him. So happy.

A Sunday gathering, featuring neighborhood children that we don't really know, and one of our favorite new investigators (far right) who reminds me of characters from LOTR and speaks English and always responds, "some day" (in English) whenever we invite him to be baptized. We looooove him. 

nacer de nuevo

dearest family,

This week was a great week of trying new things and experiencing new things and feeling new things, such as:

+  one of the less-active families that we found living in our area has a lot of fruit trees, which means that whenever we go to visit them they send us home with bunches of bananas or coconut jello (I'm pretty sure that is what they sent us home with the last time — still trying to figure that out). This week they introduced us to coconut juice, straight from their coconut tree. We got to watch the whole process, and even though Hna Huerta had to choke down their generous offering of pure coconut juice, it was totally worth it for the experience. 

+  every Thursday we eat lunch with la Familia Espinosa — they are our favorites and so hilarious and have a son that should be a character in a novel. This time they fed us a shrimp soup, and so I now know how to eat a shrimp — shell and all. 

+  this week we had our first Zone Conference, and our new Zone leader is literally the main character from Slumdog Millionaire (only a South American version of him), meaning that he is super great and perhaps the greatest thing that has happened to our Zone in a long time. Needless to say, we have good leaders.

+  we experienced our first real rainstorm in the Yucatan, and since our phones have limited capacities and can't tell us the weather forecast, we left all our windows open the whole day and returned to a (slightly) flooded house. It was made all the worse when after entering my room, I found not one but two scorpions living on our walls. It was horrible. After (maybe) screaming and running into the other room (and maybe slipping on our wet floors), we called our district leader (because all our leaders are super great) to find out how exactly we were supposed to exterminate them. He gave us two options: throwing either a shoe or basketball (his final advice: just like, don't let them touch you), but since we didn't have a basketball handy and lacked the courage to go with the shoe option, we decided to call one of the members. Needless to say, we now have two scorpions less in our house, and an acquired knowledge of how to kill them using only the wood end of a broom. 

+  on Friday, Hno. Rene was baptized (!!). Even though his mom and brother couldn't be baptized the same day, everything was perfect and I have never been so happy to see one of God's children choose to follow Him so willingly and so wholly. He is perhaps the definition of a golden investigator. He already has a ten year plan which includes a mission and studying at BYU, he reads the Book of Mormon almost daily and shares everything that he learns every night with his family when they gather for family dinner, he has reactivated one of the less active young men in our ward (before his baptism), and he chose to be baptized on the day of his thirteenth birthday. He chose to be baptized on his birthday because he really believed that by his baptism, he would be born again. He really believed that this first and new covenant with God would allow him to begin again, to become a new person, to be spiritually born of God  At times I am in awe with the goodness of the people here — with their willingness to change their lives so wholly and fully in order that God can enter they lives to stay. It reminds me of Alma 5:

 "have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?"

At times I wonder if missionary work is the work of awakening more than anything else — awakening people to the spirit and truth that is already in them, so that they can begin to have a desire, or this mighty change of heart, that can lead them back to their Father and allow them to become new creatures. I don't think it takes a baptism or a miracle or an answer to a prayer in order to be awakened unto God. Sometimes I think our greatest awakenings to our Eternal God are in the simple decisions we make to show God that we want to be near Him and we want to be bettered by Him and we want to be born of Him. 

Wishing you a week of mighty changes in your hearts and awakenings unto God — I love you and am praying for you always!

con mucho amor,
Hermana Rhondeau


a homemade turtle pen

Hna Ellgen and Martinez; sometimes we eat lunch together and it is just great.

a family that we are reactivating — I promise they are happy, it's just that nobody smiles in photos here.

the cemetery walk from today

the greatest mysteries of God.

dearest familia,

The days are getting a little hotter and the heavens a little more clear with the beginning of a new summer season that is sure to last until September. To celebrate the beginning of a new change of weather, we bought a handful of wild flowers and wandered along the concrete sidewalks of an old cemetery that we always pass and that I had always dreamed of visiting. It was a peaceful start to this week, reading the names engraved upon the weathered stones of a people that I have long grown to love and whose lives have forever become intertwined with my own. The visit to the cemetery marked the start of many new planned adventures, the next one being a trip to the zoo in Centro (we have already started planning this adventure that is set to take place in two weeks, because yes, it will take two weeks to make a very detailed plan of how we can make it to the zoo and fulfill all our other responsibilities, too). Among the few adventure we had this week, there were a couple funny happenings, too, such as:

+  one of our newest investigadores, Hna Nidia, stopped the whole lesson to tell me that I resembled Jesus Christ — um ... I don't know whether to take this as a compliment or if it is something slightly sacrilegious ... I guess it was something about my hair and eyes that day?

+  the assistants have begun texting all the missionaries every single day with reminders to ask for references and contact more people in the streets. They have become some of our greatest highlights during the day, because we feel like we are in Amazing Race or something whenever we read a text that says, ¨"Two hours left to find new investigators — who can find the most before 9?" or others that give live updates of them receiving references or contacting a new person to teach. Our favorite text of the week included, "¿Que haria Jesucristo? #ensenarparaencontrar." (What would Jesus do? Teach to find.) Believe it or not, it actually makes us want to work a little harder. 

This week we worked a lot with the less actives. We just so happen to have double (or maybe even triple) the number of less actives than members here in our little area so we are trying to reactivate a lot of them (and we think it is kind of working because we had a lot of them come to church the past two Sundays — yay!). On Tuesday we went to visit Hno Alonso, an eighteen year old who was baptized when he was 14, but who hardly goes to church now. We sat just outside his door on these really high chairs, looking into his house and into his soul that we found to be a little broken and worn. Every time we visit him he has a new problem or doubt — one day he decided he didn't believe in God anymore, even though he had felt His love, and the next he returned to his faith in a God, but in a God that didn't love him; another day he told us he wanted to get a tattoo, and the next day he had one. He is one of those sad stories, depicting perfectly the hope that God has in each of us and how sad God must feel when we dont quite live up to that person that He created our spirits to be. At times, Hno. Alonso gives us rare glimpses into the person that he really is and who he really could be with God, and every time we see these illuminating moments of his divine potential, the love of God and the reality of His love reigns a little bit more in the corners of our hearts. It was on this Tuesday that God visited us in His love once more. As Hna Huerta began the lesson with a prayer (note: she gives the best and most beautfiul prayers ever and I want to be like her), a voice entered into my heart and penetrated my soul with the words of that Being who speaks to all His children in a quiet ways, saying to me and testifying of another, ¨He is my son, and I love him.¨These two simple sentences struck me more than anything else as I looked at this son of God sitting before without the knowledge that he is loved and that he is remembered. It struck me in that moment to think that perhaps out of all the mysteries of God, the greatest mystery of all is that our Divine Creator and All Powerful Being knows and loves us in a personal and oh so gentle way. I knew in that moment that God knows Alonso Menez, a soul of eighteen years who lives in Calle 71a in a pink house with one couch and three chairs, and who has probably experienced more lives of sorrow than one can imagine. I knew in that moment that our Father is am Heavenly Father of gentlessness and kindness, and I believed in that moment too that God is a vision of the greatest version of the person that we can be, and that because of this, God is a lot like us — a God who likes to laugh and likes to experience joy, and a God who has a heart that beats to the rhythm of our own pains and feelings of glory. 

"The heavens they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine." (Moses 1:37)

Wishing you each of week of happiness and hope, with the knowledge that God loves you and is with you. 

Hermana Rhondeau 

(note: I have decided to end my emails now with Hna Rhondeau instead of Naomi, only because I am beginning to realize that I don't have a lot of time to have this title of a missionary #yolo)


a calle

an attempt and slight success with the self-timer. this is a family we are reactivating.

Hna Wilson and me with our hijas.

and us with our mamas.

we get creative with our FHEs

a family in the ward gave me their puppy — I'm not even kidding. I have to chose a name for it and return for it in a year. This is all because I mentioned the fact that dad wanted a chihuahua . . .


hola hola

After a glorious start to the week on Tuesday in the temple, the rest of the week proved to be a little bit of a trial, with a lot of our plans falling through and people falling through and our faith falling through just a little. We experienced a little bit of heaven with the hour we had in the temple together, and I don't think I have ever felt such a lightness or happiness in my heart than when I was sitting in such a holy place alongside my three companions, past and present. With Hna. Wilson and Hna Martinez and Hna Huerta all alongside me, a great feeling of gratitude arose within me as I felt of the merciful goodness of God in giving me such three lovely companions to know and love and have forever. Each of them are strength and goodness and steadfastness, and I am beginning to recognize how good God is in giving us relationships with people outside of our family that can extend and expand into the eternities, too. Hna Wilson and I have decided that we are going to be companions again (for the rest of the mission, preferably in Campeche) after we both finish training (because surprise — we had transfers yesterday. Hna Huerta and I are still celebrating the fact that we have six more weeks together in our little area of Mulsay). 

With the temple being the highlight of the week, the rest of the week didn't bring much change or progress for a lot of our investigators. While many things have yet to change and get better here, I came to realize this week that there are always little changes that happen within the daily threads of life and within the daily beatings of our heart — the types of small changes that shift a heart, open a mind, give eternal sight to mortal eyes. They are the small odds and ends of these changes that come together to make up a whole, better version of what was once there before. It is becoming more and more evident to me that this mission in changing me through the simplest and grandest ways, and this is because I am finally coming to the realization of all the things that I need to change or do in order to reach that eternal identity and potential that God in His goodness has given to each of us. There are so many small shifts in the universe that have changed me here — seeing the change in the prayers of Hno Alfonso. someone who used to have to read his prayers in order to say them because he was too worried and nervous to speak an unplanned prayer. And yet now, we listen to him every single lesson give a prayer that is more like a conversation with his Father. He really talks to God; really asks Him questions; really explains his soul. Sometimes he asks God to give him more faith so that he can understand and accept all that we are teaching him, and sometimes I think it is quite beautiful that this is his only request — to give him more faith. This humble father has changed the way I think of prayer and the way I think of talking to my Father. And then there is Hno. Mahonri and his wife, a young couple in the ward that don't live in our area, but always volunteer to accompany us to our lessons even though he is the second counselor in the bishopric, is studying at university and working, teaches night classes in the stake center, and has an eleven year old daughter to think of, too. They are incredible and have changed the way I think about my future. They have given me a vision of what it really means to live a good and successful life by showing me how much they love each other, how much they work together to accomplish the same goal, and how much they dedicate to the Church. They are the type of people that really live their faith, and I want to do that, too. 

I feel these words are inadequate in explaining the small changes that are really the grandest changes I have ever experienced or seen or felt in my life. They are changes brought about by these good people of the Yucatan that God has given so willingly, but most importantly, the changes brought about by our Heavenly Father. As much as I love to see the small shifts that are occurring in my heart because of the people here, my greatest hope is that God is the one that changes me the most, because I know it is only by His hand that we can return to the person we were designed to be and can become the person we are meant to be for the eternities. 

Thank you for being those people that have changed me and continue to do so — I love you wholly and look forward to the hope and knowledge that in one year from now (because yes, it has been six months in the mission now!) we will be together again. 

love always,