This week was similar to my shirt size: extra medium. We did interchanges with the Zone Leaders this week, and for the first time in my mission, I worked outside of Valle Dorado! I went off to Pithayas with Elder Carlson, and Elder Castro came here to work with Elder Gonzalez. I swear, it was the most disorganized day I've ever had. It seemed like we were just aimlessly running around the entire day! We didn't contact a single new person (the mission rule is 10 new contacts every day), and I wanted to learn from Elder Carlson to see if there was a more effective way to contact people... I didn't get to find out. Fortunately, Elder Gonzalez learned a lot from Elder Castro, so we've been working to apply said teachings.
Last week, due to the story of the exorcism, I was unable to write about Elder Bednar coming to the mission. It was simply amazing. We were all poised and positioned to take our mission picture with him, and we were just talking a little bit as we waited for him to arrive. As soon as he walked into the room, an immediate silence fell over everyone. Now THAT is power. He actually looks a lot older in person than he does in General Conference.
Anyways, we took the picture, and then I was super excited to play the prelude music for him. I got up to the piano and started playing, and President Egbert almost immediately walked up to me. He told me that Elder Bednar didn't want to wait until 9 (it was about 8:45) to get started; he just wanted to get going, so when Elder Vique got up, it was my cue to stop. As soon as I finished playing that first verse of the first hymn, Elder Vique stood up. You cannot even imagine my disappointment. I expecting to be able to play the piano for an apostle of the Lord for a good 20 minutes, and I got to play one verse of one hymn! I didn't even get to show off. Hmph.
Fortunately, his "talk" made up for it. I put talk in quotes because it was effectively a giant Q&A between us and him. First, he asked us what some of the things we learned were, and I answered mainly so that he would talk to me for a little bit. I don't even remember what I said, but I remember thinking for the next 5-ish minutes, "Oh my gosh... An apostle of the Lord is talking to me... This is awesome!"
Then Elder Bednar opened up the discussion to questions from us. He gave us an example of a good and a bad question. The bad question was, "Elder Bednar, where's the sword of Laban?" His response: "I don't know, and I don't care." There were two questions that really caught my attention. One was asked by Elder Clark. He was an assistant last cycle, and he's training for his last two cycles in the mission. He asked how we could better understand the Atonement and apply it in our lives.
I'll be paraphrasing here, but I'll put it in quotes: "That's an excellent question, and the answer will take you a lifetime. First, take a Book of Mormon. Just a cheap copy that the missionaries use. I'm rather confident you can find one of those. Then, read it cover to cover and mark any scripture that talks about or mentions the Atonement. When you finish, write on a sheet of paper a one page paper on what you learned about the Atonement as you read the Book of Mormon. Then put that Book of Mormon on a shelf... and do it again with the same one-page paper at the end. When you've done this a few times, you can look back and read your one-page summaries and see the difference in your understanding of the Atonement. You can do this with any principle of the gospel, and when you get to be my age, you'll have several copies of the Book of Mormon with different labels on the spine about a wide variety of gospel subjects."
It may take a while to do, but I completely agree with Elder Bednar; the best way to learn anything is poco a poco; line upon line, precept upon precept.
The second question was asked by Hermana Cardona, who was a sister trainer leader trainer (we call them las asistentas). She asked how we can know the things we need to improve upon to be better missionaries and better people in general.
Once again, paraphrasing in quotes: "Do you really want to know the answer to that question? I draw your attention to Moroni 10:5, a verse many people know. 'And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.' All things includes ourselves. As human beings, we put up walls in our minds that prevent us from seeing into the deepest, darkest corners of ourselves. We don't let ourselves see us as we truly are. This is something you should never do casually, but something you should do at some point in your lives. You can pray to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ to have the Holy Ghost allow you to see yourself as you truly are, and you will be shocked. You will know completely, wholely, and bluntly the things you need to do better, and you can proceed to find the way to do them better. Now, as I said, you should not do this casually, but it should be done at some point in your lives. And the Holy Ghost will tell you the truth; that's his job."
Woah... I have to think long and hard about that little bit of council. I want to do it, but I don't want to do it at the wrong time in my life. I know I need to improve, and I know a few of the ways in which I can be better, but I don't know if I want to know all of them just yet. I suppose that's the key to life, though. Figuring out what we need to improve upon or change and then going to work to do so. That's the purpose of the mission: change the lives of other people as well as our own. Poco a poco, I'll continue changing, maturing, and improving, and above all, iré y haré.
There's no Q&A this week
Okayokayokay! So much to say and absolutely not time to say it! I'm just gonna jump right into it and not mess around with the fluffy stuff. This week was absolutely INSANE! Okay, we're gonna jump back to Tuesday to start this one off. I'll be telling this in story-book fashion, because I'm really not sure if there's any other way to do this.
We went and visited Emily, Giovani, and Filipa (our investigators of gold) earlier that day, and everything was totally fine and normal. Later that evening, we visited an investigator named Viviana who lives in front of Emily and her family, and she told us about how apparently earlier that day, Filipa gave Emily a shot of medication, and she began acting very strange. She became dazed and confused, and after a while, her eyes closed, her voice dropped to that of a man, and she began muttering uninteligible words that no one understood. The family believed it to be evil spirits, and they've apparently had a history of evil spirits doing crazy stuff in their house, and Elder Gonzalez and I have had to bless it for them.
Needless to say, upon hearing this story, we were rather concerned, so after the lesson with Viviana, we went across the street to make sure everything was okay. Emily came out and looked a little weak, but normal (as in, her voice was normal). We asked if there was anything we could do, and she asked for a blessing. I gave the last blessing someone had asked for, so it was Elder Gonzalez's turn. We weren't entirely sure of the whole situation, but he just gave a pretty standard blessing of comfort. Upon saying "amen", Emily's eyes didn't open...
"Emily? Emily?" Giovani said a few times. Then he jumped into action as if this happens all the time! He grabbed some rubbing alcohol, put it on his hand, and held it in front of her face in an attempt to wake her up. Upon smelling the alcohol, Emily stirred. Her voice then dropped to that of a man, and she mutter words that neither I nor Elder Gonzalez understood. Giovani knew what was happening and immediately grabbed her arms from behind her chair to restrain her.
In the midst of this struggle, Emily appeared to have a large ammount of strength beyond her own, and she actually broke the chair she was sitting in. So the struggle moved to the floor as Emily's brother came out to help restrain her as well, and Filipa began rubbing alcohol all over her body. Eventually Emily's voice returned to normal, and she began saying, "it burns! It burns!" in regards to the rubbing alcohol.
Meanwhile, up against the wall, Elder Gonzalez and I were in complete and utter shock. Elder Gonzalez told me afterwards that he was thinking, "Okay, Elder Groesbeck is going to say something smart and save us!" He then proceeded to look over at me, see my mouth gaping wide open, and think, "Aw, crap..." I had absolutely no idea what to do! Or what I could do, for that matter. I asked Giovani if he needed us to help, and he just told us to pray. Two steps ahead of you on that one, Giovani.
As they continued to try to calm Emily down as well as keep her awake, the clock eventually turned to 9:30. For those of you unfamiliar with missionary rules, we have to be in our house by 9:30, but how in the flip were we supposed to tell Giovani we had to leave!? When I felt that Emily had calmed down sufficiently, I subtly reached down and picked up my bag. Giovani saw, got the hint, and walked us out. We told him we'd talk to the bishop and President about this, because we'd never encountered anything like it, and he said that sounded great.
The bishop lives 3 houses over from us, so we got home and banged on his door. He wasn't home! We told his son to send him to our house when he got back because we needed to talk to him... ASAP.
Eventually he came over and we explained what happened. He told us that the only way a spirit could possibly enter/possess a body is if we permit it (which I wholeheartedly agree with), so he just shook it off and said it was probably just epilepsy. SERIOUSLY!? I'm not familiar with epilepsy, but I really don't think that was it... We decided to talk to president.
He was able to call us the next evening, and we explained the situation to him. "Well," he said, "those certainly are the signs of someone with a spirit within them." He's apparently done this a few times in his career as a mission president. "What you need to do is find our more information to see if she's ever worshipped the Holy Death or anything like that to make sure it's an evil spirit, and if it comes down to it, you may have to ask, 'Emily, is there an evil spirit inhabiting your body right now?' And if there is an evil spirit, it will likely manifest itself in that moment and potentially take over her body. If/when that happens, all you need to do is place your hands over her head, and by the authority of the Melchezedik Priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ, you command that spirit to leave, and it has to leave. It doesn't have a choice. Elders, there's something very important that you need to know about this entire situation. You need to be very direct in the questions you ask. And you must be fearless. You have the power of God with you, so you must keep that in mind and be absolutely fearless."
And so, on Saturday, we went over. We asked them a very simple question of how they think this all went down, and Emily began to talk for a good 40 minutes about the situation, when it started, all of the crazy weird black and white magic things they've done to try to get rid of them, and lots of other things that have absolutely nothing to do with church doctrine. I was only getting about half of what she was saying (the vocabulary was lost to me), so I really wasn't sure how to respond to that. Then, my son jumped into action. He stopped Emily, and said, "All right, let's get something straight here. We're going to be extremely direct with you because that's the only way we can be with things of these matters. The only way that Satan or any of his minions can have power over any human being is if we give them that power. There are two types of power in this world: The power of God, and the power of the Devil. The only church on the face of this planet that holds the power of God is the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints, and all of this other black and white magic stuff that you've been doing is not the power of God. Therefore, if it has any power at all, it is of the devil, so all of that has to stop now."
He then turned to me, and I added to his testimony. "I have more of the authority and power of God in my finger than the Pope of the Catholic Church has in his whole body!" Very direct, but it needed to be said. "The two of us possess this authority, and so the only thing we need to do is command that spirit to leave by the authority of the priesthood (which we had already explained to them), and it has to leave."
Then Elder Gonzalez began again. "Right now, we're going to ask a very simple, but direct question, and when we ask it, if this is an evil spirit, it's going to manifest itself. So Filipa, if you want to take the children into the other room and go get Daniel to help us, that would proabably be for the best." As Filipa did as instructed, Elder Gonzalez turned to me and asked if I wanted to ask the question. No. Just no. I told him I'd command the spirit to leave if it came down to that, but I didn't want to ask the question. He agreed.
When everyone was ready, Elder Gonzalez looked Emily right in the eyes (that's my boy) and said, "Emily, do you have an evil spirit inhabitting your body right now?"
The silence that followed seemed to last an eternity. I feared two things: 1) that the question wouldn't work, and 2) that the question would work. Emily continued to stare at Elder Gonzalez for a few seconds... and then her eyes closed. She remained silent, but began breathing very deeply as she had the other night. In that moment, and wave of emotion that I can only describe as the perfect mixture of courage and righteous anger came over me. My gaze remained fixed on Emily, and I said, "Emily, is there an evil spirit inhabitting your body right now?" Continued heavy breathing. "Answer the question!"
In the voice of a man, Emily muttered some uninteligible words, answering the question. "Okay, Giovani and Daniel, all we need to do now is place our hands over her head and tell it to leave, but the two of you need to restrain her." They did as instructed as Elder Gonzalez and I stepped forward, placed our hands on her head, and I began to speak, not knowing what to say beforehand. The words for some reason came out in English rather than Spanish, and I said something to the effect of, "By the authority of the holy Melchezedik Priesthood of God which we hold, we place our hands over the head of this woman and command any evil spirits that inhabit her body to leave now, and we do so in the sacred and holy name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen."
Upon saying the word "amen", Emily immediately ceased struggling. Daniel and Giovani kept their grip firm for a little bit longer just in case while I went to get Emily some water. She was a little weak and tired, but she was okay. We told them that the spirit was gone, and if they don't let it come back, it won't. If they ever think they start to feel its presence, they only need to say a prayer and ask the comfort of the Lord, and everything will be fine. They don't need to do anything else at all. We effectively then said, "All right. We'll see you at church tomorrow." and left, feeling more empowered than we ever had in our entire lives.
Like Joseph Smith, I'm really not sure I would believe the story myself if I had not experienced it, but I know that it did happen, and it has strengthened my testimony of the divine authority of God that we posess in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the importance of being worthy to hold said authority at all times, and in all things, and in all places. You never know when you will be called upon to act, and you need to be ready for anything in life. I know that this is the true church of God, and although slightly shaken up by the experience, my testimony has never been firmer. I testify of the divine power of God and how infinitely times greater it is than anything the Devil can do, and with said power, iré y haré.
Q&A with Elder Groesbeck (questions by Mike Nixon)
1.What do missionaries consider to be "fancy food" in your area (e.g., in Ukraine it was McDonalds)?
There aren't really restaurants that would be considered "fancy", but whenever the members make us tacos with some of the really special kinds of meats (whose names I can't remember for the life of me), it's always a pretty sweet meal.
2. What is the craziest food you have eaten?
I really haven't eaten anything crazy since I've been down here. It's a little disappointing... I would probably have to say Chicharron, which is basically just fried pig skin. It's actually pretty good.
3.What do you miss most about Texas?
I miss steak... Like, I really just need a nice juicy steak right now. That and shredded cheese. You can only find that at WalMart down here, and it's one of those unspoken heroes that no one notices until it's gone.
4.What is the most accurate stereotype of Mexico?
Definitely the things you see about a ton of people being crammed into the back of a truck. We see that ALL the time down here.
5. What is the rudest thing someone has said to you?
Apparently the husband of a woman who let us in began saying a bunch of swear words at us (my companion told me later because I didn't understand) because he thought we were Jehova's Witness.
6. What is the coolest place you have been to (beautiful view, historical site,etc)?
I haven't been to Teotihuacan yet (aztec pyramids), but there are actually some pretty cool spots in our area where you can see all of Pachuca. Needless to say, it's a little tough to bike up there, but it's totally worth it to look down. I'll see if I can get some photos later.
7. What is the furthest you have walked in one day?
We ride bikes, so I haven't walked a whole lot since I was in a trio back in cycle number 2. Our area is relatively small, though, so we never have to travel very far to get anywhere.
8. What do you do for exercise every morning - are you benching over 300 lbs yet?
We don't have a bench press, so for all I know, yes. I do. I normally do a pretty good balance of abs/arms, getting my legs whenever we ride out.
9. Any run-ins with corrupt police/gangs/drug lords?
Not yet... A few run ins with drunk people, but we're usually pretty good at avoiding them (it's not really that hard)
10. When and where was the last time you experienced air conditioning?
Supposedly there's air conditioning in the chapel, but I really don't think it works. Therefore, it's been 4 and a half months (since the MTC).
This week was actually pretty neat. We got the 40 lesson goal again, and we were able to serve a ton of people. We found a less-active youth that actually really likes to come out with the missionaries, and when we bring a less-active with us, every lesson with investigators counts as double. He came out with us twice this week, so we hit the goal rather easily.
I must admit, though, Saturday) was a little rough. I've never in my life faced so much rejection from people; "No, that doesn't interest me," "I already know what your message is," "I don't agree with a lot of your beliefs," etc. I was starting to get a little downhearted towards the end, until we knocked on this one door in the middle of some dirt road in our area. A girl about 9 or 10 came out asking who we were, so we told her and she ran for her father. Her father came out and said he already knew a lot about what we shared. I asked if we could answer any questions he had at that moment, but he said they were busy doing something in the kitchen. We then asked the classic question, "Oh, can we help you with anything?" Upon responding with a firm no, his daughter looked at him and simply said, "awwww..." because she clearly wanted help. Although this was another rejection, I couldn't help but laugh and have my spirits lifted by this little girl.
Then we knocked on the next door. A rather muscular and intimidating-looking man answered the door, and with an unusually warm smile on his face, he said, "buenas tardes, ¿cómo están?" We responded with "bien" and proceeded to tell him that we were missionaries. We didn't even have time to say that we share a message of Jesus Christ before he invited us inside. Upon walking through his front yard, we met his brother and niece, and we asked them if they have ever spoken with missionaries before. "Oh," he said. "We're all members here." Needless to say, I felt like a moron. In my defense, they had been less active for a little while, but still.
Anyways, the entire family was really nice (some of the nicest people I've ever met, actually), and they've officially been added to the list of the people who are absolutely amazed by my Spanish abilities having so little time in the mission. Once again, I attributed it to the fact that I pray for the gift of tongues every night.
This evening, we're taking care of two of the new missionaries, and we'll be doing divisions for Elder Gonzalez's first time (I'm so proud :') ). I'm rather excited, but nervous at the same time, because I'll be going to a few do-or-die lessons with a new missionary who doesn't know anything about the situation. This will be an evening filled with following the spirit to know what it wants me to say to our investigators. If there's anything I've learned from my time out here in the mission field, it's that following the spirit is the only thing to missionary work. There have been a few lessons where for whatever reason, I wasn't feeling the Spirit, and my tongue was completely bound; my Spanish just wouldn't come out. I'm sincerely hoping that doesn't happen tonight. Either way, iré y haré.
Q&A With Elder Groesbeck there is none.
Well this week was pretty neat. We didn't quite reach the 40-lesson goal because Tuesday was awful (as usual), and we painted a house on Friday, missing most of the day. I figured we were doing a pretty good service project, and it was for potentially-progressive investigators, so it was a good reason to miss a few hours of proselyting. We'll have to see how things go with them.On the MUCH brighter side, we had 3 investigators in church today! Emily and her mother were two of them, and I think they're actually going to get baptized. I think I mentioned something about her in my last post, but I'll give a quick rundown here: Emily is someone the sisters in our area were supposedly teaching. Her husband is less active, but their entire family is really interested and receptive to us. I have no clue what the sisters were doing in here before, but as soon as we started teaching their family, they accepted every invitation we offered. We had to wait to put a date on her because her work prevents her from going to church every other week, but we have everything worked out for her to be baptized the 13th of June. We're still working on putting a date on Emily's mother (she wants to be sure first), but that will come with time and a little help from the Spirit.
The one thing I'm not particularly fond of in that family is that Emily is almost ALWAYS breast-feedign her daughter. In the middle of the lesson, her daughter will come up and be like, "¡pecho!" which means "chest", and I can only think, "Oh, no..." In the middle of church, Emily's daughter turned to her mother and said, "¡Pecho!" "Oh please, no," I thought, but it was too late. Yep. In the middle of church. According to Elder Hixon, that's really common in the pueblos, but I wasn't expecting to ever have to see it here in the city. *full body shudder*
Okay, super funny story of the week. I wrote last week about the lady who always said, "Sí, güero," after everything I said. This week, we went to visit her again, and upon knocking on her door, a man a little ways up the street said, "There's no one there. Who are you looking for?" We came to find out that Isabel was in the hospital for something and that this man was her son who lived right across the street. Towards the end of the conversation, I asked him if we could come visit him in his home sometime, to which he responded, "sí, güero." I just about busted out laughing! The two of them are the only two people I've ever heard straight up just call me Güero, and they're related. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, I suppose, but it will be interesting as we continue teaching them.
This week I had a bit of revelation come to me in my studies in the morning, but I didn't know it until we got into a lesson later in the afternoon. I was marking up my Bible with the scriptures in Preach my Gospel, and I found one on repentance about Godly sorrow moving us to repentence. I thought, "Oo, that's a good scripture! I'll mark that one!" So I did, and thought nothing more of it. About an hour later, we went and visited Emily and her family, and upon asking her if she had read, she began to cry and tell us that she had had some doubts about what we taught in the Plan of Salvation and therefore didn't want to read. She was crying because she felt absolutely horrible for thinking that way, and suddenly the scripture I found came to my mind. Needless to say, I shared it with them. I explained that Godly sorrow is the only good kind of sorrow, and it moves us to the happiest feelings of relieve and happiness that we can every possibly feel in this life: repentance. When we feel bad for doing things contrary to what God would have, we are able to feel that Godly sorrow, and it always should move us to repentance. This repentance relieves us of the burden of sin and is the key to our eternal happiness. Repentance isn't part of the Plan of Happiness that God has for us. It is the Plan of Happiness. I testify that God knows what is best for us, even if we think and/or act otherwise, and we always provides the way to return to the realization of what is right and what we need to change. I testify of the power of revelation when we are doing the right things, even if we don't realize it at the time. That scripture and testimony I shared with Emily was exactly what she needed to hear, and it strengthened the testimonies of everyone in the room as the Spirit bore my testimony into their hearts. It was truly a remarkable experience and one I don't plan on forgetting any time soon. I can only hope I have more of those to come.
Iré y haré,
Q&A with Elder Groesbeck questions by Mark Groesbeck (again)
1. what is the average speed of an elder running away from a Chihuahua?
They normally only chase us on bikes, so I'd say a good 15 miles per hour.
2. What direction are you going if you take 3 left turns followed by 1 right turn?
The opposite direction
3.What is the most popular breed of dog in Mexico (in US its Labrador)
Probably a chihuahua; there are dogs of all types down here, but that one is probably the most common.
4. What is the most popular color car in the Mexico (In US its black or white)
Down here there's a bit of everything, and I haven't really taken note of their colors...
5. What is the most popular fast food chain? (In US based on sales numbers is McDonalds then subway)
They actually don't have a whole lot (if any) fast food down here. I haven't seen a single McDonalds, Burger King, Chik-fil-A or anything.
6. How many days in a row do you wear the same white shirt?
Usually like 2; it depends on how hot it was during the day or if I got a stain on my shirt.
7. How many tamales would you eat to gain an interested investigator? Interested?
Like 4, because most people are usually at least a little bit interested. Now for a progressive investigator who's going to get baptized, how many tamales do you have for me to eat?
8. How do you stay hydrated during the day?
Literally in every single house we enter, they offer us a glass of water. Hydration isn't a problem.
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This blog is edited by Elder Groesbeck's amazing, beautiful, younger sister Aubrie. I will post any update I get. Enjoy :)