This week was pretty neat. Lots of people to teach, changes coming up, time moving too quickly, etc. You know, mission stuff. As far as investigators go, there hasn't been anything too interesting happening lately. We're just (as always) trying to get people to come to church.
Second best thing from this week: Our shopping spree. I had about $600 pesos left for the month this morning (the month ends tomorrow), so we decided to head down to the best of the best in stores down here: Wal-Mart. We just started throwing a ton of food in the basket, still being smart about our spending to get as much as possible, and we bought food for what looks like the next 2 weeks. We're gonna have some good eats in these coming days. I also stopped by Suburbia and bought some pretty neat ties for super cheap; about $16 (US) for both of them. Sometimes I absolutely love Mexico :D
Best part of this week: Stake Conference. I don't know if I mentioned this in my emails in the past few weeks, but we've been looking forward to stake conference for quite some time now. We were told it would be held in the chapel next to the temple in Mexico City, and we were absolutely ecstatic when President Egbert gave us permission to go. We wouldn't be allowed to go into the temple, but just being near it was good enough for us. We went to take some pictures up close by the front door, but the guard was all like, "WOAH! You can't go past this clearly opened gate to take photos!" and then proceeded to close the gate behind us as we walked down. If you don't want people up there, close the gate and save us all the awkwardness. We still got some pretty good photos from a bit further away, though.
It was rather interesting as we drove closer and closer to the temple in our bus; I continued anxiously looking for the Angel Moroni to peek through the tops of the buildings... and then I saw him; bright, golden, and absolutely beautiful. It had been far too long since I had seen that angel, and I was filled with a rather familiar peace that I had only really ever felt inside the temple. It made me think of the story in Mosiah, when King Benjamin constructed a tower on top of the temple to speak to all of the people in the city. Everyone came near with their families and planted their tents with the door facing the temple. I've always loved the way we can apply that story into our own lives, pointing ourselves and our families towards the temple and the sacred ordinances that lie within. We'll be filled with an everlasting and eternal peace as we make the constant effort to attend the temple and always live true to the principles we learn there. I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity I had to even be outside the temple. Don't take for granted the priviledge of having a temple close and not entering inside. There are plenty of people who would gladly trade places with you for even the opportunity to be outside the temple and just feel its atmosphere.
Iré y haré,
This week was just swell. We did lots of interchanges, so for two days I was working outside of my area helping bring up the success in others. In terms of numbers, it was pretty rough due to our lack of investigators at church, but hey, that's the mission life. Satan's been working hard with some of our more progressive investigators, but we are certainly NOT letting that get us down.
Fun story of the week: today. I wanted to be able to do something for Thanksgiving, so Elder Grajales and I planned a zone activity where each companionship would choose the companion who was from the more interesting country and then bring a traditional dish from said country to the chapel. We had a TON of food. Elder Grajales made Bonuelos, which are basically fried cheese balls typical in Colombia. Elder Johnson brought some Corn Dogs (they have EVERYTHING at WalMart here). Someone brought fried chicken, and Elder Gonzalez kept going back for more, saying, "¡Viva África!" Oh, Elder Gonzalez. Triste payaso.
So we ate a lot, and then we decided to play volleyball. I added the challenge that the last person to throw up won. Don't worry, no one threw up. I got a little bit fried, but I was on the side in direct sunlight. Not the best decision I've ever made... Either way, it was fun to be back in my element of the volleyball court and not feeling like an idiot on the fútbol field.
As mentioned above, Satan has been working pretty hard to get our investigators down this past week. Blanca (mentioned last week), who was super excited to keep learning about God, suddenly got swamped with night shifts at work, so we didn't see her for the entire week until last night, when she told us that her work is making her take some sort of medicine class every Sunday from 10 to 1 for the next three weeks. Those are the exact hours that we're at church! Satan in far too powerful. Elder Groesbeck is not amused. She still wants to learn more and has been reading in the Book of Mormon, but we have no idea what we're gonna do about her baptism. She has to be able to go to church to get baptized. Dumb work schedule=no church=no baptism. SUPER lame. We're going to visit her later tonight to make a plan, so we'll see what we can do.
As children of God, we've been given the marvelous gift of agency, the ability to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, better or worse. God cannot (ever) take our agency from us, although I would very much like Him to sometimes. Satan's goal is to get us to use our agency for worse and make us miserable like unto himself. Our goal as missionaries is to help God influence others to use their agency for good and find out just how happy it can make them. Unfortunately, despite our influences, people still have said agency and many have chosen not to read the Book of Mormon, not to pray, and not to go to church. Needless to say, this makes us and the Lord quite sad. Therefore, as a servant of the Lord, I plead with each and every one of you to use your agency for good. Study your scriptures, pray, and be spiritually nourished at church. You will see the blessings, and you will find true happiness. Then, and only then, can you be the best instrument for good in the hands of the Lord. Don't take your agency for granted. Use it for good. Iré y haré,
This week was pretty hectic. Apparently not only for us, but for the entire zone. Everyone dropped in their number of lessons, new investigators, and investigators at church. We're not sure what happened. It seemed like everyone who was interested suddenly dropped out of the game. For the two of us, we had tons of investigators cancel, members say they suddenly got busy and couldn't go out with us, and appointments fall through after traveling for 20 minutes to get to where they live. That's life, I suppose. Analyze, adapt, and keep going. Elder Grajales and I analyzed the results, adjusted our methods (the zone goals), and we'll continue looking forward with faith.
On a much brighter note, I had my first zone conference as a zone leader this past week, and it went swimmingly. We think someone robbed 3 of the tables that were supposedly in the chapel, so we had to adjust with some of the smaller ones, but other than that everything was good. Elder Grajales and I had a relatively short portion of a half hour to teach, and it went by super fast. I felt like we still had so much to talk about when we finished.
Highlight of this week: family home evening last night. Our investigator Blanca (yes, the one who's mother wants me to marry her) is progressing quite nicely. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to come to church on Sunday and we had to change her baptismal date, but she's super excited about everything we teach her. I don't remember what I've already expained about her, but she hasn't ever had a very firm belief in God or anything, and from the moment we started teaching her, she told us that for whatever reason, she decided to listen to us when she had rejected so many different missionaries (from other religions) before. One of the best parts is that she already understands the scriptures really well. Every time we have her read a scripture and tell us what she understands in it, she knows exactly what it means and then goes ahead and applies it to her own life. It's so awesome! During our family home evening on Sunday, she said, "I prayed for the first time last night, and I felt really good. I normally have nightmares, but I slept super well last night. I actually really like the way that you guys pray beause I can say what I feel, and it's not something memorized. I think I'm with you guys to be baptized on December 5th." I could have cried when she said that, but I held it in. We had to break it to her that her baptismal date had changed to the 19th due to her lack of attendance at church that morning, but she's still super excited.
It's really amazing how the Lord prepares people. Sometimes we really have no idea who can possibly be ready to receive the gospel. The Lord took this 18-year-old girl who had absolutely no beliefs in God, and opened her heart to the gospel. They're small miracles like a heartfelt comment from an investigator that can brighten our day, our hope, and our belief that God really does work with us in His work. Now we just have to keep going and find the Lord's other prepared children to share the gospel with as well, and everything will go super well here in Venta de Carpio.
Iré y haré,
It's been a pretty calm week this week. By that I mean there weren't any assaults. I've been carrying my flashlight taser in my hand every night, and there have been no signs of anything suspicious happening. Laaaaame.
On the bright side, I'm finally learning my area pretty well. We did divisions with some of the members of the ward the other night, and I didn't get lost! I have a pretty good idea of where the investigators live, I know how to get to the church, and no matter where I am in the area, I can always find my way home. Yay for knowing the area! Considering it took me about 7 weeks to really get to know my last area, I'd say a week and a half is pretty good time.
Strange story for the week: We have two investigators who are some of the best I've ever seen. Well, one is the best. Her mother may be a little tougher. They're both really receptive, accepted a baptismal date, and went to church on Sunday. We took a taxi back with them after church, and on the way, they asked us about what all we do on our missions. We explained that we're 100% dedicated to missionary work for these two years (we don't have jobs, we don't go to school, we don't go on dates, etc.), but when we get back, we start doing all of that stuff again.
"Ohh, okay," said Silvia (the mother). "So when you get back, you can start working (her finger pointed to me), and then get married (her finger moved to her daughter)."
"Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh.........*incredibly awkward chuckle*......" No further comment was made. My missionary mind isn't programmed to handle such comments combined with the body language indicating that I marry the daughter of an investigator. Does not compute.
All vicarious flirting aside, the two of them seem very progressive. Blanca (the daughter) didn't really have a firm belief in God or anything before we met her. Needless to say, this is extremely rare in a country like Mexico where 98% of the population is Catholic. When we visited them Sunday night, after the lesson, Blanca simply said, "I feel happy. I feel very happy. I think this is where I need to be. In this church." When she said that, I wanted to yell. Fortunately, I was able to refrain... Until we got on our bikes and were out of earshot. Ugh, it's so great to see people come to know the truth and power of the gospel.
As a zone leader, I have to be much more concerned about the wellbeing of others instead of my own success. Elder Grajales and I analyze the numbers of each of the companionships in our zone and assess what we all need to work on and what can change. Last week, for example, we decided to work on getting more new baptismal dates for our investigators. The zone was only having about 5 or 6 every week, so we set some zone goals for the week to improve. To make a long story short, last week the zone had 13 new dates. The last time that happened was the beginning of August, and before that, I can't find any other numbers higher. Needless to say, Elder Grajales and I are quite complacent with such immediate results. But we are most certainly not satisfied. We need to go higher. We set new zone goals this morning to get even more baptismal dates.
I thought about how that really can apply to us in our lives. All of us will face successes in our lives, and all of us will fall short sometimes. I am reminded of the talk by Elder Bednar "The Character of Christ". What Christ did at every moment of his ministry was turn outward when the natural man would turn inward. Elder Grajales and I have seen quite a few successes here in these two weeks in Venta de Carpio, and we've fallen short a few times, but our real mission and responsibility here as Zone Leaders is not worry so much about our success and turn outward to help our other missionaries. Sure, we have to worry about what we're doing here in our area just as Christ had quite a few people to visit in His earthly ministry, but really we need to help other people. As we turn outward to help others, we heal ourselves within and become more like Christ. A few weeks ago I believe I mentioned a Mormon Message entitled Lift. I invite everyone to watch it. It exemplifies perfectly what exactly turning outward to others does for ourselves within. These past two weeks as a zone leader have really helped me see the results of our efforts. I feel myself becoming a better missionary as I help others work and improve, and really we can and will become better people as we work and help others improve. As we express the infinite love and patience that the Savior always expressed to everyone, we help them and ourselves. May we develope said love and patience and always strive to express it to everyone. Friends. Family. Neighbors. Even complete strangers. We will be blessed.
Iré y haré,
Ugh. Best. Week. Ever. I'll start with the changes on Tuesday. Elder Gallegos is training, so I have my second grandson in the mission. His name is Elder Alder (another white grandson :D), and he seems quite nice. His Spanish was pretty good when he introduced himself in the changes meeting, so we'll see what he can do. Elder Gallegos is going to learn a LOT while training.
They didn't call out my changes until the very end, so all of the anxiety had pretty much left me. It turned into "can you just give me my changes now?" Usually I'm called out first, so it was just the opposite. I'm now the Zone Leader with Elder Grajales (from Columbia) of the Tecamac 1 zone. The majority of the mission is in Pachuca, but Tecamac 1 is one of the two zones that are in the state of Mexico. We're about 45 minutes outside of the heart of Mexico City (as well as the temple we can't go to; tamptation...), and it's SUPER LOCO out here! Like, I thought I knew what it was like to ride a bike like a Mexican, weaving in and out of traffic, but it was absolutely nothing compared to here. From day one, we were crossing highways, weaving through bumper to bumper traffic (I felt a little mean doing so, but we've got quite a bit of work to do), and kicking dogs at our heals. I think I'm going to die here... and I'm not talking about as a missionary.
I feel that I've accustomed pretty well to the life as a zone leader; its a lot easier being a zone leader than a district leader because I have a companion to share the duties with. I have time to cook at night and do lots of other stuff I haven't had time to do in the last 7 months! It's wonderful! The best part is that my first son, Elder Gonzalez, is a district leader here in Tecamac 1, and he's still training my first grandson, Elder Johnson. We're all gonna get together someday (with Elder Gallegos and his son) to take a big family picture. It's gonna be great.
Going back to the craziness of this area, that brings me to the highlight of the week. My companion has been pretty sick this past week (he got a pretty bad stomach infection from some flan he ate), so we've been rather limited with what we can do. Saturday night, however, we had a rather important appointment with a member reference that seemed to be very receptive when we met them, so Elder Grajales mustered up the strength to get going. The appointment wasn't until 8 in the evening, and it was raining a bit, so we set out on foot. There's a major highway that runs near our house, so we always take the big yellow bridge to get across it. As we walked, we conversed about the lesson we would have, making plans as to what we would teach and how we would do it. As we walked down the last ramp of the bridge, I saw that there were two gentlemen about to walk up, so I politely moved to the side behind Elder Grajales.
Upon doing so, one of said gentlemen somewhat gently but very firmly put his hand on the center of my chest and began to push me backwards. I wasn't sure what was happening, so when he said, "teléfono," I didn't understand him. He repeated the word, and I understood: We were being assaulted. I looked down and saw a flathead screwdriver in his hand and thought, "seriously...? Whatever." I took out our peanut cell phone, and when he saw it, he angrily scoffed and then said, "¡dinero!" My companion pulled out his wallet which contained 50 pesos, and in his panic took out his planner. The thieves immediately snatched both. They then turned to me and said again, "¡dinero!" I very calmly and very directly said, "No llevo dinero conmigo (I don't carry money with me)." Yeah, I lied (I repented later), but I wasn't about to give them the 200 pesos in my pocket. Looking back and thinking of previous stories of assaults I've heard here in Mexico, I'm rather surprised they didn't hurt us at all. Normally if you don't give them what they're looking for, they give you a nice jab in the stomache, and even when you do, they give you another one afterwards. Instead, after telling them I didn't have money, the thief with the screwdriver snatched the peanut I still had in my hand and they both got into a car and quickly drove away.
I realized something rather important afterwards as my companion continued to freak out a little bit: during the entire situation, I was unusually calm. It was as if the Holy Ghost was telling me personally and subconsciously that everything would be fine. I didn't even think of the potential consequences of telling the thieves that I didn't have any money. We went to the home of some members and used their phone to call President Egbert to tell him what happened, and that was that. We got a new phone the next day, I gave Elder Grajales the extra planner I had already prepared, and that was that. 50 pesos is worth like $3.50, so it really wasn't worth compaining about at all.
I started this blog post by saying it was the best week ever. "But Elder Groesbeck," you may be wondering, "how could it have possibly been the best week ever? Your companion was sick the whole week, and you got assaulted." I'm certainly glad you asked. It was the best week ever because I was able to learn so much from these experiences. Elder Grajales being sick gave me a lot of much needed time to organize the house (it was pretty bad when I got here) and study our area book. And the whole assault thing taught me that I need to carry Leticia (my flashlight tazer) with me in my hand whenever we go out after sunset. Yay for learning opportunities!
Another thing I've noticed especially here in the ward of Venta de Carpio is the way the member treat each other. Even before going to church on Sunday, I heard member after member (and even quite a few investigators) complaining about the way the other members talk/act, and for that reason, a rather large portion of the wards is less active or inactive all together. While the reason we go to church isn't for the people there, it is a really strong motivator for a lot of people to go there. It's a LOT harder to do something when you don't like the circumstances surrounding said thing. It's a lot harder to go to church and renew our covenants with our Heavenly Father when the people there make rude comments or say things offensive. The church is a grand hospital where we all go to be better. While some people understand that better than others, we need to do everything we can to not judge people for their problems, but to help them. When we help other people overcome their trials and errors, we will find it significantly easier to overcome our own and continue forward. That's what we do as missionaries, and that's why many apostles have said that there is a purifying affect in serving a mission. It isn't the mission that purifies us. It's the service that does so. When we turn outward and help others, we are automatically healed inward. I invite everyone to see the Mormon Message called Lift. It's absolutely beautiful. Let us not judge the world for it's inferiorities, but strive to always help it. When we do so, we will be true disciples of Jesus Christ. We will grow closer to Him, and He will grow closer to us. We will feel His Spirit more abundantly in our lives, and we will know that He not only loves us, but He loves all of His children. We will be instruments in His hands to help others to feel that very same love we feel as we do the things He would have us do. I can testify of that because I do it every day here in the mission field. What I do is help. Who I help are the people of Mexico. And how I help the people of Mexico is to feel the love of the Savior. When I do, I feel His love burning brighter and brigher within me. Go, do, and help. You won't regret it.
Iré y haré,
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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 :)