Monday, September 10, 2012

Hello family and friends!

Well...I have completed my first week in Mexico and I have a lot to say and share so bear with me!

I guess I will start with fun facts and funny observations.

1. Sometimes if we are tired and/or late for an appointment, we take taxi rides. The best way I can describe a taxi ride in Mexico is as follows: Imagine that you are at Disneyland. Now imagine that you are on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Now you know what they are like. I play the music that goes with that ride in my head whenever we are in a taxi. It is literally SO scary. There are people walking everywhere, cars everywhere, and the streets are super narrow and I am pretty sure that they do not have traffic signals. So yeah. I need to be pretty careful as I am walking around.
2. Sometimes I do not know if the Mexican people know what they are wearing. Case in point, we went to visit the relief society president and she was wearing a shirt that said SEXY across the chest. I was super confused.
3. We have two dogs at our apartment (we live upstairs from a couple that are members of the church) and their names are Luna and Estrella (Moon and Star). I really like them. They are the dirtiest dogs that I have ever seen but they are always excited to see me.
4. Okay. Legitimately. It is SO hot here. Like, SO hot. The members frequently comment on how much I sweat. I literally feel sometimes like I am sweating from every pore (?). So the first thing they do whenever we enter their houses is point their fans directly at my face and say ¿Quiere agua?
5. Oftentimes the only word I can pick up in conversations is "Gringo".
6. You have to be careful when people offer you water here because water can mean two things. Either pure water or water mixed with some type of fruit juice. I have been deceived many a time.
7. Mexican children are SO cute. Especially when I can understand what they are saying in Spanish.
8. I have learned the importance of body language here. Since I can not really understand what people are saying a lot of the time, smiles, laughing, and feelings of love go a long way.
9. People ride around the streets with little carts announcing over a loud speaker what they are selling (tamales, pan, tortillas, etc.)
10. Dogs are everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
11. So far the food that I have tried has all been really good. No complaints and nothing weird. But it is only the beginning.

So. Area and living conditions. I am living in a larger city called Iguala but our specific area is Tamarindos. I guess it is considered middle class Mexico but compared to the United States, the living conditions for people are pretty poor. It is actually really eye opening sometimes. The people are so happy, so content and hospitable (way more than the U.S.), yet they have so much less and have so many more trials when it comes to living. Our apartment includes two rooms and a bathroom that are not connected. A word about bathrooms in Mexico, everything is in the same rooms without dividers. So toilet, shower, and sink are all next to each other. Interesting. It is stinking hot in our apartment but we each have a fan that we point at are faces whenever we are there so it is ok! The members feed us everyday like clockwork. And when the members feed you...they FEED YOU. You are not allowed to leave unless you have at least two helpings. They just keep piling it on. And they never believe you when you say you are full.

Investigators and missionary work. Okay. So due to both safety concerns and inspiration by the first presidency. All the missions in Mexico are no longer allowed to street contact or knock on doors. Like none. We can only work through members to find people to teach. Naturally then, this has made finding new people to teach very difficult because the members are very hesitant to work with the missionaries. So most of every day we spend time with the members, getting to know them, building trust, and trying to move the work along. But we do have two investigators right now that are progressing.
1) Lizeth: Is a young single mother that had been investigating the church before I got here. She is very interested. She has attended church four times in a row because she is very good friends with a member family and is reading the Book of Mormon. She has agreed to be baptized on the 22!
2) Francisco: We met Francisco when we were coming back to meet with his mother who initially expressed interest. He is 19 and does not really have any religious backround. We taught him the first lesson yesterday and he agreed to baptism if he feels that the church is true on the 23.

My companion/trainer is Elder Miguel. He is a native of Mexico and knows very little English so sometimes communication is a pretty big barrier but I am working on it. I know I will look back on this experience and thank Heavenly Father for it but right now it is very difficult, I am not going to lie. I usually can not get the gist of what people are saying so I end up just sitting back. I was starting to have doubts about why I was here and what my purpose was for being here. I just felt like a drag and not effective at all because I can not communicate. With these thoughts came uncharitable thoughts for my area, the people, etc. During my prayers I started praying for charity. I started praying that even though I could not understand what people were saying that I would be able to love them. Today, as we were driving home from playing volleyball with some elders and sisters in my zone, I got my answer. I saw this old lady pushing this cart. And that feeling of love and charity came to me. It was pretty overwhelming. I started to tear up. Because I thought, this life is not just hard for me, it is hard for everyone. Everyone is struggling but they just keep walking. They keep pushing. They keep trying because life is also pretty joyful sometimes. I know one day that I will wake up and be able to understand and communicate. I know God knows me and he knows that I am doing my part to learn it. I am so blessed. Even though I am hot, tired, sweaty, and feel like nothing is happening sometimes, I know that he cares about me deeply and that he did not send me out here to fail.

Ultimately, I love you all. I think about you and hope that you are doing well. That you are enjoying life. That you are thinking about others. I am a first hand witness to how miserable life can be when you only think about yourself. It is not fun at all. So my goal this week is to serve someone whenever I start thinking about myself and complaining. I am restarting the Book of Mormon as well. I find such love and power in the scriptures. If you are not reading them everyday, start! Just do it! We can find so much power and strength and guidance by reading them. They truly are my friends and I am recharged when I read them. Prayer, prayer is so vital. He cares about you. He is there. He loves you. But must importantly, think about the Savior. Read about the Savior. Study his life and thank God everyday that he sent his son to this earth to save and redeem us and to heal us. Without Christ, this life would be meaningless. Do the simple things and life will improve. I promise.

I love you all. You mean a lot to me. I am going to keep walking and keep trying and give everything I have. And I am not afraid because I have some very important people walking with me. My God. My constant companion the Holy Ghost. And my Savior Jesus Christ. They are walking in front of me and behind me, on my right and on my left. They give me the strength to keep going.

Sorry this is long. It is a lot but I had a lot to share. Write me! I find strength in your letters. And thank you for all your thoughts and words.

Elder Nielsen

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