Hello Family and Friends!
It seems like everytime I enter a new area, I have more impressions of Mexico. So here it goes. Enjoy!
1) First of all, I am going to have SUPER buff legs after my time here in Tepalcingo. Basically the entire pueblo is built into a hillside. Elder Nielsen + steep, constant inclines + unimaginable heat = Death.
2) So a few interesting experiences with dogs this week. We were teaching a family outside of their house and during the lesson, their dog goes out and stands right outside of their fence in the front yard, and starts to howl at the moon. Literally, howl. I had never seen that before. Also, as we were walking down the hill one day, another dog was running up in the different direction with a full, straight-up dead squirrel in his mouth.
3) My companion told me that there is a fun rumor going around Tepalcingo that Americans like to steal their children, take them to the United States, and kill them. All I could say when he told me that was, "Oh..."
4) We were eating in a restaurant that one of the members in the branch owns. On the wall, there were two pictures of temples, and in the center, a prominently placed painting of the Virgin Guadalupe. HELLO PEOPLE. This also reminded me of another Elder that I saw that was wearing a rosary. HELLO PEOPLE.
5) I have come to find out in Mexico that toilet seats are completely optional. Like, there is a 50/50 chance that the toilet will have one. I lost out in my current apartment.
6) When I was waiting in the bus terminal to travel to Tepalcingo (it is about an hour bus ride from here to Cuautla) this lady that had underwear on the outside of her pants came up behind me, pointed her finger at me, and started yelling at me. I swear that it was not Spanish though. It was her own language.
So there you go! Some more impressions from south of the border.
So, Tepalcingo. Tepalcingo is a branch. A very, very, tiny branch. Like, in Sacrament meeting this week, we had an attendance of 39 (including us and the babies). The city is overwhelmingly Catholic and I have come to find out that this is one of the areas in the mission that nobody wants to go. That makes me even more excited to work here! Something interesting though is that, our tiny little branch has a brand new chapel that was built here three years ago, that is the size of a Stake Center. 39 people. Stake Center. The Member of the Quorom of the 70s that dedicated the building said that one day there would be Stake in Zion in this area. We will see!
I just want to tell you all once again (and every week for that matter), that I love you. I love the chance that God has given me to serve him and his children that he knows and loves here in Mexico. I have found that smaller and simpler things make me happier than they would have before. For example, this week we were walking back to our apartment and this man stops us in the street and told me that his son wanted to talk with me in English. I bended down to his level and started talking with him. We had a short little conversation and parted. I do not know why, but I remember feeling so happy in this moment. I felt happy, because the little boy was happy and smiling and so excited to talk. I am starting to learn to be happy and find joy in day to day experiences and little successes that I receive from the hand of God. I was reading a conference talk this week by President Uchtdorf and he said something that really struck me. He said that he could not imagine the Savior, during his ministry here on the Earth running around with his "To-Do List", checking it off as he went a long. He said that the Savior lived every day purposefully. Every day had meaning. Every moment had value. That is how I want to live my life. Despite the circumstances, despite the trial, despite the moment, I want to find meaning. I want to look back on my life when I am old and know that I did all I could do to help others and grow into the man God wanted me to become. We are so blessed. Being here has made me realize how blessed I am. We have so much to give to others. We need to give. And what a better gift than the gospel of Jesus Christ? What a better gift than the knowledge that God is with us. He is all around us. And that he is in everything. And that he loves us. That there is life after death. That there is meaning in how we live our lives. And that there is a Savior and Redeemer of our souls that knows exactly how to comfort and help us. I guess I knew these things intellectually my entire life, but, being a missionary has allowed me to feel the truth of these things stronger and stronger every day.
So, become converted. Do what you have to do to both know in your minds and feel in your hearts that the message of Christ is true. That he lived for us, suffered for us, died for us, and was resurrected for us. And that only through him can we find happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
I love you all! Things here are hard and I would lie if I said I am not discouraged at times. But then I think about what I know and the message I have to offer and I get excited again! God loves us. Look out, and look up!