Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28th 2011

Well, this week was another successful week in San Cristobal. A young lady from Oxchuc got married and baptized this week, which was such a special experience. She had been trying to get married so she could be baptized since December, so that was wonderful to finally see things come together. The water was cold, there were only a few people there, but the spirit was very strong.

Two investigators are nearly to their baptismal dates and are so strong: Fili and Aremi. I believe I have mentioned a little bit about each of them, but they are both young, and a single man or woman (respectively) who have strong desires to follow Christ. They both came to Church yesterday, and slowly but surely their doubts and concerns are being replaced with faith and hope. I am so excited for them. And we are having wonderful experiences finding people! Whenever we go knocking on doors, we seem to find a couple of people who we can teach right there and who the Lord has been preparing. It is a wonderful thing to see.

One day, as we were traveling to Oxchuc, something interesting happened. A little pueblito in between the two created a ¨blockeo¨ or to say put up blockades and wouldnt let anyone pass. Apparently this is somewhat common for little towns to do this and make a statement...calling out for more roads to their town or something of the sort. So as we were traveling the normal route, we ended up getting out of our Combe--the bus-- after just 45 minutes. We walked for 30 min. or something to cross over the town that was sort of on strike, and then persuaded someone on the other side to drive us to Oxchuc the last 30 minute drive or so. These mountains roads were backed up as if they were NYC roads or something! It was insane to see, but luckily--since it was on the day of the baptism--it got cleared up in time for us and Irma to get to the Church back in San Cristobal in time.

Also, random note: a lot of people keep dogs on their roofs here, and sometimes it scares the daylights out of me when they look like they will jump off and eat me. Haha, but that keeps us on our toes. Also, It continues to be strange to get people looking and looking at us every day--especially in Oxchuc--wondering what on earth we are doing in Mexico. But, again, it often leads to good finding opportunities!

I still have random moments where it hits me again, that I am in a town in Mexico being a missionary! But, I do know that the Lord wants me here. I feel our Savior´s love for us as I teach with my companion (speaking of which, he is awesome, and I have truly learned about caring for the needs of our investigators from him...and much more) , testifying to people I do not know well that there is a way back into our Heavenly Father´s presence. There is a plan. I am constantly amazed at how much God loves us; even sometimes when we are teaching people who obviously haven´t been following what He wants, I can feel how much God loves those children of His. I know that we all can attain peace and happiness in this life, but more in the life to come as we follow and embrace the path our Father has set for us.

Next week, I will probably be in a new area, which saddens me, because I really want to see our investigators continue making the progress that they are. But, it is all so exciting!

Much love,
Elder Palmer

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21st, 2011

Wow! I feel like I just wrote yesterday...the weeks go by really fast here. Things are going great! Todays letter isn't going to be very long though, because I don't have much time. To start off with, we are having much success finding and teaching people...literally running from lesson to lesson often times, in order to be punctual...even though is not really a huge part of the culture here. We had a special baptism of a little 10 year old boy this past week, and his parents are gaining more and more respect for the church.

I just want to share a few experiences. The other day, I was on exchanges in another part of San Cristobal (I didn't end up going to the crazy Tzotzil area, just my companion did), with two American and the other native. We were standing at the corner of the street waiting for a combe (a little white van that can take you around), when suddenly a car that was driving towards us kind of swerves a little bit and parks right next to us. This lady, looking rather frantic and honestly a little insane, started walking over to us. Almost as if she was crying she first asked us if we spoke English, and two of us said yes, and then she said, "How can I find God? How can I FEEL him???!" With a lot of emotion. She kept on asking different questions like this, and then we began to simply testify and basically teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Come to find out, she is a Mexican who teaches english, prefers to speak it two, and had tried to commit suicide multiple times, one of those being last week. We walked down to her house and talked and taught her. At one point she says, "Okay! What do I need to do to fill this emptiness I have and know what you know?" We taught about prayer, and she told us she wanted to do it right there. We knelt in simple prayer, and she poured her heart out to a God she didn't know exists. I felt, and can feel as i contemplate this experience, how much God loves her and all of us. She felt it too. They will continue to teach her, and I am confident that her broken heart and contrite spirit will embrace the Gospel fulheartedly.

In Oxchuc, one of our investigators is finally getting married this tuesday, and will be baptized this saturday after! It is wonderful to see individuals make progress through their respective challenges. Oxchuc is like a different world really. All of the people look at me and my companion as if they have never seen a white person before, pointing and whispering a lot. It feels kind of weird to be the minority in that respect. Sometimes, I will be walking around and see some chickens or cows or horses in the road and think, "I am in a little town in Mexico. What is going on!" Haha. But really, I am growing to love the culture here. A few other little side facts: There is graffiti all over. Like all over, it is crazy. In San Cristobal, there are a number of europeans who are all about peace, love, and like energy or something. We haven't taught any of them, but we have contacted a number. Also, for some reason, a number of people have asked us if we are archaeologists, which brings for a little different segway into talking about the Gospel, but hey whatever works.

I won't give much detail, but yes I have been pretty sick a bit this past week. I think most has to do with accustoming to the food and all the spices and things they use to cook with. So, that has been a little bit distracting from the work, but it is all part of the game.

We have many investigators who are wonderful, but I can't talk about all of them. A quick profile of Fili. Fili is very intelligent, 24, studying law, and so sensitive to the spirit. He is preparing for baptism in about 2 weeks, and he just eats up everything we teach him. We come to his house, ask him if he did the reading and he whips out notes and everything! What a blessing to meet him and teach him.

There are people everywhere, and it is often so hard to know how to get in contact with as many as we can, but just trying is such a blessing.

Time and time again, I feel how much Heavenly Father loves each one of us. I know that is true!

Elder Palmer

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Finally in Mexico

February 15th 2011

Well, the first week in the field has been quite amazing! My companion is Elder Norman, from Provo, and he is a fantastic missionary! We cover a large area of a town called San Cristobal, a beautiful town in the mountains about 1 and a half hours from Tuxtla Gutierrez...thus making it the only city in our whole mission that is somewhat cold. We also cover a few other little towns in surrounding areas, many of them have a different language--like Tzotzil or Cetal (I think that is how you spell them...)--as their main language.

The second day here, Elder Norman and I got on a bus thing, called a Combe, and rode over to a little town called Oxchuc. While we were there, we got to visit with 2 investigators who are preparing for baptism! One of them was having problems with her spouse, so we had to give advice for how they can strengthen their relationship, which--let me say--is not something they teach in the MTC. However, I am learning a lot watching my companion, in how he applies the Gospel and Scriptures with such power to every investigator. We visited this town one more time later on in the week, and will continue to visit there frequently.

Another lady in our ward had her husband leave her and do some other terrible things, and once again, (something they don´t teach in the MTC) had the opportunity to help console her. Elder Norman shared Joseph Smith´s experience in Liberty Jail to help relate to her, which turned out to be really powerful.

We are trying to contact every where we go! It is easy to just pass by people and not do anything, but we are trying to really contact everywhere, anytime, and to almost anyone. A neat experience we had with this was just the other day; we went to a tortilleria to get some tortillas for the member whose house we were eating at, and stood in line. I felt prompted to talk to this one younger looking man standing a couple people behind us in line. We talked to him, Ismael, and really clicked with him--he invited us to his house. We have taught him a number of times now, and he has accepted the invitation to be baptized soon ahead. Stories like that help remind me that the Lord is always preparing people. He had such wonderful questions and was obviously prepared by the Lord, in fact, in the middle of the first lesson he asked us, ´´So how can I learn more about Joseph Smith? ´´ with real intent, and he was just amazing!

We have about 11 solid investigators, many of them with dates in the near future to be baptized. It is so wonderful, as a missionary, to think about them all the time. During study, prayer, walking, or wherever. It is such a blessing! On Sunday, we have about 12 people committed to coming, but only about 4 came, so I can see that will be something I will need to work on: how to help motivate our investigators to make going to church a priority.

I will describe one other investigator we are teaching, his name is Fili. He is very smart, studying to be a lawyer, and is about 24 years old or so. After our first lesson, we asked him how his reading went and he pulled out a page of notes with comments and questions. He has truly come to know that the things we have taught him are true!

It has been really quite a humbling week, teaching, eating, and visiting with people that have so little and give so much. I am doing great, except for the fact that I am rather sick right now, but our Investigators are doing wonderfully!

Much love,
Elder Palmer

February 7th
I am in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico right now!!! I have been here one and a half days now! A quick rundown on what happened is we left the MTC on Saturday morning, flew to Houston, and then straight to Tuxtla Gutierrez. We had a few bien especial experiences in the airport: one lady told us (in Spanish) "I am a missionary too, but not for Joseph Smith." So that was a fun opportunity to teach this really nice lady (from Arriega--in our mission by the way) about the Restoration. And so after arriving in Tuxtla late at night, our President Velasco, his wife, and the Assistants came to greet us. Going through the airport was much easier than I thought, it seemed like they had even less security than the United States airport. It was a really small airport, and we had flown in in a tiny plane. Well, we spent the evening with the President, His wife, and the Assistants for about 1-2 hours eating pizza! They were trying to help us Americans feel really welcome, I think! Haha. President Velasco and his wife are so funny, but way calm. They are very "tranquilo", and I never felt like they were in a hurry all weekend.

We slept above the mission office, with the office Elders and the Assistants. As I was lying in bed, I had a million emotions going on in my head, of excitement, nervousnesss, etc., but I felt a calm reassurance that I was where God wanted me to be and that He has a purpose for me being here. In the morning, we went to church first thing (Sunday) after a really late night. Elder Hercules and I (there were four that arrived), were paired with the office Elders and headed off to a small little ward that met right next to the Temple here in Tuxtla. It was incredible, during the fast and testimony meeting there were always around 10 people waiting to bear their short, simple, but such strong testimonies. I could feel their faith and conviction very strong. It felt a little odd being one of 2 or 3 white people there, but I think I will get used to that. And after a few other wonderful meetings, we split up, so as Elder Tapia was working in the office, Elder Hercules and I took turns waiting in the office or out teaching with Elder Pape. I should say that I feel very blessed that my teachers were so good in the MTC, because I felt like I understand most of what was said, with the exception of when they started going off reaally fast. And some speak really fast here!

When I was out with Elder Pape, we taught a lesson to a young man and his girlfriend. It was a wonderful experience, and they both agreed for the baptismal date of Febrery 26. All the people I have met are so funny, always smiling and joking, and really sensitive to the Spirit. He had this big tatoo on his arm, but we could tell was touched by the message. I believe he had had 2 or 3 lessons before that. Oh, and then we went to lunch. I officially love Mexican food. It was so simple, some rice, some sort of chicken, and tortillas, but was very tasty! And the people were just so sweet and humble, telling us their conversion story, and telling us that their house is always open to us. Pretty much every person I have visited thus far, has given us a lot of food, so maybe I won´t lose as much weight as I thought.

I don't have any more time. I am going to my new area now, and will tell more later. Was trained today, and loving MEXICO!

Elder Palmer

Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 5th, 2011

We got a call from Geoffrey saying that his visa has finally come through. He and Elder Hurcules, plus two other elders, left today for Tuxtla Gutierrez. They were expected to arrived there at 9:30 tonight. When he called from the airport he was hoarse...the first time he has been sick during the mission. He was very excited but perhaps a bit nervous now it is all happening. He shared with us his love for the Lord and his knowledge of how He loves each one of us, His children. Geoffrey has a wonderful attitude and we feel very blessed to be his parents!


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1st 2011

Well, there is not much to report this day either. No, I am still not in Mexico; I am still in Utah, which, i must, is much cooler than Mexico I would guess haha. Our District of 12 is now diminished to me and my companion. Everyone has gone to their respective missions, but still no word about those going to Tuxtla Gutierrez Mission, so we are learning some wonderful patience lessons :) We got kicked out of our classroom, and had no teachers this past week. Because the travel office doesn't know where we are at, we have to stop by every day to see if any news on Mexico has come. But on the bright side, with all the extra time we were able to have many effective studies and go to the Provo Temple a few more times--so that was a blessing! Also, tomorrow we will be joining an advanced District (native spanish speakers), so that should be great to help us prepare with the language and all! We are going on 12 weeks in the MTC, which is crazy for me to think! But things are great, and I am sure we will be leaving sometime in the near future (although I have been saying that for the past 3 weeks). But really, Elder Hercules and I are keeping our Spirits up, and we feel very blessed to be companions.
I'll try and keep this short. Elder Hercules and I got to say the opening and closing prayers in the Sunday Fireside in front of all the missionaries, which was kind of neat. I love seeing all 2000 of us sing "called to serve"! And other than that, our week was pretty routine, but great. I am loving it, and the only reason I am ready to leave is because there is only one place I'd rather be...Tuxtla Gutierrez Mexico. :) And we will make it there shortly.
Often, Elder Hercules and I will come up with common questions that many people wonder, think, and ask. Such as, "Why is God important?" or "Why do I need organized religion?" As we take question after question, and study the Scriptures, my testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Father in Heaven, and their church on this earth is consistently strengthened. I am truly beginning to see how the Scriptures can answer any of our questions! It has been such a blessing to try and give 100% of my focus to the Lord. Obviously, I fall short sometimes, but as a missionary called to bring people the light of the Gospel (even though I am just in the MTC), I have felt his blessing of peace and conviction. No matter who we are, where we come from, or what problems we have, it is a comfort to know that our Savior is there to lift us up as we reach towards Him. His all-encompassing embrace is truly all-encompassing, leaving no one behind who accepts it :) 
One last thing, family and friends who read these letters, I wouldn't be surprised if my English gets progressively worse--especially once I get to Mexico--and as I continue to focus on Spanish. So, if I say things like "so-and-so has 10 years" instead of "so-and-so is 10 years old", just know that if I said it in Spanish it would make sense.
Love you all,
Elder Palmer