Monday, January 31, 2011

The Wonders of Bucket Showers


I had an AMAZING week!!  And this is why:

My new area is overwhelmingly huge with tons of hills.  This means that I am getting and will get lots of great exercise!  This also means that there are rather astonishing views of mountains piled with many, many homes (I hope to send some pictures home for you to see just how many people live in just this little amount of area).  This also means that there are loads of people just waiting to hear the Gospel. I am so happy for this because I came into the area with only 2 investigators, none even close to baptism.  However, as the week played out, Elder Figueroa and I have been really obedient and have seen some amazing things happen.

We had one investigator named Jaqueline who I was told hardly listened to what the missionaries said and just giggled and said "I don´t know."  Elder Figueroa told me all of these things as we were walking to her house.  She walks out and is acting just as he told me she would act.  We started the lesson with a hymn and prayer to invite the Spirit.  I was just searching for something to say or do to help her realize that we come here with a purpose.  I got to know her a little and then asked if she had prayed about anything the missionaries had taught her.  She answered yes.  We then taught her how she would get an answer from God.  I then pointed out to her that the good feelings she felt in the prayer mean that she received an answer.  This changed everything.  She would stare us right in the eyes, answer every question we asked, and even readily accepted a baptism date in that very same lesson.  The power of the Holy Ghost is so amazing. Not only that but as we had to visit with her mom on three separate occasions to finally get permission for her baptism, she would tell her mom just how much she wanted it.  Also, she convinced her mom to take off work, to take the family to church, and then attend the baptism.  In Church, Elder Figueroa and I taught Gospel Principles and felt that we should teach about baptism.  After the spiritual baptismal service, we asked the mom if we could come by and share this same message with her and the rest of the family.  She told us that we could come by on Tuesday!!!  We are so excited to have this extremely huge blessing from the Lord!  Not only did we have a surprise baptism but we also get to teach the rest of the family!

On another note, I took my first bucket shower!  This means that I fill up a bucket of water throw in a calentador (i.e., heater) and wait 20 minutes.  The air is freezing in the morning and the water only stays warm for a little bit.  Sometimes the water will run out before all of the soap is off.  Luckily that hasn´t happened to me yet.  What an experience I am having here in Mexico.  I love every experience I have that takes me out of the bubble I lived in Coppell.  These sort of experiences have helped me to love the people even more and be that much more humble.

I had a wonderful week and have faith that another one is on its way!

Elder Janis

Monday, January 24, 2011

Transferred to Tacubaya

Mi Familia y Amigos,
This week was the last week of the transfer and boy did things slow down.  My companions had a rough time wanting to go out the door and work towards the end of the week.  A lot of this slowing down had to do with transfers.  It seems like when people find out they are leaving the area they just let up and slow down.  There was only so much I can do as a fourth member of a companionship but I took all the opportunities I could to make last minute impacts on this area.  I tried to get all of us out to work but one of my companions was rather upset about where he was going to be transferred and with whom.  Ultimately, I am really excited to go to my new area and have a fresh start.
My new area is going to be awesome!  I am headed toward one of the colonies in the very center of Mexico City called Tacubaya.  I am going to take a taxi to Tacubaya in about two hours to meet up with my new companion.  I don't really know anything about him so I will have to wait until next week to let you know more.  Like I said, I am excited for the fresh start.  I made many specific goals that will make it easier for both me and my companion to always be obedient and diligent.  I have heard rumors that my new area is going to be hard, but in every mission there's a "hard" area.  These "hard" areas only mean that people go into them thinking they are "hard" and that with diligence, obedience, and faith I can fulfill my purpose in the area.  There was a talk in the MTC about "hard" areas and that all it is is a mind set.  I am choosing now to think of it as a challenge but something the Lord can help me conquer.  For all I know, the area could be really fruitful and all the rumors are just that, rumors!
So I have officially completely 6 months as of a few days ago.  That night I took the opportunity to relfect over the past 6 months and see just how much I have learned.  I realized that my progress from day to day seems slow or sometimes nonexsistant but with perspective I could see tons of progress.  I still have SO much to learn and part of this pondering included making goals for the future.  I thought I would share a couple of them with you.  I made goals to read the entire standard works (minus the Old Testament), the entire mission library, and the Book of Mormon two times by the end of the year.  I made day specific goals where I read from the Book of Mormon every day the whole year and then a designated amount of pages from one of the other books I am reading.  Right now I am reading the Book of Mormon, Our Search for Happiness, and Preach My Gospel.  I have learned so much from making this goal and my personal study has become more effective and useful.  Not only has my testimony been strengthened but I have found some scriptures and knowledge that has helped my investigators also.  I also made a goal to always kneel when I have a personal prayer and take time to think and ponder letting the Spirit guide me in what I say in my prayers.  I have had some very special experiences recently because of this goal and have felt an increase in real and divine desire to work in the vineyard of the Lord.
I got the package that Brother Fairbanks brought to me and man was I grateful.  Everything in the package was amazing and I really appreciate all the thought and effort my awesome family took to make it.  I am especially thankful to Bro. Fairbanks for his willingness to bring it straight from Dallas to Mexico City!
I love the working in the vineyard of the Lord and am SO excited to start a new area.  I know that Lord is on my right side and angels are all around me.  I know that I am protected and qualified by the Holy Ghost.  I know that I am a disciple of a living Christ and that His Atonement makes me someone I could never, ever be otherwise.  I love all of you oodles and pray for you.
Elder Janis

Monday, January 17, 2011

Zion's Camp Applies to Me

Hola Familia y Amigos,
I had an absolutely wonderful week!  I learned so much about myself and feel that all the experiences I have been having, both good and bad, are helping me become the man the Lord needs me to become.  I was reading in the book "Our Heritage" (a book in the missionary library about the beginning of the Church) and I came across the story of Zion´s Camp.  Zion´s Camp was a group of men organized and headed by Joseph Smith.  They were traveling across the frontier to help some members in another area.  Along the way, the men all went through very tough afflictions and many of them gave up.  Quite a few made it all the way to the other area, but when they arrived they found out that the reason they were needed was no longer valid.  Many took this to mean that Joseph Smith wasn´t a prophet and that the church wasn´t true.  However, the people that stayed faithful the whole time were eventually called to be some of the first General Authorities for the church.  God gave these men the opportunity to prove their faith.  I applied this story to the difficult experiences that as a missionary I sometimes face.  This story has given me so much peace in knowing that every time I patiently and prayerfully overcome each obstacle, I am becoming closer and closer to becoming the man the Lord needs me to be.  I find so much comfort in knowing that the Lord has a plan for me and I hope and pray that I will meet the end goal and accomplish what I was meant to accomplish.  Basically I love the mission, have learned tons, and plan to learn mountains more!
We had two baptisms this week!  One for Javier who sought us out in the streets one day and found us in the local grocery store.  He has been the most faithful and spiritual investigator that I have had yet and it was such a blessing to see him be baptized, fulfilling his desire "to start again and be better" (this is something he told us all the time).  The other baptism was for Jonathan.  His family did not want him to be baptized but he knew that he needed to and, even better, he really wanted to!  The service for both of them was an immense pleasure to be a part of.
Elder Lopez and I were walking through one of the huge apartment complexes in our area when we both felt we needed to talk to a guy that was about to cross our path.  We contacted him and asked when we could pass by his house to share the message.  He told us that he had to use the bathroom really bad and that we could come by in 30 minutes.  We excitedly returned and had a wonderful lesson with him in which he, Francisco, listened, discussed, and agreed quite easily.  The Spirit was so strong and I could see him accepting all our words due to the message being carried right to his heart.  Hopefully I will have awesome news for you next week as it pertains to Francisco!
I am so blessed to be here now and am loving every second of my time on the Lord´s errand.  Everyday I feel the Lord qualifying me more and have received so much strength from the Holy Ghost and its guidance.  I love each and everyone of you immensely and pray for your happiness and health.
Con Amor,
Elder Janis

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Baptism in Mexico

Hola Familia!

Another amazing week in Mexico City!!  I have had MANY new experiences which have helped me learn and grow.  This past week, Elder Duffin and I have basically been taking care of the area by ourselves.  Our companions, being Zone Leaders, have to leave the area sometimes or go to specific appointments leaving the two of us behind.  Monday night was our first opportunity.  That night the Zone Leaders had planned to put an investigator on date for baptism and expected that we accomplished this.  I was so excited to finally go out and really use all that I have been learning!  However, yes, I was nervous but as I said a silent prayer to the Lord, I felt my self-doubt replaced by the peace of the Holy Ghost.  With my renewed excitement, Elder Duffin and I went into the appointment with Magdalena.  We had an AMAZING lesson!  I was surprised by the words coming out of my own mouth.  As we finished teaching Baptism, we committed her to be baptized that coming Sunday.  The Spirit was so strong as we waited the 10 or so seconds for her to respond with a YES!  I almost exploded with happiness for her and the power of the Spirit!  This experience alone proves to me that the Lord will qualify those whom he calls and that the power of the Holy Ghost really can change the hearts of anyone.  Elder Duffin and I then had the privilege to prepare Magdalena for baptism all the rest of the week.  The day before the baptism she picked me to be the person to baptize her!  The baptismal service was amazing and you could just see the peace and joy in Magdalena`s face after she came out of the water.

On top of the baptism, the Lord has blessed us with 24 new investigators.  We work with some pretty big numbers here in Mexico City because there are TONS of people.  The 70 contacts is a hard task but it gets you praying that the Lord will point you towards the people that need to hear our divine message.  Speaking of tons of people, on the 6th of January, Mexico celebrated Dias Reyes.  This is a celebration recognizing the three wisemen and the gifts they brought the Savior.  The people here celebrate the holiday by giving each other gifts and eating a Rosca.  A Rosca is sweet bread, cake shaped in a large oval.  Inside the rosca somewhere is a little baby and whoever gets the baby in their piece of cake has to by everyone else a present.  Pretty funny huh!  We celebrated the holiday by having American style pizza at a member`s house.

Ok so, I got a couple questions for the exact address for the house that I am living in.  The address is: Mexico City, Tenayo, Santa Cecilia, Calle Del Reloj.  Our house is on the corner of Avenida Santa Cecilia and Calle Del Reloj.  It has a green gate in front.  I hope that this is specific enough!  Well, Elder Duffin and I have to jet out.  We have the night to ourselves again!  I love you all and hope that you had a great week as I did!

Elder Janis

Sunday, January 9, 2011

From President & Sister Villarreal

Hello Janis Family!!!!
Well we are so sorry this email is so late!!!  We have been busy with all our new missionaries.  We have received a approximately 35  missionaries in the last month.  I don't want to make any excuses though and again we do apologize.  So many of the American missionaries had problems with VISAs which you probably already know from emails from Elder Janis.  We have had to open up so many areas and well it is exciting to see all these areas be opened and see the mission grow.  It is also great to see so many missionaries!  We know you know that Elder Janis arrived in Mexico and well he is such a great missionary!  We have enjoyed being with him and we look forward to getting to know him even better.  You have raised a great young man!  He has a strong testimony and he reminds us of the 2000 Stripling Warriors.  He and all his companions have remembered what they have been taught by their parents and want to obey with exactness.  They have so much faith and know the Lord will lead them.  Elder Janis will help his companion, the members, and all the sweet brothers and sisters that he will teach and baptize. We love him so much and are so grateful he is finally here!

Please know you can get in touch with us anytime.  We are here to serve you and your son.  We hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and the choicest blessings be yours this New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

All our love,
Pres. & Sis. Villarreal
Mexico, Mexico City West Mission

Monday, January 3, 2011

Delegation Tenayo of Mexico City!

Hola Mi Familia Chevre,
I am sitting in an internet cafe in the delegation Tenayo of Mexico City! My clothes are busy being cleaned in a member´s corner laundry mat and I am about to go to a local grocery store to get my shopping done.  Cool, huh?!  I can tell you how much I love being here.  Every moment I am out of our tiny little apartment, I just breathe in the warm Mexico City air and just cannot help but smile when I realize I am amidst the Lamanite people.  The people are so amazing here; so humble and willing to smile and talk.  As a mission we have a weekly goal for every missionary to get 70 contacts on the street.  There are TONS of people everywhere 24/7 and it is a sweet experience to stop and talk to as many as we can.  I love walking down the paved streets, smelling the tacos al pastor (amazing by the way!), and continually being wowed by the humble conditions people live in and work in here.  I cannot tell you enough how blessed I feel to be here to serve the Lord and people in Tenayo.
My mission president is President Villarreal.  He native to San Antonio, Texas and was SO excited to have another Texan in the mission.  I am actually the only one if my information is correct.  He is such an amazing president and I have already learned a ton from him and his example.  We met him and the Assitants to the President as we came out of Customs.  We went with them to the mission home where we had a question and answer session to learn all we could about how the Mexico, Mexico City West Mission works.  We then had a dinner made by the Sister Villarreal who, Mom would be happy to know, will be such a great mission mom.  After dinner we had an amazing devotional by President Villarreal in which we shared testimonies and discussed the doctrine of Christ.  I have really enjoyed learning the basics of the Gospel more in depth and have no doubt that the way to eternal life is through Faith, Repentence, Baptism, the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End.  We are extremely blessed to have this knowledge and I love to see the hope and faith of investigators grow as we teach them the doctrine of Christ.  We then went and slept in the mission office and the next day we had a training on safety and the way the mission works.  In the afternoon, the APs took us to our new companions.
My companion is a Zone Leader named Elder Lopez from Sonora, Mexico.  He is an amazing missionary who teaches with so much power and love for our investigators.  I am trying as hard as I can to learn everything I can from him.  He is a convert of about 2 years and has a fire of a testimony that only a convert could have.  So basically I am trying to sponge up all the things I can!  E. Lopez is helping me learn how to be really independent so that I can be ready to be Senior companion.  I have no idea when this will happen but I am so thankful for  his willingness to prepare me all the same.  We have some phenomenal investigators and hope to have three baptisms this coming weekend.  One of our investigators named Javier was contacted on the street Saturday afternoon and we invited him to church that next morning at 8am.  He had an amazing experience at church.  In Elders Quorom we were talking about New Year goals.  The teacher went around the room and asked each of us what our New Year goals were. Javier answered that his was to go to this ward every week this year!!  We have a lesson with him this afternoon and plan to put him on date for the this coming weekend!!  One of the Elect! We live with another Zone Leader named Elder Decker from Mesa, Arizona and a missionary that flew in with me on Monday named Elder Duffin from California.
For New Year´s Eve we went to a member´s home to eat queso con carne (now my favorite Mexican food) and then went home to drink some Martinelli´s.  Then New Year´s day we played soccer for about 4 hours straight and then watched the movies Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me.  We then played some more soccer and returned home for some evening appointments.  I had a wonderful New Year´s!  The whole city went crazy for the holiday and there were actually fiestas everywhere.  The fiestas last at least two days and as we walked to the church to play soccer, we saw many drunk people...anyways I absolutely love Mexico City and know that I will have an amazing time here.  I hope that everyone had a great New Year´s and had an amazing start to a new year!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Janis