Monday, April 25, 2011

Mojado, mojado, mojado

Hola Familia,

This week went faster than any other week I have had in the mission.  I am learning to take more advantage of every moment I have out here because the time seems to be going by quicker and quicker.  I received my new son finally Wednesday afternoon.  His name is Elder Lubiano from Monterrey, Mexico.  He is a great missionary, willing to be 100% obedient and work diligently.  I am grateful for this because we have tons of people to baptize and I don't want to be dragging someone behind.  I am excited to be training again and love the fire that the "verdes" (greenies) have.  There are so many missionary close to the end of their missions that are just being lazy and basically waiting to go home.  I am learning from these newbies how to retain excitement and their desire to baptize is contagious!

So I thought that I would quickly explain this new program that the Apostles have implemented in the mission field for training.  We are given a new missionary to train over a 12 week program.  This program involves two hours of Companionship Study as opposed to one.  We have an agenda with certain topics and activities that we need to accomplish every week and certain achievements that my son needs to meet.  We were also given a little TV screen with a bunch of missionary video clips that will help us both to learn.  We are basically beta testing and the program is a draft, but I am so excited to give it all I have got.  It came straight from the Apostles and is packed with many things that will help my companion and I work more efficiently and intelligently.  It was implemented for the newbies but I am going to draw all I can out of it also!  After this intensive study, we leave our home every morning with a different spirit, a spirit that drives us to work harder.

My wonderful family, I absolutely love the photo you sent me of President Monson.  The moment I pulled it out of the package I could not help but smile.  Recently, I have looked to Pres. Monson as an example of someone who always is happy and has a contagious smile on his face the majority of the time.  He is a strong example of always being happy and at peace despite the hardships of life.  Every morning, Pres. Monson smiles at me as I study my scriptures and prepare spiritually for the day.  I love the photo and it has such a strong personal meaning to me.  Thanks!

So this last week was Holy Week and basically everything stopped for 8 days.  A week where the people here celebrate the life and miracles of Christ.  There were parades in the streets of Roman guards throughout the week and then on Friday they had some dressed up as Christ walk down the street carrying a cross.  It is so sad that in the season of Easter they chose to remember Christ in such a warped way.  They were all dressed as Roman soldiers and had people hitting and pushing the Christ.  Later they actually had someone be crucified on a cross in a representation of what they did to Jesus.  The people that were watching this were all drinking tons of beer and extremely drunk.  Let me tell you, we avoided this part of our area for the most part of the day.

On Saturday it is called Saturday of Glory and the tradition is to pour water on anyone or anything that moved in the streets that was dry.  I was walking down a hill when we passed by a huge group of men all shouting "mojado, mojado, mojado" (wet, wet, wet) and a guy came out of his with a huge bucket of water.  I was thinking about the plans we had for the day and chose to ignore the shouting.  That was a mistake because the next thing I knew I had a huge bucket of water poured on my head.  I just kept on walking rolling my eyes at the crazy things they do here and thankful for the cold water on such a hot day.  I laughed with my companion as I continued working, knocking doors and contacting with all my clothes sopping wet.  I even thought about how Jesus would have reacted to this situation and that is why I chose to walk away without saying or doing anything.  Also why I chose to keep working despite being really wet!  I laugh as I write this remembering the whole experience!

I am thoroughly enjoying being a missionary in this time of the year.  Spreading the knowledge we have of a living Christ who has an abundance of blessings and the ability to return and live with Heavenly Father.  I also really enjoyed walking in the shoes the Savior wore as I was laughed at when a bucket was poured on my head. I love Lord and seek everyday to become more and more like Him.  I am so grateful for the sacrifice he made for me personally and for each and everyone that lives in order to have eternal life.  I am so blessed to be here and now doing the wonderful things the Lord has given me to do.  I love all of you and hope that you had a wonderful Easter!!!!

Elder Janis

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baptismal Service for the Morales and Jimenez Families

Hola Familia,

I had the most crazy yet satisfying week of my life!!!  I cannot believe the things that the Lord helped Elder Diaz and me accomplish in this last transfer.  We had a baptismal service for two families this last weekend and man was it a HUGE blessing to see them in white and then soaked head-to-toe!  The baptismal service was for the Morales Family and the Jimenez Family.  The entire Jimenez Family and the majority of the Morales Family were baptized.  We have plans to talk to the rest of the Morales Family and baptize them in this coming transfer.  I have loved thinking about the people they used to be and the people they are trying to become after discovering Christ.  Lourdes, the grandma in the Morales Family, was married this week and nothing not even being sick and barely having money stopped her from doing everything possible to be baptized this weekend.  It was neat to see her contagious excitement catch hold on the other members of the family.  It was neat to talk to both of these amazing families after their baptisms and see in their eyes the peace in their souls.  President Villarreal called me personally and said, "Elder, you are incredible! Keep it up!"  After having this wonderful baptismal service, I was so grateful to hear my Mission President say this.  We got transfers this last Saturday and I am going to stay in my area.  I am so excited to watch these people grow in the gospel and stay in this area to see their lives change more.

Speaking of changes, I am going to stay in the area and Elder Diaz will go to the mission office to recuperate from a recent surgery.  I was in the hospital for about 36 hours while Elder Diaz had his surgery.  He couldn't move any part of his leg and so I got to help put socks on and things like that.  It was a neat experience to help him and be on call to his needs that without me he would not be able to fulfill.  This experience made me appreciate even more all the times I was sick and Mom you were always there helping me in every way possible.  Thanks for the amazing example.  Oh by the way, Elder Diaz was in the hospital to have an operation on his knees.  He was born with a curvature to his legs and has a lot of pain in his knees.  Luckily, this surgery was quick and not very extensive and so he will recover quickly and then head back out to the mission field.

So, this transfer I will be a Dad again and receive another kid.  I will not receive him until tomorrow sometime.  The process for training this transfer will be tons different and will involve a bunch of new techniques.  The Apostles had a special training with the missions presidents here in Mexico to teach them the new process.  I don't know very many specifics so I will wait until next week to tell you all about this new process for training.  I am so excited and LOVE training.  The newbies have such a fire and desire.

Con Mucho Amor,
Elder Janis

Monday, April 11, 2011

I could walk on water if I needed to

Hola Familia!

WHAT A WEEK!!!  First of all I would love to thank my amazing mother and family for the wonderful package stuffed with my favorite things that took me to heaven and back!  I didn't realize just how much I missed American candy and especially 100 Grand and Butterfingers.  My companion really enjoyed trying everything you sent him Mom, and has taken a liking to the Oreo Cakesters!  Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy the picture of me excited after receiving the package!

So right now we have two families and an individual that are all super excited to be baptized this coming weekend.  I am going to give you a run down of each of these amazing families that I have been so blessed to teach.

The Hernandez Family - The father is an alcoholic that in the first visit told us that all the doors in his life have been shut and he really has no hope.  However, we explained that baptism in the same way Christ was baptized and His Church is a way to start a new life; in other words open a new door of life.  He has really taken to this idea and is running with it.  His wife and three kids left him due to drinking problems.  In our lessons we are not only doing the normal missionary things but also playing the role of family counselor.  We are helping the Hernandez family realize the significance of the family unit and the joy and peace that comes from the unconditional love there in.  We gave Paco, the Dad, a CTR ring "Haz lo justo" (Choose the right) to help him choose to spend time with his family instead of drinking.  He has changed dramatically and his family is TONS happier.  I can't help but feel so grateful to help this family overcome its problems with the aid of the perfect and divine gospel.

The Morales Family - I LOVE this family and man they can´t get enough of us.  We contacted one of the family members in the street, had a first lesson with her and her daughter, and now we are teaching a group of 10 and every single one of them want to be baptized.  The majority of them are REALLY excited and want to be baptized this weekend!  The grandparents need to be married, and cool enough, the money that people sent me for my birthday (thank you SOOOO much by the way) is going to spent to pay for the wedding.  I told them that I wanted to see them have the opportunity to be baptized rather than buying something with the money.  They always feed us something when we are in their home and the grandma washes our clothes by hand.  I also sent a picture of me learning how to wash clothes by hand.  What awesome things I am learning how to do!  Tonight they want to celebrate my Birthday despite the fact that it was a month ago, but who is going to complain about that!  Every time we are there they always relate to us the changes for good that they are seeing in their lives and the peace they have found.  They LOVE going to church on Sunday and are going to be a huge and strong addition to the ward.  They already have this love for the Book of Mormon and many of them are already at least a couple chapters in.  Our living prophet is something that they have come to love over everything else.  They are a family of pure gold and I am blessed to have seen them all find a fire and passion for the gospel.

Javier - This guy has come so far.  About 1 year in his past we would have found him drunk or high.  He is covered in tattoos on all surfaces except for his face.  About a year ago he found a Christian church in Tijuana and chose to change his life.  He has left drugs and alcohol and now lives with his Mom, dedicating his time to helping her fight diabetics.  Anyone could learn from the fire he has for anything that has to do with God.  Once we explained that there is only one church of Jesus Christ and that in this church he would need to be baptized, he wanted to know everything he could.  After sharing the Restoration of the Church and the authority of God, he decided without hestitation to be baptized again.  He came to church and at the end wanted to know what he needed to do in order to prepare for his baptism.  We excitedly explained that we had a couple more things to share with him and this coming week he could be bapitzed.  We are also working with his Mom who wants to be baptized but has many health problems and can't leave the house much.  We are going to do everything we can to help them both.

Elder Diaz and I have a week full of wonderful work ahead of us.  Sometimes I am so taken back by the mounds of blessings that the Lord is pouring upon us.  We have transfers next week and I am hoping that I can stay in this area.  I love it here in NĂ¡poles and the people here are incredibly amazing.  Elder Diaz and I have decided that we are going to do everything we can to help these wonderful families "bajar a las aguas del bautismo" (go into the waters of baptism), EVERTHING!  President Villarreal told me that I could walk on water if I needed to in order to baptize all these people and that I need to do everything I can.  What my Mission President says is revelation, and so I know that the Lord expects that same thing.

Here I go to conquer more darkness and spread the light of the gospel,

Elder Janis

Monday, April 4, 2011

"I want to be baptized. It is about time I change."

Hola Familia!

We had a rollercoaster week with days that were beyond awesome and other days that were a little hard to get through.  However all of the hard times were well worth the product of the week!

Before I tell you how the week ended, I thought I would describe a few of the awesome things that happened. One day Elder Diaz and I passed by our home in order to use a clean bathroom.  As we were exiting the house, I felt impressed to leave one of the windows unlocked.  I have thought about doing this a couple times in the last 2 months in case we forget our keys but just never did it.  However, it just made a whole lot of sense in this moment to leave one of them unlocked.  About 7 o´clock later that night, I dug my hands into my pocket in order to use a key to knock on a metal door.  To be honest, I freaked out and frantically started asking my companion if he knew where they were.  We searched pockets and backpacks without any success.  I remembered that I had left one of the windows unlocked and could still enter the house.  I then decided that I could worry about the keys later and went on with the night.  As my companion started to enter through the window later that night he found my keys sitting on my desk...sad huh!!  I am thankful for the impression of the Spirit to leave one window unlocked and from now on check my pockets before leaving the house.

The Morales Family that we are teaching told me the other day that they are relatives to a major marijuana dealer in this part of Mexico.  They have nothing to do with the drugs but enjoy a considerable amount of protection from crime.  They informed me that if anyone tries to assault me, I can say that I am friends with the family Tarango and they will do me no harm.  Don't worry Mom, I have not been assaulted and won't be.  Heavenly Father is protecting me and I know that with obedience and diligence nothing will happen.  On top of that if something does happen, I have a family full of narcos (drug dealers) that will protect me!

Conference was amazing!!  I especially enjoyed preparing our investigators for the conference because we talked a lot about Prophets and Apostles.  I have gained such a strong testimony that we have a living prophet who talks face to face with God, Apostles that lead and guides us here on the Earth, and two opportunities every year to hear their messages.  I know that their messages like Elder Holland said, "Come from Terrestrial messengers but are celestial messages."  I love telling people how they were going to learn the will of God in the Conference and feel peace that can only come from God.  It is beyond amazing how blessed we are to be members of this Church.  I thoroughly enjoyed and learned tons in this past Conference and cannot wait to read the Ensign!

Ok, so it is about time I told you the grandiose news!  After conference, one of the investigators we took to Conference pulled Elder Diaz and I aside to tell us something.  When we were out of earshot of the other people, she looked us in the eyes and said "I want to be baptized.  It is about time I change.  I don't know if my family will make the same decision but I want to be the example that the other can follow."  I don't know about you but after I heard this I almost started shouting and jumping up and down.  Barely containing myself, I expressed my excitement for her and that there was nothing else I would rather do than help her fulfill this desire.  She is the grandma of a family of 7 that we are teaching.  All of them are progressing pretty well but have tons of doubts creating a wall of challenge.  However, this attitude that Lourdes, the grandma, has will work miracles on the family!!!

Basically, things are going amazing!  We have three families that will be baptized in the next two weeks.  This means tons of work but man am I ready to face the challenges and bring these wonderful souls to my Father in Heaven.  I am so blessed to be here and now with Elder Diaz.  Although he is my son and I am daily trying to teach him I have learned TONS from him.  He almost everyday makes my bed and quite often shines my shoes.  On top of that he is always animated and driven to work hard and even harder.  I learned from him this last week how to de-stress when things are out of our control and stressing won't do anything- take a step back and eating a torta full of egg, milanesa, and queso oxaca is the key!! ;)

I love all of you and hope you have a wonderful week!,

Elder Janis