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Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014--Week 104--The End!

To my dearest family,

So, I can´t believe that I´m writing my last letter as a missionary today.  The time went by much faster than I expected.  As you can imagine, this week is very full of mixed emotions for me.  I love being a missionary.  At the beginning this style of life--most of all living such a scheduled life--it was hard for me.  I´ve now come to love it.  I love the people here of southern Mexico.  So many of the things that surprised me or scared me about the culture I now feel are mine.  As cliché as this is, I´ll be leaving a very large piece of my heart here in Mexico.  

At the same time, I know that my time as a missionary has come to an end.  Last Saturday I hit my two-year mark.  I understand that there are other things that I need to do with my life.  So, while I will miss so much this beautiful style of life and this land and people that I love, I´m happy and at peace.  I did what I was sent to do, and now it´s over.  Contrary to popular opinion, I haven´t been a perfect missionary.  Actually, more than ever in my life I´ve learned about my imperfections and weakness. But despite those imperfections and weaknesses I am satisfied with my work and I leave the mission field in peace.  I am so incredibly grateful for everything that I´ve learned and become.  With a very different understanding than I had as I started my mission, I now consider myself capable and ready to live the rest of my life as a disciple and servant of Jesus Christ and do the part that corresponds to me personally in the progress of His great Work of Salvation.  I know without a doubt that as long as I love the Lord and always have as my first priority over all other things being obedient to Him, I will live a happy life and I will progress.

I´m very excited to see you all on Thursday.  I never knew how much I loved you all until I didn´t see you for an entire two years :) 

See you in a couple of days!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Monday, February 24, 2014

February 24, 2014--Week 103

Dear Family,

So, this last week was an absolutely beautiful week. We had our baptism on Saturday. Laura is awesome. She was one of the most prepared people that I´ve baptized on my mission. The baptismal service was beautiful.  

Apart from our baptism we found a married couple this week and they both went to Church. AND another married couple that we´ve been teaching for a while now went to Church for the first time.  All four are going to be baptized the 22nd of March. I´m no longer going to be here to see it, but that´s okay. :) I´m just glad that I had the opportunity to teach them and help them learn about the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

I´m very grateful this week for all my blessings. I´ve been very, very blessed in so many ways my whole mission. And I´m just now starting to realize that it´s coming to an end. I'm really starting my last week as a missionary. When I send my next email I won´t have an area assigned to me anymore and that realization has taken me by surprise. But I´ve worked hard and I´ll keep working as hard as I can until my time is up so that I can leave without regrets.

I love you all and I hope that you have a great week. Stay close to the Lord and everything will work out. :)

Con mucho amor,
Elder Nickerl (el mexicano)

Today we played early morning soccer with the elders of Central and La Salle.  We are totally exhausted. :) It was awesome.

So, as with all baptismal services Satan was a sore loser and tried to stop everything and we ended up starting an hour late, but in the end we got everything figured out and it was a beautiful baptismal service.  The talks were awesome, then we sang "Come Thou Fount" in Spanish.  But yep the Spirit was very strong and as always we all felt Him testify of the importance of this beautiful saving ordenance. 

These are the two districts that are in our immediate area.  There are now officially less elders than sisters.  That´s pretty awesome because when I got here there was only about 1 sister for every 7 or 8 elders. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17. 2014--Week 102

Dear Family,

So, you´ll all be very excited to know that I saw a real live monkey this week. This is what I was expecting to see all the time when I first got here. Turns out that I had to wait almost my whole mission to see it. Contrary to popular belief (including my own before getting here) my mission is not in the heart of the jungle. haha We have a zoo in our area and aparently a couple of monkeys escaped and made their homes nearby. The scientists decided that that would be a good oportunity to study them and they´ve now had their homes there for years. So that was pretty cool.

So, I´ve got to be quick this week but apart from the monky I´ve got a couple other cool things to report--first of all, we´re going to have a baptism this week! Woo-hoo!!! I´ll send pictures next week.  

Apart from that, this weekend was stake conference. Elder Rafael Pino came from Venezuela to preside. President and Sister Cárdenas were also there. It was an awesome conference. I was really complemented and terrified out of my mind at the same time because Elder Pino shared a video that he wasn´t able to find in Spanish... so President Cárdenas volunteered me to translate it for the entire stake. :) So, that was pretty cool and I´m glad that President Cárdenas trusts my Spanish-speaking abilities and that I was able to do as he asked. He (Pte Cárdenas) called me up to the pulpit at one point in his talk with my companion so that we could participate a little bit. So that was also fun. Apart from that I said a lot of goodbyes to missionaries in the zone that I probably won´t see again.  I´ll show you the pictures when I get home. Sorry, I´m short on time so that´s it today.  But anyway I´m still not sure where the time keeps going... exactly 2 weeks from now my ministerial certificate expires :( but that´s ok.  It´s all part of progression.  I love you all very much!!!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Nickerl (el mexicano)

Monday, February 10, 2014

February 10, 2014--Week 101

Dear Family,

So, I decided that today, I´m going to tell you a little bit about my week before I read all of the emails, because I haven't told you many of the details lately. :)

First of all, this week my companion turned a year old in the mission (on Thursday), so we had a great pachanga (Mexican word for "fiesta"). We bought him pizza for surprise and Elder Finn and Elder Escobedo pulled a cake out of nowhere (I didn´t even collaborate on that one--those guys are good). They´re getting pretty good at that since they did it on my birthday too. That explains the first picture that I attached. Also in the picture I´m wearing the Real Madrid soccer jersey that I bought in honor or Adam.

Now a little bit about the work. Things here in Juárez are awesome. Honestly it´s been a lot harder for me to work with the ward council here than it was in San Cris or Chahuites. We've had to be creative to make things happen. But that´s ok because we haven´t let it be a barrier. We´ve worked with the individual families and there are a couple of families here that I love a lot. We´re going to have a baptism on the 22nd. I think I´ve mentioned Laura before but if I haven´t she´s the cousin/niece of a recently reactivated family and she came to church for the 4th time yesterday. We already taught her everything and she's ready to be baptized already, but we´re waiting for her to have her 5 times at church first. She's amazing and we´re grateful that the Lord put us in the right place at the right time to find her. We´re also going to have another baptism the 1st of March. It´s going to be a 28 year old man that we´re teaching. He´s one of those people that reads and researches a ton so he´s already read a lot of the Book of Mormon. With the research that he´s done he´s had a lot of doubts (you know what kind of stuff about the church there is online), but he´s not like a lot of people that get really hung up on the doubts. When we explain him how it really is, then it makes sense to him. So we´re really excited for that as well.  

This week has been a pretty awesome week working with less actives as well. We discoved on Friday that there´s a 19-year-old young man who´s been inactive since he was a teacher who wants to serve a mission. He says that his mom doesn´t want him to go because she´s afraid that he´s not going to want to keep studying in college when he gets back. We talked with him and explained that he needs to go back to church and to prepare himself, and that we´re willing to do whatever we can to help him prepare himself to serve. Then we talked with his mom (who´s also a semi-active member--more active than him) about the example of King Mosiah letting his children go risk their lives to preach among the Lamanites. That made her think a lot and she told us that she´s going to do the same thing that King Mosiah did--ask the Lord. So then the next day we took Daniel (that´s the young man´s name) with us to a couple of appointments. He participated a lot and it was awesome. He told us when we dropped him off at his house afterwards that his mom had already bought him slacks to go to church (he hadn´t been to church for so long that he didn´t have dress clothes that fit him). So we were super pysched. Unfortunately, on Sunday nobody from their family came to church :( but we´re going to see them tonight because we know that the Lord put us there in the right time to help him change his life and go on a mission.  

On that note, I´d like to address any young man who´s reading this who´s hesitating or isn't sure that he should serve a mission. I know I sound like a broken record repeating the same thing as everyone else, but for me this is personal. Serving a mission has changed my life. Without doing what I´ve been doing for the last two years I probably already would have flunked out of college and be working at McDonalds without too much direction in my life. I´ve learned here that as I put the Lord first and above all things, keep the commandments, that I can turn my weaknesses over to Him and that He will strengthen me to reach my worthy goals. I´ve learned to be able to focus on more than just me and my temporary wants and needs. I´ve learned to discipline myself to be able to see long term and put other people before myself. I couldn´t do that before. I invite you to put the Lord first and to keep the commandment of serving a full-time mission. Dedicate your life to Him for two years and watch the change in yourself. He will change you from a boy to a man. It´s not just cliché--it´s real.  

I hope you all have a great week! Put the Lord first :) I love you all.

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

We did exchanges this week with our DL.  Their area is all up in the hills on the side of Tuxtla.  It never turns out as cool in pictures but you can see ALL of Tuxtla from there.  

Here´s another panoramic one that my comp took (I did not know that I was going to be in this picture) from a place in our area where you can see almost all of Tuxtla, too.   

There is a "plaza de toros" right in front of our house.  I don´t know what it´s called in English but it´s where they do the Spanish sport of bull-killing (I don´t remember what it´s actually called but it´s with the matadors).  Aparently they had one in December.  We know the owner.  He´s really old now but he was a torero (matador) for a reallllly long time and he´s a really cool person.   

Our district this change.

Happy Mission Birthday to my companion!

This was the night of my companions mission birthday. We were serving the cake and mine almost fell so I thought it would be better to catch it in my hand than let it fall on the floor. And it was. Also that´s a better look at my awesome Real Madrid jersey.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

February 3, 2014--Week 100

This is my comp (Elder Sánchez from Guatemala) and me and one of the biggest hills in our area. :) That's Tuxtla in the background. 

Elder Finn, me, Elder Sánchez, and Elder Escobedo (Elder Finn´s comp) at our zone conference this week.  It was nice to have a zone conference without being the stressed out zone leader haha.  It was my last one in the mission (I don´t know whether to put a sad face or a happy face with that comment).

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014--Week 99

Hey Mom!

To answer your question about where we live so you can find it on Google, I'll just send you some points so that you can check out our area. It is more or less in the southern part of Tuxtla right in the middle. If you zoom down enough to see the names of the colonies (or neighborhoods as we would call them) we live in Obrera, and our area embarks most of what's to the right of that: Benito Juárez, San Juan Sabinito, Lomas del Venado, and Maldonado, until Cerro Hueco. If you have trouble finding that it´s below Av 9a Sur Ote and around Libramiento Sur.  

This is the stree right in front of my house:

If you give it a 180 degree turn you´ll see our house. We live on the second floor of the house where there´s a lady´s gym poster on the wall (which is no longer there, but in this satelite picture it is). 

The work continues to roll forth here in Barrio Juárez. We're planning on having two baptisms on the 8th of Febrero (a brother and sister of 24 and 19 years--don´t make fun of my English there I know it´s horrible haha), and then another one on the 15th (a 16 year old girl that`s a cousin of a family of youth in the ward). We also found 8 new investigators this week. So that´s pretty cool too. Yesterday a guy that was just a tad bit drunk called us into his house and told us that he wants to change his life and that he wants us to visit him. So we convinced him to dump his beer down the drain and stomp on his cigarrettes :) which was quite lovely. We're going to visit him with a couple of guys from the elders quorum that had problems with the Palabra de Sabiduría in the past.  

I want to tell everyone who is reading this, especially family, how grateful I am for your prayers and support and how much I love you. I want to tell you all that I love being a missionary. I can't believe that my time is coming to an end, and I'm realizing now at the end of these two years just how much I've learned and grown.  I'm approaching my 23 month "birthday", and in this last month I'm going to work my heart out and invite all that cross my way to come unto Christ through repentence and baptism.  I've realized lately just how much more bold I've become as I invite people to repent and do what's right.  Before, I think I was embarrassed to invite people to change their lives.  Inviting people to prepare to be baptized terrified me.  I'm so grateful that God has helped me overcome those weaknesses. As I've realized that the door to discipleship is baptism, I kind of wonder what I was pointing my investigators toward before if I wasn't inviting them to prepare themselves to enter the waters of baptism and make sacred covenants. That is now our only focus as we teach--to ignite in others the desire to be disciples of Jesus Christ, to help them identify the way, and help the to do so, so that they can come unto Christ and be perfected in Him. I invite all that are reading this to examine your own lives and identify what you can do to become a more devoted disciple of the Master. For most of you that is no longer baptism--but we can all be more committed to keep the covenants that we have made with the Lord.  Let us all come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him. Let's deny ourselves of all ungodliness.  That's my invitation today.

So, I'm sorry that was kind of disjointed.  I was trying to piece together quickly all of what I've learned about my missionary purpose over the last two years... that's what came out without editting.  I love you all very much.  Trust in the Lord and have a great week.

Con mucho amor,
Elder Nickerl (el mexicano)

And this is apple pie.  We ate it yesterday.  It was the first time I´ve seen anything resembling American pie in my entire mission.  And I don´t really remember what it tastes like all that well, but I feel like the sister that made it (the daughter of the family that we eat with almost every Sunday, la familia Sánchez, made it) did a pretty good job and I think that it was just like genuine apple pie.  So, I was excited about
that and I wanted to share :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 20, 2014--Week 98

Hello everyone!

So, I just want to start off talking a little bit about our area before I start to talk about my awesome birthday yesterday. :) So, we now have baptismal dates!  We´ve found people because the members are working hard. :) I love teaching the message of the Restoration to the members.  There´s a very special spirit as we do it and we gain a lot of confidence that way.  So, we´re going to have a bunch of baptisms in February :) and the Lord has blessed us.

Ok, so, about my birthday.  My second birthday in my mission was only like 100000x better than the first one.  First of all, my companion remembered this year and told me happy birthday haha.  In church, the entire elders quorum sang me the latino Happy Birthday (las mañanitas).  And in the afternoon, an awesome family from the ward invited us to come over to eat cake (their daughter has the same birthday as me--first person that I´ve met in my life).  They made me my own mini-cheesecake!!!  Like legitimate cheesecake with "Felicidades Elder Nickerl" and everything.  I attached a picture. So that was so awesome. I´m very grateful for the love that they showed to me here in our ward. They did all this without me telling anybody other than my comp that it was going to be my birthday (he´s awesome too and I´m pretty sure he told everybody--but without me knowing). We got home at night and gave our weekly report over the phone and planned and all the normal things. And then, to my surprise, after we finished, Elder Finn and his companion Elder Escobedo came in with another cake! So that was awesome as well. We had a great time eating it :) Anyway, I had an awesome birthday and I´m very grateful for all the love that was shown to me yestderday.  

Just know that I¨m very happy here and I´m working my heart out for this last little bit in my mission... the time is going very quickly and it´s pretty scary--so the only thing that I can do is work harder. :)

Thanks for all of your prayers and love in my direction :) and don´t worry at all that the package you sent wasn´t here for my birthday.  I really wasn´t expecting you to send one in the first place anyway. You´re the best :) te amo muchísimo!  Que tengas una semana súper excelente :) 

Con mucho amor,

Elder Nickerl (el mexicano)

This is my cake from the familia Mendoza! Pretty awesome, huh?

Really pretty bad quality, but it´s the best we could do.  This is the cake from Elder Finn and Elder Escobedo.