Hello family! :)
I’ll start by answering some of your questions:
**When guys/girls leave on missions from Mexico, do they usually stay in Mexico? Or do they go to other parts of the world? And, are most of the missionaries in your mission from Mexico or are they from other parts of Latin America too?
It’s definitely more normal that they stay within Mexico than that they go to others countries. But, they do go pretty often to other Spanish-speaking countries (the Branch President´s son here is currently serving in Puerto Rico), and here in the mission most of the Latino missionaries are Mexicans, but we also have a pretty some Elderes y Hermanas from other countries. One of my zone leaders is from Peru, and one of the sisters in my district last change was also from Peru.
**Will the transfer day for your mission continue to be every 6 weeks? I've heard of a few other missions where the transfer day is changing (becoming like 4 or 5 weeks) to accommodate the increasing number of missionaries going to each mission and the shorter MTC time. And, have you begun to see an influx of more missionaries in your mission?
Yeah, I´ve been meaning to talk about that for a few weeks now. This change is 10 weeks. I think that means I´ll be coming home 4 weeks later than originally planned as well, so in late March, but I don´t know for sure. After this change, I have no idea how it's going to be. I´ve heard all kinds of rumors, that they´re going to stay normal with 6 week changes or that we´re going to have one change of 6 weeks and then the other of 3 weeks and then the other of 6 and so on, but I really don´t know. But, when it affects us, I´m sure they’ll let us know :) although it may only be the night before... that happens a lot here. Like for example, Wednesday night the zone leaders called me at exactly 10:30 because the assistants had just notified them that the next morning our zone would be going to San Cristobal to have interviews with Presidente. We haven´t started to see the flood of new missionaries yet. But, Elder Johnson (area authority over Mexico) told Presidente Cárdenas to expect to have a total of 100 sisters and 150 elders in the mission by the end of the year. Last time I heard the exact number, we had 22 sisters and 118 elders. So, wow! Every sister in the mission will probably be training two other sisters at the same time.
**Have you been well? With us being sick this past week, I've wondered how you are feeling. I hear lots of crazy things through the mission mom site… and know that mostly missionaries don't talk about their ailments until they get home, but I'm just checking on you. Do you want more probiotics in your next package?
I’ve been just fine. I´m pretty adjusted to how we live by now, and I haven´t really been sick since Huixtla (I had a nasty stomach bug there for a few days, but nothing really serious). Sharing a fun experience quickly, I did have the wonderful opportunity today to take for the first time what we call a "bucket shower". We woke up, and there was no water coming out of the tap. We have a big tank of water outside that we use to wash our clothes, so I filled up a bucket with water. It was freezing cold water (but I´m now getting over that, because it´s been a pretty common occurrence since getting here that something malfunctions, whether it be the gas, the water, or matches getting wet and hence not being able to light the boiler, etc). Then, I grabbed a smaller container and took them to the shower, and drenched myself in cold water. If it was in a hotter area, it wouldn´t actually be all that bad. And, I think I´m doing fine without the probiotics, so don't worry about sending more. :) Thanks!
So, in our interviews with President this week, we got packages! Thank you very much to Auntie Sarah, and if you can please tell her I did with the "hugs" exactly as instructed :) Also, thank you very much to you for the awesome second birthday package! The little Preach My Gospel´s are great, and I´ll tell you in a second what I´m doing with them :) and I decided after seeing the Portuguese book that I´m definitely going to learn Portuguese and other Latin languages after my mission. It´s ridiculously easy because half the verbs are exactly the same and the other half are similar, the grammar concepts are all identical, there are all the same verb tenses and the conjugate almost the same, and I just love languages. Also, I just wanted to let you know that the chocolates survived the heat without any damage, and they were a big hit with the entire zone (but mostly me :p). And the hand warmers are going to be excellent! I´m saving them for a night that I know that I´ll be freezing to death. The Book of Mormon stories book is pretty cool too, I´ll definitely be using it to teach kids about the BoM (and I enjoy it myself. I´m a big fan of the drawings.
And, I also got a package that Dad sent from Afghanistan. And that was also an awesome package. So much delicious food. The favorite is definitely the two-pound bag of beef sticks, which definitely don´t exist down here. I also reallllly enjoyed the root beer candies, because root beer doesn´t exist here either, nor in the MTC. And, the Pure Trim shakes definitely bring back a lot of memories. And have been really nice for when I get a little behind in the mornings and don´t have the time to cook something but don´t want to eat just cereal. So yes, that´s the summary of the packages. And I´m very, very, very grateful for all of the love and support :)
I´m quickly running out of time, but we had an really special week this week and I want to share a little bit about it quickly. In short, not too much had been happening around here, and something that we´d been struggling on as a district is what we call "The Doctrine of Christ", and helping people progress toward making baptismal covenants. Looking at my planner, Elder Vargas and I had done 3 baptismal invitations the week before and 1 the week before that. And the sisters had done 1 the week before and 2 the week before that. So that was something we were lacking. I was thinking a lot before the district meeting about what I could say so that we would all invite more people to follow the example of our Savior. (A side note: before my mission—we all thought it was crazy for Elders to keep inviting people to be baptized "before they were ready". But don’t judge the Elders on that anymore, they know what they´re doing!). So, I randomly remembered a fireside that we had in South Carolina where Brother Call told us about his mission, and he told us that they used to go door to door inviting people to be baptized like Jesus Christ. So I started thinking, why don´t I ever invite people to be baptized in contacts? And I did it for the first time last Sunday. And the lady said no. But I kept thinking about it, and the magnitude of our calling, and our authority as missionaries, and our call to invite people to follow the example of Christ. So, Tuesday in the district meeting, I talked about being bold in that process of inviting. And we decided that between us and the Sisters we were going to have a competition to see who could do more invitations. And Thursday, when I got the package, I put the mini Preach My Gospel´s as the prize. At the end of the week, we finished with 13 invitations and 8 people with a baptismal date, as compared to 0 the week before. The sisters finished with 8 invitations, and also with 8 people with a baptismal date, as compared to 2 the week before. Although we won the competition I´m still going to give the sisters their mini Preach My Gospel´s tomorrow at our district meeting for having an awesome week. I´ll try to go into more details with the people we found and set baptismal dates this week.
I love you all so much! I hope you have a great week!
Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl