Called to Serve

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Monday, July 30, 2012

July 30, 2012--Week 22

Dear Family,

So, it’s been a week in my new area.  Huixtla is very different than Tapachula.  It´s kind of that area that people are like "Ahh man you´re going to Huixtla... umm that´s really cool Elder. Good luck.”  But I’m not really sure why it has a negative connotation, because we’ve been received really well this week.  We’ve taught more lessons and have more new investigators this week than any other week in my mission (and obviously things are going to change a little from comp to comp but Elder Howell and I worked really hard in San José, Tapachula and just didn´t get results like this).  That being said, it is HOT here—much hotter than Tapachula.  Which is just ridiculous.  And we walk wayyyy more than we did in San José.  I think I´ve dropped like 10 pounds this week.  Also, you can see on the map that Huixtla is pretty fairly sized.  Not huge, and I don´t know how many people live here, but it is a city.  And, we´re the only missionaries here.  Our area actually covers a lot of little outlying towns as well (Escuintla, Xochil, others that have weird names too...).  It´s a huge area!  Also, we only have a branch.  This week 46 people showed up to Sacrament Meeting, and that was a lot.  We meet in the upstairs of a house, but they're going to start building a chapel here toward the end of August.

Elder Alonso is awesome.  The first couple of days we didn´t get along great, but we´ve straightened things out, and we´re getting along fine now.  We´ve been really successful in our work this week, and we´re excited for this upcoming week, because we´ve got a ton of people that we`re going to invite to be baptized.  Also, this is his last transfer, and then he´s going home (to Mexico City), so this is a really awesome opportunity for me to learn from him as a missionary as well as to improve my Spanish.  I feel like I´ve really improved a lot this week, in learning to be a better teacher and focus on people and their individual needs, and also in my Spanish.  To answer your question about Spanish, I´m really getting it.  If I´m really listening to what someone is saying, I understand everything they say.  The only exception happens if I don´t know one specific word, but in that case I can just narrow it down to that word and ask what it means.  It´s more or less the same with my speaking now too.  I can say what I want without having to focus on it much unless there´s just one word that I lack, and then I can just describe what that word is and someone tells me.  It´s a pretty good system :)

I forgot that I also wanted to share with you guys a couple experiences I had this week.  Being away makes me really realize how incredibly blessed we are to be sealed as an eternal family.  I miss you all and love you so much.  This week I had two different opportunities to bear my testimony of eternal marriage, and both were very spiritual experiences for me that made me feel very close to you guys even though I´m in a very foreign place.  All I said was (after teaching what it is) "Hermana, tengo una familia así.  Somos unidos por el Evangelio de Jesucristo y por este convenio sagrado con Dios.  Los amo a ellos, y mientras que estoy aquí los extraño muchísimo, pero realmente vale la pena porque sé que usted también puede recibir esta bendición si está dispuesta a hacer cambios en su vida."  It´s amazing to me how our Heavenly Father can consecrate our simple words with power.  I miss you guys a ton and I love you!

Sorry for the late email today.  Elder Alonso schedules his p-days a little differently than Elder Howell.  I´m not sure if it´ll be the same time next week or earlier.  I don´t have much more to report right now... just wanted to say that I´m glad that Dad made it home safely and in time for the high adventure, and that you guys have some time to spend with him. 

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 23, 2012--Week 21

Dear Family,

1.  My debit card does not expire until 3 or 4 days before I come home, so there shouldn´t be any problems there.

2.  Is there money in my account right now?  We´re allowed to buy things off the LDS store here, and they´re really cheap in pesos, so I´d like to buy some stuff (hymns in Spanish, maybe a couple of movies like the Testaments, the Restoration, etc.).

3.  In relation to a new package, I thought of a few things that would be awesome.  Also, I was informed a few days ago that the address for sending letters that I left is bad.  The PO box doesn´t work or something.  So all packages AND letters go to the Calle Jasmines address.
      1) There´s a book called "Día de la Defensa", which leads me to believe that in English it would be called "Day of the Defense".  It´s about two missionaries who go to "court" to defend our religion solely using scriptures from the Bible.  I´ve been studying the Bible a lot lately to try and get a better base on how the Bible really does support what we believe, and I would love to have a copy of that book (in English or Spanish, whichever is cheaper/easier to find).
     2) I love my mp3 player and use it all the time.  I´m not sure how you´d do it, but it´d be really nice to have some more music in Spanish (hymns, Jenny Phillips, whatever church music in Spanish).  This is a random side thought, but Jared asked me what my favorite song from the EFY cd this year was.  I´d definitely have to say "I Feel My Savior's Love" and "Give It All To Him".
     3) I had some other things... I think just one other thing actually, but today is the first day of a new change and I forgot my agenda from the last one (which had it all written in it). 

4.  We received news of changes about half an hour ago.  And I'm the one leaving.  So, I'm in a little bit in shock, because Elder Howell already has 7 months here and I have less than three.  My next companion doesn´t speak English and I really thought I was going to be in this ward until January of next year.  I am really sad to be leaving because I’ve loved this area so much for the last couple months.  But, I recognize that it´s not me who makes changes in the mission, nor is it the district leaders, zone leaders, assistants, or even the president.  I know that the Lord is the one who is leading us, and I´m really excited for the chance to start in an area that I don´t know.  
Cool side fact about this though:  a couple weeks ago I did a division when Elder Howell went to Tuxtla for a training there.  I went with Elder Alonso (my new companion this change) to Huixtla (my new area—pronounced like Weextla).  It´s in my same zone, but a different district and about a half an hour outside of Tapachula.  Elder Howell is training again, so he's leaving to go get his new companion from Tuxtla this afternoon.  I think I´ll be going to Huixtla tomorrow in the afternoon.  I´m kind of nervous and apprehensive but I know (to quote President Monson) "the Lord is at the helm", and that it is His work that I am here to do.

I´ve got to go now.  I hope you have a great week!  I love you!

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl

Monday, July 16, 2012

July 16, 2012--Week 20

Buenas tardes Presidente,
Esta semana mejoramos mucho en muchas cosas.  Sentimos que realmente nos esforzamos con mucha diligencia y por eso, enseñamos más y también pudimos hacer más contactos y encontrar una hermana que estaba muy lista a aceptarnos.  La encontramos el jueves y le enseñamos sobre "El Libro de Mormon", y despues regresamos sábado y le invitamos a bautizarse.  Aunque no dijo "sí", ella está guardando todos los compromiso que dejamos (lectura y oraciones tanto como asistencia a la iglesia).  Estamos muy animados por eso y porque sabemos que al seguir trabajando con diligencia, el Señor nos va a bendecir con más personas así que realmente son los escogidos de Él. En esta semana que viene vamos a esforzarnos más por trabajar con los miembros y llevarlos a lecciones.  También, nos vamos a esforzar en contactar usando los principios que vienen en el atributo didactica de "Como comenzar a enseñar", y creemos que vamos a poder entrar más casas para enseñar lecciones despues del contacto al usar esos principios que vienen de "Predicad Mi Evangelio".

End letter to Presidente and buenas tardes family :)

Sorry--although I do still have those "Wow, I´m in Mexico" moments still, I´ve definitely started to take for granted how different it is here and how much I´ve adjusted to it.  Thanks for the prompts :) that does make it a little bit easier for me.

1.     In response to Jared's question about the girls and your answer last week, Anna wants to know if there are any cute guys her age.  I told her that she would probably be taller than the boys there, but I wasn't sure.  Any answers for her?

Well, I definitely can´t judge that one as well as Jared´s question, but I would think so.  She would probably be taller than the majority (I´m a giant here, I love it), but in our ward I think a few of the young men are around her height or taller.  And they wouldn´t care anyway because everyone is short here.  It’s not really as big of a deal as it is in the States.  The standards of attractiveness are very different here.  Basically, the taller and whiter (not necessarily whiter, just lighter complexion, especially if they have lighter/blondish hair) someone is, the better looking they are.  Y así es la situación.  I find it kind of humorous.

2.     Tell us some more about the food...

Food... we eat a ton of chicken here.  About every other day we eat a plate of about half rice, a quarter vegetables, and some kind of meat (usually chicken, which is why we eat so much of it).  They prepare the meats really differently here.  They´re always covered in some kind of sauce, which you usually mix with the rice to give it some flavor.  The other half the time we eat a variety of other things.  Taquitos, some kind of attempt at American food with a Mexican twist (which although it usually tastes nothing like American food, is usually pretty good), or some kind of stew.  There is also a really good kind of fried chicken that they usually serve with a "salad" (iceberg lettuce and tomatoes) and beans or something like that.  That meal is a favorite of mine.  They also serve fish (like the pictures we´ve seen, a whole fish with the head on just fried up and it is really good) and sometimes enchiladas (also a huge favorite), and sometimes mole (not the animal but a chocolate/chile kind of sauce thing), which is usually put on chicken and rice.  I still don´t really love yet.  One thing that I do love about here though is the drinks.  They blend up a fruit in water (papaya, watermelon, and stuff like that, not apples or bananas or oranges or anything) and mix it with sugar and it´s pretty tasty.  They also make an oatmeal drink thing where they blend up oatmeal in water and mix it with sugar--also really good. 

3.     So, I'm sure by now you have gotten attached to some of the families in your ward.  Tell us about some of them.  Do you eat at a lot of people's homes or really the same people over and over again?

You may have to resend this again next week, because I don´t think I really have time to talk about this right now.  There are just too many families in our ward that I love and could talk about forever.  We do eat in a lot of different homes.  I think I finally have it figured out where everyone lives that we eat with (I think there are probably about 25 houses). 

4.     Do the women cook in what would seem like "normal" kitchens to us?  

Most food here is cooked on the stove.  Probably only about 40% of the Hermanas in the ward have ovens, so that´s a big difference.  The other huge difference is the lack of a kitchen sink which is replaced with the tank and scrub board.  We use this to wash our clothes (although I think the majority of the Hermanas have washing machines, just not driers.  Everyone here hangs their clothes out to dry).  And really, the biggest difference is that about half the time, the kitchen in a Mexcian house is outside.  So basically, no, the kitchens are not very "normal”.

5.     You mentioned going to the "Centro" a couple of weeks ago.  Is that a market? Is it for tourists (are their tourists there?) or for the regular Mexican people?  What do you buy there?

The centro is crazy.  It´s not really for tourists... nobody there speaks English.  It´s pretty crazy though.  It´s just thousands of little tents or tables selling a million different things.  That´s where I bought my hammock, and you can really just buy whatever you would need there.

I got the first package that you sent in May this week when we had interviews.... looks like I just barely missed the second package. :( BUT I definitely loved getting the first one.  The beef jerky is definitely a fave, as well as the M&Ms, and I am faithfully taking my pills.  Also, I am officially a favorite of the primary children, as my tootsie pops are already gone.  There was a big demand for chile and chamoy flavored suckers, and it was pretty funny informing them that those flavors do not exist in the United States. 

I was definitely thinking of some things this week that would be nice, and I forgot to write them down.  So, I´ll keep you posted on those because I can´t remember what they are right now.

Also, just an update on the package that I´m trying to send to you.  The lady who makes the pulseras has disappeared from where she was selling before, so I continue in my search for her.  Apart from that, it shouldn’t be a ton longer before I can finally send it.

Also, just wanted to share a quick experience this week.  We had more contacts this week from trying to find people than any week since I´ve been here.  We had many, many doors shut on us this week.  But, out of all those contacts, we found one sister Thursday night that was definitely prepared to receive us.  We taught her about The Book of Mormon that night, and left with her the pamphlet of The Restoration and 3 Nephi 11.  We came back Saturday to "teach" the restoration and she basically taught it to us from what she had read in the pamphlet.  She came to church yesterday and then read the first 5 chapters of 1 Nephi between church and our visit that night.  She’s getting baptized the 4th of August.  The Lord definitely rewards our faith and our efforts when we work to follow Him with diligence.

Love you all!

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 9, 2012--Week 19

1.  What time is your church?  I know you said there are two wards that meet in your building, but I don't know what times the wards meet.

Our ward (San Jose Ward) meets at 8 in the morning.  The Indeco Ward enters at 11.

2.  What are some of the mutual activities that the youth in your ward do?  Do the young women and young men meet separately or together for joint activities too?  What things are different for the youth because of the culture differences?

I actually don´t really know.  Since I´ve been here, the young men did a camp out and they play soccer every week.  I think they do mutual on Saturday mornings every other week or something.... But they are normal youth here just like in the States and they do a lot of stuff together.

3.  Jared wants to know if he would think the girls in Tapachula are pretty?

Hahaha again just like in the States.  There are definitely pretty girls here, but there are the "sweet spirits" too.  And they would love Adam and Jared too.  I can just hear it... "Ayyyyyyy mira esos gringos bien güerros y altos con cabello de oro. ¡que guapos!"  It would be great.  I think there would be a slight language barrier though. Their English here is pretty rough.

4.  Do you spend some time with other Elders or just your companion?

Right now actually I am on a division with the Elders of Indeco.  Elder Howell is in Tuxtla re-innovating his visa.  We do divisions every once in a while, and we see the other missionaries of the zone every week at district meeting.  Also, Elder Howell as of last Tuesday is district leader, so we have a lot more contact with the zone leaders too.

5.  Do you use a pillow and bedding with your hammock?  How does it work?

I just use a pillow.  Sometimes I get cold at night now so I use a blanket too.

6.  The boys LOVE the new EFY music.  This year they didn't give out CDs but a download card.  If we sent you the link and card, could you download the music on the computers you use?

That would be awesome!  I would be able to put it on my mp3 and everything.  The jovenes here have EFY in a few weeks two.  The week of the 23 is the first EFY in the history of Chiapas, so that´s pretty exciting.  All the youth in my ward are going.  The theme is "Levantaos y Brillad", so I think that would be "Arise and Shine Forth", right?

So, sorry to report I don´t have a ton to report again this week other than what I´ve already said in the answers to your questions.  The most exciting news is that Salvador did get baptized Saturday and was confirmed yesterday!  

We´ve had a pretty good and normal week with a lot of walking around in the sun and sweating.  We´re kind of short on investigators right now.... We´ve had to drop a lot of them because they wouldn´t come to church or keep any commitments, so the coming week is going to be a lot of contacting and searching new investigators.  We know that there are a lot more people in this area that have been prepared to receive our message, so our objective this week is to find them and invite them to come unto Jesus Christ by repenting of their sins and being baptized.

Something that we´ve been doing a lot lately is focusing a lot specifically on the example of Jesus Christ.  When people realize that they need to be baptized by immersion and by the authority of the Priesthood because that is what Jesus Christ did, it helps them to realize that that is why it´s such an important commitment to make.  So we´re going to keep doing that this week and I have faith that I´ll have some stories to share about that next week. :) Love you lots!!

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl


Saturday, July 7, 2012

July 2, 2012--Week 18

Hey, sorry we had a problem with our email service to President this week, so I´m just now getting around to writing an email.  We usually have this site that lets us put in our numbers for the week and then write a message really quick, but this week we had to write out an email because it wasn´t working and it took a while.

So, this week is going to be a brief note.  Partly because I don´t have much time left and partly because I don´t have a ton to say.

This week the #1 awesome thing that´s going on is that we´re going to have another baptism this Saturday.  We´ve been teaching Salvador since the beginning of the month, and he´s been to church every week since then and has totally stopped drinking.  So we´re pretty excited about that. 

Other than that, we´re going to The Centro today!  That´s always fun because it’s just so different.  We haven´t really had time on a Monday yet to just go and look around, so that should be fun.

Sorry that I really don´t have much to say this week... I will have more for sure by next Monday, along with pictures from the baptism!

Love you all!

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl