Called to Serve

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

September 24, 2012--Week 30

Dear Mom,

I don´t think I´m going to be able to type a letter for the blog today, because I´m going to email Adam and Jared (and Anna and Jacob if I have time) and send some pictures. 

These are two of the three young men in our branch.  I stole Manuel´s hat briefly for the picture (and a few chips).

 Elder Esparza and I got a kick out of this.  "Timbre" is "doorbell", and we just thought it was super helpful that they helped us to identify where their doorbell was (this is what every doorbell looks like in Chiapas).

It was Elder Esparza´s birthday the 16th (which is cool because that´s Mexican Independence Day), so we ate cake.  And it was good.  It cost the equivalent of 4 bucks at the grocery store.  And it kind of tasted like it cost 4 bucks.  But it was still nice to eat a sweet looking cake.  And it did taste pretty good—more or less.

Our "Fiesta Mexicana" the 15th of September in the branch.  The guerrito behind us is the branch president and the morenito is el Hno Roberto (EQP).  They painted us up (even me) like Mexicans and gave me a banderita. 

This is Pili.  She belongs to a member of the branch.  And I was terrified in this moment because it was the first time I had tried to hold her.  And she bit me.  But then she climbed on my hand, which was kind of cool.  Parrots are awesome here.  They talk way more than they do in English.

This is when we came back two days later and I got over my fear a little bit and put her on my shoulder.  I had her stay there and we had a wonderful conversation (I really enjoy speaking with animals because it´s the only way I learn how to speak naturally using the pronoun "tú") until she started biting my ear at which point I put her down.  Because we are missionaries, it is required that we use “usted”.  Mexicans basically use "tú" with everyone all the time, so sometimes people think it´s weird for us to speak formally.  Especially when we use "usted" to address a 2-year old child.  Sometimes the little kids don´t understand being addressed in "usted", so we use "tú", which is tough for me because I´m not used to it and I almost feel like I´m saying bad words haha because it really is just strictly "usted" for us (even between companions, which people also think is really weird).

Another one of my little friends who helps me learn how to tutear (very meaning "to speak using tú", which is actually a real verb), but he doesn´t respond to me quite as well as Pili.  I thought it was very clever that I could put him in my pocket, although I do look like a lunatic in this photo (as well as the first one with Pili).  There are no animal control laws in Mexico.  There are a TON of cats and dogs.  And some super nasty dogs sometimes too.  Like really nasty.  But there are a ton of cool birds too, like these little mini parrots that also talk, but not as much (they basically just say "corre corre" but they roll their r´s a lot better than I do haha).  But the big parrots (like Pili), do talk a lot.  They don´t really carry on full conversations or anything like that, but they do say a lot more in Spanish than they do in English.  Pili once told us to come in ("pasenle", don´t try to make sense of that grammatically because it makes absolutely no sense, it´s just what people say here), and the family was like why the heck are you standing in our kitchen (they leave their doors open all the time too because of the heat and lack of AC, so we just walked right in).  It was great. 

Well Mama, I’ve got to go if I’m going to have time to type emails to the kids.  I love you.  Take care this week.  You’re awesome and I appreciate you!

Elder Nickerl

Monday, September 17, 2012

September 17, 2012--Week 29

Dear family,

So, a lot happened this week.  It was kind of hectic.  A couple of good things that happened:  Dionila (mother with two sons whose husband passed away about 5 years ago) and her two sons both came to church this week.  We got there a little late because we went to their house to pick them up, and when we did, the branch president informed us that the assigned speaker (the high councilor was speaking too so there was only one other talk assigned) didn´t show up for the week.  So, guess who´s first in line to speak when the speaker doesn´t show up?  So, for the first time in my life I gave a talk in sacrament meeting that I prepared in about 5 minutes using just my scriptures.  And I think it lasted about 12 minutes and I felt pretty good about it, so that was fun.  I focused my talk on the Atonement and how if we understand the Atonement and the Gospel well as members of the restored church of Jesus Christ, we will understand that people cannot receive the fullness of the blessings of the Atonement without receiving the ordinance of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by one holding the Priesthood Authority of God.  So, our desires and efforts to share the Gospel are literally a direct measurement of our gratitude for the Savior and the sacrifice that He carried out on our behalf.  I hope I helped a little bit some of the members of the branch to understand why they should be motivated to share the Gospel :)

Also, cool and kind of funny side note is that the high council speaker that came this Sunday is named "el Hermano Kevin".  He´s very American and from Northern California, served his mission here 5 years ago, went home for a year, came back, got married here, now works as an English teacher (English teachers here that speak it well make BANK--like they have AC in there entire house :O), and just went back to visit his family for the first time since he moved down here.  So, that´s kind of funny.  But, it was cool talking to him (all in Spanish, by the way, he didn´t say a word in English, and his Spanish accent is killer, he seriously sounds like he was born and raised in Chiapas).  But yeah... kind of weird and funny story all at the same time. 

Some not so good things that happened this week:  Marisol, who was going to be baptized this coming Saturday, had to go to Guatemala for an undetermined amount of time.  So, her baptism is now very much postponed until she comes back :( Also, another really fun thing that happened this week.  Friday, I got sicker than I have been since my first week, and I actually threw up in the house of one of our investigators.  Eso me dio un buen de pena.  But, it happens (if you´re a gringo missionary in Mexico).  So, I called the Doctor that they have for us in the mission (thankfully they have one who speaks English and one who speaks Spanish, because I have no idea how to speak medically in Spanish), and I was kind of freaking out trying to remember how we start phone calls in English, and I was really relieved that he answered in Spanish.  But anyway, he told me to buy some pills, I bought them, I took them, we had to stay in the house Friday and Saturday, but now, I´m better!  And we´re really glad to not be in the house and sick anymore.

I’m so glad you got the package I sent.  Adam wanted to know how much all the stuff in the package cost in dollars.  I don´t remember really, but the only thing in there that was expensive was the big hammock (700 pesos, around 55 bucks), which I bought like my second week here (the little one Albertina actually sold me when I was in San José for really cheap).  Aside from the big hammock, all of the rest together would have cost me less than 25 bucks.  The expensive part was just sending it, so it´ll be awhile before I send another package. 

You asked about the hammock:  The big red one is the one I used in Tapachula.  I actually have yet another one, which I bought because it´s as big as the red and green one but it´s what they call "doble-tejida" which means "double woven", so it´s pretty sweet.  And it´s also like 10 colors and beautiful, and I am hoping to have the chance to use it again in a future area.  Oh, and I bought it because I found a place in Tapachula where they sell them super cheap right before I left San José. 

Anna asked about the spinning tops toys:  To answer the questions about the trompos, I'm ok with them.  I can do a few cool tricks and stuff (flip it onto my hand with the string then let it run down the string and such), but we don´t really have a ton of time to mess around with them.  But, toys here have seasons.  Which is kind of weird.  When I got here it was trompo season, and there were always a ton of kids in the street playing with trompos in Tapachula.  Now it´s the season of canicas (marbles), so we see more of that in the street now.  They actually use "toys" here way more than in the States, because there aren´t too many electronics around here.

Keep up the good work with you´re Spanish, Mom!!  I know it´s tough, but you´re doing great :)

Also, I just wanted to comment super fast that you´re the best mission mom ever!  All the other missionaries are going to hate me for getting 2 packages (maybe even 3 if interviews aren´t until late in this change) packages at once.  Thanks a ton :) I love you!

Basically, that´s all that´s going on here right now, we´re working hard to find the people that the Lord has prepared for us, because right now we´ve had to leave a lot of investigators because they don´t keep their commitments and won´t progress.  I´m kind of starting to understand why everyone was kind of "aww sorry you´ve got to go to Huixtla", because there hasn´t been much success here for a long time.  But, Presidente Cárdenas has promised every area in the mission that as we stive to become "perfect missionaries", the Lord will give us baptisms every week.  We´re holding on to that promise, and we´re going to find the people who are here waiting, and "kept from the truth only because they know not where to find it".

I love and miss you all so much!  Have an awesome week :)

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl

Monday, September 10, 2012

September 10, 2012--Week 28

Dear Family,

This week was great!  We worked really hard, and I am super psyched to go home in a few minutes and sleep!  I don´t think I´ll actually have much time to sleep though, because we set an appointment today at 5 so our p-day ends earlier than usual and I still have to wash my clothes and clean the house.  Oh, and I started translating my patriarchal blessing into Spanish this morning and I want to finish that—highly recommendable, by the way, for anyone who can translate their patriarchal blessing into another language.  It´s the second time I´ve done it in the mission and it´s helped me to understand it a lot better. 

Elder Esparza is awesome.  He´s from the state of Mexico, and supposedly I´m supposed to be finishing his period of training, but he´s seriously a stud and he teaches and contacts really well and I don´t feel like I have too much that I need to train him on.  Another awesome thing about him is that he speaks a ton of English!  He speaks more English (just from classes in high school) than I spoke Spanish at the point that I left the MTC.  So that’s been fun. 

We got goose egged on our investigators in church this week. :(  That´s never fun.  But, we did set a really solid baptismal date for the 22nd, so we´re psyched about that.  The sister´s name is Marisol and she has two little kids and her husband is working right now in Texas.  The not so good news this week is with the other sister that we´re teaching, Dionila, who has her two sons and her husband who passed away a few years ago.  She's reading the Book of Mormon and praying, and she´s received answers, but she's got this huge mental block against baptism.  Also, she and her older son work at least every other Sunday, so they haven´t been able to make it to church since almost a month ago.  But, we´re going to keep working with them, and hopefully with a lot of prayer and faith, they´ll be able to keep progressing.

Our p-days (should) go like this:  (just like any other day), wake up at 6:30, be studying by 8.  We leave the house between 11 and 12, and then go to do haircuts, go to the ciber, and go to the store.  I don´t think we´ll be able to hike the Piedra de Huixtla because supposedly it takes a good bit of time and we leave to proselyte at 6 by the latest.

I love being a missionary, but I am tired all of the time.  That is the normal for me now. :) The trick is not letting it become just a routine, but always remembering how excited we were when we got our call, the whole time in the MTC, when we got to the field, when we had our first baptism, etc.  It´s easy to lose sight of how incredible the mission is sometimes, because like I told Jacob a few weeks ago, there´s no choir singing "Called to Serve" when we crawl out of bed exhausted at 6:30, when we leave our apartment, or when we get rejected an entire afternoon.  You have to be able to find the real joy that is really here, but is not the "glory" of it all.

I do have a request for a care package or for Christmas.  A few weeks ago, President asked us to turn in our MP3 players.  So now, I am without music (just my set of discs of hymns).  What a lot of elders have is a DVD with music on it (we all have little DVD players that can play music from discs).  So, what would be awesome would be to have music again.  EFY music, Joseph: A Nashville Tribute, Jenny Phillips, and all the stuff like that that I had on my MP3 player that I no longer have would be awesome.

My time is already gone, but I just want to say that I miss you guys a ton, seriously.  If I had to choose one thing about my mission that was the hardest, it would be that I have such limited communication and such little time to talk to and think about all of you.  But, President has told us that the way to avoid homesickness is diligence in the work and I'm really holding on to that promise and working as hard as I can, because I really miss you all. Please know that you´re always in my prayers and that I really love each one of you so much.  I hope that those of you that are sick can get better quickly and that things go well for you guys in this coming week. 

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl

Monday, September 3, 2012

September 3, 2012--Week 27

Hello family :)

So, I´m fairly convinced that Presidente is trying to tell me through these last two changes that because my first two changes as a greenie were peaceful in one spot with one comp, I now need some changes that will stress me out a little bit.  This morning at 8 o’clock, I learned that as Elder Alonso leaves to go home to Mexico City, my next companion will not be an ex-zone leader or assistant, or even another senior comp like we thought.  This change I’m going to be training.  So, I´m kind of freaking out a little bit right now, because I don´t even feel ready to be a senior comp, let alone a trainer.  But, I've also learned very well in the last couple of months that the Lord calls us in our weakness and qualifies us as we do His work and put our trust in Him. 

I’m a little nervous because I only have 4 months in Mexico and still have fairly frequent trip-ups with my Spanish.  Obviously it´s the responsibility of both missionaries, but being the junior comp I usually just trusted the judgment of my senior comp to make decisions, did my best to help and learn from him, and only disagreed when I felt really strongly about something.  Now everything falls first to me.  I´m scared, but I really am grateful for this oportunity to grow.  As the Lord promises us in Ether 12:27, He will help us overcome our weaknesses.  I´ve spent these past four months identifying many, many weaknesses, and now I know that it´s my time to just trust in the Lord and do all I can so that He can strengthen me to do what He has called me to do. 

How we do the trainings here is for each missionary they have two changes that they´re in their period of training.  My comp has already done his first change, so tomorrow he´s going to get here from Tuxtla (where he was in his first change) instead of me going there to pick him up.  I´m just now realizing all the things that I haven´t had to do because I´ve been the junior companion that I will now have to do.  I’m also really nervous because I know that in everything I do I´m setting the example for a new missionary.  But, in the midst of all of the panic, I feel really happy and at peace.  I know that this is a huge opportunity to humble myself and rely wholly upon the Lord to be able to overcome my many weaknesses.

My new comp is named Elder Esparza, which leads me to believe that I will be having another change to work closely with my Spanish. I won´t know until I meet him if he´s from the States or not.  Just judging by his last name, I would guess not.  But, then again, I also know a couple of very American elders who have Hispanic last names.  I’ll be with Elder Alonso until tomorrow at 3pm when he leaves on a bus for Tuxtla.  Then, I´ll be waiting in the OCC (the bus station in Tapachula) for about an hour until my new companion gets there.  I´m assuming there will be a few other Elders there waiting for companions that will be arriving on the same bus. 

For the work here:  Things are going really well right now!  The branch members are finally starting to be a little more animated and they´re helping us out with finding people.  Right now our main investigators are a family of three--the mother, Dionila, and her two sons, Juan and José.  The dad passed away a few years ago.  They’re doing well, but they´re just a little afraid of committing themselves in one place, so we´re trying to help them see why it´s so important.  We´re also still teaching the little sister of the Relief Society president (her name is Marisol).  She got really sick, though, and hasn´t been able to come to church.  She´s also going to Guatemala for a few weeks in a couple of days, so we´ll see what happens there.  Hopefully she comes back, because she´s a really good person and accepts very well what we teach and keeps her commitments.  We also found this week a young man named David.  He stopped us in the street to talk English with me.  He lived in Atlanta for 6 years, and speaks broken, but understandable English (more than anyone else I´ve found in Huixlta).  We´ve only been able to meet with him once since then, but he´s really eager to learn more and I´m excited to be able to keep teaching him.  Other than those people, the members of the branch brought 5 other investigators to church this week, which was awesome.  Two of them are an old couple (somewhere in their 70s I would imagine), and the other three people are a young family.  So, we´ve got a lot of work to do right now.  I hope my new comp is ready to work and walk a ton :) because we´re going to be doing a lot of both this week. 

Elder Alonso and I with el Hno. Roberto (el Presidente del Quorum de los Elderes).

So, I was going to send these pictures last week of this hateful spider (who thought it would be a good idea to crawl in our window at 6:30am), but I ran out of time.  I decided I was going to burn him if he came back.  He decided to return, so, as promised, I burned it.  According to Elder Alonso, it´s not a tarantula, it´s actually a "cara de niño" (child´s face), because it has a smiley face pattern underneath.  According to Elder Alonso (again, because I still just think it´s a tarantula), they do bite and they´re pretty poisonous.  But, don’t worry Mom, I´ll try not to get bitten. :) I hate spiders so the chance is that I´ll kill it before that happens.  And we do actually live right by a hospital, so that´s good just in case.

Just wanted to let you know as well that I will be sending my package off to you today.  Supposedly, it will get there in 8 days, but I´m not sure if I believe that or not.  Let me know.   

Hope you all have a great week!  Sorry I didn´t respond to anything that you guys told me this week :/ Keep up the good work with school, everyone! 

I love you all so much!

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl