Called to Serve

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 29, 2012--Week 35

Dear Mom,

I know I´m getting kind of bad at sending a good bloggable email each week, but aside from what I already wrote to you, there´s not a ton to report this week.  Here´s my report:

I´m happy!!!!!!  We baptized Ana on Saturday and confirmed her on Sunday!  And her Mom, who goes to a Presbyterian church had just been like "no, I don´t want to listen but you can teach her, thank you" before, but she totally felt the Spirit, especially while Ana was giving the closing prayer and started crying in the middle of it.  So, we´re going to start teaching her as well, and we´re hoping that will open the door to being able to teach the rest of her family.  

First of all, if this location looks familiar, we had this baptism in the San José chapel, which is such a pretty chapel.  I want one like that again... but anyway!

I´m also happy because Antonio is getting baptized this week.  He´s a teacher (like I said before, being a teacher here is not like being a teacher in the US--these guys make bank), and I think he´s about 40ish, and married with two kids (who are 16 and 19ish I think).  His wife is not super friendly toward us.  She´s very catholic.  And his kids I think are kind of scared of the mom in that aspect.  But his son, the older one, is friendly, and I think that after seeing his dad´s example will start listening to us, and with time, the mom will soften her heart as she feels the Spirit and sees the changes that the Gospel makes in her husband and family.  The missionaries found Antonio more than 3 years ago, and according to his teaching record he had already received all the teachings (that doesn´t feel like the right word... I´m shooting for "enseñanza"), and he came to church for like 5 months straight.  And then stopped.  A couple of missionaries have gone back to find him but nothing really came from that, and so we thought we´d look for him and see what happened (2 or 3 weeks ago).  We found him, and he told us that he´s made a lot of changes in his life, but that he´s been trying to make more, and he hasn´t been able to make those changes by himself.  We had the opportunity to really testify to him that it´s the Gospel of Jesus Christ that changes lives, and it is ONLY through that Gospel that we can make all the changes to overcome the natural man.  He committed to be baptized in that lesson, and here we are in the last week before his baptism.  We´re super psyched, because the branch already knows and loves him from so much time ago that he started, and because he participates like crazy in church, and he is going to be an incredible Priesthood holder and a huge strength to our struggling "ramita".  

So, all is very much well here :) my English is going down the drain more and more, and it's horrible, but whatever.  I don´t need to use it all that much down here.  So you have permission to laugh at the various grammatical and spelling errors that I´m sure exist in this email :)

Eres la mejor mamá en todo el mundo :) cuídate mucho.

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22, 2012--Week 34

So!  Hello all :)

Brief updates.  First of all, this was kind of a tough week.  We worked pretty dang hard, and we taught more lessons this week than I have since I entered the field.  And, we were super psyched Sunday morning because we had like 6 awesome investigators who were going to be coming to church and then afterwards to Ana´s baptism.  It was kind of a rotten surprise to get there and sit through all of sacrament meeting without anyone arriving.  INCLUDING the sister we were going to baptize.  So, that was super lame. Sometimes the way people decide to use there agency reallllllly frustrates me.  But anyway, we left after sacrament meeting to see why Ana didn´t come.  We got to her house and her parents told us that she just decided to take off Saturday afternoon for Motozintla (like 2 hours away from here by combi), but that she was going to come back Sunday morning to go to church and then her baptism.  So that would have been all good and well and everything except that she didn´t come back at 8 in the morning, nor by the time when she was supposed to be getting baptized.  So, we´re going to find her today and see what happened.  So, we finished the week on the note of a tad bit of frustration, but that´s ok, because stuff like this happens in the mission (the same thing actually happened with Elder Perez and Elder Scott this week, so we´re not the only ones), and we´re ready to start a new week and make it a better one.  

Next, onto a much brighter note.  Being district leader has been great.  It has helped me a ton to focus harder on the work, and to broaden my scopes from just caring about my area to also the other elders and sisters in the district.  And, it really hasn´t added any stress at all, which is strange, because it has required a lot of time (in calling the other missionaries, preparing for district meeting, taking and giving the weekly reports, calling the zone leaders when  I don´t know something--which happens a lot--so that I can pass it on to my district).  This Wednesday in district meeting I decided to talk about charity. Which is a highly recommendable attribute to have as a missionary (actually it qualifies us for the work --> D&C 4:5 and no one can help in this work unless they have it --> D&C 12:8).  It went really well.  Before, I was kind of freaking out wondering how I was going to fill and hour and a half with useful material for the other missionaries, but we definitely had the Spirit with us, and we set a goal as a district to work with more charity for the people, and to pray for each other that we can be filled with more charity.  

So, that´s basically all I´ve got today :) I hope you´re all doing well!  I love and miss you tons!

Con amor,
Elder Nickerl

Dear Mom, 

Yes, the package with the CD´s did get here!!  Thank you so much!  It has been wonderful to have music in the house again (especially in the mornings!).  And that is crazy about your Spanish verbs!  I think I knew a total of 40 (maybe) after my 3 years of high school Spanish.  Really it is really tough to learn them unless you just start to speaking and practicing them a lot.  Sorry I can´t offer a more helpful way to learn them or anything...  

I know you were worried, but all the CDs that I´ve tried have worked fine.  That CD about the missionary next door is awesome.  We´re going to be working to try and help the members here (all 5 of them haha--not really, there are more) understand some of those simple principles.  Also, another huge fave of mine has been "This is Jesus".  I don´t think I had that one before.  I love the song that talks about the pre-existence.  I am very grateful to know the true nature of the Godhead, and be able to understand the purposes and roles of them in our life as such (instead of thinking that Jehovah is the Father and that Jesus Christ is just a lesser god, or that they´re all one person, or that the Holy Ghost is just an "active force", etc).  The restored Gospel is such a blessing. 

Also, I really like that song about the pre-existence because I miss going to the temple a lot :( but that´s ok, because like Presidente says, we´re doing the work for the living right now, and there will be plenty of time to do the work for the dead after the mission.  And, things like that really do have a ton more significance after gaining a deeper understanding of the Gospel.  You don´t really notice how much your understanding deepens because it is "grace upon grace", but I´ve had a few moments in the past couple of weeks that I just said to myself, "I definitely did not understand/know that a year ago." And it´s really cool to see.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15, 2012--Week 33

Hello :) Just wanted to let you know that I´m on and report the changes real quick...

So, I now have three subsequent changes that I have been thrown violently out of my comfort zone.  Now, looking back on the first one, just getting transferred out of an area isn’t nerve-wracking at all, nor does being told that I´m going to be training and senior comp, in light of this current change.  I´m actually pretty at peace now (the Lord has helped me a lot to manage that), but last night after the zone leaders called with the changes I was freaking out.  When I entered the field, I was pretty convinced that for my first 6 changes at least I was going to be doddling around in San José as a junior comp without a care in the world (not really without a care in the world, or doddling around, but basically with just the responsibility of being a missionary, without any added leadership positions).  Turns out I miscalculated slightly.  This change, Elder Esparza and I are both staying here in Huixtla (which I´m very grateful for), but the only difference is that I´m now the district leader.  And I can just say that I did NOT see that one coming.

Anyway, that´s the news on the changes :) although I´m pretty nervous still, I have a strong testimony that the Lord calls us in our weakness, and as we strive to rely wholly upon Him and work hard, He qualifies us to do the work to which He has called us.

So, a brief update on our area:

In our area this week, we´ve been very blessed.  We will be having a baptism this week (although Sunday, not Saturday, because the branch will be gone in Tuxtla going to the temple on Saturday).  We found Ana a couple weeks ago, she´s the youngest of 8 children (she´s 18), and she comes from a VERY humble home.  It´s been really tough teaching her, because she learns really slowly (I sometimes feel like I´m beating my head against a brick wall trying to explain things, but it has helped me a lot to become more clear and easy to understand as a teacher), and she hasn´t done super well in keeping her commitments of reading what we leave.  But, she has very quickly identified the Spirit, come to church each week since we started teaching her, and she knows our message is true, and recognizes that baptism will help her to start making lasting changes in her life.  We´re hoping we´ll be able to start teaching her family as well (she brought her mom to the activity that we had on Saturday, and we´ve also invited them all to her baptism on Sunday, and I think that will open the door to be able to teach the rest of her family).  

The other success we´ve had this week has ben with a man named Antonio.  He´s a teacher (which like I may or may not have mentioned before, is a super high powered job here), and is much easier to teach because he understands things very quickly and keeps his commitments as far as reading and praying and coming to church.  The missionaries actually started teaching him more than two years ago, but stopped visiting him because he wasn´t progressing.  We found his teaching record in the area book, went to look for him, found him, and started teaching him again.  We had our first two lessons with him this week, and he told us he´s tried to change his life so many times, but hasn´t been able to.  I felt prompted to teach him about covenants, and I told him that the covenants of baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost is what he is missing in his life to be able to make a lasting change.  We invited him to prepare to be baptized the 3rd of November, and he accepted.  I was able to bear my testimony to him that as he follows the Gospel of Jesus Christ and uses His Atonement, he will be able to make lasting changes in his life.

As far as your questions go, that new rule about not door knocking or street contacting must be only for KJ´s mission or the areas around there, because we don´t have anything like that.  We knock doors only until about 7:30 at night, and only until then because afterwards it´s just not effective and people never let us in that late, so we always make sure that we have appointments between then and 9.  I do know, though, that the majority of Mexico is way more dangerous that here.  La verdad Chiapas es bien tranquilo.  No pasa nada acá.  Since I´ve been here, I´ve never been mugged or threatened in any way.  Chiapas is just pretty chill :)

And, that is awesome about your missionary opportunity :) I will be praying for you.  We have the Lord´s promise that as we open our mouths, they will be filled (DyC 33), and that the Spirit will testify through us.  

I love you all very much :) cuídense mucho.

Con amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

P.S.  Thank you very much for the addresses :) I get a kick out of being able to write my buddies in Spanish.

A few photos:

It rains here sometimes.  Like every day.  And when I say "las calles se ponen ríos", I´m not joking, as you can see in this picture.  This specific picture was this Saturday, and I got more soaked that I´ve been on my whole mission.  And, about an hour and a half after this picture was taken, we had a branch activity.  I was still dripping water as we gave the spiritual thought.

A nice view of Huixtla from the roof of our "casa de oración" (our church building).  Also with a nice view of the massive orange Catholic church a few blocks away.  

You know you´re a gringo living in Mexico when you´re eating peanut butter and jelly tacos.  For the record, I had bread, but I ate it all (I´ve been seriously going to town on the peanut butter and jelly lately, that was a huge fave), so I only had flour tortilla left.  For the record, while the picture is still loading, this isn´t like the tortilla we eat with every meal.  Those are a lot smaller, and they´re corn tortillas, and you buy them by the kilogram in a tortillería (there are tortillerías all over the place here; I think I´m going to open one in the States when I get home because I´m not going to be able to eat without tortilla anymore).

Pretty Huixtla

Monday, October 8, 2012

October 8, 2012--Week 32

Dear Family,

General Conference was great!  I was only able to go to Priesthood Session and the Sunday Morning Session... but that´s okay because we were working the rest of the time. :)  Not hearing President Monson in English is kind of a bummer, but his talk was incredible.  We actually rode there and back with one of the counselors in the branch presidency (he has a car because he´s an electrical engineer).  We got home pretty late on Saturday night, but we didn´t really have a choice because we had to get some passes for investigators in the morning to bring them to conference.  I also got to see a few of the brethren from San José there in the Priesthood Session, including Obispo Tadeo, and it was awesome to see them.

Oh, and also that´s CRAZY about the mission age change thing!  That freakin rocks!  The only thing that´s kind of a bummer about that is that there is a chance that I won´t see Adam and Jared again for like 3 years.  Which I was not expecting…  But that is still AWESOME!  I hadn´t mentioned it before, but it was actually already that way in Mexico.  I´m not sure how long it´s been that way, but it´s cool that it's like that in the States now too.  WAIT A SECOND.  If Adam and Jared (with all the various factors involved) decide that they are going to go in this coming summer, that means that they would get their calls in like 4-5 months!  ... that is crazy.  Crazy awesome.  But we´ll see how it all plays out.

Anyway, on to the questions :)

1. Do the people in your branch all have access to computers/the internet?  With my experience with Albertina on facebook and Adam on facebook with the boy in your branch--are they on the computer at home or at an internet cafe like you use?  If people have them in their homes, how come they can't watch conference on their computers like we do here?

Not that many people have computers/internet in their house, basically only the rich people.  The same people who have cars have computers in their houses.  That being said, not that many people have cars or computers.  Almost everyone goes to the ciber.  That´s awesome that Manuel looked up Adam... he didn´t tell me though which is kind of weird.  It is Manuel, right?  I think his last names are "Garcia Morales".

2.  Does your companion have a lot of family support?  I want to include some Christmas things for him in the package I send you for Christmas (or for whomever is your companion at Christmas time).  Will he get a Christmas package from home?  Are there certain things that I should or should not include for him?

Yeah, his family is really supportive, but that would still be really nice of you to put some things in the package for him.  I don´t really have any good idea of what to put in or not put in... oh actually he told me he doesn´t like peanut butter that much.  But other than that I don´t have any ideas.

3.  Conference:  Will you have access to a Conference Ensign when it comes out or do you want me to print/send the talks to you and then the Ensign when it comes? 

We usually get like a third of the Liahonas that they print... we didn´t get the last conference one.  So I would appreciate it immensely if you could send me the talks.  Especially since I missed 3/5 of them.

4.  And then of course--the most important questions:  How is the work?  And, how are the people in your branch?  And, how are the people in Huixtla?  

The work is going well :) we´re finally going to have another baptism the 20th of this month!  The people in the branch are doing well I think.  And, Huixtla is still just Huixtla.  The majority of the people are fairly polite, ("No, gracias.  No les puedo atender ahorita.  Vengan otro día, porfa."), but not very interested ("Aquí en este hogar ya somos catolicos."), and some of them are not so polite ("Ustedes y su iglesia son puras mentiras, no queremos nada que ver con ustedes." or "Ya sabemos que ustedes sólo predican de falsos profetas, y la Biblia nos enseña claramente que ya no puede haber profetas en nuestro día").  For the record, on the contrary, the Bible teaches very clearly that we are to have prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, and evangelists (all 5), until we come all come to the unity of the faith (Efesios 4:11-12).  Unity of the faith, according to Paul, is that we all speak the SAME thing, and that there are NO disputations among us (1 Corintios 1:10).  That unity has obviously not been achieved in our world, and will not be achieved until the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior (at which point there will no longer be a need for prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, and evangelists).  So, until then, we need prophets.  Ta-da!  So, there´s a bit of doctrine from the Bible for the day.  If anyone was wondering why we have a "unbiblically founded believe in prophets" :) But anyway, between all the people who are polite but not interested or not so polite and not interested, we do find people who make it all worth it.  Apart from the sister who is preparing to be baptized the 20th (her name is Ana), we found another man whose name is Jaziel (I think that´s a awesome name, by the way--it´s pronounced "Hassiel"), who is a lawyer and a teacher (2 super high-powered jobs here), and on the side is also a carpenter.  His house is sweet because he has air conditioning is the WHOLE HOUSE, which is crazy.  But he´s super humble, and he told us he´s wanted to talk to us for 30 years, but the missionaries have never knocked on his door.  We gave him a Book of Mormon last night, and he was really excited to start reading.  

Also, yesterday at conference I added a whole booster engine to my desires to work like crazy during the Sunday Morning Session of conference.  Elder Holland's talk hit me really hard, and made me think about the commission that I have to preach the Gospel.  And, directly after that, when the choir sang, "If the Savior Stood Beside Me", I was ready to leave in that moment and start talking to every person on the street.  I thought, "How would I feel at the end of every day the Savior visited us in our apartment and asked us "Lovest thou me?"?"  How would we be able to say, "yes", if we hadn´t worked as hard as we possibly could in that day to bring our brothers and sisters in this area unto Him?  With that in mind, we worked like crazy yesterday afternoon, and we´re ready to do the same today, tomorrow, and from here on out. :)  We´re happy, animated (doesn´t translate too well, but "ánimo" is different than "excitement"), and ready to work :)

That´s all the spiritual insight I have for this week :) I love you guys so much, and I hope you´re doing well.  Adam and Jared, I´ll be praying for you guys specifically in these coming months so that you can make the right decisions about school/mission when the time comes.  

I haven´t shared my testimony with you guys for a while, so I´d just like to do so briefly.  I know that God lives.  I´ve seen and felt the love that He has for His children countless times in these last months.  I know that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ atoned for our sins and imperfections, and did so because of the infinite love that He has for each one of us.  I know because of the love that He has for His children, through Joseph Smith, a living prophet, God has restored the perfect truth to a lost world, and established once again His church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  He lives, and He loves us infinitely.  He knows our individual needs, as well as those of the entire world in these our times, and because of that He will never cease to speak to us through His Holy Spirit, and through His holy prophets, for his "words... never cease" (Moses 1:4). 

I love you guys so much!  Take care!

Con amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl