So, first off, the earthquake! It was crazy! Nothing at all happened here destruction-wise in Huixtla, but we definitely felt it, and it scared the majority of the town out of their socks. I was just sitting at my desk during our hour of language study, reading my Bible out loud (good pronunciation practice), and everything started to shake. So, we evacuated the house, and watched the concrete wall outside our house shake for 30ish seconds. It was pretty cool (since there was no destruction). They told me that when it passed by here it was a 7.4 on the Richter scale. There was a little bit of destruction in Tapachula, but no deaths. Where it supposedly did a lot of damage and took a lot of lives was in San Marcos, Guatemala (I think I remember someone telling me that almost 200 people died). The thing that was irritating is it downed the public phones that we had been using in absence of our cell phone, so we couldn´t call the zone leaders until that afternoon, and it was the same day that we were trying to get things figured out about getting our new cell phone (which, thankfully we do now have).
Also, one of our investigators wanted me to tell you that if there´s a tsunami because of the earthquakes that you don´t need to worry about it, because she's got a tractor tire, and she´s going to make sure that we´re safe. I wish you could meet this lady. Her name is Rita, and she´s got three sons (the youngest is my age, the oldest is 25), and her oldest son got baptized in Tuxtla and submitted her name to the church as a referral. She wants to get baptized, but she can´t right now because of some complications. She´s hilarious, always makes us delicious food, and basically has made herself our adopted mom (and in her prayers in our lessons, she ALWAYS prays for our families). We always go to her house p-days and she makes us lunch and lets us use her washing machine so we don´t have to go through the horrible process of hand-washing. But anyway, just wanted to tell you about her and let you know that if there is a tsunami, we´ll be fine because we´ll be floating along on a tractor tire with la Hna Rita.
For my birthday package... I´ve been trying to think hard about what I would like or need and I´m sorry to say that I have not been super successful in thinking of anything. The only thing that I can say is that “ultimamente me ha estado antojando un buen” some trail mix. I think that would be like "I´ve been fancying some trail mix" (the difference is they say it). Other than that I have not been able to think of anything helpful. Sorry :( But along those lines, we got packages last week, and I got two Christmas packages from Grandma (thank you tons, Grandma, you´re the best! Those popped chips and energy bars were awesome, seriously), and I wanted to know if I should wait until Christmas to open the gift bags inside? I also got a package from Aunt Sarah (also thank you so much! The beef jerky is worth it´s weight in gold around here, and the suckers go a long way in winning the hearts of the primary children).
So... let´s see what´s new around here. First of all, the rain has stopped. I thought I would be happy about that, until I realized that the rain was the only thing stopping the constant heat all day and all night. Apart from that, we got our cell phone back (yeahhhhhh we can effectively do missionary work again!). Also, I don´t remember if I mentioned to you guys or not that they have now told us here as well that we no long knock doors. It´s not because it´s dangerous (because here it´s really not), rather it´s a change that they´ve made in all the missions in Mexico. I think it´s because they´ve wanted us to spend more time working with referrals from the members and less time (being no time) knocking doors. This week, we´re starting to see more and more the genius of that rule (I was way iffy about it at first, and to be honest did not like it at all, because planning became infinitely more difficult each day; that just goes to show that obedience brings blessing, even when we don´t necessarily like or understand the rule). We set two baptismal dates for the 8th of December, and both were referrals from less-active members. Also, I´ve completely lost my fear of just walking up to random people on the street and asking them a random question to start a conversation with them. Sometimes we play games to see who can come up with the most ridiculous conversation starter, and sometimes we play games and say that we have to use a certain word in our contacts. So, it´s always a good time. Elder Esparza made me use the word "onion", and I could not for the life of me figure out a good way to use it, so I just ended up saying something completely ridiculous I think (I got him back by making him use "tooth paste" in his next contact, and he said something equally as ridiculous, so yeah, it´s a lot of fun).
So, also in the week we did end up doing divisions (I cannot for the life of me remember what the English speaking missionaries use for that term). But anyway, I went to Framboyanes for the day and worked with Elder Scott. It was an awesome day. He´s a great elder, he´s got a ton of ánimo, he´s super obedient, and the amount of Spanish he speaks for only having been out for 4 weeks truly amazes me. We taught a few lessons, did a baptismal invitation, talked to lots of people in the street, spoke a lot of English (a very rare thing for us to be able to do) and as such received many stares from the people around us, and after a good day of work we ordered pizza and watched the Testaments.
And, last of all, my definite highlight of the week was last night. The Stake High Council invited all the missionaries from the stake to attend a stake fireside about serving missions. A ton of the youth from the stake came. We got there a little late (it´s a long way to travel from Huixtla), so we didn´t talk to anyone beforehand. The High Council had invited us to sing "Ejercito de Helaman" and to recite Doctrine and Covenants 4. When we went up to the stand at the end to sing, I was looking for people from San José in the people that were there, and I saw Salvador! So, as soon as we had finished singing and the closing prayer was said, I bee-lined for him, gave him a big hug, and had the opportunity do talk to him for about 10 minutes. And wow. I was really so happy to see him and the progress that he´s made. Saturday he had gone to the temple for the first time to do proxy baptisms, and yesterday he had his interview from the stake presidency to receive the Melchezedek Priesthood. It was one of the most special experiences in my mission to be able to see the difference between the man that I spoke with last night and the man that I met 5 months ago in Tapachula. What a powerful reminder for me of why I am here. The Gospel of Jesus Christ truly changes lives, and there is no privilege greater than to be such an involved part in helping that change work within people. The Gospel is true. The Church is true, and is the instrument that the Lord has given us to become more fully converted to that Gospel. And, through that conversion and with time, each one of us can make that drastic change between our natural weakness and the potential that we have as spiritual children of the Most High God.
I love you all. I miss you like crazy, but I know why I´m out here, and it´s worth every minute of it. A section of the Doctrine and Covenants that really impacted me this week was Section 31. It´s a very missionary section, but anyone who would like to read it will be very spiritually uplifted nonetheless :) it had been a while since I’d read it, and it was an awesome reminder and ánimo booster for me.
Anyway, that´s all for this week! Take care everyone and have a great week!
Elder Andrew Nickerl