Called to Serve

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

December 24, 2012--Week 43

Dear Mom,

I am doing wonderful!  Don´t worry about me. :) Of course I miss you guys and it´s rough not being with you at Christmas time for the first time in my life, but I am happy.  We´re finally starting to find investigators in this area (after four weeks of hard, hard work), and last night we set a baptismal date with a family of five (the youngest is a baby, and obviously won´t be getting baptized, but they have two adopted daughters right about baptismal age).  They´re a young couple (Jeremías and Eulina) who are both finishing college, and the dad goes to school during the day and works during the night to be able to provide for their young family.  They´re going to get baptized on my birthday. :) They don´t know it´s my birthday or that they´re going to be giving me the best birthday present that I could ask for.  

Also, this week we found a lady with a super heavy wheelbarrow full of bottles to sell (for two pesos per kilogram, which is a ridiculously low amount of money) and carrying her baby at the same time.  So, needless to say, we offered to help (and she said, "no thank you", because Mexicans are very self sufficient, but we kept on nagging until she let us). We became really late for lunch because we helped her for about two kilometers with her wheelbarrow until we got to the place that she was going to sell.  Yesterday, we found her house (after searching for about an hour, because I still don´t know our area that well after four weeks, and neither does my comp).  And, we´re going to teach her, her husband, her older son, and her mom.  So, we´re excited :) we´re receiving the blessings of our work.  

Well—not much today, but I´ve got to go now.  I´m so excited to talk to all of you Wednesday!  And thank you so, so much for the gifts.  I love the scripture references and I love feeling a little bit of home each day.  And, I can´t wait to open my stocking tomorrow. :)  I hope you all have a wonderful couple of days and I´m very much looking forward to talking to you all on Wednesday at 5pm your time!  

Con mucho amor,
Elder Nickerl

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 17, 2012--Week 42

Dear Mom,

Answers to your questions:

1.Do you know the time of day or location for Skype yet on Christmas day? Do you have an account set up?

I won´t be able to talk on Christmas day because there won´t be any cyber cafes open and none of the members here have computers with webcams.  So, would it be ok if we talked the 26th?  Preferable for me would be in the afternoon/night.  But, just tell me the hour and I´ll make it work :)

2. Tell us about how you see "Navidad" celebrated where you are. Will you be spending Christmas with a member in your branch?

It´s not too much different.  Everyone puts up trees, but they´re just a little more humble usually and not too grand.  They don´t put up too many Christmas lights... but there´s this little town about 15 minutes from here in our area called Margaritas and we eat with members that live there twice a week, and they have a nice little public display in a pretty little park that they have there.  So I´ll take some pictures of that.  Basically the most common Christmas decorations you see here are huge statues of the virgin.  Oh!  Actually something that happened this week that definitely doesn´t happen there is that they do this thing the 12th of December (which I think is the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe), and they have millions of people that run with torches.  I´m not really sure what the goal of it all is because they don´t really run anywhere in specific but it´s kind of cool.  The only thing that´s not cool is that it was SO MUCH NOISE.  And I had a headache that day. 

We will be having dinner the 24th with a member family (they always do Christmas dinner the 24th here), we don´t as of yet have plans for the 25th.  I think we´ll be working :)

Ah, and also, I´ll tell you about how we celebrated Christmas this week.  This week we had a zone conference/Christmas Banquet!  And it was AMAZING.  The food was SOOOO good.  We had an American Christmas dinner!  We had turkey and baked potatoes and rolls and green beans and GRAVY.  And then we had real cheesecake.  Wow!  It was amazing.  And, this week we started opening our presents!  The flashlights are awesome!  I would never have believed before how much fun two missionaries can have with mini super-powered flashlights.  And, we´ve definitely enjoyed eating the other gifts.  Except for the pens, we didn´t eat them (turns out it´s more productive to write with a pen than to eat it). 

3. IF--and I know you are limited on time--so IF you are able, Brother DeGraw (who is the new YM president) would love you to share some experiences with the Priest Quorum that might help them prepare for missions. 

The number one thing that I´m grateful that I gained before my mission is my testimony of repentance and having experienced the feeling of forgiveness that comes only from the Lord.  Above all, I´m grateful that I knew without a doubt before the mission that God loves His children.  Here are two stories of two brothers who I had the opportunity to teach:

I had the opportunity to teach an older man in my first area who had problems with alcohol, and because of that, had serious problems with his wife, children, and grandchildren.  When we contacted him, he was drunk.  When we got to his house to teach him his first lesson, he was drunk.  We taught him the about the word of wisdom and about repentance.  We felt the Spirit very strongly, and we saw the change in him in that very moment as the Spirit touched his heart as we bore witness to him that the Lord had the power to help him overcome his addiction, and that above all, the Lord was willing and ready to forgive him in the moment that he would forsake his sins and come unto Him.  The change that we saw that night was a lasting one.  In the next month before his baptism, he never relapsed.   After being transferred out of that area, I had the opportunity to see him again at a stake fireside--about 5 months after his baptism.  The man I saw that night was so different from the man that I had met 6 months earlier.  He had gone to the temple to perform baptisms for the dead for the first time the day before and that morning had had his interview to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.  He had a clean and pure look, and he was happy. 

The next brother we found in my second area.  I´m going to start this story by explaining the difference of the concept of a "drunk" in the US and in Mexico.  In the US, it´s someone who drinks a lot.  In Mexico, it´s someone who never stops drinking—who is NEVER sober.  When we found this brother, he had been drunk for more than two months.  I honestly don´t know how he was still alive.  We taught him one lesson (in the street, his family had told him that he had to live in the street until he was sober), and then another, and then another, one lesson every day for three days.  In those three days, he didn´t stop drinking.  On the fourth day, we found him still drunk at about 6pm.  We asked him what we could do to help him stop.  He told us that he just wanted us to pray for him.  We knelt with him in the street, with people passing by us, and as I said that prayer. I felt the love of the Savior for this man so strongly.  Here we were with the most lowly of God´s children, a man without a home, without shoes, with only an overpowering addiction for alcohol, and we felt so strongly the love of the Lord for him, and in that moment we all saw for a moment through the eyes of our Father in Heaven what He wanted this brother to be.  We were all moved to tears, my companion, this brother, and I, right there in the street, with people and cars passing by us.  Finishing the prayer, we promised him that God had the power to help him stop drinking, and that He would forgive him as he did so.  That was a Friday.  Saturday we were going out of town to a zone conference, so we told him that Sunday morning we come by this place on the street to take him to church.  Sunday morning when we came, he had stopped drinking, showered, shaved, and changed into new clothes.  That was my last week in that area, so I never did get to see him be baptized, but I watched the most incredible change take place in this man in those few days. 

I am so grateful for the opportunity that I have to serve the Lord in the mission field.  I testify that within each one of you is the power to testify with the Spirit, to be the instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father to work miracles in the lives of His children.  He lives, and this is His work.  I encourage each one of you to be worthy to participate in it in such a capacity that the Lord can know that He can trust you to carry out His will with perfect obedience. 

 4. Were you able to get all the things you needed last week to stay warm? Some sweaters and blankets? How about shoes?

I did buy the things I needed last week that you very much.  And I forgot my camera cable this week but next week I´ll send you pictures of my new shoes.  They´re pretty spiffy.  I don´t think they would be stylish at all in the States but I´m very much styling for here in Mexico.  And I bought two sweaters and that has been very nice.

5. Is your gas fixed/filled now? I hope it is and that it makes your showers and cold nights more comfortable.

Yes!  We bought gas two weeks ago... sorry I thought I mentioned that.  That doesn´t mean we have heaters or hot air in the house or anything fancy like that, but we DO have warm water.  And let me tell you, warm water is a BLESSING.  I will never ever complain about having to shower in cool water in Tapachula or Tuxtla or Huixtla or any area outside of Comitán, San Cristobal, or the Tzotsil zone again. 

I hope you have a wonderful week and enjoy Dad getting home :) I love you very, very, very much. 

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Friday, December 14, 2012

December 10, 2012--Week 41

Dear Mom,

So, while typing Presidente and looking for the mini PMG, I was wracking my brain for stuff to write this week and I just don´t have all that much.  I´m hoping I´ll have a whole lot more to write about next week.  This week was a growing week for me.  I learned a lot of patience.  I've seen a lot of times in my mission that sometimes when I have a week that we didn´t do so hot, it´s because I personally could have done some things better.  This week, we worked and worked.  But, (excuse the not perfect translation of Mosiah 23:21) "With all, the Lord considers appropriate to try His people; yea, He tries their patience and their faith."  As missionaries, we are not exempt from those trials.  If we were, there would be no growth.  I´ve learned that the formula to happiness here is obedience, diligence, and love.  I´ve also learned that whatever our circumstances may be, we can constantly practice those attributes, and be happy nevertheless.  So, next week we´ll see what´s new. 

The only notable thing from this week is that we did divisions with the zone leaders.  I was with Elder Gunter, from Idaho, and it was an awesome experience.  It’s hilarious to see how much my English has deteriorated.  When I´m typing, I do all right because I can think about what I´m going to say, but when I´m talking, it´s a whole different story.  My accent is fine and everything and I understand everything, but I just say a lot of weird stuff like "take decisions" and "give vuelts" ("turn around").  So it may be a minor train wreck when I talk to you guys in a few weeks.  Anyway, that´s all I have to report for this week :) I love you all very, very much, and I pray for you all the time.

Con mucho amor,
Elder Nickerl

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 3, 2012--Week 40

Again, Mom, thanks for all the Christmas packages.  To answer your question--the packages, as far as I could tell, got here unopened.  There are no gifts opened or missing (at least from the ones that you marked with the dates).  I´ll send a picture in a sec of how I put everything up today :)

In answer to your question about extra money--that would be wonderful.  Sorry I took out so much money last week, I had to pay a ton of money in the transports of the changes, because they definitely did not send us enough money last month, and neither of us was planning on being changed.  I definitely need new shoes.  Really bad.  One pair is holding up fairly well still (meaning that the rips in the sole are much smaller than the other pair), but the other pair is totally finished.  I think a nice pair of shoes here costs at very, very most 1000 pesos, or about $85.  And, I´m definitely going to buy some sweaters and more blankets, because I have been freezing at night, and I´ve been wearing my suit everywhere, but I don´t want to wear it out (thus the sweaters).  So, with my monthly money here and the money that you put in, that should definitely be enough.  Thank you so much!

I went with the leaders of the zone to a leadership conference in Tuxtla (which was AWESOME; it was a super spiritual conference, and I saw all the elders from my generation there!  Elder Turner is a district leader in Tuxtla, and the rest are all trainers, so it was awesome seeing everybody, pictures in a sec). 

My comp and I are just outside of what is actually Comitán, and we have a lot of nothing in our area.  We do a lot of walking.  Elder Mounteer and Elder Tadeo are in the Comitán ward with the zone leaders (the ward has two companionships of Elders).  My district is just my comp and I and a companionship of sisters.  Which is kind of weird because usually they don´t do it like that.  But that´s ok because the hermanas are awesome.

Pictures of the house in a second.  It is AWESOME.  Prettiest house that I´ve seen missionaries here live in to date.  The only thing that´s no fun is that it turns out that houses without heaters are worse than houses without AC.  AND that I was so psyched because I was going to get to take a warm shower again (because I childishly thought that I didn´t like taking cold showers where it´s hot; looking back, I love it).  Turns out that we´re out of gas, and I´ve been showering with ice cold water all week, here, where it is NOT hot.  That being said, Comitán is beautiful.  And, it is really nice to not be sweating every hour of every day (although once it gets dark I tend to forget that I´m grateful for that).  The branch is tiny... even smaller than Huixtla.  But there is a lot of work to do here, and there are leaders that are willing and happy to support us, so I´m excited and ready to work hard.  My comp, Elder Vargas, is from the state of Morelos (by the Distrito Federal), and just finished his period of training.  We´ve gotten along really, really well this week, and all and all, I´m happy :) I do miss Elder Esparza a lot, he was an awesome comp, and I do miss a lot of people in Huixtla (we found a ton of awesome investigators my last week there), but I´m doing great here, and after I buy some sweaters and blankets I will be doing all that much better. 

I love you all so much!  I know this work is the Lord´s, and the blessing that I´ve seen in my own life and the lives of those around me from participating in it are incredible.  I see the Lord´s tender mercies every day, so much in my own life, and also in the lives of those around me.  I have seen lives change and the Lord´s willingness to help each one of His children come unto Him as long as they do so in humility.  I love this work so much, and every day I see the fulfillment of the promise in my mission call "More happiness than you have before experienced awaits as you serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children."  I am so happy.  I miss you all so much, especially at this time of year when I have always been with you as a family, but the opportunity to help people to come closer to the Lord and recognize the real importance of this time of year makes it all completely worth it.  God lives.  He loves His children.  He sent His Only Begotten Son to be born in the humility of a manger and to die as our Savior so that we could all be happy, in this life, and forever.  And, in our day He has restored His Church, with His authority of the Priesthood, so that we can receive the fullness of the blessings that come from that eternal sacrifice. 

I love you all so much.  I hope that you enjoy this time together this year, and as a family that we can all center ourselves in this holiday season upon our Savior and Lord.

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Here we are with our Christmas tree and our presents :) We're like niños excited for Christmas.  And adopting the "every missionary in the world does thumbs up in pictures" pose.  People in Mexico put up trees too--they celebrate Christmas very much the the same.  I love my little tree.  My "arbolito" :)

This is my Christmas corner :) I really really love the Christmas banner too.
Once again with the "missionaries always do thumbs up" pose.

The photo is a picture of our house.  It´s a gorgous house for missionaries here.
The road not quite so much.

This is a vew from our patio.  We have a huge patio which is reallllllly nice and
something that I haven´t had since living in the States.  Comitán is really pretty.

Me in Tuxtla during the leadership conference.  
It was the first time I got to see the temple in person here, and I loved it :) 

The first time I had seen "Holiness to the Lord, The House of the Lord" in Spanish.  Awesome.

Here are 4 of the 5 gringos from my generation.  The other one was there too but we had to take the picture fast and we couldn´t find him in that very second.  First time I had seen any of them in a longggg time.  Fun little reunion. 

Elder Cárdenas and I were both in Tapachula his first transfer and my second transfer in the same district.  They sent him to the Tzotsil zone when they sent me to Huixtla.  He´s a district leader now too, and it was the first time I had seen him since then.  It was good seeing a lot of old mission friends.