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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 24, 2013--Week 52


So, yesterday one of the councilors from the stake presidency came to our branch and gave them a pretty clear amonestation (that´s a word in English, right?).  And, it was just awesome.  It reminded me of Mosiah 8:18 where it says that God gives His children power to become a great benefit to their fellow men.  We´ve seen a lot of the stake leadership here in the last couple of weeks (our branch really needs it), and it has been really powerful to me to see these powerful priesthood leaders here.  I’m going to share a scripture that this brother shared with our branch leadership.  It’s in Doctrine and Covenants 6:34-37.  I don´t really have much commentary for this scripture, because it speaks for itself.  But, this is a promise and a commandment for each one.  As we heed it, we will see the promised blessings.  As we go our ways and sin no more, performing the work that we are commanded to perform, Earth and hell can not prevail.  We will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

I love you guys!  Have a great week!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

What a great week!  So, first of all, my new comp´s name is Elder Fernández.  He´s from Peru, and because of not getting his visa on time, he´s already been in the mission for a while, so I´m not training as much as I thought I might be.  He´s a stud and we get along great.  It´s been pretty cool to learn about the differences between here and Peru, especially in the Spanish.  Like three or four times this week he´s looked at me kind of weird after I say something that´s completely normal here because apparently it´s vulgar in Peru.  Kind of fun...

So, this week we´re having success!  We´re still struggling teaching a lot of lessons, because we simply don´t have very many investigators.  But, we do have two that are awesome.  One of them is named José Daniel, we found him contacting in the park in Margaritas a few weeks ago, and we started teaching him more since two Saturdays ago. And, since then, he´s read until Alma 25 in the Book of Mormon.  WOW.  And he’s been to church two weeks in a row.  He’s going to be baptized the 9th of March.  The other is named Carlos.  He was a reference from a brother in one of the wards in Comitán that works in Margaritas, and we haven´t been able to see him that much, but he also came to church and he loved it.  So, we´re psyched.  We’re going to invite him to be baptized this week.  And we’re going to find more people to teach.  Because the members are more excited now after seeing these guys in church, and they´re hopefully going to give us some references :)

Anyway, that’s it.  I´m out of time :) I love you all lots and I hope that you have a wonderful week!  Congratulations on all of your good work on everything!  Adam and Jared, I´m so happy that you guys got accepted to BYU-Provo.  Congrats!!!  That’s really really awesome.  Jacob, great work with lacrosse.  You’re going to wreck on me when I get home.  Anna, great work with everything you do and being diligent in your obedience and family history work.

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support!  I love you all!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

P.S.  Mom here the answers to your Spanish questions:

My new comp is from Peru, and there they call it the lunch meal "almuerzo".  But, here in Mexico, I´ve hardly heard the word "almuerzo".  The meal we eat in the afternoon is called very simply "la comida" ("the meal").  "La cena" is basically a snack around 9 at night.  Chorizo is not something I knew about before, but it´s a red sausage that you grind up and put in tacos or eggs or quesadillas or something (that´s what they do with it here anyway).  "Salchicha" here is hot dog.  And they do eat it a lot.  It´s kind of the poor food because it´s the cheapest meat that exists.  Potatoes are "papas", and we don´t eat them here like we do there, but the put them a lot in stew.  We eat stew... or soup... I don´t really know what it is.  I didn’t like it when I got here, but I like it a lot more now.  And, vegetables are "verduras".  So, that´s how it goes here. :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18, 2013--Week 51

Buenas tardes fam,

Today is a wonderful day :) 

So, I spent a very large portion of my personal study this week studying one of the most extensive topics in the Gospel, and I feel like I learned a ton more than I knew before, although I can´t really put my finger on any one new thing that I learned. I think that´s generally referred to as strengthening our testimonies when it happens like that.  But anyway, the topic I´ve been studying is faith. The scripture that I´m going to share is very short and very profound.  

The scripture is Moroni 7:33. Do we really believe the declaration that that scripture makes?  If we can´t say that we believe it with all of our hearts, we need to examine ourselves and figure out why.

Faith is a principle of power. Take a look at Ether 12:6-22 or Hebrews 11 for examples. We, as God´s children, have the capacity for much more than our mortal minds can comprehend.  

Faith is the first principle of the Gospel for a reason.  It is important.  Believe in God. Trust in Him. Trust that following His commandments will ALWAYS lead us to better results than not doing so, even if it doesn´t seem like that at the time. Trust that He can lend us His power to bring to pass great things.  

What a great week this has been!  Capped off by the out-of-nowhere surprise that I´m going to be training again!  Although official changes aren´t until March, there are some this week because a few missionaries are going home and a few are getting here.  But yeah, that was a cool surprise :) I´ve always wanted to train a new (like brand new—straight out of the MTC) missionary.  

Apart from that, we found a couple of awesome investigators this week! And we brought one of them to church (we haven´t been able to do that since who knows how long ago)!!!! And then we found another guy who we´d talked with a few weeks back but who went to the DF (Mexico City) for a couple of weeks so we hadn’t been able to get with him.  He´s got a lot of problems with alcohol, but he told us he wants to be a member of the Church, and we were like, "Yep, we can definitely help you with that."  We´re going to see him again tonight.  We also found another young married couple with a little girl.  We were super excited about them after our first visit, but we haven´t been able to find them since then, so that´s been kind of tough.  But anyway, I´m psyched that I get to start training this week, now that we have some stuff going on in our area.  I´m so excited because my companion isn´t going to have any predisposed  ideas about how it´s ok to be just a little bit disobedient (that is tontería by the way), or that we can only have a certain amount of success or teach a certain amount of lessons in one week.  So, I´m going to do the best I can to set his expectations at sky-level based on what we do here in the next few weeks. I want his expectation to be that missionaries baptize every week (President has promised us before that that is a possibility in every area).  

So, that´s what I have to report this week. :) I love being a missionary. I really miss you guys a lot, but I´m so glad I´m here. I love this work and I love these people.  I´ll probably freak out when I find myself back in a world where not everyone is Mexican.  But anyway, this week I read a scripture that I really liked and I feel like I relate to a little bit.  Even more now than when I left.  Alma 17:13 says:  "And it came to pass when they had arrived in the borders of the land of the Lamanites, that they separated themselves, trusting in the Lord that they should meet again at the close of their harvest; for they supposed that great was the work which they had undertaken." I miss you guys, but I know the work that I have undertaken is great. It is the Lord´s work. I am so grateful that right now it is the only thing I have to worry about.  There is no lifestyle more satisfying than being constantly in the service of the Lord. It´s unreal that I´m almost at the half way point.  I´m not sure how I feel about that.

But anyway, I love you all!  I´m so glad for the success that you´re all having in your lives.  You´re all in my prayers, with each of your individual endeavors and conerns in your lives right now.  

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11, 2013--Week 50

Hello!  I hope I haven´t caused any worry that I´m writing so late, but we had an activity of the zone today.  We went to this cool park that has caves and stuff and it also has these massive smooth rock slides that are like water slides (without the water) and I did some serious exercise running up the stairs again and again and again.  Then we played sports and I opted to play volleyball because I was pretty tired from going up the stairs to the giant slides millions of times and I didn´t have the energy to play soccer.  But it was in San Cristobal and we got back really late because of the drive, so I just finished writing to Presidente and I´m now on to write to you guys :)

Everybody reported that this was a good week!  I am so glad to hear it.  It makes me happy that you’re progressing in your lives and for the success that you´re all having.  That´s also awesome to hear that you´re going to be able to go to General Conference in April.  It´s an incredible experience hearing the apostles and prophets of the Lord in person.  Also that´s great news about the PELL grants.  I think that´s a pretty easy decision for me to make, even though I don´t know exactly how much time there will be between my mission and the BYU spring term.  Regardless of how much time it may be, like you said, Mom, what beats free school?  And, like you said, Dad, I can take Spanish, Portugues, a religion class, and advanced racquetball, and have a pretty stress-free term and bolster my not-so-hot GPA (although thankfully the Spanish Language Certification test will help me a lot with that too... supposedly it´s 16 credits of 4.0).  

And on that Spanish note, great work, Mom!  I promise you that if you stick with the conversation coach you will feel so much more comfortable speaking Spanish.  The key to learning a language really is speaking it.  And, when you do that, the mechanics that you´re already good at will become concreted in your mind and you won´t even have to think about it any more--like English--just a little bit at a time.  If you´re struggling with the pronunciation, I´d recommend that you give a good look at the Spanish alphabet and get to the point that you recognize the sound each letter makes--especially the ones that make different noises than they do in English (like that dang "r", that gives all gringos problems, because it´s tough with the "rr" to roll your tongue the way they do, and the "r" all alone makes a noise more like an English "d", it´s just a tap on the roof of the mouth).  But yeah, that´s about all the advice I have on that.  But I´m really proud of you for your efforts, and I know that you really can learn Spanish, and I´ll be really excited to speak Spanish with you in a little more than a year :)

But, about the area, not too much to report again.  I´d just like to talk about a special experience from this week.  You already know that each week I send an email to Presidente Cárdenas, just like every other missionary in the mission. He has to read them all and according to my previous knowledge, he doesn´t respond.  But, this week he did respond to my email.  That was really special, because after reading about a couple of the mission presidents from friends in other missions, I feel like sometimes they have a more personal relationship with each missionary, and before this week I hadn’t received any personal message, phone call, or email from him (that´s not at all to say that he is not an incredibly inspired man fulfilling his calling in the way the Lord wants him to, because I know he is, it´s just in a different way than some others do it I guess).  

But anyway, I definitely know that he is the man that the Lord wants directing this mission, and that he does it based solely on what the Lord wants, and he really does receive revelation for this mission and for us as missionaries.  He´s seen the problems we´ve had finding investigators that really want to progress and our problems to be able to teach the Gospel in the quantity and way that we want to.  He told me something that hit me pretty hard.  He told me something roughly like this, "Every area has it´s challenges, and some more than others, but difficult areas do not exist.  What blocks us from seeing that is that our fears or sins blind us from seeing the power of the miracles that faith bring to pass. What very few understand is that the Lord really sent me (using "me" generally) forth as a missionary to realize the beautiful miracle of finding His elect (for clarification on that term, which is a term we use a lot in our mission, see D&C 29:7). To realize this beautiful miracle, I need to overcome the challenges that will always come before the miracle happens."  He knew exactly what I needed to hear, and I´m ready to do whatever it takes to remove whatever is in my way of having that type of faith.  

Well, I hope you all have a great week.  I love you all so much, and I appreciate the constant strength that I receive from your prayers.  

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4, 2013--Week 49

Dear Family,

Sorry I didn´t send a weekly scripture last week.  Se me olvidó y se me acabó el tiempo.  But here it is for this week:

The scripture is Doctrine and Covenants 6:22-23.  I love this scripture, and whenever I read it, it casts all doubt out of my mind.  People may not believe that God exists or that He loves His children.  But I know He does.  People may say that Jesus Christ really couldn´t have taken upon Himself our sins, or that He never really was resurrected.  But I know that He did and that He was.  People may say that Joseph Smith was a fraud or a lier.  But I know He was a prophet called by God.  People may say that there is nothing that scientifically backs up the Book of Mormon, and that it´s false.  But I know that it was written by prophets of God to help us to "come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him" (Moroni 10:32). People may say that the Church is not true, that it is a cult, that we worship the devil, or whatever they like.  But I know it is the Church of Jesus Christ, that He stands at it´s head, and that He placed it here on Earth for our mortal and eternal happiness.  

I know, because God spoke peace to my mind.  Not in a manner that shook the earth, or even that I heard His voice or even words at all.  But, He spoke peace to my mind and to my heart.  What greater witness can I have than from God? 

So, not too much to report this week.  It would actually have been a pretty discouraging week if I let stuff get to me :) but I don´t, so we´re doing great over here.  Basically, everyone that we found last week told us that they don´t want us to come by anymore or they´re hiding from us.  To answer your questions, Mom, Antonio went to work in Tapachula supposedly for a few days, then came back briefly, then took off again, and we haven´t been able to see him since they day I told you about them.  The family that I talked to you guys about can´t come to church because they have classes every Sunday, and because of that, really can´t progress.  But, they graduate in May, and we already put their baptismal date in June so that if other missionaries come they keep visiting them because they´re really really good people.  

Also, sorry I forgot to say anything about they shirts!  They got here fine and they fit me perfectly.  And they are the whitest shirts I´ve worn in a very long time (hand washing is such a pain and doesn´t work quite as well as a washing machine) and I am VERY grateful to have them.  That reminds me also about what you said about the change in package prices.  That´s a crazy price hike!  But don´t worry about it, I know that you love me even if you can´t send me a package every month. :)  You´re awesome.

Hmm... Sorry that I have so little to say.  I just want you guys all to know that I´m happy even though we may not be having an incredible amount of success.  I know that blessings come after the trial of our faith, and I´m willing to have my faith tried as long as the Lord wants.  Meanwhile, I´ll hold on to His promised blessings and comply with my part and be at peace.

I hope everyone heals from all their sicknesses this week and that it turns out to be a great week.  I pray for you all constantly.  I love you so much.

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Saturday, February 2, 2013

January 28, 2013--Week 48

Hello family! :)

I’ll start by answering some of your questions:

**When guys/girls leave on missions from Mexico, do they usually stay in Mexico?  Or do they go to other parts of the world? And, are most of the missionaries in your mission from Mexico or are they from other parts of Latin America too?

It’s definitely more normal that they stay within Mexico than that they go to others countries.  But, they do go pretty often to other Spanish-speaking countries (the Branch President´s son here is currently serving in Puerto Rico), and here in the mission most of the Latino missionaries are Mexicans, but we also have a pretty some Elderes y Hermanas from other countries.  One of my zone leaders is from Peru, and one of the sisters in my district last change was also from Peru.

**Will the transfer day for your mission continue to be every 6 weeks?  I've heard of a few other missions where the transfer day is changing (becoming like 4 or 5 weeks) to accommodate the increasing number of missionaries going to each mission and the shorter MTC time.  And, have you begun to see an influx of more missionaries in your mission?

Yeah, I´ve been meaning to talk about that for a few weeks now.  This change is 10 weeks.  I think that means I´ll be coming home 4 weeks later than originally planned as well, so in late March, but I don´t know for sure.  After this change, I have no idea how it's going to be.  I´ve heard all kinds of rumors, that they´re going to stay normal with 6 week changes or that we´re going to have one change of 6 weeks and then the other of 3 weeks and then the other of 6 and so on, but I really don´t know.  But, when it affects us, I´m sure they’ll let us know :) although it may only be the night before... that happens a lot here.  Like for example, Wednesday night the zone leaders called me at exactly 10:30 because the assistants had just notified them that the next morning our zone would be going to San Cristobal to have interviews with Presidente.  We haven´t started to see the flood of new missionaries yet.  But, Elder Johnson (area authority over Mexico) told Presidente Cárdenas to expect to have a total of 100 sisters and 150 elders in the mission by the end of the year.  Last time I heard the exact number, we had 22 sisters and 118 elders.  So, wow!  Every sister in the mission will probably be training two other sisters at the same time.  

**Have you been well?  With us being sick this past week, I've wondered how you are feeling.  I hear lots of crazy things through the mission mom site… and know that mostly missionaries don't talk about their ailments until they get home, but I'm just checking on you.  Do you want more probiotics in your next package?

I’ve been just fine.  I´m pretty adjusted to how we live by now, and I haven´t really been sick since Huixtla (I had a nasty stomach bug there for a few days, but nothing really serious).  Sharing a fun experience quickly, I did have the wonderful opportunity today to take for the first time what we call a "bucket shower".  We woke up, and there was no water coming out of the tap.  We have a big tank of water outside that we use to wash our clothes, so I filled up a bucket with water.  It was freezing cold water (but I´m now getting over that, because it´s been a pretty common occurrence since getting here that something malfunctions, whether it be the gas, the water, or matches getting wet and hence not being able to light the boiler, etc).  Then, I grabbed a smaller container and took them to the shower, and drenched myself in cold water.  If it was in a hotter area, it wouldn´t actually be all that bad.  And, I think I´m doing fine without the probiotics, so don't worry about sending more. :) Thanks!

So, in our interviews with President this week, we got packages!  Thank you very much to Auntie Sarah, and if you can please tell her I did with the "hugs" exactly as instructed :) Also, thank you very much to you for the awesome second birthday package!  The little Preach My Gospel´s are great, and I´ll tell you in a second what I´m doing with them :) and I decided after seeing the Portuguese book that I´m definitely going to learn Portuguese and other Latin languages after my mission.  It´s ridiculously easy because half the verbs are exactly the same and the other half are similar, the grammar concepts are all identical, there are all the same verb tenses and the conjugate almost the same, and I just love languages.  Also, I just wanted to let you know that the chocolates survived the heat without any damage, and they were a big hit with the entire zone (but mostly me :p).  And the hand warmers are going to be excellent!  I´m saving them for a night that I know that I´ll be freezing to death.  The Book of Mormon stories book is pretty cool too, I´ll definitely be using it to teach kids about the BoM (and I enjoy it myself. I´m a big fan of the drawings.  

And, I also got a package that Dad sent from Afghanistan.  And that was also an awesome package.  So much delicious food.  The favorite is definitely the two-pound bag of beef sticks, which definitely don´t exist down here.  I also reallllly enjoyed the root beer candies, because root beer doesn´t exist here either, nor in the MTC.  And, the Pure Trim shakes definitely bring back a lot of memories.  And have been really nice for when I get a little behind in the mornings and don´t have the time to cook something but don´t want to eat just cereal.  So yes, that´s the summary of the packages.  And I´m very, very, very grateful for all of the love and support :)

I´m quickly running out of time, but we had an really special week this week and I want to share a little bit about it quickly.  In short, not too much had been happening around here, and something that we´d been struggling on as a district is what we call "The Doctrine of Christ", and helping people progress toward making baptismal covenants.  Looking at my planner, Elder Vargas and I had done 3 baptismal invitations the week before and 1 the week before that. And the sisters had done 1 the week before and 2 the week before that. So that was something we were lacking.  I was thinking a lot before the district meeting about what I could say so that we would all invite more people to follow the example of our Savior.  (A side note:  before my mission—we all thought it was crazy for Elders to keep inviting people to be baptized "before they were ready".  But don’t judge the Elders on that anymore, they know what they´re doing!).  So, I randomly remembered a fireside that we had in South Carolina where Brother Call told us about his mission, and he told us that they used to go door to door inviting people to be baptized like Jesus Christ.  So I started thinking, why don´t I ever invite people to be baptized in contacts?  And I did it for the first time last Sunday. And the lady said no.  But I kept thinking about it, and the magnitude of our calling, and our authority as missionaries, and our call to invite people to follow the example of Christ.  So, Tuesday in the district meeting, I talked about being bold in that process of inviting.  And we decided that between us and the Sisters we were going to have a competition to see who could do more invitations. And Thursday, when I got the package, I put the mini Preach My Gospel´s as the prize. At the end of the week, we finished with 13 invitations and 8 people with a baptismal date, as compared to 0 the week before. The sisters finished with 8 invitations, and also with 8 people with a baptismal date, as compared to 2 the week before.  Although we won the competition I´m still going to give the sisters their mini Preach My Gospel´s tomorrow at our district meeting for having an awesome week.  I´ll try to go into more details with the people we found and set baptismal dates this week.  

I love you all so much!  I hope you have a great week!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl