Called to Serve

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 25, 2013--Week 56

Hey Mom! :)

So, being a zone leader means I have wayyyy much more to do on the computer on Monday.... we have to write a report for every area in the zone.  We´re still in that process, but I´m waiting for my comp to give me the USB with the excel file so that I can put my numbers and reports in.  It´s a lot of fun. :)  While I wait I’ll tell you that I love my new area!  It feels hot as the blazes after being in Comitán for a while, but the branch is huge (it´s only a branch because it´s a district here, not a stake), and we have a ton of investigators.  We have a real chapel!!  I´ve been told that´s one of the cool things about being a zone leader.  Our units always have lots of members and Priesthood.  So that´s pretty cool!

Okay—now I’m back and I don´t have too much time left because I had to finish my reports and send them off and we´ve already got to go to eat (this is the first area that I've had that the members feed us on p-day).  I don´t have time to tell you the about the specifics of the area, so if you have any questions, please let me know for next week and we´ll hope I have more time to tell you about what´s going on here.  And maybe I´ll have some time to send a scripture because I haven´t been able to do that in a few weeks.

The main thing that I want to tell you about quickly is that Élder Benjamín de Hoyos (First Quorum of the Seventy and counselor in the Presidency of the Mexico Area) came to visit our mission and we had a conference with him and his wife this past Saturday.   It´s always awesome to me to see how they know exactly what we need to do better and give us very exact and specific promises on what we can do to make it better and what will be the result if we do so.  They started by speaking a lot about the Book of Mormon and the role that it plays not only in the conversions of the investigators, but also in our own, and how it is the primary source of our testimony of Jesus Christ and therefore of spiritual power as missionaries.  His wife, Sister de Hoyos, invited us all to take a soft-cover copy of the Book of Mormon and read it within 85 days (the amount of time in which Joseph Smith translated it).  As we read it, she invited us to mark with four different colors.  One color for the names of Christ or any time a pronoun refers to Him, one for the words He says or when a prophet says "and thus saith the Lord), one for His attributes, and one for His doctrine.  Up to where I´ve read, it is a very marked and colorful book.  

Afterward, Elder de Hoyos talked to us for a while and gave us two specific things we should be doing to help the investigators to progress and to find new investigators.  To help them progress, he told us that as soon as we recognize that they´re good investigators, we need to find members who live close to them and introduce them to the investigators.  We are supposed to simply introduce them and then leave them there talking (that may seen uncomfortable... I don´t remember, but it´s normal here as long as someone in the group is friendly and a good conversationalist).  And then, the member asks, "What did they Elders tell you to do?"  And the investigator says, "Read this part in the Book of Mormon."  And the member says, "Hey, if you like, I can read with you."  And the investigator is like, "Yeah, I basically know nothing about this book, so that´s a great idea."  And they read.  And then the member asks, "What more did they tell you to do?"  And the investigator says, "To pray."  And the member says, "Well, if you want, we can accompany you in your prayer."  And the investigator is like, "Yeah, I don´t really remember exactly how they told me to do it, can you help me?"  And so they do.  And then we come back for the next appointment, and they´ve kept their commitments and understood them with the help of the member, AND they have a member friend.  So yeah.  That´s going to be good.  But the trick is doing it with a member that you trust.  Because trust me, there are plenty of members around here that I would NOT trust alone with our investigators.  So, maybe you guys can put that in practice around there.  It´d be pretty sweet.  The other thing is that we´re now supposed to be teaching lessons to the entire world, investigators (of course), less actives, more actives, and super actives.  And, after every lesson, we ask, "Who would you like to have a guest in your home for the next time we come to share a message with you guys?"  And guess what?  It works.  So, we´re excited. 

Then, afterward, we had our zone leaders council--with Elder de Hoyos as well.  That was really cool too.  He told the Mexican and other Hispanic elders that it´s their Priesthood duty to learn English.  And that it´s our Priesthood duty (the gringos), to keep up our Spanish for the rest of our lives.  And that every young Priesthood holder in the Church should be making an effort to learn at least THREE languages.  So, Elder Turner was sitting by me (he´s a zone leader in Tuxtla), and we decided that when we go back to BYU we´re going to live in the Foreign Student Language Residence and learn Portuguese (he´s already got his Book of Mormon in Portuguese, too).  There´s a ton of other cool stuff that I want to share from the conference and zone leader´s council, but I´ve already got to go.  Time is up.

I want to say that I love you all, and I´m glad for the success that you´re all having in your lives.  I miss you and I pray for you often.  Stay happy! 

Con mucho amor,
Elder Nickerl

PS--I got the package with the shoe polish, deodorant, trail mix, beef jerky, and lots of Lindor chocolates (I didn´t even know they came in that many flavors, and those are very much a delicacy for my comp and I, because Mexican chocolate is horrible and really expensive).  You´re the best!  Thank you for your support!  I´m very blessed :) I love you.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 18, 2013--Week 55

Hello everyone :)

So, this has been a great week.  We´ve been able to find a ton of people here in Margaritas to teach.  We are glad we were able to move--it was definitely inspired.  The field is white--already to harvest here.  I don´t remember if I already said it or not, but we have an investigator here in Las Margaritas who finished the Book of Mormon in about two weeks.  So that´s pretty cool.  

Other news:  we got transfers today.  First of all, after just being able to start working in Margaritas (that was almost like a transfer in and of itself), I´m leaving. :( I would have liked to have a little bit more time and to strengthen this little branch, but the Lord is in charge and He knows what He´s doing.  Así que, iré y haré.  I´m going to a tiny little town on the west side of the mission called "Chahuites".     There I´ll have the opportunity and responsibility of being Zone Leader (and thus more or less junior comp again, which will be kind of cool since it´s been awhile) of the Oaxaca zone.  Our zone covers the small amount of the state of Oaxaca that is in our mission.  And my comp is going to be American. I don´t really know much about him.  I think I´ve shaken his hand once or twice but I´ve never actually met him.  It will be different, but I´m pretty neutral on being with an American or Mexican or Peruvian.  After like 8 or 9 months of living with non-Americans I think that I live more like a Mexican than an American anyway.  I put huge globs of gel in my hair every day and I eat tortilla with every meal (including Macaroni and Cheese), and I pretty much only cook mexican food.  But, I already committed myself to not speaking English with him (not that that should be that much of a problem anyway since my English is more of a mess than my Spanish).  Also, Elder Esparza is coming here from Huixtla to take my place, so I feel at peace leaving the area in his hands.  It´s kind of funny that two elders in a row are coming here from Huixtla.  Oh, and it´s also kind of funny because the elder that was here before me also left from here to Chahuites (and is now going to be my comp).  So, two in a row there too.  But anyway, that´s the news on the transfers.  It´s hot there.  So I´m excited about that.  After being in Huixtla and being very hot and then freezing my tail off my entire time here in Comitán, I'm happy to be going back to the heat.  If you want to look for Chahuites on the map, you´ll probably have to zoom in pretty far, so look to the west of Arriaga and up the coast a little.  

Thank you for the constant updates from home.  I love hearing about your lives.  I hope you all know that I love you very much and that I pray for you often.  You are a strength to me.  

Con mucho amor,
Elder Nickerl

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March 11, 2013--Week 54

Buenas tardes,

I feel like these are eventful weeks but I never remember exactly what makes them eventful... but anyway, here are a couple highlights of the week:
--One of our investigators finished the Book of Mormon this week (he started and finished it in less than 3 weeks)
--Tomorrow we´re moving from where we live, which is kind of like a bunch of mini-farms jammed together (they call it "ranchería"), to a town called Margaritas.  I don´t know if you can get a picture of it on Google Maps, but it´s a pretty little town where all of our investigators are.  
--Yesterday we had stake conference, but it was broadcast from Salt Lake.  The discoursants were Elder Ulises Soares of the 70, Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Elder David A. Bednar, and Elder Richard G. Scott. All of the talks were awesome, and the best part was that Elder Scott gave his talk in Spanish! He served his mission in Argentina, and because the broadcast was to the Area of Mexico, he spoke Spanish.  It was really cool. It was the first time I´ve heard the real voice of a general authority like that since General Conference in the MTC. But anyway, he talked about the importance of women, womanhood, and respecting, valuing, and loving women.  And it was a really good talk (even though as a missionary I tucked the majority of the talk away in a corner of my mind to be able to think about much later).   We had investigators there.  And they loved it and definitely felt the Spirit as they heard from two of the Lord´s special witnesses in our days.  
--I am happy.  I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I know that it is the way that He has given us so that we can always be happy.  I love my Father in Heaven and my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I´m so thankful for the oportunity to spend all of my time in their service.  

I love each one of you and I pray for you often.  I hope that everyone reading this email who may not know that happiness that comes only from our Savior may come to know it. I invite you to find it through coming to know Him.  He knows you and loves you perfectly.  Let Him heal whatever wounds you may have hidden in your life.  He can do so and will do so if you permit Him.  I testify of this with love, in His name.  Amen.

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 4, 2013--Week 53

Hello family :)

I want to talk a little bit about the concept of happiness.  A lot of people in the world seem to think that happiness means the absence of difficulty and trials.  To be blunt, that´s wrong.  Completely off-track.  Here are the scriptures for today:  Doctrine and Covenants 24:8, John 16:33, Doctrine and Covenants 101:36.  

Life was never supposed to be easy.  It´s actually supposed to be our refining fire. As we exercise our physical bodies, we have to break down the muscles so that they become stronger.  The same thing happens to us spiritually. As we learn to apply the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement to our lives in the midst of our trials, we learn, grow, and become more worthy of our heavenly home.  What I have come to learn here is that true happiness is very similar to the word "peace".  That peace comes from making, and keeping sacred covenants with our Father in Heaven--living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we do so, we are not promised that our trials will be taken from us, but that in the midst of them, we will be at peace.  I love the scripture in John.  In Spanish, instead of saying "be of good cheer", it says "confiad"--Christ says "Trust in me, I have overcome the world." We, as our older brother and Savior, can overcome the world by just following Him and keeping our covenants.  This is illustrated in the last scriptures that I want to share:  Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8 and 122:7.  It shall be as a short moment, and shall be for our good—for our eternal good.  We were not sent here to fail and fall under the tribulation and temptation, rather triumph over it all and, with the help of our Savior, become even as He is.  

So, this week in a nutshell... it´s been a fast, fast week and I don´t remember that much, even though I know a lot happened!  We’re hoping to move this week to Margaritas, which is my favorite place in this area.  It´s a pretty little town about 20 minutes away.  It’s expensive to go there because the combis charge a ton.  All of our investigators are there, so we’ve been spending a lot of money on that, and we keep finding new people there and we keep not finding new people around where we live.  We have two investigators there who we´re going to invite this week to be baptized on the 16th.  They're a young couple that´s going to be married soon.  The young man is a friend of a return missionary in Balún Canán, and so he´s helped us out a lot with giving us the referral and helping us to teach them.  We have another investigator there as well who has read almost all of the Book of Mormon.  Yesterday he stopped at 3 Nephi 11 (good point to pick up reading again).  We´re kind of afraid that he´s going to turn into an eternal investigator because he won´t accept a baptismal date and he´s definitely receiving answers to his prayers, but he wants to "conocer más" (learn more... and more... and more...).  But, hopefully after reading all of the Book of Mormon that´s not the case.  

Another cool thing that happened this week was that we ate with my favorite member family in the branch Saturday (the mom and dad are both RM´s, and they always give us referrals and come with us to appointments and stuff).  I had mentioned to them about a month back that I was going to hit the half way point this week, and they bought me a cake.  So that was cool.  I was really impressed and touched that they remembered and made that extra effort for me.

Sorry, I´m out of time or I could probably ramble for a while longer :) but anyway, I love you all so, so much and I pray for you constantly.  Thank you for all of your support!

I love you all!

Con mucho amor,
Elder Andrew Nickerl

We got to be fire-fighters.  We probably should have run to put the fire out right away instead of taking the picture first, but I figured it was already pretty burnt and 10 seconds more wasn´t going to make it all that much worse.  After taking the picture, we formed part of the bucket-brigade and put it out.  There weren´t any more buckets for me, so I stole the dogs water dish (a huge water dish).

This is our humble church building.  When there´s not a ward there, and the branch has a place to meet that´s not quite a chapel, in the U.S. do they call it the "house of prayer" or "prayer house" or neither of the two?  Because here it´s the "Casa de Oración".  

We had zone conference this week.  Elder Perez (who was in my district in Huixtla for 3 changes and is the same one who trained Elder Scott) got changed to be a zone leader in the Tzotzil zone, so we see each other at zone conferences.  It was cool to see him and hear a few updates on Huixtla (he was the district leader after I left so he could tell me a little bit about how it was when he left).  I was super excited to learn that Elder Esparza and his comp baptized two of the investigators that we had found there my last week.

This is my zone.  Also at the zone conference.  Not too much else to comment here.

This is my comp and me at the zone conference.  I didn´t tell you too much about him last week because of the lack of time, but he´s awesome and we get along really well.  It took a little bit of adjusting to be able to understand how he talks just because of the difference in the accent and vocab (I´m learning Peruvian Spanish now too), but we get along great, he´s a great missionary, and I´m really grateful for the chance to be his companion.  

We had a visitor in our house.  It kind of reminded me of how we had tarantulas in Huixtla.  I liked the scorpion a lot more because it was smaller and not hairy like the tarantulas.  

Freezing in the back of the pick up truck.  I´m not sure how cold it was, but it felt really, really cold.