Monday, January 23, 2017

The Best Two Years

Hi everybody! 
This is officially my last email home. I didn't think this day would ever come, but I made it! I'm so grateful for all of your love and support in these two years. I can say that they were definitely the best two years. Saying goodbye to everyone in Ixtepec on Friday was hard but I was excited to come up to the city on Saturday to see other great people that I've met and became really close to. 


Since Saturday I've been staying in the mission offices with the other three Americans that are leaving with me. We are pretty much on vacations now walking around Oaxaca buying stuff, eating whatever we want to and going to old areas to visit. It's pretty relaxing not having to ask permission for everything now :). Tomorrow we have our final interviews with President Madsen and the dinner at their house. Early Wednesday morning, we head out to the airport. I still can't believe I'll be home in 2 days.

I know that this work is the work of The Lord. I have been able to help more people than I've ever imagined, and seeing how the gospel changes lives has been an amazing and unforgettable experience. I know that we have the fullness of the gospel in the restored church. As I have served others and taught these eternal truths, I have become my own convert. Before my time here I believed that the church was true, and now I know it is. I now understand what faith and repentance is and I have applied it personally as I've taught these principles to many people in Oaxaca. I love the gospel and I know that it's through serving others and living the teachings of our Savior that we can be happy in this life and for eternity alongside our families. The mission changed my perspective of everything and I hope to apply everything I learned when I get home. 

Love, Elder Smith

Monday, January 16, 2017

Enduring to the End

We've been working hard this last week in our area. It's sooo hard but I'm trying to focus on the mission but every conversation leads to me going home in a week. I feel bad for Elder Ochoa but I know how he feels. I've killed three companions during the mission :) The last few weeks I've felt pretty normal, but after this last Sunday everything is starting to become surreal. I'm in my last few days as a full time missionary. It really brings tears to my eyes thinking about it but I'm also super excited to see the family and take another step forward in the bright future ahead of me.


We started contacting and knocking doors trying to find new investigators these last few days. We had little success but we were able to find a few new investigators and some appointments for this week. It's hard to keep myself focused but I know that God is trying my diligence to endure to the end. We are planning a lot of baptisms for February but sadly I'll just have to have my companion send me the pictures. There's a whole lot of potential in Ixtepec to be able to have 5 baptism in the next month and I'm happy for Elder Ochoa because I'm not leaving him with a dead area. 

This past Saturday we got to perform the missionary program again in the other Estaca in Tehuantepec. I was a little nervous because I haven't gotten over my cough. The program went great and we nailed "O Holy Night" again, so it was a sigh of relief. I felt the spirit the strongest in this last performance and during some of the songs I actually started to tear up. I don't know whats wrong with me but I'm already starting to get emotional and I don't like it hahaha. I'll be a mess on the 25th. I also got a call from The Dewolfs congratulating me and telling me that I'm always welcome in their home in Utah. Also, I got a call from Martha, an investigator in Huatulco that got baptized in August and just recently her son as well. Hearing from the people that I've grown to love in these two years have made me so happy. It's a joy that can't be described that only comes through Christ-like service.

I'll be heading to Oaxaca on Saturday to make it to the church services in Nochixtlan on Sunday. President Madsen gave me permission to go up early to visit Nochixtlan and my other areas in the city. Next Monday I'll be sending my last email as a missionary in the mission offices.

See yall soon! Love,
Elder Smith

Monday, January 9, 2017

Baptism!

We had a great weekend because Candelaria was baptized!!! It was so special to see the transformation of Candelaria through her conversion process. We have grown to be great friends and seeing her completely change from a person who didn't have a direction in her life to someone who is happier and has a light within her. She completely changed her life and her habits to follow the Lord and become a member of The Church. She was a coffee addict and she committed to obey the Word of Wisdom and from drinking liters of coffee every day to nothing in a couple months is truly a miracle. 

Candelaria has major health problems that have to do with tumors that she has. The past year she's been seeing specialists and traveling to Oaxaca City to be treated. Now, they don't have the money to keep traveling and paying for those treatments. We promised her that she will be blessed and healed as she keeps the word of wisdom and prepares to be baptized and keep following Christ. She mentioned to us once that she had a lot of pain that wouldn't go away and when she offered a prayer pleading to God to take away the pain because she was doing her best to do what the Elders were teaching her. She said almost instantly after the prayer the pain didn't return the entire day and night. 

It has been such a blessing for me to be a part of the conversion of Candelaria. She's someone very special. One thing that I have learned on the mission that miracles are real and there are many in the Church of Jesus Christ, as it was in the early primitive church. 

January 6th was el dia de reyes. In Latino culture they celebrate the 6th as the day that the wise men arrived and gave baby Jesus gifts. They celebrate it by giving all the children toys and gifts and they eat a special pastry bread called rosca de reyes. They actually don't really give many gifts on Christmas, its the dia de reyes when most of the gift giving happens, especially for the kids. We bought a rosca de reyes and some superheroes action figures, dolls, hot wheels and a beautiful new soccer ball for the nephews of Candelaria. They are super good kids and they live in really humble circumstances so we decided to surprise them and they loved it! 

It was a special week and I'm for sure going to soak it all in these next couple of weeks because before I know it ill be back home. I'm excited to get home but the time on the mission really is sacred and I'm going to miss it.

Love you all a ton! Hasta muy pronto.
-Elder Smith

Monday, January 2, 2017

Feliz ano nuevo!

Feliz año nuevo!!! Wow is it really 2017 already? I remember getting to the mission and everybody telling me "Wow you don't get back home until 2017...you're gonna be here a while." Haha well that's what I was thinking in my head as well. But time flies on the mission. It's been the fastest 2 years of my life. 

This week we had an unexpected surprise on Saturday. We were walking down the street when someone yelled Hey Elders! From inside of his car. Whenever people call for us we always need to make a judgement call if we should go to them or just keep walking. It's a safety thing that I've learned on the mission here in Mexico. Just because they know that we're Elders doesn't mean that they're always friendly to us. I always judge by the spirit and if I feel good about it I go and talk to them. So we got to the car and he spoke to me in English. He reached out his hand with a 200 peso bill saying,"Take it, just take it!" I replied a little confused, as well in English, "Uh..are you sure?" "Yes! Merry Christmas!" he responded while driving off. 

It was a funny experience, I'm thinking he's an ex-missionary that was visiting Ixtepec for the holidays. We were happy because you can do a lot with 200 pesos here :) And I plan on going out for tlayudas a lot in my last few weeks here. 

Candelaria, our investigator fell into some temptation on Christmas Eve and drank alcohol. Here, especially in the isthmus of Oaxaca that what Satan attacks with most. Even the members fall due to alcohol sometimes because it's the culture here and the temptation is always there. Candelaria felt horrible all week and really has sincerely repented. She felt better when we talked to her on Wednesday in the lesson we had with her. She's now getting baptized this Saturday the 7th!

It was a tough week looking for investigators and trying to have lessons. Everybody was gone on vacations or at parties all day and night. We were blessed to find 3 new investigators on the 31st! We struggled to find contacts all week but our prayers were answered when a family let us in their house as they were preparing their New Years dinner. We taught them a little bit about the Restoration and we made an appointment for this Thursday. 

On Saturday night we ate dinner with Sister Norma and we got home at 8 because curfew for us was an hour earlier. Elder Ochoa and I were both really tired so we got ready for bed and tried sleeping early. I couldn't sleep when I checked my watch, it said that it was about 11:30. All night the fireworks were going off but when it hit 12 it seemed like fireworks were exploding in every direction. Some right by the window where I was! I almost got my head blown off. Haha not really but it was loud and I was surprised that my companion slept through all the ruckus. 

Every week goes by so fast!! 3 more weeks and I'll be on my way home. Have a fantastic first week of 2017! P.S I took pictures of cool while parrots that were chilling in a tree.

Love, Elder Smith


Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Or the day after Christmas really. 

It was a special Christmas this year. Even though I was sick it will be one that I'll always remember. The 24th we went around visiting a few widows in the ward that were alone for Christmas. We brought small gifts for each of them and sang them Christmas carols. We were also invited to two dinners on Christmas Eve and we had to pull off the Missionary Miracle of being able to eat various dinners. Our prayers were answered and we were able to eat everything that was put in front of us.

We were told that we couldn't be walking the streets after 6 o'clock by the Zone leaders, and that we were in homes of members for the night. We also had permission to be in a member's home until 10 if they were able to give us a ride home afterwards. It didn't get too crazy here in the streets but we've heard that it's pretty dangerous New Year's eve. They already told us that for the 31st we have to be home safe and sound by 8 o'clock. 

The kids (and adults) buy fireworks to set off on all festive days and nights. On each corner there are firework stands with fireworks of all shapes and sizes. Most of them just explode and make loud noises. The fireworks at home are a lot better because they're actually colorful and fun to watch, here they just explode and kill your eardrums. 

Earlier in the day on the 24th we visited Sister Elbira.
She's been sick lately and she was all alone making tamales. We passed by with flowers and started singing carols when she came to the door. I could see the joy on her face and it was a very special moment. It broke my heart when we asked her who was coming over to eat tamales with her later and she said nobody.

She feeds us every other Wednesday and she always makes the most delicious food. Knowing that we already had two dinners coming up that night we told her that we would come to eat some of her tamales for dinner on Monday night. (I'm stoked we told her that because we're super hungry right now) :)

When then visited Norma and her Dad who she takes care of 24/7. We ate baked chicken with mashed potatoes and then after that we arrived to the Christmas dinner at the house of Brother Bartolo. We got to their house at about 8. They were frying taquitos with their outdoor oven. Even though we were already full we took down some delicious home fried taquitos and had a very enjoyable night talking and laughing with some of their family members who were visiting. We even had a little fun with some sparklers that the little kids were playing with :)

It was an awesome Christmas Eve because we were able to teach about Christ as brighten the live's of others doing what Christ did on the earth. 

I loved talking to the family yesterday. I love my family. I have the best brothers in the world. You're my best friends. Have a great time together and see ya in a few weeks.

Love, Elder Smith

Monday, December 19, 2016

Just To Be There

What a busy week it was! But it was really fun and today we had our Christmas activity with all the missionaries from the two zones in Juchitan and the zone from Salina Cruz.
We ate barbecue ribs with mashed potatoes, some delicious pasta and steamed vegetables. I've learned to love steamed veggies, mom knows that that was one of the few things I didn't eat but its the only way they prepare their vegetables in Oaxaca so I've learned it like them. The dessert was an apple bread like pastry with ice cream. We ate at about noon and I'm still full. It was delicious and I ate a bunch. Then we played some games, performed some skits and talents, and Santa (President Madsen with a super fake beard) came out and gave us our Christmas packages! Thanks so much for the packages! I assume one is from the ward and the other from home. I´m going to be patient and wait to open them on the 25th :)

On Saturday and Sunday we performed our Christmas program in the two stake centers in Juchitan. The performances went great, with a few miscues and mistakes but what do you expect from a bunch of missionaries who rehearsed only two times he he. The piano messed up a bit on Saturday during my duet of O Holy Night, but on Sunday we nailed it! I got a lot of compliments, mainly because its not a popular Christmas song in Spanish and a lot of people have never heard of it before.

The program was really special and I remember seeing a lot of people crying during our performance. At one point of the presentation the Book of Mormon is introduced and a picture of the Savior visiting the Americas is put on the projector. I looked out into the audience and right in the middle of the third row their was a girl with downs syndrome holding up her Book of Mormon with excitement and complete joy on her face, pointing to her Book of Mormon and then the picture on the screen. While seeing how much the Book of Mormon and the program made her so happy brought tears to my eyes and made all the sacrifices and effort worth it. 

In that moment the spirit testified to me again that the Book of Mormon and this marvelous work is all true. I'm so grateful for these experiences that my Heavenly Father allows me to have that strengthen me so much. The other day a young woman came up to me and asked me if I was in Huatulco about a year ago. I replied that I was as I tried to remember her but I didn't recognize her at all. She simply told me "Gracias! Muchas gracias, Elder!" With a confused look on my face I replied,

"Uh what´s your name? I don't remember you..." 

She said that we didn't meet. One day she passed me the market and saw me eating and from a distance read my name tag but then she left without talking to us. She said that thanks to me she searched the Elders in her hometown and is now receiving the lessons. 

I only had time to spurt out "de nada" when she said goodbye and hurried off. 

I didn't have time to ask more questions and now I want to find her again to talk to her more! That strange but gratifying discussion made me think...I didn't do anything really but for just being present here in Oaxaca, and for being in the right place at the right time has been a blessing for someone. That experience makes me want to be more diligent and talk to all the people that I can to share this wonderful message of love and hope. Remember this Christmas season, "to just be there" for someone and to serve others in every opportunity that we have.

Love you all so much! ¡Feliz Navidad! Prospero año y felicidad :)
-Elder Smith

Monday, December 12, 2016

Birthday and Elder Andersen

There is a lot to talk about from this past week. Well to start off I had a great birthday on Tuesday. I spent it at a Zone Conference and afterward we rehearsed for about 3 hours the Christmas program that were going to present on Saturday and Sunday to the two stakes of Juchitan. In the conference President Madsen trained us on the difference between explain and teach. As missionaries we tend to explain too much and sometimes we fail to really teach. If we spend the time talking our heads off trying to explain every little thing in a lesson, the investigator isn't going to learn much. But if we teach with the spirit, that's when the our investigators are going to learn and progress. We did some role-playing as well as focusing on using scriptures to teach every principle. It's always more effective when they see that everything we say comes from the scriptures!

Everyone sang for me and I got a chocolate bar because it was my birthday, so I enjoyed that a lot :) After the conference we started rehearsing and putting together the Christmas program. I'm going to sing a children's hymn called "I know He lives" in a group of four and a duet with Sister Muñoz were going to sing "Santa la Noche" (O Holy Night). It's going to be really fun performing a few songs to finish my mission in the spotlight. ;) I'm a little nervous about "O Holy Night" because that's not an easy song to sing and we both run out of air in the last verse. They recorded us rehearsing a little but of the two songs.

We got to Sister Liliana's house to eat dinner straight from the rehearsal after being in the chapel in Juchitan all day. We got back to eat at 6pm. We entered in Sis.Lilianas house and SURPRISE! A cake with my name on it! Haha Well I wasn't so surprised because I know how sister Liliana is, she really cares for the missionaries.

On Saturday we had the special training meeting with Elder Andersen, Elder Pieper and other area Seventies. Wow I have never been in such a little room with so much power. We had the meeting in the Primary room and I will always remember the words that Elder Andersen expressed to us. He said that whenever we don't know what to say, to testify of Jesus Christ and the words will come by the Holy Ghost. He told us that a few days ago he was with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve apostles and that they send their love and blessing for us. I got to shake his hand twice and sing a solo in front of him. I remember looking at him during the special musical number that we performed and he had a great big grin on his face. I was a bit nervous but the song went well and the spirit was really strong. 

That night we spent the night in Juchitan and we ate the famous Tlayudas from the Septima. Everyone says they're the best tlayudas in Oaxaca. It was full of meat and cheese and only 35 pesos! Just for the delicious and cheap food that you can only find in Oaxaca I'm coming back to visit after my mission for sure.

Yesterday was the Multistake Conference and there was A LOT of members who showed up. We got there 2 hours before the Conference started and we were all the way in the back of the line and we had to watch the Conference on a tv in another room. I was fine with that because on Saturday we were up close and personal with Elder Andersen. Tithing was touched a lot in the conference and Elder Andersen spoke about Alma 32 and the three attributes that we need to endure to the end are Faith, Diligence and Patience.
It was a fabulous and spiritually enriching week. December is already flying by and Skype day is soon. Its scary how close I am to finishing my mission. I definitely have mixed emotions but I am excited for anything life throws at me. In these two years I've learned that with The Lord on our side, we can do great things!
Love y'all!
Elder Smith