Monday, December 28, 2015

Last email of 2015

It was awesome seeing everybody together on Friday! Sounds like a busy week for everybody. How did Ben´s track meet go? I am super sick today. I felt weird last night on our long walk home from the top of the hill/mountain. We had to walk all the way down because we didn't see any mototaxis. My body felt weak and skin sensitive. I woke up feeling knives stabbing me inside my stomach all morning vomiting and with diarrhea. I rested all morning and I felt good enough to get out of bed to write. 
 Well this past week, none of our investigators have been home. They all seemed to leave on vacation. We did a lot of contacting but with very little success. We had our Christmas dinner with President Madsen and the entire Monte Alban zone on Wednesday. It was super nice, we got to play some basketball before we ate. We then ate mashed potatoes (oh how I missed masked potatoes) some sort of breaded chicken and vegetables.

It was nice to have a meal without tortillas. After the dinner we shared some talents. At the last minute a group of us decided to sing some Christmas hymns in English in front of everybody. I had a solo and I'm super glad that we decided to do it. After the talents, President Madsen shared a few videos and a story that I really liked.
I also gave a talk this Sunday on how to have a better Personal study of the scriptures. It went great and someone told me that my Spanish was perfect. It made me happy. 😀
Here is the story if you would like to read it. "The Story of a Son"

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.
When the Viet Nam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier.
The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door.  A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.
He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.
The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears.
He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."
The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection  On the platform sat the painting of the son.
The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"
There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."
But the auctioneer persisted, "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"
Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!  "But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting." Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
"We have $10, who will bid $20?" "Give it to him for $10. Let's see the masters." "$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?" The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel.  "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!

A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!" The auctioneer laid down his gavel, "I'm sorry, the auction is over."
"What about the paintings?"
"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"
God gave his Son 2,000 years ago to die on a cruel cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is, "The Son, the Son, who'll take the Son?" Because you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything.
Remember this messege this Christmas season and all year round. I am so blessed to be sharing the message of Jesus Christ everyday.

Thank you for your support and love. Have an awesome new years! WOOH 2016!
Elder Smith

Monday, December 21, 2015

¡Feliz Navidad! (Almost)‏

My first couple of weeks in Yagul have been different, but nice. A lot of things changed really fast so that has made it a weird couple of months. It's been pretty relaxing not being District Leader or a trainer. We finally have a house too. It's BIG!
It's actually a house with two floors and two bathrooms. I took a hot shower for the first time in 6 months. I forgot how nice hot showers are. I almost weeped of pure joy.

I have grown to love the members and investigators here already. It amazes me how the church is exactly the same in every part of the world. For that reason alone, I know the Church is true. There are amazing members that help and serve the missionaries so much. Even our investigators give us food without hesitating.

It humbles me because a lot of people here don't have anything, and they offer everything to us. My last day in Huatulco we went to visit a friend of a member. She lived all the way down by the river in a shack. She told us that there house was robbed a couple days earlier. They were left with absolutely nothing. They have 4 little children and everything they owned was taken from them. We she told us what happened, it broke my heart. And then she offered us some of their fruit that they had. I love the people of Oaxaca because they are so loving and selfless. 

We performed a Christmas program last Thursday in the Stake. All the missionaries sang and performed talents in the program. It was centered on Christ and the missionary messages. It was super fun and it went really well. We got to wear scarfs too! Next Christmas I'm for sure going to sign up for a special musical number or talent. This year I couldn't because of the special changes and all of that. President Madsen recorded it, I don't know if she's posting it anywhere for people to watch. 

I also bought my Christmas present for myself. I bought my mission scripture cases. I chose the images I wanted and this member here in the city makes these sweet scripture cases for the missionaries here. I turned out super awesome.

¡Feliz Navidad! Les amo mucho. Have the best Christmas ever and this Christmas I hope we can all try to be a little more like Christ. Serve others! There isn't much else that gives us more happiness than to serve!

Con Amor
Elder Smith

Monday, December 14, 2015

Yagul, Monte Alban‏

This has probably been the strangest week of my mission so far. The mission is crazy because in one moment everything can change. It's awesome. So yeah. I'm here in Oaxaca City again in Yagul, Monte Alban. I took the place of an Elder that had back problems and something wrong with his eye. He was sent home to get that taken care of and now I'm here. We haven't really been able to work in our area very much because we don't have a house and we have been living with the District leader in his house. 2 small beds, and 4 elders. Yeah, that´s been fun. 
My new companion is Elder Ospina from Colombia. He´s a giant. It´s the first time since Elder Erikson that I've been the shorter one in the companionship. It's okay, I needed to be sent back to reality. Hahaha no but Elder Ospina is a super good guy and hilarious. He has 18 months on the mission but I'm the senior companion. We don't have a house because about a week ago someone broke in and robbed the house in the middle of the night. Elder Ospina and his old companion were dead asleep and didn't realize what happened until they woke up in the morning. For that reason they have been searching for a new house in the area, but they couldn't find one. We just found a house a little bit outside of our area and President Madsen approved it. We're going to be moving in tonight. I'm excited because the house is really big and it has two bathrooms! 
I have to admit it's been pretty fun these last few days living with 4 Elders in one house. Even better because one of the Elders I've been living with is from Utah and it was nice to talk in English with him and talk about stuff only us Gringos can understand. His name is Elder Ringle and he has about 3 months on the mission. 
I really like my new area. It´s super cool because it's on a mountain. We have to climb a mountain to get to a lot of the members and investigators houses. It's super tiring but the view from my area looking over all of Oaxaca is awesome. I love the weather right now in the city. It's pretty perfect. It cools down really nice at night and in the mornings. I was pretty sick of the heat in the coast. The members also feed the missionaries super well in the city. I´m going to gain weight here. Everyone is telling me that I look a lot skinnier, including my face. I guess that's what happens when you've been in the Coast for 5 months. 
I am enjoying every second of my time here. I love the mission. The experiences I've had and the people that I'Yave met have changed my life forever. Thank you all for helping me get to this point in my life.
With much love from Oaxaca, Mexico,
Elder Smith

Monday, December 7, 2015

Birthday surprise

I'm going to start with the birthday surprise that I got Sunday night to finish off my first birthday in the mission field. We got home after traveling from La Cruz. We went to La Cruz to watch the live stream of the Christmas Devotional in Spanish. I loved it, it was a awesome way to celebrate my birthday. The Tabernacle Choir numbers were amazing with the big orchestra and everything! I also had to give a Baptismal Interview to one of the investigators of the sister missionaries after the devotional. By the end of all that it was late and we still had a 30 minute taxi ride to get back to Santa MarĂ­a. We ran, found a taxi, and got back only 10 minutes after 9:00, so we weren't too late. I reported with my district and then called the Zone leaders to report with them.

Before anything, the zone leader Elder Dominguez told me that I he had some good news and bad news. He told me that on Wednesday of this week I leave for the City. I'm being transferred in special changes to the area Yagul in the zone Monte Alban. The good news is that its pretty cold in Oaxaca City right now. By cold I mean like 70 degrees haha. I was pretty shocked, I didn't see that coming at all. I should have learned not to get too comfortable. 

I also got my other package and it made me really happy! I put my tree up with all the ornaments and also my nativity! It was the best thing that I could have gotten for Christmas time here. Some of the quotes from the ornaments made me laugh outloud, and others made me tear up a little bit. 

Wednesday morning I head off to Oaxaca City in a 10 hour bus ride to start another chapter in my life and in my mission. The Elder that I'm replacing went home because he is really sick. I also just found out that one of my contacts in my first area is getting baptized this month with her entire family! I'm going to ask for permission to go to the baptism. Its a miraculous thing to see the fruits of your labors. I forgot to add that to my big email.  Thank you for all of your love, support, and prayers. It all means a lot to me.

Elder Smith

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving in Mexico

We had a pretty tough week this past week. My companion and I both got sick. On Tuesday I had a pretty bad cold with a fever. I slept the entire day and it was pretty miserable. I'll take a full day of pure contacting in the street over being cooped up in the house for an entire day. Well, it was nice to get some extra sleep. The fever only lasted for a day and now I just have a lingering cough that won't go away. Then on Thursday, my companion got sick and we stayed in for most of the day. I was able to clean the house a lot that day so that was a positive. 

So yeah, we were pretty beat up last week but good thing it wasn't anything more serious like dengue or chikungunya. The good thing about the week was that we have 4 more baptismal dates! None of them are 100% for sure going to happen but we are going to work hard to prepare these 4 investigators for baptism. I have learned to be more direct and to not be afraid to teach with power and authority. When we teach with the spirit, and teach with the power and authority that The Lord has given us as his Missionaries, we can really see results and the hearts change in our investigators. It's a really special to witness, the conversion of our investigators beginning to take place. 

Thanksgiving in Mexico is just like any other day. Nobody knows what it is here. I got really trunky Thanksgiving morning. I was thinking about the Turkey Bowl, the food, and the Lions game that I was missing. I was really feeling crappy that day. But while we were at our food appointment eating beans and tortillas, I had a moment of clarity. What is Thanksgiving all about?  It's about being Thankful for what we have! Duh. I have a million things to be thankful for right now. My family is healthy, and I'm in Oaxaca, Mexico spending the best two years of my life. I have received so many blessings in my life, and in that moment I thought about all of the blessings that I have, and my attitude completely changed. 

One night this week, the moon was really cool too. I took pictures.
I don't know if it was an eclipse or not, but the moon was super orange and awesome looking. My camera impressed me with the pictures it was able to take so close up to the moon and super detailed. Its a really nice camera.
I also took pictures of us riding in a bicitaxi! Its a bicycle taxi and sometimes when we don't want to walk we take the bicitaxi.
We also have been running and playing futbol in the mornings in this covered basketball and soccer court. Its really nice because its super close to the house so we can leave and do exercise in the mornings.
I'm super excited for December! Best month of the year! We went to the big supermarket today and all the christmas stuff was out and the Christmas music was playing and it made me super happy. I think were going to buy Christmas lights for inside of our house. It's a little weird because its 
December and 90 degrees everyday but I have accepted it. 

I love you all and thank you for all your support, love and prayers!
Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Monday, November 23, 2015

Black out in Santa Maria

Today is transfer day! And I am still here in Santa MarĂ­a, Huatulco! I'm going to be here for a total of 6 months, half a year! I´m super content, because I didn´t want to change. I am loving it here and I haven´t gotten tired of it yet. After 4 and a half months in my first area, I was ready to get changed. I wasn't surprised that I didn't get changed because Elder GarcĂ­a is still in training.

This week we had a short blackout here. All of Santa MarĂ­a was without power for a couple of hours. This is a pretty normal thing here, but it was night time when it happened this past week. From 7 to 9 pm we were walking around town in complete darkness, looking for people to teach. It was a cool experience because we had a good way to start talking with everyone we saw. We just went up to anyone that we saw and started talking about the blackout and then about The Restoration and the Book of Mormon. We went around town giving out a bunch of Books of Mormon and fliers. I mean we do that a lot normally, but it was a lot easier without power in town! We had a bunch of success that night finding new investigators. 

Today for our P-day we went to San AgustĂ­n Beach! It´s one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Huatulco.
We ate seafood and enjoyed the view. I decided to go with the Grilled garlic octopus. Wow it was amazing.
I was very happy eating my recently caught octopus. On the way back we heard that there was a giant tree that's a giant iguana habitation. The super big ones are pretty ugly. They literally look like dinosaurs.
We also met Flor the Raccoon. She enjoyed climbing on my head and nibbling on my ear. I decided that Raccoons are better pets than Dogs or Cats.
We also couldn't find a taxi for the ride back, so we hitchhiked on the back of a big truck. The people here are awesome because they always give us a ride when we put our thumbs up on the side of the dirt road. 

I also took a lot of pictures one day during the week. I usually don't like to carry my camera around but for one day I did. So you all could see what its like a day as a missionary in Santa MarĂ­a, Huatulco.

I love the mission because it is an opportunity to learn a lot everyday. I am forever grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving me this opportunity to serve in Oaxaca for 2 years. The things that I am learning will help me for the rest of my life and all eternity. I am grateful also that the Family is also receiving blessings in these two years that I am away from home. But it is really my future family, wife and kids that will be blessed the most for the two years that I am putting aside for the Lord.

I love you all and I hope that you have a fabulous Thanksgiving! Eat a bunch of sweet potatoes and greenbean casserole for me!

Con Amor, Elder Smith

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Baptism!

We had another baptism this week! Finally, Remedios got baptized. We have been meeting with her from the beginning. She was tough to prepare for baptism. She´s the third one of her family to be baptized. Her son and her husband are recent converts. I hope to be able to see them get sealed together in a year from now. 

Other than that, nothing much happened this week. Transfers are in a week from now. I don´t want to be changed. I don´t think I will be, but who knows. I want to stay in Santa MarĂ­a for another transfer. One reason is because there is a member in the ward that is making me scripture cases. More than anything, I don't want to be changed because I really like it here. There are a lot of difficult things about being a missionary in an area where the church is so new and small, but it´s pretty special being a missionary in a place like this for a lot of reasons. I feel like my work here is really important for the growth in the church. I have learned that the effort of the missionaries in a lot of areas all over the world where the church is just beginning, really plays a role in the growth of the church. 

We only had 35 members attend church yesterday. It was a bummer, but that's what happens sometimes when a couple big families leave town for the weekend. Oh, and another thing that bothers me, but I cant just help but laugh is that the church members here don´t know how a lot of hymns go and they can´t read music. It can get pretty painful during sacrament meeting while we sing the hymns. It would be better if we had a piano in our House of Prayer...well I don't think anybody knows how to play piano either, including me, so that wouldn't help much. 

As a missionary in Santa MarĂ­a, Huatulco, I have learned a lot of patience while teaching. More than half of our investigators don´t know how to read. It makes it really difficult to teach and for them to progress. We have to teach them, as if they were children. We use a lot of pictures and examples to help them understand, because none of the older people are educated here. It´s definitely a trial, but I'd take uneducated and humble people over educated and prideful people any day. I have really grown to love the people of Oaxaca. I know that their are a lot of people here that the Lord has prepared to accept the Gospel. All I can do is work hard everyday to find them. 

I know that what I teach and preach to everyone I talk to here is true. The Book of Mormon is the word of God and I have an amazing opportunity to testify of these eternal truths everyday. It is truly a blessing, and I thank the Lord everyday for this opportunity that I have to grow and to share the Gospel with the people of Oaxaca.

Gracias por todas sus oraciones y amor.
Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Witch of Santa Maria'

Another crazy week down in Santa MarĂ­a, Huatulco! Wow the next transfer is coming up quick! Just two more weeks until tranfers! I imagine and I hope that nothing changes for me. I am loving training Elder GarcĂ­a and working here in Santa MarĂ­a.

We also are having another baptism this week! We are going to baptize Remedios. Well that's the plan. Hopefully she passes her interview. I don´t think she´s going to have any problems. She´s 50 years old and her Husband and Son are recent converts. It´s awesome to be a part of the conversion of an entire family. They are planning to get sealed in the temple, but first they have to wait a year after being baptized. It will be cool to attend their sealing, because I will still be in Oaxaca a year from now!

We also had a Halloween sort of experience this past week. Elder GarcĂ­a and I have been pretty creeped out ever since. Well here´s the story: One day we were walking to the Branch President's house all the way in Techal Blanco. Santa MarĂ­a is broken up into Barrios (Wards). Techal Blanco is a long hike and we have to walk it almost everyday for visits and food appointments. On the way to Techal Blanco, this Elderly lady came up behind us and started talking to us. She seemed like the typical old Oaxacan Lady. She said that the Elders visited her before but they quit visiting her for some reason. We made an appointment to visit her and we said goodbye.

A few days ago, we went to go see her in her house. She let us in, and we began talking about our message. She complained of pain that she has had for a long time in her legs. We offered to give her a blessing and we did. Now, everything was pretty normal up to this point. She was super dramatic with everything, yelling all these praises to God and all of that, but that's pretty normal with the Christians and Catholics here, so I didn't think twice about it. We continued the lesson and she told us about an experience she had. She said that the Grim Reaper appeared to her and lead her to the nearby mountain. I couldn't understand her story really well but she said she pleaded with "Death" to not take her. She then went into telling us that she has done horrible things in her life and she started to cry hysterically. My companion and I just looked at each other in confusion and a little bit of fear. We wanted to get out of there so we asked her if she could offer the closing prayer. She agreed and she started to prayer in her irreverent yelling form of praying. Halfway through the prayer she started to speak a dialect of some sort. After she finished praying, I asked her if she knew a dialect. The there are a lot of different dialects here in Oaxaca so I thought it was Zapoteco or something. She said that she only knows Spanish....
Elder Garcia and I booked it out of that house. We went straight to a member´s house nearby and asked her if she knew this old lady down the street. She told us, "Oh yeah, that´s the Witch of Santa MarĂ­a." So yeah we taught a witch. She also gave us an apple before the lesson with her...she's the evil witch from Snow White. Haha but seriously we were creeped out.

The majority of are experiences are uplifting and filled with the spirit, but I wanted to share this experience too. :)

Oh yeah! I forgot to talk about Francisco's confirmation! I confirmed him yesterday at church. It was super cool to do my first confirmation. I was a little nervous and midway through my legs started to shake a little bit. I don't know why but I was relieved because I said everything correctly and it went really well. I love you all, and I hope you all have a fabulous week!

Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Monday, November 2, 2015

El Dia de Los Muertos

Happy Halloween and Happy November!!!

First of all, Halloween is a little bit different here. They have a cool ancient Mayan Tradition for the Day of The Dead. Halloween here is actually a 3 day thing. It starts on the 31st and end on November 2nd (Today). A member explained it to me a little bit that, November 1st is when the spirits of the children haunt the town and November 2nd the spirits of adults. They all make an altar with food offerings for the spirits. The altar is decorated with candles and yellow flower pedals. Its pretty creepy, but kind of cool. I miss the Jack-O-Lanterns. They don't have big orange pumpkins here, so it wasn't the same without seeing those around. 
There are also a lot of pyrotechnics that everyone buys. They are fireworks but kind of lame fireworks. They just go boom super loud. I´ve been hearing them go off all day since the 31st. It´s given me a headache. 
We also some great news...WE HAVE WATER. We can bathe and wash our clothes! Hahaha I have never felt so blessed to have water. So if you are ever thinking that you aren't receiving blessings, think again. Because there are a lot of things that I took for granted when I didn't live in Mexico. We had a member check out our hose and fix whatever the problem was. He discovered that our hose where our water comes from was clogged with dirt. For that reason only a little bit of water was arriving when the water came weekly. (*editors note* He does mean weekly. He says water comes on Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday.) He replaced our hose and now the water comes in like Niagara falls. My companion and I were almost crying of joy in it´s purest form when we heard the water falling into our tank Friday night. 
We have a Zone conference tomorrow, and I am super excited for it. Also, we had interviews with President Madsen today. It went really well and Sister Madsen gave us chocolate so that was another bonus. 
I can´t believe its already November! Enjoy the November weather in the States! 
Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Monday, October 26, 2015

Suits On The Loose

Wow, this week has been crazy. I have never had so many things to do in my life. It's something that I'm still getting used to. It's been a stressful week, but it's weird because I feel super happy (most of the time). 

We have had problems with our water for 3 weeks now. Our dirty dishes have been sitting in our sink now for about 3 weeks. The good thing is that our sink is outside, so its not stinking up the house :) The problem is that only a little bit of water comes when it does come. We´ve been using our little bit of water to shower and to use the bathroom. You know, the essentials. The dishes can wait. Who needs clean dishes anyway? I called the home owner and she said she sent someone to fix our hose, because the problem is our hose. Hopefully we start getting water in abundance now. 

The big news of the week is that we had a baptism! My companion was able to have his first baptism in the mission! He baptized Francisco. A 13 year old boy with a less active Dad, and a nonmember mom. He's a great kid.
I'm going to confirm him next Sunday. We weren't able to confirm him this past week because he came late to church. That's what the title is about I put in the heading. We were sitting in the beginning of sacrament meeting and we were super worried thinking where Francisco was! We waiting until after the Sacrament and I we left to go looking for Francisco. We ran in our suits a long ways to Francisco's house. People were looking at us weird as we were hustling in the hot mid-day sun of Santa MarĂ­a in our suits. I felt like the guys from Men in Black. I also thought of that one missionary movie "Suits on the Loose." 

Well we found Fransico in his house alone with just his sister. He didn't have a clue what time it was. A lot of people here tell the time by where the shade is on the side of their wall so I wasn't too surprised. We ran back, suits on the loose style again, but we didn't make it in time. Oh well, at least I got some exercise. 

I had a really spiritual experience this week too. It was 8 o'clock, after a super long day of contacting and teaching. I really wanted to just go home an hour early and relax for a bit. I was super tempted, trust me. But I knew I shouldn't because it's not my time, it's the Lord's time. The problem was that I had no idea where to go and by 8 o'clock everyone in this town is sleeping. I suddenly felt an impression to pass by this one house that we always go by on the way home every night. This family is always outside at night together, and they wave at us every night we walk by. I felt an impression to go visit them, so we did.

I walked up to their gate and said, Buenas noches, cĂłmo estĂĄn? That's all I said and they told us to come sit with them. I was pretty surprised and super relieved. We were able to teach them and one of them told us that when she was 19 years old, she had a Book of Mormon that someone gave to her and she was reading it! But one day she got caught in a storm and the Book got ruined. So she was never able to keep reading it. We were able to give her a brand new one that day.

I know that the Spirit will guide us if we are listening. That was an awesome experience that taught me that special lesson. I hope that you all remember to always be ready to let the Spirit guide you, and to ACT on your impressions. 

Love you all and I hope you have a fabulous week!

Con Amor, 
Elder Smith

Monday, October 19, 2015

Elder GarcĂ­a

My new companion is Elder GarcĂ­a from Sinaloa, Mexico! He´s a great guy and we get along super well. He's the type of guy I would hangout with outside of the mission. He´s pretty much the Mexican version of me. 

I have had a lot of things to worry about this week. It´s wearing me out and I just want to go take a long nap in my hammock right now. But I know that I just have to keep working as hard as I can to feel better. The best medicine for stress on the mission is work, work, and work some more! 

One of our issues is that we haven't had water all week in our house. We are showering with the jugs of purified water that they sell for drinking water. We also had no food in the house all week. But we just got back from a trip to the supermarket and we spent a good 1000 pesos on food, so we´re good on that now! For much of today, I was trying to get the owner's of the house that the sister missionaries used to live in to sign a document to end the contract. They still haven't signed it and they told me to come back tomorrow. Well, the good thing is, is that Im learning how to deal with house contracts. The mission really prepares you for everything in life.

This passed week we also had to travel to a New Missionary and Trainers meeting in Salina Cruz. Salina Cruz is about 3 hours away from Huatulco. It was nice to nap on the way to and from Salina Cruz. I really learned a lot at the meeting too. At the meeting, President Madsen talked to us that The Lord has put his trust in us and has chosen us to train. The whole culture of the mission depends on how well the trainers train the new missionaries. Its true, so I'm going to make sure that I am as obedient as I can be so that Elder GarcĂ­a can learn from example. I am super greatful for my Trainer Elder Erikson because he taught me and showed me by example how we should act and work as Missionaries and representatives of Jesus Christ. 

With all of the house contract, water, and food problems, I have been balancing the District Leader duties with all of that too. As District leader, I train all the missionaries on Tuesdays at the District Meetings and I perform all of the Baptismal Interviews of the District, as well as do reports every night. It's a lot, but it's keeping me focused on the mission. I've realized that this week, I have thought less about Home than ever. I think that's a good thing for me haha. Gotta stay focused, and the Lord is helping me with that with all my new responsibilities. 

We were invaded by a lot of unwanted creatures in our house this week. One night I was laying comfortably in my hammock and I looked over to the wall nearby...and FREAKED OUT. A GIANT tarantula just chillen there. It was almost the size of my hand. We ended up capturing it and letting it go far far away. But we found another one later in the week, even bigger. That one escaped and we don't know where it went.
Another morning, I was out back when I saw something big rummage through the trash. I saw a bunch of fat legs scurry in the trash bag so I thought it was another giant spider. My companion laughed as I squealed searching for a stick to poke it out of the garbage. I didn´t realize what it was until it came out of the trash. It was a in the world....we´re like a 20 minute drive from the beach. I don´t know how it got in our house. The crab also escaped and we don't know where it went. I then found a super big scorpian in the house. I killed it with a stick before it could escape. 

I love you all and I hope you have a fabulous week! I´m always praying for you!

Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Monday, October 12, 2015

When it rains, It pours

Happy Transfer day!

The heading of this email doesn't pertain to anything negative. But it does describe how transfers went. Well, right now I'm at Elder and Sister Dewolf's house on their laptop. Elder DeWolf is my companion for now, until my new companion gets to Huatulco. Our district had major changes. The zone leaders and I are the only ones that didn't get moved.

 I'm the new District Leader here in Huatulco, and I will be training a brand new missionary. I don't know who my new companion is yet, but I'll find out tonight. I'm going to have my first "son" on the mission! The question is if he's going to be a latino, or a gringo. Another big change is that the area, Santa Maria Huatulco 2, closed. This was the area of the Sister missionaries in our branch. So now I am in charge of ALL of Santa Maria. Before, it was split in half.

Honestly, I'm really excited to have more responsibilities. I was thinking that I was just going to be District Leader, but I never thought in a million years that I would be training a greenie! Yeah I'm a little nervous, but overall I feel really calm about it all. I know that the Lord trusts me. He trusts me more than I trust myself. The General Conference messages helped me prepare for this. This was exactly what I need so I can take another step forward in my growing process as a missionary, and as a man. For that I am super grateful for this opportunity! It's going to be incredibly hard, I realize that, but I feel like I'm ready for anything because The Lord can lift me up and make me capable to do his work. I just need to make sure I try my best to do the will of the Lord at all times.

I hope that everything is going fabulous at home! Les amo mucho y espero que tuvieran una buena semana!
Elder Smith

Monday, October 5, 2015

General Conference!

My General Conference weekend was awesome, because it was pretty much a two day vacation for me. We got to stay at Elder and Sister DeWolf´s house in La Cruz, Huatulco. Elder and Sister DeWolf are a married couple who are serving here in Huatulco. They Just got here about a month ago. They're from Utah and Sister DeWolf is our missionary nurse.
They're house is super nice and it has AIR CONDITIONING! We spent the night there Saturday night, and we hung out there between sessions. It was the first time that I slept in air conditioning in months. It was like staying at a super nice hotel. Oh yeah and the shower was amazing too, it actually had water pressure unlike the showers I have had in my mission so far. 

Crock Pot Chicken Curry! 

I truly believe that he Lord was talking directly to me this General Conference. I received the answers and comfort that I was looking for. This is the final week of Elder Tello's mission. I know that more sooner than later, I'm going to become a leader in the mission or at least have a lot more responsibilities after this week. I have been worrying about it these past weeks, knowing that things are going to change. Too often we get used to our routine and we get scared of change.          So far in these past eight months, the changes have always worked out. I know that if we don´t leave our comfort zone, we will never grow. I´m here to grow, not to be in my comfort zone. I was talking to Elder DeWolf about it the other day too. He had to give a talk in the District Conference in front of hundreds of members here in Spanish. Just a couple weeks after getting to Oaxaca. He doesn´t know any Spanish but he got up there and gave a great talk. He helped me realize that the things that I am doing now, that have become second nature, I was terrified to do the same things just a few months ago. Sometimes I can´t see it in myself, but I know that the Lord is helping me grow exponentially. 

Elder Gary E. Stevenson said two things in his General Conference address that really helped me and made an impression on me.

" The Lord will qualify those who he calls." "Don´t focus on what you can´t do, but what you can do."

 These were the answers I needed. I know that the Lord answers prayers and that there is a living Prophet of God and 12 Apostles on the earth today. The Lord is the head of this church and He directs inspired men to guide the church. I have no doubt in my mind. This is the testimony that has grown within me.

Les quiero mucho. Que tengan una semana maravillosa!
 Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Monday, September 28, 2015

La Mina

This was an awesome week! This week we had divisions with the Zone leaders. I got to go and work in the Zone leader's area for a day. I like their area a lot, I had a special experience with Elder Dominguez (my zone leader). Their area is in Bahias de Huatulco. It's an area really close to a lot of beaches and it's where a lot of the fancy hotels are in Huatulco. It's fun because you find a lot of tourists there from the US and Canada. 

We had an awesome experience with this one lady from Cicily, Italy. The Elders had visited her once before, and we found her in an ice cream shop. We started talking to her and she pretty much told us that she's not religious and the only reason she's talking with us is to learn more about the Mormon's. She also said my Spanish was really good, so that made me happy :). She started asking a bunch of questions like, why do young men leave everything at home to preach for two years? Do you really follow all these rules? She even told us it was a waste of 2 years of our youth. We explained everything and shared that we really want to do this and that it is the best thing that we could be doing at this time in our lives. 
The special part was when she asked us about our beliefs of what happens after death. Elder Dominguez and I taught and testified of God's plan for us and we were able to have an answer for every one of her difficult questions. The Spirit guided us and she was able to see the spirit within us. She ended by saying, "You know what, I'm going to visit your church one Sunday, because I like your charisma and the answers that you gave me." She said something along the lines of that in Spanish.
That was a special experience for me, because what she noticed in us, to realize that she should visit the church, was the Spirit. It wasn't us or even our answers to her question's that she liked. But it was the Spirit that she felt. After we left that lesson, Elder Dominguez and I just looked at each other with the biggest grins, feeling like we were on top of the world. The joy that we felt was indescribable. 

Today, we had an awesome Zone activity! We went to Puerto AngĂ©l to a beach called la mina. We brought a bunch of coconuts and cracked them open to drink on the beach. We played volleyball and looked longingly at the water, wanting so bad to just put our feet in the water. Missionary struggles...haha but seriously it was an awesome activity in a gorgeous setting. 
 Next week is General Conference!!! I'm super excited.
Love you all and have a great Gen. Conf weekend!
-Elder Smith

Monday, September 21, 2015

21 Septiembre 2015

This week I experienced my first 15 de Septiembre (Mexican Independence Day) in Mexico! It wasn´t very crazy here in Santa MarĂ­a until it got late. What they do is have a parade and at midnight they all yell ¡Viva MĂ©xico! a bunch of times. We saw a little bit of the parade that went through the town. The coolest part were the men and women riding on horseback, wearing sombroros and traditional clothing. There were about 100 of them going down main street at once. It was cool but the 4th of July is a lot better ;). 

This week we also had a Zone Conference in Pochutla. They just changed the zone to make it all of the Coast. It used to be two different zones but now we are one big zone. Pochutla is about an hour away from Santa MarĂ­a and the road to get there in incredibly windy. The taxi was cruising super fast so I got really dizzy. But the views were incredible. It was weird to see the greenie gringos who don´t know much Spanish. It´s hard to believe that I´m almost considered a veteran already. It was also fun to see missionaries at the conference that I hadn´t seen in months. 

The other day, I had a funny food experience. We sat down to eat after church yesterday. We eat with Hermana Nicole and Hermano Alberto every other Sunday. They placed two plates full of rice, grilled onions, and this dark looking meat. I didn't have any idea what kind of meat it was, but half the time I don't know what I´m eating here anyways so I didn't worry about it. I took a tortilla, and made a taco with the rice, onions, meat and salsa. (That's how you eat almost everything here). It was really good! I could have sworn that what I was eating was some sort of steak. My companion looked at me and asked if I wanted his. I asked him why and he responded that he doesn´t like liver. THIS IS LIVER? Was my first thought. Yep, cow liver and onions. I thought it was delicious so I ate my companion´s portion too. 

We are preparing to have a baptism on the 10th of October. The last weekend of my companion´s mission. We have been working a lot with other investigators and we have 3 other baptism dates, but they aren´t as solid as Fransisco´s baptism date. It can be frustrating at times, but I just finished reading Alma 26, and it helped me feel a lot better about the work. Alma 26:27 made a huge impression on me. It says: 

Y cuando nuestros corazones se hallaban desanimados, y eståbamos a punto de regresar , he aquí, el Señor nos consoló, y nos dijo: Id entre vuestros hermanos los lamanitas, y sufrid con paciencia vuestras aflicciones, y os daré el éxito.

I know that this is the Lord´s work and if we trust in Him, and are perfectly obedient, he will give us success. 

I love you all! ¡Que tenga una buena semana!

-Elder Smith

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mexico City Temple/Mexican Independence day

This week we had the special opportunity to watch the Re-dedication ceremony of the Mexico City Temple! President Eyring and Elder Holland went to the ceremony. We got to watch it for our Sunday services yesterday. They had translators for them, and they both gave amazing talks. On Saturday night we were able to watch the Cultural Pageant of the temple re-dedication. It was amazing with stories played out of the Book of Mormon, the Restoration, and stories of the history of the Church in Mexico. They played out the story of the convert who came from Spain and translated the Book of Mormon into Spanish, and also the first two missionaries in Mexico who were shot and killed in a Mexican Jail for not denying their faith. It was an awesome performance with traditional Mexican dances that represent the different parts and cultures of Mexico. 

Tomorrow is Mexican Independence day! An investigator took some pictures of me with the Mexican flag and they were teaching me the Mexican Anthem.
Tomorrow, I feel like I´ll be yelled at in the street more than usual, but it will be a fun day :). I think they're going to have us return to our houses earlier for the parties in the streets that are going to be happening. I´m excited because it will make for an interesting day. I´m not sure how crazy little Santa MarĂ­a will get but we´ll see. 

It´s fun to be an American with green eyes and blonde hair in Mexico. A lot of people want to come up and talk to me about the United States, Obama, or Donald Trump. Hahaha seriously, EVERYBODY talks about Donald Trump here. About something he said about Mexicans, idk but I got tired of hearing about him. The people here absolutely hate him, its kinda funny.
All of the females tell me I have beautiful eyes and kids tell me they want to eat my head because my blonde hair look like the hairs on a corn on the cob. They eat corn on the cob (elote) a lot here. SO yeah, those are the things that I hear from the Mexican people every day.  hahaha. 

I hope everyone has a great week! Love you!
Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I can't believe it's already September!!'

This week as been a really good one, even though our Baptism date for Remedios for the 12th fell through. It was a bummer but she isn't ready yet and that's what she told us. I wasn't too surprised because she hasn't been reading the Book of Mormon or her pamphlets. Fransisco on the other hand, is progressing really well towards his baptismal date for the 3rd of October. He´s a 12 year old kid with less active parents, but he is going to church by himself without his parents and he really wants to learn and be a member. He´s a really great kid. 

We had one really special experience with one of our older investigators. We have been teaching Martha and her son, Juan Manuel, since we got to Santa MarĂ­a. Santa MarĂ­a is a small town, so everybody knows everybody. Also, a lot of people have nicknames here that they go by. Juan Manuel, the son of Martha, had been one of the town's alcoholics for years. He went by the nickname, El Diablo (The Devil). But he hasn't drunk for 2 months and we are helping him a lot. He´s gone to church a couple times. I don´t know why his town nickname is El Diablo...he doesn't have his two front teeth and he has a scary grin, so maybe it has to do with that. Well anyways, Martha is really interested in the church and last week we gave her a blessing because she was having a lot of pain when she was moving around. We just met with her again the other day and she told us that she was in so much pain before the blessing, but she woke up the morning after and all the pain was gone.

It was something really special for me to witness. My testimony grew a lot after hearing that and I know that Priesthood really has power. The power of God is here on the earth and we have a great responsibility to carry out his work as instruments in his hands. Priesthood blessings are real, and if we have enough faith, God can heal us. 

Also, this passed Saturday I gave my first English class in the Casa de Oracion! About 20 people showed up and the majority were investigators! It went really awesome. First, I had everybody present themselves in English. I had them say their name, how old they were, and what they liked to do. It was a bit advanced for them but I helped them out a lot. I then taught them numbers 1-100 and we played a game having to do with numbers. It was fun and a lot of people are really interested in free English classes so I imagine even more attendance this next Saturday. 

I uploading one photo this week. It´s of Elder Tello and I in our new traditional Oaxacan shirts. Yeah, we bought more last week...its hard to resist buying one every time I walk into the store :) 

Love you and I hope everyone has a great start of the school year!
¡CuĂ­dense mucho y que tengan una semana maravillosa! 

Con Amor,
Elder Smith