Monday, August 31, 2015

"I'm going to miss two things."

Yesterday we completed 1 change here in Santa María. I am on my 5th change in the mission field. Our District stayed exactly the same, none of the missionaries in our District got changed. I was happy about that because I really like our district, we all get along really well. Its a small district. Only 3 companionships. Elder Tello and I, with two companionships of Hermanas (sister missionaries). Their are always a lot more sister missionaries on the coast than Elders. I'm not sure why, I guess for all the immodest women walking around near the beach.

President Madsen also came down for interviews! We all had interviews on Wednesday and he also brought with him a new missionary couple that is going to be living here in Huatulco. They're from Utah and the Sister knows a good amount of Spanish because her mom is Mexican, but her husband doesn't know any at all. I know how he feels haha. I was talking to them a lot, just to make sure I can still speak my native language. The Sister is a nurse so now we have a nurse nearby to take care of all the missionaries on the Coast. I was super excited to here that when I catch dengue fever, I will have someone to go to haha. The interview with President Madsen went really well. We talked about how my Spanish is going and about how the area is going with our investigators. He is such a cool guy and a great mission President. I am so lucky to have him as my Pres for all of my mission.

Nothing else much happened this week with our investigators. We had a good attendance at church this week, with our investigators. We had 3 attend. Yep, that's a good number, trust me. Its the hardest thing for us is getting our investigators to go to church. We are trying to get the members to help us with that by assigning members to pick up certain investigators, but the members have trouble getting to church as well. To get some more investigators, I'm going to start giving English classes every Saturday for an hour. There was a lot of interest in that so hopefully that will be a success!

Something that I find really funny is that everyone is so surprised when I tell them that I'm 19 years old. They all tell me I look older! I have no idea why but they say its because I'm tall....hahahaha funny, right?! When I come home, I'm going to miss 2 things. 1) The Oaxacan food 2) Being considered "tall". 

Love you all!  ¡Que tengan una buena semana! 
Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dreaming in Spanish

Wow, I can´t believe the new school year is a couple weeks away. I just heard that General Conference is the 3rd and 4th of October. I am super excited. Another thing to look forward too. I would have never imagined being so excited for Gen. Conf. it's the best thing in the world for missionaries. A break from walking out in the sun for two days. It´s missionary vacation haha. Not much new happened this week in Santa María, Huatulco. We had more of our investigators attend church this week, so that made us really happy. We are planning 2 baptisms in the coming weeks. The District President of Huatulco suggested that we don´t do baptisms in the ocean because of previous problems with missionaries and investigators not knowing how to swim and the waves causing problems. Also, he said it isn't a very reverent atmosphere with drunks and tourists all around. The problem is that our investigator, Remedios, has the idea in her head that the site of her baptism is something very important to her and she needs to receive personal revelation to know where she´s going to get baptized. The District President suggested The baptismal font in the Stake Center about 30 minutes away, or the river in Santa María, but Remedios might have other ideas, who knows. 

There are a couple things that I realized this week that blew my mind. First of all, Dora la Exploradora (Spanish version of Dora the Explorer) teaches English. I don´t know why that blew my mind but it did haha. Also, the chips "Fritos" is Spanish. Frito means "fried". Fritos are fried corn chips. Whaaat mind blown haha I never knew. 

It´s starting to happen. I´m starting to dream in Spanish, and the other day I caught myself thinking in Spanish! That's a good thing I guess. I uploaded some pictures too.

One of the pictures is Elder Tello and I in our Authentic Oaxacan shirts. I forgot what they are called, but they are super awesome, and comfy. 

I also took a picture of a weird but delicious fruit called, Maracuya. It looks like a yellow lacrosse ball before cutting it open. Inside is this sweet and tart goopy substance. It taste like a mix between grapefruit and polmegranate but a lot sweeter. Its suuuper good. 

We also visited the river again today, because we had some time and I took so pictures of this cool narrow part with huge rocks. 

Oh yeah and the other night I took a picture of my arm. The caption for that picture is "Hey, I found the US-Mexican border on my arm!" hahaha dont look at that picture for too long because the white of my upper arm may cause chronic blindness. 

I love you and I hope the Family continues to do well with all the activities and work!

Elder Smith

Monday, August 17, 2015

Another week has passed!

Ever since this last multi-zone conference, President Madsen has focused the mission on having more lessons every week. We really wanted to push hard and work to meet these new goals. This passed week we had 35 lessons, which is the most that I have had in a week so far on my mission. It is especially important here in Santa María to teach the members, because they are all mostly new in the gospel and a lot of them lack basic knowledge of the Book of Mormon and the Principles of the Gospel. We are working with all of our investigators too, but before we can really have success in Missionary Work, the Branch of Santa María needs to get stronger as a whole. That's what makes this area a lot harder as a Missionary compared to the other areas in the mission. 

I had one experience this week that strengthened my testimony of the power of revelation. This week rained a TON! It made the weather a lot cooler this week and it was really nice. Almost every day this week there was a huge thunderstorm, with crazy high winds and everything. I absolutely love it when it rains. I don´t mind getting wet at all as a missionary. It´s also a lot nicer when your shoes and backpack are rain proof. Well on Wednesday it started to storm really bad while we were walking to the food appointment. We got there and there was nobody there. We decided to take cover underneath the roofed area outside their house. My companion and I sang some hymns and waited for a while. After 30 minutes of waiting we decided to leave and meet with a recent convert who hasn't been going to church lately.

We got to her house and she let us in with a grin and we started playing with her two little kids. This member is 20 years old, married to a non member. She then randomly asked us, what would be the best thing to do if someone attacked you by grabbing you by the hair. We thought and couldn´t really come up with a good answer. Elder Tello knows a little bit about self-defense because he was a Tae-Kwon-Do teacher before the mission. He gave a few suggestions but then asked her why she wanted to know. She then proceeded to tell us that thats what her husband did to her the other day. She then lifted up her pants to show us bruises all up her leg.

This was the second time that someone has told me that they were being beaten by their husband. I had no idea what to say to her. I have learned that these are the kinds of things that missionaries face everyday, because we are seen as wise and trustworthy. But I don't feel like I am anyway capable of dealing with situations like that. We then asked her if we could share a message with her, and we opened with a hymn and a prayer. I still had know idea what I was gong to share with her to help her. All I did was start talking, and the spirit guided me. I don´t remember everything I said, but I do remember showing her the picture of the DC Temple that I just got in my package from home and telling her about the joy a temple marriage can bring to her with a righteous priesthood holder. In the past, the spirit has helped me share messages for my lack of spanish speaking skills, but this time it wasn´t the language that troubled me. It was what I could say to really help this 20 year old girl that looked to me for help. I know that the Spirit of Revelation is real, and I don´t know for sure if what I said to her helped her, but I know what I said was guided by the Spirit.

Today for our P-day we went to some cool authentic Oaxacan clothing and fabric stores and I bought some souvenirs for me and the family :) I'm getting together a package but there are still a lot more things I want to buy before I send a package. I took pictures of the way the make these clothes and fabrics with these huge wooden machines. We then ate at a restaurant on the beach and I had some delicious shrimp.
Oh yeah, and there is another picture of me eating my favorite Oaxacan snack, Chapulines! (grasshoppers) They are so tasty, trust me. 

I hope you all have a great, relaxing end of summer.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!
-Elder Smith

Monday, August 10, 2015

¡Hola familia, feliz lunes!

This week we had a multi-zone conference with our zone (Huatulco) and our neighboring zone, Puerto Escondido. I got to see me old compañero Elder Torres! So that was fun. We also learned how to make oatmeal and no bake fudge. Sister Madsen likes to teach us things that we can cook in the house, but that takes to much time and energy. Every night, I only have the energy to plan for the next day, shower, make a nutella & pb sandwhich, pray and get in my hammock to sleep. Especially here in the humidity and heat of the day, I am always so exhausted when 9 pm hits. 

We also had President Madsen join us for a couple hours to teach some of our investigators. Not going to lie, we were a little bit nervous for him to join us. We only had 1 appointment set for that night and we didn't know where we should go after the first visit. Well the first visit went really well. We visited Remedios. Her husband just got baptized a month ago and her son is a member. We have a baptism date for her on the 12th of September. Her only problem is that she told us that she needs to receive revelation of where she should get baptized. Hopefully she receives the revelation she wants soon. The lesson with her and President went super well, so we were relieved after that. President Madsen teaches with Power and Authority, he knows what he´s doing. 

But we didn't know where to go after that lesson...usually we go contacting when we don't have a lesson but both my companion and I thought about this one contact that we made a few days ago. We felt like it would be a good idea to go visit them and hopefully let is talk to them for awhile. We got there and immediately they welcomed us in. God for sure answered our prayers with this couple that never talked to us before, other than a few words the other day, letting us in without question. It was truly a blessing.

Today for P-day we went on a little tour on a tour bus that a member owns. He took us to a few beach sights. It was beautiful but it made me want to go for a swim so bad, hahaha. Maybe in a few years when I come back to Huatulco for vacation :)

It is my 4th week in Santa María, Huatulco, and I can´t believe it. The time keeps going by faster and faster. I hope everything continues to go well at home. Love you all!

Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Monday, August 3, 2015

Six Months

Tomorrow I complete 6 months since I walked out of the house where I call home in Vienna, Virginia. I literally can`t believe I am a quarter done with my Mission. It's astounding to me how time flies. Even though it has been the hardest 6 months of my life. I wouldn`t trade these 6 months for anything. What I have learned so far just gets me excited for the next year and a half. 
Here in Santa María, Huatulco I have met some crazy people, and some amazing people too. Yeah, a lot of crazies live here. The culture is pretty awesome, though. Everyone, especially the men are super lazy and just lay in their hammocks outside of their houses all day. Sounds like the life to me, hahaha. I don´t blame them. With it being so hot all the time, all of the energy just gets sucked out of you. It can be tough as a missionary at mid-day walking in the blazing sun and wanting to just lay in a hammock for a little siesta. Also, there are a lot of drunks (Barrachos) walking around here. It`s the culture here, drinking and hanging out in your hammock or chilling at the beach. 

We had one experience when a group of Barrachos called us over to break up a fight. "Hey Mormones! Èlderes, ven para acá! (Come here!) Usually we just ignore them but we didn`t have an appointment or anything at that moment. There was one that was causing all the problems and the others said he threatened to hit them. The one causing all the problems started asking me questions, because they always confront the gringo (me) first. He got in my face asking me where I was from and that I don`t belong here. I`m used to that after 6 months so it doesn`t bother me. All I started to do was talk to him and start to act like his buddy. It worked because he calmed down and he started telling me about his plans to sail to France to find the love of his life. I couldn`t help but just laugh, but I went along with it and after 5 minutes he thought we were best friends. We left walking the same direction as the rest of them and they thanked us for calming him down. They tried speaking some English with me like they all do and said we were always welcome in their homes for a meal.
Like I mentioned before, there are also amazing people here. One of those people would be little Grecia. Grecia is 11 years old and she and her mother are recent converts. I think they were baptized a little less than a year ago. Well Grecia is incredibly smart. She showed me all the books she was reading. She reads these huge religion books for fun and also is studying English, and for just studying on her own, she knows English really well! She asked for help the other day because she didn`t understand the word (I´d). I explained to her that (I`d) are the two words "I" and "would" put together. Yeah I know, English is strange. She knows so much about the gospel and as a recent convert little girl, its amazing. Her dad is one of our investigators, so it would be awesome to baptize him soon.
Here in our little House of Prayer, there isn`t a baptismal font. So we have two options here, the River here in town (which is beautiful with crystal clear water with rapids and waterfalls) or the ocean, with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. So you can imagine how bad I wan`t to baptize here. 
Oh yeah and random thing to add.
One morning I woke up, went to the bathroom and found a scorpian in the shower area. Good thing I looked down before I stepped on it. It was a little one, I hope I dont find its parents.

I hope you all have a fabulous week. Love you!
-Elder Smith