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 María. 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