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

Monday, December 5, 2016

Happy Birthday

Yesterday I completed 22 months as a missionary and tomorrow I turn 21 years old. Wow where has the time gone. My birthday week is going to be a great one. I'm not going to write a lot this week because I spent a lot of time replying to all the happy birthday wishes from all of the people that are dearest to me. It really touched me to see that I haven't been forgotten after 22 months. My friends and family are honestly the best. This has been one of the best birthdays that I've ever had.


This week we were chased down by drunks, yelled at and insulted in the street. In the same week we have felt the spirit stronger than ever, seen how our investigators have changed through the gospel and hear people bless our names. That's how the mission is in a nutshell. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It makes me remember the promise that was made to Joseph Smith by the Angel Moroni. "And that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, and that it should be both good and evil spoken among all people."

We were able to see the Christmas Devotional last night with a recent convert in her home. Sister Norma is an amazing sister in the ward and she has gone through a lot of trials lately. It was an amazing and powerful Christmas devotional that left us uplifted and truly joyful. It was truly special to have shared that special night with Sister Norma. 

Thank you for all of your birthday wishes!
Love you all,

Elder Smith

Monday, November 28, 2016

Light the World

It's officially permitted to listen to Christmas music because Thanksgiving has passed! I'm now starting to see Christmas trees and lights getting set up here, even though it doesn't feel like December here because of the weather. It's a little strange but listening to Christmas music that I put on my ipod and turning the air conditioning unit on full blast helps me feel a little bit more at home haha. Christmas as a missionary is a really special experience though that I'm never going to experience again. I'm going to take advantage of it for sure. 

This week we had our stake conference and Elder Casteñeda from the quorum of the seventy spoke. He shared a powerful testimony and the spirit was really strong. 3 of our investigators were able to attend. Candelaria, and two new investigators, María and Fernanda. Candelaria is progressing towards her baptismal date and is quitting little by little her coffee addiction. It amazes me the faith that people have to change their lives completely to follow these new teachings and commandments. Being born in the church made it easy for me, but I don't know if I would be humble enough to change my life completely like what these converts do.

The new Christmas video came out! #Light the world. The new video is really neat our it shows that we can serve others and do what Christ did to light the world with truth, love and hope. 

We had a really special experience with our new investigator, María. She was the one that we contacted in the street that said her friends invited her to go to institute. In our first lesson with her we talked about Joseph Smith and the restoration, as well as baptism. We invited her to be baptized and she said yes and that she wanted to be a member of the church. She just wants to learn more first to be sure of the commitment that shes going to make. When she said those words I was shocked and at a loss for words for a moment. The Lord has put in our path people who are prepared to accept the gospel and investigators like María are a missionaries dream. Golden investigator for sure. We put her baptismal date for January 7th. 

This December is going to be full of gifts. We get to see Elder Andersen on the 11th and we have a special training for missionaries by Elder Peiper of the Seventy on Saturday the 10th. Who knows, Elder Andersen could show up at that training as well, I'm praying that he does! Then were going to sing in a missionary Christmas program for the stake on the 18th, and the missionary Christmas activity the next day. And then it's Christmas SKYPE DAY. It's going to be a December to remember.

Have a great week!!
Love, Elder Smith

Monday, November 21, 2016

Taco's and Tamale's for Thanksgiving

We had a great week because it ended with 2 baptisms! Ausencio and Leonardo had their baptisms this past weekend. Everything went well but I've learned that baptism days are the most stressful but rewarding days on the mission. I always get so stressed out because the leaders and members of the ward don't really help much with the details of the baptisms so it all rests on our shoulders. 

After the baptism we went to celebrate at the Ranch and we ate some delicious tamales and fried fish roe. It was the first time I've eaten fish roe and I liked it a lot. It shows that you can fry anything and it will taste good. We call it the Ranch (el rancho) where the Urbieta family lives in Ixtaltepec. It's pretty much our second home there and they put up their Christmas tree! I love that family so much and to be able to see them grow in the gospel has made me so happy. It's a huge extended family that all live there. Ausencio is the grandfather of the family and it was really special to see him be converted in the gospel. 


So on December 11th Elder Neil L. Andersen is coming to Juchitan! He's going to speak at a multistage conference that Sunday. Not all the missionaries of the mission are going to be able to attend but I'm lucky enough to be part of the zones that he's visiting here in the Istmus of Oaxaca. He was going to have a special conference with just missionaries, but something changed in his schedule so he won't have time. Bummer but I'll be able to see him and hear him speak at the stake conference. It's going to be something really special for the members and leaders of the church here in Oaxaca. Hopefully there won't be any blockades in the road to keep him from coming. Knowing Oaxaca, I won't be surprised haha. 

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving week! I´ll be eating tacos and tamales like usual but I'll pretend that they're turkey tacos ;)
Love,
Elder Smith 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Worn Out Shoes

This week was full of activities, meetings and conferences. It was a fun but tiring week, and we didn't have much time to work in our area. On Wednesday it was the meeting for new missionaries and trainers. The meeting was in Salina Cruz and we got to travel in the nice charter buses :) Its also exciting because they play movies and there's nothing we can do to not watch ;) They never show good movies though, but I prefer to wait to watch the good ones in English when I get home. It was my fourth new missionary meeting so it was the same old stuff. But I always come out of the meetings with President Madsen uplifted and ready to take on the world. 

On Friday we had a Leadership council in Juchitan. Usually just the Zone Leaders are invited, but this time all the District Leaders were invited as well so I got to go and participate. We talked about the difference between administer and minister. As leaders in the mission we have many administrative responsibilities such as deal with housing, materials, money and logistical issues with transfers and conferences. That's something that we learn to do in the mission and it's helpful to learn how to be good administrators, but we are set apart as missionaries to minister our investigators and fellow missionaries in the leadership positions that we have. Jesus ministered among the people all of his life. To minister is to attend the needs of someone. We all have needs, especially the investigators that we have and the gospel of Jesus Christ is what we teach in order to serve and minister the people that God puts in our path. 

We had interviews with President Madsen on Saturday and we also rehearsed for the Christmas Program that we do every year for the members and investigators of the Stake. That means Christmas time is around the corner yayy! Later that same Saturday we had a special activity with recent converts and investigators in the stake.

A lot of missionaries in our zone were there to help and we had stations, where at each station we taught a principle of the Gospel in an interactive way. It was a good time. Yesterday we got to see a satelite transmission of a special conference for Mexico. Elder Benjamin De Hoyos, Elder Hales and President Russel M. Nelson spoke and their message was clear and to the point. Keep the Commandments. They talked about tithing, family history, and family home evening. 

I have one comment of the picture of my shoes that I uploaded. After a hard fight, I finally decided to put my second pair of shoes on the mission to rest. It was a tough decision but it had to be done. 

Love you all and have a fabulous week!
-Elder Smith

Monday, November 7, 2016

Baptism!

Edilberto and Rosa got baptized!!! For me it was a special moment because of the ups and downs and all of the experiences we've had with them. I really love that family and to see how the gospel has changed them just fills me with indescribable joy. I baptized Edilberto and my companion, Elder Ochoa baptized Rosa. I could see in the face of Edilberto that he was truly happy. He's a changed man and after baptizing him a gave him a big bear hug. It really was a special moment. 

Elder Ochoa is my new companion. My third and final son on the mission. He's from Mexico City and even though he's just starting, he teaches and contacts as if he was a veteran. We talk together a lot about xbox and superhero movies. I took him to eat his first tlayuda. Even though Mexico City is so close to Oaxaca, he's never eaten a tlayuda.
It's a Oaxacan special that's tough to find anywhere else in the world. I opted for the garnachas that night. Garnachas are little crispy fried tortillas with meat and onions topped with lettuce, carrot and salsa. It's the bomb, but the bomb comes the next morning if you know what I mean. It's loaded with grease so it doesn't treat the stomach too well sometimes hahaha. 

Today we went to eat at a restaurant with the other Elders from our district. Doctor Garcia is good friends with the owners of the restaurant so he tells us when we're hungry we can go and eat there for free.
I'm going to miss being a missionary. The blessings are real and I hope that everyone at home can feel them too. Whatever happens around us in this world it will never change the eternal truths and the joy that this gospel brings.

I love you all and have a fantastic week.
Con Amor, Elder Smith

Monday, October 31, 2016

Dia de los Muertos y de los Cambios

Happy Halloween! I miss the Halloween traditions in the States but mostly the cool fall air and the colorful leaves on the trees. Don't get me wrong, I have grown to love Oaxaca, but I could never live here all my life because I love the change of the seasons. They don't have big, round, orange pumpkins here either which is essential for the Halloween and Thanksgiving seasons.
So the big news of the week is transfers! My companion, Elder Villegas got changed to the coast (poor guy) haha, just kidding, I loved being on the coast but it is a little hotter the weather. We should be getting air conditioning units tomorrow for our house!
Whoever made that decision to send the missionaries air conditioning units is an inspired man. I still don't know who my new companion is going to be. I won't know until tonight, but I'm going to be training a greenie! My third son on the mission :D It's crazy to think that most likely he'll be my last companion until I meet my eternal companion after the mission hehe.
So in sadder news, Edilberto and Rosa didn't get baptized last Saturday because Edilberto drank a couple beers last Sunday :( He said that he's going to quit and if he doesn't drink all this week then he'll be able to get baptized together with his wife. Satan really attacks people here with alcohol. Here in the Istmo of Oaxaca it's a normal think to drink alcohol everyday and get drunk. Its the culture and it makes things a little complicated for the work to progress.


Comments about the pictures...we went to visit investigators in Ixtaltepec and the sunset was amazing so we had a bit of a photo shoot.


We were taking some pictures at the bus station and Elder Knighton and Elder Portales photo bombed us pretty good. They're both from my same generation. We all leave in January together so were all pretty close.
Have a fabulous Halloween and first week of November. Thanks for your love and support, it means a lot that you haven't forgotten about me after 21 months :)
Love Elder Smith

Monday, October 24, 2016

Zapotec Language

Hey fam! Things have cooled down a little bit here in Ixtepec. My first few weeks here was insanely hot but now it has gotten really windy and a little cooler. I may still look red in all my pictures but I think its a little bit less now :) 

There have been a lot of parties here lately. The people are poor here but there always seems to be money to throw a huge party in the middle of the street. Yesterday we were in Ixtaltepec and we walked through a party because it was in the middle of the street and there wasn't another way to go! They all started laughing at us and yelling at us in zapoteco. In this region of Oaxaca, the people speak their indigenous dialect, zapoteco. A lot older people don´t even know how to speak Spanish. I was glad they yelled at us in zapoteco so we didn't understand what they said, it might´ve made me mad ha ha. My companion was a little annoyed at what happened, but I just laughed afterwards. 

We are planning on 2 baptisms this coming Saturday. The couple that got married the other week are having their baptism. It's not for sure quite yet because Edilberto has had problems with the word of wisdom so we need to make sure that he's willing to leave the coffee and alcohol. We have prayed a lot for this couple and we're excited for them because we've seen a drastic change in them and their relationship, especially in Edilberto. Just a few weeks ago he called us to tell us that he didn't want anything to do with us and the church. He has completely changed and now has the desire to be baptized with his wife. 

Its almost November!!! Crazy how time flies. See you all soon.
-Elder Smith

Monday, October 17, 2016

Happy Monday!

Happy Monday!
Today Edilberto and Rosa got married! That means that they can now get baptized yayyyy! The only problem is that Edilberto has drank alcohol this past week noooo :( Well we'll be downloading a video on the word of wisdom for him. We need to meet with him a lot because we were planing on the baptism for the 29th of this month.

We are having a lot of success in Ixtaltepec. All of our progressing investigators live there so we've been traveling a lot. We get there by taking a bus that costs 10 pesos each, but we always try and get members to take us (so that we have more money for pizza) hehehe. The member that always helps us so much in the work is Doctor García. He's the mission doctor and he lives in our area! (So don't worry Mom the mission doctor is my neighbor :) He is so awesome because he picks up investigators on Sundays to go to church and whenever he comes with us on splits he buys us a bunch of bread.
It's special bread that you only find in Ixtaltepec. It's delicious and I love ending the day with a tall glass of milk and that bread. Doctor Garcia became the mission doctor because the missionaries would always show up to his clinic when something was wrong with them and Doc Garcia would never charge the missionaries anything. That's why a few years ago he became the official mission doctor. He's also the one who paid the wedding and the party afterwards. He is truly consecrated in the work and he gives everything he has to serve the Lord.
Today was the zone activity and we played soccer and volleyball and ate pizza. It was nice to see President Madsen again because he always updates me on BYU sports ;)
We're hoping for a lot of baptisms here in the coming weeks so keep praying for us! Love you all a bunch.
-Elder Smith

Monday, October 10, 2016

Laollaga "Eye of Water"

This was an eventful and pretty stressful week. It went by really fast as well. I thought about how many weeks that I have left on the mission and it scared me a little, because the weeks go by so fast. 

One experience that we had this week was with a member and her bed ridden mother. The Sister's name is Norma and she's been taking care of her old and sick parents. It's crazy all of the things she does to take care of them. Her Mom had been in the hospital for quite a while in intensive care, but she got so bad that they brought her home just to pass away on her death bed. We went over to visit and try and help her around the house. All of a sudden her Mom's temperature shot up and her body began to shake uncontrollably. In that moment Elder Villegas and I gave her a Priesthood blessing and seconds after, she seemed to return to normal. We checked her fever and it went down.

 The power of the priesthood is real and that experience strenghtened my testimony of Priesthood blessings even more. 

Later that night at about 10 o'clock we got a call from Edilberto. The investigator that is getting married in a week. I answered the phone and he started to stay that his soon to be wife was crazy and that he didn't want to listen to us anymore or go to church. I could hear Sister Rosa in the background screaming and throwing things. I told him that we would visit him soon and that the situation will calm down. He replied saying that we could come visit Rosa but that he wasn't going to be there because he doesn't want anything to do with us anymore. With that he hung up and left Elder Villegas and I thinking that all was lost with the marriage and the baptism. We were pretty depressed that night and we decided to kneel together and offer a prayer before going to sleep. 

Well it turns out that they got in a pretty ugly fight that night but the situation calmed down. Were going to have a Family Home Evening that their house on Thursday to help them out before the marriage. Edilberto still drinks alcohol a few times a week as well as coffee so we need to have a serious conversation with him about the Word of Wisdom. This past week we've found a lot of new investigators. We're going to keep looking for those that The Lord has prepared to accept the Gospel in our area.

Today for P-day we went to a beautiful village called Laollaga to eat with the Elders that are there. We one of my favorite Oaxacan dishes, Pozole and we took pictures around the river and the Ojo de Agua thats in Laollaga. I don't know what the word is for Ojo de Agua in English but the direct translation is Eye of Water. It's where the water first comes out of the mountain or something like that. 

Have a great week. Love you all,
-Elder Smith


Monday, October 3, 2016

Conference Weekend

Every missionary's favorite time of the year. CONFERENCE WEEKEND. It was a great vacation being able to sit in the air conditioned chapel watching the prophets and apostles share their inspired messages. I also loved the music of all the choirs. We had 3 investigators come to conference on Sunday. Edilberto, who is getting married on the 17th so he can get baptized, went to the priesthood session and the Sunday afternoon session. He lives in Ixtaltepec, a Little town about a 15 minute car ride from Ixtepec. He made the sacrifice to come and we are helping him to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon as well as The Word of Wisdom. It was perfect when President Monson spoke about the Word of Wisdom on Saturday.

I really enjoyed Elder Russell M. Nelson's talk on that it depends on our attitude top be happy and joyful in our lives, and it has little to do with the challenges we face. I have learned that eternal truth throughout my mission, seeing so many happy people who have very little. People who live under a tin roof with 4 walls. Families of 6 or more in conditions that are not very comfortable at all, but some how they are happier than a lot of people that have all the material luxuries you could ask for. I'm constantly humbled by the people that I have come to know throughout my mission. I am forever grateful for their example.

Today we ate tlayudas with Hermana Laura and her 3 daughters. I don't know what it is but little girls always come to love the Elders, and it's hard not to fall in love with them because they're just the sweetest. I'm always asking the sisters here to give me the recipes to the salsas that they make. Oh man I love Mexico because there's always a bowl of salsa on the table.

I encourage you all to study and ponder the talks that were given this weekend. We are so blessed to have the words of the living prophets to help guide us to the eternal blessings that the Gospel offers us.

Les Amo mucho,
Elder Smith

Monday, September 26, 2016

First week in Ixtepec

So the first week in Ixtepec was an interesting one. The first few days I was suffering bad headaches from the climate and altitude change I assume. I'm over it now and I feel a lot better. It has almost been a year since I was on the coast so I'm getting used to the hot and humid weather again. I'm always sweating and my skin just feels moist and gross all the time. I'm back to showering twice a day again like I did in Huatulco.

Ixtepec is known for the railroad that goes right through town that bring goods from Central America. We live right next to the tracks and it's cool to hear the train going by at night. It also carries illegal immigrants that hop on the train from Guatemala or Honduras. There are border patrol guys that roam around trying to get the illegals. I haven't seen any immigrants get busted yet but companion says he has. Here in the Istmus of Oaxaca, especially in Juchitan and Ixtepec, there are a lot of cross dressing gay guys. They're called Muxes and they always talk to us, (especially us white Americans). Ixtepec and Juchitan are literally the modern Sodom and Gumorrah.

The work here is awesome even with all the evil that surrounds us! There's a couple that is getting ready to get baptized. Their names are Rosa and Edilberto. They are going to get married hopefully this week so that they can get baptized. It's always a huge problem that all the couples start living together without getting married, but they have gotten almost everything ready to get married this upcoming week, and then baptized! They live in a town halfway between Ixtepec and Juchitan that's called Ixtaltepec. 

I also want to mention that I love the food here. All of the sisters in the ward cook so good and I feel so blessed not to be eating rice, beans and tortillas every meal. They say that hers in Ixtepec they eat a lot of Iguana but I haven't been able to try it yet. Hopefully I will get to soon. I love trying weird foods. I ate a chicken heart the other day. It wasn't bad but I didn't really like it haha.

First time I've been able to get pickles in Oaxaca!

Love you all and I hope you have a fabulous conference weekend!
-Elder Smith

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Area: Ixtepec

TRANSFER DAY! 
I just got to my new area after a total of about 8 hours traveling. My new area is Ixtepec. I forgot what it was like to be in the humidity. It hit me like a brick wall getting off the bus, but I strangely feel at home. My new companion is Elder Villegas from Guatemala. I've known him for about 2 hours and we've it off really good. I don't know if i just get along with everybody or God is blessing me with awesome companions. Maybe a little bit of both. 

It was sad leaving Nochixtlan. 6 months of blood, sweat and tears is hard to leave behind. I tried to get pictures with all of the members and investigators that I came to love so dearly.

And when I say blood I mean it because I got bit by a full grown German shepherd last week. We were walking down the street minding our own business when suddenly this huge dog came up behind a truck running full blast at me. It didn't let out a single bark and before I could say Perro! it clenched on to my foot. Luckily he went for my foot because my shoe protected me. It was still able to get a tooth into my skin on the higher part of my foot. Its bruised up pretty bad but it could have been a lot worst. It held on to me for a few seconds but then let go because its owner saw what was happening and yelled from a distance. First time getting bit by a dog. And it was a German shepherd so I feel pretty cool. 

I am really excited about working here in Ixtepec. The culture in this region of Oaxaca is really cool and I've heard the food is incredible. A lot of fried foods. I can't wait to get working because the people are really loving here and supposedly they always let you in their doors. It's also famous for witchcraft and just weird things that happen in the streets. So it should be fun. 

Love you all! Happy Birthday, Mom! I hope Dad spoils you a bit ;)
-Elder Smith

Monday, September 12, 2016

Apoala

We've been working with investigators to progress towards their baptism but it looks like I'll be transferred before they get baptized. It's sad to be in an area for so long and not to see some of these people that I've visited various times a week reach the goal of baptism. It's not a sure thing, but President hinted to me in my interview with him that I was going to get changed on the 19th of this month. So it looks like I only have a week left in Nochixtlan. It's a bitter sweet feeling. I have grown to love this town and the people in it but I'm excited to see new things and new faces. 

Today we went to a place with beautiful waterfalls. The village is called Apoala and its a gorgeous little village surrounded by caves, rivers and waterfalls. We went cave exploring a little and took pictures in front of the biggest of the waterfalls. I swear I'm going to come back one day because you can swim in the water hole where the waterfall falls and the water is crystal clear. 

This past week we also did divisions with the Assistants in Oaxaca and it was fun because I got to be with an old companion for the day, Elder Peterson! We traveled a lot this past week and it looks like this week will be the same. I'm kind of sick of traveling so I hope for my transfer coming up I get released as Zone leader. I would love to train a greenie but we'll see what happens! It's not what I want it's what the Lord wants. I've gained a strong testimony that it is revelation from God. The calling we receive, to the companions we have and the areas we get put in on the mission. I have learned so much from every experience.

Love you all a ton!
Cuídense mucho,
Elder Smith

Monday, September 5, 2016

Zone Conference

Hey yall! This last week flew by super fast. On Friday it was the Zone Conference and Interviews with President Madsen. The Conference lasted for about 6 hours but it never seems that long because the conferences with President and Sister Madsen are the best. President also told us during the conference that one of the Apostles is coming in December to visit Oaxaca. He doesn't know which apostle but what a great way that will be to end my mission. I'm so pumped for December, the best month of the year!

We watched some talks from the New Mission Presidents Conference that they have every year. All 12 apostles are present every year for that conference and its really a special event. They discussed how the missionaries can teach repentence more effectively. We watched those talks and discussed as a zone how we can help our investigators to understand and apply repentance in their lives. Here in Oaxaca, it can be a challenge because the people here are uneducated and we really have to teach as if we were teaching a little kid. (The little kids seem to always understand more than the parents here). I have an image book that I haven't used enough that I'm going to start bringing to every lesson. Looking at pictures always helps the learning process. 

At the end of the conference, Hermana Madsen had ham and cheese bagel sandwhiches ready to eat. I love when Hermana Madsen makes American food :) 


This weekend its been raining non-stop. I'm enjoying it a lot because the sun has been burning my skin a lot lately. But with all the rain, the dirt roads have been unbelievably muddy.
Check out the pictures I took of the road and my companions shoes hahaha.
Another picture is the huge bowl of chapulines (grasshoppers) on the dinner table. A oaxacan meal isnt complete without it, YUM. 

Have a great start of the school year! Love you guys a ton.
Con Amor,
Elder Smith

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Calenda

Whats up family! Sounds like there's a lot going on at home. A lot of new and fun experiences for everyone especially for Danny. Freshmen year at college is the best! I also can't wait to see Zach play football and Ben run. I was at the offices yesterday in Oaxaca and saw that my return home date is January 25th. Its scary how soon that date is getting closer and closer. In the offices there's a board where it has all the pictures of every missionary in the mission. I remember when I got here I was all the way at the bottom row. I am now on the top row, NOOOO I can't believe it.


I also found out that an investigator that I contacted while in Huatulco got baptized this past Saturday. Hearing stuff like that is the best feeling ever. It makes me want to keep being diligent in talking to everyone we come across because you never know if you'll make an impact in that person and plant a seed. Even if we don't see the immediate impact or are able to see them reach that conversion and baptism personally, we can help people to start that process with the bearing of our testimonies through simply opening our mouths. 


This past week was a party everyday here in Nochixtlan. They call it the Calenda. They pretty much shoot off crappy fireworks everyday starting very early in the morning and have a bunch of crazy parades adoring the Virgin of Nochixtlan (each town has their own saint and virgin). They give out mezcal and everyone gets drunk out of their minds. It's pretty much my new favorite holiday. Hahahaha just kidding they have crazy Catholic traditions here and it makes it really hard as a missionary to help them change their traditions. 

We have the zone conference and interviews with President Madsen on Friday. I can't wait, I love President's conferences and interviews. 

Have a great start of classes. I feel like I was just saying have a great summer. Time flies. Love you all!

-Elder Smith

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Elder Aguero

I love being with Elder Aguero. We are literally best friends and its so fun. We're constantly laughing and saying funny things in nerd voices. Elder Aguero was born in Utah. Both of his parents immigrated from Argentina first to Canada, and then to the US. He´s from Plain City, Utah. 

This week we had to travel to Tlaxiaco on Thursday to do a baptismal interview. The way there is pretty curvy and bumpy and it was not fun traveling there and back in the same day. We´re going back tomorrow to do divisions with the Elders there. Tlaxiaco is beautiful and it reminds me of home. Its really green with a lot of trees and most of the houses are made of wood and have a cabin feel to them. Mostly all the houses in Oaxaca are made of cement, mud, or bamboo so its weird to see a log house. 

We keep struggling to get the investigators to go to church and progress, so we've been working hard to find new investigators. We decided to visit a young single adult that hasn't gone to church lately. We showed up at his house and found him with two of his friends chilling in his room. They're all in a rock band and they look like it too. We started off singing a hymn, which was pretty funny being in this man cave with rock band stuff everywhere with these early 20's rocker guys and singing "Nearer My God to Thee". We then started with a prayer and we began talking about God and The Book of Mormon. 

It was a cool experience because these two guys were genuinely interested. They were really smart and we started discussing the existence of God and we read a little bit in 2 Nephi 2. The spirit was present and it was a cool chance to just have a good talk with guys our age about the restored gospel. I almost felt like I was at home just talking with friends. It makes me wonder why I never talked about the gospel with my closest friends.

At church, a family brought a couple bunnies and I couldn't let the chance go without taking a picture with one. Today, we had a relaxing P-Day. We decided not to go to Oaxaca and just to hang out in Nochixtlan without stress. I need those kinds of days every once in a while :)

Love you all so much! I pray for you everyday. 
-Elder Smith

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rejection

Hey family! Its crazy how fast August is flying by. Nothing much has happened this week. We have been working hard and burning a lot in the sun. I am multicolored now. My face and neck are red, my arms are tan, and the rest is white. Hahaha
We have been contacting a lot with some success, but a lot of rejection. It's nothing new but it still frustrates me a little. So many people reject the blessings of the gospel and are blinded by their traditions here. We talked to one couple that told us that during Mass, the Father or whoever the catholic guy is called that talks during mass said to stay away from the Elders because you will be condemned if you listen to their message. Satan is fighting against the work here but we`ll keep pressing forward to find the ones who are prepared.
Today we went to Tenango to play basketball and soccer with the other Elders. It got intense and we all finished limping off really sore. It's going to be tough to get up tomorrow morning, that's for sure. We took some sweet pictures playing, but this computer just fried my camera memory. They said they can take a look at it and fix it, but I need my camera cord. I lost my camera cord in the MTC so somehow I need to find one. I`m sick of using public computers that destroy everything that you put it in. 
Sounds like everything is going well at home! Thanks for the updates, Love you all!
Elder Smith