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