Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Month in Mexico!

Hey Family,

Thanks for the letters! I even got one from Coop and Brook this week! So Halloween is coming up, what is everyone dressing up as? Are the kids excited? I hear they celebrate Halloween here but I’m not sure what is going to be like. You can’t really go knocking on doors, mostly because they all have a big locking gate in front of them! How is Mary liking swim? Brook wants to play soccer? I am glad Mom and Dad had a relaxing week of time off, too bad it couldn’t be in Hawaii but I guess it was just as good?

It’s crazy I have been in the field for a month! And, 3 months of my mission are gone! To answer dad’s questions, yes I am still reading Jesus the Christ I am almost 500 pages in and I love it! I don’t wear my suit except on Sundays we are required to. My clothes are great but it is super hard to keep them clean. So I am not quite sure what to do about that...

So our investigating family decided not to get baptized. The Mom is having some real problems in her life. She is separated from her husband, doesn’t really have steady work, she lives with her parents who hate that she is investigating and she wants to move out. So she decided no, and the kids will basically follow what she does. It was pretty disappointing, I wish we could help her and her family more but all we can really do is give the gospel and invite them to be happy, in the end it’s their choice. So I am not sure what will happen with them.

Other big news, we found a house!!!!! And it is really ridiculously nice for missionaries. It has a big patio in front, a kitchen downstairs, and a big living room, upstairs there are 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms. It is hands down the nicest house I have seen for missionaries here. The way we found it was kind of amazing. We were walking to an appointment and got flagged down by a man who I thought was a non-member (I might have already told this story I can’t remember) but turned out to be a less active. He said he wanted to come back to the church and when could we visit him? Well it turns out he sells chicken to all the little shops around here, his business does very well too. He found out we were looking for a house and said he had one that he just used to store his products for his business and we could rent it and basically set the price. So we did, the president accepted it and I think we move this weekend. The man and his wife are very kind and giving like a lot of the people here. I was surprised at how kind, giving, and humble they are for being so well off. They also said that they are going to put a washing machine in the house! So I will have a washing machine for a while. If I have any extra time I will send pictures.

The thing I have really been impressed with this week is how loving and giving the people are here. Like the man who offered to let us rent a nice house for a part of what it should be (and also took his whole crew from work and had them clean it with us). Out of the members of our ward this week, I had about 5 come up to me and offer to have us come eat with them an extra time during the week, for dinner or something because the members already feed us lunch. Most of them don’t eat very well themselves, but they always put their best food on the table for us. Then in Elders Quorum the president stood up and told everyone that there was a couple in their late 80’s who were struggling. The man of 87 years was looking for work, they can’t pay their rent, and they have no food. They discussed what they could do for nearly a half hour. One man talked about how everything we have come from the Lord and we have covenanted to give all we have to the church, and this is a way to fulfill that. They decided that they would meet at the chapel Tuesday and bring whatever they could, whether money or food or clothing and take it to this couple. I have no doubt that that couple will be completely taken care of. I think we could all be a little more like the people of our ward here, and we will be happier for it.

I also have read almost the entire Liahona this month; it talks about so many great things! It focuses a lot on parenting and chastity and messages for the youth. It has been really uplifting; I would challenge you all to read it in its entirety.

I love you all,
Elder Utley

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

10/15/2012 Letter Home

Hey family how is everyone?

This week has been kind of crazy, super-fast!

Dad had a lot of questions I will go ahead and answer them right now.  I have felt a little sick this week but not too bad.  Saturday I had really bad headaches but I feel a lot better today.  Our apartment does have a kitchen; we have a sink, a refrigerator, and a stove top type thing.  Really it’s like one of the camping stoves but it works to cook on, we use it all the time.  They do eat a lot of rice here, but it’s not the kind we have in the United States, it’s more of an orange color, it has a bit of a different taste, but I really like it.  We have not found a new apartment yet, it’s kind of frustrating.  But I took photos of our current one, I will try and send them but it is not working right now for some reason.  I love personal study time, I learn a lot and I get to study stuff that I want to learn, although admittedly a lot of time is spent trying to figure out the Spanish.  And at times it can be hard to stay awake; it is one of my favorite times of the day.

That is a bummer you guys didn't get to go to Hawaii, I hope dad starts feeling better!  But maybe you will get some good family time in, and hopefully some fishing!  Mom I am glad you are recovering from the marathons, I think you’re crazy!  I am glad that Mary decided to swim! She won’t regret it when she finishes.  Sounds like Coop’s team is kicking butt in soccer!  That’s super exciting; tell him good luck for me and to work hard.  And tell Brooke good luck in her singing - that sounds really fun.

This week has been kind of crazy, we traveled to Abasolo again.  There is a lot of work to do there. There are a lot of members, but not many have been showing up.  We are also teaching the sister of a family of members there, so that’s kind of exciting.  I went on splits this Sunday with a young man in our ward out there as well.  It was kind of weird; they don’t have a chapel, it’s called a prayer house.  And only like 15 people were there.  I gave a talk... they told me 5 minutes before.  I talked about repentance and the atonement.  I don’t know how much people understood but I thought it was okay.  The language has been really frustrating this week, I don’t know what is going on a lot of the time, and it’s hard to help people when I don’t understand what they need.  Especially when I cannot hold a normal conversation, but I am learning, I understand a lot more than when I started.

We had interviews with the president.  He is great.  I really like him.  I found out I will probably be in Irapuato for another 5 months.  That’s a long time but I will really get to know the people and the ward so I am excited.  Elder Valdez will probably be my companion for this transfer and next.  Then he will train one more time in a new area and then he will go home.  Crazy.  So that puts me here for 6 months total.  It’s crazy I have already been out on my mission for almost 3 months!

This week we have the baptism of Patricia and her children!  I am super excited!  It will be my first baptism(s) on the mission.  And our ward mission leader wants me to baptize two of the four of them!  I don’t know for sure because I wasn’t here when they started teaching them and they might want Elder Valdez to do it, and ultimately it’s up to them.  But the kids really like me so maybe I will be able to.  The other two are to be baptized by Hermano Lopez.  He and his family have helped a lot and offered their home for lessons with Patricia and her family.  I really love the Lopez family they are so kind and loving and always want to help.  I will let you all know how it goes!

We also found a bunch of new investigators this week.  Four that we think will be baptized within a month or so. That’s pretty exciting.  I will get to see it through all the way and see how the gospel blesses their lives start to finish.

We had splits with other missionaries this week because my companion is district leader and had to interview their investigators for baptism.  They put me with Elder Allen who is from the United States as well; he has been here almost 3 months (he is in the photo of my desk).  So we looked really funny walking around, just 2 white boys.  He knows a lot more Spanish than me, but is not fluent... so it was a really long day.  But one good thing did come out of it.  We taught a less active family, and in this lesson we were able to understand almost everything and talk and teach to their needs, it was really cool.  The part that was even cooler is a friend of one of the daughters just happened to be there, and just happened to be very interested in our message.  We taught her the plan of salvation, challenged her to read the Book of Mormon and to pray about it, and also to go to church.  Well I don’t know about the reading, but she actually went to church!  I think she will be baptized fairly quickly; she is really receptive and has all the right kinds of questions.  Her name is Lupita.  The cool part about that story is we had a really rough day but somehow the Lord put us in that house on that day at the right time!  I know that the Lord looks out for us.  When we are striving to do what is right he will guide our paths.  This is also shows how much God loves us.  Had we not been there this girl may have never had the chance to receive the gospel.  Maybe she would have,  but it’s something she really needs in her life right now.  I am not sure yet but I know he loves her, and he loves us, his missionaries, because even the two white boys in the middle of Mexico (and lost because we didn't know the area very well), who don’t speak the language could find someone to teach and have success.  If we do what is right, keep the commandments and strive to have spiritual experiences the Lord will guide our paths!

I love and miss you all,
Elder Utley

P.S. If you do send a package, I don’t know what but I need something to clean my white shirts. They are getting destroyed!  Mexico is a dirty place and I cannot keep my shirts white. So, some sort of stain remover, but it can’t depend of a washing machine because we won’t always have one.  Right now we do which is nice but it doesn't work all that well. Thanks!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

2nd week! 10/8/2012

Hey Family!

Sounds like everyone had a good week! Congrats Mom on another marathon, that is pretty amazing! And congratulate coop on doing so well in soccer. So Brook has a singing solo in her choir? That is really cool. What song is it? She is already excited for Halloween? What is she going to dress up as? Tell Mary to stick swim out, it is super rough (like all things worthwhile) at times but it will be well worth it.

So Hawaii this week? For 10 days, that’s so exciting. I am a little bit jealous, but we will have similar weather! I do kind of miss being able to swim though, that’s the part I am really jealous of. Is it all on the big island? Or are you traveling between?

So we right at these little shops that have computers in them, they are all over the place here because nobody has computers. They cost about 6 pesos an hour which is almost nothing. We get as much time to write as we plan for, still not a lot but I think about an hour. Plus today we can in and printed our letters first, then went and played football and read them on the way there then came back to write. So we have plenty of time.

As for handwritten letters and packages, I am not really sure how it works; I have not seen any sort of post office or anything like that here. I know that all of our letters and packages are sent to the mission home in Leon. Our zone leaders travel there once a month for meetings and they pick up everything for the zone there. So writing handwritten letters would be really, really tuff. I am sure I will figure out a way to send a package home at some point.

As for what is happening here. This week was super, super fast. One funny thing that happened was we were eating at a member’s house and the first thing we ate was this really sketchy looking meat in some sort of green sauce. It looked bad but you eat it anyway. I was about halfway through this really kind of slimy squishy meet, which was okay it didn't have a lot of flavor, and my companion asked what kind of meet it was (something I really didn't want to know) She wouldn't tell us. We finished the plate, and she proceeded to tell us it was langua in Spanish, or cow tongue in English. So I can now say i have eaten cow tongue, and who knows what else because I am always too afraid to ask...

We still didn't find a new apartment. So we are looking, but I like living with the other elders, other than the time we lose traveling. The language has also been frustrating this week but I know it takes time. I am also getting really tan! But just on my arms and face. I am going to have some really funny tan lines when I come back. And I am losing weight, my belt is already feeling loose, but I think it’s about time for a new one anyway!

We also traveled to a part of our area, it’s a town outside of Irapuato about 40 minutes, it is called Abasolo. There is a small branch there, about 30 but only 6 or 7 are active. We worked with one of the 2 priesthood holders that is active. He lived the United States for 20 years so he spoke English which was kind of cool! We started 4 new investigators there, 1 of which I think has some real potential. And we are working on reactivating there as well.

I learned I am in an area that has been kind of dead for a few months because there was an elder who didn't want to be here for a long time and kind of hurt our reputation in the ward and area. But we have been working hard to rebuild. So it’s started kind of slow but we got a bunch of referrals this week and i really think we will be able to get a good work going here!

Then to end the week we had conference, which was amazing! I hope you all had the chance to watch all the sessions, if not go online and watch them. We had our family of 6 that is investigating come to the first session of conference. They loved it, the mom was taking notes and all the talks were on baptism and missionary work, perfect! They have a baptismal date for the 20th of October. 4 of them!
I got to watch the sessions in English! 4 of the 10 missionaries in our area are American so that was nice we all watched together. I don’t think I would like it if the voices on the prophets were changed, plus I would have only understood a little bit. I am stoked they changed the age for missionaries. I don’t think it will affect the elders that much but I think there will be so many more sisters that will go on missions. I have been thinking of all the people that could now go, it’s crazy! Mom told me Shayne is thinking about going.

There were so many good things said in conference. The more I listen to the prophets the more i gain a testimony of them. There words and testimonies are so powerful. All of their messages are so inspired. I wish we could have conference once a month! I always feel so uplifted and motivated during and after conference. I challenge you all to go back and read or watch a few of your favorite talks again; every time you do you will learn from it. I particularly liked elder Bednar’s talk in the Sunday afternoon session. I would take one third of a page of notes on each talk usually, the ones that I thought were really good half a page. I took an entire page of notes on his talk and feel like I didn't get it all and couldn't keep up. I am looking forward to reading them again!

I love you all! Have a great week!

Elder Utley

P.S. If you want to send a package at some point it doesn't need to be soon but I would love any sort of American food or candy (chocolate, they don’t eat a lot of chocolate here). Unlike the MTC I am definitely losing weight here and I already miss food from home a little. Although, the food here is super good.

Friday, October 5, 2012

First week in Mexico!

Hey Family!

How is everyone? It was good to hear from you guys! I am glad you all had a good week. I don’t have a lot of time today, unfortunately, but I will try to get everything in!

So the first day we stayed in the mission home.  I had an interview with the mission president, he is super nice! I got assigned to the Irapuato area. It is a city 1 hour north of Leon. I am not sure how big it is but my guess is 100-200 thousand people. The next day we had an orientation, and our trainers came to pick us up. We took a bus to our area; the bus was actually the nicest bus I have ever been on.

We are staying with some other elders right now because the apartment in our area does not have power anymore for some reason. It’s kind of fun but it’s a hassle to travel to our area sometimes, it takes a while. Our apartment is pretty small, we have a study room, a kitchen and a bedroom, and they are all really one room divided into 3. And then there is a bathroom. Compared to everywhere else here it’s pretty nice.

So we take a bus to our area every morning, I am 99% sure there are absolutely no traffic laws here. If anything bad happens on my mission I think it will be some sort of car crash, not being robbed or something like that. The way the busses work is really cool (there are about as many or more busses and taxis as there are personal cars). The busses just drive a route, on no set time really, they weave in and out of neighborhoods and pick up anyone who signals by sticking their arm out. There is a button you press when you want to get off and the bus just stops for you. It costs 6 pesos per time that we ride it, which is pretty cheap. I think that’s around 55c in US dollars. (We get 1700 pesos per month plus whatever our rent is; it’s about 140 US dollars)

The Spanish is really tuff, the first few days I understood seriously almost nothing! I still don’t understand a lot. I was told the people speak fast but it is amazing how fast they can speak. It all sounded like one big word at first. It’s starting to slow down a little bit, but it’s still really tuff. Most people say they understand everything I say, but I have a hard time getting it out. I would say I can pretty much follow the gospel conversations during lessons and meetings, partly because people slow down when they talk about that and I think partly because it is necessary for me to help the people, so I have been blessed that way. Outside of lessons I can now understand maybe 50% so I know what the conversation’s about but I couldn't tell you what’s happening.

The people here are awesome! Everyone is so nice and friendly and helpful. They like to laugh, and they live simply. All of the little kids think it’s really funny when they see me, but they all like me and want me to play games with them and things like that. (Marbles and Tops are huge here). There are stores on almost every street, just little ones. There are basic stores, tortilla stores, bread stores, etc. It’s really kind of cool. They just walk a couple hundred feet when they need something. There are not very many big stores like in the US but there are some.

The food is amazing! The tortillas are so good. They eat them with everything. They have a pasta type thing they eat a lot, chicken or some sort of meat. (Honestly most the time I don’t know what kind of meet it is). They love soda. They have like 4 main sodas, the big one is Coke. You can’t go 50 feet without seeing a store selling Coke, they also have Sprite, Orange Fanta, and a soda called Manzana Lift, it’s kind of like apple beer but so much better! They also sometimes have Fresca. The soda here is better than in America for some reason, maybe because it is the same kind of stuff as home. They eat a lot of salsa, limes, and crunchy tortillas too. I have loved it so far. And the miracle is I have not been sick yet!
No one here drinks the water, not even the ones who were born here, not even the poorest people. They have giant jugs that they fill up with pure drinking water. So that hasn't been a problem because it’s hard to forget when nobody drinks it. It must be pretty bad if you drink it.

We eat lunch with the members; we are responsible for breakfast and dinner, although sometimes they feed us dinner too. I forgot to mention, breakfast is my favorite, they have all sorts of breads, pastries, doughnuts, etc. They are made fresh and so, so good. And cheap too! Breakfast costs at the most like 10 pesos which is less than a dollar.

My companion is Elder Valdez, he has been here for 20 months. He is a native from Monterrey, Mexico. He is a good missionary and very patient which I am grateful for. I am learning a lot from him.

To answer mom’s question, yes I feel safe, the neighborhoods look pretty sketchy, I won’t lie, but I have never felt threatened or anything like that. Honestly the most scared I have been is in a taxi or bus.

We have been teaching a lot of people, that is all we do is teach. We don’t ever tract, sometimes we do street contacts. We do a lot of helping less actives. We have a few investigators with baptismal dates for the week after conference, 5 actually. A family of 4 and a boy named Paul who is 13. The lessons are super fun; everyone loves to listen and is respectful and for the most part very receptive. I input things when I can, but at the very least I can bear testimony about any gospel subject and I do it a lot. The ward is great, I really like our war mission leader, he is 25 and a return missionary. The bishop seems good I only met him once at church. The members are amazing, thoughtful and caring.

So one quick experience, my fist day here we had a dinner appointment with a family. We get there and they was one room, with a curtain in the middle separating children and parents bedrooms, there was a sink on the side and I think there was a bathroom outside but I was not sure. There was either dirt or concrete on for a floor. (Almost everyone just have concrete floors, no carpet at all, wealthy people have tile.) They fed us noodles in a sauce, and then what I think was chicken covered in salsa with tortillas and some sort of pastry at the end. They had 4 people in their family: a mom, a dad, a 2 year old, and 4 year old. They didn't eat... It was the hardest thing to sit there and watch the little kids wanting food and not getting any but we were eating. Yet if I refused or tried to give it to them it would have been offensive. (That was one of the things they told us in our orientation the first day). That was a family with so much faith. They were willing to give all they had to serve the Lord, even if they went without food. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I was taught a great lesson about faith. I had to ask myself, would I be willing to do that for God? Could I give up everything I have? I know that family will be blessed and I am so thankful for their faith. I know this gospel is true; the Lord takes care of His people, and protects His missionaries. I am so excited to be here. I love having the chance to be able to help people and change people’s lives. I have already seen that happen a little and it was so cool to help in it. I would challenge you all to have faith like that family that fed the elders.

I love and miss you all

Elder Utley