Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dia De Gracias

Hey Family!

How is everybody? First of all that was so cool to get the voice recording in the email!!! I was super stoked to hear everybody’s voices. Sounds like you had an awesome time this weekend for Thanksgiving! I am glad you all got to go to Salt Lake, it’s always better with the whole family. I think I will tell you about my Thanksgiving a little bit later. So Coop’s team took 2nd in their tournament? Was it in Salt Lake or St. George? That’s so exciting tell him good job for me and that he should write me and tell me about it. I haven’t heard from him or Mary in a while.

So dad asked a little about Christmas. Truth is I haven’t heard a whole lot of it. One sister in our ward told me that in Mexico everybody is poor, but in December nobody is. Basically they eat really well in December. I have heard that it’s basically a party for the whole month of December, but I am not sure. The other thing they do here is they eat a lot of tamales, so I have been able to try a couple of them already. They are so good!!! The other thing about Christmas, yes we can use Skype, we have to find someone in the ward with a webcam but that should be okay. We only get 40 minutes but that is better than nothing. So I will set up an account soon. I still don’t know exactly when.

None of our baptisms went through this week. The one girl that is 29 started work and we couldn’t visit with here. The other kid who is 13 years old, his dad was in a car accident Friday night and we went to the hospital and gave a blessing and all but I am not sure when he will be baptized either, things are pretty crazy in his family. We don’t have any planned for this week either... But we found another family and they are actually interested.  Mostly the dad, which is perfect, because usually they are the ones that don’t want to hear us.

So my Thanksgiving Day was a little bit different. Okay a lot different. They don’t celebrate it here so nothing was really different. But we had Zone conference that day. The mission president told us Happy Thanksgiving and that was about it. But I was thinking about it a lot. I thought about you guys a lot, and really had my own little Thanksgiving that night. I thought about all of the things I am thankful for. And how little I appreciated everything before. I thought about how many times I just put aside the family time during Christmas or Thanksgiving, to go do something with my friends or whatever it was, I was tired, I don’t know. I realized how ungrateful I was. And what I would want to do this time was spend time with everyone, put up the lights the ornaments, whatever. So I was thinking about that, and how much I have changed on my mission. And how much more I will change. Then I thought about one thing that our mission president said in zone conference: When we leave this area, will we have changed anything? Anyone? How will the ward, the stake and the church have been strengthened? I thought about what I had done here. We have not had as much success with baptisms as I would like but we have had a lot of families that we have helped. I thought of at least 5 in particular, and 5 other individuals. I have been able to strengthen the church, stake and area here. Even if it hasn’t been through baptisms yet, but I am confident I will have a few more before I leave Irapuato.

The other thing that happened that day was we had a lesson with a family we have been re-activating. Elder Valdes said something that really caught my attention. We have been fasting every week for the last month to find a family of 4 we can teach the gospel too. This could be the family. The dad talked about how much his life had changed. The point is God answers our prayers; there are always ways to strengthen others if we look for them.

I don’t have a lot of time but I am thankful you all, and your time. I miss you all and look forward to spending time with you all when I get back! I really didn’t appreciate it before.

Love you,
Elder Utley

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Week

Hey Family!

Wow! I cannot believe its Thanksgiving this week! I thought it was next week for some reason. I am super jealous; Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. We ate KFC with the bishop yesterday I think that’s about as close as I will get to Thanksgiving food here!!! Nobody knows how to use the oven here and they don’t even really use microwaves, it’s kind of weird. Just the stove top. Dad asked for my favorite snack here, that’s a tuff one, there are lots of good things. I think my favorite are the little packets of galletas (cookies) that they sell in all the stores, one of them is called Triki Trakes, the other is called Emperodor (they are lots of types all of them are good but I like the all chocolate or half white half brown with white filling). My favorite drink here is definitely Orchada, but I don’t like it in the states, it’s completely different. There are also little stands that sell Agua de Coco (it’s coconut water but they make it really, really good).  They make all sorts of different flavored waters from real fruit, they call them waters but it’s more like juice. What I think you could find in the Mexican store is either pineapple or strawberry flavored Fanta or another soda called Sidral de Mazana (if they have a green and a red one get the red, I don’t know why but it's better).

Sounds like mom has been busy with work.  I can’t believe Coop is almost 12 and is going to receive the Priesthood. Tell him congrats for me! That’s funny that all the neighborhood kids are always at the house, but I’m glad he has lots of friends, he was kind of bored over the summer. I am also glad that Mary hasn’t killed anyone driving yet! Is she driving my stick shift or driving the automatics? Do you still have the Elantra? I loved Brooke’s picture that mom sent me, tell her thank you for me.

To answer your questions no we can’t really see too many stars here at night, some but probably less than back home. My shoes are holding up pretty well, I have only been using the Clarks, mostly because I started with them and my other ones are really clean and nice. The shoes just get destroyed almost every day; it’s super, super dirty here and there’s just crap all over the streets. So I clean and shine them almost every morning. I just noticed this week they are starting to wear a little bit but they are super comfy and I haven’t had any problems with my feet. I think I will wear them until they are just completely worn out and then switch to the other ones. We walk a lot! We walk everywhere we go and our area is pretty huge. I don’t know how far but I would guess like 4 to 8 miles a day, just a guess.

I am glad you guys saw Eric! I haven’t heard anything from him since I left. And I’m not really sure how to write him, I can’t send a real letter and I don’t have his email address. Did you ever give him the letter I sent from the MTC. Tell him I say hi next time you see him and I hope he is doing well.

This week was kind of rough here. We didn’t have the baptism that we thought we would. Although I still think that it will happen. We have also been teaching a family, Angel, Francisca, and their son Alejandro. I think that Francisca and Alejandro will be baptized by the end of this transfer, hopefully sooner. They have been to church like 5 times, and the sister of Francisca is in our ward. Angel seems to learn a lot in lessons but he refuses to go to church and he has a lot of his own ideas. We found another family to teach with three boys: ages 16, 12, and 9 they seem great, although we have not been able to teach their parents yet. We at least know the mom is okay with it and 2 of them have been to church already. Other than that we didn’t get a lot done, I have been a little sick, I think we ate something bad early in the week and I just am not used to the food here. But yesterday I felt a lot better and today I feel almost 100 percent again. So hopefully we can pick it up this week and work hard.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the importance of being humble. I think one of the reasons I was sent to a mission in Mexico is so I could be humbled. And I think I am more humbled every day. I was also reading in the book of Alma this week, the first few chapters. I think it’s in chapter 4 it talks about a people that are very prideful, there are wars and the people for the most part are wicked. Then there is a verse that says some of the people were living righteously, feeding the sick, clothing the naked, and keeping the commandments. I was thinking that that applies a lot to the people in the world today, for the most part the people are wicked, prideful and self-centered. And I was thinking how we can live like the righteous part, and I think the answer is being humble. The people in general were prideful, but those that humbled themselves before God and followed his commandments were happy. They gave service and helped the needy, even when it wasn’t acceptable in their society. As members of the church we live in a wicked self-centered world, but if we humble ourselves and follow the commandments and give of our time for service we will find happiness in an unhappy world.

I know this church is true. I know we have living prophets on the earth that lead and guide us. I know the power of prayer and the power of fasting, if we need something our Heavenly Father is always there. I know we also find strength and answers in the scriptures. I know living the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to find true happiness in this life.

I love and miss you all! Happy Thanksgiving!

Elder Utley

First Baptism!!

Hey Family!

It was so good to hear from you guys this week! Sounds like everything is going well there. I can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving. Makes me a little homesick. And I am super jealous of the weather, but the weather is really good here. A little hot during mid-day and nice and cool at night. Dad asked about terrain, there is one mountain here and some kind of hill type things. This letter might be a little short, I don’t have a ton of time and I had like 9 different people write me!

So this week was really good. I felt really up and down with the language but I can definitely see progress which is good. I have felt a little homesick, but at the same time I have been really happy. It’s kind of hard to explain, I think it’s just rough because I cannot really communicate with people. Although it’s fun to see the English speaking Elders sometimes and have a conversation, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.

So big news of the week we had a baptism! We baptized Hernan. There is a photo attached with his whole family. It was a really special experience; there was a good spirit there. He really wanted me to baptize him, which I was kind of surprised. But when we did divisions with people in the ward I always taught him so we knew each other better than Elder Valdes. But we had a brother in our ward who we are reactivating baptize him. I was a little disappointed but I knew it was better that way. One question you might have is why Hernan’s dad didn’t baptize him, he has some drinking problems but we are working on it. I really love the kid; he is so funny and always has funny stories and comments. As well as being smart and receptive to the gospel. He reminds me a lot of coop.

Speaking of coop tell him congrats on his soccer and keep working hard. That’s really cool dad got out the telescope for him and his friends. I do remember doing that and I absolutely loved it! It’s been a long time since dad has gotten it out though.

So I tried a new food this week. It’s called Menudo. It’s basically pig fat and skin cut right of the pig, cooked a little, thrown into a bowl and covered in kind of a soupy salsa. To my surprise, it wasn’t actually that bad. The taste was pretty good but it was the consistency that got me. I have to admit I gagged the first bite, but after that it was okay. I ate a lot of tortillas with it. I think that’s one of the reasons they eat tortillas with everything, a tortilla will pretty much mask the flavor of anything. But menudo is a typical dish of Mexico, and the famous one that missionaries from the US usually cannot get down. So I am glad to know I can eat it no problem.

We encountered two families this week that we taught. One of them is really great and they have already been to church like 3 times, well the mom and son, the dad needs some work but that’s why we are here. The other I’m not so sure about but with the help of the Lord anything is possible. We also have like 4 more really good investigators who should baptize within a month or so. The other girl who had a baptismal date this weekend we moved to next weekend. She didn’t quite feel ready but I am almost sure she will be ready this weekend. Elder Valdes and our ward mission leaders want me to baptize her, so that will be great if it happens.

I have learned even more this week the importance the Holy Spirit. It is always with us, it guides our paths, and all we have to do is listen. And I like a quote from Elder Bednar to the missionaries, (I can’t find quote buttons on this stupid Mexican keyboard so I will use /s) / Quit your whining, quit your fussing, quit worrying about it, be a good boy, be a good girl, keep the commandments and be where you need to be, even if you don’t realize it the spirit will guide your path/. That’s not exactly what he said but it’s really close. And it’s so true, if we are doing the things the Lord asks He will guide out paths. A prompting isn’t always distinct and clear, we don’t even always know at the time, but the Lord will guide our paths. This week we had that happen about 5 different times, it wasn’t a prompting that we recognized to be somewhere but we were there and we found a family, or taught a really good lesson, or helped a member of the ward in need. I have also had a few really cool experiences in lessons where I had a prompting to say something and followed it, even if I didn’t have the Spanish for it, and I was able to say it and it really helped in a few different lessons. I challenge you all to look for the Lords hand in your life, listen for the promptings of the spirit, and like Elder Bednar said be a good boy or a good girl, keep your commandments and you will have the spirit.

Love you all
Elder Utley

PS: if you could send some photos of what you guys are doing and have each of the kids write for Christmas that would be the best Christmas present. I will make sure to get some more time to write that week. And a photo of the house; I know that’s weird but a lot of people want to know what my house looks like ha ha.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Transfer Done

Hey Family!

How is everybody today? Sounds like you all had an exciting week. Mary didn’t write me but I would like to hear how she did in the swim meet, I can’t believe they had the Greg Fernley already. Can you believe it’s been two years since I swam in that? I am glad that Brooke had such a good time trick or treating and mom was able to go with her.

So Halloween here is a bit different, it’s combined with Dia de los Muertos. The little kids go around asking for candy for the whole week. Not many people actually give them candy though... it’s kind of funny. And they don’t knock doors unless they know the people. They also had a lot of little candy stands for the shrines they set up, I didn’t get the chance to buy any but it looked kind of cool. I only actually saw a couple of shrines set up. Overall, it wasn’t too much different.

We completed my first transfer yesterday, kind of exciting but it doesn’t mean much. Except one of my good friends in our district got transferred, Elder Allen. And also one of our zone leaders. I hope the new one is good.

I did hear from Shayne, that is so exciting, I am so stoked for her!

So the bug bites pretty much stopped I think we killed almost all of them. I don’t really need anything in specific but thanks for asking. They have lots of stuff here to take care of bugs and stuff because everyone has that problem. Our house is super cool and I have really liked living in our area. It just has a couple of problems that we will hopefully get taken care of over the next few weeks. The Brother we are renting from said he would, but it hasn’t happened. First of all we don’t have a hot water heater. And it gets pretty cold in the mornings so I am a pro at taking showers in literally under a minute! ha ha. The second thing is that we don’t have a stove… which is okay, not that big of deal, but just kind of annoying because its limits my food options (although we have an amazing taco restaurant on the corner of our street). The third thing is that we don’t have a washer, which is also okay because we do laundry with members, but again just kind of annoying.

Dad asked about my companion, for the most part he is really, really good. I couldn’t really ask for a better trainer. The mission president is practically begging him to extend his mission one transfer so he can train one more missionary. The only thing that I don’t like is he only has 2 transfers left and is so ready to go home, his head just isn’t all the way here in the mission sometimes. But we have been having a little bit of success. I think we were kind of bummed after the family we were teaching didn’t get baptized and we had a week where we didn’t have a lot of success. We for sure have one baptism this week and possibly another. The one we have for sure is a boy of 9 years old, he wasn’t baptized because his family wasn’t active but we have been activating them again and he will baptize this Sunday. The other is in a family of members but was living with her boyfriend when her family was baptized. She is now living with them again, she is super ready and his good examples around her but she is just concerned it is too fast. We are planning on this Sunday for her as well, but we will have to see. We also have a family we are going to contact this week, they have been to church 2 or 3 times and the mom’s sister is a member in our ward. So I think we will have a family to teach this week.

Our entire mission this last month only had 45 baptisms, in a good month we have over 200. So as a district we set a bunch of goals. The big one is we are all going to baptize 4 this month. We are all looking for a family or 4 or more to teach and baptize. To accomplish this we are going to fast every Saturday to find a family of 4 we can teach and baptize. And we have a few other things we are going to do to be move obedient and have more success.

The language has been a little bit better; I had a few really cool experiences this week with the language. A couple lessons I taught with almost no trouble. I saw one of the Brothers in our ward and he started talking to me and I just started talking back without thinking about it, we had a full conversation. That said there were also times that I had no idea what was going on, it’s still really tuff. I even had some people just ask me simple questions, that I didn't catch until they repeated a few times. I am still frustrated but I can see and feel the Lord’s help with the language when I need it. I know this church is the only church on the earth that has the fullness of the gospel of Christ. That we have the power and authority of God on the earth called priesthood. We have living prophets that lead and guide our church. I know Christ lives and suffered and atoned for us and later died on the cross and was resurrected the third day. I know he plays a huge role in our lives and we feel that through the Holy Ghost. I know the Book of Mormon is true and have seen is along with the gospel and his teaching change lives. That we can become closer to God by reading that book than any other book, just like Joseph Smith said.

I love and miss you all
Elder Utley

Friday, November 2, 2012

Last week of my first transfer!

Hey Family,

How is everybody? Sounds like you had another busy week, and a bit emotionally draining! Tell Mary I am so sorry about her friend, but I now that God has a plan and there is a reason for everything. We have trials to in order to grow. I have been learning that this week.

I am glad Mary is making friends. That’s too bad about Coop’s feet; I know what that feels like but with shoulders... That Halloween party looked awesome, I am a little jealous. I still don’t know what they do for Halloween here but I heard they just do Dia de los Muertos or day of the dead here in Irapuato. They already have Christmas stuff up too, crazy!

So to answer dad’s questions I really don’t now what the strangest thing here is, everything is really dirty all the time and there is not a whole lot of space, everyone is just crammed in everywhere, but you are right I have not felt too much of a culture shock. The bugs are awful, especially in our new house, I am getting eaten alive. In one night I got over 30 bug bites... but the next day we bought this thing you plug into the wall and it kills the mosquitos, I only had a couple new ones after that.

You asked about P days, we haven’t played soccer yet, only one time for a church activity with the little kids. I actually did better than I thought I would – I scored a couple goals. We usually play American football and basketball on p days. Speaking of sports thanks for keeping my updated on the World Series, I get little bits and pieces of what is happening in the United States but not much so that’s fun to hear. Also on p days we are only supposed to write for around 30 minutes, we usually end up taking about 45 because it takes so time to read them first. I have heard a little from my buddies at school, Tom has written me a few times and that’s about it. Marissa Farris also wrote me during the MTC but I haven’t heard from her in a while. Oh and I have heard from both grandparents as well, I wish I had time to write them more but I usually just send a quick message back. It’s fun to hear from people but I don’t have a lot of time.

So the food. It’s really good most the time. I got sick for the first time last week but just for a day. I ate some bad mole evidently. It’s like a salsa with chocolate, it’s usually really good. I also tried tripe today, wasn’t too bad but wasn’t my favorite either. There hasn’t been anything I really haven’t liked. It’s all pretty good.

So time is flying by, we have transfers coming up, I shouldn’t move and neither should my companion but it’s crazy I have almost completed one. I am a little bummed we haven’t had a baptism yet but we are supposed to be focusing on the less active members and we have reactivated some families. We have a date for a baptism with one of those families whose child wasn’t baptized, he is 9 but it counts for us and we are teaching him. His baptism isn’t this week, but next.

The language has been really rough lately. If someone takes time to sit down and talk to me and explain things and speak a little slower I can understand but it’s hard to understand at normal speed or when lots of people are talking. They also listen to a lot of American music here and it’s hard to hear that and Spanish at the same time. I know that I have something to learn, something to offer the people here. God has a plan and it’s going to be hard, maybe for a long time but I am definitely being humbled, and maybe that’s what I need. There’s nothing more I can do than learn each day and try and help someone with my limited communication skills.

But that’s one thing I have gained a greater testimony of so far. God has a plan, he knows and takes care of his children, and he gives us trials to grow. I have seen it in my own life every single day, and in the lives of the people here. Even if it’s something simple like, oh man I forgot to buy food for dinner tonight and I am going to be hungry. I say a prayer that somehow my hunger will be taken care of. Without a doubt someone offers me food, or we end up going to a store. Or with bigger things when I can’t communicate, but in a lesson I have something I need to say. God lets me suffer the communication part, but if I say a prayer, even though my Spanish isn’t perfect or correct I can usually say what I need to say to help that person.

I challenge you all to look for Gods plan in your lives, his help, and his love!

I love and pray for you all
Elder Utley