Sunday, October 26, 2014

Greetings From Ensenada Mexico

Elder Vega, a recent convert, and Elder Rawlings

Dear Everyone,

Whats up from Ensenada, Mexico!! It really is as beautiful as Grandpa said it would be. Well not my area but the city as a whole. My area is called Universidad, and it's basically cut into the side of three mountains. It's a 30 minute hike from our apartment to the place where we work, but it's worth it. The place kind of reminds me of the field that was behind our house in Utah, super dusty, super dry, super rocky. But the views of the bay are just awesome.

The people are great. Mega, mega, like mind bogglingly poor, but they are super nice and everyone knows us and wants to hear what we have to say. We've already set 4 baptismal dates since I've been here, but I'll talk more about that later.

Already some crazy stuff has happened. First off, right off the plane to get here, we put our luggage into a taxi van so that we would all be able to fit into President Garcia's car. But then the taxi driver got really mad, and asked for at least one of us to go with him. I had told President Garcia that on a scale from one to ten my Spanish was about a 7, which was by far the highest of the group, so he asked me to go. Aw yeah. As soon as we get in the car I asked the driver if he spoke any English and he said no. Less Aw yeah. But then he started asking about the church, what we believed in, if we were Christian, all that. Long story short I ended up teaching him the first lesson.  Super cool.  And then I met my companion, Elder Vega, and found out he speaks about as much English as Dad speaks Spanish (none, and with a terrible accent) so guess who has had to become fluent enough to converse in about 10 minutes. This guy. Aw yeah. He's a super cool guy though, hes been out here for about a year and he's a really good missionary.

Another funny thing. Freaking absolutely no one can pronounce my name.
That is, until I tell them it's like the Rolling Stones. EVERYONE here knows the Rolling Stones for some reason.  Then we were on the bus this one day and this guy got on with a straight up karaoke machine and starting singing about how 666 and how bad Halloween is. Lol cause he also chastised us for not having Bibles and Elder Vega and I just kind of looked at each other like, uhhhh, lol got em right here bro. Weird dude. Also we were walking and there was some chalk on the ground and Elder Vega was like "hey don't walk through that" and I was like "uhh why?" and he was like "well that was an exorcism and we dont mess with that stuff" oh good.

So our baptismal dates. The first one was just ok, I didn't feel like the lady was really learning anything, she just wanted to say yes so that we would leave her alone, but oh well. But then later that night we went to check on a reference we had received and ran into this lady named A.... We started talking to her, she said she was JW but she was willing to listen. So we started teaching. We got about 10 minutes in when her son came home. Turns out he had seen us walking around and had been praying to find someone to answer his questions cause he just had a baby. So were like "Hermano! Aqui Estamos!" (Brother! Here we are!) So we started teaching again and this dude was eating it up. We taught the first lesson and both of them agreed to be baptized. The son also asked if he could come to church with us on Sunday. Dude of course you can come!  So we are sitting with him in church and it was the primary program and he was loving it. All these little kids bearing testimony that their families now and their families to come would be together. This dude (named J...) was basically in tears. So was I, not gonna lie. And then in Gospel Principals we talked about Eternal Marriage and I sat next to J... and I could practically hear his thoughts like, yeah, I want this, i want this a lot. We have an appointment with him on tuesday. Ill keep you posted.

I do miss the MTC. I miss hearing English too haha. I miss Elder Sanchez. 
Anyway I'm doing great. I still feel super lost, but hey, its more fun that way.
Con mucho amor,

Elder Rawlings

Elder Sanchez and Elder Rawlings Provo West MTC

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Last Week in the MTC

Dear Everyone,

Woo! Its my last PDay!! I still don't feel like I'm ready to leave but I'm getting there quickly. I got the contacts and I'll check for the calling card. And thanks for loading money too. But anyway as this is my last PDay in the MTC I'm not sure when the next time I'll get to write is, But it should be sometime before next Tuesday.

So I've had a couple cool experiences this week; the first was on Thursday. We had the chance to Skype with a member of the Church who is a native Spanish speaker. When they showed us the list of people I could Skype, I noticed one was in Tampico. I chose him cause, ya know, maybe he knows Chelsea or something. That would've been cool. So we started to talk to him and he told us that he had actually just recently moved. So now he was living in my mission!! Super cool guy, he said that the weather is great, that the members are strong, but that there is plenty of work to be done. And then during the afternoon session on Sunday, our Branch was assigned to usher, so we had to be there early to make sure everything was set up the devotional room for everyone to get there. Anyway, as the amount of people coming in was winding down, I got to talking with one of the District Presidents who was there. He saw my nametag and started talking to me in Spanish, asked me where I was going, how much longer I had left, all the usual stuff. I come to find out that he used to be a Mission President in Uruguay, and so he was telling me how he learned Spanish and giving me all these tips and tricks, most of which I'm planning on doing. And then when he heard I was going to Tijuana (cause before when he had asked me I just said Mexico) he told me how he grew up in San Diego and went to Tijuana all the time and still goes back whenever he can.
To quote him directly, "I just can not think of a more FUN mission than Tijuana. Perfect weather, great food, and now a temple." So guess who has two thumbs and is super excited to go there now. Hashtag this guy.

The other cool, but also really sad, thing, was saying bye to Javier.
Our last time teaching him was on Friday, so we got to the end of our time and he was like "Nos vemos en...Lunes? Si?" and Elder Sanchez and I kind of looked at each other and said "actually we think this is the last time." Holy he looked so bummed. He told us that we had genuinely answered many questions that he had had and wished us the best of luck. It was really hard. But it also made me super jazzed to actually have real investigators that I get to feel the same love for as we help them come unto our Lord and Savior.

Ok and also conference was straight up magic. I don't know if you guys heard this but people kept throwing around the words "largest missionary force of all time." That's not a lie. We are by far the biggest group of missionaries ever assembled in history. The speaker at the devotional last night, who works in the missionary dept, said that as of today, there are 88,034 missionaries in the field. That's up from about 53,000 5 years ago. Santa freaking vaca. The speaker last night also pointed out that based on worldwide averages, the
2,000 of us in the MTC right now will convert about 10,000 people to this Church. Again, santa freaking vaca.

Another huge thing I pulled out of conference was right at the beginnning, from Elder Packer's talk. When he told the story about going to Oxford and showing the professor there all the scriptures we had on Jesus Christ, I had the distinct impression that  as missionaries, our belief in Christ alone will open doors, both literally and spiritually for us. The more we trust Him, the more he will be able to help us. One of the big points that we have been taught to teach is that Christ WILL save us, IF we have faith in him.
That never really occurred to me before, the importance of faith coming before repentance. Super cool. Super simple, but hey, simple is good.

Les amo mucho,

Elder Rawlings

From Mom: Translation to "Santa freaking vaca" means Holy freaking Cow...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

MTC Week 4

MTC Week 4

Dear Everyone,

Lots of stuff has happened this week. On Thursday, I went to the Mexican Consulate to verify my visa and officially be allowed to enter the country. Let's just say it was about 7 hours of travel for about 15 seconds of stuff I actually had to do. Very frustrating. And it was hot and I was in a suit. And the bus to get us from TRAX was about an hour late, so that was fun. It was super cool talking to people on the trains though. It felt really cool to be out of the MTC and into the "real world". On Tuesday another group went and as they got off the train there was an Elementary School field trip that was about to get on. So all these little kids lined up and all the missionaries shook all of their hands and gave high fives and cheered. One Elder in my zone had one kid come up to him and say "You're my hero. Go to work." Man do I wish I could've seen that. How freaking cool.

In other travel news, I get my travel plans in exactly two days. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Like I'm ready to go, cause of course that's why I'm here in the first place. But it also kind of feels like I'm leaving home again. Oh well. I've still got two weeks.

Some fun things from this week: and Elder in my zone had a birthday party, so we went over to his apartment after class and had a little mini party. In the words of his companion: "We have milk and party hats. This is the biggest thing to happen in the MTC since the last time Elder Holland came to speak." It was super fun though. I'll have to see if I can get pictures to you guys; they aren't on my camera.

Speaking of food, we had to say goodbye to another district this week. This one was a lot harder cause their class was right next to ours so we did a lot with them. Some really good guys. But anyway we got another inheritance. Only this time it wasn't all food. Basically anything they didn't have room in their suitcase for they crammed into boxes and made us take them. So we came home with about 100 envelopes, 30 hangars, some nerf guns, a rubber rat, a bunch of rocks (?) and $7.58 in change. And more food. So basically instead of eating lunch now we just go home and eat what we have. And we still haven't made a dent. 

In weather news, it's freaking cold. There's already snow in the mountains. I kinda want it to snow at least once while I'm here and at this rate it looks like it very well could. But it's not like this cold has been gradual. Just like all of the sudden since Sunday. I'm not sure what's up. 

I think I told you guys last week about TRC, where we get to teach a volunteer investigator. Anyways Elder Sanchez and I were teaching this guy named Javier. He's from Spain, and he was rather grumpy. He asks really hard questions too. For example, the first day we were there he asked us how God could be considered fair and loving if we wake up rich in America and other kids our age are living with literally nothing in Africa and other parts of the world, if they even reach our age. So we talked about how part of God's plan is to have opposition in all things, you know, a pretty good answer normally, but he didn't like it. So we went home and studied and basically went back and taught the plan of Salvation, how even though we don't all have the same advantages in this life, we are all given an equal chance to return to our Father and accept his Gospel. He seemed ok with that, but then he asked, "If God is all powerful, why did Christ have to suffer for us? Why wasn't it just 'ok you did good, you're saved, you did bad, you're going to hell?" Holy question. He followed it up with "Hitler and Mother Theresa were both Catholics. Are they both in Hell?" Luckily we ran out of time in that meeting so we had a chance to go home and study instead of looking like complete fools. As we were looking for answers, we realized that we were going to have to teach out of the Book of Mormon, which was kind of scary, because this guy hadn't even accepted the concept of a loving God yet. But we went back and taught the scripture from Alma about how after we are resurrected we will be judged for our works. He really liked it. We gave him a Book of Mormon and asked if he would read the introduction before our next visit (the next day). He said he would certainly try.

This is where it starts to get good. When we went back and asked him how he liked the introduction, he told us that he had read the first ten chapters of Nephi and was fascinated. We spent the first half of the lesson answering his questions from those chapters, like how God commanded Nephi to kill Laban, even though it was against the commandments, and why it was written in Egyptian, even though it's evident in the Bible that God doesn't like Egyptians. And then we taught the restoration, which is seriously my favorite thing. Every single time I get to recite or hear my companion recite "Vi una columna de luz, más brillante que el sol...¨ it is so powerful. He really liked that too, and so we left on that high note with an appointment to come back on Monday.

We went on Monday with a plan to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but we only got through Repentance. It was ok though, cause that was one of the most fluid and spiritual lessons that I have ever been a part of. And then at the end I said the prayer and I felt like I should just say pray for Javier instead of my usual things. When I finished I looked up and he had this huge smile on his face and it was just super cool. Honestly I'm not sure what I said, but it was good. The gift of tongues is a super real thing. And then the next day, yesterday, we went back and taught Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. At the end of the lesson, we invited him to be baptized and he said yes. I know it's not real and he's already a member and all, but it still felt super great. Like all of our hard work had paid off. 

In other news, my toe is slowly but surely getting better; I stopped playing basketball and now it's almost exclusively volleyball, which I think is helping. And my lip is back to a normal color now, thank goodness. It was really gross looking there for a couple days.

Unfortunately I will not be in the choir. Something about having "no experience" and "the voice of a toad" or something I'm not sure ;) I will get to watch all of the sessions though, so that'll be good.

Les amo mucho.

Elder Rawlings