Sunday, November 30, 2014

The parable of the lost camera

Bus "selfie" on the way to Tijuana

Dear All,
Holy this week has been the best week of my mission so far. And the time keeps flying. Like I feel like I just wrote to you guys yesterday. But yeah. What a week.
So it started on Monday afternoon. After we finished writing, we went and found a little hamburger stand that sold two burgers for 25 pesos so we were like heck yeah score (but based on the aftereffects we probably wont do it again) and then we caught the bus up to our area so that we could be there before 6 when we had to start working. And as we sat down on the curb to eat, I noticed that the pocket where I keep my camera was empty and my camera was missing. Now when I say that you're gonna think that me saying this was the best week of my mission was sarcastic. It wasn't. Just wait.
So I'm pretty upset. I thought I had left it in the little cybercafe where we were writing, but Elder Vega thought that someone had stolen it. Either way, there was a very small chance that we were gonna find it.
So let me backtrack a little bit. On Sunday, we heard a talk about praying for specific stuff, that way its number one easier to recognize when a prayer is answered and two so that we Heavenly Father can know exactly how to help us. So we were praying on Monday morning, before we left, and Elder Vega out of nowhere pauses and says "And please let us find a family of 4 to teach" and I was like wow ok that would be pretty sweet.
So anyway we lose the camera and at that point it was too late to go back into town to look for it, so we decided to just go the next day, cause we had zone conference, so we would be passing by anway. And of course we said prayers to find it and all that good missionary stuff.
So zone conference the next day was super good. It was all about how there are 4 types of missionaries: the ones that get sent home, the ones that should get sent home but don't get caught, the ones who do what they want but come home the same person, and the ones who completely lose themselves and are completely different when they come home. It was all about who we want to be. So that was awesome. And then we went and stopped by the cybercafe on the way home, and they told me that no, and that even if I had left it odds are the next person took it. So that kinda sucked.
BUT THEN. We were standing at the bus stop to head to work and this teenage girl comes up to us. And shes like "hey did you guys lose a camera yesterday?" And I'm like who is this angel coming to help me yes I did indeed lose a camera why do you ask? And she told me that her brother had gotten onto the bus after me the night before and sitting in my seat was this sweet camera with some pictures of a gringo and a morenito in tie and nametag. So he took the camera home.
Turns out this girl was his sister. So she told us she was headed to the same place as us, we could just follow her to her house and pick it up. So we did so.
So of course when we got there we started talking to her mom and brother and her about missionary stuff. They returned the camera and the lady said she would like to talk but wasn't sure her husband would be down. But she promised to talk to him and let us pass by sometime this week to find out whats up.
And then as we left Elder Vega was like "hey did you count how many that was?"and it freaking hit me. Ä FAMILY OF FLIPPING 4!!! Like what the heck. Holy cool.
Then that night we were walking home from mission coordination meeting and instead of us contacting people on the street, people contacted us and told us they were interested. Which never happens.
Then on Wednesday I had an interview with President Garcia. Holy cow I am so grateful that he is here. What an example and leader. And he told me some good stuff.
Thursday we went to Tijuana for a checkup of all the Trainees and Trainers, and I left with this awesome feeling of gratitude for Elder Vega. There are more than a few whose trainers aren't obedient, who waste time, who don't do the things that missionaries should do, and I don't have the displeasure of having a companion like that. So that was good.
Holy Friday. We contacted a lady about a week ago who told us that she wanted to talk to us so that she could convert us to her church. Lol some people. But oh well we arranged a meeting in a member's house, and when she got there we just kind of let her run things. She told us what she believed and we just kind of established common ground. Then after a while we asked if she wanted to just listen to a shortened version of our message, and if she didn't like it well no harm no foul. So we started lesson 1 from the beginning. And she got more and more into it. Every time she threw something at us, we calmly pulled out scriptures that clarified everything. Then we got to Joseph Smith.
Which is my favorite part. And I got to talk about the First Vision.
And as I recited those amazing words, the Spirit freaking kicked down the door, guns blazing, testifying the heck out of it. She kind of sat there for a sec, then she was like "well its beautiful, but it says in the Bible that no man can see God so I can't believe it." I looked at Elder Vega, who had his eyes closed. The dude was either praying or asleep, and so I had to answer. I told her how I think that God is all powerful, and if he wants to show himself to someone, He's gonna do it. And then Elder Vega opened his eyes, pulled out Exodus 33:11 where Moses talks to God face to face, and that was that. She believed it.
She ended up accepting a Book of Mormon and promising to pray and ask.
But it was so powerful. It was the first time that I have genuinely felt the Spirit testifying and opening hearts and minds through the words that He was putting into my mouth. Holy cow.
Saturday we found a lady, taught her lesson one, and set a baptismal date for her and her daughter, then Sunday we found two teenagers, taught them lesson 1, and set two more baptismal dates. So right now we have 4, with 4 more that we have set, but theyve missed church or haven't kept a commitment, But December is looking good. 

Les quiero mucho, y no puedo esperar hasta nos veremos. Cuidense mucho.
Hasta ver,

Elder Rawlings

Snap shot of Jenson's desk

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Missionary Wingman

Dear All,
Holy cow I´ve already been here for a month. Like dang we already find out about transfers on Saturday. Elder Vega thinks he´s gone. I certainly hope not. He´s super cool.
Anyway some cool things happened this week, but I´ll get to those later first off. First I wanna talk about the cars here. Holy nuts. I swear every single car has some form of modified exhaust, so being in the city is probably the loudest thing I´ve ever heard. Plus we have to take Micros (basically short buses) everywhere. And those things scare the heck out of me. These drivers are weaving around cars and then suddenly someone yells that they want to get off so they swerve across all traffic and mount the curb and then open the doors. Holy heck. Plus the seats aren't quite big enough for two missionaries, so I´ve gotten really good at sitting with one cheek on the seat.
Also there was this huge race here last week called the ¨Baja 1000¨ Basically it´s a 1000 mile monster truck race that begins and ends in Ensenada. It´s super cool actually and something I wanna come back to see. But the city was a straight party all week. People were going nuts for this thing. So yeah that happened.
Also we have been talking a lot in our ward about being prepared. Idk if you guys have heard of El Niño, but its this massive storm, basically a hurricane but they don't call it a hurricane, that´s supposed to happen this year. And apparently this year it´s supposed to be the worst in decades. So basically we are going to have a ton of service. Which is gonna be super dope.
I´ve spent a lot of time this week teaching Elder Vega English. Which is probably one of the funnest things that I have ever done. You should try it sometime. You´re going to realize how freaking little sense English makes. I have no idea how I learned. I have no idea how anyone learns. It´s insane. Also I have to explain things in Spanish, which has actually helped my Spanish a ton. I´m going to ask President Garcia to put me only with companions who don´t speak English so that when I get back I don´t speak it either lol. But seriously that would be so cool.
Also there´s a brother in our ward named Adán. Which is Adam in English, but here it´s Adán. Anyway he makes a living riding around on a moped selling burritos. Which is also why we visit him periodically.
Cause when he has extras, guess who gets em. Aw yeah. But anyway he sells a lot to American tourists who come in on cruises and whatnot.
But he speaks no English. Like none at all. Like maybe hello and that´s it. So we go to visit him and he was like ¨hey you speak English right?" And I said yes of course and then he asked me for his help. He told me that there was this lady who had been buying burritos from him all week who was rather pretty and who he wanted to talk to, but who only spoke English. So guess who played missionary wingman and wrote down some suave phrases for him to use. Heck yeah. I also wrote down some other stuff like how to sell a burrito in English, but mostly smooth stuff that he could use to woo this lady. So that was fun.
I had the first food I didn't like yesterday. It was a bowl of what appeared to be cat food. The Sister handed me a giant saltine to eat it with and so I dug in. It was straight nasty. I found out later it was Seveche. Which is basically cat food. But for people. And then I muscled down that bowl, and she offered seconds. So guess who had seconds of the cat food. Yeah. Ugh.
Investigator Update:
J__- haven't seen him in a while. He promised to go to church on Sunday and we even stopped by on Saturday night to remind him and he still didn't go. We have an appt with him tomorrow, but if he's not there we are going to drop him.
T__- Haven't seen her very much either. She has a real desire and I think a testimony, but her dad is a pretty hardcore user of drugs and doesn't like us very much, so he doesn't let her or her mom go to church. We even passed by one day and when we knocked we heard him yelling not to answer the door. So that's really sad.
We also found some new people. The first is named I__, and she's the daughter-in-law of a less active family. We've been trying to teach her for a while, but she's never had time or really a desire, but we set a date and when we invited her to be baptized, she told us how she had seen the temple in Tijuana and felt like that's where she needed to be. So shes pretty solid.
We also found a guy named L__ E__. He's super strange, and he knows enough English to think he's fluent. He also happens to think that since I'm white I know no Spanish. So he talks to me in English and I respond in Spanish and I hope one day he gets the hint but for now it's just funny.
Also a lady named S___. Which means relief. Like Relief Society in Spanish is Sociedad de Socorro. But anyway she is GOLDEN. She's already reading the BoM, she's doing her best to keep commitments, but SHES NOT FREAKING MARRIED. LET ME JUST SAY THAT IS BASICALLY A DAGGER TO THE HEART OF A MISSIONARY TO HEAR THAT PHRASE. She's been with her "spouse" for 15 years but "they just never got around to making it official." Holy heck. So yeah there's that.
Anyway, that's my week. I'll be on the lookout for any packages. I get em once a month when President Garcia comes. Same with letters. So I'll let you know.
Love you all and hope everything there is just dandy.
Mucho amor,
Elder Rawlings


Friday, November 14, 2014

The Problems We Have With Water And Electricity In Mexico.

Dear All,
Holy this week seems like it has flown by. I don't know why, but I feel like I was literally just here writing to you guys. Oh well, mission life I guess.

First things first. I like to call this story The Problems We Have With Water And Electricity In Mexico. So last week I told y'all how sometimes our water or our power goes out randomly. But the good thing about that was that if we didn't have it in the morning, we would have it at night, or vice versa. But starting Monday night we had nothing.  Then Tuesday morning nothing. Then Tuesday night nothing. And then on Tuesday night, as we were sitting there planning with our flashlights so we could see, Elder Vega had an epiphany. He looks at me and says "holy crap I havent seen a bill for the lights yet and its already November!" So we went outside and looked everywhere, but couldnt find anything. So we called the Ward Mission Leader and he told us where to go to pay, so we made plans to go on Wednesday morning. That would take care of the lights.  But we still didn't have water. But whatever. We figured that would be back by morning. Funny thing is that it wasn't. So we put on sweats, packed some soap, and ran to the chapel (which is actually just a giant house) and climbed the fence, went inside and showered. It was so cold. But so worth it. So then we headed to the light commission, and we had to copy the number of the box outside our house so that we could look it up and pay it. But we live in an apartment, so naturally we had to guess which box was ours. So we take the 30 minute bus ride to the commission, to find out that we copied THE WRONG FREAKING NUMBER. So we had to go back, copy the right number, and then go pay. And guess how much it was. 200 pesos. Like $20. Seriously. That's with a late fee tacked on. So so so worth it.

Also some fun things that happened this week. We did exchanges on Saturday, and I stayed in this area with an elder who has the same amount of time as me. He's from Bolivia and hes super cool, but since it was my area I was technically Senior Companion, so I had to plan and direct the area for the day. In a language in which I am barely proficient. So that was a solid opportunity to turn to the Lord and rely on His help with the gift of tongues and the guidance of the Spirit. Overall, super super good experience.

One of the lessons we taught that day I will never forget. Elder Vega is a great missionary, but he sometimes has a hard time being direct with people. And there's a lady we've been teaching for a long time who just isn't going anywhere. So Elder Peralta (the dude from Bolivia) and I passed by her little store and we both felt like going in. Now a little preface. There's a word here: planchar. Literally means "to iron" but when you use it for a person it's like "straighten out" or "call to repentance". So we decided to planchar this lady with amor. We started talking, got into some gospel stuff, and asked her if she had a chance to pray and find out if what we have been saying is true. She said she had, but wouldn't say what happened. So we both got really direct like "look Hermana, all we can do is invite. If you dont do your part we cant do anything. It's on you now." She told us that she liked what we said and that it made sense but she wouldn't ever get baptized because she had already been baptized into another church. All of the sudden Elder Peralta (kind of a quiet dude) burts out "frankly your baptisms arent worth anything in the eyes of God." and then went on to bear one of the most powerful testimonies of the authority of this Church that I have ever witnessed. Crazy powerful.  We all kind of sat there. I finished with a "I add my testimony to that of my companion's" and we left. Idk what's gonna happen. but holy did we planchar that lady.

Also, Sunday morning. I was sitting on my bed reading Jesus the Christ, and Elder Vega left the room to go shower, and kid you not as soon as he got in the shower the phone rang. So I answered it, and wouldn't you know it was a member of the bishopric, We all know what that means. One of the speakers had called in sick and now it was time for the brand new missionary to save the day. So I whipped out my dictionary and started to write a talk. Now this was at like 8:20, we have to leave for church at 9:30, and it's in a language that I'm still learning. So yeah. Then we get to church, and after the sacrament the little 2 year old son of this member of the bishopric comes waddling up to me with a note in his hand. It says "Elder, Gracias, pero ahora tenemos discursantes completos. Ya no es necesario su discurso." Like what the heck. It's like getting to the top of a roller coaster and then going slowly backwards down to where you started. I was so fired up to give my first talk in Spanish, and then just no. Oh well. I saved the talk, it's freaking good if I do say so myself, all things considered.

In terms of food, we have a scheduled lunch every day, since lunch is the main meal here. And it's all good, usually some kind of chicken, rice, beans, and a monstrous stack of tortillas. I've gotten pretty good at rolling up tortillas to use kind of like an extra fork, but one that I can eat.

De Mexico con amor,

Elder Rawlings

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Visit to TJ

View of the Mexico Tijuana Temple at night.  Nearly completed
Dear All,
So this week has been pretty fun. Monday I had to go to Tijuana to
finalize my visa stuff, so we woke up at 5, took the 7:00 bus to TJ,
finished at the consulate at 10, and then had the rest of the day
free. It was super cool. We walked around the city, found the Mexican
equvalent of Cici's, and then went to the temple.
Lemme just talk about it for a sec. It is straight up breathtaking.
Like dang. The outside is pretty much done, and the grounds behind the
temple are done too, so right now you can get a pretty good picture of
what its gonna look like and dang. Dang dang dang. This city is gonna
be so blessed.

Then we spent the night with the assistants and like 20 other
missionaries who had come in for a District Leader Training, and Elder
Vega is our District Leader. That was wild. And the funny thing was of
the twenty, like 17 were Americans, so it was the first time I've been
able to speak English freely in like 2 weeks. It was weird cause it
like took a minute to switch modes from Spanish to English and even
then it was like Spanlish. It's already happening haha.

The rest of the week was alright, we did lots of good work, but didn't
really get anywhere. We had to drop J, as well as A and
T, from our list of investiagators with baptismal dates, cause
they missed church two weeks in a row now. Also, we've been hearing
rumors that Jose isn't exactly the most honest dude in the whole
world. We went over and taught him the 10 commandments and had him
read the "Thou shall not rob" and it was super funny.

ALSO I MET MY FIRST JESUS. We left the apartment and elder Vega was
like "hey did you bring any money? cause lets just take the bus, I
dont feel like walking" but for some reason I had this super strong
feeling like nope we are gonna walk and so we did. We got about 1/4 of
the way there when this van pulled up next to us and this dude said
"hey elders, hop in" I didn't know him and the look on Elder Vega's
face told me he didnt either but we got in this dudes van (which btw
didnt have door handles, just ropes tied to the edges of the doors
lol) and went off. Thats when I found out that his name was Jesus. He
was taking the discussions from the Missionaries in Tijuana, but then
he moved to Ensenada and hasn't seen missionaries since. We told him
where the chapel was and who the missionaries in his area were, and
then he dropped us off and we havent seen him since but still. Super

More fun things. They've started this game in our neighborhood called
"lets wait until the elders are in the shower or about to wash dishes
and then turn off the water" and also "lets wait until the washer is
halfway done and then lets kill the power." So yeah that's annoying.

Speaking of water, there is no such thing as "juice" here. Everything
is "auga de..." and then a fruit or a country that is somehow
represented by grape juice. It makes me laugh every time.

Speaking of fruit I ate one of the world's largest bananas on
Saturday. Actually that's another funny story. So we were walking home
and we saw a lady at the bus stop and Elder Vega was like "hey go
contact that lady" So I did. The whole shpeal. We're missionaries
representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and we
would like to pass by your house and share our message with you. The
lady looked really interested and then said "sure, how about tomorrow
when it's my turn to feed you two." I turned around and Elder Vega was
dying. She was a member. Sweet. But anyway she has this banana tree
and the bananas she grows are straight up huge. They're like the
length of normal banana but I couldn't fit my hand around it. It was
so dang good.

Two good things and one bad thing from this weekend. Good thing:
because of Halloween, evey time we go to a house the parents make
their kids give us a piece of candy. So that's dope. Good thing:
There's no cemetery in our area, so Dia de los Muertos was basically
nothing. Bad thing: the only thing from Dia de los Muertos was that
the neighbors had a party that started at 10 with a live freaking
mariachi band. So that was nice to fall asleep too.

Scripture of the week this week: 2 Corinthians 3:17. I started reading
the BoM in Spanish and its amazing to me how many propecies about
America there are, so I looked up some others. This is one.

Also I started reading Jesus the Christ two weeks ago and I'm already
3/4 done. That book is straight spiritual dope.

De Mexico con tanto amor,
Elder Rawlings

Jenson in front Mexico Tijuana Temple, Temple soon to be completed

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Another Solid Week in Ensenada

Jenson and Elder Vega

Dear All,
Another solid week here. .
First things first...The scripture of the week is Job 38:3. Super dope.

Second, last Monday after I finished writing we went to a lady whose daughter had just been baptized and she had a baptismal date but didn't go to church enough to qualify. So we went to go teach her a little bit and re invite her. Anyway turns out she had been feeling really sick and wanted a blessing. So guess who gave his first blessing in Spanish. This guy. But it was so bad haha i butchered it, used the wrong tenses, didn't know how to say any blessing type stuff, everything. It was still kind of cool and gave me something specific to work on.

Next, Jose is coming a long, kind of. We went by on Tuesday and he told us how ever since he came to church hes been getting more and more work, and he feels peaceful and happy. But ever since then we haven't seen him and he didn't go to church on Sunday, so who knows. I really hope hes doing well.
We did find another super cool family though. We went to go visit a guy who is less active, who lives legit in a shack with a wheelbarrow, two shovels, and a bed. And hes 88. And he cant hear so we just yell stuff and occasionally i speak english just to mess with him. Am i a bad missionary? But anyway he wasnt home so we kinda stood outside his shack and looked for someone to talk to. We saw a lady outside her house cooking over an open fire. We went and talked to her and her daughter and found out that over the weekend someone had stolen literally all of their wordly posessions. Their stove, their washing machine, their fridge, even the lighbulbs, fixutres, and wirings in their house. So we started talking about how this gospel blesses everyone no matter what, and they liked that. Anyway they both accepted a baptismal date, and when we went back the next day the daughter was alreay reading 1 nephi chapter 2, after already reading the intro and all the testimonies in the front. Shes super smart and as we were talking to her i had my LdM out and was making notes from stuff she had gotten from the chapter. Good stuff.
Funny thing. You know how in america there are ice cream trucks? Yeah so here there are trucks that drive around selling tortilla. No joke.

This place is so Mexican I swear.

Right now I´m in a ward, but there's only about 80 active members. The bishop is super cool, he reminds me of the chief from pochahontas.
Straight up lamanite but the dude has a testimony like none other. The ward mission leader is also super cool. Hes new, so we are helping him know what to do, but hes willing to go to the end of the earth to help us out. Awesome guy.

In terms of our area, it is straight massive. We only work in a small, small part, because it is the ward farthest north in Ensenada, and it basically goes all the way up to the next city, about an hour by car.

We work in the southern little bit because that's where all the people live. The entire north is just the occasional farm and mountains.
Pretty, but no one lives there haha

Elder Vega is from mexico, basically as far west as you can go and right on the border with Texas. Hes a super super cool guy and as I get to see it more and more as i learn to speak haha I have no idea what my address is or if we even have one. If you're looking on google maps, there's a square kind of dock thing in the ocean on the north side of the bay, and we live about half a mile inland from that, straight east basically. On the subject of where i live, turns out right down the street from us, opposite of where we work, is the rich part of town. Some of the nicest houses i have EVER seen. Like holy freaking crap. And two miles the other direction people are living with absolutely nothing. Its kinda hard to handle, but oh well.

Also there is this soda here called lift and it is the best thing ever. Its like apple fanta. holy good.

As always, hope everyone is doing well,
Con mucho amor,

Elder Rawlings

Jenson's Apartment

View of Jenson's area 

Another view of Jenson's area