These are some pictures Ammon sent me a few weeks ago. He included descriptions, which I’ve inserted in the captions. Click on them for a better view. Enjoy!
I feel like I just have less and less to say as the days go on. It is all going by in a blur.
Learning a second language is the worst. Rather than being able to communicate well, I find that my mind is just being completely erased. Instead of thinking of the word I want to say in English and then remembering how to say it in Spanish, I just forget the word altogether.
We found out early this week that our investigator is actually a teacher here at the CCM. I find it incredible because the teachers here are portraying people that they taught the gospel to on their missions. These teachers know those people so well that they almost literally become that person and the experience is astoundingly real. Our new teacher, who was our investigator last week, is Hermana Nishgushi. Her family is from Japan. So now instead of having just a teacher who speaks hardly any English teach us Spanish, we now have a teacher who is Japanese-American teaching us Spanish. It’s a great way to learn because both teachers understand how difficult it is for us.
I’ve learned this week that the adversary just never gives up. The sins and issues I had to deal with in the past just aren’t a problem at the CCM and I am constantly working to build up those weak areas of my life. However, the adversary is still trying to find my weaknesses. His new trick is to get me frustrated. As Elder Hendricks and I try to plan a lesson, I find that I’m easily frustrated by some of his points of view. I get frustrated by little things throughout the day, and little by little I turn away from the Spirit. This language is hard. I don’t know all of the vocabulary and my companion seems to be making no progress with the language. But these are simply ways that I am being weakened. In actuality, my companion has exponentially grown in learning the language and apparently I know more than I thought because Hermana Nishgushi reccommended that I get tested to be placed in the advanced Spanish classes. Simply put, I’m getting frustrated over things that really don’t matter right now.
Whether to move on to a more advanced class or not was a decision I wrestled with all week. If I go to an advanced class I also have to change companions and districts. On one hand, I can go into a more advanced class, help myself learn more Spanish and eventually I will be able to teach investigators more fully. On the other, I can be an asset to my district and the Elders and Sisters who are having a hard time learning the language. I can help my companion and keep him motivated rather than frustrated. Eventually this will lead to them being able to teach investigators more fully. I was torn all week. Is it better to help myself so that I can serve in the field, or serve others to help them serve in the field? I prayed night after night and sometimes it felt like forever just inquiring over and over to the Lord as to what decision must I make. As Elder Hendricks and I prepared to teach our investigator about the Atonement, we started reading some scriptures we thought would help her learn and feel the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I forgot my English Bible in my room so this’ll be in Spanish but I’ll try to explain what it says. Lucas 22:41-44
41 Y él se apartó de ellos a una distancia como de un tiro de piedra; y puesto de rodillas oró, 42 diciendo: Padre, se quieres, pasa de mí esta copa; pero no se haga mi voluntad, sino la tuya 43 Entonces se le apareció un ángel del cielo para fortalecerle. 44 Y estando en agonía, oraba más intensamente; y era su sudor como grande gotas de sangre que caían a tierra.
These verses talk of Christ departing from the apostles into the garden of Gethsemane. He prays to God: Father if thou wilt, pass this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done. And then the scripture says “So there appeared an angel of heaven in order to strengthen him.” As I was praying all week and pondering what I should do, I was asking Heavenly Father what His will for me was. During our distrist meeting, verse 43 came into my mind again. It finally occured to me that when the Savior asked for the Father’s will to be done, He was strengthened by an angel. The cup was not taken from Him, but He was blessed with someone to help strengthen Him. I am no angel, but it occured to me that I am someone who can help strengthen my district and those who are struggling and having difficulty with this language.
On Sunday we had the awesome opportunity of having Steven B. Allen, the managing director over all the MTCs, speak to us. In every devotional we are taught again and again that we are the last hope for Israel. We are the last chance to bring the world to repentance and to the Savior. Along with that, we learn again and again the importance of obedience. Obedience is the only way we will have the Spirit with us and it is the only way we can do everything we can to serve an honorable mission. Elder Allen told us a story about when he served his mission in South America. He said that every night, he and his companion would watch flight 519 take off from the country they were in and fly to the United States. The plane had the American flag on it and every night they would place their hands over their hearts and watch that plane head home. He said that his companion promised him in that moment that if he did all he could and was perfectly obedient, that when he would take that plane home he should pray to the Lord and tell the Lord that he had done all he could do during his mission. If he did so, he would hear the Spirit reply “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” As a servant of Jesus Christ and a Defender of the Faith, I will do everything in my power to have the same experience. I will serve faithfully and obediently. I will become converted.
This mission has two purposes: to convert me, and to convert those the Lord has prepared to hear the gospel from me. To my brothers and my cousins I say: go and serve the Lord. Do not think that there is anything else in your life more important than serving this mission. The first presidency created Preach my Gospel for one reason: to convert YOU. I talked to my Uncle before I left and he told me that this mission will change my life and that the Lord wanted me to serve because it would benefit me more than I would realize. I testify to you that what I was told is truth. On Tuesday we watched a devotional from Elder Holland. He said that everything good that happened in his life came as a result of serving his mission. This is an apostle of the Lord. An apostle of God. Surely he was blessed and prepared from the beginning. But everything he has he owes to serving a mission? I know this to be absolute truth. When you give everything you have to serve the Lord, he blesses your life more infinitely than you can comprehend. I cannot stress enough how important serving a mission is. Do it so that you can be closer and more converted to the Lord. Do it so that you can have success in your future career. Do it so that your posterity will be blessed. Do it so that you can build the Kingdom of Zion. Do it so that you can proactively fight and graple against the adversary and his followers. Do it so that you can return with honor. Do it so that you can fulfill and magnify your calling as one who holds the power and authority of God. Do it so that when you stand before God and Christ on the Last Day they will say to you “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” I testify and promise to you that it will bless you in every aspect of your life and it will bless your family for eternity.
I pray for each of my family and friends and thank every one of you for supporting me in this mission and this time of my life. I feel the strength and power that comes from your support.
Hurrah for Israel!
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I’ve realized that it’s easier to just write these emails from my journal, so here are the experiences from my first week.
17 octubre 2013
I will never be able to write down all of the incredible experiences that have happened so far. It feels like weeks since yesterday. My companion is Elder Hendricks. He’s from Bountiful and is also going to serve in Texas San Antonio (TSAM). He is about a foot taller than me and weighs maybe 115 pounds. The Missionary Training Center, or Centro de Capacitación de México (CCM) is mainly in Spanish. Our teacher, Hermano Gutierrez speaks about as much English as we speak Spanish. This is hard for my companion (or Compa as we call eachother) because he feels like he speaks and understands absolutely no Spanish. I try to speak as much as I can to him and teach him how to respond but most of the time he just gets frustrated. Hmo. Gutierrez compliments me on how much Spanish I know and he says my accent is very good. Tonight we had a welcome meeting from the President of the CCM. He told us that we are in paradise; if we doubt it, just think about Provo. He’s so right. The CCM is beautiful. There are times when it just randomly hits me that I’m in Mexico! To be fair, the CCM is ninety acres of beautiful land in the middle of a crowded and dense city. We then had a conversion overview meeting where we learned how to connect more with people and understand their needs so that we can teach people, not lessons. A girl named Isabel came in and we asked her questions so we could get to know her. At one point she told us that her mom had died three years ago. The room went silent. No one wanted to ask something that would be too personal. One brave sister asked her if she believed she would see her mom again. Isabel answered that she didn’t know. The sister missionary then bore testimony that she would and everyone started crying because of how intense the Spirit was. Elder Hendricks was called later that night to be our district leader.
18 octubre 2013
We were given today some information about the investigator we will be teaching. Compa and I tried to figure out what we should teach her. He wants to ask all of these questions about her so we can get to know her better instead of teaching her a lesson. This is frustrating because he doesn’t know how to respond if she answers and he won’t know what she says back. I do think we need to get to know her though. The problem I have is that I don’t know how to connect questions about her life to questions about the gospel. Eventually we realized that instead of trying to teach her as a person, we were trying to teach an incredible lesson. We decided to start from scratch. It rained and stormed a lot today. The storms cause the power in the buildings to go out for a couple seconds every once and awhile. We went to an orientation meeting but we could hardly hear the teacher over the sound of the rain. I asked him after class why the lights go out and he responded “Elder, we are in a war.” Many of the teachers here are converts to the gospel. They have so much love for missionary work and display the gratitude and love they have for us in their teaching.
19 octubre 2013
Today was most excellent. Most of the day was spent learning and practicing Spanish which can be exhausting. Compa and I were truly bless by the Lord today. Our district is very close. There are three sets of Elders and two sets of Sisters. We all get along really well and we found today that we all love to sing hymns. We sang before we went to teach our investigator and immediately the Spirit increased in the room. Elder Hendricks and I left already overwhelmed with the Spirit so we were blessed. We taught our investigator that she has a relationship with God and that she is a daughter of God. As I was telling her that Heavenly Father loves her and wants to help her find the truth, the Spirit again enveloped us. I had to pause mid-sentence to keep my composure. Elder Hendricks then asked her how she felt at that moment and she just nonchalantly replied “good.” It caught us off guard but we know she felt the Holy Ghost.
20 octubre 2013
Everyone at the CCM has to prepare a talk for Sunday. We go to church in branches of four or five districts. During Sacrament meeting the branch president just tells people to give their talks. We never know who is going to speak. Our talks have to be in complete Spanish. We had some awesome devotionals as well. All of them were on the Holy Ghost. We are taught over and over again that the only way we can teach, learn the language, and be successful is by having the Spirit. President Pratt quoted Parley P. Pratt in his devotional:
“In short, it [the Holy Ghost] is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being.”
Clearly, the Holy Ghost is vital in our lives and we need it always. Another devotional we had was a talk that Elder Holland gave in January of 2013. He spoke about the importance of missionary work in this day. He explained that every dispensation of the gospel has failed to be permanent and to succeed in preparing the world for the coming of Christ. Even when the Savior established His gospel in the flesh, the church was destroyed. Elder Holland went on to explain that all of the ancient prophets knew the church would fail in those dispensations. However, they were able to labor because they knew we would succeed. That is such an incredible truth. Elder Holland then explained that Preach my Gospel exists so that we can all convert at least one person on our missions. He commanded us “You are commanded to come home with one convert AND IT BETTER BE YOU.” As missionaries of Jesus Christ, we no longer have the option of disobedience or falling away. We know this gospel and we preach this gospel so we better live it. I will never fall away. I will strive every day to build God’s Kingdom, Zion, on THIS earth, THIS day.
21 octubre 2013
Today was the first of many rough and terrible days ahead. Elder Hendricks and I were not synchronized. We tried to rush to prepare and translate our lesson in only a few hours. Because of that, we neglected to receive the Spirit. Our lesson started off well. We were explaining to our investigator that God has called prophets throughout all time and he has given them power and authority. It was Elder Hendricks turn to speak and he began to tell her the story of the Resoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith. He got his Bible out and started to open to James 1:5. In that moment, the Epistle of James was completely removed from the Bible. It literally didn’t exist. I tried to help him find it and we even looked in the table of contents of both the Spanish Bible and the English Bible. James didn’t exist. We stumbled through the rest of our lesson and sang “La Oración del Profeta” the first vision hymn to her and we asked her to pray to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet and if she found these things to be true if she would be baptized. Mercifully, she agreed. After our lesson, Elder Hendricks and I had a little talk. He explained that he can only work well under stress but I explained and bore testimony to him that the Holy Ghost, a Spirit of peace and comfort and love, cannot dwell with us if we are stressed and rushing around. We need to change from people who rely on stress to improve our performance to people who rely on preparation and the Spirit. We decided that was true and after tearful prayers, we started to prepare our next lesson.
22 octubre 2013
Luckily, we don’t have a meeting with our investigator until tomorrow. We spent most of the day preparing our lesson. I am trying hard to not get frustrated. I prepared a lesson on what we agreed our investigator needed to hear. When I showed it to Elder Hendricks and he showed me his lesson, he said mine was way too long and we were telling her too much. His lesson wasn’t on the commitment we had decided to extend to our investigator. I asked him what I should cut from the lesson and he said he wouldn’t cut anything but it still feels too long…. I’m frustrated. I also feel like my Spanish is good enough to talk to people but I can’t fully practice it because my district can’t understand any of it yet. In our apartment we have a set of native Elders and I talk to them whenever I get home to practice.
23 octubre 2013
We got to go to the Mexico City temple today. The temple here is astounding. There are a lot of Aztec carvings on the temple and on the buildings surrounding it. I listened to the session in Spanish and it was just incredible. On our way back, our bus broke down and it took us two extra hours to get home which significantly cut down our preparation day and the time we have to translate before teaching our investigator. I’m trying my best to stay calm.
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Ammon boarded the plane this morning and arrived in Mexico this afternoon. I wasn’t there, but I know saying “Good-bye” for two years has been bittersweet for everyone. Here are some pictures Mom posted from the airport and Ammon’s email from this afternoon:
I’m not sure what to say besides I made it! It has been an incredible day. When I landed in Phoenix I found four other elders at the gate. Two of them, Elder Snow and Elder Olsen will be serving in the Texas San Antonio Mission.
We had a few hours until our flight to Mexico City so we searched for a cheap place to eat. When we sat down to eat this guy approached the five of us. I thought he was going to harass us or something. Instead, we found out that he is a member of the church! He started telling us stories about his mission and giving us advice on learning Spanish. We then left to catch our flight where we met four more elders and a sister. On the flight, the lady who sat next to me was also a member; I just cannot catch a break.
Finally we arrived in Mexico after a long flight. The city is extremely dense and colorful; they paint all of the buildings different colors. The Missionary Training Center is beautiful. It is an ninety acre compound and looks much different than its surroundings.
I have not met my companion yet but he is Elder Hendricks. Because my name is closest to A in the alphabet, I will be the Senior Companion for three weeks. I am in the same branch, district, and classroom as Elder Snow.
I hope that’s enough to suffice. I will leave you with a scripture from the 30th chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon.
Verse 40 and 41 read: “And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only. But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?”
I know, as Alma knows, that these things are true. Every part of this world is a testimony of a divine creator. I know that God lives and that Jesus Christ atoned for all of our sins.
Hurrah for Israel,