Soldier in God's Army

Soldier in God's Army
Soldier in God's Army

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finally in Mexico!

May 28, 2012

There is so much to talk about and I dont have near enough time to say everything I want to say. A lot has happened this week. I'll start with the MTC.

So I left the MTC with a bang. The Brother Free act went over pretty well. During our last Saturday at the MTC, I went in to the new district's room (as Hermano Free, with changed pants, belt, shoes, tie, hair, and even put on glasses - the usual Hermano Free look.) I left an assignment with scriptures and questions for them to answer on the whiteboard a few days earlier, and then on Saturday I went in and taught them for at least the 3rd time. As we were discussing the answers, one of the Elders raised his hand to answer a question, and then (as previously planned) my entire district barged in, cameras in hand recording the whole thing. Then I changed my nametag back to Elder Riggs, and they all just felt ridiculous for falling for it. It actually took this new district a while to figure it out. One of the Elders even came up to me and asked "So is Brother Free not here today or something?" He was fooled so hard that he still thought Brother Free existed and that Elder Riggs was pretending to be him because they looked so alike. Classic. Probably the most fun I've ever had.

So, here's something I didn't expect. I only receive letters every 6 weeks. All the letters are sent to the mission home, and after every exchange we receive them. This is due to the areas being so far spread apart. So don't get mad if I don't reply to any letters very quickly, as I probably won't get them for another 5 weeks. The address to send letters to is:

Elder Tyler Riggs
Mision Mexico Torreon
La Iglesia de Jesucristo de Los Santos
    de Los Ultimos Dias
Ernesto Brede #301 Col. Amp
    Los Angeles Torreon Coahuila 27148B

My companion is Elder Lopez. He has been here 9 weeks and is awesome. Even in the taxis he makes appointments for lessons with the drivers. We don't get to take taxis every where though. We walk (briskly) at least 7 hours a day, but usualy over 8. I am still getting used to it, as yesterday I found the 9th blister on my feet in the last 3 days

The traffic here is insane! If there are any regulations on the roads, they are definitely not enforced and nobody cares to follow them.

I feel like a giant here. Most people here are shorter than 5'4", and so I stand out pretty bad being the 6' tall white boy who weighs twice as much as most of them. There's actually a pretty funny story about that. We were walking in the streets and there was this pretty old lady sitting at her porch. I said "Buenas Tardes, Hermana!" and she replied "Adios Guerito", which means "Bye White Boy". So yeah, I am pretty sure white people are a rarity in these parts.

Graffiti here is worse than the black plague. I am not exaggerating when I say you cant go anywhere without seeing it. Some of it actually looks pretty good, but most of it is just dumb stuff drawn by wanna-be cholos.

So I haven't seen the drug cartel yet, but a few mornings ago we found some people across the street from our apartment getting arrested. I thing it was a drug bust, but I am not sure. Here are some pictures (I couldn't resist taking some).

Inline image 3Inline image 2

Here, the Secretaria de Defensa Nacional is seen commonly. I saw them, a ton of army-suited guys heavily armed and in a semi-armed vehicle. They go around checking every building on designated streets for drugs and drug dealers.

The language is coming along alright. Sometimes I get pretty frustrated when people talk crazy fast and ask me questions, but I dont understand a word they say. I can understand after I ask them to slow down and repeat.

The food is amazing here. We are fed really well by the members. There is nothing as good as Mexican food made by an Authentic Mexican. Seviche is one food I don't really favor though.

The area here is greener than I tought it would be. There are palm trees all over the place here in Durango. I have been assigned to the Durango area. Durango city in the state of Durango. It's not as hot here as in Torreon, and it is so much greener. One day this week it rained for the first time in over a year and a half. I guess I bring miracles wherever I go. Anyway, it rained so hard that we had to take a taxi home, and even in the 5 seconds we were outside after we got out of the taxi, we got soaked. It rained harder than I have probably ever witnessed in my life.

The sun is pretty strong over here. My hair is already turning blonde, and it has only been a week since I have arrived in Mexico. Yesterday, I forgot to put on sunscreen, and even though due to sunday meetings we were only in the sun for about 2 hours total, I got pretty nicely burnt like a marshmallow. Unfortunately, I cant figure out a way to apply sunscreen to my scalp, so it just keeps getting more burnt every day. I gotta find some shampoo with sunscreen or something.

Well, I gotta go as I am out of time, so just all of you know I am safe and doing awesome. Until next week!

Elder Tyler Riggs

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tyler Has Arrived

Tyler with his Mission President & Wife
 Tyler arrived in Torreon around 12:30pm today.
I got to talk to him for a bit this morning. He was pretty tired as he didn't sleep at all, having to get up at 1:30am.  He was very excited to get there.

He leaves the mission home in the morning and his first assignment is in Durango, a 3 hour bus ride from Torreon.

PDay is on Monday, so I guess we will all hear more then.

You can still use to write to him. You can send it via pouch to Mexico-Torreon. They send them out on Monday mornings. I'm guessing it will then take a week or two to get to him, as the pouch goes to the mission office, and then is distributed to the missionaries sometime after that.  I'm sure he would love to hear from you all. If you would rather mail via US Post Office, the mission home address is:

Mision Mexico Torreon
Apartado Postal 792
29000 Torreon, Coahuila

Be sure to add enough postage!

Tyler & Elder Lopez (companion I am guessing)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Last Week in the MTC

So I'm finally leaving! I got my travel plans and my visa and I leave to Mexico early Monday morning! Here's what my schedule looks like:
Monday, May 21st, 2012
1:30 AM -- Wake up and get ready
2:30 AM -- Be at the Travel Office in the MTC
3:00 AM -- Leave the MTC on the shuttle bus and head to the SLC Airport
6:00 AM -- Plane leaves
9:35 AM -- Arrive in Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
10:15 AM -- Depart Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
12:15 PM -- Arrive in Torreon, Mexico and get picked up by the Mission President.
So, yeah. Family, expect a phone call really early in the morning. I'll probably call between 4:30 and 5:00 AM. Unfortunately, there is not enough time to call during my layover in Texas, as I have to board 30 minutes early. Sorry.
I was made travel leader of the group, so I hope nothing goes wrong because I don't want to have to deal with anything. I just want a smooth travel experience and be in Mexico already.
Apparently in Hermosillo, Mexico, temperatures are around 114 F right now. I'm expecting a weather shock, as Torreon is hotter than Hermosillo. It's probably going to be around 120 F when I get there. And it's going to get hotter as the summer really starts to come. I'm actually pretty excited. I'll probably drink 2 gallons of water a day just to keep myself hydrated.
Update on the Brother Free story (prank/troll/trick being played on the newest district in our zone [refer to the last letter]): They still think we are 2 separate people. Hermano Free is a returned missionary and is a ZRT Teacher who helps different districts with their spanish. He is the cousin of Elder Riggs, some think they are identically and some think they don't look that much alike. Hermano Free served a mission in Santiago, Chile. He has taught a few lessons to the new district and has been helping them with their spanish. So far this has been going on for over a week. I went in and talked to them a few times now as Hermano Free, wearing glasses, a different tie, a different belt, and some pretty worn out and unpolished shoes that resemble all the hard work he did in Chile. I'm going to break it to them Saturday. Yesterday, I had another missionary write an assignment on their board with all these scriptures they needed to look up and some inspiritational questions to which they need to put their answers on a peice of paper. Saturday I'm going to visit them as Hermano Free and start discussing the scriptures and reviewing their answers, and at the end as I am still teaching I'm going to slowly change into Elder Riggs, changing my tie and belt and shoes, putting on the glasses and lastly putting on the White Teacher Nametag/Plaque. It's going to be epic. They are fooled so hard right now, so I'm definitely going out with a bang. I doubt it will be forgotten for many weeks to come.
Spiritually, I can feel myself growing more and more every day. I have been reading the Book Of Mormon very thoroughly and have been getting so much out of it. I really wish I would have read it throughout high school, as I wish I knew it better. Not only is it a source of epic historic events (and I say historic because I know for a fact that they all actually happened), it is full of so many principles and lessons that can be applied to you to make you a better person. I treasure every opportunity I have to read the Book Of Mormon. Those who haven't read it: READ IT!! Those who have read it: READ IT THOROUGHLY! By thorough I mean think about the message behind each verse. After each verse, pause and think about all the possible things that verse is trying to tell you. Even "and my father dwelt in a tent" has plenty of messages behind it, as it talks about how the Lord has humbled Lehi, taking him out of his comfortable lifestyle and his many riches to live in a tiny, uncomfortable tent in the middle of the desert. If you do this, thoroughly read the Book of Mormon, I promise you that you will learn so much and will get 20 times more out of the book than if you just read through it the same way you would a novel. Especially the Isaiah Chapters. I got through them and actually was able to discern quite a bit of the symbolism because I read it thoroughly and for understanding.
I know this church is true, and I know that through it we can find joy. Only through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (which is the same church that Christ established on the earth, but now restored to its fulness) can we receive the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. I love my God, and I have realized that he has always been there for me, even when I haven't been there for him for most of my life. He is my true father, and I hold him to that respect. I have realized that my heavenly father means more to me than any earthly father ever could have, and that he has high things in store for my future. I hope to pay him back in some slight amount by serving this 2-year mission and bringing the restored gospel to the people of Mexico. I know that God the Father lives and so does is Son, Jesus Christ, and we can know these things for ourselves through the Holy Ghost. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our brother, redeemer, and the creator of all the earth, Amen.
Con amor, y hasta proxima semana cuando estare en Mexico,
Elder Tyler Riggs

Monday, May 14, 2012

Travel plans

So I heard that Tyler has received his travel plans. He will be leaving the comforts of the MTC on May 21 at 3am, catching a 6am flight to Mexico. I guess that means he got his visa! He is one excited missionary!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

End of Week 8 MTC

Como estan familia y amigos? (Sorry for the bad punctuation. On e-mail the keyboards aren't able to do a lot of the accents or punctuations specific to the spanish language.)
Esta ultima semana fue muy bien! Estoy aprendiendo mucho mas español cada dia en el CCM (MTC). No puedo esperar por el dia cuando puedo salir el CCM para ir a Mexico! Una semana mas!
This week has been an awesome week for Spanish! So, last week I requested that my mom send me in a guide on how to roll your tongue (needed for double r's in spanish). After 3 days of trying and trying, and following every method, and working out my tongue in ways I did not know I could do, I still couldn't get the trill. Then finally, yesterday I was in class and I kinda zoned out, and then I just let out a huge gust of air and I did it on accident! Then I proceeded to keep practicing the rest of the day for about 5 hours. I still couldn't resist doing it after we went to bed. I wouldn't be surprised if I did it all night in my sleep. Now I don't even have to think about it and I can make mini-gun sound effects easily. I've pretty must mastered keeping a consistent trill for as long as I have air in my lungs. Now I just need to work on putting the trill into words, which is a lot harder than it seems, especially when proceeded by an "a".
 So I've got 2 minutes left so I'm gonna make this fast. Hopefully my typing hasn't slowed down too much since leaving computers behind in the outside world. Not too many awesome stories this week. We had Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve come and talk to us in the devotional last Tuesday. It was pretty awesome. Our District has been pretty lucky, as we have had a third of the Twelve come talk to us. I don't think that happens very often, but I could be wrong. We brought in a new district this week. There's 10 of them, 8 of them going to Chile. Our district has got a hold of some pretty unique nametags. One of which is a White, teacher nametag, whose name is Brother Free. So I have introduced myself to them as Hermano Free, and that if they see my cousin Elder Riggs around to tell him I said Hi, and that some say we look a lot alike, so they should be able to recognize him. So far this is going as planned. Half of the district has met Hermano Free, and half has only caught glimpses of Elder Riggs. Elder Riggs will see them all tonight, and Hermano Free will visit them (with a new tie on) and help them with their spanish tomorrow.
Pues, Hasta Proxima Semana! 
Well,  Until Next Week!
Con Amor,
Elder Tyler Riggs

Thursday, May 3, 2012

MTC #7

So I'm really running out of things to talk about in these letters. Until I get to the field, I won't have any really good stories anymore. I am scheduled to leave May 21st if I get my Visa on time, so let's hope it gets here. If it doesn't, it won't be all that bad because my bro Alan Hawkins is coming May 23rd, so it would be nice to see him before I leave.
So this Wednesday (yesterday) I got to be a new missionary host, and our district is going to do it every Wednesday until we leave. What we do is pick up the new missionaries, take them and their bags to their residence, and then get all their stuff that they need from the bookstore and take them to their room. This time was a workout. It was a fairly hot day outside, and the first new missionary had a backpack, a carry-on, a medium-large suitcase, and a jam-packed heavy large suitcase. And I had to carry all of it....up 4 flights of stairs to his residence. And then I got to take him to his classroom up 5 flights of stairs. The second missionary was Elder Nathan Morris, from my home ward in Utah! I saw his car drive by and pull to the curb and told the other hosts I would take him. That was a pretty cool experience, and just as much of a workout. Pretty much, Mexico is going to be brutal if I was already sweating in the Spring season in Utah.
The weeks here at the MTC start on Monday, so we count the end of each week that Sunday. This is the Thursday of my 7th week, and I leave on the Monday of my 10th week (depending on Visas). It's kinda nice having P-day in the middle of the week, where we get a break from the busy schedule, as Sunday is also somewhat of a break.
So not a whole lot happened this last week. I did get some pretty awesome packages though! I'm lucky to have a Mom who appreciates the value of Mountain Dew and Pop Rocks. It's not against the rules here, but they only vend non-caffeinated Mt. Dew and Coke. Abominations in my eyes.
During the last devotional, there were a few interesting announcements. The MTC President announced that we can't do tie trading anymore, as it's apparently getting out of hand. Also, sometimes we get some anti-mormon protesters outside the MTC gates on the way to the Provo Temple. We were told in the last devotional to not talk to them, but to still be polite. It's probably a good thing our district wasn't there when it happened, as it could have become a little too contentious. I can think of a few Elders, including myself, who wouldn't have taken kindly to these protesters.
As far as the language goes, I'm getting pretty decent. I realize that once I get to Mexico, I'm going to be completely lost for a while, but I think I'll survive. Our entire district can teach just about anything about the gospel in the language now. It's pretty nice, because now instead of memorizing the words and phrases we need to say, we have time to prepare for what we want to commit him the investigators (role-playing) to do and evaluate what needs they have for next time.
We brought in a new district to our zone last wednesday. Their aight. I don't really know them all that well, and honestly I only know a few of their names. And yet somehow they all know mine. Kinda not a good thing for me as the Senior District Leader (district leader of the eldest district).
Well I'm about out of time, and I honestly can't think of anything else to say. All of the days and weeks seem to blend together, and I'm not completely sure if what I think happened this week could have happened 2 weeks ago.
Hasta la proxima semana,
Elder T. Mitchell Riggs
(yeah, that name sounds pretty official, don't it?)