Soldier in God's Army

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

Monday, June 25, 2012

¡He cumplido un mez!

25 de Junio, 2012

So this letter will also be a little short, as I still have some laundry to do and we have a few appointments we need to go to soon. Sorry!

As for the pictures you wanted of us playing capture the flag in the ruins.... I didn't take any pictures. Sorry! Maybe I can get one of the other Elders to send me some of the pictures they took. We'll see. But I have a ton of other pictures attached! Including pictures of me with my cane, some awesome graffiti, and some other good stuff. Speaking of pictures, hey Ma, you think you could print of that picture of me and the MaicDonalds stand and give it to MissionaryMall? That would be awesome.

So yesterday we went to the doctor in our ward for the third time, and she checked my tendon. She said I don't have a contracture anymore, but I still have a few other problems and it's still gonna hurt for a while. But I don't need the cane anymore! We did find out something pretty bad. Apparently I have extremely large arches in my feet, and a few other things that contribute to the cause. All of these make me walk differently, with my feet slightly tilted inwards towards the arches. This is what caused the contracture in the first place, and if I don't go to an orthopedist, I am going to have this problem many times in the mission. Either that or I have to buy a cane and use it every time I feel pain. We'll see what the mission president's wife tells us to do. All I know is, I don't want another contracture. It's kinda like a charlie horse in the tendons, except you can't massage it out or stretch it out, all you can do is wait a few days.... or a week haha.

So Memo and Vicky didn't get baptized. Vicky didn't pass the interview (just not ready) and Memo passed, and we were going to baptize him Saturday at 5, but he called us at 1:30 telling us he got in a fight with his wife and wasn't ready that day. We are working with them this next week and hope to baptize them both this upcoming Saturday. Ojalá.

We haven't visited Almadelia in over a week, as she is always so busy and we can't find a time to visit her, but we are going to set an appointment for this week.

So, I already completed a month in Mexico and 3 months total in the mission! To celebrate, Elder Lopez and I are ordering Dominos Pizza (that's right, there's a Dominos pizza here) tomorrow to celebrate my 3 months and his 10.

Right now is a trying time, as we can't seem to find new investigators. We're gonna try out an experiment in our contacting though. Rather than knocking every door of an entire street, we are going to go where we feel like we should go and only knocks the doors that we feel we should knock on according to how we feel the spirit is directing us.

Well yet again I gotta go, but next week I hope to write more. They say a picture tells a thousand words. Well I've attached 6, so I'm pretty sure that makes up for the small amount that I have written here. Until next week!

- Elder Tyler Riggs

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Crazy Life Of A Mexican Missionary

So I still haven´t met the owner of the MaicDonalds stand, but when I do I´m definitely getting a picture with him of us shaking hands. If you don´t know what MaicDonalds is, you seriously need to check the pictures from one of the previous e-mails.

Sorry I don´t have a lot to write about this week. We have been busy, but not a lot has happened. This weeks I´ll write stuff down if something happens so I can remember to put it in the letters, otherwise the letters will be pretty empty.

So this week has been awesome. A little frustrating though. We didn´t find any new investigators and we´re getting a little frustrated with some of our investigators, like Vicky and Memo.

Vicky and Memo didn´t get baptized, but we rescheduled their baptismal date for this upcoming Saturday. Then yesterday, they didn´t go to church. They say that they still have the desire to be baptized, but we feel as though they are avoiding their baptism. If they don´t get baptized this Saturday, we´re thinking we might have to drop them, as them have been investigating the church since December and still aren't progressing. We´ll see what happens.

Fatima, a nine-year old granddaughter of a member couple, got baptized this last Saturday! She didn´t want to get baptized for a while, but she finally had the desire and we attended the service. It was pretty special. Also, in my first week here Fatima and her grandparents asked me to teach her English, so I have been giving her lessons every time we visit. Right now she is saying her prayers in English (or parts in English), can count to 29 and knows the alphabet and all of its sounds.

Amadelia is really doing well. We are going to teach her the third lesson this week and invite her to be baptized. She really has been prepared to receive the gospel, and she has the desire to learn more. So far she has completed every commitment we have given her.

This week, on Thursday, I will complete 3 months in the mission! It has been going by so fast. It´s weird to think I´m an eight of the way there already.

One cool thing about Mexico is how cheap you can buy stuff. The other day, I bought a pretty awesome tie for 15 pesos (a little more than a dollar). One of these days me and Elder Lopez are gonna go to the tianguis, little tienditas/stands that sell stuff really cheap, like shoes, ties, and other stuff.

So here in Mexico, it´s pretty common to see tree/shrub art. This one was pretty cool, in the shape of a bird.

Inline image 1

Oh, so today is P-Day. Earlier today, our entire zone met up in a Ranchito and we played Capture the Flag, but to an entirely new, extreme level. We played Cautura la Bandera in the ruins of an ancient, collapsed catholic cathedral! Pretty awesome huh? There were tunnels and caves and tons of partially crumbled walls that made it perfect to hide, and other places were perfect for prisons. It was awesome. Even with my injury, I ran and played like crazy. Honestly, it was pretty awesome. After we played for a few hours, we all ate Mexican hamburguesas and refrescas (soda). Pretty much the funnest P-Day ever. I´ll have to send photos next week if the other Elders send me some.

Oh yeah, so I mentioned my injury but I never told you. So, remember how I said we walk a lot? Like, 7 to 8 hours a day? Well on Saturday, while we were walking, my left foot just started killing a ton. I figured it was just one of those normal things that leaves the next day, so I kept walking and limping the rest of the day. Then when I woke up yesterday, it was still hurting like crazy and I couldn´t put any weight on it. So I continued to walk on it. Today, in the morning, it was even worse, but I really wanted to play Cautura la Bandera, so we went anyway. While we were playing and I was running, I didn´t feel any pain. This usually happens when I have adrenaline pumping in my blood. After the epic event, we were walking back to the bus stop and I couldn´t even walk normally, putting my foot behind my body. We ended up going to an hermana in our ward who is a doctor, and she looked and it, and said I have a Contracture in one of the ligaments or tendons (I don´t remember which) in the main ligament/tendon in the left foot, that connects behind the big toe all the way up to the top of the calf. A contracture is when a lot of weight or force or tension (in my case all three) is put on the ligament/tendon, and it tenses up and won´t stretch or relax and it stays like that permanently until treated. So she gave me a prescription for pills and a crema that I have to use a few times each day for a few weeks, and also that I have to rest it and not walk for a day. She also gave me a cane and said I need to put all my weight on the cane and almost none on my left leg until she says I don´t have to use it anymore. We are going to visit her again on Wednesday or Thursday so she can check up on me. To be honest, I look pretty hilarious with this cane. I feel like an old man haha. I´ll have to send pictures next week. We didn´t take any yet because we just left the house of Hermana Mejilla (la doctora).

Missionary work is hard, yet the fruits of the labors are so worth it. I´m so happy right know, and I don´t even know exactly why. When we work hard and forget ourselves in our labors in the Lord´s vineyard, time passes by faster than I can believe. Also, it´s getting harder and harder to speak English. I think I´m at the point now where I can speak Spanish better than I can speak English. The other day, as I was practicing English with Elder Lopez (to help him learn to speak it and understand it better, as we do every night after we return to the house), I was trying to say something in English but no words came to my head. Not even kidding, we sat there in silence for at least 3 minutes as I tried to think, but no English whatsoever was coming to me. I finally said it in Spanish and he told me in English haha! Pretty much hilarious.

Well, we gotta go out and work, so until next week, Love You all and write me people! applies here too, and it´s way faster than snail mail. I have sent a few letters out via snail mail, but it takes a few weeks, sometimes up to 2 months, for them to arrive in the U.S. and for snail mail from the U.S. to arrive here, entonces tengan paciencia. ¡Adios y hasta proxima semana!

-Elder Tyler M. Riggs

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Like A Mexican

June 11, 2012

First, to answer some questions:

1. My specific area is the Guadalupe area of Durango, Durango, Mexico.

2. Yes, I'm safe. But even if I wasn't I wouldn't say in these emails
that anything dangerous is going on for the sake of not giving my
mother a heart attack. I can share such stories after the mission.

3. Every month we receive money, and we go to an ATM with our credit
cards and take it all out at once, so we don't have to pay the
withdrawal fee multiple times. I think it should be enough to survive
each month.

4. On P-Day, we wash clothes, shop for food, study, eat, clean the
house, exercise, sometimes reunite with the District to play sports of
some kind, and e-mail. We don't usually e-mail until the end of P-Day
around 5:00 PM in our time. At 6:00, we go back out to work and teach.

So, Viki and Memo didn't get baptized. They ended up being out of town
that saturday and didn't notify us. But they did go to church
yesterday, and we have an appointment to meet with them Tuesday, and
then me and Elder Lopez will determine whether or not they are ready
to get baptized this week or whether they will have to wait until next

We have a new investigator! Hermano Veloz gave us a reference to a
friend of his named Amadelia, and we were going on splits last Monday
so I was going to teach her while my companion was teaching someone
else. The lesson turned out really well. After I got to know her for a
bit, I felt that I needed to teach her the Plan of Salvation. I did
so, and committed her to read the entire pamphlet after we left. I
also taught her how to pray and got her to end the lesson with a
prayer. We are going to teach her again at 6:30 tonight and invite her
to be baptized.

I had my first companion exchange on Wednesday with Elder Levie, and
it was pretty good. One of his investigators got ahold of anti-mormon
literature. After they were talking a bit, I asked if she prayed
sincerely about the things she was taught. She said yes, but I'm not
so sure. I then told her, and I still remember exactly what I said
(but they seemed to not be my words, so I'm sure they were from the
spirit), " Hermana, siento que usted está buscando respuestas en las
palabras de hombres, pero usted tiene que buscar respuestas
directamente de Dios. Si usted está buscando por errores para probar
algo en contra de la iglesia de Jesucristo, usted va a encontrarlos y
nada más. Pero si usted está buscando la verdad y sinceramenta quiere
recibir una respuesta, usted va a recibirlo, encontrar la verdad, y
saber estas cosas por si mismo." She seemed to realize that she was
going about the investigation process all wrong, and I believe she
will try to find out the right way from now on.

I'm still getting darker. I have a pretty good tan line where I wear
my watch, so we'll see how that looks in 2 years.

So my companion and I are a pretty funny sight. He is really dark, as
he is from Veracruz, Mexico and he has been in the field for almost 10
months now. He is probably about 5´2", so we really stand out. He
calls me "The Thing" from Fantastic 4, because I am not accustomed to
the small sized of things here, like the cars and doorframes and
especially houses. Every day I hit my head on a doorframe or cieling
at least once. So yeah, I'm still getting used to being here. My feet
and legs are definitely used to it now though. I can walk the same
speed as Elder Lopez and my feet don't hurt by the end of the day

So the Spanish language is coming along. I can finally understand just
about everything that is said by the people here, and I can express
just about everything that I want to say. Right now I'm just working
on expanding my vocabulary. I get a lot of practice here, as nobody
knows English. Some think they know it thought. A few days ago, we
were walking on a dirt road and this guy pulled up beside us in his
truck and offered us a ride. We said no thanks, and he drove on. As we
kept walking, we turned the corner and he was stopped and he was out of
the truck. He was about to walk in to a store when he saw us, and
looked at me and said "Hey! My amigo!" Then he talked to us, half in
Spanish and half in English, saying he lived in Washington State for
15 years and he knows English. He gave me his business card and said
that if I wanted to eat he would feed me and we could talk about the
word of God. I'm pretty sure we won't go eat at his house, but we
passed him on as a reference as he does not live in our area.

Just like my Meximerican friend, many people have been greeting us
lately. My companion, Elder Lopez, says he only ever gets so many
greetings when he is with an American companion. It seems like on the
streets someone honks their horn and waves at us every 3 minutes.

It seems like there are just as many stray dogs here as there are
people. Some of them are a little viscious, and my companion is pretty
terrified of them. I told him you just need to show them who's boss
and that you're not afraid, because they can pretty much sense it.
We've had a few experiences where I've had to show him this. A few
days ago a huge german shepherd start running after us and I just
looked at it and walked on by and it stopped. I think the best
experience with this was about 2 weeks ago when we were walking on the
sidewalk and a pretty big black lab started running straight at Elder
Lopez. I was walking behind him to the side, so I turned around and
braced myself, ready to get bitten and then beat it, but then it
stopped. We stood there staring at each other for quite a while, and
then it just walked away back to it's house.

So, in Ley (the grocery story next to our apartment) every time we go
in there, Last Friday Night by Katy Perry is playing. Without fail we
hear it as we are shopping. So now I always have that song stuck in my
head during the day, every day. It's kinda funny how most of the music
here is in English, yet the people here can't understand what they are
listening to.

One nice thing about being a missionary is all the free food the
members love to give us. Most of the members (there are about 90 in
our ward) make money by making and selling food, such as fresh potato
chips, watermelon, and stuff like that. Last week, we were contacting
knocking on doors (or metals fences, rather, as every door is guarded
by fairly large metal fences/gates) and we came across an outdoor
store that sells frozen desserts. As we were walking by, a man came
running out telling us to wait, and he gave us a reference (his
father, who was in the hospital). We later found out that he is a
member, and so is is whole family except for his dad. His brother
owned the frozen dessert store, and offered us some dessert. It was
crazy hot, so I had no choice but to accept the offer. They made this
thing that started off with snow in a big cup, then they put
strawberries and cream in it, some kind of strawberry syrup, and milk.
So good.

Also, every day here, one of the member families feeds us lunch. Here
in mexico, Breakfast is small, Dinner is medium-small, but Lunch is
pretty much a feast. So far I haven't had anything too weird to eat.
The weirdest is probably Chicharón, which is pig skin. I didn't really
like that too much, but I ate it anyway. My favorite food so far has
got to be the taquitos. The hermanas here really know how to cook. The
best plate: Taquitos, guacamole, salsa verde, refried beans and
mexican rice, and Chile Relleños (stuffed peppers), with a glass of
mango juice. I have started to get pretty good at eating with
tortillas. If you don't use a tortilla to wrap the spicy food in, your
mouth will get burned, especially with the chilis. I'm probably gonna
have to relearn how to use a fork after my mission.

As much as the mission brings blessings, there's a curse that comes
with it as well. My face has been growing hair faster than my razor
can keep up. Lately I have had to shave 2 times a day to keep a
missionary-shaven face. Plus if I don't shave the second time in the
day, the next time I try to shave my razor won't cut very well and I
have to trim it first, then cut. So yeah, you can expect that I'm
getting a little razor-burnt on my face. It's worth it though!

I have noticed that when I work hard and lose myself in the work, time
really flies by. This week flew by so fast, it seems like just
yesterday I was here writing the last e-mail.

Well I gotta go preach and teach and serve, so until next week, !Más Alla!
Elder Tyler Riggs

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

1st Baptism!

June 4, 2012

Well this week has been awesome! We were teaching this couple that has been investigating the church since December but would never accept a baptismal date, and at the end of the lesson, I laid down the law and invited them to get baptized and they accepted! Viki and Memo are getting baptized June 9th! I'm so excited.

So the culture here is gonna take me some time to get used to. You have to say these a lot more suave, soft and not so direct. In the U.S. and in English, we are a lot more direct. I'm even pretty direct for English, let alone Spanish. For example, you can't just ask somebody what their name is. You have to drag it out and apologize for not already knowing it, and then ask extremely carefully. This can be tedious when contacting.

Life here is not near as hard as I thought it was going to be, even though we don't have hot water. Although every time I take a shower, it feels like I'm taking a dip in the waters of one of the polar ice caps, you get used to it. After jumping in the freezing cold water and screaming for 5 minutes, your body pretty much numbs up and then you can get to business. Not too bad.

Our apartment is not too bad. I actually have a pretty big fan next to my bed that I blast on high and it runs as I sleep. We don't have clean water, as all the water from the tap is full of parasites and minerals. The nice thing is we can go down the street and buy 20 liters of purified water (courtesy of Ciel, a branch of the Coca Cola Company) for about 20 pesos.

Laundry is definitely different here. Our neighbors let us use their washing machine for our white shirts, and we wash everything else using 2 buckets and a plunger (never been used on a toilet, of course). The big bucket is full of soapy water, and you use the plunger to throw the clothes around in the bucket like a washing machine. After that, you wring out the clothes one by one, and rinse it out in the smaller bucket full of plain water. Then you wring that out and hang it up.

My companion, Elder Lopez, is a native to Veracruz, Mexico. We get along great, and I'm glad he knows a little English so he can translate most of the words I want to learn into Spanish.

This area in Durango is so awesome. I love the Palmeras (palm trees). They're everywhere.
The picture below is an area that has some, but there are more in other parts of Durango, mainly in Central (more city-like).
Inline image 1

One funny thing that happened last week. Me and Elder Lopez were walking toward some powerlines, and a pigeon flew into the powerlines, got zapped, and fell to the ground dead. I think the birds here in Mexico are not as intelligent as those in the U.S.
Inline image 2

Hilarious, after church on Sunday we passed by this stand. I'm not sure what was going on here, but I think they buy McDonalds food and resell it. MaicDonalds: So close, yet so far.
Inline image 1

I want to express those of you who haven´t read the Book of Mormon the importance of it and would exhort you to read it. Especially the young men who are planning to go on missions. You can't expect to preach the word before you obtain it. For me, the reason I didn't read it for so long was because I didn't truly know what it was about, and I expect that is how it is for most members who haven't read this book. If you truly knew what was in the book, you would not wait any longer to read it. It's actually pretty fun to read! Not only does it contain a fullness of the gospel, and not only is it the most correct book ever published, it is also pretty entertaining. And I promise you that after you do read it (sincerely and prayerfully), you will have the desire to share it with everybody else in the world. So read it! If I could do it, you can do it.

I leave my testimony that I know this church is true, and I regret not putting my whole self into it. My advice to the youth: God has blessed you greatly to allow you to be a part of his Kingdom on Earth very early in life, and it is like a slap to the face to not take advantage of it. Don't follow in the ways of the world, I know it is especially hard in high school, but persevere to the end. Don't be like me. Take it from my experience: it is a lot easier to gain a testimony and stay on the straight and narrow path while you are young than it is to try to get back on it years later. I say these things, knowing that they are derived from the commandments of God through the prophets, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen