Soldier in God's Army

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

Monday, July 30, 2012

Primer Bautismo!

30 de Julio, 2012

Juan got baptized and confirmed! But you'll have to wait for that, as I am going to tell last week's stories in chronological order. So here we go:

After I wrote the last letter, we went to a family home evening with an inactive family that hasn't been to church in 5 years. They haven't let the missionaries or ward members go past their gate since their conversion, but we somehow made it all the way through their door, and they even made us Mexican pancakes! Pretty exciting. We took a photo together and it's attached. They have 5 kids. We're working with them little by little to get them back to church.

Last week we had a really weird storm. Half of the sky was blue and bright, and the other half was covered with dark clouds. These clouds kept rumbling without ceasing for about 2 hours. Pure thunder, no lightning. Really weird. It sounded like my stomach before we eat lunch with the members. It did eventually rain a little bit, but not as much as we were expecting.

Maria de Jesus wasn't at her house when we went to interview her for her baptism, so she will have to wait until after her operation. Juan got baptized though! The first time the ordinance was said wrong, and Juan also forgot to plug his nose. The second time it was said right, and he almost didn't go under the water. All was under the surface except his mustache, and the Member baptizing him had to force him down....and Juan still didn't plug his nose! So he was under water, and everyone could hear his gurgling under the water. Everyone got a good laugh out of it, and Juan was baptized and then confirmed the next day in sacrament meeting. It has been a pretty special experience with Juan. His mother accepted the gospel and got baptized about 25 or more years ago, and ever since then has been trying to help Juan accept it, and now he finally has. They are both really happy, and I know it meant a lot to her.

Francisco, the friend that Juan brought to the second lesson, also has been taught all of the lessons. He has been to every appointment with Juan since the first lesson with him, and he also went to all the church meetings yesterday! That means he only needs to go this week and he will get baptized next Saturday as planned. He is also pretty excited. He has already read a lot in the Book of Mormon. He's almost done with 1st Nephi. He loves reading in the Book of Mormon, as he told us.

Update on my feet: just as my left foot was healing up, I injured my right foot in the same way. And shortly after, due to putting most of my weight on my left foot, I reinjured it also just a little. We went to see prices for special in-soles today, and I expect President Flores or his wife will tell us to go order them tomorrow. After that it should be the end to my problems. But it's all been worth it, especially with Juan's baptism.

Spanish is going really well. Nobody believes me when I tell them I only have 2 months in the field. I can pretty much speak fluently and naturally without translating anything in my head. Right now I'm just working on expanding my vocabulary. So far pretty good! I love getting compliments on my Spanish.

Gotta go! Keep me updated!

Monday, July 23, 2012

¡¡¡2 Bautismos!!!

23 de Julio, 2012

This week has been crazy! I can't believe that I already have as much time here in the field as I completed in the MTC. It doesn't seem like I've been here for 2 months already....which means I have completed 4 months.....a sixth of my mission in total. Crazy. The next transfer comes up pretty soon, in 3 weeks.

So we've got 2 baptisms coming up this Saturday, the 28th! One is Maria de Jesus, who I've already told you about. The other is Juan. Juan is an old investigator that was dropped because he never went to church, therefore he wasn't progressing and couldn't get baptized, neither did he want to. Recently, Juan suddenly started showing up at church! He has gone every Sunday for the past 4 weeks! Last week, we picked him up as an investigator again, taught him the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I invited him to be baptized. He was hesitant, but we invited him to pray about it that night and sincerely ask God if he should get baptized on the 28th. The next lesson a few days later, we approached his house and his friend, Francisco, was with him. Juan told us that he invited Francisco to the appointment, and they were both really excited. Juan said he received an answer to his prayer and is excited to get baptized. We also invited Francisco, who read (together with Juan) the entire pamphlet of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, along with a good portion of the Book of Mormon. We invited him to get baptized as well, and he accepted. His baptism will probably be the 11th of August, as we have to reset the date because he didn't show up at church yesterday (you need 2 weeks in 1 month to get baptized). So yeah, if all goes well I will finally have some baptism pictures for you next week!

So the new missionary program is now in effect. I've already knocked on my last door, presented my last Book of Mormon. As of right now, this program isn't in effect for all the missions. As far as I know, only for 5 missions in Mexico. If it goes well, maybe more missions. I'm not exactly sure all the reasons for the program. Maybe for safety, maybe because the normal method isn't working well enough, who knows. Probably both.

Today, we had a multi-zone activity with the Mission President and his family! It was crazy fun! We went to a theme park kind of place called "Viejo Oeste", which translates to "Old West". It was pretty fun. We took tons of photos, and there was an audience-interactive performance...and I got to participate. President Flores, Elder Hernandez (an elder in my district) and I were chosen to participate. The first thing I knew, a woman about my age in an old-western dress hooked her arm around mine and led me to a designated area to wait..... I hadn't come into contact with anyone of the opposite sex for 4 months and had no idea what to do, so I stood there like a rock. I kept asking the mission president's wife if this was against the rules. Rather than answering me, she just kept laughing and taking photos. Pretty much freaked me out, as this girl held me tight for the entire 30 minutes or so of the performance.

Sorry the letter is so short. We don't have much time today after the activity, and we have a lesson really soon. But there's lots of photos! Next week hopefully I can say more. Until then, peace out family!

Monday, July 16, 2012

An American-Mexican

16 de Julio, 2012

Wow this week has passed by fast! First off, earlier on this week I took the challenge of eating a raw habanero pepper. A little background about this pepper: it's medium sized, yellowish orange, and is the spiciest pepper of all the natural pepper (the exception is the Ghost Pepper, which is genetically altered). So we were eating dinner in the home of a member, and there was a basket of habaneros. My companion said I should try one, not really thinking I had the guts. So I took one, and he started recording it. He said just to eat the tip, but I bit off all but the stem. I chewed and chewed, and nothing happened. 5 seconds after swallowing, it was like someone put a hot coal on my tongue. I downed about 4 glasses of the served beverage, a ton of salt, and a tortilla and after about 20 minutes of suffering, there was only just a little bit of pain still in my mouth. And now I can say I'm a Mexican. Attached is a video of proof.

Not that I'm expecting anything, but just so you know, you can't send homemade food in packages. Only factory-sealed food will pass the border, as they inspect everything. Yeah, that means I can't have Mom's homemade Christmas sugar cookies for 2 years.

So far I have lost about 7 kilograms (according to the scale last Monday). That's like 15 pounds. That's a kilo every week! Right now I only weigh 215 lbs, so yeah, I'm lighter than I was in high school. Pretty soon I'll have a 6 pack for sure haha.

The rain has been crazy! It rained every day last week.... 7 days in a row! And when it rains, it floods. Attached is a picture of me with some palmeras in the rain. I'm loving it.

So I finally got sick here. Today I was bed ridden all day. The movie Alien kept popping into my head and the part where the Aliens are born by exploding out of the stomachs of the humans after they are I was kind of expecting to give birth to an Alien in the same fashion. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously it hurt that bad for about 10 straight hours. I'm almost good now, but yeah.... I'm so glad I have my Excedrin.

So we've got a new Missionary Program starting up pretty soon. We're not going to all. No knocking on doors, no contacting in the street, nada. We are only going to work with less active members, and when we receive references from members we teach them, but only with a member present in the lesson. The whole way of missionary life as we know it is going to change!

As far as the work, it's going better. We had 6 less active members attend church yesterday, and 3 investigators and 3 recent converts. We are working with Maria de Jesus and her baptism date is set for the 28th of this month.

Yet again, I gotta go!

-Elder Tyler Riggs

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Las bendiciones estan lloviendo sobre nuestras cabezas

9 de Julio, 2012

Blessings have been raining down on our heads lately... figuratively and literally. The area here is pretty much the opposite of how I thought it would be. It rains here at least 3 days a week, sometimes more. And when it rains, it rains hard. One time it rained so hard we had to take a taxi from the church to our house. In the total 15 seconds total that we were in the rain, I was so drenched I had to wring my shirt out once we got inside. I love the rain! I'm so glad I'm in Durango during the summer, because it is crazy hot and dry in Torreon, and they don't have the cool breezes we have here.

So a lot of the stuff in this letter is going to be about food.... I've had some good experiences with it so I gotta share. First off, I have invented what I call "el rey de los sandwiches de desayuno" (the king of breakfast sandwiches). You start out with a 2 or 3 egg omelette with salt, red pepper, and salsa verde mixed in with the eggs. Inside the omelette, you've got pan-fried chorizo, bacon, manchego cheese, and salsa verde. You put butter on the insides of the bread (specially bought in a panaderia, which is crazy good) and fry both sides of each cut piece. Then you put the omelette in the bread, and eat it with limes and salsa verde (I love salsa verde, if you couldn't tell). I ate this for breakfast every day this week, and it brought happiness to my soul, truly.

There is a Burger stand in our area called Gordo Burguer. We ate there last Monday and it was amazing. Mexican hamburgers are so much better than their American counterpart. They have jalepeños instead of pickles, and they ad a slice of ham, a pineapple ring, and bacon. So good. While we were at Gordo Burguer, one of the workers (because I'm white) was practicing his English with me. He asked for a Book of Mormon in English, but we didn't have one. We ordered one and are going to give it to him in a week or two when we finally get it. What better way to learn a language, right?

Another strange food that is common here is Nopales, that flat cactus plant. They are actually pretty good, especially with eggs and chile. 

The women here really like to make beverages from all sorts of juices. This week I have had Mango juice, Tamarind juice, Papaya juice, and a mix of all three with lime and pineapple juice. Gotta love it. The papaya juice is unlike anything I have ever tried before.

I am now addicted to the Watermelon flavored Arizona's beverage. I kick back at least one every week.

Hermana Mejia (the doctor in our ward who answers all our medical concerns free of charge) is like a mama to us here. Today, she invited us over for pie. When we arrived expecting her to dish out a piece for each of us, she informed us that she made one for each of us. She then sent us back out on the road with 2 entire cheese pies in hand... gotta love her!

All in all, my diet has truly changed. I eat a lot of fruit here too, but I can't eat like an American anymore. Last week I made Mac & cheese and couldn't resist putting salsa verde in it..... it was super good! You all gotta try it. Seriously, I can't prepare any food anymore without eating it with salsa verde, and preferably with a lime or two in hand.

Other blessing.... Saturday we took a taxi from one of our area limits to the other side of the area at that limit. When we asked the taxi driver how much we owed, he said we should buy some sodas, on him. So yeah, free taxi ride. I'm sure he made more money that day as a reward haha. 

Today, during our P-Day, we went to the church to shoot some hoops for about 2 hours before going to the grocery store next door. I can finally say I can shoot a basketball! I finally learned how, and I was making free throws and 3 pointers like crazy. My record today was 8 free throws in a row. Quite an accomplishment for me, as I have always been terrible at basketball. 

The investigators are doing pretty good. Maria de Jesus had her 3rd lesson, and she is truly golden. I feel like I could never match up to her faith and willingness to follow Christ. She was supposed to have the surgery on her back today, so we will see if she uses her recovery time to read the Book of Mormon. She is excited for when she has fully recuperated and can be baptized, and so are we for that matter.

Last week, we went with the bishop to see Carlos Ayala (the man who contacted us). He wasn't available, but we checked out the area and came to the conclusion that it is safe to visit him, even if we can't get a member to come with us. We are still going to try to get someone to go with us, but if we can't it's ok. It's not that we are afraid, it's just that a few things have been happening that has caused the mission to be on high alert, and we just gotta be extra careful and listen to the promptings of the Spirit regarding danger. Neither of us felt anything dangerous, so we decided we are going to visit him today, after we e-mail our families. 

We had a new cambio last week, and our entire zone got changed up. We met the new elders in our district yesterday. One of them is brand new, as this is his first area. I feel for him. I remember how frustrated I was the first week, when everyone was speaking crazy fast and I didn't understand a thing. But now this means I'm no longer a newbie! There are 2 elders in our zone who have less time in the mission and field than me, so I feel more like a normal elder now.

As for my foot, it is way better, but it still hurts when we walk. When we walk, we have to take a break every 2 blocks, according to the doctor's orders. And we have a plan for how we have to rest for the next 2 weeks (its a 3 week thing). We still work as hard as we can, we just take a little more time getting to our appointments and plans. We are going to order my in-soles/arc supports this week.

One last thing, Saturday night we got a phone call from the bishop asking us to give a talk in sacrament meeting. So yesterday we each talked for 8 minutes. I talked about the parable of the Lord's Vineyard (as told in the book of Matthew, chapter 20, verses 1-16). I read the first 10 verses of the parable and explained that the vineyard resembles the church, the laborers represent the members of the church, but so do the trees. One aspect of this parable that was revealed to me that many people don't focus on is the labor itself that takes place in the vineyard. The laborers have 2 tasks in the vineyard. First off, we, as laborers in the vineyard (members of the church), have the responsibility of taking care of the trees in the vineyard (other members of the church, mainly in our ward). We do this through home teaching, visiting teaching, service, inviting others to family home evenings, and an endless list of other things we can do. The second task that the laborers do in the vineyard is plant new seeds that will then grow into new seeds. This resembles bringing new people into the church. THIS IS MISSIONARY WORK!!! This clearly states that our job as members is also to convert others to the gospel, to bring those outside of the church into the church, not shun them as, sadly, I have seen a handful of members of the church in the United States do. The members of the church are also missionaries, and it is their responsibility to plant to new seeds. I then extended the challenge that before the end of this month of July, with the help of prayer and the guidance of the Holy Ghost, every member can invite a person/family to a family home evening in the company of the missionaries. I extend this invitation to all those who read this letter as well. By the latest, the end of the month of August, you should put forth the effort to do the labor of the Lord. All those who do this will receive more blessings than they have room for, and in forms that they may not have expected. Something I realized during my talk and said to the congregation is that "If we really believe in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we will apply it to our lives and experience the joy that comes from it. If we really understand the restored gospel the importance thereof, we will have the desire to share it with all those who we know, and even those who we may not know at the time."

Well, yet again I gotta go. I hope you all are doing good. I haven't heard much about what is going on in the outside world, but I hope it's all going good, that Obama's losing, and Romney's winning. Or at least anyone other than Obama. I have already seen many miracles in the mission, and they all show that this church is true. I know it, and I cannot deny it. Need I say more?

- Elder Tyler Riggs

Friday, July 6, 2012

1 de Julio, 2012

1 de Julio, 2012

Pictures attached in this email and the next (not enough room here) (Pictures include photos of the apartment, me perfecting my basketball shot, us with our beautiful pizzas, the Mexican horizons, and awesome red-orange camaro, my correction of what a cereal box should say we should do on sundays, and me in front of a moving train)

Well another week has passed, and they are flying by progressively faster! Last we, we ended up having to go to the orthopedist and he thought I had a stress fracture in my foot. We took x-rays, and luckily that is not the case. The bones in my toes above my arc are nicely injured though. He gave me a prescription for medication called Atridol, which has 3 main active ingredients: anti-inflammation agent, high-strength pain-killer, and an extremely strong muscle relaxer. I get to take this pill every 8 hours, and needless to say, I pretty much haven't been myself lately. I´m pretty much completely out of it, dead tired to due the muscle relaxers, and at times I laugh at things that aren't in the least bit funny. This first day, I laughed because I saw a pigeon. I guess you could say I've been in my happy place the last few days. 

The orthopedist also said I had to buy these gel pad things to put under my foot that connects to the toe next to my big toe via a gel ring. Interesting. Also, I have to get some special arc supports made. It turns out, all of this is caused by my arc, which is extremely big (19 mm high). Normally, a footprint includes the toes, the ball just behind the toes, a curve outwards that looks like an arc, and then that connects to the heel. Due to my extremely high arcs, the part in the middle that curves outward doesn't exist, and there is a space between the ball and the heel. So yeah, all of my weight is put on the middle of my foot and my arc, which pretty much bends my entire foot back with every step. Hurts.

Other thing that happened last week....Pizza Celebration! Me and Elder Lopez celebrated our cumplimez with Dominoes Pizza! Pretty much awesome. It's definitely my monthly tradition from now on. 

We ended the first cambio yesterday (companionship change, as cambio means change). Normally I would have a different companion now, but me and Elder Lopez are going to be together a total of 12 weeks for the new missionary training program. Our entire district has changed. 1 area got closed down, and in other both of the missionaries are changing. Pretty crazy.

So we are finally starting to pick up some new investigators here! The other day we were walking in the street when a truck stopped in front of us and the guy rolled down his window. He, his wife, and his daughter were in the truck, and he started asking us where we were from and just talking to us. Then he asked what we do, and we explained and shared a message about the plan of salvation and the book of mormon, and what we believe. He gave us his address and his name (Carlos) and said he wanted us to go visit him and his family. For safety reasons, when somebody approaches us and wants us to visit them, it's better to go with a member. So far we haven't gotten anybody to go with us yet, but we plan to this week.

We also picked up 2 new investigators, and they are both awesome....and both really good friends......and both named Maria. I call them Maria de Jesus and Maria Dos. Maria de Jesus was a reference we received from elders in our district. We finally got a hold of her the 4th time we went to her house, and she and Maria Dos both accepted the lessons right then and there. We were invited back the next day, so we went. Maria Doz wasn't there, but Maria de Jesus was and after the lesson I invited her to be baptized. She accepted, and the date is set for the 28th (late because she has to have surgery and recover 15 days without movement afterwards). We are going to do the same for Maria Dos. So far, they are both keeping their commitments completely. Golden Investigators, la verdad.

Honestly, I can´t even speak English anymore. Especially when I'm on these pills, all I can think of is in Spanish. So yeah, I'm pretty worn out by writing this letter in English. I'm just not used to it. Because of that, I must go. Also because we have some work to do. Until next week!

-Elder Riggs