Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Elder Bednar is the Best

We have some pictures this week! Hooray! 

Maybe the spirituality of this e-mail can make up for last week's. Because that's most of what I have to talk about!

The Character of Christ

So for our Sunday Devotional we watched a recording of a devotional Elder Bednar gave at the Provo MTC for Christmas a couple years ago. It was called "The Character of Christ." Apparently these devotionals are only available to missionaries and MTCs, which is pretty sweet but at the same time kinda sad, because I wish all of you could hear this one. It's really incredible. President Pratt (the President of the CCM if I haven't mentioned that already - actually he just walked through THE VERY ROOM I'M EMAILING IN not 20 minutes ago) made a point the we need to be taking notes, and if not we needed to "repent" of that, haha. So take notes on Conference! Which I'm super excited for, by the way. I think we get to watch it in English, but I might steal one of the headsets for the Latinos for a session.

Anyhow, what followed was one of the most intense, revelatory, spiritual talks I've ever witnessed. Bednar started off with a quote by Elder Maxwell: "There would have been no atoning sacrifice without the character of Christ."

You could think about that quote alone for days.

Bednar continued to explain exactly what that meant, to him. And the ultimate point is that when Christ could have turned inward, could have pitied himself, could have been selfish, or complained about how hard it was for him, he turned OUTWARD instead. This is the ultimate fight we all have to face - fighting against the natural man. (Bednar compared the natural man to the Cookie Monster. It was really funny seeing Bednar, of all people, imitating the Cookie Monster.) It really got me thinking. I think that that might be what Godhood truly is. Complete self-mastery - but with the ultimate goal of helping OTHERS rather than yourself. I dunno, tell me what you think.

This turning outward, to others, is what we are trying to learn here in this life, and doing so is truly living Christ's teachings and being a Christian. This is what creates lasting conversion. It's important to have a testimony, first, but conversion comes when we try to become the person that Christ wants us to be, the way he set the example. And the way we can do this, and be converted, is not by our own willpower, but through the ATONEMENT of Christ.

For me, this is directly applicable to missionary work, and that's the point that Bednar made, as well. I can't care about myself. I can't whine about "the work isn't going well" or "I'm not having baptisms" or "I can't learn that language." That's self-pitying, turning inward. Instead, I need to turn outward, and find those people who I can serve. Pretty amazing, huh? I've already bought some sticky note tags and tagged this part of my notes specifically. It's special.

Fast Sunday

And of  course, that's not all! Last Sunday was Fast Sunday (for those of you non-Mormons who don't know what that is, ask your nearest friendly neighborhood Mormon). That gave us special time to study when we weren't eating and I learned some awesome things. I really love digging into the scriptures and finding all there is to learn. As a preface, our afternoon teacher showed as a video called "Missionary Work and the Atonement." Also really powerful. Please check it out if you get the chance - I'm not sure if it's Church-published, but it's very cool. I think he found it on Youtube. It's got Elder Eyring and Holland talking in it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6FKiNVbw3Y (Here's the link)

One thing I learned, and I only have time for one, because my time is short, is in part how to love others. Well, I hope I can use it that way. Like I heard once in General Conference, it's important to see others as what they can become, not as what they are. As I was studying, I can't remember exactly what I was studying, but I looked up briefly at the rest of my district in the classroom with me. And I realized - holy cow, every single one of these people in here with me can be Gods some day. And not just them, but EVERYONE on this Earth! I think I was studying the Plan of Salvation, actually, and I thought about Moses 1:39. That´s pretty incredible - that the ultimate destiny of all us silly little humans is to become like our Heavenly Father. We can ALL do that, and no one is exempt. It just put things in a different perspective for me. I can start looking at people like that, rather than focusing on whatever minuscule faults they have in the present. And it gives me a lot of hope. In one of the Epistles, in the New Testament, I can´t remember exactly where I was reading this, it said something akin to "If we're the lineage of God, then why would we supposed God to by a rock, or a tree, or a fish?" We're destined to be something great. And it can be done through the Atonement of Christ. Keep that in mind.

Mexico is Weirder Than You Think

Because it rained like I would only expect it to rain in South-Western PA yesterday. I had to run back to my casa to get my trench coat so I wouldn't get drenched. Yeah, I was wearing a trench coat. In Mexico. Also,  I have no idea why, but apparently the people outside the walls somehow got their hands on a ridiculous amount of fireworks because there is almost always something blowing up at any given point in the day. I'll try to take a pic of the smoke some time.

Nos vemos!

                                         Tortilla soup! Not bad, but not as good as yours, Mom :)
                                                                   The Elders of 14B!
 I've been told the B represents Bautismo (actually it represents the name of the school that was converted into the CCM, but hey). I love the houses on the hills.
                                                              The Entrance to the MTC
      That's parrots. That's right. Parrots LIVE ON THE CAMPUS WITH US. Be jealous.      
                                            I think that's a gym outside the walls. So Mexico.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tienda Time!

Still no pictures from Jeremiah. We are working on it!

So this is going to be a huge problem. Time is really strange here in the CCM. I cannot believe I've been here for not even two weeks. And yet I'm already saying to myself "Agh! I'm already a third of the way done!" I have so much language to learn BUT it's going well. I can mostly understand most natives as long as they slow it down. Apparently they talk faster in Ecuador. So. Oh yeah but the problem is because of this weird time fluctuation, to ME I seriously can't remember what happened this week, or last, or even a couple days ago. I'm finding it harder and harder to write in my journal because I just can't remember everything. I think it's because I'm used to it, now. I'm used to Mexico, so things that would seem weird to you guys back home don't seem weird to me at all! Anyhow, so today I'm going to talk about...

The Tienda

My first introduction to the Tienda was when our first teacher took us over to it as part of our little guided tour the second(?) day. He said, with outstretched arms, "Aqui, el Espíritu es MUY fuerte." Here, the Spirit is VERY strong. To those of you non-Mormons who don´t understand why I found that hilarious, ask your nearest Mormon.

Anyhow, I should stop carrying my wallet on me. Because every time I pass the Tienda I feel a mighty urge to stop in and buy...something. Tienda translated literally is tent, I believe (my father dwelt in a tienda - for those of your non-Mormons who don't get that, ask your nearest Mormon), but it´s really the campus bookstore. And not really bookstore, more like everything you need store. It´s not very big, really, but there´s a lot in there. Namely, lots of snacks and goodies. Lots. I've discovered my new favorite drink - Lift. It's a Coca-Cola product, and might have existed in the States and I just didn't know about it (I'm going to hunt it down when I return) but the flavor I love is basically carbonated apple juice. It's amazing.

There are also mentos (which I badly need all the time since we're not allowed to chew gum and I want to brush my teeth after every meal), ties, clothes, shoes, pencils and pens, everything you need. And everything is relatively cheap! Everything is in pesos, so when I first looked at the tag for, say, a bottle of soda, I was like "8 BUCKS??" but it's in pesos, so that's not even a dollar. Anyhow, es muy importante.

Investigators, Round II

Our investigators right now are just our teachers pretending to be investigators, but that doesn't make me any less nervous. I can understand them pretty darn well, but I just don't have the vocab to answer! Well, I'll work on that. Not surprisingly, my district thinks I'm a little crazy with how much I study (and they might be right, but I like it because I'm a nerd), but my goal by the end of this six weeks is to be able to converse with any Mexican off the street. I think it's reasonable. I'll admit I do think I know the most out of everyone in the district so far. The way I think of it, the more I can talk, the more people's lives I'll be able to change, and when viewed with that perspective, I think ANYONE could be motivated to keep working.

I've been using my dictionary so much it's already getting pretty worn. And we also make these cards every day (well, we're supposed to) of words and phrases to memorize that day. I'm hoping to have a giant stack of them by the time I'm done here.

But yeah, they keep us busy. We're pretty much always at a class, teaching someone, or moving in between the two. Or watching special devotionals (there's one tonight! can't wait). We only teach one investigator a day, but that's just for now...and in the field it might be way more than that!}

On that note, here's one thing I've learned. The Doctrine of Christ is remarkable simple and pure. That's what we have to learn here - that was, and is, still a challenged to me. What can I teach people? How can I achieve my missionary objective, to invite others to come unto Christ? Well, it's really a lot simpler than I thought! Really, it comes back to the 4th Article of Faith and the missionary objective itself. Faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, persevering to the end. That's really all there is to it, in the end! When everything is boiled down to those few points, everything is mas clara.

But that doesn't mean I've been able to teach it well, haha. It'll come, I'm sure. I just want to go back and study! Although it IS nice to relax a little on P-Day. And pizza night tonight! And a devotional! They keep us busy, and that's good. As excited I am to get out into the field, I should enjoy my time here. This is a special place! Nos vemos!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Saysayemay

So it sounds like Jeremiah is having problems uploading pictures. Hopefully we can pictures soon. But it is just great to hear from him.:)

That's how it's pronounced in Spanish here. The CCM! Holy cow I can't believe I've been here a week. It feels more like years. It's already kinda hard to remember exactly what home was like! Not really - I love you all and I miss you all. Thanks so much for the letters and e-mails. I could spend all P-Day writing this post, but we've got other things to do. Where to begin...

On the Plane

I have to get out my journal because I can't even remember...OK, here we go. So on both the plan to Atlanta and the one to Mexico City I got the whole row to myself, which was awesome! It took loads of pictures in the clouds. This was the first time I'd flown since like 8th grade, so it was super fun for me. At Atlanta, I managed to find some other elders - Elders Enosa, Wilky, and Phipps. They were cool - Elder Phipps is going to my own mission, actually. Then we flew down on the same plane. I was a little worried about customs and stuff. And of course I didn't fill out my sheet in pen. So when I went up to the desk the guy took a glance at it and slashed a big X in it, then told me something in Spanish. He pointed me to a place where I could fill it out again, though, so that's what I did, and thankfully got back through.

Then was the most eventful car ride of my life. There were six of us elders (we met two more at the airport) and the driver crammed into the mission van. And Mexican drivers are craaazy. There were a multitude of times where I thought "there's no way we can make that gap" or "that bus is totally going to hit us." I and the other elders were bracing ourselves constantly. But we made it ok! I guess that's just the way it is here in Mexico. They don't use turn signals often - they just make a go for it. And so everyone just drives crazy. You know it's a problem when there are more rows of cars on the road than there are lanes. I wish I could've taken pics, but I didn't want the other elders to think I was weird or something...

First Day

The first couple days are a lot of meetings, and so they kinda drag on a little. Meetings on safety, on the campus, this and that...and I couldn't find mi compañero. So it was this elaborate dance of switching off with elders to go places so that everyone always had a companion. I eventually found him that night! And the next morning we found out he was our District Leader! I like him - he's a good guy, maybe a little (or a lot) more energetic/crazy than I am, but he's good. He's obedient and he works hard (when he's focused). That might be one of the hardest things about a mission. All of you know I kinda like to do my own thing, and so learning to adjust to a companion will be difficult. But I think I'm starting in a good place.

Spanish Woes

Now that I'm in the thick of things, it's Spanish classes all day. The teachers all teach in a mix of Spanglish or even just straight Spanish. And the second day (the first FULL day) you have to teach your first investigator. In Spanish.

It was pretty tough.

I'm so glad I did the work I did over summer, because my companion knows nothing. He took three years of German! That's ok, though. We can work through it. I can understand our investigator pretty well, and our 3rd lesson yesterday actually went pretty well. The biggest problem really knowing how to respond. My Spanish isn't quite there yet, and I can't really understand any of the native speakers when they're on full-blast Spanish mode...but it'll get there. I am learning so much every day. I'm getting a good amount of time studying (though it never feels like enough!).

We can do it. I just keep in my mind the promise in 1 Nephi 3:7. The Lord has prepared a way.

Some Things About Mexico

Yesterday/today was the celebration of Mexican Independence. We attended a ceremony full of dancing and singing yesterday - check out the Mexican anthem. It was pretty fun to sing, if a little hard to get the hang of. Several hundred missionaries belting out the second refrain of "y retiemble en sus centros la TIERRRRRR-A!" was a sight to behold in the auditorium.

There was fireworks all last night. Mi compañeros in mi casa (the house we stay in) had a little hard time sleeping. Well, we think there were fireworks. At pretty much all times of the day, every day, we can hear SOMETHING exploding. They know how to party here in Mexico.

The food isn't bad. Apparently it's not quite full-on Mexican, though. Which is probably good, because my companion has had diarrhea and one of my roommates was sick yesterday and Sunday.

It has rained almost every day here. I didn't expect that! It gets warm, sure, but the mornings are pretty chilly, too.

My birthday was great! All the elders en mi casa came and sang to me. And thanks for all the birthday wishes!

Ok my time is short. But let me tell you, this is hard. This is, and is going to be, the hardest thing I've done in my life. But it's worth it. Every day I relearn my purpose here. How important this message is. I keep thinking of the scripture, if I can bring just one person unto Christ...how joyful I would be. There's nowhere else I could be that is more important. There are people out there who, even though they might not know it, need to be saved. I wish I could spend a little more time on this spiritual thought, but really, that's the most important thing.

I don't know that I've ever cried so much. The Spirit can be so strong here, and come at the strangest of times, but it's comforting. I need that, I know. Heavenly Father's just letting me know each day that what I'm doing is the right thing. That I can have a difference in someone's life. I need to be here for others. I matter the least.

Elder Scanlan

Week 1 Made it!

We had some issues figuring out Jeremiah's blog password (no thanks to his impeccable handwriting, ha) so we are now in and able to post. This is his quick email from last week. We will post week 2 as soon as it comes! -Rachel

Sorry I didn't email faster!! These keyboards are different and I put in my password too many times and I got locked out and it was a whole ordeal. I have a ton to talk about but I don't think I can spend too much time. I send a gigantic post next time. (Also it's funny because it's underlining all my words in red. Because they're not Spanish.)

I made it fine! No delays, no problems. A little nervous about finding everything here, but it'll be good. Mexico City is crazy! As the guy driving our van said, "We're crazy here in Mexico! We're loco!"

So that pretty much sums up my experience so far. It's great. More to come!

Elder Scanlan (I have the nametag! Feels awesome!)

                              Jeremiah and his siblings before he was set apart as a missionary.

                                               Bright and early at the Pittsburgh airport!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

One Week!

Holy cow...is it really just one week until I leave? At the same time, I've been busy with work and all, so I haven't had a ton of time to think about it. When I do, I alternate between depressed and super excited. Depressed, because I'm going to be leaving everyone and America behind, but also super excited for what lies ahead. So, basically, just reread my talk. Maybe I should. I could use the boost. I just need to remember what I talked about, really. The Lord will take care of everything!

The travel info finally arrived in the mail. I'll be leaving early in the morning, Wednesday. Hopefully I don't get lost in the airport! I'm a little worried that might totally happen. I can use the time to get further in reading my Libro De Mormon. It's coming along - I think I can understand maybe 60-75% of it. It definitely doesn't take me five minutes to get through one page anymore.

I've loved following Nick Arvanitas's blog, by the way. I'm wondering if my adventures will be anything similar. Or if I'll have people like Sarah that claim they can see dead people. This is going to be great.

(Not that One Week)