Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 22 in La Laguna

First off sorry that the pics didn’t arrive! That was the only chance I got to send them. The conference last week lasted so long that we didn’t have time to write again. And now I’m here in Veracruz, 3 hours away from San Andreas, so I can’t send them. They were on Elder Luna’s card. 

On to other things. La Laguna is pretty cool. It’s weird to be around a lot of people in the city after living in the backwoods of Mexico. The people here have cars. That’s weird. There are rich people here. That’s REALLY weird. We’ve seen some pretty sick Audis in the streets here. People talk really differently. It’s actually a little hard to understand them because of that. I could pass for Mexican here. A couple people believed me when I told them I was from Chihuahua. But if they have an extended conversion they can tell I come from Gringolandia. 

My companion, Elder Celis, is from Mexico too! So all of my companions up to this point have been Mexicans. . He played football too in prepa (their equivalent of high school) and so that’s cool. We match up pretty well in teaching, because what he lacks I have and what I lack he has. We get along really well.

Other than that.... well... when I got here the area was DEAD and my comp was discouraged. His spirits are lifted now. Even though last week was terrible in terms of numbers, this week we’re gonna do better. This place just bleeds potencial! It’s a ward here, not a branch, and the members seem to be pretty good. There’s usually around 150 in attendance. People give us food like crazy. That’s awesome. And the food is way better here. 

Everything else I’ll just tell my family when I talk to them (Skype for Christmas) and my mom can write it!!! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 15

So this week was crazy and I don’t have much time so I’m going to be brief. 

First off I’m leaving Baxcaxbaltepec! I’m going to an area that’s called La Laguna in Veracruz (city), Veracruz. It’s VERY different than here. It’s not a branch, it’s a ward, of about 200 people. And the people there are not poor. A LOT different than here. Urban. (It’s on the map.) I’ll go tomorrow! My new companion is Elder S. He’s district leader over there, so that’s cool, I’ll learn about leadership. He’s also pretty young in the mission. I believe he’s got 7 months, and I’ve got 5. My zone leader will be Elder E and another guy. I already know Elder E and he’s really cool. I actually replaced him in Baxcax when I came. 

I’m writing twice today because the highway from Veracruz to San Andreas was closed on Friday, when we were going  to have a conference of the zone. But that’s the only way from Veracruz to Tuxtla so President Cordova couldn’t come. So we're having it today at 12. So I’m writing a little before and a little after. 

Second, this week was TOUGH! But it was really good in the end! We found another really good investigator. He’s the husband of a member here. I hope Elder L does good with him after I’m gone. Also, I feel really good because I worked super hard here. I put everything I had into bringing these people to the knowledge that I have of Christ and of his love for them. And I didn’t feel like I was having much success at times, but right now I feel like the area is about to explode with success, in one or two transfers, and my efforts are part of that. It’s the most rewarding feeling ever. Baxcax has been my crucible. I really have grown a ton here, in every way, and I will never regret what I’ve done here or the people here that I’ve come to love. It was all worth it. And now I’ll go do it again in Laguna. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

December 8, 2014

Wow so this week was pretty normal. Our numbers at the end of the week were a little wacky, but that's only because we changed the way we plan. The only time we talk to people in the streets or knock on doors now (contacting), is when we are looking for people that our members have given us as references. So now we have a bunch more lessons. That's cool. But yeah I'm sure that's all boring stuff. On to better things....

We did find another family this week, a young couple. They have a little boy who's almost one year old. I hope they will eventually be baptized. They agreed to be baptized, but I didn't put a date because they have problems with the idea of a day of rest (Lord's day), so we need to resolve that first.

Crazy Culture Note:

There was a party for the Virgin Maria this weekend. I couldn't sleep. Sitting in our triste little house with the tin roof at 3 in the morning listening to dynamite sticks being launched into the air. Wow. Last night and the night before, couldn't sleep at all for this. Haha, but it's okay, it ended today, so I'll sleep tonight.

Well tomorrow, 9th of december, I reach 5 months! It's crazy how this past month especially has just FLOWN. I think it teaches me the high worth of having somebody who's really like one of your best friends by you every day. I wake up in the morning and then it seems like I blink my eyes and it's already the next day. This time in these past few weeks have felt like maybe one or two! 

Still working on sending more pictures. Borrowed Elder L's camera to share some, but it took me ten minutes to figure out how to work it and I ran out of time.

Other things.... I dunno... It really was a pretty normal week. I'll just leave you with a spiritual thought and that's it. 

Spiritual thought: 

So this week I've realized again the overarching importance of the Book of Mormon. It's really everything. It's a test, first off to find out if this church is true. You wanna know if these things that I'm talking about are true? You have to read the Book of Mormon. If you read it and then pray about it, you'll just know and feel that it's right. That's the only real way to explain it, but you'll know what I mean if you do it. You'll just know. And you won't doubt. And once you know that, you know that all of this is true because you will know that only people endowed with the power of God could have written and translated it, and then it all falls together. That's why it's so important. If you're a member, read it every day to strengthen your testimony of these things every day. If you're not a member, you should still read it in order to see if these things are true, because it's the way that the Lord has provided to find out! So this month, I challenge all of you to read at least one column a day, and watch how it changes your life.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 1, 2014

So I have more time, I’m sending the group right now. And first off, I have some bad news: I kinda lost the memory card that has all my pictures..... yeeaaaahhh.... sorry. I’ll get a new one and be more careful! But that does mean that this week no pictures either. Yeah I know its been like, 5 weeks. Sorry. fortunately Elder L has a few pictures of things that I’d like to send that we’ve done, so next week when he’s not using his camera I’ll upload some. 

And jeez, I’m not sick. Everyone gets tired here. I’m okay.

Okay and now on to better things! It’s the first day of Christmas! When I first came here, I was actually a little apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to feel the same way here. You know, that Christmas spirit that just envelops the world when December’s about to hit. But no! Fortunately it feels the same here. Even though it’s not cold and there are no pine trees. They’re actually about to have a big harvest of fruit here. Here in Mexico, they have two harvests, one in the winter and one in the summer. The fruit tastes different in the two harvests. 

So this week was super tough! But it was also pretty cool. I’ve grown a TON as a teacher this week, and I feel like things are about to start falling into place here in Baxcaxbaltepec. Last week we had 52 people in church, this week 45! That’s a LOT here. So we’re really excited for that. Other than that, we’re about to start focusing our efforts in specific places here in our area, hoping that we can begin to use our time more wisely. One story that I want to recount happened to my convert. 

So she has 3 kids, and the youngest, Junior, has some serious disabilities. He’s about 2 or 3, and needs a LOT of care in order to not die. As you can imagine, his mom has to be with him almost always, and it keeps her on her toes. She really really loves Junior, and so she’s willing to do it.

Well, this past Sunday she received the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  After being baptized correctly (how Jesus was), we are clean from all our sins, and we are prepared to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of hands (people with the authority of God put their hands on your head and then bestow the gift). This is the Holy Ghost that is talked about in the scriptures. It can be our most powerful guide in this life, if we are always striving to keep ourselves worthy and clean for it to be inside of us. It gives us feelings and thoughts. And if we listen to these things, we can be comforted, protected from danger, and guided to make important decisions.

Well, this week she was out walking in the street with Junior, when all of a sudden she had the thought, "Junior is going to fall." She looked down at him and saw that he was fine, so she kept on going. The thought came again, but she paid it no heed. A short time later, Junior tripped, and his head smashed against the concrete REALLY hard. His forehead was bruised and bleeding, and he was in really bad shape. Then she said a prayer, that he could be okay. Fortunately, he healed. She told us after, in tears, "I know that that was the Holy Ghost, who gave me that thought. He was trying to warn me. I know it’s real, because of this. It’s really with me. God had mercy on us. But I’m going to listen now."

This work really never ceases to amaze me. Every day I live here I’m more and more convinced that it’s true, and I’m super happy and super blessed to be a part of it.

adiós, tenga una semana de felicidad, 
Elder Thompson 

November 24, 2014

First off sorry for no pictures again. I promise to make that the first thing I do next week. 

Okay so everything really picked up here this week! As opposed to last week, when it was all absolutely dead in the work, this week we had a lot of success!!! Me and Elder L have been working a lot with the members here, getting a lot of references, and we’ve been checking out a lot of the older investigators, to see if they might be receptive. From this we’ve found 8 new investigators! 

I’ve never been more tired in my life than here in the mission. You would think not so much as after some long wrestling tournament or football practice, but no. And last night was the worst. I was so tired that when we were walking back to the house I almost didn’t make it. I literally almost fell asleep on my feet. And it was only 3 blocks away... yeah this is sooo tiring. But it’s weird. I’ve also never been more happy in my life. It’s because service makes people happy. And there’s nothing better to do for service than to bring to them the way for them to be happy their whole life and after. It’s really cool, how I’ve learned so much in these 5 months. They’ve been the hardest and the most rewarding and the happiest ever. Really glad I’m here.

Because I don’t have much time, I’ll leave it at that today. Basically, this: this gospel is true, and I hope everyone on the earth has the chance to receive it. This is no joke. It is real life. It’s why we’re here alive. 

November 17

So this week was interesting. By interesting I mean absolutely dead. But we’ll talk about that later. 

On Tuesday, I received my new companion, Elder Luna! He is 22, from Puebla, Mexico, so that’s actually really close to Veracruz city (but very far from San Andreas Tuxtla), and we get along really well! Sorry that I don’t have any pictures of us yet, but next week I should. 

Unfortunately, when he arrived, we had nothing. No investigators, nothing. So we worked all this week. And it was terrible. We didn’t find anybody. But it’s okay. I am doing all that I can do, and am becoming better at this work. And Elder Luna is doing his best, too. We’re going to change up where we work this week, and hopefully that will yield some good results. 

It calls my attencion, something in Bryce’s group email.  People who have never been to the USA, or people who have seen things on the surface, believe that we have no problems, and there is a lot of resentment for that. The truth is that we do have problems. Just different ones. After living in one of the poorest parts of Mexico for more than 3 months, I feel qualified to say that they have it hard. But so does everyone else in some way. So what can you do? Do everything you possibly can to make it better, and watch it change over time. Also you should accept the restored gospel. Because that’s why you’re here, after all. 

Spiritual thought: do service. This week I have learned the importance of service in good relationships. If you want to have good relationships with family, friends, and everyone else, serve them. Elder Luna and I get along REALLY well, and I attribute that to service. I decided I was going to get up every morning and make his breakfast.  I can’t really explain why, but just from this one thing has sprung all sorts of acts of service between us, and it just makes everything better. This lesson that I have learned is one I will take with me forever. For the rest of my life I’m going to do service for friends, family, and other people, because of how awesome your relationships are when you serve! People just like you better. Haha. It demonstrates your love for them a million times better than words. And it’s never bad to let someone know that they are loved.

Oh yeah, and my Spanish is great. Basically I have about a week’s worth more of grammar to learn and from there on out it’s just vocab.

November 10, 2014

This was my last week of training, with my "dad", or trainer, Elder P. And it was in a trio! Because Elder G finished his mission a week early, I had the wonderful opportunity to have a “mother” for a week (second trainer)! That is to say, Elder K was my “mom”. Tomorrow Elder P is leaving and I am receiving my new companion, Elder L, and our trio will break up. My new district leader will be Elder K, and he will be having a son (or training a new missionary), which is pretty cool for him. He only has 3 months more on the mission than me. 

I have to say, working in a trio is HARD. It’s like a continuous sleepover for a week (nobody can stop talking so I’m super tired the whole week). We ran into issues with which investigators belong to whom when the trio is over, but we worked it out just fine. But we had more work than normal, so that was cool. Real work (not contacting) is hard to find sometimes.

As for my Spanish, it is rapidly improving. There are times when I understand every little word, and times when I don’t understand much at all. But those times are usually when I’m not paying attention or I’m SUPER tired (which happens here more than it’s ever happened in my life), but you just learn to work through it and strain your mind, because you know you should. I started reading the Book of Mormon last week in Spanish and I can understand almost all of it. There are normally one or two words in every chapter that I don’t know, but I know the book so well in English, and I can understand the rest of the chapter so well, that I usually know exactly what the word is by context. And that’s not all! Everyone says this next transfer (transfer number 3 in the field, or months 4 - 5 &1/2) are when the white guys (gringos) learn the most Spanish. They say it’s an exponential increase. I’m honestly absolutely certain that I’m going to be fluent in one to two more months. That’s a miracle, to learn a language in 6 months or less. Think about that. Normally it takes people YEARS to learn a language. So why would I, and most other missionaries, learn it so quickly? 

It’s because what we are preaching is true. And because its true, God wants every one of his children to hear it, so that they may have the opportunity to accept it, and by their acceptance, return to live with Him. So He gives us the gift of tongues, that we may bring this message to all the ends of the earth. For me, well, He sent me to Mexico. 

As for the Book of Mormon: Well, there’s certainly a lot of heat that some people dish out to this book. In my experience, wanna know how many of them have read it? None. They haven’t read it. When you read it, it carries a promise from God, that you will KNOW that the book is true. I’ve read it, and so have many other people in the world. And they know. Just like I know. The book is true. How can you know? You just have to read it. And then follow with exactness the instructions of Moroni in the end to ask God.

Culture notes:

The weather here is almost wonderful right now. I LOVE the cloudy days because it means that it’s not that hot. But it’s not cloudy all the time. Currently it is sunny and mild. 

Our investigator found work. He’s working a LONG ways away in another part of Mexico…. at a VERY crucial time in his life.

I hope they don’t fire Miles (LSU). He’s got more in the tank.

I’ve gotten several things from you guys. I’ve gotten letters from September and one package of my ties, and the goody box, which was delicious. So yes, I DO get stuff. 

I’ve been told that Mexican Christmas is a lot like USA. Probably because everything is commercialized now. It’s just a lot poorer.

November 3, 2014

Yes the baptisms happened! Here is what happened with our family. I believe I already sent the names and talked about the situation of their family. The father is away and probably won’t get back until January. So we baptized the mother and the two older children. 

Before her baptism, the mother bore her testimony to our little branch on Sunday. She is going to be converted to this gospel. And I’m so glad to have become a part of their lives. I’m so grateful that the Lord chose to use ME to bring them to him, and to be the means by which their lives are blessed, and I can’t wait to touch more hearts like this! The change that we have seen in them is immense. I’m so proud of the dad, too. He’s off looking for work but he’s reading the Book of Mormon every day. He hasn’t had the opportunity to attend church where he is. He went once, and the sister missionaries didn’t let him in, because he has tattoos. I was absolutely furious. But don’t worry, they got corrected by their own mission president, because where the dad is right now isn’t in my mission. But yeah, he’s doing great and will be baptized too! 

A lot of the youth here want to go on missions, but they’re all recent converts, so they all have 8 months or more that they have to wait before they can go. If they do go then this place will be fine. They will have 3 or 4 returned missionaries to strengthen them in a few years. 

Oh yeah! This is the last week of my training. So next Tuesday, I will be a full fledged missionary. And Elder G is going home. He is the leader of my district. He’s returning to Guatemala tomorrow! He has successfully completed his 2 years, and I’m so grateful he was my first district leader. I have learned so much from him and he has changed who I am through his words and example. He’s going home a week early because of visa troubles. So this week, I may be in a trio with elders K and P. That should be fun.

Also, I finished the Book of Mormon again yesterday! My first complete read through while on my mission! Every time that I read it, the truth is reinforced to me. I’m so glad to have it! Definitely, my favorite book in the world. I don’t have much time, but next week I will explain what makes the Book of Mormon and the Bible different and why we need the Book of Mormon too. Also I never really noticed it before, but I LOVE Ether 12:4. It’s probably my favorite scripture in Ether 12 right now, which is saying a lot. (love Ether). Oh, and I understand verse 27 now, how he can make our weak things strong. Mom, remember when I didn’t?

I don’t know if I said this last week, but I read in the Book of Mormon, near the end, I think in Ether or Mormon, signs will follow those that believe. And it said one of them was that they would lay hands upon the sick and they would recover. Another was that they would speak in different tongues. We shared that scripture with the mother of the little kid we blessed and she just broke down and cried. It’s so cool to be able to see... well…. my own signs that I believe! It fortifies my faith a lot more than any others, doing these things MYSELF, not reading about them, or hearing about others doing them.

Being here in Tuxtla has taught me VERY rapidly the value of a good education. The reason for the poverty here is the utter lack of education. When I get home, I will be studying VERY hard, so as to be able to actually teach my kids the way mom taught me, and to be able to help people like these, who have nothing. If I want to help them after the mission, I have to have the means to do so.

I have definitely been prepared for this place specifically. Not everyone could do this. Sometimes I feel I have been prepared specifically for Tuxtla Sur, Baxcaxbaltepec. (Two shoulder surgeries in high school, losing a very promising high school wrestling career and half my senior football season to injuries, among other things.) I know a lot about what failure feels like, a lot about how sometimes it looks like no progress is being made, all that.

October 27, 2014

About that football injury, Mick, hahahahahahahaha what a wonderful experience. Your first of many, Mick. Your first of many.

So this week was cool!

We worked a TON and had almost no success. But that’s OK, we’re working and when you work til you can’t anymore is when the miracles happen. That’s something that I’m learning. It’s about the grace of God. When I first got here, it was sooooo hard. But now? It’s still hard, but I dunno. Things are changing. I’ve been made a LOT stronger emotionally and spiritually. It’s just not that hard anymore.

My Spanish is good. I will be fluent in 3 more months, I bet. Right now it’s all about learning figurative speech, which is way different in Spanish. 

This week we should have my first baptism!!!  I’ve had so many experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. The family is a family of five, the father, mother, son, daughter, and another son. We’re going to baptize the mother and two older children. The youngest is about 3, and has some sort of serious disability. The father is in a different part of Mexico right now looking for work. They literally have NO money. He probably won’t be able to come back until January, but he is reading the Book of Mormon, and he wants to be baptized real bad. He’s going to start attending church where he is right now.

One of their converting experiences was when the three-year-old was really sick. The whole week he’d had a terrible cough, and he was getting worse and worse very rapidly. We gave him a priesthood blessing. The mother later told us in tears that the next day he was almost completely better and the day after his health was impeccable.

The only way this can happen is through the authority and power of God. Only one church has this authority. Why? Because Jesus only established one when He was here. There is only one right way to Him. I know this is the Way, because this church has the power of His priesthood; the authority that the Savior himself used in his earthly ministry. There’s no question. Want to find out how we have this authority? Talk to your nearest missionaries. They’re doing what I’m doing here, informing people of Heavenly Father’s wonderful plan for us. I know that the Book of Mormon is true and it is my responsibility to bring other people to know of its truth as well. So I invite every one of you to read it and pray to know if it is true. You can know of its truth more strongly than anything else in the world. I am a witness of that. You just have to read, and God will do the rest.

Culture update:

The weirdest thing I’ve eaten is monkey. Which is pretty good. Not great, though. It’s basically chicken, but a little chewier and drier. There are no Chic-fil-As. Or good pizza. (I actually miss good pizza more than any other food.) There’s no fast food here, not even in San Andreas (the nearest city). They have stuff like KFC and Carl Juniors and Dominoes in Veracruz (city, four hours away). Just not here. But no Chick-fil-A.

I miss all you guys. Just hanging out and having free time to spend with the people that I love (not having it) is the hardest thing about a mission. But it’s okay. I wouldn’t be anywhere else right now.

The senior couple here took us out to an expensive restaurant (they do have some of those here) where we could get meat. Another beautiful sunrise in our little village south of Tuxtla. It was better than the picture.

October 20, 2014

So the highlights of this week: First, I almost got my first baptism. It wouldn’t have been a convert baptism if it had happened, because her mom is a member. But it didn’t happen....L has NEVER submerged her whole head under water! And the water was FREEZING too (no hot water here). She is terrified of water.

In other stuff, well not a whole lot happened this week. Found a lot of investigators and had to drop a lot too. I do have a lot of pictures. Sending those now.

This is a memela. It’s a food exclusive to Tuxlas, Mexico. It’s basically the definition of deliciousness. It’s a giant soft tortilla with a whole ton of al pastor (the most delicious meat in the world), tomatos, onions, cilantro, beans, and some sort of spicy sauce and lime juice. Oh yeah, speaking of spiciness, the people here are kind of weird with spicy stuff. I can actually eat a lot more spicy stuff than a lot of the natives, but they LIKE it when its so hot that they cry... so wierd... the only thing I’ll never do again is eat a habenero.... Don’t ever do that guys.... It’s not bad at first, but give it 30 seconds. And then you won’t be right for days.

This is a baby boa constrictor.
Most of the tarantulas I see are dead ones.

October 13, 2014

I’m doing great! Not sick anymore, feel awesome!

We found a family of gold, thanks to your fasting. They read scriptures now every night as a family and they say family prayer now! They are growing some very strong testimonies! The changes that I have seen in them are amazing. They are working towards baptism. But as for every one else....this area is still really struggling.

Even though they eat the bad bugs, I don’t want more geckos in the house. Sometimes I find lizard poop in the weirdest places. Not a fan. Every now and then we see iguanas. Not very many of them here, though. Have you heard of Jesus lizards? They’re the ones that can run on water. There are lots of those here. They’re pretty big. Probably 2 to 3 times a week I find a massive cockroach that I have to kill. Not fun.

Some kids are in school, some no. It depends on whether they want to go to school or not. Most of the girls are in school, and about 75% of the boys are. The others work in the field, with the bananas, tobacco, oranges (which are green here) and stuff like that. Normally they don’t have cars here. If they can’t walk some where, they take a taxi. I use taxis every day. They watch TV in their homes and many have cell phones, but no cars and not much literacy.

Nothing but rain here too, but it’s rainy season. It’s finally getting only hot, and not swelteringly hot, here. That’s awesome.

My area is very agricultural. The place where I live is one of the poorest in Mexico, and they grow all sorts of things. The big four are tobacco, corn, bananas, and oranges.

My Spanish is good, yet it’s still not that good. I have good days and bad days. Now the thing that I need is vocabulary. Grammar is starting to come.

I have about four more minutes and I was going to send pictures but my companion messed with the files somehow and is now fixing it. So you won’t get any pictures this week. But I have ones of me holding a boa constrictor (yesterday), a dead tarantula (haven’t seen a live one), another really big and dangerous looking spider that is everywhere here (this one was alive, but don’t worry I wasn’t holding it), and a picture of the food that the Holmans took us out to eat yesterday. (Ask Sister Truman if she knows the Holmans. They lived in Nashville for a little while and I believe they know them. They are the seniro couple that we have in Tuxlas.) I also will send the pictures of me on my birthday eating memelas, a food that ONLY exists in Tuxlas and is very delicious.

October 6, 2014

So this week was wild. And your prayers were felt. I’m going to talk about it in blocks. 

First, the week: 

Well, our numbers were terrible this week, but they don’t truly reflect the week. We found many more new investigators than normal, but still not enough. They all ended up falling - except for one family. The family is a family of five, and I hope we will baptize all of them. The father is very poor and doesn’t have work right now, but can read and is interested. The mother feels the spirit when we teach very strongly.

Last Monday and Tuesday were the end of my first transfer. Unfortunately, my friend Elder J got moved to the zone Tuxtapec. His reign of terror in Los Tuxtlas is at an end. Fortunately for me his replacement is Elder K, who is also a gringo. So it’s not the end of being able to talk English now and then. This may confuse you all. Elder P is my companion, but we live above another pair of missionaries, Elder G, and now, Elder K. Elder G is the district leader. He is from Guatemala, speaks very good English, and is going to die (go home) after this transfer. He’s got almost the whole two years. 

The weekend: 

I got super sick Friday and Saturday morning, but fortunately healed up right in time for conference. Which was awesome! Conference was awesome! Mom please attach how people can access Bednar’s talk online and invite them to read it. It’s why I am doing what I am doing. 

Tell all the people that I didn’t have time to write to that I will write to them next week, I’m sorry. My comp is hovering over my shoulder now trying to kill me for the minute extra typing this... sorry bye! Busy…

September 29, 2014

So first off, weird happenings this week. Just about everything that could have gone wrong with our investigators this week did. 

In chuch on Sunday, there was an old man who told us he was a member, and that he had just not come for a really long time. Then, during sacrament meeting, he randomly got up, went over to the fire extinguisher and raised his arms and started mumbling to it. Yeah, he was crazy. There are a lot of people like that here. (Absence of mental health care.) Just something unique to pass on from a third world area.

What’s a normal day like? I leave the house at 12, because I’m in my first 12 weeks and still learning and training in the mornings. We work until 2, normally doing contacting, which is just walking around on the street talking to random people in different areas, to see if they want to listen to us. At 2 we head over to a member’s house to eat. At 2:45 to 3 we leave, and resume work. Sometimes contacting, sometimes teaching in the afternoon. Normally a little more of contacting. We return to the house around 9, and plan out tomorrow (who we’re going to teach, where we’re going to contact, things like this.) Then at 9:30 we end planning, study a little more, or do whatever needs doing, and then sleep at 10:30.

We have a gecko that lives in the ceiling above my desk and occasionally poops on it. We have a ton of ants. There’s no way to prevent the ants here. And the gecko? He eats the bad bugs, so we like him. Sometimes we find massive cockroaches the size of my thumb and freak out. No way to prevent that here either. When I get back to the states though, I am NEVER living in a dirty house again. Here I can’t change it, the house is poorly built and all that, and there’s loads of ways for things to find their way in. We’d have to spend hours every day to keep it actually clean...

The strangest rejection I’ve ever gotten? One time a guy told me to go away cause I’m American and Americans have killed lots of people, therefore it is possible that I have killed lots of people, so he didn’t want to listen... that’s the weirdest. I haven’t gotten all that many rejections.

We had 32 people at church this week, but fewer youth, but there’s one or two who are really developing, or that I hope will develop into really strong members for Christ. I have been thinking a lot about sharing 2 Nephi 25: 26 with the parents here.

Getting clean water here is actually easy because the people here don’t drink the water either.

I got the weirdest feeling when I saw the pictures Mom sent of me as a baby and Jay, like he’s here helping the work sometimes. I actually think about him a lot out here. 

Thanks for everything, love, gotta go right now, next week!

September 22, 2014

I saw Izzie’s call!!!!!! That’s awesome!!!! We’re going to be in really similar cultures! That’s great! She’s going to love it. It’s going to be super hard, but sooo rewarding.

Elder P has had a stomach thing. He keeps trying to touch me cause he knows he’s sick. I kept threatening to kill him. And then he told me 8 hours later that he’s not contagious. It’s all in fun.

Okay I don’t have much time so I’m just going to share a brief experience that I had with faith:

Last Saturday it was CRAZY hot. So hot I literally couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak Spanish, understand it, or anything. Sweat was pouring down in rivers all over me, and all I wanted to do was die. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I couldn’t do the work. At lunch I was sitting in the house of a member, and I thought to myself, " I’m supposed to be doing work right now. But I literally can’t." So I said a prayer in my heart. I said, " Heavenly Father, I know right now I am supposed to be working, but I can’t do it. I can’t speak or understand Spanish. And if I can’t do that, I can’t testify. If I can’t do that, I can’t bring the spirit, and I can’t teach, and I am even more useless than usual. So please help me out a little bit. Could you please send some cooling rain, so that I can begin to work for you again?" Before this there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Less than thirty seconds after the prayer a cool, refreshing wind blew through the window. I looked out the window. The sky was dark with thunderclouds. The temperature must have dropped more than 20 degrees. Within 5 minutes it was raining. In 20 it was a HUGE downpour. It stayed like that for a solid hour. And the rest of the day was cool and refreshing. 

Like that story? It’s true. Kinda cool, huh? Faith and need together can do some pretty marvelous things. Because of prayer, there was a torrential downpour and a change of weather. 

My point is this: if you pray with faith, believing that you will receive -- and it is not contrary to His will -- you WILL receive. The rest of the day I worked with vigor, incredibly alert and understanding the language. 

So the next time you need help, remember your Maker. He’s there.

These cookies are amazing. I eat fine. Oatmeal and eggs for breakfast almost every day.

September 15, 2014

This is my zone. Four of us are from the states. The rest of us are from Mexico and other Latin American Countries.

So this week was really weird. Different. First off, I went on splits with Elder Z, one of our zone leaders. He’s awesome. He’s from Mexico. He’s the one in the pic with the dark skin and the curly short black hair and the glasses. He’s almost dead, meaning he only has 2 months left on the mission. He left fake poop in the bathroom for me. I learned a lot from him.

I wanted to start using the Book of Mormon more, because without it, it is basically impossible to know that the church is true. Sometimes elders here think the people wouldn’t understand it. They aren’t educated, and they can’t read, and a lot of the time they can’t comprehend some of this stuff. It’s not their fault, just the way things are here. But Tuesday, Elder Z taught every lesson with a part of the Book of Mormon, which we read together. If they couldn’t read, we’d read it to them, and then he explained. It was way more powerful than what we had been doing. They feel the spirit. So now, me and my comp are teaching A LOT from the Book of Mormon. 

Okay second, almost every teaching appointment we had this week fell through. We lost a lot of investigators, and did loads of contacting. We taught an extremely drunk man from Monterey and now he has committed to baptism on October 12th. (He did this in the second lesson, when he wasn’t drunk like in the first.) That was awesome. He really wants to stop drinking and be happy with his family. 

I had my first zone conference on Saturday. It was awesome. Lots of guidance from Presidente C. The gospel blesses families, and is strongest with families. From now on we’re going to do everything that we can to baptize the families. We’re going to ask for references from members, and teach with them. We’re going to do every thing we can to teach investigators as families. This will be very difficult, but we’re gonna try! 

My Spanish is getting much better. Apparently, for someone with only 4 weeks, it’s really good. With some people I can understand with clarity everything that they say, but others I can’t understand anything. Grammar continues to be my greatest struggle. But every time we’re teaching a lesson, I understand almost everything. So that’s cool! 

I am trying very hard with Spanish. And with the Spirit. Right now it’s just a trial of faith from the Lord, and my faith has grown tremendously, in a way that I know is not possible with success. Eventually we will have success. I don’t know how long this drought will continue, but I will continue to work with all I got and my faith is going to continue to grow. So right now I’m treasuring every trial that I get because that’s how faith grows.

September 8, 2014

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers! I know eventually we will have success because of you and our efforts!

So it was more or less the same as last week. But for those of you who wonder exactly what it is that I am doing, here is a brief explanation.

I am a Mormon missionary. My day happens like this: I get up at 6:30 every day, exercise, eat breakfast, get dressed. I study the scriptures personally from 8 to 9. Then from 9 to 10 me and my comp study together. We make lesson plans, practice teaching, and stuff like that. Then I get an extra hour of study, since I'm in my first 12 weeks out of the MTC with my comp. Then I study Spanish for an hour. I am to the point after 2 months (exactly this Tuesday) where I can read the Book of Mormon (in Spanish) and understand almost all of it without needing to look stuff up and that sort of thing. Then we leave the house at 12. From there we do several different things. We talk to random people on the street and see if they want to hear our mesage, we teach lessons to people we have talked to, and we do service. We teach lessons about the restoration of the gospel to the Earth through a prophet, the plan of salvation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So this week was more or less the same. But there's one experience I want to relate to you all.  There's a guy in the neighboring village. He's the most jacked dude I've ever seen down here. Freaking huge. He has talked with the missionaries off and on for about 14 years. He's in his mid 20's. Super nice dude. Anyways, I asked him if he had read the Book of Mormon. He said no. I said this is why he doesn't know if it is true. So we taught him 2 days later. 
The Spirit of God hit us like a tidal wave and I knew right then that we ALL knew it was true (HE knew). I told him he had to read it. He said he wanted to be baptized. 

Then we visited him the next day and he was a 180 turn around. He didn't want any of it. Again, I bore an incredibly powerful testimony, just as much as the first. And he felt the spirit of happiness coming from me. But he still didn't want it. He is afraid of the trials that will come. I bore ANOTHER powerful testimony, but still no. 

I don't know why, but some people are too scared to accept in this life. He won't do it. Maybe eventually, but right now he is too blinded by his fear to see the promised blessings. This same thing happened with 2 other people this week, one of whom is his brother. They actually have a KNOWLEDGE. 

The answer to this fear is faith. D&C122 everyone. If the very jaws of hell shall gape open after thee, your god will be with you always. 

Okay no more time, but love yall gotta go, more next week.

 These little guys are all over the apartment. We like them because they eat the bugs.

September 1, 2014

No time to download pictures this week, next week.

There are three different towns in my área, and how much I walk depends on if we can get a taxi or not. But the roads, more than half of them, are exactly like we thought. Really glad I have my boots. But the Docs are also fantastic, and are my favorite pair of shoes. They are super comfy and my feet almost never hurt at the end of the day.

I haven’t been sick.

We eat at members’ homes for lunch probably about 60% or 70% of the time. Other times we don’t really have time for lunch or we buy a quick one. Only once or twice have we actually made our own lunches. As for all that rain stuff, in these two weeks it hasn’t rained that much. My comp says that’s a little strange and normally it rains a ton. The one time that we DID have a massive downpour, I was fine. The towns here won’t be on the map. Look for San Andreas Tuxtlas Sur. This is the closest city and where we go to buy everything, and basically where we are on Pdays.

Not so many exotic birds. There are a couple black and bright yellow looking ones that I think are finches, but that’s it. This place actually looks a lot like Tennessee, except it’s got mountains and palm trees. What makes this place beautiful are the mountains. I don’t think there are any ruins here. There’s a nice waterfall in the jungle that I’ll go to see sometime.

These people are children of God.

What generally happened this week:

About 35 people came Sunday. 

So, at first the week was great. I was supposed to have my first baptism this Sunday. That didn’t work out. Around Friday or Saturday, everything started to unravel. The guy who we were supposed to baptize is 22. I know that he has a testimony of the góspel. He has to not drink for a week in order to be baptized. A recent convert told him it was okay if he drank right up to the baptism. Later that night we found out that his friend had told him this. Before the interview I could tell that there was something wrong. We knew he wasn’t ready to be baptized. We have not been able to reach him since. The word of wisdom and the law of chastity are problemas for many people here. Often there is no priesthood at church but us who are able to officiate. It is hard for the young men here. 3 or 4 of the sisters are wonderful and have strong testimonies.

Elder Thompson

August 25, 2014

Okay, so first week in the field!!!!!!!! I left the CCM early Monday morning, basically late Sunday night. Then me and the other 33 (I think thats the right number) new missionaries spent all of Monday at the mission home. Our mission president is a stud. There were rumors going around at the CCM that we only got 30 mins to email in the field in Mexico, and that we could only email family. Well, that's not the case. We get 1 hour and 30 mins and can email whoever we want, so long as they aren't currently within mission boundaries. 

Now, what happened this week? A TON. I can't organize it all pretty like I did last time. Okay, so Monday was basically orientation, where the assistants to the president showed us the rules and stuff. That evening we went tracting among the people of Veracruz City. I went with Elder C from my district in the CCM, and a guy named Elder A (who was actually the comp of my trainer in the CCM). We talked to a billion and one people and walked a ton. 

I accidentally deleted the draft of this email when it was 1/3 of the way through, so now I gotta be really fast with the rest of this. 

I have been in the field for one week now. Veracruz City is the hottest place I have ever been in my life. When I walked off the plane it felt like I was walking into a wall of water, not air. That's how humid it is. Basically, just a bunch of rain drops everywhere that defy gravity. And that was at 8 in the morning. It only got worse. Anyways the food there is the best food ever, and puts all Mexican restaurants in the USA to shame (including Chipotle), and I don't know if I can ever eat at a place like that again after this. 

We spent Monday night at the mission home. All 33 of us. (I think that's how many of us newbies there are.) It's the most new guys Veracruz has ever gotten in one month. We're about half and half Hispanic and American. Probably a few more Hispanics. Our mission president is a stud. 

Tuesday I got my trainer. His name is Elder P. He has been in the field for 14 months. He speaks almost no English, so it's a good thing that I can usually understand his Spanish. He's super awesome, and a great example of being Christlike. 

The area that I will be serving in during the three months of my training is called Tuxtlas Sur. It is the southernmost of 10 zones in my mission, and is the most beautiful place on earth. I will send some pictures, but they don't do it justice. This is the part of Mexico where people talk about witches and that sort of thing, but I have yet to see any, and I live in a small town in the middle of nowhere. So I don't know how true that is. (If there are even any of those kinds of people here.) Pictures taking forever to upload. Maybe next week. 

Now, talking about this week. My area within my zone is called Buxtaxpectac or something like that. I definitely spelled it wrong. The x's are pronounced like 'sh'. It's a small town in the middle of nowhere, with almost no paved roads, and everyone is very poor. Not very many people have air conditioning, so at this point I'm used to sweating and smelling terrible wherever I go. No big deal. I take 2 super cold showers a day, because our water heater doesn't work. They're actually a blessing, because they do wonders for cooling me off. The kids here are almost all literate, but very few of the adults are. This makes it very difficult to teach, because they can't read the Book of Mormon. So we talk a lot about prayer. It's not as hot here as in Veracruz City. It's about like Tennessee in the summer, during the super hot days, every day. Except more humid and no AC. 

My Spanish is actually great! Everyone is super suprised when they hear me talk, because they can usually understand what I say. They like me because I can roll my 'r's properly. Most gringos can't do that. And it's not the way you think it is. They roll every r. It's actually really tough sometimes, but I try. I can often understand the general idea of what people are saying, but not pick out the details. But it depends on the person. Some people here are really lazy with pronunciation, and even Elder P, who is from Mazatlan, Mexico, can't understand them super well. So yeah. Spanish is good. I'll bet I'm fluent in 6 months, which is saying a lot. Already for many English words, I think of it after I think of the Spanish word. So it's starting to take precedence over English in my mind. I could probably survive if I was stranded in Mexico for the rest of my life right now. And this is after 7 weeks of learning. Soooo.... yeah. If that's not God blessing me, then I don't know what is. Because I took two YEARS in school and could never come close to this, even if I studied. 

Now, what's up with preaching the gospel in Tuxtlas Sur? Well, we have a lot of investigators.  They have to go to church for 5 weeks to be baptized, so that's hard. But it's a good thing.

The church here is about 15 minutes away by car, so we have to take a bus. Nobody has a car. This week we had 44 people at church, including the missionaries, who are me and my comp, and then our district leader and his comp. None of them can play the piano. Only a couple have hymn books. But the music there was the most beautiful that I have ever heard, because of how little they had, and how sincerely they tried to sound beautiful. I gave a talk and taught a class, all in Spanish. My companion conducted. This is what it's going to be like for me while I am here. So there is much work to do, but I am super excited to do it! and to learn Spanish!

August 14, 2014

So this week has been awesome. Without a doubt best week yet. Anyways I think I am about to start organizing these emails a little better. There are going to be different sections now. Hopefully this will make it easier to write and easier to read.

Funny Moments of the Week:

Soooooo.... Elder R., our District Leader, sleepwalks. And sleep talks. He generally sleeps very deeply and you can ask him anything, and he will tell you his deepest secrets. And it is super hard to wake him up. This morning he wouldn't wake up. His companion, Elder R2, tried. He just said that he didn't want to get up yet.
(Everything that I say he said or did, he did in his sleep. Including getting up.) 
Finally, after half our district was in there pestering him, He got up. He got dressed. He tied the best tie knot I've ever seen. In his sleep. All the while, he was telling us how annoying we were. Which is weird cause he's the nicest guy I ever met. Anyways then he went and brushed his teeth. And grabbed his keys and said "I'll drive". (The comedor - cafeteria - is a 2 min walk). Then we went out. He scowled at everyone the whole time. Me and Elder Richards were taking some pictures, and he shot Elder R2 the funniest little scowl I've ever seen, and then told us to get a move on. We get into the cafeteria, and he's STILL asleep!!!! He shoulders past a million people, and then goes into the bathroom. About 5 mins later he walks out of the stall, and his face goes from a nasty grimace at being alive to being totally confused, and just says "Where the freak am I?" Finally awake. Anyways Elder Kerr took some selfies with him, so I will send those and you can see the grimace. What his face looks like is the way he acted for a solid 40 mins. 

What Generally Happened:

Literally nothing crazy happened this week that fits into this category. But I did find out when I'm leaving the CCM! 2:30 a.m. Monday morning. For a 30 min flight to Veracruz. Yeahhhhh...... haha so that's a little rough. Oh yeah and my health is totally fine. 

Spiritual Experiences:

Okay this category is loaded. First off, Sunday, oh man, Sunday. Every Sunday we have Sunday School, which is planned and taught by our District Leader, Elder R. He planned this lesson about the atonement. For those of you who don't know, that's when Christ died for our sins. So basically the atonement is everything. Anyways, here's what happened. Elder Kemp took on the role of Christ. Elder R took on the role of Justice. Elder R2 took the role of Satan. The point to this lesson was for us to understand better what Christ did for us, and how monumental it was. The rest of us were just regular people. Every time we blinked, which represented sin, Elder Kemp had to do 5 push ups to atone for our blink (sin). And this class period was 30 minutes long. Elder R2 walked around with some books and clapped them loudly in our faces, or did whatever to get us to blink (so long as he didn't touch us), representing temptation. Words cannot describe the power of the lesson. Elder Kemp did well over 100 push ups. At first it was easy. But soon it got tough. So many blinks. By the end Elder Kemp was trembling and sweating and could hardly push himself off the ground. I cannot explain the way it felt to watch, and to know that you couldn't leave the room until Kemp had atoned for all your blinks. It is impossile to explain what it was like, but it helps me understand a lot more what God's perspective is for us. Christ has already atoned for all that we will ever do. He suffered all sins and all temptations and all pains, that he may know how to succor us in times of trial, and how to lift us up when we are down. But we are not automatically saved. We have to repent of the wrongs we have done, for no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God. Read the scriptures. It's all over them. But how could we NOT claim that marvelous gift that God has given us, the atonement? It's already been performed. For everything that you will ever do. So just reach out and do those things that are taught in the scriptures that you need to do in order to take advantage of it. (Repentance.) Just do it. It may be hard now, but in the end it's a lot harder to not do it, seeing as how your eternal salvation is on the line. 

I asked Mom to do this in seminary so this part isn't going to those of you in seminary yet.

He's grumpy when he is sleepwalking. 

CCM Soccer:

August 7, 2014

This is how much it rains here in, like, 20 minutes.

And this is my favorite picture of Christ ever. It is in the hallway outside our classes.

     I am in the Thursday of week five. Week five ends on Sunday. I have six weeks. So two more Sundays. Then I leave the CCM on Monday, August 18th. I will fly to the mission home in Veracruz (where our mission president lives) and will be assigned a trainer. He will most likely be a native who speaks not much English. It'll be tough, but I can do it. Your trainer is the first companion that you recieve in the field. They are generally very good at obeying mission rules, and have been out for some time. Usually more than a year. There are a whole ton of guys here going to the Knoxville Tennessee Mission (SPANISH SPEAKING OF COURSE) and a whole ton going to Baton Rouge. Thought that was cool.

     This week has flown by faster than any other. Each day has literally felt like a few hours. I am getting a little tired of being in the CCM, and I really want to be in the field, but I figure that I can wait about a week and a half. Spanish I think is going well. I've realized the only real way to learn the grammar fast enough is to use it a bunch, so I am going to begin speaking with the other kids in my district in Spanish during our language study time while working on a specific principle. Speaking of learning languages, a shout out to my friend Remington in Bolivia. He's been out about 10 months, is fluent in Spanish, and is now learning  Portuguese. Talk about a stud. 

     One of the things that I have really learned this week is about teaching and having the Holy Ghost with you all the time. It's not easy. Just because we are missionaries and have been called of God to preach his word by the proper authority, does not make us automatically have the Spirit. There is soooo much work and faith involved. We must constantly be studying and praying and working, for the Spirit to be with us at the level that we need it to be. We also have to have the desire to have it there, more than anything. I think I am getting better at this. My faith in God is increasing, and I would rather be here than anywhere else in the world. 

     The thing that I am struggling most with right now is understanding the scriptures in Spanish. When I teach, I teach in Spanish, so I need to know the Book of Mormon and the Bible in Spanish. But it's like, old Spanish. Really tough to understand. I figure there's nothing for it but to read till I get it, translating as I go along. This is really important because God speaks by the mouth of his prophets, whose words are in the scriptures. There is nothing that invites the Holy Ghost and brings peace, more than reading the scriptures. The only way to know that this church is true is to read the Book of Mormon and then pray about it with real intent, which means to ask God if it is true, having a REAL desire to know. And all the while, knowing that if the answer is yes, that you will change your life to follow the new light that you have acquired. So yeah, basically the scriptures are everything, and it's a reallly good thing for me to get to know them in Spanish as well as -- no, better -- than I know them in English. 

     I testify that this church is true. I have read the Book of Mormon and have asked God if it is true, and I have recieved my answer. Joseph Smith was called of God to restore this church to the Earth, and he was a prophet of God. I know that today the church has a prophet in Thomas S. Monson, and I know that God speaks his will through him. I know this is true because GOD is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and every time his church has been on the earth with his priesthood, the church has been lead by a prophet. It began with Adam, Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and many others. Finally the Savior, Jesus Christ himself, during his earthly ministry. The true church must therefore have a prophet, who is today Thomas S. Monson. This is the message that I am called to share with the people of Mexico, that Christ lives and that he died for you, that you may inherit the kingdom of heaven, by faith, repentance, and baptism by immersion for the remission of our sins, because no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of god. If you doubt me, read Alma, chapters 39 to 41, in the Book of Mormon. It is all very clearly explained, why we need the atonement of Jesus Christ. And 2 Nephi 31 explains why we need to be baptized. This is my short testimony that I feel that I should share, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.