Saturday, August 30, 2014

Letter 40: Rain

Hello familia,

I hope that all the photos I'm about to send make up for the lack of letter I am going to write this week.

We had an awesome trun out at the baptism on Thursday! A lot of members went and showed their support and love for our investigators. We had a double baptizm. We baptised our investogator Edgar Dominguez, and the Assistants baptised their investigator, Carmen Chavez. We have had 6 batisms in the Zone so far, and will be having 3 more today in the other 2 areas. I am so happy and feel blessed to be able to have the opportunity to serve alongside these great hard working missionaries.

I'm just going to explain some of these pictures really quick. 

We went to Janos this last week. We hadn't been there in like 2 months, and to our surprise it was crazy green! I thought Janos was all dirt, all year! We asked some of the locals, how often it is green in Janos, and they told us that it's usually green for 2 months and then everything dries out again.

We went to Carl's Jr. on Monday. Sister Gladis's son, Izack, took all 4 of us. Izack just returned home from his mission a month ago, and he has been helping us out and coming with us to lessons. He also helped baptize the Assistant's investigator on Thursday.

Izack and his brother, Chapo (Fernando).

It rains here in Juarez, and then everything floods. That's me on the monkeybars, sink or swim.

When it rains it pours. Juarez floods pretty bad.

The Assistants, their investogator (Carmen), our investigator (Edgar), and us.

Us and Edgar

Our investigator's mom, our investigator (Edgar), and Elder Webster and I

Love you guys,

Elder Velazquez

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Letter 39: Extra-Ordi​nary week.

Hola Familia,

Burritos are huge here in Juarez. People make burritos out of just about anything. They are very practical and (for the most part) delicious. But one bad burrito can really do some damage...even death. That was an actual headline in the newspaper last week (see photo), and I almost died from the laughter.

This week was one of our few "ordinary" weeks here in the mission. I say ordinary because it was one of the few weeks where we don't travel or have any big meetings or anything like that. Having said that, this week was still extra-ordinary.

We finished prepping our investigator, Edgar, for his baptism next Thursday (Aug. 28). Edgar Dominguez has been investigating the church for a long long long time (like 8+ years), and he is finally getting baptised. We started teaching about 2 months ago, and at first, he wasn't all. He had had all of the missionary talks, and had pretty much heard it all before. His mom, whose been a member since Edgar was a baby (he's 25, now), had tried everything to get his son baptised...but at the end of the day, the Gospel never really interested Edgar. Well, after 2 months of teaching Edgar, he is finally getting baptised! Teaching Edgar was tricky, because he already had a good amount of knowledge of the Gospel, and had TONS of questions. We built a real relationship with Edgar, and gave him time to learn and applied the Gospel to his needs. Edgar has had a big change in his life, but most importantly, in his heart. He has gone to church every week for the past month and half (except one week he got really sick), and we've gotten him involved with all sorts of Single Adult activities. Elder Webster and I have really witnessed an incredible change in him.

Aside from Edgar, we are also prepping a few more investigators for baptism this cycle. Amongst them is Jonathan Cabrera, a 19 year old young man who has made huge progress in the little time we've know him. His mother is an inactive member (she's been inactive for more than 20 years), and non of his 3 siblings are members either. We are currently teaching him and his sister, Evelyn. He loves coming to church and he even goes to Institute on Tuesdays and Thursdays!

We found a great new red tomato this week! Her name is Luz Elena, and she is so sweet and so ready to be made into ketchup. She is 55, and her youngest daughter and son-in-law just moved in with her this past week. And guess what? They're both members. It turns out that her daughter got baptised when she got married a few years ago, and Luz Elena has been super curious to learn about the Church. She told us that she wants to be baptised (as a missionary, hearing this gives you a mini heart attack of excitement) and learn more about the Gospel.

This week, I read an awesome article in the Liahona. It is in this month's issue, and it is titled "Why We Share The Gospel" by Elder D. Todd Christofferson. Elder Christofferson focuses on the main reason why we share the Gospel, and that is to "Invite others to come unto Christ". "Inviting others to come unto Christ" is our primary missionary purpose (Preach My Gospel, Chapter 1). Everything we do, it all points to this purpose. All of this great Work, has the sole purpose of bringing others to Christ. "Remember that our missionary purpose is not only to warn others but also to save them, not only to teach but also to baptize, not only to bring others unto Christ but also to make them steadfast in Christ to the end." If there is something I've learned here, it's that there is no greater joy as a missionary, than leading someone to Jesus Christ, and seeing His Gospel change them.

Elder Velazquez
Ordinary Costco Tasks

Oridinary Newspaper Headlines

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Letter 38: Cakes and Testimonies

There have been a bunch of birthdays this past week. Dad, yours was on the 6th, on the 8th was Elder Robbins (President's Assistant), and on the 12th was President Derbez's birthday. Needless to say, I've been eating a lot of cake lately.

On Tuesday, President Derbez invited us to go to his house and have a birthday lunch with him. All of  Secretaries and the Assistants went to President's house and he cooked a special lunch...Mole Poblano. President is quite the cook (I'm not kidding, he really knows his way around the kitchen). All of the Secretaries pitched in and we bought him a 3 leches chocolate cake. We shared some laughs, some stories, and then some burps.

I almost skipped over the events on Monday. 

Monday was our 2nd Zone Conference as Zone leaders. Since our Zone is super spread out (4 of the areas are about 2 hours away from the city), we usually have all of the missionaries come a day early and stay over night. But this time we decided it would be easier if have them come really early in the morning, give them the conference, and then have them go back to their little ranchos. This way, the missionaries don't waste 2 whole days of work, and we don't have to have them stay at our house and rummage through our fridge. We had a really good Zone Conference, and we feel really pumped for this up and coming cycle. Tangent: I just realized that we are about to start week 3 of the cycle, so we are already half way through it...I told you time goes by super quick.

The rest of this week was back to the normal routine. We had some solid lessons with our investigators this week, and we found 2 new great investigators.

While we were walking towards the office yesterday, a man (Mario Calvo) stopped us in the street and asked us the reason why we preached. These last few months I've been on the mission, I've seen that this is actually a pretty common question. A lot of people see us walking around, and they wonder what we do. As we started to answer this Mario's question, he stopped me and asked me, "I want to know why you missionaries preach with such conviction. How do you know what you preach is true." I quickly realized that this man wasn't looking for just another common answer, he really wanted to know. I was prompted to simply share my testimony and I told him that I preach because I sincerely know that our message is true. I didn't add anything else, I didn't make it fancy. Just a simple, straightforward testimony. Well, this man immediately opened his heart, and gave us his phone number. He asked us a bunch of questions, and we told him we would be more than happy to answer them in his home. He agreed, and we set an appointment to see him on Sunday. 

If there is something I've learned here in the mission, is that a simple and sincere testimony can be sufficient to penetrate even the hardest of hearts. 

Elder Velazquez

Jasmine & Anita's Baptism last week/ bad haircut #1

Birthday Bash

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Letter 37

It has been raining a lot lately here in Juarez. It usually rains for about an hour in the mornings or mid afternoon, and then the sun comes up and rains havoc over the people in Juarez. It gets so ridiculously hot and humid after it rains. And then come the floods. The streets here have a horrible irrigation system (worse than Mexico City), and a little rain costs half the city to flood.
Here in Juarez, there is also a surprising amount of people who know people who have either died, or almost died getting struck by lightning. I always thought that being struck by lightning was a "one in a million" deal, but I guess not
This week was week 1 of a new cycle. A fresh new batch of missionaries arrived on Monday, On Tuesday, Elder Webster and I coordinated the changes for the whole mission. I broke my personal record for finishing the changes this cycle. We were able to move everyone around, and get them to their new area by 2:35 pm. The previous change we finished at 4:12 pm, and the one before that we finished at 6:30 pm. We finally got the hang of changes now, and I don't stress out too bad anymore.
Well, after changes, it was back to the daily grind for Elder Webster and I...almost. On Thursday and Friday we had our monthly "Mission Leadership Council" with President and all the other Zone leaders in the mission. To kick off Thursday's meeting, we had a mini work-out boot camp with all of the zone leaders and lead sister training leaders. Hermano Reyes (President's 1st councilor) taught us the correct way to work out in the mornings. Every morning we are supposed to work out for 30 minutes as soon as we wake up, and President wanted to see who really worked out in the mornings. Well, after an intense 30 min. session, we all realized that the exercises we all do in the mornings isn't even close to what we're supposed to be doing! The next day we all woke up crazy sore.
On Friday we had our regular meeting with President Derbez, and he announced a few changes we are going to apply to the mission. Most of it is pretty technical, and won't really effect everyone, so i will omit the details.
This brings us to today. Today we are having a baptism (in an hour actually). Jasmine and Anita Alanis are getting baptised this week. Jasmine and Anita were found by the sister missionaries here in Pradera and they have been coming to church regularly and have loved it. The sisters did most of the teaching (they live a couple blocks from their house), but Elder Webster and I helped teach them a bit as well. Jasmine is 20 years old and her sister, Anita is 11. Jasmine is cultivating a strong testimony in the Church, and has been a great influence for the rest of her family to start hearing about the Gospel. Elder Robbins and I will be baptising them.
Well, that about wraps up the week (and my time). I love you all!
Elder Velazquez

quick pic from Elder Velazquez

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Letter 36: Red Tomatos, Green Tomatillos.

Quióbole familia,

Quióbole is a pretty commonly used slang word here. A bunch of the common folk here are always greeting us withquióbole. It's a pretty funny word, and it got stuck on me these past few days. 

Well, this week is the last week of the cycle. I honestly cannot remember which cycle I'm on, but each one seems to end quicker than the last. Week 5 of each cycle is always the craziest week. Mainly because we are all running around making sure that everything is perfect for changes. We are receiving 13 new missionaries this cycle, and only 2 are leaving. President is opening up 3 new areas this cycle, and 7 the next! 

Right now, I have been wrapping up planning the schedules for Monday and Tuesday, as well as all the logistics for the changes on TuesdayOn Monday, we usually just do a little "meet-and-greet" with the new missionaries. The first bunch to arrive is always the latino missionaries (coming from the Mexico City CCM) and the American missionaries usually arrive in the afternoon (from the Provo MTC). We go and pick them up at the airport, take all their bags to a Hotel (where they stay their first night), and then bring them back to the office for interviews with the President. Then we feed them, I do all their immigration paperwork, and then they go back to their hotel and chillax until district meeting.  President changed the way new missionaries get incorporated into the mission, so that the new missionaries don't get so stressed out on their first day. On Tuesday, Elder Webster and I are usually running around getting the rest of the mission changed to their new areas and the Assistants and President are giving training meetings. Tuesday is thee craziest day out of the whole cycle. But I love it!

For the past 2 weeks or so, it has been a little hard for us to find new investigators. We have really been focusing a ton on our progressing investigators, and working with our recent converts, and we haven't really been finding a bunch of new investigators. We are contacting and tracting a lot on the streets, but a lot of the people we find just don't make the cut. By "the cut" I mean, that they are interested in our message, and ready to take a baptism. Here in Juárez we call the people that are ready to be baptised "escogidos", or "tomates rojos (red tomatoes)"

Quick tangent: Here in the North, people call red tomatoes "tomates", and the green tomatillos "tomates" as well. For those who may not know, the "tomatillo" is a common green chile here in Mexico and it doesn't really have anything in common with the red tomato (except the shape). This just drives me nuts because I never know what type of vegetable people are referring to. They even announce it as "tomates" at the supermarkets. 

Another quick tangent: This tomato terminology originated from a meeting we had with Elder Johnson (of the 70) about 2 months ago. He made the comparison of an investigator to a tomato. He said that when a tomato is ripe, it is red and ready for the pickin. He said that an investigator is the same. When they are fulfilling commitments, assisting church regularly, reading their scriptures, and experiencing a true conversion, they are as ripe as a red tomato. But sometimes as missionaries, we focus a lot on tomatoes that are still green and hard and not ready for the pickin'. So we should let those tomatoes mature, and leave them, because in the future they will surely be "picked" by some other missionary.

SO ANYWAY, we hadn't really been finding a bunch of red tomatoes. A lot of little, hard, green ones. Well, on Thursday we had our "tomato" prayers answered. As we were coming out of our lunch appointment, a white sedan stops and pulls up next to us. I was holding a copy of The Book Of Mormon, and this lady pointed at it and said "When do you guys give study sessions about that blue book?". We told her we gave them every single day, and were ready to give her one. She pointed out where she lived and asked us to drop by the next day. Well, we headed over the next day and gave her a nice little study about that marvelous blue book. She told us that her 2 sons in Texas had just recently gotten baptised in our Church, and this sparked a curiosity in her. She said that she had seen a few people walking around with ties on, but she wasn't sure if they "gave classes on the blue book" or if they were just Jehova's Witnesses. When she saw us holding The Book Of Mormon, she finally decided to talk to us. She loved the lesson, and accepted to come to church on Sunday with us!

I know the Lord hears our prayers, and he knows exactly when we need them answered. I love praying so much. I hope you all do to.

Elder Velazquez

Elder Velazquez and his care package!