Mi querida familia,
Hey everyone! Hope you're all doing well, I know I'm having a blast out here in Oklahoma.
I'll be honest, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed. My Spanish is not as good as I thought it was back in the MTC, understanding the members is really hard, but I generally feel their love for the Gospel whenever I'm around them.
So a few things about the Spanish culture that I've learned out here: 1. Spanish culture is very "spur of the moment". We were out knocking on doors one day, and we went to this one house where they were having a family BBQ for the 4th of July. We introduced ourselves and they let us come share our message and then they offered us these really good steak tacos.
Also, I'm learing that often times its not that offensive to completely miss an appointment. Most times, appointments fall through. The men in the Spanish culture seem to always be working 24/7 so its very hard to set appointments with them.
2. The Hispanics are very kind people, I have yet to meet someone who was hostile to a couple of young missionaries walking around offering to bless their homes.
3. There is this fun MExican tradition that they do on birthdays. The person having a birthday often take a huge bite, literally no forks just their mouths, out of the birthday cake. It's quite hilarious.
4. Not the best singers when it comes to Sacrament meeting:)
5. Many people like to sit out on the front porch and simply hang out. I never really saw a lot of that in Utah.
6. Family Home Evenings in the Spanish Wards are a little different. The whole branch is really closely knit, so for Fmaily Home Evening, the whole branch usually goes to the Church for a Spiritual lesson and to play volleyball.
So there are a few things about Spanish culture. Now I want to share with you this interesting tactic our mission uses when doing door appraches. This tactic is called the "Heavenly Gift" or "Don de los Cielos". We no longer identify ourselves as "missionaries as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" right off the bat. Our approaches go something like this: "Hello, we are representatives of Jesus Christ. There are many troubles and hardships in the world and today we are going around blessing peoples homes because we feel like we could all use a little more of God in our lives. Would it be ok if we came in and said a prayer with you and bless your home and family?" We would then proceed to go in, get to know the family, ask them what they would like us to pray for and then pray for them. Ultimately, we get on the subject of religion, and we're able to share a restored truth and get a return appointment.
It's been very effective for our mission, we've actually doubled the number of our progressing investiagtors ever sicne instigating this approach. It works because it very efficiently seeks out those that are ready to hear the gospel. Your heart has to be pretty hard and closed to turn down a prayer.
Now let me tell you about my companion Elder Black. Seriously, he's like the best trainer ever. I have yet to see him frown. He laughs a lot and takes the work very seriously. One of the things he's helped me learn is how to not feel so uptight about everything, keeping that trust in God and keeping the work fun as well as busy. Everyone is really drawn to Elder Black, he is very personable and I've really been able to connect with him. He's a volleyball player and and also the District leader for our District. This means we get to drive a car! We only get 400 miles a month so we still have to bike a lot... but it's a really great asset to have the car. I learn so much from Elder Black, sometimes I feel like I'm eclipsed by his awesomeness but we've been able to work as a team really well.
Our apartment is pretty standard. I'll have to send pictures next week. To those who went to BYU, it's about in between the New Heritage and Old Heritage in terms of quality. I'm so glad to be out of the MTC! We don't have to worry about dinner ever. The members literally sign up to feed us; they really get excited about missionary work; I've never seen such excitement about missionary work such as here than anywhere I've lived in Utah. We pass around sign up sheets for members to come teahc appointements with us, and we've been able to get quite a few volunteers.
MY companion and I have a good sized amount of investiagators. Oklahoma is a very religious state. You know how there are LDS churches on every corner in Utah? Well, it's like that except there's a different church on every corner. Most everyone knows about Jesus Christ, we really have to rely on the message of the Restoration and the Book of Mormon to show our uniqueness from other churches.
My faith has really been tested out here. I'm learning the magnitude of trust you need to have in the Lord and that the Holy Ghost will help you teach. It's a bit daunting to think that God can work miracles through me.
We had a very interesting experience with an investigator yesterday. She really thinks the Spirit is telling her to get a divorce, and even after we explaiend how the Spirit manifests truth. She felt peace when she thought about getting a divorce but she's confused because she gets the feeling that Eternal Fmailes are important as well. It was a very deep, spiritual lesson. I didn't know quite what to say; but I think Elder Black and I have figured out how to help her and keep pointed towards our purpose: which is to bring her closer to Christ through Faith in Jesus Christ and his Atonement, repentance, baptism , receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end.
I did have my first baptismal invitation this week with an investigator named Ismael. He accepted, but he has so much he needs to learn. He's also not very educated so we have to really explain things simply and we have to remind him constantly to come to Church and and of what we taught the lesson before.
I can't wait to see what my mission has in store for me. It's such an exciting experience. The gospel is truly expanding, and there are people out there who are ready to hear it. They just need to come to Church! (that's the biggest challenge:)
Hope everyone is doing well; again the best address to reach me at is the Mission office in Oklahoma
416 SW 79th Suite 210
Oklahoma City, OK
Keep strong in the Faith!