Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 22nd

Hey family!

So first off I am sorry I did not get to email on Tuesday. Oh and thank you to Larissa and Grandma Davidson for the letters, they were very uplifting and I really loved the pictures grandma. Thanks!

On Monday afternoon I had to go down to Chihuahua and sign a few papers and get finger printed for my visa to be here for a year. And after a year I think I go back and sign some more papers... I don’t really know. But on Monday we had zone conference, but it was a multi-zone conference with all 4 zones of Juarez and Casas Grandes missionaries too. So there were like more than 100 of us at this conference. One of the members of the Seventy was there and he wanted to talk to all of the Juarez missionaries.. Oh and yes he knows Spanish, he was a mission president down in Paraguay for a while. But his wife’s Spanish is so horrible - it’s hilarious! It gave me confidence with my Spanish! It was a really good conference and I really learned a lot. He also updated the way the mission does a few things to be more efficient. So I was really happy about that. But the best part of conference was me realizing how much Spanish I can speak and understand now. At conference I understood just about everything, no joke. I only asked what like a word or two meant; I was able to get everything else. I was really excited! And during conference I was able to talk to everyone and really joined in all of the conversations and have conversations with just me and someone else. I sound like a socially retarded kid who figured out how to talk to people, but it’s just in Spanish... I had been really excited the 3 days before conference because I am to the point now where I can understand without trying really hard to understand if that makes sense. Anyone how has learned a second language knows what I’m saying. Like before I had to think as hard as I could and translate stuff and be real slow about it. But recently I have understood without thinking twice about it. And I can talk without planning out in my head what I want to say. Obviously I’m very very very far from fluent, and I can understand far far far more than I can speak, but I’m really a lot better now. Like for the most part, I understand Spanish. This has made my life a whole lot better to say the least... I like a lot more people now that I can understand too, so that is good. And in like odd lesson situations when we are talking about odd things I can actually talk more and speak a lot more of my own words! Exciting huh?! I have a long way to go, but I like Mexico a whole lot more now that I can understand people more... Oh and at the conference all of the Americans from my group, the ones who don’t know Spanish yet like me, were all together talking the whole time, well when we had time to talk after the conference, and I decided I rather go talk to some of the other Mexican elders in Spanish if that makes sense. It was good and I guess I love the fact that I can carry on a conversation for the most part... Obvious I can’t understand much of what drunk people say, or when people speak REALLY fast, or when people don’t speak well. Anyways, I have been pretty excited about that this week.

Oh and Chihuahua was good. I was with 5 of the other elders from my MTC group, called my generation in mission terms... And so it was fun to see how much more Spanish we knew. And see how much less Spanish the elders whose companions spoke English knew... We drove down with the president of the mission after conference, which was about 4 hours and then came back Tuesday on a bus, which took about 5 hours. We stayed at the mission home on Monday night and Tuesday early went to the consulate or to sign visa papers and then came back to Juarez. It was good because I was able to talk a lot with Elder Jon Killpack who is a really good friend of mine. We get along really well and talked a lot about life and such. He also knows a lot of Spanish too and we helped each other out a lot. It was also fun because a lot of people, who know I have only been here for 7 weeks, complimented my Spanish and my pronunciation a lot, so that was nice because I usually feel pretty down about my Spanish because as much as I know, I have a LONG LONG way to go. Oh and when I was just with the other Americans on the bus and stuff they relied on me a lot to understand what people were saying! So that was fun. But we all know a lot more and are not afraid to talk to random people or ask questions and stuff, it was just a much better experience than the first day at the mission home... We were all a lot more relaxed and way TAN!

Anyways, so this week has been a good week for the most part. No baptisms, but in the beginning of May we should have a lot of baptisms going for us. Oh and Danielle you asked about how our converts stay in the church and do they stay active and such. Well, we have a ton of investigators in the first place because the Mexican culture is a Christian culture through and through. Like I doubt I will meet one non Christian in my two years here. It’s rude to ask someone if they believe in Christ here because everyone does and it is just ingrained in them. Also people in the states, who are ignorant to say the least, think that Mormons are not Christians. But here, more people know more about Mormons and so everyone knows Mormons are Christians and believe in Christ and the bible and such. So people just overall know more about Mormons because religion is a very open discussion topic here. People love to talk about religion and Christ because everyone believes so strongly in Him. Also Mexicans are much more family oriented and have huge families and so if someone has a Mormon member of their family, they know a little about the church. So that is why we have so many investigators and people here are baptized quicker here. To be honest they are far more humble and they have a strong faith in Christ to begin with, two things which are much more rare to come across in a person in the states.

Sorry if it sounds like I am bagging on Americans... I promise I’m not... I think they gain testimonies quicker because when they pray, they have that true intent to know and they truly have faith in Christ and know He will answer their prayers. All of which is necessary to receive an answer. When we teach people that prayer is a two way communication with God and that they can have a personal relationship with Him, they love it. They are like that is how I always thought it should be! So because of this they receive an answer in their hearts, and once you know something in your heart through the Holy Spirit, you know it more than anything in the world. It has little to do with what we teach, and everything to do with our investigators desire to pray with humility and faith. God does love us and truly cares about us and our lives and I know that he WILL answer our prayers. When we ask with true intent, faith, and humility He will answer our prayers. I know it because I see it every day in my life and I see it every day in our investigators lives. It is EXTREMELY obvious whether our investigator has really prayed and asked God for themselves or not. So yeah Danielle, that is why people tend to get baptized quicker here... Oh and they stay active because we visit our converts a lot and the wards are extremely good at involving our converts. They are all so excited when we have a baptism because they know how the gospel has blessed their lives and are so excited for our investigator to receive the same blessings in their lives. So they all some to the baptism and really include and befriend the new members because most of them were new members not to long ago. And the wards are smaller so everyone knows when we have investigators there and comes and welcomes them, well one of our wards is really good at this. So yeah, I think that’s about it for my response... let me know if you have more questions Danielle.
Oh and a bum came and told us he was Jesus the other day and was way crazy...Oh and I saw a lot more violent stuff happen this week. So that was sad. Like someone getting thrown off a bus by a couple guys. It was sad, but it didn’t even phase my comp! He is like used to it! Mexico is Nuts! There are just so many things in a day that are SO different from US lives... Oh and I learned about cock fighting this week too, there is a lot of it here. It’s really bloody and sad... I didn’t like it much at all.... Sorry I do not have more time I love you all so very much! I can’t wait to hear from you!
Elder Andrew Davidson

April 14th

Happy Easter!
I just wanted to say that because Easter is not celebrated here, I didn’t even remember it was Easter until I got a package from mom! It really made my day, so thanks mom! The Catholics do a little thing on Friday for the death of Christ, but that is about it. Oh and thank you Zavorals for the letters too, I really enjoyed hearing from you. My Easter was a crazy day though, we had two baptismal services. SO we had a TON going on! Because we have to do everything for the service and plan it all and figure everything out, so two in one day was a lot. But we had 6 baptisms this transfer, so that is awesome. We actually lead the entire Zone in baptisms, so that was cool. Oh and our Zone reached its 30 baptisms for the transfer goal. Oh and I did not change areas and my companion didn’t either, so that is really exciting because we have a lot going for us right now with all our investigators and such. It would be awesome to get another 6 baptisms! Everything here has been going great and I really love my companion a lot. We can really talk a lot now because Spanish is really coming along. I can almost always try to say what I’m trying to say and I really understand a ton now! Obviously there are a lot of things I do not know the vocab. for, but I really can talk a ton now and everyone says my pronunciation is really good, so that is exciting. I have been a little sick the past 3 days, so that is sad, but I fell much better right now and last night was the only time I was really sick, but I have been much better today!
So in conference many of the speakers talked a lot about the joy that can and will come into our lives when we live the principles of the gospel. And it has been absolutely amazing to see how much people’s lives can change! Families together are a rare thing to see here and so it is really obvious when someone really has the gospel in their lives. I mentioned Priscilla last week and how drastically her life has been changed. But there are a lot of problems with the husband leaving and so when a family comes together and is happy again because of the gospel, it is amazing to see. I don’t feel like I am explaining this very well, so here is an example. The other day we were talking to one of our investigators and she was really upset because her sister was being abused by her husband and so we were trying to help her and teach her about the life changing power the gospel has. Then my companion, for the first time in 6 weeks, shared a really person story about his conversion. Before his family joined the church, his parents had a ton of problems and the fought a ton and the dad became an alcoholic and so his mom kicked him out of the house and he went to live on the street. Oh and half his family was catholic and the other half was Jehovah Witnesses. My companion was 14 at the time. Then they learned about the Gospel through the missionaries and they all joined the church. His dad changed completely and his parents moved back together and his family is very very active in the church and they are now extremely happy. There is obviously a lot more to the story, but I don’t want to say too much about it. It was just amazing to see the life changing and family saving power of the gospel. My companion is a very powerful missionary and hearing about this really helped me to learn why. The gospel saved his family and completely changed his life and he is such a strong personal witness of power of the gospel. I love having the opportunity to help people and literally help them completely change their lives! We are at the crappy internet place again so it’s hard to type much, so sorry.
Oh so a few random things about Mexico, I don’t remember if I said this already, but Hollister clothes and Puma shoes are the COOLEST thing here. Haha it’s so funny, because everyone who wants to be cool wears it, and it’s just funny because most times it like California in bold letters across the front and I’m like hey, I live there. But there are a lot of knock off brands here so I could get you like 4 Hollister shirts for 20 bucks! Oh and I’m still the only blonde is Juarez, I have still yet to see another. And I have been asking the other Mexican missionaries if they have seen blonde haired people before, and for some, I’m the first they have ever seen in their life! I think that is so funny.. Oh and our zone had an activity that all of us missionaries participated together (there is about 24 missionaries in out zone) and so we had this whole little skit and I was the angel in the skit because I’m tall, white, and blonde! haha It was fun!! . With the exception of a little food poisoning yesterday, it has been a really good week. I love being a missionary and I love that I get to serve here in Mexico! It has been an amazing experience so far and I’m so excited for the next 20 months! I love you all and miss you so very much!
Love,Elder Andrew Davidson

Thursday, April 9, 2009

So another week has gone by already! Crazy! This past week has been a pretty good one! Mainly because we just had a baptism yesterday, and it was my favorite investigator so far so it really meant a lot to me! But I will explain more about that in a little bit. First, thank you Danielle, Cheryl, and Mom for the letters! I loved it and it was a huge booster! Danielle I’m going to try and answer your general Mexico questions in this email because I realized that I never had emailed home about that stuff.
So first off this past weekend was amazing because we got to watch all of conference and in ENGLISH! Crazy I know! Haha I know it would have helped me to watch it in Spanish, but I really wanted to get a big spiritual boost from it so the American Missionaries all watched it together in English in a different room in the church! Plus I think it would be weird to hear it all in a translated voice. It was really uplifting and I definitely came into conference with an entirely different attitude and in made a big difference in what I got out of it. I really cared about what was being said and really took notes. Also I realized that what they were saying literally was what the Lord wants us to know right now! It literally is the words of Christ! What could be of more value in our lives than what He has to say to help us in our lives? I came into conference with a lot of questions and they were all definitely answered as I listened and took notes. I know you all saw it too, but one of the main things I felt so many of the speakers were talking about was that we need to really live the principles of the gospel in our life, for the gospel to truly have an effect in our lives. That is we really incorporate the gospel into our lives, everything will work out and we really will be able to work though all of our problems in life and really be happy! There were so many amazing promises made to us if we do those things! I am so excited to be a missionary right now! Oh so a little more about life in Mexico, well in Juarez. Because the culture is different depending on where I am in Chihuahua because it is a huge state. But sorry for not saying more earlier, I guess I left out the little things about life here.... haha
We have a little house in a fairly nice area. It is just me and my companion living there and it’s almost always only 2 missionaries together, but in some areas they have 4 living together. It’s a really narrow but long house, all of the houses here are like that. Turns out it is a pretty nice house compared to what most missionaries have, and we keep it clean so it looks good. Don’t worry mom, you taught me well! :) Our house is always very very clean and we even sweep and mop the whole place every week and clean the bathroom and the kitchen every week on p-day. I have come too really like our little house, but it’s more like a condo in US house terms. Most of the houses here are like that, there are a bunch connected together and each house is a thin slice if that makes any sense... haha We have 2 wards, well one ward and one branch( because it is smaller) The branch is tiny but I LOVE it! It’s so nice to bring our investigators there because everyone knows everyone else so they all are so welcoming and friendly. The branch president is amazing and always helps out a TON. He actually basically runs the whole branch, but that’s okay... haha. The other ward meets in a larger building and although there are more members, it does not seem like it because the building is much bigger. The bishop is not as missionary friendly so that’s
Too bad, but the members are great. Everyone here, as I think I mentioned last week, is really nice to us. And everyone has a general respect for us, which is really nice. A lot of people help us out and come over and shake our hands and say hello because they like us and respect us a lot. So that is nice here. but my comp says in other areas they are not as nice so that is too bad, but I guess I will see when I get there. I have like just about all of the food here. I have always loved Mexican food here, but it is way different than in most places in the states. They cook a lot of different ways so that is interesting to learn.
They have 'chile' or spicy peppers on everything so I’m definitely
getting used to that and learning to really like it. The area I am in right now is not super super poor, in comparison to Juarez as a whole. Some places like, Alta Vista is super super poor its nuts. But my area is generally pretty nice and has a good amount of roads and such. Compared to what most all of you live in, in the US is super poor here... haha Missionaries live
pretty poor though because we literally just get everything we need and that is it. Only necessities and that is it. But I like it, I like living here with not all too much. Its kind of nice actually if that sounds weird... haha We hitch hike a lot, but it’s mainly in the back of people trucks for the most part. Don’t worry, we are always safe about it, the people who let us in their cars are never the bad people and it’s never for very long. Just when we have to go straight for a long while. There are not many Americans at all here, surprisingly there are not many people from the states coming to live in Juarez right now... haha Like the only other Americans( white people) are the other missionaries, and there are not too many of us... So with my extremely blonde hair I stick out a lot. I’m tan now, but my hair is ridiculous... haha Whenever I get on a bus, everyone stares! For like 15 minutes too! Haha Some people even ask my comp why he is with a white guy like me! Haha but its great opportunities to share the gospel and people are ALWAYS super nice here and talk to us and listen and are very polite! I love serving in Mexico! The Mexican people are amazing! Some people don’t like me because I’m white and American, so that is sad. Like not super mean or anything, they just won’t talk to me and give me dirty looks and never look at me. There is not many tho. Oh and people on the street, like teenagers, always say "what’s up man" With a way strong Mexican accent! Haha I love it! Sometimes I’m like a novelty with my blonde hair and blue eyes! haha Most of the day I wish I was much shorter and not so white... haha I hit my head like 10 times a day on stuff, it sucks, I’m not made for this world here. Oh and another weird thing is we can’t go tracking, or knocking doors, at night. Because when we knock on a door at night, people don’t answer to men all dressed up. We are mistaken for mobsters, or gangster (I don’t know the word exactly in English... haha) a lot. Like people don’t see our badge and get really scared of us. It’s always kind of funny. But when we walk by people at night, a lot of time they see us and run inside and lock the door really quick. Haha, It is just not super safe here so people are always really careful. And if we do knock doors, people just say, come back in the morning! Haha Anyways, that all I can think of right now, I hope I explained a little better how life is here :)
So about the baptism real quick, yesterday we had a baptism for Priscilla. She is amazing and really is living the principles of the gospel and is so happy because of it. It’s so amazing to see the whole change people can make and how happy they are because of it. She stopped drinking and smoking and took out her tongue ring and obeys the law of chastity and ALL! I love it! She is amazing and so very strong! Her testimony is so strong! The baptism went well, and I got to baptize her! I said everything right, but the water is always freezing! The spirit was so strong there and I loved it! All of her family was there (oh she is only 25 years old) and they are not members and I know they really felt the spirit too and really like the baptismal service! It just really meant a lot to me because she is a good friend! She even made me a cool card and told me how grateful she was and that she will never forget me and that I better never forget her! Haha I loved it! Her best friend Monica will get baptized soon too, she just has a few things to work out first. But really soon! :) It was an amazing experience to really see the spirit guide the service and help us out so much during the whole thing. I was really nervous that I was going to forget something haha But I just said, this is His baptism not mine, I have done all I needed to, to prepare and live worthy, and so I just relaxed and everything went great! I loved it! Especially since the last baptismal service was so crazy! Oh and we have to do everything for the baptismal service and it is a lot of work! Haha Thanks mom for doing all that for me! Haha Anyways, my comp is telling me to go, but I was able to say a lot this week so that is good! The Spanish is coming along well and I get better each day, I’m really really really learning patience! Haha We had interviews with the president of the mission today, and he said me and my comp have to wake up at 6 and go run for 30 minutes every day now because my comp is gaining weight! Haha Well that’s why he thinks we have to do it! I have been really good about eating well and exercising a lot so it just sucks to lose more sleep. We are the only ones who have to do it too... haha Ill tell you how about it next week. Anyways, I love you so very much and I hope to hear from you soon! Oh and don’t send anything this week to the PO Box, I might change areas on Sunday. I’ll tell you on Tuesday, just wait a week to send anything. Thanks I love you all and miss you so very much!
Elder Andrew Davidson