Feliz Cumpleanos! Mordida! Mordida!

This past week was my dad’s birthday and I was a pretty bummed that I wasn’t going to be able to celebrate with him and the family or even at least call him to wish him a happy birthday. His day is the 22nd and it just so happened that two of my favorite people out here in New Mexico had birthdays on the 21st and the 23rd. As much as I wish I could’ve been celebrating with my family back at home this week, it was nice to feel like I was a part of a family out here too… and I definitely ended up getting my fair share of party-ing.

On the 21st one of our investigator families, Familia Trejo, invited us over for dinner to celebrate Geovana’s birthday. She refers to us missionaries as her niños and niñas, and I love that. The 23rd was Hermana Dominguez’s birthday and she threw an all out party yesterday evening to celebrate. She even took us out shopping last p-day to make sure we had new outfits for her big day. Her family are returning less-actives that have pretty much adopted us.

After lighting the candles and singing happy birthday, it’s Hispanic tradition to chant "Mor-di-da! Mor-di-da! Mor-di-da!" This means "bite it!" because the birthday girl or boy is always suppose to take the first bite of the cake. Usually in the process of doing so, they end up getting their face shoved into it. It’s one of my new favorite traditions.

I’m seriously so blessed to have so many good people in my life, both here in Albuquerque and all of you back at home. As always, thank you for your love, support and prayers. You guys are the best. Les amo con todo mi corazon! and Happy Birthday Dad, I hope it was a good one!

Yahaira’s Baptism

YAHAIRA GOT BAPTIZED!! I have been teaching this amazing little girl since my very first week here and this past Saturday she was finally baptized! The place was packed with fans and loved ones, and she was all smiles. The day’s festivities included homemade Posole and a bounce house. These New Mexicans know how to do it right.

There’s not much else to say except that wow, this Gospel blesses lives. I came across a quote in a missionary manual the other day that said that missionaries get a "front row seat to the greatest miracle of all: the effect of Christ’s Atonement on individuals and families." How true that is and how thankful I am to get to be apart of helping others to come unto Him.

Nutella and Banana Pancakes

Time is flying! I apologize for how long it’s been since I last sent out an update. It’s been a crazy month. I officially graduated from the 12 week training program for new missionaries only to jump right back into it, this time on the other side, as a trainer. What a learning experience that has been! I love my greenie, Hermana Sinibaldi. She’s a recent convert to the church and a native Spanish speaker from Gautemala, and honestly she probably ought to be the "trainer" in this companionship because I am learning SO much from her.

I’m happy, healthy, and learning and growing a ton. I love being a missionary.

My focus in studies has increasingly become more focused on Christ, His doctrine and the Atonement. I can’t seem to get enough of the New Testament, the book Jesus the Christ, and chapters in the Book of Mormon about our Savior. Recently I came across verse 15 in Alma chapter 6, that states: "And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come." I thought that was pretty cool. As members of the church we wear the nickname of "Mormon," but first and foremost we are Christians. We are Christians in the truest sense of the title: followers of Jesus Christ.

With that in mind, my companion and I have made it our goal to be better representatives of His name. This is a goal we’ve been inviting the members here to take up as well. This can be done in a whole lot of different ways, whether through directly sharing testimony of who Jesus Christ was or by doing as He did and helping others. Hermana Sinibaldi is awesome at both. That girl never leaves a conversation with out sharing her testimony is some way or another, and she always jumps right in to help those in need. Her kindness isn’t limited to any type of person. I think she really, genuinely loves everyone. I’ve been the lucky recipient of her Christ-like service on more than one occasion, my favorite times being when she has made pancakes topped with nutella and bananas. Que rico!

This week, both for those of you that consider yourself Christian and for those that maybe don’t, I’d challenge you to look for opportunities to do as Christ might do. Get creative with it (making nutella and banana pancakes for someone most definitely counts). See for yourself what kind of happiness it can bring to live life following in His footsteps.

My faith in Christ grows by the day. He was more than mere man. He was in reality who He claimed to be, the Son of God. He performed miracles. He lived humbly and died willingly to provide the way home for all. In Him we can find true happiness.

As always, thank you all for your letters, prayers and support. Les quiero!

La Gran Verguenza

So it’s now general knowledge in the Branch that pizza is my favorite food (I might be doing some subliminal advertising by wearing pizza socks and plastering the back of my daily planner with pictures of pizza…) and this week we enjoyed two nights of pizza for dinner. It was wonderful. Also, I’m actually starting to really like Mexican food. Crazy, but true.

In other news, we got a new car. We call her our Vaca, La Gran Verguenza. Yep, we’ve been assigned a mini van. We’re still not sure why, but hey at least we aren’t on bikes! Plus we kinda rock it. Our favorite song to jam to in the van is "I hope they call me on a mission" by popcorn bopping. I’ve got the rap on lock. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnxfXI9v6DE&list=PLBsFwVQ6m-d4MRZG1aRkNFO47CVQeJpSG&index=2

Sundays are my favorite day of the week. Yesterday we had 8 of our investigators and a whole bunch of less active families attend Sacrament meeting! One of our less active families we’ve been working with blessed their baby and a recent convert that we’ve also been working with was ordained to the priesthood yesterday too. My companion and I were over the moon happy. I feel so blessed to get to be a part of this wonderful work. It’s amazing to get to see people change as they begin to live the Gospel. They’re all so much happier, patient and at peace.

Lately we’ve been challenging families to read the Book of Mormon together and giving them a reading chart to color in as they go (Here’s a link to an English copy if you’re interested https://hermanametcalf.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/20b83-bookofmormonreadingchart.jpg ). Lots of people have taken us up on the challenge and they are loving it. They all get so excited to show us their charts and tell us where they’re at and what they’re learning. It’s great. I’d like to extend the challenge to the rest of you too! Make it your "February Resolution". There’s no better time to start than now, even if it’s just a chapter, a few pages, or even a verse a day. Give it a shot, see for yourselves what there is to gain.

As always, thank you all sooo much for your love, support, prayers and for all of the mail you send my way. I’m one lucky duck and one well cared for hermana. Thank you. I love and miss you all! Tengan una hermosa semana! Cuidense!

La Semana Pasada

Hola!

This week has been a week of running on back up plans and hardly anything we planned went quite right. It’s been odd, still good, but odd. 6 of the 7 days this week we were fed American food! It was like everyone got together and officially decided together not to have Mexican food… There were two glorious days where we got pizza and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and then the other days were spaghetti and spaghetti and spaghetti AND then, lasagna. Not kidding. Hermana Cifuentes has been here for 5 months and has never seen spaghetti or lasagna until now. Not sure what was going on in the universe this week… Made me miss rice and beans!

Politics and Trump are a topic of particular concern down here… Most of the people we interact with are immigrants (legal and illegal) and they are all really scared right now, this past week especially. It’s been both heartbreaking and eye opening to see firsthand the struggles and fears they face. So many people here have become very dear friends to me, and I worry and care about them and their families a whole lot. Their reality is a whole different world than the one I grew up in and am a part of. It’s incredible what the majority of them have gone through to get here and how hard they have to work to provide for their families. I know I joke around about the food being too spicy and what not, but at the end of the day I really am so grateful that so many have been willing to open up their homes to us and share what they have. They are such good people.

If you all could remember my New Mexicans in your prayers, I would really appreciate it 🙂

I’m learning a lot out here, but perhaps the most important thing I’m growing to better understand is Christ’s Atonement. It changes lives. It has changed mine. My gratitude is deepened a little more each day for the sacrifice our Savior so freely and willingly gave on our behalf. Recently I was listening to a talk about the Atonement given by Jeffery R Holland called “Broken Things to Mend.” I 10/10 recommend giving it a read/listen (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/broken-things-to-mend?lang=eng) Holland talks about Christ’s invitation to all saying, “He said it to believers, and He said it to those who were not so sure. He said to everyone, whatever their personal problems might be:

‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’”

What a comfort it is to know that no one is beyond His reach of comfort and peace. His invitation is to all, that means my friends here, my friends back home, your friends, your family, me, you. Find some time this week to learn a little more about the Atonement. I honestly believe that there is no more important topic to learn of and understand, and I can’t think of any better use of our time. I know my Savior lives and that the power of His Atonement is real.

3 months: Rabbais, Pastors, Priests and taquitos

Hola!

It occurred to me this morning that I’m just 2 days shy of being at an official 3 months as a missionary! Vaca Santa! That’s loco.

So something super cool and random happened this past week: Hermana Cifuentes and I were selected by our mission president to attend an Interfaith luncheon with the mayor of Albuquerque! At the event there were Rabbais, Pastors, Priests and holy leaders from every church, synagogue and mosque in town. I loved it! Hermana Cifuentes was bored out of her mind and couldn’t wait to get out of there and back to work (she cracks me up), but I thought it was really cool to get to see how all of the different faiths in the city are coming together in emergency preparedness plans and service outreach programs. We showed up early and as a result were asked to help out with handing out name tags and greeting everyone at the door. It was awesome. We were able to meet and interact with a lot of really great people from all different sets of beliefs and backgrounds. Definitely one of my new favorite mission memories.

Everything else about this past week has been pretty great too. We were able to find a solid new investigator, we had a handful of really powerful lessons and visits with our investigators and member families, and I was fed some of the greatest taquitos I have ever had. Being a missionary is the best, and the New Mexico Albuquerque Mission is where it’s at.

Thank you for all of your love, support and prayers. All of your letters and emails are much appreciated. Love you guys! Have a great week!

Transfers

Hola!

It’s been another wonderful week here in North ​​Albuquerque and it looks like I’m in store for at least another 6 more! I’ve officially completed my first transfer (6 weeks) in the mission field and I’ve been assigned to stay here in the Valle del Norte area with my same companion, Hermana Cifuentes, for another transfer! I’m so pumped about it!

Yesterday was one of those really, really good days as a missionary. We work with a handful of investigators out here, but a lot more of what we do in this area is work with people who are already members and need a little extra love. We’ve spent this past transfer really trying to build up friendships and trust with the members, and we’ve been trying hard to help a lot of them return to activity in the church. Yesterday we had 4 inactive families (most of whom who haven’t been to church in years) show up to sacrament meeting!!! We also had a family of recent converts come (who hadn’t come to church pretty much since their baptisms) AND one of our super incredible investigator families showed up as well!! I can not even express the level of happiness and gratitude I felt sitting in that meeting yesterday looking around and seeing so many of the people that I’ve grown to love SO much be there in church with us yesterday. I would’ve been super happy if even just one of them had made it, but to have such an outcome was just amazing.

The more I grow to love these people, the more I begin to marvel at the amount of love that our Father in Heaven must feel for each one of us. If I, being as imperfect as I am, can feel so full of love for these people, I can only imagine how God, being the perfect parent that He is, must feel about us. If I’ve learned anything out here, it’s that God loves us. He’s aware of you and the things you’re going through. He’s not some distant, mysterious being that sits out on a thrown somewhere in the sky and condemns sinners. He’s a parent. Of all of the titles He has to wear, He asks us to call Him father. He loves you, He really loves you, and He wants the best for you. When you need Him, He’s only a prayer away.

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