Monday, August 31, 2015

Week 10

The Rio Grande River

Dear family and friends,

This week went well in Piedras! I have now crossed the 1 month mark in the field! I can't believe I left the MTC a month ago. Time truly flies. This week was a lot easier than the past couple of weeks. It was cooler, we taught more lessons, and didn't have to walk as far! My Spanish is improving every day and I am excited to see where I will be in a few months. 

This week, I want to share the conversion story of my companion. My companion is one of the most unique people I have ever met in my life and I am so grateful for the last month we have had together. I will be very sad to see him go in 2 weeks when he complete his mission and returns to his home. Here is his story, with my commentary added. I apologize if there are errors, I had to gather this story completely from the Spanish that I hear every day. 

When I met Elder Suarez, I truly didn't know what to think. He seemed like a good guy, he didn't say much to me but I just kind of took it and continued onward. But over the past 4 weeks, I have learned so much from him. He has taught me doctrine, how to tecah and ask questions, how to use examples while I teach, and how to show love and concern for each person we talk with. 

However, I think that the conversion story of my companion is something much more insprinig than my personal growth here in Mexico during the last month. Here is his story. 

Elder Suarez is now 25 years old, has completed 5 yeras of college, and graduated with a degree in computer informatics/science. He has one sister, his mother, and his dog. His mother took him and his sister and left his father when he was 3 years old. He never knew his father. 

He grew up in the State of Mexico, basically Mexico City, and did very well in high school. He began to attend a prestigeous university and moved out as many young adults do when they begin their college careers.  He lived a comfotable life, with plenty of food, a house, a job, and did well in school. He didn't believe in God, even though his family was, and still is Catholic. He was content with his life. 

However, his life began to change. His job began to pay him less and less, and he had fewer hours. It got to the point that he had to choose between taking the bus to arrive on time to classes or eat that day. He began to be depressed, lonely, antisocial, he even told me that he could count on one hand, the number of social activites he had attended in a year. He tells me that he sat on his porch one day, with his dog thinking to himself, "what happened? I used to be so happy, I had everything! But now, I have nothing. I have no friends, becuase I cannot trust anyone. I don't have enough money to pay all of my expenses like food and rent and school and my family can't support me physically or emotionally... what happened..." 

What happened next is very interesting, Jehovah's witnesses missionaries knocked on his door and shared verses from the Bible with him. He had never read the Bible before. For the first time in his life, he wondered about God. As a result, he did what any person would do when you lack information on a subject, he read the Bible. All of it. I wish you gusy could see how gracefully and masterfully he integrates Bible verses into our daily religious conversations. Not just verses from Genesis, Exodus, the Gospels, or the Acts of the apostles... he shares verses that I have never even read that are incredibly relavent. He is a true master of the scriptures. 

Anyway, he read the Bible, but still had many unanswered questions. He started to read other material, self help books, commentaries on the Bible, but he couldn't find his answers anywhere. Remember, that during this time of searching, he was struggling financially and had few friends or family to rely on. 

He then stumbled upon the Book of Mormon and somehow found out that there was going to be a session of General Conference that weekend. He went to General Conference and said that he loved what he heard. He felt the spirit testify that what he heard was true. He read the rest of the Book of Mormon, and with the help of the missionaries, found the answers to questions, he says, "he didn't know he had". He learned the lessons and was baptized at age 21. He says the day of his baptism was the greatest day of his life! 

His family was furious that he was baptized. However, he persevered and continued forward with very little support. He finished college and decided to serve a mission, at age 23. In order to pay for his mission, he worked 2, sometimes 3 jobs, slept very little, and recieved no support from his family. Elder Suarez also has a week heart and doctors told him that he is healthy enough to serve but that it would be physically very difficult. Despite all of these difficutlties, off Elder Suarez went on his mission. 

Elder Suarez tells me that his mission has been difficult. His mother doesn't write him very often, members from his home ward don't write him, and he has no contact with his sister at all. I literally can't imagine how difficult it would be to not recieve love and support from home. Even if it is just emailing...writing my family is one of the best parts of my week!

Yet, true to character, Elder Suarez continues onward. He teaches me so much every day. He perhaps, shares the most pure testimony of the church and of Jesus Christ that I have ever heard in my life. He knows for himself, that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ is true. He is a fantastic missionary, who truly understands what it means to sacrifice and serve, no matter how hard it is or what you have to give. 

He tells me all the time to count my blessings every day. Sometimes we don't know how blessed our lives are until we suffer difficulty. He tells me every day to trust myself, because the Lord trusts in me. I want to share that same message with any one who reads this. The Lord trusts in you and that is what really matters. When everything seems to be crashing down, and there is little support to be found, remember that the Savior loves us more than we can imagine. I promise that if we try to remember the Savior a little more each day, and be willing to work, learn, and sacrifice for the things that really matter, our lives will be full of joy. 

Thank you for your continued love and support! Siga adelente! 

Elder Shipley 

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