Monday, October 26, 2015

Week 18

Dear Family and Friends,
This was an absolutely incredible week!  We celebrated the last mission week of my companion, and past Assistant to the President, Elder Alcala. We had a lot of great experiences and success. He taught me so much! It was really hard to see him go but I know that Elder Vielma, who arrives from Monclova tomorow, is going to teach me even more and help me progress as a missionary!
The focus of this week was preparing Hermana Cinthia to be baptized this past Saturday, October 24th! And even though there were Hurricane warnings, another flood (this one was smaller though!), and the fact that the baptismal font in my chapel would not fill, we were able to endure to the end and helped Cinthia enter the waters of baptism!
It was such a special experience and I had the opportunity to baptize my first person here in Mexico! The members of our ward told us all week that we should be careful because Hurricane Patricia would roll through and we were so nervous that it was going to prevent the baptismal service from taking place but all went well because we had faith in the Lord!
I was very grateful for the opportunity to share the Gospel with this wonderful young mother, only 21, and help her join the church and enjoy all of the blessings that our Loving Father in Heaven joyfully offers us! I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve. Everyday, I learn countless things.
I am grateful for the chance to stay here in Piedras Negras for this transfer and continue teaching this sister to help her strengthen her testimony! Thank you for your love and support! It's crazy that I just finished my in field training and 4 months on the mission! I am officially no longer a new missionary!
All the best, 
Elder Shipley  

Monday, October 19, 2015

Week 17

Jeff called this a "sick ride" in Piedras!
Jeff rocking the cowboy hat!

Dear Family and Friends, 

This was an absolutely incredible week here in Piedras Negras! We are loving the weather now! It gets down to about 60 in the morning and 85 in the afternoon! 

The kid in the picture is a 13 years old and is super special to me. He lives in the poorest area and is a convert of one year to the church. His parents aren't members, his mom supports him, his dad does not. They didn't even have money to take the bus to church on Sunday and the ward has to help him out. However, he has such a sweet spirit, so pure. I am literally tearing up as I write this just thinking about him! He works super hard and helps his mom, even though his mom is kinda mean/abusive.... and he wants to save enough money to go to the temple to do baptisms for the dead. Since the temple is 9 hours away by bus, he thinks it will take 2 years to save enough money.  He also wants to serve a mission someday.  It is literally a pleasure to teach this kid. Super kind, sweet boy, who is always excited to see me and talk about the gospel. 

This week was a very different for me. We had a zone conference on Wednesday and my mission president drove 8 hours north to reach my zone. It's crazy how big my mission is! The zone conference was incredible and I learned so much! I am going to share a shortened version of what my President taught me about faith a little later in this email. 

On Wednesday, we had splits, which means my companion, Elder Alcala went to another area and spent the day with Elder Moreno, and my district leader, Elder Miller from Grand Junction, Colorado, spent the day with me in my area! It went so well! Since he didn't know any of the investigators or contacts or how to navigate the area, I basically acted like a senior companion for the day! I decided where to go and what to do and what to teach! I think it went super well and was very confident with my teaching and Spanish. It was honestly a grand pleasure to spend an entire day with another American, but it is safe to say that my Spanish did not improve after talking about college football in the streets all day :) 

I spent my Saturday in the hospital. Before my mother freaks out and calls my mission president, let me explain. My companion had to go to the hospital because he cut his hand on a rusty door on Friday afternoon, so we had to get it treated the next day because there was discoloration on his hand. 

My experience in the hospital taught me a great life lesson and I have set a new "life goal". My new life goal is to never visit a Mexican hospital again. Not because the level of care or equipment was inadequate or bad, because it was just fine. They had most everything you would find in an average hospital. The reason I never want to return is because we spent 4 hours navigating the bureaucracy of the hospital and I was so lost with my Spanish. We had to go between the ER, pharmacy, administration offices, front desk.... it was awful and I just followed my companion around as his hand gradually turned more white/purple. Nobody could tell us, where to go or what to do. It was quite the morning. 

Now I want to share a brief summary of what my President shared with me during our Zone conference. My mission president began with a question: what is the first principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of us answered his question and responded, Faith in Jesus Christ. However, there where others that only said, faith. He then asked, what is the difference between "faith", and "Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ". 

We know from Alma 32:21, that faith is "not to have a perfect knowledge of things, therefore if ye have faith, ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true"

However, my President went way deeper than that, of course, to examine the difference between faith and faith in Jesus Christ. He explained that faith is merely a belief in something or someone. To explain what Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is we turned to Hewbrews 11:1, which says, "Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things no seen"(King James Bible). 

Something super cool that I discovered last night when I was writing this thought was that the Spanish Bible that I use every day, the Reina-Valera 2008, uses the words "certainty" instead of "substance", and "conviction" instead of "evidence".  It's crazy how just two words makes this verse SO much stronger in Spanish! 

The President explained that Faith in our Savior Jesus Christ is the CERTAINTY that He really exists. That he really loves us. That he is really there for us no matter what. That He wants the best for us. We trust him and know that He will comfort us. Also, the word certainty is much stronger that evidence, and conviction is something that you won't turn back on. Convictino that Jesus Christ is our Savior is something that is an integral part of who I am! 

Later, he explained the way that we can apply our faith to achieve our goals or solve problems and I want to share his thoughts. 

We know that achieving an end goal such as strengthening your marriage or relationships within your family, developing more family harmony,  increasing your desire to share the gospel, or strengthening your testimony, etc. starts with a desire and with a hope.  A firm hope that you can achieve your goal/s. 

Imagine that you have your hope in your left hand and your goal in your right, how are you going to get from your hope to your goal? My President taught us that we have to work to grow our testimonies, our relationships in our family, and our desires to share the gospel. But how? What should we do? 

He directed us to Alma 32:41, "which says, but if ye will nourish the word, yea nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith, with great DILIGENCE, and with PATIENCE, looking forward to the fruit therof, it shall be a tree, springing up unto everlasting life. 

We need to have diligence and patience to achieve our goals. Something I have definitely learned during my first 3 months in the field. If you want to achieve your goal, be diligent, work constantly and bravely, never let a day go by without improving something in yourself that will enable you to achieve your goal. Patience is definitely the Christ-like attribute I have developed most on my mission. Be calm while suffering and have the capacity to bear afflictions, especially things that are out of your control. 

We put these principles into practice this weekend with out investigator, Cyntia Mozerat. Cyntia currently has a baptismal date for this Saturday, the 24th of October. However, in order to teach her, Elder Alcala and I have to take a taxi and leave our area (long story not going to share why). On Friday, Cyntia wasn't home even though we had an appointment and confimed with her before we went. We were so sad! We need to teach her all of the lessons in order to prepare her for baptism. 

My companion told me on Friday night, that we were going to fast with the hope that she would be availiable Saturday and Sunday so that she can go to church. I was a little reluctant because we had already fasted twice during the month of October but I finally agreed. 

Saturday came, we took a taxi at noon. We knocked on her door for 30 minutes. Called her. Called her mom. We did everything we could. I was so sad! How were we going to teach her the Gospel if she wasn't home. We returned to our area, taught a couple of lessons, and ate with a member. 

My companion decided that we were going to once again, take a taxi there and back, our 5th and 6th taxi ride of the day, (remember that we were in the hospital all morning that same day....) because we had the CERTAIN HOPE that she would be there. We trusted that the Lord would help us achieve our goals because we were being diligent and patient. 

We arrived at 3:30. knocked on her door, and she still wasn't home. We were devastated. After an hour of waiting for her, without her arriving, we decided to call it and returned to our area. I, now thoroughly hungry, was frustrated.

However, at 10:00pm, as we were preparing for bed on Saturday night, we received a phone call, from none other than Cyntia! She told us that she was sorry that she wasn't home and wanted to know when we would pass by her house to pick her up in the morning for church! She also expressed her desire to keep the baptismal date for next Saturday! We were ecstatic! 

I learned a great lesson of faith on Saturday, we started with a firm hope that Cyntia would be in her house on Saturday, however, we were wrong. She wasn't there and we ended up losing hours knocking on her door. Yet, the Lord answered our prayers and she ended up coming to church and we achieved our goal of getting her to church! I'll let you know next Monday if she chooses to follow through with her baptism and achieve another goal!

Thank you for your love and support! Elder Alcala finishes his mission next week with me as well next week so I will let you know who my new companion is!

Elder Shipley 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Week 16

 The Rain Begins

 More Rain
 The "flood"
The Grocery Store!

The sink

Dear family and friends,

This week was another incredible week here in Piedras Negras, Mexico! I am doing really well and continuing to learn a lot! 

I hate to be that guy who is always talking about the weather here, but I think it is totally warranted! The weather here is incredibly unique! On Tuesday, it was 100 degrees, in October!!  It doesn't matter how much sunscreen I apply, I still come home red every night. Then on Thursday, we had a flood! The next day, all of the locals here were sweeping out all of the mud, water, and garbage out of their houses. We offered to help as many as we could but only one of them accepted our help. In fact, we are going to help later this afternoon. There was 6 inches of water in the house of our bishop and in certain rooms of our own house, there was 2 inches of water. Then yesterday, it was 100 degrees again. What can you do...

Update on investigators:

I am going to do a better job on updating everyone with the actual people I teach. This week, a young mother, named Cyntia, recently seperated from her boyfriend and moved in with her mom. We had a lesson with her on Saturday and she wants to get baptized! Elder Alcala, my companion, finishes his mission in 2 weeks so she agreed that the 24th of October would be a good day for her to get baptized! The last Saturday of Elder Alcalá's mission! I really hope it happens! 

I want to share a lesson on the Law of Sacrifice that my companion taught me, which we later shared during a Family Home Evening Lesson with a family from the ward. We taught them that there are three fundamental principles of the law of sacrifice and read scriptures to explain them. Feel free to look up the Old Testament references and read.   I won't take the time to write them.

1. A sacrifice has to cost: Genesis 4, Moses 5:18
2. We can't sacrifice what we want to sacrifice, rather, we have to sacrifice what God asks of us:   2 Samuel 17-25 
3. We are asked to sacrifice all that we have. For this principle, we shared Mark 12: 42-44 which state:
  • 42. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 
  • 43. And He called (Jesus) and saith unto them, verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in than all they which have cast into the treasury.
  • 44. For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in ALL THAT SHE HAD, even all her living. 

I was really impressed with the story and how my companion taught that it is easy to give that which you have in abundance, however, to give that which you have little of is a true sacrifice. The Old woman gave all that she had to the Lord even though it was basically worth nothing in the eyes of men.  It was worth everything in the eyes of God. 

Thank you for your love and prayers! I miss you all and hope you are all doing well! 

All the best!
Elder Shipley  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Week 15

Dear family and friends, 

This week felt like 2 different weeks for me. I had lots of interesting and unique experiences. 

The first part of the week was so tough!! It was 90 degrees and sunny again. It was really strange to be applying sunscreen in October.... haha I hope I never have to do it ever again. 

I recieved my first marriage offer of my mission!!!! I was so flattered! One of our investigators asked me if I was married, I said no of course. She then asked me when we could get married and if I would be so inclined.  Haha it was great, of course she was joking and is also like 50 years old... but it still counts in my book. I will have my fingers crossed that I have more marriage offers in the future!

Elder Alcala and I have had a ton of success in our area! We sent goals as a zone last week, and I compared the numbers that Elder Alcala and I had accumulated and I was shocked. Not that numbers are important, because at the end of the day the Lord hopes that I as a missionary can help other people come unto Christ, however, I was very proud. We had 21 out of the 48 new investigators for our zone and 40% of the contacts. My zone leader said that Elder Alcala and I were putting out the same kind of numbers as entire zones in Saltillo. We are working hard!!! 

However, despite the tough start to the week, the heat, the fact that we didnt buy any food last monday so I was hungry all week.... haha my comp had no money so he told me we werent going to buy food... cant wait until I am a senior comp!! We will buy food this week though so all is well. 

This weekend was incredible! Conference was great! I loved President Uchdorf's talk on how the Gospel can work for each one of us in our lives and bring blessings. It is so true!! The Gospel is so great and I would encourage all of you  to immerse yourself more deeply in it. I also LOVED Elder Holland's talk on the love of Mothers, it was so powerful. Later, Elder Oaks, if I remember correctly, spoke about the Atonement, spefically, Alma 7: 11-14, it was awesome! I would really encourage all of you to read those verses and reflect on our savior Jesus Christ and how he can bring joy and peace to your life. 

All the best,
Elder Shipley