Monday, January 25, 2016

Week 31 It's training time in Saltillo

 The 14 trainers and 14 trainees with the mission president and his wife.
 Elder Shipley and Elder Smith
 The match!
 On the streets of Saltillo!
 The new 2016 Puppy Calendar. When this calendar is done, Jeff has 5.5 month's left!
Studying in their new house!

Dear Family and Friends,

I am now in Saltillo!!!!! I cannot believe it! I am not going to lie, it was strange to come back to the offices here in Saltillo 6 months after I arrived. I arrived the first time as a trainee and now I arrived the second time a week ago to train another missionary! Crazy how time flies! I hit 7 months on the mission yesterday! 

Monday I took a 9 hour bus ride so that was a drag. Tuesday was great because I received my hijo/son/trainee! Here is a little short story to explain how Tuesday was one of the craziest days and surprises of my life. 

When the trainers "receive" their new trainees, what happens is the mission president, lines up all of the trainers on one side of the room and all of the trainees on the other. There were 14 trainers and 14 trainees so there were a lot of people. The President then reads of your zone, area, who the trainer is, and then says the name of the trainee that will accompany him or her. Basically, I had no idea who was going to be my trainee! There were 7 Latino trainees and 3 American trainees and 4 sister missionaries. After all of the sister missionaries had received their trainees, the President started reading off all of Elders. After 5 minutes, there were two trainers left, me and an Elder from Mexico. There were also 2 trainees left, one from Mexico and an American. I was 95% certain that the American was going to be trained by my buddy from Mexico and that I was going to train the Mexican. And then the President announced my name and area and I found out that I was going to train an AMERICAN! Elder Smith from Idaho! I was so excited!!! WOW! Perhaps the biggest surprise of my life and I am so grateful for this opportunity. 

This week has been filled with trials. Our area was not in the best condition when we arrived. There were and still are various problems, including, a cell phone not working for 2 days, the keys to my house ended up in Monclova a city 4 hours north, luckily the owner of the house had an extra, the other missionaries left a map of Monclova and not my area, and very few investigators.  

However, little bit little, we have fixed the phone, cleaned the house, gotten a map, found investigators, and got the keys to my house. My trainee/hijo is doing a great job and has a strong desire to serve the Lord. He has a great heart and works hard. On Sunday, he grew up a little bit. We had 6 teaching appointments for the afternoon on Sunday and nobody was home. It was rather frustrating and we were tired after a long week of getting to know the area and solving the problems. My companion contacted someone and had a rough time with his Spanish, (after all he just started). He had kinda a rough moment but after a few minutes I shared some advice and helped with his Spanish and then he finished the night with 2 wonderful street contacts. I was SO PROUD! He overcame a really rough moment during his first week in the mission field and demonstrated great resilience and determination. 

I imagine this is how our Heavenly Father feels when we chose the right and overcome the temptations that we face everyday. Our Heavenly father and His son Jesus Christ love us SO much! Always remember that they are always there and willing to listen to us! Have a great week and much love from Saltillo! 

It's also not to cold outside, kinda like the spring back home and my house is like a dark, cold cave. :) 

Elder Shipley 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Week 30 -Good Bye Piedras Negras!

 Piedras Negras 5th Ward Missionaries!
 The Ibarra Family the last night before transfers.
 The Chavez Gamez boys!
 The Gonzalez family, Brandom was a convert of Jeff's.
 Jeff found goats on the streets instead of horses!
 His chapel!
 The Buentello Family
 Jeff saying good-bye to his favorite "green house"
Elder Shipley and Elder Holmes at the bus station before the 9 hour ride to Saltillo.

Dear Family and Friends,

This last week was wonderful in Piedras Negras, I now know that I will be leaving my home for 6 months and will be heading to Saltillo on Monday so I can pick up my hijo!! Hijo means son in Spanish! In the mission, when you train a new missionary, all of the missionaries refer to the trainee as a son of the trainer! I am so excited!! 

I will dearly miss Piedras Negras, I cannot believe that I started my mission here as a trainee/hijo, and now I will leave 6 months later as a trainer/papa. I have learned countless things from each of my companions and I want to highlight one thing I learned from each of my 4 comps that I had. 

Elder Suarez 
My first companion, trainer, and someone I will always look up to. His ability to create examples and adapt them to the people we are teaching is something I still am trying to emulate. He was also incredibly wise, and I benefited greatly from his wisdom. When I met him, I was 19 and had finished one year of college. Elder Suarez was 25 and had already finished 5 years and graduated from college. I will never forget his conversion story and how difficult his upbringing was, truly an inspiring story. 

Elder Alcala 
Elder Alcala completed my training and showed me what it means to be a consecrated missionary. We talked to so many people and taught a ton of lessons. I learned that you have to be both effective AND efficient to be a great missionary. He was always exactly obedient and worked super hard. 

Elder Vielma
When I finished my training, Elder Vielma came and taught me a lot about patience. He used to make fun of me and joke around a lot. It always was in good fun but I was and still am a fairly prideful person. I learned a lot about humbling myself because we are truly in the service of the Lord. I also learned a TON of Spanish from Elder Vielma because he spoke English and Spanish perfectly. 

Elder Holmes
I am never going to forget my 6 weeks with Elder Holmes. For 6 weeks, I lived with an American, in Mexico, and we spoke almost no English. I loved spending time with him and always joking around. He is seriously one of the funniest guys I know! We spent the holidays together, so he is basically a brother to me. Also, he demonstrated sincere concern for every person that he met. Whether it was a person that just rejected us or a faithful member or awesome investigator, he always showed charity, or the pure of love of Christ. 

I hope that my hijo/trainee and I get along well and that we can work super hard this transfer!! I ready for a new challenge! 

All the best, 
Elder Shipley  

Monday, January 11, 2016

Week 29

"We had splits with my bud Elder Garcia from Mexico City on Tuesday"
"It was so sunny this week, we went back to short sleeves!"
 "Out walking the streets in our area"
Elder Holmes falls off his chair while studying! 
"A picture of me with my boys Juan and Brian. They are awesome boys!"
"Here Elder Holmes is looking very happy as a missionary..... I laugh so hard when I see this! Mission life is so hard but very happy :)"

(No Subject)

Dear Family and Friends, 

Wow, I wish I had like another hour to write a longer update but unfortunately, I don't have that time so I hope this turns out well!

This week was filled with laughter. I don't think I have ever laughed so much in the same week. Elder Holmes and I are either teaching a lesson with someone or having a good time! Here are a few funny moments from this week: 

1. There was as lot of trash talking this week about the Seahawks-Vikings game. I of course, was defending the Seahawks and my companion sided with the Vikings. It was very strange to be talking trash in Spanish, because we are still only speaking Spanish but man, GOOO HAWKS! 

2. My companion told me, "You never stop singing!"  When he told me that he has never met someone who sings as much as me I was cracking up. He told me that I am always singing Primary songs, church hymns, or other songs that Elder Suarez left me on my Ipod. Occasionally, I return to the old life and start singing songs by Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, or Kesha, and I have to remind myself that Tik Tok is not a song missionaries should be singing in the streets.  :)

3. Elder Holmes fell out of his chair when he was studying. 

Many many many other things happened this week but it is missionary humor and if I explained it, it probably wouldn't be funny to anyone else. 

This week was filled with rejection, not going to lie. Elder Holmes and I have to find some new investigators this upcoming week!  Saturday and Sunday night were really interesting though. 

On Sunday, Elder Holmes and I visited three part member families. When I say part member families, it means that some of the members of the family are baptized and attend church every Sunday, others are listening to the missionaries and attend church every once in a while and the rest like to give us carne asada :) 

It was really interesting to see how these three families were doing because each is facing a very significant but difficult trial within their family. One family has a very close relative who is in a coma and is very close to passing away. Another, has a young teenager who is in middle school facing a group of friends that pressures him to smoke cigarettes and marijuana. The last is battling complex family and marital stress which threaten to separate the family. 

As a missionary, it is really hard to see the people that you care about suffer and endure these trials. As a full time missionary, you try not to spend time thinking about pursuing your future education, work, jobs, money, your past or future dating life, music, sports, and even your family. Thus, you spend all your time thinking about the people you are teaching, the people you are visiting and what they need. 

You spend all of your time designing lesson plans, searching the scriptures, praying for other people to help them come unto Christ, and thus never have time for to think about yourself because these people become part of your family. Their problems become your problems, and their worries become your worries, and their goals become your goals. 

Of course, I am not going to get directly involved in the marriages of other people and attempt to solve them.  I am 19 years old and still battle to understand the unreal amount of slang and street words that the people use here, but it is my job to invite all to come unto Christ and receive the blessings that he has promised us. 

These three families are struggling right now, but another family showed me how important the gospel is and how coming unto Christ can strengthen, help, and even save a family. When we center our home, families, and lives in Christ, he can help us face the temptation, family discord, and moments of sorrow that each families endures at one point or another. 

The infinite atonement of Christ is the power that allows us to overcome our sins and to find refuge in a tumultuous world. Remember that he suffered everything for each one of us. Something that we can never pay back.  This other family, that we spent time with on Saturday showed me how the Atonement and the Gospel is helping to strengthen their family so that one day they can be an eternal family and obtain eternal life!   The mother is a member, the daughter is member, the dad is investigating the church and their boy is going to be baptized soon. When I arrived in August, this man was always at church and always participated in the classes and asked great questions. We were visiting him and then in September, he frankly disappeared. I wasn't sure why. He didn't go to church and he was never home when we went to visit him. However, a few weeks ago Elder Holmes and I began meeting with him again. There has truly been a remarkable change in him. 

After a few chats with him, it was clear that he wanted to get baptized but there was something that was holding him back. During the course of the conversation, my companion asked how each member of the family was feeling about the church right now. Each person said nice things but the daughter of this family revealed the desires of her heart. Quite plainly, but perhaps one of the most sincere comments I have ever had the privilege of hearing.  She said, "I want to be an Eternal Family". 

About 5 minutes later, this brother agreed to be baptized and we have a goal date for February. I don't know if I will still be here in Piedras Negras in February, but I do know that this family is desires and is willing to walk the path that leads to eternal life as an Eternal Family. 

I urge all of us to center our families, homes, and lives more on our Savior, Jesus Christ, and promise that if you do so, you will receive the strength that you need to face the trials that we all encounter. Someday each of us can receive Eternal life and live with our families for forever, if we do the little things like pray and read the scriptures every day.  I know that Christ is our Savior and that missionary work is the most difficult, satisfying, and important work on the Earth. 

Elder Shipley 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Week 28

How Jeff felt on New Years Eve before he went to dinner with Vielma Family 
 Ahhhhh....poor guy...then....
Yay!  Dinner with the Vielma's!  So much better after the hamburger and good company! 
 Another Christmas...a new sweater, the family Christmas card and snacks arrive.
 Saying good bye to the 2015 "Pope" calendar and hello to the 2016 Minnesota Vikings calendar!
A rainy day in Piedras Negras!

Dear Family and Friends,

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! 2016!!! Wow!  It's a little strange to think that I was in my house a year ago for Christmas and New Years, returned to BYU for a semester and have spent the second half of the year in Mexico! This year, I will be spending the entire year in Mexico! What a cool and strange thought that is! 

This week was fairly wet and cold, but we had some great experiences. I want to share two experiences I had this week and some of my personal goals that I have for the year 2016! My year as a missionary! 

New Years Eve was fun this year, unfortunately, there were no dance parties, Kesha or Katy Perry to listen to, but Elder Holmes and I still had a good time with the Vielma family and were very grateful that they invited us over to eat hamburgers and spend New Year's Eve with them. New Year's Day was a very sad day.   It was wet and cold, and I didn't watch ANY FOOTBALL! But from what I have heard sounds like a lot of the bowl games were disappointing. I will be a big fan of the Clemson Tigers this upcoming week in preparation for the National Championship Game that I will not be watching. 

This past Saturday night, we had a really great lesson with an investigator who is attempting to quit smoking and wants to get baptized. He currently lives with his wife.  They have lived together for 5 years, but aren't technically married. In order to get baptized, you have to live the law of chastity so he has to marry his wife. During this lesson, I explained all of the blessings that he could receive if he gets married, baptized, and then a year from now go with his wife to the temple to be married for time and all eternity. The belief that families can be together forever is one of the most beautiful things about the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

After I explained the blessings that he and his family will enjoy, I asked him if he would do everything possible to get married this week so he can be baptized soon. His response was a little uncertain. I then asked him why he was waiting to receive these blessings? Our loving Heavenly Father wants to bless you, and the blessings are wonderful and amazing. His response was, well yea, you're right, let's make it happen. So, today in fact, Elder Holmes and I, and the couple that want to get married, are going to a visit a Mexican government building here and figure out how to get married in Mexico!  Should be a good time. 

This past Sunday, we had testimony meeting in our church. Just to make sure everyone knows what that is, it means that once a month, every member of the congregation has the option, if they desire, to share their firm beliefs or testimony with the congregation. We brought an investigator with us to church and it was his first time attending with us. In fact, it was his first time attending any church  anytime in his life! I shared my testimony, which is always an adventure in Spanish because you never know what words are going to come out of your mouth. Then my investigator, who had NEVER gone to any church of any kind, got up, in front of over 100 people, and bore his testimony!! He talked about how much Christ loved him and that he loved reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and that he was very thankful that my companion and I have been teaching him. 

My jaw dropped and I could not believe what I was seeing. We had been working with this man, trying to convince him to come to church for weeks. We promised the blessings of the sacrament that are found in the Bible and in 3rd Nephi 18, we talked about the Sabbath day and how important it was that we go to church.  He told us he probably wouldn't come..... but he finally came. I was amazed, surprised, but most of all super happy! It was an incredible experience and I was so filled with joy for this man and the changes that he is experiencing in his life. 

Well, we are now in 2016, I wanted to share 5 goals I have for this year. 
1. Read the Book of Mormon and the New Testament in Spanish 
2. Read Jesus the Christ, all 500 or something pages, in English :)  
3. Certify/demonstrate that I have mastered all of the Principles/lessons in Preach My Gospel
4. Keep all of the mission rules with exactness
5. Work my hardest, every day, to bring souls unto Christ, and be willing to sacrifice my personal comfort for others when possible/appropriate. 

I love setting goals, that is something that my father has truly instilled in me. Every year as a family we spend an hour or so during a Family Home Evening setting goals as a family. I promise that if each of you set 5 realistic goals, that push you to strengthen yourself, physically, mentally, and spiritually, you will see great changes in your life that will bring joy and happiness. 

I would also encourage each of you to include your Father in Heaven in your goal setting process. Remember that He loves each one of us and that he only wants the best for us. If we pray to him with specific problems or concerns in mind, I promise that he will give us specific solutions and things we can do to become more like him. 

Thank you for all of your support! 
All the best and HAPPY 2016!
Elder Shipley