Monday, March 28, 2016

Week 40

 At the airport with the Assistant to the President, who was Jeff's Zone Leader in Piedras.
 Peter Piper Pizza!
 Elder Martinez and Elder Shipley out on the streets of Saltillo

 Hanging in the hospital with a sick Elder.
 Elder Aguilar before he left to another area.
 Saltillo Sunrise
Split with Edgar from the ward!

Dear Family and Friends, 

I first would like to wish you all a very Happy Easter! I hope you all enjoyed this wonderful holiday and the opportunity that we have to remember the Atonement of our Savior! Here in Mexico, the locals celebrate the ¨Semana Santa¨ or the Holy Week here. The whole week there were a bunch of parades and celebrations to help the people remember our Savior.  

However, I really didn´t have a lot of time to appreciate the cultural activities that were happening around me because I received a new companion! My new companion is Elder Domiciano, from Brazil! He is the only Brazilian in the entire mission! I spent my language study time studying Portuguese and it is really similar to Spanish! 

I am going to be in a trio for the last 2 weeks of this transfer with Elder Smith and Elder Domiciano. Due to a series of poor decisions made by a few Elders and Sister missionaries in my zone, we had ¨small transfers¨ during the middle of the transfer. 

During a 24 hour period in between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, I had 4 different companions, visited the hospital to check on Elder Domiciano, the mission offices, and also went to the airport for the first time since I arrived here in Saltillo in August. 

I would like to share how I felt and what I learned from my trip to the airport, and how we can apply it to our lives. I went on Tuesday morning with one of the Assistants to the President of the Mission to the airport, to drop off an Elder that was being sent home for disobedience. This Elder was a member of my district and also a personal friend. I will never forget the abundance of emotion that I felt when I returned to the airport for the first time since August. I initially remembered how nervous I was when I arrived in the airport back in August, and how ready I was to finally start working in the mission field. I also remember being really confused because I still didn´t understand Spanish, it is incredible to see all my progress in 8 months!

However, I was also filled with sorrow for this Elder and for the other missionaries that were going to return home early. I will never forget the look of the Elder as we said goodbye and wished each other good luck. It was a look of sorrow and distress for what could have been. I learned about the importance of the decisions that we make every day. The famous quote by President Monson came to mind, ¨Decisions Determine Destiny¨. This Elder´s destiny was changed because of the decisions that he made. However, what he told me as we said goodbye will always stay with me. He said, "I will see you in a year," best of luck. 

I learned that sometimes we make mistakes that change our course. An example could be this Elder that of course wanted to stay and finish out his mission but couldn´t. However, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, his suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, his suffering and death on the cross, and his resurrection the third day give each of us hope and the chance to repent of our sins. 

Even though Easter has already passed, I want to encourage you all to reflect on the quote, ¨Decisions Determine Destiny¨ and if the decisions that you are making every day make you happy or sad. Closer to our Father in Heaven or if they drag you farther away from him. I have a strong testimony that we will all have an opportunity to repent and change our lives. Just because we make a mistake does not mean that our eternal destiny is changed, just that we have to correct a few things to get back on the path that takes us to our Heavenly Father. I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true and that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. I know that we can all change something or improve something in our daily lives to become more like the Savior, it just depends on us if we are willing to make the change to be more happy. 

Have a great week and enjoy General Conference and the Final Four! 
Elder Shipley 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Week 39

Jeff spends a ton of time on the phone calling other missionaries and members in his "district".
In their apartment
Looking over Saltillo
And...there are even horses in Saltillo!
Jeff's "Heaven" room (Mom thinks his hair is very short!)
Event Helpers

Dear Family and Friends, 

This was a good week!  Today doesn't really feel like Monday because the week went by so fast. I was coughing and had a headache for much of it, so that slowed us down but we never stopped because everyday on the mission is super important! 

The highlight of the week was the ward missionary activity that Elder Smith, Elder Domiciano, Elder Aguilar, and I planned and held on Friday night! It was an incredible activity and I have to give a big shout out and muchas gracias to Elder Augilar and Domiciano because they planned most of it! We had about 120 people attend! It was great! 

The activity was called the "Trip to Hawaii".  We separated everyone in groups of about 40 and sat them in chairs in the hallways that resembled the inside of a plane. Then we simulated a plane ride with sounds and some young women from the ward helped us by being flight attendants. Then, we simulated a plane crash and accident with a smoke machine and everything and it was super cool!   We then talked about what it would be like after we die.  

I was in the Celestial kingdom (heaven), so there was cake, comfy chairs, and I gave a message in my white baptismal clothes. I explained that the celestial kingdom is where God and Jesus Christ will dwell someday and that we can all return to the presence of our Heavenly Father with our families if we follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to develop faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. If we follow these steps, and receive the ordinances of the gospel, we can be clean from sin and return to the Celestial Kingdom! This should be the goal that we all share! 

As it says in the Doctrine and Covenants 76 verse 62: "These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever". The group of people that are being referred to, is the people that have followed Jesus Christ, accepted his Gospel, and endured to the end! 

This promise brings me a lot of joy and peace. Imagine how great it will be in the Celestial Kingdom with our families!  That makes the effort and time to do the little things like read in the scriptures daily, pray daily, and attend church worth it. If we do the small things that God asks us to do we will be happy! 

Much love! Have a great week!
Elder Shipley 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Week 38

Elder Smith's Birthday "cake" and sign! 
"The last house on the road out of town!"
 Birthday candles in Mexico!
 The first cake in the face!
  The rest of the missionaries there to celebrate!
The baptism of the family of 5 (Jeff is the tall one)
 Cake up the nose #2!
 Celebrating at church!
 Sunset in Saltillo
More Sunset in Saltillo!

Dear Family and Friends, 

This was a super special week! I turned 20 on Friday! How crazy is that?! This week was filled with a lot of great moments! On Tuesday, I went on splits with another Elder named Elder Villeda and worked in the area of Ramos Arizpe. We had a great day. In the evening, I was able to meet the family of five that he and his companion, Elder Daines were going to baptize on Saturday! I was very excited to meet them and we had a great lesson. At the end of the lesson, Elder Villeda asked the 5 members of the family who they wanted to baptize them. The family mentioned the Bishop of the Ramos Arizpe Ward, Elder Daines, Elder Villeda, my mission president, President Rodriguez (because he was the one who contacted them in an airport), and they were missing one person to baptize the middle daughter. They looked at me and said, "we want the Elder from Washington to baptize her!" I was shocked and didn't know what to say! After checking to make sure it was ok, I gratefully accepted the invitation! Then on Saturday, I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the baptism of this family! I also got to baptize with the President of my mission! It was a super special birthday gift that I am never going to forget! Afterwards we got to eat dinner with them and it was one of the most special days that I have had on my mission! 

Wednesday and Thursday were fairly terrible days and were very cold. It was raining all day and I had on 2 or 3 jackets just to keep warm! 

Friday was my birthday!!! I woke up and my companion made me a "cake", basically he put 6 cookies on a plate.... haha I love Elder Smith! But later in the day, I got to experience how Mexicans celebrate birthdays! I learned what the "mordita" is!  It is a Mexican tradition that those who are celebrating with you start to chant, "mordita", which means,"little bite"!  You then put your face next to the cake to eat a small bite of the cake without a fork and someone else smashes your face in the cake! It happened twice on Friday! I think I still have cake in my nose! 

However, in the afternoon, Elder Smith and I went to visit a family that we have known for almost 2 months here. They always let us in, always listen to us, but never come to church! We decided to stop teaching them for a few weeks, but then went back to see how they were doing. Well, we sat down with them, and I wasn't sure what to teach, once again, my companion Elder Smith was very in tune with the spirit and said, "let's teach about keeping the Sabbath Day holy".  The lesson turned out great and they really understood the importance of attending church! 

Then my companion mentioned my ward was having a open house of the chapel and invited them to come see the chapel with us and take a tour. They decided to come with us and were able to receive a lesson from the bishop and other members of the ward and see the baptismal font! It was an awesome tour and they are going to come to our missionary activity on Friday and church on Sunday!  

I learned that sometimes we don't receive the blessings that we want exactly how we want them because the Lord knows what we need and when we need it. After reflecting on the week we had last week, perhaps the tour of the church with the Bishop and other members was exactly what this family needed so they can attend church and get baptized someday. 

I hope all is well back home and that you can all enjoy March Madness! I'll be working down here in Saltillo! I know that the church is true and the Our Savior loves us! 

All the best, 
Elder Shipley 

Monday, March 7, 2016

Week 37

Jeff and Elder Brigg's who just went home. 
 "Guer" is what they yell to all the "white" boys on the street!
Jeff and a sweet member in his ward. 
 "Cool statue" in the historic part of Saltillo
The hills of Saltillo!

Dear Family and Friends, 

This was a rather average, perhaps, slightly disappointing week here in Saltillo, but Elder Smith and I are still happy and smiling! We were having a really great week until yesterday. We had lots of good lessons, found some new promising investigators, and had dreams of 5 investigators in church. 

We also started to a fast with an investigator that was going to be baptized a couple of weeks ago but decided to wait for a while so she can get a stronger confirmation that she should get baptized. Elder Smith and I had a super awesome lesson with her on Friday and started out fast on Saturday! 

Yesterday, before church started, I called the 5 people that told us that they will come to church and I started to recieve the bad news. I still hoped that we were going to have 2 of the 5 but at the end of the day, only 1 investigator came to church. It was a very regular occurence in the mission, but for some reason I felt pretty sad. 

Also, the investigator that was pondering her baptism really threw me for a loop. She got up and shared her testimony during sacrament meeting and did a wonderful job! I was really hoping that we would be able to pass by in the afternoon with her and help her recognize an answer from the Holy Spirit that she should get baptized soon. However, I was disappointed when she called me after church and said she was heading to her brother's house and would not be home for a visit. 

I began to reflect last night why I was sad and a little disappointed. I came to a few interesting conclusions. First, why is it that we don't recieve all of the blessings that we think we deserve? I felt like Elder Smith and I did our part with lots of great lessons with members present, fasting, and calling all of the investigators to remind them to come to church. I know that we are obeying the commandents and the mission rules, so thus, we are entitled to the blessings. Or in other words, why didn't we have the success that we wanted? We did everything we could! 

This last question I think is the key, I asked myself why we didn't have the success or recieve the blessings that we wanted. As missionaries, members of the church, and human beings, we have to remember that the blessings that we recieve arrive on the Lord's time. 

Perhaps, you have asked yourself the same question. If I am doing all that I can, obeying the commandments, reading in the scriptures, praying, serving others, going to church, trying to be like our Savior, why don't the blessings or success come? 

A verse in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 58, verse 3, helped me understand why the blessings come on the Lord's time and not when we want. 

It reads, "Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come herafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation"

A few key things to understand is that we view the world and the blessings we recieve with our "natural eyes" we don't understand how God works or the things that are truly best for us. The Lord will always know what is best for us, even if we don't like it or don't want it. We need to be patient, and try to understand life as God sees it. He hopes that we can grow and develop as human beings and as his children. This means that we have to encounter trials and challenges. If there never were problems or trials in life we would never progress. 

This applies in the mission field, in work, concerning the health of a person, in school, with friends, and with family members. After the trials and the tough times, the blessings will come. Thus, I am very motivated to get 5 or more investigators in church this week! I am confident that if I work harder, study more, and am more obedient, the blessings will come, but I have to remember it is on the Lord's time. 

All the best, I TURN 20 ON FRIDAY! My last week as a teenager! That's crazy. Feel free to send an update on March Madness, I'd love to fill out a bracket in Mexico!

Much love, 
Elder Shipley