Friday, March 31, 2017

Week 91

 Elder Smith, Elder Gonzalez and Jeffrey
Jeffrey, Elder Olvera, Elder Gomez 
 Classic Mexican street art.  The Virgin of Guadalupe.
Elder Faraimo and Jeffrey.
Elder Hernandez and Elder Faraimo with Jeffrey at the airport

Bowling again!

This week was super cool! It’s amazing to consider all of the special and unique experiences that I have every week here in Mexico! I sat down and reflected about all of the things I wanted to share with you all and I felt super blessed to have a so many great experiences. Here is a list of some of the highlights from this past week:
1.       I have spent the past week in two different trios with two different Elders from Honduras! On Monday and Tuesday, Elder Gonzalez, from Honduras, was hanging out with Elder Olvera and I for a couple of days before he went home on Wednesday. That same Wednesday night, Elder Gomez, also from Honduras, was told to join our companionship and has been hanging out in the office, working with us, teaching with us, and sleeping over ever since. It’s so cool to have friends from all over the world!        
2.       Today we went bowling….. again, I know. It seems like we go every week and I’m pretty sure it’s true. However, today was great because I set a personal and Saltillo mission record with 181 in the second game this afternoon! I destroyed my previous record of 157!
3.       The accounting cycle closed this past week so I had to work hard to get every single business invoice for every purchase by President Cahoon and his wife. I am pleased to announce that the bank did not block the President’s nor sister Cahoon’s credit cards! The last week of every month is usually stressful but this week was pretty calm.
4.       We had a zone conference and interviews with the President. Both went well. We learned about how to improve our teaching skills and how to help people keep their commitments to come unto Christ and develop faith. In my interview, the President and I talked about what I will be up to the last 2 months of my mission and about training a new financial secretary, amongst other things.
5.       We had a super spiritual family home evening with Lalo, Gabi, and Renata in their house on Wednesday night. We invited a couple of people who we are teaching and they went! Our friends Roberto and Jose Armando went to the family home evening and we talked about President Nelson’s talk, Joy and Spiritual Survival, with all of them. It was awesome! Especially since Roberto is having a lot of problems with his wife and Jose Armando with his high school friends. Both said they are going to conference this weekend and we hope they continue progressing towards baptism in April!
The most interesting and impacting experience this past week was something that happened this morning. This morning Elder Olvera and I took a couple of missionaries to the airport who were heading home early. As many of you know, young men serve missions for 2 years or 24 months. However, due to various circumstances, including health problems, family issues, death in the family, inappropriate conduct, etc. some missionaries return home early before completing two years of service.

One of the two missionaries that Elder Olvera and I dropped off in the airport is a fabulous missionary and one of my best friends here in the mission. The good news is that he has plans to return here to Saltillo in several months to finish his 2 years of service. However, it will undoubtedly be a challenge to return home and get back to work, school, family, and friends while staying focused on the second half of his mission that awaits him. I was impressed as I listened to him in the taxi describe his personal plan to stay focused on missionary work and helping his friends come unto Christ for the few months while he is home. As we were sitting in the airport waiting for them to get on their flight, I was reflecting a lot about how important it is that  we take advantage of every opportunity that our Heavenly Father gives us to progress, improve, and enjoy life.

The example of my friend heading home early, with plans to return to the mission, made me think about how quickly and drastically life can change in such little time. My friend is a fabulous missionary that made the most of every day he had here in Saltillo. He was one of the hardest worker I have met here. He never complained and always had a smile on his face. I never saw him get discouraged but instead saw him leading and inspiring others to continue serving and helping others. However, suddenly, and unexpectant, he is on his way home and will have to adjust to his non-missionary life.

I thought about the 2 months I have left here in Saltillo and all of the things I want to accomplish and experience before I head home and I just felt grateful that I have a chance to continue serving and hopefully finish my 2 years. I am sure that many of us have had similar experiences in life, when you must move houses, jobs, universities, change relationships, etc. Something I have learned here on the mission is that if we look at the positives of all of the changes in life, even the most sudden and drastic ones, we will be able to learn, progress, and even enjoy them.

This upcoming weekend, everyone, members of the church and people who aren’t, have a special opportunity to watch and listen to general conference! Twice a year, in April and October, we have the chance to listen to God’s living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles.  I encourage everyone to enjoy as many sessions as possible and not let this special opportunity pass us by. We never know what could benefit us, a beautiful talk, an impactful phrase, or powerful testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ. I hope that we can all go to conference with questions, concerns, and doubts in our heart and leave experiencing the joy that is promised in Mosiah 3: 13.

‘’And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them’’.

I know that the Holy prophets like Noah, Moses, Abraham, and Isaiah lived and guided the people that listened to them. However, God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow and thus has chosen righteous and wise men to guide us today! What a marvelous and wonderful truth that is! One has to ask yourself, how would I feel if Jesus Christ was here with me right now? If your answer was a positive one, it means that we should listen to the prophets because that is how we will feel. Joyful and happy! I know that we will have joy and peace if we listen to the words and counsels of the prophets! Let’s be sure not to miss this opportunity because we never know when life will drastically change.

Have a great weekend and go Gonzaga! 
Elder Shipley

Friday, March 24, 2017

Week 90

This was the day that Elder Lopez left for Piedras Negras after church.  Elder Lopez and I baptized everyone in this picture over the past 4 months!  I love them all so much!

Hello family and friends!! I hope you are all enjoying March and March madness! My brother finally sent me bracket a few minutes ago…. I hadn’t seen the bracket yet and it’s almost the elite eight! The good thing is I didn’t care too much, I guess that’s what happens after 21 months on the mission. 

Elder Olvera and I have had a very calm week here in Saltillo. Elder Lopez left Saltillo on Sunday and headed to Piedras Negras to train a new missionary. Elder Lopez and I had 6 months together. It’s truly amazing when you think that I had 4 companions in 4 changes when I started my mission in Piedras Negras and just finished 4 changes with the same companion here in Valle de las Flores. We were together for a very long time and had wonderful success. 

My companionship with Elder Olvera is very different than what Elder Lopez and I had. To start, Elder Olvera is still in his missionary training, in fact, I am his step dad! Every night, from 9:30 to 10, we do the 12 week training program for missionaries! I was always hoping that I would be able to train to finish my mission and now I have that chance! I wasn’t expecting to still be a secretary…because now we have like no time...but we do the best we can. 

Highlights of the week were: 
1.       Hitting 6 out of 9 free throws in one minute with a blindfold over my eyes in a district training on Tuesday.
2.  Going to the gym at 5:45 every morning this week.  I literally haven't been to the gym in YEARS! 2 years to  be exact haha!  Elder Olvera used to be a gym rat, like he went 3 times a day in Hight ssschool, so he is helping me get my summer bod. 
3.       Hearing that Lalo, Gabi, Renata, Rocio, and Karen are all going to the temple with our ward tomorrow! I am so happy that they are all progressing and loving the gospel after their baptisms! 
Have a great week! All love!
Elder Shipley 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Week 89

Hanging in the office
Bird poop AGAIN!
New Elder from Guatemala named Jeffrey!
Before the baptism!
Baptism/Confirmation of Lalo, Gabi and Renata!
At the Wedding dinner
Selfie with the Bride
Missionaries with the bride and groom.
Bride and Groom and Jeff
Wedding party!

I am going to try to write a letter to describe everything that has happened the past 7 days but I don’t know if I will have time because so much has happened! This past week we welcomed new missionaries, helped with transfers, cried when old missionaries went home, had Elders in our house all week sleeping over, celebrated my birthday, went to a wedding, had the most special baptism of my mission, and wow I am so tired!   I have only slept like 6 hours a day for the past week but it has been awesome! 

This past week was highlighted with the wedding and baptism of Lalo, Gabi, and Renata! They got married and baptized on my birthday this past Saturday! I hope you can all check out the pictures we took because it was so awesome!!! Lalo and Gabi wanted to get civilly married in the church so they could get baptized right after and it was perfect! A local judge came to the stake center and they held the ceremony in the social hall at the church. All of the missionaries from our ward  put on matching ties and it was a blast. The wedding itself was pretty short and boring, in fact, I couldn’t even hear most of the words that the judge said but I was just relieved that they were married so they could be baptized. 

The awesome part is that over 50 of Lalo and Gabi’s family members went to the stake center for the wedding. Right after the wedding was over, we invited all of the family members and members of the ward that attended to pass into the chapel room for the baptismal service and it was so special. We had over 120 people present for the baptismal service including our mission president, his wife, and the stake president. We heard fabulous talks, a moving welcome given by the president of the young women’s organization, and a touching musical number by the young women that would have made anybody cry. 

To finish the services, Lalo and Gabi shared their testimonies about the long 7 months it took to get baptized. They talked about how they started listening to Elder Zapatero and Elder Briones and how they started making changes in their lives. They stopped smoking, drinking, going to parties, started praying as a family, and going to church amongst other things. Lalo described the joy he has felt as something indescribable, a joy that fills him to the point that he wants all his family to experience it as well. He said that with his baptism he truly feels clean of all his past errors and has turned a new page. Gabi told us that she wanted her wedding to be in the church so that all her family could be with her in church so that they could feel the peace and calmness that the spirit brings with the hope that they can learn about Jesus just like her. 

I think the most impressive and personal moment of the baptism that I experienced was when Lalo, Gabi, and Renata had just barely gotten out of the wedding clothing and changed into white baptism clothes. Almost everyone else was sitting down in the chapel 
waiting for them and they were alone in the hallway. I walked out to the hallway and saw all three of them hugging and crying right next to a beautiful portrait of Christ. I will never forget seeing all three of them dressed in white and hugging. It truly represented the patience, hard work, and love that they gave to feel such perfect joy. It was the most special birthday gift that I have ever received, seeing some of my best friends take their first step towards becoming an eternal family. 

All love!

Elder Shipley 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Week 88

 The Zone
 White Calves!
 Elder Leon and Jeffrey.  He goes home on Wednesday
The four secretaries for the past 6 months
 The "office staff"
 G Q???
 Elder Smith and Jeffrey
 Making Tortilla's with Mara
 P-day Hoop!
P-day bowling!

Hello Family and Friends!  

This past week has been pretty good! Last Saturday I was sick and threw up twice in the morning and slept almost the whole day... but I woke up Sunday at 6:30 am just like normal and I felt great! I know that the Lord blesses His missionaries! 

The past week I have been in a trio with Elder Olvera from California. He is super young on the mission! He is barely completing his second month. Elder Lopez is training him to be the next executive secretary because he will be leaving the office this upcoming week and head back out to the field. We also had fun yesterday with leadership council here in Saltillo! We ate Gorditas for breakfast with Mara (she taught me how to make the tortilla dough) and they were super good! 

I can't wait for tomorrow!!!!!! Two of the most powerful and converted individuals I have ever met, Lalo and Gabi, will be married and baptized, along with their daughter, tomorrow afternoon. I almost can't believe that they are finally getting baptized. They started going to church in August of last year and due to both of them needing to get divorced, they haven't been able to get baptized. However, after they finished their baptismal interviews on Tuesday night, they told us with tears rolling down their cheeks that this Saturday finally was the day. I had never felt so excited, relieved, and grateful that they are finally able to achieve their dream of getting married and baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ. 

I will write next week more about the experience and the changes that are coming up this Monday! We have lots to do this weekend! Have a great week! 

All love,
Elder Shipley 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Week 87

 Jeffrey's new companion
 Baptism of Rocio and Karen

Jeffrey, Elder Lopez and the Pres. 
Jeffrey, Oscar, Elder Olvara and Elder Lopez
Lunch at Mara's!

Hello family!!! Hello friends!! Welcome to March! I love March because it’s my birthday month and it’s also the month of March madness, even though I won’t be watching it this year 😊

This week went really well!  Elder Lopez and I enjoyed a wonderful baptismal service this past Friday night! Our friends Rocio and Karen were baptized! Rocio is divorced mother of 2 and Karen is her 15-year-old daughter that lives with her, it’s just the two of them! I actually wasn’t present the first time that Elder Lopez met them. Back in December, the week of changes, Elder Lopez went out to work with a new missionary that had just arrived her to Saltillo and I worked with another missionary. During the 3 hours they worked together, all of their teaching appointments and plans fell through so they decided to talk to the first person they saw walking on the street. The first people that they saw and then talked to ended up being Karen and her friend! Elder Lopez and the other missionary talked to Karen for a few minutes and she said that we could come back later to her house. 

Unfortunately, we passed by their house a couple times a week for several weeks but couldn’t find them. After almost a month, we finally found them and helped them paint their house! We then taught them and they loved everything we shared! They soon went to church and really enjoyed church. Karen started going to the young women’s activities and loved being with them. It was hard to consistently teach them, in fact, they were the first people I had ever met on my mission that had been to church more times than we had visited them in their house.  It’s almost always the other way around. However, they went to every church activity they could and learned all by themselves. They shared their testimonies right after their baptism with the those that attended the service and expressed how important our Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel are in their lives. They are so awesome! 

Also, my next companion/Elder Lopez's replacement/the next executive secretary arrived on Monday night to the office! His name is Elder Olvera and he is from California. His parents are both from Mexico but live in California so he speaks fluent English and Spanish. The crazy and surprising part is that he has 4 WEEKS ON THE MISSION!! He literally just arrived on February 1st to the mission and is already here in the office. The President asked me to finish his training this upcoming change!!! Which is cool and stressful because I didn’t think that I would be able to train another missionary before I went home, but now I can! Now I have a son, Elder Smith and a step son, Elder Olvera! They are the best! 

This upcoming week will be crazy with preparation for changes, leadership council, and sleepovers! 

Have a great week!
Elder Shipley