Serving in the Mexico Mérida Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sublime feeling of peace

Time is irrelevant to the Lord
Hola Familia,

After we ended our call last week, I just had this sublime feeling of peace descend and stay in my heart for a good two days or so afterwards. I love you a lot. Thank you for the display of musical talent.

Hna. Torales and I don't know whether we’ll stay together after this transfer—it’s like we get closer and closer every day at the same time we’re getting closer and closer to the possibility of separating. It’s hard not to love someone when you are both learning essential things from God together and through each other. We have, as of this week, NO progressing investigators so we’ve prayed specifically what we need to do to get better. I love how Heavenly Father answers prayers specifically. We’re changing a lot and using more and more of Preach My Gospel, which is good.

I feel good about what we’re doing-- I feel like even in the five weeks I’ve been here, we've really helped to change the ward sentiment about missionary work. The bishopric thinks we’re great, which feels good. And we are trying, one by one to really LOVE and BE FRIENDS with the members. Most of all we’re trying to instill in them a love of Christ because when we really know Christ, we realize how much we love Him and want to be like Him. And as we work with Him to be more like Him, we are filled with his love which really is the definition of joy. And when we're filled with love and joy at the same time, we want EVERYONE to feel this joy. We want to share the tools to have this kind of relationship with Christ with everyone. It’s like that quote you sent me months ago in the MTC, Mom, about how the measure of the depth of our conversion is our desire to share it with others.

The sad thing is that so many people don’t realize the hole in their lives without this love. I’ve realized how AWFUL and PREVELANT Satan’s sentiment of 'all is well' really does trap people in a very real sense. It is so hard to help people realize their need for the gospel-- how they could live so much more abundantly, how they could work toward their divine potential and be infinitely happy-- when they feel just fine right now. When people haven't been humbled by trials to see their needs, sometimes they just have to choose humble themselves to have faith that there is something better in life. I’m trying to figure out how to get people to do that. :) I think just hit them really hard with the Spirit or something.
Dad, thank you for sending all of those music files-- that was so much work! I had told Mom that I could only use CD's because I didn't have a speaker, but it must have been a response to an email she sent that didn’t copy you. Thank you for your labor of love! And it didn’t go to waste because I’ll use them when I get home. Or if I find an mp3-connectable speaker here.
Mmm, Merida facts...
People really do sleep in hammocks here. I heard some couples actually share hamacas, which they call 'sleeping in loche' (loche is the Mayan word for hug) because you can’t help but be next to each other in the middle of the hammock. At first I thought it was really sweet but then I remembered how hot and sweaty it is at night. Bleh...

Here in Madero it’s pretty modern, but it kind of changes street-by-street. All of them are one or two rooms, but the nice ones have sheet-rocked walls and air conditioning and some even have nice TVs. All of them are completely tile floors because you just sweep up the dirt, throw water everywhere and mop everything out.  A lot of houses are stucco outside with cement walls inside, painted in really bright colors (they paint a lot and in really bright colors because the sun fades everything so quickly). Like ours! I love our new house!
Hna. Torales, the model, exiting our new house

There is an almost-American supermarket a few blocks from us (I’m going to miss that if I get transfered), which is wonderfully convenient because we can get produce and bread and household stuff all in one spot. It’s still weird to me how they don’t refrigerate eggs, milk (which comes in boxes on the shelves), or cream. I think I might try to take home some 'media crema' with me when I come home, because the boxes last until you open them. We put media crema on everything—I’m not exactly sure what it is but it makes everything taste good. It’s kind of like sour cream but not sour.

And… everyone here refers to a week as 8 days instead of seven. If they tell you they want to meet a week from now, they tell you 'I'll see you in eight days.'

And... I eat a LOT of meat, at every meal, enormous portions dripping with grease. Lots of beans and tortillas too.

I'll try to think of more things to write next week.
I love you all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Feliz Navidad from Merida!

Merry Christmas from Hermana Lia and Hermana Torales!
Lia's apartment (until Friday)

Hola Familia,

I can’t tell you how excited I am to talk to you. Can you send me your Skype name (or multiple) so I can look for you on the member’s computer? If nothing else, we can Skype chat with instructions on how to call because I have no idea. 5:00 my time is better because we leave the house at 4:00.

Oh, family! I love you so much. I think about you multiple times a day, but only in a way of love, not distraction. This week we had a fast because we had 4 planned baptisms for Saturday and none were looking likely (more on that later), plus a bunch of other needs (our prayer roll). I also fasted for each one of you individually and I was the one to say the prayer for the two of us to start the fast and as I started praying for you all I just started bawling uncontrollably. It wasn't sad, I just love you more than I ever realized (missions and the atonement do that to you) and I want so badly for you all to feel the things I’m feeling and learn the things I’m learning. I want us to be a family centered 100% on Christ because that’s how we’ll be the loving, united family we want to be. I can’t wait to talk to you.

Hermana Torales has always wanted a scripture case,
so she and Lia traded a purse for the case.  Two happy chicas!
There are so many beautiful families here. I was walking down the calle yesterday and this man walks up to his house and this little kid screams 'Papa!' and runs out and hugs him and it's beautiful. And we picked up this family that we met next to a panaderia selling cookies, and they are so FUN. We still haven’t taught them because delays keep coming up, but every time we come back to teach them we meet a new family member who is also fantastically and uniquely awesome. They are all siblings with kids of their own.  And they tell us “we are a united family. It’s like every time we get together it’s a party, we don’t even need holidays.”   And they actually invited the missionaries to dinner. They don’t even know us! That never happens! I love families. Families are how to be happier than anything else, ya’ll. 

I love finding families that I think “Wow, this feels just like a Mormon home in the United States except they speak Spanish and drink horchata. Other than that, it feels exactly the same.”  I don’t know why it surprises me that other people are normal.  Can you guys send me The Living Christ?
OH!!!! I GOT YOUR LETTERS! I got two from Ava from the end of November, then two from mom last week also from the week after Thanksgiving, then one about Agee's temple trip (I was walking around the grocery store while I was reading it and smiling super huge. I must have looked like a dork). I also got a Christmas card from the Mechams (thank you for thinking of me!) that delivered in less than a month! Wow! And one from Kayla (thank you!).

The night I got the first round of letters from Ava and Mom, my happiness was so effervescent, I wanted to just run out in the street and throw confetti in the air. Hna Torales must think I’m so weird because I was just laughing the whole time I was reading them I was so happy. Thank you... :) No letter from Harlan. No packages (they're coming...!)

Mom asked me questions in her letter about Merida and mission life that I will answer next time! 

Love you,
Hna Ludlam

Monday, December 16, 2013

Most important question ever

Hi Fambly,

Eee! I get to call you in a little over a week! You'll have to tell me in a quick email before my next p-day whether you want to call or try skype (I'm a little worried about the iffy-ness of skype) and when you want to call. I have 40 minutes and it can be anytime after 4 pm my time. 

The driving force of this week is that Hna. Torales and I have taken on the challenge of teaching 14 lessons a day, which is the new expectation from Presidente Johnson of the Seventy for our mission. Presidente Johnson has a lot of mandates-- I've heard that our mission is one of the strictest missions in Mexico.

Oh, there is this one investigator we have that just breaks my heart. His name is Salvador and he's a baker of about 40-50, and for some reason wants us to visit but absolutely rejects the idea of faith of any kind. He likes to argue with us. It's almost sad because he HAS prayed to God to know if God exists and loves him and actually RECIEVED an answer of love and affirmation, but tells us “it went away afterward. It’s just a contortion of the mind.” and we say “But, Hno. Salvador, we see here in Alma 32 that we have to nourish the seeds of faith” and he says “I told you, I am not a man of faith.” We say “Hno Salvador, there is more for you in life than you already have” but he likes to tell us frequently how perfectly content with his life he is. I’ve been thinking that only those who have tasted real happiness know that our ability to feel happiness is infinitely limitless. Anyway, we aren’t going to visit him anymore because he refuses to pray and leaves when we ask to pray, and is not at all open, but it really breaks my heart to see someone who I know could taste real happiness but refuses to. I kind of want to write him a letter even if we aren’t going to teach him.

We do have one investigator that makes my heart sing with joy, though. His name is Raul, and he teaches science classes. He is a SEEKER of truth. He probably has 2000 books in his house. He says he’s pretty much investigated Christian sect there is in Mexico, except ours. He is so kind and genial and I love to hear him say how the scriptures to him are better than food and you should have SEEN his face when we told him about the priesthood. And when we told him about the first vision he couldn't believe what he was hearing. It’s the best thing ever because he’ll stop us during the lesson to repeat things, like he's clinging onto every word. He doesn’t like commitment, though. He says it’s like chains and so he doesn’t accept commitments but we will be having a lesson on the purpose of covenants very soon. We’re also going to have to explain more the nature of God and Christ because he’s still pretty superstitious. But it is so refreshing to teach someone who WANTS to learn. 

I’m also thinking that we are going to have focus our lessons more on who Christ is and why we LOVE Him and how we have a RELATIONSHIP with Him. Probably 90% of the people we contact say “No, gracias, soy ______” (a religion) and we say “How wonderful! The message we share will help you come even closer to Christ!” and they say “No thanks, I like what I already have.”

What I don't understand is how someone who truly loves Christ-- good people with real faith-- would not jump at the opportunity to receive more of what He has to say and to draw closer to Him. I don’t think it’s because the people here are hypocrites. I think it’s because they don’t have a real understanding of who Christ is and WHY we love Him-- not just appreciate or admire Him but LOVE Him for the INCREDIBLE thing he has done for us and for the way that we work with Him everyday to better ourselves. And because we FEEL His love for us.

I’ve been focusing my studies on this topic and the weight of what the atonement MEANS and what Christ has done for us has been hitting me like a bunch of bricks. I think people don’t know Christ in this way. I get the sense that most believe “I love Christ because He saved me” and now it's kind of a done deal. Maybe I'm thinking about this a lot because I realize my need to develop true love for Christ.  I can tell you that in the past 2 months it’s multiplied by 20. :) 

It's a pretty good question: Do you LOVE Christ? And why? Actually it's probably the most important question ever.

Last night, a lady we contacted in the street gave us the bananas she just freshly picked from her trees and WOW. Actually it wasn’t a banana, it was a manzano which is the same thickness of a banana but half the length and tastes like an apple. It’s the coolest thing. In Merida, the Spanish (or missionary, still can’t tell) word for 'cool' is 'potente.' All the missionaries say to each other “Pooooootente, misionero.”

I love all you potente people. 
This is my illustration for the gospel of Christ. The red dotted line is Christ's path, the light blue dotted line is the Holy Ghost, and the 'Faith' path is ours. The two railings are the word or God and covenants, and the two people at the end are Christ and Heavenly Father. Notice how the first 4 principles and ordinances of the gospel are in order! 
No copyright. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lia left in charge!

Lia and her cousin, Brooke (headed to Korea), at the MTC
Flowers bloom all year long.  Most houses don't look like this.
Hna Torales, yo, Hna Carr, Hna Nuñez at Capacitacion
Hola Mi Familia Amada,

I spent my first whole day in charge while Hna Torales was on intercambios (last week's intercambio was a half day and all of our appointments were no-shows). Hna Williams from the MTC was my companion! Given neither of us speak Spanish or know the area or the people or how to ask directions, we had a pretty incredible day. We got lost at the very end (WAY lost, I have no idea how we got that far away from where we  were headed), but I think it was meant to happen because we met a lot of people in the streets and actually set citas (appointments) with them! New investigators! And then to get home and a really nice man, waiting outside a store, helped us by hailing a taxi and telling him where to get us home. He was super nice and I wish I hadn't run out of book of Mormons.

I also had my best lesson yet teaching the Restoration to a woman who I just LOVE. Her name is Cristina and she has 3 daughters (two old enough to listen) and another girl at 8 months pregnant. We had our first cita last week and then this week, I asked her what she thought about the LdM (Book or Mormon). I almost laughed because she just had taken it for granted that it was scripture as legitimate as the Bible, she didn't even think about it. She also was like “I'm assuming when we've been doing this for 6 or so months and you, you know... (she made a dunking motion), will that be by the priesthood?” She already understands the role of the Holy Ghost in her life, despite what her church taught about it and totally grasped the idea of the apostasy. When Hna Williams and I taught about the first vision she said “Wow, I didn't know about this! I've never heard about this in my whole life!” like it was accepted fact that it was true. I love how humble she is, she’s just a beautiful spirit. And when we were teaching that lesson, H Williams and I, I just felt the Spirit coursing through my veins. I didn't feel like I was the one teaching, and I knew that what I was saying was being conveyed by the Spirit to her heart as well.

She said she’d come to church with her family, but didn’t. I think commitments are going to be a problem. It's a problem with a lot of people here. :) They can sense that our message is a true and good thing, but they don’t want to change. Hna Torales and I are working to make sure we explain how the gospel is a message of CHANGE and to change you need commitment and to DO stuff different.

Did you guys watch the Christmas devotional last night? I was so excited to get a brain break and hear something in English, but it turns out when they do the Spanish translation, they completely mute the English. Oh well. In church settings, I can pretty much understand every word people say but I can’t think about what it means fast enough to learn anything from it. But it was okay because during Elder Russell M. Nelsons talk about Christ, even though the only words I really grasped were 'love' 'peace' and 'light burdens', those were the only words I needed to hear. When they showed the paintings of Christ, even without understanding anything I felt this wave of love just wash over my whole body. I cried.
I have been really struggling this week with exhaustion because it takes so much energy to communicate even the smallest thing, and the pressure of NEEDING to hear what the investigators and church members are saying, plus walking 10, 12 miles everyday in the heat-- I was really starting to doubt if I could keep it up. I was trying to force myself to be engaged and to be bright and happy and to continue trying to affect people and love people and love God, but I felt like I couldn't do it for another 18 months. But when I was sitting in the devotional last night, I realized that even though I was preaching about Christ ALL day, I hadn't been thinking about him much and I realized I hadn't been trusting in Him and relying on Him. We could share the burden and it would be light. He could make me feel loved and also help me love other people. While I was sitting in the chapel looking at all the Mexican people around me, I felt this love for ALL of them. They weren't Mexican people, they were people just as much as I am a person. I want to feel that for them all the time. I want to remember to draw on Christ's support all the time.
My ward is so good here. I want you to meet them. They take such good care of the missionaries and they really devote an incredible amount of time to the missionary effort. They’re just good people.

I figured out about my phone call. I get 40 minutes Christmas day on Skype if we want, otherwise I'll just use a phone.  Also, I learned dearelders are delivered once a month. :) So I'm hoping I’ll get to hear from you in 1 or 2 weeks, depending on when they deliver.

AHHH! Agee went to the temple!!! I LOVED the pictures! Can you still send me Elder Tafoya's address?

And Ava, your hair is awesome. You look like Janet Jackson.

Family, I love you!
Hna Ludlam

Monday, December 2, 2013

I LOVE what the gospel does for people

My hammock!  The colors are way cooler in real life. Can I hang it above my bed when I get home?   

Hola familia,

I am actually living in Mexico and I feel like I am actually doing actual good for actual people. I LOVE what the gospel does for people. AH--I wish I had time to tell you about everything! I only have a half hour to write!

Just got your letter. Right now I'm in Centro which is the fancy touristy city with cool streets and tall buildings and lights and shopping. I live in a suburby place called Madero which is in a smaller colonia called fracciamiento Mulsay. It's not inner city, but it has a grocery store and a bank. It's nice. There are lots of cats, colorful houses, and always flowers.

Hna Torales, if we have time before our district meeting tonight (its in centro-- the missionary office and the templo are in centro) we are going to teach a lesson on the grounds of the temple for a man named Fransisco whose wife is a member and who hadn't been that receptive. But my first lesson with him was SUPER potente and he's going to ask God whether his previous baptism was valid and now we want to teach him about eternal marriage because he really does love his family. We're going to sit in the temple garden tonight with another sealed couple and I'm going to play Nearer My God to Thee on the violin. I use it all the time). Anyway, if we have time before the meeting we're going to go walking in the fancy, super antiguo (old) parts of Centro and hopefully take pictures that I will send next week.
Hna. Torales is a better companion than I could have dreamed of. She is incredibly patient with my Spanish and so good with people even though she's naturally shy. She is a force of nature. Unfortunately, Presidente Garcia knows this and so every Tuesday he sends her to go with other companions in other cities and I stay here. So I'm a little worried because I still don't speak Spanish and I don't know where anything is, or the people we're teaching. But a sister from the ward who is going to serve a mission is going to be my temporary companion. Anyway, she's a dream come true because she really wants to work AND because she listens when I try to implement ways to do things that I learned at the MTC.

Jenna, thanks for your suggestion about 2 Nephi 9. I needed to find a scripture and it was the same one you suggested and now I am using it a lot.

I eat pork all the time. Lots of rice and this delicious substance called mole that I don't know what it is. But I'm not fat yet. Neither is Hna Torales. Even though she's smaller than me she can eat more than me.

Promptings of the Spirit are so real. I'm finally learning how to tell what the Spirit feels like. It really is an idea, but it feels better than when I have an idea and somehow I know it is a push from someone else outside of me. And it always makes me feel good about doing something, whether it's what hymn to play for someone or to take something extra with me when I leave the house or to talk to someone or what to say. I think it helps that we spend all day trying to figure out what Heavenly Father wants us to do and then you know when he's telling you.

When you are a missionary, is it okay to make your fast kind of like the prayer roll at the temple for a huge list of all your investigators, or are you still supposed to fast for specific things?

Ava, I found our receipt from our date to the West Side diner and it made me miss you like none other. I love you.

They distribute mail at the district meeting tonight so I am crossing my fingers! :)

Mucho amor y felicidad,
Hna Ludlam