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

Monday, February 24, 2014

Exalted at 19 or something...

Hola Familia,

Happy Birthday Luci!!! I love you. Your school pictures are beautiful.
I got Dearelders on Monday! Thank you. And Grant, I finally got a letter from you! Marlon, I got your letter but somehow lost your email address to write back to you. Can you send it to me again?

Mum, I had been thinking about the reunion theme before your letters came, and I was also thinking that the theme should be about family bonds. I’ve realized how strong the ties are in BOTH directions-- our ancestors are our family just as much as the ones that are living now and just as much as our descendents. We’re all sealed together to know each other and enjoy each other for forever! There’s a lot of merit in getting to know our ancestors on a personal level through family history, just like we get to know our family right now. I wish I could think of a catchy theme, but the only one is “Ties That Bind” and that’s already been taken... What are your recent thoughts?
Last week, I had an experience that changed my whole life perspective, but I didn’t even get to write about it. We had a zone conference (that they told us about the night before. We were also supposed to tell the ward council to attend) during an extremely busy week, so we got there and I was already a little stressed. Then conference goes on for 6 hours (with a 7-minute break in the middle) and so I'm worried about all of the many appointments we’re going to have to change and also the ward council members who not only came on very late notice, but were also not very involved the whole time and were missing their entire work day. And I kept trying to tell myself to calm down because it was a good thing and we were receiving instruction.
But people just keep on talking and talking and talking, and President keeps on adding more and more and more things that we need to start studying and doing and getting done, and because I saw the things that President was saying as commandments from God, I was trying to figure out how in the world we were going to incorporate all of them on top of what we were already doing to continue to be obedient. It got to the point that I was thinking: “There is literally not TIME to do all of this. It's not even possible.” I was wondering if they were even things inspired of God. And so that made me feel even worse, like I was not only incapable of being obedient, but that I was doubting the authority of my leaders.
Anyway, on top of it all I was feeling sick, and so at about hour 5, I just kind of gave up trying to listen and actually started tearing up--which usually is not how I react to things. I was sitting on the front row so President noticed, and afterwards he came up and asked what was wrong and at that point I wasn’t really sure, because I’m used to having lots of stress and it usually doesn’t even phase me. Pretty much all the time I am a happy and content person. My reaction seemed pretty irrational to me and so I didn’t really know what to tell him. And then, President, being the good person that he is, asks me to come to his office with him.
Anyway, through what I explained to President and what he explained to me, I realized I had been thinking a lot of incorrect things:
1. That everyone in the whole world was “saveable” because Heavenly Father knows everyone’s hearts and what and how to tell them things to change their hearts. So if He had a perfectly sensitive instrument, He could save everybody.
2. That the way to be a sensitive and a more successful missionary was to be exactly obedient like it says in the scriptures. Heavenly Father has already given us instructions of how to be successful-- which are the commandments-- so the more obedient we are the more successful we will be. An infinitely obedient person will be infinitely successful. They will also continue to grow infinitely in their personal development. So I should be as obedient as possible to the commandments, the missionary rules, what it says in PMG, and everything the prophets and my leaders say.
3. The other way to be exactly sensitive and obedient is to ask the Lord to direct me in everything. He is infinitely more wise and knows infinitely better than I do, so why not ask His advice and confirmation in every decision?

Well, that’s pretty much a recipe to go crazy. I never realized I was a perfectionist, but I realized that I wasn’t even allowing myself to feel good about what I was doing because in the eternal perspective, I had so much more to go. I think I was trying to be exalted while I was still 19 or something. Anyway, from President, and also from my scripture study the past few weeks, I realized some things:
1. Heavenly Father does know His children WAY better than I do and will certainly instruct me unto convincing them and touching their hearts. BUT, lots of people will receive a spiritual witness and still choose not to accept it. Heavenly Father won’t infringe upon agency. Even Christ, the most effective and sensitive missionary ever, couldn’t convert everyone.
2. Exact obedience DOES make us more successful and is necessary for our progression, but exact obedience is different than infinite obedience. Just like making a measurement in a science lab-- we need to make an EXACT measurement, but an exact measurement doesn't mean less than and it also doesn’t mean more than-- and it certainly doesn’t mean pouring and pouring and pouring. Knowing how to obey the commandments requires instruction of the Spirit. There is the RIGHT way to obey the commandments. Also, the missionary rules are not eternal truths meant to be taken on the same spiritual level as the scriptures. :)  I read a lot about the Jewish elders taking laws to the extreme and eventually worshiping the law more than God.
3. I should be constantly seeking Heavenly Father’s aid in all I do, because He DOES know how to live my life better than I do. But I also realized that a lot of things DON'T MATTER TO HIM. Yes, a lot of worldly occurrences fit into His grand scheme of things, but not everything. There are lots of instances in the D&C when he actually says “you can do this or this, it mattereth not to me.” Heavenly Father is so reasonable. :) Also, he wants me to be gaining wisdom as He’s guiding me so I can eventually be as wise and intelligent as He is, not so dependent on Him that I’m not thinking for myself.
There are some more reasonable ways of looking at things. I’m not really sure how I got convinced of my first conclusions-- I guess sometimes I get an idea and accept it as fact. Bup, it reminds me of that time when you told me that some people, especially in their study of doctrine, tend to black-and white things. They become convinced of something, and then everything else anybody else says has to fit in the confines of what they think or it must not be true. I realized I always have to be careful to be humble and be willing to change my opinions about the things that I learn from my personal study. :)  I also realized how stinkin’ sneaky Satan is, using a good desire to serve God and be obedient and changing just a few things to put you on a path that will deter your progression.
Anyway, I’ve relaxed a lot and even though I was enjoying my mission before, I've been taking things a lot slower (especially in my desire to learn everything.) I’ve been a lot more patient with my progression and realizing since I’ve got all eternity to get better and because Christ already atoned for me sins, I don’t have to figure everything out right now. I can take joy in the journey. Hna. Harper and I don’t feel nearly as stressed but, for some reason, we’re actually getting more done. Huh.
How was Luci’s baptism?!! Luci, can you write to me and tell me about it?

Much love,

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hermanas Ludlam and Harper Stay Together!

Hola Familia,

Patrice Bakery in Merida
Hermana Harper and I are staying together! We both really did not want to leave each other AND we have a ton of very-probable baptisms planned in the next month, so we are both very happy campers. Plus, we both like the bakeries in Gineres. :-)

Mum’s questions:

Tell me about your companion now that you've had a little time to get to know her! 

Hermana Harper is so wonderfully frank. She just tells it like it is. Coupled with that, she is very sensitive to the way other people think and how they receive what we’re telling them. She usually notices things or brings up ways to change what we’re doing to suit the people we’re teaching. She catches lots of things that I miss. Part of the reason I’m so excited we’re staying together is that not only are we always coming up with ways to be better teachers, but we actually IMPLEMENT the stuff that we talk about. I have changed a lot in my teaching skills. She’s really good at (tactfully) telling me her observations of how I should change (which, in case you are curious, usually are about talking less, or not being 'teacher-y' and condescending, or ways to rephrase things).

She's strikingly pretty and we actually start a lot of conversations with people who comment on her “ojos azules preciosos” (precious blue eyes). That is a normal thing to do in Mexico-- to yell at people in the street about how they look.

Even just this last week, we got a lot closer as a companionship. I love having a companion where we can just shoot the breeze together all day and talk about everything. It was great because on the way back from Izamal (Pascual’s family) we sat in comfy travel bus seats for an hour and a half with no pressures and nothing to do but just talk. We indulged and talked in English. :)  She is a really good missionary.

Sigh... I plan all week of what to tell you about the wonderful things I am learning and then I never have time.

OH!!! I got your package, Mum, with the sockies! Thank you!  I also got a package from the Young Women and it was like I just pulled out one extremely useful thing after another. Thank you so much.

Hna Ludlam

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pascual's Baptism and a great week!

Hola Familia,

Hno Gerardo Herrera , Pascual, H Torales , Lia, & Hna Harper
Pascual's baptism was glorious. And a miracle. We had our interview the day before the baptism and the elders told us we’d have to cancel the baptism because of some problems.

President wasn't available for an interview. So we started walking back from the stake center wondering why God was making it all happen that way-- because Pascual’s wife was going into the hospital the next week and he was going to Samal to take care of her and wouldn't be able to be baptized for at least another month. I thought: “Well, we don’t have control over it so I’ll just trust Heavenly Father.  He knows what he's doing.” But THEN the Elders called us and said “Hermanas! Come quick! The President can interview him right now!” So we hustle it back to the stake center and then Pascual has an interview for like an hour while we wait in the offices.

And when he comes out, ne can not only get baptized, but President paid for him to go get his wife and sons to come to the baptism (that had been the plan, but Pascual hadn’t found work all week so he couldn’t afford the trip.) AND THEN President gave us special permission to travel to Samal (it’s a city a hour and a half away) to teach his family, who want to be baptized! It’s crazy! I can totally see Pascual being a super potente priesthood holder at the head of a happy eternal family. It makes me so happy.

The day of the baptism, nobody showed up on time, including Pascual. His wife couldn’t come because it turned out her operation was a week earlier than they expected, and he was pretty depressed and probably wouldn’t have come if we hadn't had called him. (“I don't have white pants,” he told us.) We also walked in the chapel to discover the entire building was flooded with a good 2-3 inches of water. Hno Alvarado had forgotten to turn off the font. But after everyone else showed up, it only took us an hour to clean the chapel, and once Pascual started working, he was fine and we had the service. It turned out that because the baptism was late all the people who showed up for the ward activity just came in for his baptism, so we had a full house. Hna Torales got to come because Pascual loves her!  And Hno Herrera who baptized him owns a bakery and brought empanadas filled with some kind of mashed green potato that Sister Harper didn’t like, but I thought were pretty good.

And he's so happy right now. I can’t believe how much he feels different. He just looks different. I wish I could explain it. His countenance is just cleaner, or more simple, or more alert or something.

At our English class, we had SEVEN students!  They ALL showed up a half-hour late, pretty much within 5 minutes of each other. :)
Our English Class
Anyway, it's been a great week. Next week I'll tell you about our investigator, Jesus. To answer Livi's questions:

1.  Do you read the Book of Mormon in order every day, or just bits and pieces?
That is a really good question. The rule here is that you have to read through the BoM for a half hour of your hour of personal study and we have a little marking system. There is a LOT of value in reading it straight through (I really missed doing that in the CCM) because you notice lots of examples or applicable things you never would have thought to look up. Then for the other half hour I go searching for things that will help my investigators. Studying for investigators is a very inspired process. Psh! studying is an inspired process. I’ve realized one of the biggest ways the Spirit instructs me is by priorities: “Studying this would be a better use of time than that.” “This is a better/more efficient way to do that” or “This is more important” and things like that. Or sometimes it’s just good ideas. Sis Harper and I came up with a great analogy about making cakes today.

2. Do you want a companion that speaks English like you?
Well, when you need to communicate really clearly and efficiently, like during planning, it’s a dream come true. Most of the time we try to talk in Spanish though (even though that really wears you out.) You guys, it’s so great. I can pretty much understand what people are saying to me. Sometimes I even forget Spanish is a problem.

3. What has been your favorite thing so far about Mexico?
Sister Harper and I have developed a very bad habit of buying pan from the panaderos that ride their bikes in the street (the bike has a huge cart in front of it that is full of 'pan' which is not bread as we think of  it, but all sorts of pastry danish-y conch-y things.) They have these obnoxious squeaky horns that they honk incessantly so you always know when they’re coming. The kind that I always get is called “budín.” It's like a really dense, bready-like custard that comes in bars. Sister Harper thinks it’s gross.

You guys, I eat so much. Ava, you would be proud of me. I ate a hamburger for a bedtime snack the other day.

4.  If you could go anywhere in Mexico where would it be?
Well, everyone says that the Cenotes (caves) are their favorite, so I want to see those. I also want to go to Cancún at night to see the phosphorescence in the crystal-clear water under the moon. If I come back though, I’m not crazy about doing the touristy things. I kind of just want to visit my people. 

Thanks, Livi. I’ll answer your questions next week Mom.

Much love,
Hermana Lia

Monday, February 3, 2014

Woot-woot! + bonus MTC video footage

We just received a bootleg MTC video from Lia's cousin, Brooke, in the MTC.  She recorded Lia (accompanying on the violin) with her cell phone.  Not the best quality, but we loved hearing her play.  You can watch down at the bottom of this post!  Thank you, Brooke, all the way in Korea!

Hola Familia,

Woot woot!  Baptism this week too! Pascual will be baptized on Ava's birthday and his FAMILY is going to travel to come see it and they want to hear the discussions, too. Which is new.  Pascual gave me the phone last night because his wife wanted to talk to us but we ran out of credit before she could get to what she wanted to say. But we'll talk at the baptism. 

EEE.  We're really in miracle mode. I didn't even have people close to baptism in Madero, but here practically all our investigators are the real deal (and there's a good 6 or 7 of them). They actually WANT to listen to us and have baptismal dates and everything. And all of them are such cool and such different people and I wish you could meet them and that I had time to tell you about them. We'll have to have storytime every night when I get home or something and we can go through my journals.

About a week ago we ran into a family sitting outside their house in the street just having a good time and talking, and they all wanted to listen, and so we set a date with the mom, Juliana, and daughter Maria who live in our area (and passed the other references to the office). We visited them yesterday and only Maria had time to listen (she’s 23 and has a punk-stylish-short-cropped hair-do and usually a neon-pink forever 21 shirt). She opened the door and didn't seem that excited to talk with us, but we sat down and lo, and behold, she had READ the folleto (pamphlet) and THOUGHT about it and TOLD US THE THINGS SHE HAD LEARNED ABOUT IT. That’s very atypical, guys. And the whole lesson we were missionaries on fire, applying everything to her personal life and involving her and asking great questions. At the end, we invited her to be baptized and she was thinking for a long time so we were worried. And then... she just sort of shrugs her shoulders and nods like she’s admitting something. And then she smiled.

Hassiby came with us (she’s 16 and was accompanying us as a member). She had been telling us about this girl that passes in front of her house every day that she didn’t know, but who she felt like she ought to stop someday to talk to her about the gospel. And during the lesson with Maria, Hassiby bore her testimony in the middle and then said “Actually, you've walked past my house a ton and I’ve always wondered who that girl in the neon-pink camisa (shirt) was and felt like I ought to talk to you.” You can imagine how Hassiby felt when we knocked on the door and Maria was the one who opened it. :)

I don't know why Heavenly Father is putting so many prepared people in our path. Teaching-wise and Spanish-wise, we are not very skilled missionaries, but we DO push ourselves to have a crazy amount of faith that Heavenly Father wants EVERYONE to be baptized-- so he will direct us how to touch EVERYONE'S hearts to make them understand. And we seek his direction in every aspect of every part of our work. We’re still not very good at doing either of those things yet, but I think he gives blessings to people who try.

Can you send a thank you to the beautiful family of the Bishop for their much-appreciated package of goodies? It's brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people and I LOVED the letter and card.

Also can you thank Grandma for the letter too? I just got the one from Christmas about spending it with Dave and Susan's family and I read it in bed and it made me feel all cozy inside like I was with my family. :) We have a cool family guys.

OH. And I got the Christmas card and just sat there staring at the pictures for probably a good 5 minutes. There were only two normal-family pictures on there, I noticed, and the rest was very typically Ludlam. Thank you for your letter Mum.

Hermana Harper and I are doing a pretty good job fighting the language battle and temptation to speak English. We're in spanish probably 85% of the time.
Sometime, I'll have to send pictures of the incredible number of combinations we've made in the morning with platanos, hojuelas de maiz, y avena. (bananas, cornflakes and oatmeal.) We get pretty creative. 
Multi-ward Council (see accompanying paragraph caption)
We had a reunion last night for all of the ward councils in the stake so I aproveche la oportunidad (took advantage of the opportunity) to get picrtures of all the people I never had time to say goodbye to. I don’t really know the first three people, but the smiling guy in the green tie is Bishop Garcia, then L t R Hno Manuel Chi, Hno Pool, Hna Espinosa, the two kids of Hna Zuli, Hna Rita of the Fabulous hair (you can’t see it in it’s glory with the flowers and everything), Hna Magi and Hna Zuli (who teaches ballet in her house.) I still need one of Hno Matey, the ward mission leader. He's one of the main people I want to see when I come back someday; he's a very special person.

I didn't get to your questions, sorry, but it's on my list. :)
We’re going to the offices right now to check for mail...

Hermana Ludlam