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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Carlos and a massive musical missive

(Lia still should write on Mondays, she just has had conferences, doctor appointments, schedule changes lately!  She should be back on schedule next week!  She is certainly still on the track to awesomeness:-) 

Hola Familia,
The first DearElders trickled through this week! I got two letters from May, from Livi and Luci. Thank you for writing to me, hermanitas (little sisters). I enjoyed it immensely!  And just so you know, Livi, you can write as much as you want in a DearElder because I can read it any day of the week-- and because it’s a physical copy I can stop reading and pick up where I left off. Will you send me ballet pictures?!

Sister Pitcher is still battling with her sickness, but pushes on quite admirably. We’ve been going to lots of doctors appointments and sometimes have to go back early to the house. Before, I had always wondered: If I had more time to study, would I get sick of studying?”  Nope. I don’t. 

Bad news. Last week, our house flooded during a storm and... damaged my violin. A string broke, the hair of the bow was damaged, the bridge is warped a little, and for some reason the sound post got dislodged. The actual body of the instrument and the bow are fine so it will be very reparable. But I’m thinking I should wait until I get home to do the repairs. Fixing the sound post would require taking apart the instrument and I just don’t trust anybody.  So, I think I am going to place my violin in my case and entomb it for 9 months, and then when I get home there will be something like the resurrection—“every joint will be restored to it’s proper frame.” 
I feel this hole in my heart without being able to play. And I’m bummed because we were going to have a ward pioneer activity (in Mexico) and I got permission from Presidente to play fiddle music. Y ya no. (not going to happen) I was also going to play at Carlos’s baptism this weekend.

You guys would fall IN LOVE with Carlos. He’s 15 and a gangster (in Merida). We found him our first night looking for an antiguo investigador (past investigator) and we taught him on a stump under a streetlight and he was all gung-ho for being baptized. But he started to have some rough patches (he wants to be a rapper and the church standards were in conflict with some of his stylistic tastes and role models). He told us he didn’t want to be baptized if he had to give it up and we were actually worried that we were going to lose him, but YES, miracles happen. Never underestimate the power of member fellowshipping.

On one of our nights to go visit him, we ran into the Ward Mission Leader from Barrio Tanlum. Our member that was supposed to accompany us that night bailed, so we were like “Do you want to come to a cita (an appointment) with us?” and Hermano Elier said, “Why not?” And thus began the BEST (cutest) friendship ever between Hermano Elier (he’s 25 I think) and Carlos-- Carlos became his little brother and even though they’re not even in the same ward, Elier goes and picks him up for church every Sunday. He has totally changed Carlos' life by giving him a respectable friend to look up to.

And, the OTHER huge miracle was the Merida-Cancun EFY (a youth conference called Especially for Youth). We got Carlos snuck in at the last minute, and it was the best thing that could have happened. He was so excited because Hermano Elier told him about the talent show on the last night and so he started writing a rap to perform, and it was this grand project he was working on and every day. When we would come for his cita he would fill us in on how it was going.

Well, pretty much everyone at EFY fell in love with Carlos. We’ve heard lots of reports from people who went and experienced Carlos for themselves. He was an EFY celebrity. The night of the talent show, when he got up to perform, the whole camp ERUPTED and jumped on their feet and he started rapping and they all just went nuts. He was a super-star. Everyone said he was the best.  And apart from that, he made a ton of friends (actually we catch him in between meetings at church facebooking girls he met at EFY. “Carlos, is that a girl?” “No.”)

And more meaningful than anything else, the day he got home we went to visit him and just seeing him, his rostro (countenance) was completely different. In the lesson, I asked him if he bore his testimony and he started crying (that is not Carlos) and said that when he got up to bear his testimony, he felt something inside him change and he became a different person. Spiritual manifestations of the truth are real. We asked if he wanted to be baptized and he sniffed and said “Creo que si.” (I think so)

And guys. the rap he wrote was about his life and the missionaries and the Book of Mormon-- and he showed it to us afterwards. And I took a picture of it. And my camera DIED!!  It’s the best rap ever and you’ll all have to wait for next week. 

His baptism is this Saturday.

Love you all,
Hermana Ludlam

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Scary Haircuts and Bank Analogies

Hola Familia,

Sigh. Your letters were like balm for my soul. I so needed to hear from you, and I so needed to hear about the reunion. It was like hot missionary soup for the soul. YOU GUYS-- ETERNAL JOY IN FAMILIES IS SO REAL-- even if sometimes in real life it seems far away. Faith faith faith.

Got my hair cut for the first time in Mexico. They do not require credentials in Mexico.After our appointment, I walked out with a mullet and Hermana Pitcher with a monk-chop! We were rather frighteningly medieval and masculine. Hermana Pitcher took it the worst. We drew a picture...

and then we cut each other's hair in the apartment to try to fix it. It was kind of scary. But it turned out okay. You can’t really tell how short it is from this picture (it's half-way between my chin and shoulders), but I wanted to show you our garden, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness this week. I used to think I was such a forgiving person because I had never had a problem getting over it when somebody offended me and never had a problem with grudges. But then I read in the dictionary that the definition of forgiving means “allowing room for error or weakness.”

And man, I have such a hard time giving people time and space to improve their errors. And being able to like people even when they’re thinking and behavior is flawed. Or I want justice to be enforced for flaws. I quickly realized I was not a very forgiving person. Good thing Christ is. He is so MERCIFUL that we can mess up and He still likes us, even giving us undeserved blessings and withholding consequences.

ANALOGY:  It’s kind of like when we mess up, the big Bank of Justice charges a price that’s quite hefty. We go into debt. But Christ says “It’s okay. Don't worry about going into debt-- just take this credit card called “GRACE and MERCY” and charge it to my credit account and I’ll pay it for you.”

The only catch is that there’s a four-digit PIN to be able to charge things to the account. It's “Faith in Christ--Repentance--Baptism with Authority--Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost.'' The problem is that lots of people never learn the PIN or even know it exists. Or they get it wrong, because they believe incorrect things about Christ, or don’t understand who Christ is to know how to repent to be more like Him, or their baptism isn’t done with authority so they can’t receive the Holy Ghost-- and it’s that last digit that is the most crucial as it’s the Holy Ghost that cleanses us from sin, that removes the price from us, that gives us access to the card.

Don't think you have the PIN memorized from just hearing about it in church. It requires a little more than casual study… and a little more than occasional practice.

So everything is free-- Christ pays everything-- but you can’t use His payment unless you know how. 
And I love how, even after we’ve been cleansed and we’re debt-free, and then we mess up again, Christ must say “You went into debt AGAIN? Sigh. Está bien (it’s okay)—here’s some more money. Just try to make a profit with it this time.” 

Are you USING the Atonement to improve?

Pues, buenas tardes, familia. Le amo mucho.

AMOR, Hna Ludlam

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fuzzy vs. Tough Love

Aw, ya’ll, I wish I was there... thanks for sending pictures of the reunion.

I realized how spoiled I’ve been with a good family who writes to me. Not a single DearElder has come through for like two months and you guys couldn’t write this week because of the reunion and I realized how it feels to not have family communication. Imagine how it would be if it was like that every week...

Sister Pitcher helped me to change drastically the way I street contact and teach. Last week I learned not to be so compulsory. This week I realized that it is so much more important that people feel love than that they learn doctrine. Before, I thought “planting a seed” meant saying bold statements of doctrine that, after stewing in peoples’ heads for a while, would make them consider that they’re wrong and want to look for something better. Usually they get over the fact that I offended them by telling them blatantly that they’re wrong. J

But I think a seed of greater impact would be to feel love in our presence-- feel so strongly the love that Christ has for them through us-- that they NOTICE it when we start talking to them and notice it when we leave. What if we were walking, talking evidence of the type of charity that only the gospel in its fullness is able to cultivate. Even though people might still not want to listen, the thing that will be stewing in their mind is that they felt something good that they will want to feel again and will wonder where it came from. And, if nothing else, people will think “Mormons: good” instead of “Mormons: obnoxious.” They'll be one step closer to accepting missionaries the next time.

Still trying to find a balance between fuzzy love and tough love. Sometimes if you really love someone what they need is a plancha (plancha means an iron, but I believe she means something heavy, hard) for their own good. I still don't know the balance. Sometimes it confuses me how Christ uses on awful lot of “Thou fools” and “Thou hypocrites” and “You’re an empty sepulcher of decaying bones” if he loved EVERYONE so much. Are those things that only Christ has the prerogative to say or should we be bold like that, too?

Speaking of being bold. Just as some advice for sister missionaries who are going to leave soon on their missions and contemplating what to bring: READ YOUR CALL PACKET.  If you read your packet you would know that you should NOT:

-bring flats instead of walking shoes
-decide to dye your hair (why?!! You're a MISSIONARY!!!) or choose  a hairstyle that requires time-consuming and frequent maintenance (that doesn’t just take up your time, it will take up the time of all of your companions)
-decide you don’t need to do the 4-generation pedigree chart
-bring more than the 8-10 sets of clothes.

You’ll save yourself and your companion a lot of time and money.

Happy Birthday, Jenna!

Can somebody say “hi” to Agee for me?

Well, fambly, live up the reunión. Long live the Burnetts and the Scots!

Hermana Ludlam

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

You can actually CHANGE!

Hola Family Mine,

I feel like a very different person this week than I did last week. Training really just makes you strip yourself down sometimes, and realize all the problems you have, and how deep they are, and how much you didn't even know you were doing. And feel kind of rotten.

But the atonement makes you feel like “Wow, I have all these problems but I can just sort of leave them behind. I can just pray a lot all day for all these specific things I realized I have problems with and Heavenly Father will help me change”' And then you can actually CHANGE. 

Improvement feels pretty terrific.

I didn’t even realize what a compulsory person I was. Usually my intentions are good, like I tell someone to do some things because I really do want to help them and I know that what I am telling them to do will help them. 

But lots of people will NOT do the things you tell them to do, simply because you are pushing them to do it. I realized I push too forcibly when I'm trying to instill habits in my hija (the sister she is training), or when I want someone in the street to let us teach them, or when I want the ward council to do something. I’m learning how to be more invitational. That is how Christ does it. Teach the principles very clearly and firmly, explain a blessing or two and a consequence or two to assure them that you are instructing them for THEIR benefit, and then BACK OFF. And it works a lot better. I like how Lehi does it in 1 Ne 8:38. And after ·Lehi· had preached (taught them the principles) unto ·Laman and Lemuel·, and also prophesied unto them of many things (the consequences), he bade them to keep the commandments of the Lord (invited); and he did cease speaking unto them (backed off.)
At least until he needed to teach them something else.

I'd imagine training is kind of like parenting a teenager.

So I have been learning how to exhort with all long-suffering and kindness instead of trying to compel. And I am also being much more cognizant of how the way I say things affect people. Thank Sister Pitcher, future children!

Hermana Pitcher and I have noticed that street contacting in this area is not nearly as effective as in my other areas. Not sure if that is because of us or because of the area. We are searching for other ways to meet people.

Hermanas Pitcher, Lia, Harper and Pinguelo
My posterity (those she has trained) = (pictured Hija Hna Pitcher, yo, Hija Hna Harper, Nieta Hna Pinguelo). My new dress. You would be ASTOUNDED how hard it is to find a dress with sleeves and below the knees in Mexico Merida. My gafet (her name badge) says 'Hermana Garcia' and is in Portuguese because I lost both of my gafets... in two weeks... and the other one is in transit. I am borrowing from the mission president's wife. It's actually a blessing because everyone can say 'Hermana Garcia' a lot better than they can say 'Hermana Ludlam,' I might just keep it.

Or marry a Garcia. Je je -- just kidding.

Hermana Ludlam-Garcia

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Bible is Fantastic!

Hola Family,

The Bible is really good. I never appreciated the Bible that much before my mission, thinking of it as a really vague and general book that talked about God without ever saying anything. But it’s fantastic! It has chapter after chapter of the concrete things that Christ DID and SAID specifically so we can know what He was like. And the letters from the apostles are full of such REAL applications of how to LIVE what Christ said-- what it feels like, what it means, how to do it.

The Bible is only vague if you don’t understand it (and that is very hard to do without the Book of Mormon). Really, the best way I can think of to say it is that the Book of Mormon and the Bible complement each other. We can get a solid foundation for the doctrine from reading the Book of Mormon, add examples of living it from the Bible, find explanations for confusing Biblical ideas in the Book of Mormon... God was very very sabio ( wise) to make the two and how lucky we are to be the only dispensation with both! 

Hermanas Brito, Ramirez, Sanchez, Lia, Pitcher, ?, & Condori
Here are the sisters in my new zone. Sorry I always send these candid shots but they always turn out a lot better than the real ones, and the people look more like themselves. 

 I loved what you told me about Elder Oaks preparing his talks. I have always wanted to know what and how much goes on in their heads when the general authorities are preparing talks.

 I really liked in Kenn's letter (Elder Garner serving in Paris France Mission) about how he pushed himself so hard to reach a number goal. I have a hard time with that. I think I just have a hard time having enough faith that the goals I set for numbers really do result in more baptisms-- to the point where it's worth sacrificing a lot or changing plans just to get more of a number.  I've also realized that the little voice in my head that says "you've done enough" or "you've tried hard enough" are really the biggest enemy to my goal-effectiveness.  That quote in PMG (Preach My Gospel) from Elder Ballard makes me nervous, about how if we don't master the techniques of goal-setting and living to reach our goals, we will fall far short of our potential. My goal :) is to be really good at using goals.

Hermana Pitcher in front of their pension.
And our house with PLANTS (that we have to remember to water.) It is a really nice house.

When do you guys leave for Utah? WRITE IN YOUR JOURNALS ABOUT IT!!! And then tell me please.

Hermana Ludlam