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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I LOOOOoooooOOOOOoooooVE Conference!

Querida Familia,

I  LOOOOoooooOOOOOoooooVE Conference. I was so happy after the Women’s Conference on Saturday, and that was only an hour and a half. This weekend I will get EIGHT HOURS of prophetic wisdom and explanations of reality that I need. After the conference on Saturday, I was just floating on a pink-and-purple cloud. Sigh...

Elders Rodríguez, Samano, Torrentera, Lia, and Hna Torales
(I forgot to send this picture of us with the Assistants right before Hermana Torales and Elder Samano went home.)

Back to Conference: I realized though, that things I was hearing would probably not have interested me a year ago. I remember previous conferences when I would think,"They’re talking about covenants... again?" And I tried really hard to concentrate, but didn't really understand what a covenant even was or why it was important.

That is what consistent scripture study and the Spirit will do for a person. :)  And I feel so so grateful that I speak English. Conference is NOT the same through a translation. Actually, I got my first real-time translating experience because they couldn’t figure out how to get the Spanish transmission. So Hermana Pinguelo and I translated for the congregation. But then they got it fixed, so we could go listen in English. Also, if I didn’t listen in English, I couldn’t have appreciated Sister Marriott’s accent. Don’t you all love her? The reason I love her is because she is such a real person. 

On my intercambios (missionary exchanges) in Garcia Gineres with Hermana Maki and Hermana Thomas, I met the coolest person. Her name is Estela, and she is 90 years old and THE SMARTEST YUCATECA EVER. She looks like she’s 65. I couldn’t believe how we could just tell her something and she would understand it. We were reading the Book of Mormon (in between citas (appointments) like we’ve been instructed to do) and we were reading in 3 Nephi 18 about the sacrament. We were reading a passage about how the sacrament was a commandment, and we ask her a question about what the commandment is and she says, “I guess I’ve got to get baptized.” I’m watching Hermana Maki in the mirror on the wall and see her face just light up! Then she asks us a question about needing authority to be baptized.

On the street afterwards, I asked “Do you think that’s what it's like to teach people in the United States?” Hermana Maki responded, “I was asking myself the same question.”  In case you are going to serve a mission in Mexico Mérida, you should start practicing to be patient right now. Unfortunately, most people here do not finish school (there’s no law that you have to stay in school), so they’ve never really learned how to learn. Learning is an incredibly slow process. You have to teach in super small increments, and you can’t just tell them something. You have to really get inside their brain and think what you could say that will help them realize you’re teaching something new, and make it as visual possible. You must verify after every idea you teach.

BUT, we get into a lot of houses and teach a lot of people. And nobody throws things at us. I believe every mission has its own difficulties. I think I definitely needed the specific difficulties of the Mexico Merida mission. :)

 I LOVED Elder Uchtdorf's umbrella analogy. I use it a lot in street contacting to explain why people should go to church, not work on Sundays, quit drinking, etc. MAN I LOVE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS. And I am SO excited to go to the temple. You know what I realized when I was there, is that I still am not comfortable there. I mean, I have more doubts and questions than I have assurances and answers. I want to go often enough that I feel at home there. Maybe I can be a worker when I get home.

We helped a mototaxista (motorcycle taxi) push his moto to get it started today. Yah, sista powah!

Much love,
Hna Ludlam

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

­¡Chispales! Evidence the Atonement works!

Hola Familia,

This is what happens in Mérida after it rains!  If you are not wet from the rains, you are wet from sweat!
Escaping a tidal wave caused  by a bus
(Lia in blue, Hna Lugo in pink).

This water is probably a foot deep and
happens 2-3 times a week!
We have, little by little, been trying to get the members to catch on to the new member-missionary way of being a member. Some people get it!  We show them what its says in Preach My Gospel about what they ought to be doing and they say “Chispales.” The best literal translation of that I’ve come up with for that is “Spark them.” It’s like “Dang!” or “Geepers!” Then they start coming up with names of people they want to start working on and praying about.  But some people... do not get it so easily. :)

I was part of a beautiful and heart-breaking experience last week, a real gospel-in-action moment. I was in Kukulcan Ward on Sunday in intercambios (missionary exchanges), and we had just started the Ward Council meeting in the chapel. They put on that video of the family who does missionary work (the little boy who writes the card and the mom who gives the lady a bag for her fruit in the market) and I was watching the part where the teenage girl is washing dishes at her job and one of her co-workers is talking on the phone and starts crying. And for some reason, I started crying at that part.

And two seconds later, the bishop walks into the room and says, “We’re going to have to cancel the junta (meeting). He explained, “Hermana Monica (the ward member who was going to feed the missionaries that day) just had her baby in the hospital. There were complications and she is about to die.” He quickly asked for volunteers to go to the hospital and left immediately with the elders.

Of those of us who stayed, somebody suggested we pray so we all knelt down in between the pews in the chapel and a sister prayed. We were all crying. And then the thing that impressed me most of all… the counselor who stood up after the prayer and said, “As members of the church, what we do in times like these is fast. I invite all of you to start fasting right now.” And we did!

The efficacy and composure and beauty and spiritual maturity of the whole situation was...just not Yucatecan. It is something so incredible how the true doctrine of Jesus Christ makes us so human, so sensitive to the emotions of others. People who have been made sons and daughters of God truly do mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. I was so grateful and even a little surprised that my heart was soft enough, that the suffering of someone I didn’t know could pull my heart-strings so much.  Evidence that the Atonement works. :)

I love you all, for reals.
Hna Ludlam

Monday, September 15, 2014

Don't sleep through the Revolution!

Hola Familia,

One day, in my very first few weeks in the mission, Hermana Torales went on exchanges and Hermana Carr (from the CCM—Mission Training Center) came to stay with me for a day in Madero. And while we were walking and talking, we were dreaming and made plans that one day we were going to both be Hermanas Capacitdoras (Trainers) and be companions and change the whole mission. 

Lia's current companions: Hermanas Lugo and Carr
Ta-da!  Hermana Carr is my companion! And we are both Lideres Capacitadoras. And I am going back to Barrio Mulsay, just in a different area. We’re in a trio with Hermana Lugo, who is from la Republica Domicana.

This week, Elder Benjamin de Hoyos (Area Authority in Mexico) spent all week training the different zones. I LOVE being in the presence of cool people. And I realized that just in these last few months a dramatic revolution has been starting and WE (you guys) are the ones who were chosen to get it started. We’re finally moving onto the next step in la Obra de Salvacion (Work of Salvation), when instead of missionaries contacting all day and finding maybe 1 in 50 people who are ready to accept the gospel, the MEMBERS are going to start being the ones to find because they know the people. So the missionaries can start teaching people all day who have already been filtered and baptize maybe 1 in 3 people they teach instead of 1 in 50.  
Lia's last Preparation Day with Hermana De Leon en Centro
Elder de Hoyos also got us started on teaching in multitudes-- if you are teaching an investigator, invite the investigator to invite two more families to the next lesson. Teach three families at once. I realized that Christ didn't have time to go house to house, person to person to teach the gospel. 

We also find a lot of members who say, “I don’t have any referrals, I’ve already tried with all my neighbors and they don’t want anything.” Instead of visiting your neighbors and asking them if they want to hear the missionaries, INVITE them into your home, let them get to know you, invite them to non-threatening activities. And then instead of sticking the missionaries on them, invite them to meet with the missionaries in your home.  Everyone should read Preach My Gospel on “Finding People to Teach; The Importance of Members.” I don’t think these ideas are new, we just haven’t been doing it.
Four Trainers: Ludlam, Castro, Torales, and De Leon
Maté a mi mama... Torales goes home Thursday!

Walking out of the conference, I felt so excited and optimistic about missionary work-- I thought, “This is doable. This is going to happen.” And I realized that’s not just an unrealistic attitude after getting pumped up by a General Authority, that’s how I feel when I’m feeling the Spirit, that’s me looking at the situation the way Heavenly Father is looking at it. That’s how I feel when I have faith.  When I feel depressed and looking at all of the obstacles and all of the things I’ve tried doing in my areas that didn’t work, I’m not thinking with faith. I appreciate a lot more the quote from President Monson:
 “The future is as bright as your faith.”
Go be member missionaries!  
Don’t sleep through the Revolution!

Much love,
Hna Ludlam

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

People aren't like jaguars. They can change their spots.


Pues OTRA VEZ va a ver cambios (Well, ONCE AGAIN it is transfer time)... I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be a traveling capacitadora the next transfer. I can’t tell you exactly what the cambios (transfers) are because they are not official yet and I don’t want anything to leak. But Presidente let us help make the companionships and I think I will have an area again! Yay! And I’m super excited about my companion if everything goes as planned...

A lo largo de mi (Throughout my) mission, I’ve learned a lot about refraining judgment about people and judging really, really slooooow. And not just about judging the eternal worth of someone by their physical appearance or apparent intelligence (which is very easy to do in Mexico), but with the missionaries, too. Lots of times I like to think that people are like fabric by the bolt-- that you can see one little piece and know how the rest is (a quote I heard somewhere). And like a phrase I heard from a Guatemalan elder, "People aren’t like jaguars. They can change their spots.” (A great talk about this principle here.) People change very frequently, and the environments in which you see them only show a part of the whole package. 

So I have to make judgments about their character VERY open-mindedly, looking for LOTS of evidence before making conclusions or just not making conclusions if I can help it. We should allow people the opportunity to change. People are much easier to love when you just assume you don’t know all of the person yet.

I like how the evaluations in Preach My Gospel and in the training materials are not rated based on immeasurable qualities, but by FREQUENCIES. I think that is a much more accurate judge of character. The question is not “How charitable are you?”
5- Very Charitable 3- Somewhat Charitable,etc.
But instead, the phrase is “I am Charitable…”
5--Always, 4--Almost always, 3—Often, 2--Sometimes.
I think I have seen almost everyone I know do something wonderful or admirable and lovable. Everyone has that potential. The question is, how OFTEN are you in that condition? 

Other thoughts about love: I don’t know why, but I have a really hard time feeling lovable or feeling the love of Heavenly Father for me. But a way of thinking that came to me while I was praying the other day was that Heavenly Father loves me like a DAUGHTER. My mind can’t really wrap my mind around the idea that a perfectly intelligent, capable, beautiful marvelous person like Heavenly Father could look down at us extremely and deeply flawed little people and find something about us to love. But I can wrap my head around what a parent feels when they look down on their own child. Sure, the child is flawed and nowhere near the capability of the parent but the parent sees the potential in the child even if that potential is far away and feels deep and very real love.

When I think of Heavenly Father thinking about me as His daughter, I can understand Him loving me. And then I realized a child is not all that distant from a parent. It’s like 'PARENT' and then 'CHILD' with no intermediaries in between-- we are very VERY closely related and connected with a divine Being. So that makes me feel better. Aw… I love Him a lot.

I had a cool 'Open-Your-Mouth' experience this week. I was on intercambios (exchanges) in Progreso (the BEACH) with an investigator who needed to get married with her less-active husband who did NOT want to get married and had been visited by missionaries for forever and never been even influenced to change. He goes on about how his situation is an exception and how everyone tells him what to do, but it doesn’t matter and he prays everyday to God to forgive him so he is okay and how this was HIS personal affair. I asked him, “Hermano, do you know WHY Heavenly Father wants you to get married? Why do you think a piece of paper makes a difference to Him?” And he said “Yeah, I actually don’t know.”  I thought, “Uh-oh” because I didn’t really know how to explain it. But the thought came to me “Just open your mouth” so I did, and the words started coming out. And the drawings started coming out (including my drawings of little cows...) and for a good two minutes I just felt like a little fiber-optic cable with light coming out and I felt all clear inside like... those sugar crystals that we made for my science experiment, Dad. 

At the end I asked. “And so, Hermano, what is it that God does to make sure all of that is protected?” And he leans back, all put out, and rubs the back of his head and says, “Una firma...” (a signature) And I was like “Yeah.” He didn’t commit to get married, but he did commit to honestly pray about it, together with his wife. And that hadn’t happened before. I hope the Hermanas dan el seguimiento...(follow up with him).

Pues les amo mucho y que tenga una semana llena de oportunidades misionales (I love you all a lot and hope you have a week full of missionary opportunities).  Open your mouths! And I was serious about making friends. If nobody comes to your mind of who to share the gospel with, go make friends.

Hermana Ludlam

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Keeping Commitments

I GOT THE PACKAGE!!! Thank you so much family for the beautiful photo album and the notes and for all of the notes from the family reunion. I felt a little bit like I was there. :) And everyone was very impressed with the quality of the photo album (there’s nothing like that here.) And everybody liked what Grant wrote and could read it because it was in Spanish. :)  My 3 compañeras (companions) also got pretty excited about the popcorn too. It traveled well.

I got to use a machete for the first time! In Mexico, people don’t garden with little shovels and rakes and gardening gloves. It wouldn’t work anyway because it's all cement. Everybody gets a machete (like the length of your arm) and goes to work and you just hope that you don’t hit anybody else. Somebody took a picture and they’re working on sending it to me.

I don’t know how it’s happening, but I really feel that every time I go to work with an area, I really am guided to see what it is that they need to work on and I’m able to explain it and they’re able to get it and we make real goals. And when I do my follow-up calls, things are actually changing and improving! The other capacitadoras (trainers) have been saying the same things. Area by area the mission is getting better. Thank you for all the people who are praying for me because it’s definitely working.

This week it dawned on me like a rock the importance of teaching to COMMITMENTS. Last week I made a few comments about teaching to what the person doesn’t understand that is impeding them from coming to Christ. But this week I realized that the way to come to Christ is by repenting, which specifically means accepting and keeping the commitments that are listed in Preach My Gospel (please go study why.)   If you want RESULTS, or CONVERTED people, focus all of your teaching on sacando dudas (removing doubts) of what the person doesn’t understand that impedes them from KEEPING THEIR COMMITMENTS. All of the doctrines in Preach My Gospel are written for the intent of that purpose.

So. Coming unto Christ= Repenting= Keeping Commitments in Preach My Gospel.

That goes for everyone, not just investigators. :) I think we can always be asking ourselves, “What is it I don't understand that is keeping me from correctly/fully keeping my commitments (or covenants...)?” And then go study and pray about that thing.

I was really hoping to do a training on that tomorrow, but there was a change of plans so we’ll see. But transitioning to that thinking pattern has been drastically changing the sister’s length of teaching time (much shorter), the strength of the Spirit in the lessons, the understanding of the investigators (because the lesson has a clear purpose and focuses on what PMG says), the focus and effectiveness of personal and companion study, and makes for shorter and more purposeful planning sessions. Yesss... And the people keep their commitments. :)

Sorry I don’t write very much of stories anymore... I’m trying to find less lecture-y stuff to write about but that has kind of become my life... :)

I love you all very much. 
Mmmwah! (Besos).
Hna Ludlam