"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." 2 Nephi 31:20

Monday, October 29, 2012

On The Island

Dear Friends and Family,

So, here I am still on the island. We had a hurricane this last week. I didn't know until Oswaldo (one of our converts) told us a few days later. The Yucatan kind of protects us from all the terrible-ness of that. So, I just thought it rained--which is really all that happened. But, I can say I worked in a hurricane, that's cool, right? Speaking of rain, I guess that is a big deal since it hardly rains on the island (that is, in comparison to Villahermosa). But we are in another hurricane right now--meaning, it rained today. I walked through water that would go up to your shins, but developed a skill to kick the water before your foot lands--kind of like a really fast tippy-toe. Long story short, I crossed two streets like that completely dry. Not quite walking on water, but I'm not professing to be Jesus, just a disciple, so I'll count it.

Things here in the mission changed. And, from what I understand correctly, the world. As of Friday, I am no longer to go tracting. To go contacting. Knocking on doors. (Quite honestly, I wasn't any good at that in the first place). But, we are to focus our efforts on the members, active and inactive, to strengthen their testimonies and find references through them. It's awesome cause we have so much to do, but a bit of a bummer because we can't do much until someone gets active. So, the transition is a bit rocky still, but we'll get there. So, the members can't call us flojos (lazy people), but it is now the other way around, so watch out.

Due to the change, our numbers of lessons (and really everything) dropped severely this week. Not only did that change, but we lost all our investigators. So, we really are starting fresh. But, the change is awesome because now you can see the gospel in action more. I fixed a cement mixer of a recent convert. How did I do it? To tell you the truth I have no idea. I checked the oil, checked the gas, gave it a crank, and there it went. All this after the member had labored to exhaustion with us watching. So, I helped him mix cement afterwards. I've never felt more like a missionary mixing all that cement in a shirt and tie. Well, except for when we ride standing straight up in the back of a member's fruit truck. That is a blast. Especially with Mexico traffic. It is so crazy it untied Elder Andrade's tie. A few times actually. I'm grateful I tie a nice knot.

Love you all,
Elder Andrews

flojos = lazy people

Monday, October 22, 2012

"The pattern is simple, but not easy to follow."

Friends and Family,

To put a smile on your face, first I'll tell you about this morning. We went to wash our clothes at a member's house this morning (like every morning). It's with the Mexican Marine who wants to adopt me and take me to Veracruz. Long story short he is a member of just about 6 months, and he has a son that is not a member as well. So, they are a nice family, I am his son, no? So they usually feed us something for breakfast. This time, it was fish head soup. Nothing looks more like an alien than shrimp eyes and random fish scales and who knows what else. I stomached it down to be polite. Once we left, two steps out the door I threw up in my mouth. Thankfully I held it in for about 50 more yards. But don't worry, we got invited to eat with the other Elders that live with us right after. So, it was a blesing? But, to be serious, I really don't like fish. Especially their eyes. P.S. Fish eyes don't taste great, but who am I to judge... :P

So, this real email is to make up for my lack of telling you stories of investigators and converts that I have experienced. So, first, remember back to the baptism of the young boy Derek right after the meeting with President Castañeda. This convert is a direct result of that meeting as well. In that meeting he and his wife showed us a new way to ask for references, simply by talking to people about their friends. New, right? So, we followed this outline once right after. Nothing happened. It was lame.

Fast forward two weeks later. That one time we talked with a member and had her pray to share the gospel with a friend we had picked out together came to us with a response. She brought her cousin's family to General Conference and had a Family Home Evening set up for the next day she invited us to lead. This opened the door. Long story short, Edgar and Palmela are the newest members of Barrio Universidad. Not without its challenges. They're real challenge was the family. And family unity. How can a family be united without being together (physically in the same room). I destroyed this one if I might say myself. It was hard still though, because this couple had started their family really early on in life but still wanted to do everything they could to provide the best for them. For that they sent their 5 year old daughter to Merida to have a better school. The father stopped working on the Oil Platform (the best job there is here) so that he could spend more time with him family. This presented another problem. How was he to provide for his family? For the whole time we knew him he was unemployed, and many times he couldn't make it to our appointments because he was out at interviews and looking for other opportunities. He never graduated from the equivelent of middle school, but he is extremely smart. Knows AutoCAD (Dad, you would be proud). Even more important, he and his wife knew that this was the true church. 

But, two days before his baptism, he got an offer. $1000 (pesos, but still a ton) daily guaranteed if he were to work with the drug runners. He needed to provide for his family, no? Wouldn't you do it? That night he went home conflicted, knowing the decision would affect his baptism. He decided to give it one more day. One. He told no one. Not even his wife. And do you know what happened?

Well, we found him a job. A better job. In an engineering office with room for advancement. The manner could not have been coincidence. No one knew anything, except for the One that knew how to do it right.

So, right now, pray that you can find someone to help share the gospel with. Then do it. If any one of these actions did not come to fruition, what do you think would have happened? The pattern is simple, but not easy to follow.

With love,
Elder Caleb O. Andrews

President Castañeda is Caleb's mission president.

Barrio Universidad = University Ward (a "Ward" is a congregation defined by geographical boundaries)

Elder Andrade and Elder Andrews with Palmela and Edgar?
Sunset in Ciudad del Carmen?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Letter #6 from Mexico

Friends and Family,

Emailing early, guess I caught some of you by surprise. :P

But, that pretty much characterizes the side of missionary work I got to see this week--the uncertainty and unknown. But, before we get started on that, let's mention the ungodly.

Have you ever noticed it never mentions fish in the Word of Wisdom? I think there is a reason for that. Long story short, I have seafood 3 times this week in my area. P.S. Since I emailed you last week I have only been in my area...3 times. But, this week I learned that shrimp is a lot better when it is breaded, and it isn't hidden below a mountain of mayonaise. By far the worst thing I have ever eaten yet. 

Anyway, I got called to Villa again to do some things for my visa. So I left in the morning with another Elder from my Zone that had the same thing (except he had to go to Mexico City because he lost a paper--bad because he had already served 1.5 years and if things didn't go well he was going to have to go home--things went well). Point is, once in Villa I didn't really have a companion. But, the plan was to come back the same day with whoever would be his replacement in Carmen. Because of that, I only brought a Book of Mormon and some Chokis (the local equivelant of Chips Ahoy) because the travel would take all day. The Chokis did not last long. I also thankfully took out some money from the ATM before our travels so I could buy speakers Monday (today)--cause you don't go to ATMs often. This turned out to be key in survival since I soon found out after I had reached the offices that I was not going to return that day. And they didn't know when I would be.

With that, we went to work. And, for the next three days I worked with the office elders. I ended up breaking so many common sense hygiene rules and many more that I was told in the MTC. But I'm healthy. Long story short I realized how high maintenance we missionaries are forced to be and I found myself buying things to shave in the morning. 

Also, did you know that it rains more in Villahermosa than any other place in the world? The truth of that was quickly made a reality to me and rain came down. Seeing as I ended up wearing the same clothes from the first day many times in a row, I found that it was important to keep them as dry as I could and therefore finally purchased my first poncho (it really doesn't rain much on the island). I only ended up spending 3 days in Villa, because the office Elders helped me get out and had my Zone Leader come down to sign something--or else I was going to have to wait until Tuesday with the transfers. 

Transfers. Still with Elder Andrade, still being trained. But, that doesn't mean we are spared from the confusion and run around. Right now I am working with Elder Hurst, my Zone Leader, which is why I am writing earlier. Elder Andrade got assigned to go with another Elder to close a pueblito nearby. We got this assignment last night at 7 PM right after a lesson. We found ourselves 30 minutes away from our house with no money for a taxi to get back. At this point we had another Elder that didn't have a companion as well. We were to be at the bus stop in 30 minutes. We found ourself running in our suits back home. (You don't run in Mexico because it usually means you stole something, but...we had to run). After dropping off the other Elder, grabbing a few things I missed most from not having them in Villa, we ran out the door to catch a convey (bus) to ADO (the bus stop). I had in my hand once pesos (11) while we found ourselves running once again to try to catch the convey that passed just a few moments before we left. We didn't make it. We ran for about 20 blocks (really) until the next convey caught up to us. At this time the once pesos I had been clentching were given up and I had been sweating so much that my hands were like prunes. Imagine that. At this point it was dark, but still insanely hot. We arrived at ADO and Elder Andrade bought his ticket at 7:59, 1 minute before the last bus left.

Hope you guys are staying busy too.

Love you all,
Elder Andrews

A "Zone" is a grouping of several "Districts." There are District and Zone Leaders appointed by the Mission President to help conduct meetings and report to the Mission President.

"Closing" a town means that you pull the missionaries from that area.

pueblito = little town
convey = bus
ADO = bus stop
once pesos = 11 pesos

Monday, October 8, 2012

"In Memory of our God, our religion... our (family)" Alma 46:12

First off, I am so prepared for this mission. Mom, all that powdered milk you made me drink made this terrible Mexican stuff nothing for me. I can drink it plain with easeeee. First gringo to do so apparently. Also, living in two college towns helps me with this Mexican traffic and walking through it all. Sometimes Elder Andrade thinks I'm insane.

Second, do you know how many talks in General Conference were about dealing with the loss of a loved one? Especially a new-born? At least ten. I lost count. I have never prayed for something more in my life than you Lisa/Luke. So, I was very relieved to see pictures this week to know all went well. I'm an uncle (again)!
Lisa asked about how Comida works. We eat every day at a member's home. I got typhoid most likely from that fish...did I mention I don't like fish? But yeah, the members are great and you love to eat their food mainly cause you love them. True Mexican food seems to be an aquired taste--and by that I mean I can't taste much of anything. Hopefully that was just my sickness--maybe it was just a blessing and a miracle. You love the members here, and I already have two members (fathers) ready to adopt me. One wants to take me to Veracruz to find me a wife. Whoops.

The missionary announcement! I am actually older than Elder Andrade. So, it'll be weird being way older than everyone else. The real question is, are all of you in "the next generation" ready to step up to the plate? It was definitely a good switch--not that I need to say more than the prophet already has. It'll be interesting to see the dynamic that it has on the Mormon "marriage pool". While marrying a female return missionary sounds nice to some, many current missionaries say they don't want to be Junior Companion for the rest of eternity. As for me, I'll take the safe answer and say I am so lost in the work that I haven't taken thought on the topic. Interesting to see how it turns out nonetheless. I love the Prophet.

So, this week is more a recap of last week. Not only did I have RiKetsiosis, but I was also fortunate enough to contract Typhoid, and some very interesting internal bleeding (not really what you think it is, and not something you really want to know). But, before you start to worry, the antibiotics fight typhoid too, so its chill. We still went out each day. Staying at home is death in the mission. This last week we actually got called to Villa to meet with the President and other leaders of the mission. Turns out we completed the mission goal of six baptisms in six weeks. Whether you believe in revelation or not, the President had one and thus was the goal. I didn't know cause I'd only been in the field for 4 weeks and Elder Andrade kinda just forgot to count in his head or really when he was supposed to start counting. But, we completed the goal! While there everyone got the opportunity to share their experience with completing the goal. Elder Andrade gave me mad props. It sounded even cooler in Spanish. But, walking around bleeding, with Typhoid and RiKetsiosis is practically nothing compared to what others sacrificed. One Elder was standing in the baptismal font with a 105 degree fever baptizing the family of 4 he had worked so hard to help solve their problems and was immediately after rushed to the hospital. Another missionary was able to still work through the death of his father to help others. (Dad, I will not be happy if you pull that one on me...) And the President's wife stayed too to do her work even through the death of her sister--which actually helped me and the other Elder with our medical ailments. Everyone had their own afflictions, and I am sure that many of you have your own too.

Perserverance: Don't quit before the blessings.

I could tell you about how to feel comfort in your afflictions, but quite honestly it isn't enjoyable in any way you look at it. You just have to look at the blessings you receive along the way. For example, last week I mentioned I started the week with 50 pesos. That wasn't to complain, but to mention that there was no way I could ever afford a doctor. I had the choice between buying clean water for the week or bread (I chose bread and used my filtered water bottle--not quite sure it works). I had received so much help from members (its not allowed...but I was dying, so don't do it and don't die when you go to the mission) to go to the doctor. Also mom, I payed them back, don't worry. Look for the Lord's hand in your life. General Conference? The question that hit me was, "What is a man willing to exchange for his soul?" (Más o menos). Even bigger question for me is, "What is a man willing to give in exchange for another man's soul?" (Take the question for the context it is in...) In other words, am I doing everything I can do to save people with the message I have to share? What is your answer?

Then, from the fiery words of Jeffrey R. Holland, "The crowning characteristic of love is loyalty." Loyalty is something I thought a lot about before my mission. Am I loyal to my religion? Am I loyal to my team? Am I loyal to my family? I guarantee you that if you look at any person you can find some way they have fallen short in every category. I will be the first to tell you that I myself have as well. You don't have to look far to see the bad in people, but if you take time to look closely, you can always find the good. "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." Perfect loyalty to me, is a constant effort to support and stand for a person or cause you have joined yourself to. Perfect loyalty has mistakes still. Make them small ones. Find them. Fix them.
"How can we not press on in such great a cause?"

Love you all,
Elder Caleb O. Andrews

Gringo = American (or foreigner)
Comida = lunch in Mexico (literally "lunch")
Pesos = currency of Mexico
Más o menos = more or less

Monday, October 1, 2012

Perserverance, Patience and Prayer

Family and Friends,

This week had the biggest successes, the biggest downfalls, the biggest trials, and the biggest triumphs. Miracles.

Started the week with 50 pesos (roughly less than 3 dollars) and a few cookies. 

First off, we had prepared 6 investigators. They were all ready to be baptized! But... during the week 4 decided they were going to back out. It was hard to see the changes they had made get thrown out the door and have them deny everything they had already told us they believed. 

Then, we played House. And by that, I mean Dr. House

On Tuesday, I had a similar trial. I almost made it a whole month without having fish! But, I fell victim--fish may be the worst thing in the world for me--or so I thought. I started feeling sick right after we ate at that house. Elder Andrade still didn't believe that fish made me sick--but the fact that I was weird and showered twice a day. I don't enjoy sleeping in my own sweat, ok? But, we were both wrong. After a few days of fighting through it, my bones started to ache. More than just wear and tear from walking, cause it was my back, jaw, arms, and even teeth. So, we called the President's wife. They thought I had dengue--more commonly known to you as the West Nile Virus--which is quite a serious matter here. But, after a blood analysis, everything was fine. (P.S. The best way to describe the feeling is like shin splints. But everywhere on your body.) So, long story short, I have possitively been diagnosed with RickettsiaTo tell you the truth I have no idea what that means. Long story short there is that somehow a flea entered into my blood stream and has been having fun screwing things up inside my body. More than just a few too... Which is super lame cause I put on more bug spray than anyone else and don't touch the dog that lives with us--it is the Member's on whose roof we live on. But, that's how I got it. 

But, because we worked through the sickness each day we were able to have two baptisms this weekend. One of which was Oswaldo, who I had the opportunity to baptize. He had been struggling with the Word of Wisdom and thought it was funny at first. I stopped him and just told him flat out, "Look, if you don't stop drinking, we can't baptize you." He just said Oh and hasn't had a drink since then. He really is great though. 

Also, with members yesterday at Comida we were talking and because of my runny nose my accent is atrocious and I switched "murieron" for "mudaron" when talking about my parents. So, looking the members right in the face very calmy I said that my parents had died (instead of moved) a month before I left on my mission. I got blank stares and the room went silent. They asked me where I was going to go home to then and I just said that I'd figure it out when it came. They were amazed. I was confused. And sick.

But, I got my first pieces of mail! Which helped a lot this week especially. And, THE POUCH WORKS. Who knew? I have something to show the Assistants--my letters with American stamps! P.S. Kari, you folded them well enough I suppose. 

Anyway, I will get to watch Conference this week in the "Gringo Room"--kinda like the Tiki Room, just less exotic. It is where we watch it in English. So, hopefully that will be great, as always. Although I wish I could watch it with my family. So, take advantage of that for yourselves! Please watch General Conference this week with people you love! I'll take my picture of my family.

Also to note: Whenever I tell people I am from Pennsylvania, they think of Transylvania. It literally happens every day. 

Machetes are to Mexico what guns are to America. Elder Andrade thought it was insane that I had guns at my house (it is illegal to just have a gun here) which is why he was freaking out when Oswaldo told us he used to sleep with a gun every night. Elder Andrade was afraid. I didn't see anything unusual there. 

I've only seen a butter knife twice here. When we eat meat they give us a spoon. And you think eating with chop sticks is rough! Try cutting the chewiest meat you could imagine with just one spoon!

We as missionaries are not allowed to drink Coca-Cola, just cause. And we aren't allowed to have iPods, and can listen to ONLY Hymns. So, Derek, your iPod has been sitting in the mission offices since the first day. But, my Zone Leader promised me his CD's when he leaves in two weeks, so hopefully its all good.

You hear a LOT of American music here, which is rough because you feel a little guilty hearing it as a missionary--new Taylor Swift and Katy Perry and who knows who is singing the other stuff. But the absolute worst is hearing Maná. I say they are the Dave Matthews Band of Mexico, and their music sure fits with the tone of Mexico. Pretty lame now, but It might be cool 2 years from now.

Anyway, I love you all
Elder Andrews

Comida = lunch in Mexico (literally "lunch")
murieron = died
mudaron = moved
Gringo = American (or foreigner)

Note: William, Caleb's oldest brother, can empathize with Caleb since he, too, usually only got a spoon to use at mealtimes when he served in the Ecuador Guayaquil South Mission.