"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, February 25, 2013

Is It Any Surprise?

Dear friends and family,

A lot has happened, and if you don't look carefully, well, you'd say it was just another week.

So, to clear a few things up from last week. About two hours after I told you that I would soon be training Elder Sanchez we got a call. Special Transfers. Elder Sanchez was getting sent to Palenque. So, we got him the the Mission Offices early Tuesday morning and then we were off. Elder Deem and I alone. And it's weird just having one companion now. But this all means that here in Las Mercedes, well, its all mine come this next week when Elder Deem goes home. Who knonws what will happen when the time comes, but when it does, I've got to be ready.

So, we've been working really hard this last week. Working hard to cover our area and working hard to really know where we are, who we are with, what is going on, along with a lot of other random fun facts. But, I'll just tell a few of our adventures this week.

To start out, our area is the largest in the mission. Which means travel is difficult. But, when things are difficult, you tend to learn to count your blessings. Since we don't have much money to travel, we find ourselves walking. With that, we find ourselves getting free rides from random people. Whether it is the Pochi driver (kinda like a gold-cart) who wants to practice his English, or some random inactive member from who knows where, they tend to find us. That, or the Bishop just happens to drive by. This last week we went to Teapa. It's really not ridiculously far away, but it does take an hour in one of those ghetto Nacho Libre school buses. Yes, they do exist, and they go to Teapa. (It's amazing how real Nacho Libre is. Everything is real.) So, we got to Teapa, where there haven't been missionaries for over a year. Elder Deem had only been there once in the last 4 months. So, we didn't have much to go on. But, we found some people and had a productive time there. But, the test comes when you try to get home. Don't push your luck too late, or you may just find yourself sleeping somewhere in Teapa. Because how do you find these Nacho Libre buses to take you back? Well, you wait on the street and signal you want on when one passes by. Supposedly one leaves every hour. But, what time in that hour? Who knows. So, we found ourselves waiting in Teapa for a Nacho Libre bus to pass by and pick us up. Thankfully one of the member kids decided to hang out with us while we waited. That consisted of him telling us to just speak in English and he would sit in the dirt and listen to how cool it was. That was fun. But, after a half hour of waiting, there was still no bus in sight. But, we were waiting right on the bridge, so if you were leaving Teapa, well, you'd pass right by us. All of a sudden, a large charter bus stopped right in front of us, right in front of the bridge. The doors opened and the conductor yelled at us to hop on in. It was odd because these buses never stopped. They were known for their reputation of never stopping--always direct. So, I hopped on up and Elder Deem followed me (he kind of had to). Upon getting on the bus I looked back to try and find a seat in the darkness. But to my surprise, the bus was empty. We were dead for sure. Maybe. But, it turned out that the conductor was a member who had been ordered to take the bus back to Villa to help with who knows what. He figured he'd help us out and get a little company. I have never gone faster on a two lane highway. It was awesome. And it even came with air conditioning. There are some perks to missionary work.

We also had a baptism this week of a teenager, Julio, 19, who found the church through his somewhat less-active brother. We haven't really been preparing Julio for his baptism, but to serve a mission since that is what he has told us already that he wants to do. He said from the beginning that he wanted to make these changes in his life so that others might be able to see that it is possilbe, and do the same for themselves. He even has been praying for the last three weeks that his mother might be able to feel what he has felt. Needless to say, God answers prayers. God touches hearts. And for that, Julio's mother practically begged us to begin teaching her.

This family has problems. But like any family with problems, they have potential. I'll add my witness to that of President Monson. That people can change. I've seen it many times. It's not something new, and it's not something that is going to stop.

Here in Mercedes the work is going great. There is a lot to be done. And we are going on a good path. I really am blessed to be here. Maybe having Colitis is worth it--even though I wouldn't recommend it. There are miracles coming, and I hope you can see the ones that have already passed.

Until next week, take care,
Elder Andrews

Monday, February 18, 2013

Modern-Day Revelation: Words of Wisdom

If anything, I am learning how true the Word of Wisdom is. If only everyone had Colitis they would have to obey it--to the last word. All of the "bad" stuff that people normally think of--drugs, alcohol, coffee, tea--forget about it. If you tried to take those with Colitis you'd be done. Then the red meat and all. Pretty much, mother, you would not recognize me. I eat a bran cereal here called "Fitness", its pretty much Raisin Bran without the Raisins. Best part? I get to use soy milk. Weird right? Well, after a week it is pretty normal. I'm also only allowed to eat toasted bread--which they sell pre-toasted bread here, no one has a toaster. Who knows why, its not the same. Its as hard as a rock. But, lucky for me, one of my friends (Elders) from Carmen decided to leave me his toaster when he went home in January and when Elder Pack heard about it he brought me my toaster! (I left it there cause I was going home, remember?) But yeah, funny story about that is that Elder Pack found that out because he himself got sick again--the same throat thing. And he happened to call Doctor Chablè while I was eating at his house.

So, about all this no that you already know the great details. I am here in an area called "Mercedes y Teapa". That is to say that we cover two areas. This area is also known to be the largest in the mission. I could walk for a whole week and not leave my area. It is a little different from being on an island where there were 5 different "areas" and I could walk to all parts in about 40 minutes. I am here helping to train Elder Sanchez who is from Peru with his first companion, or "dad" as they say, Elder Deem. Elder Deem is going home in two weeks and so it is most likely that Elder Sanchez will soon be my son--not step-son because I would finish his training. Who knows how that all goes. Elder Sanchez has never seen the Emperor's New Groove. I was devistated to hear that as well. Elder Deem is from North Dakota, so, that's kind of weird. But it is what it is.

Things here are going really well for us. Since you really have not heard much from me, two General Authorities of the Church have visited the mission. Elder Russell M. Nelson came and if I could share one thing that he said it would be this quote, often recited by Obispo Chablè:

"We have trials to learn to use our agency". 

Or, in other words, we get to suffer a little to see how we choose to handle it. From a talk I love, "The Lord Requireth the Heart" it says that out experiences don't make us who we are, but rather how we choose to react to them.

Elder Johnson, President of Area Mexico also said that we have got to study your scriptures and pray daily in order to not be left behind in this great work. Please make sure you are in good standing with that.

As for random other things, well, life is good. I learned where there is a churro stand and I'm allowed to eat them once a week. Bishop even gave me one of his today. :P So, I can't eat the hamburgers or pizzas or tacos I would want to, but its all good, cause at least I have churros once in a while. Well, sometime soon. We keep getting too busy I haven't had time to go buy some even though its on the way to the house...

Stay strong family and friends,
God Bless You All,
Elder Andrews

Elder Andrews, Elder Deem, and Elder Sanchez.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Announcement from the Mission

If you plan on sending me a package (not solicitating--especially candy since I can't eat much of anything right now for my Colitis cleansing), but if you already plan on sending me one. You need to send them through "Express Mail" and not through "Priority Mail". Not sure the difference, but that is the word on the street.

Also, please don't send me any moer GoldBond for a while (see picture below). I did kind of ask for it though.

Also, remember my love for the movie Pearl Harbor and how I mention it in a lot of my emails? Well look what I found in my new area! Dear Mother, this will be coming home, please take good care of it. I already talked to the lady that owns the shop, once I find another tarp for her shade she'll trade me.

Also, my medicine regiment consists of me taking shark cartilegde. Please someone check my spelling. Pretty cool, huh?

Also, here is Doctor/Bishop Chablé and his wife. They're way cool.

Love you kids. Stay good.
Elder Andrews

Shark Cartilage Vitamins!!!
He's doing fine with his supply of Gold Bond.
He found a movie poster for Pearl Harbor!
Doctor/Bishop Chablé and his wife.

Covenants in Conversion

So, I am sorry if I have worried any of you for not writing these past couple of weeks. I hope to share with you what had happened and hope that you may learn what I have learned from this all.

I thank you Mom and Dad for the trust that you and President Stock have in me for my first decision, I hope you can trust me in all my decisions.

To start, about two months ago I found out that I have a sickness known as Colitis. It is not a rare condition, but you do need to take care of it. Well, that turned out to be just the problem, I didn't know how to. So, well, I tried my best. If something made me sick, I tried not to eat it again. I started sipping on water any time I had any pain (that surprising helps a lot). And so there we went, Elder Pack and I in the work of the Lord. But, one day I woke up--Sunday, January 6th, 2013-- and I could not support any weight on my foot. In fact, I feel back onto my bed. And there I stayed for the next month. I worked as valiantly as I could. I even went out to work a little with my makeshift boot that you recall. But, later received instructions that I was not to leave my bed. At all. And if I was not obedient I would have to get sent home. So, being scared to death, I stayed there. 

But, the apostle was coming, remember? Could I go see him? (He is a doctor--feet can't be that different from a heart). So as the time got closer and closer, I well, sat and sat. We got a call the night before he would be coming telling me to take all of my stuff with me to Villahermosa the next day, for I would not be returning to Carmen. At that point, well, I didn't know what to think. We left less than 8 hours later and I did not get to show how grateful I was to the people that took such great care of me there. I hope I showed it enough at the time.

So, from there I had a nice trip to Villa. And we're skipping a lot of nonesense detail cause it really doesn't mean anything to you and we're skipping to where the story gets good. Just know, I had a hard time.

So, for two weeks I was bed ridden in Villahermosa. I did the best I could even though it wasn't that much. I had, at this point gone to 5 different doctors various times and they all realized something was very wrong with my foot and told me how stupid the last doctor was for suggesting whatever they had thought it was. Then, after I did whatever that doctor had said, well, that wasn't it either. So they all concluded that nothing was wrong with me and told me to rest just a little longer.

By this time I had rested for a whole month. 31 days in a bed. And I was not going to have any more of it. The doctors here clearly did not have any idea what was going on with my foot. It looked fairly normal, their ideas had failed, so I must just be making all this up. At this point, its better for me to just go home. I was losing my once in a lifetime chance at a mission by simply being in the mission. So what was the point. In fact, at this point I had already been told I was going home on two different occasions and had all my things ready. I agreed to all the rest (in my bed) so that I would have enough strength to get through the airport home. After talking to my parents and my Stake President, we all decided that it was for the best for me to go home. And that is where we left it.

So, one day, I was called to go to the offices--about two blocks away, but quite the feat for someone who was resting his foot to make it through the airport. But there we went. There I was waiting the whole morning thinking maybe this was the day I got to go home. But, it was not. 11 AM came and I was still waiting. In walked a man. I greeted him, since I had nothing else to do. After a while of talking he said he was there to see Elder Andrews. He quickly realized that this person was me. He said he didn't know why he was there though. Well, obviously I thought it was for my foot, so we sat down and had a look at it. He apparently was there for my other complications--we won't go into detail there though. You'd thank me. But, just from my foot he could tell what was wrong.

With my Colitis, I have higher levels of toxins running through my body. These toxins caused a seemingly rare type of arthritis named "gota" (I think) that had spread from my foot to my knee to my back to my other foot. Fun stuff, eh? So, he gave me a bunch of pain killers and told me to walk. I had to walk to get it better. Every step felt like walking on a kitchen knife. But, on we went. President took me aside and said that everything for my flight plans had already been worked out and that we were just waiting for approval from the Mission Department in Salt Lake. He said, given the situation, they were guaranteed to say yes, I would/should go home on a medical release. But, he also said that if I wanted--key here, if I wanted--that they would always give me another chance in the mission. I was determined not to stay in the bed. It is death. So I told President that if I stayed in the mission I needed to work that very day. That I wanted my own area. That I was not going back to my death bed. 

But, he wouldn't accept my answer. He said, "Elder. Tonight, you are going to the temple. There, you will get your answer. I want you to call me after you get out and tell me what I need to do." From that moment, I gained a lot of respect for President Castañeda. 

Little did I know that he would be at the temple. That he would be sitting beside me the whole time. That he would be helping me. But the thing is, in the exact moment that you would think he would talk to me and give me a great speech and tell me what I should do, you know what he did? He walked right out the door. So there I stayed, in the temple (practically alone since I obviously had a companion). In this moment I learned more than I ever could say. I am convinced that I will never be able to explain what I learned to the degree that it would have the impact on you that it did on me. 

Just the night before I was wondering about what I needed to do when I went back home. I could not stand nor kneel, so I found myself praying while sitting on my bed--seemingly just talking to the wall. I asked if I needed to make some special pact to coem back to the mission because I had already accepted defeat. But it was not until the next day that I got my answer in the temple.

Covenants. Covenants are our pacts with God. Our promise if you will. Covenants, if looked for in the Topical Guide (in Spanish) is an oath between you and the Lord where the Lord sets the terms. Upon reading that I realized how mistaken I was. It wouldn't matter what pact I had "made" with the Lord because it would have been on MY terms. Simply what he was asking of me was to honor the covenants I had made with him already. 

And so, that is what I am doing. I am now serving as a missionary in Barrio Mercedes in Las Mercedes--a city outlying from Villahermosa. I am serving under the direction of a great Bishop. His name is Bishop Chablé. Others might know him as Doctor Chablé--the doctor from the offices the day before I should have been sent home. He told President that if I chose to stay, he wanted me in HIS ward. Mother, know that I am in good hands and that we are working hard. I am not better. I can walk. And that is enough.

I love you all,
Elder Caleb O. Andrews

Missionary Work and the Atonement:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Caleb Update 3 of 3

***EDIT*** Caleb is working through things with the help of the Lord, his mission president, an inspired doctor, and all of our prayers and fasting on his behalf.


We have not heard anything from President Castenada or Caleb.  Spoke with our Stake President who indicated that since we spoke to him he had had a 1 minute conversation with someone from the missionary department indicating the church has doctors they use for the care of the missionaries.  Not sure exactly what that means but at least the missionary department has been notified.

When we spoke to Caleb Monday evening he noted that p-day for the office elders is Saturday.  I am refreshing my email regularly hoping to receive some news from him today.  Perhaps there may even be a group email : )

We are anxious for news, particularly for planning purposes, but trust that Caleb is in the Lord's hands.  Please continue to keep all concerned with decisions regarding his physical and spiritual health in your prayers.

Love to all!
Mother <3

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Caleb Update 2 of 3

***EDIT*** Caleb is working through things with the help of the Lord, his mission president, an inspired doctor, and all of our prayers and fasting on his behalf.

6 February 2013

We learned today that Caleb will be coming home to receive medical attention. The Stake President said he would be able to return to the mission field when he is healed. It is difficult, if not impossible, for Caleb to walk with the pain he has in his foot. We don't know details of when he will arrive, but we do know that we plan on taking him to get the help he needs.

I have learned about the possibilities of the source of his foot pain from you, my family. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. I'm sorry that there seems to be so much pain in so many of you.

So it's true. It hurts to be beautiful.

God Bless You All, Beautiful Family.

Mom & Dad

aka Mel & Katherine

Caleb Update 1 of 3

***EDIT*** Caleb is working through things with the help of the Lord, his mission president, an inspired doctor, and all of our prayers and fasting on his behalf.

I [am] writing to give you a brief update regarding Caleb.

Dad and I were invited to speak with him Monday evening. I was relieved to find he is in a good frame of mind! He has been at the mission house in Villa for nearly two weeks. He indicated P-day in the office is on Saturday but somehow it was overlooked that he had not had the opportunity to read or send email. He mentioned that The visit to villa was due to a visit by Elder Russell M. Nelson and was told that he would not be returning to Ciudad Del Carmen. I guess you could say he is kind of in limbo.

His foot is still giving him problems. He said the raging rash has subsided since he hasn't been out much.
He has been seen doctors there. His letter of January 14 references his concern.

We continue to work with our Stake President who is guiding us through the proper protocol in order to assist Caleb. Please be patient and prayerful. You may consider putting Caleb's name on the prayer at the temple near you.

Dad requests that you communicate with Caleb through the "POUCH" or U.S.mail. He (dad) hopes this will allow Caleb to receive the email comminunications from us and the local priesthood leaders.

Thanks in advance for your continued faith and prayers!