"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, April 29, 2013

Un Embarazo Después (One Pregnancy Later)

That is what they seem to call it. I often remember when my brothers went on there missions and everytime we talked about them it were as if they had passed on already and died. But, it's the other way around in the mission field. I was born in Ciudad del Carmen. Elder Andrade was my dad. Everyone who arrived with me are my brothers. Its a very large and interesting family tree that I'm sure you would love mom. :P Anyone, so, although I am closer to 10 months now, I forgot to mention I had 9. Going along with that though, the members that live in front of us, and are consequently the biggest help to us with laundry and all, well, the mom of the family is pregnant with her third child. It is getting to be pretty rough for her to the point where she isn't able to do much. Her feet get tired rapidly and her stomach often hurts. As we were over there doing laundry and helping where we could we decided I must too be pregnant because sometimes my feet hurt and I can't get up the stairs and sometimes my stomach hurts (Colitis). She got a good laugh out of it. Point is, no, I don't have any children yet (missionaries I've trained). Although Elder Sanchez kinda counts when I got here to Mercedes, but I'd say he was more of an adopted child.

This week we went on a scavenger hunt to contact a reference. They told us more or less where to go and to look for the tree house. Once we were there we were supposed to call the lady to come out and meet us. So, after walking around a little we found the tree house. Little did we realize that it is the opposite of what you normally see--this time its a tree growing inside of a house. The lady said she had her own religion and she didn't want anything, so, as to not make the opportunity a waste, we took pictures.

We continue to try to work with the Hernandez family, but with work and school they find it hard to come to church Sundays still. Until they decide to give it a try we can't help them progress much seeing as progression requires action. Here's to hoping when she talks to her missionary son Elder Hernandez this Mother's Day some changes in priorities get made. Maybe just a little more personal drive.

Today we went to las Grutas de Coconá (some sweet caves in my area) as a district activity--there are only 4 of us in the district since we are kind of far away from everyone else. It was sweet, we walked around and there were a ton of bats. One kid outside the caves kept asking us if we wanted to hear the story and secrets of the caves and we kept telling him no and the other gringo missionary kept asking us why not. Another Elder finally told him that every secret comes with its price. Haha.

Another cultural saying here is: "Si Dios quiere" (If God wants, or God be willing) It's the local way of saying yes while meaning no. Just like when people tell us to come back another day and you ask when and they say it doesn't matter, just any other day. Ha

Elder Cabral and I have some sweet activities we are looking to do in the coming weeks to really involve the community in what we do.

I'll leave you with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, 3 Nephi 12-14) with you. If you've got a second, try rereading it to frequent yourself with the teachings the Savior himself saw as important. There are many good one-liners to use.

Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
Wherever you heart is, there is your treasure also.
Ye are the salt of the earth.

I hope you all are really studying your scriptures. Simply reading is not enough. Reading is an action, but it's only a page deep. May your studies of the scriptures always be meaningful so that you will have desires to continue and learn more. God Bless.

Elder Andrews

Monday, April 22, 2013

After a Week of Waiting

Yes, I went to Palenque last week. It was pretty cool and even cooler that we went with a member so it was virtually free and we didn't lose so much time in travel. It was actually Bishop Chablé's birthday last week, and I'm still not sure why he didn't come with us, but his wife did. Note to all of you, if you go to Palenque go with a guide. Unfortunately, a lot of the cool artifacts are gone and all, so it just a bunch of temples. It's cool [though] because you can climb up almost all of them, but it wasn't as cool as La Venta because we didn't have it all to ourselves like we did when Elder Deem and I went there. Upon entering, one English tour guide convinced an old couple that the plants had been shipped in from Hawaii. It was fun walking behing other tour guides and translating for everyone in our group. Sadly, we only did it when they came to us. I'm still honest, mother. Upon entering the park the second time (long story) a little native boy asked Elder Cabral and I if we wanted a guide. We politely told him no, but he started screaming at us and told us we weren't going to enjoy our visit because the rocks don't talk! Long story short, it was an enjoyable trip. 

The work has treated us a little more rough this week with appointments falling through and all of that good stuff. So I'll opt to share a little of Mexican culture with you that I haven't been able to get around to. 

It is very common to burn your trash here in your yard.

Every New Year's Eve, the people make a form of a person with a shirt, pants, etc. and stuff it with explosives (they call them fireworks, but it really just explodes. A lot). It called "El Viejo" (the old man) and symbolizes the death or end of the year. It's pretty cool. 

For your birthday you always get your face slammed in the cake. And yes, people eat it afterward... (P.S. For my Colitis I didn't have a cake. So my face is still clean. :)  )

Also for your birthday, people throw flour at you for fun. Since I'm a missionary I dodged that one too. 

This week we were invited to a Quinceñera (a sweet 16, just for 15 year olds here). We quickly realized its not a place for missionaries. Whoops. So we headed out early without trying to be too rude. It's a Catholic tradition practiced by really everyone (Catholic or not) to present the young women to society. 

Here, instead of saying "Bless You" you say "salud" which in English is "health". Having a companion with allergies makes this one very common. 

Also, his Mission Manual says he suffers from "alergia" (allergies) but looking at it quickly I saw "alegría" (happiness). So now Elder Cabral suffers from happiness. Whoops.

Also, I've been sleeping in a hammock every day in the 20th year of my life. It is the lifesaver of our house since we only have one fan for the both of us. Except for it rained. So we got really really cold. See the photo for the story of Elder Cabral on the floor. When I woke up I saw him on the floor and asked him if he fell. He said, no, he got really cold. I guess he got a little lazy to get up and turn off the fan. Haha. 

I love you all, and I'll come back with something good to tell you. Stay strong.

Elder Andrews

Elder Andrews in his hammock. 
Elder Cabral on the floor under his hammock to avoid the fan.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Email from Caleb

Hi All!
Caleb gave me instructions last week that if he had not sent his email by the usual time I was to let you all know not to worry. 
As he mentioned last week he would have the opportunity to visit the Mayan ruins in Palenque for P-day this week. He anticipated that with the travel time and all he would not return in time to send a message.  I'm sure he will have some exciting things to share next week. 
Let's keep him in our prayers and trust he will recognize more miracles to share.
Sister Andrews, Katherine, Mother, Grandmother, etc. <3

Monday, April 8, 2013

Letter #30 from Mexico

Friends and Family,

This week we went back to Tacotalpa for the Hernandez family. There they were waiting for us. Still with many questions but still eager to hear us. We found ourselves going to Tacotalpa with a differecnt crew than the one we had originally planned. Last second we rounded up what turned out to be the perfect team. This week we went with Hna. Selva (her name literally translated is "jungle"), her 19-year-old daughter, and an 18-year-old who leaves for his mission this week. Now, you need to know a little background. The Hernandez family is very Catholic. The Hna. Selva was very Catholic. Hna Milili, Elder Hernandez's mother is divorced. Hna. Selva is divorced. Hna. Milili works hard to provide the best she can for her kids and put them through school. Hna. Selva does the same. I hope you are starting to see the "coincidences". Long story short, we unded up walking into this lesson with the Dream Team.

While there they were amazed at what we taught in the second lesson, which is the Plan of Salvation. They were even more amazed when we showed them that it was in the Bible. Better yet, it was in their Bible. It wasn't all just a nice, big, "wouldn't it be cool if..." of some Mormon invention. They were amazed that there was so much knowledge in the Bible that they had simply managed to thumb over somehow. We taught the best lesson on the Plan of Salvation that I ever had. Same for Elder Cabral. We came down to the three degrees of glory at the end of the plan. We read about them in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42. Not only were they amazed that the Bible even mentioned the three degrees of glory, we used this opportunity in a manner that we never had before. We began to explain that in this scripture we could see that the Bible is incomplete. And how is that? We drew special attention to the fact that it talks about two degrees of bodies, but in the next verse likens these two bodies to three different symbols. We took the time to make another symbolical example about the truth and light that the Bible had and reaffirmed that there were certain truths that had been changed during the time of the Great Apostasy.This was one of them. Clear for any seeker of truth or second grade mathmetician, 2 does not equal three. They needed an answer. We once again affirmed that by using both the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and modern-day revelation they too could have the answers. We explained the types of people that would go to each degree of glory and likened that too in a way we had never done before. That those who attain the highest glory, the glory of the sun, the celestial kingdom, accepted and applied all truth, while those of the lesser glories either did not accept or did not apply the truth. Would you enjoy a life walking solely by the light of the stars? Sure, it may be romantic, but every day, all day? Accept what is right in front of you was our plea. And it was a plea well received. So well received in fact, that they tracked down a neighbor that was walking down the street so that she too could know that the Mormons believed in the Bible and that the Mormons actually knew something that they didn't. Seekers of truth will find, if they use their tools. Imagine building something. Anything. Without tools. There is a difference our day looks different than the stone age. Don't let your religious life look the same. After all, a man cannot be saved in ignorance.

Conference was good. Everything went well. I had to watch it all in Spanish. I can understand it all, but didn't get as much out of it as I would have liked. You lose a lot when it is not their orignal voice. Also, we were preparing for a baptism Saturday. Two actually. We got there early to drain, clean, and refill the baptismal font. As Elder Cabral and I were working on draining the font, water started to rush out. Quickly the font was filling even when we told it to stop. The font had never been so full, how nice. But if we did not act soon, the chapel would have never been so full of water. So, we threw off our suit coats, our ties, everything we had in our pockets and got to work with the buckets to dispose of the ever-rising water. After 30 minutes of running with full buckets of water in and out of the chapel, the other missionaries showed up and helped us to clean up some of the water on the floor. Then, we tried again. We got the font down to about a foot of water, rather than about 4. And the water started gushing out again. And again we went with the buckets. In the meantime we were frantically calling the Bishop to figure out what had possessed these pipes. So, as one of the sessions were about to start, along came some aid and we got it all figured out. The baptism went well and no one ever knew that the chapel almost flooded. Twice.

We are working with Hno. Leonardo as well. But he informed us that he is thinking about separating from his wife, who is a member. He loves the Church but is lost, confused, and just feeling terrible. But we have a plan. :)

May God always bless you through your diligence to seek Him,
Elder Andrews

P.S. Next week Elder Cabral and I are headed to Palenque. I kinda used my birthday as an excuse. So, if you want to take part in something awesome, in your studies of the scriptures, you should start to think about trees and seeds. Why are they always used in symbolism? Jesus used the mustard seed for faith. Other prophets in whatever scriptures you are reading often use trees in their teachings as well.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Making Miracles

Do coincidences really exist? What makes something a coincidence? Is it just our lack of understanding--the fact that we can't explain perfectly how something came about? Is a coincidence then not the same as a miracle? Miracles exist. But there is something different between a miracle and mere coincidence. Miracles are extraordinary accounts or occurrences brought about by the power of God. Is a coincidence not the same, just excluding any acknowledgement of Deity? To bring about a miracle, faith--action--is necessary; while a coincidence may be observed by any bystander you find along the way. So, do coincidences really exist? I would say that coincidences are observed miracles without the drive for an answer. If coincidences exist, so too exists a lack of knowledge and understanding. And how then do we fill the gap? This lack of knowledge? As with anything in this life, progression requires action. Without action there could never be a reaction. Can you really expect to receive answers to questions you never made? Even if an answer came, there would be no recognition because your eyes were not set on the matter at hand--the question. There is a process in making miracles, whereas coincidences come and go in an instant. There are miracles in our lives each day. But do we have the faith to act, to learn, to seek out, and see them as such? Or are we satisfied to sit back and view the world with its "coincidences"? Never be afraid to make a miracle.

The summer before my mission my parents moved to LaPlace, Louisiana--a suburbian city outside of New Orleans. As a college kid with no stable housing, I too was priveledges to move from Pennsylvania to Louisiana just a few short weeks after returning home. Here I found myself living in Louisiana for one month while waiting to leave for my mission. While there, my dad was called as the Ward Mission Leader, and since I had no acquaintances or friends or really anything better to do, we all worked closely with the missionaries in the ward. At this point in the story there is no coincidence, but the miracle is well on its way getting people in the right places.

To fully appreciate what is about to happen, you need to realize that this story is not about me. Go six years back to the life of Emiliano as he makes his way from Mexico to the United States. Many of the details in his story are not mine to share, but the point is that here falls a turning point in more lives than just his--and for even more than just the apparent reasons. While in the U.S., Emiliano ran into a few missionaries, and not too much later, found himself serving as a missionary as well.

How do missionaries get assigned to their areas? To start off simply, each person desiring to serve a mission fills out some paperwokr describing, well, who they are. These papers are then sent in to the Church Offices and reviewed by one of the 12 apostles--or First Presidency-- and are tere assigned to a specific part of the world to serve by the spirit of revelation. That is to say that these men consider what is in the papers you sent in, comments from Church leaders, and then pray to know where you should serve. Of all the places in the world, I was assigned to serve in the Villahermosa Mexico Mission--which is to say that I would be spending 2 years of my life in various parts of southern Mexico. Emiliano, or the now Elder Hernandez, on the other hand had been assigned to the Baton Rouge, Louisiana Mission. Still being unknown to one another, there is no coincidence. 

The two of us began our missions and we were assigned to various areas in our missions. After some time Elder Hernandez found himself serving in LaPlace, Louisiana where my father was still the Ward Mission Leader. For this, Elder Hernandez frequently found himself in the home of my parents. As all parents of a missionary, mine mentioned my service and Elder Hernandez soon realized that I was serving in the mission where his house was, and consequently where his family as well. Through my parents we established contact in December and began to see the possible "coincidences". But, I was in Ciudad del Carmen--one of the area of the mission farthest away from his house and it looked like I'd be there for over a year.

However, January 6th, 2013 I woke up without being able to walk. I could not stand. I had no strength in my leg at all. What had happened? I was walking fine and working hard just the day before. What had changed?

Now, could you call this a coincidence? I called it a month of suffering. I called it one of the worst times of my life. It was so bad, President made me call my mom. But now, I call it a necessary part of a miracle--and for that--one of the greatest blessings I could receive. Because of my many medical problems that followed, I found myself stuck in the ward of the Mission Doctor. Ironically the largest area in the mission for the missionary that could hardly walk. You might call that a coincidence. The area covering a large part of the state of Tabasco and even going into the neighboring state of Chiapas it is impossible for 2 missionaries on foot to ever dream about working the whole area. But while working and walking along highways for a few weeks it occurred to me that Tacotalpa--the hometown of Elder Hernandez was close. 

Upon asking many members, no one seemed to know how to get to Tacotalpa. But my communication with my parents, and consequently Elder Hernandez was not lost. Before long I got the phone numbers of his parents and set up an appointment to go see them.

We were ecstatic. Elated. We ran across the street to tell the member lives in front of us everything that happened. He agreed and began to get excited with us as well for what was happening. He asked us how we were getting there. We responded that we had no idea. We had planned to get up early and get out to the highway quick so that we could wait for one of the 3 buses that go to Tacotalpa daily in hopes of getting there before lunch. The member, Hno. Lhimi said that that just wouldn't do and that he would adjust his plans and take us. He wanted to be a part of this. 

So we went. We all got to Tacotalpa, a first for the three of us, called the mother of the family and waited while Emiliano's brother came to find us. And so we waited. About 10 minutes later, the brother, Bolivar, turned the corner and quickened his pace towards us. He had the biggest smile on his face. We then made it to his house where we ate lunch and began to answer the many questions the family had. We found that they already had every pamphlet, a triple combination, and various DVD's of the church. Better yet, they had read them. But we quickly realized the need of our presence for their understanding. Things went well and we will be in their home again tomorrow.

Sunday, we met with the ward to enlist their help with this family along with the other 15 investigators we have with a baptismal date. The ward noticed that we had been working. Then they noticed they hadn't been as much as they could. This changed the meeting schedule. The third hour everyone met together to discuss what was going on in missionary work in the ward. I was asked to speak and enlist the help of the members.

"But, behold, faith cometh not by signs, but signs follow those that believe."  

Many of our investigators look for a sign before they can act. But if we believe, if we are true faithful members, if we are converted, these signs will follow us. Then, it is our responsibility as members to be this sign for them. Do not be afraid to make a miracle. Do not be afraid to act. This is a miracle in the making.
Elders Cabral and Andrews with the Hernandez Family.
Elders Cabral and Andrews with the Hernandez Family and Hermano Lhimi.
Hermano Lhimi.