Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Invest Yourself in This

Me, Elder Hamilton, Elder Williams, Elder West

OH MY GOSH I GOT TO TALK TO MY FAMILY CHRISTMAS DAY! So Great. On Christmas day we had four devotionals.

Christmas Day Devotionals
1.  Live Q&A with Elder Bednar (Personally, I couldn't think of any questions to ask).
2.  Mormon Tabernacle Choir 1.5 hour music devotional (music was so soothing, 1/4 of the missionaries fell asleep).
3.  Member of the Seventy with his family bearing testimonies. Oldest son served a mission in San Jose, California (man, these chairs are uncomfortable).
4.  Hispanic/Native American/Islander Heritage fireside and how their mythology matches with the Book of Mormon. Jesus definitely visited the islands.

It was all very good. But in the case of a Devotional binge-fest, it's nice to have friends around. One of my buddies here is Elder Plourde (Interstellar was filmed in his home town in Alberta). At dinner I got some Martinelli's from Elder West because his family smuggled him two bottles.

Happy Birthday to Me
Sunday was my birthday and I discovered that I am the youngest in my District. There was cake at breakfast (how thoughtful of them).  Then at church, I gave my first talk in Spanish for Sacrament meeting. I talked on agency/prophecy/Apostasy/Restoration. Basically, many are called but few are chosen kind of thing.
My new scripture cover

That night, we watched a devotional from Jeffrey Holland from January 2013. Really inspiring. The first 5-10 minutes of his talk was exactly what I spoke on in church! Cool. Let me share some highlights.

The Generation that Will Not Fail 
He said that there has never been a more exciting time to be a missionary in the Church, and read a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith.
"The building up of Zion is a cause
that has interested the people of God in every age;
it is a theme upon which prophets, priests, and kings
have dwelt with peculiar delight.
They have looked forward with joyful anticipations,
they have sung and written and prophesied
of this, our day."
Prophet Joseph Smith
Elder Holland said of those early prophets and priests "that although they knew they would not succeed in their day, they were able to continue to labor because they knew we would succeed."  He said that this dispensation was different because, "This is the generation when the work will not fail. This is the dispensation that will receive the Son of God as the Lamb of God."

Invest Yourself in This
Angel Moroni on Mexico Temple
The whole tone of his message to us missionaries was to Invest Yourself in This. "Because of the significance of the last days, you have to be the best missionaries we've ever had, because no task has ever been put before a missionary like the ones we're putting before you."  He said, "We expect you to be mature, powerful, bold, spiritual missionaries. And you have to have an abiding conviction of this work in your heart."

He also said that the word "astonish" comes from a root that means "thunder." And how we too can astonish people and cause them to feel personal earthquakes (so to speak) like the angel in Mosiah 27, not necessarily by speaking loud, but through the power of the Spirit.  His formula:
Seek personal conversion
Obey rules of the mission
Strive to have the Spirit
Work hard
"Missionaries are under obligation to come home having had at least one convert - YOU!"

This was probably one of my favorite talks.

It Was a Good Day, Then Night Came
By nightfall, my great day took a turn for the worst. I got food poisoning. When I saw the doctor in the morning, he said my weight was down and my heart rate was high, gave me some meds and Gatorade, and told me to sleep. Which I did (missed gym and some morning class). I prayed I would have enough strength to last the day. Frankly, there were times when I was surprised I could still walk and talk and focus. As the day went on, though, I slowly felt better.

The Lord really does answer prayers.

I'm invested!
Elder Connor Nef

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Riding the bus home from the Temple
I have had a great week. Memorizing has come faster and I'm at the point where I can speak Spanish 75% of the time. Not bad, eh?

Answering Your Questions:
- The CCM (Mexico MTC) now has 120 missionaries, when I came there were 200.
- My Zone has 2 Districts.
- My District is fun and we get along well.
- My job as Zone Leader is to be an example, be a soundboard/advice-giver, and make sure everyone is at least speaking Spanglish (a great motivator to grow my own Spanish).
- Found out that I am the best at playing volleyball :| It makes it both fun and not fun (I'm really not that great)
- They gave me my Spanish scriptures and a bunch of other study helps.
- Devotionals are every Sunday and Tuesday, which is either a visiting member of the Seventy, a pre-recorded message of an Apostle, or a video (we watched the film Legacy on Sunday).
- The weather here at Christmastime is like Spring at home.
Mexico City Temple
Specific Prayer
Sunday, President Tenorio (MTC president) spoke on the topic of Specific Prayer, and he used Genesis 24 and the servant of Abraham as his example. 
And he (the servant) said,
Oh Lord God of my master Abraham, I pray thee,
send me good speed this day,
and shew kindness unto my master Abraham.
Behold, I stand here by the well of water;
and the daughters of the men of the city come out to draw water:
And let it come to pass,
that the damsel to whom I shall say,
Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink;
And she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also:
Let the saying be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac;
And thereby shall I know
that thou hast shewed kindness unto my master.
Genesis 24:12-14

Abraham's servant journeyed to the well to find a bride for Abraham's son, Isaac. Not wanting to mess up, the servant asked specifically what he wanted to happen to know for certain who Isaac should marry. God heard the prayer and answered it, just as asked, Rebecca then became Isaac's bride, and the rest, they say, is history.

The president then told all sorts of stories from his own life where specific prayer worked. Very inspiring.

Well, later that night as I was pondering the president's words, I offered a specific prayer to know if this principle worked. After the prayer, I opened my scriptures and read a little, when I happened to find a verse that I had looked for for years and could not find. There it was - the last verse of the chapter. And the Spirit bore witness to me of the power of specific prayer.

What a great help prayer is in this learning process...and in life.

Merry Christmas Everyone!
Elder Connor Nef

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Thank You Jeremiah!

MTC courtyard near my classroom
The city and campus here in Mexico are pretty. The landscaping looks just like temple grounds, and it is common to see a variety of birds (green parrots, crows that look different from home, and sparrows).  The low-laying fog every morning is especially cool.

I am feeling more settled. By Wednesday evening, my spirits were lifted, thanks in part to the prophet Jeremiah.

Fun Story:
Like I said last week, the vocabulary memorizing has been a little slow for me, and discouraging. At one point, I took a bathroom break.  And when I walk into the restroom, I hear a guy from the far stall call out, "Hey, is somebody there?"
     "Yo no se," I respond, somewhat perplexed.
Apparently, this guy had his Preach My Gospel reading material with him, and says, "Hey man, I've got a scripture for you. Listen to this." And from his closed stall, he begins reading aloud a verse from Jeremiah.
My bowels, my bowels!
I am pained at my very heart;
My heart maketh a noise in me;
I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard,
O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
Destruction upon destruction is cried;
for the whole land is spoiled:
Suddenly are my tents spoiled, and my curtains in a moment.
How long shall I see the standard,
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
Jeremiah 4:19-21
Soooo funny! The hilarity of the verse and the absurdity of the whole scene had me laughing so hard, and when I shared it with my district, we laughed for another solid five minutes. Thanks to Jeremiah and a weird missionary in a bathroom stall, this was the stress-reliever I needed to clear my mind.

Secret Weapon: Prayer
Since then, studies have come along a bit better. Though I'm lagging a little in putting to memory 10 full phrases per day, I did memorize the First Vision in Spanish. Baby steps, right? My secret weapon is Prayer, because it wasn't until after I prayed that the First Vision actually stuck. Guess I'll be praying before all memorizing.
Elders in my MTC Zone
Life in the MTC
My companion and I are Zone Leaders.
Teaching:  We began our weekly TRC: a program where volunteers from the city come in and listen to us newbs teach in Spanish for 15 minutes one-on-one. Pretty nervous for that.

Food:  Tortillas, rice and beans are a staple at every meal. Instead of salt and pepper at the tables, there is hot sauce and chili powder.

Exercise: Due to the rigorous study schedule, fitness is a must. Seems I am the designated fitness leader for my District, so we do a variety of activities: running, soccer, volleyball in the sandpit, and weight lifting.

Instructors:  I have four teachers - all from Mexico. Hermano Martinez, Hermano Sanchez, and...I can't tell you how to pronounce or spell the other two. My bad.

President and Sister Tenorio
Presidente Tenorio
The MTC president, President Tenorio is cool.

He learned English in two weeks, proposed to his wife after first seeing her, stopped a thief in the temple, and has been kidnapped and robbed at gunpoint more than once.

Lady of Guadalupe Celebration
December 12th, all of Mexico celebrated Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe - a holiday commemorating the virgin Mary's appearance to an Aztec Indian, Juan Diego, in 1531.

with Keanu (we were in Zion Choir together)
In celebration, we've heard fireworks blasting and Mariachi music playing all night, every night. In their mix was a song way back from your mission, Dad, La Muchilla Azul.

The locals may be celebrating the holiday, but I am content with celebrating Spanish phrases and verses sticking in my memory bank. And it's getting better every day.

Thank you for your prayers and words of encouragement. And, thank you Jeremiah!

Love you All,
Elder Connor Nef

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Adios Cakewalk, Hola Refiner's Fire

Mexico MTC District

My flights to Mexico were awesome. The guy sitting near me at San Jose looked like RDJ. Flying over LA was especially cool when I looked to my right and saw the Hollywood sign.

Now that I am here in the Mexico MTC, our district is really cool. My companion is a pretty serious guy and a good roommate. He, a trio of Hermanas (the ones in burgundy skirts), and I are all going to the same mission. Everyone else to Washington state.

I ain't gonna lie, this week has been rough, but I have had loads of spiritual moments. Spanish is coming slow. I have pronunciation and grammar down but my vocab has hardly progressed. It´s challenging keeping up with teachers sometimes and it looks like I will have to sacrifice personal time everyday to memorize the language, which is slow work for my brain. If this were English, it would be a cakewalk, but that is not how the Lord works.

They want us to speak only Spanish by week 5, that means I am either going to talk as little as possible or something miraculous may kick in. Right now it looks like the first. 

As they say, anything worthwhile takes work, and this experience is calling forth everything in me. It may be uncomfortable. It may be grueling. But I am giving the Lord my all, because hasn't He done the same for us?

Love you. Miss you already. Back to the grindstone,
Elder Connor Nef

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I Have Arrived!

Hey, I have arrived safe and sound at the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City. After a three hour layover in Los Angeles, I arrived in Mexico City around 4pm (Mexico time - they are 2 hours ahead of California). The journey here was fun.

There was a guy on my flight going to the same mission as my friend, Mark Gubler, in Colorado. Met another man at the airport who was a mission president in Kenya. Made friends with a slew of other people on the plane.

Now we're getting settled into the MTC.  I am currently typing from a Spanish keyboard and let's just say that typing on this is going to take some getting used to. While in the MTC, my P-day (day off) is on Tuesdays. Look forward to keeping in touch.

This is gonna be great!
Gotta go.
Love you,
Elder Connor Nef