Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mom Of A Missionary...E-Mails From Mexico...Oops! That was too much Jalapeño for just one Bowlby!!

Hello, Family and Friends! Yours truly, Elder Bowlby here! Woah, it's almost August! 

This week was a little bit better. We stopped stressing about the numbers and got to work with all that we had! Yeah!

A ton of our appointments fell and almost nobody wanted to talk to us! Aww...

But we have investigators who are progressing, who we are visiting with regularly, and who are keeping commitments! Yeah!

Buuuuut none of them showed up to church on Sunday. Aww...

Such is the life of a Missionary! You can't force somebody to do something, everybody has the wonderful gift of agency given to us by our loving Father in Heaven. As such, it's important for the investigators to understand that we don't make commitments and invitations merely because we want them to do something for us... We invite them to learn more and to make changes because it's between them and the Lord!

Speaking of agency, my companion and I seem to have the bad luck of arriving at a point in the day when all of our appointments fall, the contacts are unsuccessful, and there is seemingly nothing to do. What next? 
After thinking about it, the only logical thing to do is make a change! As such, we've been looking for more opportunities to give service to the members and less-actives. One day we helped sort and clean chili peppers for a member! That was fun. They were surprised that I didn't enchilé mis manos (That is to say, my hands didn't get covered in spicy and begin to tingle and burn. The verb is "Enchilar" which means, roughly, to get that hot chili-pepper sensation. The burning!).

We had a night where we went to talk to a Less-active member. It's an important duty of the members to visit those who haven't gone to church in a while, to ask them what happened, what struggles they're having, and how they can help. It seems that this job has been left with us, the missionaries, and as such, we're trying to help out whomever we can. The less active Heber owns a tortilleria en la calle principal (main street, in english terms), and we see him and his returned (very active) missionary brother often. We're pretty good friends at this point, as nobody has visited the poor guy in his home for about two or so years. We show up to talk a little and he kindly offers us dinner (and he's a great cook) but unfortunately, my weak American tongue couldn't handle a certain pepper that was added into the mix... y yo enchilé. They thought it was pretty funny, and I was laughing the whole time. 
Even funnier, my companion was very surprised that I was drinking down Coca-Cola like there was no tomorrow. I explained to him that because my tongue was burning because of the jalapeño, the gas of the soda didn't bother my tongue. He thought that was funny. I did too.

Mom said that as of the 26th of July, I had completed 100 days in the Mission. Loco! Took a mini-selfie with my camera to compare how I looked fresh out of home.

Overall, we're working hard in San Felipe. No effort is wasted, and as long as it's not raining buckets, you can be sure that I'll be out there doing what I do best! Getting Sun-Burned! Oh, um, I mean... preaching the Gospel. 

I close with a spiritual thought, as always. 

The importance of knowing our Father's plan for us! We taught a lot of Lession 2 this week, which is the Plan of Salvation! Our Father in Heaven lovingly made a plan for our return to live with him, to grow and progress in this life, and to have experiences here with those we love, having those experiences extend beyond death!

I've certainly learned a lot. One of our investigators had a question about Evolution, and I too had this same question without even knowing it! We studied and studied, and while the Church has no official stance on the subject, what we must have faith in is that Adam and Eve were the first children of God on the earth, that through Adam's fall man can have joy, and through the power of Jesus Christ, we can be saved from the effects of Adam's fall.

It's sad to see that many people don't understand this. Some have no hope in a life after death, some don't believe that the fall of Adam was a good thing, and many don't believe that we came from anything more than dust. 

For this is the reason that there is need for Missionaries in the world! To teach people about the grand workings of our Father above. After all, some are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it!

Love you all. Miss you so much! Stay strong, do your best, and never forget that you are children of God!

-Elder Bowlby

Mom Of A Missionary... E-Mails From Mexico... A Missionary Locomotive Chugging Along....

Hello everyone! Elder Bowlby here once more.

I've learned a lot in this past week. A lot of prayer, a lot of patience, a lot of results, and a lot of questions answered. San Felipe is finally seeing some progress, and for that I am very grateful.
I'm still learning how to be a better Missionary, but I am making sure I constantly improve and make changes, acting in faith.

We have some people in San Felipe who are interested in hearing the Gospel, and we've been doing what we can to meet with them frequently, offer help and share a quick message. Unfortunately, we had a lot of divisions this week, so I wasn't able to be with the investigators when my companion extended the baptismal invitations and taught certain lessions.

What are divisions? In short, it's where two missionary companionships swap companions for a day to learn from other missionaries, learn about areas, and to learn how the work is going in certain places. We had them twice this week (and both times I was sent outside of the area). But I have learned a lot about the work, teaching by the spirit, and how to be better at missionary work. Surprise, my little drawings came in handy too! (Just... not in my area).

Through this, the leaders of the zone and district finally understood that we were doing what we could to do the work in the area. We are continuing to work with love and compassion for those here in San Felipe. 

I don't have a ton to share this week, but I recieved a lot of questions from you all! I'll do my best to answer them all below:

Are you cooking your own meals?
If you count cereal as cooking, yes, I am. 
Money is pretty limited in the Mission. Often times we don't have a lot of cash to spend on food (because we also have to pay for travel to Huejutla). We don't have an oven either, just a burner and a microwave. The members are very nice, and we usually have someone to eat with during the weekdays. I'm eating very well and the members want to fatten me up because I'm so thin. I keep saying that it will be a miracle if I gain any weight. ;)

Are you doing your own laundry?Short answer: Yes! 
Long answer: The washing machine is very noisy and leaks filthy black water onto our kitchen floor, but it works and I use it!

What is day to day life like?
We wake up at 6:30 in the morning, eat breakfast, do a bit of exercise, shower, make our beds, and get prepared for the day. At 8:00, we have daily planning for about half an hour, and then we have personal study of the scriptures for an hour. After that is companionship study for an hour, and then after that we have language study, and then after that we leave to work.

We knock doors, talk to people in the street, offer service for members and nonmembers alike, give lessions and talk with our investigators, things like that. 

At 2:00 we take a break for lunch, and after that continue working until about 9:00 at night where we return to the house. Bed is at 10:30.

Normal days are more or less like this. Sometimes we have other activities planned. For example, I have time to write to everyone on mondays :)

Do you visit a lot with members of the church each week.  Are they kind to you?
We do! We're constantly meeting with them, helping them out with service projects, sharing quick messages, and things like that. The members really like us and appreciate our help, and I only hope that I'm making a good impression, because the members remember many details about past missionaries. 

Do you and your compainion get along well.  how long has he been in the mission field?  Where is he from? 

Elder Arellanes and I get along very well. We're able to talk freely about whatever thing and we both enjoy working hard so that is good. He has been in the mission for five months, and he'll be a quarter way done with his mission this August. He is from Oaxaca, Oaxaca (Pronounced Wa-ha-kah).

What is pizza in Mexico like?  Is it good? What other american like food do they have? Mcdonalds?  
This requires a bit of explanation.
Right now, I'm in the Mexican state of Hidalgo (in the farthest little town you can go to in the mission, San Felipe). Hidalgo has certain laws and restrictions that prevent chain businesses from opening locations within any of its cities. As such, here in San Felipe, there isn't any fast food chains, no Oxxo or 7/11, not even a single solitary walmart. Not even in Huejutla (which is far bigger than San Felipe) has anything along those lines, and the reason being is that Hidalgo is actively trying to protect small and local businesses (Which is nice).

Now! There are McDonalds and such in Tamaulipas (which I'll probably end up going to much further down the road), but in Hidalgo, nope! The only thing I have seen close to a food chain is the proudly proclaimed "100% Huasteca" Taz Pizza! (No, not Taz like from the Looney Toons.)

It's alright, I'll give it that. We have it a bit... often (because other Missionaries love to just buy pizza). They have nice varieties but at the end of the day I'm not enthralled by the sesame seed crust (the pizza is also square. Not necesarily a bad thing but eh).

Thank you for writing to me this week, and thank you for your kind words! 

As always, I close with a spiritual thought.

12 And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.

13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;

14 And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.

This scripture spoke to my soul this week as I searched to answers for my questions. I am learning how to trust in the Spirit as to when I should do something, where I should go, and what I should say. I hope that throughout this week we all learn how to put a little more trust in the spirit of God.

I love you all, miss you dearly, and I will see you next week!

-Elder Bowlby

Mom Of A Missionary...E-mails from Mexico...The Most Difficult Week I've Had Thus Far...

Hello, family and friends.

Sorry for the late e-mail. To be honest, I am very stressed out. This past week has been very difficult for us here in San Felipe. We have been working hard but we have not seen the fruits of our labors.

We have district and zone leaders here in the mission that we report to nightly and weekly. We report to them how the area is going, as well as the people we have contacted in the streets, lessions given, etcetera. This week started a new transfer, a six week period of work. Companionships have been swapped around a bit, but fortunately I am staying with Elder Arellanes because I haven't completed my training. This week we discussed the goals of excellence, and we discussed working with faith that we can achieve those goals. My companion and I were unsure about the numbers, but we were sure that we could achieve what was possible for San Felipe.

The following days, the leaders started pressing us for the numbers. The numbers. The numbers.

Keep in mind that this work is not about numbers. It's about children of God. I myself find it a bit unsettling when we are pressed for numbers, because in reality, these are all people who have agency. Yes, we want to bring all to a better and brighter future... but we cannot look at people like we can a statistic. My companion felt stressed as well. The issue is, when there are no numbers, the leaders think that we are not working... Which we, well, were. Perhaps it's my pride getting in the way. I asked what more we could do, and we recieved the same responses we always get.

We continued working.

Saturday was the day my companion and I broke. We had contacted an entire colonia, and recieved one person who was only somewhat interested. I have no idea how many doors I knocked, how many people hid themselves in their houses, or expressed their lack of interest. My companion tired of contacting, so I tried to pick up the pace and do double. There's only two problems.

I can't grab anyone's interest for nothing, and my spanish isn't where I need it to be just yet to hold a one on one conversation. By far the most shameful thing that happened was that I greeted a house with a friendly hello, and their immediate response was "No".

We returned broken hearted to the chapel, all of our planned visits with our investigators had fallen, and not having the strength to talk to one more person. I broke down and cried.

Well, whatever pride I had fell. I felt quite ashamed and exhausted. I felt that the hard work we had been doing was all for nothing. I questioned if the day would have been any different if we had just stayed inside the casa and done nothing. 

My companion and I prayed for inspiration, patience, and help. We were utterly broken. We gave ourselves time to clear our red eyes and went back out to try and help out an investigator (who also wasn't there) and then to dillute our stress my companion tried to order a pizza (but not even the pizza place would pick up). It took about ten attempts before we were able to place an order.

Well. We're going to forget that the past week even happened. We're going to work with the faith and strength we had on the second week we had here in San Felipe. ¡Trabajamos con ganas!

And that's that. Everything else is alright. Don't worry about me, leave the worrying about me to me :)

As always, I close with a spiritual thought. Well, more or less.

The past week had me thinking about using my talents, grabbing the attention of those in the street, how to better be... me.

I believe that I recieved something quite special, a little blessing from the Lord in my time of need.

I've been making these little artsy-cards in my free time. They're quite nice. I'll send you a few of my favorites in a following e-mail... but I thought I could use my talent to better peak the interest of those wanderers whom we haven't reached.
​I call it, "Drawing connections between the Bible and the Book of Mormon"!

It's a bit of a game, you see. Most people here in San Felipe are quite comfortable with the Bible that they have, and they don't believe they need anything more (sadly, some of them say this without even reading it for themselves). The goal here is to point out similarities between the two sacred works in a way that the people can understand. At the very least, I can get them to read their Bibles more. Do you know the two stories here? They're both about repentance and change. On the left is Saul of the New Testament, who, while going about persecuting the church of God, recieved a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ. From this experience, he had a change of heart, and became a mighty apostle. 
On the right is Alma the younger, who, while going about persecuting the church, recieved a visitation from an angel. From this experience, he had a change of heart, and became a mighty prophet.

I plan to make more like these, and I am perserving them with sheets of plastic so I can take them with me in whatever weather to whatever place and teach in my own style.

I love you all, I miss you dearly, and I pray that God will be ever with you. Success in daily battles!

-Elder Bowlby.

Mom Of A Missionary... E-mails From Mexico...Rain, Rain, Go Away.....

A new meaning to "Rain, Rain, Go away..."
Hello, friends and family.

This week has been a bit rough for us here in San Felipe. It has rained a lot in the past week, and as such, progress has been slow for a couple of reasons. 1: Most everybody likes to hide inside of their homes (And behind their gates(and with their television blasting)) when it's raining.
Another issue is that our fixed meetings often fall and leave us confused as what to do next. We had a day that no matter what we did, nothing seemed to work. Our lessons fell, nobody wanted to talk to us (and believe me we tried to talk to people), and we ended up returning home frustrated.
Rain also impedes our progress around the area, especially if we're in a part of the area that's a bit farther than usual. La Colonia Pedregal is one of the farthest colonias en nuestra area, and as such, we either have to walk there (which we normally do) or take a taxi (and spend 20 pesos). Not all the roads are paved, and pretty much all roads accumulate puddles of water during rain, and we have to be careful where we step to avoid soaking our feet. I'm very glad I bought an umbrella.

This last week has been rough in all aspects, but I know that at the end of the day what determines success is my attitude and if I did my best to work. I'll just work harder this week! And the next week! And the week after that week! And blllluuuurrrghhhhhhhhh...

Ah well. Nobody said Well, other than stress, my health is alright. Just a bit sore here and there.
Don't worry about me. Almost three months in. (At least I think it's three months).
As always, I close with a spiritual thought.

3 Nephi 22: 7-8

7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.

8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.

Whatever afflictions we suffer (be it for our own decisions or the decisions of others), we can have comfort in knowing that the Savior will be with us, ready to again offer great mercies and everlasting kindness. I know that this is true, for how else could I be here and serving a mission? Certainly it took many tender mercies and miracles for me to be here.

I take comfort in knowing that you are all doing well. Stay strong, and as I would say it:

Believe in the you that the me that believes in you believes in!
this would be easy, after all. At the very least, I've had some time to relax and draw a bit. Went to a papelería to buy tarjetas blancas to try and create my own tabletop game (because we have no games in this house), but I couldn't bring myself to make a game because that's a lot of time and patience (of which I have but little) and as such, I just decided to doodle on them and some of them are quite pretty (but I have no photos). I don't have any more space in my drawing booklets, and while I tried to draw on the backside of pages, for fear of drawings smearing and memories being lost, I put them aside.God bless, take care! Miss you all dearly.

-Elder Bowlby

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mom Of A Missionary... An E-mail Full of Photo's... or as my sons says...Fotos por sus ojos.

​(My companion with a neighborhood dog, Solin. Elder Arellanes is a great teacher, friend, and companion. Solin is rarely any of those things. He just likes to try and snag food from the missionaries.)
I witnessed a traditional Mexican baile in San Felipe. If you're wondering, yes, those are real Machetes. The dancers struck them together above and below their legs as they were dancing. Crazy!)

​(A calm park in San Felipe. There are often Horse races here as well.)

Radical clock tower in Huejutla. Pretty sure the date below the clock is 1908.)
Cool photos.  I have friends and family that do not use computers much and so I print these out and send them to them and let them know how Elder Bowlby is doing.  after looking at these again, I'll have to ask my son if he actually walks across this bridge.

Mom Of A Missionary...E-mails from the Mission Field...July 3rd...

Hello, Family, Friends, and fellow Missionaries!

I don't know what my luck is, but the count of drunks we've been approached by is now at two. The first was a drunken Pentacost last sunday, and this week, a 20-something year old stumbled towards us as we were chatting with a recent convert. In his slurred and barely understandable spanish, he said something to the effect of: "Hey, are you missionaries? You... you gotta preach to these people... they wanna kill me! I... I haven't done nothing..."

Yikes. We escorted him to La Calle Principal (Main street), and the strange thing is he knew about Joseph Smith (El Borracho also thought we worship the Prophet Joseph. Yikes again...).

This week has been full of travel and hard work. We had to go to Tampico this past Thursday for more New Missionary Training. As such, we had to stay Wednesday night in Huejutla, a neighboring city about an hour away, in order to catch a 6:10 AM bus to Tampico. I slept that night on a hard tile floor. Not exactly pleasant. Returning from Tampico, we almost had to sleep in Huejutla again, but luckily for us, despite the rain, we were able to make it back to San Felipe on time to sleep in our own beds. Ahh!
We worked very hard in the days that we didn't have to travel, though. We've been putting forth effort, and while we're not exactly finding numbers upon numbers of people, we're sifting through San Felipe to see if anyone wishes to hear our message. The Lord promised that in the latter days he would send forth mighty fishers and many hunters into the world to reclaim the lost tribes of Israel. And, well, I certainly feel like a hunter! Hunting for someone who wishes to learn more about our Lord and Savior. The good thing about the San Felipe area is that we can walk to all parts of it, if we so desire. As such, when we recognize a familiar face, it's the perfect opportunity to give follow up! 

Well, we don't have any investigators that are progressing towards Baptism or Christ, I'm afraid. To all of the other missionaries who are working hard out there in the world and having lots of success, I'm very happy for all of you! Your faith is what gives you the power to do the work! Don't forget that!

Speaking of finding efforts and bringing others to Christ, there was a funny experience that we had during one of our street contacts. We had encountered una hermana muy amable, viviendo en una casa morada (A very kind sister, living in a purple house). When we started talking to her about our purpose as Missionaries, to our surprise, she had attended our church in the past, as well as Los Testigos de Jehova, Los Catolicas, Los Cristianas... and she was a Pentacost, herself. We asked her what caught her attention about the church and she said that she didn't like that we used the Book of Mormon. She explained to us that the Bible was perfect, that it had everything that we needed, and that she had been reading it since she was a little one.
As such, we felt impressed to share a scripture in the Old Testament, Ezekiel 37:16-19. This scripture is about how two sticks (which, in old testament times, were scriptures or books), One of Judah (the bible) and the other of Joseph (The Book of Mormon), become one in the hand of the Lord. In short, the two books support each other, becoming one in purpose, testifying of the divinity of Jesus.  
She grabbed her own Bible and read it aloud with us, and when we had finished and explained it to her, she said: "Huh well I've never read this scripture. I'm going to ask my pastor about the meaning."

I invited her to ask God about the meaning as well. After all, if we confide in the knowledge of man, we're not going to get anywhere very quickly. 

Lest I anger anyone reading this who is not of my faith, I also understand that the scriptures are not to private interpretation. I know that some of us may not see eye to eye when it comes to Christianity, but I pray that you will take the time to study the scriptures I share in your heart (Including the Book of Mormon scriptures, if you so desire). I testify that God will answer all sincere prayers of faith, and as such, my word is often useless without the additional testimony of the Holy Spirit.

Other than that, there has been a lot of rain recently in San Felipe. When it rains, the people hide, and as such, we don't have much success when the weather is not 100%. Ah well. We do what we can.

Chugging along here in Mexico. Don't worry too much about me! My health is excellent, I'm drinking plenty of fluids, and I'm eating well. I'm learning to be patient and dilligent in my afflictions here. Nobody said it would be easy, but plenty of people are telling me to enjoy every bump in the ride. I'm not perfect, and I'm not exactly where I want to be just yet, but this sort of thing comes with patience, time, and faith.

As such, and as always, I close with a Spiritual Thought from my scripture study:
From 3 Nephi 11: 29-32. (And these are the words of Jesus Christ to the Nephites).

29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

32 And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

As missionaries, we are not sent out to fight the faith of others, nor are we sent out to bash down the respect others have for people have of different faiths. We are not sent out to destroy confidence in the bible, nor are we sent out to merely gather numbers into our Church and take from others who are merely worshipping Christ in the way they know how. We are not sent out to fight with scripture against scripture, we are not sent out to make others feel ashamed of their sin.
Such is contention. Christ did not battle the Pharisees with scripture and sharp words, but he taught all with love and respect, as we must do.
As missionaries, we are representatives of Christ. We carry his name on our hearts. We must preach as he preached, love as he loved, and declare his doctrine as he would have us declare it.

God Bless you all, no matter where you are and what you're doing right now, be it planting a garden, travelling distances, or serving a mission. Seek and ye shall recieve, Knock and it shall be opened unto you.

I'll send pictures in the next e-mail. Love you and miss you!

-Elder Bowlby.

Mom Of A Missionary...e-mails from the Mission Field...June 26th...

Hello, family and friends!

I don't have any photos or even any new drawings this week. I've been caught up in a very strange and trial-filled week. Struggles of both health and work weighed down on me, as well as a touch of homesickness.

Nevertheless the Lord has helped me through my challenges of this week, and I have faith that he will continue to help me through various desafíos if I remain faithful. 

In brief, this week we had three days with little to no work due to health issues, one day with a load of unprecedented success, and a baptism on Saturday! We baptized a young man who has been investigating the church. While I did not find him or his family, I did teach a few lessions with him and I was very happy for him as he entered the waters of baptism and followed the example of Christ. He was confirmed a member this past Sunday and my companion and I now have no progressing investigators. More work for this next week! Time to make up for what I missed.

I have had little time to do much else other than work, which is a good thing, I guess? Who knows. I hope that all of you are working hard as well, with whatever your missions are, be they spiritual or temporal.

As always, I will close with a spiritual thought:
Moroni 7:41
And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.

In the mission, we need a lot of hope and faith, a lot of strength to do what we do everyday. Lest we forget that this work is a work of salvation, and a work of eternal importance. If we trust in the Lord, we will have the power that is expedient for us to do all things the lord requires. Hope that through the atonement, our work will be sanctified and we will be forgiven of our imperfections. The Lord understands all, and I have no doubt he understands I am still learning.

Until next time! God Bless.

-Elder Bowlby

 I have to say that Every Monday is exciting for me, to hear from my son...But I really do like it when he sends photo's of where he is and of what he is doing.  I so miss my Young Man...