Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Sólo Español

Holaaa mis familia y amigos!

It has been another week here at the CCM. We just completed our 3rd week here and on the 4th already. I can't believe how fast the time has gone here. Yesterday was the half way point, so I have another 3 weeks of language learning and testimony building. 

Everything is good, it's been a little challenging though. We started teaching two investigators a day so we have to pray about and plan our lessons each day. I am memorizing 17 words and 6 phrases a day and 2 scriptures a week. I am memorizing Joseph Smiths first vision currently. We have TALL everyday and prework we have to complete for our language study classes in the morning and evening. We have other things to study in Preach My Gospel and Book of Mormon study. 

This last week was a bit stressful for me having to do all that. I have been pretty tired lately. But I have been on my knees a lot just praying for help and energy to do everything. All is well though, if any of this was easy then it wouldn't be worth it and my testimony wouldn't be growing. I learned this week that every time we feel the Spirit, it is an opportunity to grow. I know that is true because I have grown a lot here and I'm grateful for this opportunity to train to be the Lord's representative.

Our lessons with our investigators have been going pretty well. Elder Cordon and I are working pretty well together and we are giving effective lessons. The Spirit is always with us to help us and guide our through what we say to them. Daniel Silva is our morning investigator/teacher and Genaro Medina is our evening investigator/teacher. Daniel is really stubborn, haha. He doesn't really listen to what we say and he falls asleep and never follows his committments. Our lesson yesterday with him we tried to help him understand that the Gospel is meant to bless our lives and we are teaching him because we love him. We also tried to convey that obedience is important and that he needs to pray and read the Book of Mormon to find out and gain a testimony of God for himself. Genaro on the other hand is a great investigator. He is listening to what we say and doing the commitments we ask him to do. We are getting the lessons down pretty well and our Spanish is getting even better as the days go on. Hermano Silva looked each of us up on sent us friend requests on Facebook and followed us on Instagram. That was the first social media I had seen in a while. 

We also did this thing called TRC. We taught actual people rather then our teachers. Sometimes they're inactive or recent converts but we taught a lady that is a member but not totally active. We just asked her about her life and we shared a little bit about ours. At the end, I felt impressed to share Helaman 5 verse 12 with her. She wrote on the evaluation that she was grateful for reminding her that we must build our foundation on Christ.

On Monday, my district and I put 'Sólo Español' on our name tags to let everyone know that we only want to speak Spanish. It is meant to help us speak the language more and help us learn as we only speak our mission language. It is now Wednesday and it has been a bit of a struggle but I have enjoyed it. Writing emails and in my journal is difficult because I always write Spanish words now without even trying. 
Sólo Español
We are learning Por vs Para right now. We also role play as investigators and missionaries which is helpful for our lessons. Elder Cordon and I always make friends and talk to the Latinos here. They are so nice to us and funny. They are so willing to help us with our broken Spanish. The Latinos in our building always come and talk to us which is so fun. We talk about Mexico and where we are from and which mission we are going to. I always ask them about Culiacán. The first thing they say is how hot it is there. We also play soccer or fútsol with them during gym time which is really fun because they are really good and score all the goals for us, haha.

A district in our zone left this week. They were the oldest district here when we got here. This last few weeks I have gotten pretty close to everyone in our zone. We all hang out at gym time and sit by each other at meals. Yesterday I taught Rip Tide to Elder Atagi who is one of the zone leaders who knows how to play the ukelele and we all sang and jammed out. 
Zone Leaders Elder Hutchings and Elder Atagi
We also have zone devotionals which are really awesome because everyone shares their testimonies and share what they learned during the week. There are 33 people in our zone. I still haven't met anyone going to Culiacán yet. Elder Cordon and I overheard that a few people in our zone haven't got any mail while they have been here so we kinda felt bad since both of us have gotten letters and packages. We decided to write secret letters to them so they wouldn't feel left out. We then just decided to write letters for our whole zone. We wrote ones for all those that left and will eventually write everyone else. We sign our letters with 'Your Friends at the Secret Missionary Society' so they don't know its from us. Two of the missionaries in our zone have been disobedient and causing problems and distracting people. We had a big discussion about them in our leadership meeting and how we could help them. They left on Monday so things are better now. It was kinda sad to see 16A go, they are are going to Chile. Seeing them leave makes me excited to leave here and start my missionary journey in Culiacán.

My companion and I have gotten a lot closer. We both like to sing songs and say silly things haha. Our district has gotten pretty close too. We started doing this thing where we put each of our names in a hat and we pick a name then we have to write a nice little note about them in Spanish. It's a way to get closer and practice Spanish too. We all like to distract our teachers and talk to them about missions and music and everything haha. At the CCM we have tie drafts after all our classes. We each bring a tie we don't like and put it in the draft. We put our names in a hat and draw to see who picks 1st 2nd and so on. My first tie draft wasn't a great experience because I brought one of the nicest ties to trade and end up with a crusty yellow one. There was about 25 people in the draft and i was third to last haha. I will get a good tie eventually.

The food here is pretty good and I eat a lot. For lunch today we had ribs which was probably my favorite meal here so far. They almost usually serve some sort of chicken. On Tuesdays we get Costco pizza which is really big slices. They also serve tamales, enchiladas, tacos, steak, salad, soup, cereal, rolls, fruits, veggies, and sometimes dessert. I run a lot during gym time when we play soccer. Today is P day so I played soccer for about 2 hours today and also basketball and volleyball. Today we also cleaned our room, did laundry, emailing, and gym time. I got my first sunburn from being outside here too. Yesterday, we had service and we washed down some chairs and tables. We do service every Tuesday. Tomorrow we go to immigration. We go somewhere for our visa since we are staying in Mexico for a while. It'll be the second time we'll be able to go outside of the CCM. I'm not quite sure what we have to do for immigration but other missionaries told us to bring our cameras.

My favorite days here are Sundays. We have a leadership meeting in the morning. We then have Priesthood meeting. Last Sunday we talked about Priesthood ordinances and practiced saying them in Spanish. We then have Sacrament meeting. Elder Cordon and I blessed the Sacrament which was a cool experience. Everyone in our zone has to prepare a talk in Spanish based on the topic that our Branch President gives us. He then picks who is going to speak during the meeting and you have no idea who is going to speak until he announces it. Some people weren't prepare to speak so they kinda just winged it. I luckily didn't have to speak but my companion did. He did a good job. We then had a district meeting which are always really Spiritual. I love my little district. They give me so much strength and support as a district leader. The zone leaders leave next week so my companion and I might be called to be the new zone leaders, but we will just have to see. We have a class on Sunday with the MTC Presidency as well. My favorite part of the day is the devotional. They played a past talk by Elder Holland which was amazing, he is such a powerful speaker. He talked about how we are the Hope of Israel. I also liked the part when he said everything good in his life has come because of his mission. I am grateful for the blessings I will receive as a missionary and the opportunity I have to change peoples lives. We also watched three videos. One about the first sister missionary, one about a stonemason for the Salt Lake City temple. and then Finding Faith In Christ. They were all really cool to see but I especially love the one about Christ and how he healed and blessed the people. I have gained a stronger testimony of the Atonement. I cant even imagine what Christ went through in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. I am sooo grateful for Heavenly Fathers and Jesus Christs love for me. We ended the day with a zone devotional and I said the closing prayer.

Yesterday an area 70 came for our Tuesday night Devotional. Elder and Sister Venazuela came and gave some good talks but their English wasn't very good so it was kinda dry. Elder Cordon and I also sing in the MTC choir every Tuesday. Yesterday we sang A Child's Prayer which I really enjoyed. We put the bunk beds together in our room and we call it Cuddle Kingdom haha. Elder Skinner and Elder Austin are fun to room with. 
We made a pantry out of the boxes from our packages and taped to the wall to put food in which is pretty handy.

I'm striving to be exactly obedient and be a good example for my district. I'm continually trying to be the best missionary that I can be and be patient with my companion. I know Lord will bless me for my efforts here. I know with all my heart this Gospel is true. I love it so much and I'm grateful for the blessings that we can receive from it. I pray for everyone back home every night. I miss everyone!! Thanks again for the support and prayers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fireworks, Gunshots & Booms

Hey Everyone!

Today marks my second week here at the CCM. And everything is going just fine! This week was pretty mentally exhausting but it's okay because I'm learning a lot and having fun doing so.
Looking Good in Someone else's Gafas
We finished teaching our first investigator named Ramero. My companion and I got better at teaching each time we met with him. It's a pretty humbling experience since we cant speak the language perfectly yet but we are working hard and getting along pretty well. Our investigator then became our teacher which was an exciting experience. The first night we thought he would be our teacher he was late so I was told to start and run the class until he got there but we weren't for sure he was going to be our teacher. Turns out he was late because he got in a car accident on the way home from the temple so he was kind of in a bad mood when he arrived. But our district was excited because he was really nice and we weren't expecting it! He brought the fire to us though because he wanted to have scriptures and other words and phrases memorized in Spanish so we were unprepared for that. We now have to teach two investigators starting this week which means we have to prepare and study more. Hermano Silva is our other "investigator" and during our first lesson with him he started falling asleep haha. At the end of this week we have to do this thing called TRC which is having a lesson with people who are either less active, new converts, or haven't heard of the church at all. That will be interesting. 

Everyday we have to have three goals each on a note card. One for Spanish words, one for Spanish phrases and one for Scriptures. We have to have the scriptures memorized by the end of the week and learn a lot of things in Spanish which is kinda stressful but it will be worth it. I now have Moroni 10:4-5 and James 1:5 memorized in Spanish. My companion and I like to talk to the Latino elders here who don't really speak any English haha. Its fun to talk to them because they are always happy and excited to talk to the American Elders haha and I can usually understand what they are saying. One of our teachers said that most missionaries their second week don't speak as good as what we do so that was good to hear. I can say a complete and thought out prayer in Espanol now. 

This month is the anniversary of Mexico's independence so ever since I have gotten here and especially this week, there has been fireworks, gunshots, and booms going off all day everyday. Today, September 16, is Mexico's Independence day. So last night, I was woken up at midnight by a myriad of booms, pows, and pops of the night as people celebrated their Independence from Spain. My companion and I as well as Elder Skinner and Austin from my district went outside and watch the fireworks and all the lights in the city. It was really neat to see the whole mountain side lit up and show all the colorful houses and celebrating during the night.

At 12 o clock, everyone in the city shouts Viva Mexico! three times. So all day yesterday we shouted Viva Mexico haha. Last night at our Tuesday night devotional they showed us a few videos about Mexico and the history of their culture and how they became free from the Spaniards.

The comedor was decorated in Mexico decorations and flags and authentic Mexican food and candy. It was a neat thing to see. On September 11, all the missionaries in our zone got together and sang America the Beautiful, the Star Spangled Banner and other American songs. We then carried around an American flag that an elder had and played USA vs Mexico during gym time when we played soccer lol. They also served hamburgers and other American food which I miss a lot. They even served bacon which was really awesome. During gym times we have been playing soccer and futsol. Futsol is soccer on a fenced in basketball court which is really fun. I'm finding out how out of shape I am already.

Sunday was definitely the best day of the week because we were able to experience the rededication of the Mexico City Temple, we listened to an amazing talk by Elder Bednar, and also watched a few powerful videos about John Tanner and The Life of Christ. I misunderstood and thought we were actually going to the temple for the rededication but they just made the auditorium an extension of the temple and showed a live broadcast. It was a new and amazing experience since I had never experienced one before. Elder Holland and President Eyring were there for the dedication, they both gave amazing talks. Eyring then gave the dedicatory prayer, I really felt there Spirit that day.

Elder Holland and Eyring (not Jameson's picture)

Elder Eyring (not Jameson's picture)

At the Cultural Celebration the night before, our teacher Hermano Silva was in the Celebration and it was cool to see him dance and sing. He did really good. He's my favorite teacher here by the way. The other day we helped him set up Twitter and pick out a Twitter handle which was fun.
Cultural Celebration(not Jameson's teacher or picture)

Today was our P-day and we got the chance to do a session at the temple, the only downfall was the whole thing was in Spanish so some things were confusing to understand. The Mexico City temple is massive and is very beautiful! I was grateful to be able to go there and feel the Spirit in the House of the Lord.

It's really exciting when anyone gets mail here! As the district leader, I have to get the mail and it's fun to see people get letters or packages. But it's especially exciting when I get one myself! I was really happy and appreciative of my mom sending me Krispy Kreme and chocolate milk, it definitely made my day. In our casa, we moved our bunk beds together and now we call it Cuddle Kingdom. We talk and eat snacks with a trio of Elders in our casa from room 5 and that is always fun and relaxing. It's nice not being the newbies anymore! New missionaries come in every week and old missionaries leave. This week the CCM was really slim with about 250 missionaries, but then 100 new Latino missionaries came yesterday and North American missionaries come today. Our district and zone are really close now. We always have a testimony meeting after a devotional and everyone has such strong testimonies of the Gospel.

I am enjoying my time here and aprendendo mucho! Thank you for the love and support! I miss everyone!

Love, Elder Bennett

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

First P-Day

I read that it wasn't really good to keep track of the weeks for your missionary- it makes it feel very long.  One person suggested to track Fast Sundays instead.  Well, we are one week down and one Fast Sunday has came and went.

I was beyond thrilled today to hear from Jameson.  Here is his letter:

Hola everyone!

This has been a crazy first week. Leaving all my friends, loved ones, and especially my family behind was really hard, and it definitely hit me hard on the 3 and a half hour plane ride to Mexico. I met a bunch of missionaries during my layover in Salt Lake. There was about 40 missionaries on the flight. One of the mom's there was kind enough to send a picture of me to mom and dad saying that I had made it safely so far which was a real blessing, I was very grateful.

The flight was alright I guess. I sat and talked to a 6'6 tall missionary going to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He was really nice and made the trip go faster. I paid for food on the plane which was $10 for a sandwich and chips. I had to fill out a PMM thing on the plane which I needed to go through immigration and customs, some things were difficult to answer because it was in Spanish but the attendants helped us out. I didn't get any sleep on the plane though, I guess I was just excited and full of emotions but I did sleep very well at the first night at the MTC.

I arrived at the airport in Mexico City which was very busy. I had to go through immigration first which was no problem. I then got all my luggage and put it on a cart and went through customs. They asked me if I had any sandwiches or fresh fruit and I was confused so I just said no and they let me through haha. All the missionaries were greeted by people from the MTC and we had to sign four sheets of paper copying our signature each time and making sure that we were the person who we said we were. We all then got on a school bus looking thing and headed to the MTC.
We drove through the city which was kinda scary because there is just so much going on with a lot of cars and motor bikes weaving through cars and busses. It was cool seeing Mexico City because all the buildings are colorful and the city has a lot of graffiti on the walls which was neat to see, it's just a part of their culture.
The drive took about 30 minutes to get to the MTC and we each received a plastic waterbottle. The MTC is a 93 acre campus in the middle of a bustling city with beautiful mountains on either side.
There is a 8 foot tall wall surrounding the MTC with another fence with barbed wire on it which is comforting because it is very safe here. This MTC is also called the CCM which stands for Centro de Capacitacion Misional Mexico.
It used to be a school but was converted to an MTC in 2013. The MTC has its own water well separate from the rest of the city which means the water from the tap is safe to drink. When I first arrived, I got my nametag and house key and a key for my closet which they want us to lock up for some unknown reason.

I had to get a tetanus shot my first day and not a flu shot yet which what I was expecting to receive. We arrived around dinner time so I went and ate at the comedor. The food here is pretty good and and we get fed pretty well. They told us to not do stupid things when eating and during gym time. They said that 4 missionaries ate 140 chicken wings and one missionary ate 16 ice cream bars.
Originally, my companion was supposed to be Zach Erickson who I met on Instagram, but he didn't get his visa so he is at the Provo MTC. I was put with Elder Madrigal for the night since neither of our companions showed up. I had to carry my very heavy luggage to my casa which was about a half a mile away. Almost every night it rains here in Mexico, and so of course the first day I had to carry my stuff through pouring rain. Some of the books and things they gave me as well as my freshly dry cleaned suit got wet so that was fun. They told me not to unpack because I would be getting a new companion the next day and I might have moved casas but luckily I got to stay.
Jameson has the dark bedspread.
The next day I met my new companion, Elder Cordon from North Carolina. He's going to the Mexico City Southeast Mission. (Interesting note Troy's first MTC companion was an Elder Cardon)
I also met the missionaries in my district.
There is only six of us in a district which is not common because normally a district has 8 or 10 missionaries. I was made district leader so pretty much I run the district meetings, get everyones mail, read them the bulletin, make sure their casas are clean, and make sure everyone is following the rules and being obedient. My district has two sets of Elders: Elder Cordon and I, and Elder Austin and Elder Skinner. Elder Skinner and Austin are going to Xalapa Mexico and they are really fun and enjoyable to be around. We also have a set of sisters: Hermana Brady and Hermana Beardall. They are going to Mexico City North and they are also fun and spiritual.

Before it was just Elder Cordon and I in our room but Elder Skinner and Austin moved in because their previous roommate has a athletes foot which is contagious and they didnt want to be around that so they asked if they could move in with us haha.

We have a teacher everyday in the morning named Hermano Silva. He's a return missionary who works for the church and with missionaries at the CCM. Our district loves Hermano Silva! He is a really great teacher. We are learning how to teach investigators about the doctrine of Christ from Preach My Gospel. I have learned so much already in the first week of being here and my Spanish is also improving very well. On the second day, they already had us preparing a lesson and teaching our first investigator. That was quite a surprise for us since he only speaks Spanish and we can only speak Spanish to him. So our first lesson with him was very interesting but wer are getting better as we go. Tonight we are giving him our fourth lesson. It turns out that our investigator will become our teacher after five lessons so that will be cool so he can help us with our teaching. Since day one, they want us to pray in Spanish and I'm so glad I learned how to pray in Spanish at home because a lot of people didn't know how but I am able to. The Spirit here is so strong. I feel it everyday in my meetings, devotionals, lessons, etc. The campus is so beautiful here and they take care it very well. There's about 600 missionaries here right now and every week a new set of missionaries come in while a group another group is leaving. There was 69 incoming missionaries the day I arrived and I found out that out of the new group, I am the only one going to Culiacan. I still havent met anyone going to the same mission as me yet. A lot of the Latino missionaries know a lot about Culiacan so it's fun to talk to them. They say it's really hot there but beautiful. The other night at a devotional, a missionary performed a piano solo and they announced he is going to the Culiacan Mission but it turns out they announced it wrong and he's going to Cancun.

On Sunday morning I had to attend a leadership meeting with my companion. We also had fast and testimony meeting which was really awesome and spiritual. Sundays are my favorite because it's like a Spiritual Recharge. Every Sunday and Tuesday night we have devotionals. On Sunday night, we listened to a talk by Richard G. Scott about missionary work that was really good and uplifting. He talked a lot about the power of prayer and I learned a lot. They show a movie every Sunday night also and my first Sunday we got to watch Meet the Mormons and everyone was excited. When they showed the part about the missionary mom I lost it. Yesterday we had a devotional given by Moroni Gaona who is a member of the quorum of the seventy. He only speaks English so someone had to stand up there and translate his message. But that did not distract from the Spirit because he had a lot of power and authority in his voice. He talked about the tribes of Israel and our mission as missionaries and he got into some pretty deep stuff that I didn't completely understand. I loved a quote he said. He said that a mission is like the tithing our life. That really put my mission into neat perspective.

We found out that this Sunday we are going to be going to the rededication of the Mexico City Temple. The temple is about an hour away from the CCM. Our teacher Hermano Silva is one of the dancers in the Cultural Celebration. All the missionaries were excited because they told us President Eyring and Elder Holland are going to be doing the rededication. I am really looking forward to that.

Everyday we have to wake up at 6:30 am. We go to breakfast then usually personal or companionship study. We have about about 5 hours of studying each day which is a lot but it is very good for us. We also have to go to the lab to do TALL which is a Technology Assistant Language Learning developed by the church to help missionaries with language study. No one here likes TALL haha. We have gym days where we can play basketball, volleyball, ping pong, run, lift weights, or play futsol (which is a soccer on a basketball court). Elder Cordon and I have been playing basketball lately but today for P-day we played volleyball for a few hours which is fun. Every Wednesday is our Preparation Day aka P-day and we are able to write emails and letters, go to the gym, wash our clothes, and do whatever else we need to do. They have a store here (tienda) where we can buy pretty much anything we need while we are here. I got a CCM journal to write notes in during my time here. Today a new set of missionaries comes in so it will be nice not to be the newbies anymore. Almost all the missionaries in our casa read the Book of Mormon every night and we are going to try to finish by six weeks. We played a few prank on the Elders in our district by switching their bed spreads and it was funny because they blamed everyone us except Elder Cordon and I lol. I found out about the Nebraska BYU game and was mad for a while because the Huskers lost, everyone else here was going for BYU so I am the lone Nebraska fan here. That really sucks about Taysom Hill getting hurt...again :/

The first week was kinda rough but my companion and I are starting to get things figured out as we go. I am learning a lot here and I know I'm only going to continue to expand on my knowledge of the Gospel. The CCM Presidente and his counselors are so kind and loving. They told that the language will come as we are diligent in our studies. It wont be an obstacle as long as we teach with the Spirit and love everyone. I am having a great time here so far and I am meeting a lot of new people! I'm excited for this adventure ahead of me. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers, they all really helped! I love you all. Hasta luego!

Elder Bennett

Mexico in the Morning

A selfie- Jameson was under strict instruction that I wanted to see his face every week!  

God Be With You Till We Meet Again

The last few weeks before Jameson left went by so quickly.

He had a going away party complete with Mexican soda, a pinata and many dear friends.
The next evening he went to the temple which was such a special night and it meant so much to him to have so many family members and friends to share that day with him.
The next 2 weeks were filled with finalizing purchases and preparations.  We thought we were doing pretty good, but there were lots of last minutes things to do.

I saw an idea online and knew I had to send a little love with every tie for Jameson.
I also made a recipe book with a lot of simple recipes like how to boil an egg, make oatmeal, etc. as well as some family favorite recipes.  Then I made a photo album with family pictures and inspirational quote pictures.  I also sent him with a binder full of inspirational talks and other important info- his immunizations, priesthood line of authority, fathers and setting apart blessings.
The day before he left we spent hours packing.  Man, it was hard to get everything he wanted to bring for the next 2 years into 3 suitcases and a backpack.  We did lots of rearranging and unpacking. In the end his jar of peanut butter, iced animal crackers and flipflops had to get left behind.

We went up to Lincoln and went out to Valentino's for one last dinner with Grandma & Grandpa Koski and Grandma and Grandpa Bennett.
President VanTassel set Jameson apart.  He gave a beautiful blessing and it was comforting to here some of the same advice and promises that Troy had given him in his Fathers blessing 2 days before.

We took some last family photos :(

When we got home Jameson soaked up the last bit of social media that he could.  We both were up until it was time to leave for the airport. Me and those darn suitcases were not on good terms. I was just praying that they wouldn't be overweight.

We got to the airport at 4:20. 

We got him checked in and it was the moment of truth for the luggage.

I seriously think the last hour that we had with Jameson went by in double time.  We were busy chatting- taking a few photos and then before we knew it it was time to say goodbye.
There was no holding back the tears now.  We had a last family prayer in the airport and we all gave our final hugs. 

It was time for the hardest thing I've ever done as a parent- to let him go.  I watched him all the way through security until he was out of sight.  We then tearfully walked back to the car. I felt more than sad at this point.  I know that he was making the right decision to go- I just wasn't prepared for how much I was going to miss seeing him and being able to talk to him. It was so hard to say goodbye.

There were more tears on the way back home.  Everyone took a little nap before heading to school and work for the day.  And when I say I got a little nap- it was only 15 minutes- which wasn't enough since I had not got a chance to go to bed at all.  My emotions were running high all day.
I burst into tears of gratitude when a kind soul shared a picture that they took of Jameson at the Salt Lake City Airport.  Later that evening we got a quick email saying that Jameson had made it to Mexico.