Friday, June 26, 2015

No One Avoids the Tough Times

Heya! This week was really good! 

Elder Goodrich and I worked like madmen to try and help Elder Lowe, the new secretary, get all the info that he needs to dive right in to being secretary. 

And not one second too soon. 

This last Sunday Presidente Whitehead found out that his son-in-law had died of a heart attack at the age of 40, on Hermana Whitehead's birthday. He left behind his wife and four children under the age of 15. 

Presidente is really struggling right now, and could use a lot of prayers. 

Honestly, my respect and love for Presidente have exploded over the past little while as I have seen all this happen. Despite all that is going on he is unflinching and unfailing in his dedication to his calling as Mission President. He has been a great example to me, and I have learned a lot about what it really means to serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength over the course of the last few days. 

Hermana Whitehead went back to the ranch for a couple weeks to make sure that everything goes ok and to be of comfort to her daughter and grandkids. 

The humor in all of this is that Elder Goodrich got a new assignment... He took the place of Hermana Whitehead in her absence. So now he answers all of the health related phone calls for the Elders and Hermanas. He is President's new companion. We were thinking of trying to make a new assignment option as "Wife of Mission President" to add to his mission assignment history online, but thought better of it the last minute. :) Haha. 

Things are going well with my new companion, Elder Lowe. He is a good hard worker inside the offices, and very smart and organized, making both our jobs a lot easier. I am struggling a little with helping him to make time so we can escape the offices and go work in our area with our investigators. I would compare the offices with a cold swimming pool. Everyone is loathe to get in, but when they do and they get accustomed to it they are loathe to get out. Haha. 

Gotta dash for now. I have a little less time today than I would like. Hope that you are all doing well, and that life is treating you well, and that you are treating life well in turn. I love you all so much! 

Hasta luego 
Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  Are the mission home and mission offices close together? 
A:  Yep! Walking they are probably five minutes apart. Haha.

Q:  Is it intimidating to be in President Whitehead’s ward? ... 
A:  Yeah... Haha. We also have a couple ex-area seventies in our ward. And the mission President for the South mission as well. This ward is loaded. And that is just another great reason to work as hard as I can. :) When Elder Nash came and visited us at church, it was in our ward as well. We were very happy to have a new family with us there... Haha. 

Q:  Any interesting scuttlebutt on the Mexico City temple open house and dedication? 
A:  Aside from that it will be in September, we haven't managed to glean any information. Any good chismes are still pretty well locked away 

Q:  What is the weather like where you are now? 
A:  It is uber hot in the morning, and then we have a crazy rainstorm at about 2:00 that lasts for the rest of the day. It is crazy! 

Q:  What footwear needs shoe glue? (I’m double-checking I am allowed to mail it) 
A:  Just one of my pairs of normal work shoes. 

Q:  Does Mexico celebrate a Father’s Day? 
A:  Yep. It is basically the exact same as how they do it in the United States. :)

Quick Questions from last week:
Q:  Were the beetles tasty? 
A:  More or less. They had an interesting aftertaste, but the initial flavor and the texture were pretty fun. :) Haha. 

Q:  Where are your favorite places to go street contacting? 
A:  We have this tiny little pueblito in my area that I love, that looks a little like the poorer side of Toluca. The people out there are very susceptible to the influence of the Spirit, which is very refreshing for a missionary. 

Q:  In the baptism pictures who were the other people besides missionaries and the family you baptized? Was that the bishop and his family? 
A:  There was the Ward Mission Leader, who baptized Gabriel, and the bishop's family. :) Love them all to bits! I am going to get to see them this coming Sunday. More details on that a little later. 

Q:  Are all of the new incoming missionaries coming out of the Mexico City MTC? 
A:  With few exceptions, yes. For example, we are getting a Brazilian elder this next change who is coming in from the Argentina MTC. :D 

Q:  Do you have much direct contact with the Mexico City MTC? 
A:  Yep! We work closely with them getting our missionaries to ground zero, and we see them all the time at Immigration when I go to save missionaries from getting deported. :) 

Q:  Once the temple is rededicated will you get to go do a session there even though it is out of your mission? 
A:  I honestly don't know. It depends a lot on if permission is given to the missionaries to take a day off of work, which would take quite a trick. :) The day before a missionary finishes his mission he gets a full-day P Day, which would likely be their opportunity to go. 

Q:  What is something about leadership you have learned this week? 
A:  Just how powerful effect that love and respect on changing behavior and results. Those two aspects of leadership can singlehandedly turn a dry district/missionary into an extremely fruitful one. Those two qualities are what inspire a missionary to want to change themselves, as opposed to being pressured to by their leaders. The difference between pressure coming from inside is extremely different from pressure coming from the outside. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Cure for the Lonesome Blues (It's Not Meeting Tony Stark)

Hey there!

This week was really good. We worked very hard trying to finish up all of our office work early so that we could have more time to work in the field, and were met with a lot of success.

It has been interesting to see the relation between how I am doing vs how much I am working in my area. Monday and Tuesday Elder Goodrich and I were really wrapped up in the training of the new secretary that is going to take his place (chisme spilled! :D), so the time that we had to work in our proselyting area was rather short. And those nights the most depressed that I have been since I got to the offices. Then last night I worked like a madman and then dragged everyone else out the door early, and we got to go work. And it fixed everything. It was so... elating. I didn't realize just how much I love this work, and how much I miss it when I am not doing it. I am loath to go back home each night, and cannot wait until the beginning of the next day.

And despite the reduced proselyting time we have been met with a lot of success! Our best investigator right now would be Araceli. She works taking care of an older gentleman who now cannot take care of himself. She is wonderful. She just came to church for the first time this last Sunday (Where she made friends with the wife of our mission president. Yes we are in his ward. :):)). She almost cried with excitement when she gave her a Book of Mormon. She has a baptismal date for the fifth of July.

We found a couple of families yesterday that we are working on teaching and commiting to church so their progress can really begin. They are good, but very shy and tentative about us. They have potential to progress. I am excited for them. We are also teaching a couple right now that live with some members. They live together in an union libre. The husband wants to get married, but he doesn't want to get baptized. The wife wants to get baptized, but doesn't want to get married. ... We are putting in a lot of love and effort there. :)

For P Day we got to go to a wax museum in the Zone Tacubaya (where Elder Thompson is currently serving). It was really cool, and a lot of fun. They had all sorts of famous statues and people, and a lot of the Mexican culture. Movie actors, leaders of various countries, all the way to a little spook-alley thing full of all sorts of horror film characters. Twas fun. :) I would refer to to the pictures. One of my favorite parts was this little maze where all of the walls were just mirrors, making it impossible to tell where the path led, and whether we were walking towards the exit or another wall. I took a video so you could get a little bit of an idea.

And finally, Elder Goodrich is finishing his time as Financial Secretary, and will be heading out for his new area next Monday. I am really excited for him, and also really excited for my new companion, Elder Lowe. He is from Layton Utah, and plays the piano super well. It is going to be great working with him. And I will miss Elder Goodrich quite a bit. I have learned a LOT from him. 

Gotta sign off for now. Hope that you are all doing well, and that life is being enjoyed and lived to the maximum.

Love you all!
Elder Kennington

No Preguntas Bien Rapidito came through this week, but we have quite a few pictures! And here is a  tidbit from our exchange of emails yesterday:

On eating more healthy:
I am doing my best to stay healthily. I am eating well. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any more beetles. I did find horse and dog tacos though. And realized that I had had them many times before out there in Michoacán. :) They were pretty good. Not as good as the cow stomach, which wasn't as good as the enchiladas, which is almost as good as the mole, but doesn't even come close to carnitas. :) Haha. I love the food here.  The cow stomach was boiled in water and vegetables. And it made this nice little broth. It was actually pretty good. The texture got to me a little bit. Though not as badly as Bill Cosby's voice in my mind saying "Ain't no food down in THAT area..." :)

Hey look! I am taller than Toulouse-Lautrec.

Steve Jobs

Gettin' down with the leader of the free world

Mr. Putin putting out creepy vibes

Will & Kate??! Oh my heck!

I didn't know the Beatles were a quintet. I guess Elder Kennington forgot his jacket.  And matching tie.

El luchador.  Lucha libre is a pretty big sport in Mexico.
Find out a little bit more about lucha libre from the BBC here.


"Harry, my companion over there has something for you."

Apparently it doesn't bother guys to find someone wearing their same tie...

Tony Stark and Co.

He thinks he's a got a cool tool belt? Ha. He doesn't even have a Book of Mormon. Or  an awesome name tag.

The mission offices.

Elder Kennington on the middle row, far left.

This must be Elder Lowe, Elder Kennington's next companion. Is it just me or is Elder K's hair getting shorter?

Elder Lowe, Elder Goodrich, and Elder Kennington. Must be zone conference.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Much-Anticipated Baptism (P.S. He Wasn't Kidding About the Beetles)

Hola. Mi nombre es Inigo Montoya. Mataste a mi padre. Prepárate para morir.*

This week was incredible! I am having the time of my life here! First off, I had the opportunity to go back to Chamapa to baptize Maria Ines and Gabriel. It was a beautiful service. When I got there I just about got tackled and trampled by the entire ward. I was really excited to back, and they were a little enthusiastic at having a familiar visitor. :) I got to meet up with many of the members that I got very close to and say hello. It was wonderful. ... I leave a little piece of my heart in each area that I work. And I don't realize that I am missing it until I make a little trip back.

Owen with Maria Ines (white blouse), Gabriel (light blue tie) and Meredith (pink).  Owen's Chamapa companion Elder Gavilla is on the far right.
Seeing Maria Ines and her family was incredible. They have grown so much over the last month. They had a light that they didn't have before, and this was before their baptism! They were friends with everyone in the ward, and were bouncing up and down with excitement to tell me about what they had learned in their classes that day. I was overcome by the power of their testimony that had been ignited. When I had left them we were blowing life into mere embers and then placing the necessary tinder to begin the blaze. Now coming back a month later when the bonfire has had time to grow and strengthen it really was an incredible experience. I don't think they realize just how much they have grown or how far they have come.

And then the baptism. The Spirit was so powerful. Maria Ines asked me to do her baptism, and their daughter who had turned 8 a couple days previous asked me do to the same. Their daughter Meredith is adorable. I remember that she wouldn't go in to the Primary because she was so penosa when she came to church the first time. Nos cuestó dos semanas de trabajo y dulces para ganar su confianza. :) The whole ward came to the service to support them, which was wonderful. And then the bishops wife, who also runs the music for the ward, asked me to sing for the service at the end. She asked me to sing God Be With You Till We Meet Again. ... It was so rude... :):) Haha.

 Other than that not much else to report. We lost all power in our office yesterday for the majority of the day, giving us a great opportunity to get out and go preach and work with one of our progressing investigators. We were convinced a rat or chewed through the cables or something. They had no idea why it happened. I took my companion and we went looking for a few little charred bodies just in case. :)

 Hope that you all have a fantastic week! I love you!
Elder Kennington

*Translation:  "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die!"  If you don't recognize the movie reference then your homework for this week is to go watch The Princess Bride.

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  Do you have any investigators right now?
A:  Yep. One of the really good ones is a couple. Maria Isabel and Jose Alfredo. They are a really attentive, but very very quiet. Painfully shy, the hermana is. :) The main thing impeding them from getting baptized right now is the fact that they are living together but aren't married. As soon as we get them married they will be able to go get baptized. :)

Q:  Has the plumbing issue been fixed in President Whitehead’s house yet?
A:  Sounds like it has at least been headed off, though the plumbing out there is still super jacked up.

Q:  Did you really eat live beetles or were you just pulling my leg? If you really did, how common is that? No, we really did! They were little tiny guys. Se llamen bichos. They look a little like this, except alive:

Q:  What kind of beetles were they? Where do people get them to eat?
A:  I don't know what kind they are. They buy them live at the market, as just a handful. Then they let them reproduce for about a week into thousands, which is finally enough to make a meal.

Q:  How is Elder Thompson’s leg?
A:  He is good. He has a couple really sweet marks that might scar, but he is walking without any problem. :)

Q:  How often does a new crop of missionaries arrive in your mission?
A:  Usually once every six weeks. Part of my job is getting everything ready for them on this end. These next few months we have a fair number coming in. We are getting a couple Brazilians and a Spaniard, which is very unusual. We are super excited!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Floods, Beetles for Lunch, and Loads of Pics

AAH! Pure insanity!
Elder Goodrich

So, basically, nothing has changed on this end. :)

The first big story of the week took place Sunday. We were working in our area looking for some new investigators when President called us.

Elder Kennington sweeping water out. 
He had left that Friday for a conference in Toluca (Toluca! :D), and had left some maintenance people working on his house. He got home Sunday morning to find that one of them hadn't put something back right in the plumbing in the upstairs bathroom, and the entire house had flooded. They got home to water dripping through the floor, having deposited about 4 inches of water over the whole basement. The wood floor was literally floating. All the carpets were saturated and under-water. Everything was just ruined.... And it happened to be President's birthday. We felt so bad.

So my companion and I went over and spent the day cleaning everything we could out of the house, salvaging all that we could manage, and moving it somewhere safe. I must admit that through all this I was so impressed with President. He was the most lighthearted of all of us, not allowing one even mildly complaining comment escape his lips. He kept things going without fail. In the evening he tracked down some pizza and made milkshakes for everyone who came over and helped, and we celebrated his birthday properly.

Since then it has flooded twice, but each time a little less. They are still trying to find exactly what was the problem. I am pretty certain the Vincents understand these kinds of difficulties. :)

Also in the same época we witnessed the passing of our beloved apostle Elder L. Tom Perry.

Here in the mission I have come to appreciate the Quorum of the 12 and the First Presidency a lot more than I ever have in my life. Every day I testify to someone new that these are men called of God to guide us back to Him. Our Prophets and Apostles are men called of God to hold the keys of the church in this last dispensation, that can see and speak with God face to face as the prophets of old did. That, when the swirling clouds of worldy doctrine assault testimony and confuse the the children of God, can keep us away from the wolves in sheep's clothing.

And then all of a sudden one isn't there.

He's not here anymore.

I loved Elder Perry's talk on the family this last Conference. It is interesting to see what the last words of each prophet and apostle are. Nephi said that he must obey. Moroni exhorted us to gain a testimony through prayer. And Elder Perry testified of the importance of our families.

I testify that Elder L. Tom Perry was an apostle of Jesus Christ no different from Peter, James, John, or the other nine that Christ called in His time. He was a man of God, and now is a man with God. He is not resting; he is not passively awaiting the Second Coming. He is actively engaged in preparing those who too have passed for the glorious return of the Christ, and we should be doing no less. We have the blessed opportunity to continue building the kingdom of God here in the earth. I personally answer that call with all my heart.

I know that answering that call brings the greatest joy and strength into life. Whether our calling has been to the streets of the mission field as a full time missionary, or inside the walls of our homes as a full-time parental missionary, and everything in between. To stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ in ALL things, sustaining His apostles. In the open, and ESPECIALLY in secret.

"Whatever thou art, act well thy part."

I hope that this coming week is a little better than last. I love you all so very much.

Hasta el próximo.
Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  Does Mexico celebrate something like Memorial Day, a day set apart to honor our war dead?
A:  They have September 15th, which is their Independance Day. And they celebrate and honor all those who have passed away October 31, con el Día de los Muertos. Halloween is a lot less scare-you-with-blood-guts-and-gore here in Mexico than it is in the U.S.

Q:  You’ve mentioned a couple of brushes with the gay community down it as vocal or prominent as it seems to be here?
A:  It is a lot more prominent here than over there. Over in the Unites States the media makes it seem a LOT bigger than it really is. Out here it is so commonplace that the media doesn't make any money reporting anything about it.

Q:  What is the silliest thing that happened this week?
A:  We had beetles for lunch. That was tasty. They keep them in this large tupperware that they can't crawl out of, and feed them lettuce and the like. To eat them you just scoop 'em up in your had and go to town. Crunchy and wiggly without too much flavor. I would have taken a photo, but I think the sister would have gotten offended.

Q:  Tell us a little more about Elder Goodrich and the AP’s. Do you guys play practical jokes on each other?
A:  Elder Goodrich is really good. He is very focused, very loving, and has a great sense of humor. He is very cinematically cultured (for example, I overheard him quoting the Court Jester under his breath while he was working on reimbolsos :) ). The AP's are good. They are good at getting things done and "making it happen." They are accustomed to getting what they want in the moment that they want it. I have learned a lot being around them.

Celebrating President Whitehead's birthday, pizza-style.
Fotos! My companion and I got to go to an museum this last P Day. They had all sorts of old artifacts from Mexico right at the time of the conquistadors. Some really cool spoons, keys, and pocket watches. The figure of Christ bleeding and all that stuff was one of the images that they worshipped. ... I must admit that that focus always makes me a little sad. If you ever see picture with anything to do with Christ here in Mexico, and you see a TON, Christ is always suffering and crying and being tormented. Rarely is he even pictured as complacent or content.  

The white sculpures are really cool. They are all carved from elephant tusks, and came from ancient China. They are all solid carvings; they didn't carve the individual bits and then piece them together. That is why so many of the sculptures are curved because the tusk does the same. There was a really cool chess set (Elder Wiersdorf, one day you and I shall meet on the glorious field of mental combat with this wonderful board). And outside you see the Museum itself. It was super cool!

Elder Kennington LOVES pocket watches...

Beautiful ivory carvings from China.  You can see Elders Kennington and Goodrich in the background mirror.

The carving of a ball that you see has several smaller spheres that were carved underneath it that moved independently. It is INSANE. Ball-ception.

Fotos from when we went out to go and work. We got super wet. Not that it shows in the pictures. I literally pulled off my boots and poured water out of them. :)

Elder Kennington is soaked to the skin.

Phew! Finally dry.

Is it just me, or is his hair getting shorter every time he sends pictures home?