Monday, July 27, 2015

In Sauces (And Not As a Sous Chef)


Wow. It feels so good to be back on the front line working full-time again. :) I missed it so much.

So. The first thing you need to know about my current area is that the ward here is incredible. Absolutely incredible. Very active in sharing the gospel! The bishop is doing an incredible job of leading and inspiring his members. The ward just divided itself about seven months ago (when I was in Universidad, actually), and is on track to do so again this following year. That is the goal, anyway. 

The area is on the outskirts of Toluca, as opposed to being right in the center as I was about seven months ago. :) It is very strange here. We have a lot of middle class houses compacted right in center of the area, and then the surrounding area is pure farmland very reminiscent of Crescencio Morales. I personally prefer working out the the pueblos, but as most of the members live in the urban part we spend a lot of time out there.

The secret to this ward is working with the members, doing our all to inspire and uplift them. As I do so, I am coming to find that this is the first ward where I feel as if I am literally building the kingdom of God for now and the future, as opposed to just the present.  I am very excited to see what my time here has in store!

When we started here we had absolutely nothing, so Elder Puca and I worked very hard to try and find at least one new good investigator. The Lord saw fit to meet our efforts with two really good families. One of them is a mom and a dad, with three teenage sons who all live out in the farmland. I find going out and visiting them very refreshing. It is so peaceful out there. The other family lives in the middle of the urban stuff; a mom and a 9 year old daughter. They are great, but the dad isn't interested at all. At least he is willing to let us in and teach. :)

Elder Puca is really good. He is from Argentina, with a very heavy accent. It took a lot of effort to try and understand what he was saying right off the bat. :) He is hardworking, and working hard to become even more so. :) I will learn a lot from him this change.

Still haven't heard any word on Jairo. I am worried sick about him. I can't help but wonder if this is one of the reasons the Lord had me come back out to Toluca; to be able to support his mom Italia (who is another absolutely incredible convert) through this through letters and the like.

As far as time permits, that is about all I have got! I hope that you have an incredible week. I love you all so much!!!

Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  Is the name of the part of Toluca you are in the name of the zone or the district?
A:  The Part of Toluca, and the district. Sauces.

Q:  Do you miss the office?
A:  Yes and no. Do I miss the people and the amount of information about the mission and getting pouch instantly? Heck yes! Do I miss how much I could work in the field? NOT A BIT. :):)

Q:  What is your new Toluca area like compared to Universidad?
A:  It has an urban center that looks like Universidad, and then pure farmland outside of it.

Q:  What did you mean when you said President was having you work in “Sauces” for a while? I don’t think he meant as a sous chef…
A:  That I would be heading out there... Haha. To work as a missionary. Though I did get a side job as head chef. I hate my co worker though. The guy's a rat. :);) [for those who don't know, Owen is NOT knocking his companion! He is quoting the Disney movie Ratatouille]

Q:  Tell us more about Elder Puca.  How long has he been out.  Who decides who is the senior companion?
A: Elder Puca has been out for about nine months. He had seven months in a mission in Argentina waiting for his visa, and just got here this last change! We are comayores. Or we are both Senior Companion. The phone gets passed back and forth and we plan and work in turns. :) Elder Puca is from the northern part of Argentina.


Another Elder has a literal version of the One Ring [from Lord of the Rings].  I went full blown fangirl on it for about half an hour.

Some sweet graffiti that I saw. Woo!

You get to decide who the mystery people are in these next pictures with Elder Kennington 'cause he didn't say.
Is Elder Puca in this photo? UPDATE:  The elder on the left is Elder Greig. The sisters are Hermana Alvarenga, Hermana Vega and Hermana Hardy 

Pretty sure this isn't Elder Puca.
This is a boy who LOVES his mint Oreos.  Well, mint combined with chocolate anything, really.

Checking out the mint Oreos...
Maybe this is Elder Puca?
 Oh please oh please oh please may I have a mint Oreo??!!

Or is this Elder Puca?

This is NOT Elder Puca

Met up with Elder Taylor.  He was baptizing a family of three.

And He's Outta There...Out of the Office, I Mean

Not a dull moment exists in the mission. The Lord doesn't like stagnant progress. :)

Long story short, I am getting an area change!! We had two elders go home this last week (one early and one finishing his misison after having extended it to halfway into the change), and that turned everything on its head. On top of that Elder Demars is finally coming back, and President isn't still too certain about the progress his knee has made (he was hit by a car and had surgery a couple months ago).

As such, they desperately need another Elder, and President asked me to go fill this new position. It will work out really well. Elder Demars will come into the offices to have a little more recuperation time and I will be back in the field full time!

My new area is called Haciendas, and is back in Toluca. It is actually about half an hour away from Universidad, so if we have a spare P Day I am going to go back and visit all of my converts. ...

I must admit that this last week has been a little tough.

Speaking of converts, for example. Do you remember Jairo, one of my converts back out there in Toluca? The 22 year old that was super ready for baptism and started struggling a little while afterwards? I just got the news yesterday that he has developed cancer. It sounds pretty... Serious. He was my first baptism that I taught from start to finish, and saw the full arc of his pre-baptism progression. His family already has so many difficult things going against them. My heart is broken in half for them, especially Italia (his mom, another convert of mine). She is active and fighting so hard to stay strong. They know very personally what it means to be in the Refiner's Fire.

I really have no idea what is happening with me over the next little while. Whether President is going to have me work in Sauces for a while, if he is going to have me come back to the offices, or if he has something completely different planned for me. I trust in what he has in store for me, because I know that he personally seeks revelation from the Lord on each decision he makes. I know that I will go where the Lord wants me to go. And I will go willingly and throw my heart into it. This will be a good chance for growth. ...

I've missed the missionary growing pains. :):)

Love you all. Hope that you have a good week, and feel the love that your Heavenly Father has for you. I know that He loves His children.

Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  What does your 100 pesos for food a week cover?
A:  Ramen. I bought some oatmeal. Milk. cereal. The like. :):)

Q:  Where did President Whitehead and Sister Whitehead learn Spanish?
A:  President Whitehead served a mission in Uruguay, and Hermana Whitehead (I think) learned it all here, through lots of study and practice and the gift of tongues. :)

Q:  Let me rephrase my European Spanish vs. indigenous heritage question. I was wondering if you can tell in physical appearance those who come from a European ancestry compared to those whose ancestors are more indigenous?
A:  Oh. Not really, no. Those roots were really far back, so they are a little tricky to pick out. Though there is the occasional random white person that is a native that we run into. :)

Q:  What is the percentage of American missionaries in your mission? Is the mission about evenly divided between native Spanish speakers and gringos?
A:  We have about 60-70% Americans and the remainder are Latinos. The Latinos were the ones that had more time in the mission when I got here, and now they have all left. The majority of the Latinos that we have in the mission have 8 months or less.

Q:  How long does it take to get to the temple from where you are?
A:  It is about 35 minutes from the offices. Though from where I am going today, it is a good couple hours (dun dun DUN cat's out of the bag!).

Thursday, July 16, 2015

God Looks Out for His Missionaries in Interesting Ways

Que tal?! Como están ustedes? He estado muy bien, pero con tantísimo trabajo. Me encanta eso. El estar ocupado para mi me ayuda mucho a estar enfocado.

A ver. Que pasó en la semana..? O! Ya me acuerdo! *

This week was super busy with concilio and getting visas ready. Concilio is the monthly meeting that President Whitehead has with all the Zone Leaders, all of the Hermana Capacitadoras [trainers], y con los asistentes [and the assistants]. There they talk about the results of the past month, the zone leaders give reports on their zones and how the work is there. There are talks and capacitations [training], and usually an awesome lunch afterwards. Naturally, as the secretaries, we were in charge of getting everything ready. I have decided that the secretaries are to the mission as the techies are to a play. It's kind of interesting to see how everything works.

And the visas are visas. Nothing too interesting. Except for a little something. I was working on a visa for Elder Rigby, an elder from one of my old districts, and then I realized, "Hey. He doesn't have THAT much time in the mission..." And then I realized that he does. And it hit me like a freight train in the face.

I will complete one year left in my mission in three days. ...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!....

I still feel like I have a couple weeks in the mission. That is so weird to me. If anything has inspired me to give even more it is this! I have so much to do and change and improve! I am nowhere near where I need to be (where the Lord wants me, in other words), so I have my work cut out for me.

And this starts in my proselyting area. Our investigators are dropping as quickly as we can find them. So as we are starting fresh, this is the perfect time to apply all of the changes I want to make in my mission and life.

Gotta dash for now. ... Haha. There is never enough time to write all that I have on my mind... I look back on some of my past emails and they make me sound like the worst missionary ever... :) Haha. Hope that you are all doing great, and enjoying life to the maximum. I certainly am right now.

Church is true!
Elder Kennington

*Translation:  "What's up?! How are you? I've been fine, but with so very much work. I love that. Being busy for me helps me to stay focused.  Let's see. What happened in the week ..? O! Now I remember!"

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  So are you shopping some place besides the gas station now? 
A:  Yup. ... We found a Costco. :) The Church is true. I feel so spoiled and guilty every single time I walk in. Too bad everything is around 150 pesos when I only have 100 pesos to spend for the week. :)  

Q:  Do the missionaries have any encounters with known gang members? Do the cartels down there present you with many concerns? 
A:  The big cartels, not so much. There are people selling drugs everywhere here though. That is commonplace. As far as gang members, the missionaries are actually protected by a gang out there in El Oro. Story time! 

 There were a couple of elders there about a year and a half ago walking in the street. As they were walking a car drove up right alongside them. The guy in the car pulled a gun on them and told them to get in the car. With no other choice, the missionaries did. As the elders got in the car the guy pointed the gun at them and said: We are going to a fight right now. Pray for us so that we win. 

 The elders prayed for them and got out of the car. 

 And that gang won the drug war. :) Since then, there has been a distinct lack of problems in the area... :) 

There was one time a few weeks later when the missionaries ran into a couple of robbers. One pulled a gun on them asking for their money, but before the missionaries could do anything his partner said: "No! Son los hermanos! (No! They're "the brothers")". Hurriedly the guy put his gun away, apologized, and the both of them ran off. Yup. The church is true. :) 

 Q:  Do incidents with the cartels make much news down there? 
A:  All the time. The media philosophy here is that if there is no blood, guts, and gore AND photos to prove it, then it isn't worth printing. And it just so happens that the cartels here is really good at making new stories for the media. 

Q:  Is it easy to tell those who have more European Spanish descent from those who have a more indigenous heritage? 
A:  Not really. The religion that the Spaniards brought with them stayed and became tradition. The culture and how people interact with each other comes from way before that. Some things I can see reflected all the way back to the Book of Mormon. :) 

Q:  Did you find some glue to repair your shoes? How did it work out? 
A:  Oh yeah, I need to repair those... Haha. I put the pair of shoes in question out of the way for "safekeeping" and then forgot. I'll drag them out of my suitcase and get that glue. :)

I found a broken orange ping-pong ball and carved it into a clown nose. Elder Medina the assistant thought it was hilarious.

A soccer banner for one of the teams in Mexico hanging on my bedroom wall.

Me, sacked out for the night, about to go to sleep, and realizing I hadn't sent a photo for ages.

Pictures of my room.

We went to the temple to drop off an elder who was going to spend the night there in the missionary housing before he went to Guatemala the following day.

Elder Kennington and Elder Lowe

Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Turn-Around in Interest

Bonjo-.... Hall-... Saludo-....

... Hello. Yes, that is how I think you say it in English. ... Pretty certain.

ANYWAY. Once again, we have been pretty busy down here! I have been doing a lot of work with the visas for the missionaries right now. We are starting to have huge waves of missionaries that will have expiring green cards, so I have been working double time. That way the Elders don't have to grow beards to hide from the immigration police.

Elder Goodrich is officially off to Xonacatlan, which is by Toluca (mas o menitos...). I am going to miss working with him a ton! He is truly an exceptional missionary. He is now training a new missionary from Brazil. Elder Souza (He is from Recife. Maybe the great and famous ex-Sister Hicken may have met him?).

We have had a little bit of a difficult time with our investigators this last week. One of our investigators has started ignoring us, not answering her phone or door, even when we see her through the glass and make eye-contact with her and wave and then call her name, only to watch her turn her back and wander into the kitchen to start, by the sound of it, washing her dishes. Harrumphf. :)

Then the couple that we have been working with has stopped progressing. They have always had struggles with their relationship, but since they have stopped keeping their commitments everything has been falling apart. It has been very interesting and very sad to watch. ... They have completely stopped listening as well. So our current pool of investigators is looking about as full as a typical teenage boy's wallet after Prom.

But we are changing that this week. We have the goal to find two new families that we can start teaching and bringing close to Christ. I know that we are going to do it! I am very excited for the challenges that we have this week.

Let's see. What else happened...? Oh. I had a cow brain taco this last week. I really enjoyed the taco. What I enjoyed even more was the look on one of the sister missionaries face when she realized what she was eating, being more than halfway through her taco. :)

That about sums it up for this week, with the time that I have today. I have been doing a lot of studying on the Atonemnet of Christ, and have seen many fruits. Will elaborate in my next email, for this is simply not enough time today to do it justice.

Hope that you all have a lovely week, and that you make at least one good story somewhere.
Love you!
Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  Which city is Culturas in? I remember cities better than zone names.
A:  Ok. There are eleven zones here in this mission. The ones that are in Mexico City are: Chapultapec (where I am at right now), Tacubaya, Lomas Verdes, and Camarones. The Zones Atlacomulco, Metepec, Toluca, and Las Torres are all near/next to Toluca. Culturas is in Naucalpan, which is the part of Mexico City that spills out into the State of Mexico, thus needing a different name. :) Zitacuaro, the last zone, is all of the state of Michoacán that sits in our mission.

Q:  Has Elder Goodrich gone out to his new area now that Sister Whitehead has returned?
A:  He is out there now! I miss him like crazy.

Q:  Will there be any church celebrations of Pioneer Day around July 24th? Who are the Mexican versions of the pioneers?
A:  I don't think that we will be seeing any church celebrations. That seems to be a "strictly Utah" sort of thing here. :)

Q:  Are there any Mexican LDS recording artists? Like Jenny Frogley or Alex Boye (who was just on the auditions for America’s Got Talent and he rocked it!) or Hillary Weeks?
A:  There are one or two, but I cannot remember their names to save the life of me.. :P

Other interesting tidbits Elder Kennington shared with home this week:
--It has been a good day. Running all over the place, doing a little bit of grocery shopping (I bought a package of salad. Are you proud of me or what?! :D). It is hot. And it will be raining super hard over the next few hours anyway. We have officially hit the rainy season!
--Plants vs Zombies [an iPod/iPad game] has been doing some crazy things. They love it here in México, and one of the four year old boys in the ward spent half an hour explaining to me all his favorite points... Haha. :) 
-- It is incredible the feeling that having a clean house gives you, huh? I spent three hours cleaning my current room the other day from two years of messy secretaries. It felt incredible! And not just because I found all sorts of cool knick knacks, and about doubled the size of my tie collection. :) 
-- I am doing well. Very happy. Working hard. Loving the people. Striving to be 100% obedient. Trying to learn more about Christ, especially His Atonement. :) I am excited to get out of the offices and hit the field, which is a bad sign considering I might be in here 'til November... O.o The only thing I really struggle with here in the offices is that I am in charge of sending all the missionaries home, including those going home early.... It is rather depressing. Especially when they are missionaries that I love and have worked with.

Aaaaaahhhhhh.  The boy is eating salad and cleaning things out.  Those are the very things that make a mama's heart proud.  And of course that he is being obedient and working hard!!!

Just a day at the office...

Elder Kennington discovers the "negative effect" on his camera

Elder Kennington and Goodrich

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Aguas de Culturas


This week was... Incredible. With each day that passes my love for the mission and this work deepens a little more.

We are working really hard with our investigators right now. Each one is struggling quite a bit. Araceli is having a hard time. She struggles with the Word of Wisdom and the Law of Chastity, but is progressing slowly. Her work is taking care of an older gentleman who is your classic grouchy old guy, which keeps her busy and on her toes almost 24/7. As such, keeping the commitments that she accepts is made very difficult. ... She has an incredible, incredible potential, but just doesn't quite realize it yet. José Alfredo and Maria Isabel are doing pretty well. José Alfredo has started coming to church, which as really helped his progression, but now Maria Isabel is really struggling. She still needs a testimony of the existence of her Heavenly Father and her own divine nature. She is really trapped by her past experiences with life's struggles and how she reacts to trials.

We have also been really busy getting everything ready for transfers the next week. There is always a lot for us to do, but especially when changes roll around. There are about five or six missionaries finishing their missions now. One of them is an hermana that was in my first district in my mission (Hermana Jackson, I don't know if I ever mentioned her...?).

The best experience of this week was, without a doubt, was this last Sunday. I had forgotten to mention in my email last week a little event that was called Aguas de Culturas, that was put together by the missionaries from the zone Culturas. We had fourteen people get baptized that day in the zone, and they had one gigantic baptismal service in the stake center. True to the fact that I cannot get enough of Chamapa and Culturas, I was asked to participate in the baptismal service and stake conference they had that day. :) Haha. I got to play an arrangement of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" that Elder Lowe and I did. I used the little violin I bought in Toluca and he was on piano.

The best part of that whole trip, however, was seeing Gabriel and Maria Ines. ... I didn't realize just how incredible they were going to be. Since their baptism and confirmation they have:
-Reactivated Maria Ines' dad who swore 30 years ago he would never come back to church
-Started her brother taking the missionary lessons
-Set the date that they are going to enter the temple to get sealed (7th of June, 2016. ... I will still be in the mission. :):):) )
And on top of all that her mom and niece both got baptized in the Aguas de Culturas. The outpouring of love that they showed me when they saw me again was overwhelming. ... I was just about tackled by the whole ward when I got there before the services... :) Haha.

I never imagined before my mission just how much I would grow to love these people, and how much they would mean to me. And that feeling just grows every single day. These people have changed my life, and they continue to do so. The baptism itself was beautiful. Very well done; it was organized enough that it moved quickly, and disorganized enough that it felt natural. :) Short and sweet.

That about covers it for this last week. Things are going really well here in the mission. I cannot believe that we are now in July.
I love you all!
Church is true.
Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  What was happening with missionaries almost getting deported this past week?
A:  Haha. Their visas were expiring and I had to pull some strings with my friends at migration and around the mission to get the visas through. It is a problem when our programs that track the expiration dates of our green cards aren't working. .. :)

Q:  Do missionaries to Mexico have to renew their visas yearly?
A:  Yep. And lemme tell you, it is quite the process... Haha. I just finished up the batch of visas for Elder Medina's generation. ... My generation is next... O.o

Q:  What is the school system there like for children?
A:  It is good. They are still in school right now. they don't get out till mid July. And they enter August. Woo! Unfortunately there are also many many children that don't ever enter school. Many here work, selling things in the street and the like. :/ It is sometimes very disheartening.

Q:  Tell me more about Elder Lowe?
A:  He is an elder that now has about 14 months in his mission, He plays the piano, is super quiet. He sings great harmony. He is a lot of fun to be with. :)

Loads o' pics this week, starting with...
A returning missionary, Elder Kennington, Elder Lowe in the office

Football helmets strung above Elder Lowe's desk. Just because.

No friends, this is not a sunny-side up egg.  It's dessert: a peach in a pool of sweetened condensed milk

Crazy missionary photo moments:  taking a picture of taking a picture of Elder Goodrich.

Elder Kennington says the church building they meet in is beautiful all over. Here's an example.

The church building where Elder Kennington attends church.

"This is how I keep myself entertained when my companion has a big project and can't get away.  Practicing juggling is a party .... Ha ha :)

Somebody got his package!!! Phew.

Sister Whitehead, the mission president's wife, sent home these two pics of Elders enjoying ping pong. 

Obviously not all hard work and no play! Elders Lowe, Medina, Goodrich, and Kennington.

One of Owen's former companions knows him so well! Elder Thompson found this goodie for Owen and sent it to him.
Aguas de Culturas!!!

President Whitehead and Elder Kennington

The baptizers and the baptizees. Such an exciting day.

Elder Kennington and his Culturas compadres

Elder Kennington and Elder Fjerstad -- they were in the same MTC district and knew each other before the mission