Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hard Work, Prayer, Learning, and a Miracle

Hullo there! 

This last week was really really good. Full of hard work, prayer, learning, and a full blown miracle. 

We have three investigators and families that are progressing really well right now. Christina is one of our best. She is the wife of a member, and loves the church. She is going to be getting baptized this Sunday. While she comes from a very strong Cristiano background, she has a testimony of the Book of Mormon and that has been the thing that has helped her the most. We are very excited for her to have this opportunity to make a covenant with God and have her progress skyrocket. 

 The next best is a madre soltera named Alejandra. She has been struggling with smoking for a long time, but a very good lesson and a brilliant plan set up by Elder Adams (we were in divisions that day) she decided to quit and is doing great. She has a son that is living at home with her who had all sorts of problems with drugs and smoking, but is now also progressing. Alejandra also will be getting baptized this Sunday, and she can hardly wait. She is an old investigator from the sisters that were working here a while back. We have a few other investigators and families that are also progressing and really excited about the Gospel, three of which looks like they will be able to get baptized this coming change. Quite frankly, this area is incredible! 

The miracle that the Lord blessed us with yesterday made me even more certain of this fact. 

During our companionship study the sisters in Independencia called us up saying that there was an investigator in church from our area, and that we needed to go talk with him THAT instant. So we packed up everything and dashed on up to the chapel.  This man has been an investigator for at least 3 years. His wife has been a member for all her life, but he hasn't wanted to get baptized this whole time. Until they found out that they were expecting a child. The realization that he is going to be a father catapulted his testimony from a seed to a tree bearing fruit, and he told us that he wanted to get baptized as soon as possible. We were flabbergasted. Due to his work he will need to wait until next week to get baptized, but he can hardly wait. 

We grabbed the bishop, who happened to be there with us, so that they could meet each other and the bishop got extremely excited about him as well. He has a lot of leadership potential in the church.

Elder Puca and I are doing well. These last two changes have flown by. I am excited for this coming change. I am very curious to see what you [President Whitehead] and the Lord have in store for me, and for this area. Hope that everything goes smoothly in the offices! 

The ward is doing alright. It is still struggling a little bit with the schisms in between the members and the leaders. While there is a lot of excitement for the mission work here in Haciendas they are still struggling a little bit with general unity. The leaders are all united with the leaders, and the other members are all united with each other, but there is still a little bit of a gap between the two parties. 

That being said, this ward is still incredibly hard working and good at mission work. :) The ward did an incredible job with a ward activity for the 15th of September! It was great to have somewhere else to be than the street for that night. There were a lot of drunk people, fireworks (never a good combination... :) ), and general partying. We were just fine, and it sounds like nothing bad happened in the mission, so we are all happy. :) The ward activity was a lot of fun. Full of dancing, Posole (the national food for this day), giving of spiritual messages (on the part of the missionaries and the bishopric), and fake mustaches. :) We had a few investigators that also made it, and they loved it! We are hoping that the hermanamiento that they received will help them to feel more comfortable at church and with our various invitations. 

That about wraps it up down here. The mission is wonderful! Thank you all so much for the birthday wishes and for everything you do. I love you all so very much. Go have the best day yet! :D 
Elder Kennington

The ward activity celebrating September 15 (a huge national holiday in Mexico).  Not sure those mustaches are Missionary Department regulation wear!

A member of the bishopric

We had this crazy hail this week that left a blanket of what looked like snow.  I felt like I was back in Utah! :)

Mexico City Temple Rededication

Hey Presidente!

This last week was different. Very different. For starters it was very strange for me and Elder Puca to have to commit people to church in two weeks as opposed to that very Sunday. The need and excitement to help our investigators to come to church Sunday has always been something that has really motivated me, and it changed my perspective a little bit having to do it differently. It was a good change. It helped me to really practice finding the needs of the investigator and the importance of teaching to those needs.

The [Mexico City Temple] rededication was incredible. Elder Puca and I were able to go to two of the sessions, the first and the second. I liked them both, quite a bit. The second had my two favorite talks, by Elder Piper and by Elder Holland. I particularly liked what Elder Piper had to say about sacrificing. As I was thinking and studying about it I am coming to realize the daily role that sacrifice has in our lives. I always thought about it as something that we did when things were desperate. But that is not the case! Just as we are changing every day, we are sacrificing with every decision we make. We can choose to do something good, or to abstain from something bad. Or we can choose to do something bad, or abstain from doing something good. And as we do so, we either come closer to God (which is called repentance), or we distance ourselves from him (which is disobedience/sin). As such, every time we are making a decision to sacrifice something bad/ok/good for the best. Or we are sacrificing the best for something not so worth it. I am convinced that each decision we make will bring us to the crossroads of "sacrificing for" or "making sacrice of" the following:

-Our Eternal Family
-Our relationship with God
-Our worthiness to hold a temple recommend
-Our covenants
-Our divine nature

It helped me to put things back into perspective. I can now ask myself with each little every-day choice, "is it worth it?" I promise that sacrificing FOR the above is always the right choice.

The ward is doing ok. It is struggling in a few aspects. A lot of the members are getting offended with each other (because we are all imperfect and sometimes it is hard to realize that even someone in your same religion has flaws), and with the leaders (because their teenagers weren't able to receive recommends and the like), including some of the best member missionaries we have. Our ward mission leader has been inactive for a few weeks now, and the others are struggling too. In order for us to get things on track with our investigators as well we need to help the ward out.

Our investigators are doing great. We have a mom and a son that are both recovering from a cigarette and drug addiction, and will be getting baptized on the 27th. They are extremely enthusiastic about the Gospel, and can hardly wait for each time we come by. We also have another incredible investigator who has been married to an inactive member. She was part of the Christian church, but is now convinced that we are right. She has a testimony of the Book of Mormon; actually, the Book of Mormon has been our most effective tool with her. She loves it! The only thing holding her back is fear of her family and fear of letting go of what she is familiar with. In addition to them we have a couple other investigators that are progressing slowly, and have great possibilities.

Elder Puca and I are doing really well. We are learning how to teach and work better together every day. I am very grateful for the chance that I have to be his companion. He has taught me a lot about working hard with real intention in every moment; being consistent as a missionary and as a representative as Jesus Christ.

That about wraps it up on this end! Thank you all for everything you do! I love you so very much! 
Elder Kennington
Ew. Just realized that next week I turn 20. That is nasty. :)

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  Did you ever get the seat of your suit pants sewn up? The ones that blew out on you? 
A:  No... :P I still have them in my suitcase with good intentions though... :) 

Q:  What is the geography of your area? Hilly? Flat? Both? 
A:  Super super flat. And dusty. With dogs everywhere. With the exception of two that have adopted us and love us, the rest really make me wish that that paint-ball guns were standard missionary issue. 

Q:  Where do you do your grocery shopping right now? 
A:  We have a Wal Mart again about half an hour away. Yup. Living the high life here in Haciendas! :D 

Q:  Do your investigators (thinking about all the areas you have been in) all have pretty similar challenges for people to join the church? 
A:  Yes. In the end of things, the big challenges that they have for joining the church are: 
 -Lack of understanding of the doctrine 
 -Lack of desire -Social fears 
 -The many oppositions of life (deaths in the family, lack of money, the very strong Catholic roots, etc.) 

Q:  What will you be doing on September 15? 
A:  Working as normal, until 6 or 7 when it starts to get dark. Then I expect that we will be passing that time in the house. It always gets a little interesting here in Mexico that day. Lots of drinking and drugs and the like. I am so grateful that I have the added protection of being a missionary of the Lord. :) 

Q:  Is your climate staying steady or will you even notice it’s fall? 
A:  It is pretty steady. The major difference in climates is when it is raining and when it isn't. :) That is about the only thing that changes!

Toluca Zone Conference

The cultural hall where the missionaries hold zone conference

Elder Alpuche y Elder Puca

The birthday missionary got his birthday package from home

Birthday goodies from Presidente y Hermana Whitehead

A Herbie bug!

Part of Elder Kennington's area at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Last Three Weeks of Letters and Pictures

September 7, 2015
Wow. This last week was good. Full of surprises and other challenges.

First off, we had someone who was going to get baptized. His name is Arturo. He's about 40, with a 25 year old son who lives at home with all sorts of problems. We had the impression that we needed to visit him this last Tuesday. We got to the door and he was in tears telling us about the fight that he had just had with his son. We asked a couple questions, and then listened carefully as he told us what was going on.

After he was done telling us about what happened he looked us in the eye and said, "You know what? I've been thinking about it. I want to get baptized this Sunday." We were speechless. The Spirit was so strong.

But, the adversary doesn't leave anyone alone. That night his sister passed away suddenly in D.F., and he got swept up in funeral plans and mourning with the family, about two hours away from here. We haven't seen him since then.... But we have very high hopes for him. When he gets back we will be teaching him about the Plan of Happiness and how he can be with his sister forever.

The ward is doing well. We have a lot of people that are going to be a great support base for Arturo when he gets back, including the ward council. The bishop is really excited about the work that we are doing.

Elder Puca and I are doing well as well. We are learning how to teach and work with more unity every day, which is sometimes a little tricky due to the language barrier (because my Spanish is far from perfect), but he is very humble and loving. Something I really appreciate. We have a couple more people that, if we teach unitedly and with the Spirit, can also get baptized over the next couple weeks.

Thank you all for everything you do! I love you!
Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  What is the latest you have heard on Jairo?
A:  It sounds like his health is a better. It's very hard to find out because the elders over there are being bums and forgetting to ask for me. :) Haha. :)

Q:  What is your most recent cultural experience or location you have visited?
A:  Um... Everyone is getting ready for the 15 of Sept., the Mexico Independence Day. This day is HUGE for Mexico. It is going to be a little crazy. :) Right now there are flags and banners and the cultural food EVERYWHERE. And lots of beanabag chilis wearing sombreros holding Mexican flags and beer decorating everything.

Q:  Do you ever have the older young men in the ward go on splits with you?
A:  Yep! We try to take out two every day. The lessons are always so much more powerful with the members here!

Q:  Do the missionaries play jokes on each other?
A:  Not too often. To be frank we are all so busy running around right now that there really isn't time. Just the one time that, when I was in the offices, the assistants and I jumped Elder Goodrich and shaved his legs. Yup. Nothing much else. :) Haha.

Elder Kennington claims this is a corn field...

The whole Mexico City West Mission, with Elder and Sister Christofferson.  Elder Kennington is on the back row, 16th from the right.  If you click on the photo it will enlarge.

August 31, 2015

We had a good week this last week, in terms of finally finding those good investigators that can progress towards baptism, along with finding a few miracles along the way. We have a lot of good leña right now that can become incredible members of the church and help this ward in its goal to divide again in this year that is coming. We have struggled a little bit with finding that incredible family that is really going to set this ward on fire.

After thinking and analyzing what was going on we found some of the things that we lacked and that we allowed to prevent us from doing so. I guess, that was the key right there. That we allowed the circumstances to get in the way of our plans, as opposed to creating the ideal circumstances ourselves. Being creatures of circumstance, as opposed to creators of circumstance, I guess.

In that, we also learned a lot in the conference we had last Tuesday and the conference with Elder Christofferson about teaching and working with the Spirit that we have been applying and seeing lots of success. We have high goals for the month of September, especially to make up for this last month.

The conference with Elder Christofferson was incredible. He was the first Apostle that I have met face to face, and it was wonderful. We took a quick photo right off the bat, and then all got to greet him. I could only think back to Elder Ballard's talk this last conference where he said that a handshake was almost as good as a personal interview for him, making me super self-conscious about everything as I waited in line... :) Haha.

The conference itself was incredible. The spirit was so strong. He talked a lot about the spirit and three keys to completing well the mission work. Having a spirit of revelation, a spirit of prophecy, and the authorization of the Holy Priesthood of God. These three things are what make us different as missionaries from everyone else that teaches about Jesus. When you throw the message of the Restoration on top of all that, it makes this work absolutely unstopppppable (sorry about the extra p's. The key stuck. But this work is pretty darn unstoppable, so it strikes me as appropriate leaving it as it is. :)). I hope to meet many apostles yet in my life. I would give anything to do so.

The ward is doing well, getting more animated about the work each day. We as missionaries are doing our best to visit the ward and keep them going and excited about the mission work. The secret to this ward is maintaining the missionary spirit here. If we keep visiting the members and encouraging them and loving them and serving them, then the references that we receive from them are incredible.

We just found a young woman yesterday, for example, through a member who has been going to church for months and has loved it. We have an appointment with her today, and we are extremely excited.

Elder Puca and I are doing really well. The harder we work and the more focused we get the more I come to realize how far I still have to go to become a Christlike missionary. I guess that has to do with the fact that each day we both come to understand better our Savior, and just how perfect he is. Today in our companionship study we spent time discussing this last month, what we were doing well, where we need to improve, and setting goals for doing so. We now have our plan, and we've decided to call it Plan Zapatos Rotos, for the hard work that it involves. We hope to see many fruits from it.

That about wraps it up on this end. I love you all!
Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  How big is your ward? How does it compare in size to previous wards you have been in?
A:  I am still not certain about how many members the ward has, but we do have about 130 coming to church each Sunday, which is AWESOME considering the ward just split this last May. They are doing so well that the goal is to divide the ward again this coming year!

Q: Is there bull fighting in Mexico still?
A:  Ummm.. Not that I have gathered. I wouldn't be suprised. The thing is that the closest I get to the news here is catching the odd unfortunate glimpse of a magazine (which is unfortunate because they are usually reporting some brutal murder or porn. :P), so I have kind of stopped paying attention to things that don't happen commonly right in my area... Aside from the escape of el Chapo. That was all over the place. :)

Q:  Have you learned how to prepare any authentic Mexican food?
A:  Yep! I will be making tortillas for you when I get home. Try to get the family ready for spicy, beacuse Mexican food isn't the same without it! ;) I really want to learn how to make all of the rice they do here. It isn't our boring water and rice combination, but a mix of tomatoes and spices and everything heavenly this world has to offer. :)

Q:  What did you think of the contents of the last package I sent you? What was especially good? What wasn’t useful/helpful?
A:  It was awesome. The food was all great. I still haven't found a creative way to use the hamburger helper or the spices, because good safe meat is so hard to get where I am at. I don't trust the missionary fridge. :) Haha. I loved the little packaged foody items like the caramels, the Jif peanut butter things, and the like. Quite frankly, the package was awesome. :):)

Elder Puca

I believe the above picture explains the below picture...

Photo from the Mission Conference with Elder Christofferson.  It was a gigantic mission reunion.  Elder Kennington got to see former mission companions, missionaries with whom he had arrived in the mission, and even missionaries from his MTC district in Provo, Utah.
A mess o' missionaries?  A mass o' missionaries? A flock? A congregation? A platoon?  We need a good collective noun for this.  Maybe a Mission of Missionaries?

Elder Goff from Elder Kennington's MTC district a year ago.

MTC buddies from the same MTC district a year ago. Elder Kennington and Elder Gale

Elder Kennington and Elder Fjerstad, another elder from Elder Kennington's MTC district.

I believe these are the elders that Elder Kennington arrived with in the mission a year ago.

Elder Gavilla and Elder Kennington, with a photobomber in the background. Elder Kennington trained Elder Gavilla.

Elder Medina, Elder Kennington's second mission companion from Universidad in Toluca.

We'll try this again, sans glasses

That Elder Medina, always a ham!

August 24, 2015
AGH I have no time right now!

This one is going to have to be a little bit shorter.

Elder Puca and I got to go to the [Mexico City] temple open house this last week with some of our investigators, and they loved it! We are so excited for them. A married couple we brought loved it in particular, we have high hopes for them in these following weeks. If you could please keep Don Arturo and Leticia in your prayers, that would be incredible. They have a very great potential.

I am really really excited for the chance that we will have this week to listen to Elder Christofferson. He is coming on Saturday to visit the mission, and it is going to be incredible!

Also can't believe that we are now wrapping up with August. Time is flying.

 Love you all! Hope that you have a great week!
 Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  What is this story about eating grasshoppers?
A:  This member family went on vacation to Cuernavaca and they brought them back for us to try. I loved them. Elder Puca gagged a little, but said he liked them through watering eyes. :) Haha. Crunchy.

Q:  Tell us a little more about what Elder Puca is like?
A:  He is very quiet with me. He is hard working, and doing his best to learn here on the mission. As he spent eight months in another mission waiting for visa, he is struggling with getting used to how things work here. It is the polar opposite of how it was.

Q:  Who are you teaching right now?
A:  We are teaching a married couple that we found through some members that we are really excited for. We just went to the temple this last Saturday for the open house and took all the investigators we could, and these in particular loved it! We are very ecxited about them. You remember the family that we were teaching with the mom and four sons? The mom and two of the sons got a little disinterested, but we keep working with the oldest son. I am almost exactly one year older than he is. He turns 19 this September. :) Our investigator pool is pretty big, but we still don't have that family of gold to cap it all off. We have high hopes for some of the first appointments that we have this week. :):)

Q:  How did the mini MTC activity go?
A:  It went really well! The youth got really excited and have been sharing the Gospel like crazy since. We have spent a lot of time doing divisions, for example, with the priests. These youth are going to be incredible missionaries. There are about forty young men and women in this ward, and all of them want to serve missions. It is going to be incredible when they all make it out!

The Mexico City Temple Open House:
Exterior detail

Temple flowerbeds

Elder Kennington, Elder Puca, and an investigator?

Elder Kennington and Elder Puca; Mexico City Temple

Elder Puca