Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Hot Week for Baptisms and Chiles

This last week was phenomenal. We spent it running around getting everything ready for the baptism of the Cordova Perez Family, but it was well worth the work. This beautiful family has been prepared so well by the Lord to be members of His kingdom here on earth, and I am so happy to see them so happy.

We are working very hard right now with a mom and her son, Marta y Noe. They both have baptismal dates for this next week and are very excited; we are only worried about Noe. He has to leave almost every weekend to go take his kids with their mom (he is divorced), and she lives in D.F. We are hoping and praying that everything goes well. This is another little family that has been extremely well prepared by the Lord. They have their hermanamiento*, the bishopric knows them, and they are doing great all around.

We have another guy named Nathaniel that is doing well. He is the 18 year old boyfriend of a member, so we were a little skeptical at first as to the depth of his interest. As things turns out, he is extremely interested, and loves to learn about the gospel. We have a few weeks working with him. He has a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, and says himself that he wants to get baptized. We are hoping that he could also make it for this Sunday, but it all depends on whether or not his dad makes him come on this forever-long vacation with the family.

Elder Fjerstad and I are doing extremely well. We work well together, with an awesome balance of working and having fun. In between finding new investigators and trying out new mexican recipes in the house after we are done planning, I have been very happy these last two changes; happier, I believe, than I have ever been in my mission.

There is also this chile we just discovered called the chile Miracielo. And Elder Fjerstad and I ate the thing raw. It is spicier than an habanero and the most delicious thing on the face of the planet.

I love you all! :D
Elder Kennington

*Mom note:  Google Translate has let me down.  It translates this as "twinning" but I am guessing he means "visiting teachers."

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q: How is the safety in your area? Kyle Thompson was saying Chamapa was actually a rather scary place.
A: There are a couple colonies here where we don't go after night, but apart from that where we are at is ok. :) We live in this tiny little gated privada, which is plenty secure. Haha... Chamapa was a lot of fun... It was very sketchy out there, but nothing ever happened to me. The only good story I have is where they crucified people as part of the Holy Week celebrations and with their crucifiction and road to Golgotha reinactment.

Q: Are there scary things you are not telling me so I don’t worry? You had better tell me! It won’t make me worry because I know the Lord is watching out for you; He is a much powerful guardian of your safety than I ever could be.
A: Nope! I still haven't gotten jumped, robbed, or anything like that. Last night we were out a little late in Santiago Miltepec, which gets a little sketchy after dark. We had this guy that was high on PVC glue that was wandering around shouting swear words and beating the tar out of this litte puppy he had. But he didn't touch the gueros. :)

Q: How are the juntas going? Do you feel like you are getting more comfortable conducting them? 
A: I feel like they are gettign better every time. The hard thing at first is that I didn't have lots of experience with talking in front of lots of people before the mission. Everytime I was in front of lots of people it was with a little fancy chunk of wood that made cool sounds, which is a heck of a lot easier in my opinion. :)

Funny Mom observation here.  Elder Kennington can stand very close to his companion or other male members of the church, but he subconsciously stands quite a bit further away from the sisters!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Weddings and Baptisms


This last week was all over the place. 

Firstly, we were running all around trying to get everything good to go with the marriage that we were going to do. To Ocoyoacac and back several times, with a whole lot of running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to find an birth certificate that we were missing. It was a lot of fun... But it got done. It was a beautiful marriage, and the happy couple is indeed a happy couple. They (Antonio and Marisol) are getting baptized this Sunday, and they are very ready. We are extremely excited for them! 

We have a couple other families that are doing well, but all are struggling. They usually have just one person in the whole family that doesn't want anything to do with us or the Restored Gospel, and it is making it quite the challenge to help the rest of the family truly get progressing. Usually the big resistance that we are finding is someone that is catholic, and simply can't bear to let go of their traditions. We are looking to see if hermanamiento from the ward can help fix that. I love being in a ward that is more than happy to work. 

We do have one other family that is progressing nicely who will be getting baptized on the 29th (Marta, the mom, and Noe, the son). They are really excited about the gospel and, after having started tentatively investigating with the other son that got baptized more than 20 years ago, they are finally ready to become official members of the church. We have walked by their house a million times, but this a few weeks ago was the first time that there was someone outside (Marta, who was bathing the dog at the time), and we simply felt like we needed to talk with them. ... Now we know why. 

Our work is going well with the ward. We had a ward activity a couple weeks ago that dropped a mountain of references on our heads that we are trying to visit right now. There is one really good family that has come out of that list so far that we are certain are going to become great members of the church. 

Elder Fjerstad and I are doing really really well. I haven't worked this well with anyone for a very very long time in my mission. We have a really good rhythm down for teaching, finding, all while having the time of our lives. I am really enjoying these changes out here in Haciendas. I am a little heartbroken that it is possible that I won't spend Christmas here, as the changes are one week before. 

A couple months ago President Whitehead gave us all the challenge of reading the Book of Mormon before Christmas, and I took the challenge to heart. I am currently finishing up Helaman, and loving it. I have learned so much from that little blue book over the past few months, and I have had a wonderful Spirit pervade my work since the day that I started. There are few ways that God has shown His love for us as His children as powerful, compelling, and valuable as the Book of Mormon. So many lives paid for our opportunity to open and read of God's dealings with His children. 

I love you all so very much! You are wonderful! 
Elder Kennington 

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q: What do you do on Sundays? 
A: We dash around like maniacs trying to get all the investigators up and going and coming to church, then get to church (the services here are at 1:30 pm. SUPER LATE. UGH. :) Haha. ), while we are at church we use that as an opportunity to coordinate all of our work with the members during the week (and one of us goes to consejo de barrio -- ward council -- whenever we can), and then we finish up, help out with one of the baptisms (there are four wards that use our chapel to baptize), get home, eat, do some last visits, and then dash on back to the house. Sundays are usually the most tiring days of the week. 

Q: Are you still district leader? 
A: Yup. In our district we have Elder Medina, who is training a brand new missionary, Hermana Sanchez, who finishes her mission this change, and then another sister, who is just kind of... Here. :P

An awesome family home evening that included Marisol y Antonio y Renata, their three-year-old daughter.  Elder Kennington and Elder Fjerstad are in the middle of the photo.

Stopped in to visit a recent convert and discovered it was her birthday.  Elder K and Elder F sang to her, which tickled her whole family because apparently "not a lot of people here that have an idea of how to sing."  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

One More Change in Haciendas


Phew. We are excited. :) 

We are seeing a lot of success with the ward here. We just did a ward activity this last Saturday that worked really well. We sent up a bunch of carpas (how do you say that in English?) and had a little open house with little booths for each church organization (Relief Society, Quorum de Elderes, etc.), and then had the biggest tent reserved where the ward mission leader and the ward missionaries conducted people on a little path that explained about the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and other topics that feature the Restoration and the Plan of Salvation. We saw a lot of success, and have more than 20 references to visit this week, many of which have large families. We are very hopeful. 

Today we went out to Ocoyoacac to get marriage papers in for a couple that is getting married this Friday. The family is incredible, and very excited for their baptismal date. They will be getting baptized on the 22nd. The mom and dad (Marisol y Antonio) are both ecstatic about what they are learning in the church and the Spirit that they feel there. Marisol comes from a Catholic background, and Antonio was completely athiest. They have both progressed so much, and are so happy that everything is coming together. They will be phenomenal members of the church. 

We have one other family that is really awesome that we just found. A mom (Jessica), the dad (Gregorio), and then three sons between the ages of 8 and 13. The oldest son has been studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses, but has not been corrupted yet. He understands really well the scriptures (better than most adults and even some missionaries :) ), and is really excited. The dad isn't all too impressed with us, but from what we could tell it has to do with fear. Fear of something new, güeros, and something that implies commitment. We are working through that now, and hope to see them becoming members of the church this next change. 

Elder Fjerstad and I are doing great! We have found a great balance of having fun and working hard, which is also yielding lots of fruits in our everyday work. I could not love the mission more. 

Thank you all so much for all that you do! I love you so much! Have a wonderful week! 

Elder Kennington 

Preguntas Bien Rapidito 
Q: Did you get all of your ward mission lesson things all written up and ready to go? 
A: Yep! And we are working on more. The idea is that the ward missionaries go around sharing them and teaching and inspiring the members becase missionaries come and go. Elder Fjerstad and I want to have an impact that lasts far beyond the length of our stay. I am really excited that we have one more change to make it even bigger. :) 

Q: How are the three newly-baptized sisters doing (Giselle and her sisters)? 
A: They are doing great! Their dad is getting worse and worse. Hortencia (the mom) is seriously considering getting separated from him. It breaks my heart to see the family struggle, but they are becoming stronger because of it. They are incredible incredible converts. :):) 

Q: Any news on Jairo, your first baptism who had cancer? 
A: No. I still haven't found out anything, aside from that he is still alive and doesn't believe in God. :/ Things are looking pretty dismal for his family. The dad is worse than ever. Italia is still active, but struggling too. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Working Hard With a Side of Volcano Hiking

Hey all!

This last week was phenomenal, and full of hard work. Elder Fjerstad and I are really trying to find another good family of five that can get baptized this next change, and we have felt a lot of the guidance of the Spirit this week. Though we had a couple of fechas fall, it was still very productive and helped us to see best where we need to keep spending our time.

Elder Fjerstad and I just finished a few lesson plans that we have put together to give the members, with the goal of helping them to want to share the gospel and magnify their callings (which always has resulted in more baptisms from what I have seen before), and we are really excited to start edifying the members. The idea is that we have them written down so that the ward missionaries can give the lessons, because we, the elders, only stay a short time in each area and often when one elder leaves all the work he left behind with the members just kind of dies away. The goal is that we can make a lasting impact on this ward in such a way as to result in continued teaching and working together, members and missionaries.

The work with the members is going well. We have a big open house this Saturday that the bishop has organized with the goal of giving us a mountain of references and we are very excited. They even printed out flyers and the like, and we will be handing those out over the course of this week. The bishop has very high hopes for the turnout of this activity. We have even higher. :)

The district is doing ok. I am very worried especially about the sisters in Sauces 1. They really don't have anyone progressing, and each time that we go out there to try and help them teach or look for new investigators, I gather that the reference that they got is not good, or that the investigator isn't home, and the like. The Elders have also been really struggling. We will be doing lots of interchanges this week to keep them going and excited. It is a huge privilege to have an ex-zone leader and an ex-assistant in the district to help me out and teach me how to do things. I have learned a lot from the elders and sisters here!

That is about all that I have for this week. Thank you all so much for everything you do. I love you guys! You're the best! Go eat lots of chocolate for me. :)
Elder Kennington

Preguntas Bien Rapidito
Q:  When is/are the next change dates?
A:  The next change date is the ninth, one week from today... O.o I would have to check. Next change is only five weeks, and the following one will be seven. Weird Christmas flight stuff. :)

Q:  Has Presidente Whitehead said anything about his July release?
A:  He gets released TWO WEEKS BEFORE I do.... :( That means my last interview with Presidente in the mission will be from someone else completely different. I know he will be an incredible man, and perfect for me and the mission, but I was a little disappointed after I found out. :)

Q:  How was Dia de los Muertos? (it’s becoming bigger here)
A:  It was pretty normal. Unfortunately here the Halloween cultura is doing a massive takeover. It was more Halloween than anything. it was a lot more tranquilo. Lo que pasa es que aca no tienen tanto, asi que los niños y niñas no salen con disfraces y todo esto para pedir dulces. Me gusta mucho mas Halloween en los Estados Unidos. :) [it was a lot more quiet. What happens is that here they do not have much, so children do not come with all this costume and trick or treating. I like Halloween much more in the United States. :)]

Q:  What are some of the “hard” questions you get asked as missionaries about the gospel or about God? -
"So I didn't get baptized by the priesthood. Does that mean that my baptism isn't valid?"
 - "Well, God is everywhere. All religions are good, and they all believe in the same God. So it doesn't matter where I am because everything goes to the same end in their own way, right?"

Q:  How do you handle those questions? Maybe give one answer to one of the questions you get asked?
A:  We always try to handle them very carefully, especially that first question. The way that we answer it is usually the difference between a baptism and an offended investigator. We do our best to just show them how Jesus Christ was baptized. There is a scripture story that I always like using too that is in Acts, where some people who were baptized by John the Baptist later got rebaptized by Paul. It usually helps them to see the truth without feeling like we are attacking them.

Picture time...
I painted Elder Fjerstad's face Halloween night just for fun.  He is a handsome stud!

A visit to Nevado de Toluca, an extinct volcano located southwest of Toluca.
The peak is 15,354 feet above sea level, with the crater basin at about 13,800 feet. There are two lakes in the crater: Lago del Sol (Lake of the Sun, and the larger of the two) and Lago de la Luna (Lake of the Moon).

Elder Kennington said the drive took about 2 hours to get there, although he did not say who took them.

I just had to take a Smeagol picture. It was perfect for that. :)

Badges under the crystal clear water.

I totally won the rock skipping competition. :)  11 skips, thank you very much :) Lago del Sol:

Elder Fjerstad and Elder Adams.

Elder Fjerstad, Elder Adams background.  Elder Kennington looking thoughtful.

Nevado crater walls.  The last time it erupted was 10,500 years ago.

Elder Adams, Elder Fjerstad, Elder Kennington, Elder Medina. Lago del Sol (Lake of the Sun).

Lago de la Luna (Lake of the Moon).

Lago de la Luna on the left and Lago del Sol on the right.

We took the son of a member with us and he got very tired. Heck I was out of breath after about 2 minutes of walking up a slight incline.  I am not kidding!  :) But it was wonderful.  It is ridiculously high above sea level.

This is in the car going away from the Nevado. It was BEAUTIFUL. Quite frankly, I felt like I was in a temple while I was there. I really want to take you beautiful folks out here one day. :):):) The drive over there was decent ( a couple of hours), and though the hiking trail was very short it was very laborous. There is almost no oxygen up there!