November 2, 2010
Hello again from sunny California! We are having another great week. I attached a picture of me, María (on the left) and Reina (on the right) at the baptism last Sunday. It was great. Reina, especially, has been waiting since May to be able to be baptized (Alberto has been a bit slow in deciding to be married).
Well, last Thursday, Elder Zwick of the Seventy came, and we had a multi-zone conference with the entire southern half of the mission. It was such a great zone conference (and we had pork barbecue sandwiches for lunch!). President Cook announced some changes that he was making to the mission, because he said that he has been recently worried that our mission is doing "too much scheduling, and too little planning" and said that we all need to think about the difference between "activity" and "accomplishment." It was really good. President Cook is so amazing. It wouldn't surprise me to see him give a talk at General Conference someday.
Then, Elder Zwick gave us a 2-hour lesson. It was great. He started off with the question, "Do you know Jesus Christ?" He told a lot of amazing stories, including one that happened 13 years ago in Brazil. Suddenly, the government decided to restrict the number of religious visas it would give (60 per month, to be divided among all churches applying). Obviously, that wouldn't do for the Church, which at that time already had hundreds of missionaries waiting to get visas to enter Brazil--and more were getting called. Additionally, the Brazilian government imposed a requirement that anybody who applied would need to have at least a bachelor's degree in religious theology (which no Elder in Brazil had). So Elder Zwick (who knows Portuguese) and a Brazilian member were asked to go and meet with the President of Brazil and the Secretary of State and plead the case of the Church. They prepared a presentation to try to show that the time spent by the average missionary in Primary, Young Men, seminary, and religious college classes was equal to a bachelor's degree, so that their missionaries could be considered for the visas...but they said they still had no idea how to ask for a higher allowance of visas.
The day finally came for the meeting, and Elder Zwick and the member (Moroni Torbillon) were sitting outside the president's office, when a secretary told them that the president of Mexico had arrived unexpectedly, and that the president could not meet with them at that time. He said they could either meet now with the Secretary of State and a representative of the president, or they could wait and meet with the president (and risk losing the Secretary of State). They decided to meet at that time with the Secretary of State and the president's representative, who ended up being from the department of Education. Before they could even start their presentation, the representative (who had only been minimally briefed on what the meeting was about), immediately started talking to the secretary of state, and said, "Mr. Secretary, I would like to tell you about two Mormon missionaries that I knew a long time ago. They used to visit my family quite frequently to teach us, and even though my family and I never joined their Church, I have always been impressed with how punctual and professional they always were. They were always on time, very obedient, and always had well-prepared and clear material to talk about. Mr. Secretary, based on personal experience, I would recommend that the Mormon Church be given as many religious visas as they require."
Elder Zwick said he and Moroni couldn't believe what was happening. The Secretary of State looked at them and said, "How many visas would you like?" Elder Zwick said he asked for 200 per month, and then the Secretary said, "I will personally see to it that you get 60 every week." Elder Zwick said that in the 13 years since then, Brazil has been baptizing about 80,000 people every year----all because of the examples of two missionaries, many years before, who taught a family who didn't want to get baptized. Elder Zwick said to always remember who we are and to show by our actions who we represent. Two obedient missionaries unknowingly saved all of the missionary work in Brazil.
Everything is going great. My second week as a district leader was just as busy as the first, but I'm getting used to it. We are teaching so many great people. An investigator who came to Church on Sunday told us that he felt "something" inside during the Church services, something great, and he said he was in a good mood all the rest of the day. We got to help rip up carpets and move furniture, and Bryan (the kid who brings me everything) even brought me a can of Coors Light the other day (I politely declined). Yesterday at a family home evening, we had these amazing taquitos. They were chicken taquitos, rolled in tortillas, and then placed on a plate and covered in lettuce, chile (salsa), crema (basically, really runny, thin sour cream), queso fresco (crumbly white cheese) and jalapeño peppers. It was so good. Although, jalapeño peppers don't seem hot at all to me any more. They seem more like candy.
Also, yesterday, I ate for the first time, chapulinas, which are.....(prepare yourself)......grasshoppers! They are seasoned and then deep-fried, and people eat them in handfuls like peanuts or popcorn (you can still see the legs, too). They were actually not too bad. They tasted sort of like the pretzel salt on giant soft pretzels. Let me know if you want me to send you some. Or, if you prefer, I can get the recipe and you can catch your own. Let me know.
Well, that's about all for today. Enjoy the rest of your week!