Monday, September 17, 2012

17 September 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm going to send a couple emails since these computers won't let me compress files/pictures. Expect 2-5 emails, only one with text.
This week has been a little less hectic than last week. As we've gotten settled and a little more of a grasp on things things have fallen into a place a bit more. That said, we're still working our way around things. 
One of the interesting things that the Church is doing with the mission vehicles is installing "little black boxes," known as Tiwi's. They're connected to the cars electronics to measure G forces, RPMs, top speed, etc, and compared to a GPS signal and measured speed limit on a certain road. If you go above it, you get three warnings. On the third, a report is sent to salt lake then forwarded to President Howes, the mission president. It will speak to you over the speakers and say, "check your speed," and then "speed violation recorded." It was cool for one day.
It has been funny to see people's reactions to us in the evening. We biked up to this one guy yesterday and started talking to him. When we first said "Hello," he wasn't facing towards us. He saw us, jumped, and started to run. When he realized we weren't cops, he started laughing. He was trippin hard and really drunk. Good guy, though. We had a nice conversation on how he has drawn closer to God when he has been in jail. He's on probation and not supposed to be drinking or smoking. Similarly, some of the latinos will jump and run from us because they think we are immigration or border patrol.
I was talking to the Mission President about how Prop 1027 has affected missionary work in Arizona. If you'll remember, Prop 1027 is about the legal immigration/illegal and search and arrests. He said millions, literally millions, have left Arizona and the amount of Spanish missionaries in the Tempe, Arizona mission have dropped to 30. There are ~200 total missionaries in this mission. 
Speaking of politics, the people here are surprisingly "loud" about what they think. Elder Sawyer and I were biking around the other day and came across a couple of guys drinking. We started talking to them about the Church. One of the guys suddenly asked us who we were voting for. Sawyer and I didn't say anything. Then the guy said all Mormons vote for Romney. I said, "this one isn't." I left it at that. He asked if I was a socialist then. When I said no, he said, "It's not about political parties anymore, it's about capitalism vs socialism." If I wasn't on my mission, I would have said that even the socialist party "disowns" Obama and asked the man if he liked the street his house was on since it was paid for through "communal" taxes. Luckily I held back. After I saw one Elder freak out in the MTC (literally yelling about politics. Not my fault! I was just asking questions) I've been working on cutting back on that. It is actually surprisingly hard. Even the members here like to talk about Romney. In a Correlation meeting we had (talking about ward missionary work with ward members), this one guy spent about five minutes talking about how Romney will be the savior of missionary work and the church will grow so quickly as a result of his name being out there. I put my head down, bit my lip, and tried to zone out. He went on about how he wishes everyone had the vision he had. If I wasn't on a mission, I would have said something like him being president can go two ways. It can go really well for the church, or it can follow the trend that almost all US Presidents face, and that is, being hated by the world because we go and do whatever we want, whenever, wherever. There's a reason the world hates US Presidents. And then as you said Dad, what if the world hates him and starts taking missionary VISAs away? Based on what Romney has said in the past about increased military use, who knows. But I'm on a mission so I stay quiet on these topics for 2 years. Some people get too emotionally involved in politics. Once emotions get involved, logic and manners go out the window. It isn't worth ruining a missionary relationship over politics. But really, staying quiet on that is way hard.
Elder Sawyer and I went biking thrice this week. We did two half days and one full day. On the full day we went 21 miles, and we went 7 and 9 on the two half days. We're sitting at a solid 37 miles this week. My "cyclometer" has a thermometer on it that measures the temp at ground level which is more likely what it is for us since the waves reflect off the pavement. It has been between 102-117. I'd say it's accurate to +-3 degrees. It gets to 100 degrees at night which is nice and down to 85-90 in the late night. 
We have also started going to the gym most mornings. They have ergs/rowing machines! I've been doing 1k sprints, then running a mile, then weights. Weights are boring.
We got anti'd this week! We biked past this guy who yelled, "mormons er'y mile!" We laughed and kept going. About two minutes later we heard someone yelling at us. Turning around, we saw Thomas biking as fast as he could at us. We laughed again and stopped to let him catch us. He was yelling, "hey, want to learn about the Bible?" We said, "do you?" He went off on how the Catholic church was The Antichrist and church of the devil, how the world was created in one day and not seven, and some more crazy things. After 30 minutes, we just left him. He was probably 65 and definitely not "all there." Mexicans are nice. I'm turning into one since I'm red now. 
Is Mark home?
I got chased by my first dog! Luckily I was on my bike but that thing jumped the fence and ran after me. Once I noticed that it was right behind my heel (on my bike, I was), I braked hard and swerved into it. It barely missed my tire and ran off. I won.
It has been fun to see how many people have never heard of Joseph Smith here. It provides us the opportunity to teach from scratch and not have to dispel misbeliefs like that we're Amish. We get that one here.
We met one guy in a trailer park. He looked pretty high. We spoke to him a bit and then he asked, "hey guys, do you mind if I come chill at your place for a bit?" Never expected to hear that one. 
We ate this corn soup thing this week. It was the worst texture. Other than that, I'm surviving. I think that beans are going to become my new favorite food whether I want them to or not. People eat a lot of beans.
We did a deep clean of our apartment this week. We have to do one more since we have cleaning checks this week. We can't walk barefoot since our feet turn black. We spent about 2 hours vacuuming, cleaning window sills, and finding junk everywhere. We have a long way to go. We are getting a floor cleaner thing this week, we need it bad. 
Mom and Dad, I'm missing an SD card I sent home ~3 weeks ago.
Mom, please link this talk here. "The Peace and Joy of knowing our Savior Lives." Russel M. Nelson 2011 in December. ( ). In there is this great quotation by Joseph Smith, "The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again on the 3rd day, and ascended into Heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it."
I've noticed gas prices have shot up in  recent days. I asked one of the members about it and he laughed when I told him that gas prices usually follow world crisis. He told me that indeed there have been many as US ambassadors have been killed in the middle east. Is that true? 
We were biking two nights ago down a hill. Elder Sawyer was in front, I was following. We got going pretty quick. As we were going down, I felt as if I should slow down. Just as I did, a car flew past the stop sign and would have hit me had I not slowed down. I was able to turn myself and go behind it. Little promptings save lives. 
Quick question: why does the church buy different makes of different cars? In Yuma zone alone we have a Chevy Malibu, my swagger wagon - the Dodge Caravan (I think that's the name..), a Pontiac Vibe, and two Corollas. I imagine it's due to deals the church is given but who knows.
I forgot to mention this one last week. Apparently in the Tempe zone the members are very...involved in every day lives of missionaries. I think it was President Kimball who used to say, "every member a missionary." President Howes likes to say, "Every member a mission president." Apparently they get calls if missionaries haven't shined their shoes, if they're driving too fast, etc. So funny. Luckily that doesn't happen much (to my knowledge) in Yuma.
I got called on to give a talk in our Spanish branch yesterday. They gave me plenty of warning, a solid 10 minutes. We were getting ready to leave our apartment when the phone rang and the second counselor, Hermano Steenstra (from Netherlands, fluent in English, dutch, Spanish), said that their speaker cancelled and if I could speak. I wasn't too nervous but my limited vocabulary made it...interesting. I shared Isaiah 41:10 and how we can get strength through Christ etc etc. 
We have an investigator who is rock solid. She's ~20, has a strong catholic background, and draws all these great connections between the bible stories and the readings that she is doing in the Book of Mormon. She gives insightful feedback that I learn from and has enjoyed our visits and church. One time we stood up, forgetting to say a closing prayer, and she said, "hey. don't you leave without saying the prayer!" Needless to say she's progressing well.
I was wrong about Dear Elders! I got one from William this week. You just have to pay for postage to get it directly to me. It comes in an envelope. I think you can get them printed at the mission home but they take 3-6 weeks to get to me if you don't pay for postage (45 cents) and send it to me. To clarify: if you pay for the postage stamp on a dear elder, it will get to me in ~3 days and will be mailed directly to our apartment. If you do not, it will be printed at the mission home and take 3-6 weeks to get to me. So pay the 45 cents for a stamp!

Thanks Natalia, Sister Hines, and William for the letters! It is great to hear from you all. Replies are in the mail.

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