Monday, March 31, 2008

Map of Texas & the World


Dear Family: Just a quick update: We were without power in our new apartment until Wednesday, when we came home and saw the porch light on. Today we finally closed the lease on the other apartment, and so we are officially out of there. We also had our interviews with President for the upcoming transfer, I'll let you know where I end up. This Sunday we had some big ups and downs. We have this recent convert who got baptized about a month ago, but hasn't come to church to get confirmed, and last sunday night, we finally found her. It turns out she had a big family emergency and had to go to Monterrey, Mexico, to figure it out and because she was across the border she couldn't contact us. So we went by a few times this past week, and she was really excited to come back to church and get confirmed and everything, but we haven't heard from her so we are waiting to set that up. We were able to teach that one miracle family that I told you about (the guy that said he was waiting for us) and it went really well. We were able to teach him his wife and his son. They were very intereted and had lots of questions, and said that they would be at church. About five minutes into the meeting they still weren't there so we called, and he was like "I'm sorry were late, but were almost there!" They were able to make it, and it turns out that they had another son who wasn't there when we taught them and so all four of them came! It was a testimony meeting because of conference next Sunday, so we explained to them what that was all about. During the meeting, this one young woman got up and bore a powerful testimony, and the wife was so touched that she started crying. They also really enjoyed the rest of the meetings. They said they are really excited to come to the television broadcast of General Conference from Salt Lake this Sunday. We are all excited for conference too! Apparently it's extra fun for missionaries because all you do is hang out at the chapel and watch all of the sessions broadcast both Saturday and Sunday! I'm excited to hear that Uncle Matt, Aunt Pam and all five J boys are going in person, along with Kami, Brent, Darcy and Taylor. It was a very cool experience for me to see it in person last November. You have to tell me how close everyone seats are. Mom, I hope you have a lot of fun skiing with the J-boys in Utah for Spring Break and going to Africa in June. Everyone keep writing to me, the letters are awesome!
Love, Ryan

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Our Zone Before the Last Transfer

March Miracles

Hello to everyone.
This week was a week of many miracles.Yesterday, the other Elders in our district had a baptism. That area hasn't had a baptism in more than nine months, so they were especially excited. We also had two other baptisms planned for yesterday, and then the miracle occurred. There was this lady that the sisters had been teaching, and had taught her all of the required lessons, but she was still undecided about wanting to get baptized. One of the people who was scheduled to get baptized was her nephew. She showed up 30 minute before the baptismal service and said, "I know I need to get baptized and I want to do it today with my nephew!" So the Zone Leaders interviewed her, and she was able to be baptized.
A few days ago we were walking around looking for some names that we had, and after having no success, we decided to return to our bikes. As we were walking, we noticed an apartment complex that we hadn't seen when we were locking up our bikes, so we decided to go check it out. We saw two doors open on the top floor, so we went there first. The first person wasn't interested, and the second person was like, "Hey! I have been waiting for you guys!" He said that his sister was a member and had challenged him to go to church a few months ago, and he knew that we would eventually come by and was interested in going to church.
The third miracle happened on Saturday. We had some people that we were going to go by in the morning and in the afternoon. We ended up not having enough time to visit everyone in the morning, so we saved one of the names for the afternoon. After everything fell through, we decided to try out that name that we couldn't go by earlier. As we walked up we could see that they weren't home, but the people above them were, so we went up to talk to them. The husband let us in right away and said, "Hey, I’m a member of your church, but I haven't gone in many years." It turns out his ex-wife brought him into the church, and he was a member for many years. They were about to get sealed when they had some problems and separated. Now he is remarried to a nonmember. He said that he wants to start coming back, and because his family isn't members, he wants us to teach them, too. This week was amazing! We had many more miracles happen, but I don’t have enough time to write them all. I hope you all had a Happy Easter, I know we had a great one here in Laredo! I did get all your packages, and we spent all night hiding and finding those eggs you sent! Also thanks for the CDs. just for future reference we are only allowed to listen to MoTab (Mormon Tabernacle Choir), hymns, and classical music. Tell everybody that I say Hi, and I’m going to send you guys something this week! Have a great week
I forgot to mention, we are having problems with our new apartment. We got the go ahead from the senior couple in our area to move everything in. We didn't have power when we moved our stuff in, but they assured us that it would be on that day (last Wednesday). So we moved everything but our food. It turns out that the lady who was renting before was stealing power, so the city came and took away the meter, and now we don’t have a power meter. So we have to wait for the city to put one in and the power company to come out and turn in on. Right now we have a bunch of candles and an electric lantern in our new place, and we eat and shower at our old place. It looks like we won’t get power any earlier than Wednesday.
Here's a funny story: We moved in Wednesday, and we had been moved in for literally five minutes when we heard this knock on our door. When we answered it we found this note full of cuss words signed "your mom." It looked like a little kid had written it, so I said that I would sit by the window and when he came again one of the other elders would open the door and catch him. So I saw this 8 or 9 year-old kid sneaking up to our door, and signaled for them to open it, and he was bent over about to put down this other note and had this really wide eyed expression on his face. When we asked him what he was doing, he said that he was going next door. We were able to get the note from him, which was a big heart that was signed "your momma." We had a good laugh about it!
Love, Ryan

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Elders Carreon, Fellows, Metcalf & Caywood

100 Degrees and It's Only March

Dear Family & Friends:

This week was very hard. It was 100+ almost every single day. We are on bikes most of the time, so it was extra harsh, but we were able to push through. In our zone, we have a prayer calendar that has a day to pray for each companionship. Our day comes around every two weeks, and this Wednesday it was our turn. It was amazing! I was with another Elder working in our area, and his Spanish isn't that good, so I was freaking out. I was in charge and have only been speaking Spanish a few months, but anything is possible with the Lord's help. The day was amazing! I spoke the best Spanish that I have ever spoken, and I was able to understand a lot better than normal. We were able to teach a lot of lessons, including to this one lady that we randomly contacted on the side of the road. She said that she had talked to the missionaries about 10 years ago, and has some family that are members, so we were able to teach her and she seemed very interested.
Also, on a side note, I went up to this other lady and started talking to her in Spanish, and the first thing she said to me was, "I don't speak English." I had to try really hard to not laugh.
These were some of the highlights of the week. unfortunately everything has its opposite. We have been having a really hard time getting people to church because most people don't have cars, so we rely on other people to give them rides to church, and it doesn't always work out. If there's any one piece of advice I could give it is for everyone to find a way to support the missionary effort. I am surprised to see how much member involvement makes or breaks the missionary work. It would be great if everyone studied the "Preach My Gospel " manual and helped the missionaries by either finding people to teach, going with them to appointments, or fellowshipping new members and investigators. I don't think the members realize how much of an effect they have!
In other news we are still not moved into our new place. Each week we get closer and closer; this week we actually packed stuff in our car before we found out that we couldn't move in. Oh well, we joke that we could always go sleep on the train tracks.
Last week I was out with one of the other elders in our zone, and we were talking to this guy on the street for about 20 minutes. He had a lot of questions about the church and stuff. While we were talking to him, this other man came up to us and said, "Hey guys, I think I have a devil on my back, and I'm on cocaine, can't you guys bless me or something?" He said he wanted to quit. We set up a time to go by to help him out, but when we went, he wasn't there. Apparently Laredo is one of the biggest drug trafficking cities in the United States because its really easy to get across the Mexican Border and once you hit San Antonio, there are highways to pretty much anywhere in the U.S.
There are a lot of border patrol people down here, but all they do is block off the streets and race their expensive SUVs. There are also a lot of people who are illegal here, and we have been puzzled as to how they got here. How they could keep crossing back and forth? We finally got an answer from one of the members in our area. She said that it's really easy to get a three-day visitor/vacation visa. The visas don't have expiration dates on them, so you can go back and forth as much as you want. Another way is to pay a "coyote" about $10,000 to sneak you across, but that one's a little more complicated.
To everyone who sends me stuff, thanks! The mail guy doesn't come by our house everyday, so it take a while for us to get any mail, and it takes awhile for me to respond, but I will respond eventually and look forward to your letters and packages.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sonia & Rodrigo's Baptism

Popsicles, a Pirate & a Gaggle of Geese

Dear Family,
Here are a few more pictures of stuff in Laredo (above and below). Today was super windy and rainy, but luckily it is P-day, so we are inside. Las week the weather was super hot (90s). We contacted this guy that pushes around a popsicle cart, and he gave us some for free!
I hope you enjoy all the pictures. I'm also sending a dime I smashed on the train tracks near our apartment.
Elder Carreon

Me and a gaggle of geese

Everything above the tree line is Mexico

We continue to meet people who worship La Santisima Muerte

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Missionary Sign From Aunt Sheila

Transfers and a Blessing

This week was a fairly normal one. A few nights before transfers, we got a call telling us that Elder Metcalf was being transfered early and had to leave the next day for McAllen. He spent the whole night packing. The guy he drove down with is from Peru, and not the best driver in the world. While Elder Metcalf had one leg in the car and one out the car started to drive away. Luckily, he was okay.
The next day the three of us still in Laredo went out, and we had not been out more than 15 minutes when we received a phone call from one of our investigators (the guy that let us in because he thought he would be cursed if he didn't). We had trouble reaching him after we made initial contact, so it was a welcome surprise. He was at a hospital because his aunt was sick and he said he wanted us to come visit with them. We drove up there and went in to see how she was doing. Apparently she was having some kidney failure and the possibility of cancer on her liver, so she wasn't doing very well. He asked us if there was anything we could do, so we explained a little about the power and authority of the Priesthood and told him that we could give her a health blessing. He said that would be great, so we did. It was a very powerful blessing. Right before we gave the blessing, she was moving around and in obvious pain, but after we finished saying the blessing, she was sound asleep. It was a very powerful experience. We haven't heard how she is doing lately, that night we got the call for transfers (which happen ever six weeks or so). We found out we were getting a new elder, Elder Cordoza, from a different mission. This is very rare, because you almost never switch missions. At transfers the next day, we met him, and he told us he was originally in Ecuador, but he tore his ACL (in his knee) and had to go home for six months to get surgery. I guess if you are home longer than a certain amount of time, they re-assign your mission call. He is really cool, and is from Dallas, about six hours north. He said this area is nothing like northern Texas.
We are moving apartments this Friday. Right now we live really close to downtown, where it's a bit more rough, and we are moving uptown to a more ghetto area, but it's not as tough. The train tracks run about 10 feet from our new apartment, whereas right now at the old place the tracks are about half a block away or so. Tell everyone hello and I appreciate their letters very much.