Dear Mom and Dad,
Bonjiorno I believe is the Italian hello :) Remember that French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese are all Latin based languages, so it's natural for you to think you're hearing French and Spanish ;)
As I've gone around the world I've come to find that the United States is a rather unique place as far as its maintenance. US cities are always quite clean and ordered, even the craziest, worst ones. Such is certainly the case in México. Occasionally somebody will give us an address so that we can visit them later and that number doesn't exist, there are two or more of that number, or it does exist but there's no number on the outside of the house. Ironically some of our best contacting happens looking for the people with whom we already have appointments ;). Most the cities, even the bigger, nicer parts, are still pretty dirty and in shambles. Most countries just don't bother to take care of their cities the same way the US does.
I've learned that Satan is working as hard as he can against this work. We have a few people that are starting to feel the spirit and recognising that they are feeling the spirit, but because of laziness, sudden work opportunities, sleepiness, or one of a hundred other reasons, they often do not move forward in this work. One way that Satan has been working against this people has, unfortunately, been through the members. There are only really two or three huge families that make up the majority of the congregations in the two wards (it's a very small town) and because of disputations within the family, many have gone inactive because they don't want to see their own family members at church. Many of our investigators have seen that and a few very bad examples from many years ago, became offended, and stopped investigating the Church many years ago.
One couple in particular comes to mind. Both are members but haven't attended church for over 12 years because of some people who they knew were being exceptionally hypocritical within the Church. They make me especially sad. They have not been to the temple and cannot do so unless they become active again in the church. They are losing blessings because they worried more about the members than the doctrine. They know the Church is true. They are good people, better than some in our congregation. They have chosen to give the people who offended them sufficient power over them to stop them from doing what is right. They put the bad examples above the good and chose to ignore the doctrine they knew was true. I have faith, however, that they'll come back. They know that they cannot receive all the blessings God wants to give to them until they are active members of the church. They can, as active members, be the good examples, speak out against the bad examples, and really make a difference in the wards. They can be fantastic leaders here, whereas their choice to just stay apart changes nothing for the better.
Another challenge for me is that my companion really doesn't care about the rules and regularly breaks several of them. I can't force them upon him, and he knows them well. I can only live my mission the best I can and trust that he is doing the best he can. I am grateful, however, that he is one of the harder workers in the mission. He is getting tired of missionary work (9 weeks left before he leaves) but he still loves teaching lessons with people who are really ready to listen and act on answers to prayers. Really he's just getting tired of contacting people to find the investigators who are ready to listen. We have no other choice until the members start giving us more referrals.
I was reading in Helaman today about the people that fell so quickly away from the church and came to an understanding about why many return missionaries fall away from the church. They know that the mission rules come from and are approved by prophets of God but they still hold them in little regard and largely ignore them. This constant disregard for the words of Prophets leads them to have that regard for the guidelines set by the Prophets in general, thinking that they are exempt as they thought in a mission. Once the sustaining influence of their calling is gone, they fall away quickly because they have gotten in a habit of ignoring Prophets. One more reason to obey the rules as closely as I can.
Due to recent events, my most important invitation to you is to be the best examples you can be of members of the Church. When a ward or even a group of people are consistently striving to live the Gospel, they are happy and have Light. People see that Light and that happiness and want to join with them and find the source of their happiness and Light. The example of members can lead people to want to be taught by the missionaries. :)
Secondly, always have faith in missionary work in your area, be you missionary or a ward member. When a ward has faith in missionary work, it uplifts and helps the missionaries immensely. When missionaries have faith in the work in that area, people who they thought would never listen miraculously begin listening. Faith is EVERYTHING in this work. Unfortunately Élder Montalvo and the majority of the members in my area do not have a lot of faith in the ability of missionary work in our area to bring the people to the Truth. I'm working to change that :).
Past all the challenges we face, there are some fantastic things happening as well. We are miraculously finding people to teach. One person whom we were teaching was about to ask us to not come back when an old childhood friend passed by and talked with her about the gospel. She came to church this week. We found somebody who wants to listen but can't at her own house because her father is very catholic. Her cousin offered to let her have the lessons in her house. Her cousin was an old investigator that stayed catholic I think because of family tradition but clearly thinks the church is worthwhile enough to listen again with her cousin. We wanted to visit this cousin as well, but we had no address or contact information for her other than a year old phone number. God is working miracles in missionary work.
Faith, Hope, and Charity are the essentials of missionary work. When you have those three and work as hard as you can, miracles happen. I've already talked a bit about Faith. Hope is a firm conviction that God will fulfill His promises. Charity is perhaps the most important of them all. Charity does not accept people as they are and not want to change them. Charity loves people where they are and wants to lift them higher. Charity is being a good friend and, in time and when the Spirit directs, helps them towards the Light. People are not always ready to listen, but people change. Charity is kindness and Love.
I was listening to music last night and heard the song "Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Thy Peace" and realized that that is my desire in my missionary work. Here are the lyrics:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow Love
Where there is injury, Pardon
Where there is doubt, Faith
Wherever there's despair, Hope
Where there's darkness, Light
Where there is sadness, Joy
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace
O, Lord, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to Love
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace
For it is in giving, that we receive
For it is by Faith that we believe
For in forgiving, we are forgiven
It is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Make me an instrument of Thy Peace
I know this is God's work. I know that this is the True Church, led by God. I know that this work is that of Pure Love. I know that we are led by a Prophet of God on the earth today. What a fantastic message that is!!! We have someone who can talk to God face to face and lead us as a whole in the fight against Satan and his forces. We have prayer which leads people directly to God to ask what is the truth and, if they take the time to listen, they can receive an answer from that same God!!!!! What could possibly be more exciting? I know it's true because I've asked, really wanting to know the truth, whatever it may be. I received my answer from God and I am now a messenger of Truth. I KNOW. :) That's all that matters. I want to be an instrument of the Lord's Peace, His Gospel, His Love.
All my love,