Tuesday, December 15, 2015

15 December 2015 - Christmas!

I  loved doing The Twelve Days of Christmas. It was always a ton of fun. It's not too Christmassy here. There's trees in some houses and lights in about every 20 but not a lot. The Christmas Spirit here is great and the food. Chistmas here beyond being about Christ of course is about the food. Tamales and menudo and pozole and turkey and ham and so much more haha. I'd love to visit here again someday in the near far future with you all and odds are it'd be best in the Christmas season haha. 
We are able to read those books as far as I understand. Just not in our time of personal study. But I'd love to read them like I did Jesus The Christ. 5 min a night for several months till its done. Feel free to send them over haha. ( Referring to Boyd K. Packer The Holy Temple, and Temple Worship by Wilcox)
It's been such a blessing to be back in Pueblitos. I love it here. We are working so well its amamzing. It's a dream come true here. We are focusing a lot on the youth. After reactivation a few we've been working with them and their friends and cousins etc. We had several really good member references this week and we didn't even have to ask for them. We've made a little group of sorts with the youth and they come up all the time like hey I talked to someone at work and the next time you all come over I'll bring her so she can listen too. It is super fun. Thursday I had an exchange with Elder Anderson because he's whitewashing my old area so I went to teach him a bit of the streets and what not. Perhaps my favorite experience of the week was Thursday. We were walking up a street we honestly weren't planning on walking and passed by a school. The kids were on recess. We are walking by and suddenly I hear SMITH!!! ESMEET!! We look over and we see a little girl calling out to us. We stop by and she says wait just a second while I get my sister, she comes back and I remember who they are. They were daughters of one of the first families I taught. La Familia Morioqui. We set up an appointment to stop by that evening. It was so cool to see them all again. Jorge and Carla and all 5 daughters. We talked a bit and we realized that while I was teaching them before they were not quite ready but now they are. Elder Anderson has told me a bit of how the teaching goes and I'm just really happy they're back again. God has a time for everyone and everything. We sometimes need patience but in the end if we do our part we can see the results. I'm seeing that here in Pueblitos. Families that had been inactive when I was here are active now. Investigators I taught are now members and there's just so much good that has happened here. I felt a little weird coming back here but I'm beginning to see now that it was something I needed. Trust in God. Trust in his plan and His love. Go out and have the best week ever, I sure will. Sorry for the rush... again but I don't have much time this week. Feel free to edit this letter a bit to make a weekly letter of sorts you can publish on the blog.
I love you all tons and never stop being amazing!
Elder Smith

PS - Now that I am back in Hermosillo with the new mission president I get to go to the temple every six weeks on transfers.  :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

8 December 2015 - I got transferred!!!

I got transferred! I'm back in Hermosillo, the same ward where I started, Pueblitos. Just a different area there. I'm more Northern... yes that's possible. I'm here as District Leader now and I'm finising the training of a missionary named Elder Lara. Don't worry about the letters and what not. I talked with the Mercado and they said I can send stuff there all I want and the missionaries there will pick it up and send it off to Hermosillo, every month the zone leaders stop by. Also anything sent soon will get to me before Christmas because the entire mission is getting together the 21st. Sadly I will no longer be singing the musical number because I'm no longer in that area but I want to try to work something out for the ward here. 

I'm so happy to be back, it feels weird but it'll be good. I feel like I have unfinished business here. One of the coolest parts of being back is Gregorio and his family. I doubt you remember but when I left Pueblitos I wrote about a street contact we had with a guy named Gregorio. We taught a mix of lessons one and two on the spot in the chapel and then I left for Balderrama. I got a call about 3 months later from Gregorio saying thank you for what you said that day and that he had just been baptized. Now I'm here in the same ward and its so cool to talk to him and his family. I actually stopped by today.

I'm so happy everyone is doing great. I love hearing about it all!
Love you tons!
Elder Smith

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Elder Smith in the Nogales International Newspaper

* There are some great pictures that went with this article if you follow the link.

Just before stepping out into a pleasant November midmorning last Friday, Mormon missionaries Daniel Gavin Smith and Allan Garcia, both 19, kneeled down in their modest Nogales, Sonora apartment to pray.
In the Spanish he has nearly perfected over the last year while working throughout Sonora, Smith, a native of Centerville, Ohio, asked for help with the day’s work ahead of them.
“I had some background, a little vocabulary, and I more or less understood the vocabulary,” he said of the Spanish skills he picked up in high school before his mission. “But I couldn’t speak at all.”
Now, along with Garcia, a third-generation Mormon from the Maya Quiche community of Totonicapan, Guatemala, Smith has wandered the streets of Nogales, Sonora for several months trying to win converts and keep the faithful in the Mormon flock, all in his second language.
For both missionaries, Nogales, Sonora is a long ways from home, and neither knew much about it when they learned that they would be spending two years of their lives there.
“Cool,” Smith recalled of his reaction to the news. “Where is that?”
The pair is a part of an approximately 180-strong contingent of Sonora-based Mormon missionaries working out of the Hermosillo Mission, one of 34 in the country. There are about 20 missionaries in Nogales, Sonora itself, Smith and Garcia said.
Worldwide, there are more than 85,000 Mormon missionaries in the field at any one time. In Mexico, their work has won the church steady growth in membership, as shown both by church data and the Mexican Geography and Statistics Institute (INEGI).
The church claims 1.4 million current members in Mexico. Meanwhile, INEGI numbers show membership grew from around 205,000 in 2000 to nearly 315,000 a decade later. In Sonora, membership grew from 7,290 to 11,252 over the same period. Nogales, Sonora has two Mormon churches that serve around 2,100 members and Nogales, Ariz. has one, which serves more than 600, church officials said.
Though 83 percent of Mexico’s population still identifies as Catholic, the church has been steadily losing ground to a number of non-Catholic Christian religions, including Mormonism, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), in recent decades. A similar trend is also seen in Garcia’s home country of Guatemala.
Unlike other Christian religions, LDS members include the Book of Mormon along with the Bible in their canon of holy texts. The book chronicles the colonization of the Western Hemisphere by Jewish settlers from Jerusalem beginning thousands of years before the birth of Christ. This, among other distinctions, leads some members of other Christian churches to characterize Mormons as non-Christian, which is contested by the LDS church.
Going on two-year missions around the world is a task undertaken by many young male LDS members and an increasing number of young women. Indeed, more than 40 percent of the missionaries he oversees in Northern Sonora are now women, said Hermosillo Mission President Terence Robinson. That shift was facilitated by a recent church decision to lower the minimum age of service for women from 21 to 19, he added.
Challenges and advantages
On Garcia and Smith’s agenda Friday was a visit to a local Mormon family that had stopped regularly attending church.
Such visits are common, both said, as are meetings with local residents suggested as possible converts by other church members. The pair also spends time knocking on doors cold in the section of Nogales assigned to them, which includes the center of town to several miles south, to share their beliefs with strangers.
However, successful conversion of new members, one of their main goals, can be a challenge. Smith said finding residents interested in meeting again to learn more about the church “is truthfully difficult,” though he added that he and Garcia are almost always listened to respectfully.
As the number of Mormon missionaries around the world has risen, conversions by each missionary per year have fallen to just over three, according to church data.
One of the challenges faced by missionaries in Mexico is what Robinson described as the common phenomenon of Mexicans living together without being married, a violation of core LDS church teachings. He said this is often due to the high costs of marriage ceremonies.
Otherwise, Robinson considers Nogales to be a fruitful place for missionary work, in part because of the number of residents who moved to the city from other parts of the country and who are without close family and friendship ties. Mexico’s deep history of Catholicism, which he conceded presents some obstacles, can also be an advantage given that Catholics already believe in many of the church’s teachings.
“(Catholicism is) an issue, but it’s also a blessing in my mind,” he said. “People that have a religious feeling, in some ways it’s almost better, because people believe in God.”
Life experience
Mormonism is not at all new to Northern Mexico and Southern Arizona. In the mid- to late-1800s, many Mormons established new communities across the American West, as well as in Sonora, Chihuahua and Canada, in response to U.S. prohibitions on polygamy, which is no longer accepted by the church, and general hostility toward the religion.
Colonies took root along the Rio Bavispe in Sonora, but most were abandoned as violence from the Mexican Revolution ravaged much of Northwest Mexico between 1910 and 1920. Robinson himself was born in a Mormon community in Chihuahua, which was resettled after its founders fled in the 1910s.
The church has also taken root in Nogales, Ariz., and a handful of members, like City Manager Shane Dille, have prominent public positions.
Nogales Police Chief Derek Arnson, a Phoenix native who did his mission in Argentina in the mid-1980s, said his two years abroad helped him “to grow up and become independent.” It also improved his already decent Spanish, which he said has been a critical skill for his work in Nogales.
Pointing to both the challenges, like sustained separation from family, and joys, like traveling to a new country, Arnson said that it wasn’t necessarily the best two years of his life, but certainly the best two years for his life.
“That saying makes a lot of sense,” Garcia said, agreeing with Arnson’s point. “You learn how to live with a lot of people with different customs, how to relate to other people better.”

1 December 2015 - A week ot be Thankful for

Just going to start off, I doubt it is possible but I do hope that your week was as phenomenal as mine. so much good happened. This week we ended up talking to tons of different people. Each with a different story and need. One of said people was a guy on the bus. We were headed to the church building for an activity and a guy hops on selling marshmallow suckers. As usual I buy one and then he sits down next to me and we start talking. He speaks English so that was an odd change for me but we get talking and it was one of the coolest experiences I've had on a bus. We don't talk very long but we talk about the gospel a bit. About the need for a Savior and he was in a moment of need. I hope the missionaries are able to keep teaching him since he doesn't live in my area. Then the other day we finally got Elder Arzate to stand up and contact the bus. As we were going around talking to the different people afterwards I started talking to a guy named Efrain. By the time his stop came up he had committed to read the Book of Mormon. I honestly don't remember every thing I said or that he said but I could tell the conversation was guided by Someone not he nor I.

On other subjects a baby scorpion stung me which was awesome. I've secretly wanted that to happen since arriving in the dessert of Sonora. My hand felt funny and tingly and hurt for a day and that was it. 

Don't get me started on Thursday! Thanksgiving is such a beautiful holiday full of gratitude and joy and food and happiness and food and everything wonderful. We helped the Mercado family cook rolls and pumpkin cake and wassail and a few other things. It was so so good, I mean look at the pics.

I'm just so grateful for the opportunity I have to serve. For my family and friends I have and basically for every moment this amazing life has to offer. Above all I'm grateful for an Eternal Father that loves me. That helps me every day. I'm grateful for His son Jesus the Christ. For all He did. I'm grateful for the Atonement. That through Him I can be clean, pure, and worthy to once again return to the presence of God. I'm grateful for the Holy Scriptures both ancient and modern. For All the prophets who have been guided by God to write the most amazing things. Words that teach us and guide us in our need and in every glorious moment of life.
Go out there and love every moment! Go be happy joyful people. Spread cheer and make every moment gold. Love everyone and serve in every way possible. I saw this video and quite enjoyed it. Give it a look! Thanksgiving is past here comes Christmas!

Love for ever and ever,
Elder Smith

Thanks so much dad. I love the temple too. It's such an incredible place. I've been once in Spanish and it was amazing I look forward to going again next time I get the chance (basically when I'm in Hermosillo again)
All I want is to help people get to the temple. It's what gets us working every day. Each word has that end in mind. Temple. It's such a beautiful concept and reality. The mount of the Lord is unlike any other.

Love you tons!
Elder Smith

I want to go to the temple so bad, I've been once since getting here, I'm sure it was amazing
send pics of the house and decorations etc!
Thanksgiving was amazing. So amazing. Everything turned out great and everyone loved everything, not as great as at home but the closest in a long time.
We are struggling with the Gonzalez again. I don't know what is happening. He kinda just disappeared, we should see him tonight so I'm praying for the best.
Here I'm doing great. I'm very set for the cold and I'm enjoying it a lot, I may buy another sweater if I stay another transfer but that's about it. I went earlier today to buy Lysi her christmas gifts. I think she will love them.
Thanks for everything you always do. Keep up the awesome! I'll try to sing Hark the Herald Angels sing but it'll be in Spanish haha. I found O Holy Night in Spanish too and I love it and if I stay here I'll be singing it in church for Christmas. wish you could come.