Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Week 40: In which we reengage with the White Knight, we carry food for Rigo, and a dog eats a cow.

Only in Little Mexico...

Holy cow! What a week. Believe it or not, it actually did involve cows. It also involved goats, chickens, chickens on goats, killer puppies, and a horse. Actually, it involved all of those things and more, somehow squeezed into a single, incredibly interesting, afternoon.

First of all, I should tell you where I'm going to be transferred! I'm joking, I'm joking; transfers aren't for another 2.5 weeks. However, since you want me to write more in Spanish, I can tell you a brief story in Spanish.

¡Estabamos caminando este Lunes pasado, y vimos un perro que estaba corriendo directamente a nosotros! Teniamos miedo, por su puesto. ¡Pues, discubramos que era el mismo perro que estaba atacandonos en Mexico Chiquito (El Caballero Blanco)! Nos encontró y empezó seguirnos. De todos modos, alguien lo encontró, y pudíamos decirles donde vive este perro. ¡Entonces, pudíamos ayudar a ese amigo chiquito a regresar a Mexico Chiquito!
[We were walking this last Monday, and we saw a dog that was running directly towards us! We were, of course, afraid. Well, we discovered that it was the same dog that was attacking us in Little Mexico (the White Knight)! He found us and started to follow us. Anyway, someone found him, and we were able to tell them where this dog lives. So, we were able to help this little friend to return to Little Mexico!]

Anyway, Elder Fordham and I had a very interesting week. As far as the people we're working with, we haven't been able to contact Yolie and Nikita, and so we're concentrating our time more and finding new people. We do still occasionally try to find them, but it has gotten really hard. We're still working with Ana and Noemi, and they are really cool. Both of them are really interested in learning more, and have felt the spirit really strongly.

Now, I am going to treat you to an account of the afternoon of my birthday. It was... fascinating.

First of all, a little background: there is a really infamous basher here, named Rigo. A basher is someone who tries to argue with missionaries and prove themselves right with the bible. Basically, that's really hard to do, especially since there are a LOT of verses in the Bible, and there are many which contradict each other. While there are certainly some missionaries who like to engage in such *ahem* "discussions", they are honestly just a giant waste of time and only bring the spirit of contention. However, even though we avoid arguments, people still sometimes try to get us to engage or try to prove themselves right.

Rigo is one of these people, and is infamous not for his knowledge of the scriptures, but rather for being rude as he tries to argue with us. He sometimes seeks out missionaries to argue and engage us, so we generally try to avoid him. Many missionaries who have served here have encountered him at least once.

Anyway, with that background, let us begin. We started out by going down to the swamp (a homeless encampment). As we were there talking to people, Rigo pulled up in his truck with his brother. Immediately, I started out thinking how we could avoid giving him an opportunity to argue with us. However, it was too late. He was already there and out of the truck with his brother. Turns out, they had brought some supplies and food for the people there. In an effort to be friendly and avoid any arguments, we offered to help them unload their truck. They were both very intense people, but as we finished, they left and they didn't even try to argue! We were super happy.

After that, we went to a family we're kinda sorta teaching, and they have a random horse in their backyard. There's not even a real place to ride a horse, but they have one anyway! Later on, we stopped by a less-active family's house to study a bit. We sat in the back of their house, and a super cute German Shepherd/Husky puppie came up to say hi! It was super cute and fuzzy. We had a hard time not getting distracted, but it eventually wandered off behind this little shed. We followed it to see what was back there, and we were treated to a very interesting sight. There were 2 dead cows back there, in these people's backyard! One was only bones and completely skeletonized. The other didn't have a leg, but the cute puppy was going ham on the little stump that was left of the leg. We went back to studying, and after an hour of studies or so, the puppy came back, but this time with a lot of blood all over it's cute little paws and muzzle. We decided not to pet it this time. We went back to see the cow, and were surprised to discover that it no longer had a face! All that was left was a jawbone.

Finally, we were returning to town. We saw, however, one more sight. We were trying to visit a guy named Rafael. However, it was a bad, bad, time to visit. One of his goats had just given birth. We know this because Rafael was dragging it by its horns and there was a placenta dangling from it. Also, we went to the back, and saw something like 20 goats and a bunch of chickens. Some of the chickens were on the goats. There were two newborn goats, but one of them had sadly not made it. It was a very dead, very baby, goat.

Anyway, only in Little Mexico can you see all of that in one afternoon. Seriously, a goat giving birth. It was crazy, yo!

Love you all, and hope you have a fantastic week!

Elder Adams
[Questions from Editor Mom]

 I hope you are having a great week and enjoyed your last few days of being a teenager. Wow. Can you believe it? (Stop it, already--you are making me old!) - Yep, I loved it.

Have you received your Spanish quad? Dad called, and they said they would get it in the mail ASAP and that you should send the other two back with the label that came with the English quad you got. - I have received it... they sent 2. I'm not quite sure why. I now have only 2 return slips (that I know of), 3 Spanish quads, and the English one.[Note: Mormons include 4 different books of scriptures in our canon.  When published as a single volume, it is often called a "quadruple combination", or a "quad".  We had a set of Spanish scriptures (a "quad") sent to him for Christmas.  When it arrived, he noticed some pages were torn, so we had a replacement sent.  The replacement got lost in the mail.  So we had another replacement sent.  But they sent English scriptures instead.  So we had another replacement sent.  Apparently, they sent two replacement Spanish scriptures.  In this picture from last weekend's stake conference, Ben is triumphantly holding his new scriptures aloft.]

[Note: Elder Fordham challenged us to see how much we could find out about him on the Internet.  We were able to send Ben a fairly detailed biography of Elder Fordham and his whole family.]
Is Elder Fordham freaked out that Dad took his challenge seriously? - No, not really.

How are your health and energy holding up? - I am alive, thanks!

Funny stuff? - Big email. Plenty.

Anything you want to hear about from the home front? - Uh, are you all alive? How are you doing? I don't know, there's probably something less lame, but I can't think of it of the top of my head.

Did you know that there is no way to say "I love you" in Swiss German? You have to be creative. - Huh. Cool! 

So, Ben, if I could have only one son through all of eternity, it would be you. - Aww, thanks! I'm glad, 'cause you're stuck with me. Thankfully, I am also glad to be stuck to you.

How was your birthday? When did you find time to open your presents? Tell us about it.  - I opened my presents that morning during exchanges, because I have the patience of a gnat. Also, it was a really interesting day. 

Is Brenda still on target to be baptized tomorrow? We are praying for her. Is she connecting with the members in her ward? - She's technically on track, yes, and passed her interview, but something felt a little off. We're still not exactly sure why, but both of us and the Bishop felt a couple of days after the interview. We're going to talk to her about pushing it back today, partially because there's pretty much nothing planned right now for it. It shouldn't be that rushed, in any case. She has really connected with Bishop and his family, and has also connected with a few other members of the ward. Crystal is absolutely great, though!

Have you managed to chow through all of the Christmas goodies? - What did I learn as a Boy Scout, Mom? You should know me by now. Leave no trace, Mom, leave no trace. ;-D

We saw pictures of you at zone conference.  How was zone conference? - Interviews and Zone Conference were fantastic!

Plans for getting a haircut? I don't know if you know, but the rule is that your hair should be above your ears. It's important not to go to zone conference or interviews with longish hair. (Just a note to the wise.) - I know. I've been really, really desperate for one for something like 2 weeks. I just always seem to run out of time. I'm going to try again today.

[Notes on photos below:  Last week was the occasion of two large gatherings Ben attended.  First was Zone Conference, where 50 or so missionaries gather for a day of training and instruction.  Then on the weekend was "stake conference", where members of multiple congregations in a broad area gather for church meetings.  The mission president's wife was generous to take pictures of the missionaries at both of those gatherings and post them on her blog.]

[From Zone Conference:]


[The mission president's wife has a hobby of encouraging missionaries to write brief notes to their moms, and then holding them up for a photo which she then texts to the missionary's mom.]

[And here are a few pictures from stake conference on Sunday.  The mission president is on the right.]

[The Yakima missionaries get new planners every month, and they have a tradition of decorating each one.  Here, Ben has decorated his planner with a map of his assigned area.]

[The mission president's wife also has a tradition of asking the missionaries different questions when she sees them at their regular interviews with the mission president.  This month, she asked them to describe some good qualities of their companions.  She then posts these with a picture of the companionship on her blog.]

Elder Fordham:  Elder Adams is Funny.  He’s a silly guy and he tells great jokes.  He’s a great story teller.  He’s always telling stories.  He’s also very articulate.
 Elder Adams:  Elder Fordham is super knowledgeable and understands the scriptures.  He is not afraid to correct others or give advice and he is refreshingly straightforward.  Elder Fordham is a fun and entertaining person; he can have amazing conversations.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Week 39: In which I journey to the swamp, befriend the White Knight, and retrieve a mattress

The Elder Chronicles, part 2: Journey to the Center of The Swamp

"Puede encontrarme en la caye de la canal", (you can find me on the canal road) the mysterious lady said. We didn't know where she came from, or where she lived. She was a wanderer, and came and went as she pleased. We had seen her before, of course, but we did not know where she called home. We only knew her as Christina. When she told us where to find her, our hearts were filled with fear. She was from The Swamp.

The Swamp is a place of many legends. It is guarded by many fierce giant rats, or dogs, no one can tell. For many years, the townspeople have tried to enter its depths and drive out the people who dwell there, but to no avail. The people of The Swamp have always mysteriously returned, and it is believed they always will. There are no roads that lead there, but only a small, overgrown path along the lesser canal of Othello.

Some days later, I was with Elder Favila as we made a small scouting trip into The Swamp to assess the conditions. Not half a week after scouting the area, on Wednesday, Elder Ramirez and I mentally steeled ourselves as we prepared our pedaled mounts to make the journey. As we rode down to the borders of the outer town of "Mexico Chicito" (Little Mexico), we found a very persistent dog. It was not one of the tiny "rat dogs", as we call them, but was a full-grown bulldog. We dubbed it "The White Knight", but soon found that the White Knight was intent on slowing us down. While friendly, this giant of a dog continued to leap towards us, and would occasionally grab our legs and not let us walk without dragging it behind us.

It finally came time to enter The Swamp. Without delay, we found Christina's makeshift house. The area was littered with discarded tires, rims, bottles, hoses, plastic, and all manner of trash. However, she was not there. She was truly a wanderer, but we found another resident. He was very friendly. Elder Fordham and I later returned on Saturday to find that Christina was again not there. However, we met with the same man again and taught him some principles about who God is and His plan for us. He was very open, and his dwelling very humble. We said a prayer and he invited us to come back later. Again on Saturday, we encountered the White Knight and learned his name is Grey. We talked to his owners, and they were also very friendly and interested in the family values of the church. Trying to leave the outer town, we had to battle the White Knight as he tried to dismount us.

As we reminisced today over our earlier adventures, we were shocked to see the White Knight in the town! It was very far from his normal haunts. However, he charged towards us across a busy byway and continued to follow us. He has grown far more accustomed to us and friendly. However, his kind is not allowed to simply wander in town, and so someone from the local Dog Prison ("The Pound") captured him. Thankfully, we knew what his name was, where he lived, and who his owners were. Lucky dog.

Brenda and Crystal are also doing really well. They are preparing to be baptized on the 28th of this month. Also, Noemi and Ana are doing great. As I recounted in a dispatch to President Lewis,

Ana is Noemi's mom, and Noemi is a 17-year old who is friends with one of the priests in the Spanish Ward. She's been doing really well, especially since her friend taught her how to pray, and is really interested in learning more! She's been feeling the spirit, and we think she's also starting to recognize it. She's even come to church with her friend a couple of times, and when she can come, she always goes to Sacrament Meeting. Her main challenge is remembering to read, but has expressed that she really wants to and just forgets. She asked for our help reminding her by text, so we'll be doing our best to help her out that way. Her mom, Ana, has been going through a rough winter, but has started going to Daily Dose. A local member has been taking her to the classes, and she has been sleeping better and feeling better on the days she goes! The coolest thing, though, is that Noemi readily accepted the invitation to prepare for baptism! Her mom was also willing to continue preparing. It was after a powerful talk about the Atonement and the Gospel/Doctrine of Jesus Christ.

One small miracle connected Brandee and Ana/Noemi. They don't live very far from each other. Last night, we stopped by Noemi to follow up with her and her mom and set up another appointment. After asking if there was any other way we could help out, she asked us if we could throw out a mattress they didn't need any more. We took it to the dumpster, and then decided to stop by Brandee (who lives very near by) to check up on her. After talking with Brandee for a bit, we mentioned we had just been by her neighbors hauling mattresses. Her memory sparked, she asked us if we actually had a mattress we could give her. Realizing that those mattresses we had just thrown out were still in good condition and no longer wanted, we said we could help her out. We ran back and grabbed the mattresses we had just discarded, and we brought them back to help Brandee to sleep more comfortably at night. She was super grateful and happy we could help out, and it was a testimony to me of how aware God is of every single one of us and how he provides for us, even in little ways. It was an example of "heavenly recycling", where one need perfectly matches another need.

I love you all, and wish you an excellent and happy end to February. May your lives be filled with adventure.


Elder Adams


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week 38: In which I give a tour of the Family History Library, Danny Z comes along on visits, and we explore unknown roads in Little Mexico

Perseverar Hasta el Fin

Perseverar hasta el fin. Es algo muy importante para hacer. ¡Tambien es lo que estoy haciendo aqui en Othello, y estoy disfrutando cada minuto de el! Estamos enseñando a muchas persona chidas, y yo he aprendido mucho del Elder Fordham. Espero que tambien puedo ayudar a el a progresar en el evangelio. ¡Me encanta este area de Othello, y yo pudiera morar aqui casi medio de mi misión!

Endure to the end. It is a very important thing to do. It's also what I'm doing here in Othello, and I'm enjoying every minute of it!  We're teaching a lot of people, and I've learned a lot from Elder Fordham.  I hope that I can also help him progress in the gospel.  I love this area of ​​Othello, and I could live here almost half of my mission!

Man, it's been a cool week. Brenda is doing great! We showed Brenda and Crystal the Family History Library Sunday, and they seemed to really like it. Brenda's son, Christopher, asked her out of nowhere what he had to do to get baptized with her and Crystal. We started teaching him, but we think he got a little overwhelmed by everything. He's a deep, deep thinker. His father was also a Jehovah's Witness, so it's been a bit of a rough transition. He has amazing questions! Unfortunately, since he got a bit overwhelmed, he's backed off a lot and doesn't want to continue, but he has changed his mind quite a lot. Also, his main doubt is how he can know which church out of all of them is right. Hmm, I think some JSH might be in order here... (he has a triple combo that the Bishop gave him). So anyway, it's back to just Brenda and Crystal, but Christopher will come along eventually. He just seems like a deep searcher, which is exactly how he should stay. It will take some time.

We also finally met with Yolie and Nikita again! They are doing pretty well, and are beginning to understand a lot more. Thing is, Yolie's son, Malachi, is going through a bit of a defiant phase. He's outright refusing to go to church, and Yolie doesn't feel comfortable leaving either or both of her kids at home, so that's going to be a bit of a struggle. Other than that, Yolie is doing super awesome! She's studying and keeping all the commandments, and she's begun to understand everything a lot better. Her situation is super, super hopeful.

Finally, we took Danny Z out to a lesson! Daniel Z. is a relatively recent convert and less-active member of the church. He's super awesome, so we call him Danny Z (it sounds cool that way). Anyway, he then showed up at church Sunday! It's awesome! He's been doing a lot better, and is coming out of a bit of a discouraging time for him. We look forward to continuing working with him.

Here's a little story from my letter to President Lewis:

Finally, this week we were knocking doors on an obscure road in the middle of nowhere out in the furthest part of Little Mexico. Everyone there was either simply not interested or even a little rude. We had hoped to meet a lot of really cool people, especially because we hadn't really been down there before (it was that far). We were about out of time, and about to head back to the better traveled part of Little Mexico, and we decided we had enough time to knock just one house. We felt impressed to knock a particular house that had nothing particularly special about it. It just looked a little more humble then some of the others surrounding it.

As it turns out, a less-active Spanish speaker from Quincy, Umberto, and his girlfriend Brenda (different Brenda) lived there! Brenda was super interested, and he had been feeling he should go to church more. He had some holes in his understanding, and he seemed to be under the all-too-common impression that any church is fine, as long as you're hearing the word of God. There's some work to do, and Brenda is super interested in learning about our church and going on Sundays with her son! Apparently, she has seen us at the food bank and it piqued her curiosity about our beliefs and helped her be super interested. It's super exciting. They couldn't go yesterday, because Umberto had to meet his brother and give him money to help out his situation (or something). However, he promised he would go next week!

Everything is going super awesome, and I'm psyched to be here with Elder Fordham! He's awesome. I love you all, and wish you all the best week ever!


Elder Adams
More Questions from Editor Mom

How many people are in your district? - 8. Currently, that's 6 elders in Othello (we live super close to each other) and 2 sisters in nearby Warden. They are:
Elders Favila and Aguirre - Othello 1st and 4th Wards - Zone Leaders
Elders Fordham and Adams - Othello 2nd and 4th Wards - Elder Fordham is District Leader
Elders Ramirez and Klossner - Othello 3rd and 4th Wards
Hermanas Luevano, Shewell, and Stocking - Warden Ward (covers both English and Spanish)
How are you and Elder Fordham getting along? Tell us about him, please. - We're getting along pretty well, actually.  We're both determined to be better missionaries, that's for sure.  However, before I tell you about him, he wants me to ask you what you already know. ;-)
Have you gotten any Valentines? From whom? - I got one Valentine from your address, but I haven't opened it yet. Valentine's Day is tomorrow, after all.

Are you staying warm and safe? (Looks like you are having some intense weather!) - It's actually gotten a lot warmer recently! It's now something like 40-50 degrees out. It's quite nice, actually.

How are your investigators doing? - That's something I like to save for the big email, but generally pretty awesome. Brenda and Crystal are just doing fantastically well, they're the bomb(s)! Yolie is having some trouble getting her kids to want to go to church, and so she's been having a little trouble on that front, but we're going to try to help her work through that with her faith.

Anything funny this week? - Not off the top of my head, not really. Little funny things happen all the time, but they're usually pretty small and I forget them.

Insights you'd like to share? - Well, I was reminded Sunday of something Elder Bednar shared during the Worldwide Missionary Broadcast. He told us that we often like to put things into little boxes. He then talked about how we do that with Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. It's not a bunch of separate things, but one single inexorably connected thing: The Doctrine of Christ. The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are a lot more like a single principle than we often realize. If we have Faith, we will inevitably repent. Baptism and the sacrament are essential parts of the repentance process. As we continue repenting and following those principles of faith and covenant renewal, we will have the spirit with us. We will continue progressing in the Gospel, we will be worthy of the Holy Ghost, and we will surely Endure to the End. That is the process of sanctification at its essence; as we continue to live the Doctrine of Christ, we will gain in Christlike Attributes such as Faith, Hope, and Charity. That's the key to happiness, honestly. It's a single, beautiful thing. It's the Doctrine of Christ.

Did I accidentally put your birthday card in with your Valentine? (I can't find it.) - I have no idea. I haven't opened my Valentine yet.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Week 37: In which I meet Elder Fordham, survive Rottweilers, and enjoy coconut empanadas

Holy Tamales!

Holy Tamales! This week was super nuts. I don't even know where to start. Should I pick dogs, policemen, coconut empenadas, careening down Death Mountain on bikes in the snow, or eating a full chicken? I even almost forgot saying goodby to Elder Steadman! I also forgot introducing you to Elder Fordham!
Wow. Okay. Deep breaths. Let's start at the beginning. Pues, primero Elder Steadman ya se fue a Yakima para predicar la buena palabra alla. Vamos a extranarlo mucho, pero conocimos a este Elder Fordham! El es muy chido.

Well, first, Elder Steadman has now gone to Yakima to preach the good word there. We will miss him a lot, but we got to know Elder Fordham! He is very cool.

The night before Elder Steadman left, I ate an entire chicken. You already knew that, but you probably didn't know that we both ate them like bosses. Yeah, that's right! It was after a lunch getting a Grand Mac at McDonalds. Now that's impressive. Also, contrary to popular belief, neither of us felt sick. We just felt really, really full.
Then, transfers happened. Hello, Elder Fordham! *crickets*
We did missionary work for a couple of days, which was normal except our phone kept blowing up with messages from what seemed like half of Othello. Everyone wanted to talk to us... all the time! Even in the middle of lessons! I guess we're pretty popular around here.
Saturday, we went to the half of our area that is not technically within town limits: Little Mexico. Man, that was an interesting day. Story time. So we were walking down the street, and I saw this house that we had never knocked because it was guarded by two HUGE and FEROCIOUS rottweilers. This people didn't go for the chihuahua army. We can take those.
Anyway, I didn't see the rottweilers out front, but I was still super scared to open the gate and go inside. Man, one of those things could have eaten us both in a single bite! Okay, that's definitely an exaggeration, but they were huge. In order to test and see if they were there, I loudly shook the metal chain-linked gate several times to attract them if they were home. They didn't come, so we felt secure enough to risk it. Heh heh. Dumb.
Both Elder Fordham and I probably had our hearts pounding about 4 million miles every minute for a couple of seconds as we stealthily stole across the realm of these mighty beasts. It seemed like an eternity before we were secure behind the inner fence and knocking on the door. Success! The lady answered, and immediately asked if we spoke Spanish. We both answered that we did, and she then told us something that chilled me to my bones: "Wow, you about gave me a heart attack! Please never come in here again! Those dogs out there bite!"
Elder Fordham and I nervously chuckled, thinking they weren't home, and began to explain why it was so important to us to brave dogs to talk to people. She, however, destroyed all confidence in my fence-shaking abilities when she told us the the dogs were most definitely home. She wasn't super interested in our message, but was in shock that we were so brave and macho.
She then escorted us out to help protect us, and was shocked again when we said we shook the fence. She told us even the littlest thing attracted those dogs. We then testified of modern miracles and prophets, and left her to her dogs. Holy cow, that was scary.
We then later got invited in to a Mexican Jehovah's Witness Block Party with Coconut Empanadas. The empanadas were delicious.
Finally, an excerpt of my letter to the president:

Without going into details, Brenda has a big heart. She decided to live the law of Chastity, but felt apprehensive about making her boyfriend choose between her and his other girlfriend here in Othello. Long story short, she asked him to either marry her or leave, many crazy things happened, and she has now kicked him out for good. He showed his true colors just yesterday and the day before. He can't even legally go back.

However, this whole ordeal completely broke Brenda's heart. She has been through a lot lately, especially because she still cared about him and wished he would marry her. However, in the last few days, Elder Fordham and I have learned a great deal about the laws of justice and mercy, the atonement, and of the trials of our faith. It's not every time that the trial of our faith is a big, dramatic event, but such circumstances perfectly illustrate how Heavenly Father sometimes has to break us down to build us up. She has passed through what we hope is the worst of her trial of faith, but she sounds like a completely different Brenda as a result. She is now focused on the well-being of her kids, and she is excited for a new and brighter future. She is doing great!

Finally, another miracle happened within her family. Christopher, her son who never seemed interested (although we saw more interest in him than he wanted us to think), asked Brenda what he would have to do to be baptized with her and Crystal. He promised to listen to us, and we will begin working towards preparing them now... as a family. They are ready to move on to a bright, bright new future. It has been especially clear since we met them that the Lord is especially mindful of this family. It's a glorious thing to comprehend.

I love this work, and I especially love the people here in Othello. I am excited to watch as Brenda and her family make their final preparations to enter into this covenant with God and start fresh as a family. They will be so blessed. I know that whom the Lord loves, he chastens. He loves all of us, and we sometimes feel it. I love the opportunity to serve here at least one more transfer with Elder Fordham.
I love you all, and hope you have a great week!
Elder Adams