This past week we visited the north side of the mission for three zone conferences. We began in Tepic, followed by Santiago, and then finished up in Puerto Vallarta! Here are some picture from our conferences:
First the zones:
Here are the winners of the best area book competition!!
And we added some missionaries to the 100% club!! Each of these received 100% on the Preach My Gospel Exam. Good job!!
Here are the scripture chase champs!! In the spirit of the Olympics we gave them "gold medals" or at least a candy box necklace with gold ribbon. And in the spirit of good sportsman ship, the champs from this round of conferences came from three different countries--Peru, Mexico and Nicaragua! Bien hecho!!
And of course we celebrate birthdays!! Here are the birthdays for the months January, February and March. And yes, that is Elder Sanders in the picture below. He "resurrected" and dropped by for a visit, so we celebrated his birthday as well!
A couple weeks ago we had the wonderful privilege of attending the Mission Presidents' Seminar for the Mexico Area in Mexico City. Not only were we able to meet and be instructed by our very inspired Area Presidency, but we also received training from Elder Dallin H. Oaks and his wife, and Elder Craig Christensen of the Seventy and his wife. It was such a pleasure to be instructed by them and certainly an experience we will always remember.
In all of our meetings, working with members to find and teach investigators was emphasized. Elder Oaks told the story of how his missionary grandson observed that the members were praying for the missionaries to find people to teach and the missionaries were praying for the members to find people for them to teach and what was being neglected on both sides was the actual finding.
He also mentioned that when the Church began to strongly emphasize member missionary work, the missionaries "stopped rowing and waited for the members to push their boats to shore". He taught that missionaries need to be actively seeking new people to teach on their own by talking with everyone they meet, as well as work with members.
Some of my favorite quotes from President Daniel Johnson from the seminar are:
Elder Johnson quoting Elder Bednar--"If we want different results, we need to change the way we teach. If we keep doing what we are doing now, our results will be the same."
Don't ever ask an investigator to do something that you yourself are not doing.
Satan is hastening his work. If we don't hasten ours, we will be left very far behind.
Don't leave this meeting discouraged. We do need to do better, but we need to look forward with an eye of faith, trusting in the Lord.
The best protection missionaries have is obedience because then they have the guidance and protection of the Spirit. What worries me the most is knowing we have some disobedient missionaries without this protection.
Some principles that were emphasized in our training are:
1. Missionaries need to understand that finding and teaching are ONE activity not two separate ones. Most missionaries either focus on finding or on teaching, not realizing that they should always be doing both at the same time.
2. Missionaries need to understand that they are on their missions to help the members. The members do not exist to help the missionaries.
3. Missionaries should teach a gospel principle in every house they enter.
4. Missionaries should ask for a name in every lesson they give (which means ALWAYS).
5. Every missionary should read, understand and live every single principle they teach. They can not teach with clarity something they do not understand and they cannot teach with power something they themselves are not living.
6. Missionaries need to raise their expectations. God does expect us to do a lot more than we are doing, and with an increase in faith and obedience, God can help the missionaries baptize weekly.
7. We need to raise our sights. We need to teach more, teach better, and find better. And every night each missionary should ask him/herself, "What must I do tomorrow to improve over today?"
And from Elder Oaks . . .
Our first priority is to increase baptisms. However, we should not set goals for the number of baptisms since that depends on the agency of the investigator. But missionaries can set preliminary goals that lead to baptism--such as how many lessons they will teach and how many new investigators they will find.
Here are some more pictures from our time in Mexico City:
One of the highlights of our seminar is visiting with friends. And it is nice to find out our challenges are not unique!
Here we are with the Calls from the Mexico City North Mission and the Reeves from the Mexico Puebla South Mission. We are so sad that both of them will be returning home this summer and we will miss them very much at our future meetings.
We stayed at an airport hotel but had our meetings at the old MTC on the temple grounds. The temple is closed right now for remodeling, but the visitors center just opened after being closed for two years! It was fun to see that. The center is beautiful and very well done.
And as you can see, we didn't starve. This was just a snack between meetings. Kudos to the chefs who did a fabulous job with the food.
And the decorations. I loved all their attention to detail.
Now we are just sad that we won't have another seminar until October!! But we are ready to put in practice all that we learned!
We understand you are excited to have your son or daughter return home. Having been parents of missionaries ourselves, we can relate to that excitement. And we are so grateful for parents who support their missionary children by writing regularly.
But please remember that your child needs to stay focused on his or her mission up until the very last day. And when parents write about all the fun things they are going to do when the missionary returns, or how the parents can't wait for the missionary to meet his new niece/nephew/sister-in-law etc., or the exciting vacations they are planning on taking together, it really messes up the missionary.
I have visited with missionaries who are going home as early as March to as late as June who are struggling to stay focused due to letters from parents--particularly mothers. And when missionaries lose their focus, they get homesick, work less, are less obedient, and negatively influence their companions and districts.
So please be sensitive to that and help them "endure to the end" with an "eye single to the glory of God" by only writing things in letters that will help and inspire them.
Then, when your son or daughter returns home, they will truly return with honor, having been faithful and focused until the very end!
Here we are!! 219 Missionaries (counting us and our senior office couple) with Elder and Sister Craig Christensen, Elder and Sister De Hoyos, and Elder Martinez (area authority). I LOVE this picture!!
We had such a wonderful day meeting in the chapel with the Guadalajara East Mission and learning from our leaders. We loved the stories that were told and the advice given. And now it is time to get out and put it all to work!!
But first . . . a few more pictures . . . :-)
Lining up for the picture . . .
We are now 54 sister missionaries strong!
And just after the meeting with both missions! What a beautiful sight to behold!
We welcomed 16 new missionaries on Monday. Eight were sisters and eight were elders, eight came from the US and eight came from Spanish speaking countries--Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador.
The native Spanish speakers all arrived at 8:20 in the morning--after getting up around 1:30 to finish packing and head to the airport. Here they are after arriving and with their companions:
In the early evening we welcomed 8 missionaries from the US. Here are there pictures as a group and with their companions.
And a bonus. No, they are not companions. But they are friends from the BYU track team. Sister T on the left arrived 8 weeks ago and Sister B on the right arrived last week. They were reunited for a few minutes before they both went off to work.