Monday, December 30, 2013

The Glue Traps work. We just caught #3.

The Glue Traps work. We just caught #3

We make it a point to only knock doors during The Hour of Power. The rest of the time we are talking to people outside, former investigators, family of members and investigators. 

We saw a "Milagrito" last night. We were trying to teach a lady, and her unteachable grown son couldn't let us say a word. We had tried to review Joseph Smith and the restoration, but this man wouldn't have any of it. He continually interrupted us, and told us repeatedly how well he already knew God, how Jesus lived in his heart, and a lot of other things. We finally cut him off and turned on the Restoration video. A minute into it he was fast asleep. We felt the spirit and committed Paula to baptism. His snoring was still really annoying, but I still feel like my prayers were answered. The Lord put him to sleep. He wasn't prepared to hear the Gospel and was preventing his mother from receiving it. He was still unconscious when we left.

I've seen more than ever the clarity, peace and perspective The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ gives. We learned about intellectual captivity in conference, and I see it everyday. False ideas and attitudes are keeping people enslaved in addictions, poverty, and sin. When we live according to the pattern that God has given us we really are set free. My testimony grows more everyday of the divine origin of the Gospel and this Church.

Elder Decker

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Epic mouse battle

Dear Mother,

I am now actually working in the big, grand, blessed city of Houston Texas. In fact, our area is the closest in the mission to downtown. The big bright skyline is right out the back window. There are times we have to be careful not to leave our area/district/ward/zone/stake/mission/universe. My companion's name is Elder Thomas from Ogden Utah. He's relatively new compared to my last 3 companions, so it's a big change.

Elder Thomas just opened our area in October. There are few members, active or otherwise, and very few investigators. We are starting small, but there is a lot raw material to work with. As in Pasadena, there are a lot of people willing to listen from us, or more likely, talk at us inside their home. It's tricky figuring out how to spend our time wisely and in the right places. We still haven't mastered ending conversations with highly drunken folks, homeless people, or JW's. Most people speak spanish which is good news for us.

Our apartment is very new, but I found it with a ladybug infestation and now we've been epicly battling a mouse for days. It's been fun.

Everday I see how great a blessing the Restored Gospel is. People really are lost and confused and in need of what we have. I am privileged to be where I am and to do what I do.

We're doing well. I can speak Spanish. The Church is true. Christmas is great. Follow the prophet. hablaramos este Miercoles.

Elder Decker

Monday, December 16, 2013

And now here I go.

My week went pretty well. Let's see if I can remember...

Last Tuesday we had our last exchange of the transfer. It'll be weird not doing those anymore. I've taught with ten different missionaries while I've been in the field- a big blessing.

Wednesday was an enormous, all day, missionary extravaganza. The Mission-wide Christmas Conference included discourses from the president and his wife, and from two amazing recent converts. I got my package there, as well as socks and goodies from the President. I enjoyed it. It was a great opportunity to really "get a feel" for our mission. I have a better idea now of who we are, how many of us there are, and what it is we want to do. It was a great day.

Our Friday Hour of power was a particularly notable one. We prayed with Liz (the lady we baptized last month) and began knocking doors on her street. The first house was a white guy who tried to tell about his lifelong religious experience and talk on the phone at the same time. At the second house a man answered the door and let us right in. We were feeling pretty confidant and excited, "how to begin teaching points" and "inspired questions" racing through our heads when suddenly a woman came out from the back room chanting "we're not interested!" and quickly shooed us out the door.

None of that is all that unusual. What is abnormal is what we found at the third house. We were let in by Mauro, a middle aged man. We talked about his beliefs and our purpose as missionaries, and a brief explanation of our message. Well, as we began to leave his daughter came in. She is a dream investigator:"something is missing in my life", "I really want to come closer to God" and more. She invited us to come back the next day. When we did, we were able to teach a family of four: parents and their two children, all of whom are interested in our message. Fabiola, the daughter, even came to church today.

Elder Smith, Elder Decker, Luis, Elder Jones
 Saturday I had the opportunity to baptize Luis. He is the only investigator I've never had concerns about. He has a strong excitement and love for the Gospel. He lives with his friend’s family: a big house with one other member and a lot of potential. The whole family came to the baptism of Saturday. It was an amazing experience to see Luis progress so far, from when we first found him, to yesterday being in the circle to confirm him a member of the Lord's Church.

The Gospel really changes people. It can change your very nature.

Elder Smith & Elder Jones
Tomorrow I will be transferred. It seems like things really started to get interesting this last week- right before I leave. We had a baptism this weekend, we found a really exciting family, and all sorts of other things all at once. And now here I go. I've been anticipating this for a while, and honestly, I can't think of any reason The Lord would want me to stay here. I am really grateful for the privilege I had to serve in this area. I learned a lot watching my 3 companions in the 11 weeks I've been here. Now it seems I'm on my way to learn from doing. Wherever it is I end up I know I will have a bigger role to play, and a lot of room to grow.

I haven't got a clue where I'm going. I can't tell you a when, or a how, but I'll call y'all on the 25th.

Elder Decker

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It is real

We were able to go to the Houston Texas Temple on Saturday morning. We woke up at 4:30 that morning, and drove up with our ward mission leader. Liz left her kids at home, and her parents who had come to visit, so she could come to the temple. Despite objections from friends and family, she continues to learn and grow in the Gospel.
 I was able to be participate as a witness to about two hundred baptisms for the dead. The Temple is beautiful place, tucked away up north almost in a forest of trees. It sharply differs from the hundreds and hundreds of other churches, prayer houses, and worship centers I see here in Texas. It is real. It has power.

Do ya'll remember Elder Ballard's talk from conference? If each member of the church reaches out to just one before Christmas, millions will feel the Savior's love. Have you done that yet?

That's crazy that Kody is leaving right now. When you told me about his call, I thought it was ages away. That's super cool that he's going to be where I just was, and during Christmas! El Centro de Capacitacion Misional Mexico is one of my favorite places, and President Pratt is phenomenal.

There hasn't been snow in this part of the world for something like 14 years, so be a little grateful over there.

We're having another baptism this week!

Luis is was more prepared for the Gospel than anyone I've ever met. He had a life changing experience in September that really made him want to change, he began coming to church on his own, and has almost attended as many sacrament meetings here as I have! He has accepted everything we teach him with a lot of enthusiasm. 

I am grateful for the privilege to serve here. I couldn't possibly ask for any more. My companions are excellent missionaries, the ward is strong, and there are many people to teach.

And now it's Christmas.

Elder Decker 

Monday, December 2, 2013

There is more digging to do.

We saw a miracle this weekend. There is a part member family that the missionaries have been teaching for about three years. The 16 year old son, was finally baptized a year ago and is kind of a go-to-guy for member present lessons. His dad dropped into inactivity about 2 months ago. We've been over there a few times to talk to Michael and his dad. The mother and two sisters, who have heard a lot from the missionaries, always hide in the back. Literally hide.

We've been taking the [16 year old] to teach a neighbor of his. They're old buddies and the same age, so we thought it was a good idea. Last Friday his mom called us concerned. We've talked to her before, we knew she was a former investigator, a Testigo de Jehovah, and that she never liked to meet with us. She was worried that he was hanging out with his neighbor again and was going to pick up his old drug habits. We talked to her a bit, and asked if we could come talk to her. Elder Jones and I were exchanged into an English area, but Elder Smith went and saw him and his parents on Saturday. They talked about the reason for having a church, the family, and The Book of Mormon. Remarkably Sandra said she knows The Book of Mormon is true, and accepted the invitation to go to church the next day.

I've learned a big lesson. I lacked the faith that she would change, after having read through the area book about how much work had been put into that family. I remembered that she used to drive her son to Seminary every morning at 5:30. I remembered that she would send him out of the house to come teach with us. I think there really is potential there. It's another one of those Preach My Gospel "Icebergs" we just need to excavate. Yesterday [the 16 year old] and both his parents came to church together. It really was a special sight. We are excited to meet again with them this week.

In other good news, our recent convert is super excited to go to the temple on Saturday, because of new mission rules we're going too! Yesterday she got a recommend and we all went over to the Barajas home to do her Family History Work. Unfortunately there are too many Marias in Monterrey, so there is more digging to do.

We went on an exchange and did some English work. It surprises me every time how different it is. We spent almost four hours in an apartment complex talking to Black people, White People, and speaking some Spanish as well. I havent' seen so many cigarette butts in my life. It was a really good experience and I learned alot. It still surprises me how ready people are too just let a stranger into their home to talk about religion. We must be in the South.

Thanksgiving was pretty sweet. We spent a few hours with our ward mission leader Hno. Chavez. We ate carne asada burritos with pico de guio and tres leches cake to top it off. We even had a crazy game of uno. When we were all stuffed we shuffled off to dinner at the Quintanilla's. There we had classic Thanksgiving foodstuffs like turkey, stuffing, and orange manzanita sol soda. It was good. We told some jokes, played some lethargic volleyball, and that was thanksgiving.

We don't have Christmas plans yet, I will let you know. In fact, transfers are on the 17th so it's more than likely that I'll be in a new area. I doubt a trained missionary will just be left hanging around the zone leaders.

que tengan buena semana

Elder Decker


Monday, November 25, 2013

Missionary work is like yard work.

This week has been fun. We really saw a change in one less-active member of the ward. His enthusiasm for the Gospel has been reinvigorated. He even came out with us on a visit. 4 Days last week we split up to proselyte. Either with a member or with an AP. We really got some work done. But missionary work is like Yard work. No matter how beautiful your area is looking, neglect it for a short time and growth stops, and problems spring up.

We've been doing a lot of finding. With one man named Domingo, my companion really just let me do it all solo for the first time. 100% Spanish I attempted to ask him questions, understand his responses, and create interest in our message. It was hard. I saw little success. But I see I've come a long way, I'm doing the best I can, and I've just got to continue improving.

Last week during a meal with a member something special happened. While we were crunching down on some phenomenal flautas, the hermana's nephew came in and started talking with us. We had met him before, and knew he wasn't a member, so we asked some questions and moved our conversation to the topic of religion. When we brought up the restoration he said "I chose Jesus Christ to be my Lord a long time ago, if there's more out there it's a no-brainer. Of course I'm interested!"

We've taught twice now, and in his own words, he really just "wants to sink his teeth" into the Gospel. It is really exciting to meet somebody so very open to doctrine and scripture he hasn't seen before. He is incredibly prepared, living in the home of a member, and has been searching his whole life for this gospel. Now it's up to us to teach him, and invite him to change his life according to the Lord's restored gospel.
The weather changed overnight here. It really does get cold here. The number on the thermometer tells me it's time to wear shorts, my body tells me I'm in the Arctic Ocean. In rains in Texas. Really rains. Thursday during companionship study the lightning set off a car alarm.
 A couple days ago I was studying about the restoration, but instead of being in the Bible looking for "proof" (gotta love the Bible Belt) I  studied completely in The Book of Mormon. It was a testimony building experience as I realized the kindness and love God has for us as he removed confusion and contention through that amazing book. The Holy Ghost confirmed the truth of it to me as I read.

Thank you for living what you believe. Thank you for your love. Thank you for magnifying your callings.

Elder Decker

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's gone by like a plate of Floutas.

We are doing well. My new companion is getting over the flu, so we've been a little slow out of the gate.

 I am learning a lot. I am catching the vision of why finding is so important. I look at our schedule and see that the majority of the people we were teaching at the beginning of last transfer never progressed, and we are now seeing new people. It is vitally important to keep finding new people, and giving them a chance to accept the message.

I've found it is really hard to remember names. I want to know the ward, but I can't yet speak to them as well as I'd like, and then I go and forget their names!

Last week we taught a man we was genuinely and sincerely anxious to listen to us. He really wanted to understand. He even had a pad of paper out ready to take down what we taught. He had a great story about coming to Christ and the bible after a long drug addiction. All in all, he would make a fabulous member of the church. The problem was his attitude toward The Book of Mormon, the one thing that can prove to him the veracity of our message and he literally wouldn't even touch it.  He couldn't even consider reading that amazing book, that has done so good for me. We bore testimony, and were as inviting and helpful as we possibly could be, but he would not be budged. He just loved the Bible more than he loved God.

I noticed something interesting that night. No matter what he said about Joseph Smith or The Book of Mormon, it did absolutely nothing to me. Usually those conversations would leave me doubting and worrying, but all I felt for him was regret and disappointment.

Time has really flown. As far as I'm concerned, I finished a transfer at High School, a transfer in Provo, spent a transfer in Mexico, and now I'm going to spend at least two here in Pasadena Central. All of that in the last six months, and it's gone by like a plate of Floutas. I like floutas. They are probably like your eggrolls and taquitos mixed. They are the real Honduranian deal. There is usually queso or carne or something in them, but I swear one time it was papas.

Thank you for all you do for me. I'm am trying to make every sacrifice worth it.

If you could send English Scriptures as well that would be appreciated. And throw one of my hoodies in there, it can actually get cold in Texas (who knew?). Thanks so much.


Elder Decker

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Chihuahuas and Christmas yard inflatables

This last week went well, and there was certainly a lot to learn. It was interesting to be finishing my first transfer in the field just as Elder Erickson completed his last. I was privileged to be his companion, and to learn so much from him.

The zone ended the transfer well with 4 separate baptisms, and 4 services. Each of those (now mormon!) children of God are coming to Christ and entering his fold. It was amazing to see the excitement and energy as so many made the enormous commitment to join the Lord's church. The Great Zone of Pasadena had two baptisms on Saturday (one english-yikes white people), and two on Sunday. Elder Erickson drove out to Umble for a wedding Saturday night, then he went back Sunday night for the baptism. Sunday morning was our baptism, then the Pasadena South Elders had another one after church. Sunday I got sick and was puking during Gospel Principles class, but after two jugs of pedialyte and a P-day, I'm fresh as can be. It's just been really busy and confusing and great. We crammed a ton of eating appointments in right before Elder Erickson left, right in the midst of my digestionary digression. We even met our extremely recent convert at Ranchito's for breakfast this morning at 7:30.

We baptized a lady on Sunday. She is amazingly energetic and excited by the Gospel. She has a lot to learn, and a long way to go, but she truly has a broken heart and contrite spirit and definitely was qualified for baptism. We will be careful to watch over her and continue to strengthen her. There field is certainly white for the harvest here in Pasadena, we need only to spend our precious time wisely. And then, just let the spirit work through us to get the work done.
I got a new companion something like 2 hours ago. His name is Elder Smith; he is from Payson Utah. I don't really know anything about him, but he seems great. He, Elder Jones, and I are gonna do some work.

2 things extremely prevalent in Pasadena right now- Chihuahuas and Christmas yard inflatables. 

My testimony, confidence, and ability to speak the language is improving. Spanish is really messing with my head. It's like I can't speak either language anymore. I've been reading from The Book of Mormon in Spanish, it does a marvelous work and a wonder.

I am grateful for the transfer meeting today, and for the spirit I felt there. It was energizing to see so many missionaries and their enthusiasm.

Elder Decker

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Have fun voting without me America

November 4, 2013

I definitely got your package. It was gladly received, especially by my companions. It just turned up on my front door, so it was pretty great. Daylight savings has really made things weird, as I'm sure it has for you, but we are a long way from anything like "cold." Don't worry about the heat or cold, those things don't exist here, but we do get some pretty sweet rain around here. It waits for every time I'm exchanged into a biking area. They've got Halloween enthusiasm around here, haven't ever seen so many decapitated heads since Brenna's LOTR marathon. But that night all we did was weekly planning, and ate a bunch of taffy.

It's incredibly important for people to do something in their own time. If it's really important to them, which the Gospel should be, being prepared for church will make a huge difference to their testimonies, priorities, and lives.

It's funny being the Zone leader tag-along. Everybody asks me if I'm a Visa-waiter. I'm not. I'm here for good. Last week a couple elders asked me if we even teach lessons, or how much time we actually spending being missionaries. The fact is, real leaders don't go tromping around doing super important mysterious things. Elders Ericson and Jones get bikes to the shop, transport missionaries around, order supplies answer questions, and ask the zone just to be better. It's not glamorous. So keep in mind, that becoming a leader is just having the duties you did before, but then spending extra time (sometimes a lot of it) helping others do the same.

Missionary work can be frustrating. I know what is most important for people, yet all we hear is how much people work, how busy they are, and how they are never home. Sadly we have two or three non-progressing investigators who will accept no commitments at all. Our visits are almost just social time for them. I fear that soon we will have to stop meeting with them, because our time might be better spent somewhere else.

I had a great experience yesterday bearing my testimony in sacrament meeting. There have been several times in my life that the spirit was really urging me to do something, but I would not. It is the worst feeling in the world. I could have easily talked myself out of bearing my testimony: the time is running up, my Spanish is bad, no other missionaries are up there, but I knew how I would feel if I did not, and I made a choice. As I sat down afterward, there spirit flooded into me. I knew I had done the right thing. I realized that when I asked my investigators to do things, reading, repenting, changing, that it is the same thing. I think they often know they should do it, though there are many reasons they could choose not to. I am glad I had the opportunity to do and feel what it is like to follow the spirit.

Have fun voting without me America

Elder Decker

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tex-Mexico, the greatest country there is!

Last week we bought something like 90 snack packs for our zone p-day pudding eating competition. It was pretty sweet.

Last week we had good ol' new missionary training. I had almost forgotten that I was "new". I feel I've been here forever. In a good way. Because Elder Jones is a Zone leader, we ended up driving missionaries home for several hours. I relayed directions from the GPS, and put CD after broken MoTab CD into the Player, each without success. I'm sick of driving around. I got to bike last Saturday, which was an enjoyable experience. I wasn't expecting how strange it is to bike where it is so perfecting flat and level. My companions had left to have a meeting with the Area Council on hastening the work of Salvation. So they met President Rasband of the presidency of the Seventy and several other General authorities. Meanwhile I was at China River Buffet eating cream cheese Won-tons.

We've really done a lot of work in the last week, including preparing several people to be baptized.At the very start of the transfer, we prayed to know how many people we were to baptize before it was done. The answer was 5. Until this last week (week 4), we didn't have a single commitment. Miraculously, though not without difficulty, we have 5 baptisms scheduled for Nov. 10. Our zone has 18 total. That is a lot. Our mission has been struggling with people following through with baptism commitments, so we have a ton of work to do if every one of those people will be baptized.

We finally got to go to church again, and to a ward party. There really are some great members here . . .where I am: Tex-Mexico, the greatest country there is!

Meat, rice, and beans. That's just about every beloved eating appointment. Can never go wrong there. We're actually teaching a lady named Diana, she's one of three ladies, (Mom, daughter, daughter in-law), that we have dubbed "the three Amigas." We are teaching them tonight right before they head to Mexico for a month.

Have fun with all those leaves on the ground. I have yet to see a single one change color.

Elder Decker

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I'm not worried, God always provides

BYU beat undefeated Houston 47-46
Hour of power this week wasn't quite as powerful, (especially with return appointments arranged for during the Texans game) but I had a good experience. I genuinely felt confidant and comfortable with knocking on doors for the first time of my mission. BYU/Houston was cool, a bunch of RM's came back here for it. You know, the legends and heroes of transfers gone by. The president announced Mission-wide that none of us were to view the game. Duh. Unfortunately, that loss, in combination with that of the ill-fated Houston Texans, hasn't improved the disposition of the average Pasadener. Good thing we're bringing them the Gospel.

I went on an English exchange last week, and taught in English. It was pretty different. We went to the house of this one girl, not much older than me, and tried to teach us a lesson. She said she couldn't at that moment because of her dad, her dogs, and a whole bunch of other things. She also told us that five people from her family had died recently, including her mom, how everything was going wrong, and how depressed and stressed she was. We couldn't teach her a lesson, but I still wanted to do something. I asked her "do you like to read?" she responded (in English remember, so I can actually understand) "Well when I'm here all alone.... There isn't a lot more I can spend my time doing is there." I gave we gave her a Book of Mormon right there on the spot, I bore my testimony about it, and the power that is in it. My companion shared Mosiah 24: 14-15, and then we offered a prayer. I asked her if she would read from it and she said "I think I'd better." I feel that we really made a difference to her that day,

This week really was great, it's becoming more real. Things get hard.

The people are real, they mostly have no knowledge at all about the church, out here they all love Jesus, and each day you get to try again. We had a real miracle the other day, followed by a lot of bad luck. We were led to this 13 year old girl who absolutly loves hearing from the missionaries. It turns out that she was taught a year and a half ago, but then the missionaries lost her after she moved. She's golden.The day after we met, she committed to be baptized. That was 9 days ago, and we haven't been able to see her since. Her family wouldn't answer calls for four days. Well, it turns out that The power went out at their apartment complex and they were away for 4 days. She also had a panic attack and was in the hospital and needs a surgery. Right now they are having family issues so she is staying at her grandma's house. Her Jehovah's witness grandma who wants her to go to "Kingom Hall". Mix all that with the fact that she is a child, and a girl, and so we always need parental consent and a man with us to teach her, and we have a pretty hard time meeting with her. Oh yea and she is often in detention.

Basically there is a big potential for this girl to be baptized, but just about everything possible is getting thrown in the way of that. But I'm not worried, God always provides.

Anyway love all y'alls

Monday, October 14, 2013

It was fun.

We've got a couple awesome investigators. One, whose enthusiasm had been waning, is doing awesome. She found the lessons interesting, but not life-changing, until she was taught the Word of Wisdom. She committed to keep it, and has been reaping the benefits ever since. She's come to church 3 times including conference, and is just doing great. She doesn't have a baptismal date (despite the best efforts of my companion), but she is definitely preparing and is further along than any other investigators. Right now she's working on getting saint statues and such out of the house after we taught her the ten commandments.

We had a little miracle the other day. We were looking for a less active member, and Elder Jones asked a girl for directions. He started talking to her and found out she actually had quite a lot of interest in hearing out message. It turns out she had been taught by missionaries a year and a half ago before she moved, that her real father is a member, and that all her family back in Mexico are members. Saturday, the day after we met her, she committed to baptism. She's got a ways to go, but she's got more enthusiasm then our whole zone put together.

This week has been fun. My companions dropped me off with a 16 yr old member by ourselves to knock doors for hour of power. For those of you who don't know, this is the hour between 6 and 7 on Thursday when the entire mission goes out to knocks doors and see miracles. Let me rephrase that the Elder Jones' way. Quote: "We're going to knock one door and find a family and teach that family and it'll be great."

Well Michael and I went off by ourselves, which was terrifying, but he knows Spanish and I know English so it's gonna be great. So I had to really muster up my courage and talk to people and do something I hadn't ever done before with a kid that's been a member for under a year. It was cool. Right at the end of the hour we met two guys that seemed really genuinely interested. I was shocked. I couldn't talk to them very well, but I had our number on the back of a pamphlet and gave it to him. He called it on the spot and talked to my companion "Quiro escuchar una mensaje sobre Jesucristo!" It was a good experience that taught me really how many people there are who will hear me, I just need the courage to reach them.

Church was an adventure. I said some pretty stupid stuff, had no clue what people were telling me, and had to ask members I had already met for their names, but it's all good.

 My address: 1000 e. curtis #802  Pasadena, Texas 77056

My apartment is pretty small for three guys, its got carpet (a dream after Mexico), a dishwasher (which I don't use because hand washing is easier), one of my companions sleeps on the floor. on a mattress. which is still wrapped in cellophane because he doesn't want stuff to crawl into it. It's pretty much the dream Missionary apartment, with churchie pictures and quotes in every crevice and crack. There are "how to begin teaching points" in the shower.

Oh yea and there was a ridiculous storm on the day Elder Jones and I went on exchanges (on bikes). Honestly it doesn't even rain in Utah. It was crazier than Mexico City. I couldn't have gotten wetter in a shorter amount of time if I had jumped in a lake. It was fun.

hasta luego

Elder Decker
Funny thing: Elder Ericson likes to wear his suit sometimes, while Elder Jones and I go with the classic short sleeved shirts. He is a lot taller than us, and so we joke that Elder Jones and I are his little minions following him around.
It's funnier than it sounds.

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's powerful.

I'm glad to hear that you all went to conference. It is awesome that during conference we are exactly where we are supposed to be (if we are there and attentive) and then we hear exactly what God wants us to do. It's powerful.

Thanks for you great example Mom. While I'm here I receive lots of service, and try to give it right back out.

I'm sorry you expected a letter sooner, you should get a postcard I sent on Tuesday (probably the first of those flimsy, non-confidential thingies I have ever sent).

So. Last weekend (years ago), we said our good-byes, ate our last sleeves of chokies and packed us our stuffs. Monday morning we woke up at 2, went on a crazy bus ride through Mexico city, and we were off. We saw lots of people, smelled some strange things, and ended up flown all the way to Houston. The President picked us up (he's cool) and we drove into a glossy Houston neighborhood and arrived at the mission home. For some reason I was surprised that the mission home was literally a home. Anyway it was weird to be in America and I didn't want to touch anything, it was all so clean, and the food was different and good.

The next day (Tuesday for those of us who can't keep track), after sleeping in a 4 man apartment with 16 Elders, the AP not locking the trailer and tons of luggage flew out on the street and got stolen and we had to track him down, we got to transfers. #run on sentence.

My companionship was the first to be called. I actually have 2 comps. They are zone leaders. My trainer is Elder Jones like you saw. He was a wrestler at Pleasant Grove High School and graduated '12. My other companion is Elder Ericson, he is in his last transfer and knows our area, and Spanish , incredibly well. Both are incredible missionaries and I am privileged to serve with them.

Being in the field is new. We have already taught, contacted, drove, and conducted zone business a whole bunch. I still speak a whole lot more than I understand the language, which is frustrating. Since it's a trio, i have to make sure to assert myself and make sure I know what's happening and that I am contributing.

I don't know the Ward well yet, no church yesterday. We've been fed a lot, the members are awesome. People are great though, and there are tons of missionaries that all have my back.

I'll send you some pictures another Monday.

Oh yea, I'm in Pasadena Texas Mom.

Love Elder Decker

Your Missionary has arrived safely to T.H.E. Mission!

Zach is back in the United States! I was able to talk to him on Monday, September 30th, from the Dallas airport. He had been up since 2 a.m. to pack and travel to the Mexico City airport. He said it sounded weird to be have everyone speaking English. He sounded SO good! He was ready to meet his new companion and get to work. We received pictures and a message from his Mission President.

Your Missionary has arrived safely to T.H.E. Mission!  Upon arrival we met your missionary at the airport and took them directly to the mission home where they were fed Texas Bar-b-que and met the office staff.  An orientation by the office staff followed lunch while individual interviews were conducted by President Crawford.  That evening they were invited to share their testimonies.  The following morning was focused on training after which they met their new companion and were transported to their area of service.  They are now out diligently searching for our Heavenly Father's children and doing the work of the Lord. Thank you for sending your daughters and sons to us, they have added great strength to our small army here in the Texas Houston East Mission. We love them and are so grateful to have them with us. You will find attached a picture of your newly arrived missionary with Sister Crawford and myself as well as their arriving group and Trainer.

Elder Decker with President and Sister Crawford

Elder Decker and Elder Jones

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It was kind of a wake-up call

We wrapped up our last language lesson yesterday, and realized how much of what we learned in the last month just didn't stick. We teach a lot in Spanish, but I still have a hard time communicating in any other context. I leave here Sunday night, then I'll be back in the States. I'm glad to hear you guys figured out how to get me a bike, and that I hadn't taken the information with me! (that would've just been way too typical)

Elder Parkes already has great Spanish thanks to his very wise pre-mission studies. It is super cool to see him here.

The film at the temple is the of the more retro sort. But who cares. An interesting tidbit to me was when nuestro maestro asked us what the new film was like. I realized that he (and saints all over the world) had been going to the temple for years, while I went for a solid month before getting an updated version. It was kind of a wakeup call.

A very flooded night.
And a very smoggy day.
I attended the temple for the last time today, and as new insight I think I'm beginning to understand how important it is for people to receive the gospel, scriptures, and ordinances in their our tongue. I am very grateful that the people here don't have to struggle through an all- english church, because I kind of know how it would feel.
I realized today that one of the sweetest parts of Texas will be the air. I am sorry that so many people have to spend their lives in this perpetually present smog. The rain is ridiculously cool though.

Ultimo Dia a El Casa Del Señor
I see the pleasant grove weather all the time from my windows 7 widgit. It seems pleasant. It's actually pretty similar to here right now, but with a fraction of the rainfall. Unfortunately, Houston is continuously in the 90's. I'm glad that God knew where I was really needed, because I wouldn't have picked anywhere stateside and  blisteringly hot.

Straight up fake twinkies.
I'm excited for general conference, and hope all of you are preparing for it. I don't want to be the missionary to tells people we have true and living prophets, but then can't remember a thing they have said. If there were any time in my life that I really needed the word of the Lord for our day, it would be now. It feels awesome that those other Elders (Uchtdorf, Bednar, Holland...) have the exact same purpose and work as we do right here.


Elder Decker

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Everybody needs the Gospel

Me and The Roomates 
My favorite part of México is definitely the people. (and just so you are aware I am using the accents not because I think I'm all Spanishy and cool, but because they are all spanishy and fun: we have cool keyboards here µñ©äåé®þüúíóö«´¶øðßáæ©ñµç¿j) The people are so genuine and kind, even though I have a hard time understanding them I really do like talking to them. Monday was The anniversary of the Mexican declaration of Independence from Spain. Saturday we had a fiesta with dancers, singers, and indoor fireworks (all in what used to be the high school gym (I find ()'s useful). By the way it is hilarious to watch over 500 Gringos try to sing the Mexican National Anthem. Sunday night was the grito. We watched a broadcast of it at 11pm. Basically El Presidente de México marches out on a balcony with the national flag, rings a bell, shouts the names of Mexican revolution national heroes (with the whole country shouting ¡Viva! in reply) waves the flag, and then we sing the anthem again. It's short, sweet, and the Mexicans are very passionate about it. After the Grito, we were instructed to go straight home. Apparently en Ciudad de México people like to shoot their guns in the air, and there was a danger of getting hit by a falling bullet.
Classic CCM Lunch- they are getting pretty good

Our buddies over at district 10A are leaving pretty soon, and bestowed upon us the inheritance of our zone, the one and only relic of our CCM forebears. The official, 175 gram, Centro de Capacitación Misional México Zona Diez Frisbee. We have the solemn duty to protect, cherish, play with, sign, then pass on this gift of gifts, treasure of treasures, this frisky Discy, this birthright- rite of passage pinnacle of Gym time. We finally have obtained a frisbee. It'll end up on the roof by the end of the week.

Oh by the way, my Latino roomate is a matador. As in killer of bulls. He's just a short, tiny, little fella but he shoves full on swords down Toro spines.

Right now we are working on committing our faux-vestigators to baptism. A couple of them have word of wisdom issues and other concerns. It's very difficult, but very rewarding to try to teach the way The Savior did. We are trying to listen to our investigators needs, concerns, worries and then use the Gospel to help them. Everybody needs the Gospel. Nobody needs standardized, scripted, memorized, and regurgitated churchy mush. It's hard to do, but after study, prayer, and listening to the spirit, a prepared missionary (or member) can bring anybody the counsel, care, or comfort they need- and most importantly the spirit of the Lord.

hasta luego

Elder Decker

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Basically a missionary fetus

September 12, 2014

That storm [in Utah] sounds awesome. We have been getting ridiculous amounts of rain here as well. A week ago a very strong and very brief storm hit. It was sprinkling, at around 5 pm, like it does every day. From one direction we heard an enormous amount of rain falling. Out the window we could see its approach, a dark curtain of solid water. As it pounded over us we had to almost shout to hear each other, but in just 5 minutes or so it was gone, and the CCM was soaked. 

It's just classic that after 18 years of waiting, the tornado hit just as soon as I left the country.

It kind of reminds me of when I was 5 years old, Joel Drake told Justin and I that a hot air balloon had landed in our backyard, and given him a ride, while we were on vacation.

Pretty exciting stuff for The good ol' B Y of U

I went to the Mexico City Temple for the second time today. I've discovered that the best way to deal with the bus sickness and heat is to just sleep through it. I understood quite a bit more this time around, both spiritually and linguistically. I do feel blessed by the gift of tongues. I recall some words almost effortlessly after hearing them once, and can carry on a missionary discussion well over our allotted 25 minutes. One thing I am struggling with is understanding. The Spanish of mi comapñero or the rest of my district is easy to understand, but mis maestros, Latino roommates, CCM trabajores, or miembros at El Templo are impossible. I am always grateful that I am not in Provo surrounded by white people and white Spanish.

I appreciate what you said about the atonement. It really is for everyone, can conquer anything, and can give us everything. I am trying to tap into that power, the grace of Jesus Christ, that can heal, inspire, and enable us to do all that has been asked of us.

You are right, even though all us missionaries are out here to do the same thing, we often don't agree on how to get that done. As for your statement that the mission is like real life, Elder Holland told us this (well really told the Provo MTC back in February of 2012) "This is real life. This is the closest thing to real life you are ever going to get!""- which means right now I'm basically a missionary fetus.

I recall thinking before I left "I should try to learn some Spanish before I go to MEXICO.

"nah, it'll be easy there"

The lies we tell ourselves.

I really do regret not trying to do something. (besides spending half an hour on youtube struggling to learn the alphabet). Luckily I know that Spanish is possible. Honestly, millions and millions of people speak it every day across the entire planet. It actually works; I'm pretty sure I can do it too.
hasta luego

Elder Decker

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A little Mormón bubble

I am extremely impressed by the Méxicanos here. They are so kind, so genuine, and so close to the spirit. Their humility inspires me.

Even though I am not in true México (just a little Mormón bubble inside of it), I feel like I am developing a new perspective on life, the gospel, and even on my nationality and patriotism.

My Spanish really progressed this week. To me it is kind of a game, a challenge, a secret code that mis amigos and I speak, and a new society that I can tap into, it also gives me the privilege of talking to the natives. It is also my sacred responsibility to preach to those to whom I have been called in their own language.

 For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall ahear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own blanguage, through those who are cordained unto this dpower, by the administration of the eComforter, shed forth upon them for the frevelation of Jesus Christ.

On Tuesday mi compañero y yo were teaching a lesson, and for the first time since being here I could really say what I wanted to. It felt awesome and excited, but Élder Dye later complained that I had frequently interrupted him, and hadn't given him a chance to speak! I am the same missionary who dos semanas before, in our first lesson, had been able to say only:"Yo se que la Iglesia es verdadera" (with the occasional "si" and a virtually continuous nodding of the head), while my much more experienced companion said the rest.

I have come a long-ish way.

I really need to work on being a team though.

Yesterday was the first time I really just didn't want to eat the food. Tacos everyday was good for awhile, but I think it is starting to affect me.

It rains a ton here. Pretty much every noche at around 5 or 6 it starts pouring, with some pretty hefty lightning as well. Last Saturday, they didn't feed us dinner (which was an unexpected surprise to me) because of fast Sunday. Instead of having dinner, I determined that I would build a paper ship, and sail it across the CCM on the great rushing rivers that soon develop in a storm. Alas, my Curious George days are much too long ago. No amount of folding, tucking, ripping, or pleading with several sheets of paper could render me a sturdy vessel of any kind. I am not nearly as skilled as Nephi, in preaching or ship building. But I did make a cool beetle.

hasta luego

Elder Decker

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bien is one seriously good word.

August 29, 2013
I hope you weren't disapointed at not getting a letter on Tuesday; Thursday is P- day my entire stay at the MTC (CCM en Español). My companion's name is Elder Dye, he is from Santa Clara California, his Spanish is much better than mine because of High School Classes and he is also the District leader.
The MTC is great. As you know, it was a high school for 60 years until 2 months ago. So it has a big legacy. I live in the dormitorio, which, after having driven through Mexico City to get here, I realize is pretty nice. Most of the rest of the Misioneros live in Casas (houses) with their own kitchens and such. I eat tacos every day in the Camodor (cafeteria) with rice beans, and dozens of Mexican donut\dinner roll hybrids. I've eaten more than a few suspicious things, but with no backlash yet.

Zach outside his MTC apartment in the blue circle they go to for earthquakes.
Unlike Provo, there are dozens of native Spanish speakers at every turn, it isn't hard to find an opportunity to practice speaking. I still have to push myself though. There is only 3 hours a day of instruction from mi maestro, the rest of the day it's up to me to study and work. I'm continually surprised by how many cognates Spanish\English share. I don't know why that is, but it sure makes my job a lot easier!

So you know how in America we ad "ito" to everything to make it sound Spanish? Well I found out yesterday that the Mexicanos add "shun" (tion) to make their words sound English! Taco-shun, Libro-shun, lecccion-shun, etc.

I had to teach my first investigador (yes, investigador) on Friday, only three days into a new language. It was tough. We teach him every day. He has since learned to pray, has read from El Libro de Mormón, gained a testimonio of José Smith, and commited to baptism. No actual human person would ever do those things after hearing my and mi companíero's atrocious Espanól, but it was still really good practice. Our investigador is about to become our teacher, and tell us how much we got wrong.

Domingo is defintitely the best day of the week. We had ridiculously good food: ham, ice cream, steak, french fries, all wrapped in beautiful corn tortillas. Lunch is the biggest, schmansiest meal around here, and the only one they won't let you eat cocoa rice crispies at. Also on Sunday was leadership meeting (my comp is the District leader), priesthood, sacrament, two devotionals, and THE TESTAMENTS. It was good.

 All the Latinos here are way cool. My ability to communicate with them is severely limited, but we still have a good time playing basketball, soccer, and stuff. I mostly just say bien. Bien is one seriously good word. It will get you far.
I was able to go to the Mexico City Temple to today,  The words were all different, but the feelings were the same. It was pretty cool, and exciting to see first hand that God's blessings are available to everyone regardless of language, nation or any other thing. 
Be Happy.
Elder Decker
Here I really get a kick out of our 45 minutes of football a day with the Latinos. I discovered that umbrellas are just about the coolest thing out there. The weather is absolutely perfect, it is almost always shady, and around 70 degrees all day long. When it rains, it really pours though. Everything goes in tacos. Everything. It's crazy that just a few weeks ago I was a kid. In Utah. Now suddenly I'm in Mexico being taught Spanish by a Mexican with Mexican palm trees outside. Loco. I saw some parrots yesterday, it was pretty sweet. Our family is so blessed to have what we do. In Mexico city I have seen tarps for roofs and people having to sweep the rain out of their homes. The streets are lined with barb wire. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spanish is pretty importante.

 Elder Decker was set apart as a missionary on Monday, August 20th, at 5 p.m. We left at 5:45 a.m. the next morning to be to the airport on time. We are obedient! I didn't know if I could say goodbye, but I did it. We received this letter from Zach Tuesday night. He's ready. 

August 20, 2013

Check out that spectacular watch.
It turns out that knowing Spanish in Mexico is pretty importante. Who would've thought?

I haven't really done anything yet, I sat through a long, long plane ride to Georgia, got absolutely no layover or whatever I just got right on the next plane. I haven't eaten anything all day except cookies, peanuts and pretzels. So it's pretty much hungry town down here. It was pretty legit flying over the Gulf of Mexico, clouds are big. This keyboard is kind of Mexicañ and fuñky. Some people here know even less Spanish than I do. ha.

Well don't feel like I have much to write about, I was safe beyond belief. The biggest threat right now is definitely the mosquitoes. It's kind of funny that there is often English in small print under the large Spanish print- just the opposite of America. Mexico City looks exactly like the movies, houses built way up the mountains, tarps covering windows and roofs, and motorcyclists darting in and out of traffic.

I got my tags just a few minutes ago = now I'm legit
The green magnet on the back of my tag is literally labeled GREEN MAGNET. Classy.

I hope you guys all rock school, and please realize that it's over at 2:15, you can handle it.

My new watch is pretty spectacular. I can tell the time- anytime
Have fun guys and remember to read your scriptures, because before you know it, you too will be relearning those scriptures in another language.

hasta la vista

Elder Decker

Friday, July 19, 2013

Called to Serve

Zach has been called to serve in the Texas Houston East Mission. He leaves August 21 for the new Mexico City MTC. I've always heard that Texas considers itself a different country. Didn't know we'd have to get a passport and visa for a mission to Texas!
We are so excited for Zach. He will be among the first missionaries to serve as an 18 year old. We have watched him get ready for his mission through his Senior year. He is prepared. He will be in God's hands as he serves.
This is an article that appeared in the Deseret News of the new MTC where Zach will be staying.

"MEXICO CITY, Mexico — The final class of approximately 650 students graduated from Benemerito de las Americas, an LDS Church-owned high school in Mexico City, on June 14. At the graduation ceremony, Elder Alfredo Miron, the school's final director and an Area Seventy, symbolically handed a large wooden "key to the campus" over to the new MTC President Carl Pratt. On the key was written the name of the school with the dates 1963-2013, indicating its "fifty years of teaching the youth of the Latter-day Saints." Under these dates was written 2013- Missionary Training Center, and the scripture, "Behold, I will hasten my work in its time" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:73).
On June 26, President Pratt and his wife, Sister Karen Pratt, welcomed their first group of about 100 newly set-apart missionaries, some of whom had graduated as high school students only a week-and-a-half earlier from the same campus. "I cannot believe it's only been 10 days since I graduated from this school," said one elder as he was entering the new MTC. "It's quite a special experience to be able to see the way in which the Lord transforms things in order to fulfill his work.
A group of Mexican-born missionaries report for training at the new Mexico City Misssion Training Center.  (Photo courtesy of Barbara Morgan)"I can see now," he continued, "how this campus as a missionary training center will be used to bless even more people than it already has. It's worth every sacrifice. This is going to be an incredible work, and I'm looking forward to being able to serve the Lord as soon as I can."
Fifty years ago, on Nov. 4, 1963, Elder Marion G. Romney of the Quorum of the Twelve broke ground for the school, named Benemerito de las Americas after the Mexican national hero Benito Juarez. Elder Romney stated, "This school for which we are breaking ground today is destined to become a great Spanish-speaking cultural center. Its influence will reach far beyond the valley of Mexico. ... It will be felt in all of Latin America, including South America. Hundreds of thousands of people will come here. Going out from here, they will help the nation build up its education, its culture and its spirituality. This school will prepare men for a better future here on the earth and for eternal life in the world to come. ... Those who attend will learn of the pre-earth life and of principles and practices which will prepare them for the life to come. ... It is my prayer," he continued, "that our Father in Heaven will bless ... the Mexican people; that they may come to an understanding of the real purpose of this institution." He then prayed that the Lord would, "turn all that is here done to the furtherance of Thy purposes, the salvation and exaltation of Thy children."
Nearly 23,000 students have attended Benemerito since its inception nearly a half century ago. Over the years the school has provided education from elementary through high school. Beyond academics, the school became well known for a variety of its extracurricular activities including soccer, American football, karate, choir, band, basketball and, most especially, its folk dance team that traveled throughout Mexico and other countries. From this school have come political leaders, attorneys, doctors, teachers, businessmen, missionaries, mothers and fathers, bishops, Relief Society leaders, stake presidents and even General Authorities. In fact, of the current stake presidents serving in Mexico, 25 percent are alumni of Benemerito. Approximately 90 percent of the young men who have graduated from Benemerito over the last five years have served or are currently serving as missionaries. When asked how Benemerito has impacted his life, Abraham Martinez, the Seminary and Institute Area Director for Mexico and an Area Seventy replied, "Benemerito is my home. Benemerito is where I raised my family. Benemerito is my family."
On Jan. 29, Elder Daniel Johnson, President of the Mexico Area, announced to students and faculty at Benemerito, and to those watching via satellite at chapels throughout Mexico the upcoming transition of the school into an MTC. To the emotional students, teachers, administrators and church members present, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve gently taught, "Tears are the price we pay for love." He then testified, "This is a dramatic moment in church history. You have lived to see your role in one of the most historic moments in the church."