Monday, October 27, 2014

There's no reason to get discouraged.

Mom,

 Things have been challenging but fun. It is a blast starting all over again. Even though it can sometimes feel like we're going nowhere, there's no reason to get discouraged- happiness is too valuable to trade for anything else. 

 I got to interview and see Miguel get baptized. He's a simple, humble guy from Honduras that just wants to do the right thing. I know he has a testimony because he did it without his friend, who wasn't ready to get baptized.  

Me and my trainer in Denver Harbor
My trainer came back from the grave and scared me to death on Thursday. We were rushing home to grab the car and go to the family history center when a phantom missionary stepped around the corner. He had just gotten off the plane and grabbed tacos with his parents and he found us. It was super great to see him, but weird as well. He was able to come to Miguel's baptism and see his convert Rosario. 

Me and the venus fly traps
 Interview training with the AP's, zone mtg, and district mtg all kind of kept my attention this week. Taking away all fear of baptism by laying out specific expectations and a calender for our investigators, getting to know every single member, their professions, hometown's and past callings, and figuring out how to help people receive revelation through the Book of Mormon is just some of the stuff we're trying to do. 

 I know that God lives and that He has a plan for us. I know His way is the better way, and that it only takes our deciding before He starts blessing us.

Elder Decker

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Adjusting to the culture in appropriate ways.

Mom,

I am loving my new place. New comp Elder Peterson came out with me at the same time last year, he's from Orange County, California.. My new ward is the Galena Park ward, it split off from Houston 7 maybe 5 years ago, and still has combined classes, sacrament. Attendance was 71 yesterday. the Obispo is named Obispo Velasquez, he is more involved with us than any Obispo I've had yet, we met and talked with him about the ward on Thursday. He drove us to church where we had PEC with him and we later ate with him. The "Denver Harbor House" (well, I guess I now know it's a "bungalow"...) is a little pealed paint piece of heaven. The only elders are Peterson and I. We have 6 hermanas, including Hermana Shannon from PG! I really like the ward. I am inspired by their great faith. It is not easy for people to be in church, socially, economically, and I guess even spiritually as well. It is inspiring to me that the few that are there. There are some very, very strong individuals. I live on 6904 Hershe Houston, TX 77020.I'll be sending some pictures of the Harbor next week.

Yep, I borrowed Mamea's clippers and "cut myself up" as they say. I was thinking about "adjusting to the culture in appropriate ways" (as PMG says) by etching my hairline, and maybe the state of Texas on the back, but decided against it.

My first week in Denver Harbor was a lot of fun. Taking over for my trainer is pretty weird.  We've spent a lot of time going though the ward list and visiting with the Bishop and other ward members which may explain that. Not a single investigator came to church last transfer, but Sunday (without any reminders or begging) came David and Olga ! David is an awesome guy who has been living in "El Barrio" all his life. He describes himself has "cien por ciento Mexicano" even though he fluently speaks Texan. He's been going through some really hard times and found the missionaries at his parent's house in Magnolia. He was worried about being "good enough" to start listening to us or to make these steps, but now he's started and loving it! He took Peterson and Jones to transfer mtg on Tuesday, and took Peterson and I to Pappa's BBQ and then back to the Harbor. That's how you know he's serious. He participated a whole bunch at church, in fact, because Houston 7 and us meet together; everyone just thought he was a member of the opposite ward!

District mtg was good learning experience. I made a bunch of very correctable mistakes, namely, forgetting who was to pray, skipping the purpose, not doing check your progress, and so on. I finally figured out late last night how the Baptismal Tracker works! Wednesday I will be doing my first baptismal interviews of my life, which is pretty nerve racking. The district is doing really well, especially the hermanas. We're the ones who'll need to work hard to keep up with them! We're going to have a great time, and with the Lord's help do a lot of good.

I had the opportunity to review some of Elder Holland's talks from the last couple of years. I was reminded to doubt my doubts before I doubt my faith. I was reminded to live the Gospel faithfully even if others around me don't live it at. Being with and serving this people has taught me so much about what is really important. About what really brings happiness. About not missing opportunities. It is good to learn. It is good to enjoy being a rookie while it lasts! It's not about altitude, it's about trajectory!

I know that God lives and that He wants me in THE mission.

I love you mom!

Elder Decker

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We'll figure it out!

Mom,

I don't really have a bunch to say, but, for the first time on my mission, I have a bunch of pictures!

Yesterday I took a zillion pictures with all the Beloved Broadway 2 members I'm leaving here. It was good we had a baptism yesterday afternoon and everyone got together. The other Elders baptized Eric Delgado. He has his own testimony, and felt the Spirit lead him to make a commitment. It's powerful stuff.
 
Hermana Alvarengas
This is Hermana Alvarengas; she's a wonderful lady from El Salvador who makes bomb pasta.

Rodriguez family
Beloved Broadway 2 members
I saw the Rodriguez for the last time, they really love the missionaries. Viviana Rodriguez has been feeding me every Sunday and washing my clothes every Monday for six months! She has a special place in my heart and, like we missionaries always say, a cushy spot in the Celestial Kingdom. She lives with her daughter Eva and son Adan. 

Beloved Broadway 2 members

Hermano Palacios
Hermano Palacios is the best Principles of the Gospel teacher on the planet

Hermano Medina is a Mariachi man. They make steller pupusas and Salvadoranean steaks. Great people.


The greatest ward missionary hna Flores and the greatest ward mission leader in the world.  Hno Lopez actually is our landlord/ next door neighbor and fixes our smoke alarms and stuff

We did service for a certain elder lady named Marie on Saturday, she's teaches Catechism class at the Catholic church and is very sweet. We chopped trees and bushes, mowed her lawn, took out a step, and made her yard look spectacular. I was a good change of pace, and really fun. Afterward, she bought us 7 pizzas from little Caesars for the four of us. Right on. 
... okay six of us.

1 pound burger
Jacinto Rodriguez, Hermana Rodriguez' other son, took us to Kelly's and bought us four missionaries the legendary 1 lb. Burger. Which I ate. For real.  
I joined you in sickland yesterday morning, when my body completely rejected that same burger. For real.

Right now I'm just thinking about getting transferred tomorrow. I love packing;) It feels a little cruel to have to throw my whole life (again) into two suitcases and a backpack and a bicycle and all the pockets I can muster and plop somewhere new and change lives. But it's what we do, and it's fun.


It was a great blessing to serve here. I've tried to do my best to help other people, and see only how much good being here has done for me. I am grateful to be a missionary, thank you for making it possible! I know that God lives and that he cares about us. I know that He wants us to be happy, even when things aren't going well, even though we and everyone around us aren't perfect (yet). It makes such a great difference when we decide to work WITH God, instead of making Him pull and drag us. 

It looks like when I email y'all next I'll be serving in Denver Harbor where I'll leading a District or something like that. We'll figure it out.

I love you Mom 

Elder Decker

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Let's get out and serve!

Mom

Monday we had a beach party with the zone. I forgot there was an ocean somewhere around here. It was pretty fun and relaxing. My Hawaiian companion, Mamea, was a little disgusted by the nearby oil rigs and filthy water, but it was better than nothing!

Tuesday we found father/daughter Argelio and Patricia. They lost the mom six years ago to cancer. Hno could testify of the value of the Gospel of his life and how we was able to overcome having his dad die of cancer as well. They are great people. Later we went to a classic Texas football game for our investigator Benjamin in the rain. Only in Texas do you have to pay to see 8th grade!!! The game reminded me of my football days, especially when the other team scored 14 points in the first 5 minutes. Benjamin is blessed, much like I have been, to have his entire family there at every game cheering him on. We had to leave early to get to another appointment and bikes hard in the rain for 50 minutes across the freeway and our entire area. It was fun.

Wednesday we found all sorts of less-active members. The Alvarenga's made tasty food. 

Thursday Javier took us to Walmart for Mamea's back pain pills and we ran into a bunch more less-actives. I guess we should just proselyte there now. 

Friday we found the awesome Macias family. They are the ones that go fish at Texas city and come back with 52 cow fish they fry up in a bowl of oil in front of the apartment and give to strangers. I guess you can eat the eyes if you want. The papa was one of those guys who says he's not interested, then interrupts and asks tough questions from where he's on the couch watching TV. They are a good family, and just about the first thing they told us is that they wanted to go to Church. That's just the way we like it. It is so much fun find an individual or family that seems like they've been in a spiritual vacuum and just let them drink up the Gospel like Moses drinking with the sheep in that dreamworks movie. 

Saturday I was hit right off the bat by Elder Packer's and Elder Robbins' talks. Jesus Christ is the answer. Are we focused on him, or on the world? Before Priesthood session we went with a bunch of members to what they call "Los Chinos"- the Chinese buffet. I love the mixed culture, and watching the hermanos dig into fried rice and even more fried-ier squid. I loved listening to conference in Spanish- real Spanish! I believe Hugo E. Martinez said something like this:

 "Si usted sirve, sirve. Y si no sirve, no sirve"

meaning: "if you serve, you serve (a purpose, you work, function, are useful). If you don't serve, you don't serve (and aren't doing anything!)"

Let's get out and serve!

Yesterday I was touched  to see my Broadway 3 convert Cesar, a new family that moved into  the ward, Valentin who hasn't been to church in 9 months, Benjamin, Tatiana+Jaime, and many more all at the conference. Cristela de los Santos' record was found, so I guess won't have to re-baptize her, but she'll be in the temple soon. We ate good Mexican food between sessions. We found the Conejo family last night and are excited to help this single parent and her children see that that their family does have a Father that loves and watches over them always. 

Elder Decker