Thanks so much for the package, the letter from Grandma N was especially good. I know she goes through an effort to write and so make sure she knows I received it and that I loved reading it. The food is definitely great, haha I started right in on the pretzels and the 6 packages of pop tarts were just perfect for 6 elders in the offices.
This week we did three more special conferences and we also did a pair of work visits and an ammonita (morning visit to verify studying/obedience/planning). The conference format this time consists of two practices, a lesson about English study and a training about having a firm mind. The two practices were about lesson 4 and 5 and President and I started by giving one and then Elder B and I gave the other. The first week we did it, I hadn´t really had sufficient time to study the lesson plan President had given me and I came in somewhat prepared. The lesson came out alright, but it definitely looked lopsided and I didn’t really like how it went. So the last weekend I dedicated more time to really study out the principle of tithing and fasting and was able to find a few scriptures, for the first time reading it I understood what Isaiah 58 really meant. Maybe it’s because it’s the bible in Spanish or maybe just because it’s Isaiah but I hadn’t really caught what the versus meant other than that they were about fasting before and that if we do it we´ll be blessed. Really, if anyone has ever wondered why there’s a fast offering and why the fast offerings fund the bishops storehouse they should study that chapter. It´s the true law of the fast and it explains it perfectly! So that was a good experience being able to see that with a little more time and preparation, the lesson flowed really easily and we were even able to vary it a little (other pattern for the investigator, new doubts or other questions to test our testimony of it) and keep it fresh for the zones. The two practices are really good, and it seems to be getting out a lot of questions and common doubts the missionaries have about teaching these principles.
I don´t know if they are doing it as well in the states, I can´t remember if it is an area wide standard or worldwide, but now we teach lesson 5 before and after baptism. It used to be just for after, how it says in Preach My Gospel, but teaching it before makes a lot of sense from the standpoint of wanting these people to continue active in the church. The lesson is all about how the church works, what is expected of the members and how they can continue to develop themselves spiritually through continued study and covenants. It makes total sense and I´m glad that now they require it. We are seeing an upswing in retention rates since we started measuring it and I think that’s the cause. The saddest "statistic" that I´ve heard while here is that only about 33% of the church members here are active and that mirrors the convert baptism active rate after 5 years. That means that for however many people that we love and teach and baptize, only a third are still active after 5 years and probably many more have passed through a period of inactivity in their first 10 years. I don´t remember how many less active members of our ward there are, but I do know that it´s just as important there as it is here to rescue those who have gone astray. I hope the rescue is happening there as well!
As for getting...heavier. Well, I´m still thin if that´s anything to say, I just seem to be figuring out where to stash another two pounds (on average) every couple of months. I weigh about 67 kilos, which is just shy of 150 lbs. Heavier yes, but outside of the normal, nope. Same old same old. One thing I noticed the other week, sometime in the course of my mission, the mission got a pouch mail box in Salt Lake. The number is 30150 I think. That might be an easier way for those who send mailed letters in just because it'll cost less and come quicker. If you could post that on the blog or wherever the mailing info is posted that´d be great. In the package there was mainly food, a couple of toothbrushes, the photo album and quotes as well as the letter from Grandma N. I already have a calendar that will last into next year, so don't worry about making a new one yet. I´m set for a long haul, don´t worry about me! I love being here, and I wish it could be longer. President asked one of my friends here Elder D to extend his mission the other week (he finishes in March and will extend to April I think) and it sounded really nice to know you have a little more time.
I love you all, I know things are super busy but I also know there are people that deserve our time when it comes to sharing the gospel. Take the time to "contact" the grocery store clerk or the teachers at school, your friends who haven’t or have heard of why you´re so different, clients at work or whoever else. You´ll be glad you opened your mouth when the Lord fills it with a firm testimony built on experience!