Friday, July 29, 2016

Success is Given Not Gained

                                                                                                                        July 29, 2016
Hola Familia,
This week has been a pretty crazy week! Lots going on...Also I realized that in my last email, I did not say a lot about what I´m actually doing here, but I have a lot more time today, so I´ll try to give you a better picture of that.
Elder Hale and I standing in front of the Mexico City Temple
The main purpose of me being here in the Mexico Missionary Training center is to learn how to be a missionary, so everything we do here (apart from eating lots of good food) is with that goal in mind.

Every morning we have personal study at 7:00 a.m. where we read the Bible and/or Book of Mormon, Preach My Gospel, and other resources we´ve been given to learn to teach better.

After breakfast we spend a few hours in a classroom with our instructors, who are all returned missionaries, and practice language and teaching.

We also teach lessons to our teachers and they pretend to be someone who is interested in our message. We have 20-30 minutes to teach based on their needs. This is an awesome experience and my favorite part of the MTC. 

So basically we spend all our time here studying, eating, and practicing how to teach. I have a companion - his name is Elder Hale - and we teach together and do pretty much everything else together because it´s required.

I also have a district, which consists of 4 other companionships we do all of our studying and learning with. They are all a blast and we always find something to laugh about.

Eating lunch with our District
We only have a little over 3 more weeks to learn Spanish before we go to our respective countries, so we have been ramping up our efforts as a district. Each day we make bets (that may sound bad but I promise it´s not gambling) to see who can go the longest without speaking in English. Every day we each choose another person to compete with and decide what the reward will be (usually just a candy bar or something else from the store here). I´m not very good at this game and I´ve lost three times out of four, yesterday I made it until 5:30 p.m. without saying anything in English! Anyway, its a pretty fun way to practice our Spanish and everyone likes winning free food from me so I guess that's cool.

So something kind of funny I wanted to share: Last week I got a banana as part of my breakfast in the cafeteria. I forgot to eat it during breakfast, so when I went to put my dishes away I still had my unpeeled banana in my hand. We have to wash our hands after every meal, so I didn´t know what to do with my banana while I washed my hands. I thought about sticking it my pocket, but I thought that might not end well, so I decided to set it on the counter near the sink I was using to wash my hands. I finished washing my hands and went to get a paper towel, and all of a sudden I hear some Sister say <<EWW! THERE´S A BANANA ON THE SINK! THAT´S DISGUSTING!>> As you can imagine I was really embarrassed by this so instead of claiming my banana I just lingered nearby to see what would become of my banana. She then said <<WHAT KIND OF SICK PERSON WOULD LEAVE A BANANA ON THE SINK! THAT´S DISGUSTING!>> She then got a paper towel and used it to pick up my UNPEELED banana like it was some kind of diseased carcass and threw it in the garbage. Next time I´m just going to put the banana in my pocket.

I also met a group of latino missionaries the other day and we have become really good friends.
We had a great time playing volleyball!
Most of them are from Mexico, but one is from Bolivia, so I´ve been talking to him about what it´s like and how he likes the food and that kind of thing. One day someone dropped their dishes in the cafeteria and apparently in Mexican culture (according to them) you are supposed to cheer when someone does this. All the Latinos cheered really loudly, to which I said <<Que Grosero!>>, which means “how rude” in spanish. They all thought it was hilarious for whatever reason, and now they all shout “Elder Grosero!” whenever I walk past their table haha.

On Tuesday, we had a devotional from Elder Netzahualc├│yotl Salinas, who is an area seventy, and his wife. They both gave great talks but Elder Salinas in particular was amazing. Success is given, not gained. He said, “An 18 year old boy cannot do this missionary work. You need God to give you success.” He promised us that if we ask Heavenly Father to show us how capable we are and then do everything we are capable of, we can ask for success. The Holy Ghost can work through us unto conversion, but to be worthy to ask for this we have to do everything we can possible on our part.

This week has been amazing because I have felt such an immense love for the people I will be teaching over the next two years. As I have prayed for them and had many opportunities to think about them, I´ve been able to feel so much love for them. I´ll share two of these experiences:
The Temple grounds are so beautiful!

Another amazing view of
the Mexico City Temple


Just outside the Mexico City Temple, there is a small LDS shop called the Zarahemla  They sell lots of gospel art and other items catered towards members and missionaries, and they also sell really cool temple recommend holders with images of the Savior on them.
I can't wait to share the blessings of the Temple
 with the people in Bolivia!!
As I was looking through them trying to decide which one I wanted, I thought of the people of Bolivia that I would soon be teaching and that I would have the opportunity to bring the blessings of the temple to. The Spirit filled my heart, and I knew that I needed to get more than one of these to give as small gifts to the people I would be teaching.
The real gift, however will be sharing the blessings of the temple with them.   
I had such an amazing experience thinking about all of this as I stood in that little store outside the temple. 


During one of our classes on teaching this week, we watched a video which showed an older couple with severe Parkinson's disease and other serious afflictions caring for one another and trying to accomplish simple daily tasks like eating and dressing. We were asked what we would teach these people based solely on what we had seen, and I couldn´t help but be overwhelmed with love for the people I will be teaching. I love the people of Bolivia. I want to help them. I want to rescue them. I want to help them overcome their trials and understand that their Heavenly Father loves them and has a plan for them. We are so blessed to know what we know. I am so lucky to have this chance to help people come unto Christ, who will help them bear their burdens.

The last thing I wanted to share is my testimony of missionary work itself.
One of our instructors, Sis. Ruiz, who
served with Hilary in Chile. Such a small world!!
In Elder Salinas´ talk, he closed by saying “No pueden fallar! No pueden fallar!”

I know this is true with every fiber of my being! We cannot fail! We cannot fail!

We may be just a bunch of 18 year old boys trying to teach people about the most important and eternal truths they will ever learn, but God gives us power and we cannot fail!!

As I was reading in the Book of Mormon in Alma chapter 26 this week, I received another witness of this principle.
These are the writings of Ammon and his brothers about their missionary efforts.  I shared these verses with my district after the devotional, and they fill me with so much hope, love, and joy every time I read them.

1 “My brothers and my brethren, I say unto you, how great reason have we to rejoice; for could we have supposed when we started from the [CCM] that God could granted unto us such great blessings?

28 And now behold, we have come, and been forth amongst them; and we have been patient in our sufferings, and we have suffered every privation; yea, we have traveled from house to house, relying upon the mercies of the world—not upon the mercies of the world alone but upon the mercies of God.

29 And we have entered into their houses and taught them, and we have taught them in their streets; yea, and we have taught them upon their hills; and we have also entered into their temples and their synagogues and taught them; and we have been cast out, and mocked, and spit upon, and smote upon our cheeks; and we have been stoned, and taken and bound with strong cords, and cast into prison; and through the power and wisdom of God we have been delivered again.

30 And we have suffered all manner of afflictions, and all this, that perhaps we might be the means of saving some soul; and we supposed that our joy would be full if perhaps we could be the means of saving some.

31 Now behold, we can look forth and see the fruits of our labors; and are they few? I say unto you, Nay, they are many!”

I know that this is the Lord´s work and that this Gospel is true.

Have a great week! Love you all!

Elder Harris

Friday, July 22, 2016

First Week in CCM

                                                                                                                    July 22, 2016
Hola Familia!
Como le va? 
I was so happy to hear from all of you! Thanks for your kind letters and encouragement. I´m glad there is plenty of exciting stuff keeping you busy back home. Don´t worry about me because I am having a wonderful time and I´m not at all homesick (sorry if that was offensive, I meant no offense to anyone whatsoever haha). 

The CCM (That´s what the missionary training center is called here in Mexico City) is an awesome place!!
The weather here is amazing (it never gets above 75 and below 50) and the food never fails to disappoint. I usually eat a bowl of cereal with most meals because fruit loops are the only thing keeping me connected to the states.

Missionary Apartments at the CCM
We eat a lot of Mexican food, watermelon and canteloupe, and Costco pizza on Tuesdays! It is all you can eat so I haven´t been making the healthiest decisions, and when I went to weigh myself the scale was in kilos. So basically I have no idea if I am gaining or losing weight. If anyone can give me the pounds to kilos conversion rate that would be great.
So much has happened in the past week and a half that I hope I have time to tell you all the important things!

First off, my district has 8 elders and 2 hermanas and we are all from the U.S.
Four of us are going to Paraguay, 4 to Chile, one to Houston Texas, and then there is me going to Bolivia.

My companion, Elder Hale is from Richmond Kentucky. He is a huge soccer player and also a really good spanish speaker. We work pretty well together and it has been a really good time.

Everyone in our district is super funny in their own way and so most of the time we just spend laughing together. We also have an INSANELY good piano player, a swimmer for BYU, and a guy who is playing football at Wyoming when he returns.

 Some of my favorite experiences from the week:
We study the book of mormon with our instructor every day in the morning for about half an hour. One day last week we were studying 1 Nephi chapter 8, which talks about the tree of life and Lehi trying to help his family partake of it. In verse 37 it says: "And he did exhort them with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words." As I read this verse and I thought about it, I felt so much love for the people of Bolivia. I felt how much God loved them and how much I needed to love them in order to teach them. Love for the people we teach is so important, and I have had so many times this week where I have had a small glimpse of that love.
Sometimes this week it was challenging to trust in God. Mexico City is at almost 8,000 feet above sea level and my asthma has been pretty tough, especially when exercising. When it got really bad I began to doubt whether I would be okay in Bolivia, where some places are higher. I immediately thought about how I was called by God and he knows me PERFECTLY. He knows exactly what I can handle and why I need to go to Bolivia. He called me to Bolivia and he will help me because I am on His errand. The same goes for spanish. I have a lot of fears that I wont be able to learn the language or speak it well or understand it, but I have to trust that through faith in Him i will be able to accomplish all things.
Sunday was probably one of the best days of my entire life. I felt the spirit so strongly while partaking of the sacrament and I began to cry because of how much gratitude i felt for the savior and his divine sacrifice. Later Sunday night, we watched The Testaments, which is a movie about the life and resurrection of the Savior as described in both the Bible and Book of Mormon. It is an amazing movie and all of you should watch it! I know that the Savior lives and that we have so much evidence that this is true! He is real and He is there for each one of us. I´m sorry I'm out of time, but I know the Book of Mormon is true, and that through Christ, we can change anything and overcome any weakness!
Love you all! Have a great week!
Elder Harris

Elder Harris Arrives Safely

                                                                                                             July 12, 2016

Hi Mom and Dad!

How are you doing? My flights both went great and I met up with seven other missionaries in Atlanta.

Missionaries in our group traveling by bus to CCM 

I arrived safely at the MTC about an hour ago, and yes, the Spirit did confirm to me that it is exactly where I am supposed to be. I love you and miss you, but I am very excited to begin learning and wearing this nametag feels amazing!

My Preparation day in the CCM (day off when I can write home) is on Friday.
Below is my MTC address information:

Thanks for all you did to help get me out the door and the way you have prepared me for a mission the past 18 years. Talk to you soon!


Elder Harris

CCM (Missionary Training Center) mailing address:

Elder Harris
08/23/2016 Branch 13 District A
Carretera Tenayuca-Chalmita #828
Colonia Zona Escolar, Gustavo A. Madero
07230 Mexico, Distrito Federal

Elder Harris Departs for CCM in Mexico City

                                                                                                                  July 12, 2016

With a 5:30 a.m. flight, Elder Harris arrives at the airport early for his departure.

He will first fly to Atlanta where he will be joined by other missionaries and continue traveling on to the Missionary Training Center in Mexico City (CCM).

For six weeks he will focus on language study and teaching skills before he departs for Bolivia.

Saying goodbye is never easy, but we know that missions bring great blessings and that the Lord will watch over him.


As he shares the gospel of Jesus Christ, he will bring great love and joy to the wonderful people
in Bolivia!!

My Mission Begins...

Tomorrow I begin a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. I'm grateful for all of you and the way you have influenced me and my decision to serve a mission. I have so many amazing friends and family members who have brought me so much happiness the past 18 years. 

I am especially grateful for my Heavenly Father and everything in my life that He has blessed me with. I know that there is a God, we are His children, and that He loves each and every one of us more than we can even imagine. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and because of Him, we are able to overcome every obstacle in our path to return to Heavenly Father.

I know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are true, and nothing will bring us closer to Christ than reading these books. I'm so grateful for this knowledge and for the atoning sacrifice of our Savior Jesus Christ, through which all things are possible. Two years isn't nearly long enough to express my appreciation to God for all that He has given me!

If you would like to receive updates and be included in a blog about my mission, please comment your email below! Although I won't be able to use Facebook for the next two years, my family will be managing it for me.

If you'd like my email and/or mailing address, you can send me a Facebook message and they'll forward it on to you.

See you in a few!

Elder Harris Receives His Mission Call