This has been another great week in the mission.
We did a couple exchanges this week so two of the days I was with English elders that didn't speak Spanish but they were still fun and successful days. I like talking a lot so I got to do all the talking most of the time which was nice. Most Spanish people understand English more or less and just don't speak it, so my companions could do some of the teaching too. There was one lady that didn't speak any English at all though and it was funny to see her reaction when my companion said "Hi, my name is Elder Burentia". She looked very very confused and just looked at me and told me she had no idea what he was saying. We still had lots of success though.
On Thursday during our zone training we found out the church is changing from banking with JP Morgan to Bank of America. The business side of me couldn't help but think about the devastating effects that would come upon that company. If we have 55,000 missionaries in the church then probably at least 20,000 of them are in the united states. So that means 20,000 accounts are closing just for missionary purposes alone, added with all other accounts the church headquarters have that will be changed. That was just an interesting thought I had.
This week is the last week that Arturo and his family were here which was really sad. They went to the Oakland Temple on Wednesday and really liked it. They said they all learned a lot and really liked how they felt. The mom even told us that she got a really strong desire to read the Book of Mormon. We stopped by on Thursday night to visit them and say bye but turned out staying a lot longer. Our dinner cancelled so we happened to get there at the perfect time. They were doing a "carne asada" which is the same thing as a bbq in our terms. We helped them grill all the carne asada, chorizo, and nepales and then sat down to eat. The little girls were all preparing a play to do on their cardboard stage/theater that they made so afterwards we watched that. Then the parents gave us a few pictures of Joseph Smith and the Sacred Grove and so we did a little improvised play about the First Vision that was actually really spiritual. Afterwards we sat down and got to talking about religion and a lot of doubts/concerns that they had. We talked about a lot of things and had a really good conversation/lesson/testimony meeting with them all. Eventually we heard the clock strike 10:00 so Elder Hernandez and I needed to go. They main fear they were expressing was not being able to keep up with all the church sociality; being Family Home Evenings, mutual, and church every week as well as other activities. They are kind of a shy family all around so breaking out of their shell is kind of hard for them too. I interrupted and told them we needed to go and shared with them the last 3 verses of Matthew 11 and then shared my testimony and the spirit was very strong and it was a cool moment. The main reason we went there was to get a picture with everyone and to say bye but it was already after 10 so we told them we needed to go but would come back the next day before they left that night. They told us they were going to visit the city of Old Sacramento and would be back at about 4:30. Our night was really packed after 5:00 so we stopped by right at 4:30 but nobody was there. I decided I wanted to get Arturo a gift so I picked out the first tie I ever got (the light green/blue striped one from land's end) and put it in a box and wrote a note with it. In one of the gospel principles classes we had, we got off topic like always and started talking about how when people first start coming to church they wear normal clothes, then eventually they wear a collared shirt, and then eventually a white shirt and tie. In the note I told him how he had changed from normal clothes to nice clothes and the only thing he's lacking is a tie. I told him how that was the first tie I got when I started wearing a tie to church and now it will be his tie to start wearing to church. I also bore my testimony to him and told him I knew he knew the church was true and that I was confident that he and his family would be baptized in Mexico. I was sad I had to leave the box on the front door and couldn't get a picture and say bye but it was better than nothing. As it turned out, our last appointment fell through so at about 8:00 we rushed back because the family had called us when they got back and said they were home. However when we got there the girls were the only ones left and told us we had missed them by about 10 minutes. I was sad all over again but we finished working and then went home for the night. As it turned out the didn't leave that night but were leaving the next night! However, no one told me and so I still didn't get to visit them the whole next day. At 8:00 on Saturday night I got a call from them saying they were leaving and that Arturo wanted to say bye. I talked with Arturo on the phone for a little bit and then said bye. He told me he wrote a letter to me that I could get the next day from his aunt/uncle when we went over to visit them. The letter he wrote me is the best one I have received my entire mission and will be something I will always treasure. In the letter he told me how he considered me more than a missionary or acquaintance but a very good friend, the kind that are hard to find. He told me his contact information and said we will always be good friends and that it wouldn't be the last time we saw each other. He also said "I also know that in the near future WE WILL BE BROTHERS IN THE CHURCH!". I guess that's his way of saying he wants to get baptized but it made me so happy and I knew it and I knew he knew it, I just knew it would have to happen in Mexico and not here. He told that of course I would be updated as to everything there and so at the very least I will get to know when he's getting baptized and a picture of the baptism. It made me so happy to read that letter and I can't wait to hear from him again!
So there are also a few other things that happened this week as well. In the Mexican culture they do something called "the rosca" on January 6th of every year. In Mexican culture almost everybody is Catholic and worship lots of saints and one of them is "Nino Jesus". So January 6th every year the do the rosca which is just an excuse to have a party. As part of the party it's someone's turn to bake a big cake in the shape of a donut. In the cake they bake 1 very little plastic baby. When everyone gets a piece of cake, the one who gets Nino Jesus is the one that has to throw the party next year. One of our members made a cake and but instead of doing a party they just do a FHE afterwards. The one who gets the baby has to do a FHE. In the cake they baked they put 3 in and the night before they ate the first half of the cake and only found one. So we had part of the cake with dessert. Elder Hernandez and I both but our slices of cake and where we cut happened to be the exact places where the other 2 babies were! So I found Nino Jesus in my first ever rosca and now we get to prepare a family home evening for another night in the month.
I got to go to Mike's baptism back in Elk Grove on Saturday and that was awesome! They didn't tell him that I was coming back for the baptism so when he saw me come in he jumped up and ran and gave me a hug. I was giving the talk on baptism and the holy ghost and that went really well. They had to delay the baptism about 30 minutes to wait for me to get there too. My ride wasn't ready when i got there and we had to jump start the car and go get gas but eventually we made it to the baptism safely. The baptism went really really well. Mike is a BIG guy, about 300 pounds and Elder Branchini baptized him but everything went really well there. Afterwards I spent a lot of time talking to Mike and he told me he was really sad when they transferred me because he had gotten really used to Elder Rivera and I. Normally he wouldn't have ever let missionaries in but he felt different with us and saw a lot of miracles in his life through Elder Rivera and I so it was tough to have one of us leave. He told me how much he has progressed, how thankful he is, and how spiritual his conversion has been. He even told me that it was really hard for him to give up coffee, and so he prayed to God for a sign to know if he should stop drinking coffee and two days later his coffee machine broke. Cool Experience! The baptism was awesome and I was really excited to be back in Elk Grove and see Mike taking the step of baptism.
The Mendozas are progressing well towards their baptism. The mom and the 2 daughters should get baptized on the 19th and the dad will probably take at least another month but I'm pretty sure he'll get baptized. The guy we met at the New Years party also came and really liked it. I just found out he actually lives right on the border of our stake and the Elk Grove stake but lives technically out of our area. He drives 45 mins to get to church but it would be just as far to go to the other church. He has member friends that live in Galt and Lodi and might be moving back to Galt soon so we're hoping we can still teach him. We'll see how that goes.
That's about all for this week. I miss you all and hope you all are doing well back home!
Les Quiero Mucho!