Feb 26, 2012

Trent's email 2/22/12

Mom, Dad! (I've been informed that Becca is no longer reading these
emails, due to her desire for a personal email each week)

Oy!  Cómo le va?  Aquí, tranquilo.  Everything's good, that is.  We're
doing a lot of good work. I've been learning so much, I don't even
know how to explain what I've learned.  Let's see what my brain can
produce right now...
So, there are lots of religions around here, and my companion really
likes to argue with them.  He's really good at it, too.  He's been
doing it a lot of his mission.  Some really cool baptisms has happened
around here, too.  Recently someone from our Zone baptized a priest
from the Catholic church, who now has a firm testimony of the Book of
Mormon.  I'm not very good at arguing the Bible with people.
But, I don't need to. Because there's no point. The Bible by itself
has a million different interpretations, and I can never prove that
"mine" or "ours" is right.  So I don't try.  The Bible can be
spiritualized and interpreted so many different ways, that I feel like
all the logic in the world would never prove anything.  That's why the
Book of Mormon is so darn important.  Not only does it clarify the
majority of the weird parts of the Bible, but it provides us with the
Spirit as a testimony that Joseph Smith was called of God to be a
prophet, and if that's true, then the Church has the right answers,
and it doesn't mattter what the "world's best logic" can come up with.
Jehovah's witnesses are weird.  I'm glad we have a religion that is
based, primarily, on a personal relationship with our Father in
Heaven.  If we don't search the scriptures, obtain a personal
testimony through the Spirit that this Church is true, our religion
makes no sense.  None of our practices make sense if the Spirit
doesn't testify that the Church is true.  Read Matt 16:15-19.  Slowly,
but surely, when we lose that daily witness, we lose that faith, and
we lose our testimony.  I know it's happened to me many times in my
life, although it was easy to keep going to church because of the good
influences around me.
Secondly, I've learned the importance of teaching the Doctrine of
Christ-that is to say, "the only way to be saved is through Faith in
Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism, The Reception of the Gift of the
Holy Ghost, and Persevering until the End."  These things appear in
the Bible and the Book of Mormon is FULL of them.  These are the
things Christ taught us that we have to do to receive eternal life.
And that constitutes the basis of our religion.  Sometimes, we get
distracted, arguing with investigators about "Who was James?" (By the
way, did you know that there were three James's, two of them were
apostles of the Lord and the other was the brother of the Lord, and
the brother was the one that wrote the epistle of James?  And the name
"Santiago" isn't used in the Reina Valera version of the Bible for the
apostles, just the name "Jacobo," so it's actually just a confusing
mess) or "Why can't women have the priesthood?" or whatever else, but
when we focus on the doctrine of Christ, people can progress in their
spiritual journey.  Otherwise, we're just wasting time.
Right now, I have an investigator rubbing my head.  She found us in
the internet center, and is now rubbing my head.  I don't know what
I'm supposed to do about this situation.  Don't worry, Courtney.
She's 14.  Of course, in this country, it's normal for someone my age
to marry someone her age.  Like, super normal.  You guys should meet
our 90 year old friend Braulio who's married to a 44 year old.  How
would you like that, Mom?
I'm learning to cook some delicious things. I made butt-kicking French
toast this morning with some Evaporated milk.  I like cooking, but I
don't like cleaning dishes.
In other news, thank you so much for the Valentines Day Package!  It's
so fantastic, all that delicious food :) I'm being super conservative
with my goodies, especially the raspberry sticks.  Soo good frozen.
Aah.
Oh, I discovered that I can make really good shakes here with
evaporated milk and fresh fruit.  Speaking of Fresh Fruit, I also
discovered that the ripe, fresh pineapple I can buy off the guys in
the street is three times better than any pineapple you can find in
the U.s.  It's SO sweet, and so delicious.  I think I'm going to buy
one every day.  And the best part?  35 cents.
She's rubbing my head again.
As far as the progression of our investigators, it's mas o menos.  It
seems like the harder we work, and the more definite commitments we
GET from people to go to church, the less people come to church.  This
week, Lidiana came again.  Thank goodness, she'll be our only other
baptism this transfer (hopefully my companion will be able to reach
his goal of 20 baptisms), and we had an inactive 14 year old named
Yasser bring his 16 year old brother named Abraham.  That was super
cool, because Yasser was REALLY strong in the church with his aunt
until something (Idk what it was) happened and his aunt told him he
couldn't come back.  But, we watched the Joseph Smith movie with him
and his investigating friend, and Abraham just happened to be there,
we invited him to watch with us, and he was super interested in the
movie the whole time.  Apparently he was a pretty interested
investigator too, when Yasser got baptized, but just never followed
through.  So, yeah, he came to church, which is, as you can tell, a
big deal around here.  And then, a member from the ward invited one of
his employees, who seemed super interested during sunday school and
stuff, so we're gonna see if we can teach him a couple times this
week.  He's a cool guy.  Lots of catholic influence, but what else is
new?
And Mayteé, Anacaona, and Carlos José are still a little bit of a
mess.  Anacaona has decided to get baptized once she quits smoking,
but she refuses to let us set goals or anything with her because she
says she has to do it on her own, and you know how old people are.
Won't change her mind for anything.  Hopefully I'll get to see her get
baptized.  Carlos José and Mayteé have trust issues with people in
general, so it's extremely difficult for them to believe in people,
further Joseph Smith and Thomas S. Monson.  We're trying to get them
crecer su fe by reading the Book of Mormon.  Mostly, we pass by for
Anacaona, though, who sometimes makes us delicious food.
Oh, and finally, we talked a lot in our zone meeting (remember, each
district has 2-4 companionships and each zone has about 4 districts)
about miracles.  Why would the Book of Mormon, a book that is written
for our day, be all about fantastic miracles, if God didn't want us to
work miracles in our day?  So, I'm focusing on being as exactly
obedient as I'm capable of being, never napping, being ready to leave
on time, all of that.  I know if I do things right, God will help us
out here in this area.
Wow, this is His work.  My faith is growing so much every day.  I love
being here.  Yesterday I was singing and dancing all day (mostly
internally) because I just love being here.  I miss everything,
EVERYTHING about home, but it's worth the sacrifice, because there are
lots of beautiful things here, too, that I'm going to miss one day.
So, I'm enjoying.  And I know I won't be here for forever, so that's
kind of nice, too.

Just so you know, the package cost me about $20 in taxes.  I'm being
conservative with my money this week, but I still might have to take
out some from my account to help balance.  Furthermore, I'm paying the
other half of my "forros" this week, which will be about $75.
Hopefully he'll finally be done.  People in this country love to tell
you "yes," but they're not very good at following through.  last
Wednesday, he told me the forros would be done that Saturday.  He
called us on Saturday to ask "So, wait, what was it you wanted on your
forros?'"  So, hopefully he's now started.  It might take him another
week to finish.  He's kind of like that.

Anyway, That's my life.  I'm glad you guys keep the updates!  I can't
wait til I get to practice doing IVs and stuff (I imagine that happens
in medschool, too).  Take good care of Harley, I feel really bad for
him.  I feel like you have to be a REALLY bad haircutter to cut skin.
But, oh well.  Justin said he's gonna write me a little bit, so we'll
see how that goes.  Miss you all, love you all!  Take care!

Feb 21, 2012

Trent's email 2/15/12

Ooh, the Vegas apartment.  Sounds like fun :)  I didn't know Dad was a
neat freak!  Ah, every day I learn a little more about that guy.  I
kind of envy your terrific weather, we've had some pretty warm days
followed by some pretty heavy rain.  But, it's all good.  I actually
enjoy suffering a little bit, makes me feel like I'm doing the
"missionary thing".
Okay, school stuff is NOT boring.  Courtney tells me about school
stuff all the time, and it's not boring.  Hahaha, I remember my
friends telling me stories about "new doctors" giving them shots.  You
should've seen the doctor that gave elder Frometa stitches the other
day, he was pretty bad.  I was surprised Elder Frometa wasn't
shouting.  Oh, he cut himself on a can of corn.  No big deal.  That
was almost two months ago.

Sorry to hear about Becca's leg.  good she made it around Vegas just
fine, but I'm sure it'll start "flaring up" again when school rolls
around.  Is she still enjoying soccer?  And how's piano?

I think Zoe's alright.  She doesn't write me very often because she's
ridiculously busy (remember, she's in the IB program, which is like a
whole schedule full of AP classes).  So, we write every once in a
while.

With Lidiana, the missionaries just baptized her older brother.  He
was the only one who was interested in listening at the time, I guess,
but now she's rolling around. I found out the other day that she
usually works til three in the morning on Sundays, but she's still
made it to church five weeks in a row.  I don't know how she does it,
but it makes me feel really stupid for showing up late to church
sometimes.  Staying active is a pretty big struggle.  It's amazing how
many people we find that aren't active.  One of my teachers in the CCM
down here said it's because there was a time where missionaries were
just baptizing, but they weren't baptizing well.  The converts weren't
"True converts." So, maybe that's why.  Also, to me it seems like
missionaries don't do very well letting the ward take charge after the
baptism.  Lots of new converts just get attached to the missionaries
and then let their activity in the church drop when their missionary
leaves.  The mission now is focusing on getting a member at every
lesson the missionaries teach so those bonds can start early and
strong.  Hopefully it'll help.

So, we were blessed to have Elder Bednar come talk to the mission this
Monday.  It was fantastic.  120 missionaries, the mission President,
and him in one chapel.  Plus, you know, the translators and security
guards and stuff.  It was different than anything I expected-we came
prepared, having read two talks he'd given previously, and he asked us
what we learned, then shared with us more about what he thought could
help us learn.  One of the biggest things I learned was that a lot of
times, we like to think that we're objects-something that can't act
for itself, that is just subject to whatever is going on around
us-when in reality, we're God's children, and we're made to be agents.
We choose what we do, we can't blame other people or other things for
our choices.  Lots of people like to say, "Oh, yeah, I wanted to go to
church, but there was this and this and this..."  we're agents unto
ourselves.  We choose our priorities.  I know God judges us according
to our situation, but He still expects us to "Have no other Gods
before me," which refers to ANYTHING that could take you away from
doing what He has commanded.  Elder Bednar also shared a scripture
that said something like, "He who puts his father or his mother before
me is not worthy of me." That's not to say we love our family less,
but we love Him more.  Also, he talked about how in one country, the
government forbid meeting in church houses, so they held church under
a mango tree.  Because all the gospel really consists of is the
Spirit, the authority of God, and God's children, coming to Him in
repentance.  Oh, and he said, "If you haven't been rebuked by the Holy
Ghost recently, you need to repent."  Being rebuked is a good thing.
That's the point of this life-to improve.
It was a fantastic conference.

so, I decided I'd tell you a little bit about daily life here in the
Dominican Republic, specifically in Pueblo Nuevo.
I wake up at 6:30 to pray, use the bathroom, and do exercises.  I
usually do jumping jacks first, and then other stuff.  Sometimes I
stop early so I can make some pancakes for my companion and I (we
bought a HUGE bag of bisquick, and even though it's not the best, it
is "quick.")  or some eggs or something.  Then, I eat or shower,
depending.  It's ridiculously quiet in the morning.  The sun comes up,
and it's usually really beautiful orange and red colors.  I start
studying the Book of Mormon (President Lee told us all to read the
Book of Mormon and highlight all the names of Christ and count them at
the bottom of every page) for an hour or so, then we have
companionship study for two hours, where we talk about some of the
"fundamentals" of mission work (because I'm still in training) which
are Revelation through the Book of Mormon; Revelation through Prayer;
Revelation through Church attendance; We invite, they commit, we
follow up; how to begin teaching; Doctrine of Christ (baptism,
repentance, faith, holy ghost, endure to the end); Role of Holy Ghost
in Conversion, and one more that I can't remember right now.  Lots of
it comes from Preach my Gospel, but we also do a lot of watching a
movie called "The District," which shows real missionaries doing real
lessons and applying the principles, so that we can learn more.  Then,
we practice some.
Sometimes we have meetings after that, or sometimes we go preach for
an hour and a half.  People are usually up around 10:30, so I haven't
gotten yelled at for waking people up.  Usually, Dominicans will yell
the two phrases they know in English as we walk by, and the kids will
yell swear words, because that's apparently all they know.  Then, we
go back to the house, and outside people walk by selling all sorts of
fruits and veggies: oranges, pineapples, avacados, papaya, huge
carrots, something called yuca, potatoes, lettuce, etc.  Oh, we
usually buy about $1.50 worth of meat at the meat store, and go back
and Elder Frometa cooks some good rice with whatever meat we chose.
Then we eat, I study Spanish, sometimes we sin and take a nap (my goal
is to NOT take naps this week), and then we leave again at 3 to more
appointments.  We plan every night, but planning never works very well
because people aren't ever home, even when they say they will be, and
we can't teach women without a member present, and we've had two
members bail on us last minute this week, so usually our planning
involves writing down a bunch of names based on where we'll be in the
hopes that they'll be home and we'll be able to teach them.  So, we do
that for six hours.  Sometimes, we have really spiritually lessons.
I'm learning that the less I talk and the more I let the Spirit teach,
the better the lessons are.  The Book of Mormon really is a powerful
tool.  At least five times a day, a car drives by blasting
ridiculously loud music, so we have to stop talking for a minute.
most of the houses are made of concrete, but quite a few are also made
of wood.  They all have very weird colors.  The area I'm in is really
a neighborhood, with blocks and road signs (sometimes) and stuff.
There aren't very many stopsigns, though, so people just drive through
and honk.  All the houses are different colors, like blue, green,
orange, red. It's really gotten rid of any desire I could've had to
have an orange house.  Some of them are disgusting, with the wood
rotting, or cement cracking, but people still live there.  There's not
a very good waste program here, so people just throw their garbage in
the streets.  Also, about twice a week we hear about someone who got
shot the night before (and everyone says it's because they're involved
with drugs), or crazy things that happen.  Sometimes, when we go to
the other part of our area called Baracoa (that's where Maytee lives)
late at night, we run into drag queens, who are always eyeing us.
Then, there's another part of our area really far from here called
Otra Banda, and to get there we have to cross a pretty scary bridge.
It's held up so far, though, so I'm not too worried.  At night, we'll
usually spend 5 pesos (that's like, 15 cents) on a snack at the
colmado (little corner store with all your basic needs), go home,
plan, maybe make some food, and go to bed.
On mondays, we have district meetings, and that's when I get all the
mail from the last week or so.  On Wednesdays, we have pday (as you
know) and today we played baseball with the whole zone (there were
about 25 missionaries there).  On tuesday nights, we celebrate "pday
eve" with a cup of ice cream that we buy locally.  Really good stuff,
about 75 cents for five scoops of ice cream.  Try getting that deal at
Baskin Robins.  There's lots of catholics, and lots of "bancas," which
is like a lottery place or something.  Anyway, that's typical
Dominican Missionary life.
And I'm doing fantastic.  Still loving it, kind of surprised that I'm
already so far into my mission, but still feeling like I'll never
finish, having a blast with Elder Frometa.  Everything's good!  I love
you guys, pray for you lots, and always look forward to writing you on
Wednesdays.
Anyway, I'll see you soon!  Much love!
Elder Taylor.

Feb 12, 2012

Trent's email 2/8/12

Haha, so Dad´s worried about my time on the email.  Alright, I´ll
write you all one big email.  I guess I had enough time to respond to
everyone (remember, I´m a fast typer) and I don´t have many people to
write anyway.  I was writing Becca back individually, too.  We get an
hour to do email, and we´re only allowed to email family, plus the
Mission President to give him our weekly report, so it´s really not
hard to email all of you individually.  However, I´m kind of a sinner,
because I write some missionaries in other countries, and also Zoe and
Tiffany (Diener).  They never specified what kind of family, I figured
blood and temple sealings both count as valid types of family.  And
Cody doesn´t have mail, so I guess I´m in a little gray area with that
one.
Well, I´m trying to think what to share.  I feel like nothing too
exciting has happened... except we did have a baptism.  That was
weird, because it was a kid that we weren´t really working on or
focusing on (because he just didn´t seem ready) but all of a sudden,
he changed.  He wanted to really learn, he wanted to be baptized
really badly. He´s a little weird, but he has a huge desire to serve a
mission, and he finally figured out that he needs to take our lessons
seriously to do that.  So, we finished teaching him last week and
baptized him.  His name´s Anthony, he´s 19.  We also found out that
Lidiana, a fourteen year old little sister of a member is NOT a
member.  She´d attended church a few times, but we figured she was
just semiactive.  So, we´re gonna get her going, too.  She reminds me
of Becca sometimes.
Oh, hey, can I have some toothpaste in the next package??  I don´t
like spending very much money for that kind of stuff...  Oh, and
here´s the thing with the packages.  From what I can tell, it´s about
the same price either way---you guys pay a lot to send it to the DR,
or I pay a lot to send it to Florida--so, you might as well use
Florida and just give me some extra money in my account so I still
have money to eat.  Because, in the end, Florida will get it there
quicker with a lot less risk (apparently only the US Postal service
touches FL packages).
I´ve learned so much out here.  Love everyone, forgive everything, the
importance of the ¨little things¨ in the church like studying the
scriptures every day, the real meaning of faith, what diligence and
hard work are, why we fast.  I haven´t DONE all these things,
personally, not yet.  but I´m seeing people give me the LAMEST excuses
for not coming to sacrament, or even semi-good excuses, and realizing
that there are so FEW good reasons to NOT go to church.  I plan to be
a lot more diligent with my faith when I get home.
furthermore, I realized that I don´t have very much faith, as a
person.  I mean, I never doubt that God´s watching out for me, or that
He helps, but I guess I don´t really rely on the Lord very often.
Sometimes, I start to think that He´s just standing back and watching,
and if I work really hard, he´ll intervene every once in awhile.
Sometimes, I don´t even know if He´s there.  But I need to remember a
quote I heard from someone, somewhere, that said that The Lord wants
to bless us more than we want His blessings, but we have to use our
agency to ask for His blessings, and He´ll pour them out on us.
That´s what I want to get.  I want the Lord´s guidance in every step.
I want to know when I need to knock on a certain door, or when I need
to hurry to a certain appointment, or what we should talk about.  I
need to develop that faith that the Lord´s going to help me in EVERY
step of His work.  I am His servant, after all.  I just need to tune
in, and He´ll help me.
Other than that, we´re still fighting with our investigators.  So few
come to Church, even though they promise and promise and promise
they´ll be there.  People are very hospitable here, and rarely
sincere.  Or easily persuaded.  So, we´ll keep looking for people that
want to come back.  We did some tracting around the house just
recently and found a man who basically lodges poor people in his house
(nine of them live there, and it´s a nice house).  We also found an
inactive who was delighted to receive us back into his house.  I think
some of them just forget how they felt, and let the embarrasment of
going back stop them from attending church again.  Hopefully we´ll
remind him how good Sacrament feels, and he´ll come back.

Haha, it was really fun to be in charge of the area for awhile, to
show the new guy what to do.  Elder Frometa has taught me well--I
taught with confidence and love for the investigator.  At least that´s
what the new kid told me.  I´m doing pretty good in Spanish.  Some
days better than others.  If I´m paying attention, I generally
understand everything.  Sometimes I still have to ask people to speak
slower, and I learn lots of new words every day, but I´m pretty much
there, able to communicate.  And every country in south and central
America speaks spanish except brazil, they speak portuguese.  At least
to the best of my knowledge.  And there are some islands out here in
the Caribbean that speak french.  But Guatemala speaks Spanish, so he
didn´t have problems with that.

I´m being well taken care of.  Miquelle Leslie and her family sent me
a nice package of good treats (thank you!) and the Newells wrote me a
whole stack of DearElder letters.  Everyone was really jealous at the
Zone meeting when they handed me so many letters (thanks, Newells!)
We had French Toast this morning, Elder Jenks and Elder Lowe came over
from Rafey to eat with us.  We hang out with them on P'days, do our
shopping and stuff together.  I just got my haircut, I like having
almost no hair.  I really love it here, and I can´t believe that
almost four months of my mission are already over.  I´ll keep working
hard for you guys, if you´ll keep working on praying together!  Don´t
worry, I´m not upset. I just know how important it is to keep praying
together.  Love you all!!

oh, and that CD that Grammy gave me from the Nashville Tribute Band is
the BOMB.  I listen to it all the time, and my companion won´t stop
listening to one of the songs on the CD.  If you guys find more CDS
that are focused directly on missionary work (that aren´t hymns), I´d
love it if you could send them to me.  They´re really inspirational
sometimes.

Take care, and keep me posted!
Love,
Elder Taylor.

Feb 5, 2012

Trent's email 2/1/12

Today´s been a good day.  I wrote a long letter to Courtney, ate pancakes with another companionship nearby, cleaned the house pretty well, washed my clothes, and now I´m writing you guys.  Soon, we´re going shopping in Calle del Sol.  I don´t actually think I´ll buy anything (mostly because I left my money in the house) but it´ll be fun to walk around and see what´s going on in this crazy country.  And then we´ll probably eat something delicious, and the bishop is going to go tracting with us tonight, so that´s a bonus.  The bishop´s really excited about mission work.
Yes, it´s going REALLY Fast.  I was telling my companion yesterday that I can´t believe I´ve been here as long as I was at Burger King. Burger King was nuts, and this is actually fun.  Today is transfer day, but all new missionaries stay with their trainers for two transfers. A bunch of new missionaries came yesterday, and Elder Frometa and I had the opportunity to go on splits with them (they came to our area with us and I went to some appointments with one and Elder Frometa went to some appointments with others).  I love meeting new people, so that was cool.  I went out with Elder Velasquez, from Guatemala.  He was very timid, but a good missionary.  It was a good challenge to be in charge for awhile, I really had to stretch myself.  I liked it.
During that split, we had a really cool discussion with Moisés.  He´s 14, and he´s already committed to being baptized, but we talked about Joseph Smith, and he realized how important it really is to have a testimony about him.  More or less the same thing happened with Lyna, a strong catholic 17 year old.  It was cool to see her change a little, to understand the importance of the Restoration.  And we found a few girls who are partiers, we started teaching them. They´re really smart, and they like learning about the stuff we´re teaching them, but they´re kind of ´tigre´, as we say here.  Just got a lot of attitude.  It´s perfect for elder Frometa, because he knows lots of people just like them in New Jersey.  He throws the attitude right back at them, it´s really fun to watch them battle about the word of wisdom and stuff like that.  They said they´re going to keep the word of wisdom for a week.  WE´ll see how it goes.  It´s ¨carnival¨here, which is apparently a month long mardi gras, so it´ll be an extra challenge for us.  Anacaona´s coming slowly.  Quitting smoking.  One of our less active members, Silvia, really wants to quit smoking and come back to church, and her daughter in law wants to get baptized, so we´ll see how that goes.
Will you guys keep an eye on my account??  Something weird happened last week, I actually think that the package you sent me took a chunk of my money, so I had to live off of my own money last week.  I don´t know what´s going on, but I´ll figure it out today.
Mom, I´m glad you´re enjoying school!  I love you, and I hope you guys are praying together and reading the scriptures every night.  IF every family would do that, this world would be SUCH a better place.  The families that do that grow so much as families and learn so much about the gospel.  Maybe you can remember that I´m spending two years trying to get people to do that kind of stuff when you don´t feel like spending 10 minutes a day doing it.
Love you all!  Have a fantastic week!
We hardly ever eat dinner.  If we do, it´s just a quick snack like the penguinos.  They don´t actually have penguinos here, but I just recently discovered Mamut, which is basically a smoretype thing.  IT´s pretty delicious.  And our electricity´s out for some reason today, so I got to do my laundry by hand this morning.  That was an experience.  I never realized how blessed we were for these things.  Okay, okay, when I said I cross the street like a maniac, I mean that I cross the street well.  At good times. Safely, smartly, but quickly.  So no one needs to worry.  Thank you for the advice about friends!
Okay, I have a question for you.  I´m getting frustrated.  So, this is God´s true church.  Why does He make it so hard for people to recognize that?  I have lots of investigators that are praying and praying and they´re just not getting their answers.  What am I doing wrong??  I just don´t get why we have this truth, but it´s not growing because people aren´t receiving their answers, or whatever.
Love,
Elder Taylor.