Monday, May 29, 2017

More rain, cooking with missionaries

Buenas tardes a todos!
First, I'd just like to announce my half-birthday. I turn six months old today! (According to mission reckoning, of course; in worldly terms, I'm rumored to be more than 19 years old). It's hard to believe that the mission is already a quarter of the way done. It's gone by super fast; I feel like I've only been out here for 2 or 3 months! It's been great, though. I've come to understand the scriptures more, my testimony has been strengthened, and I've gained a lot of experience. I have been able to see the very real effect that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has on people. When someone learns to have faith in Jesus Christ, repent, and strive to follow all the commandments God has taught us, God works a powerful change in that person's heart, and they become a new person. They gradually become their best self, and they experience a joy that cannot be found in any other way. It's absolutely awesome watching that change being worked in people! I love being a missionary!

I normally don't share the spiritual thought at the beginning, but I guess that's how it worked out.

Anyway, we had another great big thunderstorm again yesterday. I'm not sure what it is with Sundays, but I guess they've been officially turned into the Day of Lightning. I tried to take a picture of the gorgeous storm, but the picture can't do it justice.
It was super awesome because at any given second there was a flash or two of lightning in the sky. It was pretty! I happen to enjoy lighting. Is that weird?

Most people here in Mexico buy tortillas premade. A few of the sisters in the ward, however, make their own tortillas. Sometimes they make their own dough, or they buy raw dough from one of the many little shops. One of the sisters taught us how to make tortillas from just the dough. We also found a little tortilla dough shop near our house, so we decided to try today to make tortillas. This is what happens when an inexperienced American and an inexperienced Dominican, with extremely limited cooking tools, try to make Mexican food:
I don't think it turned out too badly. The tortillas were a little ugly, but hey, it was our first time.

As far as the work goes, we broke a record for the number of new investigators we found this week! (Well, it's at least a record for since I've been here). We found a lot of super promising people. Also, one of our investigators, who is basically ready for baptism except that she's living with someone without being married, finally convinced her partner to arrange a marriage. Wahoo!! If everything goes well, we'll be able to baptize her shortly. Also, I might become an official wedding witness, something I've never done before. :) I'll keep you updated.

Also, this is Julieta. She has met with the missionaries before, but when they asked her to get baptized a long time ago, she said no because she didn't think she was ready. We have been meeting with her the last month or so, and we have experienced many miracles with her, and she decided that she wants to get baptized again. Wahoo!! She's a great lady. Her personality is really funny, because she's almost 70 years old, but once we get her going, she acts like a sassy 20 year old. She's great!

Anyway, things are going great here. Thanks for everything! Keep being awesome, everyone!

Elder Jakob Schramm

Friday, May 26, 2017

Interviews in Nuevo Larado

These are pictures from Sister McArthur.  President McArthur doing interviews and training in Nuevo Larado.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Exploding Tires, Lightning, and Miracles

Buenas tardes a todos!

So, this week was crazy. I feel like that's how I start almost all my letters, but it's true. Maybe I should just tell you only if a week was not crazy, or maybe even lots crazier than usual. I just need something more original to start with than simply "this week was crazy".

Anyway: As far as the bike troubles go, we are still having them. Turns out, when Elder Garcia damaged the wheel, he destroyed the entire rim and everything inside of it. We're still not sure how he managed that. We had to take a bus to our district meeting Tuesday. All would have been going well, except that the bus popped a tire on a HUGE nail on the freeway. Don't ask me why there are huge nails on the freeway. So we had to wait half an hour for the next bus and try to cram two busloads of people into one bus. So that was fun. You can see the nail in the upper right corner of the picture.

After getting home on a functional bus, we continued with out appointments on foot. Yay. After a whole bunch of appointments cancelled, leaving us with an open evening, we decided to try and fix the bike, because WALKING. IS. SO. SLOW! So we started to head for a small bike repair shop near our house. To our great dismay, it turned out to be closed (argh!!), so we had turned back and were trying to figure out what to do, when an investigator drove up to us and asked if we were having trouble with the bikes. He said that he would help us fix the bike if we took it to his house, which wasn't far away. We didn't really know what else to do, so we said, "Okay!"

After taking apart the bike and finding out what had happened to it, we needed to get a new rim and everything. The only place in Nuevo Laredo where you can buy 29-inch rims is downtown. Luckily, the investigator offered to take us there, so we went in his car. After we bought the rim, we drove back to his house and he helped us fix the bike. He ended up being a huge miracle for us! Most of the time, tender mercies are rather small and can be easily missed, but other times, God decides to send you a huge blessing. Just be sure that you are attentive of the Spirit and aware of others who may be in need of service. You never know how much of a lifesaver you could be.

Not too much else happened this week other than a super bug rain/lightning storm yesterday. It had been cloudy all day, but nothing had happened all day, so we didn't think too much of it. In the space of about 2 minutes, it went from simply being overcast with lighting all over the place. We were luckily visiting with Daniel, so at least we were indoors. Streets were flooding badly and quickly. We eventually had to head back out into the rain, so that was fun. At least our visit with Daniel was the last visit of the day, so we only had to go home. The fun part is that my bike had popped a tire earlier in the day (what is it with us and popping tires?), so we had to make this journey on slow foot. Once we got inside, however, all was well. I happen to enjoy rain and lightning. Just from the inside of a house. :)
 GARCIA!  He told me that he really likes rain.

One last quick story, end then I'll end: because buying bike parts can get a little pricey, we weren't able to have as much food in the house this week. towards the end, we were trying to figure out what to do, when literally every evening the past couple of days, a sister from the ward simply stopped by with a loaf of bread of a bag of tamales and said, "I just wanted to drop this off with you tonight," so we have been able to have dinner. Again, miracles happen. Just keep an eye out for service opportunities, because maybe the Lord will want to work a particular miracle through you.

Anyway, the week was fun and full of surprises and little (and big) miracles. I'm excited to see what the next weeks bring!

Mucho amor,

Elder Jakob Schramm

Monday, May 15, 2017

They just don't make bikes like they used to, Daniel got Baptized, and CAMBIOS!

Hey, all!

Before I get started with the really cool stuff, I have to say that apparently missionaries use and abuse their bikes. Either that, or our bikes are just really low quality. We have had a ton of little (and a few rather large) problems with our bikes the last couple of weeks. I'm not entirely sure how, but today, Elder Garcia basically bent the rear axle on the bike, and all the gears and everything are out of alignment and the tire won't move. And all this was about 50 feet out of the parking lot of the grocery store. So we had to walk a mile or two back to the house, dragging the bike with us (along with a week's worth of groceries!). So now we're out a bike. We're going to try to spend a little bit of time this week taking it apart and finding out what we need to do to fix it and acquire the parts we need. Ugh. I'm just glad that we have buses here, or going to the church would be impossible.

Okay, rant over. Now for the fun stuff. :)

Daniel was baptized this week!!! He has been really excited to be baptized, and it was a great service! We had to get a little creative because he has a wheelchair, but we got it all figured out. Since he still has part of his legs, he can kinda sorta walk very short distances, so we had to put his chair right up to the edge of the font, then help him descend into the water. I had to help Elder Garcia baptize him, which was really cool! It was as if it was all slow-motion like in all the missionary movies. :) It was good because, even though things took a little more time than usual, we managed to do everything on the first try.
I confirmed him a member on Sunday. I'm glad my Spanish is at the level it is now, because I'm not sure how things would have gone if I was still in training. I hope the Spirit took over, because I was super nervous. The bishop seemed okay with what I did, so hopefully I didn't mess up too badly.
Sunday night, we received news about the transfers, and it turns out, I'll be here for another 6 weeks! That means I'll have been here for almost 6 months, which is an unusually long amount of time to stay in one area, but I guess there's a reason. It's all okay, because I really like this area!

On a random note, Nuevo Laredo seems to have really pretty sunsets:
This email is kinda short this week, so I apologize, but basically all we could focus on this week was the baptism and transfers. It was a really good week this week! I'm excited to see what the next transfer brings!

Muchas gracias por sus oraciones y fe para mi y para los en la misión! El Espíritu del Señor esté con ustedes!
The last meeting with the district and with the zone, repectively. Don't ask me why Elder Fernandez has an antler. I'm not sure where or why he got it, or why it's in the photo.

A pretty cool tag photo, if I do say so myself.

Elder Jakob Schramm

Monday, May 8, 2017

Crazy... Birthday....


So we had a lot of crazy happenings this week. Well, okay, what week doesn't? But this week was crazy in an awesome way.

First, we had exchanges with the district leader on Wednesday. I stayed here in Viveros and the district leader, Elder Estevez, came here while Elder Garcia went more uptown. Elder Estevez is the other Dominican in Nuevo Laredo, and let's just say that while Elder Garcia is super excited in a Dominican way (those that know Dominicans will know what I'm talking about), Elder Estevez makes him look as calm as a summer's morning. It was a crazy, fun, Domincan Wednesday.

Before I begine this story, let me tell you that there is a surplus of speed bumps in Nuevo Laredo, and that I'm normally really good at getting over them on my bike. I don't know if this speedbump was simply having a bad day, or if I looked at it funny or something, but while Elder Estevez and I were on the way to our lunch appointment, this cpeedbump came out of nowhere and threw me off my bike and on to the asphalt. luckily, we were in a rather quiet colonia, so there were basically no cars on the road, but it was still rather exciting to get speedbumpwhacked (I'll pretend that's a word) in the middle of the road. My arms still look like my campanion has been beating me, but I promis everything is OK. Elder Estevez now knows how good of a bike rider I am. :)

So after that exciting ordeal, we came home to discover that we had left the swamp cooler/air conditioner thing on all day, and because it's not exactly in the best of shape (or maybe it was just installed wrong), there was a giant pool of water by my bed. So while we were looking for mops, we found a second (much newer and fancier) air conditioner, which Elder Estevez wanted to try using, so we plugged it in. It worked really well-- for about 40 seconds, when the power went out. We looked around for a breaker box, found it, and flipped the breakers, and the power went back on. Once the power went off again about 30 seconds later, we realized that maybe there was a reason that we weren't using the newer AC. We unplugged it, and tried to flip the breakers again, but nothing happened. We aren't exactly electricians, so we couldn't really do anything. We couldn't call anyone because our cell phone just died, so we kinda just tried to sleep in the heat. That was rather fun.

The next day, I turned 19 (Happy Birthday! You have no power!). We met up with Elder Garcia and he got a little mad when we told him that we officially had no power. We had to go to a member's house to charge our phone, and put together the investigator report that we send every week to the zone leaders. Turns out, when we could finally get a hold of the leaders to pass them the report, we discovered that they had been trying to call us all morning, because we were late in submitting the report. Kids, make sure your phone is fully charged before you plug in a second AC in your tiny Mexican house and kill the power.

Anyway, we also called the landlord, and it turns out that there is a second breaker box that we tripped that we didn't find. I'm not sure who designed that. But now we have power, so that's all good.

Because it was Star Wars Day--I mean, my birthday, we decided that we had to get a cake. Elder Garcia insisted on buying the biggest, most chocolatey cake we could find. I was not opposed, so we did so.
It turns out, it's a Latino tradition to throw a cake in the face of the one whose birthday it is. I was naturally rather opposed to this tradition, being a clean-freaky American, but Elder Garcia also insisted that I at least get a little bit on my face. So this happened:

The only other exciting event of the week was that, since it was Mother's Day yesterday, I got to call the family. The mission president authorized a Facebook video chat, so I logged on to Facebook for the first time in 5 months. I kinda forgot how to use Facebook, because it took me a while to figure out how to start a video call. But finally, technology started to get along, and I had a great call with my family. Everyone is doing really well. I have now called the family twice. Only two more calls before I return home! That's crazy!!

Anyway, this week was crazy, but crazy fun. We have a baptism on Saturday for Daniel, so check back next week and see if I have baptism photos!

Love you all!! Happy Late Star Wars Day!!

May the Spirit be with you,

Elder Jakob Schramm

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mexican Mothers Day

Jakob was able to call us today for Mexican Mothers Day!  He was almost 2 hours later than the scheduled time, but we finally got our phone call.  We were even able to see him and have a good visit for over an hour!
A few things from our conversation I don't want to forget. We were asking about the houses there. He said they are pretty small, made of cinder block and all have bars on the doors and windows. He and his companion have to be in an hour early and there are no sisters because the area is "sketchy".  These are things a mom doesn't want to hear.  He said "sorry... we are all safe inside our cinder block houses with bars on the walls."   Oh, good.

His companions also got on and said the "Elder Schramm is very crazy on his bike!"  Jakob said he always wears his helmet, but has crashed pretty good a few times.  The comps said he has no fear on that bike. Hummm.

Jakob got his birthday package and really liked that.  He said I needed to stop sending him tic tacks though.  Alright. I guess.  There were several jokes about me sending too many of those.  When we ended the phone call I asked him if he needed anything else and he said laughing "Maybe some tic tacks?"  Funny boy.  Funny boy.
We had a great time visiting with Jakob. He sounded great, was happy, and seemed to get along with his companion and the other Elders in the area.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Crazy: The New Normal!!!

Buenas tardes, todos!
First off, I'd like to apologize for not writing yesterday. Apparently it was Día Nacional del Trabajo (National Work Day; México seems to have a lot of national holidays, because we also celebrated Día Nacional de los Niños, or National Children's Day) and so all the Internet cafés were closed. We received permission from the mission president to write today. So that's what I'm going to do.

I've just come to the conclusion that all weeks are going to be tiring, stressful, and dramatic to some degree. We just need to find the good in each week and embrace it, because there is more of it than we may realize. It is so easy to focus on the negative in life that we miss the many subtle reminders that God loves us and is watching out for us. I'll detail why in a little bit but that's basically the main theme I got out of this week.

First, this whole week has been rather warm. It's been extremely sunny and the temperatures have all been in the high 90s or 100. Yay. I'm starting to regret all those pictures of palm trees I sent in December. But that's okay, because I heard that Utah got a bunch of snow this last week, so I guess I can still laugh at the weather I've been getting.

We have had some of the coolest miracles this week, too. We had more investigators in church this last Sunday than since I started in the field. We've also met some of the best investigators these last two weeks. We have Daniel, whose legs were amputated because of diabetes about 8 years ago, so he is confined to a wheelchair. He has come to church these last two Sundays because a member has a van! He is super interested, and really wants to get baptized. Every time we visit, he asks some question about the protocol, like if he has to bring his own white clothing, where it will be, etc. We're super excited for him. Also, we met Martha, who works in the Internet café we go to each week. She knows the elder's quorum president from university, and she is really diligent about reading everything we leave her. She always has lots of questions. The only setback with her is that she has super Catholic parents who have denied her permission to go to church these last two Sundays, so we've also been meeting with them and trying to warm up to them. I've been teaching piano lessons to their other daughter, and I think the mom especially really like that. We're going to try to ask permission for Martha to go to church again this week.

Anyway, the biggest thing I learned this week is that despite all the troubles life throws at us, God blesses us whenever we try to seek and follow Him. We just need to do our part by striving to live the commandments, and God will make everything work out for the best.

Keep being awesome, everyone! Les quiero mucho!!
Elder Jakob Schramm


A couple Sundays ago, a member was driving us to his house from the church for lunch. We drove past this little lake, and, still being fairly new to the area, Elder Garcia asked me what the lake was called. I said, "No sé cómo se llama. Es solamente un laguito." (I Don't know what it's called. It's just a little lake). So Elder Garcia asked the member for it's name, and he said that it was called Ël Laguito", or "The Little Lake". We started laughing because I accidentally correctly guessed the name of the lake. Naturally, we had to revisit our new favorite lake.
Then, a few days ago, we were at another member's house for lunch, and afterwards, while we were helping wash dishes, Elder Perez (one of the elders with whom we share the ward) started to marvel at the giant spider he found in the cabinet. All of us gathered around and started to take pictures of the giant spider. The member didn't seem to care very much that a bunch of missionaries were taking pictures of her cabinet spider. She seemed to think it was funny that we were as fascinated as we were. Anyway, here are some pictures.
***WARNING*** Those who have aversions to spiders and other creepy-crawlies (including, but not limited to, my mother, grandmother, and sisters) should skip these pictures. You're welcome.
Also, another member family loves the missionaries and insisted that we take a selfie with their whole family.

~Elder Jakob Schramm