Wednesday, December 31, 2014



What did I do for Christmas? 
I ate pozole and preached the gospel.  
What is pozole? 
It's basically a thick chicken soup with a ton of corn and meat.  And we ate it with tostadas with guacamole.  It was delicious.  And super fattening.  And I was so full by the end of it I could hardly walk.  It was great. 

It was a different kind of Christmas. There were no pretty wrapped presents or nicely decorated Christmas trees.  There were no Christmas cards and very few Christmas lights.  But there was love. And lessons about Jesus.  And that was the best part.  It was a simple Christmas.  A Christmas focused on CHRIST.  

I got to talk to my favorite people.  My family.  I only cried a little...and they were happy tears.  I'm related to some pretty amazing people.


Someone fed us tamales on Friday and ALL DAY SATURDAY was spent in the house because I was throwing up.  I started throwing up at 6:30 in the morning and at 10:30 at night I was still throwing up.  Cool.  Little by little I'm introducing normal food into my diet again. 

Oh Mexican food.  You are so delicious.  And so painful.


So during my studies the other day I read a FAB talk by Elder Holland.  He talked about helping and serving the poor (poor in spirit and financially poor as well).  This tiny little part really inspired me:

A journalist once questioned Mother Teresa of Calcutta about her hopeless task of rescuing the destitute in that city. He said that, statistically speaking, she was accomplishing absolutely nothing. This remarkable little woman shot back that her work was about love, not statistics. Notwithstanding the staggering number beyond her reach, she said she could keep the commandment to love God and her neighbor by serving those within her reach with whatever resources she had. “What we do is nothing but a drop in the ocean,” she would say on another occasion. “But if we didn’t do it, the ocean would be one drop less [than it is].”9 Soberly, the journalist concluded that Christianity is obviously not a statistical endeavor. He reasoned that if there would be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety and nine who need no repentance, then apparently God is not overly preoccupied with percentages.10

Sometimes, as a missionary, there is a lot of pressure.  Numbers pressure.  How many baptisms, How many are progressing, How many came to church, how many.....blah blah blah.  It's stressful.  And intimidating.  And sometimes I feel like I'm doing the best I can, and the numbers just don't reflect that.  But this helped me to see that just like Mother Teresa said, this is a work of LOVE, not statistics.  If I'm working and loving.  Then that's one more drop.  And that's enough.

*more Christmas with some of our favorite members

*a spider that we found in our house.  I said that we should kill it but my companion said that it has a soul and a divine purpose too so she wouldn't let me.  She tried to catch it and set it free, and in the process ended up killing it herself.  I then had a very depressed companion for the rest of the night...

*Christmas Eve with the Hermana that made us pozole.  It's an all day thing.  She started working on this soup at 7 in the morning and we ate at about 3 in the afternoon.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Best Gifts


Back to back divisions this week just about killed me.  I was all day Thursday with a DARLING Hermana from El Salvador.  She's just about to complete 2 years as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Her whole family is against her being here on the mission and they write her every week telling her to come home.  I asked her how she responds to that, 
"Well at least they write me now! Before they didn't." 
"What do you tell them?" I asked
"I tell them no" she laughed.
"Im not coming home until I've finished this journey." she said with a smile.
Love her.

We walked around all day long in the BLAZING sun and NO ONE was home.  Well they were home, but they told us they were busy, or that they weren't home, or another day would be better.  We probably walked about a million and one miles and climbed ten jillion hills.  What I really wanted to do was just be whiny and negative and complain for a good while but as a capacitadora (sister training leader) its my job to be an example - to animate and show my little companion for the day how fun and wonderful the mission is despite the circumstances. 

So I slapped on a smile and kept walking.  We talked and we laughed and we SWEATED.  I learned ten times more from that darling little sister from El Salvador than she could've even learned from me. 

The next morning we met up with other sisters and did divisiones AGAIN.  This time I was with a tiny Bolivian.  She's very serious.  And I adore her.  I finally got her to open up a little bit and we laughed and laughed.  We talked about our dreams and goals.  About our life stories.  And about the gospel. 

At the beginning of the day I was exhausted from the previous day of little to no success in the blazing sun and was feeling less than thrilled to have to put on a big smile and keep fighting, but God was listening.  He's really good at that.  He heard the sunburnt white girl in the south of Mexico and he sent her péople who were home and the energy to smile and enjoy the day with the darling serious Bolivian.


So ever since my Mexicans have found out that I play the Ukulele I've been asked to play and sing in just about every venue.  For the Missionary Christmas Activity we had a mini show, and one of the sisters in the mission wrote a song about becoming like Christ and about 20 minutes before we went on she sang it to me.  I picked out a few chords, learned the harmony and the words, and we played it in front of a TON of missionaries.  It actually turned out really cool.  Someday I'll be posting the video on Facebook.


On Saturday we gathered together as a very LARGE group of missionaries to have Christmas.  We ate turkey and mashed potatoes and a SALAD.  Yes my friends, my first legit salad in almost a year. 

Then we played some Christmas games and laughed so hard we cried.  Then we had a Christmas show in which various elders beat-boxed, I played the uke, and we did a rendition of the 12 days of Christmas, missionary style.  So classic.  Then we had a devotional. 

A bunch of different missionaries from a bunch of different countries got up and talked about how Christmas is done where they live.  It was actually really fun to hear all the traditions, like burning a giant dummy dressed in people clothes and waking up at 4 in the morning to sing and dance with your neighbors. 

Then Hermana Madsen (the president's wife) talked about traditions that they did in their family.  All the talk of family turned everybody a bit weepy, but in a good way.  She bore powerful testimony of how someday we will have our own family and how we are going to be the ones setting traditions and making memories.  It was really beautiful.  Then Pres talked about Christ and got us crying some more.

Then came time for presents.  Pres dressed up like Santa and started handing out the packages.  I got several and tore them open immediately.  Everyone was over the top thrilled and it was like Christmas morning...but not on Christmas and not in the morning...

As we took pictures and opened boxes and shared food and candy, some one came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder.
"Hey Hermana, is your mom's name Julie?"
"Um ya! How did you know?" I responded a little surprised by the question.
"Did she send a package to another sister here on the mission?"
"I think she mentioned something about sending a package to another missionary, but I don't really remember..." I trailed off.

"Hermana," she said grabbing my hand and looking me right in the eyes, "that Hermana that recieved a package from your mom is the daughter of Jehovahs Witnesses.  This is her first Christmas.  That package is likely the first Christmas gift she has ever received."
I just stood there, soaking in what she just said.

"Tell her thank you Hermana.  Please tell your mom thank you." she said with tears in her eyes.
I looked around trying to find the Hermana she was talking about when she walked up behind me and asked, "Is this you, Hermana Matesen?"
She held up a picture of my people.  My very favorite people in the whole entire world, dressed up like shepherds and sheep and Mary and Joseph.
"Is this your family?" she asked.

"That," I responded, "That is my family." 
Then the tears came.  Big fat tears rolling down my face.
We hugged.  And we held on tight. 
"Gracias." she sobbed.

"They love you," I told her."and I love you too." 
We just held one another and cried for a good long while.
Then this darling sister explained to me that she didn't think she was going to be receiving any sort of package or present that year, but the package that my mom sent was the greatest surprise she had ever received. 

Out of all the sweets, books, and cool pens I received that day - despite all the delicious food and the hilarious show, the very best gift was to hold that little sister from Chile and wish her a very merry FIRST Christmas. 

Oh how very thankful I am for a mother who taught me from day ONE to serve.  To love.  To give. I'm not sure who told my mom about the tiny missionary from Chile who wasn't going to get a package, but I'm sure glad someone did.  Because that moment we shared was one I will never ever forget.  Her very first Christmas.  And likely, her very first present.  How proud I was to point to that tiny picture and choke out between the tears,
"Estas son mis personas. Esta es mi familia"
Out of all the gifts I have ever received, the greatest is my family.
Julie, Brett, Meredith, and Max.  My people.

Every person I teach I show a picture of my family, and I name them by name.  I tell them that God loves us so much He sent us here in groups, to learn to love, to serve, and to forgive.  I tell them that, thanks to those 4 people, I'm in the south of Mexico.  I tell them that the gospel of Jesus Christ has changed us and helped us for the better and that they can change their family and turn it into something that lasts forever.

This Christmas, tell your family you love them.  And give them all a very big hug.  No matter how dysfunctional they may be.  They are yours.  And you are theirs.  Learn from their mistakes.  Forgive. Listen.  Love.

And remember the best gifts aren't bought in a store or on the internet.  The best gifts are the ones from the heart.

[3 photos did not download]

*me and mexican santa (my zone leader)

*found a friendly butterfly this week

Monday, December 15, 2014

JOY to the World


The title of this paragraph basically sums up my feelings about the Christmas program we've been working on being over.  The last few weeks has been taken over with rehearsals galore and inviting everyone and their dog to come.  The first performance was in a Stake Center [large church] in the city.  The second and third performances were in a big fancy theater in El Centro, and the last one was in our chapel. 

At every performance I played my ukulele and sang a chill [casual] version of "A Child's Prayer," with harmonies done by me and my best buddy Hermana Rodriguez and three Elders in the background snapping and oooing and aaaing the other harmony.  It was actually really legite. We threw it all together super last minute, but it turned out SUPER awesome. 

We even made leis out of crepe paper and missionary sewing kits.  We swayed as we sang and we just had fun with it.  The audience loved it. 

So the really exciting performance was the one that took place in the big fancy theater in El Centro. Everything was so fancy and professional.  There were big spotlights and fancy sound systems.  The excitement was in the air. 

We did two back to back shows, and everything turned out really nicely.  The audience loved it and a bunch of investigators showed up!  We handed out little tarjetitas (I'm thinking the translation for that word is cards, but I'm not sure....slowly but surely forgetting English) and people wrote down references of their friends and family for us.

The show was divided into two parts.  The first part was a mixture of musical talents done by the missionaries, and the second part was the missionary choir that sang and narrated the birth and life of Christ.  It was pretty powerful.  Just imagine a TON of missionaries from all over the world coming together and singing their little hearts out. 

By the end half the audience was crying.  At the end of the show we left the stage and went out to shake a million hands, kiss a million cheeks, and thank everyone for coming.  I stepped off the stage and started wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and thanking them for coming when I heard my name, "MATISON! MATISON!" And I looked up to see NUBIA BAUTISTA - my first official baptism in my very first area.  My very first golden investigator. 

I sprinted up the stairs and ran right into her open arms.  We just stood there hugging as tears rolled down both of our faces. "Te amo! Te amo!" she said.  We laughed, we talked, we cried, and we hugged some more.  I couldn't believe it was her. "I heard you would be here and I had to come!" She said. 

She told me all about her calling [church job] as a counselor in the Primary [children's church organization]  and how she goes to the temple all the time and how she's sharing the gospel with her boyfriend over the phone and how she's telling all her family and friends about the gospel.  And it hit me.  I really am making a difference out here. 

As a missionary (and in anyones life for that matter), it's really easy to get down on yourself.  To ask, Why am I here? or Am I even making a difference in anyones life?  And then you meet Nubias.  Short, smiley, sweet wonderful Nubias, who say your last name in the most endearing way.  Who hold you and cry with you.  Who change your life forever. 

I didn't change Nubia's life.  She changed mine.  Any success, happiness, and conversion she has is thanks to her and thanks to God.  I just happened to come along for the ride.  And boy am I glad that God let me.  It was a magical missionary moment.  Truly and 100 percent magical.


5 minutes before Sacrament Meeting [Sunday church service] started they informed me that I am supposed to give a talk.  They were going to tell me sooner but forgot.  Cool.  So needless to say I had zero time to prepare anything.  So they announced my name, "Ahora Hermana Mate...hmmm, la hermana va a discursar."  hahaha they never finish out my name because they don't know how to pronounce it.

So I stood up there in front of our GIGANTIC WARD and gave a 10 minute talk with an intro, three points, and a pretty solid conclusion.  I talked about missionary work and service.  My three suggestions were LISTEN, HUG, and SHARE THE GOSPEL.  Each had a story and a scripture and it was a gosh darn miracle.  The whole "open your mouth and let it be filled" thing really works. Miracles happen everyday. 

*prepping backstage in our fancy little changing room... programa navideño 1

 *the giant theater!
 *waiting backstage, just about to go on
 *love Love love love.  Magical moments. I love this little short woman more than words in English OR in Spanish, can express.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Happiness Project


This week we went and visited a member who has been going through a lot of
trials lately.  She needed someone to listen and we happily obliged.  She
started in, and somewhere in the middle she began asking questions. 

She wasn't really expecting an answer.  She just needed to get some stuff off her chest, but one of her questions really hit me hard.  It got me thinking. "How is it that other people around me are happy and I'm not?  How are they happy?  What are they doing/not doing?  How can I be happy?"

It got me thinking.  Normally when the question is asked, "What do I need to
do to be happy?" or "What brings happiness?" the general and easy answer is
the gospel.  But that is so very general.  This member goes to the temple
every week.  She shares the gospel with her neighbors.  She attends church
every Sunday.  She keeps her covenants.  She gives service.  As far as my
human eyes see, she is living the gospel. 

It had me stumped.  How is it that she's doing these "gospel" things and is still unhappy?  It is a choice?  Is it her circumstances?  Is it a trail that God is putting her through to test her faith?

Then at one point she turned to me, "YOU!" she pointed at me, "YOU are
happy!  YOU make people happy.  I've seen it.  How do you do it?  How are you happy?"

And you know what happened?
I had no idea what to answer her.  I had no idea what to say.  I have no idea how I'm happy.  That's just how I wake up in the morning.

Now I'd be lying if I said I'm happy all the time.  I am a human being.  I get grouchy.  And tired.  And hungry.  And disanimated.  But somehow I always make it out alive (and smiling).  But the thing is, I'm not entirely sure how.

I've begun studying the word HAPPY in my personal study time.  I have officially found and marked every single dingle scripture in the Bible that says the word happy.  It says things like "Happy is that man that..." and then puts something.

There was many different answers and solutions, but the two most common were:  HAPPY are the people who repent, or in other words, CHANGE and become a better self.
HAPPY are those that believe, trust, and love God.

I'm still on my search for the answers.  And maybe I'll never find the perfect one, but I'd like to ask all the people out there who are reading this to take 5 minutes and let me know your opinion.  What makes you happy?  What do you think someone needs to do to be happy?  What is the magic answer for you?  Or do you think the answer doesn't exist?  Let me know.  Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

Went to go eat with a member this week and met Diego.  Diego is her parrot.
But don't tell her that.  She thinks it is her child.  He has his own seat at
the table and drinks out of a glass.  He also eats tostadas with salsa and
quesillo.  He also got a dessert. 

It was all very hilarious.  The member was very serious about the whole thing, and it was all I could do the whole time not to burst out laughing.  Oh the people you meet on the mission.

Ran across my best buddy Franklin this week in divisions.  I took a picture with him and thanked him for how much he has taught me and how wonderful he is.  He teared up.  If a tiny itty bitty Mexican man of 97 years, wearing a beanie with a marijuana leaf on it, and walking around with a
crutch taller than he is, tearing up doesn't get to you... then I don't know what will.  I love Franklin.  I will never forget this tiny man who kneels for every prayer.  Every one.  He is 97 for crying out loud. And he kneels. 

Next time you feel too lazy to kneel for a prayer, think of tiny Franklin.  It helps me.

wind blown.
Someone once told me that it is never cold in Oaxaca. That person was a liar.

*Franklin and his wife:
This is Franklin.  He is 97 years old.  He showed me his birth certificate to prove it to me and everything.  He is probably the most faithful and knowledgable member of the church living.  His little beanie that he wears ALL DAY EVERYDAY has a shotgun and a marijuana leaf on it.  And I'm pretty sure he has no idea.  

The picture doesn't even do them justice.  They are TINY.  I am bending over in the photo and I still tower over them.  They are from one of my old areas and I ran into them when I was in divisiones this week.  I asked for a picture because I never want to forget these darling tiny people.

*Not my friend
Don’t be fooled by the photo. This bird is not my friend.

*My peoples
Noche de Hogar
Forgot how to say that in English.  Family home night?  Something like that...

Monday, December 1, 2014

With Style


Last week my ukulele came in the mail.  It only took 2 months or so to get here (mexican mail system probs). When it finally showed, I spent literally ALL P DAY LONG playing it.  Played it so long and with so much love I wore all the skin off my finger and now its all scabbed up. 

We headed out that afternoon to a planned Family Home Evening with a bunch of less actives and members.  No one showed.  So we went and tried contacting a bunch of addresses we had written down from contacting that week. 

We showed up at a house and knocked on the door.  A little kid came to the door. "Is your mom home?"
"she's in the shower." he said.  Or in other words, she doesn't want to talk to two strangers who showed up on her porch to talk about Jesus.

Feeling a little disanimated, we decided to do something different for a change. "Can we sing you a song?" I asked.
"Can you what?" asked the boy, a little taken off guard.
"Can we play a song and sing it for you?" I repeated.
"ummmm ok?" he responded.

So there in the dark, in the middle of the Mexican ghetto, I played my ukulele, and we sang: I Know That My Redeemer Lives.  I made a lot of mistakes and we couldn't read the words that well, but in the end his mom who was "in the shower" came to the door and listened to the last verse. Then without any formal introduction invited us into her home to listen to the two strangers talk about Jesus. 

And we then taught the best lesson I've taught in a long time.  They accepted baptism.  And to pray. And to read the Book of Mormon. The little boy grabbed my hand, "When are you coming back so that we can learn more?" 
I'm excited to teach them again. 

Sometimes as missionaries, we fall into a really boring pattern.  We do the obvious and the normal ALL DAY EVERY DAY and it gets BORING.  So this week my challenge to all missionaries and all people out there reading this e mail is to shake things up.  Do things differently.  And make it fun.  Sing a song.  Be bold.  Change the same old same old to something better. And you'll see the blessings and the happiness roll right on in.


We went to some ancient ruins today.  It was pretty fabulous.  We all geeked out, like the missionaries we are, and related every rock and symbol to the scriptures.  It was very hilarious.  And very exciting. 

There were a million different people speaking a million different languages. We climbed a lot of ancient stairs and we all returned very tired and sunburnt.