The first week here has been a crazy but really fun experience. My companion is Elder Vargas and is from somewhere in central mexico and doesn't speak any english other than the english swear words he has heard. He took 12 years of english throughout school, but I guess he didn't really want to learn any of it so he hardly can remember anything. Its a very common occurance during our planning sessions for neither of us to know a word and we both have to turn to a dictionary to be able to understand each other.
When I first got here, I could only understand people who were speaking slowly and with good pronunciation. It was difficult to participate in lessons or simply in conversations because I had NO idea what anyone was saying about 80% of the time. I quickly realized that when church members first talked to me, even if I couldn't understand what they were saying, it was safe to assume that they were asking where I was from. When I respond Indiana, 90% of the people here say "Indiana Jones"! Also, I guess there are some cookies, or galletas, here that sound like Crockett, so I've gotten everything from that I have a galletas for a last name to its a good thing that I am not "crooked". But my language skills have gotten so much better even just in less than a week. I've taught my parts of the lessons and I've been able to carry on simple conversations with people. Its surprising how many people here speak english. There are lots of members who can speak english either because they lived in the US for a while or because they took classes and can now speak english. So its always fun to be able to just speak spanish and throw in english words that I don't know and have somebody understand me.
Me and my companion currently are serving in two different wards, "los altos" and "palmeras". We are RIGHT next to the border. Like the border is a huge brown fence, and we can see it whenever we are up on a hill. Its really funny to learn how the culture of the US has made its way into Tijuana because it is so close. For example, a pick up truck or a carwash here is simply just the english words said like a mexican. We have eaten lunch at a members house that is probably 70 yards from the border, so its weird to be able to look over and see San Diego.
The wards that we have are really good but I'm not sure if they should be wards. Palmeras had about 20 people yesterday attending and Los Altos had about 60. Mom can use me as proof that everyone should be practicing piano, because I have already played piano for several meetings here. My companion can play piano, but he can only play about half of them. Plus he wanted me to play so he didn't have to so I did and it was really fun.
Currently we have 4 investigators with baptismal dates and several other less active/part member families that we are working with but I am only going to talk about a few because I don't have all the time in the world. One investigator, Armando, is seriously super super awesome. He has tattoos alll over but inspires me everytime we go over and teach. His situation is really confusing. He is currently living with a women who is a member and was less active but I guess now is considered active cause she has been coming to church with Armando for the last while. She was married to some other guy, had 3 kids, but then they were seperated but not divorced. So Armando lives with her and her 3 kids, who are all members. The most common problem here that stops people from being baptized is that people either don't want to get married simply because they don't want that big of a commitment and the relationship they are in is unhealthy, or because they don't have the money to do so. So Armando's novia needs to get divorced and they need to get married before his baptismal date the first week of April. And neither the parents have jobs so its going to be really hard for them to be able to get it done, let alone afford it but we are praying and fasting for them so I have faith that it can happen. But so the second day I was here we went and taught Armando about the word of wisdom and he agreed that he would not smoke or drink coffee for the next 3 days. He had been smoking ever since he was a teenager and he is 40 now, and he said that coffee was less of a problem but that he had a really hard time feeling awake on days he didn't drink any. So we called him everyday to check up and such and went back three days later, and when we challenged him to refrain from those both for three more days, he said that he never wanted to do either again because he could already feel the difference in his breathing and his focus from just those three days. He said he didn't even have a desire to smoke or anything during those three days. Miracles do happen.
There is another family that is what we call an eternal investigator. I'm pretty sure the missionaries have been going over there for 2 some years. The son who is 12 was baptized and reminds me so much of Daniel. His name is Tircio and is just a stud. We didn't know where the family lived but we knew what street they lived on so we walked there and as we were walking there a boy on the other side of the street came over and started talking to us and it turns on that Tircio was on his way home from school and we just walked in his house with him. His parents also need to get married and stop drinking and such but we have a baptismal date for his mom Esperanza the first week of April. Last time we taught them we taught the story of Alma the younger in Alma 36 in regards to the atonement and the power that we can access to repent and be relieved of our burdens. The lesson went so well and the spirit so strong that Esperanza started crying as she said the closing prayer and prayed for help to be able to turn her life around so that she can be a better parent and help out here kids. Yesterday she couldn't come to church with us but Tircio and his younger brother Gregorio (7) did.
I just love talking with the kids here, frankly because sometimes I feel frustrated that I can't impact adults in a Christ-like way other than sitting there and smiling due to the language barrier that is slowly but surely decreasing. But as we teach and have visited other families in such it is really energizing to me to be able to show that Christ-like love to kids just by playing with them or by speaking simple spanish.
Tijuana is really really really different than anywhere I have ever been in the US, but I really love it. Some families here live in a one room little hut with wood boards for floors and others live in trailers and others have super "rico" or rich looking houses. Our apartment is about in the middle. Its definitely nice, but lets just say it wouldn't pass building code or anything.
I can't think of anything else to say other than I'm loving being out here more and more everyday. Its hard work and sometimes frustrating to not be able to express the ideas and things that I want to right now, but I often find myself smiling as I walk through these streets and am just truly happy.
I'm so very grateful for all of you and the examples that you are to me!
I have to address that you can send stuff to me at:
Elder Jacob Ford Crockett
Misión México TIjuana
PO BOX 439056
SAN YSIDRO, CA 92143-9056
If you could post that address also that would be great! Thanks Jacqueline :)