Letter #8

Dear Family and Friends,

Matt Stone, I am awfully appreciative of the Tempe food offer, but….. I’m in San Luis!!!! San Luis is literally right on the border with Mexico. Our mission house is less than a mile from the fence and the town’s Main Street runs right to Mexico. It is so awesome.
But to start from the beginning, I traveled Tuesday to Tempe, met the other missionaries going to the Tempe mission and the met my mission president and his wife and went to the mission home. My president is 7 feet tall, and just gigantic. Like Andre the giant big. And he and his wife are fantastically kind and wise. So, I woke up that morning unable to talk at all. I really wish I could have called and talked. When I talked to you on the phone, with whatever sounds I made, that was the most I had talked up until that point, so that was a blessing. My ears hurt so bad, so I decided to get some medicine for them but I didn’t have a fever or anything, just no voice and lots of pain. I did have a fever Sunday so I thought the sickness had traveled to my ears like usual.

I stayed in Tempe at the mission home with the 17 other missionaries who arrived Tuesday and Wednesday receiving training for a bike, iPad, etc. Wednesday we went to the Mesa temple. It was beautiful! And totally different than the others I’ve been to. I loved it! It’s almost 100 years old now. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from that right now.

Thursday, was transfer meeting and we were there to learn who our companion would be and where we would be going. I have heard that our mission boundaries our a little weird. It covers Tempe, a little bit of Phoenix, some of the Chandler, Gilbert areas, and then there is one zone in the Yuma area, which is what I’m part of. There are four missionaries in San Luis, and that’s where I was hoping to go, to get outside the entire metro area, although it is prettier than I thought. And I did! My trainer is Elder Bradley, who hails from just outside Detroit. His dad helps design parts for Ford. It was something like a 4 hour trip down there. Yuma is about 30 minutes north of us. Elder Bradley and I are both new to this area, and he hadn’t served in the Yuma zone so he was really excited as well. He has been serving as a zone leader in the south of Phoenix. He is great, and we’ve been working hard together. It can be difficult really struggling with the language, but he pushes me, which I’m grateful for and it helps a lot talking to people.

On our way to San Luis we stopped in Dateland which grows and sells dates. Definitely worth a return visit. We tried date shakes and they were actually impressively good. Their other flavor is cactus juice.

The terrain looks like a beach without the ocean. It is just sand with lots of wind blowing. In my five days here, I have met hundreds of people, and only one white person, and he actually lives in Mexico,
but was here for the day. So if you happen to be in San Luis and see a white person, wave because it’s probably me. It’s so crazy. I am speaking Spanish here. Or trying. It was tough at first, and still is but it’s quickly getting better. Some of the kids know English, but most don’t and none of the adults do, except for the government workers, i.e. Police officers. We’re still trying to get adjusted here. The last missionaries who we replaced weren’t really teaching anybody or keeping good records so that’s been a struggle, trying to build off of what they left. The other set of missionaries here live with us and cover the other half of town. We all bike everywhere. We have a van but are only supposed to use it for transfers, meetings with missionaries outside town or to take members to lessons.

Every day this week is supposed to be over 100 degrees. And I genuinely love it. It’s the coolest small town ever. Everybody is so so so nice. They are very understanding with my broken Spanish. And we get fed all the time. Last night we were going around meeting new members and just about every single family offered us food. The first house we had cerviche which is like pico de gallo, except with shrimp. That’s the first shrimp I’ve had in ten years, and I actually did like it. This is probably the closest thing to Mexico, that’s in the USA. All the houses have four foot cinder block walls around them, and the houses have Christmas lights strung all over. And the animals. Everybody has a couple small dogs. And there’s thousands of cats roaming the streets. Usually weekends are good for teaching, but here it’s really tough. Every off day, the population who can, goes to Mexico. It becomes almost deserted. I don’t know the history of the town unfortunately. There is a San Luis Mexico which is 5 times bigger than the USA one right across the border where everyone goes as they have family there.

As for the town, it’s relatively small, the houses are all close to each other and then outside the town there are fields and fields of lettuce. If you’ve eaten lettuce before, chances are you’ve had some
from this area. Elder Bradley and I go running, usually three miles every morning, and we see hundreds of workers out in the fields, or at least the organic ones manually hoeing each row. There are old school busses, that tow porta potties on the back and bring the workers to the fields every day. They are there by 6:30am. And they stay for most of the day. Everything is sandy. I feel like I’m on a movie set. Somewhere between Nacho Libre and some John Wayne movie. Except I ride a bike, not a horse.

Our first day here we had been challenged to commit someone to baptism, and we did! We had the faith, and when we do God will work miracles for us! That’s been the highlight so far. We teach him again tonight. We just started talking with him on the street, and went from there.

Saturday and Sunday were stake conference, and we stayed the night up in Yuma for that and most of the day Sunday so we haven’t done as much as we would have liked. It’s actually only a branch in San Luis. But it’s the strongest branch I’ve ever seen. They have about 140 people every Sunday, we were told, and have sent 7 missionaries in the last couple years, with 4 more leaving before the end of this year. But, there are not a lot of Melchizedek priesthood holders here. The youth and women of the branch are incredibly strong though. They have their own institute program in San Luis. We have met all the leaders of the branch. The branch president is fantastic, and has a vision for this area. He wants to see a Spanish stake created here. When we were visiting him, he kept telling us, “cuidado con las girls” over and over. It was funny.

Okay, That’s it. I love it here. The people are so wonderful and open. There is a special energy and excitement in this town. Congratulations to Annemarie and Tanner! Everything I saw looked wonderful and beautiful. And, my P.O. Box is 14474 San Luis, AZ 85349. There are no mailboxes in the town, I don’t know why, so everybody has a box at the mail office. And, with the iPad I can read emails after 9:30 each night, I just can’t send them, so if it’s easier for my uncles, they can do that. I love hearing the latest!


Elder Schenewark

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