So if you all remember from last week, we had some baptisms planned for 10/24. The mother and Aileen of the Familia Guerrero Gaxiola were supposed to be baptized, but the mother got nervous and backed out but the 12 year old daughter still had the bravery and courage to get baptized. Some members of this family speak English, and they don't speak Spanish fluently either so sometimes I speak English to Aileen. She got baptized on the 24th, and who did she want to perform the ordinance? Me! I hadn't been out in the field for 2 weeks and I was already baptizing someone. So the 24th rolled around, I baptized Aileen. She's great! I had to memorize the baptismal prayer in Spanish. Elder Lugo and I planned the baptismal service, we had a few talks and some hymns. Aileen's entire family attended the baptism which was great, because I felt the Spirit and I know they did too. The mom was evaen crying and thanking us for what we did for her daughter. I'm sure that the Fam. Guerrero Gaxiola will be baptized, I'm just not sure when. The service ended and literally 30 seconds after it, one of the sister missionaries ran up to me and hurriedly asked me if I could bless one of their investigators who was feeling really sick. So I talked with Elder Lugo and we blessed this lady who was sick, moments after the baptism. I was definitely on a spiritual high. I have pictures from the baptism. One thing that I can take away from this is that our God is most definitely a God of miracles!! I firmly believe that a change in a person's heart is absolutely the greatest miracle that God can perform. Doctrine and Covenants 18:10 15-16 has so much more meaning to me now! I've been studying hard and working hard this past week and I surely have been blessed. It gets tiring and hard walking around everywhere and not speaking very well. But I do know that the Lord is on my side. One scripture that my companion showed me this week is Isaiah 41:9-10,13. I have a lot of faith that my God can perform many more miracles during my mission. I can even say that I'm confident that He will show His hand in my life and in the lives of those around me as I serve.
Anyways, my Spanish has been improving. Slowly, but surely. Sometimes people don't understand me and they look to my companion who repeats what I said. One boy told me that I speak strange. But my companion tells me that it's just my accent, and that I have proper word-structure. I'm the only English-speaking missionary in my district. The other elders and sisters are assigned to study English during their mission, and they have workbooks that they use. They ask me to help them with their pronounciation in English. I help a lot of people with English. A group of kids, maybe close to 10 kids, ran up to me and asked me to translate their names into English. And they ask me how to say different things in English. The mother of the Fam. Guerrero Gaxiola asked me to speak English to her children so that they practice. The mother of one of our investigator families, Fam. Lopez Madrid, asked me to help her kids with English. Not much else has happened this week. We visit a lot of less-active families and investigators. We're still teaching Angel and Helen. They're on track to be baptized but we're still working on them. Their mom told us that she wants to see a change in her kids before they're baptized so that's our challenge with an 11 and 9 yr old. There's a lot of good food here. The people always offer the missionaries food and water. When they serve us food, they serve large portions and if we don't finish the first plate or get seconds, then we're being rude. So there's been times where I feel like I'm going to burst. Sushi is really big around here. I tried it for the first time in my life yesterday. The mother of Aileen and Aileen took me and Elder Lugo to a sushi restaurant yesterday after church. Since I didn't know what to order, I had Aileen pick something for me. And it was delicious! I don't even know what I had but it was good. Shrimp is very big around here too. For those worrying about me and the hurricane, I'm safe! I felt no effects of it and I didn't even know there was going to be a hurricane until now when I'm checking my email. I heard that it was several hundred miles south, near Guadalajara. We didn't even get any rain haha. It's consistently burning hot here. I washed my clothes by hand again this morning! Fun! Haha psych it wasn't fun.
Well, I think that's all I have for now! Keep sending your stories in! I love to hear about your lives and how the Lord is blessing you all.
So yeah, everyday is like a pool of sweat lol. The members are really good about feeding us. They give the missionaries a lot and I know they'll be blessed for their efforts. Two children, one is a member and the other an investigator, gave me drawings of me! We walk about 5-10km per day. Our ward is called Nueva Galicia. We have a lot of investigators and less actives that we're working on. The Guerrero Gaxiola family that is supposed to be baptized this Saturday is nervous so I'm not sure if they're going to do it. But they have an 12yr old daughter, Aileen, and she wants to be baptized so we're focusing on her and hoping her family will follow her footsteps. We also have two more investigators, Angel and Helen, a 11yr old boy and 9yr old girl. They want to be baptized and we've taught them all the lessons. We just need to talk to their parents to get permission. I don't think there will be any problems. I've turned to just saying that I'm from Washington DC because no one knows Baltimore. But they confuse Washington DC with Washington state so the people are like, "Oh, so near Seattle?" My area is poor and rich. I found out that there is approx. 50 tons of drugs in Sinaloa. Most of the rich here made their money from narcotics. The people are really friendly to missionaries. Last night we ran out of appointments so we decided to do some contacting. I saw this 50yr old man, sitting on his porch, drinking a beer, and I felt prompted to talk to him. So I said, "Good night, can we present ourselves?" He replied, "No thanks," but his words were slurred so I didn't understand him so I kept talking. I introduced me and my companion, Elder Lugo, and I told him that we would like to share a message with him and that we're missionaries from the "Church of Latter-day Saints." I forgot the Jesus Christ part haha. But then he said that we can come back and share our message with him and his family tonight! So I guess he had a change of heart already! Haha I messed it up but the Spirit did the talking. My Spanish is getting better, not very quickly, but it's improving! My companion and I are considering having an English class for anyone who's interested here. He doesn't speak it but he understands it. So I'm going to be the teacher if we do end up doing it. Members have been asking us about a class so I think it would be a good idea to invite some less actives and investigators to get to know the church and everyone. Yesterday was GAME DAY. Not like in sports, but the day where everything comes together at church for the missionaries and me. We find out whether our investigators and less actives come to church, if they're progressing with their committments, and so on. Thankfully I didn't have to give a talk yesterday in Sacrament. I already have two prepared, one on Obedience and the other Faith. Each is about 3-5 min long. Today is P-day. We woke up, cleaned the house, then went out to Sam's Club. It's a little far so we had a member who lives in the next street over from us give us a ride. I bought a membership for $250 pesos. And then I bought some food to last me a bit because it's cheaper there and we most likely won't go to Sam's Club every week, maybe once a month. After that, we went to the same member's house, using some hamburgers and buns and condiments that we just bought, we had lunch at their house and shared our food with them since they drove me and Elder Lugo around. Afterwards, I washed my clothes by hand. It takes forever. My arms hurt. We have this stone basin out in our backyard that we use to do our laundry by hand. My companion already had liquid detergent and he shared with me since I have the detergent pods. I didn't get to finish. I only finished my whites in an hour and a half. I still have all my socks and other colors to wash tonight before I go to bed. The sun was right on me as I was working on laundry so I was drenched in even more sweat. Mission rules say that we need to take a shower in the morning and at night. Remember the cold water showers from last week? They feel really refreshing at night when I have all this sweat and grime and dirt on me. I also had a cockroach crawl on my foot a couple days ago. I was washing dishes and I felt something crawling on my foot and I was wearing flip flops. One hymn that I've been thinking about the past week when the sun is beating down on me and I'm hiking up a dirt road, is "A donde me mandes Ire" or "I'll go where you want me to go." I know Culiacan is where I'm supposed to be. No one has it better than me! I wouldn't wanna be anywhere else right now. I'm having so much fun getting to know everyone and their unique personalities and cultures. I remembered my camera so I'm sending a lot of pictures!
This last week has been fun! Yesterday I left the Provo MTC and took the train to Salt Lake. Then I flew to Mexico City and customs and immigration was stressful. Then my flight to Culiacan was delayed and it didn't even have a gate listed for my flight so we had to go to customer service of Aeromexico and figure this out. We took a bus from the airport to the plane on the tarmac and I even walked on the tarmac to board the plane! I slept on all of my flights. They were long. I finally got to Culiacan at 7pm my time, and met the assistants to the mission president. They took me and two other elders, Erickson and Daines, to the mission offie. I met the president and was briefed on the mission. Then I went to our apartment and unpacked a little and fell asleep. Everyone couldn´t pronounce Finkner and they all wanted to learn more about me. Today is my first day in the field. We had a district and zone meeting today and everyone wanted to help me with my Spanish only if I helped them with English and they could speak to me in English. Many missionaries here are natives. They get confused with my last name and appearance. Overall, my flights were decent. I'm adjusting decently too. Tonight we have several appointments with inactives and investigators. Looks like we'll be baptizing a family soon. They have a date set, for October 24. It's really hot here and the computer keyboards are strange. We use umbrellas to walk around to use as shade and we carry little towels around to wipe the sweat away. I'm constantly drinking my clean water. Also, Mom, there's a lot cockroaches here. I found one dying this morning next to my suitcase. Its antennas were still moving. We don't have a washer or dryer so we have to do laundry by hand. We don't have a water heater so we take cold showers. My first area is Amistad, really close to Culiacan. And I'm using sunscreen too. Everyone is friendly here. I'm doing well for now, I think, I only landed in Culiacan yesterday. It's definitely where I need to be. I know it. I'm ready to find my own investigators and get them baptized. I left my camera in the apartment cause I didn't know we were going to an internet cafe today. I'll send pictures next time!
I met a lot of my family in Utah and they were all very kind and welcoming and receptive. They gave me a lot of advice for my mission. I've caught onto the Spanish really quickly and I'm learning a lot of "church" words in Spanish, which has been one of my challenges. We've been so busy this past week. There isn't much time to myself. I've been really happy and engaged in the Lord's work! We went to the Provo temple this morning and it was great! I loved conference this weekend. I didn't fall asleep at all and I took notes the entire time! I have about 20 pages of notes. After conference, we had BYU's Vocal Point come for a devotional, where they sang and bore their testimonies about missionary work. My roommates are great. My companion, Elder Benitez Nunez, is from Rexburg, ID. He doesn't know much about the gospel, but he knows Spanish better than me so we fit each other. I know a lot of the gospel principles and doctrines and I pull out my scripture masteries and use them in my practice lessons.
A lot of people have been asking me about my itinerary which I got on my third day in the MTC, so here it is. On Oct 12, I fly from SLC on Delta Flight 641 to Mexico City, 10:05am-3:00pm. From Mexico City I fly out to Culiacan from 4:50pm-6:01pm, on Delta 7989. I have to be ready to leave the MTC at 5:05am at the Travel Office here. It's only me and a "travel leader" on my flight to Culiacan. I haven't met anyone who's going to Culiacan, nor have I met anyone from the East Coast.
I've been praying for the safety of my family on the East Coast. I heard about the hurricane and I didn't know much but I wanted everyone to be safe.
I'm going to keep working really hard because I have a lot of time in class and study time. I mostly practice the language. I wrote my first talk in Spanish, just to be ready for when I get to the mission field because our branch president told us that we'll most likely give two in our first month in the field.
I recommend that everyone watch "The Character of Christ" by Elder Bednar. It's a great talk that I want to apply to my mission.
Elder Finkner left his home in Westminster, Maryland on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 to travel to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. We had a teary “good-bye” but we sent off a missionary that is excited to serve. He was picked up from the Salt Lake City airport by his Great-Grandfather and Great-Uncle. The three of them took some time to sightsee Salt Lake City and visit Temple Square. Later in the evening, Elder Finkner had the opportunity to meet his cousins while dining in Provo.
On the morning of Wednesday, September 30, 2015, he stopped by the Provo Center City Temple to take a few photos. After lunch, in the early afternoon, he reported to the Missionary Training Center. We are anxiously awaiting his first email from the mission field.