"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou
dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest."
-Joshua 1:9

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What a Week!

Hello my loving family and friends!

Let’s just say this week was full of some fun and exciting events! It was great! The week flew by so fast because of everything! So it all started when I had interchanges with another companion in a different area. The area that I was in is called R F. It is one of the most dangerous areas-colonias where I am serving. So going in I was expecting to hear or see something... well that was just the beginning! So we were there about 15 minutes and I saw the beginning of a situation where a guy was telling a group of guys that he would be coming back tomorrow with stuff to end the problem... that’s nothing. Then about an hour later we were talking to a lady and a man came and did a drug deal right in front of us with the mom... real crazy stuff. We were SHOCKED that this happened... Then about an hour later we were walking along a car. The car starting driving real slow and eventually stopped. Then about 2 minutes later we turned around to see the car and it was surrounded by about 4 dudes all with pistols. Then we had a few hour break before more stuff happened again. It was night time and we had a visit in the most dangerous area of R. It’s called Sector 3. We ran into the other elders before we got there and they told us that they were just there and people were throwing rocks at them... real great haha so we went in with the mentality that who knows what is going to happen. Well, we were walking on the street and then entered into a house. Literally about 30 seconds later there was a gang fight in that exact street we had just been walking down. We could hear bullets being shot off like no other... It’s amazing how the Lord has our backs with everything. He knew where we were walking and when and we were protected in the house. ALL is good! Crazy intercambio but exciting at the same time. I am so thankful for the security in the states every day. Don’t take anything for granted. Each week when I talk about being thankful for the small things, it is experiences like this that remind me to be so grateful. It’s all about the experience here and it’s great! I AM LOVING IT! 

Oh yea! I was also attacked by a dog this week... good stuff right? But, it didn’t get me too bad. I wasn’t bleeding really too bad. I did have to sew up my pants. Sewing sucks to say the least. It takes a long time but I must say that I did do a pretty dang good job for being a rookie when it comes to sewing. HAHA!  All is good there though too! Good experiences that I wouldn’t get anywhere else.

English classes are still going strong! Teaching tons! I am going to miss my students that we have on a weekly basis because they are great people whom I’ve come to love and admire. I can’t believe only 9 more days here in my current area. Time is bollando! Crazy fast! 

We had two baptisms this past weekend! Fernando y Maira! They are amazing. They are 15 and 16 years old with such strong spirits. I love them. The spirit is always muy fuerte at the baptisms - always such a wonderful experience and the highlight of our week. So that was good! I have 16 baptisms and I am on my way to 50 (my goal). All is going good! 

I spent a lot of time studying about Faith this week. It was such a good topic to study as I am helping various people that need help in this aspect of life. It was such a good topic for me to study. When we have the opportunity to think and try and help others our days are much more meaningful. I am so grateful to have a Heavenly Father that loves me and guides me every day. I know that God answers our prayers when we pray with a sincere and open heart. Faith is a principal that can always grow. We are all tested every day with different trials and problems- it’s through faith that we press on and do the things that we know we need to do. My invitation to each of you is to always have faith. Even when times seem hard turn to your Heavenly Father for guidance and he will help you. Pray, read, go to church. and do all the things that can help us in our weeks and daily lives. Live it out. Do it. 

I love you guys all so much! Have a great week! Aim High in all you do and put your best foot forward every day! Dad, thanks so mucho for always working hard for our family and Mom for the guidance you give us three boys in our family. Mom and Dad you are the rock for Gi and I. I love you guys very much! GiGi… keep working hard in school and sports. Remember hard work comes from one thing - working hard. Nothing is given to us in life - only through hard work we reap the rewards. Remember that. I love you man. You are my example in many ways. Keep doing the right thing. Spiritually put the work in each week and growth will come to you. Keep kicking butt on and off the field! Love you guys!

Con mucho amor!
Elder Long!!! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

6 Month Jungle Report

Hey guys! I hope that this letter finds you all doing good. I am doing well. I was a little sick this week but no biggie! I am alive and well!  It’s all about the experience and I can say that I am experiencing todo! Gotta love it! So... this week was a little different because some days I was feeling it and others I wasn’t because I didn't feel that great.That was only for a few days, but I walked it off like Marty!!! Ha-ha all good there.

What else? Oh this week we went to a village, which is called Aguadulce and Aragua. We walked or climbed whatever you wanna say into the mountains about an hour to get to this pueblo. It was a way cool experience. There were people that never have ever seen a missionary before let alone heard of Mormons so that was a way cool thing! Yet, another cool experience here!
I bought my first machete this past week! That was cool! I am doing lots of chopping with it. Doing work! We do lots of service for single women who don’t have husbands or older boys. Many people here cook with fire so they need wood to cook. So we help the women who cannot cut wood we give them a hand. Isn’t that so nice? LOL AWWWW! Actually, it is a lot of fun. I love it!
This past weekend we had the baptism of a 16 year old. This kid is a STUD and so cool. I love him. We met him about a month and a half ago and he built such a strong testimony and so fast. He’s a stud! So we had a bautizmo este sabado and it was great!
Well, I can’t believe that I only have about tres semanas mas en my town. Time is flying by crazy fast! I am working hard to finish strong in my area. That’s what it is all about. Finishing strong in all aspects of life.
This weeks email is not full of a bunch of good stuff, due to I was hanging a lot lower a lot of the week because of not feeling well. Aim high in all you do, put your best foot forward and always say your prayers. Your prayers are answered from our Heavenly Father. Always remember to say your prayers; we are soooo blessed in the states. Thanks for all your fine examples and support. You guys are the rock in my life. Look up in the Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:12. You guys, family and friends are the rock in my life as well. Thank you for all you guys do to support me. It means everything to me.
Well, love you mom, gi, and dad! Kill it this week! Same for all my family and friends and loved ones! Loves!!!!!!!!!

con mucho amor!
Elder Long!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Time is Flying...

Hola mis amigos y familia!! I hope that this letter finds you guys all well and enjoying life! Another week down here in the promise land and just enjoying the experience and culture more and more. Yes, it’s hard being away from you all but se que cuando I return all will be good! If there is ever anything I can do for you guys please let me know and I’ll do my best! Thanks for the love and support.

So this week, once again, absolutely FLEW by! Teaching a lot y haciendo mucho servicio! This week we did some work con nuestro machetti. We cut down trees and brought the wood to moms who are single and have young kids and really can’t do it. So that was good, We cut down dead trees and then distributed it to a family with six kids and she is a single mom. A lot of homes here don’t have fathers... the culture in that aspect is very different. So the majority of our service is for people we know or that we are teaching. 

We had the opportunity this past week to go to the temple. What a bueno experiencia! It was a lot of fun! I was with my friend Elder W. and a few other guys that are really cool in my zone. One was on a professional soccer player on a team from Mexico. Elder S. – he’s a stud. He was in the states for a while training for some Nike team. It’s always good to share sports stories with him and Elder W.  After the temple we went to Wendy´s... I thought I was in heaven LOL! It was amazing! 

Tambien, this week I gave like 4 free haircuts to people who can’t afford it. So who knows… maybe I’ll be opening up Barber Mariano when i get home? LOL!!! I am just messing around. But it’s so much fun and nice to be able to help people out in very small ways but to them it means the world. The people here are so so so humble and thankful it’s not even funny. Every single day I learn more about how to be humble and what life really is about. 

The time is absolutely flying by! Crazy fast! This week though I spent a lot of time again studying Chris Like attributes and also how nuestro vidas are on the timetable of the Lord. I found a really good scripture in The Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. This scripture talks about our lives. I want you guys all to read it. Everything happens for a reason - and in the time that it happens for a reason as well. God has a plan for us and sometimes when we don’t understand things, it’s all for a purpose. This scripture really grabbed my attention and I spent a lot of time thinking about it. It applies to each and every one of us. Take a quick look at it. Think and ponder it and its meaning in your life. 

All in all guys, enjoying this ride that I am on! Don’t worry about me, all is well. I continue to think about my family and friends but I know that you guys are doing good things. Keep up the good work! I love you guys each! I love you Gi, Mom and Dad. Continue to strive to be the best every day and make smart and correct choices. CTR. Gi  - your a stud man. Keep up the good work with sports and school. Study hard. Success in school brings success on the field. I promise you. They are related. I love you Gi. You are an example to me. Always be an example to your friends at school and your teammates. Trust me, that’s what it is all about. Serve others. 

I love you guys. Have a great week. Put your best foot forward and aim high in all that you do. Loves! 

Con mucho amor.
Elder long! 

Week Twenty Six

January 6, 2014 
Hey guys! I hope that you are all kicking butt and starting the New Year off on a good start. I really can’t thank you all enough for all your love and support.
So the weeks are FLYING! I really don’t know where the time goes, is all I know is it goes quickly. Training Elder Navarro is a lot of fun y el tiempo esta bollando! This week was pretty good. Nothing crazy happened this week so that was kinda boring lol. But all was good! There was a guy here that was buying some land this week and I started talking to him - what else is new- talk to everyone and anyone. Well, he was rocking a bears hat so we started talking. Come to find out he lived in the Chi and has a daughter at Loyola University. Kinda cool. Small world once again.
Entonces, this week something very small but special happened. So we were talking to a member who has pretty much nothing and we were talking in the street near the centro of town. He invited us to eat some popcorn with him and he would buy it. Ud no tiene ningun idea how much this meant to mi companero y yo. Si, un bolsa de popcorn only costs 10 limps but you have no idea how este familia pueden usar that. It was such a small act of kindness and generosity but really hit home to me. It comes back to the little things in life. You never know when you do something the grande affecto it can tener en la otro persona. Always remember the little leciones en la vida.
So this past weekend we had another baptism. She is a little 8 year old girl.  Her testimony is so strong . Her parents are not members but her grandmother is. Another great experience and the spirit again was present in abundance.  Baptisms are always the highlight of my week.
Todavia estamos ensenando clases de ingles! They are soooo mucho fun! I love teaching! I absolutely love it! So that’s always something fun to do on Saturday afternoon.
I spent some time this week studying about the importance of prayers in our lives. The Lord answers our prayers. When we pray with faith and a sincere heart we have the opportunity to receive answers. I have seen this many times on my mission. Prayer is essential in our lives. We all need to pray. It’s a way that we can communicate with God. Through our feelings and thoughts we can improve. That is why we are all here on this earth – to strive to be better. I love studying different topics each week. Each time I do I become a better person and missionary. Remember peeps always say your prayers!
Well it’s a short one this week but I will always keep you guys in the loop. All is good. I am just doing my thing here and making sure my flow control is always on point (for the guys at the AF ) and all is good! You all are always in my thoughts and prayers. I love you guys.  Have a good week and put your best foot forward and aim high in all that you do!

Con Mucho Amor,
Elder long!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Week Twenty Five

Well... what a long and great week! It was so nice to be able to talk to my family this week on Christmas through skype. Fue muy muy bueno! Estoy muy agrecido to have that chance to talk to my familia! Their doing great and my brother still loves busting my chops. Gotta love Gi- what a stud he is. 

So this week was crazy busy with tons of holiday stuff and people to visit. It was great! I cant tell you how much I have eaten in the last week... I literally think that I am going to pop. The amount of tomales that we ate was out of this world. It’s all about the experiencia. Here since they celebrate Christmas the 24th at 12 pm  everyone is nuts the next day..  every one is either dead tired from the actividades durante la noche or hungover haha. But Christmas here is way differente. They blast music and all the families dance, eat and have a great time together. Then the amount of fireworks that go off is crazy wild... it is INSANE. They are piros haha. Pero fue muy muy divertido. At 12 pm pa pais goes insane- fireworks like no other... i was wide awake because it literally was so loud. Entonces, that was pretty cool. Just a little insight to what navidad is like here. 

The day after christmas we did some service. What does that mean? Well we brought our machetis and did some servicio por algunos personas que conocemos. Fue muy divertido. We chopped a bunch of little trees and shrubry. It was a good time. Dont teach a lot the day after christmas because everyone is dead from the night before. 

We had an actividad este semana donde esta el temple. It was a great activity. It was for recente conversos y investagadores. It was really good! It was all about Christ and how for the new year we can make and set great goals and center our vidas more on jesucristo y cosas que realamente son importante! So, that was really neat. 

Oh, algo kinda cool. So here it’s a tradition to make like a fake person. So here there are like all these manakins that people make. They put them in front of their houses. They are legit. They dress them up y todo. Son muy buenos y la tradition es 31 the people burn these manicans that they have made. It represents burning and gettting rid of todo la mal cosas de el ano pasado. So that’s pretty diferente de los estados. So everyone is making these man size dolls and they are out in front of the houses. It’s kinda funny and cool at the same time. There called Puchungas in Spanish. 

Well what a great time to refelct en nuestro vidas este semana. tenemos la opportunity to start a new year pretty soon- what a great time to reflect and set metas/goals for this new upcoming year. What are we going to change? What are we going to accomplish? What will we do differently? Who will we try and help? Who are we going to serve? What are we going to do to have a better relationship with our friends and familia? How are we going to better our relationship our Heavenly Father? How are we going to be more spiritually in tune?

We all have so much that we can change, do differently, or do better. Lets all try and make it a great year. Lets not just talk about what we want to do... but lets all actually do it. Sometimes we need to sacrifice, but in the end we can do it. I have seen people here change when it involved things that are nearly impossible to change or quit.  With the Lords help everything is possible.  Remember with Gods help everything can be completed or achieved. Make it a great new year and get after it!!!!!!!!!

The highlight of our week was having two very special people to me baptized this past Sunday yesterday. Each of them is special and I love baptisms and the spirit that is there with us. After feeling this spirit numerous times during baptisms I can’t deny the power of the spirit nor can I deny that the covenants made at baptism are real and true. I am thankful for the knowledge that I have regarding baptismal covenants. How great it is to know that these families can be together forever with the Lords plan. This is just the first step in getting there.

If there is anything that I can ever do for you guys just let me know. I love each and every single one of you. Make it a great week and a great start to a new year!!! Aim high in all that you do, and put your mejor foot forward cada dia! 

Con mucho amor!!

Elder Long


Today we got the BEST present we could have received this Christmas Season from Elder Long…we got to skype him and see and hear him for the first time in 6 months! After reflecting on our phone call with him I would sum it up with six thoughts.

First, his testimony of Jesus Christ has blossomed and become the focus of his endeavors each day.

Secondly, his leader at the CCM in Mexico City advised him to learn to love the people, culture and language. He has embraced each of these things and because of that he is starting to feel like he is “home” where he is.

Thirdly, he has a deeper appreciation of just how good his life has been, and that he has been given much. His greatest challenge BY FAR is seeing the lack of daily necessities and the poverty that surrounds him. As Elder Long talked about life there…we could see and feel the heartfelt sadness he has for the conditions that so many live with. This is an extremely hard thing for him to see and be around every day. It all makes much more sense after talking with him why every letter each week reminds us back home to all be SO SO grateful for all that we have.

Fourth, he had a difficult time thinking of some of the words he wanted to say in English. We would ask him a question and he would start answering it in English and about 5 words into it he was speaking Spanish! I hope we can communicate with him when he gets off that plane in 18 months!

Fifth, he expressed his deep love for the people there who have had such a watchful eye on him and helped him be a successful missionary. There are a few families that he loves and adores and will be friends with them forever. He is very thankful for their love and support each day.

And lastly, his deep love and gratitude for each of his family and friends back home who take time each week to write him. He said a mission is very hard. There are daily struggles. And each Monday when he receives e-mails or when he gets mail delivered to him, hands down it is the single most important thing that keeps his spirits up and keeps him going. He feels extremely blessed to have such dedicated friends and family that support him and encourage him each week.

Any family that has sent off a missionary knows what an exciting phone call this was. Just to see his face…hear is voice was a blessing beyond words. He sounded wonderful and positive…the only way Mar knows! He told his little brother about 20 times….PREPARE…PREPARE….PREPARE now. A mission is hard work.

It was wonderful to hear his love for the gospel, the people and the language. He said the Lord sent him to the perfect place. He is working very hard every minute of every day to make us all proud.

We miss him dearly but wouldn’t want him any other place in the world than where he is today. Go gettem’ Elder Long. Go seek “To Find the One”. We love you very much.

Mom, Dad & Giavanno