Sunday, May 25, 2014

New Area, Beautiful but Sorrowful

Note: This is Gabe's first email from his new area.  I've struggled with whether or not to post this email, because as you will see he is in a dangerous area, and I don't want to post anything publicly that could put Gabe, his companion or the members at risk.  I've decided to go ahead and post it but blank out the name of the area.  If you want to know more details you can email me privately.  Chuck

Hey, everybody! I am in an area called ******. Its on the border, like literally I see the BIG fence and the army and the station, where the bridge is. We are like 1 hour away from Juarez on the ***** side. It is very green here, well way more green that it is in Juarez. It's like tons of ranches. We cover 9 towns. We haven't been to all of them yet. The first church in Juarez is actually in my area. We live in a nice house with a yard and trees and plants that we water. We live right next door to the patriarch. He is way nice. There are lots of members but tons are less active.  The church has maybe 60 people that attend. We have to walk in the middle of nowhere sometimes. Also I still have my same companion Elder Brown. There hasn't been missionaries here for at least 4 years if not 5. Tons and tons of people have fled out of the city so the towns are extra extra small. Lots of the less actives and investigadores have gone and left the city. The reason is because of the cartel. It got way bad here.  It looks like this place got bombed in some parts. It is so sad. So many young people are dead. There's no youth in our ward, only kids below 11 and adults. It's really sad. I know the story but I will tell you all when I come home. Also it was hard to have the missionaries come here again because it got really dangerous. It is calm and better like in the city of Juarez, but it's just more crazy out here because there is not police like in Juarez. Only a couple. And they just pass by and don't do anything cause there are too many cartel people. They don't fight or anything, just no one does anything about it.  I like it out here. It's just sad what happened here, too. They have young kids and teenagers but not like there used to be and in the church we don't have any. I can't take pictures of the abandoned houses or the ones blown up or on fire, but I'll show you pictures of the middle of nowhere or us walking by the farms and the greenness. 

 It is really quiet and calm where we are but the other night we heard a fight and some kid got beaten up and he was yelping and we just had to sleep through it. It was for a few minutes, but still. I try and have a positive attitude and keep the members happy and excited but the stories they say and what happened to their kids or their neighbors is just sad. If you could pray for us and the people here. So many are in shock and horror. Tons don't trust us so they don't open. We will have sucess, though. I see potential in these people and a growth. The members just need a little shove to keep going and doing the work. We walk right by the fence kind of. There's a road and the soldiers pass by and look at us funny like we're weird kids. Don't worry, we are safe here. We have been lead by the Spirit and we have more strict rules here, too. Like now we can't talk to drunks or random weird people. We just keep walking and stuff. The soldiers know us and the police, but they wouldn't help us if we needed them. That's what freaks me out.  So we're a little bit alone. We got the Lord on our side and we will keep working. If you can pray for us all down here. Thanks. 

I will also meet our new district today. Also, whats it like in Utah now - nice weather? It is way hot here but in ****** its cooler and we have tons of trees. We have to come here to Juarez to email and get food and have meetings so now I'm in Juarez but tonight I'll take the bus back up to ******. I am excited to work. There is a lot of good here. Just need to get their trust. And love them. I got to go since we actually started late. Love you all. I pray everyday for you. and for dad. wish me luck and pray for us. 

Elder Castleton

Sunday, May 18, 2014

New Area, Same Companion

How was your Mother's Day, Mom?!  So, haha, we have transfers but I'm still with Elder Brown but we're moving to open a new area!!!!  I'm so excited.  They said the members are just dying for us missionaries to come and help them and there are people ready to be baptized. Pray for me in this new area. Missionaries haven't been there for a long, long time, like since before the war I think.

My president said every missionary will be a leader here so we can be leaders back home. He said lots of places in the world don't have too good of leaders in the church and he wants us to be the best ones. I can see that here in Juarez.  At home it's like the Shire and we have fantastic leaders but maybe I'll live somewhere else and be a leader there.

Tell Emma happy birthday. I don't have a email for them, only Ash I think. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mother's Day Skype

We got to have a Skype conversation with Gabe on Mother's Day.  It was good to see him and hear his voice.  He looked strong and happy.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Gabe sent some new pictures this week.  And we get to Skype with him on Mother's Day, this Sunday!

Our Area Map
My Companion, Elder Brown
These guys are hilarious!

A family I helped reactivate
A member family
Another member family
My friend Noe (Noah in English).  He is a ward mission leader.
Noe and me

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Allergies, Heat and Reactivation

Hey, Mommy!!! How is everybody? I have been taking my medicine and I will keep washing my face. Usually we need to take a cold shower before bed. Otherwise we can't sleep cause it's too hot. We can't wear anything other than normal glasses. Our president is strict. but its for the good. haha Mom, I miss you. Thanks for your support and kindness. Do you say that - kindness?  idk if that makes any sense. 

I am not gonna lie - it's so hard in this area. We found more people but its goin by slow cause its vacations here for 2 weeks cause of Easter. hmmm... so yea. Elder Brown and I get along quite well. We got a lot in common and he's American, too. It's just funny.  Lots of the other Hispanic Elders here are awesome but it's not the same as having an American companion. It's awesome. We both can't roll our R's well. I'm getting pretty close. But lots of the Hispanics laugh at us. It's funny. I've learned just to laugh and it's all fine. 

We just barely had to move houses cause the sister missionaries are moving in our apartment. We have a lot of cleaning to do and organizing to do at this new house. It's really nice. We share with this couple that has 2 houses and they rent one to the missionaries. They are nice and sweet old people.  They have their kids living with them, too, and its nice to all share and talk to them. They say the other missionaries, after they're done with plan at night, they go right over with the family and they have treats and talk and share scriptures and she said its gonna happen with us to go over and get fed. Can you send me the Kneaders french toast syrup recipe and like a normal cookies recipe? I would like to make cookies but the ones here aren't that good. They're not the Castleton cookies. 

Well its getting hotter everyday. I know dad's right, it's like 70 or 80's now, idk, but its cause were walking all day it makes it seem like its 100. But they said in a couple months it's gonna be the worst. I can't see me living this out, haha.  Already its soo hot and like my companion and I noticed that the sun will mess with your head. It makes you go so weird. Like we can't walk straight sometimes or speak well. It's because we're so tired, hahaha. It's funny cause I'm like durrrr hhhhhduhhhhmmmmmaskljfojsakljdklfj hahaha. I can't speak haha. 

So we had some Investigadores but we had to drop some due to they, well, we found out they were from the cartel. The new rule is that no matter what, if they are part of that we can't teach them and we have to drop them. Its soooo hard. Most of my work here is working with less actives. Here in Mexico, I don't know the exact number but it's thousands and thousands and thousands of less actives. In our ward we have probably like close to 200 less actives in our area. Just for us two missionaries. Well, probably like 160, idk, somewhere around there. So we have already brought, in three weeks, 7 people back to the church. One guy said "I left because there are leaders here that are doing bad things and all this stuff about people in the church doing bad things and not being obedient." We basically loved him and he's like "This is your house, if you want your welcome to come by anytime", and we talked with him and now he's gonna come to church.:) So there is work but its mostly picking up where the elders left off. Reactivating. There are two things why we have less actives - president taught this - it's because THEY'RE sinning or THEY don't understand a principle or some doctrine thing. So that's why. Also he added, normally they don't understand God. Because lots of them come from Catholic and other backgrounds and their god was different and the missionaries didn't notice that at first. They're like do you believe in God? Yes. Ok, well blah bla bla bla bla bla bla and it's not the same.  They're not on the same page. So that's what I've learned. Also, I can baptize lots of people if I want, baptizing is easy, but to have them stay a member is hard. Teaching them and having them live and change and obey and all those things is hard so that they can stay a member and NOT leave the church. So that's what I'm dealing with here a lot. 

Well anyways its nice here. I've met so many people that have lived in Draper and Lehi and Salt Lake City and Provo from here. It's crazy haha. So many white people here. I feel close but far at the same time. They say El Paso is sooo different than Juarez and its more pretty, too. Lots of them go there to shop and buy groceries, haha. Sometimes they bring us food from El Paso. I am one area away from the border, on the right side a little. We have been getting fed really good here. There are some houses, like its just ridiculous, they're huge.  So basically, NOW I know all the history of Juarez. We had a meeting with the assistentes and they talked to us about a lot of things and what happened here for us new people and I was about to cry. It was horrible. I knew it was bad but I had no idea why it got to a point of war here. I won't go into detail until I am done with my mission or tell you anything else until I come home or what I've seen here.  But its hard to teach and to find and to find and teach because people are so broken in pieces from the war and there's no trust here and too much death. We are the light and the truth to bring to this people and to bring light into their lives, just it's hard to make that first bond. People just hide in their houses and won't answer the door even when they're references. Well, I love you all.  I have to go. Have a great week! Bye.

Elder Castleton