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Monday, June 20, 2016

The Final Week...

Well family and friends, as much as I don't like cliche's, I have to say that this has been the best two years of my life (so far).   I have learned so much about life, love, faith, charity and the life-changing miracles that come from following the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Shortly now, almost to be measured in hours instead of days, I will be returning home.  I hope that I can take with me these lessons I have learned and continue to serve others throughout my life, standing firm, standing tall and being an example to those around me.

I love the people of Guatemala and I will always hold a special place for them in my heart.

Spencer W. Kimball once said, "My life is like my shoes, worn out by service."   While I can't compare my life to the life of President Kimball, I hope I can continue to serve HIM with all my heart, might, mind and strength, so that I may stand blameless....and help a few others along the way.

See you soon!

Elder TD Wilcox

Monday, May 9, 2016

Week #99: A Branch in San Lorenzo

"For when two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
-Matthew 18:20

    I have seen a miracle. I make no claim to this miracle, because truly it is not mine, but rather it is the culmination of the sweat and tears of years of hard work of many missionaries, and the long suffering of so many faithful members. Over 40 years ago this miracle began and although I do not know the people who have pushed this miracle into motion I am eternally grateful to be here on the receiving end of their work and to have the opportunity to continue to push this miracle along.
     Around a year ago I came to know this area of San Lorenzo. I had just recently been assigned to my second area and with a few months under my belt I was able to finally get to know the people and the endless stories of faith in the mountains of Guatemala. I came to know of sacrifices I didn't even know still happened in this modern age and here I came to love my mission.
    The story of Rio Blanco in and of itself is one for the story books. It tells of a man whose faith dragged the missionaries miles into the mountains to start the conversion of literally hundreds of people over the next 40 years. However that is not today's story but is in some ways where our story begins. Over the next 40 years the members together with the missionaries went scaling through the mountains over the rivers and across the mountains in search of the lost sheep. As they brought the lost into the fold a good number of saints were found - where we are now. These faithful saints every Sunday would take the two hour trek to church and back. 
     Now I know that most of us having been born in this modern age tend to forget a few things about the past, and so I now stress just how difficult this walk is. Yes I mean walk...because until very recently going by foot or by horse were the only ways. Now to truly understand this trek one has to imagine walking up a wall for an hour straight and as difficult as that is to imagine you have to also do it while looking out for the little ones (that means carrying them on your back) as you go on the journey. A typical "chapin" mom is carrying one on her back and at least another in her arms. (I have seen my mom struggle getting us all ready for church on Sunday and all she has to do is get us in the car, and somewhat dressed, even if at time we were missing a shoe or some socks...imagine getting us all ready for a two hour walk.  Shoes become all the more important.) Even now with there being cars and buses on hand to get to Rio Blanco it is 50Q there and 50Q back which is still quite the sacrifice. However despite all of this,  the faithful members in San Lorenzo have kept the faith. 
   For years rumors have been circulating that missionaries will finally going to San Lorenzo and that a church will be made there. I imagine these rumors have been going around for more years than I have of life. 
   Three weeks ago,  we received a call at the end of a day out interviewing. We had changes. It was odd because President had told me I would be ending my mission in the office, but here I was with changes, and not just I but my companion as well. The next morning we were on a bus heading up to the mountains. Once here we were meet with literal tears of joy at the house of ever member we met. Something like this really touches and hits you as a missionary. At the same time that you know that you are not the reason for their tears you also know that you represent that very reason they are in such joy. 
     Being here has been and is one of the sweetest blessings in my mission. To visit people and know that us being here means so much to them, pushes you to be a better person than you are and really makes you think of just how much all of this is worth. This week we finally had the go ahead and we went around to invite everyone out to our first sacrament meeting. The members jumped for joy! On Sunday, when the meeting hour came we went over set everything up and waited......President Rodas, the District President showed up first....and then slowly in a true saintly fashion family after family came trickling up the hill and into the humble "church". I cant even describe the smiles we saw and the joy abounded as we met and exceeded the attendance we needed to become a branch. Sure we have a lot more work to do and more saints to find, but our joy this week has been full and we cant wait to see what happens in the next week.

San Lorenzo

The Trek to Church

The continued trek to church

and even more trekking to church

Monday, May 2, 2016

Week #97: San Lorenzo the beds arrive...

The View!

Being up here in the mountains is such a different experience than on the coast.  One of the biggest changes is the cold....there is nothing better than the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night to go outside to the bathroom and sitting down on the icy throne, or getting out of the luke-warm shower only to be hit by the embrace of the chilly mountain air. These things a but a small price to pay, for the beauty and majesty of the mountains in Guate.
This week we have had to newly find our feet.  I hate to say it, but the time we spent in the office, driving around to every little place has spoiled us, and finding out feet this week has been a little bit of a journey.  Way back in the  Rio Blanco days walking hours upon hours up and over mountains was something easy, and not a problem.  Now, however, it is something slapping us right in the face. But we are adapting, and I am sure a few more long days walking here and there will get us back in the shape that we need to be.

As this is a new area, new house, etc. for the last week we have been sleeping on cots and for those of you who have ever had to do so you know the back pain that comes with it. However, luck and a great blessing in the form of the "mother of the mission" was on our side. You see, San Lorenzo has been  President Ruiz´s little project for the longest of times.  He has always had a love for Rio Blanco and Serchil (and I guess rightly so considering that they are districts of the mission). On Friday, he and his wife came up to go over the plans for the area.  Hermana Ruiz rained down love to us and scorn to others who have not been on the ball in bringing beds and stuff to the area. One simply has to love the "mother of the mission"!
    As of right now we are still scrabbling around, at least just a wee bit.  President told us that we need to find a meeting house and all the necessities that go with that.   And most importantly to start to go with all of the members and less-actives who are in the area so we can get a nice group going and officially open up a new rama (branch).
    As we have made the rounds this week and really gotten to know the members that are here in San Lorenzo I have come to realize how important each and every one of them are, in our Heavenly Father's eyes. That one of the most important things that we can do as missionaries is to help create a strong group that will not only be strong in doctrine, teaching and administration of church matters, but also in ministering, service and love and charity to old and new people as they come. Being here starting from the base, has turned my head a little and made me think more about those who have partaken of the fruit and have fallen away, those who just need that little pull (or push) to come back into the light.   Or maybe, just maybe as the parable goes, the lost sheep needs to be carried with love back to the flock.

I wonder how many times I will forget to duck in the next couple of months?!
Crouch and shower beats bucket showers any day of the week!

The Road Well Traveled...daily!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Week #96: San Lorenzo

The last two weeks, day after day my companion, Elder Virgin and I have been split up and we have been going around the mission with various missionaries interviewing all of the investigators to hopefully resolve any concerns for those that have some doubts. Honestly, this part of the responsibilities has always been one that is the most rewarding.  There is something so special about getting to know all of the progressing investigators throughout  the mission. One of the best moments was going back up to San Pedro with Elder Kahl. He has never gone up to the mountains in his mission and so he never really understood just how different the work is up in the mountains compared to the coast. As I am sure I have said before there is a beautiful contrast between the mountains and the coast. The people of the coast are willing to take great leaps of faith at the first hints of the spirit while the people in the mountains dive so deep into their studies of the scriptures that the sure quality of their questions pushes any missionary to study to keep up with their investigators.  This week he had his first mountain lessons. After a few minutes had passed I looked over at him to see him a little shocked that the people we were teaching had actually read and had some seriously good questions. A few mins later he recovered from the shock of an investigator that actually read and had real doubts and we had some of the best lessons of the week.

Well....changes, happened and I have been transferred out of the office.  Well, changes sort of at least.  It was more like Elder Virgin and I were moved out of the office to a new area. We are opening the area of San Lorenzo which was actually part of Maclen where I have worked before. It has the same climate as Rio Blanco, so that means I need to go paca shopping to find some sweaters but it is nice to be back here in the mountains. I feel  a lot more at home here than on the coast.

Right now, San Lorenzo will be going through a trail period. If we manage to consistently have 20 people in church each week,  we will be opening up a new Rama (Branch) up here which has been the dreams of many of the members for a very long while.

Our house here is well....rather is very "chapin" style, which means if we don't duck we will be slamming our heads into the doorframes of the house. It was really funny and I don't know if President Ruiz said it as a joke or not but he said and I quote, "Your house is one of the nicest in the mission. It is a swiss style house." I was like wow.....Swiss huh what does that even look like. Anyways,  I will be sure to send you some photos next week so that you can be the judges of our "Swiss" style house and whether it is one of the nicest in the mission......come to think of it, we don't even have blankets.....So things are going to be nice and chilly tonight.

We are literally starting from square one up here, in this new area, out in the middle of nowhere, but after a five-hour drive and getting to our new area, and settled in the new house, the moment that we walked out of the house we ran into a girl working with the peace core.  Elder Perez was with us and was looking down the street and said kinda loud "Shes White!"  The crazyiest thing happened. She yelled back "yeah I am!"  After talking with her for a bit it turns out she has been here for seven months and will probably be able to help in getting us into teaching the kids in the schools.

I am excited about this new area!  I am excited about the new opportunities that it presents, and this is just how I wanted to end my mission.  I couldnt be happier!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Week #93: Mazate, Conference and Mangos

This week has been great. So many things have happened this week. Another set of changes have come and gone. It is truly weird to think that I am on the last days of this time here.
           So as I said last week I was heading out of the office for a short little trip. I ended up going to a the area of La Union in Mazate las Flores. I was only there for two days I love that area. That area is something special, something so completely different from the area that I am in right now. Mazate, in general has always been known as a blessed area of the mission. For two days I became companions with Elder Shupe. He is an excellent missionary and I am glad that I was able to serve with him even if only for two days. I went through my limited time with him at a very busy, fast pace. This week is conference, but beyond that there will be easily 6-8 baptisms from him and his new companion this month. I got to get to know a great deal of the investigators that they have there. One is a little lady named Vanessa, she is about 16 years old. She was found when the missionaries had been accidentally  referred to a small little out of the way alley where some reference supposedly lived. Here they didn't find who they were looking for but rather found Vanessa, who had prepared for them. Things started off a little rocky as all first encounters do. She listened to the missionaries and accepted them back, even accepted a baptismal date, but then there was a time when she just simply could not be found. The elders began to loose a little bit of hope and understandably so. They would try and call her, try to  see when they could come over, but every time something came up, or she would say a time and then not show up. A few weeks later, out of the blue, a thought came to them that today we need to go and see what was going on with Vanessa. Sure enough, she was home, and the Elders began to talk to her trying to figure out what had happened. It turns out that at times life becomes busy for all of us and at this time things were just going on with her. The Elders began to prod a little to see If she still wanted to be baptized, a few weeks earlier she had been unsure of her answer, but this day she said with an a surety, " I want to be baptised". She began to tell them a little bit of how she had been reading the Book of Mormon, and how at the moment she is finishing 2nd Nefi. At about this point of the story I come in at a moment so perfect, we had stopped by her house to see how she was going and to see if she would be going to General Conference with us. There we learned that not only would she be going but that she had invited a few of her friends. I was already impressed with this but then she said that she had not only invited them but that she had been teaching two of them from the pamphlets that the elders had given her. She had made photocopies of pamphlets to give to other people. On the spot I grabbed all of the teaching materials that I had on me and gave them to her, telling her that her days of photocopies are over.
         Another Great couple of investigators I got to know were Brenda and Samuel. Well more than anything Brenda and her son. Her husband Samuel couldn't join us because he was working fixing cars in the "garage"(open field). You see the Elders had done something rather original. They decided to contact everyone that has a mango tree asking them for well....mangos. I absolutely love mangos and if any of my areas had ever had mangos I would probably be doing the same right now rather than be here sitting here writing this to you. Anyways they had gone around this day asking for mangos when lo and behold they found a nice lady walking around doing nothing less than giving her mangos aways. Needless to say,  God put them in her path and her in theirs. After eating some mangos for a while and talking, she invited them back to her home where they began to teach her and her family who are also extremely pilas reading the Book of Mormon and loving the general feeling that the gospel brings into their home.
        Honestly, Mazate is one of the most blessed lands in all of the mission and I will miss being there. Now being back in the office is nice but honestly the blessing of the mission is being able to effect a change in the life of the people we are teaching. Here in the home area, we had a little bit of success for conference. A little family came to conference and really liked it. Also, it was kinda fun to look for you guys during conference, it gave me a little something extra to do but I don't think I really meet any success as I didn't see you, you must have all had the nosebleed seats. Well I'm all out of conferences....and now that I think about it I'm out of all major holidays I think the only thing left is mothers day.

What does this 5 gallon bottle of water and Elder Wilcox have in common?
Streaming Conference...

Monday, March 28, 2016

Week #92: There and back again...

This week has been a rather special week, for me here in Guatemala.

Almost two years ago,  I was starting out the mission and I was in my first area with my second companion,  Elder Garcia. We had just finished what I considered being one of my favorite changes in so far in the mission. On that particular occasion, changes took place on the 10th of Dec. one day before my Birthday. I was looking forward to my birthday and a we were going around that week we had used my birthday as an excuse and had set things up with various families for the week. Then changes came and I was transferred to on of the furthest places of the mission, Rio Blanco.   This area then proved to be one of the favorite areas I have served in.

        For the last several weeks, we have been working with mini missionaries, getting them all processed and situated to experience a short taste of what missionary life is like.  Throughout the course of March around 30-40 youth came to serve mini missions here in the Retalhuleu mission. One of the best of surprises was a young man named, Mosiah one of the youth from Rio Blanco, came down to serve as a mini missionary for around 5 weeks. It was great to see him. I remember when I was up there helping him start on his papers and then to be here for the turn in of his mission papers was fantastic!  Anyways, he was here for a long while, long enough to send off his papers and have them come back. On one of his last days here as a mini missionary, we received a nice big envelope that was none other than his mission call. However, he couldn't open it, as the procedure says his District president has to be the one to give it to him.  He finished the mini mission that same week and then began his wait.
       One week later President Ruiz calls me asking if we could do him a favor and take the missionary call up to Rio Blanco for him to give to the District President. President  Ruiz is a busy man and with changes around the corner he has a lot to do.  So he asked us to do something I have been dying to do for a while.  It was funny because he asked it with a tone of voice implying inconvenience, although it could not have been any less of one. That same night we took off for the mountains.   We could have timed it a littler better as all of the traffic caused by Semana Santa caused us to be stuck in a lot of traffic. However, we came prepared with music and talks for the whole ride through. Not only that but we called the Elders up there in advance to get them to buy us some food for dinner. The food was nice,  however, the fleas that were in the beds we slept in were not and I'm still feeling their feeding frenzy at this moment.
      The next morning we left the Zone leaders house and made our way to Rio Blanco taking the nice long dirt road to the top of the mountain. After driving that mess of a road I now have a much greater respect for the bus drivers up there. We arrived at the church nice and early in the morning because when I was there, Church started at 8am and....well now a year has passed and they start at 10am.

     Going back there was something that definitely pulled a little on the heart strings. Needless to say, I was in church early that day and had started to greet families as they came to the church. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my mission thus far. It was so much fun to see these people again, to be able to pass with them a bit and just catch up.  True to Mormon Standard Time only about a quarter of the ward was there when the meeting started and being true to that same principle before the sacrament hymn was over the rest of the ward showed up. I had taken a seat in the back, right where I used to sit when I was there in the ward. As each of the families walked in, they each did one of those fun little double takes. They looked over in my direction and then, returned their focus with a growing smile of realization, each did a good job trying not to make a scene, but for the rest of sacrament meeting there was a wave of whispers that passed through the sea of members as the little ones started to realize what was going on. What was super funny is that all of the members thought that I had come back after finishing my mission. This last Sunday will go down as one of my favorites.  It makes me realize how close you grow to families and individuals here as you walk hand in hand on the journey of service, education and spirituality.

    Anyways this just in, there was supposed to be an Elder coming to the mission today. However there was a setback and he won't be coming at for a while. It looks like I will be breaking out of the office going on the loose for the next week or so as things get worked out and smoothed over.  There is nothing more peculiar in the mission field than an odd number, so tomorrow I guess I will see where I am heading.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Week #90: Everything is pretty tranquillo

Well honestly not too much has happened this week.

We finished the mission inventory and I am glad to report that we are going to be ordering hot showers and microwaves for every house in the mission.  Not to be used together at the same time in the same location in case you were wondering.   This may not sound like much to you state-siders but wow.....a warm shower is something all too rare here in the mission.)

We finished with the first wave of emergency transfers, and I talked to all of the missionary moms calling worried about their sick children. (/wave if any of you are here perusing...)

Everything is pretty tranquillo...we are about to start a little campaign in the mission going from Multi-Zone meeting to Multi-Zone meeting passing out all of the stuff that we will need, such as invitations and a DVD full of new videos for Semana Santa and a bunch of other stuff.

Check it all out:

Until next week...well hopefully.  Give everyone my love and it's exciting to hear about Chase putting in his papers for his mission - how time flies!