You can find out more about missionary work and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints here:

Monday, December 29, 2014

Week #27: 6 months in, Christmas and Chuicaval

So this week was a very long week or at least seems to have been going on for a very long time. This week we made 3 trips down to San Pedro which for those of you who don't know means a 4am alarm and an hour and a half ride down and another at some point in the day to come back up to Rio Blanco.  Needless to say nothing has changed and I still don't fit in the buses here.  Though through all of the bus trips and the hectic nature of the week, there were still a lot of golden moments.
        I don't know how many of you have seen Christmas celebrated in another country but I have to say the whole decorating the house thing back in The 'Fee seems kinda lame when compared to all of the explosions of Christmas night.  When the clock strikes midnight (and we do literally have a huge bell tower in Rio Blanco that sounds the hour) explosions shoot off everywhere, as people let their fireworks fly into the night.  Fireworks are cheap here so everyone can afford them and  everyone can buys a lot. In anticipation of this moment we climbed up to one of the higher points in the area and looked down the mountain at all of the fireworks going off near and into the distance.  As we looked at some of the clouds behind the mountain we could only see the explosions of light reflecting in the clouds making it seem as if there is some giant storm coming towards us from the distance.  Maybe it is just me as I have been so deprived for so long living in CA where these kinda of things are illegal. But I guess there is a reason as shortly after all was over we heard the sirens of the police and ambulances scurrying around to clean up the injured and put out the fires.
        The following morning Was Christmas day and it was a little bit weird and even more so to see the family when we Skyped home. It is probably just because this is the first Christmas I have celebrated away from home or that I am in Guatemala or because I am a missionary.   It is a little weird trying to remember and recreate some of the traditions that we do as a family here. For instance, on Tuesday we tried to do the whole baked goodies plate gifting thing, but well the very limited budget and even more limited supplies really made it turn out quite different, and very improvised. But together us four college age missionaries "magyvered"  a plate of baked goods (like if we can rig up and fix an electric shower heater every couple of weeks when it breaks - baked goods should be no problem).  I thought that it turned out pretty good and the people who received them really loved it.  However, of course, when my parents taunted me with their Christmas gift plate later on through Skype ours really did pail in comparison.
       On Christmas day one of the branches I am in had a huge Christmas celebration party that started shortly after we finished skyping on Christmas morning. They had everything; a huge carne asada meal for everyone, a DJ, a part for Christmas pictures with Santa (almost had to be Santa :o) and even little skits run by the Relief society and YM/YW and Elders Quorum and so on.  Some of these made me roll on the floor laughing. At the very end there was a giant gift exchange with every person from the Rama. It might have just been one of the best Christmas parties I've been to in all of my life. The members here really put some work into their activities and there is another coming up for New Years that I am sure will be just as fun.
       On Friday we had our first little bit of experience with bus problems or at least my first experience with them. We had our zone meeting on Friday because the buses don't work on Christmas(imagine that). But we found out after the zone meeting they don't always work on the day after Christmas either. This meant taking a bus to a fork in the road and waiting for a bus or car or anything to come by and give us a ride up the mountain...and so we waited...and waited...and got some ice cream...and waited for nearly 2 hours for something to come. Finally one of the members (ironically the person who drives the bus and wasn't working that day) passed by us in his car and with a quick double take and reverse gave us a ride to the top. We had plans to go over to Chuicaval our other rama which would have been the first time missionaries had been there in over 3 months. But it is a two hr walk and when we had finally gotten to the top of the mountain it was already starting to get dark and it is to dangerous to go in the night so we made plans for the next day.
      So I am going to skip the little talk about the pure up hill walk to the little rama up there and just get straight to the info. Up there in Chuicaval the area is more catholic than the Vatican and more spread apart then Maclen our other rama.  The church building is more of a meeting house no more than 18 by 25 of my own feet (yes I counted) and there are only 15 or so active members that go to church. I think it might be one of my favorite places on the planet earth. It is so beautiful and humbling.  I honestly cant believe I used to complain back home about being the only young man in a ward of some 200 people strong when here these people here without even one young man in the branch. It is such a beautiful place and more so than just this. It truly is the beginning of the gospel seed up there,  there is so much that can be done that I myself can do to help these members become stronger and even more to bring the gospel to so many who have never had the chance to hear it up there. I don't know how such a place could have been so neglected for so long when it has so much potential. I don't know what we are going to do to get over there more often but I do know that we for sure will be.
       Now this last little bit is kinda just for you dad. I remember you telling me just before I left as I winged my last talk in English that I soon wouldn't be able to do this in the mission.  As I would have to really prepare to give a good talk in Spanish, as it would take a while for your thoughts and feelings to be expressed naturally in Spanish. But I really think that those last min winged talks have prepared me for the mission. If you think about it missionaries normally give talks as the last minute all the time as they need to fill time or the speakers didn't come to Sacrament kind of talks.  This Sunday all of those years of preparation really came into hand (along with the language coming along nicely)  as we were asked to give talks as we walked into the Chuicaval Rama and then asked to bless and pass the sacrament with no time to prepare.
       I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and has a Happy New Year!  What a great time to stop and reflect on being a better person as Christ wants us to be.  I hope you can all make sharing the gospel both in word and deed a part of your New Year's Resolution!

Guate can be picturesque at times and at other times not so much...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Week #26: Shucking Corn, Christmas and 25%

Elder Rivas and Elder Wilcox
     Wow,  where has the time gone?!  I am reaching some what of a milestone in the mission soon because in three days 1/4 of my time serving a mission in Guatemala will be over.  Four those math challenged individuals that means that I will have been here for six months, and will have 18 months to go.  I am not quite sure how I feel about this.  As I look back through all of the photos, I have taken, all the people I have met, all the experiences I have had, in my time here, I honestly cannot understand how so much has happened in such a short amount of time.  At this point in the mission it is just a little weird to think about home, but so hard not to at a time like this. Its Christmas after all with all those memories of many years... how can we not? But I also think long and hard about my time here, how I can be a more consecrated missionary, how I can better serve all of those around me, how I can help, build up, teach and inspire at every moment, and make all I come in contact with hopefully better than before.
     This week has been all about getting to know the area, we have had a lot of meetings this week and were only in the area for a small fraction of the week, but we did what we could. On Tuesday, we had our yearly devotional with President Ruiz and discussed the goals and the logros of the year past and the year to come. I found out a lot about my area in that little meeting. I knew that my knew area was a hard area and an area of faith but when they showed the stats for the year in Rio Blanca it made me realize just how hard and just how much faith I am going to need to have in these next few months here. But I not discouraged, I see it as a motivation more than anything else.

    The members here are amazing and I know we can start to find a lot of new people if we just work through all of these pilas families that we have here. (there is more than 3x the amount of people in this rama than my last).
     Service up here is little bit different than it is down on the coast. On Wednesday I had my very first experience shucking corn in a barn. It's pretty cold up here and after shucking for a few hours in the cold my hands became pretty numb but that only helped me shuck faster.....I like the word shuck.

    There is one thing that happened this week that was different and new for me.  I don't know if any of you know what Cal is but its one of my least favorite things in the world now.  Apparently there is a rock here called Cal that when put into hot water it has a chemical reaction becomes acidic and putty like and creepy.  Apparently they use it for just about everything here from tamales to cleaner to cement.  One day we went to do a little service for one of the members and when we got to the house she asked if we could help her paint the ceiling of her house. I had no problem with that. I can easily touch the ceiling with my head there, so painting it really wasn't to much of a problem.  Then she gave us the "paint"(cal). I didn't know what it was at the time I just thought it was some home-maid "chapin" paint.  Little did I know I was painting with acid....and after the two hours was done and over it had turned my hand disgustingly dry nastily and cracked. Even today it still looks like my right had is that of a 50 year old man. Needless to say I now know what cal is and will never touch that stuff again in my life... lol I almost lost a hand and an eye.  [Editor's Note:  We also don't know what Cal is, if someone knows we would love to know... :-) ]
     We had a little Christmas celebration this week with the District Rio Blanco.  Familias were paired into groups and given specific scripture stories to act out. We missionaries were paired with our landlady and her family and were given the good Samaritan to act out. Long story short we rocked that performance but didn't sadly did not get any video.  We had fake blood mask donkeys(well me dressed up as one) and so much more we brought the house down, and it was fun creative way to teach and remember our Savior.
     I don't know if I told you this but I am living in the same house as Elder Owen who was in the same CCM group as me. One day after a meeting we were in the main plaza of San Pedro waiting for the bus after getting some "sheka pan" to eat (best bread in the world I'm going to put on some weight here from it). Elder Owen is about as canche as possible with his pure white skin and blonde hair. He and I paired together simply draws attention. As we were sitting there in the park people kept coming up to us simply because we are gringos and they haven't ever meet any before. By the time the bus had arrived at the station we  had seven lessons together with random people contacting US. I wish it could be like that everyday. So much easier that walking hours on end in order to get to simply one lesson.
     Well this area is huge, amazing, beautiful and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I don't know everything that The Lord has planned for me here, but I am going to work hard and enjoy every minute of it.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Week #25: Transfers to Rio Blanco, a bus ride, and it does get cold in Guatemala...

Our Christmas Tree with picture ornaments

Greetings family and friends!  

This week has been absolutely crazy... I dont really know where to begin so I guess ill just come out and say it...I am very cold.  Dad asks me every week what I learned this week, and there have been many learning opportunities but the biggest things I have learned is there are some cold parts in Guatemala.
       So every Tuesday we have a district meeting and the Tuesday before changes we have a little extension to the meeting to find out who in the zone has changes. Last Tuesday morning I woke up and we went over to this meeting and there I along with seven (7) other missionaries in the zone we found out that we would be having changes or transfers.   I took some time later that day to say my goodbyes to my first new little chapin families in Guatemala.

Wednesday morning the day of changes I awoke and I was cold...which I took as a sign that I would be going to the mountains of Guatemala.  Sure enough, after one of the longest change meetings in the history of change meetings because of the many changes, I found my new hope to be in the icy tundras on the other side of the mission in the area Maclen in the zone San Pedro.  As I am sure some of you have seen by now that there were a lot of missionaries leaving that meeting and it was a very sad day for a lot of reasons. But sure enough the mission continues and after saying goodbye to the fragments of my old zone I headed into the bus to make the 4 hour trek to the zone San Pedro.  Along the way we stopped at Burger King and used the debit card in hopes that my parents would understand that it was code for "yeah I had changes". I believe dad understood, and after the little pit stop we jumped back into the bus and rolled all the way up to San Pedro leaving our mission and passing through the Quetzaltenango mission to get to this particular part in the Retalhuleu mission.
When we got to San Pedro the zone leaders told us that my area is actually another hour and 30 minutes away still by bus and is one of, if not thee biggest area in the mission, but because it is so late you couldn't get a bus there so I had to stay the night there.  The next day we had a zone meeting and that morning I finally meet my new companion Elder Rivas who is from El Salvador and is my first latino companion in the mission.  He has 20 months in the mission and will probably be leaving the area after this change but from what I have seen once he get started on a days work he can do a lot.
          Apparently a lot in this area depends on the bus schedule. Elder Rivas and I live with 2 other Elders(Ramirez and Owen) in the frozen lands known as tierras frio.  Up here is one of the few places in Guatemala that actually gets snow but there are only a handful of buses that go up and down to our area every day.  For example today is Pday and in order to get down here we had to wake up at 4 to catch the 4:30am bus to get down to here by 6am and tonight we have to take the 7pm bus back and come back down again tomorrow morning at 4:30am for a christmas devotional with the President of the mission. Every trip on the bus takes an 1 1/2 hours and with my height you can imagine the knee problems I will have after my time here in this area.
           This area is absolutely amazing, beautiful beyond belief.  It is hard to capture what you see here in a photo because pictures simply don't do it any justice.   We have a branch up here so big that it would probably be a ward if it were possible, but there isn't a stake close enough so it falls under the district.  Everything is simply beautiful..i dont even know how to put it into words.
        Everything I know about the area is amazing and the people are super pilas. The only temporary downfall is that my california body that was acclimated to the hot humid jungle of Guatemala is not used to the cold and the clothes that I brought for the mission are not quite adequate to tackle the climate of this area,  Though a quick trip to the pacas in the area can fix that nice and quick.
         Birthday went great and happened ti fall on the first day I was in my new area I didn't really tell anyone but I made sure to celebrate the next day in the house with my new comps. we had a blast.

So starts a new chapter in the Retalhuleu Mission getting to know and serving the people of Rio Blanco!  I am excited to press forward to get to know the people and see how I can make a difference in their lives!
Rio Blanco land of the apples
View of my area from the ZL house in the city...the area is that which is up in the mountains under the clouds.

Now up the mountain in the area.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week #24: Transfers, living nativity and getting lost...

Elder Wilcox playing Joseph in a living nativity in the streets of Guatemala.
Starting out in December we have began to work and focus our teachings so much more on Christ with it being the time of the year where so many remember him in the celebration of Christmas. Every set of missionaries in the mission have been challenged to throw some kind of celebration or activity to get people to remember what the true meaning of Christmas is.  Right now in the world people don't really remember what the true meaning of Christmas is. People seem to focus on the food, the presents, Santa and all the superficial stuff of the world.  Being here on the mission I have really learned a lot and one of the  parts most important of all is the gift that Christ is in our lives.

Right now the mission is trying to remind everyone that he was and is the reason that we celebrate at this time of the year. That he was the first gift of christmas.

     Ok so this is the goal and on Saturday we had our first of these activities and Wow! it went simply amazing.  We had started to plan these activities as a zone and will then do the basic idea in all of the areas of each pair of missionaries. Right now we have alot set up for everyone of these but here is the basic Idea.  We reserve a field or street or some lot to hold the activity.  We set up a little manger, a stage for the video,  "El es el dadiva" and as missionaries we sing Christmas hymns for all to hear while some of the missionaries are teaching and taking down information from those that are there, so we can go and teach them at some other time.  We also do kinda a santa picture taking session but instead of santa we have Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus.  We even bring in animals to make the whole thing that much better (but only the cute little baby goats and others --after they grow up they just stink and are nasty). So far we have only done this over in San Sebastian the area of Hermana Phillips and Garcia but we will be going and doing others throughout the month.  I am sending some of these pictures so you can see.
     Last week I mentioned there is a chance that I might have a transfer this week, but quite simply know one but the office and mission President really know and maybe not even them as of yet.  I am tied for the most time in the zone at the moment, however the other 2 I am tied with are about to go home and so no one really believes that the President is going to change them with so little time left in the mission. In addition others are thinking that they put Elder Garcia with me so that he can learn the area really fast so that they can switch me out into a different area (Elder Garcia has 15 months). and with all this I simply think that anymore than 3 changes in the zone will kinda make people a little unproductive.  But who knows really where my path will go - and it doesn't really matter, although it would be nice to stay here for another transfer especially with my birthday and christmas fast approaching.
     Someone asked about the bathroom situation...even in la verde our house at least has indoor plumbing and a shower...if you can count a pipe out of the wall that squirts water a shower.  Really it is not that bad except for those darn mosquitos.
    We got lost this week...that was quite the adventure. we started to go to las vegas - but we were walking through a forest and got lost and ended up walking for an hour before we stumbled upon a brand new area within our area...honestly these little colonies of people just pop out of the ground. Once there was someone to ask where we were and they said Las Flores...which would have helped us alot if we knew where that was.  From here we ended up following a road up and up and up,  two hours later we popped out of the wilderness and where at the very edge of our area over in San Luiz...that was a great experience,  the entire time I was just thinking where in the world is my iphone with google maps?

        On thursday we went over to Xetalulu to celebrate christmas. this was pretty great and unlike the US super cheap.  A ticket to go into the park is only 8$ and to eat at the super fancy restaurant is 8$ as well.  Best part about going to an amusement park here is seeing the latino missionaries. They go absolutely crazy for everyone of the rides. they sure know how to make whatever they are doing a lot better and fun for those they are with.
   I don't know what this next week will have in store but things are about to change a lot in the mission.  There are 25 missionaries leaving in the transfer this week, including almost all of the hermana leaders, the 4 assistants and many zone leaders.   At the least this is going to be a very long change meeting.  Fingers crossed that I don't get transferred, though things are hard in this area and from what I have heard its one of the hardest, I know this place has done me good. The only dilemma for the moment is whether I should by food for the week or not today...cause if I have changes...well lets just hope I don't.

setting up the living nativity

this is when the goats are cute...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Week #23: Thanksgiving and El es la dadiva

The hot weather and all the rain makes for some beautiful sunsets!
Pday this week is cut short yet into a half day.  We are not really sure why, but when the mission president cuts the Pday in half he usually has a lot of fun planned for us in the near future.  I have heard rumors that we will be celebrating christmas this week in Xetalulu.  I will let you know next week!  Hence the reason I sent emails so much earlier today.

Sadly, we did not have the chance to kill and eat that turkey. The plans fell through and though I would have loved to have eaten that whole thing with my companion, we decided that it was probably best to just go out and work.  We didn't really celebrate thanksgiving, just a silent moment of contemplation and thanks for all that we have,  and I am starting to get the feeling that I wont be celebrating my Birthday in La verde, changes this round up fall on the 10th of dec and if I do end up having changes there won't be too much time to get the members in my new area to get to know me well enough to throw me a birthday party.  Oh well, I have come to the conclusion that holidays don't really exist on the mission.  Unless of course they fall on Monday.  Maybe that is too critical of a statement...holidays and all days are what you individually make of them, I am just realizing more and more about what really matters in life.

Before the mission Merv bought me a watch and it has been more useful than I ever thought it would be.  As you can imagine keeping kids happy and entertained during a lesson is very challenging, like keeping kids entertained during sacrament meeting on Sunday. However here I don't have my phone and all of its apps to give them something to do.  But I have the watch and it's light. Every little kid loves it. I have it perfectly timed to where I can "blow" the light out. It has saved more than its fair share of lessons by allowing me to easily pacify the crying little toddler.

We have been trying out our luck this week going and contacting all of the families that live over across the river from Las Delicias. There are a ton of little families over there and love talking to the gringos. There are so many cool little families over there and many of them except every single word that we say know that it is true but simply don't understand the resounding movement that should be pushing them after. If you look in the bible dictionary at the word devil it says that one of the greatest tools that he has is the ability to change the world's perception of something bad and make it seem good. I was doing a lot of studying this week on this. and if we look over in 2 Nefi there is a chapter that talks all about how false churches with be risen up at the last day and they will have false doctrine and false teachers.  I believe that the worst part of this is the confusion that it causes. Here in Guatemala there are evangelical churches literally every couple of houses with at least one on every block. In Las Delicias alone there are around 10 different churches on just the main road that leads to our house. Everyone of them teaches something different and everyone of them has there own individual doctrine or teachings. As we go and teach people almost all more or less will let us in the door and will listen to everything that we say. However every single one of them says the same thing, that I am searching for my own individual salvation and it doesn't matter which church I am in because all of them worship god and that makes them all right and so I'm not going to change my religion because my religion is god and every church worships god. The horrible thing that has arisen is the false conceptions that have arisen to keep people from the truth, the complete truth with the ordinances and authority that are required.

Last night we meet this girl while out contacting she is 16 years old and is married to a 22 year old man.  She is an evangelist and he is catholic.  As we taught her she started to really open up to us she told us about all of the problems she has been having in the relationship and why people in her family were leaving her church and joining the LDS church. She initially had a little bit of anger towards us but then she for some reason asked us what colleges we had graduated from(because we had the answers to whatever question she had).  We of course told her none and I said I'm only 18 way to young to have graduated. She didn't believe me and I had her look I have my license. She looked and after we started to really get into to teaching her. It was a great lesson and a great experience!

Sunday was great this week as well.  We were sad because we had none of our investigators there, even after trying for 10 mins to get one to come as he ate a bowl of chicken and said I'll go tomorrow, and throwing one of the recent converts into the pickup as he was making an excuse as to why he couldn't go.  Everything was just kinda slow and sluggish until we started to sing the Sacrament hymn.  We were two verses into the song and right as we were about to start to sing the 3rd verse everyone starts on the 4th.  My companion and I were confused,  but we joined in and made that the best 4th verse ever sung. After we finished the person leading the music said ok now lets try the 3rd verse! and as so it was done.  The little differences that bring can bring a smile to your face.

We have 3 baptisms lined up right now if things go all according to plan but we will see how that goes as the week presses on.  Well time is short here on the computer.  We are going to start celebrating Christmas today and using the new El es la Dadiva ( put out by the church to contact people.   We are planning to a big Christmas celebration on the 20th of December, inviting the other pastors and other churches to all put up tiendas in the soccer field and have a Festival of Lights.

I hope all is well at home, that you had a fantastic Thanksgiving! This Christmas is going to be a special Christmas for me - as I am away from home for Christmas for the first time and spending it as a special disciple and witness of our Savior Jesus Christ!  I plan to make the most of it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Week #22: A Horse and A Girl Worth Fighting For...

Not quite silver, and I am not quite the lone ranger...

So this week was a little disheartening, but I push on. After the high of the last sunday and the people that were ready for baptism the events of this week were simply pale in comparison.  The down moments are left for my "other plates or records" and I write to you about those moments that push you through it all and just make the week worth it.

One of these moments came on Wednesday. We were passing by Darli a little 9 year old girl who will be getting baptised the first week of December. On our way over to her house we looked down one of the roads and see a horse. Elder Garcia and I kinda look to each other...I want to ride that. So we went over and contacted this family using the horse as our "way in the door".  Thanks to Mark Copier our old YM's President, and that wonderful high adventure trip a few years back,  I knew how to ride the fella which really shocked the whole family.  It is funny what the people here think gringos cannot do, but once they gave permission I jumped on and took off down the road. They were really shocked that this gringo could ride a horse.  When Elder Garcia got on he had a little bit of trouble but found his way after the family smacked the horses butt and it took off.  We ended up getting a return appointment with them after all the fun was over to visit them again. We are thinking about maybe doing a pday with the whole zone over there.  I wonder if there are missions somewhere in the world where the missionaries ride horses instead of bikes?  There should be...
In the mission we sometimes have something called an attack of the area where all of the missionaries in a zone all come and contact in one area for a few hours. We had just found that Las Vegas area and thought it would be a great area to do this in as most of the people living there have also never had the missionaries come and visit.  The only slightly hazardous part was we all had to cross a river in order to get to the area. We all meet at around 10am and made our voyage over to Las Vegas.  It ended up being a very successful attack with every companionship finding a good 2 families to continue to teach. However as we came back across the river at least one person in every companionship "broke" mission rules and fell into the river.  Tiss tiss bad missionaries...

While on the mission here we really start to know our Disney and church songs very well (these are the only mission approved music categories).  As we were walking back from the attack of the area Hermana Phillips started to tell us about one of the ladies she and her companion had found.  I don't know how many of you are familiar with the movie Mulan but in one of the songs, "A Girl Worth Fighting For", there is a part where Ping(mulan) chips in on the song saying "how bout a girl who has a brain! and always speaks her mind?" (everyone else yells) "Nahhhhh". Hermana phillips describes the lady she found with those same words. And in perfect unison all of the gringo guys yell "Nahhh!" kinda a picture perfect moment. (Editor's Note:  I had to find this and review my Mulan Music to understand what he was talking about)

As I am sure a lot of you know the mind of a missionary is a very weird and peculiar thing. When we see stuff we change it into a teaching opportunity or just something altogether different than the social normality for certain situations. For example when we were back home in the states and saw someone in many different locations throughout the day as if they were following us we would think they are a stalker or something and we would probably try and avoid them.  Here, if we see someone following us we think, oh we must need to talk to this person and proceed on to do so. Last week we were walking down the road to grab a tuc tuc in order to get to a cita.  Right as we are about to get into the tuc tuc a big guy with a nice car calls us over and tells us to get in the car. Now if we were in the States we would run as fast as we could trying to get away from this kidnapper.  Here we jumped into the car without a second thought.  Ok I know you are thinking, that is a stupid thing to do no matter where you are, but it ended up being one the coolest lessons ever, as a captain of the guatemalan armed forces drove us to a cita asking us all sorts of questions about the Church. Apparently one of the other captains that he knew was a member of the church and had said if you ever have any questions of the Mormons and the LDS Church,  just pick up some Elders and they will answer anything you want to know.  I remember there was a talk about this in General Conference in the last couple of years.  I am sure Mom and Dad you thought I wasn't listening or paying attention, something about ask the missionaries, they can help you with anything. [Editor's Note:  Yes he is right, Elder Russell gave the talk, "Ask the Missionaries! They Can Help You!" in October 2012.  Yes he is right, I probably didn't think he was listening...)

And with this I end yet another week in the mission.  It is almost turkey time and we might actually have a Thanksgiving with some of the other missionaries.  Also Christmas is coming up and that is simply just a weird thought for me. Not because its Christmas or that I am not home with my family and all of you guys, but because Christmas marks 1/4th of my mission over. That right there is a very weird thought. I feel like I have only been here for such a short time and that I truly am still that little greenie that came to the mission 5 months ago. I don't know any situation in the world were an 18 year old young man can be dropped into, survive, learn, teach, provide service at every opportunity and bring eternal happiness to the lives of people.  I used to think my dads job making video games was coolest thing in the world (and let's be honest of course I still do) but this job here is a lot better than making any little old video game.

I love you all and miss you!

P.S.  Maybe we are getting a little more adventurous with our cooking, maybe we are getting tired of beans and eggs, maybe we are thinking about all the home cooked meals and BBQ back home, but if you have any sort of simple recipes that we can make please send them along.  Anything that would be simple and easy to make on a hot plate and frying pan.

This is a street, except every day when the rains come and it turns into a river, along with all the other streets.  Temperatures are a low of 70 to a high of 93 each day.  Guate is a jungle - hence all the mosquitos.

Family Picture time!

This is our go to meal...eggs, beans and torillas.  Please send recipes...

crossing the river to get to the other side...

Dad look what I found while teaching a family...Yerba Mate

Monday, November 17, 2014

Week #21: Moments..spiritual and fun...

Question: With your birthday and Christmas coming up? Anything special you want?
Answer:  I want you to make some beef jerky and send it.  Sure you can buy some but I would rather you make some and send it my way.  [Editor's Note:  While beef jerky on the Traeger is incredibly good, I don't think it would last long without the preservatives for the 3-4 week journey and associated heat and humidity.  But if anyone else is thinking of sending anything...beef jerky is the only thing Elder Wilcox has specifically asked for.]

This week has been full of moments, spiritual moments and fun moments, that I am grateful I have had the opportunity to experience and record.  Sometimes it is those small and simple things that allow us to continue with hope and faith and a knowledge that we are where we are supposed to be doing what we are supposed to be doing.

Saturday morning, the zone leaders had planned to come down to the area to help us out a bit in teaching and whatever else was planned.  As it turned out, the majority of our lessons for the morning were with people in the area who speak english or are learning how to.   The zone leaders are both native spanish speakers and I imagine they felt a little bit awkward or even a tad bit useless as they tried to follow along in lessons in English. In some ways I guess they had the chance to understand just how we gringos felt the first several months in the field when we simply could not understand a thing in Spanish, but still had to teach and carry on.

A little bit later in the day we had a baptism planned.  It was a little bit different than all of the other baptisms I have had up to this point. Juan Jose is a youth I have been teaching all of my time here in La Verde.  We had set the date for the end of this month but once he had his interview with the district leader he said that he wanted to do it this this week.   So we did it with the condition that we don't make a big event out of it and it was a small baptism with only us, the zone leaders and the President of the Rama in attendance. In many ways it was all the more spiritual, and probably one of the most spiritual baptisms I have attended.

As we finished with his baptism the hermanas of Pedregal (Hnas Woods and Dalton) had one as well. It could not have been anymore different from the one we had just had. It was a family of a mother father and a little baby. The hermanas had been teaching them for a while and they had finally gotten them ready to be married and baptised. The couple was married first, and this was really cool to see.  Immediately after the wedding was completed they changed into baptismal cloths and were baptised.  There were 75-80 in attendance which is  almost twice the attendance of Sacrament meeting for our branch.   It was super cool to witness, and makes me want to find and focus on some families.

This week was really just full of blessings. As we went about our normal sunday rutine of picking people up and going to church we only managed to get two investigators to come to church.  It was a little sad but at the end of sacrament meeting I turn to my comp and ask him, "hey do you want to have the zonen leaders do the interviews for them right now?" (the ZLs came down to check on the branch as well that day like the day before) he said yeah and by the time 2nd hour of church was ending we had 2 more dates set for baptisms. Awesomeness!
Now for some of the little funny moments of the week.

  • One night when we were over at the Zone Leaders and Elder Hernandez asked us how to say "how much?" in English and my comp told him "what are you wearing?" He repeated it into the phone to the hermana he was talking to.

  • Elder Portillo our old zone leader in Las Palmas is now one of the assistants to President Ruiz and has a car. One of the nights this week we were heading over to their house and when we got there we saw him and his companion standing outside of the car looking it all over. He had hit a dog on his way home and was looking for blood. (dogs are like rats here)

  • My companion has a really bad ingrown toenail right now (that isn't the funny part) and had shown it to the mission nurses.  They they didn't like it so they told him they were going to stop by the district meeting on tuesday and perform surgery.  During the meeting they took him into one of the rooms of to the side as we continued on with the district meeting.  The next thing you know we heard him screeching and wailing as they stuffed cotton in between the skin and the nail of the toe.

  • The night of the Wedding and baptisms we went over to Mcdonalds to celebrate (yes McD is the hub of celebration here for the Missionaries) there was someone else there who was celebrating their birthday. Elder Hernandez had been playing the violin for the wedding and had it with him so he started to play the violin in the middle of Mcdonalds for this person.  The REU McDonalds is very high class!

  • My personal favorite took place a night this week when I was just dead tired and fell quickly asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.  At about 11 at night my comp hears a crazy loud crash on the roof of the house. He calls to me and yell asking if I had heard it. I was fast asleep and as he became more scared that I didn't answer my mosquito net caught in the wind of my fan and looked like a ghost or some person (he said the next morning). He started to yell and then pray and I think even rededicated the house. Through all of this I was still sleeping and the following morning he told me about it all I just laughed at him. When we went to investigate what the loud noise was that had started it all...a coconut had hit the roof.

I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to be here in Guatemala and serve these people who I love very much.  I have a terrific companion and get to associate with other missionaries both Elders and Hermanas that show much love and dedication in their sacrifice and service each and everyday.

"Make a commitment that the next time your are taught by one of the servants of God, you will heed any prompting, even the faintest prompting, to act, to do better."  
 -Henry B. Eyring

Monday, November 10, 2014

Week #20: 5K Race, los jovenes and packages

This week has been awesome! Most of this week we have really been hitting up all of the people we have been teaching and have been teaching them all left and right.

There was a lot of of exercise this week... I don't know if they put it on the mission Facebook page yet but we had a 5k race in our area.   It was from the entrance to our area all the way down to the chapel in La Verde.  It was a blast, but sadly do not have any pictures of it.  It is a shame too since I dressed up ever so nicely as a cowboy.   A cowboy complete with horse, although that horse didn't really help me to much in the race.

The day before we had done a bicycle trip with a member of the ward.  Best bicycle trip of my life, mostly due to the fact that Elder Garcia cannot ride a bike.  Ok I guess I shouldn't say that because he can ride a bike, the problem is starting and stopping. Within the course of an hour he had crashed four times one of which barely dodging an incoming Tuc tuc and slamming hard into one of the gates on the side of the road.  It was at that moment on in the trip I kept the camera at the ready.

We have been working a lot with the youth in the area.   There is one specific youth that is incredible!  He has already been working for several years and we have been teaching him for a while now.  He had been going to church for a long time but never really wanted to get baptised.  Last week he really started to want to listen and participate more intently and he started to act differently.   During one conversation he said something about water and fear and we asked him if the reason he didn't want to get baptized was because he was scared of water? He started to joke with us a little more and then told us in plain terms that he doesn't want to get baptised because he had been baptised as a young kid in an evangelical church and that it is a major sin to be baptised over again. It was a cool moment to see him finally open up to us in a way that he hasn't before and then my comp Elder Garcia pulled out every bible scripture known to man to affirm to him that this was the right way, that beforehand he had only been baptised by water and not by the spirit, that the Priesthood authority had not performed the ordinance and so his baptism was incomplete.  After we got our foot in the door with that we went on to explain Priesthood authority a little better and now after a few days of prayer he has said that he wants to be baptised on the 26th!

We are also working with all of these youth right now n mission papers (specifically the mini missionary paperwork since that chance is right around the corner) and doing weekly noche de hogars [Editor's Note: Family home evenings...I always have thought noche de hogar sounds much cooler] with all the youth to keep them all animated on inviting people to church and the little activities that we have. The youth here are amazing and might be the strongest limb of the branch truly working to keep the members strong and to bring others back. This week at the noche De hogar we talked about missionaries.

I asked them all:  "What am I right now?"
They: "a missionary!"
Me: "And whats going to happen at the end of these two years when I go back home?"
Me: "They are going to take this nametag from me and I will no longer be a full time missionary. But the key word in that last bit right there is FULL time missionary. Once this nametag is gone I am still a missionary just like all of you are right now the only difference is the todo tiempo parte de eso.
Now that I am here in the mission field I realize just how lazy I was back home about all of the missionary work.  I see all the opportunities I missed.  Don't make that mistake.  Invite! Teach! Share!  You may not think much of it now but in time you will and in time you will regret it if you do not.

Then we had smores! Yeah thats right Smores. With camp stoves made from cans of wax and cardboard.  We know how to do a NDH right!

Saturday all of the elders and hermanas in the zone helped out the hermanas of San Carlos to do a hawaiian dance for a branch talent show. It was actually really funny!  Just imagine several horribly "gifted"  Elders trying to move their hips and dance like the hawaiians! It was great...

Oh and this week one of our landlords put in a mosquito net door so I am now more or less completely safe from those horrible beasties and just in time too since Elder Garcia my companion may or may not have Dengue Fever. If it isn't one sick it's another.  Sick happens! and we go on and on and on!

Special shoutout this week to the Menifee Lakes YM\YW\Activity days groups for all the letters and/or packages that you sent!  You have succeeded in making me feel loved!!  The other elders\sisters in the zone are quite jealous and more than a few of them now think I have a lot of girls waiting for me back home! Nice work, I miss you all, I will write back but it will take a while, have a fun in The 'Fee.

5K Race Recovery Meal

5K Race outfits
Hawaiian dance talent show


"The look on his face said, 'Elder do not come closer!'"

Monday, November 3, 2014

Week #19: Transfers bring a new companion


This has been a pretty awesome week! The week started out with packing, goodbyes and the coming to an end with many Holas y Bienvenidos.  Elder Goodman and I knew that he was going to be having changes after 7 months in the area. With this knowledge in hand we visited as many members, investigators, and really just anyone that he had meet in all of his time here to take pictures, say goodbye and exchange all of the information that goes along with these kind of goodbyes. I took this time to be the mouthpiece and gave each of them a challenge in the name of Elder Goodman whether it be to stay active in the church, to start going to church, or to stay strong and make it to the temple.

Tuesday finally came and for those of you who do not know, we have district meetings every Tuesday.   At the district meeting before the transfer meeting they announce for sure those who will be having transfers.  The zone leaders decided to mess with E/ Goodman by saying that I was leaving and that he would be there for another transfer.  He started to get very very red as if a part of him had just died. The zone leaders were going to keep this broma going until much later, but Portillo caved after seeing his face.

Transfer meetings were the next day and they are wonderful!  Not only is there mail and cool corte stuff to buy, but there are so many missionaries there and its one of the few times that we have to catch up with the other missionaries.  Every transfer meeting has a few common agenda items. There is the messages from President Ruiz and his wife, a video presentation of the baptisms in the mission, a goodbye presentation from the missionaries leaving the mission, which has pictures of those missionaries leaving...usually more humorous pictures than not, followed by the testimonies of those leaving.  Then comes the main event, the changes.  All of the changes are presented  up on a screen with a projector.    There were lots of exciting changes and drumroll please.... my new companion in the Area La Verde is.....Elder Garcia.  Elder Garcia has about 15 months in the mission, and we are going to get along great.  He plays volleyball, was a lifeguard before the mission as well, and is about as big of a nerd as I am.  While this area might be a little different than the areas that Elder Garcia has had in so far, he is coming in full force, with lots of energy and the last few days have been really great.  We are working hard building the Rama and doing all we can to help people.

Oct 31st or Halloween was just a tad bit different here.  Different in that absolutely no one celebrates Halloween. I honestly didn't even know it was Halloween until we were back at the house that night and I looked at my watch.  Made me a little baggy to realize that the Menifee City Bowl was probably going on back home while we ate dinner.  I am pretty sure The Lord was blessing my football family back home with another win!  [Editor's Note:  Yes his football family was blessed, and Heritage won.]

The real kicker here is dia de los muertos.  Most everyone leaves to go and visit family and to decorate the graves of their family who have passed.   As the day started out we kinda thought to ourselves - well no one is going to be home so what are we going to do?  Well there just so happens to be three graveyards in our area and so we decided to do some contacting there. It was successful. We came away after 2 hours having already taught 5 lessons that were more or less positive.  It is a natural opportunity to talk about God's plan for us here on the Earth and how we can see our families again after this life.

All and all this change is going to be great!  We have some great animo going and even started to do work-outs.   This comes just in time as it seems President Ruiz is planning to have a 5km Race in our area.  At the moment are planning to run the race as superheros, or as a cop and robber, or cat and mouse.  We don't really know just yet but we are going to make this time fun and do all we can to make the most of what we have here.

Tell everyone Hi and that I love them.  I got a package from the YM this week, did I mention that Missionaries love packages!!  Appreciate it so much!
Have a Coke and a Smile!

Elder Garcia

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week #18: Awesome week and a trip to Las Vegas

This week has been a different kind of week and it seems like blessings are falling from the sky.  We have been doing a lot of work to prepare the area for the new elder coming in (as you remember it is almost certain that Elder Goodman will be getting transferred) and really clean up and organize the paperwork that has been done in the area for the last several years here.  As Elder goodman will be leaving the area we have been visiting all of the members and really trying to use the fact that he is leaving after so many months as incentive to get some of the less actives to come back to church by saying "but its my last sunday here kinda thing".  It has worked on quite a few of the people and we had a pretty decent show for sacrament meeting this week.

We had a district meeting as we always do on Tuesday, this one we really focused on how to find new people to teach. By the end of the meeting we actually had a decent size list of new ideas that were somewhat out of the box.  My personal favorite that I think I might do is put, in some kind of way,  "Jesucristo es Mormon" on our sidebags or umbrellas to get some attention.  Thinking that as people see it and and ask about it, it will open up a conversation.   Putting that on the umbrella would make it pretty easy to tell the difference between us and the jehova witnesses - who are known down here for their umbrellas and one of the reasons we don't use umbrellas very often.

Things are going great and  people are positive it seems where ever we go.  It feels they just kinda know us now and are open to talking with us about just about whatever there may have on their mind. This is really amazing with the youth. I know how it feels to grow up in a ward with to few youth and so I do whatever I can to befriend them and create fun activities to do. This last week I have been working on getting them to come out and be little mini-missionaries with us. All of them are now animated to come out with us and teach lessons which is really cool and even better is those who I am helping to get their mission paperwork filled out. Right now there are three at the mission age, so I am walking them through all of the paperwork with them.   The other day it was funny, because as I was challenging all of them to come out with us, there were several youth who are not members wanting to come out with us and teach.

On Saturday we had gotten a reference from the Zone Leaders to a part in our area called Las Vegas.  We had not heard of this part of our area before and when Elder Goodman told me about the reference I honestly didn't know if he was talking about Las Vegas, Nevada. On Sunday, after church, we left in search of this place with the little information that we had.  We walked for a good hour over rivers, through forests, and even fields of maize in order to get to the place. It is probably one of my favorite parts area. It is absolutely peaceful, beautiful and everything I imagined Guatemala to be.

Once over the river and through the woods and even past grandmas house we finally found the house. Nester is a pretty cool guy, he actually works as a security guard at the Guatemala City temple and is more or less ready to be baptised.  The missionaries over in that area had been teaching him for a while and he had even gone to General conference. He needs to work a bit on his faith and testimony but is a wonderful man! He knows what he needs to do, but I kinda got the vibe that he didn't know how to receive his answers and how to recognize when an answer is being given.

A lot of the times when we pray we simply say all that we want to say and then end the prayer.  But is that really how we are supposed to pray? If you called a friend and told them all about your day and everything that was bugging you, told him all that was good and some things you wish you could have a little bit of help with and then just hung up on them... how are you supposed to receive the other side of the conversation? We talked about this and a little bit about the holy ghost and how we receive answers through the thoughts and feelings it gives us and then challenged him to try and pray and listen. It ended up being very good lesson and I hope he and his family take this step.

This week has been pretty awesome and though so much more has happened I simply don't have the time or the ability to put a lot of it into words. Sometimes you just simply know you are in the right place and I have felt that a lot this week.   I am excited, although a little nervous with the transfers happening in a couple of days.  But I do know that as I serve with all my heart, might, mind and strength I will be led to those in need and strengthened and blessed by His hand.

This was not a monkey...

Also not a monkey

[Editor's Note: For those following along and interested he sent a picture of his lab tests.  Entamoeba Histolytica.  All you ever or never wanted to know can be found here ]

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week #17: Retalhuleu Rain, the Light of Christ, and Chikungunya

This week overall has been a lot better, although still partially sick we have been able to get out working for real again. I don't think there is ever going to be a time when I am back where I complain about boredom. [Editor's Note: We are noting this comment and plan on passing it on to his wife]  When you get so used to being out and about as we are; talking with people, visiting people, working and literally walking, running around the city and then to be cooped up inside with nothing to do, it is a big change, and one that I don't ever want to get used to and hope that those days are behind us, at least for a while.

I remember one of the days (I say remember because when sick here the time blurs together) we got out of a meeting, went to lunch and then started to head back down to our house.  As we started the long walk back to our area it started to pour down rain and try as we might no one wanted to give us a ride to our part of the city. We decided to just enjoy the moment and make the best of it and ended up walking all the way back, a good 3-4 mile walk in torrential rain.  We were soaked to the bone when we got close to our home, and as it came in sight, we saw the streets flooded with water.  It was like a dam had been destroyed and the streets were now rivers.  We practically had to swim to our house,  not walk or even wade, we swam.  I don't quite know how that fits into the rules of the mission with no swimming (maybe ox in the mire) but there literally was no other way.   The road was flooded and our house was under attack with water racing in from all sides.  We frantically worked to throw sand into the sand-bags and create barricades to save our houses from being washed away. In the words of Chad Sobek,  "It was a hoot!".  Once the crisis was averted we swam over to our house, cleaned off and then then collapsed onto the beds from pure exhaustion.

I was one tired boy.

You know how you hear about missionaries that are just so tired in body in soul they collapse at the end of the day.  It's true.

However, with all that,  I really think this was the best I had felt in a pretty long while.  The adrenaline of the situation combined with getting energy back felt good.

One particular experience I wanted to share was on Friday we made the trek down to Las Pilas, which seems to be becoming an annual trek for Fridays. We were contacting and searching all the morning for news and menos activos and finally as we were about to come back up to La Verde for lunch we found the house of the person we had been searching for. Turns out she has moved to Retalhuleu but her family that was there gave us a reference to their neighbor and she ended up a really cool lady. She had been having alot of troubles in life, so we started to teach her about God's Plan of Happiness and his love for all of his children.  She was very positive about the whole situation and we invited her to church.  I think she just might have been prepared for us to come and find her, and the way we found her was for sure directed by our Heavenly Father.

It is amazing when things work out that way and we are led to find others.   We were doing what we could do, what we were supposed to be doing, and Heavenly Father directed us through others, to this sweet woman who was looking for something more in her life.   I sincerely believe that she was praying for guidance and through the light of Christ we were led to her.

Henry B. Eyring, once said, "Make a commitment that the next time you are taught by one of the servants of God, you will heed any prompting, even the faintest prompting, to act, to do better."   We live in a very noisy and confusing world, but comfort and direction are available.  Promptings will come as we live in harmony with the teachings of the gospel, be where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and listening to those gentle whispers to our heart.

It was a very successful week over all and I wouldn't mind having many others like it though I could do without "the sick".

Speaking of sick, here is another reason we don't like mosquitos down here, and a reminder we were given to use that bug spray.  I put on bug spray now like Chase puts on cologne! Ha - just kidding Chase.

I just like the the word Chikungunya, I may name a pet as such one day. [Editor's note: click here for more info on Chikungunya]

Answers to Questions:

Q: How are you feeling?
A: Feeling better.

Q: Birthday and Christmas are coming up.  Is there anything special that you want?
A: I don't know, just surprise me There isn't much you really want when you live on nothing you truly realize that you don't need much.

Q: What did you learn this week?
A: I learned how to make balls out of pure rubber.   It was really cool.  We were contacting and found a guy who has a big family.  After we taught him a lesson he was like do you know what I do for a living? I work in a lab and make rubber balls. Afterwards he made one for us right there, it was pretty dang cool.

Q: Did you see any monkeys?
A: I thought I did, I got closer and closer to see and it was just a dead frog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Week #16: Sometimes the jungle fights back

It has been a hard week, probably the hardest week of the mission thus far, as I learn the trials of parasites and accompanied sickness.   At home I seemed to always been sick over the weekends or at some point that didn't really affect school or sports or really anything in general and so it feels as though I was sick at very convenient times. However now I don't really know if there is a convenient time to be sick on the mission, for every day I can't work it literally hurts to have to sit here knowing that I am wasting time. Time that I will never be able to get back. There seems to be a much higher burden to everything that we can or can't do here. I guess in a way this is kinda how life might be at times later on and that right here right now we are being prepared for it.  I'll send pictures next week of the lab reports so you can google and learn the technical aspects of the parasites and associated symptoms, side-effects etc.  We can compare notes - although my in the field study will be much more accurate.  There is a saying here that I am coming to understand.  "Sometimes the jungle fights back!"  This applies to many things related to trials in Guatemala.

There were some higher points of the week, though when my companion and I didn't have "the sick" holding us down.
Monday was a fun Pday in a different way.   I was starting to feel sick and thinking back it probably when my parasites actually started to incubate or start to grow within me but it was still a good day.   We had interviews with President Ruiz in the morning and then at 5pm there was a meeting with all of the district leaders in Concepcion -  but because we had had interviews in the morning with the president our Pday was extended more or less to a full Pday.  But we didn't know we would have this extended time and we had appointments planned that evening.  Since Elder Goodman had his meeting that meant divisions for me. I ended up grabbing Elder Vega and then saw Elder Bastian from my CCM group and noticed that he needed somewhere to go as well and we all went over to the zone leaders house.  It ended up that Elder Bastian and I went together to our appointments.  Here you have two giant gringos who can't speak spanish going out to teach the world it was a great night though and it was absolutely amazing to be working with on of my brothers from the CCM!  Somehow, someway everything went fine and we were able to do all that we needed to do for the night without much spanish barrier.

The Sick started strong after that and from Tuesday until Friday,  I was more or less confined to bed and  toilet rest.   There were a few exceptions of a several lessons in the mornings and the District and Zone meetings, but for the most part I was just wiped of energy and had to do all I could just to stand and walk or just do the simple stuff.   What was horrible about it all was that my mind was full of energy while my body simply could not do anything.   I read and read and studied.

Friday was a better day and so we tried to go and do some work. We had a cita down in Las Pilas with the Branch President.  Once ready we took the drive down the long dirt road in the back of a pickup all the way to Billy's ranch.  There we had a lesson that was a total blessing. We walk in with President Celso and sit down over on a pile of rocks since the guy didn't have any seats and taught him a lesson there. We start to ask him a few questions to get to know him and realized after a few that he is talking to us in english he was a little rusty but after not using it for 10 years all of us would be as well. We ended up having a really nice easy lesson that was just relaxing and oh so easy with it being in english. Once finished we felt a little bad that President Celso probably didn't understand a word but it was a great lesson and it was great that he was there!  On our way back from the lesson we were having trouble catching a ride and ended up riding with some water delivery men in a semi truck.   It was pretty funny,  but they couldn't take us the full way given that they had to stop and go into one of the farms so we got out, but they said they would be back real soon and we could catch a ride with them the rest of the way.   As we walked on up the road and and waited we saw a guard there and started to talk to him, as missionaries do so well. He ended up being one of the most positive lessons we have had in a while and he has a nice big family too.   He doesn't live in our area, but I'm glad'e at least we could give him some of the answers he has been looking for about his son who is special needs and disabled.

It is a blessing in and of itself to see moments like these and I honestly hope they keep on coming whether there is rain or shine, ride or no ride, sickness or in health.

Let everyone know that outside of "the sick" I am doing fine.  I am so glad I have the opportunity to serve a mission, and I love the people of Guatemala.  I am so grateful for those that write or even just keep me in their prayers.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Week #15: General Conference in Guatemala

This week was largely focused on General Conference.  I actually liked the fact, that no matter where anyone was on this little old Earth, it was General Conference weekend and you had the opportunity somehow, some way to hear a living prophet and apostles of Jesus Christ give us counsel and words of wisdom to better our lives.  It was comforting to know that my family was doing the same thing I was the last couple of days.  Although it looks like I missed out on the BBQ.  :P

Literally everything that we did this last week was focused on bringing people to conference. Between the lessons with members about bringing people to conference and the investigators we invited ourselves, we taught somewhere near 70-ish lessons. A lot of work and a lot of walking.

I finally bought an umbrella and even use it and I bring it with me everywhere, so at least in that end I am a lot less wet.  Only took me a couple months to realize that this rain we are experiencing isn't a scattered shower.  It is here to stay.

We finally had our first consejo de barrio in the rama La Verde. We have a lot of ideas for this branch but its going to take some time to get it all going and like all things in the gospel we have to work on them poco a poco, praying all the way for help because we know here in la verde that nothing would get done without the hand of the lord pushing his work along in some way or another.

There isn't too much to say about the work of the week.  It was a long week filled with a lot of lessons and following up on commitments.   Out of all of the investigators that we taught and the challenges we gave to individual members, families and the branch in general we only managed to bring 16 investigators to conference. Which is a really good stat for the area but when I compare it to the work, the lessons and the amount of blood sweat and tears that went into challenging so many, our goal was more.  Sin embargo, we were second in the zone only behind the zone leaders who actually have two little padawans working with them right now.

Conference was a roller coaster of a weekend. On the first session of the first day of conference the viaje fell through and so we had to desperately make arrangements to bring people to the session and even had to pick them up and go with a group ourselves.   As the sessions drew on and it was time for the Priesthood Session the viaje was actually late so we ended up having to make our own way over to conference again.  Throughout this whole ordeal I am fighting sickness yet again and trying to understand what is being said by the translators during conference added to the heachache. The Spanish they used was super fast and formal and very different from how the people speak here.  Maybe the accent was a bit different too.  It seemed like I took a step back in the understanding Spanish department.  But it is all good.  Sometimes the best made plans will fall apart, and this was definitely a day to learn patience.

The second day of conference was different then the first and oh so gladly so.  We had investigators come and it was a lot more peaceful.  In the end there were some precious moments when during conference all would go silent and you could see everyone sincerely listening and feeling what was being said.  In the last session we had actually brought four of the teenagers from over in San Luiz area.  When they showed up some people thought they were up to no good, but when they sat there and listened to the talks, you could see the others attitudes toward them change and more important I could tell that even they were touched,  especially in the last talk by Elder Bednar that was addressed specifically to them.  Every day we see the gospel touch lives and its a pretty great gift to be able to witness, to see people change, and to see their lives change.

This weekend made me think a lot about conference back home, and the convenience of having it in our homes with the ability to watch it on TV, in our pajamas even.  It is a great convenience, but I wonder if sometimes we look at this as a day off.  Does this hinder us from inviting friends to watch? Does it hinder us in having those friends feel and recognize the spirit, surrounded by the fellowship of the ward or stake? Think about this for the next conference, maybe look at who you could invite to watch, listen and feel.   In the meantime share that talk that Elder Bednar gave with someone and explain to them where I am at, and what I am doing.


These are my pets, I have named them after friends and family, you figure who is who.
I will send one home soon for Brooke.

These are my other pets. Too many to name.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Week #14: New iPads, Futboll and singing General Conference invitations.

The Guatemala Retalhuleu Mission received new technology this week!  New iPads!!??

No not quite, maybe someday, but in the meantime we will enjoy this wonderful new technology that you may have heard of before and are excited for the blessing it will bring.  A few short hours ago, early in the morning,  the office elders along with a zone leader and the stake president went into each of the homes and installed smoke detectors.   Most of you will not understand why this is so unusual or the irony in this until I explain a bit more. In the USA, smoke detectors are the norm, the standard, the requirement even.  In many places in Guatemala... maybe not so much, probably the biggest reason of all is due to the Guatemala Trash and Recycling program.  The trash disposal system here is throwing all the trash into a pile and then lighting it on fire, letting it burn until it is all ashes.  People usually do these early in the morning, sometimes in mid-day and even right around dinner.  Our house sits in the middle of a few others since we are living in more of a casita then an actual house and so we are constantly bombarded with smoke clouds that smog out the house.  On a positive note this pushes out all of the bugs for a while - it is the best natural mosquito repellant there is!   It will be interesting to see what happens now with the installation of the smoke detectors, especially when we aren't at home to shut the alarm off - my guess is the neighbors will wonder about the lovely new peculiar bird that is nesting in the area.

The iPads would have been better, but I am sure Mom is happy about the lengths that the mission goes to in order to ensure our safety.

This past week we had one of the most successful unconventional lessons ever - it was held in the middle of soccer game in the middle of the street in pouring rain.   One of the days this week we had some time before a lesson so we started to walk up the street to go and try our luck with contacting.  As we talked to everyone we passed we were challenged to a game of futboll (that is soccer for you back home). It was lightly raining at the time and we had been promising the youth there for a while that we would play with them at some point. So we decided to jump in and play. As we started to play the rain started to come down harder than anything I had seen in my life in California.   Elder Goodman and I started to do pretty well so I made a little joke of a bet with one of the youth that we had been teaching that if we lost they would listen to one of our lessons. I said this of course in my horrible Spanish and so they probably thought that I was saying that if they lost they would listen to a lesson, not if Elder Goodman and I lost.   Sure enough several goals later we lost and they were committed to listen to a lesson.   We bought some chips at a tienda -  found a somewhat dry spot  and sat down with them all and had an actual lesson. Its a cool thing to be close enough to the youth of an area that the see you as friends and will listen to you on that alone. We are actually having a lot of success with the youth lately and the more that come to church and even join the church the better the youth program becomes.  This has a domino effect as then more of their non member friends who want to join the church or at least start investigating start coming around as well.

On Wednesday my companion had a meeting for the district leaders and we headed over to Concepcion - but once there Elder Vega and I decided that we would rather go and work than sit it some meeting.  Elder Vega is the companion of the other district leader in the Las Palmas zone and we know each other pretty.  I had never had the opportunity to work with him up until then. We left Concepcion and headed over to my area.

Once in the area we set off to work and wow he seriously is a pilas worker. He goes hard and teaches with all he has. Within the short 2 hours that we were working we had 4 lessons 2 new investigators and 1 who is committed to baptism.  The lesson I really liked was one with a 74 year old man, that doesn't look his age at all and has a firm handshake for a man of his age or even for a man in his twenties.  As we talked with him and taught him the restoration he was excited and wanted to know more and as we got to know him we found out that when times were tough and he needed money for his family he would actually go and box to get the money he needed!  I was really impressed with Elder Vega and the way he taught. It was a really good opportunity to see other ways in which people teach. I kinda keep a mental journal of all of the little methods, scripture chains or simply the interesting ways in which others teach in my head, and of course record them in my study journal later.

As I am sure most of you know it is General Conference weekend.  As such it is like perfect time to invite everyone and anyone to Conference.  We actually have a lot of activities just for this. One of the things that our zone did was film a little video that is actually pretty funny on how to invite someone to church.   However, one of the pretty awesome activities that we did here was a singing attack. On Saturday morning we all went over to the Area San Carlos and in the middle of the town square began to sing hymns.  Cnce we attracted a pretty decent crowd we slowing started to send missionaries out to go and talk, teach and invite the people to General Conference. Once all of our voices started to give way we all hurriedly broke off and invited people before anyone had the chance to leave. It was really successful and makes me wonder just what could happen if people in USA did that kinda of stuff.  Tell Chase and Brooke to do this for their mutual night this week - setup in the mall or in the middle of shopping area right by Whimsical.

This week has been a good week.  I have really grown to love the people, and it literally hurts everytime we teach and the people just don't get what is right in front of them, and what a difference the Gospel would make in their lives.  It is sad to think that they don't want to make a few small changes in their lives so they can have infinite joy. I dont know what to say or do at times, but I do know that I believe it will make such a big difference in their lives and I will do all in my power, all my heart, might, mind and strength to help them see this.