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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Week 5: Making a Break for It!

It's the final week in the CCM and things are going great.  I am not sure when or if I will be able to email next week with leaving the CCM and all.  Know that all is well, and will email/write when I can.  I got a couple letters from DearElder this week, I appreciate that.  Make sure you are sending things to the Mission Home now.  I'll share a few experiences that come to mind from this past week.

It was Wednesday morning and the CCM was in harmony until the "Gringos attacked" (for all of you who don't know that was an  Avatar the Last Airbender reference).   They arrived right before breakfast and our district was as excited as little kidos at Christmas time.  When they arrive in their buses with their luggage blocking all view of them we all couldn't help but be a little excited about the possibility of some new Pday volleyball competition.  When they stepped out of the bus they all had that sweet little flabbergasted deer in the head lights kind of look that made us all wonder if we looked the same way when we arrived here five week ago.

This new batch of missionaries brought with them new room mates for Elder Virgin and I.  We are in a room with 2 trios one norte trio (Elders Ward, Winward and Ramos) and another latino trio (Elders Avlais, Cayax and Schoepfeld).  They are all pretty cool guys are excited to serve and have a whole new set of stories to hear before we leave the CCM next week.  We will break them in quick and with care.

There have been a few interesting things that have happened this week. One time this week I woke up like normal and started getting ready for the day.   Elder Virgin woke up a few minutes latter and handed me my flashlight.  We were both a little confused as to how he could have possibly have gotten his hands on my flashlight through the night. You see we sleep in bunk beds and I'm on the bottom and he is on the top.  My flashlight is always on the ground in between the wall and the bunk bed.  The only possible way he could have gotten his hands on my flashlight would be to ninja crawl over me and grab it while we were sleeping....we the missionaries of room 204 are slightly worried about the possible sleep walking ninja in the room!

Later this same day the districts;  Mateo, Lucas and Job were outside playing volleyball.  I hit a hard serve  to Elder Whitehead and the ball flew out of his arms - a good 30 feet over the fence.  President Cox (the CCM Mission President) was in the area, saw what happened and told me to go jump over the fence and just go grab the ball. I guess a lot of the others in the area didn't see President Cox tell me this and so when I started to climb the fence and jump over Elder Call and a few others started to yell, "He's making a break for it!!" in excitement as they thought I was breaking out of the CCM.   I ended up just grabbing the ball and throwing it over but the scene reminded me of one of the parts in the move Matilda when they all cheer as Ms Trunchbul leaves the school. I hopped on back over and we start playing again...but the fun didnt stop there.  We started to play some more and right as Hermana Beatty hit the ball, a cannon fire went off. Everyone immediately hit the ground...but I wanted to know what was going on, and since I had just had some fence climbing experience,  I ran over to the fence and started to climb. When I was above the fence I looked over yonder and saw the Catholic Monastery across the street doing some kind of celebration.   Right as I looked over another cannon fire went off along with a load of firecrackers...scared the bagpipers out of me so I jumped back down. We went on playing, but the random cannon fire added a little twist to the game.

The next morning I woke up pretty early in the morning and was freaked out a little.   As I awoke I looked up and saw my room back home,  the way to the door was the only thing visible and everything else was pitch dark,  so I guess that my brain filled in the rest with what I was most familiar from my memory.  It was a creepy experience and left me just a tad homesick.    As I sat there thinking about it and trying to figure out what had happened someone in the room was snoring the exact same way Chase used to, and he kept me up just like Chase used to.   Normally, I would have to say that I don't really feel to homesick. There are small little burst like this were I am reminded of home but the only other time I really feel homesick is when I we go to the temple on Pdays like today.  Every time I go I remember my first time and all of the things and people that were in my life, or the things going on in my life at that time.  It's sad but it is kinda therapeutic in a way.   Elder Hala gave a lesson on Alma 5 one of the days this week and he talked about a scene from Saving Private Ryan where is says something like,  "what is left for me at home? Dead brothers and a mother with a Broken Heart" he gave this quote and then talked about how he isn't really that homesick because there is no other place he would rather be then here and he knows that when he gets back his family will be there for him. I thought about this a little bit and realized I was kinda in the same boat as him. I don't really feel homesick or really miss all of these people who are back at home and are waiting with love for me to return. Then I thought about my new family here. The teachers we have had, the people in my district, President Cox and  Sister Cox and all the others that have come and gone here. They are my family, but there is no guarantee that I will see any of my Mateo brothers after this last week in the CCM. We have grown closer then any other district in the CCM and we truly are brothers.

I'm running out of time but I'll share one more experience from this week. We were in district meeting on Sunday and Elders Bastian and Call and Elders Owen and Whitehead taught lessons to us in Spanish.  There was a lady in the class who normally wasn't there.   At the end of the class she bore her testimony on the effects of what we broken Spanish speaking little gringos can do.  She was converted nearly 20 years ago by two elders from the U.S who had the hardest time speaking Spanish but that didn't matter.   When they spoke and tried with all of their ability to share the gospel with their hearts,  she could feel their spirit, she could feel the things that they said would change her life and would bring her happiness.   For me it was a major testament of what we can do here. Until next week if that (maybe later as I will be headed to la Mision Retalhuleu)...Elder Wilcox

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Week #4: Missionitis and fireworks

Mission #Selfie with Elder Photobombers

Things at the CCM [Editor's Note: CCM is MTC in Spanish it stands for Centro de Capacitacion Misional] are really starting to change.  There are points now where I can hear the Latinos talking in Spanish and understand them perfectly (so long as they are talking about the Gospel alone because that is about all that I understand).

A few days ago one of the elders in our district (Elder Keck) had a birthday and so we as a district decided to make MTC History and throw the first ever (at least in the last 4 weeks) MTC Birthday party.  We went back down to the cemaco and bought just about everything that we could find and afford for the birthday party.  All and all it was a pretty good little get together of a few of the districts complete with party hats and Pringles.

Every 2 weeks the flow of the MTC seems to change.  It has its own little high school effect. For the first 2 weeks we get here we are kinda like freshman or sophomores, but then when the next 2 weeks come around we have moved up a grade level and become the juniors of the MTC everyone thinks we have all of the answers and we never give them a chance to think otherwise.  Now we have all been here for 4 weeks and have moved on to the beautiful life of a senior and I think the "missionitis" here might be worse than the senioritis of high school.  At this point we are all dying to leave the CCM. We all know that we are woefully inadequate for the field but it feels as though we are at a plateau here - like we need to move onto real Spanish instead of only the gospel Spanish that we have only partially mastered.

I'm pretty excited to hear about Carsten's mission call - I might just have to leave a hidden care package here at the CCM for him to find throughout the course of his stay here.

One of the most ironic things here at the CCM right next door,  is a pretty big night club and they have parties every Friday and Saturday night.  Last Saturday everyone was fast asleep when we were awakened to the sounds of explosions and saw bright flashes of light coming from outside our windows.  Everyone in the CCM ran to their windows in shock, which in retrospect might not have been the best idea, trying to find the cause of the noise.   A few seconds passed and there was nothing, we were all breathing heavy thinking that it had been some kinda explosion or drive-by but then as we were about to jump back into bed it happens again and to our total enjoyment we had the pleasure of seeing a full on Guatemala firework show some 300 feet from the window.  We weren't sure if this was a delayed 4th of July celebration or helping to celebrate Elder Keck's birthday, but it was great!

Here are some answers to your email questions:

What does your daily schedule consist of?

We get up at 6:30am get ready shower etc then go into personal study then language study.  After that we have breakfast and come back to do more language study.  Next is grammar then teach an investigator, more language grammar, comp study with lunch mixed in.  After lunch it is more grammar another investigator and then dinner finished off with more language study, planning for next day and learning lessons through PMG.

What are the meals like?

Meals right now are actually mostly american food with little bits of Guatemala favorites in the mix - many of the new nortes that arrived 2 weeks ago were feeling homesick and wouldn't eat any of the native food so they switched it to mostly american...

Quite a few people mentioned this week that they noticed from your district picture that there are no hermanas in your district?

In my district there are no hermanas there were about 20 or so in the MTC last week but they have all left now and it is only the two hermanas that came with us and the two that came with the last group of nortes. There are supposed to be around 56 new nortes coming in tomorrow and there are only supposed to be 3 new Heremanas in that group. There are also 40 more Latinos that will be coming as well - its getting kinda packed here

Do you need anything?

How about a hammock and some extension cords...don't ask, I am working on a project.  Also photos in the mail, I would specifically like one of all of the youth and youth leaders and bishop.

Anyways things here are great, apart from the "missinitis" and the total itch everyone has to leave the CCM and go into the field. I love you all and miss you much  - I haven't received a letter yet but that is probably because of the Guatemalian mail service. [Editor's note: Earliest letters were sent on July 6th through pouch mail, and on July 7th through regular USPS, give's one the idea of time frame]

Over and out Elder Wilcox.

Editor's Note and update 07/23/2014: Technology and social media media is wonderful as we received these additional pictures this morning from an unexpected source...I imagine a conversation something like 'hey let me take your pictures, and give me your parents email and I will send it to them I am sure they would love to see you'.

A couple pictures taken outside the Guatemala Temple

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Week #3: Field Trip

My CCM companion - Elder Virgin and I.

The weeks and the days are starting to go by faster here and it seems as though no matter what we do, learn or experience it pushes time to the limit, making it go faster and faster each day.  There is no chance for idle-hands and we are excited for all that we are learning about the language, the culture, the people, The Gospel and most importantly about ourselves.

Last week on Pday we took a field trip to the oldest district in Guatemala City.  As we were on the way there we all noticed a lot about the way the world is here. Things are so radically different, than what most of us are used to both in culture and environment, in what we see, smell and hear.  I guess this is what traveller's call "culture shock" when experiencing new places and new things.  While I don't feel the "shock" part, it does make me think and ponder at the many differences in the world.  For example at one point we were stopped at a light and we looked out the window and saw an old lady popping a squat on the sidewalk and doing her business (not sure if there is a better literary term to explain this).  Moments later the "police" walked by her and they did nothing about the scene.  As we all looked around the city people began to let their amazement show through. Everyone began to realize just how great they have it back in the states. We would look at the walls all over the city and there weren't many without some sort of tag or vandalism on them. We would look at these apartments and see bars over every door and ever window and we saw the fear these people had as we looked into their eyes. It was a very humbling experience for us all and for those in my district we thought as to what our areas in the mission field has in store for us if this is one of the nicer areas in Guatemala.  Not that we are worried, we know that we are doing The Lord's work, and feel safe, and in time we will be more accustomed to the surroundings, but right then and right there being this one of the first experiences to see the city - it was a very interesting experience.

When we finally arrived in zona 1 we looked in awe at the historic architecture of the old buildings that surrounded us. We were all a little taken aback at the beauty.  After a few moments of stumbling over the buildings we went under the streets into the market area. The first section was like a giant farmers market complete with slabs of meat and fish hanging from hooks and all other sorts of fruits and nuts galore. As we went deeper into the market we found the parts that we were all anxious to see and when we came upon it our eyes grew frenzied at the amazing colors and variety of things that were in each of the small little shops. At first we all had to just looked around at all of the beauty that surrounded us, soaked it in for a time before the "work" began. I learned that day that I can haggle like there is no tomorrow. I brought the prices of jerseys down from 145 quetz to 80 in the matter of seconds. It got to the point that when those around me wanted to buy something they would have me do all of the haggling for them.  Pretty awesome experience if I say so myself and I ended up going home with a couple shirts, ties, a hacky sacks, and a couple of other sweet little nick nacks, all for a very conservative amount of quetz.

After we left the market, though we were all reluctant to do so, we went over to the Guatemalan Relief Map. It was kinda like a giant sandbox with mountains and rivers... a little 4 year olds dream.   We were told that the map was made in 1909 after 16 years of careful surveillance of the land. It is said to be 99% accurate which is pretty cool for that day and time, though I think that if they had just gone the extra mile they could have gotten to 100% accuracy.  But hey some people just love to take shortcuts. (I hope the sarcasm carried though in that).

Relief Map of  Guatemala

After the trip we headed back to the CCM for a volleyball tournament. It didn't turn out to be much of a tournament.  District Mateo (our district) ended up crushing all of the other districts.  The nearest competitor being the all-star team of the other districts combined. They managed to score 7 points in a game to 15. It was all very fun and it didn't really become too competitive.

District Mateo - Guatemala CCM

There is a lot that goes on through the days here.   Everyday we learn something and most of the time we learn something we thought that we already knew. When I get back the world will simply not be the same.

I will finish off for the week with a little funny for Chase.  Although little brother you are older and taller, I still think of you as a deacon, so here is some deacon humor.  Yesterday we were all in one of the CRE rooms here having a district meeting and as I have mentioned before we have a lot of beans and other forms of musical fruit making us all pretty musical after meals. We had been in this room for a while and had been playing the toons of the magical frijoles for quite some time when all of a sudden 2 of the hermanas walk into the room and asked if they can practice a musical number for us. We said yes of course and then one of the sisters made a remark that made the room explode in laughter.  She said and I quote "wow it smells good in here" we all died and couldn't gain control for a good 5 mins. Afterwards though they did sing and we were all totally amazed by their voices.

We are almost a complete 21 days into the mission and WE who are in the CCM cannot wait to venture out into the field.

My room at the CCM (see Mom, I CAN keep my room clean)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Week #2: Guatemala CCM Time Bubble

Time here at the CCM moves so slow by the day to the point of each day feeling as though it were a week, but at the same time when a week comes by it as if it has only been a day.  It is as if the CCM has some weird time bubble over it that makes it so time moves differently here. The way time moves in the work of the lord is quite amazing. 

Last week on Pday we were able to go the Cemaco which would be something like a mall back home. It was cool but we were extremely limited to what we were allowed to buy. Every other Pday vendors come to the CCM and we are allowed to go and buy some stuff from them. I had one of them make me some custom leather scripture cases that will have my name mission and pictures of Lehi's dream on the front and Captain Moroni on the back. 

This past week I had my first major spanish speaking error when teaching about baptism. I was talking about being cleaned from sin. the word for sin in spanish is pecado...not to be confused with the word pescado which means fish. I learned this the hard way and was pretty embarrassed afterwards. But all is well and the person I was teaching knew what I was saying anyways. 

There is so little time to write this week, this morning the first batch of missionaries that arrived with us left the CCM to their missions - this included all of the latinos that were in our rooms they left at around 3:00am and so instead of trying to fight to stay asleep we woke up and helped them bring their stuff down to the buses for their trips.  I've grown to love the latinos missionaries here.  They are so funny and they get so excited by the English they learn. Sometime last week they learned the word fart in english and they handled that with all of the grace of an 8 year old boy. One of the latinos who was in my room sounds like Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars when he speaks in english-  it always made for a good little NOSTALGIC feeling and brought a lot of smiles to the North Americans. 

This week past Sunday we fasted for 24 hours and for many of the missionaries here, including myself it was the first time we had ever done a 24 hour fast. That day I learned one thing. When you are hungry you do not feel tired. so I guess if I ever start to feel to tired in the field I just won't eat for a while. 

There is so much that is cool here and I absolutely love the Spirit and the culture that we get to see every now and then. Today we are going to go to downtown Guatemala City (field trip! - hence the little time to write) and will be able to visit the shops. We will then go and look at some kinda map thing that is here. It is supposed to be the the size of 2 football fields and shows all of Guatemala. Following this we will be going to Wendys we are all really looking forward to this. This will be pretty cool and I hope to tell you all about it next week.

Lol, that is great about Carsten getting his mission call to Guatemala! Too bad we aren't in the same mission, but who knows maybe we will run into each other at some point...                                              

Tell people to write letters - over emails.  It would be cool if you would combine all the family emails to save some time on here so i can write more I gtg and dont forget to update the post on FB and stuff on the blog.  I am going to try to smuggle in some pics next week Tell Chase, Brooke and Ali to to write me through mail as it is much better instead of email its easier to respond to, as we only have a little time on the computer on Pday but more time to write letters, plus then you get to see all these cool stamps.  It takes, about a week to get mail from the US here and about the same to get back, so use the MTC address July 25th or so.  Lol, of course anyone else is free to write as well.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Week #1: Guatemala CCM and Baldness

Where's Waldo  er Elder Wilcox?
Missionary Training Center Group (Guatemala CCM)

OK So its tuesday here about 1 o'clock and we are barely able to write you now for the first time. I will start this email from the beginning.  FYI this is a spanish keyboard and so all of the punctuation keys are messed up.

After I left you at the gate, Elder Davis and I got though security just fine we moved through the relatively busy line and past all the scanners and bag checks there were no issues there and for this we were grateful. After the security check we made our way to Gate 29 and when we came near all we could see was a sea of white shirts. There were somewhere in the range of 40 to 50 plus missionaries there and out of all of them probably only 12 or so including myself that were assigned to the retalhuleu mission.  After taking in the scene of so many missionaries we waited for a good 40 minutes to board the plane. I received my seat at the gate and I was relatively happy about my aisle seat and I was sitting in a row of all missionaries, turns out that the one on my right would be my companion at the CCM.  Later in this flight I realized that my seat was not exactly ideal. It was located near the bathroom and so whenever someone needed to use it they had to brush there way past me which woke me up nearly every time. The flight was not all bad though.

Outside of the plane was a great storm of thunder that let of a brilliant display of lightning that entertained me for the duration of the flight. We started to land sometime around 6 in the morning and the view from the windows was amazing. The sun was just rising and its rays were bouncing from the clouds in all sorts of beautiful colors. When we looked down further we could see the great volcanoes that surround
Guatemala City and the great brilliant green forest with only touches of civilization in patches all over. Once we arrived to the CCM we were given our room numbers and bunk number. I was assigned bunk 6 of room 204, a bottom bunk that kinda reminds me of the bunk I was only so recently rid of at home.  Following the tour of the rooms we were lead into the cafeteria and at a breakfast that was all to different from the cinnamon toast crunch that I am used to. It was some kind of hard taco shell with bean paste on top that allowed the overeasy eggs to stick with some relative ease. It was so much different that I was used to. After breakfast we were allowed back to our rooms to rest for a while and recover some of the strength that we would need for the long days that laid ahead. We then woke after what seemed like only a small fraction of the time they allotted us to sleep and made our way back to the cafeteria where we ate yet again. I would have to say that I am absolutely loving the food here but don't exactly love the mix of a high protein diet and a lot of guys in one area. You can read between the lines of that one but it is probably one of the most disturbing issues of the CCM. After the meal we were lead into the first meeting of many that we would have with the varies teachers and leaders of the CCM. It was a short meeting that more or less went over the rules of the CCM, which entail not being able to leave the CCM except to go to the Temple which is actually closed for the first 2 weeks that we are here and not being able to use our cameras, Ipods or really anything that isn't made in the stone age. All of us are kinda bummed about the no cameras rule it doesn't really allow us to capture the whole experience of the CCM. After the meeting we hit the ground running and haven't stopped since. Here is a typically day for me here. Wake at 6 get ready. study the Scriptures for and hour and then study the language for another, we then move to the classroom and study the language more and more....and more. All of this is totally necessary though because we teach an investigator every day.

My companion and I even had our investigator commit to baptism as of yesterday. I don't quite understand how he understands even a single thing that I or anyone of us gringos say its..well not the best spanish you have heard in your life but the lord works in mysterious was and its is amazing what he can do if you are simply willing to open you mouth in his name and for his work. I mentioned my companion earlier. His Name is Elder Virgin, from Nevada and he is great, in fact I would have to say that my entire district is great. We are probably one of the most musical districts in the CCM we sing just about every chance we get and are thinking about even starting some kind of music group. We would of course need some help with this because we can't look up or translate music due to our limited time that we can use the computers.

Oh did I mention that we all look kinda bald now? On one of the first days here we are taken into the gym and we are given a haircut...I don't think I have ever had my hair this short. I guess that Dad has finally gotten his wish and I have received that buzz cut he has always suggested.

Things at the CCM are so different there is a certain beauty in everything that we do here. In every meeting that we go to there is a special spirit present and it is so great to feel. I would say that I am not a very emotional person but the spirit touches us so strong here that I can feel tears in almost every devotional that we have. It is such a great blessing to feel this way so often and I understand more then ever why I am here doing what I am doing. One of the really spiritual moments of this last sunday was when President Cox talked about the  sister whose blog my father had been reading. He talked about how she was before she left for her area and about how she was when she was more or less dragged back to the CCM before she was to be transferred to Houston due to illness. He described her as a worker, he had said that she was so distraught to have to be back here instead of out there in Reu where she had all of these people that she cared so much for. Her last blog post about her work in Houston nearly brought the entire group listening to tears. It could not have been by some freak accident that he shared a post of someone I myself had been following quite closely.

I only have a few minutes left here to write and so I want to say that this is probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life the food is different the language seems more vast then it did when I was learning it in high school but the spirit is so strong here and everything that I do I know I can because I am here serving as a representative of jesuscristo y la Iglesia de jesucristo de los santos de los ultimas dias. Yo Se nuestro padre celestial es nos padre y su hijo hace todo nececito por nosotros vivemos con El y nuestros familias por eternidad. I love you all and think of you so much!

 Dont forget to write.

Ill talk to you all sometime next week