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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.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week #13: Obi-Won Trainers and young padawans

Q&A: (Editor's Note: Each week in our letter we ask him a few questions and hope and pray for answers.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't)

Question:  You still getting lots of rain?
Answer: Yes, daily, in fact if California is still in a drought they should consider some water pipes to Guatemala instead of that speed train - there is plenty of water to spare EVERY AFTERNOON.

Question: Have you seen any monkeys?
Answer: Once again no, you don't need to ask me that every week, but if it makes you feel any better I did climb a tree today and cut down some coconuts - they tasted so good, the coconut water too. Yes I realize that monkeys eat bananas and not coconuts but that is as close to a monkey story as I have for you this week.

Question: Do you have any question for us?
Answer: What are questions? What kind would you like me to ask? Do you like these kind of questions? I think that they are pretty fun do you? Smart alecs....not even a mission can change em.

I don't know how to really sum up the week but there sure has been a lot of cake. I think I will call this week, "The Week of Cake".

This past monday as you know was independance day here in Guatemala (and if you didn't you do now).  It was was also the birthday of my companion Elder Goodman.  One of the benefits of him being in the area for so long is that he has established some amazing relationships with the people in this area.  With this good standing, our stomachs experienced the fruits of his labors.  I lost count of how many cakes, a la birthday cakes, we have had this week but wow....I think I might have even gained a little of the weight I have lost back. I am very glad that he has been such as good worker in this area, he has taught me a lot, and now the lesson of be kind, be friendly, work hard and you get cake on your birthday can be added to the lesson list.

Every Tuesday we have district meetings.  (For those of you who don't know missionaries are organized in companionships, 2-3 companionships usually make a make up "a district" and a few districts make up "a zone".  Finally if you have a few zones you have yourself a mission.)   This district meeting was a little different, for we all knew that changes/transfer were the following day and we all knew that we would be finding out who would be leaving the area at the end of the meeting.  As I sat there I could see the nerves on many of the faces, the excited anxiety of the idea of them possibly leaving or having a new companion. It is a sad time in some ways, but for me is was more just an experience than anything else, since I figured for the most part that I wouldn't be having any changes with only a month in the area. There was a chance I guess that my companion could be transferred as he has been here a while, but I thought since we had only been together a month that this probably wouldn't happen either.

I have to give props to the zone leaders on their presentation of the changes.  They made it about as suspenseful as it could be, by putting all of our names on the whiteboard and slowing and deceivingly removing and adding names. By the end of meeting we found out that Hermana Barba and Gonzales would be having changes, Hermana Pacheco would be leaving us and going home and Elder Lloclle would be having changes.  Everyone else, including my companion, would be staying in the zone. My comp was a little bummed about this since this will be his 5th change in the area now - but he's gotten over it for the most part already.  Plus why would he want to leave just a great companion like me.

The change meeting the following day was pretty exciting and by the end we received two new straight from the CCM Hermanas, making the La Verde District a district of half-missionary Obi-Won trainers and the other half new little Padawans (I am still of course counted in this half, I still have much to learn).

The following day we had our zone meeting where we got to know the new people in the zone.   They all seem pretty pilas and I am sure we can keep the success of the zone going. After the meeting I went on divisions with the zone leaders. I went with Elder Portillo to his area and my comp went to our area with Elder Hernandez. It was nice to have divisions and to be able to see a different method of teaching.  I learned alot from Elder Portillo and I am glad he is one of my zone leaders.  He really knows how to teach and to let the spirit touch the hearts of the people we are teaching.

When I was working with him I kinda felt like the training wheels came off just a little bit, maybe just one of the bolts that allows me to balance just a bit more on my own. This was probably one of the coolest moments I have experienced with the language thus far. We were simply talking with a family and I could talk, hear, understand and even crack some jokes in Spanish. I dont know if any of you have ever tried to understand a joke in another language but there isn't much more difficult than being able to tell jokes in another language. The whole night was overall different and refreshing to be out out in a different area with a different companion.

We had a baptism this week it and it was kinda special.  In the La Verde area we have a small building for the branch and there isn't really a traditional baptismal font there.   I know I helped Dad many a time on a Saturday morning to fill up the font and set up the chairs at our building back home- but here it is a little different.  We awoke Saturday morning and went over to the building TO BUILD the font out of I what I can best describe as giant lego pieces and plastic.  I guess I have been trained in font building skills at a young age with my experience with legos and Minecraft without even knowing it.  When it was all put together it didn't look half bad, save the few bugs swimming around in the water - but hey this is Guatemala and there are usually little bugs in all vessels.. including the vessels containing the food and drink we consume :p.

Later in the day we made our rounds as normal on Saturday to remind the people that there is indeed church tomorrow and that we will be picking them up at the same time as normal, for remember as the song goes "Saturday is a special days it is the day we get ready for Sunday".  Sometimes Elder Goodman and I marvel at the preparation needed in the branch for Sunday services that we do.  The pick-ups, the drop-offs, the talks, the lessons and even the occasional hymns on the piano (did you know I play the piano now?).  We do all we can to make sure that the people we are teaching and the members are able to worship and feel the fellowship of one another.  It has given me a new appreciation of the time and effort so many put into their callings in the church all without payment, just a love and desire to help others.

Putting together the baptismal font

Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner take your pick

The Road Less Traveled

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week #12: Independance Day and upcoming transfers?

Greetings from Guatemala!  (That has a nice ring to it doesn't it!!)  La Verde area is nice and green - with field white ready to harvest.  We have 2 baptisms lined up for Saturday and another 2 possibilities for later in the month.  However, Elder Goodman may be transferred tomorrow and who knows what will be in store with a new companion.  He has been great - taught me a lot, and although I don't want him to get a transfer, he has been in this area a while.  But it will all work out either way!

In our branch there isn't really too much gusto in the YM/YW department.  When Elder Goodman came to the verde some 5-6 months ago he worked hard to help in this area...they started up a soccer activity every wednesday night.  The purpose was to help build up some relationships with some of the kiddos in the area and to find new people to teach in a way that is a bit different than the norm.  It works and we usually have about 6 or 7 new people to teach at the end of soccer night. This weeks soccer night was pretty awesome.  It was fun to tackle (that's a soccer tackle Dad, not a football tackle - maybe you can google a video on the internet on Soccer and tackling) the other players in the rain and mud as we played futbol.

We had another activity this week as well with the youth. It was a burger night more or less and it was pretty fun to make some burgers again. I even had the chance to make a Jucy Lucy Burger (feel free to explain this) which pretty much made my week.  It is those small diversions that can keep you going.

This week we also had the last of the new missionary meetings.  It went by pretty slow, but as usually happens, I ended up leaving the meeting glad I went, having learned quite a bit in the role-playing and the nice happy stomach full of cake and Burger King didn't hurt.

The joy was short lived though. As we were getting ready to leave we received a call a family that we are teaching.  The wife had gone been in the hospital to give birth to twins one of them didn't make it and she was not doing to well either.   This family is good friends with a member in the ward that has just lost his 4 month old son last month.   We went over the home of the family and he asked if we could go with him to the hospital the following day.

The next day at the hospital we started to look all over for his wife but we could not find her. All the time there was another member there in the hospital asking if we could help him give a blessing. Of course we said that we would but after we had found J's wife and helped her. We went on searching the hospital for the next 10 mins to no avail.  We then saw the member again and he asked us who are you looking for?  As we told him he smiled and said that the person we were searching for and the person he needed help giving a blessing to were one and the same. Apparently he had been calling people all morning from his ward to come and help him but no one could and then as he finished his last call we showed up. The situation was simply perfect and is was just another testament that we are merely instruments of the Lord for these 2 years.

Independence day here is today the 15th of September and celebrated by a series of parades performed by all of the kids of the schools.   The sad part is that these events were partially on yesterday (Sunday).  Throughout the week we visited all of the members who attend normally asking them if they were going to church this Sunday.  Most, save a few, were not and the pickup truck this week was quite roomy.  The President knowing it would be difficult this week offered up a reward of a special Family Home Evening to the zone who has the most investigators in Sacrament Meeting. We didn't end up winning and really weren't even in the running since our zone is so close to the center of all the activities but the incentive was enough to get us contacting old investigators, and pretty much anyone that would hear us as we tried to get anyone we could to church.  We didn't end up winning the family home evening night with President Ruiz but we will still be celebrating Elder goodmans Birthday with several families and with alot of cakes tonight!

I love you all and let me sign-off until next week answering a couple of your questions. (yes only two it's a holiday here you see - your are lucky you get 2 of your questions answered...)

Question: Have you seen any monkeys?

-No, there are not any monkeys in my area unless you count some of the drunks who try and climb the trees.

Question: What are you meals like? What do they consist of?

-Most meals are very simple, think beans and eggs - especially if we make them ourselves.  Many times we will go to a near tienda where for 3 quetz you can eat like a king.  Of course when we eat with families there is a wide variety, for example look at this scrumptious mountain rabbit - it was buen rico y de salud fue como beef jerky!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Week #11: Goals, Xetulul, and Service

Elder goodman and I have been hard at work though most of which is the simple norms of the missionary life. We served, we taught, we preached, we contacted, we walked, and even walked some more and maybe even walked just a little bit more.

Mom, to resolve any worries of last week I am completely healthy once more and simply had my first of what will probably be many bouts of Guatemala sickness.  I have climbed over that mountain and can look forward to the next, as "all these things shall give thee experience" - the always the experience you are looking for, but oh yes, an experience for sure.

Last weeks p-day was actually cut short. We received a phone call saying that we weren't really going to have a regular p-day - we were only to write home and do some of the normal work of the day. You see last month we had reached the mission goal for the month.   As a reward for reaching and exceeding the goal, we all got to go to Xetulul on Thursday.  

We met as a zone over at the terminal for the buses taxis and tuk tuks.  This isn't like a bus or train terminal that you may be picturing in your mind at the moment.  It is a giant farmers market kinda thing with a couple of larger streets where the buses and taxis wait. Once we were all on we left for Xetulul.  It is only around 30 min drive from there so it wasn't too bad of a trip.  For those of you who don't know what Xetulul is, I would encourage you to Google it [Editor's Note:  Let me Google that for you.], and for those of you who don't Google, it is kinda of like Six Flags on a much smaller scale, with only one roller coaster and several other very small rides. However for the price of 10 quetz (a little more than a dollar) who's complaining! Overall it was really fun. Normally when one goes to amusement parks you have to wait hours on end for rides,food or anything.  Here the only waiting was done by the people operating the rides.  Pretty nice reversal if you ask me.  There were several great moments here and it was a nice change to the normal Pday Activities.  We even had some Ice Cream while there - my first ice cream in a long time!

I learn more and more  each day about service and the beautiful ways it helps out the lives of people.  We do a lot of service on the mission, some days we chop wood, other days we cut the grass with machetes, (don't freak out mom), sometimes we draw bucket after bucket from a well.  All of these are forms of service and for the most part we do all of these to serve the people here, however sometimes we have the opportunity to serve our fellow missionaries in the field.  This week we did just that and turned our focus towards the hermanas of our district.  Throughout the week we went into the areas of the hermana companionships and helped them with whatever they wanted for the afternoon.  Sometimes we went contacting to find new people for them to teach and other times we went with them to visit some of their progressing investigators.  However everytime we helped them out anyway we could and it really ended up being a morale boost to us.  At some point in this week I actually felt as though we might have neglected our area a bit but I realized later on that the Lords work is the Lords work and it doesn't matter what area we are in - so long as those who have been prepared are receiving the blessings of the gospel.  

We also visited a lot of the the recent converts this week.  We know that it is important to visit these individuals and help them to continue to progress and build on their testimonies.   In one of these visits we found out one of the recent converts had started to drink again so we did what we could to help him to stop drinking again.  Moments like those make me realize just how important it is to visit them, continue to teach, edify and inspire to be better and better each day.  This is where the perfecting the saints comes into play, and we all must do each and every day in our lives no matter who we are.

Friends and family, don't be afraid to help others even at the inconvenience of yourself.  No matter how small the service is, the Lord knows what truly needs to happen and will bless you as you do his will in the way that only he can.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Week #10: Parasites, Papaya and "Sick" happens

If only we could travel around the mission on these instead of by foot!

As requested here are some answers to "some" of your questions:

  1. How are the shoe's holding up?
    Answer: They are doing fine, I have to switch daily because of the rain and then being wet, trying to get them dry.  I mostly wear the Ecco boots, which are great as they don't let the water in.
  2. You send all these pictures of you in the rain, without an umbrella...I know we packed one, where is it?
    Answer: We missionaries must be light on our feet, traveling miles and miles on foot, it's a trade-off decision I make each time we go out of the house.  A little rain never hurt anyone...
  3. What is the best thing that happened this week?
    Answer: Two random people seeking us out, asking us to teach them because they wanted to get baptized.
  4. What is the worst thing that happened this week?
    Answer: Being sick the whole week could qualify (more on that later), and the test to test for parasites, yeah that was pretty bad.
  5. What is the funniest thing that happened this week?
    Answer: Teaching my companion the card game "Mao" where you make up the rules as you go and he started to flip out when started playing.

It has been another interesting yet fruitful week here in the mission field.  I have said before my companion, Elder Goodman is a District leader and one of the responsibilities is to make sure that the people taught are ready for baptism. On Sunday we were visiting an investigators that some of the hermanas in our district are teaching.  While there they gave us some lemonade. I had a pretty bad feeling about, I didn't want to drink it, but I was in front of them and not wanting to offend I drank it. For all of you who don't know water here is not like water in the U.S.   You can't simply drink it from the tap.   I was fine for the rest of Sunday and even all of the following Monday, however when Monday night rolled around it hit me. There was a thunderstorm going on at this time but it was still a good 80 outside. I started having chills and I knew at that point that I was sick. I have only ever had these kind of chills in my life when I was sick and if there was any doubt with the temperature as hot as it was, there was no way I was cold.

As the night went on things started to get worse. A blazing fever hit me as well along with a scorching headache.  Then a short while later, the stomach problems began.  That night we were going to be spending the night over at the zone leaders.   You see, when we have lessons or anything that is in Reu, we normally spend the night there rather than run the risk of not being able to get a ride back to our area that we live in. This was one of those night but the zone leaders were not there when we got to their house.  One of their lessons had run late and we ended up sitting there and waiting for them to finish and get to the house. I was seriously messed up by this point and I knocked out right then and there on the ground.  When I woke the zone leaders were there and opening the door, I don't really remember too much of what happened after that, only that throughout the night I went on several dates with the toliet closest to my room and by the end of that night we knew each other pretty well.

The next day we were supposed to go to El Porvenir which is a part of our area that is relatively untouched by missionaries outside the main city of Retalhuleu, but every time we have attempted to go over there and work, something always comes up that prevent us from being able to go. Literally since I got here we have been trying and every attempt has failed. As I woke I made the decision that I would not be the reason that we would not be going this time, there was always so much holding us back and it simply was not going to be me, when we are this close. We headed down to our house a little while after to get the stuff and get ready to head out and over there. When it came time to leave I was seriously dead had no energy and even now the time there is a bit hazy. The only thing I know for sure is that I was not running of my own strength, I was not working through my own will, but rather the will of the Lord. In the matter of 2 hours we found 13 New investigators making up 5 families.  All of whom are positive and sincerely want to know more. When we left we felt good about the work we had done and when we got back to the house, having no strength, no energy, I fell onto the bed and from 5:00 pm until 6:30 am I was out.  The rest of the week things went on as normal or as least as normal as they could with sickness always there hindering me.  In the last couple days I took some tests, to test if I had parasites, all of which came back negative... thank goodness!   The methods of testing are better left unsaid.  But Mom don't worry, all is well, as the t-shirt should say "sick" happens, especially in Central and South America.  You just need to expect it and make the best of it.  We are watched over, and the many prayers said on our behalf are much appreciated.

Closing out my first month in the mission we have had a lot of success, and this success comes in one of the hardest areas.   The prospects of El Porvenir will only add to this if we can overcome the challenge of getting these people from El Porvenir over to the the building some 30 mins away (by car) We are brainstorms and the ideas are racing and we definitely have a lot of work to do.  "yeah I know that I am nothing, as to my strength I am weak (especially after this week of "sick"), therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God (and a little about my incredible companion), for in his strength I can do all things; yeah, behold, many mighty miracles we have (and hope to) wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever. [Editor's Note: That is Alma 26:12 being paraphrased if you are following along at home.]

They make the "greenie" test the road to see how deep the water is.

"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way..." Matt 7:14
Papaya anyone...