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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.