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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