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Monday, January 26, 2015

Week #31: Transfers and a new Companion




It was a busy, exciting week. Tuesday morning at midday we found out for sure who would be having changes (transfers).  We more or less had already known this with Elder Owen having six months in the area and President telling me and Elder Rivas that this would be his last change, that the both of them would be having changes.  So when we were told that they would be having changes it didn't come as a shock to us even in the slightest.  As they both started to pack Elder Ramirez and I started to do the customary "changes - cleaning of the house" until they were done packing.  I am not saying we only clean the house once every six weeks, but if that is what you're thinking, you might be kind of right.   Once they were done packing, we had a few lessons and taught a little lad who cannot hear or speak.  As you can imagine it was an interesting lesson, but rewarding.

The next morning we continued to clean up and start to do a real deep clean of the house.  Half way through we received a call telling us that Elder Ramirez would be leaving as well.  With that news, all of the cleaning came to an abrupt halt and a mad dash began to get him all packed up.  As as I have said before, we live about one and a half hours by car outside of San Pedro and it is another four hours from San Pedro to Reu where the changes take place. There wasn't really a possibility of us making it to Reu in time, the dash was to make the last bus to San Pedro and with the five suitcases that he has, is was not an easy battle to get him packed and down there.  At about 3pm we found out the news about everyone's new companions and areas.  One sad note was there were some rumors that they would be closing the Rio Blanco area, this put me a little on edge but I am glad to dismiss these ugly rumors.
         
Thursday at the zone meeting I had my first real opportunity to get to know my new companions of the icy north. I was a little nervous at first but now I am excited with these changes. These Elders want to work and I guess the President knows that, as he charged us with the responsibility to prepare our areas for the opening of two new ramas (branches) in the next or following transfer (12 weeks).   This is fantastic and we are working like crazy to get some work done up here and change the reputation of the mountains.
         Friday we had lots of work to do to make up for the time we were away.  President Ruiz had issued a challenge for the week of changes, for every area to meet a goal of  20 new investigators. Here is was Friday and we really hadn't had a chance to work in the Maclen area, but we put the pedal to the metal and as a district found eight new investigators and have a good start to reaching our goal.  But this wasn't really the amazing part of the day. At night I called one of the familias that we have been teaching and sure enough we laid out all of the details to baptise an amazingly pilas little girl named Sophia. I honestly dont know if there is something about the Guatemalan kids or if it is simply this new generation but they are more hardworking and pilas than just about anyone I can think of around their age. There are literally 12 year old kids going to mission prep here and begging us to help them practice teaching. As you can imagine these youth are like a missionaries dream.
       
Saturday morning, we had some work to do but we started out by first going over to the church and starting the water to fill the baptismal font.  Then we went to some teaching appointments before the baptism.  When we got back to the church, about an hour before the baptism, to start putting in the warm water there seemed to be a problem... there wasn't any warm water...and it is very very cold in our area so the water was practically ice cold... the hot water wasn't working and we have not idea what we were going to do for these little girls who were about to get baptised (we also had a member baptism on the same day).  We couldn't do anything about the water at this point...but we could get them in and out as soon as possible and get them into something warm. With this is mind I ran home with my comp and grabbed the blankets off my bed and the two little heater fans that we have in the house and sprinted back over to the church.
       As the service started, we went through the prayer, songs, talks, - making it special for them, and then it came time for the baptism.  Sophia already knew the water was ice cold but she didn't care she just wanted to "do what God wants me to".  I explained to her a little of how we were going to this and then we took our first steps into the bone chilling water, shivering and teeth grinding all the way as we made our way into the middle of the font.  I then looked at her asked her if she was ready and with that baptised her.  Immediately after I hurried her out of the water and over to my companion who threw towels and blankets over her and then handed her over to her mom. A little bit later after we had both changed, she was saying it was "soooooooooo coooolllllddd",  but it was really cool because I still felt warm inside from the time I went under and through the entire process of getting out and drying off.   I know it was the Holy Ghost!
   
Sunday morning at church she was confirmed and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. It was such a special experience and I truly believe that these amazing people of Guatemala, amazing peole of Rio Blanco truly understand and love baptisms and the special time that it is in making this sacred covenant.

Oh yeah I almost forgot.  My new companion is Elder Quispe from Peru.  Joining us in the house and working in the Rio Blanco area is Elder Roman from the Dominican Republic and  Elder Flores from Honduras.  Dad you got your wish and I am surrounded by Latinos...my languages skill will surely benefit.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Week #30: Area attacks and Deadliest Warrior

   
If you click on the picture and enlarge it you can see him.

   Sorry about last week's email, I am okay and doing well. In some ways its weird to think that the only info you all get is from these weekly emails and so a week featuring 3 Nefi quote can be a tad rough to handle.   Anyways all is well!  Interviews with the mission president ended up being postponed until after changes which will be Wednesday of this week.   I am somewhat confident that there will be some changes here in Rio Blanco, as Elder Owen and Elder Rivas have been here for quite a while and the air is thick in anticipation for the changes.

     This week things are looking even brighter in Maclen branch.  We had the first area attack in all of Rio Blanco history. As you can imagine getting 14 other missionaries up to one of the most remote areas in the mission can be a little hard but after a little schmoozing we managed to get a bus driver to help us out and get all of the missionaries up and back down the icy mountain.  Somewhere in the blur of planning and transport the zone leaders forgot to inform the other people in the zone that it is really, really, cold up there and they didn't dress for the best as evidently shown by all of them huddled around two little heaters in our house while all of the finale details were being worked out. Over all the attack ended up being a very big success, with many contacts, many opportunities for service and many opportunities to just uplift people.
        I had the chance to go out with Elder Lambson twice this week, he is one of our zone leaders. He is the son (meaning Elder Portillo trained him) of Elder Portillo, my first zone leader, which now that I think of it is a little weird, but awesome none the less. I am glad to say that I learned a lot from him as I did from Elder Portillo. On Monday we stayed down in San Pedro because we were supposed to have interviews with the mission president but this isn't our area so we ended up doing divisions with the zone leaders and work in their area for the night.  Elder Lamson and I went and contacted a professor with the member who had given him as a reference. He had been talking to this member on the street and has had many interactions with mormons in his life. At one point he even played basketball with all of the missionaries on p-day. As we started the lesson we became a little worried, I knew right away that this was going to be a different kind of lesson, this guy is a professor after all. We started the lesson with a song and a prayer and then he asked us about the mount of transfiguration...we answered very carefully and then lead the lesson over to more basic doctrines. Sure we could talk about deep doctrine in all the lesson but without a foundation to build on trying to jump straight into the hard stuff is a little difficult. It is like math you don't start trying to do cal BC before learning how to add or in piano try to play beethoven before learning every good boy deserves fudge. As we went on with the lesson he became really interested even said that he holds the Book of Mormon which we gave him as holy and was practically jumping at the chance to come to church and hear the church hymns. Really cool guy and I hope he keeps progressing.
     Dogs are very fun in this area. I know that every week I say a little something about them but they seriously are a topic buzzing in the air up here.  No matter where we go we hear of a dog that is buen bravo. and wherever we go we end up finding these dogs that are in dead buen bravo. However this weeks dog story is brought to you by deadliest warrior. Its a little series I used to watch back in the day when I wasn't on the mission.  In these episodes they would tell the story of different kinds of warriors throughout history and put them up against each other in combat - like a ninja vs a navy seal. They would fight and see who would win.  Now I pose a question. Out of a dog and a pig who wins? Anyone?  Well the answer is pig. This week as I finished eating my lunch of caldo, I took the chicken bones and through them to the dog as is normal disposal procedure here. No sooner did I do this when a pig comes running up the hill, rams the dog and starts fighting the dog for the bones.  Over and over they fought and over and over the pig won.  Maybe it isnt the dogs that we have to look out for. Maybe just maybe its the pigs.

    I am so happy for the opportunity to serve the people in Guatemala.  I see the joy and happiness that the simple teaching of Jesus Christ brings into their lives and feel blessed that I could be a part of that.

cropped from the picture above



Monday, January 12, 2015

Week #29: Only a few words...




[Editor's note: We received a short archaic email from Elder Wilcox today...not sure if there is an activity they are doing in the zone or what.  I guess this happens from time to time.  There were a few pictures that he sent as well.  We believe all to be well...well except for that camera.]



This week time is cut a little short and of course it is one of those weeks that I have a lot to talk about. A lot has happened but I guess at this point I will pull a Third Nephi and say:
And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people...
Until next week, I love you!

P.S.  My camera was stolen.








Monday, January 5, 2015

Week #28: A New Year, El milagro de la cámara and Epic Battle of the Dogs


A missionary tradition as you reach your 6 month mark in the field.
New Years! It is crazy that it is 2015 right now and so starts another year of writing the wrong year on everything. Its been a pretty nice start to a new year so far. This week we stayed a little closer to home and started to get to know some of these amazing members over here in the Maclen branch. From day one I knew that they were pilas but now as I have gotten to know a few of them better and set up days to go out with them in this next week.   I really am starting to see the extent of their love for the Gospel.
     

This week has been filled with a service, most of which focused on shucking corn, over and over and over again.  But have no fear I am getting really good at it! I think with my time here I have shucked more corn than I and my family will ever eat in all of the history and for all future meals.  I may as well change my plans of attending BYU and go to Nebraska, I am sure I am now qualified to be a Cornhusker!! Right Dave Fokken!

Monday night we had the chance to go out with the President of the District and we always have good success on these nights. This night when we were teaching a lesson to a middle age man several little kiddos walked into the room with just a touch of curiosity in their faces as we continued to teach this man the face of this little girl continued to light up. After the lesson I asked her what her name and talked with her a bit and it turns out that this little girl is the little sister of a joven that has been coming to some of the activities at the church and is good friends with alot of the jovens in the branch.

Every Thursday night we have a giant branch family home evening with all of the members. This time we had in the home of some of the the member/investigators houses. These little get togethers are always sweet and have some good messages to them.  This time there was a little bit of a tragedy. as we were finishing out the night we were getting a ride back over to our house a good 40 mins away, but we had to stay out of the car and help push it up the hill at parts. Somehow during the time that we were out of the car my camera came loose and fell out. I didn't realize it until the following day and by then I had simply thought that I had misplaced it somewhere in the house. When Sunday came I searched all over for it and simply couldn't find it, I even went back down to the house Sunday night to see if it was down there and sadly it was not.  I had been reading in a talk earlier in the day that posed a question why are we so slow to ask our Heavenly Father for help...and so with that thought in mind as I said my nightly prayer I asked for help and as I awoke this morning to come down here to san pedro for pday... I pulled a shirt off of my shelf/dresser and poof my camera came flying out of thin air onto the ground. I know I had checked it several times the night before and that is was not there.  Now I know that this will not be featured in the Ensign as the Rio Blanca Camera Miracle of 2015, but I have to say for me, in that moment it was an answer to prayer.
    
Every Sunday night we eat with one of the members who everyone calls "mama chata".  She is probably one of the favorite people that the missionaries get to know.  She literally is our mother away from home.  That same sunday night that we were looking for my camera we ended up being running late with a lesson and so were late for dinner at mama chata's place.  We started to run to try and get their as fast a we could, however, there are a lot of dogs in the area and they love chasing missionaries, and really love chasing running missionaries.  As we ran we fought, we yelled and we were triumphant as we scared away the dogs in an epic battle to get to dinner. For you see there are many obstacles out there in the world, but there may not be a stronger driving force in the world than a missionary who wants dinner, especially with mama chata.
     
This week went by really fast and I don't think things are going to slow down anytime soon with this new year here every missionary and member has renewed energy and desire to get out and serve, work and make their lives better and become closer to God. Its a good time to be a missionary.