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Monday, May 25, 2015

Week #48: Transfers...

   
The Zone of San Pedro


 A little later email today as went as a zone to a place called Chicabal - a volcanic lake.  With transfers imminent, for some, it was a nice excursion for all.

       It has been a week of reflection, knowing that you are in an area where your days are numbered and it will probably be one of your last is simply sad, I can only imagine how those who are about to finish the mission are feeling.  It is hard to put into words, how you grow to love those that serve, and a special place they have in your heart and soul.
        As of Today I have completed 11 months in the mission and 6 months and 2 weeks of that time has been living here in Rio Blanco.  As much as I don't like the constant bus rides and a few other negatives this is going to be one of my favorite areas.  Throughout the week I have mixed in the goodbyes as we passed from one part to the next in this huge area of Rio Blanco. You know you have been in an area for a long time when the little children of the area know your name. Not just as Elder, but Elder Wilcox, as hard and strange as it is for the people here to pronounce this name. I don't think anyone really likes goodbyes. But we sure get a lot of practice here in the mission.
     This week I was thinking about the story of "Pushing Against The Rock" (Author Unknown)

"There once was a man who was asleep one night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Saviour appeared to him.

The Lord told him He had a work for him to do, and showed him a large rock explaining that he was to push against the rock with all his might. This the man did, and for many days he toiled from sunup to sundown; his shoulder set squarely against the cold massive surface of the rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore and worn out, feeling his whole day had been spent in vain.

Seeing that the man showed signs of discouragement, Satan decided to enter the picture - placing thoughts in the man's mind, such as ``Why kill yourself over this?, you're never going to move it!'' or ``Boy, you've been at it a long time and you haven't even scratched the surface!'' etc. giving the man the impression the task was impossible and the man was an unworthy servant because he wasn't moving the massive stone.

These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man and he started to ease up in his efforts. ``Why kill myself?'' he thought. ``I'll just put in my time putting forth just the minimum of effort and that will be good enough.'' And this he did or at least planned on doing until, one day, he decided to take his troubles to the Lord.

``Lord,'' he said, ``I have labored hard and long in Your service, putting forth all my strength to do that which You have asked of me. Yet after all this time, I have not even budged that rock even half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?''

To this the Lord responded compassionately, ``My friend, when long ago I asked you to serve Me and you accepted, I told you to push against the rock with all your strength and that you have done. But never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. At least not by yourself. Your task was to push. And now you come to Me, your strength spent, thinking that you have failed, ready to quit. But is this really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled; your back sinewed and brown. Your hands are calloused from constant pressure and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have. Yet still, you haven't succeeded in moving the rock; and you come to Me now with a heavy heart and your strength spent. I, my friend will move the rock. Your calling was to be obedient and push, and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom, and this you have done.''

The time I have had in Rio Blanco has been very hard. I have probably had many more pains than joys here. I have had to fight and fight against the weariness in my stride, against the attacks in my resolve, and against the trails of my faith. Though through it all I honestly believe that this in one part or another has been the reason I have been here. Not for me to move the rock but for me to be changed. I have seen many changes in this area. Many things that are now different here, but none of them compare to how I have changed. I love the part in here as it explains "long ago I asked you to serve me and you accepted. I told you to push against the rock with all of your strength...but never once did I excpect you to move it." "through opposition you have grown much and your ability now far surpasses that which you used to have." Sometimes I guess I forget I am being changed, as much as I am being used as a tool to change the lives of others.
       But in the same way as it is sad to be working in a field in which you know you will never see the harvest working, it still brings some good joy. This week I had the chance to go and work with the progressing investigators of Rio Blanco in divisions. One of these lessons was simply awesome! There was a family a while back that Rio Blanco received as a reference from none other than a drunken individual. This town drunk ended up taking them down some long road deep deep down into a part relatively close to the center of Rio blanco. There they came to know Don Mira and Alexandra as well as the rest of their family. After a few weeks of teaching them we all knew that they were extremely positive. As Elder Saxton and I started to teach them this night we knew it was time to put a date for them to be baptised and after a beautiful lesson they accepted.  There is no better feeling than this. Besides of course when they are baptised. Moments like these make the mission special and make all that we do worth it.  It is such a blessing to see people changed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
     Well changes are here this week. I guess we will just have to see what they have in store.

The Thinker
One of the functions of missionaries at times is nursery leader...

Bacon and Eggs a rare treat...bacon that is.





Monday, May 18, 2015

Week #47: Rain trapped and Mother's Day Skype

It's been a very rainy week.  I guess it is officially time to be soaked yet again. For those of you who don't know, it rains alot here and not just a lot but enough to make that California rain look like nothing...oh wait you are in a drought back home so you may not remember what rain is, right?

The highlight of the week was finally being able to Skype our families.  On Mother's Day we didn't have the chance to Skype our Mom's. Up here in Rio Blanco there are 15-20 missionaries out serving in the world, so that would be around 8-10 families trying to skype at any given time of the day.  With this in mind, we changed our Skype night.  First we thought we would do on Monday, but with bus problems and delays we changed it to Tuesday.  This turned out to be a very good thing since at about 4pm in the afternoon the power went out in all of Rio Blanco and didnt return until about 10 on top of everything else.   Tuesday night was a very special and awesome moment not just because I had the chance to Skype the family and more specifically my amazing mother, but also because one of the youth was set apart and had his farewell this same night. This also kinda made skyping the family kinda fun because all of the little kiddos in the branch were there and loved to be able to see my family as well.
     Last week I mentioned that this week is the semana de la familia. But it turned out to be the week of freezing cold rain, hail, and many sick people, me included. It's kind of weird to have to plan your day around the rain. In the coast you can get wet all you want and you won't really be to much worse for the wear.  However here things are just a bit different. If we get wet here we pretty much immediately have to get back to the house and change if not we are out of order for the next little while.  In the same way it's always fun to be trapped by the rain.  This week almost everyday we have been rain trapped. This is a situation when we are in a lesson when the rain starts to fall and we are stuck in the house until it stops. I guess a little quote from Forest Gump could probably explain the rain best. "One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rain. Rain that flew in sideways, and sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night...". More or less this will be our life here for the next little.  While this lasts I just hope that the people start to be a little more merciful and let us into their houses and out of the rain.
    The Activities this week were all pretty cool. A lot of people couldn't actually come due to the rain but they were fun none the less. One of the days this week we were over in Rio Hondo teaching and rain trapped in a lesson. About an hour and a half into the rain someone called us pretty frantically telling us they had just gotten to the church for the activity and the water had somehow gotten into the church. They were shoveling and bucketing it out but needed our help. Shortly after the call the rain stopped or let up enough so that we could make our way over to the church. Though we had a forty minute walk on our hands we put some serious pep in our step to make it to the church right as they were finishing up.
     The best of all of these nights was the talent night. These youth here are super funny. They put on some of the funniest little skits I have seen in a talent show.  The next best part was Elder Saxton and his cheering. In all talent shows there are the little kids acts and the ones that are well in the show. He made it his personal job to be the person in charge of the random applauses to get everyone else cheering. His girlish screams might have just been one of the greatest talents of the night.
    Its been a pretty fast week. I can't help but wonder if I am in my last week here in Maclen.  I hold six months and one week in this area and these people are my family.   I've been here so long that some of these kids probably think I am part of the family. I dont know If I will have changes but one thing's for sure, this will probably be one of my favorite areas in my mission.  Well at least until my next area...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Week #46: Pancakes


We always be a moving...


It has been a week full of pancakes which kinda makes it amazing no matter what happens. So as I am sure all of you well know and have already celebrated, it was mother's day this weekend and though we cannot celebrate it with our own mothers in person we decided to go full out making it pretty awesome for all of the other mothers in Rio Blanco.
     We started the celebrations as an Elders quorum by putting on a nice big dinner for the mothers in the rama. As you all know men in general are not good at planning activities by themselves and when it comes to making food well... you know.... We had planned to start the dinner at 6:00pm though we ended starting at about 7:30 when the meat was finally done and the tamalitos had finally made there way over to the church.  It was a little bit awkward because we brought about 15 or so inv. mamas over to the church and they started to become a little antsy waiting around.   Elder Murrillo and Dolman ran over to the house to grab the griddle and the pancake mix to make some appetizers, while I taught the mothers a lesson and sang some hymns with them.  However, when the night was through the mother's loved it. Burnt meat, cold tamales and all.
     The next day we decided to do something a little bit out of the ordinary. We decided to make pancakes! But not breakfast...really not even for us. About midday we headed into the heart of the plaza on the busiest day of the week. There we set up a table heated up the grill and started making some free banana pancakes for every mom that happened to pass by. It was pretty funny to see some of their confused faces as we insisted that they take a free pancake. By the end of the two hours of free pancakes for Moms,  we left knowing we had put some smiles on the faces of many mothers.
    As Sunday came around we handed out the sweet stuff. Any guesses as to what?! Well to remove any doubt and to stay consistent with the the theme we handed out chocolate chip pancakes to all of the mothers!..... Ok..... maybe not. But we did put together some pretty sweet little cups filled with candy and all sorts of other goodies. That along with the heart cupcakes Hna Isela made and the sewing bags that the young women made, probably made these mothers feel pretty amazing.
    To finish of the mother's day activities we made an american dinner for the amazing Mama Chatta. I am sure I have mentioned every Sunday night we eat at the house of Mama Chatta, and not just us but all of the missionaries that have been in Rio Blanco for the last 6 years and probably even longer. We decided it was time to celebrate our mother in the mission with a nice big dinner. The plans were to make some Jucy Lucy Burgers with a potato salad and pasta salads as the side courses, But turns out a lot of people wanted to make something special for the mothers in their lives and when we made our way over to the market on Saturday there wasn't even a scrap of chicken let alone some ground beef. But we pressed on and make the pasta and potato salads for the dinner. At first we were a little worried that the stuff that we made would be weird for them and that they wouldn't want to eat it. But I don't think anyone can resist a potato salad. Shame that we didn't have the chance to make the burgers but they ended up loving it all.
    This last week has been awesome celebrating the Mothers. Though this next week holds in store the "Semana De La Familia" which is something really big here. Every family has been charged with the responsibility to have a Noche de hogar with a non member family. As I write this there are families starting their family nights. Tomorrow will be a huge activity in the church to start out semana de la familia but more importantly for the mission farewell of Brian. All and all I'm pretty sure this next week is going to be pretty sweet.

Sorry I didn't get to skype or talk to you Mom, but hopefully will get something worked out.  I love you and wish you all the best for Mother's Day.  I wouldn't be who or where I am without your influence and the kick you placed on my backside now and again!


BBQ for Mother's Day - Guat Style!


Pancakes at the market...


Monday, May 4, 2015

Week #45: Recognition, Understanding and Knowledge




... Another week come and gone. It's been a good week and full new adventures.
       Tuesday we had another multi zone conference with the President to get us pumped to break the record of the mission with the goal of baptising three people in every companionship. This would mean nearly 300 baptisms in the mission which is something never before done and some legacy that we can make.
      Most of this week I actually spent on divisions with Elder Ramirez our district leader. We set up some plans to go and talk to every single one of the investigators that we have so that he can get to know them a little. On Friday, we went over to San Lorenzo to talk to a pilas little lad who we taught the week before. The week before we had an amazing lesson with him and taught him all about the restoration of the gospel. He had several questions, not the doubtful kind, but the kind showing a sincere interest to know the true in what we are saying. This week, when we had visited him it was kinda like the video from The District with the investigator Jinx. We taught him a little more about The Restoration and addressed a few of his concerns and began to teach him a little about baptism, but as we began to address some of his concerns he said that he doesn't really understand how to receive, or rather what is an answer from God. There is truly a great feeling in the room when you can see that someone has a sincere desire to understand. I don't know if there is anything better than being able to see the spirit start to speak to someone's heart and really being able to see the gears in their head start to understand, really understand what we are teaching them.
       I was listening to a talk the other day, about understanding.  The speaker explained that we have different different types of recognition. Specifically the main two are logical and emotional.  These two systems of understanding work a little bit different one from the other. Logical recognition runs on an eight point system.  If something is happening and each of these eight points lines up we know something is the way it should be and feel good about the decision. Now this is actually the slower or weaker of the two. Emotional Recognition runs on a 32 point system and works instantaneously, as something is happening our minds automatically check within the blink of an eye if every one of these points are lining up. When and if they do, we feel normal and calm, but when they don't we have a gut feeling that something is wrong. It's like in football with a quarterback, logically everything may look like his wide receiver is open and in the green but by instinct he can feel that something just isn't right and throws it to a different wide receiver.  Maybe a linebacker was falling back or the safety cheating over or whatever it may have been. He could feel that something just wasn't right and so he acted accordingly.  The speaker goes on to explain that there is actually a 3rd type of recognition which works on a spiritual level and is faster and stronger than both of this combined. It works on a level we can't even comprehend and when we hear something that we know to be true it resonates within us and can feel its truth. I dont know if any of this is actually real but I honestly do believe that people can recognize the truths being taught as they listen to these simple truths.
     In these last few days I have actually been thinking alot about the difference between knowing something and understanding it.  These two things are so different from each other and honestly have about as big of a difference as apples from tomatoes.  Both look the same, and some people may even be able to confuse the two, but they are different and very different at that.  One example that I was thinking of to make it clear was in the movie Saratov approach.  There is a moment in this movie where a man calls one of the families of the kidnapped missionaries and begins to tell them about his story of when he was captured as a missionary. In one part he says "And almost as though it were involuntary you begin to pray for those who have taken you"(and they do). I really can't think of a better example than this to show the difference between knowing someone is a child of god and truly understanding it. Just a moment before Sergay comes into the room and tells them "teach me. Tell me what you tell everybody" and so they do.  In one moment they teach him "that God loves all of his children" and Sergey asks "and me? does he love me?" ever so hesitantly and with a struggle he says "yes". I don't know how he truly felt in this moment. Though moments later, probably even within this same day, they begin to understand that even these people who have taken them are children of our Father in Heaven, and begin to pray for these men. Even for their well being because they truly know , AND have come to understand, who they are, and what they are to God. I can't even imagine having to be in a moment like this but to understand so deeply is something extraordinary.
      There is a reason that we as missionaries teach and promise the blessings of Gospel. Knowing what each of them are is something, but understanding it leads people to action.  My first companion Elder Goodman gave a lesson in a district meeting at one point about this principle. He explained the story of an American army regiment during the Revolutionary War.  This army was composed of untrained farm men more than anything.  A general was brought in from a different country to train these troops so that they would have the ability to win. As he began to try and drill these troops they would not listen for anything and did not obey him in the slightest. Which caused this general to drill them harder to try and break them into being a disciplined army. What this general didn't understand until George washington gave him a bit of advice was while these men were lacking in discipline - they would fight until the death for what they believe in and who they love.  After this the general began to teach this army in a different way, teaching through their needs, and teaching them the why behind the how and the army began to understand the purpose behind the drills.  They became one of the best military units in the army.
      When we can teach people through their needs, show them the why behind the how, people will be lead to action. People will see what lies in store for them after the sacrifice.  Knowing the Gospel principles is good, but if we don't understand the doctrine behind them we will not act.  We act to our understanding and not unto our knowledge.
      Anyways...long email...I must be inspired right now... I love you all and it is pretty exciting to hear about all of you back home preparing for missions and getting your calls. This is a great life here. It is probably one of the biggest adventures I will have in all of my life and beyond that probably one of the biggest learning experiences as well. Mothers day is around the corner talk to you soon.

I'm singing in the rain...just a singing in the rain..

Mom can I bring it home!!!???