Monday, June 15, 2015

Week 98, 99, 100

May 26, 2015
Hello all. A pretty good week, highlighted by a pretty great Sunday. I had fasted for miracles with our investigators that they would be able to be baptized on the 31st. Sure enough, after a pretty nerve-wrenching trial of my faith in which we had pretty much no one here at 10:00 when church started, in the next couple of minutes they all started flooding in. Sunday mornings are always pretty intense in the mission. So much rides on whether these people attend or not. Satan certainly understands the importance of this and somehow the most absurd things happen to keep investigators from attending church.

We ended the night with a huge Family Home Evening in the house of the Elders' Quorum president, Hermano Oscar. In all we brought 18 recent converts and investigators and filled his house up. In his message, Hermano Oscar talked about how in 10 years or so, all the members in Santo Tomas Milpas Altas would talk about these three families, Esturban (his family), Lopez (recent converts), and Garcia (converts and investigators) and how they were the pioneers of the church here. That really made me think. It's so true, these three faithful families are forming the nucleus of the church as it is being built up here in Santo Tomas. I'd love to come back in 10 years and see how the work is. At the rate the church is growing here, there could easily be multiple wards where there is now just a couple of families. We really are blessed to live at such an exciting time in the world and of the church. I'm sure that the pace will quicken even more as we move closer towards the Second Coming. It's a privilege to be a part of it all.

Speaking of which, there's a quote in Preach My Gospel about taking the gospel farther than it has ever been taken before. We got to do that last week when we visited an aldea called Buena Vista. I am 100% sure that no missionaries had ever gone there before. We contacted a man who was waiting outside a shop in Santo Tomas and he told us he lived in Buena Vista. Knowing how incredibly far away that was, we just invited him to church and gave him a pamphlet. To our great surprise, however, he showed up! Having found out that he was actually pretty pilas, we arranged to go visit him and it was pretty incredible.

Buena Vista means good view. The little town sits high up on the top of a mountain between Antigua and the valley of Guatemala City. As we sat there teaching the investigator, a storm started to develop. From our vantage point, we could see the huge clouds boiling and sweeping towards us. The clouds felt so close since we were so high up and we could see the lightening crackling and striking the mountains as the storm advanced. The only other time I have been so impressed by the beauty of nature was when I took a ride in a flete (a pickup with metal bars in the back end to hold passengers) along the side of a canyon in Solola. Needless to say though, we finished the lesson as fast as we could and were just about to say the closing prayer when the storm slammed into us. There are many reasons that I am eternally grateful to have been called to Guatemala, but this is certainly one of them.

Anyway, I'm feeling very grateful for all the blessings I have been given and especially love getting to help others receive those same blessings.


Elder Cannon

June 2, 2015
Well, kind of good/tough week this week (aren't they all like that though). The good part was the baptism of Ismael, the father of the girls that we baptized a month ago, Janet, Cindy, and Jazmin. At the beginning, he was the most difficult of all of them. However, as I wrote about 2 weeks ago, the Lord humbled him and he had his change of heart and now if the most pilas in all the family. I love seeing what the gospel can do to changes people.
The tough part of the week is that we were supposed to have 6 baptisms on Sunday, but all but one fell for a whole bunch of reasons. Satan really was working hard this week. Those last few days before a person’s baptism are full of just about everything he can throw at them. Still, we'll be seeing quite a few more baptisms here ya pronto [very soon].

For zone P day we hiked a big mountain in our area that divides the valley of Gmala City and the smaller, higher valley of Antigua. As incredibly beautiful as it was, one of the major attractions was that from that mountain we could see quite a decent chunk of the entire mission. As we were hiking up past some houses that were tucked away on the side of the mountain, a very nice lady came out and said that she had a tree filled with a bunch of ripe peaches and her family wouldn't be able to eat them all so we could have all the peaches we wanted.

June 9, 2015
Well, this is it, my last email that I'll send as a missionary. I'm not going to lie, I really don't know what to say. I guess that might just be because it hasn’t really sunk in that this is it, that my time here as a full time missionary in Gmala is about to draw to a close and that I will never, ever, be able to return to this time in my life. That’s the worst part I guess. As great as it will be to see my family and friends and not have a house that floods with water every time it rains, I guess I really would just like to be able to go to the US for a week or two and then come back. This is my home now. I do feel really tired though. Like, really tired. Anyway, saber [who knows] about all that. It's just easier not to think about it anyway (that way the reentry culture shock will be greater, oh joy.) I guess that's why I don't really have any words to say so I'll just spend my internet time helping another missionary with the church music he has on his USB.

Anyway, this Sunday we were blessed with two baptisms. Jennifer and her son Vagner. Both of them are incredible and were really just waiting for the Lord to lead us to them. We knew she was prepared when she called her son Neftali and told him to enter and said “¡Nefi, venĂ­!” (aka Nephi, come!). We were pretty excited and it turns out that's the nickname she's always used for her son. She's the 4th single mother I've baptized in this area and it's been a testimony builder for me to see how the gospel has blessed her family and helped her be happier despite all the difficulties that she has passed through.

Ok, even if this is hard I'll try to see if I can get it out. I really have loved so much my time here as a missionary. I came here to be obedient to my Heavenly Father. I was willing to work and do the things that I was supposed to, but I was excited to get my two years out of the way and continue with my life. Now I understand why people say that these are the two best years of my life. They're not just the two best years FOR my life (true though it may be), but serving a mission is a blessing sufficient in and of itself. I feel like I don't really need any sort of celestial mansion because the Lord has already blessed me with far more that I deserve for the little I've done. Our mission president said something that hit me hard on Thursday. He said “the mission doesn't change us, it's the Atonement that changes us.” That is so true but as I have served the Lord these two years, I have been so completely immersed in His Gospel and Atonement.

Someone once said that every time we testify of the Atonement it seeps deeper into our souls. I have felt the Atonement change me over these past two years. I'm not the person I was when I started. Another anonymous quote now, “a mediocre missionary gets off his mission thinking he's perfect. A great missionary ends his mission realizing just how much farther he has to go but knowing how to get there.” Sure enough, I am sometimes discouraged by how imperfect I am and how often I fall into the same mistakes, but I have faith that Christ can make me into the person He wants me to be.

Now, as we always testify in the Gmala City Central Mission... My companion and I are personal representatives of Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and that He is our Savior and Redeemer. I have come to know Him better during these two years than ever before in my life. I am now here serving not out of obedience but out of love for Him. I know that this is His true church restored to the earth by living prophets and apostles. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I have felt the Spirit testify to me and to my investigators of these truths time and time again. I have seen the fruits of this message in the lives of countless families, as well as my own. I am so grateful to have this knowledge and am also grateful for all the support that so many loving people have given me, people both here in Gmala and in the US. Time's up it would seem...

Con muchisimo amor,

Elder Cannon

The baptism of Jennifer and Vagner. Those jumpers are great for giving the impression
that I have even longer legs than I do and a very curvy figure. Kind of awkward.

Another picture of Jennifer, this time along with her cousin and her cousin's 
husband and kids. They're getting baptized on the 21st. Super pilas as well.

What I ate for lunch yesterday, courtesy of my companion. Yes, there 
is still some left in the freezer. I didn't eat the entire half gallon, 
after all, I still need dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow.

Also, I'm pretty sure we got hit by a tropical storm or something last week. 
I have never seen so much rain. We didn't have our rain jackets when it hit us 
and so we ran to the closest tienda and made our own rain gear out of plastic 
bags. The black bags with eye slits cut in were a special success which mad 
us look and feel like batman. Good thing that no one else was brave enough 
to be in the streets and see us. Good times though in the mission

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Week 97

May 19, 2015
Que tal todos... Another good week, despite some challenges. This has been a tough change. But we've had lots of miracles too... Let's focus on those.

About a month and a half ago we baptized a 19 year old girl named Janet.  We then baptized her two younger sisters. As we were teaching them, their mom was receptive but their dad was very closed because he was very active in the evangelical church and didn't have any intention of leaving. Slowly but surely his heart began to be softened and he was just beginning to warm up when he fell into his old addiction of alcohol. He spent almost 6 weeks drunk until he finally managed to stop. However, when we talked to him for the first time after he was finally sober, he was a completely different person.  He was so pilas that we thought that he was still drunk or on drugs. Turns out that the Lord often works in mysterious ways. His addiction had brought him to the depths of humility and he finally found the motivation within himself to seek the promised changes and relief that the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ offers us. In this last week he was reading the Book of Mormon and praying every day.  The great miracle of Sunday was that he was there, sitting with his daughters, before Sacrament Meeting started.  It made me think about what the Lord says in Ether 12:27, that he gives unto us weaknesses that we might be humble, but if we humble ourselves before Him, then is His grace sufficient to make our weaknesses become strong. I don't think that the Lord gave this man his addiction to alcohol, but I certainly believe that the Lord will use that weakness to help him come unto Christ so that he can overcome it. That made me think about the weaknesses the Lord has given me, pride, impatience, lack of charity, etc. Clearly the Lord wants me to improve in those areas, but as long as I'm trying and doing all I can to work on those weaknesses, the promise is that they will bring me to Christ. Interesting... I guess that means I need to have a little more patient with myself and not  just wish that I was perfect instantly. If that were the case, then where would the force come from than brings ME down to the depths of humility and to Christ. That being said, there's certainly some weaknesses that I would not miss if I could wave a wand and make them all go away.

Hmmm, I've got 5 minutes left and am not sure what else to say. If I sit here thinking, I won't have time to say anything at all. It's quite a dilemma, no? Anyway, I will testify, as a personal representative of Jesus Christ, that I know that He lives and that He loves me, He loves you all, and I can especially testify of His love for the people here in Guatemala. I know that through His prophet Joseph Smith He has restored His true church to the earth in order to help us come unto him and prepare to have happy families here and in the eternities. I know that the Book of Mormon is powerful and convincing evidence of this and have seen and dozens of people have gained this testimony for themselves.

Con mucho amor,

Elder Cannon

Also, a picture my companion took with the phone as a drunk man was trying to kiss me. He had some weird infection on his face too. The couple sitting on the street behind my companion couldn't stop laughing.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Week 96

May 12, 2015

Happy mother's day everyone! As always, it was great to see the family and remember how blessed I am to have such a wonderful mother. Crazy to think that Ethan will enter the MTC (come to think of it, I don't even know which MTC), in just a few weeks. Other than that, the week was pretty hard. The zone is really struggling because as a mission, we are incredibly young.  A huge wave of missionaries left the mission a few changes ago and a huge wave came in so the average missionary in Gmala City Central has much less than a year. In our zone there's two companionships where both companions have six months or less. It's a challenge, but we're blessed in that they are all great missionaries and very willing to do the things they should, we just have to help them learn how to do it. Also, Mother's day did kind of kill our church attendance. Most of our investigators were with their moms and not at church. Still though, I'm so grateful for every week and every day I have. I love being able to help others come unto Christ, I especially love helping families receive the same blessings that mine enjoys. I love feeling the Spirit guide us and testify of our words. 

Moving on, due to some challenges with DearElder, it would probably be advisable for all wishing to write me to use email instead, thank you.

Love, Elder Cannon

A picture of us at Pablo's house on Elder Caton's last day. Sometimes 
missionary work is hard, sometimes, not so much...

A zone service project we did, helping an investigator clean out the abandoned gym 
he just bought. Honestly, it's hard to overestimate the power and utility of a machete.

Our lunch yesterday. I love crepes. I love pesto.

Sunday, when it started raining and the street flooded. Pablo, our recent convert, 
followed the example of the pioneers, as he bravely stripped off his shoes and 
offered to give us all a ride across. Afterwards, a random lady walked 
up and was trying to cross so he just grabbed her and walked her over. Pilas.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Week 95

May 5, 2015
Well, yet another change meeting come and gone. My new companion is Elder Stewart from Orem Utah. I was convinced that I would be receiving a Latino, but it would seem otherwise. Still, it's been fun showing him around our area and the zone, both of which are way different than any other place in the mission. We've nicknamed this zone the comfort zone. No one really every wants to leave their comfort zone. 

Anyway, we've started out the change with lots of miracles (one of which was that we finally cleaned the house) and I know that it will be a great change. I think that this change God has given me a chance to apply all that I've learned during my time here, all the Christ-like attributes that I've fought to develop in every area. The challenges continue but it is cool to see the difference from when I started. I've got a long way to go still, but at least I recognize it. I've decided that we really can improve in any Christ-like attribute when we want it enough. When it finally becomes too painful and we are finally willing to make the necessary sacrifices to be able to change, that's when the miracles happen. Just like with the Spirit. If we really want it enough, are praying with faith and purifying ourselves, we will be able to receive the spiritual gifts we most desire. I've seen that in the last 5 months and it's something truly incredible.

Love you all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Week 94

April 28, 2015
Well, not a lot of time today to write. We've got changes tomorrow. My companion is leaving (obviously, since he's ending his mission). We'll see who my companion is. We went to the temple for our zone P day and it was incredible, as always. I feel like the temple is the second biggest part of my testimony (after the Book of Mormon of course. Nothing can beat the Book of Mormon). I went there looking for some very specific revelation and very pleased to receive the exact answer I was looking for. Being able to go to the temple is sufficient motivation in and of itself to stay worthy of doing so.

I had a very neat experience yesterday that helped me open my eyes a little bit more. Apparently, a group of LDS dentists from the United States came down to Guatemala this week to do dental work for future missionaries who wouldn't be able to afford it otherwise. Yesterday, a sizable group from our ward went to the capital to have their turn. Among them were many youth that I know very well, including Janet and Pablo, two recent converts we baptized in the last month or so. We were at Janet's house, teaching her family when she came back that night. I felt so grateful to the unknown members who sacrificed their time and money to come down to Guatemala to do this service. Janet came back incredibly excited, showing off the things they had given her (such as a very nice case for her Book of Mormon, or a white shirt and tie for the guys), as well as the two fillings she had gotten (which were white fillings! not the normal gold which is so noticeable). Her mom was especially moved as this is something they never could have imagined. It made me realize how much of an impact acts of service like that can have. After seeing it from the other side I feel much more motivated to do the same when I am able.

Speaking of all this, Pablo has already started filling out his mission papers, and, what's even more impressive, has already told his girlfriend that he'll be leaving in 11 months to serve a mission for two years. Pilas...

Love you all!

Elder Cannon

Friday, April 24, 2015

Week 93

April 21, 2015

It was an excellent week. Despite the many things we had to do, we were able to have quite a bit of progress in our area and met all the normas de excelencia. It's so much fun to be a missionary when you have great investigators to teach and you can tell that you're making an eternal difference in the lives of many of God's children. The highlight of the week was the two baptisms we had of Cindy and Jazmin, the two younger sisters of Janet, the 19 year old young woman we baptized 4 weeks ago. It's so easy to see when someone's truly converted because they naturally want to bring all their friends and family to a knowledge of the truth as well. Now we're teaching at least 15 members of their family in all, counting aunts, uncles, grandparents etc. 

One of my favorite images of this week was seeing Pablo, the young man we baptized last week, mopping up after the baptism that we had this week. He had just been confirmed earlier that day but was already serving of his own accord and was very happy to have the privilege. Another image I love is thinking of Pablo, Janet, Steven (another recent convert in our area), and Francisco, a returned missionary, all driving together to a young single adult fireside in the capital. After leaving just a bit after they left the baptismal service, they got back at 9:30. That's pretty awesome. 

Also, we just had a pretty intense experience with talking with some sisters who were being disobedient. As President Markham would say, we put on our big boys pants (literally, the last time we seriously corrected sisters despite being nervous about how it would turn out, President called me to thank us and told us that is what we had done. I love him. He's hilarious). The Spirit was super strong as we just waited and they came out with one confession. Then we'd wait for 5 minutes and then they'd come out with another. We were there for 2 hours in all. That's why I'm writing so late. Anyway, it was great to help them to be able to be free from the burden they had been carrying as they were able to repent, but as we did so we certainly were able to feel a bit of its weight. Pretty tiring as well. Good thing for our P-day we'll finally be going to the temple on Thursday. I wish we could do more of that.

Love you all and I'm grateful for all your prayers and support.

Elder Cannon

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Week 91 and 92

April 7, 2015
Wow, what an incredible, and very full week this week. A lot is going on. I loved General Conference! We had to watch the majority of it in Spanish, which was a bummer. It's just not the same, but as always, it was the best weekend we’ve had in the last 6 months. Elder Holland's talk had me on the edge of my seat. His talk, as well as President Uchtdorf's right after was incredible. I love thinking that the Atonement isn't meant just to take us back to our state of innocence from sin before our Heavenly Father but to take us forward, helping us to become more like Him. President Uchtdorf’s talk in Priesthood session was also very instructive (and also included a fair amount of chicote). It’s very easy to become too focused on the outward signs of our discipleship and forget what's most important. I also loved the talk about leaning to hear the music not just doing the dance steps. It was a talk long dance metaphor which made me and the other two elders in the zone who also love ballroom dance pretty excited. Speaking of being excited...

President Brough got called as a counselor in the General Young Men's Presidency!!! Ahhh!!! All the missionaries said he would be called as a member of the 70, but they didn't read his name and we were all disappointed, then he just got called straight to the General Young Men's Presidency! We were watching it with all the other members in the chapel but before I could stop myself I stood up and in a half yell and said “No!” and grabbed my companion. It was more intense than any sporting event. He'll be amazing, getting the youth ready to serve missions. His spiritual presence is incredible. We were hoping that he'd speak, but I guess that would have been just too much to bear. Our mission would have struggled a lot after having so many of its elders and sisters die from the sheer joy of it all. Maybe next conference.

Also, this week was Semana Santa. People come from all over the world (literally, we've contacted people from all over the place) to witness Semana Santa in Antigua. The only place where it is as big as in Spain. It was pretty ridiculous, but also incredibly cool. One Thursday we had to go to Antigua and the buses couldn't even get in. We had to walk and then once we arrived we found that the city was jam packed. We were sitting in an internet cafe (long story) and right then one of the processions came by. It was super cool to be able to watch it all. I'm not sure of the doctrine of it all, but during this time the Catholics have something like a funeral parade where they carry a massive intricately decorated platform with Christ and some saints. They follow it with a band and other things, such as people burning incense or dressed as roman soldiers. That's also when they make the very beautiful carpets made out of flowers, plants, and colored wood shavings (referring to when the people covered the road with palm fronds as Christ rode into Jerusalem). It was a huge thing and made me grateful to have been called here specifically, seeing a thing that only a handful of missionaries have seen on their missions.

Finally, I’ve included a picture of a mollete, my favorite Guatemalan dessert. I have never eaten a food that looks and feels so repulsive, but tastes so heavenly. It’s made of bread, filled with cream, that's fried in egg and left to sit for a day in honey. It's soggy, cold, and incredible.

April 14, 2015
Another great week. I can tell right now that this email will degenerate into me talking about food, so I'll get right so the spiritual stuff. Baptism! Wohoo! His name is Pablo and he's probably one of the purest people I've ever met. He lives with his sister and brother in law who are both members. They invited him to a Family Home Evening and he liked it. He went to church, met us, and got baptized. Pretty easy with him.

Missionaries say that in the mountains the people are all very hard and don't want anything and if you go there you won't baptize. However, after being in the mountains for more than a year, I can say that I have never met investigators who are so prepared to accept this message. I never had converts who were so truly converted when I was in the coast. For example, the Saturday before his baptism, we asked Pablo to come with us to visit some investigators. He jumped at the chance and when we started the lesson and were presenting ourselves, he burst out, ''I'm Pablo and I'm getting baptized tomorrow!'' Then, yesterday, he went to work with us from 5:00 to 8:15, at which point we went to his house to teach him until 9:00.

It's a great privilege to be able participate in someone's conversion. Another great blessing is that Pablo lives very close to our house (we had no idea there were members there until we met him because they've been attending the other ward).  He's always home at 8:00 at night, there's always a member present (his family) and they always give us food (including this amazing pineapple cooked in syrup with cloves and pepper. Yep, the food talk has already started). In other words, it's a missionary's dream set up. As you can see from the picture, President and Sister Markham were passing by that day and were present in the baptism. I love them so much. Also, you might note that this is the first time I've ever had a convert who was taller than me. 

This week I also tried harder than ever to be even more diligent. It really does feel good to know that you're working as hard as you can. It feels far better than holding a little back just because you feel tired or lazy. All these commandments that the Lord gives us, like being obedient and working diligently, really are just to help us personally be happier.

Ok, now to the food. Last week we took the most successful companionships in the zone out to eat in the nicest restaurante here in San Lucas: San Martin. I hadn't eaten in a nice restaurante like that in all my mission so it was quite the experience. Interestingly, my companion and I both ordered soups and salads while the sisters all ordered these giant hamburgers which they couldn't even fit in their mouths. 

This week we had our district P-day and learned to make molletes and a flan chocolate cake. And we also ate mole, my second favorite dessert in Guatemala. Now we're going to go to a new, supposedly really good restaurante here in Antigua. Yep, I'm gaining weight..

Love you all


The district

Making molletes. I hadn't used a Kitchen Aid mixer in a long time... 

That's for sure... Too bad it wasn't a Bosch though.

Making molletes. I hadn't used a Kitchen Aid mixer in a long time... 
That's for sure... Too bad it wasn't a Bosch though.