Thursday, December 12, 2013

Week 24


Well, this week, my last in San Jose (transfers again), was a tough one. We had two investigators who were going to be baptized this Sunday. One bailed on the day on her interview (Saturday), the other passed her interview and everything was perfect. Then, Sunday morning we passed by her house only to find that she had disappeared. I was carrying my baptismal clothing and everything.

These past two transfers have been pretty hard in that I haven't been much outward success. I feel like the Lord is definitely doing this for a reason though, whether I need to improve something or it's just a lesson He wants me to learn I don't know. It's definitely pretty hard to see all the other missionaries baptizing a bunch and then for us to have investigator after investigator not quite make it there. This type of disappointment is definitely harder that I thought it would be. I guess I just have to press forward with hope, trying to improve everything I can on my part and work hard in my new area.

In other news, last week the weather here suddenly got pretty cold. It was a nice change and helped December feel a little bit more like Christmas time. One day we actually had a nice, foggy morning which reminded me a lot of December in Medford. Also Christmas lights are starting to go up in the wealthier neighborhoods. The lights here are different though. Apparently, Guatemalans really like flashing, multicolored lights, many or which flash to simple Christmas songs played to a cheap attached speaker. I'll admit that on multiple occasions I've had to unplug these lights during a lesson so I don't go crazy. I'm definitely looking forward to Christmas. Apparently everyone makes a bunch of tamales and the missionaries are inevitably given quite a few.

Finally, this week we also celebrated el Dia de Quemar el Diablo. Basically, people lit fires and then proceeded to throw a bunch of fireworks in. Fireworks here are incredibly cheap and incredibly plentiful, and, I have no doubt, incredibly dangerous. I felt like we were in a war zone, with all the explosions and machine-gun noises.
Anyway, I'm excited to get to go to my new area. I hope you all are doing well and enjoying your many blessings. Keep up the member missionary work! We really can't do anything without it.

Love, Elder Cannon

Foto de la Zona...!!!

Your average cattle drive through the center of a highly urbanized city... It actually is normal here.

Pictures of the mayonnaise here. The grocery stores are super tiny, but devote a ridiculous amount of space to this, ketchup, oil, white bread, etc. Yes, that bag is 3.5 kilograms. They sell bags of ketchup equally large. Don't wonder why I can't find anything healthy here. 

El Volcan de Agua. It's way bigger than it looks in the picture. very impressive. And no, not all of Guatemala is as nice and clean as the area in the photo.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Week 23

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

December already! Ha! Not sure how that's possible...

Anyway, we had a good week this week. Elder Suarez and I have been having a lot of trouble getting investigators to church. That really is the defining test for whether an investigator will progress or not. Really, if they attend church for even just a couple weeks in a row, it's "fijo" [fixed or immovable] that they'll feel the Spirit and will want to be baptized, but so many people here have trouble following through with their commitments.

This week we were blessed to have 8 investigators attending sacrament meeting. It's not a ton, in fact, it's the minimum number to meet the "standard of excellence" (as a comparison, we more than double the standard of excellence every week in most of the other categories, such as nuevos, lessons, contacts, etc.). Still, we are grateful.

I also was able to finally do what all missionaries in Gmala inevitably do a few times on their mission: bring a drunk to church. Not just someone who drinks a lot, but someone who is actually intoxicated at the moment. (The Word of Wisdom is actually really hard for people here because they drink at lot of beer and coffee. I now know very well the smell of alcohol on someone's breath). Anyway, we had taught him once and he was really positive and wanted to change. We were walking in the street to pick up another investigator when he called out to us. He wanted to go so we brought him along and sat outside the chapel so he wouldn't be a distraction. It was a good chance to serve "the least of these my brethren" and we helped him clean his face off and feel comfortable. Hopefully he will be able to stay sober this week.

Thanksgiving made me feel a little baggy. It was my first "big" holiday in the field. In the morning the other elders in Promision 2 brought us McDonalds pumpkin pie pastries that they had ordered (most fast food restaurants deliver to your house for free via motorcycles with little boxes on the back). Then at lunch our cook made us what supposedly was turkey. I'm not entirely sure though, if it was turkey is must have been a cross cut of a drumstick. It was the first thanksgiving meal I had eaten with tortillas, and I must say, I will definitely do so in the future. Tortillas really add a lot to a meal.

Oh, and a shout out to all those who just submitted their BYU applications (I'm guessing the early application deadline was the 1st). I can't believe that Ethan is already getting ready to go to college. Scary.

Also, a picture of my first zone T shirt. It's lacking in digital design but..

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Week 22

[The following is an excerpt from one of Josh's handwritten letters dated October 2013.]

Remember to always be grateful for what you guys have. The very wealthiest families here might live in a concrete house the size of our garage. Our backyard is basically a resort.  Instead of eating whatever stale white bread we were able to buy with money that wasn't spent on alcohol or cigarettes, we have lavished vegan meals that even include such luxuries as more than one dish. We even get vegetables that aren't potatoes or old corn. Did I also mention that we even had three cars?!? That's as many cars as usually show up to Sacrament meeting on Sunday in the entire ward.

Also, always be grateful for the opportunity that you guys have to work and study. Most people here have either a manual labor job is just miserable, or they just sit around all day, watching soccer and pirated movies. I know that might sound somewhat attractive, but if that was all you could do with your life, for all your life, it would probably be a little boring and unfulfilling.

On a side note (probably most interesting to Dad) the economy here is super inefficient. There are a ridiculous number of little tiendas or stores here. It's nice for us, as missionaries, because we only have to walk a half dozen houses or so any time we’re hungry before we come to his store where we can buy a snack. The stores are super tiny and only have chips, candy, and soda. Normally you can't enter, is just like a wall of products hanging from the ceiling. The ones you can enter have just three walls and a roof – no door or anything. Normally the stores are the front of the owner's house. As I was saying, incredibly inefficient.

All the stores have exactly the same products, for the exact same price. There are far more stores than necessary, as I said, literally at most a thirty second walk away at any given time. The store also has at least one person who sits there all day watching TV unless someone wants to buy something. It'd be so much better to have just a few larger stores, then all those other people could be producing something and actually improving Guatemala. Anyway, the grateful that not your outlook: watching TV in a cramped room until, maybe, when you're 40 years old you have enough money to go to high school.

Also, be grateful for all the religious preparation you have received. The Church is growing quickly here, which leads to the problem of having a ward full of recent converts who don't really know what's going on. There's not quite the depth and strength that the sixth ward has. Very few of the members are endowed. Sacrament meeting always starts 15 min. late. One Sunday four cell phones went off during the sacrament. Last Sunday, the Bishop, as he ordained two recent converts as priests and conferred upon them the Aaronic priesthood, also conferred upon them the "keys of that office". Unless I'm mistaken, only the president of the deacons, teachers, priests (the Bishop), and elders quorum have keys in the ward. Anyway, they do great with what they have. They have great faith and make great sacrifices; it's just that they don't have the same LDS tradition that we have in the US.

Be grateful for the spiritual preparation you received at home. All those early morning scripture studies, FHE, etc. make a difference. You guys will be far more prepared than most other missionaries because of how much Mom and Dad have done to prepare you. So thanks Mom and Dad. One thing you should do on every Sunday or for FHE is to watch the District on BYU TV (they have all the episodes on their website.) It's hardly a perfect representation of missionary work, especially missionary work here. We often watch the district (seasons one and two, including a bunch of material not in the TV version) as part of companionship study and laugh about how different it is or how funny it would be if they film season three here.

I hope you are all doing well and are sharing the gospel.


Elder Josh Cannon

[Now Josh's weekly update]

Tuesday, November 26

Ok, I don't have a lot of time to write today, but that's because I spent a good chunk of time sending pictures. I hope that's ok. Anyway, a few updates about what's going on here in San Jose, Villa Nueva. Last Tuesday we had some of the best lessons of my mission. In the morning we went to a second visit we had scheduled only to find out that the person had moved. We taught the first lesson to the family that had just moved in. At first they just seemed like a pretty normal pilas family, but at the end of the lesson they started saying "we haven't really felt comfortable in our church and had been praying for God to show them the way. Then you showed up, so..." Basically, it was the first time I had been told by an investigator that our arrival was a direct specific answer to their prayer. Pretty cool. Glad we followed that inspiration.

Then in the night we had a second visit with a pretty large family. The most pilas was a woman named Silvia. When we asked if they prayed she immediately said that she did and that she felt a "burning kind of peace" and said that she thought that was her answer. Normally we have to visit a couple of times before they get an answer so clear and powerful. Often they pray incorrectly (praying to SeƱor Jesus is deeply ingrained) or don't pray at all. It was cool to see the power of the Holy Ghost. We then committed her to be baptized on the 8th. However, a few minutes after that we learned that they were only staying here temporarily and will be moving back this week. Not fair. Also, when we asked the first family if they were legally married, they said they were... to different people. The divorce process takes months, so they won't be getting baptized for a while... sad...

A few pictures. The first few are from a baptism the other elders had last Sunday. We might have had to use the sacrament cloth as a dress, but they had to baptize in water that was a nice murky green. Seriously, you can't see that well in the pictures, but the water might have been pear cider for all I know. 100% Jordan River. I was a little worried about the water's ability to wash away sin, it seemed to be pretty saturated, but things turned out ok.

A service project we did to build some stairs for a family.

A benefit of getting up at 5:00

A cockroach and I

Our last visit in Villa Canales with the Garcia family. I love them so much and had no idea it'd be so hard to leave them, my other converts, and the area in general.

My last day in VC in a car ride back from Brisas

Hermana Janeli's baptism. My kind of awkward since my companion didn't move in when the person taking the picture told us to, so it looks like I'm snaking.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Week 21

Ha, as of yesterday, this is officially Semana [week] 4 of this transfer. Now that I'm finally a significant way through my first transfer not as a nuevo [new missionary], I think I finally can consider myself a "real missionary," but that's just still so weird to wrap my mind around... 
Anyway, we had another good week. The highlight was Tuesday. We started out the day by hiking this crazy hill, with a bunch of lamina [?] houses perched precariously on the side. We had some really effective lessons there and found one man who had already attended church once. He attended again this Sunday and after lunch we're going to visit him and challenge him to be baptized on the 24th.

After that we went to Valles de Maria, and area I had never before entered. It was almost a United States quality residential (gated and guarded) neighborhood. It was clean and safe with new cars. It was SO different. At one point we were visiting a recent convert and his family in their (relatively) super nice home and I realized that I was finally doing the missionary work I had always imagined missionary work to be (i.e. what the missionaries in Medford do when they visit us). They even sent us off with food and gave us a ride to our next teaching appointment.

After that, for whatever reason, we were on fire. We seriously could do nothing wrong. Every contact we had was super pilas and practically asked to be baptized; we had the support of members, etc. My question was just why everyday couldn't be like that? I'm pretty sure we were better teachers that night, just because we were so excited and felt the spirit so strongly. Maybe it's just that we wouldn't learn as much or become the people we need to be if missionary work was so easy. Or maybe it's just that opposition is an inherent part of this work. As Elder Holland said, "Salvation is never easy."

Moving on, Mom, you mentioned something about using a picture of a colorful Guatemalan bus. Yes, they are pretty crazy. Actually, when I came to Villa Nueva I learned that the colors actually mean something. All buses are painted with stripes and swirls using some combination of two colors. The colors signify where the bus is based. For example, in Villa Canales all the buses were cream and red colored. Here in San Jose, the buses are white and some type of blue green (I'm not really sure; I have trouble with that color). There are buses of every color: green and black, black and white, yellow and black, green and white, etc. The buses are also decorated with a bunch of chrome, which is kind of funny because they're just school buses that have been painted a new color. On the front windshield is always some religious saying (e.g. The Word), or the name of some girl. Inside the decorations are a strange mix of catholic and evangelical decoration (for example, crucifixes next to paintings of Jesus holding a bus in his hands and saying "God is Love"). It's always interesting.

Anyway, that's it for now.

Love, Elder Cannon

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Week 20

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

This was a fun week. The highlight was that the drought of baptisms I have been experiencing has finally ended. We were blessed to witness the baptism of one of our investigators, Hermana Janeli, this Sunday. It was probably the best baptismal service that I have been to so far on my mission. Everything was well planned and there was relatively little we were running around doing at the last minute (except for finding the sacrament table cloth so Janeli could use it as a skirt. We thought that the one she had might be a little too thin).

 Anyway, her decision to be baptized was pretty cool. Last Sunday we wanted to know if we have a fecha fija (a set date) for her baptism. I called her that night and asked if she wanted to be baptized and she said she still didn't know. I told her to pray about it and that we would visit her the next day. When we arrived, she said that she had some news for us. We braced ourselves for the worst, but she said that she prayed about it and felt a lot of peace. Then, that night she had a really impactful dream that she was being baptized. She said that she was going to follow that answer and would be baptized on Sunday. I'm definitely grateful for that miracle.

This week was also especially interesting because it was la semana perfecta, the perfect week. The goal was to have every companionship baptize during the week. Also, we that a series of mission wide competitions every day, focusing on some aspect of missionary work. We competed as either districts or zones, depending on the day. I must say, it really got my competitive nature fired up and we went pretty crazy. On Tuesday the competition was for which district could have the greatest number of families contacted (present, teach a principle, testify, and extend an invitation to a husband and wife). Our previous record as a companionship was 35, but we thought we might be able to get 50. However, our zone leader said that if anyone contacted 100 families, he would buy them a prize. I couldn’t let that pass, so sure enough, we talked with a ridiculous amount of people and got our 100th family just before we entered the house.

The other companionship of elders in our district also did well and we won the competition in the entire mission that day. The other day of note was Friday, when the competition was for which zone could invite the most people that day to their baptismal service on Sunday. We printed out hundreds of invitations. Actually, it was pretty funny, because in the afternoon, when we had returned to the store to print and cut out several hundred more invitations, Janeli walked into the store. I'm not sure how she would have felt to know that we were inviting every person we saw to her baptism, but luckily she didn't ask what we were doing. Anyway, I personally invited 320 people. And no, I'm not just rounding to the nearest Jimmerism, as is often the case, I worked very specifically for that number and then had my companion contact for the remaining 10 minutes we had as we walked home. We won that one too. Anyway, it was a fun week and we were able to be even more motivated to work hard.

Ok, sorry, I'm not sure if any of that is interesting to anyone other than me. In all, I'm really enjoying the mission, even though it's harder than anything that I've ever done before. It really is true that on your mission, the lows outnumber the highs, but the highs outweigh the lows. Even though it's so tough to be here in a third world country, having left behind my family, friends, and all the comforts of home, it's worth it when we get to see the gospel change people like Janeli's lives.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Week 19

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Well, I was transferred this week. I am now officially serving in... La Promision, Villa Nueva! You guys might remember that my mission is unofficially divided into three main areas: coast (hot, lots of rain), city (the outskirts of Guatemala City, normally perfect temperature, slightly more developed), and mountains (lots of indigenous communities and dialects, colder).

Villa Nueva, like Villa Canales, is part of the city. However, Villa Canales was just a relatively small town of maybe 20.000 people, Villa Nueva, on the other hand, really is just a chunk of Guate. [I’m not sure what he means by this.]  I kept wondering why I felt so uncomfortable in my new area until I realized that I was feeling pretty claustrophobic. It's just one story concrete houses and narrow streets as far as the eye can see. I really need to be in a valley where I can see some mountains or some point of references. Here in Villa Nueva, it's just city and sky. Still, despite the absence of open space, I do like my area. Our zone includes a Wal-Mart, so when we want to pay the big bucks and buy something high quality on P-day, that's where we go (a rather interesting reversal of like in the United States).

My companion is Elder Suarez, from Honduras. He's a super hard worker. We now only get up after 5:30 on P days, when waking up at 6:30 feels ridiculously indulgent. One day we had 22 nuevos (new investigators), which, at least here, is pretty impressive, as it means that we taught the first lesson to each one of them and they accepted a second visit. The strange thing about our area though is that we have two companionships working here in La Promision and they haven't divided the area. In other words, it's first come first serve when it comes to investigators. The area's pretty big though, so it's rare that we run into them while we're tracting.

One thing I will have to get used to is coming to a new area and finding the house completely trashed. Am I the only one who doesn't like a pile of smelly dishes in the sink or a ton of moldy food in the refrigerator? And yep, yet again, we've got cockroaches. Still, it means that I get to do some serve on my P days and clean a bunch, after that it's not so bad.

Also, although Halloween passed (without celebration - actually, I did roast a marshmallow with a Bic lighter to commemorate), November 1st was a pretty big holiday, El Dia de los Fieros. I had divisions with the zone leaders that day and the streets were filled with thousands of people wearing somewhat disturbing masks. My gringo companion and I, with white shirts and ties, standing a head and a half above the rest of the crowd, definitely stood out as we tried to fight our way from appointment to appointment.

One thing our mission president, Presidente Brough, always emphasizes is that we should pray as if everything depends of God and work as if everything depends of us. I can definitely testify that doing so makes miracles happen. We've definitely seen some that wouldn't have come were we not working so hard. I'll talk more about that next letter. The same principle applies to you guys too!


Elder Cannon

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Week 18

Wow, another week gone by. Actually, on Saturday, October 25th, I hit my "4 months as a missionary mark." The time has really flown by. I'm already 1/6 of the way done with my mission! I know that's not much, but it feels like a lot less.

This week was hard though, probably my toughest week in the mission, with the exception of my first week or two in the field. We've really been struggling to find pilas investigators and help the ones that we already have to progress. Missionary work is so much easier when it feels like you're making a difference.

However, after a week of fighting for every lesson, after having so many of our second visit appointments fall through, after getting to church and yet again only having 4 investigators attend (we are supposed to have at least 8), I was given some "tender mercies" by the Lord. I got to partake of the sacrament which was blessed by Hermano Oscar, one of my converts, who I had just given the Aaronic Priesthood the week before. I also got to sit next to Hermano Luis and Hermana Alejandra Garcia. I love that family so much. Their 3 year old daughter, Priscilla, is the only person who compares to Elissa in cuteness.

I also was notified yesterday that I will be transferred tomorrow. Sad to leave VC, but excited to go somewhere new.

Love, Elder Cannon

Ruins close to town

Harvesting cane sugar

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Week 17

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This week has been pretty up and down. The highlight was definitely our zone conference on Friday. The meeting itself was great. We learned a ton from Presidente Brough and left incredibly inspired to improve. We also got fed a nice, "almost like in the US" lunch and then were given all the letters that had arrived for us over the past 6 or so weeks. I was very pleased to see that I got a nice stack, but more on that later. 

As they were distributing the letters, it began to rain, at first just like normal Guatemalan rain, but then it began to rain like I've never seen before. In a matter of minutes the parking lot was beginning to fill with water. We left pretty quickly and, after wading through a small river, we able to catch a bus going back to Villa Canales. As we were driving, we noticed that the streets were filling up with water. Before too long, there was a foot and a half of water flowing through the street; however, at that point the river that flows next to the street had filled to the point that it burst its banks and completely flooded the street. It was pretty intense. It looked exactly like what I had seen on TV so many times but never thought I'd see in real life. Our bus was safe, but the car ahead of us began to be carried away by the force of the water. The family couldn't open the doors, but luckily they were able to climb out their windows onto the roof of their car, where they waited for help. We eventually were able to make our way to higher ground as well, and from there take another bus to VC. I was dying that I didn't have my camera and wasn't able to take any pictures, but just Google "flood" and you'll have a pretty accurate picture. As interesting as the flood was though, I do feel really bad for all the people whose houses of car were damaged. Luckily, houses here are very flood and fire resistant.

Sunday was a hard day. We had very few investigators attending church. I was incredibly disappointed as all of our investigators who had been progressing didn't attend, and because of this we had at least two baptismal dates fall through. However, as discouraged as I was that morning, it made me think about how my Heavenly Father has felt the same way about me when I haven't done what He wants me too. As missionaries we can see how easily our investigators can improve their lives and receive a ton of blessings, just by doing these simple things. Likewise, I'm sure Heavenly Father can see the relative ease with which we could improve ourselves but often we fail to obtain those blessings. I'm sure if we could truly have an eternal perspective, things would be very different.

Ok, to close I'd like to send a couple of quick responses to some of the letters I received and so thoroughly enjoyed. I really do love hearing from all of you. It’s one of the highlights of every transfer. Anyway, first off, a special shout out to Brother Minor, who has been one of my most faithful letter writers and who's letters are so beautiful that I almost don't want to open them for fear of ruining them.  Missy, if you liked the Odyssey you have to read the Iliad. It's one of my favorite books of all time but you don't read it in that class. Also, just wait until you read Hamlet. It’s incredible also. Grandma, thanks so much for your encouragement and support! You and Grandpa have been great examples of faithful service. Christine, ok, now that I know that your family has read my posts for Family Home Evening I feel super self-conscious. Yikes, these emails have a lot to live up to.

Dad, yes, I have heard that explanation that you only have 186,000 mi/sec to spend traveling spatially or through time. I once saw a graph where the X and Y axis are spatial directions and the Z axis is time. Where are right now is a point, and extending up in the Z direction is a cone. I forget how they explained the angle of the side of the cone, but it showed both the minimum time it would take information to reach you from a certain distance away and how, if you began to move through space, you would begin to slow down you're progress in the time direction. I'm realizing that I'm not explaining it very well, but if you come across it, tell me.

Aunt Nicole, I must say, I'm incredibly jealous that you got to go to that New York apple festival. There's not a lot of that going on down here in Guatemala. I'm sorry Ethan, but I can't look up "How General Authorities Eat Reese Peanut Butter Cups," as much as I'd like to, and Seth, I can't download the BYU sports app either. Also, way to go with learning Spanish. Pilas usted! Aunt Carolyn, I hope the move went well. Thanks for taking the time to write me. I love hearing how you all are doing! Mom, I'm glad to hear that you've all started to read Jesus the Christ; that is definitely an amazing book. Adam, I'm glad you loved HP and the Goblet of Fire. Have you started the others? And Carmen, you win the prize of being the only person who recognized that I definitely needed to hear about something as earth shakingly groundbreaking (wow, that's a weird phrase) as Texas Instruments updating their calculators with color graphics. I can't even imagine what that's like. Wi-Fi capabilities are up next. Also, from all the letters I received it seems like you guys are doing some great missionary work. Keep it up!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Week 16

Tuesday October 15, 2013

Another baptism this week! Yet another case of reactivating a family and baptizing their non-member son, in this case a 9 year old boy named Diego. It was great seeing the family come back to church, especially when Diego's grandma bore her testimony and said how her Patriarchal Blessing says that she will see her family strong in the gospel, and now it's finally coming true.

In all, I am loving my mission more and more each day. yes, it's hard, but I've received so many blessings and have grown so much.

Ok, now I'd like to define a bit of Guatemalan and missionary specific vocabulary. It'd be much easier for me if I was able to use it in my emails, since many of the words don't have a translation that fits quite as well in English.

Saber- unconjugated it means "who knows?"
          Ex. "saber que voy a hacer?" -Who knows what I'm going to do?

Pilas- smart, prepared, good, etc. (it doesn't really translate into English)
          Ex. He is a pilas missionary and taught 18 lessons today.

Snakes- girls who try to flirt with missionaries.
          Ex. A couple of snakes asked where we lived yesterday.

De repente- When Guatemalans say this it means they are saying yes but have no intention of ever doing what they just promised.
          Ex. "Si, de repente voy a asistir a la iglesia." -Yes, de repente I will attend                      church.
Canche- a white person
          Ex. "Canche, what are you doing here in Guatemala?"

Ok, that will have to do for now. My mini spiritual thought of the week: "Put aside the natural man. Become who you were born to be."-Elrond

This is a picture of us making weights out of concrete.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Week 15

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ha, what a great week. This week I have two highlights.

1) The baptism of Steven Garcia.  He’s younger brother of Hermano Luis, who had been inactive since age 11 until we baptized his wife Alejandra. I love their family so much and it was so neat to see Hermano. Luis baptize his younger brother. They both are so completely converted.

2) General Conference. I can't even begin to describe how much I loved General Conference this year. I've always enjoyed it, but this conference, my first in the mission field, was way beyond anything I have experienced before. I eagerly devoured every talk and hung on every word. Each time a session ended I was incredibly distraught, knowing that it meant I had one session less left to watch. I still despair every time I think that I will have to wait for 6 more months to listen to conference again.

It was also neat that I was able to watch it in English, with the other 9 gringos in my zone, knowing that many of my friends and family were listening to the exact same thing at the exact same time. However, this, as well as seeing so many white people and hearing so much English made me feel pretty baggy (missionary slang for sentimental/thinking of home). And man, when the world report came on and they showed clips of the Marriott Center and of BYU, I was definitely freaking out a little. Still, it was an incredible experience to receive guidance from our living prophet.

Speaking of which, did you all get the bit about the importance of members in missionary work? I'm pretty sure it was M. Russell Ballard who talked all about that. You really do have a responsibility in the work (the baptism we had on Sunday is proof of the efficacy of member missionary work). The missionaries are full time teachers. You are full time finders. That also means you too can partake of the joy that comes when you spread the gospel and see it bless people's lives. If any of you didn't watch that talk (or any other for that matter), you should do it ASAP.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Week 14

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Not too much to report this week, just a lot of hard work. I really am surprised at how quickly we are able to adapt to the missionary life. It's so different from anything I've done before. If all goes well, we should have another baptism this Sunday, but more on that next week.

Speaking of which, who's excited for General Conference?!?  I know I am. More excited than I ever have been before. The rumor is that they even have a room in the stake center where they show conference in English for all the gringo missionaries. It would definitely be hard to watch conference but not hear the voices we love so much (President Monson, President Uchtdorf, Elder Holland, Elder Bednar, etc.). Interestingly, a few of them can speak Spanish and apparently do their own translations.

Anyway, yesterday, for our P Day we went to Metro Centro, a really nice mall near the capital. Elder Ward, the other gringo in Villa Canales said it was like "returning to the United States." It's probably a good thing that I'm not assigned to work in that area, because it definitely was a little hard to stay focused when I was eating Little Caesar’s pizza, trying to ignore the American Music in the background and the football games that were playing on the TV.

In the mall there was a store that I know that my family, at least, would have loved. It was a bakery (a relatively clean one even) where all the bread was placed in large baskets around the store with the price of each loaf, scone, muffin, etc. on the basket. Upon entering you receive a wicker basket and a set of tongs and then can pick out all the bread or pastries you want. Pretty ridiculously delicious. Unless I'm mistaken they were also pumping the smells from their ovens into the store as well. Basically, it was a starchy paradise.

After that we went to a MegaPaca, one of the giant second-hand stores that dot Guatemala. Apparently that's the place where the majority of Guatemalans buy their clothing. Because of this, during visits I'm occasionally asked to translate what their shirts say, because almost all the clothing is imported from the US. There were definitely some gems there though, far more than would be found in DI, for example, because the people don't understand what the clothing says or means. I was able to find a nice BYU shirt, which I bought for less than a dollar.

We then went to a nice grocery store, where they played "Normal" by Ximena Sarinana. I freaked out a little because that is my favorite Spanish song of all time and we studied it in Spanish class a few years ago. Good times...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Week 13 (and unsent letter from week 12)

Sorry about the lack of an email last week. I was trying to upload a bunch of pictures before my time ran out and apparently I cut it too close. That just means you get two this week. ¡Que suerte!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

¡Buenas! Another great week that's flown by. Several notable events this week. First and most importantly: another baptism last Sunday! It was of Hermano Oscar, the man we married that week. He's going to be a great leader in the church and we are working now to baptize his family. My companion baptized him and he has asked that I confirm him and give him the gift of the Holy Ghost. I'm definitely a little nervous about doing that, and it means that I have to listen perfectly to the Spirit for what to say, be able to say it in Spanish (speaking to him in the "tu" form, not the "usted" that I always use, all in front of the entire ward. However, I'm confident that the Lord will help me as I carry out His work of blessing His children. Actually, with regards to the baptism, the three companionships in our ward all baptized this Sunday, and all baptized middle age men who had been investigating the church for a year or more "eternal investigators." Each one had a challenge that was miraculously resolved so they all could be baptized that day. It was great to see them all finally take that step.

Next update: on Monday we got a call from our Zone leaders (who had themselves just received a call from President Brough, our mission president), that I will stay in Villa Canales this transfer but my companion will leave. I was glad I got to stay, but disappointed that my companion had to leave. We've really been working well together. This means that I have to know all of our area to show it to my new companion when the transfers occur, tomorrow. Also, it's made me realize how sad it is to leave an area, saying goodbye to all your investigators and converts, knowing you'll never see them again (most likely). That really is the missionary life.

This week was also included my first dia de independencia in Guatemala. All of Central America and Mexico celebrate their independence on September 15. The night before tons of youth travel to Antigua (the old capital) and light a torch there. They then run all the way back to their towns bearing the "light of liberty." It is actually a really cool tradition. The people here are so proud of their country and went crazy that night. They played loud music from huge speakers in the street, lit off fire crackers, and danced on the top of buses as they were in motion (which I think is considered slightly risky even in Guatemala, where traffic safety is unheard of). There were also several couples dancing in the streets (some marimba dance that looked a bit like Cha Cha). Seeing that definitely made me miss BYU and my social dance classes. It also made me realize that after two years of walking hunched over to increase my speed my slightly, the nice posture that I worked too hard to develop will be gone. Ha-ha." Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven" is what I have to remember.

Last P day our Zone hiked a mountain in our area, El Cerro. It was actually pretty fun; although it reminded me a lot of Oregon (there were even evergreen trees! I hadn't seen those in months). Honestly, when we returned to the camping area where the trail began, with the smell of campfire smoke in the air, pine trees all around, and nice clean dirt paths, and I kept expecting to see our family's giant tent sitting somewhere in the forest. I've included some pictures because we could see all of our area from the top.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This week was the Reunion de los Cambios (transfer meeting). It was actually really fun to be able to go, see all my friends from my group in the CCM, and buy a bunch of ties for 5 Quetzales (62.5 cents) each. I also got to see all the new missionaries who just left the CCM. It feels like forever ago that I was in their shoes and yet I also can't believe how quickly the time has flown by. Our group of nuevos [new missionaries] was primarily elders, but this group had 17 sister missionaries (all but one are from the US) and 7 elders. 

Actually, one things my family might be interested to know is that a few days ago I was reading in Our Heritage, one of the books approved for missionaries and I learned that George Q. Cannon was the General Authority (I believe he was 1st councilor at the time, although I don't remember to which prophet) to announce that sisters were able to serve missions. I'm sure he's glad with the impressive influx of sisters in the field in the past year or so.

Anyway, in the meeting Elder Lopez was called to be a Zone Leader in Villa Nueva and I received my new companion, Elder Diaz, from Honduras. He's actually almost done with his mission and just finished serving as a secretary in the mission office. I knew we'd get along when he walked into our house the first night and was rather disgusted by how dirty it was. After 6 weeks of waiting, we finally had the all P Day long cleaning party I've been waiting for. I still don't like to let my food touch anything in the house and obviously we still wear our sandals everywhere, but it's a huge improvement. 

Ok, it's a little difficult to concentrate right now because a few computers away from me someone (not a missionary obviously,) is watching The Avengers in Spanish with the speakers at full volume. That's actually one of the things I've really missed, watching movies. In the market and in stands along the street they sell tons of pirated movies. I saw the LOTR Trilogy in one disc for just a few Quetzales. They don't even have to be good movies, I still miss them. But, as with all the other sacrifices I'm making (of which not seeing movies for two years is relatively insignificant), it's definitely worth it. This is the only chance I will have to so completely dedicate all my might, mind, and strength to the Lord.