Thursday, August 29, 2013

Week 9

Tuesday, 8/27/13

AHHH!!! Baptisms!!!

Definitely the highlight of the week.  (Although I have to admit that I enjoyed when, at the end of one of our lessons, we asked a man we had just found and taught the first lesson to give the closing prayer. He blessed us with what literally was a 15 minute long prayer. My companion heroically didn´t even crack a grin during the entire thing. I had a much more difficult time and was thinking of what I would do if he just never stopped. You can´t imagine how long a 15 minute prayer is until you experienced one).

Anyway, this Sunday the ward we were assigned to had a total of 13 baptisms. 9 were from a different companionship and 4 were our investigators (well, technically 3 since one of them was only 8 years old and so doesn’t count as an investigator baptism).

Two of our three investigators (and the 8 year old) were children of Brother and Sister Orillana, who we recently reactivated.  As they came back to the Church their children wanted to be baptized as well. My companion and I were thrilled to learn that, after working with the bishop for a week or so, the father was able to perform the baptisms of his three children. Our third baptism was of Sister Garcia, the wife of a member who had been inactive since he was 11. They´re both super nice and I was so happy to see them gain a testimony of the gospel and for her to decide to get baptized.  (The circumstances that led to her making that decision really were miracles, but I don´t have time to explain them all now). What made it even more special was that I was able to be the one to baptize her! I had never baptized anyone before, but the feeling I had when I helped her make that covenant made all my hard work over the past few weeks worth it.

Ok, so talked about the end result of our work (well, it´s not the end, but it´s an important step), I´ll write a little about what we do to achieve it. One of the principles of the Guatemala central mission is ¨Hay urgencia en la obra¨ (there is urgency in the work). We are always doing everything we can to find and teach as many people as possible. As I´ve already said, we rarely sleep in until 6¨30, in fact, this week we got up as early as 4¨00 in the morning. We also usually don’t get back to our house until just before 9¨30. Then we plan for half an hour and then I have to update the area book with everything we did that day for another 15 minutes.

During the day we go to the house of a member named Hermana Luz to eat lunch for 20 to 30 minutes but we skip dinner because the evening is the most efficient time for proselyting. In other words, the 15 minutes I have before I go to bed are all I have to eat dinner. Ordinarily, I´d never be able to work that hard for that long without eating dinner, but the Lord blesses me with the ability to do it.

We also talk with everyone. One of the most interesting ways in which we do this is when we ride on busses.  When we climb aboard the bus one of us goes directly to the back while the other stays at the front.  When the bus begins driving again the missionary in the front stands up, trying to hang onto the railings on the ceiling (the bus drivers go at ridiculous speeds on super windy roads so keeping your balance is difficult) and at the top of his voice (we often have to shout so we can be heard) teaches and testifies about a principle and then we pass by everyone´s seats and ask them for their directions [to their homes]. If they want to hear more, we visit them when we´re in the neighborhood. Definitely something I would have found a little uncomfortable before my mission but I’m used to it now. It’s actually kind of fun
Anyway, we´re working incredibly hard but as I said, it´s all worth it as we see our investigators progress.

Thanks for all your support!

Elder Cannon

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Week 8

Buenos Dias everyone!

Man, that was a fast week. When you´re working hard the time really does fly by. Ok, once again, time is limited, so I´ll focus this email on describing my mission.

There are three main areas in my mission, mountains (mostly around Lake Atitlan), city (the smaller towns on the south east side of Gmala City), and the Coast.  Each has 3 or 4 zones.  Currently I’m in the city area (Villa Canales is a suburb of El Frutal, which is near Gmala City).  City is a great place to be born (start you mission), because the coast is incredibly hot and the mountains are, well, very mountainous and the elders who have been there for a while are able to absolutely fly up the steepest hills.  

Each area has it´s own very unique culture.  In fact, even just around Lake Atitlan the culture is incredibly diverse.  Around the lake shore are many indigenous towns, each with their own language and customs. One district there, Santiago Atitlan, is unique because the indigenous people living there speak very little Spanish. Because of that, the elders who serve there have to learn their language (I don´t know how to spell it but it sounds like soo-too-heel), and stay there for at least 7 months. After I´ve become fluent in Spanish, I would love to be one of the elders who gets to go serve there).

Hopefully my mom will be able to post some of the pictures I sent.  They hardly do Guatemala justice, but we´re only allowed to take pictures on P day and even then we have to do it very discretely. 

A few other highlights of the week:  Seeing a huge volcano incredibly close to us erupt for an hour or so. It was night so we could very easily see the geyser of lava spurting out.  Also, a torrential rainstorm that flooded the town. To cross the street we had to walk through a river of muddy water up to my knees.

By the way, mail here is pretty slow. It takes 6 weeks for a letter to get from Villa Canales to the US. We can only pick up incoming letters every transfer meeting, when the secretaries distribute al the letters that have arrived to the mission home. In other words, don´t be offended if I don´t respond to your letters for a very, very long time.

Thanks for all your prayers and support!  Serving a mission is hard, but I´m so grateful for the opportunity!  From the little I´ve experienced already, I can understand why these are my ¨best two years¨

Rice, beans, marijuana

Gmala temple

 Josh's Street
 Josh's Street
Josh's house


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Week 7

[Editor's note: Josh missed writing last week.  In the MTC he wrote on Wednesday and in the field they write on Tuesday.  As he transferred on Wednesday, he missed both opportunities.]

Ok, things just got real. One week ago today I left the comfort, luxury, and safety of the CCM for the real mission field. Those first two days were probably the hardest of my life.  My mission president, President Brough, is awesome. His two main points of emphasis are that missionaries in the Gmala City Central mission are exactly obedient and work HARD. I was worried that I would find that my mission wasn´t this way, but he quickly put those fears to rest. Clearly, his policies are working. My mission is the currently the highest baptizing in Central America and in the top five in the world.  In June we had 344 baptisms. 

 Anyway, as I was saying, the first two days were incredibly difficult. One of our mottos is "there is urgency in the work." Because of this, we always speed walk everywhere we go, so that we don’t waste any time. Also, we almost always get back at 920 in the night because we schedule an appointment just before 9 so we can work for longer. We also normally get up at 530 (actually, the second day we got up at 500) so we can begin working earlier in the morning. The first day, after all our orientation meetings in the mission home, all the new missionaries went out to work. We were all paired up with a missionary who has been in the field for some time. I was with one of the Assistants to the President who only had one day left in the field. We practically ran up and down hills all day. Our efforts paid off though; even though we were only out for half a day, we taught 12 lessons and made a bunch of contacts. Still, by the time we went back to the place we were staying for the night I was absolutely wiped. It was nice to see that the other new missionaries were just as red faced and completely soaked in sweat.

The next morning we were off to transfer meeting where I was assigned my first area and companion, Villa Canales (a small town a ways outside of Gmala city) and Elder Lopez respectively.  He´s a great missionary and works equally hard.  Life here in Villa Canales is so different. The poverty is absolutely unbelievable. We go tracting everyday through shanty towns made of corrugated steel.  The streets are full of garbage. There are dogs everywhere here. Not nice dogs like in the US, but disease ridden ones that have to eat whatever scraps they can find. Apparently one of the reasons why were not allowed to eat any street food is because often the dogs in the street are killed and used as a cheap substitute for chicken or beef. Needless to say, I am totally ok with that rule.  One of the most revealing moments for me was when we left the poorer part of our area and went to teach in what is literally a gated community. Everything seemed so clean and nice, then I realized that it was still far poorer that the poorest part of Medford. I never fully realized just how blessed I was (and still am). Ethan, Seth, and Adam, I hope you guys never complain to mom about anything, because we´ve got nothing to complain about. 

One of my ongoing adventures is my war against the cockroaches in the house I’m staying in. There is a huge nest in my bed. The first night when I flipped my mattress over, there were so many cockroaches that there were cockroaches climbing on top of other cockroaches. 

Even though it´s hard here, I´m so grateful that I have the chance to serve a mission in the Gmala central mission. I love spending all day teaching about the gospel. The spirit is so strong. It really is incredible. Hopefully I didn't sound like I was complaining, because I really do love it here. Just know that we are all more blessed than we realize.

Josh with President and Sister Brough

Three generations:  My trainer on my right, and his trainer on my left.

These are some pictures of my district right before we went to the temple for the last time and right before our teacher Hermano Cuque left for BYU.  You can see that another elder is in the process of stealing my name tag. I must say, i got pretty good at snagging both the pocket and suit name tags of other elders. Sadly, in the field that game probably isn´t appropriate anymore. I still instinctively reach for my tag whenever anyone walks behind me so that they don't steal it.  Probably not the best habit.