[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 Señor 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.