Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Week 43-45

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Wow, so, my missionary life has completely changed in just one week. Transfers were pretty crazy this change. Right now I'm writing to you all from... Patzicía, Sololá!!! (actually, I think it's closer to Chimaltenago, but it's part of the Zone Sololá). For those of you unfamiliar with Gmalan geography, let's just say that it went from the low, hot, humid coast in Escuintla, to way up to the cold mountains in the north. That is the first big change. The climate is completely different. Instead of spending all day sweating, I'm now bundled up in a sweater and my jacket that I thought I would never use. I feel like a big part of it is just that I adapted to the heat in my old area and so now I feel like I'm dying in the cold. Yes, it's cold at night, but logically I feel like I wouldn't have wanted to bundle up in all my ski clothing had this happened 6 months ago. 

The second big change is that I got called as district leader. I was really surprised and pretty overwhelmed. Being a district leader is a lot harder than I ever thought. It's hard to have so much responsibility resting on my shoulders. When President Brough called me in to interview me, he said that I would be going to a district that has been having trouble baptizing and that I needing to get them going again. He said that at no time could I doubt. At that point I was pretty sure I was going to Sololá, because that zone is notorious for being really hard. Sure enough, it makes me feel a little like being in the United States. Pretty much everyone rejects us flat out. More on that later though.

Anyway, I've got a total of 4 companionships in my district, district Zarahemla (more on that later as well). My companion, Elder Lopez from Honduras, and I, as well as one companionship of elders and two companionships of sisters. I don't really have any time at night because I have to call and talk to them as well as the zone leaders, which means I don't really get to eat dinner (we don't eat during the day), but I happy to make that sacrifice to serve the missionaries here. It's tough, but I'm counting on the fact that whom the Lord calls He qualifies. This calling has humbled me and has made me hold myself to an even higher standard.

Now, about my area.  It's so beautiful here. We often have fog and there are always giant clouds. It's mountainous and our area is full of ups and downs. The culture here is what I always pictured Guatemala to be like. There are tons of farms and gardens of corn, squash, broccoli, beets, carrots, etc. I love how the fields seem to be draped over the hills in an attractive patchwork pattern.  All the women here wear corte, the indigenous dresses that are made of beautiful, multicolored, heavy cloth. It's so cool. I really feel like I'm in another world. The education level here is much lower than in my other areas. Many people can't understand us because they don't speak Spanish very well. Most people speak Ke'kchi, which has lots of x's ch's, sh's, and throaty h's. Almost everyone here is Catholic, as were their parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents, etc.

One really neat thing that happened this week was the Semana Santa, the week before Easter. We were walking around Sunday morning, looking for investigators to bring to church, when we saw that everyone was out making alfombras. What they do is create an intricate “carpet" of flowers for the catholic procession to walk over as they go to the cathedral. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. They used so many fresh, bright flowers and flower petals, as well as pine needles and brightly dyed, fine saw dust. There were so many colors and I was so sad that everything would be destroyed in just a few hours when the procession walked by. It's something that I will never forget though. As we walked by, admiring the beauty, a dog that always follows us named oso, started running over the alfombras. He's not or dog, but he always waits outside our house and follows us where ever we go. Everyone thought he was our dog and it was pretty embarrassing. I threw a lot of water on him to get him to go away, but I felt bad because he must be entrusted with some divine mission to protect the missionaries. Still, he causes problems and has to go.

Anyway, I'm out of time. I'll have to save a lot of what I wanted to write for next time. I like my area, like my companion, and like my district. It'll be hard here; I'm not nearly as comfortable as in Escuintla (never thought I'd say that), but I'm ready to do it.

Love, Elder Cannon

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Well, here we are again. This week has flown by, although I've been pretty sick and the people here haven't been too receptive. I guess I'll explain a little bit more about my area. It really is so different from where I've been before. Actually, first, we had a baptism! ¡Eso! Anyway, last week we baptized Carolina, a young woman who had been attending church for some time but wanted to wait to get baptized until her sister got back from her mission (her parents aren't members but she has a few siblings that are). However, that's always risky, so into the water she went. I really didn't do much, just showed up in the area and everything was ready, but it makes up for the three investigators that I left to be baptized the Sunday after I left in my old area. 

As I suspected, the cold here isn't actually as cold as it first felt. It does get pretty chilly at night, but I enjoy getting to walk around in my cool detective coat. It feels especially cool when the fog is really thick.
Anyway, in my area we have two wards (a big change from having two or three companionships in one ward, as has been the case in all my other areas). One of the reasons for that is because there is a colonia (neighborhood) called Zarahemla. As you might guess from the name, the colonia is made up almost entirely of Latter Day Saints. It's Utah level. It's a big change and since the people here are so closed and tracting is so difficult, we're really trying to work more through the members and hopefully that will give us some success.

I'm starting to feel much more comfortable in my new calling. It's a lot of responsibility, and the challenges seem pretty big, but I have faith that I’ll receive the help I need. The one bummer is that now not only do we not eat dinner during the day, but I also no longer have time at night, after planning and making the calls. Sacrifice equals blessings, so it's OK.

Being in this area has really taught me the importance of teaching with the Spirit. Right off the bat, most of the people we contact, either want to contend or hide. It's hard not to get frustrated in a lesson when someone just refuses to understand because they don't want to. I learned a powerful lesson once when we were teaching three older ladies who were honestly being a little ridiculous. As we were trying to get them to understand that they had to pray about what we taught, I asked the member who was accompanying us to bear his testimony. He is 16 years old and didn't know all the scriptures or teaching strategies that we did, but he very humble bore a simple testimony about the restoration of the Church, Joseph smith being a prophet, and pray. The contrast was rather remarkable. The spirit was so strong as it testified of his words. At the beginning of my mission, contending was a temptation for me. I would have loved to whip out my bible and read a dozen scriptures to prove my point. However, as I have developed more charity, I've lost a lot of that desire. Now I just want to help my investigators to feel the Spirit and feel their Heavenly Father's love. Still, actually carrying that out can be difficult at times. I'll keep working on that. Talk to you next week!

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Wow, time really flies by here. I can't believe that the change is already almost halfway over. We've been working hard this week, despite being rejected time after time. Honestly, it is pretty hard to be here in the mountains, but it's worth it because it's so incredibly beautiful and some general authority said that every time we're rejected our testimony is strengthened. Being in the jungle was cool (punny), but being in the mountains is just incredible.

We did have a miracle this week. One Sunday, after church, we had a lesson with two young adults, Aura and Olga. We'd had two lessons with Aura previously and she'd been really resistant to our message. We'd had one lesson with Olga and she was more positive. Both of them showed up at church this Sunday and in our lesson that day they both said that they had prayed and received and answer from God that what we taught them was true. We challenged them to baptism on the 18th and they said they'd pray again.

It goes to show how important it is to follow the Spirit. Yes, many people here are obviously not ready, but there are some who are prepared. We just have to be guided by the Spirit to find those people. Sometimes that's easier said than done though... I feel like it's relatively easy to recognize and follow promptings like "Knock on this door" or "share this scripture" (one thing that's really cool is when you do that and you end up learning from what you're saying at that moment), but promptings as in answers to specific prayers, like "should this person be baptized" can be much more difficult.

Speaking of which, I had my first baptismal interview this week. Those keys that president Brough received from President Eyring are a little bit heftier than the Teachers Quorum presidency keys that I have previously used.

Random thoughts:

-       I'm pretty sure that this is the safest area I'll have one my mission. Here in the mountains, they have a very Law of Moses style justice system. I'll just say that there are no jails in Patzicia. Need another hint? Think machetes and fire. Yeah. Not much crime happens here...

-       Good luck to all those AP test takers out there. Fun Stuff

-       This week our stake also celebrated the anniversary of the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood with giant fireworks (the shoot into the sky and explode in a bunch of colors) shot off from the church parking lot. It was pretty awesome. - Almost as awesome was when I realized that the torch symbol of the Young Women is actually a girls head. That kind of rocked my world.

A couple of shots of Patzicia, as well as what I think is the funniest picture I've taken on my mission. It probably won't mean much to you, but man, Mannequins modeling corte. Never thought I'd see it.

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