Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Week 59


In all, I'm doing quite well. Ok, would you like to know something rather frightening? Yesterday I turned 14th months old as a missionary. That means that I know have very definitively passed my one year mark. Not sure how that happened...

Anyway, not a whole lot to report this week. The miracles have continued. This Sunday we had 10 investigators attending. A major miracle which hasn't happened here in Patzicia for... well, as long as I know. It's like I'm in Escuintla again, but it's a lot cooler, more beautiful, there's corte, etc.

As great as it is to be having success, I've been getting frustrated with myself for not progressing personally as much as I would like. When I was in the CCM and for the first part of my time in the field I progressed an incredible amount spiritually, mentally, emotionally, etc. It feels like lately that progress has slowed quite a bit or perhaps I'm even losing ground in some areas. As I could feel myself progressing at the beginning of my mission I'd imagine how much I would improve by the end of my mission. Now that I'm over halfway done, it seems like I haven't come nearly as far as I expected or would have liked. Yes, I know I should have patience, but man, that's one attribute I've never really had. Today the focus of our district meeting was on patience and it was rather laughable. It seems like that's a rather universal weak point of gringos, or at least in my district. Most of the time was spent by us all ranting about how much we lack patience and how we want to develop it, right now. Patzicia will give your patience a good trial. Maybe I had prayed for patience earlier in my mission and the Lord sent me here so I could develop it.

Also, I tried Oreos for the first time in over a year when I bought some at a tienda the other day (they were somewhat expensive and rather unhealthy, but it came with a sticker for Transformers 4. I'm definitely a sucker for promotional advertising like that.)  Man, I had no idea how much I could miss Oreos. I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff that I've been missing that I've just forgotten about. Swimming, driving, fruit smoothies... The sacrifices we make for the Lord...

Anyway, in all I'm doing quite well. It's been a good week.

Love, Elder Cannon

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Week 58

August 19, 2014

This week was a week of MIRACLES! Our biggest miracle was the baptism of José Antonio, a 17 year old young man from El Salvador. Their family had moved into the neighborhood a month ago. Since pretty much everyone in our area of Zarahemla are members, it was pretty special to have a new family of non-members. We started teaching them but it quickly became apparent that the mom and step dad only wanted to contend.

We stopped teaching them but then we had our first miracle. A few weeks later, the son, José, showed up to church. He had become very close to many of the members and they had even provided him with pants, a white shirt, and a tie so that he could come to church looking like a member. The next Wednesday we started teaching just him in the house of a member. It was great to be able to help him change.

He was someone who really needed the gospel of Jesus Christ. His town in El Salvador was filled with violence and it was clear that he had been involved in some bad things as well. He never went to church and was completely unable to pray (even with us helping him, the words just seemed to get stuck in his mouth). However, it was a great blessing to be able to see his transformation, to see how he felt the Spirit for perhaps the first time in his life, how he began to read the book of Mormon and began to experience the joy of repenting. Hearing José pray now is one of my favorite parts of my entire mission. He does is so sincerely.
Anyway, José wanted to get baptized but when he asked his mom for permission she said no. We went and talked with her and still, she said he couldn't do it until he turned 18. Members tried and still nothing...  However, we kept up our faith. We taught him about faith and helped him increase his as well.

Sure enough, the Friday morning before his baptism the miracle happened. Inexplicably, his mom showed up at the house of the member in whose home we had been teaching José and said that he could have her permission. A few minutes later we were calling the zone leaders to get them to make the trip down from Sololá that day to give him a baptismal interview. The length of his interview (1.5 hours) made it clear just how important repentance was to him and just how much he needed to be baptized and be washed clean of all his sins. Both he and his mom were crying during the baptismal service (which was one of the best that I have ever had on my mission).

Another miracle was how much support we had from the members. President Brough said that the most important thing we could do in this area was gain the confidence of members. It is only through them that we can have any success since the people here can be rather... difficult. However, that is a challenge since the members here are rather closed as well. However, we had amazing attendance at the baptismal service. it really was a great blessing to be able to see all of those families whose confidence and love we'd been able to win sitting there in the baptismal service after church instead of going home to eat lunch. I feel like it was a nice little sign from Heavenly Father that, yes, I have made a difference during my time here.

In the district the hermanas are also having a bunch of miracles. This Sunday every companionship had miracles in their retention and with their investigators. We're all excited because at no time in months have so many good things been happening in our areas.
Yesterday we got the notice that Elder Gonzalez and I will stay together another change. I'm happy because I can't wait to see what miracles are yet in store for us. In all, I'll be spending at least 6 months, a quarter of my mission, here in Patzicia. Oh, and I'm also happy because in September the corn will be ripe and we'll be eating a ridiculous amount of grilled corn with salt and lime juice.

Love, Elder Cannon

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Week 57


We had a good week. The highlight was that we had a baptism! Wohoo! It was the first one in Zaragoza since January. We baptized a 70 year old woman named Ricarda. She was a true miracle. Several weeks ago a member of the branch presidency in Zaragoza mentioned to me that he thought that she might never have been baptized. Later that week we visited her and found out that she had attended church for several years however, her "husband" was actually married with another woman and so, unable to get married, she was unable to be baptized. With time, she stopped attending church. Later her husband died and a few months later she returned to church. That was when we found her. The Lord had prepared her and brought her back in this time to answer our prayers for a progressing investigator. It was great to be able to help her finally make that covenant with the Lord after all these years.

However, the baptism almost didn't happen. Here's a little story of what was going on Sunday night... Ok, so I had prepared everything for her baptismal service. My companion and I were in divisions and he still hadn't arrived in Zaragoza. Members were starting to show up and I was getting pretty worried. It was 5:30 and the baptism was scheduled to start at 5:00. Guatemalan standard time is even worse than Mormon standard time, but still, half an hour late made me start to be afraid. The last 3 baptisms we had planned all had fallen, 2 the day before and one the day of the planned service. Was this going to be number 4?

I went to her house to find her and Ricarda told me that she wouldn't be able to be baptized today. I was super disappointed and asked her why. Satan always works super hard in those last 24 hours before someone's baptism. I've seen him use everything, sickness, family problems, doubts, persecution, etc. There's always opposition. The Adversary is very astute and this time he employed a new tactic.  Ricarda had a very large pig and it turns out that the pig just happened to start giving birth that afternoon. Ricarda said she couldn't leave or the piglets would die. We called some members who knew something about animal husbandry and we all gathered around to help her. It was pretty surreal. There we were, the men all wearing suits and the women wearing nice dresses, standing in the mud, helping a pig give birth, so that an old grandma could go to her baptismal service.

Then, to top it all off, one of the sisters in my district called rather hysterically to tell me that her companion had gotten really sick, was trembling, had a high fever, and couldn't speak and she had no idea what to do to help her. It was not a situation I had ever imagined that I would be in when I filled out my mission papers. However, we were greatly blessed and everything turned out well. The sister later recovered, Ricarda was baptized (still quite dirty from working with the pig), and the pig delivered 7 healthy, cute piglets. I hope she names one of them after me.

A solid week in all.


Elder Cannon

[Note the missionary on the right shinning a flashlight on the subject ]

Monday, August 11, 2014

Week 56


Today we had our zone training of the attitude of the mind. It's something that I really struggle with in this area.  It has been especially difficult to remain positive, have high expectations, maintain the confidence that we'll meet our goals, and be happy despite the setbacks. It often seems easier to become somewhat apathetic so that it isn't so disappointing and discouraging when investigators don't progress or come to church. It is also too easy to get stuck in the mode of thinking "Well, here I am passing through a lot of trials. I'll suffer what the Lord wants me to suffer. Look at all my trials. I'm suffering so much." and just consign myself to suffer and not have much success. In doing so I lose he power of faith and the ability to have that positive outlook that is so essential in the mission and in life as I make myself into a martyr. 

I'm still not entire sure how to counteract that outlook as those feelings which come from the subconscious are pretty difficult to eradicate (hmmm, reminds me of the movie Inception where Cob says that the most resilient parasite is a thought. That’s a solid movie). However, I think prayer as well as focusing on the gratitude I have for the many blessings I have received, will go a long way to help. President Markham has also taught that we should think of our missions not as sacrifices but as offerings to the Lord. I really like that perspective a lot more.

A highlight of this week was a lesson we taught on Friday. In many of the towns here there's an organization (which I'm pretty sure is government run) called "Mis Años Dorados." Basically it's a place where old people go during the day to hang out and eat free food. We happened to talk to a woman who worked there and she invited us to come and give a message. We were hesitant but then we ran into her a second time and she promised us free lunch. Needless to say, we jumped at the chance. It ended up being a very strange lesson. My favorite moment was at the end when I said, "We brought a bunch of pamphlets which you can study to learn more about this message. Who here can read?" Only one lady in the very back raised her hand. Also, at the end of the lesson, the lady in charge led all the people listening in a round of applause. Not something that I've ever experienced before in a lesson...

A few nights ago I also had a very interesting experience. I really like working with less-active members. Sometimes they're really less active and you can tell that the Spirit has "ceased fighting with them" as the scripture says. However, a few days ago I talked with a less-active woman who had become more spiritually hardened than I had ever before experienced in my mission. The experience impacted me and left me thinking for the rest of the night. I had never felt a spirit as hard as her's. The Spirit had so completely withdrawn from her. I felt sad for her but especially sad from her children who couldn't have the same blessing that I had in growing up in the Gospel in a spiritually strong family.

To end, I finally found my calling as a missionary, how I will serve and develop love for the people: baking. I've been making a ton of cookies and carrying them around in my backpack to dish out to members and investigators. It's pretty great.

In all, despite all the trials, I am grateful to be here in Patzicia. I'm grateful to be able to serve my district, difficult as it is, and I'm grateful for this chance I have to show the Lord that I love Him. It really is wonderful to be a missionary.

Love, Elder Cannon