Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Week 75, 76 and 77

December 16, 2014

This has been the craziest week I've had in my entire mission, and it didn't help that to top it all off I've got a kidney stone. More on that later though...

Anyway, changes: There have been a lot of changes this week.  At change meeting I got sent to Antigua, as a zone leader in a trio of gringos. We were in that trio for a full 24 hours until we had some emergency changes, then some more changes and both of the other elders left. Now I'm with Elder Alarcon (from Peru) and we are here in Antigua but now absolutely nothing of the area, since the two elders that were here before both left. Anyway, I'm loving it. I was so happy to be sent to Antigua. I thought that there was absolutely no chance I'd stay in the mountains yet again, but it happened and I'm very excited about it. Now I know all the zones in the mountains and Antigua is far different than the other two (Sololá and Chimaltenango). We're not actually in Antigua; we're in a couple of small towns by San Lucas, which is the richest area in the mission. I loved teaching the humble people of my other areas, who often lived in houses made of corrugated steel or mud bricks, but it's cool to also get the chance to teach investigators who have university degrees and show up to church in their own cars. Speaking of which, I had a very surreal moment of Sunday when in Sacrament Meeting they announced the first hymn and everyone pulled out their tablets or smart phones. This area does make me a little baggier than Patzicia or Compalapa. One day we didn't even walk! Four different people took us around in their cars all day.

The one downside this week has been that I've kept feeling really sick. We finally went to the doctor yesterday, for our P-day (another baggy moment because we went to the capital and saw places such as Quiznos, Bagel Factory, and DQ). I felt a special connection with you Mom, as I got an ultrasound in the maternity ward of the hospital. Still, things are going well and I should be feeling better in not too long. Speaking of all this, you know you're a missionary when you have no hesitation about calling the mission nurse, a female missionary of your same age, to tell her there's blood in your urine. Life is just a little different here.

As far as our miracle for the week, it would have to be the family that we had attending for the first time this Sunday. We've been teaching the mom, two daughters, and their 6 year old son (the father doesn't live with them) and all of them attended on Sunday. The ward did a superb job at fellowshipping them immediately (just minutes after they walked in, a young woman sat down without any prompting from us next to one of the daughters to teach her how to sing the hymns, and the bishop pulled the mom aside and talked with her for several minutes. He's going to visit her with us this Thursday. The biggest miracle perhaps was that the son, who is one of the craziest, most spoiled little kids I've ever met, actually had a great experience in church. The family commented that as they have been listening to us, they've been much happier and they've stopped quarreling. It always surprises me the Gospel's power to change our lives. I mean, this family hasn't even made that many changes. They just attended church once and are reading the Book of Mormon, but already it's blessing them. I guess I just don't know what it's like to not have that Spirit since I was blessed to be born in a very strong, gospel centered home. Seeing those changes in others motivates me to work even hard to find the people who will make these changes.

Anyway, I'm super happy to be in my new area, I love all the missionaries here in the zone and it will be fun to serve in a new way now.  I hope you all have a great Christmas and think about what Christ really wants you to give Him as a gift.

Love, Elder Cannon

December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas to all! Well, almost. But I'm excited. Christmas here is so different, but a great experience nonetheless. Anyway...

One of my favorite experiences from last week happened on Saturday. We visited a house to have a second visit with a man we had taught a few days earlier. He wasn't there, but we taught the 19 year old that answered the door. During the lesson, I was able to strongly feel the Spirit as I shared the First Vision. As we were ending the lesson he seemed almost agitated and asked us where he could find those words we had recited. He said that they had really impacted him. We then explained to him how he could receive the answer that this message is true through the Holy Ghost, through feelings of peace and happiness. He interrupted and said that that was what he was feeling in that very moment. It was incredible to see how he reacted to feeling the Spirit for what may very well have been the very first time. He was almost shivering because of all the emotion. As we left his house, still wrapped up in thought about the experience we had just had, my companion contacted a family. They committed themselves very firmly to attend church the next day and right then a lady with two young children across the street motioned for me to come over and talk to her. I thought that she was a snake [a woman who likes to flirt with missionaries], but it was a day of miracles and she immediately asked us where our church was.  She said that she was looking for a church so that her children could grow up as they should. My companion and I almost couldn't handle it. These miracles had gotten to the point where people who had been prepared by the Lord were literally coming up to us in the street to ask to go to church. In fact, for three days straight I've felt like Elder Alarcon and I have been on fire. We've given some incredible lesson and found some incredible new investigators. Elder Alarcon is definitely pushing me to work harder than ever. As he comes from Sololá, which is just pure hills, he's been killing me a bit as we fly around all of Santa Lucia. In all, I'm loving my time here and am very excited about the great things that will happen in our area.

Another interesting experience occurred when we were teaching Alicia and her daughter (the family I wrote about last week that is super intelligent). We had planned to leave them the reading assignment of Mormon 7, which talks about how if you believe in the Bible you will believe in the BOM because it's also God's word; however, something happened and I marked Mormon 6, which is the chapter that talks about the final battle between the Nephites and Lamanites and how all the Nephites are killed. That was kind of embarrassing... But somehow Alicia still managed to find some nuggets of spiritual wisdom and highlighted a bunch of important points.

Finally. I can finally say that I'm a real missionary since last week I took a shower for the first time using a couple of those little bags of purified water that they sell in the tiendas to drink. We didn't have any water pressure that day so taking what was basically a sponge bath was our only option. Good times...

Christmas should be good this year. We'll be spending Christmas Eve with the other four missionaries in San Lucas in the house of our stake president.

Well, love you all and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. I'll eat some tamales for you!

Elder Cannon

What I scored from Paiz, the Walmart owned super market where we shop. Yep, I'm making fruit smoothies, just like I used to. I also got edamame and some multi-grain pancakes (normally I just use the regular mix and add a bunch of flax or wheat germ.)

December 30, 2014

Well, Feliz Navidad a todos. This was a very tiring, but very fulfilling week (for various reasons I now have 2 weeks without a P-day and have been getting very little sleep. On Sunday we didn't go to bed until 12:00 AM, and with a very busy, very full week I’ll have to choose what I'm going to write about. Well, first of all, I loved getting to call home. It made me so grateful for my family, which I love so much. It made me realize yet again how blessed I am. My companion, who is a convert of two years, had a very different call. Most of his family aren't members and instead of getting a nice 40 minutes to chat with his loved ones, he had to endure 40 minutes of them attempting to convince him of why what he was doing is a waste of time. It's hard enough to be a missionary as it is, but with opposition like that... wow.

Anyway, moving on to subjects that aren't quite as heavy, it was shocking to see how much my brothers have all grown. Honestly, if I had to guess, I might have mistaken each brother for the brother older than him. The world has become a very different place since I left 18 months ago...

As far as what we did for Christmas Eve (which is the day that's celebrated here in Gmala), in the morning we did a zone service project and painted the house of a recent convert in our area. It was fun because I love all the missionaries in the zone so much. Then we worked as normal until the evening, when we had a couple of lessons a.k.a. dinners with some recent converts and less active members and then finally at 9:00 we went to the house of our stake president to eat yet another dinner and hang out until 12:30. In all we had three dinners and three very different Guatemalan Christmas experiences. In the first dinner we ate tamales and drank hot chocolate (the traditional Christmas Eve meal) with a very poor family who humbly shared all that they had with us. We then went with an incredibly well off family where we ate tamales, hot chocolate, and ponche (a great fruit drink), but this time at an elegantly set table with beautiful decorations, fine china dishes, etc. Finally, we went with the stake president (along with the sister missionaries in San Lucas) and had a very North American Christmas dinner. Needless to say, by that time I was completely stuffed, but had to keep eating as the family gave me food that I haven't eaten in 18 months. Like a full leg of ham, this really good grape, apple, raisin, and marshmallow salad, cherry cheese cake, Martinelli's, etc. The next day was the first time I've ever woken up feeling completely full. I feel like I talk a lot about food in these letters, but it’s kind of a big thing for missionaries, so sorry. Anyway, it was a very interesting experience to feel the same Christmas Spirit in such different situations. It helped me see how Christmas, or more appropriately, Christ, is for everyone, everywhere, in every time. 

Also, on Sunday we got to see the baptism of Alicia Avalos, and her daughters Marcela and Paola. It's been so incredible to witness her conversion and how the Gospel has changed yet another family. Since we're in San Lucas, where every member has an iPad or smart phone, one of the missionaries who was here last change but finished his mission two weeks ago, was also able to see the baptismal service via Skype. The Spirit was very strong and Alicia started crying during one of the special musical numbers (yes, one of the musical numbers, as in, there were multiple. I've never been in a ward that's so pilas.) Normally we have to organize everything but this time we did nothing more than bring the investigator.

And speaking of great ward support, Sunday we ate with the stake president yet again. More homemade bread and great food, including brownies and ice cream and root beer, with Sunday Pandora playing in the background… feeling baggy.

In our own area we are constantly amazed by how generous our Heavenly Father is in constantly pouring out miracles on us. For example, a week ago a woman contacted us in the street, asking where our church was. She is a single mother and wants to help her children learn to keep the commandments and have faith. We started to teach her and invited her to church. She has been very positive and has kept her commitments; the only challenge for her was to attend church. She works every day in a super market in San Lucas beginning at 9:00 AM. This Sunday she came to church for about 45 minutes since our services start at 8:00 AM and then went to work. My companion and I were happy, but also worried because as of next Sunday our services will start at 10:00, thus making it impossible for her to attend. However, yesterday we learned that she was just fired from her job. She is worried about how she will provided for her children, but we can all see the hand of God in helping her to attend every Sunday from now on. I commented to my companion that is almost seems like God really wants her to be baptized or something. We really are quite happy to be working here at this time and are excited to see even more miracles.

Merry Christmas yet again and a Happy New Year,


Elder Cannon

One of my beloved tamales

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