I will procede to answer the questions of my dear mother. Yes, I am writing in my journal almost everyday, but it is hard sometimes, because we always come back exhausted. I´ve been waking up early because there is always a million things to do. And YES! I got my valentines day package (finally) I think it was in the office for awhile and they didn´t have an excuse to come to Amatitlan. So just know that I´ve already eaten all the candy and it was incredibly delicious. Now I just want more. But, it´s better that I don´t have it and that I drink more of my vegetable juice (the best way I have found to get my daily dose of vegetables). Am I going to start getting the old man jokes that Dad always gets? I don´t even care, that stuff is good. Also, we always watch conference live here in our mission so, I am extremely excited for that. Also Brad and Michelle, I was able to send your small little envelope, so be excited.
So I have a lot to cover in a very short period of time, so here I go. This week was very good. We were able to have a conference with Elder Falabella of the 70. He was born here in Guatemala (¡puro chapin! as they say) and is incredible. He taught us about agency and said something very interesting. The only way we can ever hope to become like our Father in Heaven is to get to the point where have the same amount of freedom that he has, and the only way to get this amount of freedom, is by choosing to be obedient to his commandments. Interesting thought. Anyways, at one point he was telling us his advice for baptizing more families, because as we all know this is the best way to grow the church in any given area. He asked everyone who was going to baptize a fmaily this month. My companion and I raised our hands. He called us up (of course). He began to interrogate me in front of a third of the mission what it was that I had planned for the baptism and how I was going to find more families through the baptismal service. This was my first baptismal service as a senior companion mind you. So after being officially intimidated (don´t worry I passed the evaluation okay, I´m not being sent home) he gave me some advice and committed me to do it. Then, he gave me a side hug, making it all worth it. So yes I recieved a side hug from one of the 70.
Anyways in the week we were printing invitations, making a million calls, and running around doing everything we could think of to make sure the baptism went well after being verbally committed by one of the seventy. We thought everything was well prepared but learned a little bit about the Guatemalan culture as we arrived at the chruch building for the baptism. What I learned is that those who come, come about 30 minutes late (including the bishopric) and the majority don´t come at all. This was disappointing, but what was worse is that Marcos (the father of the family) couldn´t come due to work and told about 10 mintues after the baptism had started over the phone. The family got there about 20 minutes later and they still wanted to go through with the baptisms. He will get baptized this Saturday but it was sad that he couldn´t be there.
Anyways after all was said and done the baptismal service was great with an incredible spirit there. The Olivares family is made up of the parents, Marcos and Blanca, and 2 children, Marvin (who is married to Gloria with 3 children of their own) and Karla. Marvin and Gloria and their family were baptized last year, so Marvin already has the priesthood. The spirit was so strong as he gave thanks to his mom with tears in his eyes for all those years that she took him to church, and told of how grateful he was for the opportunity he had to baptize her and finally give something back. The baptism afterwards was something very special for the family and everyone that was present. Elder Cruz then baptized Karla, and I will be baptizing Marcos this Saturday. They both bore testimony afterwards and although Blanca doesn´t understand everything perfectly, she has a powerful testimony of the truthfulness of this gospel and it could be felt as she told about her conviction and belief in these truths. I hope all goes well this Saturday and that the family can be completed and in a year sealed together. They all come from pretty rough backgrounds and it always impresses me to see the change that happens in peoples lives.
So to finish I want to tell you about something that happened last night that will make Mom proud. I have never been so tired in a lesson. I was sitting there teaching and it hit me hard. I was fighting the whole lesson to stay awake and was doing very well. I asked if we could end with a prayer and he asked me to offer it. I thought, ¨good I can just pray and we can leave which will wake me up.¨ Nope. In the very middle of the prayer I fell asleep. I only fell asleep for about 5 seconds but it was long enough to make me forget absolutely everyhting that was going on. I realized shortly after that we were praying but didn´t know who was praying. I opened my eyes and saw everyone folding their arms. No one was talking so I assumed I was praying. I thought ¨What in the world was I just saying?¨ Nothing came to my mind. So what I did, which is very embarrassing, was I muttered ¨sorry¨ and started over. It´s funny now but very uncomfortable in the moment.
Anyways I´m still loving life here in this area and will let you know how everyhting went next week. I love you guys!
Hello! Mom´s questions: Yes Mom, we only speak english at nights. Maybe I should do it in the morning too. My companion actually knows quite a bit of English, but he doesn´t like to ask me about what is right he just talks back to me. Asking questions is crucial when learning a language but I think it really does help him talking. Whenever we are walking I quiz him about his english by asking him what he would do if he was Superman and stuff like that. I laughed when he said in his latino accent ¨I would punch many faces.¨ Correct, and when translated actually sounds fine, but when said in english is very funny. So he´s a good sport about that.
So this week was incredible. I´ve never worked so hard, but it was all worth it because we had a great week. It was nuts. We were running from lesson to lesson and sprinting up 132 steps (my companion counted) at one point. The members are really helping us out and I really feel as if the Lord is blessing us here in this area. They were able to give us a couple of references this week, with one of them being a complete family (let´s hope that goes well). Unity in a companionship makes all the difference. We have been able to maintain the baptismal dates with the Olivares family, and I think everything will go according to plan. Hopefully in the next weeks email I will be able to write you about the baptisms. To answer your other question Mom, they can only meet on the weekends so we had to FLY through 2 of the lessons yesterday and saturday which I don´t like to do, but the family is set on being baptized this saturday. Their other daughter as well is going to be baptized. Let´s hope all goes well.
So I´ll let you know a little bit about the random stuff that is going on here. First off I think I´m getting a nice layer of tortilla fat over my otherwise 8 pack set of abs (who am I kidding I never had an 8 pack). Considering all they eat here is tortillas rice and some form of meat, it is hard to keep off weight due to the sheer amout of carbs we eat. Also the cream they always put on the eggs and beans doesn´t help either. The good news is that it is mango season and I´m taking advantage of it. I LOVE mangos and a large mango is about 36 cents. Guatemala is great. I also have really become a fan of fried platanos (is it plantains in english? that sounds vaguely familiar) as well and cook those every once an awhile.
So did anyone get Ryan Bogg´s adress? I would love to get that.
Anyways everything is going very well. We have been able to work hard and are really seeing the results of our work which is very gratifying. We have a member who holds free english classes and then just gives us references. We went one day this week and I taught a lesson in english just to ¨help them hear it for real¨ when really he is just trying to spark interest in the church. I realized I was saying some things very wrong due to the fact that I have only taught in spanish for the past 8 months. So much for that English minor I was thinking about... I felt very cool because they were all extremely impressed with my english. I´m glad they didn´t realize that some of the things I said were absolutely terrible english. I´ll just let them go on thinking that this good looking gringo (anyone who is white here is beautiful) was speaking perfectly.
I love this work and I´m trying to do my best. I´m not perfect, but I hope that I´m doing a good job here in this ward and we will see what happens in the rest of this change. Elder Cruz is very patient with me even though I´m sure I make mistakes considering this is my first time doing this, so that helps. This church is true never forget that. God has given us the opportunity to have what everyone in the world needs, and the means to become someone we never otherwise could become. I love this gospel and know it is the truth. I love you all and will write again next week!
Hey everybody! To start off I will do the weekly question session. To Michelle: My companion is from Honduras and is awesome. I will talk a little more about what´s going in in this email. Mom: I´m not really craving anything... just american candy bars are always incredible. Also in the next ¨big¨package that you send, whenever it will be (don´t make another package just due these requests please haha) I would love that bleach pen, CD´s (Ipod´s aren´t allowed here), and socks. Good socks like I have. If you could only send gray that would be good. My shoes are good and so are my clothes I´ll let you know if I need anything else. Thanks Mom! You are great.
Also, JADEN CONGRATS ON THE CALL! You´ll be a good missionary man, just ask Dan on how to speak in French. He gave us some good lessons on the Snowbird lift one day. It was hilarious. Also to everyone that hasn´t recieved a letter from me please notify my Mom, I´ve been really bad about writing becfuase it is really hard to find time and I would like to get that organized. Sorry!
Now I have to fly. This week has been amazing. It is still weird being Senior Comp and I´m learning a lot, but my life has just been so much more happy with someone who is willing to work and wants to improve and do better, not just stick with what we are doing and blame everything on good or bad luck. Elder Cruz is very shy, but has a good sense of humor and he is really coming out of his shell with me. I really think we´re going to have a great one or two changes together (let´s hope two). We´re working hard and we have a lot to improve of course, but I´m very happy right now with the way things are going. It´s incredible how much different the work is when there is a compnanionship with the same goals. There´s always differences of course, but he´s willing to work with that, and it really has been a great change.
What´s even better is that we we´re able to set two baptismal dates! It´s with two parents of some recent converts, and with these baptisms the family will be complete. It´s the Olivares Family and they are great. They are an couple and both of them are probably in their 50´s and they come from a evangelist church background (like 80% of Guatemala). When I first met them I was a little worried because they have a hard time understanding the basic doctrine of the church. Because of this we decided to review Joseph Smith and the Restoration and the line of authority. We went through this and whether it is because of their background or lack of education, not much sticks that we teach. It was going like this until we got to the end and asked them if they had prayed about these things. What they told us surprised me (and taught me a lot about not assuming based on knowledge). They wife told me that around the time she started with the missionaries she had prayed and specifically asked for a dream. Not the usual approach but what happend after was incredible. She said that in that night she had a dream, where a person dressed in all white was telling her to come. She said no that she couldn´t, but he continued to tell her to come. She said that she woke up knowing this was her answer, and even though she might not understand everything that we teach she knows this is true, and this is the church that she will stay in till the end of her life. Her husband said he had felt this was true as well. It taught me a lot about not judging and making sure that they are praying to know for themselves, and no matter who it is, intelligent, unintelligent, rich or poor, they can recieve a testimony of this gospel. Anyways I don´t really have time, but they will be baptized the 19th we are hoping. It´s been a great week and I´m really happy here. I love you guys and will hear from you soon!