Monday, April 27, 2015

Three Baptismal Services and a Wedding

Another beautiful day here in Ciudad Sandino!
OK, so for this week, the good news is that Elder Salmeron and I had five baptisms, plus Elder Hinojosa and Elder Roundy had five baptisms!!! The bad news is that the couple we tried to get married last week asked us not to come by any more and one of our investigators who was going to get baptized last Saturday drank some coffee, so we had to postpone his baptism (he is one of our investigators that came to General Conference with us). BUT, we helped the Hernandez family, Rosa, and a boy named D all get baptized last Saturday.

Our Saturday morning baptismal service!
The Hernandez family! I love these guys, and they are practically our neighbors.
We actually had three baptismal services this week. We helped Elders Hinojosa and Roundy with the first service on Thursday night when they baptized 3 people. Then, we had a second baptismal service on Saturday morning at 10:00 in the morning with 2 more of his investigators, the Hernandez family, and D. Then, at 5:00 in the afternoon on Saturday, we had a wedding for Rosa, followed by her baptism. So Saturday was s super crazy day! Then, on Sunday, we had 10 confirmations during Sacrament Meeting!!! As a result, the meeting went about 45 minutes after the hour with all of those confirmations, ha ha! Oh, and I forgot to mention that Elder Salmeron and I brought 13 more investigators to church yesterday, and Elders Hinojosa and Roundy brought 12 more investigators, so in addition to all the baptisms and confirmations, we had another 25 investigators at church this week! The Barrio Trinidad (our ward) is so cool and growing incredibly fast -- it is awesome!

Me, D., and Elder Salmeron.
So we started teaching the Hernandez family and D in February. The Hernandez family actually live in our little neighborhood (where it is super hard to work and find people who want to listen). In fact, they are only about a 1-minute walk from our apartment, ha ha! They are such a super cool family, and they LOVE the Church and even love staying for all 3 hours on Sunday!!

We actually lost contact with D for a little while -- he was in that big group of investigators we took photos of in March (he actually took a lot of the photos). He was in the big group of people we baptized last month -- he is a good friend of the kids in those families -- but he stopped coming to the lessons. When Elder Salmeron arrived, we decided we should go track him down and we found him! He decided he wanted to get baptized, and now he even wants to serve a mission in 4 years when he turns 18!!

Rosa's wedding.
With Rosa, her new husband is going to prepare for baptism maybe next month, but he has some problems to overcome with smoking, so we will see.

Rosa's family just before her baptism.
One bad thing that happened this week is my companion, Elder Salmeron, lost all of his money! Which was bad because we had to pay for bunch of taxis to go to other ares for baptismal interviews, and we had to pay for the wedding and cake on Saturday. I wasn't very happy with him for losing his money, but he is really poor and isn't able to get much money from his home, so I took some money out to help him this week. Otherwise, I was pretty happy with our little district of 8 missionaries as we were blessed to finish the month of April with 19 baptisms!! Elder Salmeron and I are hoping to have 4 more baptisms this next Saturday, and other missionaries in our district have 5 scheduled, so we will be busy doing more baptismal interviews (we are hoping to hold the baptismal services before the next cambios in the middle of May). So it should be another crazy week!

Elder Hinojosa and I were a little tired by the end of this week!
Well, I hope everyone is well back home! I am not having any stomach issues right now from the food, but I am constantly worried about the work, or investigators, or being a District Leader. We have been so incredibly busy, but it has been an awesome experience and one of the highlights of my mission so far! I guess you could say that even though I do miss home, I am losing myself in the work like crazy right now, and it feels good to be so busy!! The work is still blazing strong here in Ciudad Sandino in the Barrio Trinidad!!! Thanks again for the emails, letters, and packages from home!!

The missionaries of the Barrio Trinidad: Elders Hinojosa, Salmeron, Roundy, and myself.
Also, a pic of all 8 of the missionaries in our awesome district! We've had a super busy month!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ward Conference, Care Packages, and a Great Work in Sandino!

So first off, the baptisms we had planned for this past Saturday didn't happen. The couple was planning to get married to each other and then baptized, but they had a HUGE problem come up last Thursday. Turns out they are not so sure that they want to get married to each other after all, which would be sad for the whole family, and they asked for a little more time to work everything out. We even had the AP's (Assistants to the President) come and meet with them to try and help them talk through their problems, but it wasn't enough. The bottom line is that they aren't sure about marriage now, and they want some more time. Unfortunately, they didn't come to church yesterday, either... BUT we brought 11 investigators to church again!!!
I plan on getting one of these when I get back home.
I call this one: "Slow but Sure."

Between me and Elder Salmeron's 11 investigators, and then Elder Hinojosa and Elder Roundy also brought 11 investigators, so we had a total of 22 investigators to the Barrio Trinidad this week for church!! We had our Ward Conference yesterday, and all week the Bishop had been telling us he wanted to have a large turnout. Well, our chapel only holds about 170 people comfortably. We don't have rows or benches, but it is all folding chairs set up in rows in the Sacrament Hall. As it turned out, we broke the record for Sacrament attendance for the Barrio Trinidad with 248 souls in the congregation!! Our Bishop was so happy -- we literally had NO SPACE left in the chapel, so we missionaries and some of the ward leaders had to stand in the hallway with the door open to listen because there were no more chairs left, and even if there were chairs, there was nowhere left to put any more. He was talking about how the Barrio has had 23 new converts the last 4 months, and each week we have been bringing a ton of investigators, so it is insane to see all this growth! He was so happy that he invited us missionaries to a dinner at the end of the month.

Well, a lot of our investigators are making great progress with their commitments, and as a result, we have 6 more baptisms scheduled for this next Saturday (and possibly 8 if we can help the couple resolve their problems and change their mind about getting married -- we still haven't given up hope on them and plan to keep working with them). Plus, Elder Hinojosa and Elder Roundy have 3 baptisms scheduled, and possibly a fourth one for next Saturday!! Right now, they all look pretty positive!! Overall, our district of 8 missionaries brought 34 investigators to church yesterday, so we have been so blessed to have this whole area in Sandino catch fire with the Spirit!

Our anti-coffee "Care Packages" we give to our investigators.
I included a picture of some of our "Care Packages" (LOL -- Call of DUTY reference) that we give to our investigators to help them break the habit of coffee every morning. Coffee is a HUGE problem here in Nicaragua with almost everyone growing up drinking it for breakfast, which makes it tough for them to break a lifelong habit and give it up for the Gospel. Additionally, coffee is the cheapest thing you can buy here for breakfast, and they don't have a lot of money to begin with, so we missionaries will drop in "care packages" the week before their baptism to help them. The packages include various drinks and breakfast stuff, ha ha. We have had to buy so much lately with all of our investigators, I wanted to take a pic and share it!!

So my folks were a little worried and asked me if I have experienced any problems with getting mugged or robbed. I guess in this area of Sandino, there have been many muggings and crime with past missionaries, but it sounds like a lot of them happened more to the Latino missionaries for some weird reason. Actually, there have been very few times where I was worried. A lot of the same drunks or gangster hobos have seen me and my companions walk by a million times, and we frequently talk with some of them and have made a few friends. In fact, we have a small "gang" that watch out for us and say they will "kill" anyone that tries to rob us, ha ha. I'm serious, though -- they say that they are our "eyes and power" on the street -- LOL. However, I am a lot bigger than most of the people here, and none of them can afford guns -- only machetes and rocks, so I think my size helps deter some of them. We still do have half of our area that we "shouldn't enter" after 6:00 PM. It is called Nueva Vida and is super poor and a little dangerous, but we usually end up working there all day and don't leave until it's time to go home, ha ha. It was restricted for quite a while, but now it is just a warning. Heck, I have been here almost 4 months and nothing has really happened since I have been here, so don't worry about that!

My parents also asked about the heat and the people loving soup. Yes, even though it is super hot right now, they do eat a lot of soup here, but not very of the soups taste that great. I can sleep OK at night so long as I have a fan blasting directly on me, but without a fan, forget about it! We even played some basketball this morning for P-day, but it is so blazing hot, and you get tired faster, and literally, completely drenched in sweat, ha ha. 

Overall, I'm all healthy, and my companion is really starting to be fluid with me. I had to reteach him a lot of stuff, but he's getting it better now, and we have so many investigators that are progressing!!!! I'm definitely feeling the responsibility as District Leader, but I'm in one of the happier times I've had in the mission so far. Things are going really well right now, were baptizing, and this ward is amazing! I won't lie -- the whole ward loves the tall chelle (spanish for white guy ha ha). But hey, the mission is nothing like how I thought it would be. It is definitely a TON of work...holy cow, it's a lot of work, but it's all worth it. I've had a few rough times in this (almost 8) 7 months here, but I'm so happy I'm here doing this great work. Anyways, I'm out of time for today and I got to get back to work now! Love you all back home and thanks again for all of the emails and letters!

We still helped Elder Hinojosa and Elder Roundy with some baptisms this past Saturday.

Monday, April 13, 2015

El Fuego de Sandino, an Egg War, and a Trench!

Check out these cool parakeets!
Cleaning the font early Saturday morning to
get ready for our baptisms!
Hey!!! First... DUKE basketball -- champions!!! :) How cool is that? However, I'm super depressed that I missed watching the championship game (my Dad sent me a news article talking about it). Dang I miss basketball.

Elder Hinojosa, Me, Y.L., Elder Salmeron, and Elder Roundy
OK, so for my week!! Well, I am proud of my district, because we're currently number 1 in the mission! This past Saturday, we had 4 baptisms in the district, including one for me and Elder Salmeron. Also, between the 4 companionships in our district, we brought 36 investigators to church yesterday -- we are so incredibly blessed, and we're trying to work hard. Plus, Elder Salmon and I have two more baptisms and a marriage scheduled for this Saturday. The couple even went to church yesterday, and we made sure we invited the Bishop and his wife to be there, ha ha. Our Zone Leaders are super happy with us, and I guess our Mission President (President Russell) and the A.P.s (Assistants to the President) are even a little surprised because in the past, Ciudad Sandino has usually been one of the lowest in baptisms and a super hard part of the mission, but right now Sandino is on fire!!!

Being a District Leader is pretty fun and keeps us busy. In the Managua Zone, there are 4 Hermanas and 29 Elders, and there are 8 Elders (including me and Elder Salmeron) in my district.

Y.L. has become a good friend. He is a Mesquite Nicaraguan,
and he is almost as tall as me, which is pretty cool.
We have been teaching him since January, and he
finally felt ready to be baptized!!

Yesterday was the birthday of Elder Hinojosa (one of the Elders in our district who serves in the other area of the Barrio Trinidad who came here with me in the same cambios and has become a good friend of mine. He is from California, but has Mexican heritage, and his name is from Spain, and then he kind of looks Asian, ha ha.) Here in Nicaragua, when you have a birthday, you have to smash eggs on their head (it's rather weird, but it's what everyone does here, ha ha). So Elder Hinojosa and some of his converts planned an egg war. We worked super hard all day, and I did 2 baptismal interviews for them, and then we made sure we had all of our numbers reported before we let loose. It was super fun, but we sure didn't smell very good afterwards. They also resorted to smearing shoe polish on us, with mustard and mayonnaise mixed in, and then they threw glitter on us! It sure felt good to take a shower that night! Ugh! It also happened to be the birthday of the daughter of a super awesome family that fixes us dinner 4 times during the week, so we celebrated with them also and it was pretty cool!

This is Elder Hinojosa and the family's daughter that we
celebrated their birthdays together. Not sure why she
didn't get some eggs too?
For P-Day today, we had to take the bus into Managua so Elder Salmeron could get his ID, so it was a rather long and tiring day, ha ha. We did take some pics of Lake Managua in between busses on our way home. I'm also happy to report that I have not felt sick at all this week. I have just learned to avoid eating heavy, greasy food late at night when people are trying to feed us, ha ha, and then I am all good.

This is the trench we dug so our investigators could come to
church with us. It was super hard and soooo hot!!
Also, this past week we did a service project and dug a trench (see the pic). It was super hard and incredibly hot! We sweated a ton! The family committed to go to church with us on Sunday if we would help them get the trench dug. We dug it, and they all came to church! It kind of reminded me of working in the yard with my Dad back home when we had to dig trenches like this one for our sprinklers and fence posts and various things, ha ha.

Soaking up some Nicaraguan rays!
Well, hope my little brother had a great birthday last week, and my little sister has a great birthday next week! Also, good luck to my older sister, Erin, on her finals this week, and Drew in the school musical! Have a great week everyone! Thanks for all your prayers, emails, letters, and packages! I love them all.

Lake Managua on our way back to Ciudad Sandino today.

Monday, April 6, 2015

New Companion, New District Leader, and Semana Santa

The four of us missionaries from the Barrio Trinidad shoved into
a three-person moto to go to a birthday party for one of our
recent converts on the last day of the cambio.
Hey!!! SO... I had a crazy week! Firstly, we had cambios last Wednesday, and Elder Rodas was transferred while I am staying here in Ciudad Sandino in the Barrio Trinidad (Trinidad Ward). My new companion is Elder Salmon, and he is from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He turns 19-years-old next month and he just finished his training, so he has about 3 months in the mission.

Getting the cake ready for the birthday party.
AND something else a little crazy... so our District Leader, Elder Hironaka, was called to be our new Zone Leader for the Managua Zone (no surprise because our district was on fire). So they had to call a new District Leader, and it turns out it is me! Overall, the district is the same with 4 areas and 8 missionaries, but there was a change with all of the companionships, so we were all mixed up a little and we're having to make adjustments. I can't believe that I only have 7 months in the mission, and I'm already called to be a District Leader -- super fast!! Well, let's just say I am a LOT busier now! I have already performed 3 baptismal interviews this past weekend! I also found out that Elder Hansen (we flew out together from the Salt Lake Airport) was also made a District Leader down in Bluefields, which is cool. Also, Elder Bradbeer, from my district in the CCM, is in my district, as well as another missionary I knew during my training while I was in Diriomo!!
More of the birthday party

Another duty as a District Leader is that I have to take numbers every night from my district, and if we aren't getting our goals for lessons and contacts, or getting baptismal fechas (dates) every day, I get macheted super hard... makes me frustrated, but it happens!! Today for P-Day, I also had to go to the Mission Offices in Managua and it took up almost the entire P-Day. When we got back, we went straight to a cyber and I barely have time to write my emails.

BUT, we're working super hard, and our district has 4 baptisms planned for this coming week, including one for me and Elder Salmon. Our investigator is named Y.L., and he is a Mesquite Nicaraguan from Porte Cabeza, which is near Bluefields. He's also really big and is almost as tall as me! We have been teaching him for a super long time, and he has had difficulty attending Church every week, but we brought him with us to the Priesthood Session of Conference and he loved it a TON!! Now he is super animated about getting baptized this Saturday! The hard part will probably still be Sunday morning getting him to church for the confirmation, ha ha.
Me and my new companero, Elder Salmon.
Loving the new backpack -- thanks Uncle Jared!

Well, with the baptism interviews and General Conference, I was super busy. Conference was pretty awesome, but it also kind of stunk. Our Mission has a rule where you are required to bring 4 investigators to each session of Conference (different 4 for each session), and if you don't have the 4 investigators, you don't get to stay and watch Conference (with the exception of Priesthood Session and one session on Sunday of your choice). So, we tried incredibly hard to bring as many people as we could, and in fact, we brought 9 investigators total for the weekend, but I didn't get to stay for either of the Saturday sessions because of the stupid rule. I was only able to watch the Priesthood session and then both sessions on Sunday, which were all really good. I can understand the Spanish 100%, so it was cool to listen to it in another language. I must admit the Priesthood session of Conference did make me pretty trunky because it made me think of going to the Priesthood session back home with my family. So I won't lie, I was super sad afterward and missed being able to go out to dinner with my family (I knew they would go to Panda Express!).

So here in Nicaragua, they don't really have Easter like we have it back home in the U.S. In fact, I didn't even realize it was Easter until they mentioned it during the Sunday morning session of Conference, ha ha. Here, they have the Semana Santa (Holy Week), so stuff has been going on all week (mostly seems just like they have weird food every day), but seriously it seemed like it really had nothing to do with Easter. Some people say it is a bigger celebration than Christmas, and there are supposed to be processions that recreate events from the Bible, but I really didn't see any of these. It is also the week of Spring Break here, so everyone gets the week off from work and school and most people go to the beach!!

My folks asked me about getting some mangoes from that family we baptized back on Valentine's Day. They have been super awesome and almost always go to church (well, mostly the 2 daughters every week because their brothers have special needs and can't always make it). We also talk to them all the time about getting to the temple, and they have set that as a goal. However, they did bawl their eyes out when they found out Elder Rodas got transferred (they were a little attached to him), so I hope they keep going even after I leave too! At any rate, no more mangoes because the season is over to harvest them.

Well, congratulations to my cousin, Michael, on his graduation last week! Sorry, that's about all I have time for this week! I will try to make sure I get a pic of our new district next week. Take care! 
Yummy chocolate-covered bananas!