Monday, May 25, 2015

An Almost-Convert and Other Near-Misses This Week

Hey everyone! So, first the bad news... well, all of the people we had prepared to get baptized last Saturday, ...none of them happened. Actually, one of the investigators did get baptized on Saturday, but he decided he didn't want to come to church on Sunday and didn't want to get confirmed, so his baptism ended up not counting. In fact, he seemed so positive on Saturday morning after the baptism, but later in the day he told us he had to work on Sunday morning, which we knew was not true, but he made a big deal about it and had a pretend phone call with his "boss" to try and get us to believe him. The untruth was confirmed on Sunday morning on our way to church when we saw him walking down the street. He again told us that he didn't want to come to church and get confirmed and said he had changed his mind... AFTER A BAPTISM??? How does that happen?

We also had a family of four lined up for Saturday, with the parents planning to get married, but the father had been married previously. A divorce in Nicaragua is a painfully long process, so as it turned out, the couple decided to not start the divorce process going. The parents had the desire to be baptized, but not to get married, and then the two children won't get baptized without their parents.

Elder Salmeron and me
Last, our other investigator who was the most positive guy for this week, well he went out and got drunk the night before his baptism! It was a really tough week -- one of the most frustrating I have had on the Mish. Basically all of these people told us to stop coming by, or they refuse to go to church and make up excuses not to go. I got pretty sad this weekend, but I know I can turn to the Lord and He has other, new people prepared for us to find here.

Also this past week, we had interviews with President Russell. I got a surprise telephone call last Tuesday to get all the interviews set up and ready for Wednesday. The interviews all went well, and now that I am a District Leader, my interview lasts a little longer. President told us that he was pleased with our work. After, I definitely got the feeling that I am not done here in Barrio Trinidad or Ciudad Sandino and maybe I could be here a little longer than the next cambio. Also, Elder Salmeron and I are beginning to have a few problems that we didn't really have when we were first paired together.

At a baptismal interview for Elders Hinojosa and Roundy
Also this past week, I had to go do a 24-hour division with some other missionaries in my district. This is the second one I have done in the past two weeks (I am supposed to do one every week), and then with all the interviews on Wednesday, our area is kind of suffering lately because of all the time I have had to spend in other areas of my district. I love to get out and know the other areas, but I can definitely see my own area getting weaker with all of the time I have to spend away performing District Leader duties (like today I won't be in my area at all when we start working at the end of P-Day because I have to go conduct more interviews in a different area in the district). Part of the problems my companion is having is that he is not really doing much if I am not here with him. He is not exactly the most focused if I am not there with him, and I feel like this is another reason our baptism possibilities are not as strong right now.

So that's about it for my week. Next week, we are hoping to have one more baptism, and this investigator is different from the ones that fell through last week. This one is the daughter of some less-active members of our ward who kind of support her to get baptized. So prayers are appreciated, as always. Otherwise, just a lot of disappointing endings lately, but I'll keep fighting through and work harder!!! Congrats to my cousin Trevor who finished his mission last week (Berlin, Germany), and also congrats to my other cousin Hollie who will enter the MTC next week for her mission to Baton Rouge Louisiana!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hombres Trabajando and More Pizza!

I just couldn't resist this photo op! ("Men at Work")
First off, this past week we had cambios, but in our whole district we only had one Elder get transferred... Elder Bradbeer (he was in my CCM district as well). But, he was moved because he got called to be a district leader himself!! The big change this past cambio is that our zone, the Managua Zone, was split, and now I am in the new Zona Sandino.  So we have one new Elder in our district who took Elder Bradbeer's place, and this new Elder is from Syracuse, Utah. Otherwise, my district is the same. I guess President Russell wants to see what else we can do here.

We had pizza again this week, but this
time it was a zone activity (almost the
entire zone). This was the aftermath after we
finished with the name badges from each of the
Elders in my district.
I am actually relieved that I didn't get transferred. All of the people I have helped baptize these past few months are starting to progress in the church with callings and priesthood, and then we also have 7 more possible baptisms in our area this next week!!! All 7 of these investigators have passed their baptismal interviews, but a few of them are still working on some difficulties, so they are not for sure, but we're working with them. In fact, we might need a few miracles this week in order for it all to work out!!

Another cool highlight is that about 75% of our new converts are still going strong! Here is a quick report: The first family that got married and baptized on Valentine's Day -- well, the 2 daughters arrive at church every Sunday by 7:00 AM to help do visits with the Young Men and Young Women groups. One of the daughters is going to Seminary, and the other one is attending Institute and she is also planning on going with the ward in June to the temple in Honduras! I also feel so blessed to see their Triple Combinations that I gave them all marked up and highlighted -- they have each almost finished the whole Book of Mormon.

Enjoying our pizzas at the zone activity today.
The lady we baptized near the end of March, well, she had to travel for work to the east side of Nicaragua for 3 weeks, but she told us she was able to find the church over there and attended while she was away. Now she has come back and she just accepted a calling in the Relief Society!

The family that we just baptized on April 25th, well the father received the Priesthood and last week Elder Salmeron and I helped teach him how to prepare the Sacrament. Then, yesterday, it was so cool to watch him bless the Sacrament! (I just cried a little writing all of that...)

We are doing everything we can to help these new converts come to church and stand on their own testimonies so that they will continue to attend after I leave. Still, there are a few of them that have a hard time going each week if we don't go by their house on Sunday morning and help them come to church. But, after having been here for just over 4 months now, I feel incredibly blessed to see the impact that we have made with helping people to change their lives and embrace the restored gospel. It is definitely more than just about numbers.

So it is now the rainy season here in Nicaragua, but it only rained 2 days this past week, and then it only rained a little bit each time. Apparently it doesn't rain as much here in Ciudad Sandino compared to the rest of Nicaragua, but when it did rain, it cooled the temperature down a lot! (I was still sweating like crazy, though). 

My parents asked if I was able to get Priesthood blessings when I was sick a couple of weeks ago, and of course I did. In fact, every time I have gotten sick I have received Priesthood blessings, including that bad rash I had in the CCM and then a couple of times in Masaya as well. I have also helped to give a dozen or so blessings here on the mission, but most of them seemed rather normal.

I got a few ties -- thanks Uncle Joel!
My parents also asked if there was anything they could send me with my new shoes. Unfortunately, I don't think a giant Coldstone shake would make it without melting all over, and a Double-Double from In 'N' Out would probably arrive in pretty bad shape. So I guess maybe just some multivitamins. One of the other American Elders in my district gave me some vitamins to try, and I actually feel a lot better after taking them because I feel like that's something I really lack in the diet we eat here. 

Well, I am almost out of time. A big thank you to everyone who wrote me emails and letters. I got several at cambios last week. But, there is no Post Office here in Sandino, so I am going to have to figure out a way to send some letters back home, or maybe try and get email addresses for everyone so that I can respond back. Thanks again, though! Have a great week.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ghetto Birthday Cake and the Master Chef Apron.

This basketball hoop was so small and sketchy, I had to take a picture of it.
Wishing my mom a Happy Mother's Day! It was great to talk with my family and friends yesterday.

Elder Salmeron turned 19-years-old this past week!
We ate a ghetto cake and he got egged 7 different times!
Happy Birthday Elder Salmeron!!
It was so awesome to see my Mom on Mother's Day! Wow, that was such a quick Skype call yesterday! It was great to talk to all of my family and Michael and his family. I won't lie -- it was sure a lot different from the first Skype call we did last Christmas. Afterwards, I thought of a billion things that I wanted to say but forgot, ha ha. My Dad sent me some pics of the Skype call from their end of things, and it sure looks different on my side of the call! Now we have to wait a longer time to Skype again, which will be on Christmas, but by then I will have 15, almost 16, months in the mission!!!

We made more pancakes this past week (that seems
to be a popular this for us right now), and as usual,
I was the chef -- but this time sporting the Master Chef apron, lol!
Eat your heart out, Mrs. Butterworth.

So one thing I forgot to mention yesterday is that they have a different day here in Nicaragua that they celebrate Mother's Day. I am not sure how they determine it, but in Nicaragua, Mother's Day is still 3 weeks away on May 31st. The Familia Loredo let us use their computers to Skype, and they were having a Skype call with their son who is on his mission in Brazil, and they celebrated Mother's Day yesterday in Brazil, just like in the United States, so I am not sure why Nicaragua has a different day to celebrate mothers? At any rate, it sounded like my Mom had a great Mother's Day back home, and I'm super glad she is my Mom. Plus, she looks a ton skinnier, too! Like she is looking super thin -- even more than before I left on my mission! Wow! Good job, Mom!

They're going to put up a title celebrating that the ward
has had "41 baptisms in 4 months," which has been
pretty cool to experience.

Well, we're staying pretty busy here in Sandino. Elders Hinojosa and Roundy had 2 baptisms this past week and we helped out with the baptismal service. Overall, our district is off to a good start for the month with 10 baptisms, so that is pretty cool! We also had 11 investigators in church yesterday. Me and Hinojosa transferred into this area together just before the first of the year, and we have been together now for 3 cambios. We really like the ward we are serving in, and they like us so much they put our pictures up on a bulletin board at church this past Sunday (I included a picture). We have really been blessed to help this ward grow, with great attendance each Sunday, and a lot of help from the members.

Well, this next week, we have cambios coming up again on Wednesday. I am pretty sure I will be staying here in Sandino and the Barrio Trinidad for one more transfer, but who knows what could happen? I just got called as a district leader last transfer, and they usually keep the district leaders in an area for 2 cambios, but you never know. I guess I'll find out tomorrow, and you guys will find out next Monday!
This is the bishop's son, T., who is a super good
friend of mine, with his "famous" pose, ha ha!
This is our bishop in the Barrio Trinidad.
This is his "famous" pose that he always
strikes when he takes photos...
 an action shot or something, ha ha.
This is our chapel in Sandino, which is a super nice meetinghouse for Nicaragua,
and our ward is getting pretty big now and filling it up every week!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Listening to the Prophet Changes Lives for the Better

My folks talked about Star Wars Day (you know, "May the 4th be with you") and mentioned that they saw the Avengers 2 movie over the weekend, but for some strange reason, I am not that caught up on missing those movies right now, ha ha. It might seem kind of strange, but I really feel more excited on all that's going on here in Nicaragua. I never would have guessed before my mission that I would feel this way. Anyway, a lot of people here in Nicaragua have seen Star Wars, but it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal here, or with Star Trek or some of those movies either.

Me, Jose, O., Olga, M., and Elder Salmeron
at the baptismal service this past Friday
OK, so about our week.... we had another baptism service this past Friday for 4 more of our investigators. First is Olga and her two neighbors, O. and M., who are good friends. I've known them since my third day here in Sandino. At first, they were just friends with us and nothing more, and they weren't interested in hearing about the gospel until Elder Salmeron and I invited them to watch General Conference with us. Olga had previously attended church many times with some friends a few years ago, but she never did get baptized until now. The gospel is changing her life for the better.

Second was Jose, who is the one who accidentally drank some coffee last week, but he honestly was the most positive person I have met since I have been here in Sandino who wanted to do everything he could to get baptized. In a way, we kind of accidentally met him on the day of General Conference. His family was actually committed to come with us to General Conference, but they backed out on their commitment and sent Jose in their place without us even meeting him yet. Later he told us that he was drunk "off his butt" when he attended Conference with us, but we couldn't tell and had no idea. We were just desperate to have enough people with us so that we could watch Conference. Well, during the session of Conference with us, he said it was a life-changing experience, and he hasn't touched alcohol since that day. The coffee last week really was an accident as someone in his family gave it to him and he didn't realize it was coffee until after he drank it, so he wasn't really drinking it because of an addiction. This guy wanted so badly to get baptized ever since that day in Conference, and every Sunday he comes to church all by himself. In fact, on the day of his baptism, he wanted to prove to us that he is committed and will always go on his own, so he walked alone all the way to church for his baptism and we were there waiting for him! His life has changed so much from the gospel, and it all started when he listened to the prophet in General Conference.
Our district celebrated our success in April by playing some soccer
in the morning, and then Pizza Hut pizza for lunch!!! 

This past week we had a Zone Conference on Friday. Every Friday we have District Meetings except for one week during each cambios when we have a Zone Conference in Managua, so about every 6 weeks we have Zone Conference, and ours was this last week. The Mission President had some very nice things to say about our district and he announced that with 19 baptisms in April, we had more success than any of the other districts in the mission, as did our whole Managua Zone with 31 baptisms last month. He told the Zone Leaders that he was happy with our hard work. Not only that, but we have already started off very well for the month of May as our district had 7 more baptisms this first weekend of the month. I am focusing very hard right now for a few more investigators to hopefully be baptized by the end of May, so to do that we need to make sure we bring a lot of people to church, and, well... I am happy to say that Elder Salmeron and I broke our record again with 14 investigators at church yesterday!!! And 8 of those 14 investigators were there for the first time and are continuing to progress with us!!! So, we might have a little break in the middle of May, but hopefully by the end of the month we will be able to help a few more to be baptized. However, I am also very happy to report that all of our new converts are still staying very active and strong! The bishop had interviews with some of them yesterday to extend callings to some of them (including the Familia Hernandez who were baptized last week) because many of them are already paying their tithing and keeping their commitments!!! It makes me so happy to see them progress in the gospel. I really hope I don't leave Barrio Trinidad yet when we have our next cambios in the middle of May. There is so much work that we have started -- I don't want to leave!!!!

This week, the Rainy Season finally started, and when I say rain, I mean 20-minute hurricanes with flooding roads that look more like rivers! Plus, when it rains here, the humidity jumps to 100% and so, even though it is not quite as hot, I still find myself sweating even if I am just sitting in a chair... so that's fun! I am still super excited to talk to everyone on Mother's Day next Sunday! I can't wait for that!! Well, this email was super long, but we have just been so incredibly blessed by the Lord, and I am so grateful to be a part of this great work here.