Monday, June 29, 2015

Beinvenidos a Bluefields!

Bienvenidos a Bluefields!
Well, this past week we had cambios, and you will not believe where I got sent.... Bluefields!

In fact, Elder Hansen (we were in the CCM together) basically just switched me areas. He is now the District Leader in Sandino and I am the District Leader here in Bluefields. My new companion is Elder Passey, from Washington State, and this is his second transfer after he finished training.

Goodbye lunch city with Elder Salmeron, Elder Hinojosa
So, let's just say it was a crazy week thanks to the long, eventful trip it takes to get out here! On Tuesday, Elder Hinojosa and I both got the telephone call telling us we would be transferring. On Wednesday, we went to the cambios meeting with all of our stuff packed, but they changed the meeting now so that the President doesn't actually tell us what area we will be going to -- he only tells us our new Zone. So we get on the bus with our new Zone Leaders, and as the bus travels and stops along the way, the Zone Leaders announce who needs to get off because they are in their new area. The bus ride from Managua to Juigalpa is about 3 hours, and there were only 2 District Leader spots available for me, but I kind of had an idea anyway.... So after the 3-hour bus ride, they tell me that I am the new District Leader in Bluefields!

Goodbye to some of my best friends, Stephanie and Liam (he is
my Nicaraguan twin if you couldn't tell)
We spent the rest of the day in Juigalpa working with the Zone Leaders (me and another missionary who was also transferring to Bluefields to be in the other companionship). Then, at 3:00 AM, we got on another bus and rose for 6 hours to a city called Rama. Once we were in Rama, we got onto a little boat, called a 'panga.' We rode on the panga for 2-and-a-half hours from Rama to Bluefields, and then once we arrived at the docks, our new comps were there to pick us up.

A view of the jungle during the 6-hour bus ride from Juigalpa to Rama.
So now I am in the Bluefields Ramma (Branch). It was very difficult to say goodbye to Sandino, and I already miss all of the people there. But, I know I need to adjust. This new area in Bluefields isn't doing very well right now. We had to drop basically all of the investigators and families that were being taught before I arrived because they just weren't progressing. We have been searching support hard to find new people to teach, but it has been pretty hard right now, and we weren't able to bring many investigators to church yesterday, but hopefully we can find some new people to teach.

More jungle during our bus ride to Rama.
So Bluefields is pretty cool. It's a completely different world from the rest of Nicaragua. There are a lot of black people here, and almost everyone can speak English, although it is more of an English Creole. Sometimes I feel like I am more in Jamaica than in Nicaragua, but there are still also plenty of Latinos as well. We still teach most of the time in Spanish, like around 80% of the time, which is good. It's extremely humid here -- I have never sweat so much in my life! It isn't as hot as Sandino, but I still sweat a ton more!

So, the work continues.... Our daily number goals have been raised, and there's a lot of pressure on our shoulders, but I am still trying to enjoy the mission despite that, ha ha. Hope everyone is doing well back home and has a great Independence Day next week!

Our panga (little speedboat).
Read more about Bluefields here: Bluefields, Nicaragua

View from the dock in Rama looking down the Rio Escondido.

Selfie from our panga, and yes, we did put on life jackets before we launched down the river.

My new comp, Elder Passey, is from Chenney, Washington
and has been on his mission for almost 6 months.

El Distrito La Costa! Elders Hernandez, Page, Passey, and myself.

I can smell the ocean!! The view from our apartment.

This place kind of reminds me of a mixture of the video game
"Assassins Creed: Black Flag" and the fishing village from the Hobbit movies.

View from the dock in Bluefields.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Father's Day, A Baptism, and the Return of Elder Castro.

Hey, Dad! I hope you had a fantastic Father's Day back home!!! Here in Nicaragua, they don't celebrate Father's Day until tomorrow (Tuesday). I don't know why it is different here. They don't even really do anything special -- it's going to be just a normal day here in Nicaragua.

This past week was a great week. We had a baptism on Saturday, found a TON of new investigators, and brought a ton of new people to church. Next week is cambios, and I kind of hope I don't leave the area now because of how many new, positive investigators we found. You never know with cambios who will be having changes, but I still get the feeling like I'll be staying here in Sandino. Elder Hinojosa has already started packing and he feels like for sure he will be leaving -- we both came to Sandino at the same time. We will find out Tuesday.

So this past Saturday, we baptized the aunt of the little girl who was baptized the end of last month. We took this picture with her and her boyfriend, who needs just a little more time but still plans to follow in her footsteps next month. This young lady is super cool and loves the church and how much it has changed her life. She said she wanted to get baptized for years, but none of the churches seemed right. Even when we first started teaching her, she was reluctant to come to church for the first time, but when she did, it was incredible and a lot of the members have supported her. It was great to see her get baptized.

Elder Roundy, Elder Salmeron, me, and Elder Hinojosa
My trainer, Elder Castro, finished his mission a few months ago
but returned this weekend to pay us a visit.
Once again our district has a lot of baptisms scheduled this next week, so I am going to be super busy conducting baptismal interviews tonight and tomorrow. If I do end up getting transferred, then tomorrow will be SUPER busy trying to go visit everyone because they all invite us over for gallo pinto. After that, I would have to pack everything at the end of the day on Tuesday. Honestly, I think I would be just as happy to stay here as I would be to transfer. Either way, this area in the Barrio Trinidad is going to be golden for the next missionary who comes here. It is kind of nice to be able to spend your birthday in an area that you have been in for at least a little while --then a lot of the people in the area know you better and they love to celebrate your birthday with you. But that would still be a couple of months away, ha ha!

This is our chapel and we set up these chairs
 each week for Sacrament Meeting.
My trainer, Elder Castro, finished his mission and returned home to El Salvador a few months ago, but this past Sunday, he returned to visit us. He also came with us today on P-Day for our zone activity, and he brought a few of his handmade scripture covers for us to purchase. It was pretty cool to see him again, and he told me he was super proud of me for the missionary that I have become. He said that I am the best 'best son' that he had in the mission, but I am pretty sure he is just feeling bad and repenting for all the hard times he gave me during my training, ha ha.

Here I am calling the people unto repentance!!! LOL.
Anyways, other than cambios, nothing else super crazy should happen this week. Either I will be gone, or I will be getting a new companion here. I took a dive this week into Principios del Evangelio, along with some scripture references, for a little in depth personal study. I still plan to buckle down hard with the Book of Mormon and start using it more in my lessons, especially with the new converts and reading stories with them out of the B of M.
I couldn't keep a straight face. I was trying to re-create the classic picture
that my Uncle Jared took on his mission in Mexico (below).
This was my Uncle Jared in Mexico on
his mission.

Thanks again to everyone for the updates and pictures. I'm still waiting for the second package from my folks that has the other shoe in it, but probably for sure on Wednesday at cambios. Nice pics of my dad and brother golfing -- I can't wait to go golfing when I get back. Take care everyone and have a great week!

Our last district meeting before cambios next week. One of our Zone Leaders, Elder Kleiner, was on splits and attended.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hiking Through Crazy Rain Every Night and a Baptism

Thanks Mom and Dad!
First off, I just have to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!!!!! I've had this day marked on my mini calendar for a long time, so of course I remembered. I hope you have a great day, and a great time at Girls' Camp this week.

A selfie of Elder Roundy and myself as we were out on divisions.
Also, I am glad our mission president's wife, Hermana Russell, was able to take the picture of me and send it to my folks. We had to visit the mission office in Managua last Thursday because my companion, Elder Salmeron, had to meet with President Russell. For a little while as they were talking, I was the only one in the offices, so Hermana Russell came out and talked to me while I waited. I was also able to pick up some packages my folks sent, and she took a picture of me to send to them. In the end, President Russell asked me if there needed to be some changes, but I felt like Elder Salmeron should stay in Ciudad Sandino and I can still try to help him. Cambios are going to be in about 1 more week anyway, but we're getting along just fine, still working hard, and hopefully we will have 2 more baptisms this next week.

Our one baptism this past week. She is a pioneer for the rest of
her family who will hopefully follow her example in the next few weeks.
While we were in Managua at the mission office, it started raining and that night was one of the biggest and craziest rainstorms that I have ever seen. As you can see in the picture from Hermana Russell, I was in my suit and I am pretty sure that the pants got ruined because I was literally walking in water up to my mid-thigh as we were trying to get home that night! I love the rain here. It is so cool, but sadly, I didn't get any pictures because it is not smart to have my camera out in the rain, and a lot of the storms were at night. It has rained like crazy pretty much every night this week, which sure makes walking home really fun!

Here is her whole family, along with Elder Salmeron and myself, at the baptism.
While Elder Roundy and I were on divisions, we took this cool path under
that bridge up ahead. With all the rain, everything is extra green and
tropical, so this path turned into a pretty cool hike in the jungle.
We did have one baptism this past Saturday. She and her family have been coming to church with us for a while, but only she felt ready to be baptized. So she entered the waters of baptism and is trying to set the example for the rest of the family to follow hopefully in the next few weeks. We also had one division this past week so that I could go conduct some baptismal interviews for my district. However, this next week is going to be a huge week for our district because of all the baptisms that are scheduled.

Well, that's about all I have time for today. We're working hard, loving the people here in Sandino, and having a good time getting soaked every night from the passing hurricanes!

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Racist Monkey and Muddy River Beds

I was privileged to help Elder Heileson in my district to baptize
this little, old man who needed a second person to help him in the water.
It was pretty cool and was my first experience ever to just be in the
water to help but not giving the prayer.
Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, I only have about 30 minutes to write today, so I will not be able to respond to everyone's emails and letters.

So thanks for the NBA Finals updates. A lot of the ward members here have been updating us also, but I really don't get to hear the details. Still rooting for the Warriors all the way. I have even seen some Steph Curry jerseys here in Nicaragua -- I might buy one, ha ha.

I took a few pics of some of the cool mud tracks that are created after it rains.
My folks talked about the rain in Utah, and funny they should mention rain... This past week, there have been a ton of crazy, rain-forest storms with the coolest lightning that I have ever seen in my life. Every day it has pretty much rained, and when it rains here, it pours! We usually come home at night completely soaked. Although we try our best to avoid getting wet, a lot of the houses we visit here aren't exactly weather-proof (plastic walls and metal ceilings can only get you so far). Plus, all the dirt roads turn into mud traps, so the new shoes my parents are sending me will be really nice.

These are big rivers while it is raining, and after they dry out, the
people use them as pathways to get around town.
Well, this past week was rather normal. We didn't have our one scheduled baptism last Saturday, and it's likely that she won't get baptized at least for a little while. She and her family are kind of mad at my companion, so they don't want to talk to us until he is gone. So maybe after cambios, which are coming up later this month. I suspect every single companionship in our district will have a change.

Also, after last week in the cyber, all of my photos were deleted, but today I was able to recover them. They are all scattered and not in order any more, and I can't pull them up on the camera, only on the computer. Other than that, I had a pretty normal week with two days of divisions out of my area.

Some of our new investigators we started teaching have this monkey as a pet.
My mom asked a little more about what happened with Elder Salmeron when he was robbed a couple of weeks ago. The robbery wasn't violent. There was a group of 7 "gansters." They didn't actually pull any weapons, but they grabbed him and threatened him by saying they had some weapons. He was smart and just complied with their demands, so he wasn't harmed -- just shook up. That was the first robbery of the missionaries here in this area in in at least 8 months. I am a lot bigger than most of the people here in Nicaragua, so I think some of them are a little scared of me, ha ha. Still, we're being more careful now.

The monkey doesn't like me very much, though, because
I am pretty sure I am the first white person it has ever seen.
We are working hard. I have no idea how many baptisms we might end up with this month, but the district is looking great with lots of commitments. In fact, I have to run and go do some baptismal interviews for the district tonight. Let me just say that I am enjoying the mish a lot -- still rough at times, but I'm really enjoying it and strengthening my testimony more and more of the gospel. I know the Bible 200 times better now than I did before the mission. I want to try and focus on the Book of Mormon, which sadly, we don't use as much as we would like to. Sorry for the short emails this week. Hope everyone is doing well back home. Take care and have a great week!

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Robbery, Two Baptisms, and Zone Conference

This girl's parents were baptized about a year ago.
We are also working with her aunt and aunt's boyfriend
who are both preparing to get baptized later in June.
Hey everyone!!! Well, first off this past week, we had two baptisms!!! One of the baptisms had been scheduled for the week before when all of them basically fell through, but we were able to reschedule a 19-year-old girl for this week. Then, we also had a baptism on Sunday morning for the daughter of some recent converts who were baptized about a year ago.

This is the 19-year-old girl we baptized. She lives with her
aunt and uncle, who are in the picture.
Otherwise, this week was completely normal. I did divisions with Elder Roundy in Trinidad 2 (which is the other half of our barrio). We also had a Zone Conference with our new Zona Sandino. As a district, we ended May with 19 baptisms, and then 38 as a zone! The work is really progressing well here in Sandino, but it is a bit of a struggle getting all of these new people to church every week. We are also trying hard to find new people to teach, but I feel like I have almost talked to everybody here in this area, ha ha! Cambios are coming up on June 24th, but I honestly feel like I might be staying here in this area a little longer. We will see.

They are clean while they are puppies -- ha ha!
Elder Roundy and I were on divisions on the other side
of Barrio Trinidad. This is the family who owned the puppy.
Oh, I almost forgot because it happened last Tuesday, but my companion, Elder Salmeron, was assaulted and robbed! At the time, I was on divisions for about one hour with one of the zone leaders as he was doing the baptismal interviews for our upcoming baptisms. Meanwhile, Elder Sandino and the other zone leader were robbed in the part of our area that is suuuper dangerous, and the funny thing is that me and the zone leader walked through that same spot about 10 minutes later and they didn't bother us. However, they took Elder Salmeron's whole backpack, which had his camera and scriptures inside. SO, now we are being a lot more careful in that part of our area, and with what we are carrying around in our backpacks. I am also lending him my old backpack (I might end up just giving it to him). Luckily, they weren't hurt, just threatened and a little shook up. Still, we're being more careful now, ha ha.

Well, like I said, that is about it for this week. We are hoping to have one more baptism next week who is the cousin of the 19-year-old girl that we baptized last Saturday. Thank you everyone back home for all the photos and updates. We're still working hard and loving it!!
The Zona Sandino