Monday, August 31, 2015

A Week Full of Baptisms and Instruction from an Apostle

A beautiful Caribbean sunrise here in Bluefields, Nicaragua!
So this past week was pretty eventful! We knew we would be leaving on Friday to travel to Managua for the missionary conference and wouldn't be able to have a baptismal service on Saturday, so we planned to get our investigators ready to be baptized earlier in the week!
Here are the two sisters who got baptized on Wednesday night,
along with their mother who doesn't exist
according to the Nicaraguan government.

Me and E. all dressed up and ready to go
before we left his house for the church on Thursday.
First, the family who was closest weren't all able to get baptized because when we tried to get the birth certificate and ID card for the mother, it turns out she doesn't exist in the government records. When she was born (in a tiny shack), her parents never took her to the hospital or doctors, and she never went to school -- ever -- so she was never entered into the system. So now we have to start a very long process with some expensive lawyers to get her officially entered into the government records so that she can get married and then baptized. However, we were able to have a baptism service for her two daughters on Wednesday, and then we had another baptism service on Thursday for her niece and nephew (who live nearby). It was awesome because we had a huge turn-out from the branch to support both baptisms.

Here we are with E. and his sister at their baptism on Thursday night.
On Friday morning, we left Bluefields on another long trip and arrived in Juigalpa later in the afternoon. We spent the rest of the day helping out our Zone Leaders, Elders Hansen and Hartley, in their area. Then we got up super early on Saturday and left for Managua. The missionary conference was incredible because it was conducted by President Russell M. Nelson, who is the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (kind of like Peter in the New Testament), and he told lots of cool stories and instruction on the things we need to be teaching the people in Nicaragua so that they can be truly converted and get their own temple one day. He showed us many terms in the Spanish version of the Study Guide in the back of the Spanish Book of Mormon, but he went into a lot of detail on about 10 or so of them. He told us to really teach them about tithing and commit them to pay their tithing because that is the reason they don't have a temple in Nicaragua yet.

President Nelson also shared a cool experience when he and Elder Hales came to Nicaragua many years ago to dedicate the country for missionary work. At the time that they came, Americans weren't being given visas to enter Nicaragua, but they were allowed into the country "for a few hours." So they showed up to the airport unannounced and went to a park in Masaya. Nobody in the whole country knew they were coming, so it was literally just a little group of church leaders that spent a few hours one afternoon and dedicated the land of Nicaragua for missionary work and to open the doors for the teaching of the restored gospel.

Funny thing is we spent about 17 hours traveling for a 2-hour meeting with President Nelson, but it was totally worth it, and I got to shake his hand! After the meeting concluded, they fed us Subway sandwiches, but of course we also had to stop by the McDonald's in Managua to grab something to eat on our way back to Juigalpa. As we left the meeting, our mission president told us not to go back to Bluefields that night, but to wait until early Sunday morning. As a result, we knew we wouldn't make it in time for church Sunday morning so we wouldn't be able to help bring our newly baptized members to church for their confirmations. So let's just say that while we were helping our Zone Leaders in their area again on Saturday night, I was making a ton of phone calls to commit people and members to help bring the new members for their confirmations. So when we got off the pangas on Sunday about 1:00 PM, we were thrilled to find out that we still had 5 of our investigators show up to church, and 2 of the new members were able to make it to church and get confirmed. It wasn't perfect, but it could have been a lot worse! Next week we will get the others confirmed.
This was so incredibly tasty! Hmmmm...good!
A delicious fish and fried tortilla dinner!

So now for September, we are working really hard to find more people to teach, plus we still have another super awesome family we have been teaching that should get baptized a little later this month. Super cool how the work is coming along here in Bluefields!!! This next week we don't have anything too special planned. We are still waiting on a few investigators to return to Bluefields so that they can be baptized... still waiting, so hopefully this week they can get back in town.

More fish for dinner, but this time with teeth! Ack!
I didn't eat this fish though, ha ha, luckily the family didn't offer it to us!
Elder Rushton and I get along really well together -- he is just super crazy, and his Spanish is horrible, but he is really cool and we are working really hard. He is a great missionary, which is why I am so surprised we are both together as companions here in Bluefields, because we are both missionary leaders who have been on our missions for a while, and so it is great to be able to just take advantage and work hard with someone who also loves to work hard. Well, this Thursday will be my official 1-year anniversary of leaving on my mission... crazy, right? The time is flying by now, especially because I love it so much here in Bluefields so it seems to go by even faster!

Bus full of Zone Juigalpa missionaries!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Birthday Dinner at Galeria Aberdeens

Happy birthday to me! Look what I found!!
I have to start by saying thank you to all the birthday wishes. I still feel 17!! Just kidding. So, I had a good birthday last Friday, even if it was just kind of a normal day. My district did throw eggs on my head pretty early (they took a video that I'll have to share after the mission) and then we made a nice breakfast. After that, we went to the ATM and took out some of my birthday money and bought some refreshments for our District meeting and divisions (we do that every Friday). I wasn't even in my own area for most of the day, but it was cool that a lot of people still congratulated me and wished me well!

Birthday dinner at Abderdeens. Delicious, but they were out of cheesecake!
Later in the day, I stocked up on some nice American food (I found a place that sells Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Dr. Pepper!!) and I bought some new ties. This next week, I am planning to take some of the money to buy a new watch, and then I will keep some of the money to have some extra spending cash down the road. For dinner, we went to this nice restaurant here in Bluefields that is called Aderdeens. I order a fancy sandwich, which was really good, and then I bought my district all some tres leches cake (ug! they didn't have any cheesecake!). I didn't get any of my packages yet. The Zone Leaders in Juigalpa have one of the packages right now, but they weren't able to get it to me yet. Fortunately, we are headed to Managua later this week and hopefully I should get all of the packages at one time.

This past week was pretty good overall. We had the Zone Leaders come down for two days to do divisions and training. The one that went with us mostly just followed us and watched how we worked. He told us he was impressed and we also had some fun and talked a lot.

Last Saturday, the missionaries in the other half of the branch had two baptisms. This next week, Elder Rushton and I are working to help a couple get married so that we can baptize the wife and their daughter. We have to take out their ID and birth certificate and then pay for the wedding and the paperwork. It is kind of expensive, but they are really cool and want to do it. We also have some other really cool investigators who are progressing and we have some baptisms set up for September, but it is still just hard to get everyone to go to church.

Well, that is about all I have time for this week. I got a lot of people's birthday emails to respond to, so I'll catch y'all next week.
Ready to start out day!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pan de Coco and Hammocks

Another cool shot of beautiful Bluefields, Nicaragua!
Well, this past week was a great one here in Bluefields!!! Elder Rushton and I have been working really hard, and we were able to have another baptism. Unfortunately, the last cousin wasn't able to get baptized yet, but we did have the two confirmations at church on Sunday. It was a lot of work because some doubts had started creeping in, but we were able to help them work out, and in the end they were super excited to be baptized and confirmed.
One of the cousins we were able to baptize this past week.

Having some fun at the baptism, but watch out for
the little cousin in the shark shirt in front of me!
Another cool story is that awesome family we brought to church the week before, well, they were out of town for the weekend in an outlying community, so they couldn't make it to church yesterday. However, their older boy (the one that is taller than me!), he stayed home so that he could go to the Young Single Adult Activity on Saturday, and then he wanted to be in church on Sunday! It was soooo cool because he showed up to the activity without us even having to invite or remind him, and he even came to church on his own. Once his family gets back tomorrow, we will continue teaching them.

Later today, we are all going to Mauricio's house to learn
how to make Pan de Coco (so then I can make it when I
go back home!). Mauricio was baptized a few weeks ago, and it is
his aunt that makes it in their house and we took photos last time.
My Dad asked about which language they conduct church in on Sundays since they speak Spanish, English Creole, and Miskito here. Most of the church meetings here in Bluefields are in Spanish (almost everyone can at least understand Spanish), like Sacrament Meeting, but during Sunday School they do have a separate class in English Creole. Honestly, there aren't very many members who speak Miskito, but everyone I know in the branch that speaks Miskito can speak Spanish too, anyway.

This past week, we got to eat some lobster again, and this time was even better than the last. I have decided that I love lobster!

This is what they cook the Pan de Coco on.
Also this week we will be having a visit from our Zone Leaders. They come out to Bluefields once a month to visit and work with us for two days, but this will be their first visit since I have been in this area. Today for P-Day, we actually played some basketball at the church. Elder Page has a basketball and a net that we put up on the rim and WOW, I am so rusty!

Anyways, that's about it for last week, and the week ahead seems rather normal, except for my birthday on Friday! Tell everyone back home thanks for all the happy birthday wishes and emails and packages!

Mmmm, Pan de Coco is the best bread I have ever eaten in my life!
It is super thick, and even though they use coconuts, you don't taste
the coconut at all! It is just super amazingly delicious!

Elder Rushton bought a hammock too, so now we're stacked!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lessons and Prayers in English are Weird Now

Our Bluefields District: Elders Hernandez, Page, Rushton, and me.
To start with, we had cambios this past week, and my companion, Elder Passey was transferred, but he was the only one from our district of four missionaries. So, he had to travel from Bluefields to Rama alone. I was told to stay in Bluefields with the other two missionaries in our district and we did splits with the members for two days until the arrival on Thursday of my new companion: Elder Rushton! He is from Bountiful, Utah, and he has been on his mission for two more cambios than me (about 3 months). So he and Elder Page in our district have been on their missions the same amount of time, and all four of us in the district are senior companions as well (I am still serving as the district leader).

So Elder Rushon and I were actually in the Sandino Zone for the exact same 6 months, or from January until June, so we knew each other already, but he was in the other side of the Sandino Zone the whole time. Anyway, Elder Rushton is pretty funny and kind of crazy, but he is also a super good missionary, so he is not being punished or demoted or anything by being sent here to Bluefields. I am pretty sure he was sent to be my companion so that I could show him the area, and then he will probably be the next district leader here when I am transferred out. I told President Russell to switch Elders Page and Hernandez because Elder Page was serving as the Senior Companion even though Elder Hernandez has been out on his mission longer. However, the President decided just to move Elder Hernandez up to be a Senior Companion too. Now both companionships can do baptismal interviews!!!

Three of the family were able to get baptized last Saturday.
We're hoping to help the rest be baptized next Saturday.
So Elder Rushton was pretty lucky that he arrived in Bluefields on Thursday, and on Saturday he already had some baptisms, ha ha, what a lucky guy! So this past Saturday, we had a baptismal service that included 3 of our investigators, 1 from the other missionaries' area, and then 2 from the branch members, so 6 baptisms all together. We thought we were going to have 5 of our investigators get baptized, but when we went by their house to pick them up on Saturday, none of them were ready to go and one of them wasn't even there. Plus, one of the girls no longer had permission from her mother to be baptized -- she had originally given her permission, and we even had her signature on the permission slip, but then she changed her mind. Her two older sisters were still baptized though! So we're working on helping get permission again, and the other investigator who wasn't home on Saturday had some complications that day, but she still wants to get baptized next week. Plus, one of the girls got super sick on Sunday and wasn't able to make it to church to get confirmed -- everyone but her made it to church, so we'll get her confirmed next week along with the other two baptisms scheduled for next Saturday. We also are still waiting for a few investigators who are still out of Bluefields. We have been communicating with them via cell phone, and they still want to be baptized when they return possibly this week.

Also, last Thursday, we were out knocking on doors (which are mostly just pieces of rusty tin), and we contacted this really cool guy who we gave a baptismal date to while talking to him in the street. He committed to come to church and he invited us to return the next day (Friday) to meet his family. When we went back by there on Friday, he wasn't there, but the rest of his family was and they invited us in. Well, the dad goes to one church, and the mom goes to another church. We were afraid they were about to whip out their bible and have a word war (bible bash), but they actually wanted to just listen to us teach.  I know the Spirit was telling them to listen, too, so we shared with them all of the restoration of the Gospel up to Joseph Smith. For the first time on my mission, I taught it in English! Well, this family speaks really good English, almost like Americans instead of Creole, so this will be an interesting experience. I have to admit, it is kind of hard to teach and pray in English now... it's weird, but true. Anyway, after we taught them about Joseph Smith, they agreed to pray and see if it was true, and they even accepted a baptismal date (all four of them there at the time) which was the same date as their brother/son we had already committed the day before. Then, on Sunday, they ALL came on their own to church!!! The first guy even stayed for all 3 hours, which almost never happens! In fact, most of them stayed through Sunday School, but the parents went home after Sacrament Meeting to start cooking dinner. Pretty exciting stuff!
The church water pump wasn't working last Friday, so
we had to hand pump the water our back and we
used buckets to carry in water to fill the font
for the baptismal service on Saturday.

Last, my dad was telling me about one of my friends, Elder Jordan Gustavus, who is in Belize and had to use a fire truck hose to fill the font because the water pumps were out. Well, that is a lot like our baptism this past Saturday. On Friday after our District Meeting, we went to fill the font up with water, but the pump for the church wasn't working. So, we had to hand pump the water outside, and then we used buckets and (clean) garbage pails to carry it inside the church and dump into the font. It took forever!!! We also got super sweaty and had a really good workout! That happens once in a while when the pumps stop working -- we hand pump the water and use buckets to carry it into the font in the church.

Sounds like my folks had a super cool Stake Conference last weekend, with President Russell M. Nelson, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speaking to them. Well, they were telling me he might be coming to visit us in Nicaragua in a few weeks, but we'll see. Have a great week everyone, and thank you for all the emails and photos!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hombres Guapos and Learning Miskito

Elder Passey, M., and me before the baptismal service.
First off, this past week I had my first baptism here in Bluefields, Nicaragua!!! M. got baptized (he is the one who cooked us the lobster), and I think he has been the most excited for his baptism of all my investigators who I have baptized so far on my mission. Yesterday, a bunch of members lent him shoes and ties and a shirt, so when he came to church for his confirmation, he looked super spiffy. I was privileged to help with his confirmation.

Mmmmmm, yummy!
I am becoming quite the creative cook out here, ha ha.
At times I feel like Masterchef: Nicaragua!
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a family of five that consists of two aunts and their children living together. Well, we had to drop them last week after I had talked about them because there was a problem and they said they didn't want us to come by their house any more and stuff like that. Well, a couple of days ago, we passed them on the street and they asked why we didn't come by their house any more... like what? So we told them we stopped because they had told us to stop. Apparently, they had a change of heart and they changed their minds, and they asked us to start teaching them again. Yesterday, they ALL went to church with us, and after we visited with them, they decided that they wanted to keep their original baptismal date, which is this Saturday... so we have 5 more baptisms scheduled next week. So that was a cool highlight of my week!

We found a little friend.
I have been feeling pretty good health-wise, but my companion, Elder Passey, got sick last P-Day -- he had some weird bug. So we lost half a day of work on Tuesday and we had to take it slow on Wednesday, but he's feeling better now.

We also just barely found out from our Mission President's email that we will be having another multi-mission conference (probably just our mission and the Nicaragua North mission) on August 29th, and this time one of the apostles is coming. So now, rumors have once again started up that it will be a mission split to create a new mission (it does seem a little more legit with an apostle coming though). Also, this next week we have cambios, so we will be heading to Managua. It is very likely that none of my district here in Bluefields will be changed, but if someone does get transferred, it will probably be Elder Passey because he has the most time in this area of any of us, which is about 4 and a half months or so. I really hope that I don't go now because I really like Bluefields and we have a ton of super positive people for August that I want to see get baptized.

I am also learning a third language here in Bluefields -- I'm learning Miskito, the native language of several of the little communities out here. I have learned some of the basic terms, ha ha. In fact, a lot of people here speak a combination of Spanish and Miskito, and then there are others who speak a combination of Miskito and English-Creole. So I want to be trilingual, ha ha, but Miskito is super weird and I can't understand a single lick of it yet. Here are a few phrases, though:

To say "my name is Elder Olsen," you would say, "Yang nini ba Elder Olsen."
To say "I speak Miskito," you say, "Yang miskito aysisna."
Another pic of M. and me just before church yesterday.
A couple of hombres guapos!
And to say something like, "que le vaya bien" (I don't know what the phrase would be in English, but in Spanish it is kind of like saying goodbye), in Miskito you would say, "Paingwama." Ha ha -- super cool!

Well, I am glad my family had a fun time in Yellowstone last week without me! Loved all the pictures and looks like they had a lot of fun, again without me. I have never been to Idaho or Yellowstone, ha ha, but the thing I can't believe is how tall my little brother looks! Well, that is about it for this week. I'm all good and healthy, skinny, and working hard here in Bluefields!