Monday, March 28, 2016

Semana Santa 2016, Bautismo, and an Unwelcome Visitor

One of the Hermanas shared this picture from when I was back in Masaya a few months ago.
It was too pretty not to share.
Well, this last week has been super crazy here. So, in  Nicaragua, they don't really celebrate Easter, per se, but they have Semana Santa, or Holy Week. However, instead of people going to church, most of them just go to the beach and party and drink. So Rivas is the center of the best beaches in Nicaragua, with San Juan del Sur, Playa Gigante, and San Jorge (which is the beach by Lake Nicaragua). So it has been insane here and was pretty much the worst week to try and contact any new people or teach lessons because everyone was at the beach. All of the highways through the middle of my area were full of cars, bumper to bumper, all the way to the beach. Nonetheless, we worked hard and still found a couple of new investigators and brought a few new people to church yesterday. Overall, the area here in Rivas is doing OK, and this next week should be better for us now that Semana Santa is over and life will return to normal here. I kind of feel like I have contacted almost the whole area of Rivas by now, but I am sure there are more people here waiting for us to find them.
We forgot to take a photo before when we were dressed in white,
but here we are after the baptismal service!

We also had our baptism on Saturday! She was awesome the entire week and had no doubts about her baptism. Still, her daughter wasn't quite ready and she set a goal for her baptism on April 16th. The next two weeks we have General Conference, and then Stake Conference the week after, so we won't be able to have our next baptismal service until April 16th.

My companion right now ranks right up there with the best ones I have had on my mission so far. We get along great, and he is awesome and works hard. Today we played soccer against the other Elders in the Zone and we lost, so we had to buy them pizza. Plus, I got very sunburnt!

Unwelcome visitor --
I found this guy crawling next to my desk and I had
to take a picture of him next to my hand to show
you how big he is.
That is crazy about the terrorist attack in Belgium -- sketchy -- but I am not too worried here in Nicaragua. Besides, there is only one international airport and it's like 5 hours away from me. I appreciate some of the sports updates. A lot of the people here talk about Steph Curry, and every once in a while I even see a BYU T-shirt. Well, that's about it for this week. Not a whole lot exciting coming up next week, so just gonna be going back to work. Have a great week everyone!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Rough Week in Rivas

Well, this week was a little rough....

First, we had a multi-zone conference that we had to wake up at 2:30 in the morning to catch the bus, and then we didn't get back to our apartment until 8:00 that night. We were dragging and really tired all day the next days well. Then today for P-Day, we had to get up at 3:00 AM to catch the bus to Managua so that I could renew my ID. We got back super late today, so we barely have any time to write emails.

This is a picture of an awesome sandwich I made --
it is two grilled cheese sandwiches, an egg, and
a chicken patty combined into one giant sandwich.
Our investigators also had a rough week. M., the one who shared his testimony in church a few weeks ago, well, he has been struggling with depression all week fighting his urges to drink, which he hadn't had a drink for several weeks and seemed to be doing really well with it. However, he hasn't been very happy this week, and then when we went by on Sunday morning to pick him up for church, he had been drinking and couldn't come, so he won't be getting baptized this week. We were even going past his house this week two times per day to try and help him, but he is just struggling and he needs more time to overcome his alcohol I guess. He has been struggling whether to continue, which has been a hard blow for us after he received such a powerful witness of the truthfulness of the message.

We are also continuing to work with S. and her daughter, and they were both interviewed for baptism and doing great until yesterday when S. told us her daughter didn't want to come to church today and had changed her mind about the baptism. So now S. will be our only investigator getting baptized this week. However, Satan is so "chancho" that he tries to put doubts in people's heads. So during church yesterday, we sang the hymn "Praise to the Man," or in Spanish it is "Loor al Profeta," and basically it is about Joseph Smith. Well, S. didn't really like that hymn because she thought it was about worshipping Joseph Smith, but after we sat down and explained its meaning to her, shes fine about it now. Hopefully, she will continue to stay strong this week, and her daughter will regain her desire to also be baptized and prayers on their behalf would be greatly appreciated.

We had a tough Sunday yesterday, but we did bring a new investigator to church named D. He came on his own in a moto, and he is really positive. We will be teaching him about the Restoration this week.

So my new companion is pretty awesome and I am really enjoying my time with him. We work hard, but we have fun while we are doing it, even though our P-Day today was basically riding on buses for more than 6 hours and spending $15 of our own money just to go to Managua and back. Still, we will be working super hard this week to try and find some more people to teach. The Hermanas in my district had a baptism this past week, which was good, and they should have some more next week, so that will be good too.

I saw a volleyball in one of the street stores that have been set up for the Holy Week celebrations and I bought it. So we will be hitting the volleyball around a little bit in the house to practice, ha ha. We haven't been able to find a net to actually play a game of volleyball yet, but we will keep looking. Even at the church, they have the giant poles but no net. Well, I am out of time. I hope everyone back home has a great Easter!

Monday, March 14, 2016

New Companion and Powerful Testimonies

Me and my new companion, Elder Petty.
Well, the big news this week is that we had cambios and Elder Smith was transferred. My new companion is Elder Petty from Tucson, Arizona. He has been on his mission for about 8 months. He was trained by the Zone Leaders in Ciudad Sandino just after I left there and he was also companions with one of the former AP's (Assistants to the President) and they opened a new city for missionary work about 5 months ago. Also, one of his trainers was one of my buddies, Elder Kleiner, and he was just barely companions with Elder Passey, who I knew in Bluefields. So, I guess it is a small mission.

Before his mission, Elder Petty used to be super big and strong and was a wrestler, but now he has lost about 60 pounds of muscle. Still, he is pretty stocky and strong. He is super awesome and he can teach really well. He is also really excited for our 2 super positive investigators that we have been teaching here in Rivas,which reminds me of a cool story I wanted to share.

Playing basketball and soccer today
with the Zone Leaders and Andy in Jinotepe.
So last Sunday we had Fast and Testimony Meeting because 2 weeks ago there was a Central America Area Conference. Anyways, yesterday during the meeting last week, I challenged a few of the newer converts sitting by me to go up and share their testimonies. They said they would but only if I went first. I also challenged M., one of our super investigators, at the same time. So one of the newer converts went up first, and then I went up and shared my testimony, and then, surprisingly, M. went up. He is not even a member yet, but he gave one of the best testimonies of the restored gospel that I have ever heard since I have been in Nicaragua. He testified that the church is true; he testified of the surety of the Atonement and the Resurrection; and then he said that he felt lost until we Elders came to his door. It was such an incredible testimony, and after the meeting finished, everyone came up and was asking him when his baptismal date was going to be. He told them March 26th, which was the goal we had challenged him with, so it was pretty cool.

We also have an investigator named S., who brought her daughter to church with her last Sunday. She lives really far away from the church so we can't go by her house Sunday morning to remind her. But, we commit her during the week and she has shown up every time. She also wants to get baptized with her daughter on March 26th, so it should be a busy day. Every time we meet with S. and her daughter, we have had some really spiritual lessons. Anyway, we are super excited to see them progressing.

Today we went and played some basketball and soccer in Jinotepe with the Zone Leaders and our buddy Andy came along. After, we went and got some pizza. Well, pray for our investigators to stay strong and have a great week everyone!
Chowing down on some pizza with my home slices.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Great Week Topped Off with BBQ Ribs and More Baseball

Another cool statue here in Rivas.
I don't have much time this week to write. For P-Day today, we got back a little late from our Zone activity playing baseball and eating BBQ ribs in a different area of the zone, so I'm writing super fast right now.

This past week was actually pretty great. On Tuesday, we had some of the Hermanas come and work with us in our area. We didn't necessarily do divisions, but they left their area and came and worked with us in our area so that we could help them improve their skills as missionaries. It was great because my old buddy Elder Sheffler came down and he worked with us in Rivas, which was also his old area, so we visited some of his converts and people that he taught when he was here.

Playing baseball for our Zone Activity today for P-Day.
We have two really great investigators that are progressing really well and have made it to church the past 2 weeks. They have a goal to be baptized by the end of March. Unfortunately, J. hasn't made it back from Costa Rica yet or she would be baptized as well. One of the really cool things this week is that all of the people I have baptized here in Rivas made it to church yesterday, and the members have all been trying to strengthen their friendships with these new converts to help retain them better, which is super awesome.

Enjoying some BBQ ribs today after we worked up an appetite.
This coming week is cambios, and we are all betting that I will get a new companion. Elder Smith has been here for 3 transfers now, and this is where he started his mission, so we are betting he will be transferring. I don't really know if I will become a Zone Leader any time soon. Not many of the current Zone Leaders are going home, so there probably won't be a lot of changes with the Zone Leaders, but who knows? As of next month, I will have been serving as a District Leader for one year now, so I think I feel ready if I am called to be a Zone Leader.

Well, that's about all I have time for this week. Cambios and some super positive investigators right now, so I'm all good. The Church is true, the Book is blue, and Jesus was a Mormon -- :).

Our Zone Activity today.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Series of Miracles in Rivas

This past Sunday, there were a series of miracles so that we could confirm our cute, little old convert.  It's kind of a long story, but bear with it because it really goes to show how the Lord has His hand in this work and blesses us after all that we can do.

So when a new convert is baptized, usually on Saturday, then they are confirmed a member and given the Gift of the Holy Ghost the next day at church during Sacrament Meeting. If for some reason the new convert misses church the next Sunday, they get only one more Sunday to be confirmed. If they don't get confirmed within 2 Sundays of their baptism, then the baptism doesn't count and they need to start all over again.

So I told you last week about our little, old convert, J., who was baptized but he was unable to make it to church last Sunday because he was too sick and sore from the cold font water and bending backwards. So J. had to be confirmed this Sunday and we went by his home every day this week to make sure he remembered and was coming. We even went by twice on Saturday to be sure, and he was super excited and everything looked great.
This is a sweet, giant palm tree that you can see from
almost everywhere in Rivas.

However, on Sunday morning at 8:00 we go by his house to pick him up for church and he wasn't home! Turns out that late Saturday night, some of his family from another part of Rivas called El Ingenio ("The Genius"), came and picked him up and took him up there. El Ingenio is about 15 minutes by car from central Rivas and is actually located in the area of the other Elders in our apartment. Since we don't have a car, it is SUPER far away to walk to, and J. had told us stories about his family up there and how he used to live up there.

As a result, we figured he wasn't going to get confirmed, so we immediately called our Zone Leaders and reported it. They were upset with us. Then to top it off, a lot of our investigators failed to keep their commitment to come to church with us and it was turning into a really crappy Sunday. So we walked into church at 9:00 with our heads down and wondering why that would happen to us....

Well, after we partook of the Sacrament, one of our investigators called us about 9:20 AM and asked us to come and pick him up so he could come with us to church. So Elder Foster and I left to go get him, but once we got to his house, some complications had come up and he ended up not being able to go to church!!!

So once again, we were stood up and I got even more upset for going to all that effort for nothing! We were wondering why the Lord would do that to us and bring us all the way out here from church when the impression comes to us to "go to El Ingenio." So we asked our investigator where exactly El Ingenio is located and we found out is a huge section of the city that is out in the middle of nowhere, but only about 10 minutes from where he lived so long as you are driving Nicaraguan crazy fast on the highway. He told us that it costs about 100 Cordovas (very, very expensive) to get there by taxi, but we felt that was our only option at that point.

So we had to first take a taxi to the central market in Rivas where they have a bunch of taxis always waiting to take people places, but when we got there, it turns out that the taxis for El Ingenio don't work on Sundays. So again we felt defeated and were about to walk back to the church when...

Miracle #1: This taxi from out of nowhere drives past us, but stops and then comes back and asks us where we want to go. We told him El Ingenio and he said he would take us for less money than what we had been told. So we hop in the taxi and take off even though by this point is about 9:35 and Sacrament meeting only goes until about 10:10 or so.

Miracle #2: The taxi drops us off on the edge of the neighborhood and we are standing there trying to figure out which house he might live in. We begin walking along the edge of the neighborhood looking down the long streets full of shacks and tin houses trying to decide where to look. So we started running up and down the streets, knocking on some of the doors, and asking the people if they knew any of J.'s family when, finally, we knock on the door of his daughter and her family. She tells us that he is staying with his wife on the other side of El Ingenio, which is about a 20 minute walk and now it is 9:50 AM. So at this point, I called my companion, Elder Smith, and Elder Perez who are back at the church and told them we were in El Ingenio and that we were looking for J. They couldn't believe it! I asked them to stall and not let Sacrament Meeting end until we could get there!!

Miracle #3: So this daughter's son (J.'s grandson) was going to walk us to his grandpa's house and as soon as we turn the first corner -- BOOM -- there sat an empty taxi. We hopped in the taxi and it takes us to what we hoped was the correct house.

Miracle #4: We pull up to this old wooden shack at about 10:00 AM and there is a lady standing out in front of the house. We ask her if J. is there and she said, "yes, he is. Hang on a second." WE FOUND HIM!! He was so happy to see us and immediately walks over and jumps into the taxi with us.

Miracle #5: So I call my companion again and tell him we are on our way and he told me that Elder Perez was giving a talk and trying to buy us some time. It seemed like an eternity for the taxi to drive us back to church and we roll up to the door at about 10:20 AM. We rush through the doors and walk straight to the front of the chapel to a chair up on the stand and we confirm him. Once we finished the confirmation, the congregation sang the closing song, then there was the closing prayer and the meeting ended. We got there at the very last second possible and Elder Perez was awesome because he gave an unbelievable talk about missionary work that he easily stretched to 25 minutes and allowed us to get there before the meeting ended. It was incredible!!!

When I called my Zone Leaders and told them J. was confirmed after all, they didn't believe me at first, but in the end they were just as amazed as we were. The Bishop was extremely happy with us as well as a lot of the ward members really like J. So... after being so defeated, the Lord placed many miracles in our path to help us get J. confirmed, and it was totally 1 Nephi 4:6.

So that was obviously the highlight of my week. We did also have the Multi-Zone Conference with Elder Ochoa, and it was really good. We had to wake up at 2:30 AM to catch the bus to the chapel and we arrived around 6:30 AM even though the meeting didn't start until 9:00 AM. The meeting lasted until 4:00 in the afternoon, and we got back home around 8:00 that evening, so we were dead tired from the lack of sleep and all the travel. However, is was a great meeting and Elder Ochoa talked a lot about how we can be better missionaries. He had a question and answer session at the end that turned out to last almost 3 hours. Other than those two things, not much else spectacular happened this week. We're healthy and happy and working hard.
We played baseball again for P-Day, but this time with more members and a few more missionaries.
The guy in the orange shirt is one of my best friends here in Rivas. He also served a mission and he
got home last May and he is super dope. His family feeds us every Friday night.