Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Miracle in Granada

My district here in Granada consists of me and my companion, as well as the two Zone Leaders and both of their companions, plus one pair of hermanas and another pair of Elders (so 10 missionaries total counting myself). Every day we eat lunch with one of the Zone Leaders named Elder Nave and his companion, Elder Marler, who is from Idaho and just started his mission. However, Elder Nave and I were in the MTC at the same time (he was in a different district), so we will be going home at the same time. Plus, Elder Nave is from West Jordan and went to West Jordan High School, but he lives closer to Redwood Road.

So the Hermanas and the other, non-Zone Leader Elders all serve in the Sabaneta Branch, which meets every Sunday morning at 9:00 in the chapel, and then me and the Zone Leaders all serve in the Granada Branch and we meet in the same chapel at 2:00 on Sundays.

Anyway, the reason I bring all this up about our district is because we are on fire right now -- this past week our district had 9 baptisms! I don't know if you remember me mentioning, but my companion (who goes home in 2 weeks) started his mission here in Granada. Well, this past Saturday, me and my companion baptized a boy named J. who is the son of a convert who was baptized by my companion when he was here almost 2 years ago. There were also several young men baptized at the same time. I had to call President Russell yesterday and talk to him about some of the baptism interviews for next week, and he told me how happy he is with the Granada Zone right now because of how well we are doing.

There was a scary moment with J.'s confirmation yesterday, though, because he got called into work Sunday morning and his mom showed up to church alone. He works on the boats down at the beach, giving tours on pangas kind of like the ones I would ride in to Bluefields. So we had to run down to the beach to ask him to come to church so he could get confirmed. We tried everything to help make it possible for him to come, but he told us he couldn't. So Elder Nave and I left the beach super stressed out, and then on our way back to the church, his companion called him and told him that 2 of their young men who got baptized had left for Masaya Sunday morning and weren't going to make it to church to get confirmed either.
We got caught in what felt like a hurricane! Elder Nave and I had
to walk almost 2 miles in the pouring rain with lighting all around us to
get back to where my companion and Elder Marler were waiting
for us. I don't if you can tell, but we were completely soaking wet.

So as we were sitting in church, it was about 2:40 and we were in the middle of Sacrament Meeting feeling kind of bummed out, but then I felt a strong impression that we needed to go back to the beach and talk to J. again. I was a little hesitant because we would have to take a taxi and they are expensive, but Elder Ellison (the other Zone Leader) and I went back to the beach. When we pulled up, we saw J. and ran towards him, but he shook his head and told us again that he couldn't come with us to church. I was sad and confused as we watched him wade back down in the water and he started getting another boat ready to depart. We were about to leave when he suddenly turned back around to us and starts walking back to the beach. With a smile on his face, and even though he is sopping wet, he walks up to us and says, "let's go to church." We were shocked, but before he could change his mind, we ran and got another taxi to take us back to the church. We rolled into the chapel a couple of minutes after 3:00 and my companion and Elder Nave were sharing their testimonies and stalling until we returned (kind of like the miracle in Rivas). So at 3:05, J. was confirmed just before the meeting concluded. We were so pumped at this little miracle!

So next week we are planning another baptism of B., who is a Young Woman from El Salvador but her father is from Arkansas. Anyway, she was an investigator we found on our second day here in Granada, and now she is getting ready to be baptized. However, she has lots of friends who are members, so we had some help on this one.

Well, sorry to say that this week I did not eat any chicken head and foot soup, and quite frankly, that is a dish that I hope to never eat again. However, one of my new favorite drinks is Fresco de Grama, or grass juice. The boil this special long grass and sweeten it with sugar, and it is only found here in Granada.

Granada is generally very poor and humble, especially in my area, so the food is very poor also, but I am loving it. I am very happy to be in this area to finish off my mission even though it is extremely hot when it is not raining, and then when it rains it becomes muddy and swampy. Right now it is rainy season and it floods like crazy. The streets become rivers full of mud and debris and it's a mess. Otherwise all is good and we're working hard -- my companion doesn't have a chance to get trunky! Well, lots of other emails to answer today. Have a great week everyone!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Squeezing the Juice Out in Grenada

Well, happy Father's Day, Dad! I hope it was a good day yesterday for you -- I had no idea it was Father's Day as they don't celebrate it here. Glad Mom had a nice birthday, too.

Well, this week was pretty awesome. We were able to have 3 baptisms last Saturday, along with 2 other baptisms in my district, so it was a really great Saturday! We are also preparing for another baptismal service next Saturday. We also brought 9 investigators to church yesterday and they all really liked the church service and are progressing with the lessons.

My companion has 3 weeks left in the mission, and he is getting more and more tired because of how hard we are working, but I'm squeezing the juice out of him. Tomorrow is his final interview, and rumor has it that the new mission president will be arriving this next week.

So anyway, the area is progressing really well right now and I will have to take some more money out because we have been paying for lots of transportation with all the investigators, baptismal interviews, and meetings.

Looks like our tickets arrived for August 25th today, so I am assuming you guys got those also. Well, hope you all have a great week back home!!
Chicken Head and Foot Soup -- Mmmmmm, good!
Fresh fruit for breakfast -- mmmmm, good!
Our District here in Grenada.

Adios to President and Hermana Russell

June 13, 2016

First off, happy birthday, Mom!

So within the city of Grenada, the church is organized into one giant district with four branches, rather than a stake and wards. The biggest problem here is the retention rate, which translates into the lowest church attendance in all of Nicaragua. The people here are super humble and generally receptive, and this area has had lots of baptisms in the past, but they have a hard time returning to church on a consistent basis. In a way, that is kind of how most of this mission is anyways -- always trying to help the people understand the baptismal covenant and why they need to renew it each week in Sacrament Meeting.

This past week we had a multi-zone conference. After about 4 hours of lessons and training, President and Hermana Russell told everyone goodbye. It was pretty sad. He also showed us pics of the new mission president and his family. His name is President Brown. He is from Utah and he is only 41-years-old with 4 kids all under the age of 15, so he is probably going to be way different.

My companion is doing well. He is not "dead" yet, but he is a little trunky.  We have found some pretty awesome investigators and we are working hard to have 3 baptisms this next Saturday. We even took 9 investigators to church yesterday, which is the most I have taken in a long time! I am really loving this new area and the people here with how humble and teachable they are.

Yesterday was also our District Conference at church, which is like a Stake Conference. President Russell was here for all the sessions. I couldn't believe how few people attended from all of Grenada. There were only 30 people at the Priesthood session on Saturday afternoon, and 12 of us were missionaries. Then on Sunday for the General session, there were only about 200 people, and that includes us 18 missionaries.

So that's the struggle here. The people are really receptive to the gospel message and we are working hard. I did hear about the shootings in Orlando here because everyone here thinks the United States is about 80% Miami, 10% Orlando, and then 10% New York. A couple of people here even asked me if I knew where the bar was where they had the shootings. Pretty sad. Well, that's about it for this week. Have a great Father's Day on Sunday!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Welcome to the Swamp

Bienvenidos a Granada -- so my new area is in Granada Zone on the outskirts of Granada City.
One of my good friends in Rivas who I
will miss a lot.
Well, some good news as I got transferred to a new area this past week. I am re-opening an area in Granada with a new companion named Elder Jimenez who is from El Salvador. I guess a few months ago, some missionaries got in some big trouble in this area and they shut it down and pulled the missionaries out. Elder Jimenez knows this area pretty well because he was trained here 20 months ago, and then he served in other parts of the Granada Zone for an additional 5 months, so he already knows the whole Granada Zone and a lot of the members here. And yes, if you do the math, I am "killing" Elder Jimenez as he goes home next cambios on July 14th, and then I will be going home the one after that on August 25th. Even though he will be going home soon, my new companion is still pretty awesome and we are making sure we stay focused on the work. In fact, we already found a ton of new people that we have started teaching, and some of them are already planning to get baptized the end of this month.

Some pics of my new area on the outskirts of Granada
Granada is the poorest area in our whole mission, and as a result, the people here are very receptive to the Gospel and this zone usually has the most baptisms each month. It kind of reminds me of parts of Ciudad Sandino, but definitely very poor people here that live in the middle of nowhere. There are only dirt roads in most of our area and when it rains, this place turns into a swamp. In fact, my area is on the outskirts of the city of Granada in a town that when it is translated into English means "the Swamp," and it has lived up to its name this week. Since I arrived last week, it has rained every day, so it has been a lot of fun. They also say that Granada is the hottest part of the mission, but I still feel like Rivas was hotter than here, but we'll see when it stops raining.
More pics of my new area.

I am still a district leader, but the Zone Leaders are in my district and in my ward at church, and they are both buddies of mine, so it should be a blast. Also, church doesn't start for our ward here until 2:00 in the afternoon on Sundays, so they say that makes it easier to bring people to church each week.

Granada is also the most dangerous area and missionaries get robbed here all the time, so we'll be careful, but it has also been a long time since they had a white missionary in this area. Even still, Granada will be awesome to end the mission because in the middle of the city itself, there are a ton of restaurants and some tourist attractions.
Our poor shoes... it definitely is a swamp when it rains.

On a bad note, on my last P-Day in Rivas a week ago, I lost my little passport zip bag while I was riding the bus, which had my Utah ID, my temple recommend, and all my money that I withdrew that day. Luckily, my Nicaragua ID was in another place and was fine, but I had to withdraw some more money for cambios.

The Cathedral of Granada off in the distance.
We did take a few pics today as we visited the city for P-Day, as well as some pics as I was leaving Rivas, but I won't be carrying my camera around as much in this new area in case we  get robbed. Anyways, I am about out of time for today. Thanks everyone back home for your prayers, letters, and support. I miss everyone, but I still got 3 more months to tear up the area here in Granada!

This is Xalteva Church on the
western side of the city.

View of Granada from the Xalteva Church tower.