Monday, December 31, 2012

Week 58

So it's been a bit of whirlwind the last 10 days or so, and finally things are starting to settle down. In fact, it was so crazy that I didn't even get to write a blog entry last Monday. So I guess I have to start with the story about that. Well, we had changes again two Fridays ago (it was on a Friday instead of a Wednesday because of all the craziness going on with missions). So I got my new companion Elder Russo on Friday night. He's really cool. Just in case you were wondering with the last name, he's from the States. But his dad is from Argentina and his mom is from Mexico, so he has quite a bit of Latin blood in him. And although he didn't learn Spanish before his mission, he's learned insanely fast. Like I thought I learned fast, but it's nothing compared to him. He just started his third change, and he's already fluent. In fact, he's about as good as me with the language. So that's made things a lot easier. Oh, and he's from San Antonio, Texas. I have to assume that when two Texans are put together, the world will change. Texas is just that awesome :) Anyway, we were gonna leave on Saturday, but there was a big storm and they cancelled the boat rides. That meant we couldn't get there til Monday (Christmas Eve), and that we had to cancel church last sunday since we weren't there to preside. So that was strange.

We finally got back to Utila just in time for Christmas. Honduran Christmas is a little different than American Christmas. They don't really put a big emphasis on presents, and the biggest tradition is tamales, which EVERY family makes in preparation for Christmas. Almost every visit we made on Christmas day, people gave us tamales. Sadly, they're pretty average. Happily, I only had to endure tamales for a couple days. The rest of the week, I was trying to finish tithing settlement. Even with a small branch, it proved to be pretty tough to set up appointments with everyone. In fact, I still have a few finishing touches to make before sending the stuff off to Tegucigalpa. It was a really good experience, and it's just one more reason I respect bishops and branch presidents everywhere who make the sacrifices to do this stuff. Seriously, every Mormon that's reading this should go to your bishop and just tell him thanks for everything he does. Those guys do SO much, and I didn't realize it until I got thrown into this situation.

With all the tithing settlement stuff, there wasn't as much time for missionary work, but the Lord blessed us with some incredible experiences and successes. We found this sweet new family (the Castro Family). The oldest son is already a member as well as the mom's mom. Obviously, the missionaries taught them some before, but apparently they weren't ready. But it seems like something happened to make them a little more serious about our visits. We found them Wednesday of this past week, and they have been great! They're reading in the Book of Mormon, they learned how to pray, and the dad even went to church for the first time ever yesterday! Another blessing was that an ex-missionary came to visit Utila for the holidays, and went with us for one of the visits with the Castro Family. We taught the Book of Mormon and it was a really powerful lesson, and I think it motivated the dad to go to church yesterday. He said he loved it by the way. The mom is a little bit tougher, but she told us she would go to church too. And the oldest daughter (who is eight) already says she wants to get baptized. Elder Russo and I are really excited for this family, and we're hoping they keep at it with the commitments. Also, we're teaching two other people that could be baptized in January: Dennis, a 10 year old nino who is friends with our cook's kids and Maria, a single lady who used to go to church before but stopped because of issues with her former husband. Those got resolved though, and she's really excited to learn more about the gospel. They've each been to church once, so they're well on their way to baptism. And hey, if we catch some breaks and work like we've never worked before, we could accomplish our goal of 3 baptisms in a month, which hasn't happened in Utila for at least two years.

Ok, funny story of the week: We had an appointment last night with a member family. We've activated the kids during my time here, and we're working on the parents now. The mom has come to church a couple times, but the dad still hasn't. But they're a really awesome family, and we always have a great time there. Also, we feel the spirit really strong during our lessons with them. Anyway, it was no different in our lesson yesterday. We chatted for a bit, and my companion and I joked around with their kids, and everything was great. Then, we transitioned into the lesson, and were having a really good lesson. We got to the most crucial point, and I could feel the spirit pretty strong. And then, I felt something land on my arm. It scared me half to death, and I jumped out of my chair and flung my arm away to get whatever it was off of me. Well, turned out two geckos had fallen off the ceiling and landed on my arm. Everyone was laughing hysterically at my reaction, and I have to admit, it was pretty funny. Although next time, I hope it happens to my companion instead of me. Sorry, Elder Russo haha.

Anyway, hope everyone has a great New Year's Day! Celebrate it in a cool way. Listen to what I say, and if you go to a par-tay, may you say hey to all the people, ok? Ok, I gotta stay in Utila here by the bay, but have a great day!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Week 56

This week was insane. Just straight up insane. Here´s the day by day breakdown:

Tuesday: We get a call early in the morning that Ortiz (my comp) needs to pack his bags. We had to leave that same day in the afternoon to be in Ceiba at 3:00. After some hasty good-byes and some awkward moments with Ortiz (considering I´m the one who told President about his latest problems), we headed off on the boat for Ceiba. The APs (Assistants to the President) were there to pick us up, and they took us to another area in Ceiba. We worked the rest of the day with a threesome of me, Elder Ortiz, and Elder Burwell. Side note: teaching with three people is really weird, and I understand why we´re put in companionships of two missionaries... it´s WAY better. The three of us slept with the APs in a very cramped house.

Wednesday: We woke up in the morning, and went to district meeting. The zone leaders and APs both gave some short talks to help us with missionary work. At this point, I still didn´t know what was going to happen with my situation, so I was a little distracted and worried about what the future held. Anyway, we finished district meeting, returned to the house, and waited for the APs. They came to the house, and picked up Elder Ortiz and in a shocker that none of us knew, Elder Rivas as well. Both of them only had one week left in the mission, but because of issues they were having, President had them go to the mission offices in San Pedro. And that´s when the biggest shocker came. With Ortiz and Rivas gone, the mission president wanted me and Elder Burwell (Rivas´s old companion) to work two areas until the end of this change, which is this Friday. This meant two days in Buenos Aires, Elder Burwell´s area, followed by a weekend in Utila, followed by more time in Buenos Aires. Then, we worked the rest of the day in Buenos Aires. I enjoyed being in a normal area, where people listened to us and were willing to do what we said. After being in Utila, it´s kind of amazing how humble the Honduran people are. Guess I kinda took that for granted before.

Thursday: Another day in Buenos Aires, that was fairly uneventful. I was just following Elder Burwell around for the most part, and then making my mark in the lessons. It was good not to have to worry about logistics/planning for once. Also, I should tell you guys a little about Elder Burwell, considering we´re comps for about 10 days. He´s from Kaysville, Utah and has seven months in the mission. He´s actually pretty far along, considering he only has seven months. He has a pretty good handle on the language, and is a really good missionary. We´ve been getting along great, so at least I had that going for me during all this craziness.

Friday: We headed back to Utila in the morning. The main issue at hand was preparing Josue for baptism. That meant teaching Plan of Salvation, tithing, and sabbath day on Friday, and setting up the baptismal interview for the following day. We taught it all successfully, and actually had a pretty successful day of work. I had to deal with some money issues as well, considering the branch only has 2000 lempiras left for the rest of the year (about 100 bucks) and wanted to do some Christmas activities. Luckily, my Primary President came through, as she always does and penny pinched for the Primary, leaving 1400 lemps for the Relief Society to do their Christmas dinner. I´m so thankful for small miracles in situations like this.

Saturday: I did Josue´s baptismal interview in the morning, and he passed with flying colors. The only real concern I have is the support from his mom, but he lives right by his aunt and cousins, who are some of the strongest members of the branch. Hopefully, that will keep him active. In another small miracle, a member offered to drive us to the baptism in a golf cart, and set up everything to take us there and back (about a 20 minute ride one way). That made things a lot easier, and Burwell was able to perform the baptism in the ATLANTIC OCEAN. I still can´t get over the fact that we baptize in the ocean in Utila - it´s just awesome. It was a great baptismal service and a good spiritual experience for all those who attended, including Josue´s non-member mom. After finishing the baptism, we went straight to the church for the Christmas dinner. The relief society did a great job preparing everything, and to some extent, I was able to sit back and enjoy the show... and the food, which was excellent. We also had a great turnout, and some inactives that we have been trying to get to church for FOREVER showed up in the church. After that, we did a couple more appointments, and went to bed exhausted.

Sunday: As always, this is the craziest day of the week. After preparing, blessing, and passing the sacrament, I gave a 10 minute talk. I went against my natural personality, and talked really boldly. The boldest points of the talk: ¨Repent and change your lives to live in harmony with the Savior´s teachings¨ and ¨According to the scripture in John 14:15, when you don´t keep the commandments, you sin and don´t love God¨ and ¨The negative things that I´ve heard about Utila are lies created by Satan.¨ I´ve never given a talk quite like it, but it was AWESOME! Plus it´s what the branch needed, and I could feel the spirit helping me during the talk. I just hope it made a difference for the members. After that, Burwell helped me out by giving the Sunday School lesson. And then in the third hour, a family of 9 from the States randomly came to our church building. Some of them knew Spanish, but it was an adventure that ended up being a Spanglish lesson. It was good to talk to some strong returned missionaries though! After church, I started with tithing settlement, which right now is stressing me out more than anything. I don´t really know what I´m doing, but luckily President Veirs is helping me out with everything I need. Then we counted the tithing for the week, took the sacrament to two ladies, and had some awesome lessons to finish off the day.

Monday: We took the 6:20 boat from Utila back to Ceiba. It was a glorious P-day with the rest of the zone. We went to a cool nature place, took a boat ride, and saw some monkeys and crocodiles. Then, we played soccer for an hour. And after, we finished off the day going to Wendy´s and coming here to do Internet. Now, we´ll continue until Friday in Buenos Aires, and then Elder Burwell and I will get new comps and have some more permanent stays in our respective areas.

Hope you enjoyed the insanity of the week! This next week should bring even more surprises and stress, but I know Heavenly Father is helping me through every step of the journey. Thanks for all your love and support!  Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Week 55

(Editors' Note by Mom: I think Cam thinks he has told you all about his companion - in reality he has only told us in his personal letters.  Cam recently caught him leaving the apartment at night and it has been widely known that he has had a personal cell phone almost his entire mission, but he denies it.  He has been in trouble most of his mission and has almost been sent home numerous times.  His time is actually up next week, you would think he would keep his head until then!)

Whoa it´s insane what´s happened in the last 5 days! My head hurts just thinking about it, but here's the quick recap of the madness in Utila recently.

First of all, there are the issues with my comp. I told my mission president that I suspect him of leaving the house in the night and having a cell phone, but I still don't have any evidence of either of those things. Anyway, I called pres one day about something unrelated and he told me, regarding my comp, that all hell was going to break loose on Sunday. Those were his exact words. So the next night, I was talking with my zone leaders, who were planning on coming Sunday (AKA yesterday). And that´s when my zone leader told me that Pres was sending my comp home (as in El Salvador) without honors. At that point, President's quote made a lot more sense.

Anyway, we had a baptism on Saturday (just wait, this is relevant to the story) and I performed the baptism in the OCEAN! It was excellent, and it was great to return to the water after a long dry spell (haha that was a clever pun). Ok now the point relevant to the story. As I was changing into my baptism clothes, I dropped the cell phone in the toilet! It seemed fine at first, but after the baptism, it didn´t work. It was pretty much the worst timing possible considering what was going to happen the next day.

So Sunday finally rolls around, and church was awesome and a royal mess at the same time. It was awesome because we had 49 people show up to Sacrament meeting to see the Primary Program. It shattered our old attendance record, and we could barely fit everyone into the room. However, as Hondurans tend to do, everyone showed up late. My primary president was asking me to wait to start sacrament meeting, so she could get everything ready, and we ended up starting about 10 minutes late. We performed the confirmation of Suleika, passed the sacrament, and then started the primary program. It was excellent- one of the best primary programs I´ve ever seen. But... the adults decided to start all sorts of apostasy. My relief society president started taking pictures and videos in our chapel, and I had to tell her to stop. Two people tried to give me tithing money without filling out a form. And then the primary presidency apparently thought church finished after sacrament meeting. They brought two cakes and soda, gave it to the kids, and they started running around while the adults were still having class. My head was spinning trying to stop all this stuff, and I was able to somewhat stop it before it got too out of hand. It was still ridiculous though.

Anyway, we finally get out of church, and I use a member's phone to call my zone leaders and find out what's going on. Turns out they weren't coming, and the APs and President had been trying to get a hold of me. I talked to both of them, told them my comp's story again, and President said he's going to make a decision about whether he stays or goes. Meanwhile, I'm just floundering here, trying to keep a struggling branch afloat, keep my comp from doing anything too illegal, find a phone, prepare a baptism, and start tithing settlement. This place is definitely keeping me on my toes haha

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Week 54

Hey everyone! Sorry if you guys were expecting the blog on Monday. We learned last week that there was going to be a special Christmas multi-zone conference on Monday, so our P-day this week is on a Wednesday! The conference was awesome- we took the boat to Ceiba (AKA the mainland/normalcy) and met up with about 35 other missionaries there. We heard some talks from our APs and President Veirs gave an excellent talk about the importance of Joseph Smith in the history of the church. And then we watched videos from all the areas in the entire mission! Every Christmas, every area makes a small video and then we watch them in the Zone Conference. We had some good laughs haha.

This Saturday, we will have a baptism... in the ocean! How awesome is that?! It's this eight-year old girl named Suleka. We're teaching her parents too, but they have some problems with the Word of Wisdom and have to get married first. We're hoping their daughter's baptism spurs them on. Also, we're pretty sure we'll have a baptism the following Saturday as well! So I'll at least get to experience Utila baptisms!

Also, this week is the Primary program! I'm pretty stoked. The Primary President is awesome- there's usually one person in each area that is the mom figure for the missionaries, and it's her here in Utila. And she has done some incredible work for the Primary program. We should have about 20 kids participating in the program, and she's publicizing it to inactives and non-members as well. I'm hoping for the highest attendance during my stay here in Utila! :)

Well, I hope everyone has a fantastic week! I'll have another blog in only 5 short days! Haha stay safe and get started on your Christmas shopping (especially for the guys, we tend to procrastinate haha). Adios!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Week 53

So... Thanksgiving in Utila turned out to be really disappointing. People told me before that they celebrate it here, but NOONE did anything that day! It made me really sad. There was even a family that said they were gonna invite us for pecan pie, but they didn't come through. Oh well, it was my only Thanksgiving in Honduras, so I guess I can miss out on one in my life.

So the work keeps moving along here in Utila. I've noticed that there are obviously a bunch of negatives with a really small branch, but there is one big positive. I'm such good friends with every single one of the branch members. We're with them about every day of the week because there are so few people to visit, but it means that as missionaries, we really develop strong relationships with everyone. It really is like a big, crazy, Utilian family. Also, the primary program is in two weeks, which means the primary is practicing three times a week. And as the Branch Presidency, we have to be in every church meeting, so we get to go! It's a cool experience actually. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, we practice with all the primary and then have seminary with the teenagers right after. It's like experiencing my childhood all over again... except in Spanish.

As far as investigators go, Mariela is still dragging her feet. Something changed after Elder Skousen left, and she doesn't seem as excited about baptism anymore. I guess that can happen when there is a change of missionaries, but we're hoping to turn it around and lock down a baptismal date. We've found a couple other niños that are going to the primary practices and are interested in getting baptized, so there are other possibilies as well. But where we're really making some headway is with the inactive members- we've already activated five people and we're hoping for more in church next Sunday. It makes me really happy, but sad at the same time because it's almost a sure thing now that they are going to close the branch.

We played soccer on the beach today with a bunch of the niños. It was a lot of fun! I hadn't played soccer for a while, so it was a really enjoyable experience. Plus I scored about 15 goals- kinda cheap since we were playing with younger kids, but I tried to keep them involved too haha. I can't believe we're already moving into December! It should be an awesome holiday season here. At least they celebrate Christmas, cuz if not, I would be pretty upset. Have a safe and happy holiday season, and I'll talk to you next week!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Week 52

So this past week I hit the year mark of the mission, which made me take a step back and evaluate how things are going in life and on the mission. First off, it's been a crazy year! I can't believe that I entered the MTC a year ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, other times it feels like forever ago. And most of all, I can't believe all of the things I've learned, the people I've met, the friends I've made, and the experiences I've had. And this is only with 50% of the mission. Who knows what the Lord has in store for me in the next year?
Well, the big news this last week was changes. My new comp is Elder Ortiz from El Salvador. It is his last change in the mission. He was actually comps with my MTC comp Elder Hebert, so I knew quite a bit about him before he even came here. In other change meeting news, there were big changes in my old MTC district. I still try to keep track of all of those guys because we're all such good friends. And here we all are, a year into the mission, and we have three district leaders, one secretary, one branch president, one trainer, and two senior companions. It's pretty impressive, and just makes we marvel again at how far we've all come.

I'm looking forward to a good change - this one will only be five weeks because they don't want to have a change meeting on Christmas. But hopefully I can make the most of these five weeks, and maybe even have a baptism or two! Mariela still has some doubts, but we're working really hard to resolve everything and prepare her for what would definitely be a special day.

Well, I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! Remember the true purpose of the holiday. Sure, we can eat a lot and watch some good football games (well not me, but at least you guys), but when it comes down to it, we sure do have a lot to be thankful for. I'm thankful for all of you that read the blog and continue supporting me in every way possible. Love you guys! Adios!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Week 51

Hey, we just found out about changes! And it turns out Elder Skousen has a change, which means the Birt/Skousen dream team will be broken up. Kinda sad, but it was expected. I don't remember if I told you guys this, but President told both Skousen and I that this would most likely be a temporary thing. So neither of us was really surprised when we got the call. One positive is that I get to leave Utila for 3 days! It's not that I don't like Utila, but it's a really small island and I'm getting a little stir-crazy here. I think some time on the mainland could do some good.
Ok, so this last Wednesday, I was thinking I would have one of the coolest mission stories ever. But then there were some developments later in the week. Anyway, I'll just take you guys for the whole week-long roller coaster ride. So I told you last week that Mariela didn't want us to teach her anymore because her parents told her to stop listening to us. Well, that didn't last long. Tuesday, we talked with a member from the branch that said Mariela wanted to talk to us again. So we set up an appointment for the next day, and hoped for the best. At the appointment on Wednesday, she told us what had happened. After telling us to not visit her anymore, she felt horrible, even to the point of feeling sick. She said she even started crying later on, and that's when she decided to call her parents. Obviously, a crying daughter has a big effect on parents, so her parents told her to do what she thought was best and that they would stop interfering in her life because after all, she's 27 years old. And shortly after, she ran into our member friend and asked if we could come back over. Pretty awesome right? Just wait, it gets better. So after hearing this story, we asked her what she thought about baptism, and she told us straight up she wanted to get baptized. At this point, we're grinning from ear to ear. And that's when I asked her, "Hey, how about this Saturday?" Skousen and I both knew she was ready, but I figured she would think it was too fast. But she surprised us yet again. She told us that she had a dream about getting baptized that Saturday, and that's what she wanted to do. She had been a little scared to bring it up with us cuz she thought WE would think it was too fast. I was blown away. We were going to have a baptism! And then Thursday happened...

So we had to speed up the teaching in order to teach her everything necessary before baptism, which meant we were planning for a Thursday appointment, Friday appointment, a Saturday morning baptismal interview (by me), and a Saturday afternoon baptism. Needless to say, it was kind of a packed schedule. Anyway, Thursday we were teaching tithing and sabbath day, and we ran into a few problems. She didn't agree with the way we pay tithing- she thought it should be completely anonymous. And she didn't agree with not buying anything on Sundays. We explained and re-explained it, but she just couldn't get over those two problems. We made a joint decision to push back the baptism to a later date, so she could think about those issues a little more. Skousen and I both think she'll be baptized, mainly because she's one of the best investigators either of us has ever had. But Skousen won't be here for her baptism since he's leaving this week. It was a letdown after such an incredible turn of events on Wednesday, but we're at least happy that she's back on track to be baptized :)

Ok, random story of the week. So Utila basically has one town on the south side and then the rest of the island is almost uninhabited. But we have a few members and investigators that we visit out in this nearly uninhabited part. This past Saturday, we made plans to visit everyone in that part of the island. At first, it looked like a disaster. Every appointment cancelled, and we were left with nothing planned for a couple hours. So we decided to go even further north and explore the part of the island that we had never been to. It turned out that there were only two houses for the rest of the walk, both of which were empty. But on that walk, we found a giant mansion, an abandoned putt-putt golf course, the Utila airport, and the other side of the island... as in, we walked all the way across the island and found the ocean on the other side. Ya, I told you the island was small.

Well, that's what life is like in Utila this past week. Pretty crazy right? This next week, I'll get a new companion, and hit my one-year mark in the mission! I'm gonna try to do something cool to celebrate, but we'll see what happens. Hope everyone has a good week! Que le vaya bien!

Elder Birt

Monday, November 5, 2012

Week 50

So I'm sure there's a bunch of election buzz right now, which is no different in Utila. Sadly, it's for the Honduran elections, so I don't really know what's going on. The only thing I do know is that people are putting posters and flyers EVERYWHERE. So I'm seeing a lot of guys named Miguel and Juan, but I have no idea who they are. I have heard quite a few arguments about politics though, which just goes to show that politics make people crazy in all parts of the world.

As far as missionary work, it's been a mixed bag. I've mentioned that we're basically here to find a Branch President right now, and we kind of failed with that goal yesterday at church. There were six men in church yesterday- me, Elder Skousen, three guys visiting from the States (who happened to be returned missionaries, so that was cool), and Lee. Lee would be the ideal fit for a new Branch President if it weren't for his divorce/marriage issues. But since that's not gonna be solved in the near future, he's not really a serious candidate. Also, I think it's ironic that five out of the six men we had in a Honduran church were from the USA. In another bit of bad news, our one serious investigator Mariela told us she didn't want us to visit her anymore. The frustrating thing is that she knows the church is true. She even wants to get baptized. But apparently, her parents would freak out if she got baptized into the Mormon church. Skousen and I are pretty annoyed by this considering she's 27 years old and her parents are still running her life. Maybe we were just here to plant the seed or something.

In the happier news of the week, we had 33 people in sacrament meeting yesterday, which sets a new personal record! We even got Janet to come, who is the mother of this GIANT extended family of inactive members. So we're hoping that helps activate some more people, specifically her kids. Also, Preston, the 13-year old we're teaching, continues to progress. He also came up with a brilliant nickname for my companion- "The Russian." It just sounds awesome. People continue to call me "Pajaro" or "Pajarito," which mean "bird" or "little bird" (people tend to confuse birt with bird). I think it's kind of cool, especially when the 3-year old son of my cook (who is hilarious!) calls me Elder Pajarito. Also, Elder Skousen and I continue to have a blast! It's gonna be a shame when one of us leaves :(

Ok, that's all for this week! Stay safe and have a good week!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Week 49

Another exhausting week in Utila... I don't why, but I'm always really tired here. But it was also an excellent week, and here's why:

My companion, Elder Skousen, is awesome! He's easily my favorite companion that I've had in the field, and we've become fast friends. But the really great thing is that we know when to have fun and we know when to be serious. Not only can we joke around, but we also work really well together. Our lessons have been great, and I feel like our unity is helping the Utila branch.

We have two possible candidates for baptism! Which is a slight miracle here in Utila considering there have only been three baptisms here in the past year. We've been teaching Mariela, a 27-year old single lady, for a couple weeks now. She keeps pretty much all of the commitments we leave with her. For example, she went to church yesterday, she reads the BOM, prays, has questions for us, etc. But the one stumbling block is that she got baptized about 15 years ago in a different church. She says it was a wonderful experience, and she feels that she doesn't need to be baptized again. It's kind of a delicate situation, but we feel like she's making a lot of progress. At first, she was totally against being baptized. But in our lesson yesterday, she told us that sometimes she feels like she should get baptized in our church, especially after she prays. She has a really sincere desire to know, so we're pretty confident that she'll receive a definite answer pretty soon. Also, Hermano Lee, one of the only guys that ever comes to church here, invited us to teach his 13-year old son, Preston. We just started teaching him this past week, but we feel optimistic because he has so much support from the rest of his family. Also, he goes to Seminary every day, and has gone to church two straight weeks. So we could actually have some baptisms while I'm here (side note: We would baptize in the ocean if this happened, which would be awesome!)

The attendance rose to 30 this last week, which is well above the 18 we had the previous two weeks. A big part of it is that it didn't rain, but I would like to think Skousen and I played a part in it as well. The biggest surprise was that Hermano Angel finally came to church! He's this guy that's been inactive for quite a while. But he's the husband of our cook, so we talk with him about every day and invite him to come back to church. And this past week, he finally did it! It was so awesome to see a complete family (of five people) come to church here in Utila. That's just the way it's meant to be.

Ok, well I don't have much time this week. Stay safe from the hurricane! Vote in the election! Thanks for all the support- talk to you again in November! :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Week 48

VERY interesting week... probably the most interesting of my mission so far. Let's just start from the beginning...

On Tuesday, our zone leaders were still here on the island, so I went out to work with one of them, while my comp worked with the other. We were having a good day until about 4:00 when the big news came. Elder Garcia, the zone leader I was with, got a call from my comp Elder Jurado. And that's when we both found out that Elder Jurado was going back home... as in going home to El Salvador. Apparently, he and President made the decision that day because of the sickness problems he had been having. He still finished the mission with honors though. That set in motion a big chain of events...

Wednesday morning, the four of us left the island, and then Elder Jurado and I continued on to San Pedro. That day, we ran a couple errands with the mission secretaries and visited a couple of Jurado's converts from San Pedro. That night, we ate Jurado's farewell dinner with President Veirs. It was lasagna... like real lasagna... and we had cake for dessert. It was probably the best meal I've had in Honduras. Ok, sorry I got sidetracked. After that, we slept in the house of the AP's and mission secretaries, which happens to be a mansion. It's the coolest house I've ever been in, including the United States. So that was cool... although we only slept there for 4 hours. That's because we woke up early to take Jurado to the airport. Then I just ran errands with the AP's and secretaries all day, including going to the airport again to pick up Elder Skousen, a missionary that had gone back to the States for surgery and returned. Thursday night, President FINALLY called me in for my interview, where I learned the following things. I'm senior companion and Branch President. My new companion is Elder Skousen, who is also senior companion. President is planning on pulling the missionaries out of my area of Utila. The only way he won't do it is if we find or activate a Branch President. And all this when I've only been in the area two weeks! Crazy right?

On Friday morning, we drove with the APs to Ceiba, so we could take the boat to Utila. Side note: There are no traffic laws in Honduras, so we were driving between 80-115 mph for most of the trip. We got there safe though mom! And Friday night, we finally made it back to Utila, and started the normal mission routine again. We've been focusing on fixing the problems of potential Branch President candidates, but there's still a long way to go. Also, church yesterday was nuts! The two people assigned to give talks didn't show up, so my comp and I both had to whip out 15 minute talks. Mine went fairly well. Then, I gave two lessons in the next two hours, counted tithing, and took the sacrament to two other people. Just all in a day's work!

An interesting result of having a Gringo companion is that we speak in English almost all the time now. I kind of think of it as a Spanish speaking mission in the states because we do a lot in English, but then teach and have church in Spanish. I like it though.

Well, I don't have a whole lot of time today, so I gotta go. Hope everyone has a great week y nos vemos en la semana que viene!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Week 47

Ok, so I mentioned last week that this place is a little different than my other areas and all the rest of the mission as well. But I really found that out yesterday, when we had church meetings for the first time (it was general conference the week before). For sacrament meeting, we set up chairs and prepared the sacrament beforehand. It started raining about 30 minutes before the meeting started, which meant only the most faithful members showed up and we had a grand attendance of 18 people. So, my comp conducted and presided the meeting as Branch President. We blessed and passed the sacrament. It was fast and testimony meeting, which resulted in almost the whole congregation bearing their testimonies. But when there are only 18 people there, that still doesn't quite fill up the time. So my comp and I both gave 7-8 minute talks to finish off the meeting. For the second hour, my comp helped with primary, while I taught Sunday School. The odds were stacked against me, considering I found out the topic of the class five minutes before the lesson started, and that topic turned out to be the gathering of Israel (seriously?). But I was kind of able to get some discussion going and avoided a complete disaster there (Hopefully, next week my comp and I can prepare for this stuff a little better). In the third hour, there's no priesthood. Which means that my comp and I, as the Branch Presidency, sit in on the Relief Society and Primary meetings. Also, my comp decided the speakers for next week's sacrament meeting. After the three-hour whirlwind, we went to the office and counted tithing. That was actually a pretty cool experience, and I somewhat enjoyed it. And then after that, we went to two older sisters in the ward who can't go to church for medical reasons and gave them the sacrament. By the time we finished all this, it was about 4:00. So we did a couple appointments, and then called it a night.

Also, our zone leaders came last night, and they'll be with us for the next three days. Apparently, they visit one of the islands (here or Roatan) every six weeks, and this happened to be our time. So the number of active priesthood leaders on the island has doubled haha! I've gotten some questions about how often we leave the island. And the answer is basically never. Only when there's a change of companions or when President comes for something (Zone Conference, interviews, etc.) For example, this change (six weeks), we will only leave the island once. It also means that we don't have meetings with the other missionaries, which I was pretty bummed about.

In other news, there are some legitimately rich people here. Some from the States and some from Honduras. The island is super small, and only has about 2400 permanent residents. But with the number of tourists, it's probably about twice that. The church has existed here for 30 years! According to the info we have, we think there are about 80-90 members on the island. If I have a baptism while I'm here, it will be in the OCEAN! How awesome is that? Speaking of baptisms, we might have one this change. She's the only person that's progressing at the moment, so we're focusing a lot on her. I can finally understand the English here! Seriously, the accent is crazy. It's kind of a mix between the States and Honduras. For example, a bunch of food is shipped in from the States (which means it's super expensive), but there are also places which sell baleadas, the staple of any Honduran diet. It's about half English and half Spanish, and nearly everyone is bilingual. There are crabs EVERYWHERE. We eat crabs and fish quite a bit. Like the States, they're having elections this next month, and that's all anyone is talking about.

Ok, that's the fast facts of Utila. I'll have some more next week for you guys. Hope everyone is doing well! Gram, thanks for the letter! It finally got to me here on the island haha. Have a great week!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Week 46

Where to begin, where to begin? Well, I suppose the biggest news is Utila, my new area and also the most famous area in my mission. You guys will definitely be able to find it on the internet because it's an island 25 miles off the northern coast of Honduras with a ton of tourists. It's also completely different than any other area in Honduras for the following reasons:
1. Almost everyone speaks English. Apparently, Utila was a British colony until somewhat recently. So almost all the natives (and obviously all the tourists) speak English. The weird part is that they have a ridiculously strong accent. It's hard to describe, but it's like a mix of Scottish and Cajun accents that makes it difficult for Americans like me to understand. I'm still getting used to it. Also, I've already taught a couple lessons in English, which is just weird.
2. We're not part of a district or zone, and therefore don't go to any missionary meetings (also cuz we're on an island). This area belongs directly to President Veirs, the president of the mission, which means we talk directly with President Veirs and the missionaries in the office.
3. We're part of a branch where only about 20 people are active. Also, there are ZERO active, worthy, priesthood holders in Utila, which means my comp is the Branch President and I'm his First Counselor! It's one of only two areas in my mission where a missionary is the Branch President.
4. Based on past history, it's almost impossible to baptize here. This is one of the highest baptizing missions in the world (for example, we had 298 as a mission last month!), but Utila has only had 3 baptisms in the past year.
In other news, my new comp is Elder Jurado from El Salvador. It's his last change in the mission. We already have had a couple disagreements just because we have a lot of different ideas about how to do things. I honestly feel like he could be my favorite companion or my least favorite companion- it's just too early to tell.
Also, General Conference was awesome! Of the talks, I especially liked President Uchtdorf's and Elder Holland's. Although I have to admit that I had already heard Elder Holland's talk (from a recording of a talk he gave in the MTC) from a zone conference we had here in the mission. I hope everyone learned something new and enjoyed the spirit of the Lord's chosen servants. Now comes the hard part: applying what they taught.
Ok, I don't have much time left, but thanks for everything! Oh just a heads up: Letters are going to take a lot longer to get to me now because we only come off the island for changes or when President Veirs comes (AKA every 3-6 weeks). So don't get too antsy about letters because it's not my fault, it's Utila's ;)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Week 45

Well... it's that time again. The time where I leave the friendly confines of San Marcos and take off for another area. We have the change meeting with all the missionaries this Wednesday, and I'll find out my new area and my new companion.

Leaving an area always leaves me really confused. I'm sad to leave all the people I've met here in San Marcos, but I'm happy to move on and start all over again in a new area. It's always tough saying goodbye though. I guess it's pretty amazing how close you can get to people in 4 short months. That's just life on the mission though.

In other news, Elder Hebert and I, in an effort to finish off the change with a bang, finally convinced our district leader to do divisions again this past Friday. Yet again, it was awesome! We visited some cool investigators and members in Hebert's area, and then stayed up til 3 in the morning talking about life and playing backgammon. How cool is that? Haha but Hebert has changes too! Could lightning strike 3 times? I guess we'll see on Wednesday...

In the cultural highlight of the week, it's time to talk about food again? But this time, the awesome fruit they have here in Honduras! I think I already talked about bananas one time, but I can't really remember. Suffice it to say that I'm pretty sure the bananas here are better than the ones in the States. They pretty much have all the same fruit that we have in the States, except it's fresher (as in some Honduran guy picked it off a tree a couple hours before) and therefore better. Plus they have some random fruits that we don't have in the States. My favorite is called leaches. Probably sounds gross... and they look gross too. But they're really good. Kinda like candy actually. Anyway, there's always vendors that come on our buses and sell all this fruit, along with a bunch of other stuff too. Basically, it's more evidence that Latins are obsessed with food haha.

Ok, I gotta go, but thanks to everyone for your letters, prayers, and all the other support you're giving me. See you all next week from a different area with a different comp!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Week 44

Hey everyone! Hope Fall is treating you right. To be honest, there's only one season here, so I'm continuing to suffer in the heat. It's a good suffering though haha

So, this was one of those weeks where every possible baptism fell off the face of the earth, which kinda bums me out. We were going to baptize Gabby and Mel, two little girls who live with their inactive grandmother and non-member grandfather. But the grandparents keep doing things to prevent them from going to church. I don't know whether it's intentional or unintentional, but it sure is frustrating. One of our other progressing investigators, a 19 year old guy named Edin, moved. Apparently, he still lives in our area, but we haven't found his house and he didn't go to church either. And then there's this girl Lili, a 16-year old girl who was a reference from her cousins and aunt. She cried in the first lesson we had with her because she felt the spirit so strongly. She was ready to get baptized. But then her mom said she can't and that they're moving to San Pedro next week. That's just the ups and downs of missionary work, I suppose. Maybe we planted the seed, and these people will overcome their problems and be baptized sometime in the future. That's what I keep telling myself anyway...

In the cultural highlight/weirdly cool story of the week, I de-grained (the spanish word is desgranar, so I hope "de-grained" actually makes sense haha) corn for the first time this week. As I've said in the past, we kind of live in the middle of nowhere, so there are a lot of people with farms. Recently, there have been some corn harvests, so occasionally we come across people preparing corn (I'm assuming to make corn tortillas, since they're used in about every meal). Anyway, we helped two people this week with taking corn off the cob and putting it in big barrels. I'm not really sure why, but I enjoyed it quite a bit :)

Also, we had a zone conference this past week in the mission office. I'll repeat again- air conditioning might be the best invention of all time. But seriously, it was a really powerful spiritual experience, and I learned a LOT of things that we need to incorporate in our missionary efforts here in San Marcos. Our leaders are also putting a HUGE emphasis on the Book of Mormon, which makes sense because it is the evidence of everything we teach. I like it too because I've gained an even greater love for the Book of Mormon here on the mission. I'm about to finish it for the third time in Spanish too! :)

Que tengan una buena semana! Espero que todo esté super macizo allí en los Estados. And Happy Anniversary to my parents! Congrats on another year!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Week 43

So yesterday, I hit the 10-month mark on the mish. The time just keeps on rolling along right? It seems like everything is going to be so much different when I get back though. Well, onward to the highlights (and lowlights) of the week...

Last Tuesday, some genius in Honduras decided to close down the ONLY highway this side of San Pedro for a political demonstration. It also happens to be the highway that we needed to use to go to our district meeting... and the highway that thousands of other people were using that day. We ended up walking about a 4-mile stretch lined with cars to get to another bus. I'm definitely not voting for that guy haha

Friday, we had another service project with that same guy where we planted corn. This time, we hauled lumber for him, which was pretty back-breaking work. After we roasted the corn that I helped plant, and ate it right there in the corn field! Kind of a cool experience.

What was NOT a cool experience was when my comp lost the key to our house. We've had key issues before, and long story short, there's no backup key. So, using a combination of screwdrivers, rocks, a hammer, and brute force, we broke the lock off the door and were able to enter the house. The bad news? It took us an hour to do it, and we still haven't bought a new lock and keys. Currently, we're using fingernail clippers or a knife to open our door, which makes me feel like McGyver.

In baptism news, we're hitting a streak of pretty bad luck. We're having a hard time getting people to church, which obviously makes it pretty tough to baptize. It's still possible that we baptize 4 more during September, but only one looks even close to a sure thing. But the first priority this week is sealing up those baptisms :)

In the cultural note of the week, it's time to talk about one of the most annoying things about Honduras: weddings. In order for families to get baptized, they have to be married first, which is obviously great. But here, it's a HUGE pain to set up a wedding. We have to get these documents called partidas, which basically mean that the person who we're marrying is currently unmarried. The bad thing is you have to get the partida from the place of birth of the person. Since our area is so huge, our leaders ask us to get a bunch of partidas to help other missionaries with their weddings. For example, this last week we took out another partida, and due to a variety of circumstances, ended up wasting five hours to do so. That was also the day my comp lost the key haha. It's funny now, but it definitely wasn't then.

Thanks to everyone for your prayers, for reading the blog, and for sending letters. You guys have really been great in the 10 months I've been gone. This week, special thanks to my parents for the package, and to Gram, Michael, Orson, and Ashlee for your letters. Also, congrats to Ashlee on your MISSION CALL TO NORWAY! I feel like you kinda rigged it by taking Norweigan in college though. But congrats nonetheless! Hope everyone has a great week y nos vemos en la semana que viene!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Week 42

Today is "Dia del Niño!" Don't worry, I don't really know what it means either. Apparently, all the kids in Honduras break a bunch of piñatas and eat a ton of candy. Pretty cool holiday if you ask me. But I took a break from the piñata-breaking to write you guys about the week that was...

As far as baptism news, it was a bit of a slow week. Out of our main investigators, we are teaching two little girls (age 10 and 8), who are daughters of a member who moved to Belize. They live with their grandma, who is also a member, but is super inactive. So the difficulty has been finding people to support them, help them go to church, etc. It's still a work in progress... Also, we are working with a 19-year old guy named Edin. He's already gone to church twice, but both times it felt like we had to drag him there. He just needs a little motivation, preferably from the spirit. Also, we have tentative baptismal dates for two other people, references from a super awesome member family that help us a ton. Sadly, those five people didn't go to church yesterday, which made me feel pretty down. We'll see if we can help them out this coming week, and seal up a baptismal date or two... or five haha.

In the crazy/funny story of the week, we went to a member's house on Friday to teach a quick lesson, invite her to church, and if possible invite her non-member husband as well. Well, turns out they had a visitor, who is a friend of the family. We started talking with this guy, and realized after a little bit that he was drunk. He was still cognizant of what was going on though, so we taught him a bit about the word of wisdom. After the lesson though, he told us he was a part of a band, and that he wanted to sing a song for us. He proceeded to sing a song for us, while "playing" his harmonica, which was really just a piece of paper he put to his mouth and started humming. It was loads of fun, and I enjoyed it a lot haha

In the cultural note of the week, we're gonna mix things up and talk a little about music. (Just a disclaimer, missionaries are not supposed to listen to worldly music. But I'm on buses for about 4 hours a week, which ALWAYS have music playing. Plus we hear music in the streets quite a bit too.) For some reason, Hondurans actually listen to quite a bit of music in English. Sadly, the most popular English artist is Pit Bull. I'll be honest, I still don't understand most of the music in Spanish, but my favorite songs in Spanish are by a guy named Prince Royce. He sings in English and Spanish too, so you get the best of both worlds! Look him up on youtube if you have time, and you can get a feel for the Honduran ambiance that I enjoy every day :)

Tengo que irme porque se fue la luz en San Marcos y les estoy escribiendo en Quimistan. Tenemos que viajar en bus hasta San Marcos para trabajar el resto del día. Gracias por todo su apoyo! Y gracias por usar la traducción de Google para entender lo que digo. Hasta la próxima semana! Adios

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Week 41

So this week's e-mail comes to you on a Tuesday. And the reason why takes a little while to explain...

It all started Monday morning, when our zone started our journey to hike Mount Cosuco. In order to do it, we found a guy to drive about 10 miles up a steep dirt road with 14 missionaries in the bed of a truck. That was a bit of a nerve wracking experience. Then, to make matters worse, the car broke down when we were almost to the top. The driver told us he would fix it while we hiked/explored the rest of the mountain. It was a lot of walking to see a waterfall (which I admit, was pretty cool) and a crappy park (which wasn't cool at all). After that little extravaganza, we returned to where the car had broken down... to find out that it still didn't work. To make a long story short, we had to wait until 7:00 at night for them to fix the car. Then we took the 10-mile ride back down a steep mountain in a recently-repaired car... still with 14 missionaries in the bed of the truck. We said a lot of prayers before that part of the journey, and we sang hymns for most of the ride as well. Kind of a strangely cool, bonding experience for the zone. Anyway, we finally made it back down safely. However, there were no longer buses to take us back to San Marcos, which meant we had to spend the night at another companionship's house (coincidentally Elder Hebert's house). I slept (or tried to sleep on the concrete floor), and we went to our meeting this morning. I am currently wearing Elder Hebert's missionary clothes with my tennis shoes because he didn't have another pair of shoes. I feel ridiculous haha. But at least we're all ok, and I'm finally back in my area.

K I only have 30 minutes today, so gotta make it quick

- We had another baptism! I performed the baptism of Jessica on Saturday, and we had a pretty big turnout! Baptisms make me so happy haha :)

- There is a member family in my area with a pet squirrel. One day, we went to visit them, and the squirrel had escaped it's cage. I'm sure you already know this, but squirrels are extremely fast and difficult to catch. We all tried to catch it for about 10 minutes, until I finally was able to grab it. He wasn't too happy about that, and proceeded to bite me about 10 times before I could put him in the cage. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure I don't have rabies. I've only foamed at the mouth once since then (Just Kidding mom!)

- Last week, I talked about baleadas, so I thought I would keep up the theme of food. This week... bananas! Hondurans include bananas in pretty much everything. In addition to plain bananas, they have banana soda. They have platinos, which is like a bigger, less sweet version of a banana. They put bananas in soup, which in my opinion, is a terrible idea. And they make "tejadas," which can best be described as a banana chip. They slice up bananas, and fry them like potato chips. It's actually quite good. Anyway, that's all for this week. Eat a banana for me, and stay away from steep, dangerous Honduran roads. Adios!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Week 40

Hey everyone happy August 27th! I can't believe another month is about to come and go! Crazy how time flies sometimes...

Well, the biggest news from this past week was obviously changes. From my perspective, the most important thing is my new comp, Elder Ampie (Am-pee-ay) from Nicaragua. He has the exact amount of time as me in the mission, but an extra six weeks in the field (Latins only stay 3 weeks in the MTC, and we stayed 9). It's always a bit of a challenge when a new comp comes to my area because I'm basically in charge of everything. I feel like it's been a pretty smooth transition though, and I haven't messed things up too bad haha. We've only been together 5 days, but he seems like a good guy and we get along pretty well. Just as importantly, he's a good missionary and we've mainly been on the same page in lessons. We'll learn and grow together during this change, and see what kind of success we can have :)

The other important news is that Jessica got baptized this past Saturday. Since my comp is new in the area, I had to be the jack-of-all-trades in the baptismal service. I led the music, performed the baptism, even bought the refreshments... and then was part of the confirmation the following day. Kinda crazy, but it all came together and went pretty smoothly. Ironically, we have another baptism this Saturday with another lady named Jessica haha. She's a young single mom that is living with her brother and his family, who are members. We had been teaching her for a while with limited success, but something changed about 10 days ago. I'm not even sure what happened, but we challenged her for baptism (for like the 5th time), she accepted, and since then, she's done everything necessary to be baptized this Saturday. The only real challenge we faced with her was tattoos- she really likes tattoos for some reason, but told us she is willing to give it up. Just more of life's little miracles, I suppose... Also, if any of you have any friends named Jessica, go talk to her about the church!

Ok, so I feel like these blog entries are pretty much the same every week, so I decided to spice it up with some tidbits about Honduran culture! I feel like you guys have no idea what it's like here, and that's my fault. So I'm gonna have a little section from now on about what it's really like here in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. We'll start with every Latin's favorite subject- FOOD! And the staple of any Honduran's diet is the baleada- flour tortillas with some kind of combination of beans, cheese, eggs, mantequilla, avocado, chicken, or chorizo (the literal translation of mantequilla is butter, but it's really some strange kind of butter/sour cream mixture that tastes amazing!) The real difference is the tortillas though. The women here make tortillas basically every day, so they've gotten pretty good at. My comp and I tried to make tortillas last Monday with limited success haha. It'll take some more practice, but at least I have the recipe for when I get home! :)

Ok, now that I've made you all hungry, I guess it's time to go. See you next week (most likely with another baptism under my belt). Adios vosotros!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Week 39

Ok there's a TON of news this week, so I'll just get right to it. First off, my birthday was awesome! Not the same as a birthday back home with family and friends... but cool nonetheless with my Honduran family and friends. I can't believe I'm twenty though! That just seems so much older than nineteen for some reason. Maybe it's cuz those carefree teenage years are a thing of the past. Someone asked me on my birthday how old I was, and I automatically started to say nineteen before realizing my mistake. Guess I'll have to get used to that...
So it was pretty gnarly to celebrate my birthday with two baptisms! (Actually, there were three, but one was an 8-year old from a member family). It was a pretty neat birthday present to see Mirna and Benjamin enter the waters of baptism. I'm amazed sometimes that I get to be a part of these great experiences :) In other baptism news, we have one (and possibly two) this next week. Jessica, the 16-year old with the addiction problems, has just completely stopped with all of her addictions. It's been incredible to watch the change that she has made. When we met her, she was shy and didn't really want much to do with religion. Now, she loves it when we come over, she reads her scriptures, she feels comfortable praying, and most of all... this is important enough to her to stop the bad habits she was forming. Hope to tell you guys next week about her baptism and her friend as well (who has received an answer to her prayer, but refuses to believe us when we tell her that... it's frustrating.)
Also, I had my best day of the mission this past Tuesday! Why? Because Elder Hebert and I finally went on divisions together! The dream team was back in action, even though it was only for a short time. We had a great day... really successful as far as missionary work, and then we stayed up til about 3 in the morning drinking soda and talking about all the crazy things of the mission. Good times! :)
Quite possibly the biggest news of the week is that I will be getting a new companion this next Wednesday! Surprisingly, my two best friends in the mission (Elders Hebert and Hanson) are staying in my zone, so at least I have that to look forward to. I'm getting pretty nervous about it, but I'm excited too! We'll see what happens this Wednesday!
Shout-out to Michael, Tyler, and Kimber for your fantastic letters this past week! I love hearing from everyone about normal life haha. Thanks again to everyone that has sent me a letter in the last nine months!
Elder Birt

Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 38

WOW... as in Word of Wisdom. I don't know what the heck happened this week, but it seemed like all of our investigators decided to have problems with the Word of Wisdom. Kind of frustrating... and it means there will not be four baptisms this next weekend either :(

The most frustrating case was when the 16-year old girl who was going to be baptized admitted everything to us. It wasn't frustrating because we lost a baptism, but because she already has so many addictions at age 16. Cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana- it was obviously devastating to hear, but I'm glad she admitted it to us so we can help her overcome these issues. I think before, she was planning on keeping everything hidden and getting baptized anyway, which obviously would have been a bad situation. We're working with her on everything, and I can see a real desire to drop the bad habits. I'm just hoping that will be enough. Other investigators mentioned WOW problems as well, either with cigarettes or alcohol. It's just so sad to see such great people throw everything away for nothing.

Two of our other investigators who were going to be baptized on the 18th didn't come to church. One can still be baptized, but we haven't been able to talk with him because he left... and nobody knows exactly where. So that's a little disconcerting. The other didn't come to church, and has had problems making a commitment for baptism. It seems like her decision changes every time we visit her. Sometimes she says yes, others no, others that she needs more time...

Ok, now that you're all sad and disappointed, it's time for the happy news of the week! One baptism is still a sure thing! So we will definitely be baptizing Mirna on my birthday. She's the one that's known the church for FOREVER, but just recently settled some Law of Chastity problems. So she will finally get baptized, and is already planning to go to the temple :)

Also, thanks to Gram and Michael for the packages. I still have stuff from three packages, and I don't think I've eaten so well the entire mission. Thank you so much. Thanks for the letters too- Gram, Pop, Michael, and all of my many cousins. It was a very enjoyable day when I got those packages! :)

Again, if you want to check out some pictures of the Celestial Zone celebration, check out the pictures on It's good stuff! Thanks for everything! Have a good week, and do something cool on the 18th- from what I hear, it's a pretty awesome day ;)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Week 37

Hey everyone! Sorry there was no blog entry last week! We got back late from San Pedro, and I was scrambling to write a blog entry to let you guys know what was going on. And halfway through... the power went out :( It was REALLY bad timing, and I felt super bad about it. But I'll try to make this week's entry twice as entertaining to make up for it!

So... I didn't get to tell you guys about my AWESOME P-day last week. My comp got called to the mission office cuz he had to go to immigration. Obviously, I had to go with him, and I thought there would be nothing to do. But no! Elder Hebert's companion got called there too, so we were in the same boat! And there happens to be a mall a block away from the mission office! So Hebert and I went to the mall, and spoiled ourselves with a little bit of Little Caesar's, Wendy's, and Cinnabon's (we couldn't decide on just one haha). It was obviously really fun, and in a weird way, it felt like I was in America for a little bit because the mall was so modern... but then I heard everyone talking in Spanish and was like "Oh yeah, I'm still in Honduras" haha.

The P-days have been pretty wonderful as of late because today we went to San Pedro again, this time to eat at the President's house! Why? Because we were CELESTIAL ZONE! So today, our whole zone went and played soccer and then enjoyed the wonderful spaghetti and brownies of Sister Veirs. I'm still pretty full because I just couldn't stop eating such delicious food haha. Also, the zone sang Happy Birthday to me and Elder Hanson, who also has a birthday in August :) If you're interested in seeing pictures, there are some on the mission blog (my parents can post the address).

Ok, now that I've talked about all the fun stuff of the past week, I should probably talk about the actual work we're doing. We've been blessed with so many miracles as of late. Everything went smoothly for another baptism this past Saturday. Antonio Lopez is one of the newest members of the church family, and was/is really excited about his baptism. I think I've mentioned before that he has some memory issues. He's also one of the poorest people I've met in Honduras. But he has such a genuine desire to do what is right and help people in any way that he can. Last night, he even asked us if he can come visit other people that we're teaching. We were like "Heck yeah, just let us know when you wanna go!" So hopefully he'll stay excited about the church, and help others find the blessings of the gospel :)

Also, this past week, we set not one... not two... not three... but FOUR baptismal dates! And coincidentally, they would all be on my birthday haha. That would be one heck of a birthday present. We're fairly sure about all of them, but keep it in your prayers that they can stay firm in their commitment to be baptized. Here's a quick scouting report of each of them:
-We met Mirna Ortega last Sunday. Apparently, she had attended church regularly a year ago, but couldn't be baptized because of some issues. Basically, she was married with a guy, but living with a different guy. Now, she's still married, but not living with the other guy anymore. So she is willing to live the Law of Chastity, which had been the only obstacle keeping her from baptism. The rest was easy because she already knows basically everything about the church. When I talked to her the first time, she even started talking about the Book of Mormon, temples, baptisms for the dead... so she's definitely ready.
-We've been teaching Jessica and Helen for a while now. They're both teenagers- Jessica is 16, Helen is 13, and they've been going to youth activities for the past month. But for some reason, they would not come to church. This past Wednesday, we challenged them for baptism (for what had to be like the fourth time). Jessica accepted, and Helen said she had to think about it. But Helen apparently received her answer three days later when she attended the baptism we had. We talked with her after, and she told us "I want to get baptized too!" They came to church for the second time yesterday, and are excited for their own baptismal service in a couple weeks.
-Benjamin is another teenager, who just turned 15. We've been teaching his whole family for the past month, but he's been the only one who has shown any signs of progress. He's come to church and the youth activity for the last three weeks, and accepted a baptismal date yesterday. We asked his mom (who, sadly, is determined to stay Catholic) for permission, and she said yes. She even said she'll go to the baptism, so hopefully that changes her mind about things. After all, it would be a pretty powerful spiritual experience to watch four people get baptized, right?

Ok, that's enough miracles for one week, I suppose. Oh wait, no it's not. ELDER HEBERT AND I ARE GOING ON DIVISIONS TOMORROW! We finally convinced our district leader to do it, and the dream team will be back in action :) I can't wait! Thanks for all the prayers and support! And a special shout-out to Gram and Ashlee for your letters (extra bonus points to Ashlee for a hand-written letter. Yeah, it finally got here haha). Have a great week!

-Elder Birt

Monday, July 23, 2012

Week 35

Buenas tardes! Hope everyone is healthy and happy! In a change from previous weeks, I was healthy for the entire week! Well, I didn't feel that great last Tuesday, but that was just the lingering effects of last week's illness. This week has been great though! It's amazing how much better I feel when my stomach isn't rebelling against me. Thanks for all of your thoughts, prayers, and even fasts. They've definitely helped a lot.
This really shouldn't be the first item of business, but hey, it's important to me. We changed cooks! For those who don't know, we have "cooks," who we pay for lunch every day of the week. Before, it was with this really cool member family, but they moved this past week. So we talked with one of our investigators, who happens to own a restaurant a couple blocks from our house (I'm not gonna lie, that played a big role in our decision of who our next cook would be). She accepted, and we ate there five times last week. And I'm pretty sure we now have one of the best cooks in the mission :) Not that the food was bad before, but it was rice and beans EVERY SINGLE DAY and that might have been part of the sickness problems I've had. I guess we'll find out in the next couple weeks, but in the meantime, I'm gonna enjoy some awesome lunches every day! :)
Investigator update! Our top investigator, a 16-year old named Jessica, didn't come to church yesterday. We're starting to think she only likes the youth activities because she's gone to those three times and only gone to church once. But she has accepted a baptismal date. Somehow, we just have to help her recognize the importance of church attendance and after two more Sundays, we can have the baptism. One of our other investigators is a very interesting guy named Antonio. He's about 50 years old, and lives alone in a house on the same street as us. He's very uneducated and has some memory difficulties, so it's been a challenge teaching him. We ask him a bunch of questions during lessons to make sure if he understands what we're saying. And we've had mixed results. We've simplified our lessons to the bare essentials, and even started teaching him with the help of pictures. In a way, it's like we're teaching a child the gospel. But the one amazing thing is that he loves church! He's come twice now, and says he wants to get baptized. So we've planned his baptism for August 4th! Also, there are three other investigators that are relatives of the Cisnado family, recent converts who help us a ton. It's just a temporary thing, but they've come to church twice now, and we're hoping to have their baptisms on August 11th. They're still a little unsure, but the Cisnado family is helping them every day, so I feel pretty good about it.
Ok, so we played soccer this morning (as usual), but there was a guy there today who plays for Olimpia's junior team (Olimpia is the best team in the Honduran soccer league). I've seen some pretty good soccer players here, but this guy was on a whole other level. There were times when he would take on all six guys of the opposing team, and still score. Luckily, I was on his team and, needless to say, we won. Also, someone found a basketball, and I had a chance to dominate for a while. It's not saying much though since all the Latins have never played basketball, and only one other gringo was any good. Still fun though haha.
Ok, I wrote way too much today, and don't have time to do anything else for P-day. But I have to include some shout-outs for those who sent letters last week. Thanks to Tyler, Gram, Michael, and Kimber for your excellent letters! They cheered me up after a tough week of disappointment and sickness. Bueno, gracias a todos! Que les vaya bien! Adios!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Week 34

Hey folks! So today marks 8 months in the mission! Crazy huh?! But it was definitely a week to remember, so here's a recap with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...

The Good:
We had another baptism! And it was in a river again, which is just a cool experience. I didn't perform the baptism this time (my comp), but we had a decent turnout and everything went pretty smoothly. She kinda freaked us out when she got to church late on Sunday though because we weren't sure if we would be able to do the confirmation. But she arrived in the nick of time, and we completed the second half of the baptism :)

I had my first P-Noche ("P-Night" instead of P-day). Our zone leaders got permission to have a sleepover for all the missionaries Sunday night to prepare for a hike early this morning. It was really fun- we played some silly games, had a spiritual thought, didn't get much sleep, and then hiked a mountain that looks out over all of San Pedro. The pictures are awesome, but I can't share them with you guys because these computers are not awesome haha

The Bad:
We don't have any firm baptismal dates for the next few weeks. Yes, there are possibilities for the end of this month and the start of August, but each of our investigators has specific problems. We're thinking our next baptism will be the first week of August, but it's too early to tell.

The Ugly:
I got sick AGAIN! This time has been a little different though. It started on Thursday, and I'm still just as sick today on Monday. It's been 5 pretty rough days, with pretty much every symptom you can think of. I'm hoping to go to the doctor today or tomorrow, so I can figure out what's going on with the recurring sicknesses.

The Funny (Bonus):
The baptism this past week was on my companion's birthday, which was kinda cool. Anyway, Katherine (the 18-year old girl that we baptized) didn't know about that until after the baptism. When she found out, she tried to give my comp a hug, which resulted in one of the most awkward situations I've ever seen. I can't even describe it that well, but it ended up being like a little pat on the back. We had a good laugh about it afterwards haha

Gracias por el apoyo y el amor de ustedes. Espero que todos tengan una buena semana y nos vemos la proxima semana! :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Week 33

Howdy, ya'll! Haha that sounds so ridiculous now. Well, I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! Mine was quite anticlimactic- I didn't even remember it was the 4th til the afternoon. As a celebration, I told my companion haha.
Well, the big news of this week (for missionaries) is there's a change meeting this Wednesday! But again, it's anticlimactic because my companion and I are sticking together for another transfer. So it's looking like another 6 weeks with Xol in San Marcos.
The other big news is that we have another baptism this week! I don't know if I mentioned this last week, but we're going to baptize an 18-year old girl named Katherine, who is living with and working for a member in our branch. She finally came to church for the third time, so we can have the baptism this week (she's wanted to do it for a while, but couldn't come to church for a variety of reasons). In other investigator news, we had some more success this week at church, with 6 investigators. It's really strange though, because each of them have certain problems that we have to resolve if they're going to get baptized. So we don't have any other firm dates set up, but there are some possibilities for this month still.
So this one day, we went to a member's house to teach a quick message and invite them to church (they're less-active in the church). And as we're teaching the lesson, I see one of the kids with a machete chopping a piece of wood. That's not that strange here in Honduras, but what WAS strange was that he was eating the wood after cutting the bark off. After we taught the lesson, I asked the mom what her kid was eating, and she told me it was "caña," which luckily I remembered means sugarcane. So I asked her if I could try some, and she chopped me up a few pieces. It was very strange because I was eating wood, and it had the texture of wood, but it tasted like sugar and was quite tasty :) Also, we had a few service projects this last week, where I got to cut grass with a machete (which is nearly impossible) and plant corn (which was fairly enjoyable). And then I played soccer this morning too! I think this means I'm getting the full Honduran cultural experience haha
Well, I won't be going to the change meeting, which means I can't send letters with a missionary who is going home. So I'm sorry to those who have sent me letters in the last 6 weeks (thank you Ashlee and Zach for the letters this past week). You'll have to wait for the terrible Honduran mail service, which will either lose my letter entirely or get it to you in 2 months :( But thanks so much for the letters- they're always amazing!
Quote of the week: "I hope they say about me what they said about the cross-eyed javelin thrower. He didn't set any records, but at least he kept the people on their toes."- Elder Holland

Monday, July 2, 2012

Week 32

Wow what a week! We went to San Pedro this morning to play soccer with the other missionaries this morning, so I don't have much time to write this week :( I'll try to fit in the highlights though.
The story begins this past Tuesday, where our Zone Leaders had a special meeting with all of the zone to motivate us for the month of July. You see, the Merendon Zone (which right now includes me) has been struggling pretty bad the last few months. So we put down some goals for how many baptisms each area would have this next month. There's a lot of pressure in these situations, so everyone puts down the best-case scenario for their areas. This means that each area is planning between 4-8 baptisms. Our goal of 6 baptisms for the month of July took a major blow the very next day, when a family of 5 moved to a different area in San Pedro. Sadly, they were 5 of the 6 baptisms we had planned. But we kept the faith. We said that if we work as hard as possible, the Lord will bless us to achieve our goal. And I now have a testimony that the Lord works in mysterious ways. Our top investigator that we had planned to baptize this next Saturday didn't come to church. But in her place, eight people came for the first time (two were people we had never met before that the members invited). Needless to say, we were feeling pretty good Sunday morning. Later in the day, we received a call from a member that had found a family of 7. Apparently, the missionaries had visited them previously, and even baptized two of the children. But for some reason, the missionaries stopped visiting them. The member told us that the parents want the missionaries to come back and start teaching them again. Is it a sign? A family of 5 leaves, and then a family with 5 baptismal candidates pops up? I guess we'll find out this week. But the good news is that the work is back on track here in San Marcos. This doesn't mean everything is perfect, but we're at least moving in the right direction.
Also, we had a multi-zone conference on Wednesday! Our mission president gave an awesome talk on the Atonement, and then we watched a video of a talk that Elder Holland gave at the MTC, where he spoke about the need to convert ourselves first before we convert others. It was pretty inspiring, and it made a big difference in the week. For those who didn't already know, Elder Holland is pretty amazing.
Ok that's it for this week! Hopefully, this inspires everyone to get involved in the missionary work wherever you are in the world. Have a happy 4th of July and celebrate a little extra to make up for my absence :) Buenos tardes y ¡que le vaya bien!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Week 31

So the roller coaster ride that is the mission continued on this week. There were some wonderful high points and some horrible low points, but that's kind of what I've come to expect. Overall, I think there is improvement being made though, both personally and as a companionship.
One example of the roller coaster is the guy we found Saturday of last week. We had gone to contact a reference, but she wasn't home. Instead, we found a guy named Roberto, who talked to us quite a bit. The sad part was that he was TOTALLY wasted- it seemed like he had been drinking for the whole day cuz a lot of things he said didn't make any sense. We talked to him for a good 15 minutes, but nothing really happened in the conversation and we figured he wouldn't remember it the next day anyway. But boy were we wrong! He came up to my companion the next day (we were on splits, so I wasn't there) and asked if he could talk with us and listen to our message. This time he was sober, so my comp set up an appointment with him. To be honest, neither of us thought he would be there for the appointment, but there he was, waiting for us. We made some goals to help him with his drinking problem, and set up another appointment. We ended up having five appointments with him just last week, and he was sober for every one of them! And when we talked about baptism, he asked us straight up "When will be my baptism?" When he said that, my comp and I just looked at each other and smiled, amazed at our good fortune. But then there was another twist to the story on Friday. You see, Roberto is extremely poor. He lost his job, mainly because of his drinking problem, and now he barely has enough money to buy food each day. We enlisted the help of some members to feed him a few meals, but everyone was hoping he would be able to find a job soon. He told us on Saturday that he might leave San Marcos permanently to search for a job in the city... and then he wasn't on church on Sunday... and that's when we were worried that our golden investigator had just disappeared off the face of the earth. But we were walking through the park this morning and saw him again! He said he found some work Sunday morning and couldn't make it to church, but he'll come next week. So we have another appointment with him, and we'll see how it goes this week. To be continued...
Also, we'll have another baptism July 7. It's an 18-year old girl named Catherine who works for (and lives with) one of the members in the ward. As long as she goes to church next week, we'll be headed to the river again haha.
In other news, I got sick again last night. Once again, I knew exactly what had made me sick. We had some strange mystery meat for dinner at our cook's house last night. I only took like 5 bites of it, and left the rest on the plate (and I NEVER leave food on my plate, so you know it was bad). Anyway, it only took about 3 hours for those 5 bites of meat to kick in. And when I say "kick in," I mean it felt like Mike Tyson was punching me repeatedly in the stomach. I barely got any sleep (probably about 2 hours) because of the pain. But luckily when we went to our cook's house again today for lunch, she gave me some medicine to help my fever (another of the symptoms), some tea to help with my stomach pain, and a banana licuado! I still don't feel that great, but I at least felt good enough to take a quick nap during the afternoon to help my sleep deficit
That's it for another crazy week in San Marcos. Special shout out to Tyler, Ashlee, Michael, and Sister Jones for their letters! And just so Tyler knows, I got these letters on the 19th, which means it takes about 3 weeks for dearelders to get to me.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Week 30

You know, it's pretty amazing how much help we get as missionaries. Last week was one of the roughest weeks of my life (I'm not sure if my parents put all the negative stuff on the blog, but if they did, you guys know that it was pretty rough). But it made the success of this week that much sweeter! I guess it's good to have that "opposition in all things" part of the gospel :)
The main success? Another baptism, of course! That pretty much always makes it a good week. And what makes it even better was that I completed one of my secret mission goals by performing a baptism in a river! Pretty sweet, right? It was actually a pretty interesting experience for a couple reasons... First, the only place that had enough water to do a baptism was right next to a drop-off that created a mini-waterfall. Kind of cool, except I had to yell the baptismal prayer so the witnesses could hear me haha. Second, we had to kick a bunch of people out that were swimming in the river. So there were just a bunch of people there wondering what these crazy Mormons were doing and giving us weird looks. It was definitely a unique experience... and pretty awesome considering Eleazer (our investigator turned member) accepted the covenant of baptism!
Speaking of unique experiences, Sunday was probably one of the most hectic days of my mission. It all started in the morning, when the 1st counselor of the branch presidency told us we had to give talks in Sacrament meeting. We had to go to a few investigators' houses to invite them to church, so that left me 15 minutes to prepare a 10 minute talk. Not exactly the ideal situation for my first sacrament talk in Spanish. But the talk actually went pretty well! At least I thought so anyway... maybe nobody understood a word I said. Haha just kidding, my Spanish is actually pretty good now (interesting story about that later). Anyway, after church, we did splits with the Branch President and the Ward Mission Leader. I went with the Branch President and visited some inactive members and a couple investigators. It was the first time I've gone on splits in the mission, and it was quite fun. And I realized our Branch President is a really good teacher too! Later that day, after my companion and I had reunited, we visited an inactive family, where the girl was studying English. They asked me to say the opening prayer, but before I started, the girl asked if I could say it in English. So I tried it out, and it was SOOO HARD! It kinda freaked me out cuz I can't even pray normally in my native language! I guess that's what happens when you pray for 7 months straight in a different language haha
Ok, that's all for this week. Hopefully, I can figure out this Honduran computer and share the pictures from the baptism with you guys. If they're on the blog, you know that I was successful. If not, well I'll try to figure it out next week. Haha have a good week- stay safe and avoid fried pig skin! :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Week 29

Not to be negative, but this was just one of those weeks where everything seemed to go wrong. It all started Wednesday night at our dinner appointment...
So we went to a recent convert's house to eat dinner, which consisted of tortillas, beans, rice, and cheese (like EVERY meal in Honduras). But it also included an unusual, foreign, fried object that I had never seen before. My policy with food is to not ask what it is and just eat it. So that's what I did. It really didn't taste that bad (although super unhealthy), but I just had the feeling that it was going to make me sick. But, as a result of my kindness and generosity, I ate everything on the plate. At about 11:00 the next day, my prediction came true. I got a horrible pain in my stomach and a fever, with some other symptoms that I'd rather not mention (read between the lines haha). And to make matters worse, it had to be one of the hottest days since I've been in Honduras. At least triple digits... I suffered through the day, and we actually had some success. We set a baptismal date in one of our appointments (more on that later), and I was starting to feel a little better. But then, we took a bus ride back home, and my stomach started churning. Luckily, we got to our stop, so everything I had eaten the last two days ended up in the bushes on the side of the road. It wasn't pretty. But the positive was that I felt a lot better! The negative was that it didn't last. For Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning, I battled the after-effects of the sickness while trying to be somewhat successful as a missionary. Oh, and I asked my comp the next day what the strange food was. Apparently, it was chiccaron, or fried pig skin. I won't be eating that again haha
Also, our missionary work took a hit as a result of my sickness. We weren't able to make a handful of our visits, partly because of that and partly because the lights go out at 7 about every other day here. And as missionaries, we have to return to the house if the power goes out. Actually, the power went out twice while I was typing this blog entry! It's extremely frustrating :( We only had one investigator show up to church, and it wasn't Eleazar, the guy who we scheduled for baptism this coming Saturday. My comp says he has come to church three times though, which is the requirement for baptism. I'm a little skeptical about that, but he was the one in the area and I gotta trust him. Also, I mentioned that we set another baptismal date. Sadly, the lady had to go to a different part of Honduras for her job, and won't be back for another week. So... that kinda didn't end up going as planned. And after that, we don't really have many opportunities, which is the biggest reason I'm frustrated about this past week.
In a funny story of the week, I found out that my comp has false front teeth. One morning, he was washing them in our sink, and I came to ask him something. He turned around and smiled... without his front four teeth. It was creepy. And I had no idea what to say, in English or Spanish. He just laughed about my reaction, and told me he got in an accident when he was younger. So ya, that was definitely interesting...
Well, the good news is that I'm healthy now and ready to get to work this next week. Hopefully, we'll have a baptism that I can tell you guys about too! Stay safe and watch out for chiccaron hahahaha