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!