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!