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!