Monday, September 28, 2015

Santo Domingo, week 4

I only have a few minutes, because we are in Coban. We had to leave at 2:30 this morning so we are all dead. My companion and I and some other Elders went to go get our parasite tests so I might have some exciting news next week when I get my results.
The multi-zone Conference was way cool except it was all in Spanish and I realized I have been focusing so much on Kekchi I am starting to forget my Spanish! I guess I should start working on that haha. (Editor's note: there are two ways to spell "Q'eqchi"/ "Kekchi" - Joe always uses the "K" spelling. I've been correcting it in case anyone wanted to reference it to research online, but from here on out I will keep it as he spells it.) I got to talk a bit with the Mission President at Conference and we bumped into him today. We have interviews soon, so that is when I'll really talk to him.
We did a service project this week in the corn fields, it was way fun! It is funny how much the people here like pictures. I guess it is just like the selfie craze at home.

Let's see what else happened...oh! While ordering a bananna shake, I accidently asked for juice from her breast instead of juice from a banana... needless, to say the Elders I was with had a fun time with that, haha.
My spiritual thought comes from something they actually taught us in the CCM that I've been thinking on. The quote goes something like "miracles come after we do all we can." I think that goes for just about everything in life. We are all saved by the Atonement, after we do all we can and try our best. It is a good reminder to me as a missionary that I need to be always working, otherwise I won't have success.
Sorry my email is so short, because we are in Coban I don't have loads of time. I love you!

Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, September 21, 2015

Santo Domingo, week 3

So this week was a little disappointing because two of our fechas (people who have set baptismal dates) are being really weird. We visit them every day and they keep saying they want to be baptized, but then they keep going to their old church, so that is confusing. We are really focusing on this one family. Their little kids like me because they can say whatever they want to me and I don't know what they just told me haha. We really don't have very many lessons - we do about two or three. We did one half Spanish/ half Q'eqchi because two guys there knew Spanish, so we were able to talk to them in Spanish a little.
The deal is, our area is so big, there are days we have to walk two hours for one lesson. There are a couple of little villages around where we live, so when we go to a village that isn't the one the church is in we have to walk pretty far. We are just kind of on mountain paths. The paths have nice views but they are pretty trashed. Oh there are tons of mosquitos! And my repellent kind of exploded all over in the CCM so I haven't really gotten to use it too much. I feel like I am on a two-year fifty miler haha.
Out here in the mountains it is kind of a different mission. We stop working when it gets dark which is at like 7:30 because people go to bed way early. As soon as it gets dark people start getting ready, and then get mad if you come visit, including the members. It is kind of a different feel I guess than what I expected. I asked my trainer if we could leave earlier, but he says we just use both morning and night for extra study. If we are going to a farther away village we are allowed to leave early so that is nice.
The kids here are kind of stinkers, they always steal our shampoo and my companions USBs so that is kind of a bummer. Sometimes the village kids throw rocks and dirt at us too, but my companion knows how to tell them off and then they cut it out. Our Primary lessons are going ok. We sing a song and do prayer, then try to teach, but normally just share a video they have in Q'eqchi. We dont have a Branch Mission Leader but we do have a Branch President and he is cool.
I bore my testimony for the first time in Q'eqchi and I think it went ok...but I can't be sure because I'm not always sure what I am saying haha. I need to bear my testimony in front of my whole district and then they order my Q'eqchi name tag. I will send you a picture when I get it. We have district meeting every week. Sometimes we walk or catch a truck that is going down and just ride in the back of that. You just pay them a couple qetz and they will give you a ride. One dollar in the US is worth 8 qetz so I feel really rich here and have to be careful. I really like just being up in the mountains. I don't like going out of our area very much but we have to do it for P-day. When you get a big group of us together, it doesn't really feel like you are on a mission. I just feel like I am with some of my buddies and I get homesick haha.
After letters, we will probably just eat and look around the market. They do have a doughnut place here that is good. Usually we get our groceries on Monday. The store is about two hours away so we just end up stocking up a bunch every P-day.  I found this type of strawberry yogurt and I am pretty sure that is what I am going to live off of for the next two years. That and popcorn. My companion and I would like to cook eggs, but we can't because they would probably break on our way up the mountain. The villages have tiny stores to buy little crackers, so that is something, but we try to just eat what we get on P-day.
Tomorrow we have a multi-zone conference so I should have an exciting letter next week! Next Monday I think my companion and I might go to Coban city for a parasite test. The parasite test is only when you think you have parasites and Hermana Curtiss thinks so too. I was sick last week and thought I did, so I might get a test just to be sure, but this one is more for my companion. His stomache has been a mess since we got in Santo Domingo. We might go to a fast food restaurant in Coban. Whenever we go out to eat I always think about how good that Red Robin bacon burger will taste my first day home. Here the food just isn't the same, just not as good as American food. I'm also worried that if I eat fast food I will get baggy, haha. Baggy is the same as trunky, they just use baggy here for some reason. ("Baggy" and "trunky" are both missionary slang for homesick.)
The language is pretty frustrating but I can't really do anything to change it but work hard! I have a dictionary, a grammer book, and three lessons in Preach My Gospel, so that is mostly what I study out of.
Well, my spiritual thought this week comes from Doctrine & Covenants 121: 7-9, "My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands." I know this is easily applied to missionary work, but I think it is easily applied to everyone else in the world too. I mean, when you think about how great missionary homecomings are, think about when we return back to the presence of our Heavenly Father! That's going to be awesome!
I am including a picture of my companion right before he burned his shirt. (A missionary tradition when they hit the one-year mark.)
Also, this bug! I don't know what it is called! but it was massive! and invincible! it wouldnt die!
Ok, well, I love and miss all of you!
Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, September 14, 2015

Santo Domingo, week 2

Well this week was pretty wild! I have only been asked to marry one of the village ladies so I am doing pretty good so far.

My area is called Santo Domingo; Polochic is the area of mountains that all the mountain Elders go to. (Editor's note: I found this information online at that I thought would be helpful: "Remote and lush, the Polochic Region is located in Central Guatemala between Coban and Lake Iasbel, an eight to nine hour bus ride from Guatemala City. The Mayan Q'eqchi are the predominate inhabitants of the Polochic Region. A majority speak Q'eqchi, a Mayan dialect that is one of Guatemala's 23 indigenous languages. The more educated also speak Spanish. About 77% live on less than $1 per day with scarce economic opportunities and limited government services. Schools are extremely basic with few resources and high student/ teacher ratios. Villagers suffer from malnutrition and parasites. The closest true hospital is three hours away. Despite the humble living conditions, the Q'eqchi people have a rich culture and community life. In spite of their circumstances, they are a happy people and want to give their children a better life.")

We are in a Branch of about 30 that attend regularly. Elder Helton and I are called to teach Primary every Sunday, so that is always a treat. We have 3 fechas (baptismal dates) so that is very exciting!

To answer your questions mom, yes, our apartment is part of the church. Every Sunday we come down from the mountain and stay with the District Leaders. LOTS of walking up and down mountains. I'm pretty sure I've already lost like ten pounds and have had to move down a belt loop. I haven't really found any foods I like haha. A lady in the ward does our laundry.

The Q'eqchi is coming along slowly but surely. I still haven't really been able to participate, but I memorized a simple testimony and copied down a prayer that I read off, so that is something! Everyone here has had to learn Q'eqchi in the field. My trainer is decent and there's another guy we hang out with a lot named Elder McEntee, he is super cool, he is just one transfer ahead of me so he is learning too. I don't know how many mountain Elders there are. There are no Sisters because it is kind of dangerous and hard and stuff.

My spiritual thought this week comes from Doctrine & Covenants, Section 122:5-9 "If thou art called to pass through tribulation... know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He? Therefore, hold on thy way... for God shall be with you forever and ever." This is the section I always used in my church talks because it is a reminder that our afflictions are but a small moment and how the Lord will raise us up. There were some times this week that were frustrating because we would be teaching somebody, and my companion would translate a question, and I would have the answer, but I couldn't say it cause it was in Q'eqchi. It is those times when I get mad that I remember this scripture and it brings me comfort.

Well, I am doing great! There were some tough moments, but that is just fine. It wouldn't be a mission without them! I am still loving it here! I love you all!


Elder Toolson

Monday, September 7, 2015

Welcome to Polochic!

Man I don't even know where to start. I will just start at last Tuesday. So we went to leave at around 6 a.m. and got about an hour and a half into the journey and had to go back to the CCM because of riots. We were at the CCM until about 4:30 in the afternoon, going to the Temple and writing and such, and then left again. It was a slow trip and we ended up getting into Coban city around 11. It was a crazy time in the mission. We then met the President and his wife very briefly and were whisked off to this Elder's apartment to sleep. The next morning we met a bunch of people and went to a orientation all day. I did get to see Sister Scruggs for a few minutes!

It was there that we had interviews with President and his wife and I found first area, Polochic, is 100% Qeichi (pronounced "kekchi")! I can count on one hand the number of times I have used Spanish since getting here. It is one of the hardest languages to learn... and it is very frustrating haha. Here is a picture of a Book of Mormon printed in Qeichi:

After this I met my companion, his name is Elder Helton and he is from Maryland. He is super awesome, very laid back but gets the job done. We were assigned to the mountains which is very cool because that's like where the Elders really rough it. There are kind of four sections: the city Elders, the flat area Elders, the place where it is really hot Elders, and the mountain Elders. We go like days without showering and all sorts of fun stuff. We can shower, we just don't because the shower doesn't always work and is really cold and you run out of clothes fast. This is where I live...

Mom asked what we eat. The members feed us a bunch of tortillas and spicy stuff and we cook. They also give us this drink every time and it is the grossest thing I've ever had haha. It is like dough water with corn chunks in it. Here is a picture:
Anyways! We spent two days getting to our area and since then we have just been meeting everyone because we are cleaning the area (this means neither of us have ever served here before so we know nothing about it) but it is very cool.
The people are so nice! They cannot say "Toolson" very well so they gave me a name "Toolok" which apparently means lizard in Qeichi, and that is gonna be my name for the next two years! From what I learned, if you are assigned to a mountain Qeichi-speaking area you stay in the mountains your whole mission unless you are trash at Qeichi. So I am not really sure how I feel right now because I love the people and my area and my companion. But I literally can't even piece together what people are trying to say right now, so its very frustrating in a lesson. This is a pretty hard time haha, but I think it will get easier and easier every week. Also I found out I'm not allowed to skype at Christmas, I can only that's kind of a bummer. If you send me a package just a heads up it will take me a solid month or two to receive because the way missionaries get packages doesn't work too well.
My spiritual thought is on the power of prayer this week. I don't know if I've already talked about it, but I just want to bear my testimony of it again. There were times this week where I was pretty much at my limit because we would have hiked all day and I wouldn't understand anyone and hadn't showered in like three days, but I would hit my knees at night and pray for strength and it would come immediately.
I will end with some pictures of some of the people I've met this week. Everyone here is so nice and all the Elders I've met are awesome!

I love all of you!
Love, Elder Toolson

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Safely in Coban! (letter from the mission office)

September 2, 2015

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Toolson,

We are very happy to inform you that Elder Toolson has arrived safely in the Guatemala Coban Mission.  It is a great blessing to have him with us. We will have many opportunities to serve in the mission together and we look forward hastening the work of the Lord.

Each missionary is encouraged to write to his family and the Mission President each Monday. Whenever possible, e-mail is the best way to communicate with your missionary.  He should only use the authorized church e-mail account and NOT other web sites or services such as Facebook. It is also important for him to receive word from home.  It seems that the most happy and productive missionaries are those who receive active support from their family and priesthood leaders with regular and positive letters.

The mission experience is one of great challenges and blessings.  It is also a time of significant change and development in the lives of the missionaries.  It is our desire that each one that comes to the mission will be able to reach their full potential as a disciple and representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This will come through their faith, obedience, diligence and desire to bless the people they serve.  

We appreciate your love and prayers on behalf of Elder Toolson, his companions, their investigators, and the marvelous work he is doing here.  We pray and have confidence that the Lord will bless you and your loved ones.

With love and appreciation,

President and Sister Curtiss

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

still at the CCM

Ooooooookay! So I only have half the time I usually do so this will be very short.

I am supposed to be in my area of Cob├ín right now, however there are so many riots we had to turn around an hour into the trip and come back, so I am back at the CCM! Hopefully we will leave later tonight; I am not sure.

I'm starting to get pretty nervous/excited to be in the field. especially because it sounds like I am going to have to learn a whole new language.

I got the picture and notes from the family reunion this week so thank you to all the family!

My spiritual thought this week is just a quote I have heard a couple times here and it is ¨God doesn't need anymore mediocre missionaries.¨ I think that is pretty sweet because it is inspiring to me and I think we could easily replace missionaries with ¨members.¨ We all have a way we can help, and we all should put forth our best effort all the time.

I love all of you!
Love, Elder Toolson