Monday, November 30, 2015

week 13: transferred

So the big news is...I got transferred! I am kind of bummed, but excited as well. I am going to the mountains! Like, the big ones! I am going to an area called Sepamac. It is in a different Zone so it is a good two or three hours away. I will be serving with Elder Quiroz. He is from Honduras and he only speaks Spanish and Kekchi. I just met him today and he seems really nice. Also, they told me I am going to be Senior Companion... but he has like 16 more months than me and knows all the languages and stuff. So I am pretty terrified.

Elder Helton is staying in Santo Domingo to train, so it looks like I am going to have a little brother in the mission! (Editor's note: missionaries call their trainer their dad - or mom, for Sisters. Your trainer's trainer is your grandpa - or grandma ... anyone else he/she trains is your brother - or sister.) We were able to catch up with one of the families we found last week and they said Elder Helton could come back next week so that is good!

Other than that, nothing too exciting happened this week. Other than transfers, so that is about it haha.
I'm glad you all had a good Thanksgiving. I wish I could've been there, but at the same time I am happy I was here.
I don't have a specific quote or anything as a spiritual thought this week, I just want to share my testimony that I know we are never alone. That is one of the amazing parts of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Not only can we be forgiven of our sins, we also can be strengthened in our times of need.
I will do my best in my new area and with my new companion. I still feel like I can't understand what anyone is saying, or I understand but I just can't respond. It will be interesting for sure. I am looking forward to Christmas when I can call all of you!

Laa´ex li mas chaab´il junkabal sa li ruchichoch ut nekexinra! (Translation: you are the best family in the world and I love you all!)
Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, November 23, 2015

week 12

Hey! It was kind of an interesting week. There was a little more up to it which is always nice. The good news...we have power back! We are not sure who paid the money, but we don't really care too much either, haha. We normally lose power at least once a day in Santo Domingo, and when I am writing I lose internet at least twice each session. But it is a lot worse to lose it for days on end.
The bummer is... Jose´s paperwork still hasn't come (also, his fiancĂ©'s name is Myra, I was mistaken when I told you Maria), and we were only able to teach Augusto once before he left to work again for another month. I just wish our progressing investigators would stick around instead of going to work for weeks at a time.
Something exciting that happened this week... from Thursday to Sunday I was on Divisions with an Elder from Chile who only has two more changes than I do. It was interesting because he speaks really weird Spanish, like even the natives here can't understand him. He speaks with kind of a slur or lisp or something so it was hard to follow. So we were both kind of forced to speak a lot more Kekchi than usual. I think it went alright, we were able to make it through a couple of lessons with the help of a member, and found three new families to teach. The only bummer is that two out of those three families live about two hours away up the mountain, so we will have to take just one day this week to visit them. But I made it!
I hope I stick around one more change so I can talk to those families a little bit more. Our whole district is sad this week because there are going to be so many changes. I will know if I am being transferred by next week when I email. This one will be rough if it happens, but not as bad as my CCM one. That one felt like leaving home again almost...maybe not quite that bad, but pretty rough! There was an Elder who was leaving when I came in and he was crying. I found out it was because he was just going to miss all of his friends here so much. I now have nineteen months left. I kind of have a system when I get really home sick. I do ok most of the time, just some days are a little hard. I just kind of pick days to count down to, and pretty soon when I'm thinking about that, I forget about home sickness and it is all ok!
I got a haircut! I accidentally took too much off the top...I'm a little bitter haha. but it still looks nice.
They have nice cheap haircuts here so that's good. I had another missionary cut my hair in the CCM. Elder Price gave me the best cut I've gotten, but he went to Guatemala City Central Mission so I don't get to see him at all. There are three Elders I keep in touch with - my old companion, him and I are super tight, and two guys from Utah. One of them knows Luke actually, which is kind of funny.
Dad asked how I'm sleeping. It is still pretty rough.. It was ok, then it got bad, then ok, now it is worse... my mind just gets going too fast at night and then I can't fall asleep. But that's alright! I still have enough energy to do everything, so it is all good.
Also, I can pretty much eat anything they put in front of me now, so that's nice. I just try to dull the spiciness with lots of tortillas haha.
My spiritual thought this week comes from our District Meeting. We were talking about the difference between disciples and Christians. Anyone can say they believe in Christ and call themselves Christians, but what our Heavenly Father needs are disciples. Disciples are people who actually walk their talk, live a Christ-centered life and follow His example.
Well, I hope you have a good week, I love you all!
Elder Toolson
ps - my gratitude is for the place here in La Tinta where they give you ice cream surrounded by whipped cream. I was hyped when I found it!

Monday, November 16, 2015

week 11

This week was pretty interesting. First, when we got back to our area on Monday we tried to help set up a little generator they have for the computer in the church. The reason only the church power is cut off is because some feller was stealing power from the church. He stole too much and blew our power box. So it is now 18,000 qetz to fix...needless to say, I don't think we will have power the rest of my time in Santo Domingo. After that, we found out we didn't have water anymore! We had to get water from the little store down the road. We spent the middle part of the week trying to find out if we were going to be emergency changed to a different area, but thankfully some guy was able to come fix the water after a day or two. When we lost water, our Mission President was going to completely close the area. We are probably having massive changes next transfer because everyone has been here forever. I will be surprised if they don't take at least one of us out. I really want another transfer here, but I'm probably going to get taken out of the Polochic, so I guess it is what it is. I don't think I will be sent Kekchi speaking, my Kekchi is kind of basura. It's just my own opinion, but it is true. I don't know, I'm probably being hard on myself, but it is just frustrating.

To answer Dad's question, no place in our area has hot water except Tucuru. (That is where Elder McEntee is right now. We normally get to hang out twice a week; he is definitely going to be one of my best buddies when I get home too.) For baptisms we just fill the font up with cold water. When washing clothes, the people do the best they can. Of course no one has a washing machine or anything, but they do pretty good. I had shoe polish explode on one of my favorite shirts so that was a bummer.
As far as the weather, it is raining so much now, but it is hard because it is still warm so you don't want to wear a coat or anything. I can see that it will start cooling down soon though.
My stomach issues are off and on, but I haven't had to stay in yet, so that's good! You don't need prescriptions at the pharmacy here, so you could get whatever you wanted, but I don't know what I need. The parasite I have or had, I don't know which haha, is called ent histolitica or something like that. I think I am just going to deal with it though, its not worth the trip to Coban or pooping in a small cup. I don't ever want to do that again! They tell us if we get parasites it may take years or more before our stomachs are back to that's fun.
District Conference was good, my piano playing was ok, nothing too great. Elder Bednar spoke (it was a broadcast) but it was in Spanish so I had a bit of a hard time following. I think our new members are good, Eguanio was just barely baptized so its hard to see, and Rudy comes when older members of his family do. We have two more people on date - Jose, who will hopefully be married soon, and Augusto, who just got back from working somewhere far away. Once Jose's papers come through, there is a person in La Tinta who will perform the marriage for him and Maria I think. This next week should be good because all our investigators are coming back.
Today we had district activity. We went to a waterfall and we got super muddy on the way there and back, but it was worth it! It was the first time we got to go on an outing, it was awesome! Plus my District is all super close so that makes it fun.

Tonight we are staying in La Tinta (about 30 minutes from Santo Domingo by truck) for Elder McEntee's and my companion's birthdays, we have a cake and stuff for them.
Mom, I opened the box my package came in, but I didn't unwrap anything, and I didn't eat anything, haha. I am doing a good job waiting. I think I am going to give the extra stocking to my companion if we get transferred. I know it is supposed to be for whoever I'm with on Christmas, but he has been such a good first companion.
My spiritual thought comes from an Elder Holland quote which says "When life is hard, remember we are not the first to ask ´Is there no other way?´" This quote really helped this week. What with having no electricity, then losing water for a bit, and all our investigators being out of town as well, it helps me a lot to know that we are never alone. Jesus always is there for us and knows exactly what we are going through. So my gratitude this week is inspirational Elder Holland quotes.
Well, nakatinra (I love you)!
Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, November 9, 2015

week 10: baptism number two and no power

Hey! The big news this week is we had another baptism! His name is Eguanio, and he asked me to baptize him, so that was awesome!

The other news is that we lost power, which isn't unusual. But we found out it is going to be out at the church and our apartment for about twenty that is kind of rough. And just the church building, that is the funny thing. Everyone else that normally has power has it. That means no fridge or fans or anything. I guess I am a real mountain Elder now! We do have flashlights, but we have to be careful how much we use them. Thankfully we still have water, and they gave us filters in the CCM. If not, I'm not sure what we would do. Luckily we can boil stuff because we have a gas-powered stove. It is always cold showers, so that hasn't changed. One thing I miss a little bit is taking a warm shower, but I guess it is all part of the adventure! No power also makes teaching the Primary class different because we can't use the Kekchi videos. Last sunday we tried to teach English but it didn't really we will have to get creative, haha.

We are still waiting on Jose´s paperwork and haven't been able to find that guy that lives up the mountain. I've been practicing piano, I can't remember if I told you, but I will be playing at District Conference (the basic equivalent to Stake Conference) this Sunday so we will see how that goes. I think I am scheduled to play "Come Thou Fount," "I Know that my Redeemer Lives," "Joseph Smith's First Prayer," a song I can't remember the title for in English - only Kekchi - called   "At Xdios Isreal," and two Christmas songs. It will be good I think, I'm just glad there isn't too much pressure on me.
My companion and I are doing pretty well, the parasites kind of come and go. I've been getting a little nervous about transfers. They are around December first I think. I am probably going to get changed... everyone says once you go Kekchi speaking you will probably stay there, just because it is so much work to learn. I think there are somewhere between 16-20 Kekchi speaking areas and two missionaries for every area or something like that. Some people stay in the same District for their whole mission. It is almost guaranteed I will be in the Polochic mountains my whole mission unless I am made a District Leader, Zone Leader or Assistant to the President, or ask to get taken out. It is possible my companion will go and I will stay in this area, but they say that is not very likely. I will be done being trained next change, so anything could happen. I really just hope I get one more change in Santo Domingo after this one, but probably not. I know some of the missionaries who served in Chelan stayed as long as 8 months, but it sounds like it is all up in the air with our President. Some guys have done four changes together and others just one, so I have no clue.
For Dia de los Muertos, I thought they were going to do a big celebration, but as far as I saw nothing happened where we are, just everything was closed. We ended up not going to El Estor this week, and we might end up going to a waterfall next week instead of El Estor, so we will see what happens with that. Mom asked about my money, its doing good, if I ever need to take anything out my American debit card works fine on these machines here. So far, I've been fine with what I get from the mission. We get about 2000 qetz. per month, which is roughly 260 dollars I think? It goes to pay for transportation (we ride in buses, taxis and the back of trucks; taxis are most expensive, then buses, then trucks; trucks are cheap, so that is what we mostly use), food, internet, clothing repairs, letters - the usual missionary stuff. I somehow always manage to go through it, though I don't know how, because there's nothing to buy in my area!
Dad asked what my highs and lows are. I really like just being in our area with my companion. The area is just kind of out on its own and not super crowded like the valley areas here, and there are mountains. I think having the companion I have helps too, he just kind of makes it always fun. We just joke around a lot. We talk about sports, share stories about our friends and girls and what we need to do in our area. It is just kind of like being with Jared or Charlye or something like that, he is easy to get along with.  And what I dread most...probably Kekchi study, just because it is so frustrating. I seem to be able to follow a conversation ok, I just cant say anything. And I can only really follow if the conversation is Gospel related. I guess I can have very very basic conversations, but that's about it. My companion understands just about everything, but pretty much everyone out here is constantly learning, except for a few people that are like crazy good. The CCM had a Kekchi program when I was in there but there were only two Elders in it. They were the first two Elders to ever go through it. Rumor has it, now they have eight that are going to come in the next change. Two Americans who were fluent in Spanish already and then 6 Latinos. All of us are really jealous of them haha, they will already know more Kekchi than me when they get out here. I am getting a little frustrated with the language, but I know that it will come with time and prayer.
Dad also asked if there is anything I would do differently to prepare now that I have been out in the field for a couple of months. I would just say know my scriptures better, because that is what I spent a lot of CCM time on, when I probably should have focused on language study more. I am pretty woefully unprepared I feel like haha. (Editor's note - this is pretty amazing, because Joe was very diligent about reading his scriptures for both church and seminary assignments and independently.)
For scripture study, I've been reading in Nephi in three different languages. My spiritual thought this week is about how the Lord will try us, but not above what we are able to bear with His help. This was a pretty rough week, what with losing power, trouble connecting with people, and whatnot, but at the end of the week the Lord provided us with a baptism. That just goes to show that the Lord is never going to leave us hanging if we are just patient and have faith.
Mom, my gratitude this week is the baptism of Eguanio!
It is crazy how fast time is already going. I already have under twenty months left! I don't think I want it to go this fast, haha. Well, I love all of you!
Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, November 2, 2015

week 9

Hey! It was a pretty good week.
All of our people that have fechas were busy so we had a hard time deciding what to do with our time. So we ended up going all the way up the mountain one of the days to see if that kid from a couple weeks ago was home. As things go on the mission, he wasn't home, but we were able to do some contacting and give out some folletas (pamphlets.) I now have learned how to invite to church, how to baptize, and how to give out folletas in Kekchi. So I am on my way!

I think our schedule for transfers is different this time because President has a meeting or something in Salt Lake and he needs to be here for the interviews with the new people.
We were supposed to go to El Estor for a district activity today but it is Dia de los Muertos. We realized everything is going to be closed, so we will go next Monday.
Another thing that happened this week is our branch has been chosen to sing at our next District Conference (which is basically Stake Conference here) and I got chosen to play the piano! I tried to tell them I don't actually really know how to read piano music but they didnt believe me, so we will see how that goes haha.
My spiritual thought comes from Nephi 15:8-11, when his brothers were arguing with him about how hard it was to understand the things their father was trying to teach them. "And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord? An they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us. Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts? Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said? - If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you." Nephi simply says, did you ask the Lord? I like this scripture a lot because it is a demonstration of how simple the Lord makes it for us. All we have to do is ask and He will provide.
I love all of you!
Love, Elder Toolson