Monday, April 25, 2016

week 34: emergency change

So this week was pretty wild! I had an emergency change! About two hours after I stopped emailing on Monday I got the call, I packed Tuesday, and made it to my new area Wednesday. I'm also in a new District. I was pretty shocked and bummed, but what can you do. I'm not out here to do what I want! I got moved to the valley to finish the training of Elder Quej (pronounced like kejh.) I guess him and his companion were having problems so now I'm down here. He is from the capital here in Guatemala, he speaks both Spanish and Kekchi. He learned Kekchi crazy fast because he already knew a different language that is super close to Kekchi that I can't spell. He just finished ten weeks in the field, two more and he is done with his training. For being a trainer, there is this program called "The First Twelve Weeks" that I do, and other than that just try to be a good example. He talks about wanting to go home and stuff, but he makes up for it by being a really hard worker, so that's a good thing! 

My new area is called Canlun, and it is flipping hot! We walk about the same distance between appointments, it is just a lot flatter. I miss the mountains! This week felt like the longest week I have had since like September. We have literally nothing going for us right now haha. When I showed up I found out we have zero progressing investigators and zero fechas (baptismal dates) I guess I have some work cut out for me! Things in Canlun are pretty rough, but hopefully with some hard work it will start looking up here in a few weeks! Not a whole lot to report, but we did find 32 new investigators this week. They are a bunch of families that my companion has wanted to pass by with for a while. I don't know how we are going to get them to progress to be honest, they are all either unmarried, Catholic, or both. But you never know. So hopefully something good will happen with that! My area is 100% Kekchi so that's a bright spot! Also my buddies Elders Bos, Ellis, Kortsen and Smart are all in my district so its pretty sweet. 

There is a little branch here, we get about thirty members out on a good Sunday. We live in an apartment right off the chapel. We have water sometimes, but it is so hot it dries up a bunch. Here are some pictures...

Also, surprise, I am back in Coban, so that pretty much stinks. It takes about the same amount of time to travel here as it did from my old area, we won't make it back today. Something in my blood count was low so they are checking that out again - my hemoglobin and one other thing that starts with H. They already took more blood. We will see what happens tomorrow, hopefully I'm not dying haha. I'm sure I am fine, they just want to be sure. I'm just really tired of Coban trips. I feel alright, I don't feel like I did when I was super sick, and I can work so that's a plus!

My spiritual thought this week is on patience. When I found out I had an emergency change, that was like the worst. I wasn't going to see my investigators baptized, I wasn't going to be with my companion anymore, and I was getting taken out of the mountains. I knelt down to pray that night just kind of asking when I would get a break, and I got the answer from Isaiah, that God's ways are higher than ours. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9) Sometimes it is as simple as that, we don't know God's plan! Sometimes we just have to endure it well! 

I love all of you!

Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, April 18, 2016

week 33: human pin cushion

Ok, I am writing this before I read any emails, but Dad you need to know that I knew it was your birthday, and the minute I logged off last week I remembered and felt really bad, but happy birthday and I love you!

This week was flipping awesome! We have three baptisms this Saturday so that is super awesome! The baptism is actually super funny, because we went on divisions this week with members and my companion was with a guy named Rosendo. He told my companion "toj maji xinkub´si inha´" which means "I still haven't been baptized!" This guy has been going to church so long we never thought to ask! So we met with him and his family, and his nine year old daughter and wife said they want to be baptized too! Then, when we had District Conference we had over ten nonmembers there from our area.  Maria (the new one) and Ramona came, plus some other people that we thought were already baptized. So we should be seeing even more baptisms in the future!  If literally everything works out exactly perfectly, we will have eight more baptisms in the next three weeks. All of our other investigators have a lot of difficulties - some marriage, some their parents don't want to, some are little kids that are super afraid to talk so we don't know if they understand the lessons.

For District Conference everyone in Chulak comes - Sepamak, Seococ, Sajomte, Koral Pek, and Seranx. It is held in Seococ, and the District President leads. President and Hermana Curtiss came so it was good to see them two times last week. Hermana Curtiss keeps telling me to stop getting sick haha. I saw everyone from my District, the same people that go to p-day together every week. One thing that President Curtiss said that I liked was that we shouldn't have to make the decision every time if we are going to follow the commandments, we should just decide now and do it. Like going to church, we shouldn't decide if we will go every week when we wake up Sunday morning, we should decide now that we will always go. Hermana Curtiss and some people that were randomly selected were the other speakers. Hermana Curtiss is always so great to hear, she knows so much about the gospel! I really want you guys to meet them someday, maybe President Curtiss can do my marriage thing or something!

I went on divisions this week with Elder Gonzalez in Koral Pek which was awesome because that is the only area in Chulak I had never been to, so I can now say I know all of Chulak!

Right now I am in Coban with Elder Vargas (not my companion, different Vargas.) It has not been something I want to relive haha. I went to do my blood exam with a different old lady, and I told her that it is better to just take it from my hand because my arm veins are small due to my lack of exercise and motivation these past few weeks. She said ok and than punctured me in the arm. As I said, no blood left. She then went for the other arm, and once again, no blood. I was starting to get a little woozy at this point, but she decided to start on my wrist. Once again, no blood. I said "maybe when I come back in a few weeks we can try again" and she said "uno mas!" She punctured my other wrist before I could say ok. That didn't work, so she went for another part of that same wrist and at last! She got some blood! She then told me "I told you we would get some!" I was slightly unconscious so it was difficult to respond at the time. But we ate waffles! With whip cream! And hot chocolate and a liquado (smoothie)! I almost died. Now I need to go buy a camera and a cheap watch, a rock flew up from a truck and shattered my other one. Tell Grandpa Leo I'm sorry about that. I am with Elder McEntee now and he knows where to get some heavy duty watches. We also need to do some errands for other missionaries and then we are going back to La Tinta to sleep.

Dad asked how I am feeling, pretty good.  I just get tired sometimes, I think my blood count might be low but I'm not sure. I try to eat protein, but I did bad on eating this last week and have really fallen off the workout train. It is hard with Elder Vargas because he really likes to always have soda in the house so its just right there tempting me. He is great, I'm pretty sad that we will probably only have one more change together. We mostly speak Spanish because I need to learn that, and if I don't know a word, sometimes I know it in Kekchi. I study and teach in Kekchi. I'm not really learning proper Spanish, all I am really learning to do is joke around, which probably isn't good. I just don't know any grammar because I never study it. I feel like I'm going to disappoint people when I get home because I was called to a Spanish-speaking mission and I don't know it. Sometimes I'm worried I will come home and will have forgotten how to speak English, Spanish and Kekchi haha.

Anyways! My spiritual thought this week is from interviews! They were amazing with President Curtiss! I never felt like I really connected with him before but this interview was super awesome, and now I am really sad he will be going home the same time I hit my year mark. I just really felt like he cared about me and loved me. I don't want to say I haven't felt this before with him, but not like that. We talked about the Atonement and the Restoration and I came away from that interview feeling better than I have in months!
Mas Chaab¨il li yu´am, nkinra naq laa´in jun li misioneer, ut nakatinra! (Life is great, I love the gospel, I love being  missionary, and I love you!)

Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, April 11, 2016

week 32

Hey! I'm glad to hear you had a good week! Those pictures of Margot are awesome, she is getting so big! Thank you for your spiritual thought on miracles, I also have a testimony of that, especially after my time out here! This week was actually one of the dopest weeks of my mission, so I'm going to give you a day by day run-through.
Elder Vargas is really good, a really good worker and we get along great!
Monday- all we did was talk and go back from Coban. I never got my results, but I feel much better. Apparently I have to go back next week, the mission nurse told me last night at like 9:45 that I needed to go today, and I said that I need a little more notice than that haha. (She doesn't really understand, she is just in Coban her whole mission.)
Tuesday- we went to work! We put a fecha (set a baptism date) with a girl named Maria, different Maria than before, and worked a lot with Ramona. She is the one who needs to get married so we are still working with her.
Wenesday-  ok this is where the fun starts. Our district had 12 baptisms this week, 7 in a place called Korral Pek, and 5 in a place called Seranx. There are no missionaries in either place. Me, my District Leader Elder Gonsalez and Elder Helton went to Seranx, and our companions went to Korral Pek. Seranx is closed now because it is super hard there, and kind of dangerous. Awhile back the non-members got mad and pulled the roof off the church, we just aren't super welcome there. President Curtiss won't send missionaries there full time because it is too dangerous. That was my DL's first area, he was there for six months and he was the last missionary in the area, no one  has served there since. The house he lived in is typical of one of the houses out here, made of wood, no light or water or anything. It is 100% kalebaal (village.) The people all speak Kekchi. I want to serve there someday though, there is a special feel about it. I think there are about 50 members? Which is really good, when my DL started there were 18 people going to church. The people just meet in one of the little houses, I feel really bad for them. But when we got there it was awesome! All three of us baptized in the river there, and that was hands down one of the most spiritual experiences of my life. 

I will never forget that! After the baptisms we returned to Elder Helton's area to work there the next day.
Thursday- so that morning we decided we were going to climb this mountain and see who lived up there. But on the way up we lost the trail! So we ended up hiking straight up the mountain, taking turns using a machete to cut throught the pim! (Pim is...I'm not really sure how to describe it, it is like foliage I guess? All the trees and plants and grass you see.) We never did find anyone... but it was a good day!
Friday, Saturday and Sunday- we were back in our area working hard! Sunday we had a menos active (less active) member whose daughter we want to baptize and four investigators come to church so it was a good day!

No plans yet for today, just here in El Estor with our District. They have a nice internet place here we always use. We will probably go to that restaurant called Gardanias, that place is literally the best food you will find in the Polochic. We have interviews with President Curtiss this week, so we will do interviews with him, Hermana Curtiss, and the AP´s. That is scary haha. We do interviews in Seococ, my DL´s area.
Dad asked if we ever see Americans or tourists around here. Actually a lot in El Estor and Coban. Last week a gringo started fighting with me about our church in Coban, it was the weirdest thing ever to teach the gospel in English. In our area up in Nueva Concepcion, every couple months a bunch of members of the church come and do dental work. They of course are always really excited to see us, but everyone else normally just keeps to themselves.
Also, I got my Kekchi name badge!

So that was my week! I don't really have a spiritual thought, just that while baptizing in the river I could feel the Spirit so strong, and it was confirmed to me once again that this really is the true church, and I am so happy and blessed to be out here! I love all of you!
Love, Elder Toolson
PS - so I might need a lot of money put in my account this week haha. We were riding in a truck back to Elder Heltons area, my camera fell and well...broke. So I was thinking since my birthday is coming up you could put all the money into my camera, and its ok if I don't recieve a package. But since I am going to Coban next monday it would be good to have it there by then... I don't know if its possible but if it is! That would be awesome :)

Monday, April 4, 2016

week 31: chikungunya

Hey, this week was pretty good! Well, kind of unproductive for me because I found out that I got this thing called chikungunya and it knocked me out all week. (Editor's note: from the World Health Organization, "Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitos. It causes fever and sever joint pain. Other symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash.) On Tuesday when we were going back to our area, I threw up on the way there, threw up when we arrived, tried to eat crackers and threw up, then threw up apple juice after that, then threw up twice more before bed. My whole body hurt and I had a fever from Monday to Friday or so, I felt like death. I figured out I had it because Elders McEntee and Ellis both have had it, and they told me what it was. The joint pain is real, it hurts pretty bad to move. But its not too bad, it will get better every day! Right now we are in Coban. I did my blood test for chikungunya, and let me tell you they are not as good at it here as they are in the states. They put the needle in my arm and couldn't get any blood out, so they left it there for about five minutes, digging around before they decided to just take it from my hand instead. So that was an adventure! I don't know if they have any medicine made to vaccinate against it yet. I've been putting those bottles of advil you sent to use. They help quite a bit, so I am very thankful for that!  I feel better already but I hear it can return so I am nervous about that. My throat is all good now, but man was that poop! I could see the infection reaching around my tongue when I looked on Wednesday. I never got medicine, I just kind of waited it out. By the time I had a chance to try to get it last week I was feeling too sick and I had to go lie down in the house. But it got better so its ok! I am almost 100% again. I'm just bummed because I lost all my muscle mass and my love handles are back stronger than ever haha.

Elder Vargas is awesome! The first thing he did when we got to our area was write "five baptisms" on a piece of paper and put it in front of his desk. All week he went out on divisions with members while I was dying in the house, so I have some new investigators to meet this week. He is pilas (really hard working) so that is awesome, we are going to have a lot of success this change so I am excited! He is from Nicaragua, a bueanaonda guy, I wouldn't even mind having another change and killing him. Looking forward to working hard and Zone meeting this week!

As for General Conference, from what I was able to hear and understand, it was awesome! I didn't catch a lot of it on Sunday because the signal was in and out and I was trying to welcome people. It was all in Spanish, but I loved it! We were in Chulak from Friday until today. Everyone came down from Sepemak, Sajomte, Seranx, and Chulak, so there was like over 200 or 300 people there. From our Branch I think 50 or so came? The members came to Sunday morning session, but that was it. All of us missionaries hung out watching the other sessions. It was fun. We almost had it in English but we couldn't get it in more than two languages. We bought some tortix and a jumbo (chips and soda) and had a good ole time haha. After my week of sickness I broke my soda fast. I have avoided it since October. I really liked Elder Holland's talk, that was the one I felt like I was really able to focus in on. He talked a lot about love, which I feel is the most powerful tool as a missionary, so that was good to hear.

Not a lot of time this week, we kind of ran out of time eating in the plaza and stuff. We ate some McDonald's and Taco Bell. My entire zone came down this time so there are a lot of us. Also, look who I ran into at lunch today! Sister Scruggs! It was good to see her, but it was weird talking to her. Actually talking to any girl in English makes me really awkward and uncomfortable now, haha.

My spiritual thought comes from something I noticed about Conference. It seemed to me like a lot of people talked about the Holy Ghost, and I would like to say how grateful I am as a missionary for how powerful the Holy Ghost is. Whether it is helping us find people or being a comfort to me, it is just awesome!
Oh yeah, it is getting so hot! We are all dying. I don't know how hot it is, but we are definitely starting to sweat.
Also, tell Kelly sahil ch`oolejil (wishing hapiness in general, if there is something specific to birthdays in Kekchi I don't know it yet.)

I love all of you!

Love, Elder Toolson

PS - got my Kekchi plaque! I haven't earned it yet, I have to bear my testimony in Kekchi on the bus on the way home today! I will send a picture next week.