Monday, June 27, 2016

week 43

Well, first off being a zone leader is pretty stressful haha. I got there Tuesday and unpacked, then went out to get to know some members. Wednesday I had to go to Chijolom (super awesome area!) to do a baptism interview so I was there in those mountains all day.

The next day I went to Seritkiche to do a interview, so that was another all day thing.

I made it back to my area early Friday and we worked all day. Looks like I showed up here at the right time because we had four baptisms yesterday!

Oh I also forgot to mention that we work in two ramas (small congregations, called branches in the US.) That is a big change to actually have enough people for two! I am pretty sure there are over 100 in each, I'm actually surprised they aren't a ward (larger congregation.) I know they are trying pretty hard to be a stake (a stake is a group of wards) right now, that is kind of the district Senahu goal. The ramas share a building so they overlap, so we only go to five hours of church instead of six. The first rama is pretty much all Kekchi speaking, and the second is mostly Spanish but still some Kekchi. One of the Branch Presidents is from Honduras and served a mission here so he seems to have a really good grasp on how things go. The other doesn't know Spanish that well so that is a struggle but he seems like he will be fine. They think I can play piano in the first rama so that is my Sunday calling now. There are gringos here from St. George that apparently visit every couple months and they went to church so I helped translate some stuff for them. They are going to give us some American food this week, they told us to stop by with them one night, so I am pretty excited! They come here all the time to do service, helping install pilas or pretty much anything they are asked to do. Their son-in-law served a mission here like four years ago. So they met him when he was a missionary. This time they brought two other adults and some more youth to do service. It was weird talking to some kids my age in English.
After church on Sunday we went down to sleep in Tukuru, and now we are in Coban because my companion had to take care of something in the office! I didn't take any parasite tests because I am tired of bad news so I figure I will just endure this one. As for my toes, they are hanging in there, I might get surgery when I go home but who knows.

Anyway, I still don't know my area that well because I was only there for like two days but I love it so far! I really loved Sepemac because that is where I learned the most Kekchi and I was there a long time. Santo Domingo was a nice place to start. The place with the best views is definitely up in Chijolom or Semaraq. This area is awesome because it has a lot more Spanish than some of my other areas. It is actually one of the main city (or towns?) in the Polochic. But it also still has plenty of Kekchi, so I am content. It's all good! My companion is a fun guy and good worker (obviously since I showed up to four baptisms haha) He is from the capital and has been out about sixteen or seventeen months? He was companions with my old comp Elder Vargas for like three or four changes and he is similar to him, and I really enjoyed my time with Elder Vargas. We do LOTS of divisions so it seems like I won't be with him very much but its ok, I like to get to know the other missionaries as well. And I will be able to go back to Santo Domingo and visit my first area in my mission, it will be fun because I can actually speak Kekchi now so that will surprise everyone haha. The schedule is about the same, it is just we can't follow it very much because of a lot of divisions and stuff. I am just kind of learning on the way, there isn't a special zone leader training. So I have no clue what I am doing haha. We get 1000 extra qetz for travel and we can reimburse it, so that is nice. We live right next to the church in Senahu. I will send a picture of the church and our house next week. We cook for ourselves here, but we pay a lady to do our laundry.

It is pretty stressful that this is the week where we change Presidents, that will be interesting. I'm excited but nervous, I don't know how much will change and how much will stay the same. We won't get to meet the new President today because he will probably be in meeting all day until we leave. Also for the upcoming week I have another interview in Chijolom. We do them solo, it is kind of intimidating. My companion told me the best way to learn it was do it, so he handed me the questions and I went for it. There are also a couple families that we have to go contact, other than that nothing too out of the ordinary.
Just so you know, my internet time will probably vary. Some days will be like before and other times I will have almost no time. My companion told me that he has had days where he wasn't able to write at all. So if that ever happens don't worry, I am not dead haha.

My spiritual thought this week is about pride, just basically I think pride is the worst. They say that pride is the universal sin because all sin begins with pride. When someone thinks they know better and they don't need to obey this rule or that commandment, they stop being obedient. Now the cure to pride is humility, which Jesus was perfect example of, giving all the glory to the Father.

Well, I love all of you!

Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, June 20, 2016

week 42: "Me??"

Hey! Man do I have some exciting news this week! So as you know, transfers were this week and we were all 100% sure that if anyone was going to get a transfer it would be my companion. But lo and behold Saturday night rolls around and I am told I have a transfer! So I wait all day Sunday to hear where I am going, then about 9:45 at night I get a call. The caller ID says President Curtiss! Looks like I'm going to be the new Zone Leader out in Senahu! I thought President was kidding at first, I asked him "Me??" In order of authority in the mission it goes Trainee, Junior Companion, Senior Companion, Trainer, District Leader, Zone Leader, and Assistant to the President. So I don't know what is up with that because I totally skipped Trainer (other than those couple weeks at the end of the emergency transfer) and District Leader. So that is horribly terrifying! I will say right now that I am super humbled, and it is a good thing that the Lord qualifies those that He calls, because I am about the most unqualifed person. I am sad to be leaving a lot of my buddies. They were all super happy for me and stuff, Elder McEntee said something really nice, he said "I can think of no one I would rather follow, you deserve this." I'm going to miss that guy a whole bunch because he isn't even in my Zone anymore.

I'm going to pack tonight and head out tomorrow. I think me and Elder Helton are going up together. He is going to the mountain right above mine so I will see him a lot! My old District Leader, Elder Gonzalez, is up there too so it will be good to see him. We will take buses, trucks, whatever we can find. With suitcases I would prefer a truck to keep an eye on it, but who knows what there will be. I am returning to my first Zone where I started when I was in Santo Domingo and in Sepamac (in Canlun I changed to a different zone.) I have been to Senahu before on divisions a long time ago, and every multi-zone conference is held there as well, so that is good. I think there are seven ZL companionships total in the mission. My new companion, Elder Vindel, has been ZL for like two changes before this. I've heard that he is a fun, relaxed guy. We are in charge of two Districts, we help them with whatever they need. One district has three companionships and the other has five. Every month there is a meeting we go to in Coban, also we give Zone meetings once a month, help everyone in our district with stuff, do divisions, do baptism interviews, and whatever else we are asked to do. Other than that we are just regular missionaries!

My new area has power and stuff but a lot of the other areas in the zone don't, and they are super high up, and super steep. Even crazier than my last areas! Being back in the mountains is the best part, I am super excited for that, and I can do divisions with all the other mountain areas. It is a lot cooler there from what I hear so that is nice. There are a lot of things I am excited for about going, I am just nervous about having more responsibility. The place we live is really close to the church building. The church in Senahu is massive, it is super new and like two stories. Senahu is actually pretty big, it is awesome. It is this town right in middle of the mountains, and I think there are quite a few stores, a lot of great places to eat - lots of tortillas de herina and there is even a pizza place! Every sunday night all the mountain areas come down to sleep there for p-day so it will be a good time. I'm just really surprised. I kind of had it in my head that I was going to stay in Canlun for a while. ZL's always have at least three or more changes in their areas unless they get moved up to Assistant to the President (which sounds like a nightmare) so rumor has it I will be in Senahu for 5 or 6 months. After my last change I have decided nothing is set in stone haha, but I might be there until the end of October or beginning of December.
The Elder that is taking my place in Canlun was in my first District, his name is Elder Parra, he is a good guy. This week we mostly had a lot of unproductive appointments, but we did find a family with inactive parents and unbaptized kids. I hope they can make some progress.
Zone conference was good, I ended up being one of the three speakers. So that was a treat. We were all told to prepare talks so I had something ready, but I didn't know I was going to give a talk until Hermana Curtiss said my name. She got up and said the people who would be giving a talk, and I was one of them. It was not good haha. The topic was the Restoration and Book of Mormon. I focused more on the blessings that we receive today because of those things, rather than how they actually happened. I mainly focused on having a Prophet with us today, the Priesthood, and the Book of Mormon. Of course we have so many more blessings than just that, but I didn't really have time to put all of them in. President and Hermana Curtiss gave their final testimonies. I would be lying if I said I wasn't crying when they talked. Afterwards I got to talk to President for a few minutes and he had some nice things to say, just that I've grown a lot and he has a lot of confidence in me and I did a really good job with Canlun and stuff. I'm going to miss them. I think the new President arrives on the 27th, and I heard a rumor that the day after he starts a mission tour to all of the areas.

(photo credit for this pic Guatemala Coban Mission FB page)

As far as my health, it is on and off. I don't think the pills worked but I want to wait as long as I can before going to Coban. Mom asked about the bugs, I haven't had fleas, but bedbugs, every area. I woke up with a cockroach on me yesterday, I didnt like it. My feet got destroyed by something last night. Not like the guy in The Other Side of Heaven, the skin didn't actually get eaten off, just bitten up. But I can still walk. Other than that nothing too bad haha.

I have lots of photos this week, the kids belong to our President of Rama (Branch President) in Canlun.

My spiritual thought this week is actually a little bit of a challenge, you can do it if you want and anybody that reads the blog can! What you do is you do a fast (don't eat for 24 hours while having a prayerful heart), and while in the spirit of your fast you pick five or ten things you want to change. It could be adding stuff or taking away stuff, to improve where you are spiritually. Then you do a "40 day fast" of those things you pick, whether it is stuff you don't do, or start doing, and at the end of 40 days you can see how you feel.

Well, I love all of you and I hope that have a good week!

Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, June 13, 2016

week 41: my xemann (week)

Hey! My week was pretty swell! We did a pretty awesome service project this week! On Thursday night we went to visit some less active members, and this lady I had never met before came over and said she wanted to talk to us. So we walked over, she said she was a member and all, and started to tell us this story about how her house had been destroyed by a storm a couple nights ago. (Oh yeah, it has been storming like crazy!) They rebuilt it real quick but it was done super horribly so it was already falling apart. So she asked us to go around and ask the men in the Branch to come help out the next day. So we went and got some guys, got up at 4:00 the next morning, and spent about 14 hours building the house. It is all wood and lamena (a metal sheet with ridges in it, a lot of the roofs here are made out of that.) We reused a lot of the old parts of the house and then they had some new posts to make the corners so the house would be more solid. I carried some wood and tried to help as much as a gringo without any experience can haha. I learned a lot about building a house with really limited materials! It probably won't apply in the states because our houses aren't made of sticks, but it was a good time. We completely tore down her old house and then rebuilt it, it was quite the project!

After that we went back to the church and had to build the pila for the baptism next day. It isn't too bad to set up but takes forever to fill! We didn't have water or power because of the storms, so we almost had to baptize in the river. But the water came back like four hours before the baptism, so we were blessed again.

I was able to baptize Franklin and that kid is awesome! We got him all confirmed and stuff so he is all set. I was actually pretty disappointed because his mom promised us she'd come and she didn't show. It was a bummer. But he has some buddies at church, and we will keep visiting him as well.

Needless to say I was pretty tired haha. Let's see what else...oh! With the storm we lost all our water, power, and ran out of gas to cook with for about three days. So that was a pretty good time! I felt like I was on a scout hike again. We ate some fruity bars, and we have a lady that we pay to make us lunch, so we lived off that. She makes either eggs or beans, and always tortillas. If we show up she always has food for us so it is pretty nice. With all of the rain teaching is pretty hard, the streets get very wet and nobody wants to let us in when it is storming. They just want to sleep haha. I really hope that the heavy rains just last a few weeks.

It is almost time for transfers again. We will know on Sunday who has them and where they are going so that will be exciting!  I think either my companion or Elder McEntee´s companion will have a change, but I could see everything staying the same too. McEntee and his comp just one change together, me and mine a change and a half because of the emergency change. Our areas are pretty close, like 15 minutes walking, cross a river on a boat, another 10 minutes walking, then like 15 minutes in a truck. I feel like I will probably be here until September or October. I will be happy either way. There are some people that I really love here. The people in Canlun are known for being hard hearted, but we have lucked out to be in the right place at the right time with our baptisms. That is alllll the Lord. I think the next group of Kekchi speakers come from CCM in the transfer after this. That always gets crazy. September is going to be wild because everyone from the Polochic is going home. Well not everyone, but it is a big group, there are like 5 people or so that know Kekchi that are going home. This change there is a pretty good chance that Elder McEntee will be the District Leader in our district, so that will be good. I hope I train when the new guys come in! 

Unfortunately with the baptism over we are kind of left with rebuilding work in our area.  Most of the people are Catholic, about half go to their church and a lot don't. I would feel a lot better if they at least went to their own church instead of saying they will go and not going anywhere. There are some areas where there is no transportation, so that can be a problem, but for the most part there is always a pick up or bus to go on. I have done some pretty sketchy bus rides, where I am hanging outside a bus as it is going. It would compare to going 50 mph in our van with the slider door open, standing up and hanging on outside with my arms haha. It is a lot of fun! We do have a bunch of appointments this week, we are working with a 11 year old whose mom is baptized, so we might see a baptism with her. Our multi-zone conference is also this Friday so that should be good!

I got started on my medicine and stuff so I should be fine. You asked about mosquitos, we just kind of deal with it. For p-day today we ate some chow mein with a member here that our DL found for us. The hermana knew how to make it so we really lucked out! It was pretty good! Me, McEntee and Ellis were just talking about how we would kill for some orange chicken from Panda Express the whole time though haha. We are going to go watch Ephriam's Rescue as a District tonight. Other than that we are just writing today.

(this picture was taken from Elder McEntee)

My spiritual thought this week comes on how the Lord strengthens us even when we are super tired. On the day of the service project, I didn't think that we would be able to do everything we wanted to. But with the Lord's help we were able to get everything ready for the baptism and build a house! I LOVE THE LORD! He is just so awesome! 

Well, I hope you all have a good week and I love all of you!

Love, Elder Toolson

Dad, so I seem to remember that it is Fathers Day this week! I wasn't able to get a letter out like for mom but I will do my best with my email. I remember that I said in my senior presentation how much you sacrifice for us. I know you could have made a lot of more money over the years, but you wanted to be with us, and that means so much to me. I thank you for your example to me everyday. You have shown me what it means to be a father, and to be a man, and how to hold the Priesthood. You have been a perfect example to me over the years and I am so blessed to have you as my Dad. You could not have done any better as a father. I love so much!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

week 40

Aye! We got Martha confirmed! And Franklin is going to be baptized this Saturday! Franklin is a pretty stellar kid. He goes to church all by himself and stuff. We contacted his family, but his parents won't come. Elder Ellis will do the baptism interview, so I will get to go on splits with him. We actually build our own baptismal pila! We build it and take it apart, I am not really sure how to describe it. I will take a picture before it is constructed and after so you can see what it looks like. It is from a company that makes portable baptismal fonts so it is out of various stuff - plastic, foam, love, the works. Not too shabby of a week in all.
Let's see what else, I will be buying my medicine today or tomorrow so no worries there. I'm emailing late today because me and my companion were running around helping some church members take out papers for their kids and stuff. I think it is like their birth record or something like that? I didn't really understand, they just needed us to pay for the travel. We used our mission funds, I hope that is allowed. We took a truck to Teleman and a bus to Panzos, which is where they took out their papers. At least that was the plan, I don't know if they got the papers, we had to leave to do stuff for my companion. We are in La Tinta now, maybe an hour away, there is no electricity in Panzos right now.
This week my companion and I were asked if we wanted to join a 70 year old lady who was taking a bath in the river. We politely declined that. Also, I watched a man try to breastfeed his baby! It didn't really work for him haha. He started pushing it against his nipple and tried like four times then looked at us, shook his head, and said "tu naraj" which means "she wants the tit." I was laughing pretty hard.
Let's see, you asked some questions. As far as what the people wear, for women it is the traditional dress you saw in the video. Normally in the house they wear like a tank top and that skirt, and then when they go out they put on the woven thing. In the mountains some of the teenage girls wear that and some of them normal clothes. The men just wear american style, they really all like super tight fitting clothes here. For what crops they grow, a whole lot of corn! That is what they make everything out of here. Corn, corn, corn. I did have chicken feet, so that was good. It didn't taste that different so not too crazy. It was served in a caldo. I ate like half the foot then they all looked at me and started laughing...but I kept eating it like that, so I don't know if I was supposed to or not. I also buy a lot of apples! And lots of water, and if my will breaks a lot of soda! And there is this drink here called Isomax. I am seriously considering ordering it when I go home. It is a juice, it comes in a bag, it is super amazing. Sometimes we get salchichas, so those are pretty good!

My companion and I are going to be in charge of Mutual this Wednesday for the first time! I'm excited. There are about six youth, not very many, equally split between boys and girls. I'm going to give a message, then teach them how to play volleyball and play, then eat some food. We also have a little portable dvd player that we can use for lessons and to watch whatever church movies we have. I have a usb that has the RM and Singles Ward. They are in English with Spanish subtitles. Most of the youth only speak Kekchi but they like to see them just to see what the States look like. When they have free time the boys play a lot of soccer. I'm not really sure what the girls do.
It has started storming a lot these past couple days. It rained pretty good like two or three days in a row. When Elder Helton was here he said it flooded up to his knees when he was near the river.
Things are ok in my area. So far I have been really blessed to be in areas that have water and light, but I am just waiting for my turn not to have one of those. I mean the electricity is there almost all the time, just sometimes goes off at night when it rains. And our area has water like 25% of the time, we take bucket showers and stuff, but it is still a lot better than other areas! We don't really know why the water doesn't work the other 75% or how to fix it. But we always have water outside in the pila. A pila is like a really giant sink, I will try to remember to take a picture for you guys. That is where we fill up our bucket to shower. It is just right behind our house.
Things are going pretty good overall, I just seem to be having those old sleep problems again. Hopefully those will pass, I'm sure they will! I got another ingrown toenail out! I didn't want to do it last week because it was really big, but I got tired of it so I just had him do it on Saturday. It is starting to do better. I should have taken a video! That would have been awesome! I feel like I am doing a bigger part serving here now that I can actually speak the language. Only took a year haha, but I still have my days where I feel like I know nothing.
My spiritual thought this week comes from the war chapters in Alma because that is what I have been studying. I just like how simply you can see the importance of obedience. When the Nephites are being righteous, they are able to defend themselves and they wreck the Lamanites. But when they stop being righteous they get wrecked in turn! I think it makes it pretty simple for us to see what we need to do. When we do what the Lord asks, He will help us fight our battles.
Well, I love all of you and hope you have a good week!

Love, Elder Toolson