Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas call and week 69

The first part of this entry will be written by Shannon (mom, blog editor) so that I can share a few of the things Joe told us during our Christmas skype yesterday. It was wonderful to be able to talk with and see him this year!! The first thing we asked him for were more details about his friend who died last week. "So I went back to Canlun, where I served for a month and a half about six months ago. We wanted to go visit a lady I baptized and her husband who was a good buddy of mine. As we were walking up to the house the wife came out and said 'he's dying.' I felt like something hit my chest really hard, but we kept walking. When we came in the room, his stomach was really bloated and his breathing was super fast and not regular. As we were giving him a blessing his breathing slowed and the atmosphere in the room totally changed. When we left a man who was there stopped us and said that my friend had a 'sickness curse' or 'bad spirit.' It was crazy how we hadn't been told that before going in, but we totally felt a change from the blessing. I'm not sure if we cast any spirits out. I think it was more than that, he was in bad shape. But I think we did help him die easier. The family has four kids between 1 - 7, and now they don't have a dad to help them. I hope the church is able to help them."

Next we asked him how he spent Christmas Eve and Christmas (he called us at 7 pm his time.) "On Christmas Eve I woke up at 4:30 so I could work out and have time to do my studies because I have a goal to finish reading the Book of Mormon in Kekchi. Then we went to members houses to visit, helped set up for the Open House at the church we are doing tomorrow, and ate lots of tamales. They have these special sweet tamales that they make for Christmas filled with raisins and almonds. I don't like raisins and almonds. But every place you go people are like 'you have to eat my tamales' and then they want you to tell them whose are best. (Paul asked Joe if he felt like the Grinch during the Whobilation and he said 'Exactly!') It is really weird, because in the States it seems like Christmas Eve is kind of a quiet time when families gather at home, but here the streets are full of kids throwing firecrackers and loud music is playing everywhere. On Christmas day we went to church and then the church had a little party where everyone was given more sweet tamales and some juice. Then we just went and visited a family before it was time to come back to the church so my companion could call home. Then it was my turn to talk to you."

We asked him to explain a bit more about the activity they are doing at the church on Monday. "We are having and Open House at 6 pm. A different part of the Plan of Salvation will be taught in each room. Every family in the Rama has been invited to bring another family as guests, so we should have about 150 people there. We have been working really hard to get ready."

There was quite a bit of discussion and laughter between Joe and his siblings regarding the various parasites and the results of carrying those parasites. Joe was sick again last week. They have running water, but apparently it isn't at all unusual to have the water and power go out for two or three days at a time. Which means you can't flush toilets. We will leave it at that. We asked him to tell us a bit more about where he lives now. "The center of Teleman is smaller than the center of Manson (village we lived in until a year ago) and we live in the center of town. The church is at the end of town, which isn't very far. It was hard to leave the mountains and leave my buddies behind, but I have made some good friends here like Elder Nielsen and Elder Ibarro. Oh, also, I got offered another wife while I was on divisions with Elder Nielsen! The girls in the valley are a lot more forward than the girls in the mountains. Or maybe they are just easier to understand because they speak in Spanish. Kekchi doesn't really translate for flirting. Or maybe I just don't understand it if it does. Kekchi is really weird because it is such an ancient language that things are really literal. Like there isn't a Kekchi word for 'stranger' so they call you 'chicken man.' And they have really weird jokes. When you go to visit a house, they will say 'Your boots are stinky!' to which you answer 'There's cheese!' and they laugh like crazy. They will also ask 'Did you shower?' and laugh like it is the best joke ever."

We asked him which is easier to teach in, Spanish or Kekchi. "Kekchi is harder, but I like it better. The people also have a harder time learning. I think it is partly because of the language, but also partly because the poor people up in the mountain don't really have a chance to practice. I was trying to teach this older lady how to pray, and she just kept saying 'I can't remember' in Kekchi, which translates as 'it doesn't stay in my heart.' When you say 'I forgot' you say 'it was destroyed in my heart,' If you want to ask someone how they are doing, the direct translation would be 'how's your heart?' I think those translations are cool."

Two other interesting comments - "We found a frog in our bathroom this morning. That isn't unusual at all. There are also a lot more bugs in the valley than in the mountains. I'm not really afraid of spiders anymore, except for the ones as big as your hand that crawl out of the drain when I am trying to shower. I don't like those." and "I gave my suit coat to a native Elder who needed a jacket to wear home, but now we have to wear a suit coat to our meetings. So I bought another one at the thrift store for 1 quetz (20 cents.) It is really ugly, but it does the job."

Still our goofy, lovable Joe. Now on to today's letter...

Hey, I guess there is not too much to report since we were able to talk for a while last night but it was great to see everyone! I don't really know if I have anything to add. I did some divisions with El Estor this week and met a really awesome family of investigators that I am sending a picture of.

I also have some other pictures I took in La Tinta last p-day when I was with Elder Pin. It is pretty there. The bridge moved a lot and started tipping to one side but held together!

I don't have very much time today. My companion loved the stocking, he felt bad he forgot to say thank you on the skype. We are both like super hyped about the pens you gave us because good pens are hard to come by!

Mom asked me about New Year's resolutions. I think my goals will be to not miss a day of exercises (other than Sunday, that's my rest day), finish the Book of Mormon in the three languages, and finish my mission strong. Other than that I can't think of much else. I don't want to make home goals until the time comes. I'm not sure how New Year's is in the valley yet, but if Christmas is anything to go off of, there are going to be a whole lot of fireworks going off! We haven't been given a curfew or told to stay in our house, but that might come later this week.

My spiritual thought for the third week in a row comes from Mario, it was just so awesome to see him baptized. The missionaries have been visiting him for three years. To see him enter into the waters of baptism was such a blessing. Kind of a funny story, Mario is kind of a big guy for someone from Guatemala. The pila (baptismal font) is small and was only filled to about halfway up my calf. He was hard to lift out of the water!

I know that missionary work is the most important thing we can do, so everyone can know about God's plan and live with their families forever.

I love you guys!
love, Elder Toolson


  1. I miss this guy! I love how his personality shines through his comments. I can't wait to hear all of his adventures when he gets home.

  2. "There was quite a bit of discussion and laughter between Joe and his siblings regarding the various parasites and the results of carrying those parasites. "

    Mom if I remember right you asked if he pooped a lot in his new place 😏

    1. What did I really ask? I remember we all laughed because Joe thought I said "pooped" but I can't even remember what I really said...