Monday, July 3, 2017

week 96: leaving home/ coming home

Whoa, I'm going home! It's weird though, I kind of feel like I am leaving home. Things here were awesome this week, we got Pedro and Maria baptized in a river! It was such a miracle, the Lord really helped us out. My companion was too nervous to confirm them so I ended up doing both parts. It was all dope and spiritual!

This week was just full of goodbyes and stuff, but I promised I would be back to visit so it was all good. My companion has a change as well, he is getting sent to Peten. So that is a bummer because he won't be here to help Pedro and Maria.

I just finished my last interview with President Faundez and it was awesome. It went really well, he said nice things and the Spirit was super strong and stuff. He talked a lot about the future which is scary haha. I got one final cincho from Hermana Faundez, she is going to give me pants to go home in because she doesn't like the ones I have. But I'm just going to wear those to the capital then use my pants.

Today I am going to write for a while and then we have our noche de hogar (family home evening) tonight. And that is it. A lot of people made the trip out to see me so it has been nice. I think we are sleeping at the APs house, they have a lot of extra beds so that is probably the most convenient place for us. I don't feel like I am leaving at all, I feel like it is just another p-day except every time I see a missionary they just tell me "ya te vas vos!" (like "your time to go!") Interview with President was the only thing that felt out of the ordinary, that part was weird, but after we went and got some subway and everything felt normal again.

There will be eight missionaries going home with me but only three of us are from the states. I think it is like four or five hours to the capital, I have no clue what we will be doing once we get there. The bus from Coban normally leaves around 11 or 12, right after the new missionaries come in. I think we will sleep in a hotel, and I am guessing I will have to be at the airport pretty early if my flight leaves at like 8. My suitcase mostly has souvenirs and books because I gave a lot of clothes away. I sold my camera to another missionary who didn't have one. I haven't had bedding for like 2 or 3 areas, I can't remember what I did with it haha. I've just used whatever I could find when I got to a new area.

Well, for my final spiritual thought, I'm not sure how to describe an entire mission in one email. I figure I will write about the one thing that I have learned the most about and cherish most, and that is my new testimony of our Older Brother Jesus Christ and his Atonement. 

Naq ninok chixk'oxlankil chirix lix tojb'al rix li qamaak li JesuKristo, nanujob'resiik incho'ool. Mas Ch´a'aj chiwu chixtawb'al iru chixjunil k'ar'u ke'xb'annu li yos ut li JesuKristo choq' we, choq' qe chiqajunilo. Naq nink'oxla chirix lix tojb'al rix li qamaak li JesuKristo, oxib'aq li aatin nachalk se' ink'auxl. Rahilal, li B'antioxink, ut Rahok. 
Relik chi yaal li JesuKristo kixnumsi chixjunil li qarahilal ut kixk'ul chixjunil sa' xb'een. Ink'a' ninruuk chixtawb'al iru a'an, ab'anan re xk'oxlankil naq kixk'ul sa' xb'een chixjunil li qarahilal sa' xb'een se' li rawimq, toj ki'elk xkik'el re xtib'el ut toj li yos kixtaqla jun li anjel re xkojob'ankil xch'ool, narahok inch'ool re xnawb'al naq xintzaqo sa' xrahilal, naq a'an kixnumsi inrahilal sa' ink'ab'a. Ut ink'a' kiraqek ayi, kijite, kipaq'iik chi ruq', kichuub'aak ut kisak'e' xb'aaneb' aj ka'pak'al-u, ut kixkuy chixjunil a'in chi ch'anch'o, chi tuulanob'resinb'il rib'. chirix a'an kik'ob'e chiru li krus, ut aran kikanaak se' rahilal toj xkamik.
Ink'a' naru chiwu ch'olob'ankil xiikil xnimal inb'antioxihom chiru li yos ut li JesuKristo ut k'aru' ke'xb'annu we. Xb'aan lix tojb'al rix li qamaak, nar ch'ajob'resinb'ilaqin, ut ninruuk chi wank rik'in injunkab'lal chi junelik q'e kutan, ut tinruuq chi sutq'iiq rik'in inchoxahil yuwa'. K'a'ajwi' xb'aan li JesuKristo, naru kuyb'ilaqeb' inmaak, chi maak'a raj li JesuKristo, maa'anihin raj.
Ink'a' nintaw iru k'ajo xnamal xrahom li yos li wan choq' qe. Naq kiwan xch'ool chixmayejinkil li ralal choq' qe, laa'o aj maak, maa'us aj winq, a'an ju li rahok tz'aqal re ru. Lix rahom li JesuKristo li wan choq' qe ut choq' re li qachoxahil yuwa' naxkuy chixjunil, ut maak'a xraqik. Ninraheb' inchoxahil yuwa' ut li was ut inlo'y li JesuKristo.
Maji' xikenaqin se' wochoch, ab'anan ak naab'al li rosob'tesihom li yos k'ulb'il sa' inb'een ut ink'a' ninjuuk chirajlankileb'. Ab'anan li wosob'tesinkil li mas naweek'a sa' inyu'am a'an xnawom inch'ool ut inlo'yil li ontaw rik'in aj tojol wix, li JesuKristo. Ninnaw naq yo'yo a'an, naxnaw lin ch'ool ut a'an nikinxra, ut laa'in ninra a'an. A'an jun innawom, ut maa'ani naru risinkil a'an. Ninb'antioxi chiruheb' li yos ut li JesuKristo wulaj wualj xb'aan li k'aru' ke'xb'aanu, ut toj neke'xb'aanu chow' we. Nanaw wi' nawoksi xtojb'al rix li qamaak li JesuKristo wulaj wualj, rajlal hoonal, tinwanq rik'in injukab'al, ut li qachoxahil yuwa', ut li qas li JesuKristo chi junelik q'e kutan

Cuando yo pienso de el Expiación de JesuCristo se llena mi corazón. Es dificil para mi a comprender qué es lo que nuestro Padre Celestial y JesuCristo hicieron para mi y para todos nosotros. Cuando yo pienso en el Expiación las primeras tres palabras que viene a mi mente son sufrimiento, agradecimiento, y amor.
JesuCristo Sufrió literalmente todo. Eso no es algo que comprendo, pero a pensar que el sufrió en el Jardín de Getsemaní hasta que sangró de cada poro, y hasta que Dios mandó un Ángel a ayudarlo, me pongo tan triste que yo era un parte de su sufrimiento. Y no se terminó allí, fue acusado y golpeado, las personas lo escupieron y golpearon, y él guardó silencio durante todo eso. Hasta que lo clavaron a la cruz y allí quedó en agonía hasta su muerte.
No puedo expresar que tan agradecido estoy para este acto. Que por medio de el Expiación puedo ser limpo, y puedo estar con mi familia, y regresar con mi Padre Celestial, sé que solo por medio de JesuCristo puedo ser perdonado, sin el yo sería nadie.
El amor que el Padre tiene para nosotros es algo más que yo no puedo comprender. A sacrificar su hijo para nosotros, personas malas, pecadores, imperfectos, es un amor puro. El amor que JesuCristo tiene para nosotros y para nuestro PAdre Celestial es algo infinito. Yo amo a mi Padre Celestial y me hermano y amigo JesuCristo.
Todavía no he ido a mi casa, pero ya he recibido mas bendiciones de mi mision que puedo contar. Pero el bendicion que yo aprecio mas es mi nuevo relación y testimonio que tengo de mi redentor JesuCristo. Sé que él vive, él me ama y me conoce, y yo lo amo. Este es un conocimiento que yo tengo, y nadie lo puede quitar de mi, doy gracias a el y mi Padre Celestial cada día para lo que han hecho y siguen haciendo para mi. Sé que si yo aplico el Expiación cada día, voy a estar con mi familia, y con nuestro Padre Celestial, y nuestro hermano mayor JesuCristo para siempre.

When I start to think about the Atonement of Jesus Christ my heart is filled. It is hard for me to understand everything that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have done for me, and have done for all of us. When I think about the Atonement, three words come to mind, suffering, gratitude, and love. Jesus Christ literally suffered everything. This isn't something I understand, but to think that He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane until He bled from every pore and until God sent an angel to comfort Him, it makes me so sad to think that I was a part of His suffering. And it didn't finish there, He was accused and beaten, spit upon and hit, and He stayed silent in perfect humility. After He was nailed to the cross and there He stayed in agony until His death
I cannot express how grateful I am to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and this act. Through the Atonement I can be made clean, and I can be with my family and return to be with our Heavenly Father. I know that only through Jesus Christ can I be forgiven of my sins, without Him I would be nothing.
The love that our Father has for us is something I also can't comprehend. That He sacrificed His Son for us, people that are bad, and sinners, and imperfect, is a pure love. The love that Christ has for us and for our Heavenly Father is infinite and endures all things. I love my Heavenly Father, and my Brother and Friend Jesus Christ.
I still haven't gone home, but I have already received more blessings from my mission than I can count. But the blessing that I appreciate the most is my new relationship and testimony I have of my Redeemer and Savior Jesus Christ. I know He lives, and He loves and knows me, and I love Him. This is a knowledge that I have, and it is something nobody can take from me. I thank my Heavenly Father everyday for that which He has done for me and keeps doing for me. I know if I apply the Atonement everyday I will be with my family forever and with our Heavenly Father and our Older Brother Jesus Christ forever.

I don't really know what more I can say. I'm really excited to see you and I will see you sooon! 

I love you!Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, June 26, 2017

week 95

Hey! We had a pretty decent week this week, we got our couple all prepared for baptism and marriage. It looks like they will be married on Wednesday and baptized on Saturday if everything goes smoothly. The baptism will be in a river if we can find one with enough water, if not we will do it in Coban at the pila (baptismal font.)

Everyone from Lomas made it out to church and we hit an all time high of 40 in attendance which is pretty good! We have a Relief Society president and then like 4 or 5 members who will give talks for us so that isn't too bad. They do a good job of dividing up the limpieza (maintenance.) The members would like to have a branch, but I think the problem is sacerdocio (Priesthood holders) right now. I don't know how much is needed, but they have like five men that are worthy Aaronic Priesthood holders and I don't know if they have any Melchizedek. The problem is they want their own group in Lomas, and most of our sacerdocio is in Lomas, so if they divide then we are in trouble.

Everything is good with my companion, we get along real well and stuff. This week will be nice and busy, we will visit Pedro and Maria tomorrow to go over marriage details, Wednesday we will be here in Coban again to get them married, Thursday is our day to find all of our new investigators for the week, Friday we will be in Lomas, Saturday is the baptism, Sunday is my last day in Chisec so it will be spent saying goodbyes and packing, Monday is my last interview and Family Home Evening with President Faundez, Tuesday I go to the capital, and Wednesday...well you already know haha. So I will be nice and busy until I get home which is good! 

I will do my best to answer your questions now.

1. I hopefully have improved on a lot of spiritual things, but one thing that jumps out to me is I have a very strong testimony about fasting and prayer now. Every time I have done a fast for success or a miracle or anything, it has been answered within a few days.
2. A physical strength that has improved on my mission ...let's see. The first thing I was going to say was bowel control haha but I don't think that's exactly what you are looking for. I think I have gotten at least a little better at just kind of buckling down and doing something even when I really don't want to, cause that's what a lot of the mission is.
3. Something that I feel confident about now is sharing the gospel with anyone. Before I was pretty nervous but now I definitely have no problem talking about the church and stuff (at least in Q'eqchi'.)
4. For something I wish I could do over, I don't know if there is one specific thing, but I know there have been days in my mission where maybe I could have worked harder, or been more obedient, or a better person, so I wish I could go back and do that better.
5. Something I feel really good about is my relationship with our Savior. I have never had such confidence in Him or felt Him so close.
6. A time I felt very sad that jumps out is when Mario's family in Teleman was going through such a rough patch, and there have been many other times with other investigators or members in a similar situation.
7. A time on my mission when I felt overwhelmingly happy is probably just anytime that I have been able to be in the baptismal pila with someone, there is no other feeling like that in the world.
8. A time I have felt scared, let's see. Probably like 90% of my mission haha, but one time that jumps out is in my first few weeks in Canlun when that guy asked us to go pray at his dying dad's house. I was really inexperienced in Q'eqchi' so I had no clue what to expect.
9. Um, a time my heart felt full of love... oh! One time I remember is when I was on divisions in Se'ritk'iche and these Nazerenos were bashing on us. They said we were only on missions for ourselves and all this poop. I started off really angrily explaining about leaving our homes and families and stuff, but then out of the blue I just felt a lot of love for those people and told them that really we are here because we love them. 
10. For what I will miss the most, I will definitely miss the people more than anything, they are part of my family now.
11. Foods I will miss, I think my favorite thing they make here you can do in the states as well. It is just eggs, beans, fried platanos and tortillas. Also the Isomax juice, I drink it every day. And I hope I get one more caldo before I go home, I could probably ask mama Lila to make us one.
12. Lets see, the thing I'm most excited for about coming home other than seeing football! I can't wait to get home and watch some good college football and NFL as well!

I don't even feel like coming home is real to be honest. I think I am more nervous and sad to go home than I was to leave it. I don't know if that's good thing.

Right now we are just in Coban, we came down to get the marriage papers, so it is a good day. We will probably just write then head back to our area, it is a pretty tranquilo day today. Oh and some news, I weighed myself today and I am down to 165! I don't think I have been this light since my sophomore year.

Lets see, a quick spiritual experience from this week is from our visit to Lomas. When we were there the old man, the grandpa of the family, started asking me about temple work. He is one of the first members from Lomas and he is amazing. He is like super old, but even if there isn't a truck to go to church on Sundays he will get up at 4 to make the walk if he has to. When we were talking he started crying and explained that his brother had never known the gospel and died recently and he wanted to do his work. And the Spirit was so strong and the Lord helped me be able to explain to him that he would see his brother again, and he could do his temple work and his brother would have an opportunity to receive the gospel as well. 
I love you!
Love, Elder Toolson
malaj ut laj Toolok

Monday, June 19, 2017

week 94

Hey! We had a better week this week. We were able to find that member and talk to him and he showed up to church and brought everyone from Lomas. So the church attendance was a little higher this week which was nice. The two fechas (people with scheduled baptisms) were the only ones that didn't come. They don't seem super interested now so that is a bummer. 

Our Zone Leaders ended up not coming but that was ok. I don't really miss being a ZL, but I feel like with being Group Leader I have almost more responsibility so I guess in a way I kind of miss it haha. It's nothing crazy, just with coordinating with the hermana (sister/female ward member) who is in charge of limpieza (cleaning and building maintenance), trying to get Lomas to church, and looking for people to give talks, I've realized I would not be a good Bishop.

Zone Conference was good. I kind of had all planned out what I was going to say in my testimony, then I got up there and my mind went blank so I just kind of stumbled through some lines in Spanish and Q'eqchi'. It wasn't quite as memorable as I was hoping but thankfully I still have my last district meeting and Family Home Evening with President and my group to make up for it. 

My interview went well, in the conference we talked about the Atonement so he asked me what I thought of the activity they did. It was the activity where one person has to do push ups so every one else can have a treat that we did a couple months ago in our other zone. I didn't have to do the push ups this time, Elder Castro did. It was worse watching than doing. Next he asked me how my relationship with Christ is, then he told me to think about home a lot over the next two weeks but keep working. My goals are to work hard, and either baptize that couple or get them as prepared as I possibly can so that the next missionaries that come here can do it. Then told me he loved me and that the Lord was happy with me. So I was in there like two minutes and it was good! 

To answer mom's questions about Chisec, the best thing and worst thing is the members. It's like the active ones are super dope and pilas, and then the not-so-active ones are really frustrating because they are like "oh yeah! I will go to church this week" and then don't go. So you visit them again and they say "oh...I couldn't...but next week for sure!" and then don't go again. My best memory here is not really a specific memory, I just have those two families I told you about that I am pretty close to, so I will always remember them. And they are probably going to be the hardest thing to leave behind. What I will be pretty excited to leave behind is the drunk people here, there are ALWAYS drunk people. 

A typical day now is wake up at 5:30 and work out until like 7, Monday is chest and triceps and core, Tuesday is back and bicep and core, Wednesday is shoulders and if I feel adventurous I do a little bit of legs and core. Then study until like 11, which is reading the Bible in Q'eqchi', the Book of Mormon in the three languages, two or three chapters of Jesus the Christ, and then trying to help my companion with the language. Then we go eat lunch with a member and go work till like 8 or 9. Then we get ready for bed, sleep, and repeat. I am just in my area today, I am on splits with Elder Nielsen. I've told you about him before, he started his mission in the Polochic and we did a couple of divisions there, now he is in my district. He is from Utah and has about nine months out. He is my buddy. Our companions wanted to go to Coban and we didn't. I am trying to save money because I think I am starting to run low and there is a tiny chance we might pay for a wedding haha.

Here are some pictures from this week. I am still wearing wide ties! I'm going to wear one home and give the rest out to missionaries. My belt broke!

At Zone Conference with Elder Vega (my companion), Elder Nielsen and Elder Pin (a dope guy in the office who was in the Polochic.)

This is Elder Castro, he came into the mission at the same time as me. 

After conference with Elder Vega and Elder Pin.

My spiritual thought this week comes from another miracle, which is always nice. This week I did a fast for success in the district and for help to keep me working my last couple weeks because after that poopy week last week I didn't really want to do much. Then like two days after my fast ended, I got a call from the ZLs saying that two of their fechas moved in to Chisec, they just need to get married and baptized. I called the fecha and he said we could visit him on Tuesday. So I am super excited for that cita (appointment.) It was just a big testimony to see that the Lord is watching out for me. It isn't super probable that I will be here to see their wedding and baptism because I don't know what their situation is with their papers and how prepared they are, but just the fact that the Lord sent us somebody to teach here these last two weeks is good enough to know that He watches out for us. 

"Jo'kan ut, tento a teetiikisi eerib' chi ub'ej chi xaqxookex junelik rik'in li Kristo, rik'in tz'aqal xlemtz'unkil lib yo'onink, ut rik'in c rahok choq' re li Dios ut reheb' chixjunil li winq. Jo'kan ut, wi teetiikisi eerib' chi ub'ej rik'in xtzekankil xsahil li raatin li Kristo, ut d texkuyuq toj sa' roso'jik, k'ehomaq reetal, jo'ka'in naxye li Yuwa'b'ej: Taawanq eeyu'am chi junelik. ("Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." - 2 Nephi 31:20)

I love you!
Love, Elder Toolson


Monday, June 12, 2017

week 93

Hey! Things here were actually pretty tough this week. This member from Lomas keeps getting drunk, and he happens to be the member with the truck to take everybody to church, so because he gets drunk, nobody from there comes to church. Also because he gets drunk, both our fechas decided they didn't want to get baptized which was a bummer. We feel like if we can talk to him things will get better but he is never around when we show up. I'm just trying to figure out what to tell him. I want to explain to him how blessed he is to have his truck and that God has trusted him and needs him. Hopefully it will reach him somehow. Our Zone Leaders are coming over Thursday to go visit there with us, so hopefully they can help us out.  And then the couple we are trying to get married won't come to church and said they don't want to get married. It is just hard to see stuff fall through so close to going home, because now I don't think they will get to church enough times for me to see them baptized. So overall not the most successful week of my mission! With everything falling apart I feel like I have to at least try to fix things so it is not a disaster when the next missionary shows up. But it is ok, if I have learned one thing in my mission it is that sometimes we've just got to put it in the Lord's hands and He will take care of it, all we can do is our best. On the bright side the other missionaries here in Chisec have a girl named Lesly who is progressing really well, and we help them teach her sometimes so that is something to look forward to every week. 

I am starting to feel settled here and getting to know some people. One family we are close to is with a Hermana we call mama Lila because she makes us lunch every day and does our laundry and everything. Then there is another family we visit every Sunday, the mom's name is Hermana Suzena. She has a two daughters, Bradie and Suly, and a son named Leo. She was the first member in Chisec. I think she was baptized in Coban, and then she moved here and wanted the Church here so she got President Curtiss to send some missionaries in. Their family has a lot of problems, she just has a hard past and not a lot of money and all sorts of stuff, but she is awesome. We always try to visit them to show a video or a scripture or something. One goal I have before I leave is to strengthen the few members that are here. 

I am also really trying to help my companion. He's had some companions who weren't really motivated to work hard or learn the language, so I am seeing what I can do for him. He already has improved a lot! I'm hoping by the time I go home he will be ready to train if he has to. The missionaries in this district need help because of how tough the area is, so I am doing my best. But it is a good thing the Lord helps us out, because I have no clue what I am doing sometimes. 

This week definitely got me a little more excited to go home. We have Zone Conference on Wednesday and I will give my final testimony, which is weird. I won't really know anybody besides my companion and the other two guys in our district, my buddies from the Polochic are in a different zone. We will go to Coban and the Mission President will be there. That will be my last regular interview, then I will have my go-home interview here in a few weeks. My buddies all said they are going to travel down that last p-day to say goodbye to me so I feel loved haha. I am getting pretty nervous. I actually have been having a hard time sleeping because I keep having weird dreams about going home and then I wake up at like 2 or 3 and have a hard time falling back asleep. I feel like my life before the mission was a dream to be honest and I have been a missionary my whole life. The weirdest thing to think about is that I only have three emails left, maybe two if I don't email my last p-day. Oh also I am bummed because I guess that the temple will be closed when I am in the capital so I won't get to go there. I think Tuesday after all the new missionaries get here we go to the capital, then sleep in a hotel or motel or something, then leave early Wednesday. I just don't know what we are going to do the whole day on Tuesday now. I think there are some buildings we can go see, I just don't know how much time we will have. But I'm excited to eat some Wendy's because I hear there is one in the capital. I could spend all afternoon there and be happy! I imagine me and Elder Barney will stick together. He will probably be my companion until we part ways in the airport in LA. 

For our District meeting this week I talked about faith. I used Nephi as an example because of all the times he talks about doing things without knowing why and just trusting in the Lord. I mainly used 1 Nephi 4: 6-7 "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth..." and 1 Nephi 9:5 "Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not."

The Ward Conference went well, we got like 15 members there so that was good. They really only talked about how parents can strengthen their youth and manage their use of technology, so not much applied to me, but it was still good! 

We are having a relaxing p-day in our area today which is nice because it gives me time to type up my goals. Whenever missionaries here go home we have to turn in a letter with at least three spiritual experiences from the mission, three spiritual and temporal goals for five years/ ten years, five positive attributes and five negative we see in ourselves, then five attributes you want in your future spouse and five attributes you will bring to your marriage. And President Faundez wants them in pretty early, it is stressful! For spiritual experiences I have five. The first is a baptism in my first area, not my first baptism because that was Rudy, the little boy. The second one is the one I will talk about, with Eguanio. That was when me and Elder Helton had like nothing going for us so we did a fast and prayer, and then one night a member knocked on our door and was like "this is Eguanio and he wants to be baptized," and we got to baptize him like three weeks later. The second is learning the languages and having the Lord's help with that. The third is Mario, just all of the changes that I saw him go through that he couldn't have made without the Savior. The fourth is the dope Priesthood blessing we gave to that lady in Teleman, the one who had the really sore throat. It was awesome to see the Lord heal her so quickly. The fifth is completing our goal when me and Elder Ibarra opened the new Zone. We definitely couldn't have done that without the Lord's help! Some of my personal goals for the future are to get married in the temple, continue to study and pray daily, attend the temple once a month throughout my life, work out at least four times a week, graduate from college... just normal stuff like that. 

My spiritual thought this week comes on faith. Obviously this hasn't been my favorite week of the mission, especially since I was kind of looking forward to some success at the end and it looks a little bleak. But I know that the Lord's thoughts are not mine and He has a plan. Maybe I don't understand it, but that's ok, I know things will work out here in the end. Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need to give us our best experience here on earth. 

I love all of you!
Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, June 5, 2017

week 92

Hey! So the big news is I ended up translating a little bit! I sat up front just a few seats away from Elder Renlund talking into a microphone. Whenever anybody talked in Q'eqchi' I changed it to English for Elder Renlund, his wife, Elder Duncan (area 70), his wife, and the Temple President and his wife. Elder Nelson did the translating from English to Q'eqchi', including Elder Renlund's talk. It was a bummer because the microphone we used had static and stuff so I think they were a little frustrated. Also I kept saying words in Spanish and Q'eqchi' so I'm sure they didn't appreciate that. But I got to give him a handshake at the end. It was really cool. Also, you could feel a change in the room when he entered. He told me "good job" so that was pretty dang awesome. To make Senahu a Stake they pretty much just announced that it was a Stake and who the new Presidency was, so it was kind of like a Stake Conference. I knew everyone that was sustained in the new Stake Presidency so that was cool. They also changed two ramas from Senahu, two ramas from Seamay, and two ramas from Yalijux into wards. Elder Renlund did end up leaving an Apostolic blessing which was pretty cool to hear. The only interaction the missionaries had was to shake his hand at the end, he got in and out pretty quick so I think he was pretty busy. I don't have any pictures because they were very strict about that. I know there were quite a few members there from all over the Polochic, and a lot of people came from the capital and stuff, so people traveled pretty far to see him. The building was completely full and that is saying something because it is a massive church and they filled the upstairs and downstairs part of it. I saw all of my buddies from the Polochic and they ran up and gave me a big group hug. It is so weird to think that it is coming to an end, it is pretty sad. Four more p-days. That's what my district tells me every day, how many p-days I have left because p-days come so quick. I'm just doing my best to work hard until the end.

We left for Senahu Friday morning. My companion was with me the whole time so he didn't have to do anything different. The first night in Senahu I stayed at the missionaries house, that was the worst.  We didn't sleep at my old house, we slept with the other missionaries that serve in Se'amay because they are like a five minute walk from Senahu. There was no place to sleep, I put four wooden planks on the floor and curled up on that for the night. Then me and Nelson got a hotel room that was also pretty bad but I had a bed.

It is hard to think what else I did because that was obviously the biggest thing I did this week. Elder Renlund was in interviews all day Saturday so we didn't see him until Sunday but it was good. On Saturday I got to go visit some old members and converts with Elder Nelson so that part was really awesome. It was awesome to be back in my old area. There was one family I surprised visited, Ceasers family that we used to do a noche de hogar with every week, and they started crying when they saw me so it felt good. Other than that I didn't really get to see any other members other than a quick hello, but I was glad they remembered me! I also found out some of my converts, Herylinda and Anjel, are getting ready to get sealed in the Temple toward the end of August so that is awesome as well. I did get to see Gordy and I got my birthday package so thank you very much! It was awesome!  

Other than that it was a pretty normal week. At district conference I just talked about Your Four Minutes by Gary E. Stevenson a bit, and making sure we are working hard and always studying Q'eqchi' because the people here deserve to hear the gospel in their language. My companion is coming along slowly but surely, he is working hard at it though. We get along good. We haven't really had any problems yet, we are both pretty relaxed guys so I don't see us ever having a problem. We put two fechas with some Q'eqchi' speaking investigators in a village we visit once or twice a week, it is a place called Lomas. The people there have to come to church with our group in Chisec, which is maybe an hour or an hour and a half by car, walking it is pretty darn far. One of the members has a pick up to take everyone, but when we go we take a bus to a cruze... I can't remember how to say that in English... and then we start walking and hope we find a pick up. If not, it is like a two hour walk just to the cruze. It is dope because there are members there and so they help us a bit, but they haven't made it out for the last two weeks which is a bummer. I am doing my best, I was excited when we put the fechas because I was worried I wouldn't have anything going for me my last few weeks because I know Chisec hasn't been known to baptize for like a couple months now. But even if I don't see these people baptized I know they will be one day so it is nice to get to work with them. The little girl I told you about, Santa, said no to a baptismal date still, and didn't come to we are still figuring out what to do with her.

It is boiling hot here in the mornings and then around 4 or 5 it starts storming super hard. There is thunder and the rain is crazy, there have been trees that have fallen on houses and stuff. We try to work through it, but normally end up hiding out in whatever house we are in at the time if I am being honest. The storms come and go for maybe two or three hours, so when there is a break we usually run to our next appointment haha. Food here is cereal in the morning and lunch with a member and sometimes no dinner, but if we get too hungry we go to the same member and cook our food there.

This week we need to visit Lomas to figure out why they aren't coming to church, and then I will probably try to firm up the fechas we have. They seem to have a lot of problems understanding doctrine, that's why I'm not sure if I will get to see them baptized. We also have Ward Conference which should be good. So we need to figure out transportation for all the members. Our group in Chisec belongs to a Ward in Coban so we will go there for that. Since we are a group, we can't be our own independent little place, we belong to the Ward in Coban. Every few weeks a member of the Bishopric comes and checks on us. I have yet to see him. 

We traveled back to Coban last night so we will be here for p-day and then tonight go back to our area. I have a few pictures for you this week. The first one is Elder Nelson, who translated with me:

This is my buddy, Elder Zavala:

And a picture of my area...

My spiritual thought this week comes from the power of prayer and fasting. Naq maji xqajaltesi iru li raatin li Apostol, xqakuy li qasa' ut xootijok re xtz'aamankil chiru li yos li qatenq'ankil, ut xooruuk chi reek'ankil li santil musiq'ej, ut xinxtenq'a chi aatinak chi us. (Rough translation, not sure how this matches up: This week Elder Nelson and I did a fast that we would be able to communicate everything we would need to, and a prayer right before the meeting. We could totally feel the Spirit helping us remember the stuff we learned so it was pretty awesome.)

Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, May 29, 2017

week 91: no pictures, but exciting news!

So I am going to start my email off with potentially the most exciting news of my mission! You know how the Apostle is coming this weekend to make Senahu a Stake and I was a little bummed I couldn't be there because of my transfer? Well, last week President Faundez called me on Tuesday night and asked "So how is your English?" and I was like "uhhh ok I guess haha." And he said "how is your Q'eqchi'?" and I said the same thing. And then he said "well, you better get practicing because you and Elder Nelson are going to translate for Elder Renlund when he comes next week." So yeah, I'm going to meet an Apostle, which is awesome. And then apparently translate from English to Q'eqchi', which is terrifying. I haven't been able to sleep since he called me. I'm glad Elder Nelson will be there because he knows it a lot better than me, so if I get stuck he can help me out. It isn't 100% sure, because I heard that the two guys that are in charge of Q'eqchi' translation for the church are coming down, so I don't know why they wouldn't translate. But I will at least get to meet Elder Renlund! It is pretty crazy stuff! 

So now to answer your questions, Chisec is really really similar to Teleman. I don't have any pictures so I am really sorry. But it is hot, and has lots of Q'eqchi' which is awesome. It is pretty flat but if I go looking I can find some hills. The house has some pretty trashy weights but it gets the job done so I won't complain. I am excited to get to a real gym again, all of my weights here have been cement. We have water and light most of the time, but during the nights we lose both like every other day, so nothing out of the ordinary. We still just have cold water, which is kind of a relief in Chisec, but in Senahu it was pretty miserable. (Editor's note: it totally cracks me up that he told us about the condition of the weights before he told us about the water/electricity!) Chisec is a little more advanced than Teleman, it has some bigger stores and stuff so that is nice. We have a laundry lady, and there is a pretty cheap comedor, so it is a pretty good setup overall. Chisec is part of one of the zones in Coban, but we are kind of out on our own in the middle of nowhere, so it is pretty sweet.

Being a district leader isn't too different. At district meeting I just went over expectations for them and what their expectations are for me and we talked about our investigators. 

Being a Group leader is pretty stressful, apparently there is a guy that comes from Coban sometimes that presides and stuff, but he didn't come this week. So I had to direct, teach Sunday school for the Q'eqchi's, and then give priesthood class. So it is a adjustment jaja. It is mostly Q'eqchi' here, but members talk Spanish, so I direct it in both. There were 25 people there, which is a lot less than normal from what I understand. So that was kind of a bummer. Heavenly Father definitely wanted to keep me working my last change. 

Me and my companion, Elder Vega, get along just fine. He has been out about six months. He came in thinking he was speaking Spanish and got chucked in to Q'eqchi' so he really struggles with that. My goal before I go home is to help him out with that. We also did a lot of contacting and got rejected a lot, so no difference there. For investigators, we have a little girl whose parents don't really want her to get baptized, Santa is her name. Her older brother is an inactive member. She is 8 and goes to every activity and church meeting on her own, she is pilas (awesome.) And then we have a family that won't come to church so... there is work to do.

Right now I am in Coban. I have a choir practice at 2, which I know nothing about. It is just the missionaries I am pretty sure, I was confused because my zone leaders just called me last night and were like "you have choir practice at 2" and that was all haha. I think it is for Elder Renlund's visit.  All my buddies who are ZLs are here because they have their meeting today, so that is nice. It is weird not having to go, but I definitely don't miss it. I am sitting right next to Elder Barney now. He is serving in Serviny Sayxche which is in Peten. This is his third change there, so he is ready to go home. It is a tough area, just super hot and there isn't any Q'eqchi', plus the area hasn't seen much success. It is a hard area to finish in. It's the same for all of us who served in the Polochic, it is hard to be anywhere else. Nobody wants to get taken out once they are in. It is amazing there.

The most spiritual/ best thing that happened this week was hearing I am going to see Elder Renlund. That was dope, because everyone kept telling me I should ask for permission to go see him, and something just told me not to, and then low and behold President called me.

The hardest thing was we got rejected a lot. It is like my fifth change in a row where there isn't much going in my area which is kind of a bummer. But we can work on that, and maybe we can just work on strengthening the members too.

Alright well this is the longest email I have written in awhile, so I will just close by saying that I feel so blessed to get to end my mission where I am, talking Q'eqchi'. And even if my Q'eqchi' isn't good enough to translate, I am just so happy to get to meet and be around an Apostle.

I love all of you!

Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, May 22, 2017

week 90: Happy Birthday and final transfer!

Thanks for the birthday wishes, make sure you wish Eli happy birthday for me! 

So the big news is...I'm going to Chisec! As a district leader! Which is literally the best change they could have given me because it is still Q'eqchi' there. I am pretty nervous because the church is still pretty new there, so whoever is district leader there is also the Group Leader (like being the President of the Branch/Rama or Bishop) because they still aren't even a rama. They don't have a building, but meet in little house. I'm pretty nervous to be group leader but it is something I have never done, so it should be a good challenge. So it sounds like I will be pretty busy for my last change! Chisec is nice and out of the way just like I like it. It is like an hour from Coban by bus, in a different direction from the Polochic. I think it is going towards Peten. I don't think there are really mountains, but I know there is a lot of Q'eqchi' which is awesome. The Elders live in a little house and we are supposed to have water and electricity, but I think the water is sketchy. It is one of the hottest areas in the mission, I hear there have been days where the missionaries can't leave the house because it is so hot. So that might be fun. I am going to be with Elder Vega who is cool, he has been in my zone before so I already know him which is fun. He hasn't been out a super long time, like 6 months or so. He is still learning Q'eqchi. The other two missionaries in my district are Elder Nielsen, one of my best buddies out here, and Elder Parea, who I have known for a long time. So it should be a good time! My companion is staying in Teleman with Elder Sanchez, who he actually trained, and now he will be training as a zone leader which is cool. 

This week was spent in Tucuru again. In traveling to the district meeting, Elder Rios Lazo's companion got sick, so I had to be in Tucuru all week to help Rios. It was a good week. He didn't get a change but is staying in Tucuru. It was a little hard saying goodbye, but he is going to come see me off in six weeks, so it isn't too bad since I know I will see him again.  We didn't go to the are with the waterfalls, we ended up being too busy in Vina Rose. They have the bus up and going and some members are showing up, they are just trying to get everyone reactivated. On Thursday we ended up celebrating with that family, familia Garcia. We cooked some good carne asada. Then on Friday the hermanas in La Tinta bought me a cake so I was able to say goodbye there and eat some good cake which was nice. 

Today I am in Coban until like 4 or 5 but later I will be going to Chisec to get to know my new area so that will be exciting. I said my goodbyes to everyone in Teleman which was sad, but I told them all I would come again someday to visit. So now I am obligated to go back haha. Saying bye to Mario was hard, we were sad for a minute, and we both started tearing up, but then I told him I'd come see him again so it wasn't like it was bye forever. His son is getting a little better, it is still hard for him to lift his arms and stuff but it seems like he is getting better every week. Ronald never made it out to church, so I never even said bye to him. I"m not sure if my companion will teach him still. I doubt it to be honest.

Mom will be proud, I finally got the pictures for her of the legend tie and Bible.

For my spiritual thought this week, I just want to thank Heavenly Father for how blessed I have been to be able to be in the Polochic, and to get to serve all of our brothers and sisters there. I am super grateful for the chance to be here, and I am excited to see what this week brings. 

I love all of you!
Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mother's Day call and week 89

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 Mother's day skype yesterday. It was wonderful to be able to talk with and see him! Much of our conversation was just catching him up with things that were happening at home, especially the track report, and making plans for when he returns in 7 weeks(!!!) We asked how his week had gone:

Tuesday was the multi-zone conference. My talk was okay, it was supposed to be 15 minutes, but I only went for 13-14. I taught about having unity with your companion. A lot of the Q'eqchi' people are easily distracted, so I did a role play with two missionaries trying to teach me. My goal was to show how it is important to be unified so you can kind of double team the investigator and lead them back on topic when they get distracted. On Thursday I was in Tucuru with Elder Rios-Lazo. On Friday we went back to Vina Rose to work with Rios because his companion was super sick. On Saturday we went to Santo Domingo, we were supposed to do baptism interviews but that didn't work out so we helped out with some Q'eqchi' speaking investigators. We stayed in Santo Domingo for church today. It was cool, because they had a testimony meeting, so I got to kind of say goodbye. It was weird saying how I'd spent almost 2 years here, and now I'm almost going home. Then we walked the hour to La Tinta so we could be at the church to skype.

We asked him how he is doing, and how he feels about coming home:

I was starting to get excited to come home, but now that I have to leave the Polochic next week I have been feeling sad. I mean I want to come home, and I miss everyone there, but it is just really hard to leave my buddies and the people here. If everything goes okay for Mario's family, they will be going to the temple on December 26th or 27th. I want to come back for that.

We talked a bit about traveling back to Guatemala, then asked what was planned for the coming week:

Tomorrow we are going to the castle ruins. It is about 3-4 hours away by Rio Dulce in El Estor's area. It isn't really that far, it just takes a long time because all of the roads are dirt. Tuesday we are planning on visiting Ronald again. We need to give him cincho. He keeps saying that he knows he needs to come to church, and promising that he will be there each week, then he doesn't show up. We have to keep moving his baptism date back because he can't be baptized if he can't keep that commitment. We will also have our last Family Home Evening with Mario's family this week. They are doing okay, they came to church. They still don't know exactly what is wrong with Sergo. When he went to the hospital, they said he needs three different tests. One of them is about 2000 quetz, I'm not sure how much they cost all together. The President of the rama has helped them already, but I'm not sure how much the church can do. They have to be really careful here with money, because if the people hear that one family got help, they all want a lot. When I leave I am going to make a note to the next Elders and ask them to keep visiting Mario's family every week so they can stay on schedule to go to the temple. On Thursday we are going to Tucuru to do interviews, and then on Friday I will do divisions with Elder Rios-Lazo. His birthday is on the 23rd, so we are going to celebrate our birthdays together. We are going contacting in an area that has waterfalls, so I should have some good pictures, then we are going to eat with a family who makes good food. On Saturday and Sunday I will be busy packing and saying my goodbyes to people in Teleman. Monday I will go to Coban for changes. 

No big stories this time, but we did share some laughs about little things that happen in the mission. It is funny talking with Joe now, because he sort of slips in and out of English,Spanish, and Q'eqchi', and sometimes can't remember how to say a word in English. It was different saying goodbye this time, knowing that we will soon be talking with him face to face! Now on to today's letter:

The castle was fun! I got up at 2 this morning to go, so I am kind of tired. We hired a microbus from a member and he drove us everywhere. He charged us 100 qetz (about $13) a person which is a pretty good price. We got there at like 7 but it didn't open until 8, then we were there till maybe 10 or so. We bought some souvenirs, I got a Guatemalan looking shirt.

Mom asked why we point up in pictures. It is something that the Q'eqchi' people do where they say "jun ajwi' li yos" which means "there is only one God," so that is a Polochic thing. After the castle, we went back to El Estor and ate at Gardanias. That is the restaurant that I always ate at when I did p-days there that makes the good tortillas de harina, so that is what I ate. It is only like an hour from the castle, so not too far. We are back in our area now. We were going to write in El Estor but it is about two hours away and we decided it would just be easier to get back and write here instead.  P-day ends at 6. We don't have any appointments tonight, so maybe we will go contact or something.

Tomorrow we have district meeting in La Tinta, and then we will have to get more water and our groceries. There is still no water here. Then we will visit Ronald, and we will have our Family Home Evening with Mario's family. We still haven't decided what we will teach. I won't say goodbye yet though, I will do that on Sunday. It will be a long day with a lot of walking because Ronald lives far. 

I'm glad Mom asked me some questions because I don't really know what else to report on other than what I said yesterday haha. So here it goes!

1. My closest friend that is still in the mission... I'm not really sure, I get along really well with Rios-Lazo, and Zavala, and Nielsen, so it is hard to pick.
2. My answer is still the same for who has helped me the most on the mission, I'm going to cheat and say Heavenly Father and Christ, because I wouldn't have made it past the CCM without them.
3. The happiest part of my mission thus far is being able to help the people in general, and I think the most prominent example of that is Hermano Mario and his family just because of the big turn he has made in his life.
4. The hardest part of the mission is when you have someone that you have worked really hard with, whether it is a convert or investigator, and something bad happens in their life and they don't want to go to church any more. That is probably about one of the most hearbreaking things that can happen.
5. I have learned a lot! But I think the most valuable thing I have learned is how although I can't really do much on my own, with Heavenly Father on my side, all things are possible. I have really been able to strengthen my relationship with Him and the Savior.
6. My most embarassing moment is still my first p-day when I accidently asked for a breast-milk smoothie jaja. 
7. The scariest thing that has happened is probably was when that turantula crawled out of the shower drain, that was terrifying.
8. The sound that best reperesents my mission is probably the sound of the women making tortillas in their houses because you can hear them pounding the dough from like a mile away.
9. Right now the smell is probably the smell of my clothes from my time here in Teleman. The lady we pay to do our wash doesn't wash them super well, and I smell like that all the time, so it is what I am always smelling jaja.
10. The taste of my mission hasn't changed, to this day it is the q'em ha'. There is nothing else like that.

I hope I got all of them! 

My spiritual thought this week comes from an experience I had with my companion. The other night it was like midnight and I was just falling asleep when my he told me he needed a blessing because he felt really bad and couldn't sleep. So I gave him one, and just in middle of the blessing the room just got all calm and peaceful, and afterwards he fell asleep before I did! I am just really blessed to be able to be an instrument in the Lord's hands. We get to give blessings pretty regularly, for some reason the men here don't really exercise the Priesthood a lot so we get called to do it. One blessing I will always remember is the one where we healed that lady when her throat was really hurting her. I have received some pretty good blessings while I have been sick too. I can't remember much specifics, it just seems like most of the time I have been sick, I spend like a week trying to fight it on my own, and then I get my blessing and within a day it is already better. So it is awesome. Ninnaw xb'aan li profeet aj Jose Smith, kikojbaak wichik' li choxahil wankilal li yos. Li wankilal a'an nokoxb'eresi ut rik'in li wankilal a'an nokoruuk chixb'aanunkil li sumwaank li tento taqab'aanu re sutq'iiq rik'in li yos ut li qajunkab'lal chi junelik q'e kutan. Jwal osob'tesinb'ilo naq wanko sa' xhoonalil lix paab'al li Jesukristo. (I know that through the prophet Joseph Smith the Priesthood of God was restored, that power guides us, and with it we can make the covenants we need to do to return to live with our Heavenly Father and family forever. We are very blessed to live in the time of the Church of Jesus Christ.)

I love you!

Love, Elder Toolson