Monday, April 24, 2017

week 86

This week was kind of a roller coaster of emotions so I will start at the beginning. We had a dinner on Monday to celebrate my companion's birthday. The family who hosted our dinner are members from the rama (branch.) The wife's name is Hermana Betty and the husband is Hermano Turin. They have a really nice house, including the first electric oven I have seen in my mission. I actually asked how she lights it and she looked at me like I was the dumbest person in the world, haha. 

We didn't get to visit Jose and Soña because Soña isn't in town so we are going to go with them another day, and Rafael we tried to contact like three times and he wasn't home.

Tuesday we had Rios-Lazos district meeting, he is in Tucuru and is district leader over the Hermanas (sister missionaries) in La Tinta. It was mostly focused on q'eqchi' teaching for Hermanas. While we were there we found out that three of the Hermana's fechas (scheduled baptisms) fell through, which meant we wouldn't be able to meet our goal, so we were pretty bummed about that. I think they just got postponed, but we still aren't sure. I think one of them left for like a month to go work. So right now they are reporting zero fechas because they aren't sure what is going to happen. Hopefully they can get that figured out.

Wednesday we had Elder Sanchez's district meeting. We talked a lot about keeping our morale up and stuff like that. The other district leader gave it and he shared some scriptures and just talked about how we can take care of our investigadores and stuff, he is pretty new at being DL so he is still learning, but he did a good job. I was never district leader so I don't really feel like I know how to train on that. My companion has some experience, normally I leave all the advice giving to him. We just go do divisions with them and try to help them out as best we can.  

That same day we went to Tucuru to start working with Elders Rios-Lazos and Alvarado there. This picture was taken on our way to the village, it is called Vina Rose.

We stayed there until Saturday because they are trying to get a group started in a village there. (A group is an organized church meeting when you don't have enough people to have a branch. A branch is when you don't have enough for a ward.) So they asked us to go help, and in that time we finally got the interviews done. We were there almost all of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and went home Saturday morning. Most of the time was spent in that village spreading the word that there would be a meeting next Saturday about how they can make it to church. President Faundez is going to come and talk about paying a bus to come pick them up so we will see how that goes. The closest church is in Tucuru, and it is like a four hour walk. There are two little old lady hermanas that make that walk every week up and down the mountains, but they are the only two. The goal is to eventually have a group in Vina Rose, with their own meeting place, but I think that wouldn't be for another 7 or 8 months so they can get trained for leadership positions. I am pretty sure they have enough people to have a group because I heard there are like 60 inactive members up there. The distance is 100% why they aren't coming to church, every time we ask them why they don't go they say "sa' xmaak naq mas najt wan hermano" which roughly translates to, "because it is so far brother!"

While we were there I saw these crazy trees. I don't know how or why but rubber runs off the tree into that dish, and I was playing with it. I have no clue how it works, we just passed it and Rios told me it was rubber so I walked over to check it out because I didn't believe him at first.

On Saturday we found out that Saqsuha' and Santo Domingo each put a fecha, which got us hyped. But then we realized that we were still one fecha away from our goal so we were kind of sad too. That night we knelt down and said a prayer, one of the biggest I have ever said, that Heavenly Father would send a miracle to the zone so we could get 8 baptisms for the month and meet our goal. 

We were going into Sunday with kind of heavy and doubting hearts, and then to top it all off, we found Hermano Mario working his taxi in the street saying that he is having problems with his wife and might not go back to church anymore. I almost started crying right there on the street. I can't figure out what to do for him. The moment we found him we went and talked to the Branch President. He knows more about the situation than us, and he said right now what he needs is some time. I felt extremely sad. But I also felt so blessed that I could feel Christ's and our Heavenly Father's love for him in such a close way that I could feel that sad.

So we went to church not really sure what to expect. Then at the end of the meetings President Walter (our president of the rama) called us in to his office and said "Hey this is Hermana Angelina and she is going to get married and baptized this Saturday!" Me and my companion just looked at each other and we both almost teared up. But we held it in, made the plans to visit the hermana, and went home and said one of the biggest prayers of gratitude we have ever said. The thing about being a zone leader is that you spend a lot of time helping other missionaries try to meet their goals, which is really awesome, but me and my companion were worried that we would never baptize together. But then this came out so we were both really happy, it was definitely an answer to prayers.

We still don't have any water so this will be another interesting week, I guess we will just keep buying it. It seems to be a city thing, we have been asking around and it sounds like nobody has water because it has been so hot that everything dried up, so it isn't just us with the problem. Most people here at least have a hose outside or a tap with running water, but they are all dry.

This week we will teach Hermana Angelina and do Saqsuha's baptism interview. Other than that I think we just have our normal work and meetings. Saturday will be our baptism day so we will be a little busy. There have already been five baptisms in our zone this month and the other three are this Saturday. If we meet our goal, there is a chance we can go to Tikaal which are those really famous ruins that everyone talks about. But if we can't do that we can do something else closer by. We will be in Coban next Monday, so I'm not sure when the trip will be, and it isn't for sure we will get to go either, we are just hoping.

Mother's day is coming! I need to talk with the member about using his laptop again. Talking about my last phone call, my companion just looked at me and said "10 weeks left!" Don't worry, I'm not baggy or anything. I am good, just that time is going so fast! A part of me wishes I could extend and stay. But I am excited too, to see everyone, to not live in a third world country, and not have the stresses of being a full time missionary. Lots of people here are just really racist, but they don't know they are racist so it is ok. And they shout really vulgar things at you in q'eqchi' when you pass them on the street, so it is kind of constant heckling. And like I said with Mario, it is a blessing to be able to feel the Savior's love for people in that way, but sometimes it really hurts too. Maybe that is part of the reason I am a little excited for home.

I guess my spiritual thought this week is that God never leaves us and will always answer our prayers.

I love you!
Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, April 17, 2017

week 85: "kawresinb'ilin anajwan"

So this week was pretty tough because it was Semana Santa. Here they celebrate Easter all week, which means no one is ever home, and everyone is busy, and there are a bunch of drunk people on the street. There were dances and stuff in the town center every night as well so they keep pretty busy. And they always go to the beach to go swimming here, which I think is a tradition. I didn't see anything for the kids. I tried to explain about our whole thing with the Easter bunny to some members and they were super surprised by it, I think they thought it was weird. I was surprised because the Church actually did nothing to celebrate, no special meetings or activities or anything, they didn't even have anything special on Sunday. No special decorations or anything. We went through La Tinta on our way to do exchanges and they do these awesome carpets out of colored sawdust, but here in Teleman there is not really anything like that. I'm sorry I don't have any pictures, my camera was out of battery this week and we lost power.  

I went on divisions with one of the new guys this week, Elder Alvirado. He is from Peru. He has about five days in the field, but he had two months in the CCM (MTC) for q'eqchi' so he came in knowing a decent amount. He seems like he is doing pretty well, so that is good. It was a short one day division. We went out to Canlun and ate some food with a member there and then visited some people.

My companion and I visited some menos activos (less active members) this week. The guy is Jose and his wife's name is Soña. We shared a good video about John Tanner with them, I think it went over pretty well. I don't know if you have seen it but you should look it up! It is only like 20 minutes, but I really like it. Byron wasn't home and didn't come to church, so that was a bummer. We couldn't visit Mario's family because they were busy all week, but I think we will get to go with them tomorrow! As far as I know they still have the goal to be sealed in the Temple in December. I miss going to the Temple. I will get to go on the 4th of July, then I think the 5th is my travel day. I think there are four of us returning to the States that day - me, Elder Barney from Idaho, Elder Lawrence from Arizona, and a sister from California.

This week we are going to try to get in contact with a guy named Rafeal who has been to church once, but has not shown up for the last two Sundays. We already know where he lives we just have to find a time when he is home. We haven't been able to teach him because he is never there. We tried to contact him this week and he wasn't home, so we will try again. We are a little worried he just came to church to impress the mayor, because he is a professor and is paid by government people, but we are trying to be positive. Other than that, we have those two district meetings we always go to, and we will be in Tukuru this week to hopefully finally get those interviews done.

Our water has been out for almost two weeks. Not the whole area, just our house, we haven't been able to figure it out. I know the house we are staying at has always been sketchy, when my old companion Elder Smart was there he didn't have water for a whole change (6 weeks.) We only sometimes have water in our pila outside, so that is a bummer. We are buying our water by the gallons so we can cook and stuff. To bathe we fill up a bucket with the water and then take the bucket to our shower inside the house and take bucket showers. The water is cold, but normally it is so hot here that it isn't too bad, just pretty refreshing haha. We lost the light too, but only for a day or two so that wasn't too bad. The power is back now.

Today we are in La Tinta. We came to teach a Q'eqchi' class to the Sister missionaries. They are doing good! It is just kind of hard because we have two of the same Sisters from last change, one who was in a different part of the Polochic, and one who is completely new to the Polochic, so their level of knowledge is all over the place. Oh, and I forgot - as of this change I am officially the only person in the entire Polochic who came in not knowing Spanish or Q'eqchi'! After the lesson we played some volleyball with the zone. We just play at the church here. Everyone from the zone is here but the missionaries from Santo Domingo, they had to go to Coban. 

Something I realized this week is how the Lord always gives us promised blessings, but only when we put forward our efforts. I started studying the Bible in Q'eqchi' this week. On the days I read, my Q'eqchi' felt on point, but if I missed a day I felt like I was struggling. So I can see that the Lord will bless me as long as I am willing to put forth the effort.

My spiritual thought this week comes from the church movie "Ephraim's Rescue." I always love the part when Brigham Young is asking people to go help bring in the handcart pioneers. Everyone says they can be ready in a few day, but then Ephraim says "I am ready now." In Q'eqchi', "kawresinb'ilin anajwan." That is pretty much how I always want to live my life. Always honor and be worthy of the Priesthood power I have been trusted with so I can be ready to serve at any moment. 

I love you!

Love, Elder Toolson

Monday, April 10, 2017

week 84

So the big news is....I have no change! And neither does my companion, Elder Ibarra! We are going to have three changes together! I am pretty dang happy I am staying in the Polochic. I was super surprised. There was a small part of me hoping for a change of scenery. I'm kind of bummed because this will be my fourth change in Teleman, and I probably will get taken out of the Polochic for my last one. I won't have a chance to get back into one of the mountain areas. But no problem! I am super happy! I felt really at peace this whole time with changes so I think I will be fine. I also realized that this change I will do my last phone call on mothers day, which means I will do half my phone calls here in Teleman, which is crazy. There were a few other changes in the Zone, but nothing too crazy.

This week was good, we weren't in our area very much because we spent some time in Tucuru, Panzos and Santo Domingo. We were supposed to do interviews in Tucuru but they got cancelled. We had dinner with the President of the Rama's family, and there was an activity at the church so we played some soccer and basketball there. We were just there for the day. 

We went to Panzos so we could do an interview for a 13 year old boy. My companion did the interview. They had this minion costume in the house, I'm not sure why, but they let me try it on haha.

In Santo Domingo we visited some of their investiagadores and had dinner with President's family. It was good to see them again. I asked to take a picture and they said no because they were embarrassed they hadn't showered yet. They think I am like fluent in Q'eqchi' now which is far from true. 

We met a new guy named Byron who is trying to stop drinking, and we both feel really good about him so I think things will go well there. Mario's family seem like they are doing really well! We had a good Family Home Evening with them the other night. We talked about magnifying your calling and showed the video "Only a Stonecutter," because John Rowe Moyle was a stud. He is the man who was called to be a stonecutter for Salt Lake temple who had to walk like 20 miles every week to get there, which he did for years. Then after an accident he had his leg amputated, and he made himself a false leg and still walked the whole way. So he obviously went above and beyond in his calling!

Right now I am in Coban with Elder McEntee. He is going home this week, it is pretty hard to say goodbye to one of my best friends. He has gone through a lot out here and has been an amazing missionary and example to me. But I know we will be hanging out a lot after the mission so it is all good. We ate some food, now we will write, then I will go to the Polochic and he will stay here. He gave me the legend tie and Bible, which supposedly means I know Q'eqchi' the best in the mission. I know at least three other missionaries who talk a lot better than me and I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't take no for an answer. About 12 missionaries are finishing this change, I am not sure how many are coming in.

My spiritual thought this week comes from a scripture, Alma 26:11-12 "But Ammon said unto him: I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever."

This is one of my favorite scriptures. I know that I have only been able to do what I have in my mission because of the help of Heavenly Father and through the power of the Savior's Atonement, and I know that I will be able to rely on this for the rest of my life.

I love all of you!

Love, Elder Toolson
p.s. I'm praying for Grandpa Denny, I hope the surgery and recovery go well

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

week 83

Hey! We had a pretty decent week. We found a guy that wants to be baptized but we still aren't sure if he is married. We have a cita with him on Saturday, but I think he is looking pretty positive. 

We had zone meeting this week and that went really good as well. Me and my companion talked about applying repentance. We did this object lesson using salt and pepper. You put water in a dish, then pour the salt in and say that is your good works, and a little bit of pepper in and say that is your bad works. Then you put some dish soap on your finger and I don't know why, but all the pepper goes to the edge of the bowl so the water is cleaner. We tried to relate that to applying the Atonement in our lives. The Hermanas talked about this talk, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane" by Bruce R. McConkie, which is one of the dopest talks ever. They also showed a video of church leaders bearing their testimonies about Christ.

General Conference of course was flippin awesome and the best part is I got to listen to every session in English! They had a little tv set up for me and everything! That is the first time in my whole mission so that was the best thing ever. Most of the members came to watch. They had Spanish here in Teleman but we went to Saqsuha' where they had it in all three languages. I loved Elder Costa's talk, when he used that idea about putting his own name in Alma 42 I thought that was super awesome. I want to try to use it with the people we are teaching but I don't know if the Q'eqchi' people will understand it. I felt like every other talk touched on repentance, it was a good reminder on how important daily repentance is in our lives. It is something easy to forget for me. It really was a good conference. I came in with my question of how I can prepare to go home and stay strong and continue to progress once I am there, and in like the first session alone it was answered in like three different ways.

This week will be a good one, I know we have some interviews to do in Tukuru on Friday. We might go to Santo Domingo, my first area, but that is not a for sure thing. 

Today I am with my companion and Elder Rios-Lazo in a trio. His companion is going to some ruins with the other zone because he used to be part of that zone and they met the goal. After we write we are going to Tukuru and eat cake with a family there. Tukuru is in Elder Rios-Lazo's area so we are just going with him. It takes like an hour and a half or so to get there, not too far. It would be like half an hour if all the roads were paved haha. The family are members and I know them pretty well because I used to do divisions with Elder Bos a lot over there and we always went with that family. I'm actually not sure what the cake is for, but they invited us to go, and I am always down for a good cake! We will probably leave here around two or three, we just have to be in La Tinta by four to catch the last bus to Tucuru. We will spend the night there and I think go straight from there to district meeting tomorrow. We have district meeting every Tuesday and Wednesday.

Other exciting news, in two weeks I am going to complete a year with the same parasite! I hear it takes a while to recover, but they give me a bomba (pill that cleans you out) when I go home so it should be good.

My spiritual thought this week comes from Conference. It seemed like they focused a lot on charity, the Holy Ghost, and repentance so I have a lot of notes on that. But there was something that Russell M. Nelson said in his talk "Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into our Lives," I don't think I copied it exactly, but it is something along these lines - "When we reach for that heavenly power with the same intensity as someone drowning, we will get it. If the Savior can feel you reaching, His power will flow unto you." That isn't word for word but it is something along those lines. That just impacted me really hard. We cannot be at a stand still in this life. We have to work out our salvation and we can't afford to rest. There is a line by an inspirational speaker that says "you have to want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe" and I think it is the same with our salvation. We need to feel a sense of urgency to be obedient, to be worthy, to love others as the Savior does. 

Thank you for everything, I love you!

Love, Elder Toolson