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

Monday, May 8, 2017

week 88

Hey! Things this week were pretty good. We put another fecha with Ronald, but then he didn't show up to church again so it looks like it is going to be the same thing as before. I was going to get to see him be baptized before I left, but since he didn't show up he can't be baptized on the 20th so I will be gone. We did divisions this week so we were traveling a lot. I went with Elder Alvarado (the new missionary) in La Tinta, it was just for an afternoon. He is good, learning slowly but surely. We went to help the Hermanas contact in Q'eqchi'!

We also visited the family of Antonia. We made pancakes with them yesterday because she got baptized and stuff.

Mario's family is doing okay, he came to church this week. We found out his youngest son fractured his leg, and they think something more serious is going on because it hurts if he lifts his arms or squeezes his fingers so everyone is pretty concerned about that. His name is Sergo Palau Ich', I know the family is pretty traumatized, please pray for them. He is like six or five years old, and I think he fell or something. The President of the Rama is helping them get a doctor.

Today I had my interview with President Faundez (more about that in my spiritual thought.) He and Sister Faundez are in the area for a multizone conference. Hermana Faundez told me my hair looked like an olive. I don't know what that means. She said because I style it weird or something. I didn't know the word for olive, so when she told me, I laughed nervously because I didn't understand. She asked if I knew that word and I said no so she gave me cincho (literally "gave me the belt" - means scolded) for laughing, but she gives me cincho every time she sees me because I don't really have any clothes left that don't have some sort of stain. But I got to use my new pants today so it was ok! Tomorrow we have the multizone conference. Thankfully since it is multizone it is just the three zones of the Polochic, so we don't have to go to Coban and I get to stay at my house. I will have to give a 15 minute talk alone which is horrible jaja (jaja is like haha) on unity with your companion while you teach, so we will see how that goes for me. 

Now to talk about the interview, my mission president doesn't know a lick of English so it is all in Spanish. At first I was bummed because he asked how much time I have left and I said "these next two weeks and then another change." And he said "ah, so eight weeks? You are going home!" Then he asked how long I have been in the Polochic. I told him my whole mission, and without hesitation he told me I was getting sent out for my last change. So that is kind of sad. I am going to miss meeting the Apostle when Senahu is made a Stake. I am a little bummed but I know that President and Heavenly Father know best, so no problem. I just need to enjoy these next two weeks while I still can. If I could plan the perfect last two weeks, I would go to Yalijux to see the view when you first enter there, go to Se' Wilix (a waterfall), then go to Tz'aj pek. I would visit Henry and Herlyinda in Senahu, then go to Santo Domingo and visit President's family there, then go to Sepamak and visit that family there that wants me to live by them. I would go back to Se'ranx where I baptized in the river, and the Xochela which is another waterfall. I honestly think I have been really blessed and gotten to see just about everything here in the Polochic.  I am going to ask permission tomorrow from President to go to the castle next week, it will be a good last p-day in the Polochic. Wow, I almost started crying while I wrote that. I am hoping to finally get to train, and to go someplace where I can still use Q'eqchi' at least once in awhile. My best chance is an area called Chisek'. It is a little town that everyone calls a little piece of the Polochic outside of the Polochic because there is Q'eqchi' there. It sounds like that area has been dying out kind of, so maybe I can go help out there a little bit. I already passed on the legend tie and Bible, so I don't have to worry about that. I gave it to Elder Rios-Lazo. I got tired of it because if I didn't know something in Q'eqchi' everyone was like "WHAT! But you're the LEGEND! How could you not know something!" so they were just kind of making fun of me with it. Plus, Rios knows a lot more than I do and can learn a lot faster than I can so he deserves it.

The cool part about the interview comes next. That is also my spiritual thought. President Faundez started asking me how I felt since I started my mission. I said a lot of things about how happy I am here and how much I am trying to apply Elder Bednar's talk from General Conference when he said it is important to learn to love to be worthy. Then he stopped and looked like he was thinking and said "there have been a lot of people praying for you." Then paused again and said "no, there have been a lot of spirits praying for you." When he said that I already felt the Spirit pretty strong. Then he stopped again and said "no, your children have been praying for you, that you can make a change here, and you have made that change, and I am very happy and so is the Lord." So yeah, I was crying right then. It was just nice to see how in tune President Faundez is with the Spirit. I know I don't always agree with everything he says, but I know he was definitely called of God and the Spirit was really strong so it was awesome. I love you!

Love, Elder Toolson

ps - oh yeah, I'll skype you guys for mother's day at like 7 my time, so probably be ready around like 6:50 or so, and don't worry if I am a little late!

Monday, May 1, 2017

week 87: "we got ourselves a kub'i-ha'!"

ALRIGHT EVERYONE. BIG NEWS. FRUIT LOOPS CAME TO TELEMAN. THAT'S RIGHT. THERE ARE FRUIT LOOPS IN MY AREA AND I CAN BUY THEM WHENEVER I WANT. I'm sorry I am just really excited about that! It is the life now haha, except it is sooo hot here! They said it got up to like 45 degrees Celsius. I don't know how much that is (113 degrees Fahrenheit) but I know I haven't stopped sweating like ever.

We had a good week this week, got everyone all baptized, so that was awesome. I got to baptize Sister Antonia, not Angelina, I mixed up her name last week. There was kind of good support from the rama, it was mostly guests from the wedding that stuck around. Her new husband is already a member. You will notice my feet are now whiter than my baptism clothes.

And we met the goal! We were the highest baptizing zone in the mission this month so yay! The bummer is, we can't go to Tiikal because another zone also met the goal. And President Faundez just says that two zones can't go the same change. I am a little confused, but I figure he knows better than I do. So we will hopefully end up going to the castle that I went to about a year and a half ago. Other big news, an Apostle is coming to our mission at the beginning of June! Elder Renlund is coming and I think I get to meet him, but it isn't 100% sure. Senahu is going to convert into a Stake and he is the one who will do it. They are calling it the first Mayan stake! My companion and I aren't in Senahu district, but I am just excited for all the members up there. After being up there for six months it feels like my home district is becoming a Stake. I hope they send me up there to die (finish the mission) but I think the possibilities are pretty far fetched,

Other than the baptism it was a pretty normal week this week. We did some divisions with Saqsuha, I was with Elder Sanchez so we had a good time. The Hermanas (Sister missionaries) set a fecha (baptism date) but I don't know when it is, and Saqsuha put two fechas for this month, so we are excited about that. We will go to do the baptism interviews but I am not sure when.

Right now we are in Coban for the leaders meeting, it was good. We talked a lot about new changes in the mission. There are a lot of little changes happening, like we won't have zone meetings any more, only multi-zone and zone conferences. They took out zone meetings so we would have more time, but we still have the district meetings to go to every week so it is kind of the same. And we can go to the temple now twice a year as a zone and once with a convert, but that won't apply to me since I am going home. After the meeting we did a fun activity where we all went out to the street to give out Books of Mormon and folletas. Lucky me and my companion were able to find some Q'eqchi' speaking people to talk to, so that was fun. 

Oh also! Do you remember the package you sent over a year ago with my new shoes and pants? It showed up! I was a little mad because they made me pay 100 qetz to get it, but I got it today. I guess the church went in to look for it, and the government made them pay to take it out of the storage place it was in. The mail strike is still on so the church went in and took out all the missionaries packages that had been stuck there. It was still in pretty good shape, and there is still some stuff I can eat so it will be good. The shoes actually came at the perfect time because the ones I have now are dying. I was really happy when I heard the package came in for that reason. And Hermana Faundez was certainly happy I have some new pants to wear at meetings haha. 

Mario didn't show up to church but I heard he was really busy. It sounds like the problem between him and his wife kind of cooled off, so we will visit his family tomorrow to see what is going on there. I am going to share the Mormon Message (video) "Enduring Love" about the old couple, where the old man is caring for his wife because she can't care for herself, and talk about the importance of love between husband and wife and in the family.

My spiritual thought is just my testimony again about how the Lord answers our prayers if we do all we can and ask Him humbly. At our leadership meeting they asked us to describe how we were able to meet the goal this last month, and all we could really tell them is that we knelt down in prayer and said "Heavenly Father, we have done all we know how to do and worked hard, please help us." And He did the rest. I know that the Lord is watching over us and never leaves us.

Love, Laj Toolok

P.S. mom, Alma 56:47-48  relik chi yaal, ke'tzole' chaq xb'aaneb' lix na'. maq wo oml'a' neke'wiib'an xch'ool, li Yos tikoleb'. Ut ke'xnumsi chiwu li raatineb' lix na'eb', ke'xye: moko nawiib'an ta li qach'ool naq ke'xnaw li qana' (they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.