Monday, October 28, 2013

Week 14: Divide and Conquer

If I have nothing else to look forward to in my hectic life right now I can always take peace in the fact that I will have divisions at least once every week. And I`m sure you`re asking, what on earth is that? It sounds like a punishment more than a recluse...on the contrary, my dear friend, it`s a temporary 24 hour companionship exchange with the other missionaries in your district or zone.
matching watches!
You go to their area (or they come to yours) bid adieu to your comp and spend a day learning from the different teaching styles of more experienced Elders....there`s always so much that a person can discover with a different comp....and a different comp was exactly what I wanted...and needed for the time being.
The Lord knew that I needed a break so, I had divisions twice this week! The first time was with the Zone Leaders...and it was a testimony builder and a half! I made the trip down to the Capital and proselyted in their area with another missionary from Tooele, Utah (He goes to Stansbury), Elder Walters. The day was packed with visits and great food, and every corner we turned down the hand of the Lord was made manifest in our labors...we were always in the right place at the right time! Death in the family? Missionaries were there to teach the Plan of Salvation, Wanna know what church is true? Hey, whatddaya know, Missionaries. Random girl sitting across from us in a Pupusa (It`s like a tortilla MADE with cheese....I quickly deemed it my new girlfriend) Restaurant? Missionaries. At the end of the day it was just like a breath of fresh air, and a reminder of why I was out here in the mission in the first place.
On Thursday I definitely felt refreshed and ready to conquer a new day with my new comp in San Juan...and it wasn´t any ordinary day...It was my 3 mission month anniversary! Woo Hoo! Time sure flies out here in the field so much that I decided to write a poem about it to prove to myself that I`m not going to loose my English!
Allow me to share it with you:

Passerby: By Tyler Monson
Ugh! :)

Blink open your right now eyes
and realize that that moment just died.
Wading waist-deep in time`s own neglect
and treats your enemies with the same respect

Jostle and sway an the turns
of a hand-made highway
Scamper and dance across the pages
The cages are open, and ambition be paid

There are three passerby seconds
with the decadence of a sideways glance
Grasp ahold or snatch at threads
blink much more and we`ll all be dead

At that point I was anticipating another bout of divisions with Elder Bento, a Brazilian who`s about an inch taller than me (and I though I was too big for this country...). While we didn't have as much success as I did with the Zone Leaders it was still a welcome bit of relief.
So we divided...and how was the conquering? Frankly....devastating. After committing all of our investigators to come to Church....none showed up, not one...but someone very important did. The mission president. Unannounced, just sort of drove right up to the chapel and walked in like it was nobody`s business (like a boss). He and his wife spent the Sunday services with me and my comp...and asked to speak with Alvarez in private...
So, who knows, maybe I`ll see the fruits of that visit in this week.
I`m keeping a positive attitude...I have divisions again on Halloween.

our zone
-Elder Tyler Monson

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Week 13: Real Steel

There is a movie trope that heralds back to the dawn of film making: The Robot Movie. Say what you will but the majority of these pictures go something like this: Perfect society, everything is clean and functional, there`s robots and they do their job to help humanity, they´re a little creepy, but...who cares? There`s always one who has doubts on how much humans rely on the technology and things are  brought to a boil when...the robots become self-aware and start taking over.
It`s a pretty good metaphor for how this week was...and, admittedly, it was the hardest one yet.
Elder Hernandez got transferred and I had three new elders to teach the area of San Juan was a lot of weight to put on my shoulders, but I was pretty sure that I could make it through respectively unscathed.

This is about how I feel right now
My new comp? Elder Alvarez, and out of sheer serendipity, he comes from Tuxla Gutierrez Mexico, the very city where the other Elder Monson is serving! ...and he`s a robot. His movements are mechanical and driven, a slave to the rules. Things were very...very...trying... I felt like I stood in peril at every hour, I began reading the Missionary Handbook like it was his user`s manual, like it had the keys to the riddle that masked his persona. We only got through 12 hours until our first argument and 18 more until the 2nd. I started to slip into a kind of EXISTENCE...a depression, a smooth blanket of sadness that coated my heart. I related very much to the second verse of the Hymn "Master the Tempest is Raging" when it says: 
found this while reading the scriptures... inspiring!
Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today;
The depths of my sad heart are troubled—
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul;
And I perish! I perish! dear Master—
Oh, hasten, and take control.
All I wanted was my old comp back and for life to go on like normal because it was taking a great deal of my own energy to make it through every day.
And then something happened.
It just sort of...stopped. The winds and the waves obeyed the will of the Master and I was delivered. The clashes between my companion and I just sort of subsided as I tried to find ways to serve him the best I could and realize that everything is for a purpose. I`m here in San Juan for a reason and I have this comp for a reason and so I can definitely pull through!
I turned my problems outwards and started focusing on the area here in San Juan...which, is admittedly...dead. This last week we contacted 331 people and didn´t get a single visit out of it, none of our investigators are coming to church we have...nothing to go on.
And my comp, the Robot became self-aware. He only has six weeks left of his entire mission and he just stopped with all the diligence and dropped off the map. His personality did a 360 and he STOPPED caring and I started doing all the work while he broke rules! that`s the story of the week...It`s been a trial...but I can make it through! Sorry this letter`s a downer....I'm sure next week will be great!

(Pray for Elder Monson and Elder Alvarez and the people in San Juan)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Week 12: Simba, Remember Who You Are

One of my favorite scenes in the Disney classic ¨The Lion King¨ is in the third act of the film: Simba has run away from his past life and tried his best to hide it from his own presence, he´s adoped a new philosophy, ¨Hakuna Matata¨ and for him it´s a wonderful phrase...but the ghosts from his earlier days keep coming back to haunt him. Eventually he has a vision, in which he sees his deceased father in a billowing plume of storm clouds ¨Remember who you are. You are my son and the one true king. Remember who you are¨ Mufasa tells his son.
For me, that´s kind of how my week went. Now, don´t get me wrong, I didn´t adopt a ¨Don´t Care¨ attitude or anything, but every moment I started to feel like I was finally fitting in, and that my area was becoming the norm....a truck with a two people in giant Smurf costumes and 7 llamas in towe would drive in front of the Stake Center. I keep feeling like I just...can´t fit in (it´s like Middle School all over again) and it´s due in part to the fact that I´m so freakishly tall. People here have a word for that, it´s called ¨Gringo¨ and it started making me feel very much alone. Members would neglect my name and just address me as ¨Gringo¨ or the annoying next-door neighbor to an investigator would yell at me repeatedly, ¨Gringo! Gringo! Gringo!¨ And for some reason, it really started to get to me...I mean, I´m a PERSON, just like anyone else and I was taught in every year of my schooling that Racism is BAD....

But on Tuesday, I got pretty sad over it all. Why can´t I just fit in? I said a long prayer about it on the hour long bus ride back to San Juan. Why couldn´t I just be normal? Why did people point at me and call me names?
And the words came to my mind ¨You were never meant to fit in, and as long as you are wearing my name on your chest, you never will.¨
So for the rest of the week, I started to walk with my head held high,. every person who tried to call me names, I would just offer to shake their hand and ask them how they were doing...we were put on this earth to love one another, bless them that despise you!
So that was a fun experience this week.

But it wasn´t, I´ve got a lot to say....
The Zone Leaders called this week and said that every companionship needs to have a family baptised THIS MONTH...because the numbers for our zone last month were...frankly, pathetic. Our goal was to have 29 people baptized and 12 families and....the result was 5 people baptized and 0 families. Elder Hernandez and I racked our brains to think of someone who we could baptized and we decided to go to the house of one of our old investigators. We taught about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and extended the invitation to be Baptized to them...and they accepted! We just...need to get them to church.

That´s the problem with my area, it´s the biggest area in the whole mission so every one of our investigators have a problem with getting to church because they live so far away....but the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which he hath commanded them! So everything is possible.
One more thing for this letter....we got a call last night...and we have Transfers tomorrow. My comp is leaving and I get to stay in San Juan. We don´t know why, but I couldn´t sleep at all last night because now, I´m the only one who knows the area and I have to teach it to two companionships of missioniaries tomorrow: my new comp and the people who are going to replace the Hermanas who went home...

Yeaaahhh...I´m going to need some divine help with that task....

Stay Classy America!
-Elder Monson

P.S. no pictures this week, we´re in an internet cafe that...doesn´t have a USB port only a place for floppy discs...what is this? 1999?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Week 11: Greater then Gatsby

Let us all take some time right now to appreciate that President Uchtdorf quoted "The Great Gatsby" in his talk for Priesthood Session: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Touching the pool at the Mission Pres. house

The Grand Tikal Futura
CCM friends!
This quote just so happens to be a perfect description of how my week went. It all is sort of born in the Power of a Familiar Face, and a Familiar Place. Monday for P-Day my district and me made the journey into the heart of the City, to the biggest mall I have ever seen in my mortal existence: The Grand Tikal Futura. And for the time being, for the 4 hours we spent there I felt right at home, swimming in Western Commercialism, everywhere I looked I could see a familiar pop-culture icon or logo and I basked in it's luminescent rays. While there I enjoyed a lunch of China Wok and four Ice Cream Cones (I know what you're thinking, "But Elder Monson, you might gain some serious weight from all the food you're eating! And Weight Gain-age is bad!" I'll have you know that I have maintained a steady 150 pounds my entire mission thus far! Woo Hoo Metabolism!) Afterwards we went bowling as a district and it felt very I was back in South Jordan, out on a friday night with a group of friends...

The next thing I knew, it was Wednesday, and I was actually WITH a group of friends. This group just so happened to be my CCM district in a reunion of all the Greenies at President Stay's house. It was glorious to see a familiar face and for the time being, I felt rejuvenated and like I could conquer the week with fresh eyes and refined courage. This was due to the fact that all of my friends were experiencing...close to the exact same thing I was, Problems with the Language, the food, and unhelpful members.

But I've actually got it really good. We're finding new investigators left and right due to a very Active youth member, Zara. She's a recent convert with a heart of gold. She's given us more references than we can teach! Every member of her family who hasn't yet heard the gospel we've gone to visit because of her Can-Do Attitude! 

Which brings me to General Conference. Yes, I did get to see it in ENGLISH! Woo Hoo! I shouted for joy to hear the words of the prophets and was spiritually edified from every talk that was given! We went on divisions for Conference, my Companion stayed in San Juan to watch the conference there and I got to stay in Florida with the 5 other gringos in our zone to listen in our own language. It was on a tiny tv screen in the High Council room that I sort of had a...prompting to add a challenge to this letter.

So: What challenge might this be? Missionary Work. This is an appendage to the words of President Monson when he said that , "Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together." Pick one person, like Elder Ballard invited, just one and invite them to Church. Invite them to take missionary discussions or give them a Book of Mormon with your testimony written in it. Offer to go out and teach with the missionaries of your area...or, better yet, let the missionaries teach a lesson in your house, where the spirit can more comfortably reside. The Lord needs Members for this work too...he needs YOU!

So that's what's Greater than Gatsby, is the joy that the gospel brings as we share it with others! Build up the kingdom of God and let others reap the benefits!

-Elder Tyler Monson