Monday, April 28, 2014

Week 40: Hey, Soul Cyst-er

Yesterday officially started the ¨Rainy Season¨ here in Guatemala...they say that they have four seasons here (winter spring summer and fall) but that´s not really true. There´s two different ways the weather can be: wet or dry. And after 6 months of being dry....we got soaked.
I had forgotten how hard it rains until this last week.
And when it rains, it pours. (And I´m meaning this in a literal and metaphorical bear with me)
How was my week?
Where do I start?
Last Saturday, I didn´t exactly just ´get better´ after catching the cold that had been wafting in the office air. In fact, I actually got worse! At the end of the day Elder Gil and I ended up just staying in the house and eating Taco Bell, and then going to bed early because I felt so lousy.
Besides the tacos, my P-Day last week wasn´t so fun.
On Easter Sunday I woke up feeling significantly better and ready to go to church. It was a really good service, and also a very interesting program: everyone who gave talks in Sacrament Meeting spoke Spanish as a second language. A senior missionary couple spoke, an English Teacher spoke, among others (not me). My heart was really touched by the spirit as I thought about how powerful Language really is, words really do in a way, define culture. What we say is a reflection of who we are, our thoughts, emotions and feelings. Learning Spanish has opened so many doors for me! A plethora of people that I wouldn´t have been able to communicate with before have now touched my heart.
Words are powerful. Although the most powerful words that we have the power to use are our own proper testimonies.
Elder Richard G. Scott said in a General Conference address, ¨But a testimony is not emotion. It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.¨ What power we all have at our disposal! With simple words we can testify of the things that we know for certain!
Language is power.
Monday was a difficult day. I was so stressed out in the offices it wasn´t even funny! There were so many people at the offices, and so much to do!  The good part was that the Lord sent one of my very best friends in the Mission to lighten the mood, Elder De Carvalho from Brasil! He recently became a Zone Leader and stopped by to pick up some things for his zone. Being able to talk with a friend put things into perspective and re-adjusted my mood.
Tuesday was good and normal!
On Wednesday, the electric company cut the electricity of about a billion houses in the mission (like, three) because they weren´t paying their bills. So we had to go and pay to get it turned back on! 
The fun part was that I got to explore a lot of different banks here in Guatemala, all the fancy buildings and everything. But I had to learn the hard way that you´re not allowed to use your cell phone while you´re companion told me that that´s a worldwide thing...but that´s never happened to me in the states!
Who knows.
On Thursday I reached the 9-month mark of my mission! Woo Hoo! I was talking to Hermana Brown from my MTC group, she was freaking out because that means that she, and the other sister missionaries who entered with me, are now half way through!
And well...yesterday was Interesting.
I´ll explain. In my left wrist, I got this big bump, a ¨ganglion cyst¨ (look it up on Wikipedia) it comes from over usage of the hands, or something like had gone away for about 6 months, until I came to the offices...and then it came back. In two weeks it got really, really big, and started to hurt badly. So I talked to the mission nurse to see if we could set up an appointment to go and get it checked out.
And that´s what we did yesterday.
The only problem was that, the treatment for this thing is...painful.
They used a hypodermic needle and just stabbed it right in, then, instead of injecting fluids, the intent was to suck out the fluids that had caused this bump.
It hurt REALLY bad. Except the problem was that the fluids in my wrist were too thick and the doctor wasn´t able to take out anything.
So he stabbed it in again. I am so thankful for the mission nurse, Sister Trapnell (she´s from Springville UT), she said ¨It´s okay Elder Monson, I´ll be your mom for right now.¨ and she held my hand through the whole thing. But I can honestly say that I haven´t felt anything else that has ever hurt as bad as that darn needle yesterday.
And the problem was that it yielded no results. (you already know how bad I am around needles). By the time he put a band-aid on the wound my face was completely pale and my heart was racing. 
I was so close to passing out it wasn´t even funny. They elevated my feet and everything to get the color back in my face and told me to just lie down.
Good old Ganglion Cysts...causing me pain.
So...that was an adventure.
And then it rained.
And now I´m here!
So It was an interesting week to say the least....

Monday, April 21, 2014

Week 39: I am (Pretty) Legend(ary)‏

Wait...where did all the people go?
This past week has been like 168 hours of the Will Smith movie, ¨I am Legend¨ (Yet another reference to a movie I`ve never seen).
You see, here in Guatemala, Easter is bigger than Christmas. Christmas is just a day where everyone stays home, drinks hot fruit punch and eats Tamales (A dish that I still don`t quite care for), but Easter lasts for 5 days, and is named ¨La Semana Santa¨ or ¨The Holy Week.¨
It`s basically spring break.
And in effect, everyone makes their yearly pilgrimages to their respective places of inheritance, places like Jutiapa, San Juan, and Antigua Guatemala. Then the people celebrate Easter, with grand and elaborate processions, with gigantic images of the crucifixion paraded down the local streets with a type of sacred gradeur. These are events in which all participate and are sights to behold.
Which brings us back to Montufar: Where absolutely nothing seems to be happening. The streets are completely empty, with all the people and the busy, scary, city traffic  just...gone. My area is incredibly commercial, and with all of the businessmen out on vacations, Elder Gil and I have pretty much had the entire city to ourselves.
It`s actually quite nice: nobody has to wait for elevators, if you order a Pizza it gets to you in ten minutes, I can take my camera out and start snapping photos without worry.
Life is good.
So how was my ¨Semana Santa¨ anyways? With all the people gone, what was I able to do?
Let`s do a play by play: 
Last Saturday: I forgot to tell you last week, but for PDay we went to ¨La Cueva Del Negro¨ or ¨Black Man`s Cave.¨ It`s a 17th century ruin, tucked behind a winding jungle path past the graveyard of Frijanes, which is in the mountains about an hour away from the offices.
Needless to say, we did a lot of traveling. It was an hour`s hike from the bus stop to the cave, and I hadn`t brought with me proper hiking I did the whole thing in a White Shirt and Tie. It was pretty rewarding, even though, by the end I was soaking wet with sweat.
The cave was breathtaking, like it had been taken out of an Indiana Jones-style adventure flick. Shaped like a cathedral, it had once been the home of a Spanish Conquestor, who`s name escapes me, when he died, a wild indiginous man came to inhabit the dwelling, and whenever someone came to reclaim the home...well, he killed them.
At least, that`s what it says on the sign that I read.
Sunday: I had my first Sacrament Meeting in Montufar! The ward has about 200 active members and they`re all really nice! Before the services, our ward mission leader helped us drive by and bring a family of investigators to church, The Morataya Family. It was really good, but they only stayed for the first hour because their daughter had a really bad cold.
Monday: In the Mission Offices, Mondays are the most stressful, and busiest days of all. Since it`s PDay for the rest of the missionaries, they all come to the offices, searching for answers to their problems, ¨My Phone doesn`t have any more minutes¨ ¨I`ve already spent all my money for the month on snack food, what do I do?¨ ¨The sister missionaries in my district just got kicked out of their house for yelling at their land lady...what should they do now?¨
...lots of stuff, you get the picture.
The good part though, is that I get to see a ton of my friends in the Mission! Elder Vieira passed by, along with about a dozen other people that I`ve gotten to know and love in here in Guatemala. Also, we have a meeting with the Mission President, the Assistants and the other Secretaries every Monday morning...and It´s always pretty sweet!
Tuesday:  I got my first taste of what the Semana Santa is like....and it wasn`t too savory. When we had been so busy the day before, the world did a 180...and things just sort of dropped. This is where my ¨I am Legend¨ philosophy starts to kick in. I felt like Moroni, who wandered the world alone, all of his people having been destroyed.
Wednesday: The drought of people continued, full steam ahead. on the bright side I got to go and explore more parts of my area! We went to Zone 10: The rich district. It felt like I was walking through the deserted streets of New York, with all the high-rises and fancy cars...with nobody there (but I DID find a Hard Rock Cafe in my area! Who knew they had that in Guatemala?). We visited a recent convert, Patrick, who has been passing through some problems recently, and explained why we have to pass through challenges in this life. We shared two scriptures that really made me think on the topic:
Ether 12, 6: ¨And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.¨
2 Nephi 2, 11: ¨For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility¨ 
We must pass through trials to strengthen our testimonies in Jesus Christ, and to be able to enjoy the good things that we see even more. Imagine how magnificent heaven will be to one who suffered much in this life! The Contrast would be like night and day, and the joy would be eternal!
Thursday: Yet another very slow day. But I did teach a ¨Witch¨ ...she didn`t really care for what we had to say...but I though it was funny. People here in Guatemala are REALLY superstitious...
Friday: In the morning we had the opportunity to go to the Temple with one of Elder Gil`s converts from his first area. She was there to take out her Endowment, and we were able to accompany her! It made me reflection on how incredible the temple truly is, and how sacred things are there. It`s like a piece of heaven here on earth! It made me very motivated: Sure, having a baptism is a great experience...but taking a convert to the temple is even better!
And then, that night, I caught a really bad cold.
Which brings us to today.
So....with two days left in La Semana Santa...Ill see what I can do to occupy myself!
Happy Easter!
-Elder Monson

(Mom's thoughts:  As I've read his letters each week and seen his pictures I am thrilled and in awe at how much he is getting know himself better, his abilities, talents and gifts.  I also can't believe how much he has grown up, he looks older more sure of himself and so very handsome!)

Elder Gil and Elder Monson at Temple

mosquito netting over bed (glad to know he has some!)

Temple blessings!

Tyler at flag pole at the Temple

Tyler on city street corner


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Week 38: Country Mouse

First things first: Wasn´t conference just the greatest thing in the whole world? Every message that was given packed a punch and when President Monson gave his ¨Closing Conference¨ talk I was completely confounded, thinking ¨how on earth did conference just end? Since when did 10 hours watching general authorities talk go so fast?¨
My highlight was Elder Holland´s talk on standing up for our beliefs. It was incredibly profound for me in the mission as I was able to reflect on all the times that I had to defend the church and share my testimony with hostile people.
The church is true!
And how have things been in the offices? Nice and stressful as normal, the good thing is that I haven't screwed up TOO bad yet (granted, I´ve had my moments). My math skills aren´t exactly too sharp at this point (although my knowledge from Math and Personal Finance class is really helping...shout out to Mr. Jensen!). But the biggest adventure hasn´t been in a desk chair or out on the sidewalk...but on the road.
Look out world, Elder Monson is back behind the wheel...and its pretty scary. As the mission Nurse said, ¨Sure you´re going to be a good driver when you get home...but if you drive the same way you have to drive here, you´re going to be sent to jail!¨ It doesn´t help that my companion likes to mess with me as I ask him for directions.
¨Where do I go from here?¨
¨You have to turn right!!¨ as his hand points to the left.
¨Do I go right, or left then?!?!¨
¨Just follow that big red bus!¨
...said bus is on the other side of the busy road, and I´m forced to merge my way through the maze of cars!
It´s great fun.
I just feel like a page ripped out of the children’s book ¨Country Mouse and City Mouse¨ my whole mission I´ve been outside of the Capital city, in calm places, like San Juan and Jutiapa...and now I´m thrown into the hustle and bustle of busy city life....
But that´s okay...because I love it here!
Hoping everything is good,

-Elder Monson
office space... on the right, the rice krispie box was a give away

downtown Guatemala traffic

driving in big city traffic with Elder Gil

our District

District lunch

Prep-day adventure (not sure where)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Week 37: Office Space

Transfers meant a new Preparation Day-Saturday!

Needless to say, I was a little hacked about having to leave Jutiapa.
So as I sat in the change meeting in Montufar, I wondered exactly what would happen next...It was a rather jovial reunion, I was able to catch up with just about all of my mission friends. The missionaries who were finishing were invited to the pulpit to share their testimonies, and I watched as my old companion, Elder Beckstead present himself and say goodbye. Then President and Sister Stay addressed us with two heartfelt messages, we finished with a hymn, “I´ll Go Where you want me to Go” and a closing prayer.
Then it was off to the main event.
A Slide Show is prepared and the assistants just go down the list, from zone to zone. As a name is read, the corresponding face appears on the projector screen. When a missionary is called, they stand, greet their new companion and head out of the room.
That´s about how it works.
I was one of the very first changes made in the entire meeting, ¨In Montufar 2, we have Elder Gil, and he will be receiving, new Financial Secretary, Elder Monson.¨ Startled, I stood up, accompanied by whoops and hollers of all the present missionaries, ¨OOOOOOHHHHH¨
The truth is that, the Secretaries have the most cushy gig in the entire mission, a ginormous area, office hookups, living in the mission home (it´s called the White House), whatever you want to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner (a lot of people get...fat)....the whole nine yards.
So I stood, gave Elder Vieira a big hug and walked to the other side of the chapel to where my new companion was standing. 
We wasted no time.
Immediately, I was put to work, giving out reimbursements to missionaries in need, without even knowing what I was doing!
And the rest of the week followed suit. We spend every day from 10/11ish until 4 in the mission offices, with Elder Trone and Elder Mendez, the other secretaries, the Mission Nurse and her husband and (sometimes) the Assistants and President Stay. We balance checks, go to the bank, all that stuff...
Then afterwards we go to work in the Mission Field, running around and teaching lessons like crazy! Our area is very much a City Scape...and 180 degrees different than San Juan or Jutiapa. It´s a whole new world....
And there´s so much to learn and do and...
Holy cannoli, my head is spinning.
But, the bright side is that I get to drive around the city now....and I did it once this week, (the best way I can describe it is Mario Kart...but real.

Sounds good, Ill keep you posted on how things are going in my crazy new life!
Traveling to transfer meeting

Elder Monson at the Mission Home- "White House"

Jutiapa District