Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week 58: To Infinity...and Beyond!‏

Right now, I feel like an obscure metaphor, so bear with me:
I'm not sure if you remember the part in the movie Toy Story 2 where the gang (consisting of Hamm, Mr. Potato Head, Slinky and a Brainwashed Buzz Lightyear) has all reached the apartment building where Woody is being held. After climbing through the ventilation system, they reach the elevator shaft, which Buzz begins to climb the wall with magnets and his companions dangling in tow. Using his "Anti-Gravity Turbo" he decides to let go of the wall where, for pure happenstance, the Elevator is rising only a few feet below and lifts them to the penthouse apartment.
Under the illusion that his gadgets and boosters are the reason for their ascent, Buzz Lightyear extends one hand towards the heavens and shouts, "To Infinity and beyond."
And in a weird way...I feel a little bit like that.
Mainly because Elder Prestwich and I are seeing so many fruits and so much progress up this elevator shaft of an area, like we're rocketing up at light speed....when really the Lord is who has been lifting us up so high, and that he is working more miracles here than I ever could.
...So it's like that, if you catch my drift.
What really made me feel that way were the two incredible families that we have been teaching.
We found them on the 14th of this month, knocking on doors by our house in Zone 8, following our new philosophy of "look until you find someone." We taught a quick lesson that day to Minor and his wife, Veronica a relatively young family with two little kids, Steve and Brittany (those are some super American names [another side note: "Super" is also an acceptable adjective in if I keep saying that word a's not my fault]). We taught for a little bit about the Restoration and the first vision and they seemed rather receptive. Setting up for an appointment the next Tuesday, we both left the lesson feeling surprised about how great the visit really had been.
During the next appointment, we had our socks knocked off.
They had read all of the pamphlet that we had left with them, and had discussed it as a family, how "it made so much sense that there was an apostasy" and they basically repeated the story of how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon back to us. don't find people like them every day.
We invited them to be baptized on the 13th of September, and they accepted.
On Sunday, they came to church on their own and left their kids in the Primary as they went to the Gospel Principles class. They said that they loved how focused on the family our church is, and that the idea of being able to be sealed in the Temple for time and all eternity was a new goal that they had.
I mean...really?!? I don't even feel like I'm doing anything, that the spirit of the Lord is working so hard through them that nobody can even stop to count the blessings.
They already gave us a referral, Veronica’s sister, Erika and her three kids; and wouldn’t you know it, they too are completely golden. One of the children’s names is Bryan, he’s a 20 year old college student that seems to have a much higher spiritual scale than most people.
He told us in the 2nd visit that he had “read half of the yellow book” that we had left with him. “You mean the one about the restoration?” I responded, thinking that he was talking about the Lesson 1 pamphlet.
“No, it’s a different one…what’s it called again? I think its Gospel Principles or something like that.”
Our jaws both hit the floor. The day before he had sat down for three hours and studied the basic doctrine of the church…and he could repeat it back to us like an answering machine.
Then, a little bit later in the lesson, we talked about eternal families, and Minor said, “It feels good to know that God has a plan for my family….I really want us to be together forever…like what Buzz Lightyear says ‘Al Infinito….y mas Alía!’” 
The member who came with us, Hermano Castro, told us after the lesson, “They were so well prepared…it was like teaching members!”
And he was right.
So even though August was a little bit slow…September is going to be a fantastic month, with 7 baptisms on the schedule.
Among other exciting events, we also had a member of the 70, Elder Kevin R. Duncan, come and do a Zone Conference with us on Tuesday. I learned a lot about how to work more efficiently and how I need to have more faith to find new investigators.
He said that it is possible that we could all have 40 progressing investigators in one week.
And I was all like…whoa; I only have like, 7 and am struggling to maintain all of their spiritual flames, now imagine 40.
But for the moment we’re doing great, we got to go and play “Spike Ball” with our Mission President in Don Justo this morning…even though I was terrible at it I had a lot of fun!

Hooray for P-Day.
Love you all and I’ll talk to you later!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Week 57: Revenge of the Cyst‏

I never thought a trip to the Hospital could teach me three important lessons in 2 short hours.
1. Hospital gowns are not fun
2. Anesthesia is pretty trippy
3. If you trust in the Lord, you can literally make it through anything.

But I think I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself. First of all, an answer to a question: Why on earth did I have to go to the hospital?
For those of you who didn't know, from the second week that I came to the mission offices to be Financial Secretary, a ganglion cyst started taking root on my left wrist.
A cyst is a swelling on top of a joint or the covering of a tendon. It is a pocket of fluids that forms itself into a ball, they may appear as hard and thick or thin and spongy. They aren't so fun to have.
But, as long as I didn't apply as much pressure on my left hand, I could manage day-to-day tasks without any serious pain.
So everything for the past 5 months has been pretty mellow as far as wrist pains go.
Until last week, when I finally felt motivated enough to try to do daily exercise again. The primary reason for such activism was due to the ever-irking comments from just about everyone about how thin I am at the present time. It's the omnipresent phrase that has haunted me even from the beginning of the mission: "Wow, you are really skinny...are you eating well?"
Yes, I am eating well.
So I took the question up to my Mission President, searching for his revelation, "President, what do I have to do to get more know...more mass?" I asked him.
He responded with an intense push-up routine that he was ready with on the spot. 240 reps and a rather punishing set of things to do to start bulking up.
Meh, why not?
"Are you okay to push-ups?" he asked.
"Well...I do have a cyst in my hand and it complicates things a bit on that front." I answered
"Let's take care of that then!" President responded, and ten minutes later, I had a surgery planned for Thursday the 21st, where they were going to go in and cut the Cyst out.
I spent a lot of time dreading the date, counting down the hours until doomsday. And on Wednesday afternoon when we went out to go and visit people I couldn't get my mind off of the whole ordeal.
That night, the executive secretaries, Elder Walton and Elder Coronado had to stay over at the White House because they were going to take a Sister Missionary to the airport the following morning. It was a great opportunity to ask for a Preisthood Blessing.
Then the next morning, the Trapnells picked us up at 6:30 to go to the Herrera Hospital for the operation.
From there the rest was kind of a blur.
They checked me in, took me to another room and had me change into a super-awkward, drafty hospital gown (all of the clothes were made for Guatemalans 1/2 my height, so the gown was more like a skirt on me. Resolution: I am never going to try wearing a kilt) and put me in a wheelchair and rolled me into the operation room.
There, I got into the bed and got ready to be put under anesthetics.
All the doctors at the hospital were really nice...and almost all of them knew English and had studied in the states. So I felt like I was in good hands.
"Okay man! Just let go now, just go to sleep and everything will be okay!" I heard from the anesthesiologist.

The next thing I knew I was lying in a bed in a different room.

On my left arm I had a wrap and a brace on.
And it hurt really bad.
Once I told the nurses that "Hey, eso me duele mucho! " They were really quick about putting a pain killer in my IV.
One of the nurses came up and started talking to me. One of her friends said that "you can call her your 'sister' because she goes to  your church!" She talked to me about her family and how she too had served a mission. I felt like I was being watched over, I felt good and protected.  

The next thing I knew I was in the Trapnell's car with Elder Prestwich in the seat next to me and we were on our way to Dairy Queen to go and get Bilzzards (we had 2x1 coupons) and lunch. And for the rest of the day I just went home and went to sleep.
I was pretty doped up.
But the greatest blessing in the whole world was the support that I recieved that evening from many of my friends here in the mission: I received a call from a lot of people wanting to see how I was doing. Sister Caffaro sent me a message and President called as well.
I am so blessed to have such a great support system so far away from home.
At the end of the day I learned a lot of things during my surgery. But the biggest lesson was definitely how to trust in the Lord, and also in other people, allow them to guide us and help us through difficult times and everything will work out just fine.
Even after surgery I can still be "awesome"
The building where I "work"

6th floor Tower II Office 606

My office space

Preparation Day Bowling!


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Week 56: Becoming Perfect in Christ‏

This week, the Spirit decided to take me on a journey of self-discovery...and Elder Prestwich acted as my tour guide. To be short in words, it was definitely a period of progression over the past seven days, filled with blessings and discouragements of a spiritual magnitude that rocked the scales.
Promised blessings are beginning to sprout and bud here in Guatemala City, all the sowing that was done over the past months is finally paying off as my companion and I have been thrusting in the sickle.
I have seen a lot of change and miracles in this area. And this week was no different.
Sunday was the start of a long line of blessings that came to follow, Ana came to church with the Pascual family and enjoyed it. And Elder Prestwich and I went out in the morning to wake people up and get them to the chapel, we then took the 8:30 TransUrbano bus that would drop us off at a two minute walking distance from the chapel.
The only problem was that there was a marathon going on and a boatload of traffic out on the streets and the bus took a wrong turn on the way to church. 8:45 rolled by...8:50...8:55 and we were still stuck in traffic. At that point I was just frantic, a headache carved itself into my brain and about a thousand stressful thoughts filled the empty space: What are the members going to think? Why me? Why us? Why on my companion's first Sunday in Montufar? What if a General Authority shows up to church today (it wouldn't be the first time in my ward)? 
With my mind racing, I willed the Bus to go faster so that we could at least make it before the Sacrament. Ten minutes later at 9:05 we were dropped off at the bus station and my companion and I sprinted down the street in our suits to the Chapel three blocks away.
What do you know, they were singing all 4 verses of The Spirit of God as an opening hymn and we were able to slip in the back during the chorus.
Count your blessings.
That afternoon, our ward mission leader gave us Lunch...and it being his birthday, he served us his favorite dish: Masacuata (or, fried serpent). Yes, my friends, I ate a snake. It tasted like a mixture between chicken and fish...I wasn't a huge fan, but at least I can officially say that I have gotten over my "picky eater stage."
That afternoon we tried a two hour experiment in our area. Deciding that it was time to increase our faith, we started to knock on doors until we found a chosen family. We got about 20 minutes into our labor when, lo and behold, we found new investigators, Mamfredo and Lucy, a married couple with a little 2 year old daughter. Playing the lesson by ear, we talked about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses our families. The conversation was lively and I feel like we can help this family to progress during this change.
The rest of the week had it's ups and downs, but the biggest highlight was the Zone's trip to the Temple this last Tuesday. As a mission we go to do an endowment session every 6 months...and seeing how the last time was in was time for another excursion to the house of the Lord. I absolutely love to go to the Temple, and it's even more meaningful to me now as I am older. Everyone should have the mutual goal to be able to go to that holy place. There is a spirit there that just fills you up and makes you feel like everything is okay. And there is something about being able to be in the Celestial Room that is without comparison, it is, without a doubt, where heaven and earth make contact.
So I was motivated for the whole rest of the week to help Manuela and the Franco's to put the long-term goal of going to the Temple and to be able to participate in the same ordinances that have blessed my own life more than anything else.

And with such a spiritual high...Satan decided to attack me with an equally hard trial.
The whole week I felt like I was insufficient, like I was trying my very best to work as hard as we could..but could never be successful. Like on Sunday, I was striving for perfection in worrying about things that are out of my control. At the end of the day I would feel self-pity for the things that we weren't able to do instead of seeing the blessings that the Lord gave us during the course of the day.

It wasn't just once was many times.
Now I have a testimony of how every missionary companionship is inspired by God, because Elder Prestwich helped me to see that in myself, and had the patience to help me recognize the good instead of the bad. He said that "Sometimes we put higher expectations for ourselves than our Heavenly Father has for us, and when we don't live up to our own goals, we forget to see how God has a higher will. Don't stress yourself out if our appointments fall through, I am perfectly happy knocking on doors all day."
It was so true.  I had been striving for perfection in my own area and in the offices as well, and neglecting to see how becoming perfect is a process...nothing that can just happen all at once. The Lord knows that we will make mistakes, and will help us to become better day by day, principle by principle. 
Elder Gerrit W. Gong, of the Seventy said in this past months Ensign: "For those who may feel chronically burdened or anxious, sincerely ask yourself, “Do I define perfection and success by the doctrines of the Savior’s atoning love or by the world’s standards? Do I measure success or failure by the Holy Ghost confirming my righteous desires or by some worldly standard?”" ( Awesome it!)
Christ is the only perfect one. And if we follow him, and do our best, he will make up the rest.
See you next week!
-Elder Monson