Monday, September 29, 2014

How Great Shall Be Your Joy

Hey all!

So, much craziness this week.
As if every week isn't crazy. Crazy is the norm here. Ask Hayden or Lauren. They'll testify.

On Thursday (three months to the day in my mission), I baptized R____. He's a really great guy. He loves to study, to read, and to learn, and I know if he remains firm in the faith, he'll be a leader in the Church someday.
R____'s baptism was on September 25, 2014. L-R Elder Alfaro, Me, R_____, Elder Anderson.

On Saturday, I baptized J___. His process of conversion has actually been more chaotic than R_____'s, but here we are. He was actually Anderson's and my first investigator. It's nice to see how it's all come full circle after so long.
J___'s baptism on September 27, 2014. L-R Elder Alfaro, Me, J___, Elder Anderson.

Sunday night Alfaro got really hungry, and since we can't buy anything on Sundays, he checked the fridge. All that was left over after Anderson and whoever lived here before us was some bologne and two eggs. So that's what he had.

Dinner of Champions.

Actually, kinda reminded me of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Included a picture of it in the new ones.

Also included a picture of Alfaro writing down numbers (he's Zone Leader for Bello Horizonte). His exhausted expression is what I've come to call "the missionary face."
Missionary Face

Also, the email you recieved from Presidente means that we get 45 minutes each person. 90 minutes in total. 15 of that is required to email Presidente, so we only get 30 minutes each P-Day to email you guys. Just some clarification.

From Tuesday to Friday, I was in a Trio with Alfaro and Schoenfeld. Both of them are great guys.
Schoenfield, Alfaro, and Me.

Tell Alex I'll have some advice for her next email, so stay tuned till then.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree.




1) Tell us more about your companion. Where is he from? How long has he been out? Is he a convert? What about his family?
*My compañero is Elder Elías Alfaro from Alajuela, Costa Rica. He's been out for 6 months. He was born into the Church, (4th generation), which is rare for Latinos. His family is apparently a big name in the Church in Central America.

2) How is the language coming along? What about discussions?
*Language is coming along fine. We teach only in Spanish, so it's starting to feel like a natural thing.

3) What will you be doing for General Conference? Did you know that this year they will allow speakers to talk in their native language if they want? I think that’s so cool!
*They'll be broadcasting GC straight to our Stake Center (my building) and probably in Spanish. I'll be using those GC booklets you gave me. I'll let you know how they go.

4) What’s the craziest thing you’ve eaten so far and what was it like?
*I ate tongue two days ago. It tasted juast like regular beef, but just a little spongier. Other than that, nothing too crazy.

5) Have you had any language blunders that are noteworthy?
*Are you tryna jinx me or sumpin?  No, nothing too embarassing. Yet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Three Months Into It

Hey all!

Crazy how time passes when you don't focus on it. In three days I'll have been on the mission for three months.

Tell Alex not to worry about not playing on JV yet. If she keeps working hard and doing her best, the coaches will notice it and eventually choose her over other players who are also talented but don't work as hard. Ask Dad for the "hard work vs. talent" quote by Cole VonOhlen.

Tell Bree that I said to listen to Mom. And that I miss spending time with her.
Micky-D's in Managua. Here's the McSmolder.

Me and my new companion, Elder Alfaro, and our matching McD ties.

Not much happened this week. We had two people with a baptismal date but only one came to church on Sunday so we have to postpone him and find out what happened.

Tomorrow we have a Reunión for Nuevos. This includes those from my CCM group and those from the CCM group after ours, so there'll be like 80 missionaries at our church building tomorrow.

Hey- if you could eat at an American restaurant in Nicaragua, this one isn't so bad.

Instead of getting colder here like it does in the US, it honestly feels like it's been getting hotter. I don't know if seasons exist down here, but I sure hope they do.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, Bree, and Bodhi.


Hey Dad!
Sounds like you're having fun up in the cold and the rain. Haha. I honestly wish I was there too, if only to be with you and to feel what cold is like again. Here it's a myth. Hope you have more success hunting.

Before the change we had 1-1.5 hours to write. Now it's a fraction of that. I can't remember the joke exactly, but Elder Alonzo of the Seventy was giving his talk to us when he made it. He even said "No, no, I'm joking," afterwards.

But, whatever. At least I still get time to email you guys.

I love you so much. Have fun up in the mountains for me.



    1. TIME SAVER TIP:   YOU DON’T HAVE TO REPLY TO EACH EMAIL YOU RECEIVE EXCEPT OURS. If you have to print out emails of other people, DO IT—then take time DURING THE WEEK to compose a response. WRITE DOWN YOUR RESPONSE TO THEM so you can speed up getting it sent out. Another tip I heard is if you can’t print, take a picture of the email and use your camera zoom to read it.
*Ok. Good tips.

    2. Send pictures. Send pictures. Send pictures.
*Will do. Sorry about last week; our regular Ciber was closed and the one we went to sucked so I couldn't send photos. Will send some this week.

   3. Rain rain go away! How’s the umbrella? Did you get another one at the shops? Does the rain mean more bugs in your apartment? What about other critters (rats, mice)?
*My umbrella keeps breaking, so I might get a new one. Honestly, The only thing I'm worried about getting wet is my scriptures, so I bring the waterporoof bag for them. Othwer than that, I don't mind getting a little wet. So far not too many other bugs in my apartment.

    4. What is your favorite part of your routine each day? What is your least favorite?
*My favorite part of each day is committing people to church and to read the scriptures. I love finding new investigators.

    5. How are your socks and shoes holding up so far? Do we need to send another pair of boots?
*My shoes are doing great. No need to send new ones yet.

    6. Any problems with dogs?
*Anderson had a huge fear of dogs, but I'm fine. So far. Whenever we encounter angry dogs, I immediately consider whether or not they're small enough to punt. If not, we consider good ways to avoid them.

My brothers.


Just goofing off.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First Change Done

Hey all!

So, many big changes this week.

Tuesday we found out that many of us (including Anderson and myself) would be getting new compañeros to train. This was a big surprise because normally trainers stay with their newbies for 12 weeks. We'd only been together for 6.

But, ready or not, it happened anyway. Anderson headed to Ruben Darìo to continue the training of Elder Baldwin, and Elder Alfaro came to Waspan Sur to be my new compañero. I'm not bothered by this too much. Alfaro's a great guy, and I've worked with him a little bit before in several divisions.

So, Sunday we got this investigator named R_____ to go to church with us. He's a really smart guy, and loves reading and studying the scripture passages we assign him as "homework." We've put a baptismal date for him on the 27th.

Not only that, but we got this random guy named A___ to come to church with us, too, after contacting him right there in front of the church and inviting him inside. We'll see if he stays interested.

And that's not all! We were sitting in Priesthood Hour when who should show up, but J___! That's right, he came back! I don't know if he'll continue to take lessons from us, but he's agreed to a teaching session on Tuesday. So, we'll see where this goes. This is a big step for him, to come to church on his own like that.
So, that's pretty much it here.

Quick question: Has the U.S. officially declared war, or are we still just sending aid and air strikes? Because the rumor floating around here (and the official Nicaraguan news) is that the U.S. has declared war and is deploying 4500 troops to Iraq. Just wanted to check with you guys.
Last picture with my trainer Elder Anderson. I don't have one with Elder Alfaro yet.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, Bree, and Bodhi.

Hey all!
1.    How much time do you have now for email? You said it was shortened. PLEASE send pictures each week if you can!
*We now have roughly 30 minutes thanks to a passing joke made by Elder Alonzo that Presidente Collado took seriously. This week I can't send any pictures because the Ciber we normally go to is closed and this one I can't access my camera. So it'll have to be next week. Sorry.

2.    What was one thing that you felt inspired by Elder Alonso? 
*I'm not sure I have a lot of time to answer this, but one thing that really struck me was that he told us to pray our hearts out, forget all the obstacles, and be more direct in our contacts.

3.    How’s the search for investigators going for you and Elder Anderson
*We've now set a baptismal date with an investigator named R____. I'll say more in the big email.

4. What is a typical Sunday like for you? Do you have to teach any classes? Do you have 3 regular meetings?
*We haven't had to teach anything yet, but we go to two classes and then Sacrament meeting at the end. We always try to have at least one investigator with us each Sunday.

5. How are your feet? Blisters? Ingrown toenails? Do you have to dry out your shoes regularly? Are you using the shoe dryer at all?
*I use the shoe dryer almost daily. No ingrown toenails, but I've had a few bilsters from all the walking around as it's raining. By the way, the "drought" seems to have passed. It rains every day now. And we walk through tons of mud.

Monday, September 8, 2014

If The Sky That We Look Upon Should Tumble And Fall‏

Hey all!
I tell you what, there's so much that goes on here that as a missionary you're hardly ever sitting around doing nothing.

Anyway, on Wednesday we had Elder Alonzo from one of the Quorums of the Seventy come speak to the missionaries in the chapel. We were divided into three groups over three days. Our group was first. His message was pretty powerful.
Mission Conference

Singing hymns- in Spanish of course.
We got food!

On Friday Anderson made a bet with me that if we had three lessons with a member present that day, he'd buy me a 3-liter bottle of soda. Friday was a great day for teaching and I now have a 3-liter bottle of soda waiting for me back at the casa.

Saturday night at around 11:00 PM, a tremendous explosion rocked our casa and the surrounding neighborhood. It set off tons of car alarms and dogs barking. My first thought was that the top floor of our casa had collapsed, but it was fine. Initial news reports declared that a bomb had gone off at the airport (our casa is near but not right next to the airport). But, these were later changed to reports of that meteorite you guys heard about.

Yes, I heard it. It was quite loud. Thankfully, it landed in an uninhabited field. From the news article [click the link to read about it] you guys sent me I can tell that it would've done some serious damage had it impacted in a neighborhood.

I've had a few personal revelations this week. The first one was Wednesday morning. Basically I realized that a day here can go really well or it can suck. But, that's all up to you. It's all in your head. Your attitude determines how the day will go. Sure, a bunch of stuff might happen, but it's up to you whether or not it affects you.
Oh yeah, did I mention I also sang in a small group. This is us practicing.


The other realization happened Saturday morning. I was reading in the war chapters of the Book of Mormon (Alma 43-62) and I read a lot about Teancum and Captain Moroni. Both of these dudes were amazingly strong and righteous warriors. Both rightly attributed their successes to God.

But while Captain Moroni surveyed each risk and made each decision with utmost care, Teancum was often quite reckless and made crazy spur-of-the-moment decisions. Both men were rewarded with great success for their endeavours, but Teancum's reckless actions got him killed.

I ended up having a long conversation about it with Anderson, and he revealed to me that the old Mission President (Arredondo) encouraged missionaries to make crazy or reckless decisions if it meant teaching or baptizing families. Presidente Collado has since corrected much of these errors, but most of the older missionaries still keep the tradition.
Anderson and Me adding our prints on the mission banner.

We are Christ's hands.
Mission President and his wife.

Gotta go. Don't have much time.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree.



1. Are you feeling better? Still sick? You know you can take medicine if you still have symptoms!

*Feeling better now. Thankfully. The entire thing lasted just under a day, but I still felt ooky for another couple days. I'm fine now. I did take antacid and zofran.

2. OH! The rocks reminded me! I heard that there was a meteorite that smashed into Managua near the airport in a remote area on Sunday. Did you hear or feel anything? CRAZY!

*YES, I heard the meteorite. I'll talk about it more in the big email.

3. Can you print email? Or PDFs? If yes, I have some things to send you.

*Yes, I can print email. Go ahead and send me what you want to.

4. Any more scorpions? Or other critters coming into your apartment? Are you using your bug net?

*Anderson killed another scorpion a few days ago in our house with his shoe. Super gross. I'm not too worried as long as I can find the critter before it stings/bites me first.

5. Just so you know, I sent another package. I couldn’t get the peanut butter in there, but I hope you will like what I sent. It did take about 1 month for the last package to get to you, so that is what I will plan on. I’m so glad you are in Managua so you can get them quickly! We already have a Halloween package ready to send out! ANYTHING you want, please let me know. We can even get ready a General Conference package sent out. But I dunno if it will reach you in time.

*If you can, could you please send chocolate? I know it'll melt, but we have fridges in each casa, so I'll be ok. Don't worry about the GC package now; it's probably too late. But thanks for what you have sent already. That peanut butter was seriously a miracle.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Doing The Technicolor Yawn

Hey all!

This week definitely had its ups and downs.

For starters, I had no idea scorpions lived here! That is, until I discovered one in our shower.
THAT's sure gonna help me unwind at nights.

Our new pet

I've sent a couple pictures of it. Anderson caught it by the tail with some string and we hung it on the wall to dry out. I wanted to squish it outright (they're basically bugs with a tail), but I let Anderson do his thing.
Maybe dinner.

Had divisions on Tuesday night to Wednesday morning with Elder Gonzalez from Guatemala. He and Elder Alfaro are our Zone Leaders, but there's just us four Elders in our District along with 8 Hermanas. Anyway, Gonzalez's area borders Lake Nicaragua, the smaller of the two lakes that Managua is located between.
It's really gross. Basically, all nearby sewers and drains pour into the lake, so the water is nasty brown. We didn't go too near it. It stinks, too.

The grossest part is that people still fish there, even though it's a huge sewage dump.

So, Thursday morning I woke up at 3 AM, went downstairs, and began puking my guts out. It was horrible. Diarrhea too. I had some nasty food poisoning or something. All I had in my stomach from last night was beans, so I now can't look at them without getting nauseated. All of Thursday sucked.
Friday wasn't much better. I still felt ooky.

Saturday night we came across this huge cockroach in our casa. It was (no joke) the size of the back of my hand. I stomped it and kicked it outside. It landed with a fleshy 'splat.'

Coulda' put a collar on that thing and made it the Casa pet. I've never seen a cockroach that big before.

By Sunday I'd completely recovered. We brought L ____ and another less-active family to church.
I hope they keep coming. I'm excited but the past month's events have added a splash of realism to the excitement.

So, that's pretty much it. Hope Brennan doesn't have to get transferred due to the Ebola.

Stay away from the Pneumonic Plague! Alex, I'm sorry you sprained your ankle. I hope you feel better as soon as possible.

Mom, I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the AF games. I'm gonna miss spending that time with you guys for a little while.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, Bree, and Bodhi.



1. We’ve been watching the 2 hurricanes spinning—one in the Pacific and the other in the Atlantic. Have you noticed any extra rain coming your way?

There's two hurricanes? Honestly, here in Nicaragua it rains like once every three days or so. Apparently we're supposed to be in the rainy season, so a ton of the natives are freaking out because we're officially in a drought. They might lose the bean crops. Speaking of beans, I'll talk about that in the big email.

2. How did your 50 referrals go? Any new leads?

Of our 50 referrals, only one man came through and is now an investigator. His name is L _____. He's a Catholic, which Anderson says is good because Catholics are more well-learned in Christian doctrine and understand what we're teaching. The trade-off is they're more stubborn when it comes to commitments. But he's come to church with us once so far, so we'll see where this goes.

3. Please describe a typical day AND a typical P-day for us. Where do you go to email? Where do you eat out? What else do you do?

Typical day? Well, we wake up at 6:30.
7:00-7:30 is getting ready, and 7:30-8:00 is breakfast.
From 8:00-9:00 is personal study time, and 9:00-10:00 is companionship study time.
At this point, in a normal companionship, we would head out to proselytize. But since I'm a newbie learning the language, we head out at noon.
12:00-12:30 is lunch, and from 1:00-9:00 we proselytize. Somewhere in there before 6:00 we take a break for dinner.
At 9:00 we head back to the casa (9:30 at the latest) and plan for the next day. We're in bed by 10:30.

P-days the mornings are the same, but at 10:00 we head over to the church's gym to play fútbol. I personally dislike fútbol but EVERYONE here plays it, so the only other option is sitting around and I don't want to do that. We play for an hour or so, go get lunch, and head back. Emails take place somewhere between lunch and 6:00 PM. After that we head out to proselyte for three hours. Nights are the same.

For food, we stop at pulperías a lot. Pulperías are little shops all over the streets that sell different types of food and drinks. Everything's pretty cheap down here.

For email, we go to what's called a Ciber (SEE-burr) and pay the owner to use one of their many computers for an hour or so. The one we use now has AC, which is pretty nice.

4. Did you get the first package we sent you?

Yes! It came last Wednesday. Packages actually only take about three weeks to get here, not two months. Thanks a bunch for the stuff! Please don't send any drink mixes for a while. I have a ton now. This peanut butter is a miracle, though. Thanks for sending it.
The first package to Nica we sent on July 28th finally arrived August 27th. One month to ship.