Monday, December 29, 2014

Enter 2015

Hey all!

So, this week was definitely a huge spiritual and morale boost. Talking with family really helped me to step back and look at the larger picture here. I've only got 18 months left on my mission. Having seen my family and talked with them again for the first time in a long time, I have a renewed desire to share these blessings and the possibility of an eternal, happy family with those I teach. It's worth leaving my own beloved family to share the possibilities with others.

Other than that, it was just great to hear your voices and have areal conversation with you guys again. Best wishes to not only the immediate family (Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree), but also to Grandma, Grandpa, Mickelle, Steve, Carson, and Nathan. And everybody else. Love you guys.

And of course, Elder Bos and Irma Bos.

By the way, my hand is pretty much healed. It's just scar tissue now.



I don't have much time to talk this time either. I'm really sorry. President Collado came to Puerto and he's hosting a 9-hour Zone activity very soon today. Everyone is required to be there.

I wanted to thank Lola and Lolo for their wonderful Christmas package. I love everything you sent.
Thank you guys so much for the photos from back home. They mean a lot to me.


And, please remember to be strong. It sounds like there's a TON of changes going on back there, but you guys have been through stuff like this before. You got this.

Although, I must admit, Northgate was always my favorite ward in North Stake.

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

-Zach

Christmas Skype!

MOM POSTING:  On Christmas day, we got to skype with Zach at 1:00 pm our time. Earlier in the week, we had set up a login ID for him and connected it to my own skype contacts. Then we emailed him the login ID and password so that all he had to do was find a Ciber that had Skype loaded on their computers and login. It was such a HUGE RELIEF and JOY to see his smiling face and hear his voice. After about 5 minutes, the signal deteriorated significantly, so we had to log off and reconnect only using a voice connection. But even that was a blessing.
The connection was very poor. Choppy and fuzzy. But we saw him!

We had written out a list of about 15 questions that we wanted to hear about to keep our conversation going smoothly and not waste any of that precious time. And I took notes as we talked with him. Of course there are those first few moments after you cheer and say Merry Christmas where you are just so grateful that the connection actually went through—who cares that the picture is so fuzzy that it looks like his shirt blends in with the white wall in the background?! At first, you are just staring at each other and trying to pinpoint exactly how each of you has changed. Longer hair? Taller? Skinnier? We decided that he looks about the same. He claims that his weight fluctuates based on how many carbs he has to eat on a daily basis. He tried to show us the wound on his hand and explain how he treated it right away. But after about 5 minutes, the picture was choppy and we couldn’t hear what he was saying so that’s when we logged off and reconnected with voice only.

Health
He told us that he cut his hand on a metal broomstick that broke when he and a friend were wrestling like they did back in the early church days. (I thought it was from a knife or machete—nope.) He cut his hand deeply, but was able to wrap it up and clean it using water, soap, and bleach. It was mostly healed by that time. He kept it clean and wrapped up. He was also suffering from an ingrown toenail that he was also trying to self-treat and heal. His dad told him to increase his antibiotics to 2 doses per day for 2 weeks. His only other ailment was a swollen knee (opposite leg from the ingrown toenail) caused by mosquito bites. Poor kiddo! At least he said he wasn’t having any tummy problems which are very prevalent in that mission.

Clothes
The missionaries pay a lady to wash their laundry on a weekly basis. There is no washing machine, so all the wash is done by hand. This is a source of income for the laundry lady. He did say that the missionaries joke a little and say that their clothes get “the Puerto treatment”—but that means that some of his clothes have holes in them. He asked us to send him some new items. His boots are holding up well so far and he alternates between the two pair he has on a daily basis. He uses the shoe dryer to dry out the boots worn on the previous day.

House
His house is not on stilts. He and his companion share the house with another missionary companionship. They are renting out 2 of the rooms. The bathroom/toilet is an outside extra room, but it does have a flushing toilet. They have running water available for only 4 hours in the morning.

Food/Water
He hasn’t tried anything crazy yet. He said that turtle will be on the menu at some point. He is tired of beans and rice. They have a clean water source that they buy from the store. It is a large multi-gallon jug like the kind you see in offices. So that’s a relief!


Church Members
They have about 4 wards in Puerto- each has about 70-100 members who attend. Often times it is difficult to help members realize that they need to stay seated until the end of church. He said it's like herding cats. They have a chapel building like the one in Managua. He travels to church on the bus—sometimes on the top, unless it is raining outside. Then they just cram inside. There is one family- his lunch cita (the lady who makes them lunch every day) who has 2 sons that they’ve taken out on splits to proselyte. It’s difficult to have many active priesthood holders because of the type of work that people do there. Most of the men are fishermen and are out on the ocean for 2 or 3 months at a time.

Culture
He’s mainly been teaching in Spanish, but has also been learning some Miskito phrases. For the most part, this area of Nicaragua is fairly laid back and the people avoid confrontation. People generally are up with the sun and go to bed when the sun goes down. Except for the drunks. They typically come out as soon as the sun goes down. As missionaries, they get up by 5:30 or 6:00, have study time, go out tracting, and must be back home by 6:30. He told us a story about one night when they were walking home and a drunk man with a stick threatened to hit him with it. Zach grabbed the stick from him and asked, “With this stick? Nah. You don’t want to use this stick.” Then he gave him a pamphlet on the word of wisdom (which gives counsel against drinking alcohol) and threw the stick in the ditch.

He said that the type of music they hear out on the street is really loud gospel style music and they sing like holy rollers with their hands raised and very loudly.

For Christmas eve, he said he didn’t get much sleep. The Nicaraguans shoot off fireworks all night long. All. Night. Long. He isn’t ready to find out what New Year’s Eve will be like.

Challenges
The biggest thing he’s learned so far is Patience. He’s realized that people are free to make their own decisions and that his job is to search for the people who are ready to hear the gospel. Also, culturally it is considered a sin by another major church in the area (Moravian) to even talk to the missionaries. Of course, that is based on their fear. The mission focus (of course) is on the number of baptisms. But that doesn’t really need to be the whole entire focus of his own purpose while serving there. He has also noticed the tremendous deterioration of family values and unity as a result of a long lasting back to back wars in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Favorites
His first favorite thing is finding people to teach. He LOVES sharing the gospel and finding people whose lives will be changed forever from it. He especially loves changing the lives of families and making them stronger in the gospel if they are part-member families, or bringing them into the gospel.
His second favorite thing on the mission are P-days (aka preparation days) where he gets to send and receive a weekly email from family and friends. He received packages from home, the Bos family, and his Lola and Lolo.

So that was it. We let him talk to us for as long as he wanted. What was most touching was that he wanted to hear from his sisters and cousins individually and find out what they got for Christmas and what they enjoyed the most that day. It had just snowed on Christmas Eve, so we had gotten a white Christmas. We sent him a photo of the peaceful snowy covering the lawn and trees in the backyard—something that he misses a lot in the eternal summer of Nicaragua.

Merry Christmas!
Not Nicaragua--but this is what he was missing.




Monday, December 22, 2014

SAAAANTAAAAA!!! OH MY GOSH!!!

Hey all!

Almost time to talk face to face! I'm super pumped.
Feliz Navidad

Shout out to Kara & Brandon, Kassie, and Kiki for their supportive emails. They really mean a lot to me. Also shout out to Irmã Lauren Bos and Elder Hayden Bos for their continuous updates. They always have a super meaningful, spiritual thought to share.

This past week was a little...different.

First off, it's super surreal to be spending my first Christmas outside family. It really reminds me of when Dad was deployed to Korea for a year and we talked through a laptop camera on Christmas.

We've kinda switched places now, huh? Just part of life, I guess.
One of the newly baptized families in our ward. Their son just turned 8 and was baptized!


So, I accidentally cut my hand open last week on Tuesday or Wednesday. It looked really nasty and there was blood everywhere, but it's okay now. I cleaned it with water, soap, and bleach. I've been taking care of it now. I'll send pictures of it on Thursday when I call you guys. It's healed up nicely, but I have to keep it dry while I shower. So I'm showering on one foot (trying to keep the infected one out of the not-so-clean shower water), with one hand to wash myself. It's like a balancing act.

More than almost ANY thing else here, this mission has taught me Patience. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I don't got much more to say in this email. I'm sorry it's so short. I'll be talking with you guys in three days, so I'll fill you in personally.

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

-Zach
Meeting my first monkey.



It belongs to an investigator.


QUESTIONS

1) First, TELL US WHEN AND WHAT TIME you can call or Skype us. We need to know at least a time range (such as sometime from 10 to 11 am).
* I will be calling at 2:00 PM Nicaragua time on December 25th. That's 1:00 PM Mountain Time. I will try my best to use Skype, but only some of the Cibers have it. So, if I don't call through Skype, it'll be through phone.

2)  How have you been? Emotionally this has been a rough time for you. Know that you are always in our prayers- I hope they bring you strength and comfort.
* I'm doing okay. This whole thing is still a surreal experience in some aspects, and routine in others. I'll say more in the big email.

3) Have you gotten a package from the Bos family? They were asking. Did you get our second package?
* I've only gotten one package from you guys and none from the Bos's. I didn't even know they'd sent one.

4) Have you gotten email from anyone else?
* I'll send a little shout out to everyone who sent me a message recently in the big email.

5) How are things going with you and your companion? Smoothly? Rough? Have you gone on any splits?
* We actually have so much in common, it's kinda creepy. We have our differences here and there, but we always turn out alright. We even have the same interests in movies, books, and other fiction. So far I've done a few divisions with the District and Zone Leaders.

6) How’s Misquito coming along? That dictionary will be sent in our next package when we get back to Colorado.
* It's been kinda slow lately. We've been focusig on studying doctrine for our investigators more than studying Miskito. I need to get on it.

-Zach


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Fall of a Nation

Hey all!

Well, this week kinda sucked. Not gonna lie, it was pretty disappointing. We had all but one of our investigators fall through for one reason or another. I'm starting to get flashbacks to Managua. The same kind of thing is happening here. It's just been a repeating theme throughout the 5 1/2 months of my mission thus far.

One of the biggest things I've had to learn while on the mission (and ESPECIALLY in Puerto) is patience. It's a theme repeated a ton in D&C, in my Patriarchal Blessing, and in the Book of Mormon in general. Without patience, things start to go downhill very quickly. Above all, Obedience should apply first in everything having to do with Heavenly Father's plan, followed closely by Patience. It follows more closely along the lines of Perseverance, or Enduring to the End.




Creatures of the sea.



So, I got my first ingrown toenail in the mission!  Not that fun, lemme tell ya that. I've been taking antibiotics and soaking it in hot saltwater. I may have to get it removed. Meanwhile, I've taken great care while walking.

Not much else has happened this week. We got chased by a couple of bolo's (drunk people) on Friday, but they were too hammered to do much besides stumble towards us. We easily avoided them. That's what's ironic here. Lots of people will lie and say we're devil-worshippers, but they all still act like we as white kids are obliged to pay them money if they ask for it. We don't, of course, but it's just backwards logic. Makes me a bit saddened.

I've noticed that the whole country is but a husk of its former self, due to the devastating earthquake and subsequent civil war of the 70's. Since that time, what is left of the country has rebuilt itself, but only to an extent. Somewhere along the way it lost sight of the key component to a progressing and/or stable society: the family.

As stated countless times by the Presidency of the Church and other scripture, the family is the base unit, the foundation upon which all of society is based. Take that away, and society (or at least civilized, progressing society) slowly starts to degenerate.

It's happened here in Nicaragua, and It's beginning to happen in the States as well. More and more people outside the Church are placing less emphasis on the family, deeming it "unnecessary" or "outmoded." Those who declare such cannot see the inevitable future which awaits should their teachings take hold: a degenerate, stagnating society.

Starfish


I am so grateful to have been born in the Church, and to have learned its doctrine. As I grow in maturity and gain more knowledge, I've come to see the importance of teachings that seemed too complex or even arcane to me. Even just being here in Nicaragua has made me appreciate what I had back home.

That was my little thought for the day.

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

1.       What is the plan for the Christmas phone call? What time should we expect you to contact us? Will it be a phone call or can you Skype?
* I will call you guys on either December 24th or 25th. One of those two days the Cibers are all closed, so I have to find out which. Also, I can't remember how to use Skype. Could you send me some info on that?

2.       Did you get BOTH Christmas packages that we sent? Did you take pictures? We’d love to see you with all your Christmas stash! If you get any more from anyone else, PLEASE take pictures. That means the world to us.
* I've only recieved one package thus far. I've actually eaten most of the food in it by now, but I'll be sure to take pictures of the rest.

3.       When will your District? (or is it Zone? What are you called?) all be gathering together with Pres Collado?
* All our Zone (all 24 missionaries in Puerto Cabezas) will meet together on Dec. 29th with President to have our Christmas/New Year's celebration.

4.       How’s the investigator search going? Are you allowed to baptize in the ocean? That would be so cool if you can!
* We've had a couple people here get baptized in the ocean or in rivers, so it's definitely possible. As for investigators, we're in a bit of a drought once more. We need to start anew in finding.

5.       How hot does it get there at this time of year? Does it rain every day? Do you need to use your shoe dryer daily? Is there a lot of mud? If yes, how deep?  Would you rather have rubber boots?
* It's actually been a little chilly in the mornings, then it returns to being really hot during the day. I don't know if it's just that time of the year or if I'm starting to lose my endurance for good 'ol Colorado cold. I use the shoe dryer daily, and yes, there is a ton of mud. My boots are doing great, though. We have an extra pair of rubber boots here if I get tired of my Ecco ones.

6.       What is your typical day like (not P-day) there.  I know you get up super early and go to bed early too. What happens in between?
* We study (scriptures and Miskito) until 10am, then we proselyte from 10 to 12:30. Lunch is from 12:30 to 1:30, and then we proselyte from 1:30 to 8:30. Dinner is somewhere in that period. After that, we plan for the next day and head to bed.

7.       Can you send us pictures of your house? Do you have an actual kitchen? Bathroom?
* Sure! I'll send pics of the house next week. No, we have neither kitchen nor bathroom. Just a table with an electric stove and an outside alcove with a toilet and shower. But we make do.

8.   Any issues with animals? Dogs? Wild pigs? Rabid creatures?
* I kicked a couple of dogs a few days ago, but nothing usually bothers us. There are wild pigs, goats, cows, and chickens, but they keep to themselves.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Big Changes in the Mission

Hey all!

So, this week was pretty chaotic. End of November, heading into December, end of one transfer, heading into another. This month the Church has been organizing a Christ/Nativity themed video called "He is the Gift" ("El es la Dádiva" en español). You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzjFEMmM0Xs

Check it out. It's awesome.

So anyway, they're closing down a few areas of the mission because a ton of misioneros just completed their missions and are leaving, with very few to replace them. I`m pretty sure it's a seasonal thing. Like, there'll be big waves of newbies and small waves, depending on the time of year. This is kind of a "low tide" point in the mission.

Anyway, as part of the "Dádiva" event, all the misionaries of Puerto Cabezas gathered together in the Parque Centro (this big plaza at one end of town) and started giving out little reference cards to everyone. We also showed the "Dádiva" movie on this TV we'd hooked up to some speakers and a laptop. It was pretty legit. We also ended up having a ton of people pass through and see the movie (we had it repeating now and then), so it was pretty awesome overall.
Flex off

A little blurry, but very festive.

But, we ended up having to carry the church's tables all the way back to the chapel, a mile or so away. That wasn't too awesome. But it all turned out OK in the end.

So this week, Lawrence and I were contacting this one house when these two young Nica ladies answer the door. They let us in right away.
Then it got weird.
The first three questions they asked as soon as we sat down were:
1) Do you have a girlfriend?
2) Are you married?
3) Do you have kids?

Needless to say, we cut our message short to a simple invitation to church and got the heck outta there faster than Joseph with Potiphar's wife. It was super awkward. Gotta love the randomness of a mission.

Oh! I need to ask: what are the ring sizes of each family member? Dad, Mom, Alex, and Bree. It'll be a surprise. Please send me the info by next week.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex. and Bree. Stay strong, Mom. I am praying for you every day.

-Zach

QUESTIONS

 1. What do Nicas do to celebrate Christmas? Even the Moravians. Any parades or caroling or decorating? Any nativity scenes?

* I'm not totally sure what the Nicas do to celebrate. Some of them have put up Christmas trees; others put up little altars of Christ. There are neither parades nor caroling, so we're kinda missing the "Christmas Spirit" here. But they've been launching a few fireworks every night since the start of December. No nativity scenes either. You wouldn't know it's December down here thanks to Nicaragua's eternal summer.

2. Did you get your water filter working? Are you still healthy? No problems?

*The only water from a pressurized source here is unclean, so we buy all our water in bottles or I wire-filter it into my Nalgene bottle and then Steripen it. I haven't used my gravity-fed filter at all since I arrived here. I'm doing fine, though. Haven't gotten any weird sicknesses. Yet.
    
3. Have you eaten anything crazy there? Has the food situation improved for you? We are getting ready to send a package with some Ramen. I figure you can add a veggie and an egg for a little variety.

*Haven't eaten anything crazy here yet, either. I'm still waiting to try Tortuga (turtle) while I'm here. Actually, they do sell Ramen here, and Cup of Noodles as well. I really appreciate the Ramen-sending, but you don't have to send much, if any. They sell it here super cheap.
    
4. Have you gotten our Christmas package? We sent it on Nov 8.

*Yes! Thanks a ton! I received it on Tuesday when the ZL's (who travel to Managua once a month) returned to Puerto. THey bring the mail with them. I really liked the little scriptural references that matched with the gifts. Yes, I opened them already. Sorry! I couldn't wait. But seriously, thank you guys a ton.

 5. Will you be traveling back to the mission home for a Christmas mission conference? If so, will you fly? (Remember, you can always pay extra for baggage fees if you need.)

*All the missionaries on the West side of the mission (i.e. everybody but Puerto) gets together at the mission home for a Christmas celebration. We as a zone (just Puerto- all 26 of us) get together for our own little Christmas reunion, which Presidente Collado comes over to oversee. I won't be flying back to Managua for a while.




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Hope, Even While Facing Little Success

Hey All!

So, this week was pretty crazy.

We had ALL of our baptismal fechas (dates) fall through. We had started out with four and all of them had, for one reason or another, canceled on us. Needless to say, we were super bummed out.

But, we pressed forward in the work and we trusted that the Lord would help us to find SOMEBODY who wanted to hear our message.

Within two days (Thursday and Friday), we were able to find both a less-active family in one part of our area and an old investigator in another part. The less-active family hadn't come to church in three years and now had two kids who were of baptismal age. Not only that, but the family agreed to have them baptized this past Sunday. We baptized the old investigator, J_____, too.
Me, J_____, and Elder Lawrence.

Elder Lawrence, our two newest members (and little sister), and me.

One thing I've come to learn this past week is that there are two powers in this world, but they both actually extend before this world was as well. One is of God, and the other isn't. Both work insanely hard to further their goals, but as prophesied, only God will ultimately win.

We've seen the hand of both powers this past week. I'm so glad we're on the winning side.

So, on Sunday we rode the church bus to the chapel. I gotta say, the bus ride to church is one of my favorite things all week. This past Sunday, we rode on the roof since there wasn't any room inside. Yep. I sent some pictures. It was pretty fun.

Our favorite amusement ride on the mission so far!


It's lacking a little in seat belts----and seats.

Our ride to church.


On top of a bus.



What still gets me down here is that people go out of their way to criticize our church. Like in Sacrament Meeting, two teens from a different Christian church visited the service, and warned everybody sitting near them to refuse to take the sacrament because "the Mormons are a devil-worshipping cult." Some of the people actually believed them. We had to throw the two kids out because, dude, that ain't cool. That's like not just uncourteous, it's also kinda ironic since the two teens were technically Christian too.

Just goes to show some of the lengths Satan will go to to destroy the work of God. All we can do is continue the work.

I watched a movie called "Ephraim's Rescue" a few days ago. It's made by the same guys who made "17 Miracles." It's really awesome. You guys should look it up. It's the story of a man named Ephraim Hanks, who joined the LDS church in 1844 just before Joseph Smith's martyrdom. There's a point in the movie where Ephraim receives a blessing from Brigham Young. Here's part of what Brigham says:

"The Lord prepares each of us for the purposes which He has placed us on this earth to accomplish. Moments are set before each one of us, that if we give all that is within us, will bring us to an ability and power we have not before known."

This really strikes me deep, and I've been trying to follow this "advice" since I first heard it. Let me know what you think of the quote.

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

-Zach


QUESTIONS
1)  What is your companion’s parents’ names? Can we get in touch with them? Ask Elder Lawrence and lemme know. Did he graduate the same time as you?
*Lawrence's parents' names are A___ and B____. They're from Ridgeview Ward in East Stake. And Lawrence graduated a year before I did.

2)  Did you get the Miskito dictionary PDF last email? Do you want me to print it or do you just want to buy one there?
*If you could print it and send it, that would be fantastic.

3)  So, is that pretty much how birthdays are celebrated? A cake? Pretty simple and sweet. Any “big” birthdays? Like Sweet 16?
*In Managua, birthdays are always celebrated with a huge party and lots of alcohol (except for member parties). Since people are even poorer here than Managua, cakes usually do the trick. And it's not "sweet 16" here. Its "sweet 15."

4)  Do you need us to send you anything? We are getting ready a package to mail this week, so let me know. I think that last package you described was sent BEFORE we sent the Halloween package. I just cross my fingers and pray every time we send something to you that it will actually reach you.
*Chocolate would be awesome, if you can. I know it'll melt a little in the journey, but we have a tiny little fridge that i can stick it in when it arrives. This is also because chocolate is SUPER expensive here.

5) What do you guys DO on your p-days? How do you spend your time? Where do you go? What do you do for fun?
*We usually do some activity together at the chapel as a zone. We all try to do stuff together especially since we don't have communication with anyone else. We're kinda isolated out here. We also try to go somewhere together for lunch (they got a pretty good pizza place here). Somewhere in there we go shopping for food (breakfast and dinner for the rest of the week), and then we head to a Ciber to email our families.