Monday, January 26, 2015

In a Mission, the Only Constant is Change

Hey all!

This week was definitely more uplifting than last week. I went on double divisions with my District Leader (Elder Castellanos) on Thursday and one of the Zone Leaders (Elder Compton) on Friday. Both days we ended up encountering lots of potential investigators and a couple solid (re)starts in our area. I'm glad we're finally starting to see success again.

Not only that, we baptized one of our investigators this past Saturday! Her name is C______, and even though she's only 11 years old, she felt a strong desire to follow Jesus Christ and be baptized in His church. We'd been having doubts about continuing to teach her family, but it appears her aunt (and guardian) N______ is opening her mind to the Restored Gospel. We might baptize her this next Saturday.


Friday divisions with Elder Comton was a little bit crazy. While we were on our way to visit C______'s family with our branch president to invite her to get baptized, this lady stops us in the middle of the path we're on and says something panickedly in Miskito. Our branch president (Eduardo Super) quickly translated that the lady wanted us to bless her son, who was "sick." We'd never seen her before, but apparently she lived in a neighborhood that we often tracted in and was too afraid to talk to us before.

Anyway, we make our way over to their house to find her son on the floor with several full-grown men sitting on his limbs to keep him down. A relative quickly explained that he was "afflicted" by something, and that he often hurt other family members or ran around outside crazily.

I turned to Elder Compton and asked, "Have you ever had to cast out devils before?"

He says, "Yeah. A couple times. I learned it from older missionaries that I've had as companions. I'll show you how to do it."

So we anoint this boy with oil, and have Elder Compton, Brother Super, and me take part in the blessing. While it was being enacted, we could hear the boy's teeth grinding inside his head. His whole entire body would tense up now and then.

When it was over, the boy relaxed, going completely limp. It felt as if a great pressure had been removed from the house. Elder Comton stared at the kid awhile, then turned to me and said, "That should do it." Then we continued on to C______'s house.

Then later that night while we were searching for an old investigator, we end up finding out that she had moved from her old house to a new one across town that same day. I turn to Elder Compton and I'm like, "Can we go find her?"

He's like, "Well, I am ZL, so let's go."

We end up taking a taxi across town to another neighborhood called Lamlaya. After finding certain reference points relating to her house (they don't have addresses here), we end up saying a prayer for Heavenly Father to grant us a miracle to help find her. Immediately after we closed, I felt impressed to talk to the lady managing a nearby pulpería (shop) to see if she'd seen anybody moving in recently. She hadn't, but after talking with her a bit more we found out that she was the niece of Compton's old stake president in Managua. She was actually a member too (and her whole family), but they'd fallen inactive the past year. Compton and I were able to convince her to begin attending church once more.

In an odd, roundabout way, God had put us in the exact right spot at the exact right time to encounter this less-active family and bring them back into the fold.

Not five minutes later we also found the old investigator that we'd been looking for. So that prayer was also answered.

Never forget the power of prayer, especially specific prayer. It has been promised many, many times that if we ask of God in faith, He will give unto us.

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

-Zach

P.S. Bree, I hope you feel better soon. I'm really sorry that you feel ooky right now.

P.P.S. I got bit by a dog on Saturday morning, but it didn't get through my pants. My leg's a bit scratched up, but otherwise I'm fine. I let the mission office know that it happened, and there appeared to be nothing wrong with the dog (although it was angry with us), so they said I should be fine. I'll let you guys know if anything bad happens.


QUESTIONS

1. How was the fireside? It sounds really fun! Was it just for missionaries or did any members attend? Do you have any pictures?
* It was super fun! It was just with other missionaries from the zone, so it made it a bit more personal I guess. I myself forgot to bring my camera, but I'm pretty sure I can get photos from some of the other missionaries.

2. How’s the toe? All better?
* Improving. Not infected anymore, but the nail still needs to grow out some more before it stops cutting into my toe.

 3.  And the food situation? Are you eating more than just beans and rice now? Getting more protein?
* We get meat from our lunch appointment almost every day, and they sell eggs and peanut butter at the supermarket. So, I should be good.

4. How’s the language coming along? Miskito?
* I haven't actually been studying Miskito that much. Just some simple phrases. I've been mainly focusing on finding new investigators who speak Spanish first.

5. Would you like us to send you other church magazines in English-- not just the Liahona in Spanish?
* They actually hand out Spanish Liahonas here, so if you could send some in English, that would be fantastic.
   
6.  Are you keeping  a regular journal?
* I am. It's like every other day, but there are tons of spiritual experiences I've been recording. Especially a few that happened this past Friday. I'll say more in the big email.   




Monday, January 19, 2015

Not-So-Changing-Changes

Hey all!

This week was pretty disappointing. ALL of our investigators fell. And all four baptismal dates too. Super sad, but that's often part of the mission. Just gotta roll with it.

Also, changes (i.e. transfers) rolled around, and though the entire rest of Puerto Cabezas is changing areas, our whole District isn't. Yep, its Lawrence and I together again for the third time. He's a great guy.

Not only that, we're getting another companionship here in P.C. We now got a total of 26 missionaries working here in Puerto. Two of them, Elders Crane and Maughan, were in my CCM group, so that's nice. We're also gonna have another "fogata" (fireside) here to kick the new transfer off. It's pretty cool. We make this huge bonfire at a member's house and each of us gets a chance to bear our testimonies.

Other than that, not much out of the norm this week. Days are kinda blurring together a little bit. While we work way over here in Puerto, the rest of the missionaries back West are changing their areas around a ton. Maybe I should be grateful for this period of "smaller changes."


I'll be cheering for New England over Seattle in the Super Bowl this year, thanks to last year's game. Yep.

Sorry that this one's so short. Not much happened this week. Also it's eternal summer here, so winter is nothin' but a memory.

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

-Zach

1) Toe? Better? Back down to 1 doxy per day. Keep it clean and dry.
* Getting better. Infection's almost gone, and the nail's growing out now. I've been taping and soaking it daily.

2)  Have you taken any cash out? We saw a withdrawal on the 13th and the 15th each for about $20. Was that you? If so, that’s fine. We just need to keep track to make sure it wasn’t someone else.
* Yes, that was me on the 13th and the 15th. I can be sure to let you guys know whenever I do take out money.

3) Did you get groceries? Getting better food?
* The eggs and ramen was actually a fantastic idea. Thank you for reminding me! It tasted like home.

4) Any more food illness? Turtle?
* No new food illnesses. Yet. I was actually told by some of the Miskito people here that gringos who eat turtle for the first time usually get really sick, and then the second time they're fine. I'm not so sure on that, but it was Elder Lawrence's second time eating it (he got terrible diarrhea the first time) and he was fine this time around.

5) What is a typical Sunday like? How early do you get up? How far away is the chapel? Do you meet up with other missionaries? How long do you stay at church? How do you get back home?
* A typical Sunday we get up just like any other day, except we go around reminding and inviting people to go to church. If we don't do this, they don't come. Sometimes we have to walk with them to the bus just to make sure they go. Anyway, we have a bus that brings us to and from the church. Sometimes we go to two of the services because some of our investigators couldn't make the first one. After that, we proselyte 'till 7PM, then turn in for weekly numbers and go to bed.

6) How are splits going with the locals?
* Fine. We only do it on Sundays to be able to invite everybody to church.

Monday, January 12, 2015

...Tortuga...

Hey all!

So, this week was SUPER busy, but we got a lot of good stuff out of it. And some not-so-good-stuff too.

On Tuesday we came across this family that we had taught two months ago. We had dropped them as investigators because they'd left for Managua at the start of December. Then we found 'em this past week and started up teaching them again, with much more positive results than before. The next day (Wednesday) we put a baptismal fecha (date) with three of them, set for Jan 21. Their names are W_____, D____, and D____. They're two sisters and one brother, and they're all in their 20's and 30's. Each one has a varying level of readiness, but all of them have prayed and recieved an answer that our message is true.
Then, we passed by another of our old investigators, who had also developed an interest in the church in our absence. We put a fecha with her too, for Jan 27. Her name is C____.

Then, on Saturday morning we got a call from J____, an old investigator. We've kind of put her and her boyfriend R_____ on hold for now because the missionaries have been teaching their family for almost two years now and they've expressed a desire to get married and baptized, Lawrence and I have always had difficulties finding them at their house.

Anyway, they traveled to one of the communities (smaller towns along the East Coast) for the holidays. On Saturday morning J____ called us and told us that her son C______ was tired of waiting to get baptized, and so she was sending him home by bus so that we could baptize him on Sunday.

Really crazy. But, I know the Lord is blessing us tremendously right now.

Speaking of crazy, turns out Elder Lawrence knew a ton of the same friends that I knew and even dated a lot of the same girls I dated. For instance, Marcus Daley was one of his best friends, and he took Brianne Bullen and Emily Vasas out on dates sometimes.

Weird.
I still think it's weird how two guys could live in the same city within 20 miles of each other for 6 years, having the same friends and the same religión, and still not meet each other until they came together in the same misión at the same time in the farthest-away zone as companions.

I think Heavenly Father has a sense of humor.

Also, for lunch on Saturday Hermana O____ made us tortuga (turtle) for lunch! I had no idea until she told me. It tastes and looks like pork. It was super delicious.
Tortuga anyone?
I dare you to eat it!

That is, until I woke up at 1:30 on Sunday morning with vomit and diarrhea. I have officially become a "Puerto Missionary" now, according to some of the missionaries who have more time here.

I don't like turtle meat as much anymore.
I am doing better physically, though.

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

-Zach
Our house

In the middle of the street.

The neighborhood

Check out the door. This is why we need mosquito nets.

Bedroom. I need a pillow!

At the end of a long day, it's just nice to have a place to lay down.

Welcome to our not-so-spa-like, but very functional bathroom.
Cold shower/hose in the wall.

All the comforts of home.


QUESTIONS

1) Bree wants to know if you’ve wet or pooped your bed yet?
 *Funny story about that. I'll explain in the big email.

2) How’s your toe doing? It’s been over 10 days now that you should’ve been taking 2 doxy pills to treat it. If it’s doing better, go back to 1 pill a day. If it’s not, you can take 2 pills for 7 more days, but that’s it.
Toe
*My toe's still kinda iffy. I've been soaking it and taping it and taking doxy, but it doesn't seem to be getting better. I'll try doxy twice a day for the 7 more days, and we'll see how it goes.

3) Any transfers? Are you staying put?
*No news yet. I'm probably staying put but we'll find out for sure next week.

4) How’s the food situation? You’ve gotta eat something more than just beans and rice. GO BUY GROCERIES! Make a sandwich! Eggs in Ramen is good! You need protein- not just carbs.
*Will try that. I'm actually pretty darn sick of rice.

5) We sent your package!!! Hopefully it reaches you by valentines day. It has EVERYTHING you asked for. Including the pillow!
*Thank you so much! I look forward to receiving it.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Welcoming in the New Year

Hey all!

This week was definitely super busy. We had to go searching all over again for new investigators 'cause our old ones fell through again. But, we worked diligently and with fervent prayer. This week, we came across two positive families.

The first had actually been visited by missionaries about a year ago, but they forgot to write their information down while they taught them. So, when both of the missionaries suddenly changed areas, nobody knew about this one family. Now, here we are a year later teaching them. They'd already received a copy of the Book of Mormon and some of the pamphlets, and are really positive about the lessons. I guess you could say we are seeing the fruits of seeds planted over a year ago.

The second family is super evangelical (entrenched in their own faith), but we've invited them to pray and ask Heavenly Father if our message to them is true. They have, and as promised by prophets and apostles they've received a witness by the Holy Ghost that it is indeed true. Now they're more interested, as many of the things we've taught (that there is a living prophet on the earth today, that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, etc), they've never heard before. It's nice to see the Holy Spirit touch people's hearts.

So, last Thursday Lawrence and I were walking from one part of our área to another when we came across a large crowd of people. As we passed by, we noticed that all of them were gathered around this one drunk lady. They were making fun of here, pushing her around, and even dumping buckets of wáter on her. As drunk as she was, she could do little more than stagger around confusedly and scream.

When we walked by, she immediately noticed us two and shoved through the crowd just to be at our side. She clung to Lawrence's arm (who looked really flustered) lke it was a lifeboat in a sea of confusion.

Technically, it was.

Anyway, she kept begging us to help her and praying to God. They way the non-member Nicas pray here is by raising their voices and shouting to God. This lady kept screaming "ALABA A DIOS!" (Praise be to God!) over and over again. Then she fell to her knees and started sobbing. Everybody else was still making fun of her.

An old man came up to me and told me not to help the lady because she was drunk and couldn't think straight. I took a knee in front of the lady and tried to get her attention. She just kept sobbing and repeating those same words and "Perdóname, Jesús" (Forgive me, Jesus) as well.

The whole thing reminded me of when the people brought the woman taken in adultery before Jesus in the temple. I saw pure fear in those woman's eyes.

I was immediately inspired to call a passing taxi, and paid him for the journey of the woman. I instructed him to "take her where she tells you to go," (i.e. her house), "or to the hospital if she doesn't." Then we hepled the still-sobbing woman into the taxi, which left soon after.

The people dispersed.

The look in the lady's eyes reminded me of the "pains of the soul" that Alma the Younger spoke of to his son. He had mentioned that they were "most exquisite." I saw fear, confusion, and guilt in that woman's eyes.

The whole experience, which was slightly surreal, taught me a few lessons.

First, we as missionaries are actual representatives of Jesus Christ. As such, we are meant to be noticeable with our white shirts and ties, which often stand out in a casually-dressed crowd.

Second, it is part of our duty to not only teach and baptize, but to give service to others in any way we can, as Christ did.

"Helping the Poor" was actually a repeated theme in October's General Conference.

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

-Zach

P.S. Bree, I love all the little emails you send. Please don't get discouraged; I notice and enjoy every one of your messages. They really mean a lot to me.

Alex, thank you for your messages as well. It's nice to get little updates on life from your perspective.


 QUESTIONS

1) I never got to ask you what you did during Christmas day. Did you get to sleep in? Or did you go to members’ homes and visit? Or did you go tracting?

* We did not sleep in, sadly. We still had to work and stuff. It was basically a "normal work day" except for the fact that we got to call our families. A bunch of the misioneros partied, though. We didn't. We visited member's houses, gave candy and church invitations out to kids and adults, and wore Santa hats around everywhere. It was still pretty fun.

2) Did you survive New Years? How was that? Noisy? Any problems with drunks?

* I am so grateful I packed earplugs. Both for Christmas Day and for New Year's. Without 'em, I don't know if I'd have been able to sleep with all the fireworks and shouting going on outside.

3)  How was the post-Christmas conference with the mission prez?

* It was super fun! Except for the parts where we had to get flu shots. THAT wasn't fun. But the rest was. We watched the Maze Runner and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (both dubbed in Spanish, with English subtitles). Then we went to dinner (glazed ham and pasta salad! NOT rice and beans!), and afterwards we had a zone-wide talent show. I sang a few times. Overall, it was super fun.

4) Tell us how your hand and toe are doing. Healing? Still having issues?

* Hand is fine. It's all closed up and scarred over now. Foot is doing better. I'm soaking it every day and taking 2 Doxycycline pills daily too. And taping it with duct tape.


 
5) I’m giving advice to other Missionary Moms. Would you have any suggestions of stuff to bring that you’ve discovered you can’t live without? I’ve told them about the shoe dryers and steripen.

* Duct tape. And a Leatherman. And a little tiny blank notebook or two.

7) We will mail out your package this week. Just waiting on the garment tops to pack in there, then it will be on its way!

* Hey, if you could, could you guys please send a little camp pillow too? I left my old one back in Managua and I'm pretty sure it's long gone by now. I've been using my towel folded up as a pillow for the past couple months.

-Zach

Friday, January 2, 2015

Email from Mission President

Dear marvelous parents, 
We would like to extend our gratitude and happiness to you and your family in this season of joy. Thank you so much for allowing us to have your son with us this special day, serving the Lord with all his heart, might, mind and strength. He makes us very proud, so surely we can´t imagine how proud you must be! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
-Nicaragua Managua North Mission
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!