Monday, February 23, 2015

Longest. Week. Ever.

Hey all!

Nasty pictures from Nathan! I hope he feels better soon. Sending prayers up there from down here.

Well, this week was definitely one of the most chaotic I've had in my mission thus far.

Tuesday I'll talk about in a separate email (Mom and Dad only), but Wednesday was pretty crazy. Lawrence and I were eating lunch at Hermana O____'s house when this man and woman come stumbling around the corner trading punches and scratching each other. The man looks like he's trying to get away from the woman, while the woman keeps trying to punch the man in the face. Both of them are scratched up a bit and bleeding. The dude manages to get away from the woman and starts running away from her across the yard. She picks up a machete lying on the front porch and comes after him.

Just then, Hermana O_____'s mother comes storming out of the house and confronts the woman. Amid frantic shouts (and cusses I think) of Miskito, the mother takes the machete from the woman's hands and leads her inside.  Turns out, she's one of O_____'s younger sisters and she had just gotten into a fight with her husband. Her husband, who was drunk at this point, had cut her arm open with a razor blade some minutes before, but appeared to regret doing so. As the wife was taken inside, the husband sat down on the lawn and cried. All this happened in less than two minutes.

While the woman later went to the hospital to patch up her arm, the husband jumped a bus headed for Rosita (a semi-distant community), leaving behind his wife and son. We haven't heard from him since.
After the little fistfight was over, Lawrence leans over to me and remarks, "that's how marriages end."
And I have to agree. There's a lot of families here (or pseudo-families) that are broken up (be it quickly or slowly) due to alcohol. And also due to the lack of strong family-oriented Christian teachings.

Anyway, Saturday through Sunday we had District Conference. Kinda like Stake Conference back home, except the Mission President is in charge of all the branches and districts in the mission over which he presides. Wards and stakes are under the jurisdiction of bishops and stake presidents, respectively.
So, we find out on Sunday morning an hour before conference that both buses that we'd chartered (contracted?) to pick up investigators had suddenly and without our notification had been taken by two other groups of missionaries in Puerto. After searching around somewhat frantically, we quickly (and miraculously) located another bus, which happened to be owned by the same company that we'd chartered the other two from. They amazingly agreed to let us use the bus to take members and investigators to church. The willingness to lend the bus was also due to the fact that our branch president had rented out a third bus to be used by us,  but which had mysteriously dropped off the face of the earth earlier that morning.

So, we end up taking this (fourth) bus on our normal route to pick up people for church. All goes well until about halfway through our route, when the bus chokes, shudders, and dies right there on the side of the road. We open up the hood, and discover that one of the drive belts has frayed and snapped.
By the way, it's a miracle these buses run at all. They're held together by so much stuff that's not actually auto parts it's crazy.

Anyway, the bus driver removes the broken belt and tries manually jump starting the engine. It turns over a few times, dies, then starts again, not without some fervent, heartfelt prayers from the 4 missionaries on board (Lawrence, Maughan, Mariño, and I).

I have no idea how the engine kept working without a drive belt. I'm not a mechanic by any standard, but I'm pretty sure a drive belt is absolutely necessary for an engine to run. And yet, before our very eyes, the engine groaned to life once more. I am absolutely convinced that the hand of God was working with us, helping us transport our 80-or-so passengers to church.

After jumping the engine, the driver sprints back to the wheel and shouts for everybody to get back on. As some curious onlookers had departed the bus to observe the engine restart, we had to herd everyone onto the bus once more. Luckily, we had picked up all the passengers on our route, and the last stop was the church building...on the other side of town.

The bus lurches forward about 400 yards or so, and then the rear passenger-side brake mechanism catches fire. Or maybe it was part of the tire or axel. I wasn't really sure. Anyway, all this black, nasty smoke starts billowing out of the rear passenger wheelwell. We take one look outside the bus at the smoke and tell the driver to head straight for the church. We actually had a few passengers start to panic as the bus continued smoking.

Finally, FINALLY we made it to the chapel, about 30 minutes late. As soon as we stop, everybody starts pouring out of the bus through the front door, back door, and a few of the windows. There were already two other buses parked out front, so their drivers came over with a bucket of water to see what was going on. They tossed the whole 5-gallon bucketful of water into the wheelwell, but it continued smoking. I herded all the members and investigators inside just as Hermana Collado (wife of the mission president) got up to speak.

Whew.

BUT! It wasn't over yet! Lawrence had been feeling under the weather all week, and especially today, so when we entered the chapel, he headed straight for the bathroom with diarrhea and vomiting. Not fun.
We ended up missing the entirety of Sunday conference as Lawrence was sick in the bathroom.
And then we took everybody home on the same creaky old bus.

Lawrence is feeling better now, but he has to get checked for intestinal parasites tomorrow.

All in all, one chaotic week.

As for myself, I'm a bit tired and pretty discouraged at the moment. Presidente Collado just introduced a new plan for finding new investigators to us last night, so that could bring some good results here. Oh! That reminds me: I have a bit of homework for each of you (Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree) to do this week.

I need you to write down the names of at least 10 families or friends that you guys know, along with their addresses. These 10 need to be at least somewhat open to the idea of a Restored Gospel. They can also be families where some are members and some aren't, people recently married, people who recently lost a loved one, or people who had a child recently.

Then, give the lists of names/addresses to the local missionaries. We're applying the same technique down here and we've been promise increased success in conversions by the general authorities. Could you give it a try?

The idea is that every member in the church is a missionary, not just those serving full-time. We can all work together to bring this message to the world.

Best wishes to Thomas Fife as he heads out next week. Can you get me his missionary email? And Dillon and Brennan Rogers' as well?

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

-Zach





Monday, February 16, 2015

To Infinity and Beyond

Hey all!

Well, this week we decided to broaden our horizons a bit. We traveled to the very edge of our area (Caminante 1), a little community called Kamla.

I should explain, the neighborhood of Caminante used to be split up into 3 areas (Caminante 1, 2, & 3), but in recent years it's been fused into two. The very edge of what used to be Caminante 3 (now part of our area) is the community Kamla, so we decided to travel over there to see what we could see.
It's very peaceful over there. The houses are very spaced out and there's a lot of jungle surrounding the whole area.

I tried to send pictures, but it looks like they'll have to wait till next week since the Ciber we're at isn't very good. Sorry.

Other than that, this whole entire week was another big trial. We lost all of our investigators once more, even the new ones encountered during the week. I know that at this point in time it's another test of patience and diligence that Heavenly Father has put in our path. I'm actually starting to get flashbacks of Waspan Sur in Managua from these past two weeks.

We have three Elders finishing their missions here in two weeks: Elder Salazar (Lawrence's most recent companion), Elder Mariño (Maughan's current companion), and Elder Alvarado (one of our ZL's). All three are really starting to get homesick.

I'm sorry this email is so short. Not much happened this week except a lot of diasappointment and fallen investigators. I hope you continue to enjoy Signe's visit and the (mostly) nice weather over there.

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

-Zach


1) Do the Nica’s celebrate Valentine’s Day? Any holy saint day? What do they do?
* They do celebrate Valentine's Day here. Down here it's called "Día de San Valentino" or "Día de Amor" (Day of Love). They also celebrate a TON of other holy saint days, of which not one have I heard about prior to the mission. Really to celebrate, they just close down a few local businesses and shops and hold drinking parties at their houses. It's a really bad way to celebrate.

2) What do Nica’s do with trash? Is there recycling? Or do they reuse what they can?
* They just throw trash on the ground wherever they happen to be. Literally. Sometimes people rake it into piles and burn it (lovely smells there),  but they only have a single tiny garbage truck working down here in Puerto Cabezas, and it was donated here by Japan. There is no recycling, but anytime a Nica sees a piece of trash that appeears useful for something else (a piece of wire, half a tarp, etc.) he picks it up and keeps it.

3) What size shoes do you need? I know they are Ecco brand, but we need the size. We will have to send each shoe in separate boxes.
*Both pairs that I have are size 43.

4) Have you eaten anything else interesting? Any cool Nica fruit that we don’t have here? A little more variety than beans and rice? Maybe ice cream? Or cold drinks? It was cool that you found some Mt. Dew!
*Not really. They aren't known for variety down here. The most interesting thing I've eaten here in a few weeks was the soup Elder Lawrence cooked up last night. He used a basic powdered chicken broth with some tiny noodles included. To spice it up he added egg, green pepper, and onion. And accidentally a whole packet of black pepper (i.e., literally "spiced up"). It was actually really good.
Yes, they have cold drinks. When the power's not shut off. The Mountain Dew was a favor from the ZL's when they traveled to Managua for their monthly leadership meeting with all the other ZL's.

5) Have you found any ukuleles or guitars there that you can play? I can send you music if you want. Do you see anyone playing the guitar there?
*I've seen a grand total of one guitar shop here, so I'll have to see if the prices are any good. I've only seen two missionary-owned guitars here, and they were hand-me-downs from missionaries who came before. I would love music, but I'd need a guitar first. I'll let you know before I try to buy one. A lot of the Moravian churches here use the guitar to "worship."

6) I found an interesting article online about the Miskito people and the LDS church. Here’s the link if you have time to read it.

    http://www.cumorah.com/index.php?target=view_other_articles&story_id=470&cat_id=30

Thanks! I'll share this link with Lawrence!

-Zach
       

Monday, February 9, 2015

Building the District Back Up

Hey all!

Well, this week was a mix of good and bad. So, the usual.
On Saturday, we baptized a couple by the name of O_____ and B_______.They're a bit on the quiet side, but they have a sincere desire to follow in and learn more about the Restored Gospel.
O_______ and B________ ready for baptism with me and Elder Lawrence.





Our branch isn't doing so well. Each Sunday we have a little less people coming to church. We started with some 120 members, and now 4 months later we are down to some 70 or so. Meanwhile, we are trying our darndest to up church attendance. A lot of the members here have actually moved to the communities nearby. They're basically like small villages or towns dispersed across the countryside.

Tomorrow, Elder Lawrence and I are going to head to the nearest community to Puerto, named Kamla. It's only a few minutes' drive from the edge of our area. We're hoping to find more success over there.

Other than that, not much going on around here right now. We get power outages every day now. They used to be every third day or so. For the most part they're just really annoying, but at night it sometimes gets really creepy. Without any power at night it just gets really dark and quiet.

So, that's my story for the week. Soak up some sun and cold weather for me and please say hi to Signe!

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

-Zach

1) Have you tried to do any recordings with your digital recorder that we sent in the package?

* I've played around a little bit with the recorder so far. I will try to send a recording and an email next week to test how it went.

2) How’s your toe? And how are your shoes holding up? Do you need us to send another pair?

* My toe's almost completely healed. I just gotta let the nail finish growing out, and it'll be good. My shoes are starting to get worn out. I'm only using one pair of the boots (I just brought both pairs of boots to Puerto), but I'll switch to the other pair when these get worn out. If you could send another pair of Ecco boots, that would be fantastic. I'm not sure how much longer this first pair will last.

3) So, what fun activities have you had a chance to do there? Hiking? Zip lining? Volcano trips?

* Haha none of those three. I wish. Actually we've been to the beach a couple of times, and we've crossed a river via climbing two trees, but nothing more exciting than that. I'll try to send some pictures the next time we cross the river.
Rice, Fried Plantains, and a Whole Fried Fish.


4) Tell us what the members are like there. Are most of them converts or are there many lifetimers?

* There is nothing but converts here. The oldest (longest baptized) converts here were baptized 20 years ago when the first LDS missionaries set foot in Puerto, but most of those "old-timers" have disappeared or long since gone inactive. There's still a few active ones left, though, and they are very strong in the church here.

5) What jobs do you do in the branches you are in? Teaching what classes? Talks?

* We actually don't have many jobs in the branch itself. Sometimes we give talks in church, and we always attend leadership meetings, but that's about it in the branch.

6) If you could turn back the clock, what would you have done differently to prepare for your mission?

* I would have honestly read through the Book of Mormon not only to read it, but to study and apply its teachings and events to my life in modern day. I would also have been more open and active with inviting my friends to church activities.

7) We will be getting ready to send another package later this week. Is there anything you need? Or want?

* Chocolate (Those kit-kat were the BOMB) and more CTR Spanish rings, please.

-Zach

Monday, February 2, 2015

Feb-Roo-Airy

Hey all!

This week was a bit hectic, but everything's starting to look up in our area. This past week, we found a whole bunch of positive investigators, some of whom were old investigators of older missionaries here in Puerto.

A few of them have copies of the Book of Mormon, and others are just really open to the restored gospel. I'm really grateful that the Lord has blessed us with these people, and I pray that I will be able to touch each of their hearts through the Holy Spirit.

It's actually quite fascinating to see how the Lord has prepared these investigators to hear our message. Some of them have Mormon friends or family, some of them were contacted my other missionaries in the street who-knows-how-long-ago, and others just happened to come across some LDS gospel materials. I've come to realize that there's really no such thing as coincidence in the mission.

Anyway, in other news, my toe is almost healed. I've been using the medical tape that I got in the Valentine's Day package (Spoiler Alert- I received it already!). Thank you guys so much! I love having an actual pillow to lay on at night. And also all the chocolate has already been eaten. I made sure to share with Elder Lawrence. A bit. But seriously, I cannot thank you guys enough. I need every single thing you sent in that package, so it was really useful and a huge morale booster at the same time.
Got the package! With a pillow (YAY!) since I left my pillow back in Managua!!

Lots of treasures.



Other than that, not much else happened this week. I am glad that the Seahawks lost the Superbowl. It's a nice little consolation to last year's flop.

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

-Zach




QUESTIONS
1.       What is your injury of the week? HAHAHA! Seriously, how is the dog bite and toe healing? Any infection to worry about? Send a picture of your dog bite.

* I'm okay so far. So far. I tripped and wiped out playing soccer today, but I'm fine. Dog bite's almost completely healed. Toe's almost healed too.

2.       How’s the money situation for you? We’ve noticed you’ve made about 5 withdrawals over the past week and a half, each in the amount of about $20. The dates are Jan 13, 15, and then 3 separate withdrawals on the 26th.Are you running out of money? We just need to know when you plan to take out cash (so we know it’s not fraud) and the amount you expect you need. Is money a problem to budget out? It seems strange that you’ve gone 6 months with no withdrawals and then suddenly $100 in a short amount of time. Please let us know your situation.

*  Each of these withdrawals were mine. I'm sorry; my budgeting hasn't been the greatest these past three weeks. I'll let you know when I plan to take out any more money before I do it. I've been working on planning my purchases out so I have enough funds to make it to the next pay day.

3.       Have you gotten our package yet?

* Yes! I got the package last Thursday. Basically all the food's already been eaten. Thank you so much for the stuff you sent!

4.       SEND PICTURES!

* Alright! I sent some just now.

-Zach

Being weird.

Treats for Elder Lawrence.

Yum


CTR rings we sent to give away