Monday, April 27, 2015

10 Months In - OR - Everything Falls Apart

Hey all!
Well, this week kinda sucked. We lost almost all of our investigators and must once more start anew (no surprises there). What was disappointing was that out of our two investigators with baptismal dates for this Saturday, only one was baptized. The other simply stopped talking to us, for whatever reason, and refused to explain why she suddenly no longer desired to make a commitment with God.

Super frustrating.

But, I know that this is the Lord testing our faith, patience, and resolve. I am determined to make the best of this setback.

Anyway, Elder Duncan (President of the Central American Missions) will be visiting Puerto Cabezas this upcoming May. I don't know what for, but I'm pumped to meet him. I've been asked by the AP's in Managua to prepare two hymns to be sung for his visit. One will be in Español, and the other in Miskito. So, some craziness there.

Also my shirts have begun to fall apart. I'll see if I can get them repaired this week, but if not, I may need you guys to send me a couple new white shirts.

I sent you guys a recording of Primer Nefi, capítulo uno (First Nephi, chapter one). I have a Spanish copy of the Book of Mormon sitting on my shelf in my room, if you guys haven't packed up my stuff yet. You can use that to follow along if you like. I've also sent two recordings to Alex.

I'm sending my weekly (not scripture) recordings in this email. Hope you like them.

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

-Zach

QUESTIONS

1)  How’s the toe? All well? No more problemos?
*My toe is completely healed. This is truly a relief.

2) What is your plan for contacting us on Mother’s Day (May 10th)? It looks like we are the same time zone as you are right now. We have church that morning (obviously) until noon, but will be home after that. Do you have your Skype login information? I’ll send it again anyway.
*We are allowed to contact our families from Friday May 8th to Monday May 11th, excluding Sunday. So, I can't call you guys directly on Mother's Day. We will try to call you guys at 3:00 PM on Saturday, May 9th. That's the running plan.

3) What is something you are working on right now? Music? Language? Patience? Punctuality?
*All 4, actually. The mission AP's just called me today and asked me to prepare two hymns for Elder Duncan's (President of all the Central-American Missions) visit to Puerto Cabezas. That was kinda weird. I am still practicing Spanish and trying to get into Miskito. Patience and Punctuality are developed every day.

4)  Does your church building have an organ or a piano?
*They have an electric piano. Why?

5) Do you have the “True to the Faith” manual?
*Yes, in Spanish.

6) Is the church pretty good about giving newly baptized members a calling?
*Depends on their willingness to work. Some members are really just bumps on a log.

7)  What language do the church members primarily use?
*Honestly it's like 50% of the people speak Spanish, and 50% speak Miskito. So it's really a mix.
       
    
[Mom note: Zach sent us audio files from different parts of his week. It was so much fun to hear his voice! They are only a couple minutes long at most. Just click on the picture below to link to the audio file.]





Monday, April 20, 2015

Crazy Jumpstart Week!

Hey all!

Well, this week was definitely an answer to many, many prayers. For starters, after going into the week with only 3 investigators, we've filled our bases and now have 12 fresh investigators ready to hear the Restored Gospel.

We also baptized two kids, J_____ and B__________, on Friday. They're cousins of D_____ and S______ (recent converts), and with their baptisms we've almost completely converted the entire household.

In other news, we're among the "top 15" best companionships in the mission at the moment, according to a new ranking system developed by President Collado.

I actually don't have much to say on this email, but I am attaching a recording that I made Sunday night. Let me know what you guys think of it.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree.
-Zach  
   
 
VOICE RECORDING
Hey guys! It's April 19, 2015 and the time is 9:19 at night and I've finally, FINALLY decided to try out this recording thingy. I'm sorry I haven't sent out a recording before this, but it's been an interesting week actually. We had little to no investigators coming into the week and we are just now filling up our bases and have a full roster. We also baptized and confirmed a couple people today. So all in all it's been a successful week.

The mission so far has been going good. Right now I'm working in Loma Verde 2, that part of Rama, the branch. I've been here for a transfer and a week, so about 7 weeks in total.

Things with Choque are going great. We are developing a relationship as a companionship. And even though we don't really have the same interests, we do respect each other. He's an amazing teacher. I guess we're just developing a friendship together in the face of this crazy mission.

Well, I am going to propose something to you guys. I hit up on this idea when I was reading your letters. Remember back when Dad was deployed to Korea, he would send me recordings of Harry Potter books--specifically Book 5, The Order of the Phoenix. I feel like it might be cool to try the same thing with maybe the Book of Mormon or other scripture readings. So, let me know what you think of that proposal.

So, this is my first "official" recording since you sent me this recorder. I'm sorry it took me so long. Okay. See you guys.

QUESTIONS - ANSWERS- STUFF 
1) We sent your first shoe package this week! ONE SHOE. With lots and lots of treats. It’s a larger size than your previous ones. And a different style. We will send out the second shoe next week.
*Thanks a bunch! I look forward to receiving them.

2) What are you doing for language study? How long do you spend on it? Are you and your companion pretty equivalent in your language level? Do you use any Miskito?
*We spend an hour a day studying mostly Spanish, with a gradual transition into Miskito. We've been trying to implement more Miskito in our lessons, though it's slow going. Hopefully I can develop my Miskito as much as I've developed my Spanish thus far. Having 6 weeks more in the mission than Elder Choque, I feel that my Spanish is slightly more developed than his, but we've both still got a lot to learn.

3) How’s the tracting going in this area? Any spiritual stories to share?
*Tracting is going great here! Much better than Caminante 1 was. I'll share more in the big email.

4) Tell us more about your companion! Any brothers/sisters? Has he lived in the US all his life?
*Elder Choque is from West Jordan, Utah. He is 19 years old, has 1 older brother, 1 older sister, and 1 younger sister. His father is native Bolivian (like Native American Bolivian), but he immigrated to the US as a young man. He later met LDS missionaries there. So, Choque is half Bolivian, but he didn't speak a lick of Spanish until he got to the mission field. He's lived in West Jordan all his life. He was actually a less-active for quite some time, but turned his life around recently in order to be able to serve a full-time mission. How cool is that??

5) With the hope that this doesn’t send you down a dark place, what do you miss most about home? Anything we can send?
*I miss you guys personally (obviously) and American food. I'm getting pretty darn sick of beans and rice down here. I also miss dating (this April's GC theme - families- didn't help) and driving cars. I miss a lot. But, I won't go too far into that. As for things to send, can you guys please send me two or three new pairs of black socks, one pair of medium dri-lux garment bottoms, and Duct tape? Also Hershey's chocolate.

6) Why haven’t you sent any pictures except for your toe for the past month? Is your camera broken? Or lost? Or stolen? If none of those—PLEASE SEND PICTURES!!! If it’s one of those, then we will figure out something for you to get another camera.
*I'm so sorry for the recent lack of pictures! I've been slacking on taking photos recently. I promise I'll send more photos next week.

-Zach

Monday, April 13, 2015

Almost 10 Months!

Hey all!

Well, to be honest not much happened this past week. We lost almost all of our investigators to one reason or another, some of whom had baptismal dates. So, at the moment, we are searching for new investigators. Not fun, but it's gotta be done.

In other news, Choque and I have been called to serve another change in the same area together. While some of the areas in Puerto are changing around us, we will remain the same.

We have three newbies arriving in Puerto: Elder Baltimore, Hermana Bradshaw, and Hermana Ponce. They're replacing the three missionaries who just completed their missions this week. They're also the first missionaries outside of our zone that we've seen (besides the APs) since we came to Puerto, so it'll be nice to see some new faces. The zone fireside's tomorrow night.

Oh! Lawrence finally got called out of Caminante and is now assigned to work in Loma Verde 1 with Elder Monson. So, he'll be in my district. Kinda weird. The dude has 9 straight months of working in the same area, so I'm sure this is a breath of fresh air for him.

As for my toe, it is looking remarkably better. After the partial removal, antibiotics, and cotton inserted, it is now neither infected nor swollen. This is seriously a huge physical relief to me, and one that I have been praying and fasting for for some time. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father has answered my (and my family's) prayers.

I can't believe everybody back home is leaving on their missions! It still feels like only weeks ago we were all together finishing our senior year of high school.

I also found out that Marcus Daley recently completed his mission and is home now. What a great guy.

That's all for now. Thanks a bunch for all your prayers and messages. I love you guys a ton.

I love you all. I love you Mom, Dad, Alex, and Bree. I hope Bree's wrist feels better soon.

Zach

1) Do any of the Nica’s go to church on Sunday? I know you brought a lot to church with you- but what about the Catholics or Moravians?

* Yes, a lot of them do go to church every Sunday. Some, like the Moravians, go to church all day for several sessions. Others, like the Evangelicals, have these big revival sessions every Saturday and Sunday night. One such church is located directly across the street from my current house, so we get to enjoy "Come to Jesus" screaming prayer sessions every Sunday night after church. Some don't even go to church at all, but sit on street corners and drink alcohol.

2)   Do they do Easter egg hunts or is that a Western concoction?

*No Easter egg hunts here. Those appear to be a States-only pastime.

3) How far do you walk in an average day? Are you still wearing flip flops? How are your running shoes holding up? Do you need another pair?

*I'm back to regular shoes, since my toe's healed up nicely once more. I'm not sure how much we walk in a day. It's gotta be at least 3-4 miles or so. We have neither cars nor bikes, so it's all walking or taxis.
My running shoes I left in Managua with half my stuff. Kinda an oversight on my part. They do sell running shoes here as well, so I'll see if I can get a pair of those before I have you guys send me a pair.

4) How’s the water in your current place? Do you drink from a well? Or buy purified water?

*The water's fine. We still buy a container of purified water every week or so.

5)  Please tell us how your toe is doing.

*My toe is doing much, much better. With the cotton in place, it should begin growing normally in no time.

6) We’ve noticed that you are still withdrawing some money each month. Can you please let us know if that is something we should expect from now on? If so, please let us know what you are using the money for. It’s okay if you need to use the money—we just need to know what it is for.

*I've actually been running out of funds towards the end of every 15 days (that's when we receive the next payment). Most of it, after setting aside the necessary parts for house and laundry payment, go towards food and taxi rides. Since everything is a little more expensive on the East Coast (shipping costs), I run out of funds faster than I'd like to. This past half-month was especially bad. I usually take out around 500 córdobas at the same time as the mission payment just to make it through the last few days. It's spent on food and transportation. I think this might become a regular thing. Is that okay?

PS- Sending out the one shoe package on Monday. There will be other treats in there, but only ONE shoe!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

General Conference of Legend #2

Hey All!

Well, this past weekend was a huge spiritual boost, one that I very much needed.

One of the high points of this week was definitely General Conference. Not only did Choque and I bring a ton of investigators and recent converts to the sessions, we also had the amazing opportunity to view all 5 sessions in English! Yep, they set up this TV in one of the clerk's offices and it soon became packed with 14 or so English-speaking missionaries. All in all, it was really awesome.

One of my favorite talks was by Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy. He talked about interacting with family members who have fallen away or become inactive. Frequently he drew upon the parable of the prodigal son as comparison. He emphasized that above all else, we must love them as we had before and simply be patient and have faith. As a member with a few less-active family members, I know this talk applied directly to me and I'm grateful for its counsel. I know Mom  mentioned it too in her email, so she was impressed by it as well.

Another one of my favorite talks was by Jeffrey R. Holland. I fell like in addition to giving members a huge boost of morale, it also delivered a powerful bachete to atheism in general. Like, can one really believe that after 80 years or so of living, we die and that's the end forever? The entire universe and all its many creations scream "NO!" I'm gonna try to download the talk later on.

In other news, I heard more on the "mission-splitting" rumor going around. Apparently, if the split were to take place, it will happen this coming July.

Again, this is still a rumor, so I can't confirm anything, But I'll keep you posted.

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

-Zach

Healing Toe!! YAY!!!!!
QUESTIONS

1.       HOW ARE YOU? (I’m not sure if I’m getting the vibe that something is wrong and you just aren’t telling me, or if I’m misreading it, but I’m going to call the mission president if you don’t send me a picture of your toe.)
*I'm doing good.  My toe is healing nicely, and I will send you guys a picture tomorrow morning. Overall, I'm great.

2.       Did you get a chance to watch Conference? If yes, where? Which sessions? Which ones were your favorites?
*I did watch Conference! All 5 sessions! And in English!!! It was truly a blessing to be able to see it given where I'm serving right now. I'll say more in the big email.

3.       How are things with your new companion? Going along well? How is his work ethic & language skills?
*We're doing great! I can't believe it's already been 5 weeks working with Elder Choque. He's a pretty chill guy and a hard worker. His language has developed impressively, given the fact that he didn't speak a word of Spanish when he first entered the mission.

4.       Any idea when you might be moved out of Puerto? Is Lawrence still out there?
*No idea when I'll leave Puerto. The average time for a Latino missionary to be assigned to Puerto is about eight months, but I know several American missionaries who've been here for a longer period than that. The longest I've ever seen a missionary serve here was 17 months (Elder Mariño, from Argentina) and the shortest was 4 1/2 months (Elder Zorrilla, also from Argentina).

So, I dunno. We got three missionaries ending their missions here next week (2 sisters and one elder), and they sometimes send other missionaries who aren't quite done with their missions back to the Pacific as well. I now have 5 1/2 months in Puerto, and Lawrence is still here.

5.       Any more sea turtle incidents? Or other foods?
*No other "incidents" as of yet. Hopefully that's how it'll stay.

6.       How do Nica’s celebrate Easter?
*They celebrate with lots of drinking and house parties. Just like every other holiday and/or weekend.

7.       Have you heard anything about your last lunch cita’s daughter Adaluz? Is she doing better?
*She is doing much better. Recently she moved to the community of Bonanza to study, but she is doing great.

-Zach