Monday, August 25, 2014

Elder Henry is in Costa Rica! "I don't even know where to begin..."

Welcome to Costa Rica! Catholic celebration/parade of All Saints Day festivities.
Mission Parents, the Wilkinsons

First off, I have no idea where the apostrophe is on this keyboard and where the colon is, so no smiley faces or apostrophes for me...

Soo I'm in Costa Rica.. haha its so crazy to think I'm in a foreign country and its also crazy to think that I've only been here a week. My companion is Elder Ritchie and the zone leaders, Elder Johnson and Garcia live with us in the apartment. We have a district of 8, 4 elders and 4 sisters. I only have met 2 of the sisters but one of them is from the thirty of us that came in so I'm not the only newbie in the district haha
(from left: trainer ("Dad"), Elder Henry, Trainer's trainer ("Grandpa"))

Oh I'm in San Ramon. Its pretty nice... way nicer than I expected for sure! We have a hot (most of the time) shower, we have an AMAZING (my cumpanero tells me that shes way better than normal) cocinera who cooks us lunch (big meal of the day) Tuesday-Saturday and also our ward mission leader Andres brings us something to eat every morning, like a baguette or some other bready thing. Andres, the ward mission leader, is just a total fireball. He comes out with us for at least a couple hours every single day and he organizes a lot of stuff for us. Oh man I just cant even describe he's like really great (I found the apostrophe by the way) and he's planning on going off to serve a mission in a few months as well.

There aren't that many dogs in the street and most of the ones that are just beg, they don't jump on us or anything so that's nice. I have fallen to the grand temptation of petting them a few times, but it's always been dogs with an owner that don't just wander into the streets and everything so they were pretty much clean. We're definitely not in the ghetto, I'm not super sure how well off our area is compared to other areas. I prepared myself for cold showers, dead dogs in the streets, sleeping with cockroaches, and seeing people running around with chicken blood on their heads (that was his brother's mission), so I don't really feel culture shocked... it's all pretty normal I feel like... We do eat rice and beans with every lunch but there's always plenty more with it. I always get super sleepy after lunch because it's way more than I'm used to eating in a sitting haha. We walk a super ton of course...Oh, the furniture here is horrible in 95% of peoples homes (he was a furniture salesman before his mission), but some things we just have to struggle on through haha. I don't know much but I'm learning more each day. The walking isn't as bad as I thought it would be, either, as in I just don't mind it much (except Saturday haha). I have had some interesting.. experiences adjusting to the diet here but hopefully those pass. Yesterday I ate plain peanut butter for about half an hour because A. we didn't have dinner but more importantly B. its peanut butter.
With the Elders in his apartment and Sister Chacon, who's daughter in law grew up in our ward!

Elder Ritchie is cool as in I don't have any beefs with him (oh he's a gringo by the way) but I have been so focused on trying to learn everything that we haven't really gotten to know each other super well yet. Especially since outside of the house we try to only talk in Spanish. Elder Ritchie is from near Idaho Falls Idaho, 1 older brother and 2 younger, aaand yeah. He went to one semester of college before the age change then he vroom vroomed on out here. He's really good at telling people what they need to do commitment wise and Im good at explaining why so once I learn the language we should compliment each other very well in lessons.

OH funny story, we were at a lesson and the guys wife was playing Plants vs. Zombies, so I told them about dad, and they like FREAKED out they thought it was sooo awesome! it was hilarious!

So on Saturday we played futbol (soccer for you Americans out there) with the youth and can I just say that I absolutely adore futbol and I'm so excited for when me and Coby are both back home and we can sit around talking about futbol together hahaha. BUT, that game totally trashed me because we were playing like full field because we had like 20 people playing. Then later that day we walked super far to an investigator (we didn't know there was a bus and we weren't sure where they lived) so we walked just suuuper far there although we caught a bus back and I was so tired and cold because I got sunburned that day that I threw my sweater on and then I slept in my church clothes, top button still buttoned and everything. That was really weird waking up on Sunday haha. Then Sunday was super rough because I was way tired from Saturday. BUT, I feel way better today and feel like my muscles are finally getting used to the routine so fear not. We aren't really doing anything today which I am totally down with because I just want a day to get everything in order haha. We already cleaned the apt and oh, good news my comp is a very clean person unlike the missionaries next door haha.

There's a quote in Preach My Gospel, page 11, that says "When you have done your very best, you may still experience disappointments, but you will not be disappointed in yourself." The only day I felt disappointed in myself way sunday, this quote is way true. It's totally my go to pick-me-up quote. There's just so much significance to those words, especially on a mission! Another quote, on the same topic in the opposite lighting, says the following (no colon...) "If you lower your expectations, your effectiveness will decrease." There is a difference between lowering expectations and lowering goals. Goals are supposed to be benchmarks which you know that you can achieve with all your effort and a whole lot of help from the Holy Ghost. Expectations for me are more long term, internal goals on how I should be progressing in my mission. If I lower those, can you imagine how ineffective of a missionary I would be? A missionary who isn't trying to meet goals of personal growth is a missionary who will quickly reach the capacity of how he can help others! So that quote speaks to me a lot also.

We have two golden investigators (they're married, so on paper its like one sheet but you get what I mean). R and N. They are truly humbled before the Lord and it's wild. We walked into my first lesson with them and Rstarts summarizing all the doctrine that he read in his homework assignment. HOLY COW!!! R has it figured out. Our role as missionaries is to set them on the right path with the right tools to discover the truth and change their lives. We can't do it for them. They gladly accept commitments, in fact R wanted to learn MORE about covenants and commandments! He is a man who understands that covenants and commandments of the Lord are there for our benefit, not detriment.

Oh, by the way addresses literally don't exist here. Like, the mission home's address was something like "50 meters to the left behind McDonalds by etc..." haha it's insane. Most people have cell phones though so we just kind of get that as our reliable contact info for them.  I'm starting to pick up on a few landmarks. Everything is different as far as learning directions when you're walking around all day; I feel that it's difficult not to start to make connections after a while!

It's almost funny to me when I think about the fact that I didn't really have a testimony of the Book of Mormon before I came out on my mission. I knew it was true, through logical discernment by the fruits of the church and my testimony of other things, but I didn't have a testimony that it was true. Testimony and knowledge are different things with different purposes. Knowledge is useful to guide our decisions by being enlightened, but it does not inherently demand any action. Testimony on the other hand, a testimony of something demands that you do something. Maybe it's devoting two years of your life to help others gain the testimony you have, or maybe it's praying. Either way, a testimony is spiritual knowledge which drives us to desire action. That's what I've gained of the Book of Mormon on my mission. It's a true book, with the words of true prophets of God in it. In my study journal I have written "The Book of Mormon was compiled and translated solely by true prophets of God." How different that is from books of this world. The truth of the Book of Mormon extends beyond the words on the pages. It emanates a spirit of truth, and all we have to do is open our hearts to realize that it is a book of scripture. Both the beginning and the end of the book speak about the ultimate way to dispel confusion and doubt, which is prayer. Moroni's promise holds true for all. If we study, ponder, and pray with sincere hearts and real intent, God will tell us what is and isn't true in this world. And in a world where misinformation is the norm, in a world where lies are justified as a means to a supposedly better end, prayer is what will help us discern what is true and what isn't. Knowledge can be twisted and turned and misused and confused, but testimony is constant.

OH we heard in church yesterday that theres a Gringo community around (we have 2 non Spanish speakers in our ward) and so we're going to go try and start an English branch!!! HOW FUNNY WOULD THAT BE?!?!?! But it should be good for a lot of reasons.
1. teach a Spanish class which will help my Spanish
2. they can understand me haha
3. re-energize the area
4. They don't have any other churches to go to so they should be pretty willing to come!

I love and miss you all, especially my cats...
My study buddy These guys hang out all around the house, I'm fairly sure they're harmless and I think we keep them around because they eat other bugs. They look a lot like the daddy long legs back home. (Love you Mom)

The view

First rain he experienced

MTC Teacher Maestro Holman he looked up to SO much

Sweater day at the MTC
Elder Tullis the tennis master playing some table tennis (he was Utah state champ in tennis for two years)
His bedroom
 One of the largest groups of LDS Missionaries to arrive in Costa Rica, at the airport! (thanks Sis Wilkinson!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Miracle at the Dentist's Office

We had our last lesson with Hermana Rebecca Ellingson on Saturday. She's off to get married!
 This week has been wild. I LEAVE ON MONDAY!!!! I am SO excited to get outa here haha. I still enjoy my time at the MTC but man I can not WAIT to start proselyting! To keep myself in the moment, I have to keep reminding myself: Learn from the past, look towards the future, and live in the present. I can't even explain how pumped I am to leave on Monday so I'm not even gonna try haha
So, starting last Thursday, we had a lesson with one of our 'investigators'. She's named Vanessa, and she's an atheist. The first 3? maybe 2 lessons were just absolutely worthless, we couldn't get her to open up. It's so difficult with an atheist because until you figure out why they're letting you meet with them, they completely shut you off. In reality though, that's basically all people. Understanding the needs of the people we come in contact with is how we make a difference in their lives. Anyways, last Thursday rolls around, and we're pretty hopeless about this meeting. We don't have much of a lesson plan at all, I think all that we had planned was to start off by singing "I am a Child of God" (in Spanish, of course). This was also our first time singing a hymn in a lesson. The spirit that poured into that lesson was so strong, so thick, is spoke comfort to her heart and testified to us that this is what she needed to hear. Elder Carter continued on to talk about how he didn't like that song as a child (he has a complex family story) but now he's come to love it thinking about the future family he'll build. (PS: The reason Vanessa is atheist is because when she was young her dad beat her mom and she felt that her prayers were never answered). So we talked a lot about what she wants in the future from a family and a little bit about how the gospel can help with that. I then asked her why she was letting us meet with her. She said that honestly, it was just because she wanted to learn more about Mormon culture. I responded with a promise and a plan. I told her that as she listened to our discussions, she'd come to understand Mormon culture, since you have to understand our doctrine to understand why we do things. I also promised her that if she allowed us to give her all the lessons, she'd gain a testimony of our church and a knowledge that God is real. Then she offered a prayer and the spirit was again just so thick. I love the opportunities I have here on my mission to feel God's love, both for me and others.

A friend shared this with me in an email and I loved it so much I wrote it down and will share it with all of you now:

"It's amazing how God works when we get quiet & dive into his word." In addition, I'd like to add another phrase:
"It's amazing how God works when we stop whining & dive into his work." 

I'm experiencing both of these so much right now. The miracles are everywhere, and I'm not even in the field yet.

Going chronologically through my diary, here's a thought I had from Tuesday:
"If you desire to command a man's intentions, to change his life in a fundamental way, you must first command his respect in a fundamental way. No lies, no pride, and no use of worldly power; you must prove to him the integrity of your character. To do that, you must have a character of integrity. You must first change your life in a fundamental way."

I was frustrated with a substitute teacher I had that day. The teacher had never built any respect with me, and so when she started to criticize me I got really defensive. It was a huge lesson to me on how people that I meet every day in the mission field will feel.

Tuesday, we had to go to the dentist's office because Elder Carter thought he had a cavity. We walked into that dentist's office, and the most amazing thing happened. We sat down and this lady started talking to us. Within 30 seconds of her saying hello, she was in tears telling us about the difficulties she was having in her life. We were able to share with her some scriptures and some thoughts, and were able to comfort her soul. I wish there was more we could've done, but it was such a cool experience. My name badge holds so much power. The part that really gets me though is how 'coincidental' the whole thing was.
1. Elder Carter didn't even end up having a cavity
2. We showed up 40 minutes early -- we shouldn't have even met her
3. We were able to get an appointment the same day that we contacted the dentist.

To quote my journal on the experience: "We were able to bring a woman closer to Christ today. She saw our badges and just poured out her concerns to us. I am so glad I was able to play the role of comforter today, and I am SO happy that I was worthy enough to be a spiritual conduit that the Lord could trust. It was truly wonderful to see God work in her life today."
Alright, one last thought. 

I'm a prideful man. It's a character trait that I'm working on, and I've been working on, and I'll be working on, but it is definitely a character flaw. I'm also overly competitive, and judge my brethren far too harshly. I have so many faults; I mess up many times every day. I go wrong all the time. But, to sum it up in a little bitty phrase, You can never go wrong with love. Never. Nada. Not even when an elder is overly competitive during volibol. Not even when a teacher hasn't earned my respect yet. Not even when a homeless man is sleeping on a park bench. I can never, ever go wrong with love. It's a really powerful concept, and it's really really true. Nobody can ever go wrong with love.

I'm sorry this weeks email was so scatter brained, there's just so much that happened. Love you all!
Yo se que Jesucristo es nuestro salvador y redentor. Yo se que mediante su expiacion puedo ser limpio. Yo se que puedo darle mis cargas y él las recibirá. Yo se que Dios es nuestro padre celestial, y nos ama. Yo se que la biblia y el Libro de Mormon son las palabras de profetas de Dios. Yo se que Dios tiene un plan de felicidad para nos. En el nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.
Elder Henry

Picture with the district that flew out this Monday (it's the whole zone),

With Elder Haderlie

Elder Roberts, our district leader, A big old goof.

Elder Tullis. I hope we're companions in the field. We could literally be brothers we're so similar!

Elder Dunford, from the district that just left. I'm gonna miss him! He's a GREAT man. Very profound, and really really super nice.

Elder Kleinman, my nerd buddy. We're gonna go see lord of the rings with a live orchestra when we get home. Also, I'm going to learn violin and we'll do 'concerning hobbits' on violin + guitar. Paz. (peace in Spanish -- he loves the 70's)

Elder (Tristan) Henderson. Do you know him?! He's from Battle Ground! He went to CAM and knows all my friends from there haha. The funniest part is that for 6 months, we sat in the same hall every morning at Clark College. Didn't even recognize him!!!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Parable of the Lion Caretaker

Photo Credit: BYU Memes
​So I was teaching a (pretend--training) investigator yesterday, when the Spirit brought a great analogy to me. I don't know if it will translate so well outside the lesson, but here goes.

 The man's life work was helping a big wildlife park in Zimbabwe, to keep all those wonderful species of animals safe.

What Greg does is save animals. He save wonderful, loving creatures in this beautiful, jaw-dropping world from all the evils that would try and ruin them. In short, he's a keeper of animals. He takes upon him a little, tiny shard of one roles of this earth when he goes to that park; that role of caretaker. He herds them into the safety of the park which will keep them safe from the many poachers that roam the savannah. He does his best to put them in an environment with water, with shade, and with friends. When a problem arises within the park, he expels it by removing the troublemaker. He is able to save animals.

What I do, as a missionary, is save souls. I save wonderful, loving creatures in this beautiful, jaw-dropping world from all the evils that would try and ruin them. I take upon me a little, tiny shard of one of the roles of Christ when I put His name on my chest, and that is the role of shepherd. I have the opportunity to be a keeper of souls. I herd them into the safety of the Gospel which will keep them safe from the many poachers that roam the safari. I will do my best to put them in an environment with love, with support, with the Spirit, and with friends. When a problem arises within their safety, in the form of doubt, I expel it by answering their questions with the truth. I, through the power of the Holy Ghost (because don't get me wrong, there's absolutely nothing I could do right without the Holy Ghost), am able to save souls. The same way that Greg will be able to save thousands of lions by saving the posterity of two, I have the opportunity to help thousands by changing the course of someone's posterity. 

I can tell you for a fact that a Lion will not always want to be corralled into his new environment. It's a lot of change, and it's a tight squeeze for a while. Plus, from his perspective the Lion has everything:

He's got the ability to run as quickly as anything he's ever seen.
He's got the ability to provide for himself with ease.
He's got the ability to roar the mightiest of roars.
He is the king of his world.

All in all, he's a successful fellow. But, that doesn't matter if there's no food for him to eat. The Lion needs an environment which can sustain his needs. He'll be able to keep running that wonderful run, roaring that wonderful roar, for a while, but eventually he'll run out of steam. That Lion is us.

We can get achieve as much as anything we've ever seen.
We can accomplish astounding things with relative ease.
We can make our mark on the Earth, a mightier mark than any other animal can.
We are the kings of this world.

All in all, we're a successful bunch of chaps. But, that doesn't matter if there's no spiritual food for us to eat. We need an environment which can uplift us continually. We'll be able to keep on progressing in our career, making our mark on the Earth, for a while, but eventually we'll run out of steam. We need to be shipped to a better spiritual environment, even if the trip there is a little uncomfortable and very foreign. We need to get ourselves in those gates where we have a whole set of staff to take care of us, make sure all our spiritual needs are met. We need to leave the safari we know and love, to move to a place safe from starvation, and safe from poachers. That place is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know this is true. I know it because throughout my own life, I've lived within and without the 'park'. The only time all my needs have been met is when I'm inside that park. It is absolutely imperative for the glory and well-being of every soul that they come towards Christ, our Savior, even if that venture means leaving behind the environment we love and are comfortable with. This is my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Lion at Wildlife Safari
​1. I've been getting along with everybody a lot better. Lots of prayers for humility, patience, and charity have helped a lot. (It isn't easy living with a dozen boys! Spencer is very laid back though and hard on himself, don't worry, he just doesn't want to get annoyed with people)

2. So since getting to the MTC I've gained ~5 lbs I think... maybe just 3. 165 right now.

3. So apparently dear elder takes like 2 days to get here, because I have your email that says you sent me that email and I think you sent it yesterday and I still don't have it. Just FYI
4. I Love the new garage!!! So much space :) It's great to see dad & Tori spend some good time together.

4b. I CANT BELIEVE TORI IS 16!!!! Happy birthday sis!!!! :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) Eddie should take her on a date haha Eddie's the bomb man!

5. MTC has been pretty MTC-ish the last week, haha. It's still good and I'm learning alot, but I'm slowly going crazyyy haha

6. No photos today... I was gonna take a bunch of pictures of all my buddies at the temple but I forgot my camera........ sorry... :/

7. A couple days ago it started pouring down rain right at the end of personal study time, and everybody ran out into the rain. (he is a little OCD haha) Most of our whole zone was out there running around. I stayed inside, as it's not in my nature to get wet, but everybody enjoyed it quite a bit.

8. We set a district goal to get 20 contacts/companionship every day this week, and it's been great so far. Even when 90% of our contacts are missionaries, it's good practice for my Spanish and uplifts all parties.

9. The Spanish is coming along. We learn the final grammar concept this week/the start of next week, then just review. My vocabulary is still pretty tiny but I'm tryin haha. Maestro (teacher) Holman cooked up a test for us to take so now I know which concepts I need to practice the most.