Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Exact obedience brings blessings!

Elder Ritchie & Elder Henry in a beautiful backyard in LaPaz
281: Elder Velasquez had a birthday! One of the traditions is to make them eat the cake... by smashing their face in it. We also covered him in flour and eggs, but I stayed in another room for that one to avoid any flak haha.

Fetch. Way to crank up the pressure! Haha no but I am seriously loving the mission so much.

I've been thinking in this example a lot the last few days, and I'm still not sure on an image that really brings up the point, but I like this one.

To me, there are really three different courses in life. That's disobedience, or negative action, neutrality, when you don't make negative actions, and obedience, which is positive action.

Disobedience basically makes life feel like a pair of silverback gorillas are dragging you down a volcano. It's not a very comfortable place.

Some obedience is a whole lot easier than being dragged down a volcano by two silverback gorillas. It's a lot more like hiking. A little tough, but really pretty easy and you get to see some nifty things. It's basically trudging through some of the basic things that we have to do, and staying away from any 'silverback gorillas' we see nearby. Honestly, this is where I felt before my mission. I remember talking alot about the blessing of the Gospel, and how it made life so much easier. And that's not a bad thing! But that was kind of the crowning event of obedience for me; the fact that it was easier.

Full obedience is not exactly easier than 'neutrality'. In the eternal perspective and when we're reflecting on lifetimes, I think it probably does pan out to be easier, but in the time scale of weeks, months, and years, it really isn't easier. It requires stretching ourselves day by day, pushing farther than we think we can. This is like what climbing Mt. Adams was like for me.

I actually wrote an 8 page essay on this hike once, but I don't have that handy to copy and paste from. If Mom could do some googling and find the elevation gain in the Mt. Adam hike that would be great, but I think it's something like a mile of elev. gain. Something like from 7,000 ft. to 12,500 ft. (It was 5570 ft. to 12276, so about 6700 feet or 1.25 miles total) We did the hike in two days, so we were carrying 50 or something pound packs on our back. Climbing this mountain was, physically, the hardest thing I've done in my life. It's clear as day for me to see that. I hurt all over and I felt completely wiped out, like I couldn't take another step. The only thing that kept me going was that I had to get up before I got down, and than after that wasn't enough anymore only the encouragement of my leaders kept me pushing through. I started out counting in hills, then in sets of 10 steps, then in 5, then I just had to take 1 more step before I took a break.

I cannot explain how glad I am that I climbed Mount Adams. It's one of my most cherished memories!

Being completely obedient, devoting our lives to improving ourselves as disciples of Christ, isn't easy. Sometimes, we're going to have to get down to just getting through one more month, one more week, one more hour! before we take a break. But then, at the end of the day, it's the most rewarding experience we'll have gone through - the best path we'll have walked in our lives. 

The world says that we should be as water -- taking the path of least resistance. I have never been happy living like that. I remember feeling deprived -- deprived of experience, deprived of friends, deprived of joy, but I wasn't willing to put in the effort to see the results.

Staying away from the negative just isn't enough. We have to seek out our spiritual mountains to climb. It might be tough, I can actually guarantee it will be tough, and we might not feel capable, but after '2 short days' of suffering we'll have gained our most cherished memories.

A. The language is coming. It's so hard to figure out where I am but I'm comfortable saying i'm 'fluent' (dictionary definition -- basically that I can get around but have no mastery of the language) -- for everything I need. Conversation can get tricky and if I'm lazy/in a bad mood I can't do it so well, but for the most part I can say what I want.

B. I've been eating... A lot of cereal. :) We buy pancakes and cereal and milk basically haha and then to supplement that some bananas, cookies, and I love peanuts and yogurt. From other people we normally get some sort of bread or cookie and a fresco (like kool-aid mix or something liek that) or agua dulce (sweet water (the best thing in the world that doesn't exist in the states), so nothing really weird. We ate rice and beans with pickles yesterday at Jorge Lopez's house, that was weird but actually really good hahaha.

C. Yeah I can find my way around to all our regulars pretty normally, as far as finding new peoples houses you just have to have them on the phone since there's no addresses and streets aren't named haha...

E, J, I, and C
This family is awesome. They are just awesome. The biggest problem in our lessons is that they have too many good questions to answer! E and J aren't married but have been together for 9 years (happens a lot here). The problem with getting them married is that it will cost them some 400 dollars because E needs to take out his papers to get married. He's legal, it's just a matter of having the paperwork. He was actually unemployed for a long time and just got a job (the day after Elder Ritchie gave him a blessing of comfort in which he said that E wouldn't need to worry about work anymore -- super cool) but E said yesterday that he's actually willing to move out of the house temporarily while they got baptized so that it was all okie dokie. That's how bad he wants to get baptized! We're looking to baptize them the 8th of November :) The rest of the family is awesome too.  I is really nice as well and C, the younger brother, is great as well. He said "I haven't been reading too much Book of Mormon, I'm only on to chapter 4 of 1st Nephi (ah ok well that's a bit of a bummer but not terrible) But I really like this Gospels Principles book, I've read through pg. 55 of it!" Holy Cow! Haha. J is awesome too, A member asked me on Sunday if she was a member because she already seems like one in how she dresses and acts and everything haha she has a heart of gold. You'd get along wonderfully with her mom :-)

J and D
J is the Daughter of A, who got baptized last week, and D is the granddaughter. They have dates for the 23rd of next month, and they are really great. I think that J already has her confirmation that this church is true, we had a really good lesson about prayer and feeling the spirit where she was in a bad mood at the start of the lesson and by the end she was just beaming and then we pointed that out to her. Their biggest problem is not coming to church. We're bringing a sister from the ward tomorrow because I think that it's J feeling shy and nervous about it, and I know D will follow if her grandma AND mom come. They've both come once before, so it's just a matter of helping them feel the spirit and want to go. They're really great though. J said she's naming her kids Spencer and Gavin (my companion's name) haha plus they make us agua dulce or hot chocolate like all the time so just one more reason to absolutely love that house :-)
279 & 280: Isn't that a cool looking bug? I haven't seen any cool bugs really, but there are just a TON around the new chapel! I don't know why but all the cool bugs are there haha. Actually we were playing futbol one night at a missionary activity and the court is lit with little stadium light dealios and it was wild because all these different bugs were just flying around lit up by the lights. These big huge green grasshopper things especially, they're like the size of my hand but a little wider when their wings are out. And then just a ton of different moths and stuff.

Speaking of which, 2 butterfly stories! We went to La Paz to visit the Soto family (the family we baptized last week) and we got to go check out their back yard area thing. We've gone once before but it was raining, and it was just GORGEOUS this time. There were a lot of really pretty butterflies flying around, but especially there was a huge, bright shining blue one about the size of both my hands put together that we saw and a HUGE black one, even bigger than that blue one. 

Then, in Elder's Quorum on Sunday, somehow a butterfly got into the room! So there was this big (not huge but big) all black butterfly flying around during announcements and stuff haha.
282: One day Jorge Lopez called and said we needed to be at his house ASAP. He had to leave at 1, and it was like 12:20. Well Elder Ritchie had to go to Grecia to do a baptismal interview and he was going with Elder Johnson, so we had Elder Velasquez and I go to Jorge Lopez. Turns out, he just wanted to feed us hot dogs hahaha! Mustard, pickles, and crumbled up potato chips on top with canada dry to drink. Yummmmm. Elder Ritchie was a bit upset to have missed it haha.

290 & 291: A couple more views from that same back yard (La Paz is GORGEOUS).
296: I suddenly realized how unusual to me these huge leaves would have been a few months ago haha. They just seem normal now! That's a banana tree I think (Andres took the photo). Speaking of bananas, do you know what Platanos (plataines?) are? They're like sour bananas. I don't like them. But, you can fry green ones and they make DELICIOUS platacones (platano chip fried things...)

286 Elder Ritchie and I in La Paz (where those butterflies were)
288: Andres and I, same spot

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Chapel, New Font, Baptisms!

Whelp, there is a ton of stuff to write about this week and very little time.

I'm going to talk first about the crazy week, then the baptisms, then the district activity, then see if there's time for anything else!

Ok. Crazy week. On Monday, Hna. Paredes from our district had to come here to San Ramon for the Emergency Hospital. Her stomach was killing her. At 10:30, we went to go give a blessing to her and then went back to make pancakes (our house is like 100 meters from the Hospital). Took them the pancakes and all, came back, and got to bed about midnight. We had it good though, because they got back at 5 AM. It turned out that she had a problem with her Gall Bladder.

Then on Tuesday, one of our Zone Leaders Elder Ballen came to do an interview for us. It was decided that he'd join us at our district meeting, stay the night and head out Wednesday. Whelp, his companions had to go to San Jose Wednesday, so he ended up staying with us until Saturday! Now I don't know what you all know about a house of Elders, but it's never really too well stocked on the food side, since we buy everything we eat and don't buy much for fancy cooking :-) So, food was a little thin this week haha. Oh yeah, he had like no money as well.

Then on Wednesday (ok might have been Tuesday, I can't remember too well) The same Hna. Paredes fainted. That was a big scare. She ended up having to go to San Jose (1.5 hrs away) twice or thrice this week because she fainted some 4 or 5 times. Still not sure why, but she's going home to Argentina tonight. Since my companion's the district leader, we've been in the middle of all this with millions of phone calls between the sisters, the zone leaders, the nurse, president's wife, and the sister specialists (sister training leaders).

On Saturday we had the new chapel opening, which was great. about 150 nonmembers showed up I think is the number. Hna. Paredes fainted at that too (which is the point that it was decided that she's going home) so my companion and Elder Johnson went with her and Elder Valesquez and I had to stay and try and piece together some plans out of the two of our days to hit our important appointments, because our planned splits fell through. Then we ended up walking (fast walking, missionary pace) for about 3 hours and had all our citas (appointments) but 1 fall through.
Then Sunday was crazy with the new chapel and all that jazz, and then today we had a missionary activity all day.
Elder Ritchie, Isabel, Elder Henry

Four hours after the new chapel was dedicated! Wonderful way to "break in" the new font!
Ok. On to the baptism :)

From our area, A, I, and the family of Iv, L, and J got baptized. From San Ramon II area C and A were baptized. 12 people in white between the baptizers and the baptizees.

Out of the 5 baptisms that we had, 4 were references. The thing about working with members is that it really is just the way to find people who are prepared! While there's nothing wrong with teaching people who are unprepared, our role as missionaries really isn't so much to be that preparing force. Our role in these two years is (more of) seeking out those who are prepared and helping them into the waters of baptism. Member Missionary work is the way to go. I was actually talking with a member (Jorge Lopez) last night and talking to him about how if all the active members (About 175 is our usual at church) put in ONE HOUR to missionary work in a week, they've done more than my whole week. That's including sleeping, eating, and P-Day.

Alright, On to District Activity. It was really fun :) We just hung out at the new chapel. We all arrived at about 8 and Hna. Pacheco brought a little bit of DELICIOUS cake that a member made for her. Then we hung around and chit chatted for a while then went on to playing on the new courts we have :) The volleyball poles aren't here yet so we just played Basketball and Futbol. Then, somebody had the wonderful idea of going to a pulperia (store) and buying flour. It's custom here in Costa Rica to throw flour on somebody and crack an egg on their head for their birthday. Well, no eggs were involved, but it ended up with everybody being covered in flour and drenched from a refilled coke bottle. I was not very happy about that, but it was okay. Then we played ball for a while more and then made another cake (that strange looking small little cake there in the picture haha).

It really ended up not being such a birthday celebration and a farewell to Hermana Paredes, as she leaves tonight. All the same, it was very nice to be able to have that for her before she left, as it was an emergency transfer and all. Great to spend a day with the District.

Love the German Futbol jersey on the new missionary!
Happy birthday/farewell Hermana Pacheco and HB Elder Velasquez
Hna Pacheco making the cake :-)
I love my mission. I just want to all to know that God's plan is the Plan of our Salvation and also the Plan of our Happiness. When we give our Heavenly Father the reigns, he makes us pretty happy campers. I actually studied Hope and Faith for a few days because they're so difficult to separate. Hope is having a trust in God's plan and will for us. It's formed out of faith, an attribute we have, which is why it's hard to differentiate. Confiding our lives in God's plan is literally having Hope in our lives.

I love you all. Thank you for your blog comments, as well! Keep on Keepin' on.

-Elder Henry

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Baptisms at a Water Park

Andres treated us to some delicious BBQ
We did some service!
Look where Elder Johnson and Valesquez baptized this Saturday! In a water park haha!
Boy oh boy, this has been a long week! For all the right reasons though, it's just been packed with different things. I don't really even remember Tuesday and Wednesday haha.

So, I guess the first thing that I want to share is about my prayers. Well, really it's about friends, but I realized it through my prayers. 

When I started my mission, I prayed a lot for my friends. Sometimes I'd ask specific things for specific friends, sometimes I'd just ask for all of them to be happy and safe.

Now, I still ask for that. But I find myself then thinking of all my friends here in Costa Rica, and asking things for them, too. I've always been one to keep a pretty small net of friends, but this mission has blessed me with so many beautiful and meaningful friendships. I think the coolest things is exemplified by an investigator we have, who's getting baptized this Sunday.

Every day we go eat lunch at a lady Juli's house. She's preparing to go on a mission next year! And she's just hilarious. She's good friends with our ward mission leader, Andres, who's also prepping for a mission, and a recent convert named Catalina who's also prepping to go on a mission. A few weeks ago, an investigator who we didn't know showed up to church. Turns out that she's Juli's best friend, who had invited her to church. I had listened to the missionaries before, but never gone to church. We started teaching I in the same house that we eat at, Juli's, with Juli Andres and Catalina present. Now, they had all been friends before, but since we've started teaching those discussions there is an indescribable bond that they have. They have come so much closer to each other as friends! As well, there's a special spark in Juli since she's really dived into the missionary work. She's just always a little bit happier than she was before. And the coolest part is that Elder Ritchie and I get to be more than just I's guide into the church, we get to be part of this spiritually enriching friendship as well.

The gospel improves our lives in a much more direct and applicable way than we sometimes realize. As we come closer to God, we will have better relationships, with friends, significant others, and spouses alike.

It's difficult for me to unpack everything that happened this week and boil it down into the basic story, but here goes.

In the start of this week, we were feeling a lot of pressure from the Zone Leaders to find more New Investigators. While it's always important to find new investigators and especially in our companionship we're not very good at it, all the pressure was starting to get to us. It seemed like no matter what we did, our day wasn't successful if we didn't hit that goal of new investigators. Then, on Friday morning during weekly planning, we took a step back. Our week had been pretty frail up to this point. Our lessons just weren't so powerful, our work not so efficient. We took a step back during our Weekly Planning Session (a 2 hour chunk of time to make broader, week-wide plans and goals) and looked at our Area Plan. We had decided to make an Area Plan some 5 weeks ago, and following it had brought us a ton of success! As we reviewed the inspired plan that we had taken the time to record (notice how recording inspiration helped us here!), we were able to refocus on the three pillars of missionary work: Planning (which we were still doing well), Teaching (stress had taken the place of the Spirit in our lives), and member missionary work (since member work doesn't bring numerical results immediately, we had let it slip a bit). The inspired goals we had set before let us get that spirit back in our teaching (stress goes away when you plan specific ways to hit goals) and reenergize our work with the members! And then, after two miracle filled days of Friday and Saturday, 14 of our investigators came to church! To give some perspective, the most we had ever gotten before was 9, and we doubled what we had last week in a week that was likely to be bad (some event was happening that Sunday).

We really only had 2 days of effective working time this last week, but it turned out to be one of our best weeks. It's a gentle reminder to me of how much Christ could do if he were to just teach one lesson a day. Sometimes we focus on using all of our time efficiently, and we don't give the focus to the spirit and using our time effectively. It was a really big, and really humbling, lesson.

I don't want to jinx it, but it's looking really sure that I'll have baptismal pictures for you all next week!

I love you all. Make sure you're staying worthy to have the spirit as your companion, and using your time effectively to edify your lives and lives of those around you :-)


Elder Henry
I can't really easily explain what we're doing with our hands, but it's in inside joke with the district :-) (that's the whole district at a teaching fireside we had yesterday)
On our way back in the busette!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Whelp, there goes my first kiss!

 Conference Day Picture yay!

Guess where Elder Johnson baptized yesterday! We can't use the new font since the new building isn't open, and the pool we were using is more or less broken, so to the river it is! I should be sending a picture of me there next week as well :-)
Vaca Santa! Holy Cow! CONFERENCE WAS AMAZING! I got so many good things out of conference :-) Now to go back, study them, and apply them! 

I've grown a special appreciation for what I call machete's. Basically, whenever somebody talks dang straight, calling you to repentance. Of course they can hurt, and often times they aren't done with much finesse, but I love them because they give us specific changes for us to make in our lives. The machete talks of conference were honestly some of my favorite, because now I can easily see ways to improve myself!

I didn't baptize last saturday. The papers, which A was told would be ready Friday, weren't ready until today. This Saturday it is, fijo (for sure). She told us ourselves that whether she had to get temporarily separated or if she got married, she'd be getting baptized this Saturday. She has a wildly strong testimony. 

Oh yeah, the newbie! His name is Elder Velasquez, and he's Latin. He seems pretty cool, he's a little quiet but then again so was I haha. He likes League, so I'm going to use him during my language study to help translate my lessons, which should make them a lot better! Haha. All in all he seems pretty great, I'm actually going on splits with him tonight, while my companion does some baptismal interviews.

We're looking to have 4 baptisms this week, and the other area in our ward is looking to have 2. They're all really really fijo, and it also looks like all 4 of us elders are going to baptize! So hopefully next monday I'll have a picture of 10 people in white, probably by a river :-) We can't use the font in the new chapel and the pool has a million holes in it, so to the river it is haha. 

Alright, before I get the real good spiritual stuff in here, I should stick in the laugh of the week. This is also why the E-mail is titled 'there goes my first kiss!'

On Wednesday, we had to go to Grecia to do a baptismal interview. I was actually feeling really good with my Spanish! I was cracking jokes and everything, and it was rolling really smoothly and it was awesome. Anyways, we get into the house of the guy who needs the interview, and the family comes out to chit chat! First was the guys wife, and then the daughter came out, who's somewhere in the general vincinity of my age. She greets the sisters with kisses like always (the little Latin side kiss thingers). Now, the kicker is that there aren't Elders in Grecia, so not everybody knows all their rules. She walks over towards me and I stick out my hand, and she shakes it and before I can say anything or even respond she (Latin cheek kiss) KISSED ME! I WAS SO RED (according to Elder Ritchie). It was so. awkward. Holy cow. Oh my goodness. It was bad haha. But the worst part was that after that, Elder Ritchie went off to do the interview, and that girl said how Elder Ritchie was 'guapo', which basically means handsome. I started cracking up because she was trying to flirt with him (she was in another room while she was talking to us), until I heard that she said I was guapo, too. Then she complimented my eyes, which doesn't even make sense since I don't have blue eyes, and yeah. It was really bad. Really really really bad.

Alright, there's the laugh for the week. I always thought that I wouldn't have to deal with awkward experiences anymore here on the mission, but I've been thoroughly proved wrong this week.

Alright, I have some pretty nifty (i think) things to share today.

First, I want to talk about Humility. Humility is something that I've always found that I struggle with! It's always seemed like I either lack confidence, or lack Humility! Of course I know that they're two separate things, but I've never been able to separate the two!

I was studying Humility on Saturday Morning before conference, and came to a realization. What Humility really is is a product of trusting in our Heavenly Father and our savior, Jesus Christ. As we honestly, thoroughly trust them, we gain that confidence I was talking about! But as our trust is in them, not ourselves, we remain humble in the knowledge that it is not by our own power that we accomplish things! That's the kicker! In Preach my Gospel, it actually says that increased humility directly means an increase of confidence! So to any of you other there who lack confidence, I exhort you to study Humility.

The other thing that I wanted to talk about was one of the machetes which stood out to me particularly during conference. It was in Jorg Klebingat's talk, which started off by asking the question: 'How would I feel if I had an interview with Christ in 1 minute?'

He talked about, first of 6 points, Taking responsibility for our own spiritual well-being. In essence, not making excuses.

Now, here's the things. None of us have legitimate excuses for under performing. In reality, we just don't.

But, A lot of you probably have some pretty darn legitimate reasons for things that happened! In the eyes of the world, you'd be blameless for blaming that thing. Probably in my eyes too, honestly. But that's not the point. The point of this life isn't to live and hope that good circumstances befall us. The point of this life is to learn and grow, to come to know God.

If we excuse an event because of an outside circumstance, do we learn from that event? Do we give ourselves opportunities to grow, and to come to Know God, through doing that?

No. Absolutely not. Not in any way, shape, or form. So what's the point of making excuses? What's the point of taking the time to point out why we're justified in under-performing? How on this sweet Earth does that help us in our goal?

We need to take responsibility for our own spiritual well-being. Some of us are blessed with a loving home in which the gospel is taught, and some of us are commissioned with the task of being a light in a home that's darkened by the influences of the world. All the same, our spiritual well being is our responsibility. The sooner we ingrain that into our thoughts, the sooner we'll find that we have begun to start progressing in this life.

I love you all so much. I'm so grateful for this opportunity to be in Costa Rica, to both show and grow my testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Way and the Light, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is God's Church on the Earth today.

-Elder Henry

We got to go into the new chapel last Friday night :-) It is sooo awesome!!!
 Mismo (same)
 Every good buildings got a set of nice fans here in Costa Rica haha
194 Our Conference setup (yes in English) That's a Gringo return senior missionary that came to visit sitting by us :-) She was very nice. Lives in Salt Lake.
206 I found a lizard :-)