Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalms 46:10-11

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't Eat the Oranges!

Hey there y'all!  How's it going?
So this week was kinda weird.     

Also, dad, as far as tender mercies, Pepsi is not one.  Sodas that are EASY and cheap to find here are Pepsi, Orange Crush, Grapette, Creme Soda, 7up, Coke, and a few others.  But I've become a Pepsi guy, the Sodermans would be proud.  I'm also going to take  a little time to explain better what exactly the Noche De Hermanamiento is.  It's just an activity the ward does, we didn't organize it haha (but I can't promise it happens when we're not there)  It's just a little thing where a member shared a fireside-esque thing and then we play a game (which we're always in charge of) and eat some food, it's really simple but it gets the branch together. 
So let's start with the good.  We met with Alvaro on Tuesday and actually had a really good lesson.  We exchanged questions about churches and we learned a bit about his church.  We taught about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon AGAIN.  But he actually seemed kinda positive about it this time!  :)  He promised he would pray about it and admitted that it was possible, that everything we were teaching was possible!  So that's progress.  We also met with Andrés and Anna on Tuesday.  We lost our fecha with Andrés :(  He un-set his baptismal date.  And we found out he's not married.  So he went from being our most positive to our least positive. 
The reason we did all of this work on one day is because we thought we were going to be out of our area from Wednesday to Saturday (because, ya know, they told us we would.  We were supposed to go to Xela)  But we didn't.  Apparently a hurricane rolled in and made traveling super dangerous.  On Wednesday we received seven different calls telling us what to do, 3 different times they told us we weren't allowed to go work and then finally it ended up being a work day.  So with crappy weather and no appointments we just.... did service haha. That's what we do. 
On Thursday we went to visit a less active lady and she gave us oranges.... BAD IDEA TO EAT THEM!!!!!!  We spent Friday and Saturday in the house, Friday because I couldn't stay out of the bathroom for more than 10 minutes and Saturday because Elder B couldn't get out of bed his stomach hurt so bad.  So that was two days of doing nothing haha  which is always weird. 
Saturday though we had our Noche (it was with a family from Nebaj so they can't come but on Saturdays) and the attendance kinda made us mad.  40 people, 6 investigators came INCLUDING Alvaro haha.  That's SOOOOO much better than church.  Then none of them showed up to church, we had a totally normal day yesterday haha  We did have 9 less actives come to church so I guess we're getting SOME work done in the great North haha
So now things, first off, how have I never known about the Vernal temple? That thing is so rad!  The week I get home, Nicole, Meagan, and I are road tripping out to Vernal to go to that.  Don't care what they say :)  Also, at some point I want to go up to Cardston Alberta temple so whoever wants to go to Canada is welcome!  Also, we got a reference from a guy in another area, a guy named William.  He lives about 2 hours away but every time we talk to him on the phone he's super stoked to talk with us so we're probably going to make the trek out there this week haha... something to do :) 
Ensign articles you should look up: From the February 2005 issue "7 Lessons on Sharing the Gospel" by Elder Clayton M Christensen.  Super good stuff about helping members to share the gospel!  Also DAD LOOK UP IN THE AUGUST 1999 "Paul: An Untiring Witness of Christ" with your love and appreciation for New Testament apostles I think you'll like it a lot :) 
Well, I think that's all, love you all!
-Elder Westenskow

Good Week!

SO!  We had a good week, things are looking up in Cunén
First news, we are no longer teaching Andrés but we are teaching the family Rodriguez!  We stopped by to visit with him and asked if the family could be with us and they all came!  Even the wife who doesn't like us!  We wanted to do something not controversial so we read The Family: A Proclamation to the World with them and they were really interested in Temples so we said that they could go to the open house when it happened to see it!  We didn't get to read the whole proclamation with them but we left if with them and they said they'd read it together!  We had another appointment with them on Saturday but they called to cancel it.  You may think this is a bad sign but remember I said they CALLED to cancel it!  So that means that they remembered about it and realized they couldn't do it and actually cared enough to call us! yay.

So this week we were out of our area a lot, we had a conference in Xela on Tuesday and PDay was Monday so we didn't get to our area until Wednesday afternoon because we had zone meeting on Wednesday morning
But on Saturday we had a good day!  A girl that works for one of our branch members and lives with them as well finally let us teach her.  She goes to family home evening with them and does all that stuff.  She studies on Sundays but she finished yesterday.  We have a cita with her tomorrow though so we're going to get a firm commitment to come to church.  A bunch of stuff in the afternoon fell so we had some extra time and we were really really tired from service we did so we decided to go get our shoes shined.  You'll never guess who showed up.... ALVARO!  He just strolled up and started talking to us, obviously we talked to him about church and tried to commit him to come the next day.  His response "I'll go to yours if you come to mine" seemed only fair.  So we got the permission and we went to an evangelical church yesterday. But  first, he came to sacrament meeting.  I think he had a good experience, sacrament went really long and so we told him he could leave when it was over but he decided to stay for sunday school haha.  He even bore his "testimony" (and he didn't mention false prophets (which he several times has accused us of being) and didn't speak too much apostasy!) and he joined in the Sunday School lesson, he said his favorite part was the hymns. 
Then we went to his church.That was one of the strangest/scariest experiences of my life. Pure, straight, apostasy.  Not good stuff. Lots of nasty prayers, weird singing, asking for money, just not a good feeling all around. If you want to know what it feels like to feel the opposite of the spirit, go to an evangelical church. It was a good experience (well, not a good experience but something I can now say that I've done) but I wouldn't jump to do it again.                                                                                
We also had a dinner appointment!  With our branch president!  We thought he didn't really like us haha.  But they invited us over for dinner. We don't really know if it was just because we invited them but either way it was cool, you just DON'T get dinner appointments in CunénHaha. The work in our area is hard, as we would say la obra cuesta mucho, but I love Cunén, Nicole was absolutely right.  I didn't really like it when I first got there, but I love the people, I love the beautiful area, it's all great (except the work) but yeah.  We're supporting the branch, serving the members, trying to work with less actives, as well  as teaching some people.  We may not do as much as other areas but we try and we love it, I'm definitely going to be sad to leave.
Have a great week family! Love you!
-Elder Westenskow

Friday, October 7, 2011

Conference Was SOOOO Amazing!

Hey there family!  So I have notes for this week's email so it might seem disorganized because I just kinda wrote them as they came to me haha.  First, we had a cool activity this week.  Every Tuesday we have a Noche De Hermanamiento with our ward which roughly translates to brotherhood night.  We ended up doing it this week and it was a lot of fun to do.  Elder B gave a really cool thing on trials and difficulties that we have in our life and why we have them and how we can learn from them.  It was really cool, we played a game after that which was fun :)  Question that nobody will answer me on:  I wrote Meagan a letter my last week in the CCM and I don't know if she didn't get it or what, but in all of the wedding pictures I only saw Stevie once.  How's he doing?  Was he able to attend most of the festivities?  Just wondering how he's doing.

We did have something exciting!  We have a buddy named Mario and he wants to meet with us! He seems pretty positive!  I'm excited to see what happens with him, he's a really cool guy. We're still doing lots of service which is how we spend most of our time.  You'll have to forgive me, I took zero pictures this week haha. 

I'm also teaching myself piano haha.  We have a little electronic keyboard in the church and I can almost kinda sight read the right hand on most of the hymns, it's kinda coming back to me.  My goal is to be able to play well enough for people to sing by the time I leave Cunén (probably 3 months).

As far as Alvaro goes, I think we'll probably end up dropping him.  He's out of town working right now but we're going to try to work with him again but he's not too eager to meet with us.  Things look kinda grim but I'm trying not to lose hope. 

Questions about the bus rides.  I think the buses themselves are more civilized than Brad's. We don't have goats hanging out the window (although it's not unusual to see a basket of chickens on the roof haha)  but the drivers can be pretty crazy, it's definitely an experience.  Just google image Guatemala Micro bus and you should be able to find something.  Oh, dad, due to the reference you made, I'll assume you found the Fourth Missionary talk? How did you like it?
Oh, and mom was talking about some meeting she was in where they were trying to get the members involved.  PLEASE work with the missionaries.  I know it can be tough where everyone is a Mormon but do what you can please.  The work goes forward a million and a half times smoother with the help of the members, it's really the only way to get it done, contacting pretty much does squat haha.

Finally, how are things with Andrés you ask.  Alright.  We haven't been able to meet with him in a little over a week. We have an appointment with him on Wednesday so we'll see then if things are still looking good for baptism
It was so good.  A weird experience I had, I looked at my watch as Elder Oaks opened the Sunday Afternoon session and was like "Holy cow we're already 15 minutes in!" Then I realized that I'm 15 minutes in to the conference session of my mission, I hope that metaphor made sense.  But yeah, conference was SO AMAZING!! Holy cow how prayers are answered.  I've really been trying to think lately about how to recognize and follow the Holy Ghost and that was pretty much the topic of the entire first session haha.  Oh man was it good!  Love it!  Yeah, everything was soooooo good, the fried chicken story was amazing!  Love conference, Love you all Love the gospel!

 -Elder Westenskow

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Answers to Your Burning Questions-Part 2!

So lets see... more questions
1. Hot water, food prep etc:  We have hot water, a stove, a lady in our ward does our laundry and we have a bathroom shower.  It's actually all pretty nice (by Guatemalan standards haha)  we're pretty hooked up.
2. Travel.  So our zone is based in Quiché which is 3 hours from Xela.  Cunén is another 2 hours from Quiché so we're 5 bus hours from Xela.
3. We don't contact a whole ton just because it doesn't do a lot of good haha.
4. The branch really likes us, we have a good relationship with all of them it's just tough to get them excited about missionary work
5. We dropped Eliseo and his family, we might go visit them later but they're VERY evangelical lol
6. Uspantan is an hour by bus from Cunén, not a lot of people have cars, everyone takes micro buses
7. There's 2 members of my CCM group in my zone.
8. We see our zone once a week.
9. Glad that mom is feeling better :)

This week, this week was kinda rough, EVERY single appointment we had for the entire week fell through, every single one.  We didn't meet with any of our investigators :(  We also didn't find anyone new even though we tried really hard.  We met a lot with members and menos activos just trying to do what we can. There's not a lot of work to do in Cunén, the people there just aren't very interested in the church.  It kinda blows but we're trying and I'm going to be here til like January so I better pick it up haha figure out how to work in this area, we just need to talk to more people I think.  We did a lot of service this week, hence the pictures.  There's one of me chopping wood which is actually a lot of fun, I quite enjoy it!  
Also washing dishes for the same lady. 
We also had to strip corn from the cob to use for tortillas and the like and that's where those randy blisters came from (don't worry about them,they'll be gone by the next time you hear from me haha)  
What do I eat?  Cereal, spaghetti, eggs, ham, cheese all that kind of stuff, the same as in college haha.  The members don't cook for us so we don't eat a lot of weird stuff lol.  It was a good week, a really fast week but nothing really happened, sorry.  Oh, yesterday was kinda cool though, I spoke in sacrament meeting for the first time in Spanish so that was actually a lot of fun :)  And then we had our branch president's family over for dinner yesterday, we made them breakfast burritos and they had never seen flour tortillas before!  haha it was really fun. I love you all!  Glad to hear everyone is doing well still, stay safe and Keep praying for me haha!
Elder Westenskow

Answers to Your Burning Questions!!

Alright, so I knew that you all would be getting upset because I keep forgetting to answer questions so here we go.
Q: Was everything in the package okay? A: Yes, the chocolate even survived great :)
Q: My health A: I'm fine lol.  Don't worry about it, I had a cold and felt like crap in the CCM, no worries.  I'm in a third world country, I'm going to get sick, no worries :)
Q: The question of money A: We get 1900 Quetzales every month (I'm not sure what that is in dollars) but we have to pay rent (well, we don't so we actually get a bit less than the rest) pay for travel, food, personal expenses, basically everything.
Q: I'm not sure what the question was.  A: We have a lady in our branch who cooks us lunch Thursday through Sunday and does our laundry, we pay her 400 Quetz a month
Q: Where do we buy food A: There's a dispensa here in Quiche that we buy food at and then take to Cunén on the bus.  There are little tiendas in Cunén all over though (the comparable thing would be like a gas station store except they sell a lot more than gas station stores do)
Q: How do I print? A: The place we use Internet at has a printer.
Q:How's my comp and I? A: We're great!  Working hard and having a good time, he's a really good guy
Q: Quality of life A: Great!  We live in a church so even though it's small we're pretty hooked up.  We have hot water, a toilet, a stove, a sink so life is good!
Q: The branch A: I swear I've said this before we have a branch of about 40 active members, for example 38 people attended church yesterday
Q: Are you learning Quiche?  A: No, I'm sticking with the Spanish thing, everyone we talk to on a regular basis speaks Spanish so I'm really just trying to get the one language down.
This week was good :)  We started off the week with a zone conference in Xela in which president talked more about working with members and getting more referrals.  It was good because he gave us some different techniques to apply to our work so that we can advance the work more here in Cunén.  We took the list and looked at which ones we were already doing and which ones we could begin applying.  It looks like it'll work out well :)  We also got pizza so that's always great!  We spent Tuesday night playing Bancopoly at the zonies because we got back too late to catch a bus to Cunén (Bancopoly is the Guatemalan version of Monopoly).  We've just been meeting a lot with members this week, a lot of people don't know a lot about the church so we've just been helping them to learn more about it as well as ask for references.  We're really building some good relationships with the members and that helps the work A LOT.  That was probably my biggest misconception about missionary work is how much you work with the members, you work with them a lot.  At least in our area, you have to.  Thursday was Independence day so it was really really tough to come up with stuff to do, nobody was  home, and I mean NOBODY.  And everybody was celebrating so they didn't particularly want to listen to us at the time.  However, we randomly decided to stop by Andrés' house and he was actually there!  (A guy that we taught my first week that was super positive) we visited with him for almost 2 hours and he's just really really positive about everything we tell him.  He's trying to improve and change his life and he sees us as helpers to help him do that.  We met with him on Saturday as well and put a baptismal date, my first!  It's pretty far off, 5 November but we have to wait until he can attend church.  All it means is that we have to keep working with him and get him better acquainted with the branch.  We're trying not to get too excited because a lot of baptismal dates fall through but I have a really good feeling about it :)
We also had a second meeting with our Bible basher friend, Alvaro.  He really just won't accept the Book of Mormon and we just keep telling him to pray about it.  It's tough.  I felt really good about him after our first visit but it looks pretty grim right now. Oh well, just keep both of them in your prayers and we'll see what happens :)
Much love to all, have a good week everyone!
-Elder Westenskow