Monday, February 27, 2012

Week 8 in Sonsonate

Short letter this week apparently due to a contest between a time limit and a power outage….

Subject:  Smart cat versus dumb dog, round two. Ding!

So I had already started to write to all of you, but then there was a power outage here that ruined it. Google did its best and saved a part, but I just decided to start over.

Also, that means that this will be short, since my time is running out, and the keyboard I'm using almost doesn't work. So it's frustrating to type.

We were definitely working hard this week, although it is getting annoying having to walk a couple blocks and then stop and wait for my comp. But we're focusing on working in a smaller area each day so that we can teach more lessons, and it's working, except that there are a couple investigators that live a little bit farther out who get left out sometimes. But I don't think that going on divisions with members would be a good idea right now for various reasons, so we're doing the best we can alone. And we're starting to have a little bit more success, which is nice.

Christopher showed up to church on Sunday, but we didn't get a chance to talk to him. We had to go get some information for recent converts from the church records with a very slow and not-focused secretary, so it took the entire hour of Principles of the Gospel. If he had just moved over and let me do it it probably would have taken less than fifteen minutes. And then we were going to talk to him during Priesthood, but our Ward Mission Leader grabbed us for a spontaneous hour-long correlation. By the time we got out, church had ended and he had left. So we have to wait until next week to talk to him again.

Also, we went up to the same family I think I mentioned last week, and put a date with the son, Saul, who also came to church. He's going to get baptized on the tenth of March. We also put a dead date (they have the date but haven't gone to church) for March 24 with a man named Akileh, which is actually just his nickname. He lives up in Lomas del Muerto as well, and it's a little bit hard for him to go to church because he's in a wheelchair, but we can get a member to take him or something. No big deal.

The other date that we had before was with Juan Carlos. He didn't come to church, though, so the date fell, but it seems it doesn't matter too much anyway. His wife is going through some process to get a US residency, so she can't get married until the process is over. We're going to talk to some lawyers about it, but it looks like they won't be able to for the next year or so. That makes me mad. He was so dang positive! They even want to get married, which isn't very common here. But that's the mission, I guess.

Alright, I have to go. I'm already over on my time, which isn't good. But we'll tear it up this week so I have some great stories for the next email. Thanks for all of your emails! I love you all!

Elder David Arrington

Monday, February 20, 2012

Week 7 in Sonsonate

So, I got a call from the bishopric in our ward asking about when we wanted David to speak in church after he gets home.  Turns out that since David will arrive home on or about the 21st of June, he’ll be speaking on the 24th of June.  And everyone is invited!  I let him know in my letter to him….

Subject:  "Why would he want to kill you in public?" "I think she meant that he threatened, in public, to kill her."

This week was great, but first I have to complain. I really dislike Latin keyboards. They put the apostrophe in a different place, and they have to have extra keys (I think two, but it could be more), which means that, depending on the layout, one always has a shorter backspace, shorter enter, or shorter shift. Or a combination of them. It just makes typing stupid. This current model is the small backspace one, so don't be surprised if I misspell something and it's followed by çççççççç.

P1010531As far as Dad's email goes, wow that was baggy material. You told me the day I'm speaking in church. Wow. But that's kind of cool, too. I always thought, by the way, that I get released when I report to the high council. Are you saying they are actually two different things? That shatters my entire universe. And as far as school goes, I have no problem with you going into my email to try and get that set up. It should be the arring account. Change my password, do whatever it is you do, but make sure that it gets done, I guess. I don't want to miss a semester when I get back. Let me know, also, if there's something that I need to do on my end. To get that recommend from President, for example. Or to choose classes. I think I'll leave that mostly in the family's hands, but if you have any questions or anything just let me know.

Okay. So my new comp is named Elder McLean, and he's pretty funny. He's from Arizona, and ends his mission at the very end of 2013. That is so dang far away. So I get a kick out of people asking us both how long we've been out. Twenty months! Also, Elder McLean doesn't speak much Spanish at all. I'm still working on teaching him the conjugations for past and future tenses. It may be a while before subjunctive comes into play. But I'm also a terrible person because we mostly speak in English while we're walking. I force him to speak Spanish during planning and study, but it's just so much more fun in English!

P1010534One of the things that my comp has learned, by the way, is that we work hard and we work fast. He has told me probably every day so far at least once that I walk too fast, and I just kind of smile and keep going. Missionary work can't be relaxed! And I feel like I've done a pretty good job of getting him up on time (new missionaries are always tired since they aren't used to working that hard), leaving to work on time, and always pushing to teach one more lesson before we go in. We've been finding a bunch of news as well, since we found a new colony called Lomas del Muerto. Missionaries haven't gone up there in a long time, because you have to climb this ridiculous set of stairs up the side of a mountain. I'll attach some pictures of the view, at least.

Also, our area is huge. I don't think I emphasized that enough before. But the biggest problem is that it's long. It's a skinny area. We walked from appointment to appointment yesterday, and I think it took an hour or so to cross half of it. Walking pretty quickly. But we were teaching lessons along the way, so that's just my estimate. I could be making it up.

P1010538Our most positive investigators right now are Christopher, Estephanie, Saul, and Juan Carlos. Christopher went to church and we taught him the Law of Chastity and Temples, and gave him a picture of the El Salvador Temple. He loved it, and wanted me to put a personalized message on the back, which I did. He still seems to be waiting for a more concrete answer, though, so I think next time we'll outline a little bit how answers come and what the Spirit feels like.

Estephanie is a ten year old girl who is the Bishop and Ward Mission Leaders' niece. She has already told us that she wants to get baptized, so that's good. We just need to get her to church first. She couldn't come this week, though, because her parents took her to a baptism in some other church. But next week she said she could.

Saul is an 11 year old kid. He isn't super set on baptism, but the first time we went to Lomas del Muerto his mom contacted us. She and her daughter are members, and used to be super active. So we taught all of them. She told us that she wants to start going to church again, wants to go to the temple again, and wants us to baptize her son. I'm fine with that. And they did come to church on Sunday, minus Saul. He had to stay home to take care of his grandmother, who apparently can't walk on her own, so he has to help. We'll have to figure out a solution for that.

And Juan Carlos is still super positive. He's excited for March 10, and has already made arrangements to miss his English class on Sunday to be able to go to church. He couldn't go this week, but next week yes. We taught the word of wisdom, and he doesn't even drink coffee, so it's awesome. The big thing with him will be getting him to church and getting them married. But we'll do it!

Those are the most positives. I was a little bit bummed this week because of the ward. It used to be a really powerful ward back in the day, but it seems to be dying. We used to have 138 in the meetings, now it's 109. We had a ward activity that was announced three or four weeks straight, and all of the members had to bring investigators to get in. The turnout? About thirty members showed up, the activity started almost two hours late, (they started setting up half an hour after everyone was supposed to be there), the activity was lame, and absolutely nobody brought investigators. The only ones that were there were six kids that came in to play soccer and me and the ward mission leader basically forced them to come in to the activity. It was a talent show, by the way, and it was super boring. Bad planning. So I was a bit upset at the lack of planning and support from the ward, but that just shows us very clearly what we need to do here, I guess. Any ideas?

Alright, I'm out of time, so I'll wrap this up. Thanks for all of the emails, and for the pictures, too. A few people sent me pictures, and it was fun. Those dang nieces and nephews of mine are huge! They're practically people now! It's kind of freaking me out. I feel like I'm looking at pictures of some other Elder's family when I see them, because I don't know them at all. But I will soon! Less than four months! That means I only have four more months to baptize and reactivate families! I've got to get to work.

Elder David Arrington

Monday, February 13, 2012

Week 6 in Sonsonate

David is doing better and now working harder.  I love to hear that!  It also looks like he’s getting a new companion.  Yes, a *new* companion…

Subject:  "Look out below! Shield your eyes!" "What is it?" "Dandruff!"

I seem to be getting more and more emails every week that end with "sent from my iPhone", so I think that that's a pretty good sign that the family is good. And is getting ready for my epic return :)

What a rollercoaster of a week. We started out kind of the same as before, and it was kind of good. We were doing alright. A couple investigators have been progressing more or less, which is nice. But then we got to Wednesday and had interviews with President. That was crazy. So he got there late because "something happened with some elders." Which is, of course, never good. And then when he did the interviews, he kept getting calls from the assistants and the area presidency and such (I think... that's what it sounded like). But most of all he was not in a beat-around-the-bush mood. At all. I got in there and he immediately machettied me (first time in recorded history that I got one from him) for not bringing a list of converts that the zone leaders never told me I needed. Not a good start. And it just got worse. Suffice it to say that he gave me some stuff to work on, and mostly just inspired me to work as hard as I can so that nobody has any excuse to accuse me of not doing so. I'm walking even faster and always trying to push myself and my comp, which of course is more work, but I think I'm winning. Against Satan, or whoever. It doesn't even matter against who. I'm winning.

That was weird. Oh well. So that just helped me to realize something. There have been a couple comps in my mission that have not worked very hard, and it's hard to get them moving. So after a while I just kind of stopped getting them up in the morning, stopped telling them to study, and so forth. I let them do what they would, and did my best with that. However, I realized this week that that is not something that a leader does. It's kind of the opposite. A leader looks for ways to inspire and motivate and push people. And I guess I may not have been very good at that at those times, but I've been focusing on it a lot the last few days especially and I can definitely see the difference. It's fun being in charge. It's like I have control. Awesome.

After interviews there wasn't much that happened meetings wise. We did find a couple new investigators, though, which were good. One of the most positive ones is named Juan Carlos. His wife, Flor, is an inactive member that we're reactivating. She came to church one Sunday, and asked us to go visit her husband. I had never met him because he works all week almost all day and studies Sundays. But we taught him, and he basically told us that he has never really been interested in a church before, but wants to change and be better and start going to one. Well, Mr. Carlos, that's what we do best. We have now taught the restoration, the plan of salvation, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and are starting into the commandments. He has a dead date for the 10 of March, too. The only hard part is that he has to go to church, and he studies on Sundays. And there's apparently no way to change it. He told us that he might be able to miss class every other week to go to church, though. That's a start, right? They invited us to a rabbit soup dinner tomorrow night, starring their pet rabbit. Cool. Oh, and what's even better is that he and his wife already want to get married. They have been setting plans for the end of March, but we'll move those up a bit. So it's all good.

Oh, and it was kind of sad, but Carlos, the guy that has gone to church for like four weeks straight on his own, told us when we went to wake him up Sunday morning that he doesn't want us to pass by anymore. According to him, we've helped him have a greater desire to follow Christ, so he's made the resolve to be more active in the Catholic church. Nice. I guess we didn't teach the apostasy very clearly.

That's about all I can think of this week, except for also sending a huge HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!! to Mom and Dad! That's a solid thirty years, which is approximately nine years longer than my entire life. You guys are old. Just kidding. But seriously.

Alright, I have to go. President, in my interview, asked me to send a report on some stuff today, so I need to do that. However, I am prepared, so I fear not. I love you all! Have a great week!

Elder David Arrington

PS: Yes, Mom, I did send a quick email to Grandma McNeil last week. And to Grandma Arrington this week. I would have sent it last week, but I didn't have her email.

PPS: I think for the trip back here, I'd prefer to wait until after the rainy season. It doesn't rain a ton here, but it's a lot nicer when it's not, so probably December or later would be my first choice. So we probably don't have to start booking quite yet.

PPPS: And I still have no idea how I'm going to go through the starting school process. We may need to research that process a bit. But the big one for me will be signing up for classes. More on that later. Just know that it will probably be a joint effort by the My-Older-Sisters council. Isn't there a better name for that? The Frogley Condie Leybas De Rurange Foundation? Brainstorm that for me.

PPPPS: I almost forgot some kind of big news (as in information)! My comp is leaving this change (Wednesday), and I have to be in the office Tuesday because I'm going to be training another new (missionary)! I wasn't really expecting that. But cool!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Week 5 in Sonsonate

Looks like David is feeling better again.  And he’s looking forward to a great few months of missionary work!  I love to hear that.  Today, of course, is David’s 21st birthday.  This is the age he will be when he comes home!  (But let’s not get “baggy”)

We also got some new pictures this week!

Subject:  There is sadness in the air, and people dying everywhere, but happy birthday. *sigh* Happy birthday. *sigh*

One step closer to the grave. Think of all the food you'll save! But happy birthday. *sigh* Happy birthday. *sigh*

That's the really depressing birthday song that Elder Oliverson used to sing. You see, it's funny, but it also makes you think.

P1010372I'm probably a horrible person, but my last birthday was a little bit lame. I was in a new area that I didn't know, and nobody knew it was my birthday. I didn't want to play it up, you know? So I didn't tell anyone. And it was lame. So this time I've told a lot of people in the days leading up to it, and it's way better. I have two dinners planned tonight, and it's possible that I'll get free cake. The moral of this story is that one should not be full of oneself and try to make everything about oneself, but if one does so he generally gets more free stuff. Good life lessons.

This week was much better, and I hope that this email won't be as baggy as the last one. A few of you mentioned that I sounded a bit baggy, and I blame the sickness. When you're sick on the mission you get more bored than at any other time of your life. There is absolutely nothing to do besides read the scriptures, watch the Best Two Years again, and sleep. It gets old very, very quickly (but I still love the scriptures). And that leaves a lot of time to just sit there and think of home, thus me being slightly baggy last week. However, thanks to your prayers and very strong antibiotics, I'm no longer sick, and I'm no longer that baggy.

P1010374So we started out a little bit slow, since I was still recovering. I just felt exhausted all the time. But that went away after a few days of walking around the area. It felt great to get out and teach again. I've been a little bit worried about this area lately, though. The members used to be super excited for missionary work, and the area used to baptized a lot, but they've all gotten kind of complacent with the work, most of the investigators that the missionaries had have gotten baptized or dropped, and we spent a week not working in the area. That's not fantastic. So we spent a lot of time looking for new investigators this week, and talking to our ward mission leader about how we can get the ward moving a little bit better. I think that we've come up with some great ideas, and he's a great ward mission leader, so things are starting to happen. We at least have appointments to leave with just about all of the young men and the high priests, anyway. We tried to leave with the elders a couple weeks ago and set up appointments with all of them, and all of the appointments fell, so we may have to think of a better way to handle that.

We also had a lot of mission meetings this week. We had a multizone last week, which was not fun because I was sick, but we had the second part this week. And it was really interesting. Usually we just go over Preach My Gospel and how to become a better teacher, be more obedient, work better with P1010353the members, etc., but this time we talked almost exclusively about ward council. Most wards in this country (and I'm assuming all of Central America) try pretty hard to have good ward councils, but it generally doesn't work. My personal diagnosis is that they do a very good job of seeing problems and things that need to be fixed, and they even come up with some good ideas to fix it, but by the end of the meeting nobody has made assignments, nobody has decided what the course of action will be, and everybody leaves exactly the same as they went in. At best people leave knowing that they have to "do better" at their visits, or something like that, but there's never goals, actions, or anything really measurable at all. Also, I don't think that I've ever been in a ward council here where there has been a secretary present. Or most of the presidents of the organizations. Generally it's just the Bishop, EQP, YMP, and HPGL. And the Bishop's councilors. The reason I just went through all that was, first, to let you all know that you have to set measurable goals and plan specific actions and assignments to see progress (which you should all know anyway), and second, because that's what our multizone was about. The church has come out with some new videos to help train leaders and teach them how to have a successful ward council, be a successful ward mission leader, etc., and we spent most of the multizone watching those and having practice ward councils. I really enjoyed it. I think it's not only giving us an idea of how to help the ward councils here in the mission, but it is also helping us prepare to be in those leadership roles after the mission. Good stuff.

P1010365I just talked a long time about that meeting. But there were a couple other leadership meetings and such that I went to during the week. We didn't get to work a couple days in the area, since those meetings went really long, and some were in Santa Ana, which is a two hour-ish bus ride from here. When we did work in the area, we focused a lot on finding new investigators. That's the biggest difficulty that we've had lately, but I could definitely see that the Lord blessed us with people. We got a few references from the members that are pretty positive. The ward mission leader's niece, for example, is 10 years old and never got baptized. Her dad is inactive and her mom is a non-member, so we're working on teaching her and getting permission from the parents to baptize her. I'm not generally looking for children to baptize, but sometimes those are just little free baptism gifts that we get as missionaries. There's another guy named Christofer that has come to church on his own for three weeks. He's super awesome. His girlfriend is a member and has been helping him a lot. We taught him yesterday (we can only talk to him on Sundays in the chapel), and taught the Restoration, the Plan of Salvation (the entire thing, which we drew out on the chalkboard), and really quickly reviewed the five points of the Gospel P1010377of Jesus Christ. He just kind of sat there and listened for a while, but was soaking it up really well. And he asked really good questions. At the beginning of the lesson he asked us how he can know what path he should follow in this life, and what he needs to do to be ready after this life. After we drew the Plan of Salvation and talked a little bit about it, he asked us what he needs to do to reach the Celestial Kingdom. He is seriously golden, except for two stupid things. First, he can only talk to us on Sundays. Second, he was already baptized once in another church, and I don't think he's very clear on the authority thing. But we tried to explain it, and he's going to pray and read in the Book of Mormon and see what happens this week. Good stuff.

We also got a couple other references for part member families and people who want to learn about the church. It's always a lot more fun to teach someone who wants to learn, but some people just want to know the information and not do anything. We'll hope that's not the case with some of these news we found.

I am completely out of time, so I'll have to go over those investigators next week. I'll have more teaching stories by then, anyway. I love you all, and thank you so much for all of the Happy Birthdays and such that you all sent. I think I'll go eat pizza to celebrate today.

Elder David Arrington

PS: These last four and a half months of my mission are going to be awesome.