Monday, March 26, 2012

Week 12 in Sonsanate

Ouch. Rough week for David. Nothing much more to say than what is said....

Subject: "All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's personal for a lot of people."

Up until this point in my mission I have tried to keep the mission and my personal life seperate, and I think that for the most part I've succeeded. But this week had a lot to do with my personal life, so this email is going to start with me explaining a lot of that. So sorry in advance.
Oh, and since a couple of you mentioned it, yes, I actually have seen 500 Days of Summer. It's an amazing movie. I loved it. I had no idea how that would feel, but I thought it was great. Probably my favorite line in the entire thing is this one, at the very end, after the wedding: "So I guess I should say congratulations." "Only if you mean it." "Well, in that case..." And he just stares at her. At the time I thought it was funny. Now I just relate to it.

This last week has definitely been the hardest in my entire mission. In the past I've gone through sickness, exhaustion, investigators that drop us, investigators who can't get baptized, bad numbers, confusion, worry, and even depression and anxiety, but it all passed. When things like that happen in the mission, you just have to kind of endure it, push forward, and move on, since you know that everything will soon be back to normal. You find new investigators, you start feeling better, the numbers pick up, other baptisms come, and so on. But in this last week, I've been hit with absolutely all of the things that I mentioned, and then some. And it's not a situation that gets better.

So you may remember that last week at the end of my email I mentioned that Sarah had sent me a rather un-favorable email. I won't go into the details of what is going on there, since the details aren't important. The point is that, like a couple of you have told me, she seems to have moved on. When I first read that on Monday, I was in shock. I had printed off the emails and was reading them in the house, and was in a fantastic mood, to be honest. The week before was the best week in my mission, and I was reading some great emails from everyone (including Brian, formerly known as Elder Oliverson), and it was great. And then I read Sarah's email, and everything very, very suddenly dropped to the highest hign to the lowest low. And it pretty much stayed there for a while. When I wrote to all of you last week, I was still in shock, and that continued for most of the day. I told a few people about it, but it wasn't that bad. But after P-Day ended I went to an investigator's house and pretty much just broke down. I was explaining to them why we had gone to visit them, since we had set an appointment for the next day, and it had to do with what had happened to me, so I started to explain it, and I just couldn't handle it. Monday night I think that I might have gotten a full hour of sleep, but I'm not sure. Tuesday was kind of the same, except that I started to feel physically sick from it. I still went out to work and, for the most part, was able to forget about it while I was teaching, but in between lessons and in the house I was a wreck. Wednesday morning we had district meeting, and for some reason President wanted to come see our zone meetings. While he was there, I asked for a special interview and a blessing specifically to help me through the process. It was a great interview, and I was basically falling apart the whole time, but he gave me some good advice and the blessing. When I got home, I went in our back room, shut the door, knelt down and prayed. A lot. My comp told me later that I was there for over an hour and a half. I didn't feel it. But by the time I was done, I felt much better. I've still been in ridiculous amounts of pain throughout the week, but I'm coping much better with it. I've found that the easiest way to cope, by the way, is keep my mind off of it, which means that I've been reading a lot of the scriptures. There's nothing else to do, really. So in my free time I've read a few hundred pages in the Bible. I'm almost out of the Old Testament now, finally.

Just so you all know, by the way, I really appreciated your emails this week. There was a lot of advice and such that kind of helps, but after a week of thinking about it (since there was really no one to talk to about it besides President), I'm pretty much done worrying about what is going to happen. If something happens when I get back, it happens, but if not, I'll eventually find someone else. I'll still get married one day, have a family, and be sitting on the couch eating potato chips while my wife nags me. It's just in the plan. Maybe not the nagging, but still. Right now I'm not going through a there's-nobody-else-I-could-ever-be-happy-with stage, I'm just going through the this-loss-hurts-more-than-anything-I've-ever-felt-in-my-whole-life stage. So thank you all for the prayers and the advice. I'll be alright.

Enough about that. I probably won't ever mention it again. I just wanted to let you all know how I was this week. But the ridiculous mental, emotional, and physical health issues were only one part of why the week wasn't good. It was the biggest part, but only a part.

At the beginning of this week, we had six baptismal dates for the month of March, which would have put us at seven in total for the month. That's pretty epic. I was stoked. Let me run through all of them. First, Christopher. He got baptized yesterday, and it was awesome. He loved it, and it was a great service. He's super powerful. I'll send pictures of his and Saul's baptisms next week (I'm running out of time). So that was the good one. The next most positive was Juan Carlos. He had his baptismal interview and passed it, but we don't know if he went to church yesterday. He was going to be at school and would have had to go to another ward (since it was closer), and we haven't been able to talk to him since. If he didn't, then he can't get baptized this month. If he did, then we have to plan a wedding and work through some worries about US Embassy fines before Saturday. If that all works well, then he's getting baptized.

Next, the Paredes family, which consists of Wendy, the mother, and Alejandro, the son. Wendy has three attendences, and can get baptized still on the 31. However, she has to work through some law of chastity issues with her boyfriend before then, and she needs another interview. It can definitely happen, though. Alejandro only has two of the three attendences that he needs, but since the 31 is conference weekend we might get special permission for after one of the sessions. Neither of them came to church this week even though they said they would when we passed by in the morning, and when we left church to go get them they weren't home. Not a great sign.

Then we have the Diaz family, Juan and Reina. They are both married already, so that's a big difficulty out of the way, but they didn't come to church either, so neither can be baptized until April. They are still pretty positive, though. They had told us the day before that they weren't going to be able to come to church yesterday. Still, I didn't appreciate it much.

And those are the six. Honestly, I think that we're going to end this week with one more baptism, and it will be Juan Carlos. That's my forecast. But we'll have to wait until next week to see, now won't we? For those of you counting at home, that means that two of the dates fell, two more are close to falling, and one is unsure. And one got baptized, which is nice. But still. Now, all of that happened in this terrible week that I'm having, and I know that it's not terrible to have five investigators that are preparing for baptism, but when the zone was pushing so hard to meet the goal of 20 and all of that happens, it hurts. Now, because of that, we won't make it. Elder Beaton, one of the APs, and the zone leaders spent a day or two in my area even to try and make everything a little bit better, but it just kind of starts falling apart. Those five, by the way, are not our only investigators, but they are pretty close since the rest are starting to drop us or need to be dropped by us. And we only found three new investigators. None of them are very positive.

Well, there it all is. It's been a rough week, and one of the longest weeks of my mission. But things are starting to get better. And the sooner I get through this emotional trauma that suddenly popped up the better. Thanks again for everything! I'll work hard out here this week, and just take it one week at a time.

Elder David Arrington

Monday, March 19, 2012

Week 11 in Sonsonate

A great week, and then it all comes crashing in.  This was a tough letter to read.

Subject:  “You want to be in love in a movie!”

This email may not be fantastically long. Just a heads up. I'm running out of time.

P1010607This week has got to be the craziest roller coaster ride of my mission. Seriously, I was flying for most of the week, and it was by far the best I've been in the mission as far as success goes, and then today it all plummeted. It's the biggest contrast of feelings I've ever felt in my life.

Let's start with the good. We worked fantastically this week. My comp still just generally sits and listens in the lessons, but I feel like I've been teaching really well. And we're having fantastic success. We had nine investigators in church on Sunday. That's awesome. And all of them can be baptized this month, which is also awesome. Saul also got baptized on Sunday, and almost all nine of the investigators stayed for the service. It was stake conference yesterday, and it was a special broadcast with Elder Packer presiding, so I'm sure it was fantastic. During the actual conference, though, we had to run out to another area to bring baptismal clothes that someone had forgotten. But we came back as it was ending.

P1010576The baptismal service was amazing, and I'll send pictures next week. My mind is kind of messed up right now, so I should probably wait. We went all out and had given invitations to everyone and everything. After the service, I went and talked to Christopher, whom you all may remember from several weeks ago. He was the one who had come to church for a couple months but just never wanted to get baptized, since he felt like it would be playing with the things of God. It was authority that he couldn't quite agree with. Anyway, we had dropped him, but invited him to the service. I asked him after how it was, and he said it was very interesting and that he had never seen baptism done like that before. I asked him what he thought, and he grabbed me and basically said, "Next Sunday, it's my turn!" Nice! So he's getting baptized on Sunday! I was so stoked. Seriously I just couldn't stop smiling all day. And we're really close to putting dates with the other families that went, which were the Paz family and Wendy and David. This is going to be a great month.

P1010578Oh, and remember Juan Carlos, the one whose wife was going through some stuff that made it so that she can't get married? Well, we talked to her about it, and she basically said that she doesn't want to go to the states anyway. She wants to study cosmetology here. So she's dropping all of that, and she and her husband are getting married on the 31! And Juan Carlos is getting baptized! Flor, the wife, is already a member, but still! I loved this week.

That's about all I have time for, unfortunately. Just know that I am doing amazing, and that not only is my area leading the zone (by a lot, but I don't know about the rest of the mission), I feel like the Lord is helping me do what I need to do. And I'm feeling the growth. It's amazing.
Thanks for all of your emails and support! I love you all!

Elder David Arrington

PS: I wasn't sure how to work this into an upbeat email like that, so here it is: this morning I got an email from Sarah that no missionary ever, ever wants to get. I think you can all guess what it said, more or less. I won't bore you all with details, but just know that I am going through a very trying part of my mission. Please keep me in your prayers. I'll need all the help I can get to trust that God knows what He's doing and that everything will work out well. And to keep myself focused on the work. Thank you all in advance!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Week 10 in Sonsonate

In which David hears more about our cruise (yes, it was fabulous!) but does a little vacationing on his own.  Sort of.  But we have pictures of his little jaunt!

Even better, David greets a mini-missionary—one with special significance to him personally….

Subject: “If she looks as good as a mailbox, I might be crazy enough to turn my life upside-down and marry her.”

So, I am a little tiny bit jealous about the cruise thing. I'm not going to lie. That looked pretty ridiculous, and I'll have to hear all about it when I get back.

While I'm on that note, by the way, I just got an email saying I will be going home on June 21, 2012. That is 101 days from today. Wow. That's the email I never thought that I would get. Oh, and I told them that you would all be picking me up in Portland (PDX). That's still the plan, right?

Let's not be baggy now...

P3120149The cruise! I am jealous, but I did also get a little vacation of my own this week, which was pretty awesome. Well, actually it was just for a few hours today, but it was great nonetheless. As a zone, we headed down to Acajutla, which is the only area in our mission now (I think...) that is on the beach. We played some volleyball and soccer for a few hours at the chapel, which was fun, and then we went to eat at a restaurant overlooking the beach and some cliffs and stuff. It was a great view, and we took some awesome pictures. My camera died right after we got to the beach, though, so I took pictures with other peoples' cameras and will just have to copy the pictures next week. This week I didn't have time since we're writing so late (it was a long activity). But it was great to be down on the beach and at least imagine being able to go swimming in it. And the restaurant was kind of expensive, but very nice. I got some kind of fish (boneless) that was stuffed with shrimp. And some guy even came up and we paid him five bucks to play a few guitar love songs. I uploaded just a couple pictures. And a couple from other stuff. But that was the activity. It was nice.

P3120141What wasn't nice, was that our cook lady, Karina, who cooked us breakfast, lunch, and dinner, suddenly got sent off as a mini missionary. So suddenly we had nobody to cook for us and no food at home (we just paid her instead of buying food), so this week we spent a lot of time fasting. And buying pupusas. And it looks like we are very much running out of time this week, so we may not be able to buy any groceries again. Ouch. We may ask special permission to buy, though.

Here's a cool story: An Elder in my district got sent home, although I have no idea what it was for. Supposedly it was something that happened before the mission. Anyway, when that happens they usually call in a mini missionary to replace him until more come from Guatemala (all missionaries now go to the Guatemala MTC instead of staying in Provo like I did). And that's what they did in this case. So the next day, Saturday, we had a stake missionary activity for the primary, and I got to meet the mini missionary. Guess who it is? Mauricio Granados... my first baptism! I was not expecting that at all! Actually, somebody had told me that he had moved and went inactive, which was terrible, and then out of nowhere he shows up as a missionary! So I'm pretty stoked about that. One of my converts is in my district. I baptized him, and now I'm his DL. Crazy.

P3120134Also, you may remember that another one of my converts, Gerson Castro, already served as a mini missionary. He is leaving in about a week for his mission in Peru. I think I already mentioned that he had gotten his call, but I figured I'd give you all the update anyway. Having converts go on missions is the coolest thing ever.

As far as other investigators go, we have kind of half dropped a lot of investigators. We got several references this week that are super positive. We already put dates with some of them, so now we have four dates, although only two have been to church. Saul is one, and he is getting baptized this coming Sunday after stake conference. Oh, wait, I lied, we only have three dates. But two more are coming quickly. The other two we have are with a lady named Wendy and her son David. Wendy's mom is a member from a long, long time ago, and they're really good friends of a few members, and now want to come back to church. Wendy and David now have dates for the 25, but only Wendy came to church on Sunday. I think David was just shy. He'll open up more when he goes to mutual on Thursday, since he loves playing soccer and they do that a lot there.

P3120125The one that I started to count as a date was with a really interesting reference named Dafnee. She had been baptized a long time ago, but never went to church again and so supposedly was never confirmed. That was like 12 years ago, and now she wants to go again, since a member has been visiting her a lot. The first time we talked to her we put a date for the 25 and she was basically crying and saying that she already wanted to get baptized and wanted to know what she could do to speed up the process. That's a cool date to have. She even came to church on Sunday, and loved it. Golden, right? Right. She was golden. And then we found out that she had gotten confirmed the same day as her baptism. So she's still awesome, but is now a member, not an investigator. I guess there's no such thing as an easy baptism, right?

That's about all I have time for right now, so I'll have to catch you all up on the rest next week. Thanks for all of the support that you all give me, and for all of the updates about daily life. And vacations. It doesn't make me baggy, really, it's just fun to see. Oh well. I love you all!

Elder David Arrington

PS: My comp just told me that a new For the Strength of Youth came out, and it specifically says that we cannot download music illegally. And supposedly we can't get a temple recommend if we do it. That's interesting, but I'm totally for it. Can anyone confirm that for me?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Week 9 in Sonsonate

David continues doing missionary work even when his mom and dad are off vacationing on a cruise.  And, of course, he’s making progress with his investigators…DiCaprio is not one of them.

Subject: "Well, she's married to the Muffin Man." "The Muffin Man?" "THE MUFFIN MAN!"

When I read that Mom and Dad are on a cruise now and that they got to go to some Cuban restaurant, I was a bit jealous and told my comp. His response: "Elder Arrington, you've been eating in Salvadoran restaurants almost every day." Oh yeah! I'm out of the country, too!

So this week was pretty good. We worked really well and got a lot done, even though I had to spend two entire days in Santa Ana for some meetings. There's a lot of good stuff going for the mission, like getting 134 baptisms in February. That's definitely still down from the 200 or so we used to get every month, but in the last six months we hadn't gotten over 90, so it's moving in the right direction at least. And our zone, Sonsonate, is looking pretty good for March right now. And we've already got one baptism later this month that is about as sure as a baptism gets, and we're looking to put three more dates. It's going to be awesome.

Me and my comp have been working really well lately, too. We have never fought or anything, but he always seemed to walk a little slower and such. This week has been much better. And he's starting to take part in lessons a little more, which I think is because he's understanding what people are saying a little better. I remember what that was like. Well, I spoke a little bit better when I got here, but when you don't know a ton of Spanish you tend to want your comp to teach. Even if you know what's going on, it's hard to think of the right way to say things with a limited vocabulary and grammatical understanding.

By the way, I've noticed that my sentence structure, or just word choice, maybe, gets really messed up when I've been talking to a Latin in Spanish for several days straight. It kind of just makes me laugh. I don't have an accent, though, so sorry about that. I speak English way too much for that.

Alright. On to my investigators. The most positive right now is named Saul. He's a kid (10 years old) whose mom is a member. I think I already explained how we found them, and it was awesome. It's the Karias family, which I think I mentioned already. But something else that's interesting: when we found them, it was four days after the wife's husband had been killed. We had no idea until she told us yesterday. But because of that, in addition to a lot of other things, she felt like she really needed to go to church again. And for the last three weeks she's come on her own with her family, one of which we're going to baptize. We've taught him just about everything, and he's a great kid, so he was going to get baptized this week, but we decided to change the date to the 17. That will give us time to announce it to the ward (which they forgot to do on Sunday) and make invitations for people he wants to invite (future investigators, of course), and really just plan everything out really well. President has been telling us a lot lately that baptismal services should not be improvised. It's the most important day of that person's life, and we should plan accordingly. Plus, an event that spiritual is perfect for finding new investigators who will have already had that spiritual experience (or witnessed it, at least), and who have already visited the church building, which makes it infinitely easier to get them to church on Sunday. So we want to plan this one really well.

Another one that I had mentioned a lot in the last few weeks was Juan Carlos. His wife is going through those processes to get a US residency, and it threw a big, fat, stupid wrench in the middle of our plans to get them married and baptized (the wife is already a member, actually, so just him). However, we talked to him yesterday and basically found out that they have two options: A) Forget the plans they had, get married, get baptized, and just do their best to work here in El Salvador and trust that, since they're following God's commandments they'll be better off, or B) Not get married, live in iniquity for a year or so until this process ends, and then live apart for several years and maybe never get married, since she will be in the states and he'll be here. With the baby. So, when you look at it like that, it's pretty obvious which one we want them to do. But they see the trip to the states as an opportunity to earn a lot more money, and it's pretty attractive. It reminded me (and I actually shared this in the lesson yesterday) of that story that was told in conference about the two missionaries who were going to go home, and the President got them tickets for the Titanic, which to them was a huge, awesome, luxury cruise ship. Which it was. And I'm sure they were super excited to go on that famous ship. They probably would have even run into famous people, like Leonardo DiCaprio. Heck, I'd want to go. But some little thing got in the way, and they couldn't make it. And we all know how the story ends. The point is, a lot of times we see things like that that are big and fun and we just want it. It might not even be a bad thing, like her going to the states to earn more money for her family. That's not a terrible thing. But if we trust that God knows what he's doing, and do what he asks, then in the end it will work out a whole lot better. Even if we don't know why. And even if it doesn't happen in this life. We win in the end.

That was a lot about nothing, but it was a fun lesson. We have a couple other positive ones, but nobody that's really progressing. Christopher is still really hung up on the authority thing. We taught him yesterday with an RM who is way good, and he basically just sat Christopher down and, using various New Testament stories and personal experiences, explained the need for the Priesthood. It was actually a very good lesson, and I think Christopher got it, he just has to wrestle with it a bit and pray about it. Eventually, though, he'll get his answer. If he really wants it.

By the way, we had a couple investigators named Paty and Sonia, who were sisters, both with little babies. They had been progressing a bit and looked really interested, but the last few times we challenged them to baptism they said they weren't sure. This last time we taught them Sonia just said no, and Paty said she might go to church but she'd never get baptized. I don't get that point of view. We claim that Jesus Christ himself said that no other church in the world is true, and that they are all hypocrites, so either we are right and he said that, or we're blasphemers. There's no middle ground. I've tried explaining that, too, but people don't get it. They assume that any preaching about Christ is good. Which can be true, to an extent. But in the last lesson we asked her my favorite question to ask: "If God Himself parted the heavens and came down in front of you and shouted that you have to get baptized in this church or you will be damned, would you do it?" Normally, people say yes to that, but she said no. Crazy people. But that means we'll probably drop her for good. Maybe we'll go by once a week or so.

That's all I've got time for today. I hope this is a little bit more satisfying than last week's email. Thanks for all of the mail you all gave me to read today, which was all very fun (except for Lindsay's big fat zero. But I trust you to turn that frown upside-down). I love you all! Have a great week!

Elder David Arrington

PS: I am coming right up on 21 months. But I am not baggy! We're going to keep tearing it up out here!