Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First week in Guatemala!!

Hola, Familia y Amigos!
     My first week in Guatemala has been most excellent. My district is pretty cool, and my companion and I are getting along well. Elder Corrigan is no longer my companion, but he's in my district. I'm settling in well, and I'm really enjoying what I've been able to see of the country so far.
     The MTC and Temple are in the high-end part of Guatemala City, so there are some really nice houses and apartments, and when I look out the window, I see a lot of nice cars. (Also, the car from Psych is pretty popular down here, though I haven't seen a blue one yet :)
     The street we are on, Bulevar Vista Hermosa, means "the street of the beautiful view" or something to that effect. My bedroom window looks up to Moroni on top of the temple. It's neat, because the CCM (MTC) is one building, connected to a guest house for people who work at the temple, serve in the MTC presidency, and I think for those who are coming to visit the temple. We live in the CCM half of the building, and it's cool because everything is right here. Class is upstairs from our room, and the cafeteria is downstairs. We don't have to walk forever to get where we're going. The only things we walk to are Casa CRE (TRC in Provo), where we teach Members/investigators who have come to volunteer to be taught, the Temple, and Church, which is in a chapel which shares a parking lot with the temple. We also have some vendors which come every p-day so we can buy supplies, scripture cases and the like. I'm trying to decide on a cool case for my Spanish scriptures, but I haven't been able to choose yet. They're all neat!
     I got the chance to get to know President Steimle better this weekend. He's really great, and he runs a great MTC. A lot of things here are nicer than in Provo!
     We'll be going to the temple this afternoon, and they have a special English session just for us! I'm really excited. The Guatemala City temple is the busiest temple in the world per square foot. It's pretty tiny, but it's beautiful. We had the opportunity on Saturday to go walk on the temple grounds and talk to people who were there, to share a scripture and practice our Spanish. It was really fun! We met a guy who has lived in Brigham City for the past few months (he is from Guatemala)! Thanks to the new temples in San Salvador and Quetzaltenango, the load will be lightened on the Guatemala City temple.
     I have two companions: Elder Najarro, my American companion, is from California. He's a really interesting person, and we're getting along pretty well so far. My Latino companion, Elder Muguruza, is from Peru. It's harder to communicate with him, but it's also fun. We teach the Latinos English while they help us practice our Spanish. It's a really neat experience.
     Since I have the chance to practice almost constantly, my Spanish has already improved. The hard part is understanding the natives, because they speak quickly, and my Peruvian companion speaks with a fairly thick accent.
     We have three teachers. Hermana Ibañez (ee-bahn-yez), Hermana Ayala (eye-ah-la) 2 (her twin sister is Hermana Ayala 1), and Hermana Mijangos (me-han-gos). They are all really cool, and have taught us a lot of stuff. Two of them act as our investigators, Leslie and Patty. We're teaching each of them once a week.
     Probably the coolest thing that happened since I arrived in Guatemala was right after we stepped outside of the airport. As soon as I had a chance to relax, and all my bags had arrived, I just felt a feeling, which is kind of hard to describe. Let's just say that I know that there's a special spirit about this beautiful country, and I'm excited to become more acquainted with the land and its people. Yes, I'm still nervous, but I know the Lord will help us through any challenges we may have in any of our lives. He wants me to learn Spanish, so I'm going to learn Spanish. He wants me to teach, so I will teach.
     We had a great devotional last night by Elder Cesar Morales, area authority seventy. He said some great things, and he mentioned a lot of great scriptures, which I haven't really had the chance to read yet. One scripture I read recently that he reminded us of was Doctrine and Covenants section 31, which is amazing. He talked about losing yourself in the work, and everything else will work out. He spoke with power, and gave a lot of good counsel. I hope every Tuesday devotional is as awesome as this one was, it really helped me. I had the chance to meet Elder Morales after the devotional, and I thanked him for the great message he had shared. It was really cool to get a hug and a handshake from a Seventy! He told some really cool stories from when he was a mission president and a stake president. One story was when he was stake president, and there was a missionary from his stake who was having a hard time and wanted to come home. He talked to this missionary on the phone, then he called his parents. His parents were devastated. The father said: "I would rather have my son dead in a box than home from his mission early." Elder Morales then called the missionary back, and told him what his father had said. That Elder then stayed on his mission, and went on to become a powerful missionary. It goes to show that no matter what we're going through, if we turn to the Lord, he will help us through our challenges. Not only that, but he can make us into better people than we ever could ourselves.
     I love you all, yet while I love you very much, there is no place I would rather be than here in the Guatemala MTC right now. I know this is where I am supposed to be, and where the Lord wants me to be. I know the work I am doing is a true work, a good work, and a joyful work.
     I love you all very much, and I hope to hear from you soon!
Elder Nicholas William Banks

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hello from Guatemala!

This is my email for this week. Sorry it is so short, I don't really have time to write more. I am safely at the MTC in Guatemala City. My new companion is Elder Najarro, who came with us on the flight last night. I will also have a native companion who I will be with at certain times, so I can learn spanish and he can learn english. Elder Corrigan is still in our district, but is not my companion anymore. Most of our district is going to the Central mission, a couple (incl my companion) are going South, and one sister is going to Nicaragua. The district was all the people we flew with on the plane yesterday.

When I got on the plane to Guatemala last night, I had this great feeling that my life is about to change forever, and I was really excited. When I walked out of the airport, I felt a special feeling about this place. It was really cool. The city is actually pretty modern, and it's really cool to see how everything works here. The MTC here is really small, and we are right next to the temple. We can see it from our window and it's a great view! Everyone here is really nice, and most people speak English if you really need to communicate with them.

We also had a lesson/devotional today from the MTC president and his wife. They're really great, and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. I think this MTC will be even better than the one in Provo! It's a little bit hard to understand everybody right now, but the president and his wife told us to just relax and have fun while speaking the language, and it will come. They really stressed the importance of not stressing out.

I've also been designated as the new "tech guy," to be trained shortly by the old tech guy. I get to help set up for meetings and the like, which means I'll probably get to help set up for when we watch General Conference in a couple weeks.

Also, some more details about the MTC address here:
It is:

Nicholas William Banks
Boulevard Vista Hermosa 23-71, Zona 15
Vista Hermosa 1
Guatemala, Ciudad de Guatemala

DO NOT write Elder on the envelope, and also do not write MTC or CCM (MTC in Spanish) as part of the address.

Anyway, just know how much I love you all, and I will write more to you next week.
Elder Nicholas Banks

p.s. I'm still on the same time zone as Utah, since Utah is on Daylight Savings at the moment.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week 2

Hello Everyone!
This will be my final email from the Provo MTC. Shortly after I wrote last week's email, I received my travel plans. I will be leaving the MTC around 4 or 5 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 20th. I leave SLC at around 8:30 for LAX, then we leave for GU (guatemala city) around 1am. I'm excited that I get to leave to Guatemala, but at the same time, I'm pretty nervous as well. While I know a lot of spanish for having spoken it for just three weeks, I've still only been speaking for three weeks. I can probably survive in a tourist sort of way at this point, but having a meaningful conversation or a lesson will be more difficult. The good news is, being forced to speak spanish will help me learn it faster.
This week, a lot of things happened.
First of all, last friday, I had the awesome opportunity to go to the Provo Temple with my district. We had a great experience! We're going again today, and I'm really looking forward to it. While I was there, I had the chance to run into Aunt Pat and Uncle Bob! It was an awesome surprise! Not only is it great to be in the temple, but to see someone you love there is just an amazing experience, especially when it's a surprise.
We picked up a new "investigator" this week. His name is Juan, and I'm really excited to teach him. In our 2nd lesson, Elder Corrigan was really in tune with the Spirit and we taught him about prayer, and a little about the Book of Mormon. He was receptive, and we taught him again about prayer and actually got him to pray! That was really cool. We got off to a good start with Juan, so I'm hopeful we can get farther with him than we did with Martin (mar-teen in Spanish). During our lesson yesterday, Martin decided that he din't want to take the lessons from us anymore. He said he didn't have enough time to take lessons or read the book of Mormon, but he thanked us and wished us well. We didn't get off to a great start with him, so honestly, I'm not all that surprised. We're supposed to be getting a new investigator tonight though, which should be interesting.
This week, I encouraged Elder Corrigan to go to the MTC health clinic. His knee was bothering him, and I suggested that he get it looked at before we leave the country. He went to the MTC clinic Wednesday, and they set him up with an appointment at an orthopedic specialist on Thursday. Since I'm his companion, this meant he and I both got to leave the MTC campus to go to the doctor. It was refreshing to get out a little bit, but I'm glad to be back here now. I was living in fear that somebody would come up to us and start speaking spanish, since our name tags have the name of the church written in spanish on them. Plenty of people came up to us in English though, and most of them thought we were serving in Provo. They were members, just friendly, coming over to meet us. It was pretty cool to realize how everybody knows what an LDS missionary looks like! I imagine we probably didn't get spanish from other people because our name tags still say "Elder," not something else. The actual spanish word for elder wouldn't make any sense in this context, so they just used the english cognate "Elder." It's pronounced differently of course, but it looks exactly the same. It's not like it's written in russian or anything.
So, as you can see, I've really been enjoying my time here in Provo. I love the Gospel, I love the Church, and I love being a missionary. I know that this is the place that I'm supposed to be right now, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Also, I just wanted to thank those of you who have sent me packages! It was an awesome surprise to go to the mailroom and find some gifts! Thank you!

I just wanted to close with an attempt to bear a short, simple testimony in Spanish. I apologize in advance if there are any accent marks missing or out of place, this keyboard isn't exactly being cooperative at the moment.

Yo se que Jesucristo es nuestro Salvador y Redentor. Yo se que podemios limpiar por medio de la Expiacio´n de Jesucristo. Yo se que de Dios y Jesucristo viven, aman nos mucho. Yo se que el Libro de Mormon es verdadero. Yo sento el Espiritu Santo cada hora yo es leo. Yo amo mi Familia, y yo amo el Evangelio. Yo se que el Evangelio de Jesucristo es verdadero. Yo ligo estas cosas en el nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.

I love you all! You're the best!
Elder Nicholas Banks

Friday, September 9, 2011

Week 1

Hello Everyone!
I recently finished my first week in the MTC and I love it here. Spanish is hard, but it's coming slowly and surely. My companion and district are great, and I'm the district leader at the moment, which basically means I conduct meetings, pick up the mail, and briefly interview senior companions once a week. I'm really excited right now, because my email actually works this week!
Since last Friday, we've been teaching an "investigator named Matrín. He's really receptive and he came into our class yesterday and introduced himself as Hermano (brother) Papenfuss, who will be teaching us Spanish alongside Hermano McClellan. He had some great principles to teach us, and it was a really neat class period. Next week we get two new "investigators," so we'll have plenty of practice. It's interesting, because they teach language with complete immersion. The first day of class, the teacher came in speaking nothing but Spanish, and two days later, we started teaching our first investigator. It's hard, but I can tell that it really is helping.
My companion, Elder Corrigan, is pretty cool. He's from West Jordan, and he and I share a lot of common interests. We both know a lot about computers (and therefore we're both a little disoncerted with how locked down everything is on the computers here), we both play the piano, and several other things. We can almost always find something to talk about that we both know something about! He's also going to the Guatemala City Central Mission. The rest of the district is going to Atlanta, GA, except for one Elder who is going to Colorado Springs. All are speaking Spanish.
I'm actually enjoying gym time here. At the moment, Elder Corrigan and I like the same types of exercise, but you don't have to be with your companion during gym. I've been using some of the exercise machines they have here (but probably won't in Guatemala) and it feels really good to exercise.
The food usually tastes good here, but for our service assignment we helped clean the kitchen and I saw all the oil and liquid margarine they use. You can tell when you eat it, and I'm just trying to be careful and stay healthy.
So far, outside of the letters from you family, I've received letters from the MTC President, Gordon D. Brown (about being a district leader), Estée Arts, and Brad Wilcox, my mission prep instructor. His son just entered the MTC the week before I did. Thank you everyone for writing, and I hope to hear from you more! Remember, you can use to write to me both here in the MTC and in the mission field!
I've also seen Elder Crowther, Elder Monson, and Elder Claiborne here in the MTC. That was cool.
I love you everyone! You're the best!
Elder Nicholas Banks

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 4

Dear Family,
     I am sorry about the whole email thing. I tried to log in too many times on a computer with a Spanish keyboard and I got locked out. I am going later to try and reset the password so I can write you a short message.
     The past couple of days have been pretty eventful. Thursday night, I was assigned as District Leader, which basically means I organize and uplift the elders in our district, pick up the mail, and facilitate communications with the Branch Presidency.
     The next morning, one of my companions disappeared at breakfast. We searched for him to no avail and when we got to class the other elders said they saw him leaving the MTC. He told them he was going home. Elder Corrigan and I then spent most of yesterday notifying people and trying to find the Elder. They're still looking for him and are keeping us posted. How about that for a first day in leadership?
     Last night we taught our first lesson to Martin, our work investigator. Language-wise the lesson was a bit of an “accidente de tren” (train wreck) but we got some good practice and we're teaching him again tonight. Hopefully it will go a little better!
     I hope all is well at home. Despite the events I'm still enjoying it here and Spanish is coming slowly but surely.
     I love you very much and I will email you next week. My P-day is Friday (the first week is different).
Elder Nicholas Banks
P.S. Thanks for the umbrella and sandals!