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