Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Another great week in Guatemala

Dear Family and Friends,

This has been a great week. It hasn't been perfect, but it's been good.
Yesterday I looked in my bag where I had been keeping my umbrella (which was really nice, btw) and it was gone. I was told when I first arrived that some elders don't really understand what stealing is, and they just take what they want. Our closets have locks, but I'm pretty sure the umbrella walked off while my backpack was in the cubbies at the cafeteria during dinner on Sunday. Most of the other elders left yesterday, and the rest left this morning, so our district, of 6 elders and 3 hermanas is the only district in the CCM until tomorrow, when the new ones arrive. It's been cool but a little weird to be the only ones. It's unusual for them to have such a small group of North Americans, but I guess it just worked out this way.

Back to the story: so I'm pretty sure my umbrella is on its way to El Salvador or Honduras right now. I decided not to sweat about it after talking to some people and looking for it. Then, last night, an elder I didn't really even know came up to me and asked if I had found my umbrella. I told him I hadn't and he gave me one. He acted like it was his extra umbrella, and I am very greatful, because it rains A LOT here. It's something I will always remember.

I also received my first piece of mail in Guatemala: a letter from Elder Dallin McEwen, who is serving in the NYC South Mission, Spanish speaking. He was my roommate last year at BYU.

And now on to some even better news: we got to leave the CCM again today! Our district went out into the city for a little cultural experience trip with some families who were visiting with one of the MTC presidency. We went first to a relief map of Guatemala, which doesn't sound exciting, but was probably my favorite part of the trip. It's basically a map of Guatemala and the surrounding area in concrete, with mountains, lakes oceans and volcanoes (of which we have plenty here) done to scale, although the scale is different for the mountains than the lay of the land, so you can see the mountains better. It was completed in 1901 or thereabouts. There are some elevated places so you can look down at it, and we stood up there and Elder Rogers, in the MTC presidency, told us about what he had learned about Guatemala being Book of Mormon country. He talked about the land northward and southward, the narrow strip of wilderness, Zarahemla, the land of Nephi, and many other places. This is all speculation of course, but Guatemala City may have been in the heart of the land of Nephi, with the waters of Mormon not at Atitlan, but at a place much closer. It's really cool to think about.

After that, we went to the Mercado Central (central market), where there are lots of different types of stalls. I ended up buying a leather wallet with my name on it, and a little leather coin pouch, both of which are really cool. I spent about Q57 on the lot, which works out to about $7-8. It was neat to see all the cool things they sell here. Some of the elders bought leather satchel-type bags, which are really cool, but I don't really need one so I didn't buy one. Who knows, maybe I'll find an even better one later?

After that we went to the Miraflores Mall and Museum. It's built at the site of an ancient city and lake, and there are some buried ruins there. The museum was small, but it was cool to see what used to be in the place that is now a shopping center that puts some in the states to shame. There was a map in the museum that had a mini model of the city that used to be there, with a glass overlay showing a map of Guatemala City today. It was a cool place to go.
Over all, it's been a pretty great week. Elder Najarro and I are still getting along well, and our district is still awesome.

A couple other amazing things have happened: Testimony meeting. We usually have sacrament in a chapel near the temple, but we had it in the CCM this week because it was raining. And for something to be moved/canceled here due to rain, it has to REALLY be raining. I got the chance again to bear my testimony in Spanish, and to play the closing hymn on the piano. It was really fun because the Spirit was so strong in that meeting. Every person in that room, except for the branch presidency, was set apart as a missionary, and you could just feel the testimony. It gives me chills just thinking about it, it was so amazing. And to be blessed enough to close that meeting with my piano playing was an honor.

Also, in case I didn't mention this already, we got to see the talk Elder Holland gave at the MTC the night before I entered. It was amazing. I also found out that Elder Nelson spoke the night we left Provo. That's a lot of apostles for a couple of months!

Anyway, I'd like to close with another Spanish testimony. I know most of you won't understand it, but I hope you can.

YO sé que el evangelio de Jesucristo es verdadero. Yo sé que Jesucristo sufrío y murío para nbuestros pecados, dolores, y pruebas. Yo se que Jose Smith fue el Profeta de la Restauracion, y el tradujo eL libro de mormon por el poder de Dios. Yo se que esta libro es verdadero, y el Templo es el lugar de convenios eternos. Yo digo estas cosas en el nombre de Jesucristo, Amen.

I love you all, and I can't wait to hear from you!
Elder Banks

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