Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy New Year, Happy Birthday, and Antigua!


This has been a great week. New Year's was fun, not near as many fireworks as the 24th, though, which was a blessing. The neighbors were having a really loud party, though, which wasn't a blessing, at least as far as I can tell at the moment.

This week I've been in a trio with me, Elder Caceres, and Elder Cook, who is in Peronia, the area adjacent to ours. His companion was called to a mission in Peru and is from Guatemala. He was here awaiting his visa for Peru, and it came through last Tuesday. He left, so Elder Cook came with us, since we were the closest. He did divisions with his ward mission leader and other members of his ward, so we could still work in both areas for this week. He's from Wyoming, but will be returning to California, since his family moved there since he left. He's really funny, and a really strong, bold teacher. He really helped us out with some of our investigators this week.

When you knock on a door or gate in Guatemala, the people yell ¿Quien? (who is it?). Usually we just say 'Buenas, Los Elderes' (a greeting, and us). Elder Cook said once or twice as a joke 'Agua Salvavidas' which is the biggest brand of purified water here in Guatemala. They do door to door service, kind of like a milkman, but with water. This is actually the only brand we're supposed to drink, because it's the only brand you can really trust 100%. Anyway, Elder Cook is awesome. His new companion, another Guatemalan Elder awaiting his Peruvian visa, arrived today, so he'll be back in his area. He also bought a cake for my birthday that we ate in district meeting. It was delicious!

Speaking of my Birthday, as you know, it's today. I opened the wrapped gifts from my Christmas package (thanks Mom for the pens, and the ties are really cool!) this morning. I just can't believe that I'm not a teenager anymore! 20 years is a big accomplishment! :)

But probably the greatest present I received was our zone activity yesterday, in which we went to Antigua Guatemala. This city used to be the capital of all of Central America, until Volcan de Agua erupted, and destroyed parts of the city. It's literally right there by Antigua, and it's pretty neat. I can see it from my area if the sky is clear. Sadly, yesterday, it was really cloudy, and we could hardly see the volcano. It's called Volcan de Agua (volcano of water) because in the aforementioned historic eruption, the crater had filled with rainwater, and it sprayed boiling water all over the city, as I understand it. Because of this, Antigua is no longer the capital.

In Antigua, you can buy many things which are harder to find in other areas of Guatemala. I bought myself a few presents! I bought a blue tie made of native fabric, which is awesome. The sister who sold it to us gave us each a pen that has been adorned with native threads, and embroidered to say 'Mission Central.' It's pretty cool too. Then, we ate lunch at the nicest McDonald's ever (there's a fountain and everything, and a nice little garden) and returned to another market where one of the elders' converts sells. He gave us great deals on some stuff, and I bought a neat leather and textile pencil case from him. We had been in this market in the morning, and I saw one thing which caught my eye. It was a table runner, I believe hand woven, which has the colors red, orange, yellow, and kind of a dark reddish pink. The colors are very vibrant and it's really cool. In the morning, they told me it cost Q90. I came back in the afternoon, and it was Q75. I managed to talk them down to Q50, and if I tryed to walk away, I probably could have gotten it lower, but I bought it for that. It's for my desk, to make it feel more homey, and to encourage me to keep the desk clean. And it's just cool! There were a lot of nice things, but I just bought a few things I can enjoy now in the mission. I'll definitely go back and buy some gifts, and things to enjoy after I get home. Overall, I spent about Q107, which works out to about $14 USD. I had a lot of fun, and I've got some great memories. Elder Caceres bought a bag, and Elder Cook bought a bunch of stuff for his family. Elder Cook has 9 months left, and Elder Caceres just two! (it's very possible that I'll be his last companion.) Sadly, Brother Arevalo, our member who sells shoes, wasn't selling in Antigua yesterday, so we didn't see him. That's okay, he's our neighbor, and I'll see him another time.

I also got some great pictures, which I will send soon, including a picture with Elder Caceres, finally! I also got some pictures of the ruins we explored in the morning. There's a church/monastery that was destroyed a long time ago, and it was a neat place to explore! Lots of pictures from there to come! I'm a little sad we couldn't see the volcano, but I'll be back I'm sure. And that was my cool day in Antigua. Next stop: Lake Atitlan! (hopefully!)

Now I would like to tell you about the work a little bit. If everything goes according to plan, we'll have 3 baptisms on the 22nd of January! We set 3 dates this week, at least for a goal for them. One of them is Rosa, who is part of a member family, and the others are William, and Alicia who is new. Alicia was a reference from one of our members. She's probably the most humble person I've had the opportunity to teach. She lives alone, with her two small children, one of whom is sick. She is unemployed, and is living on property where someone is letting her live for the time being. Her family isn't helping her at all, and she's really in a bad way. She came to our branch Christmas party, and her first question was 'How can I join your church?' We're doing our best to help her understand the message we bring to her, and some of the members want to help her out with some temporary help, and to find work, too. We're trying to facilitate that, but we want to make sure she'll be baptized because she has a testimony of the restored gospel, not just because the Church has an excellent welfare program. To me, she seems very enthusiastic and sincere. She's been reading in the Book of Mormon, and she's been praying every day. She didn't attend a church before ours for a long time, so she was even willing to change the way she prays to match ours. I think she'll be great, and I'm excited to be able to see the changes the Gospel can make in her life.

Well, the time is far spent. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers, and your love. It is all much needed, and much appreciated here on the receiving end. Thank you.

Always remember how much your Savior loves you, and no matter what happens, he is waiting for you to turn to him with open arms.

Until next week!

Yours in the faith,
Elder Nicholas Banks

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