Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Music

Christmas is Coming

I got the Christmas package! I´m excited to talk to you. 
Selfie with New Camera

Rocking the Santa Hats

Lots of people here have Christmas lights. Everybody here and I mean just about every peson belives in Jesus and are not afraid to show their love for him, which I think is super cool. A bunch of cool and crazy things have happened so far, I think I´ll save them for Christmas though :0

We got to sing in sacrament meeting us and the other four missionaries that go to church in our building. I also have lots of times where I don´t know the words to songs. In the actual sacrament meeting I gave an investigator my hymnbook and without the hymnbook I have no idea what the words to most songs are. 

Every baptism is super cool and super spirirtual, and me being a little sick didn´t make it any less cool. That is awesome that you guys had a baptism in the ward, and a youth too. It´s good that you guys are friends. There was a talk or something I heard that says every new member in the church needs a friend and a calling\responsibility. I´ve seen that to be true so far in my mission, the peopelwho are super active in the church are the people who are supported by their friends. 

My new companion (I don´t remember what I´ve already said about him) is from peru too, he´s way clean in the house and he´s an excellent teacher. Working with him is a bunch different that when Marquezado was my companion though. 

Hanging with David
I got to see the Tuttles and we had a good time eating cheeseburgers. It was super cool to see the them.

hasta navidad,
Elder Stoddard

Monday, December 19, 2016

A New Companion & Charity

Hey Family:

I´m really excited to talk to you guy, I think it will be through skype, I still don´t know about when and how that´ll all work, but as soon as I find out I´ll be sure to let you know. 

Mario & Flor

Baptisms were really great, I was super sick that day though my stomach was really upset. So the whole experience was really cool, but I was really grateful when I got to go to sleep that Tuesday night. 


It was actually Elder Marquezado´s last day inthe mission field, so he got to leave with three baptisms, a pretty cool way to go out. 

Honduras is a busy place for missionaries. 

Right now we have a couple people planning to be baptised but none are super close.

The new companion´s good, his name is Elder Quinaya, also from Peru. It´s super different working with him than with Elder Marquezado. Also, I know the area and he doesn´t so I´m always leading which is kinda weird for me. 

We´re pretty excited for Christmas here. We bought some Chrismas lights today and we´re gonna put them up outside our house tonight. 

It still feels like summer here right now, I think it´ll be like this year round. I bet it´s already snowed there huh? 

The two biggest things for me here are the dogs in the street and people are always burning stuff by the side of the road, I´m not a huge fan of all that smoke, but that´s how peopel get rid of their trash much of the time. 

Now for your question about experiences I have had with charity: 

Members here have helped us so much and been instumental in every situation we´ve had. 

One time we were stuck really far away from our house late at night with no money and a member picked us up and brought us home. There´s one member who every Sunday picks up one of our investigators and brings her to church. One of the things a member has done for us was that there were a couple of gangs here fighting and a member brought us into their house where it was safe, that was pretty memorable. 

I´m so grateful for the emails I´ve gotten from members of the ward that are always encouraging me. 

I´ve seen people work some incredibly hard and dirty jobs to be able to provide for their families. 

I gave a white shirt to Christian so he can pass the sacrament. 

I have tons of storys I don´t really know what you´d like to hear in specific.

Love you guys
Elder Stoddard

Monday, December 12, 2016

Teaching, Baptizing, and Looking Forward to Christmas

Hey Family,

Big news is tomorrow we´re gonna have three baptisms, a 16 year old girl named Sindi, and a brother and sister Mario(12) and Flor(10). 

This past Sunday we brought a pastor to church. Yep a legit pastor with a congregation and everything came to a mormon church and really enjoyed it. 

i got up to bear my testimony this fast Sunday with my companion (it´s his last Sunday here in Honduras) and told about how one time we were contacting knocking on doors and a kid answered us ´my mom isn´t here´ so we said ´tell her that we´ll pass by another time´ so the kid turned around and yelled ´mom, they say they´re gonna pass by another time.´ And then the mom came to the door to answer us and she turned out to be a really nice lady. I related the story about sometimes the people who need the gospel most are hiding and we need to work hard as members of the church to strengthen eachother.

Christmas is a big deal here, but not like it is in the USA. I´ve heard that during Christmas eve there´s a ton of firworks and stuff going on, so I´m looking forward to that. As far as traditions go here they eat tamales. I can´t wait to talk to you guys. I miss you guys, but i think this Christmas is gonna be cool, you guys have six months of fun ahead of you! 

I´m so excited for you guys to go to france. I thought you guys would have a moving company, but it´s good to hear you aren´t as rushed as we´ve been in previous moves. It´s true Dad is a master tetris player, I´ve seen our moving vans, and I have no idea how he does it. 

One of the things that was weird when I first came here but I quickly got used to is that there´s no laws for noise here. If your church wants to play music super loud or if you´re selling something and want to strap a couple megaphones to the roof of your car you absolutely can. 

Love you guys!
Elder Stoddard

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Appreciation for Youth

Hey family,

It really was awesome baptizing Christian, I´m really grateful that I had that opportunity. I showed him the picture of me and Emma right before her baptism, he thought it was pretty cool. 

And the guy who sells fruit still needs to get married to his girlfriend, but I think that his testimony of the sabbath day is pretty strong now, when we went to recollect him for church yesterday, he´d already left for the building, more than 30 minutes early.  

I´m really trying my best. There´s nosuch thing as a bad area. There is one young man in the ward that´s come with us on almost every visit to Christian´s house for the last 4 visits with him. Youth really can have a huge impact in missionary work. we also have another young woman who is probably going to be baptised in the near future. 

I am way proud of Michael for being ordained. I remeber my first Sunday passing the sacrament I ran out of bread and freaked out a little bit. I´m glad a couple of good kids have taken him under their wing, Young mens is so much better than primary, and I´m glad Michaels having those experiences.

Yard work here is tough, people here chop the grass with machetes, which is cool at first but hen you start getting blisters and your wrist starts hurting and you start wishing you had a lwan mower.

Elder Marquezado is leaving December 7th, he´s pretty excited to see hs family again he´s been here for more than 2 years already. I think I´ll be able to work with anybody.

Love you guys
Elder Stoddard

 Also we contacted someone really good today.
 He also invited us for some chicken.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Christian Baptizes Christian

Hey Family,
First of all, the baptism was awesome, the name of our 15 year old investigator is Christian. It was a really cool experience, and he asked me to baptise him, so I was just as nervous as he was.
We also got a whole bunch of investigators (including his mom) to come and see the baptism too so that was really cool. It was a big deal for the ward too because it´s been almost two years since the last convert baptism they´ve had. It was an awesome experience.

My stomach´s doing good, the only problem I have had with the food was in the CCM haha. I ate something pretty strange this week, called sopa de mondongo which is the stomach of a cow in a soup.
That was the toughest thing I´ve eaten so far. My companion was really suprised I finished it. He said that usually gringo´s refuse to eat it. 

I did get to play some frisbee today in a gym with some other missionaries. I haven´t played a harmonica solo for anybody yet, but I have learned to play the first line of a bunch of hymns. One time we were teaching a lesson and we were gonna start with a hymn, and Elder Marquezado asked me to demonstrate the tune. I pulled out the harmonica and played the first line. It was pretty funny, but only because of how unexpected it was. 

Something really cool happened this week. We had an investigator who sells fruit out of the back of his truck for a living. He has a hard time going to to church because Sunday he need to sell fruit if he wantas to support his family. 2 saturdays ago we promised him that if he went to church he and his family wouldn´t want for anything in the necxt week. He came to church and kepty the sabbath day holy. Yesterdfasy he siad he sold more fruit during the week than he ever has before. that really strengthened my testimony in the power and authority missionaries have to make promises. Also in the sabbath day.

Love you guys
E Stoddard

Monday, November 14, 2016

Touch & Go

Hey Family,

My time´s even shorter today because we had trouble finding keys to the chapel, and one of the computers doesn´t work. 

That´s awesome that you guys are in North Carolina. I dream about being cold. It is super super hot here, and its winter! 

I cannot belive Trump is the new president. How the heck did he win? 

Also, we´re going to have a baptism this week so I´m pretty excited for that. 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Speaking in Francés


First of all that is so awesome that you guys are going to France! Spanish isn´t so bad, and I don´t think French is either. Plus, you don´t have to learn as much if you don´t want to, and you won´t have to worry about weird church words. If you really want to learn the language i recommend reading a book with a French and english dictionary. That´s how I learn during language study, and during the day when somebody says a word I don´t understand I´ll write it down so i can look it up later. Also you have the internet so if you want to learn french you´re all set.

There´s a bunch of stuff here that´s different. one example of something that was different for me when I go here was that people here point at stuff with their lips. I´m sure when you go to france you´ll see all kinds of different stuff.
I miss home foods but I´m feeling a lot better now that I have penut butter. American food is hard to find unless we go to the big super market in the center of progresso, and even the some things are still tough. 

I finished my first change october 30th, so we´re one week into my second change. It was a little weird when we had new people in our district. My companion is going to go home December 8th, so by then I´ll have a new companion. I think it´s very unlikely that i´ll have a gringo companion and it´s also likely that I´ll go my whole mission without a gringo companion. Missionaries from the US are probably more rare now than when Mom and Dad served. I´d say maybe 10% are from the US. The only guy who speaks english in my district is a korean who lived in Utah. There are not sisters in my area, but the member who prepares lunch for us everyday cooks for us, and the elders and sisters serving in the neighboring ward. 
Teaching is going better, I´m understanding way more, there are still words i don´t know, but hondurans use a lot of slang and i´m getting better at understanding that.

During one of our lessons this week we talked about service and i was reminded about how Dad always says that people who are happiest think about others more than themselves. I really feel happiest here when i focus on the work.

Love you guys,
-Elder Stoddard

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Eating, Drinking, and Showing Up

Hey Family:

I kinda expected the mango juice to be hard to find, it doesn´t exist here in Honduras, but we had it in the CCM Guatemala and it was really good. What I usually drink is called fristy, it´s kinda like a sunny d, I always have a 3 liter bottle of in the house, and I drink that instead of water most of the time. 

I cannot belive how people pound the soft drinks here. Yesterday was way hot and people kept offering us soft drinks. I probably drank about half my weight in coke. 

I found some penut butter so I´ve been eating that or oatmeal for breakfast everyday. For the first couple weeks I did what most other missionaries do, which is buy something called pan semita from the pulperias, I got sick of that pretty fast, so finding penut butter was a game changer. 

I completely didn´t notice today was halloween until I read this email. I´m 100% serious. It´s crazy that it´s already halloween. I´m glad you guys had a good time at the Halloween party, and it sounds like the costumes were really good.
Michael seems like he´s changed a ton since I was there, but also I can see him being a funny outgoing crazy kid. I can't believe he's a deacon. 

A row of trees seperate Palermo and Santa Fe. One more street up from the 1st avenida and there´s a yellow house on the corner of the street we live on.

People will ask me all kinds of stuff. My first week here´s how the conversations between me and other people went: Other person: "How are you?" Me: "...Virginia".

I think that showing up is half the battle. A lot of problems that missionaries have is they don´t follow the little rules like getting up on time and studying. How is the spirit going to help you remeber something that you never knew? 

Love you guys,
Elder Stoddard

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Teaching by Day; Praying by Night

Hey Family...

It´s crazy how much I´ve improved.  Sometimes I´ll make a grammer error, but when I came her I was saying mostly memorized phrases from the CCM.  In another change, I´ll look back on today and think I was horrible.  But the lessons are going way better, I can respond to questions and understand when somebody gives a long answer to a question.

It is really fun teaching younger people.  We teach so many people during the day that I take notes of who we visited in my planner, because it´s hard to remember at the end of the day.  

I´m meeting a lot of people who have lived or have family who live in the united states.

We live in Santa Fe, which is technically outside Palermo, but just barely.  Theres a paved road called the 2 avenida, then 2 more avenidas and see if you can find pulparia willy we live 1 calle away from that pulp.  It´s tough describing stuff but hopefully that helps.

I´ve started saying Michael length prayers here, my companion commented about it yesterday that he falls asleep every night watching me pray. 

That´s really cool about your Elders quorum lesson, Dad.  I love the idea that He´ll rescue us no matter what.  I also love the idea from your other lesson that I am an undershepherd of Jesus Christ, and that I too can have a part in the rescue of others.  Next week I´ll send a picture, but there´s a shepherd here who always herds his sheep around in our area, and gets in the way of cars and stuff. 

'Elder Stoddard (Elder Estudar) 

PS if you can find naturalisimo jugo de mango on amazon or something you will not be disappointed.  It was what was in the CCM and is quite possibly the most rich juice I´ve had in my life.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Hey Family-

I tried super hard this week to take pictures. I did what I could ... it´s not really in my nature to take a bunch of pictures!  Hopefully this is a little appetizer for next week.  
I´m serving in a regular ward here.  Attendace yesterday was 108 people so it a pretty good sized ward.
The church
My clothes are holding up ok, this week we washed the clothes ourselves (yeah without washing machines) that was actually not so bad, the only problem was it took a really long time. 
It rains a lot of the time...
(The building my companion is in front of is a prison)

A little bit of shaky cam

Yesterday we taught a ten year old kid and his twelve year old brother, it was crazy the kind of questions this 10 year old (Anthony) was asking us.  It was like he´d practiced lesson plans too!  I was amazed the kinds of really deep spiritual questions he asked. Children really are closer to god.
Our house

Our street

There´s definately been some stuff that´s kinda hard here, and I do try to just stay focused on why I´m here.

It's a little hot here in Honduras...

Love you guys

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Being in the Right Place

Hey family!

Here in Honduras it´s pretty weird to be a gringo. The only other white people are missionaries, so when i´m walking down the street, people will look at me and yell the little bit of English that they know, it´s always funny to me what people here pick up from movies, songs, and video games. 

In Honduras there´s a lot of bikes too. Akmost nobody here has a car, most people have bikes or motorcycles. 

Here the water is dirty and muddy but there isn´t raw sewage sloshing around. It really depends on the day about the water, sometimes the streets become rivers and we really can´t avoid it, and sometimes when it´s just a little rain we can jump from dry spot to dry spot. 

We´re teaching lots of people, one day we had 7 new people start recieving visits from us in the span of probably 2 or three hours. Sometimes we get a lot of visits, sometimes less. 

The mission does have some hard stuff, but it´s also really fun and I know this is exactly where God wants me to be, and I´m so happy to know I have a family who cares about me and thinks about me. A lot of people here (And in the United States too) don´t have that, and I´m so grateful for the blessing I have of a loving family.

It is cool knowing that you guys were watching the same exact conference as me. It was a other side of heaven kinda thing.

I always promise to send pictures and I never do! I feel like such a knuckle head! Next week I really will send pictures, I took a couple this week but left my camera at the house. 

Love you guys,
Elder Stoddard

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Water Never Bothered Me Anyway

Hey family, things are still good here. I need to get better at taking pictures, I´ll make a better effort to take more pictures this week.

Palermo is a city, the larger area is called Progreso. We´re about 15 minutes south of San Pedro Sula.

My companion is great, but sometimes I do miss english a little bit. There are 3 gringos in our zone though, and a lot of the latinos are in various stages of learning english, so I do get to hear a good amount of it. Plus, a lot of songs and t-shirts and writing on storebought stuff is in english, so everythings good on that front. 

It rains a ton here. I thought it rained a lot in Virginia! The water doesn´t really bug me too much, and I´ve heard that in Ceiba, it can get to be chest deep. Usually it rains in the afternoon and I put my wet shoes outside and by luch the next day they´re dry. Maybe if I go somewhere with a lot more rain I will get some rainboots. 

I will say some of the most valuable things I brought with me are the umbrella and the flashlight. Sometimes I worry I´m like that guy from dad´s mission who always had an umbrella, but it´s so nice to not be completely soaked. And when the power goes out (which it has more often this week) it gets way dark and so the flashlight´s getting a lot of use. 

I did get to watch conference and sometimes I even got to watch parts of it in English so that was pretty cool. I liked Uceda´s talk and his cliff story. I especially liked 2 things he said ¨God listens to us, even when we don´t listen to him¨ and Äre we really praying or just saying prayers?¨

Love you guys
-Elder Stoddard

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The New Normal

Hey family.

My spanish is definately coming along... but I have a long way to go. It´s still hard to understand people and often times my companion will translate from fast quick mumble spanish to slow, clear spanish. Some Honduras slang for you: Masiso: Good. Cheque:Everythings good\ready\goodbye. Also they´ll throw in some weird english words too like bye.

Elder Marquezada is fun. He´s serious about obedience stuff which I´m so grateful for. Excellent teacher, I´m really glad he´s my trainer. He knows the scriptures super well. Every morning he wakes up and studies the seminary manuels so he always seems to have a scripture to turn to when somebody asks a question. He tells a lot of jokes, some I understand and some I don´t haha.

Day to day we wake up and study individually and together eat breakfast and go teach. We´ll go eat lunch at a member who we pay to make lunch for us´s house, then we go back and study language for an hour and then we leave again and teach until 9. Ususally we have a full roster of people to teach, but sometimes sombody won´t be home and then we´ll go and yell buenas in front od people´s houses, and talk to people on the street.

All my stuff´s holding up great, I haven´t bought rainboots because I haven´t really needed to, water only goes up to about mid calf and if I leave my shoes outside while I wear the other ones the next day they dry really quick.

Our house is great. Most houses have concrete floor but we have tile. We clean it ourselves, and as a general rule we keep it pretty clean, but when we walk in after the day, we´re usually pretty dirty and we get the floor dirty too.

Love you guys,
-Elder Stoddard

Saturday, September 24, 2016

First Impressions of 'Ondura'

Hey family, 

it´s been super long since I had the opportunity to email you guys. I thought that we didn´t have any time to email in the CCM (1 hour), but now here in the feild we have even less (30 minutes)! 

The field´s great, I´m serving in an area called Palermo. A week ago we woke up at 2 in the morning in the Guatemala CCM and drove to the airport where we flew to El Salvafor and then to the San Pedro Sula airport. It was sad saying goodbye to the guys from the CCM, but I was also so excited to get to the mission. 

I got my new companion (Elder Marquezada from Peru). He´s a great teacher and I´m glad I have somebody who doesn´t speak english so I can feel a little more pressure to learn spanish. He speaks english, but only a couple words, so I have to use the dictionary a lot. I was speaking spanish to him on the van ride to our area and I was feeling really good and then we got out and started talking to people and I understood about 5%! 

Hondurand do have an accent, they´ll drop the s sound in a lot of words so ¨nosotros¨ becomes ¨¨nohotros¨¨ änd the way they say honduras is ondura. 

Power´s pretty reliable here. In the time that I´ve been here it´s only gone out twice. The first night I was here, it went out about 6 and didn´t come back on until early morning, so that first night was way hot. The apartment had a fan in it for me and when it turned on I had the experience you told me about dad, where I rolled over and smiled. 

It is unreal how hot it is here. Never have I sweated so much in my life. It´s rainy season here and every day at about 2 or 3 like clockwork it´l start raining really really hard, and it´s weird because most of the time the sun´s still shining so the rain does very little to cool things down. 

The people here are great. We´re teaching one guy named Wilmer who wants to be baptized, but the last time we talked with him he said he didn´t know that the book of Mormon was true so we read the introduction and I bore my testimony about the power of prayer. It´s a completely different thing to bear your testimony to somebody who isn´t one of your teachers in the CCM. 

I so happy to be in the field. When I got the call, this is what I was excited for. The CCM was cool and I learned a lot, but being here is exactly what I was looking for. 

the food here is delicious, baleadas are way good. 

Contacting is fun. Instead of knocking on doors here they yell buenas in a really loud voice. 

Yesterday the bishop asked me to introduce myself to the ward and I made my second ever joke. ¨Yo quisé hacer un chiste pero mi español es un chiste.¨ [Dad Translation: "I wanted to tell a joke, but my Spanish is a joke."]  They got a kick out of that, probably because that was bad spanish too. 

Yo quiero dejar ustedes con mi testimonio. Este iglesia es verdad. Yo he sentido el espiritu demasiado fuert demasiado veces. Por el poder del espiritu santo podemos sentir el amor de dios para nosotros. Yo espero que yo podía ver ustedes, pero yo daré 2 años con mi familia eterna entonces alguin puede vive con su familia eterna para siempre. Me ama ustedes. [Dad translation: I want to leave you with my testimony.  This church is true.  I have felt the Spirit too strong, too many times.  By the power of the Holy Ghost, we can feel the love of God for us.  I wish I could see you, but I will give two years with my eternal family, then someone else can live with his eternal family for forever.  I love you guys.]

-Elder Stoddard

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Blog Title (Above) Has Been Realized

We did not hear from Christian this past week.  He left the training center before the day of the week when he would usually write home and apparently arrived in Honduras after their weekly "preparation day" had already passed.

So we will have to wait a few more days to hear his first impressions of the place where he will spend the remainder of his two years abroad.

We did receive an email from Sister Carlisle, the wife of the Mission President on Tuesday to let us know he arrived safely that morning.

She attached a handful of pictures of Christian and the other new missionaries being greeted at the airport, and she told us that his first companion (and trainer) will be an elder from Peru.  He and Christian will serve in a place called Palermo.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

One Foot Out the Door

Hey family,

Last week I didn`t write a lot, partially because I was having trouble thinking of stuff to write about, and partially because that p-day i was the day I had a bunch of responsibility given to me pretty quick and I didn`t really know how to say how I felt without sounding super negative. 

Last p-day pretty randomly I I was told I`m the new district leader and I had to lead a BOM devotional that night, so I needed to be prepared for that. I think Giod gives us challenges to build us, and the devotional went great, but I spent a lot of the time I should``ve been emailing reading the Book of Mormon and trying to prepare what I was going to say and `ve felt kinda bad about that this week, so I`m gonna try and repent and write more this week. 

I tried the hot chocolate It was pretty good, it had a kinda christmasy apple-cinnamon-oatmeal flavor instead of a really chocolatey flavor. 

This week we had a super good lesson one of the days, Elder Lorscheider and I. We went in with nothing, no notes, no plan, anly a solid resolve that this was the lesson we would find the need. I was super worried that we`d be sitting there in silence with our teacher, but that didn`t happen at all. In fact, because we made it a conversation instead of a lesson, we ended up having almost no silence the whole visit, and we were the fist companionship in the district to find the need, so we felt really good afterwards.

Guatemala MTC Group Picture II
(The blur in the sky is probably a pigeon, but the blog editor says it is an angel ... or at least a dove.)

This is our last week hare at the CCM, the next time you get an email from me I`ll be in Honduras! 

I`ll bet nearly every missionary has this same experience, but after 5 weeks (going on six) I am so excited to get to the field and put into practice what I`ve learned here, even if my spanish is far from perfect. 

Something abopu tbeing here in the CCM is that even though I`m in Guatemala, it kinda feels like I`m in Utah. We`re in such a sheltered bubble here, I wonder what will happen when I get asked a real life question from someone besides my teachers or a member. I hope when that day comes (in six days) I`ll be in tune enough with the spirit that my shortcomings won`t make a difference, and the person I`m talking to will be able to feel the spirit.

love you guys,

-Elder Stoddard  

Friday, September 2, 2016

CCM Veteran

Hey family,

Things are still good here. I thought my Spanish was getting pretty good, but then they started introducing more and more grammer and now I know there´s a lot of work I still need to do to improve my spanish. I´m starting to get to the point where if the person talks slow I can understand everything except for a few words I don´t know.

I think all of us in my district are kinda worried about not knowing enough spanish when we leave. Whenever I get a little bit down or upset I just think how cool it is that I have to opportunity to be here in a different country learning a foreign language, and helping people in the same way the savior would. That always puts a smile on my face.

I didn´t know about the pictures from the CCM, but it´s cool you got to see them, because I haven´t gotten to. When we get out of the CCM I´ll be sure to send some pictures.

Guatemala MTC Group Picture
(Christian is in the middle row; 3rd from left)

You might not believe it, but things are starting to get a little repetitive here, too. I can´t believe I´ve already been out for a month.

Nothing super exciting has happened this week. We got some new people and it was kinda fun giving them the same advice we got from the older generation.

Last week was super exciting, this week has been pretty relaxed. I´ll write more next week, we didn´t havew as much time this week.

- Elder Stoddard

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Venturing Out

Hey family,

Things are still ok here. Today was awesome, we got to give out copies of the book of mormon in a sqaure in the middle of guatemala city. It was by far the coolest thing we´ve done while we´ve been here. For a brief second I felt like a real missionary. We only had 30 minutes to do it, and our goal was to give out 5 copies. What ended up happening, was we´d start talking to one guy, and he´d talk in really quick spanish for a long time and we´d clumsily talk about what the book of mormon was about and what it meant to us, get his adress and say adios, by the time we did that with 3 people our time had been up for 5 minutes. It was awesome how after we talked to the first guy, someone called us over and wanted to talk to us. I think the fact that we´re americans who´ve decided to come to central america for 2 years really gives us credibility.

We alo got to go to that famous Wendys which was delicios and tasted much more like America than anything we've had here.

This week was a little rough, I got food poisoning on Thursday and puked my guts out. Immediately after I felt much better. Went to bed as soon as I could that night, and the day after I felt back to 100%.

Spanish is getting better. One day this week my companion and I had a super good lesson where I felt the gift of tongues really work. It felt almost like a kareoke machine where I was almost reading off the words, but I completely understood everything I was saying and that my investigator (teacher) was saying. It´s hard to explain, but it was awesome and I really want to have that experience again. It didn´t happen today, but I know when I need that gift it will be there.

-Elder Stoddard

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Settling In

Hey family,

[T]hings are still going good here, and I think my spanish is getting better. You guys said before I left that you would be living for my emails, I didn't really expect to be so excited for emails too. 

Things are getting better here and I'm starting to get more into the swing of things. I have quickly learned to expect to be called upon to do something I didn't know how to do hours before. I think being able to speak but not being able to understand might just be a Stoddard thing, dad because I'm finding that I remember what to say and can form sentences with the limited spanish that I do know, but often times a teacher or someone will say words that I just haven't learned yet.

The teachers are good, Hermano Higueros is our main teacher, he's great. He's a 20 year old Guatemalan return missionary who served his mission in Provo. His english is perfect because he started studying it when he was 4. He's a really great teacher.

Elder Lorscheider's a good companion. He's from Utah (Like most of the Nortes are) and he's going to my mission, so I'll proably see him again when we go to the field. We get along good, no complaints. Having a companion everywhere we go in here is weird because it's all one big building.

I go to church in [the] Joseph Smith [room], but I have class in Brigham Young because our district is bigger than everyone else's. I got a picture of me, Hermanho Higueros and Elder Lorscheider in front of the temple here last p-day so whenever I get to send pictures I'll send that.

I really want to go to the field, but I know I haven't learned everything that I need to here. A lot of the time it feels like there's 2 or three things I should be doing at any given moment. It's good they keep us busy because it doesn't really give us time to think about anything besides what we're supposed to be thinking about.

At meals the teachers encourage us to sit with latinos so we can have some kind of real world spanish experience before we get to the field. I understand what you were saying about the dominican spanish now dad. Also the guys from Chile talk really fast so they're hard to understand too.

Also I forgot to say in my first email they did give me a haircut when I got here, some Guatemalan barber took a number 4 clipper and cut all my hair to that length. Felt like I was in the military while I was getting it. I also had to get another (tetanus?) shot. I think they only last 5 years down here, so that was good. No peanut butter shot yet though, I think they give it to us when we leave.

Love you guys and miss you.

Elder Stoddard

Friday, August 12, 2016

First Impressions

Hey family,

Things are going good, these keyboards are Spanish keyboards and they don't correct my spelling so I hope you can excuse my mistakes. 

The first day we arrived was nuts. Lots to do and we were super tired. The guys from utah had their flight delayed, so I didn't get my companion until the second day. His name is Elder Lorshieder, and, like you would expect, no one can say his name. I used to think the Latinos had a hard time saying Stoddard! 

When the Utah guys go here on the second day, the first thing one of them did was clog the toilet and before anyone knew what was happening our floor was flooded. So that was fun to clean up. 

Food is great here, I don't think they've made anything that I haven't liked. Some guys are really picky eaters, but I'll eat anything they put in front of me. I should probably get a little more picky so that I don't get sick while I'm down here. I totally forgot to take my antibiotic when I got off the plane, I guess there was just so much going on. I feel just fine though, my coughing has gone away completely. 

Remember when we were joking about me writing emails in Spanish? That's absolutely not gonna happen. My Spanish is getting better everyday, but I am nowhere near good enough to write an entire email. 

This CCM is different from what I've heard about the Provo MTC in a lot of ways. The speak your language thing doesn't really exist. Around the other Nortes, we always speak Engish unless we're in class.For some reason, I expected to come here, exclusively speak Spanish and learn it super well and super quick and it wouldn't be anything like Spainish classes. I was sorely mistaken. It's the same stuff, it's just as hard, the only differences are that we only take two classes: Spanish and Seminary and we have the gift of tongues helping us. 

We've been teaching lessons to our mock investigators and yesterday Elder Lorscheider and I decided we wouldn't bring any notes to help us, because we felt like we were reading too much. I think that was the best lesson we've had so far, there are not many feelings that are better than coming out of a good lesson. 

I am so tired, all the time. I catch myself falling asleep, especially when we watch videos. Most of the time I don't know what day of the week it is except Sunday and P day. One thing I'm a little disappointed about is that we don't really get to leave the CCM ever. I guess I expected that but I forget that I am in Guatemala ALL the time. 

One thing that's weird that suprised me was all the american stuff. There's a dance club right across the street from our room (we call it the great and spacious building) that always plays american music. Most of the signs and billboards have english on them.

Our teacher came in and told us we needed to write our testimonies in Spanish so I hope I don't embarass myself here: Yo sè què la libro de mormon es un libro verdadero y es la palabra de Dios. Yo sè que Josè Smith era un profeta y mediante èl, la evangelio era restaurado. Nosotros tenemos un vive profeta ahora y su nombre es Thomas S. Monson. En el nombre de Jesucristo amen.

Love you guys and I'll talk to you in a week
Elder Stoddard

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Safe Arrival

Received on 3 August 2016: 

Hey family, I am doing good. Flights were good. I was fortunate to meet up with another Elder at the airport who was also headed here so I had a companion the whole way. I only have 5 minutes, but they want me to tell you that I will be writing on a weird schedule while I am here at the MTC, but a good thing for you to do is write on sundays. Love you and miss you.

Elder Stoddard

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Day Zero

Day 1 of Christian's mission starts tomorrow morning when he arrives at the Centro de Capacitación Misional (CCM) in Guatemala, so I guess that makes this Day 0.

A friend of Andrea who has been through this a few times, including very recently explained the last few days well.  She called it a "miserable joy".  

Saturday night graced us with an unplanned family moment. We had been asking Christian what his last movie should be. Nothing seemed to be fitting until someone recommended The Iron Giant - a family favorite that happens to meet our standard for Sunday viewing. After the last scene, we took a few minutes to remark for the first time about all the correlations that can be drawn between Jesus and the Giant. It made for a fitting last movie before Christian's long sojourn in a cinematic desert.

On Sunday, President Wheatley set Christian apart, and it finally seemed like it was really happening.

And to keep things interesting, Christian woke up Monday with a fever and chills. His strength left him as he stood in the kitchen, and he had to be helped back to bed. He slept the day away and got a course of antibiotics from the doctor.  As the day was drawing to a close, he voiced his suspicion that he had probably brought it on himself. Sunday night he had prayed that something would happen to swallow up the boredom of waiting for his departure on Tuesday. We agreed that the first lesson of his mission was to be much more specific in his prayers.

The only task this morning was to figure out a couple of unknowns about the CCM. The welcome packet he received after his call advised he should arrive with Guatemalan quetzals in his wallet because he would want to buy a few things at the CCM, and they could not accept US currency.  Unfortunately, none of the currency exchange companies around here carried such exotic currency. I know because I asked them all on Monday. I called the CCM right after they opened today, and the kindest sister answered my question and let me know there were ways to use his debit card to get quetzals or whatever he needed at the CCM. She added that they would be ready for him when he arrived Wednesday morning and that he would be arriving with 23 other missionaries. What a comfort that was to know, and it did wonders to ease all of our minds.  What a blessing that I still remember enough Spanish after all these years to have that conversation!

Then it was off to the airport. Saying goodbye was hard. I wore sunglasses in case the sun started to get in my eyes once inside the terminal. Emma was reluctant to let go when it was her turn for a hug. There were a few tears, but Christian was so excited -- and we were so excited for him -- that it was not as hard as we had expected.

As he passed through the first security checkpoint, we almost forgot to take a parting picture. Fortunately Andrea remembered, and I called to him in time. He gave us a wave and he walked a few steps and disappeared from sight. I knew I would have to wait a few hours before I would be able to look at this picture.

We did not feel like going straight home, so we stopped for some comfort food at Panera. (Mac and cheese works well in case you are ever in the same situation.) And even as we were eating and looking up his flight status on our smart devices to learn about a delay, Andrea got a text from an unknown number. With Christian filling our thoughts, the text contained this unexpected picture of him, flanked by two fellow brand new elders on their way to foreign Mission Training Centers -- one of them travelling all the way with Christian to Guatemala. The one going to South Africa (who knew they had an MTC?) had a sweet mother who had been permitted to accompany him all the way to the gate and was kind enough to ask Christian for his mom's phone number, knowing we would want to see this.

As I write this, Christian is only about 30 minutes from Los Angeles and after a layover of a few hours, he will leave the good old US of A for the first time. What a great adventure he has ahead of him!

You know, I was about to say that it is comforting knowing that I can trust our Heavenly Father with my son, but then it occurred to me that I had it backwards. He had entrusted me with His son, and now Christian is back in His hands for a while.