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.