Sunday, August 20, 2017

Two Spiritual Experiences

[Editor's Note: If you have been following, Christian does not take many pictures because he is afraid of the camera being stolen. In the absence of pictures from him, I found pictures on the Internet to depicting some of the things he described. None of the following pictures in this post are from Christian.]

Hey Family, 

I realized last week that I´ve been doing a kind of poor job sending good spiritual experiemces to you guys... it´s just SUPER hard to remember when I´m writing, but before I write and after I write I´ve got tons. 

So this week I made a special effort to remember some stuff. I carried around a little slip of paper and made three bullet points in two days. My plan was to do it all week, but with changes and all that... things don´t get too spiritual in the airport haha. 

But anyways... 

1.) The first one happened on last Sunday. We were walking down the street in the early night and we saw a member family. We had eaten a late lunch, (and it was a LOT of food) so we weren´t really excited to eat even though they were really excited to feed us. (We hadn´t made any dinner plans with them or anything; we just found them on the street and they offered us food). So we accepted, but we asked for it to go. So they gave us two take out boxes super full of pollo con tajadas ("pollo chuco" they say here). It´s a typical honduran food. Fried chicken with little strips of fried banana. 
pollo chuco
Super good but we were full and we already had dinner plans. So we took the dinner to go, hoping we could find someone to give it to. We didn´t find ayone who really wanted it. So we went on our way to our planned dinner with Herman and Yeimy. They live in a poorer part of La Paz called la invasión. I think I explained a little bit to dad about it. They basically steal their power and water and build little wood houses. 

humble homes in San Pedro Sula
Herman speaks english so he has a pretty good job at a call center, the reason they live there is because they want to help our Yeimy´s family, who basically has nothing and her mom is pretty old and needs care. So we were on our way there, and I got the idea to go leave the containers of food at an investigator´s house (named Belkis, she also lives in La invasión. So we had to pass by Herman and Yeimy´s house to get to Belkis´s house and right when we passed by it started raining HARD. It started absolutly pouring. My companion said we should just go and eat a Herman´s because Belkis probably would want anyways, but I insisted we needed to leave the food somewhere; maybe it was because I felt bad just dumping perfectly good food that somebody had made for us (or maybe it was the spirit?) So we ran to Belkis´s house, pretty far away. When we got there and offered her the food she started crying and said her sons had gone two days without eating and she had gone 3 days. She was so grateful for the food we´d brought her. I was so glad we´d made that little extra trip to bring her the food. So we went to Herman´s house and he brought her some beans, rice and flour (to make tortillas) to last her about a week. It was super sad, but I´m grateful we didn´t hear about it the next time we had a visit planned on Wednesday. And I´m also glad Herman is there to help her if she needs it. Those two kids ate that chicken SO fast! 

2.) On Monday we had a big meeting and I brought my Preach My Gospel. 
missionary handbook
 Usually I don´t carry it with me, but on that day I was just about the only day ever. So.. in the night we stumbled on a couple fighting in the street (with words, not legit fighting; even though I´ve seen that before too). Usually when I see that I don´t say anything- I walk by- i don´t know- it makes me super uncomfortable... like a not my buisiness kinda thing. But my fearless companion walks up and starts to contact them. I think they were both a little suprised and caught off guard. So we contacted them and went into their house where we began to talk and learned that they were already members! They just both had been baptised as kids but hadn´t returned to church in years and years. They were still super mad at eachother, and I felt like we needed to do something kinda different. I took out my PMG and flipped to the part where it talks about the companionship inventory. 
companionship inventory
We talked with them a little bit and helped them as they went through the steps. At the end we told them to hug and they did. We finished with a prayer and left. The next day their neighbor tracked us down and asked us to teach them. Word spreads pretty fast I guess. I´m the Honduran Dr. Phil or I don´t know what. I don´t think I´ve ever seen Dr.Phil but I think that´s basically what he does. 

I love you guys! 

-E´ Stoddard

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A New Honduran?

[from August 12, 2017]

Everything is going great here. I´m just hanging out in the office right now.  Changes are coming up so that´s a big deal for us here. I have to do that crazy transfer thing dad talked to me about doing (with all the buses and taxis and stuff).
 
I love being a missionary in Honduras! I think it´s cool how little money things cost in Honduras.  You can buy your rice and beans and tortilla for really cheap.  An egg costs 5 cents.  A 3 liter bottle of coke costs 2 dollars. I just got my Honduran residency this week so I´m officially Honduran haha.
 
The baptism last week went super well. It was another family that we helped get married.  Their names are Herman and Yeimy.  We´d been teaching them for a while.  Herman had actually lived in the the United States (in Utah actually) and knew lots of mormons and was really open to us.  Yeimy had a lot of doubts, but she overcame them in a really cool way.  She didn´t think she needed to be baptised twice, but she heard the testimony of a evangelical preacher- turned mormon, and she felt the spirit really strong and wanted to be baptized. 

I lost my camera charger (another missionary got a little mixed up and took mine and I have his) so I couldn´t take any pics on my camera. The good thing was, the sister missionaries had theirs, but they still haven´t given us the pictures.  

Changes last for 6 weeks.  The next one is in on the 16th of August.  It´s looking more and more like I might last another extra change here in the office, but who knows.  I though I would probably be leaving in November, but it´ll probably be December.  Yeah But if I last 4 changes it´ll be 6 months.  5 changes is 7 1/2 months. so I might be in here for about 8 months.  Yikes!  But I like it here, there are just some things that I do miss about being outside the office.  I´m sure I´ll miss it here when I leave.
 
I´m getting used to big city living.  I really like being here in a bigger city.  It´s really hard here to look stuff up because there are no addresses.  You just kinda gotta know where things are. 

When I´m in the area, we don´t use the truck.  I think that might make people see us differently.  If we show up in a huge new truck to their house made out of tin sheets, I don´t know.  Just mala honda [bad vibes].

Now that I have a year I do kinda feel like I´m an older missionary.  I also get to see the brand new missionaries coming in to the mission.  It´s kinda cool to talk to them.  It makes me remember when I first got here.  

I had a hard time with the fasting in my first few months in the mission.  The only thing was, I would get so thirsty in the hot street!  But I got used to it, and now I´m ok.  Don´t worry, I am safe in Honduras.  God protects us in the same way he protected those missionaries all those years ago.
 
I´m enjoying these slip on shoes.  I think I might keep this style for the rest of my mission.  I might just buy some other ones when these wear out.  I have those boots too, but they just aren´t necessary, cause my area´s pretty flat. 

I think I´m not gonna take too much stuff to college.  Being a missionary has taught me to not accumulate stuff because I have to go in a couple months. I think that would be a good idea to get an internship.  I just have to figure out what I want to be first!  

Love you guys,

-Elder Stoddard

Over the Hill

[from August 5, 2017]

My companion is pretty funny.  He doesn´t really ask before he does stuff.  He just sees something and does it, which is pretty funny sometimes.  Today we were on the way up on the elevator and he really quick-without saying anything-pushed the emergency button.  It was even funnier because there were more people in the elevator with us.  He was pretty embarrased but it was funny to see.  Apparently in Guatemala those buttons do something different (like make an alarm sound as long as you hold them down). 

My companion has no fear of eating thinks.  And he eats a TON which is good if I feel really full, I can give him some of my food.  Usually I have been the companion who eats more, so it´s kinda cool to have Elder Reyes who eats a ton.  I´ve eaten some things that I didn´t like.  I wasn´t a huge fan of the sopa de mondongo (soup with cow stomach), but that´s pretty common.  I don´t really like how they eat feet here, that´s something I avoid at all costs.  I do not like feet.  Chicken feet, pig feet.  It´s all gross.  

I think the dirtiest I´ve ever been in my apartment was when 20 missionaries were finishing the mission and left a big mess in our house.  My cleanest companion was my second one.  We cleaned almost every day. 

Holy smokes that´s weird to think I´ve got less than half of my mission left.  I´ve got to appreciate it as much as I can.  I sure don´t feel like I have been out for an entire year.  You know me... I´ve thought very little about what my plans are for the future... I have less than a year left :( but at the same time :) because I´m gonna get to see you guys again.  We´ll see what happens, I think I´m gonna try to keep it as General as I can in the first little bit of University.  I really have no idea how any of it works though... I´ll be happy with anything honestly. I honestly can´t believe I´m already a year into the mission.  
   
I doubt I´ll be able to give missionary talks around the stake in Ukraine.  We´ll see how it all goes when I get back.  Maybe there will be an interpretor.  I don´t even know how strong the church is over there.  Or maybe I won´t need an interpretor!  Haha just kidding I for sure will.  I can say about 20 word in russian.  I haven´t been studying it as much as I should if I want to learn.
  
There are mosquitos here too- if you can imagine.  The weird thing is I don´t get bitten by them- almost never.  I must have some kind of World War Z kind of disease that makes them not want my blood.  At the start of my mission I had lots around my ankles and socks... but since about 4 months in the mission I have not been bitten.  Weird huh?  No dangue for me *knock on wood*

Sometimes, when the power goes out and we have the car right outside I think about turning it on and feeling the air conditioning too.  That would be nice, but I still haven´t done it. 

Sometimes I used to take a P-day nap, but it´s been a long time since I´ve done that.  When I get home I think I´m gonna take a big long nap.  Sometimes when I´m not driving I fall asleep in the car, but I try my best not to.  

Everyone/Public Service Anouncement:
More baptisms today!  I´ll try and send pics during the week, but that´s where I´m going as soon as I send this message!

Love you all!

-E' Stoddard

Preparing for the Future

[from July 29, 2017]

Hey Family!

I usually hang out with my companion, Elder Reyes or the other secretaries or the AP´s. I really enjoy being with Elder Reyes (el chapin). He´s a really cool comp, and I´m glad to have him in the office with us. There are 6 missionaries that live in the same big house with me. Lots of people are pretty jealous of our house. It even has a pool and a hot tub, which would be really cool if we weren´t missionaries.

We eat dinner most days with members of the ward. We usually eat at restaurants for lunch. My favorite place is called the champa! It´s really good cause they give you LOTS of food. And it´s also one of the only places in Honduras where they give you a baked potato, which is kinda cool. My companion right now is not picky at all. He will eat whatever. One time when we were waiting for our food at a restaurant, he ate the food somebody had left behind which was really funny. He´s learning english and he just said one word "Appetizer" which I think he got off the menu. I really hope I´m not ruining his English. He´s gotta gonna wanna new english teacher after talking to me for these last couple weeks.

I was a pretty hot guy before I got here and have air conditioning. I used to bring a fan wherever I went, in the bathroom, to iron my shirt, to eat breakfast, the entire time I had a fan blowing on me.  When the power wuld go out I would be very sad.

Yeah missionaries are pretty disgusting sometimes. I hope I don´t have to clean up the houses for areas being closed again, usually they clean them up a little before they leave their house.

I am excited a little bit to leave the office, but I think here is where I need to be right now, or I would be somewhere else. I am enjoying it here though. My job here is kinda like I imagine a job is in the United States. Lots of Paper Work, lots of excel spreadsheets. Lots of boring stuff, but also I get to do some really cool stuff. Even the boring stuff is cool and exciting because I have to figure out how to do it while I do it!

I will do lots different in the field. I´m gonna keep up the things I´ve learned how to do in the office. Here I´ve learned how to talk really well on the phone, for example. I think I´m gonna be much more polite on the phone when I get back to the field.

The shoes I started my mission with are all way trashed by now as you can probably imagine. I´m walking in some brown slip on shoes right now. They cost about $8. They´re pretty comfy, but I don´t think I´d like to climb mountains in them.

I actually have two written talks that I carry with me always. I wrote my first one in Palermo (my first area) when I was really new and I´ve basically just made little tiny changes to it as I´ve gotten to be an older missionary. In Montecristo they asked me to give one twice, and the first one was a suprise, but luckily I had the talk in my backpack. So then I had to write a second one just in case, and I ended up having to give it a couple Sundays before I left Montecristo. The funny thing is that they always ask me to talk about the same thing... Misionary work, so it´s pretty easy to reuse the same talks over and over.

I hope by the time I finish my mission my Spanish is really good. Being around all these gringos isn´t helping though hahah.

I really hope I can make life easier for my replacement. I try to do my best to make everybody´s life easier while I´m here. I don´t want to do anything that creates another pain in the butt for anybody.

I love you guys!

-Elder Stoddard

Driving a Truck & Teaching English

[from July 22, 2017]

Hey Family,

I´ve tried really hard to remember everybody´s birthday... usually some time during the week before I´ll remember and I´ll make a little note in the part of my agenda that I look at when I write, so that way I always remember.  I did forget Halloween last year though so I´m gonna do my best to remember it this time.  

I really like my new companion.  I´ve really liked all my companions; even the ones who have been hard.  I think the hardest one I had I still keep in contact with and we´re still good friends even though we had a hard time while we were companions. 

Yeah now that I´ve got a year I´m starting to realize I´m one of the old guys, like the people who just left were when I got here.  It´s weird to think that when I got here those guys had the same amount of time as I do now.

One of the cool office things is you get to see your release date as a missonary.  Mine is July 17, 2018! It doesn´t mean you get home that day, that means you stop being in the field on that day, so I´ll probably get home in that week.  

I´m glad to know some of the things I´m doing here will help me in the real world as well.  The general secretary almost always is in for 4 and a half changes (or about 7 months).  Honestly I´m hoping to leave things in such a good and organized state that I don´t have to stick around training somebody... but we´ll see.  I´ve still got quite a while before I hand stuff off, (probably around November) but I still want to make sure everything here is super organized.  It was kinda tough to do stuff when nothing was labelled and you just had to know where stuff was.  So yeah, basically I´m just preparing way early for my replacement.  

It was pretty crazy getting all of those areas closed down.  One area was a rama [branch] way out in the middle of nowhere and we had to go there a whole bunch of times cause they left the house TRASHED.  It was ok, but driving all the way there and back 3 times kind of stunk.  Hopefully in a couple changes we can start slowly opening some back up.  I know lots of wards were sad to see the missionaries go.  But I really am gald to have a bigger spot to work in.  It´s very nice.  In the new little bit there´s lots of members, so I´m glad we have it.

Also, during these last changes, I recommended Elder Santillana (my old companion) to President as a zone leader and now he´s the zone leader in MY zone (La Lima).  So last week I got to do some divisions with my old companion.  Very fun.  It´s cool it worked out that way that I get to see him again.  

Yeah a missionary was seriously carrying around a Rambo doll, and got it stolen.  It seemed pretty weird to me.  I had to ask him 3 or 4 times cause I was SURE I was mishearing him over the phone.  It stinks getting robbed, that´s for sure, but the poor general secretary has to fill out all the paper work which is almost as bad.  When I got robbed I didn´t call anybody cause... well... I can´t really think of a better reason than that it was a pain in the butt and I was too lazy hahah.

And yeah, getting that new truck was so nice.  This morning I decided to try out the heated seats even though it was really hot outside.  Not a good idea.  I really like driving it, it´s a pretty big truck, I think something similar to a Toyota Tundra.  It´s called a Nissan Frontier.  It´s also a cool thing having the freedom to drive it as much as we need to.  I think lots of missions there´s a limit on the mileage.  We can drive it as much as we need and the gas is also paid for by the mission.  We try not to use it when we don´t have to, but there´s a place that they sell baleadas a little far from our house and when we don´t have dinner we usually go there instead of the one that´s closer.  The only thing about this new truck I´m a little woried about is that it looks very nice.  I feel kinda like a drug trafficer driving it around sometimes.  I feel like we might get it taken if we aren´t careful.

Nah I have literally learned almost no russian, just little tiny things. I haven´t really spent to much time on learning Russian yet.  Mainly it´s just trying to read words.  I can sound out some stuff now, and I can recognize a couple common words, but it is way tough and I don´t think I´m gonna be able to say too much when I get there.  You guys are gonna beat me by a ton when you get there.  It´s pretty tough. 

One of the things that was kinda hard for me to do was start teaching english.  You don´t really recognize all the things you do when you talk.  I think if I would have paid more attention in High School English class I would understand sentence structures and stuff a little better. 

This last week my new companion asked me a really profound question "after which verbs do you use the word 'to'?"  I had to think about it all day before I could answer him (and I don´t even know if I answered right).  I told him the only words you use "to" after have shortened versions so you don´t get confused.  I told him there were only 3 I could think of at the moment "gonna (going to), wanna (want to), and gotta (got to)"
 
I should definitely not be trying to teach other people english.  I´m just creating bad habits that are gonna frusturate real teachers.  But Elder Reyes is getting good, even though he hasn´t got very much time learning english.  Pretty cool  

I love you guys!  

-E´ Stoddard

Leaving Things Better?!

[from July 15, 2017]

Hey Family,

This week was pretty good.  My companion is training his replacement which is kinda cool.  His name is Elder Reyes and he´s from Guatemala.  He´s gonna be the new migracion secretary.  It´s kinda weird, in the mission there are two Elder Reyes´s and both have been my companion and both have been secretaries.  Elder Reyes the tico (from Costa Rica) was the Ruta Secretary before I came into the office. 

This week I´ve been thinking a little bit about when it will be my turn to train a new secretary.  I talked to Elder Burt (who´s the General Secretary in the San Pedro Sula WEST mission) and he was telling me how in that mission, the secretarys are trained for one day, but the secretary from before leaves a book with really clear instructions and if they ever need help they can just call.  I think when my time in the office ends I´d like to do something a little more like that.  So this week I´ve been working on getting this computer cleaned out of all the old stuff we don´t need, cleaning up my desk, and making a calendar of stuff I have to do.  I want to leave this job in a better position than I found it, just like any other area or calling in the mission. 

Also, in this ward before the changes (I think american missionaries say "transfers").  There used to be 3 companionships of missionaries.  Now there are just 2 because of all the areas they had to close.  So another thing we did this week was divide up the area that got closed between us and the sisters.  I´m pretty happy cause our area before was really stinking small.  I know in every area there´s people to find, but I like to have lots of space in my area.

Also, we finally got the new truck that we were so excited to get.  It´s WAY nice.  It´s a Nissan Frontier 2018.  It´s also really expensive; the guy who buys them for the church in Honduras told me that it cost about 38,000 bucks.  It has lots of cool stuff it can do, I feel kinda like I´m driving Grandma´s Buick or maybe a super high tech jet plane. 

I´m also trying to study some church stuff in Russian.  It´s super hard.  I don´t know if anybody´s tried it yet but the thing that really throws me off are where to put the stinking accent.  I´m starting to understand the alphabet and a couple of words. 

Also I´m starting to teach Elder Reyes a little English.  I´m gonna try and get him way good.  That´s my project cause we´re gonna be together for a while I think, and we get along super well. 

One other thing I´m in charge of is reporting robberies to church headquarters reporting the robbery.  On Thursday I got a phone call that said missionaries on the other side of the mission got robbed and the guy who robbed them stole his rambo doll.  Yes, rambo doll.  Like John Rambo, but not an action figure, a doll.  So first of all he was walking with his John Rambo doll and then he got robbed, but instead of them taking money or the cell phone they wanted his John Rambo doll. Pretty funny, at least to me.  
    
Love you guys and have a good week!

-Elder Stoddard

Developing New Skills

[from July 8, 2017]

Hey Family,

So pretty much everybody asked how court went.  It was fine but underwhlming, it was just WAY different than what I expected it to be like from TV or whatever notion I had of the american court system.  So beforehand I had done a lot of prep I think.  I had looked at some Honduran traffic laws.  I called the insurance company the church has and asked if one of the lawyers would come with me.  He said yes.  I prepared a statement about what happened.  I was prepared for anything.  I showed up to the transit building with one of the new AP´s (Elder Ontiveros).  I went with him because I know that in Honduras, you aren´t a legal adult until the age of 21, and Elder Ontiveros is 22.  Like I said I was ready.  So we showed up and they invited me into the tiniest room ever, said it wasn´t my fault, gave me a huge stack of papers to fill out so I could pay the 200 lempiras to get my license back, and sent me on my way.  I was SO suprised.  I was so ready for anything I really didn´t expect nothing to happen.  I was like "where´s all the arguement?"  I felt like the kid in school who had done my homework and then the teacher didn´t collect it.  But it´s all good.  The car´s already all fixed up and everything (our insurance had to pay for it anyways).  I´ve been a way more careful driver now.  When I got hit I was absolutely not ready for it.  Pretty crazy, but that´s how it all went down.  So...

Yeah being in the office is crazy.  I´ve gotta worry about stuff I didn´t think I would have to.  One day I´m gonna be in a job interview and they´re gonna ask me "how are you with microsoft office?" and I´ll respond "in fact I excell at it." they´ll be so shocked "did you just make a pun?" and I´ll respond "Word."

Yeah the transfers were this week.  20 missionaries went home and only 6 came.  Lots of my really close friends went home.  It was kinda weird.  We were at the airport all day but there were no problems so it was much less stressful.  

Sometimes I have a hard time knowing which language I´m supposed to be talking.  I´ll pick up the phone and it´ll be a latino and I´ll start talking to them in English.  Or the other way around.  Yesterday I just had a complete conversation with a gringo who refused to speak to me in English.  I say stupid things in English sometimes.  Especially cause when you talk with other missionaries they all know all the spanish words, so it´s ok if you say a couple here and there.  

The delivery thing isn´t too much of a big deal, it´s basically being a mail man with too too much customer service.  

Yeah Nelda and Jesus are doing really well, I think they´re pretty active in the church now.  and we do have a baptism maybe in the near future, her name is Jeimy (pronounced like Jaimy). I think she´ll get baptised before too long, she just needs a little more help.

The House we have over here is pretty big.  I think lots of people think we live really nice cause we´re americans in a big house, but it´s full of folding tables and chairs, and a bunch of cruddy stuff missionaries leave when they´re leaving the mission.  It´s pretty cool. 

The one thing I have not been able to find here in Honduras is 5 hour enegy.  I haunts me.  I´ve found reeses puffs!  How is it that I can´t find 5 hour energy?  This last trip to the airport I drank a Monster energy drink which made it a much more pleasurable experience. 

It´s so cool being able to talk about how dad and my missions are kinda similar.  I think that when I get home in a year I´m gonna feel pretty weird seeing people again.  I´m doing my best every day. I´m learning lots here.  Things I didn´t think I would learn sometimes, but I know these things are things my Heavenly Father wants me to learn.  

Once agian I Love You All!

-Elder Stoddard

Anticipating Reverse Culture Shock

[from July 1, 2017]

It´s awesome you guys are back in America.  I do miss home sometimes, but I really like it here too.  I feel kinda like you did in France maybe.  You missed Virginia a little bit, but you liked France too. Yeah I´m sure it´s gonna be a little underwhelming when I get home.  There are still some little things that are kinda cool about home.  I used to miss stuff a lot but now I´m pretty used to Honduras and all the stuff here.  I honestly think that when I get home I´m gonna miss Honduras and feel kinda weird not being able to throw my bags of water on the street when I´m done with them. I honestly thing everything's gonna be weird for me.  Not littering is gonna be one of the biggest things.  No pulperias is gonna be another.  Being cold and outside is gonna be another.  There´s gonna be some pretty serious culture shock in my future.  Hopefully it isn´t too weird for you guys to be back in the USA

Yeah this ward is really strong, the only thing is that our area is really tiny.  I think it would be kinda cool to have a bigger chunk of space.  That´s one of the things I loved about Montecristo; that it was such a big area and even though we couldn´t work everywhere, there was always somewhere we hadn´t gone/tried yet.  Here our area is only 4 streets.  I completely understand why it´s like that though.  Lots of times we don´t even get to go to the area at all. 

I hope that was my last car accident, pretty crazy. I´ll do my best to not get in any more!  It´s hard not to here.  I was a little freaked out for a second, cause it was pretty out of nowhere.  I was just with my companion when we crashed.  The bus was kinda small for a bus.  Here they call them Rapiditos, cause they go so fast. But after I was pretty calm.  Then I just talked to the guy who hit us.  He seemed pretty cool actually.  I wasn´t really too angry with the guy, but I was a little upset that I was the guy who had to fix it.  I had to make all the phone calls to the police and the insurance.  I still haven´t been to court yet, that´ll be on Friday. That´ll be kinda weird.  I don´t think the guy´s gonna go to jail, but I do think he will have to pay for the repairs on his bus, and maybe there´s some way we can get him to pay for our car too, who knows... Our insurance is probably gonna have to pay for our car, so I´ve had to work with the insurance company and the repair shop a little bit this week.  Yeah I don´t know how many other missionaries have been in car accidents in there missions, but I bet it´s not too many. I´m gonna be glad when everything´s over and I´m done with all the court stuff and repairs stuff.

And yeah my pointy sideburns have pretty much grown back in.  It just looked super weird when they were like halfway back... I´m sure you can imagine.

This week was spent helping lots of people close their areas... we´re closing 8 in the mission.  The only thing is that 3 zones are kinda far away from San Pedro (Ceiba, Miramar, and Olanchito) so we couldn´t help with the houses they were closing there.  They just kinda had to fend for themselves.

Also, during this week we had the leaders meeting which is super cool.  It´s all the Zone Leaders, President and Sister Carlisle, and Me.  It´s cool cause I just get up at the beginning like in General Conference and talk about all the statistics for the mission.  It´s cool cause I only talk for a couple minutes and then I get to be part of a really cool meeting.

Love you guys!

-Elder Stoddard

A Car Crash

[from June 24, 2017] 

I have some crazy news about something that happened at about 12 o'clock yesterday... I got in my first car accident. It was with a van/bus (here they call them rapiditos) they ran a red light and t-boned us on the driver´s side. Don´t be worried though we are all ok. Just pretty nuts huh? 

The bus driver didn´t have a license either... I was talking to him after and he was pretty cool... he´s actually been investigating the church with his sister. I feel a little bad for him to be honest. Yeah in a couple days I have to go to honduran traffic court and say what happened.  

They hit us pretty hard. I wasn´t driving the truck either, I was driving a rav 4, so a little smaller of a car. Pretty crazy but I am glad that nobody got hurt. I honestly know that somebody was watching out for me. My door caved in a bunch. We couldn´t get it open after. We did drive it to the shop though so it wasn´t totaled or anything. 

I didn´t have a camera with me, but right after I made a bunch of phone calls to the insurance company who sent a lawyer, the guy who´s in charge of cars for the area of central america, and the national police. The insurance guy took some pictures, and I think within the next couple of days he´ll send them to me. That will make a good souvenir. I´ll be sure to send the pictures as soon as I get them. 

Oh yeah and today I think we´re gonna have some baptisms in the night so that´ll be really cool. First one in the office in a long time. It´s gonna be a 15 year old girl named Ana and a 75 year old man named Cipriano. Cipriano is the first older guy I´ve been a part of baptizing. It´ll be really cool, his son is an active member who lives in San Pedro (so about a half hour away) and he´s gonna do the baptism. 

Cipriano´s been invstingating the church for a long time... well they both have. We´ve been trying to leave the office early lately and I think that´s helped lots 

When I got here there were a bunch of investigadores eternas in this area that I think if this was a regular area they would have been baptized long ago. Literally the only thing I did was put a baptism date and taught the few lessons that they were missing. But there are lots of people who were already going to church and everything. 

I feel really good when I preach the gospel. I like the feeling of helping people to live in a better way. 

I talked to Jesus and Nelda a couple days ago on the telephone. Jesus just got the Melchizedek Priesthood. Pretty cool, he can do everything with the priesthood that I can now! I feel really happy when people get to experience the blessings that I have. 

It´s been a good week. It´s been pretty busy though. Yeah I´m getting to be the jack of all trades here in the mission. One of the smaller jobs I have is that I´m in charge of the cars. So this accident is gonna be a little bit of a pain. 

I´ve learned to use Excel and Word here in the office pretty well I can go get an office job when I get home. Maybe I can be a data entry specialist. 

Yeah Dad's mission secretaries sound pretty close to what we have here. I am the executive secretary but I´m in charge of the 3 cars as well which isn´t too much work... until there´s an accident hahaha. 

In this next change 8 areas are gonna close. It´s a big office secret which ones though. Yeah Mom's mission helped prepare her for her life of moving all over! That´s kinda cool. Heavenly Father gives us the assignments we need. 

I´ve been driving around quite a bit dropping things off to other missionaries. It´s a bigger job than I thought it was but I´m getting the hang of it. One of the things the Sisters like to do a lot is send stuff to other Sisters (like little surprise presents) in the Ruta which is cool, but its a pain sometimes. Like one time this week one of the sisters gave me a gift for a sister in an area I had just been to so she´s gonna have to wait until net week to get it and the sister who sent it is a little upset about that...haha. 

I think we´ll be getting a new supply guy at the end of this change though so that´ll be good. I am SO grateful I´m not the Financial Secretary. I think I would die; he´s basically an accountant. My mission president worked in Deseret Book for a long time and he´s also very good about not spending lots of money, which is why I think the Financial Secretary has a hard job. A lot of people ask me for new mattresses but President wants to have me wait to buy them until we close 8 areas in the next change and have a bunch of extras. 

You know that guy who gets up at the beginning of general conference and says how many members and a whole bunch of other church statistics? That´s my boss. You know that guy who gets up at the beginning of general conference from the church auditing department? That´s Elder Draper´s boss. 

I am getting to know the mission pretty well, mostly from driving through pretty much everywhere. It´s also pretty cool to get to know pretty much every missionary in the mission. I just bought some new clothes for a missionary who got his suitcase robbed. 

My first area I was there for 4 1/2 and my second only 2 1/2 months. In my mission it´s kind of a mix. In the two San Pedro zones they don´t have any sisters, but I remember when I was in the Ceiba the sisters were pretty much in the exact center of the city. Kinda weird, but it´s cool that they have an area like that. I still haven´t been in a branch yet. Here this ward (La Paz) is one of the strongest in the mission and it´s where all the meetings happen (every new missionary has there first orientation-type meeting in that gym). 

Last week when I went to pick up the new computers at the bus station I saw a gringo struggling to get his bus ticket bought. I went and helped him translate cause he only spoke English. After, I talked to him and he said he was on his way to an island called Utila to go to a freediving school and he´s from Boston. When I asked him if I could leave him with a picture of Jesus he said "no that´s too weird, I´m against religion" I thought it was kinda weird. I´d never seen that kinda anti-religion stuff on my whole mission. Makes me kinda grateful I´m serving here in Honduras where everyone believes in Christ. 

Well I don´t knock on doors but I do still yell buenas at people. 

I for sure don´t have an iPad. I think that would be taken from me very quickly if I did. I don´t have a Facebook either, even though a lot of Hondurans do have Facebook accounts, I think the best way to teach them is the normal way. The one thing I do in the office that´s kind of like that is I get the referrals from salt lake and send them to missionaries here in Honduras. 

I speak English a TON now in the office, at least compared to when I was outside. I have to call the US quite a bit. 

We usually eat with a whole family but there are times when we eat just my companion(s) and I. 

I spend a lot of money on food to be honest. The Reeses Puffs were soo good. I don´t carry that much water because you can buy bags of water at the corner stores for less than 10 cents. 

I haven´t gotten a penut butter shot I think... I got one in the MTC and I got another one in my first area but nothing super thick like you guys got. I did take some anti-malaria medication which made my arm hair fall out, but it´s mostly grown back now haha. No big huge shots though. 

This is the first area I brush my teeth with the regular water. It´s supposed to be filtered but I still don´t trust it enough to drink it. 

I saw a commercial for the big bike thing that happens in france but I can´t remember what it´s called. If that´s going on while your there you guys should go. 

So it's boiling hot outside there too? It is really warm here in San Pedro Sula. I´m getting whiter from being in the office during the middle of the day. When I leave I´m gonna get sunburned for sure. 

Yeah you guys can´t feel bad about missing a couple things, but it´s cool you guys have made the most of your time there. Next stop Ukraine! It will be nice to do American stuff again. Although finding Reeses Puffs was a game changer. 

I love you guys! 

-Elder Stoddard

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Real-time Exchange Featuring Chuck Norris

[from June 17, 2017]

(Editor's Note: Christian wrote in the early afternoon in Honduras, at the exact moment the family was enjoying a late dinner in France. We were able to exchange some contemporaneous email messages.)

CHRISTIAN: I just got here so if somebody´s still awake and wants to shoot me a message right now that´d be pretty cool. -E´ Stoddard 

DAD: we are out to dinner. it is 9:00pm here. cool that we are on at the same time a world apart.  

CHRISTIAN: AWESOME.  What are you eating?  I just got some quesadillas from a Mexican place... put my companion a little bagui hahah.  Mexican food here isn´t as good as it is in the US.  :( Have you guys gotten the photos I sent during this last week? 

DAD: yes we did get the pics. very cool. we are having hamburgers, chicken, and fish.

CHRISTIAN: delicious.  you guys gotta soak up that good french food while you can though.  who´s eating hamburgers and not croissants?  Are you guys counting down the days until you reenter the USA?  

DAD: you can get hamburgers almost anywhere here. and here even the burgers have a french twist and are really good. (me and the littles had the burgers.) we were bagui a while back, but now that it is so close we are kind of sad and nostalgic. we will miss it.  

CHRISTIAN: you´re gonna really miss ukraine when you leave.  Is it really far between france and ukraine, and do you guys think about going back quite a bit?  the house in ukraines gonna be pretty big i´d imagine (and furnished and free i´d think?).  There´s a hamburger place here we just found called matabritas.  It´s really good.  I always get one called the chuck norris.  It looks like this: 
and the best part is it´s less than 5 bucks for all of that.  SOO good. 

DAD: mom said "of course he gets the chuck norris."  yeah, we will definitely have time to make ukraine feel like home.  we do hope to travel around europe a bit while we are there. hopefully sometimes when you are with us.  and food there is supposed to be good and ridiculously cheap (like matabritas). 

CHRISTIAN: Yeah its a monster of a burger.  I can´t believe they make money from that.  Ukraine´s gonna be cool.  I think the little´s are probably enjoying getting to travel so much (and allie too I´m sure!)  Have you guys started trying to learn a little russian yet?  I´ve started to a little, but it´s weird.  Also I should probably learn spanish first huh?  Haha 

DAD: we are all surprised you have started learning russian. very cool. we have been mostly focused on french though. allie has started doing ukranian on duo lingo.

CHRISTIAN: Dang the catacomb pictures look cool!  can´t believe those are real.  where do they come from?  how old are they? 

DAD: overcrowding and disease, they dug 2,000,000 bodies up in the 1800s and moved them out of the way into unused tunnels under the city. some of them are crazy old. the public can only see a small part of what is down there.  

CHRISTIAN: huh.  well thats one way to deal with overcrowding.  just get rid of all the cemeteries. does it smeel bad? 

DAD: hahah smeel. nope. does not smell ... or smeel. but we have definitely been exposed to lots of bad smeels here.

(end of real-time exchange)



Hey Family!

That´s true about the travelling while writing me... You guys have written from Virginia, Texas, France, Germany, Switzerlan, and I think that´s it.  Pretty cool.   

You guys are gonna need to go see everything in France before you go.  The skeletons and stuff looked cool in the picture.  Were you scared at all?  

Yeah you guys will have to bring me back to France some time. You gotta do all the fenchie things you can before you go back to the USA. That´s awesome you guys are gonna be in america on July 4th.  I think we´re gonna do a barbecue here for July 4th. You gotta do something awesome for the 4th of July. 
 

My job in the office is cool.  Most of the time it´s boring, but then something really big happens and it gets busy and stressful. That´s gonna be crazy when all those people leave.  I´m gonna be so tired!   

No there´s no replacement Ruta guy.  I am the new ruta guy basically.  Everybody calls me and asks for stuff.  Pretty weird.  Also I have to buy stuff for missionaries like beds and refrigerators and microwaves.  Not too hard but it´s another thing I gotta do.  I was kinda sad how he left mid change.  And here in the mission everybody knows who the secretarys are and when one leaves everybody knows quick. I hope I can do a good job doing the two things.  It honestly not too hard. 
 

Something else that´s cool is I called Guatemala (where the central america church headquarters is) because one of the computers here was broken.  They´re gonna send us all new computers and president a new iphone 7 and the nurses new samsung galaxys.  Pretty awesome.  I just don´t know how that´s gonna go cause our computers are already way nice.  Cool huh?  

In this ward I´m in there are 4 sister missionaries and my companionship.  It´s pretty weird, I´ve never had sister missionaries in my same ward, but they´re all pretty cool.  I will be sure to keep pics coming.  

Today I got a haircut and the guy cut my sideburns kinda weird.  

Love you guys, 
 

Elder Stoddard

(Editor's Note: Below are the pictures Christian sent a few days earlier.)

Montecristo

Montecristo

My boots

My companion is weird
Finally, he included this under the caption: found something excellent last Saturday:

video

Another Trio

[from June 10, 2017]

I think this next group of people going home is gonna be a lot worse... there´s over 20 missionaries that are gonna be leaving.  But hopefully everybody gets on their planes the first time... 

I guess Dad got pretty well prepared in this calling cause he seemed to have it all under control.  I think basically what I did at the airport was I just got upset and talked a little harshly to an airport person so they´d us pass through security with the sister missionary.  It felt kinda like that one time when I yelled at somebody in Wegman´s.  That was a funny day.  I was so mad haha.  

Anyways in "it´s not news it´s missionary chambre news" somebody went home early (so there was gonna be a trio anyways) and president decided to send the ruta secretary to replace of the guy who went home.  I don´t think the ruta secretary was doing a very good job and president got quite an earful during interviews.  

So now I´m in a trio again and we´re all in charge of the ruta, it´s kind of a mess but it´s cool to see how happy missionaries get when you give them a new pillow or even a box of book of Mormons when they´ve been asking for months.  I feel kinda bad for the guy who was the ruta secretary cause a lot of missionaries are upset with him.  I offered him help while he was here but he never wanted it.  Kinda a weird situation, pero así pasa cuando sucede. [Translation: But that is how it goes when it happens.]   

Today I ate at dennys.  I got all you can eat pancakes...I´m pretty full.  I also found a really good taco place here but it´s not quite like a taco.  Every taco is an imitation of mexico wherever you go, but I think I like the american imitation more than the Honduran one to be honest haha.  

I´m glad you guys had fun there in Switzerland. It sounds cool. That´s pretty cool you´re gonna go see the catacombs, you can´t leave Paris without seeing.  Yeah take pictures of the catacombs, the eifel tower, the france temple... And I think that´ll do me.  

Oh I completely understand being hot with no air... I have lived that way for quite a bit.  You guys sound like you need some fans.  Even though I´ve got A/C now I will never forget the fans that have always been there for me (when there´s light anyways)   

I´m gonna try to take more pictures and send them now that I get to see more stuff.   

Love you all, 

Elder Stoddard

Really Exciting or Really Boring

[from June 3, 2017]

Yeah I know the airport was kinda rough...We have to stay with the people who are headed out of the mission until they go through security and everything.  We assumed that since both times she went through she was good to go, but that wasn´t the case.  Yeah, I was pretty patient, I didn´t get upset or anything... I was just tired and I don´t think I was as friendly as I should have been to her or to the airport people.  I was tired and knew I had to get the problem solved. President and my companion were both pretty upset.  It was my idea to go through with her.  Ok... I did get a little frustrated when it happen the second time.  

I had to go drop somebody off this week in Olanchito, almost in Nicaragua.  That was a LONG drive!  Yeah, here things are either really exciting or really boring.

This calling is a little stressful sometimes. 

Well, this last week I had to do a pretty big report about the baptisms in the Month of May, and that was kind of tough, cause I had to track down information from lots of missionaries, and some of them don´t even have phones to call!  Pretty tough sometimes, but now that´s over so I´ve been working on some car insurance paperwork and buying some office supplies.

My bed is pretty soft, I got a bunk bed, so I thought it might stink to be on top, but the air conditioning blows right on me so its worth it.   

I have so many books in the house.  Lots and lots.  I don´t get to read to much in the house so a lot of them are in the car too, cause when Elder Draper drives I´ll read then.  

In the house there´s six of us.  We played a game were we all went to the super market and bought something and then, blindfolded we had to eat a spoonful of that thing somebody else had bought.  Some people bought gross things and some people bought good things.  Somebody bought some hot peppers but it was funny because they were the ones who had to eat it.  

My clothes are getting kinda old to be honest.  I guess I´m a little rough on them.  I washed them by hand for a good chunk of time and I think thats why they´re so worn.  

I´m probably gonna see some weird stuff while here.  One thing that I got to go to this week was the leader´s meeting with the Zone Leaders, Assistants, the Sister Training Leaders, and me.  It was a pretty cool meeting.  It was cool cause I just stood up and talked for about five minutes and then I got to listen to all the plans that they were making for the whole mission.  Pretty cool.  I also got to send some emails to a 70.  I hope to get to email an apostle while I´m here.  I think something really really good or really really bad needs to happen though.  

Also, I called one of the people who was converted while I was in Montecristo (Aylin).  She said she was thinking about serving a mission.  We´ll see cause she´s still got a while before she´ll be able to, but still very cool that she´s thinking about it.  I think it would be very cool if somebody who I taught went on a mission too.  

You´re getting to be quite the world travelers huh?  Now in Switzerland.  How crazy is that. I think that´s where the Alps are I think.  I bet you never thought you´d get to go to all those cool places.  You gotta open up a swiss bank account while you´re there, like real rich guys.  
  
Anyways, be careful driving.  They drive on the right in France I think. 

Love you guys and have a good week.  

-Elder Stoddard

Faux Pas

[from May 27, 2017]

Hey family, 

I had to do some crazy stuff for President today (he´s going on a Roatan trip) even though it´s our p-day Saturdays.  So I just have time to stop by the office super quick and shoot this email off.  The good thing is I´ll be back here Monday and I can write for real then.  Don´t worry I´m not forgetting about you guys for a second!!!  

I love all of you and we´ll see you guys then! 

-Elder Stoddard 

Hey Family, that ended up taking not nearly as long as I thought so here goes... 

Oh you bet I ate a ton of Uno pizza.  I never though I would find anything like that down here, but it is way cool.  They have a lot of cool restaurants here, like Denny´s, Johnny Rockets, Fridays.  The thing is that they´re all pretty expensive.  American prices with a Honduran mission fund.  

Everything here is awesome.  This week was a little crazy cause of changes (I believe every other mission in the world calls them transfers, but my mission has weird words).  The other day we had to take all the people home which is usually an all day ordeal, but ended up being a 2 day ordeal this time.  On Wednesday night, the missionaries who were going home showed up at about 10 o´clock from their last dinner with president.  They slept in our house and the power was out.  That was kinda rough.  Then we got up (Elder Guadarrama and I)  at 2 o´clock in the morning to take the first group to the airport.  We were at the airport until 6 oclock when we went home, got in missionary clothes, and took another group back to the airport.  We were there until 2´clock and then we went back at 3 with the last group that finished up at six.  The problem was, one of the sister missionaries who was supposed to go home at 6 missed her flight.  Sooo we rebooked her for a flight at 10 oclock at night with the same airline.  Guess which two missionaries had to stay with her in the airport?  Yep Stoddy and Guada.  So at 10 oclock at night she missed her flight AGAIN.  Uggg. We booked her for a flight at 4 in the morning and we took her to a sister missionary house near by and Guada and I collapsed in our beds until that next morning when we once again woke up at the crack of dawn to bring her to the airport. This time though, we went through the security with her (we got special passes) to make sure she got on the stinkin airplane.  Apparently she missed it the first time cause she was looking at souvenirs and the second time she was eating.  So that was pretty crazy.  And a super long experience.  Friday we went to the office, but both of us were pretty dead.  We came home and just went straight to sleep.  Today I am finally back to feeling normal.   
Sorry I wrote about that crazy experience, but I thought it was worth sharing. I know how it feels to hear English in a sea of a foreign language.  Pretty nice huh? 

Office life is treating me pretty well.  I like it but it is very different.  I just hope I can keep teaching a good amount while I´m here.  I Enjoy being here lots, but it is a very different kind of stressful and work than other missionaries feel I think.  Like instead of worrying about "dang, there´s no water in the bucket, I can´t flush the toilet" now I worry about "dang, president is gonna be very upset if this sister misses her plane for a THIRD time.  I´d better talk to the DSA (yes the DSA not TSA) about going through with her."  

As a secretary I do a lot of boring stuff and every once in a while something bad happens and I get to do some exciting stuff.  

My area here is pretty peaceful and quiet so that´s good.  My ward here is one of the oldest in Honduras, and where all the new missionaries come for their orientation on their first day. 

I hope I still get to baptize people as a secretary, I´m gonna do my best, but we´ll see.  It´s pretty hard to do. 

I am all good now, I don´t really miss a whole ton in america.  Maybe that we have power most of the time.  I don´t get sick too often, and I got over that little sniffly thing I had while I talked to you pretty fast.   

Ireland sounds pretty cool, I am glad you guys have gotten the opportunity to go there. The talk pretty funny over there don´t they? You´re so lucky you guys get to travel like that!! Driving over here is nuts too.  Don´t forget to drive on the left and I´ll try not to run so many red lights.  You guys like Ireland or France better so far?  

I don´t know what weird habits you guys are gonna see though.  One time we found a family of Gringos (white people) and they invited us to eat.  My companion and I start eating the chicken like Hondurans, with our hands.  Just about everybody does that.  There were some beans and tortillas so I started using the tortilla as a kinda utensil, like they do here.  I realized they were kinda staring at me in horror and I realized that there were a fork knife and spoon at my place. Here they use those things, but it´s not normal to eat chicken or beans with them.  You´re gonna end up saying bonjour in Ukraine hahahaha.  

It is really funny, sometimes I forget what I´m supposed to be speaking and I´ll start speaking spanish to a gringo or english to a latino.  Usually it happens on the phone.  One time people from Utah called my companion and they didn´t speak spanish so my companion passed me the phone and I started speaking for him. That made me feel kinda cool, like a professional translator. 

Love you guys!!! 

-Elder Stoddard