Beautiful Guatemala

Beautiful Guatemala
Me with a random field worker. I love the knife!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Traditions in Guatemala

Hola y Feliz Navidad!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas! I had a great Christmas too! Thanks so much to the YSA Branch for sending such a thoughtful package and letters! Oh it just made my day! You guys are the best!! Thanks for remembering me and for all your support! I also LOVED talking to my family last night! Agh so awesome! K here's what happened this week in Mazatenango

1. Christmas traditions here in Guatemala! Christmas was pretty different here. Here are a few of the traditions:
-- Tamales and ponche -- Everyone eats tamales on Christmas, similar to Mexican tradition, but the tamales here are very different. They are a lot wetter, and they have things like chicken (with the bone), raisins, date nuts, olives, and other random things in them. They're not my favorite, but I liked them alright. Everyone also makes ponche, or "punch", which is very similar to cider, its a hot drink made with cooked fruits like pineapple, apple, coconut, etc etc. It yummy!
-- Fireworks! -- Everyone waits up until midnight on Christmas eve, and then at midnight everyone in the neighborhood shoots off fireworks, and I don't just mean little ones. There were lots of big regular-sized fireworks. It was fun because they were going off in all directions, really loud, colorful, and smoky. When I told people that in America we don't wait up til midnight and use fireworks, they all were shocked and thought that American Christmases must be really lame ha-ha.
--Pine needles -- I'm not really sure why, but part of the Christmas tradition is to spread pine needles all over the floor of their houses. Messy, right? That's something that my family tries to avoid ha-ha. 
-- New clothes -- Receiving and wearing new clothes on Christmas eve is a really big deal here. There aren't many presents for anyone because everyone is poor, but just about everyone had beautiful new clothes on Christmas eve and then Sunday morning for church. Earlier in the week we even went with Isabel, our new convert, and her granddaughters, to buy them new clothes. Luckily my comp is from here and understands the traditions, because I would have had no idea that getting new clothes is a big deal.

On Christmas eve, since we live with a family, we were able to stay up late and celebrate with them. It was really fun, it really seemed like a time of sharing and spending time together. What a nice blessing it was to spend Christmas with a family, even if it wasn't with my own.

We also had the ward party earlier in the week, where someone donated 4 pigs to be slaughtered and cooked up (sorry mom he-he). There were clowns to host a little show for the kids, good food, and some of our investigators and recent converts were able to attend. Awesome!

2. Baptism of Mario!! On Sunday a guy named Mario was baptized. Hes the boyfriend of a girl in the ward, Hermana Stevens and I taught him a few months ago but he didn't feel ready to be baptized. My comp now, Hermana Baca, had never even met him, but he was baptized and it was a beautiful baptism. He really seemed ready to make covenants with the Lord, and he wasn't just getting baptized for his girlfriend.

3. Familia Hernandez: These guys are hopefully getting baptized tomorrow!! A family! Hooray! The wife is still a little indecisive about it but were visiting her tonight and really hoping and praying that she can feel good about it like she did before. Her husband is totally awesome. It has been such a pleasure to watch his change through reading the Book of Mormon and praying, just as simple as that. Wow. So I'm really really excited and anxious about tomorrow. I know that we as missionaries have done all we can do, and now its in the hands of the Lord and the family. 

So that's what I did this week! It was a great week and I'm really glad to be here. On Sunday a girl in the ward received her mission call and read it out loud (to Chile), and me and my comp were both crying because we were remembering when we received our calls, the special feelings that we had and still have. I am so so grateful to be on a mission, its such a special blessing to be a missionary. These words don't describe very well my feelings, but I am so grateful. I love the Gospel. I know that it is true and that we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today. How amazing is that!? I love my Savior Jesus Christ and am grateful for His sacrifice for me so that I could have the opportunity to come down to earth, experience and learn so many things. What a wonderful plan our Heavenly Father has for us. I love the Gospel and I love being a missionary! Have a great week and break from school! Thanks for your prayers and support!

Love, Hermana Gilland

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Feliz Navidad!

Feliz Navidad! I cant believe it's Christmas on Sunday! What the?! Here's how this week went:

1. Isabel got baptized!! Isabel, the woman who had to quit smoking, successfully quit and was baptized on Saturday! Yay! It was great. She seemed really happy afterwords when everyone was welcoming her into the ward. She finally has the support that she needs, the church! And she also has the gift of the Holy Ghost now to comfort her even when things seem impossible in her life.  

2. Christmas banquet! We had our mission Christmas party/lunch thing today. It was really fun to get together as the whole mission. There was a variety show where several missionaries did dances or sung, and then a fancy lunch. Its been a really long time,since before I got here, that I've eaten a fancy meal. Ive forgotten some of my table manners, and I hardly knew what to do without a tortilla in my hand ha-ha. It was a really fun event and I'm grateful to everyone who worked hard to plan for it. 

3. My comp. Hermana Baca was sick a bunch this week, so I did divisions a few times with a 15 yr old girl in the ward. Kind of sketchy, right, but that's how we do it out here. Even though I felt bad that my comp was sick, it was a really good learning opportunity because everything was up to me in the lessons we taught. The pressure was on, and things turned out alright. I still have a whole lot I need to improve on, but its coming. It was a really nice chance to prove to myself that I really can do this mission thing, with lots of help from the Lord of course.  

4. I continue to see that as missionaries, we really don't have much to do with what happens with our investigators. Of course we always have to be working  hard, but so much of the changing in the investigators happens between the lessons. That's whats happening with familia Hernandez, a family we've been working with for a few weeks. The wife has always been pretty positive, but the husband wasn't so much until recently. I don'tknow what changed in him, but when the girl and I were having a lesson with him last week, he just talked about how good he felt at church, how hes been praying a lot, and how he wants to be baptized and doesn't want to wait! And that he wants to do this with his wife, as a family! Wow!That's music to a missionary's ears! I about fell off my bench again ha-ha. He wanted to be baptized this past weekend but had to go out of town for work, bummer. Were hoping they'll be baptized this Sunday! In Central America they celebrate Christmas on the 24th for some reason, so here it doesn't count as being on Christmas, but it would be a great Christmas present to me! Oh I hope things work out with them!!!  Also, we have another guy that might get baptized on the 23rd. Hes the boyfriend of a girl in the ward, and he doesn't live here so we never get to meet with him, my comp doesn't even know him. But his girlfriend told us on Sunday that he wants to be baptized on Friday. Sweet!! We're definitely hoping that these things work out, what an awesome Christmas week it would be!

I'm so grateful for the Gospel. I know that the true Gospel is on the Earth today. I know that it can change peoples lives. I have no idea how all that works. I have no idea how the Spirit can comfort people in the face of such hard trials, how it can help me to speak Spanish, how it can help me every day to be just a little bit better. I know that Christ lives. I know that He is our Savior and that He loves each of us so very much. I love the Gospel and I love being a missionary. Have a wonderful Christmas everyone! 

Love, Hermana Gilland

Monday, December 12, 2011

Temple Dedication

Hello everyone! Hope finals are going well for everyone. Here's what I did this past week:

1. Temple Dedication! The temple dedication was yesterday! We watched from the stake center and got to see all 3 sessions. Pres. Uchtdorf dedicated it, with a translator. Elder Anderson was also there. It was beautiful to hear the words of General Authorities directly to these people. One quote they kept referring to (though I cant remember who originally said it) was that each temple that is dedicated lessens the power of Satan on the Earth. Awesome! 

2. Cultural Celebration! Saturday night was the Noche Cultural that was presented to Pres Uchtdorf and the world in celebration of the Temple. We got to watch via satellite (it showed on BYU TV international, I think you could probably find it on the BYU tv website if you re interested) It was really special. The youth from stakes all around presented different dances and presentations, wearing traditional clothes and everything. They've been practicing since Feb for the event. It was a great look into the culture here, it was beautiful, and Pres Uchtdorf and everyone kept referring to how awesome it was.

3. Funny story -- Remember how my companion fell down last week...well I fell this week! Agh! It was the same stool my companion fell off of, I don't know what the deal is with this stool.  And it was extra funny because 2 elders were there too! They'll never let me forget.

4. Lots of great things happened this week, but I just want to share one sweet little experience with a little lady named Maria. She is a reference and went to church last Sunday with a member friend. We visited her last Monday. Maria is around 50 years old. She cant read. Shes super shy. We taught her lecture 3--faith, repentance, baptism, and I know she didn't understand much of what we taught her, but in the end she said she would be baptized. The whole lesson, and even afterwords, I was so so impressed by how much Jesus Christ loves this lady. My comp said she felt it too. I don't know why it his us so hard with this sweet lady, but wow, the Lord loves her so much. She is really special. I really admire people like her. I know she didn't catch much of the lesson, and I know she didn't understand everything at church, but the woman recognized the feelings from the Holy Ghost telling her that it was good, that its what she needs, and those little feelings are enough for her. I, and many of us, need bigger answers, bigger promptings before we act. And so many of us have so many more tools available to us, like that we can read the scriptures and feel the Spirit that way. But still so many times we lack the simple faith that Maria has. I'm so grateful for Maria's example to me. I know the Savior loves her so much, that shes a special daughter of God. And I know He loves all of us so much. So much!! How wonderful that we have this time of the year to remember and celebrate Jesus Christ. I'm so grateful that he loves each of us so much. He knows each of us perfectly. He wants the best for us. He wants to bless us. I know that He is our Savior and Redeemer, that he lived his whole life perfectly for us. I love Him. I know that His gospel is here on the Earth today and that we can participate in it. I love the Gospel. I know that its true. I hope that everyone has a great week and can find some time to think about Christ and Christmas. I love you all and wish you well!

Love, Hermana Gilland

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm a tall gringa and watch out for the Guin!!!!

Happy December everyone! 

I seriously cannot believe that it is December already! Officially today I have one year left of my mission. How weird! OK so here is what happened this past week:

1. Fasting miracles! We had 8 investigators at church on Sunday!!! Wow! It was the best ever! And all of them were little miracles. My comp and I did divisions to pass by for them Sunday morning. My comp went for familia Hernandez, I mentioned them last week. She says that when she got there the dad and kid were getting ready to go, but the mom had been called in to work at the hospital all night and hadn't returned yet. But, when they were about to pull away in the moto taxi to go to church, the mom arrived, went into the house and changed her blouse, and was out the door ready to go to church, even though she hadn't slept at all! I went to get Hermana Isabel (the lady I wrote about last week who didn't want to stop smoking, she´s back on and has a baptismal date for this Saturday ya!) and when I got there she said that all this stuff happened the night before, she was sick, and she hadn't slept at all because she was worried about the Guin (pronounced Win, some crazy devil thing, he apparently is some animal creature that kills your chickens, and he can turn into a man and snatch up young girls. I know, this place is nuts, right?) Anyways, despite all that, she was getting herself and her granddaughters ready to go! Ya! So it was a super awesome Sunday.

2. Were teaching some really great people right now. Isabel, the lady who has to quit smoking, is doing well and is excited to be baptized. Also,familia Hernandez is great! Were hoping they'll be baptized in like 2 weeks. Its great that they're a family because we can never find whole families to teach. Were teaching a few others too right now who are really positive, we are being so blessed to be able to work with them.

3. funny story -- so we were teaching family Hernandez last week, and we asked the dad, Hermano Noé, to say the closing prayer and he agreed. His prayer had a super powerful effect on my comp though, because right when he said "amen", she somehow fell off her stool and was flat on her back on the floor! It was the funniest! The stool didn't break or anything, she doesn't know what happened, but it was hilarious. So that's just a little more evidence that this family is awesome ha-ha.

4. another funny story -- so we were getting in a "bus" (giant van) one day, and I bumped my head on the top of the door opening. I do that all the time, I don't know why. Anyways, this man sitting there saw and commented, " Ay no, es que ella es bien alta" or "Oh its because shes so tall" hahahaand he was being serious! What the?! Its because I'm a gringa and everyone just thinks that all gringos are tall. We laughed pretty hard at that one.

So that's pretty much what I did this week. It was a great week, I'm super excited to see how things pan out with our investigators. I really love being a missionary, its so fun. I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth. I know that we have a living prophet just like in old times. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I'm so grateful to be serving a mission. I hope y'all all have a great week! Good luck to everyone prepping for finals. Definitely not jealous of y'all he-he. Have fun getting ready for Christmas!
Love, Hermana Gilland