Monday, September 30, 2013

Week 2 September 30, 2013

Dear family,

Well where to begin with this letter?  This week has had its ups and downs. And I won't lie, there has been times where I felt like I should just go home and that would be easier. But everyone feels that way here at some point usually in the first two weeks. I find everyone has their challenges and personal struggles as well as personal discomforts and lack of confidence. I strive everyday that the Lord will make His yoke easy and my burdens light. The food here is pretty good with LOTS of  potatoes, eggs and beans, but everyone ends up sick.  I think it's because none of us is used to the food.  It's pretty bad.

They are doing lots of renovations here, updating things and what not.  We get to move up to the third floor which has brand new things and bathrooms and showers that are so nice.  We are all super excited especially because our old bathroom had so many problems.  You don't even want to know, especially when over 60 guys have to use it.  It's horrible.

The weeks go by super fast but the days go by super slow.  It is funny how Sunday ends up being the best day other than P-day because we just go to meetings and relax.  I'm constantly tired and just want to crash. All of us are constantly tired.

Well we have been teaching this investigator for about a week and a half and in that time period we taught him in Spanish and English and I was prompted to bare my testimony and when I did I invited  him to baptized and he said he would. Well I found out that we won't be able to teach him anymore because he really is already a member and he is our second teacher. I was somewhat disappointed. My companion was happy because he didn't want to feel like he ruined this guys life. But I understand why they do that and make you believe he is real so you can learn better and for them to tell you what you need to improve on.

To answer the dry cleaning thing, no, my mission is not in the city so I  will not have anything comfortable like that at all and we aren't allowed to just go where we please. It is incredibly dangerous here and that's not an exaggeration. In my last email I told you we have body guards that follow us around with shot guns and semi automatics. It's insane here but I'm super excited. Unfortunately there have been problems here. I believe that Polo watch you gave me has been stolen.

Elder Bednar did a talk on worthiness and how we must already be on a side and choose who to follow. We can't just expect to be able to go out and teach people to repent and to follow the commandments and be examples if we don't do it ourselves.  Our tongues will be tied and the words will be choked in our mouths and the Spirit will not be with you.  The Spirit is the true  and ultimate teacher. And then you have already failed your companions and your investigators and truly yourself. Which is why it is so important, so necessary for us to always be worthy from the beginning not trying to play catch up. I felt unsure when I heard that message am I truly worthy? Am I truly feeling the Spirit? It made me nervous and scared  I just sat there and thought for awhile  and I wanted to know for myself. I prayed hard. I cried unto the Lord that I may know He is real that He is there and that if He is really there, do I have the privilege of carrying His name.  I can testify I received an answer and that if you truly desire an answer, you can receive it.

Send me everyone's emails and addresses through a letter not email.  That's dangerous.  I'll try to start writing letters soon.  Oh yeah, they also have this thing called "dear elder" which lets you send letters super fast. But I'll talk to you soon.  This is definitely not enough time to write everyone.  I'll definitely try to just do letters for more personal and detailed things.


Elder Toma

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hunter's first letter from Guatemala

Hola Familia!,

It feels like it has already been a very long time since I have seen everyone. There is already quite a bit of stuff I got to tell you. So I'll start from when I got off the plane in Guatemala because the moment I got off my adventure was already beginning.  Because I arrived a day late  I arrived all by myself.  I got to fly first class which was awesome but I didn't get too much sleep.  So when I arrived all by myself obviously everything was in Spanish so pretty much I was already confused.  I just tried to follow people to the baggage. Luckily  they are not even strict with passports they just smiled and let me through no questions asked thank goodness!  So I was able to find my baggage pretty fine, but  when I began to get them off this little Spanish man came up to me and began to grab my bags.  Obviously I was really confused and couldn't understand a single word he was saying he just kept rambling on in Spanish and trying to take my bags well I begin to understand that he wants to help me and carry my bags for me (which I shouldn't have let him). But I didn't know how to tell him no!  So I said ok fine. So this little guy is carrying my two big HUGE BAGs and I'm just walking along next to him carrying my little carry on and side bag. Well he takes me outside and the first thing he kept saying is tip tip tip. That's when I realized because I was wearing a suit this guy thought I was rich. So I gave the guy five bucks (which I found out later is a lot of money) and just left him.  I was able to find a guy that was supposed to take me to the MTC but I didn't know it was  called the CCM, that caught me off guard.  As we were heading to his car the guy could barely speak English and his car looked like it had been rolled over.... His windshield had huge cracks and big holes in it and when he began to drive the whole car shook. I didn't even know if we  were going to make it or not to the CCM.  The people here in Guatemala are the craziest drivers I have ever seen! While we were driving a guy on a motorcycle  zoomed right to our side and in-between us and another car and people don't stop if you try to cross the street so it's crazy scary. But I arrived at the CCM safely. And when I arrived obviously I was a day late.  I just went straight to class.  I meet my companion his name is Elder Wickhimshire.   He is 22 years old and is a convert to the church.   He joined about 1 year ago. Elder Wickhimshire is  from Utah which includes about  2/3 of the North Americans that are here.  On the first day  they got me doing everything. They offered to let me take a nap but I told them no. It felt  like it had been four days already but every time I looked at my watch it only said 12:00.   I had never felt so tired before. The Presidents name is Nikolayson.   I got to talk with him for awhile he is a real nice guy.  So that was my first day.

For the past week it has been STUDY STUDY and STUDY.   Our whole day is just filled with things to do from studying espanol,  to studying the gospel,  to practicing teaching lessons.  Well they force missionaries to get a haircut here I don't know why and it doesn't matter how short they make you do it. Well I told the guy just cut it a little bit cause I just had a haircut.  I don't know why but he cuts every guys hair crazy short like he shaves it off,  and he cuts everyone in the process or gives them bald spots.   I HAVE TWO in the front so I have no hair anymore....(I wanted to cry) Its whatever though it grows back. I guess that's the culture out here but I'm not letting my hair get cut that short again. Most missionaries that are white are going to t Guatemala rather than other Central American countries.  There's only four of us here that are City Central because  they just shipped out a bunch there a week ago. There's a lot of hispanos going everywhere and from everywhere. There is defiantly more hispanos then white people, especially out in the mission field  .  There is three hermanas (sisters) in my district which is only  7 people in total.   It's really small for a district!. But its fine I talk to everyone in the CCM.  I already made friends with all the North Americans and a lot of the Hispanos. MY Spanish is coming along very well.  I can truly testify of the gift of tongues.  I can already have conversations with any of the hispanos and I make jokes with them all the time.  They are  all pretty funny.  Guatemala though is not a joke there is a lot of poverty, more then I even expected.  The city which is supposed to be the nicest part of the country  is like a Ghetto part of our cities . So I can't imagine the places I will be  going to.  It is very humbling to be here.  The nice thing is everything here is crazy cheap! Garments cost like 15 cents a pair, if that gives you a clear picture. It is very dangerous though a lot of people steal and try to rob you there are guards that patrol and are always with us and follow us when we go to the temple or certain buildings, just to make sure we are protected.   So we have body guards. They also guard the CCM and make sure no one that doesn't belong gets into the building.   Most people don't mess with Elders especially Gringos because they know were American and that we are involved with the Lord.  They are very superstitious. Its quit incredible how fast your testimony grows while you are out here and learning. I have been personally been praying to receive  greater love for my mission and for people.   I want to have a greater desire to want to teach them, help them and give them charity.  I can already see it taking place.  We have had many devotionals including tonight,  a Seventy will be speaking.   In these meetings a lot of the hispanos will get up and give their opinion or testimony and I cannot tell you how impressed I am with them.  They are very strong in the gospel and have a great knowledge of it.   My roommates are all hispanos.  They study diligently and hard.  I  remember in one of my meetings just listening to them (in Spanish) bearing their testimony or just simply saying what they know, or their thoughts on something, and how I just had a deep respect and love for these people because of how much they truly love their Father.   I have also been praying for me to gain the gift of tongues and to be able to learn and communicate well in Spanish and I cannot tell you how much I am being  blessed with that and pray that I will continue to be blessed with that.  From day 1 I knew nothing and was so lost but by day 3 I could figure out what they were saying to me, and progressively with a lot of patience and hard work I'm starting to get it.  It's still hard and I have a lot to learn but I know that If I keep trying and praying I will be as fluent as you can be and that excites me. I won't be able to send out letters this week cause I don't have paper or envelops or stamps for that matter.   I'll have to do it next week sorry about that guys. Send me peoples email who want me to email them I only get a hour on Tuesdays which is my P Day so I'll try to type as  fast as I can. Also send me addresses for those  who wants a letter.  I got to go to the temple which was awesome.   It's really small but I really like it for some reason. They took my electronics because they don't want people to steal them,  sad but that's what they do here.   I can't send pictures.  They have taken some.  I'll see if they will send some to me and I'll give them to you. Or ask for my camera for little bit. We get to go on field trips every two weeks.   We get to go to Wal-Mart next week.  It's sad when that's what excites you but everyone is excited.  Send me emails and address and I'll try to write as much as I can.  I got to go they're ripping me off the computer.

I love you all and I love this church and gospel  en nuestro Padre Celestial.  I'll talk to you what seems to me real soon. I miss you (but I'm not homesick) which is good . I'll write you soon with even more things.

Love Elder Toma

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hunter leaves on his mission September 17. . . AND 18, 2013

Elder Toma has officially left on his two year mission to the Guatemala City Central Mission.  As he has not been able to formally write to us yet, we will fill in the details of his departure.  From here on, we will let him tell his mission story through the letters and emails he sends.

Hunter was set apart by President Jon Dionne, stake president of the Centreville Virginia stake on Monday, September 16.  On Tuesday, after finishing packing and spending time with mom and dad, we loaded up Braden and Conner and took Hunter to the Dulles International airport to drop him off.  Everything went incredibly smooth!  After lots of hugs and some tears we said our final goodbyes and sent him through security.  He was ready to go!  His flight schedule would take him to Los Angeles where he would have a three hour layover and catch a midnight flight to Guatemala.

Jennifer and I dropped Braden and Conner off at home and went to a school open house.  When we returned, Braden informed us that Hunter had called twice.  He flight had been delayed due to mechanical problems with the plane and he was scheduled to depart now at 9:00 pm (we had dropped him off at 4:30 for a 6:30 departure).  At 10:00 pm, we received a call from Hunter.  His flight had been so delayed that he would not make his connection in LA.  He had no choice but to book for the next day.  He needed me to come and get him.  I went and picked up a disheartened and disappointed elder! Having to come back home seemed rather anti-climatic!  And to add insult to injury, Braden had already pulled out all of Hunter's clothing and made piles of what he was going to adopt.  He had also moved into Hunter's room and was sleeping when Hunter got home.  Poor Hunter had to realize that there hadn't been much mourning time before his brothers assumed his things!

The next morning we woke up early and took Hunter back to the airport for an 8:30 departure to LA.  He was scheduled to arrive at 1:30 pm and then would have a 10 1/2 hour lay over!  Luckily we were able to call upon Aunt Faye and Uncle Bob in LA who came to the rescue.  The arranged to pick up Hunter and take him home to care for him, give him a place to rest and feed him well while he waited.  They dropped him back off at the airport later that night and at midnight, Hunter was on his flight to Guatemala.  He arrived approximately 5:30 am.

 We only could hope that the Guatemalan MTC was aware that one more lone elder was making his way and would arrive a day late.  We hoped they would be there to find the little lost sheep!!  I sent an email to the MTC asking for them to confirm his arrival.  Later today, we received this email communication.  Note:  I signed the email, Devin Toma - Father.  Notice that he addressed it to "Sister Toma," wise man!!!

Dear Sister Toma,

Elder Toma arrived this morning on schedule. I just spoke briefly with him and he is tired. But that's normal for the overnight flight. After a good night's sleep he will be fine. 

He should be able to send you a short email today.


President Nicolaysen

This evening we received the following email from Elder Toma:

Hey Family,
They're only letting me do a quick email to you to let you know I made it to the MTC safely and that I will be able to send another email Tuesday I guess that is what my P Day is.  I have got quite a bit to tell you already having adventures down here. I'll let you know soon. Hope you guys are doing well. I'm extremely tired didn't sleep at all. I just went right to work and surprised everyone because I have been able to do everything when they usually let people that come late have a nap, but oh well I'll have plenty of sleep at some point. Again hope everyone is doing well talk to you on Tuesday.  

Elder Toma