"Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah."

Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:8

Monday, September 26, 2011

I Can Count the Months I Have Left With My Two Hands!

With my companion, Elder Contreras.
Hello to all from sunny, hot Salama.

Interesting fact that I learned this week: The name "Salama" comes from the Q'eqchi' "tzalam ha" which means plank or board on water. Apparently Salama used to be a big lake a long time ago (it's a huge valley surrounded by mountains). So that's cool.

Today I'm not going to have a ton of time to write, but last week's email was HUGE so I guess that will have to hold you guys over haha.

This week was a good week. Tuesday we didn't go out and work because we were in Guate for my comp's teeth. There were some scares about an earthquake because of some tremors I guess, but we didn't feel anything. After that it was a normal week of work being a zl. I went on divisions to an area called Val Paraíso where it really is pure Poqomchi. I was able to actually speak quite a bit with the people there so that was fun. I kind of wish that I had gotten to be in an area like that to learn Poqom. Anyways, other than that it was a normal week.

We worked a LOT with members this week and were able to have 11 lessons with a member (a definite mission record for me. woo!) and once again we were able to see the Lord's hand working miracles in our work since we were able to have that much success even with one day without working. So I'm just loving all of these great blessings from the Lord. One day while we were working with a member in an area about 30 minutes away, we both felt the impression to contact a family sitting on the path outside. They were really friendly and we talked for a while. At the end they told us that we could pass by their house someday and we told them we'd pass by tomorrow. After we left I saw this kid walking on the other side of the street and recognized him from the branch in El Fiscal in the capital where I was after I fell. I was really surpised to see him and went to go talk to him. He told me that he was living with his brother who happened to be the guy that we had contacted out on the path. I always love seeing how the Lord puts so many opportunities in our path! So we'll see what will happen with that.

As for the baptisms this Saturday...one of the girls that we were planning on baptizing this week didn't come to church yesterday because she went to a dance and didn't come back until really late.  We also found out that the dad, who is a member that we thought was really faithful, has been coming home drunk. So it looks like we will probably have some more work to do them. We're going to see if we can't baptize the younger girl this Saturday and the older girl later on once we get things figured out with her.

Alright, well time is very shot so I need to move on to personal stuff.

Mom- haha I loved the song you wrote. It was great. That's cool that you guys have been doing that! I had no idea "my mom goes to college". Sounds like you are having a good time though. I'm SO excited for the sing off with Vocal Point! You have to keep me updated every week on how they do! I want to be in Vocal Point REAL bad when I get back! But it sounds like if they are going to be on shows like that (and win..) it will be harder to get in to. But we'll see. Anyways, I got your package a while ago. I thought I told you but I guess I forgot. Thanks a lot mom :) Also, E. Gutierrez got his package that you guys sent and he called me the other day to tell you guys that he is really grateful and that he was only doing his duty as my comp haha. So thanks for doing that. You guys re the best. Love you!

Dad- HAPPY BIRTHDAY THIS FRIDAY! I laughed out loud about the other side of heaven thing hahaha. Thanks for the experiences as a ZL. We put a goal this week to have 23 baptismal dates as a zone and were able to have 19 yesterday so we came fairly close to achieving the goal. I'll try to realy help my zone more to be motivated to have the faith to acheive the goals that we set together. Thanks for the advice and counsel. Love you tons!

Alright, well times up. Love you all tons. I can't believe I already have 14 months in the mission. 10 MONTHS LEFT! Love and miss you all!

Elder Norton

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week 4 of the Change!

I'm glad you guys are enjoying fall weather because here it's HOT. What's worse, I'm sunburned because I went to go play some b-ball for a while in the morning. So, I'm sitting here, burned, not smelling too great, writing this letter while a latin version of the song "first love" by Justin Beiber is being played across the street. 

This week has been hard, and yet it has been the best week of the change so far. It's really kind of weird how it worked. And when I say weird what I really mean in amazing how the Lord blesses us for doing what we're supposed to. The AP's and President Watts have advised us to really try harder to work with the members and get more references from them, and teach them together. So we set some higher goals this week and set out to try and do as we have been asked. The week started off well, but Wednesday and Thursday we had literally nothing. I think we had one lesson each day and some people that we contacted. Thursday night I was thinking that our "dats" for the week that we would be reporting to the AP's would be pretty pathetic. But, we prayed a lot and asked the Lord to forgive us for our weakness in planning and listening to the Spirit and to help us in the next few days to do well. We ended the week with 8 lessons with a member (I think that's the most I've ever had in a week in my whole mission.) and we received 4 references from members and contaced them with the members which is how many references they want us all to have now. We were also able to put 2 baptismal dates with 2 younger girls whose parents and siblings are members but they haven't been baptized yet. We are going to baptize them on the 1st of October inbetween sessions of Conference. So it was just a really cool experience seeing at the end of the week how much the Lord had really blessed us for doing what we have been advised and counseled to do. Now we just have to do that every week.

As for Esperanza and Isabel, the women who we found that told us that they wanted to go to church a couple of weeks ago, we haven't been able to find them very much since then to be able to teach them and they didn't come to church. We passed by a lot to invite them to go to church but they said that they weren't going to have time. But we have an appointment planned with them today with our branch mission leader, so we're hoping that will turn out really well. As for the other families that we have been visiting, we weren't able to find any of them during pretty much the whole week. This week was a busy week because it was the 15th of September which is Independence Day here, so none of them were home and didn't answer their phones. But we are still going to keep at it and keep trying to pass by with members. 

I can't remember if I've talked to you guys before about Oscar and Reina, but I don't think so. They are an AWESOME couple that are what we call "dry members" (dry meaning haven't been baptized but they are more pilas than a lot of the members here!) The missionaries have been teaching them for a while now but Elder Contreras and I are working now on getting them baptized. The only reason that they haven't been baptized yet is because they can't get married. The only reason they aren't married is because Oscar is from Nicaragua and doesn't have papers or anything for here in Guate. So, we've been having some trouble figuring out how to get his papers from Nicaragua so he can get married here in Guatemala. But then the Lord blessed us with a member, German, who showed up to their house one day while we were teaching. German is REALLY awesome and he'll just go out and visit/ teach our investigators sometimes. He came and had pretty much the same lesson plan that we had prepared. At the end we were talking about what we can do to help them out and German came up with the idea that they should just go to Nicaragua to get married since she already has papers and just needs to get them authenticated by the Nicaraguan embassy. So we started working on that this week figuring out what papers Reina needs and how we are going to go about getting things done as quickly as possible. We have pretty much everything figured out and by the end of the month we will have everything we need for the to get married hopefully. Then the only thing we'll need is a lot of money...they are pretty poor. So we're thinking of ways to do some fundraising as a branch activity or something like that. Any ideas would be great. I'll keep you all posted on them.

In other news, Victor Manuel and his wife, Matilde, from Yalijux just got baptized Saturday with all of their kids. I just got off the phone with Elder Howard, my old ZL who is there now, and he says that it was a good baptism and that they are doing well. I was really happy to hear about them and it will be a big blessing for Yalijux. As for my investigators in Taktik, Kennia (the little girl I was going to baptize but didn't because she still wasn't 8), Dúliar, and Clara (the two younger siblings of the really active youth in our ward that I told you about) are all on track to get baptized the 8th and I'm going to do divisions there that weekend to hopefully be there at the baptism! Woo! Miguel, the 19 year old guy from Purulha that I was teaching had some problems with the family where we always went to teach, and hasn't gone to church since I left. I called him and he told me that he was having problems and because of that hadn't gone to church or met with the missionaries in this member's house. I told him to try and figure out a way to keep talking to the missionaries there to help him, but he just asked if he could come to Salama to church instead. I talked to the AP's and they said it was ok since he've pretty much inbetween Taktik and Salama. So I might get to baptize him here in a couple of weeks! He hasn't come to church yet but we hope to see him here next week.

Speaking of missionary work, that makes me really excited that a new family came to church last week! I'm sure the missionaries there were so excited because it's not every day that that happens! Be sure that you guys all are really good friends to them and that you help the missionaries out with them (especially you mom since you are la presidenta de la Sociedad de Socorro ;) ) Do they live close or far from home? Keep me posted on everything that goes on with them for sure! And be sure to invite them to watch conference with you guys because that will be a really big thing for them to hear the prophet and the apostles.

This week we watched "On the Lord's Errand" which is the movie talking about the life of Thomas S. Monson. I am always touched when I see that movie and I feel a very strong testimony that he really has been called of God to be His prophet here on the earth at this time. He is such a Spiritually guided person and I really want to be more like him to be able to listen more to the Spirit and then follow without fail the promptings that I feel. I know that Thomas Monson really is a prophet and that the Lord speaks to us through him. I'm so excited for this next general conference and can't wait to hear all of the inspired talks! 

In other news I'm going to the cap tomorrow because my companion needs to go to the dentist really bad. I'm pretty sure he needs a root canal because he is in a lot of pain and it sounds like it's more of a nerve thing than anything else. (it hurts him a lot to drink cold things..) So that will be good to get that taken care of so that he's not in so much pain anymore. 

On to some personal notes.

Dad- ra inch'ool about BYU's huge loss. Bummer! And to Utah? and at HOME? disappointing. I've pretty much lost all hope in BYU football. I just have this tiny glimmer of hope that BYU will do well in basketball even though they don't have Jimmer anymore. But I just care about 2012-13 when I'll be there. That's cool that you studied the story of Abraham this week because we studied the story of Abraham just yesterday in church. We talked about how it was even worse for him because Abraham's father was going to sacrifice him when the Lord saved him, so I'm sure that it was even harder for him to be commanded to sacrifice his only son that he loved so much. To answer some of your questions: the zone has 17 missionaries with 6 in one district and 9 in the other where we are.  I didn't know that you were a zone leader on your mission. What was it like for you being a zone leader? Any cool experiences to share? Hey sorry to bother you about money issues but I REALLY need to buy a suit in the cap when I go tomorrow. I still have my suitcoat but it's getting pretty small for me at this point and I don't have the pants anymore (I lost my solid black pants as well, or better put, somebody stole my black pants.) And I have to say that it's pretty embarassing going to meetings or church with my black pinstripe pants and a sold black suitcoat. I've talked to some elders and they say I can get a good suit for 800 quetzals here. Sorry again that I've been taking out money so much lately. The finance elders haven't been paying me my rent money (Q 600) and Elder Escate didn't have his rent money last month either, so I had to pay that as well (Q 350) so I haven't had money for food...So really sorry, but I figured everything out with the finance elders and they should be putting all of that money on my card this week. Thanks for everything though dad, I really love you too. I've always had good times with you and I have a lot of fun memories that I will always remember. You're the best dad. Love you!

Mom- hello dearest and most wonderful mother of mine. Sounds like you really had a busy week this week with your calling! But that's good that you were able to help out sister Borich so much. I'm sure she'll be so much happier now that she's out and has a new start to her life. haha you should have fimled it all and made some funny church spoof about that =P   Yeah it's kind of funny that the only new thing I've learned how to make is chow mein and I'm in Central America. I learned it from Edílsar in Taktik who was a chef in the US for a while haha so that's probably why. And people make chow mein here all the time! So it's kind of weird, but it's good so whatever. I don't know if there are a whole lot of recipies that you'd have that I can cook now since I don't have too many resources here. But I do enjoy cooking so you'll have to teach me some new things when I'm home. Time is FLYING by and it won't be long at all until I am with you all again. Sorry to cut this short but I'm out of time. Love you tons mom thanks for all you do and for being la mejor madre en todo el mundo! Love ya!

Thanks for the emails and for all of your thoughts and prayers in my behalf. I'm praying for all of you too and hope you are all happy and doing well. Talk to you all next week! 

Elder Norton

Monday, September 12, 2011

Buenas Tardes to all from Salama!

Hope that everyone is doing well. It's weird to think that the attacks on the World Trade Center were so long ago. Hopefully we can all remember that day and all turn to God in thanks for protecting us from other attacks since that day. 

Things are going pretty well here in Salama. We had a baptism yesterday of a single mother named Leticia.We helped her gain a testimony of the story of Joseph Smith and of living prophets, and that night she called us and told us she wanted to get baptized. She wanted one of the missionaries who had taught her originally to baptize her, but since neither of them could come, she asked if I would do it. So it was really neat to get to baptize again! She makes the 3rd person that I have actually done the baptism for. It was a good experience. The water from the baptismal font was horrendously brown and looked pretty much the same as the river here does, but she said she didn't mind and so we performed the baptism anyways. Interesting to think that all of her sins got left in that filthy water and she left completely clean and pure. We confirmed her as a memeber of the church yesterday so now she's in it for good. It will be nice to keep teaching her while I'm still here to make sure that she knows that her work is far from over and she still has to keep preparing herself to enter the temple. The branch here is the biggest I've ever been in. There are about 110 people that come regularly and they are for the most part all really friendly and good people. We have some really great members that feed us and go out to work with us. The only problem is that we share the branch with sister missionaries and almost ALL of the active members live on their side. I guess that just means we have a lot of reactivating to do! Anyways I really like it here so far and am having a really good time with my new comp, E. Contreras. 

This week was good and tiring. We were in the captial all day Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday we all woke up at 4 in the morning to go and play basketball in a chapel in the cap that has a court inside made of concrete. It was super tiring but worth it I'd say. Then we all went back and got ready for the concilio. Concilio was really uplifting and edifying for me. We talked about new things that we are going to implement in the mission and new goals that we want to achieve. I just liked feeling the Spirit there and getting to be with President Watts and other really great missionaries and leaders. This change we get to have another concilio in the last week of the change so I'm really excited for that too.

Friday I did divisions with the elders in an area called Rabinal, which I had heard was one of the hardest and roughest areas in the mission. I was thinking that it would be true, but I was still pretty schocked after being there for a day. I don't think I've ever been so harshly rejected or mistreated or ever seen a town so lost in sin! I really thought about the people in the city of Ammonihah. But I learned a lot from the elder that I did divisions with, Elder Márquez. He has been there for 6 months. Just after one day of almost every single appointment falling and people yelling at us and things like that, I felt pretty discouraged. But he just kept knocking on doors and didn't seem to let it get him down. So I learned a lot from him and had a really good division. With all of the traveling and running around doing things, this has definitely been the most tiring week of my whole mission. But it was really nice because yesterday we had ALL day to rest. Because of the elections that were going on yesterday, President Watts told us not to leave the house. We only had Sacrament meeting and then we came back to the house. It felt like a normal Sunday back home!! It made me feel a little baggy jaja =P Two other elders from our zone came over to our house after church because they needed to go to Guate for an ingrown toenail today. So we cooked some BBQ chicken that was really good. Speaking of cooking I learned from some investigators in Tactic how to make a really good chow mein and I tried it for the first time Saturday and it turned out really good. So I'm learning slowly but surely how to cook! Anyways, I used Sunday to study a little bit, catch up on my journal, and catch up on my sleep that I missed this week. 

Cool spiritual experience of the week: during the week we had decided to try and contact families every time we saw them outside so that we could find more families to teach. So we were walking one day and I say a family sitting down outside in the shade. We went over and started talking to them. After looking at them and talking to them for a few minutes I was pretty sure that they spoke Q'eqchi'. We aksed and they said that they did. Of course I started talking to them in Q'eqchi' about the gospel. The man seemed a little bit timid and said that he would like to learn how to pray because he didn't know how to. He had on a baseball cap and was looking down so that I couldn't see his face. So I sat down on the ground in front of him and started to teach him how to pray in Q'eqchi'. It was a neat little experience for me. Anyways, the best it still to come. We set up a follw up appointment for Saturday. After the baptism was over, we were invited to a dinner appointment that was going to be an hour later. We went back to the house to drop our things off and we were both tired. It would have been really easy after having a baptism and everything to just lay down and rest a little before the dinner appointment. But I felt like we really needed to go and find this little Q'eqchi' family. So we left and went to find them. After asking around we found the house where they lived. When we knocked on the door a little sweet old lady came out who was definitely not part of the Q'eqchi' family. We asked if they lived there and she said that they did and that they were renting a room behind her house, but they weren't home. So, we took the opportunity to open our mouths and asked her if she knew who we were. She just smiled and said "Yes! come in!" We looked at eachother a little bit surprised by such an ethusiastic answer and went in. She told us that she had been wanting to go to church with us for a long time, but didn't know where, what days, and what time. (and there shall be many who will not have the truth only because they know not where to find it...) She had lived close to some missionaries in Purulha and had gotten really close to them. She just really admired the missionaries and wanted to go to church with us. So she asked us what the doctrine of our church was and we taught her about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was a really cool experience that the Lord helped us to have. I love when the Lord just guides us right to the people that are waiting for us! The Q'eqchi' guy came to the house later and was really drunk so it was kind of lame, but we are going to keep visiting all of them later and hopefully we can bring them all to repentence and baptism in the Lord's true church! I just know with all of my heart that this is the true Church of Christ. Everyday I feel it more and more in my heart. 

Alright time is short so only a quick few comments:

Dad- thanks for the advice. I really felt that way too and could tell that Satan was really tempting me to lift myself up in pride, but I really appreciate your advice and promise to keep myself from getting prideful. You have always been an example to me of a very humble man and so I'm going to try to be like you and keep myself humble. Love you dad. Thanks for everything! Oh and I'm reallly sorry for taking so much money out lately...I've had some issues with previous comps not having any money, having to pay for him, and some problems with the finance elders getting my money to me. Sorry but I got it figured out today and hopefully won't have to take anything out again unless it's a real emergency. 

Mom- yeah I'm sure it's hard for God because he doesn't want for His children to suffer, but if He doesn't allow those things to happen, they don't remember Him. Remembering is so important and always makes me think of the Book of Mormon when they talk about how the people where "slow to remember" what the Lord had done for them. But I'm thankful to you and dad for being people who have always turned to God and remembered Him, not just when there is a crisis and we need help. You guys are great. Love you!

Kinzie- HEY! you freak! how come you have not written me in such a long time! (King julian) How is school so far? I hope you are liking it. I don't have much time but I just want to let you know how great you are. You are a really righteous young girl and you are a choice daughter of our Heavenly Father. Never sell yourself short of who you really are- a daughter of the King of Kings. Keep choosing the right every day and reading the scriptures and your patriarchal blessing and you will be happy. I know this time in life is hard and there are a lot of important decisions to be made. Just always remember Jesus Christ in your life and try to be like him. Love you lots Kinzie and I can't wait to see you again soon! Remember I love you and am praying for you every day. Love you!

Alright, well time's up. I really am thankful for you guys and for supporting me so much in this work. I wouldn't be who I am today without you guys. I miss you all and love you tons and can't wait to be with you again. I pray every day that we can all make the right decisions and follow Christ so that we will be together forever someday. I'm praying for you all! Have a really fun and Spiritual family home evening for me tonight! 

Love you all!
Elder Norton

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A New Assignment

Hello to everyone from cloudy Guatemala City! Right now I'm in a fairly large mall called "Tikal futuro" in the capital using internet and getting ready to go bowling. But just to make things clear from the start, I didn't have a change to the capital. I'm sure that you are all excited to hear where I am, but I'll explain things in just a minute.

So, I went to Coban on Tuesday and stayed the night there with all of the other Elders that were going home or to the capital. We had to get up at 1 in the morning to help all of the elders get their suitcases out to where the bus was and I didn't end up getting back to sleep until about 3 so I was a bit tired. But the McDonald's we had eaten Tuesday made it all worth it. Wednesday morning we were talking about changes and I was with a few other elders that I am good friends with. We were all pretty decided that I was going to go back to the Polochik.  Anyways, I left with a few other elders to go shopping in used shoe stores (shoe pacas) and to look around. When we came back to the house the other elders said "Elder Norton we have your change and some really important news for you!" So I ran upstairs and asked where I was going. They told me to guess. I said I didn't know and guessed Senahu. They said no and then said I'd be going to a place called Salamá. Salamá is the area of the zone leaders of the zone that I was just in while I was in Taktik. I knew that they had to just be kidding and so I told them to tell me where I was REALLY going. But they told me that they weren't joking. A few minutes later Elder Williams, the AP, called and confirmed that I'd be going to Salamá to be a zone leader. I was completely surprised.  There was another elder who was in my zone last change who had a change but who supposedly just needed to stay at the zone leader's house with his suitcases, so everyone thought for sure that he would be the new zone leader of Zona Verapaz. It's kind of weird being zone leader out of nowhere especially in the zone that I was just in. But things have gone well so far. As soon as I was told I was zone leader I had to start taking care of the elders and sisters in my zone. I had to help coordinate all of the changes that were happening in my zone and had to wake up early once again on Thursday morning and move suitcases and all that good stuff.  So I kind of feel a little bit inadequate I guess, but I know that this is where the Lord wants and needs me to be and that there are people that need my help in Salama.

Ok, not too much time left so a little about the area- it's HOT. When I say hot, I mean hotter than any other area I've been in and is kind of like Polochik I guess, but still not as hot as back home. It's a big valley so it doesn't rain too much, usually just at night sometimes. It's a branch, and I'm in the center of the city. It's a pretty big liltte city and is usually pretty busy. But it's still not as big as..Overland Park probably. It's pretty much mostly Spanish but there a lot of people that speak other languages- Q'eqchi', Aoqomchi', and Achi'. I've already found a couple of families that I was speaking Q'eqchi' with so I'm excited for that. We have a baptism this Saturday that we are really excited for.

My comp- Elder Contreras from Honduras. He was my ZL this last change so I thought it would be kind of weird being with him now, but it's not at all. He's a really great and funny guy. I swear he's so much like a little Pakistani guy. He looks and talks a little bit like he's from Pakistan so it's really fun haha. He was really happy that I got to be his comp and we already are teaching really, really well together with a lot of unity and love. So I'm excited for this change with him.

Right now I'm in the captial because the zone leaders have "concilio" (conference) with Presidente Watts every first week of the month. So we are having our p-day today in the capital instead of yesterday (sorry for the delay.) But I'm SUPER excited to get to be with Pres. Watts and receive lots of counsel and inspiration from him. I'm also REALLY looking forward to Sister Watt's cooking!

Alright, well time is up, sorry guys the internet place cut me 15 minutes out of my time. I love you guys all tons and I ask for your prayers and support in my behalf as I start with these new responsibilities that the Lord has placed me with. I'm excited for the increased Spirit that I can already feel and hope to keep changing and being a better missionary for the Lord.

Love you all tons! Until next week,
Elder Norton

ps- happy labor day!