November 18, 2014

Carrying wood Guatemalan style

This week has been fantastic, hard, but I've loved every day! It has gone by so fast, and I've been told repeatedly that the first 3 to 6 months are the slowest months of your mission...that makes me worried for what it's apparently going to be like after that time.

A few highlights from this week:

Highlight #1: So you know that wooden figurine Grandma and Grandpa Morgan have of the Guatemalan carrying a load of wood? Well, I became that Guatemalan this week...but the story begins before that experience. There is a member of our branch (local congregation) that is our "Guatemalan Grandma."  She has a washing machine, so we've been using her washing machine do some of our laundry. Well, a couple weeks ago we stopped by like usual to use the washing machine, but found out it was broken.  We asked if she would be willing to clean a few items for us and that we would pay her for the time and supplies to clean them. Well...she told us she would be more than willing to clean them for us and that she wouldn't accept any money. "Well we have to give you something (this is only one example of the many things she has done for us) for all the things you've done for us." She replied that we could cut some leña (wood) for her...well the day before in District Meeting we had found out that there was a new rule throughout the mission that missionaries could no longer cut leña. What a dagger to the heart! So we had to explain the new rule to her and offered that we could cargar (to carry) leña instead to which she accepted. This is how we found ourselves beneath a load of wood this week up in the mountains. WOW, that is some hard, HARD work! I doesn't look like it would be difficult or that the little load I have in the picture would be that heavy...but trust me, I gained some serious respect for those Guatemalans who cargar leña all day, every day. I did one load and I thought I was going to be out for the next week from how physically draining it was. THAT IS SOME HARD WORK!!

We love our Guatemalan Grandma!

These guys who carry wood are tough!

Highlight #2: I went on another division this week with another awesome gringo missionary in my district.  We were from the same CCM group, so that was great to be able to hangout with a friend from the CCM. :) We had a lot of fun, and got a lot, a lot of work done. I finally was able to get over my fear and apprehension when it came to contacting. Almost all of our appointments fell through, and we are in need of some new and progressing investigators, so we set about contacting. We went down to a part of the town off a hill that I had never visited. We were able to teach a couple unplanned lessons (and receive return appointments), make some good solid contacts, and see a part of San Bartolo I hadn't seen yet. I loved it!! :) I know that I, and I'm pretty sure my companion, learned a lot from that division.

Highlight #3: Christmas has officially begun! The giant gallo Christmas tree was lit on Sunday (gallo is an alcohol company) and we've started singing Christmas hymns in church.  At first I was feeling a little like, What the?!? this is a little early for Christmas, but then I realized that between dia de los muertos and Christmas they don't have any holidays (namely Thanksgiving) to focus on. So why wouldn't they start celebrating Christmas? :)

On the bus in our new gorras

Highlight #4: Last p-day I, and 2 other elders, purchased gorras (hats). That is one cheap investment I am glad that I made! First, I didn't realize how cold I actually was in the evenings until I now have a warm head every night. Second, it has been an awesome way to come off a little less serious when we are talking to people. Not distracting, but a fun thing that people comment on (because my companion and I are somewhat matching). :)

Our bus stop

Riding the bus in our new gorras!
I love being a missionary in this beautiful country.

I am loving every moment that I get to spend on the Lord's work. Some times are difficult and others are super enjoyable, but nonetheless I am loving the changing and refining that the many experiences I have each day are creating in me. I know that our Father in Heaven loves each of us individually and personally. He knows when we are having a hard day, when we need a little bit of encouragement, or are just a little down. I know that in these moments when we feel like nobody knows how we are feeling or what we are thinking and we possibly feel alone or abandoned, that these are the moments when we can and need to turn to our Heavenly Father. He is always there to lift us up, to help us feel his love, and to help us know what path we need to take to continue moving forward. I know, without a doubt, that our Father in Heaven knows us each personally, like earthly fathers know their children, but more completely and eternally. He knows exactly what each of us needs, wants, desires, and seeks in our lives. He is there! He loves us eternally, with more love than we can comprehend! He is literally our Father, the father of our spirits! I take confidence in my heritage as an eternal son of God, and so should you.

I love you guys so much and am excited for the day you guys all get to experience the joys of missionary service, whether it be as 18- or 19-year-old single missionaries or as senior couple missionaries! The work of the Lord is sooo amazing and I learn so much every day. Know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers siempre and that I love you guys so much. More than I ever have at any other time in my life! In a few short months I'll be back...a changed man, a man who relies on the Lord in all things, a man who has changed for the better. Thank you all for all the encouragement, thoughts, and stories each week! YOU GUYS ARE TRULY AMAZING!!! Keep up all the great work and always remember to smile! :)

With love, your missionary, brother, son, and friend,
Elder Flake

Our everyday path

A mountain home

Breakfast with my divisions companion

Brownies and pancakes...the breakfast of champions!

HUGE dogs here (they have 2 more not pictured)
This dog's name is Killer; yes, Killer. Aaaaaah!

My little Guatemalan friend

November 11, 2014

Birthday singing and big, hairy spiders...

So to explain a tradition in my area for birthdays...the morning of someone's birthday all the family (and the Elders, if invited) show up at the crack of dawn outside the person's house. We all then sing at the top of our lungs birthday songs to wake the birthday person up. When they answer the door we then sing another less crazy song. Then we all have breakfast together! Afterwards everyone goes home for a couple hours before returning to the birthday house for a super sweet lunch!! Its a blast! Instead of getting only one birthday meal, you get 2! AND you get to be woken up earlier than any other day of the year! Ain't that great!?!?! :) I know its still 8 months away, but I'm curious whats going to happen on my birthday...haha :)

Also this week I had some super good workouts...especially on Thursday! We were out in a neighboring town about 40 min down a valley, up the other side, and over the next mountain..haha...and the appointment went longer than a lot longer. We were going to be late to a another appointment we had AND found out that one of the mission secretaries was waiting at the church for us to give him some paperwork he needed for our branch (congregation). So we did the most logical thing...we ran, RAN! over the mountain, down into the valley, and to the church building! We made it back in about 20 min...record-setting speed!! That was one workout to make up for any time in the mission for the next 2 years that I miss working out for some reason...haha. It was brutal! :)

Then on Friday I had another division here with one of the coolest guys there is! :) We found a new investigator who is super interested in the gospel and had some really, really good questions for us about Mormonism :) YES!!! What makes it even cooler is we accidentally knocked on the wrong door looking for someone else and she answered...God has His hand in His work! I'm sure of it!! :) Then when we had to come in for the night we started into a great conversation about USU and after the mission! He's wanting to go to USU, and most likely will be, so we started talking about all the fun stuff we will be able to do after the mission and surprisingly it only pumped us up more for the mission (and afterwards) and didn't detract from the work or make us baggy...haha :) I LOVED IT!! :)

Last super awesome story from this week! We were able to do some service for an elderly sister in our congregation with some winter cleaning (like spring cleaning, but in the winter) of her house up the mountain. (I'm sending some pictures for you guys from this activity.) We were cutting back the invasive plants around her house so that they would stop deteriorating the mud bricks that make up her house. Well, it was one of the most fun adventures I've been on so far in the mission!! My companion is super not okay with spiders and this foliage and brick were full, and I mean FULL, of them! And not just the small ones! Think like 2.5-3 inch in diameter leg tip to leg tip and just hairy as can be! YUCK!! It made a nice mess when it got squished by my comp...haha :) Then we took some pictures with her and her 2 grandchildren that came with us. But there's a funny story with that, I don't know why, but Guatemalans never smile for pictures, ever. They can be joking and laughing, but as soon as the countdown for a picture is complete, they go straight-faced. Well, my companion and I were determined to get a picture with this hermana with her giving a thumbs up and smiling. What we eventually did is tell each other in Ingles to just keep smiling no matter where the countdown was and then the elder taking the picture would make her smile and then take the picture. The result: one of my favorite pictures ever!!! I love it! :)

Well, life is going great here in my tranquille area of Guatemala!! :) Hope all is well at home and that you guys feel my thoughts and prayers always!! I pray for you guys every night, each individually by name and specifically! Love you guys soo much and am so grateful for all your support here on the mission! Choosing to serve a mission is the best, craziest, most spiritually-significant decision I have ever made and I am so grateful every day (yep even the hard days) for my decision to give myself completely to the Lord for a meager 2 years of my life! Thank you guys for supporting me in that decision and for being so pilus all along the way!! YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST!!!

Love your missionary, brother, son, and friend,
Elder Flake

Scripture for this week: Alma 26:12 "Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I willnot boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever." (link to reference)  For my friends of other faiths, this scripture is found in the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. If you would like to know more about the Book of Mormon or to request a free copy visit here

My FAVE picture from Guatemala so far!!!!!

Home in the mountains

It's soooo green here!  Love it!

November 05, 2014

Unity, Brotherhood, and Another Month of Miracles

November 3, 2014

This week has been great for me and the progress of the Lord's work here in this area!! :) I have literally seen His hand in His work EVERY day!! Also this week my companion and I have really become even more united in our teaching and in our trust in each other when it comes to testifying and just working together. I LOVE IT!!! It makes the work so much more fun!! :)

So, a first that I had a couple days ago...we went to visit a family (in an area about a 40 min hike from here) who is becoming less active...we are NOT going to let that happen! Well, while we were there we actually taught her boyfriend/spouse...they aren't married, but he is still referred to as her esposo...Guate life!! haha :) But right before we left the member asked us if we would give her a blessing because she's been sick all week. So of course we said yes and as we were walking over my companion turns to me and in Spanish said "seal this annointing...just remember...seal this annointing..." Wait...what? I was able to give my first priesthood blessing in Spanish. It was a wonderful experience, feeling the spirit, the words just coming, the thoughts and feelings coming in Spanish not English...I loved it!! :) Just a small tender mercy from the Lord to me this week! :) We then went and visited the esposo again yesterday and have a tentative baptismal date set (means that he will be baptized if he feels prepared and feels that it is right) for this month!!! :) We just helped him open his heart to the spirit and the spirit did the rest) :)  The miracles are already coming in!! :)

Alright, so Halloween here is different. They don't celebrate is actually a very bad thing to them to celebrate Halloween. But they celebrate the two following days...referred to as Dia de los Muertos. Everyone visits family, goes to the cemetery and pays tribute to those that have passed away! :) Its actually pretty cool, I heard it can get pretty rambunctious in the larger cities, but here it was an awesome experience to see how they commemorate their dead :)

This week also brought more opportunities for me to teach seminary and I actually conducted sacrament meeting yesterday :) :) I am LOVING every new and fun experience the Lord is and has and will give me while I am about His work! :) I love it!!!!! I LOVE BEING A MISSIONARY!!!! :)

Love you guys a ton!! Love love love love each and every one of you!! :)

Love the coolest missionary you guys know,
Elder Flake

PS I should be able to achieve my goal of finishing del Libro de Mormon by Christmas!! :) woohoo!! :)

My personal Halloween celebration!!!

My companion and I tracting in the mountains

My Zone celebrating our successful Month of Miracles

Come Unto Christ

Could you include the video of the youth theme song for 2014 on my blog? 
It's titled "Come Unto Christ: 2014 Theme Song" thanks :)

Successful month of miracles

October 27, 2014

This week has had some great ups and some down downs. But all in all I'm better for it! Our Savior and brother Jesus Christ is literally working right along side his missionaries and I know He personally visited this area this week. Or at least He was with me! There were some amazing lessons learned, experiences had, and things that happened that have changed me just this week! It has been an amazing week!! We found 3 very promising families this week to teach and who are progressing!! :) Please just pray for them and that we will be able to teach them what the Lord knows they need and that they will feel God's love for them and receive answers about the validity of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Book of Mormon :)

No crazy stories from this week that can't be shared when I get home from the mission ;) haha, how's that for anticipation??? haha :) (its also because I'm running low on time...sorry)

So this week ends Octubre and my zone's Month of Miracles. We reached our goal of 6 convert, true convert, baptisms this month!!! YES!!! The last time the zone had 1 baptism was 4 months ago...yeah 4 MONTHS ago, and we had 6 in just this month. But looking at the horizon, I know November is going to be even better! Please, in your prayers, pray for the Lord's angels to continue to touch the hearts of those we are teaching now and help guide us to those who he has prepared here! :)

My best accomplishment this week personally: I translated the Banana Bread Recipe you sent me into Spanish so that I can give it to the Branch President when we make it with him :) It was fun and a confidence builder for me!! :)

Now a request:
Will each of you please write your testimonies and email them to me. (I would love to get some from family and friends as well so this request can be on the blog :)) And if you have time and are willing, write short testimonies on just topics like the Book of Mormon or prayer or fasting or tithing (you get the idea) :) I would really appreciate those :) And don't worry about having them in Spanish, I can do that :)

I love you all very much and love getting all the emails from each of you!! I'm glad to know that everything is going well for you all and that you guys are progressing the work in MN :) Talk to you guys in a week!! You are all amazing!!!

Love your missionary, brother, son, and friend,
Elder Flake

Letters make me happy!!!!

Front of our one-room church
Back of our one-room church
Children playing soccer outside the church
Rained so much we had to dry our clothes inside...or try to!