Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week 3: Five General Authorities Spoke to us and the New Latino Elders that Arrived Have Raised the Bar!

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow! What a week it has been for me! So this last Monday all of us here at the CCM had the opportunity to go and hear from five members of the Quorum of the Seventies!
Elder Craig C. Christensen 
of The Presidency of the Seventies
One of them was Elder Craig C. Christensen but the other four Seventies names escape me. I was able to shake each of their hands and they really taught us some amazing things. On the way back from this meeting I began to notice the individuals in the streets of Guatemala City. The people were all a buzz and it was a little hectic. I thought to myself this... “Heavenly Father loves each of these people individually and he wants him, her and that little girl to know Him and be baptized one by one”. This was very thought provoking and really helped me love the people even more.

A ton of new missionaries arrived at the beginning of this week. Many are from Honduras and Guatemala. I made fast friends with several of them. These new Latino Elders are not as patient with our speaking Spanish as the last group, which actually has been quite the blessing to me. I have discovered through their higher expectations of us English Elders that I understand more of what they are saying then I thought. One Elder in particular, Elder Martinez from Honduras speaks very fast with a slight accent and expects a response. With a few days of practice I have been able to not only follow his conversations, but comment and answer questions with my limited vocabulary and a few hand gestures.

President Cox asked me to serve as District Leader for our English group for these next few weeks and it has been an eye opening experience for me. I am in charge of our districts assignments throughout the week as well as teaching and leading district class and discussions. This week I taught about the doctrine of Christ found in 2 Nephi 31 (Book of Mormon). We reviewed the chapter and compared it with the missionary purpose found in the missionary handbook,"Preach My Gospel." All in all it went really well. Teaching my peers reminded me of the time I was able to teach the gospel essentials class in the Alder Creek Young Single Adult ward (congregation). Good memories.

The food is so good here! A local named Carlos makes everything and it is very tasty. One day we had this great lunch which was some sort of traditional soup and I think mine actually had some sort of animal tooth or bone in it, but it was so good that I did not even care! Some of the funniest things happen to me during the meals we have here. I generally sit with the Latino Elders and we talk about everything from favorite sports to our cultural differences within the CCM (MTC - Missionary Training Center).

My new missionary friends found out that I could read music and began to request that I play hymns on the piano. I have been trying my best to play all of them and the Elders sing along. Funny enough, these Elders expect the very best from me and begin to get angry whenever I miss or mess up on a note. They are very demanding friends, yet fun and amiable all the same.

Occasionally, I have been asked to participate in their mock lessons (role play) where I play the role of the investigator. It is at such times that they begin to argue who gets to teach me the gospel. My favorite experience with these men has been the times right before bed where I get to talk with one or two of these individuals and really find out who they were before coming here, their interests, and their hopes. I know that having these conversations has been a blessing from God because there will be a day where I understand every word, and other days when I comprehend nothing. Heavenly Father truly does bless us and I hope and pray that I am worthy to receive the extraordinary "gift of tongues" in the pursuit of this great work.

I love you all and I hope you will have great success this next week with the help of the Lord.

Hasta luego,
Elder Perez

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Week 2: I gave My 1st Sacrament Meeting Talk in Spanish!

I have been so blessed by the Lord. The friends I have made here are one of a kind, and all (Latino and English alike) have taught me so much. As I said last week, a few of the Elders call me "Batman" due to the night socks my sisters gave me. One Elder in particular, Elder E. always greeted me with a big smile while whistling the Batman theme song. I began calling him “Robin”.

I have been teaching several lessons with my companion in Spanish and I feel like they have gone well. Similar to the Provo MTC, we practice our discussions through role-play. Usually one of our teachers takes on the role of someone who does not know much about the church, an "investigator".  Here is the thing though; every role these teachers play is based on an actual person, a friend they know, or someone they have taught with a story. This makes teaching them all the more powerful. I had the opportunity to role-play the investigator for the class. I took on the character of my best friend at home and answered the questions posed to me, as I thought he would. The class watched the lesson and evaluated how we did. One Sister commented, whoever this guy is he is pretty smart, we will have to teach him the gospel with facts as well as with the spirit. I was glad that I was able to show my friends personality and nature to the class correctly. It really was a great experience for me.

I gave my first talk in Spanish last Sunday on the subject of baptism (specifically, Mosiah chapter 18 verses 8 through 10 in the Book of Mormon). I was really nervous because I was not sure whether or not I would be called on to speak. All the English Elders and Sisters are asked to prepare a talk in Spanish, then after the sacrament is passed, they call only 4 of us up to share our talk at the pulpit. I was one of the tributes of that day. Everyone said I did fine so I will assume I taught what I had planned.

Today all the Latino Elders left the Centro de CapacitaciĆ³n Misional - CCM/Missionary Training Center - MTC). The entire CCM was empty except for 24 of us English Elders and Sister Missionaries. This is the only day we will be without Latinos. Tomorrow we will get at least 65 or so Latino missionaries. It was sad to see all my new found friends leave, but we exchanged emails and we will keep in touch throughout the mission. I gave Elder E. one of the two pairs of Batman and Robin socks I own. He replied in English, “Friends forever Elder Perez, friends forever”.

This morning I was able to go through a session in the Guatemala City Temple. It was beautiful. The local temple workers were very kind and loving. I am really feeling true love and care for the Guatemalan people and their language.

I pray for you all and wish everyone the best while I am away. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Nos Vemos,
Elder Perez

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Week 1: Guatemala Missionary Training Center

This has been a very exciting first week! I am one of ten English Elders in the Guatemala MTC. There are six elders and four sister missionaries in my district. My companion is Elder N. (no relation to Russell M Nelson). He is a very funny and intelligent guy. It is a little hard to relate to some of the other Elders since most of them came here straight out of high school, but in general we all get along fairly well.

My first day here was very long and confusing, mostly because there was no set structure for us for a few hours. I was able to make the best of it though. I was surprised to find that speaking Spanish became second nature often when speaking with the Latino Elders. Tell Grandma Perez that the facilities here are very nice and that everything looks very new including the beds. My bed is comfy, the food is delicious and the weather is divine.

The Guatemala City Temple is closed for the next two weeks. Starting my 3rd week I will be going to the temple on my preparation days (p-days), which is Wednesday. The temple is a twin temple to the Boise, Idaho Temple. It is very beautiful. 
Top Row L to R: Elder K., ?, Elder Perez, Elder N. (Perez's Companion),..?,?... with his English District in front of the Guatemala City Temple.
3rd from the Left: Elder Perez
I have been given the nickname “Batman” by a few of the Latinos due to those Batman and Robin socks my sisters gave me for Christmas. I wear them every night and everyone loves them. Several Elders want a pair for themselves!
Batman & Robin socks Brenden's Sisters gave him for Christmas earned him the nickname "Batman"
One of the best experiences happened on my third day here. We had already been teaching discussions in Spanish to our teachers, with much struggle I might add, when we were all promised that our Spanish would greatly improve as we spoke all the Spanish that we could each day, and as we asked for their aid in teaching. Following this, I began to really make an effort to speak Spanish at each meal with the other Elders and I have seen a great improvement in the way I teach!

Thank you all for your letters, prayers, and love. I truly feel blessed here.

Con amor,
Elder Perez

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Arrived at the Guatemala Missionary Training Center

Dear family,

I have arrived at the Guatemalan MTC and have begun my training. The people here are all very friendly and I've already made quick friends with a few of the Latino Elders. Although there are several times I feel lost during conversation or while attempting to reply, I know that the Spirit which teaches the truth of all things, will help me teach and carry all I need to say in the future. One thing to tell you guys, while I am in the MTC our "P-day" is Wednesday right now and not the regular Monday,  but that may change so it is best if you email me on Sundays for the next 42 days (6 weeks) or so. I am sorry to say that for these next 6 weeks in the MTC we are not allowed to take pictures with our cameras except on rare occasions, but I know that the lord will bless me for my obedience. I love you all very much and I pray for each of you.

Abrasos y Besos,
Elder Perez
Guatemala Missionary Training Center
All the missionaries in the CCM 
(Missionary Training Center)
Middle row L-R, 2nd missionary: Elder Perez
1st Row, center: CCM President Thomas Cox & his wife Sister Rebecca Eugene

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Goodbyes to Elder Perez at PDX Airport

Phew! We got him to the airport 2 1/2 hours early. His mission travel plans did not specify if he would be traveling with someone. We assumed he would travel alone to California and hopefully meet up with other missionaries there before flying to Guatemala.
Mom, Elder Perez & Dad
There were three sets of relieved parents at PDX when we discovered that two other young men that looked like missionaries, were actually missionaries. We were excited to find out that all three of them were not only going to Guatemala, but they were all going to be serving in the same mission!
Elder Perez, Elder K. & Elder N. What a handsome trio (:

Already practicing handing out El Libro de Mormon.
Having fun (:
Brother in law, nephew (daddy's shoulders), Sis, Niece (mama's arms), 
Elder Perez, Sis, Mom & Dad
What dedicated sisters Elder Perez has; his older sister's children were ill with a bad chest cold and younger sister was very ill with a stomach flu.
Ohhh, too cute. Elder Perez's nephew love him.
Uncle Elder Perez with his adorable niece.