Monday, March 30, 2015

Week 12: Seeds of Faith Planted by Missionaries Years Ago

This was a very rewarding week for us. I can feel the Lords hand in his work. On top of our progressing investigators we have picked up quite a few new families and individuals to teach. We devoted two hours of one day to contacting in the parts of our area which we normally do not go to. What we did is we went with Elder V. and Elder G. on splits in our area. I went with Elder V. and Elder S. went with Elder G. Elder V. and I walked up this big hill tracting (knocking) door to door. I saw a house that was selling medication, so I knocked on the door and when the girl answered I asked what type of medications they sold. She said all types, so I said well we actually have one type of medication that you don’t have, that is the medication for the soul. Then I used that and taught a small little lesson. It was funny and surprisingly effective. This new and fast way of contacting people produced very unique and varied responses from the people we met, but we did find a few people who were ready to hear our message.

Among those who were ready was one family who had been taught over a year or more ago by an Elder Pierce and his companion. They had met with these Elders on several occasions but had never committed to anything. Elder V. and I tracted (proselyted) into them at night during a rain storm. After I said, “What weird weather we are having,” they let us in their house! They remembered the feeling these two missionaries had left and after all this time they still had their Book of Mormon kept neatly in a plastic bag. We taught them about the history of the Book of Mormon and their people’s role and the promise made to them specifically, just as Elder Anderson (the apostle who visited them a few weeks ago) had taught us. We shared 1 Nephi chapter 15 verse 14 (“And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.”) After explaining this promise we shared 1 Nephi chapter 6: 4-5 (“For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.”) The family was very loving and receptive to the scriptures we shared. And yeah, I have great hope for them. It is super cool to see that other missionaries’ hard work and dedication can be re-kindled, even if took over a year or more to happen. We are excited for future lessons with this family and with others and we will be working hard at helping those who are ready for baptism continue to progress.

My companion and I have a goal to serve the children in our ward. First we find out their birthdays, and then on their birthday we stop by with an ice cream or something small and then sing “Happy Birthday” to them. We have already done a birthday visit. We did that again this week with a little girl in the ward. She was super happy about our visit.

Got to go. Tons of Love,
Elder  Perez
Elder V. went with Elder Perez on divisions/splits
Elder G.
3 Generations: Son, Father, and Grandfather 
(Elder S. was my trainer, Elder G. was S's trainer so Elder G. is my mission grandpa)
L-R: Elder Brenden Perez, Elder S. and Elder G.
3 Generations: Son, Father, and Grandfather
(Elder S. was my trainer, Elder G. was S's trainer so Elder G. is my mission grandpa)
L-R: Elder Brenden Perez, Elder S. and Elder G. 

Elder Perez my question is how can you have two grandfather's on a mission?
Yeah, about the pictures of my two mission grandfathers, normally you wouldn't have two of them but the thing is that when Elder S. was being trained they switched out his companion mid-way and he finished his training with another Elder G. SO, basically we as missionaries get trained for 12 weeks and for Elder S six weeks into his first trainer that trainer got an emergency transfer to go fill in for a companionship with some troubles. His new companion, Elder G. is what we call a step-father because he finished Elder S’s training. That’s why I have two mission grandfathers. One mission grandpa and one step-mission gramp.
Cool cookie duster Elder S.
Brenden's in heaven with his dulce de leche (Caramelized condensed milk)
Eeew! Only Elders would be willing to sleep on a bare mattress.
Let's hope it was laundry day... Thankfully it was laundry day says Elder Perez.
Elder Perez said that this flower reminded him 
of his sister who likes to press & dry flowers.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Week 11: "Cool, White guys, Hey Come to Our House, You're Funny Looking."

My stomach began to feel worse after I sent my email last week. I was pretty sick the first three days of the week and was unable to aid my companion with a few visits. I asked around and found out that what I had was just the flu. I am a 100 percent better now. The few times my companion and I were able to go out together we saw amazing results. One such evening we were up on a hill right at dusk and all our appointments had fallen through. We were approached by a few little kids who actually have our same last name of Perez. They saw us and were like, cool, white guys, hey come to our house, your funny looking. We accepted their invitation and their family was very welcoming. We were able to teach them a lesson which went well! Experiences like this give me hope. I look forward to seeing this family progress. 

Elder Neil L. Anderson - Apostle
Wednesday, Elder Anderson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles came and spoke to us. It was amazing to see someone so important in the church up close. The weight and mantle of such a calling is clearly evident. I learned some very wonderful truths from his talk.

You asked what service we were able to give. Well, I was sick for a good part of the week so as far as service goes my companion Elder Sargent helped a ton of people. They were just little acts of service like helping someone paint or helping someone carry water. Elder S. is good about that stuff. I try and follow his example but he usually beats me to the act.

The ward/congregation we serve in is a good size. There are usually about 140 people who attend every week. There is a good mix of families and individuals who attend. We do not have a pianist in our ward and the Bishop has asked me to play for them, which I did once, but regretfully I do not have the time to practice the piano as of late. I feel like hymns are sacred and should be played properly. 

In general all the Guatemalans like to talk about God. Everyone is super friendly and welcoming to us and they ask us where we are from and many other questions. Many are really grateful for our messages. Our investigators (the people who we are sharing the gospel with) are very cool! We have three very promising investigators. One has a fetcha/date for baptism. Really, an investigator’s growth is all about the investigator and not at all about us. For instance, the investigator with the baptismal date, L...., reads and studies everything we give him and is a very self-driven man with so much potential. Along with attending church with us weekly he also attends Alcoholics Anonymous daily! He has been attending for many years and still attends because he believes in the AA program and says that he owes a great deal to them. He is actively doing things to grow and has been living the word of wisdom as well as the other commandments long before he knew they were commandments! 

Thank you all for your continued love and support.

Elder Perez
Elder Perez and Elder P.
Elder Perez and Elder E.
Elder E. & Elder Perez where in the Guatemala Missionary Training Center. He is the missionary that whistled the Batman theme when Elder Perez walked by.
L-R: Elder Perez, Elder ?, Elder N. & Elder K. (Brenden met them at PDX airport & they flew to Guatemala together. Elder N. was Brenden's MTC companion.), Elder ?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Week 10: How lifting weights for 5 minutes opened the door to future missionary work.

The work is really growing in Alameda. We have been busy all week contacting 15 new investigators. Some are very promising. We have had a few interesting encounters with some non-member youth around here. The funniest thing happened one evening while we were helping a man move some stuff to another house. Some youth stopped the man to ask him about some weights he was carrying. We came over and the oldest youth, who I could tell was a little buzzed, told me to start working out with the weights. I did for about 5 minutes and all the guys laughed and then went their own way. Now when we run into them throughout the day they smile and say good day. I am glad that the situation turned out well and we hope to invite these youth to learn more about the church.

The weeks are starting to go by faster and faster. This week has been a great blessing and I continue to see just how important this work is. My companion and I are starting to discuss doctrine and opinions at night. We differ in opinion in some areas and have had to agree to disagree on those points, but this experience has really helped me come to see that everyone’s opinion is important. Elder S. and I are actually getting to know each other a lot better because of these discussions. 

Last Thursday Elder S. and I went on splits with our zone leaders. One of the zone leaders stayed in our area with Elder Sargent and I went with the other zone leader to work in their area. Our zone leaders are both on fire. I learned a lot in just that one day I served in their area. The most spiritual experience I had this week happened that evening. My zone leader and I were walking when we spotted a couple that was talking out on the street. We stopped and shared a short lesson with them. The boy was very interested in our message and we actually found out that the girl was an inactive member. The girl even said that she wanted to start coming to church again but just didn't want to go alone. It was great. 

On Sunday I became a little sick and was nervous that it might become something serious, but I have been diligent about taking my medicine and vitamins and am happy to say that I have recovered.  Yes, I have also been more diligent with the bug spray and have actually been using a fan to keep the mosquitoes off of me at night.

Tell Grant that Umi car and I are trying to go so fast everywhere here in Alameda. There is even a big hill we run up almost every day and you can see a giant volcano from there!

Talk to you all next week,

Elder Perez
The side view of the hill Elder Perez and Elder S. 
run up everyday.
Pacaya volcano - the last activity reported has been the eruption that peaked on May 27, 2010, causing ash to rain down in Guatemala City, Antigua and Escuintla.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Week 9: The Mission Work is Great and I Honestly Love It!

The mission work is great and I honestly love it! I have my ups and downs as anyone does, but I really do love and care about the people I serve. Any real hardship I experience is usually brought on by my not doing something I should. For instance, we have a lot of bugs in our house all the time and I know that I will get eaten alive if I don’t put on repellent at night, but I always go straight to bed thinking that I will be fine. So, now I am covered in bug bites and I constantly have to resist the urge to scratch my arms. 

I am super poor by US standards. It is so weird to me because I get a monthly allowance of like 300 US dollars or so, but the US dollar is worth so much more here that it’s like I have a lot more money than I actually get. For instance, I only had 800 quetzals last month to spend after housing, which is almost 105 US dollars, yet I was still able to buy everything I needed plus still have extra money for snacks and treats.

The living circumstances of the majority of the people we teach and meet depends on where we are working. Some houses are very nice and others are more like shacks. They have dirt floors and just the basic necessities. It is very humbling living here in Alameda and I really care about those I am teaching.

Yesterday we were teaching my very favorite family, The Hernandez family. They are sooooooo loving and always feed us. But even better than that, they really want to learn the gospel and change for the better. So yesterday I taught them about prayer, how we pray and how God answers prayers. We could really feel the spirit there and everyone understood that the Holy Ghost was testifying of the truth of this message. I was so happy for them and we reminded them that once they come to know that this church is true we would like them to be baptized. It was a great night.

You asked if anything funny happened this week. Oh, you should know, every day is a funny day with me. Me and my companion are always laughing and joking around, but when it is time to work we really get down to business and work. We have a grand old time and we are really good friends.

I hope you all have a great week!

Lots of love,
Elder Perez
 Elder Perez keeps his 2 year old nephew's "Umizoomi" car close. 
It means a lot to Brenden that his nephew gave him his favorite car as a goodbye present.

Elder Perez with his missionary zone
Elder Perez's nephew loves seeing pictures of the 
"Umizoomi" car he gave his uncle as a goodbye 
present before he left on his mission.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Week 8: Feliz Cumpleaños/Happy Birthday Elder Perez!!!!

This is my second week here in Alameda but it feels like it has been a month! There are so many new faces and investigators that we meet daily and for some reason a majority of the men are called Luis, so the challenge really is telling them all apart.

I get a variety of questions due to my last name which seems to contrast with my looks. Some ask me how a gringo came by such a fine name, while others have ask if I am from China (when I smile I squint my eyes) but in general most are happy that I speak Spanish.

My companion and I have had several opportunities to serve others here. We helped a family dig up dirt to use for a foundation on a house they are building, and ever since then everyone near that area has been asking a lot of questions about us.

As far as my birthday goes I had a blast! I am now twenty one, which feels an awful lot like twenty. But what a birthday it was! The plan had been to celebrate all day seeing as it fell on Monday, but they switched our p-day to Wednesday due to a temple trip we had planned for the morning of the 4th. We altered our plans and just celebrated during breakfast, lunch and dinner. My companion made me a great breakfast in the morning with pancakes and eggs. Then at lunch we bought a birthday cake and burgers which we ate with Elder V. and Elder G. When it came time to cut the cake everyone sang happy birthday and somehow they persuaded me to take a bite out of the cake. They took advantage of that moment of blind trust and shoved my face in the cake. It was actually really funny, and we all laughed about it. I got most of the cake too so no complaints here.

A family made me a birthday dinner. They are a super sweet family that has really taken us in. After we all ate dinner and right before we had cake they all went around the table and said some very nice things about me. How even though they have only known me for two weeks they already feel very close with me and know that I really care about them. One member that came with us (M.. 15 yr old kid) told me he wants to serve a mission and that he looked up to me. It was something along those lines and it really touched my heart.

We spent the rest of my birthday tracting and teaching lessons. I learned a lot about humility and the struggles of poverty. I am constantly growing here and have really felt the Lords hand on several occasions. I wish I had time to share all the stories and experiences I have had, but maybe I will be able to back track in next week’s letter.

The temple trip on Wednesday was awesome and I had such a great time with everyone. We went through in Spanish, which was a little hard to follow, but I enjoyed it and actually saw a good friend of mine, Hermano A. He was one of my teachers in the CCM/MTC and is such a great man. 

Thank you all for your support and birthday wishes, I am very luck to hear from you all and I hope that you all are doing good.

Much love,
Elder Perez
Elder S. made breakfast for Brenden's birthday! 
How wonderful is that! 
It made Elder Perez's mom cry when she read about it.

The old shove his cake in the face trick.
Elder Perez and Elder G.

This wonderful family made a 
birthday dinner for Elder Perez.

What are they eating? 
On second thought, I don't want to know.