Friday, March 22, 2013

I Know Who I Am

Hey! I've been back from Guatemala for two weeks now! Life has just flown by since I've been home. Parting with Elder Hill and Elder Pérez was a little more difficult than I had expected. Back on Tuesday, March 5th, we left Sayaxché for Santa Elena. We were waiting in the bus station for a while and getting together with all of the other missionaries to leave. Saying goodbye to Elder Hill was easily the hardest part. I know we were only companions for 13 weeks, but he truly became one of my best friends during those short weeks. When you have to be with someone literally 24/7 it will either drive you nuts, or he/she will become your best friend. For Elder Hill and I, it was the latter. 

Wednesday was full of movement! There was really no down time. My final interview with President Watts was just incredible. We talked about my 10 year goals, my character evaluation and dating. Since I have fairly solid goals, we did a lot more focusing on the dating scene. For a return missionary, marriage is the next big step (if he/she hasn't already begun college). I don't want to spill all the details to dating life, but it's a little like being a missionary. You have to know how to find people you would like to pursue. You need to know how to learn more about that person and show your interest in their lives and ultimately, make commitments. 

On Thursday morning we headed to the airport and on to the United States. I expected to be nervous. Coming home after two years is a big deal! There is a certain culture shock you expect, just like when you left. I was very relaxed and prepared throughout the three flights. Actually, in the first flight to L.A. one of my companions, Elder Miller, and I had the opportunity to share more about our beliefs with the man sitting next to us, then once again from L.A. to Salt Lake City. 

When I landed in Idaho Falls, I was slightly delayed leaving the plane, waiting for my carry-on bag, which seemed tortuous to my waiting family. When I stepped through the door, my four year old niece, Elliana, rushed to give her uncle a great big hug, followed next by my mother. It felt so good to hug my mother once again, and let her know how much I love and appreciate her though the simple act of a hug. Believe it or not, a simple hug says a lot. 

From the airport we went directly to the airport where I had an interview with President Arnoldson, who released me as a missionary. Throughout our conversation I could tell he knew something was different about me but that he was proud of my service as a missionary. I really did change a lot in Guatemala. I learned how to love more fully, how to serve, how to carry myself in foreign situations and other things without number. The moment arrived when President Arnoldson looked to me and said, "You can take of your name tag now." I glanced down at my name tag, clipped to the lapel of my suit. A flood of emotions came over me that I was not expecting. It was one of the most difficult things I have heard in my life. That name tag was, and always will be, a part of who I am. For two years I was a representative of four things and people. 1, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 2, my family 3, me and 4, Jesus Christ. That is something I can never forget. I was sad to have to remove my name tag, something that set me apart from the world,  something that let me know who I truly was and am. However, I know who I am, with or without a name tag. I will always be that person. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4, 2013 - The final missionary email....

So That's How It Ends.
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This has been anything but what I expected. It has been an emotional roller coaster, as I DID expect, but not necessarily the emotions that I felt. 

I don't want to do a daily "play-by-play" because I'm pretty sure those are boring for every body. But at the same time, I like talking about the things that go on that way, because it keeps my thoughts organized.

I'm going to jump ahead to Thursday. There was another little "fight" that resulted in just a melt down for me. Not out of anger it was just an onslaught of emotion. Thursday morning, aside from the frustration, I thought about the fact that I could have theoretically been on the plane heading home, since I originally was to return home on the 28th of February, and just a whole bunch of things. I realized I wasn't ready to go home that day, but at the same time I had wished it could just be over because I didn't know how to handle a certain situation any more. On top of all that I came to the realization of feeling that ending the mission, in certain aspects, is social life death. With some few exceptions (you know who you are), all of my friends are currently either on missions or in this one. (For lack of complicating things I will speak in the general)... all of my friends are still in this mission. I thought to myself, "Upon going home I will have so many new problems and challenges to confront without my "friends". After 2 years, I am officially accustomed to mission life, and not ready to face the changes that come to RM life. Furthermore thinking about some of the financial difficulties that I will be presented with..." and it was an emotional override. However... those feelings dissipated throughout the day as we just got to work. 

Tuesday we had a great lesson with Hna. Evelyn Guillermo. We went over the baptismal interview questions and talked about some of the baptismal interview questions and her over all preparation for Baptism. Dang it... I wish I could just talk about all that went on this week, but it just won't work.

What I want to tell you all is less about what I did this week, and more about how I felt.

I am grateful to have trained 5 missionaries... at least in part. When I started my mission, there were many things I wanted to do. Among all of these things, all but 1 came to pass, but it had nothing to do with me, and a lot more to do with what the Lord needed. Some of you may already know what that one thing was, for those of you who don't, we can talk in person. Looking back on my mission, I am proud of what I have done. There are some random days when I think about a few different things that keep me going. To my sister, one of the things that has helped in a few occasions is making sure I am the hero my little sister thinks I am. I know that to her, I am a best friend, a hero, a brother. If I know my little sister, like I know I do, I know she thinks I am the best missionary in the world. I may not fufill "the best", but I can make sure I make my little sister proud to know that THAT missionary was her big brother. I love you, Alexis.

Mom, the same can go for you.

For all those who don't know, the end of a mission is tough. There are so many things that you wish you could do. There can also be moments of inadequacy. Just know, it's not that you're inadequate. It's you feeling that you have honestly tried your best, and sometimes it's "not enough" for the world. After having grown so much, you would think that you can finally do "those things". Well, you can! But you have grown. You are doing your best. You can do those things. But there are more yet to come. President Spencer W. Kimball has a talk titled "Give Me This Mountain". We have mountains to climb, and they come from the Lord. You always are capable to climb your mountain. The higher, the harder. You have less air, it's not because you're tired, the atmosphere is less, it's a tougher environment. Just know that you HAVE grown stronger, that's why you are climbing so high. The terrain is rough, the summit is near. It's not a gradual incline to get to the top, it's a straight shot up. But just because it's UP, doesn't mean you GIVE up. What you do is GO UP. So go climb your mountain. Look out upon the majestic horizon and see the path of your ascent to know all that your Heavenly Father had in store for you to do. Hindsight is 20/20, and a mountain is nearly infinite. As you reach the top of your mountain, you will see the infinite blessings are Heavenly Father has had in store for you. 

This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For 2 years I have testified to this fact. It is just that. Fact. My name is Andrew Anderson LaPray, and for 3 more days, I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I represent our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 


Elder Andrew A. LaPray

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013

This week flew by SUPER quick. Nothing like what I expected. Or was it? Even though the "end" draws nearer, it still hasn't hit home. So, we'll see if next week it feels real. This morning I was telling Elder Hill it's just, incomprehensible. I said, "Next Thursday I hope I sleep in heaven." (referring to my bed) and he said that it became real to him. Still not there.

Wednesday I was sick, so that was awful. But, it wasn't like Monday sick, but either way, we had to stay home. Lame.

I don't remember which days they are anymore, but things with Elder Pérez have been rather difficult. Almost every other day he is either upset/mad with something Elder Hill or I did and we have to talk for about 30 minutes about it and he stays mad. But, I don't like to talk about it too much.

On Thursday we had a lesson with familia Pop Jota which was good! We talked about the first half of the Plan of Salvation and asked them what they would be willing to do and Hna Alicia talked about baptism, but as something she would need to talk about with her husband to make sure they are on the same page, and in agreement to follow this path. I'm worried that they haven't prayed to receive a spiritual confirmation, but them listening to us is a pretty good start.

Friday we had a great lesson with Hna Evelyn, who has a baptismal date for the 6th of April. We talked about her reading in the Book of Mormon and the 10 commandments. Because she had a question about the 10 Commandments, we were able to talk about the Sabbath Day perfectly!! She seemed more sure than ever that this Sunday she was going to be in church, no matter what, seeing as it is my second to last Sunday and all three of us were speaking. Spoiler alert, she went to church!!

We also taught a less-active family that we had never met until that night, and they have 3 kids in baptism age. Elder Hill went back on Saturday in a member division and put a baptismal date with all 3 kids for the 23rd of March!

As for Sunday, Elder Hill went with a member 2 miles out to familia Pop Jota to go to church with them, and then walked 2 miles(almost) back to church! What a champ! Good news, all 8 people in their family were at church! 4 over the age of 8! Elder Pérez and I walked out to that less-active family and they weren't home! Bummer! However, when we got to church, we found out that they were already there! That gave us another family of 6, 3 who were investigators! And then, like I said, Hna Evelyn finally came to church and brought her 4 kids!!! In total we had 13 investigators in church! It was absolutely fantastic!! The Lord truly blessed us this week!!

I have one more week to show the Lord and the people of Sayaxché how much I love them! Pray, and wish me luck!!


Elder Andrew A. LaPray

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18, 2013

Well, time is running out on these emails... there are only 2 more left after today. No, I'm not baggy, it's just a statement. We'll get the sickness out of the way first. Today we went to Tikal and I didn't feel well at all while we were there, and during the hour and a half bus ride, I was NOT feeling well. We got to Pizza Hut, I jumped out of the bus, ran inside and barely made it to the toilet... first from one end, and then from another. I made about 4 trips to the bathroom in less than an hour. I still have a 2 hour bus ride back to Sayaxché and I am going to be praying nothing happens on the way!

Stress is related to what it's always been related. My companionship and worrying about a certain companionship in the district, but in interviews this week I talked to President about how I feel about each area in the district. I really wish we had more time in our interviews with President, because sometimes there is a LOT to share. 

Overall, our interviews with President and Sister Watts were EXCELLENT! My interview with President revolved a lot around the specific challenges being presented in the district. I only have one more interview with President in about 15 days! It was my last interview with Sister Watts, and therefore, was about 30 minutes, as opposed to the usual 8! It was phenomenal! I wrote all about it in my journal, but it's a little too personal for the wonderful world of cyberspace. 

I'll jump to the miracles of Saturday. In the morning we had a great lesson with Denis, teaching him about the Sabbath Day. Right before we were about to leave after lunch, we got a phone call from Familia Morán letting us know they would need to cancel the visit. We were grateful for the call, and I thought "Maybe this will let us teach Marvin and Raul". There was only one problem with the canceled cita... We were going to meet a member, Nohemí, there to teach them, seeing as Nohemí used to be friends with the daughter and we needed her help to resolve some friendship situations. We tried stopping by the chapel where she was supposed to be... not there. We stopped by a tienda and called her, and she wasn't with her mom. Nothing left to do, so we went and had a cita with Marvin, who has been gone for the last 6 weeks, so teaching him was a miracle in and of itself! I hope his life has straightened out, and we will be here to support him as long as he is still in Sayaxché! 

At 3 we went close to familia Morán's house to meet Nohemí and let her know the cita had been cancelled. We were there from 3:05-3:13 and she never showed up, so we left. Surprisingly, that happened to be another miracle. We'll get there. After realizing Nohemí wasn't showing up, we went and tried to teach Raul, whom we hadn't taught in more than a month. It turned out perfect! He had some free time and we had a great lesson with him, showing his true desires to find the truth as he reads through the Bible and the Book of Mormon! It was a miracle to find him unoccupied with some time to talk to us!! 

We were then led to a less-active woman named Bruna, whose husband Amilcar we began teaching last week. She greatly needed our visit and the message we shared with her. We also saw the less-active family of Domingo Tiul, and then went to teach Darlyn and familia Mota. When we arrived, Hno Mota wasn't home, and thus we couldn't enter. After about a minute of standing at the gate and talking to them, Hno. Mota arrived and we had a lesson with them! Yet another blessing! 

The greatest blessing and miracle of the day came when we got home, and called Nohemí to see what had happened. She had arrived at about 3:15-3:20 and she DID go to the house of familia Morán and was able to talk to Thelma for over an hour and "make amends", which was FANTASTIC!! We had been waiting for that for nearly a month and a half to help familia Morán get to church! Had she been at the church, she wouldn't have talked to Thelma. Had she been with her mom, she wouldn't have talked to Thelma, and had we not left when we did, she wouldn't have talked to Thelma!! The Lord has a purpose prepared for His children, and what in the moment may have seemed to be "fallen plans", turned out to be the workings of a miracle of God. He loves us, and knows how to help us come closer to Him.


Elder Andrew A. LaPray

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11, 2013

Just another week GONE from my life in the mission. It still hasn't become a reality that I'm going home, and I don't think it will be until about February 27th or 28th, when I "should have" gone home. Then I will have a week left and any plans we make for the following week I will sadly have to say... "I'm not going to be here". Wow, that actually was hard to write, and kind of "hurts" my heart. It's a weird thing to try to explain. But it's definitely not anything I enjoy. This last week we tried a few times to visit Noemí and when we finally found her she was actually a little mad saying we had "abandoned" her... but she just wasn't home when she said she would be. So, we set up a cita for the next day, and when we showed up she told us that she was heading out to get ready to finally leave and go with her "husband" for a month and a half... she won't be back until about the end of March. With that being said it was a literal "goodbye" to Noemí, whom I will probably never see again. It was a sad reality, because she had been progressing so well. 

Tuesday held quite a few surprises! In the morning we had a cita with a man named Orlando. In few words, it was a very unproductive cita. He doesn't want much to do with the Gospel in his life. It's sad, but true. In the afternoon  we went to teach a less active woman named Bruna, and her husband is not a member. He hasn't wanted anything to do with us. After about 30 minutes of talking with Bruna, her husband told us that he wanted to quit drinking and that he wants to listen to us! We taught him on Tuesday, Wednesday, saw him on Friday and Saturday and he came to sacrament meeting on Sunday!! It was GREAT!! 

Time is running out SUPER fast!! On Wednesday we had zone meeting and I gave a small bit about companionship study. We had some good lessons that night and Elder Hill set a fecha with Jose!! AWESOME!!!

Thursday wasn't the most productive day, but we had a great lesson with familia Pop Jota!!!

Friday I did divisions in La Libertad... a little too personal for a group email.

Saturday we had a really good lesson with familia Morán. The 2 parents want to go to church, but they want their daughter to be okay with it too so that they all go together. We need a miracle!!

Sunday... Not too productive. We had a nice 2 hour long companionship inventory. Too personal as well.

Things are goign well here in Sayaxché! Nothing we can't handle! Tomorrow we have interviews with President!

Love you!

Elder Andrew A. LaPray

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4, 2013

It feels SO good to be back in Sayaxché! I'm not a big fan of that trip at all! It is WAY too long! We finally got back to Sayaxché at about 1:15 p.m. on Tuesday! It was WAY too long of a trip as I said. We had set plans at 3 and 4, but they fell through. Lame. We had our missionary correlation though, which was good. 

On Wednesday we had our district meeting in the morning, we got invited by members to lunch, sweet, and then had a few citas in the afternoon. 

Thursday morning was normal, just study time, and int he afternoon we had a couple citas and the Tarde de Hermanamiento. It turned out really fun! It could be a good idea for any of you to do in FHE or a ward or mutual activity, or whatever. Everyone gets in a circle and you give a "punishment" to your neighbor. So everyone whispers to their neighbor something silly to do, sing a song, tell a joke, do the sound of an animal, walk across the room like a crab, grabbing their ankles, whatever type of silly thing you can think of for your neighbor to do. After everyone whispers the punishment to their neighbor you read in Matthew the Golden Rule! Matthew 7:¿12? "Do unto others as ye would have done unto you..." So the good joke is that everyone has to do the punishment they said! So if I told Spencer to quack like a duck, I have to quack like a duck, etc! It's just a silly game that you can plan but it gets the message across and keeps a "spiritual" side. It turned out pretty funny! 

On Friday we had a GREAT lesson with Evelyn Guillermo! From my journal; "... what a great lesson/visit we had with her! Last night she read the chapter we had left for her, Moroni 8, and the pamphlet - The Plan of Salvation. They both were very interesting to her, she really liked them, she even marked a couple things she liked in Moroni 8. She is truly studying the Book of Mormon, As we talked about baptism of children she said she believes what is written int eh Book of Mormon, in part because it's written. Although she didn't exactly mention it, I know she feels it as well. Somehow the conversation led to the death of her father and the scars it has left, but also the peace and hope she found as she read about the Plan of Salvation. Party because of sadness she cried, but also from the Spirit. Throughout the whole lesson I just felt a constant Spirit with us, confirming these truths. Evelyn is beginning to FEEL that our message is true. I asked her if she will prepare to be baptized, and she said yes. She awaits that moment. She already has so many of our beliefs and standards. When we invited her to church, to our surprise, just like everythign else she said, "I read about that last night". Today she seemed more sure than ever that she WANTS to go to church and told her kids to not plan anything to be able to go. I felt SO good in that lesson. I know that God loves each of his children."

Saturday was also a pretty good day, and then there was Sunday!!! AWESOME!! Awesome because we had a lesson at around 6 and on the way there we just got our shoes COVERED in mud! I've got a GREAT video for when I get home of how muddy it was! I really enjoyed it :) It was a good fast and testimony meeting and there were a lot of people who shared their testimonies! 


Elder Andrew A. LaPray

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 28, 2013

Well things have not been quite what I expected, once again. On Thursday the ZLs called us to let us know that we would have to come down to the capital on Sunday night so Elder Hill could sign papers for his residency application. So, last night we left Sayaxché at 5:30, got to Santa Elena(Petén) around 7, got on another bus at 9 p.m. from Santa Elena and got to the capital this morning at about 5:30. BORING! And TIRED! The bus ride was FREEZING cold, so that made it hard to sleep, but I caught a few winks, luckily I took my sweater in anticipation. We sat around the APs house for a couple hours this morning, waiting for them to be ready to leave, and then we headed out to the office, snagged breakfast, and then we went to have Elder Hill sign the paper work. It literally took a grand total of 5 minutes. We spent (to the moment) 10 hours on a bus, with at least 10 more to go so that we could spend 5 minutes signing two papers and getting his picture taken. Lame. But, what can you do? We're trying to get done with internet and everything fast so that we can hopefully peace out by 2 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. and be back in Petén before the morrow. That would be LOVELY! I do NOT want to sleep on the bus, I'd prefer a cot.

This last week has held MUCH more success than the last few. We've been working hard and trying to help Elder Pérez adjust to missionary life and learning how to teach the Gospel. It's been pretty hard for him, but we doing our best.

For weeks now we have been working with an investigator named Noemí, and she feels the desire to be baptized she just doesn't know when. Finally after almost 2 months she came to church yesterday!! Elder Hill and I were elated when we saw her walk in and sit down next to him! Better yet, she stayed for all 3 hours! On the downside, it looks like she is going to leave Sayaxché for a few weeks, so we won't be able to teach her for a while, which is always a somewhat sticky situation, so we'll just hope we can keep in touch with her!

There has been a lot of rain this last week, and we got soaked a couple times, but it was fun. Nothing like last week. Because my letter was so short last week, I didn't mention this part, but our first day with Elder Pérez we got absolutely soaked walking in the rain, and it was freezing cold! In order to make the situation less awful and painful, I started singing some hymns at the top of my lungs to lighten the mood. It actually turned out to be pretty fun :) But still really cold at the same time!

Last Friday we had a REALLY good day! We had an excellent talk with Hno Carlos Guillermo. He had been working for a couple weeks and we hadn't seen him, but it appears that they both have the desire to get baptized, they just have a couple things they need to do before they can do so, one of them being receive all of the missionary discussions and have a testimony of the Gospel as restored through the prophet Joseph Smith. We also had 3 lessons with 3 referrals that night! It was overall fantastic!

Saturday was also a pretty good day. We had a lesson with Familia Morán. I'm not sure how we can help them know  that their civil state is okay, but they really need to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon as the word of God. One of the most interesting things is that Hna Sonya shares a lot of our beliefs, but she is a little unsure because it seems that everyone else stands against us, even though I personal know that we are following the teaching of the Savior, Jesus Christ. We also had a nice visit with Familia Mota, whom we hadn't seen in several weeks due to the holidays, and our last cita was with Henry and Julieta. Julieta is a slightly less-active member and Henry is her non-member husband. They are 23 and 22, respectively. Henry seems very interested in learning more about the Gospel, and I feel that he should progress fairly quickly, especially if his wife can give him a good example. The difficult thing is that we can't seem him very often, once every week or two due to his work.

Yesterday in church We only had 49 in attendance, as opposed to the 71 we had last week! But it was good. We didn't get to do too much teaching in the evening because we had to leave for the capital, but overall it was a good week! I just know that I'm going to work my hiney off until the end comes!!


Elder Andrew A. LaPray