Monday, October 27, 2014

MTC Mix Up

Hi All,
Bannon had an interesting week this week but he is having a blast and is in good spirits! He keeps telling us that he is struggling with his Spanish so if you all could keep him in your prayers as he learns to communicate with the people of the Dominican Republic, he would appreciate it! Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

Wow, do I have a story to tell...
So yesterday was transfer meetings where all the missionaries have a zone meeting with their zones and find out if they are staying in their areas or leaving and getting a new companion or possibly having a leadership calling. This transfer a lot happened. The sisters in my district and ward got whited out (which means both left to another area instead of just one) and replaced with elders. We got a new zone leader because one of ours is done serving and going home. And we have a new Assistant to the President. And a bunch of other things happened that were non exciting for me because I'm new and don't know anyone yet. But that's not my story, it's just the start. After the meeting, we all go out to eat somewhere but the zone leader that is leaving and my comp didn't want to go, so we went on splits and I went with the other zone leader, Elder Quesenberry. After lunch Elder Quesenberry and his comp were supposed to go to the mission house to receive two Greenies (new missionaries who just arrived to the mission) and take them out to go contacting and talk with people and hand out Books of Mormon. Since Elder Quesenberry's comp was with my comp, I just went with Elder Qesenberry. When we arrived to the house, we walked in and I started looking at all the new missionaries. All of the sudden, I make eye contact with a very, very familiar face... As my jaw dropped and my eyes got as big as basketballs, I realized who it was... Ivette, my investigator from the MTC!! She smiled at me knowing how surprised I was to see her and simply nodded her head. I ran over to her to ask what the heck she was doing here. As I shook her hand and asked, I saw that she was wearing a missionary badge! "Oh my gosh!!! YOU'RE A MISSIONARY!?" "Yup!" "What the heck!? Wait so you were a fake investigator!?" "Yeah, I wanted to tell you so bad the whole time, but I couldn't because it was my job." Apparently she has been working at the Provo MTC for a year and has had her call to this mission for 6 months! "Are you mad?" she asked. "No, not at all. You're a missionary so that's great! But I am way disappointed. You had me so 100% sure you were a real investigator!" But apparently her whole story and everything she told us was real, just it all happened 4 years ago. So you could say I pretty much feel like my whole MTC life was a lie. Haha. I was so sure I was being this great missionary doing literally everything I could for this girl and help her after her baptism when she moved to Carlsbad and all that. That's what really convinced me she was real. Like she had such good details that were so convincing! I even fasted for her on a P Day! Wow... I'm still in shock. All I can say is she is one dang good actress! But even though that really sucks and I am way sad she wasn't real, it was still a great experience with her and those lessons we taught definitely helped me as a missionary. So I guess it is a blessing still after all :) And it'll be way cool/fun to tell this story to everyone throughout our missions and when we see each other!
In other less dramatic news, our English class is doing great and we are having a lot of success with that. Last week we had over 30 people show up! Most were kids, but it still went great and has helped us get acquainted with more people. The kids we teach recognize us when they see us and say hi or take us to their houses to teach their families. I think they actually think I am a real English teacher haha. So next week we are going to teach them our purpose as missionaries and establish who exactly we are. But hey, now maybe I can say I was an English teacher in the Dominican Republic for job apps and stuff ;) You don't need a real degree to be a teacher here anyway. Or a doctor for that matter...
Elder Rodriguez and I decided to follow the river and find the waterfalls in the mountains. There wasn't much of a trail but Elder Rod had been to them before, but didn't know the exact way, so we got lost a couple times and once or twice had to rock climb, climb over cliffs, and cross the river. (Don't worry mom, it wasn't that dangerous ;)) We thought it would be a simple 2 hour hike/jog to the waterfalls there and back. Nope. Not the case. Took us 4 and a half hours actually... But it was way worth it and really cool. On our way, pretty deep in the mountains, we found a couple villages! How these people live out that far I have no idea! As we were walking, school there apparently just got out, so when I turned the corner all these kids just stopped and it got way silent and they all just stared at me like I was the only white boy to ever walk through their village... Oh wait... I probably was. :D So me and Elder Rodriguez started saying how cool it would be to be the first Elders in that area and be the first to bring the gospel in their lives! I even asked President about it and he said that it was fine, but probably not worth it and to focus on our area. He is right, we are way busy with our area as it is anyway.
It's not even November yet and people here are already celebrating Christmas! Our neighbors decked out their house with lights and even have a fake Christmas tree. I don't quite understand, but they seem to love Christmas a lot so why not celebrate it 3 months early?
I can't wait for November! We have 4 baptisms next month so that is way exciting!
Well, that’s all for this week.
Love you all.

Con Amor,

Elder Greer

Our adventure into the mountains to the waterfalls

Hike to the waterfalls

Hike to the waterfalls

Our adventure into the mountains to the waterfalls

Got stuck in sinking sand/mud and my shoes are now filthy

Us being weird on Pday

Monday, October 20, 2014

English Class

 Hello everyone! Here is Bannon's latest letter! Thanks for reading!

Last week Elder Rodriguez and I thought it would be way cool to teach an English class and that it would be a great opportunity to find new people to teach and what not. So we planned it and throughout the week we told everyone we taught about it and invited everyone we could. It was on Saturday at 6:00pm. That morning, we realized that I can't exactly speak great Spanish yet, at least outside of the gospel, so we were a bit nervous about that. But luckily my comp knows English pretty well so he was able to translate the words I didn't know and help teach a lot of the class. We just followed his English learning book that he used a lot to learn English. Really simple, easy stuff like the alphabet and small sentences and words such as "he" or "she." It went really well and we had a good group of people show up! We are going to teach every Saturday and hope to see some good things come from it. I think it will be a great way for people to become more familiar with us who aren't interested in this church or who have never talked to us before.
On Monday I had my first "Inter-Combio" which is where we switch areas and companions for a day. I was way nervous because I had to stay in my area which means I had to take control of the lessons and figure out who to teach and what to do. The inter-combio lasts for 24 hours. I wasn't super excited about it at first and didn't have much faith in myself, but right before my comp left he wrote a note in my planner that said this: "Mateo 14:31, 1 Timoteo 4:12-15. Tener Fe!" and that pumped me up a lot! Read those scriptures and whenever you are losing faith or need more faith in something, remember these great scriptures and trust that the Lord will help you in all things. I ended up having a great day of lessons and teaching! I shocked myself at how well I did and how much Spanish I know already. It was definitely a needed experience. Especially since my faith has been tested more and more every day out here. And this experience helped me realize and remember how much the Lord has done for me and through faith, we can do things we thought were impossible. Sorry if that sound cheesy, but it was great :)
This morning we went paintballing! Got some good welts.
I got a bunch of letters this week so shout out to everyone who wrote me and thanks so much! I will write back as soon as I can. It takes a couple weeks, so be patient :)
Alright, love you all!

Elder Greer 

We flattened the tire out trying to take 12 elders and sisters up the mountain in it!

This is our house. We live in the bottom and rent from the people who live above us.

Our English Class

Elder Rod playing with the crazy kids

One of our investigator's sons. He is awesome and likes talking to me in English. I help him with his English homework often.

Sickest hike through the rainforest

Taking a break in the jungle

The comp by the bamboo tree

Top of the peak. Usually you can see the ocean and beach, but it was stormy :/


Paint balling today!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The last 2 weeks

Hi All,
Sorry for the late posts but here are Bannon's 2 most recent letters starting with the oldest first. He and his companion seem to be doing great! Thanks for reading! I will post again later this week when we get the new letter.

So this week I learned that we actually only get money 2 times a month! I thought we got money every P-Day, but that's apparently not the case. So learning how to budget is definitely vital! Sucks, but it will definitely help me when I'm just as poor in college!
The weather:
It is so hot all the time! And humid! It’s pretty much like being in a sauna all day! I have gotten used to feeling like I just got out of a Jacuzzi in my clothes. It rains a lot though, which helps it cool down a little, but it’s like humid, hot rain so it feels like you're taking a hot shower when it rains. It gets stormy a lot too. With thunder and lightning that is super loud. Really random weather though. One minute it will be pouring rain, 5 minutes later it will be sunny and only a couple clouds in the sky. A lot like Utah actually! ;)
The food is really good! It's usually always the same thing though; Rice, Chicken, and Beans. Lots of avocado, which I love. And always cooked/fried green bananas which taste a lot like potatoes.
The language:
So all anyone would ever tell me about the DR before my mission is that they are obsessed with baseball (which is a fact), that they eat lots of rice, chicken, and beans (which is also a fact), and that they speak a million miles per hour and don't pronounce their "s's". Yeah, when they said they talk super-fast, they weren't lying! A hundred miles per hour is not an exaggeration! And they never pronounce their "S's" unless the word starts with an "S." The word "Dos" is pronounced "Do." And so on... Even if I did know this language fluently I don't think I would understand. My Spanish is still pretty terrible, and I am sure I sound like a 2 year old cause my grammar sucks, but it is coming along. The spirit definitely helps get the message across. Sometimes people ask me a question or say something to me and I have no idea what they are saying because it sounds like they are mumbling and I can't tell the difference between words and sentences. So I just smile, laugh, and say "Yes." When in doubt, just say yes! Works every time! Well, most of the time. Sometimes it gets you in trouble, or you agree to do something you don't want, but that's only sometimes so I'm just gonna keep doing it!
I taught my first Haitian this week! He was pretty good at Spanish, but he had like a weird French, Creole accent which was kinda cool. He is as dark as night and super cool.
I thought my area was pretty small at first, but it is actually pretty big and we walk a lot. The further away you get from the main part of town, the more it looks like a village and like you are in another century. A lot of people on the outskirts can't read, so it makes it hard to teach them when they can't read the Book of Mormon when we are gone or the pamphlets that talk about what we believe. But I am going to be creative and figure out a way! Because there is always something more you can do.
Littering is definitely a thing here unfortunately. There is trash everywhere. People just throw their trash wherever because there isn't a good trash system. This place is beautiful, but it would be way more beautiful if it was clean and there wasn't nasty used Kleenex’s and such everywhere.
I have come to hate dogs and love cats. That was the exact opposite before my mission. I don't actually love cats, but they eat mice and rats that run across our house floor so I have come to dislike them a lot less. There are a billion dogs here. All over the place. I think they are mostly all stray, but it is hard to tell because they are just everywhere all the time and in peoples yards and stuff. All they do is roam around, beg for food and have babies. And they are all really ugly, unclean things with scratches all over their bodies. At first I thought it was way sad, but every other morning we seem to find dog poop on our front porch and it is so nasty. And no one touches them because they haven't ever been cleaned. Sad, but I am loosing sympathy every time they leave their present on our door step.
This morning all the missionaries in Santiago City area got together and played sports. It was way fun and I definitely got showed up in soccer by all the Latino's!
The work is great and we have a bunch of new investigators that are super solid and interested. We have 3 for sure baptisms right now, and two more with dates set that I think will end up happening. I love being able to tell people that they are more than just our investigators and numbers to us. It is the best to see someone you teach really progress and understand the blessings of this gospel. Two of our investigators are getting married soon and we are helping them with that because they don't have much money. And later will get baptized and really have a strong desire to go to the temple in a year. So that would be way cool if I got to go with them.
I also gave my first priesthood blessing in Spanish! It was obviously way hard, but it went well!
I always feel like I am forgetting something and like I didn't say everything that happened, but every day is an adventure and I love the craziness!

Elder Greer

This week was great! We got another one of our investigators who is super solid committed to baptism, making that 4 people since I have gotten here! That is almost half of the members here in all of Los Cocos in the 2 years it has had missionaries! If we keep this up, we could eventually get a branch going here which would be amazing and super helpful. But that is a stretch for now, but it will happen soon enough.
Also this week was General Conference. On Saturday we were at the stake building all day watching and later was the Priesthood session which ended at 10:00pm our time. That is also when the last Gua-Gua leaves to go back to Los Cocos so we had to stay the night at our district leader's house in the city. The next morning we woke up early to catch a Gua-Gua back to our area and then hurried to get ready for the day. We went around all morning talking to our investigators telling/reminding them about conference. We only managed to get our investigator who I committed to baptism this week, Ruth, to come to the morning session. But a couple others said they would come to the afternoon session. Ruth ended up really liking it and what the Prophet and Apostles said. Then after the morning session we had a 2 hour break before the afternoon session so we had to be quick. A family at the church brought food and were so awesome and fed us which was such a blessing because if they didn't feed us we wouldn't have eaten lunch. Then we booked it to the Gua-Gua to hurry back to Los Cocos which is about 40 minutes away in a Gua-Gua. Of course when we needed to get back quickly it took forever so we ended up getting back to Los Cocos at 3:30 and the afternoon session started at 4! So we started booking it to our investigators houses and were calling people left and right. Before we knew it, it was already 3:57pm! We got to our last investigators’ house and she ended up bringing like 6 other people with her! We then all quickly speed walked to the Gua-Gua, but Elder Rodriguez and I realized it was 4:02 and the Gua-Gua usually leaves at 4:00 so we were just praying for a miracle that it would be there and it would have room for us which is never likely. We turned the corner to see if there was one there, and BAM! There was one waiting with nobody in it yet! That right there was a huge answer to our prayers. We all piled in and ended up filling the whole Gua-Gua up and we took off! I then realized how incredible that just was, and then realized how many investigators we had coming. I began counting and we had 13 investigators!! (9 not including kids) That is a huge number for us! How we managed that, I have no idea, but we got 3 families. The driver, of course, took forever and the Gua-Gua was way slow, but we made it somehow a lot quicker than I thought were and only missed the first 26 minutes of Conference. The talks were all really good and stuff, but I was just praying for a super good talk or something to stand out to my investigators. Something they really needed to hear. Then bam, out comes my boy David A. Bednar with a talk specifically for non-members/investigators! And it was perfect. I love Elder Bednar, he's great. Never fails to give an amazing talk and really deliver. I think my investigators learned a lot from it and the rest of Conference and I really hope it helped and stood out to our 4 committed investigators.
Later that night, we went to Ibelleze's house (The lady that I was prompted and felt the need to turn around and talk to a couple weeks back) for our next lesson with her. She ended up not being there so we turned around and started walking to our next appointment. I saw a man sitting right where Ibellize was sitting when I had that experience with her. I said hi and kept walking. Just like the experience with Ibellize, I felt like we should talk with him. But it wasn't a very strong feeling and I wasn't sure exactly if it was the spirit. But I didn't want to take a chance so I said a quick prayer asking to know for sure if this was a prompting again. We were quite a bit away at this point, but the feeling didn't go away so I stopped, turned around, and Elder Rod followed and without a word to each other walking back, we found the man and just like with Ibellize, I started talking with him and getting to know him, and we eventually had a lesson! Ibellize eventually showed up and sat with us. The lesson went great and they were both way in tune and interested. We went back to, Gabriel is his name, his house yesterday and his family was there and they were super awesome and interested and I think we are going to make some good progress with them.
I know that hard work pays off and when you put your trust in the lord, he takes care of you. I hope we keep having miracles and success and are able to be a big example to the rest of the missionaries. I have unfortunately seen many disobedient missionaries and missionaries who just don't make enough of an effort or work as hard as they could. So I really hope our success keeps coming, not just for the people we are serving, not just for ourselves knowing we are doing good work, but especially so we can be an example to the missionaries everywhere. Maybe they will see our success and make a change or see that we are working hard and work a little harder.
Last week I had to give a talk in church! I found out earlier that week but then we remembered it was fast Sunday that Sunday because of Conference the next week so I didn't prepare anything. That morning, before church, we had a quick meeting and they told us we weren't having fast and testimony meeting so I had to give a talk! I had 30 minutes to quickly prepare something! Luckily I had my notebook and it had a talk from the MTC on Enduring to the End. But it was all in English so I had the Sisters translate it for me real quick. Needless to say, I pretty much read half of my talk and I am terrible at reading Spanish out loud so it probably was not the best, but I shared an example of running and just bore my testimony really well and strong and it made it a little better... haha.
Today way P-Day so we decided to go to the peak of the mountain as a zone. There were about 12 of us total, not the whole zone showed up, but it was a way fun group of us. The mountains are all in my area and are the mountains we run every morning. We got a gut to take us all up in the back of a truck because the peak is really far away and would take all day by foot. As we climbed up the mountain in the truck, I was surprised to see that there is a whole village up there! Like they even have a small school! This is awesome, and it is in my area and it is so beautiful! But trying to tract and contact people up there would be insanely hard which is why I don't think the elders in my area, or me have gone up there to try. And it would be even more hard to actually get people to church cause it is like an hour away in a car and most of these people, especially up there, don't have cars. But we just might give it a try! Sometimes being crazy and doing the unlikely/impossible ended up having a great effect. Maybe we will have a ton of success and prove it is possible. But we are in for some leg cramps and LOTS of walking up LOTS of hills. I'm stoked! Anyway, we made it to the base of the mountain on top of the mountain we just climbed. Then we started the hike to the top. It was an incredible hike! It was like a mixture of Jurassic Park and the Hunger games 2! We finally made it to the top, then the clouds quickly rolled in so we couldn't see the view very well which is a bummer, especially because up there on a clear day you can see the beach and the whole coast. Then it started raining. But that made it pretty cool and interesting on the way down because we were literally in a rain forest and it was muddy and people were slipping left and right. It took half the day, but it was so worth it and was way fun! Definitely gonna take my family when we come back and visit.
I was definitely sent to the right place and area. Not a day goes by that I regret the choice to go on a mission. I love everything about it. 

Elder Greer

The avocados here are insanely big! Its the best. And they eat them with every meal! Also, don't mind the fact that my comp looks way out of it haha, it was really late at night :)