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!
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.
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!
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.