Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 18, 2014

Lemme tell ya, chicken foot sure is not the most delicious thing in the world either. It´s been going well for me so far as zone leader. I´ve read in the Church Administration handbook about Gospel leadership, plus our Missionary Handbook, which is the little white book of all the mission rules that we keep in our shirt pocket, has a great section on how missionary leaders can be successful. It uses a lot of scriptures to show us how we can lead as Christ leads. I like the assignment a lot. I thought earlier in the mission that there was no time for anything, but as a zone leader, I have come to realize that a ton more. I told an Elder in my zone the other day, a friend that I had met earlier in my mission, that there isn´t even time to use the bathroom! We have such a busy schedule that there are few moments to stop and think or write in the journal, and often times, using the bathroom makes you late to some kind of meeting or activity or visit. But I kinda like it. I feel very exhausted every night and very accomplished, like I did a lot of meaningful things during the day. One part of the missionary handbook that I love is that we, as leaders, need to "minister", but also "administer". The first has to do with personal relationships, loving others, serving them, being a friend, etc. The second has to do with more business-like matters, like reimbursements, reporting statistics, and carrying out the mission president´s, and the Lord´s, vision for the mission. I´m learning a lot and enjoy the challenge. The leadership assignments that I have received up until now in my mission have all helped me to be a way better missionary, because I have no choice but to be good, obedient, I have no choice but to apply the principles of Preach My Gospel, and I have an obligation to set an example in many ways to other missionaries. Leadership assignments have saved me as a missionary! Not that I would have been a disobedient, horrible missionary if I hadn´t been assigned as a leader, but in my weakness of faith, I probably wouldn´t have learned as much or grown as much. And I still have another year! At the beginning of the month, there was a leadership meeting for all the zone leaders in the mission. It´s a monthly thing where the President asks us how we can solve problems in the mission, and how we can elevate our visions and expectations. When I got there, I saw a friend of mine from the very beginning of the mission. I actually met him on the plane from LAX to Peru. When I saw him right before that meeting, he came up to me and said, "Congratulations! You made it!", as if being a zone leader were some prestigious club, and as if entering is a stamp on your reputation as a "good missionary." I choose not to see it that way. I´m glad that the leadership assignments haven´t gotten to my ego. I´m very thankful for them, and I don´t measure success based on how I´m assigned. There are many unsuccessful zone leaders in the mission, and in the world. Our pensionista has a son who recently got home from his mission, and he was a zone leader. However, I can tell that his mission didn´t change him. He still has no desire to serve the Lord. All he learned on his mission was a few scriptures that he can use to deeply offend people. He never wants to accompany us on visits, he doesn´t want to strive in his calling, etc. I´m so glad I can see that terrible example. I want to be a missionary for the rest of my life! I don´t want to go home and be like that. I´m praying that the Lord will help me keep the missionary mindset after the mission and forever. 

I also love the freedom that I have now haha. It´s true that there are a few more things that we can do, like go to other missionaries´ houses when we see fit to do inspections and study with them and see how we can help them. The President leaves a lot of missionary administration in our hands, and I love it. However, I won´t put my foot on a pedal for another year. That´s alright though, my legs are gonna be stronger than yours when I get back, so I´ll be able to take you out. 

Something Shawn Bennion told me before my mission was: "A leader is someone around whom everyone flourishes. Be a leader, even if you don´t have a title." 

I don´t know if I really have questions for you. Honestly, just your motivational letters help me a ton. I usually share them with other English speakers. I had a companionship exchange with one of the assistants this week, and I took advantage of that cool opportunity to see how the mission runs. I asked him a ton of questions, and he appreciated my hunger for knowledge. He even said that that is something that many people in the mission lack: that drive to learn and improve. I said to him, "I have one year in the mission. I´m a zone leader. What advice to you have for me." I liked what he said. He said that we can´t push other missionaries, nor can we drag them. We must guide them by setting a good example and being a true leader, instead of scaring them of guilting them into doing better. We must inspire them. I liked that a lot. 

Thanks for your letter dad. And if you´re not already, can you send the letters that you send to me and the ones I send to you? These are things that my son will see someday when he´s on his mission. IF you save them...

Elder Wilkinson 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August 4, 2014

I want to fly home with all the missionaries from my group and we can return a little later. I did wash a cat. There was a couple walking in the street and that little cat was following them but he wasn´t theirs, so they saw us and said, "Do you want this cat? He isn´t ours!." And I said, "Absolutely!!", so we put him in my companions backpack so people wouldn´t hear him screaming all the way home, and when we got there, he was covered in poop, so we gave him a bath, which he didn´t like. But I liked it. I loved it, in fact. I have a lot of videos to show you guys when I go home, most of which involve cats.... And yes, it is custom to burn a shirt at your one year mark. I did get transfered. I am in the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission, and after one long (but short) year, I have finally been put in the actual city of Santa Cruz. My companion is Elder Hammond from Sandy Utah, he has 21 months in his mission. It´s my first time being junior companion since my training. He is way funny, and just one week before the transfer, a friend of mine, Elder Jones, said to me, "You should be companions with Elder Hammond! You guys are like the same person!" We´re both blond and tall and goofy, we get along great. I´m learning a lot from him, and I feel a special power when we teach lessons.
- Dad, I never wished you a happy birthday. I knew it was your birthday that day, I even wrote it in my agenda, but I didn´t say anything. Happy birthday! I love you
- I got to my new area in Santa Cruz this week, and since I´m a gringo, me and my companion decided to pull a joke on some people in the ward. When I met them, I pretended not to be able to speak Spanish very well. I met the ward mission leader, and my companion told him I was new, and I just pretended to be really confused and struggling. He said to me, "I know you´ll be able to speak real soon Elder, don´t worry too much," which I pretended to not understand. Then, during our meeting with him, the Bishop and the other missionaries, me and my companion started to give a report of the work for the week, and I began to speak totally normally about all the people that we had visited those last few days, and we acted as if nothing was wrong and everything was normal. He was so confused, it was hilarious.
- I am no longer a fan of casual clothes. I prefer to wear a shirt and tie than a t shirt and shorts. I´ve just gotten so used to it that that is what I´m comfortable in.
- In my new house here in Santa Cruz, I saw in the corner a bunch of binders with titles that said, "Libro de Mormón, Parte 1" and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5, with thick pages of white paper. I knew instantly that that was the Book of Mormon in Spanish in Braille. I have a picture, but I´ll send it later!
- My Bishop told us to tell our parents hi for him, and that he´s very thankful that you have sent a pair of missionaries who are willing to work hard for his ward.
- If there was one thing I regret in regards to my mission, it would be that I didn´t pay for it. My advice is that you would see if that would be a good idea for Lane. That will make his experience even more special for him.
- In the same way that Mormon couldn´t write a hundredth part of all the plates that he was to abridge, I can´t tell you guys even a small fraction of the amazing things I see and feel every day, but know that I´m having an amazing experience in my faith and testimony of the Gospel. The mission turns mere faith into a testimomy, and perhaps a mere testimony into the beginnings of a conversion.
- At my setting apart, dad said that the one thing he loves more than raising his little kiddies and making memories with them is seeing them become adults. I realized while we were teaching a lesson, while we were talking about how much God loves us, that Heavenly Father feels the same way for us! We were little kids, and what he wanted, and wants, is that we become like Him. That we "grow up", that we go away and learn for ourselves through experience. It's cool to see that parallel between my two fathers.
I love you mom!
Elder Wilkinson
p.s. My wish list is: a photo album of you guys full of photos that you see fit to include, like memories of us, family vacations, and other memories, a Super Nova frisbee (and I´m serious about the brand, go big or go home), a TON of sour patch kids, Young Coconut, girl scouts Samoas cookies, and a little bitta luuuv :))))))

Monday, June 9, 2014

June 9, 2014

You didn´t send me a letter this week, so I´m just gonna ramble about myself. So, I´ve actually taken up a lot of interest in soccer. My companion is a ridiculous fan, and it just so happens the the World Cup starts in like two weeks (which I will actually watch in four years). He´s taught me all the technical rules, and the names for everything (in Spanish), and some techniques. There are fallen oranges and grapefruits everywhere in Villamontes, so when we´re walking, we practice passing to each other and a few other tricks, and it´s really fun! So there´s the back story, I am now a pretty big soccer fan. Sometimes we come down south an hour and a half to the city of Yacuiba (which is actually a really beautiful city with some amazingly beautiful buildings and houses) to play soccer with the zone of 14 missionaries. Today was the second day. During our personal study this morning, the zone leaders called us and told us to get in the van that goes to Yacuiba as quickly as possible. So we finished, changed, and ran to the stop. As we approached, we saw that there wasn´t a single trufi (that´s what they call these vans), where there is usually a line of about 20. We got closer to the office and saw that there was a sign that said there are no trufis running today, because another trufi company has started and is charging less than the original, and so the original company has gotten really mad and has made a blockade with hundreds of vans (and we will find out later that there are actually many blockades). We were really bummed out because we really wanted to play, and walked back to the house all discouraged. When we were about to leave to go to the internet cafe, the zone leaders called us and told us that there was another trufi company that somehow had permission to go through the blockades. So we hopped into a taxi and went to the stop, but there was nothing. The taxi driver told us that we could wait about ten minutes into the highway for a random vehicle that was going and see if they would bring us. So he took us there, and we found a guy with an empty van that took us, about ten minutes farther on the highway to the (first) blockade. We got out, he charges us way too much for such a short trip, and we walked passed the blockade. There were a bunch of drivers of the trufis just sitting there, chewing coca, smoking and drinking, and they started to yell at us as we walked by since we found a loop hole to their stupid plan. We passed everything, and behind all their parked vans was a pile of big branches with two big Bolivian flags set up on it. We passed, and there was another group of people there waiting for something to happen haha. And so it was really scary and thrilling because we kept moving forward in this weird spontaneous trip, without knowing if there would be a means to keep going, the whole time running the risk that we would get stuck in the middle of the tropical jungle with no means of getting back to Villamontes, nor continuing on to Yacuiba. But we kept going because YOLO (I don´t care if my use of YOLO angers anyone, I love YOLO). So we started walking, nothing more. Walking farther into the jungle, when we saw a big truck that had just come from Yacuiba, and was going toward Villamontes, but had decided to turn around. I would say it was 300 yards away, and we just started running and screaming so that he would stop. We finally arrived, legs tired and throats sore, and he told us that he wasn´t going to go all the way, but that he would take us to as far as he was gonna go for 10 pesos. So we got up into the back of the big truck. There were wood walls as tall as me, and inside there was a big tarp and like ten bags of coal. As we were going, we picked up six more people, and I felt like a cow in the back of this truck. I took a bunch of pictures and videos. I was so sore at this point, because we ran so much without like stretching, plus I pulled a muscle in my leg
like a week ago, and the pain all came back from running. And I was cold and it starting to rain while we were cows in the back of the truck. We got to where he was gonna go, which was a tiny little pueblo in the jungle between two important cities, with a population of probably 60. It was literally the middle of nowhere. We started knocking doors to find someone who could take us to Yacuiba, and someone found a little taxi. But remember that we were 10 in the back of that truck? ALL TEN OF US GOT IN THIS LITTLE TAXI! And he took us most of the way, then he left us (and also charged us WAY too much), we walked through the (second) blockade, found a taxi, and went to the (third) blockade. He brought us to the (fourth) blockade, charged us way too much, and we walked into the city of Yacuiba to find a taxi to take us to the soccer field. It turns out that there were blockades all throughout the city, so we had to walk like 20 blocks to the field, where we played, pretty crudely because my companion hurt his ankle and I played with a pulled muscle in my dominant leg. But we won. Now its six oclock in Yacuiba, we should be visiting in Villamontes, but there are still blockades so we may sleep in sports clothes on the ground at the zone leaders house tonight. I really don´t know what the rest of the night has in store, but you´ll find out next week. It´s been pretty hilarious and fun. Also, during this
week, I had a companionship exchange with the zone leaders, and I was here in Yacuiba. I went to the bridge that crosses the border of Bolivia with Argentina, and took a picture. So know I know what Argentina smells like. I have more to tell, but we have to stop writing early to go to the trufi stop to see if they´ve stopped being little girls. So I´ll talk to you next week!

Elder Wilkinson 

June 2, 2014

It truly is great how music touches the soul. It sounds so cheesy, but I really do feel like music is part of like me, like its an extra limb or something. I don't feel like myself when I don´t have music. That was a big transition for me going into the mission. I love "Where Can I Turn for Peace?", I also love "Be Still My Soul". I chose both of those songs to be sung at the sacrament meeting of my farewell talk. A song can heal a weary soul. 

- I saw Elder Risueño (RJ, the guys who came to church with me the
week before I left) in Tarija for a leadership training meeting. He
came up to me and told me that Hermana Jojola, OR SUZIE, started her
mission in the district where he is district leader. I told him to
tell her hi for me. She started her mission in the same city where I
started mine
- This is such a special time for our family! We are all experiencing
such grand adventures, every single one of us! I love this time of our
lives. We have so many reasons to be thankful.

To finish this letter, I have a challenge for Dad, Mom, Tess, Conrad,
Kathryn, Lane, and EVERYONE else who is reading this letter. There is
a new video that was made by the Church, called "Because of Him". My
challenge for you all is that you watch it on YouTube [or click that link], and that you post it on facebook with a short testimony of how Christ has blessed
the life and/or the life of your family, and that you challenge others
to participate in the same challenge. I can´t post the video, but I
have a firm testimony of Christ. HE is the reason we do everything we
do. HE is the reason life is enjoyable, HE is the reason we feel love,
happiness, peace, understanding, forgiveness, contentment and every
other good thing in this world. HE is the reason we pick ourselves up
and move forward, HE is our light. HE gave us everything. HE is our
best friend. HE is our Savior. And He loves us. I feel that love. And
I love Him for loving me.

And tell me about the results!

Elder Wilkinson

Monday, April 28, 2014

April 21, 2014

Hey mom,
I sat at my computer for more than an hour today waiting for it to work, so I don´t have much time. I´ll write next week, but thank you for your letter. Are you gonna be in Ireland during Mother´s Day?  I love you mom, thanks for everything!


April 14, 2014

What day is mother´s day? That´s awesome to hear about your fundraiser, I´m excited to be able to go back to Braille to help (and someday be the president). The Cheese Its werent crumbs when you got here, but the chicken and waffle chips, well, I think somebody must have snuck some caca into the bag because they tasted terrible. It reminded me well of Roscoe´s, but it gave me desires to throw up haha. But I love them, send them in every package hahaha. We don´t get the Ensign, if you want to send me the Ensign with all the conference talks in my next package, I woulnd´t argue. I can´t believe you´re going to Ireland, you´re doing all the cool trips without me! It´s alright, I´m on a cooler trip.

It was a good week. It´s starting to get cold, and instead of wearing a short sleeve shirt every day, wishing we could go out naked because its so hot, we spend the entire day in a suit. Last night, I emotionally felt like it was Christmas time, because Christmas here is super hot. I literally felt the Christmas spirit last night haha, too bad its APRIL! Things are going well though. We are working with a TON of families. There´s one familiy, the Familia Villegas, that has been going to church for four years without getting baptized because they´re not married. So many Elders have passed through this area and tried to help them to progress, but they weren´t ready. But we have helped them to put a date for their marriage, June 7th! We´re super excited. My first Sunday in this branch, they were in Gospel Principles, and I taught that day. I thought they were members! They had so many awesome things to say, and they participated more than the members do! I really hope they follow through with the marriage, and they´ll surely get baptized if they´re married. Pray for them! We are working with so many families, which is very exciting. It´s better to work with families than with individuals, because families immediately have a support system in the church and in the gospel. We are also working with less active families, many of which know the church is true, but don´t go for one reason or the other. Most less actives go inactive, not because they lost their testimony, but because they´re lazy, or work gets in the way, or even because their wife or husband got offended, and doesn´t let the other spouse go. The really strong members here are REALLY STRONG. I love these people, I love to get to know them and speak to them and have the chance to help them change their lives. I´m in an internet cafe right now and there's a bunch of teenagers playing computer games and screaming cuss words, I´m about to punch somebody hahahaha. I´m actually in the internet cafe of a family were are helping to activate haha. It´s a good life. Its a good time in the world. And that´s an understatement. Mom, be sure to send my letters to Tess so that she can upload them, please! Te amo, mamá.

Elder Wilkinson

March 24, 2014

Thanks for the update. I cant imagine you and dad with iPads, that's funny thought haha. I loved youth conference in high school, especially the one when I was on the youth committee. I enjoyed the responsibility that was given to me, it was way fun. I have not gotten a coat yet, and yes its getting cold. Which really sucks at about seven in the morning when I have to take a freezing cold shower. I'm getting used to it though. Two companionships live in that house. Its a cool house. There are four rooms, a bathroom, shower, a clothes washing area, and two kitchens all situated around a central area that is empty because we are poor haha. We love our house.  The walls are not black, and there will always be tons of dogs as long as I'm in Bolivia. I almost get bit on a daily basis. 

The was a baptism yesterday, of an 18 year old named Evaristo. He is super good, and we are hoping hes going to want to serve a mission. My last companion sent me an email telling me that an investigator that we were teaching was baptized. He is the brother of Edmundo, the one that got baptized when I was there. And now theyre working with the rest of the family. Its so cool to see that happening, that the family is slowly being completed. Nothing else really happened this week. We flew to Santa Cruz for a conference with Elder Grow of the Seventy. Thats pretty much it. I love you mom, and everyone else!

Elder Wilkinson