8.14.2017: Ixhuatán Chapel!

This week was incredible!  One of my favorites of my whole mission.  Elder Rodriguez and I were able to make a lot of progress here in our area and were able to keep strengthening the relationship we have with the members.
This week, I learned how to wash clothes by hand!  I hadn’t done it in my mission once, and other than getting a small stain out of a shirt or something, I had never washed clothes by hand before the mission either. (note from Becky:  he has been doing his own laundry since middle school, but in a machine, haha). The sister who washes our clothes had changed houses last week, so she didn’t have time to wash our clothes.  When I needed more clothes, I had to wash them by hand in the pila.  A pila is a sort of a sink where there is water in the middle and on the two sides there are two places to wash things, it is made of concrete.  See the picture below for a better idea, I just realized how awful that description was, hahaha, but anyways, I can now add washing clothes by hand to the list of things I have learned to do in Guatemala.
I don’t know if I’ve ever said this in one of my group emails, but there is one thing that Guatemala does  better than the United States, here in the capital anyway.  Delivery food.  In the states, the only delivery food is pizza or Chinese or Jimmy John’s.  Here in Guatemala City, almost everywhere delivers.  McDonald’s, Subway, KFC, Burger King, all the pizza places, cake places, bakeries, you name it and they deliver to your house.  The other day I was on divisions in Utatlán, and I really wanted a McFlurry, so I called McDonald’s and they brought a McFlurry to the house in about 15 minutes.  It was awesome.
Another very interesting thing happened this week.  It hailed! Yes, in Central America there was ice falling from the sky.  This really, really strong storm came through, and it was raining and thundering and lightning and the wind was incredibly strong, and then all of a sudden it stared hailing. Luckily we were in an investigator’s house, because if not we would’ve been in trouble, haha.
Spiritual Thought of the Week: Following up on last week.  We were able to have another lesson with Kevin and Alex!   We couldn’t get ahold of them through phone during the week, but we had faith that they would show up to the chapel on Saturday, which was the day we had left them last Sunday to meet again.  We were there and they showed up!  We were able to talk about a few of their thoughts and questions, and about how Alex’s mom is pretty against the church, but he said that he wants to keep learning more.  It was a testimony builder to me that they truly are prepared to listen to the message, and even though they are having some problems in their lives, they recognize that the gospel can bless them!
Miracle of the Week: THE IXHUATÁN CHAPEL WAS DEDICATED YESTERDAY!!!!!  President Shumway let the 6 missionaries who are still in the field that have served there go, plus the 2 who are there right now, so there were 8 Elders there in total.  I cant even begin to describe how incredible it was.  Do you all remember the record attendance me and Elder Otoya had there on President Caffaro’s last Sunday?  Well if you don’t, it was 59, and that was incredible for Ixhuatán.  Can you take a guess at the attendance yesterday in the dedication? 116.  Wow!  Just wow. In May of 2015, the Ixhuatán Branch started their first meeting with less than 15 people.  Yesterday, there were 100 people more.  In less than two years with the missionaries there, the branch has grown from about 10 members to almost 100. Also, there were 28 investigators there yesterday!! The 6 of us got there at 8 am to go out contact people and invite them to church.  Me an Elder named Elder Rodriguez, a different one than my normal comp, went out and invited people to come to the dedication.  Of the people we contacted in about half an hour, 8 investigators came. The chapel was so, so, so full, Elder Rodriguez and I had to go into the other classrooms of the church to get enough chairs about half way through the service because more and more people kept coming.  I could keep talking and talking about it, but it wouldn’t do it justice.  Just know that it was incredible to see everything come together in such a great event.  Lots and lots of pictures below,  I think I might have to send a separate email with all of the pictures from the dedication.
Anyways, this week is going to be great too! We have interviews with President Shumway, me and my companion are going to do divisions with the Assistants, and I think President Shumway is going to come to Castillo Lara this Sunday for church, so we are really excited for the coming week. I love you all!

Love,

Elder Semus
Misión Guatemala Sur
#IréHaréSeré
Pictures:
1. You can see the pila in this picture of us washing the dog a couple of weeks ago.
2.  We washed cats this week.
3.  Our zone went to the temple.  (It’s a small zone, haha)
4.  Elder Rodriguez and I at the temple
5. Something else that I learned this week was how to made flour tortillas by hand!  It was pretty sweet, we had a little cooking night with the two investigators who are on the left and the member that is behind me.
6.  Me and Elder Norwick.  He was in my district at the CCM and is now in my zone.
Pictures from the dedication of the Ixhuatán chapel:
1. The inside of the chapel from the back
2. The inside of the chapel from the front
3.  The meeting was completely full!
4.  The branch after the dedication
5.  With Deiry, who I baptized
6.  The other Elder Rodriguez and I with our friend Felix
7.  All of us missionaries with President Shumway
8.  With the whole Ramirez family

8.7.2017: Miracles!

I love it here in Zona 7 of Guatemala City, Guatemala.  It is still just as dangerous as last week, but we are still just as protected as last week too 🙂  Elder Rodriguez and I get along really well.  We work hard and also have a lot of fun.
So I’m going to get the very, very sad part out of the way.  Please pray for the Gomez family this week.  My super awesome friend who I baptized in Ixhuatan, Jayro,who I have written about several times, passed away a week and a half ago.  He was only 24 and had been baptized 2 months before his death.  They still aren’t certain of the cause of death, but please just pray for his family.  It made me so, so, so sad to find that out this week, I have been thinking about him a lot this week, and am grateful for all that I learned from him and for the opportunity I had to teach him.  (He was the guy who was listening to hymns when we came to pick him up a couple of weeks ago.)  Also, we don’t have many details on this right now, but a church member told us that a Sister missionary from the neighboring mission, the Guatemala Central mission, died this last week.  Please pray for her family as well.  (note from Becky: she was electrocuted from coming into contact with a live electrical wire).
Lots happened this week!  It was super busy.  On Thursday, we had mission council, which was great.  Were were able to talk about lots of different topics and how we can keep improving as a mission, and I really liked it.  Supposedly, next month one of the members of the Quorum of the 70 is going to come to our mission council, and I am pretty excited for that.  We also had a multi-zone conference, and the Shumways’ daughters came to visit them and were there!  It was cool getting to meet them.  Also, every time we have a multi-zone conference, all the Elders and Sisters that are going home that change stand up in front of everyone and share their testimonies, it’s their testimonio de valientes (testimony of the valiants).  In this conference, Elder Gollaher, my trainer, shared his.  It was good, but it made me sad to see him go.  Surprisingly, even though I already have almost 13 months, all of my companions are still in the mission, he will be the first one to go home.  He was wearing the tie I gave him, which made it even sadder hahaha, but that’s the mission I guess.
Funny story,  I called a member and she answered and, obviously in Spanish, she said, “Hello Elder Rodriguez! How are you?”  The phone was on speaker so me and my comp could both hear, but I just kept on talking as if I was my companion.  I thought for sure she would realize it was me for my accent, but at the end of the call she said, “Thank you so much Elder Rodriguez, have a great day!” In the whole call she didn’t pick up that I wasn’t my Latino comp, Elder Rodriguez. You should all probably call me Jose when I get home! #ChapinDeCorazon (from Becky: that translates roughly to Guatemalan at heart)
Spiritual Thought:  This week we had a conference, and an Elder shared a scripture that I really liked that really applies to the missionary work.  Its in Doctrine and Covenants 100:3-8, and it says:
 
Behold, and lo, I have much people in this place, in the regions round about; and an effectual door shall be opened in the regions round about in this eastern land.

Therefore, I, the Lord, have suffered you to come unto this place; for thus it was expedient in me for the salvation of souls.  Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say. But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things.  And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.

I loved these verses so much, especially verse 3.  It was the most expedient thing for the Lord and for the salvation of souls that I am here in this place where I am right now!  President Shumway told us with so much conviction that he put us in the areas where the Lord needed us to be, and I know that to be true.
Miracles of the Week:  The first miracle is that the Ixhuatán chapel actually got finished!!! This Sunday, I will have the opportunity to attend the chapel dedication with the other 5 missionaries that have served there that are still in the mission field, plus the 2 that are in the area. I will get to finally see that chapel in use, it is going to be such a special experience.  Lots of pictures of it next week!
Second miracle of the week. Yesterday, we went by the church to teach a lesson to a reference of a member, but the member nor their friend showed up, which made us feel even more frustrated on a day that we were already having a kind of bad day.  But there were two young men who weren’t church members who had passed by in front of the church as we were walking in.  We felt like we should talk to them, but we got caught up talking to someone and then they closed the gate with a lock, so we were locked inside the gate,  and the two young men from the street were almost out of eyesight.  So we started whistling shouting loudly so that they would come back so we could talk to them.  They came back, and we talked with them through the fence.  But they didn’t want to give us their phone number and they couldn’t remember their address.  We invited them to a few different activities at the chapel this week. Then they left, and we didn’t think much of it.  About an hour later at 5 o’clock, we were walking within about 2 blocks of the church when all of sudden my companion answered the telephone and, without saying anything, just started sprinting, but like a full out sprint, in the broad daylight.  Needless to say, we got a few weird looks sprinting through the sidewalks of Guatemala in a shirt and tie holding our bags under our arms so we could run faster.  I thought my comp saw someone was following us and wanted to hurt us or something, or that he felt like we should run to avoid danger, so I just started sprinting behind him without thinking about it.  Turns out, we sprinted to the church, where the bishop was with the two young men we had contacted an hour earlier.  The bishop had called us to tell us that they were there waiting for us.  They came back within the same hour of us contacting them!  We were able to give them a tour of the whole chapel and then teach them in front of the sacrament table.  They are named Kevin and Alex, who are 17 and 13 years old, and neither one goes to a church and they both accepted a baptismal date for September 2nd. Alex cried during the lesson talking about a few different experiences he had had, it was such a special spirit that was there with us in that chapel yesterday. It was one of the coolest experiences of my mission, just between finding them and teaching them and the spirit that we could feel with them.  I love being a missionary!
This week in terms of investigators, please pray for Ilda! She is 38 years old and has bee listening to the missionaries for a while, and recently has had desires to get baptized, but shes just scared she wont be able to leave behind some habits from her past life.  Please pray for her so she can overcome her fear.  I love you all, thank you for all you do!
Love,

Elder Semus
Misión Guatemala Sur
#IréHaréSeré
Pictures:
1.  A brother who was in the last mission presidency treated us to Panda Express.  The cost was very, very high compared to what it would be in the States.  We were very grateful for his generosity.
2.  Me and Elder Rodriguez in our apartment
3.  Bowling with our zone
4.  At Mission Council with other missionaries who were in the CCM with me
5.  With my trainer, Elder Gollaher
6. and 7.  Washing a dog

7.31.2017 Zona Roja

This week was a good week for me and Elder Rodriguez here in Castillo Lara.  This ward is super strong.  The current stake President as well as the last one are both from our ward.  We are hoping to get the ward excited about missionary work, and we already have some plans in the making for some activities to do.
Me and my companion, Elder Rodriguez, get along really well.  He is a really fun loving guy who is easy to get along with and to joke around with.  We know when to have fun and we know when to be serious, it is going to be a great change together.  He is from Tegucigalpa, Honduras and has about 16 months in the mission.
So on Tuesday, the day of changes, it was NUTS.  So me and Elder Otoya woke up there in Ixhuatán at 3am to get ready to be out on the bus at 4am. The zone leaders are assigned to an area called Barberena, its about 40 minutes away in bus from our area. One of our zone leaders was going to have changes and the other didn’t, so what the plan was is that the one who had changes was going to go to the capital with me, and Elder Otoya was going to stay there in the zone leaders’ area with the one who didn’t have changes.  So when the bus got to the zone leaders area, Elder Otoya stood up and got off, and before I even realized it, the bus was pulling away very quickly.  The only problem was, he got off at the wrong stop.  He got off too early, and so about 20 seconds later we passed the zone leaders standing on the side of the road. But, Elder Otoya had our phone, and it all happened so quick that he didn’t have time to call them to tell the one who had changes to get on the bus.  So, I had to go all the way from outside the capital to inside the capital, which is about a 2 hour bus ride, all by myself!  I didn’t have a companion or a phone to communicate with anybody for 2 hours, it was pretty weird to be honest.  So yeah, that was a fun way to start the week!
Miracle of the week:  That we are alive!  So sorry Mom, I would love to tell you that my area is super safe and that nothing happens here, but I would be lying.  I’m kinda in a bad part of Guatemala City; it’s something they call a zona roja, or a red zone.  Its dangerous enough here that food delivery services don’t deliver food after 5 pm because of how dangerous it is.  In the 5 and a half days I had last week, we heard probably 55 gunshots.  But, we didn’t see anybody shoot a gun, and we also didn’t see anybody dead in the street, so that’s good.  I know we are protected as representatives of Jesus Christ and that if we are listening to the Spirit, we will be guided away from anything bad that could happen to us.  Please pray for our safety!
Spiritual Thought:  The people inside the capital have the tendency of being slightly more closed off and not wanting to listen to us.  In Ixhuatán, we literally would approach a house, shout “BUENAS,” and someone would come out and just tell us to walk right on in.  They didn’t ask us our name or where we were from or what we wanted, they just let us in right off the bat.  Now here in Castillo Lara, me and my comp spent at least an hour knocking doors every day, and we didn’t find one person who would let us in.  To be honest, it has been slightly discouraging, especially with the big difference coming from Ixhuatán.  But there is a verse in the Book of Mormon that I love which can apply here.  It’s in Ether 12:14, which says, “Behold, it was the faith of Nephi and Lehi that wrought the change upon the Lamanites, that they were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”  I like how it says that the people were changed by Nephi and Lehi’s faith!  It could very well be certain that the people here have their hearts closed to the message, but if my companion and I have faith, the Lord can open people’s hearts.
That you for all of your support and emails, I love you all!!

Love,

Elder Semus
Misión Guatemala Sur
#IréHaréSeré
Pictures:
1 and 2. Saying goodbye in Ixhuatán
3.  The new zone! (Yeah, its the same size as my last district… hahaha)
4. Me and Elder Rodriguez

7.24.2017: Saying Goodbye to Ixhuatán

Today I have sad news: I’m leaving Ixhuatán.  But, that’s the mission!  I have learned so much here about how to love people and how to follow the Spirit.  It has been a real pleasure to be here for these last 3 months.

Tomorrow I will be going to an area called Castillo Lara with my new companion, Elder Rodriguez from Honduras, and we are the Zone Leaders there!  It’s in Guatemala City. So the last 3 changes, I’ve been a district leader, so I would talk to all the areas in my district and then call the zone leaders to tell them how everyone is doing.  Now, the district leaders are going to call me and my companion to tell us how their missionaries are doing.  Also, every month, I  will have the chance to go to a meeting called mission council, which is all the zone leaders and sister trainer leaders in the mission, to be able to talk about the needs of the mission and what we are going to do to  reach our goals.  I’m really excited for the opportunity that I will have to serve more missionaries!  Its kind of sweet because one of my 2 best friends serving in Mexico, Elder Jibson, is training Elder Reyes, who is from the zone I am going to!  What a small world.
Miracle of the week: The chapel is finally finished!!!  It is so incredible, all the chairs are set up, the WiFi is up and running, all the tables are where they  need to be, the branch president’s desk is in place, it is all done.  We went by on Friday night and there were like 9 workers just cutting the grass with machetes and cleaning up trash.   It needs to pass the inspections by the engineers of the church, so I think the dedication will be next Sunday, August 6th, and I’m pretty sure President Shumway is going to let all of us that have served here come back for the dedication!  It should be awesome.
Spiritual thought of the week:  This week, Jayro, one of the brothers I baptized here, came out with us to visit some people.  We walked up to his house to pick him up, and I could hear music playing, and we stopped and got all quiet to be able to hear.  We start listening and turns out, Jayro was just chilling listening to hymns!  He is a 23 year old guy  relaxing on a Saturday morning, and he had chosen to listen to hymns.  One, that makes me really happy, that he is doing so well and flourishing in the church.  Two, I think it is a great example for each one of us.  I’m not saying that we need to be listening to hymns and praying all day every day, but there are definitely some things that we can change in our daily routine to invite the Spirit into our lives.  Maybe while we are eating breakfast, we listen to a conference talk, or while we are showering we put some hymns on.  Its the small things like that that will help us have the companionship of the Spirit more frequently in our lives.
Yesterday, I loved church so much!  Well, I always like going, but yesterday was especially special, kind of like a few Sundays ago where I talked about the Ramirez Family and Dixon.  Yesterday, the 3 speakers were Yeison Ramirez, Gilberto Ramirez, and Jayro, and all three have been baptized while I was here!  (Note from Becky:  In our church, the bishop doesn’t give the sermons.  Church members are asked to prepare talks each week.)  It was so incredible watching all three of them stand up there in front of the congregation for the first time and give a talk.  President Caffaro told us that we cant judge the success of our mission by the quantity of baptisms, but that we can judge it by the quality of our baptisms.  I feel very good with the quality of some of the converts I have been able to help here and I hope they call all continue to progress in the Gospel!
This week, Elder Otoya and I made a typical dish from Peru called Papa a la Huancayna, there are pictures below.  It is is potatoes with a sauce made of milk, cheese, saltine crackers, pepper, salt, chili, and a few other things that to be honest, I don’t remember.  We made it with our Branch President and his wife, the Solares Family, and  it was super super good.  I’m going to miss Elder Otoya.  We had a really great change together.
Well, I hope you all have a fantastic week!  As always, thank you so much for all of your emails, I would love to hear from you all! my email is joseph.semus@myldsmail.net.

Love,

Elder Semus
Misión Guatemala Sur
#IréHaréSeré
Pictures:
1. Our last district council 😦
2. Guatemalan Sunset with volcanoes 🙂
3.  Papa a la Huancayna
4.  View from on top of the house that is a part of the new chapel
5. Elder Otoya and me
6.  With the Solares family (our branch president and his wife)
7.  My goodbye dinner with the Solares family
8.  With a family who I taught in Jalpatagua who were baptized after I left

7.17.2017: One Year Complete!

What a fantastic week. We had a good week here in Ixhuatán.  It is hard to believe how fast the time is going!  This is already the last week of changes, we will have to see what happens.  On Sunday night we will get the call about if we have changes or not, so next Monday I will know if I am staying here or leaving.  We will see what happens!
This week I was in Jalpatagua on divisions, which was great.  (Jalpatagua was the first area I served, from August until December last year.)  I was there from Tuesday to Wednesday, and Wednesday was the day I hit a year from when I left the house!  It was actually pretty cool the day I hit a year waking up in my first bed, studying in my first desk, etc.  I was sitting all by myself next to the window on the bus and I started thinking.  One, I realized again how beautiful this country is.  It’s amazing here.  I just love Guatemala so much.  The nature, the food, the people, I love everything about it.  I was also reflecting on the last year of my life and how much things have changed.  I was thinking about what I have in the mission when I throw all the numbers, converts, companions, areas, everything right out the window.  What I have is the most important convert of my life: me. I have been truly converted here in Guatemala.  I knew that all of this was true before the mission and I knew it was something I wanted to do, but I have been truly converted in the last year.  My focus is on developing Christ like attributes and I have tried to do my best to improve in everything I can.  I have realized how very very imperfect I am, but that I can keep on improving every day.
Miracle of the week:  Arister got baptized!  Arister is a 16 year old whose parents and sister got baptized back in December.  We have been working wiht him in my whole time here and it has been so great to see his desires grow.  It was raining super super hard the day of his baptism, so there weren’t many people there, but it was a great baptismal service, and it was actually the first person my companion had done the baptism for here in the mission, so that was pretty cool.
Spiritual thought of the week: Yesterday, we had our first interviews with President and Sister Shumway, and it was so great.  I was able to ask President Shumway a question in my interview and I loved his response. My question was the following: “You have served in many callings throughout the years and I am sure you have learned quite a lot while doing so.  What is one thing that you have learned in your years of church service that you wish you would have known before your mission?”  He told me that we just need to love all.  He said he was obedient and diligent and all the things a missionary needs to be, but he didn’t love the people enough.  That is something my dad has always told me, the more we love the people the more satisfying the work will be and the more success we will have.  President Shumway said that in general we need to love more and judge less.  That is my invitation for all this week!  That we love more and judge less.  It is so easy for us to judge others, even if is just a quick thought or a few small words that leave our mouths about somebody.  We need to love all, just as the Savior does.
So this week we were walking and I looked back and saw a car coming, but I couldn’t see really well who was driving it.  As the full size SUV passed, I saw a little boy that couldn’t have been more than eight years old driving this giant SUV while his dad was passed out (asleep, maybe?) in the passenger seat.  This kid was going down the hill at least 40 MPH.  Nothing much surprises me anymore.
Have a great week, thanks for all of your support!

Love,

Elder Semus
Misión Guatemala Sur
#IréHaréSeré
Pictures:
1. Singing a hym with my zone leaders at our last meeting with President and Sister Caffaro
2.  Burning a tie for hitting a year (it’s a tradition on missions)
3.  Arister’s baptism!
4.  With Arister and his family

7.10.2017 Celebrations

Greetings from Guatemala! Everything is super great here.  Its hard to believe that in 2 dayson Wednesday, I will hit a year in the mission!! The time has flown by.  Next week, there will be a few pictures of the celebration 🙂
So on Tuesday, it was the birthday of the greatest country in the world.  Happy 4th of July everyone!  I did divisions that day with an Elder from the United States, Elder Wood.  In our district council, we ate hot dogs and cake, and then for dinner that night, Elder Wood and I bought a package of 8 hamburgers and a 3 liter of orange soda and went to town.  4 cheeseburgers each, pictures below.  We may or may not have started eating by listening to the hymn, “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee.”  ‘Murica  🙂
So I want to start including two things every week in my emails, we will see how it goes and if I like it, and if I like it I will keep doing it.  Thanks Alison for the idea of looking for more miracles in the week!
Miracle of the Week: We had two baptisms!!  It was so incredible.  So on Saturday, we baptized Deiry.  Her sister got baptized about 8 months ago, and she was listening to the Elders but didn’t want to get baptized.  After 8 months, she finally decided to get baptized, and it was amazing!  She has such a strong testimony and was so happy to finally get baptized.  She and I got in the water, and it was super super cold. We were standing there shivering so hard! But, as I raised my arm and started saying the words,  I stopped shivering immediately and was filled with a warmth that I cant even describe.  It was incredible. So we actually don’t have a baptismal font here in Ixhuatán, so what they did is they brought us a portable font, the one from Jalpatagua! Yes, the same font that we used for my very first baptism in the mission.  Also, since there has never been a font here, we have always had to go to other areas to baptize, but since we had the font this week, the 2 baptisms we had were the very first baptisms that had been done in Ixhuatán!  Cool stuff. The other baptism was Juan.  He suffered an accident and lost the memory of half of his life, and he is lucky he didn’t die.  He is very humble but has such a desire to follow our Savior Jesus Christ.  The portable font didn’t have much water in it since we filled it up from a water tank that was in the house church we are using, but there wasn’t any more water anywhere else, so we had to make it work.  He is about my size, and the water came to about 3 inches above my knees.  It was tough to get him all the way under the water, but in the end, we got it done in two attempts.
Spiritual Thought of the Week:  Elder Otoya and I were walking with one of our recent converts, Jayro,  to an aldea (small village) really far away to go visit some people who Jayro knows.  We were just talking about life and whatnot, and Jayro said something that really impacted me.  He said that he might not have much, but when he has enough, he gives to others.  He said that it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t have 1 cent in his pocket, but if he has a full stomach and the people he loves are happy, then he is happy.  I thing we can all apply that lesson to ourselves!  Many times, we only think of our own needs and if we are going to have enough.  We need to be more humble and have more charity.  I like a saying I’ve heard a few times that says, ¨humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, its thinking less about yourself.¨ If each one of us starts thinking a little less about ourselves and more about others and how we can help them, I promise you that we will be more happy and we will be able to receive more of the blessings that our Heavenly Father has for us.
Thank you for all of your support as always, I really do appreciate all the emails I receive from you all.  This week, please pray for Arister so that he will be able to get baptized this weekend, as well as Brandon, so that he can get baptized next weekend.  Also, please pray that the chapel finally gets finished hahaha but really, please do! I love you all, have a fantastic week!

Love,

Elder Semus
Misión Guatemala Sur
#IréHaréSeré
Pictures:
1. 4th of July dinner
2.  Me, Hermana Guzman from Virginia, and Elder Wood from Utah in our district council on the 4th of July
3. District council with our cake!
4.  In the new chapel.  It’s coming along!
5. Deiry´s baptism!
6. Juan´s baptism!

7.3.2017 Livin’ on a Prayer

Hello world!
I hope all is well wherever you are, because it is great here in Guatemala as always.  So just real quick, in reference to the title, I have officially hit the half way point of my mission! (“Woahhhhhh, we’re half way there, woahhhhh, livin’ on a prayer!” (Bon Jovi.)  Well, I haven’t officially hit a year yet, but all the missionaries from the United States serve for 102 weeks, instead of the full 104 weeks for visa reasons, and the week that just passed was week 51.  It feels really weird to say I’ve already finished half of my mission, but it makes me even more motivated to go and work hard every single day!  I love being a missionary so much, this has been the best year of my life.  I have changed so much, I have become a disciple of Christ and have his attributes molded into my character.  I know I will be able to change even more in the second half of my mission and am really looking forward to it.
On Saturday, we were able to meet our new Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Shumway!  It was incredible. He did a few different conferences with the missionaries to get to know them, and our conference was just with the missionaries from our zone since we are kind of far away from every other zone.  We were all sitting down when they walked in through the back doors of the chapel.  We all stood up and when President Shumway saw us, he just did a fist pump in the air.  They then walked to the front, turned to look at us, and the both of them just started to cry.  They already have so much love for us; they are amazing!  I feel like I already have so many connections with them!
1. They have a daughter who served her mission in the Cincinatti, Ohio mission. OH-IO!
2, They have a different daughter named Kathryn who is 18, which is my sister’s name who is also 18.
3, Sister Shumway’s name is Becky, just like my mom!  I’m really excited to keep getting to know them and learn from them in the next year I will have with them in Guatemala.
I was reading the group emails from one of my 2 best friends serving in Mexico, my roommate at BYU, Matt Holdaway, and it made me think of 2 things that he has been living that is happening here.
So the church is really new here in  Ixhuatán– missionaries have been here for less than 2 years.  That means that even though the members here are incredible, most of them are brand new in the Gospel.  I’m pretty sure some of our investigators think me and my companion are like the Protestant pastors here, because a few Sundays ago I was leading the hymns, blessed the sacrament, gave a talk (without any notice, because they had another speaker scheduled but when they announced that we would be pleased to hear from that member, he stood up and said that they never let him know, so then the branch president said that we would all be pleased to hear from Elder Semus instead, hahaha), then my companion taught the Sunday School class and I taught the 3rd hour priesthood class.  It’s been really good for me to get involved and learn a lot about the organization of the church.  Right now, we have been organizing the branch a little more to fill out the presidencies of all the organizations as much we can, which means lots of planning and lots of interviews.  (Quick shout out to my bishop at BYU, Tony Anderson, thanks for teaching me how to do all of that.  And another shout to Matt Holdaway, glad we got to learn how to do that together.)  It’s wonderful to be part of such a growing branch.
The other story that Matt’s emails reminded me of is that I have also been trying to work on my accent a lot.  I feel very confident with my Spanish and my ability to fluently communicate and speak the language,  but sometimes my accent is a little less than stellar.  I’ve been focusing on it a lot recently to try to improve it, and I’ve seen a big difference.  Soy puro Chapin.  (I’m a real Guatemalan, haha)
So a few quick stories to wrap it up, I know this email is a little longer than others but that’s okay.  So on Saturday, me and my companion were walking to visit some recent converts, the Ramirez Family, the ones who got baptized about a month and a half ago.  As we were walking, we passed a little store on the corner when all of a sudden we heard a voice shout, “Mormones!!”   We turned and  couldn’t see who it was.  But as we were looking at the group of people in front of the store, we heard the shout again,  “Mormones!!”  Turns out, it was Alex, the 3 year old son of the Ramirez Family!  His parents told us that last Sunday, they got him all dressed up nice in a white button down shirt and a tie to go to church, and he was walking around saying, “Ahora, soy Mormon,”  or, “Now, I’m Mormon.”  Man, I love the little kids here.
The other story isn’t a funny story, but it is still good.  Yesterday in church I had tears in my eyes just while I was sitting there watching the meeting happen in front of me, I was very grateful for the amazing things happening here in Ixhuatán.  Yesterday, I was able to watch Gilberto and Yeison Ramirez bless the sacrament for the first time as father and son together, and then watch another one of our converts, Dixon, pass the sacrament for the first time, in his shirt and tie that we gave to him.  Then, Dixon got up and shared his testimony in front of everyone in sacrament meeting, I was listening with tears in my eyes.  Dixon is the 15 year old whose parents abandoned him, he wants to serve a mission in 3 years and is starting to go out to visit with us when he can.  Also, this week we were able to set a goal with the Ramirez Family to get sealed as an eternal family on May 26th, 2018, and we gave them a picture of the Guatemala City Temple to always remind them of that goal.  Sometimes, the days here are really hard, I’m going to be honest.  Walking between 6 to 8 miles a day in shirt and tie, in the blazing hot sun and the freezing cold rain, sometimes without much to eat or drink, talking to people who often don’t want to listen to us.  But I wouldn’t trade it for the world, because I love what I am doing and there are also people out there like Dixon and the Ramirez Family who are incredible and make it all worthwhile.  There are more people out there like them, so when the day is hard, that is what helps keep me going, knowing that there really are good people out there in every part of the world that are waiting to hear our message.  President Caffaro always told us that it isn’t sacrifice when you love what you do, and I absolutely love what I am doing.
Thank you all for all of your support, and please pray for Deiry, Aristides, and Juan so that they will be able to get baptized this weekend!
Also, please pray for my companion, Elder Otoya, he has been really sick with a body ache, headache, stomach ache, and fever, he doesnt have any strength at all.  Yesterday we had to stay in the house the whole day after church so he could sleep, and today we aren’t going anywhere for p-day so he can do the same thing today.  I love you all, thank you for everything.

 

Love,

Elder Semus
Misión Guatemala Sur
#IréHaréSeré
1. So I don’t know what this animal is, but I was writing at my desk for about 5 minutes when I reached to get a different pen and I saw this thing!  It scared the heck out of me hahaha
2.  The Shumways!!
3.  On Sunday when my comp was sleeping it started raining super super hard and water started coming in our house.  I had to go outside and sweep all the water away.