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.



Elder Semus
Misión Guatemala Sur
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.

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