Thursday, December 31, 2015

First Christmas away from home

Hi Family,

The differences with my Christmas experience began with Christmas eve. Or well, I’ve been sweating this whole month rather than wearing hoodies, and being numb because of the cold. But I’ll start with Christmas Eve. My companion and I woke up and traveled to a larger area called Martinez. We met with other missionaries and sang Christmas songs in the City Center. We probably looked like a traveling circus of business men because it was a bunch of Mexicans and white people mixed in one big clump, singing about Jesus. We met a lot of people and had a lot of fun. After we sang, we had to wait to go to a Christmas dinner later that night. A member invited all the missionaries in our zone (24) to come to this dinner. Every time my companion and I come to Martinez (every week), we have to take a 1.5 hour bus ride to get there. In other words, we weren’t leaving Martinez until after dinner. There were some other missionaries who were in the same boat with us regarding the distance of travel and money for the bus. About 7 of us spent the day together doing various things. We went back to the church building and helped clean, we arm wrestled and did this weird Native American leg-wrestling thing..... I was the champ of both.... After that we were hungry, so we all went to a gas station and had a feast. My meal consisted of nachos, a hot dog, and a slushy. We all felt like we were in the remake of the movie, "A Christmas Story".

After that we went and talked to various people in the streets and returned to the house of the zone leaders. They have a hammock, I love this hammock.... I am always the person to be in this hammock, because when I read, It is sooooooo comfortable. I really want to get a hammock for our apartment. We then ventured from their apartment to the dinner. Here, a party isn’t a party without a piñata. So, before we ate, we had a piñata. It was interesting watching a bunch of 18-22 year old people jump into a dog pile for nasty candy. (He calls it nasty candy because they put chili powder in it). I of course didn’t want to hurt anyone, so I just kind of.... Fell... into the middle of the pile and grabbed a big handful of nasty candy. I did in fact find a lime while I was down there too, so win for me. Our Christmas Eve feast consisted of Chicken with salsa, beans, spaghetti, and a really weird looking salad. Of course, this was the first time I have had tacos for not only my Christmas Eve feast, but my Christmas day feast as well. I’ll explain more about Christmas day in a second.

After we ate, my companion and I had another very long bus ride back home. It was twice as long as normal because there were sooo many people trying to get back to Misantla (my area). The bus was packed to the rafters, and I stood up so some old ladies could sit down. The creepiest part about this bus ride was all the fog. The fog was so thick that we couldn’t see anything outside the bus. Even the headlights he had to turn down because all the water droplets would reflect the light back at the driver. He turned off all the lights in the bus and there was just this glow coming from the windows for light. I felt like I was in a zombie movie and I was waiting for something to jump on the windows.

After we got home, I wrote in my journal and went to bed. Christmas morning I woke up and listened to some more of my Christmas music. I put on my Christmas tie to be festive and we left to go to a member’s house. There I was able to talk to my family on Skype :) :) :) :) That was just lovely. 
(Link to a portion of our Skype session ) We talked for a while and then I had to go with my companion to a member’s house to eat. We had tacos. :)This member loves Andrea Boccelli. I was in heaven. We were listening to all sorts of different Christmas songs by him and it was just fantastic!!!!!!! After we ate and listened to Andrea, we left to our other appointments. It was a great experience being able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and not having the distraction of all the gifts and greed. We had a great time being with families, sharing love and peace with them, and focusing on nuestra Salvador. 
We returned for the night and did our regular routine. I had my hot chocolate and my Christmas decorations so I looked at those for a bit while drinking my cocoa. The next morning was interesting. I have a two sentence poem I wrote and it goes a little something like this, "Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the streets, all the drunkards were stirring, even the police." Everybody was drunk. It was interesting and quite suspenseful, because I didn’t know if anyone had a rough night and was looking to fight someone. I had to constantly stay on guard as we walked.

I had a pretty cool experience with a lady that I want to share. She is the cousin of the Branch President of our area. When we were talking to her, she was being difficult. It’s like everything we said just went in one ear and out the other. She kept saying she wanted to learn about what we had to share, but she would just tell us what she thought she needed to do, and how she didn’t need any church. She believes in the Bible. We do too. She believes in Jesus Christ, God, and the Holy Ghost. We do too. But this is the beginning of her tangent, and I will do my best to say it in English. "Jesus is in everything. He is in the air, he is in the tree, and he is in my heart." When she said this, the phrase, "He is everywhere" stayed in my mind. This is false doctrine. As I sat there, all I knew was that I needed to open my mouth to say something. I didn’t know what at the time. All I knew was that I needed to. I stopped her in her tangent and began to speak. Throughout the rest of the lesson, every time she would preach to us about false doctrine, I would get the same feeling, and at first I wouldn’t know what to say. But after I opened my mouth, the words would just flow. The response I had to her first phrase, "He is in everything." was this:

Me: "You believe Jesus is in everything?"

Her: Yes

Me: "You are partly right, but Jesus Christ is not in everything. There is a different between Jesus Christ himself, and the light of Christ. The light of Christ resides in all things and it is His glory. He has a body of flesh of bone similar to you and I. But the only difference is, His is perfect."

I then proceeded to explain to her the Godhead and how they are 3 different beings (God the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.) How the Father and the Son have bodies of flesh and bone, but the Holy Spirit does not. I felt warmth and comfort while I spoke these words because I knew of their truth. The next time when she started preaching to us about what she "knew" was right and the only thing she "needed" was herself. She was talking about how she only needed Jesus and she didnt need any church. I got the same feeling again as before, and I opened my mouth to speak:

Me: "You Believe  in Jesus Christ?"


Me:"You beilieve in the Bible?"


Me:"You believe in all the things that Jesus Christ did during His time on the Earth?"


Me:"Why would Jesus Christ establish a Church on the earth if we didnt need one?"

Her: (nothing)

Me:"Do you believe that we need to be baptized like Jesus was?"


Me:"If you do truly believe that, then you will know that when we are baptized it needs to be by someone holding the proper authority, and the only person who would hold the proper authority is in His church."

Her:"Yes that is true."

Me:"And when Jesus Christ died, and His Apostles were killed, the authority to baptize was taken from the Earth. So how can we be baptized if the proper authority of the Priesthood is gone?"

Her:"I dont know..."

Me:"We couldnt be.. Until the authority of the Priesthood was restored through Joseph Smith."

Her: (nothing)

We then CONTINUED to teach her the Restoration. I emphasize continued because she interrupted us with her tangent. That was the second time I felt the same warmth and comfort as I did before after explaining these things to her. The third time I had this experience was when she was saying she couldn’t believe in any of it. I got the same feeling, and opened my mouth to speak:

Me:"Do you believe in the God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?"


Me:"Do you believe in the Bible?"


Me:"Do you believe in the Book of Mormon?"



Her:"Because I haven’t read it and I know nothing about it."

Me: "And that is why I invite you to read the Book of Mormon (I handed her the Book). You cannot believe that these things are true until you read the Book of Mormon. You also cannot say that the church isn’t true until you read the Book of Mormon. I had a similar experience with a man the other day, he was speaking in ignorance to me about the invalidity of the Book of Mormon, when he himself had not read it."

I want to use this experience with you guys that are at home too. No one can disprove or prove the Church is true without reading the Book of Mormon. It is the Keystone of our Religion. It is literally another Testament of Jesus Christ. It testifies of the validity of the Bible and it contains the same doctrine as the bible. Our church has its name for a reason. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It’s not the church of Joseph Smith, It’s not the Church of Elder Koontz, it is the Church of Jesus Christ. And even though the people of His church aren’t perfect, His Gospel is. I love you all. Please read the Book. It is literal knowledge of Jesus Christ. Compare the teachings of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon to the Bible and I guarantee you they are the same. The only difference between these 2 books is that one is a history of and was written in the Americas, the other was written in Jerusalem. Please read it. It’s a good book with tons of cool stories. War, love, sorrow, peace, and happiness. Be safe, I love you Guys.

Elder Koontz

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Parties, Nephite/Lamanite temples...More awesome experiences!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

On December 7th I got to go and see the pyramids that the scriptures talk about! My companion and I were walking with a couple other missionaries all morning to go and find them. We finally arrived and I got some pictures, I found something that is over 1000 years old too!!!! It’s a small shell that belonged to a necklace. It was buried over 4 feet underground. Don’t ask how I got 4 feet underground just know that I did..... Anyways, that was really cool and really tiring.

Me in front of the temple.

We found an entrance to this temple, we walked inside and there were spiderwebs everywhere. Like big Spiderman type spiderwebs.

Here is another temple that isn't to tall. We climbed to the top and found some alters. They could have been sacrificial but we aren't experts. There were other areas on top where they looked like big bowls. Places where you can stand in. We think this is where they did baptisms because there aren't any rivers or streams nearby that are big enough to fit a person, let alone two people.

On Monday Dec. 21st I asked Tyler if he had any information about Skyping on Christmas and his response was, “Umm not too much information... EXCEPT THAT I GET TO TALK TO YOU GUYS IN 4 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D”.

Hi Family,

So, I´m going to start out my email with my experiences of Tuesday and go on from there. We were in a place called Tetizuclan for our Christmas conference. It was a 6-7 hour drive to get there from Misantla, so we got up pretty early and got to bed pretty late. When we arrived, my companion and I helped set up everything and get everything going. I brought my iPod to give to my Mission President because of the rule with the screen. I gave it to him and was talking to him. He pulled it out of its little case and sighed, "Ugh, why did you have to bring one with a screen." and he put it back in the case. I then asked him why having a screen on it was so bad. He replied, "It’s not the fact that is has a screen, it’s because of the access to the internet, we try to limit it as much as possible because there are a lot of missionaries who give into the temptation of doing things they shouldn’t" I then explained to him that it didn’t have access to the internet. We talked a little some more as he interviewed me with questions like, "Does it have movies? What type of music is on it?" etc. After I answered all his questions, he looked down at the case, back at me, smiled, and gave me my iPod back. He thanked me for my honesty and told me to enjoy the music that I had brought. I use this experience to think about how I was able to not only keep my iPod, but use it as moral experience for the future. With honesty comes trust. I could have just kept my iPod and not have told him about it at all. I could have used the excuse of, "well it only has church and Christmas music. I´ll be ok." But my goal is to be obedient to the rules, and do the best I can to be a good missionary.

My next experience is during our Christmas devotional. We all had to prepare a talk in our second language about, "A gift for the Savior." I didn’t know that my talk had to be in Spanish until the bus ride over to our conference. All the time when I would talk to my companion he would always say it had to be in English. But what he never mentioned is that it needs to be in our second language, with his second language being English... you put the pieces together... So on the bus I quickly tried to think of points I could talk about in English, and then do my best to speak my mind in Spanish when I would talk. But this is how talks work here. Everybody prepares one, and then when it comes time to speak, the President announces who will be giving the talks. Only 3 people are chosen. My companion told me not to worry about anything because there were over 50 people in the conference. Yet out of the 50 people there, I was chosen to speak last. My talk was in very broken Spanish, but I got my message across. I started out with a question, "What gift can you give to someone who has everything?" I continued to talk about how there is nothing temporal in this world that is worthy for the Savior. Not gold nor silver. Only the things that we put a sentimental value to. I used the song, "The Little Drummer Boy" as a reference. In the song it says, "I am a poor boy too, I have no gift to bring." but what the boy did have, was his drum. And all the boy had to offer was a song. The boy walked into the manger as humble as can be, and asked the babe if he could play a song. The babe nodded, and he commenced the song of his heart. The words "I played my best for Him." show his love, his offering of all he could give to the savior. And at the end of the song the words, "Then, he smiled at me." Showing that the new born babe, the future King of all and Savior of the world, had accepted his humble offering. What gifts can we give the Savior this Christmas? He has already given us commandments, scriptures, prophets, and other guides for us to return to our Father in Heaven and live with Him and our Savior in Their presence. Gifts that we can give not only this Christmas, but throughout our whole lives are obedience to those commandments. One of the commandments you can focus on right now, in this moment. Is His new commandment, love one another. Live with the Spirit in your hearts and continually try to find opportunities to give love and peace to others.

Now for more experiences. We taught a lot of lessons and continued to teach our investigators. All was well with me physically until Saturday night. I was talking with the Branch President of the little Misantla Branch and we got to the topic of push-ups. He asked me if I could do the claps. I told him yes and he told me to show him. I did it and all was good. He then asked if I could do behind the back... I told him I didn’t think so. He proceeded to tell me that he could do it and he was over 40 years old and fat. I of course accepted the challenge... I got down and prepared myself for the push up (note that the ground is tile with concrete underneath). I pushed up, got my hands off the ground and behind my back, clapped, and got my hands back on the ground. Regrettably... Once I got my hands back on the ground, I didn’t have enough time to push myself back up. Which means, my chin slammed on the ground, then following was the rest of my body. At first I just had a really big headache. As time passed, and the headache went away. I started feeling where it hurt the most in my head. My jaw really hurt, and my chin was numb. My chin started to bleed and people started getting wide eyed as they looked. I originally thought that I just got cut. But there is actually a chunk of my chin that is missing. I took care of it and it’s in the process of healing now, but when the Branch President got down to do his behind-the-back-clap-push-up. He couldn’t even do a push up!!!!!!! I now learn to never trust a challenge from anyone here. All the Mexicans say, "Never trust a challenge from a Mexican".

Yesterday was really cool. We started off the day by getting ready and studying. Normally before church, we walk around and contact our investigators before church. We had already talked to all of them before, so we were able to use that time to study. We went to our church meetings and all was well. There was a family that is visiting their family in Misantla, from the United States. They live in Wisconsin and they drove by minivan with 4 kids.... I don’t know how they did it but they did... After the meetings, the dad approached me and asked if my companion and I could give him and his wife a blessing. We of course said yes and went into another room. I couldn't have felt more worthy of the power I hold. I just took the sacrament and felt the spirit throughout all of the church meetings. I gave the blessing to his wife, I felt as though the words just flowed out of my mouth. Towards the end of the blessing, my mind went blank. At this moment I knew to close the blessing. It was such a cool experience, I could feel and know how every word that I said was guided by the spirit. Another funny experience about yesterday is that there is a member that has a crush on me. It was funny how I found out but it’s cute. She is 12 and is a recent convert with her brothers and sisters. She was showing me pictures on her phone when it locked. I then tried to be funny by guessing her password. I used, Book of Mormon. She said no and we laughed. I then asked if it was a person and she said yes, I asked if it was someone I knew and she said yes. I was thinking it was some celebrity but then I was going to put in mine and my companions names. I commenced typing "Elder-" when she said, "no it’s just Koontz". She got all blushed and I just thought it was funny. None the less, it’s funny and I was joking about it with my companion on the way to our next appointment. We went to teach Ivonne, Jaime, and Pan. Jaime never came to church today but Ivonne and Pan did. We were talking to him and he just said, "I was sleeping". (Pan told me earlier about how he tried to wake up Jaime 2 times) We were talking to him more, and he started asking more questions about the Book of Mormon. I could tell that he was just trying to prove us wrong. He keeps trying to tell us what the bible says and he asks if the Book of Mormon teaches the same. We then explain how it does, and it teaches more about that principle. He tried to disprove the Book of Mormon without even reading it. He kept asking all these questions about what it’s about when all the answers to his questions were in the Introduction!! I personally was talking to him for about 20 minutes about the Book of Mormon. I bore my testimony and my knowledge of Spanish wasn’t a problem at all. The words flowed out of my mouth as I testified of the truth it holds. How it’s literally ANOTHER TESTAMENT OF JESUS CHRIST. It doesn’t teach against the Bible at all, in fact it does the opposite. It teaches with it. I felt like Captain Moroni, Nephi, Alma, Helaman, Moroni, Lehi, all the people of the Book of Mormon were with me in my testimony. AHHH it was so cool. It was a great way to end the night. The Spirit was strong in our hearts, and we were doing our missionary work the way God intended it to be.

That is going to conclude all my stories for this week and I will continue to share more next week! I’ll keep talking to all of you individually too :)


Elder Koontz

P.S.  Here are a bunch of pictures with a description for each one.
This is my zone at our Christmas party. 

No words.  :)

The food of a missionary....Ramen

This is the picture of the Guanabana! Its about as big as my head,
 and the spikes hurt you if you grab it too hard.  It's my new favorite fruit.

We practically live in the middle of nowhere. This is a picture of me at the edge of the town. We have an investigator that lives in the house right next to where I'm standing and he is on the very edge and corner of the town. Our appointment with him fell through and he wasn't home. So we took the opportunity to take a quick picture and move on.

This is me and some other missionaries at our stake Christmas party.

We had a big tent set up on the outside of the church building and people
danced and we had a Christmas program with a play.

Some more missionaries at the stake party.

Me and my companion at the party.

OH. The people of Misantla love us!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They gave us presents!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the people of the zone gave all the missionaries in their area presents! Misantla gave Elder Herrera and I the most! We were SUPER excited because we weren't expecting to get anything. We were going to wait, and then we realized that there could be things in their that might go bad, we could use, or something that needed to be opened right then.

Here are some pictures during the dinner at my table.

Here are some pictures during the dinner at my table.

This was the bus ride home from Tezituclan.

I caught our zone leaders sleeping on the bus... Later on, I fell asleep
and peoplegot pictures of me.. I don't have those ones though

Our updated Christmas tree since I got my extra decorations from my mom :)

I have all of my Christmas decorations on my desk now.... I didn't really see any point in having them spread out when there weren't so many because then I couldn't enjoy them all. So they occupy various places on my desk as of now :).

And more Christmas decorations..

Ok... It looks wimpy in this picture but its just hard to tell how deep this
gash really is with a camera. This was after I had cleaned it up.

      Some more missionaries at the stake party.

Me with the son of some members
And some of the contents of my mochila

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Week 7...Found 11 investigators..Pics of his apartment, etc.

Ty and his companion Elder Herrera.  Ty said he feels like a Giant around everyone.
 Elder Herrera is from Mexico City and speaks just a little English.

Hi Family,

We found 11 investigators this week! 11 people that are preparing for a baptismal date!!!! :) 6 out of the 11 came to church yesterday, and each of them have certain obstacles in their lives, and it fills my heart with joy seeing them work through them. Ivonne is keeping all the commandments. She had distractions, but she said that she felt peace and happiness every time she thought about hearing another lesson from us and continuing to her baptismal date. Jaime at first wasn’t really interested in our message. He had read the bible and believed in it. He couldn’t understand how the Book of Mormon could teach with the Bible. We gave him a copy and invited him to read it. He told us about how he prayed to know if it was true, He read the introduction and I think the testimonies of the 3 witnesses and the testimony of the 8 witnesses. In our next lesson, he explained to us his testimony of how he knew Joseph Smith was a true prophet.

Saturday we met Maribel. She didn’t believe that God knew who she was. She said she believed that there was a God but that he was only there and that he created us. Her husband had passed away a while ago, we explained to her about the Plan of Salvation and that sparked her attention. She listened further and during and after our lesson she began to cry, and tell us that we must have been angels. Because of the happiness that she felt, and the peace in knowing that through the covenants she makes here on Earth, she can see her husband again. She came to church the next day and had questions, she asked the teachers and they had the answers to what she wanted to know. She talked to us afterwards and shared her feelings. She explained how she felt the same way that she did when we had taught her the lesson the previous day. She invited us to come back over so we can share with her more.

All these experiences help me feel the spirit. It helps me to remember my purpose for being here and it gives me energy and strength to go about my day. I love seeing the brightness in the eyes of our investigators when they feel the spirit. It’s nothing huge. It’s not some overpowering feeling that makes them do anything crazy. You can just see how our words, the words and guidance of the Spirit work wonders in the hearts of people. I love the mission. I hope you strive to feel the spirit. I am blessed to serve in the Lords name. I have His name on my chest and I represent Him every day.

Pray. Pray sincerely, offer your heart and ask a question, it doesn’t need to be anything huge. Anything your heart desires to know. Truth, guidance, peace, literally anything you wish to know or feel and your prayers will be answered. A quote from the scriptures, "with a broken heart and a contrite spirit." Sincerity is how we can know.


Elder Koontz


With Jaime, one of their investigators.  His nickname is Pan (like bread in Spanish)

P-day Zone Activity
P-day Zone Activity - Broom Hockey

With Investigators

With some of the youth in their area

With the baby of one of the investigators.  Ty LOVES babies!

Ty has fond memories of living in our apartment in California and the Mexican man coming through
with his little cart with corn on the cob covered in Mayo and salt.  Disgusting I know but he loved it!

Ty's study area, he's very proud of his cleanliness. (he told us so)

Study tools.

Frosted Flakes with...Energy.  Alrighty then.

Like I said, he feels like a giant, even in his own apartment


The walkway that leads their apartment.

With Modesto, the first member he met and ate with when he arrived.

Kitchen area

Ty's space.  Again, proud of his cleanliness.

With some more members

Ty says there are animals EVERYWHERE!

He's very thankful for the cover he has for his bag. It has rained everyday.

The streets are always flooded

The streets are always flooded

Public transportation or their own feet.  That's how they get around.

Church activity