Tuesday, January 26, 2016

More Spiritual Experiences :)

Hi Family,

I continued working on Gabo (my frog carving) last Monday, but I have made a restriction on myself to only work on him on P-Day. Even though I can talk to the carpenter while we work, it’s still a distraction from the work I need to be doing with other people too. I still talk and have discussions with him every now and then throughout the week but I only do the wood work on Mondays. He tells me about his experiences before with the missionaries and other religions. He says he wants to learn more but he goes about learning in a weird way. It’s a process. I can see the change in him every day. But when I say change, I mean he is becoming more and more receptive to our message. He is slowly understanding more and more about our purpose. Last night we were talking and this is something I felt impressed to share with him: "We aren’t here to destroy your faith, we are here to increase it. The God and Jesus Christ you have studied about in the Bible is the same one we talk about. You have knowledge about him and that is great, but our purpose for being here, is to give you more. We aren’t trying to get you to change your whole concept or idea of God or Jesus Christ, we just want to share our message. We aren’t here to teach or baptize people. We have a message. We are here to share the message. The people who listen, and receive our message are those who we teach. We can’t shove the information into your mind and say ´believe.´ We can only bring the information to you and share with you the invitation of a prophet. Read and pray."

After I shared this with him, he smiled and looked at me for a second. He then looked at my companion and said, "With all the missionaries that have come around here none have been so persistent as this one. More than 4 or 5 times he has continually shared with me his testimony and wanted me to listen. The other missionaries would try to share a message, and after sharing with them a bit of what I believe, or what I do in my church, they talk to me for a bit longer and then leave me alone. But this one, there’s a light to him."

Of course I felt really happy when he said this, but I still continued to share with him what I felt he needed to know. It’s still a process, but through continually talking to him, he is learning more and more. This is but one experience that I have had this week. Earlier in the week, there was a training for all the missionaries in the world. It was a live broadcast from Salt Lake City. It was awesome and it was like my soul yearned to hear the words of the Apostles. I am ecstatic for conference in April.

Rigoberto and Saraí are wonderful!!! They are continuing to read and they feel that our message, and the Book of Mormon are true. We had one obstacle with them though. They are living in free Union, and need to be married before they can be baptized. Its either marriage or one of them has to live in another place. They are a family and we don’t want them to be split apart. So, we invited them to be married after we explained the situation... AND THEY SAID YES! They are going to get married THIS WEEK! They want to do everything they have to to continue with their date.

Yesterday during church, I was sitting on the stand getting ready to prepare the sacrament when one of the counselors came over and asked me if I would give a talk after I had blessed the sacrament. Not only a talk but the first talk. He said I could talk about anything I wanted. Talk about short notice! I said a prayer on what I should talk about. After I finished my prayer, I remembered a talk from Elder Richard G. Scott I had listened to about prayer. I realized I needed to talk about the importance of prayer in application to the knowledge of truth. I walked up on the stand with only my Book of Mormon. And I talked away. I shared a quote that I love from Elder Dallin H Oaks, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has many other beliefs in common with other Christian churches. But we have differences, and those differences explain why we send missionaries to other Christians, build temples in addition to churches, and why our beliefs bring us such happiness and strength to deal with the challenges of life and death." I applied every type of general doctrine to prayer. The importance of prayer, and how we can receive the truth through prayer.

It was after I gave my talk that Rigoberto came up to me and said that he knew he wanted to get baptized with his family. He said that he felt the spirit through my talk, and that he would do whatever necessary to be baptized.

Well those are some of my experiences, you can judge whether they are cool or not. Something that will make this week interesting is that we have no money until next week, and no food... We´ll see how this goes.

Have a great week everyone! I’ll talk to you next Monday :)

Elder Koontz

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Companionship/Learning woodwork

(At first we thought maybe Ty wanted us to keep his troubles with his companionship private but he actually asked me to share it on the blog.)

Hi Family,

My companion and I are getting along a lot better. We had a companion study this week and I felt like we should study the chapter about attributes of Christ. We were reading and then came across an activity we could do at the end of the chapter. We skipped to this activity and we were reading over the questions it asks us. At the very end, there was a section for obedience. I was reading through the section and found parts that applied to us and what we need to do. I knew that we had been guided to this area. I felt that I needed to make a specific point about this topic with my companion. At first I was a bit nervous because I knew it would turn into an argument. But I felt that this argument was necessary to strengthen our companionship. With faith, I brought up the specific part in the section. We talked for the rest of our companion study about it. As I predicted, it turned into an argument. But, it wasn’t the spirit of contention that was with us. I could feel the spirit guide me in my words, and help me to say what I needed to say and how to get my point across to my companion about how I want to be as obedient as I can be. It was a fragile and tense situation, but my nervousness went away as I was able to answer all of his contradicting questions. I could tell he was trying to trap me with my words, and say things that would make him ´win´ the conversation. I´m not trying to say that I am the only good person in our companionship, but I knew that my companion had some bad habits. I made sure that he knew that I wasn’t perfect either, that I just wanted to be more obedient. That I wanted to change for the better, but I wanted him to change with me. I felt the spirit help me with this discussion. I have the desire to be a good-obedient missionary and God knows that. He blessed me with his spirit to make my desire known unto my companion. All I needed to do was open my mouth.

Now, my companion and I are good friends. After we had our “argument”, it wasn’t like we just immediately became best buddies, it was still a little tense. When we went out to work, we just talked, and talked, and talked some more. We built trust and now we can teach with the spirit more in our lessons, our lessons flow more smoothly because we know how to work together. And right now, we are having much success in the mission. The important thing I want to mention is that through faith, trust, and the desire to do good, my action of wanting to be more obedient with my companion was fulfilled. We get up on time every morning. We exercise, we study, we teach, and through our obedience and diligence we found 9 investigators and 8 with baptismal dates! And we have the help of at least one member with each of them. They help us with soo much and it’s so much fun to build trust with the members of our ward :)With every lesson we teach with them, we have a member present. We feel the spirit more and we continue to work hard. With obedience come blessings. I see that promise more and more throughout the mission and it only makes me want to be more obedient.

We are teaching this one family. And they keep EVERY COMMITMENT!!! We went to return for the second time and teach them about the Restoration of the Gospel. We asked if they had read the little pamphlet we gave them or if they read the Book of Mormon. They smiled and got all shy, and said they had only read a little. They read all of the introduction, the testimonies of the witnesses, and they were a little over half way through the testimony of Joseph Smith. When we heard this it was like the heavens opened and a pillar of light was around them. We had found a golden family. We asked them what they remembered and they pretty much taught us the lesson of the Restoration. They told us sooooo much! It was soooo coool! When we first met them, they were really shy and timid. But through continually visiting them, they are just becoming Happier! Whenever we see them, they get big grins on their faces. They came to church for the first time and were smiling and sharing their feelings of peace and happiness. The only challenge with them is that they aren’t married, and they are living in free union... Which will complicate things. But I´m sure if they have the desire to continue learning, and they feel that the teachings and knowledge we have to offer is true, the Lord will provide a way.

We have some members whose grandpa is a carpenter. He´s not a member so I got to know him through is trade. He is teaching me how to use his tools, and while we work we talk about gospel related things. The President of the Branch was there with us and all three of us were working and talking. Oh, and everything is hand made. No power tools. Everything is done with a hammer and a chisel. I love wood work, and it is definitely going to be a hobby once I get home. I made a little half man half frog thing. If you look at it one way it’s a man, and if you turn it upside down, it’s a frog. Super cool, all hand done with a hammer and a chisel from a cube of wood. It’s not done yet but I´m going to send pictures of its progress. I call him Gabo. Frog/toad in Spanish is Sapo. So he is Gabo el Sapo. I was thinking about Gapo but I didnt like it. Gabo is better. It was funny when the Grandpa showed me how to use the tools. He just gave me a hammer, a chisel and demonstrated on a piece of wood how to hit the chisel. He told me that with practice I can get better. Gabo is my first little project. He is amazed with how I could create him, he observes the symmetricity and all the other aspects of it. He doesn’t believe this is my first time using these tools. I made a joke with the President of the Branch about how we need to follow the example of Christ, and Christ was a carpenter ;) But I love how we can teach him through his trade. It’s so much fun to work and create art, and it is so peaceful. Not only to share the beauty of a peaceful work, but to bring the spirit with conversation of doctrine and sharing the gospel with him. I also recognize this awesome experience that I have to learn something while on the mission. I hope to come home with this skill and others also. I also hope I will learn to make a lot of the food I eat out here too. I love the Mission!!!! I am sharing, learning, experiencing, and doing so much! This will definitely be something that will give me great life experience. I can feel myself changing as a person, and have the desire to do good in the world. I feel more love for everyone and it is awesome :)

Elder Koontz

This is Gabo the Sapo (Toad)

This is Gabo the Sapo (Toad)
He took this extra picture of himself while he was sending me emails
to make up for the fact that he hadn't taken very many last week.  Cutie pie!
Zone Conference

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New Companion/Reunion with CCM District

Hi Family,

I didn’t really have any crazy stories this week. I’ll be honest that the first couple days with my companion were a little difficult. He´s pretty quiet so that meant that I needed to talk more. I´ve pretty much been the senior companion because I know what we need to do, where to go, who to talk to for information, and I have the most time in the area. Oh and he doesn’t speak any English which is fun. If I don’t know a word and I say it in English he doesn’t know what it is... It’s funny because when we’re talking with other people and they notice that I´m American (tall, white, American accent.. Go figure), they would ask my last companion how we communicate. He would say, "Spanglish". Now, I can say, “no we only talk in Spanish because it’s all he knows”.

I have the desire to work, be obedient, and do all I can to be a good missionary. Yesterday when I was in church, I started thinking about these things. How I was going to make this work with my companion. Then I decided that I needed to change my mentality. Rather than thinking I´m better than my companion, and I just need to do my own thing. I started thinking about this, "Why is my companion, my companion?" This opened up my mind to a lot of different things: How can I serve my companion? What can I do to strengthen my companionship? All of these things helped me to remember a personal prayer I had while Elder Herrera was my companion a few weeks ago. I was reading in my patriarchal blessing and it told me that I set an example to others. I asked for the opportunity after my companionship with Elder Herrera to be in a position where I can set an example. Well.... My prayer was answered.. I have been continually trying to serve him.

I started to talk to him yesterday about the mission, obedience, what we need to do, and what I wanted for my mission. I already know we are going to have more discussions like this in the future, and I am looking forward to them because they will only help with our companionship. He then started to try and change my mentality a bit. I was sharing some of Dads experiences and how I want my mission to be like his. Hard worker, dedicated, was well-known for his work. He tried to convince me that this is my mission and I can live it how I want to. I know that I´m not perfect and I always need to work to be better too. But, I feel like I need to help my companion realize the things he needs to work on too. I wish I could share all the things I want to do but that would take forever and it would get confusing. The information I can share right now with him is that I want to be the best missionary I can be, and even though I´m still in my training and I need to learn from my trainer, I still need to realize that not everyone is perfect, and the person I need to follow the example of the most, died for me and everyone in the world. Every night I try and reflect on the day, and what I can do better the next day. I know I need to enjoy my mission, but there’s a difference between enjoying the mission, and being disobedient.

Ok now for some happy stuff :) I got to go to Xalapa on Thursday for mid-training! And guess who was there.... My district from the CCM!!!!!! :D Hermana Bodily, Elders Heslop, Elder Coray, and Elder Jackson!!!! I was sooooo happy to see them, and we all had fun stories to share. My zone was the last to arrive to the meeting because we´re the farthest away. So I walked in and saw Elder Heslop talking to Hermana Bodily. They greeted me with an, "Elder Koontz!!!" and came over and gave me a hug. (Except for Hermana Bodily I shook her hand) Then we had breakfast and went into the meeting. I saw Elder Coray and Elder Jackson sitting more in front so I didn’t get to say hi to them right away. After the first part of the meeting, we all stood up and talked with each other. When Elder Coray got up, he turned around, saw me, got this big old grin on his face, did this funny little shuffle with his feet, and really excitedly jumped to give me a hug while saying, "Elder Koontz!!!" Elder Coray made me feel happy because that was probably the most excited anyone has ever been to see me!! It was a heartwarming experience :) When I saw Elder Jackson he got excited and we pretty much hung around with each other for the rest of the meeting. It’s really cool because Elder Jackson and I weren’t just companions, we became really good friends in the CCM. After we left it was pretty sad to say goodbye, but I get the feeling I’ll see them again. Other than that I don’t really have too much to share! I’ll talk to you next week. Love and miss you all.

Elder Koontz
Elder Koontz and his new companion Elder Duran

Reunion with his CCM District.  Elder Heslop, Elder Jackson, Elder Koontz and Elder Coray

Training Group

Training Group

Monday, January 4, 2016

1st Baptisms!

Hi Mom,

Sorry, it’s gonna take me a little while to type because my fingers are numb. It’s raining and there’s one heck of a wind chill. It’s nowhere near as cold as Utah but I’ve been living in this hot, humid environment for the past little while my body has adjusted to the heat. Hence my fingers being numb with not very cold temperatures. (Note from MOM: I checked the weather in Misantla today and when he was typing this email it was in the low 60’s. The low was in the low 50’s.  I can't wait until he gets back to the single digit temps we're having right now in Utah)

So, I need you to take all the information I tell you and put it into the blog. I’m not writing a long email because of my fingers moving so slow. So I’ll talk to you about all my experiences of this past week, but you will have to "abridge it" ;) into the blog. Haha get it? Abridge! Like Mormon! (Note from MOM: Like he said…the following paragraphs are actually bits from about 8 different emails that he and I wrote back and forth. I’ve “abridged” them into one email for your reading pleasure.)

I had my first baptism on Saturday! Miguel, Ivonne, and Jaime were baptized! I don’t know what the river was called, I baptized Miguel (Pan), and Jaime, THE WATER WAS FREEZING but it was so AWESOME!
This is my first baptism!!! In order from L to R is Miguel, my comp, me, Ivonne and Jaime!
I have some other news.... The other day when we were with some of the members and a Hermana was helping me by taking pictures with my camera. She accidentally deleted all the photos off my memory. She felt really, really bad and I told her it was ok. They’re only pictures. I explained to her that every week I send the pictures home to you guys. Except for last week... We didn’t have much time so I never got the opportunity. The pictures that were all deleted were from last week and the week before. They were pictures from Christmas Eve, New Years, various pictures with members and investigators, and my first baptisms...... Luckily Elder Herrera also takes pictures ;) He is sending me all the pictures that he has with the baptism and other things with me. So don’t worry momma I gotcha covered. I explained to her that the only person she would need to apologize to would be my mom ;)

I haven’t gotten my Christmas package yet. I’ll keep waiting. If I haven’t gotten it by the end of January then I’ll let you know. Oh and guess what? I'll have a new companion either tonight or tomorrow!!!!!! :D :´( Elder Herrera has been promoted to be a zone leader in Martinez which is awesome, and I am staying in Misantla.  My new companion is Elder Durán. I meet him tomorrow or late tonight. :)

Oh, I got SUPER sick on Saturday. I have no idea why but I just did. I felt completely week. I had no strength at all, my head hurt so much that even light made it hurt more, and my stomach felt like it was eating itself. It was absolutely terrible. My companion gave me a blessing, I took some medicine and continued through the day.

There was a monster spider in our apartment!!!!!! 
It was as big as my HAND!! I had a picture but it was lost.My companion went to iron his shirt when he turned the iron on. He heard a hissss and it crawled out from somewhere. It could fit in the iron!!! My companion screamed and got me. He showed me, I screamed, and then we came up with a solution.  We killed it with a homemade flame thrower. I took axe cologne and a lighter and we cornered it. We cooked it and the thing was HUGE. You could literally see the lights reflect off its eyes. 

Ok! Love you all! I’ll have more pictures with my new companion next week. I’ll still be in Misantla but hopefully the pictures will be with new Investigators ;) Love you all! Talk to you in a week!


Elder Koontz

Me and Jaime

Me and Pan
Elder Herrera and Ivonne

My Companion and I after the baptisms

Mmmmm hot coco
Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve
Happy New Year!