I have been called to serve for 2 years in the Costa Rica San Jose Mission as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Week 10 in Cariari...what a crazy week!

Baptism of Kimberly and her mother Idalia
Elder Graham, Kimberly, Elder Felipe, Idalia, Kevin

Wedding of Kimberly and Jaison

Limon, sweetest little town

Helloo. This past week was nuts. We had divisions almost every day. Tuesday the zone leaders came and I went out with one of them and Elder Felipe went to Guapiles. Wednesday I went to Puerto Viejo, Thursday we spent the day in Guapiles and Friday don’t ask how but somehow with all the divisions I ended up in Limon! It was sooo sweet! I loved it! It’s such a sweet beach town with sweet little beachside shops. The missionary’s house there is right on the beach and so we walked up and down it all day. There was a million kids playing soccer on the beach and there are about a million soccer goals every 100 yards or so on the beach.

Then Saturday I came back home but didn’t make it back in time for the wedding which was unfortunate but we went to their house for the party thing. The weddings here are nothing like in the states. They’re just no big deal. And they were excited when they saw I had a camera because I could take a few pics of them on their wedding day. If I didn’t have a camera they wouldn’t have had any pictures. And the ones they have are just at their house after, so I got a few pics with them.

Miguel and Gissel didn’t get off work last Sunday so they didn’t get baptized. You have to go to church first. But their son Jaison went and was all good to go to be baptized but come Sunday morning(we had to change the day to Sunday before church) he didn’t come. We ran to his house and he wasn’t there so he didn’t show up to his own baptism which was retardedly frustrating.

Saturday night we went over to talk to Dionisio and he said he needed one more week to prepare... We had a long lesson just trying to convince him that Sunday was his day but he is convinced that he will be more prepared next week... He’s been acting really weird and he’s had his girlfriend at his house every night and I’m pretty sure she has something to do with it.

So Sunday morning Idalia and Kimberly showed up for their baptism. I was very frustrated before but when they finally showed up and were so happy and excited and I got to see them baptized it was a great experience. We have worked very hard with them and the missionaries have worked hard before I got here. And I confirmed Kimberly which was a tad scary but I’m glad I got to do it. It’s great that we had the baptisms, but it’s hard because I don’t really see the ones we got, I see the ones we lost...

So the zone leaders told Elder Felipe that his going to be transferred and become a zone leader the next transfer so we’re 90% sure he’s going so hopefully his present from you can be gifted to whoever is my companion then. I don’t know how I feel about getting a new comp. I want a cool gringo that I can be friends with. Like Malan. We get along way well and it would be super fun to have a comp like that.

Thanksgiving was alright. It was set up by an American lady in Guapiles. It was really nice of her to feed all of us and everything and she made it all like the American thanksgiving food but it made me a tad homesick. I wish we just didn’t do anything for thanksgiving because in all honesty I wouldn’t have remembered if it wasn’t for that and for you telling me it was thanksgiving.

Christmas I still don’t really know about yet. But it’s a Saturday so were going to try and have some baptisms that day so that will help me get through it. We will just go visit investigators and members. Its really just going to be a normal day..

When I was in Limon we were walking by this store and this HAGGARD drunk lady runs out and grabs my arm hard and tells me I need to go to her house and save her family. I’m not going to say she only had one tooth because I can’t judge. She may have had more that I didn’t see but for now, well, say she had only one. She was foaming in her mouth and honestly the grossest lady I’ve ever seen. We told her that we were busy right now but maybe we could go by her house later and she was furious and grabbing my face and explaining that I’m an angel and I have the power to save her family. We tried to write down her address so she would let us go but she was just screaming in my face about how I need to go and do some kind of magic that she thinks I possess because I’m an angel. She was grabbing my hand and my face and tried to kiss me and I was like “alright let’s go,” so we just started walking and she was using all her drunken force to stop us from moving. She finally pulled her chest out of her shirt and grabbed my hand and tried to put my hand on her chest. I’ve never been more grossed and weirded out in my life. I just started running for my life. I had no idea where I was running but I just started going and the Elder I was with was really slow so I almost lost him. There are always drunk people yelling at us and trying to stop us but that was just over the top...
It’s pretty cool to be kinda cuisin now knowing what I’m doing. The language has improved a lot in the past few weeks. I’m much faster and I feel pretty good about talking with anybody and understanding. I still write down a ton of new words everyday and try to get em down but there’s a lot of words in the world.

I need to go but I love you! Thanks for everything!
Elder Graham

Monday, November 22, 2010

Week 9 in Cariari! A Great Week!

This is the greatest family. Jean Carlos, Melissa and the mom Gretel.
They have the nicest house I've seen here.
Hellooo mother. This week has been ridiculous! Last Tuesday we had a lesson with a contact. We gave them a pamphlet of the Plan of Salvation when we first contacted them and when we went to the appointment the mom, dad and son all had read it. They all said that they know it’s true and have been searching for the true church for a long time. They are ready to do whatever they have to, to be baptized and they wanted to know the soonest they could be baptized. So we set the date for this Saturday. We have gone to their house every day teaching them everything, but the mom leaves at 8 in the morning for work and doesn’t get back till late and the dad works from early till 5. So every morning we have had to wake up at 4:30 and we have gone to their house at 6 am to teach the mom, and we go back to their house at night to teach their dad. Jaison, the 16 year old son has had a ton of problems with drugs and has a girlfriend who’s 21 and they have had problems with the law of chastity. The parents both work on Sundays and drink 6 cups of coffee a day. In 2 days we taught the law of chastity, keeping the Sabbath day holy, the Word of Wisdom and tithing and the mom changed her work schedule to not work Sundays and the dad quit his job because they wouldn’t let him have Sundays off! Now Jaison is always at home and we pass by all the time to see how he’s doing and he has completely changed his life in a time of like 4 days. It has been the most bizarre thing ever, and because of it, the week has been soo hard. We haven’t slept or had time to eat at all because we’re running to their house which is 20 min away on bus, and then back to other appointments and to la Rita every day. It’s just been crazzyyy but I know we’re getting to see the good that comes from our sacrifices.

So we’re looking at 6 baptisms this Saturday in Cariari! There have been six baptisms in the past 3 and a half years combined here. We had 49 people in sacrament meeting yesterday! It was pretty great.

Dionisio is doing very well. He is without a doubt the silliest guy ever. When we ask him a question he just whistles for about 30 seconds while he thinks and just tells us that we’re the greatest missionaries ever.

The other baptisms are Kimberly and Idalia. Kimberly is getting married and baptized Saturday and Idalia is her mom. The missionaries have been teaching her since June. She is about 45 and has 9 kids and all have different dads and all her kids have kids and are like 14. It’s pretty sad to see that’s just the life they’ve all known. Idalia has been super hard to teach, but she has seriously changed her whole life. She smoked drank alcohol and drank coffee and everything but has changed it all. She used to be depressed but now is always happy and it’s so amazing to see the change in her life. So the baptisms we’re looking at are Kimberly, Idalia, Dionisio, Miguel, Gissel, and Jaison.

They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here but the zone is all going to Guapiles Thursday to have thanksgiving dinner. I can’t believe that it’s gonna snow there! I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in a place where it’s not always midsummer. I can’t believe I’m in November! It’s the silliest thing to see Christmas trees and decorations here. I’m like, don’t you guys know that it’s July? What’re you doing? But last night we helped an investigator family put up their tree and we decorated it. I took a pic that I’ll send in a sec. Don’t worry about the Christmas package. There is a transfer on the 22nd so I will for sure get it then.
Yeah gallo pinto is rice and beans and spices but it’s what Costa Rica is famous for. It’s very good.
Thats not what i wanted to hear about the Blazers... I dont know whats harder.. the Ducks winning a national championship.. or the blazers struggling without me there to still cheer loud and let them know that i still love them.... Is everyone just going nuts about the Ducks?? You all seem way too calm about all that.... Times are tough but great. I love you. Keep on being great.

Elder Graham

Monday, November 15, 2010

Week 8 in Cariari

My buddy Dyrana
There’s family that we eat lunch with every Sunday in la Rita and they have a little girl that’s 6 and is so cute. I showed her a picture of Gwen and she was very excited and started drawing a picture for me to send to Gwen.
Happy pday! Everything has been going good here. We’ve been working hard and yesterday we had 39 people in Cariari which I’m pretty sure is the most they have ever had in the history of the branch. There’s usually between 15-20 so that was exciting to see. Everyone was so excited in the branch to see the chapel so full. President Galvez called us last week and told us that Cariari is dying and if we can’t get it going then after we leave he’s going to close the area for missionaries for a while. So we busted it and got people there, which was great. We are going to have 2 or hopefully 3 baptisms this month in Cariari so that will be great for a branch who hasn’t had a baptism in years and doesn’t have a lot of motivation to do missionary work.

Porfirio is doing well. Our lessons with him are always really good we taught him about keeping the Sabbath day holy yesterday and it was actually really good. I think he’s making progress to the decision to get married. He’s seriously really strange though. You can tell he feels really lonely. And I’m certain he’s never laughed or cracked a smile in his life.

Hermana Pasita is cooking for us every day and it’s fantastic. We eat in her house. It’s a normal small Costa Rica house. It costs us 30,000 colones each month, which is about $60 US, but its soo good and she makes so much I’m always soo full when I leave. I wish you could try some of the stuff she makes. It’s sooo good! You should look up a recipe for gallo pinto and make it. It’s soo good. And make some fried plantains which are my favorite thing now and super easy to make. I make them myself sometimes. Just dice em and fry em. But Hermana Pasita makes em a special way and they’re super sweet and delicious. You guys should have a tico night sometime and try to make gallo pinto and fried plantains and some sort of fresco. I’m sure there are some great recipes online.

I’ve eaten so much weird stuff I forgot the stuff that I used to not like. I never liked eggs but when there are scrambled eggs sitting next to mondongo (cow intestines) you are excited to see the eggs.

In the house Elder Felipe just studies like crazy which is good because I’m pretty sure he has the entire bible memorized and watching him argue with people is the greatest thing. Yesterday we met a lady and she started the lesson by going on about like 50 things about how our church contradicts the bible and after she had talked for about 15 minutes I saw Elder Felipe going through his bible and getting scriptures ready. When she was done he said ok, are you finished? and she said yeah and he went offff and was super calm but showed her scripture after scripture showing her she had no idea what she was talking about and about how she doesn’t understand what the love of Christ is. and afterward she gave us some fresh delicious pineapple juice. It’s not a lesson if you don’t get a fresco of some sort at the end.

Yep I got to hang with Warner again and I’m always with Elder Malan (when we do divisions) who is way cool but he's super trunky already and has like 7 months in the mission. It always makes me really homesick when I’m with him.

Our landlord is Dionisi and everything is really good. He’s seriously the silliest oddest guy ever. But we can hear everything he does in his house because it’s part of our house. And we have reasons to believe he has problems with the law of chastity. So that’s what we’re teaching next.
That’s the most terrible thing ever that your purse got stolen! I want to just hate humans when I hear about stuff like that. But in the end if we are doing what we are supposed to I know that everything will be ok with everything.

Hey there awesome news about the Ducks again! Is Arizona ranked? Should that be a problem for next week? Just a bigger name win I suppose. Go Ducks go Rip City.

Alright we're heading out. I love you all keep reading and keep praying. I love you very much and appreciate what you do for me!

Elder Graham

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Week 7 in Cariari ~ Do Not Be A "Sloth"ful Servant

"My buddy, the sloth, who is actually the scariest animal there is, and could rip me apart if he could move a little faster."

Alrighttt so Sunday night at about midnight we got a call saying that I was getting transferred. So the next morning I packed ALL my stuff all ready to go. I was very confused why I was getting transferred so soon but I was excited to see where I was going to get to go! So I packed up completely and was dreaming all Monday about where I would be sent. Then Monday night I got a call saying I was staying. Not gonna lie the whole thing made me really mad. I wasn’t mad that I had to stay; I was mad that they would get me all riled up about leaving then tell me I’m staying. So anyway all my stuff is still packed and I’m too stubborn to take it out.

Last Sunday we had the best lesson I’ve had. We were in a lesson with a guy named Porfirio who is very serious and a school teacher and very smart but a tad strange. We taught the law of chastity and said he needed to marry the lady he’s living with to build a family for his kids. He said he didn’t want to and never wants to get married because he’s from a family that was broken and he’s never seen in his life a happy family. So I had a strong prompting to take out a picture I had in my backpack of our family. I almost never bring my pictures with me so I just grabbed them for some reason that morning. I showed him the picture and I was like outrageously crying to where I couldn’t talk and talking about how it’s possible to have a happy family and that that’s where happiness comes from in this life. He was just silent staring at that picture. And for almost a minute and felt like forever he was just staring at it. He then said how unified and happy we all look and that he’s never seen a picture that had an impact on him like that one did. He said he wanted that for his family and was going to talk with his wife (if you want to call her that.) Afterward Elder Felipe, who in all honesty never talks to me we just always walk silently, said to me that I was the only person that could have gotten to him like that, and that reasons like that are why I’m in this area right now for these people. He said it was all set up by Heavenly Father. It was really cool and felt really good. You guys can feel like you are the ones that really helped him if he ends up getting married and baptized which I really think he will!

Our other investigators are coming along. We have been teaching our landlord who lives in the house divided. He was telling us that a month ago he was having girl problems and was really depressed about her and he prayed to know what he needs to do with his life to know if he should wait for her or search for something more in life. He decided that the next day if she came then that was his sign and if not then he needs to find out why he’s on the earth. That day she didn’t come, but we did, to ask about the house. So he listens to everything we say and is willing to do whatever he needs to do to be baptized. We set the 27th as his date.
Last week we had a zone conference in San José with Elder Filobella? I don’t remember his name exactly but it’s something like that. He’s an area authority of Central America and it was a really good conference. We all got to meet him and shake hands and such and when we were eating he came and sat down right next to me so we got to chat for a while. It was pretty great to have small talk with a general authority. That was all good but lasted 8 hours of us sitting there so I got a little antsy towards the end.

I always love going into San José and walking through the downtown center area. It’s so sweet with all the markets and stuff. I really hope I get to serve there someday. Today starts my second transfer period. We didn’t go to the transfer meeting because it’s so far and costs too much, so we are in Guapiles searching for Christmas presents. I’ve got some pretty good stuff that I’m excited to send, especially for the little ones! It’s too expensive to send Luke’s stuff to him so I’m just going to send it all home and hopefully you can find a way to get it to Luke :) And I took out a bunch of money to pay for it all so hopefully my bank account isn’t suffering too much.

Jose and Carlos are both doing great. We’ve been working hard on their families. Carlos’s family shows promise but are a touch lazy and Jose’s family not much interest, but his brother is really interested and comes to church but lives with his basically wife but not married, and they have kids so they need to get married.

I got to go to Puerto Viejo on divisions again for the 4th time. I feel like I spend more time there then in my area and I get to go again Friday, which is nice because my favorite family in Costa Rica is their cooking lady’s family. It’s my best friend Warner who is in the family I sent the picture of - the little boy there with the hackeysack. He’s so cute! When he sees me he runs up and gives me a huge hug. Stake Conference was last week and he came and sat with me. When he knew I was going to come over for dinner, he made his mom buy fish because he loves fish and thought I would too and I deserved the best so we ate fish and I tried to look as happy as possible eating it and trying to keep it down. With Hermana Pasita this week we ate turtle one day and then turtle eggs the next. The turtle wasn’t that bad but the eggs smelled absolutely vile.

Over on the Pacific coast the weather has been horrible and whipping our cities but I haven’t seen any of that. We are just hearing about how Costa Rica might go to war with Nicaragua and Costa Rica doesn’t have an army so the US is going to help them out. That’s all anyone wants to talk to me about. Do you know anything about that?
The weather doesn’t really change at all. Some days it rains and feels cooler and other days it’s uncomfortably hot. I’m not sure about the Christmas calling situation but I’ll figure it out.

So also for Christmas I’m lacking a little in the belt department if you want to send a nice durable belt any kind I don’t really care. And for ties if you want to send ties all my ties that are silk are all haggard and ruined because of the humidity. But I’m a big fan of the wool and polyester ties. Just keep that in mind if you want to send ties. And also my backpack smells the worst ever in the straps because I just sweat all day in them and I’ve tried washing them but they still smell. Any advice?
Alright well my time is up! But I love you and I hope you all stay safe and happy! Tell everyone I love them.
Elder Graham

Monday, November 1, 2010

Week Six in Cariari: 2 Baptisms!

October 30 Baptism of Jose and Carlos
From the left: Elder Felipe, Carlos, Elder Graham, Jose, Kevin
Kevin is the Young Men's President. He's 19 and waiting for his mission call.
"I baptized Carlos and Kevin baptized Jose"

The trees in the jungle here legitimately have vines strong enough to swing on like Tarzan if you wanted, and I want to go deep into the jungle to do that.
The thing about here is.. when you picture in your head what you would think Costa Rica looks like, with jungle and trees and dirt roads and all that jazz, that really is what it looks like. I keep forgetting what it looks like here then I look up and smile because i feel like I'm in a postcard.

We had 2 baptisms Saturday! Alright, so the first full day that I was in my area Elder Felipe and I were walking through some neighborhoods and were passing many houses. All of a sudden Elder Felipe stopped at a house and ¨knocked¨ the door (we call it knocking on doors but we don’t knock because everyone has fences so we stand at the gate and yell jupe! (hoop aye)) Out came a mom and José, and long story short we baptized him Saturday. I have no idea why we stopped at the house at that time but we were definitely guided by the spirit to someone who was completely ready for the gospel. The rest of his family isn’t quite ready but he was. From the first lesson he loved reading the Book of Mormon and kept every commitment. He had some problems with coffee but gave it up. One day when we were in a lesson his friend Carlos was waiting for him so we invited him in and he had no interest in listening to us but we talked to him and invited him to the next time. Every time after that he was more and more interested and started asking for different chapters to read out of the Book of Mormon. They have been to every activity and church every Sunday since we met them. And the first door I knocked on my entire mission was my first 2 baptisms. And I had a big testimony builder that we are guided to those who need us and are ready. If we do what we need to the Lord works a lot harder than we do and will put it all together for us. Yesterday José went out with us all day to lessons and took us to a few of his friends’ houses too. We introduce ourselves as missionaries and he introduces himself as a future missionary.

It was sooo cute I went back to Puerto Viejo and I saw that family I sent you the picture of. When I went to their house the little boy was soo happy and he showed me the hackey sack i gave him and I wanted to cry. It was sooo used and soo dirty and his mom had stitched it because he used it soo much. Elder Malan who is there told me he literally never stops playing with it and he was so proud to show me how he could use it and he showed me all the tricks he taught himself. They wanted me to show off so I did a few things for them and I saw him afterwards off to the side trying to do the tricks that he saw me do. But was so cute and I was so happy to see how much he loved it so I gave him a new one.

Every morning I make sure I’ve got one in my bag ready to hand out, and in lessons with toddlers that are moving and whining I give it to them to hold to calm down. And really I have only given out 2 of the ones you sent, not that often, only to the worthy ones. The ones I give in the lessons are just to borrow so they stop freaking out.

Oh oh and I got to eat my first really nasty haggard food. I ate what’s called mondongo. I think.. Its cow intestine. it’s the grossest thing ever. It’s super soft and rubbery and I had to just smile and eat it without throwing up. but it was close...

Maurice Lucas died??? That makes me want to cry.

Did Tracey get the postcard I sent?

Spanish is good and bad. Very tough and a lot of headaches but it’s coming. I feel more confident then I did and that is half the battle.

(I asked him how he likes his mission president, President Galvez) Oh yeah he’s awesome. I love him. He is always so happy to see me and give me a huge smile and huge hug and is always very genuine and concerned when he asks me how my area and I am.

(I asked him if he thinks he or Elder Felipe will get transferred next week) naw there’s no way. He’s only been here 2 transfers and me one. There hasn’t been a baptism in la Rita in 9 months and we’re having success and we have more coming next month. I know it. President called us and told us we’re doing well so he won’t move us. We’re close with more baptisms for this month. We have the goal of 3, and 2 in Cariari which hasn’t seen a baptism in years. I will probably be transferred 4 days before my birthday and Elder Felipe 3 days before Christmas. But we’ll see.

I would love to have more pictures. I bring my photo album with me always and I show it to everyone who asks about my family and they love to see pics and always tell me about how beautiful of a family I have!

Yeah I thought I had seen rain in Portland. I am dripping wet from head to toe with my umbrella. You have no choice. Speaking of which the umbrellas here are AWFUL! everyone is super cheap. I’ve bought two and both have broken. If you could find a nice quality one, not too big but decent wingspan and send for Christmas that would be nice too.. if you want... but not too big because I have to carry it always. I wore my North Face rain coat once but it’s tough to judge when I need it because it takes about 30 seconds to change from pouring to sunshine.

P Day is Wednesday next week because of Transfers

well I have to go. I love you lots! Tell everyone I love them!

Elder Graham