"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou
dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest."
-Joshua 1:9

Friday, July 26, 2013

Week Two

WEEK TWO (July 23, 2013)

Hello Everyone! Today I had to say good-bye to 4 of my friends. It was hard to see them off as they leave for their mission fields. Mom, I am going to need an International calling plan after my mission. They will be my friends forever. Just amazing guys. I had them write in my journal and they wrote some great things. I had a lot of fun with them and we laughed a lot. And that is what we all needed as we arrived here with so much change for many of us. I look forward to after my mission when my Spanish is good and I can really communicate with them. They were a huge blessing to me these past 2 weeks. I will miss them a lot.

So, today is my P-day. Yes, I got my group up early again to do wash early and get into the laundry rooms before everyone else did. It just frees up our day more and allows more “playing” time. I am playing a lot of soccer. It is really fun but man the running involved. It’s a lot of running and stopping and running again. But its so amazingly fun. The guys and girls are in amazing shape. We played about 2 hours today. We play on concrete with fences and you throw each other into the fences and all. Its pretty fun. I am all scraped up though but that okay. With today being my P-day, I went and got a haircut. Well, so much for my beautiful hair. I thought my Spanish was very good and that I explained well what I wanted. I speak better than the majority of all the other elders; in fact I was translating for an elder sitting next to me explaining to his hairdresser how to cut his hair. Well, lets just say…I look like a cancer patient. I was talking to her about me at the academy last year and how we had to wear our hair. I think she just thought I still wanted really short hair. You know me; I like my hair and am very particular…oh well, so much for that. Needless to say it was the worst experience ever. It’s all good and part of the whole experience. Thank goodness my hair grows quickly. Next P-day I am giving guys their haircuts. Because I was one of the first to get a haircut and it turned out so bad, everyone is scared to go to that place so I am cutting their hair. We already have times set up. They are going to buy me a cold drink or a bag of gummy bears and I will cut their hair. It’s a win-win.

As far as the gospel lessons and language, I am in the classroom pretty much every day all day. As everyone knows me well, that is not my thing. I am getting pretty sick of it. The language is coming along., some days better than others. The spirit helps so much with the language.God helps us speak. We study and he fills in the rest pretty much. I had to give a 20 minute talk on Sunday, all in Spanish. My subject was on faith and how we need to have faith in times of hardship. I spoke a lot about my friends and how friends are there for us in times of need. That was a long time to speak in Spanish. I used very little English. It was hard but I got through it and got my point across. I felt like I did a good job. Yesterday I challenged our district to read the Book of Mormon in 4 weeks. So that is what we are doing. It means we need to read about 22 pages a day. I am excited and its going to be a great experience for all of us. I challenge you guys to do it as well.

So dad…I decided that I would have some fun with the counting of tortillas that I eat. Lets just say that I guess I am a bigger eater than most the guys here. The big meal of the day here in Latin America is lunch. It’s pretty solid unlike breakfast and dinner that are a joke. So, getting full has been a bit of a challenge. So, now when I go through the line for food the man and the lady usually just give me two of everything. They already know that I eat like a horse. The past week from Tuesday to Tuesday I ate 143 tortillas. I eat them with everything. The meat they give us, potatoes, rice, beans, literally anything they give me I put in a tortillas. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do to get filled up. So, this past week there was a red like sauce that we would put on the tortillas with rice and the pollo they gave us. Looked like the normal sauce. Little did I know it was not the same. It was the hottest thing I have EVER eaten. Literally the hottest thing ever. People in the dinner area were crying it was so bad ha ha. I can take hot things but this was literally on a different level. The thing I miss the most with the eating part of things is that you don’t get cold drinks. I miss cold water and drinks. I have had two cold drinks since I have been here. They just opened up the latienda which is like a place where you can get snacks and cold drinks so as a district we go every day and get like their version of Gatorade, water or something. It is sooooogreat to have a cold drink.

My greatest thing about my mission is I enjoy the people the most. By far, is the love I have for the people. The hardest part of my day is being cuped up in a classroom most the day. That is pretty hard for me. Also, the MTC is not easy. It is a grind. Every day is a grind. But, sooner than later it will be done. Seeing the poverty here stinks. It is SO hard. People just have so little. When I leave my mission I am going to give all my clothes away, EVERYTHING to them before I leave.

So, I have a funny story for you. This kid in my district has a girlfriend. She is super hot! So this elder went to go teach his investigator (the practice one) and while he was gone we opened up his package from his girlfriend. There was a bunch of stuff in there…and there was a letter….so we opened the letter and wrote a fake Dear John Letter. For those friends of mine who don’t know what a Dear John letter is…it is when your girlfriend sends you a letter basically dumping you and telling you the relationship is over. So, imagine you leave a serious relationship, go serve the Lord thinking she is going to wait for you and all will be well when you get home. And then you get the “Dear John” letter while your serving. So, I wrote the letter. It was great. It was super girly hand writing and it sounded for real because he had told us so much about her. He started crying in class and all as we asked him why? He showed us the letter and all and we played along for a few minutes. LOL it was so funny. Then we told him it was me and a few other guys playing with him. We laughed and laughed so hard it was sooooo funny. He was a good sport about it and laughed after the fact. Today he acted like he didn’t get any mail when he got another letter from his girl. He was joking around though and he is super cool. He gets the last laugh, he has the hot girlfriend, not us. Another good reason to go to BYU or Utah. Hot blondes LOL.

I am getting so excited to get to Honduras and teach the people. We have been told that in certain areas of our mission that we will be given a machetti knife so we can get through the jungle. That will be so fun.Our mission President is supposed to be the boss. I have gotten to know one of the workers here that does a lot of the ground crew work here and I see him every few days. One day I started talking to him because he didn’t look like a native so I asked him and come to find out he is from the Dominican Republic. He played ball when he was a kid and still plays. He is super cool. He knew sooooo many big leaguers. The town he grew up in he knew at least 32 guys that were either in a farm system or the big leagues. When we see each other we talk all the time. I love talking about ball. I miss it.

Tell everyone I say hello. I miss you, dad, mom, gi and all my family and friends. I love each of you tons. It is really hard to be away from those you love. Keep doing good things all of you. Strive to be the best individual, friend,daughter/son of God each day. Do good things for others. Be the best you can be. I want the best for each of you.

Love Ya’ll,
Elder Long (ChaChi)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

1 Week Down

Here is Elder Long's letter that we received. Enjoy! 

Dear Family & Friends,
WOW! Where do I even begin? To say that the past week has been so great would be an understatement. I already love – love – love the Spanish people and language. First of all I want to thank everyone for all the letters and e-mails I received. You have no idea how much those help me. So thank you so very much. I want you to know that my P-day (or otherwise known as my personal day) is on Tuesday while I am here in the MTC. I get to e-mail for one hour on that day. On my P-day we do our laundry, write letters, typically grocery shop, play a sport of some kind and just anything that needs to get done. This will be the day I can read e-mails that have come through and respond to them. Please just be patient as I have limited time to write back either through mail or e-mail. I will do my best to respond in a timely manner. I have told my parents to put my letters that I write on my blog and that most likely my responses back to you will be shorter because of time restraints. So please follow me for 104 weeks while serving. It’s going to be a ride…
For starters, like I said before I love the Spanish people and language so much already. They are humble, good people that want what each of us want, the best for each other, our family members and children. Their circumstances here are very humbling. Can I just say, be so grateful for the small things back home. Be grateful for all the opportunities you have. These people just don’t get them like we do back home.
The MTC, also known as the Mission Training Center is very nice. It is highly secured with a huge gate around the entire thing and is guarded by guards/security. We can never just leave the MTC grounds. It is too dangerous. I have 6 roommates in my living quarters at the MTC. 2 of the 6 elders are always native speakers. Myself and my companion, Elder A. and four other elders. My companion, Elder A. is from Utah. He is one of many from a large family. He is on the quieter side but I am breaking him in, ha ha. The food we eat has been good. A lot of tortillas and beans. I eat tortillas at every meal. The orange juice at breakfast is amazing and the fresh fruit doesn’t taste like our fruit back home. It is so fresh. But let me tell you something, my intestines are getting used to the Mexican food…man its rough on the system at times though. ha ha
A typical day is I get up at 6:30 and pray and read my scriptures. I have about 8 hours of classroom work between learning the language and learning the gospel lessons. I am very anxious to get out on the streets and teach and be “living” in the culture. On my third day I had to teach an investigator an entire lesson in Spanish. I did the entire lesson. My companion was pretty quite and I kept looking over at him like this is your time to teach and he didn’t say a word. So we need to work together on the flow of our teaching and both of us always participating. I prepared for this lesson but the spirit took over and I taught a different lesson than the one I prepared. The spirit is so strong. I have never felt it like this in my life. The gift of tongues is a special thing. There is no doubt as I have immersed myself already in the language that the Lord has blessed me and helped me speak the language. At times after I say something I think, where in the heck did that come from? There is no doubt I am handling the language better than everyone else. I know the academy really prepared me. So right now my days consist of a lot of classroom work. At night we get some time to sit and visit. I love hanging with the Spanish guys and speaking with them.
This morning I made my whole district get up early so we could beat everyone to the washing machines. We had a temple trip planned this morning until about 2 PM and I wanted to have more free time after the temple for us all to play ball. So, I got them up bright and early. Tonight we have a devotional at 7PM. The rest of the day is left to chill and talk with other missioinaries.
From the time I arrived I have been helping the leaders help the missionaries get organized, etc. Because the MTC just opened 10 days before I arrived they are still getting things in place. I loved diving right in and helping. I have been put in charge of 10 elders and 2 sisters. There are about 30 in our district but each week that number will grow. My District President said he prayed and had revelation that I needed to be his assistant because of the help I would be able to give the missionaries who are struggling. I am excited to meet the new missionaries coming in tonight. Right now there are only a few hundred here at the MTC but that number will grow rapidly each week. Keeping busy and being able to help people has kept me from being too homesick. Speaking of homesick, a lot of the guys are straight out of high school and have never left home. Many are really struggling. It is time for me to give back and help each one of them. It was a year ago exactly that I was in basic training and struggling so bad. It was my family, friends and the cadets that pulled me through. No doubt I finished a year at the academy because of the great support I had. So I check on several guys throughout the day that I know are struggling with the culture shock, the language shock, and being away from their home.
I’ve met several great guys that I love so much already. One of them is a basketball player, Elder W. and the other two are companions Elder D. and Elder L. Elder D. went to Army and played football for them, so we have a lot in common. We tell stories about the academies at night and entertain all the Spanish guys. They laugh hysterically at all the stuff we had to go through. They are actually only here for a few weeks before they head out to the mission field. I love them and will really miss them when they leave.Guess where they get to serve? Yes, the Chicago mission. There is a good chance they could end up in in my town. So, all my  friends watch out for Elder D. and Elder L.. Give them a good meal and tell them you know me if they ever knock on your door. Ha Ha And for sure let them in a visit with them. And I have 4 other friends here that are absolutely hilarious. We exchange stories and laugh a lot which is good when you are feeling displaced and homesick.
As we left this morning for the temple we rode on a bus. Between my 45 minute ride home from the airport to the MTC and then to the temple this morning, it’s been a humbling experience. We have so much. We have so much to be grateful for. Tell everyone to be more grateful. These people have so little. Have so little of opportunity for it to ever change. And yet, they are so happy. Tell my friends. Challenge my friends this week to do one act of kind service. To think about it and to think of something or someone that they can help.  Also tell them that praying and thinking of others is important as well. Thinking of others will get you far in life. I have seen it, I have felt it. I know I was helped all school year…all school year, daily. And now I am experiencing it a bit differently. I am able to give back and help others because of my experiences last year at the academy.
As far as my greatest challenge so far. My nights are rougher. It is really hot. I mean really hot and humid. Air conditioning does not exist, not even fans. We sleep with the windows closed because is all you hear all night long and I mean all night long is barking dogs, gun shots and then sirens. So, between being hot and the noise it makes sleeping difficult. I sleep in long pants and a long shirt because mosquitoes keep biting me. It’s very annoying and one of my biggest obstacles. I know that every hardship last year while at the academy was for a reason. I know because of those hardships that I am able to help others right now that are hurting and need my help. I know that the challenges I faced every day at the academy have better prepared me to help others now on my mission.
Let me end by bearing you my testimony that I know that through service you can bring so much joy into anyone’s life. Help others of all faiths. Loving God and helping others is what it is all about. I know Christ lives. I know that I am suppose to be here at this time sharing the gospel. I can’t wait to get to Honduras to serve and love the people there. I already feel a love for them and I haven’t even arrived there yet. I thank my Heavenly Father for each of my family members and friends who support me, love me and stand by me in my hours of need.
Con mucho amor…
Hugs and kisses!
Elder Long

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Called to Serve-Honduras Mission


We received an e-mail from Mariano. He sounds fabulous. He already loves the people and loves the Spanish language. He expressed how grateful he is for all he has. He said we have so much. This country is so poor. He wanted us to tell ALL his friends hello and that he loves each of you, to please pray for him that he won't be too homesick, and to please write him.

While he is at the MTC (Missionary Training Center) the best way to write him is two ways. A regular letter through the US Postal Service or through a site dearelder.com

We're not quite sure how long dearelder.com will take but have been told it is much faster than regular mail and much more reliable.

They have asked that no packages be sent to the MTC. If you want, his Mission Office address call me please.

He has wonderful friends and family! Thank you for loving our son and supporting him always. Have an awesome week!

~Mrs. Long