"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

Monday, August 26, 2013

Week Seven: First Week in Honduras. I love it!

Dear Family & Friends,

Hey! I miss you guys tons! Lets get right too it! I love the area I have been assigned to. My companion & I have two areas that we are assigned to which is great! It’s up in the mountains. I love it. Its’ a pretty chill area. Elder H. is my trainer. He’s a stud. He's been a Zone leader, District leader, and all that good stuff. He is very good! I really like him. He is training me for 12 weeks. These 12 weeks are his last weeks out in the mission field. Then he will be done with his mission! He is a real blessing, a good missionary and works hard. We are helping this area and hope to get things rolling in a positive direction. So, about the area in which I live, the terrain is very, rocky, very hilly, walking from house to house is a hike in and of itself. (Good workout to keep up the shape!!!) The area is very poor, but the people are soooo loving. The homes are something to see. It has been an eye opening experience to say the least. The people are so friendly and warm. They are such a nice group of people. They always offer you food even if they have pretty much have nothing for themselves. The people are soo happy when we come to the door, they are always so welcoming. A lot of the people here cannot read, so that sometimes is a challenge but we help them! The language is coming along. There are some conversations that I have no idea what is going on HA HA  but it’s all good! The older people are harder to understand then the younger people. I love talking to the kids because they speak slower and I really can understand what they are saying! The buses! The buses we go on are nuts! There are tons of people on them, loud blaring music, and people coming and going selling stuff! It’s great! They drive insane too. It’s worse then Mexico by far and that is saying something. This past Sunday I gave a talk in church. It went good! It was on service! I love the topic and now that I am immersed in service it is so awesome. One interesting thing is that not all the families we teach are all members. Many in the same family quite often are not members. So we help them out. The food so far is amazing!  We eat lots of rice, chicken, and beans. The mango drinks are the best. They are so refreshing. My companion and I have to cook sometimes. I can hear you now mother, I should have listened to you this summer when you tried to get me interested in learning a few cooking tips. I wish I would have watched dad more, it probably would come in handy right about now. We buy all our food, snacks and stuff at these places called pulperisas. They are like little stores connected to peoples houses. The way of life here is just so different. This Saturday we have a baptism! I am really so excited, my first baptism. I am very blessed to be a part of such a sacred ordinance the first 2 weeks of my mission. That is pretty cool. I have very limited time on e-mail each week. I will answer your questions from this weeks email next week.  The first few nights I was here but not in my area yet, we slept at a place near the Presidents house in this garage. There were a few of us, thank goodness Elder W. my best friend was with me.  Lets just say we had a few visitors with us. Yes, not quite like the visitors I would get as a cadet at the Academy banging on my door at night or at 4:30 AM. These visitors were a bit more suddle and quiet, yes, huge cockroaches. We even had a lizard with us too! Ha Ha
 I will answer all questions next week from your email. I love you guys tons. I miss you every day.  I pray for you all too! Thanks so much for everything, you guys all mean so much to me!  Every once in a while give a message to the guy that called you to keep me going.  I love you guys tons! The spirit is strong, prayers do get answered and l am seeing it and feeling it every day as I serve here. I love you guys tons! I can’t wait to e-mail you next week! Enjoy all the little things at home because here is wow... can’t even begin to explain. Just count your blessings EVERY day. Trust me. I love you guys tons! I can’t wait to hear back from you! Please send lots of dear elders and all! As of now I don’t need anything! Your love, prayers and letters are all I need right now. I love you all! I can’t wait to talk next week! I pray so hard for each of you. Love you tons!

Elder Long

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Week Six: Off to Honduras

Hello Family & Friends,

Elder Long asked me to write on his blog this week as time did not permit and he won't have a p-day this week. He left his dear friends in Mexico City. He expressed his gratitude and deep love he has for them, the people and language. He was very sad to say goodbyes, and yet he was so excited to get to Honduras and see the country. His trip was a bit hectic it sounded like. He called us from the airport to basically say, my calling card didn't work, I sprinted to go buy another one, and I only have 1 minute until I catch my flight. We then got another call when he flew into San Pedro Sula Airport (I believe that is what he said) where they had a few hour layover. He went and asked a business man if he could use his phone...explained to him he was a missionary and that would be his last call to home until Christmas time. So...he called again for about 2 minutes. His words were, "You have no idea how hot and humid it is here. All 12 of us missionaries are drenched in our suits." He said it is a very high crime area and that army guys stood around all 12 of them their entire layover. The business man told them that they were headed to one of the most difficult and dangerous airports to land at, The Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We U-Tubed it last night and it is quite the site. The airlines have to come low over the  mountain tops and then drop down quickly onto a one landing strip runway. It was pretty cool to watch. Mariano sounded very excited and anxious for his new adventure. He wanted me to express to everyone how thankful he is for your support. He wanted it on every possible social media. Ha Ha! He bore a quick testimony in Spanish. WOW! I was surprised as to how well he can speak the language already. I had no idea what he said, but the spirit was so strong, that I know.

We know that he has much to accomplish there and has a lot of hard work a head of him. We know he will be a fabulous missionary because he loves the gospel and he loves people. We know the people are in for a real treat to have him, and we also know that they are a warm and friendly people and that they will love our son and take good care of him.

So...the best of luck in this new chapter...serving the Lord and the people of Honduras.We love you so very much.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Week Five

Dear Family & Friends,

It is hard to believe that I am approaching my last week at the CCM. It has been an amazing experience thus far. It has been challenging, humbling and eye opening to be here in Mexico City. I have met some incredibly good and faithful people. I have learned more about true service, hard work and having a cheerful heart no matter what life brings you, more in the past 5 weeks than I have ever experienced before. I love the people. I love the language. And I have a deeper testimony because of it.

This week I feel it most important to share with each of you my gratitude. My gratitude for a loving Heavenly Father who has been there and helped me out so much while being here in Mexico City. I know as I give my all and do my part, the Lord has blessed me. He hears our prayers. I know that for sure. How grateful I am for the Book of Mormon and the opportunity I have had to spend hours each day studying it. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I have a deeper love, respect and admiration for Joseph Smith and his family. I have felt of his hardships and his families hardships to go through those things necessary to bring forth the gospel in these latter days. I am so grateful to those that have gone forth before me, who have sacrificed everything so that we could be blessed with the restored gospel on the earth today. I believe it otherwise I wouldn’t be on a mission today. I am so excited and honored to be able to go share this gospel message with the people in Honduras.

I also want to express my deepest appreciation to my many friends and family members for your support. Whether it is a quick e-mail, a formal letter sent in the mail, or however you have corresponded with me, I can’t thank you enough. Leaving behind each of you has been my biggest adjustment on my mission. You know that I am VERY social. I love my friends and family so much. Leaving you has been hard. Real hard. I hope you feel of my love and appreciation for taking the time to write me. It keeps me going during difficult moments.

Today we got to go to the Mexico City temple again. It was so peaceful. So peaceful I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. It is such a beautiful place to go to and participate in the Lords work there. I had but yet another crazy experience while traveling back from the temple. We past a crime scene. There was still blood all over, the caution crime scene tape was up and the swat guys were all still there. It is very humbling to see what goes on.

So the other day I walked behind this money truck not thinking anything about it…well…the guy that was on the side of his truck pulled his gun out. HA HA I walked like 15 feet behind the truck. When they refill the ATMS here they have like 5 guys involved for security reasons. They all have their gun and some have big assault rifles. The guy apologized to me when he saw my badge and said its just instinct.  Apparently I need to stay on my toes…

A few of my buddies decided we would put together a fake fight one night going back to the dorms. Everyone goes back to their rooms about 9:30 so we pretended to fake fight and people were running over to try to help the kid we were “supposedly” beating up. Like 45 others sat and watched in awe. People thought it was for real. It was so funny. Sometimes, it’s the small things that make you laugh! Speaking of laughing. I met another group of HALARIOUS Mexicans. They are so so so funny. You have no idea. One of them was a professional clown before he got here. He is so funny. I just love these guys. I am going to need an international calling plan when I get home. I can’t wait until I can speak well enough to rattle off the language fast with them. It will be so great. I love all of them. Any by the way, I am giving haircuts. to the guys here. Dad, you would be proud of me I am giving pretty good haircuts. HA HA

Today I said goodbye to more good friends. I have been richly blessed, by the people I have met here both those that work here and those new friends that are here just like me, serving a mission. So many of them have helped me through tough times, and have been good examples to me. Many of them have made me laugh, and laugh real hard at times. This has been a blessing. I can see that a very difficult aspect of my mission will be when it is time to move on to the next area, and leave those people I have met and now love behind. I already feel a great loss for those wonderful friends I have met that have left. Actually, it feels like a great loss because I love them so much and have experienced hard and great things together, but it really is a great gain as I have met some fabulous people whom I can now call them my friend. I know leaving next week will be hard to say goodbye to so many people here that I have come to love and admire.

My time is short, I have much to accomplish in my last week. I hope that I have left a lasting impression on those whom I have met here. In some small way, I hope that I have helped someone along the way…

I love you tons. Con mucho amor!
Elder Long

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Week Four

August 6, 2013

Hola que paso! Thank you to each of you for your letters and e-mails. As I hear from so many of you, I am so grateful for the stories, updates on you and your families and for your continued support of me in this new journey I am taking flight in.  This past week has been a tougher week. I seem to miss my baseball guys, the sport I love, and all those loved ones I am away from more this week. I know the Academy is about to start a new school year, and as crazy as it sounds cadet friends, be grateful you are there and embrace it. I wouldn’t change where I am today, but being away is very hard. I miss everyone a lot.

Another week has gone by and I continue to be humbled and learn from the people around me. If I were to write one thing this week, it would be to be so grateful for all that you have. Outside of the MTC I see people living in cinder block homes. They live in straight up blocks that have a tarp over it. That is their house. And yet they NEVER complain or lack faith or hope. They press on, just like the Saints did in the early days when they were persecuted. It is my hope that each of you that read my blog, know that I have a very humbled heart for the bounteous blessings I have. I come from goodly parents who love the Lord and who have served hard. I have had a roof over my head, glorious meals every day, the best of education laid out before me, and played the game I love so much for a long time. And here I observe people who have nothing, yet seem to have everything. They have good attitudes, smiles on their faces every day and are good and humble people. They will never know, in my quick interactions with most of them, the impact they have had on me. These are Gods children. I love them so much.

While I was walking here to the computer room to have my e-mail time just now, a guy backed into a tree with his little car and shattered his window. We went over and talked with him. He is devastated. The car is his son’s car and he didn’t have the money to fix it. He was so upset. I felt so bad for him. My friend and I helped him clean it up. He was so devastated and I felt so bad for him. Things like this are hard for me to see. I just want to be able to help everyone. It is difficult to watch and not be able to help how you would like to. So, I pray for each of them. That is what I can do. Let me share with you a good example of a cheerful heart. There is a teacher here. He rides his bike 15 miles a day to work here. He lives in a tent. He has nothing. His appearance is dirty and messy at best, yet every single time I see him he has a smile on his face. He is always willing to help anyone. I would never have known his conditions if I hadn’t been told. What an example to me. How can I not be grateful for the trials that I am facing? We each have them. The reality is that everyone has trials of some sort. We just need to pray and have faith. Remember works without faith is dead. That is a fact. This teacher goes far beyond the teaching in the classroom. His actions teach me all I need to know and learn from him. Be of good cheer…

As my time is drawing nearer to a close here  I have mixed emotions. I love the people so much here. Many I will dearly miss. I can’t say I am not ready to leave the classroom and get out on the streets, that has been challenging for me. But I am ready to go face some new challenges in the country I have been called to serve in. I know that the poverty, crime and struggles that are here are just the beginning of what is yet to come. I hear that new challenges await me. Crime and poverty will be on a much deeper level in Honduras than what I am seeing here. Let me share a story with you. One day when we were traveling to the temple we saw a woman in the back seat of a car, tied at the ankles, and her arms were tied to her chest. What pain and suffering, fright and the unknown to what and where she was headed flashed before my eyes and I am sure before her own. To say I was not sickened by it, would be an understatement. I wanted to jump out and grab her and save her. I immediately turned to the Savior and His crucifiction.  And then I thought of the Savior being nailed to the cross. Willing to take upon Him every sin of mankind. Although I could do nothing to help this woman in need in this car, I could try and help save souls in Honduras. I then reflected on one of our training videos that was shared with us:

Though this was a horrific sight to see a woman bound in a car, it gave me hope, hope through the Savior, Jesus Christ to go to Honduras and save souls. If it be just ONE person that I save, it will be worth every day I am there serving. As I have told many of you, my theme for my mission is, “Finding the One”. It is my hope and prayer that I can find the one lost sheep who needs the gospel of Jesus Christ in their life. So, back to the story of the tied up woman. What if the person who tied her up had found the gospel of Jesus Christ? What if the world had more good? Could it not save a person from an experience like this?  

This week I have found that my eyes have been opened to those things that really matter. I have been led to people who have taught me much. I met another worker here. He is a super cool guy. He has to take a bus here to work. It takes 2 hours. He goes to school every day for 3-4 hours in the morning and then comes to work. He works here until 9 every night. He and a women work from about 2-9 every day. Every night we can we help them clean the comedor which is where we eat. It normally takes them about 2 hours to clean it but when we help it takes about 45 minutes. We try and do this a few times a week to help them get out early. If we don’t help them they leave here about 9:30 at night and don’t get home until about 11:30 or midnight. It is amazing by this very small gesture how thankful they are because they get 30 more minutes of sleep and get to see their families more. It’s the little things that make you feel so good. They are so appreciative here it is not even funny. And it’s the little things they appreciate so much.

I continue to keep one thing going strong and that is my appetite.  Although I have lost some weight, I have been told that I am the number one eater here at the MTC. I have made friends with the head cook. We are tight and he hooks me up. The other night they ran out of this really good chicken that they had made but he saved me some in tin foil and gave it to me when I came through the line. They all are such nice people. I have lost some weight, but continue to try and not loose too much. Corn tortillas are my best friend to fill up my gut!

This past week a new missionary came into the MTC. He is a stud and will be the quarterback for BYU when he returns home from his mission. I have so much in common with him. He is a great kid.  I continue to love all the people and the guys I work with. I am so excited to teach people and help so many people out when I get to Honduras.

Thank you for all your continued love and support. I have wonderful friends and family. Thank you, thank you for the letters and e-mails. They mean the world to me and I need your encouraging words that you send me. It helps me so much.

Have a great week. Con mucho amor!!!
Elder Long

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Week Three

July 30, 2013

Dear Family & Friends,                                                                                                         
It is hard to believe it has been three weeks since I left for the MTC. It has been quite the ride so far. I have to admit, it is nice here but I am VERY anxious to leave and get out on the streets and help people with tons of problems and experience some of the crazy things I know I will in Honduras. Anyone that knows me well knows that sitting in a classroom studying is not my thing. I just need to get out of spiritual prison here. I feel locked up and am ready to go. This past week has been a more difficult one for me. Saying good byes to my close friends last week continues to be hard, getting bed bugs and bites isn’t exactly what I call fun, and a bad hair cut last week and being out in the sun and getting my head fried and later peeling brought on a “dandruff” and interesting look, isn’t exactly the best of times. But, there are worse things. Yes mom, it is true, there are worse things than bed bugs. No worries, it is part of the whole experience.

So, speaking of bugs should we mention creepy crawly things? Probably not! It’s probably not the best thing to wig my mother out with crazy experiences, but she is a tough cookie and can handle it. I hope! So, if you were served a plate of food in the states, with a creepy crawler critter on it, one might just freak out. But, when you are sitting in Mexico and are hungry, and just wanting some good food a creepy crawler doesn’t seem too bad. Yes, one of the elders started eating his food and was just lucky enough to find a maggot in it. Typically I would have been flipping out, but here it was just another meal and its whatever.  Like I said, a lot of it is about the entire experience. But, for real, this past week has been terrible. But don’t worry about me in all seriousness. I’ll be ok. The bug bites and mosquito bites are terrible but we are getting them under control. It just makes sleeping hard. It hasn’t been easy at all. The bites depend on the nights. Some nights are better than others. I spray off over my entire body each night before I go to bed, that seems to help. The rainy season is coming to an end so that will help with the bugs and all. I also have had a tougher week just missing baseball a ton and not being able to contact my friends and all. It’s been a tough week.

I have heard more about what to expect in Honduras. Most likely we will not sleep in beds. One, because they can’t afford them so they sleep in hammocks and if you do have a bed they put all the bed posts in buckets of water so bugs can’t crawl up and get in the bed. Kinda crazy huh? Secondly, I have also heard that many places won’t even have a chair to sit on let alone electricity. So, you just sit on the dirt floor. Thirdly, most likely I will have mostly natives as my companions.  Again, there will be many changes from here, but I am anxious to get there and dive into the work.

The language continues to be the thing I love. Some days it just seems to flow, and others not so much. I feel I am pretty good at speaking. I would say I am ahead of a lot of other missionaries so I help others out a lot. I can’t always express what I want to say which bothers me but with time I know I will be good. It’s all part of the process. We do a lot of speaking in Spanish, which is awesome. That is how you learn it, by messing it up and just keep on trying. We are in the classroom a lot. Working on language stuff, learning the gospel lessons and just a lot of spiritual preparedness.  I teach a lesson every week. That sometimes gets tough because it’s all in Spanish. It is good though. This week I spoke about pushing onward with faith during times of good and bad. I did pretty well. I just can’t wait to really be able to communicate in the language. It will come. 

Probably the thing I have learned the most this week is about prayer. I have learned that prayers work. Trust me, I have prayed for help with the bugs and for help in many aspects this week. The lord hears us. I was praying last week regarding an issue that was happening with some friends of mine. I knew they were struggling and had a very full plate. I was praying for them. The next day we were singing, Count Your Many Blessings in Spanish and the spirit was so strong. I was told two things very strongly. One, I received a confirmation regarding the challenges my friends were facing that they would be having some changes in their lives and that my parents would be there to help them. And secondly, the spirit confirmed with me that my dad was a convert to the church so that I could share his story with others. I have shared his story with many here already and it has brought the spirit the strongest that I have ever felt before. I KNOW this to be true. I really do. Prayer is real and so powerful. It can fill our voids in our lives and give us purpose and direction. Heavenly Father wants to be there to help us. We just need to “knock” and “ask”.

I continue to play a lot of soccer and really enjoy it. Doing physical activities is a nice break mentally from the classroom stuff. Like I have always been, physical activity is a stress releaser for me. Today we played soccer for about 2 ½ hours. See what happens when you get your district up early to be the first ones in the laundry room again? Yep, you get more soccer playing time. We got our back sides whooped in soccer. We played the first one to twenty because we play on like a concrete court with a fence around it. It is a decent size but not amazingly huge like a real field. We played first to 20 and we lost 20-8. They are so good. I play some good defense. They never get past me and my ball handling skills are a little better already. It’s a lot of fun. We have a weight room that looks like a ghetto weight room but it does the trick. I do that every other day and then play soccer with the guys any chance I get.

I continue to feel of everyone’s love and prayers on my behalf. They carry me often through my challenges. Thank you for all the e-mails, letters and words of wisdom you share with me. I love the sports updates, world news, what is happening in your own lives and mostly just for being “YOU”. I honestly am the luckiest missionary out there. My friends and family are the best. Your continued love and support are my motivation to do good things. Thank you for your examples. 

I love my Heavenly Father. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know the power of the Holy Spirit. It has guided me every day I have been here. I love the people here. They are humble and good. They have so little and yet are so happy. They are good teachers to me. I am looking forward to leaving and getting to Honduras to begin my journey there. I am praying to “Find the One” who needs me now.

I love each of you. I miss you.
Elder Long