Monday, December 28, 2015

Don't sacrifice happiness for pride

Hello Everyone!

Jacqueline Anderson sent me a list of Jedi/missionary comparisons, and I just want you to know that I am inestimably happy over that list. I do believe that my life has been made. For some reason my love for Star Wars is amplified here, but don´t worry, the Gospel is ever my focus.

Can I start out this week with a shout out to all the people who are supporting me? Do every single person that has sent me a package, or letter, or email, or love, or nice thoughts, or who has been my friend, I want you to know that you are making a difference in my life, and through me, the lives of many people here in Costa Rica. Although I am not perfect in my giving of thanks, let it be known that from the depths of my heart I am deeply grateful. An I ain´t sayin that lightly! The love that has been shown to me is changing me. I am a better person, and therefore a better missionary, because of all of you. I worry that you don´t know. But I know. This week has been hard, mostly because my trainer and I are struggling. Holy cats Batman the struggle is real. Two people with diverse faults are put together and fireworks result. Between my (at times) intimidating desire to communicate, and his desire to not have conflict, problems have ensued. But I can say with honesty that I love him, and that slowly things are improving. And in this process I am becoming a much better person. All the pride got stripped away and I realized that I am willing to do whatever necessary to be a good missionary, a good person, and someday a good husband and father. That being said, I am one stubborn son of a gun. So here´s the lesson I learned this week: Don´t sacrifice happiness for pride. It sucks.

The mission conference was pretty cool, we spent the night before in the house of the APs with other missionaries. So naturally I initiated a bunch of strength contests. The thing about central Americans is that by nature they are a tad bit small. So I ruled the coop until an older, biggerThr (he weighed like 220 fetchin pounds) white guy came in. Although I lost, respect was founded, and friendships were made. Never-mind the fact that the next couple of days I couldn't move my right shoulder. I´m a manly man. we don´t feel pain (that is for my brothers and Uncle Matthew).

My mission president is pretty darn cool, even though he doesn't speak much English. He´s also very strict. But out here in Santa Cruz, we rarely feel the effect of that. No I have yet to see any missionaries from the east mission. I believe there are about 60 pairs of missionaries, so 120 in all. It´s a five hour trip there and back, which I love. I´m a fan of buses in general, I get to think, and look at the country side. Seats are assigned so there aren´t many proselytizing opportunities. Wanna hear something crazy? Here in Costa Rica, there are certain places where they make you pay to use the bathroom! So you´re paying to eat the food, an payin to eliminate it. The nerve!

Mashing potatoes the ghetto way. I am using plastic bottles!
My APs are pretty chill, I really don´t have much contact with them as a greenie. Christmas day was literally just a regular day, it was strange because it really felt nothing like Christmas, which saddened me, but then I tthought, "What better way to the celebrate the birth of a man who spent His entire life in service, than through service?"

I must sign off for today.

With love,

Elder Toney

Feliz Navidad

Hello Everyone!

We have shortened email time because of Christmas, so this email will be shortened as well.

So I had my first baptism this week!
It was amazing, I wish I had time to describe more, but suffice it to say that I felt warmth in my heart knowing that I had helped bring joy to someone, because I saw in my investigators face (now newly baptized member) a hope for a better life. On the same day there was a wedding and then baptism for two investigators of the other missionaries in our area, and I was told that I would be baptizing them because the man was rather hefty. (Flexes biceps impressively.) I guess all that weight lifting had a purpose after all!

So this past week we had what is called the week of sacrifice, where we get up, have shortened studies, and work hard (hard) from ten in the morning to 9 at night, with a shortened lunch break of 20 to 30 minutes. For most of the week I was with one of the mission leaders in my area, called splits. It´s a great opportunity to learn from someone who´s been here a lot longer than I. I absolutely loved working with him, although at the end of the day I fell into my bed, absolutely dead. I also got a wonderfully deep sunburn. Now to all those mothers out there who at the very moment of reading this are shaking their fingers and saying in an exasperated voice "Why in Heavens name did you not wear sunscreen you silly boy?" I would just like to say that I have been here a month and a half and not ONCE have I needed sunscreen. The sun just had it out for me this week, Okay? I may happen to look like an over ripe tomato, but I am not (overly) stupid.

The last thing we did that was a lot of fun was for the ward Christmas party. You will have to refer to the picture because there is absolutely no way I can describe it, but golly was it funny.

What strengthens my faith when I´m down? I leaned something in my studies this week, it´s that faith is a process of patience. My faith most certainly is not perfect. I lack almost too much of that which a good person should have. But when in doubt, I fall to my knees in the most sincere and honest prayers I have ever offered. To my intensely logical mind, I love the fact that faith is testable. Meaning that by doing things like attending church, praying, reading in the scriptures, we can see if the seed of faith is good by watching to see if it grows. If we have feeling of peace and love in our hearts. That helps me :) Unflinching honesty in the face of our faults.

Love Y´all.

Oh fine. Feliz Navidad. I hope you´re happy.


Elder Noah M. Toney

Saturday, December 19, 2015

December in Santa Cruz


December is HOT. It is a bit of a shock when I look at the calendar and see that it´s December, and that I´m sweating while I do it! Okay so Santa Cruz is a mid-sized town, about the size of Avon I think. The people are very laid back, at times that is a significant obstacle in getting them to attend church. There are muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuchas fiestas, which is a bummer because that means that all of the people are out drinking in the streets, and no one is in their homes to receive us. But the people are also very friendly once you get to know them, and that´s when I love this work. I realized something (finally) this week. It´s that I really love this people. I really want to do everything I can for them, and as I tell them, I´m here in Costa Rica because I found something in the Gospel of this church that took my life and made it better. That gave me hope, and a much brighter future. I found a better, happier way to live. I´m here to share that. The point is happiness, more than that - joy. I love that simple truth. That we can, and even are supposed to, be joyful.

Transportation? By the incredibly cheap form of walking. I´m glad walking is good for my health, because there is an inordinate amount of it. My apartment is pretty groovy, but also ghetto. Our toilet doesn´t have the seat part, nor does the bathroom door stay closed. There are also bugs EVERYWHERE, but EVERYWHERE. Flipping tiny ants get into absolutely everything. I have no doubts that I have accidentally ingested more than a few. As I write that I realize how nasty that is...Oh well. For breakfast there´s eggs, rice, and beans. Lunch is always good because our cook knows what he´s doing. Dinner is usually at 10:00 o´clock at night and generally consists of rice and beans. And tortillas. Did I mention rice and beans yet? But seriously I love rice and beans cause they are cheap and plentiful. Christmas here usually involves lots of food (THANK GOODNESS) It´s also celebrated on the 24th for some reason. On the 22 we´ll travel to San José for the mission Christmas thingy, I honestly have no idea what that consists of. Because of that I´m not sure when I´ll next be emailing.

How am I surviving? Things are improving. I´m a lot more excited in the mornings now, because I know how important this message is and I dunno, I want to share my happiness. Even though many people are going to reject me, some (hopefully) won´t. And maybe this message will help them. Speaking of which, I learned a little about faith this week. I have always been a tad confused about it, it´s a rather elusive subject. But I think it works like this. It starts with a simple desire to know if all this jazz is true. That´s it, just a desire. How easy. And then we test it. When we do things like reading in the scriptures, pray, attend church. How do we feel? If good, then perhaps the message is true. We continue experimenting, our faith grows "if" it is true. What a simple way to know. This logic appeals to my intensely logical mind. If it´s true, our faith, and desire to do these things, and happiness, will grow, if the message is false, then okay, we don´t need to waste more of our time. But if it is true? How wonderful :) It would mean that there is a well defined way to Heaven, where a God that loves us is waiting. Nifty.

You know sometimes I´m frustrated cause I want to share more, and sometimes I´m sad because right now, I don´t have the blessing of being an active participant in the lives of those I love more than anything. But in some ways, it´s because of that love that I´m here. Know that you all are in my thoughts and prayers, and that I´m working on becoming the best possible missionary (and person) in part for all of you.


Elder Noah M. Toney

P.S.- I have gotten complaints about my use of big words for my closing salutation (mainly from my older brother, who is a third grade teacher. Why is he a teacher for third graders you might ask? Because any word over five letters is "big" to him, love you big brother ;)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Happy, grateful, and loving the work

Hello Everyone!  We got to the internet café early today because it gets filled quickly.

A word about dogs. Before my mission, I did not hate them. Now I do. They are evil, malicious, hateful creatures whose sole duty in life is to scare the bejeebies out of me.

Not a whole bunch to write this week, sorry.

Funny story: Yesterday we were walking down a dirt road in the jungle when this man calls out to us, "Hey, men of God, Come here!" We turned to go talk with him. He was rather inebriated shall we say. We talked for a bit (well we talked, he swayed drunkenly) and then turned to leave, then he grabbed my companions hand and started crying.  He gave me an awkward hug and left. Random, thy name is drunk.

Lesson: gratitude. If you aren´t happy, it´s because you aren´t grateful. In reality, even if our lives are hard, there is still so much we have been given. Try thinking of your blessings next time you´re sad.

The miracle is that I´m really starting to enjoy the work more. When you love what you´re doing, everything is better!


Elder Noah M. Toney

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Lord will make changes in our lives if we'll only let Him

 Howdy Howdy Everyone!

Sorry I wasn't able to write on Monday, our usual pday.  Instead I went to San José for a checkup with the mission president (all the newbies do it).  And can I say that San José is downright FREAKY. I was walking down the street and this man said (rather loudly) ¨"Witches and Warlocks, there you are" A tad strange.  There are also statues of colorful cows and fat bronze women. Will I ever understand art?  Anyway that´s why I didn´t email.  We had to get up at one in the morning to get there, cause it´s a five hour trip (yikes) However I love long bus trips because you get to see the beautiful landscape.

There are about 30 people in our teaching pool, but there are many we don´t see often. People never answer their phones here so a lot is just touch and go, hoping that they´re at home, hoping they´ll let us in. That´s tough for me at times because we know that some of these people would progress if they'd only make time for us. I am adapting to the heat fairly well.  My skin is again getting brownish after the total whiteness that was me in the MTC.

So something funny--there was this man we were talking to outside of his house, and this man spoke FAST. I mean seriously rapido, so much so that even my companion had trouble understanding him. All that I got was that he didn´t believe in the conventional God. Amidst this flow of sound, I decided to extend the baptismal covenant. That sure stopped the uninterrupted, unintelligible, mind numbing cascade of some language that sounded only vaguely like Spanish. I took advantage of lull in the storm and explained that as he prayed, he could come to an understanding of these things. He said he would, the conversation didn´t last much longer. Hopefully he´ll pray.

Something else funny. We were having a lesson with a married women in her mid thirties or forties. And the lesson was going really well--we were connecting well and the Spirit was strong. After we closed the lesson, I went to shake her hand and she came in for a kiss on the cheek! Now I realize it´s a cultural thing here, and if I wasn´t a missionary it wouldn´t be a big deal. But I am a missionary, so it was mighty awkward. I just kinda pulled back and said "Sorry!" My companion of course just laughed. -______-

So about Thanksgiving.  I actually didn´t even realize it was Thanksgiving until the very end of the day. Here in Santa Cruz, we apparently do nothing different for turkey day.  I wasn´t really bothered except for the fact that I look forward to the day when I can again spend it with my family.  Apparently it´s the same for Christmas, we just work. Which is okay :)

The lesson I learned this week is about loving my companion/pride. In fact I´m still learning it. I´m grateful for the advice given to me early on by Lans Jameson, because it´s helped me realize that I need to do better. Often times we let pride get in the way of reconciliation and amity.  But the question I ask myself is this, "Is it worth it to preserve your pride and lose unity in the work?"  Obviously no, but still I struggle. Things are improving however, and that brings me to my miracle.

The miracle is a Heavenly Father that is willing to work with me, and indeed, all of us. Heavens above, some days it just seems too hard, but each time that I kneel in sincere prayer, I am helped.  Honestly, sometimes I don´t want to be here doing this.  But those moments are far overshadowed by the realization that what I´m doing is that which my Father in Heaven wants me to do.  I am growing so much.  I am a better person for having made this choice and I would never take it back. I remember looking in the mirror when I was younger and hating what I saw. Now I´m hopeful. The Lord will make changes in our lives if we'll only let Him. If you don´t know what that means or how to do it, ask someone smart, like a bishop, or trusted friend, or me, and you´ll find help and love. It´s worth being happy in life.

 I love you all.  I hope and pray for you all. You are my strength. Go do what will make your life great.


Elder Noah M. Toney