December 2008 - December 2010

...and life continues

January 2012

I Am Home! *Ü*

December 20, 2010

Last Monday, my last week on the mission, we dug a grave to prepare for my mission "death". All morning on Tuesday we prepared for the Rio Claro branch Actividad Navideña (Christmas Activity). We had to plan everything ourselves. Not only did we have to make all the preparations for the activity, but I also had to prepare to go home. I had a lot to do, and not much time to do it. That night the Actividad Navideña turned out pretty good. Around 50-60 people attended. There were a lot of members, less active members, and even some investigators.

Oli was finally able to come, and of course Mainor, Julie, and Tiffani came with her. Julie brought a friend again. Awesome. There was also another non-member family that came. They are a couple with a young baby. I spoke with them a lot and they are very friendly and it seemed like they enjoyed themselves. Someone else that surprisingly showed up was Jose. Jose is the guy who digs the graves at the cementary, and he helped us a little when we were digging the day before. While we worked with him we started talking a little about the gospel. After awhile hno. Isidro took over sharing with him, which is perfect, and we let the members present share with him more than us, so they could be missionaries. Anyway at the end of the work we said goodbye and we left Jose at the cementary because he lives there. But as we were walking away, I felt that I should invite him to the activity, so I turned around and invited him, and he seemed happy and said he would come. Even so I was very surprised when he showed up by himself to the activity, all cleaned and dressed up. I was very happy to see him there, and I think he had a good time as well.

For the activity we basically had a Christmas dinner and some activities. The members all helped in bringing food and preparing it (especially Hna. Merly), and it was pretty good food. The main other thing going on was "Compartir Lo Nuestro", which is that everyone brought things that they owned, that were in good condition and that they didn’t need anymore. Then everyone could see what they brought and if they wanted it they could take it home with them. We did it in an orderly way, by everyone taking a number out of a hat (well it was actually a plastic bag, but you get it), and getting in a line in order of the numbers, and picking one thing they wanted. We did that for a while until we just let everyone go grab what they wanted. I brought all the clothes, toys, etc, that I wasn’t going to take home with me, which was mostly everything, so I brought a lot of stuff. I think everyone in the branch got at least one of my ties. It'll be sweet to walk around church when I come back to visit and just check out everyone’s tie, then flip it over and see my name on the back, because it was originally mine. Oh yeah. So I got rid of most of my stuff at this activity, but I left my shoes for my comp, and I left one of my suitcases for a guy from Golfito that is going on his mission soon.

Also as part of the activity there, were some shows prepared. Actually there were 3, and 2 of them were by my comp and I. The first thing we did was a musical number. He played the guitar and I sang "El Niño tambor" ("The Little Drummer Boy"). It turned out good, people liked it a lot. We also did a funny skit with a midget Santa, "Enanito Tobarza". My comp was the face, and made Tobarza's legs and feet with his arms and hands. I was Tobarza's arms and hid the rest of me away. It’s complicated to explain. I don’t know if you understand what I am describing but you’ll see a video eventually. Basically we made a show with a mini Santa dancing to different types of music. It turned out really funny, and everyone loved it.*Ü* Our shows were good, even though we had only practiced that same morning, and didn’t have much time to prepare. The activity was really stressful, because I had to direct the whole thing and sometimes there wasn’t much order. During the Compartir lo Nuestro part, I’d be speaking into the microphone and no one would be listening so I'd make jokes about it, and the few listening would laugh. I had the microphone in my hands always so I made random comments throughout the activity. In the end it was a great activity. I said goodbye to people and took pictures with them, because the next day we were going to pto. Jimenez so I wouldn’t see them again.

The next morning we took the bus to Pto. Jimenez. We met hno. Martin at the entrance of Nieque. He drove us to Jesus’ house. They fixed the road to his house a little bit, so at the beginning it wasn't as bumpy as usual. We taught Jesus and Belizario about the priesthood. Then at the end we asked Belizario if he had been praying like we had invited him to do. He told us that he had, and that he felt good. I invited him to be baptized on the 4th of January and he accepted. It was the last baptismal date I set, in the mission at least. After saying goodbye to Jesus and Belizario one last time, Martin drove us out to the main road, where we said goodbye to him, and then we met Pte. Conejo and his son Aldair who were waiting for us in their buseta. Pte. Conejo took us back to his house where he fed us lunch, and he told us more stories from his mission or from his world travels. His wife and daughter Megan weren’t there, but we had seen them the night before, because they went to the activity in Rio Claro. After lunch Presidente took us to see Miguel, Alain, Erline and Roxana, and Juan Luis. At each house he told them that I had come to say goodbye, and then he would talk the whole time. Pte. Conejo is so awesome. In the night he left us at Ronald and Lilibeth's house, and we said goodbye to him. Ronald and Lilibeth gave us dinner like always, and Lili's famous Chocolate Milk smoothie. Yum! It was sad saying goodbye to them. They gave me a piece of gold, which is from Rio Tigre there in Pto. Jimenez. They should be married and baptized in this month.

On Thursday morning we took the 5:30 a.m. bus back to Rio Claro. We finished packing, I said goodbye to zona sur as we took the 12:00 p.m. bus to San Jose. We arrived in San Jose like at 7:30 p.m. The fast paced, crowded, and congested San Jose (especially during Christmas) is a sharp contrast from the tranquilo, jungly zona sur I finished the mission in. It made me feel a little bit of what going home would be like (just a tiny tiny bit.) At 8:30 that night I had my final interview with President Galvez.

Friday morning was my last changes meeting. It started with the final testimonies. Since 20 missionaries ended the mission with me, it took awhile. I was one of the last ones to give my testimony. After the final testimonies, came the changes. Elder Taylor took my place in Rio Claro, just as I had predicted. Elder Amador and Elder Dominguez are both training. Elder Perez went up to Zone Leader. The mission is super young right now. And there are a lot of new missionaries coming in. After changes we stayed for a couple hours taking pictures, writing in people journals, exchanging info, and saying goodbye. Then we took a buseta with our baggage to the Ap. house. My bags were already there because I had come the night before. Unfortunately the secretaries lost the keys to the house so we had to wait outside with all the luggage for an hour and a half. In the end we just left the secretaries watching our stuff while we went to visit some old areas. Elder Hanson didn’t have anywhere to go so he went with me to Tres Rios and Cartago.

In Tres Rios we visited Familia Vega, who are doing amazing. Paola and Byron who we taught and were baptized the week after I left, are doing great. Their parents and two brothers are active and well. There brother Stephen is actually preparing for a mission. It’s crazy that when we found them they were all inactive and two not even baptized and now the whole family is active members. They are very thankful and were happy to see me. Afterward we visited Ariel, who was also baptized a couple weeks after I left. He is doing good as well. It was great to see him.

We took the bus to Cartago. When we got off the bus I saw Eladio. We were actually going to go to his house but luckily we saw him in the street because we were really tight on time. Eladio and I waved each other down in the street. He and Arline are married now, and they are preparing to be sealed in July. We went to visit Jessica after that. She gave me a tie for Christmas. We stopped by the church to see hna. Marielos who was preparing for the Christmas activity they were going to have that night. Then hno. Silva drove us quickly to las ruinas where we quickly met Isa to say goodbye. Then we had to take a bus to San Jose again. We barely made it in time to Pte. Galvez's house for our Final Dinner, but we made it. To my surprise, waiting for me outside the house was Bryan, the Dueno from Cartago. It was good to see him, and say goodbye, and it was really cool of him to come and say goodbye. I felt kind off bad because he had been waiting for about 4 hours.

The dinner was really special. President and Hermana Galvez shared many stories with us and gave us a lot of tips. It was also great to be with everyone we had started the mission with. The missionaries in that group going home were Elder Hansen, Elder Smith, Elder Dwiggins, Elder Logan, Elder Lopez-Carrasco, Elder Fotheringham, Elder Brockbank, Elder Christensen, Elder Welton, Elder Davis, Elder Leiba, Elder Christy, Elder Sorensen, Elder Villanueva, Elder Cedeno, Elder King, Hermana Vallecillo, Hermana Hadley, Hermana Hunsaker.

After dinner we said our goodbyes to hna. Galvez and hna. Vallecillo, and elder Dwiggins (his parents picked him up after dinner). That night we weighed our luggage and spent almost all night trying to even out and make each bag under 50 lbs so it could go on the plane. Then went to sleep.

Next morning went to the airport. Called Karen and Xinia in airport and said goodbye. Called Brun and Jasmine but they didn’t answer. At 8:30 am we took a plane to Dallas. It was the first time in the US in two years. It was the first time in an Obama run USA. Didn’t feel the same. jajajaja. Then after having a four-hour layover, Hermana Hunsaker and I flew to Sky Harbor in Phoenix. I sat next to a man named Bret. He is a very large but nice man. His boss is a member and I was able to have a good conversation with him on the plane ride. I invited him to listen to the missionaries when he returned to his home in Texas.

When we arrived in Arizona, and the plane touched down, Hermana Hunsaker and I were super nervous. You first, no you first. jajajajaja. When we walked off the plane and no one was there we were a little surprised. We took a bathroom break and everything. We figured our families were waiting past security stuff, and sure enough they were. When we walked out they greeted us with hugs and tears. My Parents, Sisters, Grandma and Grandpa, Abuelito, friends were there to greet me. I didn’t know what to say or do. I was in shock being home. I still am. But I'm home. I think.

Yesterday morning, I was released by my Stake President. When he told me I was no longer a missionary, I started to cry. That day, at 1:00 p.m. I gave a homecoming talk in my old ward, I didn’t have much time to prepare it, but according to people, it turned out okay. It was really crazy seeing people from the ward that I hadn’t seen in so long. Also to see so many people I didn’t know. Some people that are no longer in The PV ward came just to see me speak. I got to church just before it started so I didn’t have time to talk to anyone before the meeting, but afterward I did. I actually didn’t go to the Sunday school class because people were talking to me. That night I went on divisions with Bryce and the Sister Missionaries. We talk a lady and put a baptismal goal for January. It was weird not speaking in Spanish, but even weirder not being the missionary. I still can’t believe its over.

I loved my mission. Although I wish I could go back and change some things, and although I would have liked to start with the knowledge I have know, I can't. Its over. But I was very blessed to be a missionary in Costa Rica. I worked hard, learned more than I thought possible, had unforgettable experiences, and I saw many miracles. It wasn’t easy, it was very hard, but it was worth it. I love the work, I love the people, and I love the Lord. This is his church. This is his gospel. I am forever indebted to him for the two amazing years he gave me to serve him. Now I offer those years up to him, and I hope that he is pleased. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Marks of a Man

By: David Bryan Viser

As I jumped on board my flight from Miami to Salt Lake City, I paused for a moment to catch my breath. Seated near the front of the plane was an excited young man, probably 19, sitting with his parents. His hair was short and his clothes new and sharp. His suit was fitted perfectly and his black shoes still retained that store bought shine. His body was in good shape, his face clear, and his hands clean. In his eyes I could see a nervous look, and his movements were that of an actor on opening night. He was obviously flying to Utah to become a missionary for the Mormon Church. I smiled as I walked by and took pride in belonging to this same Church where these young men and women voluntarily serve the Savior for two years.

With this special feeling, I continued to the back where my seat was located. As I sat in my seat, I looked to the right and to my surprise, saw another missionary sleeping in the window seat. His hair was also short, but that was the only similarity between the two. This one was obviously returning home, and I could tell at a glance what type of missionary he had been. The fact that he was already asleep told me a lot. His entire body seemed to let out a big sigh. It looked as if this was the first time in two years he had even slept, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was. As I looked at his face, I could see the heavy bags under his eyes, the chapped lips, and the scarred and sunburned face caused by the fierce Florida sun. His suit was tattered and worn. A few of the seams were coming apart, and I noticed that there were a couple of tears that had been hand-sewn with a very sloppy stitch.

I saw the nametag, crooked, scratched and bearing the name of the Church he represented, the engraving of which was almost all worn away. I saw the knee of his pants, worn and white, the result of many hours of humble prayer. A tear came to my eye as I saw the things that really told me what kind of missionary he had been. I saw the marks that made this boy, a man. His feet - the two that had carried him from house to house, now lay there swollen and tired. They were covered by a pair of worn-out shoes. Many of the large scrapes and gouges had been filled in by the countless number of polishing.His books - laying across his lap were his scriptures, the word of God. Once new, these books which testify of Jesus Christ and His mission were now torn, bent, and ragged from use. His hands - those big, strong hands, which had been used to bless and teach, were now scarred and cut from knocking at doors. Those were indeed the marks of that man. And as I looked at him, I saw the marks of another man, the Savior, as he was hanging on the cross for the sins of the world.His feet - those that had once carried him throughout the land during his ministry, were now nailed to the cross. His side - now pierced with a spear. Sealing his gospel, his testimony with his life. His hands - the hands that had been used to ordain his servants and bless the sick were also scarred with the nails that were pounded to hang him on the cross. Those were the marks of that great man.

As my mind returned to the missionary, my whole body seemed to swell with pride and joy, because I knew, by looking at him, that he had served his Master well. My joy was so great, I felt like running to the front of the plane, grabbing that new, young missionary, and bringing him back to see what he can become, what he can do. But would he see the things that I saw, could anyone see the things I saw? Or would he just see the outward appearance of that mighty elder, tired and worn out, almost dead. As we landed, I reached over and tapped him to wake him up. As he awoke, it seemed like new life was entering his body. His whole frame just seemed to fill as he stood up, tall and proud. As he turned his face towards mine, I saw a light about his face that I had never seen before. I looked into his eyes. Those eyes, I will never forget those eyes. They were the eyes of a prophet, a leader, a follower, and a servant. They were the eyes of the Savior. No words were spoken. No words were needed.As we unloaded, I stepped aside to let him go first.

I watched as he walked, slow but steady, tired but strong. I followed him and found myself walking the way that he did. When I came through the doors, I saw this young man in the arms of his parents, and I couldn't hold it any longer. With tears streaming down my face, I watched these loving parents greet their son who had been away for a short time. And I wondered if our parents in Heaven would greet us the same way. Will they wrap their arms around us and welcome us home from our journey on earth? I believe they will. I just hope that I can be worthy enough to receive such praise, as I'm sure this missionary will. I said a silent prayer, thanking the Lord for missionaries like this young man. I don't think I will ever forget the joy and happiness he brought me that day. Well done, thou good and faithful servant!

Went to the Costa Rica Temple one last time as a Missionary

December 14, 2010

This week was really good. On Monday morning we played soccer for p'day. It was the first time I've played soccer in forever. We played with the Ciudad Neily Elders, Golfito Elders, San Vito Elders, some members/RC from Neily, Timoteo, Esteban, Moroni, and even our investigator Mainor. We played in an outdoor futbol 5 (the synthetic fields that can be outside or inside but are smaller and have a net or wall around the field and you pay to play in) for about an hour and a half. The sun was super strong, and because of it everyone ran out of energy fast. It was fun though. I had a got a hat trick (?). Our team won, but it was a close a game. I got sunburn.

After playing soccer we went back to Moronis house with Esteban and Timoteo. We went fishing in their finca. Didier has the coolest finca. They have a lot of land with a lot of things planted. There are many animals in their finca, like cows, horses, chickens, dogs, rare birds, etc. There are also two rivers that run through the finca. We went fishing with bottles and fishing line and bait. Esteban caught a fish in his first attempt, and he flung it out and threw it toward me. We went deeper into the finca to the other river that runs through it, and we tried to catch more fish. We had to walk across through the first river to go to the other one. We saw a crocodile from a distance, but it entered the water and swam away. It began to rain so we went back to the house. We played the guitar a little bit as well.

Tuesday morning we helped Merly build her pesebre de navidad (manger scene). Then I started divisions with Elder Fotheringham, and in the afternoon we took the bus to San Jose.
We arrived there at night, and the next morning we went to the Temple with all the missionaries finishing their missions this month, and with presidente Galvez. It was a very special experience to be able to go to the Costa Rica Temple one last time as a missionary. After the Temple, I went on divisions with Elder Lopez-Carrasco so I could go to Perez Zeledon. We went with Hermana Hadley and Hermana Orellana to San Jose Centro and went to Gringo Alley to buy some souvenirs. Then we went and took a bus to Perez Zeledon. The bus ride was fun, and took about 3 hours. We got home, in time to go home.

The next day Lopez and I ate lunch with the branch pres. in Perez. Next we went to Xinia and Jennifer’s house. We put a baptismal goal with Jennifer for the 18th of December. She is already in 2nd Nephi in the BOM, and she loved church. I know she will receive an answer. Her sister Caroline also agreed to baptism. Their mother Xinia needs to get married or separated. Her companion went to the Elders house while drunk the other night and yelled at them for visiting his "wife". If she gets rid of him shell be set to go. Afterwards, we visited the investigator Andrea. We taught about the sacrament and she is preparing for baptism.

That night we went out with Hermana Hadley and hermana Orellana to go Christmas caroling. We visited some investigators, Menos activos, and Recent converts, and sang to them. We sang decently and had a great time. We had some Christmas Santa hats with lights on them. On the last song we sang (En la Judea, en Tierra de Dios), we did different levels of voices like bass voices, etc. and I did a bom bom bom bom sound on one part as well. When I did this the Hermanas started laughing and almost couldn’t finish singing. It was a fun night. We ate at Pollo Campero to finish off the night. The Aps. came and stayed the night with us.
The Aps. drove us to Rio Claro in the morning for the Zone Training we were going to have with Presidente Galvez. The training was very good. We saw an impacting video about a member boy who wanted to share the gospel with everyone. We learned and practiced new ideas. We also had a game or activity to learn some mission principles. We broke off into two teams, and changed into sports clothes. We had to do running, basketball, soccer, and fly a kite. While doing these things we had to accomplish many things that seemed near impossible, like everyone doing a slam-dunk, etc. but we were able to accomplish everything when we realized what President Galvez wanted us to understand and learn through each of the exercises. We were able to apply many things like how to work in a team, follow the leader, help and want others to meet their goals as well, do things differently or try diff things, how we need to run at the beginning of the month so we can play at the end, etc. It was a great training for the zone, and afterwards we ate lunch at a restaurant in town. During lunch I found out that on his mission, Pte. Galvez had 14 comps (just like me) and 5 areas.

Before pte. and hna. Galvez went back to san José; they accompanied us to visit Mainor. They talked to him, and gained his confidence. He seemed glad about there visit, and we were able to find out that what really might be holding Mainor back is a fear of losing Oli if they get married, because he’s seen others living together for years but when they got married they had problems and separated. He also might have more of a drinking problem then he admits.

That night I went to Ciudad Neily for divisions with Elder Perez. I did Jose baptismal interview. It was the night of "el Tope" from the Festival de los Luces", so no one was home. Everyone was in the street. We contacted a family.

Saturday we ended divisions. Finally in Rio Claro again, we visited hermano Medrano and hno Melvin in the afternoon. Then we went to the church to open for mutual. Only Carla (the yw president) and Rosed (yw) showed up, so we played soccer with them. I was on Carlas team, and Rosed was with Elder Galarza. It was a pretty close game. In the end Carla and I won by one point, at the last second (20-19). Afterward we taught Paola about baptism and she agreed to be baptized in the beginning of January if her parents let her and if she receives an answer. Then we visited Paola and Mia and shared about Christmas and Light. We finished the night by visiting Mainor real quick.

On Sunday I had a talk. I started the talk out by saying, "Hypocritas.........Dijo Jesus a los Fariseos." My talk was about pride and hypocrisy and I kind off chopped the member’s heads a little bit, but they know I did it with love. When I started out with hypocritas... I didn’t really think anyone was going to react, but actually everyone noticed and they laughed in unbelief. During my talk I acknowledged that I was a hypocrite as well, especially for giving that talk. But I exhorted everyone to try to understand others, put on other peoples shoes (not literally), and not get offended so easily. People asked me after why I didn’t say goodbye to everyone at the end of the talk, but I didn’t feel it was that appropriate.

Stephanie also gave a talk about faith. She did really well. After church we had some meetings. Then we went with Pte. Cruz to visit Mainor, Isidro and Julie Segura, and Guillermo and Anais.

Today is Monday and this morning we dug a grave. Its pretty ironic because in mission terms, I'm "dying". The grave was for an inactive members non-member son. He was only 20-years old. It was really sad and weird digging a grave for someone my age. We started digging at 8 a.m. and finished at 12:30 p.m. We had to dig about 8 feet deep. It was hard work because the spot they picked for the grave was all full of big rocks and hard dirt. We had to use picks and shovels to soften it up a little bit. We worked on the grave in the hot sun all morning with 4 other men. We took turns so that no one would die of exhaustion, and we'd have to dig another grave. The end.

I'll see you soon.

Elder Tobler