Monday, November 14, 2011

It's Been the Best Two Years!

Dear Family and Friends,
Well its super crazy thinking that this is going to be the last time that I write to you all as a missionary. For me the past 2 years have past by faster than I could have ever imagined and honestly it feels like it was just a short time ago that you dropped me off at the sidewalk at the MTC. A lot has changed in that time, cause when you dropped me off at the curb I was a fat, loud, dumb kid. In the past two years has truly been a learning experience for me. I have learned so much of things that I do and don’t want to do with my life. I have learned a new language and hopefully I will be able to use that in my profession or something like that. Also I have gained a greater testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have studied and prayed about it in both Spanish and English and there is no doubt in my mind that it is true.
Being here in Costa Rica preaching the gospel every day for the past two years has truly been an eye opening experience too. I have come to love the people of this country so much especially the members of the church who work so hard to help the church grow and grow. I think the hardest thing to leave behind will be all the new friends I have made, members and missionaries. I want to thank all of the family members and friends who have supported and prayed for me in the past two years. Honestly I haven’t had too many trials here in the mission. I only got sick like twice and it was only lasted for like 4 days in total. I’ve never been assaulted or anything like that and I’ve only received minor verbal abuse/teasing. And I feel like I've had lots of success in inviting people to come unto Christ and receive his gospel. I credit my safety and my success to all of your support, prayers and faithfulness.
I am so grateful for this opportunity that I have had and I’m so grateful that I will be able to safety return home and begin my life all over again. I have missed you all so much and in the time I have been here my love for all of you and grown so much and I cant wait to see you all next week and be able to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. Sorry Nick that you wont be there, but hey I had to go through it and so you will be able to do it and I’m super excited to be able to talk to you on Christmas day!!!! Love ya Bro!
So next week is the big week and like I have said in basically every letter I've ever written that I'm super excited to come home and I'm pretty trunky right now Haha!!! Well there is not too much more that I'm going to write, but to finalize the last letter that Elder Anthony Smith will write as a missionary, I'd like to share my testimony that I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the true church of Christ. I know that it was restored to the earth by a Prophet, Joseph Smith, who was called of God. I know that Thomas S. Monson is God´s prophet on the earth today and that through his words we hear the words and will of God. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that it contains the fullness of the Gospel of Christ and that it was translated by Joseph Smith. By reading and applying its words in our lives we will obtain more happiness and peace in this life and Salvation in the next life. I know that Christ lives and that through His atoning sacrifice we can all repent of the mistakes that we make and receive forgiveness. And I know that through covenants that we make in Holy Temples that we can be together with our families for all eternity. (That would be the next covenant that I would like to make haha!) And once again I would just like to thank the Lord for this opportunity that he has given me to serve the Ticos of Costa Rica. It really has been the Best Two Years!!!!!
Elder Anthony Kent Kohkonen Smith

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Second to Last

My Former Name -- Ha Ha!

Dear Family,
Hey everyone, guess who will be home in 13 days!!!!!! Yah!!! Anyway I’m glad to hear that you are all doing well. Sorry I didn’t write you on Monday, but we have P-day today because we went to the temple. It’s crazy because next Wednesday I will be going to the temple with all the missionaries that leave with me and President Galvez so that will be fun. BTW the temple is right by the airport and so I saw a ton of planes taking off.
Okay so last week was super busy. Elder Stevens and Elder Cuellar who are in La Campiña were teaching this mom and her two daughters. So they had been teaching them for a few months, mostly the daughters, because the mom didn’t want to get married to her boyfriend, because he was treating her poorly, but he supported them financially. So like a month ago the Elders taught the law of chastity and the mom was there and heard the lesson. So it turns out that the next day she kicked her boyfriend out, who actually turned out to be a married guy who was just using her. So this is where I enter in . . . when I did divisions with Elder Stevens and we went to her home for an appointment, she explained to us that she had not been living right and felt awful. She said that the missionaries had brought peace into her house and that she wanted her daughters to be baptized. She told us that she was condemned, because of what she had done, but nothing would make her happier than to see her daughters baptized.
So we talked to her about the repentance process and that if she had the desire and the determination, she too could get baptized with her daughters. Then we went and bought them a bunch of food because she was in the process of finding a job. Well like a week or two later she had a falling out with a church member and didn’t want anything to do with the church but she would still give her daughters permission to get baptized. I’m kind of jumping all over the place . . . so two weeks ago I was on divisions with Elder Johnson and we went to do the interviews for the two daughters, who by the way are ages 18 and 10, and they passed the baptismal interview.
Just as we finished their interviews, the mother returned home. When she got there, I just felt super weird . . . I couldn’t even look at her. I just had this feeling like we had to get out of there like right then. So we said a quick prayer with them and left. Afterwards the other Elders told me that they had felt something really weird too. We told Elders Stevens and Cuellar that the next day they might want to bless the house and also give the mother a blessing because we were pretty certain that there was an evil spirit in that house. So the next night we get a call from Elder Stevens telling us that they had gone over to the house with a member of the bishopric and they blessed the house and I think they also gave a blessing to mother (don’t exactly remember right now because it was like 2 weeks ago). After they finished the blessings, they felt that the whole spirit of the home changed completely. Then the Elders left to go buy some more food for the family since the mom had still not found a job.
As they were coming back, the member of the bishopric told them that they should invite the mom to be baptized with her daughters that same Saturday. She had heard all the lessons and was reading the Book of Mormon. So they invited her to be baptized and when they did she just smiled and said she would love to. So the next day I had to go back to La Campíña to do the interview and I was pretty nervous, because the last time I was there that whole weird feeling had kinda scared me. As we were traveling there, I said a prayer and when we walked in their home, there was a definite change in the spirit. I did the baptismal interview with the mom and to make this long story just a little shorter she passed. We were pretty happy about that, but then on Saturday which was my birthday, I get a call in the morning from Elder Stevens telling me that he had just gotten a call from the mom and she said she couldn’t be baptized that day. Elder Stevens tried to ask her why but she said that she couldn’t say why until that night just before the baptism. So that night I talked again to Elder Stevens and apparently what had happened is that the day before, Friday, the mom had gone to some work agency so that they could help her find a job. As she was talking to a employee who was in charge, he made some inappropriate advances. Well she immediately got out of there and felt so bad afterwards. She told the missionaries that she felt like she couldn’t get baptized because she felt as if she had broken the law of chastity. When Elder Stevens told me this I felt happy. I knew that meant that she now understood the importance of that commandment because in the past she had a lot of problems with it. So she talked with the bishop and he helped her work things out and she got baptized that night with her two daughters. So yeah, that was pretty cool!
 Okay I know that I’m not going to be home for two more week and that I need to stay “focused,” but honestly I’m super excited to get home and I just want to tell you of some things I would like so that you have time to get everything prepared.  I would love to have a nice fresh batch of scotch-a-roos waiting in the refrigerator. Right now just remembering the fact that I haven’t had one in almost two years is trunking me out of my mind. Also if you would be so kind as to order a Pepperoni Pizza from Papa Murphy’s (if they don’t exist anymore I think I will ask President for an extension) waiting in the fridge so that I can cook it and eat it. I think those two things right there will make this whole two year mission thing worth it. Haha!
Also I will also be bringing home some of my favorite snacks from the mission unless they get taken away from me, I don’t really remember what they do and don’t let you bring on a plane, but just to be safe I’ll put them all in my checked baggage. Also I have learned how to make some pretty good Costa Rican dishes in my time here so we can do that when I get back, basically all we need is rice and beans and maybe a few other things. We can do that after Thanksgiving though, because the last thing that I want to see sitting on the table Thursday November 24 is a plate of rice and beans. (And I’m not being sarcastic here.)
So yah I’m pretty excited to get home. The mission is and has been the coolest and most fulfilling experience that I’ve had so far in my life (I think it will rank in third right behind marrying the hottest girl ever and becoming very successful) and even though I kinda wish it wouldn’t end, I kinda realize it is time to end so that I can focus on other things that are very important to the eternal welfare of my soul (aka getting married. Haha!)
I would like to say something to Spencer and Landon too. I would like to invite both of you to serve a mission. Spencer you only have three years and Landon you have 7 years to prepare yourselves. Basically you only need to do 3 things . . . read the scriptures every day, pray every day, and go to church every Sunday. Oh and go to seminary and actually pay attention. I promise you that if you just do these things, then when the time comes you will be ready to serve a mission. Also I will help you with whatever you need!
And Nick you got to keep going strong. The first 6 months of the mission are the slowest because you’re still getting used to it, but now that you have passed that, it will go by super, super, super fast. I know that’s super cliché, but it’s the truth--it does go by super fast!!! So work hard every day in order to find those people who are searching for the gospel. I promise you that if you just focus on your missionary purpose than before you know it you will be writing a letter like mine getting ready to come home.
Wow I think this is like one of the longest letters that I’ve written to you in my whole entire mission. I love you all and I am super excited that the next time that I write you will be my last.
Love Elder Anthony Kent Kohkonen Smith

Monday, October 31, 2011

My Favorite Time of Year

Celebrating my birthday -- I ate a whole pizza!

Dear Family,
Hey I'm glad to hear that you are all doing well and that you had fun eating cake on my birthday. Oh and mom thanks for the picture of you and dad making out, that really helps me stay focused on my missionary purpose. Julia, now that volleyball is over you have a full year to train and get ready for the next year. Sorry that your coaches weren't the best. You need to play a sport that has no school funding, like lacrosse, so the coaches just play the people who are actually good. Anyway the highlight of this week was turning 21 YAY!!!!! The night before my birthday I couldn't sleep at all which is weird cause I never have trouble falling asleep. Well I decided to listen to that tape you guys sent me where you all talked and I listened to it like 4 times in a row. Haha I miss you all a ton and am so excited to see you all in 3 weeks.
For Diego and Mayela and their kids threw a little birthday party for me. We ate dinner and they had a cake! It was super awesome of them to do that. On Wednesday it's Mayela's birthday and so we are going to buy her flowers or something. Also Happy Birthday Grandpa Kohkonen!!!!! I know it's coming up soon on like the 6th or close by that!!!! So right now I don't have a lot of time to write you guys cause I have to go to the zone council/leadership training meeting that's going to be today and tomorrow. Yay, it's going to be my last one and I'm excited But afterwards I'm going to write you again with more stuff that happened this week and I'm going to upload more pictures. I took a ton more bowling pictures and I have pictures of my birthday. Love you all, Elder Smith

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm Almost 21

Thought I'd take photos with cool cars for Landon!

Dear Family,
Hey so this letter is going to be super super super short, cause I have to go do two baptismal interviews right now and than meet with my ward mission leader. So this week was really good! On Sunday I saw sunshine for the first time in like 3 weeks. It lasted for about 15 minutes. It has been raining here everysingle day and I'm kinda getting sick of it. But hey in 4 weeks I wont have to deal with rain anymore, just snow! 
On Saturday we had a super awesome ward activity. It was a cultural activity and there was food from a bunch of different contries, like Mexico, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Also members sang songs and danced. Also there is a Mariachi group from our ward and they performed some songs. The investigators that came loved it!!! 
Also this week Luis Diego´s Grandmother died and so to cheer them up I made cookies and then we showed them some Mormon Messages. One that talked about hope by President Uchdorf, one by Pres. Monson called What matters most and another one by the Prophet where he shared a story of visiting a lady whose son died in the military and he shared his testimony with her of how he knew that she would see her son again. They loved it!!!!! Also I helped them set up Skype on their computer so they could talk to family that live in Nicaragua. So ya this week was good. 
So today for P-day we had a super fun activity we went bowling. I did pretty good and I took a ton of pictures. Afterwards we went to Price Smart and ate pizza and I basically ate a whole pizza myself. So I think that I'm going to count Bowling and Pizza as my birthday present!
I'm doing really good and just trying to finish the mission strong. This week I'm going to be doing divisions with Elder Johnson and that's going to be really fun. So I hope you are all doing well and I hope you all have a good week. Love Elder Anthony Smith,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Keepin' Busy

I can still pound it!

Dear Family and Friends,
Wow thanks for all the letters this week. It took me about 30 minutes just to read them all. Thank you Aunt Paulina, and Caroline, and Grandma for the letters. I’m also really excited to see everything this coming Holiday Season. Speaking of holidays, Mom in one of your letters you asked about Halloween. Well here in Costa Rica there are a lot of super suspicious people and so basically Halloween is considered to be a holiday celebrating Satan . . . which is totally different from how we view it at home . . . Halloween was one of my favorites growing up. 
Anyway I hope you all had a lovely week. I’m glad to hear that you are all keeping busy. The best way that I’ve learned to not get lazy is to just stay busy, busy, busy. Landon, I’m glad to hear that your playing Jr. Jazz and I know that your not the most aggressive kid out there, but just keep practicing and you’ll get better. Start watching more basketball (I don’t know when basketball season starts, but watch it.) Julia don’t worry that your coach got mad at you for going for the ball, at least you’re trying hard and that’s all that counts.
I think that the Christlike attribute that I have developed the best in my mission had been patience, because there have been some times where I have wanted to get after people. Especially when I was a zone leader and missionaries didn’t want to do anything but be lazy and not try to help the zone out. But in those moments, I would calm myself down listening to Stormlight by Precious Waters and thinking of an effective solution that didn’t include losing my cool. Dad, keep up the great work and thank you so much for the sacrifices you have made for our family and even though I didn’t always make it easy, I’m very grateful for all that you have and keep doing for us. Mom I think that I need to thank you the most, cause you are basically the only person who has written me every single week for the last two years and I love you letters, mostly cause they are very detailed and tell me what is going on back at home and with the family. Thank you very much, oh and thanks for that picture, cause it was very funny. BTW lax training begins soon and I can’t wait.
So yesterday was a very good Dia de reposo. In church there were a lot of foreigners in attendance and actually I got to translate the whole sacrament meeting for an older gentleman. Translating is a very mind-boggling experience because you have to pay close attention to what is being said, process and translate it in your brain and then say it out loud all as it is happening. So when you screw up, you just have to keep going on, kind of like you just keep going on if you screw up playing the piano during sacrament meeting. It was a fun experience though. One of the people who talked was an foreigner who is on the High Council and he gave a great talk. He talked a little of how we can gain more faith through constant Scripture study and prayer. FYI it is a lot easier to translate from Spanish to English when a foreigner is speaking. Also President and Sister Canga who are part of the temple presidency came to our ward and bore their testimonies because they are going to be finishing up their temple service here. They are really amazing people and actually after church we ate lunch with them. Every Sunday we eat lunch with the Familia Fernandez and they are temple workers and so they also invited Pres. and Sister Canga to eat also and so it was fun to chat with them for a while. They are from Argentina.
So this next week is going to be really fun, because I’m going to be going to La Campiña to do a few baptismal interviews and then Elder Jessop, one of my ZLs, is going to be coming to my area to do divisions with me. Divisions always make the week go by faster and they are always full of awesome, spiritual experiences. BTW last week they changed up my district. Before it consisted of ten Elders, which wa the biggest district in the mission and just a little bit smaller than one of the zones that we have here. But now it is my companion and me and the elders from La Campiña, who are Elder Stevens and his hijo Elder Cuellar. Well I love you all y espero que tengan una linda semana!!!!!!
¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡Les Quiero Mucho!!!!!!! Love Elder Anthony Smith

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Can't Believe I Only Have A Few Weeks!

My Best Friend in the Mission, Elder Sirrine's last week!
Dear Family and Friends,
Words cannot begin to describe what it feels like to come to the end of a mission. Basically it’s like this, I want to come home, but at the same time I don’t. I mostly don’t wanna come home because of all the amazing experiences that I’ve had and all the amazing people that I’ve met in these last two years. Honestly its going to be a lot harder to say good-bye to the mission than it was for me to say goodbye to you all at the MTC (BTW that was a pretty trunky movie you had on a certain wall mom, probably shouldn’t be watching that kinda stuff--haha). But at the same time I’m ready to come home and be a normal person again. I’m super excited that I got into BYU and mom I’ll send you Elder Sirrine’s address so you can contact him. BTW he goes home tomorrow and I’m going to miss him a ton. He has been like one of my best friends for basically my whole mission. Oh and ya I’m definitely am not going to be dorm-ing on campus with a bunch of pre-mission freshman, so please look into the off-campus apartments. In the spring semester, I’m going to room with Elder Montierth—he gets home in March so I just need to find somewhere to live for the winter semester (maybe grandpa and grandma’s house hahahaha.)
So yes you can officially start to get trunky now and prepare for my arrival. I sent you my flight plans and it looks like I’ll be getting into Salt Lake around 7:00 pm, so I don’t know if that would give us time to get me released that night. Oh and Spencer you might as well move out of my room now. Oh and I hope nobody has messed with the boxes that I left because I know what’s in them!!!
So we had changes meeting today and I am going to end the mission in Tirrases and with Elder Pastrana. He is super chill, a little too chill, and he is also very loud and sometimes can be a little . . .  but hey it’s only 6 more weeks and then my next companion will be a hot wife (haha).
We are working with about 3 families still and so hopefully I can get at least one more baptism before I leave. What I’ve seen from my mission is that during the first year I baptized a bunch of people. The second year I think the Lord wanted to see how I would work even if I didn’t get to directly see the fruits of that work, because after I left Pococi and San Vito, we were teaching a bunch of people who eventually got baptized a few weeks or months after I left. Also with being a DL and a ZL, I have worked with a ton more people and so even though I haven’t personally baptized as many people as I did my first year, I feel as if I have work effectively and well.
So this is a short note cause I ain’t got too much time but I love you and I can’t wait to see you in 6 weeks or 41 days or 1000 hours – Ha ha! Oh and a girl (I mean a sister) that I went to Viewmont with just started the mission today. I didn’t really know her that well because she graduated a year before me, but she did have a couple of classes with me so that’s cool! WELL, LOVE YOU ALL!!! Elder Smith
P.S. Sorry Nick if this letter makes you think too much about home--just keep working and soon enough your time will come!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Last Drive to Share the Gospel

Family and Others who will be reading these letters for the next 7 weeks,
Wow this week was pretty awesome with General Conference. We truly heard some amazing talks by inspired and wonderful leaders of the church. And I was pretty sad when it was over because it’s my last conference as a missionary. This conference was actually pretty crazy because on Saturday morning they weren’t able to get the conference in English, so we went to President Galvez’s house and I got to watch the morning and afternoon sessions on a huge flat screen while sitting on a really comfy sofa so that was pretty nice. Also since we were at President’s house, we got to eat there too instead of going to KFC and Hermana Galvez always has the best food. For the Priesthood session we watched it in Spanish, but it was still pretty good and right now I am putting it on my Ipod in English so I will listen to it again tonight.
After the Priesthood session President took all us missionaries out for ice cream at Pops so that was awesome too. For the Sunday sessions they finally got it working in English at the church so that was amazing. Also there are two girls from Bountiful that are here in Costa Rica for a few months with some humanitarian thing so they were there too and actually they are the first non missionaries that I have seen from Utah in almost two years so that got me thinking about home. So all in all it was an awesome conference and I loved basically every talk and even though it got me excited for home, it gave me a super huge AMINO BOOST TO FINISH THE MISSION STRONG!!!!
Also last week we had an awesome Zone Conference with President and the AP’s. We talked a lot about how to make better plans and execute on the plans that we make and that was the subject of one of the conference talks (don’t remember who, but is was good). As a zone we are going to have a competition this month. We all brought ties and we wrote what personal goals we have for the month of October. Then we tied our ties to a ¨Title of Liberty¨ and so every time we contact a family or put a baptismal goal or baptize someone, we get to put a hole in our tie and whichever companionship has the most holes at the end of the month wins and gets a free dinner from the ZLs and President. So that will be a fun competition.
We are teaching 3 families right now. We are still working hard with Diego, Mayela and their family. We just need about 3 more weeks for all the divorce papers to finish and then they can get married and baptized. Also we are teaching a family, Juancarlos and Mireza. They are super cool, but they need to get married and Juancarlos is a little reluctant, but last lesson we left the family proclamation and committed them to read it together and pray to know if they need to be married. Also we are teaching the boyfriend of a recent convert, Marlen. His name is Carlos and they really want to get married and we are going to put a baptismal goal with him this week.
It was kind of sad this week though because a couple weeks before conference, I always like to share the story of King Benjamin talking to his people from his tower, because it’s kind of like the first General Conference ever. I basically teach this lesson to everyone--members, recent converts, less actives and investigators in order to get them excited for conference and this will be the last time that I can teach it. Actually, the last people we taught it to were Diego, Mayla and their family and for me it was a little sad, but oh well.
So I am doing really well and oh, I forgot to tell you that with the money that I have pulled out in the last little while, it has gone to help members get new scriptures, Liahona subscriptions, hymn books (because there aren’t any ward supply and so everyone basically has to bring their own) and stuff like that. There are a couple members that work in the temple and when they go, I ask them to get stuff for converts, and less actives so hopefully that is okay.
Well I hope you all have an awesome week and I can’t wait to write you again!!!!
Love, Elder Smith