Monday, April 1, 2013

Week 8 The Stars Are Pretty and Mangoes Fall from the Trees as if from Heaven

There is nothing like Guatemala.

And there is nothing like mission work.

I honestly don't know what to write or where to start. Sorry, I promised myself I'd never send lame emails home from the mission but now I understand: I'm living in this world so different from what I knew before that words don't quite do it justice. Pictures don't either, though I'll send more of those next week.

Most of Thursday and Friday we (all the missionaries in my zone) were sequestered in a church in the center of the city reading the New Testament from start to finish (except we didn't finish) because it was Semana Santa and in some of the areas (not mine) people get drunk, dance with and then burn life-sized, modernized dolls of Judas, and paint murals on the street with flowers. They decided it was better we didn't proselyte through this celebration. Reading the New Testament was good but it made me want to sing Christmas songs. I hope everyone had an excellent Easter!

I am looking forward to a full week of proselyting without interruption. We are teaching this old man named Juan who gives us food every time we visit and is precious. He lives by himself with his cat and likes talking about when he lived in the U.S. His wife lives down the street with his son because she has Alzheimer's. They bring her by every couple days and the two sit on the stoop and talk, but she doesn't remember who he is. He is reading the Book of Mormon and is going to be baptized toward the end of April.

How I just wish everyone in the world would read the Book of Mormon!

We had a kid this week (18 years old, Luis) who wouldn't read it. Just wouldn't. We opened it up to read it in the lesson with him, but he said he didn't feel the Spirit. It was apparent he wasn't trying to. And that's fine; honestly, I get that. He's been raised with the Bible and now here's this 'new' book and he doesn't want to dishonor God by reading something that might not be true. But the thing is, it IS true. And you can never, ever know that if you don't read it with an open heart and mind.

For my not-Mormon friends: the Book of Mormon is a collection of writings of ancient prophets that lived in Americas at the time the Bible was being written in Europe. It was buried in the earth for centuries and translated - not written - by Joseph Smith. Do you believe God would communicate with all his children, not just some in one part of the world? This book, just like the Bible, talks of Christ. It's purpose is to help people be closer to Christ.

I know it sounds far-fetched, but I also know it's true. And I know too - and trust - that Luis will read the Book of Mormon at some other time in his life, and then it will make sense to him. He's such a cool kid, it was just hard to see him not want anything to do with this. Because I know he would love it! But I get why he didn't want to read it, and that maybe was even harder, because I could just as easily be in his shoes (orange crocs) as in my dusty black flats, and then I would probably be turning the missionaries down a lot less politely than he did.

Which is why I'm so grateful for Grandma's however-many-great grandparents, who had the courage to step outside their own religious comfort zones and investigate this something new. I'm grateful that their hearts were open enough to feel its truth, that they were brave and faithful and strong enough to leave England and immigrate to the US for this, knowing it was directly from God. Coming to Guatemala is hard enough, I don't know about crossing the plains.

And I'm grateful for Mom's parents and grandparents, who have found and held on to this truth - all of which culminated in my being here, preaching what I have had the privilege to come to believe and know as I've grown, with time, in a setting much more gentle than two missionaries on a doorstep and the dog barking and the kids hollering for more tortillas. People who can recognize truth in that kind of setting amaze me.

When we got to the CCM, the president of it told us that our 'placas' (nametags) carry two names: that of Jesus Christ, and that of our family. And that no matter how our family is, we're here today because of the decisions they made. I don't think I've ever realized and felt that as much as I have here in the mission, and not just because my family is Mormon. The way they are and the way they raised me to be... I miss you guys (immediate and extended and the friends that count) a lot.

When Oprah came to Ball State she said, about her life and success, ´I feel like I've been carried on the backs of a whole bunch of ancestors who never got to have a voice.´´ I sure hope that my family feels like they have a voice. Now is my chance to add to that voice, proclaim to the world, and, right now, to every single person in Mazetenango, Guatemala that the world is a beautiful place, that God loves us, that his true church is on the earth once again, and that there is so much hope to be had.

I hope ya'll feel like that. God bless.

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