Thursday, June 27, 2013

week 20: A Religious Message

Attention Mormons: Many of you may have watched a broadcast from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve about unifying missionaries and members in the work of salvation. If you have not watched it, watch it because it's amazing and you will probably cry, and because it will help you know what you can do to help the missionaries. You prayers are always welcome, and we are incredibly grateful for when you feed us dinner, but this is the most important thing, the thing that will make you feel right before your Heavenly Father and will be everlasting joy with you and your friends: share the gospel with the people you know.

The word "gospel" means ´good news.´ What do we do when we hear some news? We share it. So let's get sharing :)

Honestly, it wasn't until I came on the mission that I really understood how much of a blessing it is to have this restored gospel. It means that the decisions I make in my life - the morals I have, the service I give - I do because that only true and eternal God tells me to. Not because me or a pastor studies a lot and interprets the Bible and concludes that I should do it, but because God is speaking to his prophets and apostles - who are filling the very same office that Peter, James, and John filled all that time ago - and is guiding us, really guiding us through this life and back to him.

And if you're not Mormon, think about meeting with the missionaries. I'm not crazy, and I'm not here for no reason. This is the only completely true and living church. I love you guys, and for this reason, I'm not afraid to say all this all.

Much love and prayers. Until next week =)

Hermana Ison

Church skits, Radio Indiana, Rain, and Friends

Monday, June 17, 2013

Week 19: Lions, Tigers, and Bears - Guatemala Style

Hello world!

First piece of news: we found two more new investigators this week! They just walked in the front door....

On Saturday, it was a scorpion. The next day, a giant gray spider. Both were poisonous.

We baptized them in Raid.

And they didn't bite us! So I am still alive and we have taken precautions to keep other interesting creations from finding their way inside the house. Definitely a taste of Guatemalan exotic-ness. I thought being in the city would pretty much limit our adventures to cockroaches, but my companion said because of the rain these things came crawling out.

And boy, did it RAIN. We're supposed to be in the house by 8, and on Saturday night we were walking home, only a few blocks from the house when the hour changed. I swear, like a Cinderella story: at the second it turned into eight o'clock, the clouds broke open. We didn't have umbrellas or rainboots, and got SO drenched.

It was awesome.

By the time we got home, it was hopeless, so I danced in the courtyard. They say missionaries can't go swimming, but this was a water park :) (Pictures to come another week.)

Speaking of more serious things, I know I learned a lot this week, but I'm just not sure what. Cambios (transfers) came and went and, pleasingly, everything stayed the same. On Friday we did exchanges with the sister leaders in the zone (which meant I went to another part of the city and was companions with another hermana, who happens to be my first companion, for 24 hours). It was cool to be with her again. We had a ton of fun and taught some really good lessons, including to a precious and prepared daughter of God named Paola, who we met because we wanted to knock on a door that had a video doorbell to see what could possibly be behind the mysterious giant wall. Turns out it's more or less a plantation, with a giant two story house and a big field and tractors and sheds and all kind of things. We sat outside and talked about how Jesus can make all the wrongs right, and while we felt the Spirit a giant, fully-feathered turkey with gobbler and all paced ever closer to us, waiting for the perfect moment to attack Hermana Byington's highlighter yellow backpack. It was very comical, and a fun adventure. We kept him at bay with rocks. Apart from the turkey, I also got a lot of peace from that lesson, not sure why, and even though that woman doesn't live in my area, I came to love her and am praying that things will work out for her.

We have had lots more lessons with the magical family we met last week, who are super prepared except the husband has to stop working on Sunday. One of the things we learned about them, which he shared as a reason for why it's hard for him to leave work and come to church, is that he only makes 40 quetzales a day. He works from 8-5, changing oil in cars. 40 quetzales is like $5. And even though things are cheaper here, they're not that cheap. I was kind of in awe of that for a while, but now... I don't know. One thing I know is that it doesn't change God's promise. It doesn't matter how little we have, if we put God first, he will provide. We have to trust in him. Trust in God. When we obey his commandments, he provides for us. We can't think we have to do everything by ourselves, because he is the one who gives us all. Read Mosiah 2-4.

But that's a lesson that even those of us who've learned it once have to keep learning over and over again, and I think it'll be this hermano's first time. So we're patiently waiting and watching... for him to take this leap and make the sacrifice, and come to church. I think/hope he's going to do it soon.

Also this week I got to bond some more with my companion. She's like 4 ft tall but this week made me feel small a lot. She teaches clearly, with power and authority, and I think I'm learning a lot from seeing her example.

Bueno, I don't have that much more to say (lie, I have a million things to say, just not a ton of time), so I will close by saying I love you all. And I love my father. So much of who he is is why I'm here. Thank you, dad, for everything.

Take care, and until next week,

Hermana Ison

Monday, June 10, 2013

Week 18: Newsflash: God is preparing people A LOT (and I can kind of roll my r's now)

There were about 20 people sitting in the room that serves as kitchen, baptismal font room, and priesthood's Sunday meeting place. They were singing horribly, all of them, waiting for the two kids who had just been baptized to change clothes. I was directing the music.

Which gave me an excellent view of all of them. A baker, a single mom, some returned missionaries reminiscing, two investigators, a computer tech, a grandmother who makes up her own Pig Latin, my companion, some others and me, this really tall white girl who tries to smile a lot because people speaking any language can understand that.

I stood there conducting the music, watching the members who know all the hymns by heart sitting side by side with the investigator learning the hymns with her son on her lap, and the new member of two weeks singing so loud, and so off, but so proud... and I don't know what came over me. Well, yes, now I have the missionary words to describe it. It was the Spirit of God, and it was so strong, it added a very wavering voice to this mix, a horrible but oh so beautiful chorus of praise to our one true God and his restored gospel.

There have been a lot of moments like this, very distinct very different, very detailed moments of pure happiness. I love everything, and feel at home here.

Which makes me pretty sure I'm gonna get transferred on Wednesday. But it's okay, because I've already promised to love with all my soul my new area and the new people there, as I've learned to love here. A friend who's also on a mission wrote me that it doesn't matter if we're the beginning, middle, or end of the person's journey, we just do our part with all our heart and trust that God sees how the whole story goes together. This is so true, and it's something that really helps me to be happy here.

It means that nothing is the end of the world; if a person doesn't accept the gospel, it just wasn't their time yet, but I helped a little bit to prepare them. And if I go to another area and don't get to see them become part of the ward family after weeks of teaching them, it's okay, because I did my part, the middle, and the ward members get to enjoy the happily ever happy, and help with every challenge that passes along that road.

Really, every single one of us is part of a great big web and only God sees how it all works together. So the safest bet is to consecrate our actions to him and trust.. and doing that automatically means we can be happy, really happy, and hopeful, forever, because God is so good.

I'd like to tell you about a few of the people we're teaching.

First miracle: A mom was waiting in the park one day with her two little boys. We contacted her and it turns out they'd moved to the area a week earlier and didn't have any friends yet and were looking for a church. They live literally two blocks from the church. We met with them and then arranged to come back two days later and walk with them to the ward activity (in which I played David and my companion Goliath), and I can not tell you how wonderful it was to get there and see them happy to see us and already ready to go. The mom then went to both the baptisms on Saturday, of her own free will, she just showed up, she got there before us, and then teased us about her not thinking we were going to come, and church on Sunday, and loved that there's Primary and Nursery for her kids. Then we did a family home evening with them with another family in the ward Sunday night. She can't read, but the church has free classes to teach people, and I think she's going to start going. The only problem is that the husband works every Sunday morning. But we're going to see if we can't just teach about faith and sacrifice and the love of God. She's Soila and he's Moises, and they're wonderful.

Hereberto, we found on accident, looking for his daughter (turns out we taught his exwife a few times too). He started drinking a while ago and now really wants to stop and change his life. He's got 10 days and counting of not drinking and is working toward his baptism. He couldn't go to church this week but went to the aforementioned ward activity on Friday (the first day we met him) and played Joseph Smith in his group's skit.

Sandra, who stopped going to the Catholic church 18 years ago when her sister and mom died. She invited herself to church and is coming with us to the Relief Society activity on Tuesday. She has 8 cats, 3 birds, a sheep, two dogs, and... I can't remember what all. But she's so cool. I love her, and was only slightly distracted when all during the lesson a black kitten literally jumped and climbed up my companion's shirt like 7 times. Precious.

Jesus (his parents are named Joseph and Mary, but in Spanish, and he was apparently born on the side of the road becuase they didn't get to the hospital in time) is 17 and a mechanic slash performing clown. His magic shows help teach kids to avoid doing drugs and he's searching for the true church. We go tonight to find out what he felt when he prayed about the restoration story.

There are more but I'm out of time (haha, that sentence echoes my diary entry like every night) and I haven't even gotten to tell about some of the cultural adventures we had this week. BUT it's okay, because you all have a bunch of stuff to do too! I leave the counsel to simplify your life and serve others. I love everything so much, including all of you! Thank you for the letters =)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pictures: a Church Cleaning, a Waterfall Trip, a Baptism, and a Friend

Week 17: Hellooooo Family and Friends!

Hope you're all having a wonderful first week of June! I can't believe I've practically been a missionary for four months.

This week we had a really awesome experience. Well, basically it was the culmination of a month's worth of really awesome experiences, or, in other words, the miracle that is the conversion of a person.

There is this guy named Juan who works in a panederia that we pass every day; I mentioned him last week. Well, this week he got baptized, and received the Spirit and the Aaron Priesthood on Sunday. And bore his testimony. He cried during his baptism, and the look on his face when he got the Spirit was one of absolute peace. He was fasting and has his money to pay tithing in his pocket. The ward members are embracing him and his desire to choose the right, and he's already part of this ward family. It's cool because he's not quite entirely all there, really really close, but just a little different, and lots of people in the neighborhood think of him kind of as this comical character. But he's so earnest, so real, such a precious son of God and now well on his way to becoming a respected member of the church. I love him so much and am so grateful to God for showing me how he really does prepare people to receive the gospel, and for letting me watch how the atonement applied in a person's life can change and improve them so much.

This week we also did service for a family that we're teaching. They'd just moved to a different house and we helped them clear the yard. The house had been vacant for a time so it had tons of trash and weeds and really random things, including a ceramic sheep. We got to wear jeans and get so dirty and I loved it. The elders came with us as well as some YSA from the ward and I showed them all up shotputting a rock. So I have officially thrown in two countries! (How on earth did I miss out on my chance to discus something in London?)

We're teaching the family and it's cool because the dad is really interested (and interesting - he's the dark, gardener, professor type, Guatemalan style) and the mom is actually a member; she got baptized when she was 15. They have two really cute little boys, including a very articulate 5-year-old named Cri, who always demands that we sing a lot of hymns. They're going to come to the ward activity on Friday! It will be awesome... as soon as we plan what we're going to do. As missionaries, we're in charge of it this time around.

I've been trying to do a better job of listening to the Spirit during lessons, and not just forging ahead with whatever I want to say when I want to say it. And now I would write more but I used up some time sending every picture I've taken up til now, so please do enjoy the photos of the waterfall and the baptism of Juan and my companion, who I sware is enamored with the pet bird our neighbors have, and a little old (really strong) woman named Alejandra (every time I hear that name I still think of the Lady Gaga song) who is taking very good care of us and would be your best friend, Grandma. Except maybe not, because today we walked in and she was listening to a sassy pop song on the radio and danced a little for us. She said she can't read, but said when she's alone in the house and said she gets a lot of strength from opening the Book of Mormon on her lap and looking at the letters. We read her a passage and sang her a hymn and then watched with her head poking out the door until we had walked all the way down the street and turned the corner.

Love you all lots, and hope there's been as many blue skies there as there have been here!


Hermana Ison