Monday, August 26, 2013

Week 28: Yosselin

Hey everyone!

This week was my birthday and it was super fun. I woke up to my companion tickling my feet and shouting, ´I'm going to turn on the light! Look there!´ She'd made me a sparkly purple birthday poster and attached some chocolates. :) Then we opened the package Mom sent me and ate Reese's Cups. Woo!

The best part, though, was definitely that everyone gave me hugs. And said God bless you to have lots more cumpleanos. But not, like, cheesy and fake. They looked in my eyes and really meant it. People are genuine here. With great big hearts. We should learn to be more like that more often in the States.

Challenge for the week: if you can, when you're making small talk with someone sometime this week, make them stop and feel the moment. Look in their eyes and don't think about anything else in the world except what they're saying to you or what you're saying to them. That's how I felt when people throughout the day were wishing me happy birthday. And that's how I hope all our investigators feel when I'm teaching them.

At night, we went to the church where three of our investigators were at a youth activity to eat cake and celebrate with them. They put me in the middle of a circle and sang to me, and then everyone gave me a hug or a handshake. My companion almost stuffed my face in the cake but did not get away with it! I shared with them my testimony of missionary work and of letting God work miracles in your life and it was just a beautiful, peaceful moment. I would have more birthdays in Guatemala if I could.

The major amazing awesome miracle of this week is Yosselin (Jocelyn - I'm still getting used to Spanish spelling). She's one of the five children of the man Hoel (spelled Joel) I told you about last week. She's 17 and super active in her Evangelical church. She's read the Bible and studied it a lot, and loves everything to do with God.

And doesn't reject us.

Sometimes people get so learned they think they are wise, as the scriptures said, and refuse to believe that the message we're sharing can help them. But something I've learned is the people who've studied the most are the most able to accept this message IF they're humble. Because they already know much about how God works and how to feel the Holy Spirit and how to recognize truth - they can easily recognize that what we're sharing isn't a lie and isn't just pretty words... it comes from God.

What's hard is to change. Because no matter how humble we are, admitting everything we've known for all the time before in our lives isn't everything - and admitting this by changing your religion (a big part of who you are and how your life is) in front of friends and family, who often judge a little more freely than maybe they ought, to put it nicely... it's difficult. But Yosselin can do it, I know she can.

This week we marched through the pouring rain and six inches of rain and mud to get to her street, where we're visiting two households. We knocked and knocked at both doors, but nobody answered, including at hers. We turned around and marched back through all the mud in the pouring rain to another investigator's house, thoroughly drenched (which is the norm, but I point it out now to add drama to the story.)

Ten minutes later, we're about to knock on the door of the other investigator, and I look up: waving us down, the only person in the empty river-street, wearing an over-sized yellow raincoat, is Yosselin.

Her brother had gotten home and said he'd seen us walking away. She'd ran out and followed us all this way, ¨because you're going to answer my questions,¨ she said.

I don't think I'd ever smiled wider in my life. This week we've had some incredible lessons with Yosselin, not just about Joseph Smith and the Restoration, but a lot about faith. Whatever disappointment I've felt in this mission, the love and joy and strength of the Holy Spirit I feel watching her conversion wipes it all out. These are the moments that make the mission.

These are the moments that make this life.

I invite you all to step outside your comfort zone like Yosselin is doing. She is an example to me, and should be to everyone of us. If it's the gospel you need to explore, or something else, just do it. And let God help you with it.

You're all wonderful. I miss and love you. And I love being a missionary.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Week 27: A Candlelight's Glimpse

It was my first real lesson in a home without electricity, and one of the most spiritual experiences in weeks.

We found these two teenage girls, Handry and Celeste, contacting in the street one day. It was like my third day, and we just passed by really rapidly and invited them to church. They accepted, but in a whirlwhind of learning streets and names, I quickly forgot about them.

My companion did too, and we didn't pass by to bring them to church that Sunday.

It was a Friday or Saturday of the next week when we were walking one day, and my companion literally stops in the middle of the street and kind of screams.

¨Those girls!¨

Of course, I don't remember, but somehow she does and the next day we find their house. The mom and dad are sitting on the rocks out front, talking to a neighbor. All the kids happen to be home, and we share something with the whole family. Sometimes this companion and I don't always manage to teach with great unity, but this time, yes. The Spirit was SO strong. I walked away knowing I was leaving sacred ground.

The girls couldn't come to church that Sunday, but came to Young Women's and a baptism this Saturday, and church yesterday. We stopped by in the afternoon to see what they thought and how they were feeling - we had already invited them to be baptized once.

Lo and behold, the whole family was there again. (This is kind of a miracle. Apparently a lot of elders have visited this family in the past, including our current district leader, but they could rarely find the mom at home, and only met the dad once.)

It was about 5 o'clock and raining, so kind of dark. They lit a candle, and I brought out my little flashlight and we settled down to talk about why we have to be baptized in water. (The family is Catholic.) Turns out that the grandma of the girls wanted them to start Confirmation classes this Sunday, but they went to church instead. The mom, who is amazingly prepared, said she had always wondered why in the Catholic church they don't baptize in the way that Jesus was, and that it was the decision of the girls. The girls, glowing in candlelight and with the Spirit, both said they felt really good when they went to church, like they were already members. They agreed to be baptized on the 24th.

Only the father was left to give permission. He stood silent against the wall, his arms crossed. We asked him what he thought... Silence.

Again... silence.

The member who was visiting with us just happens to have been Catholic... and went to the same Catholic church building as this family like 10 years ago. She bore her testimony.

The Spirit was SO strong.

Two neighbor girls, friends of Handry and Celeste that we taught once but who have never been to church, spoke, and said they want to be baptized too.

The Dad said he felt like it was fast, he's going to talk to his wife and give us the answer to night, at a family home evening with the bishop.

I know this church is true. I know this whole family can be baptized, and am so grateful for the girls for being so apt to feel the Spirit and brave to set the example for their parents and their two little brothers. I am so grateful for the missionaries who came before us, who prepared this family to reach the true church.

Nobody said missionary work wasn't messy, but it sure is beautiful. And you don't need electricity to see and feel the light of Christ.

Love you all.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Hermana Ison at Work

Week 26: Bryan's Prayer

He's got 10 years and 1 eye going for him.

And his name is Bryan.

It looks like the first baptism I will help out with in my new area (San Martin, close to San Felipe, for all those who will Google Earth it) will be of my new biggest hero, 10-year-old Bryan.

While he doesn't have a lot going for him (nobody knows who his dad was, and nobody knows where his mom is now; he's been growing up with his great aunt, who can't read, since he was 1), he does have the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has been a gold-wrapped gift from God to teach him in these days, when my companion is having some serious health problems with her back and we had to go to the mission office several times. Every time we come back to teach Bryan in his aunt's humble home, I feel a really special spirit. If Christ were to come again right now to my part of Guatemala, I thin Bryan would be one of the very first children to sit on his knee.

We teach him about the Sacrament and why he's going to get baptized, and who prophets were, and what life after death is like, and he listens politely with a 10-year old's embarrassed, I'd-rather-be-playing-right-now smile on his face. But when he answers the questions, in his one good eye (he lost the other a month ago in a nasty accident with a clothes hanger), I see a lot of light and hope. And at the end of the lesson when he prays...

¨Heavenly Father, thank you that the sisters could come. Thank you for my aunt and that my cousins are here. Please help me to be a good boy. Help me to be baptized on the 10th. Help them to put my eye in on the 20th- Please bless us that we can have enough food. And please bless the sisters. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.¨

More of less, that was the prayer we got to hear yesterday. Maybe you didn't cry just reading it, but if you'd been there... This is one very special kid. And we have such high hopes for him. I know with what he will learn in the church, he will grow up knowing who he is and that he has at least one set of parents (the Heavenly ones) who love him very much. With this knowledge, he will be able to overcome whatever obstacles that await him. Maybe, one day, he'll be a missionary. And then, maybe one day, he will be a father. Who will love his wife and children very much.

Maybe the world can't see it right now, a one-eyed child playing marbles in the dirt, but God knows it, and me and my companion know it. This kid could change the world.

I love you all, and am out of time. Last thing: The holiest place I've been this week was a baby shower the Relief Society had for a new mother. They played this game where basically they had to go around in a circle giving advice to her about the birth and the first few days with her kid. Somehow, basically every single comment, turned into something spiritual. Pray before going. Sing hymns to him. Thank God for this gift. Etc, etc. The spirit came.

Please be nice to people and remember who you are... and who you can be.

Love always,
Hermana Ison