Monday, September 23, 2013

Week 31: Playing Baseball in a Futbol Field and Other Amazing Things

Stealing Bases: A different kind of P-day Activity

Somebody found a kids' baseball bat in the MegaPaca (like a giant, epic, Goodwill - Google it) and the mission office randomly has a set of baseball mitts, so this P-day, instead of playing soccer, we did something really American. We found some old cardboard boxes and a beat-up pillow for bases and started in. It was hard to explain how to play in Spanish to the sisters that didn't know, but we went at it.

I think it must have looked funny to the handful of Guatemalan people who gathered to watch us: a bunch of tall youth, some of them still in their white shirts and dress pants, playing a strange sport in the drizzle in a soccer field. Hope it makes them curious enough to open their doors to the missionaries when we knock... :) And it made me content to see, all of us missionaries from different countries with different interests and life stories, but united in the gospel and in this silly game. I love the diversity that comes with being a member of the church on a mission.

But my favorite part of all of this was when somebody hit a foul ball, it went over the fence of the soccer field and into a neighbor's yard... where a horse was grazing. One of the zone leaders was brave enough to hop that fence and fetch it. Dad will be happy to know that I hit a home run. And fought off the elder that didn't believe I could play first base. (¨I'm going to throw it hard,¨ he said. ¨And.... so?¨ I responded. :) Thanks, Dad, for teaching me well.)

And, Happy Birthday this week to Dad and to Robert! They are awesome birthday buddies. I will be eating cake today to celebrate with them in spirit. ....And to have an excuse to buy cake :)

Jorge: A Lesson in Answered Prayers

Maybe the most beautiful thing that happened this week is that Jorge got baptized. He is an 18 year-old kid who grew up without a Dad and whose Mom died 3 years ago. He lives with his 82-year-old Grandpa who always has a cowboy hat, his good-natured but very sassy aunt Heidi, whom I love, and some cousins, one of whom is 10-years-old and a member of the church named Darvin.

On Thursday before his baptism on Saturday we had a testimony meeting in his house with all of those people I just mentioned, plus their awesome dog Sheena, who has two different colored eyes and is my pet amiga. We all took turns bearing our testimonies (except the aunt, who's not a member and makes clear that she's not quite ready to be, but who's eyes filled up to hear everyone's thoughts.)

(Oh, and for not-Mormons reading this, we say we bear our testimonies when we say the things we have felt to be true by the Holy Spirit, like that God lives and loves us and answers prayers and the church is true, or whatever fills our heart in that minute.)

Anyway, we had never heard Jorge bear his testimony and didn't know what he was going to say. He went last, and when it was his turn we all stopped laughing at the joke his aunt had made and waited with bated breath. He looked at us like he didn't know what to do... we just smiled back, nodding encouragingly at him. After a pause, he opened his mouth.

¨The first time after you guys came here, when you asked me to pray, later that night, I did it. And it was like you said, Nefi (his member friend who was also there and bore his testimony), at first I didn't feel anything. But the next night I did it, and that time... I felt, like, a pressure in my heart.¨

The Spirit in that room was so strong. Here was a very precious child of God, expressing for the first time in his life, what he felt when God talked to him. With his friend, we helped him recognize that it was the Holy Ghost. We let him know that as he continues going to church, praying and reading his scriptures he will get better and better at recognizing that feeling.


I have come to realize that God is always trying to communicate with us, but that we have to perfect ourselves, fine tune ourselves, to be able to recognize when he's talking and what it is he's saying. That's why we, normal people, just get feelings in our heart or thoughts in our mind, and people that God, throughout history, has prepared and purified to be his prophets and apostles get to see and talk to him.

So my challenge, for me and all of us, is that we look harder for what God is trying to say to us. We turn off the TV for a while and stop texting, and just go for a walk in the woods and direct our thoughts to him. Whatever inspiration, whatever peace we receive, comes from him.

I love you all, and wish us luck in this. Ready, set, go.

Hermana Ison

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Week 30: More and More Miracles

There is an 18 year-old girl living on the very edge of Armenia, an aldea of San Martin, in Retalhuleu Guatemala, who is changing my life. Her name is Yosselin, and you've heard about her twice already. She followed us in the rain, and then came to the temple. This week she had some super awesome questions, and we answered them in some very spiritual lessons.

Then, on Saturday, she came to a baptism. She cried. Afterward, she was so close to committing to her baptismal date, but then shared with us some of her doubts, and that her family said she's be a disgrace to the church where they go if she got baptized. So we talked, and basically cried, and knelt in prayer together.

She stayed with us afterward for a ward talent show - and she sang! A gospel song. It was so beautiful, I got goosebumps. But then some other acts went on, and they involved pop music and dancing. At the end, she sat there astounded, and told us she didn't want to be part of a church that permits worldly music. (She comes from a religion where nothing but gospel music is allowed, dancing is a huge no-no, and girls can only where skirts.) We explained to her about agency - the ability to choose for ourselves between the good and the bad. And I bore her my testimony that it is not, in fact, easy to be Mormon.

She left not convinced, and we prayed so hard that everything would be okay with her and that she'd come to church in the morning. It took some convincing slash pleading Sunday morning, but in the end she came smiling, and had a spiritual experience. We had a really good lesson with her and her family on Sunday night, and have another one planned for tonight. She told us she's praying hard for her answer, and is confident it will come.

I am too, because God answers prayers.

So we'll see if she doesn't get baptized this week :) Pray for her, please! And for us, so we know how to be good missionaries to her.


The other crazy miracle of yesterday is that we were teaching this 20 year old kid, Jorge, who is about to graduate and be a teacher. Everytime we go it's just a really straightforward lesson, no small talk. We don't have a lot of confidence with him, but we do feel the whisperings of the Spirit in the lessons. Yesterday was our fourth lesson with him and we taught about the moral and behavioral standards of the church. At the end, we were about to finish, and I felt prompted to invite him to be baptized. I honestly didn't think he was going to say yes yet...

But he did! And then asked if he could do it this weekend instead of the one after.

So... I testify to you all that this gospel I'm preaching is true. It changes people's lives and it will never finish changing mine.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, try to apply more his teachings in your life. He's waiting for you.


Hermana Ison

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pictures from Guatemala sent in August

Week 29: Faith, Hope, and Prayer

This week was awesome and crazy. It was my companion's birthday, we went to the temple, and we found out we have changes! I may be training a new missionary, but we'll see on Wednesday.

Also, I can't believe it took me 13 years of reading the Book of Mormon to find out the Alma war chapters are not about literal war. They apply to us today and teach us (or at least this week they taught me) that we can not glory in contention. The Lamanites wanted to go to war for the sake of their pride and bloodshed. If we use biting words or make snappy comments or in other ways show hatred or fight verbally with someone to make them feel bad, we're being just like them. It's better to be like the Nephites, who only picked up their swords to defend their families and freedom. If we have to contradict someone to defend the right, we should do it, but do it respectfully and with honor, with soft words and gestures. Nobody needs another reason to feel bad.

Hope you are all enjoying the beginning of fall! Does it feel like fall yet, or is it still swimming pool hot? I have a feeling I'm really going to miss hay rides and hot chocolate. Also, my body slash mind just like automatically knows it's time to start school and asked me this week why I wasn't there. I told it I had better things to do, and it agreed. Hope everybody at Ball State is adjusting well and having a wonderful time!

Yosselin (the crazy awesome investigator who followed us in the rain) came to the temple with us on Saturday. We left at 5:30 and drove through the mountains in a recycled American school bus as the sun was rising. It was impossible not to marvel at the wonders of God, the mountains and colorful houses and crops planted on a slant, the clouds dancing around the tops of the hills and the sun coming up in the east sky. So pretty!

We woke up at 3 am to go and it was so much fun! But I will never forget standing in the dirt floor doorway of the house where Handry and Celeste live (the teenagers who really want to join the church but have Catholic family) in the 5 am darkness while their Dad crushed all their hopes at the last minute and said they couldn't go. It would have been such an eye opening experience for them. I honestly don't know why they're obedient.

Just kidding, that's a horrible thing for a missionary to say. It's good to honor you're father and mother, everyone should do it all the time. But only God knows why this man's heart is so hard, and we will just have to trust that God's hidden hand will do something good for these children. So they're not going to get baptized, and now he's not letting them go to church anymore. Which means it's just not their time, but I know one day it will be, and one day their father will overcome his horrible alcohol addiction and be happy again.

And maybe, one day, all this family will be seen walking into the temple of Quetzaltenango together. One day...

God works miracles, I just try not to get in the way here.

And also try to put myself in the right place.

Last night we only had 30 minutes before we had to be in the house and were looking for someone to teach. My companion had the idea to pass by with a member who didn't come to church that day. We ended up running into her daughter, who was raised in the church but now isn't going. Standing there in the front of her house, we talked about faither and prayer. The daughter, 22-year-old Ramiro, offered the closing prayer. We sensed it was the first time she had spoken to her Father in Heaven in months. She ended crying, and we gave her strong hugs.

The church is true. And I don't know what else to say. That girl's front step felt about as holy as the temple grounds, with the Spirit so strong there.

Confide in God. Talk to him. He lives.

Love ya'll so much.
Hermana Ison