Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Week 37: Cows and Testimonies

Sorry guys, I don't have that much time today! In summary: God is great and the church is true and we should be patient and dilligent in all things. Prayer is magnificent.

We are teaching the cousin of one of our recent converts. This week we brought Jorge with us to teach his cousin about the Plan of Salvation. It was special because they both lost their moms when they were younger, and my companion has lost a lot of members of her family too. Jorge was able to teach part of the lesson, and my companion and I both looked at each other and felt such joy to see him enjoying able to play this role of missionary and help his cousin! It was a cryfest but it was beautiful. 

Jorge also shared his conversion story, which I had never heard in full before. Turns out he'd had a dream two days before we ran into him in which all his friends had been attacked and killed for hanging out in the street. He said he'd been on the edge of getting into some bad things but felt like the dream was a warning from God. Two days later, in drizzling rain, he left his house to go buy bread. We were coming down the hill, in a hurry, but my companion stopped to contact him as he passed. I thought then that he was just some other kid, but since the first meeting in his house, the Spirit has been so strong. He talked about how he prayed and got his answer, It is so, so incredible, to get to hear a testimony that you helped grow. Just like Jorge said, I know that God takes care of every single one of his children, and he really does answer prayers.

Funny story of the week: We were waiting on a street corner to meet Yosselin to go visit people. But when I see street corner, it's an intersection with one direction of pavement and three directions of dirt road. Small talking with my companion, I see a guy we used to teach walk buy. We say hi, and then he says, Watch out for the cow....

I do a full, exagerrated turn and see this cow just walking up the street! Then comes a baby one, and a teenage boy taking care of them. They're grazing on the side of the street. It's pretty epic. 

I'm standing there in awe, really, really close to two cows, and then a lady walks by. I remember I'm a missionary and should talk to her, and so try to open my mouth to start a conversation. What comes out is, Look, there's cows!

Probably don't have to tell you that we did not end up going to her house to teach her about the gospel. But my companion and I got some good laughs.

Hope you're all doing great! Love you lots. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Week 36: A Collection of Little, Guatemalan, Missionary Moments

This week was pretty normal. Here's a few glimpses of some of the stranger moments:
1. Yosselin's dog
We have been visiting a lot with Yosselin, our amazing recent convert. In fact, she's done divisions with us to help us bring everyone to church on Sundays. Her dad doesn't like her to be out after dark, but little does he know... she has a magic guard dog! His name is Whinnie, like Whinnie the Pooh. He is very muscular and walks like a supermodel, and follows us all over her aldea to the houses of the people we teach. He protects us. Soon we will teach him how to bear his testimony, and give him a nametag :)
2. The 43 cent dress
Have I written about MegaPacas? They're like giant Goodwills, warehouse style. All the clothes are slightly used and imported from the U.S. We went last week on Pday and I found this beautiful, blue polkadotted dress, with the tags still on it. Supposedly cost $63 in the States... I bought it for 3 quetzales, or less tan 50 cents! Also found a teddy bear for my wonderful companion. Miracles of the MegaPaca.
3. Foaming at the Mouth
Last night we went to give the Book of Mormon to one of our investigators. She's 13 and lives with her grandpa, but a lot of her family are recently baptized members of the church. She was there with her other cousin, who's 11. They were very preocupied, looking into this cardboard box... Turns out a spider had bitten their other cousin's dog. It was there, dying, convulsing, foaming at the mouth. Poor pup. We sang it,¨Nearer My God to Thee¨ and offered a prayer so that it could live peacefully its last moments.
4. Signs of the Times
My ex-companion may be the first in our misiĆ³n to start Facebooking! Her back is messed up, so she can't walk that much. The word on the street is that she'll start Facebook contacting this week. Wow!
Not to much to report, just that I know God answers prayers and his love is real. Take care, make good choices, and serve somebody!
Hermana Ison

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Week 35: I Think I Can

Good morning, everyone!

Though I think it's afternoon there.

How are ya'll doing? Sometimes I accidentally say ya'll in English when I'm talking Spanish. ¨Ustedes¨ just doesn't roll off the tongue as easily.

Right this minute, my district leader is talking about how he will be going home in two days. Another elder in our district is also finishing his mission. It stresses me out to hear about it; I do not want to think about ever not being a missionary.

Though I suppose that, even when I go home, I will get to keep being a missionary...

Which, hey, leads to what I wanted to talk about... member missionary work!

Because this week I don't have that much to report. We just put our shoulders to the wheel and lost ourselves in the work, and it was wonderful. We met our zone's goal of finding 20 new investigators this week, and had 17 lessons with members present! All of the people we're teaching who might be baptized this week are close friends or relatives of recent converts. We had 5 people come to church on Sunday, and all of them had a good friend there. It was a beautiful testimony meeting, with complete families going up together to the pulpit to share how the gospel has changed their lives.

It made me so happy to see everyone there, feeling the Spirit, loving being at church. It made me remember that living (and sharing) the gospel shouldn't feel like an obligatory duty, but should be a natural result of having a testimony, an outpouring of love.

I think in the language is where we need to start: in Spanish, it's called la obra misional. That can be translated to missionary work, but a better word for work is trabajo. Obra means more of a grand, great, overarching project. A long term goal, a cause. Not work, like a drudgery job.

If we are going to have success sharing the gospel in this church, we're going to have to do several things.

1. Stop thinking about it as a chore.

2. Strengthen our own testimonies.

3. Love people more.

Strengthen our own testimonies because doing so will help us understand why sharing the gospel so important. If I actually, really believe that this is the only true church, if I know that the priesthood was restored and doesn't exist anywhere else, and if I live worthy to feel its blessings in my life, I'm going to be a lot more likely to want to let other people know about it than if I'm just coasting along going to church because I know I'm supposed to but not really thinking about the doctrine or the teachings.

So, my challenge to every one of you, Mormon or not, is to answer these questions: Do I know what is being taught in my church? Is this doctrine true? What questions do I have about it?

Prayerfully study your questions and analyze your doubts. The truth is not hiding.

And then, we have to love people more because even if we know all the things about the doctrine and believe it's true, we might still be scared to open our mouths and invite others to move outside their comfort zone. But the apostles have promised that nobody will ever be offended by a sincere and respectful invitation to learn more about the restored gospel. Love conquers all. And love for our friends and family, combined with knowing that it's necessary that they know what we do, will help us put aside whatever fear and start the conversation.

Last but not least: I encourage you, also, to finish the conversation.

Lots of times before my mission, I thought it was enough to just have a profound conversation about theology and then go back to the dorm room and move on with life, having invited others to think about ideas new to them.

But that's really not enough, and I have repented of those times that I was scared to do anything more.

I'm seeing in the mission (and recognizing that it's held true in our life too) that as human beings, we generally wait to act until we're invited to. Sad, but true. So... invite people to meet with the missionaries! They're good at extending the rest of the invitations, that will help your friends change their lives if they're really prepared to recognize and live the truth. But we need your help in making that first invitation. People opening doors have a hard time believing that we, perfect strangers with name-tags, love them. But, if you're living like Christ, your friends have already felt your love, time and again.

It might not all be perfect, there might be an awkward moment or two, but if we're respectful and honest with ourselves and everyone else, I promise that everything will work out alright, and we (and our friends) will be happier and more satisfied than we were before.

This is what I want, for Christmas and Valentine's Day and my birthday and everything else... that people at home share the gospel. These missionaries around me who are going home this week will be doing it, and in 10 more months I'll be doing it, but it's a calling for every one of us.

And it's a pure and perfect joy :)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Week 34: Broken Shoes Now in Bronze

I don't know who it was that gave the talk in a Saturday session of conference, but they told a story about a pair of dress shoes all worn-through, from a missionary who was the only member in his family. They had the shoes bronzed into a sculpture, to remind them forever of the importance of hard work.

I like this story because it shows that gloriously working in the vineyard of the Lord is oftentimes not very glorious at all.

When I came on the mission, I was filled with excitement that shone like the tabernacle choir and sparkling clean temple windows. Then I got here, and it was all Spanish I couldn't perfectly understand, dust and exhaust, diseased street dogs. I thought, ¨Where's the Spirit in all this?¨

Then I realized: it's my job to bring the Spirit.

A mission isn't inherently glorious and beautiful and spiritual. It's all those things when and only if the missionaries wake up with the 6:30 alarm clock, study diligently all the time, find the people who're prepared to change their lives, teach them with power and authority, and commit them to change. Then come the smiling baptismal pictures, the friends we'll remember forever, the spirit that tells us the Lord is happy with our work.

We can't just float through life. If we want to be happy, we have to do something about it. We have to take control of our futures, fight entropy. In the mission and in every part of life.

The glorious part is that Heavenly Father helps us in this effort. This week I've been praying a lot of enthusiasm, and it's come. I know that God will help us in whatever righteous goal we have. What we lack, he can supply.

So I encourage you and me and all of us to take a good look at how we're living life, and make any necessary attitude adjustments. It might not be glorious. It might require tearing up a good pair of shoes.

But, after all, they wouldn't be worth remembering otherwise, now would they? :) 

In other thoughts, Josselin's dad came to general conference! Which was beautiful. I'm writing on Tuesday because we had to go to Guatemala City yesterday so they could take my fingerprints. We talked to the guy who was putting ink on my fingers about how baptism is like the lines on our hands. When they're searching for a bad guy, there's only one set of prints that will match. When God is looking to let people into the kingdom of heaven, there's only one kind of baptism that qualifies as the key. He listened to the missionaries a while ago and went to church for four months but didn't want to let go of his Catholic baptism. Maybe the metaphor will stick with him. :)

Well, out of time. Love you guys!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Week 33: Sand in my Shoes

In case you didn't hear the shout of joy - Yosselin got baptized on Saturday! It was her 19th birthday and we celebrated afterward with cake. We gave her a journal with pictures of Jesus and temples and women from the scriptures filled with congratulations and testimonies and spiritual thoughts from us and the members of the ward. She bore her testimony in the baptism and it was beautiful. She was trembling before and smiling to the sky after. She brought one of her friends from school. She's going to be a missionary someday. And I can not even say how glad and grateful I am to have been part of the whole process.

In other news, remember when I told you about Jose, the youth who came out of a ward testimony meeting telling us he wanted to move up his baptismal date? Well, the week after the week he got baptized, he started working in a bus. ON SUNDAY. We were heartbroken, and really confused. He was basically dropping out of school to do it too. Turns out he was helping support his family. His Dad works far away and his mom has to take care of his four little siblings, including a newborn baby that has to go to the hospital far away this week for some tests. But however good intentioned, Jose´s decision was, it was taking him down the wrong path: missing school and church, working in a dangerous position, and helping him make bad friends. We tried and tried to visit him at his house, but could never find him.

Finally, last week we found him and taught him. Turns out his Mom got him to quit the bus and finish the school year (which ends in October). He said he would be coming back to church. We read from the Book of Mormon with him and said we'd pass by on Sunday morning so he could help us pass by with investigators. But last Sunday morning...we found him sitting in what passes for the neighborhood arcade, definitely not in his church clothes, listening to music and hanging out with his friends, not planning on being in church. I wanted to cry. We had felt the Spirit so much with this kid... but the devil was working so hard on him. I felt bad for him, lost in the middle of this world, without any direction from his family, practically having to be the direction for his family. And all we were, two 20 year-old girls in skirts, begging him to come to church.

Well, I bore my testimony with all the energy of my heart, as the scriptures said. I did basically almost cry, but in love for him and hope in God and not in frustration, as I had felt. I don't know how it happened, I really don't know how it happened, but there in the middle of the arcade, with his friends all watching, he felt the Spirit and he came with us. We had to fight again at the door of his house - and when I say fight, I mean to pray and testify and try to help him see what we see, why it's so important - but finally he changed and he came with us. And he liked it, as we knew he would.

On Thursday a brother in the ward passed by to bring him to the activity, and on Friday morning we dropped by and dropped off his white dress shirt, so he can go and feel like the other boys, and someday bless and pass the sacrament. That was a beautiful, beautiful morning, in which he felt the love of God passed through us. At the end he offered a prayer, in the which he said, ¨thank you for the hermanas, that have brought my shirt, which I will use this Sunday and all the Sundays to come when I visit your holy church.¨ There may have never been sweeter words to my ears.

All this helps me understand that there is no giving up on people. So many times I saw that bus pass with Jose inside, and felt a kind of lost desperation: what are we going to do? But we put our shoulder to the wheel, as the hymn says, and let God's words be said. That morning with him, I really felt like an instrument in the hands of God, a force for good in this world. It made me realize that we, all of us, can be that force for good, if we just try. God will put his strength behind us, always, without fail. But how many times do we lose that opportunity just because we think it's too late.

It's never too late. Don't EVER give up on ANYBODY. As the scriptures say, after is a different story, but this life here in the world is our time to prepare to meet God. And it doesn't matter how far away we stray, in this life, He will always take us back into the fold. He will always come looking for us. We can always repent. And we can always help other people repent.

So keep on trying. Don't ever give up. And don't ever think you can't make a difference in someone else's life. You don't have to be a missionary to do it. In fact, it would have been a lot easier if the young men's president in the ward had been knocking on Jose's door on Sunday morning, or if it were Jose's mom taking him to church. We all have a role to play in this world... and the stakes are too high to shy away from it.

On a Lighter Note

Not to sound like a religious infomercial, or the blind preacher begging money on the bus today, I will change to talking about the beach! We went to Champerico, which is one of the popular beaches here, this morning. That's why there's sand in my cute plastic shoes. It was excellent to listen to the giant waves. Hannah Quinn, I hope you looked out the window at the same ocean I was dipping my feet in this morning! Also, I bought a really cool peacock made out of shells to bring home in a year and show you guys, but then I left it in the bathroom and it disappeared. Good thing it only cost the equivalent of two dollars!

I think I've gotten to the point in the mission where I don't know what to say anymore in these emails... I don't always remember that well what it was like before I was a missionary, so I don't know what would be interesting to hear about. Any requests?

An Invitation

General Conference is this weekend! That's when the prophet and apostles talk. For anybody reading this who doubts that there's a real prophet on the earth today, check out the conference, Saturday and Sunday, lds.org. You will feel the Spirit, and learn something you can apply to your life to improve it and feel better about yourself. And maybe, just maybe, you will come to believe in prophets again.

I LOVE CONFERENCE! And I love being a missionary.

Take care, all!

Hermana Ison

Week 32: Pictures from Guatemala