Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wee 39: Gathered in His Wings and the Words of Scripture

I remember being 7 years old, sitting at the kitchen table, imagining in my mind while reading for the first time in the scriptures where Christ talks about gathering his people like a hen gathers her chicks beneath her wings.

This week I got to read that scripture again, for the second time in Spanish. That afternoon we had a lesson with some people who live really far out in our area, who don't have running water, just wash their clothes in the river a stone's throw away from their front door.

While we were waiting for the lady's sister to get done washing her clothes in said river, we sat on a little wood bench on her front patio and watched the mama hen look over her little chicks as they wandered in the grass and pecked up their food.

There was a moment of silence, and in that moment, tears unexpectedly came to my eyes. I looked around, at the wind moving the trees, heard the sound of the water on the rocks, saw the chickens so patiently going about their normal lives. I thought about how there have always been chickens, in pretty much every part of the world, all throughout time. The moms have always gathered up their little children.

I tried to pick up a little black chick. It flapped it's winglets and the mom looked around, eyeing me carefully. What are you doing with my child? she seemed to say.

In this mission, in this part of the world, there are chickens everywhere. In almost every house you visit, you'll see chickens. And I'm starting to see that what eight-year-old me thought was a fancy poetic metaphor for the way God is, is really the simplest description He could have put in the scriptures. Everyone here gets it, and I get it now, now that I get to watch chicks wander in the grass and sit bin my lap.

Sometimes we feel like the scriptures are limited, or exclusive, only for the learned and wise. But they're for everyone. For eight-year-old me who only knew carpet and libraries, and for 80-year-old Guatemalan women who only know chickens. God knows every single one of us.

MIRACLES for Jesus

So there's this guy in my area who claims to be an assassin, or like Indiana Jones. His wife and kids are members, but not super active...there was always the problem of their dad in the way.

He wouldn't get baptized, and he wouldn't get baptized. The companion I had when I got to this area had pretty much given up on him. He always talked in vague language, alluding to things in his work from the government that kept him from making a covenant with God. They live in the middle of nowhere, but have Mayan artifacts and internet in their house. It was very strange.

Then one day my new companion and I saw him drunk on the back of somebody's motorcycle, and it all made sense. Turns out he was into his vice, and into it bad. For weeks at a time he'd be in his house, just drinking, peaceful but useless, occasionally turning on very loud music, sending his 10-year-old son out to buy liquor for him. A 15-year-long cycle, and one that his wife was losing hope would ever break.

On Wednesday, in our ward-missionary correlation meetings, it was announced that the Hermano Ramiro wanted to be baptized as soon as possible. The day he always said would come finally came. He broke, and discovered how to be whole.

I don't have pictures because he actually got baptized with the elders (the latest in a long string of investigator stealing), but I don't think a camera could even capture the feeling of joy that was there that day, when Hermano Ramiro accepted what his family had seen a long time ago: that we are nothing without Christ Jesus.

Somehow, bloodshot hopeful eyes looked good in white, and there was a humble determination in them that I had not seen for a long time.

Recently I've seen a lot of baptisms for obedience and because this is the true church, but this is the first one that taught me so strongly how much we rely on our Savior. I want to bear my testimony to every one of you that Christ lives, and he makes the difference. He atoned for our sins, and we could not make it back to God if it weren't for him.

Learning to be like him is how we qualify to enter into his presence, and practicing the self-discipline and sacrifice it takes to be even a little Christ-like is how we become the kind of people who could possibly feel comfortable in his presence. I don't know why it is that we always feel closest to Christ in the most desperate moments of our lives, but I do know that means he's there. Because when we hit rock bottom, like Hermano Ramiro did, there's no one else with arms long enough to pull us up.

It'll be a long, uphill climb to heaven for Hermano Ramiro - but isn't it that way for all of us, in one way or another? The good thing is that Christ is there for us every step of the way. If we just open our eyes and throw away the sunglasses of our pride, to be able to see him clearly.

Hymn of the Week: I Need Thee Every Hour

Love you all,
Hermana Ison

P.S. In other news, my companion killed a three colored lizard and I didn't help at all! And, we had a really, really spiritual lesson with three young women, the young women president and her family, even though none of the girls decided to be baptized. I'm so grateful for my youth leaders who worked so hard to cultivate environments in which we could leave behind all the worldly thoughts and electronic devices and just feel the Spirit, to learn how to recognize it, to learn for ourselves that God is there. The Spirit is a cleansing, life-giving member of the Godhead, and I'm so grateful that God sends it to us. Just now I'm realizing how essential the experiences of girls' camp or youth conference are - and how much responsibility I have as a missionary to try and recreate that for the investigators in lessons, investigators who've never had anyone talk to them about the Holy Ghost before, let alone been to an amazing youth conference. To all my cousins and friends back at home still in or approaching the age for the youth program, I say this with respect to the activities: GO! Your future happiness and salvation depends on it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Week 38: Weddings and Ferris Wheels

Wow, what a week! I don't even know where to begin... If I could paint this email like a movie, I'd give you a montage of us carrying stuff through the fair. That would about cover it.

The Fair

It all started with the smoothie stand. It showed up in the main street, just shy of the Catholic church and the city park, ten days ago. Street vendors with tacos and tortas and beer shortly followed. Then kiosks selling candy and knick-knacks.

San Martin only has like three main roads, and one and a half of them are now taken over by the fair, which sounds cooler said in Spanish: la ferria.

The crowning adornment of the now transformed town was the five-day long construction of a ferris wheel, There's a big one for adults, made of metal with peeling paint, fluorescent lights, and giant speakers blaring rap music tied on the sides. It towers over the little town, it's base literally one block from our front door.

Completing the picture are some tents where you can play foosball and car racing games. There's also two little ferris wheels for little kids that teenage boys push because they don't have motor, and an assortment of merry-go-rounds for toddlers, a couple of stands with a rip off lottery, and a frightening table where anyone can buy all kinds of tequila.

We've also been witness to parades with dancing horses. One of our investigators, who's 13, competed to be the fair queen.

All in all... it is quite an epic experience. I've basically been living on smoothies and pizza and cotton candy. And it's been quite interesting to have to walk through the fair everytime we want to go anywhere.

Like, for example, on Saturday...

The Wedding

For two months, we've been teaching this lady named Sandy, who's really cute and petite and listens to We the Kings and Red Hot Chili Peppers and sells whole chickens in a room they rent in one of San Martin's side streets, cutting them forcefully with a giant knife if somebody just wants the leg or breast. (We always teach her there in the store; I think I've come to be an expert in dissecting chicken just from watching.)

She's six months pregnant and living with a guy named Juan Luis, who got baptized like seven of ten years ago but stopped coming to church like five years ago. One day the wife of our ward mission leader was passing by and he told her she should have the missionaries come by because he wanted to start coming back to church, now that he's about to be a dad and has his business going and everything.

So we started teaching him and even more to his wife, who wasn't a member but did have a strong desire to be baptized. She accepted everything really well. They even found a girl to work in their business on Sundays so they could kind of keep the Sabbath day holy. And at first they weren't so sure about getting married, but, in what was kind of a miracle, they prayed and accepted that they ought to do what God wants.

So they decided to get married! The wedding was Saturday, and it was beautiful!

But it was a lot of work getting it that way. It required like 117 balloons, yards of crepe paper, an impatient lawyer from Reu, help from Yosselin, and too much time taken out of proselyting.

We had to carry multiple things through the fair, starting with a giant round cake pan full of batter, going from panederia to panederia searching for someone to bake it for us. Then we basically ran to one of the aldeas, and ran back, carrying 15 feet of PBC pipe. That was fun to take through the fair. Honestly, I think it was great advertisement: everyone watching the Mormons carry their random items in a hurry to the church.

But it was fun, and in the end it was all worth it. The couple got married and were so, so happy.

Almost as happy as the elders, when we let them race-pop 117 balloons.

Sandy got baptized on Sunday morning, in the worst-attended baptism I've been part of. Only 7 people were there, but it didn't matter because the Spirit of the Lord was present.

I am so grateful to be a missionary, for all the adventures and for the everyday moments too.

Life is a beautiful thing. (Especially when there are smoothies, which we're going to go buy right now...!)

Love you all!

Hermana Ison