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,
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.