On Saturday we had lunch with a drunk man and a Bangladesh illegal immigrant.
And the elders. And a convert of 8 months who's kid entered the mission field this week. It was quite an experience. We ate carne asada, which is like steak with onions, guacamole and tortillas.
The drunk man (husband of the convert mom, and not a member yet himself, for obvious reasons) wanted to exercise his English skills. (Why do all the men here speak English better than Spanish when they're drunk?) And the immigrant, who is 25 and has the goal of getting to the U.S., only knew Bangkol, a teeny bit of Spanish, and a bit more English. The elder from the Dominican Republic knows a bit more English than the Mexican elder, and my Nicaraguan companion chimed in periodically with ¨What's your name?¨ To say the least, it was a very international, and very noisy, meal.
Hearts of the Children
The church in the area of Central America has a plan that every organization should be actively working to reactivate (bring back to the fold people who have stopped coming to church) a certain number of people and families. As part of this project, every companionship of missionaries gets assigned five households of people who are already members but have forgotten why, or stopped coming for whatever reason, to work with.
Here in Pajapita, the majority of the 15 families we're working with as missionaries (because we're three companionships) are families in which the mom and children go, but the dad doesn't. We're assigned two like that, and they just really get inside my heart.
The mom in the first family is named Maria. She has four kids ages 8-16, and one husband who fell away a few years ago and now has a horrible gambling habit. To compensate, she works evenings selling chicken and fries in a stand in front of their house. We stopped there the other night, asked when the dad would be home so we could visit them all together. It was a question that none of them could answer.
The mom in the second family is named Thelma. She has three kids, but the only one I know well is Faviola. She's 9 and severely physically and mentally impaired. The dad in this family is married to his wife in the temple, but hasn't come in years and we don't know why yet. This Sunday, Thelma gave the lesson in Relief Society, and it brought tears to my eyes watching all the sisters pull together to take care of Faviola while Thelma shared her message.
Then on Sunday we went to New Beginnings (a recognition program for the young women in the church) and I was astonished to see 20 girls there. They sang and shared their messages and the Spirit was SO strong. But when I looked around in the audience, only about half of the parents that should have been their were there. Many aren't members, or aren't active.
These youth are so brave. And these lonely moms too.
It's hard to be the one in the family who's strong in the gospel. But it's so, so worth it.
I just pray, and do all I can, to help these beautiful people feel the Spirit enough to stay strong.
It can be pretty depressing to be a missionary when nobody comes to church, and I've had plenty of Sundays like that in my mission.
But this Sunday was a record: ELEVEN people visited with us, and among those 11 were 2 families. I really don't know how it all came together, I'm just so grateful to God, and super excited to show that gratitude working with my companion as hard as we can to help these people come to know and accept the restored gospel.
I love you all tons, and miss you.
P.S. Highly recommend the half hour film: Finding Faith in Christ.