This week was amazing! And, to top it off, today we went to the Mexican border for P-day! It's a wonderful life.
Here's three experiences.
Turns out Mynor Sr. is a member; he was baptized with his grandma when we was 13 but stopped going to church four years later because he started working on Sundays. Mynor Jr. was born 24 days ago and is the first boy in a family of two older girls.
While we were talking, the wife came out, plus their two daughters and her sister. We talked about the Book of Mormon and had a really nice little lesson, except for when everyone stopped paying attention to what my companion was saying because a dog and a pig passed by, growling and screaming, respectively. I didn't know dogs torture pigs, but this one does, and the mean hound chased a huge, black, muddy big right through the middle of our lesson! Seriously, they ran in between the investigators and us! I think the pigs touched my knees! It was an experience.
That lesson was also interrupted twice by a stray soccer ball, and one other time by a car that sped super fast right by us on the dusty, rocky driveway road where we were sitting. But in the end the family agreed to a return appointment and accepted their Book of Mormon. All's well that ends well :)
For a few weeks, we've been teaching on and off a large extended family. All the members live in bamboo and tarp shacks in the same plot of land. They're very, very poor, but good people.
When we first taught them the doctrine of Christ, they refused to accept it because they are afraid of the endure to the end part. They expressed sincere concerns that if they chose to come to church and be baptized, they wouldn't be able to keep it up for long - that it wouldn't be a real change, or that their carnal natures would get the best of them again in the end.
Nevertheless, one of the dad's brought his son and two nieces to church one time, so we kept teaching them. As we got to know them more, and the lessons got more profound, my companion and I probed to find what it is that really keeps them from accepting the commitments we invited them to do. The majority don't have any vices, they simply don't go to church or pray or anything. We were puzzled as to why they are were resistant to our invitations that they try to change, even when we promised and tried to show them all of the blessings of developing your spirituality and putting Christ in your life.
On Saturday, we had an excruciating, heart-wounding lesson in which we found out why.
I will not tell you all the details, because there's not time and you'd have to have been there and been listening in Spanish to really get it. But I learned something there, and this is something I will share, because it applies to all of us.
When people told me I was going to Guatemala and be teaching humble people, they always said it with a soft smile, implying that people who live in humble circumstances are also, as the scriptures say, ´poor in Spirit´ and rejoicingly receive the gospel. I have often admired elements of the Guatemalan culture, where many people who are very poor don't seem to feel the weight of their poverty. At times because it's all they know and at times because they learn to be content and happy living as they are. We should all try to be happy, no matter what are circumstances are.
But we should never, ever, settle. And that is what this family we were teaching had done: settled. Settled for the worst of the worst, physically, emotionally, and spiritually too. The matriarch of the family voiced some of the harshest words I had ever heard. She said she knows they're going to hell because they're sinners, that we are better people than them and shouldn't waste our time.
Believe me, we fought a verbal war there, with our hearts and testimonies, trying so hard to get those ideas out of her head. We testified and taught that they are children of God, that he knows and loves them, that He is always aware of them. That they are of huge worth to Him. That he gave up His only child for their sake. The Spirit was present, but the listening hearts weren't prepared. We left on cordial terms, promising them that one day God will send missionaries to them again, because they CAN change, and they are of great worth to them.
What gets to me the most are the kids, 10, 11, 12 years old. They always run up to us grinning, asking when we're going to take them to church. We had to tell them yesterday that it'll be awhile, because their parents aren't ready yet. I hate to think of the time that is being wasted in these kids' lives, kids whose eyes are so bright. They haven't inherited yet the hopelessness of their parents, people who have become comfortable with failure, who have lost so entirely their sense of self-worth that they view any change as impossible.
It makes me scared, frankly.
Heavenly Father blessed me with a huge desire to keep fighting, to work for the best, to make goals and meet them. As I've grown, I've learned to loosen up a bit, to be happy where I am. But it's a continual balance to keep.
The warning I want to give now is against conformism. If you're not happy, change. It's that simple. Pray; God really will help you. There is no reason to be satisfied with less than you deserve. Have hope. Things change, and people do too. Even ourselves.
Anything is possible!
Tears Rolling Down Teenage Cheeks
I think I told you about Luis, the boy whose mom died in a tragic car accident a few weeks ago. He didn't actually progress; I don't know why he doesn't want to go to church.
But his older brother, Darwin, is 18 and will be getting baptized in two weeks, if everything goes well. We had a powerful and humbling first lesson with him in which we testified that Christ isn't just a pretty name. He's a resurrected being who made it possible that families can reunite again. I KNOW that this is true.
And Darwin knows it too. He accepted the invitation to be baptized without hesitation, and when we asked him why, he simply said, ¨Because I want to be with my mom again.¨
I don't really have one.
A conclusion, that is. The mission is an amazing thing. I just want to be God's hands on the Earth, however imperfect a tool I may be, for as long as possible. He lives, and he loves us, and everyone has to come to know that.
And not just know it, but FEEL it.
I've been thinking about my brother, who is straying from the path my family and the church has laid out for him.
It breaks my heart, because I know how lucky we are to have been born where and when we were. We are so blessed.
But I understand that coming out here has helped me a whole bunch to know, with 100 percent certainty, that the church is true and the path we're supposed to follow is the only one that leads to happiness. Because it's the path that Jesus Christ has set. The straight and narrow, as the scriptures say.
To realize this, I had to lose my family, friends, culture, language, pastimes, everything. Sure I was replacing it with something better: being a missionary. But I lost those things, my identity, frankly, in the process.
Now I see that my brother may just be on the path to losing those things too, but in a very different way. I hope that his journey doesn't hurt him too much, and that it leads him back to the same conclusion that this life always leads us to: God lives. And we must obey him.
I love you, Sam. No matter what.