Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Week 70: Three Weeks Left (and my companion is counting it down)

Hello, world!

I am feeling fine and fresh today! Our zone got invited to the mission home for Pday today; we watched a movie and had lunch and played volleyball in the sand all afternoon, and it was oh so relaxing! How nice it is to sift sand between barefoot toes after walking around in dress shoes all week.

Speaking of feet, I thought of you all during Sacrament Meeting yesterday when I noticed and wanted to share this one detail: the brother serving as the usher at the door to the chapel had on a holely white tshirt with a tie painted on it. And he didn't have on any shoes. 

I noticed his big hairy toes standing out against the tile floor as we walked in with the investigators, and thought, "Good! This is how it's supposed to be." How many times, as missionaries, do we tell people that it doesn't matter what clothes they have on as long as what they have in their heart is a desire to worship God? Finally, someone understood. Now, this man has been a member for awhile, and I do believe the bishopric noticed the situation and found someone to give him some shoes after the meeting. That's how it's supposed to be, Christian kindness in action! But it made me think of Alma's words to the poor among the Zoramites in Alma 32-34 in the Book of Mormon. It's good to be humble. It doesn't matter what we wear to church, as long as it's our best.

And we go to church for God, not for any other reason. If we stay home because we're worried about what people would think of us, that's pride and a lack of faith in the Lord, who loves us unconditionally and is the only one who really matters. 

One of the less active girls we brought to church on Sunday got to live that learned lesson firsthand. We went to her house to wake her up before church in the morning, and she got up very obediently and got ready. She was sleeping in jeans and a tshirt on a mattress on the concrete floor of her family's one room house. To get ready, she washed her face and changed her jeans, but then she came out, embarrassed. "Sisters," she told us, "I don't know what to do, I don't have any other shirt but this one and it's got stains," gesturing to the bleach spots on the front.

In that moment, I knew why Gabi hadn't come to church any of the other Sundays before when we had come to wake her up, and I repented from having assumed that she just didn't want to get up early. We gave her a great big hug and told her God would not be worried about her shirt. She went inside and came back out again with her hymnbook, which she carried in front of her, hiding the stains, all the way to the chapel.

I love 14-year-old Gabi Ramos.

In Other News...

They say that the end of the mission is always full of challenges. I didn't believe it before, but now that I'm passing through all of them, I can't say it's not true. Satan wants me to go crawling home, but what he doesn't know is that I will endure to the end with a smile on my face, and my back straight, all the way to the airplane!

Challenge Number 1: Dengue

Never in my mission have I had to stay inside and rest from being sick. I've gotten sick, but God has always blessed me to be able to rest during the time allotted in the schedule to rest, and I've been able to proselyte during proselyting hours. I wanted to do the same with dengue fever, and happily ignored my companion's warnings that I should rest!

Well, I made it through 6 days without dying, but when we got to the district meeting on Tuesday and the mission nurse was there, I just collapsed on her shoulder, defeated. They took me to do a blood test, and low and behold, I had half the white blood cells a normal person should have. Which meant a day and a half of proselyting lost resting in bed, drinking this gross hydrating water stuff called Suero every two hours. (The coconut flavor doesn't actually taste too bad, if you drink it cold.) I missed my mom a lot, and watching movies on Grandma Ison's couch.

My companion steadily refilled all my water bottles with an "I told you so" smile on her face. She taught and told me, rather forcefully, that we should not be prideful. Sometimes our bodies just get sick, and like it or not, we have to take care of them. 

Afterwards, Heavenly Father taught me that I have to remember that all flesh is in his hands. On Friday, the first day we could proselyte normally, we saw so many miracles, had lots of lessons with members present, and found six new investigators! 

I know that if we are patient in our afflictions - even more patient than we think we need to be - the Lord will do the rest. Doctrine and Covenants 100:15, "Therefore, let your hearts be comforted, for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly, and to the santification of the church."

Challenge Number 2: Baptisms

So, it's really cool when missionaries go out with a bang. My trainer finished her missions seeing six converts being baptized in her last month alone. I wanted to give that kind of a gift to the Lord.

But it looks like He has other plans for me. 

We're having the hardest time getting people to come to church. Try as we might, try whatever we can...nobody much seems interested. It's been like that for a few weeks. And then, this week, there came a new challenge:

Never in my mission had I had to tell someone they could NOT be baptized...until now. 

Remember that miracle person, the boyfriend of a church member who came to us one Sunday night saying he wanted to be baptized? Well, turns out he just wants to do it so his girlfriend will marry him. He doesn't actually believe that Joseph Smith saw Jesus Christ in a vision or that the Book of Mormon is true. But as his girlfriend won't marry him if he's not a member, he's trying to manipulate the system.

We had kind of an ugly lesson with him in the room with the baptismal font, which ended in us proclaiming, "God will not be mocked!" He was trying to give us an ultimatum that he had to be baptized on Sunday, "yes or yes." But we patiently explained that there is an order to the things, that this is the true church, and that he will recieve his own testimony if he searches dilligently and prays with faith. 

So, he's reading a chapter of the Book of Mormon a day, and we're praying hard for him. 

Challenges Numbers 3, 4, and 5

I don't have time to tell you them, and you don't want to know anyway! Just trust that life in the mission is good and glorious, as always, because it is. Carrying Christ's name on my chest is the greatest privelege anyone could have, and I have made myself the promise to honor this sacred responsibility with the necessary gratitude and love, all the way until the very last second.

Mom will be sending you details of the Travelouge we're going to do when I get home. Until then and always, I welcome your prayers for the people of San Sebastian, Retalhuleu, Guatemala! 

There is a God above, and he has all the time in the world for each and every one of us. 

Hasta pronto,
Hermana Ison

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