|pizza dinner with our zone leaders — one of our church meetings got canceled, so a member took us out to eat (it's called super pizza, and it happens to be super, super good)|
hola familia,The days are passing even faster here in the Yucatan, and I can hardly believe that half of my small time here has been spent in the same little town in this corner of the world. We have cambios again the following Sunday, except this time instead of hoping for another city and new people, I find myself hoping for one more round of six weeks here in Mulsay. I like how familiar the bus route has become that passes right outside of our four-room house; my ears have grown so accustomed to the sound of an oncoming bus that I can now successfully gauge the exact time we need to leave our house in order to catch the first route in the early light. I like how familiar the streets have become, how I have memorized the numbers and houses and colors of each one. I like how familiar the people have become to me here — the worker in Crunch that gives us bread every time we pass by; the seventy year old man that always rides his bike with his broken sandals and white plastic bag hanging from the handles. I think my heart will miss it — I think I will miss it a lot — because I am already beginning to hide away all of these streets and conversations within the corners of my heart.
|Familia Gamboa (minus her husband, who was working) outside of the temple. Their children are the cutest (Alejandro y Allison)|
|taken minutes before Hna Guerra killed a tarantula (is that how you spell it?) with a brick. It was huge and we were scared and also we felt so sad after we killed it|
The heavens here continue to rain and rain and rain. It makes me happy when the skies are cloudy and when everything takes on a gray color with the hidden sun and dark sky. Because of the rainy season our home has become somewhat of a sanctuary to some new friends — the most recent being Gadianton, a black lizard the size of my finger that literally has no fear of humans and thinks he can study with us by our desks and scavenge whatever we don't eat (and yes, we named him Gadianton after the Gadianton robbers in the Book of Mormon...and yes, maybe this means that I have too much time on the mission). We have grown accustomed to our new pet and were a little concerned when he didn't return one day and then I started to worry that I had accidentally killed him like I have done with all of the other lizards that had tried to created a house within our home, too. But then he came back the next day and we were secretly happy.
With the welcoming of a new pet, there weren't too many things this week that compared in excitement except for: being caught in a bus race and the ward primary talent show. The bus race happened twice, and both were a new experience for me. You would think after nine months here I would have known what a bus race even was, but Wednesday morning we got on the bus like we do every day, only this time the bus driver was ushering us in like our lives depended on it and then went racing to pick up the next group of people waiting. Apparently the bus drivers here always want to outrun the other so that they can get the most people on their bus (i.e. the most money). It was actually hilarious to be standing in a bus crowded with people who were struggling to stay standing as we raced through neighborhoods and cities in order to outrun another oncoming bus. Our bus driver ended up winning. Both times.
The stake primary talent show was also pretty spectacular — as in, no one usually comes to activities but this time the cultural hall was absolutely packed. My favorite acts included a glow in the dark robot dance and a finale solo to a Mexican country song (yes, the eight year old was dressed up as a cowboy and yes, it was a love ballad and I loved it). It was kind of like America's Got Talent. As we were sitting there with a few of our investigators, I started thinking about how much everyone just wants to be known — for their name, for their talents, for their works or for their brilliance. The other Sunday, the youngest son of the Familia Cano wrote ´´Jonathan estuvo aqui´´ on the abandoned white board, and I laughed because it is the same in every single country and every single city and every single classroom — people always write their names on things that will eventually not be there, but for some reason they want to leave behind a sign or a part of them that can be seen and remembered by at least a few passing people. It made me think about one of the most glorious truths of the Gospel: that we are known and loved and seen by those eternal eyes of our Eternal Father; that He knows us more for who we are than for what we have done and that He knows us more for what we have said in love and patience than for what others have seen us do. I think that Christ is the greatest example of being rather than doing, in the way that I don't think those people who had real faith followed Him because of his miracles but rather because of how he made them feel and the type of person he was. He knew the things that really matter and that are really measured — the things that may not count to others, but that God notices and measures and admires. How grateful I am to believe in a God that loves me most for who I am and what I am becoming more than what I have done or am doing.
Okay, sorry for the random order of this email and for thoughts that I hope have at least made some sense. I miss you dearly and love you even more!
The rainy season has officially begun, which has been a nice change from the 100 degrees we usually enjoy (plus it kind of makes me feel like I am at home/makes me want to stay in all day and read a good book in my hammock). This week was full of a few changes: new weather, new investigators, new challenges, new rules (the mission changed the rules of P-day — we used to have meetings every P-day in the morning, and never had a lot of time to do anything else after. I guess Hna Garcia wants the missionaries to be happier/smile a little more here, so they gave us the whole entire day on monday to have P-day and it is glorious. We love it and are filling every hour with things that we could never do before, i.e. morning runs in Centro, morning breakfasts from the bread vendors, small shopping excursions, etc.).
This morning Hna Guerra and I fulfilled our long-time dream of running through Centro in the rain. We finished our run with a quick trip to the museum, which changed my life and has now inspired me to study Mayan history and the Mayan language. But really. Why have I never studied the history of the Yucatan before? The museum was full of paintings depicting the wars that had ravaged this part of the world in the earlier years. There was one painting I liked the most, one that depicted the eagle and serpent from the Mexican flag. Confession: I have never liked the Mexican flag. Maybe I thought it wasnt even cute. But after seeing this painting which depicts la lucha eterna of Mexico and reading its description, I have changed my ways and like the Mexican flag. Maybe I even think it's cute now. And all this is because I discovered that the eagle represents good, and that the serpent represents evil, and that together they tell of the constant fight between good and evil here in the Yucatan. It made me think about how all the stories from the beginning of the world have always been stories of good versus evil, right versus wrong. It has been that way since the beginning, I think, even before we came to this world. Because wasn't there opposition in the same minute that God presented His good plan to us in the heavens? I think it is interesting that every good and great story has included the fight to do what is right in opposition of the wrong, and that everyone always wants the good to win. I was thinking about this a lot this week, because we experienced a lot of rejection and had a lot of lessons with people that just didn't really understand why there has to be just one church if they think they are already okay and saved and with God. It was kind of frustrating. Actually really frustrating. But today in a museum in the center of Merida, God reminded me that there will always be right and wrong, and hard and easy, and good and bad, but that good will always win, because the good has won since the beginning of everything and has always overcome the bad in every story written in every book. So I guess at the end of the day it will always be right to be good and do good, and that in the end, good will always win.
Love and miss you a lot and always, but am so happy to hear that the wedding was beautiful and happy!
|Tony's baptism! His friend David baptized him; David was baptized exactly a year ago, |
and tomorrow he's leaving on his mission to Mexico West — how beautiful is that?
Q&A because dad asked and I am going to be obedient and respond:
1) Elder Bednar experience: this will be a story that will have to be told once we are together as a family again so that we can sit down and talk for quite some time, but for now just know that it was one of those experiences that reiterated the eternal and glorious truth that God knows and loves us in a very real way. I am continually in awe of those apostles and prophets that work as Gods hands, because even with their great responsibilities and burdens and all those other things that a general authority would have to do, I have always heard stories and have now seen how they fulfill their callings in a very personal and kind way — kind of how I imagine Christ would. (thanks for sending me your love across the border, dad; he showed me the picture of you at work and I might have started crying, kind of maybe sort of).
2) my 79 year old companion: so I don't have a favorite companion, really, because I have loved and learned from every single one of them, but I think I missed Hna Soriano the most when we had changes and she went back to working in the offices. This is probably because she is so, so good and kind and faithful and funny. She filled our little house with light and faith and knowledge, and I think I want to be like her when I am 79 years old. She went to college three times. THREE TIMES. First for accounting, then for psycology, and then for computers. Yep, I think she has three master degrees? She got married when she was forty years old, had one child, and then her husband passed away from heart problems eleven years later. She has been alone for most of her life, but has filled her years with so many of the best things. I swear everyone knows her in Mexico, and everyone missed her a lot when she left our area. She's just that type of person that leaves people better and a little fuller.
3) current comp: this week I found out that she dated the most famous trumpet player in Panama. That just about sums up how cool she is. She is the first missionary in her family because her parents are both converts. Her mom is part of a native tribe in Panama and speaks some crazy tribal language that I can't remember the name of. She speaks both English and Spanish, and so we get to speak English quite a lot (yay). She teaches in a very real way, which I love and am learning a lot from. She is always happy, loves contacting people en la calle (which I don't like doing, so we balance each other out well), and has a knack for killing cockroaches and cleaning bathrooms. I love her.
4) being in the same area my whole mission: I have loved being here for so long, even though I didn't feel that grateful or happy about it in the beginning of my fourth transfer here...but within these last months here in Mulsay, I have been able to know and love the members here in such a deeper and wider way, and I was able to be at the baptisms of all the people we had been teaching for awhile, which made me happy. Also, if I hadn't stayed here in this transfer I wouldn't have been able to meet and teach the Familia Gamboa, a family that has changed the whole mission for me and my understanding of the importance and greatness of families. They are so, so special to me — there is something really different about teaching an entire, complete family. Something more joyous and sacred. So, I am happy to be here and have learned to trust in the wisdom of God's timing, because it is always better than our own and our own idea of plans and the future.
5) biggest barrier with investigators: everyone is Catholic here, which is more of a name than a thing they actually do. This makes it hard to teach them in a way that they can become converted and really change, because it is very much a "traditions of their fathers" type of situation. Sometimes I wish that God had sent me to a place where not a lot of people believed in God so that I could help them build their faith from ground zero. Because here, everyone has faith. Everyone likes listening to the words of God. But not a lot of people like changing.
Okay, there are still many more questions that will be answered but for now know that I miss you and love you and am slightly upset that we now have a truck and I am not there to finally fulfill my lifelong dream (seriously, did no one understand that this is a LIFELONG DREAM OF MINE). Keep it safe until I get home....
|Angel, with his baptism certificate. He is the cutest and has an attitude, but we love him.|
|Rene with his DNA school project. He was pretty proud of it.|
|Lupita and her bread. She is so, so good.|
|Esmeralda & Marilyn, who got baptized el cinco de Mayo.|
|a pretty wooden chair|
|a new dessert experience en la calle|
|nightly car adventures with our mission leader and his family|
|rainy skies plus calle|
|celebrating her one week mark with a yellow wall and hamburgers and shakes.|
dearest family of mine,
Today we stood in a crowded calle for exactly thirty minutes while waiting for our bus ride home. The sky rained until the streets became rivers. We held two 20 lb. cardboard boxes of books that became heavier the longer they weighed us down — but I guess that is what seems to happen with anything that one holds for too long. Hna Guerra stood beside me the whole time, speaking broken English and laughing at the fact that none of the buses wanted to stop to take us home. Have I told you how much I love my new companion? Her name means "war", and every time I see those six letters on her name tag I think about the book title War and Peace, because that is what she is — strong and ready, but also calm and steady. I love her. She is so good and kind and fun. When a kind bus driver finally stopped for us, we boarded another crowded bus full of people that we don't know and have never talked to and who sometimes never look at us for fear of inviting a conversation. In these two moments — waiting on the street and standing in the bus and being soaking wet from the Merida skies — I thought about how happy I am. It is a strange thing, being so happy while doing something that is so very different and other and hard. Because that is what a mission is: hard. And exhausting. And long, sometimes. But then there is that principle of opposition in all things; that principle of joy and eternal happinesses and real things opposed to those sadnesses and worldy things. I thought about the scripture that mom gave me one time that talks about being joy-full,
These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11)
That is what I feel, a joy that is in me, that stays and that is real. It really is a fullness. I think it's mostly because I just really love the people that God has given me here. Hna Lupita came with us to visit some of our new investigators on Tuesday. She wore the jean skirt and high heel shoes that she always wears for special things, along with her crocheted bag full of her Book of Mormon and new hymn book that she likes to take good care of. She talked to us about her thirteen chickens (not twelve, thirteen), and how she likes to pay tithing and how she signed up to clean the church on Saturday and how she planned on visiting some of the members that don't go to church anymore. Sometimes we find her outside of our house right at 9 o'clock, waiting a few long minutes so that she can gift us the rest of her plan. Then Hno Carlos came with us to visit Hno Tonay for one of his last lessons before his baptism. Carlos hasnt gone to church for three years after his dad left him and he and his mom had to start working in order to fill what was missing. But last Sunday he came to church, and we didn't quite know why.Then on Wednesday after our lesson with him, he agreed to help us teach other people about the Gospel and we didn't know why. Then on Sunday we had a first lesson with a family that we had contacted the Wednesday before, and their nine year old son had already read up to the fourth chapter of Nephi and all of them had read the chapter that we had left for them to read. We taught them about the Plan of Salvation and they really listened, like really listened to what we were saying. I have never felt the Spirit like that before, as if heaven and earth weren't as far as I had thought them to be, that God was really there and His love was really there with this family and with us.
These people are what give me joy — the people that act and are not acted upon. The people that are agents unto themselves and not merely objects; the people that experiment on the words we give them. Whenever they act on the principle of faith, I feel like celebrating, which is probably what God does every time one of His children decides to act and do the right thing. I imagine a celebration in the heavens, because that is what I feel like doing. Every single time. Because I think the longer one is out on a mission and sharing their testimony and teaching a whole bunch of first and last lessons, the more one realizes that they cannot force anyone to do anything; that they can not act for another person or have faith for another person. The faith and action of one person is entirely their own, which is why it is so entirely joyfull and wonderful when someone chooses to act and have faith, whether it be through reading a chapter that they said they would or visiting someone that doesn't believe in real and eternal things again or putting on a white shirt and tie for the first time in three years and going to church. That is faith, the real kind of faith.
Hope all is well in your corner of the world. Not a day passes that I do not think of you and how much I love you each so wholly and completely. Sending my love and joy all the way across the border,