May 26, 2015
Hello all. A pretty good week, highlighted by a pretty great Sunday. I had fasted for miracles with our investigators that they would be able to be baptized on the 31st. Sure enough, after a pretty nerve-wrenching trial of my faith in which we had pretty much no one here at 10:00 when church started, in the next couple of minutes they all started flooding in. Sunday mornings are always pretty intense in the mission. So much rides on whether these people attend or not. Satan certainly understands the importance of this and somehow the most absurd things happen to keep investigators from attending church.
We ended the night with a huge Family Home Evening in the house of the Elders' Quorum president, Hermano Oscar. In all we brought 18 recent converts and investigators and filled his house up. In his message, Hermano Oscar talked about how in 10 years or so, all the members in Santo Tomas Milpas Altas would talk about these three families, Esturban (his family), Lopez (recent converts), and Garcia (converts and investigators) and how they were the pioneers of the church here. That really made me think. It's so true, these three faithful families are forming the nucleus of the church as it is being built up here in Santo Tomas. I'd love to come back in 10 years and see how the work is. At the rate the church is growing here, there could easily be multiple wards where there is now just a couple of families. We really are blessed to live at such an exciting time in the world and of the church. I'm sure that the pace will quicken even more as we move closer towards the Second Coming. It's a privilege to be a part of it all.
Speaking of which, there's a quote in Preach My Gospel about taking the gospel farther than it has ever been taken before. We got to do that last week when we visited an aldea called Buena Vista. I am 100% sure that no missionaries had ever gone there before. We contacted a man who was waiting outside a shop in Santo Tomas and he told us he lived in Buena Vista. Knowing how incredibly far away that was, we just invited him to church and gave him a pamphlet. To our great surprise, however, he showed up! Having found out that he was actually pretty pilas, we arranged to go visit him and it was pretty incredible.
Buena Vista means good view. The little town sits high up on the top of a mountain between Antigua and the valley of Guatemala City. As we sat there teaching the investigator, a storm started to develop. From our vantage point, we could see the huge clouds boiling and sweeping towards us. The clouds felt so close since we were so high up and we could see the lightening crackling and striking the mountains as the storm advanced. The only other time I have been so impressed by the beauty of nature was when I took a ride in a flete (a pickup with metal bars in the back end to hold passengers) along the side of a canyon in Solola. Needless to say though, we finished the lesson as fast as we could and were just about to say the closing prayer when the storm slammed into us. There are many reasons that I am eternally grateful to have been called to Guatemala, but this is certainly one of them.
Anyway, I'm feeling very grateful for all the blessings I have been given and especially love getting to help others receive those same blessings.
June 2, 2015
Well, kind of good/tough week this week (aren't they all like that though). The good part was the baptism of Ismael, the father of the girls that we baptized a month ago, Janet, Cindy, and Jazmin. At the beginning, he was the most difficult of all of them. However, as I wrote about 2 weeks ago, the Lord humbled him and he had his change of heart and now if the most pilas in all the family. I love seeing what the gospel can do to changes people.
The tough part of the week is that we were supposed to have 6 baptisms on Sunday, but all but one fell for a whole bunch of reasons. Satan really was working hard this week. Those last few days before a person’s baptism are full of just about everything he can throw at them. Still, we'll be seeing quite a few more baptisms here ya pronto [very soon].
For zone P day we hiked a big mountain in our area that divides the valley of Gmala City and the smaller, higher valley of Antigua. As incredibly beautiful as it was, one of the major attractions was that from that mountain we could see quite a decent chunk of the entire mission. As we were hiking up past some houses that were tucked away on the side of the mountain, a very nice lady came out and said that she had a tree filled with a bunch of ripe peaches and her family wouldn't be able to eat them all so we could have all the peaches we wanted.
June 9, 2015
Well, this is it, my last email that I'll send as a missionary. I'm not going to lie, I really don't know what to say. I guess that might just be because it hasn’t really sunk in that this is it, that my time here as a full time missionary in Gmala is about to draw to a close and that I will never, ever, be able to return to this time in my life. That’s the worst part I guess. As great as it will be to see my family and friends and not have a house that floods with water every time it rains, I guess I really would just like to be able to go to the US for a week or two and then come back. This is my home now. I do feel really tired though. Like, really tired. Anyway, saber [who knows] about all that. It's just easier not to think about it anyway (that way the reentry culture shock will be greater, oh joy.) I guess that's why I don't really have any words to say so I'll just spend my internet time helping another missionary with the church music he has on his USB.
Anyway, this Sunday we were blessed with two baptisms. Jennifer and her son Vagner. Both of them are incredible and were really just waiting for the Lord to lead us to them. We knew she was prepared when she called her son Neftali and told him to enter and said “¡Nefi, vení!” (aka Nephi, come!). We were pretty excited and it turns out that's the nickname she's always used for her son. She's the 4th single mother I've baptized in this area and it's been a testimony builder for me to see how the gospel has blessed her family and helped her be happier despite all the difficulties that she has passed through.
Ok, even if this is hard I'll try to see if I can get it out. I really have loved so much my time here as a missionary. I came here to be obedient to my Heavenly Father. I was willing to work and do the things that I was supposed to, but I was excited to get my two years out of the way and continue with my life. Now I understand why people say that these are the two best years of my life. They're not just the two best years FOR my life (true though it may be), but serving a mission is a blessing sufficient in and of itself. I feel like I don't really need any sort of celestial mansion because the Lord has already blessed me with far more that I deserve for the little I've done. Our mission president said something that hit me hard on Thursday. He said “the mission doesn't change us, it's the Atonement that changes us.” That is so true but as I have served the Lord these two years, I have been so completely immersed in His Gospel and Atonement.
Someone once said that every time we testify of the Atonement it seeps deeper into our souls. I have felt the Atonement change me over these past two years. I'm not the person I was when I started. Another anonymous quote now, “a mediocre missionary gets off his mission thinking he's perfect. A great missionary ends his mission realizing just how much farther he has to go but knowing how to get there.” Sure enough, I am sometimes discouraged by how imperfect I am and how often I fall into the same mistakes, but I have faith that Christ can make me into the person He wants me to be.
Now, as we always testify in the Gmala City Central Mission... My companion and I are personal representatives of Jesus Christ. I know that He lives and that He is our Savior and Redeemer. I have come to know Him better during these two years than ever before in my life. I am now here serving not out of obedience but out of love for Him. I know that this is His true church restored to the earth by living prophets and apostles. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I have felt the Spirit testify to me and to my investigators of these truths time and time again. I have seen the fruits of this message in the lives of countless families, as well as my own. I am so grateful to have this knowledge and am also grateful for all the support that so many loving people have given me, people both here in Gmala and in the US. Time's up it would seem...
Con muchisimo amor,
The baptism of Jennifer and Vagner. Those jumpers are great for giving the impression
that I have even longer legs than I do and a very curvy figure. Kind of awkward.
Another picture of Jennifer, this time along with her cousin and her cousin's
husband and kids. They're getting baptized on the 21st. Super pilas as well.
What I ate for lunch yesterday, courtesy of my companion. Yes, there
is still some left in the freezer. I didn't eat the entire half gallon,
after all, I still need dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow.
Also, I'm pretty sure we got hit by a tropical storm or something last week.
I have never seen so much rain. We didn't have our rain jackets when it hit us
and so we ran to the closest tienda and made our own rain gear out of plastic
bags. The black bags with eye slits cut in were a special success which mad
us look and feel like batman. Good thing that no one else was brave enough
to be in the streets and see us. Good times though in the mission