We were just like little girls, waiting for Christmas morning!
We had a tree for decorating!
Merry Christmas! I hope that everyone is passing an excellent holiday. Mine was certainly pretty sweet, but here's the kicker: I only get one Christmas in Honduras, and that was it. It's pretty crazy that I've already done enough mission that I already get to say "Next Christmas, I'll be home." Weird, right?
Christmas PJs! Thanks, Mrs. Claus!
This is how we sister missioanry!So this week was pretty great and a little insane. Turns out Hondurans take Christmas very seriously. The best part is that they don't celebrate Christmas on the 25th, they celebrate on the 24th. So we wished everyone a merry Christmas on the wrong day, and when we explained to people that we didn't celebrate until the 25th in the States, the majority said "That's weird, you celebrate on the wrong day!" Yes, us and most of the other countries in the world... Anyway, it was great! We had to come in early on Tuesday night because, of course, a key element of any good Christmas Eve party is alcohol. But we didn't get to hang out for that part. (I did ask Sister Harmon if she wanted to teach the men in front of us at the grocery store what the Word of Wisdom had to say about their 500 lempira worth of beer. She didn't want to) So we went home early and make our Christmas feast (flour tortillas and tajadas de guineo), decorated a little Chirstmas tree her family sent and put out our presents, opened one gift each (Mrs. Claus found me in Honduras to give me Christmas PJs! It's a Christmas miracle!) and watched Rio. Quality film. We woke up like excited little girls to open up our Christmas presents (thanks, parents! It was magical!) and then a few teaching appointments later we went to video chat with our families. I am so thankful for the incredible technology that made that possible. Even though I did start crying twice, and then after we hung up I might have kept crying for five minutes. Whoops! I have discovered on my mission that I am the kind of person that doesn't realize quite how deeply they miss someone until they see them. But now I have fun stories for all the Latinos, because they think it's really funny when white people cry. We have an appointment to watch the video of Joseph Smith's life with some our investigators and I have already warned them that I'm going to be a wreck at the end. It will probably be pretty entertaining.
The other big part of Christmas here is the traditional food: tamales and sandwich. I'm definitely learning how to make those at some point, because Hondurans know how to eat yummy stuff at Christmas. Family, how do you feel about tamales for Christmas lunch next year?
After Christmas, we really cracked down on working harder, because people aren't really at home and ready to hear us during holidays. But we did find an epic new family this week. The mother, Julia, has a sister who is a recent convert and has recently moved in with their mom. She came to church with her sister last week and since then, she and her four children have all been interested in coming to church and listening to our message. One night we went for a lesson while she was making tortillas to sell, so we just cooked tortillas for a while. I asked if I could take over "en hacer la vuelta", or flipping the tortillas over, and I told them I can't form the tortilla but I can flip it over. Julia handed me the knife to turn the tortillas (I'm not quite hard core enough to just use my fingers yet) and Julia and her sister, Gladis, both watched until one of the tortillas was ready. I flipped it right over and started pressing on it so it could puff up (when it puffs up, it means it's cooked on the inside) and both of them exclaimed "Si, puede!" They were pretty surprised. We got to chat with Julia and get to know her better. She's definitely passed through a lot of hardships, but rather than making her bitter or cynical, she has allowed herself to become humble and she is truly ready to receive this gospel. I love her already.
And speaking of people I love already, we have also had several lessons this week with an investigator inherited from Hermanas Bahr and Gardner. Her name is Lucy. She is always so happy to listen to us and she has already told her anti-Mormon husband and neighbor that, no, we don't worship the Devil and she would like to keep hearing our message. In one of our lessons, we came in to start and before we even got going, she starts saying "Sisters, before we start, I'd just like to say how much I appreciate you, how glad I am that you came, how much respect I have for you..." and I'm thinking, Great. This is when she tells us she doesn't want anything to do with the Church. But after expressing sentiments such as those for a little while, she says: "But I just can't know if this church is true, because I can't pray. I don't know how." Oh, we solved that problem. And after teaching a lesson on prayer and having a demonstration prayer before asking her to pray (which she did beautifully!) she said, her face lit up with a smile, "Thank you for teaching me to pray, Sisters. I will pray about your message." The Spirit is so strong every time we visit her home. But as strong as I had thought I had felt the Spirit there, she totally topped it last night: She hadn't been able to come to church because of a high fever and a sore throat, and she accepted our offer to bing someone to give her a blessing. So when we came later that night with our two companions of the ward missionaries and another young man with the Melchezidek priesthood, she sat quietly and smiled and just accepted everything with absolute faith. We talked about how Christ healed the sick, how He gave that power to His apostles, and how He gives us that power today because He wants us to be happy. And then Cris, in what we think was his first blessing of health, laid his hands upon her head and gave her a blessing that she would rapidly recover to her health. We asked if she would give a closing prayer and she said "Thank you for this blessing I have receieved. I know I will heal." I felt like Ammon with King Lamoni's wife, when he says, "Woman, I have never seen such faith, no, not among all the Nephites." I am so excited to see what it is that Heavenly Father has in mind for this remarkable daughter.
We got to go to a Christmas party on Friday, and that was fun. We didn't get to stay for the dancing, but we did the musical program before hand, the food, and the five minute fireworks. Pretty sweet. Oh, Lucy came to that as a direct result of prayer. That was pretty cool, too.
And here's the kicker of the week. For church yesterday, we were feeling pretty confident before hand that at least 12 people would come and we would meet our goal. And then, during the first 10 minutes of the meet, that confidence had just about depleted. Of course, we were really happy about the 4 people who were there. Especially because one of them, a woman named Araceli, told us that she had wanted to come for the last 2 weeks but had slept too late, so we called to wake her up and she came, no problem. She also said, "There are baptisms on the 25th? I want to be baptized that day." This is when the hard part (getting married) kicks in, but the desire is the first step and now she's got it. So we were feeling kind of set with those four, and then there was a Christmas miracle. People just started showing up. People that I have not expected in church for weeks just started showing up. And when the last wave poured in after the doors were reopened at the end of the Sacrament being passed, we had 21 investigators in Sacrament meeting. 21 souls who came to be fed by the word of God. We didn't do that. The Lord did. But He let us share in the joy of His success.
That is my big light bulb moment of this week's letter: When we accomplish something in the Lord's kingdom, we aren't really the ones who accomplished it. Of course, we have to thrust in our sickle with our might. But the person who is really going to make the difference and the change necessary, the convincing power, is the Lord. So I can't ever say, even if I reach a point that my Spanish is perfect and every person in Honduras adores me and will follow my every whim and I have every word of the scriptures and Preach My Gospel memorized (this hypothetical situation is never happening, but regardless), I still cannot say that I converted someone, that I baptized them, that I got them to come to church. The Lord does that. But He allows us to share in His joy at the harvest. How merciful is the Lord that He augments our joy by allowing us to share in His joy and the joy of His children. I am so grateful to be a missionary. I, like Alma in Alma 26, am feeling so grateful that the Lord is allowing me to share in His success. It really is the most incredible experience to be here and to be serving and sharing the gospel without ceasing. And here's the cool part: It doesn't have to end! There are children of God who need service and need His gospel in every corner of the world! Even people who are already in a church, including this the true church of Jesus Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints, need to be served and invited to come closer to Christ. The Lord is ready to allow all of us to help Him bring about His work and His glory. All we have to do is accept the call.
I am so grateful to be here. I know that this is Christ's true church and that, as such, it is the only thing that can bring us true and lasting happiness forever. I know that it was reestablished in this dispensation by the prophet Joseph Smith and that it stands today on a foundation of living prophets and scripture, including the Bible and the Book of Mormon, which both contain the word of God. I cannot imagine a better job that to have the opportunity to go forth and tell the world about this incredible message! I love the Lord and I am so glad that He is trusting me to labor in a part of His vineyard.
I love all of you and I hope that you have a happy New Year! Hra Harmon and I have to come home early on New Year's Eve, like we did for Christmas Eve, and we are already planning on counting down the seconds to 10:30 and celebrating the commencement of 2014 an hour and a half early. All in the name of obedience!
Que el Señor les bendiga a todos!
Con mucho amor,