|So here are our pictures from divisiones, but you really don't have to use the second one if you don't want to.|
Eight months down of the mission! Except I've got a bad habit of rounding up, so when people ask "How long have you been a missionary?" I've been saying about eight months for the last two weeks. But now it's legit.
Sweet experience from last P-day (which was already pretty sweet from the Mayan temple adventure): As I was pondering which box of descremada milk to buy (skim milk really does not taste good here, but we carry on) one of the security guards in the grocery store walked up to me, looked at my name tag, and said "Pickett. Jesucristo." And I thought, yeah, those are the two names I would like to be identified by. Cool. So I started talking to this guy about the gospel, even though I was in my pants and teaching the gospel in pants is always really weird to me. But cool contacting opportunity!
This week we had exchanges with the Sister Leader Trainers, which meant I got to spend a whole day with Hermana Escalante! It was a beautiful reuion of mother and daughter. But seriously, it was fantastic. It didn't even matter that we were climbing around the city all day (the streets in the city are hills, not mountains, so we survived) and that 90% of our appointments fell through. We spent a day joyfully going about the work of God. It was the best. Also, we ate chupuletas, which are like little dixie cup popsicles (I will be making them when I come home), so that made it even better!
We spent the next day working in a generally untouched area of Copán, which is the neighboring pueblo of Santa Rita. The elders go there with some amount of frequency, but this last week was only our second time going. We took one of the members of the church with us and street contacted for five hours. It was epic! But herein lies the beauty of the Copanecas: We spent about 15 minutes with one very nice woman, Paula, who is from Santa Rita. Sitting with her was a friend of the family, Manuel, who is from Copán proper. Keep in mind, there is only a ten minute stretch of bus ride between the two. That's all. But at the end of a rather nice but quite short lesson, we asked Paula if she would be willing to read our pamphlet, pray about it, and meet with us again. Pretty low risk on her part. She smiled and said of course she could pray about it, and we could come whenever we were close by. Manuel, on the other hand, started with, "Look," and then explained to us he'd been a member of the church his whole life, that being a member of a certain church isn't what brings salvation, he didn't want to take lightly the matters of God, etc. Pretty much whatever it took to shut us down. We like the attitude in Santa Rita better than the attitude in Copán. Maybe it will be contageous.
Side note: one of those arguments that Manuel made, that being a member of a certain church doesn't bring salvation, is one of the more common religious philosophies that we hear here. We hear it a lot. From everyone. It's not just common among one group, it's universals. The Testigos say that, the Evangelicals say that, the Catholics say that--one Catholic lady used that comment as the springboard to divert away from our message and then transitioned into why the Catholic church is indeed the one true Church. So I'd like to put up my witness here. While it is absolutely true that membership of a church alone is not enough to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, there are covenants that we must make with our Heavenly Father which are undeniably necessary to our salvation, and these covenants are only validly available through the power and authority of the holy Priesthood, as it has been restored through the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.
Okay. Just needed to get that out of my system.
This week has been a testament to one of the lessons of my childhood: that we have to choose to be happy. (Shout out to the parents--turns out you were dead on) Time and time again we have met with people who are so unhappy. Maybe they have problems in their family or in their job, they have a headache or a chronic disease, young or old, male or female, it doesn't matter. They just aren't happy. And they would like to be happy, because they would like a break from feeling so empty. But the ones who are going to be happy and who get to see a change in their lives are the ones who will chose to be positive, to try for a little introspection and change, and actively seek out their own happiness. The ones who will blame everyone else, who will wait for someone to say sorry or for their daughters to start living at home again or for whatever (albeit good) thing, don't find happiness. They just feel emptier and emptier every day, until the good things they want don't ever come because they themselves are driving them away. When Christ preformed the Atonement, He took away the need for us to suffer. But we have to surrender our suffering. He took away the need for us to feel pain and sadness, but we have to let it go. If we cannot choose to be happy, the greatest miracle of all time can have no effect on us. Even though the hand of the Master is only an inch away from ours, if we never reach out and take it, we will struggle through our trials alone, bitterly wondering while no one will help us. Choosing unhappiness consumes the soul. Do me a favor--this week, do not choose unhappiness! Even if it seems like the hardest thing you could ever do, choose to be happy! Trust me, the difficult moment of that choice is so much easier than the time that is wasted in the darkness of self-afflicted infelicity.
Well, that was two pretty heavy topics in a row. Sorry. On a lighter note, we met the sweetest woman this week. Her name is Janet and she has two little girls, Gracie and Myra. She is also nine months pregnant and just about ready to pop. We talked about eternal families while we helped her shell through a bag of tamarindo (which is delicious) and then started explaining the plan of salvation as she gave us glasses of fresh tamarindo juice (which is similarly delicious, as is tamarindo flavored soda. It's just generally delicious). It turned out that she couldn't come to church this week, because of the combination of really bad molar pain and some I'm-9-months-pregnant pains, but she and her girls are very excited to come next week. Gracie has already picked out what she is going to wear. We visited yesterday afternoon with the intent to meet her husband as well, who had not yet arrived, so while we waited we helped her make baleadas. She makes the biggest tortillas I have ever seen in my life. The best part is, it didn't matter to her that ours weren't circular, that they are not of a uniform thickness, and that maybe there are little holes or big wrinkles in them. Just make them big and throw 'em on the pile. Her husband didn't make it home by the time that we had to leave, but we did get to feast on ridiculously delicious baleadas, so it's cool. Sorry, Vincent. Hopefully we catch you next Sunday.
Also, we had another experience with a local dish called atol, which is a soup made by throwing the tortillas that got overly cooked into a bucket of water and allowing it to sit for several days (at minimum). It is then served hot with beans, salt, and chile. It you can imagine white playdough being made into soup, that is pretty much atol. Can't imagine that sounding edible? Don't worry, you're imagining it correctly. I think it is a missionary gift that we can eat the foods we are given, albeit they are playdough flavored. But the sweet and very Catholic woman that shared her atol with us did so out of the kindness and sacrifice of her heart, so I'm not going to complain. It was wonderful of her to share, and I am grateful for that atol.
On Saturday night we had a branch activity with the first councilor of our district (is that word spelled correctly? I haven't had to write consejero in English for a while) and he brought his laptop to show a couple of Mormon Message videos. The last one was about two boys who are the captains of their highschool football teams, and the two teams are rivals. But these two boys are best friends, and the one was able to help the other learn about the gospel, meet with the missionaries, and eventually be baptized. They made the comment that, in the Lord's eyes, we are on the same team, and we are wearing the same jersey. Our member of the district presidency, Carlos, said that we are on the Lord's team to bring about this great and marvelous work, and that the members and the missionaries are on the same team--the White Shirt team. I testify that the players in this great harvesting of souls are not just those with a nametag. We are all on the White shirt (and tie) team, and we can each be MVP. Wherever you are called to work this week, I hope that we can all take the opportunity to move the Lord's work forward.
I know that this truly is the Lord's work, that this is His true church, and His true Gospel. This is when I truly can say know it, I live it, and I love it.
Con mucho amor,