Monday, June 23, 2014

Paz, Calmaos

We found this fabulous, classic "hardly standing shaky bridge over a river in the jungle"! 

 Hello! It's actually not raining today (any more). That's cool, right!?

Hermana Miller and I are still rolling happily along out here in Maya country. We had a couple of adventures and a lot of practice with keeping our heads, so that's always good news. The bad news is that [member of the ward] brought their son to church last week even though he was sick with chicken pox (Spanish=barisela), and this week that boy's little sister and poor Elder Molina are also infected with barisela, so it's pretty obviously contageous. Little sister was giving a bunch of tender love and care to two infants during church yesterday and Elder Molina was banned from church, our mission conference this week, and anything else that involves leaving the house. I already went throuh chicken pox, so none of this really bothers me. But Hermana Miller has never been blessed with barisela. Needless to say, she's a little worried. And quite turned off by the local attitude of "Well, you're going to get it at some point. You might as well get it now." So I'll keep you posted.

On Thursday morning, we were informed that Friday (as in, the following day) was Hermana Miller's appointment to visit the immigration office to do her visa work. Five hours on a bus is a very long time. But there was a kid selling pre-wrapped baleadas and a lot of Evangelical music to get us through (think the infomercials that play around midnight with songs like "I Can Only Imagine" but then put it in Spanish, turn up the tempo, and imagine people yelling with conviction. That's Evangelical music) We arrived quite early, so we hung out in the bus terminal, which is pretty much like a mall, and ate Burger King and enjoyed the pregame buzz of the game between France and Switzerland. We tried to expedite the process as much as we could, but we still didn't make it on to a bus that was going right to Copán Ruinas (the guy at the terminal told us it was going to Copán Ruinas, wasn't). We ended up stranded in La Entrada and spent the night with Hermana Gardner and Hermana Lopez. Pretty fun! And we didn't miss too much working time because there was a game going on between Honduras and Ecuador (don't ask how it went) and all of the missionaries were stuck inside anyway. But we made it home the next morning and after 1. An actual meal, 2. a shower, albeit cold, and 3. our two hours of morning study, life got a lot happier.

The work is going forth here, slowly but surely. We have been contacting some promising new investigators. We met one family by volunteering to help the father in his blacksmithing shop. Hermana Miller got to work the bellows, but we're going to have to do that again so we can take pictures. We met a kid at English class named Darlin who walked two hours to come learn English, all because Hermana Miller (like a boss) asked his sister two weeks ago if she would like to come. She couldn't, but she went home and told her family, and Darlin came. And some day (it was going to be Friday, but that didn't work) we are going to go visit them. Cool. We also met a woman in Santa Rita named Esly, who was married just long enough to have her first baby before her husband was diagnosed with Leukemia and then died about two years later. Without money, without work, and far away from her family, that would have been a moment for some to sit down and quit. But she started working, saved up money to go to school, finished her college degree, and eventually remarried to a man who is crazy about her. He has gladly taken that first little girl for his daughter and the couple now has another little girl. Esly and Jorge will be a little tricky to visit, but we really feel the Spirit in their home and we really think they are prepared for this gospel. We also had our second visit with a man named Rolando. His mother is a member and it turns out he just had about two hours worth of questions. We did our best to answer him and gave him a copy of the Book of Mormon. Upon trying to set another visit, he said "Thank you, but there is nothing left to explain. At this point, I either get baptized or I don't. I'll pray about it and I'll ask my mom to tell you to come back if I decide to be baptized." He's got pretty spectacular faith, that one. We're hoping for good news soon there.

More than anything else this week, we're still working with fam. Hernandez. We had thought that we made some really big progress, after having consecutive and awesome talks with Julio Cesar about eternal families, eternal marriage (the highlight of which chat was him turning to his wife in shock and saying "Wait, you want to marry me?") and the Word of Wisdom. But come Saturday night and Sunday morning, he was back to drinking and finding reasons not to come to church. We got a glimpse, finally, inside the vault of silence that is Sonia Hernandez. She has been going through this pattern of getting her hopes up and being disappointed since the two of them "got married", when she was 14 years old. I am so grateful for the power of the Atonement to heal broken hearts. It's no little thing to say that there is something in the doctrine of Christ that is applicable to any situation.

I am so grateful for this gospel. As we walked to our apartment Monday night, a woman stopped us to ask for a little money to buy food for her children. We aren't allowed to give our money away, because it isn't really ours, and it always kills us to not be able to give something to those in need. But we do have something to give them! We have the gospel of Jesus Christ! And there is nothing of more value we have to give. I love remembering Peter saying "Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give unto thee." All of our blessings really do come from our Heavenly Father and we have access to them as we accept and obediently live His gospel.

President Dester sent us an email this morning, reminding us of Christ calming the winds and the waves and telling us that Christ can still do that for us and for everyone. It is such a comfort, when I am feeling a storm raging, to think of those words of the Master: "Paz, calmaos." I know that He really can calm the storms that are always arising in our lives, and that real and lasting peace in found in His teachings.

I love the Lord! I love this chance that I have to serve Him, and I love His children that I am serving here! I am so grateful for these 18 months, even though they are passing much too quickly. We are going to a conference with Elder Ochoa of the 70 this week, so look forward to spiritual nourishment next Monday!

Con mucho amor,
Hermana Pickett

I found real fruit snacks in this country! I didn't think it was possible!

We found another overly large grasshopper (Grasshopper of Unusual Size, if you will)

Hanging out with our G.O.U.S. friend

Cutest family ever! We LOVE familia Hernandez! 
Fam. Hernandez invited us to fried fish dinner. Delicious!

Our landlady gifted us some of the mangos from the tree on the property. Obviously, they are delicious!

We wanted tuna sandwiches, but we don't have a can opener. Process: Open about 1/4 inch by placing a knife's point on the lid and pounding it in with a rock, and then insert a fork and tear it open until the tuna can come out. Worked great.

We performed some service for a family in the ward by carrying their firewood through the mountains..

And we ended up really dirty. Worth it. 
We found a really big bag of mayoniese and we just could not resist taking pictures

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Here Comes the Rain

Pics with the district before changes. ¡Viva Copán Ruinas!
Brothers and Sister, ALOHA! (you weren't expecting that, now were you?)

This week in Copán Ruinas has been quite wet. Luckily, I've got a very smart mother who sent emergency ponchos a while ago (Mom, you are so great) and Hermana Miller finally got back the two umbrellas she left in Santa Rosa when she left (yeah, two. That's handy, right?) so we're doing a little better at keeping dry. Either way, I think the monsoons are the first sign of winter setting in here in Copán, so I'll let you all know when I start experiencing the "freezing" weather that I have heard promised from other missionaries in this zone.

This week was also another week of practiving the art of changing plans. We are becoming professionals at that. More often than not, we 1.plan to go teaching with a member and they don't come, so we have to reconsider what to do 2. show up at a cita fija (pre-set appointment) and no one's home, so that's just awkward or 3. have some unavoidable circumstance, like a sudden rainstorm or the twilight setting in, that outlaws several parts of the area, so we again change plans. And then there are the completely unforeseen game changers, like the World Cup. I've got nothing against the World Cup. But when Honduras is playing France and we have to stay inside from 1-4 and then be in our houses by 7 pm, that makes it a little tough to meet any kind of goals for the day. But, oh well. Maybe France and Switzerland will close us out of the bracket and it won't be a problem any more.

Admist all that plan changing, there really isn't that much to report this week. We are still rolling right along with familia Hernandez, and Julio Cesar actually came and listened to three of our lessons this week, but he was very drunk during the third one and hasn't wanted to talk to us since, nor did he come to church with his family yesterday. Bummer. But both of us commented afterwards how much we had wanted to chew him out (or machete him, as we say here) for drinking, but the Spirit said no, so we didn't, so I guess it could have been worse. We also have a sweet young woman out in Santa Rita who said the other day that she would be willing to be baptized. We're pretty happy about that, but it's hard because Santa Rita is about 15 minutes out by bus and that's a hassle for the people there who want to come to church. So we're trying to figure out what we can do to help her, because she would be a great member of the Church and a wonderful example for her parents and her two younger sisters.

Other randomness from this week: we went with a woman we met on a bus to visit her sister and ended up teaching a clinic full of pregnant women about the Plan of Salvation, Hermana Miller and I found the most delicious empanadas in the world, Marlin Hernandez said "I really want to get baptized, but not on the 28th. How about tomorrow?", I gave Hermana Miller a hair cut, I used a curling iron, and we received permission from Elder Carlos H. Amado (via President Dester) to watch one World Cup game, so we saw Germany slaughter Portugal this morning. Well, we saw a little. But we ducked out to the bathroom and by the time we came back, the latino missionaries had closed the room to the office where the internet is and locked it to keep the rest of us from bothering them. Gringos. We just don't get the important things in life.  Also, Sister Gardner, my beloved companion of 10 days, has found her way into la zona Copán, and upon greeting me for the first time in 5 months today she said "You look so skinny! Have you been sick?" So, apparently, running in the morning is having a good effect. Cool.

I still love my mission. It's not easy. Like, it really isn't. But I love it anyway. Sometimes I think I might not want to love it, but then I remember that when I say "I love my mission", what I mean is "I love my Savior", and there is nothing that could make me change my mind about that. I know that He lives and loves us, and that this is His true church. And there just aren't enough people here who know that, so I'll keep going for another week!

Have another lovely seven days, and find good ways to share the gospel. People are waiting for you!

Love, Hermana Pickett

Monday, June 9, 2014

1 Month Shy of a YEAR!

we got a little artsy with the puddles...

I might get elephantitis from taking this shot. Will you still love me if I come home looking like an elephant?
We braided hair with the little Hernandez girls and had to take pictures! Talk about beautiful family! 

I'm completing 11 months on the mission today! That's a a lot of  months! It is crazy how fast the time is flying by and how much I still feel like I just started. But when we lose our lives for the Lord, we find them, so it doesn't surprise me that I can hardly feel the time passing.

Hermana Miller and I had another SUPER week out here in Copán--we didn't even break the Word of Wisdom this week! We have been studying Chapter 1 of Preach My Gospel for companionship study (everybody else is studying PMG too, right?) and we talked about the importance of diligence in receiving and teaching with the Spirit, so we just work. We go out in the morning and by the time we get home, we are so ready to just crash. In fact, one of our weekly goals was to "get ready for bed like adults" and stop falling asleep in our skirts after planning session. We're working on it. This week is the end of a transfer cycle, which means that Hermana Miller and I have already been together for 6 weeks--that's insane! This is the fastest that six weeks has ever passed in my life, let alone on my mission. But we're pretty hopeful that we will be able to spend another six weeks together, so hopefully Sparklers and Shoelaces (that's our hipster band name) doesn't have to break up yet!

We are still working with fam. Hernandez, and we LOVE them. I don't think the road they have to walk to conversion will be easy by any stretch of the imagination, because Daddy Hernandez still needs to kick his alcohol habits...and start listening to the discussions...but I really believe that they will get there. We found another big family this week as a result of a kid coming to our English class (which was good timing, because we were starting to wonder if there was really a point to having English class) and, even though we haven't spent much time with them yet, I'm feeling good vibes. I'll keep you posted on that.

More than anything this week, we've really been working with out members. Roots before branches. We had a lesson/marriage counseling session with a very inactive couple, Ana and Ramón. Ana's kind of gone round the bend (we love her, but it's true), and her husband is very aware of that, and they have a very disfunctional relationship. But we sat down with them and talked about the importance of creating love in our relationships. We gave them homework to give each other a compliment and say "I love you" each day. We left that house without the fear that they are going to kill each other (definitely progress), and we'll see how that goes. We also had a magical/miraculous experience on Tuesday, when a member of the Church who is visiting from Guatemala yelled "Hermanas!" after us in the street and asked if he could come teaching with us the next day. Hermana Miller has this fun habit of saying "Aaaaand...Saratov Approach" in situations like that, but it turns out he was legitimately just a really, really cool RM. It's too bad the family we visited with him really doesn't want to get baptized, but it was a cool experience anyway.

And the fun for this week: there is currently a really REALLY cool opportunity for the youth in our district (for those who don't konw, district is to stake as branch is to ward) in that they can go to the temple for free if they will index 1000 names and bring two names to the temple with them before the deadline next month. That is a huge deal! Going to the temple from here is super expensive, so people really do not get to go very often, and the youth can go for free! So, needless to say, Hermana Miller and I are really trying to preach the epicness of indexing to the youth. On Saturday, we had planned a youth activity to teach about indexing. Nobody came. So we were feeling pretty disappointed about that, but then two young women showed up about an hour late and wanted to index, so we indexed! We also needed to teach some lessons and buy a couple of blouses and a skirt for the elders' baptism the next day (the elders told us bluntly that they had no idea how to shop for women's clothing and passed over 500 lempira). So we went on divisions and took turns teaching and indexing. Pretty great afternoon. And there were baleadas for dinner, so that always makes life wonderful.

We had a bit of a trying Sunday. The sister who actually has a calling in the primary stuck her head in at the beginning of the lesson and said, "Hey Hermana, I'm just going to go to Sunday School, is that alright?" It wasn't, but that's cool. Somebody forgot to lock the back door to the primary room, so the misbehaving children all escaped, and one little boy started making fun of/fighting with Estefani, one of the little girls from fam. Hernandez. She started crying. Not okay. Am I allowed to revoke a child's privilege to come to primary? Because that's happening to that kid next week. We are really wishing that we had more members willing to fulfill their callings here (poor Hermana Miller had to improvise a lesson for the young women and my talk on obedience got cut short because the branch president arbitrarily decided he wanted to give a sermon, just after sending his daughter to buy the family snacks. Cool) But each and every one of these people is a child of God, and there is nothing better I could be doing with my time than serving them, so I am glad I am here.

I love this work! I love the Lord and I love serving Him! It's definitely hard, but worthwhile things usually cost a little sacrifice. I love thinking about Nephi doing everything that he did with such diligence and positivity, and he could do it because he had an absolute testimony--he knew God was taking care of him, and that there would be a way prepared, so it didn't matter how rough the road got. I know that I am a missionary for the true and living Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I am happy about it!

¡Que les vaya SUPER bien!

Love, Hermana Pickett

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Happy JUNE!!

I fell down real good! But I cleaned it out and I'm still alive! 

We have no idea when this spider got into our house, nor how he arrived so close to our study space without us noticing. I just love how Hermana Miller's reaction was a very Ron Weasly-ish "I don't like spiders!" 

I don't know if the rest of you realized this, but the past two months have gone by sooooooooo fast! March 2014 was the longest month of my life, and it's already June?! This is crazy! Hermana Miller and I had a great, albeit quick week, and we are chock full of life experiences to learn by. Sounds fun, right?

Lesson 1: Patience is important. Sometimes, the best made plans of mice and men fall through, and then even the best made plans of sister missionaries fall through, and  one must be patient. When we aren't patient, we turn away from love and positivity to negativity, sarcasm, and frustration. We did not have a dark moment of negativity, sarcasm, nor frustration this week. Just saying. We don't say "Patience is a virtue" and "All good things to she who waits" for nothing.

Lesson 2: Obedience is really important. I've got a story to illustrate this one. Both Hermana Miller and I weren't exactly sure how to phrase this, so I am copying in what I wrote in my journal: "We ended up going to Ostouman around 11:30 because [member of the church] has been wanting to feed us lunch for a long time, and last Saturday she told us to come today. Well, she came late, and then we sat around for a long time while she cooked, durning which interim we saw the preview for the new Nightmare on Elm Street movie about ten times. So I asked for that to be turned off (I hate scary movies) and we asked if there was antyhing we could to do to h[elp] this process along. Those requests didn't work out, and by the time we got lunch we already felt bad for how long we had been at this house. But then the kicker: we each took a few sips of our juice, and we asked Livis what flavor it was, and she said 'Tea!' What?! 'But it's not bad! It's just tea flavored, not original tea.' So we looked at the packet and, lo and behold, it was iced tea mix. Whoops. So we stopped drinking that and I started feeling really horrible." Did we intentionally break the Word of Wisdom? No. But if we had been obedient earlier, to a little rule in the white handbook that says appointments should not last more than 45 minutes, we probably could have avoided the tea drinking. And I wouldn't have had nightmares about Freddy Kruger. So little obedience helps big obedience. Trust me on that one.

Lesson 3: The Atonement is real, and it works just like Christ promises it will. Being missionaries, we promptly applied the five steps of repentance: we realized and acknowleged that we had sinned, we felt a heap of godly sorrow, we asked in prayer for our Father's forgiveness (on a trail in the mountains, about three minutes after leaving lunch with this member), we pondered if we needed to make any sort of restitution (we emailed our mission president today), and we committed to never stay in a lesson that long, not bother people more about turning off their TV, or drink tea again. And you know what? We felt forgiven. We regained the Spirit. Not immediately, but it happened. And that's a miracle, because no matter the sin or transgression (because we repented for commandments broken in ignorance, too) repentance works. That's a miracle.

Lesson 4: "And if ye receive not the Spirit, ye shall not teach." (D&C 42:14) That is a scarily true statement. As missionaries, we are absolutely useless without the Spirit. We just can't do what we have to do. So even through exact obedience is hard, we do it because we have to. I felt the finger of condemnation upon me as I bore the weight of my missionary name tag this week knowing that the Spirit had left a house an hour before I had, and I had to take a while to regain His confidence and His presence. The first part of that verse says "And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith" and that's true, too. But hey, if you want to do God's will, follow the Spirit. And if you want to follow the Spirit, ask for Him to stay with you, and then stay with Him.

Lesson 5: People are children of God, and they are magnificent. Sometimes they make bad choices, and that makes their brilliance difficult to discern. But if you ask God to let you see them the way He does, your eyes get a lot sharper. Try that out. It's pretty amazing.

So yeah, lots of lessons learned. Aside from that, I learned that people's breath smells really bad when they've been drinking, I have a natural instinct to karate chop as I fall down (Hermana Miller is sad for me that I could not see that, as I was the one falling), marriages can make it, children can be an example for their parents, a companion is a best friend and a family member also, and that not even straight bleach will deter a line of determined ants.

Most of all I learned all over again that God is our loving Heavenly Father, that Jesus Christ truly is our Savior, and that this is His true gospel. I love Him and my chance to serve Him, and I am so happy to be here.

Have a wonderful week!

Love, Hermana Pickett

PS No, I don't like how iced tea tastes.