Hola familia y amigos!!
I´ve been here for almost 2 weeks now!! Crazy to think about. Tons of good, weird, not so good stuff this week. First, I´m starting to understand people a little bit better but I feel like I talk less. I think that as I hear other people´s Spanish, my confidence in my own Spanish drops, so I just keep my mouth shut. But I´m trying, I know I need to work on it.
So, first off, your questions. I´m not sure how many Hermanas there are total. But I know that there are only 5 or 6 white hermanas here!! I´ll try to find out for you, it´s probably on the mission website. Also, I got your first package with 4 presents in it, but it was kind of sad bc I saw the customs form on the front so I already knew what was in them. But I did laugh pretty hard when I saw the pictures of Mary and Jesus all over them, and when I explained in my broken Spanish to my companions, they thought it was funny too. Funny story. When I opened the box and was pulling out the presents, Hna. Lopez said, ohhh, muchas regalos!! (Many presents!!) But I thought she said, oohhh muchos pecados (Many sins!!) I was like . . . . ummmm, como?? And then after I explained what I thought she said, we laughed really hard. It was hilarious!! We have a great time in our apartment, it´s a blast. Another funny story. We were walking around one day and we sat down to decide where we needed to go next, and there was this dog that was barking really loudly and obnoxiously. I remember thinking, "wow that dog is really obnoxious" or something like that, and all of a sudden Hna. Laime mutters under her breath, "urrrgghh SHUT UUUUUUPPPP!!!!" I looked at her and just started laughing so hard!!! I couldn´t believe she said that!! She said that they used to say it in her home ward all the time and I said, "De todas las palabras en ingles, ustedes aprendieron estes palabras?? (of all the english words, you chose those ones??) It was seriously hilarious. Now whenever I hear something annoying I think . . . . ugghhhh SHUT UP!!! Hilarious.
Back to your questions. I get as much time as I want on the computer here but I have to pay for it. But it´s super cheap, so not a big deal. We had a killer time last week buying groceries. I felt like a little kid in a candy store, I just wanted to touch everything!! And I can get peanut butter here, but it´s super expensive. OOOHHH. Another story. We got peanut butter on monday, and on wednesday when we came home at night I was SO tired and SO frustrated bc of the Spanish and just not having a good day and I just really really wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was really excited about it. So I got out the bread and the jelly and opened my peanut butter and THERE WERE ANTS IN IT. I WAS SO MAD!!!!! Hna. Laime and Hna. Lopez were laughing so hard but I was really legitimately angry bc I had to throw the whole thing away and I REALLY WANTED A PBJ. So I´m standing there fuming and all of a sudden Hna. Lopez hands me a can of Raid. Then she and Hna. Laime got to enjoy watching me terrorize the ant population in our kitchen with the can of Raid. I think I went a little bit crazy. I literally sprayed it EVERYWHERE. (Sidenote: lying in bed that night and smelling the Raid, I later regretted this decision). At the time I was really having a crisis but now its just funny. And I get another jar of peanut butter today, which I will be keeping in the refrigerator. It´s interesting bc I remember having the feeling that I should put my peanut butter in the fridge that morning, but I just brushed it off, bc we don´t keep it in the fridge at home. Well, now I know that maybe I should listen to those feelings bc Heavenly Father knew that there would be ants in my peanut butter that night and that I would really want a PBJ but obviously I did not listen to the promptings and therefore suffered the consequences. Oh well. Now I know!!
So I bet you want to know what´s going on with my investigators. Well first off I have some sad news. Yes. I gave Carl away. I know, I know. But little Jimmy Belareiso needed him more than I did. And he is a very happy little niño now. I know Carl is in a good place, stuck up next to the lightbulb in their ceiling fan so that he´ll glow. I won´t lie though, it was really sad, and when I told Elder McGuire at zone conference he wasn´t very happy. But it´s all for the best. Anyway, we´ve been having the same issues with familia Belareiso this week. Hno. Belareiso doesn´t want to get married, blah blah blah. I had been thinking and wondering if the issue maybe went a little deeper, bc they´ve been together for 20 years and have 5 sons, it´s not like the relationship´s likely to fall apart anytime soon. So I´d been thinking and praying about it, and one day in companionship study we were talking about it. Hna. Laime was reading from our search for happiness about something, and I flipped to the section where she was reading. I read the section before it, where Elder Ballard talks to the minister about how he could hold the gold plates in his hands and he still wouldn´t know any more that the Book of Mormon is true. The only way to know is to read and pray. BOOM!!! It was like it jumped off the page!! I grabbed Hna. Laime´s Spanish OSFH and read the section and then said, "El no tiene un testimonio del Libro de Mormon!!" (he doesn´t have a testimony of the book of mormon!!!) Because if he did, he would know that it´s true, and therefore Joseph Smith is a prophet, and therefore this is the true church, and therefore the law of chastity is a commandment of God, and therefore he needs to get married and get baptized. (I don´t know how to say that in spanish so I explained in much simpler terms) My companions agreed that that could be what it was, but over the next few days I started to doubt that I had actually received revelation bc he was listening to us and being nice to us and all that. BUT, Saturday night we went over there, and I´m not really sure what happened bc all I know is that one minute we were talking about how they celebrate Christmas in the United States and the next minute he was on this tangent about how we´re not the true church bc we don´t worship Mary, the mother of Jesus. I don´t even know, but I could understand most of what he was saying. Basically he said that Joseph Smith wrote the book of mormon and that he was crazy and that he´s catholic and a bunch of other things. So they were getting into it and I was just sitting there thinking, "I KNEW he didn´t have a testimony of the BOM. I KNEW it!!" But I couldn´t say ANYTHING, bc my Spanish is terrible, although Hna. Belareiso was amazing. She was explaining the BOM to Hno. Belareiso and she totally has her own testimony and basically she´s awesome. Anyway, finally after a long time of back and forth Hna. Lopez asked Hno. Belareiso, "Have you read the Book of Mormon?" You know what he said?? "NO." I was like . . . . . . I KNEW IT!!!!! Anyway, long story short, Hna. Laime bore a very powerful testimony (and finally the Spirit came back into the conversation at that point) and we left. The whole way home that was the only thing I could say. I KNEW IT!! I KNEW IT!! We had a long session of complaining and being irritated about the stiffneckedness of Hno. Belareiso and then we went to bed. But the next day, we went to the Christmas devotional and there he was with the rest of his family!! We were very confused, but very happy to see him there. I spent much of the time praying that he would open his heart and listen to the words that were being said (BTW, could someone send those talks to me in English?? I didn´t understand a whole lot!!) So yeah. We´re teaching them again tonight and I don´t really know what will happen, but I´m trying to remain optimistic. However, I remember thinking when Hno. Sears talked about how we can receive revelation for our investigators, "Hmm. That´s cool. I bet it won´t happen to me though." Well guess what?? It DID. And it´s awesome!! Now I pray everytime I study for help finding things that will help my investigators. It´s awesome!! The Spirit is real!!
So are you ready for some good news??? Remember familia Pino?? Hno. Pino told us this week that he thinks he´ll be able to get his divorce really really soon!! Which means he and Hna. Pino can get married and then get baptized like they´ve been wanting to for FOUR YEARS!! I was so happy when I found out, it´s totally an answer to prayer. I probably shouldn´t get used to having my prayers answered this quickly in exactly the way I want them to, but it was so amazing!! I feel like we should take them to visit the Belareisos. I doubt they would have much patience with Hno. B, since he has the opportunity to get married and baptized right now and won´t, and they´ve been waiting and praying for that same opportunity for 4 years. But it´s amazing amazing news and makes me so happy, bc the Pinos are seriously awesome.
And we started teaching a new family this week, the familia Manso. It´s a mom and two sons, Washington and Mario. Her husband lives in the States for work, so it´s just her and the boys at home. We taught them the first lesson and committed them to read 3 Nephi 11, and then I felt impressed to mark Alma 32 as well. When we came back she had read Alma 32!! Which was what we prepared a lesson on!! So we read with her and even though she wasn´t able to come to church that week I think we´ll be able to get her there again. We invited them to the Christmas devotional and they said they would come, but I felt like we should go and pick them up. But we didn´t, and they didn´t show. Now I know that I need to open my mouth when I have these feelings!! But next Sunday, next Sunday. Hna. Manso loves to talk a lot and even though I don´t know what she´s saying I know that she goes off on tangents a lot. But she always gets really into our lessons and I´m looking forward to continuing to teach her family and committing them to baptism!!
It´s interesting, bc while I was sitting in the room with the Belareisos listening to my companions talk to Hno. B, I was thinking about what I could say to him. My thoughts went something like this: "Look man, I´m in a foreign country right now. My family is on another continent, I can´t understand barely anything anyone says to me, I walk for miles every day, eat pretty much the same food every day, struggle with feelings of inadequacy every day, I´m tired all the time, it´s so hot that I have to keep my toothpaste in the refrigerator so it doesn´t melt, I constantly feel like I have no idea what´s going on, and furthermore, I have to take cold showers everyday. But you know what?? If one person gets baptized while I´m here, it will all be worth it. Do you really, honestly think I would be here, giving up a year and a half of my life to come to this place where I don´t speak or understand the language very well and I have to live in a way that´s completely different from what I´m used to if I didn´t know for a surety that this is the true gospel of Jesus Christ??? Do you think I would be here if I didn´t know that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that the Book of Mormon is true?? Bringing that knowledge to people like yourself is worth every temporal inconvenience that I have to deal with right now. It´s true, I know it is, but the only way you can know is if you find out for yourself."
Okay so I didn´t have all of those thoughts while I was sitting there in the Belareiso living room, only the thought that I wouldn´t be here if I didn´t know that the gospel was true. Most of those thoughts came as I was thinking about it later. But it´s all completely true. There is no way I would be here doing what I´m doing if I wasn´t sure that the gospel was true, and if I didn´t know that Heavenly Father wanted me to be here. I´ll admit, sometimes I wonder, when it´s especially tough, if this really is where I´m supposed to be. But I know it is. I know I was sent to Ecuador for a reason, even though I have no idea what it is right now. But already, as I´ve mentioned above, I´ve been able to receive help to know the needs of the people I´m teaching and been able to see the joy that this gospel brings to people, and to feel the love that the Savior has for them. It´s incredible!! I´m not going to pretend that it´s easy, or that every day is a great day, or even that I´m really happy every day. But I know that in the long run I am going to say, "This was the best thing I´ve ever done in my life." RIght now I´m thinking that it´s the hardest thing I´ve ever done in my life, and no doubt it will always be tough. But I remember a talk given by Jeffrey R. Holland on this subject. He said, it wasn´t easy for our Savior to take upon Himself the sins of the world for us, so how dare we call ourselves His disciples if we´re not willing to have a little bit of that same pain and struggle in our lives? I´m paraphrasing horribly but that´s the gist of it. And it´s true. It definitely wasn´t easy for the Savior to suffer for us, so why should we expect it to be easy for us to live life or bring people to the gospel of Jesus Christ?? A lot of times when I´m feeling down or sorry for myself another quote from that talk pops into my head: "Salvation isn´t cheap." It´s absolutely true. So don´t worry too much about me. It´s tough now and no doubt it will be tough for awhile. The MTC and the mission field are two very different places, and both take time to get used to (although at least I could speak English in the MTC!!!!) But it will be okay. I know it will!!
So how is everyone else doing?? If you all want to email me you can. I can only write letters on monday and I don´t really have time to do it, but I´m going to try my best to get letters out to people. There are some addresses I need so if you want me to write you, put your addresses on my fb group page and my mom will send them to me. It takes snail mail about 3 weeks to get here and dearelder takes 1 week. So far I´ve gotten 1 dearelder letter from you Mom, and I think you wrote it before I left the MTC. I´m still not totally sure how the mail here works, but I think we only get it once a week. But I´ll let you know when and if I´m getting your mail and packages. I thought of a few more things I would like for Christmas (or Navidad). If you can, could you send me some Nutella and peanut butter?? Both are really expensive here and I feel bad spending a lot of money on things that I don´t really need, just want (although I suppose I could argue that I need peanut butter . . . .) If you can´t that´s fine but I would really love some. Also some bobby pins, directions on how to cook a turkey, some earrings (small and nonexpensive looking please) and Lamby. I don´t know why I left him at home, bc everywhere I´ve been on the mission, someone has had some kind of comfort object to sleep with. Friends, don´t judge me ;). I can´t really think of anything else right now, unless you want to send a Christmas tree. Haha, jk. I love you all and miss you all and be good and read your scriptures and pray always and don´t do anything I wouldn´t do. And don´t leave your peanut butter out!!
PS: Mom, could you figure out some way to get Christi´s emails to me, and to get mine to her??? I really want to know what´s going down with her in Paraguay!!!