Monday, February 29, 2016

The Fleas Bite Back

I swear, I think all the fleas of Mission Quito, Ecuador North have conspired to never let me live in peace. Somehow they found a way into my sheets again and once again I'm covered in bites, some of which have developed into blisters because there's just not way to prevent them from rubbing against my clothes. If I came back disfigured by scars, at least you know, now.
This week was pretty good, but unfortunately our investigators with a date, Miguel and Marlene, didn't came to church yesterday, which means...they don't have a date anymore. We don't know why, but we suspect it's because their grandson, who they have care for, is in Catecismo (I don't even remember what that is in English) and so they have to go to his classes in the Catholic church and everything. It's kind of frustrating, because the grandson himself wants to go to our church but if a kid doesn't do his requisite things in the Catholic church here that can sometimes cause problems, because many of the best schools here are Catholic and to get in you have to have done all that stuff. Well, I don't understand it fully, either, but it has been a bit of a stumbling block for us. I'm confident they'll be baptized this month, however.
Also, we saw a cool miracle this week. Some members in our sector had some non-members living with them who had come from the jungle for a time to look for work her in Ibarra. One of them, Eric, had received a few of our lessons but we hadn't really focused much on him because we thought he'd go back to the jungle anyways, since that was their intention. But strange things have passed, and Eric ended up staying a week longer, then a week longer...and now it looks like he might be staying here for a more indefinite period of time.
And he's interested in the gospel.
We're still not completely sure if and how long he'll stay here in Ibarra, but his friend (who's a member) he's staying with basically told him last lesson, "The Lord's got you here for some reason. Just look at everything that's happened. You're still here for some purpose."
Pretty cool, huh?
We also had another miracle this week - we recently discovered there's a member who came back a few months ago from the jungle (why is it always the jungle?) where she'd been working. She got baptized here in Ibarra and when she went to work in the jungle, since the church wasn't to be found in the village she went to, she didn't go to church for three years. Now she's back, and guess what...her oldest daughter now has the age to be baptized. So, we're teaching to help her back to activity (the awesome thing is she came to church several weeks already without us even knowing she existed) and also her daughter. At first her daughter, Samantha, was really shy. The first time we wanted to teach her she kind of shut down because her mom had pulled her away from the computer where she had been watching a movie. I could see she just didn't want to talk with us, so while we opened with a prayer, I prayed in my mind to know what to do to help her open up. And that's when I got an idea. I suggested we watch...the Restoration, the movie! So we did, and since then she's been much more receptive to us. Miracles, big and small, happen all the time.
This week I also realized something important: God doesn't want us to be sad.
That may not seem so earth-shattering, but for me it was an important realization. All my life I think I've always felt that God gives us happy moments, smooth stretches on the highway to happiness, but that always on the other side there's going to be a long stretch of rough road. I thought I was always destined to have moments of tranquility and peace, but just waiting for the next trial to tear through my life to make me feel sad again.
I've realized that even though God does want us to learn and progress, that doesn't mean he wants us to be sad.
Yesterday in sacrament meeting one of the councilors in the district presidency shared an interesting thought. Paraphrasing a bit, he said, "Christ showed us, through his suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, that happiness isn't to be won by luck, but by hard work and sacrifice." I really liked that idea, because it's basically saying that if you want to be happy...all you need to do is work at it! No one else is responsible for your happiness, and you can make it happen.
Our mission president's wife recently shared with me a thought from Mosiah 24:13-14. In this story Alma and his people are in captivity, but the Lord answers their prayers and promises to liberate them. He says:

 ...Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
Could it be that lifting up our heads and being happy is actually a prerequisite to being delivered out of bondage?
This ties into a bit of what I've been learning about faith and hope as well. In the Bible Dictionary it says the following:
Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Heb. 11:1; Alma 32:21), and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation. To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone. The Lord has revealed Himself and His perfect character, possessing in their fulness all the attributes of love, knowledge, justice, mercy, unchangeableness, power, and every other needful thing, so as to enable the mind of man to place confidence in Him without reservation.
So when we truly understand Christ's character...we'll be able to have faith. And as He is perfect, that faith can be perfect as well, and overcome any obstacle. That faith that He is at the head of this great work and will not abandon us if we follow him is what gives us hope, and that truly is the anchor that keeps us steady. I love Elder Maxwell's thoughts on hope:
For a variety of reasons, brothers and sisters, today’s society seems to struggle in order to be hopeful. The associated causes and effects co-mingle ever so subtly.

Our everyday usage of the word hope includes how we “hope” to arrive at a certain destination by a certain time. We “hope” the world economy will improve. We “hope” for the visit of a loved one. Such typify our sincere but proximate hopes.

Life’s disappointments often represent the debris of our failed, proximate hopes. Instead, however, I speak of the crucial need for ultimate hope.

Ultimate hope is a different matter. It is tied to Jesus and the blessings of the great Atonement, blessings resulting in the universal Resurrection and the precious opportunity provided thereby for us to practice emancipating repentance, making possible what the scriptures call “a perfect brightness of hope” (2 Ne. 31:20).

I hope all of you can be of good cheer this week and come unto Christ! I know He lives and that as a result there isn't anything we can't do if we have his help.

Bringing my dad's famous chicken to Ecuador on p-day.

I'm not that great at capturing the landscapes here. They're pretty beautiful sometimes, trust me.

Doing some service this week. 

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