¡Buenas! Hello mother and father! It was an amazing week here in San Jorge, with the fourth of July, lots of conferences and lots of teaching to do. I just want to first express how grateful I am for being able to serve the Lord at this time and in this place. There are some more exotic places we could be in the world, but I have been blessed with the opportunity to TEACH a lot, speak a different language, and baptize a lot of prepared people, and work with great stakes that want to keep our converts active! I really just have a lot of love in my heart for this area and these people. I will miss the familiar roads and places of this area if they ask me to leave. BUT! Right now there is way too much to enjoy to think about such things :)
As a disclaimer, I had a whole bunch of notes written down, but I left them in the apartment. So I apologize for the lack of organization of my thoughts. The most...different...thing that happened this week was the 4th of July. We were prohibited from knocking on nonmembers' doors that day, but instead visited fewer actives, other members, and did service. We had a DELICIOUS barbeque with one of our service missionaries in the branch who served his mission in the mountains of Bolivia. That is such a different mission experience from my own! His stories were fun to listen to (baptizing in bath tubs and lake Titicaca alike), but I am really grateful for the current missionary program the church has , that helps us focus on our purpose and working hard with the local units as well. So the fourth of July was weird...because we just wanted to be teaching people :)
We also got to help our recent convert F G move and basically build his new house this week. Elder Barrales nailed posts to the wall below and I did the posts above---an effective division of labor :) F was at first trying to do this work all on his own, but we told our ward mission leader and shortly all of the priesthood descended to help him out. I know that this has been a really stressful time for Brother G with work, moving, and building his new house, but this week he realized for the first time that the branch family is there to help him. It was a really sweet experience, seeing the relief in his face, and hearing the gratitude in his voice when we brought more people to help him out. Yup. Serving is the best :)
We had a leadership exchange this week with our Zone Leaders as well, and one of our ZLs right now is a Samoan from Hawaii. I love our district. We have a Chilean, an Argentinean, a Venezuelan, a Samoan, a German, a Sister from New Zealand, and just a handful of Americans. The Gospel is for all of the world. Even serving here in Utah, that is obvious to me.
This Sunday when our branch meetings started there were more white people there than Hispanics :) Our ward mission leader kept "score" with us while we watched the Hispanic families walk in late. But when they arrived...wow did they arrive in numbers! These last few Sundays the branch has been pretty packed, and it is really heartening to see less active families and convert families we have taught make that decision to come to church on Sunday. Especially the H family! This is a really worthwhile experience we have been having with them. Basically, months ago our branch president told us to go by and teach this family (the mom and the dad were less active, and the girls are unbaptized) and at first the mom was really apprehensive to talk to us because of bad past experiences. She learned to trust us though, and this Sunday, even though she was working, she called and reminded her husband and daughters to go to church. I loved watching all of the branch members just come up to Brother H and give him a hug a kiss (Latin culture...we avoid this by extending our hands proactively for a handshake...these sisters are just very cariñosas) and after the services he said "I needed this for a long time. We will definitely be coming back every week." I love it :)
This week though our district was also hit pretty hard and had a hard time meeting all of its goals. As leadership, it is our opportunity to bless, lift, and inspire these missionaries to keep it up, and to keep trying. And boy, does the Lord help you in your assignments. Last night as a part of companionship calls, the district decided to start a week of Sanctification-or trying to work harder and be more obedient than ever before, so that Heavenly Father will be "bound" (D&C 82:10) to bless us. Elder Barrales and I started it earlier...and boy did blessings just fall out of the sky! Yesterday we found, four new investigators, and our goal for the WEEK was three! One of the new investigators we got was a particularly good experience...his name is A, and his wife has wanted us to teach him ever since I first came into the mission. Well, they moved, A got falsely apprehended and put in prison (not too uncommon for these people), but while he was in there he asked his wife for a Book of Mormon. And in jail, he read 100 pages! After he got out, he went to church 3 times in a row! Our first lesson was yesterday in a chapel, after we invited him to be baptized he said (roughly translated) "In one way or another I have put that as my goal and I need to keep studying, keep coming to the chapel, and definitely praying a lot to be firm in my decision. I have a lot of faith in God and the Book [of Mormon] has a great spirituality to it and I know it is from God." Then we said..."So that is a yes?" We all just smiled and there was a great spirit between all of us. The wife's testimony was a key as well, she said "After I was baptized I felt a great relief and we left the chapel and I was like 'what am I forgetting?' then I realized that I had left all of my sin behind." =] It was an incredible experience!
Solo quisiera compartir mi testimonio con uds. de que yo se que Dios vive y que nos ama mucho. El mandó a su Hijo Jesucristo acá a la tierra para mostrarnos con su ejemplo y para que nosotros pudieramos tener la vida eterna atraves de el. Ningun hombre dirige su Iglesia hoy, es la iglesia de Cristo y Él esta a la cabeza. Como sus misioneros podemos recibir su ayuda como nunca jamas en nuestras vidas. Testifico que el me ha hecho saber de estas cosas por medio de su espiritu. Lo amo con todo mi corazon, y él me ha ayudado a progresar y a cambiar en maneras maravillosas. Estar en la mision es la mejor cosa que yo pueda estar haciendo en este tiempo.
Entonces, los amo muchisimo. Tengan cuidado con las tormentas y con el calor (y aun mas la humedad). Casi no siento el calor ya :) ¡Los amo! Sigan mandandome sus oraciones!
(I just want to share my testimony with you. I know that God lives and loves us very much. He sent his Son to Earth to show us by his example that we can gain eternal life through him. No man directs His Church today, it is the church of Christ and He is its head. As missionaries we receive your help like never before in our lives. I testify that He has taught me about this through the spirit. I love Him with all my heart and he has helped me grow and change in wonderful ways. Being on a mission is the best thing that I can be doing right now.
So I love you very much. Be careful with the storms and the heat (even more the humidity). I hardly feel the heat already :) I love you! Keep praying for me!)
Que vayan con Dios,
Elder Michael George Stewart.