Mis bellos amigos y familiares,
This week my heart is bursting with gratitude, and a love for the people here. Not only the ones we teach and know by name, but the ones we pass on the street every day. Serving here has certainly been an eye opening experience. We are exposed to the worst the streets here have to offer. It's made me reflect a lot lately. Why are some of the people we meet the way they are? Who would I be if I had been brought into this world, not the world of Salt Lake City, Utah? Why was I given the life I have, my family, how is it that I deserve to be in a family blessed with the gospel? If I put myself in the shoes of the people here, would I let in two strangers and listen to what they had to say? If they stopped me in the street, would I give it a chance?
Thoughts like this make me feel so incredibly unworthy of the life I have been given, but also drive me to be better. To work harder. To take less for granted and to be more thankful, thankful for everything I have. To become a little more deserving each day. When I put into perspective that every single person we see is a son or daughter of God, who has a plan for every single one of them, I wonder what part I am supposed to have in theirs.
I reflect on these very thoughts even when people are less than kind- even our 16 year old bullies- the girls that harass us with vulgar words every day when we pass them . And I find a way to love even them. who knows, maybe if I were brought up here, that would be me.
Alright ,so I'll tell you about a few highlights of my week now. Starting with Victor. It's been so cool seeing the progress in him. He is reading the Book of Mormon every day since that day in gospel principles when he confessed he didn't understand it. The first time we saw him after that day he was sitting on his front porch reading it. He just kept saying "It's so clear to me now, it's easy to understand now." Every day we'll get texts randomly throughout the day from him asking "what does ____ mean?" Etc. This week we taught him how to pray for the first time in his life. Every time we meet with him he is still full of questions. At times we are tempted just to sit with him for hours and give him all the answers, but we know as he continues to read he will find them himself. We set him with a baptismal date this week, that we will probably end up moving up.
It is so exciting watching the growth of this branch. Still the only Spanish branch in Pennsylvania. It was only created less than a year ago, and it's still very small- in fact still lacking a complete bishopric, primary, young men or young woman, but amazing things are happening. It's so cool being in a branch where missionary work is so critical. Where we are truly needed for the sake of the branch. The work seems to be growing too, some incredible people have been baptized since I've been here, and some solid families will be joining soon. Even talking to missionaries who served here in the branch previously say they never saw any growth, never found anyone to teach. Now must be the time!
In particular, Lisandra and Erick.(:We coordinate with the elders to provide either a Book of Mormon class, FHE, or movie night each week once a week. This week at the end of the night we left some time for anyone there who wanted to to share their testimonies. Erick stood up and bore the sweetest testimony where he talked about how thankful he was to soon marry Lisandra and be a part of the true church, that he knew the Book of Mormon to be true, and how he still hasn't picked up a cigar and smoked. Afterwards Lisandra shared with me how their lives are changing, and how grateful she was for us. They will be such a strong addition to the branch. We get to go over and see them in their new house this week because they signed up to feed us Tuesday.(:
The elders investigator Francisca was baptized on Saturday- she is a miracle. It's been so cool hearing and seeing her progress. I love being in an area where you not only get to see your own work, but be inspired by the work of the other missionaries. It was so cool, one of her relatives came to the baptism. We sat by him during the baptism and he would turn to us and ask "what do you believe," "what is the priesthood," "this all sounds great but... How can I really get to know Christ?" He reminds us so much of Victor, with little or no religious background. We basically ended up teaching him at the baptism. The whole time hoping he was in our area haha. He turned out to be literally on our side of the street that marks the border between our areas. Close call! After the baptism Francisca told us she wants to come out with us and teach like members did for her, and that she's available every day after 5:30. We set up a lesson at her house with Reuben the next day.
Unfortunately Sister Landa had food poisoning yesterday so we had to cancel our day and miss church. Bummer. Including our lesson with Cynthia and Rafael and their family- the anticipation is killing me, but we'll have to wait til next week to see them!
We had such an interesting lesson with a new family on saturday.. A family from Puerto Rico. Their son Nero proved to be quite the challenge. He was atheist and 'abandoned religion' years ago. He's currently majoring in science and needs scientific proof of God's existence. It was interesting, he was clearly trying to bash a little bit, but it was such a powerful lesson, and we were able to answer each and every one in a non combative way. The spirit was still able to be present so strong. The funniest part was when we were talking about faith, and he asked "so if you walked head on into traffic with your eyes closed, do you have faith God would save you?" I just said "No, God also gave us brains." Hahaha. This lesson was proof to me that if you always, and only respond to these situations with the spirit, you can "confound men." Confounding men does not mean responding in such a way that they feel stupid and have nothing else to say, just answering clearly enough that they have no argument.
D&C 100: 5-8,10:
5 Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men;
6 For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.
7 But a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things.
8 And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.
10 And I will give unto him power to be mighty in testimony.
We're a little nervous to go back honestly, he told us he was going to 'prepare a lecture for next time.' But he was all about reading the Book of Mormon. We told him to begin with Alma 32. So hopefully he is touched as he reads and we don't get chewed out Saturday. Hahaha. He said he had some videos for us....
We are really excited about the progress of a recent convert we've been working with, Josephina, and her non member husband ,Loli- who came to church for the first time this week. Loli is solid, the only thing that's stopped him from really progressing is the lack of example he sees in Josephina. As soon as they realize they're both fighting with the same intent in mind, they both want each other there supporting one another, I can honestly see them and their two crazy cute boys being a strong family in the branch one day. We have been doing FHE's with them each week, but they always end up turning into somewhat marriage counseling. But I really think we broke solid ground this week with them, and them being at church was evidence of that.
Yesterday the Easter initiative came out, it's awesome, and I'm so excited to start using it- especially in a walk area. It's beginning to warm up here, this week was a taste of what summer will be like here! Streets FILLED with people, a constant stream of rap blasting from every car window. The soundtrack to my summer in Lancaster haha.
So there's a little bit of what's going on here in Lancaster. There's too many great people here to tell you about them all. If you've made it to the end of this novel, you're probably my family.(: Sears/ Maxfield. Hi, I love you!
Con muchísimo amor,
Ps. La iglesia es verdadera.