This week has been interesting. I've been thinking a lot about something that Sister Rudy once wrote me, that the thing about being a humanities person, someone who studies in that field, is that you come to understand paradox and ambiguity. Or rather than understand, you come to be familiar with it. That you can wrap your mind, even if not your heart, around the fact that while you're learning and growing and loving one place, you long to be in another as well. And that's the story of my life in Nicaragua, eh? Every day I love this place and these people more, the members, the investigators, my companion, and even the general Nicaraguan populace. But I also want to be able to hug my family, joke with my friends, go to the temple, hike in the mountains, and, well, dance. But I'm learning to handle that paradox, and I get a little better every day at remembering to value the short time I have right now. When else am I going to live a mission or live in Nicaragua again (unless I'm on the run from Interpol. Joking, of course)? There are times when I would rather be anywhere else than here as I watch people I care about lose blessings as they choose not to choose the right, and then there are times when I don't think I could be happier, as sometimes those very same people choose to follow their Lord and receive witnesses of the Spirit and blessings in their families, and as I see my own testimony and talents grow and change and improve. How's that for paradox?
Tuesday I spent the day in a trio with Hermana Howell – from Draper, UT – and Hermana Zepeda, la mexicana, in Ciudad Darío. I love Darío. I don’t know if I mentioned that earlier. This was my second time visiting the place, and I love it. It reminds me of Panguitch, and it smells nice (unlike most of Nicaragua), and the houses are pretty and not all stuck together, and even though their branch is tiny, it has some real special members. But, the bad news is, Sister Howell and I had to get up at three on Tuesday morning to go meet up with Hermana Ayala and Hermana Zepeda and swap Hermana Ayala out to the sisters from Matagalpa. That was not fun. We went back to the house in Darío and caught up on sleep, then prepped and went out to work. Highlights: We got to teach a little boy to help his family prepare for his baptism, taught seminary, and went to a birthday party for a member who just turned 16. They had fried chicken and cake, and we hung out with them until we had to go home, and walked home under the stars, laughing and joking all the way. I love those two sisters.
On Thursday I saw a miracle as an older gentleman who loves to joke and argue with us was stunned into grateful silence when we presented him with a Book of Mormon and accepted a baptismal date as a result. I learn more and more every day, and gain a greater testimony every day, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and brings us closer to Jesus Christ than anything else in this imperfect world can. I love that book, and I love the Savior of whom it testifies.
Friday I went on exchanges in the other half of our branch with Hermana Aparicio, my “playmate” who shares the same cumple-mes as me. We’re still together in Estelí, and it was really fun to spend the night in her house. They live with members in a really fachenta (ritzy) house. With HOT WATER in the shower!!!! And it’s funny how what’s fachenta here is barely livable in the eyes of most U.S. citizens. But hey, I’ve adjusted. Also, I worked at a place called Philmont. So, there’s that.
On Saturday we spent most of the day getting ready for the baptism of Rosa, the 8-year-old daughter of the man we baptized a week ago. She is precious, and loves her family and her Savior so much. She can’t read, but she’s learned all the worlds to “I Am a Child of God”, aka “Soy un Hijo de Dios,” and “Families Can Be Together Forever,” and always wants to sing those when we have lessons with their family, so we sang them both in the baptismal service. There were a few challenges, such as having to fill the font with a hose because the one person with a key to the water system was 3 hours outside of the city, and not having a lot of the members who were going to come because they were all in a training meeting for the District. But we pulled everything together, and it was so beautiful to see one of my favorite members, a recent convert named Blanca, give her testimony at the beginning of the baptismal service and say “I know that there are a lot of people out there trying to convince you you’re making a mistake, but this is the true church of Jesus Christ, and no one can change that. You’re making the best decision of your life.” As she said that, the mother of Rosa, who has been less active and has had a lot of opposition from her family in coming back to church, visibly relaxed as she heard and understood the message of Hermana Blanca’s testimony. Rosa was so excited for her baptism, and entered the font without any fear. After her, Hermano Hector, an investigator of Hermana Aparicio’s and Hermana Joachin’s was baptized, and it was so cool to have the family of Rosa share that with him.
Later that evening, the Elders in the other branch baptized a family, a mother, father, and two of their children. Their five-year-old son, who just got to watch, was so excited and thought that everything was just the coolest. The Elders bought a cake for the family, and as we were serving it afterward, I took another plate of cake over to the little boy, and he turns and looks at me with wonder and says “more cake!!?!” I think it might have been the best day of his short life. In fact, I’m sure it was.
Rosa and her parents before her baptism. Sometimes Nicaraguenses don't remember to smile...
As they confirmed Rosa on Sunday, I remembered my own baptism and confirmation, now 15 years ago. That was one of the best days of my life, as I was surrounded by my family and friends and the love of my Savior. I knew then, and know so much better now, that this church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the church of Christ. In the U.S., in Nicaragua, in Africa, in Jerusalem, in Russia, in Korea, in Brazil, no matter what country or what language, the church of Jesus Christ can be found there, and it is just as true in Afrikaans as it is in Spanish or English. We are all the children of God, and we all have the opportunity to receive salvation and eternal life through the atonement of Jesus Christ, thanks to saving ordinances of the priesthood of God. He’s given us more of His word in the gift of the Book of Mormon, and we can read of plain and precious truths there that we may miss otherwise. We have a living prophet, living apostles, and the Savior at the head of this church. How amazing is that?! When I think about it in that way, I want to go out and tell the whole world. And lucky me, that’s what I’m doing.
Hey y’all, the church is true. And boy do I love it. Even more than I love Philmont. And that’s a lot.
P.S. Happy Arizona Statehood Day on Friday!!