This week was pretty interesting, being the first of the new change. Monday started with some tears as ward members and Hermana Argueta and I bid farewell to our district leader and fellow La Fuente missionary, Elder Howard. It has been cool sharing La Fuente with another gringo for 6 weeks, and he'd been here in this ward for almost 5 months. It's a pretty special place, and it was pretty hard for him to go.
Wednesday was darn interesting. We had planned our day pretty tight, as usual, and in the middle of a lesson I get three phone calls (after ignoring the first two) from the Zone Leader (the missionary responsible for all the missionaries in his area) of Puerto Cabezas, the zone way the heck in the boonies of the atlantic coast. He had to get ahold of me so that Hermana Ramirez, the Sister Training Leader (the sister missionary who works with all the sisters in her zone/geographic area), who had flown in to Managua in preparation for the leaders meeting the next day, could come work with Hermana Argueta and me for the evening. That was pretty cool. I was "born" (started my mission) in the same zone that Hermana Ramirez was working in. She was one of my favorite people, and it was great to get to see her again. With her, we went looking for an address in one of the sketchier parts of my area, and had to cross the "bridge of the dead" three times. It's a bridge with more than half the slats missing. All the Nicas were laughing at us trying to jump across in skirts and missionary shoes. Zooming around in a taxi to drop her off after our appointments that night, I was struck once again with how different this is, what an adventure it is, and how much I love it.
On Thursday we went out to work with a recent convert who was baptized 6 months ago with her whole family. They're preparing to go to the temple in September to be sealed as an eternal family. I am so excited for them. They are super, super awesome. Her husband is the Elder's Quorum president - the leader of the quorum of men who hold and exercise the priesthood, the authority of God, which is given to every worthy male in Christ's church, and she is the seminary teacher, the scripture study course for the youth of the congregation.
Friday we had some pretty miraculous finding experiences. We went to a number of members and asked them to take us in that very minute to visit some of their friends, to invite them to general conference. And the husband of our lunch cita (the sister who makes us lunch every day) took us to one of his neighbors, who was really excited to go. And that evening, we visited with the friends of another member, a sister who is not a member but who studies the Book of Mormon and the magazines of the church, and they are such a special family.
Saturday was General Conference, and lucky us, we went to every session. In the morning we went alone, and my prayers were answered with the very first talk: Elder Holland's, where he talked about the great priviledge it is to represent Jesus Christ and have his name. That is even more real as a missionary, as a person set apart to represent the Savior and to wear his name on our chests every day. This is such a grand opportunity, even in the times when it's hard. In those times, we learn how to come closest to the Savior, as we live a little bit more like what he experienced than in any other point of our existence. And I have such a strong testimony that answers and vital inspiration are given during conference sessions, and that was a slightly overwhelming moment of answered prayers, as at the very start of the conference I got an answer to prayer in such a way. And every single hymn in that session was just for me, and music gets me more than anything else.
I remember nothing of the afternoon session, unfortunately, as I wrangled 3 children so that their mother, our investigator, Claudia, who we've been teaching for a month now, and who loves the church, could pay attention. I love kids, but this time I was a little sad to miss part of conference. That night I rode a bus across Managua to do divisions with our Sister Training Leaders, came back, and threw fire. We found 2 new families, and one of them accepted the invitation to be baptized, and then came to conference. Miracles, man!
Sunday was special, as even here in Nicaragua, the general conference was like a holiday. People were talking with friends, taking photos with family, and hugging everyone in sight after the morning session ended. And I had a really special experience when, as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir started singing "A Child's Prayer," my good friend Estefen, the 10-year-old brother of one of my piano students, and the son of one of our most pilas members, who was sitting next to me and playing tic-tac-toe with me, started singing the words in Spanish, all by himself. Oh, these people are so special, and I'm so lucky to be here with them.
This morning, we took cupcakes to the husband of our food cita, since today was his birthday, and I just happened to find "magic relighting candles" in the supermarket filled with American imports the last pday, and, naturally, I used those on his cupcakes. No one knew, not even my companion, because it was labled in English. His family could not get enough of those candles. They laughed and laughed and laughed. I got video. It's pretty great.
I love you, I love these people, I love this work, and I love my Savior.
So much love,