October 26, 2011

Good News!

Dear Family,

So, I think Mom will be pretty happy to hear that I did, in fact, receive both my package and my letter. More good news: only one thing was taken out of the package and that was the rest of the Jelly beans. I have no conclusive evidence of this, but I am thoroughly convinced that my loving mother would not send me only two tiny packages of sugery deliciousness, enough to spark a craving but not satisfy it.....I'm kidding!!! I greatly appreciate everything you sent me, though, according to my companion and everyone else, there's no malaria here. But the newspaper clipping, the photos, the letter from colton, the leaf?, the jelly beans, and especially the pillow were greatly, greatly appreciated. About the pillow: I accidently washed my last "pillow" the other day, so I've been sleeping on a towel and five packages of unopened garments. I have not been happy. But now I have a pillow and it's wonderful. Thank you very much.

My life. Ah, my life. I don't know quite how to explain. I'll start with this story: So, I was asked to play a song for a baptism the other day. It was the Primary song about baptism and rain and rainbows. I don't know the title in English. It looked easy, so I agreed to play it. Let me tell you one thing: it was NOT easy. I practiced for two hours and still only played it perfectly maybe once out of every three times. Not good. But, I prayed and had confidence that the Lord would deliver me from another impending Spanish baptism crisis. One of the unfortunate consequences of my necesity to practice a lot was that we were late to our comida appointment (have I explained the differences between Mexican eating schedules and our?). Naturally, this also made us leave late. Oh, yeah, we eat comida everday with an Hermana from the ward and we eat so much that I almost explode. Comida includes a soup, a meal (always two full plates, three if Elder Juarez manages to make me take one more), a dessert, and a piece of fruit to eat on the way to the next appointment. Dinner we either don´t eat because we are still full or we eat out. So it is only breakfast in which I depend on our kitchen, which, at the very least, has a working faucet. Many missionary casas here in Oaxaca have to use the bathroom faucet. The Elders of Ixcotel (who are closest to us. Elders Nataren and Monson (Monson is 6´10" and plays on the U of U basketball team)) only have two rooms: their bedroom and their bathroom. No kitchen or living room. I´m pretty sure if Elder Monson laid down on the floor, his head would stick out the back door and his feet the front door. It is very small. Our apartment is a palace. But they have a wonderful view of this beautiful river, with rocks and a lit up view of the city at night. The downsight of this absolutely breathtaking view is that many people use the path underneath their apartment for morning excercises, which includes listening to very loud music from the United States during personal study. The downside of the night view is that sometimes their are very loud, very long concerts that start at 11 oclock at night in the neighboring stadium. Point is, I´m grateful for where I live. But back to the story.

So we left comida at 5 (very late) and starting walking to the house of Hma Elvira, who suffered a stroke six years ago and is still recovering. Her speech is very slurred and she walk with a cane and she depends on the left side of her body to do most things. But she cried during our first visit because she knew that the Savior had suffered for her maladies and that He loves and understands her weaknesses. She lives very far away (have I said that Bosque is the biggest area in Oaxaca?) and we walked the whole way. About halfway there, we noticed that everybody was just kind of standing by the side of the road. Everybody. Everybody in Oaxaca, just standing by the side of road, like it was nothing weird. NObody was moving, driving, talking. Just standing. We found this a bit odd. Then 4 racecars zoomed by. THen 4 more. And then we learned why everybody was standing by the side of the road: All the Pan America prix cars were driving through Oaxaca at that time, so we got a little show on our long walk. It was pretty cool.

The next day was the baptism. On the way I saw my first Mexican funeral, which included a full band and many people and cars walking and driving slowly behind it. It was much louder than your typical U.S. funeral, that´s for sure. So we arrived at the Baptism and quickly discovered that there was no piano in the font room. Remember how I had prayed for help with my poor piano skillz? I breathed a great sigh of relief. Until Hermana Leon came into the room carrying the oldest, dirtiest, and what I soon found out to be least reliable keyboard on the face of the planet. This is how bad it was: if you played more than three notes at once, the keyboard would refuse to play the top note. The bottom hand was always a chord and the top hand consisted of third and fifths, which means I was always playing at least FOUR notes. Guess what the top notes are? THE MELODY! In short, the song was awful, but the baptism was beautiful and nobody seemed to care but me that I was only playing bass notes. It´s probably because Mexicans don´t understand music. The concept of a dotted eighth note is quite beyond them.

Now with my investigators. Yes, we have put six baptism dates. And yes, we are looking to put another this week. But we have a problem: none of them have been attending sacrament meeting and they can´t get baptized unless they attend church. So we spent all of this week getting rides for every single one of them and the end result was that we had four investigators in church on Sunday, which is four more than normal. One of them, German, has a baptismal date for the sixth of November. He doesn´t seem too excited about it, but then again, he´s only fifteen and he did accept the Word of Wisdom spectacularly well, so I hope we are having a positive impact on his life. This last week included like 7 gabajibalilion birthdays in his family, so one day we showed up and there was a goat tied up in the yard. The next day we showed up and there was no goat but a really delicious stew. Mexican birthdays are cool.

Wow, this is another long letter and it is completely devoid of spiritual enlightment, so I´m going to end with my testimony, my testimony of prayer. In the United States, I was pretty okay at doing things by myself. At the very least, I could always depend on my rather large vocabulary and charming smile (kidding) to make it seem like I had everything under control there. I do not have anything here. My confidence, my ability to improvise, my semblence of intelligence, my knowledge of current events, or any type of expertise in anything. But I do have one thing: I have a Heavenly Father who knows me perfectly, who created me in every sense of the word create, from my body to my environment. He loves me more than I can comprehend. And right now, I am trying my best to do His work and His will. Therefore, every night, when I kneel down, exhausted, depressed, defeated because I said this wrong, or I missed that opportunity, or I just had to walk super far, and I start to offer up what I consider my scanty day, pathetic compared to the work of others, and I throw myself into a list of things I will repent of and things I will do better at the next day, the same thing always, always, always happens: I feel the love of my Heavenly Father encircle me, as a great hug that I need. I never depended on prayer before. Now it is the thing that keeps me determined in my path. Prayer is a tool, a blessing, a support, but also so much more. Prayer is not just the communication between yourself and a Father. It is the communication between yourself and the being that you love most. Whether it´s a spouse, sibling, friend, parent, girlfriend, whatever, a prayer is like that conversation, when you just throw your worries and your burden on somebody else, and that perfect somebody else takes them for you, and strenghtens you, and loves you even more. Prayer can be a wrestle, like between for Enos. Prayer can be repetitive. Prayer can be a burden. Prayer can be many things, but ultimately, Prayer should be as it was for Jesus Christ: the natural response of a Child with a Divine commision and birth and His loving, stregthening Parent. We have a Heavenly Father. He gave us our commissions. Our births in and of themselves are tiny miracles. Therefore, I urge each and every one of you, Mormon or not, to do what is Natural and good and pray. Pray to your Father who wants to hear you and can and will help you with whatever burden you are bearing. Whatever it is, decision, job, sin, doubt, He will help you. Because He has helped the ever-so-imperfect me so many times and I only have 12 weeks on this mission.

Elder Johnson

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