A staircase. I think I´ve climbed this one about three times now... it´s pretty typical for the area we are in right now.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Great week! But I wanted to start off, before talking about what happened, by thanking mom. When I was about 6, you decided that, because I knew how to read, I was going to start singing the hymns with you in church. I resented it and tried to talk you out of it, and when I thougth you weren´t looking sometimes I wouldn´t sing, but finally I gave in and began to sing the hymns in church. Thirteen years later, the hymns are a powerful part of my testimony, and every time I sing a hymn to start out a lesson and can feel the spirit flowing into the room, or every time I am able to serve in the ward because I know how to lead music, I am so thankful that, when I was six, my mom made me sing in church.
On a slightly less serious note, I have developed a new way to shake hands with kids. I take their hand and immediately start to throw it up and down as hard as I can, which is either funny because they go limp arm and just giggle, or because they start to throw their hand up and down as hard as I am throwing mine and I pretend that they are really strong and that they are about to rip my arm out. It´s quite fun, and I think it´s a trick that might work in English, too!
This Sunday, we had lunch with a really young new family in the ward. They got married and moved into the ward a few weeks after I got here--she now works in the Primary and he is in the Elder´s Quorum. Lunch was great, we talked about funny stories from his mission and about the atonement. I was left thinking that we had just had lunch with the promise of the church in Chile, that these two newleyweds would grow to be the leaders and shapers of the church, all because they had made the first few steps right--he served a mission, they got married in the temple, they magnify their callings and share the gospel with their neighbors. I was left thinking that that was how I wanted to be, that those were the types of choices I wanted to make.
After lunch, we shared with another family in the ward, Hermana V and her three children. We had never really shared with them before, but it was wonderful to get to know them better. The husband/father of the family was inactive, and had been for some time, but the mom and three kids faithfully went to church every week. The 12 year old S is now working on visiting other members of his group to help them get back to church, and 15 year old M brought one of her friends with her to seminary (D, a little more about him later). The whole day left me feeling really content and happy with the faith and hope that there is in and for the church, it was a good day.
Earlier on in the week, we met a kid named E (well, I say ´kid´ but he´s 19--who am I to talk), who had recently moved in from another ward. He got baptized a little under a year ago, and when we asked him what we thought the church was, he gave the most inspired and inspiring reply I had ever heard. "The church is everything. You can go there to meet people, play sports, eat some food sometimes, but you also go to learn things, to make and renew covenants, to learn about God and work towards heaven. It´s like a big family, everybody helping each other and lifting each other, everybody moving together towards salvation." We are hoping that the next stop for him will be a mission, because he´d be great as a missionary.
Final news of the week--D, the friend of a member who started going to seminary about a week before we met him. We went to seminary one day to get to know him, and it turned out it was someone we already knew from the street--a kid who had lived in North Carolina for 5 years and is our neighbor. The next day we went over to get to know him a little better. We ended up in a very serious conversation with his mom (he got home a few minutes in) about her hopes and fears for her son. He had a traumatic moment several months ago where he decided that he absolutely needed to meet his biological parents (he is adopted). His adoptive family started looking and arranged a meeting. After meeting his mom, he was really struck by her style of life, and began to think that his destiny, as well, was to end up living on the street, stealing to pay for drugs. His parent´s pleas hadn´t been able to reach him, and they weren´t really sure what they could do. We started talking about the gospel, about repentance, about Alma the Younger going from "the very vilest of sinners" to an amazing prophet. I felt like I was being taught, as well, about what the gospel can do, about how the church really will give D the happiness and peace he needs, that he has thought of looking for in absolutely the other direction. He came to church with us yesterday and played soccer with us this morning, and he seems to be loving it all.
This Gospel is amazing. This Church is too.
Viviendo el sueño,
Elder Jason ray