Monday, August 26, 2013

"Every moment of every day we should be striving." -- Brigham Young (Photos at end)

Mi Amada Familia,

Well, as far as numbers go, this week was pathetic. A mission low church attendance of 31. Actually, I think once in Piribebuy on a rainy day there were only like 22. Anyway, it´s been very, very cold and rainy which makes it very difficult to be effective and get in doors. It was hot on Tuesday; we even bought ice cream out of desperation to cool off. And Wednesday afternoon you would have thought we were in Utah at Christmastime. And it hasn´t stopped raining since then, pretty much. Which means that no one except those with cars went to church, and all the investigators who had a baptismal date didn´t go and thus their date fell. But aside from numbers and productiveness, it was a fabulous week, I´d say. My testimony is stronger, and we blessed lives and brought joy to lots of people. What more could I want? Isn´t that the point, anyway?

I´m glad you were able to have similar experiences at home--stake conference with Elder Ellis? Sweet!

Christian and Rossana are progressing really well. Augustin hasn´t been a problem since last Sunday. We just ignored everything. They had to postpone their wedding until Friday because they couldn´t borrow the money as they had planned, but Christian did get a job (thank you for your prayers!!!) and so they needed a week to earn what they need. Their baptism will be the following Saturday, the 7th. They couldn´t go to church yesterday because of the rain. They have 5 children (the two oldest are Rossana´s from a previous relationship) who are SO CUTE. They have a little girl named Genesis who turned 4 on Friday and should be on a magazine, she is such a doll. She is named that because it was the beginning of Christian´s conversion to "the road of God," as he calls it, when she was born. On Saturday we were literally freezing and walking in the pouring rain with NO luck when we went to visit them. They said they were just about to call us and invite us over for hot chocolate for their daughter´s birthday. Hallelujah! We went into their little house (they are so poor it breaks my heart) and they gave us hot chocolate and we could start to feel our fingers and toes again. Last night we visited them with Javier and Leonela and taught tithing. They are very willing to pay. I love them so very, very much. Christian loves the Book of Mormon and since they couldn´t go to church, they read yesterday together and prayed as a family. They took a hymn book from church to their house, haha. Christian calls hymns "psalms" and wants to learn all of them. What a great, great guy. And to think he used to be a long-haired, drug-using, drinking single guy. God has led him to first be a family man, turn Christian, then find the full gospel, then quit drugs and smoking and drinking and get married while meeting with us. Gah, my heart is full just thinking of them!

This week I fasted twice, for the first time in my life. I felt like I need to do something that will stretch me, something that is hard. It´s not overly difficult for me to be obedient or contact or face persecution or endure freezing rainy days anymore; it´s fairly expected. I want to set goals that are going to really push me.  I fasted on Tuesday for Christian to find a job, and I fasted on Thursday for something else. It is easier and more joyful everytime. Isaiah 58 talks about fasting as the most happy thing, and I finally am beginning to understand that. I have had to do what I always tell investigators to do when they want a testimony of a principle: you have to do it, live it. Fasting wasn´t miserable this time. It is still hard but when you really want something and stay focused on God and your purpose, it really is a joy. And on Friday Christian got a job making rock roads for the city! It´s a demanding job, but something he´s always worked in. 
Yesterday, as I mentioned, almost no one went to church. I can´t blame them, really. What would you do with little children, in pouring rain, with no boots or jacket or umbrella? You´d get soaked and then get sick. In our building, our ward and another branch meet, and I noticed that in the other branch there were just 8 people. I watched the branch president walk in without an umbrella or hood or jacket or anything, just a Sunday sweater. He was SO cold, so wet. I asked him how far he walked and he said, "Just 5 or 6 little blocks." I was so touched by his sacrifice, the majority just stay in bed. These people are so poor and are not at all prepared for the cold or rain, because it isn´t very common. They can´t just go buy an umbrella real quick either, because that would mean not eating that day. 
Since there were no investigators to be in gospel principles, we had a combined Sunday School. I hadn´t been in a gospel doctrine class for over a year, and it was so good to have a deeper gospel discussion! A recently returned missionary gave the class on the martydom of Joseph Smith. We read in D&C 135. I felt the spirit so strongly, from head to toe. I felt such a love for the sacrifices the early prophets and saints made for the restoration of the gospel. I know, independent of anyone and anything, that Jospeh Smith was a prophet. My testimony of him has increased so much lately. My own parents and everyone I know could tell me he wasn´t a prophet, and I would still know he is. I KNOW God restored His church through Joseph Smith. If I were to deny it, I would be denying so much revelation God has given me. I want to live my life as Joseph Smith did, always ready to meet God. When he knew he was about to be killed he said he was as calm as a summer´s morning. That serenity can only come from a life clean from sin and a free conscience, knowing you have done what God wants you to have done. The teacher asked us to think if we would be willing to die to defend the truth. I honestly feel like I would. But more than that, God has asked me to live to defend the truth, which is sometimes a little harder.  This week we got trapped by some young men who sat us down acting like they wanted to learn more about the gospel. We soon realized they were just trying to prove us wrong. They asked me question after question, not waiting for me to answer in between. The Spirit was NOT there. I just wanted to leave them with a Book of Mormon and leave, but they kept looking up all these scriptures in the Bible about how we can´t have any more scripture than what´s in the Bible. I wrote my testimony just for them in the back of a copy while my comp was talking, and offered it to them. They refused it, saying the Bible is good enough for them. I offered it to them three times and they wouldn´t touch it. I wanted to cry. Here I had something SO VALUABLE in my hands...pure evidence that God has called Jospeh Smith as a prophet, and they wouldn´t open their hearts. I asked them, "Who are we to tell God he can´t give us more word?" I read them 2 Nephi 29 something where it says, "Oh, fool, who says we need no more bible." That was probably an un-loving mistake, but I couldn´t resist. (I´m going to miss teaching in Spanish, I´m way more bold in Spanish I feel like.) I´m sure you know how it is, Hope, after reading about that guy who talked your ear off for an hour. I say that if they don´t want to open their hearts to God, then we should move on to those God is preparing who are indeed looking for the truth and WILL listen to the answers we have. I have a new strong testimony that they are out there. Lots of them.
I loved what you said, Hope, about not needing a miracle or an AHA! moment to keep on going, that you are here to stay. I hope God knows that about me, too, that I will never, no never, no never forsake. We are waiting for calls about changes (I guess in the U.S. they say transfers?). We shall see if I stay in dear Isla Bogado for my last six weeks or get to know a new place. I have no idea. 
And congrats on your first baptism Hope! What a dream---showing up to the baptism and having it be full of people and the spirit, warm water, the whole schabang just waiting for you. Don´t get too used to that. Someday you´ll be in a little branch in Brazil and have to lead the opening song while hoping someone other than your convert shows up, and also think about what to say in a talk and wonder who on earth can be the two witnesses...haha. Oh the joys of being on the frontier of church growth. 
This week was Ester´s 20th birthday. She´s having a very hard time but is still fairly optimistic through it all. She hasn´t been going to church very often, and feels very alone in the world. Arnaldo is with another chica....we saw him, and her dad whom she lives with doesn´t really talk to her that much or understand her. She´s so alone. I love her so much and wish I could just make everything better. But anyway, we made her an awesome cake and took hot chocolate and went with a member to celebrate her birthday. If we hadn´t gone it would have been a normal day for her, with no mention of her birthday. She was very thankful to us. 
Oh! Yesterday MODESTO WENT TO CHURCH! The Benitez dad! It was raining so much he didn´t go to work, so he went with his family to church!! He totally knows the chruch is true, he always says that, he just can´t go because he works Sundays in the hospital. We are going there tonight to celebrate my comp´s and Miriam´s birthdays that are this week. It was such a pleasure to see that 9 of the 31 people at church yesterday are my converts. Well, the Lord´s converts that I had the blessing to teach. 
Dad, I´m so happy you get to baptize someone this Saturday! What a special event! I am so thankful to have a father who recognizes his dependancy on God, and is humble and worthy to hold the priesthood of God. Also, thank you mom and dad for writing me every single week without fail. I love you so much. I know I always say that but words are the only medium I have to express myself right now, and it is so true. I mean it with all my heart.
I am eternally thankful for the mercy of God. I have been studying mercy recently in the scriptures and it is incomprehensible how merciful He is! I have a greater desire to be more merciful and forgiving myself, to not dwell on the mistakes of others or their misunderstandings, to not judge based on appearance, to let go of people´s past. I am so thankful for the mercy of God in my own life. It is a tender mercy He has given me to let me serve a mission. He didn´t have to let me, but He did, and I will forever praise Him and thank Him for letting me come...for guiding me away from getting married or pursuing other interests and giving me the desire and means to be a missionary. I LOVE it more than I can type. It is the hardest thing I´ve ever done, yet the happiest. 

Your Sister Missionary,
Sister Faith Goimarac I


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