Monday, December 7, 2015
Before I start, let me thank you fro your emails and for your support. I love getting pictures and updates from everyone. Although I hardly ever respond, I do read every email and appreciate your love and support.
So my life moves very quickly. Days feel 48 hours long but never enough time to finish everything for the day; however, 11pm doesn’t come fast enough to be able to sleep. The weeks end faster than any individual day… they fly by. I’ve now been in Salta again for the past 6 weeks. President changed P-day to Monday so our office week is Tuesday – Friday. We now have one entire day to go “missioning” in our area. It’s great. This last week broke down like this:
Last Monday – “Spiritual Preparation” to give a training in a Zone Leaders Conference.
Tuesday – “Zone Leaders Conference” All of the zone leaders from the 10 “zones” we have in the mission came to Salta for a training conference. Hermana Chaparro, Presidente Chaparro, Elder Rich and I trained the missionaries on some aspects of “finding” people who we may teach/help/etc. After lunch, the zone leaders from Tartagal (the northernmost zone in the mission) back to their house and we spent the night with them.
Wednesday – Elder Rich and I exchanged companions in Tartagal in order to further train and teach other missionaries (mostly learning from them… I don’t know in what I am “assisting” but I learn much more from other missionaries than I think they are learning from me). Tartagal is a VERY humid city. It’s just south of the Bolivia/Salta, Arg. border. THERE ARE MANGOS EVERYWHERE! I am not exaggerating by saying that the streets are LINED with mango trees. HUGE MASSIVE trees covering the entire area. It is very much a jungle. There is a constant hum of “Coyuyo” which are these ENORMOUS black bugs like the cicadas during the summer months in the desert. I went with Elder Mahowski from Chile in his area (Aguaray) even further north (just 15mins south of Bolivia). We met A LOT of people. While talking with a lady at her gate, I noticed a green thing moving in the backyard. IT WAS AN ANACONDA, nah, just kidding. It was just a huge green Iguana strolling along, eating little chicks and the eggs of all the wild chickens that run loose. I kind of lost my train of thought talking with the lady and was caught by the Iguana. The lady wasn’t interested in listening to us, she just wanted to talk so I pretended to listen to her and just watched the thing walk on by. It was sweet.
In the evening we were teaching a family who hadn’t gone to church for years, and one of the sons had never been present in one of the missionary visits. We were teaching him to pray and he said such an AWESOME PRAYER. It was so sincere. Well, while he was praying I heard this “flop” “flop” – I was really paying attention to Bruno pray. It wasn’t like my experience with the Lady and Iguana – I peeked my eyes opened to see what it was and I see this GIGANTIC Frog the size of football hopping along behind Elder Mahowski and me. I shut my eyes quickly knowing that I was in no harm. Bruno at the end of his prayer started to cry (I was glad I had paid attention). He felt like God had listened to him and really felt the Lord’s love for him. He was kind of overwhelmed by the experience so he started to cry. Not the Iguana nor the frog was quite as awesome as being a part of someone’s first prayer. Watching them be filled with Christ’s love is unforgettable. Ended the night by eating fried meat sandwiches back in the house of the Zone Leaders. Delicious.
Thursday – We left Tartagal and headed to Embarcación, a city 2 hours to the south but 2 times more humid. I went with Elder Jones from Phoenix, Not the most productive day in my mission. I haven’t been so hot in a very long time. Even one of the most humid days in the desert doesn’t compare to how hot and humid it was. I took advantage of the opportunity to exercise diligence and patience. Having a sweaty drunk man hug me and breath in my face and in my ear really tries my patience. It’s hard to “minister” or be a “minister” in situations like that. I kept a smile on and just laughed with him and tried to just be very patient waiting for him to let me go. I felt good, walking away from the house, knowing that I was able to control myself and my emotions. We ended the day eating a Kilo of ice cream in front of their air conditioner in their room. Slept on a tempur-pedic, electrically chilled bed with Egyptian cotton 2000 thread count sheets. Indulgence baby.
Friday – Woke up from one of the best night’s sleep and we drove 3 ½ hours to San Salvador, Jujuy. One the way, we passed some cool fruit stands set up alongside the route and realized that they were selling stuff that was growing just behind the stands. I pulled off the road and we headed into a plantain grove. Rows and rows of plantain plants with bunches and bunches of fruit growing off of every plant. Elder Rich is a little like the guy "Cameron" from the movie Ferris Buller’s day off, really nervous over just about anything. He didn’t like driving on “not so public” property without asking someone first. I loved the pictures. We left the grove, kept driving, took some pictures of bridges, and signs, finally getting to San Salvador, Jujuy.
We ate lunch with the Zone Leaders from Jujuy Centro Zone and then split up to go to work. I went with a very new Elder, Elder Osorio from Buenos Aries, Arg. We talked with a lot of people, taught 1 lesson and walked a lot. About 2 hours before we had scheduled to meet back with our companions it just stated pour down rain. We hadn’t had much success all afternoon (in terms of teaching lessons) and I was just praying that someone would let us in their house to get out of the rain. The past 2 days I felt like God had set up a “prayer answer hotline” in that every time I prayed to be guided to someone to teach, we found someone really receptive and that let us teach them a lesson. Now, sopping wet, patience being tried, feeling the success responsibility over my shoulders with this new missionary, I was pleading Heavenly Father for a miracle. Elder Osorio was talking with the church member who was with us, brainstorming to identify someone we could visit, and still praying in my heart the God sends us a miracle. They think of someone to visit and we start walking to her house. We ask everyone and anyone we see if they would be willing to let us come in their house and share a Christmas message with them; every single one of them politely declined. I didn’t get it… The last 2 days had gone off without any trouble. God had been answering my prayers left and right, I was beginning to wonder WHY He wasn’t answering. Rejection after rejection I began to think “Don’t these people see us?” “We are soaking wet. It’s raining. We are smiling. Are these people not normal kind people who offer, at least, to invite another in out of the rain?” I began to find fault in the people and in God for our lack of success, but just as I began to do so, I realized the grand mistake I had begun to make. I realized that my faith and my love had become VERY conditional, exercising faith and love only IF God, or these people answered my requests in the way and timing that I was demanding for. I asked for forgiveness from God and changed my mood towards the people who were rejecting us. We didn’t ever get invited into a house, but I ended the night much different than the way I had started it. I felt an appreciation for God and his patience with me. I felt humbled to be considered an example to Elder Osorio and other missionaries. I felt, yet again, the peace of being able to control my own body and emotions. Elder Rich and I drove back to Salta, getting home after midnight.
Saturday and Sunday flew by.
Today (Monday) – With a little Christmas money I received in my family’s Christmas advent calendar (thank you Dad), I took Elder Maldonado (my real assigned companion) golfing. It was his very first time ever playing golf. It was awesome to see the progress in his swing and understanding of the game. We walked the course with a caddy and really got to know him. His name was Mario. He wants to come to church with us on Sunday. I hope he makes it on Sunday.
Elder Maldonado wanted to try Chinese Take-out so we ordered take out and are writing emails to our families.
This next week we have to plan Transfers with Presidente and then get ready for next week (the sending/receiving of old/new missionaries)
In two weeks we have 4 Christmas Conferences in the mission and CHRISTMAS! I don’t feel very Christmassy yet… I think I’ll make that my project this next week…
I love every one very much.
Thank you for your prayers in my behalf.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
I've spent the last week in the jungles of Northern Salta and Jujuy. I hunted wild plums, explored Plantain plantations, paused on the free way to watch tuco-tuco (fire flies) and have trained 29 Elders and 10 Sister Training Leaders this last week, finding and teaching families that speak very little SPANISH and much more CHINE (pronounced CHEE-NEIGH) which is an aboriginal dialect in southern Bolivia... it has been raining for the past 48 hours and I would have to say: I love my life.
Élder Hampton | Misión Argentina Salta