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Monday, May 9, 2016

Week #99: A Branch in San Lorenzo

"For when two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
-Matthew 18:20

    I have seen a miracle. I make no claim to this miracle, because truly it is not mine, but rather it is the culmination of the sweat and tears of years of hard work of many missionaries, and the long suffering of so many faithful members. Over 40 years ago this miracle began and although I do not know the people who have pushed this miracle into motion I am eternally grateful to be here on the receiving end of their work and to have the opportunity to continue to push this miracle along.
     Around a year ago I came to know this area of San Lorenzo. I had just recently been assigned to my second area and with a few months under my belt I was able to finally get to know the people and the endless stories of faith in the mountains of Guatemala. I came to know of sacrifices I didn't even know still happened in this modern age and here I came to love my mission.
    The story of Rio Blanco in and of itself is one for the story books. It tells of a man whose faith dragged the missionaries miles into the mountains to start the conversion of literally hundreds of people over the next 40 years. However that is not today's story but is in some ways where our story begins. Over the next 40 years the members together with the missionaries went scaling through the mountains over the rivers and across the mountains in search of the lost sheep. As they brought the lost into the fold a good number of saints were found - where we are now. These faithful saints every Sunday would take the two hour trek to church and back. 
     Now I know that most of us having been born in this modern age tend to forget a few things about the past, and so I now stress just how difficult this walk is. Yes I mean walk...because until very recently going by foot or by horse were the only ways. Now to truly understand this trek one has to imagine walking up a wall for an hour straight and as difficult as that is to imagine you have to also do it while looking out for the little ones (that means carrying them on your back) as you go on the journey. A typical "chapin" mom is carrying one on her back and at least another in her arms. (I have seen my mom struggle getting us all ready for church on Sunday and all she has to do is get us in the car, and somewhat dressed, even if at time we were missing a shoe or some socks...imagine getting us all ready for a two hour walk.  Shoes become all the more important.) Even now with there being cars and buses on hand to get to Rio Blanco it is 50Q there and 50Q back which is still quite the sacrifice. However despite all of this,  the faithful members in San Lorenzo have kept the faith. 
   For years rumors have been circulating that missionaries will finally going to San Lorenzo and that a church will be made there. I imagine these rumors have been going around for more years than I have of life. 
   Three weeks ago,  we received a call at the end of a day out interviewing. We had changes. It was odd because President had told me I would be ending my mission in the office, but here I was with changes, and not just I but my companion as well. The next morning we were on a bus heading up to the mountains. Once here we were meet with literal tears of joy at the house of ever member we met. Something like this really touches and hits you as a missionary. At the same time that you know that you are not the reason for their tears you also know that you represent that very reason they are in such joy. 
     Being here has been and is one of the sweetest blessings in my mission. To visit people and know that us being here means so much to them, pushes you to be a better person than you are and really makes you think of just how much all of this is worth. This week we finally had the go ahead and we went around to invite everyone out to our first sacrament meeting. The members jumped for joy! On Sunday, when the meeting hour came we went over set everything up and waited......President Rodas, the District President showed up first....and then slowly in a true saintly fashion family after family came trickling up the hill and into the humble "church". I cant even describe the smiles we saw and the joy abounded as we met and exceeded the attendance we needed to become a branch. Sure we have a lot more work to do and more saints to find, but our joy this week has been full and we cant wait to see what happens in the next week.

San Lorenzo

The Trek to Church

The continued trek to church

and even more trekking to church

Monday, May 2, 2016

Week #97: San Lorenzo the beds arrive...

The View!

Being up here in the mountains is such a different experience than on the coast.  One of the biggest changes is the cold....there is nothing better than the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night to go outside to the bathroom and sitting down on the icy throne, or getting out of the luke-warm shower only to be hit by the embrace of the chilly mountain air. These things a but a small price to pay, for the beauty and majesty of the mountains in Guate.
This week we have had to newly find our feet.  I hate to say it, but the time we spent in the office, driving around to every little place has spoiled us, and finding out feet this week has been a little bit of a journey.  Way back in the  Rio Blanco days walking hours upon hours up and over mountains was something easy, and not a problem.  Now, however, it is something slapping us right in the face. But we are adapting, and I am sure a few more long days walking here and there will get us back in the shape that we need to be.

As this is a new area, new house, etc. for the last week we have been sleeping on cots and for those of you who have ever had to do so you know the back pain that comes with it. However, luck and a great blessing in the form of the "mother of the mission" was on our side. You see, San Lorenzo has been  President Ruiz´s little project for the longest of times.  He has always had a love for Rio Blanco and Serchil (and I guess rightly so considering that they are districts of the mission). On Friday, he and his wife came up to go over the plans for the area.  Hermana Ruiz rained down love to us and scorn to others who have not been on the ball in bringing beds and stuff to the area. One simply has to love the "mother of the mission"!
    As of right now we are still scrabbling around, at least just a wee bit.  President told us that we need to find a meeting house and all the necessities that go with that.   And most importantly to start to go with all of the members and less-actives who are in the area so we can get a nice group going and officially open up a new rama (branch).
    As we have made the rounds this week and really gotten to know the members that are here in San Lorenzo I have come to realize how important each and every one of them are, in our Heavenly Father's eyes. That one of the most important things that we can do as missionaries is to help create a strong group that will not only be strong in doctrine, teaching and administration of church matters, but also in ministering, service and love and charity to old and new people as they come. Being here starting from the base, has turned my head a little and made me think more about those who have partaken of the fruit and have fallen away, those who just need that little pull (or push) to come back into the light.   Or maybe, just maybe as the parable goes, the lost sheep needs to be carried with love back to the flock.

I wonder how many times I will forget to duck in the next couple of months?!
Crouch and shower beats bucket showers any day of the week!

The Road Well Traveled...daily!