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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

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